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Third Place Winner of Tails of Triumph Story Contest - Lorretta Pyeatt

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  Angela Peña, Director of Media and Public Relations
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008 : 2:13:28 PM
Updated Tuesday, December 16, 2008 : 2:26:07 PM
I first met Stella in one of my Preschool classes. I knew Stella’s mom Beverly Adams well as she owns several wonderful rescue dogs and each and everyone of them have participated in Preschool dog training at Canine Academy. Beverly introduced me to Stella and said you know she is deaf, the rescue group did not know she was deaf. Stella’s past owner turned her into a pure breed Dalmatian rescue organization. Her past owner sited the reason being “Stella would not listen to him." Well I guess Stella did not listen to him since she was deaf!

I have had the opportunity to work with owners of deaf dogs in the past. So this was not completely unfamiliar territory for me. But it was very different for Stella’s owner Beverly. I assured Beverly that Stella would be easy to train. I then turned to the class and explained Stella story. Beverly said with her head shaking back and forth but how can I get Stella to come when she is not looking at me? I said stomp your foot hard on the ground, Stella will feel the vibrations and look to see where the vibration is coming from which is you! Beverley looked kind of funny at me, then looked at Stella whom was not paying one bit of attention to her and she stomped her foot Stella turned around and looked right up at Beverley. I said there it is the attention you need, now begin with the watch me exercise….treat to Stella’s nose…then to your nose!

Everyone in the class was inspired. I told the other students that each of us depend on our voice too much in the training of our dogs. If we all would think of our dogs as deaf and give our dog hand commands we would have the attention we so desperately want from our dogs. I saw a lot of doubt from my students. It did not take long for everyone to be inspired by Stella and Beverley’s accomplishments.

Stella was the first to sit, lay down and could stay longer than any other dog in the class. And how did Stella heel on the leash, very well I have to brag. How did Stella learn to heel beside Beverley? I used the same idea as stomping to get Stella’s attention but instead I showed Beverley how to use her leg as a target. Beverley would take a treat to Stella’s nose then to her nose to start with
the watch me exercise for attention. Then she would give a treat to Stella, I told Beverley take out another treat and pat your leg with the treat as Stella moved to the treat I told Beverley give the treat. The hand command for heel was an open hand and arm that reached out in front of Beverley. This taught Stella how to walk beside Beverley and it gave Stella a target zone. The target is the seam of Beverley’s pants and the heeling area is the swing of Beverley’s hand. This is the way Stella learned to walk beside Beverely.

Of course our dogs won’t give us 100% attention all the time so it is important to teach our dogs to work and keep working until we release them. My release word for hearing dogs and owners is OK. So that would be Stella’s release from work but of course her command would be the universal hand command for OK. Beverley still used her voice because people are verbal learners.

I like to tell my students since dogs don’t know their ABC’s and can’t read they read our body language. And we need to learn how to read our dog’s body language. Beverley told the other students in class she gave the verbal commands for herself. Not only was Beverley inspired by Stella’s progress everyone that meets Stella is inspired by her story and obedience training. I give the credit of Stella’s success to her wonderful owner Beverley whom never gave up. In fact Stella completed several 6 weeks courses at Canine Academy and eventually started Agility training.

I am sure you are thinking how did Stella learn agility? We made up simple hand commands for each piece of equipment and used the basic stomp technique for quick attention followed by the watch me exercise. Not only did Stella learn Agility she was the top student graduating from her class. One of the local newspapers was so inspired by Stella and Beverley they featured them in an article about rescue dogs overcoming obstacles.

I have a motto in training it goes like this: Don’t tell me your dog can’t or won’t learn something! Never say never to me. Dogs are amazing creatures with more intelligent than we give them credit for, they can do any thing if we have the time and patients to teach them.