Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Use The Internet; Dogs Use Their Nose

Yesterday morning after my youngest daughter woke up, she came into my bedroom and lounged beside me as I did my favorite Sunday morning ritual -- drinking coffee and reading The New York Times in bed. I had worked my way through the funner sections and was reading an article about Croatian crime dramas when she asked, "why do dogs have such long noses?" I had a quick flash to the witch with great sense of smell and poor eyesight in the fairly tale of Hansel & Gretel. Then I thought about how to make a wise and analogous reply.

Finally I announced,"we use the internet, dogs use their noses." And then I thought about what I had said as Sophie climbed down from the bed onto the floor and lay with the dogs. My little mixed pack settled in for a cuddle while I grabbed my laptop and did some internet searches with "how do dogs smell?" and "what about a dog's nose?" in which there was this line...

You’ve probably noticed that dogs’ noses are usually wet on the outside. This moisture first attracts and then collects molecules from lots of places—the air, the ground and from objects. The reason a dog often licks its nose is to keep it moist.

And I thought, because they can. Lick their nose. They can lick their elbows too which apparently, according to my daughter Callie some small % of people can and she's one of them; I'm not. I also learned studies conducted showing concrete evidence that dogs with car anxiety show great calming with lavender.

That reminded me of a recent site I stumbled on for herb filled collars and wondered if using that as an olfactory adjunct would aid in reducing manifestations of dog behavior that were unpleasant to me (mostly when Lily and Trip get over the top noisy whiny sometimes near-hysterical when getting ready to go for a walk OR when I try to increase their comfort with being locked outside for longer durations in the lovely fenced in backyard -- perhaps it would work better than saying, "how many times do I have to tell you whining and carrying on is NOT what I want when readying you for a walk" Or another favorite, "why can't you just be a dog who appreciates the opportunity to be outside WITHOUT ME BEING THERE?"

But this morning after I sort of patiently waited for them to be less crazed before heading out for a morning walk I realized that much like I get easily distracted when doing searches on the internet and can easily flick from topic to topic because I have fast internet access, I would allow them more opportunity this morning to use that heightened olfactory organ they each have at the end of their faces and allow them an opportunity to be on their own "computer" searches. So I did. And they learned a lot and left a lot of business cards and we all had a great time enjoying the warming weather and budding of plant life.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is Your Dog Ivy League Material?

I spend a lot o'time in private trainings helping people understand how I grok how dogs think based both on my ongoing quest to always increase my learning both from the literature out there I get my hands on as well as hands on extensive and often intensive experience with dogs of all sizes, ages, breeds or breed mixes as well as environments. For example, why is Trip the only dog in my pack interested in TV and only in animal related programs and what could he be thinking when he watches underwater creatures like fish?????

Dogs whose owners I work with come to my personal attention because there is at least, in the mind of the caller, some problem that compelled them to finally call for professional help or the proactive person who wants to prevent problems by starting out right. Those who know me since embarking on The Six Pillars get to hear or read about fragile tabletops crashing to the ground in a metaphorical explanation for that tipping point that finally acknowledges the elephant in the living room. From initial contact they then have to decide if they are willing to hire me to help them in their quest to better understand how to achieve greater harmony with their dog(s). Since my greatest source of referrals are word of mouth, they must like what they hear because even in a downturned economy, business remains steady.

Now comes along an opportunity to get your dog into Harvard!

Confirm some of your current thoughts about dogs, dispel erroneous rumors and maybe the folks at the lab will even give your dog a diploma for participation.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Who Let The Cat Out of the Bag? Or is it Who Let The Dog Out? Or, what is this Leak?

It's official. There are leaky dogs who pee when overexcited, tires that need pumping up when deflated, pipes that leak and burst when you fail to properly insulate your home and it's wicked cold and...oops, I'm digressing, but trust me, those leaks can turn into bad news... and then there's information that spills no matter how hard you try to keep it on the down low.

Today's leak speaks to the latter category and so the cat is out of the bag, or in this case, the dog is in the White House. Black and White Bo is the newly arrived and now permanently installed 6 month old PWD (Portuguese Water Dog) gifted by Senator Edward Kennedy to the Obama Family (Bandit, the dog in the photo shown here, is one black and white PWD dog I know, sporting his non contrasting black Har-Vest he now wears with great pride).

Ever since Mr. Obama promised his girls a dog (I on the other hand have promised my 3 girls NO MORE DOGS for now since 3 is more than enough!) there have been countless and meandering discussions originating from dinner parties, pubs, blogs, internet searches; under shade trees by dog park venturing cognoscenti, across international waters and probably also on the space station where no dogs dwell -- all speculating on the canine beastie that would join the Obamas.

Other black and white dogs might look up to them (Hannah is a PWD wannabe but glows in her Havanese-ness nonetheless), others of any and all colors might find them fun to romp with or share a drink...

Some might like to take a dip in the pool (Milo here is a natural)

But whatever the activity, (gosh I hope to hear he's helping in the easter egg hunt at The White House!) Bo appears by all preliminary accounts to have been carefully bred, very well cared for, obviously began his training in confident and skilled hands, and handed over as a gift by a beloved political icon who endeavors to share his own love of dogs in general and the PWD specifically to the new camelotians on this wonderful month (check out April 18th girls!) of various events!

Congrats and godspeed. And Thanks, Obamas, for making a donation to help those less fortunate dogs -- mixed and pure, young and old, troubled and earnest, -- find their own place to call home. And, as always, if you ever want to know how to integrate it all into life, my girls and I are happy to help show the way!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Guide Dog Har-Vest

Late last year I got the call for a dog modeling job (in this case, I got to bring along good ol' Boomer, a wonderful yellow lab who simply does anything I ever ask him with such good cheer he is a regular in my life! He probably had more fun last summer).

In this new job, Boomer had to act like a seasoned guide dog with a middle aged male model who had to act like a blind man who worked alongside a seasoned guide dog in a downtown Cleveland photography studio.

Trust me, when you are handling dogs in the world of modeling when neither man nor beast is trained to lead the blind or, in this case, even blind and comfortable with dogs, you earn your money!

After we finished a slew of shots in just the leather guide dog harness and the Powers That Be were pleased as punch with the results, Boomer got retrofitted to his newly introduced stiff leather guide dog harness when I slipped a large Har-Vest underneath and we snapped some more pics.

Suddenly I saw the possibilities of merging these two products, much like I had merged no pull harnesses and vests/backpacks lo these many years ago that spawned my entry into patentable inventing and gave birth to Har-Vest. But other projects going on at that time put that thought on hold for awhile, or at least in a different place in my brain. "How many times can you merge products?", I'm thinking.

So now, nearly four months later, a gestational period for my own mind to be sure, a new epiphany came in my quest to show the potential for adapting Har-Vest beyond its bountiful capacity for working and service dogs. After playing around a bit with various straps to create a similar harness handle without the leather harness part, I finally broke down and ordered a 16" bridge handle (based on measuring distance from side o-ring to my hand at my side)and, "snap", as my teenaged daughter might say, I not only had the adaptation I wanted, but with a little tweaking I managed to keep it stable and began working it on Lily while out and about.

I'm happy to report I'm THRILLED with the results. While Har-Vest's handle is parallel to spine and works well for many I of course wanted MORE.

I always start these modification/adaptation quests for Har-Vest with my own companion dogs. For Lily I see great benefits indeed with this handle. She can have greater off leash freedom as her recall is fantastic and if she needed to be controlled, I could take hold of the handle and keep her right at my side. The added benefit to that proximity to my side is her reduced reactivity to those distractions (i.e., dogs she decides are socially retarded or just frankly piss her off)! I hadn't even counted on that but thinking to my own Pillar II: Distance, I don't know why it should surprise me!

In addition, I can tweak the tension so she can help pull me along on those inclines I encounter on our walks when I want a little help. I'm ready for San Francisco now!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My Own Homage To Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Party

Back in a November post it first came up. My aversion to being in large crowds as I age. Even in my fair town of Cleveland. My experience with large crowds on a historical level usually had to do with attending rock concerts when much younger and I have fond memories of those days of the bands of my youth (which will give you a hint as to my age!) -- PINK FLOYD, YES, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, LED ZEPPELIN, even PETE SEEGER and ARLO GUTHRIE generated large crowds of sweaty youth. When I was of that age, I didn't mind. I embraced the chaos. But now..eek, I need less stimulation, not more!I can pay homage to the inductees of this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event by listening to my ipod playlist while out on a gorgeous sunny spring afternoon walking my dogs, using their accompaniment while taking in the transition of one season to the next. To my mind, this is the distillation of the true essence of music -- an auditory exposure that can frame memories, life experiences, moods and denouements. I appreciate that I can make mine be all encompassing sensory experiences. And to that I tip my hat to this year's inductees for sharing the gift of music to those who can appreciate it:

Jeff Beck
Bill Black
Wanda Jackson
DJ Fontana
Little Anthony & The Imperials
Spooner Oldham
Bobby Womack

Thanks. Enjoy the kudos. You deserve it!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Some Stuff For Your Dog

I remember when my first daughter was born how mind boggling all the "stuff" was that accompanied her tiny little self. It wasn't just the stuff in the house -- bassinet, crib, changing table, swing and high chair, to name the obvious few, but the stuff you had to take on the road -- the carseat, blankets, diapers and their diaper bag, onesies, wipes, spit rags, slings, backpack, snugly and later, baby food jars and Goldfish crackers and OMG it seemed to get exponentially bigger as she got older until suddenly there was no more emergent need to have on hand all that stuff. Of course in my situation there were two other daughters who also went through that phase but now that the youngest is 10, we can travel pretty light these days. This is because they can walk on their own, buckle their own seat belts, use the bathroom and use pretty sophisticated language to get their needs met.

So it is with our dogs as well. We have EQUIPMENT to help us MANAGE the dogs -- the obvious ones like tethers and leashes and collars and harnesses and crates or cages and Har-Vest, as well as different kinds of TOYS -- stuffed ones, interactive ones like KONGS and BISCUIT BALLS and TREATSTICK'S and chewies like BULLY STICKS as well as dog beds and coats for inclement weather. We use TREATS to TRAIN and REINFORCE and REWARD and sometimes I look around at all the STUFF I have accumulated and reassure myself that my dogs, too, like the girls, can just as happily, because they COME WHEN I CALL THEM and STAY WHEN I ASK THEM, go out with nary a thing and have jolly fun and safe times.

Keep on keeping on top of maintaining the skill set of your dog and you too can enjoy showing them off with flair, with or without the stuff.