Reflection of Positivity

Napoleon and I, after a short training session

Napoleon and I, after a short training session

With all of the emotional challenges I have faced recently, I have to keep focusing on the positives. I focus on how much good I do, and I also face the grim truth: We can’t save them all. But, the ones we are able to save will live on with better lives. I have to think positively.

So, this week’s blog is about my successes this year with my business and personal gains. At the beginning of the year, I had set goals.  Goals I had to accomplish in order to make a huge life change. To take a leap of faith, to make the jump. It all comes down to that decision.

My biggest goal was to get my certification. I have been talking to the owner of K9 Lifeline for quite some time (starting over a year ago) about taking her certification course. At the time, it was around $3,000 and 2 weeks long. Well, that means I needed the money, and I also needed 10 days of PTO. It takes a full month for me to earn 1 day. So, that was 10 months of absolutely no sick days, no vacations, and no ½ days for my own personal sanity. I started saving up my time last year around November. I had a few days saved, so if I didn’t take a day off for Christmas or any other holiday, or get sick, or have an emergency, I could take the course in July.

I had the time, but the Difficult Dog Workshop was in June, and I JUST HAD to go. Which cost me 3 days. That’s 3 more months of no sick days or vacation. I can do it, I know I can. That means I can take my certification in October, and to play it safe, let’s plan on November.

Then, I found out the eTouch Workshop was coming in October with another very reputable trainer. Ok, that’s another 2 days. Which means I’m looking at Dec/Jan. Ah man… at this rate, I’ll never get it. And I’ll never take a vacation!

Then I heard from another trainer that the course is a little cheaper, and is only 6 days, instead of 10, but I get the same amount of material. WHAT?!  Really?! I can take it now! So, the plan is in motion, and I hope to get my certification at the end of August! YAY!

Pack Walk 6/28/13

Pack Walk 6/28/13 (Click to enlarge)

I have also started doing my pack walks. This wasn’t a requirement, but it is a success, and I’m proud I have been able to organize this event. Every time I do them, they get a little easier, I gain a little more confidence, and more people show up for them!

I am now offering a nutritional workshop (hopefully twice a year) because so many clients have been interested in what is the best dog food or I’m interested in raw, I’m just feeding chicken, is that ok? I want to educate and help people do what is right for their dog. Wow, another big event, planned. Hook. Line. Sinker.

I have attended a few nutritional workshops, watched online seminars, increased my training network and made some awesome friends as well. I have read so many books, it sometimes feels I’m reading the same things over and over again. But, if I attend a seminar, read a book, or meet with new people at a workshop, and I learn ONE new thing, it was completely worth it. If I learn a lot, that knowledge is invaluable because I will build on that and learn more new things and become an even better trainer.

I have been asked to help during my trainer friend’s Saturday Socials, and I feel I am becoming more and more confident each week.  This was huge for me, because eventually, I want to run these. I have run a small social in my backyard with 11 dogs (specifically picked out who would be able to come) and I was pretty confident (but so nervous too!). I am more confident and assertive when I am by myself because I sometimes feel I am such a baby in this field, so when I am around someone with more experience, I tend to freeze up a little or my heart starts pounding. I have only been ‘on my own’ training for 2 years. I worked at Petsmart and did simple sit/stay training with my dogs in high school, but not like this.  I will someday be as awesome as these trainers. I can do it, and I am well on my way!

Mowgli was here for boarding for a weekend

Mowgli was here for boarding for a weekend

I have started boarding in my own home. This was a scary move, but overall, I really enjoy it. The dogs are kept safe, get plenty of attention and stimulation and are in a loving environment. And I get to experience what handling more dogs feels like in a safe way. I try to only board dogs I know for this reason. Sometimes, I board dogs I haven’t met before, and it can go either way. I had a crazy dog I boarded in the beginning that was a disaster, but right now, I’m boarding 2 that I had never before. Both are sweethearts, and I’m happy to have them! I get to practice some of my own techniques, I get to practice reading dogs I don’t know, and I get to practice walking multiple dogs at the same time. Sometimes this is a huge challenge because I’ll be walking 4 dogs at once, and only one knows how to walk on a leash nicely. So, we take an hour to go around the block. But that’s just it – I get to practice!

I have actually started making money, and even though I won’t show a profit this year (which is actually a good thing for taxes, of course), I will next year. This year, I attended 2 workshops (so far, and plan to attend another) and my certification course, which weren’t cheap. So, I made money, and then spent it all on workshops.

I have plans in the making to get a better ‘dog car’ as mine is really taking a beating with all the dogs coming and going in it. This may not happen next year, but the year after. In the meantime, I need to find a way to keep my seats intact! Even Napoleon’s kennel won’t fit in my backseat.

We have plans about our location for when I get more serious about doing this. Either having a facility on my own lot, or leasing/purchasing a facility in the future. This is WAY in the future, just a dream right now, but it’s something.

The biggest success, if you can call it that, would be the decision the family and I had to make about their dog, Ryder. You can follow his whole story here. He was a very special Merle Great Dane who had an unpredictable streak. He could be loving on you and playing, and then turn and bite someone. Unfortunately, these are some of the hardest dogs to work with because you can’t find a trigger. We thought it was men, hats, uniforms, etc – but, he wouldn’t go after the same person twice, or the same hat, and if you switched the hat with another person, he would be fine. 95% of the time, he was manageable and just needed training. The other 5% of the time, he was unpredictable and could seriously hurt someone. He was hard to adopt out, and we didn’t find the right home. So, we made the decision to euthanize him. We didn’t come to this decision lightly and it was months of talking about options. I won’t get into everything again, but this was the right thing. I cried pretty much the whole week, I was emotionally exhausted, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, I wanted a miracle to show up on my doorstep and be the perfect place for him, or I wanted Best Friends to take him. Neither happened. But now, I am at peace with this decision and I am still sad of the outcome – it won’t ever be a ‘happy ending’. But, I know he is running free and will be happy now, without having to worry about anything. I had to make this decision and it has made me a better trainer. This was a turning point in my career. I’m sad it had to be him, but I’m happy he is free and healthy now.

Most of all, I can’t ‘count’ how much I have learned this year, but I have really taken an initiative on learning as much as I can, and sacrificing so much to do this. I have also learned so much about myself, and I feel more complete because of what I have accomplished.  I don’t have the constant stress feeling of ‘Am I doing this right?’ or ‘I’m going to fail, what if I fail?’ feelings. If I fail, I get up and try again. If I get bit or kicked in the teeth, I put a band-aid on and try again. I won’t let other trainers, dogs, people, or my mistakes stop me from continuing on. I will learn from them and be a better trainer for them. I’m happy to take constructive criticism and coaching, but please – no need to be an asshat about it. I want to learn, and I can admit I don’t know everything.

I work in the dog industry, a bite is bound to happen. Not that I want it to, but just like working in construction, it’s inevitable. It’s not if, it’s when.

I’m happy, and I see an end to these 100 hour workweeks. I see a light, and I’m excited to see what happens. Scared, but excited.

I can do this.

What is In Dog Food?

dogfoodIn the wild, do dogs dig up dog food from the ground? Do they eat little bits of kibble that fall off trees? What about ‘kibble plants’? No, they don’t. They eat meat. They eat organs. And they eat bones. Raw animal protein, sinew, and muscle. So, why does dog food include things like grain, vegetables, and chicken beaks?

Because the commercial dog food industry is cheap… and deceiving   They can get away with it, and put the minimal amounts of protein to satisfy the FDA. Most dog foods are NOT USDAA approved. They don’t need to be. What does this mean, you ask? Well, that means our animals are eating CRAP sold by the pet stores, by the top dog food companies. I.e. Science Diet, IAMS, Eukanuba, Purina, etc. They put these attractive pictures on the bag and say ‘nutritionally balanced’… which they are not. They put vegetables, wheat, and pictures of cut meat on the bag to make them look ‘balanced’ and ‘healthy’. It’s a lie.

Ingredients

Ingredients in a standard bag of dog food.

They have grain, and they all have something in their ingredients called ‘meal’ or ‘byproduct’. What is that? ‘Chicken byproduct’. I’ll tell you what this is. It’s beaks, chicken feet, eyes, diseased dead chickens. The chickens found in factory farms who have been dead for months. Cows who have had mad cow disease. It gets worse: Your pets, who you have euthanized trustingly at your vet clinic are put into dog food. Roadkill found on the side of the road – dogs, deer, birds, skunks, anything they can find.  That’s the main ingredient in most commercial dog foods.

What about the grain, the fillers? Sawdust and trash that has been swept up from the ground is put into dog food. Grain – dogs can’t process this, and it just stays on their teeth, causing tooth decay, gingivitis, tarter and plaque… gum cancer, and tooth extractions. Internally, it’s a filler, it just sits in the stomach and then passes through. Dogs get zero nutrition from that part of the food. It causes obesity, over-eating, allergies, death, skin and coat conditions, ear infections, eye problems, excess waste (poop), and causes behavioral concerns.

There are good kibbles out there… you just have to know what to look for. I recommend Nature’s Domain (from Costco – a Kirkland brand), Taste of the Wild, Stella and Chewy’s, Merrick’s, Blue Buffalo, Grandma Lucy’s dog food, Wellness Core (Grain free), Acana, or EVO. There are many others, but I highly recommend Nature’s Domain, Grandma Lucy’s, and Taste of the Wild. I have also used Stella and Chewy’s in the past, but it’s not the cheapest food out there.

Pedigree

Deceiving packaging

Why does your veterinarian recommend Science Diet, IAMS or other foods? One word: COMMISSION. They get commission off of selling certain foods. Many veterinarians do not study nutrition. They study medicine. If your dog gets hurt, yes you should see a veterinarian. However, if you want what is best for your dog nutritionally, you should speak to a more holistic vet, or do your own research on what ingredients are good/bad for your dog. Since I am interested in training, and food changes behavior, I have learned about nutrition and what is the best possible thing to do for your animals.  I have found a more holistic vet, whom I trust fully with the health of my animals, and he agrees with how I am raising them. Find a vet who you trust, who you can ask questions about nutrition, and who aren’t in it for the money.

Treats

freeze-driedWhat about treats? I don’t give my dog any treats (more because he’s really food motivated, and I am trying to teach him to calm down.). Most treats in the pet store have grain, meat meal/byproduct, or excess sugar. I like to use freeze-dried meat as training treats, or just as a special treat whenever (again, not with my dog, specifically). You can buy freeze-dried treats at the pet store, usually in a tub. I also use cooked hot dogs (never raw, dogs can get bacteria listeria from raw hot dogs), bits of chicken, bits of apple or cheese (careful with this one, can cause diarrhea). Some dogs even go for ice cubes (mine does).

Raw feeding

I have begun feeding raw with my 8 year old dog (around 7 months ago) and I see a tremendous change in his behavior, in his health, and in his mouth.
-No more bad breath. NONE, his breath is nice and ‘puppy like’.
-Coat is shinier, skin isn’t flaky anymore.
-Ear infections – he’s prone to them, he’s a lab. His ears are cleaner, but still gets them.
-Eyes are clearer
-Nails don’t break or split as easily.
-More energy (sometimes this is a bad thing).
-Weight – easier to maintain a healthy weight
-Cost is about the same as what I was paying before, but with less vet visits. This is a plus.
-Teeth are nice and white, clean and no tarter build up at all. I no longer get dental cleanings (his last one was over a year ago, and we won’t be getting them anymore).
-He eats less raw food than he ever ate kibble (and if your dog/cat is on a higher quality kibble or raw, they will eat less too)
-Less poop. You would think I have a little dog, not a 90lb big pooper! haha.

So, what do I feed him? Raw meat, organs, supplements, and bones. On any given day, this is his diet.

-1 raw egg. Shell and all.  (great for coat, skin, and digestive system)
-4 salmon oil liquid gels. (for skin, coat, ear/eye health)
-3 tables of Canine Plus vitamin and mineral supplements (enzyme supplement, and completes the nutrition when I don’t have organs)
-1 lb of raw meat I get from the butcher (usually it’s venison and beef. Sometimes I also supplement with raw chicken if I can find some on sale. I’ll prepare the chicken and give him parts of it. Wings, Ribs, etc)
-When I have some (hard to find) organs. He LOVES hearts, lungs, and kidneys. He won’t eat liver.
-When I have some (around Thanksgiving/Christmas), necks from turkeys/chickens.

He also gets a marrow bone weekly. He takes about a week to get it to the point where it needs to be thrown away.  NO TREATS or Rawhides(unless we get some as a gift, which is occasional, but it takes months to go through them).

Bones? Haven’t you heard somewhere you aren’t supposed to give dogs bones? Well, you can, and they should have them! Don’t cook the bones though – they will splinter and can cause choking or internal damage. I give marrow bones as a treat, chew toy. He has one outside all the time, and in his kennel. Marrow bones are disgusting, so he only gets them outside or in a confined space.

Napoleon eating a Raw Marrow bone

Napoleon eating a raw bone with meat on it

There are lots of great places to find out more about raw feeding if you are interested. Here are some sources I scoured before actually making the switch.

Raw Fed Dogs
B.A.R.F. Diet
Whole Dog Journal
The Whole Dog
(This book)
(This book)
(This book)
And many other sources, you can do your own research, but also talk to trainers in your area about feeding raw.

Next time… The Danger of Vaccinations!