Jill Marie O Brien

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Jill Marie has been working with and training dogs for twenty years. She has been the Director of Behavior and Training at a major Animal Welfare Organization in the Southern California area for 12 of those years. One of her many accomplishments has been the creation and continuing development of that agency's first Animal Behavior and Training Department in its 130 year history.  

Jill Marie's twenty years of dog training experience includes Schutzhund, agility, tracking, Animal Assisted Therapy, and detection training and she has many hours of nose work training and instructing.  Her training philosophy is one of building strong working relationships and bonds between dogs and their handlers using positive, fun and motivational techniques.  She is a strong advocate of ongoing education and development of skills. Not only has she attended many educational conferences and courses, but she has also organized educational events featuring some of the most sought-after lecturers and behavior experts in the world. She believes education for the humans is as important as education for the canines. Jill Marie is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers the only nationally recognized certifying body. In addition, she is a long time member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Jill Marie competes and trains in agility with her dog, Beckett. Beckett and Jill Marie are a nationally certified Narcotics Detection Team.  In addition to her work with Beckett, Jill and her other dogs have earned many training titles and have competed at the USDAA's Grand Prix of Dog Agility two years in a row. Jill Marie has added a new member to her canine pack, Raven, a one-year-old Belgian Malinois who will someday be a working partner and detection dog.

Jill Marie shares her life with her son and wonderful husband for whom she thanks everyday for their patience and understanding as she continues to build and develop her understanding and skill in working with dogs and their people.

Blog posts by Jill Marie O Brien

Raven's day with the sheep.

Empathy; The ultimate gift to a dog trainer

Recently, I made a major change in my professional life.  With that, I am engaging clients more independently and getting back to what I love, working with people and their dogs directly.  However, as time has moved on and I have developed professionally, I have on occasion lost what it is like to be a new dog or puppy owner. 

This can be dangerous at times and unfair to people who don’t share the years of experience I do, nor have chosen the path of a professional dog trainer or behavior specialist.  Many of my clients, like those of my colleagues have other priorities in their lives beyond their furry friend; which brings me to the point of this conversation, empathy. 

Beckett at the Office

"Make the dog..."

Recently I was at a training field in which folks train dogs for schutzhund and other working dog sports.  I am fascinated by many activities folks get involved in with their pets.  Some are simple like hikiing and ball playing others require immense dedication and skill, both on the dog's part and the handler's. 

However, something struck me while I was there watching some folks work the "protection" portion of their training. That is the bite work element of the sport for those that are not familiar with many of the protection sports.  There was an amazing young dog on the field with so much drive you could power a porsche. 


Dynamics of dog owners...

In my dog training life I have the opportunity to meet a variety of dog enthusiasts and pet owners.  I have learned to adjust to the varying personalities that one comes across in the dog training world.  There is one type of dog owner that still fascinates me… it is the person that selects a breed with a negative reputation in the public mind, not because the dog makes them feel tough, but because the dog is misunderstood and needs an advocate. They become a one person ACLU for their dog.

These folks are so entrenched in their need to have something to advocate for that they can no longer see their dog as the individual they are and become irate at any suggestion that they as the dog’s owner, may need to maintain a high level of training and management for their chosen breed.


Keeping it simple...

Today I was at a moving sale for a fellow dog trainer and a couple of things popped into my head. One was that I was incredibly lazy and why do I expect more from my clients then I am often willing to do myself. Too many irons in the fire, but a lot of grand plans none the less and 2) keeping access to training simple, along with the exercises we give to our students and clients can go a long way to compliance.

The lazy thing is a completely different blog and I need to come to some self realization before writing more on that. However, the keeping it simple part I can write about since it is so fresh in my brain.

While at my colleague's house I see this silver contraption folded up on the floor of her dining room as I was rifling through her for sale items and I asked her what it was. She proceeded to inform me that it was an exercise contraption for which I have already forgotten its name.

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K9 Nose Work continues to grow….

Well, another successful K9 Nose Work trial has come and gone. With each event I work on I am amazed by the people and dogs that are participating. Unlike so many other events nose work is an open field. Anyone can shine at any time. As with many other dog sports, there isn’t any one breed that the rest of the competitors dread competing against. Border collies, Golden Retrievers and even shepherds aren’t necessarily a shoe in.


Building confidence through self-discovery

It has been a while since I chimed in about nose work hoping that people would spend some time allowing their dogs to build their natural desire to hunt and search, while being brave enough to put the formal obedience aside.

Often in the beginning phases of training, students ask about the end results of the process and about teaching their dog a "final response" or “how do I get my dog sit when they’ve found their hidden treasure”. Since the ultimate goal for many of our students is to try their hand at K9 Nose Work competition they become focused on the end of the journey and not the journey itself.

The goal in developing K9 Nose Work as an activity (based in part on the concept of detection style training), was to offer dog enthusiasts and casual pet owners an opportunity to allow their dogs to explore their natural ability in a safe environment while offering their people the chance to truly learn their dog’s individual communication style.


Expanding the Search.. Building the Nose Work Game

One of the great things about doing K9 Nose Work is that it is mobile and eventually encompasses any environment you may find yourself. However, there is very important foundation work that is the key to you and your dog finding long-term success and helping your dog build stamina and interest in the search.

After following the steps in the first part of this saga (Getting Started in Nose Work) and if your dog’s eyes pop out of their head at the sight of any container or cardboard box your dog may be ready to expand the search and increase the challenge.

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Getting Started in Nose Work

I have written about K9 Nose Work and folks have been asking me about what is needed to get started and the best way to introduce their dogs to a more formal nose work routine. The greatest thing about doing K9 Nose Work is how easy it is and portable it can be. Your dog’s nose goes everywhere and the world is an adventure.

My training partners and I generally start all dogs in class using cardboard boxes for searching. You can use any type of container such as shoe boxes, Tupperware with holes punched in the top, flower pots, etc. You’ll want to contain the odor, yet leave enough ventilation for it to be accessible to the dog. The greener the dog the more accessible the odor should be. We have found card board boxes to be the easiest and most cost effective. We start with 5 or 6 and the number and difficulty grows with time and experience.


The Next Urban Dog Sport

Over the years I have traveled in many a dog circle. One of the biggest complaints that I have heard from urban dog enthusiasts is the lack of tracking fields available for training. For many of our rural dog owning friends this seems unheard of; no place to track, why that is silly. However, for many of us city types a drive over an hour, sometimes many hours to go tracking is the norm.

Along with my training partners Amy and Ron we developed a structured class curriculum that brings detection style training to those folks looking for something different to do with their four legged companions. We tested our first class in Long Beach in the summer of 2006. At that point, we didn’t realize how quickly folks would get hooked.


Joys of detection style training for the working companion dog....

I thought as my first adventure into the world of blogs I would combine two of my favorite subjects; changing the word "pet" dog to "working companion dog" and detection dog training.

After my many years of working with clients and running a large city behavior and training department, I learned that being a "pet" dog can be the most difficult and risky job a dog is given and that many a detection dog are some of the most satisfied doggies out there. So, along with my colleagues with whom I train my own detection dogs we worked to bring the two together.

The goal was to give companion dogs a more focused task that encourages them to develop their most natural instincts; scenting and hunting. However, we wanted to go beyond nose games to actual focused nose work training based on the fundamentals of detection dog training. On January 25th we'll be holding our first sanctioned K9 Nose Work competition in Southern California.

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