Monday, December 14, 2009

She did it!!

She did it! Jersey learned to ring the bell in order to go outside and go potty.

She actually learned to ring the bell pretty early. She got to the point where if I stood a few moments at the door with all the dogs standing there waiting to go out she would ring it. However, tonight I was on the computer, heard the ring and saw her standing by the back door. I let her out and she went straight out and peed. Success!

I had heard of others teaching their dogs this but never really gave it much thought. Me and my guys have a pretty good routine and most of the time I'd be letting them out a certain times during the day anyway. Occasionally one might whine or pace at the door if they have to go at a "non-scheduled" time. Any pups and fosters simply fell into the same routine.

One day while Jersey was still just a young pup I was out shopping at Pet's Supplies Plus. At their front counter were these very cute, even stylish, bells on ribbons made just for this purpose. I thought "what the heck" and bought one. The first step was to simply hang it on the door. Every time I went to open the door for the girls I would make a big deal out of ringing the bell. Easy enough. After about a week of this I would then stand at the door and do what I could to encourage Jersey to touch it. If she even accidentally bump it I would open the door. Then I would just stand by the door. I could tell she was thinking about. Finally she made the connection and rang the bell.

She's rang the bell before when left inside and I'm outside. She rang and rang wanting to be with me. Since she was new in her training and I really wanted her to connect ringing with the door opening I would allow her to come out. Then once she rang it and when I let her outside she ran to grab a stick she had been chewing and just wanted to play. I called her back in. But this is the first time that it worked perfectly. I'm on computer, she rings the bell, I let only her outside, she went potty and then came back to the door.

How cool is that?! I mean I knew dogs could do this, knew it was relatively easy to train, but to have your dog actually do it....just cool.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Just a Monday Night

What am I doing? Right now I'm sitting in my den (can't get used to using the word "den"). It's quiet. I've paused the dvr right in the middle of "So you think you can dance." Five dogs are in here with me, but it's quiet. Heidi's in the middle of a bed that is way too big for just her. Kenzie, with front foot wrapped in pink vet-wrap (hurt her toe), is laying in the bed beside her. Jersey, who stays too hot for beds, is laying on the floor very close, close enough that she is resting her head on Kenzie's bed.

Wait...Merlin just sat up...yawned and is staring at me. Since we've noticed each other I wiggle my fingers towards him as a sign to come here. He does, I pat his afro and now he's back to lay down. Bailey is behind my chair on the rug. I can hear the heater and my typing, but other than that, it's quiet. Kinda spooky, Merlin's eyes have rolled back and all I see are the whites. I stare at him, not wanting him to go. My eyes are tearing as I type this. No, don't want him to go. Want to keep him safe here with me. Me and the girls. It could be "the girls and Merlin." Not wanting him to go. Only good applications have been from far away. Great family contacted me today. They are probably the ones. His family......but I'm crying.....because I don't want him to go. "Gotta make the smart decision, gotta make the smart decision," I say to myself to convince me not to keep keep Jersey's brother.

No...I don't want him to go. In this second all I know is that I don't want him to go. His feet are twitching and he's barking in his dream. Don't want him to go.

I must not love my dogs.....

There's this underlying feeling, belief maybe, that I notice among many dog owners. It has really come to light these last couple of months. Now it's time to address it. I must not love my dogs......

How can I love them? My dogs aren't what people would define as spoiled. Let me tell you why I don't love them:
-I don't allow them on the couch (not even the tiny Miss Heidi)
-I don't allow them in my bed
-I don't allow them to lick me (especially in the face)
-I don't allow them to jump on me
-I don't give them tons of treats (maybe one or two if they're lucky and of course lots when we're training)
-I don't pet them and love on them all day
-They're never allowed to pull me on the leash and most of the time I want them beside or behind me

Here's what they do have to do:
-Wait at doors, no darting through without permission, no going out in front of me
-Wait in the living room while I fix their dinner
-Stay out of the kitchen while I'm cooking and/or eating
-Stop licking/playing/making toys squeak when I'm trying to watch a movie

So it's official....I must not love my dogs. You see in this society we define love in the ways humans define love and we do this no matter the species. We take pride in how spoiled our pets are. I have numerous customers come in and say, "My baby is so spoiled, I've never left her at a kennel. You better take care of my baby." And then they plop up a bag of crappy food and tell us to feed it to their dog and when another dog walks in their dog growls and misbehaves...but, hey after's their baby.

If human parents were to say to you, "I spoil my kids. They don't have any rules in the house. I let them do whatever they want. No, they don't have to go to school and I really don't mind when they pee on the rugs. I let them eat oreos all day because it's their favorite. " We would immediately label them as bad parents. Why? Because everyone knows that children shouldn't be raised that way. But why do we have such a hard time using that same common sense with our dogs?

The reason I believe is that humans use pets to fill up the emotional needs that humans so desire. They want another species that will forever be their baby and love them so much for it. But here's what's missing....what's in it for the dog? Owning a dog is a two way street. Your dog provides you with unconditional love and it is your responsibility to give back to your dog what he/she really needs. That is for you to understand that she is a dog. That's right a dog. And a dog's needs are much different than a humans. Dogs need to have rules, dogs need to have structure, they need to have a clear leader in their lives. If they don't then they can't be as well-balanced as they were meant to be.

Yes, yes, you could be one of the lucky ones that found yourself a calm submissive dog and without so much a tiny bit of effort on your part your dog is well-balanced. But for most of the dogs it's not like that. So let's really take a look at it. Let's really take a look at what can happen when dogs' true needs aren't fulfilled and then take a look at your dog and see what fits.

First: Stop right now and make a list of rules your dog has. Don't make any new ones up and don't list rules that you wish your dog did, but real actual rules that are enforced 100% of the time.

Second: Is your dog well-balanced. You may think your dog is. Below are some behaviors that will let you know your dog is not well-balanced.
-Growl at other dogs when on a walk
-You would be afraid to take your dog to a dog park because they would either be too aggressive or they would freak out due to fear
-Barks non-stop at any small noises
-If they are doing a behavior you do not like you are unable to stop it (like non-stop barking)
-Isn't housetrained
-Is anxious, high-strung, paces, whines, digs, etc. when left alone
-Doesn't have a healthy appetite (you have to "convince" her to eat)
-licks obsessively (really any obsessive behavior)
-Can't learn to respect boundaries (escapes from crates, scratches doors, etc.)
-A prey drive so high you cannot get the dog out of the fixated state once she has spotted "prey"
-growls/bites at humans
-would take off running away from you given the slightest opportunity

These are just a few examples but there are hundreds more. The reason I am doing this is to say ultimately...I don't care if you "spoil" your dogs. But if that "spoiling" gets in the way of them being healthy well-balanced dogs then I do have a problem with it. You know I was joking when I said I didn't love my dogs. I mean really, how many of you can say you built a business around being able to bring your dogs to work? But how does that love rank with others? To me I would have to say, "I love my dogs more." Why? Because I don't give them what I want to give them; I give them what they need. And because of that my dogs are happy, healthy, at a good weight and most importantly well-balanced.

What this gets me in return is an amazing group of dogs. Who else do you know that can take 5 dogs off leash and trust them? It's because I provide such a structured life for my dogs that they are able to reach their full potential. Their real potential. Not just well-behaved for me, but that they can be happy in their own skin. Dogs doing the above aren't happy; aren't truly happy.

Now that I've laid the foundation with them not only do I reap the benefits but they do too. They get to travel with me, go to work with me, go walking with me, go to family's houses, get to hang out off-leash while I work in the yard, they get to eat downtown with me when the weather's nice, they get so much more because of the work I've done...we've done really; as a pack together.

I don't write this to say, "I'm a better pet owner, ha-ha." I write this so that you can take a second to re-evaluate the relationship you have with your dog. Perhaps your dog isn't as well-balanced as you know she could be; perhaps you realized you don't even have one rule in your house. Perhaps you realized you are one of the lucky ones with the ultimate well-balanced dog with no effort. But either way, I hope it gives you pause and most importantly makes you redefine what "spoiling" your dog really means.

I briefly mentioned above about the customer that says their dog is their baby and then throws the crappy bag of dog food on the counter for us to use. This is one of the biggest mistakes owners that "spoil" their dogs do; horrible diet. It's not good to throw in horrible wet food just to make them eat it or buy the bag that has the prettiest label. You HAVE to learn how to pick the right food. Please don't invest all your love into your pet and then feed them garbage. I am so happy to help you with this, just ask. Also, having an obese pet is just as neglectful as having a pet that has been starved. It does significant damage to your pet. When I see a pet that is so fat, I literally hold back tears. You might as well be beating your dog in front of me. Please, if you take nothing else out of this take a look at your dog's weight and take a look at your dog's food. They'll thank you for it. And then feel free to smack me as well if you see me eating a doughnut.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Emotional stages when your dog misbehaves

It happened to me just the other day. I looked out my bedroom window and saw my pup Jersey and foster dog Tux digging a hole in my newly sodded backyard. I was furious. So much so that I immediately put them both in time out where they stayed for about an hour. I stared at this hole in my yard.

A few months before: I had my four girls in the front yard to go potty and have playtime. No leashes. The neighborhood dogs came towards us and off went Jersey chasing after them. I did her special recall command and everything, yet further she ran. I followed her in my pj's furious the whole time. Once I caught her it was angry mommy all the way home ( my pj's.)

So here's my stages of emotion:

1. Anger! Boy was I furious "how dare they dig a hole in the yard I spent so much money on?!! They have this whole yard to run and play yet they dug a hole!" "How dare Jersey not come when I call!! She knows this command!"

2. Fear and relief (only in some cases). Once I settled from the chasing Jersey incident I felt fear and sadness. She was so close to the main road, what if she had gotten hit. How scary. I would be devastated if anything happened to her.

Now if you're a good dog parent, especially if you're a dog trainer, hopefully you will end with the following emotion:

3. Acceptance and guilt. Once all the anger settles, the nerves calm down, after all is said and done and you can look at what happened, I mean really look at what happened. You realize it was all your fault. You accept it, feel guilt and do better next time.

Wondering how it was my fault? Let me explain using the above two examples.

-Hole in yard. I put a foster dog into my backyard in the morning. The very reason he was with me was because he is an insanely high energy dog and is driving everyone nuts at Pawtropolis. I then put my 8-month old puppy out there with him. So what did they do? They did what dogs do. It is natural for them to explore and play in nature. Smell a strange scent? Let's dig to investigate. If I didn't want them to dig the hole I should have taken them for a long controlled walk before just throwing them into the yard. But I didn't. So it was my fault. They didn't do anything wrong. They were dogs. Now, yes, I should have disciplined them and used it as a training opportunity to teach them not to dig, but I shouldn't have gotten as angry as I did.

-Jersey not coming. Yes, I had trained Jersey with her recall command. I trained her everyday. I trained her at Pawtropolis and I trained her at home. But I had never trained her not once to come to her recall command when the neighborhood dogs were inticing her to play. My fault. My solution, get a long training line, hook it to her and wait till the dogs came around again. When they did, I called and when she didn't come I pulled her in with the rope. Did this a few times and now her recall command is stronger than ever.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Scary Windshield Wipers

Every good puppy owners knows just how important it is to expose your young puppy to as many things possible; umbrellas, different people, hats, car rides, vets, etc. But every once in a while something will sneak up on you that you forgot to introduce to your dog when they were young. In my case...the rear windshield wiper.

I turned it on the other day and Jersey had a bit of a fit. She was obviously nervous, moving as far away from it as she could. Her body language screamed fear. So much so that she even jumped into the back seat (a big no-no.) So I got out of the car (I was at a drive through) and put her back in the rear of the durango. But did I turn off the

I kept the wiper on. Why? Because me as the human knew that Jersey was in a safe situation. I knew that the scary wiper was not going to hurt her. I also knew that if I turned it off that this fear would only intensify as she got older. Yes she was afraid, but became less so as time went by.

Fast forward to next day. A nice sunny day as I drove. I turned on the wiper. It squeaked and she was scared. I'm sure people that I was crazy having my wiper turned on while the sun was out. Did it for about 4 minutes then stopped. This morning I did the same and guess fear.

This method of training is actually called flooding. It is when you purposefully expose the human or animal to their fear and make them face it. The idea being that if they are exposed long enough and see that nothing bad happens then they overcome it. Scared of spiders? Flooding would be sitting in a room full of spiders (or just holding a couple.) Now flooding is only one technique and is NOT appropriate in all situations. However, many times in normal daily activities, like scary wipers, it works great. She faced her fear and now does just fine with the wipers. I'll continue to turn them on for a few minutes each day over the next couple of weeks and she'll be just fine for life.

One mistake most owners do: Turn on wipers, dog is afraid, "Oh my gosh, poor baby, scared of the wipers. I'll turn them off." Then they make sure never to turn the rear wipers on again and make a big deal when telling people, "Mitzi is scared of the wipers, poor thing." And now you have a dog that will be scared for the rest of her life.

So the next time you notice something that your dog is afraid of (that you as the human know is safe) make a point to address it. You can try flooding (in severe situations ask a professional trainer first), you can try sitting calming and giving a treat when the dog shows calm appropriate behavior. You can do lots of things but definitely don't avoid the situation or reward the dog for fear behavior.

And if you're raising a puppy....don't forget the wipers.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quick update on experiment

My previous blog was about my experiment, and well, the results.....failed. The only thing the forbid accomplished was to give my dogs diarrhea. Just had to let you know since I just knew you would be on the edge of your seats.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Experiment. Will this work?

You know your dog has done it at least once. Come on admit it. If you haven't seen it done then you know it's probably happened when you weren't around to see it. Eating poop. This is absolutely one the most disgusting things ever! For some reason I find myself in a household with four dogs who keep doing it, ugh!!

I could use this post to tell you all of the scientific reasons that dogs do this. I could use this post to tell you all of the diet changes or behavioral modifications that you can use to stop it, but I'm not going to. I'll let you do a simple google search online for it (actually called "coprophagia") and you'll find all of that. What I'm going to do is let you in on my struggle. I've done all of those things and more and if I see one more of my dogs eat poop I'm going to get sick.

I did it. I went for it. I ordered a product online called For-bid. Heard of it before but never used it. It is suppose to make the poop taste bad (wouldn't you think it did already?) and the dogs won't eat it. It got delivered today. After using it for about 5-6 days it is suppose to curb the behavior for about 5-6 months. So now, let the experiment begin.....

Side Note: This is suppose to only help if you have a controlled environment of which dogs are around. Meaning this will not keep your dog from eating other's dogs' poop at the park or your neighbor, it is only suppose to deter from the dog that is actually taking the supplement. Since my girls eat each others it should work.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Visit to Retirement Home

Occasionally we like to visit schools and retirement homes. We've been invited to come out once a month to Talmadge Terrace Retirement Center. Beau (a certified therapy dog), Jersey and Heidi made the trip this week. As you can see from the pics they all three love it. Heidi is great because she fits perfectly in the residents' laps which they love. She can get antsy when I walk too far away, but she soon settles down and enjoys the lovin. Beau is a big ham. He especially likes it when one person is petting his head and another his back. The residents love seeing such a big friendly dog and love hearing the story of him surviving cancer. Jersey, being just a pup, still does amazing. However, she gets tired quickly and every trip after about 30 minutes passes out on the floor. She has learned to "front feet" which means to put her front feet on something on someone. This gets her closer for the petting.

If you are interested in your pet being able to do this, you first step is basic obedience. Your dog has to be able to be under your control at all times. Also, you need to socialize him/her to as many different environments and things (crutches, wheelchairs, etc.) as possible. The more places you can take your dog the better. This makes going new places commonplace and they can be calm and still even if they've never been there.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jersey and the lake

I've always thought it would be fun to have a water dog, so I've made sure to get Jersey around water as much as I can. Poodles are water retrievers so I figured it would be no problem as long as she was introduced young. As an interesting tidbit, poodles fancy haircuts actually came about because of them retrieving in cold water. They left the hair in places that would protect their joints and vital organs. (And you thought the cuts were just silly.) Anyway, true to her breed Jersey loves the water. Right now I call her a "messy swimmer." She stretches her long legs so that her back feet can still touch and thrashes with front legs. I don't throw too far. She gets better each trip. We've been going out to Fort Yargo Park. If anyone is ever interested in joining us just let me know.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meet My Gang

Welcome to my blog. Since my main discussions about dogs will be about my gang I thought I'd take a second to introduce you to my girls. (In order of when they joined our family.)
Bailey (far left)
We joke that Bailey is a hienna mix because we are always asked and she is probably a good mix of lots of breeds. She was rescued by Spalding Humane Society as a pup. We've had her 9 years now. Bailey is co-owned by me and best friend John. Officially his, but listens to me:) She recently had ACL surgery and is learning to use her leg again.
Kenzie (3rd from left)
Kenzie is a purebred dalmatian. She was rescued on her "death-day" from Athens Animal Control. A week later I decided to keep her. She's my baby. She is also the most titled of my dogs. Agility, obedience...all no problem. Loves to play fetch with tennis ball. She is 7 years old.
Heidi (far right)
Heidi will be two in September (we guess). She was rescued along with 300 other dogs from the Jackson puppy mill in 08. I never thought I'd own a small dog or chihuahua, but she stole my heart. It is so different having a small dog!
Jersey (2nd from left)
I've always wanted a standard poodle but would never buy from a breeder. We had a rare opportunity to place 9 standards. I kept Jersey. She's the new up and coming smarty pants, full of puppy antics. She is 6-months old.
In this picture they were practicing stay on the driveway. Training, yes, but really a fun game. They love the release and run to mommy for love!