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.

Why do I want to be a dog trainer?

I get this question asked a lot. ‘How/why did you get into dog training?’ Well, it was because of a dog, of course.

I have always loved animals, and especially dogs… and puppies! But within the last few years, I realized I haven’t been entirely happy with my life. Why? I make good money, I have a great husband, and our lifestyle is awesome. We have a house, and I’m living the American Dream. Well, almost. I wasn’t doing what I love.

Dane

Not Albert, but this dog kind of looks like him.

This realization hit me when I was taking Napoleon in for his post-surgery checkup after he was diagnosed with Mast Cell Cancer last year. I was a client of the Banfield hospital, located within Petsmart. On that very day, a local rescue called Lost Paws had their adoption day within Petsmart. They brought with them an emaciated, timid black Great Dane. His name was Albert.

I’m already partial to Danes, but for some reason, this one … spoke to me. He looked at me with his sad eyes, and they said, ‘help me. Please. Help me.’. I sat with him, and talked to him, and completely fell in love with this dog. His spirit was broken, his body was a wreck. He had been left outside to fend for himself, so he had sores on his body from the pavement. He was an intact 3 year old male with little to no training. However, he had a very calm demeanor, and seemed to be fearful of a lot of things: cats, people, other dogs, cars, the leash, kids, etc. I was in love with him. We connected immediately, and I told the person I needed to talk to my husband.

I could socialize this dog. I could let him have a wonderful life with us. I could clean him up and tell him that it’s ok to be scared sometimes, but with me – he would have nothing to be scared about. I would train him, and socialize him, and help him, and show him love. He could be happy and he would do well with us.

I told my husband about him, already knowing that he might not be ok with this. He asked me, ’How do you plan to get him home?’. I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. He was a Dane, and I had a small car. . . with my other large dog. He asked me if he was crate-trained. I wasn’t sure. Potty trained? Again, I wasn’t sure. Any training at all? Probably not. Seems the cards were against me, since my husband and I both worked during the day.

undeweight dane

Again, not Albert, but he was this underweight

I cried, and fought, and tried to get my way for Albert. I don’t mind having an untrained dog, especially with the temperament Albert had. However, I understand where my husband was coming from. We didn’t have the time to train him. To socialize him and give him the time this boy needed to get better. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to help so badly.

During this time, I realized this is where I belonged. Helping animals, saving them, and getting them into better positions. I looked into being a vet technician, helping shelters and rescues, and being a dog trainer.

At first, I wanted to get into the medical field as a veterinarian. That was my dream as a kid. But when I realized you had to go to school for 12 years, and then you spend ½ your income on liability insurance, and malpractice insurance, and then you have to open up your own practice… it just seemed daunting. So, again, I’m faced with this decision.

I did research to become a veterinary technician and I was fascinated. I looked into a school very close by…and realized the cost for an Associates degree in Veterinary Technology was as much as my Bachelor’s Degree was… I’m still paying those off. This became less of a possibility. Though, I didn’t lose hope, and I was determined.

I applied for about a hundred scholarships. Then, I did more research into other fields and possibilities in the animal industry and realized what I really want to do. Train and rehabilitate difficult dogs. I am interested in rehabilitation training for dogs who have been best, unsocialized, attacked, and just needed help. I want to also do therapy training, guard training, aggression training and help in an animal rescue. I’m still interested in the medical side of things as well, but the deeper I get into the training world, the more I love it.

Yes, I have been overwhelmed at times, but it’s not because of the task of training a difficult dog (which I’ll write about later), it’s because I am working so many hours a week, and it feels like it will never end. It feels like sometimes, I’m not making enough of a difference and that even though I’m already working 60+ hours a week, I’m not doing enough.

This is the reason why I have registered for more classes. I feel like I can do more. I can learn more, I can participate more. The more I do, the more I am valued. Though, I know this isn’t really true, but it’s the way I feel. The more classes I take, the more educated I can become, the more valued I am in the dog industry.

I want to be great. I will be great. I am just at the tip of the iceberg though. And I’m ok with that. I have a lot to learn, but I am surrounded by a great support group, and have some awesome trainers in my area who will help me get there. The hardest point for me is that I am progressing so slowly (in my opinion). I want to just learn and study and practice all day, every day. But I have a job. I have a career, and I have responsibilities. I cannot abandon them.

So, I am going as quickly as time will allow without jeopardizing my current position, or my family life. It is difficult, but I will eventually get there. I just have to keep telling myself there is light at the end of the tunnel. I will do this full time… eventually. And I will be great… eventually. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I think I am on the right path.

Dog Parks

dogpark

What are dog parks for? Well, for exercise, of course! Some people believe dog parks are good for socialization as well. This is not a good reason to take your dog to a dog park. I understand that your pup may be good with other dogs. What about everyone else’s dogs? What about that one time when your dog wasn’t good with other dogs. Can you pick up on every single cue your dog is giving you when they are in distress, scared, or starting to be aggressive? Is every person who goes to a dog park educated in canine behavior and psychology?

Unfortunately, the ‘average’ dog owner cannot identify these signals, nor have they studied the basics of canine psychology. They also do not take the time to actually become the pack leader, and instead think their dog is just ‘out of control’. So, taking the dog to a dog park will ‘get rid of that excess energy’, right? Wrong. It will make it worse, and this puts the dog, along with any others at the park in a very bad situation.

Also, when dogs are let off leash, and no ‘leader’ is established between the dogs since the human is no longer there, the dogs naturally try to establish rank. This can eventually lead to a fight. This entire situation should never take place, and no dog should be put in a position where they need to fight between themselves to establish rank. You should be the leader, and putting them in this position is forcing them to try to be the leader.

Being a pack leader, the human needs to be assertive in making the decisions, controlling resources, and also protecting their dog(s). When a dog feels threatened by another dog or person, the dog will run behind their ‘leader’ (usually the human)

Germs, Parasites, and Illnesses/Diseases

These are all a risk if you take your dog to a dog park. Can you be certain that all worms, parasites, or nasty diseases like parvo have never been present at this location? Most worms contaminate soil through feces or fleas, so even if a previous owner picked up after their dog, can you guarantee this dog didn’t carry anything that can make your dog sick? Eggs in certain types of parasites can live for years in the soil. What about vaccinations? Can you guarantee every dog your dog has played with was vaccinated for parvo, distemperment, and/or rabies? Here is an article about potential risks of illnesses your dog can get at a dog park.

Unaltered dogs

Obviously, you shouldn’t bring a female in heat to a dog park. Unfortunately, people do. There is the obvious risk of unwanted pregnancy (this only takes a few moments after insertion) and sexually transmitted diseases. Yes, canines can get these as well. Unaltered females also can cause unnecessary attention for males, and end up causing a fight due all the ‘fighting over her’. An unaltered male dog can cause unwanted attention as well. High testosterone levels can make him a target for harassment or aggression from other male dogs. They tend to ‘zone in’ on unaltered males.

Fights

dogfight

The average dog owner has no idea how to break up a dog fight. Thus, resulting in injury. This could be the person breaking it up, or one of the dogs.  Why not check out a free social class in your area? This is free, supervised, and your dog gets to actually learn while in class. I go every Saturday to a social called Pack to Basics. There are 2 facilities in my area who offer this course, and many more around the United States.

Now, if you have already been going, or continue to go (which I don’t recommend), here are some tips.

1-Notice the signs of a tense, uneasy, possibly aggressive dog: Stiffness, tail will be straight up, or straight back (depending on breed), dogs will stand tall with their head up, ears perked or back, possibly lip licking or panting heavily, and hackles raised. These are some very basic things to look out for anytime you are around dogs. You can also look out for this on ‘play dates’ or just when you are observing more than one dog at at time. If you have multiple dogs at home, use these tools to help prevent a fight as well. ‘Out of the blue’ attacks are not out of the blue, and there is always a reason. If you can pick up on the signs before a fight happens, you can learn to prevent fights altogether.

On this same note, notice signs of a fearful dog: Head will be low, tail low or in between its legs, dog seems to be trying to get away or to hide. Fear also presents itself sometimes with lip raising while cowering, snarling/growling while shrinking into the ground, running (usually a dog is chasing) in a manner that says the dog is not comfortable.

2 – If you notice any of these signals, tell the owner to get control of their dog.  If this doesn’t work, or the owner refuses, it is time for you to leave. If there was severe aggression, you may want to file a police report or file a complaint. Make sure to mention you were concerned for your safety as well as your dog’s safety. Obviously, don’t call the police if ‘that dog looked scary’. Severe aggression can be anything from lunging at a person with an intent to bite, a dog biting a person, a dog fight where there were wounds on the underbelly, chest, or neck, and/or the wounds were deeper than 3″ deep. Scratches and bites on the face, legs, feet or ears are minor, and usually mean the dog was ‘warning’ the other dog to back off. Even if a dog bit a human, and the bite was on the hand, arms, legs, or face – this is less serious than if the dog went after the stomach, sides, or neck.

*Obviously: Always report if a dog bites a human, and go to the hospital (or Instacare).

3 – If the situation has escalated and the dog is now ‘bullying’ your dog, you need to take things into your own hands. This is usually where the dogs are ‘getting physical’ and it is not play. (signs include: Ears back, hackles raised, jumping or mounting on each other, etc. This is never acceptable.) Verbally, in a serious deep voice, tell the aggressor to back off or get out of there. If the aggressor stops and walks/runs away, determine if the situation will escalate again. If so, error on the side of safety and leave.

4-ALWAYS carry a SprayShield citronella spray or a walking stick to a dog park to defend yourself or your dog if there is a fight. The walking stick is not meant to beat a dog at all – just to get something in between you and the dog, or to distract the dog while attacking another dog or a person. 

5-Never get in the middle of a fight if you do not have the experience to break it up. Someone will get hurt, and often the dogs are fueled to fight harder if someone is not experienced/strong enough to break it up. Prevent the fight from happening before this happens. Bites that are inflicted on humans when breaking up a fight are usually because the human who got involved lacked experience and tried to break it up the wrong way.

NOTE: Handling an aggressive dog is never something to be taken lightly, and usually if the dog feels it is ok to be aggressive, there are other problems going on as well. Dominance, leadership, and complete lack of respect are some to list here. Hire a professional who specialize in aggressive dogs. Correcting a dog who has aggression is not fun to watch, and not everyone is cut out for it. However, it is necessary to correct the dog with enough meaning that they will think twice if they choose to do it again. There are at least 2 local training facilities in my area who specialize in aggression. I’m sure there are a few in your area. Check out the IACP website to locate a trainer in your area if you have a dog with dominance problems or aggression.

dogpark2

Now, obviously, I just touched on a few different aspects of dog parks, and there are many more. I hope this helps and educates. However, I am all for socialization and think this is one of the most important things you can do to help your dog. Check out the Pack To Basics program to see if there is a training facility near you who teaches this class, or any other supervised social class where you and your dog can go have fun safely! What’s nice about these classes, is that you know you and your dog are completely safe, and you don’t have to worry about a thing. If your dog is ‘questionable’ around people or other dogs, or considered ‘out of control’, talk to the trainer first to have your dog evaluated. Keep in mind if the trainer says your dog is fine to start off leash – trust them. They know what they are doing, and would not jeopardize the class for the other people or dogs in the class. If necessary, your dog will start out on leash or on a muzzle, if aggressive. If you want to know more about dangers of dog parks, check out the below articles. I go to K9 Lifeline and Wasatch Canine Camp’s socials, as a reference, and you can check out their websites for info on their facilities. I have been going for 8 months, and I have seen 3 fights total. All lasted below 10 seconds, and in all cases, no one was hurt. It was all controlled, and safety was the trainer’s first priority. Never once, was I worried that it was too much for the trainers. One fight involved 2 pitbulls and a cocker spaniel.  Another fight included a St. Bernard and a Bernese Mountain Dog. No fight is too much for these trainers, they are the best.

Some day, I will be one of those trainers… some day.

Light reading:

http://leerburg.com/dogparks.htm
https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Documents/disease_risks_dogs.pdf
http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dog-park-behavior-know-risks-rewards
http://speakingforspot.com/blog/2012/06/24/dog-park-play-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

The Rules about Leadership, In my Opinion

I wanted to write an article about leadership because this seems to be a highly controversial topic in the dog training world. Some trainers say things like “Don’t let your animals on the furniture ever”, ”Make sure to make your dog watch you eat dinner first. They only get fed after you.” “… walk through doorways first.”,”You need to establish you are the dominant one, and you are alpha.” Do I follow these rules with my clients? Sometimes. Do I follow them at home? Sometimes. But isn’t consistency the key? Yes.

Now, I know what you are thinking. She just said consistency was the key, but she ‘sometimes’ follows these rules?

GD

Here’s the thing: I think leadership is important in any house with a dog.  However, how strict the leadership must be is up to the family, the dynamics and scheduling of the family, and the dog. Some of the scheduling and strict leadership programs out there aren’t feasible for some families. I want the client to want to practice everything we talked about. I don’t want it to be a challenge, and have it be work. In the end, if they aren’t having fun practicing everything with their dog, they won’t do it.

Also the level of how strict the leadership must be, depends on the dog. If the dog already respects humans’ and their boundaries, then the dog is already making the decision to let the human be leader. Which is exactly what we want.

If the dog in question has many behavioral problems, and/or has aggression, a pushy attitude, or never had any socialization, then a strict leadership structure needs to be put in place to set the dog up to succeed. This is my approach. With pushy dogs, there need to be boundaries the dog can never cross. At least until it is trustworthy enough to not push those boundaries anymore.

So, when do these ‘strict’ rules apply, and when can you be lax with leadership with your dog? This is a tricky question. Think of a child. A child who constantly gets in trouble needs more strict leadership. Eventually, when that child starts to make better decisions, he has earned more freedom. Then, somewhere down the line, he makes another bad decision. So, he loses some of that freedom. If he keeps making bad decisions, more and more structure gets put into place. However, if that child makes good decisions, he is rewarded by having the opportunity to make his own choices and either reap the benefits, or face the consequences.

PetConvincerThink about when you learned how to make your own decisions. You made a bad one, and paid for it in some way or another. You made a good one, and realized it’s much easier to make the right choice, than constantly paying for the consequences. And everyone learns at their own pace. Dogs learn in the same manner. They need to learn if they always jump up on the counters, they will get the Pet Convincer used on them. (This is the tool I have handy and use often). Eventually, you will learn to watch out for their signals, and catch them before it happens. Then, because they haven’t self-rewarded in a while, they will forget what that feels like and won’t want to do the undesirable action anymore. There’s no ‘fun’ in it anymore.

So, I hope that makes sense. Basically, just like a parent, you set the rules, and then give the child an opportunity to make the right decision. How strict you need to be with your leadership depends on the dog, and the behavior you want to correct.

Questions, comments? This is in a nutshell, by the way.

Doggy-Sitting with a Pittie

PittienapoleonThis last week we had the opportunity to watch my friend’s dog. A sweet pit bull named (for the sake of protection, we’ll call him ‘Pittie’). He was a love, but there were some adjustments that needed to be made. He wasn’t used to our house rules, so we quickly did a bit of ‘house training’. No, not potty training, but actual HOUSE RULE training. He caught on, and we were patient with him.

However, first night was a little rough. Pittie was anxious and needed some time by himself before we could let him out of the kennel. Spray bottle, verbal corrections, or ignoring him didn’t really work. Ok, let’s put those training skills to work! Blanket over the crate? Check. Essential oils? Check. Did they help? YES! After putting some lavender on him, it only took him about 5 minutes to settle down in his crate and go back to sleep.

Still anxious the rest of the night and the next day however (he was lip licking, pacing, whining, eyes darting around). So, again, he was ignored until he calmed down. Finally found a spot on the comfy carpet that felt nice, and curled up quietly. Then and only then, he got attention. He’s a love! Kisses and snuggles! It just took some time to realize he’s not home, and things are a little different.  After the first original day, he settled in, and was just completely wonderful!

Pittie3Napoleon and Pittie had some things to figure out, however. Napoleon is still learning his doggie manners when he is around other dogs, and as I have said before: he is over-adrenalized. He kept getting in Pittie’s face. Luckily, Pittie is a good ‘teacher’, and Napoleon is learning what is acceptable and what is not.  Pittie is very dominant, and Napoleon is not. So, after he realized Pittie was going to correct him on everything, he just submitted. This took about a day to work everything out.

Now, as for Pittie and the cats: Pittie was showing signs of over-interest in the cats on the first introduction. Cats were not so sure about this new dog. I wrapped Mia in a towel first, and then had Pittie sniff her in the towel. She eventually had enough, hissed, swiped, and then ran away. Pretty much same thing happened with Max. Whatever, that’s fine, they’ll come around, right?  After that, Pittie was very fixated on my cats. So, we did small introductions throughout every day, with Pittie tethered to the banister, and had the cats eat about 6 feet away. Max ate, Mia didn’t. So, I put Mia behind a wall, so she still knew Pittie was there, but couldn’t see him. She ate. Each meal got a little closer. Pittie was put in the cat’s room so he could sniff everything, and the kitties were put in his crate to smell him. Every day, small introductions. Finally, on Monday, the cats were brave enough to approach Pittie.

PittieThe approach was fine, and even though they didn’t sniff, they walked away peacefully. However, we started to trust Pittie a little more, and when he was around the cats, we weren’t tethering him anymore. He seemed interested, but still able to respond to commands. But when we were far enough away, he started chasing them, and they ran up the blinds , basically near the ceiling. That was enough to scare both my husband, and my cats. That was it – no more introductions for kitties and Pittie. However, it was a comfort to know the kitties were fine eventually with a new dog, since we are planning on fostering. He was just way to adrenalized. So, kitties stayed upstairs, and the dogs stayed downstairs. No biggie.

Now, Napoleon and Pittie have been fine together for the most part.  Until a bone was introduced. Well, Pittie found it. I got another bone for Napoleon, and set them up on either side of the room, just in case one had a fit or something. We have had Pittie for a few days at this point, and everything was going fine, so I just let them be. I was working on my computer, and I notice Pittie get up and walk over to Napoleon while he’s chewing on it. Napoleon gets up, and tries to walk away with the bone. Pittie didn’t like that. He air snapped and Napoleon. Normally, he would have just submitted and given Pittie the bone. I think at this point, he had had enough of the corrections from Pittie. Napoleon snapped back, and it turned into a fight. I broke it up fairly quickly, and the fight lasted about 3 seconds total. They were separated then so they could calm down-both were pretty adrenalized after that. Once they stopped licking themselves, and stopped panting, I checked them both out to make sure there wasn’t any damage. Pittie was fine, and Napoleon walked away with a cut in his ear. More blood, than actual damage. He’ll be fine. After they were both calmed down, and the adrenaline had subsided, I introduced them again. Napoleon submitted immediately. We went on a ‘pack walk’ later that evening, and no issues at all.

Pittie2So, I was able to get some experience with a very dominant dog, introducing resident cats to a new dog,  pit bull experience, and re-introducing some dogs after a dog fight. I wish the dog fight didn’t happen, but it was good to get some experience. Afterwards, Pittie realized what I say is law and we didn’t have any more problems after that.

 

 

 

Thinking about the fight, I think there were a few factors that contributed:

-Food/resource.
Pittie being dominant
Pittie being in a new environment, and possibly having some stress
-Napoleon having enough of Pittie’s dominance
-I wasn’t watching closely enough

Good experience overall for me. I’m so happy I was able to experience this, and I hope I’ll be able to doggie sit him again!

Napoleon’s Homework

NapoleonNapoleon, like any dog, has his issues. Overall, he is a very well-rounded dog. However, he missed out on some things before we adopted him into our lives. Not his fault, but I realized recently we have a lot of work to do…

Good things about Napoleon:

Obedience  (when there aren’t any distractions)
Leash work
Respect and understanding where his ‘rank’ is within the pack.
Friendly demeanor
Makes me happy
Beautiful
Loving
Learns quickly
Knows how to tell us what he wants (or maybe we are just in-tune with him)
Knows many commands, and can pick up on words
Wants to love on you when you are sick/unhappy

Things we need to work on:

Pushes boundaries (I think all dogs do, but still)
Adrenalized
Excitable
Food motivated
Distractions
Stress Mounting (when he is stressed more than normal, he mounts other dogs)
Crating
Napoleon2

One of his constant problems is being over-adrenalized. I have known this since he lost his excess weight (He already lost 40 lbs, and could lose another 6lbs if I really tried) and is hyper all the time. He is MUCH better than when we got him, and has improved at obedience, leash work, and has always had a 90% reliable recall (the other %10 is around my neighbors when they are calling him the same time I am calling him, or when there is food).

Other problem that we have recently discovered is that he is not okay in the crate when we are home. When we leave, I have set up a nanny cam and watched him in his kennel before. He just chews on his marrow bone or sleeps. However, if he is in the kennel while we are home, he whines, lip licks, slams himself against the crate and knocks it over, howls, pants, hyperventilates, and does this high-pitched bark/whine that is incredibly annoying.

About 6 months ago, we met a highly successful trainer in my area, and she recommended we kennel him, instead of leave him outside. This is how we have found out about his anxiety. He knows the ‘kennel’ command, and will go in willingly and lie down.

Since I’m an aspiring trainer, and I am learning about all kinds of things, I had a list of things I have tried with other dogs. Every dog is different, so it’s a bit of a trial and error.
We have tried:

Feeding meals in the crate
Leaving him outside (which was actually better, because he just goes to sleep in his dog house)
Calming music
Covering the crate with a blanket
Doing desensitizing exercises
Making sure he is calm before he comes out
Verbal corrections
Using the Pet Corrector/Pet Convincer II
Ignoring him until he calms down
Practicing when we are home (If he knows you are home and aren’t in the room, he starts his barking routine until you come back in the room)
Making sure the crate is a fun place (toys, bones, praise, etc)
Keeping him in a bedroom with a closed door instead of using the crate (he is an ANGEL if we do this.)

I’m starting to think he’s claustrophobic… is that possible? He’s ok outside and/or in a bedroom, but not in a crate. I’ve never heard of a dog being claustrophobic… maybe it’s not possible.

He will go in by himself with the door open if I am working on my computer, and sleep quietly. If I close the door while he is calm, praise, and then continue working, he’s fine. If I leave the room, however, he starts whining.

IMG_3431A trainer friend I have has recommended using a bark collar while he is in the kennel. The goal of the collar is to teach him it is undesirable behavior when he barks, and eventually stop using it altogether. I am also taking him to her obedience school to work on distraction training while working on obedience. I’m hoping the combination of the two actions will also help with the excited behavior, and help him learn to calm down around distractions.

I do understand he is a lab, and they are a high-energy breed, and love to please. This was the first dog my husband and I raised together, and we adopted him almost 2 years ago. We have learned so much in this time with him, and I want to make sure he gets the most out of life with us. We still have work to do, and Napoleon has a lot to learn as well.

Yesterday, we went out to train for about an hour, and started with a walk. We worked on heel, Sit when I stop walking, turning around and backing up while in a ‘Heel’, paying attention while around distractions (kids, cars, and barking dogs), and then we got into some more tricky things. In the house, he listens to ‘Stay’ with no hesitation for a long time (we aren’t quite up to ‘forever’ yet, but he’s getting there). Outside, it’s hard enough just to get him into a sit without standing if I walk away. I realized, since we have only ever practiced this in the house… we have a lot of work to do. Bring it on.

I work so much with others’ dogs, I didn’t realize how much work my own dog needed. Lesson learned. Challenge accepted. Napoleon, you and I have a lot of homework.

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!