Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stop talking and communicate!

I noticed something recently that I thought it might be useful to point out. Some people talk to much. Now this isn't exactly news. There are all kinds of people on the planet, some talk alot and some rarely speak at all. What I actually mean is that we talk to our dogs to much. Why is that a problem? Well let me tell you.
Talking to a dog while they are learning needs to be done with clear communication in mind. Typically we teach them what we want, either by luring (using a treat to get the dog in a specific position) or operant conditioning, (clicker/verbal marker) and then we put a verbal cue of our choosing to it. However if we are always making noise, then how is our dog supposed to figure out which noise means something important? Dogs mainly communicate with each other with body language remember, so tuning all of our "noise" out is easy for them.
Example: Handler and dog are working on loose leash walking. As the handler walks he is speaking to the dog saying "No don't pull on the leash, lets go over here Fido. Good, nope! Fido come on. Good. No I said let's go here. OK come on. Are you looking at the kitty?" What do you suppose the verbal cue is for this dog? At this point nothing. The dog has no idea what words WE want to be important. How could she? We have had the equivalent of verbal diarrhea. It is like when the grownups speak in the Charlie Brown cartoons. (whaa wha whaa) Can you pick out the important words from that? No because it all sounds the same.
So what we need to do is use only the words we want the dog to respond to. Either we click (then treat) when the dog moves in the right direction with us, or we verbally praise the dog for moving with us the very moment the dog does it. "Yes!" (verbal marker/treat) "Good dog!" That's it. No running commentary. The exception to this would be if a dog becomes afraid of something when on our walk. I might say "Oh its just a silly garbage can!" in a HAPPY tone of voice as we move away from the scary item. Tone of voice is important however and we don't continue talking aside from marking behavior we want (yes!/treat) or using our verbal cues. (let's go, sit, stay, down, etc.) We teach the dog what we want before we attach a verbal cue to the behavior.
For simply walking along with a loose leash I use the verbal cue "Let's go". Come means come to me and sit, not come along with me. "Heel" means to walk in a specific spot with me, not to just walk along with a loose leash. It is important to have different verbal cues so we don't confuse the dog. This is one of the more challenging parts of dog training, training ourselves to have specific terms and words for different behaviors.
When problem solving you need to ask yourself a few questions:
Do I have my dogs attention? If the dog doesn't know you are talking to him/her than the game is already over. This is why focus work is important.
Does my dog know what I am asking for? If they don't know how to sit then asking for it multiple times will not help you accomplish the task.
What is in it for them? Have we established a positive relationship with our dogs and paid them for the work they do? You wouldn't work at your job for free would you? So why should our dogs??
Finding out what motivates your dog is very important to the equation. This is why many times I can get other peoples dogs to work for me when they are having difficulties. I have learned how to get good focus and I pay them for their work. I am also very clear in my communication so the dog isn't confused. To much talking is counter productive to our task. If you want a sit, say it once and then wait. Be sure to PAY them the moment they do what you ask. (more about using food, and other things as pay can be found in this post: )
So I hope that helps explain why how much you talk to your dog is important. They aren't trying to ignore you or push your buttons. They just don't always know what it is that you want from them. Good luck and happy training!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Jenny!!

Today is Jenny's 5th birthday. I only know this because it was on her medical papers when we adopted her from Pug Rescue of New England. She was 18 months old when she came to live with us. I jokingly refer to her as our "gateway pug" since she started a bit of an obsession with the breed for me. My son wanted a pug and wouldn't be swayed to another frenchie no matter how hard we tried. Boy am I glad he stuck to his guns! I can't imagine our life without her. She has been a great partner in training due to her extreme LOVE of food. She has made me have to think harder than ever before in some cases to change some of her behaviors, or polish some of her moves. A perfect dog for a trainer to have! She manages to put up with all my silliness including tolerating all the dogs and puppies I have brought home during the time she has been with us. Here are just a few of my favorite photos of her. I threw in a video of her at the end that makes me laugh every time I watch it.

And here is the video.

(and the link in case the video doesn't play through Blogger: )
Happy Birthday Jenny! Here's to many more years together!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are you DINOS friendly?

Do you know what DINOS is? Dinos stands for Dog In Need Of Space. Now a dog can be a DINOS for many reasons. Maybe they are scared of people, or other dogs. Maybe they are aggressive with other dogs because they had a bad experience. Or maybe they have a medical condition that makes it painful for them to be touched. A DINOS dog might need space from other dogs, other animals or even people. It doesn't matter if YOUR dog is friendly and you love dogs. The DINOS dog still doesn't want to be approached by you! So please be respectful and give them their space. Keep your dogs ON leash unless you are in a specific off leash area. Many DINOS can walk politely in public on leash just fine. It is when they are approached that there is a problem. This is also a great example of why you should ask an owner before approaching a dog or letting your dog get to close. They may look friendly because you are not in their space, but that doesn't mean they are if you get closer! Check out the fabulous poster and video about DINOS dogs.

 (This is the link if the video doesn't embed properly. Blogger is being a pain lately.)

Do you have a DINOS of your own? There is a facebook group just for you!! Here is their website with a link to the fb page:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reality TV, Animal Style

Today I got caught up on some shows I had taped for later. The first is a show on Animal Planet called "American Stuffers".

American Stuffers is a reality show that takes place in a taxidermy shop. The catch? They also specialize in "Pet Preservation". Here is the info from their Animal Planet site:
I have to admit on first glance I was kind of horrified. The pet preservation is accomplished through a process of freeze drying. Traditional taxidermy is when the hide of the animal is treated and put over a pre-made form of the animal in question. Think styrofoam shape wearing the animals skin. You can't buy forms for pets as there is to much variety of body shapes involved. I am familiar with taxidermy because my husband co-owns a game processing shop. This means during hunting season he cuts up deer, moose and bear for hunters. Hides and heads sometimes get sent to be mounted. We also have a few trophies on our own wall. (I long for the day we have a house with a den they can go into.) I have even watched a step by step video on how taxidermy is done. So I admit I am not the average viewer for this show.
I watched the first 2 episodes. Aside from the owner (Daniel) and his staff, (Fred and Joseph ) they also have an intern that is studying to be a veterinarian. (Dixie) I am impressed with the owners demeanor at handling the pets and their owners. He is very respectful and caring about his job. I am surprised at how much they do show of the actual process. (Which might be to graphic for some viewers considering the subject.) They also show Daniel with his family and their home life which seems very normal and sweet. His wife LaDawn is a teacher and they met as high school sweethearts. Aside from the pet preservation they also show other taxidermy projects on the program.
I will say that I can't imagine that I would never have my pet preserved in this way. If I did I certainly wouldn't chose any other pose than curled up and asleep. Some of the poses just look to creepy for my taste. However on further consideration I suppose grief is different for everyone. If someone needs to have the pet in a more physical form for them to keep then what harm is there? I do wonder if having the pet present like that might make it harder for the owner to move on tho. And is it disrespectful to the pet do you think? To keep the shell of who they were around as a keepsake? In that same vein wouldn't keeping the ashes then also be disrespectful?
There are dead things everywhere in homes we don't think of as weird. Deer heads, moose heads, deer leg lamps, antler chandeliers, dried starfish, sand dollars and other various sea creatures used as decorations. However we never knew those animals on a personal level so I guess that is what makes it different. (tho when I see a starfish I see a dead creature which I don't think many people do)
I find the show engaging in a way I didn't expect and I will probably watch more. My biggest complaint is the name of the show. They seriously couldn't come up with a better name? "American Stuffers" just seems , well tacky. What would you call it?
The other show I watched is "My cat from Hell".

Here is the website info here:
This show is much more viewer friendly. It is a reality show about a cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy as he helps clients with aggressive cats. I LOVE this show! Not only do the cats get the help they need to keep them in their home, he explains what he is doing and why. This show is a great resource for all cat owners, not just ones with problems. The key to solving behavior problems is to know about the behavior of the species in question first. Environment is also critical to solving some issues. I watched this last season as well. I think all cat owners should watch it.
What animal shows do you watch and recommend, or dislike, and why?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Confessions of a weak willed dog trainer

This is a horrible photo I know. I took it with my phone. I should know better than to be without my real camera I guess. I'm sure if I knew how to photo shop at all I could at least fix the glowing eyes.
This morning a co-worker friend called and said she was going to train at Lowes with her dog Ryka, did I want to join them? Hell ya. I've decided to take part in an upcoming dog training flash mob so we definitely need to practice a few skills. If anyone is interested, you can join the Positive Dog Training Flash Mob group on facebook here:!/groups/338885719459292/ There is video being posted of the routine and training tips as well as a list of participants so you can find others near you to train with.
I admit that I have been slacking lately with Jenny because Zola has been taking up all of my energy. Of course that is partly due to my own idiocy. Zola is still waking up in the middle of the night for a potty break. Now what I would tell a client to do, and I started doing myself, would be to take the puppy out and then re-crate and ignore any barking til they went back to sleep. What am I doing? Well after the potty break I am laying down on the couch with a pillow, blanket and puppy tucked up next to me under the blanket for the last few hours before I have to get up for work. Yeah I know. Epic fail. It actually isn't bad IF I can get back to sleep. Thing is sometimes she moves around or wakes up to go out again. I am a person that doesn't do well on limited sleep so it catches up with me. I am hoping that at some point she will sleep later and it won't be an issue anymore. Tho sometimes I think about getting her a bigger crate and putting a potty pad in one end so she has a different option than waking me up. However that could definitely set her back in the whole house training process. At the moment she usually starts circling (sometimes near the door) if she needs to go out. Do I want to ruin that progress? And what if she poos and then walks through it? I would need to add a puppy bath to my morning routine. I. Just. Need. More. Sleep.
~Sigh~ I suppose I should just do the back in the crate thing and let her bark herself back to sleep. The only thing is, I kinda like the cuddling. So that is the real confession. I have become soft and helpless to the charms of a 10 pound puppy.
The good news is that she seems to be doing very well. Her ammonia levels were high when we checked them last week so I had to increase her lactulose. Thankfully it hasn't caused any diarrhea which can be a problem. We will check it again in another week. I really need to get video of her and Jack on here to share. They play SO well together. It is really fun to watch. Jack is such a great big brother for her.
By the way Ryka is a stunning Blue Heeler Cattle Dog from Cattle Dog Rescue. We had a good time at Lowes today. I am very lucky to have such a great training space close to home for when it is to chilly to work outside.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Preying on the ignorant ~ Puppy buyer beware!

So last week at work a new client came in with a "Buttercup" puppy. What is a Buttercup you ask? I have no idea. The puppy cost $1200 so it must be a real breed though right? Google wasn't much help either. Tho I did find a discussion of the "breeder" in question. First here is a link to her website: When some people asked her a few questions on her "breeding practices" in an online forum here is what she replied:
"This is for people who think I am a bad person for breeding dogs and even for "mixing" them. Believe me, I hear from them. This is America and we have the freedom to choose whatever kind of dog we want. Many mixes are very beautiful as you can see on my Previous Puppies Page. Many people think they are better than pure breeds. They are not raised "puppy mill" style as you can read on some of my other pages. I am free as an American to pursue happiness and this is what I enjoy doing. To these people, please don't bother emailing me or calling me. "

Wow, way to make being an American and the pursuit of happiness look super awful. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Oh wait, but if it makes YOU happy........ (and fattens your wallet)
From her website the breeds she currently raises and their "adoption" price:

Maltipoo (Maltese/Poodle) $900.
Maltichon (Maltese/Bichon) $900.
Also known as Teddy Bears!
Maltese/Westie $700. (my husbands
English Munchkins $900. (small)
Maltese/Doxin $900. (very tiny)
Maltese $1200. purebred (can't live
without them!)
Buttercups $1200. (can't live without
them either!)

Maltese and Buttercup teacups are
Yegads!! People are spending ALOT of money for a mixed breed dog they can find on petfinders and in shelters! But wait, HER dogs are healthy, non-shedding and hypoallergenic. They also don't bark, love kids, NEVER growl and don't need ANY vaccines. They sound magic don't they? I'm sure if you ask her she also has a bridge somewhere for sale.
It is frustrating because people these days have SO many ways to do their research when it comes to buying a dog from a breeder. WHY do we need to keep pointing out what a back yard breeder is? She says she isn't a puppymill but with all those "breeds" she has available she must have quite a few dogs at her home. I know a REAL holistic/natural breeder. I can guarantee you she does vaccines on her puppies. (appropriately) They are just so many things on that website that raise red flags it is incredible that people buy from her. And they must or she wouldn't be able to continue doing it!
We see people at my job all the time who seem to be well educated fall for these breeder scams. That is what astounds me. Is it because surfing the internet is so easy? What part of give me your credit card number and I'll ship you a puppy sounds ok to a person?? Do you want fries with that? I honestly can see why so many shelter people hate breeding. Breeders like this give responsible breeders a bad name.