Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dog Talk Diva Camilla Gray-Nelson Gets RFT Staffer's Dog to Behave Nicely

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 8:00 AM

lipstick_leash.jpg

"Most humans, even humans who have pets, don't understand dogs -- or animals in general," asserts Camilla Gray-Nelson. "They don't have a clue what makes them tick."

After a lifetime of living with animals -- she grew up on a farm in Petaluma, California -- and 24 years as a dog trainer known as the Dog Talk Diva, Gray-Nelson knows a few more things than the average human. She got tired of repeating them over and over to the female clients who came in complaining that the dogs only minded their husbands, so she wrote her first book, Lipstick and the Leash: Dog Training A Woman's Way.

The title's not entirely accurate. Animals see relationships in terms of power and hierarchies, Gray-Nelson explains. "If you want your dog to mind you, it's not about training. Why does the dog come to you? It's not because you love and feed him. Loving and feeding do not equal superiority. Superiority means that I make the rules and enforce them.

"But in our culture," she continues, "women are taught to give, to accommodate. With an animal, that comes back to bite you in the behind."

Yesterday Gray-Nelson stopped by the RFT offices to demonstrate her version of dog whispering. We provided the dog, a two-and-a-half-year-old lab mix named Abby.

stand_on_leash_001_opt.jpg
Gray-Nelson begins by standing on Abby's leash to keep her from wandering around the park.

"The top dog is the dog who can limit the freedom of any dog in the group," she says. "Freedom equals status. Once you start limiting a dog's freedom, you have a whole new dog. There's no chaos. Dogs want to know two things: Who's driving and what's my seat assignment."

Upon being informed that Abby is a jumper, Gray-Nelson notes, "Jumping is a multifaceted behavior. It can be a greeting, it can be playful and it can be a ranking ritual. One dog jumping on another is a display of power. When a dog wants to show another dog that it's not superior, it gives a little bark, to say 'I don't allow that.' When I do that with a dog, I want to say, 'I don't allow that, darling.' I want to stay in a loving frame of mind, not punitive. You don't want your dog to think you're angry, just pragmatic."

Gray-Nelson doesn't bark, or yell, but she gets the same effect with this:

training_in_can_001_opt.jpg

You can make your own by putting pennies in a can and taping it shut.
sneaking_away_001_opt.jpg
Abby won't jump on command, but when she starts to sneak off to investigate Gray-Nelson's bag, Gray-Nelson gives a sharp tug of the leash...
no_001_opt.jpg
...and "barks" by shaking the can.
good_dog_001_opt.jpg
Always reward good behavior, Gray-Nelson warns. Dogs don't like the bait-and-switch.

Tags: , ,

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 28, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2021 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation