Monday, August 24, 2009

Diane Rich & Dubs

Who is in the photo at right?

Diane Rich [in the black hat] and friends. I am a dog trainer and the official trainer for the University of Washington's new mascot, Dubs. My dog training career has been ongoing for over two decades. I offer 1:1 training that includes obedience training, problem prevention, and problem solutions including rehabilitation for all canines. I start 1:1 training when the pup is 7 weeks of age and work with dogs up to the senior plus years. I also offer group classes for dogs 10 weeks and older and offer boarding or boarding training exclusively for my client's dogs. I also coordinate animal therapy programs for local hospitals, nursing homes and special camps for children.

Dubs is a very handsome 10 month old Alaskan Malamute. I am not Dub's parent, just his teacher.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Dubs day-cared with us at Camp Fraser along with a month of boarding training to further prepare him for his responsibilities as the mascot for the Washington Huskies. I have coffee in my office very early every morning and Dub's morning routine after I would prepare his breakfast was to relax on the guest dog bed in my office while I responded to phone calls and emails. My boyz, Fraser and Chase joined him in my office, as they do all guests. Then, I would either review training with Dubs, work on new behaviors, go for our morning walk or take Dubs with us for the day on training appointments.

What's brewing?

I grind fresh beans every morning and my current flavor bean is Ethiopian Fancy from Peets in Redmond, WA. I drink it black with a splash of non-fat soy.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

I tend not to include any goodies with my morning coffee.

How did you and Dubs first get together?

The University of WA researched the trainers in the Seattle and via referrals contacted me.
My job description initially was to train Dubs, 1:1 which would fast track the results they wanted to prepare him for his many duties representing the University. I began his training and owner education when Dubs was 10 weeks old. My signature training is what I call Real World training which helps all dogs, no matter the age, gain confidence in all settings and be able to respond to the pet parent no matter the distractions. I trained Dubs initially at home or in a low key environment to learn basic commands, then introduced him to the stadium and other more stimulating situations. As Dubs would be meeting his fans, working with him on proper public manners or what I call meet and greets with strangers was included in his early training. Pet Parents are required to be a part of all the training so they can reinforce all the skills. I kept my eye on the ball as the initial goal is his debut Sept 5th for the LSU game along with a few other public appearances.

How did Dubs get his name?

I believe the school held a contest and people emailed in names for the new mascot, voted and the name Dubs, for UW ("Udub") was selected.

You are known for your Basic Training Philosophy: "Catch your dog doing something right!" What did you catch Dubs doing right?

I began training Dubs at 10 weeks of age at the owner's home. This beautiful puppy had brains and beauty and was a willing student, enjoyed his lessons with me and caught on very quickly. He did everything right during our sessions.

Are huskies especially easy or especially tough to train?

Although the school team is named Washington Huskies, the University has traditionally selected the Alaskan Malamute breed as their mascot. I do not find any breed dog particularly challenging to train if one understands how the dog is hardwired, is patient and reinforces the training properly. Malamutes can be willful and independent by nature and do not hand over compliance. A pet parent needs to earn their dog's trust and respect and maintain that respect throughout the dog's life, so that being said it is not the canine end of the leash that can present the challenge.

You've trained therapy pets. Is Dubs suited for that kind of task?

I think when he matures he could make a suitable therapy pet in some environments.

Please tell us a bit about Dubs' friends Fraser and Chase [photo, right] and their relationship.

They are great friends. Fraser was Dub's first canine buddy and mentor which expedited Dub's training. Dubs met Chase at Camp Fraser when he daycared with us a couple times and he and Chase were inseparable.

Dubs also stayed with us for one month for boarding training. The boyz went hiking together, enjoyed daily walks which included training of course, and Dubs was included with my boyz in helping train other client's dogs in both a 1:1 setting and my group classes. Dubs modeled after both Fraser and Chase which fast tracked Dub's training and matured him faster than normal weekly sessions.

Dubs is making his debut this season at the UW football games. How did you prepare him for a football stadium full of noise and people running around?

First, Dubs is a confident, solid dog. I started his training early and exposed him in small doses to every kind of stimulation you can imagine similar to what puppy raisers do for service dogs. I associate the stimulation with something positive and did not overwhelm the puppy with too much too soon. I started working with him at Husky stadium when he was 11 weeks old and built up his focus on me rather than all the activity on the field. I exposed him properly to adults and small children, crowds and noise in a positive way. His owners were taught how to reinforce the same behavior and how to manage his many fans and surprises. One must be patient with a puppy and be knowledgeable enough to read the dog's body language to make sure the dog is not overwhelmed. I did a practice run at UW's spring game where the band played, cheerleaders did their thing and the 10,000 fans enjoyed all the various activities.

What's Dubs' proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

Although most fans are enamored with his good looks where he just has to vogue for the camera, I am proud of him that he, so far, takes his job description in stride. I believe I need to keep those embarrassing moments under wraps.

Diane Rich & Chase and Fraser were featured on Coffee with a Canine earlier this month.

Visit Diane Rich's website to learn more about her work.

Check out Dubs' blog, "A Dawg's Life," and Dubs' Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue