|LIFE IN JAPAN
Maggie Tai Tucker
|Photo by Maki Nibayashi
Time in Japan:
Where are you from?
New York City.
What brought you to Japan?
I came here to learn Japanese. My father is Japanese and my mother is American, but I grew
up in the States speaking English. A few years ago I began to make a career change from
journalism to dog training. I use the clicker method of training, which is still rather
rare in Japan, and I thought I might be able to popularize it here.
What is a clicker?
It' a small metal box that goes "click-click" when you push the tab on it. In
training we use it to mark a piece of behavior, such as the dog making eye contact or his
body hitting the floor when he lies down. The dog learns quickly that the click sound is
always followed by something good, whether a toy or a food treat. This is how all dolphins
and most movie animals are trained. Good traditional dog trainers can do the same thing
with their voice, but it is easier for beginners to be precise and neutral using a
clicker. Another trainer I know says it took her nine years and four minutes to teach her
Golden Retriever to shake paws. Nine years trying the traditional way and four minutes
using the clicker!
How did you come to change your career?
As a child I always wanted to be a trainer. I taught our house cats tricks and also had a
circus of bugs. Later I went to a serious East Coast university and became editor of the
campus newspaper, which got me into journalism after I graduated. I still do some work as
an editor here. But in journalism I never felt engaged the way I do when training. Before
making this switch I studied with more experienced trainers and also worked at an animal
shelter training several hundred dogs in all. This was a kill-free shelter, and it was
really rewarding to see dogs that I had trained get adopted quickly. I am still learning
more all the time, especially about teaching people. The dogs are the easy part!
What sort of classes do you teach?
Group classes are taught outdoors in the fall and spring, but I do private lessons
throughout the year. Mostly we teach puppies, but we have had dogs as old as eight in
class. I have one assistant but we try to keep classes small, about six dogs at a time.
The method works best with a lot of individual attention.
What do you like best about Japan?
The takuhaibin and postal systems. I receive a lot of packages for my business and the
efficiency and convenience still impresses me every time. I think it's unique in the
world. Also, the seasons, and the way people mark them, such as putting lilac leaves in
the bath on a certain day.
What was the weirdest thing you have ever seen or experienced here?
Canine meishi. I've met people who have given me a business card on behalf of their dog.
They have the dog's photo, phone number, etc. printed on the front.
What's your recipe for a happy life in Japan?
Try everything at least once!
Contact Maggie at 03-5351-6829, email email@example.com
or see her website: www.koinuza.com
Maggie Tai Tucker spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
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