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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quiet Week

Ken and the girls are gone this week at their annual camping trip at the Alive Christian Music Festival so I figured it would be good to have a specific training goal for the puppies.  We spent the week working on nice manners in the pop-up puppy playyard and stays.  Hence a quiet week.  We will be trying our new manners next weekend at the Canine Coaches C-WAGS/APDT trial in Ann Arbor.  I'm not judging, so I'm hoping I will have lots of time to work with them.

Heading out today to meet up with Ken and the girls.  I am so excited to see Kris Allen and Toby Mac tonight!  It's been a long time since I was at a concert!!!  I hope I haven't gotten too old!!!

Enjoy the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop!!! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Puppy is Wonderful...

...we don't need training classes!!!  Oh, how this statement gets me going.  I am not really an "in-your-face" trainer -- when you need me, I'm there for you with advice, classes, information, support.  But I am not out stopping people while their dogs are pulling them down the street and handing them my business card.  Just not my style.

But I KNOW, without a doubt, how important puppy classes are for ALL puppies!!!  The socialization, the opportunities, the experience, the one-on-one time, the support system.  So many reasons to take puppies to puppy classes and yet, most people don't do it.  They see their compliant, easy-going, smart puppy and they decide that puppy classes are not necessary.  Then they wake up and they have an adolescent puppy -- chewing, biting, pottying in the house, barking, acting stupid, teenaged, almost full-grown adolescent puppy.  What happened?!?!?  They are growing up.  That's all.  They are growing up.  But we have missed a chance to lay a really firm foundation and have nothing to fall back on when this crazed adolescent time creeps up on us.

When we get a dog, it comes with a commitment to the dog's well-being for the rest of his/her life.  Training is part of that well-being.  If I choose not to train, so many things can and will happen that will diminish not only the quality of my dog's life, but could actually shorten his/her life.  If my dog doesn't know not to bolt out the front door when it opens, then one day he is going to do just that and end up hit by a car.  But if I had trained him as a puppy to wait at doors, this is not a problem.  If my dog doesn't know a "leave it" cue and I drop a prescription medication all over the floor, she may ingest a dangerous, potentially toxic and lethal substance.  But if my dog started learning "leave it" when she was a puppy, I will have a dog that backs away and lets me clean up my mess without interference.

I have heard the average age of dogs in rescue is 10 -- 24 months old -- rock solid teenagers.  They are not so little and cute and compliant and end up in rescue because their families can't handle them anymore.  If more people realized the value of puppy training and classes, maybe we could reduce the number of dogs in rescue...definitely food for thought.

I had a dog come to our basic class a few years ago.  This dog was nuts!!!  She was a year old and the family had heard you don't start to train a dog until they are at least one.  So, here they were.  So many issues, so many obstacles, and so much training to do.  This dog had never had any boundaries set for her in her entire life!  It took over a year of various classes, but she's doing okay now.  She still has her moments and she still is very wary of other dogs, but she has come a long way and has become the dog they wanted in the first place.  Puppy training would have changed things for this family.

If you know someone with a puppy, encourage them to find a positive reinforcement trainer and take puppy classes!!!  Tell them it's a good thing to share their wonderful puppy and to take classes.  You just might save a puppy's life.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Service Animals

I really love to take my dogs places!!!  It's fun for us and great for socializing our young dogs.  But we can't and don't take them everywhere.  That is a privilege reserved for service dogs and they work hard to earn that privilege.

Or they should work hard to earn that privilege.  I get comments all the time from people that they have this really good dog they like to be with, so they are going to just tell people their dog is a service dog.  Poof!  A wave of their magic wand and they have a service dog!  Or they take it to the next level and buy a service dog vest or ID for their dog and take the dog everywhere with them.  No work involved.  No regard for people who truly need service dogs.

Unfortunately, sometimes service dogs are denied access and that's perfectly legal.  Many times they are denied access because of a previous bad experience with a dog or other service animal in that particular place.  I can't blame them.  If someone brings their "service dog" into a restaurant for example, and the "service dog" table surfs someone's steak and lobster dinner off the table, that is not setting anyone up for success!!!  And it happens!!!

I am so thankful for what service dogs can do for people!!!  But if people are going to go to the effort to have a service dog, train, train, train your service dog.  Set high expectations and require both the handler and the dog to attain them.  Set the example of good and wonderful behavior, not the example of why businesses should not allow service dog access.

And if you don't have a diagnosed disability, don't pass off your dog as a service dog.  It's not honest and it's not fair.  Use great websites like to find places that allow your dog to come with you.

From the ADA, effective March 15, 2011: 

"Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition."

The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chapter 8 -- Training Adventures

Now that all the puppies are in their forever homes, it's time to focus on the puppies that we kept.  Elphie and Dolly love the clicker, like to play with each other, and are quick to pick up on things.  They both are a little reluctant to do a lot of "offering" behaviors -- experimenting to see what will get us to click and treat them.  I think this is our fault.  I am a big proponent of teaching attention and focus and I think these two puppies are so good at paying attention to us that they are not trying to do other things to get the click/treat.  They also love people and other dogs so much (again, a factor of us -- we worked so hard at socializing them when they were younger), they don't necessarily love toys.  Meagan really wants to try flyball with Elphie and Dolly is really good at scent discrimination, so playing with toys would be a good thing to have in our training "toolbox."

And so, to try and see what we can do to provide a more well-rounded education for our puppies, we are taking PreSports class and a Tricks class at Fortunate Fido in the Cleveland area.  We have known Ginger (the owner) for a long time through trials and we had the instructor, Susanna, for our puppy class we took when the puppies were little.  It is definitely a win-win situation!  (If only we didn't have to drive an hour and a half each way for class!)

We are building foundation behaviors like stay/wait, retrieve, take it, leave it, come, targeting, different obstacles -- and also building a bond with our puppies.  The puppies are learning to work around each other and also other people and dogs.  They are also learning to offer behaviors (yay! a goal in taking these classes).  They are not so interested in toys in class, but we are continuing to work on that.

Classes are almost over and I am going to be so sad to see them end!  They are so much fun for all of us.  This week our homework is to work on a trick to share with the class next week.  Elphie is working on pushing an "easy button" and Dolly is working on pushing a child's shopping cart.  Very fun!  For PreSports, the goal is to get the girls excited and pumped with their puppies!  Maybe because they are teenagers in a class of adults, they are very quiet and don't get overly excited with their puppies -- Susanna really wants them to work on that.  Maybe I should "sugar" up the girls before we go to class next week?!?!?  (Just kidding Susanna -- I wouldn't do that to you or the class!)

Elphie getting focused and ready for class to start.

Dolly giving Ken the "I'm Ready to Roll" stare down.

Elphie working on the ladder -- this helps dogs better understand their whole body (hey!  I have back legs!)

What's next? (Dolly)

Elphie working on Peek-A-Boo.

Peek-A-Boo Dolly!