Surprise!

Project K9 Heather Hamilton husband Red Doberman Puppy

Welcome to the family, Dante!

It’s been just over 2 weeks since I quit my day job, and I have never been so busy, nor so tired. I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath at all! My last day was on 21st, and I started a board and train dog on Nov. 22nd, and boarded a ton of dogs over the holiday. I love my life and I’m proud of myself for taking the giant leap into business ownership. I am very happy with this decision, even though I am exhausted and my house is in a constant disarray!

Heather Hamilton Project K9 Wasatch Canine Camp Social

Jinx at Wasatch Canine Camp’s Saturday social class! She’s in the middle on the hay stack!

I have started reading  ‘The Art of Raising a Puppy’ By the Monks of New Skete. Which leads me into a major announcement! We got a puppy! I planned on buying this book, and attending a ‘rearing puppies’ workshop hosted by a friend of mine in December, in preparation to get a puppy in May from Anya’s next litter.  Well, seems I have quite the story to tell as to why we ended up getting our little red dobie early!

Remember when we adopted Jinx, our fearful black pitbull? Well, we were considering getting a doberman puppy instead. But I couldn’t put in the time a puppy would need, as I was still working my day job at the time when he would be ready to come home and I would have to board him for 2 months. And I fell in love with Jinx, anyway. So we took her home, and she is improving little by little.

Anyway, we passed on the puppy and I asked if they would be breeding Anya again. I was sad I couldn’t adopt him, but at the same time… it is what was best. They said yes and there would be a litter in May. I wanted my name down and wanted to put down a deposit to get a pick of the litter. The breeder is my trainer friend’s sister, and a very reputable breeder. That is a blog post in itself: backyard breeders vs. reputable breeders. For another time. Anyway, I think every trainer should go through the experience of raising a puppy, so that was a goal for next year. As well as to foster a pregnant mom, but that may be put off now since I have quite the project with this little guy.

Heather Hamilton Utah Dog Training Project K9 Red Doberman Puppy TrainingOf all the puppies who were born, there was one in particular I really loved. The only red dobie of the litter. We visited them at 4 weeks old, and I took a special liking to him then. Once he was old enough, he started coming to socials on Saturdays and I got to see him every week. He was getting so big, and he was so confident! The family told me he was special and that they decided they wanted to keep him. I was secretly hoping he wouldn’t find a home by December, and that when I quit my job, I could adopt him. So, this made me a little sad, but I knew I couldn’t handle a puppy right then anyway, and this family is great – he would be well loved.

Fast tracking a bit: Social class on November 30th was a big day. Jinx was off leash in social for the first time! She didn’t do fabulous, but this was a big step. We have been doing eCollar training for the last couple weeks, and she has done great, so I felt comfortable enough to let her off leash. I showed my husband how to use the remote and she was off. Big day, Yay Jinx!

Heather Hamilton Utah Dog Training Project K9 Red Doberman Puppy Training

After class was over, I was chatting with some friends when my husband asked me to stand in a certain spot… well, see for yourself what happened in the video below!

We adopted this little guy and things have been great! We are so excited to be enjoying this little guy! He is a sweetheart and is learning quickly! He is doing great on potty training, nipping/chewing, walking nicely on a leash (sometimes) and is learning ‘sit’. This coming week, we will be working on ‘come’, ‘downs’ and getting used to ‘following’ rather than walking up ahead. He is almost 14 weeks old, and is already best friends with Jinx. Napoleon is tolerating him-he is too old to want to play anymore. My cats don’t want anything to do with this little puppy, haha!

He is getting bigger by the day, and we have to keep retaping his ears because he plays so rough. I can usually keep them on for 2-3 days, and then we need to change them. I’m also getting much better at it. Not too difficult, just takes practice!

Faces of Project K9 Utah Dog Training

The Faces of Project K9

Anyway, hope you all are getting ready for Christmas! It’s going to be a busy month!

A Few Thoughts

So, I have some catching up to do. My life has gone to the dogs, and that’s a good thing! I have been working tirelessly to make the change, and every day I’m a little closer!

First order of business, I hosted another pack walk and it was very successful. I believe I had around 20-28 dogs. Some people came late, some left early, and some joined in while we were walking. So, getting a hard count was a little difficult. This time was better than my first walk, as I was trying to keep everyone together as a group. The dogs benefit the most from having everyone in a pack, not spread out. I’m getting better at this, but it’s going to take some time.

I LOVE the benefits of pack walks and I enjoy getting everyone together to host them. It’s a great way to safely socialize and a great gateway to doing full blown socials while I’m learning more about dog behavior and getting used to reading every single little subtle sign. It’s exhausting, and I feel I miss a lot. But that takes experience. No book or seminar will teach me everything – I have to get out there and do it. At a safe pace of course. I’m not about to take on a really nasty behavioral problem just because I need the experience.

Here’s a video of the walk. If you follow through my comments, you’ll see how every person and dog’s behavior smooths out near the end of the walk. There were a few dogs who needed additional help (The German Shepherd for one), but for the most part, the dogs’ calmed down pretty well.

Secondly, I have started helping with Wasatch Canine Camp’s socials. How awesome is that? (HUGE SWELLING HAPPY FEELING!) However, I feel like I’m miles behind the trainer and her skillset (won’t mention names for privacy), and I have so much to learn. She has also been doing this a lot longer than I have. But I won’t give up, and I’m trying very hard to not feel down when I realize this. I just focus on the good things – like how much progress I have made within the last year, and where I will be at the end of this year. Someday, maybe I will have a facility. It’s a dream right now, but maybe if I work hard enough, I can get there.

The hard part about socials is that you can’t really talk to people while you are there. I’m still in ‘spectator’ mode instead of ‘presenter’ mode. I have to watch every single dog and every interaction to make sure it is appropriate interactions between people and dogs. I feel like I have to be in every place at once, and sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up. At K9 Lifeline, the instructor (again, I won’t say names) said you’ll get a feel for when things are about to happen before they actually do. Like when the energy changes in a particular part of the room/area. I haven’t felt that yet. Will I get there? I feel like I have to be in all places at once, and I don’t think this class can be taught with just one person. Well, the size of the class matters, of course. On average, the class is about 30-40 dogs. I don’t know if I would be comfortable taking that much responsibility yet. Maybe someday – just not yet.  I’m not scared, just… I don’t know enough and I feel I’m a ‘baby’ in this field. It’s comforting to know I have more experienced trainers watching my back while I’m learning, but giving me enough room to grow and to make mistakes. I really look up to these women, and I hope someday I can be as successful as them.

Napoleon

Napoleon, waking me up in the morning

Something else I have noticed is that I find myself being passive around more experienced trainers. Not as assertive as I normally am or I shut down, in one particular person’s case. Like to the point where I can’t speak – I can hardly breathe and I end up having a panic attack.  This affects my performance, the way the animals see me, and I’m not as strong of a leader as I need to be. I have started working on this and I mentally prepare myself before going to class or to an event where more qualified people will gather. One step at a time – I have started asking questions about social, asking about behavior I have missed, and I’m beginning to analyze every dog I see. Sometimes I wish I could turn that off, but other times I’m proud I see so much more than the average dog owner. At first, I was ashamed I needed to ask any questions. But then, I realized that everyone has to start somewhere, and to be the best I can be, I have to stop worrying about what people think about me. I need to buck up and ask. I was always worried someone would say, “Well, you are a trainer, you should know that!” or “You call yourself a trainer, but you can’t handle [insert something here]?” I haven’t received that reaction at all – what do I have to be anxious about? …A trainer asked me that about a dog once – and now I’m asking that same question to myself. What do I have to be worried/anxious/scared about? I’m over it.

I want to turn off the auto-dog-evaluations when I’m out with friends, at parks, or when someone says ‘Your dog is so perfect! He loves people and is just happy’. I want to say: “My dog is not happy nor is he perfect by any means. He’s over adrenalized and he isn’t in the right state of mind, and makes bad decisions. He can’t learn anything in this state of mind, and when you are baby talking him and loving on him, you are reinforcing this behavior and undoing work I have done for the past 8 months. I have been working with him about calming down around people, other dogs, and distractions. He was doing well, and now I have to undo all the un-training you just did.”

Ok that’s really harsh and I haven’t ever said that to anyone, but at the same time, it’s true. My dog is high energy, and with the combination of the wrong state of mind (over excited), he can’t learn anything. I have put him into a calm state of mind before any training, or he won’t learn anything. No, he’s not perfect. He really isn’t, but he is a gem. He’s my rock, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Not that we were talking about that – but I am constantly looking at dogs, the people handling them, and how they are reacting. Napoleon can get amped up so quickly, so we purchased an eCollar to manage his mindset. It was really made a difference, though I haven’t received any formal training on it yet.

Any who, I think this is a long enough post for today, so I’ll end here. Next time, I am going to post about Ryder, my training challenge right now. I had him again this week, and I really had to take my time with him on most everything.  He’s a bit of a handful when he is being naughty!

And just to show... here's the obedience class I was enrolled in.

And just to show… here’s the obedience class I was enrolled in. (Click for larger image!)

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/

Good Day

Had a pretty good day so far. It all starts by how I wake up. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm this morning, and got ready for my doggie social class. I was going to a different class today, as the dog I normally take was neutered on Thursday. He’s not ready to up and around yet. Class went well, BIG CLASS today. I LOVE big classes!

Me and NapoleonThere were 3 Great Danes in class today, and Napoleon made friends with one of them. They played the whole time, and made the ache of getting a dane come back. A lady in my neighborhood is going to be having Dane puppies in May, and I’m interested, but not quite sold yet. I don’t have a lot of information yet. I have a ton of questions to ask, and I want to make sure I get a healthy puppy. I don’t so much care about show lines or whatever, but I just want to make sure mom and dad are healthy.

I was able to talk to the head trainer about some concerns I have been having with Napoleon and the crating. He is crate-trained, because he knows the command, goes in no problem, and lays down immediately.

It was a nice day today, so my husband and I took our motorcycle out and have lunch. It was a great day, and I love having a mini-date when we can. We came home, and then worked on my website.When we are gone, I have nanny-cammed him before, and he is perfect. Just goes to sleep, or chews on his bone. But if we are home, he whines, and has a high-pitched migraine-inducing bark. …nonstop! I have waited for hours before.  All the techniques I have used with other dogs-not working for my boy! So, my trainer recommended I try out a bark collar. I haven’t used one before, but this will be good. I’ll get to learn how to use one on my own boy, and learn the proper way to use it. The goal is to eventually not use it all. I will be giving this a try.

It’s finished! Yay! Pawsitive Dog Training. I’m pretty happy with the outcome, and I can happily say I am very proud of my work. Finally finished, and I’m happy with the logo my friend made for me. I’ve been through countless logos, including another one my coworker made for me for free. None of them were… simple enough, or didn’t fit my business model. I found one I can use for anything, and that’s exactly what I have been looking for.

So, now, I’m off to play some video games, and drink more coffee. Yum! Have a great weekend, all!