Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Semper Gumby!

The Marines have a motto. It is "Semper Fidelis" which is Latin for "Always Faithful". When I was stationed with the air wing we had a modification of that motto to "Semper Gumby" which meant "Always Flexible". Things could change quickly on a flightline hence the reason for our modified motto.

Today Jack came with me to the prison to be a distraction for the dogs during their session. When I decided to take him my plan was to possibly let him meet and play with Walker since Walker is still a puppy. I under estimated how over stimulated Walker would get however so it turned into a completely different session. It turns out that flexibility is also very important in dog training.
It took him awhile but he did finally settle down. (we did a lot of parallel walking and move aways) Instead of letting him say hello when he calmed down I decided to wait until another session to let them meet. I want to get him working with other dogs around and NOT expecting it to lead to playtime every time. I'll be switching up the dogs I bring as much as I can.

In Coopers case I wasn't planning on letting them play but maybe do a greeting. Instead Jack got to play the role of distraction dog with him too. We've learned that Cooper will only work for hotdog bits and that the hand signals make him flinch. Instead of not using hand signals I am hoping pairing them with the treats will help counter condition him to hand movements. Very rarely do I believe dogs have been hit in the past like many adopters do. They see a dog react to a hand movement and assume they were all abused. Most of the time I see normal reactions to movement, not true flinching. Some of those dogs are also just being shy or showing submissive body language. In Coopers case however (and I should have taped it!) I do think he may have been hit. We need hands to mean good things to him now so we are also going to up the clicker work with him. And because we want him to like being touched we are actually training him to jump ON people. (on cue only of course) Interestingly he does his stretch and bow calming signal while in the upright position as well as on the floor.

It is fascinating to see how different these two dogs are. It is also a great example to the handlers how the training needs to change based on the dog you are working with. They ARE all different! So please remember that when you are working with your own dogs. Stay flexible because sometimes not everything goes as planned and that's ok! Sometimes the new plan turns out better than the old plan in the long run.

I think Semper Gumby is an excellent motto for people training dogs everywhere. Hmmm, maybe I should make that into a t-shirt.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jenny vs a junebug

Jenny was having fun but Jack was unimpressed. Who knew how entertaining a bug could be?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An alpha roll on video

This is video of Cooper and Walker, our two newest dogs on the K-9 Corrections program. I accidentally caught what is commonly referred to as an "alpha roll" on video. I say accidental because I wasn't expecting it. You can hear the handlers laughing in the background because they don't realize that what they are seeing isn't normal happy play. (while some dogs do roll each other in play sometimes look at how tense Cooper is when doing this) It is a great example of what an alpha roll really is however.

Notice how the larger stronger dog CHOOSES to submit and roll over, he is not physically forced to do so. If he didn't chose to submit to the body language of the other dog there would have been a fight instead. When people roll their dogs they are only physically forcing the dog into a body position, who knows what the dog is thinking. You cannot guarantee a dog is mentally submitting to the roll. (or giving up in some cases also known as learned helplessness when done repeatedly) Those that don't give up when let go may chose to bite. This can be because being forced to lay down in that position (physically forced) reads as an attack to many dogs. Dogs being a fight or flight animal only have two choices in that situation. If they are prevented from flight one of those choices is taken away from them. Guess what that leaves them?

The problem with using physical force to manage or intimidate your dog into behaving means you MUST be present 100% of the time for that to happen. Because it is management using suppression of behavior you don't want, not teaching them the behavior that you prefer. For the best long term results you shouldn't just stop behavior, you should change behavior. (sometimes that includes the need to change the emotion of events for your dog)

What dog owners also need to know is that "dominance" is a contextual relationship between dogs and not a set description of a dog. Many dogs that people label as dominant are really bullies. A true leader within a social group doesn't need to use any physical force to control the other dogs. A good leader is benevolent, not violent. Something we humans could stand to remember when dealing with dogs and other people, but I digress. Bullies tend to be insecure dogs in general. (sidenote: resource guarding is not about dominance)

Cooper is actually very interesting because some of his social cues seem slightly off. He vocalizes when he wants to play but it sounds more like a warning growl. He isn't showing pilo-erection (hackles raised) but he seems conflicted to me. I haven't seen him do any of the stress yawning but he is bowing and stretching instead. (also known as calming signals-see Turid Rugaas FMI) His handler reported that he nibbled gravy off his hand instead of licking it off. He hates the rain, refusing to move if it touches him, and he is more trustful of women then men upon meeting people. Oh and he tends to mark in new places. (who wants to adopt that?)

It is obvious he didn't have a great life where ever he was before coming to the shelter. He is improving and some of our goals with him include getting him to relax around people more and hopefully even learning how to play with toys. We are also going to teach him that when he growls at another dog the other dog will go away. (This means we will be teaching Walker to move away from Cooper when he growls.) This way when he plays in the future he will have some control over the interaction, hopefully with a socially appropriate dog, which should help him be more relaxed in that situation.

At this point I would like to see him go into a home with another dog because he does seem to be more relaxed with another dog around. (much like another former K-9 Corrections dog Grizz) This would also take the pressure off of him that being an only dog can bring. But it is early yet and I may change my mind based on his progress. I can see that he obviously really likes his handler so that is a great sign.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Exciting news!

My sister and her fiance are getting another bulldog! She is Minos's half sister and her name is Glitter. (below on right) Here is Minos saying hello. The meeting went very well though Minos played the role of Pepe Le Pew. (I LOOOOVE you!) Fortunately he did back off when she told him he was being a pest.

Isn't she adorable? The bulldog on the right in the photo below is another sibling of Minos, a full sister. You can see the resemblance.

Glitter comes home next week. I'll be sure to share more photos then. Now we need to find her a tutu to wear to the wedding. I think she'll look great in pink.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

NOT photoshopped. Talk about the beauty of timing!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jenny's big day

Today I took Jenny to her first AKC rally match. Our very first rally match actually. I started with AKC because that was the class I took recently and those are the signs I have been practicing. There was also an APDT rally match today but it was farther away. (at Finish Forward Dogs which I look forward to visiting in the future) I don't know all of the APDT signs yet so I figured this match would be an easier way to dip our toes in the pool so to speak. Plus it was less travel time and gas. Jenny had never been to a dog show type event before and I didn't know how she would do so closer to home made more sense to me for her first one.

The car ride produced a bit of whining but it wasn't to bad. She isn't used to long rides as I am a bit of a home body. She did fine at the site. I kept her busy in her soft crate with chewies and having gotten her used to that crate previously helped I'm sure. What I absolutely hated was the waiting. Novice A goes in the ring DEAD LAST so I had plenty of time for ring nerves. HOURS actually. It is silly considering it was only a match, practice for the real thing, but I did get plenty nervous. I guess it is good to watch the other classes first, you learn alot and seeing others mess up certainly takes pressure off for anything perfect. But it still sucks. While waiting I doubted I would ever do this again. I even texted my husband "This is supposed to be fun??"

It was a SUPER windy day. If you look close you can see the pieces of a long jump holding the ring gates up in this photo above. Ironicly we have never practiced our Rally on a windy day because keeping the signs from blowing away is a huge pain. That will teach me! I didn't take many pics because I was to nervous. You can't tell from these pics but it was VERY well attended. It started at 10:30 and we got in the ring at about 1:45. (and it was just a rally ring -regular obededience was in another ring)
Thankfully it only bothered Jenny a little. She got spooked near the moving gate (from wind) once but other than that she did pretty well. Her nose was to the ground a bit to much but once I got her attention off the ground she did great. I messed up two stations so had two retries. We qualified with a score of an 87 (out of 100) and got a third place ribbon. (out of 4 in the class) Yay! Driving home I thought, of course I'll do it again! It was fun! What a difference before the ring and after the ring thoughts are! LOL I wasn't nervous IN the ring during our turn, just during our wait. I just hope I get over that in future events. That part wasn't much fun at all.

She looks so impressed right? I wish I had asked someone to tape it for us but I didn't know many people there to begin with and the ones I did know left before we went into the ring. I did get over my shyness to ask a steward to take this photo for me. I couldn't NOT get a photo of us at our first match after all! I've also learned I don't have any dog show friends on speed dial! Thanks to Jen for letting me interupt her at work to tell her our good news. I had to share with SOMEONE that understood! (my husband while always supportive wasn't as excited as I needed at that moment)

So we survived our first match and foray into the rally ring. I plan on doing an APDT rally match in July at Wag It. That one is a bit closer to home which will be nice. I cannot stress how much I hate traveling. (for anything) I know these are just match ribbons and no points are awarded but I don't care. I am PROUD of Jenny and want to show them off so here they are.

I've learned the hard way that you never know what tomorrow will bring so in THIS moment I am very excited. We did it!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hachi ~ My overdue movie review

In full disclosure I am slightly jaded based on my own experiences. For instance, many commercials lately like to use images of dogs with their heads sticking out car windows into the wind with a blissful look on their faces. And I think most people see that image and think; Awww how cute, look at the happy dog! I see the same image and think OH MY GOD WATCH OUT FOR HIS EYES!!!! But I do work at a vets office so perhaps that is an extreme example.

Spoiler alert! If you don't already know what the movie is about, or how it ends, this is not the review for you to read. No complaining because you were warned.

I finally sat down and watched Hachi, the new Americanized remake of the Hachiko story staring Richard Gere. They did a good job with it. I cried. Of course that is hard not to do with that story. True there were some very unbelievable parts in it. In this country that dog would have been in rescue faster than you could have said, "look there's a loose akita in the same place every day" for instance. No responsible owner would have let the dog loose TO make his own decisions like the one in the movie either. And certainly a loose akita would wreak some serious havoc in a neighborhood if left to his own devices. But belief has to be suspended for many movies. This one is no different.

For me the sad part is the true story behind the movie. This actually happened many years ago in Japan. And while I understand times were different then, I find it reprehensible that no one could take the dog in. (which is how it was portrayed in the original Japanese version which I have) Living for 10 years as a stray just doesn't seem like a very comfortable life to me.

So for what it was, a story about a dog left on his own to mourn a missing owner, it is ok. Have your tissues ready. I even liked some of the effects they did from the dogs eye view. And they did explain a little about what an akita is and isn't. "They don't play fetch. They're not that kind of dog." (Nobody told my last akita that however.)

I liked the special features about training the dogs for the movie. Not sure why they didn't use actual akita puppies for the pup in the beginning. (tho the shibas were adorable!) And the make-up job they did on the dog for the last scene was amazing. I disliked where the dog lived in the movie. A real akita would have been very lonely out there. They prefer to be WITH their family. But I suppose that is a detail like when cops watch action movies, they count the bullets and know which shoot outs aren't realistic.

If nothing else it is a charming movie about a man and his dog with some beautiful akitas to watch. (even tho Gere's character is a Yankees fan, bleck VBG) For those that take this historical story about one akita as an example of how loyal the whole breed is, get a grip. All dogs are individuals and while the breed is known for being territorial and possessive of it's people, loyalty doesn't come without bonding and fair training. You have to earn that loyalty. Setting boundaries is also very important for akitas which is why this isn't a breed for everyone.

The jury is out on the effect this movie may have on akita rescue and back yard breeders looking to cash in. While the dogs are beautiful in the movie I think some people may realize they aren't for them based on some of what they say in the movie. Tho they show a dog that isn't realistic in other ways so it may be a wash. Who knows, only time will tell. Fingers crossed.

***Possession is NOT protection because protection implies there is a threat to the person. If there is no threat and a dog attacks a person simply for being near you then you have a problem, not a loyal dog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

The new recruits

Normally we take a week off between prison dogs but we already have two more raring to go. Plans are to begin on tuesday.

This is Walker, a sweet hound mix in need of better manners. He has been adopted twice and returned for being "to much dog" for the families.

This is Cooper, an aloof (and tall) Jack Russell who needs to learn better potty manners. He was abandoned at the shelter in one of their outdoor runs and seems to have had a hard life so far. Hopefully getting better house manners while learning to trust people will help him find a better home.
More photos are posted to our facebook page:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A first and a pit bull related vent

In all my years of being a trainer yesterday I had a first, I forgot a client! Yeah I know, not very professional. The lesson here is that for a calendar to be effective you need to look at it daily. Fortunately my "the trainer forgot your session" discount helped in my apology. They were very gracious about it but I felt like a complete idiot.

It was a great session with a fabulous pit/boxer mix that was adopted from a local shelter. The disturbing part was what happened when the owner took their sweet pup to the veterinarian. The vet pronounced it a "horrible" breed that would grow up to turn on them at the age of 2 or 3 years. Because "that's what happens with that breed".

Seriously?? And this is a professional?? It is mind boggling. Stick to practicing medicine please and leave the behavior work to those who know better.

Thankfully it was a dog savey owner who knew better but still had some concerns. We had a long talk about media hysteria, pit bulls and warning signals in dogs. (how not to teach a dog not to growl and why, how people miss warning signals, and the development of the breed to BE people friendly)

The sad part of this story is that I actually knew someone who got this same warning years ago from a different vet that listened and took the dog back to the shelter they got it from. It was a boxer mix. They thought if the vet said it then it must be true. (thankfully the dog got re-adopted and not euthanised for looking like it might be a pitbull)

A dog is a dog first and a breed second. All dogs are individuals and how they are raised can also come into play. There are just to many factors to say all _______ will act like this about ANYTHING. Media hysteria over the years is killing this breed. Unfortunatly some vets are helping them do it. Educate yourself people, there are no evil breeds, but there are stupid people.

And point to ponder, if pit bulls are so bad, wouldn't professional trainers refuse to work with them? Funny how I don't know of ANY trainer that has ever refused to work with a pitbull or any bully breed. So as my step-dad would say, stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it!

This is Worf, not the dog mentioned above but a shelter dog who was killed for being a pitbull. For those that haven't seen his story already it is here:

Friday, May 7, 2010


What a difference a few weeks make. Patty is gone to her new home and Jack goes on Saturday. They will be missed but we hope they both have a fabulous life. The transition should be pretty smooth considering they are already crate trained and housebroken on top of their great start in basic training. I wish my puppies came that way!

I put together an extra set of APDT rally signs and notebooks with rules and guidelines for the handlers. I am hoping to have the next dog and handler teams on the K-9 Corrections program pass a level 1 rally course as their graduation. I think this will be a fun and challenging addition to our training. With the signs in their possession they can practice more on their own time as well as during our formal training sessions. I also ordered the APDT Rally DVD. (since I am also a beginner at APDT rally we will be learning some of this at the same time) I chose APDT over the AKC rally because there are local APDT certified judges in the area that have agreed to test the handlers for their graduation. (Thank you Wag It!)

I'll be sure to keep you posted on our progress. Good luck to Patty and Jack!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pivot training

OK I have to admit I am in totally new territory here. Not having shown (much) I've never had call to teach any dog how to pivot before. It just doesn't have any practical application in the average pet home. And the little showing I did was AKC traditional and we only had to do one direction finish exercises and I always taught "around". So I am trying to figure this out as I go.

I know that teaching a pivot will help Jenny for the finish left exercise and on the pivot sign exercises. I just don't exactly know how to get from where we are now to that step. (Which is why missing the Pamela Dennison seminar is bumming me out. Sniff, sniff.) I have an idea but don't really want to lose time undoing a mistake. I can get her to circle away from me, but how do I get her to circle towards me? Wait her out? I tried luring it but with no real success. I am feeling stuck. (And I'm sure the answer is probably something easy and I'll feel like an idiot when someone clues me in. It's ok. I'm ready for it.)

Here is one of our training videos from yesterday. (during my lunch time break)

Yesterday was our first session where I got her to figure out it the game was to put her front feet on the bowl. All suggestions on what to do next are welcome from those in the know. I'll keep looking for the answer too.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wobbler Wednesday

This is a great new toy to use for dogs that need to lose a few pounds (working for their meals) or for high energy dogs that need something to do.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I almost forgot the best part.

This dog (Maggie) got high in trial the day I went to watch the APDT rally event with a perfect score. (not this run shown) Notice how happy she works? I cannot tell you how amazing she was to see in person. It brought tears to more than a few eyes to watch, including mine. Yes tripawds CAN have an active and fun life!

*APDT allows for disabled dogs and lets them compete. AKC does not. No discussion. I've never understood why a deaf dog can't compete in tracking when the whole event is done ON a long line. How is that a safety issue? And I ask you this, does Maggie look disabled to you?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scattered, with video

So I was in my vehicle yesterday driving to a dog event and I realized that my time is split between work (at the vet hospital), the prison (doing dog stuff), the shelter (more dog stuff) and home. That is of course not counting client time. It's no wonder I don't get things accomplished with my own dogs! I set goals and then I have a hard time eeking out time to get it done. (I know, I know, practice during commercials right?) That home time is also spent driving kids to events and back. I guess I need to get better at scheduling time for myself with the dogs. Maybe if I set it as a routine it will get done. Of course the problem with that is I tend to give up my own time to fit clients in. I want to be as flexible as possible for them. So I will TRY the schedule thing and see how it goes. Mmmm yeah. I'll get back to you on that.

Yesterdays dog event was an APDT Rally trial at Wag It. I went as a spectator because I've only just gotten into the AKC Rally. (dipping my toe as it were, no trials under my belt just yet) I wanted to see the difference and since Wag It is close I made the time to go. I am SO glad I did. First it is always fun to watch dogs and their people having fun, second I learned ALOT while there. It is always great meeting fellow dog enthusiasts too. (and then come home and "friend" them on FB VBG)

Here are some of the things I learned: APDT Rally is not the same as AKC Rally. Many of the signs are different, the course is longer and contrary to popular belief it is more difficult than AKC. That was surprising to me. I would have thought it was the other way around. I was told that APDT trials are also much less stuffy than AKC events. You are allowed to get animated in the ring and not so much in the AKC version. APDT allows food rewards in the ring HOWEVER there are very specific rules and times. It is only allowed after the completion of a stationary exercise and only as a reward. (and out of a pocket, no bait bags allowed) Food cannot be used as a lure at all. The APDT version has many more rules and this is why some who show in both versions end up with more NQ's (non qualifying scores) in APDT than they expect.

Because I hate traveling (and lack the time) I want to compete in both versions so I will have more opportunities closer to home and can travel less. (I really hate traveling.) This means I will need to learn ALL the rules. Seeing the APDT version of course got me excited so I came right home and printed all the signs and rules and added them to my notebook. Because there is an AKC match coming up I will concentrate on that for now so I don't confuse myself, but I look forward to trying APDT. I am just really hoping competing in Rally is more fun than traditional obedience was. It seems like it would be but I guess it will all depend on if I get a case of nerves or not.

So in that spirit I pulled out the signs and did a small course in the yard today after all my clients. I learned I suck at that by the way. I figure it is about the practice tho so I didn't freak out about it to much. I would love feedback from others that do AKC Rally since I do not know the fine points. I think I am using to many hand signals and I know I repeated my command on some signs. I get unsure where I should have my hands. (I probably should tape a run, watch it on the camera and then adjust for the next run instead of taping them and then downloading them to the computer to watch. Duh.) Next time I will go to a bigger area and do a more proper course. I was just to darn tired to drive somewhere else to set up.

Because it cuts off the right side of the video when I post them here I am using the links instead.

I did change some of the signs between runs.

I took some liberties like I did a short serpentine (3 cones) and didn't do the three steps (forward) because I would have been past the next sign. I have no idea if I can take that step back for the finish to the right exercise. And is my sign for finish to the left to exaggerated? (I know I need to teach her to pivot.)

The match is in a couple of weeks and I WILL make time to go. If I'm ever going to jump in the pool I have to start somewhere. I figure a match will be the least painful way to do it. I hear there is an APDT trial coming up in July. With any luck that will be next for us after MUCH more practice!

(Today I realized that I look older on camera than I do in my own mind, and my rear is much wider than I imagined. It's tough to be in denial when you have video proof. Dang.)