Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Twas the Day Before The Night Before

Here on the day before the day before Christmas 2007, the weather isn't sure what to do. It poured buckets earlier, and now there are wispy flakes of snow flailing about with little confidence of retaining their form when they hit the ground. So it's a 50/50 proposition of whether here in Cleveland there will be a white Christmas.

My new site is finally launched and I'm going to tweak a few bugs before I make a more formal announcment, but for anyone interested in checking it out and letting me know your opinions of our new look, that would be a mighty nice gift for the end of the year.

If the holiday festivities (or more to the point, the kids home from vacation hogging my computer time) prevent additional posts until we cross the timeline to 2008, have a happy happy.

Warmest wishes from A Better Pet

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


It's coming up to that time of year for resolutions. I am going with modest changes. I resolve to try to keep things less scruffy. I started with Bean. While I am technically qualified to descruff him, I would MUCH rather leave my clippers in their drawer and have my beloved neighbor and amazing dog groomer friend Deb do it for me. Despite some serious health issues she is -- thankfully -- back on her feet and so Bean is once again the clean and descruffed buddy! I think he feels more mature!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting in Tune

Metaphors are a great way to better understand the vicissitudes of life. Today's life lesson, somewhat, er, grating, is writing this while Kevin the Piano Tuner plunks away at our newest addition (Trip watching with fascination!). His tireless tuning is painful to hear but the end result will be a harmonious instrument that will enchant the home.

Why, it's almost just like the seemingly endless repetition of reinforcing the positive to get a dog who understands just what it is you do want, instead of what you don't. I think it helps to just assume the dog needs to practice a behavior 3,500 times to really learn it. I just hope the piano tuning is shorter than that!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Part III of 3: The Intimate Dinner Party Dog

It isn't that Lily wants to necessarily eat alone, but Lily, an Intimate Dinner Party Dog, doesn't cotton to too many dogs, even more so as she matures (she's a womanly 8 now).

The Intimate Dinner Party Dog (IDPD) might like other resident dogs, and might even have a good friend or two, but isn't graceful in a moderate or large group situations. Some IDPD's might be victimized and really be miserable, but others, like Lily, can become downright bitchy and aggressive, despite proper socialization and the best of intentions.

Some temperaments are more a result of nature than nurture and so, with respect to the more introverted dog (at least with respect to other dogs; Lily does love most people and is an affection monger in the most delicate of ways), I say manage that they don't have to be put in positions of stress socially and look for other ways to brag about their other accomplishments.

Something to think about if you're looking to add a dog to your life -- know their preferences for dinner!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Part II: Dinner Party Dog

Dinner party dogs do like to party and might have quite a few doggy friends -- they might be living in the same house together, or be neighbors or cousins or friends -- and playing is festive and good. When the party gets too big, say, cocktail party sized, our Dinner Party Dog starts to either get overbearing/overexcited and rude or get picked on/beaten up more than say, you appreciate.

Some dinner parties can be small -- maybe 4 dogs, others maybe up to about 6-8. But larger than that and we can have some trouble.

It's always good to bring refreshments to any dinner party!

Coming next: The Intimate Dinner Party Dog

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Party Dogs - What Kind is Yours?

In my humble opinion and based on my breadth of experience examining the behavior of dogs for the past 40 plus years, I think dogs fall into 3 general categories (I think people fall into the same categories btw). These categories are COCKTAIL PARTY DOG, DINNER PARTY DOG AND INTIMATE DINNER PARTY DOG. I happen to have one of each! What with the holidays approaching, what better time to bring up the party dog categories!

Today's discussion is on Dog Type # 1:

1. Cocktail Party Dog

Cocktail party dogs like everyone and everything. The quintessential dog park pal this dog enjoys playing hard and often -- if another dog doesn't like the party dog, oh well, off to find a more amenable pal. Party in the house, wow, this dog likes to meet and greet wagging and wiggling. A dog might start out as a party dog and change, but in my experience, party dogs usually stay party dogs unless they experience a trauma.

My dog Trip is a total cocktail party dog. He loves other dogs and puppies, cats, turtles, LOVES LOVES LOVES babies, especially in car seats, toddlers, kids and adults. He is charming and popular!

Trip has been a cocktail party dog pretty much all of his 6 1/4 years.

Next installment: Dinner Party Dog (stay tuned)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here we go again...where did the time go?

Since my last posting summer faded into fall with the requisite change of light, change of leaves (i.e., falling off the trees) and fun holidays like Halloween and just recently passed, Thanksgiving. Black Friday has come and tomorrow is what they're calling Cyber Monday

For the past few months I have been retooling a website (to be launched soon!...that will certainly elicit a blog entry) and coming up with early New Year's Resolutions (one to be a more consistent blogger).

I have started walking the dogs more and enjoying it immensely. We went from our old workhorse of a car

to my new A Better Pet Mobile.....

Har-Vest's are in stock, including a new XS size I'm quite proud of (the speed we went from concept to mock up to prototype to delivery of finished product was less than two months -- a far shorter period than the four years it's taken to get to the same point with the other Har-Vest's!

Here are all the styles and colors currently available.

Now to get the little piggies to market!
I'm off for a nice crisp fall walk....certainly more to follow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where Does the Time Go?

Summer has flown by. While technically there is another month to the season, it doesn't feel likeit. There have been long droughts, hot spells calling me to swim at the pool or the lake, cool periods, lately soggy endless rain (oh, talk about your bad hair day), and another season is starting to show signs of fading. Vacations anticipated and happily experienced and now that getting ready to go back to school feeling is in the air. Certainly it's earlier than it used to be (like white shoes go away after Labor Day, so too does school start after that back in my day), but as the angle of the sun starts to show seasonal change, so too does the mindset from lazy days to increased structure.

Mr. Blue, now known as Brio, arrives today from Nebraska. Brio is a golden retriever pup born on the summer soltice in Nebraska from a parental set with the names Promise and Freedom.

Mr. Brio Blue at 8 weeks

Brio's Dad, Freedom

Brio's Mom, Promise

Brio is my latest service dog in training project. Brio's future job will be to help with his person, Grace, who is a high functioning autistic 11 year old who certainly entrances all who cross her path. At least the adult set. Her blunt approach and poor boundaries can set her peers spinning which can be alientating and frustrating. Brio will spend his puppyhood in the puppy raising home of an assistant and her spouse and kids. I'll get to snatch him on occasion for social outings and warm kisses, and return him again for the day to day routine so he can learn -- where to pee and poop, to learn his name, basic commands (sit, down, stay, come), deal appropriately with all he meets and, when the situation warrants it, help mitigate the symptoms of autism which can make getting through the day challenging for Grace and those around her.

It is bound to be an adventure, one I plan to chronical over the next seasons as the pup settles in and has inevitable excursions and experiences. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

4th of July Redux and MarkOut®

This blog is getting so old I'm posting a 2nd time about 4th of July. Yes, it's that time of year again when fireworks are looming on the horizon. The firefighters battling fires in the Lake Tahoe are aren't the only ones who are probably aghast at the plans to go ahead and set off fireworks out there on the 4th assuming the fire is under control.

So anyway, as the cobbler's children often don't have shoes, just because I'm a dog trainer doesn't mean I don't come upon the occasional dog behavior conundrum.

My boy Bean

is by all accounts a great dog. He's loyal, and true and affectionate. Laid back but ready to go wherever at a moment's notice. He comes when I call him, sits, stays, walks great on a leash, has default behaviors that work great in an active home and is nice on the eyes.

But I waited until he was 18 months old before I neutered him in the delusional belief I might breed him. I neutered him when I did because he had started a marking habit I attributed to raging hormones. I also realized I have no business getting into the world of breeding, no matter how great a dog I thought he was and is. So now Bean, who will be 4 on the 9th of July, has a marking habit of over 2 years. A pretty entrenched habit.

I have been in occasional denial; there have been periods of inactivity. It's one thing that every morning and before bedtime I let him out on the front lawn to mark the treelawn tree (and a few other spots if he's in the mood/need) and on walks he's marking stone markers, bushes, poles, trees and even tall grass spots and fence posts (but only when off leash, on leash he's trotting right at my side). It's another thing altogether that he marks on cardboard boxes, paper bags or other "things" INSIDE MY HOUSE.

It doesn't happen in other houses or businesses I take him to because I manage him every minute (I believe if left unsupervised, he'd absolutely mark in most situations) and I have successfully helped clients resolve the problem but it wasn't until now I decided to get really serious and FIX the problem.

I had made homemade belly bands for him before and had him wear them occasionally but I was erratic in my use and the need to wash them frequently caused me to be inconsistent.

So I went online and did some research and purchased a Mark Out ® Kit. The kit includes 3 ace bandage like wraps and a booklet/training manual. The creator is a trainer named Karyn Garvin and I think her book is brilliant. Short, concise, clear, to the point. Much of what I try to communicate to my own clients. And I had a pretty clear idea before reading it what I have to do to really get a handle on this boy's indoor marking (the other dogs blessedly do not have this problem!) and I'm ready to start.

But, and here's where it comes in handy for 4th of July. To those of you with sound phobic dogs for whom lightening storms and fireworks create panic with all its accompanying behavioral responses, at the very end of this booklet she says this:

"If you have ever known a dog that suffers from a fear of thunderstorms, then you also know how traumatic in can be. It is the noise that sends them into a panic. It makes sense! Deaden the noise, and calm the dog. New Techniques to MarkOut® Fear of Thunderstorms

Step 1: Use an eyedropper to put a few drops of mineral oil in each of your dog's ears.

Step 2: Put a couple of cotton balls in each ear

Step 3: Wrap a MarkOut® wrap around your dog's head to hold everything in place.

Step 4: Watch your frightened dog relax.
Remember to share this idea with your friends. It works."

And I believe her. So I'm sharing. I think it's brilliant!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mt. Everest Metaphor or How To Increase Freedom for Your Dog

I'm often asked by clients how to reduce dependency on crates or extreme confinement and give the dogs greater trust during owners' absences. I like to use metaphors to better help people understand the dog mind.

If we remember The Three D's (Distraction, Distance, Duration) we're talking about all of the above for increasing freedom when we're not home.

Crating (or confining to a small space like a kitchen or utility room or bathroom, etc.) is a management tool. You can't really expect a dog to go from extreme confinement to total house freedom without the POSSIBILITY of some negative thing happening (and remember, dog's failures are subjective -- the dog doesn't see its behavior as failure) like eating rugs or furniture or walls or floors or some part of the house, howling for hours, pooping somewhere inappropriate, tearing at curtains, and in extreme cases -- shattering windows and jumping out of them., goodness, the list can go on (I should ask you to send me some of the really rotten things your dogs might have done -- the worst I remember is my first dog eating a windowsill in a rental house way back in 1981, but I digress).

So let's imagine you've decided you're going to go climb Mt. Everest. Because it is there, because you're a risk taker, because you want an excuse to go to Nepal, whatever. So first you have to get to Nepal. Let's say the altitude where you're coming from is different than Nepal. Your body has to adjust to the altitude. So you go to Nepal, you hire your Sherpa guide, you eat a few of the local delicacies, and you spend some time adjusting. Think of this as crate training.

Next, you gather up your equipment, your guide, your food and you head to base camp. It's a little higher than Nepal. Whoa. You take a few days to adjust. Think of this as the crate PLUS a space like the kitchen. You start to feel stable, things are going well, so you strap on your crampons and fling your backpack on and whatever else people who are foolish or brave enough clamp on themselves to climb Mt. Everest and up up up you go.

Whoa, you start to feel like crap. Maybe your dog, when it feels like crap, starts eating the baseboard or the dryer vent. This isn't very good. So what to do? I say go back to base camp and relax and adjust for a few more days or, in the case of the dog, go back in the crate for THREE DAYS (I'll have to have a three day rule post one of these days).

Now you're feeling better and/or the dog has been GREAT in the crate for those 3 days. You go back up the hill, er, I mean mountain. Up, up up to the next level. Gasping for breath and feeling headachey, you crawl into your sleeping bag and rest and readjust. Things are getting better.

You're ready to ascend again. This time the dog gets Crate + Space + Space 2. As long as you feel up to it, you keep going up. If you feel not so well, you GO BACK TO BASE CAMP.

And so on and so on. EVENTUALLY you get to the top, plant your flag in and hustle back down. If you're unlucky the weather sucks and you never make it to the top. And if you're really unlucky, you don't make it out of the mountain.

The good news is that the dog doesn't really get altitude sickness, weather conditions in homes are usually fairly stable, and if you're patient and do it at the rate YOUR DOG can handle it, the dog can have freedom responsibly.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

House Beautiful

My house isn't really a house beautiful kind of place. I mean, the architectural detail caught my eye when househunting (and the house is nearly 100 years old!) and it was my must have house, but my housekeeping skills aren't that great, and with a flurry of kids and dogs and a cat and all kinds of flotsam and jetsam, my interior would, at best, be one of those "before" pictures you'd take before some sort of makeover show! BUT, that being said, I did get a mention in the upcoming issue of HOUSE BEAUTIFUL and for that I'll be forever appreciative!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What I Found at The End of the Rainbow

One of the things I love about carving out a rewarding career in something I'm so passionate about is the absolute unknown each day will bring. A business has to at least pay the bills, so my sign of success is I'm still at it after nearly 9 years full time while supporting my girls and savoring every day of it.

I've met a lot of really supportive, interesting, kind people throughout the U.S. and I dare say, even in the Southern Hemisphere, through the sales and marketing of Har-Vest.

One such woman, Rochelle Lesser, whose emails initially kept ending up in my spam folder,persevered (for which I'm grateful!) and in the ensuing months I've had the pleasure to talk to her about our shared passions and peruse the absolutely jam packed website she maintains -- as well as a daily maintained useful blog. And now, she has placed Har-Vest on her website in the hopes that it will expand the market and help support her most worthwhile foundation. And I encourage you to explore The Land of Pure Gold.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spring Has Sprung

The grass has riz. So much so that I have been forced to mow not once but twice in the past week and a half. It wouldn't be so bad except that I have Tennis Elbow which is not, unfortunately, from playing tennis, but probably something like starting up a gas mower and hurting myself!

Not surprisingly, with the onset of warmer weather the desire to get out and about increases and what better way to enjoy measuring the growth of leaves and buds than taking a walk. When that walk is to include a dog who has spent his winter not being walked, or walked much, or certainly walked with fewer distractions since a lot of people weren't out walking their dogs then than are walking their dogs now -- well, that dog may have lost any leash manners he might ever have had.

The no pull harnesses and harness/vests out on the market now can not only improve the dog's walking, but help make him useful to boot!

So get out there and walk! With control. And enjoy the budding!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Calming Signals - Lip Licking

I've mentioned it before but here I go again. An ancillary part of my dog training business is the inevitable rescue of no longer wanted animals which I consider tithing of my time as there is rarely if any money in it. I get calls frequently from people looking to rehome their dog or cat or some other animal. Reasons vary and some are somewhat nefarious, but since my focus is on the welfare of the animal, I try not to make out loud judgments and instead offer the limited help I can. If they can keep their animal until a home is found I have them send me descriptions (a personal ad if you will) and up to 3 digital photos (which I'll tweak if I have to) and then I'll put them up on my petfinder site. The numbers of animals varies from day to day or week to week, but the happy endings I often get are well worth the effort. Like I say, one person's trash is another person's treasure.

I also somehow end up on group emails from various rescue organizations sending pleas to go rescue dogs that are in shelters on death row. Whether pure breed or mixed (and that's a whole other blog entry), young or old, healthy or ailing, these pleas are meant to tug at the heartstrings. I generally pass on them due to lack of time and I do what I can do with that limited time, but I'm often struck by the numbers of photos that come out with the tongues out. Learning about calming signals can be helpful in all manner of things, but I know that I if I were a dog and were thrust into a chaotic shelter environment, I'd be licking my lips too, and not in a way that connotes hunger.

In a way that connotes a happy, stable dog, here's my Trip with a wonderful tongue curl. I'm sure it's a genetically inherited quality!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Real Tax Deadline

I guess I really do like to live enough on the edge in that I'm one of those people who postmark their taxes on the very last day possible...this year it happens to be today, April 17th because the 15th fell on a Sunday (the first day of a nor'easter on the East Coast...we here in Cleveland were spared) and the 16th happened to be Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. where the IRS brain lives. Apparently this will happen again in the year 2012, so I'll be looking forward to that! In the meantime, all I can say right now as my taxes filter somewhere through the mail system, the kids wrestle with the last of their homework, the dishwasher quietly hums as it sudses, is I'm grateful for it all. I for one am grateful I live in a free country and happily pay my taxes.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Uh Oh, A Turtle Habitat Obsession Forming

Some weeks ago I posted about the newbie, Leo The Turtle. He is a 5 year old Red Eared Slider who has definitely outgrown his 20 gallon aquarium and the guilt I feel watching him live in this boring small watery habitat without a lot of "frills" (although the online literature assures me he's do you gauge fine in a turtle? But I digress) can't be good for my overall health.

They say nothing in life is free. It's true. The adoption of Leo and his 20 gallon habitat did not involve the exchange of $ -- his previous guardian just wanted him to have a good home as her lifestyle was changing to a lot of travel -- and my daughters really were THRILLED.

But now a subtle mania is setting in and I find myself spending time I don't really have researching turtle habitats and pondering accessories. I already found a 55 gallon aquarium for sale on The Cleveland Craig's List and it wasn't free. I paid $100 cash and had to schlep to get it and then solicit help to get it ensconced on my daughters' window seat. I never really thought about how heavy a 55 gallon aquarium is. And it doesn't even have water in it yet! So figuring out how best to set it up is key.

I'll keep ABetterDogBlog updated as the habitat develops....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Taking Har-Vest™ "Off Road"

Spring is springing and I decided to take Har-Vest on a test drive for off road work a.k.a. hiking. Kids are on spring break, and 1/3 of them wanted to go explore nature, so off we went -- Callie, SpokesDog Bean and I.

First we let the boy run around sans vest and when it was time to "dress" him, I opted for his purple version. In the pockets I put treats, a poop bag, my keys and I even put my digital camera in (within a ziploc bag, just in case!) too. And then it was time to expore nature on our hike.

I missed a lot of potential "heavy duty" off road since my camera was in the pocket, but after we got sweaty/dirty, Bean was happy to pose in Har-Vest and I'm happy to report that as an off road hiker's aid, it was two thumbs up from me!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New Addition

Leo's been here now for nearly 3 weeks. We've changed the water in his 20 gallon aquarium twice, scrubbing the faux "sunning" rock that adheres by suckers (can you call it sunning when it's under a 60 watt light bulb?), as well as scrubbing the Fluval 2 filter. I'm already exploring the acquisition of larger tanks so I can get a bigger filter and not have to change the water. I also think he'd be happier and I'd be aesthetically pleased as well if I could make a habitat for him that isn't so bleak. I'd really like to let him go in a lovely outdoor habitat to be with his people, but my kids, especially 10 year old Callie, would be devastated.

He's amusing when he clanks across the hardwood floor, and the dogs don't seem to mind him much. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Har-Vest Sees America

The endless snow and cold of February should be getting on my nerves by now but I feel I'm getting into some zen groove about it. I can't quite get the heat to really crank on high enough to feel truly warm other than when roasting before a lit fire or buried under thick quilts, but this is truly why I think Uggs were created. Even my kids are being stoic and uncomplaining about things. Partly because they're all agog about the possibility of adopting a turtle (stay tuned) so they're on their bestest behavior about that in hopes I'll cave (ssshhh....gotta keep 'em guessing).

I received a thank you package from a lovely woman named Yvonne from Oakland, CA (where I'm sure it's not snowy and cold) including some great photos of her service dog Pepper. They're back from a 3 month tour of the U.S. Pepper saw the ol' U.S.A. wearing a red Har-Vest. I finally found the time to review some pics she kindly sent and then easily digressed to reading about one of the memorial sites Pepper and Yvonne visited. Here's another link that's informative too. FDR had a lot of quotes, but one that resonates with me this morning as I, remember, have that zen attitude about the cold and snow, is this one:

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

I may be cold, I may be figuring out how to balance my budget, I may be scraping the bottom of the barrel on occasion, but gosh, I'm very happy in figuring out how to market a product I invented AND can bring others happiness. So all in all, for a Monday, it's a pretty good one.

Stay tuned about the turtle!

Monday, February 05, 2007


I have happened on friendships of various depths through my work as a dog trainer/behaviorist. Some of whom move on but don't lose touch. Here's one former client, now friend, relocated to the land of Maine, who recently shared this gem with me and I thought it worth sharing. It helps us remember how truly awesome dogs can be.

Here’s a story about Ginger, Crash’s girlfriend.

Crash is my dog. Ginger was a neighbor’s dog. She and Crash fell in love and eloped. They had puppies last summer, all rehomed now to excellent homes. Ginger’s owners had to move this month. Though they loved Ginger dearly, no dogs were allowed, so she could not go with them. They asked if I would consider her. I took Ginger immediately. After all, she is Crash’s love, the mother of his children, and I wanted another dog. Ginger was great, she has a very sunny personality, I could see Crash’es attraction to her.

Anyway, I had her spayed, thinking I’d keep her with us, on the farm. We loved those puppies, but enough is enough. Before her spay Ginger was also bathed at a local kennel. The kennel owner remarked that she really liked Ginger and that Ginger might make a good dog for her dad, who lived alone. But I was keeping this lovely dog. No plans to rehome her.

Ginger, Crash and I had a great deal of fun, especially on our walks. I’d been very apprehensive about another dog as Crash is innately territorial. Yet he was great with Ginger, offered her every leniency. I knew there would be no trouble there. She accompanied us throughout the day as I worked in the stable with the horses. She was fitting in beautifully to farm life. However, something was not quite right. I could see with each passing day that Ginger was ever more jealous of the close relationship between Crash and me. She wanted to be Top Dog. She wanted to snuggle in my lap on the couch. But that sort of thing is Crash’es job. Here, she would never be number one dog because Crash is my Best Guy and the position is simply not negotiable. After a bit of soul searching I called Dawn the kennel owner, with her father in mind. What I didn’t know was that ever since bathing Ginger, she herself had been thinking about Ginger for her father, Don. She had mentioned the dog to him. He had wanted to meet Ginger.

Don, whose previous dog had died some time ago, lives alone. His daughter lives next door and runs a kennel. Yesterday I dropped off Ginger for a visit. Don looked a bit tentative. He has some complications due to diabetes, and though he walks 2 miles a day, drives and does his own grocery shopping, he is not 100% by any means. He himself had concerns about whether or not he wanted to take on the demands of a new dog. Ginger took to him instantly. She has a way of winning people over, is very charismatic. She will literally hug you with her paw. Well, she tried her best to hug him, but he’s a tall man. I could see that Ginger charm beginning to work right away.

I left them for a few hours. When I returned, Dawn told me she had checked on Ginger and her dad at one point, and found the two of them watching the football game, Ginger sitting in his lap (she weighs 50 lbs.). Dawn said she hadn’t seen her father smile like that in a long time. And when I saw them together, I could see it was meant to be. The TV was on. And there was Don in the recliner, with Ginger was standing with her paws in Don’s lap as he continually stroked her head. She looked very happy. So did he.

Of course Ginger would stay with Don. I could not take her way, after seeing that happy scene. Ginger clearly has found her human. She will stay with Don for good. She has a job. Her own human being. Crash and I miss her, but it is rewarding to know that one elderly gentleman has a richer life today because he found a great little dog and she, him. I am sure Don’s only regret today is that the Patriots lost the game and will not go to the Superbowl.

Post Note: Since I wrote this, I’ve visited Don twice to see how the two of them are doing. He told me that Ginger sleeps in the bed next to him. (This, from a man who wouldn’t let cats in the house in years past.) She watches TV sitting in his lap. She walks 2 miles with him daily. She rides shotgun in the truck while he plows snow. She looks relaxed, more like a puppy than ever, and is very playful. Together, they looked a perfect match.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dog Training Do's & Dont's


DON'T put your dog in a situation you or he are not prepared to handle.

DON'T turn a rude puppy or dog loose with an intolerant adult dog.

DON'T expect your dog to like every dog she meets (at least until you like every person you meet).

DON'T allow your dog to become over excited or rude -- help him find a more appropriate behavior or remove him briefly from the triggering situation.

DON'T allow other people to allow their dogs to be rude to your dog.

DON'T ignore your dog or what your dog tells you about her feelings.

DON'T punish a dog for reminding a puppy to mind his manners.

DON'T let your training or competition goals overwhelm your good sense -- always be fair to your dog.


DO respect the fact that your dog has a need for and a right to protect her personal space.

DO socialize your dog so that he's wise in the ways of other dogs.

DO accept and expect the inexplicable disliking that your dog may have for another dog.

DO build your dog's tolerance levels through repeated, positive experiences.

DO continually educate yourself regarding normal and appropriate canine behavior in any given situation.

DO plan ahead to how you will handle difficult situations, people or dogs.

DO earn your dog's trust by keeping your promise to protect her.

DO pay attention to your dog when you are with him.

DO insist that your dog behave politely.

DO respect that your dog's individual needs may or may not be in line with your training or competition goals.

DO put your dog first -- all your hopes, dreams, titles and goals all mean nothing if you ignore the needs, fears and realities of who your dog is.

DO honor and respect your dog's concerns, whether or not you share them. (Remember how your mom left the light in the hall on at night when you were a kid? It probably wasn't because she was afraid of the dark.)

Winter Weeding AKA Purge to Socialization

I am in dead-of-winter-purge-the-extra-crap-out-of-my-life mode. And so I finally attacked a large dusty box of papers needing my attention (easier than the emotional crap that also needs weeding) -- would they live another season tucked in a file cabinet or go the way of the recycling fairies? And as I weeded through I found a few gems and thought to share. It also helps perpetuate avoiding another writing project hanging over my head. So, here, a hand out originally dated 11/2001 called....

Possible Reasons Why You Are Here and Things to Ponder Socialization

1. You're here at least in part to socialize your dog thoroughly with other dogs; for puppies, choose playmates of a similar age and adults who have been well socialized themselves. This means off-lead socialization, not sniffing noses at the end of the lead. The more experience a dog has with other dogs, the more refined his judgment will become about what constitutes rude or foolish behavior and how best to deal with it. He'll also learn how to be a polite dog himself.

If a dog has not or cannot be well socialized, be realistic about what you can expect from him in his dealings with other dogs. This may mean altering your training or goals to be fair to a dog who may not be able to cope with the stresses of more complex situations.

2. When socializing your dog under someone else's instruction or guidance, be careful. Some instructors and trainers are appallingly ignorant about basic behavior, and unable to set up a positive socialization situation. If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, remove your dog. It only takes a few seconds for a bad experience to leave a lasting impression, particularly on a young dog. I try to make this part of class fun, educational and supportive. If you have any questions regarding the socialization part of class, feel free to discuss.
Just turning dogs loose together to play is not socialization. There has to be supervision, and intervention when the potential for a problem appears. I will be paying attention to each individual dog as well as the pairings or subsets within the whole play group. If one dog is getting overly excited, we may take him out of the play group and calm him down before letting him play again. If a fearful dog has reached his limit, we may remove her from the group and give her time to relax and build her courage before putting her back in. If a particular dog or dogs begins to gang up on another dog, we'll break up the brat pack.

3. Watch your dog. Your dog will tell you all you need to know about his perception of the world. when you're with him, really be with him. Pay attention to his behavior. Position yourself and/or the dog so that the dog is always in your peripheral vision. Practice checking on your dog often. If he appears to be concerned, find out why. And then help him. Protect him. Teach yourself to recognize the small, subtle signs that he's shifted out of a perfectly relaxed state of mind. These may be as simple as the tilt of an ear, a raised eyebrow, a slight holding of the breath or tensing of the muscles. Each dog is different - learn to read your own dog.
If you can't watch your dog in a situation where there are potential problems, put him somewhere safe. I've seen far too many incidents occur unnecessarily because a handler was engrossed in a conversation and ignoring the dog at their side.
Handle your dog with awareness, not by the length of your lead. I always try to have at least 30% of my attention on my dog or dogs at all times when they are with me, if not more. During the class I expect at least 50% at all times.

4. Be proactive in protecting your dog out in the real world. If you see an ignorant dog owner and his rude dog headed your way, do your best to protect your dog. If possible, walk away, lightly and quietly asking your dog to come with you. Be sure you are breathing and relaxed -- don't let your apprehension about a possible altercation impact negatively on your dog. Dogs learn to be very sensitive to the sometimes subtle shifts of an owner/handler's mood.
If you can't walk away, try to get the ignorant dog owner to stop. Position yourself between the fool and your dog. If necessary, loudly and firmly tell the approaching person that your dog is not good with other dogs. If someone says this to you about their dog, respect it. In close quarters where there really aren't any options for moving away, shield your dog with your own body. (Remember, stepping between dogs is an act of protective leadership).
If you need to, sharply tell the fool to "please control your rude dog." You'll probably get a dirty look (fools rarely believe they or their dogs are rude and are shocked when spoken to sharply) but chances are good they'll at least make a show at controlling their dog or move huffily away from you.

5. Be aware of how your dog's social behavior will change over the course of the next month. Those of you with bouncy, rude dogs will see a calmer, more sophisticated play behavior. Those of your with shy, anxious, retiring type dogs will see a subtle or overt improvement in your dog's interest and ability to play. Those of you with more middle of the road type dogs will see relationships develop and increased communication skills. The degree to which the dogs will improve socially will help you to recognize the concept of measurable change. Enjoy the process. It's a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Year Aspirations

Welcome to a New Year!
Rather than becoming resolute about making resolutions I have decided instead to aspire to have aspirations as it seems much less stressful. And one of my aspirations is to reduce the level of stress in my life! In reducing this stress I don't even feel the least bit stressed about not getting to this until the 11th day of the new year. So far, so good.

I never went through a phase in my life where I said, "when I grow up I want to be a soft goods manufacturer" but lo and behold, having had the epiphany nearly 3 years ago to follow through on a great idea into a marketable product this is exactly what one part of my life has turned into.

My little idea of a no pull harness and backpack, aka Har-Vest, is mushrooming despite myself. From local to national and possibly beyond, I'm hoping to add to the resume of my life a successful venture in the marketing of what I truly believe to be an amazing product that I am proud to spawned! Keep posted in the coming months on news and if you happen to see anything out there in your travels...let me know with an email!