Wednesday, November 25, 2009

She's got the look

I admit it. There are some dogs I am drawn to because of their looks. Sometimes it is because they are cute, sometimes because they are well proportioned or are a breed I am interested in. And sometimes it is because they are absolutely hands down, drop dead gorgeous. Just take a gander at this beautiful girl at my local shelter. Her name is Isis and she is a blue American Staffordshire Terrier.

It is probably a good thing that I am at my house limit because she tempts me.

My biggest worry with a dog like her is that she will attract the wrong sort of adopter. I don't mind people being attracted to her because of her look, heck that's why I noticed her, I am only concerned that the people will want the look and not the dog inside. She deserves a great life, not one as a trophy to parade around for macho points. And heaven forbid she gets an idiot that tries to make her aggressive to make themselves look good.

There is a new show I've watched a few times called Pit Bulls and Parolees. I am a little conflicted about a few things on the show but one of the things I like is how they handle adoptions. They bring out 3 dogs that might be a good match for the person looking and let them chose from only those 3. I think this is a great idea. For one reason this ONLY gives the adopter choices from dogs that should be the best match for their situation. One of the issues with people choosing dogs from a multitude is that they go for a certain look. To many people chose looks over the behavior of the dog and the fit for their family. They think they can change the dog or change their lifestyle to suit the dog. Unfortunately that rarely happens. The dog goes home and reality sets in and the sometimes the dog gets brought back to the shelter. (in the best case scenario with a good shelter or rescue) I also like that they have said no to certain situations while educating the people why a pit bull isn't in their best interest.

I like the idea of a slumber party trial for dogs. Seeing the dog in a shelter environment and how they are in a real home can sometimes be a night and day difference. There's always a courtship and engagement before a wedding right?? No one should jump blindly into a long term relationship. (This is also the same reason people shouldn't try to pick pets for another person. Would YOU want someone picking a spouse for you?? To me it is the same idea.) You need to either know about the behavior of the breed or the specific dog you are interested in before you can make an informed decision.

I worry for her and other dogs like her. Her beauty is it's own danger.

(**Photos taken through fence only because it was my lunch break and I was wearing light colored pants. I didn't know if should would spread some of the mud in her kennel on me or not. She took all my treats super gently.**)

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun and Games

Yesterday I took Jenny and participated in a Fun and Games workshop with Dee Ganley. I had no idea what to expect. I went only with the intention of having some fun, and learning new things with my dog. I was not disappointed.

We played a variety of games including "My dog can do that" as well as drill team work, relay races, and tried a couple of scent discrimination exercises among other stuff. Funny enough I blew one of the scent exercises due to over thinking it and bad body language. Ironic considering my last post. The other involved a ball (pic below) and Jenny just isn't a ball driven dog. Now maybe if we smeared some blood on it......

Logan and Suzan above finding their ball.

A leave it exercise. (that's a Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen)

Another Logan moment.

Relay race!

And for anyone who thinks dressing a dog is easy:

I missed the best stuff. The dog in the video was pretty hysterical playing as she tried to dress her/him. Jenny stepped through the neck of her shirt on the way down our lane. She didn't care. It was cute.
A loose leash walking exercise/race.

The afternoon was Self Control and Focus games. It was full so I only audited that one. (all the better to get photos)

Another relay race with mat work.

Sumac and Phoebe above relaxing.

I didn't know everyones names. The dog above is a mix and the one below is a dutch shepherd.

And this pretty girl is Brina and I am obsessed with her. She is an American Staffordshire Terrier.
Seriously, I am her official stalker.

See what I mean? Gorgeous. And a wicked love bug to boot. I got some fabulous cuddle time in with her. (She's a leaner btw and her coat is super soft. I was even lucky enough to get a kiss.)

It was alot of fun and I thought Jenny did great. Especially considering we have never done anything remotely similar. And I have never done anything formal with her either. We went in only knowing some basics. Of course basics are the foundation for everything else so it worked very well for us. I don't think she has ever eaten that many treats in one day before in her life. Being a serious chow hound she thought that was pretty great.
I think a great time was had by all and I would totally do it again. I definitely learned a few things that will come in handy with both my dogs and with clients.

What do you mean we have to go home???

Scentwork Saturday

I am a couple days behind in posts because for some reason it was tough getting some video off my camera to the computer. Then it was hard getting it to post on youtube. Then to add insult to injury I STILL can't get videos to embed on here. (because they were to long for blogger to upload) Some days I hate blogger. I am still not sure why I had so much difficulty. Apparently I am not in danger of ever being a true computer geek.

WARNING: The following post has graphic photos and video of deer parts and blood. This may be upsetting for some viewers. I don't think it's to bad but I am a hunter that also feeds raw so to me it is like looking at lunch meat. I put the photos near the end so they are easier to avoid.

The following is video of Jenny's first bloodtracking training. I only did two tracks and short ones at that. My book came in the mail Wednesday and I was excited to get started. So excited that when I got to the field I still had prep work to do. It got messy and I learned that from now on I will do that at home before heading out. When I say messy and blood is involved I mean messy. I know I should have been in the woods to train but it was Saturday and hunting season. I haven't scouted areas to safely train yet so I went to the familiar local field. I still put some blaze orange on Jenny to be safe and to get her used to wearing something over her harness.

So here is her very first track. I wasn't really expecting much. I was mainly interested in seeing what she would do with the new scent. Excuse the crappy camera work. I was only occasionally looking at the screen and didn't realize you can't see the line of the track from the angle I captured. I laid the track with the wind to my back so it was blowing the scent away from us.

I was so excited about her first track that for the second one I added a turn. This is the other side of the field (that I had to drive to) so the wind was blowing from the right of the first part of the track to the left, and then to her back for the second leg of it. This one I shut up and let her work undisturbed. I love that you can see her really working hard when she isn't quite sure. Again my camera work isn't stellar but you can see she stays on task and keeps working even when not dead on. I'm not sure if it is obvious from the angle but she literally is scenting and doesn't see the leg at the end of either track until she physically runs into it.

After she finished both tracks I let her chew on the leg for a couple of minutes as a reward. On the second track when I picked up the leg she wouldn't let go. It was pretty funny to see her practically dangling from it as we played tug of war. I was laughing so she almost won! All I could think about was "I wonder how this looks?" to passersby. (the field is off two well traveled roads)

So it looks like she really likes bloodtracking which makes me happy. Or should I say she seems to have the ability for it. I know she at least really likes the end of the tracks. It will be interesting to see how she does in the woods instead of in a field. The scents there are much different. I plan on only doing woods training on Sundays or on land I know isn't being hunted. Even then we'll be wearing lots of blaze orange. Not everyone abides by the law after all.

Jenny loooves her prize. (She also loves that it is still in my fridge. Does having a deer hoof in my fridge make me weird?) The best part is that after speaking with other trainer that also does scent work I learned that I can continue to work her in both blood tracking and regular tracking. This just doubles our fun. My goal in tracking is fun first and foremost. If I ever consider trying for a TD test or going for a bloodtrackers licence that is just a bonus. I am just not a competitive person by nature. (It's to much work to be competitive! VBG) I think I will also try this with Jack. He also loves his deer meat and perhaps it will be more motivating to him than regular tracking is. His nickname became "One track Jack" due to his lack of enthusiasm for having more than one turn, or even for tracking to far. A bit of a drawback when it comes to doing much training.

So we'll be working on this in our spare time. (spare time, ha ha ha ha ha that was funny) One thing I do want to point out is that you should never underestimate what dogs can do. Don't paint them in a corner of their "breed" box. Try something different, you just may be surprised at what your dog can do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

5 myths about training dogs with treats

Does recycling posts make this a "green" entry? VBG

I share with you an excellent post on training with food rewards: I couldn't have said it better myself.

I only have to add that not everyone who uses food in training knows how to do it properly. Timing is important as is knowing how to fade it out of the picture. (which also involves knowing what to substitute in it's place to keep the dog working that makes it worth it for the dog!)

And again, positive doesn't equal permissive. I really cannot say that enough. When a dog gets paid for doing a behavior we want, and not paid for behaviors we do not want, they will increase doing the behaviors that we do want. (and yes we can give feedback on the behaviors we do not like both verbally and using body language) Dogs only do behaviors that work for them in some way remember.

Food is also a great tool in the use of changing the emotion of the event for many dogs with behavior issues. Pairing something scary with a high value reward through enough repetition can then have the dog looking forward to the previously scary event/item/person/animal. Again, it needs to be done properly. (this is called classical conditioning)

Here is one past post I wrote on the subject that gets a little more in depth on how to use food in training the right way: (more posts can be found with the google search gadget above)

And if that doesn't make you reconsider using food in training (for those readers that do not already) then consider the following thoughts written by a fellow trainer:

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Calling ALL dog lovers!!

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to help educate our movie going public. Your deadline for the mission is December 18th. Your countdown begins now.
While this current mission is targeting those who may be interested in a specific breed, it benefits anyone considering a dog because it helps to educate people about the need for breed research BEFORE getting a dog "just like the one they saw" in a movie. This helps cut down on the amount of mismatched dogs to owners. Not every breed of dog is right for every home after all. What might be the best match for you may be a nightmare for your best friend and vice versa.
The steps for this mission are simple.

1) Go to this website and download and print a copy of the file "Is the akita the right dog for you?"

2) Take the handout to your local Staples store and make a bajillion copies.

3) Take the bajillioon copies to your local movie theaters on December 17th and ask if they will share them with every ticket buyer to the movie "Hachi".

4) If you have a blog please consider passing this information on. All agents need to be activated for this one my friends.
The advanced agents, and you know who you are#, may even stay to pass out the handouts personally or set up a booth at the theater (with permission of course) showing off their well trained akita or shiba. (shibas are also featured in the movie as they used some of them in place of the akita as a puppy. Here is a link to "Is the Shiba for you" to add to the flip side of your handout: ) You can even go to your areas akita rescue website and print off a list of akitas needing homes to add to a poster. A "dogs in movies" set up with other breed information for those who are extra creative to leave at the theater is also an idea. This isn't the first breed this has happened to, nor will it be the last.
The mission is an important one. It may be met with resistance. A back up plan my be required. Consider recruiting your local pet supply stores. They may agree to passing out handouts if your theater won't participate or be willing to host a breed education table. Posters are also welcome in the fight. Ask the local theater for copies of the movie poster, take it for display to your local pet supply store, and add the akita handout. Or your local shelter would like to be involved. It never hurts to ask.
Check out the Hachi movie trailer here:
I want to thank all the DEAR members (dog education action responders) for their participation in this mission. (that's you dear reader) I look forward to all feedback. Got any other ideas to help us in this endeavor? Share them with me in the comments section.

#Names have been omitted for security reasons.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

At the risk of seeming anthropomorphic

For the record, anthropomorphism is the act of equating human emotions to an animal.
So at work yesterday an 8 week old pug puppy came in. The owner had just picked him up yesterday from the breeders home. Somehow I ended up holding him for a few minutes. (yeah my job is so tough) I'm sure it won't surprise anyone that I thought he was super cute. I didn't think to much more about it until later.

Once I sat down at home to relax our pug Jenny gave me the super DOOPER once over. It must have lasted 10 minutes. This is a dog with a fabulous nose as her tracking experience can attest to. Now I have held puppies at work before, along with other animals routinely. I'm sure I smell interesting to my dogs most days. What was it about this smell that was extra special?
I came up with a possible theory that sparks a debate about what our dogs might think about if they do indeed recall memories at will. I mean we know dogs have memories. That is why some are consistently afraid of specific people or items. They remember. (and can be why the fear period developmental phase leaves such a lasting impression dogs)
It occurred to me: What if this puppy came from the same breeder that Jenny did? Could she be smelling something familiar?? The puppy had only been in the new home for one night. It can still smell like the previous home (to another dog) in that time period. I have no idea what breeder Jenny came from originally. We adopted her from Pug Rescue of New England. Her second home was fostering with a rescue person. We are her third port of call and final home. I know that my theory may be a stretch but it got me thinking more about memories in dogs.
The only other time I considered dogs and memories was when we found our foster frenchie Dash his forever home. Before he left I worried that he would be confused about going somewhere else. Would he ever think about us later? Would he wonder about the change? Was he happy here and (initially) not happy about leaving? I didn't worry about the new home, they were a great match, as much as his feelings about it. But my real question is do dogs think about incidents, places, and people from their past like we do? I know we have no way to measure that answer. But it certainly is an interesting one.

Our frenchie Missy also had another home for 4 years before she came to us. Does she think about the dogs there? Does she miss the people in that family? Does she think about the people or dogs? (missing is an emotion, thinking about is the memory question) The only time I ever saw her get reactive was to a friends black and white male frenchie. Was it because she mistook him for a dog she knew before or did it spark a memory? (good or bad)

So maybe Jenny wasn't remembering something from her past due to a smell. Maybe it was just a reaction to the strong smell of a very young puppy. Even we humans recognise the difference in the smell of a puppy and our noses aren't nearly as good as our dogs. But there is room for a "maybe" to the question. I'll never know. As a trainer we are always dealing with addressing behavior issues by teaching people that dogs live in the moment. I do believe that is true in a training context. But does that mean they never think about their past? Ever?
I would love to hear other peoples opinions to the question: Do you think dogs think about their past at all or are they always living in the moment?

Jenny thinks my husband tastes great after coming home from a day in the meatshop.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A post about poo, and a solution

Today I came up with a poop solution I thought I would share in case others are having the same problem. When I take any of my dogs on a real walk outside of my own yard I have to drive them to a different area. This is because I live in a weird spot with no sidewalk along a very busy high traffic road. I typically stick to walking on main streets as I find there are fewer loose dogs to contend with on them. This also bypasses any issues of territorial or reactive dogs in their own yards that don't always stay in their own yards. To many incidents in the past have made me slightly leery about neighborhood walking. I can control my own dog, I can't always control a strange one in a reactive charge. The reactive dogs in main streets are almost always on leash or contained in a vehicle at least.
The problem I have encountered with walking on the main street in my own town is a lack of trash receptacles. I find that odd since everyone is always complaining about the dog poop that is left behind. Responsible owners always pick up after their dogs. (and those of you that "pretend" to pick up, we know about you and are watching) Because of the lack of trash cans, I end up having to carry my dogs deposit along with me for the rest of the walk. And in some cases bring it home in my car to throw away. (always extra fun in winter with the windows rolled up)
Well it dawned on my today to use an old training/bait bag to carry the "deposit" in. (by old I mean one I won't be using bait in again, ever) At least this keeps it out of my hand and out of sight. I can even slide the bag behind me to keep the smell, shall we say, downwind. The other bonus is that I can also snap it to the rack on the top of my vehicle when I drive home keeping the lovely fragrance outside where it belongs. Geez, now why didn't I think of that sooner? Oh well, better late than never I guess.
And since this is a post about poo I share with you all this gem:

Courtesy of my sisters dog who got a little to close to the house to do his business. What can I say, the boy has talent. Now you can say you have seen everything possible on a blog. (We won't speak about the fact that I immediately thought about blogging it and took a photo. Nope, we won't say a word.)

He looks so innocent doesn't he?
P.S. K-9 Solutions Dog Training Inc. has it's own Facebook page now. Come be a fan. (bear with me as I am new to the whole page thing)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Product review - The Freedom No Pull Harness

One of the cool things about being a trainer is that sometimes I get free stuff. I like free stuff. The downside to offers of free stuff or invitations to link exchanges is that some of them are things I wouldn't promote even if you paid me ridiculous amounts of money. Some things are just not happening here. (go hawk your e "training" collars elsewhere please and oh you might want to READ the trainers site before you ask silly questions thank you very much) But I digress.
About a week ago I got a request from a company to send me a free sample to try and give an opinion on. It was the Freedom No Pull Harness from I am always interested in new (pain free) products to help owners with dog training so I said yes. Here it is straight out of the package:

I took some photos of the harness on Jenny but it can be seen more clearly on their site here:

Now my Jenny isn't a super puller (normally) but the principals of the harness are very sound. I'll explain those in a minute. The few times she did pull during our "trial walk" it was effective in stopping her with no extra direction from me.
The first thing I really like is that the configuration of the buckles make it super easy to put on AND figure out each time. Some harnesses are confusing to the average owner (in my experience) and I can't count the number I have seen a certain no pull harness on upside down and in two cases even backwards. Here are great photos on putting it on from the brochure that comes with it:
The other things I like about it include the velvet chest strap. My Jenny is quite nekkid under her front legs to I worry about chaffing. Of course any material can chafe given the right circumstances but I certainly appreciated the softness.
The harness comes with a double ended clip leash with a sliding handle so it can be clipped in a number of ways. Two clips to the front ring, or both on the back loop, or one clip on each the loop and ring for extra control. Or one clip to the harness and the other to a collar. Heck you could even use it as a leash for two dogs at once! How's that for options? I like a longer leash so I came up with another. I clipped one end to the loop under the handle to lengthen the leash so only one clip was attached to the harness. (disclaimer-this is not how the manufacturer intended it to be used. I am just a master of jury rigging.)

So back to those principals I mentioned. The strap that goes around the chest has a loop on the back that tightens as the dog pulls. This works to apply pressure around the dog which is a helpful deterrent to pulling. It is similar to a product called the Weiss Walkie: This is also a trick you can do with a long leash paired with a martingale collar in a pinch.
The front ring is also helpful to bring a dogs body around when they pull too. Much like an Easy Walk harness but without the loop that tightens to make the dog off balance. Because it lacks the front double loop it doesn't hang down and get in the way like the Easy Walk harness does on some dogs.
I also really liked that it came with a brochure that was well written and super clear with training tips included. They do not believe the product alone is a cure for pulling. It is simply a tool to help give you more control during training. No one likes getting dragged down the street after all. Their point is that you still gotta do the work needed to teach your dog how to walk properly on leash. (Bravo for this!)
Because my dogs tags are on a removable clip so I can switch collars and still have my dogs id attached, I also liked using the front ring for her tags. It just seems like a better spot than on the back loop like her other harness.

Jenny and I took a trip to our favorite local dog store to show the harness off and hint that she might want to carry them there. (She looks good in pink no?) I will definitely be recommending them to clients and friends in the future. Aside from the harness the company also makes some drool worthy collars and leashes too. (leashes with my favorite scissor clips and my favorite collar type: the double loop also known as a martingale) Go check them out and see for yourself. I will totally be ordering one in the near future. The harness also comes in different types as well as other colors and patterns. It's nice to have choices.

So I report that Jenny and I give this product a 4 paws up. I love it. Happy walking!!

(P.S. The Weiss Walkie and Easy Walk are also good products that I have used and recommended in the past. I just really like the flexability that this product offers and the ease in which it can be used by the average owner. )

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Same tree only 1 week later. Winter she is a comin!
(new harness review coming soon)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Because I don't have enough to do already.....

I totally want to do this with Jenny:

Seriously I think she would love it. It combines her tracking ability and my enjoyment of the sport with her drive for finding food. A perfect match for everyone. And since I have access to plenty of deer parts, thanks to my husbands game butcher business, I have everything I need to get started. Well except for this book. (yet)

Order the above book here:

And here are some more websites with info on bloodtracking:

I have added the born-to-track news blog to my blogroll. Check it out:

It's official, I think I have dog trainers ADD.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My own project runway

Today I went to the local home improvement store with my sister to pick up some supplies to make a ramp on my front steps. Winter is soon upon us and the addition of the frost and ice in the mornings has made getting back in the house tougher for Missy than it used to be. She can go down our steps fine but going back up them is a challenge so I knew it was time. I started with an 8 foot pre-cut board which made it just the right angle.

I added some cut cross pieces for traction.

Then I added some no slip tape and a cement block for extra stability.

A training session later and Missy was going up like a pro. If I had to do it over I would make it just a little bit wider. Total cost $21.71 which isn't bad. I'm sure it could be done cheaper with different wood.

I may also bolt it to the steps to prevent slippage once my husband gets home and gives me some feedback. (he might not want it attached for plowing reasons) She has suddenly become very touch sensitive and hates being picked up. She lets up know by screaming her displeasure as she skitters away. I don't want to freak her out any more than necessary so hopefully the ramp helps solve that issue. If her coordination gets to bad I also have the option of adding sides so it makes a sort of chute for her. Or I can outfit her with a harness so we can help her balance as needed.
It wasn't a big project but it was an important one. I probably should paint or seal it for longevity but that is a project for another day. I am grateful that today's weather cooperated for me to get this much accomplished.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Little dog love

His name is Milo and I loooove him. I mean seriously, isn't he simply adorable??

I went to my sons basketball game this evening and this sweetie was sitting behind me. (a 10 week old Chihuahua) I didn't notice him at first because he came in a canvas tote. (OK so the dog in a purse thing gets made fun of but I think some of that is jealously. I mean if I could sneak Jack places in a purse I would totally do it. Just saying.) I got to molest him at half time. He gave me kisses and puppy love while I got sweet nice cuddle time. It was awesome. Being the dork I am I requested a photo to share here. Yes I have no shame.
Once upon a time I never would have considered having a super small dog. Now I find myself really liking them. I can even see myself with a tiny little guy like Milo someday. A pretty big change from the 100 plus pound akitas I've always had.
There is something to be said for the lesser expense involved in having smaller dogs. The difference in their food bill and my akitas food bill alone I'm sure is quite substantial. I suppose that could translate to being able to afford to have more dogs. A herd of Chihuahuas anyone? VBG
Speaking of food this was the scene here last week.
The lobsters were making noises in the bucket and Jenny couldn't quite figure it out since she wasn't tall enough to see over the edge. I'm sure they smelled pretty interesting too. (another 6 were already in the cooker) Jack was curious but not excited by the commotion and Missy could have cared less.

The Missy Update: She is doing ok. She has good days and bad days at this point. We had to increase her prednisone recently as some her symptoms had returned. So far so good on this dose.