Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Shameful Vito

So the craze of dog shaming has been making the rounds on the internet and Vito thought now would be a good time to come out of the closet. He has a confession to make...

He is rather embarrassed about this but certainly glad he got it off his chest.  See he's been doing this since he was a wee little one. I thought neutering would help, but negative houston. It was still all systems go for him whenever he was faced with a soft blanket, pillow, or large stuffed animal. So now its management, if he's left alone in the vicinity of my pillows - my pillows get picked up and put where he can't reach them.  Simple enough...until the day comes when you don't remember! Insert evidence here :).

Luckily, (if you can call it luck) he prefers my memory foam pillow. At least, it doesn't totally ruin the pillow. I can just throw away the pieces and put a new pillow case back over my pillow. Viola! Almost as good as new, just a bit dented in the corner :).

The Right Humping at the Right Time

There is no right time for humping the pillows, duh Vito. So besides management (when we remember) we also use redirection with him. Getting him to do something that is incompatible with humping - which is basically everything :). If he looks like he is getting 'excited' about something, then I'll ask him for his attention and start engaging him in something else. Soon enough the urge is gone. No humping for you!!

What are some 'shameful' quirks your dogs have?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Being Part of the Furniture

One of the rules you have to abide by when you are owned by dogs is to be available whenever they would like to sit or lie down. You are now a part of their furniture to be used at their convenience. There will be no sitting by yourself on the couch or chair to watch TV or read. No more sleeping undisturbed in a comfortable position. You must accomodate their need to touch you at every turn. This is stated clearly in their rule book (a copy of which I have yet to procure).

Furniture Is Our Middle Name

This is what I must endure:

I was trying to read...
I was trying to watch TV, but then Monday was so damn cute, I had to kiss her :).
Notice how I'm practically falling off the couch!
 And when I'm not around, they target Nicholas. Poor Nicholas had no idea what he was signing up for when he asked me to marry him :). I tried to tell him, but... well..., there's really no way to explain it until you live it.
Watching TV
Trying to sleep. Vito targets him the most :)

Sharing The Furniture Of Your Life

Think this only happens if you live here? Think again. All our guests are subjected to the horrors of sharing space with the furkids. Obviously, they own all the 'real' furniture in the house and having someone else sitting on it without them is a big no-no. They like to spread the love, mom and dad can't have it all!

Sara gets smooshed by Bart (a previous IDR foster).
Majestic sits on Kathryn's lap out in the yard (she obviously didn't want to get her white butt dirty!!).
 Sometimes when there are no humans available to provide extra padding and warmth, the dogs will use each other. Very rarely, but it does happen. I have only managed to witness it a few times over the years because it's a closely guarded secret that the dogs do actually like each other. They would like us to believe they put up with each other only because we make them co-exist together. So SHHH! no sharing that little tidbit. My evidence:

It's a Monday sandwich! Back when Bourbon and Baron tolerated each other.
Bart using Monday as a pillow.

Making The Topps A Great Place To Sit

Obviously, the dogs are completely uncomfortable in my house. I should really get to work on that or I'll start hearing complaints about animal cruelty ;). You don't have enough couch space for 5 dogs and their human?!? Those beds aren't automatically warmed beforehand?!? Not enough lap space for all us?!? Blasphemy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Intro to K9 Nosework

And now for a blog post related to training in honor of the month of January! :)

For the past year or so I have been working with Bourbon in the sport of K9 Nosework. K9 Nosework emerged a few years ago and has been growing steadily since inception. It follows the same premise and training ideas incorporated in detection training for drugs and bombs, except it brings it to the companion dog level. Dogs of all ages, sizes, personalities, and difficult quirks (aka Bourbon's dog aggression/reactivity, LOL) can compete. And because only one dog works at a time it is the perfect sport for reactive or shy dogs.

Getting Started

Very little is needed to get started in nosework. The handler needs at least 5 cardboard boxes and the dog's favorite toy or treats. Whether you are using food or toys is not relevant, only that your dog is motivated to hunt for it. So it must be something that your dog really, really loves. Not likes, but LOVES! The goal in the beginning is to help the dog build their desire to hunt and scent independently.

Start with 5 or 6 boxes and then with time and experience the
number and difficulty can be increased.
You'll want to keep one box seperate (and mark it so you remember!) to use as the food/toy box. At this point, you want to limit cross-contaminating the other boxes because you want to keep it as clear cut as possible for your dog so they experience consistent success. The boxes are used to help the dog learn the game and it can become a cue in the beginning that the game is on.

When starting, working with a training partner is helpful, but not mandatory. If you're working by yourself make sure you can restrain your dogs so you can entice them and hid the reward without them following you from box to box. So with your dog restrained, start pretending to hide their reward and mix it up so the dog doesn't see which box has the hide (you still use the same box, just move it around). It's like playing a shell game - although their probability of guessing right is much higher than ours! As soon as your dog shows ANY level of interest in the box with the reward, praise them enthusiastically and give them more treats or play tug with their toy right at the box. REWARD AT THE BOX!

Make sure to keep your sessions short and fun. Usually a dog gets three or four 'hides' each turn, and about four turns per training session. The goal is to make the hide easy at first, building the dog's confidence and enjoyment of the hunt. Also, limit using any obedience commands when building the search desire in your dog. It's important that the dog learns he is in control of this game and you need him more than he needs you. The dog's focus should be to obey his nose, not his handler.

Bourbon in Action

Here are a few videos of Bourbon doing some basic level searches in our living room. You'll have to excuse the camera technique as it's hard to stay with your dog and reward your dog while filming, LOL. But you should be able to get the idea and put an image to descriptions above.

Bourbon doing a basic search

The second Bourbon search

The third Bourbon search with slight elevation

The Handler's Goal

As you'll see in the videos, the handler does very little other than follow the dog. In fact, the less the handler does for the dog, the better. Easy for us, eh? Actually, it's really hard for us to let go of the need to help our dogs. So what the handler needs to focus on (so that they aren't tempted to help the dogs) are observational skills. Make sure you know when your dog has caught the scent and how to tell if they are 'in odor'. K9 Nosework is all about the search, the hunt, the find. For fun or competition, K9 Nosework is a terrific sport for both people and dogs (this is the one sport where the dogs knows more than the person at the end of the leash!).

Some Resources

The National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW)
The Parker Videos
The Canine Kingdom of Scent (I have actually ordered this book but haven't read it yet! It might inspire some future blog posts!)
True Dog Blog entry on Nosework (written by my friend Amy)

Happy Sniffing!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bean Bag Love

The dogs have decided they like the new version of a dog bed allocated to the kitchen...

Monday is usually in possession of the best spot...she is after all the queen bee :)

The boys are allowed to jostle for it if Monday decides she is doing something else...

Baron was embarrassed to be caught in it......but now I have photo-evidence!

Rookie thought I was going to kick him out of it...I love his expression. 'Who? Me?'

Poor Vito tends to get the short-end of the stick. He prefers to use the bean bag when no one else is in the room. While he's waiting for the perfect opportunity he sulks on the stairs...

Just waiting patiently.

Since the bean bag is in the kitchen, Bourbon doesn't get a chance very often to rest in it. He doesn't like the kitchen (the floor is too slippery for him) and he has to be seperated from Baron so he prefers the couch...

He's wondering why I am disturbing his beauty rest.

Bourbon probably gets the best deal :).

A bean bag is a perfect place to sulk. You can sink way down deep, and sulk for hours...You only have to stick your head up once in a while...to see if anybody cares. ~ Charles M. Schulz

Friday, January 11, 2013

Training Equipment

January is Train Your Dog month!

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is hosting the third annual National Train Your Dog Month and has prepared an impressive lineup of articles, tips, webinars, Facebook discussions, and videos about training. Check out the website HERE and don't forget to check out their calendar of events HERE.

I love training dogs, that probably goes without saying to most people that know me :). It would be hard to live with the 5 dogs at my house, take in the fosters that I take in (usually the young, male dober-teens in need of manners), and spend most of my 'free' time teaching classes and volunteering at the shelter if I didn't like working with dogs!

Over the years I have found dog training to be somewhat vague in the general dog owner's life. Most people want a dog that will sit, lie down, stay, come when called, and walk without pulling but then turn around and think that dog obedience classes are just for those show-crazy people that compete. Or they go to classes and don't practice and then turn around and wonder why their dog didn't learn. So randomly this month I'll be sharing a few tidbits of training in honor of National Train Your Dog Month. If there is a particular topic you'd like to see, leave a comment and let me know!

The first part of training, before you even get to the training part, is to decide what your goals are and what training collar you are going to use, if any, to accomplish those. Please understand that there is no training collar that is right for every dog. They just don't come with universal guarantees. Also, ALL training equipment needs to be used carefully.

Quit Yanking my Chain - Aversive Collars

The choke chain and pinch collar are traditional correction collars or aversive collars. These collars rely on physical discomfort or even pain to teach the dog what not to do. But while they suppress the unwanted behavior, they don't teach your dog what the desired behavior actually is. At best, they are unpleasant for your dog, and at worst, they could actually hurt your dog and increase aggressive behavior. I advocate for positive training and believe that should always be your first choice, but when I first learned about dog training (roughly 20 years ago!!) these were the tools presented to me. Obviously, I have since furthered my learning :).

Choke chains are made of metal
links and are designed to control
your dog by tightening around
their neck
A choke chain works like a noose, tightening around their neck, and all the pressure from the correction is delivered at one spot on the dog's neck. The idea is to snap the leash swiftly so that the strangling effect is quickly applied and then released. However, there is no way to control how much the choke chain tightens. Ugh, I can't even imagine that thing around my neck! The choke chain can cause injuries to the esophagus, trachea, and other internal damage to the neck. And yes, in severe cases of misuse it can even cause death.

The pinch collar is relatively new to the public but has been around just as long as the choke chain. When people first see it, they think it is some kind of medieval torture device with spikes. Obviously, it's not that but it is still a 'correction' collar. Proponents of this collar say it delivers a more comfortable correction the pressure from the leash pop is distributed all the way around the dog's neck instead of just to one point. They also say it's the closest correction a dog can receive from a human to the natural correction they may experience in nature from another dog. The pinch collar is designed like a martingale collar (discussed below) so it can't actually choke or strangle your dog (unlike the choke chain).
The loop that fits around your dog's neck is made
of a series of prong-shaped metal links with blunted
points. The prongs pinch the loose skin of your
dog's neck when a correction is applied.

When I first got Bourbon I put him in a pinch collar, based on advice I was given at the time, to curb his pulling (remember this was 7 years ago!). He was a six month old Doberman with EXCESSIVE prey drive and had already injured my shoulder trying to go after a rabbit. Unfortunately, at that time he was also reactive to other dogs (after getting attacked by a poodley-looking dog) and being on the pinch collar increased his reactivity rather dramatically and brought out some dog-aggressive behaviors while he was on leash. Needless to say I am STILL managing his leash reactivity because of my poor choice. Bad mom! But hey we live and we learn and making mistakes are all a part of that!

Purely Positive - The 'Humane' Options

At the other end of the spectrum we have the no-pull harnesses, head collars, martingales, and buckle collars. A lot of trainers recommend head halters (such as the Gentle Leader, Halti, or Snootloop), however I am not a big fan of this option. And in all honesty, I would use a pinch collar before a head halter.

One strap fits around your dog's neck
and sits high on the head, just behind the ears.
The other strap forms a loop around your
dog's muzzle and the leash attaches to a ring
at the bottom of the muzzle loop.
 The head halters are designed to help you control your dog by guiding his head, just like in regards to horses (although the way we pull on them is quite different from how they are used on horses). An animal tends to go where its head goes and so the halter gives you control of the head. Some dogs are fine with head halters while others will fight them or seem to shut down (it can have a suppressive quality).

On a physical basis, the area under the eyes (that the muzzle strap sits on) is a sensitive area with many nerves and thin skin, so that has to be uncomfortable for them. Plus, the unexpected sideways and upward movement of the head while their bodies are still moving forward has GREAT potential for soft tissue damage and damage to the spine. Dobermans are already a breed known for spinal problems, so I really, really wouldn't go there with my crew. A great article to read before using a head halter is found HERE by Suzanne Clothier.

I have found that I really like the no-pull body harnesses if I have a strong dog that is a hard puller. There are quite a few options out there but I like the Freedom Harness and the Easy Walk Harness. I have used both of these wtih my Dobermans and it has greatly helped with pulling while not adding to Bourbon's reactivity.
These harnesses have a front hook leash
attachment, so when your dog pulls forward,
his body starts to turn towards you.

They obviously don't put any pressure on the dog's neck or head, which is a plus for me! You do have to be careful with the Easy Walk Harness and others of a similar model because the harness can loosen with time and the dog could slip out, so check the fit every time you use it.

Lastly, martingales and buckle collars are things every owner is familiar with. They are usually the 'home' collars that your dog wears every day and that has their ID tags. Martingale collars were originally designed for dogs with narrow heads (like Greyhounds) but they are useful for any dog that is adept at slipping out of their collar. We use these collars for the IDR+ dogs and also at the ARL to work with the shelter dogs.

Monday, Vito, and Rookie are all being trained in these collars (Monday and Rookie wear a martingale and Vito wears a flat buckle). I've evolved over the years to the philosophy of training with the end in mind. So if I want to be able to walk my dogs on just their collar, than that is what I train them in (unless it is unsafe for them or me).
The collar has a metal ring at end of it with a seperate
loop of material that the leash attaches to. This allows
the collar to only tighten to the size of your dog's neck
and won't choke them.

Training collars (like the choke, pinch, head halter, and no-pull harness) should be used as a temporary phase, not a life-long solution. The equipment is just a crutch to get through the snag you are having, but should not be a permanent solution. Obviously, some crutches are necessary but you should be working towards weaning off those. Building a relationship is what training is all about so that you don't have to lean on crutches in order to get your dog to do what you ask of them :).


Remember if there is a particular topic you'd like to see covered, leave a comment and let me know! Happy Training!! :)



In dog training, jerk is a noun, not a verb. ~ Dr. Dennis Fetko

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Better Ingredients, Better ELVIS

In celebration of today - Elvis's birthday - we made Elvis cookies last night! I only remember this date every year because one of my long-time friends is a huge Elvis fan :). And since you can't go wrong with peanut butter and bananas, I thought I'd give the dogs a taste of the gloriousness. Again, I got this recipe from the Doggie Dessert Chef, I'm not baking-ly inclined enough to come up with these things on my own!

Carob Elvis Cookies

Love this stuff!!

1 medium Banana, mashed
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Yogurt
1/2 cup Oats
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 tablespoons Carob Powder

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • In a large bowl add all ingredients and mix well. (make sure dogs are properly suffering...)
Baron and his drool...
  • Knead dough into ball and roll onto a heavily floured surface 1/4 inch thick and cut with your choice of cookie cutter.
I chose a cute little flower shape :)
  • Place on your prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned at the edges. Cool and refrigerate. Makes 2 to 3 dozen.
  • And Voila! Feed to hungry, starving pooches...

They are mostly patient when waiting for the timer to go off...

I think Rookie is still hungry.... what a cute sad face though!


I think I have something tonight that's not quite correct for evening wear. Blue suede shoes. ~ Elvis

Thursday, January 3, 2013