Updated: Jan 24
Best Friends: Michelle and Maci
❤ Tell us a bit about your bestie!
Maci is your quintessential mutt; she is a mix of many breeds with awesome characteristics. Maci was in an out of state shelter, picked up by a local rescue who fostered her before coming to live with my family at only 12 weeks old. Today she is one.
❤ What do you love most about Maci’s character?
Maci has always seemed mature for her age. As a young puppy she was extremely sweet and respectful of her senior dachshund sister. Today she has a little brother dachshund, and she is amazing with him too.
❤ What’s the naughtiest thing she has ever done?
Maci seems to think our wooden coffee table is a bench not a table, so it is her favorite place to take naps. While it seems inappropriate to have her sleeping on a table, we joke and refer to it as a “bench” and allow her to enjoy it.
❤ Does she have any funny quirk or habit?
Maci lets out the loudest moans and groans in the evening when she is tried and ready to call it a day.
❤ What makes your bestie super happy?
Walks! She delights in strolling down the street or the local bike trail with me. We always have a loose leash, lots of eye contact and plenty of sniff stops.
❤ How did your dog training career begin?
Following my five years of Marine Mammal Training, my professional career shifted to 15 years in Corporate Human Resources and Communications. When opening Clicks, my intention was to bridge my passion of animal behavior with my experience in human talent development. Being a dog trainer that has had professions concentrated on both animals and people truly sets me apart.
When not working with my clients and their dogs, I volunteer weekly at the SPCA Cincinnati. Utilizing my experience with clicker training through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, my animal training skills are valuable to the Shelter as I support the socialization, enrichment and adoptability of the dogs.
My formal education includes a B.A. in Biology, M.S. in Public Relations and a Masters Certificate in Creativity and Change Leadership. This academic variety lends well to the science of dog training and working with people and their beloved pets.
❤ Congratulations on being a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner! What did you love most about this training journey?
I always admired Karen Pryor as a pioneer in positive reinforcement training of animals. I was elated when I realized that she had founded a dog training certification program. I loved learning how things have advanced in the field of animal training since I had started as a Marine Mammal Trainer in the 1990s. Click here to see what it means to be a Karen Pryor Academy trainer.
❤ What are the most common questions you get asked as a dog trainer?
One of the most common questions I get asked is "why is my dog so good for you and not me?" People sometimes think us trainers are doggy magicians. When I coach people on training their dogs, I remind them to use a high value reward (e.g. soft, stinky and small) and a high rate of reinforcement. Trainers know to be generous with our rewards, owners often need to be taught to, as it might seem unhealthy to give so many treats. The key thing to remember is the treats (e.g. cooked chicken) is broken up into tiny pieces and given frequently when behavior is delivered.
❤ How was Maci during her training?
Maci went through the KPA program during a critical and sometimes challenging time for a dog, before turning one, adolescent dogs have similar ‘behavior challenges’ which can be compared to human teenagers. They can become defiant and sometimes regress from the great behavior they adopted in puppy class. Fortunately for me, using positive reinforcement and the strong bond we had we did not have any real issues. From day one, Maci has had a zest for learning and will perk up and wag her tail when asked if she wants to “go train.”
❤ What does having FriendshipCollar mean to you both?
We are a matching set, both literally and figuratively!
❤ What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is teaching people to train their dogs. I love when a dog and their person grow their relationship and succeed at their training goals. I also enjoy the bond I make with each dog; nothing beats the feeling of a pup joyfully running over to me when I arrive at a training session.
❤ What’s the biggest challenge you have conquered together?
Not having the ability to continue to attend public training classes due to Covid-19 quarantine made it difficult to socialize Maci as a young dog. Using social distancing and wearing a mask when in public, I ensure she still gets exposed to various environments as often as possible. We have spent time going to hardware and pet stores, outside coffee stands, biking trails, etc.
❤ How does your bestie cheer you up when you’re sad?
Dogs sense your emotions and when I’m down she simply wants to stay by my side and ensure I am not alone.
❤ Can you share with us a few inspiring stories about the dogs you have trained?
I had one dog who was anxious and was resorting to aggressive behavior. After working with his family and introducing clicker training, their bond grew, and his reactivity was better understood and managed. I showed up to one session to find his owner had trained him for fun to jump through a hula hoop, they were both having a great time!
Another dog I have been working with for some time was adopted by an amazing couple who took her in while she was extremely fearful. It has been so fulfilling seeing her transformation as she is desensitized to scary things and taught foundation and fun behaviors which have helped her confidence and comfort with her family blossom
❤ Can all mischievous dogs be trained?
Each dog, their behavior and their trainability is uniquely different. My approach to mischievous dog training is to take the undesirable behavior and replace it with something desirable and reward that. Eventually the good behavior will replace the bad. Sometimes dogs “mischievous" behavior is beyond the skills of a trainer and in those cases, we recommend someone contact a veterinarian behaviorist who can provide a combination of medical and behavior modification support. I like to think with the proper resources all dogs can be trained.
❤ Can you share some advice for someone who wants to consider a career in dog training?
There are many ways to become a dog trainer, you can work for someone, yourself, shelter/rescue, etc. Dog training is an unregulated industry, so be very mindful about what you do and how you do it. I am deeply committed to continuing education and ensuring the ethical treatment of dogs being trained. I would say the most critical thing for someone considering becoming a trainer is to get plenty of hands-on experience with dogs, cultivate relationships from those in the field and pursue a certification for formal training.
❤ What’s the best thing about having Maci as your best friend?
Knowing we both love each other unconditionally. I ensure her best interests always come first and that she has everything she needs to live her best life and in return, I know that Maci respects and deeply cares for me - always!
Michelle Smith is the owner of Clicks Dog Training, LLC , a private dog training company which utilizes clicker training. Her best friend Maci is her furry business partner!
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