It has been my habit for ten years now to participate in on-line forums. It is part of a recurring process: gain a new interest, read all I can at the public library, buy a book or two at Village Books or a used bookstore, peruse all the established websites, then sift through forums on the topic, looking for a safe but challenging venue to share ideas. The earlier steps are relatively simple, but finding a good forum is a challenge, and I was very lucky to discover Potty About Pets. Like most internet forums, it welcomes a world-wide audience, but its moderators are British, and this leads to a mostly British membership.
Though my own interests lie in the Dog and Cat sections, PAP’s also has areas dedicated to birds, rodents, horses, and even reptiles. All pet lovers are welcome, and offered a place to share ideas or seek advice. Too many forums are set up by their Administrator then left to succeed or fail – PAP’s is moderated carefully by members Laplady and Brandykins, and its Originators/Administrators Micki and Zoe are still daily participants and moderators. People do disagree, and vehemently (go ahead and restart the Great Raw Food Debate, I dare you!). If there was not an atmosphere that allowed, even encouraged, discussion and debate, I would grow bored and stop participating. Courtesy and civility are required, however, and there are many very expert people contributing, so while rudeness is not accepted (no matter how expert one thinks they are, or even might be), people who spout off uninformed opinions will be castigated (albeit politely).
I particularly enjoy seeing the photographs of dogs whose American versions are so often cropped or docked, a practice illegal in the UK. Great Danes, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers and others are presented whole – it is quite illuminating to not only see these differences, but read the opinions of people for whom this sort of thing is just no longer accepted in their culture.
One of PAP’s greatest attributes is the presence of a dedicated professional trainer, Laplady (Tricia). Laplady recognizes there is more than one way to accomplish a goal with a dog, but she also has a breadth of experience and a proven history of success. That combination of open-mindedness and expertise is too rare, and it has been a great blessing to discover her. Tricia is a moderator of PAP, and visits daily, gladly answering questions and offering encouragement for folks dealing with canine behavior issues. There is no cost for this incredible service, only the requirement that one registers for the forum and maintains a polite demeanor.
Micki and Zoe, the Administrators, and Brandykins and Laplady, the Moderators, answered some questions for Positive Canine Guidance:
Administrators Micki and Zoe
When and why did Potty About Pets come about?
P.A.P’s was launched on the 29th Oct, 2007. After noting other forums often suffered from members with ego issues which lead to nastiness. I wondered whether there were any forums around which had everything I found positive, whilst lacking the negative behaviour.
I also found it difficult to find a forum which catered to a wide range of needs… This gave me the idea to create a forum where members could discuss a wide range of topics, and not be tied to just one subject such as pets. Although P.A.P’s is a pet forum by name, we have several different sections to discuss other issues. Some trivial, others more serious. I guess the one thing that unites everyone on the forum is a love of animals. You don’t even need to be a pet owner to be part of this community. When P.A.P’s was launched, I was hoping to give people a place that had a bit of everything. It is an ongoing piece of work, but I hope we are achieving what we set out to do. We are always open to suggestions from members on how we can improve on what we offer.
Luckily we haven’t had much serious conflict on the forum. We have suffered the occasional obnoxious member, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Members like that don’t tend to stay. I’m guessing because they can see that the forum isn’t a place that attracts people who want conflict.
We’ve had quite a ride so far. We’ve collectively celebrated marriages and births, recovery stories of pets, and countless firm friendships have been formed. We hope this will continue and that the forum has many more years ahead, attracting people from all corners of the globe.
How did Laplady (Tricia) become involved?
Tricia became a member of the forum the day after it was launched. She soon became valued by all members, due to her many years of canine training experience. She proved a huge asset to the forum, and with her advice she helped several members have great success in rectifying problems they were experiencing with their dogs. We offered her the position of “Forum Canine Behaviourist” — An unofficial moderator if you like. We later found ourselves in the position of requiring a second Moderator to support our existing moderator Rose in her duties of monitoring the forum. Tricia seemed to be the natural choice for the position, having established herself as a member who could offer specific support to others.
Do you know the moderators personally, in real life?
We didn’t know Rose or Tricia before the forum was launched, but we have met Rose since, and we do have telephone contact with them both.
What pets do you have now,and what pets have you had in the past?
Currently we share our lives with our dogs and cats. I also keep birds, and breed Senegal Parrots. We have 3 tortoises and have owned snakes in the past. Having two small sons we have the obligatory pet hamsters and two rabbits. In the past we have had a wide range of pets: ducks, ferrets, rats, fish, all manner of rodents and birds ranging from small finches, parakeets, parrots, a crow and an owl. Our dogs are a retired racing Greyhound, a terrier, and two mixed Northern breeds.
Is there a professional angle on this, or is it strictly a hobby?
It is strictly a hobby. The ads members see are part of Pro-Boards and keep it all free; we just do it for fun and interest.
The Moderators, Brandykins (Rose) and Laplady (Tricia)
What attracted you to PAP’s, vs. other forums?
I have been a member on many forums, both American (current affairs forum, pet forums and a Japanese/American forum) and other forums here in the UK. PAPs is by far the best for the sound advice given to members and support and I am talking from first hand experience regarding advice and support given to me for Loki when she has problems I need help with. It is the friendliest forum on the ‘net without a doubt. I enjoy every minute of being on PAPs.
Tell us about your amazing dog, Loki?
Loki is a Utonagan dog. The breed was brought out in the ’80’s from crossing several breeds: German Shepherd, Siberian Husky and Malamute, and others. They brought them out as wolf look-alikes. Loki is a very gentle and fun loving dog, and very intelligent. She loves children and everyone. Unfortunately, due to the fits, Loki forgot a lot of her commands, as epilepsy destroys brain cells but there are enough cells to compensate. She is learning again.
Loki is on medication for the rest of her life, 2×60 gm Phenobarbs and 1 Potassium Bromide in the morning and 1 Pheno and 1 PB in the evening. I also give her a Milk Thistle capsule to counteract any liver damage caused by the Pheno. She is brilliant at taking her tablets, opening her mouth for me to let me pop them down her throat.
Is Loki your first dog? First of that breed?
I never had a dog before I got Loki.
How has PAP helped you as a pet guardian?
The support I receive from all the members has made it a lot easier for me to help and support Loki when she is fitting. I know that I can come on here and I get help and support. That means a lot. It isn’t just a forum exclusive to dogs, PAPs encompasses all pets, from cats, rodents, birds and other exotic pets, and it is educational to read about all the pets on Potty! There are threads which give advice on all pets and information on feeding for all pets.
Tricia, how did you come to be part of PAP’s?
I was a member of another pet forum, but it was so bitchy and the admin members thought that they were Gods, and spoke down to any member who didn’t toe the line, and it was I met Micki and joined Potty. It’s the only forum that I am a member of now,
and have found that it’s a family, and there are NO DIVA’S!
Tell us about your dogs? I only have Jaz now, a 20 year old border collie/ cocker spaniel mix. I have bred GSD’s and Swedish Lapphunds. I have shown my dogs in breed shows, both open and championship, competitive obedience, working trials, and trained my dogs just for fun and interest, especially in agility. I have also judged at both breed and competitive obedience shows.
As a professional, why do you give away your knowledge on PAP’s? I have been a trainer for 40 years, and the profession has been good to me. Over the years my business has grown by word of mouth and not advertising, My aim has always been to help dogs and owners to solve problems, and if that is to give free info from time to time, so be it. I feel privileged that owners of dogs have passed my name onto other owners.
Will you talk about your methods a little?
My training methods have changed over the years, from using check chains in the very early years when training guard dogs, to now most of my training is clicker training, which is very adaptable from one person to another. Dogs and people learn at different paces, and don’t always get to grips with the timing aspect of the clicker, but that can be overcome with practice.
Sylvia Bishop (who placed and won at Crufts Obedience championships with her dogs), her gentle, calm method was an inspiration, then later on after other different methods and equipment had come and gone, I met, in around 1996, Kay Laurence. Kay was a pioneer of Clicker Training in the UK, and I was hooked right away. I found that dogs learn quicker and maintain the wanted behaviour without physical intervention.
I still get a buzz when both dogs and owners get that AH-HA! moment, even after all the years of training I am still learning. I believe that all pups should be taken to a 6- or 8-week basic training class, and that there are NO bad dogs born, just made by bad owners.