Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Timing is Everything

I already knew that you can change a dog's behavior for doing something wrong unless you caught them in the act. Dog only have two modes of thought NOW and BEFORE. Only the NOW matters to the dog, BEFORE is already long gone.

Babies and toddlers also function only in the NOW, but that will have to wait until another post.

What I am learning from the Dog Whisperer show is that if you want to stop your dog from doing something to need to discipline them when they are DECIDING to do the act, not during it and clearly not after the fact.

If you dog dumps your garbage can, and you point at the spilled garbage and say, "BAD DOG!" Your dog is only going to think that spilled garbage is named Bad Dog and thank you for introducing them. You have to interfere just as your dog is switching from normal, ordinary, cutting through the kitchen, 'just happy to be here' dog, to 'Hey there is something interesting here!' mode. Because dogs go from neutral, to interested, to action pretty quickly. You can short circuit this process at interested very easily, but not at decided and acting.

I will give you an example on my walks. If I spot Vector veering off toward the pile of deer bones, all I have to do is call her and she comes back to the path. If I miss the veer, and she is already picking out a treat, I have to walk up to her and make her, "SPIT THAT OUT!" Stopping her approach is a call, and "SPIT THAT OUT!" is a shout.

I had a friend trying to stop her dog from chasing deer with an electronic collar. I think that she failed because she was hit the zap after the chase had begun. You need to teach the dogs not to make the decision to chase, not to stop the chase. If you do the former, the dog won't start the bad behavior and you won't need the collar every time you walk your dog.

I am thinking this is going to be a very important when my kids become teenagers. If I only knew how to apply it to kids.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I tell Dog Stories, He does Dog Impersonations

I got a free preview of the National Geographic Channel this month. So, of course, I have been recording all the of Dog Whisperer episodes. I love to talk about my doggies, that is why I started this blog - I was boring all of my non-dog friends and had to find another outlet.

I watch Cesar on his show and he becomes the dog. He mimics their expressions of fear, aggression, timid, excited - all perfectly. But when he does a particular breed, it sending me into hysterics. He is the dog, it is the funniest thing.

He does a wiggle that starts at his shoulders and going all the way down his body - his is a Labrador.

He snarls and nips - he is the terrier.

He puts his head forward and glares - he is a boxer.

I love this show.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Which to my dogs means, chew and swallow as fast as possible.

Deer carcasses are my nemesis on my morning walks. I know where all the bone piles are now and I have my dogs come back and walk along side of me preventing them from getting at the bones in the first place.

My dogs are starting to out smart me. There is the 'spit it out like mom said, but remember where it is for tomorrow' technique. That one kills me, I can remember the big piles, but not every chunk that they dragged away.

Vector goes for the 'get ahead and chew like crazy' tact and Inertia likes to fall behind and not get spotted. Yesterday, I called for Inertia to catch up and she came happily trotting up with a portion of a deer's spine in her mouth. Like I would not notice that.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

So is This Going to be a Fast Day or a Slow One?

I have been doing my walks, I have been wearing my pedometer and what I have learn is that I do not run at the same speed each day.

It feels like I am walking at the same pace, but the pedometer does not lie. I walk the same route and one day it took 20 minutes, today it was 15 and the one day I got to go when it was warm and without my heavy coat it was only 13 minutes.

So my plan is to spend January getting into the habit of walking and trying for the 10,000 steps a day. I vary from as high as 12,000 to about 4,000. For February I am going to try to keep up the walking but try for a better pace. I have to get myself some better shoes first.

And if I can do that, in March, I might even try Dr. Oz's diet. That might be the straw that breaks this camel's back.

Friday, January 26, 2007

So Far So Good

I have been able to keep up my promise to walk my dogs everyday. Well, I do the week days and my husband does the weekends. Trying to get out of walking the dogs is much harder than just walking them, even if it means facing a freezing cold head wind for the past few weeks.

I was planning on putting off the walk until lunch time today. It has been warming up every afternoon this week and it is just great to be out without the heaviest coat, scarf, hat and mittens. I thought we would take a longer walk if I wasn't dealing with frozen cheekbones. Vector however, doesn't like to wait for her stroll. She will huff and puff and stomp her little paws and glare at me until she bends me to her will. No one has a better exercise partner than I. I am going whether I like it or not. It takes more will power than I possess to endure one of Vector's fits. She has my daughter beat in the tantrum throwing abilities.

So, off I go. Really looking forward to spring this year.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Look, George came back for another visit

He is getting pretty big, but he still has those gold eyes and those very sharp puppy teeth.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

So maybe they aren't perfect after all

There is a flaw in those little blue orbs, they can get through the fence.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

These Girls are just SO LITTLE!



If you get to pet them, it is for about a nano second - they are that fast - but it is like petting velvet. I'm in love, can't ya tell. I hope their mommy takes lots of trips.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Look what I got to play with today!

Italian Greyhound puppies!

Forget about scooping the poop, I have the best job, ever!

These pictures don't do these ladies justice, they are just too darn fast to get a good picture. I really should call them 'girls', they are only 4 months old, but ready to run with the big dogs.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Snow is just Mother Nature's way of saying," You Don't Have to Scoop the Poop!"

But Buddy, watch out for the thaw!

Down in the play yard I have to scoop snow or no snow. That is what has lead to my extreme talents in chipping out and removing the frozen solid dog turd. The play yard is kept dog turd free to the best of my ability.

My yard, however is another story. Between my two dogs and all of my client dogs that just have to leave a calling card, it is mess. If we get a day above 32 degrees around here and my front yard will be headed into the bio-hazard level of dirty. I think I better get out there while they are still in a benign frozen state before they resume their land mine characteristics.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More than Two Weeks and Still With Us

Congratulations to the Blue Racquetball!

The real test of these balls will be when Milly shows up. She likes to collect all the toys in the play yard and make a nest of them. She then sits prettily on her lumpy collection and proceeds to shred the toys one by one.

She can clear the play yard of toys on any stay longer than a weekend.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Since I have been talking about how dogs become friends...

...and because I just think of this song every time.

Getting to know you,
Getting know all about you.
Getting like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy

When I am with you,

Getting to know what to say

Haven't you noticed

Suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I'm learning about you
Day by day.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I am not going to be putting this on my resume

Since we are on our umpteenth day of single digit temperatures, I would like to point out that there is a real art to the removing frozen dog poop from snow.

Not part of the skill set I picked up in college and I won’t be putting on my resume, but infinitely useful around here.

I clearly have a most glamorous job.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Never underestimate the destructive power of a bored Labrador

I knew there was something I was supposed to remember about Star. I just couldn’t remember what. She was playing well with everyone, so it must not have been something too important.

Oh yeah, that was it…Star is a destroyer of gates. I remember now that I see her gate pulled into her kennel and wedged at a 45 degree angle. I am supposed to put an extra chain on her run. That was it.

I had to take the gate off its hinges, drop it and un-wedge the top fencing from the gate frame. That was not on my list of things to do this morning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Don't feed the Freakout

For my kids, I refer to this as "Don't feed the monster." That is when they are throwing a fit, don't add to the problem, more attention just gets you a bigger monster in the end.

If you have a frightened dog, you have to show the dog the right emotion for the situation and not sympathize with the dog. I know this sounds harsh, but pitying a dog only teaches the dog that he is pitiful.

When I get a timid or freaked out dog, I don't put them back in their runs. That only reinforces the idea that running and hiding is acceptable and good. Instead I separate them from the other dogs. Then I rub the dog all over and talk to them in a rabidly happy voice that tells them that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong, that everything is good, happy, and supposed to be this way. Most people go to their dogs with sympathy and try to comfort the dog when is it upset. This is the right approach for the toddler that has just scraped his knee and needs mom to kiss the owie away, but it is exactly the wrong thing to do with a dog. Dog don’t need or want commiserating, they need to be shown what their mood should be. Dogs are more empathetic in picking up our moods. So being happy around a frightened dog and they will become happier. Sit and sympathize with their fear and their fear will increase.

Monday, January 15, 2007

This had me worried

I had to get used to Cesar’s use of energy in describing dog behavior. His book keeps repeating that if you want to be in charge of the dogs you have to have the highest energy. That does not bode well for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a slug most of the time. The dogs should be all over me, but I am in charge for the most part. There are a few dogs that have to be reminded that since I pay the mortgage I get to be the alpha dog – including my own dogs. I might not have the energy to run with a pack of dogs like Cesar does but I must have the air of authority to my kennel dogs.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Best part of this job

I love winning over the timid dogs but it is even better to watch a timid dog go from a tucked tail and laid back ears to a rambunctious player busy jumping all over his new found friends with a new found level of self confidence.

Dufus pulled a spectacular transformation while she was here. Dufus was playing to a tough crowd when she first arrived. The new dog is always in for the gauntlet of sniffing when they first come out to play. In the dog world, the new butt is the one to smell. And this can be hard on a dog, 1 dog is no problem, but sometimes it will be 5, 6 or more dogs all trying to ‘get to know you’ all at the same time. Even I would be overwhelmed with this much attention.

A happy, confident dog will stand still and let everyone get a nose full and then will go up to each dog individually to get his shot at an introduction. This is a perfect doggie introduction; everyone has shown the height of canine etiquette. And playtime can now start in earnest.

I wish this happen every time but you know not everyone has the best manners. A dog that is frightened, skittish, and basically not confident will not be able to stand still and let other dogs do the smelling. They will run, and get chased which only makes them more frightened, skittish, and even less confident. This is where I usually step in to let the timid dog get a break. I try to just get the new guy on one side of the play yard and keep the other dogs away for a bit. I try not to put the dog back in his run, because that just reinforces the idea that being afraid and running away is the proper behavior.

Just like for people, the only way to build up a dog’s confidence is to have him act with confidence and succeed at it. This is how I pull this off at the kennel. Take Dufus, she was freaked by Tessie, BB, and Izzy all trying to ‘meet’ her all at once. I am freaked out by having Tessie, BB, and Izzy all trying to do anything to me all at once.

These are what I call my ‘players’, they can play with any dog, any time for as long as the other dog can last and then some. Using the Dog Whisperer’s terminology, these dogs are high energy dogs but they are all completely without aggression. I don’t have to worry about fights, but that doesn’t make them any less intimidating.

I let those three play together for about 10 minutes before I introduce Dufus. This should get us past the initial ‘I just got let out of the run’ wanton abandon. Dufus was shaking but stood her ground to be smelled. SO far so good, but she didn’t have enough confidence to make them stand for a return smell. So she would run up behind each one while they were preoccupied wrestling with the other two. Sneaky, yes, but also effective.

Once she had her ‘introductions’ Dufus was running with the big dogs and having a great time. Tail up, ears up giving Izzy a run for his money.

Along comes Happy, who is anything but happy. He is so skittish that he is running like a maniac to get away from anyone who is trying to sniff him. I shoo Dufus and Happy onto one side of the playyard and keep the other dogs away. A perfect match. Dufus is no threat to Happy so he can relax and start to play. Happy went from freak-out to playing in record time. When I brought all the dogs back together, the freak-out reappeared. But Happy has now got the hang of being a dog with other dogs and is just all over BB and Tessie. I am now having a hard time getting Happy to stop playing and go back in his kennel. My work here is done.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

How I win over the shy ones

When I get a very timid dog, I don’t try to win them over with love. Loving on a freaked out dog will only add to the freak-out. You have to let the dog come to you. My technique is to sit in my chair and let my hands just dangle. That allows the dog to come up from behind me – no pressure from me – and sniff at my hands. If he comes up with the courage to walk by me I will swing my hands out slightly to rub down the dog’s side.

“No sir, that wasn’t a pet, I am not trying to love on you, no sirree, I am just sitting here, no threat, no pressure, just doing nothing all by myself”…Well, the dogs actually buy that act.

This works like a charm for me, I haven’t had a dog that I cannot win over with this technique. Thanks to the Dog Whisperer, now I know why it works.

I never thought about this before seeing that Dog Whisperer show. When I rub my hand against the dog’s side, I am getting my scent on him and his scent on me. And in the dog world is “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”

Friday, January 12, 2007

How to be the Top Dog in your pack

There are two things that your dogs needs more than anything else. More than love, tummy rubs, ear nuggies, kibble, biscuits or his own spot on the couch - exercise and a leader.

Lucky for you, you can get both birds with one stone. WALK YOUR DOG.

Your dog need a lot of exercise and being let out into the yard is not it. Dog want, need, like, love....fill in your own suggestions here...to walk. Wolf packs wander the entire day. I watched the wolves at the Brookfield Zoo this past June. They had a decent sized enclosure and they were totally in charge of it. The group worked it way across the entire area, looped around and did yet another patrol. They were molting pretty bad so they looked terrible, yet decidedly happy. I think the happiest of all the animals in the zoo.

I know you and your dog can't walk together all day. I few lucky farm dogs around here get that gig, but most dogs are family pets and the best they get is a walk once a day.

So, you want your dog to be happy, get him his walk. If you want him to be really happy and very well behaved you have to LEAD him on his walk. Dogs function in a pack, pack have leaders, and you are supposed to be the leader.

This is how you lead.

Your dog should be next to you at all times, never in front.
He is not a marlin and you are not reeling him in, throw away those extending leashes. Get a fabric mesh lease with a heavy latch, look for the lobster claw ones. Get a metal choke chain for your dog. The reason for the heavy latch and the chain collar is to focus your directions to the dog at his neck, that is were dogs communicate their dominance to each other.

Now, I learned how to have my dogs walk right next to me on a slack lease with no tugging from John McCurdy over in Price. That was 11 years ago and I can still walk, easily with both dogs by my side. It is still nothing less than a miracle to me. If you are in my area, I highly recommend that you have John train you to train your dog. If you are not so lucky, you will have to find a trainer to help you.

Meanwhile, I will try to explain the basics of HEAL and Lease Training:
Put the collar on so that when the lease is held tight the collar pulls up tight, but that when it is slack, the weight of the latch releases the chain of the collar. This is simple to see and impossible to type out. Try it, you will get it.

Pull the collar up to the top of your dog's neck just behind the ears.

Have your dog on your left. Hold the lease with just enough length to get to your left hand, hold the end of the lease in your right. The left will reinforce commands with a pull of the lease, and the right is looped in the lease in anticipation of the bolt. (which we all know is coming)

Say your dogs name and 'Heal!' and start to walk. Walk straight, turn, walk, turn, walk, to the left, to the right, straight for awhile. Every time your dog gets in front of you, away from you, stops to smell something, anything that is not with you and paying attention to you. Turn and make the dog follow with you.

That is it. Do this for 15 minutes or more each night and your dog will be walking with you in no time. Then it is time to try the same lesson where there are distractions, start walking your street or get a friend to train his dog along with yours.

You want your dog to behave when there are eleventy billion exciting things to smell, chase and bark at. That is when your training really counts.

Now, get out there and walk your dog.

I was taking my own advice, but today is awful, it is like being sand blasted with snow.

Another day of grumpy dogs for me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Daisy, you are a DOG."

I don't know what kind of conversations you have at work, but I have ones that go like this.

"Daisy, you are a DOG."
"Daisy, they are all DOGS."
"Daisy, be a DOG - you will be happier as a DOG."

"Come on, Daisy, smell his butt!"
"Get it over with, just do it!"
"Smell his butt!"

I thought I had the perfect situation, three little dogs all equally skittish and unsocialized, Daisy, Scruffy and Kaizon. This should work like a dream. They will figure out how to play together and then they will be able to play with any dog. Daisy was just not buying into my plan. Finally, yesterday morning she did it. She stuck up behind Scruffy and Kaizon and did the most polite thing a dog can do - she smelled a butt. The second lesson in doggie etiquette is to stand there and return the favor. She wasn't quite ready for that level of civility but she did walk away slowly acting like she didn't notice Scruffy 'back there'. A huge improvement over squealing and running that she was doing. They were playing together in no time.

I figured with one more day, I could have gotten Kaizon in on the playtime, but Daisy went home last night. Too bad.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

And now back to obsessing over Cesar Millan's book.

I am really fixated on this book.

One, I can't wrap my head around the idea that there is someone else who spends seven days a week with dogs.

Two, even I don't going running in the hill with a pack of dogs. I may be nuts, but I do have my limits. I can't run.

Three, I am endlessly pleased that I have been doing the right things all along and even more pleased to understand why they work.

Four, I can't stand how easy it was to get my doggies to get along so much better. I thought they were good before, now things are really great. And my own dogs' behavior has greatly improved.

That photo is from the National Geographic photo gallery
He must just shock the BLEEP out of people who meet him on the trails.
People would really be talking about me if I headed into the hills with my wards.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Salvation

The Blue Racquetball.

I was complaining to one of my clients about the dogs' ability to destroy tennis balls faster than I can buy them. He told me he only buys Blue Hand Balls for his dog.

I figured it was worth a try. I could only find Racquetballs, but they are blue and they seem to be holding up. This hasn't been a very rigorous test of the life span of a blue racquetball - I only have 3 dogs in the kennel. One of them was Roxy and she had one wedged in her teeth for at least 3 days straight. I have yet to have to clean up a pile of blue rubber shreds - I take that as a positive sign.

Only problem so far is that they are smaller than tennis balls and therefore harder to find. I did discover that you can kick them and get a much more satisfactory flight than that of a kicked tennis ball. This is important attribute to remember once the ball is no longer blue, but rather a lumpy brown conglomeration of spit and dust.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


I found someone who likes them even more than school kids.

Though not so much, me.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Separated at Birth?

For these two, it might actually be true and not just a Saturday Night Live skit. I alway thought these two boxers looked alike, but this is the first time they are both here together.

Duncan has a few pounds on Roxy but I was just happy to see they were wearing different styles of collars. I guess I could alway tell them apart by the tennis ball, Duncan does not share Roxy's enthusiasm for balls.

Friday, January 05, 2007

My New Toy

I got a pedometer for Christmas. Yes, I too saw that Oprah episode with Dr. Oz and his new diet book. He has a plan for getting rid of stomach weight and I would love for it to actually work. Part of the plan is to increase how much exercise you get and that is where the pedometer comes in. His plan suggests that you need to increase the amount you walk to 10,000 steps per day.

Meanwhile, I had finished the Dog Whisperer's book and was feeling pretty guilty about not taking my dogs for their walks anymore. Cesar make this point over and over in that book, your dog needs more exercise than love. And face it, I need more exercise than cookies, but that ratio has been reversed for years.

So, when the kids went back to school, I headed out with the dogs. I have managed to do 4 days in a row - so far so good.