Last year I had the opportunity to put on a little dog show called "Life's Ruff". The show featured regular dogs and their owners and one of my goals for the show was to demonstrate that anyone can succeed with positive reinforcement training. For me, the show was a huge success and the 3-4 month training period before the show was a great time in my life. I've taught a bunch of training classes and this 3-4 month "class" was the best class I have ever had the pleasure of leading. The owners really threw their hearts into the training and it was clear that they were practicing daily. Maybe it was because we were doing this for a good cause(raising awareness for homeless dogs) or maybe they just wanted their dogs to look good onstage:) Probably a gentle blend of both. Here's a little story/interview with one of the owners/trainers, Roger Lautt
Right before we held auditions for the show I got an email from a guy and he asked me if he could bring some "props" to the audition. I was a little skeptical because I had already received some strange emails from people who were planning on dressing their dogs up for the audition and I was doing my best to discourage this. The guy, Roger, stressed that the props were for behaviors(tricks) only and there would be no dressing up of either dog or owner. Audition day rolls around and Roger and his dog Tucker show up and over Roger's shoulder is this big gray sack full of what I could only guess were the props he was talking about. Still a funny image in my mind as I joked, to myself, that he was either running away from home or about to drop down a chimney and deliver some toys:)
After a quick intro, Roger and Tucker took the stage and it was clear from the get go that they were the right team for the show. Roger ran Tucker through some basic behaviors and then started unpacking his bag of tricks. The best part about that was that during the unpacking, Tucker was just staring at Roger, waiting for the games to start. It turns out that most of the props in the bag were retrieval items and Tucker proceeded to retrieve such things as slippers, ball caps, flashlights and even a toilet plunger(not used, I checked:) The training was a little rough around the edges but it was apparent that Roger spent a great deal of time teaching and training his dog and even better, Tucker LOVED it!
I firmly believe that you can teach any person how to train their dog as long as they are committed to the process. Roger was committed to training and he has been for a long time and I wish their were more people in the world like him. Here's a brief interview with him and I hope it shows why he is one of my favorite trainers...and people.
When did you first get interested in dog training?
Roger: In college when I got a Weimaraner that needed training. I trained her and took her to dog shows, fell in love with dogs and training. I was too busy for some years and jusyt got back into dog training about 12 years ago.
You have some therapy dog experience too. How long did it take to to train your dogs for this and what were the benefits of the training?
Roger: I have trained 3 dogs for therapy work and found it very rewarding. All 3 were fully trained in less than 3 months and 2 of them ion less than 2 months. The benefits were huge, Not only were they well trained at home and on the street but I was able to help others. It was very rewarding to see the joy on the faces of the various patients we got to help over the past 10 years. I am also currently pursuing some volunteer work with Safe Humane Chicago to go into some detention centers to help inmates learn how to train dogs.
You seem to always have some new tricks to show off every time I see you. How do find the time to train BOTH of you dogs?
Roger: I was introduced to trick training while volunteering with you and training for the show and discovered that my dogs enjoy learning new things/tricks. I have a training area located in my basement and they also seem to want to go down there. The more I teach them, the quicker they seem to learn so it makes it easier to train on a busy schedule.
You are pretty busy. Tell us a little about how you are working on blending your job with your dog related activities?
Roger: Real Estate is my business. Dogs are my passion. I have made a living selling residential real estate for the past 25 years and have recently decided to create a niche to help people with dogs find dog-friendly condos. (check out chicagodogpads.com ) My love of dogs has moved me to help other dog lovers with their real estate needs. In the process, I have branched out and have started helping people train their dogs. Currently helping people to train puppies, dogs with leash pulling and a variety of behavioral issues.
Many people view trick training as something fun to do with their dogs but don't see the benefits of the training. Have you seen any benefits of trick training as it relates to the general behavior of your pups?
Roger: I have better behaved dogs and a stronger relationship with them as a result of trick training. For example, I can cue my dog to bark and have also taught him to stop barking which is a nice cue to have in real life. I can also cue my dogs to "take your place" and know that they will stay there which keeps them out from under my feet. We trained that during the show and it was easy to transfer to a location at home. Trick training has opened my eyes to how easy and enjoyable it is to teach fun stuff and the benefits are endless. Check out Tucker in action when he was learning to go to his place.
Feel free to ask how Roger trained it too:)
Roger has continued his passion for training and has almost completely remodeled his basement and turned it into his own "training center". I would not be at all surprised if he sold all of his furniture and made an agility course out of his living areas:) He still has his bag of props but he now has some new "training tricks" up his sleeve and he uses them to help his dog and others. Do you know someone like Roger? Love to hear about them.