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

Posts tagged ‘Jamaica’

A Wing and a Prayer and we Fly

Busta, winner of the October 2011 Novice Obedience Class

Busta, winner of the October 2011 Novice Obedience Class. Owned, trained, handled, loved, and ocassionally cussed at by Debbie Davidson

I write this post about a significant accomplishment exactly one week late because I’ve been insanely busy. Yet I’m pleased to announce that my five-year-old Rottweiler, Busta, who has been in retirement and who hasn’t competed in an obedience trial since 2007 won the Novice obedience class on Saturday, October 23.  He won “high in trial” too with a perfect score.

The decision to enter the dog came from a place of desperation.  Earlier I had made the rather sad decision to retire my white German Shepherd bitch who showed a great deal of promise in obedience.  But, I needed a goal, something that would keep me working with my dogs, and I needed a dog that might, just might, progress through the various classes and earn an obedience title.  I hauled Busta out of retirement.

He had learned all the novice exercises when he was a puppy, but it was many years since I worked him.  Despite my best intentions to prepare him for the upcoming show, our work together was sporadic at best.  Three weeks prior to the show I did no work with him.  We were entering on a wing and a prayer.  Yet, we managed to impress the judge.  Busta remained focused in the ring and did everything asked of him quickly and enthusiastically.

Now I scramble to find time to prepare him for the Beginner’s Class on November 20.  It’s tough when there are so many other things clamoring for my time.  A fellow competitor who used to enter multiple dogs in obedience while working full time told me that she’d wake up early and train during the 5:00am hour, working each dog with one exercise for a total of three minutes.  I will have to try that.

We need to work on the one-minute stand-stay, and the high and long jump.  Busta proved many years ago that he is not a jumper.  He is the only one of my dogs who has never shown any inclination to jump on furniture.  With the Jamaica Kennel Club’s recent decision to lower the jump heights for competition obedience, I just might be able to entice Busta to perform the jumps.  We’ll see….

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A Sad Decision Made at White Mist Shepherds

Athena is the dog on the right

I worked Athena on the field in obedience along with other German Shepherds.  She didn’t have a good day.  She broke all of her stays, lagged miles behind me in the off-leash heel, and I had to call her about three times in the recall.  As for the retrieve.  I managed to get her to hold the dumbbell for me at the beginning of class; however, she very reluctantly went out for the dumbbell.   On one attempt I had her sit at heel and wait while I tossed the article–a bright orange plastic dumbbell.  I sent her out and she promptly brought me back a discarded styroform cup.

Half way through the class, it was evident that Athena had shut down.  It was not for psychological reasons, however;  she was simply not feeling well.  Three people whose judgement and advice I trust pointed out that Athena has not regained her strength yet, and she needs to rebuild her muscle mass.  I see the dog everyday, I noticed the improvements in her, but I needed an objective set of eyes to see what really is.

Coupled with this, Athena has an arrhythmia.  We made the decision that she would not be competing in the Jamaica Kennel Club’s All-Breed Show and Obedience Trials, and will retire from the obedience ring and will enjoy the rest of her life as a house pet.  We were so close to that CD.

Responsible Dog Ownership

Reports of dog attacks are making the news frequently in Jamaica.  A few weeks ago a three year old child was mauled to death by a pack of stray dogs.  Then just recently an infant barely escaped with his life when the family’s pitbull escaped from it’s kennel, rushed into the house, seized the child, and began biting him up.  At least, that’s the story that’s published in the papers.

It is really sad that the media is sending the Jamaican population into panic mode where dogs are concerned.   As an acquaintance wrote in a recent article, dogs for the most part are mistreated in Jamaica.  And the mistreatment goes beyond kicking, stabbing, burning, and using the animal as target practice, but includes emotional neglect, like tethering the dog in the backyard, or kenneling it without any human interaction or socialization.  The media paints the picture of dogs as blood-thirsty “wolves” that will devour children, justifying, it would seem, the cruel acts that are performed on man’s best friend.

The problem isn’t the dogs.  It is the appalling poor sense of responsibility that people have towards these animals.   As I wrote in an article some time back, a dog who by himself would exhibit no proclivities towards harming a human, will do just that when he finds himself in the company of a pack of dogs.  Stray dogs do form packs; that’s what they do in the wild to survive.  Dogs should not be allowed to roam the streets.

Dog attacks do not happen “out of the blue.”  There are always signs that precede an attack.  Owners need to recognize these signs.  The owners of the pitbull must have known they had a vicious animal on their hands, one that was no doubt poorly socialized, and perhaps may have been traumatized in the name of aggression training.  Why would anyone keep such a dog in a home where there are small children?  Apparently the owners had the dog for only a month.  Why did the previous owner, who MUST have known that this dog would attack,  sell/give the dog to this family with a small child.  That is just irresponsible.

Truth is, any breed of dog will attack, if the animal hasn’t been socialized or treated humanely.  Dogs attack out of fear.  It is their way of surviving and preventing harm to themselves.  So how could a child possibly hurt a dog?  In Jamaica it is a common pastime of school-aged children to torment dogs that are locked in their owner’s yards.  My six dogs are all house pets, and frequently school children on the road knock on the gate, or imitate dog noises to get my animals barking.  Because my dogs have been teased by children, I do not allow them near children.  I just don’t know how they will react.

The bottom line is, if you are planning on getting a dog, research the breed, research dog behavior.  Then, ask yourself some tough questions:  can I contain the dog in my yard?  Will I take the time to socialize my dog, and invest time and money in training it?  Socialization is necessary even with dogs that are being used for guard purposes.   Also, you do not need to train dogs to be aggressive for them to guard your property and person.  Dogs naturally do that for the humans they bond with.  None of my dogs have ever received aggression training, but they will bite if given the chance.

Not all labradors are gentle, docile dogs.  Conversely, not all pitbulls are man-eaters.  Ian Dunbar, world-famous veterinarian and animal behaviorist makes some great points in this video:

Rotties Galore: Highlights from the 2010 Rottweiler Show, Jamaica

Here are some highlights from the Rottweiler Show sponsored by the Rottweiler Association of Jamaica.  Josef Heidl was the judge. Click on the pictures for an enlarged view.

Desensitizing an Adult Dog to Strangers

It’s been a really long time since I’ve done any serious training, or trialling with my dogs, and I miss these activities.  The combination of my job, business, and graduate school keeps me very busy, and prevents me from doing what I’m most passionate about:  training dogs.

This weekend I returned to the show circuit by entering Tuvok, my 15-month-old white German Shepherd,  in a fun dog show sponsored by the Portmore Dog Owners Association, which was held in the Portmore Town Centre.  While the show primarily caters to owners of pitbulls and dogs trained in aggression, the advertisements announced classes for toy breeds, rottweilers, and working breeds.   Rottweilers, by the way, belong to the working breeds.  I entered Tuvok in the working class.  There was even a fashion show where dogs vied for the title of “best dressed.”

We arrived at the show VERY early.  The flyer announced show time starting at 9:00am; however, at 10:00am sponsors were still arriving to set up their booths.   Turns out the show didn’t start till 3:00 that afternoon.

Tuvok and I used the opportunity to do a bit of training.  This pup received consistent, focused training at 5 weeks old, along with his littermates, but once my work load got heavy, his training fell to the wayside.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, that Tuvok responded to simple cues, such as sit and down very quickly and enthusiastically, even among distractions.

It was the presence of strangers that made Tuvok very uncomfortable. Fortunately Classical Conditioning can be used to desensitize a dog to fearful situations, if done correctly.

Here’s how it worked.  I first clicked and treated (C&T) Tuvok each time we walked past someone and he didn’t show any signs of fear or alarm.  Next I sat in a chair in a shady spot and C&T Tuvok for relaxing beside.  Then came the crucial bit.  I C&T the dog each time someone walked towards him and he didn’t show any fear.  I kept rapid-fire C&T until the person passed us, as long as Tuvok didn’t get distracted and started growling or tried to get up.  The trick here was to start C&T before the dog reached over threshold, the point where the dog finds it necessary to react.

It’s also vital when desensitizing a dog that you carefully read the dog’s body language.  Fear does not always manifest itself by whinning, backing away, or trying to tie up the handler with the leash in an effort to flee the situation.  There are subtle signs, such as the look of the dog’s pupils, placement of the ears, and even lifting a paw.

Anyway, Tuvok did splendidly, and in no time he could remain lying down, relaxed as the world and its children passed him by.  He did not get C&T when people walked away from him, though.  I wanted him to have positive associations with people approaching him, and that’s where the clicker came in most useful.  Fearful dogs snap and lunge at people to get them to go away.  I didn’t wan’t to inadvertently strengthen this behavior by rewarding the dog when people walked away from him.

We remained at the show until dusk.  It was going on for 6:00pm, and by this time the working class hadn’t yet been called.  They were still judging the toy breeds “Rising Star” style where the audience voted for the dog they felt should get first place!  by this time Tuvok had become very tired; he’d lost his pep.  Furthermore, I noticed that he hadn’t peed since we left the house at 9:00am that morning.  We were both hungry, having not eaten anything all day.

We left the show grounds that evening without ever making it to the ring, and after paying the $500 entry fee (although the flyer stated that entries were $400 per dog).  I don’t know if they ever got around to judging the working breeds, and if they did, I’m not sure how they could have judged in the dark.

A few good things came out of the day, however.  I purchased a beautiful show lead from one of the booths, practiced obedience skills with my dog, desensitized him to strangers, and spent quality time with my big beautiful boy, which was priceless.

Tribute to Lloyd Hall

Another one of Jamaica’s stalwart musicians and educators has gone to join the angelic choir in the heavens.  Lloyd Hall died yesterday evening at about 7:30pm.  While he had suffered a heart attack some time ago, his death came as a great shock to me, his colleague.

A true patriot, Hall contributed unselfishly to Jamaica’s musical and educational scene for close to 60 years, from the time he graduated from college in the 1940s to the present.  He was a quite, compassionate, genteel and very kind individual who taught all levels of students, from small children to adults.

Hall’s contribution were recognized on several occasions through several awards, including the prestigious Order of  Distinction in 2005 from the Jamaican government, and the FRCM from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), England in 1999.  The latter award represents ABRSM’s highest award given to a  West Indian.

Perhaps Lloyd Hall is best remembered for his simple yet beautiful song “Jamaica, Land of Beauty,” a perennial favorite sung during Independence celebrations in Jamaica.

The video below features a group of school children singing Hall’s song.  While it isn’t a professional recording, the purity and innocence of these voices fit the song admirably.

Tomas Leaves Behind Some Angry Residents

Well, Tomas turned out to be a non-event for Jamaica.  We experienced some pleasant yet short-lived wind where I live, and a sprinkling of rain, not enough to water the garden. The storm has left Jamaica, leaving in its wake a population of angry citizens who are complaining about losing days of work, having their lives disrupted, and spending money that they don’t have on supplies that they never needed.  Some folks on Facebook are suggesting (perhaps jokingly) that all this hype was a conspiracy between the government, the supermarkets, and the Meteorological Office.  Deep down, we know that that isn’t a plausible explanation, though.

After all these preparations, I’m left with a pantry full of canned foods, extra bags of dog food, and several gallons of bottled water.  I’m also lamenting the loss of productivity for two days as I spent my time chasing around Kingston gathering supplies, and obsessing over the news and computer models for this storm.

The food and water will get used…eventually, but I will never regain my lost productivity.

Tomas has turned into a hurricane, and I pray that the folks in Haiti and north of us will be as lucky as we were.

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