Copyright 2012 / Deborah Lee Miller-Riley, Monroe, Connecticut

Deborah Lee Miller-Riley

P.O. Box 842, Monroe, Connecticut 06468,,

Strongly influenced by the teachings of Dr. Ian Dunbar, Karen Pryor, Suzanne ClothierDr. Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson and the work of pioneer animal behaviorists Bob & Marian Bailey, Deborah Lee’s training methods are based on Targeting and the principles of operant conditioning  with positive reinforcement being the preferred consequence for behavior. 

Deborah Lee’s philosophy on training includes:

  1. BulletTraining is a shared adventure whose primary goal is to bring harmony, order, purpose and wisdom to the inter-species relationship.   Wise trainers know the healthiest and happiest relationships are earned through interactions that achieve mutual trust, joy, cooperation, creativity and satisfaction. 

  1. BulletIntelligence, health, structure, temperament, innate drives and prior experience effect behavior and the ease in which dogs learn our desire.  Appreciate what makes a dog unique and learn what makes your dog happy, this knowledge will aid you when applying the principles of operant conditioning to your teaching program.

  1. BulletGreat trainers do not resort to pain and intimidation to gain compliance, there is no internal need or reason for them to dominate another species.  Throughout history the most revered leaders have been human beings who worked to meet the needs of people while inspiring them to greatness.  We have a very different feeling toward dictators who worked to selfishly take joy and choices from people by dominating, punishing and enslaving them. Like the great leaders of history, good dog trainers lead by learning and practicing methods that gain canine compliance through means that are respectful, kind, inspiring and pleasurable to both dog and trainer.  

  1. BulletCreating a vocabulary between dog and human is the foundation to communication and cooperation.  Target Training is one of the fastest, hands-free, pain-free, methods to gain cooperation and teach the names to places and things in your dog’s world.

  1. BulletLearn to play and play to learn.  Play is FUNdamental to canine learning and good health. Encouraging  dog play, curiosity and experimentation serves to build a healthy dog and give trainers the opportunity to capture, reward and build behaviors we like.

  1. BulletEncouraging playfulness does not mean we accept rudeness.  Dog owners must also train for safety, etiquette and self-restraint.  When we train manners, establish boundaries and manage canine experimentation we can prevent harmful consequences, prevent the learning and rehearsal of annoying behavior and redirect energy toward planned lessons and acceptable behavior.

  1. BulletPraiseworthy moments abound when the focus is on PROGRESS not perfection.

  1. BulletThe opportunity to earn titles and awards in dog sports is the desert after a meal of training, a bonus to enjoying a healthy, rich relationship with our dogs.  


CanDo Leaders Foster Canine Curiosity, Experimentation, and Consequences that Build Trust .

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Deborah Lee Miller-Riley,  has shared her life with animals for over 60 years. Her father was a well respected breeder, owner and trainer of Thoroughbred horses for over 35 years while owning and managing one of the largest private Thoroughbred Farms in the state of Michigan.  Family dogs have included:  Collies, Terriers, Cockers, German Shepherds, Akitas, Golden Retrievers, Aussies, Pugs, Bloodhounds, Afghan Hounds, and mixes.  Deborah Lee’s first dog, a chocolate, Standard Poodle named Chopin, was Deborah Lee’s constant childhood companion and beloved “sibling”.  Chopin’s death left a void in Deborah Lee’s life, that was not filled until 1986 when Badge, a very active brown Portuguese Water Dog puppy, challenged her lifestyle and the durability of her furniture.  Badge was soon joined by, what was I thinking, the unsinkable Mollie Brown, another PWD. Both dogs were true to the breed’s middle name and were crazed about the water.

Inspired by the desire to share activities with her zealous water dogs and to maintain the useful working attributes of the breed, Deborah Lee created a series of noncompetitive PWD water tests for Connecticut’s Fairfield County Portuguese Water Dog Club, (later renamed Nutmeg PWD Club), in 1989.  A few years later the first National PWD Water Trial, which Deborah Lee was instrumental in creating and writing, was accepted by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.  Deborah Lee has chaired and served on both local and national PWD watersports committees and been an enthusiastic volunteer at local and national water trials since 1990.  She organized the first local water training workshops and training classes for Portuguese Water Dogs and later organized all-breed workshops.  In 1999 she hosted her first all breed watersports camp and by 2001, Canine Water Sports -- for all kinds of dogs, was made a reality. Deborah Lee has been a watersports instructor since 1993 and proudly serves as a national watersports judge for Canine Water Sports and the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.  She has also taught Puppy Kindergarden classes for the the Trap Falls Kennel Club and Family Dog Classes for the  Fairfield  YMCA in Connecticut.  She has been offering classes and private in-home training to Connecticut families since 2000.

While Deborah Lee believes safety, relationship enrichment and having fun is the primary purpose of training, her dogs have earned formal titles including, over a dozen watersports awards and titles, including the PWDCA Courier Excellent, AKC High in Trial Obedience Dog, multiple placements in AKC Agility, Lure Coursing awards at Wiz Kid Dog Camp and Owner handled AKC Best of Breed ribbons for Conformation.  Her most recent canine matriarch, PWD Kohl (1991-2006), earned special heart recognition over the years for her intelligence and adaptability.  On at least two occasions, Kohl rescued Deborah Lee from humbling stupidity.  Locking Kohl and the keys in an office, it was Kohl who located the keys inside the office and brought them to the window to grateful Deborah Lee.  And, again when keys were locked within a running automobile, it was Kohl who pawed the release button to open the car window for a very anxious and pleading human. Kohl passed her smarts on to two litters.  At home all of the Riley dogs are given retrieve and courier duties, including responsibility for shoes, mail, phones, dog bowls, TV remote controls and stairway dispatches.

Deborah Lee is a retired 30 year veteran with the Norwalk, Connecticut, Police Department, last serving in the Patrol Division at the rank of sergeant.  She lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut with her husband, Thomas, a retired police lieutenant, and a crew of Best in the World Portuguese Water DogsThree Dogs Running Studio for Animals Only, her photography business, also keeps Deborah Lee busy in between training, coaching and creating water fun for Canine Water Sports behaviors.  Memberships include the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, Portuguese Water Dog Club of America  and founding member of Yankee Paw Paddlers, Inc. (YiPPI).