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Saturday, September 15 2012

Its a crying shame

Well I have to say that today at the dog park it was okay in the morning but this afternoon the weather was appalling. More rain more cold and more.....

Almost every week in my classes, someone bursts into tears. Most of my Dog Owners/Trainers are female but sometimes it even gets too much for the boys.

Today was no exception.

I think it would be fair to say that when people adopt a dog into their family, it is like adopting a child. If this baby comes from a very tough background and has a bunch of troubles it brings with it, or if the owner has difficulties controlling, putting in place toilet things, in a busy household where there are human children and husband/wife/partner and home things, then the extra stresses can be extremely difficult to bear.

One of my special handlers said to me last week 'I just get so mad when she rushes at the door I yell..'

Yep you bet you do. In the lives we live in the western world, we have expectations of perfection with very few reality checks. Like it would be wise to say to the whole household 'When we get this puppy - things are going to be messy for a while' like what? You will walk into the bathroom and a big poo will be on the bath mat. I would tell my family ' Do not scream at me or the puppy', 'get some toilet paper and pick it up and put the whole lot down the toilet'. Or make proper plans and give the puppy a crate, dog kennel and run or other sensible alternative to stop this being a problem.

A lot of dogs come into families unplanned and unprepared, and it isn't going to be an issue, however it does become an issue and the puppy, or dog gets the blame and stress builds in the household and tears are shed. Children get nipped by the pup, cats disappear forever to avoid the issue and life becomes very dominated by dog needs. Even when the whole family doesn't actually know what the dog's needs are.

So sometimes when people come to class with their puppy or dog, they are at the end of their tether, the whole dog ownership thing has rather become a burden and the joys of owning a loving dog are eclipsed by the enormous financial damage the dog has done to the family and the emotional damage which has caused family members to become upset with each other.

So when we start to train, the handlers are stiff, uptight, and really unhappy. Then the dog does something great and works for them and ignores all the distractions, and they see their dog doing this and they cry. Or worse as happened today, a girl GSD ran into the face of a boy GSD who was on leash with his owner and he retaliated and sent her on her way. The owner of the boy GSD was so concerned her lovely pet, who had never shown any aggression to her tiny pet dogs at home had growled and lurched, she burst into tears. The handler of the girl GSD had pushed her dog into the face of the boy, I asked her to drop the lead and walk away and she did and her girl dog turned and went with her. Everybody in the class wanted to know if this was normal behavior for dogs. The answer of course is 'yes'. There was no connection between the two dogs, they grizzled at each other and it didn't look good. Boy GSD was defending his owner, and that is okay, girl GSD was the aggressor and within 10seconds had changed her mind, especially as she didn't have the support of her owner who had walked away, as asked.

It is quite hard to explain to people that their dog may not always accept every dog or human being plonked in it's face, and it may be wiser to slow down the socialisation process until the dogs have sucked up a bit of perfume from the other dogs and people around it. In other words try to keep introductions low key, don't push your dog into the face of other dogs or people, you might bite off more than you can chew , but unfortunately the dog will probably bite exactly what it wants to chew and you will be left feeling that your dog is an aggressive and difficult individual. This probably isn't the case.

Get good training people, don't get all emotional about your dog, it is not a human being. Rationalise and work with your dog and you will be amazed at the great pay back. On the other hand, it will not say 'I love you Mama'. so don't expect it to act like a human being.

Is dog training hard, yes it can be, but it is only if you make it that way. Carry on with your life and tie the dog up when you need to, shut it in it's crate when you need to, put it in it's run when you need to, and don't say, 'gee I am sorry dog I think I am failing you'. Get out and do the exercise stuff, join a dog club and give your dog the hour or two a day that you can afford, it will be just fine.

I think the really committed people in our communities are lovingly overdoing it, and those who are born abusers are doing dreadful things, but somewhere there is a middle line of respect and expectation and that is what I try to bring to all the dog training I do.

Try not to cry, but if you do I am happy to give you a cuddle and tell you all will be well, and boy do I get some good cuddles.

Raewyn Saville 14-9-12

Thursday, September 13 2012

Social Agility this morning at the Dog Park

Thursday morning is our normal social agility morning for beginners. Starts at 9.30 when we set up and finishes around 11a.m. when Georgie usually comes with Molly for Flyball training, and sometimes joins in the last of social agility and sometimes the social agility people stay over and train with Molly.

We had Rose and Miska, Helen and Jett and Vilna and Buttons this morning. Control went quite well and we are working steadily away at Miska's lack of attention to class, Rose and just about everything, Jett's over distraction about anything that moves 'over there' rather than concentration on what is happening 'here'. Plus Jett has discovered that she can scare the living daylights out of people with her bark, it is sudden it is loud and it is focussed on the person in front of her. Buttons is normally easily distracted but in fact it is just air-headedness with him, no malice intended, he simply doesn't want to know what is happening with his handler. So we really pushed the dogs to obey even the smallest command during our 'control' session today, and we insisted on better heel work and better sit stays and better recalls to a sit and better send away recalls. If they put a bend in their recalls we made sure they straightened them out, and it worked and everyone felt better about the amount of control they had at the end of the session, so then we had a nice cup of tea,coffee and Chris arrived with left over biscuits from the weekend's tournament.

These are no ordinary biscuits they are made by club member Gloria (who trains Bear and Teddy) and they are absolutely delicious, and everyone there this morning who mostly don't know Gloria, agree that her biscuits, both the chocolate chip and the shortbread are mouth watering. No wonder my waistline is hard to control. Anyway the dogs had a wander and a play and we had bikkies and coffee and then went back to work on a bit of straight course work which we did on lead in a heelwork fashion something akin to Rally-O and this was just wonderful. Working the dogs on a loose lead over and through really made handlers think, we got some great rounds out of all of them and Chris did Boston as well and he loved it and was spotless in his work. This is feelgood work, work that always succeeds, it is great for dogs and handlers to feel a sense of success instead of always feeling that they are struggling. Dog Handling and Training can be so hard and, on occasion, lacking in short term reward. Long term benefits are fine but we all need to feel heartened that our dogs are achieving on a day by day basis. Nothing is harder than to say to a handler, ' Keep at it and in about twelve months he will be doing everything you want'. I usually do say words like this though and my trainees say to me ' Its been fourteen months now - what do you think' and of course they have made it, they are functioning in the sport of their choice with their dog and things are definitely coming together. That makes me feel just great. The new handlers have stuck at it through the hard times, they have learned amazing amounts about their dog and how to get it to be compliant with the rules they have laid down. It is not what I want for the dogs that counts, it is what the handler/owner wants to achieve that is important, and it is my job to get them to where they want to be.

Chris is now competing in New Zealand Flygility, Kennel Club Agility and NALA with her two dogs Bootz, who is a fluffy micro companion breed and Boston who is a maxi farmdog breed. She thought it would be quicker but twelve months on it has come together for her and we are still at it putting the final touches to her weaving with both dogs and generally encouraging her to succeed. Chris' new world of dog training is very exciting for her and that is so good for my soul. For every Chris I get through twelve months training there will be ten or twelve who fall by the wayside. Nobody realises the time we need to put in to make it succeed and how much energy it takes to train dogs, even if you just want to walk with them on lead under any circumstances in any place, like on city streets or in the country paddocks where there are horses and sheep, it all takes training and time and energy.

There is also a reality check needed for parents who want their child to do agility with the family dog. Unless they are very small, most dogs are too much for children under the age of 14. Getting the family pet to concentrate long enough, and the child to concentrate as well to get a working bond going is very hard. Late this afternoon I had Logan aged 9 years and his dog Sheshah again, but I think it will be the last time. They are a great team but Sheshah is so big and pulls Logan over all the time and it makes him cry. He loves his dog and he has the capability to train a dog and the concentration, but when she sees something and wants to go she just goes and it breaks his heart. I know if we keep going that this partnership can come together but I really don't think Logan can see that far ahead, so I suggested to his Nanny today that he think about whether he wants to continue.

Controlling the dog around other dogs is a big enough nightmare for adults, but for children it is all but impossible most of the time. However, it has been just delightful to be with Logan over the last couple of months and reminds me how much children are really just smaller versions of adults with their own decision making capabilities and budding traits that will carry them through their lives. No matter what he does, this young man will go far. He is a great sportsman and a sensitive loving human being. You go Logan.

So ends another day of dog training, must mention though that Fae the Fat Fairy seems to have given up toileting in the house. Marvellous it only took 10 months. Eight of them spent here. Piddles have been an outdoor event for about three months now, but poo has taken longer and could be found in corners and under tables and various other spots. But for the last week we have not been able to find one in the house. Fae has learned about the Dog Door now and loves sitting inside batting it with one foot or sitting outside hitting it with her head, but it does allow her to go outside whenever she desires and she has a couple of spots, one on the concrete driveway and the other on a patch of grass right beside the office door, that have become the best place, even in the rain, to do the necessary. Thank goodness for that. Please don't let me get another puppy for another five or six years, I am so exhausted by puppy training over the last two years, that I really want just sensible adult dogs who know how to do stuff properly for a while. Someone please remind me of that the next time I get tempted,,,, please. :-)

Thursday, August 23 2012

Sorting Home Problems for Dogs Part 3

Bring your new puppy into your life during your annual holidays, if you work.

Make sure you have two weeks to settle puppy into your home. If you picked puppy up at 8 weeks old then the next two weeks are the equivalent of one quarter of his life. If you stick to a schedule during those two weeks, feeding, playing, toilet time, bed time, pretty much at the same hours, then your new puppy will settle into his new life really quickly.

Do not be tempted to take it walkies or even much car riding, except to the vet to get his shots, keep life as simple as possible.

Hand feed your puppy. Sit down by his bowl and put your hand in there and help him to eat. Your hand will be like another puppy's head and he will feel comforted by that.

Give your puppy a harmless (i.e. check the stuffing and eyes of the thing) soft toy to play with and sleep with. Preferably something a bit bigger than him that he can nestle into, chew on and pull. Second hand stores and Op Shops have wonderful pre-loved toys looking for puppy homes, very cheaply.

Play with your puppy. My best game is a piece of old sheet about 50cm long tied in the middle with a soft cord which gives me a one meter long handle. Flanalette sheet is best. I pull it along the floor slowly and then jerk it. When puppy pounces I let him land on it and still it. Then when he lets it go I pull it along the floor some more. Eventually I can pull it along the floor with him diving on it like a cat chasing a toy, - same action. I can then start to raise it off the ground a bit and let it drop. I can run along dragging the toy and he follows me and jumps on it.

Words of caution, when he grabs the toy in his mouth DO NOT pull him along with it by his mouth, We are not attempting to lift him off the ground or do any stupid things, we just want him to follow it and jump on it and have a chew at it. You can flick it over his head so he spins around to grab it. At 10 weeks I find about 15minutes in two lots of play per day is sufficient. Do not do it to death. Roll a nice big ball for dog as well. A nice soft ball that he cannot fit in his mouth is good. Small balls, marbles and other round objects should be moved right off the property.

Which incidentally brings me to the statement that prior to getting a puppy, walk around the quarters he will be living in, sleeping in, playing in and make sure there are not dangerous bits and bobs in those places. Like what? Easily accessed electrical cords, protruding nails. Heaps of old garden bricks precariously ready to fall down, old toys in sandpits small metal trucks, bits of plastic toys. Things that can fall, cut, or lodge in throats.

When puppy is twelve weeks and living happily in his crate and playing happily with you, the family cat, other family dogs etc, put his puppy collar on in the mornings and take it off at night. I quite like cat collars for first collars as they have an elastic inset which makes it safer than a tight dog collar. Of course if you have a Mastiff Breed puppy then a cat collar will be out of the question size wise and you will need to use a fairly large collar, but get a really soft collar and as wide as possible for the big breeds. Have a spare bit of that cord we were talking about with the sheet above. About half a meter to a meter long depending on the size of your breed. This type of cord is available from craft shops and comes in various colours. It is quite tough and very soft, doesn't chew through easily and bits don't fall off it. Anyway, when you are with your twelve week old, playing, feeding etc, tie the piece of string to the collar and let it trail behind, as he passes by you just stand on it and bring him to a halt. Puppy will turn and look up at you, make eye contact and say 'Good Dog Fido' and if you have treat food with you, give him a tiny treat. You can do this three or four times a day. You can also pick up the piece of cord and give it a bit of a light tug, again he will spin round and look up and you will repeat 'Good Dog Fido' and treat him if possible. After a few days this will be totally natural behaviour and when you put a leash on that puppy there will be no trauma or drama , it will be part of his life.

By the time your gorgeous puppy is 16 weeks and fully vaccinated, he will be on a light lead, he will be making eye contact with you when you say 'Good Dog Fido', he will be playing vigourously with you and able to entertain himself with his ball and soft toy, he is happy with all people , nobody has shouted, or yelled at him or beaten him with a newspaper etc. He will trot outside and look for piddle spots, but sometimes still have accidents. He will travel in his crate in the car, sleep happily all night in his crate in the house. Walk a little way up the road and back, happy on his lead, and is ready for his first training school.

Take your puppy to a Dog Training School for one hour a week or one hour twice a week if possible. Do not go to puppy training with the view that you want to raise a genius, just relax and let your puppy socialise, follow the trainer's instructions. Take your toy pull along thing to puppy class, feed your dog treat food at puppy class and generally let your dog take in the atmosphere. If you and your puppy do not get the hang of sit stays and come to me, don't get hung up about it. If your dog is pulling on the lead to get in the door/gate to the class after going for a couple of weeks, you have done exactly as necessary. From 16 weeks to 25 weeks mucking about in the company of other dogs, in another place and maybe learning a very short sit stay, and able to chase his toy in company and still make eye contact with you when all around is the bedlam of other puppies is awesome.

Some of the reasons that puppies grow into snarly dogs at other dogs, is mishandling at puppy school by their handler, a rushed, stressed owner/handler is the worst enemy of puppy training. Go to puppy training in your oldest gardening clothes. If you bleed from accidental nipping, go the whole hog and wear your garden gloves as well. Sit on the ground/floor with your puppy and allow other pups to come up to him. Do not restrain him, snatch him away or lift him off the ground away from other dogs. Let him loose(in a suitable space of course), to make friends with the other puppies.

Now generally I like puppy schools where the toys and minis are separate from the big dogs and giants at the start. This avoids the owner/handler of small dogs going into major panic as a masterful looking chocky lab pup ambles over to her tiny maltese. The panic that the owner/handler feels then goes straight to the heart of the little dog who becomes fearful and snappy, while the chocky lab looks on bewildered at the little fella and takes an instant dislike to small white fluffy dogs, which may(pardon the pun) dog the chocky for the rest of his days as well.

Not all socialisation is good socialisation. If a puppy is exhibiting terror at puppy class on the first day, then some damage with other dogs has already happened somewhere. Remove the dog from the class group. Give the handler a chair about ten meters away and just let them sit there doing their own thing for the whole hour. Week by week move the terrorised puppy closer. If it means that that is inch by inch then so be it. If ten meters is not far enough then move it further away. At the end of your ten week? sometimes puppy training classes, as a trainer I would ask that owner/handler to come to the next set of classes absolutely for free. This owner/handler dog combination is the one that needs your help the most. I guarantee that puppy will excel in the next session. But always make sure he is the first one in the space - get the owner to come ten minutes early and let him get a handle on the venue. There should be no more problems.

However, I have digressed. If I have separated big dogs from small dogs, say big dogs on Mondays and small dogs on Tuesdays or whatever, I would , after two weeks, ask my most boisterous small dogs to come to the big dog class and my most timid big dogs to come to the small dog class. Again with the change in sizes and the time and/or day of lessons, I would keep the visitors on the outside of the class circle and slowly integrate them into the full working session. Sometimes this is quick, sometimes not, but the good thing is it is reverseable, if it doesn't work out you can pop them back into their original classes. My vision would be that at the end of ten weeks the two classes are one. But then there might be that one or two who need another ten weeks to really get it right. The reasons can be, the inability of owners to get to every class or the odd puppy with over exuberance or panic problems. The very odd new team need some one on one and a bit of extra guidance.

So here we are at the stage where we have a happy,playful pup who is 24,25 weeks who likes everybody and gets on with all dogs, is able to sit and stay a bit, lie on his mat on command and come when he is called.

So we are ready for the next step in entertainment of our new dog. Walkies........

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