Irith Bloom

A Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer

[email protected]

Archive for January, 2012

Canine at the Keyboard: It’s Not Easy Living in a Human World

Hello everyone in the blogosphere! My name is Franklin, and I will be the regular canine guest contributor to this blog.  I hope you will enjoy reading my notes.


Today, I will be sharing a few thoughts on being a canine in a human world.


Let me start by telling those of you who are human that it’s not easy being a canine in a human world.  First of all, human computer keyboards are not well designed for typing with paws.  Second, humans have odd rules about all kinds of things.  For example, they don’t seem to like the polite canine manner of greeting, which consists of sniffing the area between the legs.  Also, while humans are allowed to urinate indoors (in giant porcelain bowls), they discourage us from urinating unless we are outdoors – even if there is a tree indoors.  (I learned this a few years ago when we were visiting a friend and I urinated on her “Christmas Tree.” I just though it was indoor canine plumbing.)


What’s worse is that most humans don’t speak Dog at all, and even those who do speak Dog have only learned the basics.  No matter how many times I look away or yawn to indicate I’d like a little more space, some humans just keep invading my space.  It’s enough to make a dog crazy sometimes!


Because of all of this, I have had to become fluent at Human Body Language (HBL).  Most humans speak HBL pretty well when they aren’t thinking too hard, so I can tell what they want much of the time (especially if I keep all their odd rules in mind), but when they start talking, their HBL often gets very strange.  To make things worse, the few human words I’ve learned to recognize sometimes contradict what their HBL says.  I can’t imagine how humans manage to communicate amongst themselves, to be honest.


Fortunately, my humans seem to understand that human rules are confusing, and work very hard to communicate clearly with me.  When they want to teach me something new, they get out something called “the clicker,” the sound of which always has the same meaning – “Well done! Come get your treat.”  After they explain, with the aid of the clicker, the behavior they want me to do, they teach me what the behavior is called in HBL or human words, and I know that if they make the movement or sound they taught me, I can earn a treat by doing the behavior we practiced.


My humans are also very understanding when it comes to unpleasant situations.  For example, I have learned that rude behavior towards me from unknown humans or other animals is generally followed by treats from my humans.  My humans also generally interrupt the annoying behavior to which I am being subjected, so I’ve learned to stay still and wait for rescue and treats (or move quietly away to await my treats, if things really are too intense), in these unpleasant situations.


So all in all, while living as a canine in a human household can be tough at times, my life is pretty good.  My humans give me affection, exercise, food, and a soft place to sleep, and I give them love and entertainment.  I think if you asked them, they would say it’s a pretty good trade-off –and I agree!




Editor’s note: My husband and I do think it’s a pretty good trade-off, and are very grateful to have Franklin in our lives.

New Year, New Blog

Many people make New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not usually one of them (I prefer to make my resolutions on whatever day of the year they happen to fall), but this New Year’s I have resolved to start a training blog.  The purpose of this blog is to discuss humane training for dogs and other pets.  I am happy to take questions (leave a comment or contact me), and will address questions and comments as quickly as possible.

In this first post, I’d like to remind everyone that January is National Train Your Dog Month.  Hopefully you are already deliberately training your pet, but in case you aren’t, here’s something to think about:

Whenever you interact with your pet, training is taking place.  Sometimes you are training your pet, and sometimes your pet is training you (and generally, both are taking place simultaneously to some extent).

It’s good to be aware of what training is taking place, and even better to be at least partially in control of the training.  For example, say you are watching TV and your dog comes up to you and nuzzles your arm.  Do you reach down and pet your dog?  If so, you’re training your dog to come nuzzle you while you watch TV (assuming your dog likes being petted).  There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this, as long as you like the result (more nuzzling).  If, on the other hand, you dislike being nuzzled while you watch TV, it’s best to control your reaction and avoid petting your dog when he or she nuzzles you.

Much of the time when we complain that we hate it when our pet does something or other, we have inadvertently trained it (or allowed our pet to train us to reward the behavior, depending on how you want to look at it).  Becoming aware of what training is taking place is a great first step in training the things we actually want.

So here’s my challenge for you this month: Notice the things your pet does that you like, as well as the things your pet does that you don’t like.  Ask yourself what is reinforcing these behaviors (in other words, what is keeping these behaviors going).  Then think about how you can change the equation to maximize behaviors you like and minimize behaviors you don’t like.  Here are a few tips:

– Reinforce behavior you like, with attention, petting, food, access to desired resources (such as toys and the outdoors), and anything else your pet likes.

– Ignore behavior you don’t like, lest you accidentally reinforce it with attention.  Simply sit tight, look at the ceiling, keep your lips closed, and wait for the behavior to stop.  Then count to ten and resume interacting with your pet (if appropriate).  That’s right, I am asking you to take the word “No!” out of your vocabulary (since for many pets, even “negative” attention is good – much like some publicists would say that even “bad” press is good).  If sitting tight is not an option, walk away and put a closed door between you and your pet, if necessary.

– Manage behavior you can’t ignore.  Here’s an example: Some pets like to “surf” kitchen counters looking for food.  This behavior is generally not about getting your attention, but rather about eating, so your ignoring it will have no impact on the behavior at all.  To prevent this behavior, keep your kichen counters clean or close off the kitchen so your pet can’t get in there (or both).

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll discuss how to train a wide range of behaviors, and how to deal with many common annoying behaviors.  If there is a behavior you’d like me to deal with sooner rather than later, contact me.  In the meantime…

Happy New Year!


January 2012


All VSPDT dog trainers:
  • Are hand-selected by Victoria.
  • Train dogs using only positive reinforcement.
  • Avoid force & outdated dominance-based methods.
  • Work personally with Victoria and her team.
  • Share Victoria's ability to talk and think dog - positively
  • Practice the highest level of courtesy and professionalism.
  • Respect you and your dog at all times.
  • Share the VSPDT mission of creating healthier, more balanced relationships between dogs and owners
  • Help the Victoria Stilwell Foundation support canine assistance organizations.

About Irith

My name is Irith Bloom, and I have been training animals since the 1980s. I live in Los Angeles, where I run my own pet training company, The Sophisticated Dog. In addition to being a a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training Certified Licensed Trainer, I am proud to be a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, as well as a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.