Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Loyal Biscuit Co. expansion revealed

My favorite local dog store has expanded into new digs just down the road on the same street. I took a just a few photos while I was there today. Check them out~



Are you finished ooohing and ahhhing? More renovations are on the way which I will share when they are finished. Nice though huh? (oops I forgot to take a photo of the whole food area)

This is pretty much my spot since I will be using it alot when I drop in to hang out. VBG And check out these new gadgets I picked up there today to.

These are so you can move your dogs id tags to any collar they are wearing easily. Perfect for people who always want their dogs to wear a specific color collar for the day or for those that want to remove jingling tags on occasion.

And this sweet baby is a tick remover that you can have handy on your key chain.

Our area has been hit with a LONG stretch of rain lately. It is really putting a crimp on our summer which is short enough already. For those that don't know the mushrooms that are sprouting because of it can be a problem for some pets. We saw a dog at the clinic recently with mushroom toxcicity from eating one. Convulsions and excessive vomiting were just two of the symptoms. Thankfully the owner was supervising, realized what happened, and got him to us quickly. He is doing fine. Now when I do pooper scooper duties I am also picking those little bastards out of my badly in need of a mow lawn. Like I didn't have enough to do already. Better safe than sorry though with little miss "I love to eat" stuff Jenny around. Yeesh

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm having a problem with my Monday

I am almost afraid to try to post this. Nothing has gone well for me today and I am blaming it on some sort of Monday mania.
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Nothing went smoothly at work for me. I made mistakes with scheduling, couldn't remember any word more than 2 syllables and overall felt like I was in slow motion all day. I could feel that I was off and did make an effort to stay away from all sharp objects and the stairs. Somehow I muddled through to the end of the day.
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Then I came home and had to vacuum up little beads from the lap desk I got my husband as a gift because one of the buttons fell off. Think bean bag chair beads only smaller. The static electricity makes them stick to everything! While I had the vacuum out I decided to do a quick clean up of a few dust bunnies that are never lacking around here. During that I found dog vomit behind a crate AND a leak in our roof. Time for an impromptu cleaning session of the floor and the dog bedding that got wet. (We are on about week 3 of rain here and it is super annoying! It is almost July for pete sake! )
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Oh it doesn't end there. After taking the crew out for their after supper potty break Jenny had an extra gift for me she left in the hallway, on the rug, that I stepped in with my fuzzy slippers. I didn't see it immediately of course and therefore tracked it down said hallway rug. This after just saying LAST NIGHT that it had been ages since we had any surprises from our dear Jenny. I must have draw attention of the dog poop gods. Thankfully I did have some Natures Miracle on hand. (To be fair to Jenny it was very loose and in a trail as opposed to a leave it here present pile. I think she tried to head for the door and failed. )
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The movie I was going to go see with my dad is only being shown at 3:30 and 9:15pm, neither times that worked for us today.
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I have a client scheduled tomorrow and I can't get my printer to work for the handout I need of their b-mod plan. With my penmanship handwritten is not an option. (you gotta know your limits)
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I'd add a photo but I'm afraid my computer will blow up from the effort. I already hit a wrong button and spent 5 minutes trying to fix the screen. No kidding, WHILE I was typing this post! Something just ain't right.
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I'm sure part of it is being mentally tired. Between work and training clients I haven't had any real time off in weeks. Spring is always a busy time of year for training. It is a good problem to have though and I am certainly not complaining. Thankfully today was not a client day.
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So say a prayer, do a chant, or burn some incense, I will take whatever you want to send me for good vibes. If it gets worse than this I may need to consider shutting myself in a closet to keep myself safe. With an umbrella, because my roof leaks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Odds and Ends

Bear with me as I spew so I can catch up. Sometimes purging helps control some of the voices in my head. This little cutie is Arlo, a soft coated wheaton I saw a couple of weeks ago. I happened to have my camera for a change so grabbed a photo. He was great fun to work with.

A shout out to Katie at "Underdogged-Save the Pit Bull, Save the World" for having to deal with an internet bully. A "professional" trainer is harassing her through her blog. Unfortunately there is little recourse for those of us who become targets of internet bullying. (been there myself with the same "trainer"-you can google it to see the idiocy) Thankfully we all have a delete button to put into use. It is still quite aggravating to those of us who have more of a live and let live mindset. How sad that some people feel the need to tear down others accomplishments in order to make themselves feel better.
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I had a really amazing session today with a family and their children. They have a sweet havanese that needs a little work. What made is so amazing was the 7 and a 1/2 year old son that I worked with. He was fabulous! Not only did he stay focused for a full hour, he asked great questions and did everything I told him to do easily. He is already a natural with his handling skills. Heck I think he was better than some adults I have worked with! That is part of the beauty of positive training methods, even a child can do it safely with some guidance.
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I also took my kids to see the movie UP today. I though it was really well done. The dogs in it actually acted like dogs. (ok aside from the collars that make them able to talk) It was very funny to see them in action. (Keep an eye on your hotdogs!) I can highly recommend the movie for family viewing. My kids thought it was hysterical.
For those that haven't watched it already, here is a link to the BBC Documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" about the problem of breeding unhealthy dogs for the show ring. Warning, it is not for the faint of heart. There are some really disturbing scenes in it of dogs in pain. But it is also a very interesting look at the dog show fancy. I can see why it caused such a stir in the UK and has spilled over here.
I do think that the breeders in this country do more health testing than in the UK. Certainly the breeders I know do. I think the separation in this country is more (but not all) about the lack of health testing with back yard breeders than (I hope) the majority of show people. That said, I ended up with a pug from rescue because I couldn't find a breeder that did health testing in the breed. Heck I couldn't even get an answer to what health tests breeders recommended! All I got was a list of potential health issues to look out for. A list doesn't help if no one is breeding away from those problems however. Check out just one painted representative of the breed before we took away their natural nose:
It also used to be popular for them to have their ears cropped. Thankfully that is no longer the case, I love my Jenny's ears! (I have more photos from a pug history book I need to scan and share.) Now look at this photo of what we have done to them:
Anyone can see that this is just plain wrong.
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Perhaps I am incorrect about the difference in breeders based on the country it is happening in. Call me crazy but why can't the breed clubs require specific health testing of all breeding stock? Oh I know it can't be regulated, but like OFA results and other things available online I think listing info could be done. Certainly some breeders are already doing this on their own since NO health testing is required by the AKC to show a dog. It only has to be intact. Then puppy buyers (and other breeders) could check the results and make their decisions from there. I think educating buyers helps because then they know what questions to ask. If a breeder thinks they will lose sales to lack of health testing they will certainly change how they do things. Won't they? Perhaps I am to idealistic.
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I know testing is required in other non-AKC breeds. Leonbergers for instance have to jump through lots of hoops before being certified to be bred. If they don't pass health AND temperament tests before breeding then their offspring cannot be registered. I suppose alot of breeders wouldn't like that though because it is a way to control them or telling them what they should be doing. I'm not sure what the answer is because you can't regulate morals.
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I used to tell people to look for show breeders because they were breeding to improve the breed. Well you can't prove that by the documentary for sure. And in my last two searches for reputable breeders (in pugs and bulldogs) I certainly had a hard time finding those that fit my health testing requirements. I'll be damned if I'll support a breeder not doing health testing. For the last few years my answer has changed to ask about health testing over showing experience. I don't give a rats behind if a dog is a champion, I care about the health and temperament of the dogs first. The show stuff is be a bonus at this point. Especially since the standard is about looks, not function. Look at the dalmatian, it might look great in the ring but be passing on expensive to treat urinary problems, common in the breed. And even in some more natural looking breeds (german shepherds) we have exaggerated them to not be able to perform the task they were originally bred for. (to be able to work you have to be able to walk after all) Trialing lines certainly look more appealing to me than conformation lines suddenly. Because you can't compete unless you are fit structurally.
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But I ramble. There ARE great breeders out there who DO breed with health testing at the forefront. I salute them. It is much more expensive to spend money on vet bills and testing than simply churn out litters and taking buyers money. If I were younger, and knew then what I know now I would consider breeding healthy pugs. Ones with noses that can breathe and not be exercise intolerant. But I am old enough to know how much work that would be and my plate is already full. I sure hope someone out there is taking the reins on that front though. For pugs and for all pure breeds out there. You can help in the fight for healthy dogs. Require health testing of your next pure breed puppy. Or adopt through rescue or your local shelter instead. If we don't support non-reputable breeders, they can't stay in business after all.
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P.S. ALL petstores produce puppies that come from untested parents. Just in case you didn't know.

Feeling Outnumbered? A review

So I finally got around to watching the video I picked up at the Patricia McConnell seminar. It was designed to be a companion to the book of the same name co-authored by Karen London. (filmed in 2005) I thought it stands just fine by itself. I'm sure for those that read just the book it will be helpful to see the exercises being performed. (I admit that I have not yet read that book.)
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I think it had alot of useful and easy to execute exercises. She also broke them down and showed how to teach each one. The first step being to teach each dog individually. The video includes how to teach:
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Putting dogs away (getting them comfortable being alone)

A group stay

A group wait

A group off (think leave it)

Teaching Manners

Belle of the ball (how to deal with dogs that don't want you fussing over another dog in the group)

and Teaching enough (or I'm really done petting/interacting with you now.)
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I found all of the directions very clear and easy to understand. It is hard for me to watch some videos because of the repeat of info I sometimes get and trying to view it as the average dog owner will. I think this one is a great DVD to reccomend to clients and friends with multiple dogs in the home. I know I picked up a couple of tips to start implementing with my crew.

To order check it out here: http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB833

Dogwise is one of my favorite places to find great dog training books and videos.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meanwhile back in the land of blogdom...

Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there. I am fortunate to be married to a great guy who is an awesome father to our two children. Unfortunatly he started the day feeling unwell so is holding down the couch for the day. Thankfully we have a pretty good TV to keep him occupied.

I found a real gem surfing online this morning. Turid Rugaas has a website with some fabulous advise on a questions page. Go check it out: www.canis.no/rugaas/index.php Hat tip to the blog Ruffly Speaking.
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I've updated the blogroll again. I really need to delete a few but hate to do it. Some I really like but they don't update very often. So if you are a reader with a blog I have linked to, and aren't posting regularly, I am sorry if you get deleted. I know sometimes blogging can fall behind, I've been there myself. I am just trying to keep my blogroll a manageable size.
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I also have to mention that some of these blogs are amazing! I feel like a pad of paper and a pencil compared to them. Fancy photos, and photoshop work. Or making pics look like scenes from graphic novels. I bow to your puter talents. Not only can I only do the basics, I avoid things like twitter because I can barely keep up with this stuff. I do have facebook but try to only keep that to people I actually know. (so if you friend request me and I don't recognise the name, sorry!) I'm toying with the idea of having a facebook for K-9 Solutions. We'll see.


My what pretty teeth you have!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Score squirrels 1, dog zero

I got this in an e-mail going around online. I think it is a very interesting look at animal behavior. I wonder if the dog will rethink trying to play with squirrels in the future. (see the baby squirrel between the front paws) Luckily for the baby he (or she) looks more interested in play than a snack.




Dang, did I just get my butt kicked by a squirrel???

Friday, June 19, 2009

Small dogs get into trouble too.

Check out the two Dachshunds that came in a couple of weeks ago. They were in their own yard when they found a porcupine.

As you can see it didn't turn out so good for them. And even though they are small dogs it still took HOURS to get all the quills out.

Not to freak anyone out, but years ago when I worked for another vet we lost a dog to quills. He came in and had gotten them all over the front of him. We removed them and sent him home where he passed away that night. The owner wanted to know why so we did a necropsy. We found that one of the quills had worked its way through his chest and into his heart. It was very sad and very scary that something so small can cause so much damage. Now I always take quills very seriously.

Check out this cutie, his name is Toby and he is a 5 month old Alaskan Klee Kai. They are a rare breed that comes in 3 sizes.

He was having a blast checking out out the store and Orli's toybox. (Yes, The Loyal Biscuit is my second home.)
He was also Go! Go! Go! and very hard to get great pics of. (because my camera is to SLOW and needs an upgrade)
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Speaking of small dogs we had two calls this week of people that were missing small dogs from their own yards. One was a 4 pound Yorkie and the other a 12 week old Pomeranian. I really hope they found them. Personally I would never let dogs that size outside unattended. Besides loose dogs that are potential problem there are other dangers to them as well like coyotes, fishers, raccoons and eagles. Heck I know some cats that would eat a yorkie given the opportunity. Small dogs are just to easy of a target for a hungry wild animal. Not to mention they are also very easy to steal by unscrupulous people. Supervision will keep them safe.


And here is today's Minos photo. Can we say sleepy time? It looks like his face is melting into the floor. And yes, sometimes he snores.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Things that make me wonder

So for some reason Merial has gotten in bed with Cesar Millan. (think Frontline and Heartguard products) They are offering pin cards to clients at veterinary hospitals to go to a website and sign up to get sent a free DVD by him. Our clinic rep told me that it was just basic info like teaching sit and stuff like that. Nothing controversial. Well ..... call me crazy but I thought he wasn't a dog trainer? That's what he is always saying when people talk about his methods as part of his defense. I thought he was supposed to be a dog psychologist? So if he isn't a trainer, how is it that he has this (alleged) training video out? She also said we can NOT get a copy to preview and see what is on it before offering it to our clients so our clinic took a pass. No freebies if we can't see what we are promoting. I am going to speak with the other rep tomorrow to see what is up. Perhaps we will have more luck with him or get more info.
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What I wanna know is what is Merial is getting out of it? I know what CM is getting, publicity. For the record I don't disagree with everything he says, I only disagree with some of his methods. Dogs DO need exercise, rules and love. They aren't people in fur coats. I just disagree with how he gets from point A to point B in accomplishing that end. I suppose I should look at it as a potential boost in my own business. I see plenty of people already that try his methods and then need help because they pushed their dog to far and it pushed back. I am really curious to see what is on that DVD. Hopefully I can borrow it from someone at some point if I can't get a copy though a rep.
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I also heard that a local shelter in my area is working with a trainer that is slapping prong collars on every dog that is going through there. I REALLY hope that is an exaggeration. While I am not against prong collars on the right dog and used properly, I do not think they are a good "use it on every dog" kind of tool. It surprises me alot that this particular shelter would entertain that option. But I do not have confirmation of all the info I am hearing. When I heard about the Merial/CM link I hoped it was a rumor. I hope this is a rumor as well.
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So my sister is on a trip which means I have Minos here for the week. He is doing pretty good so far. Thankfully she is a student of my mine when it comes to dogs so he is already crate trained. This helps immensely when it comes to bedtime and mealtimes. He is currently enjoying my dogs toybox and all the "new to him" choices available.



Having 4 dogs underfoot is always interesting. And as you can see he is quite entertaining. I anticipate much photo taking this week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesdays with Minos

Or is that Marie? Due to my sisters work schedule I have Minos on Tuesdays. It is great for him to be able to play with my dogs for socialization, especially since I have dogs of various breeds. We also want our dogs to all get along well because we frequently take care of each others dogs and if they get along it makes that task much easier.

Since I also love to hang out at The Loyal Biscuit Co., we always go there for socialization as well. It is a great place to meet other (friendly) dogs that come in with their owners to shop. He is a very bold puppy and thinks everyone should be his friend.
I couldn't resist this photo of him in front of their logo.
This is his position when there isn't anyone to play with.

While there I also picked up two of my dogs favorite treats. The fruitables are a new find that I love and are Jenny's bedtime snack. They smell so good I even tried one myself. (not bad!) The barkwheats are Missy's bedtime treats. I love that they are a Maine company.
I also picked up some new food for Jenny to try. She is my sensitive (read itchy) girl so I am always on the lookout for foods that she can tolerate. I like to rotate my dogs food so they get new stuff regularly. This way I don't have to worry about one food trying to be "everything" for them. I think variety is good as long as you have a dog that can tolerate frequent dietary changes. It is just my theory on feeding. Do whatever works best for your dog. Every dog is an individual remember.
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Hopefully the video below attaches properly and works. It is Minos playing with a soda bottle in the yard. I think he is adorable, but of course I am not exactly unbiased in my opinion.

video

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My educational weekend.

Yesterday I got to attend a seminar on dog to dog aggression at Happy Tails in Portland (Maine) with Patricia McConnell PhD. It was excellent. The morning was about handling dogs that are reactive (and aggressive) towards other unfamiliar dogs in public. There were live demos as well as some great video clips. (and stories of cases shared) There was one story about a small dog that was killed that freaked me out a little as an owner of small "crushable" dogs myself.
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We learned how to use and teach "Watch me" (which becomes classical conditioning), a "U-Turn" and dealing with surprise greetings. (emergency sit-stays) She also touched on abandonment training (by Trish King) which works great for dogs that are clingy to their owner, and C.A.T training (by Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Kellie Snider) which is a method that works especially well if the aggressive behavior is primarily fear based. The methods she showed and taught us are all from her book: "Feisty Fidos: Help for the leash aggressive dog" available at http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/
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The afternoon was about aggression between dogs in the same household. There was so much great info discussed about dominance theory that I really want to share. I will just hit the highlights from her handout (in my opinion) and then share some of my own notes from the discussion at the end. These are her words:
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The "decide who's alpha and support them" strategy hasn't been very effective in her experience. It only works 10 to 20% of the time. (she also mentioned it only working for a short time and then having a serious incident with injuries between those dogs later)
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Alpha roll overs aren't used by wolves nor are scruff shakes as discipline.
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There is social structure in wolves and dogs as with many other species.
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Status is not about who gets what. Zimen describes high social status as the animal with the most social freedom. It's true with us too-the Queen can hug you but you can't hug the Queen.
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Typical social hierarchy consists of alpha (or dominant), a beta group of status seekers and a third, omega group of individuals who are not status seeking. Important to look at our dogs and ask not if they are "dominant" but if they are "status seeking".
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In many species the most aggression is actually from the beta's, while the highest status individuals show the least aggression. Perhaps that might be one reason it will do no good to "support the dominant" if what they really are is a top beta dog.
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Bullies are ubiquitous in hierarchical social animals, from wolves to chimps to humans. Supporting them just causes more aggression, no matter what their social status.
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If dominance is priority access to preferred limited resources, and high status confers the most social control, and if dogs think of us as part of their social group (they seem to since they greet us like they greet dogs) then if any individual is highest in status, wouldn't it be the ones who can open doors and bags of dog food? If so, would supporting a dog then put them in that "beta" category, where most aggression and tension is?
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So -- status is complicated, I'm not sure that anyone can elect a "dominant " dog. You certainly don't want to support an alpha wannabe or a bully -- and neither do you want your dogs vying for status.
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It's also valuable to look at the issue from a learning perspective - whether status is relevant or not, ask yourself what a dog is learning if he gets what he wants by throwing his weight around or threatening others.
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If your dogs learn that they way to get what they want is to threaten others, be pushy and demanding, then at least you have a bunch of rude dogs, at worst you've got some really serious dog fights.
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The most successful program at Dog's Best Friend Ltd. is a program that de-emphasizes status and reinforces dogs for being patient and polite.
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The exercises that were then listed to accomplish that are available in the booklet "Feeling outnumbered? Managing a multi-dog household" by Karen London and Patricia McConnell. (I bought the video of the same which I will review on here after watching.)
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My own notes I think should be repeated about social status included:
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Social status is contextual and is fluid within a group.
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Aggression is most common in the middle of the pack/group.
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An example of dominance in action was: if a pork chop is dropped between two dogs the dominant dog will get it. Dominance is a relationship between the two dogs involved in the interaction.
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Dominance/social status exists, but doesn't help solve behavior problems in dogs.
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There was also a case study about two intact bitches within a home that are fighting for us to come up with a plan for under Patricia's guidance. (The owner was there with one of the dogs.)
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Besides the education of seminars, it is also just fun to get together with other like minded trainers for a day of dog talk. I ran into the other trainer that was in the apprenticeship program with me who now works for her local Humane Society. It was nice to catch up with her and hear about the old haunt. I also got to meet one of my facebook friends in the flesh. (Hi Susan!)
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I was fortunate to have great company for the ride. Elizabeth, a client of a reactive dog, and Candace, one of our local dog walkers. (http://www.boneheadswalking.com/ ) We had a great time talking dogs all day.
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I do wish behavior seminars were required for all dog trainers. There are some out there who could really use the information if they are not actively seeking it on their own. (through the aforementioned books and DVD's) Continuing education is SO important in this field. The more they (the experts) learn about dogs and their behavior the more we can help them and their owners most appropriately. There is ALWAYS more to learn!!! Every seminar I have attended has taught me something I could use.
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I also brought my copy of Patricia's book "The other end of the leash" to be signed. I think it is one of the best books about dog behavior on the planet. I wish every dog owner would read it. It would change so many people's perception of their dog and it's (normal!) behavior. (as well as their own)


I also took the opportunity to mention my observation of "The thinking face" (lip tuck) that I blogged about previously:
http://k-9solutionsdogtraininginc.blogspot.com/2008/11/reading-facial-expressions-in-dogs.html#links
It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it. I would love to see more out there for brachycephelic breeds and facial expressions. (as well as other breeds with "different" and more challenging to read facial structure: Shar-peis, bull terriers, etc. )
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On the way home we stopped at the Planet Dog store. I used the coupon they gave us at the event for a cute pink shirt that says "You had me at woof." (How cute is that?) It was a very long day and my brain is still tired just thinking about it. I now need to watch the new video and I'm sure will want to incorporate some of the exercises in my own blended group of dogs. There is nothing like a seminar to get those training juices flowing. I will be sure to give feedback on it when I am finished.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A training post! Loose leash walking.


As riveting as my last post was, I walked and bathed my dogs, I thought I would post some actual training advise. Shocking I know. Blogs are such odd things, we write things that we find interesting even though sometimes they really aren't that interesting at all to others. This may be why my family makes fun of how often I talk about dogs. Perhaps I need to get out more.
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I see so many people at the vets office and sometimes on my walks with dogs that are literally dragging them around. Puppies grow up fast and if you don't work with them on leash from day one they won't learn how not to pull. Even a small dog has a lower center of gravity and is 4 wheel drive and can pull you around pretty hard if they are focused.
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The first thing you need to realize is that pulling can be a self rewarding behavior. If your puppy (or dog) pulls towards something they want to sniff, and you follow them, they learn that pulling works for them. If we are headed to the car with the dog on leash, and they pull but you let them because you want to go to the car too, again they learn that pulling works. This means if they want to go in a specific direction they will pull because, sometimes the pulling works! They do not know we were planning on heading to the car anyhow.
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Reinforcement is important. If you do something correctly with a dog 10 times, but let them do it wrong once, you are undoing about 7 of those 10 correct times. Why? Because what the dog learns from doing it wrong is that sometimes the behavior works for them, so they will keep trying. This is why consistency is your friend. NO PROPERLY LIVING ORGANISM DOES SOMETHING FOR NOTHING. Dogs do behavior that WORKS for them in some way. Letting them do it wrong is reinforcing that they are allowed to do it incorrectly.
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Pulling has NOTHING to do with the dog wanting to be the boss or be dominant over you!!! Repeat after me, dogs do behavior that works for them. Period. And it isn't about your "energy" either, it is about permissiveness. If you let them, they will do it.
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To stop this cycle, the pulling needs to not work for them. So we have a couple of options. One is to stop walking immediately when they pull. Do not start walking again until there is slack in the leash. This can take some dogs a long time to figure out especially if they are overstimulated. This also might not work if the dog is strong enough to win the pulling battle. (more about that later)
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The next option is to turn and walk in the other direction from their pulling. This teaches them that pulling gets them the opposite of what they wanted. This means if you want to go from point A to point B you may need to change directions 4 or 5 times (maybe more) until the dog is walking with a loose leash before you get there. This is about the journey, not the destination. I will use a no-reward mark word like "nope" or "auh auh" when they start to pull and then say "lets go" when I change direction. I do not want to just jerk them in the other direction, I like to communicate clearly to my dog. The goal is to get the dog to walk with you.
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I like to use the cue "Let's go" when doing walking work so I can leave the work "Come" for my recall. "Let's go" means come along with me. "Come" means come and sit in front of me. If I am having an off leash walk " Stay Close" is my cue for the dog to come closer to me while walking. YOUR CUES ARE IMPORTANT!!!! If you are clear and consistent your dog will appreciate it and learn faster.
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When the dog is walking nicely on the leash with NO pulling I will use my reward marker word of "Yes!" and pay them for it. High value treats are the norm but food is only one of the 5 ways we can praise (or pay) our dogs. The others are :

1) verbal praise, Good Dog!

2) Play, toss a ball or have a fetch game

3) Smiling, because dogs communicate with body postures and facial expressions

and

4) Petting, or physical touch they enjoy.

None of these are mutually exclusive. You can say Yes! Good dog! smile and give a food reward. Or say Yes! smile and pet them. Whatever your dog finds rewarding needs to be used. That's why typically we start training using treats. They are usually the highest reward we have for many dogs. (for some it may be a tennis ball) What is important is to give the dog feedback. We REALLY want to make it clear to them that we like it when they aren't pulling and that it is worth it to them not to pull.
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When on the walk I dictate when and where they are allowed to have free time. To do this I have my dog sit and then give them a release command before they are allowed to sniff. (Mine is "free dog") Then they get the full length of the leash to investigate but I STILL do not allow them to pull me anywhere. The no pulling rule is always in effect.
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If you have a dog that is strong and is already pulling you around you may need to use a Head Halter, a Weiss Walkie or an Easy Walk harness. You can also use a regular harness with the leash clipped to the FRONT of the harness. Regular harnesses normally make it more comfortable for dogs to pull you. Why else would sled dogs wear them? Dogs also have what is called oppositional reflex which means they lean into the leash when we try to pull back on them. Harnesses only increase this reflex due to the comfort level of them. This does not mean you will need to use these tools forever. It will just give you a leverage advantage to better control the dog as they learn. They can still pull wearing them tho it may be decreased. For some dogs there needs to be an adjustment period for the head halter.
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I know not everyone is a fan of the head collar. My defense of them is this, if people can walk their dogs they can bond with them. If they bond with them they are less likely to take them to the shelter because they can't handle them. If they don't end up in the shelter they aren't in danger of being euthanised. Can they be used incorrectly? Yes, all dog training tools can be used wrong. The person on the end of the leash needs to be appropriate. Many of the head collars now thankfully come with a training DVD included.
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The other advantage of head collars is you have control over the dogs line of sight. This can be really helpful with reactive dogs until you have done enough behavior modification work to get and keep their focus on you without it. Some dogs may never graduate from them if the owner doesn't get to the point where they feel secure handling their dog. Personally I think that is ok too. Dogs need to be exercised. Doing it safely for everyone is important. And if using one helps an owner relax and enjoy time with their dog I am all for that. (For safety I recommend a back up collar on the dog to attach the leash to first, then to the ring for the head collar if it doesn't come with a safety strap. The back up collar needs to be loose enough to not restrict movement. Martingale collars are good for this as are loose nylon choke collars.)
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The principals of teaching loose leash walking are the same regardless of the tools you are using. If they pull do not follow. Do not reinforce what you do not want.
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Because I also teach my dogs the heel position, I do all my walks with them at my left side when teaching the loose lead walk. I find this makes teaching heel later much easier because you are already part way there.
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Anyhow, I hope this makes up for my previous post. I'll try to remember to post training stuff more regularly from now on.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday is for the dogs

Today I took a break from clients and had the day off work so I spent it catching up with my own dogs. This morning started with walks for the girls while it was still cool out.

Because I live on a very busy road with no real sidewalk I usually drive to a few areas to walk instead. I typically like to walk on main streets because there is less of a likelihood that I will run into off leash dogs due to the traffic. In the town next to me there is also a great boardwalk along the water that is next to the main street so I incorporate that as well. The photo spot is at one end of the boardwalk. As you can see it is a very scenic walking area. Small cruise ships actually come into our harbor in the summer.

I also walk all the dogs separately. Mainly because I like the one on one time it gives me with each of them. Also because they all walk at a different pace than each other. Missy is starting to slow down as she ages and I don't dare to go as far as or fast as she used to lately. I also need to keep a close eye on her so that she doesn't overheat. That is the downside to the brachycephalic (short face) breeds. Jenny doesn't seem as prone to it but she is younger and is built differently.
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After their walks it was time for their baths. So into the tub they went. Last year I invested in a shower sprayer with a long hose to make bath time easier on me. The most important part of dog baths is rinsing after all. (otherwise you can end up with a very itchy dog) Trying to rinse properly with just a cup and running water takes forever. Believe me, I know. The hose was one of my better ideas I have to admit. Baths, nail trims, and ear cleaning made them both squeaky clean.
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Then we went out to the yard where I took a brush to them both to get all the shedding fur out. Or most of it anyhow. I also brushed a bunch of fur out of Jack who is also shedding. The yard currently looks like a small animal exploded. (I save most of it in bags to spin into yarn but the short stuff, tail hair and anything that blows away is left for the birds.) He is due for a bath but I just wasn't up to that today. He is a MUCH bigger project that I usually leave for his groomer. He did get his feet trimmed and nails done however. Being a longcoat gives him extra fur on his feet that I trim so he isn't slipping all over my floors.
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After the grooming I grabbed a chair and a book and just hung out in the yard while they relaxed and the kids had a water fight. It was pretty nice here today.
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While we were hanging out in the yard I also ran 3 loads of dog laundry though the wash. All their bedding, covers, towels and the like. This helps keep the house from smelling like 3 dogs live here. My son was also kind enough to vacuum all the dust bunnies up while we were out as well before the water war with his sister.
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Then once it cooled off after supper Jack got his walk as well. He has alot of coat so I worry about overheating with him too. Only two cars stopped tonight to ask questions about him. I can't blame them, I agree that he is a pretty striking dog. We managed to finish just before the rain started. Now everyone is tired and crashed out while I am relaxing in front of the Tony awards. It has been a very good busy day.

(OK I admit I cheated with this photo, I took it on a previous walk. I didn't want to leave him out. VBG)

If brachycephalic is spelled wrong I blame the spell checker. It highlighted the word yet had no suggestions for me. How does that help????

Friday, June 5, 2009

Funny, she doesn't look like the anti-christ

At work the other day I had one of the most frustrating phone calls. Thankfully it is rare to be treated really badly but this woman was clearly not happy. I have dealt with her by phone one other time as well with very similar results. She gets angry and rude and in turn makes me angry by the end of the interaction. The difference between us is that I have to ignore it and be professional but she gets to keep acting like an ass. I warned the Doctor of the conversation in case she made a complaint and found out she has yelled at him in the past as well. So it clearly isn't about me. When I finally saw her face to face she acted very normal. Perhaps she does her best bullying by phone. With two black marks beside her name in my book I will be sure to remember her the next time she calls. Lord help me if she ever calls me for training help. I may be tempted to refuse service based on her rude behavior and lack of patience. I guess I just don't understand why some people will be so awful to someone who is trying to help them?? She's certainly not making many friends at our office.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dog days of blogging

I am feeling continually behind on here lately. I don't think I even took any new photos this week. (so here is another of my boy Jack)
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So I mentioned flyball last time. Here are some of the thoughts percolating in my head about the subject. Now I am all for sports you can have fun with your dog doing, I just have a question for some of the participants.
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It is my understanding flyball was developed (as a sport) for high energy dogs to have a directed outlet. For those unfamiliar, flyball is where dogs are sent in a line over some jumps to hit a ball launcher that then flings the ball for the dog to catch and retrieve back over the jumps. Think relay race for dogs. http://www.flyball.org/aboutflyball.html It is high energy and can be loud as some dogs bark when running or when waiting for their turn. It is run mostly in teams of 4 with the jump height set for the smallest dog on the team. (they call that the height dog)
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I was watching a show about flyball awhile ago and saw that people were breeding dogs specifically for flyball. I'm not talking about purebred Australian Shepherds or Corgi's and the like, but crossing breeds for speed with the short stature to be the team's height dog. The majority of these are crosses between Border Collies and Jack Russells. They are calling them Border Jack's. http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/b/borderjack.htm
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I have to say, I find this not in the best interest of the dogs. Honestly, how many people are looking for intense high energy dogs? If you go to any shelter in the world you will find high energy dogs that lost their homes for, get this, being to much dog for the home. Not everyone can live with the high energy and intense drive these dogs have. Shocking I know. So why on earth are people breeding them purposely? We don't have enough already?
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Now if these breeders are doing all the health testing of all the dogs and are trying to breed dogs that can stand up to the athleticism of the sport maybe I'll buy the argument for it. But why not just buy a healthy border terrier or parson's russell or "insert breed here" that can be your height dog? Am I missing something?? If so someone please let me know.
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On another note few weeks ago I saw a client with a beautiful golden puppy. I was the third trainer they had seen and the puppy was only 14 weeks old. They were concerned that they do the right thing raising him. One of the previous trainers told them that training with food would make their dog fat and it was the same as giving a cake to a child every time they brought home a good grade. I guess he never heard of rationing. (Side bar: There are trainers who use food wrong. Done correctly is is a paycheck and not a bribe. And some do overuse it as well. Food is meant to be used primarily in the acquisition of skills. ) He said he was all positive reinforcement but wanted to put a choke chain on the pup. They declined. The other trainer told them their puppy was trying to be dominant because it tried to go out the door before them. Oh and that they should NEVER rub a dog's belly.
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OK so I saw a very normal puppy that was just being a puppy. If you let your puppy charge through the door and don't teach them not to, guess what, they will go through the door without permission. I have no earthly idea what the no belly rubs rule was about. Never heard of it. Thankfully they kept looking and found me to work with. This is just one example of why I sometimes wish all dog trainers have to be tested before being allowed to work with the public. At least make behavior seminars mandatory. I'm not sure what the answer is. Just remember that anyone can hang a shingle and say they are a dog trainer regardless off the lack of training that they have themselves.
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Speaking of seminars I am getting very excited about the Dog/Dog aggression seminar I am attending next Saturday with Patricia McConnell PhD. A must read from her list of books out there is "The other end of the leash". Lots of great info on dog behavior, human behavior, and why the two don't always mesh well.
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Now I am off to try to catch up with my blog reading. It isn't just my blog I am behind with.