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Telling Tails Training teaches young - and old - dogs new tricks

Kids can also get a taste for service dog training at Camp Canine

Maggie (left) and Robin celebrate after getting the Companion Dog (CD) title last year in Vermont. (Courtesy Photo). (click for larger version)
August 12, 2010
"One would argue there are as many theories of dog training as there are trainers," says Crocker. "We support positive reinforcement method in all our classes," she adds.

Positive reinforcement technique has been around for years and became popular in dog training in the 1990s, says Crocker. It is based on the philosophies of B.F. Skinner, an American psychologist, inventor and philosopher and the Russian psychologist, physiologist and physician Ivan Pavlov.

Crocker explains on her website that Skinner studied the relationship between rewards and behaviors. He learned that rewards increase the frequency of an action, explains Crocker. Pavlov discovered that dogs salivated when the lab technicians fed them food and associated the technician with food. Crocker says this shows that items not normally thought to be reinforcement become reinforcing. Food becomes a reward.

"The principle is whatever happens after a behavior is a good thing, a reward," says Crocker. "If we ask a dog to sit and we reward them, they will sit, it will happen more frequently." It is so important to communicate with the dog.

But how do you communicate? Dogs don't speak English. "We communicate through body language. We have to teach them English," says Crocker.

We communicate verbally, too, explains Crocker. It is how the dog reacts to you, she adds. Pet Dog 101 teaches basic commands: sit, down, stay, walk, walk nicely on a leash. The course focuses on household issues of barking, jumping on furniture and jumping on people.

"We teach you [owner] first — not the dog. If we just taught the dogs, that would be easy," she says.

There are a host of other cases offered, too. Rally Classes, where dog and handlers navigate through a course and stations following instructions. Comp Obedience Class is where dogs can earn titles. Agility Classes are a dog sport where dogs run through an obstacle course and are judged on time and accuracy. Tracking Classes are where dogs learn to follow human scent. The center also offers Breed Handling Classes, clinics, seminars and Telling Tails even has a Reiki instructor. The 10-plus center instructors are specially trained.

All this takes place in the former Northland shoe factory, just before Fryeburg Village.

"We opened here in January 2009. This was already an existing business and I took it over," Crocker said. She had been training in the Valley for seven years teaching adult education. But her experience goes back further. "I ran the Village House in Jackson for 20 years. By mistake we were listed as pet friendly. We went with it. My dream was to dive into the dog training world," she says.

That she has. Telling Tails caters to a combination of puppies, older dogs, competition dogs and service dogs, says Crocker.

Speaking of service dogs, for the third season in a row Crocker has been a puppy raiser with Camp Canine, three one-week summer programs for children ages 10 to 14 hosted by the Assistance Canine Training Services (ACTS) in Tuftonboro.

Crocker has worked with service dogs for the past 15 years. "I saw a blurb in the news about an organization in Massachusetts looking for a puppy raiser for service dogs. I couldn't get my pencil fast enough to write down information," she says. Crocker got her dog and was hooked. "There is an intrigue about service dogs; it's a bug that couldn't stop me," she adds.

Service dogs hold intrigue for children, too. Children who attend Camp Canine work with a service puppy for one week during the summer and many keep track of their dog to see how their dog does in the service world.

"It is a multi-functional program which exposes children to the world of dog training. This is very much about raising awareness," she says. Kirsten Brown, newly hired marketing manager for Telling Tails, says about the camp, "The goal is to get kids interested in service dogs and to learn what service dogs do for the community."

Just recently, Camp Canine visited the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center and Banana Village. The point of the field trips is to help campers understand public access for service dogs, to help campers practice learned training skills and to socialize dogs.

For example, when the puppies see a golf ball at Banana Village, they must learn not to chase the ball or not to be startled at the simulation of high winds atop Mt. Washington at the Observatory's simulator. In a recent press release, Dot Hyde-Williams, executive director of ACTS says about the field trips, "These experiences are important socialization exercises for the dogs. They help the dogs become more confident and learn how to react to things that could startle or scare them."

Camp Canine is run by the volunteer puppy trainers, children pay to attend the camp, and proceeds go to the service dog program says Crocker.

Crocker is also busy designing her own gear for her Yellow Snow Dog Gear Company. The product line includes: Limited Slip Collar, Sports Doggie Lead, Super Bungee Lead, harnesses and couplers. The products are made in America, are designed by Crocker and guaranteed.

There's a lot going on with training, camps and dog gear, so how does the word get out? Crocker hired Kirsten Brown as the new marketing director. Brown says they are getting the word out through veterinary clinics, animal shelters, flyers and, most importantly, their website. "We are working on a Facebook page and Twitter and join AKC (American Kennel Club) chat groups. We will also be at the Carroll County Kennel Club event on Sept. 11 and 12."

It helps loving what you do, too. "I love what I do," says Crocker. "Life is good."

For more information on training camps visit, www.tellingtails training.com. For information on Camp Canine, visit www.assistancecanine.org and for Yellow Snow Dog Gear visit www.yellowsnowdoggear.com.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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