Local educator outlines how to teach dogs English

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Some people have a natural ability to communicate with canines. But for those who don’t, a local author is making it easy. Garden Valley resident Teresa Gary has recently published, “English for Dogs — 50 Words Every Well-Mannered Companion Should Know.” Gary is a retired educator who was principal of Golden Sierra High School and superintendent of the Black Oak Mine Unified School District. She and her husband are also longtime dog owners and rescue volunteers. “We volunteer with NorCal Sheltie Rescue and most of our work involves fostering, training, rehabilitating and adopting out rescue dogs,” she said recently. Her current canine companions are a golden retriever, Bo, and a Sheltie (Shetland sheepdog), Rocky, in addition to one foster dog. This is her first book and she feels strongly about the topic. “My motivation was one foster dog that was a stray,” she explained. “He was very difficult to work with, had a reputation for biting and we were his last hope. Everything startled him and we were struggling to find a way to communicate. He just wasn’t coming around.” Gary, who was a teacher before she was an administrator, approached the problem from that perspective. “You start with an objective and let students know what that objective is and how to reach it,” she said. “I started using that with Prince.” She began with grooming. “I found the strategy worked pretty well,” Gary said. “Eventually he got to know what one word meant and then another word. He’d let me approach, clean his eyes or look into his mouth. We had him for seven months and at the end of that time, he was adoptable.” When it was time for him to go, Gary made sure his new family knew his vocabulary, too. “Every foster dog after that, I started doing a vocabulary for him and that followed him to his new owners,” she said. “I got a reputation for working with problem dogs. I was also attending conferences and fortifying my training strategies.” In her book, the focus is on canine communication for the average pet owner. The book includes the basic obedience command words like sit, down, stay and come. But for Gary, the most important word is “watch.” “It means the dog looks directly into the owner’s eyes, thereby giving the owner his undivided attention,” she writes in the book. But she stresses that the technique goes beyond the words. “It has to be a simple word that must be used consistently and your dog has to know what it means,” she said. Just as with humans, every dog is different and there’s a wide spectrum of temperaments. Gary devoted one chapter to handling problem dogs and what works universally to train them. “I felt a real need in the area of handling, especially for dogs that don’t like to be touched,” she said. Gary worked on the project for about a year. Alpine Publications, which specializes in canine-related books, published it. It’s available online at and, as well as through the publisher. In Auburn, it is carried at The Book Haven and Incredible Pets. She provides first-person training through seminars, using PowerPoint presentations and her own demonstration dog. “I’m also trying to get out the word to local shelters,” she said. “Rescue dogs come with some baggage. (When) they get adopted out, unless there’s a lot of support and follow-up, they sometimes come back to the shelters. I’d like to help with that issue, as well.” The book struck a chord with Judith Granberg, a certified dog trainer who runs a canine boarding, day care and training business in Georgetown. “I not only read the book, I bought 25 copies and have already distributed all of them,” Granberg said. “The average pet owner doesn’t have any idea of what a dog is capable of learning. That’s problem No. 1.” The value of the book is that it teaches how to break down the training into small increments and it uses only positive reinforcement, Granberg said. And learning 50 words is really only a modest goal in terms of dogs’ true capabilities. Granberg cited examples of dogs that have learned 250 and even 500 words. Another featured n a recent NOVA special had a vocabulary of 1,022 words. Norcal Sheltie Rescue Director Gale Ann Morris said Gary was one of the first volunteers for the group. “She takes the ones that have the behavior problems – shy or quirky behaviors. She turns those dogs around with her techniques and makes them adoptable and great pets,” Morris said. Morris also has high praise for the book “It is very down-to-earth, very accessible, very easy to understand and it works,” she said. “I don’t foster many Shelties myself but I have used some of her training techniques on my own dogs and they’ve been better than good.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay ------------------------ New book Title: “English for Dogs” by Teresa Gary Available locally at: Auburn at The Book Haven, 884 Lincoln Way and Incredible Pets, 1775 Grass Valley Highway, Suite A Website: