Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why do You Chew EVERYTHING?!

Welcome to Doggy Heaven?

I want to play on the computer for ten minutes. TEN MINUTES! ...during which time, I will not be engaging my brand new, one-of-a-kind (I wish she was a) mutt, Koda.

No worries.

She will entertain herself, and all with things that she is not allowed to have. Of course she will. What else are little demons (er, puppies) for? (And don't say, "Making Mommy tired enough to end sentences in prepositions; I just decided not to care anymore. It has nothing to do with the fact that I'm in an advanced state of sleep deprivation.)

...and I will wonder, at the end of this ten minutes, how it is that I got nothing accomplished via the computer.

Actually, I have an answer for that. She's cute, furry, likes to put everything in her mouth, and no, she's not available.

From randomly getting a curling iron that I didn't know I had (puppy proofing, anyone?) to chewing on my ironing board, this dog will have me chasing her all over god-knows-where.

Oh, and did I mention potty training?



But that's just how I feel about it. Every time she goes, she is proud of herself. It doesn't matter where she goes, she is happy about it.

Unfortunately for me, there have been about ... oh, I'm not counting (6 times) ... where I have been leashing her to get her outside that she just pops a squat and says, "Ahhh, I'm done. Play now?"

I love her.

No, really. I do.

It's just been three years since I've had a puppy, and I need a refresher course via Koda-the-Crazy-Aussie.

And. One more thing.

She barks.

At everything.


Her water bowl, her food, while she's chewing her food. She barks when she wants outside. She barks when she has to pee. She barks when she wants back inside. She barks when she wants to play. She barks at the dryer. She barks in her freaking sleep. I am not even kidding.

And it's not so much that she barks, it's how she barks. She sounds like a vicious, evil-demon, serial-killer of a dog. Like. It's scary.
But scary.

There's my bloggy update! I have no more time to write more. @_@

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy (Almost) Birthday, Kittie

Introducing the: 
"Mom, please gives me attentions" look.
Think I'm going to give in?
I am.

Yeah, I said it.
I reward Kittie for all sorts of things that would make me, as a trainer, gasp.

How can I say, "NO!" to this girl?
She's trying to have a good time.
Almost 3 years old now.
Wouldn't believe she could come as far as she has if I hadn't been there myself.
It can be done.

Or at least adventured upon.

Worst case scenario? 
Howl at it.
Or is that a yowl, Kittie? 
No, you really are a dog...
I love you. But you suck at singing.

Whassat, Mom? I no hears you; I'z grass in mah mouth!

And my personal favorite for the day:
Whassat doin theres?

We call those tails, Kittie. I know your sister doesn't have one, but you do.

Shake it off.

And Happy...Not Birthday.
I have no idea when you were born. The shelter was inaccurate and the vet can only guestimate.
Here's your present:

Have fun

Whass I'z do with this?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Top Doggie Personalities

1.) Gage, Buddha, and Caffeine (all rescues) own Eric Goebelbecker, a trainer stationed in New Jersey who runs Dog Spelled Forward. Eric (@dogspelledfwd if you're interested in following him on Twitter) writes the Real Man's Guide to Dog Training (and other articles) on his blog as well as articles for Dog Star Daily.

I find him to be a very sassy guy with much to say. The best part? It's always interesting, and his advice is concise and useful.

I stumbled upon Eric by mistyping something into a search engine and landing on his home page. A dog trainer with a twitter? I didn't know they made those (honest!) So, I followed him. Through him, I found other very interesting dog personalities.

2.) Jasmine and J.D. own Jana Rade (@DawgBlogger,) a dog blogger and graphic designer with a sassy, to-the-point personality. She witty, pithy, and downright smart.
The best part about Jasmine's human? She loves her enough that I believe she'd do anything for her. That's unconditional love at its best.
It doesn't stop there.
Jana writes a blog called Dawg Business, dedicated to doggie health, nutrition, training, and more!
Jana is dedicated to helping other dog owners through health and other problems, and she even has a group called Dog Health Issues set up on Facebook, where you can ask doggie health questions and get answers.
Now that is someone worth following!

3.)A beautiful German Shepherd Dog named Dojo Astaire (the dog with flair) owns Dino Dogan, a trainer, motorcyclist, martial artist, and (I'm convinced) genius from NJ. 
Dino isn't what I'd classify as your stereotypical, conservative dog trainer. He runs an amazing, interesting blog that I now call home (because I read it so much that I may as well live there...) It's called Dogan Dogs Video Blogs, and it's definitely worth your time. 
How would I know?
Well, one day I got brave enough to click the link provided via Twitter, and I basically have yet to leave. I also learned, from one visit, that this dog trainer is a smart, innovative, creative guy that has a lot to offer the world. New Jersey, you are one lucky state... (Why do you get Eric AND Dino? How unfair...)
Dino also runs a Facebook group called Dog Trainer 2.0.  Dog trainers, pay attention! This group is for you. Here's a place where you can learn how to get Social Media on your side. It's also a place to discuss just about anything with other trainers. You can also find him on twitter (@dino_dogan)

4.) Maddie and Dexter own Hollie Toner, a dog trainer from North East Ohio. She's an amazing woman who is so well versed in doggie body language that she can spot a potential scuffle from the other end of the Doggie Beach (and somehow be on the other side in time to keep said potential scuffle from happening.)
Hollie runs Paws N Claws Academy in Streetsboro, Ohio. 
I have quite a bit of personal experience with Hollie - I used to take class at Signature K-9 in Alliance, Ohio with her and Maddie. 
Hollie, thank the heavens, is busy working with North East Dog Training (that's us!) to make FreeStyle and Rally popular in Ohio! 
We'll succeed...Just you wait!

5.) Daisy (the Wunder Dog) owns Mel Freer, a wonderful woman who runs Mel's Pet Pals - a dog walking and pet sitting company in Minnesota. Daisy didn't know that Mel was the human for her when they first met, as she was a surrender with some extreme fear issues. Years later, Mel works with/pet sits for dogs who have fear issues. She loves to work with "difficult" dogs and help them to reach a potential that their Moms and Dads probably didn't know they had. Thank goodness for Daisy and Mel!
Daisy has her own blog Daisy the Wonder Dog and How She Found Her Inner Lab. 
Mel also has her own blog called No Dog About It. (Daisy must have felt bad and let Mom have a blog, too! LoL)
All three sites are certainly worth checking out - Mel and Daisy are quite the team, and they have interesting stories and thoughts to share. Just don't be surprised when they capture your heart!

Human: A Dog's Favorite Pet

Confession: Having had a few bad experiences with dogs as a kid...for the longest time, I wasn't a fan. That didn't change when we first got Kittie. She was a weird little thing - followed me everywhere, was afraid of everything, and peed non-stop.

One day, I looked down at her, sighed, and didn't understand why she was in my life.

In my head popped the idea of her not being in my life.
My knees went out from under me; I landed on the floor and couldn't even breathe.

Kittie nudged me with her nose - cold, wet, slimy, and covered in dirt. I just laughed.

The feeling that took over me is something that is completely ineffable. I don't believe in love, but I know I love this girl.

I wouldn't give her up for all the money, fame, fortune, and whatever else you think you've got that's better than what I have. It isn't.

Behind every truly amazing person, there is a dog. This dog is not just a household accessory, but a family member who motivate, drives, and humbles us.

Yeah, I owe it all to the dog.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dear Agility Students

Things the agility instructor wishes she could say:


We need to get a few things clear before we continue.

Agility class has rules. I think some of you may have failed to notice this.

These rules are intended to make it so that, during class, you and your dog can have fun and learn together.

That being said, when I tell you that you need to keep your dog's attention focused on you,

I am not not talking to myself. I am also not forcing my vocal chords to make comprehensible sounds just because I am able to do so.

I am trying, dear students, to save your dogs life.

That's basically the short and the long of it.

Here Are the Rules:

  1. Your dog must look to you for direction. This means that he is not allowed to make up his own course or - God forbid - visit another dog. Use goodies or toys if you must. In fact, I encourage the use of them.
  2. Your dog is NOT ALLOWED to visit another dog. Would you like your dog to play with the dog beside him? That's great; do it on your own time. Not mine.
  3. If another dog makes the decision to rush your dog, and I tell you to move.... MOVE! Don't sit there and look at me like I'm an idiot while your dog is trying to eat another dog - and consequently almost eating me because I'm standing between the two. Just move your dog. Please.
  4. Going further with #3; I can keep the rushing dog from getting to your dog. I strategically place myself in the field so that, in the off chance that this happens, I can prevent a fight. MOVE. Thank you.
  5. Do not take equipment you are not told to take. If your dog has never gone up the Dog Walk and I tell you not to take him over the Dog Walk, it's because there is a serious potential for him to fall and injure himself. I'm not just saying no because I can. Really.
  6. Do not force your dog over any equipment. This creates fear issues and chances are, if you're taking class with us, you're paying us to help work out those same fear issues.
  7. Do NOT wear inappropriate shoes to my class. Yes, Barbie, flipflops are out.
  8. Follow all other directions you are given. This means that if I tell you to stop manhandling your dog, or if I ask you to redo a specific part of the course, please do so. You are paying me for a reason, and you must be open to constructive criticism and learning. 
  9. If you have a problem with any of the above-mentioned rules....

I have never had a dog fight in any of my classes.
I am structured to a fault - in order to prevent dog fight and in order to keep you and your dog safe.

While I am all about having fun in agility, I am more about keeping - yet again - you and YOUR DOG safe. And the dog beside you, and the dog beside him.....

At the end of the day, it's not about you. It's about your dog. I am your dog's advocate when you sometimes forget that Bad Things Can Happen.

Thank you.

The Agility Instructor.
Who, by the way, comes from a facility that specializes in basket-case dogs who would just love to eat yours. Honest. They aren't friendly, and yet we can get those dogs within 3ft of another dog, because we use structure and ...
We know what we are doing.
I reiterate. We know what we're doing. You're paying us because we know what we're doing. If you think you know better, that's great for you. Don't take my class.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Introducing my absolute favorite rescue personality of all time: Randy Grimm. He just might be a little crazy, but from what I've read, I adore everything about him and what he does for the strays, the forfeited, the feral, and the abandoned in St. Louis, MO.

Randy Grimm runs Stray Rescue of St. Louis. He rescues, works with, and adopts out dogs with problems that make the craziest dog you've ever met seem tame. And the craziest of all? Guess what! They aren't euthanized; they come to live with him! (My favorite being Charlie the crime-fighting Pit Bull that has to wear a basket muzzle at all times. One day, a bad guy crashed through his newly built fence, and Charlie chased him right back to the police..! .... Who ran in the other direction because a Pit Bull in a basket muzzle was chasing them.... But that's not the point.)

In his book, Don't Dump the Dog (with Melinda Roth,) Randy goes over all of the lame excuses he, as a rescue worker, hears everyday on the job. The old "the dog barks too much," or whatever else they can come up with. Every segment in his book is either heartwarming or funny, and it really puts some things into perspective when you stop and think about where these dogs come from and all the work the rescuers had to put into making the dog suitable for adoption.... And yet people want to return the little woofers because something about them isn't perfect.

Well, Randy Grimm isn't afraid to tell you how it is. He's witty, funny, and ... he's always right.

Example: In his book, he points some of the dumbest excuses he's ever heard.

"Dumping Excuse: "I am moving."
Quick Fix: Good for you. Take the dog with you. If your new apartment won't allow pets, find one that does. This is where I can't fix stupid. "

Anyway, it's an excellent read - more for the funny stories and stupid excuses than anything; although, I must admit that there are some very decent training tips in there! He's a great writer, and the book is seriously entertaining. I take it with everywhere I go in case I need to read something funny. =] It's almost better than Pearls Before Swine!

And I'm sure that just about every single one of us has the same view on those lame excuses for dog-dumping. I certainly share in his impatience.

You can check out Randy Grimm's Facebook page for Don't Dump the Dog. He does book signings and other interesting things.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kennel It Up!

Dear Reader,
I have a question....
....and here it goes....



I ask, because my dog's mentality on crates is as follows:

  1. Kittie couldn't ask for a more fun place to lounge around on a hot summer day.
  2. The other dogs don't bother her while she's in her crate, so if she wants it to be naptime...It's NAPTIME! No muss, no fuss. Heck yes; that's what she says.
  3. All the good food toys, rawhides, stuffed squeaky things, and our shoes if she so pleases can go with her into the crate.
  4. Actually, the crate is the go-to spot for dinner, Kongs, and (vet approved) Rawhides.
  5. You've never seen a dog run to her crate so fast when it's dinner time. We stopped asking her to actually go into her crate for dinner some six or so months ago. She still thinks it's the hot spot.
  6. When we leave, she goes in her crate. She sleeps, mostly; and yes, we do know this for a fact. Sometimes she stretches, chews on her stuff, and has fun...but mostly she sleeps.
  7. When in her crate, without our supervision, she cannot do the following:
  • hang herself via the curtains
  • chew through the walls
  • chew waterbottles - don't ask how she gets them, we haven't quite figured it out - full of water on someone's bed.
  • get so strung out that she does this:
  • bark like mad until we "come back"
  • when we don't respond, decide to follow us herself
  • escape anything that needs to be escaped to do the above
  • finally, as panic settles in and she realizes that we are nowhere to be found and have, in her mind, abandonded her - a dog's worst fear - become so out-of-her-mind that she loses control of her bowels and bladder, pukes, and rips apart anything that smells like us in a heartbreaking, desperate attempt to find us.
Outside of the crate, she's a mess.
Inside, she feels secure enough to lounge, play, and nap.

I don't care if you think it's unnatural; it keeps my dog alive and sane.

It's a great training tool - and it's all in how YOU make it for the dog. If you know how to make it a positive thing, it will be a positive thing for your dog.

[This being said, yes; we do know there are escape artists that you couldn't keep in long enough to teach that it's a good thing. Or, on the other end, will escape anyhow. There are other, just as safe, options for these dogs! We keep the big black lab in the back bedroom. He sleeps on the bed, usually after having gone down into the laundry and fetched a pair of my brother's pants. He doesn't chew them; he sleeps with them. Either that, or shoes. I don't know what it is about the shoes.

[.....The point is that being left in the back bedroom is still basically the same as crating. It's being left in a safe spot while you aren't there to supervise.]

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why We Lure

Here's an interesting question:
Why do we lure our dogs instead of mold them?

Well, to start with, let's look at what we mean by these two words:

  • To lure a dog is to use something he likes (such as a toy, or - most probably - a food reward) to guide him into a certain position.
IE: If you wanted to lure a dog to sit, you would place a goodie right on his nose, and push it back toward his rear end. Gravity should take hold and the dog's butt will naturally find the ground. It's a very hands-off approach.
  • To mold a dog is to physically prompt or push him into a certain position.
IE: If you wanted the dog to sit, you would lift up on his collar and push down on his rear end. The dog should go into a sit without too much fuss.

Both of those are very valid training techniques that you can use to get your dog to do all sorts of things; sit is only the beginning. However, with that being said, we are sold and in all sorts of love with the idea of luring, and not such big fans of the molding.

Now, why is this?

Well, let's explore the reasons!

I personally love luring because I can see a chain of events that results in a positive association between learning and the relationship I have with my own personal dogs. When I'm using the lure as a training tool, I can watch the wheels turn in my dog's brain as she quickly learns what I'm asking for. I fade lures fast, because she's so used to them that she doesn't need the crutch for long.

In puppies, I see a chain of events that is both cute and heartening. Here's how it goes:
  1. Trainer brings out treat.
  2. Puppy sees/smells and becomes interested.
  3. Trainer puts treat in front of puppy's nose and pushes toward his rear end.
  4. Puppy's thoughts: OOOOOOOH. GOODIE!
  5. Puppy's rear end lands on floor
  6. Trainer says, "Good Boy!" and gives the puppy a treat.
  7. Through a few repetitions, puppy learns a few things:
  • Everytime he hears this "Good Boy!" sound his human makes, food follows.
  • Everytime his butt hits the floor, he hears "Good Boy!" and a treat follows.
  • Puppy starts offering this rear end on floor thing to see if "Good Boy!" will follow.
About fifteen times after using the Lure>Good Boy>Treat as my method to get the dog to sit, I add the word "sit" to the sequence so that it looks like this ---> "Sit">Lure >Good Boy>Treat. About fifteen times after that, I start to fade the lure. (Meaning that I make the lure less obvious, until I don't use the lure at all.)

It's simple; it's wonderful, and above all - the trainer and the puppy should be having fun together. A positive thing is happening - it's not so much strict obedience as it is learning what works, bonding, and having fun. The great thing about it is that manners are learned along the way, and the more clear and consistent you are, the faster the puppy learns.

Don't get me wrong; there are downsides to luring. If you fade the lure too fast, the puppy won't have had the time to make the connection between the word "sit" and the action of putting his butt on the floor, and you may end up wanting to bang your head against the wall. Ooops! Just go back a level (add the lure again) and fade it more slowly the second time around.

The other downside is the one that makes me, as a trainer, want to bang my head against the wall. Some people... Well, they never fade the lure. To me, luring is a crutch, and I don't feel that anyone needs to make that much work for themselves - any dog can learn the association between "sit" and butt-on-floor, and to keep the lure in there forever is handicapping the dog.

So, what about molding? Well, I can keep this short and sweet - it works. It takes more repetitions and very good timing. If you have bad timing, it takes even more repetitions. If you're really bad at your timing or have a particularly nervous dog, it takes even more repetitions.

Also, for some reason, I see people who train with molding still molding their dogs into sits even three to four to five years down the road. That's a lot of work and a lot of repetition, especially when our canine companions are more than capable of learning a silly thing like "sit."

A very good trainer can probably teach his dog "sit" by molding just as fast as we can by luring, to be honest. Like I said, it just takes very good timing.

The deal with me is that I like it when the dog makes an association through a positive means rather than an avoidance one. Dogs who are trained through molding sit when they hear "sit" because they don't want their collars lifted and their butts pushed down. Dogs who are trained by luring sit when they hear "sit" because good things happen when they do. They seem to learn faster, are more eager to learn and play the training game, and in my opinion, it makes for a better dog-human relationship. For me, it's all about the relationship.

I really love my dogs.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Imprinting Stage I

Gypsy with her new litter of puppies.

I'm doing imprinting work with the puppies in the litter shown above. Imprinting, during the very early stages of puppy development has shown to seriously impact on the lives of the dogs. In fact, it has so much impact that the U.S. Veterinary Corps swear by it.

Imprinting makes the most of a few seemingly novel exercises, like placing the puppy in a specific body position. It may not seem like much, but the five simple exercises involved in imprinting skyrocket a dog's coping ability, so much so that a puppy who continues with this program, accelerating and sophisticating his training, can theoretically stand in the middle of a battlefield and still do his job, bombs and gunfire all around. (Note: Imprinting sets a dog up to be able to handle this, but here's the deal: The Military dogs go through much more training; imprinting is only the beginning. On top of that, no matter what program a dog goes through, there are still exceptions. Some dogs are quite simply too "soft" to be able to handle that kind of environment, no matter how good the training.)

We added a sixth step to our mix, because we feel that these five exercises, while great, leave out a very important step - it's what we would call a Symbolic Massage, or Body Desensitization. We run our hands systematically over the puppy, touching every area of her body. No area is sacred. We feel in between the pads of her feet, under her belly, over her ear flaps, etc.

In being handled this way, she's very unlikely to develop body issues - ie: many dogs have weirdnesses with their paws. They don't like them being handled and may get quite snippy when Mom or the Groomer pulls out the nail clippers. We simply aren't giving her the option to have this fear.

I've worked with any number of puppies at rescue organizations in my area, and I can tell you that not one of them were comfortable enough to allow even people they saw everyday to touch their paws in this manner. I don't want that to be an issue. So, why not start desensitizing from day one?

We like just hanging out, too. And it's still training, really. The pups get used to be handled by new people, and they also get used to our smells. But we're probably just there still because we love puppies. Don't tell anybody.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dear Tennis Ball,


...I'm going to train Kittie how to pick you up. Don't think I won't manage it. I know she's terrified of you - maybe it's because you don't look like a squeaky raccoon or because you don't taste good, but she's going to learn how to chase you down and wrap her big, sharp canine teeth around you.

Heh? You for real, Moms?

Yeah, I said it.

Tennis ball, you are going down.

I not so sure bout dis....

My nervous Agility Star is going to learn Flyball - and that involves your destruction. I just thought you should know.

Okay, Mom. Whateverz you says.

But Tunnels is betterz