Wednesday, June 30, 2010
First let me say Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian Family and readers; party it up. Now onto dogs; over the years living with our dogs we get to know their ins and outs but your dog's behavior can change, age can bring on a change or they can simply start doing things they've never done before for no apparent reason. Often we cannot figure out what the change is all about. A couple of nights ago I came downstairs after dinner to watch some t.v. I noticed Tilley sniffing around the coffee table; something she has taken to in her age. I ran upstairs for a moment to grab a glass of water and came back down to see Tilley eating money. She had taken a dollar bill off of the table that I put there earlier in the day; I found it in the dryer. So not only did it have nothing good in it; it was really clean. She has always been one to eat wrappers; but those typically have residue of some sort in them, this was new. "HEY; DROP IT," I startled her. She dropped the money and lay her ears flat down; whooooops. I asked her "since when do you eat money?" Of course she didn't answer but she kept her ears flat realizing she had been caught doing something she shouldn't have been doing, a rare occurance.
The day before this incident Tilley had gotten into the garbage; very uncharacteristic. For anyone who knows Tilley personally or knows of her; she is.................well Lassie in poodle clothing. She normally would never think of doing anything rude; let alone bad. I remember my male poodle Clyde; now long gone but in his old age he resorted to eating lipgloss. Having two young teenage daughters at the time there was much conflict in the house. Bonnie Bell made a killing on all the replacements I bought that year.
If your dog is displaying a new and strange behavior it can be due to you having inadvertently trained it. You could have created an association that you were not aware that you'd even produced but presto a new behavior. Often if you sit and think about what your dog is doing; pick it apart, you will discover the cause. Jessie is displaying a new behavior; when I start making dinner, our dinner she wants to go outside. She goes out the kitchen door and just stands there. It is like clockwork now; and if I don't let her out she will just stand there staring outside. She doesn't need to go outside; she just wants to stand on the other side of the door. I've been trying to piece together this behavior; did I somehow create an association between going outside and food? She is a little pig so food is where I start. It could simply be that she is 14; but to do it day after day and only at dinner preparation time. Strange.
Many new behaviors start from a reaction; a reaction from us towards a needy dog. Luke is needy; he likes special treatment, he likes to be fussed over. He has recently taken to eating 3/4 of his food then hesitantly walking away. He is waiting for me to say "Luke finish your dinner or breakfast." He then turns around and comes back and finishes. Funny guy. This is a quirky behavior; one that he has made up to suit his need to be fussed over. Some behaviors can be worrisome and these may require immediate attention; you might just have to figure them out or at least counter condition the behavior whether you figure it out or not.
Canine behaviors are a reaction to an action; they are caused by an association of some sort. Most can be changed with just a little intervention; some need more work. But almost all behaviors can be counter conditioned; which means to teach a different association response, one that is incompatible with the current behavior. For example; your dog wants to stand outside the kitchen door while you make dinner. You teach your dog that it is beneficial to lay on the bed in the kitchen while you make dinner by rewarding this behavior. She can't do both at the same time and she will choose the behavior that is rewarded.
Dogs are amazingly smart and learn things we don't want them to learn. If I grab a towel and head to the downstairs bathroom; all the dogs run for the hills. Towel in Mom's hand in the downstairs bathroom can mean only one thing; bath time. If your dog is exhibiting a new a strange behavior; first look at yourself, have you taught your dog something you didn't know you were teaching them?
**Of course there are some instances where a dog will change their behavior due to illness. If you suspect this could be the cause; get your dog to the vet immediately. Illness or pain can be a cause for a change in behavior or exhibiting new behaviors.**
Posted by Sherri at 10:37 AM
I'm up early this morning; actually even before the birds. We have several feeders in the yard and to wake to the sound of silence is strange; I'm just hearing the first chirps now; it's 5:30. Last evening I took Luke down to the beach for a walk; he loves the beach as do I and I enjoy it even more when it is nice and cool. I got a few great shots of the boy and we just sat and chilled. Luke is a reactive dog; which basically means that he never misses a thing and when he reacts it is bigger than a normal reaction. Although now almost 10 years of age his reactions are somewhat reduced. I wanted to talk about dogs in shelters this morning; and the reason I started with Luke is that I always think about Luke in a shelter situation.
Dogs in shelters are not themselves; depending on the individual dog will factor in on how they adjust or handle living in a shelter situation. A shelter is no place for a dog; even the best of shelters is a highly stressful environment. When a dog is put into a shelter; they are in a completely alien place with strange people, strange dogs and lots of noise. I know that Luke would not be a model citizen in a shelter situation; he would most likely be one of those dogs growling at everyone. Growling is what he does when he is scared; very different when he is happy. He loves just about everyone in a normal surrounding situation.
Even Tilley; Miss perfect would probably be at the back of the cage with terror in her eyes, not exactly looking like "adopt me." I have been called in many times to help with a dog that seems to have all of a sudden changed. The people adopted the dog from the shelter; up to this point she has been wonderful and then she changed, she is displaying odd behaviors. Dogs adapt to life changes and when put in a shelter situation they do the best they know how; often this is a mask. This mask can take up to 6 months or more to come off but once they start to feel at home you will then see the true dog.
Any second hand dog can throw you a curve ball; heck even first hand dogs can display behaviors that are hard to figure out. But being that a second hand dog has had a life previous to the one with you; there may be flashback behaviors. Behaviors that are a result of past situations; experiences or interactions. Most shelters do their best; but it still is no place for a dog, it is the equivalent of prison. A dog is put into a cage; surrounded by others in cages and subjected to constant barking. The big difference is that they do not know why they are there. So you must expect a wide spectrum of behaviors from this experience itself.
Some dogs are more resilient than others and just deal with what life throws them. Others turn inwards; their way of dealing is to shutdown. These are some of the most hard hit; as they often dwell at the back of the cage, their eyes filled with terror and "keep away from me." For a dog that has only known one life; perhaps a dog that has lived in a home and is now in a cage beside numbers of others who bark constantly, it's tough. There is no escaping the noise; you cannot hide from the lines of people passing the front of the cage, peering in staring at you. This is no place for a dog.
They are scared; and scared dogs react to the situation at hand. Some will try to keep everyone away by snarling and growling, these are not all bad dogs. These are dogs in a bad situation. Once removed from this situation; even taken into a larger space where they can run and move away you see a huge difference in behavior. A dog needs space; they need to feel that they can move away or approach, take that away and there are consequences. When a shelter has a number of large "play" areas where dogs can be more free to interact with other dogs and people they suffer less trauma. Life in a shelter can become a little more tolerable.
More and more shelters are changing; creating bigger living quarters for the dogs and making it less prison like. I visited a shelter in San Diego not too long ago that was wonderful. The dogs were not stressed; many lay on their couch or bed wagging their tail, and they had ample room to roam around. As well as shelters becoming better places; more and more Foster programs are popping up. Rescue groups with lists of foster families taking in one, two or three dogs at a time and giving them a more "family life" environment to spend their time while they wait for their forever home.
Dogs have emotions and if you think that a dog growling at a shelter is a bad or odd behavior think for a moment; what if you were snatched up and thrown into a small cage? What if you had no idea why or where you were; you'd be pretty freaked out. This is only a fraction of the terror a dog feels when they are in a shelter; we must expect behaviors that portray how they are feeling. If you are planning on visiting a shelter anytime soon; first off, good for you. Secondly; don't pass by the dog at the back of the cage; the one trying very hard to disappear, this could be the most wonderful dog in the world. This could be your next heart dog.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
NEVER BRING YOUR DOG TO A FIREWORKS DISPLAY
With July 4th just around the corner I thought I'd talk about this particular fear based behavior. Tilley is my fearful dog; she is terrified of fireworks. She never use to be; back when we lived in Canada it was Clyde (my male before Luke) who was petrified of storms and fireworks. It was about 6 years ago when she first showed signs of fireworks fear. Up until that point she had been fine with storms and light up the sky celebrations. So what happened? Who knows but she is now one of the many dogs fearful of fireworks.
All dogs display their fear differently; Tilley digs, she is luckily not a runner. Clyde was a climber and runner; running is the worst. If they get out of the safety of their home they can end up anywhere as they mindless attempt to run from the explosions. But luckily Tilley doesn't run; she hides and has been found in the bathroom; perhaps she feels safe in the small room. I located her once in our closet; she had tossed the entire contents in the small area everywhere. She'd dug and dug to no avail; there she lay at the top of the heap that she'd created. Tilley is obviously trying to hide; to somehow get away from the object of her fear by digging a hole.
Since the appearance of her fireworks fear have tried our best to ignore it and go about our business as usual. We rarely go out to watch the displays; opting to be at home just to be sure that she is fine. But last year we tried something new; we have a great balcony off of our bedroom where we sit and watch. The displays are pretty far away so there is no loud booming or huge explosions right near where we sit; it is all in the distance. We got chairs out and brought the three dogs out there to watch with us. Because they are so far away; I thought it might just help her to become accustom to the sound so that she may have a lesser fear response. (NEVER BRING YOUR DOG TO A FIREWORKS DISPLAY) We sat with a glass of wine and chatted; Luke and Jessie lay on their bed and Tilley paced. She paced and sat; then paced some more. So I asked her to come and sit by me; I did not touch her.
Soon she started to relax; everything around her was calm, I got my camera out with my big zoom lens and shot fireworks and she watched us intently. This is when it is EXTREMELY important to play "chill." You need to do your best and most relaxed display of behavior ever; sort of like "what fireworks?" She was soon relaxing; not completely but there was a marked improvement. I decided to get out her ball and see if we could even create a positive association; all is well when you are playing with a tennis ball. I tossed it around to see if there was any tiny interest; Luke snatched it up in a flash. This was good because it took Tilley's mind off of the noise and flashes and onto Luke stealing the tennis ball. And with Luke playing ball; this had a very calming affect on Tilley.
She is not cured of her fireworks fear but she sure got through it last year with flying colors. This year I am hoping to try out a product call the Thunder shirt; I am very excited to try it out and hope that it gets here in time for the fireworks display. And on Tilley's next visit to the vet I will give it a try as well; she comes unglued when there is a veterinarian visit required.
For all dog owners; even ones who do not have dogs that already show signs of fear during fireworks, pay extra attention to safety.
- Make sure that your dog is indoors safely confined; keep dog doors closed.
- Turn the tv or radio on to add some constant noise.
- If your dog is fearful; best to stay home with them.
- Many dogs become injured trying to get out of a house when they are in such a state of fear; often a crate is the only safe place for these guy.
- Never respond to fear behaviors with petting and hugging.
- Put on your best "chill" face; inform the entire family to do the same.
Far too many dogs end up in shelters or worse on July 4th; left in their yard they become frenzied and attempt to escape the noise. Once they are out they will just run. In this state they have no idea where they are running; they are just running. So lock up the dogs on July 4th and NEVER BRING YOUR DOGS TO A FIREWORKS DISPLAYS.
Posted by Sherri at 6:33 AM
Monday, June 28, 2010
Good Monday morning; we had a pretty busy weekend and it ended with three dogs in the shower and drying well into sunset. Because the dogs had a later day bath they were a bit damp come a very late dinner; Jessie was shivering. So my hubby went and got her a big down comforter; wrapped her up like a burrito and she slowly stopped shivering. Only her eyes were peeking out of the blanket; enough for her to watch us eating our dinner, she doesn't like to miss a thing. But she was very happy to be in there; snug as a bug in a rug.
I've been photographing a lot of puppies lately; love it. From little balls of fluff piled all over each other to 2 week old first attempts at walking up to little rowdies running around brawling. There is nothing like watching puppies; you never need a television if you have a puppy around. It is simply fascinating watching them learn; seeing them take in each new item, event and situation. How they react to everything is very individual; each has very distinct personality traits that make them the dog they are. So each puppy with it's particular temperament will best fit a certain type of family situation and it's human pack members.
This is where puppy temperament testing comes in. I am a huge fan of temperament testing; being a tester myself I witness first hand just how different a litter can be. It is amazing to see each individual reaction as I go through the tests. There are many tests that we do; it takes about 15 min. per puppy. Most good breeders who raise their litters in their home with them have a good read on their pups already. But having a stranger do a temperament sometimes brings out surprises.
When you have a litter of puppies; no matter what breed they are, they quickly establish a hierarchy. Size means nothing; it is all attitude so often the biggest looking puppy is the gentle giant and the tiny frail looking puppy may be the toughest in the litter. But take each of those puppies away from their litter; into an unfamiliar environment all alone with a stranger and see how they react, things can be very different outside the pack. So what does all these different temperament results mean exactly? What it gives the breeder is a look at where each puppy would be suited best to live; or who would be best suited for each puppy. Often a litter is very similar making placements much easier; but sometimes it is quite clear that a particular puppy is best suited to a certain type of home. Maybe a more experienced owner is required, perhaps someone who has time to work with a slightly unsure type of puppy or a person who really wants to train and work with an over achiever. Often prospective puppy owners have a definite something they are looking for; perhaps a therapy dog, a superstar agility performer or a best friend for the children. This is where you can fine tune placement with temperament testing.
Even after many litters I am still fascinated to see the difference within a litter. What a breeder does with puppies can effect a test; puppies who live a sheltered life who are not able to get out and explore different environments, people and items will be more apprehensive. The more they experience in their early weeks makes a huge impact in their later life; it sort of gives them an advantage in life so to speak.
Temperament testing is not the end story; it simply gives you a glimpse into where a puppy would be best placed. From that moment of placing it is up to the new family to move ahead and get the puppy socialized to their new life. Having the puppy that best suits your life and family makes things run a whole lot smoother for everyone involved.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Good Sunday morning all; it is overcast here, June gloom and I love it. Yesterday was wonderfully overcast making it a joy to walk the dogs. My pooches have all had their early morning snack and have hunkered down and entered back into the deep sleep zone. No one is in a big hurry to get up and get going which is just fine with me. Taking your time and enjoying the moment is what weekends are for.
Last night I got into my new book; Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson PhD. So far I'm loving it and have heard rave reviews. Its just out but if you want it you should probably get a copy now; they are going fast. I got mine on Amazon.com and it got to me in three days. This is going to be one of those "must have" books for all canine guardians. I'll let you know when I'm done and how I liked it.
So onto today; a trip to Long beach is in the works, should be a nice day for it. But first will be an outing for the dogs; once they've had their walk and a nice breakfast they will be out for the day. Then it'll be back at it on Monday with a full dog week ahead. All three are headed for the shower bath and sun dry first thing tomorrow morning. Have a great Sunday everyone.
Posted by Sherri at 7:40 AM
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Walking around the park with Tilley yesterday I realized how things have changed. I clearly remember being out with my poodles and having that sense of safety, with big dogs around you don't worry. They can handle themselves pretty well and made me feel that if anything came down that they would protect me too. But things have changed; as I scan the park to be sure that there are no young rowdies running around. I just cannot have a young energy packed dog barrel into Tilley; I hover around her like she is a toddler, ready to catch her if she falls.
I kick her ball around the park to get her running; she loves it but falls often now. With her added Vestibular disease she's also crooked at 13 so if she gets going too fast she tends to head dive every so often. When other dogs do come around I'm like a hired security guard standing between the other dog and Tilley; always ready to intervene when needed. One wrong move and she is down for the count; but I'm there to help her to her feet again.
Aging is a fact of life; change. Change as a dog ages is neither good nor bad; it just is. With my little Jack Russell the change has been that she doesn't see or hear like she use to. She is often running around the house in a panic because she cannot find me. She doesn't clean up the kitchen floor like she use to and she is startled by our touch constantly. But as far as her body aging; that doesn't seemed to have started yet, she is still the little tank she's always been.
Even Luke is now showing his age and although he is not frail like Tilley; he is much less able to take a hit from a younger dog. He will be 10 in August and he looks amazing for his age; everyone says so. As a big dog it is his body that is failing him first; his energy level is intact as are his eyes and ears. So with an energy level still going strong it is difficult for us to cut his walks shorter. Its been a process; slowly slowing down.
But things sure haved changed; from the days when miles and miles of running didn't phase any of the dogs to now knowing a stroll around the park is enough to put them out for the day. When they go down for a rest now; it's a much needed deep sleep. Tilley spends most of her day now on the couch in the family room sleeping. Jessie typically is on one of the beds in our bedroom and Luke rest but is still my constant shadow; even if getting up and moving is becoming a slower process.
If it were somehow in my power to control time I would leave us forever in 2005.
Posted by Sherri at 8:29 AM
Friday, June 25, 2010
The tears started as soon as I laid eyes on him; and as soon as they started they were gone as he licked my face, Courage. I met Courage yesterday; the German Shepherd that had been left in his yard to die. Courage narrowly escaped death being rescued by OC German Shepherd rescue from the accused. The rescue group are an amazing group of people. I'd read the stories of his struggle to survive and now here he was giving me one of the warmest greetings I've ever received. So you know; he looks amazing and extremely happy as you can see from the above images. So after our greeting we moved on as he had clearly done; living in the past is such a human thing to do and I had to shake off my own memories of what I had read and just enjoy this wonderful boy in the here and now.
The amazing resilience of a dog; it is truly inspiring to see dogs that have been mistreated, abused, starved and worse, hold no ill feelings towards the human race. I've met dogs who were dumped out in the middle of nowhere; left to die from the very humans who were their caregivers. I've met dogs who have been injured by a human hand; others who have been left with no human contact in their backyard. Many dogs are abandoned by their humans and still many hold no contempt for us. Dogs move on; some are left with residual issues caused by trauma, many simply never look back.
How can a dog brought to the edge forgive, forget and move on with complete trust in humans? Dogs are truly amazing; to put so much hope in the next person that they meet is beyond inspirational. Dogs have great hope; and many end up in the hands of wonderful rescue groups like the one above. The dedication and caring that these groups fulfill fuels the canine hope and they do come to the rescue. The sheer determination of a canine to keep plodding along when life has dealt them such horrific situations often leads them to a second chance at a wonderful life; many throw 100% of themselves into this and live again.
Recently I photographed a huge adoption event; I was admittedly hesitant and thought that it might be tough to do, so many homeless dogs. I left with a new sense of hope; hope in people. I was inspired by the number of caring people; all there for one reason, the good of the dog. Perhaps it is this that dogs see in humans; there is hope and it lies in the amazingly dedicated people who rescue them. Compassion is a powerful ignition; when humans have it and use it for the good of animals, great things happen. Each voice and every hand that reaches out to help animals is influential. Never worry that you are but one voice. You can make a difference; one voice at a time. SR
Posted by Sherri at 6:41 AM
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I'm sure everyone who walks their dog on a regular basis has crossed paths with a not so friendly dog on a leash. Typically the owner of these dogs is mortified; which they should not be, it is alot more common than not. In our world of leash laws; we have taken away our dogs ability to freely communicate. Correspondence get lost as the leash tightens. And as we humans tend to do; as the leash tightens igniting a frenzy from our dogs, we are sent into a stress induced adrenaline rush. So not only are we left with a dog that needs work; we need even more work.
Just the other day I had Luke out for a really nice walk; it was cool, we were relaxed and enjoying the fresh morning. Up ahead was a woman I'd seen before; two doxie's (weiner dogs) that were a bit feisty but nothing had happened before. This fact could have been because I usually give feisty a good big space. But this morning was different; one of the little dogs went off on Luke and slipped his collar which enabled him to charge us. He made impact and Luke countered his tiny attack; I pulled Luke in and the woman grabbed her dog. I quickly kicked into chill mode "whoa; that was pretty weird eh Luke?" This is imperative; and we happy continued our walk unphased. And I should add that the woman did not apologize for this attack; please always apologize.
There is another dog that we see regularly at the park; this is not a small dog but it acts in the same manner. The problem is with this one is that it looks like the gentleman who walks this dog is just barely hanging on. No one wants to see a big dog going crazy on the end of the leash with someone who looks like they are loosing their grip; literally. Control is the first issue; you need to make sure that this dog is not going to slip their collar or slip out of your hands. Had the doxie that went after Luke gone after one of the other dogs at the park; things could have turned out very different for the little dog.
Along with control is space; you must give yourself enough space to calm the beast. When you start working with a dog that has leash aggression issues you need to go far enough away from what causes the problem to alleviate the problem, then start there. Often sight alone starts it all so you may need to be 40-50 feet away to start teaching the calm. But the first thing that needs to be worked on is your own calm and knowing that your dog is firmly attached by their collar or harness and that you are capable of holding the leash is a starting point. When you know your dog is securely attached and that you have good control; calm is within reach for you. Having a flustered owner on the other end of the leash only fuels a leash aggressive dog.
So take a breath; chill, hold tight and get some distance. Now go walk your dog.
Posted by Sherri at 6:29 AM
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Yesterday I was stopped at a red light just around the corner from my house. I have several schools right in the area so the traffic is horrendous at certain times of the day. It was lunch time and I knew the traffic would be heavy before I started out; so there I was sitting at the light patiently awaiting my turn. I watched the crossing guards leaving and as they passed me I heard some serious barking. Being that I was just sitting there anyway I turned around and watched a canine/human interaction. It wasn't a good one and it was all the humans fault.
A doodle of some sort was barking at the women as they approached his van; the women stopped and wanted to say hello. I could see the dogs tail through the window; it was low and wagging, his body posture was relaxed. The dog was friendly but on guard as well; this was his car and the ladies both had on hats and sun glass and were facing him straight on; how rude. They tried talking to him to soothe his barking but their actions only fueled the barking. I felt like yelling "turn sideways" out the window. One of the women put a hand out and he barked even more; the light turned green and I had to move on.
We just don't get it; dogs are not humans, they have a different language than us. In dog language these woman were being very rude in their abrupt approach; and the women were not listening to what the dog had to say. I've been witness to humans doing all the wrong things so many times. Many dogs do not want to say hello; and upon hearing this some people cannot believe it. "Dogs love me," they state as if to say that the dog is mistaken in their not wanting to meet this human behavior somehow. They proceed; pushing their emotions out ahead of what the dog is feeling. The dog displays clear "leave me alone" body language yet the person pushes on. Finally; left with no other recourse the dog growls. "What's wrong with that dog?"
This whole scenario plays out far too often; the dog was speaking loud and clear but the human wasn't listening. Recently I was at a dog event; there were a lot of dogs in cages and as I passed one bunch of cages a small scared dog was growling and snapping at a boy who had push his hand near the cage. The person in charge went of and asked the dog what the problem was. She did the same and the dog did the same; it snapped at her hand. Being that the woman worked with dogs regularly; she should have known. She put her hand near the cage again and got the same reaction; she looked surprised. The dog was visually stressed; he had no where to retreat, he had no other option but to keep the people away with his own behavior, being that he could not move away himself.
I meet dogs on a regular basis; probably far more than the average person and I greet with caution. Just because someone says that their dog is friendly does not mean that I; a strange human can proceed like the owner does. Of course there are dogs that are cool with everyone; they would go home with anyone and climb right into your lap. But most dogs are different when dealing with strangers; it's a fact and their right. Do you want a stranger coming up and giving you a hug? Probably not. And if you are like most people you also have a larger personal space when dealing with strangers vs. loved ones; I sure do.
Most dogs are master communicators; far better than we are. Watching my dogs meet new dogs while on walks is fascinating. Luke is a dominant and confident dog; he displays this very well. Most young or insecure type dogs will greet him with squinting eyes and lowered body posture; the way that they should. If we happen upon another dog like Luke; we skip the greeting and move on.
When I am out with Jessie and I on a rare occasion decide to let her greet someone; most dogs amaze me. Jessie is about as confident as you can get; even nearly blind and deaf she gets her message across loud and clear. Many dogs will stop in their tracks; take a second take and make no further approach. Others will attempt a slow approach; as if approaching a ticking bomb. Jessie gives them one faster than lightening head turn and huge growl and they withdraw. If the dog then approaches with a lowered body and no eye contact; there may be a greeting if her Majesty agrees.
We are our dogs caregivers and as such it is our chosen obligation to protect them. Many times I have flung an arm out to stop an advancing child or even adult. Your dog will tell you how they feel about a greeting; watch carefully. And if they are not into a particular greeting; go with their wishes and pass.
Our problem as humans is that we assume too much and watch too little.
Posted by Sherri at 7:13 AM
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Many canine guardians are told to feed one and only one dog food (kibble) by the veterinarian. Coming from a professional it seems the thing to do right? I am happy to say that we've come a long way baby; things are changing and in a great way. Canine nutrition is very controversial; from the die hard Purina or Iams feeders to the completely raw feeders and everything in between. No matter what you feed your dog; variety is a very important factor in getting the best nutrition that you can. Variety also makes life a whole lot more simple and less diarrhea filled. ;)
In the old days; my old days, we fed kibble. After asking my vet at the young age of eighteen if there was a difference between the expensive stuff and the generic food I received the answer of "they're all the same," I fed of course generic food. Okay I was young and didn't question like I do now. So my dogs ate their dog food; and enjoyed it, although now looking back, if that's all you get then you better eat it right? My dogs today eat nothing like my dogs of the past did; and I am happy about that. Life is an evolution; a never ending supply of education. What you do with that education is entirely up to you; I tend to keep it in the brain for a while, mull it around and toss what I feel useless material. Keeping the good stuff and implementing it into my life with varying degrees.
I feed my dogs a huge variety of food; they get tidbits throughout the day as I see fit and I let them try new things everyday. Tilley just tried fire roasted red peppers last night. She did as I thought she would and turn her lips up at it at first; it's a weird texture, but after I told her that it was indeed to eat she gave it a go and wanted more. I was making lentils with the peppers so let her try it; they were regular peppers, not the hot type. Last night my guys actually had a kibble night; it is rare but I make sure they get kibble at least once a month. This is so that if I ever had to dash off somewhere leaving my dogs care to someone else; they could eat kibble in my absence. The one kibble I use is Orijen; I feed all the different flavors to them as well. This is for emergency sake; not everyone is cool with making dog food or feeding raw, so it is a realistic scenario I am prepared for.
If I go away on a planned trip; all food is prepared ahead of time and put into proper portions.
Taking the leap from dog food (kibble) to real food can be very scary; I completely get this. That big bag of dog food is safe; someone said it was the best thing to feed your dog right? You feel good knowing that complete nutrition is in the bag; but is it? Not all foods are made alike; that includes dog food. So if you are a kibble feeder do your research and make sure that it is the best food you can buy.
And don't be afraid to mix it up; feed several different foods to your dog. Start of course by adding a little bit to your dog existing food until you have switched completely. Then start again with another blend; you will soon discover that you can switch things up more quickly when your dog becomes accustom to eating different foods.
In the wild; wolves do not eat the same meal everyday and neither do my dogs. This morning they will eat chicken, ground egg shells and veggies; then tonight they may have some raw beef, cranberries, arugula and bonemeal. Tomorrow maybe some nice salmon for breakfast probiotics, apple and carrots and then eggs for dinner, different all the time. They get cheese and toast in the morning as a snack before going on their big walk and I keep organic chicken and rice strips in my pack for along the way. Another food I like to keep on hand is freeze dried Stella and Chewys; I love these little weird pucks of food. When I'm in a pinch for time it is a great substitute meal. I use them as treats all the time and to sneak some extra calories into my ever so fussy Mr. Luke.
The fact is that the fresher the food; the more nutrition. I buy very little prepared foods for my family and that includes my dogs.
Posted by Sherri at 7:06 AM
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Anyone who knows me; knows that counter surfing is a big no no. My clients know how much it bothers me; they've all heard my ranting about dogs on the counter. Counter surfing is when a dog get's their paws up onto your counter and surfs around for food. Many dogs do it but there is no excuse for it; unless of course it doesn't bother you. Hey; your house, your kitchen, your counter and your dog. Makes absolutely no difference if I hate the fact that your dog gets on the counter; you live with your dog, not me. But in my house? No surfing allowed.
The biggest issue with surfing is the initial trial visits; do they result in a reason to return? Did your dog find some food up there making it an irresistible place to stay away from? Does your dog have access to the counter when you are out? If so why wouldn't they surf up there for the chance of finding a tasty morsel. The bottom line is that dogs are opportunists and if the opportunity arises to eat food from the counter; they will. That is unless you ingrain a clear message of "off limits," with regards to the counter.
It all starts from the first sniff; when you are teaching the no counter surfing lesson you have to let your dog know that the counter belongs to you and you do not share it. A sniff at the edge of the counter is the beginning of going up and onto the counter; nip it in the bud. Young dogs need to be stopped from climbing up on the cupboards to try to reach the counter. Even though it may be cute because they are little; this is just the beginning. A straight head sniff quickly turns to the head turned sniff which is the the step before going up and on, stop the first sniff.
When you are trying to teach the no surfing lesson is of utmost importance that your dog not have access to the counter when you are away. So baby gate the kitchen off, use a crate or put them in another room. If they only do it when you aren't around; this is what they learn. Size is not an issue when teaching your dog not to counter surf. Some of the worst surfers are the tiny but very ingenious dogs; the ones who figure out how to use chairs, trash cans and other objects to get up onto the counter. The line must be drawn in the sand so to speak; "this counter is mine, not yours."
Once your dog understands and would never consider jumping up onto the counter; then the sniffing rule can become more relaxed. My three will press their noses up against the counter when I get out fresh meaty raw bones but I know very well that is as far as it goes. I can leave the bones on the counter and exit the room knowing they will still be there when I return. The bones may have an audience but no one will touch them. Counter surfing is an annoying. expensive and possibly a dangerous habit. Never knowing if your stuff is safe or if you've pushed your stuff far enough back to keep your dog safe, not good.
Making a huge fuss; the big "I cannot believe you just did that," act is very important. But catching them as their first paw leaves the ground is the secret. Once they are up there and eating you've lost your chance; they are already rewarding their own bad behavior. Treating your dog for not surfing is a great way to convince them that staying off of the counter is beneficial. Using a firm AHHH if they attempt to sniff the counter and using your body language if need be. You must make it clear that the counter and it's contents are yours. Often teaching your dog to stay out of the kitchen while you are working in there is another step to help in the non counter surfing lesson. Once you can keep them out then you allow them in every so often and keep them away from the counter.
The counter needs to be a clear boundary; first in your head, then you put that fact into your dogs head.
Posted by Sherri at 10:08 PM
My boy Luke huffs; it is the best way I can describe it. It is a greeting behavior that he displays to people he likes. I have not seen another dog do this but I'm sure that they are out there. This huffing behavior started at a very young age as an open mouth greeting. He also does it when he is very happy; if that mouth opens up you know whatever is going on is to his liking. Yesterday he went over to my son who was on the couch; he dug his head into him thoroughly enjoying a snuggle. From the side you could see his mouth open and you know right away that he is loving every minute of this.
Open mouth greetings can be disconcerting to some; especially when added to a highly reactive dog. This means that not only is the mouth open but chances are that the dog is jumping as well. Luke has nailed several people in the face with his open mouth in his younger years which was a problem. He has since learned to control his jumping and saves it strictly for those he is head over heels for. And these people don't seem to mind being smacked in the face once in a while; all for love.
About a year ago I was watching a documentary on tigers. The guy that was in with the tigers was explaining that tigers chuff. A chuff is a sound tigers make to say hello to each other. They also make this sound just to tell you they're in a good mood. Visually; it looked like what Luke does but when I took a closer look, a tigers chuff is more of a universal tiger communication. A chuff seems to be more related to a sound than an action.
When Luke huffs, his mouth is held open in a relaxed manner. His lips are pulled down almost over his teeth and his tongue is pulled up from the back. His breathing is heavy and very audible. This is a clear communication of happiness. The rest of his body concurs that this is a positive canine behavior. Often when he is huffing he is also rubbing up against whoever the huffing is directed at. His head is held to the side and there is soft eye contact. We have come to enjoy this communication as it is a very pleasurable experience for both Luke and for us.
Anyone who knows Luke knows that receiving the open mouth huffing is a good thing. Each dog is an individual and although there are many universal canine body behaviors; some are more of an individual style. These if you do not understand them can be quite confusing. That is why it is imperative to watch the entire package, body, ears, tail and eyes and not just one factor of a behavior.
Another greeting behavior is the bow; my poodles are huge bowers, especially Luke. But all of my dogs do it and they often all do it at the same time which is very cute to witness. It is typically reserved for when I return from an outing but again Luke will throw me a bow whenever he feels like my attention has been directed his way. He will also stay in a bow position if I start rubbing him and has been known to hold this stance for a several minutes. He has obviously learned that humans find this to be a good thing.
The greeting bow differs from a play bow in that it is more a stretch type bow behavior. The play bow tends to be a faster movement; front down, butt up quickly and often bouncy. The greeting bow is more prolonged; a stretching process which involves the neck and head stretching out and often turned to the side. Luke likes to put his feet on my feet and dig his nails in; not so enjoyable so I am always aware of his big feet when he greets me. A play bow is usually at a distance; ready to tear away if it is accepted by the dog or person it is being sent to.
Then there is the crotch sniff; not so people friendly but a very natural behavior for dogs. Often when people are out with their dog they meet another dog on a walk. They may want to say hello but as soon as they go in for a sniff the owner will briskly pull their dog away. "How rude" they say to their dog; that isn't nice. Well; it is actually not rude and it is what dogs do, of course their are dogs who do it too much and then we must intervene. Jessie is very into sniffing; although she draws the line if anyone tries to sniff her. She has a very long greeting process before another dog is ever given the chance to sniff her butt and if they try they usually don't try again for a while.
Any way a dog delivers a greeting to their owner is always a great one; there isn't much better than being greeted at the door by a smiling canine face.
Posted by Sherri at 7:05 AM
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Yesterday was filled with puppy shoots; but it started by cancelling the shoots. Then as it turned out; a change of events and they were on again leaving me dashing to let everyone know we were still on. So after cooking up a bunch of chicken; whipping up a yummy breakfast for the hounds and making sure that everyone got out for a little walk, I packed up my gear and headed off. One thing that I always check when going on puppy shoots is my batteries; I tend to not be able to stop shooting once I start. They are just so darned cute; it really is hard to say when.
The first bunch of puppies were only about 2.5 weeks old; eyes just opened and giving their tiny legs a try. I don't know what I would do if I had a litter of my own to watch day in and day out; nothing but watch puppies I would guess. They are so adorable just laying there I could watch them forever. So I shot away as they wriggled around and thoroughly enthralled me. Mom came in and out of the room watching me closely as I would expect any good Momma to do.
After having my fill of puppy shooting we moved onto Mom and Dad; both gorgeous and wonderful to photograph. I got some amazing photos; non posed and natural. By simply sitting back and watching their behavior unfold you get a feel for a dogs individualism and that is what I like to capture. Of course sometimes I can't just watch and I have to interact; especially when my model wants to interact with me. It can be pretty amazing.
Then I was off to my next batch of puppies; 5 weeks and on the move. Of course they are no where near as active as they will be in another 2 weeks but still very different than 2 week olds. I first met Mom and her daughter from a previous litter and again I was smitten; beautiful girls and as sweet as can be. The puppies will no doubt turn out to be someones love of their life. They were adorable; some sleeping, some brawling and one having a bath.
The puppies were moved to their play area and I crawled around trying to capture them with my camera; not an easy task. The puppies played; investigated and played some more. Wrestling is a huge part of puppy learning and figuring out who's who as far as status hierarchy. Even at only 5 weeks of age it's pretty clear who's on top. And you cannot help but smile watching them try their tough guy routine. While I was shooting the puppies; Mom caught my attention playing ball, it was obviously her favorite thing. As Mom played ball the first daughter was completely immersed in following the puppies and having fun with them.
A pretty amazing Friday; wish all Fridays were like this one.
Posted by Sherri at 7:33 AM
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Image #1 - Shows just how meaty the raw bones are; lots of good stuff on there, oh and my wine.
Image #2 - Jessie using her back teeth
Image #3 - Luke having a serious hard core chew.
Image #4 - Luke was growing bored of chewing decided to wander around and have a peek at the other bones. He is pretending not to be looking at Jessie in this shot but she knows better.
Image #5 - Jessie freezes and hard stares at Luke; he postures back at her. At which point I told him to go and chew his bone; which he did.
Hard core raw bone chewing; that's what it's gotta be. I had some extra time on my hands lastnight so decided to video tape the dogs and their chewing. I have been asked so many times "how do you do it?" Give bones is what they want to know; how do you do it? Having heard "never give your dog a bone;" all their life, most people are understandably leery. But like the Nike commercial says "just do it." I've walked many people through the whole process; but I thought this would definitely clear up any question that you might have about giving your dog a bone.
First off; raw bone chewing is the best way other than scraping to clean your dogs teeth. They can get to places with bones that you will never get to with a tool. It is also such a natural behavior; they love it and I truly believe it is good for their whole being to chew bones. With all this it is also a great time to work on any guarding issues; yes there can be serious guarding issues with raw meaty bones.
So I when I decided to video tape I got out the bones; trimmed up any loose pieces of bones; got out the camera, a glass of wine and gave the dogs a bone. I shot alot of images and got some nice video footage. I even got some very nice posturing from both Jessie and Luke. Bone chewing is a very supervised event at my house. Making sure that no one wanders over to someone else's bone is very important. Especially with the reigning Jack Russell around. Please enjoy. ;)
Bone chew #1
Bone chew #2
Bone chew #3
Bone chew #4
Bone chew #5
Bone chew #6
Bone chew #7
Posted by Sherri at 8:23 PM
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Bug b gone; I'm sure you've heard the adds on the radio? Just yesterday I heard it again and you would think that the couple on the advertisement live in the Amazon Jungle how they explain their yard. If they use this great bug killing product their children and dogs can go out on the lawn again; this is California!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sure there are bugs here; there are suppose to be bugs here. The only ones I object to in my yard are the black widows and we have a lot of them. So should we be spraying bug killer all over our yard so that no living bug is left? NO.
Not only are we inundated with pest killing products to apply directly onto our dogs; but we can spray and pour substances everywhere we live to ensure that no bugs; bug us. Not all bugs are bad; in fact very few are really bad. Sure I hate fleas and ticks but even they can be kept at bay with safe products. One thing many people don't realize is that fleas are easily drown. With regular weekly baths in the summer months you can drown those pests away. Often fleas will vacate to the ears or anal area during a bath so you have to prepare for this. When you put your dog into the tub or shower create a thick lather with shampoo and water around their neck and rear end area so that once you start to bathe the dog the fleas have nowhere to run and hide.
The secret to getting rid of fleas is to catch them before they populate your home. Once those suckers lay eggs in the carpet you've got a major problem on your hands. Plenty of regular vacuuming and bed washing definitely helps to get rid of them. And check your dog regularly; you can see fleas and where there is one there may be others. More than once I've hunted down a flea that jumped off one of the dogs; all hunched up crawling along the floor with my reading glasses on it is like a game of cat and mouse, and this game has only one winner.
And what about that golf course looking yard? Is it worth having the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood and risking your dogs health for it? I don't think so; it's just grass, who cares if it's the best in the neighborhood? If my grass is green I'm happy and even happier knowing that I am not adding to the chemical pollution of our planet. I just recently fired my lawn service because they would not stop using lawn chemicals on my yard. I do not want my family subjected to these products.
Say no to chemicals; NO TO TOPICAL PEST TREATMENTS ON OUR DOGS, NO TO CHEMICAL BUG SPRAYS IN OUR YARD OR HOME, NO TO CHEMICAL LAWN BEAUTIFIERS AND NO TO INGESTIBLE PEST TREATMENTS FOR OUR DOGS. It is easy to get started on a safer, healthier life by taking it one step at a time. There is so much information out there for all to read; just look it up on the net.
The Cedarcide store
The bottom line is PLEASE do not believe what you hear or read about chemicals being safe; do your own research and dig into anything you plan on feeding or putting on your dog. Even if it something you only plan on using around your dog; research the product. I have a very good friend who lost her dog as a direct result of bug spray. The dog was in her prime; a much loved member of the family. Because of lies about the safety and careless use of toxic chemicals from the company who was spraying the yard; she passed away. I had a difficult time writing this blog as there is so much to say it could be made into a book. So this is very much a condensed version; just enough to get you thinking about what's in that bottle?
Posted by Sherri at 12:07 PM
Humans and communication; we use words and a lot of them don't we? We actually do use body language but most of the time we rely on our words to get a point across. Each and every word has a meaning but when we use words to communicate to our dogs; they meaning is lost in translation. In fact the meaning was never there unless we gave the words a meaning. When we talk to our dogs; they listen for words that have a meaning to them. If we say "Luke; would you like to go to the park and have a walk today?" He hears "Luke; would you *&*&^&^%%$%$#%%&**^!)_*&%$$#@@#$%%^ walk &&^%$##@@@$?" First; he knows that "Luke" has something to do with him; and "would you" has a great association because it always means something good as well. The rest of the words have no meaning; he listens until he hears the word he is anticipating "WALK," and then the excitement begins.
I often see people using words with their dog; and it seems quite clear that the dog has no understanding of the words. Even some of the most basic words have little value if they hold no meaning to a dog. "Stay;" this is a very commonly used word and one that many never enlighten their dog to the true meaning. I have asked some of my clients as they tell their dog to stay, "have you taught your dog what stay means?" They look at me with a sudden realization; "no not really." So many owners think that dogs just understand certain dog words like STAY, HEEL or COME.
Many dogs that I see also don't know their name; it has been another word simply thrown around with not a whole lot of value put onto it. Name training is the very first word association that should be taught; and until you get a response when you call out their name, you still have work to do. I have met many dogs that upon hearing their name react like no one is speaking. No response; absolutely nothing. I then ask the owner to call the dogs name; still nothing. Then I ask the owner to say "cookie or walk;" presto a response.
I try to teach my dogs the meaning to many words; it is work creating an association. Some words are easy to explain; words that are used on a daily basis or very common like "cookie, walk, car etc." Repetition is the key; but along with echoing a word you must create an association to the word itself. "Lizard," was quickly learned in my house; so much so that I now have to say "there is an L outside." Luke is my big listener; he never misses a thing and is constantly learning new words. If I say to my husband "look at this;" Luke will fly over with his giant ears held high to see what we are "looking" at.
As we use words to try to communicate to our dogs; they listen to tone of voice and watch our body language. This is how dogs communicate; so if you want to teach them the meaning of a word you need to make it very clear and give the word a definitive meaning. When you are trying to teach your dog a behavior associated with a word; you must use repetition as well as consistency. If you ask your dog to stay and they baulk at the idea which leads you to frustration causing you to give up; you have then failed to teach your dog the true meaning of "stay." You have taught your dog that it only means "stay" if you really want to "stay." "STAY" should mean; "stay" until I tell you to un-stay.
Dogs deal in black and white; it is how they learn best. Gray areas are a place where we all; both humans and dogs get lost.
Monday, June 14, 2010
ecall? Recall? - To call back; summon to return. Quite simply "come." Does your dog come when called? If your dog is like many dogs they do not; but they do come when you belt out "COOKIE, CAR or maybe WALK." I can't tell you how many dogs I've seen running in the opposite direction when their guardian calls them; that or they stand staring at them with not a glimmer of hope that they are going to come. Everyone wants their dog to come; not all dogs want to come. Some do, others do sometimes or if they are in the mood and a good majority of them never come. Why is this? Well; first let's look at why they come to you when you yell "COOKIE." It is quite simple.
You are in a panic; you've tried everything and your dog is not coming, so you pull out the one word that is guaranteed to get your dog running and you blast "cookie; who wants a cookie?" Even though your dog is running full blast; she jams on her brakes and high tails it back to you. What just happened? Why did all else fail but that one word brings her home every time? It is all in the association; this word alone "cookie" means that they are indeed going to get a cookie, at least most of the time correct? Dogs are opportunists; they do what works for them naturally. Training can intervene in that process and can completely turn a behavior around if done correctly.
Having created the association between "cookie" and receiving food you have actually taught your dog to come; but only for the word "cookie." I have had so many people baulk at the idea of rewarding a dog for coming; "they should come because I said so." Well yes; they should but that takes a great deal of training. First you need to implement the reward system for coming; then you proof the behavior, then you add consequences for not coming. It is a very long process to set a "come" into stone. But the beginning is all done by rewarding; I mean what is better than having your dog come to you right?
Think for a moment; when you call your dog, you are actually asking them to stop doing what they are doing and do what you want them to do. They may be involved in some very exciting play; an extravagant digging session or even some much needed grooming. Why then should they stop and listen to you? Just because? You may receive the "huh? no I'm busy," look. Or more than often you are completely ignored. Let's face it; when our dog comes to us it is the best thing in the world; so make it seem like it is. Gone are the days (or at least they should be gone) of yanking our dogs to us on the end of a long leash; and expecting them to come the next time. I remember clearly dragging my dogs in while they pulled away; this is the way it was done years ago. The dog quickly learned that "come" had nothing to do with a happy association.
The most important thing about teaching a dog to come is that it must be positive. If you slip in a couple of negative results for coming you are dooming yourself and your dog to a life of running the opposite direction. Negatives need to be viewed from the dog's perspective, not yours. You need to choose a word that will be your call word; the word that replaces "cookie." Use it sparingly and only for positive things. i.e. Don't call your dog to you and then put them in their crate; then go to work. Don't use your good word to end a play session at the park. Never call your dog to punish them; that's a sure fire way to see Fido's butt when you call them.
Along with the consistent training; you must create a joyous relation to coming to you. It must be associated to either really great food or a really wonderful activity. There may come a day when you need your dog to come to you very quickly; and having that few moments of hesitation can be detrimental. So think before you belt out "COME;" is it a positive, don't use your word willy nilly. Come is the most over used and under trained word there is; that, stay and heel. (more on those in later blogs)
Coming to you should be a great event; because it is, not because you say it is.
Posted by Sherri at 9:48 PM
Well here we are back at another Monday with a week ahead of us; good morning. I was doing a shoot yesterday; and as strange as it may sound it was a human shoot, my daughter and one of her best friends. Having thought out a nice scenic area to shoot we visited some of the paths where we walk the dogs. It is very dog friendly and there were indeed friendly dogs there. At one point I was crouched down preparing to get the shot when a couple came by with a Doberman off leash; I immediately repositioned myself. I stood up and took on a casual posture; the dobie had seen me before I changed posture and her ears had shot up. Of course they did.
Posture is a huge part of communication for dogs; how are you holding yourself says a lot. Being hunched down in a frozen posture is not a warm and fuzzy stance; it is taken as highly suspicious. At this same park there are three statues of bears along the pathways. All of my dogs have communicated with them and I think most dogs that pass the statues have had a few words. The statues were made to the size of large dogs; I believe a mother and two cubs but it's been a while. The mother has her head slung low and is of course frozen; it is the frozen posture that is the most disturbing to dogs. As the dog communicates to the bear statues it stands it's ground and does not alter position; worrisome to say the least. Depending on the individual dog will be how they counter communicate; they can be dominant or submissive to this frozen bear family.
The freeze is an amazing communication tool for dogs and for us as well. I am always experimenting with communications and have tossed in a freeze myself; it has great impact. It speaks volumes compared to our human words and waving arms. For example: Your dog is begging at the table; perhaps even so far as she has her head under your arm and on the table, so you freeze. This gives a clear warning message "best to move away." This is how dogs speak to each other; just watch the communications thrown around when one dog has what another wants. It is simple amazing to watch.
At only 15 pounds and 14 years old Jessie is a very experienced professional posture dog. She postures all the time; she is very intimidating to other dogs. She has an air of confidence about her and this frozen posture can illicit many varying reactions all depending on who she is posturing to. For the young and insecure dog it will typically have them getting lower and lower to the ground; eyes squinting and perhaps even a raised paw. Some dogs who are more neutral just steer clear of her; they get her message loud and clear. For the more dominant type dog who sees Jessie's posture; they will typically posture back which is my cue to get moving.
I remember being at a park once when a very young and foolish Labrador came running in a straight b-line towards Jessie. It wasn't paying any attention to her body language until he got very close; I wish I had it on tape. As he ran full speed he suddenly raised his ears taking note of what she was saying; he immediately went into retreat mode, jamming on his brakes. He had been coming in too quickly to avoid a confrontation and knew by the time he got to her that he'd scoped out the wrong dog. He skidded to a stop and hit the ground squinting, flopping and pawing the best he could submissively. Jessie gave him a what for and we moved on; leaving the young and foolish lab to ponder his lesson for the day.
Luke and I were out the other day for a walk when he received a serious warning. This was warning was more than posture; it was a very deep growl accompanied with a hard stare, not good. This dog meant business and Luke did what he should have done and turned his head ignoring the dog. He sniffed the grass around and pretended he did not see this other dog let alone care about it. The dog was laying down; his owner had her foot over him ensuring that he stayed there. This act from the owner may have been why the threat was so escalated but whatever the reason we kept moving.
Often a posture is missed by our human eye and we jumped to the conclusion that there was no warning. There is almost always a warning and in our less that perfect ability to read the signs we simply miss them. Often owners halt communications and reprimand; this is one of the worst things you can do. Take away a dogs communications and you have a dangerous situation. Without a communication display they are left disabled. And we are left in the dark. We all need to be able to communicate.
Posted by Sherri at 6:31 AM
Sunday, June 13, 2010
As a dog trainer and dog photographer I've had some memorable days. They often pop back into my head having been tweaked by a certain event. I was just thinking about one of those memories yesterday. I'd been working with a woman and her German Shepherd; everything was going great when we discussed a dog from her past. It seemed that her past dog had had hugging issues. The dog was fine when people visited but if they hugged the owner the dog kicked into guarding mode. "Ok; let's hug," thinking that it was indeed a good thing to check out. And sure enough this gal had hug issues as well; not huge but they were there. So from that point on hugging was implemented at each training session where a guarding issue might arise.
I like to cover as much ground as possible when training. In another one of my in-home sessions the dog was coming along amazingly so it was time to put all the work to the test. I hopped into the Jaguar with the guardian and student and we were off, making our way to the dog bakery; we worked outside the store and inside the store. Next destination was the beach where there were lots of people and lots of dogs; plus she'd never been to the beach so this was a great place to work. I know what you're thinking; yep rough.
But there are plenty of times when it is not wonderful; there is stress, and a lot of it. I clearly remember one day while trying to work with two recently rescued girls. The first thing I tried to convey was how important it was to spend alone time with each dog; they were sisters so they'd already been together for their whole life. If dogs become to attached to one another it can be very difficult to do anything with them while separated. This was the case here; they were not being taken out separately so it was a case of unrelenting whining, pawing and general stress. As the sessions went on it got no better; the girls were together 100% of the time which made training a huge challenge. Not only could we not separate them on training day but they had to be continually touching or connecting in some way; we were definitely the outsiders. In the end they received enough training to get by in the life they would lead; a frustrating case indeed.
There was another case where I visited owners and their brand new adopted puppy. I was told on the phone that they had an Akita mix; which are very large dogs. As soon as I arrived I realized that not only was it clearly not an Akita; it was an ACD or Australian Cattle dog. The new owners were skeptical when I told them what they had; and I'm not sure that they believed me until of course they would have seen as the dog grew to maturity. The little puppy was not only a completely different breed from what they had thought they had; it was in fact deaf. After several attempts to get the puppies attention; I decided to test this theory. There was nothing; not one response; not an ear turn, nothing. I dropped things, slammed doors, screamed, still nothing. This was a lot for the new owners; one that they seemed willing to tackle.
Photography can bring out some different behaviors as well. Even the friendliest of dogs can be spooked by "the camera." It is after all a giant eye starring at the dog; pretty unnerving. I often resort to the "big" lens; my savior when it comes to working with dogs who are not keen on the starring eye. I've gotten some of my best images crawling around the ground to create a much less threatening presence; it works well. And while I was down there on the ground being less threatening I realized that you can get some very cool images from down there. I can often be seen laying on my stomach on the ground; simply to get the shot.
Never a dull moment. ;)
Posted by Sherri at 7:29 AM
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
TGIF; wow I'm up late this morning. We were awaken by a super loud bang last night; so loud that Luke shot straight up looking at me for reassurance. Even half asleep I know how important my reaction is so I just lay back down without saying a thing. Then my husband and I calmly discussed what the heck it could have been; and Luke went back to sleep.
The dogs and I had a great walk day yesterday; first Jessie and I met a good friend of mine and her Golden puppy at the park. Jessie did amazing with her; the puppy is an excellent communicator and let Jessie know right off that she was nothing but a lowly puppy. She conveyed to Jessie that she understood that she was the supreme reigning, most highest canine Queen and from that point everything went smashingly. Jessie only had to quickly posture twice along the walk to remind the young'n just who she was and they were good again.
After Jessie's walk I grabbed the poodles, my video camera and off we went. I was so happy to see another good friend and Luke's best friend at another park. I got my camera ready and let'm rip; they did a quick greeting, not what I had wanted to capture of course. Then I proceeded to video tape; at least I thought that I was video taping until I got home. I had inadvertently pushed a button too many times so when I thought I was taping I wasn't. When I thought I wasn't; I was, oh well. This was a lesson on video taping so next time should be much better. This is probably why I always grab my camera instead.
Tilley did wonderfully and I did get a small shot of her and Luke running in the park which I will try to get on here today. It is a joy to see her running and having fun after her ordeal with Vestibular. She still has disease but has learned to live with it amazingly. So I'm off to a late start this morning but so far it's been pretty good. Sharing breakfast with the chow hounds; the cool morning breeze coming through the patio door and now they are all asleep again as I blog..........life is pretty good from where I'm sitting.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend; don't know what's on my agenda as of yet. If you haven't had a chance to watch this youtube; it is what I put together after shooting last weekends adoption day here in the OC.
Posted by Sherri at 7:28 AM
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I'm in awe almost daily. When the level of canine intelligence is visualized it can be quite inspirational. I've recently written about my old girl; the one shown below in yesterday's blog; and her change in feeding routine. Being that her hearing and her sight are nearly gone she is no longer able to hear or see communications directed at her. This has become a dangerous situation because she cannot heed a warning; which is what happened at feeding time with her tendency to hover around other's bowls. So she is now required to go directly to the corner bed and await my release after eating. It amazes me at this age that she was able to easily switch her routine. And just the other day as I really put it to the test. I fed the dogs outside; this is the first time since the change of rules and I wondered if she would make her way into the kitchen after she finished or stand there pondering what to do. She had a quick look around and headed into the kitchen. I waited for a minute and then went to see if she had indeed made it to the bed; there she was waiting for her treat.
All dogs are smart; but being that they are very different they often need to learn in different ways. Generally the clearer you make the lesson the easier it is for the dog to understand. Some dogs have more work drive; others may need a little push to get working and obtain an education. Finding out what makes your dog tick or absorb training easily can be a task. My Jessie is not so much a thinker; she simply reacts so, clicker training is an excellent path to her success. Luke on the other hand thinks; there is an moment of hesitation before he proceeds. He is also very touch sensitive; which in itself can lead to failure if I am not careful with my touch. Touch can be a road block for many dogs; and often owners do realize that this is indeed the obstacle leading to frustration for both.
Recently I was trying out the Clicker Leash with Luke. I only used a clicker for Luke's training in the very beginning; it wasn't the best method for him at the time. So when I decided to try the clicker leash for his pulling I didn't know if he would indeed catch on. I first tackled the click = treats at home in the living room which he caught onto quite quickly. This is a very important part of clicker training. (more on clicker training in another blog)
Off to the park; I allowed Luke to first run free and get his ya ya's out before hooking him up and doing the trial run. After years of leash training he pulls at only a fraction of the power that he once did; but he still does. So Clicker Leash on; treats in hand and away we go. As soon as I got some slack on the leash; click/treat. Within minutes he was not pulling; he was still scanning the park but he was paying attention to me without eye contact. By the end of the first time round the park he was heeling and giving me fabulous eye contact; I was impressed.
A dog's intelligence is there; we simply need to tap into it. Once you discover the key that opens up the brain; there are no limits to what you can teach your dog. If you watch dogs closely you will see that they use their intelligence to teach themselves all the time. Luke often goes to the front door and barks; he knows that this will get the girls up and moving. He then swoops in and either grabs the toy that they had or the bed he wanted to lay on and the girls are left barking at the door. Dogs train us extremely well and without our knowledge.
We humans do not naturally think like dogs; this fact alone can create a mystery effect around the canine brain. "What the heck is he thinking?" Sometimes our dogs do things that we simply cannot understand or explain; but, if you take the time to watch closely many unanswered questions can be answered. Typically you must think like a dog to solve a canine issue; break it down, keep it simple. The core is simple; the individuality in each dog adds the complication.
The dog's brain is simple yet complicated; find the key and you're off and running.
Posted by Sherri at 6:04 AM
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
This morning I switched up the regular breakfast that we share and gave the dogs some new treats I'm trying out. After shooting for several hours at the OC Super Pet Adoption event I wandered around the vendors to see if there was anything new. I found these new treats I hadn't seen Lauren's Poochie snacks before; we discussed the treats and they gave me a couple of bags to try. At Just dogs with Sherri we product test everything from goodies, toys, bowls to leashes.
We don't just try anything here; it has to first go through me before it ever reaches my pooches. The product has to interest me; be safe, positive and or healthy. We reserve the right "not to test." I have turned down many products; if right off the bat it is something I wouldn't use on my dogs, I'm not going to tell you guys to give it a whirl. If we; as in the dogs and I try a product that we do not like, we'll say so. And I will never put a product on my site that I deem dangerous or unfit for dog use or consumption. And of course just because my dogs or I like a product does not mean that you or your dogs will like it; it is simply our opinion.
When I got home on Sunday I offered the peanut butter flavored treats to the dogs which they all loved. This morning I offered them Lauren's Ocean brown rice flavor poochie snacks; which are gluten free. You can see from the image above that they were enjoyed. Even Luke ate them first thing in the morning and as you all know; he is one fussy pants. The cookies are hard which I like to see in a bagged treat and this is the reason for the teeth display from our little Jack Russell Jessie. The dogs really seem to like them; even Luke only hesitated a moment before giving one a try.
With the sea of dog treats out there it is nice to find a good homegrown business. And with the recent dog food recalls buying products that you can trust gets more difficult by the day. I really love trying new products and being able to spread the word to other canine guardians. But it is not just my dogs and myself who test products; we have a two additional testers so that we can best test a product. We have the rough and tumble Bentley on our team as well as Hogan; the tiny chihuahua helping us out. The simple act of buying dog treats can be a daunting task as you go from isle to isle trying to purchase something that your dog will like. So if a dog like Luke will eat them; I'm pretty sure any dog will eat like them.
Lauren's poochie snacks also makes horse treats which is something I've never even considered. I guess horses like treats just like the rest of us eh?
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Good Tuesday morning everyone; I'm up early today, too early. I truly believe that we are not meant to get up in the dark; obviously Luke agrees because he didn't want his cheese this morning, too early for cheese. He snubbed the cheese when offered it and curled into a tight ball and went back to sleep. I apologize for my blog being late yesterday; the whole system was down and all the bloggers were in a panic.
I have a very busy day ahead of me; don't days seem to be just too darned short? Each and everyday I seem to need just a few more hours to get everything I wanted to do; done. At least I've added another hour this morning by being up so early; not that I'm happy about it at this very moment. Jessie on the other hand didn't mind getting up at all. I heard her race down the stairs with my husband; run out and do her business and speed back upstairs so as not to miss breakfast in bed. She is unbelievable at 14; a true dynamo. She can go from zero to a hundred in less than a second. Luke on the other hand loves his mornings; but he loves the sleeping part of them, he is not into getting up until he is done sleeping.
All dogs are so different; they are as different as we are. The more dogs you meet; you realize how true this is. Even amongst the same breed they are all so very, very different. Many people don't realize how different dogs can be; as they set out to get another just like the one they have. I've talked to a lot of people who have the dog of their dreams at home; as well as the dog not of their dreams. They thought that having this "best dog" ever; lets say a spaniel, they should get another wonderful spaniel. Imagine a pair of dogs so wonderful?
A couple of months into their second dog they realize that something is just not right with their new dream dog. He is doing things that the #1 wonderful dog never did; creating havoc and generally being a pain in the butt. What happened? Where is the dream dog you thought you were getting? Well; the dream dog image has you stuck on number one, the second dog may be just as much a dream; but different. No two dogs are alike; they may look like they come out of the same mold but be assured they can be as different as night and day. So now the comparisons start; comparing is such a human thing to do, isn't it? Comparing in itself is fine; I often note the differences in my three dogs, they are a diverse group.
But noting differences is where it should remain; that and taking into account that you may need to interact differently with your new and contrasting canine. Far too often we humans set a standard in our mind of worth; "this dog is the greatest." We then hold each new dog up to that standard and they just can't live up to the classic. When we get stuck on a standard so to speak we do an unjust to the dogs that are new or have yet to enter our life. We often compare a new canine family member to a dog that has since passed; this can be the most difficult to overcome. This is why when someone loses a heart dog; their equivalent to a human soul mate it is often a good idea to go with something that is visually completely different. I have discussed this very subject with many people as it always saddens me when the new dog is just not making the grades and the only reason is that they are not like the first dog.
When we open our heart and our mind to difference; we make it easier to adapt to change. It can be difficult to not put expectations onto a dog; but we must not. They should be allowed to form and develop into the individual that they are; like us. I am different than you; you may consider things that I enjoy to be very boring or strange. We are all individuals; so too are our dogs, embrace each one as the distinct beings that they are.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Okay; we’re up and running again.
I had a great weekend; you? It was warmer than I like but at least it was cool in the morning and quickly cooled again in the late afternoon with a heavy marine layer. We are in the thick of what is popularly known here as June gloom. It is a very odd weather cycle; hot and sunny only minutes away from the beach but thick and heavy fog right at the beach. So it is this marine layer that came in yesterday around 4:00 that I was happy to see. Earlier in the day I spent several hours volunteering at the OC Super Pet adoption day. I’d never been to this event so I had no idea how large it would be; I was truly amazed.
It was a huge event; I wandered through the vendor area for quite a while before even venturing near the entrance to the rescue groups display area. Once in; there was a sea a rescue dogs, so many dogs it was mind boggling. I was able to capture the first adoptee and her/his new family. Just on their way out; smiles on both their faces and a tiny bundle in the gentleman’s arms. “Did you just adopt that little one,” I asked. They were beaming “yes first dog adopted today.” So of course I captured the moment.
Then it was onto the rest of the dogs; I could have shot for hours upon hours, but as I said it was really hot. There were puppies everywhere; and yes they were all adorable. In attendance were many of the breed specific rescues as well as small dog and big dog rescues of all kinds. It didn’t take long to discover what the “in” dogs are at the moment; a sad revelation indeed. The “in” dogs are the ones you see filling the shelters and rescues up and from what I saw at the event yesterday it is Chihuahuas, pugs, puggles and small poodle mixes.
I stopped and talked to many of the groups; everyone was very happy to share information about their individual group and the dogs they had up for adoption. As I wandered through the sea of hopefuls there were many happy faces with a new dog in their arms. One little boy sat quietly in the shade; he held a small puppy in his arms and radiated happy contentment on his face. I asked him if he was adopting this puppy and he to lit up; “yes we just got him.” It made me smile and I asked his Dad if I could capture the moment; is there anything better than a kid and their dog?
I have to admit that even knowing there are so many homeless dogs looking for homes; it was mind boggling to see so many in one place. It sort of brings the whole picture into focus; so, so many dogs. But with all the dogs; there were so many people helping, people who work tirelessly to find homes for all these dogs. Caring people who share their life and heart with these helpless dogs; rescuing, tending and re-homing. It is a daunting task; but from where I was standing these dogs had ended up in good hands, hands that were there to care and protect them until they found their new forever homes.
As I wandered through the crowds of people and dogs I could hear the stories of the dogs and the people looking for a new dog. I talked to some of the rescuers about dogs that had been given little hope of being rescued; the ones they were told to pass by. An ex-pen held a handful of handicapped dogs; saved by a very loving and caring volunteer who looked past the broken exterior and saw what was deep inside, very inspiring. Another woman held a dog with neurological issues; she too was told to leave this one, she did not.
With all of the negative in the world right; even the fact that all of these dogs were homeless, yet still there was a sense of goodness there. Everyone coming together for the good of the animals. That’s a positive.
Posted by Sherri at 3:30 PM