Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

"One of my favourite books and I love this excerpt from it. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. We have it available for purchase in the store and to borrow from our library. I have been thinking about this whole concept a lot lately, and just how much better life would be for dogs if humans took the time to understand them and look at things from their perspective as well"

Imagine you live on a planet where the dominant species is far more intellectually sophisticated than human beings but often keeps humans as companion animals. They are called the Gorns. They communicate with each other via a complex combination of telepathy, eye movements and high-pitched squeaks, all completely unintelligible and unlearnable by humans, whose brains are prepared for verbal language acquisition only. What humans sometimes learn is the meaning of individual sounds by repeated association with things of relevance to them. The Gorns and humans bond strongly but there are many Gorn rules which humans must try to assimilate with limited information and usually high stakes.

You are one of the lucky humans who lives with the Gorns in their dwelling. Many other humans are chained to small cabanas in the yard. They have become so socially starved that they cannot control their emotions when a Gorn goes near them. Because of this behaviour, the Gorns agree that they could never be House-Humans. They are too excitable.

The dwelling you share with your Gorn family is filled with numerous water-filled porcelain bowls, complete with flushers. Everytime you try to urinate in one, though, any nearby Gorn attacks you. You learn to only use the toilet when there are no Gorns present. Sometimes they come home and stuff your head down the toilet for no apparent reason. You hate this and start sucking up to the Gorns when they come home to try to stave this off, but they view this as increasing evidence of your guilt of some unknown act.

You are also punished for watching videos, reading certain books, talking to other human beings, eating pizza or cheesecake, writing letters. These are all considered behavior problems by the Gorns. To avoid going crazy, once again you wait until they are not around to try doing anything you wish to do. While they are around, you sit quietly, staring straight ahead. Because they witness this good behaviour you are so obviously capable of, they attribute to "spite" they video watching and other transgressions which occur when you are along. Obviously you resent being left alone, they figure. You are walked several times a day and left crossword puzzle book to do (you have never used them because you hate crosswords; the Gorns think you're ignoring them out of revenge).

Worst of all, you like them. They are, after all, often nice to you. But when you smile at them, they punish you, likewise for shaking hands. If you apologize, they punish you again. You have not seen another human since you were a small child. When you see one on the street you are curious, excited and sometimes afraid. You really don't know how to act. So, the Gorn you live with keeps you away from other humans. Your social skills never develop.

Finally, you are brought to "training" school. A large part of the training consists of having your air briefly cut off by a metal chain around your neck. They are sure you understand every squeak and telepathic communication they make because sometimes you seem to get it right. You are guessing and hate the training. You feel pretty stressed out a lot of the time. One day, you see a Gorn approaching with the training collar in hand. You have PMS, a sore neck, and you just don't feel up to the baffling coercion about to ensue. You tell them in your sternest voice to please leave you alone and go away. The Gorns are shocked by this unprovoked aggressive behaviour. They thought you had a good temperament.

They put you in one of their vehicles and take you for a drive. You watch the attractive planetary landscape going by and wonder where you are going. The vehicle stops, you are led into a building filled with the smell of human sweat and excrement. Humans are everywhere in small cages. Some are nervous, some depressed, most watch the goings on from their prisons. Your Gorns, with whom you have lived your entire life, hand you over to strangers who drag you to a small room. You are terrified and yell to your Gorn family to help you. They turn and walk out the door of the building. You are held down and given a lethal injection. It is, after all, the humane way to do it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

We should brush our dog's teeth regularly and it can be a bit frustrating for both us and our dogs to start. You will want to ensure that you take the time to positively introduce this so that it can be stress free for both of you. I recommend that you first start by having your dog comfortable while you handle their mouth (you should do this for overall handling, not just their mouths). To do this, follow the below steps:

  1. Stroke the dog and give them a treat for being calm.
  2. If they become excited and start mouthing, use a treat as a distraction to start.
  3. Start on their back, move down their tail and under the belly. Touch their legs and move down to their paws.
  4. Touch the top of their head and their ears, moving to touch around their mouths.
  5. Do each body part multiple times ensuring your dog is calm and accepting the touch.
  6. Then start picking up paws, looking in ears and opening their mouth while rewarding.
  7. Add more pressure and prolong each touch while rewarding.
  8. If at any time your dog becomes fussy, go back to where you last as success and slowly build up.
  9. Keep the sessions short and positive. Quit when your dog has complied, for even just a few moments, and slowly increase the length of your sessions. Reward the dog immensely for all cooperation.

Once your dog is comfortable with having their mouths handled, you can begin to introduce brushing their teeth. Use a toothpaste that is specific for dogs – you should never use a human product. The toothpaste is flavoured, so that dogs actually enjoy it. Before putting the toothbrush to your dog’s mouth, let them investigate the brush for a minute, allowing them to lick the toothpaste. At this point all you are trying to do is introduce the toothbrush, the toothpaste and the experience itself to your dog.

At first, start to lightly brush a few front teeth and even a couple back teeth. Do this in short sessions, every day to get the dog comfortable with having the toothbrush in their mouth. Stay calm and praise your dog throughout each session. Ensure you do not push the dog to get fussy or irritated – keep each session as short as your dog needs. It is also beneficial for the dog to understand a sit or down to help keep them settled during the session. Once your dog is comfortable with the toothbrush, follow the below steps to brush their teeth:

  1. Have your dog in a sit or a down at your side, ensuring they are comfortable and settled.
  2. To ensure you can see clearly, lift the dog’s lip up. Start at the back of the mouth at the top back teeth, and brush your dog’s teeth just as you would your own. Ensure you are gentle and calm, and make sure to go right from the gum line down to the bottom of the tooth, in a circular motion.
  3. Continuing with the top teeth, move along by brushing the rest of the back side teeth, then the front teeth, and then the other side. You do not need to worry about the inside of the dog’s teeth.
  4. Once the top teeth are done, repeat the process on the dog’s bottom teeth. Don’t brush too hard because you can damage the dog’s gums and cause bleeding if you do.
  5. While you are brushing your dog’s teeth, look at them to check for any visible tartar buildup, damaged or chipped teeth, inflamed gums, dark spots or other issues you may have to bring to your vet’s attention.

Good dental care and healthy teeth go a long way in keeping your dog happy and healthy!

 

Monday, 29 June 2015 00:00

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Tonight I am sitting to write this blog out of the surge of emotions I am feeling. I usually take time to process and settle, but tonight I want to share my thoughts while I still feel shaky from what we witnessed and angry as to why this is happening around us all of the time. I will do my best to keep myself censored within this post, but feel like one day I have to just let it all out.

 

While driving home from a wonderful night of classes of Reactive urbanK9 we witnessed 'dog training' happening in a small green space by our home. A boxer type dog was attached to its human on a leash and a prong collar. As the dog took a few steps forward he would receive a heavy correction by a quick jerk on the leash that would cause him to jump back to his spot. This hurts the dog and to avoid the pain they stop. However, this dog was terrifed and stressed and really had no idea what to do next. He continued to walk ahead which then resulted in the male of the pair kicking him hard in the side. He did this twice. It was heavy enough to move the dog backwards and lift its back paws off the ground. I saw red and when into my own form of fight mode and I did not conduct myself well. Let's just say I had some strong communication with them out the window. And then we called the police. We are sitting waiting for them to arrive now and I was thrilled with how seriously they took it.

 

I used to feel that to conduct myself professionally, I must not do anything. That I must walk away when I witnessed physical abuse to an animal. I would never walk away if it was a child. And it never felt right and made me feel like I was conceding. Those that know me, know that I am a fighter and not afraid to speak up. Well, every time I was walking away, I was allowing this to happen and not giving a voice to the poor dog that does not have one. But what were my options? No one wants to be educated in these settings. No one is happy to have someone give their opinion or advice, no matter how gently one may choose to approach it. So, I started doing small things. Like stopping and just staring at them until they noticed. No expression on my face, but just watching. And every single time I did this, when they saw me, they stopped. Some were embarrassed and just slunked away. Some would get defensive and yell nasty things to me. And then some would just pretend they didn't see me and walk away giving their dogs pets and speaking to them kindly. Each time though, every single person stopped. Doesn't this point to the fact that they know they are doing something wrong? If this happened to me while I was out with my dogs, I would smile and go on my way, not stopping a thing that I was doing.

 

I know as a trainer, that they are learning how to do this from dog trainers. Any one can call themselves a dog trainer nowadays. Or they are learning and trying these methods from some popular trainers on television. We can sit and argue about why one way works and one way doesn't. Or why you need to do certain things for certain dogs. Or whatever else we need to say to make ourselves feel right and justified with what we do. And I understand that this situation I witnessed tonight was extreme. And regardless of who this fellow is learning from he is likely going to apply some extreme punishment to his dog. However, it is people like him that caused me to remove all physical corrections from my training.

 

Years ago I was a new trainer in a puppy class. I was teaching what we called a puppy correction. It was for when a puppy was mouthing and getting too excited and could be an extremely effective tool. The goal was to hold onto the puppy's collar and place a hand over their muzzle. You were not to apply any pressure and it would often work at settling the dog. The next week a lady came in with her shepherd cross puppy. As the class was getting settled and I was taking attendance, I noticed the puppy jumping and getting excited to be in class. The owner moved towards him and he clamped on her hand and up her arm. I understand this was extreme behaviour for a puppy and there was probably a great deal more surrounding this. However, I knew that this was a result of the puppy correction. Of course we would expect that most dog owners would apply this out of frustration and with heavy hands. At that moment, I vowed never to use a technique that could be used out of frustration. My responsibility as a trainer is to do the absolute best job at preventing physicality towards dogs. Any time you teach a correction (whether it be a small kick, a collar correction or a jab) you are teaching dog owners to interact physically with their dogs. You are not giving them the proper tools for when they feel that frustration. It doesn't matter how well you teach it. There will be one that will take it too far. Like the guy we saw tonight. And one out of 500, 5000 or even 500,000 is one too many for me.

 

I've said this before, and I will say this again. This is not just about dog training, but rather every professional or person that interacts with dogs. They are not humans. They are not here just to please us. They are not plotting to take over the world. They do not need us to control them. They need us to listen. They need us to learn. They need us to take the time to teach them. What I witnessed tonight was upsetting and filled me with anger. I will do a better job with my own behaviour, but it just builds inside when it seems you cannot go anywhere without seeing stressed, confused dogs being punished. I will not turn a blind eye and ask you not to as well. I'm not sure I have the answer yet, but you bet I have the fight. I will continue to lead by example, reach as many people as I can through dogma and do whatever it takes to make our voice louder. But right now, I will think about the poor dog I saw tonight. Keep his face strong in my mind and vow to him that things will change. Who's with me?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:00

We had recently lost our dog Nicki, who had been a family member for 14 years. I was heart-broken and not having a dog in our lives was making me miserable and apparently, according to family around me, very cranky. It was time to get another dog. During a blizzard I convinced everyone (somehow) we should drive to Petsmart in Beacon Hill to look at the puppies. As it turned out Oops-A-Daisy had not gotten there due to the storm. For some reason I decided we should drive to the Petsmart on MacLeod Trail.

We walked in and there must have been about 10 puppies there. They were all sitting at the front of the cage wagging their tails and jumping – enjoying all the attention they were getting. Then I spotted one little puppy at the back of the cage – all alone – the saddest little puppy I had ever seen. And I know without a doubt that Abby had 'found us and a home'.

Abby was one of ARF's -31 degree litter and was an insecure, and fearful little puppy. We brought her home and I was determined to help her in any way that we could and I started phoning around for information on classes, playtimes, advice from any place I could get it. . .Fortunately for Abby I called dogma and spoke to Megan. We talked about confidence building, fearfulness, the ways that puppies learn, training options , and playclasses. She was so knowledgeable, and understanding I knew that's where we needed to go. She recommended we start with Puppy Playtime.

Our first playtime – yikes – I recall having to carry Abby in and out because she wouldn't even walk in the door and for the first few minutes I'm sure she wanted to dig a hole in the wall to hide. That didn't last long though – I guess both of us felt the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming – that she blossomed. Everyone was so friendly and kind. As I met other dog owners I soon realized that most of them are 'dogma regulars' and as far as I was concerned, that was for good reason. We then and there became regulars at Puppy Playtime and registered for some classes. As we moved through the levels (Puppy Class, Puppy Spirit and a Fear and Reactivity class – which gave us useful tools for understanding) Abby's confidence and mine increased in heaps and bounds. The classes were all so positive, and Megan, Drae and the rest of the staff reiterated time and time again to always set these puppies up for success. That to me was the bottom line. I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many questions I asked the staff – everyone was always so patient and would offer suggestions – 'try this' or you could 'try this'. Abby and I could tell immediately that these were all people who genuinely love dogs – and really what more do you need to know !! We became so confident we even got involved in an Elvis' Hound Dog routine (this was a huge thing for Abby – crowds, strange people) which was a great bonding experience for us and we had a blast. She learned how to weave in that routine – and she proudly displays it every chance she gets! (sometimes when you aren't even expecting it !)...

Abby is a sweet gentle little dog – gaining confidence all the time – we still have some issues that we need to deal with but intend on working through these in upcoming classes and to continue on with our successes. As far as playtime is concerned she now has a 'BFF"- Khali, and will even encourage shy dogs to 'come out of the corner'..'sometimes trying to drag them out by the scruff of the neck'.. (Drae always laughs at that).. I guess we are now dogma Regulars ourselves.

Note from Megan: Watching Sharon and Abby grow together has been such a rewarding experience. To think of scared little Abby when I first met her, to the brave, happy girl you see now is unbelievable. Sharon is a testament to the outcome when you commit and put the time into training and working with your dog – and that this can be incredibly fun for both! All of us at dogma adore her and Abby and are always thrilled when they take part in another class or event. She has taken the time to understand Abby's fears, how to work her through them and all while being so amazingly patient and compassionate. This success story means a great deal to our entire team and we are all so proud of them both! We love having them be an integral part of the 'dogma regulars'! Keep up the good work and we look forward to continued playtimes and dancing in the future :)!!

Tuesday, 02 September 2014 00:00

Having your dog accustomed to being behind a gate (or door, ex-pen, etc.) can be helpful in many situations. It allows the dog a quiet place away from potentially stressful activity and gives you time to remove them when you cannot be fully supervising them. Preparing your dog to feel comfortable when being left alone will prove to be a useful skill throughout their lives. The steps to accustom them to a gate are:

1. Put the gate up somewhere in your house and always have it there to start, so that bringing out the gate does not become a trigger to them that they are going behind it.

2. Occasionally toss treats onto the other side of the gate for your dog to find on their own.

3. Feed the dog's meals on the other side of the gate.

4. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: 'Behind gate'), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out from gate).

5. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going behind the gate for the treat, without actually closing the gate.

6. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.

7. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! Stay upbeat and positive and do not force them behind.

8. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session – stay calm and do not appear frustrated. It was just too much for your dog. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!

9. After dog will go into gate on cue, begin to shut it when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed gate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.

10. Start to get up and walk around, around room, towards the gate.

11. Take one step over the gate, then two, etc.

12. Start to walk around on other side of gate, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.

13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is behind the gate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the gate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.

14. Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps. Do not continually make the time longer – vary this. Keep your sessions short!

15. As your dog begins to use the gate more, ensure you are not only using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the gate with isolation and create a negative association.

16. Always teach your dog that the gate is a positive, safe place for them!