A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

Posts tagged ‘dogs’

A Deaf Dog is First a Dog

In my research prior to fostering my first special-needs dog, I learned that a deaf dog is first a dog, second a breed (or mix), and third deaf (or blind, or crippled).  Lily, my foster Catahoula/German Shepherd mix has been in my house for 48 hours, and I’m amazed at how quickly the dog has settled in.  When I first brought her home, I took her into the garden in the area reserved for the dog toilet to relieve herself.  I took her there about two or three times before going to bed.

On the following day I put her on her leash when we woke up, and the first thing she did was to run over to the “potty” side of the yard to relieve herself!  She now has access to the entire house off-leash, but supervised, and in the 48 hours that she’s been in my house, she hasn’t once had an accident in the house.

Unfortunately for Lily, deafness is but one of her issues.   I discovered that she has really poor eyesight.  Aside from crashing into things, she does not recognize people’s features.  I had her at the vets today, and the vet techs and doctor walked passed her a zillion times, and she lunged and barked at them a zillion times.  Now she’s not an aggressive dog, because each time the individuals held out their hands to her she wagged her tail and was all wiggly with them.  However, this will be an issue for her as most people read this behavior as aggression.  I know that she only sees shadows coming towards her, and she doesn’t know what it all means.  Barking and lunging is her best defense.

Then there’s the issue of her bones, her skeleton.  In the initial hours that she was in my home, I showed her around on-leash.  She stubbed her paw on an empty metal bucket, and started holding up the paw.  I thought it was odd, especially the next day when she was very reluctant to put her weight on the paw.  Because Friday was a public holiday in Jamaica, I had to wait until Saturday before I could take her to the vet.  X-rays showed that she had broken her toe from that innocuous stub of the toe.

With Lily’s poor vision that makes her crash into stuff and trip over objects, and her weak bones, I have a huge challenge on my hands.

However, she is a real love bug who has just fitted right into my household and wormed her way into my heart.

A Tired Dog is a Well-Behaved Dog–Tips for Solving Behavioral Issues

Some years ago, when I was new to owning dogs and just starting out as a trainer, I read some very sage advice from a book authored by a well-known trainer.  It said that exercise was perhaps one of the most important things that could help a dog with behavioral issues.

Yesterday Gretchen turned over her aluminum water bucket, flooded out the living room in the process, and proceeded to chew the bucket.   Dogs don’t like metal of any kind in their mouths, and that’s why it’s so hard to teach a dog to retrieve with a metal object.  The fact that Gretchen was chewing her bucket, told me that something was wrong.

Then this morning she barked non-stop while in her crate for no reason, and when I let her out, she ran around the house, jumped on people, crashed into furniture and knocked over the other dogs.  It was as if the neurons in the dog’s brain were firing randomly and in quick succession.

“That dog is possessed!”  Someone commented to me in a tone of disgust.

No, Gretchen wasn’t possessed, nor was she a bad dog.  She was bored, plain and simple.

I took her out for a one-hour walk this evening, and from she enthusiastically jumped out of the car, I could tell that she was so happy to be out of the house.  She sniffed around, then was happy to walk close to me, not exactly loose-leash walking, but not exactly pulling, either.  I didn’t mind; I just wanted this dog to get exercise and have fun in the process.

I brought along a bag of treats and a clicker just in case I decided to do a bit of training with her.  In the past she has not functioned very well in public because she gets so overwhelmed with stimuli.  Tonight she kept checking in with me, and interacting with me, springing into the air with glee when I praised her.  I figured that I’d be able to do training.

Gretchen gobbled up a tasty bit of treat which I offered, so I asked for a sit.  She complied.  We walked a bit, and a man came walking in our direction.  Gretchen reacts to people and other animals, but I kept walking briskly with her, and switched directions with her so that she wouldn’t be walking head on towards the man.  She didn’t even bark.

We ran for a bit, then we walked, then we did a series of sits and downs, but no stays.  We did a bit of heeling.  The little dog just exuded sheer joy.

Many times boredom in dogs manifests itself as digging in the garden, chewing furniture/shoes, dragging clothes off the line, or excessive barking (for no apparent reason).  The dog is not a bad dog.  It needs behavior modification, but it also needs exercise.  Sometimes just exercising the dog until it’s really tired and often will work wonders for the animal.

Now we’re home, and Gretchen’s  zonked out in her crate.

A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, indeed.

A Guide to Keeping Dogs Cool in the Tropics

Let’s face it, if you live in the tropics, there’s no way to escape the heat.  It hangs around all year long.  If you live in Jamaica, it cools down for perhaps December and January, but just barely, and the heat still affects dogs.

This is the first of a series of articles on keeping our K9 companions cool in tropical climates. In Jamaica we have no access to cooling mats or body vests or any of those nifty inventions available in more temperate climates, so we have to find economical yet effective ways to keep our beloved dogs comfortable.

Traveling by car

Jamaicans love to travel with their dogs, even if it’s a brief trip to pick up milk at the grocery store.  Be very careful.

Don’ leave the dog in the car with the windows down and water available in the car.  Dogs generate a lot of heat in the spaces where they are confined, and their body heat will drive up the already hot temperatures.

If your car has air conditioning (a/c), carry two sets of keys.  Leave the a/c running with the dog in the car, and lock the doors.  Use your spare to get into the car on your return.

Don’t develop a false sense of security if you leave the a/c running in your car.  If the car shuts off, or the a/c stops functioning, the car will heat up to the outside temps in no time. CHECK ON YOUR DOG FREQUENTLY.  Don’t just look through the shop window at your dog:  Go to the car and ensure that the car and a/c are in fact running.

“A hot car can be a death trap for dogs…” says Mark Evans, RSPCA chief veterinary adviser.  Temperatures in a car can reach 117 degrees in less than an hour, and your dog can be cooked to death.  An adult dog’s normal body temperature is 102 degrees Fahenheit.  Brain damage occurs when body temps rise to 106, and death occurs at 108.

There’s nothing cuter than an ShihTzu traveling in the front passenger side of a vehicle, or sitting in the driver’s lap, head out the window and ears flapping in the breeze.  That’s a dangerous practice.  Windshields protect passengers inside of a car from dirt, dust, pollution, and flying bits of stones and glass from getting in their eyes.  If your dog has his head sticking out the car window, what’s there to protect his eyes?

Think of that ping you hear from the windshield or side of your car as a bit of stone hits the vehicle.  Now imagine that bit of stone hitting your dog’s eyes.

Carry water for your dog, but do not store it in the car where it will get hot, like on the floor.  If you are traveling long distances, be sure to stop a few times along the way for potty and water breaks.

It’s always a good idea to let your dog go bathroom before setting out on a drive.  Some dogs will whimper and get restless if they need to go, so listen to what your dog is saying.  However, some dogs will just go on your backseat, especially if traveling makes him very anxious.  You can eliminate this unpleasant aspect of traveling by following this advice.

Happy traveling with your dogs!

Picture above:  There’s nothing my male Pomeranian enjoys more than a car ride.  He is quite capable of jumping into the car without any help, thank you very much.  While I packed the car in preparation for a recent dog show, Snuggles contemplated driving us to the show grounds.

A Tribute to the Rottweiler

They are smart, easily trained, perhaps the most versatile of all working breeds, and they are fiercely loyal to their humans.  That is the Rottweiler for you.  Unfortunately this breed’s reputation has been ruined by poor breeding practices and irresponsible owners.

A rottweiler with a stable temperament is not a vicious dog.  As descendants of the Roman Drover dogs that protected the Roman army’s cattle as they traveled, these dogs remain protective even today. But many breeders have chosen to abuse the rottie’s protective traits, by breeding overly aggressive, temperamentally unstable specimens and selling them to people looking to bolster their image by having a “bad dog” in their yard.

A properly bred and trained rottweiler is a joy to behold, and they make great family pets.   I am truly blessed to own one such dog, Busta, who is pictured above.   Busta is the family clown, constant companion to everyone in the household, official guest greeter, and protector to his humans and home.

Here’s one of my favorite videos that just about captures the beauty, power, and intelligence of this wonderful breed.  I did not make this video.

The Anguish of Letting Dogs Roam

We have a serious problem with pet overpopulation in Jamaica, and it isn’t from owner’s conscious decision to breed their pets.  Because the island has no leash laws, or requirements for dog licenses, people allow their dogs to roam freely and reproduce.  The dog gets stolen or killed, and the owners simply replace the dog.  No problem.

Yesterday on my way to run an errand, I saw a white German Shepherd-looking dog roaming a busy street with her black and white puppy in tow.  After completing my errand, I returned in search of the duo, and pulled int a service station to make inquiries.  The security guard there said that he’d seen the white dog, and heard a dog “bark strangely.”  It was then that I saw the puppy sitting on the grass at the station.  Its dam was nowhere in sight.

As I approached the puppy, it began trembling, and tried to get up.  That’s when I realized that it was hurt.  The “strange bark” that the guard heard was probably the puppy squealing when a car hit it.  The guard got me a cardboard box in which to place the puppy and I took it to the local humane society.

A quick examination revealed a broken leg.  Because of the high cost of veterinary care and the likelihood that the puppy may not get adopted, the clinic was unwilling to take in the puppy.  The decision fell into my lap.

I agonized about paying this high vet bill for an injured puppy that didn’t belong to me.  I would have had to pay for the care and boarding of the animal at the shelter until someone came along to adopt it.  If the puppy wasn’t adopted, all that effort would have gone down the drain because the puppy would be euthanized.

I made the heart-breaking decision, and signed the forms to euthanize.  Through tears I stayed with the puppy, stroking it’s tiny head as the vet injected it with the solution that would end its life.

Dog ownership is a major responsibility.  Let’s face it:  we force dogs to share our lives.  They do not choose to live with us.  They depend on us for food, shelter, water, and protection from harm.  That’s the basics without the extra trimmings like social and mental stimulation that makes for a healthy, well-adjusted dog.  When people neglect their animals, then they cause great anguish to strangers who are then left to make heart-rending decisions.

I’m Back

Many apologies for being away for so long, and thank you to my loyal readers who have sent me message through this forum and by email inquiring if I was okay.

I am just fine, but my graduate program has started, and it keeps me busy.  I have a huge project due tomorrow, and because of this and my teaching,  my dogs have not received any training for the past week, and the puppies are fast growing up to be hooligans.

Anyway,  although I haven’t trained Gretchen, my black and tan GS bitch, she did quite well today.  I was able to get a 10 second sit/stay and down/stay from her AND I added distance.  She stayed on the end of a four-foot leash.  Last time I trained her, we were up to six second stays, and no distance.

Her sits and downs are fluent, and I have faded both clicker and treats for that.  I did use the clicker for the 10 second stays, though, but will phase out the clicker in the coming weeks.

We also did a bit of distance-control on leash, just sits and downs, for the first time, and she caught on surprisingly fast. And she did all of this in my backyard amid distractions.  Perhaps I have a future CDX in the making!

I only trained for 10 minutes, because I have to get back to my studies, but it was 10 minutes that I enjoyed thoroughly.  There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time training my dogs.  It is perhaps the only activity that I can do that forces me to live in the moment and focus on my dog.  One has to focus when handling dogs like German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

Teaching the Down/Stay and Sit/Stay using Clicker Training

It isn’t hard to teach stays to a dog once it understands the difference between “sit” and “down”.  Last week Gretchen had difficulty differentiating the two, but I took her back to basics, and this week she improved.  It was time to incorporate the stays.

I teach sit and down stays concurrently, and have been successful because I concentrate on getting duration first BEFORE I ever try to add distance to the cue.  And, I start with very short durations, sometimes as short as half a second!  This is particularly important when training a young puppy that has a hard time being still.

Gretchen isn’t exactly a young pup:  she’s eight months, an adolescent dog.  Her impulse control has improved significantly, but she is still an enthusiastic learner, and as such has a hard time sitting still for long.  I start off with a half second stay then increase the durations by a second after that with a 1:1 ratio of reinforcement; that is, one click and a treat for every second that she remains in the sit and the down.

Once I had Gretchen successfully and consistently doing four-second stays, I put the behavior on a variable schedule of reinforcement.  That is, I varied when I clicked and treated instead of the usual 1:1 ratio.  So I might click after a two-second stay; next I’d click after a four-second stay and give a jackpot of treats; then I’d click for a half-second stay.  The dog would never know when she’d get her treats, or whether she’d get a jackpot of those yummy steak bits, so she’d hold her stays in eager anticipation.

It’s important when training stays that the trainer doesn’t ask the dog to hold the stay longer than it’s capable.  If I went from asking for four-second stays to asking for a thirty-second stays before I clicked and treated, Gretchen would be confused that I had not clicked sooner and think that she did something wrong. Because clicker training promotes thinking on the part of the learner, Gretchen would break the stay and offer me some other behavior thinking that’s what I really wanted.  Dogs are smart.

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