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Archive for the ‘dog training’ Category

Yesterday the dog training world lost a remarkable man who taught me lots. I’ll miss him.

Enjoy all the company you have waiting for you at the Bridge, Dick Russell. You left a wonderful legacy to balanced training.

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Having worked in animal rescue and health care for decades, countless times I’ve said the words: “There aren’t bad dogs. There aren’t bad owners. But there ARE bad matches”.

I am not the only one. Trainers see it over and over again- owner personalities clashing with dog personalities.

 Roger Hild , a long-time dog trainer in Canada, has put together a wonderful “test” which may help understand the conflicts. If used correctly, it may help prevent mismatches!

Having some insight into a relationship, even a dog-owner relationship can help improve it.

Want to know how your relationship rates and see potential areas for problems or improvements? Check out his People & Pooches Personality Test.

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Want premier Pet First info at your fingertips? Here’s the app for you.  Use SL1222 for referral code to get this must have data on your phone now. Droid version to be released the end of Nov!

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Today we did another photo shoot. We originally were schedule to shoot last week. It was an outdoor shoot and the weather last week wasn’t desirable. It was postponed until today, the day after our big “dog party”. The weekend we have a bunch of dogs and people over for dog fun- this year we had 20 dogs.

I knew when we rescheduled it for today I could have adrenalin-hung over dogs to handle. And maybe a little tired and sore added in there too. I didn’t think it’d be too much of a problem. The shot was to involve 2 little girls, big dogs and a wading pool.

We were doing the shoot on location and therefore not in the studio, but at a photographer’s house where there was green grass. They wanted green grass and sun. The original date had been overcast and cool…good dog weather, but not for the kids. Today was 88 degrees and high humidity. Good pool weather for the kids, but probably the worst weather to try to work Leonbergers-in full sun no less. I was hoping they would last a little bit before melting right into the pool.

We all met at the studio and then caravanned out to the location- a nice country home on a county highway with some acreage and no fencing.

I got out to survey the site while leaving the dogs in the air conditioned truck. I was greeted by 4 loose fowls strutting around the yard. Ledum saw them from the truck immediately. They were rounded up and placed in the hen and rabbit house facing the set up wading pools.  One rooster protested LOUDLY to this roundup. Ledum was following very closely from the truck.

When I knew the birds were secure I let the dogs out of the truck. Ledum’s brain was fully engaged in roosters. He knew where they were and he wanted to get a snuffle. He doesn’t hurt things, but he likes to chase them to snuffle and slime them. Snuffling a rooster was the ONLY thing he could get into his head. I had a leash and flat collar on him, but he was trying to convince me the most important thing in the whole wide world was snuffling a rooster.

I got Ledum, Mara and Tringa out of the truck. Ledum was super jazzed and it took me quite a lot to get him under some semblance of control. Mara and Tringa were put in a down while I was trying to bring Ledum back to earth.

While that was going on, the two little girls (7 and 4) were getting introduced to the dogs. Like our first photo shoot a few weeks ago, the youngest wanted NOTHING to do with the dogs.

While the photographers (3 all together) were setting up equipment, the mom and I were trying to get the youngest to just touch a dog-even fluff I pulled from Tringa and had in my hand. No success.

Then it was time for the fun.

The first shot they wanted was Ledum sitting in the wading pool towering over looking down at the tiny, youngest girl obviously upset he was in HER pool. The girl would have none of it. We had to use the older child. Ledum kept turning his head to look at the roosters and rabbits. He doesn’t have a good WATCH ME command…something I’ve never really taught him but is now top on my to-do list. We used toys and motions and all sorts of inventive things to get him to at least appear to be looking down at the girl. The girl’s job was to look up at Ledum, right in his face, with visual frustration. They wanted her hands in a certain way, her face held a certain way, her knees placed just so. Trying to get both the dog and the child to do what they wanted simultaneously was fairly challenging.

It was so hot Ledum was not interested in playing this game. True, he was sitting in a pool of water, but he was fading.

So the photography director who owned the house thought maybe a live rabbit would help Ledum focus where he need to be. Absolutely, it would focus his attention for sure.

Keep in mind, he is sitting in the pool approximately 10-15 feet (I moved around) in front of me. No leash. Mara and Tringa are in a down about the same distance behind me in the shade. They also are unleashed and aren’t even wearing a collar.

Rabbit came out and sat between director’s legs. She was caressing it and trying to get it to move in a more enticing manner. Ledum was sitting in the pool VERY interested, but kept his sit in the pool.

Then….the rabbit squirmed loose and was hopping away.

I grabbed Ledum as he leapt out of the pool. He tried to get me to lawn ski behind him after the rabbit, but didn’t succeed. It was taking me all I had to keep that from happening, but while I was working to keep Ledum under control, the bunny hopped right past Mara and Tringa. It was too much for them. They broke their downs and were off.

So there was the bunny, with Mara and Tringa following with all 3 photographers bringing up the rear-all headed towards the road. My commands were falling on deaf ears while I was getting a leash on Ledum hooking it to a conveniently located post on the patio. With Ledum secure, I could join in the chase.

As soon as I rounded the corner of the garage and said Mara! Tringa! OFF. COME. They stopped and came to me. The rabbit had come back in a circle and the director got it back into the pen. No one was hurt. I wasn’t too happy Mara and Tringa broke, but the photographers thought they were awesome because they could have had the rabbit more than once, but showed great self control. HA! Guess it’s all in the perception…

We continued on from that by doing some shots of all 3 dogs in the pool with the girl standing outside the pool. The youngest refused to do that, too. The older girl did these shots too. At least for these shots, the dogs didn’t have to look down into a face so it was much easier.

Then the kids were done. We shot a few more of Mara holding the hose with the water running filling the pool for the Leos.

It had been over an hour and half baking in the sun. We were all toasted and it was time to go home. The director’s husband walked with me to the truck. He complimented me on how well behaved my dogs were. They were incredible and I should be proud. They were much better behaved than the child…

I got in the truck and drove home, laughing and shaking my head most of the way home. Good thing I have a sense of humor.

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Recently I was asked to use one of my dogs for a photo shoot for a dog supply catalog. They wanted a large dog a small child could use as a pillow.

Not a problem for most of my pack, so I agreed readily. I did ask how old the child was and if s/he was comfortable with big dogs. I was told he was 4 and the son of someone on staff so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I took Ledum and Tringa with me. Tringa has a very striking photogenic face, but it’s very black and depending on the child and positioning, etc, I thought it may be more challenging technically. Ledum is oversized, very tall and long and fits BIG dog very, very well. As long as I had to take one, it wasn’t any trouble to bring two. This would give us choices which are usually a good thing when trying to shoot photos, especially those photos creatively living in someone else’s head.

Our morning turned out to be fairly crazy so when we had to leave for our appointment, Ledum was a little on the worked up side of things. We arrived a few minutes early and checked in. Ledum was being uncharacteristic and pulling slightly on his lead. I was trying to maintain my composure.

We were led to the photo shoot location. This included traipsing through the employee break room- next to tables where several people were having their lunch. Nose-level –for-the-dogs tables, I might add. Up some very slippery looking stairs and further down the hall we finally arrive at the room. We opened the door and lo & behold, less than 10’ from the door are multiple cockatiels in a large cage. Upon seeing large dogs arriving, they commence to screaming alerts. Ledum, enthralled with small animals, got even more jazzed up. I did get him under control, but not in the split second I am used to.

We took up a bare spot on the floor to DOWN while they decided on coloring of rugs and props, etc. We met the boy. The boy who was really only 3 and not only AFRAID of big dogs, he wasn’t very comfortable with dogs at all. Sigh. Not going to be as easy as I had thought when I said “no problem” on the phone a few days prior.

Ledum proved to be too intimidating for child, even in a down. Tringa tried her best to be reassuring. The fact the child was just a few months older than Tringa gave us an in. But it was tough. Tringa wanted to smell the child. The child wanted to scream and run. After quite a while of using her tail to tickle him and trying in vain to get him to touch her, I finally had her stand up. I played peek- a-boo with him under her. He finally was comfortable enough to crawl back and forth under her. But he still wasn’t comfortable with touching her or having her look at or sniff him.

While we were doing this, Ledum was employed as a “placeholder”. He was on a DOWN a few feet away letting them set up the shot around him, set lighting, etc. Ledum is extremely engaging with people, so I knew if the child were to lay on him the shot would be what the photographer wanted, but NOT what the child would tolerate. Ledum would have to turn his head and acknowledge him in some way. Seeing as the child was freaking out when Tringa (the smaller of the two) was turning her head to look at him, I didn’t think it would help the situation. We got Ledum out of the actual shot zone and put him on a DOWN where we had first settled when we arrived. That put him about 15’ behind me. I expected him to hold his position. Then I concentrated on Tringa.

My job mostly was to keep her from even thinking of looking in the child’s direction. The photographer wanted her head to be down between her legs and her eyes closed. Meanwhile, the dad was trying to get the child to curl up and look relaxed with Tringa curled around him. We gave up on the curled up idea early on. The child didn’t really want that much contact with Tringa. Trying to get the child propped up was fairly difficult. To make up for his lack of confidence with the dog, he kept sliding down. His dad then would move him back up higher on Tringa’s body which triggered Tringa to want to lay flat on her side. I’d have to then get her back more upright while the dad was still getting the child positioned.

Oh, did I mention they gave the child a prop? Have you ever seen one of those dog toys that look exactly like a teddy bear? But really it’s a dog squeaky toy that children like to squeak?

Only once did Ledum think about getting up, when someone came in and the cockatiels got really, really active. Tringa & Ledum BOTH stuck their noses in the air when the cage with a couple ferrets walked near the edge of the photo shoot.

All in all, it was a fun training experience for me and the dogs. I was told we even got a few usable shots!

We’ll have to wait and see when the catalog comes out.

Simple obedience opens doors!

Ledum & Tringa Photo Shoot

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Recently I saw an article that stated the number one complaint state forest rangers receive from the public in the state forest campgrounds concerns dogs. Complaints range from barking dogs left unattended on campsites, running loose in the campgrounds, dogs on beaches and in picnic areas to serious dog bites.

The rangers’ response to this was, of course, to strictly enforce the pet regulations -with good reason.

As a responsible pet owner, this saddens me greatly.

Something about being the setting of the Northwoods makes vacationing visitors think they don’t have enforce good dog behavior. Common sense seems to take a vacation, too.

Yes, we have trees and lakes and fresh air. Your dog can enjoy all this without having to run loose, chase wildlife and be a nuisance to residents (people and animals).

We have dangers not found in the urban environment: bears, porcupines, wolves. We have some dangers found in the urban environment: cars, poisons, skunks, other dogs.

It’s not all tourists contributing to this problem, however.

I would say one of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is out of control dogs…but not THEIR dogs. Out of control dogs accosting their now mannerly dogs while they’re out on a walk…or even worse yet, their own yard!

This isn’t unusual. Trainer’s across the country talk about advice to give their clients about this problem. Some suggest carrying stun sticks-small stun guns. They say the sound of the static charge is usually enough to scare a dog off. This equipment is illegal is some places. The state of WI is one place this is illegal. Others suggest an air horn to scare off the offending canine. Trouble with that is it’ll most likely scare your own dog, too. On the way to work a couple weeks ago, I saw a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk. She was carrying a big, over-sized plastic wiffle ball bat. I suppose some people wondered why she was walking her dog with a bat. I didn’t wonder. I offered it up as a solution to some of my clients. It’s lighter than heavy walking sticks some carry.

If you find yourself out on a walk being approached by a strange dog, first thing- get your dog under control.  The SIT command is great for this. Step between your dog and the approaching dog. Your dog is trained and should hold his SIT behind you. Watch the approaching dog and trust your dog to do what you told it to do. Then protect your dog. You are the leader so act like it. Chase the offender off.  Use your air horn, walking stick or your BOOT.  Then work on getting your dog and yourself to safety.

One thing I will start recommending my clients carry on their walks is called Direct Stop or SprayShield. It’s a citronella-based spray similar to pepper spray. It sprays 10 feet. There are about 12 one-second sprays in a can and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve heard good things about it.

If you run into the same person(s) and dog(s) out of control on your walk, maybe educating them is an option. The more trained dogs with responsible owners we have out and about, the better equipped we will be as a group to defend ourselves and our rights.

Offer to walk together so you can be an example of a responsible dog owner without being in their face about it. Offer helpful, honest tips that may have helped you in the early stages of training. Don’t be confrontational. Remember what it was like to not have control of your own dog. Maybe discreetly place the business card of a trainer under the windshield wiper of their car while they’re chasing down their dog. Be helpful and use it as a training opportunity!

If the offending party is not approachable, make sure you and your dog stay safe-even if that means maybe having to find another place to frequent. Exposing your dog to potential attacks, unbalanced energy and negative experiences can make him lose trust in you. That can be very hard to rebuild.

The bottom line is to be polite and use common sense…even when on vacation!

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Here’s a post from our dear friends at Smart Dogs that is a must read:

See no evil, read no evil, cite no evil.

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