Sunday, January 30, 2011

Musings on a first obedience trial

I saw the following post on facebook and asked for permission to share. It is written by guest blogger Rebecca Lynch and stars her dog Karma. I think it captures the spirit of what dog showing can and should be. Enjoy.

This weekend my dog, Karma, and I competed in our first AKC Rally Obedience event. This was my first time ever competing in any dog event and it was quite the experience. I learned a lot in these past few days.

1) You don't need a group class to compete.

All my training was done at home. I had planned on taking some drop-in rally classes before the event, but they were canceled due to weather. I was very worried that I would not know all the right things to do and would be an embarrassment to myself. I found that all of the people at the event - those working the event and those competing - were very willing to help me find my way. Did I make mistakes? Certainly! In fact, I lost 10pts before I even reached my first sign because I started before the judge gave the "forward" command. The great thing is that I will never, ever, do that again! AND I learned that making a 10pt mistake is not the end of the world! I still qualified and got my first leg.

2) There is a time to be in "working mode" and a time to let your dog be a dog.

I spent a lot of time observing others at this event. There were a lot of very competative people who were very focused on winning and keeping their dog focused on winning. Unfortunately, it seemed as though they have forgotten that their dog really doesn't care about winning and is a dog. I'm sure that some people frowned at me as I sat on the floor next to my dog as she was sprawled out offering me "dead dog" and other various behaviors to see if it would earn her a reward. Those frowney people had stressed dogs next to them. Each time their dog would break from a sit or look to the side it would receive a leash correction. No wonder they didn't do well in the ring! I was sure to give Karma lots of down time in her crate with a stuffed KONG and go for walks and let her sniff around. If we were waiting to go in the ring, I asked for focus right before going in, but rewarded heavily with the last treats in my hand.

3) Premack is your friend.

I was practicing with Karma in an area that had seen a lot of traffic over the last four days. Their were unidentifiable wet spots on the ground, treat remnants, straw, hair, dirt, etc. A doggie olfactory Disney Land. Instead of getting frustrated with Karma for wanting to be a dog and sniff the floor, I used sniffing to reinforce each behavior I asked for. After a few good sniffs and a few great left finishes, it was out of her system and she was fully focused on me and waiting for a treat reward instead. That was SO much easier and friendlier to my dog than what I witnessed from some of the other handlers. You don't need to leash pop, yell or kick at your dog. Again, let your dog be a dog!

4) Your dog is making a decision each time you go in the ring. Help them make the right choice.

Every dog in that building was making a decision between paying attention to the handler and paying attention to everything else. Trust me, there was a lot of everything else. Babies, toys squeaking, clapping, doughnuts, hot dogs, dogs running by, smells galore... All things that dogs could become distracted by. So many handlers tried to force their dogs to pay attention to them by collar grabs, muzzle grabs, growling at their dogs, leash pops, etc. I sat there baffled as I just couldn't see why a dog would choose to pay attention to that handler when there were so many other things going on. If I were a dog, I would rather sniff gum on the sidewalk than look at these frowney people, too!

This is a time when positive training shines. My dog was boring holes into my head with her laser beam stare because I had 1) taught her that eye contact and attention were highly rewarding behaviors and 2) I rewarded those behaviors outside of the ring. I never asked for her full attention unless we were in the ring or I was trying to keep her from visiting another dog or person that was too close. And most of the time I didn't have to ask for her attention because she was already giving it to me.

Yes, she got distracted in the ring a couple of times. That's ok. I made plenty of mistakes. But I watch our videos with a smile because that tail is wagging the whole time. And when we arrived to the Expo center this morning, she jumped out of the car and started doing a whole body wag because she was happy to be there.

That is what it is all about. Love your dog and share the fun.

(Congratulations to Rebecca and Karma on their first leg and first place ribbon! What a great example of positive training and what it can accomplish and a reminder about keeping showing fun for our dogs.)

Catching up and Alpha Idiocy

Some of this is a catching up post. I haven't been motivated to write much this last week. It was an emotionally draining week at work. Add to that my neighbor got a german shepherd puppy. Great, because yelling at his kids wasn't enough. Jenny is also having an itch fest flare up so I've been bathing her trying to keep her comfortable. I have decided to try eliminating peanut butter to see if that may be part of her issue. I bought a bunch of wellness canned chicken meat to stuff their kongs with instead of the peanut butter. So you can see why I needed to use a happy photo today. (taken a few weeks ago hence her relatively clear skin)
The other reason for this post is that I read an article last night in my Pug Talk magazine called: "Establishing and Keeping Alpha Position". Interestingly it had no author credit. It was a mistake to read this just before I went to bed. It made sleep difficult. Why are people still passing this outdated nonsense on? Our dogs are NOT trying to "dominate" us "because that's what dogs do". To many people are still looking at wolf behavior, some of it MISINTERPRETED wolf behavior, as a guide to how to treat our dogs. The article is to long to go through point by point but here are a few highlights.
Dogs should never be allowed to walk in front of you because this tells them in their mind they are the leader of the pack. They should also never go through a door first. Um no, this only means you haven't trained them to do otherwise. If they pull on leash and you follow them they learn that pulling works. If they go through the door without permission it is because you let them. They just want to get outside, not show you that they are your leader.
You should not lay on the floor to watch television with the dog is around as a human should never put himself in an equal or lesser height position than the dog. OK Yes height can equal status to the dog but context is important. It is more common for height to be a problem between dogs in a social group IF any of them have status issues. I'm pretty sure dogs don't see us as other dogs though so this one is silly if you don't have a true dominant aggressive dog. (which 95 plus % of dogs aren't)
During the time you are establishing your higher pack position, no hugs should be given to the dog by you, as a dominant dog may consider this a challenge of power. Wrong answer. Many dogs do not like to be hugged because it can make a dog feel trapped or our arm over the dog is body language they do not like and they can respond by trying to get away from it or growling a warning. Teach your kids to never hug dogs. Yes dogs in your own family can learn to relax when we do it and some dogs do love the attention. This is about the situation, the individual and is NOT a challenge of power play.
If you establish eye contact with the dog, the dog must avert his gaze first. If the human averts his gaze first this reinforces the dogs higher power position. Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!! Wow am I glad this was in a pug magazine and not an akita one! Staring at a dog, in dog language, can be a threat or a challenge. This is a perfect example of why some dogs bite people in the face. Dogs are fight or flight and when you stare at them they are forced into a decision. If they can't get away they may lash out. Dogs do not stare at each other for this reason and why we need to teach them to have good eye contact for obedience work. If you stare at a dog that doesn't know you well you can create a lot of anxiety. NEVER do this exercise! It will freak out most dogs.
This article goes on but you get the picture. Bad information abounds. Yes dogs are a social animal. Yes within their social group should be a clear leader so they aren't confused. Good leaders (like parents) are ones who communicate clearly, set rules and boundaries, and discipline fairly. It isn't about preventing a hostile takeover. Are there dogs out there who care about status and try to exert it over people? The short answer is yes. However those dogs are few and far between. They are the exception and not the rule. For those dogs a Nothing in Life is Free program is usually recommended. (also known as NILF) This is a non-confrontational method that is basicly teaching a dog to "say please". They need to earn everything they get and this teaches them they have to listen to you to get anything they need or want. If you need more guidence on leadership in dogs check out Patricia McConnells booklet called How to be leader of the pack. Again more non-confrontational methods that are based in science, not assumptions, of dog behavior.
To be fair to Pug Talk they have many other good articles including one on breeding vs rescue I will share some thoughts on here soon.
For more information regarding the "Alpha Myth" in dogs check out my past posts here:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Jenny!

Today Jenny turned 5 years old. We got her through Pug Rescue of New England and they had her previous owners vet paperwork so we knew her birthday. If there was ever a dog that changed a household she definately qualifies. Here she is looking like a diva.
I admit that getting a pug wasn't my idea. It was my sons. He wanted his own dog and we couldn't talk him into a frenchie. He had even collected pug stuff for years. Since I couldn't find what I considered a reputable breeder in the breed (see previous posts on that topic) we went the route of rescue.
Jenny came to us because she had been fighting in her foster home with the other resident pugs over food. She was a serious resource guarder and had hurt one of the dogs badly. I think the group was thrilled to get an application from a dog trainer. She was a bit of work at first but she fit in to our small pack very well with some management, basic training and behavior modification for her issues. Fortunately my akita was raised by a frenchie so her attitude didn't phase him much. I was more concerned with her and my other female in residence at the time. Same sex aggression can be common and is statisticly more likely to happen between females. (This is where the slang term "bitch" comes from.) Our frenchie Missy was a confident female and wasn't affected by Jennys' insecurities. Plus she was already trained which helps immensely when it comes to managing multiple dogs in a home. (Training works people!)

In going through my photos for this post I found this one above. I believe that this is her happy face. Wow does she love any kind of food! The photo below was taken today after dinner. It is a great example of how far she has come with her resource guarding.

Jenny has definately changed us in a few ways. One is that we have all fallen in love with pugs because of her. I guess you could say she is our "gateway pug". VBG While I have concerns about the breed and their health issues, I cannot help but love their personalities and their cuteness factor. What can I say, curly tails do it for me. Her being a bit higher energy than my other dogs caused me to become a better trainer too. I have to keep her busy so this means I have to think up fun stuff for her to do to keep her mind engaged. A bored smart dog is a challenge to live with and can be destructive or obnoxiously annoying.

Because of her I got off my butt and got into the obedience ring as well. Something I never thought I would want to do. She loves training because it is the opportunity for her to earn food rewards. She is smart and learns quickly, keeping the training as much fun for me as it is for her. I never thought I would be a "small dog" person either. I came into dogs as an adult with a large breed and thought I would always be a big dog person. Now I see the advantages to having smaller dogs. (they cost less to feed, medication can cost less, they are easier to transport, you can have more of them in the same amount of space, ect.)

So today Jenny got lots of extra treats and maybe even a few more scritches than usual. I am greatful for every day we have with her and we hope to have many more years together.

(More photos and videos of her can also be found on my K-9 Solutions facebook page and even on the K-9 Corrections facebook page.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The definition of irony

So guess who's dog ate some chocolate the day after my last post? Yup, that idiot was none other than me. I think I was the first person to go to the chart after posting. Gosh you would think someone who works for a vet and knows better would keep it out of reach. Ah but who doesn't like an adrenaline rush now and then?
I had placed the bar on top of my treadle sewing machine. Jack normally doesn't bother food on counters or on top of tables but I guess this just smelled to good for him to pass up. I had broken off some pieces to take to work and assume that is why it attracted him. The good news is that because he is so large, and I came home for lunch and caught him, he didn't have a chance to eat very much of it. Add to that when I left for work he had a kong to work on so I'm sure some if his time went into that. He also didn't eat bites of it (like some dogs would have) but took a piece to the floor and licked at it. Then he licked the rest of the bar while it was on top of the machine. The evidence was still there. Chocolate doggy drool anyone? Yeah the rest of it went into the garbage outside.
So once I figured out just how much he got and talked to the docs I work with (double checking the charts correctness) I calmed down. Then I laughed because it the whole thing was just so stupid. And Jack? Luckily he never even got any diarrhea from the incident. I gave him a dose of propectalin just in case. But I know I got lucky and I am grateful for that.
The lesson? Keep your chocolate out of reach all the time but especially after blogging about the dangers of chocolate. You're less likely to look like an idiot that way.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chocolate, good for us, not so much for our dogs

My husband brought me this chocolate bar and I couldn't resist the photo op. I decided it would make a great photo to accompany a public service announcement about chocolate and dogs. If I unwrapped this I have no doubt Jenny would dig right in. She eats everything. Obviously this much chocolate would be bad for her. Heck this much chocolate could harm her if it fell on top of her too! Check out this very cool chart to see how much chocolate your dog has to eat to be harmful.
Keep in mind any amount can cause gastric upset for a sensitive dog. And don't just rely on this chart, when in doubt call your veterinarian to advise you.
Don't worry, my children and co-workers are helping me conquer the bar shown above. That is to much chocolate even for me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Puppies are fun

especially when someone else gets to potty train them. Check out our other K-9 Corrections dog Russet.

He is a 9 week old 1/2 German wire haired pointer, 1/4 Labrador retriever and 1/4 Chesapeake bay retriever mix. Momma was the pointer. He was one of 11 puppies, only 9 survived, and he was one of the runts in the litter so he got bottle fed from an early age. As a result one of his issues is mouthing. We thought he might be to much of a handful for the average adopter so he got put on the program to learn not to be mouthy as well as all the basics. Who doesn't want a puppy that is already house trained and crate trained?

Jenny is learning how to play less roughly with him. She can't help herself, she's just a puppy too. More photos (and video!) of them can be seen on our K-9 Corrections facebook page. The challenge with a young puppy on the program is to make sure he gets exposed to lots of other dogs while he is still young. To accomplish that he will be going on a few field trips with me and I'll be taking dogs there for both of them to meet. There are also staff members with dogs that occasionally visit the facility too. Fortunately his foster home had lots of other animals he got to be around which helps. If you are interested in adopting either of them you need to apply through The Humane Society of Knox County. They will be at the facility for at least 6 more weeks however.

Scombroid Poisoning ~ A warning

This post was written by guest blogger Gina Snow of Swanback Jacks. She learned a lesson the hard way and wants to get the word out to other dog lovers who feed might fish to their dogs.

Scombroid food poisoning is a foodborne illness that results from eating spoiled (decayed) fish. It is the second most common type of seafood poisoning. It is often missed because it resembles an allergic reaction. It is most commonly reported with Mackerel, tuna, mahi-mahi, sardines and anchovies or related species of fish that were inadequately refrigerated or preserved after being caught. Scombroid syndrome can result from inappropriate handling of fish during storage or processing. One of the toxic agents implicated in scombroid poisoning is histamine. Other chemicals have been found in decaying fish flesh, but their association with scombroid fish poisoning has not been clearly established.
I never heard of this type of poisoning until last Wednesday. I had my young JRT with me all day, along with my other three. We were home most of the day but went for a hike late in the afternoon. I noticed the young JRT was a little less active on the hike, but I had fed them before leaving, so I thought that may have something to do with her sluggish nature. At around 8pm, I started to notice her lips swelling. I knew right away it was hives and I was not that concerned. As the next few minutes passed, she started with some larger hives around her eyes and throat area. I always use natural treatments when I can so I reached for the homeopathic Apis. Apis is for hives, swellings and allergic reactions often caused by stings or bites. Since I had no idea what had started this reaction, I could only assume she got bit by a spider or something. She initially responded to the Apis with decreased swelling around the eyes but after a short time, the swelling came back worse. I repeated the Apis but it offered no relief this time so I gave her a Benadryl capsule. I waited about an hour and the swelling continued to increase, especially around the throat/neck area on the right side. This one area on her neck really made me wonder about a possible bite of some kind. Because of the increase in swelling despite the Benadryl, I gave her a steroid tablet. After an hour, some of the swelling reduced but it was quickly replaced with intense itching. She itched and scratched constantly until 2am. At that point, I gave her a dose of the homeopathic Belladonna which is also good for hives but more for redness, swelling and itch. This seemed to help her sleep for an hour but then awoke again with intense itch at 3am although we did manage to get some rest from 3-5am. At 5am the swelling was returning, worse then before. I packed her up and went to the hospital (I work at a local Animal Hospital) and on our way, the vomiting started. It was then that I really brain stormed and realized what the problem could be. I use a grain pre-mix for my dog's food. I normally mix in water, turkey or beef, eggs and Salmon. This batch that my young JRT ate the day before had canned Mackerel instead of canned Salmon. That was the only difference in her day, the day before when the hives all started. So with a little research, I quickly find the following information.
Unlike many types of food poisoning, this form is not produced by an organism or virus. Histidine exists naturally in many types of fish, and at temperatures above 60°F on air contact it is converted to the biogenic amine histamine. This is one reason why fish should be stored at low temperatures. Histamine is not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures, so even properly cooked fish can be affected. Histamine is a mediator of allergic reactions, so the symptoms produced are those one would expect to see in severe allergic responses. The suspect toxin is an elevated level of histamine generated by bacterial breakdown of histidine in the muscle protein. This natural spoilage process is thought to release additional by-products, which cause the toxic effect. Freezing, cooking, smoking, curing and/or canning do not destroy the potential toxins.
Symptoms consist of skin flushing, throbbing headache, oral burning, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, palpitations, a sense of unease, and, rarely, collapse or loss of vision. Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes of ingesting the fish and generally are self-limited. Physical signs may include tachycardia, wheezing, and hypo or hypertension. People with asthma are more vulnerable to respiratory problems such as wheezing. Symptoms of poisoning can show within just minutes, or up to several hours, following consumption of spoiled fish. Symptoms usually last for approximately four to six hours and rarely exceed one to two days. In the worst cases, the poisoning causes blurred vision, respiratory stress and swelling of the tongue. Treatments in these cases can include histamine receptors like Tagamet, supportive care such as fluids and oxygen.
After arriving at the hospital, I did some more research for her treatment. The edema around her throat was now severe and the swelling of her tongue was very concerning. She was smart enough to stay calm and breath with her mouth open. She tried to doze at times sitting up because of the difficulty breathing from the edema and hives when she tried to lie down. Finally, I found the correct homeopathic remedy for her, Nat Mur, which I gave to her orally in liquid. Nat Mur is a wonderful hive remedy especially when you see a response with Apis but it does not hold. Within 15 minutes, 80% of the hives had disappeared and she was more comfortable. Her response to this remedy was amazing and much needed! I dosed her again with the Nat Mur an hour later since the throat swelling and edema was still present. Within 2 hours after that second dose, she was 90% improved in all ways. I was relieved that she was finally feeling better. She was very hungry that night and she got a nice dinner with NO FISH included! ;-) It was a very happy ending to a very scary 17 hours.
I have since sent the remaining Mackerel to a lab in Colorado. They will determine the actual histamine level in that sample of fish. Anything over 2ppm is considered a danger. This was human grade canned Mackerel that I purchased from a local super market. I am in hopes by testing the product that hopefully others can be spared the issues my little JRT and I had. I hope you find this informative, please share the warning!
Gina Snow and Swanback's Cue

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And her name is Jenny too

Check out our newest addition to the K-9 Corrections program. She is a redbone coonhound mix about 5 months old. Don't forget you can also follow the dogs (and handlers) progress on facebook. Special thanks to The Loyal Biscuit Co. for the donation of some great martingale collars for the dogs on the program. We appreciate the support!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New year, new plans

Happy New Year! OK so I am a few days late. No excuses, just been busy like everyone else. I've been reading on other blogs of resolutions and plans for the next year. I'm not big on resolutions. I find it just makes me feel icky if I don't stick with them. No one likes that.
I do have plans. One is to unveil a super cool trick with Jenny. I'm not saying what it is but you'll like it. (I've only been planning to do this trick for 2 years so don't hold your breath. I don't want to be responsible for anyone passing out.) I'd like to video our progress along the way then post it all at once when she learns the whole trick. I'm also going to keep going with our Rally trialing. Maybe not until spring though. I hate driving in snow if I don't have to. Jenny has also just started a new medication for her skin. Special thanks to Julie (a reader) for this link in Bark about it. It had been recommended by another pug person to try but my vet was hesitant until I sent her the link to the article. Fingers crossed it does the trick. Her tail seems to be healing ok so far.
My other planned event is to do the Idita-walk with Jack this year. I mentioned it last year then lost my motivation before it even started and never signed up. This year I've already paid my entry fee so no excuses. It starts February 1st so you still have time to join in if you are interested. I'd like to walk with Jack to get him out more. Being an "easy keeper" he tends to get taken for granted at times. The squeaky wheel gets the grease certainly applies to our Jenny. I signed just myself up though so I can take either dog or use the treadmill on days the weather is uncooperative. Just getting out and exercising daily will help with the dogs because the better you feel the more energy you have to do stuff, like more doggy outings and training. I could stand to lose a few pounds and certainly need work on my stamina. Jack makes the perfect winter walking partner. To get in the mood for the Idita-walk I will also be reading The Lance Mackey story. It was recommended by a friend. (For those looking to read about the Iditarod dog sled race I can also highly recommend Winterdance by Gary Paulsen. It is one of my all time favorite dog books.)
Today I took the first dog over to the prison to kick off this years K-9 Corrections program. We had a short hiatus during the holidays. I gotta say it was much needed for me to recharge my batteries. Saturday I am taking the second dog over for the other set of handlers. I have 3 new guys this time around so it's like training a whole new team. Today's sweetie is a red bone hound (possibly a mix) named Jenny. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera when I took her over. I'll be sure to grab some photos on Saturday. She is super cute and very young.
Saturday January 15th I will be at The Loyal Biscuit Co. to help them celebrate their first year under new ownership. I am offering FREE training advice for anyone interested from 10:00 til 2:00. If you're in the area come on by and say hello.
So that's all I've planned for now relating to dogs. What do you all have planned for your dogs?
(The footprints are my boot print next to Jacks paw print. Yeah they are that big!)