Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wanna fight?

It is astounding the video games that are out there these days. There are even games on phones now. I only recently got myself one of the "smart" phones. If I hadn't I'm not sure I would have even known what an "application" on a phone was. I of course grew up when a phone only did one thing AND was attached to the wall. (and had a rotary dial) Privacy only happened if you were lucky enough to have a long enough cord. But I digress. There is an "app" out called "Dog Wars". It is a game where you can raise, train and fight a pitbull to earn money. Yeah, pretty awful stuff.

I hope everyone who learns about this will speak up and complain. Only if enough noise is made by enough people, and threats to NOT do business with a company that makes such asinine decisions, will they pull the application. Sadly it's only the threat to their business that will get their attention. I mean if they think this was an acceptable idea to begin with then clearly they are idiots.

Please click the link and voice your complaint. I've sent mine.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A 5K kinda day

Today Jenny did her first 5K today. We walked it since I am not, nor ever will be, a runner. Here we are with our friends Prudence, who has her own blog, and Leo shown in the cute shirt.

We brought up the rear with a respectable 58 minutes. Leo even won a prize!

From there I stopped by the office where Jenny got in a quick play date with the bosses dog Poppy. Believe it or not she is full grown. Isn't she cute?

Then I went to Pet Quarters where they were having a fund raising event for the Humane Society of Knox County. Check out Jasper, a super sweet dog who lost his home due to allergies on the part of a child in the home. He has lived with kids and other pets. He is very social and has great leash manners. Talk about a steal! He is available for adoption at HSKC.

Then I had to go to the prison for the K-9 Corrections program. Jenny came along so the handlers could get some practice on the nuances of hand signals. If they don't do them correctly with her she won't do the exercise. (she will work for anyone if she knows it can earn her a treat)

So it was a pretty busy day for Miss Jenny. She did such a great job I picked up a new treat to put in her Leo Kong Genius toy to try. She loved it. (When feeding fish, beware of this possible issue.)

One of the best things about today was that Pet Quarters and another local dog store, the Loyal Biscuit, were working together at the event. It is rare for competitors to get along that well. It was nice to see. I also loved that this PQ refused to carry bunnies for Easter sales. Another thing that is rare, sticking to principles over the urge to make an easy buck. Way to go PQ!


I hate to end this post on a low note but I have to pass on this warning of a company that lacks those kind of ethics. Check out this post by Frog Dog about the ProMeris tick and flea medication recall. Boo hiss to Pfizer!! Please pass the info on to anyone who may be using this product. Thank you!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flattery will get you everywhere

Click the link and check it out:

I'm not gonna lie. I am hugely flattered by this. Some of those other blogs they list are awesome! And here is the post of mine that they reference on The Dog Whisperer. It's always nice to be noticed for the work you do. Talk about positive reinforcement!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cool new stuff and some updates

Check out the awesome new bed I picked up at the Loyal Biscuit for Jenny.

It is actually a Molly Mutt dog duvet. You buy the cover and stuff it with whatever you have lying around, old clothes ripped blankets, whatever works for you. Then zip it up and Ta Da! A new bed.

I love it.

On another note Jenny's skin is in a holding pattern. We are using some homeopathic remedies to keep the itching at bay. (Topically: colloidal oatmeal rinses, and a lavender and olive oil rub) We are still working on the right blend of her other remedy. I started a blog of her skin photos to make it easier for me to remember what we are doing each day and to keep more accurate track of her progress. My memory isn't always the best so this works well. It is also helpful for her homeopathic vet to be able to see what is happening with her. Anyone interested can check it out here, Jenny's Skin Blog.

I've also started the trainers discussion group on facebook I mentioned before. It is called The Positive K9 Network. It is open for all dog trainers who are interested in learning more about positive training methods, even those who are currently using traditional training methods. I felt there was a gap for people looking to crossover into positive training and I wanted to do something to fill that gap. Yes it is a group to promote positive methods, but it is also a group to help educate trainers without judgement. We all started somewhere and we always have more to learn. The groups motto is "Evolution through Education". It is open to professional trainers and dog owners who compete in dog sports/obedience. If you are an average owner with questions about basic training or behavior this isn't the group for you. (but keep looking because there are groups for that out there) To join simply look us up and put in a request. My goal is for the group to be a resource for all trainers looking to improve their training skills (myself included!) and to help interested traditional trainers cross over out of force training methods. So far we have a great group of people in the team. Fingers crossed for our continued success.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The easy peasy dog toy

I have a confession to make, sometimes I am cheap and sometimes I am lazy. This means I occasionally work to figure out a way to save myself money and time. This idea does both. Here is my secret to a super easy do-it-yourself dog toy. First nab a piece of cloth. I think the one shown was about 3 1/2 feet x 1 foot. It literally was a scrap in a bunch of fleece someone gave me. I didn't even need to pre-cut it. Next cut it into 3 strips, leaving one end piece connected.
Step on the connected end piece and start braiding.

Braid it all the way til the end.

Put a knot in it, pushing the knot towards the end of the braided portion. Add a knot in the other end as well.

Ta da! One braided tug toy. No sewing needed! (If you don't know how to braid, simply throw a knot in the cloth every so often for another version.)

You can make them as long or as short as you like. The one below is a longer version then the one shown above. You can also add more knots to the longer ones as well.

Tug is one of Jack very favorite games. I also keep one in my traveling training box. They are very useful for teaching fetch games, take it and give. The good news is that any kind of cloth works. Got an old pair of Jeans? The legs work great as a toy!! They are machine washable as well. I hope this sparks some fun for your own dogs. Enjoy!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The minefield in the gospel of training

I got booted off the facebook group of positive dog trainers recently. I made the mistake of defending a friend, calling someone out for being rude, and making a negative comment about the actions of some of the members of the "Truly Dog Friendly" contingent. I think it was that last thing that pushed them over the edge. ~sigh~ Note to self, do not comment on facebook when angry. Sadly I didn't get a timeout or warning about my behavior before the punishment was levied.

For those that don't already know there are many different factions in dog training circles. The 3 basic ones are Traditional, Positive, and the newer guy on the block called Balanced. Traditional is also known as "yank and jerk" to the Positive camp. Positive is also known as "cookie pushers" to the Traditional camp. Balanced is a combination of both methods. They haven't gotten a cute nickname yet. I admit I dislike the term balanced because it makes it sound like both of the other methods are "unbalanced". I've long said positive isn't about being permissive. It is a great marketing gimmick tho. People see the word "balanced" and think it is a better option than the others out there. But I have to also wonder if it isn't about trying to distance themselves from the "purely positive" camp of trainers a little. Someone mentioned in a conversation recently about how some positive trainers make dog owners feel bad because they point out all the things they have been doing wrong with their dog instead of making them feel training is going to be fun for them both and that they will be learning a kinder way to work with their dogs. I have to admit, I can see that happening with some trainers. Not all positive trainers seem to be good with people. Certainly in my recent experience! Maybe the balanced contingent are just crossover trainers in the making. But only if the positive trainers stop beating up on them and just lead by example instead.

I really don't like to argue. I've been there and done that. A, it doesn't work. Nobody ever gave up their position based on being yelled at and B, it takes to much time and effort. Being angry is draining! I don't have the time or energy for that! So I do what I do and rarely enter into into conversations with the other camp about the why this is better than that technique. Instead I use my own dogs training as an example, and teach my clients why this will work better than that one on one. That is where it is more useful and certainly less confrontational.

Sadly when a group of dog trainers get together, unless they are all of the exact same mindset there will be crankiness at some point. I dislike this but it is a fact of life. Someone always gets upset and angry. Anger tends to make us say and do things we might not do otherwise. Today I am exhibit A. This is why not being upset when training your dog is important. Anger changes our responses to things. Pretty simple right?

So the bomb that set of this particular incident was a discussion on electric collars. Specifically e-fences. For those that don't know most positive trainers dislike the e-collar. We do not see it as a positive training tool because it causes pain for the dog. (even if you call the shocks a "tap") A friend of mine was accused of promoting them on the group because of her questions. In reality I saw it as an opportunity to help trainers know how to answer the questions a client might have about their use or help other trainers who have questions about them. You can see why this might be a hot button topic. In a "force free" trainer setting there is only one appropriate answer. Nodon'tdoittheyareallbadendofstory. Their answer was do not discuss because we are against it. I am of the mind that without discussion there can be no education however. The trick is to stay calm and rational, not easy when peoples hot buttons are being pushed. Mine included.

So for the record here are my thoughts on e-collars. For basic training I say never. There is no reason to have to shock your dog to teach him something that can be taught without it. I do not train dogs with them and never will. E-fencing - This one is a big fat "it depends but probably not" for me. Most people use it incorrectly, (they think its ok to leave dogs unsupervised in them) use it in unsuitable areas, (neighborhoods with people walking by) or have dogs it isn't suited for. (some dogs will take a hit to get out but not come back in) You can also cause anxiety or aggression in a dog with misuse of e-fencing. I see this fallout ALOT with clients. That said there are very specific times where an e-fence may be the only option. I know of a certain terrier that needs one INSIDE a physical fence because she is the worlds fastest digger and can be gone quicker than you can say "Stop digging that hole!" For her it is a safety issue. (ah the joy of earth dogs!) All dogs are indivuals remember as are all situations.

I very rarely train dogs to e-fences myself because most times they just aren't the best option for the dog, even if the owner thinks otherwise. I just will not take on the liability of it's likely failure, nor put a dog through it when I know it won't work to solve their problem. I think in the last 10 years I have only done it twice. Once because the people moved the fence to many times and the dog became afraid of the grass. The other time was because an owner had installed a home version and wanted me to drag the dog through it to make sure he knew where the boundary was. I refused. Worried he was going to do it incorrectly after I left, I taught him how to do it properly so it was fair for the dog. (I had been called there for basic training.) I do try to warn clients of mine that already have the fencing of the negatives they may not have thought of. Animals can still come into the yard so install some night lighting so you can watch out for skunks and porcupines. Dogs can still come into the yard and attack your dog. You dog may become motivated enough to run through for some reason but not want to run back. So while I do not promote the e-fence, I do not think banning them is an answer either. I wouldn't mind seeing electronic collars banned for everything but fence training. Banning tools is a slippery slope however. There are people out there who would ban the head collar for dogs as to aversive as well. Once we start with bans they can quickly get out of hand. Just ask anyone in BSL.

The Truly Dog Friendly contingent is not a bad group. They were created because in the realm of positive training there was disagreement about who was positive enough to be considered a real positive trainer. Even the factions have factions! It's enough to make your head spin! I actually admire them for their stance. They want to to what is best for all dogs. I get that. Who doesn't want that? It's why people unknowingly join PETA. I mean who isn't for the ethical treatment of animals? I even have friends who are members of the TDF group. Unfortunately I find some other of their members bullying in their tactics to spread their "gospel" of training. I also do not qualify to be a member because of my occasional training work with police dogs who wear and use pinch or prong collars. (Sidebar: Traditional training should ONLY be done on working dogs in my opinion. And even then with the least force to be effective possible and lots of praise as a reward. Thankfully some jobs are trained using positive methods, i.e. drug search, tracking and cadaver work. And you can RUIN a good dog with piss poor timing using traditional methods by the way. End of rant.)

I am thinking about starting my own group for trainers on facebook. Or look for another one more suited to what I believe in. One where trainers can talk about cases, get info from other trainers, share commiserations of tough cases and learn more about positive training. We can't do better until we know better after all. My friend Gina coined the term for this as, "evolution through education". I love that! I've heard some complaints about APDT allowing traditional trainers into the group but I think it's a good idea. If we don't share our knowledge in a civil manner with other trainers looking for that knowledge then how is that helping ALL dogs? I know being a member helped me during my crossover period. They can't become crossover trainers if no one shows them the bridge after all.

So that is my take on the minefield of training methods and their people. I dunno, my husband calls me an optimist. Perhaps I am expecting to much in thinking we should try to all just get along. The good news is that I know I am not alone. There is a faction out there for me too. I just need to find it.

(I will not comment when I am angry, I will not comment when I am angry, I will not comment when I am angry, I will not comment when I am angry, I will not comment.......)

For a great book on crossover training check out "The thinking dog ~ Crossover to clicker training" by Gail Fisher.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Deliver us from temptation

Today I got to go see a 16 month old akita puppy named Kaeda. She had been taken back by the breeder when she didn't work out in her new home. (Sidenote: a breeder who takes their puppies back is one of the signs of a GOOD breeder!) They wanted me to evaluate her to see if what kind of home would be the best match for her because of her bounce back, and to ask about some behaviors she has been offering since being back with them. She is fabulous. She needs a little work on some basic house manners, and she needs to learn mouthing people is NOT appropriate play, but overall I was super impressed. She is very social and sweet and has wonderful focus. I could see her in an obedience ring with no problems. Or any dog sport for that matter, she loves to work! Now I do admit I have a thing for akitas. One was my "gateway" dog so to speak. So getting to work with a smart, motivated and stunning akita that needs a new home was very tempting for me. I could do a third dog. I've had 2 akitas in the house before. My biggest holdback right now is Jenny. Besides trying to get her skin sorted out, she is also a bit of a brat. Jack is happy to be bossed around by her but having a female akita in the house might be a tipping point. I have no doubt I could handle it but should I? In the words of a trainer friend "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should". (Thanks Nancy!)
(That's her handsome daddy Ziggy on the left.) So I came home and called someone I had on my list of people looking for an akita. They sound like a great match. I hope it works out for everyone. If only to keep me safe from my own temptation!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The new plan revealed

This photo sums up how I've felt lately. Tired and frequently grumpy. I try to avoid blogging when I am cranky to prevent myself from saying anything I might regret later. Hey I'm human, it happens. * This is actually a photo of Jenny waking up after a long car ride to see Dr. Judy Herman at the Animal Wellness Center in Augusta on Tuesday. My original plan had me making an appointment with Dr. Loft in Portland, a canine dermatologist. After some discussion with my regular vet (where I also work) I realized I would be wasting my time there. Mainly because I hadn't tried all the options he would suggest for me. To be frank, I'm just not comfortable with some of those options. They include, but are not limited to, frequent steroid use or long term immune suppressants. I'm not above using them if I have to for her comfort but for my own piece of mind I decided to try something else first. * Dr. Herman is a homeopathic veterinarian. I have been interested in homeopathy and holistic medicine for a while now, and I tend to lean towards alternative medicine and feeding beliefs when possible. This finally gave me a push to try it out in a more direct way. * The consult went well and we have a few options to try on her. I left feeling hopeful. I figure in the worst case scenario, I know I will have tried my best to take care of her in the healthiest way possible. She deserves that after all. So far her skin is in the stage that can sometimes be the beginning of a flare up. The good news is that she hasn't gotten any worse since starting her new treatment. At this point I'll take it. I am prepared for it to get worse before it gets better though. * What I liked best about our consult was that the Dr. admitted skin problems were some of the toughest to solve. She is not above referring out if the need is there. Having a vet admit they can't solve every issue is a great start to our working relationship. This shows their integrity in my opinion. They want to work with you to find the best way to help your pet, even if it isn't their chosen method. It isn't about being right. It is about doing what is best for the pet. I. Love. This. * So fingers crossed and think good thoughts for her. I'm hoping that we find something that helps her stay itch free. I'm also hoping that happens quickly, though I know that might be expecting just a little to much. Whatever happens please send healing thoughts our way. Every little bit helps! (I don't know why my post insists on blocking all together. I tried fixing it 6 times and then gave up. Blogger must be having technical difficulties this evening.Sorry!)