Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The 4 Quadrants of The Human•Dog Relationship

Quadrant 1: I Love My Dog
Usually cooed when the dog is sleeping peacefully and being "oh so adorable" because, well, frankly, because it isn't doing anything you think is "bad" like peeing on your rug or jumping on your visitor or eating your pillow or running off or....._____.

Quadrant 2: I Hate My Dog
Often growled under your breath when, say, your poorly supervised puppy dog has done something you define as "really bad". Like eating the new dog toy when you turned your back for just a minute! Or __________, or __________

Quadrant 3: I Like My Dog
When she makes a soft pillow and listens to my problems when no one else will. Or she listens to me when I ask her to do something or she just shows me the joy of living day to day or ____________.

Quadrant 4: I Don't Like My Dog
When she does prewash before I asked her to! Or she gets into the trash again. Or she runs off or digs or I swear she understands but won't listen or _____________.

Here's hoping your 2009 is filled with lots of Like and Love, very little I Don't Like but maybe just enough to remind you of the path to return to or get on towards figuring out the like and love you want and please please please don't ever get to where you hate your dog. And if you're there. Get help!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays From A Better Pet LLC

Go Here To See what you can achieve when you have enough time, an obviously super duper vacuum, editing equipment and capabilities, and mostly, TALENT FROM HUNGARY!!!!! Hats off to www.katysulu.

Happy Holidays!!!

Rachel and the Gang At A Better Pet LLC

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ides of December

Tis the Ides of December, or better known as the halfway mark. Only 6 days until the winter solstice, same until Hanukah, and just 10 from Christmas.

The pressure is on to shop and acquire and even in this troubled economy, people do go out to experience the joy of giving. One thing you want to avoid, though, is giving a puppy or kitten (or dog or cat) to someone as a Christmas gift without doing some soul search first.

I just got an email from an old client asking about helping her find a dog for her recently widowed mother in law who is in her mid 80's and seems lonely. While the intentions are very honorable, and I have no doubt her daughter in law loves her, her request suggested that MIL doesn't know this thought is about.

I wrote my former client back and strongly urged her to talk to her mother in law first and really think through whether and what kind of pet might be suitable, and to have a plan of action in place if for any reason MIL could not care for the animal either temporarily or permanently. My client thanked me and then I remembered all those Holiday Present Puppy calls I get the beginning of every new year.

And while I certainly like to be busy, I like the reasons to be more about carefully thought out and appropriately acquired pets, and not another box to unwrap amid the tinsel and the lights.

And lastly, speaking of tinsel, strongly discourge use if you have impulsive pets and if you can't resist AND your animals ingests it, one of the safest ways to get it out is to have the animal swallow real cotton balls, dipped in milk or half and half, which will collect said unsavory from the innards and safely dispel it through the bowel.

Enough of that talk. Happy Pre Holidays!

Ho ho ho.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Thing To Do With a Laundry Basket

Perhaps you've heard of the fun clicker training game, 101 Things To Do With a Box. If time permits, and I think I can do it quickly, I demonstrate to clients the speed with which something very foreign and odd can be taught to a dog simply by understanding timing and feedback.

Toby was a dog I had a chance to meet and then see again 4 days later (I also worked with his "sister", a yellow lab named Daisy who, if you watch carefully, can be seen in the above video bored in the background with such shenanigans).

When I first met him he was an anxious, skittish, non compliant adolescent with a lot of angst. By the end of the first session he was definitely calmer, learned a number of new behaviors, and his owner, Katie, was given a lot of very clear cut workable protocols to start ameliorating alot of his anxiety based reactivity.

I returned to see Toby 4 days later for a follow up, which is unusual for me. I was asked to return because Katie's husband had returned from the navy and they were due to drive west and relocate to Seattle for a new navy post. The change in Toby was so dramatic. Where at my first meeting he was reactive, barky, suspicious, guarded, skittish. At my second visit,after I walked into the house, he just stared at me with such depth of gratitude it almost made me cry. It was as if his eyes were saying "thank you for helping us all bring me to a sane place, I feel so much better."

Toby's trust in me was so complete that he not only learned to go in the laundry basket quite quickly (when it was first brought in he was very guarded about its presence) but he let me videotape him as he went in for what was the third time in his life. Toby didn't really like having his picture taken either, but he was a trooper.

Clicker training, done correctly, with lots of immediate feedback, is absolutely the coolest way to help teach a dog to do tasks that are complex and foreign as well as to "fix" those things a dog finds less than swell!

Thank you Toby, for being such a good sport!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Biggest Mistake

Owner of A Better Pet learned to trust her instincts on marketing

Posted by Marcia Pledger/Plain Dealer Reporter December 07, 2008
Categories: Biggest Mistake
Roadell Hickman, Photographer/The Plain Dealer


I actually think my biggest mistake was not checking my hair before Roadell the PD photographer came to take my picture (I liked this photo slightly more than the one they used in the paper! But Bean, even in winter scruff, looks good!)

But in all seriousness, I think having to think about mistakes, big and small, and learning from them, can be of course applied to the nature of positive training. If timing is poor with a clicker, no one gets hurt. Sadly, with a punitive approach, a +P take on punishing the dog for making the wrong choice, sometimes poor timing or inappropriate "corrections" can in fact make for bigger problems than the one you were correcting in the first place.

More on that soon. I'm sure! For now, it's back to helping Sophie with her science fair project which of course includes the dogs. I'll be posting those results soon too! Stay tuned.

Monday, December 01, 2008

3rd Quadrant: The Swear Jar

Long ago and far away I recognized my greatest strength in learning something new is through visual and kinesthetic experience. Hence I model for clients, handling their dog in their home, how best to achieve learning for the dog during a training and then work with the owner to transfer that knowledge to them before I leave. Practicing the newly taught skills enough, along with truly understanding a lot of useful information about how dogs actually operate (which is often antithetical to the average person), helps ensure a transition to a better behaved dog if the individual is motivated (which I assume they are by having hired me to come into their home for 3 long hours or more!). I also give a lot of written material to clients, including a manual I am always updating for those who are more reading/writing learners. But I'm always on the creative and visual lookout for new ways to inspire myself.

Certainly in overseas adventures of my youth in countries utilizing languages other than English, it was always the "bad" words, the curse words, I was taught by my peers. I freely admit I have a potty mouth which works as a catharsis for me because I don't engage in physical violence. But lo and behold, my 3 daughters were annoyed and dare I say embarrassed when I might curse in front of a friend, so I agreed to work on Quadrant 3 of Operant Conditioning, positive punishment:

Every time they caught me swearing, I would put twenty five cents in a "swear jar" in the hopes that I would either

1. Stop swearing
2. Earn us enough in fines to subsidize a vacation.

Sometimes in a fit of that cathartic need, I just whipped out a dollar and made an advance, or checked how many quarters I had fished out of the dryer and slipped into my pockets to give me permission to be less inhibited when provoked to open my mouth and say an inappropriate word or phrase per our agreement.

And I dare say I'm greatly improved, but certainly not cured. After all, we're talking about a very long history of this entrenched "bad" behavior, and I can do it when the environment is appropriate (i.e., I'm alone or with people who don't care), and I'd probably wish it had taken longer so I could have earned more than a few gallons of gas for the improbable future vacation, but I dare say it worked, even without them praising me for having a cleaner vocabulary!

So if you're trying to clean up your own act, or live in a reality based universe about how best to communicate what really matters to you about your dog's behavior, fish out some change and start clinking it in jar of your own. Maybe by the new year, but a mere month away, as resolutions become forefront in your mind, you too will have saved up for something special!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Mirror Dance

The first definition in the dictionary for ANXIETY is

1. distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune: He felt anxiety about the possible loss of his job.

I define it in my dog behavioral consults as manifestations of behavior including poor impulse control and see it on a scale from 1 - 10... 1 would be, "yes I have stress in my world but I handle it gracefully and within what I define as normal limits for me" and 8-10 being "whoa, things are really not going too well and it negatively affects function and, well, it's a big problem." That scale is subjective and varies from person to person and, well, also from dog to dog.

I think a lot of pet owners with anxiety on any scale (and I think we all have some level of anxiety at all times which when mild allows, actually encourages us to function) get trapped into a reactive instead of proactive mode in the relationship with their pets and engage in what I call The Mirror Dance. When one is reactive, it's much harder to slow down enough to reflect on What I Want Instead and are instead just caught on this cycle of frustration and usually negativity. And it can worsen. We're being bombarded every day in every way -- print, television, internet, coffee shops, everywhere -- by the nosediving of our economy and the general dismal state of affairs. This anxiety has reached macro proportions and it trickles into the microcosm of the individual(s). With the increased anxiety the Mirror Dance speeds up (think about a prime time network Dancing With The Dogs show doing The Viennese Waltz in a Canine Freestlye Celebrity Competition!) and now one of the side effects is the increased anxiety in the dog and the manifestations of that anxiety becoming so overwhelming it's the I Hate My Dog But I Love My Dog But I Hate My Dog cycle.

It seems to me in my own recent experience that the worse the national and international news gets, the more calls I'm getting and seeing clients and dogs with a lot of anxiety issues. By simply helping slow things down and help people better understand how to achieve control using non force based methods and positive reinforcement and owners taking responsibility, letting go of making excuses and being proactive then they not only can continue to love the dog but the hate gives way to like and the like is what motivates for training.

My favorite challenge is the client who says if I don't fix the problem they will get rid of the dog and in a single 3 hour session without exception I leave having succeeded in the challenge -- I don't fix the dog so much as I teach the owners by modeling and giving explanations of how dogs really think and what dogs really need. And they love and like their dog again.

So this holiday season slow down, be proactive, enjoy the fundamentals of the holidays we begin today to celebrate -- give thanks, spend time with those you love or like, but certainly not with those you hate!, and try to quell the anxiety beast while living in reality.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Measure of Change

In reviewing past posts I recognize I acknowledge milestones in my dogs accomplishments including (and celebrating, but not too over the top!) the passage of another year. Each dog received a birthday post this year. So you probably know, if you are a reader, that my current canine trio are now 5, 7 and 9. (the picture above was taken when Lily, now 9, was a wee pup and shows that even then, at the very beginning of evaluating my goal to become a dog trainer, I was surrounded by my pack of kids and animals -- some things never change!) So the dogs now are old enough to be reliable, trustworthy, trained; young enough for me to not be too stressed about age related decline.

Last night my daughters and I watched old videos. The favorite was one of my oldest daughter, now nearing 16, as a very small infant in a series of vignettes which included some video of my beloved Teisha -- the dog I credit with teaching me the majority of what triggered me onto the path of dog training. I hadn't seen this video in a very very long time, and it was very heartwarming to see from the distance of time how very close that dog and I were without effort. In one shot, I'm sitting in a den with my parents, video taping ex husband (master of the long take), infant daughter and 3 dogs -- Teisha, Maeya and Teisha's son, Nicholas, who lived with my parents for his 14 years) and my foot is just touching Teisha's back as she is curled up on the floor sleeping near me. She was by this time totally deaf (nearly 12 years at the time of the video)but so well connected visually that no one would know unless told and then tested it by banging noises when she wasn't looking!

So I get to thinking as I watch this how critically important I see this measure of change in the bigger picture. While I may focus on the micro change, i.e., the dog increasing duration in a "stay" cue by seconds or minutes -- I also pay heed to the more macro, i.e, the passage of another year, to assess "where was I last year, where am I now" approach to all things -- training of dogs, development of kids, business level, relationships, size of the tree I planted on my front lawn (it happens to be a catulpa tree which grows fast so it's "funner" to measure its growth!), etc.

If you're frustrated with a particular "sticky wicket" in your approach to modifying a behavior -- whether of your partner, dog, kid, colleague, etc. -- slow down, measure in increments that are meaningful, be strong, and keep at it! It really does help!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Reason I Love Zappos

I just had to make a note that the positive dog training movement is even infiltrating the error pages of super cool online stores like Zappos. Not sure if you can read the text but when zipping around too fast on one of my favorite online stores (just upgraded my memory from 512K to 2 gig and the "computer on steroids" takes some adjusting for someone with quick clicking/typing fingers!) this came up and here's what it says:

Egads! We're Sorry!
It appears we're experiencing an internal server error.
We thought we'd try out this new-fangled "Brisco Dog 5000" server system. Unfortunately it sometimes goes haywire when the mailman walks by. Rest assured, our team is working closely with Brisco to fix the problem and will have it resolved shortly.
Usually it just requires doggie treats to fix! In the meantime, try checking out:
Zappos Homepage or Zappos Site Map or Zappos Customer Service Center
(or) Try a Search

Under the photo of the dog, it says:
No animals were harmed in the making of these error pages.
(mildly embarrassed by being dressed up in silly clothing, but not hurt in any way.)

Think about it. Savor it. The media messages coming out have tipped to showing the humor and benefit and goodness of positive orientation. Kudos, Zappos! (try typing that ten times real fast! Who knows where it might zap you!).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Queen is 9 AND I fixed a Conundrum!

Wow, what a day. The Queen, AKA Lily The Wonder Dog, turned NINE today. We actually don't know her exact birthday, but since her arrival ushered in the 21st century and she was about 8 or 9 weeks old, we counted backwards and picked November 18th because it holds resonance for me in several ways and if it's not actually the right day, it's pretty darn close. What made the day even more special was having ANOTHER epiphany

a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

this one about a leash walking issue that was over a year in the making. Talk about simple.

Here was the issue: When I walk with all 3 of my dogs on leash, I have Lily attached to me, Bean attached by a joiner to Lily's Har-Vest, and Trip attached to me solo. I hope to illustrate with photos someday soon. But here was the thing. If I had Lily attached to me, I put a leash on her Har-Vest 0-ring, ran the leash through the handle, attached another leash to that and wore her around my waist. The length when taut was about 6 feet and I had worked diligently on training her to:
a) pull with just enough consistent tension to move us along at a 3.25 mph rate (using a pedometer to set the pace);
b) walk ahead but have NO tension whatsoever or;
c) drop the leash and have her drag it and be right at my side.

All 3 of these were accomplished with simple voice commands: "pull me", "no pull" and "stay with me".

I couldn't figure out how to get her to just drop back and walk at my side with the leash still attached UNTIL today no matter how hard I tried to communicate "stay with me". Why?

The only thing we changed was swapping out the first leash for a shorter more tab type leash which made the full length Lily could be in front of me with the slight tension (see "a) shorter -- at this length she was 1 foot length in front of me as we walked. And this time, just for fun when I asked her to drop back and after we had picked up my daughter from school and my daughter and I shared the sidewalk, LILY WALKED AT MY SIDE WITH NO TENSION WHILE STILL ATTACHED TO MY WAIST. I'm not sure if I'm really conveying the true magnificence of this accomplishment, and I can't wait to test it for a second consecutive day, but the ONLY thing that changed was the length of the leash she could be out in front and the change was at most 2 feet. So here it was, my own DISTANCE part of the 3 D's (Distance, Distraction, Duration) that solved the conundrum.

Stay tuned for more adventures of the nuances of fine tuning training challenges! And wish my girl many happy returns!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tips, Accepting Advice, Epiphanies

Since I always try to turn potential negatives into positives, upon becoming a single mother, I took to heart and embraced the art of learning handywoman skills I previously seriously lacked -- how to drill, hammer, measure, prep, sand, paint, stain, refinish, scrub, saw, sand some more and repaint not to mention sorting out what tools to use. I did start with a low voltage power drill and realized that my ambition increased so I bought a real heavy duty one and enjoy savoring the fruits of my labor. Given my ADD like behavior, flitting from task to task -- both work and personal ones -- many projects are ongoing.

Some months ago I started filling in holes and patching some bumps and lumps in the walls of the stairway and upper floor hall prior to my plan to paint it during the depths of winter. Swaths of white plaster and brownish wood fill in various sizes and consistencies have been the decor ever since. A few weeks ago a neighbor friend happened by for a cup of coffee and took a look around at all the changes in the house since she had last been inside. When she saw the often very lumpy repairs and patches on the walls she suggested when getting ready to prep for painting I sponge with hot water instead of sand. She told me that the sanding would raise a lot of dust which would exacerbate allergies, especially with winter coming and the house being more closed up. I tucked that suggestion in the back of my mind. Today, as I happened by a splotch of patches, conveniently with a small bucket of very hot clean water and a dry clean rag on hand, I stopped. Put down the bucket. Dropped the rag into the hot water, gingerly squeezed it of the very hot water and scrubbed on the drywall and wood fill parts. Lo and behold, IT WORKED! Now I almost drool with anticipation at the time I'll take to just tackle the whole project of flattening the plaster and fill, which is arguably about 100 x what I did in the few minutes I happened by the wall.

Now, what does this have to do with a blog about dog training? Well, it's this. Before I got distracted into a frenzy about cleaning my wall, I happened to have a talk with a client I had worked with months ago who was calling to reorder some bully sticks. She mentioned remembering something I had said during our session with her unruly adolescent dog that she had completely forgotten about until the situation came up and, lo and behold, such was her conversion to positive training, she remembered the advice, implemented it and had total success. And since the success was a recall that potentially saved the dog from diving into a busy street, she credits it with being a lifesaver.

I'm not sure melting off the plaster and wood fill is going to be lifesaving, but I figure it will be at least two fewer hours spent vacuuming in a week, and that's something!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Teisha's First Snowfall Nov. 1981

27 years ago my first dog -- my muse and inspiration still lo though she has been at The Rainbow Bridge nearly as long as she was alive! -- experienced her very first snow which I recorded with my trusty non digital camera. Granted it was just a dusting, but even then, long before I focused my professional attention on those pillars of training -- distance, distraction & duration and structure, management and training -- I was aware as a "dog mom" how exciting experiencing firsts with her was for me. Teisha was a 5 month old pup at that first snow; she was helping me get through my junior year at The University of Michigan after I had been gone traveling and working overseas for a bit. Ann Arbor was a great place to have a dog -- the arboretum had acres and acres of woods and fields to carouse in, and having a cute well behaved dog in a university town led to lots of connections I might never have made, not to mention helping give balance to the rigors of academia.

Today on my morning walk with the dogs we had what I would call our first real snow of the season. I hadn't expected it to be quite so cold and windy and snowy, but more interesting than become increasingly aware of how cold my toes were getting was observing how very distracted the dogs were. Normally I explain that our morning walks are meant for an aerobic workout..okay, a fast paced walk...not for sniffing and savoring lots of smells (we have those walks too!) but this morning all 3 dogs were nearly besotted by the various smells generated by this rush of seasonal change. My "only having had one cup of coffee so far and I really want 2 more cups" mood nearly went into grump mode, but I found myself stopping that trajectory and instead taking note of how a day of change -- in this it was a seasonal one -- it could just as easily have been a change like the day a newborn baby comes home from the hospital or a new pet is added to the menagerie or a new major piece of furniture arrives or some other novel change -- can generate so much excitement for the canine brain.

I thanked the dogs for reminding me of paying more attention to the little things by slowing down and letting them savor all the sniffs they cared to explore. It made the rest of the day a stellar Monday.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Agent of Change

ELECTION DAY 2008. Election Day has arrived. I'm hopeful that the results are clear, non contested and we select the individual who can bring about change to best benefit the country as a whole and impact in good ways in the world in general -- economy, security, improved standing in the world, health issues of the population and the general health and well being of this third rock from the sun we call Earth. We all know the promises the candidates pledge cannot all be realized; there is that checks and balances system we call democracy, but one promise Barack Obama made, win or lose, was to at last acquire for his beloved and cherished daughters a puppy!

I put out to Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, and to all the other parents out there who promise their children a puppy -- whether it's because they won a national election or the child's report card was improved or they finally did achieve that last notch in the goal to achieve a dog or it was just good timing -- KUDOS. But, as it takes a village to raise a child, so does it take those in the life of the dog the willingness, time, patience and knowledge base to achieve a relationship with a dog (or dogs!) whose function in the life of their people can be one of great joy, humor, love, companionship, improved health, unconditional love...the list goes on.

My three children went to the Barack Obama/Bruce Springsteen event held in downtown Cleveland, OH this past Sunday. No longer myself a big fan of really huge crowds, I got their first hand report on the event. One thing that struck me, of course relating it back to dog training, is their comment about Barack Obama's daughters being up on stage with their parents and The Boss! My youngest daughter, 9, articulated to me that she thought they were very brave to be up on that stage in front of so many many people (I would have to agree with that!). I thought about the anomaly of Malia (also 9) and Sasha's socialization during this long campaign of their father's in which standing up in front of thousands has become a regular experience. One which certainly has had positive reinforcement for these young girls to be so poised and graceful.

So too must a First Pup be exposed to and socialized to all the events that are routine for his/her future family. The pup will need to learn how to handle himself gracefully and show the country, the world, how a well trained pup can be a boon to a family.

My dogs ages are now 5, 7 and very nearly 9.

They are well past their puppy and adolescent behaviors of oppositional/defiant behaviors, chewing, lacking in internalized self control. They're by no means perfect, and each has a distinct personality with qualities that I find both endearing and annoying. But deep down my dogs and I have an abiding trust. They follow me in a comforting, not annoying way. They join me on adventures no others would be available for or interested in, they adjust to changes in routine with little issue, and they definitely bring me more joy and comfort and humor than distress or frustration.

So Barack and Michelle, as you settle into the new life that this post election time frame will bring, spend time with your family and come up with a fantasy wish list of the dog that will help complete the scene for now! Trust me, it will help you greatly when adolescence in your daughters kicks in! And if you need help with any aspect, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Rehabilitation of Lola

A Picture of Lola In Her Early More Innocent Days Before Tramping

I don't think you "own" cats as much as cats deign to be in your life. One of those forwarded posts that goes in fits and starts around the internet seems to be recirculating as I have had it forwarded to me twice in the past few days..you know, the one called Dogs Vs. Cats and is as follows (this time with that Canadian or England English spellings!):

"Excerpts from a Dog's Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favourite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favourite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favourite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favourite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favourite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favourite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favourite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favourite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favourite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Daily Diary. ..

Day 983 of my captivity.
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However,they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. B*stards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow - but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now................

In my own belief about cats, one I'm well aware not all people share, I look at quality of life versus quantity and have cats in my life that are vetted (immunizations and spay or neuter) and fed a great food, but have the freedom to come and go. The three current cats -- Grace, Lola and Byrne -- are all rescues. They all have their own stories. Lola is the middle child these days. She presents as a muscled and well toned beautiful gray DSH cat, about 8 lbs. and very healthy. She was called Fuzzy Lola as a kitten because her hair was longer, but it is a deep and thick fur which when petted feels good on your hands. That is if you can pet her without her taking offense and trying to bite.

In the past year Lola developed an increasingly tramplike or hobo existence. She would disappear for days at a time and then almost stagger home, eat heartily and then sleep a heavy sleep on the top bunk of my daughters' bunk bed for a day before leaving again for her sojourns. We'd see her often a block away, and I was well aware there was a cranky older woman there who had had her arrested once; releasing her from "cat jail" cost $125 and I told Lola I would not free her again. She'd have to be wiser about what company she kepts. She seems to get that...very quick learning curve on this feline. She usually always went east in her travels. Not sure if she aspired to hit Broadway, but she has not acquired a modeling job!

After posting her bail I collared her and acquired a groovy name tag that had both my cell phone number and the tag line: "On A Mission". I periodically get calls to learn about her whereabouts and actions. I know she visits an elderly and very kind widow a block away and entertains her a lot. The woman has thanked me for letting this cat into her life. When I had asked this woman if the cat would try to bite if you petted too long, she laughed and said "oh yes, isn't it dear?" That made me like this previously unknown neighbor a lot! Sometimes people called who mildly complained or seemed very concerned, but I asked them to just let her be and she'd come home again. I knew she never went too far away.

Late last week she did return home. She was cranky, hissy, pissy, annoyed and annoying and was absolutely rude to all - the dogs, the cats, the kids, and ME! The Keeper Of Things That Are Good and The Giver of Freedom. Like my teenage daughter who is mostly incredibly responsible, this cat needed a wee bit of reigning in.

Thus began the Rehab of Lola.

Since I couldn't take away her cell phone, I did the next best thing. I kept her from her social life! First, I locked her in my sunroom which had recently been reorganized but closed off for encroaching winter (IT SNOWED YESTERDAY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!). The room had food, water, a litter box and plenty of soft surfaces to curl up in and under should it get crisp. There were nine windows to look out of with different interesting views of the backyard and 'hood. I went in to visit her several times a day. Each time she got more affectionate, appropriate and sweet, but if she so much as made an inappropriate noise (as I defined it..sometime hard to ascertain as she's a very vocal cat) I would just up and leave the room. Lola had her basics but she got the attention and affection ONLY when she was well behaved AS I DEFINED IT which meant no hissing, growling, biting, swiping, scratching or other bothersome feline behaviors.

I sequestered Lola in the sunroom for 5 days and 4 nights. I don't think there's any biblical corallary to this choice of time frame, but I felt that by the end of this extra long weekend she was back to her nicer, less cranky self. I think she needed a really long sleep and some nicer quality food than that of the kind widow (beggars can't be choosers).

Finally on Sunday I let her out and she was given access to the whole house for the rest of the day. She was still a bit noisy with Grace and immature and very adolescent Byrne, but the dogs just ignored her and she them. Late Sunday afternoon I let her out and wished her well. I wondered how long it would be before I saw her again.

Monday morning I walked my daughter Sophie to school with the three dogs. On our way, we saw Lola. She came running up meowing a greeting. We ignored her and hurried on. I took my morning walk with the dogs and upon returning home an hour later, there she was on the front steps of my house waiting to go in. She's been in and out several times since, has slept on the top bunk all day, and when she wakes up to stretch when I walk in delivering clean laundry, she has a calm air and a contented vibe.

Dare I say she's been rehabilitated? Usually when I get to where I take away my teenager's freedom to her friends when she gets a little too...er...oppositional, she becomes quite a bit compliant and pleasant for at least another month. So we'll see how Lola does by Thanksgiving!

Don't Forget To Vote

Friday, October 24, 2008

Today on Today

I usually don't have the time to lollygag in the morning but today I did. I usually don't put on television in the morning but today I did. And today on Today, as it happened, there came upon my screen a story about"Medicating Your Animals."(click on pets link to see the video - it's called "Prozac for your Pets".) Apparently a lot of dog owners don't have the time to actually develop a relationship with their dogs that, gasp, takes time! Would that they did! According to a statistic Matt Lauer posited, no credit given so I'm not sure about the validity of those stats, but, he said: "Americans spend $15 million on mood altering drugs like Prozac and Zoloft, not for themselves, but for their pets."

The story included both Drs. Nicholas Dodman and Ian Dunbar -- both widely respected veterinarians, authors and revered by pet enthusiasts the world over. Both are originally from across the pond by birth, but practice their craft on either side of the U.S.; Dr. Nicholas Dodman in Masssachusttes, and Dr. Dunbar in Northern California.

Both are greatly respected by many including myself and certainly know their stuff. And they clearly share a passion for helping enhance the relationship between people and their canines. But I have to say, having worked with hundreds if not thousands of dogs, including dogs who might have behaviors like Ice in the video clip from previous neglect and/or abuse, I think Dr. Dunbar makes a stronger case for applying behavior modification methods FIRST and then, failing that or needing another boost to reduce symptoms to allow the dog to respond to behavior mod, a brief foray into mood altering drugs.

I was, however, disappointed no mention was made, by anyone reporting in the story, the benefit of tools such as no pull harnesses (worn by Ice in the video but not discussed nor fitted properly IMO), my very own Har-Vest, Trish King's Calming Caps or Susan Sharpe's Anxiety Wraps that can help reduce symptoms without administering meds. Now that could be a very good supplemental clip to Jill Rappapport's focus on animal stories for The Today Show or any other nationally aired public information/news type show!

I'm here if anyone out there wants me for their show!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What is a Treat? What Isn't?

Playing Tug With A Sock Is A Big Treat!

In my ongoing quest to help people think out of the box, at least with respect to interacting with their dog, I have put together a list of some treats. First, the definition:

A Treat Is Something Your Dog Likes.

You Need To Be Honest About That! If you say "good dog" thinking it's a treat, think again. You can certainly TRAIN your dog to think "good dog" is a treat, but without actually doing that, the probability that "good dog" has the same cachet as say, liver, is doubtful. The dictionary states treat (noun) as "an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure." If you can keep that in mind, it helps.

Treats can fall into TWO categories. FOOD and NOT FOOD.
Within the food category (samples below), you want to think of the treat ranging from the ordinary, ho hum, yes I'll do that if nothing else is happening such as dog kibble or Cheerios, to the canine equivalent of a hot fudge sundae (which a lot of the other examples might fall into for your dog. Remember MODERATION is key, especially on the less healthy forms, and the size given is SMALL).
All forms of liver - Baked, dried, sauted, etc.
Cat food kibble
Cheddar Goldfish
All forms of cheese (including Cheese In A Can) -- can be messy in warmer weather
Cooked meats -- e.g., chicken, steak, pork, turkey or duck
Mock meat - "fake" meat for the vegetarians
Peanut or almond butter (other nut butters can be good too) on a spoon
Burger King or McDonalds (or other fast food type place) hamburger/cheeseburger
Hot dogs
Fruit - Bananas, All Melons
Vegetables - carrots, broccoli,cauliflower, potato, yams, etc.(the earlier you start your dog on fruits and vegetables the wider the palate will be).
String Beans
Carrots - in pieces, baby carrots, big carrots, cooked or raw
Various crackers
bagels/pita bread (I had one dog client who was mad for stale pita..go figure!)
liver brownies
Etc., etc., etc.

Soft tug toys
Small squeaky toy
Rope tug toy
Crinkly paper
Ball that bounces oddly and makes various noises
Sport balls of all sizes and shapes and textures -- soccer, tennis, football, basketball, lacross, croquet, etc.
Stuffed Kong or Biscuit Ball
Tennis ball
Plastic bottles
Jolly Ball
big knotted scrap of fleece fabric
retrieving dumbbell
chase 'n pull toy
stuffed animals that make the animal sound
Toys that make noise other than squeak
Raw or marrow bones
Bully sticks
Yogurt containers (clean up the yogurt first, then play with)
CAREFULLY used laser light
cow hooves
deer antlers
Etc. etc. etc.
What Your Dog Likes That Isn't Above


Getting scratched at the base of his tail
Scritching, belly rubs, gentle touching
car/vehicle rides
Going for a walk
Hike in the woods
Rubbing your dog's ears
Clapping and cheering him on
Playing a favorite game
Tug and ball retrieve
quiet praise w/soft eye contact
big 'whoo hoo' praise with jumping up
a good game of chase
Alone and focus time with your dog
Cuddling on couch
verbal praise with pats on his sides
scratching/rubbing between his eyes and on top of his muzzled
clicker training
Butt scritches
ear rubs
chest scratches
jaw massage
permission to jump up on usually forbidden objects (couch, bed)
time with other people your dog loves
Swimming Together
Training Classes w/ lots of other good looking dogs
on the floor snuggles
being brushed
Other Things Your Dog Enjoys Interacting With That Isn't Above.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bark In The Park

Fall is in the air. Cooler temps, changing colors, and that definite change in the slant of the sun, not to mention the very noticeable change in daylight hours. It can only mean one thing. Bark In the Park is back. Bigger. Badder. Better. New location -- Beachwood Park East (on Shaker Blvd. between Richmond and Brainard in Beachwood, OH.

Great opportunity to socialize your dog, make some interesting observations, and experience a dog friendly event. I'll be there. Hope to see you there! NOTE: THERE IS A $5 FEE PER FAMILY FOR THIS EVENT.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Twelve Paws Up - New Product Review

The "bread and butter" of my dog training services are single session models. They are intensive, comprehensive and consist of a single, 3 hour time frame (up to 4 if more than one dog) with the client(s) and dog(s) in the home. The clinical model comes from both social work experience doing in home parenting as well as evolving over a nearly 10 year full time career as a dog trainer; I have found this model works great for most issues with dogs and business is strong even in this collapsing economy.

This single session doesn't always lend itself to a whole lot of relationship building, which suits me fine -- there are always new clients out there -- but I have added an array of products for the purpose of supplementing my service based income by making available and educating people about the value of equipment, toys, diet, and chewies to enhance the human/canine bond. So it is with great excitement I announce a new find. Well, not brand new, just great stuff in a new form.

Trip, Lily and Bean give it a 12 Paws Up Award, so you know it has to be good. And here's the real benefit: (think grade school math: If Lily can eat a 9" bully stick without distraction in 15 minutes or less, and a bully bone takes her 45 minutes of undistracted chew to just GET OFF THE ONE END...it's a great bang for buck product!)

Bully Bones are now available individually or in lots of 5 (essentially buy 4, get one free). If they're as hot a product as I think they'll be, I'll get larger quantities and figure out pricing. Feedback always helpful to keep products useful, affordable, durable, high quality and desired by dogs of all ages and sizes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Color Mutations

Burn, Byrne, Mr. Byrne, Bernie, Burnie, little guy, has now been here over a month. Gender identity confusions have been resolved, and Burn is in fact a boy! No wonder he's such a trouble maker! He had the all clear with his doc and couldn't have had more fun at his first vet visit. I hope he has as much fun when he returns for a snip snip sometime in the next month or so.

I'm not sure why, but our black kitten with the white abdomen and patch o' white on his chest is going through a color change transformation I can't explain. Nor can his vet! His black hairs are being replaced daily with white, and each day he's becoming whiter and whiter. I have decided to take monthly photos to chart both his grown and his mutations in the hopes someone has had similar experiences and can share the longer term effect. The above photo reflects the end of his first month here (he arrived on August 16).

Now I'm a household with a black dog with some white, a white dog with some black, a white cat with black, a black cat turning white, and then there's Bean, my liver brown and white anomoly. However, despite all these somewhat neutral colors, the colonies of dust bunnies that are gathered up daily all remain a solid gray!

Byrne is learning a lot and for a cat, he's pretty responsive. I'll have to get some videos going but so far he has learned:

Coming when called from inside various rooms AND from outside to inside;
Barreling in through the dog door (he learned that on his own);
High five;
Down (well, sort of...this one causes him to roll over for a belly rub)
and an important one for a mouthing kitten, 'play nice.
He taught a high prey drive visiting Lab how to treat kittens and cats nicely, and they're becoming friends!!! Although I think Burn likes making this dog crash into fences when he slips through on a "chase dare".

He is fearless, funny, confident, amusing, trouble making and determining what costume will adorn his growing body come Halloween.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall is in the Air

Back in June, during the dog days of summer, you may recall I drove ol' now 7 year old Trip down and back to Columbus (five hours driving) for a half hour photo shoot that culminated in this past Sunday's Joann Fabric insert in the local Cleveland Plain Dealer. I actually forgot it would be in this week but as it happened (and they say there are no accidents!) I had to get some drapery hooks and while I was at the store, looking at the circular for sale items, lo and behold on page 10 I found my Pumpkin clad boy emanating out of the pages photoshopped into a picture of a woman in a creepy outfit with a scythe and a little pink clad ballerina!!! Across from the page was a wee little golden pup with a Hannah Montana chick and a vampire dude. There's definitely a crisp to the air, and I promised Trip when I got home that the worst I'd do was put Bean's devil ears on come this Halloween!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Yesterday It Was Trip's Birthday

Back in my day, after Simon and Garfunkel separated into their solo and other collaborative careers, more prolific Paul released an album called STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS with a song called HAVE A GOOD TIME

This morning I crooned the lyrics on behalf of my now 7 year old JRT, Trip:

Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My life's a mess
But I'm having a good time

Oo, I've been loving and loving and loving
I'm exhausted from loving so well
I should go to bed
But a voice in my head
Says "Ah, what the hell"

Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time

Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland
But I think it's all overdone
Exaggerating this and exaggerating that
They don't have no fun

I don't believe what I read in the papers
They're just out to capture my dime
I ain't worrying
And I ain't scurrying;
I'm having a good time

Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time

Maybe I'm laughing my way to disaster
Maybe my race has been run
Maybe I'm blind to the fate of mankind
But what can be done?
So God bless the goods we was given
And God bless the U. S. of A.
And God bless our standard of livin'
Let's keep it that way
And we'll all have a good time

Repeat and fade:
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time

I think it says it all. Happy Belated Birthday Trip!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Thornton Pool Dog Swim 2008

Today's Cleveland Plain Dealer published a story about the logorhythm of our weather suggesting that the weekends in September average out to be the best -- cloudless, hint of fall in the slanting light and temps in the 70's. They were right on one count - temps in the 70's but the morning dawned overcast, then rainy as the 10 am doggie swim hour approached. I made it there by 10:45 with Trip and Bean in tow. The damp weather may have reduced the numbers, but the masses that were there were anything but dampened as they played, ran, swam, cavorted, barked, snagged frisbees and whupped it up for Doggie Swim 2008. Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dog Swim

Time to put those white shoes away until fall, breath a sigh of relief that Gustav wasn't the same pack of punch that Katrina was, dust off your water wings and find out if you have a local public pool Doggie Swim! Local public pool Thornton in Shaker Heights is having their annual Doggie Swim this Saturday, 10-12. The mob of dogs, some who swim, some who just run around having doggie fun, and the dozens and dozens of people of all ages and sizes convene to close out the pool season and head back to school and fall schedules. If you haven't been, it's a scream, if you have, you know what I'm talking about. This socialization experience is a once a year Big Fun Time!