The trainer is in…

Welcome to this edition of my dog training log, where I share notes about living with and training dogs and the occasional cat.

I’ve always kept a dog trainer’s log with a simple spiral notebook and a pen (or pencil, or whatever else was handy.) Starting in the early 90s, some of my training log moved online. I became an active contributor to several online dog training forums: Prodigy, AOL, and more recently the Rally-Obed and Versatile_ECS Yahoo! groups. My online screen name (Gaelen, or Gaelen2) is the name you’ll find attached to most of those posts; I also use PAS — initials for my given name (Pat Steer.)

My dog-teachers have been random-bred and purebred dogs including AKC-registered English Springer Spaniels, Gordon Setters and English Cocker Spaniels. Since 1981, I’ve loved, trained, shown and titled eight personal dogs in conformation, obedience, agility and rally while instructing over 250 private and public obedience and agility classes and writing about training. I’m a member of Syracuse Obedience Training Club, Inc. (SOTC) and Dog Writer’s Association of America, Inc. (DWAA).

Each dog has taught me many things about the array of tools available in the dog trainer’s toolbox. I’ve found that the most important equipment any of us has are the brains in gear at each end of the leash. I’ve even explored and found ways to continue to train and show dogs while living with cancer; some of those moments are chronicled at Life Out Loud, my survivorship blog. One of the best things I’ve learned about working with dogs (and people) is that both the trainer (and the dog) can and should always be learning something. Let’s talk about training!




(l-r) Casey, me, Madison at the Cleveland Crown Classic, 2006

(l-r) Casey, me, Madison at the Cleveland Crown Classic, 2006

Briarpatch Dash of Cayenne CD NA RAE (Casey) is my red English Cocker spaniel dog born 25 November 1994. I co-own him with Mary Frances Beardsley, Briarpatch Kennels in western NY.
Ch. Kabree Mad About You RA (Madison) is my blue roan & touch of tan English Cocker spaniel bitch, born 2 September 2002. I co-own M. with Lisa Ross, Winfree Kennels in Virginia.
I’m the one in the glasses.

Reuben at his new home, by Wendi Pencille

Reuben at his new home, by Wendi Pencille

Quail Run Rumor Has It RN NA NAJ (Reuben) was my second Gordon Setter dog, born 25 April 1999. He came to me as a puppy and lived with me until six months after I was diagnosed with Stage IV rectal cancer in 2004. At the time, Reu was 4 1/2: ready to show in Rally and almost ready to start his agility career. I knew that while in treatment I wouldn’t be able to give him the active performance home he needed — and I had to face the serious possibility that he’d probably outlive me. Agility friends introduced me to Bruce and Monica Burns from western NY, who welcomed Reu into a new and active family (including three Gordon Setter bitches who he adores.) Monica showed him to his RN on 1 January 2005, making him the first Gordon Setter in the US to earn an AKC Rally Novice title. Bruce is Reu’s agility trainer and partner. After earning a leg each in preferred Novice Standard and Novice Jumpers, Bruce finished Reu’s NA and then finished his NAJ in 2007 at the Gordon Setter National Specialty in Ohio. I miss you, boyo — but you do me so proud!


Churro the cat

Churro (nee Annie) came to live at Life Out Loud just about a year ago. He’d been a mainly-outdoors cat who must have been a barn kitty in an earlier life – his left ear is notched, an old-school vet’s method of recording vaccinations and neuterings in wild barn cats. After about a week of serious hissing at the dogs (an offensive maneuver that has finally taught M. to ‘leave the cat alone!’) Churro decided that the dogs were fine when crated, and then ok as long as we were all together on the couch. He travels with Team Life Out Loud when we go camping and to dog shows, and has his own crate in my set up and in my tiny trailer. I used a clicker and head’n’ear rubs (he doesn’t work for food) to teach him hand-touches, hugs, come when called and crate on command (yes, he’s still crated during the day!) Something about his adventurous spirit still imagines great potential in the vertical blinds, so he’s not ready for unsupervised time while I’m at work. But he’s made great progress in his total transformation from outdoors-but-affectionate to indoor cat…even if he does sometimes think he’s a dog.


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