Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's a boy!

My sister's new bulldog puppy is finally here. His name is Minos and he is almost 10 weeks old. In mythology King Minos was the son of Zeus. Excuse the poor photos. Aside from the one with my sister, I used the less appealing photos on here to help thwart those who might steal them for use on those hideous puppy-for-sale websites. (If anyone can tell me how to protect pics from being taken from my blog I would love to know the details. E-mail me at ) As you can see, even from these photos, he is absolutely adorable.

And here he is on video playing with Missy.

I am so happy for my sister. She has waited a long time for this fabulous boy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jack and Missy join the scouts

Tonight Jack, Missy and I attended a girl scout meeting I was invited to for a talk on dog training and safety with dogs. I think it went very well. There were some excellent questions asked by the girls. Most of them had dogs themselves. After the majority of the talk, we used the stage for a short demo of training skills. Jack was facinated to be up higher than everyone else. It was a first for him. The girls seemed to enjoy the show. Afterwards I let everyone say hello to both of my beasts.

Hopefully the girls, and their leaders, learned some helpful training and safety tips for the future. I love teaching kids dog skills. They are generally fast learners and come with much less baggage about dogs. It is always good to get to kids as soon as possible in hopes it prevents potential problems later. They gave us a fabulous thank you gift of healthy dog treats they made themselves. Where there are girl scounts there are cookies! It was a great way to end the day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The name game

As much griping as I have done about the AKC lately I am going to go ahead and get Jenny's PAL. (Purebred Alternative Listing) I have always registered my dogs so that I have the option of showing open to me. I figure someday I might have the time or inclination to get back in the ring. Since I also plan on doing some serious tracking with Jenny this year I might as well get the ball started. I like to be prepared.

One of the fun things is chosing a name for the registration forms. Since Jenny is from rescue I would like to use PRoNE in place of the kennel name. PRoNE stands for Pug Rescue of New England. This way if I indeed ever get some sort of title on her, rescue could use her as an example for future potential adopters. Everybody wins.

So I have 25 spaces available for the name with 5 already taken. Example: something like PRoNE's Gotta Have Faith. She was named by my son and he chose the name Jenny because she is Forrest Gumps girlfriend in the movie Forrest Gump. So something related to that is a possibility. Also something related to her having a great nose. She also likes to eat anything and everything. My husband suggested PRoNE's likes to eat the poo, but I don't think that is exactly appropriate. (tho I find it quite funny) In her off time you can see she is quite the couch potato. (or is that a curtain potato in this case?)

Feel free to suggest names. I would appreciate the help. The final submission will need to pass approval by my son since she is his dog. I will be sure to keep everyone posted on what we decide.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Simply amazing

Check out the story of an armless woman who trained her dog to a championship in obedience.

I'd say this means there really is NO excuse for not training.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Appreciating the service

I know this is a dog blog but today I am going off topic. When I sign onto my e-mail I get the aol news. Most of the time I skip it because the news is generally depressing. I prefer to be a positive person as much as possible. Not only that but so much of it doesn't apply directly to my own life. Unfortunately one of today's headline stories does touch my life. Here it is: For those that can't read the article it is a story about a traffic stop that resulted in the deaths of 3 police officers and the critical wounding of a 4th.
How? you might ask since this is in California. Well for those that don't know I am married to a police officer myself. That was one of the reasons I tried my hand at dispatching as a second job. My husband thought it might suit me. I quickly decided that being the link to the officers in the field was a HUGE responsibility. One that I never quite got comfortable with. The California story is a scenario I think about regularly because people just don't realize how dangerous doing traffic stops can be for our officers out there. This story brings it home. Officers have no idea who they will run into when they stop a vehicle. This is why they have the protocols that they do. Unfortunately the protocols don't always stop unstable people or hardcore criminals from hurting and even killing them. Now that I have seen the dispatching side of my husbands job I know specifically more of the things that can go wrong. While I have the utmost faith in my husbands abilities, I also know that life can be very unpredictable. I am grateful for every shift he gets home safely to me and our children from.
In April of 1996 a state trooper friend of ours, Drew, was killed turning to make a traffic stop because his cruiser was hit by an oncoming truck. This is another example of how a stop can be dangerous. He left 4 children under 10 and a wife behind. His wife is now a Chaplin for the Maine Warden service. She has written a fantastic book about her job and also the connection to Drew. It is a wonderful read. Of course I may be slightly biased.
Whenever I think about my beginnings in dog training I also think of Drew. After his death we did some memorial walks to raise money for our local shelter because he was a supporter of them. He was also a K-9 handler himself. (his dog Rock survived the accident) Some of that funding became part of my tuition for my own apprenticeship. Knowing Drew I think he would be proud of the link. He was a wonderful human being and the world lost a really great man that day.
I know not everyone likes police officers, and not all of them are good people. Some also make mistakes. They are only human after all. I only ask that when you see them remember that they have very dangerous and highly stressful jobs. And ask yourself, where would we be without them in our society? I think the answer to that is pretty scary. For me this story is a reminder that not every ones husband, or father, comes home from work each night. While that is true for everyone in a way because nothing in life is guaranteed, for some it is a daily risk that comes with their job. One that is unfortunately typically under appreciated and underpaid.
My heart goes out to the families of these latest victims who were just trying to do their jobs keeping the rest of society safe. They paid the ultimate price and I hope it is appreciated. I know it is by my family.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thinking out loud

There are things I definitely dislike about the AKC. One is the fact they seem to support commercial breeders. They almost jumped into bed with Petland a few years ago but came to their senses when the fur started going up as people heard about the pending deal. I think they realized the move would give them a huge black eye in the PR department. (well bigger than the one they got for even considering it) They say they can't do anything about puppymills because they are only a registry but I have to wonder how true that really is. If they required more of the people doing the registrating then things could change. Consider how much money those puppy registrations are bringing in after all.
On the other hand they have supported health testing for some breed issues. They also have programs like the Canine Good Citizen test and more recently the S.T.A.R program. (think CGC for puppies and their owners)
It has been on my mind lately because I have been thinking about some of my long term training goals for the year. If I decide to show in obedience who do I send my registration fees to? AKC of course. If I decide to pursue a tracking title who puts on the event and again benefits from my registration fee? Yup the good ole AKC. I am even a member of a local kennel club that puts on a yearly show. Who for? Pick yourself a prize if you said the AKC. The downside to living in the boonies is less access to UKC events without major travel time. Let's face it, the AKC runs alot of the show in the dog showing world. (no pun intended) At least for the moment.
If I decide to try for the tracking title with Jenny I need to first get her registered with the AKC though the PAL program. From the AKC website: Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP): The program that provides purebred dogs a second chance.There are various reasons why a purebred dog might not be eligible for registration. The dog may be the product of an unregistered litter, or have unregistered parents. The dog's papers may have been withheld by its breeder or lost by its owner. Sometimes, it is the dog itself that was "lost." There are many dogs enrolled in the PAL/ILP program after they have been surrendered or abandoned, then adopted by new owners from animal shelters or purebred rescue groups. The PAL/ILP program allows the dog and owner a second chance at discovering the rewards of participating in AKC events.
Again another $35 to the AKC. (not counting the cost of trialing of course) With the economy the way it is the AKC is bound to see some decreases in show entries. While I understand the mission of the AKC is to promote the purebred dog, I think in some cases they are not doing the best for some of the breeds. Alot more on this subject can be seen over at the Terrierman's blog: While I don't agree with everything he says, or how he says it, he definitely has some good points when it comes to the dog fancy and breeding for health.
I wish we had alter classes at shows for people to be able to show dogs without the burden of having an intact dog. Not everyone interested in showing wants to breed after all. They say the point of the show is to prove breeding stock but I would argue that showing dogs from a line, even though altered, would help show the results of what a good breeding program can produce.
Another thing I would like to see is obedience classes for mixed breeds included as well. Yes it may not promote purebreeds but it promotes responsible dog ownership by promoting training to the average person. How can that not be good in the long run? Besides, it seems like they need to consider the revenue from every entry fee possible. Of course when you have commercial breeders pumping out registered puppies, even of questionable health and temperament, perhaps clean money doesn't have the same appeal. (not that I am bitter or anything)
I just heard that the AKC won't be allowing the S.T.A.R program for special groups anymore. (think prison programs) I guess their reasoning is that the dog needs to be taken through the program by a long term owner. While I understand the intent of the program, I am saddened that they can't see the big picture in this case. I used to be a CGC evaluator but gave up the title when they added fees for evaluators and because I didn't want to give out the award just because people could get their dog to pass with dogs that didn't deserve it. My standards on what I consider a Canine Good Citizen and what others are were just to extreme for my liking. It's like the dog with a CD title that is not well behaved outside the ring. It's not supposed to be just about that moment in time, but for the lifetime of behavior as far as I am concerned.
I am also dismayed that breeders seem to have changed. I am not sure why it happened but no longer can you count on show breeders being reputable by virtue of being involved in showing. Not all of them are doing health testing or breeding for better temperaments. One has to wonder why that is. Is it because chasing ribbons and wins has become more important? From what I have heard about UKC showing, with their written evaluations and no professional handler rules, it seems they may be on a better track. Perhaps the AKC needs to stop thinking they are the only option. They may want to do it before they hemorrhage the few responsible breeders they have left in their show rings. Just a thought.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The worst part

The other morning at work began with a dog that had been hit by a car. A van actually and it was a small older dog. As I was wiping the blood off the collar for the owner to take home as a keepsake of their beloved pet, I thought about how losing them was the worst part of sharing our lives with them. Some would consider that case a tramatic loss but I think all of them are traumatic. Who is to say an expected loss is less tramatic than losing a loved companion at any time? More shocking when unexpected yes, but no less traumatic. It is the end of a relationship which always seems sudden no matter how mentally prepared you think you might be for it.

Because I do not live in a permanant place yet I cremate my pets at present so I can have them close to me. If I had a bigger place with land I would bury them and have a memorial garden. Shimo, my female akita I lost at age 5 to a liver tumor is in the top blue urn made by my sister. To the right of her is Casco, a cat we lost at about age 7 to a spine injury. (in a sleek grey tin container inside a vase from Ireland) Bottom left in another urn made by my sister is Bridgette, my first cat. (as an adult) She was 14 when I lost her. Bottom right is Kuma, my first akita who was 12 when we lost him. He is in the original box they sent him back in because I haven't found just the right container yet. My sister no longer works for a potter so I have been searching for something that suits him to no avail. As you can see I also keep their collars and tags.
The only ones I don't have are: Penny, a cat that never came home one day. I hate not knowing what happened to her. I want my next cat to be inside only for that reason. That isn't going to happen without a move to a bigger place first however. The other one is Worf, a pitbull that wasn't technically mine but was a shelter dog I claim. I don't have his ashes but I have some photos I was lucky enough to have taken.
His story can be seen here: He is the beginning of why I heart pit bulls.
But I digress. Not everyone does the ashes bit or keeps things from previous pets. That is ok. There are no rules to grief as far as I am concerned. Some people prefer to keep their memories instead of objects. I just happen to be a person that likes touchstones. With Penny I have some great photos and a few ribbons she won at a TICA cat show. (HHP division) We had a bunch of pets growing up too and I have all of their photos as well. I have been blessed to have shared my life with some really great pets along the way.
Having this job where I deal with death regularly is an odd thing. In some cases it becomes routine, in others it hits you hard. The dog vs van was one of the hard hitters. With older pets I can't help but think about the long life the owners had together how that is now over. It made me teary. Something I try really hard to avoid in that setting. It can be a fine line to be compassionate and professional at the same time. It is difficult for me not to put myself in their shoes emotionally sometimes too. I guess I will need to work on that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I hate spring

OK that's not entirely true, but I sure hate all the mud that goes with it. I have a huge mud pit in the middle of my fenced yard. Of course the dogs have to run through the middle of it when they are interested in something on the other side of the yard. Fortunatly the girls are easy to clean with a quick rinse in the tub. Jack, not so much. He's big and extra hairy and has white feet to boot. A towel only gets so much off no matter how long you use it.

I have added some hay to the worst spots in hope that will help cut down on the amount that is getting dragged into the house. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kids and dogs, safety first.

I have been reading quite a few posts lately about kids and dogs, and seeing photos of kids and dogs, and videos of kids and dogs that are being shown as proof of how scary watching kids and dogs together can be. Whew, that was even hard to type!

It is interesting how many opinions there are on what is considered "safe" when it comes to the pairing of kids and dogs. There are a few things to consider when viewing kids and dogs together in photos or even in video. The problem with snapshots is that they only show one moment in time. Reading body language is contextual and can change in an instant with dogs or in between the frames of a few photos. Is the dogs ear really back as body language or did they flick a fly off the ear in the moment before the photo was taken? In video do we know the normal body language of the dog in question? What is normal for that particular dog? Does the dog already know the kid they are being videoed with? Is there audio in the video or are background sounds masking a potential problem? A low warning growl from a dog may not be audible enough for us to hear or may be unrecognised as a warning signal by an owner as such.

I think as dog trainers we are programed to sometimes see all the potential dangers and pitfalls of kids and dogs together because of what we do and the things we see. Not all interactions of kids and dogs have happy endings after all. We would hope that a parent would never do anything that would intentionally hurt their child, but there are so many dog owners who simply misread their dogs cues. Being a parent, or even a dog owner, doesn't automatically give you the skills needed to keep everyone safe. Just like owning a car doesn't give me the skills needed to fix it when it breaks down. Having something and knowing what makes it tick are two separate things.

There are just a few rules that can help keep everyone safe when it comes to children and dogs.

1) Teach your children to always ask to pet a dog they do not live with and wait for permission to do so. Not all dogs are good with people and some are even afraid of children if they haven't been exposed to them in a positive way.

2) Teach children to never bother a dog that is eating or chewing a bone. Possessive aggression is very common in dogs and can result in a bite if the child does not see/hear and heed the dogs warning. Many adults miss the cues to resource guarding so we can't expect a child to recognise them. Teach them a growl from a dog means "Go Away!

3) Teach children to never bother a dog that is asleep. Startling a dog awake is another thing that can result in a bite. Desensitize your dogs to being startled awake if that may be a potential problem in a busy household.

4) Teach children to never bother a dog in a crate (sticking fingers in or poking) or approach any dog that is tied or chained out. Some dogs are territorial or can become overstimulated if left out on a tether. Many dogs tied out don't get alot of attention so they become a little wild if given an opportunity for some.

5) Train your dogs to greet people politely. Sometimes children get hurt by over exuberant dogs trying to say hello. When in doubt of your dogs skills simply say no to the greeting and walk away. Protect your dog! Some dogs need to be counter conditioned to the presence of children. Not all dogs grow up with kids after all. (or may have had negative experiences with kids in the past) And some children may not be appropriate with your dog either. If the child looks hard to control avoid the interaction.

6) Teach children how to pat a dog appropriately. Pounding them on the head isn't most dogs favorite. Nice gentle strokes along the back is the best spot to teach kids to touch them.

7) Supervise all interactions with kids and dogs. Unfortunately this will not prevent all bites if you are unaware of warning signals. If a dog stiffens it's body when a child comes near or growls that means " I am uncomfortable" or "Go away". Remove the dog from the situation and contact a trainer that can help you remedy the situation. Do NOT teach the dog not to growl. If you do this you are only taking away the warning communication and can end up with a dog that bites without warning in the future.

Bites can happen in an instant. For some dogs that bite results in its death. I don't think it is fair to put a dog down if no one witnessed the incident. Sometimes kids do things to dogs that provokes a bite in self defense and if it is the kids word against a dog with no other witness the dog may lose. Kids will lie if they think they are going to get into trouble. Thinking a dog needs to tolerate all things from all people just isn't fair nor realistic.

My favorite tool in a home with dogs and really young children is baby gates. They help give both the dog and the kids a safe zone when close supervision isn't possible. I also highly recommend parents to be find out how to acclimate their dog to the coming arrival. Check out this post with some tips by my trainer friend Nancy on ways to begin doing that:

Moment of truth: Some of the online photos and videos of kids with dogs do make my heart leap into my throat sometimes. It is the downside to dealing with some of the fallout of my job as a trainer. I want to prevent ALL bites to children. Aside from the physical damage a bite can cause, it can also cause long term psychological damage as well. Ask most people that don't like dogs why that is and most will tell you it was because they were either bitten as a child, or scared by a dog as a child. I prefer to live in a dog friendly world. Keeping kids safe is just one of the ways we can ALL make that possible.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Its all about the breeder

Yesterday I went with my sister and her boyfriend to look at a litter of bulldog puppies. Those who have been followers of the blog may remember she lost her last one back in May. (Here is his story for those interested: )

The breeder we found that met our criteria (health testing being number 1) had requirements of her own. Yesterday was their two hour scheduled meeting to see if they met her expectations. (of course I tagged along to help) I am happy to report that the meeting went well and my sister will be getting her bulldog puppy. (It's a boy!)

Alot has happened to get to this point. Finding the breeder was only one step. The biggest one was educating my sisters boyfriend on the process. He had almost fallen prey to the website puppy shopping syndrome. I have to admit there were times I totally understood the urge. Finding a breeder of healthy bulldogs was a huge challenge. And where there are people out there selling them online, like inanimate objects, it can be tough to resist the urge to take the easy road. (Click this button to Buy Now!!! Credit cards accepted.)

Here is why you need to resist that urge however: Reputable breeders do health testing. The puppy you buy online is being produced simply as a product to make someone money. Health testing cuts into their bottom line so they don't bother. They also don't care about good temperment. Many times they will even ship a puppy out to young because it is still cute even though this can mean serious behavior problems for the puppy down the road. (8 weeks is minimum for good behavioral health) In the long run, while the reputable breeders puppy may cost more initially, you are saving money in vet bills down the road. Can't afford it? Would rather be able to use the credit card? Save your pennies one at a time in a special account. It might take time but so will finding a good breeder.

By buying a puppy off the Internet you are adding to the supply and demand of puppies as a product and helping to keep puppymills and their ilk in operation. By purchasing that puppy you have added another nail in the coffin of the dogs that helped produce him. Most of those parents have horrible lives kept in cages and are bred like livestock to continue churning out puppies as product. Do NOT become part of an industry that continues thinking of puppies as a product!!!

Getting a puppy from a reputable breeder gives you a support system. If you have any trouble with your new puppy they will help by answering questions you have for the lifetime of the puppy. If a worst case scenario happens they will even take the puppy (or by then adult dog) back. This ensures that your puppy will never end up in a shelter situation.

Some of those Internet sellers are scams. They can use the bait and switch and send you a different puppy than the one who's photo you saw. Many times because the photo you saw was one they stole off a good breeders website because their puppies don't look as good. Breeders looking to produce a product don't care if their dogs meet the standard for their breed after all. Sometimes the puppy you get is sick. Good luck trying to enforce any health guarantees long distance. (And a health guarantee in most cases is written in such a way no one would ever use it. Who is going to send a puppy back they have already bonded to for another one from a clearly inferior breeder?) Another scam can be that they take your money and you never get a puppy at all. Good luck trying to find them to pursue legal action. Websites can be hosted from anywhere, including other countries. These breeders are taking advantage of the ignorance of first time puppy buyers. I don't know ANYONE who bought from a pet store or off the Internet that repeated that mistake.

The Internet can be a helpful tool when looking for a puppy. But as with any tool there is a right and wrong way to use it. Educate yourself before jumping in with both feet. TAKE YOUR TIME!! To many people succumb to the "I want it now" syndrome and settle for less than what they really want. In many cases that turns out to be a healthy pet.

Expect to travel. It is unreasonable to expect to find an excellent breeder in your back yard that has what you are looking for. I had to fly to Ohio to pick up our frenchie and 2 of my akitas were shipped to me. (from a breeder I knew personally very well)

A good breeder is going to ask you questions. They want to make sure you are the right home for one of their puppies. I know some people are put off by that but consider why they are asking. The ones asking care about their dogs. The ones that don't ask are simply selling you a product. How sad that a puppy is only a product to some people. In some cases you might not be allowed to pick out your puppy either. This is also normal practice for a reputable breeder. Because the breeders know the puppies very well they might prefer to match what they believe is the best puppy for your situation. Some may also let you chose out of a few they think might work for you. And of course they will have kept the pick of the litter for themselves and their breeding program. Of the 3 akita puppies I have had in my life I never actually chose any of them out of a litter. And in all cases they were the best match for me at that time.

**Sidenote: Reputable breeders breed a litter so THEY can have a puppy to continue their lines to show or for them to have a new performance dog. The rest of the puppies are extras because dogs rarely have just one puppy litters. This is why you may need to get on a waiting list. They aren't breeding continually to have puppies for sale to the general public.

A good way to find a reputable breeder is to ask the rescue group for that breed for a breeder list. Many reputable breeders are also involved in rescue for their breed as well. Rescues WANT people to go to reputable breeders because their dogs don't end up as a drain on rescues resources.

We are all very excited to be adding a puppy to the family. Yesterday was incredible and I am very impressed with the breeder we found. We got incredibly lucky to find her only 4 hours away from us. The momma dog was super sweet and happy and we look forward to seeing that in this little guy. He won't be coming home until he is old enough to leave him mom and siblings. (ten weeks for optimal behavioral health) I'm sure I will have many more pics in the future to share. For now here is a photo of my sister with her new boy. It isn't a great photo of the pup because I didn't want it stolen by the above mentioned B*%&#%*'s to be used on a crappy website somewhere.

Here it is, the beginning of the next journey.