Welcome to my journey! This blog is about my adventures in dog training, pet therapy work, rescue work and life with my menagerie of animals. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One Word Wednesday…Training

Jojen is a whiz kid at this training thing! Very trusting and quick to catch on…so much fun!

First I lure him down the wall….

no lure necessary on the way back! (wondering why I'm having him walk on the wall?? Practice for the cat walk in agility, plus more socialization for walking on odd surfaces!)

Practicing our sit/look behavior…

Getting him into position using a lure to get a sit in heel position…

Look at me…

All of this training was done in a park downtown with cars driving by, kids playing in the park and his big brother looking on…very distracting! 
I think we make a good team!

(please excuse the blurriness of the photos my 6 year old took them!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So much to do, so little time

I can't believe summer is nearly over and the kids go back to school soon! It has been quite the summer with a new puppy in the house, not to mention construction going on and teaching classes! The biggest thing to make this summer a bit more stressful rather than relaxing was the medical state of Jojen! poor baby has had a rough go of it this summer. Within the first week or two of getting him home he came down with "puppy strangles" or Juvenile Cellulitis, luckily he had a very mild case. However the treatment of prednisone and antibiotics left the task of potty training a disaster! I was on constant potty watch and still missed it many, many times! I will say to Jo's credit, not once has he pooped in the house! (Hopefully I didn't just jinx myself). It was exhausting; for both of us. The meds made him a bit edgier, bloated and left him peeing like a dripping faucet…constantly! We managed to make it through and he healed very well. He remained a happy, sweet puppy throughout and his socialization continued albeit a bit stunted due to his lowered immune system. He wasn't able to attend many of his puppy classes, which I was very sad about. About 4-5 days after finishing his meds and getting back to his old self, he got stepped on by Beanie and the result was a fractured wrist extremely close to the growth plate! So infuriating and terrifying! He had a very large and cumbersome cast on, that of course couldn't get wet or dirty…no easy task! We made it two weeks with cleverly constructed ziplock bags to take him out for potting (which thankfully became more regular off the prednisone) then he got a fancy cover for his cast and we worried about it no longer! He was impossible to keep calm! Once he mastered moving around with the cast on, it was like it wasn't even there! His spirit is 10 times the size of his body and he was just happy with life in general! He healed quickly, was in the cast for 4 weeks (all of july) and has been cast free for about a week and a half. His limp has lessened significantly and his muscles are strengthening. He's back to bounding up and down the stairs to go out to potty, chasing the cats (although he never really stopped doing that), bouncing up and down to lick beanie's jowls (all was forgiven!) and run little puppy track races around the backyard! He is joy personified in a little red body! The next hurdle he may face is surgery to correct the result of the fracture being so close to the growth plate. It is causing his foot to turn out as the Ulna grows. I am dreading that whole process!

I am happy to report however, that save for playing with a myriad of other puppies or dogs, his socialization has been right on track! He's definitely seen countless vets, and even when he was in pain he had nothing but tail wags and puppy kisses for them, lots of kids and grown ups, ridden in shopping carts and a stroller, heard crazy construction noises both at home and during his many trips to Home Depot. He's sat in his crate in a field while I taught classes, he's peed on bark mulch, grass, dirt and rocks, he has met big and little dogs and even been to the beach (although he was still casted and didn't get to play in the sand). As far as his training he is so fun and super quick! He has great leash manners, can sit at heel position or front, lie down, spin in both directions, pretty good with leave it, waits until released for food bowl, has excellent attention and the cutest recall ever!! I am excited that now he is through all his trials he and I can attend an actual class! We will start our AKC Puppy S.T.A.R class on the 21st, he will be able to earn his certificate and little medal! Beanie earned his and I so wanted to get one for Jojen too!

Because I have hopes of doing dog sports with Jo, I've been a little overwhelmed on what to teach him that will give us a leg up. I have determined that heeling is the most universal and important behavior as well as being able to calmly sit in a crate amid great distractions. The rest will come with time and careful, fun introductions!

I'll try to keep our progress updated, but life moves pretty fast with Jo and I just have to hang on and enjoy!

"whoa, you're big!"

At the Emergency vet

No more cast! Hanging at the pool while his girls swim!

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Survived!!

I just survived 10 1/2 hrs caring for two puppies under 11 weeks old!! Let em explain.

A week ago I took on my very first "real" training client! He was getting a Viszla puppy and was wanting daycare as well as puppy training! VERY exciting! She is adorable and sweet and ENERGETIC!! =) I had her for two full days of daycare last week, what fun! She is whip smart and really getting the whole clicker thing! Socializing her has been fun, she draws a crowd wherever she goes.

On saturday I flew to Missouri to pick up my long awaited very first Cavalier puppy. I have wanted a Cavalier in my family for almost 13 years, I've even had his name picked out! So on sunday I flew home with Jojen, a nine week old ruby Cavalier boy. Today he and Nusa (pronounced Noosha) met. Sparks flew, and not necessarily the good kind!

They are both pretty confident puppies and so it was a race to see who could mount who faster. Of course Jojen was smaller but he managed to best her nearly every time! They each had multiple time outs within the first 1/2 hr. As the day went on play got a little more even keeled but they would still get a little hot headed and need to be redirected. So that is what I worked on with them today, being called away from a heavy distraction as well as some calming sits to help settle them down! All in all they did very well, they shared toys pretty nicely, traded off being the chaser and chasee and would do quite a bit of self interrupting. I managed to keep them pretty well managed as far as potting outside, only failing to act quickly enough on Nusa's signs once.

I am very proud of myself for this day( I even managed to grocery shop and cook dinner!) and hope tomorrow is as successful, but as always I know with puppies to take it one moment at a time! =)

Here is some cuteness to feast your eyes on!



Saturday, May 12, 2012

We could all use a reminder sometimes...

Recently I went through a period of questioning myself. Questioning whether I was "real" trainer material or if I could really call myself and "animal rescuer". From the moment I got set on this path of training I have felt it is what I should do, what I want to do. I have always thought of myself as an animal rescuer, it's how I identify myself internally. So when recently my family adopted a dog from out of state that we had never met, a thing I had always been leery of, and then a week later made the decision to return her to the rescue group, my whole identity came into question in my head and heart. She had issues that I most certainly am knowledgeable enough to deal with, however the conclusion I and my husband came to was that we were not willing, nor did we have the time and energy, to deal with the significant issues she presented and the effect it had on our currently harmonious home. So after returning her I thought to myself "If I were a "real" trainer I would have jumped at the challenge she presented" and "What kind of animal rescuer returns an animal they adopted?" A mini crisis of identity commenced. I say mini because while I still fell terrible that we had to make that decision it absolutely was the best thing for us and quite honestly for her as well. Life with us would have been boring, restrictive and tense for her. She would have been regimented, monitored and redirected constantly...not much fun for a 10 month old husky pup! As it turns out she found a foster home with no other dogs or cats and one person all to herself who enjoys taking on the challenging, rough around the edges dogs, a near perfect spot for her. I came to remember that being an animal rescuer means a lot more than just "rescuing" the animal, it means making the decisions that are best for the animals in our care no matter how hard those decisions may be. I am definitely an animal rescuer. As far as being a "real" trainer? I have come to the conclusion that even though I can teach owners how to handle the issues in their homes and I can practice it with foster dogs or board and trains, it is important to know my limitations, as well as that of all the members of my family, on what I want to fill my home with longterm. I will, and have, absolutely work with foster dogs that need help making them into model pets, or even just helping them learn the rules of a home, however when the day is done and I am relaxing on my couch with my kitties in my lap and a dog or two at my feet I don't want to be in a constant state of worry about whether or not, there is a coveted pig ear on the floor, or who gets fed in their crate or behind a gate, or live with a dog that spends it's life on a leash so it doesn't terrorize my cats. My home is my haven and I require peace inside it at the end of the day. I have decided it's ok to require that and strive for that. Our next dog is out there and you can bet I will be more vigilant in selection and personally, will never adopt sight unseen again. I need to observe and handle a dog, especially if it's out of the puppy phase, to determine if it will fit into our home and life. Picky? Maybe, but it doesn't make me any less of a trainer or animal rescuer!

This video idea has been rattling inside my head for some time now and recently I heard the perfect song for my idea, 'I Won't Give Up' by Jason Mraz. This latest bump in my road has been a catalyst to get it made. I needed a little visual reminder of all I have done and accomplished in the last 4 years of my life. I think we could all use a little reminder of our achievements and a good old fashioned pat yourself on the back moment! I hope you enjoy this video, while there are some faces whose memories sadden me, I am still so grateful that I knew them and they will live on in me forever. I Won't Give Up!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kids and Pets

There is not much sweeter than seeing a child interacting or snuggling with a beloved pet. However that relationship must be allowed to blossom under close supervision by adults and with clearly defined rules for both parties. Before bringing a pet into the home sit down with your children and have a discussion about what is expected of them in terms of behavior with the pet, if they are old enough for such a discussion. The younger the child the more vigilant the supervision should be. Figure out as a family what the house rules will be; will your new pet be allowed on the furniture, will they be allowed to sleep in the child's room, walk to school with the family? Try to have all these things worked out BEFORE bringing a pet home.

 Including your children in the daily care for an animal can teach them responsibility, compassion and go a long way to having that wonderful bond between child and pet that is the ideal in our mind. However, getting a pet and expecting a child, no matter the age, to do all the care and upkeep for a pet is a recipe for disaster. Children do often lose interest, especially when the chores are not fun ones, and again age doesn't matter often a 7 year old can be more dedicated than a 15 year old. Ultimately it is your responsibility as the adult to care for the pet, just include your child as much as possible.

Children are great playmates for pets! Children rarely get bored of throwing a tennis ball over and over and over. They are really excited about teaching their dog or cat new things (YES, you can train a cat. It just takes a little more patience!) Children often have better timing than adults too! There are lots of fun things your child can teach your pet. Get them involved in the training classes, a good trainer will welcome well behaved children to class. Usually a good age to bring to a formal class setting is 7 and over, but depending on the child you could go as young as 5. Just remember you need to be able to focus on the trainer and what you are being asked to do, so your child needs to be able to allow you to do that! One of my favorite games to have my girls help with is 'round robin recalls'. Each child and/or family member goes to different corners of a room (or out in a fenced yard if you've progressed to the distraction phase of training) and each person takes a turn calling the dog to them and rewarding him when he gets there. This is a great game for kids because they are usually very excited and animated which makes the game more fun for the dog which in turn creates a much more solid recall! This is also a great game for rainy, cold or super hot days when outside play is not possible.

Having your child teach your dog a trick is a great way to incorporate fun into the training! Kids LOVE when their dogs do tricks, they don't care about perfect loose leash walking or a 30 minute down stay, they want a dog that can high five, roll over and crawl on their belly! Having a child teach your dog how to 'shake' or give a 'high five' is a relatively easy process and happens pretty quickly. **Caveat: if your dog is sensitive about their feet being touched have your child pick a different trick that doesn't require foot handling, an adult should work on body handling before a child gets involved** To teach shake, have your child ask your dog to sit, then, with a treat in your childs' closed hand, hold that treat to the dogs nose while gently reaching for one of the legs. Gently touch the back wrist area of the dog and when he lifts it, say, "shake" and deliver the treat. A handful of repetitions should have your dog lifting his paw as your child reaches for it and then with practice your child can then hold out his hand say the command and the dog will offer his paw!

There are so many other great tricks you can have your child work on with your dog(remember a cat can do this stuff too!), that I could go on for days! Instead I am going to give you some good links to check out and have you discover for yourself all the wonderful ways kids can interact with their pets!

ASPCA website has some great ways kids can get involved in caring for their pets.

AKC has a lot of great information on junior handling, safe behavior around dogs and some fun coloring sheets teaching about dog safety.

Kiko Pup if you look this up on Youtube you will find a ton of really fun, positive training tips and games

Kyra Sundance has a whole Trick Dog program, you can purchase the how-to book and workbook and at the end you can earn a trick dog title of various levels! Sure to make any child proud! She also has a puppy trick book too!

So have fun with your kids and pets and watch their bond grow into a lifelong friendship!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who are you...

The next topic I want to talk about in my series on being a responsible pet owner is identification! Every year 5-7 million pets enter animal shelters nationwide. 3-4 million of those animals are euthanized every year. Shelter animal intakes are about evenly divided across the country between animals relinquished by their owners and those picked up as strays. *According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2 percent of cats and only 15 to 20 percent of dogs are returned to their owners. Most of these were identified with tags, tattoos or microchips.* (taken from the ASPCA website)

Those are alarming numbers! The single most loving act you can do for your pet is to give it an identity in the great, big, scary world. I can't even begin to count the number of dogs I have found wandering the streets with collars on but no tags or microchip! And cats? Forget it! I have yet to even see a cat with a collar on! Microchipping is great and oh so easy! Your vet can do it at the time of a regular vaccination appointment or it can be done when they are spayed/neutered. Over the last 10 years or so animal shelters have begun chipping every animal that leaves their building and goes into a new home. However, chipping should not be your pets only line of identification. A collar with tags are vitally important as well, even for cats! I will admit my cats don't wear collars, but they are microchipped and are not allowed outside. If I were someone that allowed my cats outside you can be darn sure they would be sporting a pretty collar with a tag! Your tag doesn't have to be fancy or announce to the world where you live, but it should have every single phone number you can possibly fit on there so if someone were to find your pet they could try a number and reach you. Most dogs have a rabies tag, and that is a good identifier too…IF you haven't changed vets and IF your dog is found during veterinary office business hours! It is so important to make sure all your pets tags are kept up to date and that you also alert the microchip company if you move.

I have heard excuses recently of "oh, my dog never leaves my side" or "he's never outside without me" That is all well and good, but it only takes one time and your pet could be lost forever. Is that a risk you are willing to take?

You made a commitment to take care of your pet for its' life; you work on training and socializing and exercise and mental stimulation but don't forget the other piece to the puzzle…IDENTIFICATION!! It's what all the responsible pet owners do, join the club!!

Here are some of my favorite sites for collars and tags, as fancy or as plain as you want! Check them out and then outfit your dog/cat with his very own sign of your undying love! =)

Lupine collars/leashes/harnesses (I love this line, they have great designs and have an awesome guarantee on their products)

Pet tags: they have regular and designer tags as well as collars that can be embroidered

Premier : Another great source for collars/leashes and harnesses, as well as other dog and cat related products

Another great place to look is your own local pet store! Get to know the staff and hopefully you will find a wealth of support and help!

Monday, May 7, 2012

National Pet week!!!

May 6-12th is National Pet week so I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts talking about our relationship with our pets! I'll touch on bringing a pet into your home, responsible pet ownership and kids and pets too!!

Today I want to talk about one of the most important elements to bringing a pet into your home and family. Commitment! Adding a pet to your life, whether it is your first or 12th, is not a decision that should be entered into lightly or on an impulsive whim. Here are some major factors to consider in adding a pet to your family.

  1. Take an honest look at your lifestyle and home environment before choosing your next family pet. It is very easy to fall in love with a sweet face (happens to me all the time) or a sad story but choosing a pet that does not fit well into your life and family can mean heartbreak for everyone! For example; do you live in an apartment building with lots of close neighbors where barking could prove to be an issue? Maybe you should stay away from the happy, barking dog in the kennel! Perhaps a cat or better yet a bonded pair of cats may be the perfect addition! Is your home like Grand Central Station with kids and activities going on all the time? That sweet, quiet dog that seems shy might not appreciate the business of your home! Adding a pet to your home is an exciting event and should be met with joy but try to think with your head as well as your heart and truly give your life and home an honest look before bringing in a new pet to make sure the match is one everyone can be happy with.
  2. While adopting an animal is admirable be aware of your financial limitations as well. The mindset of trying to "save them all" can lead you down a path where everyone suffers. Being a responsible pet owner is expensive. Proper veterinary care such as yearly exams, vaccinations and preventative medicine can run up a big bill, not to mention any emergency needs that arise on top of toys, food and pet care when you travel. If you get in over your head with the amount of animals in your home, their health, as well as yours can suffer consequences. Give your financial health an honest assessment before bringing in another animal to make sure you can adequately and properly care for them.
  3. Bringing a pet into your family is a long term commitment. Pets are not fashion accessories, child substitutes or short term fun. Some cats can live to the ripe old age of 20, are you prepared to care for your pet for its' entire life? If not then perhaps it is not the right time for you to add to the family.  Sometimes our lives are busy and committing to something long term is just impossible. If that is the case with you don't feel bad about that. It's good to be honest with yourself and not get into a situation that may require you to give up your pet. If you feel you don't have the time to commit long term, you can still get your "pet fix" in other ways! Volunteer at your local Humane Society to walk dogs and socialize puppies and kittens, volunteer for a local rescue group as a foster home for a dog in need, you get the joys of having a pet in your home but it's not a long term commitment and you are really helping so many when you foster! The benefit of volunteering is it also gives you the ability to meet many different animals and personalities so that when you do have the ability to make the long term commitment you know exactly the kind of pet and personality would best suit you and your family! It's a win-win situation!
  4. Another important factor to think about; do you have the time and willingness to provide your pet with the appropriate amount of exercise and mental stimulation that they require? I'll give an example: I LOVE Border collies and BC mixes, I think they are amazing, beautiful and sweet animals, however, I could never own one. There is no way I could give them the amount of mental and physical stimulation that they would require to be a happy member of the family. It would just not be a good fit, I am not that active! Give me the energy level of the Great Pyrenees any day! So be honest about your physical abilities, age, time allowances and desire to provide your pet what it needs to thrive and be happy in your home! Remember a bored pet will find something to do…and it's not usually anything constructive! =)
  5. Last but certainly not least, are you prepared and willing to properly train and socialize your new pet. This goes even for cats as some people like to have their cats travel on vacations with them or act as therapy animals! As a trainer I of course think this portion of the commitment equation is super important but don't take my word for it, look at the stats…80% of dogs don't live out their lives in the home they started in! 80%!! That is crazy and very, very sad. The main reason for dogs being surrendered to shelter is for "behavior issues" these usually encompass; too energetic, jumping, destruction and potty training. All of these "issues" could be helped or eradicated all together had the dog had the proper training from the beginning! So even if you don't ever want to compete with your dog in all the fun, new dog sports that are all the rave now, training your dog is still vitally important so they understand how to be a happy member of your family and you aren't tearing your hair out and threatening to send him to the pound! Get in touch with a trainer in your area, learn how they train, observe a class so you feel comfortable with their methods and teach your dog the basics of being a polite canine member of society and your family! It is one of the best things you can do for your dog and family!
So Happy National Pet Week, do something for the animals in your life this week! Check back for more posts about our lives with pets!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Product Review!!

For Christmas last year I received the Mt Tam Belt and Leash from OllyDog. It is a hands free leash and belt system with a small pouch on the belt for pickup bags and small essentials like keys and phone (or treats!). I was very excited to try it out with Beanie! I have used it a couple times for walks on our road but yesterday I used it while we walked on a nature trail. First I have to say I LOVE IT!! It's really nice to have my hands free. I have jogged with it (I'm not really a runner) and it was really nice for that as well. The leash is adjustable so it can extend up to 8 feet or it can be shortened considerably. For jogging I found it easier to manage if it was on the shorter side, somewhere between 4-5 ft., unless of course you have a fast runner that likes to be in front! Beanie was not happy about having to run so he stayed pretty close to my side therefore a longer leash would have dragged and gotten caught under his legs.

For trail walking it's nice because I can give him a bit of a longer leash to explore but still have him under leash control. I really like the handle that is up close to the collar snap for those moments when you need close control! The bungee part of the leash is really nice too because it allows a bit of give so that if he decides to all of a sudden sniff a squirrel trail it's not an immediate jarring to my body!

The pouch is awesome! There is a poop bag holder with a little dispenser hole in front, which is super cool! Plus a clip inside to hold keys secure and the pouch itself (even with those things in there) is big enough for a phone or a small ziplock bag of treats! It can hold this stuff without feeling big and bulky like all those 80's style fanny packs! I had treats in mine because I am trying to work on his leash reactivity! Another reason it's good to have my hands off the leash is instead of my reacting by pulling on the leash when he pitches a fit at the sight of another dog, I can back up my body and use a more positive approach to gaining distance from the distraction and getting his attention too!

The belt itself is really comfortable. It's wide and stretchy with great adjustability and a nice solid clasp. The anchor straps on the belt, that the leash attaches to, are really well made and allow for a great amount of freedom for the dog to move around. My one and only complaint of this whole system is really based on how my dog generally walks when I am not requiring heeling position…side to side to side, etc. So because the anchor straps are on either side of the pouch it never fails that whatever side I anchor him to he inevitably will decide to walk on the other side, which causes the belt to twist around on my waist a bit. Not a HUGE deal but a slight annoyance and really it's Beanie's fault =) LOL

All in all I like this hands free leash system a lot. For the time being though, until his reactivity is under better control, I will likely only use it in instances where the likelihood of us seeing another dog is less. At this point with Beanie I wouldn't use it for a walk around town.

I highly recommend this leash for hikers, runners, walkers and for people with big or small dogs that have had a good amount of leash training and are well behaved on the leash for the most part. I don't recommend this for people with major back or knee issues as the lower half of your body is highly engaged with this leash, especially if your dog can be a bit of a puller.

OllyDog has a lot of neat products, go check them out!

Here is a picture of Beanie and I about to begin our walk!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thankful for the "flaw"....

When we adopted Beanie, we were warned about the barking, repeatedly. We assured the rescue group we were understanding of this trait and that we'd handle it just fine. No amount of warning can ever prepare you for the reality of the Pyrenees barking. I am often heard saying it is Beanie's one and only flaw. Indeed as a breed that is their only flaw in my eyes. That being said if your Pyrenees is an LGD (livestock guardian dog) then you welcome that barking, it makes you feel safe, because that barking signifies the detection of a threat and its' elimination. You know your sheep, chickens, cats and self are safe for the night because of the ever vigilant Great Pyrenees in your midst. Yes I do actually think they should wear capes! However, for us pet people, or maybe just me, that barking can be like nails on a chalkboard. He barks at everything and nothing! He barks at birds overhead, leaves blowing in the trees, the girls if they change the tone of their voice during play; sometimes he barks just to get other dogs to bark back! Some of it is boredom but not all of it because even when he had playmates he was an obnoxious barker.

There are those occasions though when I am thankful for that deep, scary bark. I am not ashamed to say I have used him to scare off a bunch of punk teenagers shooting off fireworks in front of my house at 10:30 at night during the week (yes I'm one of those people). Unabashedly, I leashed him up and walked him outside yelling at the kids to leave and his glorious bark worked its' charm and they took off! Tonight on our walk, under a clear, dark, star filled sky that bark stopped a charging, off leash dog in its' tracks on two different instances. He was leashed but I was prepared to drop the leash should the advancement continue, these dogs were not happy to see us. Luckily a few big barks from Beanie and I could have sworn I heard brakes squealing! Not once did I reprimand him as he was doing exactly what he has been bred for generations to do, what I in fact wanted him to do and he was entirely appropriate given the situation. I simply trained my flashlight on the offender and kept walking while Beanie bounced and barked.

There is no doubt I will still find his often times incessant barking annoying but I will never try to teach him to stop. Besides the fact that it is a fruitless endeavor, this flaw is actually one of his best qualities!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beanie misses dogs…and he's getting a little angry about it!

Bear with me for a moment…Imagine you are a human that lives with aliens. These aliens are really nice to you, feed you well, give you lots of attention and take you cool places; the only down side is you can not understand them at all. Communication is strained at best and most times completely foreign. Often they are inconsistent and unpredictable. However when you get to be around other humans you have a blast and can really talk with your friends or argue with the not so nice curly haired girl! You actually enjoy your life and can handle the strained communication with the aliens because really they are very good to you. Then imagine one day the aliens take you away to a place you've never been and now you live in a strange house and play in a strange yard. Soon it's not so scary and you relax a little. However time keeps ticking by and you still have not seen another human being, days turn in to weeks and weeks turn into months and slowly you get a little crazier and bored. Occasionally the aliens take you someplace where you might see another human but you are not allowed to interact because there is a rope around your neck! So you start running toward the human you see yelling and lunging because you want to be with them, you really miss being with humans. Soon you start to get a little angry and when you see a human you know you won't be able to play so your yelling becomes a little fiercer from frustration. Some humans in this situation may even begin to yell at their alien or even bite them or even begin to hate seeing another human and scream obscenities at them making them go away. Isolation from your own kind has made you very angry and frustrated.

Now read that situation again and replace every 'human' with dog and every 'alien' with human and you might begin to understand the process dogs go through when they are not properly socialized or isolated from other dogs for long periods and how all that can escalate into reactivity and aggression. Thankfully Beanie has not hit the stage of yelling at me or full on aggressing toward other dogs, but his isolation from them has definitely taken it's toll and he has become very frustrated on leash when he sees other dogs.

In our previous life whenever he saw dogs it was either at daycare or in a training session. At daycare, obviously he got to play, in a training session he knew it was work time and so was on very good behavior and often he was even allowed to play after the session. I would take him to the shelter when I worked and he'd act as a decoy to test another dogs reaction to dogs or he'd be a playmate for a dog to see how the other dog played. He was never really deprived except maybe on walks, but because he was  always able to play with dogs any dog we met on a walk was a non issue. Things are different here. We haven't found a suitable daycare place and most of them are a good distance away anyway. We are not currently in a training class and I'm not teaching so he sees no other dogs that way. Right now the only time he sees dogs is on a walk and so he has started to become the dog that pulls and lunges and barks when he sees another dog and more recently it has not been sounding so nice when he does so. I have high hopes for a daycare facility we are going to try out on friday but I must say I am a little concerned that he will be a rude bully and not make any friends. I hope I have not permanently changed my fun loving, dog friendly dog into a leash reactive dog. I will cross my fingers and keep working on politeness while on leash. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guilty dog...

Does your dog get that guilty look on his face when you find he's done something naughty? Does he lower his head and eyes and tuck his tail when signs of a potty accident are discovered or a half eaten loaf of bread stolen from the counter? Yeah, mine does too. However, being a trainer I know that really what he's responding to is my body language and/or the tone of my voice. However, being human I still have the thought "see he knows what he did was bad!" It's fleeting but it's still there.

We are creatures that are capable of complex thoughts such as "I have to pee but if I pee on the carpet, 2 hours later when my mom comes home, she's going to be really mad" Dog's however think more like this…"I have to pee, I'll pee here". That's it, that's really about as far as it goes! So when you're yelling and gesticulating with your hands or even worse, rubbing their noses in their mess, all you are teaching them is "wow, mom is really unpredictable and mad, I'd better give off all the calming signals I can to calm her down" Hence the "guilty look". I propose an experiment (and if you have the forethought and willpower to do this I commend you greatly) the next time your dog does anything naughty, try smiling and using a happy, playful voice as you reprimand him! I would be willing to bet money he shows no signs of guilt! You can say all manner of nasty, derogatory things in the most pleasant voice possible and likely your dog will wag his tail at you! They really are pretty simple and to them the world revolves around body language and tone of voice.

So just remember potty your dog before leaving the house, utilize a crate, baby gate forbidden areas, keep your counters clean and food put away and if all else fails roll up a newspaper and firmly smack yourself on the head while repeating the phrase "bad owner"!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Head butts, body slams, forehead mind melds and other displays of affection!

Beanie and I have always played rough. Yes, he's 127 lbs and could knock me over but the nice thing about a dog this big is I can see it coming and can prepare for it! I have plenty of time (if I'm watching him) to brace my legs, bend my knees and get my hip out. I've used this play as a reward in training as well as a way to expend some energy on bad weather days.

Today I took him for a walk in this wonderful 40 degree weather we are currently experiencing here in NH and he was full of it! I know he was happy because his tail was high and there was a bounce in his step! It's fun to watch him as we walk and as he takes in everything we pass through town. When he sees an approaching person his ears stand up and his chest puffs out a little, I imagine it as kind of an expectant, on guard type of posture. He loves people but also takes his guarding job seriously. When the person looks like it will completely ignore us his ears drop and he goes back to sniffing the dirt or whatever other undetectable to humans smells there are. When someone actually talks to him, usually they say, "My what a big dog you are" or my favorite "you're not a dog you're a horse", he wags his tail and gets all soft and sweet and eats up the attention.

As we came to the spot where he usually does his business he decided instead to start bouncing around in the snow and body slamming me! He wanted to play, I was laughing too hard and it was a little slippery to engage in a full throttle session but he was not discouraged, he then shoved his nose between my legs and began pushing me backwards, then bouncing back down into play bow and coming at me again. It must have been quite a sight if anyone had been watching. I'm sure it looked like I was being attacked, he really is pretty huge when he jumps up! We finished our walk with a lot more head butts into my hip for head rubs and bouncing around. We were both pretty winded by the end! Then comes the best part, he gets into the back of the car, I take off his gentle leader and we have our forehead mind meld. Our heads actually fit well together and we stay like that for a few moments while I whisper little words of love to my baby boy! Those are the ways he shows me he loves me, he thinks I'm fun enough to play with and he trusts me enough to be face to face, eye to eye. Those mind melds are magic. He makes me laugh and smile and my heart bursts with love for him. Right now he has his head resting on my arm as I try to type, he has the twinkle in his eye, I think he wants to go out and play some more, so i'm off to find his ball and play with my dog then after do some cuddling!

So how does your dog express his love for you?

My husband doing a version of the mind meld!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So what's the big fuss about socialization??

  Let's talk about socialization. Just recently my mentor Misti Fry was on a morning TV program discussing the benefits of puppy socialization and its correlation to less behavior problems. So what exactly does socializing entail and when should it start?

  Socializing simply means exposing a puppy, or dog, to any number of environmental stimulus. These stimulus can (and should) include as many humans as possible (all shapes, sizes, colors and ages), other dogs (again in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages), environmental sounds, smells and sights; garbage trucks, traffic cones, kids on bikes, mailboxes, garbage cans, police sirens, school buses, screaming babies etc., as well as other types of animals (especially important for the higher prey drive dogs), rides in the car, walks in a park, visiting a pet store, visiting the groomer, visiting the vet…and on and on! Sounds easy enough in the busy lives of today right? Well, the catch is, this all has to happen in a very positive, happy and non threatening way, oh and the absolute best time to do this is between 6-12 weeks old! 6 WEEKS you say? Yep, but don't fret all is not lost if you have obtained your puppy after 12 weeks and/or are unsure of it's previous socialization exposure. You can still do all the same socializing exercises, you may just need to move at a slower pace depending on how confident or unsure your puppy is.

  THIS is where getting in touch with a good trainer comes in handy as well as getting your new puppy enrolled in a puppy class. It's never too early OR too late to start! They will be gently, and in a positive way, exposed to other people, other dogs and learn great new things that will help an unsure pup become more confident and help your confident pup refine it's manners! The benefits of good socialization are too numerous to count, it's common sense really, if a pup is never exposed to something in his early days he will be more fearful of it when exposed to it later on. Also if a pup is exposed to something and it is a scary or traumatic experience, the next time the pup gets exposed to that something he will have a fearful reaction and possibly even an aggressive one in an attempt to remove himself or the offending "something". This is where bites can occur, if not caught and remedied quickly these reactions can escalate and a full blown fear reaction becomes ingrained and is hard to extinguish. The leading cause of relinquishment of dogs to shelters is due to behavior problems. I am confident enough to say that likely 90% of those problems could have been alleviated or even never begun had there been positive, early socialization and training!

  So if you got a puppy over the holidays, or even an older dog from a shelter research the trainers in your area, find one that believes in positive reinforcement training (not dominance/correction based) and get your pup in as soon as possible! If you can't get into class just yet at the VERY LEAST start taking your dog places and let them meet people!! Take a bag of 100 tiny dog biscuits with you on your trips and let any number of strangers feed your puppy! You would be amazed at how quickly your pup will begin to understand that meeting new people is quite fun and rewarding! You can do the same thing when you see dogs on walks, feed your dog good stuff when they see another dog or cat or even squirrel across the street! Make the world wonderful and fun and you and your pup will be on a good solid footing to a wonderful life together!

For more technical information of the importance of socialization The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has written a series of articles on this subject! Read HERE and HERE!

***By the way these are my favorite trainers (I am totally biased I know, but hey, they really are awesome at what they do!) Lesli Hyland in Rutland, Vermont and
  Misti Fry/Carrie Galvan in Springfield, Missouri***

Thanks for visiting!