Monthly Archives: August 2014

Letter K, Number 9: part 2

The dog training seminar I attended in mid-july (see “Letter K, Number 9: part 1”) was about learning to read dog body-language (for film and TV). Body language is a HUGE topic. You have to look at the whole picture, AND at all the smaller components. Very few things stand on their own.

We talked about calming signals, distance- increasing and decreasing signals (etc.). We explored- briefly -all of the ways in which dogs use their bodies to communicate with each other, and with us (the humans 🙂 ).

*A number of comments were made, saying how helpful it would be to have a seminar on human body language to accompany the one on dogs. Cross-species communication is fascinating and taking a more in depth/scientific look at natural human body language (and its impact on human-human and human-dog communication) would definitely be something I would be interested in – sign me up!

We also discussed the following:

1. The importance of communication and planning, on going public and professional education and networking.

Learn to understand what is being said, to read between the lines (for both dogs and humans) and respond in a timely and appropriate manner.

Planning is EXTREMELY important. Living and working with dogs requires a game plan- don’t decide to fly by the seat of your pants. Make a plan, follow it, revise it if necessary. And practice, practice, practice.

Get out there! Living and working with dogs, we need to stay current, stay connected and share information with each other in order to improve the health, wellbeing and education of ourselves, our dogs, and others.

2. The large number of variables involved in any situation and observations on how each of those could be interpreted.

You must place things in context. Dog training is full of overlapping approaches and techniques, the cues we use, the meaning of certain postures or tones used in dog-dog communication and handler-dog communication all are incredibly nuanced.

For example: a wagging tail can mean many things based on the intensity, direction and height at which the wagging occurs; the dog could be happy, unsure, defensive or downright depressed. Take a look at the bigger picture, and make sure that picture is in context before deciding on a course of action.

3. The constant debate on method and application: When is e-collar training ok? Is dog training an art? A science? A mechanical skill? Does experience trump education? Or does education trump experience?

One participant was of the opinion that everything has its use, BUT that the equipment/approach MUST be used CORRECTLY by a person who has a THOROUGH understanding of how (and why) the equipment/approach is used as well as its applications. And as the participant was quick to point out, VERY FEW PEOPLE possess this knowledge. I am in agreement with all of the above.

For example: certain e-collars, such as vibration collars can be used to help train and communicate with dogs who are deaf or hard of hearing. *Under no circumstances do I support the use of prong, choke or shock collars. Pet dogs and working dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages, breeds and temperaments can be taught all skills and behaviours to fluency using current, humane, science-based training methods where learning is enjoyable for everyone.

Art? Science? Skill? My opinion: Dog training is all three! Renowned trainer Terry Ryan states: “Training is a science, an art and a mechanical skill,” and I agree. Like art, when done well, training and learning, working together is beautiful, intuitive, flexible. Behaviour is a science. And putting it all together (teaching the dog, the human, the behaviour, managing the equipment and environment) THAT is skill!

Experience and education? Well, each is equally important. You can have all the experience in the world, but without a foundation of knowledge on which to build and grow you risk falling behind and out of date. Similarly, you may have the knowledge, but without the opportunity to apply it in the “real world” you may have difficulty proving your competency.


Letter K, Number 9: part 1

I went to a dog training seminar in mid-July. And the events surrounding that particular event gave rise to several of my previous posts, my thoughts on learning, finding what is important, putting things in context, communication…

You have to look at the whole picture, AND at all the smaller components. Very few things stand on their own.

The seminar was well done. The information was well presented, and allowed me the opportunity to insert myself briefly back into the dog world- I have had too little contact with dogs and dog people lately, and was/am going through withdrawal 🙂

Common Themes:

1. The importance of communication and planning, on going public and professional education and networking.

2. The large number of variables involved in any situation and observations on how each of those could be interpreted.

3. The constant debate on method and application: When is e-collar training ok? Is dog training an art? A science? A mechanical skill? Does experience trump education? Or does education trump experience?

I will weigh in on all of this later.

Until next time,


Sunshiny Day(s)

I’m sitting here at 8:30am on a Sunday- not too impressed with the time. Anyways, my laptop is on my lap. I’ve eaten a banana and had 2 glasses of water (working on a third).

Really, that’s all I’ve been able to manage. I’ve never been so busy or so tired- this summer has been extreme; only bested perhaps by the one I had back in 2010, but that’s another story.

My fingers are the only part of me that don’t hurt right now, I’ve got another long day planned, and I really wanted to get this post posted. So writing it now seemed like a good idea.


Last weekend I was on the Coast for a few days. Here are the good bits, (it’s important to remember those you know!).

Deep Cove Catch 22
Deep Cove Catch 22

I got up ridiculously early to pack, and get ready for dragon boat practice. Practice was great 🙂 I felt more than a little icky after, but had to jump from one boat onto another (there was a bus in between) and take the ferry to Gibsons.


I arrived at the terminal more than an hour early and had an enjoyable 40 minutes to myself in the waiting room before anyone else showed up. I had a sandwich, listened to my ipod and worked on this blog.

Sami's sandwich :)
Sami’s sandwich 🙂

“Excuse me. Is this the waiting room for Nanaimo?”

“Mmmm, nope. I’m going to Langdale. I would try the other one off the walkway.

“How do you know which is the right one?”

“Usually they tell you which line to follow when you get your ticket.”

“OH! He said follow the red line. And I followed the blue one. Thanks!”

waiting room B
Waiting Room B

The ferry crossing was uneventful. I caught the bus from Langdale and arrived (finally!) at my destination.

The shower was heaven. I had a nap (also heaven) and woke up to the phone ringing. It was Rube: “Hey Sam, want sushi for dinner?”

What kind of question is that?! Sushi was AMAZING.

Back to the couch, with popcorn to watch Episode 2 of the new TV series adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series (I love the books- and the show is fantastic).

That was Day One.

Day Two I spent dog training and the evening hanging with Mr. T -it made me so happy to see him happy, healthy and well cared for. We watched House and I had a piece of chocolate and some left over kettle corn.

Twinkie- or Mr.T for short :)
Twinkie- or Mr.T for short 🙂

Day Three I got my SideStix tuned up! It was wonderful to feel the difference a few minor adjustments can make, and to just relax and trust the process and the people doing the work.

It was a good weekend. I got lots done and had a fun time. And now you’ve come (finally!) to the end of this post 🙂

Until next time,


All in the Same Boat #2

My arm is on fire. The sun is scorching. My sleeve is soggy with sea-spray. Everything rubs and the salt crystals cling to my face, lenses, legs. Water sloshes back and forth, advancing and retreating on my toes as the boat surges.

Whit, shoo, whit, shoo; blades cut through the ocean at speed and my teammates are quiet apart from the occasional grunt and puff as all energy is directed towards moving the craft ahead and maintaining the high level of intensity necessary to take the race.

It is already ours. Yes, we get an “A” for effort.

I am warm on the inside, can feel the calories burning. It’s hard work.

Coach loves to play pretend: “Hunt them down! Five hard strokes now! This is your race ladies! You’ve got this!!! Beach it!!!!!!!”

You’d think we were at the Olympics or something- that’s the point. In actuality, it’s just us. Twenty-two chicks in a boat. The water is smooth as glass. The waves and wind and maneuvering is all imaginary, as is the competition, the entire race.

Paddleboarders and kayakers are out in droves; as they float leisurely along, we make a mad dash for the imaginary finish,  breathing a sigh of relief as we cross the line and hear the 3 magic words: “Let it run!”

After a short rest we’ll take our paddles up and travel the last few hundred feet back home, disembark, and head up the hill for coffee and donuts at Honey’s 🙂 The day is just beginning!


Getting Stuff Done

It’s been go go go all day today (all week, all month!).

And I am getting stuff done again today. Which is awesome.

Listening to some great tunes right now by Sofia Karlsson – I don’t speak Swedish and most of the melodies are new, which is great because I can have quality tunes to listen to and not constantly be wanting to sing/hum along or skipping around looking for my favorites!

More movies, chocolate and popcorn is in my future tonight! It’ll be a late one because I’m on a roll and not ready to quit yet.

And because… I get to SLEEP IN tomorrow!!! How cool is that? 😀

Just wanted to spread the joy, LOL 🙂





I’m exhausted.

Feeling very mixed up and disconnected lately.

I have a plan to get back on track- I just hope it works!

Today was a success. I worked hard. Now I get to have a little fun- popcorn, chocolate, muffins, yogurt and a movie. Everything is turned off. And various projects are as close to completion as I can get them at the moment; nothing left that HAS to be done RIGHT NOW, TODAY.

Time for some rest, relaxation and rejuvenation 🙂

A Higher Standard: part 2

1. Education: Like I said earlier, learn all you can. Learn to learn. Learn to digest information and form your own opinions while respecting yourself and others. Think critically, using the information and resources available to you.

2. Listen: Take time. Pay attention.

3. Context: Put it in CONTEXT!!!

I put a lot of effort into being well-rounded and approachable. Keeping the above 3 actions in mind helps me do this.

And when I make the effort, and see others toss one, two or all three of the above out the window, it is quite disheartening.

For example, when I send an email (drafted, revised and proofed) and get a half a response back, a response that makes no sense, because the sender didn’t read my original message all the way through, wasn’t able to digest the information, put it in context, or take the time to formulate an appropriate reply.

Some people don’t know any better, some just don’t care. But I do. And others should. Communication and the sharing of information is essential, it is important. So stop slamming doors and throwing things out the window!

A Higher Standard: part 1

Authored by me, originally posted to, this article addresses one of my biggest “pet peeves.”


“Your dog is so SMART!”

“Your dog is so well-behaved, not like my little munchkin.”

“I wish my dog could do that.”

People say this all the time. And I have to say that it really bugs me.

Why? Because there is so much misinformation out there surrounding pet care, guardianship, training and behaviour.

For example, having my dog stop when I stop, or asking him to fetch my shoes, or sit politely to greet visitors…None of these behaviours are as mind-boggling as some passers-by would have you believe – though they are incredibly useful.

And, SURPRISE!!! Any dog can learn to do them. Yes, that’s right, ANY DOG.

But, SURPRISE!!! All of these behaviours have to be TAUGHT.

Being a truly responsible pet guardian is harder than it looks. So, the next time someone tells you “Your dog is so SMART!” Give yourself a pat on the back, and your canine companion a belly rub.

Because you are a team. You have worked together and learned together, supported one another. And you have SKILLS. The time and effort it takes to teach your dog anything new – and do it well, is not for the faint of heart, or thick of head.

Good dogs have good owners. Smart dogs have smart owners.

Smart owners are the ones who see beyond the lap dog, the beggar, the hopeless case, the unskilled, unmotivated canine who has nothing to do all day but eat, sleep, and get into trouble.

All dogs have the potential to shine! Not all dogs have owners willing to help them reach that potential. A person who is a life-long learner, interested in giving their dog a job- a person who has invested in their dog’s health, well-being and education, as well as their own.

Highly trained dogs (service dogs, police dogs, stock dogs, therapy dogs etc.) are held to a high standard. They have a job to do, and it is imperative that they do it well. Their skills and training must be maintained to ensure the health and safety of the public, the dogs themselves, their handlers and anyone (or anything) else the team might encounter while performing their duties.

Pet dogs are not held to the same standard- and neither are their handlers. And my question is: WHY NOT?!

Dogs are capable of learning so much, more than we often give them credit for. And as for the humans, we like to think we are the brainier of the two, so why not put that noggin to good use? Train a dog, work to build a rock-solid partnership and enrich countless lives in the process.

We can do it! Honest!

Thank you for visiting,


Samantha Riesco

Assistant Trainer & Webmaster 

On Q K9 Training

All in the Same Boat #1

Water is an element with so many faces, so many uses; it is indispensable.

I love the water. I love being in it, on it, around it. And it makes a great beverage too! 🙂


Dragon Boating is not for wimps. Paddling is a full body sport, a full body workout requiring you to have not just strong arms- you’ll need your legs, core and back as well 🙂

This year is my second season paddling with team Deep Cove Catch 22 out of Deep Cove in North Vancouver. And it is intense.

Because I’m so short, I usually end up at either end of the boat, where the seats are closer together with better support, as opposed to the middle where my lankier teammates paddle with more space and leg-room.

To be honest, I think the ends are where all the fun happens. I have been up front, stroking (setting the pace) under the watchful eye of the coach, as well as in the back where out of sight and earshot of everyone else the banter gets into high gear. Tried a new recipe? Got a new haircut? Planning your next vacation? Need ideas for dinner or a good laugh? We, the paddlers at the back of the boat can help!

The front is great. The wind is in your hair, the water rushes past. And the main focus is to keep the boat in time. All your focus is aimed at fulfilling that one simple objective, putting the paddle in and pulling it out in rhythmic succession so that the others can follow. It’s all about technique. Up front it is easy to get into that zone, and stay there, and just enjoy the movement of the boat and your body together with everyone else.

The back is a different story. The scenery is limited and the water is heavy. You must strain to hear the calls being passed down the line.

“Pull that boat!!!” (meaning give it all you’ve got and move us forward) could easily be mistaken for “Hold the boat!!!” (meaning STOP the boat). At one point, the back half acted on this assumption, planting blades in the water and doing our level best to inhibit any forward momentum, while the front half redoubled their efforts to propel the boat ahead 😀

Backs: “Stop paddling!”

Fronts: “What are you doing?! Coach said PULL the boat!”

Backs: “What?! We heard ‘HOLD the boat!'”

Fronts: “What?! No, PULL the boat!”

Everyone: “Ok… Let’s try that again! LOL” 😀

But on the upside, being far enough away to miss calls also means being far enough away to avoid coach’s scrutiny… And discussions can get very lively, although as one of us pointed out, without a certain someone around to jumpstart the schenanigans, it is quite quiet, lonely even 😀

Once Burned, Twice Shy

Literally and figuratively this holds true.

I have been burnt; it stings viciously, it hurts.

And I don’t like it. I’m a bit of a wuss.

Because I like to be in control, I like having logic on my side. But sometimes things just don’t pan out that way. Sometimes you just have to take the heat.

And I do,  but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean I don’t learn from it. I continue, I adjust, I try again. Though I have lost some self assurance, I persevere. Until I succeed.

And sometimes I choose to walk away, start fresh. That’s ok.

Some rules should be broken. Some should not.

But Sam, I promise you, you can break some rules, some of the time, and the world will not explode. It might even change for the better.