Lisa Lanser Rose is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, Official Stunt Dog Judge, and a member of the board at the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. She is a creative writing professor and an award-winning author of the memoir “For the Love of a Dog” and the novel, “Body Sharers”. Lisa also writes and speaks about canine rescue, dog training, and women’s issues. She and her Champion Trick Dogs also perform throughout the Tampa Bay, FL area.
Lisa’s Website: https://www.lisalanserrose.com/
Lisa’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/LisaLanserRose
Check out Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club: https://www.usdtc.org/
USDTC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/121646182969/
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Lisa Lanser Rose is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, Official Stunt Dog Judge, and a member of the board at the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. She is a Creative Writing Professor and is an award-winning author of the memoir “For The Love of a Dog” and the novel “Body Sharers”. Lisa also writes and speaks about canine rescue, dog training, and women’s issues, and she and her Champion Trick Dogs also performed throughout the Tampa Bay, Florida area.
Hey, Lisa, welcome to the show. Hey, Rachel, how are you? I’m doing great today. I’m so excited to connect with you and learn a little bit more about you and your path in this training world. So why don’t you kick us off and tell us a little bit about you and how you got involved with dog training. Oh my gosh, I think I was born with the gene for dog-loving. I’m pretty sure, certain there’s a thing for this, that I suffer it. Yeah, I wanted a dog in the worst way when I was a small child and drove my parents crazy. And they finally got me a Wire Haired Fox Terrier when I was 11 years old. And I knew my parents thought that I was not gonna take care of that dog. And I was so grateful to have that dog, that I swore I was never gonna make them regret it. And I went right to work training that dog. I went to HHHH. I learned obedience and conformation handling, which is the kind of thing that you see on the Westminster Breed competitions. And I also taught my dog tricks because I was a fan of Lassie, any show that had, like, the Little Rascals, had a dog in it. Sure. I’m dating myself. I remember those shows, so you’re not dating.
I wanted to be an animal trainer for television, so I trained my dog to do lots of tricks just on my own, figured out how to do it and then HHHH included a trick competition. And the first time we entered it, we won the trophy, so I was hooked from, oh gosh, I must have been 13 when I won that trophy. I still display it proudly. But it wasn’t until I got my dog, Mick, my Border Collie, that I have now. And my sister gave me a book called “51 Puppy Tricks”. I think it was called, which is written by Kyra Sundance, and I taught Mick many, many tricks, and Mick was very sick as a puppy and vets couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. So tricks were something that he was able to do, and it kept his mind busy. When he ended up getting more and more sick and he ended up in intensive care, it was showing the staff that he could do tricks like the tricks, tricked the staff into seeing more than may actually be there, in the dog, like I think the trick about a dog trick is that it makes you think the dog is in on the joke. Interesting. I’ve thought a lot about it. And what people would say to me, more than one person said this to me. He’s a little boy in a dog suit. Is it humanized him, you know it. Like I think if you had a Venn diagram of dog and human, I think there’s a huge overlap in our consciousness and personalities, and all but tricks make that apparent that maybe even broaden it a little bit. So the staff became more invested in him, and I’m pretty sure that’s why his life was saved. Vets have said that it’s a miracle that he lived. He has a B-12 deficiency, but most puppies die before they’re diagnosed. The dogs that have this.
So that’s a long answer of how I got involved in dog tricks and why it means, I’m gonna choke myself up here. Why it means so much to me to do dog tricks with my dogs and to help other people learn to do it. Dog tricks. Yes, so this is a little bit different, right? So some of the other people that I talk with it’s really more about the obedience and the behavior and for me, you’re still training. It’s just a different angle in the tricks that you speak of. It’s fascinating to me, and I love that those tricks were what pushed Mick to just fight through and overcome what he was dealing with. Oh, definitely, yes. I used the tricks to try to keep him engaged in his own life, fighting for his own life. I would remind him who he was and what he had to look forward to, but also it gave the staff ways to interact with him. It made him stand out from all the other dogs languishing in intensive care, and they wanted him to live. They felt like they knew him a little bit more, and so I really think that’s why he lived. I definitely love the story of Mick, and I love that for you it started at such a young age with your first dog at 11. Your first competition at 13 and HHHH. And I love that journey for you.
And so let’s fast forward. So I know where your love of tricks started. So tell me how you’ve evolved from that to where you are now? There are two elements. One is The Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club and the other one is Kyra Sundance’s, I guess it’s the governing body of trick dog titles and stunt dog titles, and that organization is called, Do More With Your Dog. And she’s the author I mentioned earlier who wrote “51 Puppy Tricks”. After Mick and I burned through 51 Puppy Tricks, we got the next book, which was “101 Dog Tricks”. And somewhere in there, while I was just putting trick after trick after trick on Mick, who loved performing them anywhere, anytime. He is an unusual dog and his focus and his self-confidence, he’s unflappable. So we would perform in restaurants and shopping centers and just informally, and we got a lot of attention for that. The more people are watching, the more he shows off. It’s wonderful, but Kyra Sundance launched Trick Dog Titles and I thought, Well, gosh, that gives me a cookie, you know, it gave me the incentive to keep working with him so that I could earn titles on him. And it’s something I already loved all my life, right? So very quickly we got all the way to championship. And I was a little disappointed because we did it so quickly and now we had a championship and there were no more Trick Titles to be earned. But then she launched a program for people to become Certified Trick Dog instructors. And I thought, well, goodness, I’m already a teacher. I teach creative writing, so I can do this. So I got that certification and I thought, this gives me a way to give back to the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club.
So let’s talk about that for a second. When Mick was a sickly puppy, I would enroll him in school and sometimes he was too sick to go. You know, for example, we did like puppy class, and then we did basic obedience. And then I had him in agility or scent detection. And he’s six months old, eight months old, you know, and some of the local schools were expensive, and when he was too sick to go to school and I thought he might die. It was a very real fear that he might die. I would say, I’m sorry, we’re not gonna be able to make it. And of course, I’d be weeping as I wrote an email to them. And I’d say, is it possible to have our money refunded and they would say no. And then I found the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club and their prices were a little cheaper. It’s not like I went looking for a place like this. It was just nearby and I didn’t know the difference between a school and a club. But I enrolled them in a class and when Mick got too sick and this only happened twice, I’m just talking about one instance where they wouldn’t refund my money. And then the second time it happened, he happened to be enrolled in an upcoming class, the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club and they responded with complete compassion. They said that is terrifying and sad. We’re so sorry you’re going through that. Of course, you can have a refund. And it was the kindness that made me think, well, we don’t need any place else. I want to be with people who care. You know, who understands. Rachel Mitt costs us about $20,000. Oh my goodness. For my first year, you know, it’s not like I was nickel and dime and we were trying to save for a down on the house, and this was causing a great deal of strain in my marriage. So it meant a lot to me, on so many levels, that the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club responded with compassion.
So we began to study there and now my best friend’s are there, canine and human. Yeah. So when I became a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, I pitched to the club that we have classes and teach trick dog training, and they were happy to let me become an instructor there. So, as I said earlier when we were speaking that I have been teaching there about four or five years now and I have assistance. I teach beginner tricks and I teach advanced tricks. Two of our students just became champions. Wow! Yeah. One of the things I think I really connect with people on is when they connect with not just people, but dogs. And one of the things that really got me when you were telling that story was how they made you feel when you were going through that. The word you used was compassion. And to find an organization or a business, because training is a business, that has that compassion and can understand what you’re going through and for them to say, it’s OK. We’ll give you your money back. You take the time that you need, if and when you’re ready. That’s a lot. That’s an automatic connection. And I love that you were able to take that and as soon as Mick was feeling good enough and feeling better and ready to please and learn, that you went back and said, This is where I want to be. And not only did you do the training with Mick there and the tricks, but you were able to bring an idea to them and they were open to that and willing to hear you and support you in that.
So I really loved that story and I just want to say, thank you for sharing that and thank you to Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club for being a compassionate business and supporting the people in the community and their clients. I think that’s incredible. Yes, the thing about the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club is that it’s a club, so it’s a nonprofit. Okay. And everybody who works there is a volunteer. So all of the classes, if you go to the website, you’ll see there are many classes. In fact, we could do more, if we were bigger if we could afford a bigger space. There are people ready to teach even more than we offer now. There are a lot of very committed, very talented, and creative people there. Thank you for sharing that. As we get into these conversations, I think understanding and learning what that difference is, as you said they’re a club. And then there are other trainers who have businesses, and so I think that’s a really important distinction to make. So I appreciate you teaching me that so that I can understand.
If you have a club in your area, you should go check it out. A lot of us also belong to and or study at another ST. Pete Dog Club. And then there’s a dog club in Tampa, which I recently discovered, sometimes offers freestyle classes, which are dog tricks and obedience kind of behaviors set to music, and it’s choreographed. I think many of us have seen videos. If you haven’t yet, just search for Canine Freestyle and you’ll see that in action. They offer classes and they also do trick demos and they have trick dog classes. So I approached them and they’ve asked me to become, I did, I put in my membership. I’m still waiting to see if they’ll accept me, but they seem happy that I’m interested and they might want me to teach tricks or stunt dog. I also do agility. I’ve been doing agility with Mick for about five years. I have another dog too, she does agility as well. I love that. And honestly, one of my favorite dogs is a Border Collie. And so I love that that Mick. So of course, when I was watching your videos, I have a soft spot. And so Mick just melted my heart. So we’ll make sure to link to some of those videos and so that people can look at that and see what you’re doing with the animals in the community there.
So talk to me a little bit about what goes into teaching tricks. What are you doing in your classes at Upper Suncoast? And how do people really get involved? How do they know if they have the right dog to learn tricks? Can any dog learn tricks? Like I have a lot of questions in my head. You can see, walk me through a little bit about what that looks like? I have a lot to say about that. I remember when I first started doing tricks with Mick, and as I said, he’s a very special dog and he makes me look good, there’s no question. And I’ve trained other dogs, fosters that I’ve had and I’ve trained Maisie and Mick is maybe a once in a lifetime dog. So you need to hear that caveat before you watch him work. Yeah, cause I would be in a pet shop and I would just do tricks with him, just to keep him busy and engaged, as we’re moving through the store. And sometimes he would draw a crowd and invariably somebody with murmur under his breath, “My dog would never do that. He’s too stupid”. And that would break my heart every time because I feel that maybe this is crazy, but I feel like Mick was not put on this Earth to make you unhappy with your dog, by comparison. You know he’s here to show you that you can do all kinds of things with your dog. Any dog can learn to do all of these. Maybe not all these tricks, but certainly enough of them to impress your friends and family.
And you let me back up and say that if you’re coming to one of my classes, say my beginner class, you need to have basic obedience. I didn’t use to require that, but I found that I ended up spending a lot of time in my classes just teaching sit, stay, come. Those are all necessary foundations for teaching tricks. So I like my students to have a basic obedience class or star puppy and a little bit of impulse control in the dog. It just makes it easier, so that we can get to all the cool stuff, right away, right? Yeah. So the thing is that some dogs are not food motivated or they’re not toy motivated. You have to find what motivates your dog. And some dogs have what they call higher drive than other dogs. If your dog doesn’t have a high drive, things might go a little more slowly. You have to keep your sessions a little shorter. Maybe you train them when they’re hungry, to increase their food drive or you find a squeak toy or something they really want. It might just be that you and your dog haven’t figured out what your dog really wants, yet. If you think your dog can’t learn. And then some tricks are harder for some dogs, and it is not necessarily a breed thing. It’s just an individual thing. There are tricks that Mick learns very quickly, and then there are tricks that Maisie learns very quickly and there are tricks that Maisie has learned right away, that it took Mick Months to learn. So the thing I like about dog tricks, in part is that it’s very laid back and fun-loving. And if a trick is frustrating you, find a different trick. You know, come back to it later.
Whereas if you’re in obedience or agility, there’s a preset behavior you have to do, you know. In obedience, it has to be a heel. It has to be precise. It has to be at a certain angle. It’s in that way, unforgiving it’s a very high bar. Whereas tricks, if you teach your dog to beg, there are lots of ways a dog can beg. Maisie throws one paw way up over her ear, like she’s raising, like pick me, pick me and there’s nobody there to say, Oh, that’s not a beg. Both paws have to be parallel, side by side like a squirrel, you know. So there’s a lot of room for individuality and for individual preferences and individual Proclivities. So you get to pick and choose. Just do what you and your dog like. Also, tricks training is all positive, all the time. There’s no choke chain, there’s no need for it. I mean, what’s at stake, right? No, nothing. Just the sheer joy of the two of you sitting in this bubble of one on one. Attention and adoration. It’s very Zen. It’s a high bonding time, and it makes you a better trainer and anything else you’re gonna pursue if you’re going to do obedience if you’re gonna do agility if you’re going to do board coursing or barn hunt, anything, any other dogs for it. Fly ball. You will get better at those sports from practicing tricks.
The word that you used was bonding right, and that’s the word that I kept thinking about from the very beginning when you started talking about it, was it feels like a very personal moment to have with your dog. Because to your point, obedience is really about making sure that they’re safe. You’re doing off-leash training and things of that nature, like you don’t want them running away from you or they have a high prey drive. Like that’s about keeping them safe and getting them to live in your world, to behave there. That fits your lifestyle. And so when you were talking about this, that is the one word was bonding, that kept coming to me, so I appreciate that at least I was on the right track when you were talking about that. Definitely, that’s what it’s all about. And when I told you earlier about Mick being in the ICU. His doing tricks allowed him to bond with, even though they weren’t training him. Mick will do tricks for other people. I just hand you the treat and show you how to do it and people, even some grizzly old vet who’s been practicing for 50 years. His eyes will light up because it is innately charming, So the staff at the hospital bonded with him. I taught at a high school, back when he was a puppy and I would take him into work and the students would do tricks with him and bond with him.
I do love that and to your earlier comment, there is definitely overlap with dogs and people because as people, we want to please other people, right? I myself am very much a people pleaser. And so I’m glad we have that in common, and dogs have that same drive like that’s where the tricks come in is because they want to see you happy. They want to please you. And so I definitely see the overlap, particularly with the tricks that you’re talking about when it comes to training. It’s fascinating for me to see the similarities. They want eye contact. They want a high pitched voice. The way we talk to babies, they want to hear that. They want to hear that you’re delighted. I’ve noticed that Mick retrieves in the pool every morning. Doesn’t matter how cold it is. He likes playing frisbee outside. But I noticed that if I’m engaged if I’m just throwing the toy, he does it, whatever it is. But there’s noticeably more joy in his behavior when I’m going, Oh, boy, what a dog. Catch it, good boy, you know.
And I definitely want to make sure that we linked to your videos, cause it’s definitely apparent in how you are with him when you’re walking through these scenarios or these trick sessions and you definitely do that. Everything that you’re talking about today, here, with me, you are showing in your videos with Mick. And so I think it’s important. You know, sometimes we say, Do as I say, not as I do. And so I love that. What you’re sharing with me here today is something that you practice every day, with not just your clients, with your students, but also with your own animals. And I really appreciate that. You know, you just made me think of a very important level to this too. Which brings us back to the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. Me as a teacher, one thing I noticed, integrity has always been just fanatically important to me. And I think that’s part of what you’re talking about is that you’re noticing that I may have some integrity.
So, working with dogs, I began to notice that in classes I was taking or even my students amongst each other. I would notice that the positive reinforcement I was teaching them to use in their training with their dogs, was not necessarily something that they showed each other, human to human. I sometimes didn’t see an instructor treating their students with positive reinforcement. And then I became a member of the board of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club. Didn’t know. We see positive reinforcement used among board members, and the irony was particularly painful to me that we would, Oh, and also in rescue. I would see people advocating positive reinforcement and then shaming other people for various missteps and being sometimes outright cruel on social media. They were lighting the torches and grabbing their pitchforks, sometimes for an and a perceived infraction. I think I teach my students this. We need to treat each other the same way we treat our dogs. Absolutely. You treat your family members that way, you will get you know, a lot more. What is that? You catch more flies with sugar and you know what that thing is?
So I think, always, if you’re involved in dog training at all, using positive reinforcement with your students and with your colleagues and with your family members, but also with yourself, because you hear all the time that people are suffering depression and anxiety. Maybe because of social media, comparing themselves. Like I said earlier, people would see me working with Mick and then think poorly of their own dogs, you know? So there’s I don’t know if it’s cognitive restructuring or what it’s called in the psychology field, but learning to take a step back from that negative self-talk and giving yourself some positive reinforcement and compassion the same way you would treat a dog. We would want a dog to be treated. Because inside we’re all good dogs. We want to be, so you shouldn’t be harsh with yourself or with each other. Trick dog training or dog training in general, for me, is a very holistic exercise and well being, for you and your dog and the people around you. And I now teach creative writing in an all-positive format because creative writing is a huge personal risk, and when you have somebody assessing your brainchild, you’re extremely vulnerable, and often you’re writing about things that are emotionally risky, too. And so we need to be in a safe space, where we can take creative risks and be ourselves and nurture each other.
I agree with that wholeheartedly, and I could not have said it any better. I myself am hard on myself and so I appreciate that holistic picture, that big picture because you’re right, in dog training and animal training in general. It’s a problem you mentioned in the rescue world, and that’s so true. Everybody wants to beat up on somebody who’s not doing it their way, and we need to be more supportive in whatever we are doing. I think that’s hugely important and I definitely couldn’t have said it any better, and so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time. Lisa and I just want to thank you again for joining me today. And before we wrap things up, is there anything else that we didn’t touch on that you want to share? No, I’ve had such a good time talking with you. Rachael, Thank you so much for featuring Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club and me, in my little part in it, I really appreciate it. And what you’re doing is very exciting. Well, thank you. Thanks again, Lisa. And we’ll definitely stay in touch. Okay, great. Thank you.
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