The Adopted Dog Reveal

Blog posts go beyond 9-5 communications and include my dog Miller, who teaches me about communication beyond words. For work related posts only, use the work  tag  or say hi on LinkedIn.

Happy Miller-versary to our beloved, curious long-low-white! He loves toys and his inner circle of select beings. He is fearful and crabby to strangers, 999/1000 dogs, scooters, skateboards, the mailman, any and everyone that squeals “He’s so cuuuute!” (I warn those that start to lean over.)

Miller was adopted 3 years ago today and we’ve learned and loved this guy so much. He is, in a word, earnest. He throws himself into the Search For The Disgusting on every walk and wander. He plays hide and seek with a smile; rips toys apart with great joy except for the first one we gave him, which he is very enamoured with, still.

If he’s curious about something he is all in. If he’s afraid, ditto. The typical reaction to stress can be fight or flight; Miller puts the fight into it with gusto, barking and lunging to distance things that alarm him. He also will fool around – the mouthy grab of a leash, for example. (Learn more about the four Fs of Fear.)

Over three years Miller has wonderfully shown what I call the Adopted Dog Reveal. Patricia McConnell talks about 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months in the settling in of a newly adopted dog (and three ways to prevent problems); in our case I’m noting 3 years. So much has happened over a slow period of time with Miller. Read more

Yoga Joy, Balance, and Miller Man

Blog topics go beyond 9-5. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn.


I’ve learned through yoga that balance is not stillness, as I first thought. As I waver on one foot and hundreds of micro movements happen in one pose, I’m in a process, not a static pose. It was a great discovery when I learned that, and each time I hope I’ll manage a tree pose, I remind myself trees move.

I’ve come to think about this in relation to Miller too. His state of balance is constantly changing. As a dog with many fears (other dogs, strangers, skateboards, and oddly shaped mail carriers with flapping rain capes among them), his physical balance in the world shifts all the time. Read more

Pausing for Paws

Blog topics go beyond 9-5. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn.

This morning as Miller and I walked I was reminded of Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy, one of my childhood book loves. Somewhere in the lines about Henry Huggins’ scruffy mutt was a description of his nails clickety clacking on the floor. It was one of Ribsy’s characteristics in more than one of the novels, if I remember correctly. Miller was clickety clacking this morning as we walked finally sunny sidewalks on our early outing.

Miller has great paws. The front ones are larger than the back ones and look like platters in comparison to the back. He often stands with them at second position, so I tell him he has plie paws. What does he care what I say about his paws if I’m holding a toy? Read more

The Sweetness of Saturday Morning

Blog topics go beyond 9-5. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn.

Early Saturday mornings can be magical. I’m an early riser, up and out with Miller before the streets are streaming with cars or pedestrians. This morning the prediction was for rain, so I got us going immediately to walk while it was merely gray. It wasn’t gray and broody but light behind the clouds; very nice.

The neighbourhood was loud with little birds and crows, all sounding busy. It was Miller, me, and the occasional cyclist or runner. Miller was very good about both cyclists and runners; we’ve worked with him a lot* and he’s come along well in his response to them. These days it’s mostly a non-reaction (he may not even look at them), whereas when we first adopted him he would lunge and bark at both. I have counter-conditioning to thank for his response these days. Changing his reaction by giving him great food when something alarming appears has worked well. See a runner? Here’s some food. See a cyclist? Here’s some food. His response has changed so much that I don’t need to reinforce with food every time anymore. Read more

The Dance of Dog Training

Blog topics go beyond 9-5. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn.

The other day Miller trotted around a corner and encountered one of his people at a doorway. He growled a little. In Miller’s case, he didn’t do this to be “dominant” as some people might suggest (will that idea never die?), but because he was expressing discomfort with the situation. A growl was his way of saying “Too close.”

As I’ve written before, Miller needs space. We train* him to deal with it, using different cues and behaviours depending on the scenario. In this case, his human moved a step back, asked Miller to hand target, and he did. This moved him out of the compressed space in the process. Human and dog continued on their ways and all was well.

Space: Miller’s frontier. At every opportunity, we build Miller’s confidence and trust. Read more

A Dog’s Breakfast in Space

This morning Miller had his breakfast in a tunnel. It’s all part of our plan to help him feel better about space and touch, two of his sensitivities. He is a dog who needs space even with us, which we respect. Given how sensitive he is, we’re not surprised he lost whatever home he had in his first year- people generally expect to be near and able to touch their dogs. His comfort with us has changed a lot for the better with training and time, which takes patience. Read more

I Don’t Want A Christmas Puppy

Bridging Communication Divides with Dogs 

I was the kid who scrambled around the grass on all fours, pretending to be a dog. (A neighbour complained if I barked too early on Sundays.) I was the kid who wanted to pat dogs, got bitten more than once but persevered. (I knew little about dog body language.)  I wanted a happy dog smile in my life, at my side.

Read more

Improving Communications with Miller

miller_may29_16Bridging Communication Divides with Dogs 

It’s the weekend, a rainy Sunday, and I’m staring down at the family dog, PuffleBunny (his actual name is Miller). He’s got me thinking about what feels right and good in our relationship. He is stretched out next to me like a basking seal and he is relaxed; very relaxed.

This is a big change from our early days after my family adopted him, when we gave him the nickname Space Man to respect his needs.

Read more