My Pets

My dog: Albee

Albee is the newest addition to the menagerie.  He is a young, energetic Standard Poodle who we adopted when he was seven months old.  I met him and his former family in one of my puppy classes.  What a handful!  I always tell my clients not to worry if they think their dog is acting out in class, because I’ve never had any dog in class who is as over-excited and unable to focus as Albee was as a puppy.  He would get so excited around other dogs that he couldn’t focus on anything else and just barked and bounced around at the end of his leash!  His former family was doing their best, but with two young children and both parents in school, it was hard for them to find the time for such a high-energy dog.  My partner Toby and I had been looking for a dog, so the timing was perfect!  Albee has been one of my most challenging teachers: he is not really interested in food or even toys, so our early training sessions focused on getting Albee to be excited about something – anything – so that I had a way to motivate him. I had to get very creative!

Albee is a wonderful reminder that it is essential to discover what your pet finds motivating.  (This dog spits out steak and honey-glazed ham!)  With careful training and consistency, and lots and LOTS of exercise for both his body and brain, this bouncy puppy is learning self-control and good manners.  He is now wonderful at walking politely on leash, holding stays even with distractions, and doing “leave it” while I toss food and toys at his face.  He is also learning to do Agility, which he adores. He even passed his Canine Good Citizen certification recently! He has come so far, and we are very proud of him!

My parrots: Daedalus and Icarus

Toby and I got our two caique parrots, Daedalus and Icarus, in 2006, when they were about a year old.  They are not related (in fact, they are different sub-species), but they have lived together their whole lives and are very bonded to each other.  This doesn’t keep them from bonding with us humans, though!  One of the best advantages of clicker-training is how much fun it is for the animal and the human, and the lasting bond it creates.

Parrots are a delight to train because they are bright, inquisitive, and highly food-motivated.  Both of my birds do cute tricks, but also lots of useful behaviors like holding still for a veterinary exam, letting me clip their nails, wearing harnesses (so we can go out into the world together), and even going to the bathroom on cue!

Unfortunately, Daedalus passed away in 2015. She is very much missed!

Daedalus:

Daedalus is a black-capped caique.  She is the bird-brain of our two caique parrots, and I mean that as a compliment – this bird is seriously smart! She loves to figure out puzzles, and will happily spend hours foraging for treats hidden in puzzle toys.  Because of her love of puzzles, I’ve trained her to do a lot of prop-oriented tricks: she puts rings on a peg, slips coins into her miniature piggy-bank, and fetches toys from across the room.

When she’s not puzzling things out, she likes to wrestle with her brother Icarus and mimic noises she hears around the house.  She has mastered the sound of the smoke alarm beep when it needs its battery changed, a piercing wolf whistle, and even my laugh!

 

 

Icarus:

Icarus is a white-bellied caique.  He is, in a word, a ham!  He is a silly boy who likes head scritches and stealing treats from his sister Daedalus (usually after she has worked hard to get them out of a puzzle toy).  He loves to perform for people, so his tricks are more focused on human-bird interaction.  He dances and sings on cue, flips around my finger, spins, flaps his wings, waves with either foot, fetches, and more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cats: Milton and Chaucer

Milton:

Milton is a big sweetie.  Toby refers to him as “Playskool My First Cat.”  Our friend Laura found him as a kitten under a bush back in 2004.  He and his brothers had been abandoned, but thanks to Laura they all found great homes.

Milton loves cuddling and being petted, but most of all he loves TRAINING!  When we are working together, he purrs nonstop.  He is very food motivated, but also loves the human interaction in the training session.  Milton comes running every time he hears a click, no matter which animal I’m working with.  He knows how to sit, shake, stand up on his hind legs, and several other fun tricks.  He also has learned to sit patiently and wait for his dinner, go into his cat carrier on cue, and to sit quietly while the humans are eating. (That last one is one of my biggest training accomplishments!)

Chaucer:

Chaucer was our household’s very first pet.  We got her in 2003 from a friend who was moving into a no-pets apartment.   Her loss was our gain!  This sweet, mellow lady was once a hilarious high-energy kitten who ran around the house so fast that she banked off of the walls. Nowadays she’s mostly looking for a warm lap and her dinner.  She is very chatty, and won’t hesitate to let us know if it’s time for breakfast.
She was the first pet I clicker-trained, and she was very patient with my beginner mistakes.  Cats can be challenging training subjects because they are so easily distracted.  Chaucer and Milton taught me a lot about clarity, precision, and setting up training goals using very small steps!

 

Gone but not forgotten:

We’ve also had some other pets over the years who have passed on. My rats Sebastian, Sophie, Eliot, and Timmy were wonderful, sweet creatures. They are missed! I may someday have rats in my life once again, but for now I have my hands full with my other pets.

Austen, our beloved rabbit, passed away in 2012. We miss her still!