#63 - MaryKaye Kendrick: Creating Harmonious Households for Dogs & Kids

[00:00:00] MaryKaye: And so, that is just, I mean, that absolutely plays into what I do now, right? That whole problem solving, guiding clients, we’re not telling them what they have to do, we’re saying, we’re here to help you, we’re here to guide you on this journey, here’s, you know, our recommendations. How can we help you troubleshoot when you get stuck? How can we help you problem solve? And looking through the lens of behavior as, you know, instead of emotional, just more, what can we do to help solve the problem? 

[00:00:25] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:00:43] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:44] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.

The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was MaryKaye Kendrick. MaryKaye Kendrick, IAABC ADT, CSBD, Family Paws Parent Educator, is a dog trainer and behavior consultant with Pet Harmony. She enjoys working with both dogs and humans by meeting them where they are in their educational journeys. She also enjoys attending science based seminars about animal training and behavior to advance her skills and knowledge.

MaryKaye found her way to animal behavior by first working in human mental health and teaching. She graduated from Illinois Benedictine College, now Benedictine University, with a B. A. in Psychology. After graduation, she was a case manager for Plough’s Council on Aging, which included assessing seniors at risk for mental health and behavioral concerns, as well as aiding and advocating for senior citizens who are victims of exploitation and abuse.

After her career in social work, MaryKaye started teaching preschool and kindergarten at Montessori Moppet Center, Inc., where she stayed for 17 years and loved helping kids not only academically, but also with their social and emotional growth. MaryKaye has been volunteering with the Naperville Area Humane Society since 2011, and has volunteered over 1200 hours with NAHS. Her volunteer tasks have included training and behavior modification for challenging dogs, mentoring and training new volunteers, and fostering kittens and puppies in her home. MaryKaye has been professionally dog training since 2017 and joined the Pet Harmony team in 2018. 

MaryKaye is a Family Paws Parent Educator, an accredited dog trainer, and is certified in shelter behavior through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and her dog, Fonzie, has earned his NW1 title from the National Association of Canine Scent Work.

Y’all, MaryKaye is just one of my favorite humans that has ever humaned. As you heard in her bio, she has been with me for quite a long time, even longer than Emily has been on the team, though I’ve known Emily for a long time. And you’ll hear in this episode just how long I’ve known MaryKaye for.

She is just a phenomenal, not only human, but educator, teacher, trainer, consultant. All of the things, and I absolutely love the empathy and compassion that she brings to each case, and I know her clients love that as well. In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and MaryKaye talk about learner centered teaching, broadcasting body language for children, how to teach very young children dog skills, and the importance of protected contact when working with kids and dogs. Alright, here it is, today’s episode, MaryKaye Kendrick, Creating Harmonious Households for Dogs and Kids.

[00:03:47] Emily: All right, tell us your name, pronouns, and pets.

[00:03:50] MaryKaye: My name is MaryKaye Kendrick. My pronouns are she and her, and my one and only pet at the time is a almost 16 year old dog, by the name of Alphonso. We call him Fonzie and he is yummy in every way.

[00:04:07] Emily: I mean, he is pretty cute, I’m not going to lie. 

[00:04:09] MaryKaye: He’s delightful and also experiencing some cognitive stuff. So he’s an old man. We love him. 

[00:04:16] Emily: Yeah. He’s allowed to be a a goofy old man for sure. So, tell us your story and how you got to where you are.

[00:04:22] MaryKaye: I don’t know how to answer that question. So, I was, I mean, back when I was a little kid, I knew that I was kind of a odd duck. I would spend hours, and when I say hours, I mean hours and a huge family of just watching ants, be ants, and just watching nature and animals, and I was completely infatuated to, with them. I didn’t know that you could do, I, you know, I, nobody had ever talked to me about vet school or anything like that. And it wouldn’t have been a good choice for me anyway. But I didn’t know that you could make a career out of working with animals. And so when I went away to school, to college, I studied psychology.

Again, not knowing that behavior was a thing that you could study, and maybe back in those days, it wasn’t as much of a thing anyway. So, when I graduated from college, my first job out of college was working as a case manager for a social service agency that provided services to at risk seniors, senior citizens.

We would assess them for, home health, you know, any kind of care that they might need to help them maintain independence in their homes. And we, worked with victims of elder abuse and assisted with placement in other environments if that was needed. So, I did that for a few years, and then when I had my first child, I took a break from work. And then my, my first son, Jack went to a Montessori school. And I was, I became really enamored with the whole idea of Montessori, and I was in the classroom a ton helping them, and the Montessori method and watching kids learn was so fascinating to me, and I just happened to mention to them, like, “If you ever need help in the classroom or a hiring, I would love to be a part of your team.” And after that school year ended, they said, “Hey, would you like to come and join us?” And I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was going to be a real thing, but sure I’ll do that.” 

And so I did, I just like dove into the whole being in the classroom with kids. I worked in the preschool classroom and worked in a. The kindergarten classroom teaching little minds how to human and how to learn. And it was really, it was fantastic. It was so fascinating. And I wish I could go back in time sometimes to apply the knowledge that I have now doing behavior consulting, because there’s so much crossover between having that job and that experience helping me do this job.

But also there are so many things that this job would have helped me to be better at in that job.

And so it just, it’s, it was just such a good fit for me and I did that for close to 17 years and loved every minute of it. And I, the school closed for, it’s a long story and nobody needs to hear it, but the school closed, I was volunteering at that time at a shelter where Allie also happened to work. We knew each other from her, my oldest son, Jack is the same age as Allie, and so they were schoolmates. And so I knew her when she was a really young kid. And we kind of met back at the shelter where I was volunteering and she was on staff at that time.

She left the shelter to go pursue other things, I continued volunteering there and then I started working at a training facility, and Allie came back from Utah and was working at the same facility. And so, we kind of met up there and she was doing some stuff for the shelter just to kind of try out some programs for you guys, and I literally stray kittened Allie. I literally kind of started following her around like a little kitty cat, and just absorbing every single thing that she did.

If there was a thing as osmosis, I would have, you know, just like totally gained any knowledge that I could from her. And, I literally walked up to her one day and said, “Hey, if you’re ever looking to hire someone to be on your team…” I really didn’t think that she was going to take me up on that offer, but she did. And that’s how I joined the Pet Harmony team five years ago. And I’ve been doing behavior consulting and training ever since.

[00:08:23] Emily: Yeah, you predate me on the team because you were Allie’s first team member before she and I merged our businesses. 

[00:08:30] MaryKaye: I like to think of myself as her first project, but that’s okay. 

[00:08:33] Emily: I mean, Whatever floats your boat, MK. So, given your background, it makes perfect sense that you were drawn to the Family Paws certification program. What are some skills that you brought from your previous experience as a Montessori teacher when working with kids and dogs? And then conversely, what were some new skills that you’ve learned from your experience as a consultant?

Because you said, if you could go back in time and apply what you know now as a consultant to that job, you would. So, I’m curious to hear how your, those two jobs have kind of informed each other for you. 

[00:09:07] MaryKaye: Yeah, that’s a great question. um, I’m going to start with the last part of it first just because it’s fresher in my head. I know that what I would do if I were, after doing this job for five years, if I could go back in time, I know one of the things that I would absolutely work on is just observing behavior, and and I mean, I was, Montessori is all about observation as the teacher or the guide, but I would really, I would look at behavior differently than I did back then. And what I mean by that is I look at behavior now as information, like behaviors, communication. It is just simply someone or something that doesn’t have verbal skills, and how, or can’t articulate their feelings well, you know, in the case of children, you know, it’s just a way for them to communicate with you.

And even those big feelings, those temper tantrums, those kinds of things, it’s communication and it’s really hard as a parent, or a teacher sometimes, to have kids express themselves that way. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting sometimes. And I think I would have approached that with way more curiosity if I were to apply the knowledge that I have now, because I tell my clients all the time now, look at behaviors information instead of looking at it as problematic. Which it can be, but I want you to put your scientists hat on instead of your pet parent hat so that you can look at it with reason and logic as opposed to feelings and, you know, all that stuff.

So that’s one thing that I would absolutely, even though I tried to implement that in the classroom I think I would be better at it now. And I would approach kids, even though I approached them with empathy back then, I think I would approach them with even more empathy now. Because they weren’t, they really weren’t, they weren’t trying to give anybody a hard time. They were having a hard time. And the biggest connections that I made with kids were those breakthroughs when they were having those really big feelings, and I was able to say, you know what, let’s just go sit over here and be present together instead of, even talking to them, it would have just been about like, let’s breathe, let’s, you know, let’s connect and then we’ll talk. 

As far as what I’ve learned from the Montessori that applies to my job now. Again, it’s observation skills for sure. Montessori, the method of Montessori is very particular in some respects. It’s very child centered. Education has absolutely, I think, shifted and adopted some of Montessori methods, and so, the whole child is considered. Everything is focused on the child having access to things, providing as much agency in the classroom as possible for them. Teachers are not called teachers are called guides. So, we’re not, you know, telling the child what to do, we’re guiding them as they go through the course or, you know, through the materials at their pace. And we’re helping them when they get stuck, but we want them to do the problem solving piece. 

And so that is just, I mean, that absolutely plays into what I do now, right? That whole problem solving, guiding clients, we’re not telling them what they have to do, we’re saying, we’re here to help you, we’re here to guide you on this journey, here’s, you know, our recommendations. How can we help you troubleshoot when you get stuck? How can we help you problem solve? And looking again at that behavior through the lens of behavior as, you know, instead of emotional, just more, what can we do to help solve the problem? 

[00:12:25] Emily: I love everything that you just said, and I think it really resonates with me on a personal level, because I had great experiences for the most part with my teachers in public school. And then um, my mom was my teacher for kind of the second half of my grade school years for a long story, lots of reasons I won’t go into. But, so I had a great learning environment for the most part, and yet, even with that support, I still struggled with emotional processing. I now know, now that we have the tools available to us, that my struggles were from autism and ADHD. And so emotional regulation is an issue for me. Sensory processing sensitivities are issues for me. And so, it was very hard for me to handle when there was too much going on, it would cause me to kind of act out and, or like, when I had these trigger stacking moments that were not all external, like, there were some internal stressors as well, and I didn’t understand why I was like that. And it was very hard for me. I spent a lot of time Um, internalizing these kind of moralistic views of my own behavior, even though I had a very compassionate mother and for the most part, great teachers, that still was something that I struggled with well into adulthood.

And it wasn’t until I became a behavior consultant and started learning more about behaviors for my clients and their pets, that I started being able to apply that to myself and looking at my own behavior, uh, not in a moralistic view, but just in a simple like physiological and neurological view. Like, what is happening in my body and my brain that’s making it hard for me to process this and how can I change that environment so I can change my own behavior, right? So, I really obviously resonate with everything you’re talking about because I think it’s so important for kids. It’s not just how we teach them and what kind of reinforcers we offer to them, it’s also looking at the whole learner and making sure that they have the skills to meet their own needs no matter how unique those needs are. Or what additional challenges they may face. So yeah, I really hearing you talk about this makes me want to learn more about Montessori.

[00:14:43] MaryKaye: You should do it. Montessori is so cool. She was such a maverick, and so ahead of her time, because like now, there’s so much with the social emotional learning in classrooms, but that was not the case 15 years ago, 10 years ago, probably that probably didn’t come into use until right before COVID and thank God it did, but you know, she was a maverick in that, it was really so child centered. And so, you know, she has a, like, there’s a concept called the peace corner where you go to the corner and you work out, you know, it’s conflict resolution, right? It’s kids learning how to resolve conflict within, you know, having a dialogue with one another. And that is such a valuable life skill that is, was undervalued until recently. You would have thrived in a Montessori classroom, emily, I have no doubt about that. I would have loved to have been your teacher. 

[00:15:31] Emily: I would have loved to have been your student. 

[00:15:33] MaryKaye: Yeah, So one of the points you brought up too was, you know, just how that Montessori and how my teaching background helps me in a home consultation with kids involved. And it really does. I just, kids just are so cool to me anyway. They’re just such natural little absorbent sponge, sponges.

I mean, in going back to Montessori there, she would call children’s minds the you know, absorbent mind because they would just suck everything in, right? But when I’m working in a home, it’s really important for me that the child in that home with the pet, especially if the child and the pet have a fractious relationship, it’s really important for me that the child has a voice and that their voice gets heard.

So, when I’m going into a home consultation, I am including as much as I can, the child in the consultation that means that I’m asking, you know, I’ll start out by saying something like, you know, “Tell me what you love about Fluffy. What do you enjoy doing With Fluffy? What makes you smile when you see Fluffy?”

But you know, conversely, I’m also asking them, you know, “What is it about, fluffy that you find pesky or that you know, wish that fluffy wouldn’t do?” So, that we can get some feedback from them because they’re impacted by that behavior too, especially again, if that behavior is directed at the child and a lot of the time it is.

So, that’s one way that I draw them in and then, you know, kids are so tactile. I will bring in a actual stuffed, I have a little stuffed Jack Russell Terrier. Her name is Mavis. Mavis will come in and we’ll practice consent tests on Mavis. You know, where do you put your hand? How long do you put your hand there? How do you touch? 

You know, we count out loud for how long, how many seconds you’re going to touch Mavis, right? Before there’s practicing on a live animal, let’s practice on a stuffy that where it’s safe and we can coach. They’re also so visual that I will bring in examples of body language, you know, I have posters that are pretty large in size and I will, we’ll go through body language together.

Can you point out, you know, what the dog’s ears are doing? Can you point out what the eyes are doing? Let’s talk about what that might mean. Have you ever seen Fluffy do that? When does Fluffy do that? And involving the child that way gets that, again, that dialogue going back and forth. 

The other thing that I really love to do, and this is something I learned from Family Paws is to broadcast body language with kids and to teach parents how to do that as well. What I mean by that is you know, the child, children, two and three year olds don’t know. They don’t have the emotional regulation. They don’t have the impulse control to stop, pause, think, interpret. So, it’s up to the parents to do that. 

So, one of the things that I have parents do is say to, you know, let’s say little Susie is walking up to Fluffy and, you know, toddling over. The parent can say, Susie, do you see that Fluffy’s ears went back? Do you see that Fluffy’s turning their head away? And now Fluffy is yawning. When Fluffy is doing that, Fluffy is asking for space. Can you take three steps back and blow a kiss to Fluffy? Or can you step over to the couch and wave hi to Fluffy? Can we now go into the kitchen and make a licky mat for Fluffy to enjoy while we’re watching our, watching our movie tonight?

So, I’m giving parents tools that are very directed towards the child being able to implement them. Counting with child three steps back or giving them a marker, go to the couch and blow a kiss. Those are the kinds of things that can help the child feel connected, feel like they can have some control over the environment and still have a relationship with, with the dog. That’s really important to me that child is integrated, and the dog is safe, and the child is safe too, and that the parents have the tools to be able to do all of that as well. 

[00:19:22] Emily: I always feel bad for children when people assume that they’re not old enough to understand something or to acquire a skill, because some of my most vivid memories from childhood were having adults talk right in front of me as if I wasn’t there, or talk down to me and, you know, tell me that I couldn’t understand something, or I wasn’t old enough to do something. And I just remember that, feeling so frustrated that I wasn’t being taken seriously and that I wasn’t being given opportunities that I knew I could handle. And then as I got older and I was able to start doing things, the feeling of empowerment that I got from being able to prove that I could do it, right? that I was capable was like nothing else, like no other feeling. And so I love that we have tools at our disposal to give children that empowerment much younger than what I think a lot of people even realize is possible, right? What’s the youngest age that you would say that a child has the ability to learn those skills and follow the instructions that you’re talking about? And I realize there’s variations because of, you know, different children develop at different paces, but what’s a range that you would say? 

[00:20:34] MaryKaye: That’s a great question. Um, I’m going to say that I think children as young as two, while they don’t have the, again the sometimes even the physical capability, certainly the emotional regulation capability, but what they can do, for sure is, you can give them a lovely replacement behavior just like we would with a dog, right?

You know what? You can’t go and pet Fluffy while Fluffy is napping on the couch. But you can come over here and help me smash a banana onto a licki mat. And use your hands and get him in there and get, you know, get that tactile experience that you’re looking for. You can help me do that. And then you can help me put it into the freezer. And then you can help me take it out and place it on the floor. You can sit and watch Fluffy enjoy. the licky mat, right? There is no reason that kids at age can’t, you know, help slice up a banana, help smash up a banana and help smear it onto a licky mat. They absolutely can do that kind of thing.

And it’s a lovely way for them to get experience with the dog that doesn’t actually involve them a touching the dog or bothering the dog. But it gives them a sense of, again, that empowerment and that feeling of, I did something, I did, I accomplished something, but I also, they also enjoy watching the dog, you know, maybe for two seconds, cause you know, a two year old brain is going to be like onto the next thing before you know it.

But that two seconds worth, you know, sometimes I’ll have parents if they’re, you know, savvy with technology, hey, let’s take a video and send it to grandma and grandpa and show them what you did for Fluffy. Again, that, that can start as young as two. There’s no reason, and I think broadcasting where you are explaining body language, kids are understand communication before they can verbalize it, so much earlier. And so there’s no reason that you can’t start doing that when they’re a year old. it’s again repetition, repeating it over and over again, so that it becomes part of their vocabulary is really important, so that they become proficient at it. And I think that skill is also one that’s so important, not only for keeping the dog in the home safe, but when their child goes out into the world and visits a friend house, they can now interpret what a yawn looks like, you know what it looks like and what they should do about it.

You know, when I see a yawn, I should probably not bother that dog, right? So we’re, we are giving them skills that are really important out there in the real world, not just for the relationship with the dog at home.

[00:22:48] Emily: I love that. I love how young these kids are that you’re talking about that. Yeah. Let, we can’t expect them to do everything, but we can give them some things to do and they are capable of doing them and I will say, I worked with a family that were absolutely delightful. I loved them so much. They had a 16 year old, a 10 year old, a four year old, they had some other children too, but those three were the ones that were mostly working with the dog because it was the 16 year old’s dog. And for whatever reason, the dog didn’t like the 10 year old, perhaps he looked like somebody that the dog remembered from the past, and the four year old was inappropriate with the dog. And so, we did protective contact. We played like 101 Things to Do with a Box. I taught the 16 year, old how to do it, and then watched as the 16 year old taught the 10 year old how to do it, so that they could build those relationships with, and then the 10 year old taught the 4 year old how to do it. So, we had a 4 year old doing clicker training, playing 101 Things to Do with a Box through a fence. And it was such a joy to me to watch not only these children learn these skills, but also watching the children teach the skills to their younger siblings. So I am, I’m fully on board with what you’re saying. Like if a 10 year old can teach a four year old how to clicker train through a fence.

[00:24:00] MaryKaye: Listen, four year olds are fearless, you know, so like the fact that they can, you know, accomplish clicker, they probably have better mechanics than I do, for God’s sake, I mean, it’s just like, they’re fearless. They’re just going to do the thing, right? They’re not overthinking it too much, most of the time. So yeah, I love that. I love that the 10 year old, that was a great way to get the 10 year old involved too, right? It’s like, I can be the teacher here, and talk about an empowering feeling that is for that 10 year old. You better believe that, you know, makes that 10 year old feel pretty good. 

You brought up something that I do want to say too is like, when I go into a client’s home and there’s young children in the house, so let’s say, you know, just newly mobile. So, let’s say anywhere from nine months to like, two and three years old. If they don’t have three gates up, it’s somewhere in their house, they’re going to have them up by the next time I come over because I’m all about using management to keep everybody safe.

Because you, you have to, the only way to really keep kids that young and dogs safe together is to use management when parents cannot be actively supervising. And that means literally watching that interaction, and not doing anything else. Like the whole focus should be on what is happening between child and dog.

Even if they’re not directly interacting with one another, even if the dog is laying on a mat somewhere and that child is in that same space, the dynamic can change so quickly. It’s really important if mom and dad are in the kitchen cooking, that they have some kind of management in place so that they don’t have to have, they don’t have to be reactive to something.

They can be proactive and it can take. a lot of worry and stress out of a household just by putting up gates. They don’t have to be forever, but they will save so much trouble and provide a sense of security when we cannot be actively engaged in watching and supervising. It’s really crucial that, that is, that setup is made so that everyone remains safe in the household.

[00:25:53] Emily: Yeah. I, I love that. I think it’s not only helpful for the children and the dogs or cats or whatever pet is in the household, but I think one thing that you said was really important is that we’re also taking care of the parents, right? I mean, I didn’t really, you didn’t use those words. I’m putting words into your mouth, but I was paraphrasing what you said, right? Cause as consultants, it’s also important for us to pay attention to and try to meet the needs of our clients, the adults in the household, and parents already have a really hard job. Let’s not make it harder by asking them to do something really unrealistic, like, well, you just constantly have to keep a hawk eye on your kids and your dogs, like, that’s not practical for anybody. So, management, having a household and an environment that does a lot of that work for them. It makes it more sustainable for the parents so that they can live their own lives and meet their own needs and not constantly having to keep those dynamics between pets and children at the forefront of their attention, right? So, I absolutely love that note that you added about management. 

Okay. So, we have talked about how important observation and, and understanding body language is, and then you also mentioned skills like teaching children alternative behaviors that allow them to kind of get the same thing, right?

So, those alternative behaviors that meet. tactile needs or, or um, social needs or whatever. Uh, So I think those are two big skills that we’ve already discussed. What other skills have you found that it’s really helpful to give clients and their kids when you’re working with them?

[00:27:28] MaryKaye: I really love to work on building. the concept of a trust account. And this, this is probably, we’re looking at kids who are aged a little bit older for this, for them to truly understand that. But I have this little game that I play with them where I have two buckets and they’re just, you know, small little buckets and I have a bunch of little foam, tiny little foam balls.

And so we go through this game of, you know, building a trust account and how do we build a trust account? You know, every interaction you have with your dog, or your cat, or your hamster is an opportunity for you to put a little ball into this trust account, into this bank account of trust with your pet.

And so you can see that account grow as the balls go in, right? Like I, I feed my pet, I built up a trust, I put up a little foam ball in my, in my bank. I call the pet over and I do some training with them, in goes another little ball. My pet asked me for pets and I gave them pets, but when they were done, I stopped petting, trust account continues to build as we do more of these interactions that the dog, or whatever pet enjoys. But conversely it’s, I will show them like when you grab your dog and you give them a big hug, you might be taking out one of those things in the trust account, one of those balls in the trust account.

So, we have to have this nice balancing, we want to put more into the trust account than we want to take out of the trust account. Sometimes things happen and we need to take things out of the trust account. But for the most part, we should be putting actions into our trust account that build a relationship with that dog.

And it was the cutest thing, I was working with this little girl. She was adorable. And they have this, they had a little I think it was a little Boston Terrier in the home. And she loves this dog. She’s like six years old. She just adores this dog. She adores this dog a little too much for the dog’s tastes, right? So the dog is like, “Okay. I’m a little over you.” 

And she has this thing where she would sit on the floor and she would bring the dog back and she would kind of have the dog lay back into her lap. And she said to me, after we’d been talking, she asked me, she said, “Well, when I do this with my dog, does he like it?”

And I said, “Well, why don’t we experiment and see?” So, uh, I said, sit on the floor and show me what you do. And so, she sat on the floor and she’s tipped the dog back into her lap, and so the dog is kind of flailing. And I said, you’re holding your dog right now. Let your dog go and let’s see what your dog does.

And she let go, and of course the dog got up and scampered away. And she said, “Does he like that?” And I said, “What did he do when you let go?” And she said, “He moved away.” And I said, “What do you think that means?” And she said, “He doesn’t like it.” And I said, “Bingo!” Like, and she came to that discovery kind of on her own.

I was like, she just needed someone to point out to her that when her dog moves away, it’s his way of saying, I don’t really like that. You know, the parents have been telling her, stop doing it, but they had never explained to her why they had never said he gets up and moves away.

And when she saw it visually, and she saw that when she removed her hands, taking those hands away, gave him agency to move away. And she was like, he’s not choosing to stay with me. Yep. That’s right. So we talk about that kind of stuff. I talk with kids about that kind of stuff all the time. I am making sure that they are understanding what their dog is communicating with them.

And like building that trust account and then having a really visual way to do that. It really helps them understand the concept, you know, things are fine when they’re conceptual, but it’s so much more important with kids to give them that visual idea of, of the concept. So, it works really well. Kids love putting those little foam balls into the thing, the little bucket too, so we get them moving. 

[00:31:03] Emily: It never would have occurred to me to actualize the trust account concept into something physical that kids could actually physically like make deposits and withdrawals from, but it’s so brilliant. And I will just say for the benefit of our listeners, if you’re not familiar with the concept of the trust account that metaphor came from Susan Friedman and she’s got a really cool video on it that we’ll make sure are in the show notes for you to watch. But I hope that just hearing Mary Kay talk about it made, makes, it makes sense in terms of how we help our learners understand that every interaction is either putting a deposit into that trust account or with taking withdrawal out of it. I love that so much. And so, that’s one thing that I’m just going to say for you because you didn’t say it, but well, actually you did in your blog post about being a Montessori teacher, which we’ll also put in the show notes that you are really good about taking these concepts and making them tangible for your learners. 

And that is so, that is such a cool skill because I am, as I think everybody on our team knows, I’m a why person. I’m very conceptual. It’s not that I don’t do the implementation or, you know, the boots on the ground, real world stuff.

It’s that I like to learn things conceptually first and then realize them. And so, that’s how I typically explain things to people. And I have learned so much from you and Allie and Ellen, who are more how people, of how to take those concepts, and bring them into the real world so that people who, whose brains don’t work like mine can also learn well and have these like tactile learning experiences.

So I, I love that so much. It’s so wonderful. Along those lines, you do an amazing job of helping clients and students feel, you know, safe and heard and seen. And, you know, we’ve talked about this before and, you know, Allie, and Ellen, and I will like, be like, “MaryKaye, you got to teach us, our team how you do what you do.” And you’re like, “I don’t know what I’m doing differently from anybody else. I just do my thing.” And you know, yeah, okay, fair. It took Allie and Ellen and I an incredible amount of time and trial and eval to figure out how to articulate what exactly we are doing for our students so that we can teach people how to do what we do.

So, I get it. I get that it’s hard when you do something with such fluency that it’s just, it just flows from you like water. I get it. I get how it’s hard sometimes to articulate that, but I’m going to ask you to try because I want you to talk me through your process for building that relationship with your clients, and their kids, all of the learners in your care, your students too, right? What are you thinking about when you first start working with them? What do you pay attention to? What are you prioritizing? What’s your process is basically what I’m asking.

[00:33:54] MaryKaye: Think about this question and you guys have asked me this before and I honestly don’t know. I don’t think that there’s anything that special about what I do, but when I stop and really pause and think, I think one of the things that several of the things I do I’m good at being genuine and I think that comes across.

So, I don’t go into any consultation with any client regardless of who they are, with any preconceived notion about them or their pet. So it’s like, I’m genuinely interested in them. I’m genuinely interested in their pet. I’m genuinely interested in learning more about what, how that pet’s behavior is impacting their lives.

Usually by the time that people get to Pet Harmony, they’ve already been through a trainer, or two, or three, or four. They are frustrated beyond, you know, frustrated, and they are looking and searching for some kind of relief. And I think that the really showing up genuinely in that moment and in that space with that client is incredibly important. Genuineness is the first step in developing that trust account. You know, we talk about trust, building a trust account with the pet, we absolutely have to do the same thing with clients. We have to show up and be present with them. That’s one of the things that I definitely work on.

I think that also creating a safe space for them to say what they really want to say, right? Like I don’t want them to have to sugar coat things for me. I want them to tell me and I just saw a, one of the Pet Harmony , that Instagram post where it was asking clients to tell us the truth, tell us your reality, tell us your reality. Tell us, you know, we want to know if you’re if your pet is biting it’s okay. We’re tell us you know, I think one of the things was, about does your dog, I don’t know, poop in the house or something, whatever it was like, we need to see it. We need to hear it all. It’s a safe space for you to communicate that with us. We’re not here to judge. We’re not here to blame. We’re not here to shame. We are here literally to help. And the only way that we get to really good help is if we know that the reality that you are living with day in and day out. So, I think giving clients the space to be able to safely express that to us is super, super important as well. 

I asked a ton of questions about, like throughout my process of talking to clients, I take a lot of pauses and throughout the entire consultation, I will ask, do you have any questions? Do you, is what I’m saying making sense? I want them to know that it’s okay for them to not understand because I want to clarify for them if I can. So, I think that also is building a trust account, right? I’m hearing them. I’m saying it’s important to me for you to understand. So let’s talk about it if you don’t.

This is one of the things that I really had to think about, but I was like, yeah, I think this is part of it. So when we are dealing with pets that have serious maladaptive behavior, the focus becomes the maladaptive behavior. That is what the clients are focused on. And oftentimes in consultations, that’s what the focus is because they want resolution, right?

So, I really try to make a connection with that dog because I think when people can see me connecting with the dog, the clients can see me connecting with their pet. It helps them understand that their pet is more than the problem that the pet has, right? They can see that the, you know, sometimes they forget that 90 percent of the time they have this really amazing, and the 10 percent of the time is so overwhelming to them that’s where they are spending their time thinking about it.

But if I can show them that their pet is lovely, that their pet is, you know, funny, that they’re pet is smart that their pet loves to learn, and it is so engaged as a learner. If I can show them those things, if I can show them that their pet loves to play with chug on the floor. Those are the kinds of things that I see sometimes people, I literally can see in their body language, there’s a shift, they start remembering who their pet is instead of what the problem is.

And that is really important to me. I am just, when I am with my clients. I’m silly. I’m a, I really am, I’m kind of a dork. I mean, I am not afraid, and I’m not ashamed to be embarrassing to myself. I literally get on the floor with the kids and like, you know, we’re like, you know, teaching the dog on the floor and I get on the floor with the dog and play a little, you know, we’ll take little breaks between training exercises just to let the dog blow off some steam.

And I get down on the floor and I’m like, “Oh, who’s a good boy”. You know, just like in the goofy squeaky voice that, you know, we all use when we’re with dogs, and cats, and other cute things. And I don’t care. I, I’m not embarrassed in front of clients when I do that. I want them to see me as just a regular human being.

Yeah. They hired me to help them as an expert, but they, but I really want them to see me as just a person who’s there to make that connection and to interact with their pet to, I want to, I guess I want to kind of normalize the relationship they have with their pet. As opposed to shifting the focus away from maladaptive behavior. I mean, we’re going to work on that. There’s no doubt. We’re going to do the behavior modification. We’re going to talk about management. We’re going to talk about all those skills, but I also want them to see their pet for more than just that and remember their pet for more than just that.

And I do spend a lot of time doing that. I really had to like, think about it And I was like, yeah, that is something that I do. You ask any of my clients, they will tell you that I am a big dork. I mean, really, we laugh, we have a good time. If it’s if it’s appropriate to do so.

I don’t wanna make it sound like I’m going into a home with a dog that’s got multiple, you know, bites. You know, where they have serious stranger danger. I’m not doing that. 

[00:39:11] Emily: You’re not walking into the house with clown shoes and a clown nose when they’re, like, sobbing and tears. 

[00:39:16] MaryKaye: I’m no, I’m not doing that in every, you know, I’m not I’m building that trust account first and then that comes. You know what we have to, obviously every single situation that you walk into is a new situation and every environment is different and every learner within the environment is different as well.

So, we’re definitely taking all of those things into consideration. But I do really try to have fun with my clients. I really do try to lighten things so that they, you know, they remember what they love about their pet. Sometimes that can go a long way.

[00:39:49] Emily: Yeah, I agree. I. I mean, I don’t see clients anymore, but when I saw clients, I would tell them all the time. I have no dignity. I’m not here to have dignity. I’m here to like help you and your pet, you know? So I, yeah, I agree. I think it’s really important for them to reconnect, especially because so many people have been given so much advice about needing to control their animal, right? And control can look like a lot of different things across methodologies, right? People feel a lot of pressure to like do it right, and have their pets on lockdown and, you know, behave perfectly. And when their pet’s not living up to that, it’s so stressful and unpleasant that coming in and being like, actually, it’s better for everybody and it’s easier for everybody, if instead, we just focus on meeting everybody’s needs and making sure that we can all be successful in our environment it is really helpful for them to see that you can have an animal that has you know, some compromised behavioral health. And sometimes that also means compromised physical and or emotional health as well and still have fun and have a relationship and give them freedoms and, you know, and give yourself some freedoms so that you’re not constantly having to micromanage every single thing about your environment. You know, I think that’s huge. Thank you for sharing. You know. I think it’s gonna, it’s helpful to me to hear your approach and also I think it’s going to be helpful to other people as well. 

So at the end of every episode, as you know, I ask the same questions because I like to hear everybody’s answers. The first one is, what is one thing you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment, your choice?

[00:41:27] MaryKaye: Well, I think I would love for people to know that this profession is more than just going into a home and asking a dog to sit or a pet to do a thing that there’s so much more complexity to what we do and that it takes a lot of skill to do it. That, you know, we’re lifelong learners.

People that do well in this profession are lifelong learners. They want to do better. They want to be better, they want to show up for their clients, and really make a difference, and I think that it takes, it can, there, it can be hard. It can be taxing. 

[00:42:00] Emily: What is one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?

[00:42:03] MaryKaye: Oh gosh. I would love to see the voice of people in the profession who don’t have a voice amplified. And what I mean by that is there are a whole bunch of people in this profession who do the daily grind, and go to work, and show up for their clients, and write training plans until midnight, and, you know, think about how they can help dog X with behavior Y, and they have very little say in how the profession is regulated, and or how people present it to the public. Those people are my heroes, those people that are out there doing it on the daily, and just grinding out, and working their butts off to get the job done. I think that our profession can be really confusing, and we have a tendency to worship, you know, certain people and that’s fine. You know, I have my heroes too in the profession and people that I really look up to. 

It’s like this past summer, I went through this little thing and I didn’t even really share it with anybody on the team. I was just like, really frustrated. You know, I’m this person, I’m just doing my thing, you know, I’m just doing my job. And you know, there was all this back and forth, people slamming and blah, blah, blah, and shaming.

And I just was like, I felt so emotionally exhausted from it. And I thought everybody else probably is feeling the same way. Like, and. And like, stop telling people how to think and let them make decisions. Let them be smart, let them problem solve, let them absorb, and also, by the way, let them question you a little bit. It’s okay to be questioned. 

I think that it’s important for people to be able to legitimately ask questions without people making excuses or feeling indignant or righteous about it. Be vulnerable enough to let people come to you and say, “Hey, I’m confused by this, can you help me out?” Instead of being righteous or indignant about it?

Because if you have a voice in this community, then you should be able to handle a little bit of scrutiny. And for those of us who are just, who don’t have much of a voice, and if we are looking up to you, then I think, it would be a classy thing for you to respond in a classy manner. 

[00:44:11] Emily: If I’m hearing you correctly, I think what you’re saying is that our industry can stand to learn more about how to give constructive feedback and ask questions from a place of curiosity, and also can learn to receive constructive feedback, and answer genuine good faith questions with good faith answers. 

[00:44:34] MaryKaye: And that is why you are Emily, and why you are so good at your job. Emily can take the most complex things and wrap it around and make it meaningful. 

[00:44:43] Emily: One of the many reasons that we place such a focus on developing critical thinking skills, and epistemology In our professional program, PETPro is because it is a skill that needs to be honed to be able to approach these conversations or disagreements in a way that. is open and honest, but also curious with a growth mindset, a willingness to learn and avoiding the appeal to authority fallacy, and argument to moderation, and all of the things that commonly get in our way. And nobody should have to respond to people who are just screaming insults at them, making assumptions, hearing a little piece of information, thinking they have all the information, and just coming in hot. Nobody should have to, no matter how big a name you are, nobody should have to receive that and reply in good faith.

[00:45:36] MaryKaye: Agreed.

[00:45:37] Emily: And on the other hand, if somebody comes to you and asks a question, or gives constructive feedback, or offers an alternative perspective with good faith, with a good growth mindset, with curiosity, with an eye for accuracy, and learning, and better understanding, they deserve a good faith answer. They deserve transparency. They deserve honesty. They deserve openness. They deserve responding in kind. 

And that is lacking in our industry, but it doesn’t have to be, which is one of the many reasons that we emphasize epistemology and critical thinking skills, because that’s where people can learn those skills, and learn how to have these conversations in a more constructive way.

[00:46:15] MaryKaye: I could not agree with you anymore if I had to. I just think everything you said was perfectly stated and articulated what I was trying to convey rather clumsily. But I really do want to like shout out to the people that are doing this job day in and day out, trying to do their best, trying to continue to learn while they’re serving their clients. And I want them to know that if you feel confused sometimes, that there’s a reason for that. And, you know, to just keep doing it, you know, you have to show up and keep doing it. You got to keep doing it. Be brave.

[00:46:48] Emily: You’re not alone if you feel frustrated by those things. Okay, final question. What do you love about what you?

[00:46:55] MaryKaye: Oh man, I love so much about what I do. I love, first of all, I am going to say that I love being part of the Pet Harmony team. I wish everybody could experience working in a, working for people that are so incredible. And, you don’t edit this, I’m going to be mad at you if you do, I just love being part of this team. I feel so honored to be a part of it. 

But I also really love my, I love my clients so much. I, you know, I hear people that are getting into the profession so often, you know, express that they don’t, they want to work with dogs, or cats, or pets, or whatever species they want to work with because they don’t like people. And I’m like, ” But people are the best.” They’re so fun. And they’re so interesting. And I love people’s stories. I love them. I am so fascinated by that. People just are wonderful and we can’t have a pet industry, if we don’t have people leading that, what the way for that. So, I love working with my clients. I love working with their pets. It’s just such a, it’s just such a great feeling to help make a difference in a family’s lives and help change it for the better, for the people in the household, as well as the pets in the household. And, yeah, I’m really lucky that I get to do this every day. 

[00:48:05] Emily: Thank you for joining me today for this conversation, MK. As always, it is a delight to speak with you and learn from you. 

[00:48:12] MaryKaye: My pleasure. Thank you Emily.

[00:48:14] Allie: I absolutely love hearing MaryKaye talk about the intersection of her two passions, dogs and kids. And I especially love the reminder from her that behavior is simply information, regardless of species. When they’re doing something that we don’t enjoy or something like that, that it’s simply information for us, but sometimes it’s harder to remember that with our own species, with the humans in our lives. So, I absolutely loved hearing MaryKaye remind us that even for humans, behavior is simply information. Next week, we will be talking with David Roberts about getting the most out of your dog’s enrichment toys.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.

Thank you for listening and happy training.

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