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.