Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dog Safety!

I received this email yesterday from Front Range K9 clients Ryan & Kristin and wanted to share:

Jennifer,

With the weather starting to change and dogs spending more time inside I thought you may want to remind all of your clients to be extra careful about what they leave laying around their house. We certainly could have used the warning earlier this week.


On Monday I came home to discover Ally had vomited all over the house. After cleaning it up we started on our normal afternoon walk. She was very resistant to walking and I had to coax her along. About halfway into the walk she started vomiting again and threw up the wrapper to an entire stick of butter. After that she refused to walk any further and I had to call Ryan to come get us.


I called our vet and they said to keep an eye on her and if she vomited anymore to take her to an emergency vet because there was a risk of pancreatitis. The rest of the evening she seemed lethargic but did not throw up again. As the night went on she seemed to perk up so we thought we’d avoided any serious problems. However, at 11:30pm she began vomiting blood all over our bedroom. We rushed her to the emergency vet where she was eventually transferred into their ICU and we were sent home.

The following morning we transferred her to the regular vet and were eventually able to bring her home and keep a close eye on her. She is still only being fed VERY small meals and is on several medications to reduce the risk of developing pancreatitis and of course she has earned herself the privilege of always being kenneled when we leave the house!
It’s amazing that the things that seem so “boring” to us are so tempting to dogs. I have told her several times that this is not how a Level 2 graduate acts!!

Kristin


Thanks for sharing, Kristin, and I'm so glad Ally is on the mend!

Jennifer

Jennifer Hime is the owner of Front Range K9 Academy and Horsetooth Whippets. She can be reached at www.k9counselor.com.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In praise of....praise?

I started talking to my dogs today.

No. Not in the "I'm an animal communicator" sort of way.

Nor in the sappy, "Would poopsie like another cookie" sort of way.

Nor in the "Do what I say immediately, or I will correct you!" training sort of way.

Just talking.

Looking them in the eye when they made contact with me.

Light touches, soft eye contact, and low, quiet words of acknowledgement when they checked in with me, or asked for attention.

Full, meaningful sentences and explanations and 'thank yous' for our simple everyday interactions. Not because they know each word I'm saying, but because they are masters of reading body language, human signals of intention, and tone of voice.

It's something I haven't done with my dogs for a long time. I know that might sound strange to you. It sounds strange to me.

But somewhere along the way of becoming and being a professional dog trainer, handler, exhibitor, and breeder...I forgot to be a dog lover.

Shocking. But true.

I found myself ashamed, saddened, and yes - shocked - to admit today to both Lisa and myself, that I often have a stronger heart connection to the some of my client dogs than I have with my own!

How did this happen?

Somewhere along the way, I believe I confused teaching dogs to be mannerly with teaching humans (including myself) to view all dogs as errant children - all the time. But no child (or dog) is good or bad allll the time!

Somewhere along the way of 'fixing' dogs, I forgot to remind my clients and myself that it's okay to LOVE them at the same time!

Then, when I was introduced to food training, I became something of a 'born-again' foodie. Somehow, when my dogs' faces lit up with the mention of food for obedience, it felt pretty good. It felt better than just ignoring them or correcting them for bad behavior.

But that was short-lived, and those of you who have taken any marker/food classes with me know that I quickly revert to the old method and abandon the food rewards. Many of you do, as well.

Why?

Well, I realize that for me, feeding a dog for obedience doesn't work. That's a personal opinion, by the way, and for those who like food and its incredible power in training, I am okay that you like it!!!! (And this is subject for a whole OTHER blog - coming soon.)

However, it just doesn't *feel* right for me and I didn't like the way my dogs still didn't seem to be working out of joy and companionship and respect and loyalty and all the reasons I train with dogs - Now - with food - instead of working for me out of fear of a correction, they all seemed to be saying, "Ok, but where's my cookie?!"

This was deflating: correction-based training was a 19 year journey, and food training has been an additional 2 year journey of learning, and I still feel as if something is missing...

Then, through doing some research on autism in animals I stumbled upon an interesting website: The Harmony Program by Sylvia Kent-Hartmann

BANG. Lightening bolts from the sky. Cherubim and Seraphim and all the other Angels and Trumpets, too.

Holy hand grenades, Batman, this makes SENSE to me.

I looked back through some of my earlier dog training influence books - especially those by Carol Lea Benjamin - and found much of the same mentality regarding dog training that I used to use when I began training some 21 years ago.

So...

I am taking baby steps.

Today I started talking to my dogs instead of just at them, or about them.

And something amazing happened. They responded. Not because there would be food, or there was anything expected from them, or there would be a correction if they weren't spot-on with a command.

We were simply a bunch of sentient creatures, hanging out as a family, enjoying each others' company.

I have more than a few of my human dog training clients to thank for this. You know who you are.

I thank you.

My dogs thank you.

Rock on.

Jennifer

You make a difference...

I received the following email after the long Labor Day weekend. It made my week. It also gives me the chance to remind YOU all - the dog owners - that Lisa and I are only tools. We give you the information, but only you can implement it with your dogs.

Hey there Jennifer -

Just had to write you with a little update. After a solid year and a half of visiting playgrounds, schools, and finding children wherever possible (on almost a daily bases - often being the sketchy person just out of reach;-), we have finally had a great breakthrough. Yesterday we went camping with a family who had 3 children within Dakota's questionable range - especially the little 3 year old toddler. I kept her on a leash by my side the entire time, but not only did she get to the point where she allowed the little girl to pet her but she showed no signs of being stressed or nervous! Of course I know this does not mean that the problem is behind us, but she is making significant improvements. At one point she even went up to the little girl, put her ears back, gave a playbow, wagged her tail low and licked her leg. Even more exciting - she took commands from the 7 year old and even started to play a little ball with her (with me right there of course). I wasn't sure if she would keep the same demenour in the morning, but sure enough when we got back from our walk and everyone was up she excitedly licked the little girl.

Just an overall encouraging weekend that is proving that we're following the right course. I just wanted to share the excitement with someone who knows Dakota and certainly understands the hard work that goes into decreasing a fear! I also almost have her completely over her fear of statues, scarecrows, and other unpredictable shapes (I usually look for her signs of hesitation and avoidance, leave her where she is and I physically touch the object, then she comes over on her own accord to sniff it out). It has really increase her confidence.

In addition, we took her out on her first canoe ride this morning and after a little looking around she circled between us and laid down with her head propped over the side. We both commented that without a doubt the money we spent with you was absolutely worth it. There is no question Dakota would have been a different dog completely and the compliments we consistently receive over her behaviour is 100% thanks to you.

So on this long weekend we just wanted to again express to you our gratitude and let you know that we appreciate all the work you do. One by one you're making the world a better place for dogs and their owners. Thanks again and have a great long weekend.

Jenn

Kudos to Jenn, Nathan, and Dakota!

Jennifer Hime is the owner of Front Range K9 Academy and Horsetooth Whippets. She can be reached at www.k9counselor.com.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School...

Dog Trainer Adam Katz of South Bay K9 Academy says there are three simple secrets to dog training:

1. Timing (Consequences - rewards and corrections - must be timed correctly so that the dog understands your communication.) Using Katz's own example: If you got a speeding ticket 6 weeks after you were speeding (especially if the ticket were in a foreign language), it might not carry much weight with you. Timing your communications with your dogs properly makes all the difference in the world.

2. Consistency - Consequences must be consistent so that the dog understands there is a predictable pattern to the consequences related to the dog's behavior.

3. Motivation - Consequences must make the dog want to repeat an action (the dog must care about the treat, toy, praise, etc. in rewards); or the consequence (correction) needs to be motivational enough for the dog to NOT want to repeat the behavior.

While I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above. I must say, there is a definite - and most important - 4th Secret to dog training.

Drum roll, please...

... and the 4th Secret to Dog Training is...

... Maintenance!

As with a lot of my blog posts, this one stems from personal experience. As many of you know, my whippet girls have been in season for the past 4 weeks - meaning the whippet boys have been coming to work with me instead of the girls.

This means a month of 'vacation' time for the girls. Training has been at a minimum for them - no recalls, no stays, no downs, no sits to speak of - for a whole month! "Woohoo!" say my girls..."We can do whatever we want!"

Of course, this mentality quickly leaked into everyday life. The girls have developed selective hearing. Even Miss Lizzie, my Obedience titled whippet and the #5 Ranked Rally-Obedience Novice whippet in the country for 2010, was looking at me blankly when I gave a command.

Are you kidding me?!

Meanwhile, the boys...Jett, Feynman, Fermi, and Timmy...always known for their boyish, goofy, lack-a-daisical attitudes about obedience and being the demo dogs: Well, all I can say is that last Saturday, Jett (yes, you read that right, JETT) was even up volunteering to be the demo dog during classes. This is the same Jett that I normally have to crawl into the kennel and beg to come out and work.

The boys' recalls were beautiful, their heeling sublime (for whippets), their sits automatic, and their stays - well, their stays were truly something to write home about!

How did this happen?!

Well, of course, we all know how it happened. See above...Dog Training Secret #4.

Maintenance - even just a few minutes of training and enforcing and rewarding commands every day - is vital to continued results with your dog. Even dogs who 'know' their obedience commands need daily maintenance.

The good news is, maintaining a dog's training doesn't take nearly as much time and effort as the initial teaching part of training takes. Once the dog knows the skills, it takes but a few repetitions a day to keep the skills fresh. But skipping out on maintenance exercises is a recipe for headaches for any dog owner.

Some tips for keeping your dogs' obedience skills in tip-top shape:

1. Don't set yourself up for failure - forcing dog training time into an already packed personal schedule just doesn't work. Much like working out (unless you're really into it), you'll do it religiously a few times, but soon that favorite T.V. show, video game, or pressure to get a blog post done will take precedence. Next thing you know, it's been 3 days since you trained the dog, and well, he's just not being 'bad' so why bother?

Remember, it takes time to train, and it takes time for the dog to 'forget'...neither will happen overnight.

Instead of aiming for the lofty goal of doing 20 to 40 minutes straight of training, do your maintenance work in small bits throughout the day - 2 minutes here, 5 minutes there, when you'd be interacting with your dog anyway (practices sits and waits before going in and out of any door; 'leave its' before meal times; sit/stays when putting leashes on or taking them off, etc.)

2. In the same spirit, 'schedule' your training times for moments in your own schedule where life gives you little moments - do 2 to 5 minutes of training during TV commercials and at routine breaks in your schedule (after your shower, before your coffee...or after you've gotten home, but before you've sorted the mail, etc.). Training in this way allows you and the dog lots of maintenance training, plus supplies the added benefit of reminding the dog that obedience is expected any where, any time - not just during 20 minute drilling sessions.

3. Last but not least, remember that if you are teaching any NEW skill, then it doesn't fall into maintenance training and extended sessions and repetitions will be needed until the dog masters the new skill, then you can incorporate it into the maintenance routine.

The whippet girls' story has a happy ending. They are all out of season (and hopefully two will soon be mama dogs) and so they can come to work with me again and not drive all of my clients' boy dogs insane. :)

Today was Lizzie, Bella, and Polliwog's first day back to school. I managed to get 10 minutes of maintenance training time in with each of them (and also with Fermi and wonder dog Siobhan). Imagine that...they were delighted with the chance to work with me AND their everyday obedience attitudes came right back!

That's it from this end of the leash...

Jennifer Hime is the head trainer/behaviorist at Front Range K9 Academy & Horsetooth Whippets. She can be reached at www.k9counselor.com.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Leash Aggression - Really???

I received the following email last week from a client, and the timing for a discussion on this issue couldn't be better:

Hi Jennifer

I attended training about a year ago with my Red Heeler pup, Aspen. He's now a wonderful dog, off leash trained and does great with other dogs. With one exception of course. He's become aggressive towards other dogs when he's leashed. If we're on a walk and he's healing, a dog will come hear us and he'll fluff up his back hair, growl and lunge aggressively at the other dog. He did recently bit a little Beagle's ear on our neighborhood while on a walk though didn't hurt the dog. Each time he does it, I get in front of him and scold him but it doesn't seem to be getting any better. When he's off the leash and we meet another dog, he is GREAT and typically runs away with his tail between his legs.

Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Maria


This is a very common issue. The leash increases agitation in MANY dogs...and
most of the problem comes from the owners - not the dogs!

This is because dogs ranging in age from about 1 to 3 years become much more selective about who they actually want physical contact with.

We humans don't keep up with this change in social development, and continue to let our dogs 'meet' every dog out there, thinking "He's so social. He looooves dogs."

In essence, we're trapping them into adolescent behavior without allowing them to mature and limit their social contacts as they would in the wild as they grew up. Just because your dog was very social as a puppy doesn't mean that will continue into adulthood.

I like to look at the very obvious similarities between humans and dogs when it comes to proper socialization.

Some humans and some dogs do stay more social throughout life. But really, think about it:

You're social...but do you looooove every human you meet? Just like dogs, as we age, we begin to shrink our social circles - or at least we have fewer people we want to be
socially intimate with.

Imagine if I tied you up and placed you on a bench outside the grocery store. Then I let every stranger coming and going from the store come up and touch you. Then, if you got upset when a stranger groped you, I slapped
you instead of the stranger.

It might seem extreme, but this is the equivalent of most leash-to-leash meetings for dogs.

They can't escape; they can't take things slowly or at their own pace; they feel restrained, so they panic and tell the other dog to get away from them the only way they know how: Growling, snapping, etc.

But when dogs do this, they get punished by their owners!

This only worsens the problem, as your dog has no way out. What you are telling the dog is that any dog can tickle, fondle, sniff or downright dominate, molest, or intimidate them and they just have to take it. Would you do the same to your child if they were being bullied?

I know this sounds radical to some...but I'm on a roll, so bear with me. With the warmer weather and a slew of dogs hitting this 1 to 3 year age range, these face-to-face, leash-to-leash meetings are more common and dogs who are forced into these situations generally become worse and worse, and expand the aggression to even off-leash situations.

To make matters even MORE complicated, the general public perpetuates the problem by continuing to push the myth of 'all dogs like each other.' (I bet we ALL can think of a family member, neighbor, or friend who subscribes to this INCORRECT view of canine socialization.)

So...what to do?

1.
AVOID leashed greetings. If you are walking your dog and another person walking theirs is pressing for a meeting, politely hold up a hand and cross the street. Or put your dog in a stay behind you and block the other dog's access to yours. Or find any other way out of the situation.

(NOTE - you may have to be downright rude about this with some people. So be it. That stranger & strange dog on the street are just that - strangers. You owe them no loyalty and will spend maybe 30 seconds of your life around them. You will spend the next 10 to 15 years with your dog.)

2.
Don't be the stranger listed up above in item #1. As your dog ages, it very likely doesn't WANT to meet the other dogs on the street anymore than you want to shake hands with every single person you encounter at the grocery store!

3.
Supervise off-leash contacts and limit them to dogs that your dog knows and will have a relationship with. (Again - referring to item #1 - beyond the puppy stages, dogs tend to become much more selective of who they WANT a long term relationship with, and how intimate they wish to be with those other dogs...they are pack animals after all...and packs tend to be small.)

4.
Keep in mind what GOOD leashed dog-to-dog interactions should look like. In essence they should look exactly like you at a grocery store, or other place where you and other humans are tightly packed. They should look NEUTRAL. If the other dog is being too hyper, too forward, too dominant, too anything, your dog will NOT be able to maintain control, just as you wouldn't be able to maintain control if someone were doing those things to you in a grocery store. If your dog needs more work at being neutral around other dogs (remember to keep good distance between your dog and the strange dog), then it's back to the practice field for TONS of distraction-proofing of your stays. (Shameless plug here - we TEACH these skills specifically in our Level 2 Obedience program!)

5.
Last but not least, spread the word! Let family, friends, and yes - even strangers - know that you are working on teaching your dog appropriate dog-to-dog manners and that you need their help and respect in not allowing other dogs (or people, for that matter) to fondle, caress, or otherwise molest the dog without your permission!

Yes, I'm on a soapbox here, only because this issue is at pandemic levels in our city!!!! Do your part and promote good dog-to-dog social behavior - your dog will thank you for it.

That's it from this end of the leash.

Jennifer Hime is the head trainer & behaviorist at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO. She can be contacted at www.k9counselor.com



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pet Health Blog

Front Range K9 Academy Client, Stephanie Barnhill has a fantastic new blog post on Pet Health. You can find it here: Here's to Our Health

She includes not only the heartwarming story of how she found her 'perfect dog match' in an unlikely candidate, but also interviews with a local pet chiropractor, a local essential oils practitioner, and myself as her dog trainer resource. :) Thanks for the shout-out, Stephanie!!!

She also lists some fantastic local pet resources and their websites.

Check it out!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Welcome to the Terrible Two's...

Last Thursday, I spoke to no less than Five owners of aggressive dogs. And that was only on Thursday.

These were not current clients of Front Range K9 Academy, but instead, were new potential clients who were seeking help for their dogs.

These dogs had a range of types of aggression from territorial, to fear, to dominant resource guarding. They ranged in breed from terrier to mastiff, with several herding and working breeds thrown in the mix as well.

There were both males and females in the group.

Some had prior training with other dog trainers or behaviorists, some did not.

Some were rescued from shelters. Some had been purchased from breeders as young pups and raised in the homes they still live in.

So from this wide variety of breeds, sexes and backgrounds, what do you think stood out?

I'll tell you. What stood out was ..... Age.

Each and everyone of the dogs was 2 years old, give or take a month or so. Each had been exhibiting aggression for at least 2 months (but more likely for about 6 months or more). And each of the dogs' aggression issues were getting worse.

So what is it about 2 year old dogs? (Or really dogs ranging from about 16 months to about 3 years of age?)

Well, 2 year old dogs have several things going against them. Number one, they look like adult dogs. And they look all grown up to both people and to other dogs. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

These dogs are adolescents in every sense of the word. Their brains are not fully developed. They make really poor decisions. They are incredibly socially awkward. They are often uncomfortable in their own skins.

If you doubt this, take a trip down memory lane to your own adolescence. How uncomfortable was middle school, or junior high for you? Did your parents, peers, and teachers expect you to function as a working part of society at the tender age of 12? 14? 16? Please. Most of us didn't even have our heads screwed on straight until our twenties!

And yet, we expect our dogs to have it all together and be mentally, socially, and biologically mature by the age of 2! If we use the generic idea of 1 dog year = 7 human years, then all these 2 year old dogs are.....14! They are in junior high! (Those of you who teach junior high, or those of you with kids this age, let me just offer my condolences. You KNOW what I'm talking about.)

Further, the other dogs on the street see them coming and think they are complete freaks, because they are acting so ... well...so ...weird.

Newsflash, folks - your 2 year old dog is in a very difficult stage. Aggression, strange fears and phobias, and just general wackiness are often to be expected. What you DO about it is critical - but a bit more about that later.

Back to the challenges 2 year old dogs face. If sheer age is the number one problem, improper socialization is the number two problem with most of these cases.

Many, many, many of these dogs are either under socialized or over socialized as pups. Because of these inappropriate socialization sessions, these dogs are prime suspects for being out-of-place socially as they hit their 'teen' age times.

Again, I'll use the human example to illustrate this point: Humans who've had poor social experiences as children are most likely less socially adept as teens (or even as adults), as well!

So, what can we do about all these coo-coo, teenage, 2 year old dogs?

As it turns out, there is a lot to be done. First and foremost, of course, is properly socializing your dog when it is still a young pup - before it hits the terrible two's.

Proper socialization does NOT mean your dogs gets to play with every dog it meets. Nor does it get to jump all over every human it meets like a little attention-hungry vampire. If you need more info on this - check out our 2009 article on puppy socialization.

But what about those shelter dogs who missed out on good socialization. Is there any hope? Absolutely. Training a dog through the terrible two's is a challenge. But it can be done. Teaching (and enforcing) proper manners, reliable obedience, and distraction-proofing can go a long way in dealing with the issues that arise at this age.

Some dogs need extra help with becoming desensitized around other dogs or people. Decreasing their anxiety can help them get through this developmental period. Seek help from a professional behaviorist in the art of positive desensitization - it can do wonders!

However, shrugging one's shoulders and saying "Ah, well...it's just the terrible two's" is NOT the answer.

Practice makes perfect. And if your dog is practicing aggression or other extreme behaviors at this age, they WILL get better and better at the aggressive behavior. Doing nothing about it is a recipe for the problem getting worse.

For those of you with 2 year old dogs who are not having social issues - count your blessings. For those of you who do have dogs with the terrible two's - take a deep breath, keep training, and seek professional help for any behaviors that are aggressive, or fear-based.

That's it from this end of the leash.

Jennifer Hime is the head trainer & behaviorist at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO. She can be contacted at www.k9counselor.com

Friday, July 1, 2011

4th of July Safety

Just a quick note to remind folks that many dogs get spooked and can run away and get lost this time of year.

Be sure to keep your dogs INSIDE as much as possible until all of the fireworks subside - which could be a few weeks after the 4th of July, in some neighborhoods.

Even if they are inside, they may not be safe. Watch for agitation! I've known dogs who've jumped through windows, broken out doors, etc. in their fear of the sounds and smells of Independence Day.

If the dogs are outside, be sure they are supervised, tethered, or fully enclosed and that there is no chance of escape.

Also, if having fireworks at home, be sure to clean up all wrappers and debris left over!

Have a safe & happy Fourth!

Jennifer Hime is the owner & operator of Front Range K9 Academy, LLC in Wheat Ridge, CO. She can be reached at www.k9counselor.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Equipment matters!

Equipment matters!

Jen and I are constantly telling people that to train dogs properly, you need the proper equipment. That’s really true of any sport or hobby. It’s difficult to play tennis without a racket. It’s hard to sew without a needle. Don’t use a hammer when a pen will do. You wouldn’t go snowshoeing in flip-flops, would you?

Dog training is no different. You need the right tools for the job, and different dogs need different tools. The collar, and fit of that collar are important. Your prong collar MUST be backed up by a slip collar. Learning a long distance recall requires a long line. Yes, your dog’s accoutrements are very important to the training task at hand, but what about your gear?

Flip-flops do not make good point-walking shoes. Learning the heeling turns is much harder to do in Jimmy Choos, than Nikes. In cold weather, don’t forget your gloves. And when working with a long-line, WEAR JEANS or other long pants with heavy material.

Last Saturday, I took Haiku to a park to do some training around distractions. It was a hot day, and I had short capri pants on. She was wearing her harness and a 20ft long line. Haiku was doing great! She was flying towards me for recalls and her change of positions were flawless. Haiku is so strong, so agile so swift – people often stop to watch our training and comment on her speed and intensity. At only 30 pounds and four months old, she rivals most dogs in speed and agility. I was so engrossed with her performance, that I didn’t notice the woman and her large dog (on a flexi-line, weaving and pulling completely out of control) approaching us to ‘meet and talk to us’, until Haiku did.

Haiku was put off by the fact that this rude animal was barreling towards her, and she charged, barking in protest. She looped around my legs in the blink of an eye, and shot forward towards the offending aggressor. The long line tightened, ripping through the skin of both my legs.

I didn’t have to say anything to the woman. The look on my face told her everything she needed to know, and she abruptly changed direction. I assessed my wounds and returned to office to try to clean myself up.

Within two days I developed a raging infection. I will probably carry the scar for the rest of my life. I shutter to think of what would have happened, had the dog been one of my much bigger and stronger adult dogs and not my pup.

I probably would have walked away with nothing more than torn pants if I were wearing jeans. Luckily, I was working on a thick longline, but this is also the reason Jen and I HATE flexi-leashes for walking dogs. The cords on these devices are super thin. They can cut to the bone like cheese cords through brie. I can list 10 other reasons why the flexi-leash belongs waist deep in a land-fill, but suffice it to say it’s a dangerous, ineffective tool for outings around the neighborhood.








So, next time the pack and I venture out, I’m going to make sure that all of us, dogs and people, have the proper equipment for the job.


Lisa Lucero owns and trains at 5280 Hundesport LLC in Denver and is the contract competition trainer at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge. You can contact her at www.k9counselor.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me...

Dear Eagle,

It’s not you, it’s me.

Love,

Lisa


I attended a working dog seminar in New Mexico last weekend with Michael Ellis. It was an enlightening experience – quite humbling really. You see, I like to think of myself as a pretty darn good dog trainer. As good of a dog trainer as I think I am, I was hitting some walls in regards to my training with Eagle.

People in working dog circles have been telling me for months that Eagle will not make it as a working dog; that I should wash him out, sell him, and get a new dog. I was starting to believe them. I haven’t been seeing the results I’m looking for. He’s one month shy of a year old and I have been working with him since the day I brought him home from the airport at 8 weeks old. I’ve been feeling tired, frustrated, and defeated.

Still, I know there is something inside him, something special, and I just need to bring it out. I’m not just going to sell him. He’s a great dog as dogs go, and I’m attached to the black furry monster. Working dogs need toy drive. Eagle wants the toy, so I tried to play with him. Working dogs need food drive. Eagle loves food, so I tried marker and food rewards. I’ve been training and training and training. Why isn’t this working?

Enter Michael Ellis. It’s my turn to bring Eagle out and work him on the field. I had everything mapped out. I wanted to show Michael allof my dog-training prowess. Finally, he speaks the words I’m waiting to hear “Show me what you’re working on….”

I dive into my routine. I’m shakin’ and movin’, movin’ and shakin’. Michael waits about five whole seconds to bring my work to a screeching halt.

“You need to play with this dog.” Michael says. My heart drops. Owning every DVD Michael has ever produced, I know this is one of the first steps in his system of training. After working with Eagle for nearly a year, Michael is essentially telling me to start over. I whine, “But I have been playing with Eagle.” I have been playing and playing and playing. I have been desperately trying to get Eagle to play tug with me, but he will not latch on. He chases the toy well enough, but I need him to grip. Playing tug is the prerequisite for learning all the fancy obedience behaviors I was gearing up to ‘demonstrate’ to Michael.

“If you practice the wrong thing, you’ll keep getting the wrong results.” Says Michael. He showed me that I had not been executing the proper play technique. Insert palm to forehead here! What he is saying is true no matter what training technique you’re using. You only achieve the correct results if you are using the correct technique.

How many of us have fallen into this trap? Whether it’s the ‘left hand on the leash,’ or ‘dropping your slack and turning’ at the right time, or ‘moving in straight lines to teach Eagle to target to the toy,’ technique matters most. It is only when the handler masters the technique, that the dog can master the skill. When you fix your problems, you fix your dog’s problems.

So there I was, in all my glory, ready to show the Michael Ellis everything I had taught my dog, and he brought me all the way back to square one. I had not taught OR mastered the first step in training! To make matters worse, I had moved passed that first critical step, and wondered why things were falling apart. How many of us have fallen into this trap?

Teach, Practice (and practice, and practice, and practice), then Proof is the dog training mantra. Do not move on in training until you have mastered the previous skill. Unless of course, you are satisfied with inconsistent, mediocre and lack-luster results, then, by all means, forge ahead!

Next time your dog is having a training meltdown, consider the possibility that there’s something in your behavior that you need to change in order to correct your dog’s behavior.

I am happy to report that in just one week’s time, Eagle has come along leaps and bounds in his work. Once I fixed my problems, Eagle’s problems started to disappear.
Imagine that. ;)




Lisa Lucero owns and operates 5280 Hundesport LLC in Denver, Colorado, and also trains at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO. She can be reached at http://www.k9counselor.com/.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jad Update

Xanax (Alprazolam)....NOT so good for Jad. :)

This drug is in the same class as Valium, and some people and dogs seem to have a completely opposite reaction to it than what's 'normal'. Normal would be mellowness; a general sense of well being....fairy farts and jelly beans for all.

It actually hyped Jad up. Lovely.

I happen to also have this reaction to this class of meds, so at least I knew what was up when he was going wacky an hour into having taken it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jad - the Great Whippet Mystery pt. 3

So...

Jad goes home tomorrow. What a ride this has been for me as a trainer and behaviorist. I am sending him home with a lot more things to try, but still no sound diagnosis or prognosis. For myself, and for his owners, I'm splitting things into what we know, and what we still need to find out.

What we know:

1. When given a lot of environmental enrichment and exercise (ie., at my house, with a huge fenced yard and 10 other dogs), he is an almost normal - albeit somewhat obnoxious - whippet puppy. His energy is higher than that of the whippet pups I've raised, but not to any noticeable extreme.

2. Even on days he has less exercise/stimulation, from early morning to about 2pm, he is a pretty normal whippet puppy; same goes from about 10pm through the night.

3. His afternoon agitation is definitely beyond the limits of 'normal' in that he seems utterly incapable of controlling it once he's worked up.

4. Light (maybe only flourescent?) seems to play a part in this. When the lights are low, he is notably less agitated.

5. Slight compression/pressure seems to possibly help. I put him in a Thundershirt (http://www.thundershirt.com/) yesterday and got breaks within the agitation period of about 45 minutes to an hour, twice. ...this is significant, when you consider that normally when he is agitated, the agitation continues for 5 to 8 hours at a time.

6. Today, I am trying an antianxiety medication called Alprazolam. We'll see how it goes....

7. Mother Nature prevented us from getting to try him out on lure coursing this week - too cold, too rainy, WAY to muddy to be safe, so we'll save that for the "Things to try in the future" file.

8. When all else fails, train, train, train. He is now capable of a 7 minute down-stay. This doesn't 'cure' him, but the plan is to continue to increase the duration of the stays until he can have a long term, 'resting' job during his agitation. In essence, train him to train his body to longer periods of rest.

Things we still need to look at:

1. Diet may be playing a part in the problems, as he has had diarrhea coinciding with his agitation most afternoons. After just a bit of research, I am REALLY wondering if it's the gluten in his diet. If you're skeptical, check this out! http://www.natural-remedies-and-recipes.com/gluten-intolerance.html

2. If this is a biorhythym or arcadian cycle gone awry, melatonin might help.

3. Treadmilling (where IS the treadmill fairy with a free treadmill when you really need her?!) may help - it will provide both cardio exercise, and repetitive motion - which he seems to like doing (digging, jumping, and butt-bumping things over & over) during his agitation periods.

4. Last but not least, another whippet (and saluki, and Italian greyhound, and briard) friend of mine has been following my posts about Jad, and sent me this link: http://www.calmingcollars.com/ It somewhat stands to reason that if the thundershit works, this may help as well.

So, with all these unanswered questions, why is Jad going home? Well, mostly this experiment was to determine if all he needed was more exercise and/or good doggy role models. We've definitely seen that while both are beneficial, they are not the only issue. The next step is to get him back into his home, with his own routine, and see if the above things will help.

With Chris & Michelle's permission, I will keep you posted on his progress!


Jennifer

Jennifer Hime owns & operates Front Range K9 Academy & Horsetooth Whippets. She can be contacted through k9counselor.com

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jad - The Great Whippet Mystery/Experiment pt. 2

For some reason, the mighty computer gods killed Pt. 1 - so here's a quick recap:


Jad is an 8 month old whippet puppy who belongs to my clients, Chris & Michelle. They adopted him from a Craigslist ad after he had a rough start in life (possible puppymill beginning, leading into poor early imprinting experiences with humans and over-imprinting to extreme stimulation, leading into a several complete environmental changes over the first 4 months of his life...all leading up to now - where he's one kooky pup).


In spite of doing VERY well in obedience training, Jad is a bit of a mystery from a behavior perspective. He is staying with us at Horsetooth Whippets to see if some of our whippets' charm can rub off on him. :)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Jad update:

So, I began this saga (in the missing pt. 1 blog post) with a rant about routines. I'm trying to sort through Jad's behaviors and figure out how much is habit, how much is puppiness, how much is learned, how much is poor genetics or poor imprinting, etc.


Here's what I know so far:


Jad is NOT a morning puppy. Typical of a lot of whippets, he likes to sleep in. In fact, after he eats his breakfast, he's all for a nice long nap.



However, when afternoons roll around, Jad wakes up to his true puppy nature. He is FULL of energy. And yet, there is an element of his behaviors that seems more extreme than normal puppy energy.



Having talked with his owner, Michelle, about this, I'll try to describe it:

Jad wants something. He wants it very badly. So badly that he will pace, whine, and jump (on doors, counters, furniture, people, trashcans, shelving units, walls, etc.), & dig (floors, bedding, grass, dirt, gravel, solid rock). He will do these activities ceaselessly.



But...



Jad doesn't seem to know WHAT it is he wants.



When he's in this state of mind, he doesn't want to play (not interested in tug, fetch, tag, or anything else). This is weird in and of itself, since he WILL play all of those games at other times. When cut loose with the other dogs, he doesn't engage in play for more than a brief moment, and then is back to his repetitive behaviors. Even if he does engage in longer play with other dogs, his excess energy is not worn off, and when the other dog quits playing, he's back to seeking.



He doesn't want to hunt, forage, chew or eat. When offered food, chew toys, puzzle toys with food, etc. He very quickly loses interest and is back to pacing, whining, jumping, digging, seeking.



He doesn't want to go potty. Given ample opportunities both on and off leash, once outside he looks at you quizzically as if to say, "Why we out here?" When allowed back in, he's back to his desperate search for something.



He doesn't want to work or train. Normally a whiz at obedience work, Jad pouts, sulks, and shuts down if you attempt training activities with him during this mode.



He definitely doesn't want to sleep. If kenneled or back-tied, his seeking, whining, jumping, digging mode will increase exponentially. If ignored while restrained, he will continue protests for 3 to 5 HOURS at a time.



When it's time to go to bed, Jad recognizes our routine and amazingly settles right in. All of the dogs go to their individual crates, get a small treat (baby carrots for the chubbydogs, hard-boiled eggs for the skinnydogs, a 1/4" slice of a hotdog and a fish oil pill for each). Then the lights go down and all is peaceful - even Jad. After no more than a minute or two of restless circling and a bit of whining, he has gone right to sleep and stayed asleep through the night each night since last Wednesday.



Is he simply worn out from his exhaustive seeking exercises from the afternoon? Is he recognizing the routine of bedtime from the other dogs? Does light have something to do with it?



Wondering about the light thing, on Wednesday night of this week, I taught the final lesson of the day at the training studio with the lights off, just to give myself, my clients, and all the dogs a break of Jad's incessant whining. He definitely seemed quieter with the lights off. Will be repeating this experiment tonight. (Sorry, doggy clients Elway & Bella, we're having class in the dark tonight!!!!)


This weekend we are going to introduce Jad to the lure...wondering if what he WANTS so badly is to sprint? (The idea here is that when in doubt, have the dog do what it was bred to do. Thank God he's not a border collie, or I'd have to go rent some sheep!)

So...what will happen with Jad? Will turning the lights down low keep him quiet while his fearless dog trainer teaches class tonight? Will he run after the fake bunny this weekend and be cured of what ails him? Stay tuned.....




Jennifer Hime is the owner of Front Range K9 Academy & Horsetooth Whippets Kennels. She can be reached at http://www.k9counselor.com/

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Jad" the Whippet Experiment pt. 1

Maybe even more than us, dogs are creatures of habit. Establishing and maintaining good routines can greatly improve your relationship with your dog. This simple fact has recently slapped yours truly upside the head.


Since last Wednesday, Horsetooth Whippets (also known as my house & life) has had a visitor. "Jad" is an 8 month old whippet puppy who had a rough start in life. Possibly starting out in a puppymill (very sketchy details about his beginnings), Jad then went to live in Boulder, CO with a lady who owned and bred German shepherds. She cut this 8 week old pup loose with them until the weather began to grow cold last autumn. Only then did it occur to her that whippets are indoor dogs!


So, on to Craigslist.org went the puppy - A puppy with questionable breeding, who'd spent his formative, imprint period outside with a pack of shepherds, but little or no time imprinting to being a house dog.



That's where Chris & Michelle, Jad's current owners, come in. They saw his listing on CL, and understanding whippets to be pretty good apartment dogs, adopted him. He was about 4 months old at the time.



Enter the dog trainer (me).



Chris & Michelle wisely chose to get Jad into training immediately. What none of us bargained for was this pup's unusually high energy, vocal skills, and downright doggedness (excuse the pun) for getting his own way. Not only was he one of the toughest whippet pups I've ever worked with, he was one of the toughest pups, period!



However, with lots of work & perserverence on Chris & Michelle's parts, Jad whizzed his way through level one obedience training. And yet...

And yet, Jad was still hyperactive a lot of the time at home. So much so that I was considering trying medication for this little guy - something I rarely consider in a dog so young. But before going to the med shelf, we decided to try one last thing. Why not have Jad come & live with my pack of 8 whippets (and don't forget the collie and the schipperke) for a week or so to give him a model of what whippets do.

Those of you who train with me are familiar with what whippets do. They sleep. They rest. They chill. A LOT.

So, it's been one week. How is Jad doing? Stay tuned for part 2 to find out....



Jennifer Hime is the owner of Front Range K9 Academy & Horsetooth Whippets. She can be contacted at http://www.k9counselor.com/

Thursday, May 5, 2011

So...You think you want a working dog?

So, You Think You Want a Working Dog?

You have been bitten. You’ve been bitten by the dog training bug, and you have decided to take the plunge and buy a working dog. Maybe you want to compete in Agility, or Dock Diving. Perhaps it’s a biting sport like Schutzhund, Mondio Ring, or French Ring. Your ambitions are high and your enthusiasm is wide. You’ve read the books and seen the pictures. You’ve spent hours on YouTube.com. You’re confident and up for the challenge.

Stop right here! Adding a working dog to your life is a major decision! It will be a reality for the next 10 to 12 years, and it will remain a part of you for the rest of your life.

I did it. I bought a Belgian Malinois puppy. I bought a Belgain Malinois puppy from the best working stock, from the most highly regarded trainer in the United States. I bought Haiku du Loups du Soleil as a working dog to compete in Mondioring. Haiku is not only an athlete and a genius, but also an adrenaline junky. I have had her for nearly four weeks now, and have already come to some realizations that I would like to share with others considering adding a working dog to their lives:

The first question one needs to ask oneself before getting a working dog is, “Am I a morning person?” Working dogs are genetically encoded for high energy levels. These levels are called drive. There are different kinds of drives, but suffice it to say working dogs all have one drive in common – 6th gear, full speed ahead! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYnEePO3NO0

This high-octane activity starts as soon as the dog wakes up, and continues until they are put to bed (notice I said ‘put to bed’ as one of these dogs would never choose to sleep on their own accord).

As a working dog owner, you need to be prepared to exhaust your dog’s energy, as well as a great deal of your own. Do you work eight hours a day? You can easily tack on an extra four hours of dog-work (cleaning, feeding, training and exercise) just trying to care for and ‘take the edge off’ your drivey companion. Competing with your dog will comprise about 5% of your time as a dog and handler team. The rest of the time, you must live with the beast.

Exercising and training is tough to do in the house, especially if you value its contents. The second question you need to ask yourself is, “Do I enjoy the snow, the sleet, the sun, the rain, the heat, the hail, the humidity, the dry air, the pollen, and the cold?” You have invested in an energizer bunny. It keeps going, and going, and going. Your working dog cares not about the weather, so neither shall you.

Schlepping rain-gear, snow-gear, layers of clothing, sunscreen, and dog-training gear is a regular part of your day. Let us assume that you have the space (in the car, in the house, in the garage, and in the closet trickling out into the hallway) for all of this ‘dog gear,’ often lumped into the category of crap.

So, now you are full of crap, and have accepted that schlepping and working is a part of your new life because you are focused on the end-goal. Are you patient enough to understand there’s a long road in between? It takes years master any skill, and there are two parties participating in the learning during dog training. It takes practice to perfect your communication with your dog, and your dog has to practice learning all of the new skills you are trying to teach it.

Be prepared to work long, uncomfortable, frustrating hours with your working dog. Bernard Greenhouse, a world renowned professional Cellist at Julliard, was once asked “At 93 years old, why do you still practice Cello two hours a day?” Bernard replied, “Because I’m finally starting to see some improvement.” Studies show that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to master anything – piano, ice skating, chess, even criminal behavior. Dog training is no different. You must practice and practice and practice. Therefore, the next question you ask yourself is, “Can I make time?”

All of this early-riser-dog-work-practice-schlepping-crap stuff is stressful! It’s best to take a Freudian approach and share your misery with others. Ask yourself “What human relationships do I need to form to be successful?” Get involved with other like-minded individuals. Join a training group or a club. Most of the skills taught in any dog sport require more than one set of hands, and eyes. It is much easier to stay on track and accomplish your goals if you have some help.

Speaking of help, no matter how much you promise, or how hard you try, going it alone with your working dog is impossible if you have a family.

Aaron Myarcle put it best on a web-board “Do you have the family support? The kind of support that isn't going to roll its eyes or make snide remarks as you leave for yet another Saturday at the club, when the kid has a ball game or the spouse would rather you be doing yard work? Do you have the kind of spouse that understands that the dog is the first priority after the kids, but before seeing that new movie, or going out to dinner, or having a BBQ with the neighbors? The kind of spouse that can be okay with skipping Cancun and going to Elitches, because you don't trust the local boarding facilities to keep your dog separated from the other dogs? The kind of spouse who will consider it the child's fault for breaking the ‘no running when the puppy is in the yard’ rule, instead of the puppy for pouncing on said running child? The kind of spouse who isn't going to say ‘Why do we even have a dog if the kids can't play with it’ after the ten millionth time you have to remind the kids to stay away from the dog's crate/kennel, or leave the dog alone when it's sleeping? To quit petting the dog, it's had enough? And that’s just dealing with the family.”

What about John Q. Public?
I was in Lowe’s the other day with Haiku. I was using a public space as a training opportunity and toting this around:









Understandably, people were very interested in her. But I’m interested in giving her the best training possible. I had to get downright rude with some people who tried to pet her after I asked them not to.

Don't forget those dogs you admire, you know, the ones on Youtube.com. They were likely raised by ONE person, fed by ONE person, and only exercised by ONE person. They were trained by ONE person. Are you willing to commit to that, day in and day out? Those dogs you admire were raised by that one person providing the dedication, and leadership necessary to achieve their goals. Chances are they did not allow anyone who wasn’t directly participating in a training exercise to pet that cute little puppy. That means no playtime at the dog park, or pats by the neighbors on walks. Do you like to repeat yourself? Before you get your working dog, you should practice saying “No, you cannot pet my dog, he's in training….” about 200 times per day.

Another exercise you can practice and repeat often is reaching in to your wallet, pulling out a crisp $20.00 bill, and handing it to the nearest bystander. Let’s put aside food and vet bills for a moment, and strictly discuss the ‘working’ aspect of your new dog. Entering a Dock-Diving competition (one entry) costs $25, as does any Agility competition (AKC). A Schutzhund or Mondioring competition entry typically costs around $75. Most titles require several (3) qualifying scores. Club memberships cost money. Hiring a trainer costs money. That crap you’re now full of, costs BIG money. Every dog sport has it’s specialized equipment.

Now go ahead and factor in your food and vet costs. Your energizer bunny is likely to hurt itself, as it has little regard for personal safety. Irregular heartbeats, palpitations, and sucking wind in terror are part of my daily routine with Haiku as I watch her fall, tumble, stumble, spin, spring, bonk, leap, and juke through her little life.

Athletes have special nutritional requirements, to optimize performance. I buy supplements, and feed a raw, all natural diet. We can split these line items between cost and the ‘crap’ compartment, as there is an entire freezer dedicated to dog food in my garage. And oh ya, that stuff is expensive!


Now that you’ve really thought this through, and you have decided that you are game for early mornings, late evenings, schlepping, burning money, and heart palpitations, I leave you with Haiku:
There once was a little puppy
Her owner thought very lucky
She spring and she sprung
She worked all day long
And she cost a whole bunch of money.

This puppy’s name was that of a poem
Her handler thought ‘Now I can show ‘em’
A trainer I’ll be
Trying for Mondio 3
Practicing day and night until I’m done in.



Lisa Lucero is a professional dog trainer & behaviorist at 5280 Hundesport LLC & Front Range K9 Academy LLC. She can be reached at www.k9counselor.com