Nov 8, 2011 Issue #24 Published by Sue Skiff


Hi y’all!

Actually, while in Dallas, I noticed very few people talking with a Texas accent. Most residents that I ran into sounded pretty much like Californians. Hmmm…. It is Saturday morning, around 7:20 Dallas time. My computer is still on California time, so my whole assumption about it automatically changing with the time zone was way off base. My phone did change time zones, of course. Those of you that travel with any kind of regularity probably know about these things already, but I have not travelled by air for 3 ½ years, and before that I hadn’t been on a plane since 1996. That had far more to do with my financial situation than any other reason.

Anyway, I am at the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport waiting to fly home. I have just spent 3 days learning about building my business, stepping out of my comfort zone, and allowing change in my life. All of these things are things that I want consciously, but I have had difficulties implementing them, because of my own blockages. That will change. I did more networking than I have ever done in my life, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the networking that other people were doing at the conference. I am just happy that I did some, because I tend to want to escape when in crowds. I still had to escape, and be outside away from the thousand or so people at the conference during most of the breaks, but I always spent at least some of each break where they were.

I like Dallas. It has some wonderful tree-lined streets, incredible fountains, and old buildings. The old buildings sit right in front of the new, modern-looking skyscrapers. It is a fascinating juxtaposition. The conference was adjacent to the Arts District, and I enjoyed seeing the artwork featured on the outsides of the Museums. The people of Dallas also seemed friendly and helpful.

To save money, I stayed in a cheap motel on the outskirts of town, and traveled to and from the conference on the local light rail. This required a short walk at each end. I enjoyed all of this, except for the fact that it extended my day. Also, on Thurs and Friday mornings it was near freezing outside as I did my walking, and on Wed afternoon / evening the winds were insane. I had to walk against the wind that evening, and it was not all that pleasant.

The light rail is cheap, $1.75 for as far as you need to go in the system, and $4 if you transfer to a bus. I bought a ticket every time that I rode it, but I never had to use any of those tickets, as there was no machine to insert them into, and no ticket agent ever asked to see one. However, they announce, with some frequency, on the train that travelling on the train without a ticket is a serious offense. Despite the fact that I often was travelling during the commute times, I also never experienced the trains as being crowded. A local woman that I talked to at the conference told me that it is a new system, and that people still haven’t gotten used to it.

I am turning my computer off, now, and am hoping that I will have something else to write about for my e-zine next time that I turn it on.

It is now 8:21 according to my computer, so I have been in flight for more than 2 hours. I have just completed writing the two main articles for this e-zine. I have a window seat, this time, although I look straight out at the engines on the left side of the plane. We are over Nevada. The mountains below look desolate. Or, is it snowy? It’s hard to tell. It looked like snow as we were approaching, but now it really looks like sand. There are definitely trees in places, too, though.

Two seats away from me is a young man from Dallas. He has his 15-month old daughter, Jeridyn (sp?) on his lap. She’s being a little fussy at the moment. She can’t seem to decide whether she wants to be with Mom or Dad. Mom is across the aisle. They are on a one week vacation; going to spend two days in San Francsco, two in Los Angeles; and the remainder of their trip will be in Las Vegas.

We have had a lot more turbulence on this flight than on the way out. I had asked the young man sitting next to me on Tuesday if he knew why my return flight was scheduled to take 45 minutes longer than my flight out. His answer was what I had guessed. It had to do with wind. The way he described it made me expect more turbulence on the way back, but I had conveniently forgotten. Of course, the sky is also a great deal more cloudy than it was on Tuesday, so I’d have to say that the weather, in general, is probably rougher.

Well, enough rambling. This week, I have written an article with tips on how to choose a group dog obedience class to take your dog to. The other article that I have written is about male vs female cats.

Note added on Monday morning: For the past two days, Ahwahnee has left my bedroom with me, and stayed with me while I worked on my computer. This refutes some of my claims in my cat article.

I hope that you enjoy the e-zine.

Please send me your questions, complaints, opinions, articles, comments, and stories.

See you next week!.




A woman at the conference that I recently attended asked me my opinion of group dog obedience classes. Since the subject came up, I thought that I might as well talk about it. I taught group obedience classes for several years, until I got to the point where I just didn’t want to do it, anymore. It is not that I have any objection to these classes, I simply got tired of teaching them.

Here are some tips on what to look for when considering taking your dog to a group obedience class.


To me, the training method is the most important consideration when looking for a class. You want to make sure that the methods are humane, as well as effective. Before enrolling, ask if it is possible to observe a class being taught by the instructor. If this is not possible, then at least talk to the trainer about her/his training methods. You can also ask if you can talk to someone who has previously taken a class from the instructor. As I said, you want to make sure that the training methods are humane and effective. To insure that the training methods are humane, avoid classes where force is used to train the dogs. This includes training that utilizes such techniques as strong leash “corrections,” and the “alpha-wolf rollover.” Trust is an important aspect of dog training, and training that uses force, will reduce your dog’s trust in you, because it is basically training your dog to fear you. Remember that respect is what you want to engender in your dog, not fear.

The best training method to look for involves positive reinforcement. In positive reinforcement training, an animal is taught that when it obeys, it will receive something that it desires, usually a treat.

A similar training method, often found in “puppy kindergarten classes,” and in classes taught in pet stores, is lure-reward training. In lure-reward training, dogs are shown treats to induce them to perform a behavior. The treat is then given once the dog has done what is asked of it. I find that lure-reward training is less effective than positive-reinforcement training for 2 reasons. First, many dogs taught through lure-reward training will only behave if they are shown a treat first. Thus, they are not truly trained, since they haven’t developed a desire to please their humans. Also, some dogs simply aren’t motivated by food. In positive-reinforcement training, dogs can be reinforced for good behavior using things besides food; such as petting, access to toys, and play. However, this is not true with lure-reward training. That being said, if you can’t find a class that utilizes positive-reinforcement, then lure-reward is the next best option.


When I first started teaching group obedience classes, I taught for a local school district’s adult education program. Although many people and their dogs did well in these classes, I had a problem with the class sizes. The school district, wanting to maximize the amount of money coming in, encouraged large classes, while I wanted to keep the classes small. There are a few reasons to look for a smaller class. The most important is that you and your dog will get more individualized attention from the instructor. Another reason to look for a small class is that the bigger the class, the greater the chance of there being a significant amount of barking by the canine participants. Thirdly, a larger class size increases the chance that there will be a dog that is not being well-controlled by its guardian(s). This will not only be a distraction for the other dogs, causing them to have more trouble behaving, it while also mean that the instructor will have to spend more time with the guardian(s) of the misbehaving dog, decreasing the attention received by the rest of the class. Larger class sizes are usually found not only in adult education settings, but often in pet store classes, as well. In both cases, the classes tend to be cheaper than those taught by dog trainers that teach independently, and many people are attracted to these classes for that reason. In my opinion, it’s better to go for the more expensive, less crowded class. You will get more for your money, in the long run.


Group play has become a popular aspect of dog obedience training classes. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself. However, many classes have the dogs play first, calling it “socialization.” This is particularly true in “puppy kindergarten” classes where “socialization” is often considered more important than the training being taught in the classes. Unfortunately, many dogs who are allowed to play with other dogs, before training is initiated in a class, learn that when they see other dogs it means playtime, and will therefore be harder to control out in the real world. These dogs have not learned that pleasing their humans is the most important thing for them to do. This puts them in danger, and increases the chances of behavior problems, due to the fact that they are more likely to pick and choose when they will obey and when they won’t. If you are going to take your dog to a group obedience class that includes play, make sure at least some training is going to be done before the play is allowed in class, and that dogs will be required to come away from play when called.

As you can see, finding the right dog obedience class requires research on your part. Unless you live in a really rural area, you should find that you have a variety of choices. Make sure you check all of them out, so that you find just the right class for you and your dog.


I am relatively convinced that male cats, in general, like being around humans more than female cats. I have met others with this opinion, as well. What do you think? I am really curious, and I don’t really want to look up research that has been done on the subject.

Below is the evidence that I have for my position. It is not scientific, which bothers me a little bit, because I do come from a scientific background. However, this is really about opinion, unless someone else wants to come up with scientific evidence.

I am going to start with my own cats. I have two female cats (Ahwahnee and Storm), and one male cat (Thunder). When I am home, Thunder wants to be with me constantly, while Ahwahnee and Storm both prefer to come over to me occasionally for attention. Furthermore, Thunder is quite happy to get attention from other people, while his mother Storm hides anytime anyone else comes around. Ahwahnee on the other hand, likes being where she can observe people, and will accept attention from others, but does not seek it out. Thunder enjoys attention from people so much that when he was really sick with liver failure many years back, he purred, and acted playful with, the veterinary hospital staff, even though they claimed that he was so sick that they were surprised that he was active at all. Thunder did also have a sister, Lightening (of course). From the time that they were born, I gave them equal attention, wanting them both to be well socialized. However, Lightening was always aloof, whereas Thunder loved the attention. I know, I know, this was probably just a personality thing.

Okay, so now I will move beyond my own cat family. I have babysat many cats in my years of pet sitting. In almost every household where both male and female cats were present, I have found that the males were more likely to seek out my attention, and to want to play with me. I have even been in households where the male cats wanted my attention every time that I visited the house, while the female cats hid. In one case, not only did the female cat hide, but I never saw her during the entire time that I was cat sitting, which as I recall was for at least a week and a half. On the other hand, the male cat (the female’s brother from the same litter) greeted me at the door, and played with me nearly every time that I was there.

There have been some exceptions to the pattern of the males acting more social in households containing both genders of cats. I did once cat sit in a multi-cat household where a male cat was hiding under a bed every time that I was there. However, there was another male cat there that was quite friendly. I also once cat sat at a house where both a male, and a female, cat hid from me every time that I was there. However, in this case, the cats’ guardians had fully expected that the male cat would want attention and play when I visited. They had warned me that the female would most likely hide, though.

One last piece of evidence is some clients that I have that have two young children. They had originally wanted to get two female cats. However, when they went to a rescue organization to look at kittens, they were told by the volunteers that two male cats would probably be a better choice to fit into their family, because they would be more social with the children. So, the family adopted two brother kittens.

There you have it, my non-scientific evidence that male cats are friendlier than female cats. What do you think? I really want to know.


It’s part of life in the 21st century. You get the kids off to school, work all day, pick the kids up at daycare, make dinner, and collapse. But, what about the dog? How do you find the time to train it to be a good citizen? Maybe, you managed to get your dog into a puppy kindergarten class, and then a basic obedience class. But, you really didn’t have time to practice the way the instructor wanted you to, and now, well now, it’s all kind of fallen by the wayside.

You know that your dog can do better. Perhaps, your dog has some behavior issues. Whether or not they’re serious issues, they make your life harder, don’t they?

So, what do you do when you’re already stretched, and you know your dog needs more? The answer is “day training.” Day training starts with a meeting with me where you describe your dog training needs, and your dog’s behavior issues. I then come to your house for an hour or so, on agreed upon days, to train your dog. You get to get on with your life, while your dog gets training and attention from a professional. And, that training and attention is customized to your and your dog’s exact needs.

Maintaining what your dog learned is also built into the day training program. At the end of each week of training, I meet with you to go over what your dog has learned, as well as what you need to do to maintain the learning. After the agreed upon number of weeks has elapsed, I return for a follow-up or two, to make sure that you and your dog are on the same page, and everyone’s happy. For more information on day training, visit my dog training website

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Silver Linings is a publication of Silver Linings Pet Services, and is published for the purpose of marketing services. The current address of Silver Linings Pet Services is: 5555 Merritt Drive Concord, Ca 94521