New Training Classes at Horses and Hounds
Offered by Mary Fish Arango of Storybook Farm, West Simsbury
About Our Trainer
My Approach to Working with People and Their Dogs
I am an encourager and a problem solver by nature. When I work with people and their dogs, my primary goal is to help them learn how to learn with each other. When learning is rewarding and fun and reinforcing for its own sake, all kinds of skills are possible and new goals build on solid scaffolding. I tend to build a community of dog people who find new activities and connections with other dog people. Some go on to do therapy dog work; some compete in agility or rally obedience or scent work. Some explore activities that their dog might excel at based on its instincts - barn hunt, herding, dock diving, carting. Many dogs become all around great family dogs, and it starts with learning how to learn and how to communicate when obstacles or confusion arise.
My work with dogs and their humans is influenced by 38 years as a teacher in independent schools, working with teenagers who were highly motivated, mostly hard-working, and in the middle of determining the kind of person they would become. It is also, of course, influenced by a lifelong love of animals and a fascination for how they learn and interact with people. I have worked with all kinds of breeds and mixes from all kinds of backgrounds - purpose-bred dogs from thoughtful breeding, rehomed dogs with new beginnings, and rescue dogs with unknown pasts. That work has been done through working with shelter dogs, training in dog obedience and agility clubs, and teaching in my private training business.
I am a huge proponent of clicker training and positive reinforcement. They are powerful tools. Rewards come in the form of food, praise, attention, touching, and resources; learning through positive reinforcement activates a different part of the brain than punishment-based training. Odds are good that our favorite teachers and professors earned that title because learning from them was rewarding. These tools are valuable in all kinds of relationships - with your dog, your colleagues, your life partner, your family members, your friends. And they're contagious, which is an added bonus when the same tools that you model are used mutually on you.
A Condensed Version of My Recent Work
In 2015, I started Storybook Farm Dog Training on our property in southern Oregon. We were fortunate to have level fields for training areas, and the climate was favorable all year long for outdoor classes. I worked with 40 clients a week in agility, rally, private lessons, and puppy classes for socialization and manners. I trained and competed in agility and obedience in Alabama and southern California for 22 years before my retirement from teaching high school math took us to Medford, Oregon, near Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Summer wildfires, months of devastating smoke and hot temperatures, and drought finally compelled us to return to Connecticut, where my husband and I both spent our childhood and teenage years.
I currently live with two border collies and compete in agility and rally obedience. We've had eight dogs since 1993; seven have been devoted therapy dogs doing volunteer visits in hospitals, hospice, psychiatric units, and schools. Three of those were certified Disaster Stress Relief dogs, evaluated to be deployed to FEMA disaster events. I have been an evaluator for Therapy Dogs International since 1997 and have consulted with facilities regarding therapy dog programs. I have competed in AKC obedience, agility, rally obedience, and conformation since 1994; I currently compete primarily in agility, working with a young border collie who is new to the sport. But most of all, I like to teach.
BA, Williams College (psychology)
M Ed, University of Virginia (sports medicine/athletic training)
MA, Oakland University, Michigan (counseling)
Association of Professional Dog Trainers (professional member)
Dog Writers Association of America (judge of their annual writing contest)
Therapy Dogs International (evaluator since 1997)