Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good morning!

Just a few photos of this mornings tracking practice with Jenny. They aren't the best because I just did some point and click so I could keep an eye on her. (Having a blog makes you see everything as a potential photo op.) I'm shocked they aren't blurry like I expected. I have to say everytime I take her out I am blown away by how well she works. This morning was slightly breezy and the area was fresh mowed. I was hesitant but she worked like a champ. Tomorrow I seek out taller grass to start her in.

Red is definatly my color.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Life sometimes gets in the way

I am so far behind in posts and blog reading. I am sorry. My mom ended up in the hospital with her COPD. Breathing or smoking, she needs to pick one. Hopefully I will be back on track soon. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts on losing Zeus. I'm sure she will get another bulldog eventually when the time is right.

Here is a photo of all the toys recently washed. You can see the Fido brand bones are holding up well. I give them a big thumbs up. If they can withstand my serious chewers they are good to go in my book.

In the spirit of memorial day this is a picture of the memorial tree at my local shelter. Dogs and cats that don't make it to a new home are remembered here. (They only euthanise for serious temperment issues or serious health issues, never to make space.)

This cutie is Sam. She came to us in rough shape as you can see and needs a home where she can burn off some of her energy. She gives some mixed signals with other dogs but does well with those that have a similar play style.

This is Mr. T. He will need someone that doesn't mind the extra grooming that comes with his coat. FMI on these dogs check out their website at

I hope to be back in the swing of things again soon. Until then I hope everyone enjoys their long weekend. Go play with your dogs!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy news & sad news

The happy news is that Jake went to his new home. Here is his new mom and dad. (Big brother stayed home.) Best wishes for Jake and his new family.

The sad news is the reason I haven't posted lately. Due to circumstanses beyond our control, my sister had to make the sad decision to euthanise Zeus. It was somewhat expected yet came much to soon for all of us. We went together and it has taken some of the spunk out of me for dog talk lately.
His body failed him yet his heart never did. God speed sweet Zeus.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A lesson in canine greetings

And now a discussion in butt sniffing 101.

Check out the following e-mail I received. (heavily edited) This is why I wish ALL trainers were required to take course in basic dog behavior.

" I was having a conversation with my neighbor last night with the Golden puppy and she was talking about a recent group class discussion with Trainer X. Since I wasn't actually there for the discussion, I of course don't know the actual context. She may very well have simply misunderstood what Trainer X was saying. But I thought I'd run it by you and see if you have any thoughts. The discussion had to do with dogs and butt sniffing. Trainer X's position seemed to be that when dogs sniff each other's hind quarters, there is bound to be trouble - that it is an aggressive behavior by dogs who have not been properly trained, and that a fight is bound to ensue. He compared it to a couple going out to dinner and the man going over to sniff other women. "

Oh good grief! Honestly it makes my head feel like exploding. That is just plain bad information. Here is the real story on dog greetings and butt sniffing.

A proper dog greeting is face to face briefly and then they sniff each others butt or genital area. This gives each dog information about the other one. Are you male? Female? Are you in heat? Will you be in heat soon? Do you have any leftovers to share? Etc, etc, you get the picture. (yes dogs are gross by our human standards)

Direct prolonged eye contact, in dog language, is a threat or a challenge so we don't want to force dogs to stay face to face by preventing the butt sniffing portion of the greeting. Humans greet each other face to face directly, not dogs. If we force them to stay in that position we also most likely have at least one dog also straining at the leash. Why? So it can get to the other dogs backside for that proper sniff. If we are holding back a dog that is straining we are also changing it's body language. The pulling dog can then look offensive (and threatening) to the other dog. (One reason they look offensive is due to oppositional reflex. When we pull back on the leash they lean into it automaticly, thus looking offensive to the other dog.)

So now we have two dogs face to face with at least one of them looking forwardly offensive. What happens next? Possibly a fight because the other dog may misread the body language and decide to defend himself from the other dog's possible pending attack. It is all a miscommunication caused by people preventing a proper canine greeting. (usually because they are embarrassed by the butt sniffing)

To do proper dog to dog greetings I highly recommend doing them first on neutral territory for both dogs. This prevents any hostilities with dogs that may be territorial. I also recommend taking both dogs for a walk first to burn off energy. Then meet on the neutral spot and them go for a walk together. Everyone going in the same direction. This lets the dogs see and smell each other in a non-threatening manner. No meetings until both dogs are calm and relaxed. (and handlers too!) Then stop and let each dog say hello properly on LOOSE leashes. Watch the body language for any warning signs. (stiffening, whale eyes, growling, lip lifting) Simply walk off, with said dog, if one dog seems uncomfortable.

This is important. Make sure YOU are loose and relaxed. This includes your facial expressions. Dogs take their cues from their handlers and if they seem nervous the dog may respond to that tension. Smile alot and have a loose body. (Even if you don't feel like it. Be a noodle!)

Yes if a man in a restaurant came over to sniff me (or my butt) I would probably not like it. However I am a human, not a dog. In humans this isn't unacceptable behavior. In dogs however it is. "Hello, who are you?" Butt sniffing is NOT an aggressive behavior in dogs. It is simply their way of getting information about the other dog. Letting a dog, trained or otherwise, run up to another dog to say hello might be rude if the dog wasn't socialized properly or lacks proper canine greeting manners. (and gets into the other dogs face or jumps on him) Then yes, trouble could ensue.

I would also caution that you should NEVER let your dog say hello to another dog unless you first check with that dogs owners first. (exceptions would be in a dog park where the assumption is that all the dogs there have appropriate manners to be off leash in a group of dogs - I would caution you to find groups with dog having similar playstyles to yours for the best match and supervise well)

Do not assume by size, age, actions or breed of dog that they are ok to say hello to. There are many reactive and unsocialized dogs out there with owners who walk them in public just fine unless an uninvited dog gets into their space. If your uninvited dog gets into a dogs space that doesn't like it and gets hurt as a result it is YOUR fault as the handler of your dog. Remember that. You are holding the other end of the leash after all.

Part of training your dog should include being able to pass other dogs on walks without them going crazy to go say hello. Not every dog wants to say hello back, especially to an overly enthusiastic dog or puppy. Also training them to sit (or at least stay) at your side when you stop walking, no matter the distraction, is also recommend.

If you have a reactive dog you can either move off the path and do a "watch me" exercise using yummy tidbits to let the other dog pass or turn around and change direction completely when you see another dog. Some dogs who get reactive towards other dogs do so as a distance seeking behavior out of fear. They are trying to drive the other dog away. You will need to counter condition these dogs to teach them they have nothing to fear. (using tidbits and working under the dogs threshold initally)

I have gone somewhat off topic. My point is that if Trainer X did actually say that butt sniffing was an aggressive behavior, then Trainer X was wrong. And not just a little bit but a whole lot of wrong. I don't know where they are getting their information. Hopefully the conversation was misunderstood. But this is a prime example of the problem of dog training being an unregulated field. Unfortunatly not every trainer has an interest in dog behavior. This is just one example of bad information being passed on by a "professional" in the field.