Monday, March 16, 2009

The first “wow” of the day has to go out to Bob Bailey who made it back home yesterday, less than a week after his open heart surgery!  Bob is doing well, thank you to all for all of your prayers and positive thoughts.

As we head into the last day of Tweener camp today, I have to shout out another  “wow!”  This is by far the best camp I have ever been a part of in all my years as a dog trainer, it truly has has been magical. We started doing camps here in 1999. I really don’t know how many we have had over the years, I am sure it must be close to one hundred. For me to say this one was “the best so far” is not something I take lightly. Yes we have a great group of people, but I must say we are blessed to have really good groups of campers quite often here at Say Yes.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the group this weekend is really experienced in our program, but I think it is more than that. We have a few very notable RICs here (REALLY Improved Campers:)).  There is one woman who flew in all the way from New Brunswick (east coast of Canada). This is her fourth camp with us in the last year.  She told me today that she had left camp in tears almost every day during two of her three past camps. The tears were not due to any harsh words that were spoken to her, or a lack of empathy for her training frustrations.  They stemmed from a combination of sources; it was her frustration with a difficult, young dog that had some serious behaviour challenges. Plus it was disappointment at not seeing the expectant results immediately after camp. However, she took all of the suggestions we gave to her to heart and you would not believe the difference in her and her dog. WOW.  She had a lot of work to do but man, she did it! I can hardly believe it is the same dog. 

I believe what is making this camp so special is to see huge improvement like this not just in one dog, but is so many. Really, almost every single student in camp has made MASSIVE strides since their last camp.  What this tells me is the finessing that has been made to this program over the past two years is really paying big dividends for the students right now. There was a time when, even though I was teaching people exactly what I did with my own dogs, something was lost in the translation. The students results rarely had the same degree of excellence of my own dogs.  Just as I believe “a dog is a reflection of their owner’s ability to train” I also firmly believe that  “your students are a reflection of your ability to teach.”  So in the past, when I saw a group of students leave camp and come back several months later with little improvement, I took it personally and looked for opportunities to change how the message was delivered. Luckily,  I have not been alone  in this endeavor. I have an awesome group of instructors that give me great feedback at where they believe changes need to be made in order to continuing moving the curriculum forward. The improvements that  this weekend’s group of students have made since their last camps, makes me believe the program really has evolved to a wonderful place both for us to teach and for the students to enjoy the maximum benefits. The excellence of performance I saw only sporadically in students’ dogs in the past, I am starting to see in the vast majority of the students that come here today. It has taken ten years of teaching to get to this “wow”  point, but wow, what an awesome feeling. My dog training philosophy has not changed throughout the years, however “how” we teach the details of the program have become very clear, especially over the last year.  I am not the type of person to sit back and say “all done,” so I will not stop trying to improve. I know every camp I teach will always see the inclusion of something new. However, it is a great place to be when you can now measure student’s improvements by leaps rather than inches!

Today I am grateful for all of those students that have come to camps over the last ten years. The evolution of this program has been facilitated  through our students, both their successes and their challenges. Thank you.



  1. Hi Susan-

    Today’s post is perfect. I planned on posting a comment today to say thanks for the sleep I got last night (I’ll explain… :)) and I get to read this post where you’ve had a fantastic, rewarding breakthrough of your own. The stuff we’re up to doesn’t always show up when we expect it to. I’m so glad you got your wow!

    Back to the sleeping…I wanted to say thanks for your daily tips in my mailbox each morning. (For those of you that don’t know – you can sign up to get them at clickerdogs.com) You shared one several days ago about a new pup and sleeping through the night.

    Saturday, our new baby girl flew in from Michigan and I set up the crate right by my face next to the bed and stuck my fingers through the grate as you instructed. Saturday night she had me up every 1.5-2 hours. I took your advice and took her out, didn’t interact with her at all, and put her back in the crate after she pottied. She seemed very confused about this btw. 🙂

    Last night – only her 2nd night with us – she slept straight through 7am. Yes – I said 7am! That means I got 7 straight hours of sleep last night! Thank You Susan! See you at Puppy Camp!

  2. Thank you Susan, Lynda, Penny and Jane for an awesome Tweener Camp! I love you guys. Your program has really opened my eyes in so many ways and has allowed me to truly love my baby dog and the challenges she’s presented to me instead of getting upset and frustrated.

    It was hard going from my boy who’s heart is so huge and who throws 110% into everything asked of him and then curls up on the couch with me to a border collie who didn’t seem overly enthusiatic about anything (me, tugging, working it was all such a struggle). I remember thinking to myself that this was not what I signed up for – where was my high drive, tugging machine and there was really not much connection to speak of – I had no idea how I’d convince her I was a part of the agility run.

    Skills Camp really saved my relationship with my baby and I love her so much – she makes me work my ass off and I’m very grateful to her for it! She’s a shaping machine now! 🙂 It is so amazing to see the potential I always knew was in her being brought out. She truly is an incredibley gifted dog and now I’m becoming the trainer that she needs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!


  3. Great camp Susan & company. As always I had a tremendous, exhausting time. Thanks for providing an environment that both inspires and challenges your students, not allowing us to be satisfied with the status quo but constantly prodding us on for a higher degree of excellence.

  4. A great teacher never stops learning! That’s why they’re so wonderful.

    I’m enjoying your daily tips so much that I think I’m ready for another puppy. Oops, did I say that out loud? Eeek!

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