Tuesday, December 6, 2011

To Chase or To Be Chased. What's More Satisfying To A Dog?

I'll be honest.  My knee-jerk reaction to writing that title was, "To chase, of course.  Who wants to be chased?  Who wants to be the one attacked?"  For a person who always views the world in shades of gray -- to a fault -- I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that my knee-jerk reaction was so Black & White!  

Really?  Do I actually believe that?  Hmm. 

The image that immediately popped into my head …

… was of my friend's lab/husky, Sherpa, stalking, chasing, and pushing Bella over on our hikes.  Sherpa "eyes" Bella as she runs ahead on the trail, minding her own business, engaged in checking out a smell or just enjoying the run.  Notice Sherpa’s stalking behavior.  Then the chase.  Suddenly Sherpa is upon her, either bumping her off-trail or grabbing a quick mouthful of "Bella-neck" before running off in glee.  Bella has now stopped on the trail, looking down-trodden.  Or perhaps she's on her side, having been pushed over.  Whatever Bella was in pursuit of, whatever smell had enticed her, was abruptly interrupted.  How rude!

Mirror, Mirror, What Can You Make Me See About Myself?

Kevin Behan, the founder of Natural Dog Training (NDT), writes about the purpose of dogs in our lives -- the dogs who affect us -- in his recently published book, Your Dog Is Your Mirror, "The real reason for the dog in our life is to reveal what instincts, thoughts, and judgments prevent us from feeling what is at the very bottom of our heart.  [This is] the cause of the unresolved emotion we carry, and unresolved emotion is what truly drives us. … How individuals respond to the way unresolved emotion makes then feel determines how they [fit themselves into society at large].”

I observe Bella being interrupted by Sherpa on the trail.  Whatever smell had enticed her … she’s lost it.  Now to myself: when I work on a major project, I need to be left alone to be able to think.  I need to focus in order to wrangle my thoughts and organize them so they’re useful.  I hate being interrupted.  In fact, I pull all-nighters and suffer the consequences simply because of the difficulty of having to pick something up later.  To re-organize my train of thought and get back on track. 

I’m an introvert, and even having another person sitting quietly in the room as I work gives me the tiniest pangs of anxiety.  After all, if there’s someone else in the room, there’s potential for them to interrupt me!  And yet, I feel a twinge of guilt for being like this.  I judge myself, my actions.  “You’re horrible, neglecting your friends.”  “You can’t work like this, it’s unhealthy.”  “Why be such a perfectionist?  Others can get it done in half the time and still get the point across.” 


I started this blog post …
… wanting to put into my own words what I’ve learned about dogs’ playing styles and their ability to help others have a good time.  It’s interesting how I ended up writing more about myself.

Flipping Polarity & Getting Stuck (during play)

I just read a post by Behan where he explains why – when both pups agree to participate in play – it feels better to be the object-of-attraction and absorb the other dog’s energy, than to be the “predator” who transmits all its attention to the “prey.” 

As you watch most dogs play, you’ll notice that they take turns with both roles.  They “flip polarity,” if you will, between chasing and being chased. 

Now let’s imagine two pups playing … and they never take turns.  One pup remains the predator.  The other remains prey.  The prey-dog may attempt to “flip polarity,” but if the predator-dog is not willing to soften its behavior, it will not share the role.  Here’s the trouble with that.  Being the predator-dog means that you remain tense.  Always frustrated because you’re in pursuit of something.  Even if the predator-dog catches the other, it’s still not satisfied!  It keeps at the game and gets stuck.

Being Stuck 

This is an important concept.  As Neil Sattin, a NDT trainer, explains on his website, “If a dog [does not get the chance to relax], then it can only experience so much energy before [it experiences] an emotional overload.  This overload can look like aggression, submission, anxiety, overfriendliness – basically any behavior that you might call ‘disfunctional’.”  A dog stuck in the predator role is giving a certain amount of energy to the prey dog.  And giving it.  And giving it.  And giving it.  There’s no chance to relax!  Poor thing. 

Getting Unstuck
Trading Roles: Socially Successful Dogs

A “Socially Successful” dog, to me, is one who is able to not only have a good time during play, but to help others have a good time as well.  It’s generous, but not necessarily by nature.  It has learned the skills to get Unstuck.  It “flips its energy polarity” so that the other dog doesn’t get overloaded.  

I need to note here that YOU can help teach your pup the skills to be able to flip polarities!  I'll be writing additional posts about these techniques later, but for now I suggest browsing through Natural Dog Training sites and writings by it's primary proponents, Kevin Behan, Neil Sattin, Sang Koh, Lee Charles Kelly.  Be careful, though!  A lot of trainers are out there who say that they use "natural" training, but these are the only four who I'm really familiar with who can accurately explain the methods of NDT.  Please let me know about others you discover so that I can check them out and add them to this list.

Simple Explanation: A dog will help the other to get Unstuck and Snap-Out-Of-It by changing its body’s position.  It does this by whipping its body around 90- or 180- or 360-degrees.  Or by flopping to the ground in what traditionally is seen as a “submissive” pose (I hate using that term, but it works to give you a visual since it’s such a common phrase).

You can stick with these simple explanations and check out the videos below.  Note the moments where the dog has flipped it’s body (side to side) or flopped (up to down). 

Detailed Explanation: Or, if you’d like to have another language to think about this, let’s get a bit more technical.  Time for some diagrams.  Kevin Behan talks about “energy polarities” to describe where the dog places its body in space.    Think of it as Up ( /\ ), Down ( \/ ) and Side to Side (-->) (<--)

·      A dog with an Up Polarity ( /\ ) is standing alert, on guard, shoulders tense as if it’s pushing itself up from the ground to look taller.
·      A dog with a Down Polarity ( \/ ) is loose in the shoulders, head relaxed and cocked, perhaps it’s flopped over like a sack of potatoes or even on its back wiggling around like a fish.  It's important to note that a dog doesn't have to be on the ground to switch to this polarity. 
·      Side to Side Polarity is simply the direction in which the dog is moving or facing.

So, here are the different scenarios you’ll see when watching dogs play. 

·      There’s a dog chasing another dog (--> -->).
·      There’s a relaxed dog with a tense dog ( /\ \/ ).
·      There’s two dogs ignoring one another, just relaxing ( \/ \/ )
·      There’s two dogs trying to get the other to chase it (<-- -->).
·      There’s a dog getting in the way of another trying to chase (--> <--).
·      There’s two dogs in a potentially aggressive confrontation ( /\ /\ ).

(--> -->) is good, since the dogs’ energies complement one another.  However, (--> -->) (<-- <--) (--> -->) is better.  You can see why, yes?  The dogs are trading roles of chaser and chasee.  Predator and prey.  Same with ( /\ \/ ).  The dogs’ energies are complemented.  However, if a dog gets stuck in ( /\ ­) or ( \/ ), it will become frustrated.  Much better is ( /\ \/ ) ( \/ /\ ) ( /\ \/ )But no dogs play like that.  They’re up, down, running, flipping around.  They mix it up!  A play session you’d be more likely to see is:
(--> -->) ( /\­ \/ ) (--> -->) (<-- <--) (<-- -->) ( /\ /\ ­­) (--> -->) (--> -->) ( \/ /\ ) ( /\ \/ ) (<-- <--) (--> -->) (--> <--) (--> -->) ( \/ \/ ).

If I were describing that diagram session in words, it would be:
Dog A (Ace) chases Dog B (Buddy).  But then Buddy flops to the ground and Ace stands over it.  And when Buddy takes off, Ace chases it.  Then they switch roles and Buddy does the chasing.  But Buddy decides to turn around and ask Ace to chase him, but Ace wasn’t paying attention since he was in mid-sprint!  Both pups stare at one another from opposite sides of the room, teasing the other …

And then Buddy takes off, so Ace chases him.  And they keep the chase up!  Until Buddy tires of this and slows, dropping his head.  Ace wants to keep going, so he paws at Buddy and then bounces away, which Buddy responds to by chasing him.  And then they change directions.  Suddenly Dog C (Cookie) tries to block Ace from chasing Buddy.  Ace stops to sniff Cookie, during which time Buddy takes the chance to go grab some water and lay down.  But Ace remembers his attraction to Buddy and rushes over to him.  Grabs some water, takes a few seconds to catch his breath as well.

Does That All Make Sense?   

Do you like having this other language to describe dogs playing, or does it seem like there’s no use for it?  I’m really interested to hear what you think! 

Now some videos to put this language to use.

Let’s take the 9 mo old chocolate lab puppy as an example.  He had a hard time NOT pestering the others to play.  He wanted to be chased (--> -->), but if he was asked to chase the others (<-- <--) (--> -->), sometimes he would just stop dead in his tracks ( /\ /\ ­­), as if to say, “That’s no fun” and he would literally flip his body around (<--) (-->) and run off in the other direction.  But the other pup was tired of chasing, so the lab was left frustrated!  

To become “socially successful,” this pup will need to learn how to chase others.  Behan writes that if both dogs are constantly running away from one another (<-- -->), this is no good because they are “stuck” in their polarity.  The more a dog asks to be chased without a response, the more tension builds up in its body, and eventually that dog will Overload.  Being ignored by the others gives the dog a sense of resistance, and feeling stuck in that resistence is the “spark of an aggressive outburst.” 

Obviously, if you get two dogs who want to be the predator and chase, you’ve got a similar problem.  The lab puppy did have one dog in particular that it was highly attracted to: an English Bulldog.  Unfortunately, as you can see in this video, at the same time the Lab was attracted to the bulldog, the bulldog was attracted to the GoldenDoodle.  The polarities looked like this (--> <-- -->) (Bulldog, Lab, GoldenD).  The video stops sort of abruptly because I shut it off to give a time out to the lab.  Not because he was getting in the bulldog’s way of chasing the GoldenD, but because he was trying to be a predator to a predator.  And I could see the lab overloading (notice how he starts to try and mount the bulldog out of frustration).

Finally, a few videos with Bella.  She is in heat at the moment, so she’s much more predatory than normal (her mom is so proud of her for being predatory … I’ve been working really hard on this with her!). The first thing I notice is how she is pushing towards the lab, who up til this moment in the play session has been the “pusher” of other dogs.  We get to a moment at where the two are nose-to-nose, bodies almost symmetrical, and you’ve got ( /\ /\ ).  But then, as if to ease the tension, Bella drops her shoulders ( \/ ) and moves away as prey ( <-- ) , a sort of double-polarity-flip!

The lab loves it.  She’s jumping all over Bella ( /\ \/ ).  But then, you can start to see the tension building in the lab again, since B is just laying there.  The lab is feeling that “stuck resistence,” which leads her to bite at Bella’s neck to get her attention and then jump away.  As Behan writes about another group of dogs at play, “she presses in on [him] when he drifts away in order to trigger predatory impulses, and then she absorbs these by acting prey-like.  Notice how she springs up and rushes into [him] as he loses interest in order to incite him to flop her over again.” 

The additional two videos are more of the same play session, lots of polarity flipping.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Clash of the Training Theories

When's the last time you told your dog:

It's okay that you're letting me know how you feel by behaving that that way (i.e. being "naughty").  Can I help you in some concrete way to feel better, or do you know how to handle feeling this way on your own?  Do you know how to calm yourself down & get back to "normal"?  If not, let me try to help you learn a new behavior that's much more productive.

Oh, man.

When it comes to argument and debate, I love it all.  My "life plan" was to head to California (from Nebraska) so that I could get my PhD in philosophy from a school out here.  Moved to Mammoth so I'd have at least a year's residency... and then ended up loving here and staying.  Hey, teaching is always something I could go back and pursue, it's just on the backburner while I follow my current passion with Après Pooch.

Back to the point.  I love debate.  But when the other person doesn't seem to realize that their point of view may have an alternative - when that person happily and enthusiastically goes on and on about their "expertise" utilizing dominance techniques as if it couldn't possibly make me uncomfortable - I have to step back and consider whether it's even worth it to offer that alternate view on dog training & handling theories.

*** This is someone I was interviewing to possibly work for me helping to walk the dogs.  Hmm ***

I mean, will this person "get it"?  She appears to be so proud of what she's accomplished and how "well" she can handle the dogs.  I hardly know her, but from what I've seen of her and her three dogs, I don't think these pups are suffering from being raised this way.  Her pups seem pretty well-adjusted.

But I'm bursting to let her know that there's another option out there for her, a method where she doesn't have to feel that her dogs are "out to steal her status as 'Leader'".  It may be extreme to say, but this type of thinking is analogous to the civil war happening over in Libya.  The people want to oust their leader, and the paranoid, nutso and cruel Ghadaffi doesn't want to lose his "Leader" title.  This power struggle dynamic leads to Me vs. Them.  How is that a happy family when the foundation of the relationship rests upon conflict and constant threat of being "overtaken"?

I did jump into the fray.

Trying to avoid any negative comments against the Dominance method so she wouldn't become defensive (which in a debate leads to illogical arguments & gets us nowhere), I said that when I work with my clients' dogs, I don't like to think of myself as the only one who sets the rules.  After all, with dominance theories, the human sets the rules and the dog must obey or else. 

I prefer to think of our relationship as one where the dog and I both come to the table with our own set of Rules.  Our own unique histories, "knowledge" (in whatever sense dogs know about the world), personalities and lifestyle preferences.  I'm not sure exactly what to call this theory, but Natural Dog Training sure comes close, so I'll call it that for now.  It's not Positive Reinforcement, since even then the objective is to teach what the owner wants utilizing tools (treats, usually) that are supposed to be more tempting than the object towards which the dog is directing its energy.

Taking the example of a dog that pulls on the leash when it sees another dog while on a walk.

Dominance would punish the dog for doing the pulling.  In theory, the dog stops pulling because it wants to avoid that punishment.
R+ would add something to the dog's experience so that the act of NotPulling is rewarded.  In theory, the dog stops pulling because it would much prefer the reward.

Here's my problem with both.  Neither is addressing what the dog feels.  What its Rule is.  I believe that in this case, the dog's rule is, "Pulling towards that dog releases fantastic endorphins and it makes me feel great!"  Dominance just seems to teach that the dog is supposed to completely suppress feelings of "Fantastic" (Or Else).  R+ seems to say to the dog, "Sure, it feels Fantastic, but you should feel More Fantastic about a belly rub or a treat or my praise."

Think about this.  What would a child psychologist say if we applied these two methods to raising kids?  Punishing a kid for expressing his emotions?  Definitely frowned upon in our culture.  Telling a kid that "You shouldn't feel like that, you should feel how I prefer you to feel"?  Or "You should prefer This over That.  This should make you feel happier than That."  Not really condemned, but you're going to screw up a kid that way.  That kid becomes an adult and has some issues with how he or she "should" act.  Yep, I'm describing myself here.  :)

My life experiences, my "Rules", are probably the reason why I dislike even the "kinder" R+ method.  I wish that I'd been validated a bit more often as a kid.  Wish I'd been told, "It's okay that you feel that way.  Can I help you in some concrete way to feel better, or do you know how to handle this on your own?" 

**Okay, perhaps I'm being too hard on positive reinforcement and conditioning methods.  Those rewards are great.  And as the handler works with the dog to reduce its stress level over time, this is helping to teach the dog a technique to deal with that stress.  I don't really want to argue against R+.  But I do feel that it's missing the point when you assume that the dog is making an intellectual decision that it's better to receive the food than it is to express itself.  Or maybe I'm missing some point?

I need to also say this about R+: it has done wonders to help some dogs.  To really help them in a way that's gentle, which for anxious, stressed dogs is a blessing compared to dominance methods.
If I do work with the lady from above, trust me, I'll be keeping a close eye on her.  And I'm going to offer classes to my Sitters to offer them a new perspective.  I don't expect my Sitters to come with a similar set of Rules that I have.  After all, the world of dog training is dominated by the two theories with barely a murmur of Natural Dog Training.  But I'm going to keep at it.

Since I love a good debate!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Bit of Time To Relax ... Before the New Dog Daycare Facility Opens!!!

Hah, yeah right!  Relax...  I have other pressing to-do items that, if I choose to sit down and write this post, will force me to yet again work until past midnight, but it truly is enjoyable for me to write when the purpose is to get things off my chest & out of my head, so this is definitely a "recess" for me.  This post is long, so I broke it down for you:
  • Searing, Hot, Fuming Mad
  • In the Beginning, There Was A Daycare Dream
  • Found A (Tiny) Spot!
  • Loans ... or Angels?
  • Getting That Permit
  • Becoming A "Boss"
This is an update to a previous post, The Big Move, where I anxiously shared how I would have to find some other place to offer Daycare for my clients.

I admit, the tone of that post may have been a bit bittersweet (or just bitter), but hey, I was in shock!  The announcement from my significant other, Doug, that he was deciding to put the kibosh on Daycare (which accounts for approximately 85% of Après Pooch's business), knocked the wind out of me.  What?  No warning?  That's it!?

Okay, maybe not just bitter.  I was mad.  Searing, hot, fuming mad.

We're not even going to go into the temporary damage that decision did to our relationship.  :)  But you can imagine, I'm sure!  I felt as if I was given the choice of either having my business, or having him.  Believe it or not, my knee-jerk reaction was an overwhelming sadness that I would have to give him up!

Après Pooch is my baby, my passion.  It represents three years of 80+ hr workweeks and sacrifices such as putting friendships and family time on hold.  I really want to go home to Nebraska for a visit (yikes, I'm tearing up already!) but the business isn't quite ready for that yet.  I just can't leave for more than two or three days, which isn't enough time to visit with even one part of my family.  Getting closer by finally having a fantastic group of Sitters to help me out, though!

So, yeah, I was mad.  How could I give up all of this?  Sure, I could offer just dog walking & other pet sitting out of my clients' homes, but what about those that need a place for their pup to go?  We don't have a lot of options locally (although three cheers to Amanda with the Long Valley Dog Retreat for working to get her own facility up and running!) so what were my clients going to do now? 

I felt like I was about to let everyone down.

How Did I Pull This Off, Again?

The new Daycare is happening!  * ok, so I don't technically have the permit from the Town in hand, but it's a tiny step away.*  No "Grand Opening" date yet, but we're looking at early March 2011.  And now that I'm thisclose to that date, I have to sit back in awe and question how in the world things worked out like this!

For those that don't know my "backstory," before I ever knew that people got paid to walk dogs, or that there was a job called "Professional Pet Sitter," I dreamed up opening a daycare here in Mammoth.  I started my research in 2007 by joining the PSCA (Pet Care Services Association) and researching for hours and hours (usually not while at my other jobs working days at a restaurant and evenings at a book store).  Started a self-taught course in writing up a business plan with an 800+ page guide that, I'm proud to say, I read cover to cover and filled out meticulously... more than once! 

Then that dream was put on hold when I realized that all of the obstacles I would face (Financing, Available Location, Major Use Permit with the Town of Mammoth, and Finding/Managing Employees) were just too much for me.  I wasn't ready for those things!  Me?  Manage employees?  What right did I think that I could do that, when I hadn't even managed my own schedule yet as a pet sitter!

So ... when I was told "You can have your business, but you can't have it here," I thought back to the difficulties I faced in 2007/08 and all of those obstacles.  Put aside my self-doubt and decided that at the very least, and since it was the easiest and least time-consuming of the obstacles to determine whether I would get a "Yes" or "No," I would go out and search for an Available Location.

And I found a spot!

No, it's not the fanciest or the most impressive or the biggest ... in fact, I think the new APPS facility may be The Smallest dog daycare in the history of daycares, excluding In-Home daycares.  I'm fine with that.  Be sure to let me know if you find one smaller!  :)

I know that this is just a temporary situation until I can move into (and afford) a larger space.  Interested in my ultimate goal?  Check out the video below to see the Après Pooch "Dream Location" ... 5 years, perhaps?  I want the space on the far left of the building.  3500 sq. ft and tons of windows lining the side (which you can't see, unfortunately) letting in natural light and fresh air.

I know.  Some daycares have 3500 sq. ft playrooms!  But my goal is for quality, rather than quantity.  Sorry for the cheesy music, not my doing!  The realtors must have put this together.


I'm not going to go into this much, other than to say that I put the time and the effort in to try and get a loan on my own.  I've got my 45-page business plan, complete with a mission statement (see below); the analysis of my target market, my competition, the pet care industry (as well as the ski industry) as a whole and locally; I did the risk/profit analysis and projected my financials in pretty stark detail over the next 10 years; I've got a marketing plan, an operations & hiring plan, a community & volunteer plan, a technology plan.

All this, and because of that little snafu that says, "You must produce a minimum of two years' tax records in order to be eligible for a loan" ... I couldn't get the loan.

So.  To my investors, those who have contributed large or small amounts towards the start-up costs for this daycare, thank you!  A very public Thank You.  Don't they call these people "angels" in the investing world?  Yeah, you are. 

Major Use Permit with the Town of Mammoth

Overcame this one, too!  First of all, I didn't have to deal with a "Major" use permit after all (saving me $10,500 - no kidding, the Town's planning department charges that much just for a review of your permit application... that doesn't even guarantee that you'll get it!).  Just had to apply for a "Minor" one.  Still pricey, but I'm not complaining!  The main reason is that rather than being located in town near residential or commercial areas, I've chosen a space in the Industrial Park at the entrance to town.  The nearby construction shops are much louder than a few barking dogs could ever be! 

I'd also done most of the work through the hundreds of hours (I'm pretty sure the grand total hits somewhere between 700-900 hours) that I put into researching and preparing my business plan, figuring out how I wanted to run this daycare.  Did I over-do it a bit?  Ya'll know I did, because that's how I do things.  Did I have to edit like crazy?  Of course.  But without ALL of the info I collected, I couldn't have been so clear on the final product, and putting together the Use Permit application wouldn't have been such a breeze.

The town employees kept saying, "Thank you for being so thorough.  This is great."  I think they were impressed, if I do say so myself!

Finding/Managing Employees

This is the scariest part of all for me.  When we move into this space, we're looking at hosting up to 10 large or 15 small dogs per day.  There's no possible way that I could take care of everyone myself.  I'm pretty much maxed out at three or four.  More than that and I can't give the pups the attention and time they deserve.  There's not enough space in the play room for everyone to get the exercise and stimulation they need, so the plan is to head on over to a nearby trail and take everyone out in "shifts" (groups of 2-3) so that they can play and romp and really experience the Sierra Nevada.  This is more than I was able to give most of the Daycare pups at my own home, I tell ya that much!

So I've been working to find a crew that can help me provide walks outside of the facility (which will keep limit the amount of potty inside, I hope!) and I may be looking to hire a part-time employee as early as this summer, depending on how busy we continue to be this winter.  I honestly hadn't planned on hiring anyone that soon... but reality is setting in to where I'm realizing that I can't take my max # of pups per day myself when I've also got to take care of all of the administrative work... and continue to work on the planning for the Grand Opening.

Another Thank You goes out to my other "angels" (Dinah, Angie, Amelia and Jennifer) who have helped me out with Daycare and Pet Sitting Visits when I just couldn't handle all of the work myself.  You've allowed me to continue to offer fantastic pet care for my clients even during this expansion.  I'd hate to have to leave my clients hanging without another option.  Thank you for putting up with my adjustments as I work to figure out the best systems for communication, scheduling the jobs, getting you the info you need, and gettin' you paid!  :)

AND a thank you to those who haven't quite taken a job yet, since they are only available for the dog walking once we get the facility up and running.  I hope that I'm able to express loudly enough how important you are, though!  Because without the trust that I have Sitters (Victoria, Olivia, Angela, Sherri & Silvia) to back me up when things become chaotic, I really would be frightened out of my wits to open up those doors.  I couldn't conceive of getting started without knowing that I have Sitters whom I can trust to help me care for my clients' beloved dogs from Day One.

And A Final Thank You

... to Doug.  I love you so much more because of what we've been through over the past year, crazy as that may sound.

Now I'm tearing up again!

The Après Pooch Mission Statement:
Our mission is to maximize the mountain town experience for our customers by caring for their beloved dogs as if they were our own.  We aim to be known as the premier pet care provider in the Eastern Sierra.  We do this by offering quality, convenience and support to our clients, all the while providing a social, community environment for their dogs.  Our goal is for moderate growth, annual profitability, and consistent results, measured in tail wags and panting tongues. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jax, Naz, B & Mika

Jax was a trooper, and kept up pretty well with our group of big pups!  So funny to watch him run around in the videos below, hopping around like a little rabbit (in a little blue outfit!).  Naz kept slipping and sliding all over the place, since there is a layer of ice under some of this fresh powder.
But she had a blast!  They all did.  What a great experience, for all of us, to look out on that field of smooth, blank snow ... and then to rush out and tear it up by running through it!  :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pet Blogger Challenge

One of the blogs I follow is Boulder Dog, whose author recently took the "Pet Blogger Challenge," and it inspired me to do the same.  The purpose of the challenge that I'm taking away is to re-assess why I'm putting the time & effort into the blog.  Which is something that's been clanking around in my head for awhile now.  So, here we go!

Much better than HBO.

When did you begin your blog?
July 2010, but I've not really done much with it until the past few months.

What was your original purpose?
Well, I wanted a place where I could work out some of my own questions regarding what was ok in terms of working with our clients' dogs, many of whom I spend only a few days with per year.  I don't want to use dominance methods (which I'll admit are pretty quick/temporary fixes, even if somewhat abhorrent), and yet I don't spend enough time with the pups to use positive reinforcement methods, which tend to take a longer amount of time to connect with the pups (not always, though!)

Then I found Neil Sattin's Natural Dog Blog, and I thought, "Here we go!" This, in combination with a bit of the other methods, can really help me to become a better pet sitter!

And that's the key.  I want to provide the dogs who stay with Après Pooch with the best possible care, the best experience.

Bella has been a bit "naughty" lately about hopping up on the couches uninvited.

Is your current purpose the same?
Wow, I have to admit... No, it's not.  Hmm.  Interesting!

The blog is now used as a place where I can post report cards (including pictures and videos) for clients' dogs.  I've completely left off any sense that the blog is for the dogs themselves and how I work with them.  Hmm.  Perhaps it's time to start a totally new blog for my clients' report cards.

How do you blog?
Well, my current technique is to schedule dates (at least once a week... yes I know it should be more often) when to post in my Google calendar.  And I've been pretty good about that.  Since I have little to no traffic (rather, I send my clients a link to the blog for them to check out their report card), nah, I'm not worried about losing readers.  :)

Are you generating income from your blog?
No, not directly, but it's part of my marketing and customer service efforts, so indirectly?  Yes.  I'm not concerned at all right now about trying to generate income through things like ads, etc. 

Spookie (my dad & stepmom's new addition)

What do you like most about blogging?
Marketing isn't all about the "sales push" anymore.  It's about gaining the trust of our clients, which is really important in the pet care business!  This blog is a way for me to share who I am and what I believe in.  A place to admit my shortcomings, to share my successes, and to encourage others to work on their own relationships with their dogs.

What do you like the least?
Having to learn it all!  It's quite time-consuming to learn the difference between and techniques of blogging, tweeting, facebook(ing), etc.  But we're getting there!

How do you see your blog changing in 2011?
I like the idea of going "back to my roots" and focusing more on my relationship with the dogs.  I'll definitely be creating a separate blog soon just for client notes. 

So glad I took this challenge!  I recommend it to others, because it'll help you gain a bit of clarity, which is a wonderful thing in our chaotic lives.

Go Take The Challenge yourself now! 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dogs & Town Government

I've always been interested in politics, both local and national.  But now that I'm moving forward with the daycare, these things are now directly connected to me, since the fate of Mammoth Lakes affects the fate of our success.

Below is my comment that I posted to the recent LATimes article titled, "Mammoth Lakes fears financial ruin after legal judgment."  Wow, what a doomsday title!

Frustratingly Uncertain

Ok, I get the whole idea of clearing out the town staff; replacing them (temporarily) with a group that's a bit more "proven" (an understatement). Financially it makes sense.

BUT!  Please wait until I receive my use permit application to open up my new dog daycare facility!  :)  The planning department has been working on it for three weeks now and I'm just days away from receiving my permit.  I know it's technically an advertisement, but I get the comment, "Oh!  I wish I knew about you the last time I vacationed in Mmmth, I wish I could've brought my dog!"  ... so I'm going to risk being reported and give out my website:  www.ApresPooch.com    :D

As for what's going to happen here for the businesses, it's frustratingly uncertain.  We're now compounding the 2007 recession, the 2006-08 lower-than-average snowfall (222", 334" and 470"), and the housing market "throwback" to 1999 prices... with the potential threat of higher taxes and loss of amenities for our guests (visitors to town).  Part of the reason Mammoth is so attractive are things like our bus & trolley services, our SUPER (but probably expensive) trails system, and the multiple cultural events for the community.

If we lose those, I don't know... hey, at least we got 209" in December!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chester & Monty's Mid-day walks (January)

One more picture!  :)  They were pretty tired on their last day.  Lots of playing with friends will do that to you!

Look!  You can see Mmth Mountain in the background!  :)  This was taken on the big snowpile behind the condo.  Beautiful days for these "walks"/play sessions.

Yep, Monty definitely was "into" Bella.  She thought he was pretty hilarious, too!

C & M would chase one another back and forth across the snowpile... then C would stop for a break and give a big shake of the head... if I didn't move out of the way, I'd get sprayed by slobber!

The boys were so good.  Thanks for letting me watch them this week!

Zelda's January Daycare

Out at the old Sherwin's (unofficial) off-leash dog park.  Z met a boxer out there and the two of them played quite a bit of chase (her favorite game!)

We also visited Shady Rest park, where Z and my Bella sprinted around, jumped into the powder, and enjoyed the beautiful day.  Check out Z's frozen whiskers at the end of the video, as well as in the picture below!

The "Mammoth Shot"   :)

More sprinting: