Friday, February 29, 2008

Crying foul

Today I went to work with the prison dog and handlers. While there I was told about a visitor that had brought a service dog, wearing a marked service dog vest, during visitation. Because the woman handling the dog did not have a visable disability, my primary handler asked her husband what the dog was used for. He was curious. Was it a hearing dog? A seizure alert dog? Or perhaps a diabetic alert dog? It turns out it didn't really matter because that she doesn't use the dog for herself. It belonged to a family member that passed away.

Wait a minute. Whaaa???

My question is, why is this dog wearing the vest and using it's priviledges as a service dog if it isn't in service of a handler or being trained? Pet's aren't allowed on the premises or at visits after all.
Is it me, or does anyone else see this as an abuse of priviledge?
It's not bad enough that I field calls from people who want to get service dog training for their pet just so they can take their dog where ever they want. "Um that's not what a service dog is for, sorry I can't help you." Unfortunatly I have had more than a couple of those calls and get them regularly. It always boggles my mind what people think they can do.
Now I hear this example of blatant misuse(?) of a service dog. If there is a problem that crops up it has the potential to become a black mark against service dogs. Is this dog keeping current with training with the new person handling? Does the new person know all the commands and signals for the dog? The list goes on. I forgot to ask what kind of dog it was as I was so angry about the situation in general. So the details escaped me.
I ask you though, "What is wrong with people?" It makes my head want to explode.
Note: Dog in photo above not the dog in question. Cute though isn't he? Oh yeah, and because he looks like a pitbull he could be confiscated and killed in parts of Canada.
Onto the second thing that makes my head want to explode. Check out this blog:
For the record even french bulldogs are at risk in Canada due their idiocy about pitbulls. Unfortunatly it isn't just Canada we need to worry about, there are places here in the states enacting similar stupid laws as well. If you think breed bans don't affect you, think again. As you can see in the munchie case, ANY breed is at risk. It is about the people making decisions as to what dogs are pit bulls (or pit mixes) that is the problem. Not trained professionals by the way, just whoever they find to take the job. Scary if you ask me.
Now a quote about the media I found both fitting and profoundly sad by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert.

"Reporters are faced with the daily choice of painstakingly researching stories or writing whatever people tell them. Both approaches pay the same."
Makes it all that much clearer don't you think?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Great expectations

This is Jenny sunning herself on the back of the couch in the window. Not a bad idea on this chilly winter day.
I was at a kennel club meeting last night and I mentioned that our newest member of the family had been labeled our problem child. (lovingly of course) I went on to talk a little about our struggles with house training*, resource guarding, and some redirected aggression thrown in for good measure. The RG and aggression is thankfully easily managed and we are working on future prevention and treatment with a program. *Interesting note: Her "accidents" have all happened when I am not home which leads me to believe I may have a husband training issue on my hands.*
Not all trainers would admit they have a dog that wasn't a perfect angel all of the time. Trainers should be able to handle every problem easily, quickly, and have dogs that are above and beyond a regular pet owners dog right?
Some trainers would have you believe that but I'm here to tell you that is a complete load of heifer dung. Dogs are dogs. Living breathing beings. Each is a unique individual with their own issues. Our challenge is finding how best to address those issues and create a life that is as comfortable (harmonious?) for everyone as possible. Even in our own homes. That takes time. We all have different rules and expectations for our dogs. As much as we love them, they are not going to be perfect, tho some may come closer than others in our sometimes biased opinions. Our expectations are an important part of how we perceive the dogs we have.
I think having a dog with issues to work through actually makes us better trainers. Better because we can now more readily identify with the clients we seek to help. Being more likely to have lived through it personally, we will have also gleaned experience that we can then share. Here's what worked for me, here's what didn't - can be a great resource for others. It saves them time by getting to learn from your trial and error.
I can also tell you that having had big dogs for years and then adding small dogs to the household, with their squishy faces and different body types, has helped my training skills immensely. Living with various breeds has taught me so much more than just working with them on a regular basis did. (in my case) In part for me because reading dog body language is a huge part of my job. It helps me know the dogs state of mind as I am teaching them. Reading body language is a must for doing any sort of behavioral work as well. Having different breeds has taught me some different accents of that language in a sense. An akitas facial expressions and a frenchies face are quite different after all. (floppy ears, upright ears, tail, no tail also play in)
The conversation about problems, when I mulled it over in my head later, made me start to think more about the expectations we have of our dogs. Remember they are all individuals and can't be painted with the same brush.
Here is one example:
People want their dog to not only not soil in the house, but to come tell them when they need to go out.
I wonder if this may be unrealistic for some. One example: Dogs have a different perception of the area they live in and will soil the areas outside their own perceived important living area. That might just be down the hall. But it's part of our house and home you say? Well to the dog it isn't an important part and is therefore fair game. They aren't sneaking off, they are just going to the place they haven't claimed as important. (important enough not to soil that is) This is why we can employ crate training during the housetraining phase so effectively. That is a space they do not want to soil. So getting them to learn we prefer them to soil outside, and then having them make the extra leap to asking to go out an be a difficult bridge to find for some dogs.
I take my dogs out on a pretty regular schedule, plus whenever they have been crated and I return home. (and after the big 3 of course - eating, sleeping and playing) Regardless of where we are in training or management I have never expected any of my dogs, past or present, to come get me to remind me to take them out.
Am I asking to little of them, or am I meeting their needs in a timely manner?
This is only one example of expections.
Each of my dogs has their own issues. Missy likes to scream her hello when we walk back in the house like she is being flayed alive. Jack can be to pushy with some other dogs. And we have discussed our dear Jenny. Who I forgot to mention is also a notorious teddy bear thief.
Everyone has different perceptions of what they feel is important for their dogs to learn as well. For my dogs I teach them what works for me and our family situation. Those include:
No biting.
No running out the door.
No jumping on people. (unless given permission)
No dragging me around on the leash.
No hard chew toys on the couch. (drool, ick!)
No soiling in the house. (a work in progress for one)
Sit stay for meals until permission given.
I expect others to do the same, find and use what works for them in their home. Just because I let my dogs on the couch doesn't mean I expect my clients to be the same way. If they want to let their dogs chew bones on the couch, that is fine by me. They are the ones living with them after all. Unless it encrouches on safety issues, it is all good.
In training we hear unrealistic expectations frequently. "I want my dog to not get in the garbage when I am gone. I want my puppy to stop chewing on me when I roughhouse with him. I want my puppy to not soil it's crate when I am gone to work for 8 hours". I want I want I want. This is why I consider so much of my job to be translating. Explaining why dogs do what they do, and what can be considered a realistic expectation from them. Thankfully, once explained to most clients, there is what Oprah calls "The lightbulb moment" and the road to a peaceful co-existence is stepped upon. Bridging the gap to clear communication between dog and owner is the most important lesson I can teach.
Once communication is established, the quality of life improves for both the dog and owner dramatically. And that is why I continue to love my job.
The three musketeers on a crime spree. (Who said you can get on the bed?)

My nephew

This is my sisters dog Zeus.

She adopted Zeus after Katrina from our local shelter who worked to get some of those dogs shipped up here. As you will see he is quite small for a bulldog. He needed to have a vet visit and she had to work so I took him for her.

**Note: Before you rush out to get a bulldog because they are cute be aware many are walking vet bills. Zeus is no exception. Being a bulldog, and most likely a back yard bred dog, he is at the vet ALOT for skin issues and needs constant bathing. He could also use a surgery to help his breathing in the future. Note his tongue doesn't quite fit his mouth.**

When she came to pick him up I had her show off his paw trick and in general be cute to catch some video of him.

The video below might not show an opening photo but if you hit play at the left it should work just fine.

He also snores and throws up alot. (food regurge) But we love him anyways. :-)

Monday, February 25, 2008

You can't please them all

Jake has been at the prison for less that a full day and I already have someone irritated with me. That was fast. Or more accurately my decision to put him in the program. An unhappy gentleman called me at home and left a message on my machine wondering why I would send him to the program if he already had someone interested in adopting him. (That person being him.)
I have one very good answer for that. It isn't about getting him into a home, it is about him getting into a home so that he KEEPS it. Sure a handsome boxer will garner lots of interest, but his inappropriate behavior and lack of training might just get him a revolving door adoption once his behavior pushes the new adopters past his cute threshold.
So I'm here to say, it isn't about you Mr. Adopter, but the dog that matters most here. I'm sorry you are annoyed that you missed out on him when his adoption fee would have been lower as you complained about on my machine. If you really are interested in him, than you may put in a new application once he is finished with his basic training. Trust me, the higher adoption fee doesn't begin to cover the cost of training if you were to get the same on the outside once he has been adopted. If you are a good match, and if your current dog gets along with him, then you might be his next home. Until then, he will be at the prison learning manners and lessons to help make that transition easier for everyone in his next home.
In the meantime you are welcome to check out the FIVE boxer rescue groups that cover our area that have more than a few handsome dogs available for adoption if you are dead set on getting another boxer. But know that they work to match dogs into the right home as well. It's not like ordering fast food. It's adding a family member that will be with you for years to come. Our goal is to make those years happy ones that last in that home.

There is nothing wrong with having patience when looking to add a dog to your home. Good things come to those who wait after all.
***P.S. The cutie in the photo above is Tyson who is available through Second Chance Boxer Rescue***

New prison dog

First meet Woodrow. How cute is he? I got to meet Woody the other day along with his big brother and big sister. They just needed some tips to keep the family on track towards good manners.

Here is the new K-9 Corrections program dog Jake. He is a boxer that came to the shelter as a stray. Hard to believe this beauty was not claimed by an owner. He just needs a little polishing of his manners along with some obedience work and he will be a great pet for someone.

And oh yeah, his tongue doesn't always fit into his mouth. You can see why below. This makes for some interesting expressions at times.


And a bit of him on video settling in.

He is going to be alot of fun to work with. The handlers were very happy to get a outgoing social dog this time around. I am also VERY pleased to report that Grizz has been adopted into a home with two dogs that he plays well with. All progress reports have been positive. Yay for Grizz! I love it when a plan comes together.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cloning and it's idiocy

I wasn't planning on another post quite so soon but I read something over at itchmo that annoyed me greatly and thinking about it made my head want to explode. It seems that for a mere $150,000 you can get your pet cloned by a company. Put your order in now.

The flaws as I see them?

First, you are only getting a genetic duplicate of your previous pet. NOT the same behaviors or temperment.

Second, there are pets DYING in shelters EVERY FREAKING DAY and you want to spend ridculous gobs of money to bring another into the world because you can't let go of the past?

Third, imagine what that amount of money could do for your local shelter or rescue ON TOP of that fact that you could adopt a pet, and perhaps be saving that life, at the same time.

It is ridculous on so many levels that I find it obscene. Yet another example of our "I want it now." society being idioticly shortsighted. Selfish on a grand scale in my opinion.
Here's a better idea for your excess money, (because if you can afford the cost of cloning in my book, it's excess) how about you support a cause like My Wonderful Dog or other similar programs. Or share the wealth and improve our planet in some way. Build a shelter and name it after your past pet, a much more honorable memorial to their memory. Don't waste it reach it for a goal that is unattainable.
***The dog in the top photo are my first two akitas, Shimo and Kuma. I love and miss them dearly but would never clone them because I would still not have the essence of THEM back.***

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Closing doors

I got an e-mail today from Elsa Larsen of My Wonderful Dog. For those that don't already know, they train service dogs for the disabled in Portland Maine. It seems they are closing their doors due to lack of funding. How I wish I were independently wealthy and in a position to help.

Here is the letter with details on a sale they are having THIS WEEKEND of dog related equiptment. (I hope this helps get the word out for them.)


Dear friends,

I am saddened to tell you that after 8 years, My Wonderful Dog will be closing its doors at the end of the month. We have quite simply, run out of money and cannot continue to operate.

It has been a bittersweet, wild ride. Thank you all for your support, your love, and well wishes. I see so many problems in the world today and I am grateful that you have allowed me the opportunity to see the enormous amount of good in people. Thank you Maine, and a special thanks to those of you in the greater Portland area, for the opportunity, even for a short while, to pursue my dream. It has been an honor to work with you, both human and canine alike, and it has touched me deeply. Here's to the dogs that enrich our lives with their unbridled joy and enthusiasm. They certainly do make our lives whole.

Elsa LarsenMy Wonderful Dog
Assistance Dogs for People with Disabilities

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." - Unknown

Inventory Sale this Weekend

This Saturday Feb. 23rd and Sunday the 24th from 9-3, My Wonderful Dog will hold an inventory sale at our Portland Training center at
54 Cove Street off Marginal Way. Open to the public. Cash and checks preferred, credit cards accepted.

To pay off our debt, we must sell all of the contents of our facility. Included in the inventory are dog crates, office supplies and furniture, training equipment, books and DVD's. There are framed dog photos and a beautiful 5' x 5' painting by local artist Toni Wolf. There is a washer/dryer, refrigerator, microwave, dog bowls, leashes, pig's ears, bully sticks and more.

Volunteer help is needed both days to help with the sale! Please email Jess at if you can lend a hand.
Van for Sale

My Wonderful Dog will be selling our 2006 Chevy Express cargo van. This vehicle has 30,000 miles, is an automatic with power brakes, power windows and locks. The van is also equipped with all wheel drive making it exceptionally safe to drive in winter.

If you are interested in finding out more, please call Elsa at 329-2925.


Head Trainer will Continue to Train Dogs

CEO and head trainer, Elsa Larsen, will continue to work with pet dogs and their owners in the greater Portland area. "Dogs have been my life for the past 10 years and I can't imagine not working with them in some capacity", says Larsen. Although she is still trying to find a suitable space to rent for group classes, Elsa will be doing in-home consults and will continue to work with aggressive dogs.


I for one am very VERY saddened by the news of the closing. They were a fabulous facility working for a really great cause. I really admired the work they did. I am glad to know she will still be training in the area and hosting those fabulous behavior and training seminars with guest speakers. The next will be with Jean Donaldson on July 13th. (I'll be sure to post details once it gets closer.)

I wish Elsa much success in her new journey. For her, an Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you In the palm of His hand.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Westminster fallout courtesy of the media

The media strikes again. Here is an article a semi-local paper did online after the show. I have comments and rebuttals from the interviewee at the end so hold your fury. Edited somewhat for space. Link to full story at end of post.
Beagle owners revel in Uno's triumph
Kennel owners brace for renewed interest in 'the poor man's dog'
Uno, a 15-inch beagle, poses with the trophy after winning Best in Show Tuesday at the 132nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Dieter Bradbury is the online reporter for Bradbury’s beat is designed to engage directly with readers and glean story ideas from your suggestions, Web postings and feedback. If you have comments, please post them here or send Bradbury an e-mail at
When a beagle won top prize at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this week, Donna Cook couldn’t contain herself. “I was very excited about that,” said Cook, who breeds beagles and other dogs at Weskeag Labradors in South Thomaston. “I scared my 12-year-old labrador, jumping out of my chair.”
Such was the thrill that ran through the veins of Maine beagle owners when a dog named Uno was declared best in show at the prestigious competition on Tuesday. (photo-Donna with Becca at a show in Mass.)

The unpretentious breed, best known as the inspiration for cartoon characters like Snoopy and Underdog, had never won at Westminster. But this year a beagle from South Carolina defeated six other breeds in the final round, including a toy poodle, an Akita, a Sealyham terrier and an Australian shepherd.
Lori Abbott, who recently bred a litter of beagles in Farmingdale, was floored when Uno triumphed.
“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness that is amazing!’ – with all those other dogs,” she said.
The victory is sure to elevate the beagle’s popularity, and kennel owners are bracing for an onslaught of requests from families who want to take a puppy home.“The last time an English bulldog won that show, they were the number one selling breed in America,” said Patty Dubois, who raises beagles and other breeds at Superior Kennels in Arundel. Dubois said she fielded a call the day after the Westminster show from a Portland company that wants to use beagles in its next catalogue.
***BLOG OWNER NOTE looks like a PUPPYMILL to me!!!! Multiple breeds and credit cards accepted are some HUGE red flags here people. Great source here!***
Beagles have long been among the five most popular breeds listed by the American Kennel Club, and they generally are considered good family pets because of their tolerance for children. They are also a prized hunting dog, primarily for rabbits, and will follow their noses until they drop.
Abbott and her husband got their first beagle to hunt with four years ago.
“I kinda turned him into a baby,” she said. “So I bought a second one.”
The family now has 10 beagles and is raising their first litter for sale.
Cook, in South Thomaston, said beagles are highly trainable but need stimulation and exercise or they will bark out of boredom. She screens buyers to make sure they have a fenced exercise area and an understanding that the beagle needs attention from its owners.
Attention is no problem for Tony Cummings, a guide from Sidney who keeps 10 beagles for hunting and field trials. The beagle is a “poor man’s dog,” he said, because they are relatively inexpensive and common.“They were bred to run rabbits, that’s what they were bred for,” he said. Cummings feels lucky if he can sell a top beagle pup for $375 – a fraction of the cost of many other breeds. He said he didn’t watch the Westminster show and has little interest in show beagles because they are bred primarily for appearance and deportment rather than instinct, intelligence and hunting ability.
“They breed the hunting instinct right out of them, in a sense,” he said.
***BLOG OWNER NOTE ~ Brace yourselves people-here is the best part.****
Still, Cummings sees a benefit for beagle owners in Uno’s triumph.
“That’s going to bring the price of them up,” he said. “I told my cousin, if you’ve got one you want to breed, now is the time to do it.”
***Uugghhh!!! Makes me want to vomit. I'm sure beagle rescue is thrilled with that advice as much as I am.
** Note from Donna Cook the MISQUOTED beagle owner and breeder: This is the article that the Reporter Published . Guess I should have asked to read it before he associated me with it! I stressed OVER and OVER again the fact that Beagles would become popular and that they would end up in shelters in 6 months due to the popularity......and look what he quotes from another breeder in the last line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I also did not say that they are easily trained, I said that they can be trained with some skill, patience and perseverance. They really are NOT an easy dog to train.
And here is her reply that they did NOT post online in their comments section.
Although I was interviewed for this article, I do take exception to many of the comments and the omissions. I am a member of a local kennel club which sponsors AKC Dog Shows and we stress Responsible Breeders and responsible dog ownership. Several of my comments to Mr Bradbury expressed a concern for the breed with it's new found popularity. I explained to him that this would result in many Beagle pups being purchased on a whim due to all of the publicity and the end result will be lots of Beagles being surrendered to shelters, tied out to dog houses and abandoned.
I ask that each and every person who is now considering buying a Beagle pup really research the breed and decide if they are the right breed for you and your circumstances. Look for a responsible that will do a careful interview, advise you on responsible dog ownership and MAYBE even refuse to sell you a pup if they think the pup will not work out for you and your living arrangements. Most of all a responsible breeder will have you sign a contract that states that the pup must be returned to them if you can no longer keep the any time in the dog's life! AND expect to pay way more than $375 for a quality puppy from a responsible breeder.
Beagles are really not the easiest dogs to train, simply because they are a hound and are bred to work independently of the owner. They can be trained to come when called with much time and patience and skill. However, if you want to keep your pet Beagle close to you, have a fenced yard and a leash handy at all times.
Beagles DO make great pets for the right family that is ready for the boisterous little dogs to come into their life. So give it plenty of careful consideration before you run out and buy a Beagle puppy. A Beagle should be a "merry little hound" and " a lot of dog in a small package". Beagles also like to do what Uno did when he won.....put that head back and let loose!!!! So be prepared or choose a different, quieter breed. ~Donna Cook~
I just wanted to make sure that Donnas voice gets heard PROPERLY on the subject. This is also a great lesson on the media and their curious habit of only hearing what they want to hear in an interview. It doesn't just happen in pitbull circles people so be aware. Feel free to e-mail the reporter in regards to his mistakes. (link to his e-mail above)
For more info on beagles, here is a link to just one of many beagle rescue groups out there. As with ANY breed, research before you buy is always recommended. I find rescue is a great place to get the good and BAD info on the breeds you are considering.
***Link to full online story here:

A visitor and some video

Yesterday my sister came over with her dog Zeus. He is a rescued bulldog. A sweet boy with a few interesting idiosyncracies. Thankfully his owner is patient about dealing with them. He is also a bit of a walking vet bill with some reoccuring skin issues. No surprise considering his most likely being of the back yard bred variety. Isn't he cute? Usually his tongue doesn't fit all the way into his mouth poor guy.

This does not adequatly capture the chaos that 4 dogs together in a small space can produce.
Did someone say treat? (Once upon a time this would have been cause for Jenny to start a fight. Progress!)
Here are some last videos of Grizz playing with Jack at the prison. He has a potential adopter coming to see him Monday. If it isn't a good match then he will begin staying back at the shelter so we can begin a new dog on the program. (and make him more visible to the public) Wish him luck!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Valentines Day!!!

This was sent to me by the woman responsible for us having our dear Jenny. She is a tireless worker for pug rescue here in New England. This is her crew. It was to cute not to share.
In the spirit of love for our dogs here is an article I have been meaning to share that I find excellent. It was not written by me but by a training colleague whose name is below.
"One of the things I think people sometimes overlook, when they express concern about reward being used to reinforce behavior, is the way it can build a relationship.
Healthy relationships are built on mutual give-and-take--when first meeting someone, if they ask about our work and interests, laugh at our jokes, make us feel good, and don't stick us with the check for dinner, that's a good start.
People who offer nothing, either emotionally or practically, are generally somewhere on a scale of disinteresting down to toxic--not generally someone with whom most of us would want to begin a relationship.
Dogs we've just met don't have a career about which we can ask, jokes at which we can laugh, etc. We can show our interest in what they are doing for us by rewarding with food, the opportunity to do favorite actions, physical touch they enjoy, etc. That doesn't mean that it is bribery, or a shallow connection that can easily be borken.
It fustrates me when people think that reward-based training will make the dog dependant on treats--done right, it does just the opposite; it makes all you have to offer valuable. After a short while, this extends not only to food, praise, petting, toys, outings, etc. --it extends to your very presence.
But, we need to start with something basic, elemental, primary, for these nonverbal creatures. Just as with feeding and holding a baby, providing food is one of the first ways into most dogs' consciousness, to let them know we are a part of their lives.
If the first tiny seeds that grew into the relationship I have with my dogs were germinated in a cube of cheese, fertilized with ear scritches, watered with the door to the potty yard being opened, and warmed with the sunshine of tossed toys, that's fine with me! At this point we are as intertwined as the branches of a mature tree, and the flow of mutual reward is constant, even if there isn't a crumb, toy or doorknob in sight!
Ellen Brown

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Drug Dog Humor

It's freaking cold!!!!

After many years of only having furry large dogs, winter weather wasn't a big deal for me and my beasts. Potty time with snow was even fun. A time to frolic and play. My Jack loves new snow and the opportunity for a snowball toss game. I have found the same is not always true with smaller less fluffily prepared dogs. (furrily challenged?) To combat the recent 10 degrees and below lately I have resorted to the use of winter coats for the smaller dogs of our household.
This might not seem like a big deal to many other small dog owners, but after years in the big dog scene using clothing on my dogs came as a bit of culture shock for me. Clothes for dogs? Not my thing. Though it never bothered me to see other small dogs wearing clothing appropriately. (I say appropriately because some outfits seem more in line with dressing babydolls than dogs.)
As a trainer I have regularly recommended the use of clothing and other items on large dogs to make them less intimidating to the public. It's hard to label a dog scary looking if it's wearing a cute sweater and can show off a trick or two. (Tip ~ Tricks also show that the dog has training.)
Once I watched our poor almost naked pug shivering during potty time a few times it became apparent what I needed to do. Get a coat on that dog!
So I bought a few new coats recently for the girls. (From a FABULOUS sale at The Loyal Biscuit. Hint, Hint.) Here they are putting two of them to good use. Here is Missy with what I call her thinking face.
Here are the girls relaxing in their favorite spots. (Excuse the ugly second hand couch. Free doesn't always equal pretty.) I had the pet steps given to me and they are perfect for Missy so she doesn't strain her back jumping. Frenchies are stout little dogs and I was worried about the repetive stress on her joints as well so the steps were a perfect addition. The space Jenny is occupying is actually a car seat for dogs. Also given to me. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet as a riding area. I was thinking of using it with Missy since she has some anxiety riding in cars. Maybe seeing out the window easily will give her more confidence in addition to the counter conditioning work we have been doing. I snapped the pic because Jenny was wedged in there oddly and I thought it was cute.
This cutie is O'Malley. She is a 6 month old frenchie girl owned by a friend. She looks tired because she had just been spayed that day. She lives on a local island and they were waiting for the ferry ride home. She is normally much more chipper than this. I'll get better pics of her to share in the future.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spreading the news

Head on over to the Bad Rap blog to see some great news about the Vick dogs. Check out the video if you can too.

For news on the new strain of parvo making the rounds check out the article at the Pet Connection blog. As always they are on top of the story.

Lassie, Get Help has an excellent look at PETA and what they thought should happen to the Vick dogs.

Also over at Frogdog Blog check out the interesting article on the Snow Buddies movie that might change your mind about those cutsie dog movies. Below that is a great article on thirteen dog lies that really hits the mark. (and the cute frenchie puppy movie is also a must see to satisfy those puppy urges)

This beautiful boy is Worf. Sadly not all pitbulls get saved. I will share his story another day.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Some photos, as requested

M, Your wish is my command. :-)
The following are photos of just a couple of my deaf dog students. (Admitedly these ones are also my God dogs.) The first was Genki, an akita owned by friends I met due to mutual akita ownership. Our husbands would call it mutual akita craziness given the chance, but who listens to them? VBG
This handsome pup grew into this beautiful boy.

With his dad back when I offered group classes.

Sadly we lost Genki much to soon. He was a sweet boy who is dearly missed.
This is their mom with their 2 current akitas. Nani on the left is also deaf. Big brother Tomo is on the right. (Yes he is a big boy, even for an akita.)

They are both as sweet as they come too.

Nani's baby pic. The dynamic duo under the tree.
Here they are hanging out with mom and dad at the office. Everyday is bring your dogs to work day for them. (lucky!)

Since I am lucky enough to have great friends with big hearts,* you can see I have had a fair share of practice in the field of working with deaf dogs. (*who have opened their hearts not once but twice to the challenge of deaf dog ownership.) It seems wrong to call it work when it is so much fun!

(Couldn't forget a baby pic of Tomo!)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Training the deaf dog

As a dog trainer I get different e-mails from dog related companies regularly. One of those is from A fabulous place to get dog books and DVD's. Todays offer highlighted a book I am familiar with, "Living with a deaf dog" by Susan Cope Becker. Now because I regularly work with deaf dogs, and have a deaf doG daughter myself, I do have the book and have read it. I have to say, it is NOT a good training book!!! It does have some wonderful tips on living with deaf dogs though. In her defense, the author admits that she isn't a trainer. It wasn't a book written about dog training either. It was only written for the average deaf dog owner.
My biggest peeve about the book is that she advises using both alpha rolls and hard eye contact as forms of punishment. Alpha rolls are an antiquated method recanted by the people who came up with the technique in the first place. (based on what they now know was misinturpreted wolf behavior) The last thing you want to do with a deaf dog is anything that doesn't promote good eye contact between you. You can't direct them if they avoid looking at you after all. Not to mention in dog language hard eye contact is a threat or challenge. (And some dogs will meet that challenge.) So hard stares are a very very bad idea.
Why am I bringing it up? Because I want people to have GOOD info if they are looking for training information for deaf dogs. I haven't read the other deaf dog book out, "Hear Hear A guide to training your deaf dog" by Barry Eaton (yet) but I have to think it is better than the alternative.
As a trainer I have found that using the lure reward method of training as outlined in the book "How to teach a new dog old tricks" by Ian Dunbar as a great way to train deaf dogs. The only difference is attaching a hand signal as a cue instead of a verbal one. The best part is that initially the lure method IS teaching hand signals! Sit, down, come and stay are all used the exact same way as if it were a hearing dog. I use a thumbs up along with a smile as my reward marker for Yes! and a shaking finger with a (slight) frown as my auh auh no reward marker. You can also use American Sign Language for other words you want to teach your deaf dog. (also known as ASL) sells a variety of ASL dictionaries with photos of the signs.
Another thing about training a deaf dog, is to continue using your verbal cues and facial expressions. First, trying not to speak while training will interfere with your body language. Remember that dogs communicate with each other with facial expressions and body language so they learn to read ours very easily. Second, not everyone will know your dog is deaf and the dog needs to learn how to read other people as well.
Here are a few great websites about deaf dogs that include info about training and hand signals and signs.
British site:
Check out the deaf dog in training photos:
Fabulous deaf dog apparal:
I have to admit I love working with deaf dogs. Not only is it a challenge I enjoy, but the moment I see the "lightbulb moment" between dog and owner is very rewarding to me. Training is all about learning how to most effectively communicate with each other. That is the same for every dog and owner, regardless of any challenges that may be involved.

Happy training!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Why growling is good

I know, two posts in one day. I am on a roll! I thought I would share an article I wrote awhile ago for Akita World magazine. I think it has some good info. Hopefully someone out there will find it useful.

My new akita puppy Jack was on his bed chewing a fresh bone. I sat down beside him to work on desensitizing him to having things taken away. There is little of higher value to a dog than a fresh bone. I asked him in a sing song voice “What have you got there?” and put my hand on the bone. His response was to clench the bone and give a low growl. My husband was watching this exchange and was flabbergasted when I calmly got up without saying a word to go get my training bag with treats in it. “Why didn’t you correct him?” was his question to me. “And why are you about to give him some treats?”
Dogs are a different species. I say that because it seems many people believe a dog should respond or be taught to respond to things the same way a human would. That is just unfair to the dog. Now some would have given the dog a correction and just taken the bone away. I’m sure I could have gotten the bone too as he was only a pup at the time. But what would that have taught the dog? It certainly would have made bones even higher on the value list, which in turn could have escalated the aggression in the future the next time someone tried to remove that item. They do remember from past experiences.
The other thing that would have done would be to teach the dog NOT to growl. You might be wondering why this is important. Remember that different species bit? Well dogs communicate differently than humans as well. Growling is actually a good thing! It is one way your dog is communicating with you. We need to start listening to their communication instead of repressing it. Why? Because to take away that communication can spell disaster in the future.
Dogs use a lot of body language in their communication. Not only do they growl but their body will tense up. Growling is almost always preceded with the stiffening of the body and what I call “the hairy eyeball”. Mothers know this look and use it often. (most commonly in a store or in public with their kids) It is a non-verbal warning. A dog would be able to see this subtle sign of warning from another dog. We humans are less perceptive (in general) and usually push it with the dog to the point of them needing to progress to a verbal or more noticeable cue. The stiffening and hairy eyeball is what I call step one in a warning.
Step two will be either a low growl or the showing of teeth with a raised lip. Now consider that the dog is TRYING to avoid an altercation. It is using everything in its’ bag of tricks to get the point across. What happens if we correct a dog at this point? Well depending on the dog, we either teach them NOT to give a warning, or we get bitten.
OK so say we keep pushing this dog and he has resorted to a serious bite. What happens next usually is step three, or a nip. It might also be an air snap. There is a progression to this in proper dog language. They will only use the amount of warning signals (what we generally label as aggression) needed to end the altercation. If the other dog doesn’t listen and respond to the warnings, you may end up with an all out fight IF the dog doing the warning doesn’t decide to give up the bone. (Let me point out I am talking about dogs that have learned proper dog communication with other dogs.) If that other dog is a person and either ignores the warnings, or wants to prove a point, they will probably get bitten. How serious the bite is depends on where the dog connects or how much force the person tries to use against the dog. (which results in the dog using more force back) A bite to the face usually causes more damage than a bite to the arm.
Many dog bites are in the face because when a dog goes to correct another dog they commonly bite on the muzzle of the other dog. (corrections and attacks are two separate events for the purpose of this article) Children are also on face level with an adult dog and so are more commonly bitten than adults. Staring into a dogs face can also cause a bite because it is perceived in dog language as a threat or a challenge. Unfortunately children do this a lot. Humans, lacking muzzles, damage much easier than another dog. We also receive a lot of damage because we tend to pull away during a bite which causes our more fragile (than dogs) skin to tear. I call step four a bite even though a nip is also a bite, just on a different, some would say less serious, level. By less serious I am speaking in tissue damage terms, not necessarily psychologically less damaging.
So what would happen in this same scenario if the dog had been taught not to growl? Someone would get bitten. The dog would have learned NOT to give a warning. Then you end up with a dog you cannot predict which can be very dangerous. Who would be to blame for that bite? The person that took away that dogs method to communicate of course. A dog can only respond like a dog.
OK so back to Jack and his bone. I sat down and played “trade the treat for the bone” game with him. I made sure to praise him for giving up the bone AND I always gave it back to him after the trade. This way he learns that he will get the item back and it is worth it to give it up to me in the first place. After a 15 minute session I stopped and let him chew his bone in peace. Of course I explained the process to my husband as I played with Jack. He looked skeptical at first. After a 20 minute rest I walked over and asked Jack for the bone which I got with no protest. That proved my point for hubby and Jack again got the bone back with praise. Ten minutes after that Missy, our French bulldog, had cleaned her bone of the marrow and decided she wanted Jacks to work on. Missy is the head dog in our house regardless of her smaller size. She slowly walked over and gave him “the look”. Jack looked back at her, huffed a sigh, got up and calmly walked away.
Tail wags,
Marie Finnegan
K-9 Solutions Dog Training Inc.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A few cute faces to share.

This gorgeous face belongs to an 8 month old American Bulldog named Emmy I saw the other day. She is quite the handful. Excuse the terrible photo. (I have no idea why her eyes look that that in the pic.)

Here is 6 month old Derby. He is a very excitable pug. Here he is (slightly) tuckered out at the end of our session. He was very attentive.
I thought this was a great relaxed shot of Grizz to show. He got to meet a potential adopter on Friday but it wasn't the right match for everyone.
It seems that the videos my crappy camera takes will upload if I keep them to 15 seconds or less. So here are a couple I took the other day of Grizz and Jack playing. I have better ones of them together but they are longer and won't upload for some reason. (Can we say fustrated?) This is one of those times I wish I were more computer savey. Anyhow-Enjoy!