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Photo Shoot

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

Quig and Mara say Thanks!

Thanks to all who have served and continue to serve!

Honor Ky Day

Honor Ky Day

Today marks a year since Ky left his broken earthly vessel. I can’t say the year has flown by, but neither has it dragged too excruciatingly slowly. In the beginning it was pretty difficult. I felt lost. It’s gotten easier to function without him next to me as time has passed.  It took until February before I could even mention his name in my group classes without choking up.

I truly believe he brought Quig into our lives-probably as much for Quig as for me. It hasn’t been until the last couple months I healed enough to really focus on the gift he brought me in Quiggers. I’ve just begun to notice how similar Quig is to what Ky was when Ky first came to us. This realization has opened some new thoughts in my head and allowed me to get deeper into Quig’s.  That process is actually opening up my heart enough to let Quig in down deep and proper where dogs belong.

I’m seriously thinking Quig may be my next demo dog. While that’s been thought about before with Ledum (before he got off the plane & we saw his structure), and Tringa (before her ghastly hip report), even with Quigger’s questionable hips, he may actually be the one.

It’s true that I put whatever dog living in our house to whatever task they’re up for. Ledum has very bad structure. He works teaching first aid students about bad structure and its risks. He also gets to help out in puppy class by lying on the floor and playing with puppies. He loves this! He trots his big frame out and sends them all running with his size and then lies on the floor to become their furry trampoline.

Tringa does well as the main therapy dog. Lying quietly in school being read to and being fawned over with treats at intervals makes her very happy.

Mara is the original Ky-assistant-to-become-replacement. She helped him do lots of things. Now she does things he used to do and some of her own things. For some reason, though, people assume because of her breed (GSD) she just does these things naturally without training. That misconception makes it difficult to convince people their own dog can dog be trained to do these things also. Having a Leo for a demo dog helps show people any dog, even theirs, can be trained. Quig may help with people understand this.

Today I’ll take some quiet me time, some cry time, some happy time.

 I’ll spend some training time working on Quig’s fetch and general compliance to the high standard Ky set.

And Ky will be honored.

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!

Must Read

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.

Meet & Greet

Recently a friend relayed an analogy she’d heard about “meet & greets” with dogs. The speaker compared dogs & their owners’ introductions to the receiving line at a wedding. It was cute and obviously memorable. I’ll probably be using it in classes, but I’ll be elaborating on it.

In a receiving line, things are kept moving along. Conversation is a couple sentences long –“the flowers were gorgeous.” ” The bride’s dress was beautiful.” Things like that. Seldom do you see a fight break out in a receiving line. I never have seen it, but I imagine it IS possible. Things are kept moving so people can’t get in trouble.

I believe because everyone around is also on best behavior and being “hall monitors” that adds the unlikihood of a fist fight occuring. Uncle Fred could say to the bride “how far along are you?”  Not typical receiving line conversation and not expected.  It throws off the whole energy of the people in the line.

What happens next depends on lots of other factors.

It could be a private joke between the two and the bride can laugh it off, choosing to ignore it. OR it can strike a nerve and make the bride bristle a little. The reaction of the bride can set off a whole chain reaction up and down the receiving line. Have a line full of people ready for a fight and it could get really ugly. Have a line full of people able to deal with inappropriateness correctly and politely and the situation could be diffused quickly.

We want our dogs to be able to deal with inappropriateness correctly and politely. Most times we have to intervene for our dogs to make sure that things are diffused. Meaning we also have to be able to deal with inappropiateness correctly and politely. That means we always have to be paying attention!  Not just to our dog, but to the other dog as well. Is the dog on the receiving end of your dog’s meeting enjoying the encounter? Is your dog doing something unexpected? Is the other dog able to laugh it off or is it striking a nerve? Be the next person in the receiving line asking to keep things moving. Diffuse it calmly but assertively.

The analogy goes on to talk about the reception. It’s easy to have a fight at a wedding reception. Just adding alcohol makes the likelihood rise. {Side note: I wonder if Labs would be the happy drunks of the dog world…would Chessies be the mean drunks?}

Dogs shouldn’t be visiting the cash bar for the behavior-changing chemical called alcohol, BUT there is another behavior- changing chemical we ALL carry around with us -adrenalin.

Dogs can overdo it and get drunk on it. It’s our job to be their parent and designated driver all rolled up into one. First, making sure they don’t over-imbibe on this powerful biochemical in the first place it the best scenario.

Second, keep them out of trouble if they do over-indulge until they can sleep it off. This means enforcing a time out- a long down stay works wonderfully for this!

When we meet a dog on the street, then, remember to keep things quick and polite. Pay attention to the body language and reaction of BOTH dogs. If things get tense, move away and take a time out-for both you AND your dog! Don’t let the energy of the situation build. Be in control and keep things moving along -“Your dog is gorgeous. Time for us to go smell some flowers”.

Our Dogs’ Lives

I was watching our youngest, Seda, the-now-8-month-old Swissy, wrestle with our current board and train, a 5-month-old Golden. I couldn’t help but think how different our dogs’ lives are than most typical pets.

Our dogs have a very active life. We walk twice a day at least, some days more than twice, and often times several miles. When I say several miles, I mean several miles for the humans. The dogs are off-lead and putting on many, many more miles than we are.

We share our lives with wildlife. We feed the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and whatever comes around.

The dogs are not allowed to harass the wildlife. They can watch from a distance, but not chase, bark at or otherwise pester. Because Mark is a wildlife rehabber, currently a bear cub and a baby gray squirrel are downstairs. The dogs aren’t allowed to interact with them, but they can certainly smell them in their house, hear them when they fuss and watch from a safe distance as Mark feeds them.

We foster dogs. Often there are dogs coming and going. We overnight dogs for evaluations or take them into our house for board and trains. When we do this, they are treated as one of our own, so our pack better be pretty welcoming (and they are).

Our dogs all help me teach classes and lessons for other dogs and their people. Some days, depending on my schedule, it means they have to spend a good portion of their day away from the comfort of their house (read that our comfy larger-than-king-sized bed). Some days they have to wait patiently in the kennel at the vet clinic with its own set of smells, sounds and activities.

When most people think of working dogs typically service dogs, guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs and the like come to mind. But our dogs are working dogs.

They have to earn their keep by being good role models for all they come in contact with.

In return, we keep them healthy physically by watching their weight, feeding high quality food and giving them exercise. We also keep them healthy mentally by training them so they can be included in all our activities and challenging their minds.

This should be basic to every dog owning house. All dogs should do some kind of work to earn their keep -even if the work is something as simple as sitting for supper or waiting at the door and not jumping on people. The goal should be to make your dog a working dog.

So really our dogs shouldn’t lead lives so much different than yours.

Well, except for the bear cub downstairs!