Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year! (Twenty Ten!)

As I write this, my last blog entry of 2009, I am not as much looking back at the year I've had as I am looking forward to the year ahead. I feel that 2010 (that's twenty ten NOT two thousand ten) is going to bring great joy, change and advancement for myself, my blog and the world of dog. There will be obstacles and hurdles yes. Most likely I will find myself fighting BSL or even for some small policy change that if enacted could save at least one dog, and for me that's plenty.

In the past I have focused quite hard on all of the dogs that I didn't or couldn't save and it drove me down to a very dark place indeed. As of late, I have tried to focus on the ones that I have saved. The ones that are in their happy forever homes right now as I type this. The ones that if my life hadn't bumped into theirs, might not be of this earth anymore. So for the dogs saved, I celebrate. I will of course always continue to morn the fallen, but their sacrifice only gives me more courage, more stamina and more passion.
Things cannot go on as they are. Euthanasia cannot continue to be our main population control device. Our children must cease to be entertained by the cruelty of the circus, we must look long and hard at what or WHO we are eating, and we must not allow convicted dog fighters back into our hearts.

As a collective we have a long way to go, but I see bright spots in the tunnel. I hear every day from people trying to do the right thing. I hope that this decade will be one of understanding and compassion. A decade of respect for ALL living creatures big and small. Each and every one of them having the right to live out their lives in safety and in health.

A wise man once said: The greatness of a nation and its morals, can be judged by the way its animals are treated. (Gandhi)

Just something to think about as you make those annual resolutions come midnight.

And remember, if you only change ONE person, open ONE mind or soften ONE heart this year, count is as a year well spent. Do not allow your self to become focused on the millions you didn't change...there's always next year!

Have a Happy-yappy humane New Year!

The Dog Diva

Monday, December 28, 2009

Keep it Positive!

You hear the term "Positive Re-enforcement" a lot these days, but many people still are not quite sure what it means. I will do my best to explain this most important of dog training philosophies.

First let's not think of positive as 'good' or 'right' let's look at it like a + sign. We are ADDING something to a dogs environment that increases the likelihood that a desired behavior will occur again in the future.

Re-enforcers for dogs are things like food, toys and praise. Basically anything your dog values and will work to earn.

So then, to positively re-enforce your dog, you simply give them what it is they value immediately following a desired behavior.

Yes, it is that simple.

Now, you will want your dog to start offering the desired behavior for as little reward as possible. This way you wont have to have chicken in your pocket at all times for your dog to listen to you!

Begin a schedule of variable re-enforcement. That way your dog wont know when the reward is coming and will always comply hoping that this time will be THE time! When weaning your dog off treats for example, do not allow the to see the treat until AFTER the behavior is preformed. The dogs' behavior should earn the treat, the treat should not earn the behavior.

Remember that positive re-enforcement is NOT the same as physically forcing your dog into a behavior and the rewarding them afterward. Your dog needs to learn on their own!

Timing is imperative! You MUST reward your dog within seconds for them to associate the behavior with the re-enforcement.

Well, I hope that clears some things up...

Happy Training!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yappy Christmas!

For some, this time of year brings happiness, joy and laughter. For others (myself included) it brings stress, long lines and bills. If you are like me, and yearn for mid January when normalcy starts to take hold once more, then your dog is likely to be stressed out as well. Dogs are very in tune to us, and can sense our anxiety. To keep your dog calm this holiday season, do your best to keep their routine the same. With shopping, family and parties, this can be more than difficult but remember dogs thrive on routine so keep waking, sleeping, feeding and exercise times all as normal as possible. If you are expecting company, make sure everyone in the house knows what the doggy rules are. If Grandpa Joe brings along his big box of medications, be sure to keep them out of Fido's reach.

Also, some of your decorations can be hazardous to your pups health. Christmas tree needles and water can be poisonous as well as mistletoe and poinsettias. You may also want to forgo the tinsel on the tree.
Be careful when baking those Christmas cookies too. Chocolate and raisins can be toxic to dogs.
Don't forget to allow your dog to be a part of the holiday festivities. Going light looking? Bring the dog along! Opening got one for Max too right? Let them join in and everyone will have a 'howling' good time!

Remember those less fortunate than your Buddy or Daisy and donate food, toys, treats, cleaning supplies, bedding or time to your local Animal Shelter.

I wish all of you a very Happy-Yappy Christmas!

Peace On Earth....

Diane aka The Dog Diva

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ummm...That's my LEG!

Whatever you want to call it; mounting, humping or 'loving up' this behavior is un-welcome and un-necessary and can be stopped.
It's not funny, so get that out of your heads right now. I have seen this behavior lead to dominance, aggression, scratches and bites, so whether you have a Great Dane or a Chihuahua, put and end to it today!

OK, first things first. Is your dog spayed or neutered? If you answered NO, move back 10 spaces. Get your dog fixed ASAP as this may be the one and only reason they are exhibiting this behavior.

If your dog is spayed or neutered, good for you. Pass GO and collect $200! But don't worry. Mounting is not always sexually motivated. Some dogs mount to show control or dominance.
This behavior can many times be eradicated in much the same way as jumping. A stern OFF, a turned back and walking away. However this is not always the case.

I have seen some pretty severe cases of humping over the years, and the good news for you is that all of the dogs got over it. Even Chico...who is by far the worst humper I've ever come across in my career.
Chico was a large adult male Rottweiler mix with a severe humping problem. Chico would not hump other dogs (a different problem behavior that almost ALWAYS is sexually or dominance driven) he would only hump people.

I first came across Chico when I heard a volunteer yelling from the play yard. I came in to find her frantically trying to pull Chico off of her by the ears. He wasn't budging, and his nails were digging into her arms drawing blood. I immediately leashed him and pulled him off of her. Then I returned him to his kennel and thought about what to do next.

I placed a note on the exercise log stating that no volunteer was to get him out with out my assistance. We then started Chico on a stern regiment of being walked around the play yard on a leash, in between my legs. At first I did this solely for control, as he was a very strong dog, but over time, it seemed to have a different affect on him as he no longer tried to hump me. I could now walk him around the yard on a loose leash. However, if he got close enough to another person, sir hump-a-lot would make a return appearance.
Because he was on a leash, I was able to pull him off. He then ceased from humping anyone who entered the yard with him. Anyone who entered afterwards was still fair game. We continued to work diligently with Chico over the months he was in our care.
One volunteer had told me that in all her 14 years at the shelter, she had never felt that a dog was truly un-adoptable...until now. I wouldn't hear any of this as I knew Chico was a good boy some where deep...DEEP down.

Then one day, something amazing happened. Chico stopped humping. He became an ace at his manners and was ready to find a new home.
It was two days before Christmas when Chico's forever home came in for him. A family with young children who were able to boss Chico around, telling him SIT! and DOWN! And Chico was obeying like the good boy I knew he could be.

They took him home for Christmas, and that to me, is the best gift any of us could have hoped for.

Chico the reformed humper.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Motion Sickness in Dogs

Does a simple trip to the vet leave your dog feeling queasy and you cleaning up a mess in the back seat? If so, why not take the time to put your dog through the simple process of desensitization?
This is a proven process, and when done correctly is extremely effective. Make sure to devote the time necessary to do this right, and always keep sessions short and successful.

First, start by simply having your dog NEAR your car in the drive way. Because your dog already associates your car with feeling sick, time spent near it while feeling normal will be a key factor in your dogs rehabilitation.

After a few of these sessions, open the car doors. Don't have your dog jump in just yet, again just stay near the car.

The next step will be to turn on the cars' engine. This is still not the time to allow your dog into your car; wait until he or she feels comfortable with this step before asking them to get in. Once your dog is in your car, keep all the doors open and have them jump right back out again. Gradually shut the doors, and sit in the drivers seat. Do not move the car yet! Wait until your dog is ready.

When the time is right, back out of the driveway, and then right back in. Remember, small steps will be the key to success here.

Slowly add time and distance in the car; down the street, around the block and so on.
Your dog should slowly get used to the cars' movements and no longer become sick.
The entire process can take weeks, but the end results are worth it for the both of you.

Throughout the training, remember to shower your dog with gentle and encouraging words of praise!

If done right, you'll soon be able to take those paper towels out of your trunk!

Good luck and happy training!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Educational Struggle

Education is an important yet delicate thing. We value education in our society, yet many people are resistant to it. Whether they are aware of this or not, is not always clear; what is clear is that their minds are closed shut to new, and many times correct, information.
Anyone in the animal welfare business will tell you that educating the public on the many important issues is more than difficult.
People tend to resist change, it's human nature, so when a new and different idea is offered, it is many times ignored or even repelled.
I find this confusing because many times, these people have come to us because of our 'expertise' in the field. But when they don't like what they hear suddenly they know better.
Let me tell you now dear readers, just because your parents did it that way and their parents and theirs, does not make something RIGHT. I know I know, this can be difficult to swallow. So I'll give you a moment.....

(Duke (left) is a handsome young male Pit Bull/Lab mix, available for adoption from the SPCA of Central FL)

OK, so if you're still reading...good for you! You've passed the first hurdle in accepting that there may still be things out there in this world for you to learn. I myself love learning, and try to learn something new every day. This of course gets harder and harder with age.

Young people have the advantage of minds that are not yet chock full of useless information. That is why humane education focuses on school aged children so heavily. Young people are still forming their opinions and ideas about the world and are, at this stage, more than happy to contradict their parents. Giving a class to a group of young people can be so fulfilling because you can almost see them drinking in the new information. With adults, you can sometimes actually see them blocking it. It's not our fault though, you see we simply cannot over ride our formed schema's.
If you are asking..."Uh, Diane, What's a schema?" don't worry, I'll tell you!
I like to think of schema's as little labeled boxes in our brains. (Think about your attic, basement or back room/closet). We only have so many boxes, so we have to assimilate some things....every time we learn something new, we try our best to cram it into a box full of things we already know and are comfortable with. (Are you following me?)
So, when we come across a large oddly shaped object (or piece of different and challenging information) we just can't fit it in any of our boxes, so we throw it out, or reject it.

OK enough with the psychology lessons....the problem is much simpler than that: How to get people to open their minds and perhaps more importantly their hearts?

Some people respond to hard numbers and facts. So here goes....For every human born there are 13 dogs and 65 cats. That means for every pet to have a home EACH person would have to have 13 dogs and 65 cats. Not just every household or family but every individual. One pair of cats and their offspring can create up to 420,000 kittens in just 7 years. Millions of adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year in this country alone, while puppy mills and stores make millions of dollars make MORE dogs.

Some people learn through fear: Neutering your male dog will save him from testicular/prostate cancer later in life. A spayed female cannot get ovarian cancer. (Did I mention that cancer is the number ONE killer of dogs?) Spaying and neutering cuts down on aggression. Neutered males seldom mark their territories and spayed females wont bleed all over your rug.

Then there are the folks out there who respond to passion. I see good dogs die every day. Dogs who've never done anything wrong in their lives, dogs that some one at one time had promised to take care of, dogs with love, fear and uncertainty in their eyes. Dogs that willingly walk back to the euthanasia room, happy to be out of their kennel, not knowing these are their final moments on earth. How anyone could justify purchasing a dog, or breeding a dog when these wonderful companions are killed every day, is just beyond me. It just doesn't fit in any of my boxes or in my heart.
Perhaps I am too passionate about my work, and maybe I overwhelm people with my fervor.
Or it may be that people build a wall of guilt, telling themselves that the one litter they let their cat have really didn't take the homes of 7 shelter pets, who were then put to death when their time was up.
Whatever it is, guilt, indifference or plain old seems one simply cannot teach compassion.

Diane AKA The Dog Diva

Monday, December 7, 2009

BOING! Look at me!!!!

Jumping. This just may be the most complained about doggy behavior, and funnily enough, it's one of the easiest to fix!

No one (well most of us anyway) likes going over to 'that friends' house all dressed up, only to have our panty hoes ripped or dress shirts paw stained, all while 'that friend' clamors (always too late) to drag the dog away to confinement, while muttering something about how she just doesn't know why he does that and how sorry she is.
This whole ordeal is just not necessary.

Jumping up is an attention seeking behavior, therefore the way to break a dog of this is to withdraw ALL attention from them; even negative.
Some people will suggest pushing the dog off, saying NO or kneeing the dog in the chest. Even though all of this is "bad" attention it is still attention none the less.
(I know we all remember that kid from our elementary school who would act out just so he could see his name written on the board!) Thus, 'bad' attention is still......well.....attention, and therefore rewarding.

When your dog jumps up on you, simply cross your arms, turn and look away and say OFF! If your dog comes around to the other side of you and tries again, turn away once more and repeat until your dog has all four paws on the ground. Once this occurs you may praise your dog lavishly. If your dog becomes exited by this attention and jumps up again, simply repeat the off procedure once more. It wont take your dog long to figure out that he receives attention while on the ground and gets ignored in the air.

Off is an instructive reprimand and is better in this case because it tells the dog what to do, rather than just letting them know you are displeased.

Have guests coming over? Make sure they know the OFF rules so they don't un-do your training with a single "good doggy" while Fido has his paws on their shoulders.

This system works; period. I have used it on very severe cases and with time and consistency, OFF always wins out.
So good luck and as always, happy training!

Friday, December 4, 2009


A dog with hyperactivity can be destructive as well as pesty. Remember that many breeds of dogs have a psychological need to stay busy, and if you don't give them a job to do...they'll find one! And it most likely will be highly unpleasing to you.
Dogs need toys, (Chew, soft, KONG, balls, Frisbee's etc...) daily walks and play time with both you and with other dogs. Making your dog a part of your day to day family life can also help with hyperactivity. Instead of locking your dog in a crate and leaving, why not take them with you?! Your dog would surely love to watch little Johnny' s soccer game, or go through the bank drive through with you. Being a part of family activities will give your dog something to do and to look forward to, and you will notice an over improvement in your dogs' behavior.
Now, I know that you can't take your dog everywhere you go, so when you have to leave Fido behind, make sure that he's had plenty of exercise first. Confine your dog to a specific area in your home that is dog proofed (ie no trash cans left out or cords to chew...) and leave behind some fun toys. (A KONG stuffed with goodies should keep your dog happy and occupied.)
When you arrive back home play a game of hide and seek or "find the treat" with your dog for a little brain stimulation and fun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Let Me Touch Your Feet!

During the Holiday Season many people will be bringing a new furry friend home to join their families. There are many things to know and consider when doing this, but in an effort not to overwhelm my loyal audience, I will be taking these steps one at a time!

Today we will be discussing: Handling.

Handling is very important for all dogs. You can start this process whether you have a puppy or a senior. It's never too early or too late to start!

Handling is an especially important routine because all dogs will need their nails trimmed, their hair combed, teeth brushed and ears cleaned. Do NOT wait until these things actually need to be done to try them! Start getting your dog prepared today!

Get your dog used to having all parts of his or her body touched. Always be gentle and praise them verbally and with yummy treats for good behavior.

Toe nail clipping can make even the most seasoned dog owner cringe; and anyone who's ever "quicked" a dog knows why!
Start small by clipping just the tip of the toe nails. Do just one or two at a time, followed by praise, treats and/or play time. In other words, associate the event with something enjoyable for your dog.
If your dog has clear nails...lucky you! You will be able to see the quick (vein) in the nail, so you shouldn't have trouble avoiding it. For the rest of us, the best advice is to go slow and take a little at a time. Always have styptic powder close at hand to stop the bleeding in case of an accident. Quicks can bleed without stopping for quite some time without this.

Follow the same rules for teeth brushing and ear cleaning. Slow and patient with lots of "Good Dogs!"

You can practice handling whenever your dog is near you. Touch your dogs feet, look in their ears and open their mouths whenever you get a chance.
If you do this enough your dog will become desensitized to the process.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is Your Dog Driving You Crazy?

We've all had one, or at least know some one who has... or still does. A crazy dog. It seems no matter how much exercise they are given or how old they get, they just don't slow down.
The Dog Diva to the rescue!
Below you will find 5 simple and cheap tips for calming your crazy're welcome.

EXERCISE: Whatever exercise you are currently giving your dog...double it! Romping in the back yard or a quick trip around the block is not sufficient for most dogs. Your dog needs to get really tired out! Go for a run or a bike ride, or simply extend the length of your walk. Don't forget about your dogs mental needs either. Fido should be both mentally and physically tuckered out. Try getting involved in agility, Frisbee or fly ball. On a rainy day you can play Hide and Seek with your dog for some indoor fun!

DO NOTHING: Behaviorist Sue Sternberg developed this idea, and it really works! All that is required of you is that you do...well...not much. Sit in a small quiet room and read a book or a magazine; or get some work done on your computer. All while paying peripheral attention to your dog. If your dog nudges you, barks, whines, paws, jumps or tries to get your attention in any other way, ignore them completely. (This may take some time at first.) When your dog finally settles down, hand them a treat and say GOOD BOY! (Or girl!) If you are thinking that this will in turn send your dog running to you in hopes of attention, well, you're right. But what you must do is ignore them once more. Again, after they settle, give them another treat and a GOOD DOG. Repeat. Remember to continue to reward your dog the longer they remain calm and quiet.

FOOD: You may actually be feeding your dog the crazies! Many dog show ADHD like behaviors when they eat a poor diet. If you can't pronounce all of the ingredients in your dogs food, don't feed it to them!

LAVENDER: A few drops of lavender essential oil between your dogs shoulder blades or a spritz on a bandanna around their neck can have calming effects. Even if this doesn't work for you, your dog will smell great!

T-SHIRTS: A snug fitting shirt can help sooth and calm dogs. (Kind of like a hug!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tis The Season For FOOD!

This is the time of year when we all tend to gain a couple of pounds. But did you know that a few pounds on your dog can actually be incredibly hazardous to their health? I know how tempting it can be, with all the scraps and leftovers hanging around, but remember, turkey skin and bones are choking hazards!
Also, chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, avocados and macadamia nuts, among other things, can be toxic to your pet. All of which brings me back to my cardinal rule: People food for people, dog food for dogs!

I have already given you a few of my favorite recipes tailored especially towards K9 cuties, but you've asked for more! Below you will find two more yummy made for dog baked goods.

But before I get to the recipes themselves, I'd like to take a moment to talk about how to have a save and successful Thanksgiving with your dog.

First, keep your dogs' routine as consistent as possible. The holidays are a very stressful time for us all, and your dog is no exception. The more consistent you can make your dogs life, the less stress they will have.

Make sure all guests in you home know the 'doggy rules'. No scraps from the table, no jumping up etc... Also make sure they store their medications away from Fido's reach, and just in case, know the poison control hot line (888-426-4435) and the number for you nearest emergency vet!

Afraid your best friend will embarrass you with bad manners during dinner time? No worries, stuff a KONG or two with wet food, baby food, peanut butter or treats and they'll happily settle in for a feast of their own!

OK now for the recipes. Oh and on a side note, if you happen to have any left over doggie goodies, you can always take them to your local shelter and share them with less fortunate, homeless pets.

Shush Puppies

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
1 2/3 cup cheddar cheese
3 tsp garlic powder
4 tlbs oil
1 cup powdered milk
1 1/8 cup water

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Gradually add oil and water. Mix well. Dough should form a sticky ball. Place on greased cookie sheet by spoon fulls and bake for about 20 mins.

Banana Pupcakes

2 cups water
2 bananas
1 tps vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tbls baking powder
1 egg
3 tbls honey

Heat oven to 350 degrees, mash bananas. Mix all ingredients together and pour into cupcake pan. Bake for 20 mins.

Shadie is a 7 year old terrier mix available for adoption from the SPCA of Central Florida. She'd love to go home with you for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Dog Diva on National TV!

Dear Readers,

I am pleased to announce that I will be taking the The Dog Diva's message to a television set near you!
I will be appearing on several pet segments during the national morning show The Daily Buzz. My first segment will air on Thanksgiving. Tune in for Safe Holiday Pet Tips by the Dog Diva!
Following that will be segments on Training and Pet Holiday Gift Ideas. (Nov. 30th and Dec. 14th respectively.)
All segments air around 7:45am.

Thanks for your continued support and please...spread the word!

Diane aka The Dog Diva

Monday, November 16, 2009

Give Treats, er I Mean Thanks...

During this time of year, we humans tend to eat a lot of food. Much of that food is, let's face it, not that good for us. But what about our K9 companions? Do you find yourself giving Fido your table scraps more during the holidays? Naughty naughty!

It's OK to want to 'spoil' your dog this time of year, it's only natural. But instead of stuffing and pie, why not cook up some of these special yummy treats designed especially for doggies! You can make enough to share with your dog's friends or the less fortunate dogs at your local shelter!

Happy Cooking!

Massive Mastiff Munchy Muffins

2 Carrots (shredded)

1 1/2 cups water

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 tbls Honey

1 1/2 over ripe bananas mashed

4 cups whole wheat flour

1 tbls baking powder

1tbls Cinnamon

1tbls Nutmeg

Mix all wet ingredients together in a bowl. Then add banana, mix thoroughly and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients and add wet. Mix thoroughly. Coat a 12 muffin pan with non-stick spray (or muffin cups). Fill with batter about 3/4ths full.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Bull Dog Brownies

1/2 cup shortening

3 Tbls Honey

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream shortening and honey. Add all remaining ingredients and blend well. Bake in a greased cookie sheet for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.


12 ounces non-fat cream cheese

2 tbls Honey

Blend together and spread over brownies.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Under The Surface

Dogs dig period. It is a natural canine behavior. However sometimes the digging can get a bit out of control, or compromise the dogs safety. In these cases, we need to dig deep and find out what is going on with the dog....under the surface.
Your first task will be to figure our exactly WHY your dog is digging. Is there a critter living in your flower beds? Is your dog simply looking for the perfect place to marinate his bone? Does your dog enjoy a game of tug of war with roots? Do you live in a hot climate? If so your dog may be digging to stay cool. Or is your dog simply bored, and looking for a way to stimulate his mind? It is important to find the cause behind the digging because the treatment is different for each.
As always remember you cannot scold your dog after the fact. If you come home to find a new hole in your yard, it's too late, better luck next time. If you catch your dog in the act, you can interrupt them with a firm NO and then redirect them to a more appropriate behavior.

After some spying and sleuthing, you've hopefully come to a conclusion about why your dog digs. Did you find a critter in your garden? The best solution here is to have the small animal humanely removed from your yard.
Is your dog digging to bury his bone? Why don't you hold onto the bone for him, and only let him have it when you can supervise him?
Is your dog playing tug of war with trees? Give him something to play with that doesn't destroy your maple. Tie a rope toy or spring toy from a branch and encourage your dog to play with that instead.
If heat is the cause, why not provide your dog with a nice wading pool to cool off in? (Baby pool.) Or better yet, bring your dog inside where the AC is!

If your dog is digging out of boredom, you have a harder task in front of you. Dogs that dig out of boredom often dig out of their yards and 'escape'. Your dog is searching for something to stimulate his mind, and because you did not provide anything for him, he will go and find his own fun. This of course compromises your dogs safety and should be dealt with ASAP!

To prevent your dog from getting under your fence, you can bury chicken wire about one to two feet under the soil at the base of your fence. Once you have your dog securely in your yard, please give Fido something to do! A KONG toy or two stuffed with yummy ingredients such as peanut butter, baby food, cheese or wet food.

If this doesn't work or you find your dog just simply loves to dig, then I say let them. In a controlled and appropriate manner of course.

Build your dog a dig box. (Similar to a child's sand box.) Place it in an area in your yard that will be your dogs dig spot. Fill the box with sand and loose soil. Now, bury items for your dog to find. Make it easy at first until they get the idea. As time moves on you can bury items deeper and deeper. Encourage your dog to dig in that spot and praise them for doing so. Continue to correct the dog anytime he or she digs outside of the box.

You have now successfully taken control of the digging behavior. Congratulations, you and your garden can now breath easy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You Ate WHAT!? Ewww.....

I know it's gross, but many dogs suffer from COPROPHAGIA. That is the technical term for "eating poop". Yep, disgusting. Some dogs eat their own, some prefer the taste of others, and then there are the dogs that don't care where it came from, they just know they want to eat it. Makes you think twice about that last face lick you received doesn't it?
OK, all kidding aside, coprophagia is a serious problem that can either be behavioral or biological.

Some dogs may consume feces out of pure boredom. If this is the case, then please, buy your dog a KONG toy!
You must catch your dog in the act to prevent this from happening in the future, but the best solution is to pick up all droppings immediately.
Feces contain undigested and semi-digested material which can provide needed nutrients for a dog with a specific nutritional deficiency.
It is normal for nursing mothers to consume the feces of their puppies in order to keep the den clean and to prevent predators from picking up their scent.
Always make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and has lots of different things around to stimulate his mind. If these remedies do not work, your dog may have a vitamin B or K deficiency. If this is the case, your vet can recommend supplements for your dog to help remedy this.
Simple aversion therapy can also be done by letting the dog approach the feces while on leash. The second your dog begins to sniff the feces, say NO LEAVE IT and continue walking past the pile. Make sure to praise your dog every time during this exercise.

And last but not least....brush your dogs teeth! :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Set Your Dog Up For Sucess!

Pointers for a positive training session:

Wear appropriate attire! Closed toed shoes, long pants and no dangly jewelry! Equip yourself with a training pouch, and fill it will lots of different yummy treats.
Don't get distracted! Stay to the task at hand!
Determine where the session will be held. Find a place with as little distractions as possible to start.
Keep things consistent!
Dogs love a leader! Lead through a firm voice and straight body posture.
Keep body language and facial expressions appropriate.
Pay close attention to your dogs body language. Is their attention waning? Are they getting frustrated?
Prior to the training session, let your dog run a bit and relive themselves. This will help them focus.
After training is over, reward you dog with some free time. I like to call this "belly rub time!"
Don't over do it! A session should not be much longer than about 20 minutes, remember, school is tough!
Focus on new commands, but intersperse with commands your dog already knows.
Always end the session on a positive note! This is extremely important. If you have been working and working on a command and suddenly the dogs does it right, praise them like crazy, give them a 'jackpot' of treats and stop! If you are working on a more difficult command and the dog (and you) are becoming frustrated, have the dog preform a simpler task in order to be rewarded, then end the training session.
Keep written records of your dogs progress. This way you will never forget where you left off!

Good Luck and Happy Training!

Friday, November 6, 2009

No! Off! Alright! Good Dog!

Welcome to the next instalment of my series on basic obedience. We will start this lesson off with the word people use most frequently with their dogs; NO! If a dog only knows one word, I guarantee you this is it. And it's unfortunate. People tend to spend all their time telling their dogs what NOT to do, and not nearly enough time letting them know what they are allowed to do! Think about it; when is the last time you praised your dog for lying quietly at your feet while you watched a movie? Isn't that exactly what you want your dog to be doing at that moment? Then why not tell them so!?
"NO" is used to stop a dog from exhibiting a behavior that is undesirable. There is no need to yell NO at a dog, a firm tone will be suffice.

Only use NO once for each correction. If you say NO NO NO NO NO etc...the word will loose it's meaning. There must be consequence behind it. Therefore, if you say NO and your dog continues on with the undesirable action, you must intervene and stop the behavior yourself. Once the behavior has been stopped, remember to redirect your dog to a more appropriate action.

Remember, NEVER call your dog to you to discipline them! If you call your dog to you, and they come, you must now praise them for doing what you've asked. If you call your dog to you and then reprimand them for their previous actions, what do you think the chances are of them coming to you the next time you call them over? Slim to none, because all the dog understands is: When I come to them, they yell at me!
(Just a note, instead of using the word NO you can make a buzzer sound: EH EH!)

I mentioned above that you will want to refrain from saying No over and over again. Well the same rule applies to the dogs' name. Some people try and use a dogs' name as a command. Ex: Max! Max! Max! MAX!!! Question: What is it that you would like Max to do?! Whatever it is, please tell him so. Just think how annoying it would be to have some one shout your name repeatedly at you with no further instruction of what they wanted!

The only other correction command we should be using is OFF. (In other words, No means No, not quit, stop or any other word that might confuse you dog.) Off is different because it is descriptive. It lets the dog know exactly what behavior is the undesirable one. To train your dog not to jump, simply fold your arms, turn around, look away and say OFF every time your dog jumps.
Jumping is an attention seeking behavior, therefore ignoring it is the best medicine. Beware of giving negative attention to your dog such as pushing or kneeing them. Negative attention is still attention! (Remember that little kid who would act out in class, just to see his name written on the board?)
You may have to repeat this several times before your dog understands, but the second they have all four paws on the floor praise them lavishly. If they jump again, quickly remove your attention and repeat the Off command. Timing and consistency is important.

A couple correction pointers: Never hit your dog. This is unnecessary and many times will produce an undesired result. A simple lack of reward is generally suffice to convey your displeasure with a particular action.

Easy; easy is a reminder for the dog to be gentle or behave more calmly. Does your dog try and take your fingers off every time you offer them a treat? If so, then this modification command is for you! Simply place the treat in the flat palm of your hand and offer it to your dog while saying Easy. Your dog will automatically take the treat nicely, and you can praise them with: Good easy! Once your dog begins to grasp the meaning of this word, it can also be used during play time if your dog begins to play a bit too rough.
Always say this command in a calm and gentle tone.

Alright is used to signal that a given task is completed. Once your dog has complied with your direction and does not need to stay in position any longer, you may release them with "Alright!"
I most commonly use this word when working with the 'stay' command. Always say it in a definite and exited way. In the beginning you may have to encourage your dog to break position.

Now we have come to the easiest part. Praise! When it comes to praise words are not important but emotion is! Dogs know when you're fooling them, so be sincere. The more into it you get, the better the reinforcement.

Come back next time when we go over pointers for a positive training session!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wait! Now Let's Have Some Fun!

Alright, we've had a bit of fun lately, but now it's back to serious business. At least for a bit! When we last left off, our doggy had learned how to sit, lie down and stay; not bad. But now it is on to one of the most challenging behaviors for a dog to learn. Wait or 'heel'. This is not only difficult for dogs to master, but pet parents tend to loose patience and become frustrated while training this as well.

This will take time! So be ready to invest in it. There is nothing worse than being drug around like a rag doll every time you take Fido for his evening walk. It's tiresome, painful and let's face it, a little embarrassing. Unfortunately, for many dogs, the solution equals no more walks.
This is just not fair, nor is it healthy for either human or K9. So let's tackle this problem head on.

First off, make sure you have the correct equipment. A 4-6 foot nylon lead and simple nylon buckle or snap collar. NO PINCH COLLARS OR CHOKER CHAINS! The only other acceptable apparatus would be a Gentle Leader Easy Harness. This is NOT a typical harness with the hook on the back that actually encourages pulling, but instead one that goes around the dogs' front legs and has a sliding ring at the chest. This will help greatly for 'problem pullers'.

The ultimate goal of wait/heel is for the dog to walk at your pace, and stop when you do. A properly executed heel places the dog on your left side. Use the dogs name plus the command to begin; "Fluffy, Wait."

If the dog runs ahead and pulls at the lead, stop walking and repeat the command. As soon as the leash becomes slack, take another step. Repeat. Yes it is certainly possible that you will only get to take one step at a time, but keep at it. Before you know it you will be on to two, then three and so on. Eventually the dog will learn that pulling gets them nowhere fast.

(Cheat sheet: Carry tasty treats in your pocket and offer them to your dog when they walk beside you. This will help encourage them to stay close!)

After you and your dog master this, adding in the automatic sit will seem like a day at the park! The goal here is to have your dog sit every time you come to a stop. This behavior comes from simple repetition. Walk stop sit walk stop sit etc... you'll be surprised at how fast your dog learns this especially when a food reward is offered for the sit part!

If you've made it this far, congratulations! You have a very well behaved pooch! However, people never seem fully amused or satisfied with this and insist that the dog learn other people pleasing behaviors such as "gimme 5" Roll over or here we go!

"Gimme 5", "Shake" or "paw" is probably the number one favorite trick that people teach their dogs. It has come to a point where it seems almost as expected of them as sit! Despite being immensely popular and easy to train there are some very important rules that go along with teaching this trick to your dog.
Your dog MUST learn sit, down and stay BEFORE beginning this trick! This is more important than is sounds. Just ask anyone who taught sit, then shake and then attempted down. You've just made a lot more work for yourself trust me! Besides that, down is a submissive behavior and shake a more dominant one. You should always teach the submissive behaviors first.
To train your dog to offer up their paw, place them in a sit position and take one of their front paws in your had and say "gimme 5!" (Or shake or paw) Then "Good!" and give them a tasty treat. Repeat. eventually your dog will offer their paw in exchange for a treat, or a pat on the head.
Once your dog learns this it is important to vary their routine! Don't get caught in a rut. (Sit paw down, sit paw down...) as your dog will go on auto pilot. Keep them thinking by varying their behaviors. Also important is to never reward a paw you didn't ask for!

"Crawl" is another easy one. Have your dog lie down, then hold a treat on the ground just out of their reach. Say Craaaaawl......! Your dog will most likely scoot their body on the floor to get the treat. Repeat, gradually increasing the distance you ask them to crawl.

Roll over is another immensely popular trick, but it's not the easiest, nor is it for every dog. Take into consideration your dogs shape, age and size. For example, Dachshunds should never learn this behavior as they have very fragile backs. It may be hazardous for an older or large dog as well. If your dog is young, healthy and strong enough to attempt this, then you may proceed.

Place your dog in a down position and lead their head over their shoulder with a treat. (Most dogs will 'pick a side' when lying down, so make sure to go with that and not fight it.) At first you may only succeed in getting them on their sides, but with enough work and patience, you will soon get them on their backs and then the rest of the way over.
Please note that this is an incredibly submissive behavior and extremely shy or nervous dogs may refuse to preform it. That's OK, don't force them.

Join me next time when we cover corrections, modifications, releases and praise!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Dog Cookies!

Dogs LOVE pumpkin! (Don't tell 'em it's good for them!) My dog enjoys this time of the year most because my love for all things pumpkin means that she will be reaping the benefits! This year while you're working so hard on your cranberry sauce, stuffing and Tofurky; take a minute to whip up a batch of these easy to make yummy pumpkin dog treats for the dog in your life, who is forever thankful for you, and the love and care they receive.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup pumpkin (canned)
1 Tblsp. Brn sugar
1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg
4 Tbls. Crisco
1 egg
1/2 Cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Beat wet ingredients and combine with flour mix. Drop by tablespoons onto un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool, and let your dog enjoy!
Remember to only give a couple a day as pumpkin aids in your doggy's digestion...if you get my meaning!

Happy Fall!

The Dog Diva

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween has gone to the dogs!

Kaya adopted at age 8, casts her spell!

In honor of my favorite holiday, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite pictures of what else? Cute dogs who are totally annoyed to be in costume!

I am not a big fan of dressing up dogs on a day to day basis. I think it blurs the lines between human and K9 just a bit too much, but on Halloween, all bets are off!

You have my permission on this one night a year to embarrass your dog in front of the neighborhood. (Just keep the costumes safe please!)

Enjoy...and Happy Halloween!

The Dog Diva

Bandit, adopted from the SPCA at age 7.

Bandit is such a good sport!

Buddy, an SPCA therapy dog, is ready for a night on the town!

Jackson, an SPCA Pet Visitation dog, poses for Mickey!

Kepa, adopted from Orange County Animal Services.

Yes, that is our good sport Bandit dressed in Disney Princess attire!

Wanda the pumpkin. Adopted by her heart worm foster mom!

Have a happy and safe Halloween and remember to keep the candy for yourselves! No chocolate for Fido!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sit! Stay! Good dog!

Now that we've learned a little something about why obedience training is so important, and what tools we will need to accomplish it, we need to begin with the actual training!

Before starting your session, make sure that the dog has had some play time and does not need to use the rest room! Next, get your face and voice in check. After thousands of years of domestication, dogs have become experts on human emotions so make sure you face and voice fit the situation. The three main voices are as follows: Command Voice, Correction Voice and Praise Voice. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people using a high soft pitch tone when ASKING a dog to sit for them. Guess what? It didn't work so well! We call these behaviors commands for a reason and we are TELLING the dog what to do not asking them. This voice should be firm and some what low. (Sometimes I call it the "mom" or "wife" know the one, the one that makes you feel compelled to complete whatever action is being 'requested' of you!) During this time your face should remain flat.

For your correction voice it is important to remember that there is no need to yell. Dogs can hear really well. They may not act like they hear you but they do, it's called selective hearing. ;)
I make a 'buzzer' type noise and say "EH EH!" I find that this generally stops them in their tracks pretty well. They know they've done something they were not supposed to. Your face should look stern and serious.

The praise voice is the one we all know and love. It's the high pitched baby talk that just seems to spring involuntarily from our lips when we see a K9 cutie. The more excited you can get, the more reinforcing the praise will be. Make sure you face is light and happy. (On a side note, dogs know when you're fooling them, so keep it genuine!)

Commands can be divided into 5 categories; direction, correction, modification, release and praise. Direction commands tell the dog what to do, correction commands tell the dog to discontinue specific behaviors, modifications are qualitative and instruct a dog HOW to preform a task, release words allow a dog to discontinue a behavior after successfully completing it and praise is always given when a command is followed.

OK, let's start with the basics: Sit, Down and stay. After your dog learns these you can move on to more challenging behaviors and 'fun' tricks.

SIT: The dog sits on his or her bottom with head held erect and front legs and paws straight.

To lure your dog into this position, allow them to sniff a yummy treat that you are holding in your hand. Slowly move the treat back and over their heads. The dog should follow the treat back, ending up in a sit. This works! There is NO need to physically manipulate the dog into any position! If the dog backs up when you try this, simply find a wall or corner to work with so that the dog wont have anywhere to go. Sometimes dog will try to jump up for the treat, if this happens you are most likely holding the treat too high. Ty holding it closer to the dogs head. Sit is the simplest of tasks and can be learned in as little as five to ten minutes!

Sit is the 'gateway' command that leads to all others. After your dog has mastered sit, they can now learn stay and down.

Let's start with stay. To teach your dog stay, first place them in the sit position. This command will present a new challenge for your dog, as up until now he or she has been immediately rewarded after preforming the sit behavior. Reduce distractions during the initial training to help your dog focus, gradually adding them back in as your dog improves.

Use the word stay as long as the hand signal. (A flat hand held outward in front of the body.) Wait only a few seconds before rewarding your dog. This will be a slow process! Take your time and do it right. Little by little you can start to increase time and distance. If your dog breaks their stay, say NO or EH EH and start over. You may use a release command of "Alright" to tell your dog when the stay is over, and allow them to come receive their reward.

Down: All four feet/legs are on the ground along with the stomach, while the head is held erect.

Again, as with sit, there will be no need to physically move your dog into this position. We will be using the lure method once more.

Have your dog sit for you, then let them smell a yummy treat that is held in your hand. Take the treat and move it slowly down from the dogs nose to their front paws and then out, away from their bodies. (Like a giant L). The dog should follow the treat all the way down to the floor. When the do, reward them with the treat from your hand.

Sometimes a dog will lift their rear ends off the ground in order to get to the treat. If this happens slow down even further and get them super focused on the treat in your hand. You may also try to lure them under a bridge that you make with your leg, by squatting and extending one leg out.

Another funny thing these furry comedians do is to stretch our there necks as far as possible in a vain attempt to reach the treat, while refusing to leave their sit position. It's as if they just can't figure out how to reach that yummy treat! When this happens I simply break the treat up into the tiniest pieces possible and reward the dog for each step. Example: The dog stretches his neck toward the treat. OK, he's trying, so I'll give him a little something. However, next time, he will have to give me a little more to receive a reward. Let's say he moves one paw out on his next try. Great! He can have another little piece of treat. This continues until he gets all the way into a down position. By rewarding him little by little on the way, you encourage your dog to keep trying not give up!

After down is mastered you can begin work on down-stay. This is much more difficult for a dog than sit-stay. A down-stay is a very submissive and vulnerable position for a dog, so be patient and go slow. This is taught in the same way as sit stay was.

Come back next time for Heel/Wait with automatic sit and then it's on to the 'fun stuff'!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"He's a Wonderful Dog...but..."

Many dog parents are unsure of how to teach their dogs some manners. Unfortunately these folks sometimes resort to yelling, hitting, banishing or even giving up their dog. What these people desperately need is a lesson in obedience training. But where to turn? Now days it seems as if there is a doggy training business in every neighborhood. Plus there are your big chains and national corporations. How does one pick a system that will work for them and for their dog? Obedience training would be a breeze if we spoke K9 or dogs spoke human, but alas, it is not so. Dogs have their own attitudes, mindsets and body language; and they can be stubborn, dominant, submissive or fearful all of which can make them more of a challenge to train.

I recommend searching for an obedience instructor based on experience. In my career I have come across way to many individuals with little to no experience advertising themselves as dog trainers. (One woman actually put 24 years of dog ownership on her flyer as her one and only form of expertise.) Research their backgrounds. Do they have formal education and training? How much hands on experience do they have? How long have they been in the business? And do they have referrals?

Organized and structured classes are great, especially for young dogs, or dogs with out any specific problems or issues. This also allows you dog opportunities to socialize in a controlled environment. For dogs with more 'ingrained" problem behaviors or challenges, an in home instructor may be the way to go. Remember, no matter which course you choose the instructor/trainer should be teaching YOU to train your dog, not training the dogs themselves.

This is the only way the regimen will work and the outcome will remain a success.
To begin the training process, you will first need the correct tools: a simple nylon collar (fitted properly), a 4-6 foot nylon leash, training treats, a training pouch, patience, consistency and a sense of humor! Consistency is the number one rule in dog training, but close behind that is the idea that training should be fun! Include praise, treats, petting and play in every session. You and your dog should both look forward to your training time together.
Also, encourage all family members to participate to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the dog is not receiving mixed signals. Don't forget to include the kids!
Most reputable trainers utilize a process called Positive Reinforcement. This means adding a valued stimulus to your dogs environment to help encourage a desired behavior to occur more frequently in the future. In other words, if your dog gets a treat (valued stimulus) every time they sit (desired behavior) they are more likely to sit again, in the hopes of receiving more treats! It's simple really; reward what you WANT your dog to do and ignore the rest!
It is important to remember that we NEVER yell or strike dogs during the training process. It is cruel and simply unnecessary. The goal is to have your dog love and respect you, not fear you; fear based training is antiquated and ineffective.
So, what SHOULD your dog know? Well, every dog seems to be expected to know how to: not jump, sit, lie down, stay, heel and come when called. This may shock you, but dogs are not born knowing how to do these things! We must show them.
How you ask? Stay tuned for my next installment for the answer to that and much more!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mmmm....your shoes taste good!

Dogs Chew...period. Sorry everyone, but it's a fact of doggy life. Chewing is a natural behavior that releases stress, relieves boredom and just plain feels good.

Where your dog is on their journey through life plays a part in just how much they will want to chew. Puppies begin around the time of teething. As soon as this occurs make sure to let your dog know what is appropriate to chew on (chew toys, KONGS, nylabones etc...) and what is not. (Rugs, furniture, shoes or even your wall!)

Because chewing relieves boredom, keeps the dog occupied, and relieves stress, it is likely to be a repeated occurrence as it is self re-enforcing.

So, how do we tell doggy where, when and how to chew? The best medicine is exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog; plus a sleeping dog can't chew up the banister!

If your dog has a 'chewing problem' always supervise them while in the house, and confine them to a crate or small room along with KONGS, bedding and water, when you cannot. Dog proofing your house is also strongly advised. If you don't want your dog to chew it, get it off the ground! Don't complain that your dog eats your shoes when you are the one that leaves the closet door open every day!

Make sure you have a variety of chew toys for your dog to choose from, (at least 20) and rotate them so that your dog does not get bored.

If you come upon your dog chewing on something inappropriate interrupt them with loud noise or vocalization and re-direct them to an appropriate item. Remember you can never punish your dog after the fact. If you come home to find your couch pillows destroyed, it is too late to discipline your dog.

A dog is a dog, and they will always find a way to amuse themselves. It is our job to give them plenty of (acceptable) things to do!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bark! Woof! ....grumble.....boof!.......Shhhh!

Excessive barking can be one of the most challenging problems owners face. This behavior usually not only annoys the owners, but the owners friends and neighbors as well. All of which makes it very important to correct your out spoken doggies unnecessary vocalizations ASAP.
It is important to remember that barking is a dogs natural reaction to changes in their environment. Please allow your dog to indulge in a few reasonable barks before redirecting their attention. What is reasonable you ask? Well, a few barks at strangers passing by, other animals or loud noises are pretty common for most dogs. And what constitutes as not reasonable? That's simple, when it annoys your neighbors.
So what to do if your dog is an "unreasonable" barker? First you must answer the question: Why is your dog barking? Some dogs bark out of sheer boredom. The answer could be as simple as a change of scenery for the dog, or a few puzzle toys left out or hidden to keep Fido busy while you're gone.
If your dog seems to bark at everything they hear or see, sensory isolation might be the cure. Put your dog in a kitchen, laundry room or bathroom (with little or no windows, and not along a common wall,) along with their crate or bed. Try turning on some classical music before heading out to help muffle outside noises.
(Remember to always confine your dog to a room using a baby gate, and not a closed door, so that your dog does not feel trapped and panic.)
For more severe barking problems the owner must do a bit of sleuthing. Leave the house as usual, then sneak back and watch the dog from a hidden spot. When the dog begins to bark, make a brief and distracting noise to change the dogs point of attention. Repeat if and when the dogs barks again. Wait for the dog to settle, then leave.
If the this method does not work, the owner may also try entering the house with a loud NO BARK every time leaving calmly again. Repeat. Please make sure you have the patience this method requires before attempting to carry it out!

If your dog barks while you are at home, you may have a bossy dog! If you have a bossy dog (BARK let me out! BARK I want dinner! BARK let me in! etc...) then your task is relatively simple. Let your dog know that they are not the boss, YOU are! Make your dog work for everything they want. Your dog should sit (or preform another behavior from their repertoire) before receiving anything form you.

If your dog barks while you are at home, but is not a bossy dog, you may have a suspicious dog. These noisy pups take a bit more work and commitment. As odd as this might seem, the way to quite these pooches is to actually teach them to 'speak' on command. At the same time, teaching them to be "quiet" on command as well. In other words, you name the behavior in order to control it.
Your first task is to find something that triggers the barking. For example, if your dog barks when some one knocks on the door, he will most likely be fooled (most dogs are) by a knocking on almost any hard surface. Knock a few times and when he barks say "speak speak!" and tell him he is a good dog. Then show him a tasty treat to distract him while saying "quiet" and asking him to sit to receive his reward. Repeat. When your dog has mastered this, congratulations! You have now shifted your dogs focus from the distraction to you!
I recommend setting up some trial runs with friends and neighbors. Go slow and be patient, and as always, try, try again.
It is also important to remember to allow your dog their 'acceptable' barks; About 3-5 should be sufficient, before asking them to be quiet.
Remember that barking is a normal response for all dogs to a stimulus in their environment. You should never leave an excessive barker outside un-attended. (For your neighbors sake!)

In addition, did you know that barking can relive tension in dogs? It also drives away strangers and serves as a way of communication for the species. Most dog owners want their dogs to bark if they hear some one at the window, or see a person enter the yard. Dogs are natural warning devices, however it is important that they know when to stop, and do so when asked.

Hopefully with these helpful hints and tips you and your dog can live in world of civilized conversations!

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Small Vick-tory

Today I am a proud member of the Raider Nation. When I heard that convicted dog fighter Mike Vick's first road game as an Eagle after his full reinstatement, would be against MY team...I must admit, I was worried.

Let's face it, the Oakland Raiders haven't had much to be proud of over the last few years, and Philadelphia is a team playing near the top of their game. So yes, I will admit my confidence least at first.

I have always been an 'against all odds' sort of girl, always pulling for the underdog. (Hey, maybe that's why I'm such a great Raiders fan!)

Being a native of the Bay Area, I know how progressive they can be when it comes to animals, so I wondered if finally, there might be legitimate protests. In fact, former Raider player Jarrod Cooper started his own non-profit organization to support pit bull rights and awareness in the Oakland Area, called Code 597. (I was lucky enough to meet him at the 2008 HSUS convention, see pic below.) The answer to my question............sort of.

Sadly, only about 30 people actually showed up to stand outside of the coliseum to hold signs. Only proving to the NFL that it made the right decision in bringing Vick back. As Howie Long, former Raider himself, put it: As long as the cheers inside the stadium drown out the protesters outside, the NFL will support Mike Vick.

There was one very nice touch however, thanks to Bad Rap. (Bay Area Dog-lovers Responsible About Pits). They hired a small prop plane to fly over the stadium trailing a banner witch read: Dog Fighter Go Home; this caused Vick to head to the locker room amongst a chorus of 'barking' from the stands.

Now, there will be nay-sayers who refer to these individuals as "animal rights activists" but I don't think that name quite fits. Unfortunately it has been tainted by people who throw red paint on fur coats. Bad Rap and the others that showed their support for their cause, are more classy than that. In fact, Bad Rap had actually invited Vick to come to their facility where they have been caring for some of his former "Bad Newz" dogs. They wanted him to see their rehabilitation, and to view them as the caring, playful, kind and loving dogs that they are today. Vick, however declined. So, they went in another direction. Making their views known, in a peaceful and tactful way. Good job Bad Rap, I applaud you as always.

Maybe these small stunts actually affected the Eagles psyche because in the end, they played horribly. Or maybe they gave Oakland the fire they needed to win. Or maybe it's just karma.

Whatever happened yesterday on that field, I'm glad it did. An Oakland Raider Vick-tory 13-9.

Mike Vick and the rest of his team were forced to leave the stadium and town with their tails between their legs.

Welcome to GET OUT!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your Baby, the Newest Pack Member

I see it time and time again. Dogs being relinquished to a shelter because their owners had a baby. This always boggles my mind. First thing, wasn't this dog their "baby" at one point in their lives? Plus, children LOVE dogs, and finally...they had NINE months to prepare the dog for baby's arrival. It's not like this was un-expected and one day out of no-where the stork knocked on their door and said "Guess what? You're parents!"
Dogs generally have no issues what-so-ever adjusting to life with baby; all it takes is a little bit of training, which should start right after that important phone call to the soon to be grandparents.

Introducing baby, the newest pack member, actually starts long before the baby is actually born. First and foremost, if your dog is not yet properly obedience trained, (shame on you!) now is the time to do it! Your dog must always comply with your verbal commands, and curb any play biting or mouthing behavior right away. Do you have any friends or relatives with young infants in the house? Bring your dog over for a 'sniff' date. Bring plenty of extra yummy and special treats such as freeze dried liver, chicken or beef hot dogs. Keep your dog on a leash, and make sure to keep all dog/baby interactions completely positive! Offer treats, toys and love whenever your dog is near a baby and behaving. If your dog does not behave, simply remove him or her from the room in a calm and quiet manner and try again later.

Begin child proofing your dog by handling him or her all over. Your child will most likely pull on doggy's tail and ears, and pinch, poke and push! Get your dog ready now! Always praise and give treats to your dog while going through these exercises. Make sure that hands are welcome in and around your dog's food bowl. Do this by dropping hand fulls of dinner one at a time into the bowl as your dog eats.

Get your dog accustomed to the nursery. Teach your dog to lie down quietly in the baby's room, and praise them lavishly for doing so! (You may want to purchase a special mat for them in that room so they know exactly where they are allowed to be.)

Make sure you have a plan for you dog for when you have to go to the hospital. Preferably one that keeps the dog in the home, where there will be the least amount of change to the dog's routine.

After baby is born, but about a day before you come home from the hospital, send some one to the house with on of baby's blankets. Allow the dog to sniff the blanket thoroughly but do NOT allow him or her to play with it! Your dog will remember the scent and recognize your baby when you bring them home. When you and your baby do arrive home, have some one other than yourself carry baby and greet your dog as you normally would. Put your dog on a leash for the first few encounters with the baby, but allow your dog to sniff the baby. Always pair these interactions with yummy treats and lots of praise.
Your dog will start to associate the baby's presence with good and positive feelings. If the dog does do something inappropriate, calmly remove yourself and the baby and try again later.

Remember to ALWAYS praise your dog for ALL appropriate behavior, including when they are doing NOTHING at all! Be patient and persistent. Remember to always remain calm, if you get excited, so might your dog!

Do NOT exclude or ignore your dog. This is one of the biggest mistakes that people make, and it is unfortunately sometimes recommended by the family doctor! Your dog and your baby must have the opportunity to bond, so as long as your dog is behaving, allow him or her to be a part of all baby activities. Give your dog a treat when the baby cries, when you change the baby and when you feed the baby. You will find your dog will start looking forward to these activities, and even enjoy 'helping' with them.

Remember to ALWAYS monitor all interactions between your dog and your child. Period.

This all may take time so be patient and consistent throughout the process and your dog will adjust to the new situation.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A New Friend

When you make the life saving decision to adopt a new furry friend, you have great expectations...unfortunately, sometimes things don't go quite as what?

Remember; when you adopt a pet you are making a promise to them to provide them with food, water, shelter, training and companionship. Your new pet is more than willing to hold up their side of the bargain by providing you with unconditional love!

Strains are sometimes put on the relationship when human expectations differ from reality. One must remember that any dog has the potential to become an ideal companion under the right circumstances. You must ask yourself what those circumstances might be, and then begin to implement them.

It is important to remember to build your bond with your new dog and always LOVE the dog you HAVE not the one one you wish you did! Once your pet enters your home it becomes your responsibility to deal with their behavior, whatever it may be. If the dog is yours, so then is the responsibility.

When looking for a new furry family member, ask yourself these simple questions: What do you want out of your relationship with your dog? What do you see you and your dog doing together? And are you ready for the responsibility?

Dogs, like us, are a combination of nature and nurture. Every dog has a behavior potential that can be shaped by consistent and positive training. Dogs are incredibly resilient; they can begin to adjust to a new life TODAY, no matter what their past might have held. Adjustment periods can be tough, but the end result is always worth the effort!

If your dog just isn't meeting your expectations.....adjust them! Make it a point to seriously tackle each problem. Begin obedience classes and have the whole family participate. Learn to shape what is desired rather than punish what is not. Obedience training has a settling effect on a dog and gives you an opportunity to bond and re-direct focus. Take time to touch your new dog all over. (Feet, ears, teeth, tail, paws...) This will make trips to the groomer and veterinarian easier for everyone! Also do this while your new dog eats to help prevent any food aggression issues.

If you are bringing your new friend into a household with a resident dog, make sure to introduce the two on neutral ground. Go for a walk! Do NOT walk he dogs right up to one another nose to nose, a side by side walk will encourage companionship and tire them out! When the get back home they will be too pooped to start any trouble.

Remember to dog-proof your home. (Especially important with puppies!) Walk around your house and yard and move anything you do not want the dog to get a hold of. If you do not want your new dog in certain rooms of the house, purchase baby gates to block their way. Remember it is YOUR responsibility to keep your dog away from things you do not want destroyed or that might be harmful to them.

If you will be crate training your dog, make sure to purchase a crate that is just large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in; no more, no less. If you are buying a crate for your puppy to grow into, you can block off part of it with cement blocks. Stainless steel water and food bowls are recommended as they can not be torn up and ingested. Also, be sure to look for durable bedding; hard to chew up and easy to clean will make your life much easier!

You will want to purchase a simple 4-6 foot nylon leash with collar. No flexi-leads, harnesses or pinch collars will be necessary with proper training. You'll want some toys as well. Get a nice variety and then rotate them every month so your dog doesn't get bored. KONG toys are wonderful for dogs who chew and can be stuffed with anything from peanut butter and cream cheese to wet food and bananas! (You can freeze them to keep your pooch busy for a longer period of time!) Now your job will be to teach your dog what is appropriate to chew on vs. what isn't. (ex: the TV remote, your shoes and your sofa!)

Select a high quality food with little or no preservatives. If you can't pronounce most if not all of the ingredients, don't buy it! If your new dog has been eating a different food than the one you plan on feeding them, remember to gradually mix the new food in with the old, then wean them off the old and onto the new. A drastic change in diet can really upset a dogs stomach. Don't allow your new dog to become a picky eater! Feed them their food at set times. When they are hungry, they'll eat! Do not leave food down for longer that 20 minutes; after that pick it up. Also, refrain from 'free feeding' your dog. It can lead to obesity and makes it difficult for you to monitor their eating habits.

Make an appointment for your new dog at your veterinarian about two weeks after they've joined your household.

Make sure the entire family understands the 'doggy' rules and that there is a clear consensus of what behaviors are to be reinforced and which ones will not.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it's because it is! But life with out dogs is not much of a life at all......(in my opinion anyway!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pit Bull Education 6

Welcome all to the final instalment of my pit bull education blog series! I hope everyone has enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

I'm going to start of this section with some numbers: 28,955, 81.9, 1,235 and 85.5. What do these mean? Let me tell you; every year the American Temperament Test is given to thousands of dogs representing every breed imaginable. Last year they tested a total of 28,955 dogs. The dogs go through a series of tests that measure temperament, disposition and more. The average score for all breeds (out of 100) was 81.9. 1,235 of the dogs tested were American Pit Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers; their average score was 85.5, HIGHER than the over all combined average! (This score also places them above the ever popular Golden Retriever.) You can check out how your favorite breed tested (including mixed breeds) by going to

As promised, we will now discuss proper training techniques for you and your pit bull.

First lets go over positive vs. negative re-enforcement and punishment. Let's try not to think of positive equating to good and negative to bad; instead think of them as + and - signs. Positive means that you are adding something to the dogs environment while negative means that you are taking something away.

I train using positive re-enforcement. I simply reward desired behavior and ignore any un-desired ones. Simple as that. Remember it is very important to tell you dog when he/she is doing something RIGHT, even if it's nothing at all. We tend to spend a lot of time telling our doggies what they CAN'T do and not enough time letting them know what is acceptable.

There is a lot of talk out there about establishing yourself as the 'dominant' or 'alpha' in your house hold, and while this is true, you do NOT have to challenge or force your dog into submission in any way to achieve this status. There is a popular TV personality, who will remain nameless, who often preforms 'alpha roll-overs' on dogs. Many times this person ends up getting bit by the dog, which I assume is why there is a "Do not attempt this at home" warning at the beginning of each episode.

There is actually a very simple and non-confrontational way to establish leadership in a house hold, and it's called the Nothing in Life is Free method. First let me start by saying that dogs are natural born followers, not leaders. (If every dog were born to lead, they would never survive in a pack society.) However, that being said, they need a leader and they need structure, therefore if a clear 'alpha' is not established they will reluctantly take on the role.

The Nothing in Life is Free method bridges the gap between human and K9 communication, and it is quite simplistic. Basically, every time your dog wants anything, they must first 'work' for you. Ex: If you dog wants to go outside, he/she must first sit and wait while you open the door and then release them to go out side. This must be done for everything including going for walks, getting treats, eating dinner, playing and even before receiving affection. It may not seem like a big deal when your dog brings you a toy and you in turn begin to play with him/her, but what really took place was your dog demanded that you play with them at that moment did. So, they must be in charge right?

Other things you can do when dealing with a more severe case, include mixing your dogs food with your hands. This will leave your scent on the food, and in dog world, leaders eat first. You can also buy two bowls that look exactly alike. One for the dog to use and one for you. Put some cereal in the clean bowl and have your dog sit and watch you while you eat it. Then give your dog their bowl with the dog food in it. What your dog just saw was you eating first and it sends a clear message. If a dog knows who the pack leader is, he can relax; being a leader is stressful on dogs, always having to worry about resources and protection! Whew! They are much happier leaving those hard jobs to some one else, namely, you.

So, after reading all of this, you wonder: "What can I do?" Well, the easiest thing you can do is to spread the word by passing all 6 blogs around to all of your friends, neighbors and relatives and encouraging them to do the same. If you are the proud parent of a pit bull, I would highly recommend having your dog CGC certified. The CGC (Canine Good Citizen) is a nationally recognized certificate issued by the AKC. (American Kennel Club) It is a 10 item basic temperament/obedience test that takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. You can go to the AKC's web site to search for evaluators/trainers in your area, and to view the items on the test. A pit bull with a CGC is truly a beautiful thing. In some cases, rental agencies and insurance companies that would normally turn the breed away, will make exceptions for dogs who have earned their CGC certificate. It is a huge step forward to having your dog become a true ambassador of the breed.

If you only take one thing away from all of this, please remember: Pit Bulls are just dogs; four legs, two eyes, one heart.
They are not monsters who are going to creep into your house at night and eat your children.
In fact, let me put it this way.....
Pit bulls are responsible on average, for 2 deaths a year.
Fifty people a year die after drowning in 5 gallons of water.
150 people die every year when a coconut falls on their head! Therefore you are more likely to be killed by a palm tree, than a pit bull!
320 people die in their bathtubs every year, but we never hear talk about banning them!
The sad reality is that with the millions of pits euthanized in shelters across the country (and world!) a pit is half a million times more likely to be killed by a human, than the other way around...

Thanks for spread the word...!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pit Bull Education 5

Well, here we are; we have arrived at the topic of dog fighting. It is not my favorite subject, but one cannot have a discussion about pit bulls and not bring this to here we go: The real American Pit Bull is 100% opposed to dog fighting. Dog fighting is a disgusting, heinous human endeavor, an abusive act perpetrated against dogdom, and there is NEVER any excuse for dog fighting.

The HSUS offers a $5000 reward for reporting dog fighting in your area. (Must lead to arrest/conviction) 202-452-1100, call it, make a difference.

To help you identify possible offenders, here is a list of what to look for; signs of cruelty include: Scars, (on males the scars will mostly be on their heads, faces and chests, on the females look for them on their backs.) Cropped ears and tails on the males, sharpened teeth on the males and no teeth on the females, and over bred females.
Some paraphernalia to look for include: home made treadmills, (dogs are often made to run on these for hours at a time, while a bait animal hags in front of them), rape racks, (can't have those females fighting back...), a break stick, (usually the end of a shovels' wooden handle, this is used to pry and hold open the dogs mouth for fileing or removing teeth), and indoor/outdoor carpet. This last one generally makes up the floor of the dog fight ring. It serves two major purposes. One being that you can see the blood on it, and this is a means of 'scoring'. The second being that it can be picked up and taken away quickly, leaving no evidence. Dog fighters actually hold drills to see how fast they can pick up their ring and get out before authorities arrive.
Other paraphernalia includes: small bait animals, pain medication/veterinary supplies, (this one always surprises see fights don't always end in death, and these animals are very valuable to the people who fight them, they make them a lot of money, so when the fight is called, they will preform crude veterinary procedures on their dogs to attempt to save them or 'fix them up', remember that these people have no veterinary training!) steroids, small files and long knotted ropes on springs are also on the list. The last item is hung from a tree, and the dog then jumps, bites and hangs.
Dog fighting is a FELONY in ALL 50 STATES! In 24 states it is a felony to be a spectator, spectating is illegal in the remaining states except for Montana and Hawaii. In those two states you are not breaking any laws by witnessing a dog fight. (Hopefully they will get on board soon!)
At the beginning of this post I commented on the 'real' pit bull, so what is a real pit bull?
The real American Pit Bull terrier is human friendly, has strength, confidence and a zest for life. They are intelligent, trainable, determined and have a great sense of humour. They are all in all a great dog. I am in no way suggesting that everyone go out and adopt a pit today, (although that would be nice!) as the breed is not for everyone. My biggest hope is to see prejudices dropped and minds and hearts opened, and I will strive toward this goal every day of my life. With your help, we can make a difference, so please pass my blog on to all of your friends and family and help me spread the truth!
Thanks again for reading! Next time in Pit Bull Education 6 we will go over some training tips, and the conclusion of my pit bull education series.....