Editorial November 2001 Issue

Positively the Best Book

WDJ’s Training Editor practices what she preaches.

Pat Miller’s book is finally out in print. You’ve got to get a copy. The Power of Positive Dog Training (as it is called) is simply the best book I’ve ever read about training. Miller clearly explains why you should train your dog without pain or force, and then she explains how to do it, simply, easily, and without any breach of your dog’s trust or confidence.

What I most admire about Pat is that she not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

I’ve worked with Pat for almost five years, but it was only recently that I got to see her in a competitive arena. Pat hasn’t been in a show ring for years. She competed in obedience and numerous other canine events over the 30-plus years she has been training dogs, but she quit competing in the early 1990s.

At that point, Pat had not yet been introduced to the positive-only style of training she now uses and teaches. Instead, she was using an old-fashioned “ear-pinch” method of teaching her Terrier-mix, Josie, to retrieve metal dumbbells for a Utility title – and Josie was having none of it. The day that Josie ran under the deck and hid when Pat got out the dumbbells for a training session was the day Pat quit training for competition.

Soon after that crisis, Pat was introduced to a newer style of training, one that, as she describes, “used treats, not choke chains” to get dogs to comply. The new method was not only effective, it “felt” good to Pat and her canine students. She’s been committed to developing her skills in positive training ever since.

Last year, Pat learned about a new sport called Rally Obedience, which we promoted in the July 2000 issue under the headline “Rally, Rally Fun.” Unlike classic Obedience, in Rally-O, handlers are allowed to verbally cue, encourage, and praise their dogs in the show ring. While the exercises must be performed in a satisfactory manner, the dog’s attitude, attention, and response to the handler are considered more important in scoring. Rally is made for positive dog training enthusiasts – and it’s gotten Pat back to the show ring.

Unbeknownst to her, I watched Pat compete with two of her dogs in the Rally ring at the Association of Pet Dog Trainer’s annual meeting, held in upstate New York in late September. She was there to try to qualify two of her dogs for a Rally-O title. The candidates were Dusty, Pat’s 12-year-old Pomeranian, and Josie.

I saw her “run” with Dusty first. It was a good performance, and the duo scored a 192 (out of a possible 200 points). Dusty looked happy, Pat looked pleased, and overall, my first impression of the sport was, “Fun!” I watched a few more competitors, and then saw Pat enter the ring with Josie.

Did I mention Josie’s age today? She’s 14, and her clock is running down a little. Under her characteristically fuzzy Terrier coat, she’s getting a little bony, despite the fact that Pat has her on a diet of “whatever Josie wants to eat, whenever she wants to eat it.” She also doesn’t hear very well, and is a little cautious when she does the “Down.” But you can see from 100 yards away that she loves Pat, and loves doing whatever Pat wants her to do. After a decade of love and positive training, running and hiding under a deck is no longer something Josie would consider.

I get tears in my eyes every time I remember watching Pat and Josie compete that day; I had a torrent running down my face when I was there! It was a sight to see: Josie’s bright black eyes riveted on Pat’s face, the happy little bounce she made every time Pat told her, “Good girl!” – which was often throughout the course. Josie was precise and Josie was happy, trusting, and confident. The run earned the pair a score of 199. And that delighted little dog earned my eternal respect – for her owner. I’m proud to feature her work every month in WDJ.

-Nancy Kerns

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