Marie Finnegan

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Marie Finnegan is the founder and owner of K-9 Solutions Dog Training Inc.
Specializing in private training for dogs and their owners, her focus is teaching effective communication between the two for the betterment of the relationship. Her motto is, "I do not whisper, I translate."

Marie has been training her own dogs since 1992 and decided to pursue a professional career in training in 2000 after noticing that many dogs at her local shelter were given up for simple training issues. Of that period she says, "I knew enough to know I didn't know quite enough to teach others, so I went in search of some advanced training. I found myself fascinated by the whole process of teaching, behavior modification and effective communication." Her thirst for knowledge lead to a yearlong hands-on apprenticeship learning both traditional and progressive techniques,

Marie focuses on reward-based training to help build a better bond between dog and owner. Her experience includes working with deaf dogs, police drug dogs, and cadaver search dogs. For fun she does tracking with her Akita.

Marie also runs a prison program, K-9 Corrections, though her local humane society. The program pairs unruly, and therefore at risk, shelter dogs with prisoners for hands-on round the clock training to teach the dogs the skills they need to become more adoptable. She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and The Tracking Club of Maine. She has been a contributor to Akita World and Just Frenchies magazines and the Downeast Dog News.

An avid reader, she enjoys continually learning what makes dogs tick. A few attempts in the obedience ring with her Frenchie, which has produced no ribbon results as of yet, but some great lessons and fun stories to share. "We never stop learning about training and behavior. That's what keeps it fun for me."

Marie lives in Maine with her husband and two children. They share their home with Jack the long coated Akita, Missy the Frenchie, and Jenny the pug.

Blog posts by Marie Finnegan


"Alpha" bits

I don't know if I am just noticing it more, or if it is becoming more popular to refer to dogs as "alpha". I am seeing more and more clients use this term to describe their dogs in various ways. "My dog likes to be alpha". Most times it is simple pushy behavior or lack of training that they are refering to. Perhaps it is just more widely used due to the popularity of a certain show.

Whatever the reason, I feel the need to explain to as many people as I can reach that it is now considered an outdated term. This is due to our having learned more about dog behavior that when it first appeared on the scene some 20 years ago. (ala Monks of New Skete who have since recanted the alpha roll as a training tool.)



The first real snowstorm of the year has hit Maine and we are still digging out. The girls are not impressed even though it warmed up to 18 degrees from the frigid 3 degrees it had been. One of the downsides of having smaller dogs is the fact that they do not appreciate peeing in the snow. Think about it. The snow is 18 inches deep in some places with drifts considerably deeper where the wind has blown. You are only 12 to 18 inches tall yourself. I can only imagine that it would be pretty darn cold on those naked belly areas. Forget about squatting.

Even when the snow is only 6 inches deep, when a small dog squats to go like my girls, they are going to get a cold shock. So that means shoveling paths. Potty paths. Even with those in place once their business is done it is nose up to the gate waiting for me to open it so they can race to the house door and back onto their spots on the warm couch.


The "movie" dog effect

There is a new movie coming out soon with Richard Gere that is a remake of the story of Hachi Ko. For those that are unfamiliar, Hachi-Ko was an akita in Japan that faithfully went to the train station every morning to see his master off, and every afternoon was there to meet the train when he came home. Unfortunantly his master passed away while at work one day and never came home again. For the next 10 years Hachi Ko went to the station looking for his master until he passed away there himself. They have even erected a statue at the station to memorialize his faithfulness. The photo I have included is of the dog star in the movie, an akita named Forrest, giving pawprint autographs to raise money for akita rescue at an event.


The Happy Humper

There is a video clip circulating the internet of a well known trainer letting a chow hump her leg. Reactions are varied from disgusted to humored. Few dog behaviors illicit such a strong response from pet owners as this one. Now I don’t know the details of the video, such as the reason the dog is being allowed to hump. Out of context it is hard to react to it. Perhaps she is teaching it as a behavior to put on cue. Perhaps she is putting an already learned behavior on cue. Or perhaps she is using an established habit as a reward. Without knowing this, and the why of the training session, it is simply a video of a dog showing a well known behavior. Though it may not always be a welcome behavior to an owner or spectator.


Fear in dogs

The other night for supper my husband cooked us some french toast and bacon. (MMmm it was good.) We noticed part way through his cooking that Jenny, our pug, was acting weird. Her tail was down and she was in the hallway sitting, looking towards the stove. She would not be called back into the living room area that is next to the kitchen. Then we remembered, she always acts scared when we cook bacon on the stove. Since we don't cook it that frequently it isn't something we automaticly think of as a trigger for her. She doesn't seem to have the same reaction to the kind we microwave, just when it's cooked on the stovetop. I'm thinking it is about the sound possibly coupled with the smell. She sure has no problem eating some of it if offered. (she is a huge chow hound, a typical pug trait)


Guilt in dog ownership

It seems there has been alot of talk lately about how unhealthy some breeds are. The current furor seems mostly directed at kennel clubs that are considered to have perpetuated unhealthy ideals in certain breeds. Breeding dogs with shortened noses that are hard to breathe through, or long backs that are prone to injuries are just a couple of examples. We humans have made some breeds so far away from a natural body type of a canine that they need to be born with the help of man through cesarean section operations.


A question of safety

The other day I was with a client with two 4 month old golden retriever puppies that needed some training attention. I was asking my routine questions of the owners when the puppies broke out in a play session. Suddenly one puppy was screaming while on top of the other. We rushed over and saw the top puppy had gotten his bottom jaw caught in the other dogs collar. Fortunatly we seperated them without incident and no one had any serious injuries. Had we not been there however it could have had a much different outcome.

We in the dog world have all heard the stories warning of this common danger yet few of us have actually witnessed it. I can assure you however, once you do it will change the way you look at those collars.


Learning As We Go / Growl Article

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar given by Jean Donaldson. It was titled "Stop Whispering and Speak Up for Your Dogs: Debunking the Dominance Myth in Dog Training."

Continuing education is very important to trainers because new things about dogs and behavior are being learned all the time. This helps us as trainers know what we can do to make and keep training humane and effective for our dogs. I think I have said this before but I personally believe behavior seminars should be mandatory for ALL trainers. To many get focused on specific sports or methods and ignore behavior info thinking they already know the material. I would counter their arguments by saying I have ALWAYS learned something useful at every seminar I have attended. Whatever the topic, behavior or otherwise. This one was no different.


I'm not getting any younger, are you?

I seem to be getting more "seasoned" clients these days. There is no age limit on the love for dogs. My current veteran client is 92 years young. She has a lovely Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she wants to be able to walk without him pulling. I admit that when I got her call I did an inner cringe at her age. However upon meeting her and the dog we had a wonderful session. She had everything in place to make life with her dog as easy and comfortable as possible for both of them. A large fenced in yard, family nearby to help when needed, crate training established, a lovely well tempered dog from a reputable breeder, and a willingness to try new things. She had owned many dogs through the years as well so it wasn't her first rodeo.


Breeds in a Box

I was fortunate enough to attend a great pit bull education seminar given by Drayton Michaels recently. He is working on a documentary called "Judging the Innocent" that will be a wonderful resource for educating the general public about the breed. We got to see clips of some of his work in progress and it is fabulous. It made me start thinking about other breed issues I have experienced both lately and in the past.

I was working with a client recently who had done some work under another trainer. He told me this trainer said that HIS was the best breed to own. While I am always happy to hear of any owner that loves his dogs, it was somewhat disturbing that a trainer would tell any client that their breed was better than the one they are trying to help. Even if they do believe that. The owner was quite offended. (And he let me know it!) Add to that the trainers breed in question is (normally) a high energy herding breed, not suited to just any home.



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