MAGDRL: Suzanne Clothier seminar July 20-22, 2007



Web page created on July 23, 2007

I spent a beautiful weekend in Roanoke, Virginia at a Canine Behavior seminar hosted by the Star City Training Club.  For three days, Suzanne Clothier, author of "Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs" held the rapt attention of an audience of over 50 trainers, breeders, and dog owners.

As a trainer, Suzanne Clothier is not only technically superb, she's also excellent at "reading" movement and health issues. Beyond these skills, she is hypersensitive to how dogs perceive human actions. We began the weekend with Suzanne's narration of dogs in motion -- from the slightest shift in eyes, ears, stance, head and body position. We began to see what she saw, and it was truly enlightening! 

We spent the rest of the weekend alternating between case studies with attendees dogs -- a fabulous experience -- and Suzanne's perspective on various behavior challenges.

At right, our first case study was "Morris", a Shar Pei  with escalating fear problems. This breed tends to be aloof, but Morris suddenly became fearful after a dog ran up his heels in the show ring. In recent months, he had become increasingly fearful whenever he was away from home.

Suzanne pulled out all her tricks, but Morris was far too stressed to respond. He had a brief moment of relief when two canine friends arrived, but he was far beyond a quick fix. The owner will end his show career, and he will live peacefully in her home.

At left, sweet Sophie is very well trained and has a devoted owner. As soon her owner brought her over, Suzanne said she saw a hip problem that was clearly causing this dog pain. The owner confirmed it, saying that Sophie will probably have hip replacement surgery within the next year.

Sophie's problem was that she'd recently become leash aggressive, and  Suzanne said this is common with dogs in pain.  Sophie sees the leash as confining her movement so she can't escape other dogs that may bump her. The owner will keep Sophie away from body-slammers and will work on desensitizing her to approaching dogs.


At right, Jay is an Australian Shepherd. Suzanne said he was off-balance, that he has some degeneration going on in his rear. The owner said that he had a broken pelvis as a puppy, but for now their vet said he's not in pain.

Jay began getting startled and thrown off his routine when people clap when he's in the agility ring.  Suzanne quickly taught the owner to clap when treating him, clap when feeding him, clap softer, then louder. By the end of the seminar, we were all clapping while Jay joyfully received treats!

At left is "Mojo", a Bouvier who recently became skittish around sudden noises. This pup was spooked just before this seminar by the sound of the owner dumping ice cubes into a chest cooler.

At left, within minutes Suzanne had Mojo happily taking treats while she crinkled a noisy water bottle and rattled ice cubes in a plastic container. The owner will work on increasing his threshold for noise.

Mojo loves adults, but he is unsure around kids, particularly the owner's niece. The owner will work on increasing positive experiences with kids.