Archive for A Dogs Life

Pet Peeve … Craigslist ad to Rehome v Shelter

I am going to address a pet peeve of mine. I see so many ads on our local yardsale groups and sites like CraigsList that say “I don’t want to take him to the shelter but need to rehome for (insert reason here).” Here’s what I have observed.

Most of the folks that get the dogs from a shelter are getting the known facts from the shelter who go based on what they observe rather than what they are told. They have observed the dog in multiple situations with different types of people. They work with the adopters to find the right fit and to make the adoption a success. Then we see them in our classes, in private sessions and in the group walks we host. We take the phone calls and provide problem solving suggestions or set up evaluations and treatment plans.

When we see a dog “rehomed” in order to avoid the shelter we often see the same dog advertised multiple times in a period of months. Each advertisement is usually a variation of “don’t have time, not fair to dog and don’t want to take to the shelter”. Then this dog goes to a new home with high hopes that are quickly dashed when the new owner has no knowledge of his or her non-housetrained, barking, nipping, digging, jumping, chewing behavior that becomes worse with each rehoming as the dog’s anxiety levels grow. Because the dog is rehomed with little vetting of the new family the dog is a bad fit and is quickly rehomed again with another version of the “don’t have time, not fair to dog, don’t want to take to the shelter” ad.

I have seen the same husky rehomed at least 5 times on the same site. I’ve seen the same dog advertised one site after another. And sadly, the more the dog is rehomed with the same lack of vetting and lack of honestly in the dog’s situation, the chances for success are slim to none.

If you have made the decision to rehome a dog you owe it the best chance possible. This is with a shelter that has a caring staff that would prefer to see the dog sooner, with fewer issues that need to be worked with, than later when they dog is older, less marketable and has a lot more baggage. Each dog that comes in captures their heart and they try their best in order to get that dog the right home the first time.

Experience, Experienced

I absolutely love training dogs. When the dog “gets it” and you see that a behavior has clicked, the dog’s attitude shifts to one of pride, as does their human. And suddenly they are energized and ready to work on the next behavior. For me, this is the defining moment of why I do what I do.

The above is why I continue to learn, to make changes in my approach both to the dog and to his human. They should receive the best education I can provide.

Whether its the simple sit or an approach to a problem behavior that needs to be addressed. Yes, I have experience in dog training for a few years now. For some reason that experience is the item that most future clients focus on.

Believe me, experience is important, but only if you are experienced at doing the best job you can while continuing to improve your methods. Otherwise you may be experienced at doing it wrong and, because it feels safe and comfortable, you continue on that tired old path.

This was brought back to me in a Primitive Birth Control These methods vary from using shots of mercury to securing alligator dung and using it as a diaphragm. Folks were very experienced at using these methods and they taught others to use these methods. This is a point where I have point out that experience was not a plus. This is an extreme example but I think it makes the point. Experience is not always best.

Progressive Reinforcement is constantly learning, reaching for the better method that is based in science not theory. Constantly challenging myself to continue to learn and to balance that learning with practical experience.
Terrier's learning Sit and Place

I am so proud of these dogs and their human. They are working hard to learn new behaviors to replace older, unwanted behaviors.

Blessing in Disguise

Saturday afternoon I received a message from Neil Hutchins of Committed Canines Dog Services, the company I work under.  He had a new client that would be a challenge as well as a blessing.  Autumn, a young girl, very ill, who needs a service dog to help alert to seizures along with other medical issues and to help to calm Autumn when she is agitated.

There was no time to do any research prior to our initial consult.  Arriving, we met Dawn and Johnny, parents to six children.  Their story is amazing, heartwarming and heartbreaking.  You can read more of her story here at her Facebook page at Autumn’s Mito Fighting Angels .

Dawn, wanting to find another way to help Autumn and their family respond to Autumn’s medical needs, researched service dogs and their use in this specific situation. She then started looking for someone to help train Mito, their new Great Dane puppy.  Others said that no, a dog cannot be trained to detect seizures Neil said yes, they can.  And we will do it.

I will work with them on basic obedience and some problem solving.  The training for the service dog tasks will be done by Neil and Dawn.  This training will include capturing as well as virtual conditioning.  Mito, named for Autumn’s disease (please check the link to her page for more information on that) is still very young but has already started building the bond and prefers to sleep next to her or on a leg.

Autumn and Mito…the bond has started

Our first visit was mostly asking questions to determine exactly what they need Mito to do.  We had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful family and a special little warrior.  I am honored to come along on this journey.


Rescue Run

A common practice at our local shelter is for folks to tie a dog to the shelter’s gate while closed. This is very dangerous as it leaves the dog vulnerable and unable to defend itself from the coyote that live in the surrounding desert. A few weeks ago the staff arrived one morning to find a sweet, well-mannered senior Doberman. There was a message on the answering machine telling them his name was Noah. Noah had obviously been taken care of as he was in good shape, was well trained and very sociable both with people and other dogs.

Contact was made with a Doberman rescue here in southern California and arrangements were made so that Noah could live at the sanctuary after being neutered to take care of an enlarged prostate. Travel plans were made to meet a representative from the rescue at a dog park midway between us. Neil, of Committed Canines and I headed off this past Tuesday, Noah in the backseat. Noah was an excellent traveler, watching the scenery as we drove the 90 miles.

At the dog park Noah we allowed to play while waiting for the rep to arrive. This dog had a blast running around, sniffing and enjoying the interaction with Neil and I. There were also lots of treats and a ‘picnic’ lunch of kibble. Because of a bridge fire the rescue rep was running late so we enjoyed our extra time with this sweetheart.

Checking out the grass at the dog park

Smiling Noah

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Noah as he left for his forever home, a 6 1/2 acre sanctuary where he would be free to roam and play all day and sleep inside at night.

Saying goodbye.

I plan to be involved in a lot more happily-ever-after endings.

Learn Something New Every Day

Leash corrections are easy to use but, in the end, the dog only learns that the handler has issued a painful or uncomfortable correction. This then becomes a fear imprint, not a learning experience. The dog may become afraid of what causes the correction (ie, reaction to another dog). The dog then will turn out to be reactive to other dogs not because he doesn’t want to be ‘friends’ but because he fears the correction that he is now conditioned to expect. What the dog has not learned is what the appropriate, or correct, behavior should be.

This problem is compounded when corrective collars such as prong (pinch) collars or choke (check) chains are used. Yes, in the beginning the dog may respond to the correction but, after time, the dog may start to react to his fear of the correction. My theory of why this happens: If you were smacked every time another person walked by you might start to react to seeing another person, even at a distance, because you know a correction (a smack) is coming. You reaction may be to yell at the other person to go away but what actually happens while you are warning them away? You get smacked repeatedly until you stop yelling, which coincides with when the other person is no longer visible.

The dog may be thinking the same thing. He’s warning the other dog off, telling him to go away, because he now knows that the correction isn’t going to stop until the other dog is gone and he no longer has to warn him away. Therefore, in his mind, his warnings are working because the other dog is no longer visible and the corrections have stopped.

The only hard data or facts I have to prove this is that since I no longer use any harsh methods my dogs are more relaxed AND reliable. I am coming away from this school a better person all around, not just a better trainer.

A day with My Service Dog

I am constantly going in circles, trying to figure out which direction I should take. It honestly feels like I’m spinning a wheel and whatever comes up will be my plan of the day. I’m just waiting for it to show “meet Alien Life Forms in Landers and begin search for intelligent life.” Today’s challenge was to run errands. As tired and sore as I was from yesterdays adventures, I knew that my service dog would need to be coming with us. Desi Doo Doo Dane, our 3 year old rescue, is also my service dog in training. Into the truck and off we went.
Desi was ready to go!

The Farmers Market in Joshua Tree was our first stop. We got plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, ordered a special wrap around leash That I can use when I need both hands free, and even met up with friends and another Service Dog as well. We passed a pack of chihuahuas that were screamin’ and given their mom fits but all the other dogs were well behaved. I love the farmers market. Everyone is friendly and love to meet the dogs. We always gain what we call the Pupparazzi following us and asking for pictures.

After the farmers market we headed out to lunch at Papa’s Smoke House for some pulled pork. Desi was awesome. He laid down beside the table and the server even brought him a bowl of water. He did give an eye to our food and I think he looked a bit peeved that he got water and we had barbecue…but I made up for it in the car with his lamb treats.

From there we headed to Unique Garden Center where Mike and his crew are full of desert landscaping help and pointers and have Mesquite honey which we need to deal with Dixies allergies. It’s also where Desi saw his very first chicken!

Last stop on our trip was Home Depot to pick up misc stuff for a secret project that I am working on. Heading for home, Desi was napping in the back until we pulled in to a convenience store near home.

“Mom…can’t dad go in the store while we stay in the car, puhleezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze?”
He was pretty tuckered out and took a long nap when we arrived home.

Week in Review

Dixie and Desi enjoying the warm weather.

The weather has been warmer than usual, with highs close to 90. Even for the desert this is unusual.

At work we’ve been working for over a year on a project near Joshua Tree National Park. To this point it has been all paperwork shuffling with a lot of misdirections from the government. It looks like we are finally nearing the permit stage and we went up to look around. Found this little hummingbird on the ground, obviously stunned, after hitting a window. Poor guy! The homeowner moved him to a safe location to recover and I managed to get a some pretty cool shots showing off his colors.

Recovering Hummingbird

Recovering Humming bird

Recovered and back into the trees.

On the dog training front we were at the shelter again this week, leash training with basic obedience thrown in for good measure, along with evaluating new intakes. This guy is Skitch. A little skittish to start but he warms up fast. It was good to see that several of the dogs we have been working with have found homes.


But the BIG news for this week is that we started corning the corned beef for St Patrick’s Day. I’ve blogged about this before, and it is a favorite subject. I cannot state emphatically enough that homemade corned beef is a gazillion times better than the chemical laden package you buy at the grocery store. Julia Child rocked the original recipe and, with a few minor tweaks, it has yet to fail me.

Start with assembling the seasonings: 1 1/3 c coarse (Kosher) salt
1 T cracked peppercorns (pound whole corns to crack them)
1 t ground black pepper
1 T cracked allspice
2 t thyme
2 t paprika,
2 crumbled bay leafs

Assembled spices

Blend the seasonings.

Put the meat (brisket, tri tip, rump roast) into a 2 gallon ziploc bag and rub the seasoning into the meat, evenly distributing.

Rub seasoning onto the meat.

Make sure all excess air is pushed out, zipper close the bag and then massage the meat thru the plastic.

Massaging the meat before it goes in the fridge.

Now it goes into the fridge, laying flat, with a heavy weight over it. (We previously used 12 packs of soda but this year we have 2 cast iron skillets with a garden brick on top.) Every day for two weeks the meat needs massaged and turned. You will see a nice red liquid by the first turn.

After at least two weeks (we’ve gone 4) remove it from the bag and soak in cold water, changing it out at least 3 times, for 24-48 hours. This desalting will make the meat perishable so it should be cooked ASAP. We do ours in the slowcooker on low for 8 hours with a can of beer, slices of onion and garlic, red potatoes and then at about half an hour to go sliced cabbage.

Making it all Worthwhile

For the last few Tuesday’s I have been accompanying my mentor, Neil, to the local no-kill shelter. He has been evaluating dogs and doing Shelter Specific Training. This training mostly consists of teaching the dogs settle down a bit when folks come to see them. We’ve also been working on Pippi, an enthusiastic dog that is working on her leash manners.

Then there are the three amigos, three pitt mix dogs that are scared to death of strangers. They hide in their dog houses when new folks come around, where they hide until the coast is clear. We have been treating and clicking but for the most part they stay hidden until we are no longer near their cages. This past Tuesday Neil had an appointment elsewhere so I went alone. My plan was mainly to click and treat. As I was tossing treats into the Amigo on the end, Mika, the Amigo in the center, Peanut, started showing more curiosity about the treats left in his cage, not waiting for me to disappear first. Taking this as a good sign I opened the gate but stayed outside the enclosure with the gate tucked behind me. I faced sideways, tossing treats, and chatting in a neutral voice about nothing in particular.

It took awhile, but he came closer and closer until yes, he was taking treats from my hand. He even allowed me a few chin scratches. This was a huge deal for me. These dogs, the ones that need extra help, are the ones I want to eventually work with. So this breakthrough, small as it is, was a nice signal that yes, I am on the right path. It’s all about the dogs, the second chance dogs.

So please meet Peanut. And applaud his bravery. <3 [gallery itemtag="div" icontag="span" captiontag="p" ids="687,689,690,691,692,693,694,695,696,697,698,699,700"]

A New Chapter Starts

I finally took the leap and am now immersed in schoolwork, studying canine behavior. Most folks know that we have Great Danes. They are our wonderful, loving, 4-legged offspring. Our first two arrived from their breeders with good health and we promptly took them to obedience school and socialized where we could living in a non-dog friendly community.

Our good fortune ended when we brought Jinkies home from the breeder. She was different. Something always seemed to hurt, she would limp and then get better. Everything we fed her went straight thru. Our vet finally referred us to an ortho vet, Dr Huber, who saved her leg and her life. She had folding fractures in her front legs and a broken growth plate in her back leg causing both legs to start to twist. He performed a radical surgery on her, having to use fat from her abdomen to replace where the bone section was taken out. Then she went on a special diet to try and make up for the lack of nutrition (probably early weaning) in her first weeks. 2056_47853416691_3551_n

At 12 weeks she was in rehab and recovery. She had to be carried to and from the outside (if you know the breed you know that by 4 months she weighed 60 pounds…not easy to carry). She could not interact with other dogs, even ours, due to the risk of causing a catastrophic injury. Her entire life when not outside on a 4’ leash or at the vet’s was in a 10 x 10 room.

All this isolation created a dog who was extremely fearful and a resource guarder. By the time she received the all clear for us to integrate her into our pack she was a nightmare. She would attack the other dogs over dinner, treats or toys . Anything was fair game. She was terrified of brooms, vacuums, hats, dusters….you name it.

Thru a lot of research, the leadership of a great training mentor and a lot of prayer Jinkies has blossomed into a loving, well socialized dog. She still reacts fearfully in many circumstances but you would never know what she had to come thru in order to get to where she is now. And it led me into obedience training, even getting my AKC CGC Evaluator certification.
Desi Comes Home
The next dane we brought home was from a rescue. He was 6 months old and had been crated 24/7. As loving as he was and as sad as he was, he had a lot of issues that we had to work thru. He had developed a crate mentality that would let him urinate or defecate right where he slept. We were told by the vet this behavior probably would not change. If we were out of his sight he destroyed anything and everything he could until we arrived home. Many times this caused injury to him. That was what made the decision for us to put him on an anti-anxiety medicine while we trained as well. After a 3 month regimen he was able to wean off. He still has some sep anxiety but he can crate himself without losing his mind, he is no longer fearful of older women, he has learned to calm himself down rather than spinning out of control.

After dealing with these two danes that needed so much more than most families would have had the time or resources to deal with, I wanted to get into the behavior end of training. To me this is very important when dealing with rescues and abused dogs that need special help, beyond just the sits and stays.

So busy I am. I’ve started my studies. I will be immersing myself in the world of canine behavior. I’ll be doing an externship with a local shelter and then an internship with a local behavior trainer. I am blessed to have these resources for learning how to help the critters that steal my heart and the humans who take on the commitment of repairing these damaged souls.

One of Those Sundays

Yesterday the invisible gremlins seemed to be pulling one April Fools prank after another. It started with our trip to the Commissary for groceries, only to find out they were having “technical difficulties” and wouldn’t be opening at least for another hour and a half. If then. They lady standing outside telling folks of this didn’t seem too sure about the time frame. I also noticed all of the employees were standing outside, in a cold wind. My guess? They were locked out again.

The real issue is that if we didn’t get our shopping in that afternoon we’d have to wait until at least Tuesday as they are closed on Monday. Which is unfortunate, as Tuesday and Wednesday I have full schedules. We made the decision to hit the Save A Lot in town and grab a few necessities and wait for the rest.

Unfortunately, one item on the list was a dozen eggs. (Does that really count as one item or is it a dozen items?) Arriving home we weren’t quite fast enough to get them put away.

No, the dog hadn't laid eggs.

Dixie tries to 'splain

Getting rid of the evidence

The remains

The day did wind up well. I had spotted this recipe King Arthur Flour’s Italian Easter Cheese Bread in my email last week and was just itching to make it. A cold, windy day was perfect for a loaf of homemade bread to go with a boring steak dinner.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

This bread was crusty and light, exactly as the described. Other than utilizing a food processor for for the mixing, I followed the recipe as is. Their recipes are always easy to follow and this one required no unusual ingredients. It now goes in my Tried and True file and will probably be made on a regular basis to accompany hearty, Italian soups.