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!