February 16, 2008
Sunday Great Dane and Boxer puppy blogging
Hannah, a 1 year old Great Dane and 4 month old Bayleigh take a play break during class Saturday morning.
Hannah is sweet and gentle with puppies. As a matter of fact she was voted most popluar in her doggie day care's year book.
Today we have a link to What Shamu Taught Me about a Happy Marriage, one of the The New York Times most popular articles. It is a very entertaining read on how to train your spouse -like you would an animal- using positive reinforcement.
The principles that author Amy Sutherland used in training her husband are those that I employ daily training dogs.
Use a reward that is highly motivating to the animal.
Just like in dog training the author learned about her subject, and then used methods that her husband found rewarding and motivating.
The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn't so much. He has the balance of a gymnast, but moves slowly, especially when getting dressed. Skiing comes naturally, but being on time does not. He's an omnivore, and what a trainer would call food-driven.
In dog training these might include, food, praise, affection, toys, access to people, play other dogs, tug, or something to chase.
Reward incompatible behaviors
At home, I came up with incompatible behaviors for Scott to keep him from crowding me while I cooked. To lure him away from the stove, I piled up parsley for him to chop or cheese for him to grate at the other end of the kitchen island. Or I'd set out a bowl of chips and salsa across the room. Soon I'd done it: no more Scott hovering around me while I cooked.
Most common would be to reward sit instead of jumping, quiet instead of barking, and chill out instead of begging.
Reward behaviors you want to repeat
I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into the hamper. If he threw in two, I'd kiss him. Meanwhile, I would step over any soiled clothes on the floor without one sharp word, though I did sometimes kick them under the bed. But as he basked in my appreciation, the piles became smaller.
I was using what trainers call "approximations," rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can't expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can't expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock.
In my Collie's case, I need Finney to be able to come to work with me, lay down and chill out for long periods of time until I need him. This is what he has been heavily rewarded for and what Finn will always readiliy "offer".
Ignore bad behavior
It was only a matter of time before he was again tearing around the house searching for his keys, at which point I said nothing and kept at what I was doing. It took a lot of discipline to maintain my calm, but results were immediate and stunning. His temper fell far shy of its usual pitch and then waned like a fast-moving storm. I felt as if I should throw him a mackerel.
For dogs this is used commonly for jumping, begging and whining.
If this blog has peaked your interest,and you want to learn to train your dog, husband, kids and even the neighbors in this manner, pick up a copy of Karen Pryor's book Don't Shoot the Dog. Karen is a former sea mammal trainer and it is she who is largely resonsible for the clicker training revolution. When I first read that book 10 years ago, I applied the postive principles to not only my x- husband but to my children as well.
My oldest son who is nearly 15 came along before I crossed over to positive training and he is still of the negative attention mind set, and to this day would prefer negative attention to none at all. My 10 year old daughter came along during my total embrace of positive training. This girl has fallen down whole flights of stairs and gotten up announcing to all "it's ok, I am fine!", even when she was not. We praised the heck out of her for being brave when she was younger.
By the time #3 came along, positive training kids was old hat to me.
Hint-tell the kids what they CAN do, not what the can't do.
I did use Karen's rules of positive reinforcement with my x- husband, much in the same way described by Amy Sutherland in her Shamu article, but their was a fly in the ointment. As those us who work with animals for any length of time learn--it is not possible to save them all. In my case I had a behavior to deal with that can not be addressed with positive reinforcement training. After all you can't ignore, or praise alternative behaviors if you don't know when someone is lying.
Shortly before the Buxton puppy mill seizure, I was contacted by Susan Britt at the Animal Refuge League to help out with the Paws in Stripes program at the Windham Correctional Facility.
The program has been in existence for just over 1 year and it has been a success for both the shelter dogs and the inmates. At this time they are expanding the training portion of the program and the inmates will be working with me 1x a week with the goal of the shelter dogs passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. This will help to make the dogs more adoptable while better utilizing the inmates training time.
Our plans were put on hold for the last six months or so, while the shelter worked tirelessly taking care of the Buxton dogs as well as two other puppy mills that were shut down.
We are now back on track and today was my second official meeting, and the first with a prison representative. My next step, is a four hour orientation at the prison, and then we will be good to go. I have been given permission to blog it. It should be noted that no tax dollars fund this program.
As the official tester dog, Finney will get to come to.
This blog wishes Susan Britt, former director of the ARL, the very best in her new job. We were all lucky to have you here! Paws in Stripes was one of the many programs that Susan directed, and she is already sorely missed.
Talk to anyone who works with dogs and they all will agree to the same phenomenon.
Clients come in the weirdest of cycles. More often than not, there is a common similarity in any given week's work that is down right mystifying. I have had weeks where I have seen 7 Mastiff clients, all from different breeders and for different reasons. Oodles and oodles of doodle weeks, puppy weeks, dog bit my kid weeks, my kids are scared of the dog week, no one can come to my house week, help I am having a baby week, I need help with my pet store puppy week. There have been group training classes that fill with small dogs only, big dogs only, and shelter dogs only with no input from me. Recently I have had several puppy play groups where the entire group was filled with fearful and shy pups. Interesting to note that not one of these puppies would have been able to attend a normal rowdy puppy play group, but together they all helped each other be brave and learn about the world.
It goes on and on.
This last week's common thread was a new one to me.
I am coming off J- baby week. Nearly everyone who contacted me had a name that started with the initial J. Or a spouse that had the initial J and even dogs that started with the letter J. Nearly all calls were baby proofing and either they were expecting or had wee ones at home.
I have been saying for years that I wish I could some how figure out how to play these cycles in the lottery. Maybe someone can help me break this secret code that appears just out of my reach. These cycles are not unlike when you here the same song for a weekend, all in different places that you haven't heard for years.
Weird you know?
With my brain not being as young as it used to be I found myself getting quite a few of the J folks mixed up in head. I left two silly messages on people's answering machines where I laughed out loud while catching my mistake mid sentence. Thank goodness my new 08 black planner helps me keep everyone straight.
Today's blog is brought to you by:
Jane, Jamie, Jasper, Jayne, Jeremy, Jewel, Jill, Jim, Jingles, Jt, Jodie, John, and June Bug.
Dogs helping Autistic kids find their way....the Candy video
Watch this CBS news clip of a little boy with Asperperger's syndrome, a form of Autism, and his Golden Retriever service dog Candy running agility. In the three years of blogging here at A Dog's Life, I have to say, this is my favorite dog clip of all time. Maybe even ever!
Many of you tell me that you never watch the movies on blogs or emails. If you have a slow computer or a slow connection, be sure to check this out somewhere else. It is worth it.
While there is no specific scientific proof that dogs help kids with autism (yet!), more and more families report that dogs do in fact help their autistic children. I have seen it personally many times over.
Last last year I blogged my Lab client Hunter, and his little autistic boy Merrill. Many of you have been asking me how they are doing. They are doing well, but due to time constraints, the family was not able to keep commuting the three plus hours to class round trip.I have not seen them since the last blog, although we do continue to communicate via email. My work with Hunter has shown me just how difficult it is for families with young kids to carry out the type of training that an Autism assist dog needs. Not that it isn't possible to train your own dog, but certainly it is much more difficult.
More and more I find myself working with families with autistic kids. This should come as no suprise because 1 in every 166 kids is affected. Some families want nice pets and others are hoping that their dog has what it takes to be a service dog.
I wrote the Executive Director, Patty Dobbs Gross, and told her of my intention to blog Candy and asked her if she had a quote to add.
Did she ever!
I have included the entire word document that she sent me because while she talks specifically about her program, she also gives a wonderful explanation about what is involved in training an Autism assist dog and offers help to families. Patty has also asked me to work with one of their dogs that is being placed in Maine this summer, and I will be honored to do so.
We Help Children Find Their Way
by Patty Dobbs Gross
North Star Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to place assistance dogs with children who face challenges. To date we have helped over seventy-five families around the country to meet their children's social, emotional and educational goals through the use of well-bred and trained North Star dogs.
Over half the children we serve are on the autism spectrum, although we also place North Star dogs with children who face a serious illness or who have suffered a loss. We use a different model of placement than the traditional assistance dog model that most people are familiar with, and this is due to the different roles that our dogs play. While most Seeing Eye or Wheelchair dogs need to have a multitude of trained skills, such as turning on or off light switches and picking up dropped items, our dogs tend to have less technical tasks such as comforting a child through a tantrum. Often this comfort doesn’t come from a task to be trained, but from the dog’s relaxed presence and focused attention.
I have done mostly what men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can't forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.
Day after day, the whole day through--
Wherever my road inclined--
Four-Feet said, 'I am coming with you!'
And trotted along behind.
Now I must go by some other round--
Which I shall never find--
Some where that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.
--- Rudyard Kipling ---
Meet Four Feet.
He is a super sweet, and smart Sheltie who was named for the above Rudyard Kipling poem. Currently he has one more private session with me and several more group AKC CGC classes to complete.
Four Feet is one of the lucky dogs who gets to go to work with his human. Like many Shelties he barks just a tad too much. I have a trainer friend who says that all Shelties hail from the "Isle of Yap".
That is just not true, but it is funny!
Four Feets barking is not that bad, but as you can see from his posh work space, no barking would be best for all.
Some of the things that we have used successfully with Four Feet include:
-Teaching him to bark on cue
-use a Calming Cap in the car (sometimes)
-desensitize him to other dogs and noises
-give him alternative behaviors to do besides barking
-lots and lots of attention work
-stop a chain events before it begins
-increase use of Gentle Leader head collar
Many people find comfort in the above poem as Four Feet's human did after the passing of her last Sheltie.
As a matter of fact I came across the poem yesterday on one of my favorite blogs when I read that one of the Three Woofs and Woo had passed. (snif sniff) A commenter had added the Four Feet poem in the comment section, and I knew right then and there that Four Feet would grace my blog today in memory of Briggs the red Border Collie.
Trooper, was terrified of storms when he first came into rescue. He used to get wrapped up tightly in a quilt to help weather them. Now he likes being wrapped in quilts just because he likes it.
A few weeks ago I got an email from a client with the heading 'Odd dog' at the top. Seems Becky's lab Wrigley has been 'strangling' a few of his toys.
She wrote: "I was trying to find some information on the net about a strange behavior our Yellow lab, Wrigley, seems to be doing more and more of. First it was with this enormous, and rather disgusting stuffed animal. We noticed that after he would wrestle it, he'd eventually grab its neck and suffocate! He will sit this way for an hour if we let him.
His newest object of affection is a big lobster toy that he suffocates on a nightly basis. We take these toys away when we leave, but whenever we're entertaining or watching TV, eating dinner, playing with his sister, it's back to suffocating! Have you heard of or seen this behavior before? I'm not too concerned, and he's still harmless whenever someone takes the toys away, just seems to be a weird new game he plays".
Had I seen it? Had I ever! Just moments before reading her email I had snapped a picture of Sandy next to my chair. Sandy loves to have things in his mouth, and he sucks toys like a baby sucks a binky. Sandy, self soothes himself, and he can stay this way for hours. I have noticed that he has a few special requirements on the texture and shape that he likes to use as his woobie. He likes plush toys that will form a ball shape when in his mouth.
Here's Sandy with a sheep in his mouth nearly asleep.
I have seen dogs suck on their beds, or have special toys that they get and carry when it is bed time.
Quite a few dogs I know have had their special woobies since puppy hood. I know of many other dogs who treat their toys like babies and nurture and sleep with them for years. When the woobie is either lost or eventually falls apart, many owners become frantic as the dogs pace and pace until they find another way to soothe, or the toy is replaced with a suitable substitute.
My sister's deeply missed golden Belmont had his dodo. The dodo was around for 3 years and it was a simple hard rubber ring that he loved to play fetch with and hang around with. No dodo substitute would do and when the next door neighbor's dog started "borrowing it", the dodo had to stay inside. Belmont would have made a great SAR dog as never gave up a search once he began. I was invovled in many a hunt for Belmont's dodo. The dodo was retired after my niece threw it in the ocean at Pomham Beach one cold fall day for a quick game of fetch and the floating dodo was sucked out to sea. Bell went swimming all around in the wrong direction and they were worried that he would drown trying to find it. My niece stripped down to her skivvies and swam with seals to get it back (yes seals and lots of 'em to). After three years of heavy duty dodo-ing, my sister switched Belmont over to tennis balls. She had this to say about that. "After the freezing cold seal incident, I tried to never throw the same ball twice so he would like all tennis balls equally, and not just a ratty one. We would have like 14 tennis balls around at any given time. We finally went cold turkey on the dodo after he lost it. I think I helped Bell look for that thing at least 1000 times over the course of about three years".
My good friend Holly at the Brown Dog Inn had this to add when I asked her if she has many dogs check in for boarding with their comfort items. "Generally the comfort items are as much for owners as they are for the dogs. Typically owners send items with their scent like shirts and blankets. We get a lot of stuffed toys, some have even sent small pieces of furniture and most recently "scented" socks".
While I can only ponder at how widespread dog woobies are, I would hasten a guess that it is more prevalent with retrievers, but I know many dogs of many breeds who have comfort items. Two of my friend Kathy's Border Collies Tucker and Beacon have long established toy sucking habits that sound very much like Sandys. Gracie, a puggle client sleeps with a night light. It is a ball that lights up when moved. At night she buries the ball in a blanket and goes to fetch it when she awakes.
I am far from an expert on dog woobies, and I don't very think much has been written on the subject, but it seems harmless enough to me as long as the toys do not fall apart and create a safety hazard, or like the bee toy in the movie Best in Show, it starts to run your life.
Does your dog have a woobie?
Thanks to B. Diane Myers for the photo of her dog Trooper and to Becky for her photo of Wrigley and for sending me a really good question.
Checkout Irina Markova and her poodles from the Conan O' brien show for inspiration. Irina performs with the Big Apple Circus. Be sure to notice that the dogs are performing quite happily.
Just a quick word of caution here. It is very hard for dogs to walk on their hind legs. Not all breeds were meant to do this and it takes a long time to properly condition even those that seem to have the knack for it.
To date my "Can't take it anymore" blog about owners taking dog training advice from self proclaimed dog behaviorist Cesar Millan has gotten the most web hits and sparked the biggest on line debate of all my blogs. Many of the commenters were not very nice and a few were deleted for being downright nasty. So why then you may ask, am I revisitng the Dog Whisperer issue again?
Recently a trainer friend of mine commented that if you put three trainers in a room with a problem dog the only thing they will agree on is that the other trainer is doing it wrong. I strongly disagree with this.
Yes of course there is more than one way to get an end result.
But, we dog trainer types live basically by the same creed that doctors adhere to:
"above all do no harm".
When we see harm being done, we must speak up.
The puppy owners that I wrote about yesterday all had to some degree taken advice from the show and run in the wrong direction. It doesn't matter that the show is for entertainment purposes only, and there is a warning to let us know such. Mr Millan makes problem solving look easy and many watching the show do follow his examples. Many viewers think having a great dog is as simple as these three steps that he deomostrates over and over again:
1-make a dog walk behind you
2-pop the leash
3-roll and pin your dog
None of this makes any sense at all.
And guess what? I am not the only one who thinks so. In what is probably the best article written on the subject in a long long time, Dogtime.com has published a wonderful overview of training methods. The ones that work, the ones that don't and the hows and whys that go along with it all.
Just in case you don't feel like clicking it, I cut and pasted the entire sidebar below. But there is plenty more to read on the web site.
sidebar: The trouble with Cesar
While television star Cesar Millan is credited with placing dog training on the public radar, the field's most respected behaviorists and trainers are concerned that many of Millan's ideas are unfounded. As for his methods? A few are downright harmful.
Putting your dog in his place
Cesar's way: Dogs assume either a dominant or submissive role in their "pack." If he doesn't get off the couch when you ask him to, it's your dog's way of telling you that he's dominant and you're submissive.
Why he's way off: The notion of a rigid pack hierarchy with fixed roles between humans and dogs is largely a myth. Dogs are most likely to do what we humans ask when they clearly understand what we want - not as a sign of submission. Patricia McConnell explains: "So many issues - sitting on the couch, coming when called - have nothing to do with social status, any more than how you do on a math exam reflects your social status. A dog who doesn't sit when you ask him to sit - in most cases - simply doesn't understand what you want."
The truth: In groups of canines, roles among individual members are both fluid and give-and-take.
Treating fear with fear
Cesar's way: You can "cure" a dog's fear by overwhelming him with the very stimulus that terrifies him.
Why he's way off: Imagine treating a human's acrophobia by dangling him over the edge of a skyscraper. This technique, called "flooding," actually leads to further psychological trauma in the form of learned helplessness: An animal learns that resistance is futile - his spirit is broken and he ceases to assert himself.
Trish King, Director of the Animal Behavior & Training Department at the Marin Humane Society observes: "In some of his shows, Cesar tells the owner how 'calm and submissive' a dog is, when to me, the dog looks shut down and fearful."
The truth: It may take weeks or months for your dog to truly overcome deep-rooted fear - and setbacks along the way are to be expected.
Snapping the leash or rolling the dog
Cesar's way: Physical corrections - such as snapping a dog's leash or forcefully rolling him onto his back - are an effective way to garner good behavior.
Why he's way off: Physical corrections add to your dog's stress rather than offer instructive information. You may temporarily stun your dog into obedience in the short run, but in the long run, the use of physical force increases aggression and, ultimately, your behavioral problems.
"You can lead with force, like Saddam Hussein, or you can be a benevolent leader to your dog by choosing a style more like Gandhi," says Tamar Geller, trainer to Oprah Winfrey's dogs and author of The Loved Dog. "Your approach will determine the type of relationship you have - and whether your dog acts out of intimidation... or respect."
The truth: Rewarding for the behavior you do want, as opposed to punishing for any number of behaviors you don't want, clearly communicates to your dog what's expected and is far more likely to generate confident, appropriate behavior.
Bailey takes a break at the puppy party on her Dad's shoes.
After my post holiday stress of counseling three families whose dogs bit kids Christmas Day, this weekend was like a breathe of fresh air. My Saturday puppy parties in the back room at the Windham Pet Quarters, are a welcome addition to my work week. The rest of the weekend was filled with new puppy clients all with the same issue.
"My puppy is attacking my kids".
I am not going to give all my hard earned knowledge away for free right here and now, but I will say in all three of my new puppy cases the owners were very glad they called a trainer. All three new puppy clients related to
me that seeing something done in person, is not the same as reading a book. All three clients were not sure what degree of nipping was normal and nothing they had tried seemed to help for very long.
Call a trainer people before your pup gets out of hand.
In all three cases the kids in the house were staying clear of the new puppy after they had been hurt, and the image of the big happy family was not looking likely to the parents.
For me there is nothing like starting a puppy out right. Puppy breathe is an added bonus. My Mom taught me the value of puppy breath at a very early age and I drink it in like others enjoy a fine wine.
Problem prevention is the key!
By now I am sure you are wondering what has become of the three biting dogs. I referred one dog to Tufts, and the other two were referred to their vets. In the later two cases it was clearly a case of holiday overload and owners who should have provided a safe getaway for their dogs. The second two dogs will receive further training after the vet check.
For right now, all three dogs are on very strict management programs . Keep in mind though that any door can be opened, and any dog can be let out by accident. There is a saying among trainers that "management always fails". If you have a problem dog, you cannot "just put him away" and think everything will be fine. You need management and training!
Also let this serve as a warning to all-
Dogs need a safe retreat during stressful times, especially holidays when routines are interrupted and we have less time for them.
Nike, named for the white swoosh mark behind her ears, got a puppy temperament test to determine if she was too over the top to live with young kids. She passed!
And speaking of pups, my own dogs got a much needed walk in the woods this morning now that the temperature is bearable. There was so much water melting off the trees, at times it felt like it was raining.
My puppy parties are free and pups under 4 1/2 months are welcome. Parties will be held most weekends through the winter at Pet Quarters in Windham.
January puppy parties will be held Saturdays at Noon. Other dates and times are subject to change.
Owners stay in the area with their pups, and play is strictly monitored.
Over on the on line yahoo group for fellow New England Border Collie rescuers, I have been asked to share some trick training tips to help get everyone through the winter. I figured you all are getting a bit stir crazy with all this snow and ice, so I will be sharing tips over here as well.
We got started when we viewed a You Tube video of Springtime, one of our more difficult placements. She was a Christmas puppy owner surrender from last year. She landed the perfect home in California with an agility competitor. We almost never allow out of area adoptions, but this dog burned through several foster homes with her high energy and reactivity to the world, and she really needed a very special working home to be happy.
If you ever wanted to teach your dog to ride a skateboard, it really isn't that hard. Many dogs in my tricks clinics pick it up in just a few sessions, but you have to lay the ground work first.
F irst the dogs need to be operant. That means the dog knows they have to do something to get something and we want to teach them to take risks. Unlike training in the old days where we commanded the dogs to work, dogs of today now learn how to "offer behaviors" and to be partners with us. This is carried out quite easily with a clicker, but you can use a marker word like "yes"!!
I can tell you that I am not a "purist" clicker trainer. I take short cuts (cheat!).
To get the dog interested in the box in the beginning, I use a dish towel in the box with treats underneath .This makes things move along much quicker. I am not saying you can not or should break down the behaviors into eenie meenie teenie steps, I am just saying, most of us don't have days to accomplish this first step.
Here are some more of my personal tips to get you started.
-Look at the box not your dog, and don't hand feed, but Click and toss the treat away from the box so they have to go back and interact with the box on their own free will.
-Do a little bit at a time- end the game before your dog gets bored.
-As your dog gets more and more interactive with the box, start to think of what it is that you want the dog to do. Stepping in it would be a great thing for future skateboard champs. Start to shape the behaviors you want.
-Don't be surprised if you dog starts whacking jumps and weave poles for a while when they get back into the agility ring. Don't let your dog see you laughing, and just ask them what you want again and then be sure to jackpot that, or you will have a swatting dog like Charlee.
-Don't be surprised if you come in your kitchen and see your dog standing in your recyclables like my Collie Finney! Again- no laughing!
-Once your dogs is offering behaviors at a lightning fast rate, you can still play the game for short durations, and the game ends when your pre-measured treats run out.
If you first start by rewarding your dog for interacting with the box, riding skateboards, ringing bells and easy buttons among many other tricks will be a breeze.
Next week after you all have been playing with your dog and the box for a little while, I will give you tips for skateboarding. In the meantime, check out Pete the Xtreme Skateboarding Jack Russell Terrier.
Too bad Pet Star is off the air, this dog is fantastic!
The sniglet contest in search of the perfect word for dog breath frozen on the inside of your vehicle is still on going.
This again serves as a warning that dog training is not a regulated industry.
I stress again that if someone is doing something to your dog that makes you uncomfortable, take your dog and go! Do not let it continue.
I never have and never will use shock collars and I even cringe when asked to help out dogs that are contained with electric fences. There was a time when I passed on all jobs having to do with electric containment, but now I will take jobs working with dogs who are having extreme behavior issues due to an electric fence. These can range from biting the mail man, to cowering in fear and being afraid to walk in their own yard. I will not help owners acclimate their dogs to a new fence. I have seen and know too much.
Personally I think the shift to a regulated industry is just around the corner. Many of us have seen the writing on the wall and have gone through national certification process. Admittedly the CPDT at the end of my name, is not the answer to the age old of question of abuse and other trainers using abusive methods certainly could acquire national certification as I did.
I clearly remember way back in the olden days when I applied to apprentice with a local trainer at a doggie day in Massachusetts. I had been doing group classes for several years and wanted to learn more about behavior cases. The job paid well and included being able to observe all private sessions and teaching on my own in short time.
During the second half of my interview, I was allowed to observe a training session. A young puppy entered with a typical stressed out puppy family complaining of the usual---nipping and jumping. The "trainer" (term used loosely) did just about everything I would never do. Even as a newbie, I knew much better. Her solution for nipping was spray a horrid lemon based CLEANING chemical in the pups mouth that got in his EYES! That pup could have gone BLIND and been POISONED! For jumping she kicked the pups hind legs out from under him making him crash to the floor. This "method" could have crippled this puppy for life as his growth plates were still developing. Not to mention this act could have lead to other behavior issues. It turned out, even way back then I had much more experience training than what turned out to be the day care owner's daughter.
I gave her a piece of my mind when the family left, and then called the MSPCA. Know what they told me? Dog training is an unregulated industry and these were accepted practices because there was no set standard of one way to do things. They begged me to file a report to have on file in case they got lots of other reports and told me they really couldn't do anything about it.
All I can say once again and much louder this time -
About the photo-
Warning extreme sarcasm alert-
Spur says-"hey! strap those electric collars on. Don't forget my nether region! Oh please, please, please spray me with toxic chemicals. Make sure you get my eyes. Oh, please please kick me and make me fall over.
Do it again! Do it again"!
I'm nursing a colorful bruise on my inner upper arm, where Finney, my 1 1/2 year old Smooth Collie nipped me hard, right after a wild karaoke induced romp in the living room. My two daughters and I had been singing (if you could call it that), dancing and rocking out to the Oxygen Channel Karaoke On Demand. Charlee loves to dance with us, and she was busting some serious moves. We got Sadie all hyped up and all the excitement must have put Finney into herding dog overload.
When Joan Jett's I love Rock and Roll ended, no sooner had I sat down on the couch than I felt a sharp nip on my arm. I screeched, pushed him away, and yelled at him to get out of the room. He got out all right---got out and stayed out.
How I wish I hadn't yelled at him!
Mr. Sensitive Collie Man relegated himself to a crate. It took several hours to get my Finney back and I am not yet sure of the lasting impression I made on the dog by overreacting to his over the top play. Even the power of cheese was no match for the trust I broke. He spent hours "hang dogging" just out my reach, looking all withdrawn and depressed.
Recently the discussion of hard and soft temperaments has been coming up in my group classes. I happen to have prime examples of both types living in my house. Charlee is the hard dog, and Finney is a classic example of a very soft dog. Make that mushy. For those of you that don't know, soft dogs are wonderful. They are super sensitive, and intuitive. They are usually a dream to teach to walk well on a loose leash and make super sweet pets. But the flip side may be a dog that is so sensitive, they may overreact to life's little challenges, and really be crushed by as much as a raised voice, or even a sharp look. Soft dogs may even get upset when you are upset for reasons that have nothing to do with the dog.
Generally soft dogs are very pressure sensitive and do not do well with any sort of corrections, but thrive with positive motivational training. Soft dogs have been know to shut down when asked to perform complex tasks. Collies fell out of favor as competition dogs many years ago because they didn't do well with harsh physical correction (aversive) training, but the breed is becoming more and more popular as they thrive with positive only training methods.
One of the challenges of living with the herding breeds, is that may nip when they get over stimulated. This is a big reason that many herding breeds do not do well in households with children. In Finn's case, there was nothing malicious about what he did. He had a momentary lapse into being the dog he was bred to be. If nipping continues I will view it more seriously, but for now I view it all as my fault. I should have managed him better, and most of all I should have tempered my anger. It is easy to get angry at dogs when they cross what we humans perceive as "the line." I can tell you now it doesn't do humans or dogs any good. No good at all.
If I had reacted exactly the same way with Charlee, she would have offered a dog apology with appeasement behaviors and then we would have made up within seconds. It is challenging for me to live with and train two dogs on complete opposite ends of the temperament spectrum, but Finn has taught me a lesson this weekend that I shall never forgot. Finney is back to being my buddy and I am back to treating him with kid gloves.
For now I am going to try to cut myself some slack.
To err is human, to forgive canine.
Doesn't he look sad with his Yoda ears on?
Read more on soft and hard dogs next month when A Dog's Life moves to the new pet section on MaineToday.com
Meet Jack. He is an American Brittany and a very nice pup.
Notice I didn't call him a Brittany Spaniel.
Brittany's are no longer members of the Spaniel family. I didn't know it either until puppy class last Saturday, and that is why I am posting his picture here. And because he looks like a candy cane with his splint on. He broke a toe when he was run over by his older sibling dogs on the way to the front door.
A few years back Brittany's were removed from the Spaniel class because they do not hunt like Spaniels. Brittany's point and Spaniels flush birds. Interesting!
Jack had to wait through one series of classes for his toe to heel, and he is now doing everything the other pups are doing in class except playtime. During play sessons, he just goes for a short walk. In Jack's class I also have 3 Field Springer pups all from working Champion lines and when all the owners get together, it can be hard for me to get a word in edgewise because they are all so into their pups. All four will be working dogs to varying degrees and I love working with them (and their people to)!
Maddie is in class with Jack. She will be hunting in no time and she is working hard on foundation skills which will help her in the hunt field.
Many dogs who come though class are more than pet dogs and often I need to adjust how I teach and what I teach to accommodate dogs with jobs. The working hunt dogs do things just a bit different from my pet pups, and that makes for interesting classes for me. Like it says in my bio, the more you know the more you know you don't know. People who love their breed and sport, also love to share information and I enjoy being their sponge.
Featured on “Dog Talk” -authors John Ross and Barbara McKinney
A rolled up newspaper can be an effective training tool when used properly.
For instance, use the rolled-up newspaper if your dog chews something or
has a housebreaking accident. Take the rolled-up newspaper and hit
yourself over the head as you repeat the phrase, "I FORGOT TO WATCH MY DOG,
I FORGOT TO WATCH MY DOG." If your dog laughs at you when you do this,
I found the link to the above gem over on Pet Connection.com yesterday. Gina has a brand new rescue dog who ate a peice of an old couch and a reader posted the link in agreement with her that the "incident" was her fault.
Growing up, my Dad used a rolled up newspaper on our dogs nose for chewing and housebreaking accidents.
We now know that the dogs of our youth learned many lessons in spite of, not because of our out dated training methods.
Me and my Golden Ginger circa 1973. Yes those are horses on my shirt.
In the last few weeks, I have been bombarded with ultrasonic pet solutions for barking dogs both on my welcome home pages and via direct marketing. The makers of these ultrasonic products claim it will solve both my barking dog problems and even stop my neighbor's dogs from barking. By emitting a noise only a dog can hear when they bark, the company claims the dog will find the product so annoying it will quiet them.
Beware direct marketers of the can of worms you may open when you fill my in box with crap.
My Freestyle demo to the song Locomotion at 12:30 was more than a bit sketchy in parts, but considering that Charlee has been out of work since mid July with a neck injury, and a badly cut ped,
she was more focused than I probably deserved. It was a lesson for fellow trainer Jenny Yasi and I on how to work our dogs under less than perfect conditions.
The very small ring was surrounded by dogs in very close proximity (always a challenge for my reactive dog) , and there were tons of treats littered on the ground where training sessions had been going on throughout the morning. Oh and did I mention the two horses that were ridden through the field that set off all the dogs barking mid way through my performance? Charlee kept her cool, but she was far from her peak. Me, I just had to laugh. What else could I do?
Recently I have begun to look at my Smooth Collie Finney in a new light. Some of you may know that I never thought the dog was very bright. Ok, I admit it, we all called him Forest Gump. Well I would like to amend that and offer a public apology to Finney. It was Jenny Yasi who pointed out to me that Finney is very much like a chemistry professor. He is methodical and maybe even a bit odd, but
there are lots of smarts under the nerdy exterior. Finney got his first 15 seconds of fame in the demo ring yesterday, where he was surprisingly flawless in a very short "How to get started in Freestyle demo". He breezed through target heeling, and several types of spins, and he even managed a bow at the end while offering total attention the entire time. Good boy Finney! Until very recently I didn't see him as a Freestyle prospect, but he is a gorgeous mover and his happy springy step makes him look like he is floating above the ground. Of course he is a much slower thinker than Charlee but I am (slowly) learning to adjust to that. He has a calm and cool disposition and is a very likable dog both with people and other dogs. Finn started his life with me very fearful, but we seem to have worked through most of that.
My dogs are like the tortoise and the hare and we all know that slow and steady won that race.
There were quite a few dogs who got to try agility for the very first time and I think a new crop of agility fanatics was born yesterday at Starline Farm.
Cudo's to Diana Logan CPDT for putting it all together.
While walking through a Portland neighborhood with a client, who just happens to be a huge muscular Pitbull/Mastiff rescue with a prior history of aggression and abuse, we came upon this dog fence running on an electric fence.
This dog is in FRONT of her fenced in yard. Apparently this family just lets the dog out the front door and the she runs the invisible fence line most of the day.
This is a recipe for disaster. Not only is the dog practicing unwanted OCD behaviors all day, but one of these days I can guarantee she will charge the wrong dog. Dogs out walking do not understand that the other dogs have invisible boundaries. If the dog on the electric fence gets zapped, over time she will make bad associations with approaching dogs and people, and it will lead to aggression. Notice I didn't say can, but in this case, I met a time bomb. Legally I am pretty sure that the dog is on city property and technically breaking the leash law.
To make matters worse, she lives on a corner lot!
Had we approached from the other angle and had that dog come running around the corner at us at full speed, as she always does, there may have been a serious dog fight-and no doubt public sentiment would have been against my client, the Pitty, who was just minding his own business. My client reacted better(or should I say DIDN"T react), than either one of my dogs would have under those circumstances. Thankfully she didn't stick around to meet and greet us and continued on her frenzied way.
I will never understand the need for people to have their electric fences run down to the street. If you feel the need to use electric fences, and no I don't like them, why on earth would anyone allow their unsupervised dog access to the sidewalk and near a road?
When we were walking back home, we were just about to cross the street to avoid the lab's property when she came snarling and growling at us from inside the wooden fence. That did set my client's dog off, but he was easily redirected. That Lab spends all day in a high state of arousal and she is time bomb.
If my client's dog had bit her nose through the fence, whose fault would it have been?
A local vet I know wired the front of his house like half a figure eight. If case the dogs get out the front door, they have a small space in which they can get in to the back yard. That makes quite a bit more sense to me than this!!!
A few years back I had a foster dog here over night. My son was walking her on my street when my neighbors let their 2 dogs out who are both on electric fences. The two dogs barreled around the house and came charging at my foster dog full tilt and a dog fight ensued. I love my neighbors, and their dogs and I still feel really bad about the fight, but technically my dog was on leash minding her own business and she was attacked. The foster dog nearly killed one of the neighbor's dogs with a bite near an artery, and to this day he walks with a limp. The rescue paid the other dog's vet bill, but we could not place the dog due to the fight, and she was returned to the family. I agonized over putting that dog to sleep due to the severe damage she inflicted to my neighbor's dog. Families relinquishing dogs do not always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and we wil never know if she had a prior history of dog fighting, but in the end, we felt she deserved another chance due to the electric fence circumstances.
Let today's blog serve as a reminder that dogs do not understand that OTHER dogs are behind an invisible barrier and you need to supervise your dogs!
In many ways dogs are like toddlers-left to their own devices, they make bad choices.
I am pleased to announce that I have joined the writing staff over at Itchmo.com - news for cats, dogs and pet owners. Itchmo is a relatively new site that has grown in leaps and bounds in the wake of the pet food recall, where they did an absolutely incredible job of keeping us all up to date. By adding several more writers to their already top notch staff, they hope to soon have the number one place for pet parents on the web.
In addition to blogging here on a A Dog's Life I will be writing weekly in depth articles on training and behavior for Itchmo.com. My very first article is posted today! Those of you who have trained with me will recognize it as a slightly changed version of your Attention handout.
For the rest of you, if you ever thought about trying clicker training, teaching your dog to love their name, or just wanted a little more attention from your dog, my Attention article is a great place to begin.
In this photo Charlee looks more like a Halloween cat than a dog.
I posted this photo a few days back and asked you all to tell me what Charlee's body language was saying.
The dog is clearly uncomfortable and she has piloerectus. Now you all go wash your brains out with soap! While piloerectus is a funny word, it just means that her that her fur is sticking up. Fur sticking up is not always a sign of aggression, although it sure can be. It is the human equivalent of human skin prickles, but if I didn't know Charlee and came upon her, I would not get close.
Dogs use piloerectus to make themselves appear bigger and therefor more of a threat. Notice her tail is up and over her back like a warning flag. In this photo Charlee has puffed herself up all the way down to the base of her tail, to send a message to Chase the foster dog that she was not comfortable with him and he needs to stay away.
If you took your up to a dog that was presenting a posture like the one Charlee is sporting in the photograph, there is a good chance that a fight would ensue. In this case, the foster dog had attacked her the day before and she was using her body language to clearly tell him to back off.
In this photo taken only 1 week later, Charlee is relaxed.
For a very long time I have been meaning to take pictures of Charlee hitting the Staples Easy button. I teach a monthly tricks clinic, and I wanted to add the photo to the Gooddogz Training School for Performing Arfs portion of my web site. Hitting the Easy Button is a trick that everyone loves to learn and it is not that difficult to teach, although a butler bell with a button on top is actually easier because the dogs don't have to touch the bell as hard to make a sound.
I love my new digital camera, but the few second delay can get really annoying and it was quite a bit more difficult to capture Charlee and the Easy button than I thought it would be.
I got lots of really cute pictures like this one of the dog
just after she hit the Easy button in a play bow expectedly awaiting her treats and praise.
Mostly I got a lots of blurry total photo misses, that I won't bore you with, but we did get a few decent shots.
Charlee soon got bored, rolled on her back and played dead to let me know she had just about enough. What we ended up with was (what I find hilarious) pictures that I just submitted to stuffonmymutt.com
Rule number one of trick training. Take what your dog gives you and run with it! Some of the world's best dog tricks were the dog's idea. It is much easier to put a trick on cue that your dog enjoys and offers to you, then to teach something totally foreign.
Now if I can just teach Finney to hit the Easy Button resting on Charlee's belly, we would really have something.
Gratuitous puppy clients-The doesn't it make you want one edition.
It is nearly impossible for me to walk into a room of puppies without exclaiming "These are the cutest puppies I have ever seen!" To which my new students always reply "I bet you say that to every class", and how could that not be true?
At the Peaks Island Common Hound Fair, one of the classes in the fun dog show was for puppies under 6 months. The class was called, "Puppies that most make you want one". Guess what, all the pups won!
Below are some really cute photos of my puppy clients. All were taken in the last month except the one of the Aussie on her bed.
Jade on her first night of school
All the puppies in this blog are under 3 months old. Do not wait to start training your puppy! Puppies are genetically programmed to learn about the world until approximately 4 1/2 months of age. At that time very important socialization windows close forever.
A young puppy is very impressionable! Puppies who get off to a great start with training and proper socialization learn what is safe and what is not. Many behavior problems like aggression and fearful behavior won't have a chance to develop if you raise your puppy right.
Be aware that all training and socialization programs are not the same! Do your research, observe before trusting someone with your puppy. Your puppy will hopefully be with you for the next 15 years! Work early to help give your pup a solid foundation.
Be advised that training and socialization is much more than
just STICKING YOUR PUPPY IN A PLAY GROUP and letting things take their course. A well run puppy play group is very strictly monitored.
Be warned that if your dog is frightened, bullied, or learns
to be the bully, puppy play groups can do more harm than good. A good number of my aggressive clients went to play groups every weekend.
If I hear one more time..."but we thought we were doing everything right. We went to playgroup every weekend, where Precious played with at least 30 pups", I may become physically ill.
I was bummed out that I had to cancel my training appointment with Clio this morning. Instead I will have to get by with the is great picture I shot when I was last at her home.
Clio - a rescue Whippet/ Pit cross. Good dog Clio!
While surfing my photo album, I just couldn't leave out Maggie. She is newly adopted Golden,and I shot this picture in class the day we learned, that she does indeed like kids! Maggie's Mom submitted this to photo Caninekisses.com
And last but not least is 10 month old Hunter. He is the new service dog in training for a 4 year old boy with Autism. He will be coming to my house soon for a brief stay. So far he is working out great. There will be lots more about Tucker coming up just as soon as I get to know him better.
Recently I posted about how dogs have a big thing about space. Space is an important resource to a dog. "Top dogs", older dogs and dogs who understand doggie etiquette well, don't as a general rule appreciate their space being invaded. That pretty much sums up what Charlee is all about.
When Sadie the wonderful puppy was here, Muttlover asked to see pictures of Sadie with my two other dogs. I snapped a lot of photos, and mostly captured big blurs. I got plenty pictures of Finn and my kids and the puppy, but Charlee was not very interested in hanging around with her. Don't get me wrong, Charlee tolerated the puppy, but like an irritable aunt who gives the diapering chore to a younger cousin, it really wasn't her thing.
I don't think Charlee's idea of the pup is more clear than in these two photographs. Can you see the force field?
In the photos you can clearly see Charlee using her "energy" to keep the puppy away. In the first photo Sadie seems to be saying "Hey wanna play"? But in the second, taken only seconds later, she seems to be saying "yes maam, I meant you no disrespect maam."
Puppies can learn a lot from what is often referred to as a "seasoned bitch". A seasoned bitch is a dog who is good with pups, won't hurt them, yet teaches them all the rules. Guess we got that one covered.
Quite a few readers asked me to write about how we humans can use our own need for personal space in training dogs and asked for help especially in dealing with unruly dogs. That was a great question and one that I will write an in depth article about just as soon as I work on my summer a little bit first.
Here it looks like Finney is about to eat the puppy, but he is clearly smiling and enjoying their play time. She is letting him know that he getting too rough and Sadie used her body language to chill him out a bit.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that we cared for Brewster the Golden Retriever in our home for most of last winter while his family was away. Brew had Lymphoma, and it was a very difficult time for myself and my family as we helped Brew pass on to the bridge. Brew had been a long time client of mine,and I worked with him since he was a pup to help him fulfill his role as resident therapy dog in the nursing homes that his family own in Massachusetts.
During Brews last weeks I could be heard muttering under my breath..."they better not get another dog! I won't take care of another one of their dogs. If they get another dog they better find themselves another trainer". And so on and so on.
Anyway, much in the same way that you forget the pain of childbirth, we are thrilled that they got another golden and that Sadie is visiting with us this weekend for the very first time. She is three months old and a bundle of sweetness.
She is just what we needed.
Yes they are baby rats. Finney has been learning the ever important lesson...We don't eat family members! He has a high prey drive and he is obviously not to be trusted near them for a while. Finn was way too interested when they first arrived 2 weeks ago, but we have worked on quite a few self control, calming exercises in the presence of the rats, and he has become more directed at food when the rats come out, then the rodents themselves. Got to love classical conditioning. The rats are a precursor to Finney that something good will happen when they appear. In Finn's case this usually happens to be in the form of cheese. Thank you Pavlov! It is very important to train Finn to ignore the rats, as kids are kids and they are quite likely to forget that dogs are dogs. Charlee on the other hand, while a card carrying prey stocker of the canine kind, will not touch them as she truley understands that we don't eat family members. After all in the dog's world, the rats are our resource, not theirs.
I have said for years that I am not rodent ready, but my kids won me over when they printed out all sorts of interesting articles on clicker training rats.
In the not too distant future I hope to be blogging our
We have already begun basic training and both rats are very smart. Interesting to note that Ice is the calm, outgoing, and social one and Onion is more nervous, shy and timid, and she likes women more than men, which is very much like having two puppy littermates. And just like having littermate pups in the same household, Onion will need lots more handling, socializing, training, and much more one on one time away from her sibling if she is ever to overcome this. Lucky for her, we have lots of rat trainers in this house. Our rat's breeder keeps telling me over and over that they can learn anything dogs can and that some can even be litter trained.
We have already introduced a clicker to them just to get them used to the noise, in conjunction with the kids giving them special treats. And just like pups, they are extremely food motivated. But unlike puppies, rats have a very strong "explore" drive , so it will be a challenge to learn how to redirect that.
For the record it took the kids years to get me rodent ready, and the rats sceeve me out, especially their long rat tails. But I do (kind of) like the rats and the rats really seem to like me. I would like them much better with a docked tail - like little mini rat pugs. Of course it would be cruel to dock a rat's tail- (or any tail!) and I am not advocating that by any means, and I would NEVER do such a thing, but I can dream right?
I can still hear the echo's of , but "come on Mom...please....you can train a rat to do anything a dog can do and you can write about it"....sigh, my kids sure got my number.
File under - what I did for love.
Sandara Davis and Pepper showcase one of the best freestyle routines to Achy Breaky Heart that I have ever seen. Pepper passed this spring at the age of 13. Most anyone interested in Freestyle has watched Sandra and Pepper's training videos over and over and over again.
"It wouldn't be fair to get another Border Collie (my heart is a "shrine" to Pepper)".
Click here to see their great routine on You Tube.
If you have gotten out and about this last week, chances are you have already seen the great poster for this years 7th Annual Rotti Spring Stroll rescue event being held Saturday at Camp Ketcha. This is a big fund raising event for North East Rotti Rescue, as well as for all rescues attending who will be holding their own separate fundraiser's and walkathons.
There will be contests, canine demonstrations, silent auction, and special guests, to include: Flyball Demo from The Maine Coast Runners, Canine Freestyle, Drafting Demo, Scarborough Police K9 Team
Dominick the Trick-Performing Rottweiler, Linda Verville and Melissa Pelletier, author and illustrator of For Pete’s Sake, WMTW/Channel 8’s morning anchor Rachael Ruble will be at the Stroll from 11am – 2pm, Child/Dog Safety Demonstration, Slugger the Portland Sea Dog’s Mascot,
Animal Communicator Louise Poppema, and
2007 Mrs. Maine United States, Kristin Centeras well as lots of rescues and vendors. This is a good chance to learn more about different breeds, and maybe even add a new dog to your family.
This is the first time out performing an entire Freestyle routine in public for me and Charlee. Our previous Freestyle experience consists of watching a lot of freestyle videos together, and bopping around the living room floor to really loud music. Charlee is coming off a sore back leg muscle and hopefully will be ready to rock this weekend. We just choreographed a whole new routine to the song Locomotion. Performing in front of so many people this weekend has me a little nneeerrrvvooouuuus. Can you hear my knees knocking? Charlee loves Freestyle and hopefully, we can both keep it together. Our goal is to get people excited about the sport, and stay in the unfenced ring (insert smile here).
Hat # 2
There will be a Child Safety Demo at 1:30 and Charlee and I are waiting to hear if we are needed to fill in.
After 11:00 I will be manning a table for New England Border Collie Rescue.
North East Rottweiler Rescue & Referral Inc.'s
Spring Stroll 2007 - Walk For Rescue
Saturday, May 19, 2007 (Rain or Shine)
336 Black Point Road
Scarborough, ME 04074
10 AM - 3 PM
Directions to the Park
From the Maine Turnpike (I-95), take EXIT 42 toward US-1/SCARBOROUGH
Merge onto HAIGAIS PKWY. 1.4 miles
Turn LEFT onto US-1. 1.3 miles
Turn RIGHT onto BLACK POINT RD
Drive 2.8 miles, Camp Ketcha is on your left.
Charlee will be doing the Locomotion "Freestyle" with me At 1:00 pm
The disturbing story linked below has been circulating on all my doggie group lists all week to very heated discussions. It is a fairly biased account of the charges against Ami Moore, the self proclaimed Chicago Dog Whisperer. Amy is charged with cruelty by excessive force - applying shock collars to the neck and groin area of her canine clients.
I have decided to post it here, not as a "presumed guilty" but as an eye opener to the consumer that all dog trainers are not created equal, and that dog training is a buyer beware industry.
We (trainers) are currently a self regulated industry, and just about anyone can say they are a dog trainer.
If your trainer is doing something to your dog that makes you uncomfortable. Speak up! If you are paying for your dog to be trained in your absence, you had better be very sure about the trainer's methods.
If you are looking for a dog trainer who uses only positive methods try the Truly Friendly dog trainers list for a trainer in your area. Those of us on this list have pledged to train force free. Also on this page are links to wonderful articles on force free training. Check them out!
The American Humane Association and Suzanne Hetts, PhD offer the following recommendations and precautions for owners to take in choosing a dog trainer.
1. Get a referral from your veterinarian. Don't randomly sign up for just any training class. (Ask for references from past students. Check the mission statements of any training organizations where the trainer belongs.)
2. Observe a class. Visit the class without bringing your pet. Are the dogs and people having fun? Talk to some of the participants after class. If the trainer won't let you visit, don't enroll.
3. Stick together. Avoid trainers who want to train your dog without you. You and your dog are both essential in developing a well-trained companion. During a session, don't allow a trainer to work with your dog unless he or she tells you exactly what's going to happen.
4. Look for treats. Avoid trainers who won't use food as a training reward. Food is a powerful positive training tool that works with most dogs. It also makes training and learning fun.
5. Think positive. A trainer should use other positive rewards, such as play, for good behavior. Clicker training is an approach that's gaining popularity; it involves pairing the sound of a hand clicker with something the dog loves. Soon, the sound itself becomes a remarkably effective reward for good behavior.
6. Avoid guarantees. They're a sign that a trainer doesn't understand the complexities of a dog's behavior and individual needs.
7. Shun cruel collars. Stay away from trainers who insist you use a choke chain or prong collar. There are now many humane alternatives such as head halters. Shock collars should be avoided. If, during training, you have any doubts about the way your pet is being treated, tell the trainer to stop.
I love getting pictures of clients and I had to share this photo. On the far couch is Jerry, an Italian Greyhound who is only about 8 months old. In the foreground is his three year old Great Dane sister Mabel and I have had the honor of working with both dogs. Mabel recently passed her AKC Canine Good Citizen test and Jerry is currently in my CGC class working towards his. As you can imagine, their human really needs to switch gears when working with each dog.
Jerry's current challenge is the first three parts of the test where he has to sit for petting. He is a sweet excitable boy. They are doing a great job of teaching him that rewards only come when he is firmly planted. Many people teach agility start line stays in this way and we have really found it works for Jerry.
And Mabel, despite her great size is a big baby. The three minute out of sight stay is where she had the biggest challenge, but she passed with ease.
Way to go Mabel!
In case you were wondering, the two dogs play incredibly well together.
My clients usually don't believe me when I tell them that their puppy is the cutest puppy ever. I swear I mean it at the time when I say it. I mean, come on...I work with the very cutest of the cute every day. Not unlike premier chocolates, my client's pups are my very favorites...when I am with them.
But Gracie's humans, a lovely retired couple from Standish, do believe me when I tell them that Gracie is the cutest puppy ever. They are hopelessly in love with her. Being of "advanced age" (their words, not mine!) , they recognize that they need lots of direction with this puppy, who, by the way is a major league spitfire. She has tons of energy.
Yesterday was our second in home session and as seen in the picture, we are working on relaxation techniques, and of course nipping. But but mostly we play hide and seek and she flies around the house trying to find us. When she does find us, she melts into a moosh of wriggles and delight. I am telling you, she is totally adorable. Hide and seek is a great game to help dogs and pups get their ya ya's out, and this pup has an extra dose of the ya-ya's!
To prove my point that cuteness runs rampant in my line of work, check out 9 week old Rosie - who fell asleep at the end of her first class today.
"Rose" and I took a training jaunt over to the food court at Maine Mall today. Here we are on the way in.
Here she is waiting for my sushi order.
And here she is hard at work on today's lesson, the ever important chill command.
When "Rose" eventually accompanies children at the hospital clinic to their office visits and procedures, "Rose" will be expected to just chill for long periods of time. We worked lots of meeting and greetings, and as I expected there were a few food surprises awaiting us on the floor, but she did great job at leaving each and every one. I can report that would not have been the case 2 months ago. uh uh, no way!
For a while there I thought "Rose" might even wash out of the program for thievery and general bad behavior. Somehow, I forget to mention that I awarded "Rose" November's Bad Dog Award, after she decided play tug-war with a clothe swag in her home. Problem was, there was a 20 inch TV sitting on said swag at the time and you guessed, "Rose" broke the television set!
Many of Rose's problem behaviors practically disappeared with the addition of a full life outside of the office that includes a new "Mom". Sarah has done a super job of tiring "Rose" out each day before work. They awake at about 5 AM and play for about an hour in the morning with two other dogs. Go Sarah!!!!
And here is a picture I shot of "Rose" during one of our training sessions at the clinic a few weeks ago. She is innately sweet and wonderful with small children.
Two years ago when I started writing this blog (Happy Birthday A Dog's Life!) I spoke to the previous editor of Maine Today and asked him if I could write an article on why I was appalled at the National Geographic show The Dog Whisperer. This was two years ago and well before anyone had come publicly forward to do so. At first the answer was yes, but when we spoke again and I told him that the network would not be pleased and may sue us, he said he had to think about it. I worked hard on the article, and sent it to many friends and trainers to review and they all told me it needed to be read by the masses. But in the end, I chickened out. Although I do have freedom of the press, the risk of a law suit was overwhelming, and I was still a neebie at writing. While my blog on Mr Milan was still in the discussion phase, Pat Miller wrote an article on the subject for Bark magazine, that pretty much mirrored everything I had written so I decided to drop it. Just for the record, I do not have an editor as such and Maine Today never actually did forbid it, but the whole thing was just so dicey at that time, I took the easy way out, with my tail firmly tucked between my legs. There was also the chance that my blog would be canceled because of the article, and I bowed out for the greater good. In the last two years I have helped a lot of people and a lot of dogs and I wasn't ready to take that kind of risk.
So here it is two years later and I fell asleep last night watching (and cringing) to Dog Whisperer week on the National Geographic Channel. Oh brother, an entire week,of people sitting home playing arm chair trainer!
Some trainers think the show is good for the training biz industry. It shows the public that hiring a trainer can help them. Not me! Many force trainers embraced Cesar as a sort of second coming and dog training took a step back 20 years as more and more owners and trainers once again accepted force methods in training their dogs. People you do not have to use force and intimidation to train a dog. You relationship will ultimately suffer for it .
I am seeing fall out from the show. Lots of fall out. While we (trainer types) all universally agree that many of what Milan says is good info, there is nothing earth shattering about exercise, consistency and treating your dog as a canine and not a child. You can find this info in any training book or article.
What I do object to is the use of the force. I object to making force look so easy. Can you say EDIT? What I object strongest to is the use of force in working with shy and fearful dogs and the over use of force in showing electric shock, alpha rolls, and hanging on TV. All three of things would have gotten me fired when I taught at a Chain Pet Store many moons ago. Yet here it is on TV with Joe America trying it at home.
Guess what, I am seeing fall out and Dead dogs. You read right dead dogs. In the last 6 months alone, I have been called to homes where the owners or even worse, well meaning friends of the owners have practiced some of this and guess what, they got bit, or inadvertently got a child bit or a visitor not well known to the dog.
I am going to end it here and post a list from Dr. Rolan Tripp's web page listing a dozen articles written by educated people in the know of why force training is not the end all. Did you know that Cesar calls himself a dog behaviorist, but in order to actually be one you need to go to Vet school and get a PHD??? That is one of many things that burns trainers and behaviorists who have spent years studying their craft. Force training takes dog training back 20 years. No it is not still around because it works, it is still around, because people like to dominate, and get quick results. Guess what? Quick results are just that, quick results, They are not ultimate solutions and most people are not capable of doing things the Cesar Way. He has impeccable timing and how many times have you seen him bit on TV? What do you think that does for the dog owner's insurance policy by the way?
There is a big push by parents and trainer groups to add a P G-13 rating to the show because kids are rolling and correcting their dogs and putting themselves at risk using techniques seen on TV. I have seen this first hand as well. I don't let my own kids watch the show.
Dog training has evolved with the use of science! We clicker trainers actually use scientific data to back up what we teach. Did you know that? Did you know that most positive trainers and clicker trainers are cross over trainers? That means that we USED to use force and have found a much better way to teach our animals. It has been many years since I recommend a choke or a pinch collar to a client and it was only because the owners were infirm and weak.
about the photo
Thank you Suzan Morris for emailing me pictures from the Freestyle clinic. Take a look at my dogs face, expression and overall demeanor. I think this picture illustrates a dog who is a willing partner enjoying her work. Can any one name a Dog Whisperer episode where a dog looks this happy and willing to work? Come to think of it, have you ever seen him teach the Come command?
Just a reminder that Charlee is a rescue dog with deep routed fears of other dogs, and she can be reactive. Yet here she is working happily in a room with about 40 other dogs.
How did this come about? It took a lot of time, patience and positive reinforcement. It took science and classical and operant conditioning.
Best Trick of the week. No make make that best trick of the month.
All I did was "capture" her stretch and then "lure" her head back. Now she "offers" Doga to the delight of everyone at the hosptial where she is in training to be a therapy dog for children.
I got a lot of positive feedback about how much you all enjoyed taking the Penn State Behavior questionnaire yesterday. If you liked that one, here is another much shorter one to try. This one does not distinguish between human and canine elicited responses. There is an on line version, just scroll down to the middle of the page. At the end of the test you will get the results of your dog's drive. Drive being what motivates your dog, such as...
The test will help you to distinguish the following:
Prey drive, pack drive, defense fight, and defense flight.
Your dog's natural drive will influence how you train them, ie toys, food, play, work. When I attended the Carolyn Scott Freestyle clinic she had us do an interesting test. We had to put our treats and toys away and we had one minute to find other ways to motivate our dogs to work for us. In competition of any dog sport there is no food and no toys allowed. Some people ran, and jumped and changed directions. Others blew in their dogs face, and some played a gentle shoving type game to name a few. I played a very successful mouth oriented got your feet game that Charlee and I often play. Originally I worked with her on that to help her to learn bite inhibition, since she didn't have it when we adopted her at 9 months. By the way it is not proven that bite inhibition can be taught after puppy hood, but I have given it my best shot and believe that she is much improved with the exercises we have done over the years and I no longer have bruises to prove it!
Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire
Penn State is conducting a very interesting on line canine behavior study. The more dogs that participate in the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire, the more accurate the results will be.
At the end of the 5 minute survey, you will receive your dogs results.
I think it is a very worthwhile way to spend 5 mintues. Click here to take the test.
There aren't many Freestyle competitions in the Northeast (or country for that matter), but one day soon, Charlee and I will be out there strutting our stuff and incorporating lots of things that we learned at the Carolyn Scott Freestyle seminar this weekend.
If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that like many of you, I have a dog reactive dog. This weekend, Charlee left her snarks at the front door and acted pretty much like a normal dog. She was so good in fact that at the end, I became just a tad emotional and shed a hidden tear in her scruff because I was so overtaken at how far she has come. I am thrilled with how far she has come in training, our bond, and her overall performance level. I still am in awe that she recovered from her horrible bout with Pancreatitis. It was all just a bit overwhelming. It kind of felt like one of my human kid's graduation. She has come that far. I joke with all my students that trainers have amazing "kitchen" dogs to. We are finally ready to take our act out of the kitchen and into the fire.
Charlee strutted her stuff with lots of drive and enthusiasm and even grabbed quite a bit of (cued) big air along the way.
If we never do compete that is ok as long as she continues to love what she is doing.
As for Carolyn, what a sweet woman! We were truly inspired by her. Charlee and I were far from precision perfect, but we got tons of encouragement for having fun, and a good attitude.
One of the key parts of the weekend, was matching music to dogs. When it was our turn, I first tried the music we had been playing around with, Pocket Full of Kyptonite by the Spin Doctors. The music got a big, "Sorry"! from Carolyn and the attendees. We then tried several songs and ended up with this Spanish Flea by the Tijuana Brass Band. You all may know it from the Newlywed Game!!! Let me tell you I was blown away and NEVER would have come to that song if left to my own brain cells. Carolyn picked that song to showcase not only my dogs natural gait, but her humorous side. She totally got that me and the dog both have a good sense of humor. Picking the right song can make or break a routine and having my song picked by one of the top Freestylers in the world ain't too shabby!
Carolyn is a very warm person, both with dogs and with people and it comes across in how she handles, trains and teaches. I got a lot of it the weekend, and my head is spinning with new moves to teach not only my dogs, but clients dogs as well.
Sniff, sniff, wipe tears from my key board, and blow my nose and
repeat several times during the 5 minutes of footage.
I suppose I am may be extra sensitive to Goldens with only a short time left on the planet now that Brewster is staying here for a while, but that clip is a powerful piece of doggie love.
Rookie has done more to promote Canine Freestyle than any other dog. I think both clips bring out emotions in animal lovers because the human canine bond is so very evident and strong.
I LLLOOOVVVEEE that all her training is 100 % positive.
For sure we will be doing Freestyle at my monthly tricks clinic this Saturday.
has lymphoma. I found out today when his owner called me from Massachusetts to see if Brew could come and stay with me for a while when they go away.
His vet gave him 2-6 months to live and he is at the 6 month mark. They didn't feel right about having him stay any where else. My house has been his second home since he was about 1 1/2 years old.
How could I say no? Brew and I have a huge history together.
Images of me being the one who may inevitably have to bring him on his last trip to the vets raced through my head, neck and neck with the scene of my crushed kids balling their eyes out.
I was telling an infamous Brewster story just the other day to some of the staff at the facility where "Rose" (not her real name-she is owned by a local hospital) will one day work as a therapy dog with kids. "Rose" now a full blown adolescent is trying just about everyone's patience these days and they revealed in my "bad Brew" stories.
Brewster is owned by a family who own multiple nursing homes and he was purchased to be the resident therapy dog. Only trouble was Brew had other ideas and most of them involved breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and of course party time.
The day I was called to be his trainer, an ambulance had come to transport a resident to the hospital. The EMT's stopped in the office to check in where then 9 month old Brew hung out most of the time. Brew jumped up, grabbed the blanket off the gurney and tore off through the double doors (where he was not allowed on his own). The staff said it was like something out of a Disney movie, with people falling, and food flying. No one could catch him as he careened out of control. Up and down stairways, down hallways, in and out of rooms, knocking over most everything in his way, while shredding the blanket and having one hell of a game of tug of war with any and all who tried to get it from him.
The EMT's had to return to their facility to get another set of blankets that were sterilized by their own company, and word spread about the bad dog to area nursing homes and Ambulance companies alike.
I did a 6 week program at the facility to start and returned many times over the years for tune ups. Brew was a big time opportunist (insert thief) , as any dog with ample opportunity learns to be.
He started to come to our apartment for in home training shortly after Charlee arrived. My two young kids were taught to stay on the couch so as not to get knocked over by the young dogs wild play.
He is coming the day after Thanksgiving and I have prepared my kids as best I can for the inevitable. All of us are grateful that we will be able to say goodbye. His owners traveled quite a bit over the years and I have spent more holidays with Brewster than I have spent with some of my own family. He continued to come stay with us most of every winter, even after we moved to Maine. He is like my own dog,and he is part of my family.
It sure doesn't seem fair that at only 7 years old when he is finally fulfilling his role as resident therapy dog, his life is cut short.
I will never forget the first day he earned his keep. A woman with Alzheimer's had just been admitted and she had been removed from her home by her family because she could no longer care for herself. I was called upstairs with Brew to try to help to settle her down. She was distraught, disoriented, getting more and more agitated and she had convinced herself that she left the stove on and had to go home right away. The woman looked like my own Mom, (which was totally freaking me out) and her daughters were
overwhelmed with stress and grief. Brew sat down next to her, and she started to stroke him and then like magic, she totally relaxed. For a moment we all glimpsed her former self. Brew and I walked her to new room and helped to settle her into bed.
She fell asleep petting him. It was amazing. Really amazing.
Her daughters bought Brew a huge supply of doggie treats.
I could go and on, ( and on and on!) but I will stop here and write more about Brewster soon.
Several months ago, I started to hear the buzz about the new Triple Crown Everlasting Treat Ball. People were telling me how much their dogs loved them and how long they lasted. I started to recommend them to my clients, and all the feed back has been quite positive.
I told clients it sounded like a Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobb Stopper for dogs.
The other day I was surfing products over at Clean Run and their web site claimed it kept their own power chewers busy for several hours. That was good enough for me and I bought one last night. Neither one of my dogs would be considered power chewers.
I bought the extra large size in hopes that I could leave it in the car with my young collie Finney, and that the treat ball would keep him from possibly munching on my seatbelts and other parts of my brand new Mini Van interior.
They are a bit pricey at close to $25.00 for one ball with two treat inserts, but I thought if it safely keeps dogs busy for several hours per treat ball as claimed, it was well worth it.
On the way home I opened the package and filled it with several kinds of treats and gave it to Charlee. She got the treats out in less than 20 seconds and sniffed the ball around and was not interested. When I got home I gave it to Finn and he went wild for it.
After a few minutes Finn got it a bit wet, then Charlee stole it and went into a sort of obsessed, crazed, drugged like frenzy trying to get the obviously delectable treat ball out. Which she did in under 4 minutes. I looked over and she was chewing the ball which to my disappointment, was not even a ball but size of a quarter of a ball. The marketing on the package is deceiving. She guarded the treat (only 1/4 of a ) ball from me but I was afraid she would swallow it, and I carefully pried it away from her. I then put it back in the middle of the treat ball holder and it took her all of another 6 minutes to get it back out. She worked at in a bit of a comical frenzy, and ultimately bit down and pushed it out through the other end. Once out she chewed the 1/4 ball in under 60 seconds, swallowing a large piece before I could get it from her.
If there wasn't a "back door" she may not have been able to pry it out so easily. I thought this was also misleading in the packaging. It appears to have one side for a treat ball and another for a treat pocket, or second ball, but there is a hole in the middle where they can intersect. Why I wonder? The idea of having a chew toy in a ball appealed to me, but only if the dog could not get the chew toy out!
We gave another to Finn who worked on it and chewed it as it was intended, but I no longer feel comfortable recommending them after Charlee nearly swallowed it whole. Finn liked the ball even without anything in it, but let's face it, young dogs are not very discriminating and Finney equally likes socks, tissue and milk cartons as do most young dogs.
We tried a variety of treats in the back pocket and even Finn got them out in less than a minute.
And ok I will admit that Charlee is a clever herding dog, bred to solve problems, but this is not one that I will chance her solving again, and I won't take the chance that any visiting dogs may either.
To make matters worse, while they were playing with it, bits of scented smelly goo got on the area where they were chewing it, and both dogs went back and had I not intervened they would have destroyed several kid's toy trying to get to it. The toys were in the corner by the bed and they obviously had been scented and spattered with bits of the treat ball. One pop up learning letter toy in particular had sort of eaten a few pieces into it's parts and the dogs were more than ready to tear it apart to get the teeny bits out.
I now know to never use one in the car, the main reason I bought it.
Last night I started teaching at a new location, The Brown Dog Inn in Freeport. It is the kind of place that any dog lover would walk into and wonder, why don't I live here? Which is of course is just what I wonder whenever I am there.
I give a huge and hearty congratulations to my friend Holly, who is the proud new owner of the Brown Dog Inn. Situated on 10 acres, The Inn was built only a few years ago and went under the name of Queen Sparkle. Tragically the previous owner who constructed the Inn, died of cancer before the business was open for very long.
A hearty shout out to Chuck, who has graduated from his foster mom Karen and moved on to the prison program. Also entering the NEADS program is Casey, one of Finn's littermates, who I hope to hear great things about soon. Interesting to note that Casey attended day care and boarding with Holly at the Inn and in her home, before the Inn opened.
It sure was hard not keeping Casey myself when he was returned to the breeder for personal reasons. This is the second puppy that Finn's breeder has donated to NEADS.
Way to go Amy!
My goodness I am a bit of a cheerleader today, but how can I not be when I am surrounded by good people doing great things.
Here is a sweet photo that Karen sent me of Chuck's last day with her. She said " I spent 3 hrs in MA with Chuck that day. I think it helped me. I only cried a little as I handed him over & watched Kerry lead him around the corner of the building & on to the next chapter in his life".
Well done Karen!!!
Ooops, I forgot to mention that the The Brown Dog Inn is a great place for cats to.
All the talk about Cabelas
coming to Maine sent me to their web site to see what they had to offer. Of course I clicked the pet section and nearly fell off my chair to find 84 different ways to shock a dog.
EIGHTY FOUR-I counted!
Call it what you will, but it is still painful. I will grudgingly admit to a small number of trainers who use shock collars successfully and humanely with their bird dogs, but I also submit that there are far more people ruining dogs by using too much force than their are people using shock collars safely, humanly and effectively. Field work is the one area of dog training that has not embraced positive training and the top field champions are pretty much all trained with varying degrees of aversive techniques. Of course there are purely positive trainers out their in the hunting world, but they have not achieved the level of notoriety, success and championships as their aversive method using counter parts.
Please don't write to tell me how wonderful your dog is with his shock collar. This is my POSITIVE dog blog and I will delete your comment. In this instance, I have the power to do that and I will. If you are a humane shock collar trainer, this blog is not aimed at you.
This blog is aimed at the frustrated dog owner who will see 84 shock items on line, or in a store and may take what they think is the easy route to training. There is no such thing and your relationship with your dog will surely suffer. I can't even count how many burnt out gun dogs I have helped to rehabilitate. These dogs come to me as shells of a dog, too afraid to even move for fear of when the next shock is coming.
It is sad, and I hate it.
I am a member of the ever growing Truly Dog Friendly trainers and we pledge to never use anything but positive methods.
For a positive trainer near you, check the above web site.
In the meantime, in case you were thinking about buying one of the 84 ways to shock your dog from Cabelas, check one of these many articles on the Truly Dog Friendly Home page first.
Once you fracture your dog's trust, you may never get it back.
"Your dog needs more exercise, does he have any dog friends to play with?" I ask as I hand back the leash to the new owners of a young rowdy rescue lab mix during a group class.
"He LOVES other dogs! We will take him back to the dog park just as soon as his conjunctivitis clears up."
I smile a frozen smile, give a short lecture, and then excuse myself to the bathroom for a warm wet paper towel to wash my eyes.
"Your dog has pretty bad breathe does he drink out of the toilet?" I ask of a new client .
"No we always leave the lid down because I am afraid he will drink bleach" she tells me.
"You may want to discuss this odor with his vet and have his teeth checked, there is quite a bit of tarter in there." I was really quite alarmed at the smell but didn't want to freak her out at the beginning of her first private session, and I planned to bring it up again before she went home.
The large black dog jumps up and kisses me square on the mouth while neither of us is paying attention to him.
She exclaims "Oh wow, he really likes you!"
I then I reiterate that this dog's mouth smells foul, and again voice my concern, and I am told in a matter of fact way;
"Really? Oh well sometimes he eats poop in the yard."
All I had.
Then I excuse my self and run to the bathroom again.
Photo Randy Tepper (lifted off the showtime site-used without permission)
Last night I was watching "Weeds" on Showtime and Kevin Nealon's character brought home a stray dog that bit off a man's toes after the juice from a burger fell on his bare feet. The dog, affectionately named "Sweater", latched on and wouldn't let go. The characters started yelling that someone needed to put their finger up the dogs butt to get him to release. One of the characters did this and the dog let go.
Is that true?
Say It Ain't Ao
Dear Say it Ain't So,
I watched the same episode last night. Funny show!
When dogs bite or fight, anything that interrupts their behavior could potentially stop the unwanted aggression. BUTT (pun most defiantly intended), sticking your finger in a dog's rear while they are aggressing could transfer aggression onto you and your face would be right there in the dog's sight line, so no, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
The show is hilarious, but it is meant for entertainment purposes. Getting dog training tips from a comedy about growing marijuana in the suburbs would be like watching Seinfeld to learn how to raise a child.
Try throwing a blanket over a dog fight or biter, it interupts and disorients.
Last week I posted a picture of dogs at play and asked you all to read their body language.
Here is another shot taken just seconds after the first photo. In this photo, tensions have lessoned a bit, but Charlee is still "putting on the heat" as my pup's breeder likes to say.
I had my kids look at the pictures and tell me what the dogs were saying and my son put it best, when he exclaimed "Charlee is 5.0" (that is street talk for cop).
The two young dogs were getting rowdy, and the Play Police (Charlee) came by to remind them to use a little self control.
The darker dog, Emmet, was not sure at first if he wanted to listen to the old gal, but he did indeed back down and chill out. Finney just waited the whole thing over so he could play again. What is interesting to note, is that Charlee did it all by body language and attitude. I chose these pictures because I thought she was extremely clear in what she was telling the young dogs. She told the young boys "you live in my house, play by my rules".
Notice that she "split" them. Splitting is a doggie diffuser.
My kids were playing on the swing set nearby, and that could have led to her increased need for stricter rules of play.
Pop-quiz- Can you read the body langage of these three dogs?
Dog people and trainer types like myself LOVE to watch dogs play and interact, and try to interpret what they are saying to each other with their canine body language. This weekend I am getting a large dose of this in the privacy of my own home after I finally finished fencing the front part of my yard. It is only a temporary solution and needs much fortifying, but it will suffice for times when I am out there with them.
The fence came not a moment to soon, as I am watching my friends two Collies for the weekend while they attend the Fly-In at Moosehead Lake.
All four dogs have been running and playing pretty much non stop, and I captured this shot of my dog Charlee on the left, and new pup Finney on the right, and in the middle is Emmett, Finn's littermate. Both the collies are just about 7 months old and Charlee turned 7 years old this summer.
Can you read what all three are saying?
I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.
For the most part anyone who brings a puppy to a good positive trainer is off to a great start. Owners who seek outside help have invested not only money, but the pledge of their time to teach the puppies how to live in our world.
I have had dogs all my life and never took a dog to class until about 10 years ago and it was eye opening. Sometimes, as my pups breeder recently reminded me, we are just too close to the situation and need an educated eye to guide us. My own new addition will be attending classes starting next week.
Meet Max, a 16 week old Golden Retriever.
Max lives with a retired couple who have always had a wonderful dog to share their lives with. I have just completed four private sessions in their home to get Max started on the right paw and he is coming to group classes in just a few weeks. Why? It is important to them that Max be a part of their everyday life and be a part of the family. He goes everywhere with them, and they have young grandchildren. Both the husband and wife are power walkers and they want a well behaved walking buddy who will not pull them over.
The majority of privates I teach are with dogs who have serious behavior issues and it is a joy a work with a puppy of good breeding and sound temperament, and great owners.
What is that saying again...oh yea...life is good.
One would think that I would have freaked out when my new puppy Finnegan growled at my soon to be kindergartner. Well I didn't, and I say good for Finney, who prior to the "event" was very nearly asleep, and the only reason he growled was because he was inadvertently hurt by my precious darling daughter dishing out too much love in all the wrong places.
So what DID I do? I called my kid "off" that's what. I didn't make a big deal about it, and let Finn go back to sleep. I did make a promise to myself that starting first thing in the morning I will get started on what is sometimes called "pawsitive touch". That is where you hand
feed the dog extra special goodies while gently touching them all over and gradually working up to the force and unpredictability of a toddler. It is homework that all my group classes receive on the very first night of class and something that I have been remiss in starting in my own home.
Shame on me. Please note! If you have reason to believe that your dog is aggressive-call a positive reinforcement trainer right away and do not try this at home!
I will also include my soon to be kindergartner in fun and yummy activities with the puppy to help him to make great associations with her.
She will help with plenty of kid proofing, and I will of course as always, supervise supervise, supervise!
Living with kids is tough on a dog, even dogs with sweet and wonderful temperaments like my new Collie Finn. What we need to do with all our dogs is to help them to make wonderful associations with kids, and for most dogs that revolves around lots of yummy food, playtime, and all around good times. Here is the cardinal rule of kid proofing.
Dogs who are good with kids LIKE KIDS!!!
Last week I had a phone call about a 3 year old protection breed who was threatening the 5 year old in the home, and the owners were very concerned. Now I do not give aggression advice over the phone, but I will play doggie detective and I ascertained that they had trained the dog using out dated dominance methods (just like the one you see on "that show on Tv").
Now, I am not going to name the breed, because in this case the breed of dog really doesn't matter. What does come into play here is that these owners have a big and powerful protection breed and they have been led to believe that they need to dominate and force him into compliance and "show him who is the boss". This is just not so and what you may do instead is create dangerous dogs who seem to bite from virtually out of now where and for no reason.
What does matter is that for the last 3 years these owners thought they were doing right by their family, when in fact they have inadvertently created a dog who has made very bad associations with the child and maybe even fears it. At the very least, there is no love there.
Think of it from the dogs perspective.
Kid enters room. Let's assume the dog was getting a belly rub. Kid goes towards dog and stumbles and falls on dog. Dog growls, and next thing you know the dog is pinned to the floor by well meaning parents. This is TERRIFIFING for a dog and it is not something that dogs do to each other unless they mean to kill. All this dominance bull is based on flawed studies of wolf packs. Would you go to the zoo to watch chimps to learn how to discipline child?
Next time kid comes in to the room, dog is weary and on edge. Owners notice this and give it another dose of '"whose the boss". From that moment on things may never have been the same for the dog, who has no reason to like, or trust or want to be around this child. To the dog, this child brings scary times along with dose of sharp pain.
But why the sudden change in the dog's behavior? There could of course be a medical cause, and I advised the owners, as I always do, to visit the Vet and let the Vet know about the increasing aggressive displays and rule out any possible medical condition. But it is more than likely that they are now seeing the mature dog. It is not uncommon for dogs to go through many changes on their way from youngster to maturity, and to get increasing more aggressive over time, especially if not treated properly.
As an aside the owners have an electric fence and the dog is outside by himself or with the kids with no adult supervision. This is a serious red flag and one that I alerted them to, and they told me they will not change this. Dogs exhibiting aggression have no place outside by themselves,on an electric fence. Period. I don't much like them anyway, but in this situation no electic fence, no way, and this is a no brainer!
No surprise that they didn't want to hear this either.
What is the prognosis for this dog?
The prognosis for this dog and the five year old boy is not very good I am afraid because they decided against positive training and instead found a trainer who will keep on using harsh forceful methods (as seen on TV). They want no part of positive reinforcement. A lesson we learn in pet rescue early is that you can't save them all and at this point, I doubt I would go to the house even if I was begged, because I know in my heart and soul, that this family will revert to what they have done in the past, and I don't want my name on that type of situation.
Trainers are only as good as the people carrying out what we teach them.
As for my sweet puppy, let's just call this a case of practicing what I teach. I WANT a dog who loves kids and who will let kids know that they have hurt him or that he is uncomfortable. Finney reacted normally and he certainly was not punished for doing so.
Let us not forget that all dogs have the potential to bite and it is our job to teach them how to peacefully coexist with us.
Your sitting in a waiting room all day waiting for your car to be fixed, when in walks a rowdy year old Boxer. Dog is wet from the rain, pees on the floor, and is allowed to meet, greet and jump on just about everyone in a six foot radius, and the dog has no manners. Then said Boxer starts to bark and whine, so the owner calls the dog up on a chair to try to quiet him. Owner then blames the dog's bad behavior on her old boyfriend.
Anyone see what is wrong with this picture?
Hello! If your dog is in need of manners, the place to get it is not where I am getting my car fixed. Even my four year old gasped; "Your letting that dog on the chair? My Mom is a dog trainer and you need help".
People - if you insist on taking your dog to a public place, please set a good example because you are representing all dogs. Your dog's bad manners will get us all banned.
I have had dogs in waiting room many times and each time I keep my dog away from customers unless they ask, and if the dog gets fidgety, I take it outside.
Plus if I am annoyed and I am a dog person, what about the people who are not? Show some respect!
After my daughters little outburst, the owner then asked me for training suggestions. Anyone surprised that she didn't listen to a single one?
I felt like the guy whose job it is to make the donuts, and he is so sick of making donuts that he doesn't want anything to do with donuts anymore. By this point, I wanted nothing more to do with this dog. Waiting room at the sixth hour does not make for a happy Mommy, or happy trainer.
An electric dog fence was blamed for a house fire in Bellingham.
"The lightning hit the tree on the top and then once it hit the tree it came down into the ground and it looked like it hit the electric fence," a resident said. The fence carried the bolt into the garage.
Chuck just finished my 6 week manners class and jumped right into the next ongoing level class. Soon he will have his AKC Canine Good Citizen. He is welcome to continue to come to class at no charge for as long as his puppy raiser Karen has him. It is very important for future service dogs to get out and about as much as possible and Karen is making sure of that!
Well done Chuck and Karen!!!
Watch for Chuck and 5 other Neads pups along with many other local dogs at the annual Memorial Day Old Orchard Beach Parade Monday the 29th @ 1:00 PM.
Not sure if I will be walking in the parade just yet.
How to get your rescue dog used to tooth brushing and more on the marrow
The topic of dental health and marrow bones has brought a flood of letters to my mail box,and it seems like every dog person I have come across in the last few days wants to know more about dental health and marrow bones.
People seem to be split into two distinct categories; those who give marrow bones freely (like me!) and those who haven't and are afraid to try.
One friend of mine wrote that I should suggest to readers who own small couch potatoe dogs to scrape out most of the marrow with a spoon because marrow can be too rich for the little guys. I posted a Vet's letter in yesterday's blog that told of the dangers of broken teeth. Dr Wheeler suggested brushing is the only safe way to go. Aubrey wrote in asking for suggestions because her rescue dogs don't enjoy having their teeth brushed and here is my reply:
My Vet has approved marrow bones for my dog and suggested that I give her more marrow bone and less kibble. But like you, I have no doubt that Dr Wheeler raises valid concerns.
Dogs can easily get desensitized to having their teeth brushed, just like nail trims, and grooming or wearing a Gentle Leader. For this we use classical conditioning. That means you need to change the association to being handled about the mouth into a good thing at an emotional level. Many rescue dogs have issues with being restrained and you need to make this a force free and pleasant experience.
Take out the toothbrush and give your dogs liver, or whatever they just LOVE. Don't try to put a toothbrush in their mouth just yet. Pretty soon they will learn the tooth brush coming out is a precursor to good things happening. Do this several times daily. You need to make a good association with the toothbrush. In short time you will see them excited when they see the toothbrush because they know a good thing is coming.
Then add the paste and after the dogs lick it off, give them the special goody.
Do this for a few more days.
Next put the paste on the toothbrush and while a dog licks it, push gently on a tooth or gum. Praise and treat with the super yummy goody.
You then need to have the dogs gradually allow you more and more time in their mouths in order for them to get the goody. You could gradually fade the treat reward if you like. If it is not fun for the dog, then you have gone too fast. After doing something my dog finds unpleasant, I throw her a little party and usually play tug or fetch as well.
You could use a tooth brush, a finger brush, gauze or even a wash cloth to help your dog get used to the practice. I should think if your dog liked the taste of the toothpaste, you would start by just having the dog lick it off your finger. I would try brushing before dinner when they are more hungry and want the toothpaste more, or possibly at a normal siesta time.
If you are using a clicker this desensitization will go much quicker.
I cannot predict how long this process will take because it will vary from dog to dog. Watch for signs of stress and go slower and back up a few steps if the dog stops enjoying it. Take your time! It is human nature to try to move things along too quickly. Good luck and please let us know how it goes.
Trainer's word of caution
If you do not know your dog well, do not chance being bit. Be careful! While this was written to help rescue dogs, many rescue dogs have baggage. Tooth brushing should not be done on an unknown dog, or a newly acquired dog, or a dog with major issues. Watch for signs of stress to include, panting, stiffening, hard stare, sweaty peds,and a hardness around the mouth.
People often make the mistake of expecting a newly acquired rescue dog to be ready for baths, grooming and nail clipping. Go slowly and use caution.
I understand and I feel the pain in your aching throwing arm! After nearly two weeks of taking care of Belmont, my sister's dog while she visited my niece in Barcelona, I now have a new understanding of you-the owners of the toy obsessed dog. You know who you are, you have the dog who will fetch all day, everyday, for twenty four hours a day.
If I woke up to go the bathroom, he went and got his ball.
If I so much as looked at my shoes, he went and got his ball.
If I was sleeping on the couch , he brought me a ball.
If he came in the car, he brought 2-3 balls all stuffed in his mouth and then he would proceed to route around and rearrange them while I drove, until we got to the final ball chucking destination where he proudly scooped them up and took them on the road.
Yesterday when I threw his new favorite toy, (a rope with two tennis balls that he had perfected with drool and mud for days and days), for the 92nd time, I zigged when I should have zagged and this happened.
Now we have trauma!
He can smell it, but he sure can't find it. But it hasn't stopped him from searching his furry butt off.
When we spoke on the phone last night, I apologized for roofing Bel's ball, and she told me stories of how she has done the same and worse. She recanted stories of how she has even managed to tree balls places one normally would not even be able to preciously place a ball with maximum effort.
Ballmont, I mean Belmont easily manages three balls in his mouth at once.
Training tips for the owners of the obsessed!
Always remember that training is not always about the "cookie", use toys as real life rewards. You will have a very attentive dog if you use the power of the toy correctly!
And more importantly remember that YOU control the toys.
Be sure to teach an "all done" or "chill" command.
What is the oddest place you ever lost your dog's toy?
"Congratulations", or as my kids say "props" to Jingle Belle who graduated from Basic manners class last night, undoubtedly one of the cutest puppies ever. She was so much fun to work with I have added a Petite Pals class for small dogs only that will address in detail training issues faced by owners of small dogs. Potty training can move really slowly due their tiny bladders, and small dogs have unique socialization issues. It is very important that the small dogs do not have negative experiences with bigger dogs or owners may find themselves with a fearful, problem dog. Of course the small dogs are so darn cute, owners tend to coddle them and treat them more like children than dogs, and small dog owners often need a lot of guidance in this particular department. My Petite Pal class filled up right away, so I am sure I will be offering it again soon.
Congratulations also goes out to Jack and Jack's owner for passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Jack, a 2 year old Corgi came a loooonnng way from the stressed out dog with a bite history who came to manners class barking his head off. It was a very satisfying experience for me to help them get focused and back on track.
His owner sent me a lovely email for my brags page and here is a snippet:
"I hadn't realized how much energy Jack had nor how tense he was about not having a “job” to do, as I don't own cattle and don't need him to herd animals, Jack needed something else to do. I hadn't realized how often I was saying “no” or stop to Jack. Nancy was able to show both Jack and I how to work together to establish a positive and productive relationship.
"The classes were so good for Jack and me that we've signed up for a third one…"
Meet Jingle Belle!
She is by far my cutest client of the month! Belle's owners were kind enough to email photos of her.
Thought we could all use a moment to relax, sit back and drink in her cuteness. It didn't seem fair to keep her all to myself!
Belle is a long hair Chihuahua, but doesn't she look like a teeny Border Collie?
Yes she was a Christmas puppy for the 14 year old daughter in the home, who I must say takes great care of her and is a great owner!
Many well-known trainers and behaviorists have come forward to issue warnings about dog parks. Even off-lead puppy classes have come under fire. Why? Because people often don’t know how to recognize or respond to problems when they arise and can inadvertently do more harm than good.
Many owners treat their dogs like children. But would you let a two-year-old play unsupervised with significantly older children while you had coffee with the other children’s parents? Would you allow a toddler to wrestle, bite and annoy a senior citizen? Would you allow the neighborhood bully to repeatedly pin your child down without intervening?
Watch out for the bully dog! It’s a fact of life—some dogs will attempt to bully or intimidate other dogs; some occasionally, some constantly. Some dogs don’t do well in multiple dog situations and may become aggressive. Some breeds are more likely to inflict harm. On one of my recent trips to a dog park a young female chased younger dogs down like prey animals. She bit their necks, rammed them and pinned them down. Many secondary fights broke out as the dogs collided with their owners in their attempts to escape her. Clearly this is the time to make your exit! Allowing your dog to be traumatized by the bully dog could make your dog fearful of other dogs and hamper future training.
Beware the ‘Resource Guarder’! Not all dogs are willing to share their playtoys or treats! Owners need to use extreme caution when playing with toys and handing out treats in a dog park setting.
Beware the Fence! An agitated dog on the outside of the fence can aggravate dogs inside the fence’s boundaries. Allowing the dogs to meet through the fence is not recommended and could lead to barrier frustration/aggression. Don’t allow your dog to run up and down the length of barrier on either side especially if other dogs are getting agitated.
Don’t allow dogs to congregate at the gate or exit. Allow newcomers to acclimate and have an escape route. Dogs need to be able to flee. If your dog has learned some obedience, by all means practice before you let them loose. Let the park be your good dog’s reward!
Protect your dog and be on the look out for trouble around you. Often times people do not read their dog correctly. If your dog comes bounding back to you and there are other dogs in hot pursuit, chances are he is looking for a little back up. Always be prepared to step in and protect a frightened dog.
Don’t take females in season to the park! Enough said.
Beware of intact male dogs. An intact male is often (but not always) a predicator that his owner is not responsible. Beware of more than one unaltered male dog in the park at a time; problems can quickly escalate.
Be aware that different dogs have different play styles. Help your dog choose friends that he is comfortable with. Some dogs like a paws off approach to play, while others live for wrestle mania. As dogs mature their behavior and tolerance levels change. Just because your dog played well with a dog as a puppy, does not mean they will be lifelong friends.
Do not take a sick dog to a public place. Just common sense!
Children should remain within an arms reach of adults at all time. Use extreme caution when bringing children to a dog park. Many dogs at the park have not been exposed to kids and even the best behaved child is unpredictable.
Use extreme caution when taking small dogs because ‘predatory drift’ can occur. Predatory Drift is when a dog’s prey drive kicks in an instant. It is often triggered by high pitched squeals, or small dogs running. It can be fatal to the dog who is attacked. In a dog park setting, other dogs may join in.
Do not assume that everyone else knows what they are doing! Dog ownership, like everything else, has its share of clueless people. I always hear lots of really bad training advice passed on at dog parks. Dog parks are a great place to practice selective hearing, (just like most of the dogs).
If your dog is getting to wild try ‘Time Outs’ and help him regroup. Try Leashing your dog and escorting him away from the group. If you have learned calming commands like “Settle,” this would be the time to use them. Once your dog relaxes, reward him with more playtime. If he remains agitated, call it a day.
Properly socializing a dog does not mean allowing your dog to run wild, as some individuals mistakenly believe. Socialization takes place when our dogs interact with other dogs in a safe, supervised environment. It occurs when our dogs have positive experiences with other dogs. And socialization takes place in a group training class where they learn to work and pay attention under your guidance. With proper socialization our dogs develop self control and bite inhibition. It is important for dog owners to learn how to read dogs’ body language on the road to helping their own dog become confident. Dog owners should exercise their dogs like they drive their cars—using common sense and acting defensively.
Portions of this article previously printed in the Casco Bay Weekly. Used with permission
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"We don't eat family members!"
Mr. Little to Snowbell the cat in Stewart Little
I have received equal amounts of inquiries concerning our new family member Tater Tot the hamster, and Heidi the lost deaf dog.
How is the hamster?
What does Charlee think?
Has it bitten the kids yet?
Are you concerned the dog will try to kill it?
Charlee like any dog has a prey drive and we will never completely trust her with things that run, but we have done a great job at instilling in her that "we don't eat family members!" Take the same rodent in the woods and it would most likely be snack food, but in the house, the dog knows that the hamster resource is MINE. Dogs do respect ownership and the dog knows that the hamster and the birds (who have been known to fly straight into her head!) are not hers.
Can I teach my dog not to touch our other animals?
Great question! Respecting boundaries is not just an issue about one thing. Training, and bonding, and teaching the dog a solid "leave it" and "come" all come into play, but certainly some breeds (terrier owners you know who you are!) need to use more caution than others. One thing we have always done around here is to feed A LOT when the new animals come out. The dog learns that it is great to have the other animals around and that when the new animal is around good things happen. This is the exact same thing you do when you bring home human babies by the way. The next step is to set your dog up for a reliable recall. For some that could mean on leash even in the house, for others you may need to go within inches of your dog before you say their name. Be sure to praise and reward wtih lots of yummy treats. Obviously if your dog is too interested in the new animal you need to use extreme caution to keep it safe. But if your dog is a bit lackadaisical about your pet as is Charlee, the more successful "leave it's" and "recalls" and just plain "open bar" with special goodies when the other animal is around the better. We don't anticipate any problems with the new rodent and the dog.
Red light (A great training game for you and your dog)
Do you have a dog in need of exercise? Do you find yourself wishing your dog had an off-switch? Is your dog jumping and nipping at you or your kids with uncontrolled excitement?
'Red Light' is a game you can play with your dog to help him learn self-control. It can be beneficial for your kids too because it teaches them an important safety tool if they're ever chased by a dog. Kids will see how their behavior contributes to a dog's reactions, and it provides a positive training management tool. Best of all, it's a fun way of helping your dog learn that all important "Chill Skill".
How to play:
Step One - (Dogs and puppies should know 'SIT' before starting this game.) First teach Fido to sit for a treat by holding one just above his nose and slowly lifting it upward. As the pup's nose moves up for the treat, his rear will move down towards the floor and he should adopt a sitting position. Click and give him the treat. Next, teach the kids and other players how to get the dog to sit for treats.
Now you're ready to start the game!
Step Two - In the beginning an ADULT should be in charge and holding the dog on a leash. Start by taking just a few steps and have the dog 'SIT'. Be sure to reward your dog with praise and treats for all sits he performs correctly. Slowly add more motion and excitement to your game and begin to lengthen the intervals of movement time.
Step Three - (Add more players.) With your dog on leash or with his leash dragging, Call 'Green Light!' and have the players jump, run and wiggle while making happy noises. Just as the dog starts to get excited, call 'Red Light' and have the players stand quietly with hands at their sides like a tree. Depending on your dog's level of training and excitement, you can gradually work up to waving your arms, dancing, whooping and hollering or running wildly about the house or yard. This can be a great tool for controlling a young puppy who may bite or nip. Again, an adult should be monitoring the dog very closely and be ready to step in and regain control if he becomes too excited or out of control.
Step Four - In no time you will playing off-leash and will be able to incorporate some pretty wild behavior by the (human) players. When 'Red Light' is called, the person closest to the dog is responsible for helping to make sure the dog sits and should be the one to reward him with a treat for good behavior. Safety warning! - Be sure to take your cues from your dog. If your dog is becoming more aroused (instead of less so), be sure to call 'Red Light' more frequently in order to give dogs and kids sufficient time to regroup. If that doesn't work then it may be time to end the game. It is always a good idea to play this game on-leash or with it dragging when kids are involved so you can quickly get your dog back under control in case the game's excitement level escalates.
If your dog is still misbehaving, try playing the game again at another time when your dog might be in a lower key, or perhaps they need remedial training help with sit. It is always best to introduce the game when your dog is already in a calm state. This is a great tool to have in your training tool box for use in real-life situations where your dog's behavior has become too wild.
Variations on the game - You can incorporate music, making it similar to the game of "Freeze Frame" you played as kids yourself. Many of you will find that your dog is quick to catch on to the musical version. Try playing it like a race from Point A to Point B and back again. Remember - less is more, so don't overdo things!
Gooddogz Training will be returning to the Children's Museum this summer for several Dog Bite Prevention events. Bring your kids and come play 'Red Light' with Charlee!
Every once in a while I’ll get a really annoying dog in class. A dog that barks and barks and just seems to have his own agenda.
Meet ‘Sailor’, a 7-month-old chocolate Standard poodle, sporting an overgrown Afro, and a recent addition to a very nice family. Mom is a pediatrician with three lovely kids. Dad was convinced that this big, overgrown dog, (affectionately nicknamed ‘Clifford’ and "Baby Huey" due to his substantial size) was a very dumb dog and should be returned. They had chosen a Standard Poodle because they liked the breed and appreciated an intelligent companion. What they got instead was….Bark, pull and play! Sweet dog…but more than a handful.
On his first night, Sailor sailed into class quite the free spirit. We worked on lots of attention exercises but Sailor was engrossed in being loud, distracting and wasn’t particularly motivated to learn or work. (Enough so that one pup’s owner switched to a quieter class, if that gives you a visual.) He arrived at his second week of class displaying more of the same. I told his owners that I believed his incessant barking stemmed from frustration and was concerned that it might progress into aggression.
So why am I telling you about Sailor? Because we finally found out what truly makes him tick after six long weeks of hard work by his owners. By graduation day he’d been transformed into a quiet, focused student. More importantly, he was happy! (Almost as much as his family and his classmates!)
Understanding your dog’s behavior can take time. If you have a problem dog, ask yourself what motivates him? What does he like best of all? Then use that knowledge to your advantage. For some dogs it isn’t necessarily about food or training treats. Some dogs may learn and work best for the chance to play with their favorite toy, go for a ride in the car, a chance to chase squirrels or herd sheep as a reward. In Sailor’s case, he wanted contact with doggie friends.
Sailor was obsessed with other dogs. By his second class, we were rewarding good work (not barking) with the chance to play off lead with two of his 6-month-old puppy classmates. He was very gentle and sweet and quite happy. The play session resulted in very little barking afterwards. However, each week Sailor continued announcing his arrival at the outset of class with a bout of frenzied barking. But he’d settle down, get back on track, and remain so until he decided another play reward was in order.
I was especially pleased with Sailor’s progress because his problems could potentially have resulted in the loss of his home and possibly even his life. Underneath that cute, floppy Afro was a fundamentally smart dog. But that intelligence was handicapped by a pushy nature and a determination to have it his way. So you may be asking yourself, “What was the key to Sailor’s turnaround”? Sailor, like most dogs, is a very social animal. On Saturday, his graduation day, before I’d even finished with an earlier session, I heard Sailor arrive, barking to excess anouncing to the world that he was here. He came into his class once again, like gangbusters, barking and maneuvering his way over to a Lab puppy friend. His owner allowed him to sniff, but as soon as he was pulled away, the barking began again in earnest. A light bulb went off in my head and I asked his owner if we might try a method referred to as ‘abandonment training’. I have had success using a modified version of this to help some aggressive dogs and it seemed worth trying with Sailor.
‘Abandonment training’ doesn’t mean we abandon the dog. Instead we take away (or remove the dog from) the one thing the dog wants most. I snatched his leash with a firm “Too Bad!” and whisked him into the office, shutting the door on his lead. He became quiet instantly. Immediately thereafter, I opened the door to let him out, praised him verbally with a “Good Quiet!” and walked slowly with him towards the group. But he caught sight of his little Lab buddy and began whining again. This earned him a quick U-turn and a return trip to office isolation for several more seconds. The Sailor who emerged from the office a second time was a dog who was now starting to realize his barking/whining took him AWAY from what he wanted most. The final revelation came after his third trip to the office before handing him back to his owner. The entire session occurred over a three-minute period. He tried the same (mis)behavior with his owner but she did a great job of mimicking exactly what I had just done. And guess what? Sailor didn’t make a peep! The remaining Fifty-seven minutes left for class and he was as quiet as a mouse. I couldn’t have been happier for all concerned.
In class Sailor did get to play with his friends a bit, but only at the discretion of his owner. Now his owner decided with whom and when he could play and it painted a striking contrast to his first night in class.
There are lessons to be learned from Sailor’s situation:
Lesson One: Beware of the older pup still available from a breeder. Sometimes you may indeed be getting ‘pick of the litter’ and score a great pup that the breeder held back or planned to keep for themselves. But it might also be the case of a problem pup that didn’t sell and the reason(s) may not have been obvious to you. I can relate story after story of people acquiring older puppies they fell in love with from a picture on the Internet. Use caution and common sense here. Think with your head and not your heart. Not all personalities may be a good match for your family.
Lesson Two: If you are having a hard time with your dog or puppy, don’t delay in getting help. The longer they practice what you don’t want them to do, the better they will become at doing so. Sailor did not train himself. Don’t employ quick-fix programs from a book or experiment with suggestions from well-meaning friends. Consult a professional dog trainer. I am convinced that, had Sailor’s owners not enrolled him in an obedience training class, they would have been headed for far more serious problems down the road.
Lesson Three: Incentive for your dog doesn’t have to involve food treats. Use real life rewards. Find out what matters to your dog and use it to your advantage. Also called Premack's Theory, it is much like having to eat your vegetables in order to be able to eat dessert.
Lesson Four: Be sure to control all of your dog’s resources. It is important to find out what motivates your dog and be consistent in its use. Leaders control all resources.
Lesson Five: Focus on what behavior you’d like your dog to START performing rather than what you want him to STOP doing. Train an alternative behavior. For example, if your dog is jumping up on guests when they arrive, think about what you’d prefer they do and train that. (Teach them to ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’ instead.) Don’t leave things to chance.
Sailor was fortunate to have found a wonderful family who love him for who he is. They are committed to putting the time, effort and energy necessary into helping him achieve his full potential. Sadly, not every dog is as lucky as Sailor.
Many years ago before the rest of the commercial world caught on, I helped to litter box train quite a few clients dogs.
We didn't use a Pet a potty , with real or fake grass. Look close. The design flaw here is that it needs higher sides or guess what, stuff will get on the floor. Never mind that Business Weekly on line wrote about it this week, or that Sharon Osbourne is "putting one in her bedroom." We all know where the Osbourne dogs do their business and I don't see this as their solution at all. Attention Sharon and Ozzie! Send me a ticket out there, pay for my time and I will help you potty train your animals in no time, no problem!!! Pet- a- Potty would only work well for a few select dogs. Overall it is a bad idea, and especially for male dogs, if you get my drift.
Litter box training can be an excellent solution for small dogs with tiny bladders, for dogs who continue to have accidents no matter how hard you try, and I have even heard of larger dogs being taught to use the litter box from time to time. Litter training does not take the place of walks or a professional pet walker. When I lived in Boston, we used it primarily with dogs in high rise apartments, and small dogs who would not go outside in inclement weather.
If you decide to try this I wish you good luck!
What's that? You are wondering about teaching your dog to use the toilet, like the cat in Meet the Fockers, or the dog in Bruce Almighty? You could easily teach a dog to put their paws on the top of the bowl and even flush by teaching them to target, first, but if you think your husband has bad aim...
I was alerted to the "presence of danger" this morning by my dog. When I went upstairs to investigate what she was so upset about, I found Charlee, up from her early morning siesta with hackles raised and body posture alert, barking ferociously at the bird cages. We had covered them after they chose to be particularly squawky and irritating. The birds rarely have their cages covered and this morning we used the closest towel, which happened to have a picture of Simba and Mufasa, from The Lion King.
Imagine my poor dog's surprise to think that lions had snuck in her living room while she napped blissfully on her bed.
Seriously though, I have blogged this to show an example of S.E.C, a very common occurrence in dogs. S. E. C. stands for Sudden Environmental Change and some dogs do tend to have it more than others, especially the herding breeds and dogs that lack early socialization. It is why your dog will not bark at a parade, but will bark at one lone marcher coming down the street. S.E.C. can explain why a dog flips out at the sight of a wind blown flying plastic shopping bag, a lone wagon left in the yard, or anything else of out the usual. It explains why dogs out walking on trash day are fine, but won't go near the same lone barrel your neighbor left out the very next day.
When my clients come to me freaked out that their dog just had a hissy fit over an object they see every day, I explain S.E.C. to them and tell them that to the dog "one of these things is not the like others, one of these things just doesn't belong". Once the dogs identify an object as "safe" they are usually fine.
When Charlee realized that the towels were not actual Lion predators hanging from the Parakeet's and Canaries' cages, she actually looked quite embarrassed.
Those of you who have added puppies to your household this past winter have faced an incredibly snowy winter. But then I really didn’t have to tell you that, did I? People have told me stories of having to shovel or snowblow pee-pee runways and paths in the snow covering their lawns so their pups could relieve themselves and play. I’ve listened to their seemingly endless laments about puppies having accidents before they could even get their boots on and middle-of-the-night potty breaks in near-blizzard conditions. As a dog trainer, I am bracing myself for my classes to be filled with the next round of adolescent dogs that didn’t get the best start and haven't seen enough of the world.