About Me

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My name is Lesli Hyland. In my fifty one years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty four dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I became a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. Currently, as a Dog Walker I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to experience their unique personalities. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.

Monday, April 20, 2015

EIGHT IS (more than) ENOUGH

April 2015
I just came across this half finished blog below.  I wrote it 6 months or so ago.  
Ah...such good intentions...
Let's see how much I actually accomplished!  Read the post and I'll dissect it in blue.

Thankfully my dogs all get along...That is my only criteria really for whether a dog can become part of our family.  But we now have EIGHT dogs of our own and a foster dog.  It is alot and each dog has his/ her own need for space and attention in order to feel safe, relaxed and loved.

That is REALLY HARD to provide with this many dogs and a life outside of dog care!

Okay...well Lupie and Mamcita have had a few spats and we are working on that.  The altercations are very context dependent so are easy at this point to prevent, but it is a serious situation that will require ongoing observation and evaluation. I am not oblivious to the fact that the added stress of a crazy Vizsla puppy and the foster dog may be contributing to the angst between the girls.  Thankfully Goose is growing up and see the good news below about our foster dog!

Lately I have been feeling stressed, overwhelmed and depressed.  I've blamed it on money issues...lack of structure in my daily schedule...my on going battle with these extra 10 pounds of belly fat...

Ha, ha, ha...still carrying the extra pounds!

But after some rough days inside my own head I've come to the realization that I am overwhelmed with the task of adequately meeting the needs of my dogs (never mind my husband, my students and myself!).

Seeing as I am stuck with myself and am not going to get rid of any dogs, divorce my husband or quit my job anytime soon...


Step 1:  Place the foster dog.
Easier said than done!  She is a great dog...in the right hands...and a potential disaster in the wrong ones. She needs to go, but I am NOT willing to place her in a situation I am not 100% comfortable with just to get her out of the house!  So...Step 1 may take some time.   Breathe...

Hooray!  Cassidy has her own family now and in spite of some bumps in the road is happy in her new life!  Phew! 

Step 2:   Set aside time for my husband
Friday night will be designated as "date night" in my new fall work schedule.  Our "date" will directly follow Red Dog Solutions' new PUPPY SOCIAL HOUR on Friday nights! I will also try VERY hard to put away my stupid smart phone at night!  Though that isn't very helpful if he doesn't put away his... :-) And we will sit down together to plan quick meals for the week.

Well...the Friday night Puppy Hour never really took off and with it our date night fizzled due to logistics...BUT my new Summer schedule has me off most weekends, so Brian and I should be able to get away more! :-)  Provided of course that I can develop some addition dog care giver options...
The phone obsession (Brian's and mine is an on-going battle)

Step 3:  Identify causes of dog stress at home (theirs, mine and Brian's!).  Eliminate as many situations
as possible.
a.)  Crazy Vizsla puppy (GOOSE) jumping all over other dogs and me when excited (feeding time especially).
b.)  Crazy senile Vizsla (TUCKER) barking ...repetitively...makes me wanna throttle him.
c.)  Intense excitement barking (TAWNIE and CITA) when they think I am leaving house or letting them out...or thinking about leaving the house ...or thinking about letting them out...(gotta love those herding dogs!)
d.)  Overly rough play between BIG Vizsla puppy and smaller dogs.
e.)  Feeling like there isn't enough of me to go around in the course of a day.

Management/ Elimination:
a.)  Feed first thing in a.m. to avoid dogs laying in office waiting like coiled springs for me to get up from computer to feed them. Crate/ feed Goose in office so he can be confined at the beginning of feeding time, which takes him out of the arousal level mix.
b.)  In general. take the extra time and steps to handle dogs one at a time, rather than en masse.  Make two trips to/ from car...let dogs outside one at a time etc.
c.)  Limit Goose's time with smaller dogs.
d.)  Use citronella bark collar proactively rather than reactively.  For the most part, I know when Tucker is going to bark.
e.)  Establish clear routines about departure so that Tawnie and Cita know whether they are leaving with me or not. (eliminate the Am I going? Am I going? craziness).

All of these issues still exist.  I honestly have not put the time into developing better/ different routines to decrease excitement levels.

Training/ Training tools:
a.)  Purchase ADAPTIL collar for Tucker.  Set up ADAPTIL diffuser unit in Goose's crate room.
Nope - didn't do it.

b.)  Increase exercise.
Yes with the weather changing they are all getting more yard time.  I have started playing fetch with Goose and Cita individually.  I began scheduling a run for MY dogs into my daily dog walking client schedule and insisting on it. 

c.)  Train - "Go to your house (crate)!" for feeding time.
I have accomplished this with Goose, but primarily because he is the biggest and craziest dog, plus he gets crated first!  Pure laziness on my part - the rest are still acting like idiots at feeding time. LOL

d.)  Train - "Enough" for Goose when he crosses the line from playing to bullying.
I have hollered at him (bad dog trainer!) and stepped in and physically stopped him, but no...I haven't actually trained ENOUGH as a cue using rewards.  As he matures it is getting better on its own to some degree and I am always finding other dogs for him to play with to remind him that he can't ALWAYS be big man on campus.

e.)  Increase Goose's tolerance of being restrained/ manipulated by his collar through rewards.
Yes I have worked on pairing treats and praise with leading/ pulling him by the collar.  
He resists it much less now.

f.)  Increase Goose's tolerance of being crated through desensitization.
Hooray!  Yes!  Goosey can tolerate the crate for 3-4 hours happily now.  In truth I simply gave up on it for a while, then reintroduced short periods of confinement with beef marrow bones when left alone and high rates of reinforcement when I was present. 

g.)  Better time management!
Hmmmmm....not sure I've accomplished that...the computer is a big time suck (damn you Facebook!) BUT my new schedule is designed to create extra time at Red Dog to get paperwork done and allow me time to train my own dogs. 

So, 6 mths later, why didn't I just delete that half finished blog and start over?  Alot of trainers would not admit to these failures in public!  How can we expect our students to do what we tell them to do if we don't do it ourselves?   
Well, the reality is that we (dog trainers and students alike) will not always do what we know we should do to make our lives better, nor to improve the behavior of our dogs.   
We are weak.  We get busy.  We get tired.  We are not perfect.  Shit happens.  

The important thing is to realize that our dogs are NOT to blame for our shortcomings.  They're just dogs being dogs.
The important thing is to NOT GIVE UP.  To try again.  To adjust our expectations and our goals to allow for small successes.  And to be inspired by those successes!

So here goes:
My new plan:

1.  Get Goose into a structured class environment to help me focus on him alone, away from    the group.  Train agility 3 days a week, now that it is spring and my agility field is ready for action!  This will provide Cita and Goose with more individual "MOM time" and provide extra exercise.

2.  Create departure routines  that make it easy for Cita and Tawnie and Goose to know if they are coming with me (sound familiar? Yup I will try again.)  Goose is really very good about waiting calmly at front door when I am leaving with him.  I created that behavior using a tether by the door.  I will do the same for Cita and Tawnie - promise!

3.  Fence an additional area of our yard to provide more environmental stimulation for my crew.  The area I have designated has brush, trees and open grassy space.  It is full of birds and chippies and butterflies in the summer.  The dogs will have limited access to it, keeping it special and novel.  It will double as a fun area for play dates for visiting dogs and an off leash potty area for agility students.  

4.  Take Mamacita and Lupie on walks together to improve their emotional relationship.

5.   Feed first thing in morning to avoid meal time anticipation (sound familiar?) 
I will try again to feed first... sit at computer and drink coffee after!!!  

Thanks for tuning in.  Love your dogs.  Love yourself.


  1. Best laid plans...happens to us all. Great that you did in fact tackle a few of the things on your list. That's all we can do...the list will always be there...but if we cross a few things off, it's a success. Good luck with continuing to work through everything, and thanks for sharing this post. A good reminder that no-ones dogs are perfect, not even the trainer's. :-)

  2. P.S. Somehow I even missed that you HAD a foster dog in the first place!