Friday, February 27, 2009

Consider this

Simple and concise you gotta love it. I bring you a short educational video I really enjoyed watching today. It is the top 3 important things people should know who live with and train dogs. I hope people find it helpful or at least thought provoking.

It is 6 minutes in duration from YouTube. (Sorry I couldn't get it to embed for some reason.)Originally posted at on the blog. Go check out the site for some fabulous free training advice and a great blog with multiple contributors. At the risk of looking like a complete suck up, another one of the reasons Dr. Ian Dunbar is one of my favorites is his choice in dogs. He and his wife Kelly currently share their lives with a frenchie (Hugo) AND a pitbull (Dune) in the immediate family. Seriously, how can I resist that? They obviously have great taste.
On another note: Tomorrow I am headed to Massachusetts with my sister and her boyfriend to look at the bulldog puppies we found. I am VERY excited! I'm sure I will take many photos and have some to share later. Wish us luck in picking the right match.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Truman Report

A good news update.

Some of my regular readers may recognise this handsome boy as Truman, the shelter dog that was trained to compete in the Maine Boatyard Dog Trials. It is a fun contest put on by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors annual trade show in Rockland Maine with a limited entry accepted. The contest is based on 3 simple rules: either the dog or handler has to finish completely soaked; cheating is not only tolerated it is encouraged; and there are no other rules! Fun!!!

The contest itself is comprised of an obstacle course, a tippy dingy challenge (dog and handler has to jump in and out of the dingy - this is the part one of them usually gets wet) and a freestyle portion. For our freestyle we did a secret agent routine because when they entered, we had no idea what we would have for a dog to work with at the time of the contest. It depended upon what we had for dogs at the shelter to chose from when the course started. Here is the repost of that story.

It was a blast to work with Truman and all the kids. We also had a back up dog in training (an understudy double agent if you will) who looked like he was Trumans brother in case of injury or adoption that could put a crimp in our progress. This meant they were training two dogs at the same time. My job was to teach the kids what they needed to know to be able to train the dogs. In the mornings we watched the video "The Language of Dogs" by Sarah Kalnajs together so I could also help them learn as much about reading dogs as possible as a two week course allows. Then the afternoons we spent working on skills with each dog. The kids made up the routine and chose the tricks based on the skills we taught.

While two weeks isn't going to give anyone a fully trained dog, we were able to put a few tricks under his belt that worked great during the competition. (Held on a floating dock in the harbor in front of a HUGE crowd of onlookers on the docks and in surrounding boats.) The best part was it showed that adult shelter dogs CAN learn new skills. Adding to that was the fact Truman was a hound, a breed some think can't be trained at all. Well we not only proved them wrong we proved he was a real winner and he (and his trainers) walked away with the coveted Pup Cup Trophy. I am very proud of all of them and the work they did.

Of course he still needed a new home to go to afterwards. One family took him on a trial but he was returned for being to rough with their other resident small dog. Then the new issue of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors came out with a feature of the World Champion Boatyard Dog in need of his new home. This became the rest of his story. See Truman with his new dad in the following story with video clip:

(Thanks Amie for the update.)

Our freestyle secret agent routine included: jumping over and though obstacles, responding to commands in 3 other languages, chasing down the bad guys (& pushing them off the dock!) kissing the rescued femme fetale and going back undercover as an average family dog. (it was very cool and set to the pink panther and mission impossible theme songs) Not to shabby for a bunch of kids and someones idea of a cast off. I am SO happy to see Truman got such a great forever home out of the deal. That is the win we were really all looking for after all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What not to do at the vet

The new job is going fabulous. I am so happy to have found something more my speed than the dispatching. The worst day there doesn't come close to the stress of the other job at it's best which also helps. Of course there are some things that could be better which has prompted this specific post. This is stuff that can make you very unpopular at your vets office. Read and heed!

1) Do not bring an extra pet along for treatment to your scheduled visit. "Oh can we do Fluffys nail trim while I am here too?" A specific amount of time is set aside for your pet's visit and adding to that can throw off a vets rest of the day schedule and cause other clients to have to wait. This does not garner points with the receptionists in charge of the schedule.

2) Please do not yell at your pet to SIT, SIT, SIT! when clearly they have never practiced this outside the home before. Adding to your pets stress of being at the vet by commanding them to do something they do not understand helps no one and irritates others watching. Note: They do not have to sit on the scale for it to be accurate, they merely have to physically stay on it for a few seconds.

3) When you see the Dr. at the front desk while you are there picking up food do not assume they have 30 minutes to answer your "By the way Doc..." questions. They may not even have 5 minutes available then. Instead feel free to request a phone call at the doctors convience or schedule an appointment. This can also cut into the doctors already scheduled client time. The doctors may feel uncomfortable saying they can't speak with you now which again garners you no points with the staff dealing with the rest of the waiting and sometimes then angry clients.

4) Do not be late to your appointments. If you are running late call to let us know. This can help us rearrange the schedule as needed. If you are late expect to wait patiently for your new turn in the rotation.

5) Expect to wait. There may have been an emergency we had to fit in and it has thrown our schedule off. We are doing everything possible to keep appointments running on time and dislike keeping people waiting as much as you dislike waiting. Trust me on this.

6) Bring your pet on a leash or in a carrier. Just because your cat is well behaved doesn't mean the dog in the waiting area also is. We have carriers and leashes for you to borrow if needed. We are happy to provide them.
7) A waiting area of a vets office isn't the best place to socialize your new pet. There may be other animals waiting that are sick and contagious, or unfriendly due to stress. Never let your pet approach another without asking the owner if it is ok is a good rule no matter where you are.

8) If you need to reschedule an appointment please do. Do not think just not showing up is ok. The time has been held for you and we can use that for emergencies if we know it is available.

9) Know that it is never a good idea to make the staff angry by mistreating us. Yelling at us doesn't help anything. We are the first line you have to the Doctor after all. We do not make the hospital policies, nor set the prices, merely enforce them and process the payments. Treat us as you want to be treated and everything will be fine.

I also have a small brag that I have been added as a featured blogger at the following site: I am very excited to have been considered worthy along side my fellow trainer and blogger Nancy Freedman-Smith. (She writes Dog's Life blog, be sure to check it out)
P.S. The photo is not waiting area of the vet hospital I work at.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just a walk

Today it is snowing and raining and overall yucky outside. You would never know that yesterday was such a beautiful almost spring day out there. I am so glad I took advantage of it while it was here. After lunch in town Jack and I went for a nice long walk. This is him being all photogenic by the water.

Of course we ended up at The loyal Biscuit. Here he is making sure Lauren doesn't drop any of her sandwich. (I am in lust with that crate cover in the background btw.)

While there we got to meet this adorable little piglet named Wilbur. How perfect is that name?! He was even more snugglicious in person. The ears just kill me! He was a brave little guy and played abit with uncle Jack. (Jack is uncle to ALL puppies.) He had the cutest voice and knew how to use it too.

Meeting this sweet guy after the previous post makes my heart hurt just that much more. Some things are just so amazingly wrong on so many levels.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speechless Wednesday

Because there are no limits on the stupidity of some people.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bulldog news and healthy purebreds

I almost forgot to post the really exciting news. My sister has a lead on a bulldog puppy! One from a breeder who actually does health testing before and after breeding. Finding what I consider a reputable bulldog breeder was NOT an easy task. I am VERY picky about breeders in general and in a breed with such dramatic health issues that can affect even basics like difficulty breathing, it was even more of a challenge. I got some really "interesting" answers when I asked some of them what they did for health testing. I'm sorry but "they are from champion lines" just isn't going to cut it folks! (OK now what do you DO for testing?) We have an appointment at the end of the month to go see the litter and, if she passes the breeders test, pick out a male pup. (to then be picked up later when he is old enough to leave mom and siblings) We are all VERY excited. Above is a pic of the nursery complete with heat lamp.

For a really good post on breeding healthy dogs, and the changes our AKC needs to make to help accomplish that, check out this gem from The Pet Connection blog:

Here is the link to the mentioned report in the post as well on how the kennel club has missed the mark on promoting and protecting purebreds. (in the UK but it definatly applies here as well)

This is a link that was buried in the comments of the Pet Connection post that I found very interesting. It is about a breeding program for healthy Dalmatians.

And anther link to a program where they managed to breed short tailed boxers. (negating the need for surgical tail docking)

Both links are an excellent look at what CAN be accomplished within a breeding program. So why are we accepting anything less? Looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder? Educate yourself on what health problems run in that breed. (ALL breeds have health issues, don't let anyone tell you different.) Then ask the breeders you speak to what they do for testing and expect proof. A verbal "Oh we had her hips checked" might mean they took her to a vet for a check up, not had them x-ray'd and passed an OFA certification. (which will have a paper trail) Healthy breeding may need to start with the breeders, but the buyers are the ones who need to insist on compliance for it to change some of these breeders long term. Don't be part of the chain of supply and demand for unhealthy dogs. It helps no one.

Redefining "Alpha"

This is a follow up to my post about dogs as pack animals. Check out the very well written post over at DogStarDaily by Nicole Wilde that has the proven science behind my previous post.

The post also includes the following link to this article: "Whatever happened to the term Alpha Wolf?"

In other news I am very excited that Patricia McConnell PhD is coming to Maine for a seminar on dog to dog aggression in June. Nicole Wilde is also on the slate for an upcoming date. I will be attending both. FMI go to Click on the links for higher education and seminars.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Goals in dog training

I have been sitting on this post for awhile. Letting the thoughts on it percolate as it were. But I am getting more and more annoyed as time goes by. I keep reading on some blogs the opinion of how trainers aren't any good unless they compete with their dogs through to a certain level in AKC events. I find that simply insulting. To me it equates as you can't teach a drivers education class unless you race in the Daytona 500. Wha...??? Perhaps overly dramatic but you get my point.

I think it comes down to what your goals are with your dogs. When you are looking for a trainer you need to find one that is qualified in what you want to teach your dog to do. Do you need behavior help or training help? (there can be a difference) Do you want to compete in specific events with your dog? Do you just want to teach good manners? Do you want to socialize your dog?

I have competed a little in the obedience ring. We did ok but it wasn't something I found all that much fun to do with my dog. And to be honest competing gives me the willies. I'm not sure why as I am not a shy person and do not get stage fright. I also have at least one dog that would fly though easily if I was interested. I am considering trying more Rally O someday as it seems much more realistic and fun than AKC obedience. You get to talk to your dogs during the course which I like. (And I have stewarded at many AKC shows in obedience for the local kennel club I am a member of so yes I do know what I am talking about.)

To say I am not a qualified trainer because I do not compete or haven't finished a dog in a sport seems short sighted. You can come to my house and see how my dogs act. You can watch me in public walking my dogs, or see us hanging out in the local dog store. Judge me for how I work with my dogs or how I work with clients dogs. Judge me for how my dogs behave. Judge me for the results my clients get with their dogs or how effective I am in getting the information to them. Just please, judge me for what I do, not what I don't do.

I work hard to continue my education in training methods and learning as much about canine behavior as possible. I attend seminars, read and work with dogs constantly to keep my skills fresh. If I don't have an answer to a problem, I admit it and find one. If I can't help a client, I refer them to someone who I think can. If they have a puppy I refer them to puppy classes first so their puppy gets the BEST start possible. (my training cannot make up for missed puppy socialization) To me this isn't just a job and an income, it is about helping dogs, no matter how I need to help an owner accomplish that.

So the bottom line is that you, the owner, needs to assess what you want from your dog and find the trainer that can best do that for you. Looking at what titles they have earned in the ring may not always be the best way to chose a trainer. There are many more questions to ask. Find out the methods they use and how their dogs are as family dogs. If you don't know what something means ask for clarification. Ask what they do for fun with their dogs. Find out why they became a trainer in the first place. Do they have any behavior knowledge? Not all trainers do unfortunately. Ask where they got their training to become a trainer. Who did they study with? (google their mentors online if you don't recognise the names they give you) Some self taught trainers are excellent and some are clueless. Not all trainers are created equal. (just like every other profession we have our duds too)

Competing in the obedience ring means teaching a dog a set of skills in a specific setting. But life with a dog is so much more than a few skills in an obedience ring. Sure if I want to drive in the Daytona 500 I should find someone with that experience, that makes sense. But not all of us want to get behind that particular wheel. It certainly doesn't mean we aren't qualified to drive the car.

My point is to ask questions. Got answers you are happy with and find a trainer that understands what you want and can provide that. It is your life with your dog we are talking about after all, one that hopefully will last a very long time.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray for biscuits at my feet.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How to identify your pet

Since I now work at a vet hospital (again) I went over my pets records to see if they needed anything. It would seem odd to not have my dogs go to the vet I work for so I figured getting them each in soon while they were healthy would be a good idea. This way the doctors and the dogs get to meet each other on a positive note. One of the things I noticed going through their records was that I hadn't gotten Jenny microchipped yet. (Bad dog mom!) She has been with us for over a year now and was way overdue. I am unsure how I let that slip. I am a big fan of microchipping for a couple of reasons. One is the lost or separated pet issue of course. They can help you be reunited if they get lost and end up at the shelter. I know you are thinking that could never happen to you, but what if there was a fire and they got out of the house or an intruder lets them loose? What if they are in the car and you have a bad wreck? There are many ways you can get separated from your pet accidentaly. They can also help if your dog is ever stolen. I am always telling people that if you had to prove in a court of law that a dog was yours photos just might not be enough. But a microchip sure would help prove ownership. (lots of photos is a great back pu plan though) After I get them chipped I also always register them with the company, in my case AVID. This way they can reach me directly instead of having to call the vet who chipped the dog and track me down from there. (what if it was on a Sunday?) And you can register a back up contact person and number too. Piece of mind that is well worth the extra fee in my opinion.

I also believe in dog tags. They are the quickest way for people to see that the dog is owned (and loved) by someone. When my first akita was being watched by a friend he got loose and went missing for the night. Fortunately he was tagged and the person who found him called the number on that tag and I got him back quickly. I also had an akita rescue get away from a new home and went missing for 3 months. She was eventually reunited because she was wearing the back up tag the rescue group required all their dogs have until new tags were procured by the new owner. (we paid the reward as advertised on our tags as well)

My three all wear their state tag, that proves they are licenced with the town, a tag with our address and phone number listed, and their microchip tag. I do not add the rabies tag only because being licenced with the town proves them current on rabies. (and if i used a clinic for that vax it would be a different vet than my own anyhow) The microchip tag is plastic so putting it between the metal tags prevents to much noisy jingling. Missy's address tag is the CGC tag from AKC that she earned. The other thing you can add to address tags is second side info such as on medication, not good with other dogs, or a personal message. On the back of Jenny's I put "Please return me to my boy. He misses me." I worry someone might try to keep her since she is so cute. (the remake of Lassie where they NEVER look for the previous owner of such a fabulous stray put THAT thought into my head thank you very much) My address tags came from the local shelter where they have a machine that can make them up on the spot. No waiting and revenue for a good cause. I just love a win win don't you?

Here is this weekend's visitor. A male from the same litter. He is a brute at 14 lbs already. (For visiting dogs or ones on vacation it is also a great idea to have in transit tags or tags with the vacation address on them. )
All collars shown by

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The bulldog hunt

This is a photo of my sisters dog Zeus. Sadly we lost him in May. (some of you may remember) We are still on the search for a healthy and friendly bulldog for her to add to her family. It has hit a point of fustration as many breeders have seemingly ignored my requests for info. I am starting to see why so many people "order" dogs off the internet. It is much easier and faster that the reputable routes. But in the spirit of NOT becoming part of the chain of supply and demand that keeps puppymills alive, I sent out a plea last night to about 10 breeders off the Bulldog Club of Americas website. If that doesn't net some good results for us I am not sure what we will try next. For the curious we are going the breeder route because while Zeus was a great dog he was also riddled with serious health problems and ultimately had to be euthanized due to unstable temperment. Does that mean all rescued dogs have issues? Certainly not. There are MANY great dogs in rescue and shelters. And many of them are healthy too. However she would prefer not to go through that heartbreak again. Especially considering this is a breed that can be prone to health problems that back yard breeders and puppymills just don't check for. (it is to expensive for BYB's and cuts into the profit for puppymills)

Please wish us luck in our endevor. She is a fabulous home just waiting to love on her new family member. (and I hear she has a great dog sitter too! VBG)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A weekend visitor

A 7 Week old Chow Chow puppy here for some socialization before heading to her new home in a couple of weeks.

Fun was had by all. Then I was exhausted and took a nap. Next weekend we will have one of her siblings. I'll try to get some good video to share.