FAIRPLAY â A career of dedicated service in the dog industry has earned Pat Miller, of Fairplay high praise and respect.
With more than 40 years of experience as a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, Miller was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT).
âI was honored and humbled and I got teary- eyed,â Miller said of how she felt when she was told about her award. âItâs really meaningful to me to be recognized in that manner by my peers.â
She will be recognized during the opening keynote address at the 25th APDT Education Conference and Trade Show at Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel on Wednesday, Oct. 17 through Saturday, Oct. 20, in Memphis, Tenn.
For 10 years, she helped bring justice to abused dogs as a humane officer and animal control officer at the Marin Humane Society in Novato, Calif.
âI got to arrest people who were mean to animals, so that was cool,â Miller said with a chuckle.
For the remaining 10 years of her time at Marin, Miller took on the job as director of operations.
âI loved working at the shelter for 20 years. There was a real sense of community there, everybody working for the same purpose to help animals. Certainly there were times when it was hard, but overall it was a very rewarding experience,â Miller said.
Trish King, who was at that time a dog trainer for the shelter, partnered with Miller and created a color-coding system.
The color-coding system is a way to evaluate dogs and their level of difficulty in terms of handling so that more experienced volunteers get paired with difficult dogs and novice volunteers handle the easier dogs.
As a result, the shelter experienced a reduction in behavior problems among dogs in its care and cases of euthanasia.
In 1996, Miller moved to Californiaâs central coast after completing her bachelorâs degree with honors in business administration from Dominican College in San Rafael.
She then launched Peaceable Paws LLC, a dog training company, in Monterey and Santa Cruz.
Peaceable Paws relocated in 2004 and is now located on Millerâs home base of 80 acres in Fairplay.
A variety of breeds and mixed breeds have undergone behavioral transformation under Millerâs training including rough collies, a bloodhound, Austrian Bernard, Scottish-Terrier, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Australian shepherd, Pomeranians and a springer spaniel.
Some of the canines have competed in AKC Rally, a popular canine sport and obedience competition.
âIn Rally you can talk to your dog throughout and encourage your dog, so itâs much more like the natural relationship that we have with our dogs that gets really stilted when you go in the rings for an obedience competition,â Miller said.
The dog training industry perpetuation on what Miller refer to as âold-school trainingâ began to take a shift.
Millerâs belief in positive reinforcement that encourages the dog to cooperate and participate in training motivated her to write a book, âThe Power of Positive Dog Trainingâ (2001).
âIt was early on when the dog-training profession was starting to recognize the value of force free or positive reinforcement based training as opposed to what I call, âOld-fashion trainingâ, training that uses force and coercion and pain, prong collards, (and) shock collards to force the dog to do something as opposed to positive reinforcement training that invite the dog to cooperate and participate in training,â Miller said.
APDT chairwoman Megan Stanley, said âThe Power of Positive Dog Trainingâ is âthe most recommended books on dog trainers and owners alike.â
âI think one of the reasons why itâs been so well regarded is because I had good fortune and good timing to write that book when things were just starting to change,â Miller said.
Millerâs most recent book, âBeware of the Dog: Positive Solutions for Aggressive Behavior in Dogsâ (2016), is about canine aggression, how to live with it, prevent, and modify the behavior.
âBecause the majority of my private consultation practice are clients who have dogs with aggressive behaviors at some level, I realized at one point that there wasnât a book on the market that was the book that I wanted to be able to refer my clients to, so I decided that I should write it,â Miller said.
Her 14-year-old Terrier mix, Josie, were one of the first 23 dog owner teams in the world to earn a title at the first-sanctioned Rally Trails, the then newest canine sport, at the APDT annual conference in Ellenville, N.Y., in 2001.
At that time, Miller was elected to APDTâS board and got the association to get Rally on as a titled sport.
âI was pleased and honored to be in the forefront of that both by encouraging ADTP to move forward with it as well competing and earning one of the earlier titles,â Miller said.
Other than dogs who have severe medical issues, itâs rare for Miller to meet a dog who is untrainable.
âIâve had a few dogs that I referred to a veterinarian behaviorist because I felt like they needed help beyond what I could give them including medication. Just like humans take drugs for behavioral issues, there are medications for dogs that have significant behavioral issues,â Miller said.
Thereâs still more to be done in the dog training field for Miller who want to help foster positive relationship with owners and their pets.
âI would like to be a part of the effort that is ongoing now to continue to move our profession worldwide towards a more positive relationship between humans and their dogs. There are countries now, for example, that have actually outlawed shock collars and prong collars and it would thrill me to see that happen in this country,â she said.