Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Teaser...

Tugging With Whales

Here's a teaser of my experience last week (like the photos on my facebook weren't enough!). I am seriously working on a blog post, I know I know...I just didn't realize how much I would have to catch up on when I got back! Things are in the works and I will be back up to full speed soon!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hives - It Does a Body Itchy

Poor Bourbon! I woke up to feed the puppers and found Bourbon all broke out in hives. Of course it didn't phase him one bit, the wild man. He didn't even notice the gigantic welts all over his body, since he was too busy jumping up and down for breakfast. Sadly, his face had started to swell so bad he couldn't even drink water so he certainly didn't get any breakfast. Usually, with hives you can administer some antihistamines and they'll usually resolve within 24 hours as long as you are not continuously exposing your dog to the allergy causing them. But of course I have not normal dogs and since Bourbon couldn't drink, I wasn't going to risk increased swelling affecting his ability to breathe so off to the ISU emergency clinic we went.

Bourbon's front legs this morning. Hives are totally weird.
They gave him a steroid shot and also a shot of antihistamine. After about 30 minutes the swelling in face started to recede. It took a bit longer for his legs, but by this afternoon he was almost as good as normal :). His cheeks are still a bit puffy so he is still getting some Benadryl dosages but we are certainly on the right track.

Unfortunately, we don't know quite what triggered the allergic reaction. The only thing that he was exposed to that was out of the ordinary was Rookie :). Rookie went in for a lime-sulfur dip yesterday and of course that leaves residue all over him since you can't wash it off. So it was either exposure to that or it was a critter bite. So now I am tasked with cleaning the couch since I'm pretty sure Rookie snuck up on it last night and that is where Bourbon rubbed up against the sulfur residue since that is his bed for bedtime. Oh the dogs love to keep things interesting! :)

Here is a horrible picture but you can kind of see
how swollen his face was.

This was certainly just what I needed after returning from 'vacation'!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Going to Shedd Aquarium

This weekend I leave for a week long training program at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois. I'm pretty stoked about this opportunity!! :)

Ken Ramirez at Shedd Aquarium. Photo credit Shedd Aquarium.

They haven't sent us much specific information but we will be at the Aquarium all day Monday - Friday working with Ken Ramirez, senior VP of animal collections and training. And we get a copy of his book, Animal Training (which has been on my list to acquire for quite some time!!).

The blurb about the seminar from the Shedd website states:
Learn industry-leading animal training techniques, with unique access to Shedd's diverse animal collection. These training methods can be adapted to any species, from marine mammals and a host of terrestrial exotic animals to pet dogs and cats.
Key topics include animal intelligence, human emotion and anthropomorphism, basic operant conditioning, informal interactions, husbandry training, social groups, advanced training techniques, aggression, advanced training games, problem-solving techniques, and complex training.
Sounds pretty sweet doesn't it? Have I mentioned that I am super excited yet?!? :) I am sure I will have plenty of topics and information for many future blog posts! But this also means that I will be on hiatus next week.

I hope we get to work with these cute little critters. Photo credit Shedd Aquarium.

Don't forget to check back the last week of August for a recap of the trip!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vito's On Vacation

Last night I dropped Vito off at my parent's house for a week and a half long vacation. That lucky boy :). He gets to be the only dog, play with his toys 24/7, and get totally spoiled with undivided attention. He is going to be a holy terror when he gets back!

He was obviously sad to see me go...NOT!

He is much more concerned about his toys and getting to play then saying goodbye to mom :).

I think he was happy to see me go :) LOL

Sadly the rest of the crew gets to stay at home with Nicholas and the dogsitters. At least they don't know what they are missing so they can't be angry :).

This is how I left Vito...

Check back tomorrow to find out where I am going! It's all pretty exciting business :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: CGC Test Item 8

The eighth in my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series going through each of the CGC exercises and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC Evaluation. Test Item 7 was covered previously.

Test Item 8: Reaction to Another Dog

This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 15 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on. The dogs should show no more than a casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.


So Your Goal: To have your dog stay next to you while you briefly talk to a stranger with a strange dog.

Training Tips

This part of the CGC has been the hardest for my dogs, especially Bourbon. He had to take the test more than 4 times because he couldn't handle walking head on towards an unfamiliar dog. We finally managed to pass, but it sure wasn't pretty. So don't worry, I already fell your pain :).

This exercise is intended to simulate a neighborly greeting and the dogs are expected to wait patiently without barking, jumping, or showing signs of fear or aggression. When you stop to 'chat' with the other handler, your dog does NOT need to sit next to you. Your dog can remain standing, it just needs to refrain from greeting the other handler or dog.

This test is best practiced in a place where dogs are generally present on-leash with their owners (think parks, pet stores, etc.). This is one exercise you will want to practice, practice, PRACTICE :). Repetitive experiences will eventually get your dog to understand what you expect. This is also easier to practice if you have a group of people also working with their dogs, giving you ready access to multiple handler/dog teams. You'll find that many trainers offer courses that help with practice and training to get ready for the CGC. But keep in mind that your may become accustomed to the other teams in your practice class, so you'll still need to throw in the random meeting with novel people and their dogs. So go out and get friendly with your neighbors :).

Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 9, Reaction to Distractions.

Don't forget to check out the other CGC test items we've covered:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gray Wolf Hunting

Our recent visit to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center has brought the plight of the wolf to the forefront of my world. Wolves possess that elusive 'free and wild' quality that us Humans have always longed to possess. And if we can't possess it, we want to control it (look at all the exotic pets in households across the country). And hey if we can't control it, we fear it and kill it. And hence we've circled around to the wolf.

Wolves and humans have a long adversarial history. And although they almost never attack humans, wolves are considered one of the world's most fearsome natural villains. Hell it's a bedtime fable - Little Red Riding Hood - that we were all told when we were young.

Gray wolves are by far the most common and were once found all over the Northern Hemisphere. Now they live only in isolated pockets and have been hunted to near extinction. Their numbers have slightly rebounded in the lower 48 states due to conservation and reintroduction efforts. In Alaska, the Gray wolf population is much healthier and the Alaska Board of Game has even authorized reductions in the state's wolf population. However, their reductions efforts leave much to be desired. They are quite controversial (remember Senator Palin??), their methods include shooting wolves from low-flying aircrafts or chasing them from the air until the wolves are exhausted and may be more easily shot from the ground. Talk about cheating! :(

Source: Wikipedia Commons

But wolf hunting hits even closer to home. Gray wolves were removed from the Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List in 2012, ending a four decade ban on hunting and trapping. And for the last two years the once protected Gray wolf is now subject to hunts in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and wolf season is fast approaching. In Wisconsin wolf season runs from October 15 through February and in Minnesota wolf season runs from November 9 through January. And guess what else? Another state has jumped on board - new this season, hunters in Michigan will be allowed to harvest up to 43 wolves in seven counties. Ugh, this just makes me sick. People don't eat wolves, they only kill them for sport. Gee, and who are we to call any other species bloodthirsty? At least wolves only hunt for food, they don't kill for fun or sport.

The Department of Natural Resources assumed management of the wolf in these respective states and allows what they call a conservative and regulated harvest. Harvest is apparently the politically correct term for hunt. Gotta love politics. So Wisconsin's wolf harvest quota for 2013 is 275 (an increase over the 2012 quota of 201). Last I have seen Minnesota planned to release its harvest quota at the end of July but I have not yet been able to find it. What I find perplexing is that even though population numbers are down (in Minnesota) by 25 percent in the last 5 years, they are still planning a harvest. Gee, don't let the fact that we are pushing them even closer to extinction spoil your fun. Wisconsin is at least planning to release a new management plan by 2014 as there has been a lot of pressure from tribal leaders against the wolf harvests. In fact in Wisconsin, you aren't allowed to hunt wolves on any of the reservations' lands.

According to tribal history, the fate of the Ojibwe and the fate of the wolf are intertwined.
Ma'iingan means a brother and is a symbol of perseverance, of leadership, and of family dynamics.

Almost any discussion of the fates of wolves is accompanied by a critique of elk or livestock. If we could move past that age-old debate, how than do you get people to realize the wolf is a top predator that plays an important role of nature? The science shows the benefit wolves bring to ecosystems they inhabit and also shows us that the disappearance of apex predators around the world is causing ecosystems to collapse. But people replace science with emotion and refuse to accept any reasoning. Livestock owners can't get past the fear that wolves will destroy their livelihood. Hunters complain that wolves kill all the elk and deer and leave nothing for them. You'll hear the common phrase: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut-up, while they hand out free ammunition to anyone willing to do it too. *shudder*

Wherever there are wolves, there are people who propose killing programs and where kill programs are at least temporarily stopped by the endangered species act, there are always poachers who make up their own laws. The wolves never win, adversity is stacked against them at every turn.

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. ~Barbara Bloom

Let's not let the wolf become so damaged we can't piece them back together into something treasured and beautiful.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Confessions of a Dog Trainer - 5

Ok, well this is more of a Confessions of a Dog Rescuer than from a dog trainer. I love dogs, most dogs, but there are a few breeds near and dear to my heart. Obviously Dobermans :), but also Pit Bulls. Yep, I love the little controversial critters. But I tend to hate the people that advocate for them. Maybe that's too blanket of a statement, because there are a lot of people that do good for them, but unfortunately there are just as many people that think they are doing but are just adding fuel to the fire. So begins my rant, er confession :). I'll try to stick to just confessing :).

<deep breath>

Most Pit Bull advocates make me crazy. I must confess, behind my smile, I am scream obscenities at them in my head. I try to remain nice but I'd rather just duct-tape their mouth shut :). How else can you get them to stop? Sometimes I love the visuals I see in my head <insert evil laugh here>.

I know that haters are everywhere and they spew forth venom about Pit Bulls at every chance they get. It must be exhausting to hate something that much. People that have no facts or experience are always eager to express their opinions...but remember they are OPINIONS. I mean seriously have you ever read the comments on ANY news report that mentioned Pit Bulls? Even the positive stories? It doesn't matter what the story is about, if it is in some way connected to Pit Bulls, the haters come out EVERY SINGLE TIME. Yes, I know it is frustrating and you feel like your slamming your head against a brick wall of ignorance. But then what do the advocates do? They spew venom right back. Sad but true. How does responding to hate with more hate help anyone? It just makes everyone look like crazy haters.

Source:; found on

And then there are the sob story abuse photos that are always plastered all over Facebook. Have you ever looked at the comments on most of those? Yes, people feel sorry for the dogs but to threaten the people who are responsible with worse torture...well that might be fair and just but it's still hate people. Sure I admit I have those thoughts to, but it's about the DOG now and what that dog will have to go through to live a somewhat normal life, forget about the people that did it. You can't change it; you can't punish them the way you see fit, so why does it need to be shared? Keep it in your private fantasies. Sharing it just makes you look violent and crazy. Then people start to wonder if you like Pit Bulls because you are crazy and violent and well we just don't need to go in that direction.

We are already fighting a war for the sake of our dogs, we don't need another one for the owners or advocates of said dogs. I don't have a problem defending the dogs, they deserve it. They NEED it. But sorry people, you know better. YOU. KNOW. BETTER. I shouldn't have to defend my sanity because I choose to defend Pit Bulls. It detracts from the importance of the cause. It's critical that our message is clear and sane :), there are lives at stake. Let me repeat that because it's ubber important - THERE ARE LIVES AT STAKE.

I used to be that crazy person a long time ago. And well maybe not seriously crazy, but I would make those comments. Those threats to abusers. But then I thought about what purpose did it serve? Sure it made me feel better for an instant but it didn't solve anything. But how did it make me look? Sure advocacy and rescue is an emotional business and it's hard not to get caught up in it. You want more justice for the innocent souls suffering but there is a better way to do it.

You don't need to shout hateful rhetoric to be heard. You don't have to threaten someone to change their mind. In fact, it's completely the opposite. Imagine that :).

Be polite. Be respectful. Be informative. You can be positive, I promise. In fact we need more positive in our world where we are so quick to hate. Have your voice heard. Defend your dogs, that's your job! But don't let the message get drowned in a whirlpool of hate. Our dogs DESERVE better than that, be the person they need.

Source: Advocates for Pitbull Awareness

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: GCG Test Item 7

The seventh in my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series going through each of the CGC exercises and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC Evaluation. Test Item 6 was covered previously.

Test Item 7: Coming When Called

This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10-feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell their dogs to 'stay' or 'wait' or they may have the evaluator hold/distract their dogs while they walk away. Dogs do not have to demonstrate stay for this exercise. 

Here is Baron demonstrating what will be required at the test.

So Your Goal: To get your dog to come when called with mild distractions present.

Training Tips

A recall is one of the most important skills your dog can learn. Seriously, it could save his life. So let's get started :). Teaching your dog to come in obedience class is not terribly difficult - there are minimal distractions. Most dogs will eagerly run toward their owner when given encouragement and treats. The CGC test is the same, there are minimal distractions present, basically just the other dogs taking the test and your dog will not be recalling towards them. Make sure when you call your dog that you use every ounce of enthusiasm that you can muster. Coming to you should be the best experience ever :).

As your dog understands the recall, you'll want to start practicing this in different situations. You can do it outside (just make sure it's in a fenced in area or you have your dog on a long line), or in a different training facility. Don't forget to pay heavily (treats) when your dog reaches you. Treats will keep your dog coming back for more and that's the attitude you'll want for real life situations.

Throughout life, this is a skill you'll need to practice pretty much forever. I recommend making up fun recall games to keep it entertaining and exciting for your dog and make sure you understand what your dog's motivators are, as well as the distractions that are likely to be difficult for him. Those are the areas you'll have to put the most training effort into. Remember to practice frequently :).

Also NEVER, EVER, EVER scold your dog when he doesn't come to you or call your dog to you in order to do something they do not like (for example, doing toenails, getting a bath, going to the vet, etc.). That will completely defeat your purpose.

Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 8, Reaction to Another Dog.

Don't forget to check out the other CGC test items we've covered:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Iowa Hundesport

This weekend I made time to go check out Iowa Hundesport's Mid Central Schutzhund Trial. I wasn't able to get there at the very start so I missed the tracking and most of the obedience, but I did get to see the BH test and the protection phase. Which is, of course, the most exciting! :)

That's a funny word ... Schutzhund

Schutzhund is a German word meaning 'protection dog.' However, there is much more than just protection in the sport of Schutzhund. There are three phases - tracking, obedience, and pretection. The requirements for the tracking and obedience parts are similar to the AKC's sports, while the requirements for the protection part are similar to those for dogs in police work. All three phases are equally important, so no you can't just do protection work :).

There are three levels of Schutzhund titles - Schutzhund 1, 2, and 3. But before being allowed to enter for a Schutzhund 1 title, the dog must first have successfully completed the BH. The BH is a degree for traffic-safe companion dogs that tests the dog's temperament around people. It is a lot like the AKC's CGC - including a basic formal obedience (heeling on and off leash, sits, downs, and recalls) - however the exercises are higher in difficulty.

While dogs of other breeds are admitted to Schutzhund trials, this sport was originally developed specifically for the German Shepherd Dog (GSD).  The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the GSD breed. This weekend it was mostly GSDs, but I did get to watch a couple of Dobermans and a Belgian Malinois.

A doberman testing for Schutzhund 1 runs off the field with his 'prize' - the bite sleeve.

I took tons of pictures while I was there and it was hard to weed through them for the best ones. So sorry, but here are quite a few :) to enjoy:

A Belgian Malinois sitting, ready for the 'suspect' to try to run away.

He didn't run fast enough :)

Holding the 'suspect' for the handler.

A handler sending her dog out to check the blinds.

The GSD is ready for the 'suspect' to run.

And the chase is on :).


Sometimes these dogs pack quite the punch! I sure wouldn't want to be on the receiving end!!

A GSD on the run checking blinds. That one was empty!

Found you!

The dog grips the helper while the owner and judge look on.

'I dare you to move.'

The dog heeling out with the owner for the long bite.
The dog performing a bark and hold with 'suspect' in the blind.

The take down :).

We heard this grip from the audience section. 
It was a great day and the dogs are ready to do it again!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Jasmine's Moving on Up

Today Jasmine will be going to a new foster home. I'm excited for her as I think it will be yet another direction towards what she needs. The new foster home has fewer dogs (only 2!) and should hopefully be able to spend more time with her. Plus they are closer to Illinois so it will be easier for any approved adopter to get to meet her, sometimes it sucks being all the way out in the middle of Iowa when the main rescue branch is in the middle of Illinois :). Oh well, I've always managed well! Sometime I'll have to blog about the parade of dogs that have gone through my house on their way to their forever homes :).

Jasmine's beautiful smile :)
Photo credit: Amy Turner

You Too Can Have Quirks Like Mine

Jasmine has many silly quirks that just compliment her sweet personality:
  • She spins when she is excited (i.e. feeding times!)
  • She levitates/jumps (all four feet off the ground) next to you when it's time to go outside
  • She LOVES old, empty marrow bones and will carry one in her mouth EVERYWHERE (even outside to potty!)
  • She has a colic down the backside of her neck that is so large it almost looks like philoerection
  • She doesn't know how to play fetch...yet :)
  • She's scared of other dogs (hopefully we can make that better!)

Jasmine loves to run!
Photo credit: Amy Turner

Jasmine will make somebody a great companion. She will just need some time to come to grips with the world since she's seeing a lot of things for the first time! She has good days and bad days but every day gets better and better for her. Don't forget to check her out on the Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus website and while you're at it, you should like the rescue's face book page (nothing like a shameless plug for my favorite rescue!).

Such a sweet soul.
Photo credit: Amy Turner

Don't cry over the past, it's gone. Don't stress about the future, it hasn't arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful. Jasmine, you are beautiful :).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rookie Update!

Poor Rookie has been battling demodex since April. The poor dude just can't catch a break. We started out trying to treat it conservatively with herbs and lime-sulfur dips, but that only took the edge off and didn't help the main problem. Then towards the end of May we started him on an alternative route with Bovine Thymus Extract injections. We actually did see a marginal improvement with the injections but it still wasn't enough.

Yes he is still itchy, but that doesn't stop him from
stopping and smelling the dying hostas :)

Sadly, we have turned to Ivermectin. I was trying to do everything I could to stay away from harmful chemicals but in the end it's about his comfort. At the end of June we started the dosages; he did a week at 0.6 ml daily and then moved up to 1.3 ml daily. He will stay at that large dose for 90 days - we are 30 days into it.

Since he has started on Ivermectin, I've also added Milk Thistle to his diet. It's supposed to help protect the liver and long term use of Ivermectin can be harmful to the liver. I've also added in an immune modulator - DMG (N,N-Dimethylglycine). DMG is a metabolic enhancer that improves oxygen utilization, detoxification, cell protection, and immune system modulation. Hopefully, it does its job for Rookie and helps boost his failing immune system! We are also still doing all the same supplements we had before, so he gets quite the arsenal of 'pills' and 'powders' every feeding :).

Wait, you mean those extra things in my food aren't treats?!?
It has also been suggested to add in AFA Algae (blue-green algae) but I have not yet gone that route. I would like to see if what we currently have him on helps or not.

Right now he is losing most of his beautiful hair and he is still quite itchy. However, his staph infection has greatly receded and the pustules are all gone. His feet still have some edema but it has disappeared from his neck and face. I think his poor feet will always be a bit swollen :(. They don't know how to be anything else!

He still looks pretty good bald :).
We still have an uphill battle but we are at least making headway. I was hoping to stay away from the chemicals because that only treats the mites and doesn't do anything for the underlying problem (his immune system) that is causing the mites. And in fact it can be counterproductive because it actually lets the immune system not work as hard since it does some of its job. But he obviously needed some help. Unfortunately, demodex can be life-threatening so I can't just sit by and see if his immune system sometime eventually decides to work. Rookie has been handling it well though, he still wants to play and run around which lets me know he is still feeling frisky :). He also NEVER misses a meal, that boy loves his food!

Are you talking about feeding me??

Keep thinking good thoughts for Mr. Stinkyface! I think we are almost to the homestretch!!