Don’t Shoot the Trainer – words from me to you

Excellent words of wisdom for every dog owner.

Nancy Tanner

I think honesty and keeping expectations in check are super important with everything we do.

For example, you’re not going to go from being a couch potato to a Mt. Everest Climber in a day or a week. Period. Time, experience, gaining knowledge, mental and physical conditioning, and a new outlook count for a lot.

So let me get down to it.

The difference between a Master and a Beginner is that the Master has failed more times than the Beginner has even tried ~ anonymous

1. I am a Trainer. This means that I coach people and teach dogs, and in reality a professional observer. My job with people is not to make a new Handler ‘be me’ but rather to encourage them to be the best trainer they can be to their dog. My job with dogs is to show them how awesome learning can be from a human…

View original post 2,134 more words

Advertisements

Trail Magic for PCT Through Hikers

Tashi with PCT hikers

Tashi & PCT Hikers at The Town Baker

2015-05-06 09.05.09

Yukon waiting for hikers on the PCT

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is 2,650 miles long and usually takes hikers about 5 months to complete it.  Northbound hikers usually start in mid-April to early May while southbound hikers start in late June through early July.  The failure rate is high, about 50% will not complete the journey.  For those who do it is an incredible achievement with a lifetime full of memories.

May 6th, 2015 I was hiking in Wrightwood, CA with my hiking body Yukon (Shepherd Mix).  Yukon is a rescue who came from the streets where we are pretty sure he had no contact with humans, to the shelter at about one year of age, to a rescue and then to me.  When I first met him he would not come to me, he was terrified.  He refused to even walk on a leash and all my dreams of him being a hiking dog seemed to disappear.  A year later with positive training and lots of controlled socialization he has become my hiking buddy.  He gets so excited when I start putting my hiking shoes on, and if I put them on in my closet he whines at the door convinced that I might go up through the attic and escape without taking him. When it comes to attention from people he is still outside of his comfort zone when they first approach but allows people to pet him and talk to him.  Afterwards he has to pull on the leash for about 30 seconds to shake off all of the adrenaline rush he gets and then he fall back beside me.  I always watch his body language during greetings and do what is best for him.  I have him continue greetings because I never want him to become fear aggressive and he does actually like people, especially if they have treats but because of his past he is always wary.

On our hike we encountered 25+ through hikers including a hiker that we gave a ride too heading into town for food and supplies.  Yukon was the highlight for the hikers.  Many stopped and asked if they could pet him saying how much they missed their own pets at home. The hiker who hitched a ride with us scratched Yukon’s head on the ride, he was so tired from our 8 mile hike that he appeared to love the head scratching.  I have another friend that lives in the town of Idyllwild, CA which is also a haven for through hikers complete with The Town Baker that is owned and operated by former through hikers who moved to Idyllwild and started the café after completion of the PCT.  Tashi’s mom meets hikers at the post office where they pick up supplies or at the The Town Baker with her dog Tashi. Many of the hiker want to pet her missing their pets back home.  It is so heartwarming that dogs can be a part of the PCT through hikers trail magic.

Do you have a dog that loves to hike and is sociable with people? You could take them on the trails or into the towns to meet the PCT thru hikers from April through about September.  This is such a great service for both the people and the dogs.  Perhaps the PCT therapy dog team will be a future endeavor.

Good luck to all of the through hikers and enjoy the journey.

To Be A Dog!

Dogs

Ever wonder what your dog hears, smells or see?  Ever wonder why they do a certain behavior? For example when it is windy our Coonhound races around the yard with his nose in the air in pure bliss.  Often times the other dogs follow him around and appear to be looking at him as if he is crazy.  My in-law’s dog Shasta will get up on her back two legs on trails and look around.  Some dogs at dog parks will ignore all of the dogs and enjoy the company of the people.  My dog Yukon allows people to pet him but by his body language I can tell that this places him outside of his comfort zone so after he has been given attention he pulls in front of me for about 30 seconds as if to shake off the nervousness or dispel the adrenaline. (I allow controlled attention because I never want him to become fear aggressive) Our husky steals random things out of the garage such as nails and sandpaper.  I had a dog who used to have to stick his nose down every hole on walks, a habit I had to break because I just knew one time he was going to come up with a snake attached.  Our Coonhound enjoys playing dog with my husband but only my husband.  Dogs are such fascinating creatures.

So next time you are out and about or sitting in the yard with your dog watch them closely and see what you notice.  When you are out you can also get down on their level and see what they see and hear what they hear. You will be surprised.  Unfortunately, we will never be able to smell like they do so we will just have to imagine what wonderful things they smell when the wind is blowing and they have their noses towards the sky.

Keeping Children Safe Around Dogs

2015-05-05 10.05.39

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog. Seventy nine percent of fatal dog attacks are on children. Over eighty seven percent of dog bite fatalities involving children occurred when the child was left unsupervised with a dog or the child wandered off to the location of the dog.  Even small breeds such as Dachshunds and Pomeranians have attacked children resulting in fatalities.

Scary statistics so let’s get real!  Often times as a canine behaviorist my private sessions with clients and dogs take place in public places.  If a dog is aggressive every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the public through the use of a muzzle. This last weekend I was working with a German Shepherd with fear aggression issues at a public location.  Despite the fact that the dog was muzzled I had parents allowing children to approach the dog.  One was a crawling infant and the parents kept bringing the child closer and closer to crawl to the dog while we moved further and further away.  We had to tell them that the dog was not friendly and to please stop approaching us.  Then we had two little boys start to approach the dog while the mother watched.  Again, we backed up waiting for the mother to respond but to no avail.  She had to be told to stop allowing her children to pursue the dog.  The dog was wearing a highly visible muzzle, and yet the parents were allowing their children to pursue the dog.  It was mind boggling.

I have also done sessions with dogs that have never been exposed to children so they are wary of them.  This is not uncommon since many dogs are wary of infants and toddlers because they move quickly and are unpredictable and frankly they smell like food.  So you can have the friendliest dog in the world approached by a toddler and have the dog react defensively which could result in a bite.

The picture above shows my 4 year old with our dog and I took this picture to show where the mouth of a large dog comes when a toddler approaches a dog.   I don’t know about you but I don’t want my toddler approaching a dog no matter how friendly the owner says the dog is when my toddler’s face is right at bite level.

Teach your children to respect dogs and give them space. Teach your children not to corner dogs or pursue dogs.  Have them admire them from a distance.  My toddler knows most of the breeds now due to my profession and we enjoy sitting at the park watching the dogs go by as we identify them.  She loves dogs and has a healthy appreciation for them.  I know too many adults who were bitten as children by dogs and never recovered emotionally.  A dog bite to a child is deadly to the dog and if not deadly to the child will leave deep emotional scars for the rest of their life.  Please keep kids safe by teaching them to keep safe boundaries when it comes to all dogs. Together we can reduce dog bite statistics.

Snake Aversion Training WITH Shock

1424503908_11001881_855806414457687_6643357249428836949_n

I have been a loyal subscriber to The Whole Dog Journal since 2012.  Usually the articles that they print are well researched and contain great information.  Unfortunately, I was alarmed and disappointed by the article “Snake Aversion Without Shock” in the May 2015 issue. The article states how dead snakes, remote controlled snakes and snakes that are not rattlers can all be used to train your dog to avoid snakes by allowing the dog to make a choice.  I believe that the editor Nancy Kerns allowed her personal preferences to come into play with allowing this article instead of relying on the science of how dogs think and learn.  As one of my clients put it so eloquently “While humans might have a chance at taking this kind of conceptual training into the real world, dogs have so much more sensory  awareness and are wired for input for what is real, not representational.  Silly humans.”

I am a positive reinforcement trainer.  I am clicker savvy and strongly believe that in order to train our dogs we need to connect with our dogs.  We also need to understand dog body language and how dogs think and learn.  When it comes to basic obedience commands, if we communicate clearly with our dogs, understand and are aware of the distractions around us and work with those our dogs will respond to us.  I do not recommend the use of choke collars, pinch collars or shock collars for basic commands or common behavioral issues.  My only exception is when the situation could result in death to the dog and then the dog should not have the option to make the choice.  Dogs do what works and they follow instinct. If you train a dog utilizing a dead rattler with a shock collar your dog will avoid dead rattlers but the first time they see a real rattler they will engage with it.  If you teach them to leave a Python alone utilizing a shock collar they will but since rattlers smell different they will engage the rattler.  And a remote controlled snake, well let’s just say our dogs are much smarter than that!  Erik of Natural Solutions Rattlesnake Aversion Training in Southern California states “the use of non-venomous or fake snakes as “stand-ins,” is only marginally effective at best.”

The article also discussed dogs that attack rattlesnakes instead of avoiding them following shock training.  Yes, unfortunately this can occur as a result of trainers who shock dogs at the highest level instead of taking into account the needs of each individual dog and starting at a low level shock.  Again quoting Erik of Natural Solutions “* I would also like to note that all dogs “choose” the level of intensity used with the collar during our training. The level is slowly increased until the dog responds, and under most conditions will not be elevated beyond that intensity. Good timing is far more important than a strong level of correction. We do not believe in “shutting dogs down,” but instead believe in working within the dog’s individual needs.” Therefore, selecting a trainer that is knowledgeable and humane is essential to ensure that your dog is trained to avoid rattlesnakes.  Trainers are not regulated so do your homework, this is your beloved dog make sure that you hire a trainer who is qualified and humane.

Dogs should have choices in life however playing with a rattlesnake should not be one of them.  If  a rattlesnake is encountered I want my dogs to bolt away as quickly as possible and not stop to consider their options.  The only way to ensure their safety in my professional opinion is through training with a humane qualified trainer who uses shock collars and live rattlesnakes that are humanely muzzled and native to your area.

Know the Signs of Heat Stroke!

82db761d-2402-49b8-b257-2134fdaf941d

It is getting warm out there and soon it will just be HOT!  Remember our dogs are prone to heatstroke and it is your job to know the signs and get them the help they need immediately.  Also, keep in mind that when we walk on the pavement we have shoes on and our dogs do not.  Check the pavement if it is too hot for your hand it is too hot for your dog.  Keep them safe and healthy this Summer and seek veterinary attention immediately if your dog shows any of these signs.

  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
  • Increased body temperature – above 103° F (39° C)
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Sudden (acute) kidney failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
  • Blood-clotting disorder(s)
  • Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Generalized (systemic) inflammatory response syndrome
  • Disease characterized by the breakdown of red-muscle tissue
  • Death of liver cells
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, incoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened

Meet & Greets

aac1b6e0-e774-4cd2-8315-b109136d7e2e

If you have been following my blogs, newsletters and facebook page you know that one of the biggest training issues I work with is leash reactivity with dogs.  In order to try and prevent this issue on my end as a trainer I have introduced controlled meet and greets into my Basic Obedience classes.  These meet and greets primarily help my clients to read and understand canine body language.  They also build confidence in the owners and confidence in the dogs so we have win-win situation when it comes to the real world.  I always control the approaching dog and the meet and greet is very controlled and safe at all times.  After I go over the body language of each dog with all of my class.  In this way I am doing my part to create a better world for our dogs.

I always remind clients to keep in mind that not all dogs will like each other and as humans we cannot get upset at them for that unless we can honestly say that we like all people.  So respect yours dogs boundaries and keep everyone safe.

A few weeks ago in class I did a meet and greet with a leash reactive dog that I have been working with privately.  He did okay when he was paired with the puppies in the class.  Next he was paired with a teenage dog and this was one of those time I wish I had, had a video camera rolling.  Frankie was the reactive dog and he went up to Max and stopped and sniffed clearly saying I’m not going any closer to you.  Max who is usually exuberant for meet and greets stayed back and gave Frankie his space.  Then Frankie looked at me and said I’m done.  No growls, no lunging just two dogs having a conversation and the humans understanding and letting the dog go their separate ways.  It was amazing and reminded me why I love this job so much.

Come on out and join us on Wednesday nights for ourbasic class and learn all about dog body language.  Together we can and will make all dogs feel secure by giving each individual dog what they need.