One Year of Blogging!

My plans were to celebrate my first year of blogging with a few meaningful posts… but circumstances as they are, it’ll have to be postponed… so… instead I’m going to repost my VERY FIRST blog post!  Enjoy!  Thank you all SO much for the support this last year–it’s been amazing!  And thank you all for your personal support and well wishes during this difficult time.


Posted 12/16/10…. Pushing Boundaries

It isn’t until we push the boundaries that we find out just exactly how far we have come.

Days like today absolutely force me to take notice to the amazing 180 turnaround Shayne has achieved over the last 4 years.  It has been a labor of love to build up the confidence in my once fearful, timid, and food aggressive pound puppy.

This weekend, Shayne absolutely blew me away with her doggie socialization–or her version of doggie socialization–TWICE.

Saturday, we met up with a friend of mine and her two to dogs to go for a nice walk/hike in the snowy woods–one pup is a great dane/gsd mix and the other an aussie/spaniel.  Shayne had never met either dog before (nor had I) and new dog ‘meetings’ are historically tense and precarious–these iffy reactions are more likely if the other dogs are insecure as well.  I’m always very cautious with her because she is a bit unpredictable when encountering new dogs–she is a pretty classic case of approach avoidance and sends mixed signals.

We started out the walk at my precautionary distance of about 6-7 feet so none of the dogs could get terribly close but we were quickly funneled closer together at the head of the trail.  It wasnt’ more than a 50yd walk before they were all right next to each other walking and sniffing things together.  Over the course of the walk, they bumped into each other… were pretty much touching as they walked..casually sniffing each other and just hung out.  At no time did shayne even appear TENSE let alone react to anything.  We even stopped and stood around at different times and there were no problems just standing together.  By the end both dogs were able to sniff shayne with out any issues.

While she has shown that she is good walking with other dogs regularly, she had never shown this level of relaxation with new dogs–and this was just the beginning of an amazing weekend.

Last week was Shayne’s final Rally-O class and our agility trainer (and friend) said we could use that time slot to run our personal dogs through some agility.  So she brought her young aussie Kobi, her older border collie Potter, and her foster aussie Marley and I had Shayne and Rio. Shayne had met Potter about 2 years ago and they were pretty friendly but she hadn’t met kobi or marley.

After we practiced and ran our dogs, we stopped at our cars and stood and talked for a little bit.  I put Rio in the car so shayne could ‘socialize’ with the aussies and Potter.  Shayne was a small 2ft or so from the group of three dogs and she was SO relaxed.  She was air scenting them but would turn her head, sniff the ground and offer me eye contact regularly.  Marley, a young and bratty boy STRETCHED his nose to shayne’s and she sniffed him VERY nicely and then turned her head when I asked.  She was so clearly relaxed it was beautiful.  Maribeth loaded up two of the dogs into her van and brought Kobi back out for some one on one time.

Shayne never strained at the leash to him and casually walked next to him for like 20-30ft and when we stopped, she sniffed his face and his neck and his belly…. she was enamored by him and was SO calm and friendly saying hello to this new boy.  I have honestly never seen her react this way to a new dog… it brought tears to my eyes.  My Shayne, who has been known to freeze and snap/growl around other dogs was just so brilliant and given how she reacted to the five dogs in two days, I don’t think it was a fluke.

It has been 4 years in the making but I am pretty confident that we have FINALLY come to the point where Shayne is comfortable greeting neutral dogs after an initial moving greeting (walking as little as 20-30 ft).  She is not yet comfortable with uber excited dogs but as this weekend has shown FIVE different times, if a dog is relaxed and not chomping at the bit to greet her, she is quite social.

I’m so proud of her.  We have worked so hard and to see her succeed is just a beautiful thing.  It’s DOUBLY beautiful because I can see how much she has enjoyed getting to meet these new dogs and with out all the hard work, she never would have had the comfort level to feel so good about her socialization.

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Some bad news

I just want to pop in and let everyone know I’m going to be taking the rest of the week off from blogging.  My grandmother passed away and I’m not totally feeling like blogging.  I’ll be back to it Monday but just want some time away from blogging obligations.

I may pop in to post photo blogs if nothing else.  I just wanted you guys to be in the loop and not be shocked if I don’t post the rest of the week.


Here’s a photo of Shayne’s first really good doggie friend, Tas.  It took two weeks or so of walking together and one minor spat and they were bestest buddies!  I used to pet-sit Tas when his family traveled … or when they went to the gym and felt bad leaving him alone.  Did I mention he was the neighbor dog in the apartment building?  I think Shayne really did love him… I mean just look at this picture… of ALLL the toys in the house to ‘share’ they share the smallest toy possible!

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Wordless Wednesday–farm fun

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It’s not just “bad advice”

Although I do not have much time for it anymore, I used to frequent various online dog-themed forums or communities.  It’s something I enjoyed doing and these communities were where I met some amazing friends and colleagues.  I spent most of my efforts responding to training or behavior posts.  Training methods are deeply personal, and like religion and politics can create very heated debates and discussions on web communities.  I won’t claim to have been a complete angel, I certainly let frustration get the best of me at times and responded in a less than polite manner.  What got me the most riled up back then is what still gets me riled up enough to take a few minutes and respond even if I don’t have much time to follow the thread.

I know, I know, you must be thinking, “But you seem so cool, calm, collected and completely rational.  What could possibly get your feathers ruffled?”  Some people will claim that my responses were simply because I disagreed with someone’s advice–but that is not entirely accurate.

Generally speaking, I can vehemently disagree with someone but do so politely and without getting my feathers too ruffled.  I really disagree with the way most children are educated in the US, I am very vocal about my concerns about the education system but I accept that there are reasons for the other side’s opinion and that they have every right to express those opinions.  It is not the mere act of disagreeing that bothers me enough to take time out of my busy schedule to post or that will ruffle my feathers.   It is when I see people giving incredibly dangerous advice to unskilled dog handlers that it ruffles my feathers– and even more when it’s an “arm chair dog trainer” giving the advice (ie a person who has learned all they know about dog training from watching cable television shows).

There is risk involved in owning an animal with long pointy teeth, strong jaws, and potentially sharp claws.  As domesticated as dogs are, they are still animals and are predators.  If things go wrong when working with a dog, there can be serious repercussions.  So, when I see advice that is putting handlers in extremely risky situations, I feel obligated to offer an alternative point of view (not just simply attack the other opinion) to hopefully prevent an injury to a person (and potentially prevent the rehoming/dumping/euthanizing of the dog who bit).  I try to be cool, calm, collected… and ultimately understanding of everyone but with dangerous advice like this, I sometimes fall short:

JQP: “My dog is snarling, growling, and snapping at me when I am petting him while he eats!  It’s totally unacceptable for him to growl at me like that, how should I fix that?”

Arm Chair Trainer: “Wow! If I were you and the dog were growling at me, I’d get to his level so he know I meant business, look him in the eyes, and tell him very firmly “no!!!” then take his food away.  If he growls when I take the food away, I would give a collar correction if he has a leash on or roll him on his side until he submits.  Your dog needs to know you are the boss”

This isn’t a direct quote from any specific post but it is is dangerous advice like this that gets my feathers ruffled and elicits a response from me. Out on the interwebs everyone can be an expert, they can use all the eloquent words and enigmatic phrases in the world to sound knowledgeable but it doesn’t mean that they really know what they are doing.  These folks are often sure of their advice and sound really confident in what they are saying and people listen–even when the advice is dangerous.

I guess what I hope you take away from this post is that there is some extremely dangerous advice being given out by arm-chair trainers.  Unfortunately, the advice is often backed by lots of confidence and can be hidden behind creative use of language but it is dangerous nonetheless, so be savvy and don’t take things at face value (though I suspect I’m preaching to the choir).   (I suppose I should step down from my soapbox now)

Posted in Dog Handler Information, Dog Training methods | 5 Comments

Shayne’s Wish List

Shayne’s Christmas List!

We celebrate Christmas in our home and our dogs certainly get to partake the the festivities.  Every year the pups and kitties get their own stockings with presents and Shayne and Rio even get to unwrap their own presents–I figure it keeps them busy and gets them to burn through some excess energy that is totally abound on a day where family obligations keep me away from home and from exercising them very much.  I love the holidays because I get to spend time with friends and family but having so many places I have to be really does put a strain on the dogs because they won’t get much attention or exercise for three days.  So I definitely utilize feeding puzzles, thinking games, and “Dinner in a Box” to help burn off a little energy and feed them at the same time.

Anyhow, here is Shayne’s Christmas list that she would have sent to Santa if she had thumbs… and could write.

Shayne’s List of Happiness

1.   Frisbees–there can never be enough flat plastic to throw around
2.  Bullysticks–chewing releases some stress and it’s super yummy
3.  Nina Ottosson Toys–The only drawback of the N.O. toys is that I can’t use them w/ raw
4.  Kongs–There are never enough Kongs! I think we have kong-gnomes that steal our kongs
5.  A new Flirt Pole–our old flirt pole was broken so we haven’t gotten to play with one
6.  More trips to the farm to run and play!
7.  Warm weather to get back to the pond–or–lots of snow for sledding!
8.  More adventures with canine friends–lets go exploring
9.  Venison. More venison!
10.  For Rio to not push her off her dog bed by snuggling when there is another dog bed that is identical right next to her!

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Medication…when is it time to try?

When is the right time to try medication?  I feel like I hear that a lot either on web boards or in person (though mostly in passing) pretty frequently.  Or I hear the opposite that medicating dogs is the devil and awful.

Unfortunately I really can’t answer that question…the “when is it the time” question.  There is no universal answer and it totally depends on each individual situation.  What I can do is talk you through my experience with making the decision to give one of my cats medication for a behavioral reason.

Meeko and Panther snuggling like they always did

For some background, we adopted Joey in 2006 when he was 7 years old from the humane society–he was there because of a nasty divorce.  We had to put our cat Meeko to sleep in April because of an illness we were not able to resolve before he started to suffer.  Panther, our then 9 year old female cat seemed a bit lonely since she and Meeko were the best of pals so I wanted to bring home an older cat to be her new pal.  I went to the shelter in Aug of 2006 and found Joey on the bottom corner cage he was said to be good with dogs and good with other cats.  We played with him for a bit and he seemed independent and not a huge lap-cat (which is what we were looking for) so we adopted him.

Panther took a while to acclimate to him but he settled in really nicely.  He lived with us beautifully for 2.5 years with no problems.  In spring of 2009 we noticed him spraying in the house… a lot.  We didn’t notice any stray cats and there weren’t any changes in the home.  We checked for a UTI and he was fine.  We invested in Feliway (calming pheromones for cats like DAP is for dogs), made sure to utilize enzymatic cleaners, moved litter boxes around to potentially make them more appealing, and were mindful of changes in routine for him.  We saw a reduction in spraying for sure after just a few days and about 6 weeks later the spraying stopped completely.  There was nary a tail twitch in sight for 10 months.

But again, almost a year to the day, we noticed him spraying again.  We had kept one Feliway diffuser going all year but we plugged in our other 3 and filled them all to make it like a kitty nirvana in our house.  This time it didn’t seem to help much and he continued to spray a lot.  We took him to the vet, checked for a UTI (it was negative) and our vet prescribed a type of steroid that is typically helpful in treating spraying.  We gave the steroids as prescribed in a topical form that was rubbed into his ear (which was pretty cool actually).  We didn’t see a significant change from the steroid use and about 8 weeks after it started, the spraying stopped again.   These first two years he was focusing his spraying efforts on windows, glass doors, and one chair, which indicated to me that it was pretty much territorial marking.

This year, however, was very different.  The previous two years his marking started in early April but this year his spraying didn’t even start until mid-July.  Learning from our mistake (or presumed mistake) previously, we kept 3 Feliway diffusers going for the whole winter in hopes of staving off the spraying.  We prematurely thought we were out of the woods when July rolled around and there were no marking issues.  Unfortunately we were not that lucky and when he started spraying again it seemed very different.  He was spraying our indoor plants, cabinets, interior doors…. pretty much everything he didn’t spray previously and he wasn’t spraying doors/windows.  The drastic change in the pattern of his spraying and the timing had me concerned so we took him into the vet to check for a UTI and to talk about other options–since he was spraying in places we weren’t generally checking, it took us a while to notice it.

Turns out he had a UTI so we started him on antibiotics and hoped this would resolve the spraying since it seemed to be medically induced.  After the course of antibiotics we saw a drastic reduction in spraying but we would still periodically find evidence.  Sometimes it was just once a week, sometimes every other week, it was much less frequent but it was still happening.  We were very lucky that the room he typically marked was hardwood so cleaning was a breeze and it did not retain any smells but he had also marked in the kitchen a few times which was pretty problematic for us.

After a month or so of infrequent spraying, I twice found puddles on the ground that were not typical of spraying.  The latter puddle seemed a little peachy in color so I immediately called the vet thinking another UTI.  We went and he clearly had a UTI but I spoke to the vet about the possibility of utilizing Prozac to curb the spraying since even when he didn’t have a UTI it was still happening.  The vet went through the whole history–litter box situation appropriate, Feliway, regular routine, UTI checked, tried the steroid and agreed the next step would be to give Prozac a try.

Joey’s been on antibiotics and a conservative dose of Prozac for 7 days now and other than not being happy about being medicated, he’s doing really well.  I read all the side effect information and am keeping an eye out for issues but it’s been going really well.

The decision to put Joey on a serious medication was not taken lightly and was only even pursued after reading a well known veterinarian’s results of research (*not the actual research but the vet’s explanation of his research) showing Prozac being an effective treatment in territorial marking in 90% of the cats involved.  Prior to considering a serious medication we made changes to our lifestyle to accommodate him–changing litter box layout and style, keeping a better routine, and letting him spend more time outside on our porch.  We used aromatherapy using Feliway diffusers and spray to try and curb the behavior.  We treated medical issues that may have been causing it and used a topical steroid to try and solve the behavior problem.  When all of our other efforts failed, we broached the subject of Prozac.

I am pretty confident that this is how I would approach using medication for behavior modification for any of my personal dogs.  I would try changing my behavior or the environment, try homeopathic remedies (aromatherapy or music for example), address potential medical reasons (thyroid testing), and if all of those steps still leave the dog unable to cope/work/think, then I would research the possibility of using drugs to take the edge off to do training.

I can’t answer the big question for you but I hope you found some value in reading about my experiences with putting Joey on Prozac.  Oh, and trying to quarter  a tiny Prozac pill his hard!

Posted in Dog Behavior, Dog Handler Information | 5 Comments

Getting Ready To Move

This may very well be the last reminder before we make the switch over to the new web page!  It looks like we will be working on switching over everything over the next few days, so probably by next week we will have the new page up.

So, what do YOU need to do?

IF you are an email subscriber… well, I’m sad to say that as of right now I do not have an email subscription option.  The next easiest option is likely to sign up to get my RSS feed–this option can still allow you to get posts easily and even via email.  I will be investigating having an email subscription option but for now it’s not there.

IF you follow me via Networked Blogs on Facebook… well, once my new blog is live, I will be creating a new networked blogs page so you can follow the new blog on Facebook.

IF you have me bookmarked, you’ll just have to update your bookmarks  🙂

IF you follow me by signing up to my RSS feed, you’ll just have to update the RSS feed subscription.  There will be a button on the top of the page to sign up to my RSS feed.

I will post the URL when it’s live and will double post on this blog and the new one for a few days until everyone has had a chance to update their bookmarks/rss/networked blogs information.

During this transition time, if you notice any bugs on the new page, let me know so we can get it fixed.  We have been testing it while it’s not live and THINK we’ve done a really good job BUT I’m sure there is stuff we haven’t noticed!

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