Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cookie Pushing 101

This is Wallace. Isn't he handsome? Don't let that innocent face fool you though. He has a thing for tennis balls. A BIG thing. Can we say resource guarding everyone? It's ok though since he has a patient owner willing to work with him on it.

Alert~Serious topic ahead. Not my normal fare. (hence the warning)
There was a discussion over on another blog that frustrated me. So much so that I made a stupid emotional response that probably made me look like a know it all jerk. Crap. Sometimes it is best to step away from the computer. A fact I lost sight of. For the record I do NOT know it all. I wish I did, because if so I would have many more financial assets than I do currently.
It was about positive training methods. It started with a discussion about the veterinary field and a stance on behavior modification methods that also mentioned Mr. CM. (Go to to see the post and following discussion.) It made me wonder why I care so much about how I am perceived as a trainer based on the methods I use.
It would appear that many people think positive method trainers are nothing more than a bunch of cookie pushers that need food treats to bribe their dogs into compliance and that we also let our dogs do whatever they like when no cookies are present. (How's that for a run on sentence?) Anyone who knows anything about positive training knows nothing could be further from the truth. It seems hard to convince the hard corp CM fans and traditional trainers otherwise though. Interestingly enough though, I don't know any traditional trainers that approve of his methods.
It got me thinking....why do I care what others think of my training aside from my clients and the dogs I help? Perhaps it is just how I am personally wired. I served 6 years in the Marines, so maybe all those years of having to be (perceived as) tough all the time has affected me long term. Showing weakness as a female in the Corps was a guaranteed way of losing respect from the men, so I made sure it didn't happen. Repressed emotions anyone? Maybe I am just that type of person in general which could be why I found the Corps attractive in the first place. It is in interesting question. And I'm not sure the answer really matters anyhow.
I do have a hard time not speaking up with I hear about people doing things that are counter productive in training. Some of it even abusive. (Would you want YOUR nose pushed into urine or feces?) Much of my job involves teaching people how dogs learn, so they can better understand why they do the things they do as dogs. The more you know about dog behavior, the easier it is to make changes that make sense to all involved. This is one reason I think all dog trainers should be required to learn about dog behavior. You would be surprised how many don't know much on the subject. It boggles my mind. Dog training is an unregulated field remember. ANYONE can hang a shingle and say they are a trainer. (or get their own TV show-fodder for a future post perhaps) You may want to ask for references or about their experience before you let them have control over your dog. ( Get specific! When was the last seminar they attended? What was the topic? Etc, etc. )
For the record I don't need food treats to get my dogs to comply. Yes it is used during the acquisition portion of training, as a paycheck. However IF used improperly it can become a bribe, which we don't want. So knowing how to use it, and how to phase it out, is very important. You can also use other things as rewards, or currency, for your dogs. Feedback to your dog is also important. Positive method training does involve corrections! Letting them know when they do a behavior we don't want so they understand us clearly is an important communication between us. It is just done in a different manner than traditional methods.
There is a science behind positive methods that cannot be denied. Drug dogs and search dogs are trained with it, not just our household pets. Scent work cannot be forced. Many other animals are trained the same way. (think dolphins, horses and elephants) For a great book that looks at animal training in general, check out the book "Kicked, Bitten and Scratched" by Amy Sutherland. It is a great read with lots of good info on the behavior and training/learning link.
I am also not totally against compulsion training, I just prefer to see it used correctly IF it is used. There is a right way and a wrong way to use those choke or pinch collars. If you are going to use them, please use them fairly for your dog's sake. Timing is critical. It is also not something you can use effectively for the long term to modify behavior. (Don't even think about using it for fear issues.) True it may suppress behavior, for awhile, but not without possible serious negative fallout. The key is to change the emotion of the event for the dog to change the behavior long term. Something that CM fans don't seem to understand or want to admit. There is no such thing as a dog psycologist. He made that term up! There are however canine behaviorists. None of which uses corporal punishment in their programs. He looks great on TV and makes it all look so easy. I would love to see those same dogs a year down the road. I am willing to bet it isn't all happy endings.
But I will admit CM does have some great points. "Dogs aren't people in fur coats. They need exercise, discipline, and love." I just disagree with some of his outdated (and dangerous) methods. Do not try this at home needs to be taken more seriously. (Let's count the number of times he is bitten shall we?) I even had a volunteer at our local shelter use CM's trademark "sstt" and hand bite on Grizz, the dog now at the prison, who was shy of people and contact from them. NOT appropriate! This was a dog who needed to learn humans are not to be feared. Not by getting hands on "bites" to his body for trying to get away from them. (He is doing MUCH better now thankfully. She was well meaning but inappropriate as are many watchers of his show.)
Dogs are individuals and it is true that not all methods are for all dogs or their people. There is no cookie cutter here. All training needs to be tailored for the dog you have. My biggest point is to learn how to best use your method of choice humanely for the dog. After using and being trained in both methods, and learning more about dog behavior, I choose positive training as my first choice whenever possible. I can't deny the results I have seen, both in my dogs performance, and in my relationship with them. I can only hope those that those that decry positive methods as "silly cookie pushing" would do abit more research into them before they discount their value. They may be surprised by the info they find, and the results they get. I know I was.
Tail wags.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I wish I thought of that!

This cutie pie is Birdie. Photo's don't do her coloring justice. She is the most striking variation of brindling I have ever seen. She is also as smart as she is pretty. A double threat for sure. (in a good way)

This is Zebra. She is a spayed female husky available for adoption at Typical of the breed, she has energy to spare. Good with other dogs, but she can be pushy with them at times too. She likes to be the boss. (sounds familiar)

I caught Jenny using a toy as a woobie last night. (Ironicly it was a Garfield.) It is the first time I have seen her use a stuffed toy this way. She certainly looked content suckling away.
And speaking of ironic, it's to bad my idea of using a call bell for potty training didn't come to me sooner. Someone has taken to marketing a very similar product: I guess great minds think alike!
In the interest of education to all things dog, I have added a few new websites to my link list. One of my favorites is:
Great facts about dog bites for those that think it is all about the breed. I know I tend to lean towards nice fluffy posts, but I do want people to be able to find info that they need, or are interested in, should they look around my blog. There are some great sites and blogs out there, I feel no need to reinvent the wheel where they are concerned.
Happy browsing!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Here are some photos from yesterdays session at the prison. Zebra, the husky who had been adopted out, was returned to the shelter so I brought her to play with Grizz.

Excuse the weird eyes. My camera is old and slow and takes pretty crummy pictures of moving dogs. There is a video of them playing at the end of the post. Hopefully that makes up for these terrible photos.

Grizzly is still awaiting his new home. Because of his issues, it is of extra importance to me that his next home be his last. (and best of course) Here is what I have written about Grizz for potential adopters to read about him.
Grizzly is a lovely dog and is very sweet to people once he gets to know them. We have no idea why he is as shy as he is. I suspect he missed some crucial socialization with people during his puppy hood. I doubt it is related strictly to abuse due to it being so generalized for him. Abused dogs usually avoid one specific subset of people. Grizz tries to avoid all people. Fortunately he did get the crucial socialization with other dogs, which is why he is so good with them. He has wonderful social skills with dogs of all types. He isn’t a pushover though. He will fight back if provoked into defending himself.

Grizz has been taught some basic obedience. He knows sit, down, come and a few tricks. (high five, shake, and sit pretty) His recall isn’t 100% because it is situational. He will not come if called if he is stressed about going near something he is afraid of. He also isn’t reliable at stay for the same reason. He is crate trained and prefers small-enclosed spaces or being close to a wall if uncomfortable in a new area. This lessens as he gets to know a place and feel comfortable. Dogs are a fight or flight animal. Grizz is defiantly a flight when it comes to people and stress. He will seek out the farthest point or cubby to hide in if needed. Grizz was not on the program for obedience training, but for behavior modification and counter conditioning to address his fear of people instead.

He is a stress chewer and will chew cords and shoes if left unattended with them. We have noticed it has diminished over time but he will chew if presented with an opportunity while unsupervised. I am unsure if this will go away once he lives with another dog or not. I suspect so but cannot guarantee it. He had no idea how to play with toys when he first came into the program. He now will play tug, and with a ball. He gets nyla and marrow bones for chewing. He also loves his kong with peanut butter in it while crated.

Being part malamute he is still a work in progress with leash pulling. This is very normal for that breed. I have left a detailed photocopy of working with sled breeds on this issue in his record. We have used an easy walk brand harness on him so he is used to that if you prefer using a tool as management.

Grizz needs a patient and understanding owner that will accept him as he is. I don’t think he will never be the dog that you take for walks in public around lots of other people. He would do best in a quieter home with at least one other dog for him to have as a companion and for him to take positive cues from. He will most likely hide to get away from visitors unless they are frequent and he gets to know them. Do NOT force contact with people upon him. If forced he will accept their touch but it does nothing to change the emotions of the event for him. The thinking part of a dog’s brain shuts down when they are stressed. They simply go into a reactive instinctual mode, for Grizz that is to run away. EVERY interaction counts with Grizz.

Grizz will need to be on leash or in a fenced area to prevent him running off. I do believe he may have the potential to be ok off leash but not for at least 6 months living in a new home. Again there are no guarantees. He is part sledding breed after all. When he is seriously uncomfortable about something he will use a warning growl. This means either I am uncomfortable with this or get away from me. It is EXTREMELY rare for him to protest so pay attention and react appropriately when he does.

He does also get carsick and will evacuate his body when seriously stressed. (urine and feces) This is a normal physiological body reaction that he has no control over so do not punish him for this. Punishment will only make it worse. He is housetrained under normal circumstances.

During our work we used positive reinforcement and counter conditioning using food treats. Grizz prefers cheese to most treats though he does also like some meat treats. If he won’t take a treat we know he likes that is one of the signs that he is stressed. A stressed dog will not eat. (again another physiological body reaction) For more info on the training method we use see the book “How to teach a new dog old tricks” by Ian Dunbar.

Grizz has come a long way during his time on the program. I do think he may regress somewhat during his first week in a new place. He will need to learn to trust his new people with time and patience. Once you have his trust he is a wonderful and very sweet dog. If I had the space I would had adopted him myself. (My dog Jack is one of his favorite playmates.)

PLEASE contact me directly if you have ANY questions regarding Grizzly. This special boy deserves his own home with a family that will love him for the dog he is.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Son of a ....

Damn. In case you have no idea who this is I'll tell you. His name is Ami James and he is a tattoo artist from the hit show on TLC called Miami Ink. I know about him because I am a tat fan and watch the show. I know he has a beautiful american bulldog, not his first, and loves all animals. (he adopted a cat on one episode of the show as well) His partner Chris Nunez also owns a georgous pit bull.

Why is he on my dog related blog? I'll tell you that too. In case you don't know already, PETA is a fanatical animal rights group that KILLS animals. They don't believe in people keeping pets because it interferes with the animals choice to run free. (and get hit by cars) They don't believe in altering pets because it interferes with the pets choice to have sex. Their stance on pit bulls is that they should ALL be killed, in order to SAVE the breed. Yeah, you read that right. PETA is a group that sounds great in the surface, who doesn't want to treat animals ethically after all, but it in reality a radical group with it's own bizarre agenda.

So while I admire Ami's commitment to animals, someone needs to clue him in to what this group really is. I'm pretty sure he would be quite appalled. FMI you can check out where I got the info on his new poster

For more information about PETA check out this link.

And by the way, if pitbulls were the big bad that so many uneducated say they are, why is it that I know of NO trainer that refuses to work with them? Food for thought.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Salvation of a breed

I was very excited to read a review in this month's Bark magazine on an akita book due to be released February 28th on

Here is the book description from the website: How one man's consuming passion for dogs saved a legendary breed from extinction and led him to a difficult, more soulful way of life in the wilds of Japan's remote snow country.

As Dog Man opens, Martha Sherrill brings us to a world that Americans know very little about-the snow country of Japan during World War II.

In a mountain village, we meet Morie Sawataishi, a fierce individualist who has chosen to break the law by keeping an Akita dog hidden in a shed on his property. During the war, the magnificent and intensely loyal Japanese hunting dogs are donated to help the war effort, eaten, or used to make fur vests for the military. By the time of the Japanese surrender in 1945, there are only sixteen Akitas left in the country. The survival of the breed becomes Morie's passion and life, almost a spiritual calling.

Devoted to the dogs, Morie is forever changed. His life becomes radically unconventional-almost preposterous-in ultra-ambitious, conformist Japan. For the dogs, Morie passes up promotions, bigger houses, and prestigious engineering jobs in Tokyo. Instead, he raises a family with his young wife, Kitako-a sheltered urban sophisticate-in Japan's remote and forbidding snow country. Their village is isolated, but interesting characters are always dropping by-dog buddies, in-laws from Tokyo, and a barefoot hunter who lives in the wild. Due in part to Morie's perseverance and passion, the Akita breed strengthens and becomes wildly popular, sometimes selling for millions of yen. Yet Morie won't sell his spectacular dogs. He only likes to give them away.

Morie and Kitako remain in the snow country today, living in the traditional Japanese cottage they designed together more than thirty years ago-with tatami mats, an overhanging roof, a deep bathtub, and no central heat. At ninety-four years old, Morie still raises and trains the Akita dogs that have come to symbolize his life.

In beautiful prose that is a joy to read, Martha Sherrill opens up the world of the Dog Man and his wife, providing a profound look at what it is to be an individualist in a culture that reveres conformity-and what it means to live life in one's own way, while expertly revealing Japan and Japanese culture as we've never seen it before. (end description)

I know I for one will be pre-ordering my copy tonight. A biography surrounding dog history, talk about right up my alley! A breed not for everyone, but one that I am a fan of personally as well.

To see more pics of long coated akitas (which is what my Jack is) go to .

Friday, January 11, 2008

A good day at the office

Here are a few pics from today's session at the prison with Grizz. (Yes he is unfortunatly still waiting for his forever home. E-mail me directly if you would like to learn more about Grizz.) I brought a 7 month old neutered male chow with me for Grizz to meet and play with. Cute isn't he? PP (for short) is staying with his breeder while his people are on a family vacation. He also needed some remedial training and a reevaluation while here so hence some time with me. I'm sure I have posted his pic here before when he stayed with me for training as a pup. (Check the older posts for chow pics.) This is what they call killing 2 birds with one stone. Grizz likes meeting new playmates during his sessions, and I needed to see how PP would do in a strange environment.

It turns out he was just fine with the whole process.
He didn't even mind sharing his treats or attention with Grizz.
It also gave the handlers great some hands on time with another dog. (The more dogs they get to work with the better.) I wish I had gotten some pics of them playing together but I was in eagle eye mode at the time. Safety comes first when introducing new dogs and supervising playtime. He was a bit pushy at first but read Grizz pretty well and did back off if Grizz told him to. Grizz has great social skills so I wasn't worried about him. PP is just getting to that age where dogs get full of themselves so I watched him closely. Not sure I would place them in a home together, Grizz defers but he isn't a total pushover either, but they did just fine for playtime today. The pics were taken at the end of our session.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Jenny Update

On Friday hubby and I went to one of my new favorite places, the Loyal Biscuit Co., to get special food for our Jenny, the pug. ( ) Not only is it cozy, clean and beautiful, the owner is super friendly, knowledgeable and also quite witty. I always have a good time whenever I visit. The two store dogs are pretty darn cool too. The bed in the window is frequently filled by a lovely female named Orli.

Jenny has been getting hives lately and has been quite itchy. Being itchy is no fun. Yeah I didn't know dogs got hives either. It looks pretty weird. Special baths haven't helped and we have tried a couple different medications through the vet to no avail. The next step was to try a food change. (after ruling out environmental possibilities-laundry soap and the like) Perhaps she is allergic to the different food we feed from her previous home. We currently feed Canidae. So we picked up some Wellness Simple Foods Venison and Brown Rice just for her. I thought I was pretty well schooled in dog foods but I have nothing on LBc's Lauren. She really does her research. I wish all pet supply places were as dedicated.
It is supposed to be one of the best for food allergy dogs. I've always liked Wellness brand (made by Old Mother Hubbard) so I didn't hesitate to try it. Thankfully she is a small dog as it is a tad high end, as all specialty foods seem to be. Of course we couldn't just get new food, we also needed special treats as well.
Aren't these boxes cute? And I love the name. I got her some peanut butter ones and some blueberry. She is a bit of a gulper so I am sure the flavors are quite lost on her.

This is a brand and type of treat I use regularly for training anyhow. I love that they have no fillers in them. Plus they break up easily into small bits and are good and stinky. Dogs love stinky so they make the perfect paycheck. They also have chicken, liver, venison and fish available.

Now it is a waiting game. She was switched over a few days to avoid loose stools and now we have to give her system time to reboot so to speak to the new stuff. Most people want to see results quickly and don't give a new food a chance. Impatience solves nothing. The rule of thumb that I learned was 6 weeks before you begin to see real change. All dogs being individuals of course means that some dogs do respond faster or slower. Time will tell.

The other updates I have on Jenny are that she still isn't completely house trained. Or should I say she hasn't learned to ask to go outside. When I am home we rarely have accidents. She goes outside on a schedule with me and I watch her like a hawk. When she is home with the kids and hubby she doesn't always get out when she needs to. So to combat this I picked up call bell. (From staples, only 6 bucks!)

The plan is to train her to ring the bell when she wants to go out for potty time. Hopefully this will get the kids and hubby's attention. It is an ambitious plan I know. Mainly because the kids and hubby will be involved. We shall see how it goes. I was going to get one of those easy buttons (They say "That was easy" when pushed.) but they need batteries to work and they take more pressure than I realized to activate them. Jenny is small so I didn't know if she could easily push it on.

The poop eating has decreased because I leash her for potty time. We were making good progress on it but then she needed to be kenneled during our trip and she backslid. I was expecting that since it can't be managed in a kennel setting. I am teaching a nice "leave it" cue to go along with the leash. This way when she is off leash I will have verbal control in instances it may becomes an issue. It is pretty easily managed using a leash as long as she doesn't have a house accident we (kids and hubby) don't see in time.

I have noticed she has quite a good nose on her. She found a watch my daughters friend left outside on the fence a day later. (I saw her catch the scent of something new and follow it.) I may do some tracking training with her in the spring or once it gets somewhat warmer. Not something you see many pugs doing I know. She is also very food motivated. Almost to a fault. Great for training as long as you can get her to think and not go into food overdrive. (if to overstimulated dogs don't think, only react)

Hopefully we can get her itchies under control. It makes her miserable which isn't fun for anyone. I know I hate being itchy. She is a handful for sure. But we love her and all her idiosyncrasies. After all, who couldn't love that face?

Monday, January 7, 2008

A few laughs

Here are a few funny dog related pics found online I thought I would share.

Who says you have to be a big dog to do the job? Don't laugh to hard. They are using some pretty small dogs for scent work these days. (money saved in the kibble department for sure)

I wish I had come up with this idea. Dog translation. I bet it makes the sign more visible. They should use this on the no pooping zone signs. And the clean up after your dog signs -"Make sure your human disposes of your waste appropriately."

Now this is an outfit you gotta love. Not sure he'll have the stamina for a long chase though. (not unlike some human cops with similar body types I daresay)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Beware the cute puppy syndrome

Check out the wonderful post at the Terrierman's Daily Dose for a lesson in why breed research is important when looking to add a puppy to your home. It really couldn't be illustrated any better than that. Buyer beware and buyer be A-ware!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Here in Maine we are settling in for yet another storm. Here are some pics from today before the newest storm began.

I just thought this was cute. One of the girls footprints.

Our picnic table showing the amount of snow so far. (minus what had already melted during a warm spell)
A couple of "arty" pics of playtime.

And Missy crashed out after all the excitement. She prefers naps to snow.