Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy 3rd Gotcha Day to Zoe and B&W Sunday

I really can't believe it's been 3 years since I got my baby girl. Zoe is the dog that completely changed my life and the way I view dogs and training. It's hard to imagine that three years ago today I was begging my husband to go with me to "just look at the dogs." I felt like I was the only groomer in the salon without a dog of my own and I desperately wanted one.

 This is her Gotcha/Birthday Movie!

I've mentioned it before, but I feel it's worth talking about again since it's her day. We actually drove in the wrong direction on the day we were going to go look at dogs. We lived in Beaverton Oregon and we drove down to Salem to go to the Willamette Valley Animal Shelter because I saw a little brindle dog online that I wanted to look at. When we got there, the shelter was closed! I was pretty disappointed and knowing my husband and the fact that I'd actually gotten him into the car to go look at dogs after several years of begging him, I couldn't just go back home. So I looked up the Oregon Humane Society and plugged their address into our GPS. It's located in Portland. We drove the hour back up to Portland and walked into OHS.

It was pretty overwhelming at first but one of the things I really liked about this shelter was how clean it was and their setup is wonderful. They have different dog rooms and we wandered around each one looking at dogs. When we got to the last room I was starting to lose hope that we'd find a dog. Vince was looking at a large pointer/acd mix that was barking his head off and right next to him was this little blonde dog, she was curled up on a bed with her nose tucked under her tail.

 This isn't the picture. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures at the shelter or on the way home, but she was curled up like this, with her nose tucked under her tail.

I remember actually gasping... I know it sounds silly.. but I did... I remember saying "Oh!!! Siskiyou!!!" (her name on the card) I told Vince to get over here and he came.. We called her over and she was very polite. She wagged her tail a bit and licked our hands, nosing us through the bars. It was love at first sight. When you know, you know and I knew she was our dog. I ran, literally ran to the front of the building to fill out the paperwork so we could meet her and adopt her. Good thing I did because there was another couple interested in her. Whoever fills out the paperwork first is first in line and they do a four hour hold on the dog for you. We were first.

We met her in the room and she was very shy. She would come up to me and sniff me and then hide under the bench but still smelling me. Just as polite and quiet as can be. We left the room with a big decision to make. Vince's family dog had passed away the year before and he didn't think he was ready for another dog. He just wasn't sure. It took me a little while to talk him into it but once he was in he was all in. We adopted her and she became our Zoe.

Zoe and my husband, Vince. First day home.

 Zoe's first bath with us, about 10 days after we got her when her spay incision was healed. 

Zoe's first time at the beach.

This was taken after we climbed to the top of Multnomah Falls, she was still afraid of the camera at this point and a little concerned with me holding her. 

Zoe makes her first friend at the dog park.

Zoe and her best buddy, Marley. He belongs to my friend.

When Phoenix came home, she just accepted her. No Problem.

One of my favorite photos of her. Looking into her eyes, you know someone is home.

Zoe is the dog that got me interested in using Positive Reinforcement training. With my previous family dog, I used a mixture of PR, Compulsion and Punishment. I can't tell you how much I regret using those punitive and forceful methods on him but at the time that's all I had available to me. There were not any PR/Clicker trainers available to me until several years after I got him.

When I got Zoe, the Dog Whisperer was very popular. I had been watching his show from the beginning and was probably one of his most loyal fans until one little blonde dog completely changed that.

It had been about a month after getting her and we were having a lot of trouble with Loose Leash Walking. I was a firm believer that you HAD to walk your dog. I was using a no pull harness but even with it she still pulled. She had no concept of my space and would just drift from side to side, generally tripping me up as she did so. Walks were a nightmare. I remember being really frustrated with her. The no pull harness wasn't really working and she was just dragging me along as if I didn't exist. Then at one point I think she must have air scented a squirrel and got super excited and was freaking out.. and the next thing I knew I was a "Cesar Wannabe".. I did the hand/claw thing and poked her hard in the side. She yelped and nearly bit me from being so startled and I'm sure it hurt. She looked into my eyes... and the look she gave me was absolutely heart breaking. I completely blew it. Her trust in me was gone. I will never forget that look. I walked her home and immediately began researching methods of training dogs and swore to myself I'd never do anything like that again.

I found a PR only dog training forum. Through them I found Emily Larlham (kikopup on YouTube), my hero, and a bunch of other wonderful and amazing PR only dog trainers. I began my journey of crossing completely over to Force Free Methods and expanding my dog training knowledge. Since that day I have made a few more mistakes here and there, like most humans do, but I try my best every day to train with PR methods. I'm definitely not perfect and I'm still learning.

I learned even more about training hands off when Phoenix came home, since she couldn't be touched, but that's another story for a different time.

Sit Pretty!

Balancing a frisbee, while also doing "cross paws".

Retrieving her leash to the hand.

Zoe is one of the smartest dogs I have ever known, and I've known a lot of dogs. She picks things up almost immediately. She loves doing tricks and parkour. She is wonderful and sweet. She loves visiting with her favorite people and dog friends. She is everything you could ever want in a dog. She is very sensitive, too. She picks up on everything I'm feeling and mirrors it back to me.. Which isn't always the best thing.. At the time of this writing she knows over 50 different cues/tricks in two languages and all the hand signals. 

Beach Parkour.

LLW, and looking at a squirrel.

We figured out Loose Leash Walking and I learned that she is very prey driven which was why she was having such a hard time with it. She loves to hunt and when she gets on a scent she gets distracted. Her pulling problem was never HER problem. It was MY problem. I didn't know how to work with her prey drive at the time or even what the heck she was doing. Now that I have a different mindset and train a different way, walks are so much better. We have a mutual understanding.

One of her favorite activities is to go hiking and I can let her explore to her hearts content.

Words cannot express to you how much I love this dog. She is absolutely amazing and she has taught me so much. I am incredibly honored to have such a wonderful spirit in my life. She is the best dog I could of ever hoped to have. She is everything and more.

If you have any questions about this post or positive reinforcement training, please feel free to contact me! I will do my best to answer your questions and if I don't know the answer it's likely I know someone who does.

Thank you for reading our story.


  1. Love the story. Congrats to you Zoe.

  2. What a great story. I'm a firm believer in positive training. It takes patience and love. But you can see that love reflected in the eyes of your dog.

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  3. What a beautiful story. Zoe is very clearly an amazing dog. I hope by the time Quenya and I reach our 3 year "Gotcha Day" we have a story as lovely as this!

  4. What a great story! Happy Gotcha Day!!!

  5. Zoe and Phoenix are so beautiful! I love gotcha days!! Have a fantastic day with your first little blondie.

    1. Thank you so much!! We love gotcha days, too!!

  6. Happy Gotcha Day! When we were looking for a dog to adopt, we went to OHS too but didn't find a good fit. The dog I liked had four holds on her! And then we found Mr. N and he's nearly perfect.

  7. Beautiful Story!!! Mom always says, "who saved who?" Isn't that the truth! Happy gotcha day!!!!!

  8. PAwsome story. Happy Happy Gotcha Day! Have a wonderful celebration. Golden Woofs

  9. Wonderful post and happy day to Zoe. So happy to hear about your great experiences with PR training. Thanks for sharing the PR resources.

  10. Happy Gotcha Day, Zoe!!! That was the most beautiful video!

  11. That is a wonderful video and an amazing story, so full of love, about how Zoe came to join your family and your life together since. Emily is my hero too!

    1. Thank you!! I'm glad you like it! She is such a great dog! :D Emily is awesome, I'm hoping I can go to one of her seminars one day and actually meet her in person!

  12. This is a beautiful story and Zoe is a lovely dog. I can't believe how much Phoenix and Zoe look alike but came to you at different times. Thank you for visiting my blog so I could discover yours. I will check out the youtube site; I want to use positive reinforcement/clicker training with Toby, but haven't been able to find an effective trainer in our area.

    1. Thank you so much!

      I hope you can find someone! PR and Clicker training is awesome! :) I particularly love teaching tricks and just coming up with fun little things for them to do. If you can't find anyone, you should check out Kikopup on YouTube, she is amazing. She has so many tutorials.

  13. Great video, Zoe is a great dog. Both of the girls are lucky that you found them!


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