Thursday, December 23, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead...

What a year it has been, and what a year I am sure the next one will be.
We've seen some great victories and some tragic set backs in the animal welfare world, and something tells me that next year will bring more of the same.

What will the future bring? Perhaps an MVP and a Super Bowl ring for psychopathic dog murderer Micheal Vick? Or maybe he'll suffer a career ending injury in the play offs... Only time will tell.

Will the sweet little deaf and blind puppy that was recently surrendered to us find a loving and supportive forever home? Or will she be returned in 6 months because she is "just too much"?

Will the 8 year old female pit bull with chunks missing out of her ears at the local animal services find a home on her last day or will she be euthanized on Christmas eve because no body wanted her?

Will we see more breed bans in the coming year or will we see them repealed?

Will 2011 be the year that people finally begin to understand and feel compassion?

Once the New Year is underway, will charities such as your local shelter be suddenly forgotten? Or will people continue to donate blankets, cookies and other much needed supplies all year long?

We will just have to wait and see.
We will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
~The Dog Diva~

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Living in a warm climate as I do is supposed to come with its advantages. Like, being WARM. However, Old Man Winter has, apparently, heard about our nice beaches, and come for a visit himself.
As we all scramble to layer up, and shops run out of gloves and scarves, I can't help but think about the dogs. Oh, not the dogs like mine, all snug on her bed in the house with the heat on, no, I worry about all the other ones. The ones in back yards, in dog houses, on chains, running the streets and even those in shelters.

Not every shelter is lucky enough to have heat, so think about donating a blanket or doggy sweater to your local animal rescue organization, or better yet a Kuranda bed. (Elevated off the cold floor.)
Sure, dogs are dogs and have build in fur coats and a higher body temperature than we do, but it isn't just about surviving, it's about being comfortable. If I slept in my garage tonight I wouldn't freeze to death, but I don't think I would sleep either.

So, if you have an outside dog, please, bring them inside during the cold (and then keep them there!) If you have an inside dog, think about donating their sweater to a dog in need. (I know your dog looks cute, but, hey, they've got it pretty good!)

There are few things sadder than a shivering homeless pet.
So keep your heart warm by making sure those less fortunate furry souls can sleep comfortably on a cold winters night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Trick #2

Roll Over
To get your dog to roll over, first place them in a 'down'. Then, bring the treat around behind their head and over their shoulder.

(Many dogs have a side preference so try both ways!)
Not all dogs will roll all the way over right away. So first reward your dog for lying on their side, next their back, then finally all the way over!

Monday, December 6, 2010

What Would You Do?

This past weekend my husband and I were taking our dog Christmas shopping for her gifts at a large well known pet store, when we witnessed something horrible. Animal Abuse.
I had been watching a particular patron because I was waiting for an opportunity to go up and pet his dog. She was a beautiful white pit bull. He was on the phone, so I was waiting for him hang up so that I could try and sell him on some of my pit bull groups and programs etc...
Before his conversation ended, the dog must have some how pulled him (didn't really see anything myself...) and he went off. He yelled at the dog to SIT and STAY, after it cowered and complied, he hit the dog repeatedly in the face. Then he said, and I quote: "Move again and I'll beat your ass."
I was horror struck. My husband and I stood frozen for a moment with our jaws dropped. Another customer was walking by, and actually got tears in her eyes.
When the man started walking again, the dog trotted faithfully at his side, tail wagging.
She doesn't know any better, to her, that's what love is. That made me so sad.
I never saw him purchase anything, it was as if he was just trying to show off...he had her on a pinch collar and thick heavy chain. Way to perpetuate a stereo type buddy.
So, of the options presented to me, the way I saw it, these were my choices:
1) Do Nothing
2) Confront the man myself
3) Play stupid, and go up as if I saw nothing, the whole time trying to educate, and encourage 'my way'.
4) Alert the store staff

So, I know what I did, but I want to know....what would YOU do?

Monday, November 29, 2010

A New Trick #1

In previous blogs I have covered how to teach your dog basic obedience such as 'sit', 'down' and 'stay'. In my New Trick series I will teach you how to teach your dog a new trick! (Yes, even if you have an old dog!)
Please make sure that your dog DOES know their BASIC commands before starting a trick!

Today's trick will be: SHAKE, PAW or Give Me Five!

It really doesn't matter which one you call it (I like give me five...) it only matters that you are consistent. So pick one and stick to it!

To teach this trick, place your dog in the 'sit' position. Hold out a treat in front of your dog with a closed hand. Let your dog sniff, smell and lick your hand but do not give up the treat. Eventually your dog should try using a paw to open your hand, when they do, open your hand and say your chosen command word. Then repeat.

If, like me, you do not have a dog that likes to use their paws, simply pick up a paw (gently please!) with one hand, say the command word, give them their treat with the other, and place the paw back. Repeat.

Once your dog has mastered this, use it sparingly and not always in the same order. (Sit, shake down...sit shake down...etc...) Do not reward a paw you haven't asked for.
Good luck and happy training!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again. When we spend money we don't have to eat a ton of food we don't need. We give thanks for our family and friends, and all the while our dogs are wondering: "What's with all the food, and strange people and why isn't there a plate for me?"
It is important to supervise both your dog and your house guests during this holiday. People mean well, but don't always put your dogs health or digestive tract first when offering you pooch a morsel or two.

Your dog should NOT have: Chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, bones or turkey skin. They can have sweet potato, pumpkin and turkey meat. IN MODERATION!

Keep that in mind and please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First Time Parents 4

Welcome to the final instalment of First Time Parents!
I'd like to start this one out with a big word: Anthropomorphize. Do NOT Anthropomorphize your pet. This means do not attribute human feelings or characteristics to your pet. Your dog did not pee on your carpet because he hates you! (He just had to go!)

Always, always, always socialize your pet. Most behavior problems, including fear and aggression stem from under socialization.

Common toxins/poisons/hazards for dogs include:
Chicken Bones

Dog food is very bad for cats and both can be harmed by plants such as mistle toe, poinsettias and holly.
Make sure to keep your pet away from cords, garbage, medications and socks! (Dogs cannot process them!)

Dogs LOVE:
Sweet Potatoes
Beef Hot dog

Cats LOVE:
Cat nip

Developmental Stages:
0-2 years
Puppy/Kitten hood
Have patience and set rules now!

2-5 years
Sexual Maturity
Active and Healthy

5-9 years
Slowing down
May begin to see some medical issues

10 years and up
Slow down
Increased medical problems
Decrease in hearing and vision

(Indoor) Cats have a longer life expectancy than dogs. They can live 16-20 years. Dogs live between 8-15 years depending on size. (Small dogs tend to live a bit longer than large breed dogs.)

When the time is right your pet will most likely stop eating and drinking. They will be unable to get up, or use the rest room by themselves. It is important to have a good relationship with your vet to insure that they will be there when you need them the most. Some will even come to your home. Stay with your pet. Don't make them do it on their own! You owe it to them!
Afterward you can bury them or cremate them.

You can begin again when the time is right for you. Don't give up. It is selfish to say you don't want to put yourself through the heartache again. You can, they are worth it, and a homeless pet out there needs you!

Remember, all you need is patience, consistency and a sense of humor and you'll do fine!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First Time Parents 3

Welcome to the third instalment of "First Time Parents!"
I'd like to start out by talking about grooming. Grooming needs will depend on what type or breed of pet you adopt. For example; Persian cats require much more grooming than a Domestic Short Hair Cat; an English Bulldog, more than a Labrador.

Your dog should be bathed about every 2-3 weeks. You do not want to bathe a dog too often as they need the oil their skin produces for a healthy coat. Cats bathe themselves, and dogs need their teeth brushed, but both cats and dogs require their ears cleaned and nails trimmed.

If you do not feel comfortable doing these things yourself, I recommend bringing in the help of a professional. In time you may feel more comfortable.

When clipping your dog or cats nails it is VERY important not to 'quick' them. Dogs and cats have a vein that runs through their nail, so we must be very careful not to cut it. It is very painful for the animal and it's almost impossible to stop the bleeding. (Get Quick-Stop.)
Do not use 'human' toothpaste on your pet. Buy pet specific paste and brush.
Ears should be cleaned with cotton balls and an ear cleaning solution.
Make sure you see your veterinarian at least once a year for yearly vaccinations and tests. Your dog should be on a heart worm preventative that they take once a month to prevent heart worm disease. (Cats can have this too.)
Also make sure that your pet is on appropriate flea prevention.
Cats will want to be on a hair ball preventative. Most actually like the taste, but if they don't just smear it on their paw and they will have to lick it off!

Get your new pet set up with some training. Decide how much or how little. Will you do your training in home or at a class? Make sure to get the whole family involved, be open to new ideas and know when to ask for professional help.
Make sure to train using only positive reinforcement. (See previous Blog on the subject.)

Come back next time for common household toxins/poisons and developmental stages in the final instalment of First Time Parents.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

First Time Parents 2

Welcome back! Let's get right into it!
I want to start out by talking about food. Choose a high quality food for your pet. Do NOT free feed dogs! This can lead to an over-weight dog, plus you are unable to properly monitor your dogs eating habits. Always provide your pet with constant access to water. Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Dogs and cats cannot decide to go to Burger King for lunch so there is really no excuse for having an obese animal.
Prevent food aggression in dogs by dropping handfuls of their food into the bowl a little at a time.

Exercise is super important! A tired dog is a happy dog and a sleeping dog or cat cannot get into mischief. Cats enjoy 'prey play'. Prey play is when you allow your cat to 'hunt' (chase a fake bird on a string) 'kill' (catch and shake the fake bird) and 'feast'. (Follow this activity with a high protein treat.

Most dogs love long walks. Some like runs, others like to chase a ball or a Frisbee. Some even like to hang from trees or pull heavy things. Find out what you dog likes and wants to do, or what your dog may have been bred to do, and focus their exercise towards those things.

Mental stimulation is also very important. When you leave your home, your pets can become quite bored. Kong toys are great distractions! Fill them with everything from peanut butter and baby food to cottage cheese and sweet potato!
Cats enjoy indoor gardens of wheat grass, and scratching posts.

Come back next time when we'll talk about grooming, vet care and more!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Time Parents

Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the 'dog world' that we forget that some people out there are "Pet Virgins". (Never owned a pet before). Every now and then I am blindsided by what to me seems like a very simple 'common knowledge' question, and I remember, it isn't common knowledge.
So, here is my first installment geared towards First Time Parents.

First of all I'd like to say Congratulations! And welcome to the wonderful world of pet ownership. This will be a life changing experience for both you and your new pet. There will be hard work but also plenty of happiness.

Now, the first question that needs to be answered is where is your new pet coming from? The answer...Adopt! Adoption saves lives and helps you to be part of the solution and help fight pet overpopulation. Many shelters and rescues will give you a pet that is already spayed or neutered and has already received all of their vaccinations.

Before you choose a pet, do your research. What type of pet will be best for you? What size? What breed? What activity level? When thinking about these questions try not to become too focused on looks or breed type. Ask yourself more important questions like what your life style is like, and look for a pet that suits your needs.

Questions to ask:
What do you see yourself doing with your new pet?
Are you active or a couch potato?
How long are you away from home?
Next, go shopping for all of your new pets needs.
What to buy:
Leash, collar, food,toys, bowls, litter/litter box, crate or carrier...
Yes, your new pet will cost you, so make sure you are ready for the added expenses:
Adoption fee
Vet bills
Flea prevention
Scratching posts
Litter boxes
Cleaning supplies
Grooming supplies
Pet deposits

Your new pet will also require a time commitment for training, exercise and play.
Pet proof your home, get a vet, make rules and set a routine.

Come back next time when we will discuss feeding, grooming and more!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pit Bull "Attack"

Recently I was asked to appear on a local news station, to talk about a pit bull 'attack' in the area.
Admittedly, the phone call from the news room was the first I'd heard of the incident. So I looked it up on the good old Internet and this is what I found.

A pregnant woman was walking in a not so nice area of town, when two LOOSE dogs (one thought to be a pit bull and the other a Labrador) "attacked" her. Actually, what happened was that one of the dogs bit the woman on the leg. So, this was a dog BITE not ATTACK. The dogs were captured by Animal Control and no owner has yet been found. Meanwhile the woman was treated, and she and her unborn child are fine.

My question is this news?

I do not know whether or not it was actually the pit that bit the woman or whether or not the dog was actually a pit at all. Also, I have to wonder what the woman may have done...did she try to yell or intimidate the dogs? Did she stare at them? Did she run?

If the news reported on every dog bite that occurred daily, they'd barely have time for the weather and traffic! But of course not every dog bite is news worthy...just the pit bull ones.
It will never cease to amaze me that THIS is news but when we have our Incredibulls events and invite the media out to see 30 pit bulls and their responsible owners all getting along and having a good time...they are not interested.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Trick or TREAT!?

Anyone who knows me knows that Fall is my favorite season, October is my favorite month and Halloween is my Favorite holiday.

As with most of our human celebrations, this holiday freaks our dogs out. Spooky decorations, mom and dad dressed up as unrecognizable ghouls, continuous door bell ringing, and perhaps worst of all, the donning of some horribly embarrassing costume.

Below are some pointers to help you and your dog enjoy a happy and safe Halloween.

-Make sure all chocolate is kept out of reach!
-If you throw a party, make sure everyone knows the 'dog' rules. Or consider keeping your dog in your bedroom during the festivities.
-Get your dog ready for lots of doorbell action. If your dog cannot handle this, you may want to baby gate them away from the door, so they wont be able to get to it.
-Desensitize your dog to their new spooky surroundings. Have a particularly scary decoration? Feed your dog yummy treats in it's presence.
-Get your dog a costume. Normally I am not a fan of dressing up dogs, but this day is my one exception. They may hate it, but it makes for some irresistible pictures!
-Make your dog pumpkin Cookies! Pumpkin is extremely healthy for dogs!
-Take your dog trick or treating with the family. It will be less stressful than staying home, plus an extra walk for your dog is always a good thing.

If any of you have tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the comment section!
And...have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pit Bull World

Recently, a local radio talk show host who shall NOT remain nameless, Bud Hendinger, spoke on a topic of which he obviously knows nothing about: Pit bulls.
He claims to have the solution to the state of Florida's "Pit Bull Problem."
His "solution" is this: To do the "responsible" thing and ban the breed, but not round them up to be euthanized, oh no, he proposes starting a new theme park called Pit Bull World where people can come to see he savage beasts such as they do at a zoo, and where the dogs can do what they do best; fight each other to the death. Among his other ideas are for everyone who willingly turns in their pit bulls to pit bull word, to receive a voucher that they can take to their local shelter to get a free 'other' dog of their choice, thereby giving thousands of homeless dogs who really 'deserve' it, a home.

No I'm not kidding and unfortunately, neither was he. It is so scary to think of all of the people out there listening to his insanity, believing it and agreeing with him.

Of course pit bull advocates around the state (and country) have been flooding him with emails, none of which he will probably read.
I of course invited him to my next pit bull education class, though I'm sure he will not come.

The world is indeed a frightening place, and not because of pit bulls, but because of ignorant people with a microphone.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vick's Broken Wing

As to not devote too much of my life to blogging about Micheal Vick, this entry will be brief.
Yesterday, the Eagles took on the Washington Redskins in Donavon McNabbs highly publicized return to Philly. Overall, the game all but fizzled out.
I am by no means a fan of Washington, however on this occasion I rooted them on with intensity. If Vick is going to be a starting quarter back in the NFL, at least I might see him lose.

Turns out, I got more than I bargained for.

Not too long into the game, Vick took off running, aiming for a touchdown. Right at the goal line he was tackled simultaneously by two defenders. Vick was hurt. He left the field and the game and headed for the locker room. (On a side note, all was for not, as there was a holding penalty on the play!)

At first they thought Vick may have cracked a rib, but X-rays came back negative, looks like just a bruise, but still he never returned to the game, leaving former starter, now Vick back up Kolb to finish the game. The Eagles lost to the Redskins 17-12.

After the game I couldn't help but think...if we played by Vicks rules, he should be 'put down' right? I mean, he was no longer able to compete, and contribute to a "Eagle" with a broken wing that could not fly....a dog with a broken leg that cannot fight....

Lucky for Vick, we crazy "dog people" don't run the NFL. But I can't say the same for those 'crazy Philly fans...they have been known to turn on quarter backs, and are quite possibly the nastiest fans in the league.
I know one thing for sure, they do not like a quarter back that gets injured a lot. A few more stunts like Sunday's and they could be calling for Vicks head. can hope anyway...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Extraordinary Dogs with Ordinary Stories

Lately I have been feeling like the world is maybe a bit too caught up in sob stories. Every time we turn on the TV or check our email boxes, we are flooded with sad stories followed by even sadder ones. It seems like shelters and rescues across the country are in constant competition with each other for the biggest sob story. This dog was shot, this one starved and still this one shot and starved!
I know the reason these stories are exploited and I get it, really I do. They are money makers, plain and simple. Also, not being born yesterday I realize that not all of these stories are true. It is a sad reality I know as there are plenty of real tear jerkers to go around, people really needn't make up their own, but they do. The answer as to why again is money.

Please do not think that I am heartless or that I believe that the poor shot/starved dog does not deserve a loving home and a happily ever after because believe me I do. I'm only saying....what about the rest? I know plenty of dogs that have never been fought or abused but have still been abandoned by those they loved and languish in shelters waiting for some one to save them. These dogs may seem quite ordinary, but they need love too.

If you own a former puppy mill, bust or even Vick dog, thank you. But if you, like myself adopted a dog with no particular past traumatic event, then I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you.

The bottom line is: They all need love, they all need care and they all need homes.

Seemly ordinary dogs can become extraordinary in the eyes of their families. So thanks again to all of you who, when it came time to add a dog to your family, chose adoption from your local shelter, wherever that might be. Whatever dog you chose, you made a difference in their life, and that, to me is what is really extraordinary.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm a Stage Mom

About a month ago, a photographer friend of mine let me know about an upcoming gig she had. Usually, her photo shoots have one thing in common; people paying her good money to photograph their dog. This time however, a company (DogiPot) was paying her to take pictures of their products, and needed a dog model. They wanted a dog, medium to large build, not black, not white, well trained. Well, that's MY dog!
Although I didn't know I had it in me, I immediately went into 'stage mom' mode and submitted my baby's pictures. Within an hour I had gotten her an audition!
I'd love to say she passed her auditi0n with flying colors, but she did not. She actually charged her auditioner, hackles raised and barking. Luckily he came equipped with doggy steak treats, and she soon changed her tune. After about 15-20 minutes, she had the job!

The big day came, and I wondered how she would do. The shoot lasted about 3 1/2 hours and she was such a trooper! (I'm sure it helped that she had a tent, plenty of water and treats, and of course lots of love and everyone telling her how pretty she was!)
During the shoot it was as if she could read the photographers mind. When she asked her to look up, she looked up when she thought she should sit, she'd sit before the sentence was even finished!
One of the very last shots sent a wave of pride over me. The photographer asked if she'd put her paw on a box of poop bags. I honestly didn't think she would, as she doesn't enjoy having her paws touched. We set up the shot and I took her paw, placed it on the box and asked her to STAY...and she did! Then the photographer asked her if she wanted to go for a WALK and she put her ears up and cocked her head to the side. Evey one in attendance gasped. It was perfect.

So now I'm not only a stage mom, but a proud one. She received compensation (a REAL working model!) and over 6000 doggy poop bags! It was a great experience all together, and I am quite grateful for it. But most of all, I am proud.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Are You Ready?

In case you haven't noticed...Football is back. Fans across the country (and the globe) are apparently quite excited by the fact, as ratings are soaring farther than they have in years. I am not sure if the release of the new book; The Lost Dogs, was timed so near the start of the season on purpose or not, but it just goes to further illustrate the absurdity of the fact that Micheal Vick is once again playing in the NFL.
During the Eagles season opener, starting Quarter Back Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion, so in came Vick.

The Eagles lost the game against the Green Bay Packers (thank GOD) but that didn't stop Vick from making several highlight reels.

I just have to wonder the lesson this all teaches us....

It must be OK to do reprehensible things, and even get caught as long as you say you are 'sorry' (you don't have to actually mean it!). The world will not only forgive you, but actually REWARD you for it. Giving you your job again, paying you royally and acting like those horrible things you did never really happened or at least weren't that bad, because after all, they happened years ago.

I DARE any 'normal' working class person out there to get arrested for something, go to jail for it and then come out and GET YOUR JOB BACK! Most ex-cons have a hard time finding work that involves hard labor or deep frying something let alone a paycheck worth MILLIONS.

I am a dog trainer, therefor I understand dogs pretty well...humans on the other hand...well, that's a whole other animal indeed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

May I Have the Attention of the Class?

Yesterday was the first day of Fall Obedience classes.
So much promise, so much hope, so much work!

As always, we start our program with a people only information session. By the end of the class I already know what dogs are going to be more work than others, even though I haven't met them yet.

As many of you undoubtedly know, teaching a dog to sit, lie down or stay is the easy part. It's teaching their human counterparts to interact with them and community with them effectively that is the real challenge.

Generally I feel the owner with the widest eyes by the end of the class is probably going to be my biggest challenge.

Basic obedience classes will always hold a special place in my heart, because you can really see the change in owners and dogs by the end of the series. The confidence level increases as stress levels decrease for both human and canine.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dog Friendly

Recently I went on a road trip with my Dog. Fun right? Well it was, mostly...

I was traveling in a somewhat rural area of the southern US, and hotels were not as plentiful as I am used to. Finding a dog friendly hotel on my route actually turned out to be impossible. So I ended up driving about an hour out of my way to stay in a La Quinta. (All of the hotels in this chain accept dogs, all sizes, no deposit.)

Although I am a HUGE fan of La Quinta's pet policy, I have to say, our accommodations were less than satisfactory. The lady at the front desk told me she didn't want to say my room number out loud, and wrote it down for me instead. When I asked where I could park my trailer, she told me to park in the back...if I wasn't worried about anything getting stolen! When I pulled around the backside of the establishment I could not believe my eyes. Drug deals and prostitution. Seriously. At this point I was weighing my options of making it to my next destination, a 6 hour drive, before falling asleep at the wheel.

We ended up staying the night, hoping our car would still be there come sun up. Our dog had one of the double beds all to herself, but that didn't last long. The loud music and voices from out side made her nervous, and she soon joined us on our small bed. None of us got much sleep that night.

This all made me ask: Why is it so hard to find a decent pet friendly hotel in ANY location you wish? We drove by several lovely looking places, where we were not welcome, all because we choose to travel with our well behaved dog. Is it really that hard to set aside a room or two in a hotel for dogs? We'll pay our pet deposit. And what's with the size limit? 25lbs is the most common. I have never owned a dog that small in all of my life, why am I being discriminated upon? Just because a dog is small does not mean it is well behaved or less destructive or quieter. It angers me that we are treated like second class citizens because we are 'dog people'. Perhaps I am alone on this one, but I don't think so.

And although this particular La Quinta wasn't the nicest place I've ever stayed, (but maybe the worst), I still feel better about giving them my money, because as a cooperation they do not discriminate. They open their doors to us 'crazy dog lovers' who would rather travel with our loyal companions than leave them behind.

Maybe someday other corporations will catch on that they are missing out on a huge market. Until then, it's a good thing that we are traveling with our "over the normal weight limit" dogs, as we'll need them to feel safe during our 'dog friendly' travels.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dog Behavior Workshop End

Welcome to the final instalment of the Dog Behavior Workshop!

Let's start off with a little dog training history.

It is interesting to point out that back in the late 1800's early 1900's dog training was more like today's approach than the more recent one of the 60's and 70's. Originally dogs were trained as hunters, or to assist in a hunt, after that they were used by the military. The military used mostly physical adversives, punishment and praise to train, whereas modern reward based methods focus heavily on positive reinforcement.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, DVM popularized lure reward training and Karen Pryor, marine mammal training brought clicker training to the scene.

In clicker training one can see the classical conditioning parallels. Instead of a dog salivating to a bell, an animal associates a click as a reward. Clickers are great used as bridges for shaping a behavior.

There are many benefits to modern training methods such as:
Promotes communication
Builds a relationship of understanding
Family Friendly

When having to correct your dog, NO may not always be sufficient. Always redirect your dog to an appropriate behavior. We spend a lot of time telling our dogs what they cannot do, and very little time letting them know what they can!

Now I know many of you out there may be fans of some dog training shows on TV so I want to mention a few things about dominance. Not all behavior problems or aggression are caused by dominance! Dogs are NOT born leaders. They are pack animals therefore they are actually born followers. NEVER force your dog into an "alpha roll"as this method is confrontational and outdated.

The modern positive reward training is scientifically proven, increases teamwork and promotes a harmonious relationship. It fulfills both the needs of the dog and the human!

The importance of understanding the needs of our K9 friends is great. Did you know that the number one cause of death for dogs is actually euthanasia!? And the highest reason for relinquishment to a shelter is lack of education on the part of owners.

Exercise is also very important. Remember a tired dog is a happy dog and a sleeping dog cannot get into mischief.
Mental stimulation is also very important. Dogs get bored. If you do not give your dog something to do, they will find something, and it wont always please you!
Mental work keeps your dogs happy and healthy and prevents the 'crazies'!

Be realistic. We love the dogs we HAVE not the ones we wish we did! The best home for you dog is YOURS. If you are not willing to deal with your dogs behavior, how can you expect others to be?

Adjust your expectation accordingly. Don't forget to praise your dog for doing nothing! Set achievable goals.

Remember this and you'll be fine:
Sense of humor

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dog Behavior Workshop 4

Let's start this one off talking about Opperant Conditioning. This theory was made famous by psychologist Dr. B.F. Skinner and deals with Antecedents, Behaviors and Consequences.

When trying to figure out quadrants, ask yourself these questions:

Who's behavior is being affected?
What is the antecedent?
What is the behavior?
What is the consequence?
What is the anticipated future behavior?

Now, what quadrant does it fit in? (+R -R +P-P)

Next let's talk about Counter Conditioning.

Counter Conditioning is when we teach a dog to associate a previously negative experience with something good. Ex: A dog afraid of people is fed tasty treats in their presence.


Presents a stimulus at a low intensity level, then gradually the intensity is increased over time. This has been shown effective in treating dogs with thunderstorm anxiety and car sickness.

Behavior Shaping:

Breaking up large difficult tasks into smaller simpler ones. Sub steps become increasingly demanding.

Come back next time when we discuss the history of dog training!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dog Behavior Workshop 3

Introduction to basic K9 learning theory:

Thorndike's Law of Effect (1911) "Behaviors just prior to a pleasant event are more likely to be repeated; behaviors just prior to unpleasant events are more likely to diminish."

Positive Reinforcement: Think of this as a + sign, adding something to your dogs environment that increases the likelihood of a desired behavior re-occurring in the future.

Remember, love is all you need. When looking for a trainer, look for one that uses a heaping scoop of positive reinforcement with a very small side of negative punishment. Never use positive punishment on a dog!


Pavlov's classical conditioning followed by B.F. Skinner:

Positive reinforcement +R
Negative reinforcement -R
Positive Punishment +P
Negative Punishment -P

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dog Behavior Workshop 2

Welcome back! Here are the answers to the Quiz:

1) Attention

2) They had to go!

3) It's Comfy!

4) They're Bored

5)They don't know how to.

So how'd you do? As you can see, dogs think very simply.

Let's talk a bit about a popular theory these days, Pack Theory.
It is true that dogs are pack animals, however, they are removed from wolves by THOUSANDS of years.
Dogs are NOT born leaders, in fact they are born FOLLOWERS! Think about it, if every member of a pack wanted to be the leader or 'alpha' that pack wouldn't function very well, would it? Dogs are more than happy to sit back and relax and let you take care of the important stuff like food, water and shelter.

Dogs do not need to be dominated. The best way to establish leadership is through the Nothing in Life is Free method which states that a dog must work for everything it wants. Before a dog eats, gets pet, goes outside, plays etc, they must first do something for you. (Like sit).

If you do find yourself with a dominant dog, make sure you mix their food with your hands and let them watch you eat first, before they get fed. Also make sure to walk through doorways first.

In the next instalment we will delve into K9 Cognition and learning theory...see you then!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dog Behavior Workshop 1

Welcome to the first instalment of my Dog Behavior Workshop.

In the blogs that follow we will be discussing common K9 myths, doggy cognition and training plus much more! Enjoy!

Let's start with some myths and misconceptions:
Dogs Don't have feelings
Dogs Don't think
Dogs Think like humans
Dogs must be led through fear
Dogs are alpha and must be submitted
Dogs feel guilt

All of the above are FALSE statements, but many hold them to be true.

Facts and Truths:
Dogs think like DOGS!
Similar to a young child
Lead through love, understanding and respect.

Don't Anthropomorphize! This means placing human emotions on animals. EX: ("He pees on my bed while I'm gone because he's mad at me!")

Dogs cannot:
Be spiteful
Mad at you
Understand non tangibles

Dogs can:
Do math (you don't believe me? Take out 3 cookies from the cookie jar and give your dog 2!)

Rico the boarder collie is thought to be the smartest dog on earth. He knows the names of over 200 toys, learns new names quickly and is able to retain them and is able to pick out new and unfamiliar toys.

Duke University conducted a very interesting study on K9 cognition and came to find that dogs are the only species, other than human, that understands what a pointed finger means. Other animals including primates and dolphins look at your finger while a dog will follow the point and look in the direction you are indicating. They believe this comes from the thousands of years of domestication our furry friends have had.


Your dog jumps on you because?

Your dog pees in the house because?

Your dog gets on your couch/bed because?

Your dog eats your couch because?

Your dog doesn't play well with others because?

Come back next time for the answers and more!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dogs in "Paradise"

Recently I was fortunate enough to travel way out into the Southern Caribbean to the island of St. Lucia.
This island has been on my 'must see' list for quite some time now, and now that I have been all I can say is....CHECK!

Out of all the places I've traveled, this by far was one of the worst...for animals, dogs especially.

Stray dogs were everywhere, standing in roads, chasing chickens through villages, standing with the pigs on the beach....all were filthy, most malnourished and skinny. As I passed one mother dog with 3 puppies feeding from her I wondered what sort of spay/neuter program (if any) was offered on the island.

A few dogs had collars, but I wasn't sure that meant they were well cared for, or even fed on a regular basis. I can only imagine the desease....parvo....distemper...etc...

I wondered what could be done....what could I do? I am still asking myself that....

Could this tourist paradise be a purgatory for these furry souls?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Five Things

Ok, I'm about to let you all in on a little secret here...there are only five things one needs to be a good dog, are you ready?
They are:
A Sense of humor
and Consistency!

(See you need the sense of humor part already!)

Let's go through them one at a time and talk a little bit about why they are so important.

Number one, Patience: You're never going to get very far with a short fuse. It is amazing how after 20 minutes of zero results, all of a sudden BAM lightening strikes and the dog gets it! Most behavior problems stem from either laziness or hastiness. Patience also gives you a sense of calm. I seldom worry about 'if' the dog is going to learn something, I just wonder 'when'.

Number two, Consistency: They say it's not a black and white world, but for dogs, there isn't really a grey area. (With a dog jumping up for example, you can ignore them 9 times, but if on the 10th they receive attention, it's like starting over from square one.) So, for our canine friends it either IS or it ISN'T. They either CAN or they CANNOT. They either DO or they DON'T. Simple.

And last but certainly not least, a Sense of Humor: Dogs are animals, and therefore quite unpredictable. If you look at situations as humorous instead of frustrating it will greatly help you and your dog. Some things may hurt, other might be quite disgusting but if looked at the right way, most are quite funny!

Well, there you have it, happy training!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why We Do It

Every now and again we are reminded quite out of the blue why we do the work that we do.
Today was like that for me. I arrived at work this morning to find a note and picture waiting for me on my desk. I could tell right away that it was written by a child, and the picture attached was of a large mixed breed dog and a birthday cake.
The letter reads:
"Our dog, Daisy was adopted on May 31st 2009 at SPCA.
Thank you for treating our dog with respect while she was in her cage.
In this picture you will see Daisy has just blown out her birthday candle
and is heading for the cake!"

The back of the picture read: "Daisy on her first birthday."

Alright I'll admit it, this got to me...I formed a few happy tears and thought out loud "good for you Daisy!"
Not only was this a happy ending for one of our shelter dogs but this young little girl, whom I've since found out is only 5 years old, really seems to 'get it'. She didn't thank us for feeding her dog, or even just 'taking care of her', but for treating her with RESPECT. Bingo. Nail on head.

This is why we do it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Say How Do You Do and Shake Hands

Introducing two dogs can be a simple and easy task. However, it can also be the cause of stress and emotional scarring.
There are many possible out comes that occur when introducing two dogs for the first time, and many theories and ways of doing it.

The first thing that all dog owners should keep in mind is that it's OK if their dog doesn't like the other dog. We tend to get too caught up wanting our dogs to like everyone and everything, but this is highly unrealistic, as we ourselves do not get along with everyone we meet.

In my opinion the best way to introduce two new dogs is in an unfamiliar place, to them both. This way, neither of them should get territorial. The biggest mistake I see people make is walking the two dogs straight at one another on leashes. This is extremely confrontational. It's not wonder the dogs end up fighting! It is best to just start walking together, side by side. This way the dogs can sniff one another, get to know each other and get some good exercise doing it. Walk and walk until the two dogs are all tuckered out. (Too tired to care or get grumpy.)
Now you can head home. The dogs should just want to lay down for a bit to rest, and by the time they become rejuvenated, they are old news to each other.
Now sure, things don't always go as planned, but just remember not to get mad or upset. You must  have patience and you can try again, but also, know when to quit.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Fur" a Good Cause

Recently I participated in the collection of dirty dog hair. We brushed shelter dogs, collected shavings from surgeries and hit up local grooming facilities. My car was full with stinky bags all for a good cause.
You see, apparently hair (dog and human alike) is being used to help soak up the oil spill in the Gulf. At first this made no sense to me, until I saw a demonstration. Why do we wash our hair? Because it collects oil! Now all the pieces were coming together!

The organization that makes the mats is called A Matter of Trust, based out of San Francisco, CA. People all over the country are mailing them their dogs sheddings and they are being turned into giant oil sucking mats. Genius. Finally a practical use for all that dog hair floating around my house!

The shelter dogs, and my own, were happy to do their part, and they all look and feel the better for it.

It is incredibly easy to do, and so I encourage all of you out there to do the same. Your dogs, the ocean and your floors will thank you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A New Challenge

When you work with dogs, a new challenge is always waiting right around the corner. My latest endeavor is a dog named Otis.

Otis was surrendered to the shelter a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed him immediately. He is beautiful! All white with blue eyes. My first thought was that he wouldn't be around long, but then I noticed he eyes looked a

Turns out not only is Otis blind, but he is deaf as well.
Oh boy. I've done deaf, I've done blind, but I had never done both on the same dog before.

Luckily for me a trainer friend of mine recently raised a blind and deaf puppy. She was able to give me some wonderful advice.

Normally for a deaf dog I would use hand signals to teach commands, for a blind one words. For Otis, he would have to learn by touch.

Touch his rear and lure him into a sit. (He still learned the same, with a cookie on his nose, he could follow the scent.) For down, you touch his shoulders and lure him down.
But, manners would not be the most important thing for Otis to master.

Otis first needed to learn how to walk on a leash. You see, every time you went to put the slip lead over his head, he would bite and chew it. He would pull and tug, and bite higher and higher until he was almost at your hand. Bitter Apple wasn't doing anything to deter him either.
The simplest, quickest solution was to put him on a harness. What a difference! I think the harness helps him to feel more secure.

His next biggest problem was his mouthing. I can't blame him, he only has so many senses left!
Just removing all attention from him when ever he did it worked for that.
It is amazing how he can smell you when you arrive. He knows you are there, and can find you. He learns his boundaries quickly and is a very smart boy.

My next concern was who would adopt him? I knew there were plenty of people who's hearts would go out to him, who would feel sorry for him, but these were not the right people for Otis. Otis needs to be treated just like a regular dog. This is not a pity case, this is a life style changing project. Whomever adopts this dog will need certain resources. Time, patience and understanding.

Lucky for Otis and his new adopter (who ever they turn out to be) things are looking up.
My friend owns and operates a local dog training/day care/boarding facility and we reached an agreement to where Otis and his adopters will receive free behavior counseling and may even get free day care or training!

So, for now, Otis sits and waits for the right person to come for him.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Good news/Bad News Game

The other day I received some very good news about Pit Bulls here in Florida. The bill to repeal the ban on BSL died in the senate. Whew, another 'safe' year for the pits of the state.
Then today, I got a call bearing some not so good news. It seems one of our local county animal facilities has a 'no adopt' policy when it comes to Pit Bulls. This disturbs me greatly for many reasons.

First is the obvious, it's just not fair. The sheriff who made the rule said it was due to too many 'bite cases' but most of the dogs that enter their facility have no bite history at all and are healthy and happy family pets.

This was brought to my attention when a family wanted to adopt a pit that was found outside of their business and brought to this facility. Oh, who am I protecting here it's Polk County Animal Services. They were told they could not have the dog. Only rescue groups are allowed to take pits.

This baffles my mind...they would rather euthanize this dog than give it to a willing adoptive family?!

The next thing that really gets me is I can't quite figure out how this is legal except for the fact that it isn't technically illegal. I understand how a private SPCA or Humane Society could implement this rule, but a public shelter? I just don't know.
There is no county or city ordnance against the breed, yet the government run facility is denying it's tax paying citizens their right to own the dog of their choice...?

Just doesn't sit right...

We have extended an invitation for them to attend one of our pit bull education classes and have even offered to take it on the road to them.
This will not be an over night change but I feel up to the challenge.
In the mean time I am trying to get the word out to rescue organizations in the area.

God Bless the Pit Bull, never has any dog been so hated and misunderstood.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's Play a Game!

Looking for a fun new game to play with your pup?
Try Red Light Green Light!

Remember playing that game as small child in elementary school or (I'm going to date myself here) at the Roller Rink?

The idea is simple, it works your dogs sit/come/stay commands.

To play with just you and your dog:

Have your dog sit on one end of the room and stay while you walk to the other side. For the "Green light" have them come to you, but only a few steps before "Red light" they have to stop, sit and stay again. Continue in this manner until your dog reaches you on your side of the room.

To play with a group:

Designate one person as the 'Caller'. This person will not have a dog in the game. All other participants wait with their dogs in a parallel line on one end of a room, putting them in a 'sit'.

The caller waits on the other side of the room and calls out "Green Light!" At that time all other participants begin walking toward the caller with their dogs. When the caller yells out "Red Light" all dogs must be asked to stop, sit and stay. The last dog to comply is 'out'.

You may have to go across the room a few times depending on size and the competence level of the dogs playing.

Have a fun prize for the winning team.

Now go play...GREEN LIGHT!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Submissive Urination

Submissive urination occurs when your dog feel threatened. It may occur when your dog feels that he is being punished or if he perceives some one as threatening. (It is important to remember that this is based on your dogs PERCEPTION of a threat, it does not indicate that a true threat actually exists.)
What will help your dog most with this is gaining confidence. Confidence can be built in many ways, from simply teaching your dog basic manners to training them in fly ball competition. Also start exposing your submissive dog to new people and places, always keeping the occasions positive. Your dog may be submissively urinating if:
Urination occurs when your dog is being scolded or greeted or when someone approaches him.
Your dog is a some what shy, anxious or timid dog.
They have a history of receiving rough treatment or punishment after the fact.
The urinating is accompanied by submissive postures such as crouching or rolling over to expose the belly.

What to do if this is your dog:
First, take your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Keep greetings low key.
Encourage and reward confident postures.
Give your dog an alternative to acting submissively. (Ex: If your dog knows some commands, have him come greet you with a sit/shake at the door.)
Avoid approaching your dog with postures that read as too dominant. (ex: direct eye contact, hovering etc...)
Pet your dog under the chin or on the chest rather than the top of their head.

But most importantly NEVER punish or scold your dog for exhibiting this behavior, as this will only make the problem worse!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Saw The Sign

Many times I take for granted the simple things in life.
After traveling around to schools and youth groups I have found that many students, and surprisingly their teaches too, do not know the basic signs of an un friendly dog.

So, let's cover the fundamentals:

Signs of an un-friendly dog include:

Hair raised on the backs of their necks, backs and/or rear

Ears pulled back tight

Stiff or ridged body posture

Stiff un-wagging tail
Wide staring eyes

Curling or raising of lips to show teeth (and gums)

Low growls or agitated barking

You can diffuse a possible confrontation by sliding away slowly sideways, making sure not to turn your back on the dog or stare them down. Keep them in your peripheral vision. Talk in a calm and soothing voice to the dog. If knocked down, get into a ball and protect your head. Do NOT squeal or yell as this will only egg the dog on. The dog will eventually get bored with you and you can go for help.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Second Happy Ending

A few posts ago I wrote about a sweet girl named Candy, and how happy I was that she had received the happy ending she deserved.

Well, I may have spoken too soon.

About two weeks after her adoption, she got into a scruff with her new brother, a 9 year old springer spaniel, and did some damage. Not only to Bo (the dog) but to her human daddy as well. You see, he'd stuck his hands in the middle of the fight and not surprisingly was bitten.

Unfortunately he was bitten quite badly (believe me I've seen pictures!) His wound wasn't properly cleaned the first time in the ER and when he went back, there was talk of him loosing his whole hand! (Luckily this did not happen.)

But what to do with Candy? Well, her new parents did not feel it fair to Bo to keep Candy around. I cannot blame them. Resident dogs do take precedence.

So Candy came back. But, when they brought her back, they told of the bite to the hand, and were then referred to the County. You see, all human bites must be quarantined. So poor Candy went to the County facility for her 10 day quarantine period. After which she would be re-evaluated and best case scenario, be put up for adoption for anther 7-10 days until her time was 'up'.

All of this happened on my day off. Of course. So I'm getting frantic text messages while laying out in my back yard.

The next day I take action. I get with my contacts at the county to advocate for her, put notes in her file and sneak me in to visit her and bring her cookies.

Next I get on the email train and try to find her a place to go.

Her previous family is very torn up about all of this because they love her, and don't want anything bad to happen, but say that they cannot take her back.

Then, an Angel appeared in the form of Jenifer from the Central Florida Pit Bull Rescue. She would take Candy.

Hallelujah Amen.

So we pulled a few strings, got her evaluated and out the door, again.

So far so good with Candy. Her and I had a heart to heart in her isolation kennel. I told her I found her ANOTHER good home, and asked her to please behave this time.

She looked back at me and licked my nose.

I took it as a 'yes'.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Did You Know?

Did you know that by 8-12 weeks of age a puppy should be handled by 100 different people of all ages and sizes?
Did you know that the second most dangerous place for your puppy to be is your vets waiting room floor?
Did you know that the MOST dangerous place for your puppy is right OUTSIDE your vets office?

Did you know that a shelter's adoption numbers don't take into account returns?

Did you know that the biggest killer of cats is litter box problems?

Did you know that cats don't actually 'miss' their litter boxes? If they go outside of them they meant to!

Did you know that when done correctly potty training is error-less and takes only 7 days?

Did you know that dogs must always be kept entertained?

Did you know that there are no studies supporting the effectiveness of DAP?

Did you know that this was a short blog and now it's over?

Monday, March 22, 2010

When Will You Be Home?

Separation Anxiety is a sad and scary thing. Your poor dog literally becomes sick with depression, and they act out in many owner displeasing ways.
When left alone, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will become extremely anxious, not understanding where you have gone or if you will ever return.

Signs include: Chewing, scratching, busting out of confinement, barking, salivating, urinating, defecating, vomiting or digging.

Remember that dogs are social pack animals and safety comes in numbers.

I see cases of this every day, and it is a large reason for owner relinquishment's. There is hope however. The treatment for separation anxiety is effective, but lengthy. Unfortunately many owners are simply not willing to put in the time and the effort to cure their pets of this agonizing anxiety.

First of all, let me say that if your dog is truly suffering from serious anxiety where their safety is in danger, see a vet. They can prescribe something to calm your dogs nerves. THIS IS NOT THE "FIX"! The root of the problem must still be gotten to!

Let's start with your EXIT: When it comes time for you to leave, just do it! Do NOT make a big production out of it. No 'ooey gooey' goodbyes. It is actually better to ignore your dog for about 10 minutes prior to your leaving. Otherwise your dog experiences a showering of your affections followed by complete withdrawal.

Give your dog something to distract themselves with. KONG toys are GREAT distractions and can be filled with everything from your dogs left over dinner to peanut butter, cream cheese, baby food and more! This only comes out when you leave. The dog now has something to look forward to instead of dread.

Confinement: Confine your anxious dog to a small area of your home. (And please dog proof it first!) Crating is an option ONLY if it does not cause your dog any physical damage. Some dogs will try so hard to escape a crate that they injure themselves.
Remember, a confined dog cannot damage your home!

Leave a radio or TV on in another room, or make a recording of your own voice. The recording only has to be about 20 minutes as most anxiety and destruction occur within that time period.

Next you will need to DESENSITIZE your dog to your absence. This is the time consuming part, but it works!
Go through your normal 'getting ready to leave' routine, walk out the door, then immediately walk back in. Place all your things back and sit down. In about 10 minutes do it again, but this time count to 10 outside. Repeat many times gradually working up to a trip to the corner store. Now your dog should have less anxiety about your return because sometimes you come right back! So, every time you leave, it is not an all day absence. Your dog relaxes, and so can you!

And of course a tired dog is a happy dog! The more exercise you can give your dog the more likely they will be to sleep while you are out!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dr. Ian Dunbar

Over this past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar held by renowned Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar.
At first the 3 day 8 hour lecture sounded...well, long. But I soon was wrapped up in knowledge and discovery as Dr. Dunbar craftily illustrated stories and ideas that spring from his brilliant mind.
Also luckily enough, he speaks with a wonderfully smooth British accent and is down right funny.

The entire weekend was spent discussing puppies and adolescent dogs, and I was reminded why I always gravitate towards adopting senior citizens!
This all came at such a perfect time as I am just beginning to offer puppy and obedience classes myself. I have a lot of work to, but am excited by the many ideas now planted in my head.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet some dog professionals in the community. I may be just starting out on my career with dogs (only five years in) but I hope that someday I might be the one to teach a seminar.
Being open to education and new ideas seems like a good way to start. Putting those new ideas into practice and finding out what really works seems like a logical next step.

So stay tuned for updates on how all of this incredible new knowledge is being put to use! And wish me luck!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Awarded for Cruelty

Well, I simply cannot believe it. But yet, somehow it is true. Micheal Vick was voted to receive the Ed Block Courage award. Yes, courage.
It baffles my mind to think that somewhere out there are people who think that what Vick has done is courageous.

I'm not sure what part of torture, gambling and murder is considered brave. It was too much to take when he was re-instated in the NFL, then signed by Philadelphia, but now, an AWARD!? What kind of message is being sent here? It's OK to do horrific things as long as you have Tony Dungy by your side?

I would encourage every one to write the the members and sponsors of the Ed Block foundation. Let them know what a horrible mistake they've made. Ask them what exactly is so courageous about a 'man' who commits a horrific crime, then is welcomed back into society so easily.
Ask them why is it that the ability to throw or run with a football, somehow trumps the down right corruptness of an individual; because I'd like to know.

Shame on Mike Vick, shame on the NFL, shame on the Eagles organization and shame on the Ed Block Foundation.

May they someday see the light and repent for their inappropriate and unfortunate actions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Loss To Our Community

I received a phone call yesterday at around 4pm from a local news station. They asked me if I was aware of what took place at Sea World Orlando earlier in the day. Having been at work all day, I was not.
The reporter informed me that a whale trainer had been killed by one of the whales at the park. She asked if I could comment on why this may have happened. I declined to comment, having never worked with marine mammals before, I didn't feel comfortable giving my input.

After hanging up the phone my thoughts immediately leaped to a colleague of mine who trained whales at Sea World Orlando. "What if it was her?" I thought to myself.

Upon arriving home and turning on the local news, I learned the sad truth that in fact it was my fellow animal trainer and dog lover, Dawn Brancheau.

My heart fell to the floor as everything around me became a blur. I phoned a co-worker who knew her as well to share the news and we commiserated.

I've spoken to many of my friends here in the Central Florida training community and we all feel her loss. We are, very much a family. One love, one passion. And yes there are dangers to what we do, but the joy of the job far out weighs them.

Dawn volunteered her time at her local SPCA, using her vast training knowledge to work with the homeless dogs and make them more adoptable. She truly loved animals. Her bright personality and infections spirit will be missed.

My only hope is that no rash decisions are made about the life of the whale...I hope that the whale is allowed to live out his life, as I 'm sure Dawn would have wanted it that way.

Swim in peace now Dawn, swim in peace....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best in Show

Recently I was asked to speak about Dog Shows, Pure Bred dogs and...adoption....? I know, they don't seem to go together, at least not at first.
Every year, 'dog show season' brings it's champions, and we see a rise in popularity of whichever breed finds itself in the winners circle.

So when I was asked to to a spot on a national morning show regarding the adoption of pure bred dogs, I was intrigued.

The thing is, buying a dog should never be an option. No matter what breed of dog people think they want, one can always be found, waiting in a shelter or rescue.

But let's back up. The first question people need to ask themselves is: "Why do I want this particular breed?" Is it because it is the type of dog that the 'it' celebrity has? Did this breed just star in a movie? Or win Best in show?

The next question you need to ask is: "What do I really know about this breed?" If the only answer is: "They're cute", then further research will be needed. People need to evaluate their lifestyles. Do they want a high energy or low energy dog? How much time do they have to spend with the dog? Will they get a puppy or an adult? People looking to get a dog too often go by looks alone and not by traits or personality.

I can't tell you how many Border Collies are surrendered to shelters or put down due to their 'destructive behavior'. However, when one looks at the facts, they find that the poor dogs were kept in crates for 9 hours a day and then not properly exercised or stimulated on top of it. Border Collies are extremely athletic and intelligent, but people get them because: "Oh, look he has blue eyes!"

Once one has done the research, and a breed has been identified, the question should be raised: What about a mix of this breed? A dog who is MOSTLY German Shepherd or almost all Chow. These dogs can give you the same benefits of the breed but with less health issues.

Finally, when looking for a new friend, don't count out your local shelter or County facility. 25-30% of all dogs in shelters are pure breeds. Out of the 55 dogs we had here last week, 18 of them were a pure breed.

If a specific breed cannot be found at the local shelter, try a breed specific rescue. EVERY breed has one. will find one for you! Just enter your zip code and breed and they will find you a match!

And finally, just because that show dog looks like such a wonderfully behaved canine, doesn't mean that yours will be. Those dogs are worked with from birth to become a champion. Their owners lively hood revolves around them.

For the rest of us, our dogs should be a member of the family, a best friend and a constant companion. Sure they may never win a trophy, but honestly, that's just more to dust anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stairway to Fear

Many dogs are frightened of stairs, and the reasons vary with each situation.
If you adopt a dog who has never lived in a home with stairs, they may be hesitant to go up them, down them or both!

On the other side, is a dog who HAS lived with stairs before, but has had a bad experience with them.

I will never forget the time an adopter called me about 45 minutes after adopting a beautiful American Bulldog. She was standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to her apartment and the dog would not budge. Another time, I received a call about a dog who went up the stairs initially, but now would not go down them. The poor thing hadn't been outside to go to the bathroom in three days!

Some people try to force a dog up or down the stairs, however this does not allow the dog to overcome their phobia. It also may end in a nip or bite, when the scared dog says: "No way I'm scared!"

Once again, positive reinforcement is the way to go, however, before implementing a training and reconditioning routine, make a visit to your vet to rule out pain as the issue. (For more information on positive reinforcement, see my previous blog on the subject.)

If you are starting with a young puppy, you can prevent the development of fear by properly socializing them. (See my blogs on puppies for more information.)

If you've got an older dog on your hands, who's fear is already instilled, remember to go slow. Start by just approaching the steps. Reward for progress no matter how small.

You can use a tasty treat or a favorite toy to lure you dog up the steps little by little.

Take this training one step at a time...literally. Up one step and back down. (Or down one and back up, depending on your situation.)

Make sure to have something very special (maybe dinner) waiting for the dog at the end of the steps. This way your dog can learn that going up (or down) the stairs leads to something good!

Be patient and do not rush the process.

If your stair way is "open" as in built without vertical panels, your dog may be scared of falling through! Try draping a sheet or blanket over the steps, so your dog can't see all the way down.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kitten Class 3

Welcome to the final instalment of my kitten class series. After this is back to what I know best...DOGS!

Let's start with the "milk myth". Did you know that the ONLY milk your kitten needs is it's mothers? Kittens do NOT need cows milk any more than we do....and no, we don't need it!

Beating Boredom: Plant an indoor garden for your kitten. Try wheat grass in small planters. Get a couple of cat tress and don't throw away those paper bags and cardboard boxes! They may great kitten forts! Change up your kittens play things regularly to keep them stimulated.
You can make cat toys out of pipe cleaners as well. They cost about 3 cents to make. I like to make little bugs, but feel free to get creative!

Remember to confine your kitten at night to where ever you are. Cats are nocturnal by nature and a small kitten can get almost anywhere!

Scratching is a natural and normal cat behavior and should be encouraged, in the right places. Buy a scratching post and show your kitten how to use it. Scratching allows your kitten to scratch and also leave their scent behind.

Kitty Signals: Quivering tail: "I love you!" Swishing or Wagging tail: "I'm annoyed." Ears Up: Curious, alert. Ears Back: "I'm not happy about something..." Low Purr: "I'm very happy! That feels good!" Low Growl: "Back off!" Hissing: "I warned you! Now I'm really MAD!" Meow: reserved especially for humans.

Litter Box Training: Finding the right location is important. Put kittens litter box in a place that provides privacy but does not totally isolate. Keep the box clean. Litter should be scooped every day and the box cleaned with soap and water weekly. Make sure to have as many litter boxes as you do cats and place a box on each level of your home. To train your kitten to use the box, place them inside when they most need to go. (Wake up, after play, after eating, after nap, before bed...)

Be prepared, your kitten will have accidents. It's ok. If you catch your kitten in the act of a mistake, interrupt them with a loud noise and then place them in the litter box. You CANNOT correct them after the fact.
Clean the area with a non ammonia based product. Enzyme eaters work great.

A note about de-clawing. It is cruel and inhumane. There are several countries where the procedure is outlawed. De-clawing removes more than just the nail, it removes the first bone of every 'finger'. Ouch. De-clawing can cause severe behavior problems and is unnecessary. Simply clip your cats nails regularly. Push out the claws by squeezing the paw and snip up to the pink. Do NOT clip the pink part, as this is a vain and will be painful. You can also put "pedi-paws" on your cat. Pedi-paws are basically a rubber nail cover. They come in all different colors!

Crate Training: Crate training your kitten is very important as it will make vet visits much easier for the both of you! Crate training cuts down on the stress of your cat. Start early with your kitten and go slow. Never force your kitten into the crate. They should always walk in willingly for a treat or their dinner.Proper crate carrying should be done AWAY from your body, and with the opening of the crate facing backwards. This minimizes kitty's stress immensely, plus it's a GREAT arm work out!

Problem behaviors to look out for include: Counter surfing, suckling, fights/aggression, night crazies, spraying and scratching. Counter surfing is not only annoying but can be dangerous to your kitten. (Think hot burner!) To prevent kitty from doing this, simply make your counter an un-attractive place to be. Try placing a plastic carpet runner upside down on your counter. You cat will not like the way this feels on their feet, there fore they will be less likely to jump up there in the future. Suckling is generally caused by a cat being taken from his mother too early. Most cats that display this behavior, do so their entire lives. Spraying can be controlled by spaying and/or neutering your cat.

To figure out what is causing your kittens 'bad' behavior you have to ask yourself a series of questions: Have you changed anything? Taken anything away? Added anything? Met a new person? The smallest thing can set off your cat. (Finally threw out that bean bag chair from 1993? Tried a new perfume?) Find the answer and fix the problem.

Aversives: An aversive is something your cat does not like. There are texture aversives (like the upside down carpet runner), smell/taste aversives such as citrus, surprise (a stacked pyramid of empty soda cans that falls over when your cat jumps on your bed) and human controlled such as a squirt gun. Be careful with human controlled aversives and they can back fire and make your cat fearful of you, instead of the action.

Managing rough play. Hands are NOT play toys and kitten should learn right away that it is NOT ok to bite them. If your kitten bites your hands, end the play session immediately. Always follow by redirecting them to an appropriate action, like chewing on a toy.

The importance of play: Play manages kittens stress and reduces ankle biting and scratching.

Prey Play: This should be done just before bedtime. Simulate a hunt with your kitten with a mouse toy on a string (or similar toy). Let kitty hunt the toy and 'kill it'. Follow with a high protein meaty treat. This will send signals to your kittens brain that it is time for sleep.

Always use positive reinforcement! Encourage the behaviors you want to see and ignore the ones you don't.

Hard work, responsibility and commitment = a life time of love.....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kitten Class 2

Thanks for coming back! Now, let's talk about introducing your kitten to your dog. Feed them both their dinner on opposite sides of a closed door. This way they can smell each other during a very important time of the day. Swap scents! Just like you did with your resident cats, swap your dogs bedding with your kittens. During the initial introductions, have your dog on a leash on one end of the room and your kitten being held on the other. Feed them both yummy treats such as chicken, beef hot dogs or tuna. Keep the sessions short and sweet. When it's time, let kitty go first, and ALWAYS supervise their interactions.
Your kitten and your kid: It is very important that your child understands the kitty rules. You must ALWAYS supervise your child when they interact with your kitten. Make sure you show them how to hold the kitten properly.

Early handling of your kitten is super important. The more the better, and always keep sessions positive. This is imperative for having a well socialized adult cat.

Kittens should stay with their mother and siblings until at LEAST 8 weeks of age. (12 is better). A kitten can be spayed or neutered as early as 8 weeks. It is extremely important to spay or neuter your cat. Did you know that for every person born, there are 65 cats!? That means for every cat to have a home each one of us would have to have 65 cats. We all know that is never going to happen, so we must do what we can to stem the feline population growth. SPAY AND NEUTER!

Kitten Developmental Stages:

0-2 weeks, neo-natal

2-7 weeks socialization period

7-14 weeks most active play period

3-6 months Ranking period

6-18 months Adolescence

Many people have 'indoor/outdoor cats', but this is not something I recommend. I believe that cats, like dogs, should be inside only. Out door cats do not live as long as indoor cats, and they face hazards such as Feline aids and leukemia as well as wild animals, cars and more.

If you already have an outdoor cat, make sure they have a break away collar, are microchiped and have a bell attached to them. Out door cats have decimated our nations small bird population. By belling your cat, the bird will have time to escape before it's too late.

Don't forget to vaccinate your cat, and take them to their annual vet appointments!

Also, start your kitten on a flea prevention program and a hair ball remedy. Most cats actually like the taste of the hairball paste, but if yours doesn't, just smear it on their paw, and they will be forced to lick it off!

Don't be alarmed if you kitten's heart is beating super fast, that's normal! Cat's hearts beat around twice as fast as a human heart.

Calculating your cats age is not as simple as calculating your dogs age. For more information go to:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Dog Diva on.....Kittens!

I know what you're thinking...this is a dog blog, and yes it is, but I wanted to take a moment to write a little something about that often neglected 'other pet'. Sure kittens are cute, and soon shelters across the country will be flooded with them as 'kitten season' starts. Yes, Kitten Season.
So, I figured why not arm yourselves with the knowledge it takes to have and raise a kitten into a well adjusted adult cat?

Let's get started.

Kittens need constant supervision. Remember: Curiosity killed the cat! Kittens can be very messy and destructive.

Before kittens arrival you will need to go shopping! Make sure to get toys, litter box, litter, food, treats, bowls, collars, tags and cleaning supplies.

On kittens first night home, confine kitty to a small back room that has been kitten proofed. Set up kitty base camp in that room with food, water, litter box and bed. Keep the door closed and let kitty adjust. (This also keeps any resident cats or dogs out of the room for now.) Make sure to play with and visit kitty many times during the day.

During the first week, keep the door shut, but use scent swapping to start introducing your new kitty to the rest of the household. Take the bedding from kitty's room and swap with your other cats or dogs bedding. This way everyone gets to smell everyone else, with out having to meet yet.

Week two, you can crack the door to allow kitty to come out if desired, but do not open the door wide enough for your larger animals to crawl through. Now it is kitties choice. Have patience and never force your kitten. As kitty becomes more and more adventurous you may begin to gradually move 'base camp' out into the house.

Come back next time for information on introducing your kitten to your dog and much more!