Thursday, December 27, 2012

Skye Grew Up

I used to think Skye was going to be a maniac forever.  When I first adopted her, I figured it was her complete lack of training that made her so crazy.  Sure, she was 2 years old, but she didn't know any better.

Over the next year my struggle to connect with Skye led me to start this blog.  Three years old and she still drove me up the wall on a daily basis.  After hours of exercise, she would come home and bark for me to play more.

Surely, I thought, she would settle in by age 4.  We had agility to bond over,  clicker training to build up her obedience skills, and doggie daycamp 5 days a week.   Skye was tired, if nothing else.   But the crazy was still there.  I started thinking about taking the Canine Good Citizen test with her. Then I would laugh.  Skye hardly ever lay down on command even with food as a motivator.  She couldn't  walk on leash without her Easy Walk Harness.  It wasn't worth trying and failing.  

So when Skye turned 5 in October, I was surprised to find that she had slowly been growing up without telling me.  She napped between walks, took days off from work, and rarely made a peep after dinner.  A friend told me about a therapy dog program that didn't have the same strict guidelines as the others I had looked into.  Many therapy pet programs do not allow dogs on a raw diet, which discouraged me from pursuing a CGC title.

Paws for Friendship doesn't require the CGC, but Skye and I took the test anyway to earn money for the MSPCA.  We practiced every day for two weeks to get Skye reliable without food. Or should I say, without food until the end.  

After passing the CGC, we applied for Paws for Friendship.  Skye and I were warmly welcomed,  with only one thing left- another test.   The coordinator in our state is a friendly woman who has brought many of her dogs through the program. She loved Skye's Sirius Republic collar and chatted with me about the program while asking me to do various things with Skye.  We walked past moving wheelchairs, falling brooms, and another dog.  She sat to be pet, had her paw squeezed, her ears pulled, and while she didn't enjoy the last a part, she continued to sit and look at me.

During our visit to a nursing home, Skye showed off her tricks, spent a little time with each resident who was interested, and ate more treats than you might think possible. Time and time again we were complimented on Skye's behavior.  How calm she was, how she never stopped making eye contact, what a great ambassador she was for the breed.

And I had to agree.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Promise It's Not on Purpose!

These long absences, only posting updates on Facebook and Instagram... I don't mean to, I swear!

I still find creative ways to torture my dogs. Though this year they didn't have to hang out with Santa at all, which only seems to make me sad.

We still have a Tater Tot.   Still.   When he arrived at 12 weeks old I thought he was gangly and awkward, but man did I speak too soon!  While I love me some Tot, this guy needs to find a home!  He is shy and sweet and looooooves other dogs.  In fact, he would be perfect for me... if I wanted three dogs and to always be single.  Luckily, he is meeting another potential adopter this weekend- paws crossed it goes well!

I am officially running my own dog training business, Friends Again Dog Training.  I've been so busy that blogging (and showering) haven't even made it on my to-do list for weeks.  But when work is fun, it's easy to get carried away.  Also, I have a logo.  How official.
Who is that happy pit bull?

The last thing, which I'll write more about in a separate post, is that Skye and I have officially joined Paws for Friendship, a therapy dog organization with branches all over the world.  This morning was our first official visit with the chapter coordinator so we could see how it's done.  We visited a nursing home and had the chance to spend time with the elderly men and women who live there.  Now I can find my own visiting sites closer to me for Skye and I to visit a few times a month.  I have to say, I was pretty darn proud of my little blue pit bull today.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Board and Train- Worth the Money or Just a Fad?

Miles the Olde English Bulldogge

The one aspect of dog training that I am most often questioned about is the Board and Train.  For 1 or 2 weeks, I take a dog into my home to train them in a much more intensive way than can be achieved at their own home.  After that time, I bring them home, run through everything with their owners, and return in a week to check their progress.

Magic?  Many people doubt it.  For a long time, so did I.

Any client who considers a board and train with me will inevitably ask, "is it worth it?"  This is the most expensive training package (on paper at least) that I offer.  How do they know I'll put in the time?  More importantly, will it matter if they are well behaved with me once they go home?

The answer, like so many, isn't simple.  What I can say is that people overestimate the importance of owner presence in training.  Many training issues are dependent on the dog learning a new behavior, although the human certainly has their own learning to do.  In so many aspects of training, things go more smoothly if I can focus entirely on the dog, then entirely on the owner.  An unsure owner attempting to teach an unsure dog can make progress slow and frustration high.

Instead, I am able to spend my entire day building up the behaviors I want and reducing the behaviors I don't.  In one week I can cover at least 8 private lessons.  I can teach the stubborn bulldog (above) how to be off leash at the park.  Or teach the beagle puppy not to guard his food bowl.  Or just teach the newly adopted dog their basic manners. 

Think about dogs in shelters and rescues.  Is the work that trainers and volunteers put into a dog eliminated when they go to a new home?  Possibly, but it is far more likely that the learning will carry over.  My little Tater Tot has overcome many fears that luckily do not return when he visits potential adopters.

Winslow overcoming aggression

But you do have to bridge the gap, so to speak, between the training house and normal life.  A board and train dog goes home with a whole lot of information.  I give their owner a flash drive containing videos and documents about their dog's training plan.  I outline what we did in terms of vocabulary to use, exercises they should try at home, and what to do if __________ happens. 

We spend an hour together doing a typical training session, which allows me to guide the owner on how to progress from here.  In a week or two, I come back to troubleshoot or clarify anything that the owners aren't understanding.  Depending on the to do list, there may be more sessions at the house.  Often, though, I am able to accomplish everything they wanted and our work is done.

Lucy the wild woman

I have to say, this type of training has become my favorite.  I can bypass owner frustration, I don't need to rely on them to practice between sessions, and I really get to see the dog excel.  I've found, at least in my area, that owners are more concerned with results than relationship.  Oddly enough, by providing results I am boosting the relationship between owner and dog in the future, again by eliminating frustration.

Are board and trains the best course for every dog and issue?  Certainly not.  For Parker and Skye's sake, I won't take a dog with aggression toward other dogs, among other things.  Because I know Parker would find a way to release that dog into the wild.  Sneaky schnauzer...

Is Parker a giant, or is Skye shrinking?

Side note-

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions for my photo issue!  I  have no clue how Google+ is special, but I'm using it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful For...


Just kidding!  But blogger refuses to let me load any more photos without paying for an upgrade.  Not happening!  

So, until I find a solution for this silliness, here are some oldies but goodies!

We are thankful for our trips to the park

For shenanigans at the beach

  For situations that Parker finds embarrassing 

For the alligator smile

For situations that Parker finds embarrassing

And embarrassing Parker.

For Poobulls

For my odd couple

For anything that embarrasses Parker

Skye too.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Meet the Gang: Ridley

Ridley's first day of daycare

I met Ridley the week before Daphne, when he was 4 months old.  You could say he's one of my first "big" clients.  Ridley spends 4 days with me every other week and 2-3 days on the opposite weeks for daycare and training.  His owners have big jobs that keep them away for long hours that sometimes involves traveling. 

At 4 months old, Ridley was Skye size.  Now, at 8 months, he is an absolute beast.  He comes from top breeding lines and his owners have always considered showing him.  Sadly, that means he has balls.  However, due to some humping problems at home I have finally convinced them that Ridley will be best as a pet dog minus his man parts and they plan to neuter him at 10 months old.

Overall Ridley is a great dog- he genuinely loves everyone and everything that he meets.  He loves to know he is doing something right and is always the first to sit and stay for a group picture.  I take him walking with a friend and her young children, and he is always gentle and sweet to them as well.

But then there are his less attractive qualities.  Ridley is very good off leash with the other dogs, but has been known to ignore his recall word if he spots a dog he recognizes at the park.  He is also a fan of keep away when he knows he didn't listen, since ignoring a recall means going on leash for a time out.  We've been training through this over the past 2 weeks with high value rewards for listening and sit/stay for ignoring instead of the leash.  So far, so good.  Otherwise, Ridley will occasionally hump at the park, which is an immediate time out, and he is a lab.  So all food is good food is foodfoodfood for Ridley.

Foodfoodfood for me?

By way of updates:

-Skye not only passed her CGC, but we were warmly welcomed into Paws for Friendship, a therapy dog program with chapters all over the US! 
-Daphne has been diagnosed with Elbow Dysplasia, a genetic condition where her elbows are not properly formed (similar to hip dysplasia in the rear legs).  She is most likely going to have corrective surgery on the worse of the two legs to give her the best chance of a normal, happy life.  Her owners have high hopes that she will still be able to join us for half days of fun, but I have to say I'm devastated.  Daphne was (don't tell) my favorite daycare dog, so not seeing her 3 days a week will be awful. 
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