I’ve always loved dogs. Our family dogs lived outside when I was a child. They weren’t mistreated, but they weren't highly valued either. When I grew up and married, my dogs were kept outside for long periods of time while I was at work, but they did get to come in and join the rest of the family when we were home.
Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with Mastiffs, and then in 1999 we moved to the high desert. It was so hot in the summer and so cold in the winter. I didn’t want my girl, Jasmine, to be miserable outside, so I installed a pet door. It was the first time I’d ever had a dog with free access indoors and out. Unfortunately, a giant breed can do a lot of damage. Jasmine ate her way through dining room chairs, countless pairs of shoes, and heirloom Christmas ornaments. Back then, I knew nothing about prevention or management. When I’d get home from work each day, my house usually looked like a hurricane had ripped through it.
When Jasmine was two years old, I retired from my job, so the doggy destruction derby thankfully ended. One day during a routine vet checkup, Jasmine tried to bite the doctor. She had never been properly socialized because I had been totally unaware that such a thing was important. My vet emphatically told me that my dog needed training. I enrolled her in a traditional obedience class, where she learned the exercises but was quite afraid of strangers. I didn’t know that punishing her with corrections was counterproductive. Now I realize that jerking her around and making her obey probably made the scary strangers seem even scarier to her. She sure didn’t enjoy herself.
Jasmine is a fairly resilient dog who was able to withstand some punishment but her son, Ceasar, was much more sensitive. He would completely shut down if I used corrections, refusing to work and trying to get away from me during training lessons. All I knew back then was traditional training, so at this point I really didn’t know what to do.
I started reading a wide variety of books and websites and became aware of positive training. I educated myself by going to seminars given by true experts in the field of animal behavior such as Karen Pryor, Ian Dunbar, Trish King, Gail Fisher, Kathy Sdao, and Morgan Spector. I attended several educational events, including several Clicker Expos and the APDT Conference. I learned about positive training and found out first hand how kind and effective it is and I’ve been using it ever since. I saw a huge boost in Ceasar’s self-confidence and joyful attitude. I learned to manage a wide variety of challenging situations. I learned about the value and fun of clicker training.
Ever since I bred my first Mastiff puppy and carefully chose their new families, I wanted to teach an informal puppy manners class so that my pups would never end up in a shelter. I was asked to apprentice with my old instructor, who needed to go on an extended hiatus. I worked under her for two years before becoming independent. I opened Daisy Dog Academy in 2003.
I believe there are two ways to train a dog. You can use a carrot or you can use a stick. I use and advocate reward-based training, and much prefer the carrot. Dogs need a motivator to perform what we ask of them. I’d rather motivate with rewards instead of punishment. I use buckle collars only, never choke chains or prong collars. In a class setting, food is the easiest, most convenient reward, but when you’re out and about in the real world, rewards can be whatever the dog loves, such as food, toys, balls, play, massage, etc.
A variety of classes are offered throughout the year. Typically, there is a two week break between sessions and a longer break from Thanksgiving to mid-January. Classes are held on my 2 ½ acre fenced in property. My training yard is not open to the public, so it’s a safe, suitable place to bring puppies that haven’t completed their immunizations. All dogs must have current titers or vaccination records to be enrolled in class. Daisy Dog Academy is located one mile west of route 395 off of Phelan Road.