Habit training

Article by Jacqui

In 24PAWS’ small groups, specific words are used consistently (for safety and sociability, our aim is to promote good habits). At the initial assessment we’ll go through the words with you and you can tell us what you would normally say (your dog can likely handle people using different words for the same action or response; a dog’s life gets tricky when people use the same words but for different expected actions or responses).

My dog Scottie is an everyday companion. He’s not a show dog or a zen master of commands, but he is a well-tuned in little guy. When he and I started training together he was just 8 weeks old. By the time we went to puppy school at 12 weeks he knew several hand signals and what to do when he saw them (consistency was another matter – there are distractions everywhere!). Hand signals are my go to, but I back these up with the corresponding word(s) so Scottie gets the hang of both. For him to become consistent, of course I have to be consistent with how I communicate and with providing opportunities for him to practice (and practice…).

A surprising thing that Scottie picked up really quickly was words for his toys. I’d say a word, he’d go get the toy (wherever it was) and bring it. “Pirate”, “kangaroo”, “duck”, “stick, “ball”, “rope”, “sheriff”, “gator” etc. A while back I was doing an assignment and looked down to find he had arranged all his toys beside my chair – clearly he figured I needed a play break.

A couple of key sequences I use are:

Stop, sit, walk-with-me – I use this combo at the kerbside. Scottie knows not to go off the curb but I say “stop” anyway. “Sit” in this case means sit until the road is clear; we’re going to let driver’s know that you’re not about to leap out. “Walk-with-me” means stay by my left side and if I stop part way across, you stop too.

Stop, sit, wait, come – a sequence that we practice over and over at the park. This combo can make even a shortish walk interesting and helps Scottie get a good run in as he bounds to catch up after receiving the final signal. (Saying and signalling “wait” lets him know I’m going to walk off.)

Early on I used an unconventional term when I wanted to attach the lead:

Yoga pose – at some point I think Scottie had been grabbed at to have his lead attached. He would squirm away, seeming to know he should stop but not wanting to. Then one morning when he was doing his “downward facing dog” stretch, I said “good boy, yoga pose” gave his back a nice rub and popped his lead on with no problems at all. Now when I say “yoga pose” he does the stretch, gets a back rub, knows the lead is going on and it’s all good. For a long time now he’s been as good as gold with just standing for the lead to be attached, but at home we still go through the yoga pose routine just for fun.

And I used the simplest of methods for him to let me know when he needs to go outside:

Woof – toilet training was a major focus for the first couple of weeks that Scottie and I were together. I’d take him outside very frequently with the words “outside” then “do wees”. When we were outside and he went to poop I’d say “do your thing”. I then needed him to be proactive about letting me know when he needed to go out. For this I’d say “outside” and he’d head to the door, then I’d stand at the door with my hand on the door handle and say “woof”, then open the door. Soon when I said “outside” and stood at the door with my hand on the handle but not saying “woof”, he’d woof and the door would open. Magic! He’d caught on the “woof” means open the door. Any place we go now, I know if he barks once it’s time to go outside.

From Optimus Healthcare to 24PAWS

Post by Jacqui

Years ago I traded life as head of production with a large ad agency for life as a business owner with a small high-tech studio that served two types of client: 1) ad agencies (complex, often fast-turnaround work) and 2) small businesses (providing a level of agency service, able to add creativity to production). Income from 1) subsidised my work on 2) which was perfect.

When my step-daughter was injured in a car accident I sold the studio to focus with her on recovery. One of my favourite clients asked me to continue doing their medical research and writing which led to working with holistic vet Dr Chris Piper on information for his nutraceutical compounds. He had created a brand which I suggested be changed to Great&Small. It’s a brand that has stood the test of time and I still love its brightness, positivity and purpose.

One of the pharmacists I worked with was a veterinary medicine compounding specialist. We knew we could bring something special to vets and specialists throughout the country by increasing the prescribing options for their individual patients, and for this we developed Optimus Healthcare Ltd. While Monterrey took a trip back to Canada to stock up on supplies and take a break with family before Optimus began trading, there was plenty for me to do back here – finding premises, getting them fitted out, registering the pharmacy, creating custom software and developing our brand.

Our initial marketing involved a fast-penetrating transdermal gel and a hypertensive cat called Max.

Within days of sending this info-leaflet out we had our first orders. In the 1st year we worked with over 100 practices, providing customised medicines in tiny accurate dose capsules, gels, creams, solutions, suspensions and flavoured bases (including large amounts of molasses for horse patients).

Patient outcomes were a lovely elixir for all the hours, resources and devotion we put in. We received inspiring feedback from vets, specialists, vet clients and also from government officials and the international compounding centres organisation that the pharmacy was accepted as a member of.

When my co-director wanted to move back into general pharmacy we looked for a pharmacist who Monterrey could train and sell her shareholding to. Not an easy task. While we eventually found the perfect person, one of his conditions became 100% ownership. After 3 years it was ever so hard for me to leave Optimus behind but it wouldn’t exist today had we not given it that strong start and then been pragmatic for its future.

With Optimus I learned a valuable lesson. I wasn’t the pharmacist, so despite massive effort in other respects and doing a specialised course in compounding so I knew the processes involved, I couldn’t do our core work – I couldn’t (of course) go into the lab and compound. With 24PAWS I do the core work with the small groups and run the business. Working with dogs; studying dog evolution and psychology; supporting owners to manage their dogs’ well-being; and creating a venture that has a lovely purpose and effect is highly motivating, as is the boundless enthusiasm of my 24PAWS co-director, Scottie.