While her husband’s silliness does continue, Celine figures it is self-reinforcing to a certain extent. The dogs are entertained, so “my husband’s crazy dancing/singing is probably being reinforced by them, too!”
Celine and Severus enjoy trick-dog training. Celine believes it to be one of the most versatile ways to keep a dog mentally engaged on a budget. “You don’t need a lot of space or special equipment, and there is no limit to what does or does not count as a trick!” In all of her work with Severus, but most especially during this “fun” time together, Celine focuses on Severus’s comfort with what they are doing. She is not afraid to look for workarounds to training steps that annoy or frustrate her dog. “It’s important not to get stuck on someone else’s strategy for training a particular trick,” Celine says. “I don’t want to shape frustration into a behavior.” One challenge of trick-dog training that Celine and Severus face is adding finesse through smooth transitions and chains. “I draw a lot of inspiration from musical freestyle competitors in this area.”
The pair is just beginning to learn about and participate in obedience exercises. “For us, the main challenge in obedience will be thinning out reinforcement, since primary reinforcers are not allowed in the ring,” reports Celine. But, Severus and Celine find challenges extremely motivating. “Things that are easy are not as satisfying to accomplish. Challenges make it that much better when you and your dog finally ‘get it!’” So, Celine will work to develop alternative reinforcers for Severus and help Severus, a very food-motivated dog, learn not to vocalize during obedience behaviors. “I would not be surprised if we struggle with the fine line between drive and over-arousal,” predicts Celine.
While Severus and Celine have been working together for three years, Celine is just starting activities with her newer dog, Whizbee. “I have high hopes for her. I plan to start her with scent detection in December 2017!”
In addition to her professional training lessons and athletic challenges with Severus (and now Whizbee), Celine maintains an online blog, “a casual outlet to express all of my dog-related opinions and experiences.” She posts product reviews (calling herself one of many dog trainers with an expensive fetish for well-made dog equipment) and archives her own dogs’ training and behavior journeys.