Wednesday, February 2, 2011

River - Getting Mom Trained

Day 28 of 365
For Newbies: Here's how the story begins:

Remember the goal: Finding a producer or celeb or anyone who will help make Piper's Someday (the book River stars in) into a movie...

River's words of wisdom for today: "When life hands you too many leaves to rake, then just do what you can." (see pic below)

The first day of "Basics II" class, I walked into what looked like a large education facility without the chairs and tables. Instead, there was a large carpet in the middle of the room, a series of carabiners anchored to the walls with clips on them so you could "tie" your dog in, and it also had a great dog trainer by the name of Deven Gaston.

River immediately went buh-listi-ic. She was whining and barking at all of the other dogs (about nine or ten of them) and then she would turn and bark at me. I quickly clipped her into the corner near the bathroom, away from other dogs and gave her six treats in six seconds so she would be Q-U-I-E-T.

It did not happen. I couldn't shut her up. The sweat slowly dribbled from my temple and class had not even begun. Deven, sensing my anxiety and inability to get River to settle, came over and told me this: "You need to walk away from her when she does that, into the hallway, then wait about three seconds. When she quiets, come back and give her a treat and stick with her. The minute she gets mouthy again, then do the same except make her wait a little longer each time you treat her. She will follow you not the rest of us."

I stayed in the hallway doing my runs back and forth for the entire class. I thought we'd failed the "Basics II" class and would be asked not to return. It was miserable...I couldn't contain River as all she wanted to do was visit everyone else in the room...the people and the dogs. I attribute all of this to her early days of jumping fences and wanting to play with the neighborhood kids and checking out people blocks away in the hopes of getting pets and loving. The first day of class, however, she was clamped in, quite mightily trying to fling herself out of her leash and pull the carabiner from the wall.

When we left that day, we were given instructions on what tricks to do with our animals. One of the most important lessons I learned was that you only ever need a flat buckle collar for a dog. If trained properly, dogs should never be on a prong collar or anything where it might potentially harm them. A simple leash and a flat buckle collar...oh, brother. I felt bad as I'd used all different kinds of collars in an effort to contain River's exuberance when we walked.

I went home with my tail between my legs and, of course, River sacked out in the passenger seat having eaten an entire bag of Pupperoni on our first our class. I thought for sure she would be sick.

I considered not returning to Charlottesville for the second class, but each time I tried one of the exercises Deven had asked us to do, well, River ate it up - figuratively and literally.

On the following Saturday, we went back. We got there early so I could let River run around out back and get rid of some pent up energy. When I went in, I chatted briefly with Deven and said, "She's pretty willful." I meant that River was stubborn and a bit obstinate - always wanting her way. Deven stopped in her tracks and came over to me and quietly, and evenly said, "Dogs aren't willful. Owners are."

She put me in my place - kindly I might add. I'd never seen it that way. That I was trying to work my will over my dog. She was right. It was the best dog lesson I ever got.

By week three, I was out of the bathroom hallway, and River was progressing from the worst in the class to not-too-bad.

It only gets better.

Please send us your dog stories...we are listing out Scout, River, and Chloe...I've heard from a few other people but don't know if they want me to name their animals here. River wants to know your story, your dog story of survival (or not), and how you managed.

For's a cute pic.

Love to you,

Ruth and River

Go to for more information on Piper's Someday or to Amazon or to

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