Valerie Pollard

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Valerie Pollard has been training dogs professionally since 1979, and specializes in working with behavior issues, including fear, anxiety and aggression. She has always had a keen interest in learning and has hosted seminars regularly with international trainers/behaviorists in that regard. Valerie has a degree in Art History from U.C.L.A. and has completed coursework for the Master’s thesis – but left the program to pursue working with dogs. Valerie believes that competing with your dog in any sort of venue can only enhance the relationship, whether it be AKC Obedience, Rally-O, Agility or Flyball. She has competed with her own dogs in the sport of Schutzhund, and attained the owner/handler Schutzhund III title with her GSD “Bodie”. She is also interested in British Working Trials as well as the Puppydog Allstar K9 Games as other challenging and fun ways to compete. Valerie is a charter member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a Clinical member of the International Association of Dog Behavior Counselors. Valerie prefers to think of animals in the following way, as described by Henry Beston in “The Outermost House”: "We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mythical concept of animals.....we patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."

Blog posts by Valerie Pollard

Counter-Surfing

It isn’t always the younger, rogue adolescent dogs who make a habit of counter-surfing, or stealing food out of the trash.  We often will see  dogs who are getting older suddenly realize that there is nothing really stopping them from just eating that delicious thing so well within their reach.

    It’s quite possible for a well-mannered, well-trained dog to learn to counter-surf.  Many of them have spent most of their lives never considering the possibility.  But then, from their new, more elderly perspective they have a stray, unorthodox thought.  The food is so close:  they could so easily reach it.  Why not?  And then they do.

 

“OMG! I Saw Someone Walking Their Dog Without A Leash!!”

When I first started training dogs years ago, it was taken for granted that every dog in our groups would be heeling *off-leash* by the end of a ten week class.  Anything less than that would be considered a training failure.  The odd thing is that most dogs were able to accomplish this goal.  I say this is odd because these days, between strict leash laws and the changes in training expectations and philosophies, it is rarely a consideration to teach off-leash reliability in a dog.

     As I’ve watched things slowly change, I can see that the role of the dog itself has changed.  Owners today rarely think of their dogs as a “working” member of the household, one who should be “obedient” (though they often wish they were!).  Instead, dogs are now treated more like eternal toddlers, a loved member of the family, a friend, or a child.  

 

Is there an “art” to dog training, or can it all be done with science?

The training of dogs has grown in leaps and bounds during the last several years.  There are huge organizations supporting the profession; seminars; conferences and certification.  The growth of the concept of “positive” training has also moved to the forefront and is being recognized as the most ethical, humane way in which to train a dog (as well as horses, parrots and exotic animals).

 

A Cacophony of Dog Trainers

When I started training, there was no such thing as camaraderie amongst dog trainers. You would never consider “sharing” ideas with fellow professionals, and it was more of a “cut throat” business. Things have delightfully changed in that regard, but the change has brought along its own batch of problems and confusion.


You’ve probably heard the statement, “The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what the third one is doing wrong”. There is much truth in that, as dog trainers tend to be strong-willed individuals who have clear beliefs and feelings about their profession. Maybe that’s what it takes to enter into clients’ homes and lives to help facilitate change in their relationship with their dogs.

 

“What? Lectures on dog training at a Veterinary Conference? Are you crazy?!”

I recently attended a large veterinary conference and listened to most of the lectures on behavior, which is now a very popular subject, and is given the largest lecture halls and filled nearly to capacity at each lecture. Over the years I’ve watched this topic grow from the germ of an idea as the concept of a Veterinary Behaviorist came into existence into a movement that is bringing the treatment of dog behavior issues into the forefront of small animal veterinary practices.

 

What is a “behaviorist”, anyway?

“..I spoke with the behaviorist my vet recommended, and then I spoke with a local behaviorist that my neighbor told me about…”, the woman explained as we spoke on the telephone regarding her aggressive dog who had now bitten two people, requiring stitches in both cases. I nearly literally began to grind my teeth in frustration at the sound of that overly and misused term, “behaviorist”. In this case, I knew the people she was referring to as “behaviorists”.

 

“But She Knows What She’s Supposed To Do….!”

“No, you don’t understand. I have done *everything*, my dog knows what she is supposed to do but she’s mad at me so she’s going to the bathroom in the house. I take her outside for half an hour and she just stands there and as soon as we come back in the house, she goes on the carpet!

 

Sometimes I Feel Like Dr. Laura....

Many people think that Dr. Laura Schlesinger gets a little insensitive and irritable with her callers. I’ve thought it myself at times when listening to her, but then I remember what it must be like from her point of view to speak with one person after another, to give them a thoughtful reply and then to have them disregard what she has said and move on to another topic.

One of the things that come along with being a dog trainer is the responsibility of answering inquiring telephone calls from prospective clients. Many trainers put a time limit on how long they will talk, “Never stay on the phone for more than two minutes”. Many will not answer behavioral questions, “Never give away free advice”. And many, like myself, prefer to discuss the issues so that we can understand how we may help and also perhaps give some immediate help to the unseen dog who lives on the other end of the telephone.

 

I Saw It On TV… What Methods Do You Use?

What methods do you use…relatively few prospective clients ask this, and when they do you can’t be certain exactly what they are hoping for. When an owner asks me, “what methods do you use?” – I ask back, “how much experience do you have with dog training, and what are your goals with your dog?” Some think they want harsh methods to ensure an “obedient” dog; some want reassurance that a gentle method will be used while others want to do the training “just like I did with my first dog twenty-five years ago”. However, the training of dogs has changed dramatically in the last twenty years, along with the perception of a dog’s place in the home, and the standards of training itself.

Clickers, steel slip chains, prong collars, no-pull harnesses….dog whisperers, communicators, leaders, companions. What’s an owner to do?

 

The Alaskan Pug: A whimsical story involving Pugs

The Alaskan Pug

First, it’s important to explain the differences between the Alaskan pug and the normal pet variety. The Pug dates originally to 400 B.C., was once the pet of Tibetan monks, and flourished in the sixteenth century as a lap dog. Since the temperament and personality of the Pug is already tenacious, brilliant, devilish, competitive and hardy, people began to dream of using the Pug to compete in various canine sports. Therefore, towards the end of the nineteenth century, breeders began deliberately enhancing certain traits in their litters to establish performance characteristics. Soon there were Pugs competing in protection sports, agility, police work and dog sledding, among other things. Thus: The Alaskan Pug.

 

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