Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dinner with Fido.

I thought of this last night as I ate dinner on my couch. That's the norm at my house. Hubby and I place our plates on our cocktail ottoman (yeah that sounds fancy, doesn't it?!) and watch our favorite show. With four dogs you'd think it may be chaotic or impossible to eat in peace, but with the right tools and training (and a little elbow grease) you can eat with Fido staying away from your food and letting you eat without having to hold your plate up over your head.

Two of my dogs actually seem to not care much [when we eat], the other two are quite interested in our dining experiences. So how does one do it?

First, if you ever feed your dog while you are eating or sitting down in the location where you normally eat your meals, then this may take extra care and dedication. I don't recommend you feed your dog "from the table". Feed your dogs when you feed them their meals and when you are training, that's it. It's more of a respect thing than anything else. You also can't realistically expect your dog to stay away from your meal if you've been feeding him some pieces every now and again.

If your dog only eats when you feed him/her then this will be much easier for you. I suggest teaching your dog to "Leave it", and enforce that they know this means "leave it alone permanently!". If you find yourself saying "Leave it" over and over again then they may need a little brushing up on this command!

Give a "Leave it" and then ask your dog to go lie down away from you at least 3 feet or more. If your dog can lie at your feet and not beg, and you don't mind this, then you can do that too.

It's best to teach your dog that "sit" and "down" mean that they each have an implied "stay" along with that. So, if you say "Fluffy, sit" then she should do that until you tell her otherwise. Remember to use a release command and always release your dog from every command once you are finished. For example, when you ask your dog to sit at any point, e.g, before you toss a ball for her to catch, then say "okay!" to release her from the sit and she can be allowed to go get the ball. Always release your dog. They will soon learn that they cannot do anything until they hear the "okay" [release command].

Another great thing to add in is a specific spot or location for the dog to go to while you are eating, or for any other time. At my house I use this to keep the dogs out from under the highchair since my 16-month-old feeds the dogs from there and they are easier to train that she is!

You can use a rug, mat or bed or even just an area. My area is the carpet in the bedroom that divides the kitchen and the bedroom. This way they are out of the kitchen and away from the highchair altogether. Teach your dog a command for this, e.g., "get on your bed", and have him go there while you eat and stay until you tell him he is released.

Here is a video of a puppy I was babysitting at my house and I taught her to do this with a bath mat. The video doesn't show me teaching her but the results. So, how did I do it? Watch the video and then see the how-to below.

Find the location where you want the dog to go on command. Let's use the mat to explain this as I did with Strudel in the video.

1) Get a bunch of yummy treats.
2) Lure the dog to the mat with a treat. You can do this by having them literally follow you to the mat because they follow the hand with the treat or by tossing the treat onto the mat.
3) The critical point is this: the very second a paw touches the mat you praise and treat --"Good girl!" [give treat].
4) Repeat.
5) Start to phase out luring to the mat and only stand next to the mat and wait for the dog to go to it. Praise with good timing.
6) When the dog begins to go to the mat in anticipation of a reward then add in your phrase command. Here it was "Get on your mat."
7) Slowly get further and further from the mat.

The key is timing. You have to reward just right and right on time. Don't add the phrase in too soon and don't stop luring or get to far from the mat too soon. It may take longer for each dog.

Need more help or a personal coaching session? Let me know!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jake is home.

Just got Jake home and he acts like he's happy to be here. I think it helped that he was in the hospital a few extra days. He looks awful. He's so skinny, his face is sunken in. He doesn't look like the Jakey I'm used to. All we do now is hope he recovers and has no more adhesions form in his abdomen. He'll have to eat wet/canned food from now on, but that's ok with me. He's resting now and his doggie "brothers" were all happy to greet him.

I want to give another round of applause to Dr. Joanne Franks, at the Dallas Surgical Center in Grapevine (seems more like Southlake but address is Grapevine). She is amazing --kind, sincere, helpful and talented with her skills -- thank you Dr. Franks we ♥ you!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jake: Post Surgery News.

Jake went into surgery this morning around 9am. Dr. Franks called me around 11am. She says whatever is going with him is rare and she can't really explain it. His intestines have scar tissue and adhesions built up in them. It caused them to be gnarled and doing weird things. She removed the scar tissue but doesn't know if it will happen again. She also worked out his intestines to the best of her ability so that food can pass thru better. With all the scar tissue the intestines just couldn't push food thru properly, this is why he was vomiting and losing weight.. He will have to be on an all canned food diet from here on out, watered down to be sure it passes. We can only wait & hope this doesn't happen again, if it does the outcome won't be but one option only . . .

Prayers are needed. He'll be in the hospital for 2 days.

The picture on this post is a professional photo taken by my brother in law, who was at the time, a professional photographer. It looks like a postcard. It's him exactly -- happy, goofy, sweet Jakey.

We have received some wonderful donations already, and we are eternally grateful beyond words. You can click on the ChipIn! button below to donate or you can visit the website here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Story of Jake.

I know the last 2 posts have been about Jake, but I felt like writing a post that gave his story as a whole. . . .

Jake, is our 8-year old yellow Labrador Retriever. I got Jake in 2002, when he was just over a year old, from some clients that couldn't handle him. He was too much dog for them. I got him with the intention of re-homing him to the perfect home. He was a disaster. He stole things, ate my sister's 1st Generation iPod, barked madly in his crate and was an all around pain in the neck. I began training him just because he was going to live with me for a while and why not pedal a well-trained Lab rather than the Lab he was at the time?

After interviewing several prospects I decided he was too sweet and I was getting attached. The following year I had him certified through the Delta Society as a therapy dog. He was absolutely a dream. . . . he still is. He's so calm and laid back that he was accused of being "slow" at an event I him at. He was sweetly lying at my feet under my booth and a girl came up, petted him for quite a while and then looked up at my friend sitting with me, "Excuse me. Is this dog yours?" "No, he's my friend's, why?" "Is he slow or something?" I looked up and said, "Slow? Like Forrest Gump?" She wasn't smiling or laughing, she was quite serious. "Yeah, he just lies here." My friend retorted, "He's just well trained!"

Since then Jake has been a demo dog of mine and used in almost all of my aggression cases as he doesn't flinch at anything and is just an all-around perfect guy. If he was any sweeter he'd be pure sugar.

He's been a very healthy dog and has never been to the vet for any medical reason until last October when I decided to have a bulge on his side looked at. It was determined to be a mast cell tumor, the most common kind of tumor in dogs. The surgery was going to cost more than we had and so I held a fundraiser [online] for him and raised $1000 of the money. It was spectacular to get such a great response and the surgery took place on January 6, 2010. It was successful as was his recovery.

Then the last week in February he began acting funny one day and threw up his breakfast -- all of it -- and then his dinner. Then he began breathing rather heavily and I took him to a veterinary ER that evening. They took x-rays and discovered that his intestines were 3 x their normal size. The vet said it was some sort of obstruction and he'd try to see if he could pass it. With a night of fluids and some meds he still didn't pass it. The next day, February 25, 2010, they had to go in to remove it from his intestines. It was determined to be hardened fecal matter. Odd, but taken care of nonetheless.

He seemed okay but his recovery didn't seem as smooth as his previous one in January. He whined quite a lot and seemed to be in quite a bit more pain. He ate ok as I fed him some homemade boiled hamburger and rice for a couple of days. Then I fed him canned food with some dry food mixed in. I then added more dry and about 6 days after the surgery he threw up his breakfast again. I was really concerned but just kept an eye on him. He threw up dinner that night. I decided he couldn't handle the kibble and proceeded to just feed him canned food only. He seemed fine after that.

Then a few days later he threw up again and I called the vet, Dr. Franks at Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center, who performed his first surgery in January. She was so marvelous then and I felt more comfortable with her. She said to watch him and keep her posted. He was acting normally, and eating normally so I wasn't super concerned yet. A few days later, Tuesday, March 16th he threw up a huge amount of food throughout the day. I called Dr. Franks and she said she should look at him. I dropped him off on Wednesday morning and she said an x-ray showed that something was definitely going on. She wanted an ultrasound to get a better view and had another veterinarian that did sonograms do this. She called me later to tell me that the best way she could describe it is that his intestines are bunched up on one side of his body and that she's not sure what is going on but surgery was really the only way to see what is going on and to fix it.

So here we are, surgery #3 for Jake within a 90 day period. It can't be good for his 8-year old body. Moreover we don't have the money to take care of this surgery. We didn't [don't] have the funds to pay for his second surgery and we still are working out a payment plan with the vet for that. I didn't want to ask for help on his second surgery because I was too embarrassed and so many people were so incredibly gracious about helping with his first surgery, but I have to do another fundraiser now as we have no choice. So for anyone who is willing, able or maybe has ties with Oprah Whinfrey . . . please pass this along! We have received several donations already and we are eternally grateful beyond words. You can click on the ChipIn! button below to donate or you can visit the website here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jake, the Pincushion Dog . . .

Update on Jake. We got the results of the ultra sound and he has to have surgery again. His intestines are bunched up in his abdomen, pushed up to the right side. She says whatever is going on is not common and she's not exactly sure why or how this happened. She said she'd have more answers once she can go inside and take a look. Supposedly if she can fix this he should be good to go (and no more surgeries!) Of course nothing like this can be guaranteed but hopefully we'll have a better perspective once she can see inside Jake and tell us more. He is supposed to go in for surgery on Monday.

I get an estimate tomorrow but I'm certain it will be around the same as the first surgery, which was $1500. We do think that kudos should be given to Dr. Franks at the Dallas Surgical Center in Grapevine. She's been so wonderful. She's caring and considerate and does a great job. (This is not where his 2nd surgery was done, she did his tumor removal in January, his 1st surgery.)

So, we are here, begging and grovelling for help. I cannot fathom any other alternative so I am doing all I can to get him what he needs so he can come home with us. If you'd like to help, "Thank you" wouldn't be enough . . .

Click the "ChipIn!" button below.

Jake Needs Your Help . . . Again.

Well I was against doing this (i.e.,asking for help) for his second surgery as I have some wonderful people in this world that so graciously helped us pay for his first surgery, which removed his tumor. He had that surgery on January 6th of this year. Then on February 25th he had to have a 2nd, unrelated surgery to remove an obstruction. That cost 2 x the amount of the 1st surgery. We still aren't sure how we are going to pay for that.

However to make matters worse he is having complications from the 2nd surgery and he may have to have a 3rd surgery. His colon is being viewed by an ultra sound today. But the likelihood of him having to be re-opened up is quite high. The stress on us financially is more than I can explain. Our options are to get help or find a home that can afford his care. The latter is not an option I care to even somewhat think about. But I can't keep paying for his care, and we pray that if he does have a 3rd surgery it is his last.

I cannot begin to explain the gratitude I have for those who helped us with his 1st surgery and I was too embarrassed to ask once again but now I'm sincerely desperate beyond words. So I'm here asking again for anyone who can graciously donate to help us . . . before I have to do what brings tears rolling fiercely down my cheeks as I type this . . .

Here is a way to help us. Click the "ChipIn!" button below.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Approaching Cujo.

I had this in one of my newsletters back in 2008 and I thought I had posted it on this blog but I couldn't seem to find it in the archives. So . . . it's definitely worth posting again.

Remember when you thought that you should put your hand out and let a dog sniff it before you pet the dog? Oh, I'm sorry were you still thinking that was how you greet a dog? Read on . . .

I see person after person reach out to pet dogs on the head. And even when a dog pulls away and avoids the person, they continue to try and pet him, or worse they try to coddle them and make friends, "It's ok. I'm a dog lover . . . come here . . ." Dogs are social animals and domestication has made them very dependent on us, but that doesn't mean that every dog loves to be patted and pet by strangers any more than we want every stranger on the street to give us a hug and a kiss.

If you really want to impress a new dog and convince him that you are a really great human, follow these basic rules:

RULE #1 - Never approach a dog first. Always let the dog approach you, no matter how friendly it looks. Why? Because this allows the dog to interact with you on his terms, which is going to put you high on his list of cool humans. Many dog owners are amazed at how quickly their shy dog takes to me. The only trick is that I sit back and let the dog decide when and how to interact with me.

RULE #2 - Don't crowd his space. We love dogs so much that we have a tendency to want to get really close when we're close as possible. But imagine meeting a new person and they immediately bent over the top of you, put their hand on your head and brought their face right up to yours. Would you feel at ease with that person?

No reaching over the head. Reaching over their head is intimidating. Dogs much prefer when pets come from underneath, such as a soft rub under the chin or on their cheek.

Stay out of their face. What is it that makes us think that dogs love having a stranger get really close to their face? Do we like it? No! A simple rhyme for children holds just as true for adults: Two feet of space can save your face.

Don't bend over the dog or approach head-on. It is much better to kneel down and turn your body slightly sideways to a dog. You would be amazed at how many dogs turn to mush when you offer them this polite greeting.

Do not offer your hand. The dog will come to you if they want. A hand can be seen as threatening. It is an old myth that letting a dog sniff you is a way to make fast friends.

Letting the dog decide how and when to approach you can make all the difference.

RULE #3 - Don't stick your hand in their face. I know that somewhere along the line the advice was given to present your hand to a dog so they can sniff it. Considering dogs have 250 million scent receptors compared to our 5 million, they can smell your hand just as easily if it remains at your side. Dogs much prefer to sniff our pant legs and, yes, even our groin area much more than our hands, and they certainly can be put off by a hand thrust into their face. This is the equivalent of your friend shoving a carton of milk under your nose and saying, "Does this smell bad?"

RULE #4 - Don't try to convince a shy dog that you are friendly. How many times have you seen a human pursue a shy dog, while repeating "It's okay, don't be shy"? Well-meaning dog lovers have a hard time with this one. Our fragile human egos just can't seem to take it when man's best friend doesn't immediately fall in love with us. The truth is, the more you pursue a shy dog, the more it convinces them that you are scary...and quite rude. Back off and give him a chance to get to know you on his terms.

RULE #5 - Just because he's sniffing you, doesn't mean he wants to be pet. And for that matter, just because a dog doesn't bite you doesn't mean he likes you! Again, let the dog sniff you and then see where he goes from there. Does he sniff you and then back away or does he sniff you and then start with the whole body wiggle?

Dogs who really love to be pet by strange humans don't keep it a secret. They come in very close, lean into you, wiggling their whole body with their tail. Their eyes look "soft" and even a little squinty, and you may just see that sweet little grin.

Finally, if you are the owner of a dog who is shy or just a little reserved with strangers, it is up to you to help him by running interference from over-zealous dog lovers. Don't be afraid to stop people from accosting your dog. The more negative interactions your dog has with people, the closer you get to having a real behavior problem on your hands, shy dogs can turn to fear-aggressive dogs fast. And if they think you are rude for not letting them pet their dog, who cares? You and your dog are just fine without them!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Misty the Dog Trainer.

Misty Roachelle started training under me in 2007 just before I got married. She went through a program that is called Animal Behavior College (ABC) and they pair you with a mentor trainer in the last part of their program to observe classes and get hands-on training.

When she called to tell me I was chosen as her mentor trainer she also said, "I never realized my dog was aggressive to other dogs but I think he is, can you help me with that too?" Lucky is a black Pitbull/Lab/Border Collie/who-knows-what dog that was a bit chunky when I first met him and jumped on me as I entered her home. I did some work with her and Lucky but one day I said to her, "Would you be willing to go down to Austin with me and visit my mentor trainer Lee Mannix and have him evaluate Lucky?" Lee deals with about 5-8 aggression cases per day and is, what I like to believe, is the best aggression guy in the country. He got Misty started on a program and she came back and did her homework like her life depended on it . . . and it did. So did Lucky's.

Not too long after that visit to Austin Lee had his annual Dog Camp and I told Misty she'd be incredibly wise to take Lucky there. She did. Lucky was a mess. He was reactive to all the dogs, he put Misty in tears and he wasn't doing well. She was almost to the point that she wanted to pack up and leave. One of Lee's trainers told her she'll never help her dog if she leaves and she kept on with his training through the weekend-long camp. That was the Fall of 2007.

In the Spring of 2008 Misty and Lucky were at camp again and this time the staff couldn't stop commenting on Lucky. "Oh my gosh, he's like 20-lbs lighter and look, he's not reacting to any of the dogs!" She had visited Austin one more time before camp and continued her homework at home. Lucky was a changed dog, and Misty was on her way to be a great dog trainer!

Misty followed me around to clients and did above and beyond what she had to in order to learn about dog training. She wants to be a full-time dog trainer one day but still feels like she needs more under her belt. She has been doing some in home lessons and group classes as an independent contractor for me since 2008 after she finished her ABC program but has had to keep her full-time job Mon-Fri to make ends meet.

Misty has not only become a dog trainer for me but also a very good friend. We've had a few margaritas together and can sit and talk dogs for hours. She's great. She came to me a few months ago and said, "Well I've decided I think I want to move down to Austin and intern under Lee to really learn hands-on about dog behavior." Misty's single, no kids and just has her one furkid. This is perfect for her. She is moving this weekend to stay for, what she says, one year as an intern and then return back here to help Adventures in Canine Training blossom! We are so excited for her but I will miss her dearly. She's a wonderful person and Lucky couldn't have gotten a better doggie mom.

. . . And last weekend Lucky went to Austin with her while she was wrapping up stuff and he was used with an aggression case as the "Jello Dog", as Lee's staff calls it. The Jello Dog is a dog that is reliable and can be used to evaluate another aggressive dog but should not react and should be sound and well-adjusted. It's a great victory to go from nasty to jello! Way to go Lucky and Misty!

For those who want to keep in touch or send her luck and happy wishes you may email her here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


The two most common complaints I get with puppy owners are 1) puppy biting/nipping and 2) potty training. . . . Sadly, two of the easiest things to get under control in a matter of weeks when done properly. Because of these two issues being so common they are also the most researched topics with the most advice given, which means you will get differing opinions abound.

I'm just going to discuss the nipping/biting/mouthing issue in this post because to date I get more recurring complaints abo
ut this problem more than any other. Here are the facts about it and if carried out as I suggest, this problem will go away quickly.

Below is a list of things you want to do in order to teach your puppy that biting is inappropriate.

When your pup places his teeth on you, whether gently or not-so-gently immediately yell, (very loudly) “OWWWW!”, and then take the puppy and place him in his crate. Do this as calmly as possible. Simply take him to his crate, put him in, shut the door and walk away. You may also toss a blanket or sheet over the crate. (Watch out that puppy doesn't pull the blanket into the crate!)

Teach your pup early on that their teeth should not ever be not hands, feet, clothing. Only play with your dog with a toy in your hand and encourage him to take the toy. Should he redirect his teeth to your hand, or something else inappropriate, end play immediately by doing the yelling and then take puppy to the crate.

Provide lots of good chews and redirect when you can. Also freezing items helps too, including feeding frozen food. You can put yogurt on the food, cover each morsel of kibble, then put it in the freezer. Feed frozen.

Keep puppy occupied with filled Kongs®. I don't mean peanut butter or biscuits but actually filling this with the puppy's meal and feeding it that way. Here are a few Kong® Recipes. Also try the new Kong® Wobbler.
  • Mix plain yogurt, bananas, chopped apples & dog kibble. Stir together. Place in the Kong. Freeze & serve.
  • Plug the small hole of the Kong with cheese. Then fill with white rice, chicken broth & dog kibble. Freeze & serve.
  • Mix a can of Merrick's Working Dog Stew with finely chopped green beans. Fill Kong with mix. Cap it off with cream cheese. Freeze & serve.
  • Mash up a banana (or a raw egg), frozen blueberries & mix in dog kibble. Stir together. Fill Kong with mix. Freeze & serve.
  • Plug the small hole of the Kong with cream cheese. Now pour chicken broth in about half way. Drop a few pieces of kibble, peas, carrots, & shredded cheese into the broth. Freeze & serve.

The key is keeping the puppy mentally stimulated but not to over-stimulate. Keep puppy's teeth on appropriate objects and get some training started ASAP if you haven't had some already! Every puppy needs training, don't delay!