Eureka! Dog Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Responsible animal ownership

A Story from Cathie

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Cathie and Maverick were students in a Canine Good Citizen class at McKinney Community Center in 2009.  Cathie has written a delightful account of thier experiences, which I’m happy to share with you!  (I hope we’ll be able to add a photo of Cathie and Maverick to this post later!)

The Situation

I was scared: my neighbor accused my dog, Maverick, of biting him and trying to kill his dog. I hadn’t seen what happened, but my husband’s version of it was:

“Maverick just ran down the driveway. He said Mav bit him and his dog, and he’s calling the police.”

My husband is a big man who’s never been afraid of anything. He could not understand why our neighbor was so upset about our 150lb dog galloping up to him to play with his 18lb dog. And my husband was quite sure Mav didn’t bite anyone.

I understood my neighbor’s fear. And I know Texas state law requires that a dog accused of biting be quarantined for 10 days to observe for rabies. We visited Maverick in quarantine, and some days found him loose in the kennel—the staff hated to keep him kenneled all day and definitely didn’t consider him dangerous.

Maverick isn’t dangerous, but he looks it. A huge Great Dane, his front legs look like fence posts. I wouldn’t want him running up to me if I didn’t know him.

The evening after the incident, I went to my neighbor to express my concern. I told him I was very sorry there had been a problem. I was surprised when he showed me his “bite,” since I was certain he didn’t have one. What he showed me was a tiny red spot on the back of his hand. No big puncture, no stitches, no band-aid. Not surprisingly, his little pooch didn’t have any injuries at all.

I said again how sorry I was about what had happened. My neighbor asked if I would get rid of my dog. I said no. I said, “I’ll take him to obedience school and promise you he will not be loose in the yard again.”

I had to find a way to allay this man’s fear of my dog because if I didn’t, I was sure he’d accuse Maverick of another bad act. I needed to get Maverick under verbal control—no more loping down the driveway to greet passersby.  Maverick needed better manners. I had to find a good obedience instructor to help me get Maverick in line.

The Solution

I have the good fortune to live near the very best boarding facility: Pet Paradise in Melissa. One of Pet Paradise’s owners, Hazel, had been a professional dog handler with top awards to her credit, so I called Pet Paradise for a referral to a trainer. The receptionist said Hazel recommended only one: Jane Davidson.

I contacted Jane and was enrolled in a Canine Good Citizen class that would run for seven weeks.

Maverick was quicker to catch on to commands than I thought he would be. He has an aloof/dopey look on his big mug most of the time. He’s a rescue Dane, purebred but not a particularly fine specimen. He has a pointy head and floppy ears. He just doesn’t look smart. Scary? Yes. Smart? Not so much. But Maverick is smart, and he associated commands to actions quickly. He learned sit, down, come, stay, heel, and off within a couple workouts. When he heard my command, he would do it.

Most of the time…

Slowly…

A foot or ten off the mark.

Sometimes he ignored me altogether, and that’s why I needed the trainer. I know the commands and how to teach them. I’ve done it before, even competed in obedience events with my other dogs. But no one can properly train her dog by herself. I needed Jane to watch and guide us in order to get Mav to obey commands immediately, every time, on the mark. I could not see what I was doing wrong with my commands, body language, and attitude. But Jane could.

By the end of our seven weeks, I had learned to stand tall and state commands in a manner that Maverick hears every time. Jane was able to show me when what I said, how I moved, or my posture or tone confused rather than commanded Maverick. Jane would gently point out that I was using words in casual chatter that had specific meaning for Maverick. She’d tell me when I wasn’t being Maverick’s “pack leader.” Dogs always read your mood and ‘tude, and if it isn’t masterful, they’ll know it. Which is to say, Maverick learned everything he needed to know in the first two weeks. The last five weeks of class were for training me.

The Success and Joy

Maverick and I work out every day. He sits while I get his breakfast, he comes whenever I call him, he stays where he’s told even if his favorite toy is three feet away. Our favorite days are when we go on long walks with other dogs and kids and bikes and big people because that’s when he gets to show me and everyone else what an obedient, gentle dog he is.

He is not perfect. No dog gets his butt on the ground slower than Maverick does when he hears, “Sit!” When I say, “Maverick, come!” he runs right to me and sits… somewhere. Try as I might, I haven’t yet gotten him to sit directly in front of me on recall. Not perfect, but Maverick now has his AKC issued CGC (Canine Good Citizen Certificate). He passed the test on his first try.

That would not have happened without Jane Davidson and Eureka! There were too many things I was doing wrong, inconsistently, and over-anxiously for Maverick to have been successful working with me alone. I simply could not see or hear the words, tone, and movements I was using that were confusing to the dog. Jane’s directions and corrections were always clear and delivered with kindness and good humor. Had she been a domineering trainer, or an apologetic, nervous trainer (I’ve worked with both kinds) Maverick would not have earned his CGC. There is a right way to train dogs, and it’s unique to each dog and owner. Jane knows this, studies it, and acts on it.

I now have a giant dog I am proud to take with me everywhere. I know exactly how he will behave, and he knows exactly what I want him to do whenever I ask him to do it. But we’re not done: I want Maverick to become a therapy dog for struggling readers. Reading to a big goofy dog improves your reading quickly because dogs never criticize. In fact, you become a perfect reader in the only way a human is ever perfect: in the eyes of her dog.

As for my neighbor, he hasn’t come walking with us yet, but he hasn’t accused Mav of any new transgressions, either.

And he won’t.

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Written by eurekapaws

February 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Case Study 4 – Fearful Dog

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Coffee was rescued from the streets, and then spent a couple of years in a shelter.  By the time he came to a home, he had developed fears of many things – people, storms, ceiling fans, you name it, he was scared of it! In June of this year, he finally found himself in a home with just two other dogs, and he started to come out of his well-constructed shell.

Coffee

Coffee in 2008

When I first met Coffee, he would not let me come close to him. He would pace about ten to fifteen feet away, watching carefully.  He was actively scared of everyone he met, especially men. He did not have good social skills with other dogs either – he did not play, and he had been attacked by other dogs in the past (and he is missing part of an ear as a result). He was terrified of all the things that frighten many dogs, including thunderstorms, but he also looked with fear at ceiling fans (moving or still). He became very distressed being bathed or having his nails clipped.

Now that he has a home with only two other dogs (both female) he has started to be more comfortable with them.  He continues to be less than friendly with some visiting male dogs. Interestingly, he bonded with Tuffy, the Tough Dog in case study 3. They apparently found they had some things in common. Both of them had lived rough for a while, and both of them are fearful of men.

Coffee and Tuffy

Coffee and Tuffy getting acquainted

We worked on integrating Coffee into the household. In this household, that means siting and waiting for his food bowl to go down and starting to eat only when he is given permission.  It also means participating in the daily “Cookie Time” ritual, where the dogs do a couple of obedience commands and get rewarded with dog cookies. This was a challenge for Coffee on two levels. Firstly, because he still did not like to approach me too closely, and secondly because he did not want to compete with the other dogs for food, or to lie down next to them. Over the weeks he has become comfortable with doing a Sit and a Down beside the other dogs, and he now trots happily to the kitchen when he hears “Cookie Time”. He still hangs back when we play hide and seek; the other dogs run through the house trying to find where I have hidden, but Coffee waits until I come out before coming for his treat.

One of Coffee’s most obvious fears was of thunderstorms.  He would pace, go outside, come inside, could not find anywhere he felt safe. He started to come to my room in the middle of the night to let me know there was a thunderstorm going on. To my amazement, one night he was so scared that he overcame his residual fear of me, and jumped on to the bed beside me, and lay shaking with fear. He is not allowed on the bed, but his distress was so obvious that I did not turn him away. I gave him some drops of Rescue Remedy to calm him, and turned on a light so the lightning would be less dramatic. I resisted the urge to comfort him, and instead spoke in a calm, happy voice, and settled down to sleep. I could feel him shuddering as I drifted off to sleep. At some stage he must have fallen asleep, and in the morning he jumped off the bed as soon as I stirred.

This procedure repeated itself about three more times. I started to keep the Rescue Remedy and a flashlight by my bed, so I was ready for Coffee’s late night visits. If the weather was good, he would spend the night as usual in my office, but as the storm started up, he would come to my bedroom. He would wake me, I would turn on the light (or the flashlight, if the pwoer was out), speak cheerfully to him and give him a few drops of the Rescue Remedy. If the storm continued to get worse, he would jump on the bed and hide from it behind me, shaking with fear. I might pat him briefly on the back or neck, as I would normally, but I would not cuddle him, baby talk him, or stroke him to calm him.  I would tell him he was being foolish, then go back to sleep.

Then the night came when all he needed was the light and the Rescue Remedy. The storms were beginning to lose their power over him. Last time we had a storm, I woke up and realized he was not in my room. I went to the office, and he was lying calmly under the desk. Coffee was officially not afraid of storms any more!

Coffee still has many challenges to overcome, but it is exciting to see him grow. He keeps reaching new milestones – he has stayed calm while his nails were clipped, he has been on walks in the park where there were lots of other dogs and people, he has had his first real bath in a bathtub.  This weekend, he approached a stranger (to him) and took a treat from her.

The key factors in helping Coffee have been a small, stable household where he could develop relationships with each of the other members (human and canine), not indulging his fears but showing leadership in being calm and confident, and having him participate in activities a little outside his comfort zone.

Written by eurekapaws

November 10, 2009 at 10:15 am

Farewell to a Friend

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Dazy was a great dog.  She was a catahoula / pit bull mix, and she was full of life and energy.  Unfortunately, she was also a challenging dog to control, and had a history of reactiveness/aggression towards other dogs.  Our friend David loved Dazy, but he also has multiple children.  The other day, Dazy snapped in the face of one of his children to tell him to back off.  The shelters are full because of the economic conditions, and Dazy was a pit mix, and would have to be labeled unsuitable for homes with children.  David knew that if he gave her to a shelter, she would spend a period of time confused and unhappy living in a cell, and then probably be euthanized.  He made the best decision for her by taking her to be euthanized rather than handing her over to strangers.  A very hard decision to make, but fairer to Dazy.  Here is the poem he wrote afterwards.

Run, Dazy, Run

Run, Dazy, run.
Pant in the heat of the Texas sun.
Stretch your legs of sinew and follow your heart,
Do not stop!
Run until the chase is done.
Then run, again, once more.

Run, Dazy, run.
Even though you sleep, your mind cast adrift,
I know of what you dream.
Smooth strides, a thunderous locomotive at full steam,
No hurdle too large;
No creek too wide;
No grass too long; as you move swiftly through the fields,
Magnificent, like a Cardinal’s song.

Run, Dazy, run.
Alas, you will run no more.
Your heart has stopped,
Your handsome head, dropped.
Hypnotic eyes of green, blue and brown, no longer shine,
For you now sleep and are no longer mine.
Legs, once taut as steel rope, now rest with your last breath,
And you will run, no more.

Run, Dazy, run.
As you stride, magnificently, towards the last horizon,
You will not escape me; my mind is already burned with your memory.
A permanent fixture in my heart,
A heart that is sore and hollow with you gone,
For you, were the only one.

Written by eurekapaws

July 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

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No one should abandon a dog

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Times are hard for many people, and animals are suffering as a result.  Last October, we heard about a sweet young dog, Blue, who was trying to find a new home.  We offered a free training session to whoever adopted her, and the foster home passed that information to the adopter.  They also offered to refund the money and take Blue back if it did not work out.   A single mother adopted the dog, and she and her boyfriend came out with Blue and we gave them some tips on how to keep control and walk her properly, and teach her basic commands.

A few days ago, we heard from the foster home.  They had been contacted by an animal shelter in May, as Blue’s microchip had been traced back to them.  Blue had been abandoned, and the property owner had asked the shelter to come and pick her up.  The shelter did not find the chip when they scanned her, but they kept her for 2 weeks.  Then she became sick and they decided to euthanize her.  They did a final scan, and this time they found the chip.

The foster mother went to the shelter, and in her words “I went and picked her up and was shocked at her appearance. She was skin and bones and had a horrible head cold with kennel cough. We have decided to keep her because she had been through enough hell in her short life…I would like to sue [the adopter], not for the money but as an example. There was absolutely no reason for her to let this happen. I even told her that I’d give her money back if it didn’t work out with Blue.”

If you take a dog into your home, you have responsibilities.  There are many circumstances where it is not possible to keep the dog yourself.  Your responsibility is to find a new home for that dog.  In this case, there was a place they could have taken the dog, but they chose not to do so.  Dogs left to fend for themselves do not usually do well.  They end up abused or killed, either by wild animals or by people, or simply in accidents.  They become sick and often starve to death.  People who abandon a dog simply lack the moral courage to take action.  If the dog lives with you, you can find a shelter to take him or her.  Even if it is not a no-kill shelter, the dog will be given food and safety and a chance at adoption – they will not end their lives in fear and misery.

Some people simply leave their dog in the house when they go away.  Typically, those dogs starve to death before they are found and can be rescued.  Other people seem to think their dog will survive if abandoned in a rural area.  Perhaps they have some fantasy about returning a domestic dog to the wild.  Around here, there are coyotes, wildcats, snakes, and other abandoned dogs, among many other hazards.  You do not do your dog a favor by leaving him or her to try and survive in a hostile environment.

Blue is a very lucky dog.  She still needs training, but she has been rescued by people who care.  If you are running into difficulties and there is a possibility that you will not be able to continue to provide a home for your pet, DO SOMETHING.  There is no reason to make a family pet suffer and die.  Start looking at the options available in the worst case scenario.  Abandoning a dog is cowardly and unnecessary.

Written by eurekapaws

June 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

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Dog Clean-Up Continued

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Well, I have to report that the vegetable oil was awesome in helping me remove all the tar from Xena’s feet.  It was a big worry, because she had a huge amount of very sticky tar on all four paws, so her ability to cool down was compromised.  The vegetable oil made chemical changes to the tar over a 24 hour period so that it could easily be picked and washed off.  Of course, she was not steady on her feet after the initial application!

The other great piece of news is that courtesy of the Skunk Whisperer, we now have a good recipe for removing the skunk smell from dogs and their collars.  It is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid dish soap, see www.totalwildlifecontrol.com.  This recipe comes with all sorts of warnings, because it can be an irritant, so be sure to wash your dog after it has done its work, keep it away from eyes, etc. and make sure your dog gets plenty of oils for his/her skin.  And you can’t prepare it in advance – it has to be freshly made each time!  But it worked much better than the commercial remedy I was trying.  (But I still think that Skunk Off is a good commercial remedy, I just didn’t have any.)

Written by eurekapaws

June 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

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Dog Clean-Up

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Someone said to me the other day “of course, everyone thinks their own dog is unusually smart…”  Actually, I have toXena Deep in Thought admit that my dog Xena is quite remarkably NOT smart.  She came to me from Hurricane Katrina, a dog who had seen a lot of trouble.  She was heartworm positive, and I fostered her while she went through the heartworm treatments.  (For anyone who is not sure they need to give their dog heartworm preventive, please understand that heartworms are very damaging to the dog, and the treatment is really nasty and dangerous.  Make sure your dog is adequately protected.)  By the time Xena was well enough to be returned to the shelter, she had bonded so strongly with me that I simply could not take her back there, so I adopted her.

Here are two examples of Xena’s intelligence.

  • I have a dog door in the back door out to the yard.  One day, Xena was preparing to go in through the dog door when I walked up to let myself in through the door itself.  As I opened the door, Xena kept following it around so she could go in through the dog door when it stopped moving.
  • Xena has been exercised along with other dogs at a baseball practice area.  This area is surrounded by chain link fence with one gate in it.  When we let all the dogs out through the gate, Xena ran up and down the fence line, trying to work out why she couldn’t reach the other dogs.  She thought she was in a maze, and someone had to go in and guide her out.

So, you get the idea.  Xena will not win any Nobel prizes.  In the last week, she has managed to create severe clean-up emergencies for herself twice!

The first emergency was a skunk.  Xena was off-leash in an open area, and she and a friend managed to trap a skunk, getting squirted full on the face and neck.  The smell was unbelievable.  Her collar is hanging on a fence outside, and after 4 days, I still can’t bring it into the house because it smells so bad – within 2 hours your eyes start to sting from being in the room with it.  Xena has been banished to sleeping in my bathroom because we don’t to share the air we breathe with her.  Tomato juice works on people, but not on dogs – their skin is different from ours.  We got rid of some of the smell on her with bathing, but we did not have the Skunk-Off product on hand, so the rest of it will have to wear off.

Two days later, she thought she was on the trail of something else, and managed to get all four feet covered in fresh tar.  She came home with long streamers of tar attached to her feet.  After frantic research on the Internet, and some experimentation, we settled on vegetable oil as the most effective solution we had on hand.  It really has done well, although it is a lengthy process.  The oil needs to be rubbed into the tar and left for 24 hours.  During that time, it breaks down the structure of the tar so that it can be washed off with soap and water.  In Xena’s case, she had so much tar worked into her feet that we are still only about half way through the process of cleaning her up.

Xena is still trying to work out why she is suddenly so unpopular.  In any other dog, I would hope that she had learned a lesson from all this.

 

Xena Deep in Thought

Written by eurekapaws

May 29, 2009 at 9:32 pm

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Articles on Dog Agility

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For the past few days, I’ve been providing comments for a series of articles on dog agility.  Cheryl Spencer has been writing an introductory series of articles on www.examiner.com for people interested in starting to learn agility with their dog.  For a sample article, see http://www.examiner.com/x-11581-Dallas-Pet-Training-Examiner~y2009m5d23-Beginning-agility-training–The-high-jumps or use the link on the blogroll on this page.  Cheryl is writing for people who have not done agility before, introducing the various obstacles.  She recommends agility for a wide variety of dogs, not just the pure breeds that usually appear in competitions.  I’ve been enjoying the fun of providing comments without putting in the hard work of writing the articles!!!

We have been doing an introduction to agility for fun class at Eureka!  The purpose is just to give people and their dogs an opportunity to try out the equipment and see if they want to do “real” agility, and also to spend an hour working and playing with their dogs and socializing.
Playtime at Eureka!You don’t have to have a pure bred dog or do competitive agility in order to have fun with your dog.  Teaching the obstacles and going through the course is fun for both of you, and it helps you learn to communicate with your dog.  We meet lots of dogs with problems because either they don’t get enough exercise or they don’t get out socially with their people.  Agility, even just for fun, gives them outlets and experiences they really need!

Written by eurekapaws

May 25, 2009 at 9:39 am