Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Honesty of Dog Owners

I don't know if dogs are sending telepathic ethical or moral messages to us when we sleep or if it's just their joy of living in the moment, even if that moment is fraught with naughty behaviors, but I just have to say that dog owners are overall the most honest group of people I know.

Dog people come from all walks of life with varying family dynamics and sizes, at different life stages, from all cultures, ages, genders, number of dogs and sizes or breed/breed type. From my experience, the clients I have known over the past 10+ years of carving out a rich career in all things dog, I have never known a group that reminds me when I have forgotten to charge their credit card or returned things I forgot I let them borrow. Or just just more decent, more responsible, more mentshy.

I feel better knowing that Bo is in the White House to give President Obama, previously not a dog owner sort of fellow, the loyalty and non judgmental feedback as Barack, not the leader of the free world. It will help keep our kinetic president honest, and that trickle down will bring a continuing and tangible benefit to the country, despite the naysayers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PTSD in Dogs Redux

As Memorial Day has recently passed and May winds down, I make a mental note that I have one full year left to the biennial renewal of my LISW and have successfully received a few CEU's already by attending and even participating in a recent autism conference. Bean and I went to learn from other experts as well as share with others the benefit a well trained dog can provide clinically for children and teenagers and adults with special needs including but not limited to autism / Aspbergers or PDD/NOS diagnoses.

Ironically, my post in Feb. 2008 on the issue of PTSD in dogs has by far solicited the most private comments from people. I thought a lot about that as I tried to share with my kids the real history and meaning behind Memorial Day (no, kids, it's not about just a day off or shopping sales!)

Veterans of WWII are aging and dying off. My own father, a POW captured in the Battle of the Bulge in Dec. 1944, is himself, although hale and hearty, 85 now. I strongly suspect that being the child of a man whose most seminal event must have been the experiences he had as a young man, 19-21 years of age in war torn Europe -- from which such events helped mold him into arguably THE most optimistic person I've ever known -- trying to imagine the effect of such horror on different temperaments probably helped form the path to becoming a mental health professional.

Veterans of other conflicts and wars, including returning veterans of our current military operations, are often returning to civilian life showing symptoms triggered by connection to the horrors they were exposed. These horrors have affected their minds as much if not more than their bodies, and they deserve to get the treatment, as does anyone with PTSD, to get help when triggered by events that cause great distress.

My most fascinating dog training cases, from a clinical perspective, are dogs who by a combination of nature and nurture, have symptoms of PTSD. These dogs can be triggered by what appear to be benign things that can trace back to their original "traumatic event". The good news, in my experience, is barring any organic problems, a plan can be carved out to help produce a valuable, safe and enjoyable life IF the dogs are paired with people who understand. People who understand the quirks that such trauma (nurture) can have on the nature and thus the behavior.

When you can observe how the quirks manifest, you can absolutely fine tune, like a laser beam, those triggers that create the problem and modify them to work the dog through the reactive and thus non desired behaviors. Combining behavior modification with a holististic approach can, trust me, really work.

And if you are committed to your dog but can't figure out where to put that laser beam, seek out a qualified behaviorist/trainer to help you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ah, becoming a manufacturing expert

I remember from very early in my life a passion for all things animal and thought for a long time I wanted to be a veterinarian. Social science won over natural science and by the ripe old age of 31 I had acquired a diploma from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work declaring me a master's level social worker. I even managed to spend some time at the University of Pennsylvania's Veterinary School where I got to meet people I continue to greatly respect -- Alan Beck, now of Purdue, and Karen Overall.

Who know that a mere 18 years later I would be developing a skill set in the patent game as well as contemplating woven tag samples while wearing my soft goods manufacturing hat!

But here I am, one year post patent, doing that very task as I prepare for a new manufacturing batch of Har-Vests! So I've given the green light to produce 1,000 new tags. Let the manufacturing cycle begin!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Trip [The Light Fantastic]

While The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has been working double overtime lately as evidenced by the constant stream of H1N1 Virus (nee Swine Flu) discussion, reporting, analyzing, speculating and more, lesser known perhaps is that in late March of this year they released analyzed fall data and disclosed the following fascinating stats:

• 88% of fall related injuries were associated with dogs or one of their pet items such as a toy or bowl.

• 31.3 % resulted from falling or tripping over the dog (versus the overwhelming 66.4 % of cats being tripped over) which included falls from chasing after a dog with obviously poor recall (another one of The Six Things All Dogs Should Know!)

• 21.2 % from being pushed or PULLED by the pet.

• Women were TWO TIMES AS LIKELY to be injured as males. (Hmmmmm)

The little article that mentioned this in my morning paper caught my eye both because of my chronic emphasis to clients that loose leashing walking is one of The Six Things All Dogs Should Learn and that it's not natural. It is a learned skill that requires time, patience, opportunity, consistency and an awareness of The Three D's and How To Measure Change.

My definition of loose leash walking is not a forced heel or rigidity, it's simply the dog walks without tension and WITHOUT TRIPPING YOU. I might want my dog next to me, slightly behind, slightly in front, and with me in control, slight pulling to help me along when the surface is slippery as I trained Lily to do during the icy months.

Trip The Wonder Dog got his name because he is a real trip, he's little and I knew risk of tripping on him when he was young was a very real concern, and unknown at his naming, has a, shall we say, moderate to high light obsession, hence Trip The Light Fantastic!

For all of you out there, whatever the age or size of your dog or dogs -- Stay stable, be safe, be patient, take your time, and learn how to avoid scary things like tripping which can in fact have a huge negative ripple effect.