This is the first issue of WDJ’s 24th year of publication – wow! The only time that it genuinely feels like it’s been that long is when I sit down to write yet another editorial. I’ve written something to appear in this space every month for every one of WDJ’s 23 years!
These editor’s notes notwithstanding, the time has flown by – partially because so much in the dog world has changed in the past two-plus decades. In the early days of this publication, if a dog owner was looking for help training a puppy, he’d likely be told to bring his dog back after six (or more) months; puppy training wasn’t commonly available as the prevailing wisdom was that a dog had to be mature to handle training. Today we know that failing to start training during those first six months of a dog’s life is a colossal wasted opportunity, but it was probably just as well that people didn’t enroll puppies in training classes back then, because most dog-training facilities offered only “obedience” classes, and choke chains were mandatory equipment.
In 1998, Pat Miller was an early adopter of the newest training technologies, which were variously called positive-only, force-free, or dog-friendly. An experienced equestrian, Pat had been a regular contributor to another magazine published by Belvoir Media Group, The Whole Horse Journal (which, sadly, is no longer published). But she also was a dog trainer, and when she learned that Belvoir was launching a canine publication, she jumped at the chance to write for Whole Dog Journal. She had an article in WDJ’s first issue – and at least one article in every issue since, save one. (Sometime in WDJ’s first decade I once cut her article for lack of space and I don’t think she’s forgiven me for that yet!)
In the space of 23 years, compulsion-free dog training and puppy classes have evolved from a novelty scorned by the majority of professional trainers to the mainstream. Today, trainers who routinely use yanks on a choke chain to teach basic behaviors like sit and walking on a loose leash are the minority. I’d like to think that Pat’s articles, her relentless advocacy for the kind treatment of dogs and their handlers, and her recruitment of other force-free trainers to write for WDJ helped foment this gentle dog-training revolution.
Pat’s early fascination and aptitude with the most modern training theories and her dedication to the kindest, most compassionate, and most effective training techniques amply qualified her to lead WDJ in this area. It didn’t take long for me to recognize her leadership in the form of the “Training Editor” title. When it comes to behavior and training, she’s our lodestar, and I’m grateful to her for many years of patient tutelage and guidance.