Vaccinating Your Pets: Why It’s So Important

Vaccinating Your Pets: Why It’s So Important

Regular preventative pet healthcare is essential in keeping your furry friend happy and healthy. Vaccines are a simple way to protect your pet from highly contagious and often deadly diseases, and improve your pet’s overall quality of life.

In fact, experts agree that widespread use of vaccines within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. Some of the most common vaccinations recommended by veterinarians include:

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  • Rabies: a fatal viral infection of the brain and nerves that affects mammals – infection usually occurs through bites from infected animals, most commonly skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats
    * Vaccination for both dogs and cats is recommended, and is required in most states
  • Canine Parvovirus: a highly contagious virus that attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract; it is transmitted through oral contact with infected feces
  • Canine Distemper: a viral illness that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system of dogs; it can be spread through the air, through direct contact with an infected animal or via contaminated objects
  • Bortadella: a bacteria commonly associated with respiratory disease in dogs and a common cause of kennel cough; it is highly contagious and can be transmitted through the air or direct contact.
    * Although Bortadella isn’t one of the “core vaccines” that are recommended for most pets, the vaccine is a common requirement when boarding your dog.

For dogs, an alternative option to routine vaccinations are titer tests. These tests, which can be performed by your veterinarian can help determine if a previous vaccine is still protecting your dog.

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  • Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV): the FIV disease weakens a cat’s immune system, leaving cats dangerously vulnerable to serious infections
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): a viral disease that weakens the immune system and is often passed from mother to kitten or through exposure to an infected cat’s saliva or other body fluids
  • Feline panleukopenia: Also known as feline distemper, this highly contagious viral illness attacks cells in the lymph nodes, bone marrow and intestinal tract. It is spread from cat to cat through contact with body fluids or contaminated objects.
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis and Feline calicivirus infection: infectious diseases that often cause upper respiratory disease in cats.

Unfortunately, many people forgo vaccinations and routine healthcare for their pets because they are unable to afford this care. That’s why Rescue Me Ohio (RMO) and Ohio Voters for Companion Animals (OVCA) are sponsoring two upcoming H.O.P.E. Clinics, which offer affordable vaccinations for Ohio pets. The first clinic that we will be sponsoring will be this Sunday, April 30th, in the Columbus area. Please read our press release, or visit our Facebook events page for full details.

Learn more about pet vaccination by visiting the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Vaccination FAQ page. For more information about the H.O.P.E. Clinics that RMO and OVCA are sponsoring, please contact us.

Outside of Ohio? Visit the Humane Society’s website for a directory of organizations that provide financial assistance for veterinary care needs.



Keep Your Dogs Safe: A Quick Guide to Summer Safety

Keep Your Dogs Safe: A Quick Guide to Summer Safety

I know it’s getting close to the end of summer, but I wanted to do a quick Summer Safety post for you all!  


I’ve heard and read far too many unfortunate stories about dogs getting seriously injured because of things that were definitely preventable.  Summer is a really fun time for people who have dogs!  Some of my favorite activities this summer have been going to the beach and hiking with my pups.  But there are a lot of things to keep in mind, and some times it’s easy to forget the little things.

Here’s a few tips for the dog park, hiking, beaches, boating and cookouts!

 Dog Park Safety

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not dog parks should be avoided altogether, but I don’t 100% agree with that.  I think you can utilize a dog park while keeping your dog safe, if you keep in mind a few things.  Here’s a few ways to make sure your pup can and will benefit from a dog park.

  • Before entering a dog park, take a quick inventory of the dogs already there.  Notice their size and how they are interacting with the other dogs.  If it seems like it won’t be safe or fun for your dog, leave and come back at another time.
  • Be careful when entering the park.  A lot of dogs will crowd the door, which can be really intimidating for your dog and could result in the start of a bad experience.
  • Gradually introduce your dog to other dogs.  Let your dog sniff the fenced in area, benches, trees, etc.  This will allow them to feel comfortable in the new environment.
  • Supervise your dog!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched owners stay glued to their phone or were talking with others when their dog was in need of a little guidance.  Make sure you are fully present to make sure your dog isn’t being bullied or isn’t doing the bullying.
  • If your dog is afraid of another dog, or vise versa, break up the situation.  Move them a way from each other to see if that helps first.  Some times they need their attention to be redirected in order to calm down, but if that doesn’t help, come back at another time.

Hiking Safety

This is my hands down favorite activity to do with Lily and Romeo.  We have been on countless trails and have loved every minute of it!  When I first started taking them out hiking, I some times would forget a bottle of water in the car or didn’t spray them with bug spray.  I learned quickly there’s a handful of things you should keep in mind when taking a four-legged baby out hiking!

  • Keep water on hand for you and your dog!  Don’t wait until your hike is done and don’t let your dog drink from puddles, ponds or streams.  Those bodies of water may contain parasites or other things that can harm your pup.
  • If you’re going into a heavily wooded area, use a bug spray for dogs.  Flea and tick protection is great, but this helps so bugs aren’t constantly bugging (pun intended, ha ha) your dog.  You could do something as simple as a lemon water or an Apple Cider Vinegar spray.
  • Be mindful of other people on the trails.  Not everyone is a dog lover, so keep your dog close by.  Keep treats handy and reward them for staying close by when other people pass you.  This also helps to associate good behavior when meeting new people, and their dogs too!
  • Do a thorough inspection after you are done with your hike.  Look for ticks and other bugs that could have landed on your dog, especially ears, belly and back.

Beach and Boat Safety

Romeo LOVES the water!  And we always have a fun time swimming in the lake and streams close by, but there are definitely a few things to keep in mind before bringing your pup to the beach.  I threw in some good points about boat safety as well!

  • Invest in a life jacket!  This is especially true if you are on a boat, even if your dog can swim.  If he were to go overboard this will not only help if the current is strong, but also gives you something to grab onto when pulling him out of the water.
  • Use sun screen.  We aren’t the only ones who can be sunburned!  You can pick some up that is specifically created for dogs, and apply it around their ears and nose prior to entering the water.
  • Some beaches will have sharp rocks or shells in the sand, be careful of them.  You don’t want your dog’s paw pad to get cut.  Double check when he gets out of the water to be sure.
  • Don’t force your dog into deep waters if he’s not feeling comfortable.  There’s a difference between gently nudging and forcing your dog into water, watch for their ques to make sure they are doing okay!
  • Wash thoroughly when you are done at the beach and on the boat to make sure sand, dirt and little critters are off him.  Dry his ears and face thoroughly, as well, to avoid any ear infections.

Cookout Safety 

Cookouts are one of summer’s most beloved events!  Food, friends, fun and some times… doggies!  If your dog is lucky enough to tag along to some of these outings, please keep the following in mind!

  • Make sure your dog has its tags on before going to a cookout.  If, by some chance, he gets loose, you will want someone to be able to identify him right away.
  • Keep an eye on the grill!  Grills will be especially enticing to our pups.  It’s hard to resist the aroma of all that wonderful food being cooked but if your dog touches the grill, it could result in a serious burn.
  • If you decide to give your pup some food, keep a mental list of what he can and can’t have.  Most fruits and veggies are okay but remember your dog can’t have these:
    • Avocado
    • Chocolate 
    • Grapes and Raisins
    • Onions and Garlic
    • Macadamia Nuts
    • Cooked bones
  • Don’t let you dog get into the trash.  There will likely be a lot of things he will want to get into that can be very harmful for him; foods he can’t have, wrappers, foil, bones, etc.
  • Introduce your dog to strangers.  As friendly and loving as your dog may be, new situations with new people can be overwhelming for them.  Make sure you take the time to introduce your dog to people he may not know very well, that way everyone feels safe and comfortable!
  • Keep your doggie hydrated!  Cookouts usually happen when it’s pretty warm out so keeping a bowl of water readily available for them is a must!


 I hope this quick guide to summer safety helps you and your dogs stay healthy, happy and safe this summer!  We still have a good 7-8 weeks of good weather left, go enjoy it!

Pit Bull Discrimination: How You Can Help

Truth be told, the night I brought Romeo home I felt an uneasiness in the pit of my stomach, as if I was in over my head fostering this guy.  Here I was with this strong, big-headed American Pit Bull Terrier who didn’t know me from Adam, and I was nervous.  Before we called it a night he gently rested his head on my lap and looked up at me peacefully with those gorgeous, soulful eyes.

The only thought I had was, please don’t bite my head off.

I sit here, 7 months later, ashamed to admit that.  For he has not only become someone I love dearly but a reason to fight for something I didn’t know I would believe so much in:  Pit Bulls.

And what I’ve learned is they need as many people fighting for them as possible.


Sadly, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are the most euthanized dog breed among shelters in America.  In Franklin county alone, where Romeo was surrendered, more than half of the 2,462 pit bulls that were impounded in 2014 got euthanized.  Of the 1,288 that were euthanized, only 69 were by the owner’s request.

That means 1,219 were killed because there was not enough room for them or because they were simply considered pit bulls.  Imagine what those numbers would be if we took all shelters in the United States into account.  Maybe that’s why it comes at no surprise that approximately 1 million pit bulls are euthanized annually.

One of America’s most popular breed has the hardest time finding a place to call home.

This dilemma is something advocates, rescue organizations and pit bull lovers have been fighting day in and day out for years now.  Undoing stereotypes and judgments that have cost these creatures their lives can feel incredibly challenging when we have a society conditioning us to believe these animals should be feared, just like I was.

But there are ways to help that can make a real difference.  A difference that can not only save many of these wonderful dogs’ lives but help shift the common belief that pit bulls are innately dangerous dogs and should be banned.

Here are a few ways you can help.

  1. Be a responsible owner.  The problem is not the breed.  The problem is who’s hands these dogs land in.  Be responsible!  Get to know and understand your pit bull’s strengths and weaknesses and then provide the right environment to work on them.  Offer them daily exercise and have boundaries and rules in place.
  2. Educate.  A great way to off balance the fear people have of pit bulls is by education.  Slowly but surely the stigma is being lifted and there are many resources online that offer a new perspective of these dogs.  Here are a few of my favorite posts from Buzzfeed that will be easy to share to friends and family.
    1. People Meet Pit Bulls For The First Time
    2. Facts of Life For Pit Bull Owners
    3. 8 Pit Bull Lies You Might Believe
    4. 33 Terrifyingly Adorable Pit Bulls
  3. Share your story.  As important and an intrinsic part of the uphill battle we face to end pit bull discrimination, educating people with facts and statistics is not going to be enough.  “Facts tell, stories sell.”  When I got Romeo I had a good handful of people on my Facebook page tell me how uneasy pit bulls made them feel yet by seeing Romeo’s new life with me, it has slowly made them question their own beliefs about this breed.  It’s beyond gratifying to know my dog can make a small difference in this and so can yours, so share your story!

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I think it’s safe to say we all know what it’s like to walk around being judged and discriminated against, in one way or another.  What I can’t imagine is losing my life over it but sadly these amazing, loyal, playful, protective, goofy, happy little creatures face that every single day.

Let’s come together and help change the world’s view of pit bulls.  After everything this breed has been through – dog fighting, neglect, abuse, abandonment – I can’t find a more deserving breed who needs an army of people to be their voice.

Will you use yours for them?


imageWhat exactly happens when you unclip your lead and let your dog run free in public areas? I think we all get the idyllic image of a free running, happy faced dog with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. Yet letting Fido off lead can unleash a whole host of horrors. What you don’t see is the sheer terror experienced by others—by dogs and people, the hidden dangers for your dog, and the ugly aftermath that may ensue for a lifetime.
Impact on Others
Even if your dog is the friendliest four legged on the planet weighing in wet at 20 pounds, he can set others into panic. As responsible dog owners we must remain cognizant of the fact that not everyone loves dogs or your particular dog. As well as the fact that dogs –no matter how well trained—are not predictable. No dog or human is.
Consider The Two Leggeds Around You
Many people are afraid of dogs and simply seeing a loose dog can induce fear let alone having the dog barrel up to them no matter the dog’s intent. I’ve also unfortunately seen elderly people knocked over, their thin skin bruised and large dogs joyously pounce up on pregnant women. I’ve seen countless children screaming & crying because an overly exuberant Fido followed them around…not even making contact. The fact is you don’t know everyone’s story or history and we need to be respectful of other’s rights to enjoy a stroll.
Consider the Other Four Legged Friends
As an owner of a dog fearful of other dogs, walks are always a precarious event. I might have to walk a mile or more out of my way to turn around and avoid a loose dog—hoping I don’t encounter another in the other direction.
As a trainer I work with many dogs that have this very same issue. It only takes ONE negative experience to traumatize many dogs. Your friendly dog could be that one. A loose dog approaching a fearful dog is enough to cause severe stress.
And each time after, the dog becomes more highly sensitized fearing a negative encounter. Ever had someone zoom past you on the highway just narrowly side swiping you? It’s unnerving and can set you on edge every time another car passes in somewhat close vicinity. Another dog doesn’t have to make contact with a scared dog to set them into panic. Now the owner has days, weeks, or months of behavior modification work ahead. As a trainer, I see some dogs who can never fully recover from negative off lead dog experiences. It is very sad they cannot enjoy being out in the world for the few who have infringed upon their rights to walk unaccosted.
There are so many tragic cases of dogs being bitten as well as their owners who were trying to break it up. Sadly, some end in death. Most frequently heard by the owner of the loose dog is “he’s never done that before!”
It is not only dogs who are afraid of other dogs we need to be concerned about. As with people, dogs may be suffering from any number of physical illnesses or rehabilitating from injuries that you cannot see and most are so very stoic. And let’s not forget our sweet seniors who often move slower, are weaker and prefer not to be charged by an exuberant youth. If you are not feeling well, would you want to be rushed up upon?
Impact on Your Own Dog
Letting your dog off lead also opens a Pandora’s box of problems for her.
Harm from Dog or Human
There are many dogs who do NOT take lightly an invasion of their personal space. Whether afraid or simple dislike, dogs can and will react defensively aggressive. So now you have put your dog at risk of getting bit and injured.
People too, will naturally act defensively. I will never ever forget the day my young social dog ON LEASH excitedly jumped on a man to greet him and was kicked in the chest. I was very angry and thought it inappropriate, but ultimately I had no one to be angry with but myself for not having better control of my dog to keep him safe. Make no mistake that when an off lead dog is approaching one’s safely leashed dog or child that the person will go all “Mama Bear” to all means and extents to keep their dog or child safe—even if that means harm to your dog. Wouldn’t you do the same?
Dogs will never be 100% reliable –ever, no matter what. It only takes once and your dog can be gone forever. I’m sure you’ve heard the same countless tales I have that “My dog NEVER did that before!” from a surprised owner. There’s always a first time and sometimes that first time is the last time.
Environmental dangers
When your dog is roaming free you cannot foresee environmental dangers such as poison ivy, blue-green algae in the water, dangerous garbage or foods like gum with deadly xylitol lying around that can quickly be ingested, broken class, fishing hooks and more that can seriously harm her.
Impact on Wildlife
While it may be the least of your concerns, we need to remember we share this world. From birds to bunnies and every creature in between they comprise our ever important mutually shared ecosystem. Wildlife can be impacted by direct predation but even a dog chasing an animal “for fun” endangers it. Energy is very expensive and animals conserve it wisely. Escaping a dog can exhaust the animal’s energy leaving it unable to search for food or feed it’s young which is obviously detrimental to survival. Other considerations include transmission of diseases (it goes both ways) and competition for resources, especially water.
The bottom line is this: let’s all be respectful of each other’s space and the land we share. Everyone has the right to walk without feeling threatened. Your dog does not need to be off lead to have fun! Dogs love to spend time WITH us! Walking side by side is one of the greatest bonding activities we can do with our dogs!

Advice from the Cookie Lady


I hear it all the time, “My dog will do anything for you because you’re the cookie lady.” It’s true and it’s wonderful! I take pride in being a what Kathy Sdao calls “a good feeder.”

Let’s stop the shame game. There is no reason to be embarrassed for treating your dog for good behavior! I recall so many times walking through our local parks with my wonderful Pumpkin, happily heads up heeling by my side—his gorgeous amber eyes looking into mine as we passed a barking lunging dog. The owner of the other dog notice the treats I was delivering and shouted out, “I see your dog has you trained! How many treats does he eat?! That’s bribery” followed by derisive laughter. Well, laugh away I say. If I hadn’t been busy focusing on my gorgeous good dog I would have retorted, “It’s not a lure, it’s reward—big difference.” And I would have been happy to go into details had he been a willing listener. Instead I smiled, nodded and moved on. Now I have time to explain if you’re willing to listen.

Lures can sometimes be used initially to get a behavior started. With a lure, you are using the food (or toy) to manipulate the dog’s behavior. Common are pulling a treat above the head to get a “sit” and bringing a treat from the dog’s nose to yours to get eye contact or a “watch me” cue. Lures precede the behavior. They can get a behavior started but must be faded out quickly or the dog can become dependent on seeing the treat in order to perform the behavior. A reward on the other hand comes after the behavior is performed. Rewards too will be lessened in time, but perhaps never faded out. Before you panic– That wasn’t a typo. Let me explain.
If your employer stopped issuing you a paycheck, how long would you continue to work? Generally speaking, regardless of how much we enjoy our jobs we won’t work for free. Neither do dogs. Gasp! Yes I am saying dogs don’t work simply because they love us. Much of what we ask of dogs is completely unnatural and it is indeed work. Heeling, staying, leaving a treat on her paws and more—very unnatural. We all know how much work it is to modify our own behaviors such as eating healthfully, saving money, or quitting bad habits. Science tells us for humans and animals a reward system increases success in behavior modification programs. Look at your bank or credit card company. Does getting rewards increase your use of the card? Does your employer offer a gift for perfect attendance or safety records? We get tokens, points, and various other rewards for repeating certain behaviors. Dogs get treats and toys. There is no shame in rewarding good behavior! In time, we do put the rewards on a variable schedule so they will not be constant but that’s another topic.

Speaking of rewards, remember it should be something the dog wants. Not what you think is nice. Dry cookies are rarely motivating enough for any dog besides the biggest chow hounds. Having spent decades in human resources, I think of compensation scales. The more complex the work, the higher the pay. I apply the same to dogs. Sit at the door may equal a piece of kibble. Walking past another dog may equal a chunk of fresh chicken. Yes, fresh chicken—from the frig. I often chuckle that the same wonderfully caring clients who labor over reading labels and research the very best food to feed –insisting it have fresh human grade ingredients– are appalled at the thought of using “people food” as treats. Food is food. Fresh, healthy food is a nice reward and addition to your dog’s diet. Be a good feeder. Use food wisely. So often we give dogs table scraps or special treats just because we love them. While there’s nothing wrong with that, simply reserve them for extra special behavior!

A friend I see only seldom comments how her dog will do things for me that she does for no one else even though I may see her only twice a year. And I don’t have to give her treats. But as my friend points out, “she remembers you as the cookie lady.” Yep, she sure does. I have a history with this dog of being a good bet that she didn’t forget.

So my advice to you? BE THE COOKIE LADY!! Or COOKIE MAN! Enjoy the rewards YOU get—good behavior! 


Positive reinforcement training. You hear it all the time. You know it’s a good thing. But what exactly is it?? Unfortunately it has become a marketing buzz word. This term is thrown around quite freely—and often quite inaccurately. You need to be in the know before you sign up with someone who claims to use positive reinforcement training. So let’s talk terms and get you caught up on the four quadrants of operant conditioning.

Here’s a short recap of the scientific terms you need to know:

Positive sounds, well positive, right? Happy, good!! Not necessarily! In scientific terms of operant conditioning, positive simply means something is ADDED.
There is positive reinforcement. After a behavior occurs, reinforcement (something the dog enjoys like food or play) is added. The dog sits, he gets a cookie. The dog comes, he plays tug. Reinforcing behaviors with something the dog enjoys increases the likelihood they will occur again. The dog WANTS to repeat the behavior on the chance of earning a treat or toy. This is what is meant by those of us who truly use positive reinforcement in training.

But positive doesn’t always mean good. Remember, positive means “adding” Another quad is positive punishment. After a behavior occurs, punishment (something the dog dislikes) is added. The dog barks, he gets squirt with water. The dog doesn’t come when called, he gets shocked with an electronic collar. Punishing behaviors with things the dog dislikes serves to decrease the behavior will occur again. The dog doesn’t want to repeat the behavior in order to avoid the unpleasant punishment. The side effects of punishment can be great and cause irreversible damage.

Now let’s get into the negatives. Negative reinforcement. It almost sounds contradictory doesn’t it? Remember in scientific terms of operant conditioning negative means to take something away. In this case, it is taking away something unpleasant that was put onto the dog. An example is choking the dog until he stops what is seen by the human as bad behavior. When the dog stops the behavior the choking is released—reinforcing him with something he likes—the absence of pain or normal breathing , for acting what we consider correctly. A human example we are all familiar with is the seat-belt. The annoying “ding ding ding ding” continues until you perform the proper behavior of buckling up. The last quad is negative punishment . Remember, negative means take away. Most “positive trainers” use some negative punishment as well. Here the dog is being punished by removing something the dog likes. An example is you are playing tug with the dog and his teeth hit your skin so you stop the game. You have just used negative punishment. You took away what the dog liked (play) thus punishing him for the behavior you did not like.

Bottom line, positive trainers primarily use positive reinforcement—rewarding the dog with something she likes. A good trainer always sets the dog up to succeed so this is the primary tool . But we do use punishment sometimes—in the form of taking away something the dog likes. Remember positive isn’t equivalent to permissive! But Never, ever do positive trainers add discomfort or pain to get the dog to comply.

Now you know! It is always wise to ask many questions and if possible audit (watch without your dog) a training class before you enroll.

Happy training!

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There is a great misunderstanding perpetuating—even from veterinarians—that “tough” dogs like Pits need harsh training. Nothing could be farther from the truth! All dogs deserve to be taught with patience and respect. Linking an animal’s physicality to his cognitive learning abilities is simply illogical. Should college students be sorted into separate classes based on the size and shape of their bodies? What about temperament you ask? If you’ve taken time to get to know any Pit you know most of these strong muscular bodied dogs have an ooey gooey sweet center. In fact, they are one of the highest scoring dogs in the American Temperament Test Society Inc’s rankings. The UKC description of heir characteristics reads: “the APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable.”

Positive reinforcement training is scientifically sound and successful for much larger and stronger animals that bully breeds! Lions, elephants, walruses, rhinos and more are all trained using positive reinforcement. Could you even imagine trying to put a training collar on a walrus & physically manipulating it?! How about trimming the nails of a 400+ pound male lion? The same nails that are his natural weaponry and could shred you in seconds? It is regularly done using positive reinforcement! Please don’t fool yourself that your bully breed or other “tough dog” needs a harsh hand.

Then the question is: do you want to physically punish your dog via pinch, choke, or shock your dog? Besides, physically you cannot control your dog when he is not wearing the aforementioned. Your dog is likely stronger & definitely faster than you. Always. Really.  So then what? What happens when your dog isn’t wearing the collar? You cannot correct him. In over a decade of training, I have heard countless people say “I don’t want to hurt my dog” The good news is you don’t have to, not even for your Pit Bull.

Rather than physical coercion, we want mental cooperation. We want a dog who is willing—downright happy to comply! That is achieved through working his mind. Pits are described in the UKC standard as “this breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work. “

I will absolutely agree that physically strong dogs do make leash walking & manners more difficult. Though I’ve known many a small dog that can pull your shoulders out. While developing your working relationship and mental compliance with your dog, there are tools that can gently help you physically manage your strong dog on leash. Thankfully there are many no-pull harnesses on the market that work wonderfully.

Surfers ride with the wave, not against. Train with your dog’s intelligence, not against it! Rather than punishing your dog for doing something “bad” show them what they SHOULD be doing instead and reward the good behavior. Don’t want your dog to jump? Teach them to sit under distractions. Don’t want your dog to eat something or sniff something he sees? Teach him a “leave it” cue. Telling the dog what to do and rewarding his correct choice will yield you much greater results.

In the end, ask yourself one simple question: “how would I prefer to be taught?”  That is your answer.