All posts by Jake Watkins

Just your average know it all smart ass here at your service.

Emergency Planning

Over the weekend there were huge storms through DFW and a tornado pretty much leveled part of Rowlett. On Facebook there are tons of posts about lost pets.

It’s gratifying to see the number of people stepping forward trying to rescue them and reunite families with their pets. It’s also nice that various vets, individuals and businesses have come forward to help by holding pets until they can be reunited.

This brings up what is on my mind: Do you have an emergency plan for you whole family in case of an…Emergency? Say you got a call telling you that a tornado was on the ground heading in your direction and it was about 5 minutes away, do you have a plan to make sure everybody is safe?

In our case grabbing all of the dogs harnesses and moving them in to the master bedroom closet is pretty easy. The real problem is getting the three cats in to a carrier. Good luck. All of our animals are microchipped so there is a decent chance of recovery if any are lost.

What about medications? What about your valuables? What about your data?

Something else to consider: do you know basic first aid? Do you know how to treat a broken bone? What if somebody get a piece of rebar rammed through body? How do you treat serious bleeding?

It’s all worth taking a small amount of time and planning out. Hopefully it’s just a fun exercise you never actually have to do. But should the shit actually hit the fan you’ll be glad you took the time.

Teaching your dog its name

How do you teach your new dog its name? This is a pretty normal problem for adopters and in general it’s not really a big deal. If you just keep calling your dog by the name you plan to use it will eventually just figure it out. However you can speed the process up so your dog will know its name in a couple of 15 minute sessions over a few days.

The way to teach a dog its name is called Puppy Ping Pong. You’ll need two people and some high value treats. The two of you get about five to ten yards apart facing each other. The dog will start next to one person. The person without the dog calls the dog by its name. Say nothing else. Just say the name in an excited manner. When the dog comes over reward it with a treat. Now the other person does the same thing. Do this back and forth about twenty times and repeat three or four times even after the dog has started responding to its name. Dogs learn through repetition (4 sets of 20) and reinforcement (the treats).

Now that your dog knows its name you can move on to obedience training.

Tate – a quandary

Our new LOW foster Tate is a great little dog but he’s a bit of a quandary right now. Admittedly we’ve had him for just over 24 hours so we’re still getting to know him. What we know so far: he’s a bit skiddish, he doesn’t eat much and he just wants to snuggle. Oh, and he has fleas.

Tate

The fleas shouldn’t be much of an issue. We’ve bathed him once and my dogs have all had their pills so hopefully it will get sorted out. Worst case he’ll go to the groomer for a professional going over. But I’ll try and second and third flea bath before that given his skiddishness.

The quandary is whether or not we have a scared dog or not. He’s not really started to play much and he cowered away from a squeaky toy when we offered it to him. On the other hand though I took him out to go potty and he took care of his business while my pack was running through the yard acting like the maniacs they are. No issues. Once they were back in I offered up treats and he had no trouble getting his right along side the big dogs. But as soon as the treats were put away he made a B line back to Mom for more snuggles.

One possibility is that he just isn’t comfortable being around a pack of big dogs. Tate is maybe 20lbs. Even though he has some fleas (I’ve only witnessed 2) he seems to have been well cared for. However, I don’t know if or how he was socialized. Has he been around a lot of people and dogs? Did he just stay in his home with the other dogs (I think some from the same litter)? No idea and no good way to find out.

The plan: SSDD. Patience. He sleeps in his kennel just fine and while he doesn’t seem to want to play with my pack yet he isn’t hiding under the bed from them. We’ll just do what we always do and see how it develops. Luckily between my trainer, LOW and all the other dog people we have a great support network to help make sure we send a great dog off to New York in February.

Training the Pack

I have a fairly simple goal for my dogs to achieve in 2015: Pass Canine Good Citizen. It’s a pretty simple goal and should be easy to achieve. The benefit though is that I’ll have an excellent baseline to build on for further training.

The real goal is that I want to feel confident taking all three dogs with me places. Walking the three of them at the moment is doable but can quickly get a bit overwhelming if they get excited about something (other dogs tend to be the greatest challenge).

I’ll be working with a trainer (Specialty Pet Training’s Anne ONeill) and we’ve already discussed this stuff. The first thing I’ll be doing is journaling so I can keep track of the various things I observe. We’ll also plan out some training opportunities once I have my work plan straightened out.

The biggest issue I have is that I have 3 German Shepherds. Working with just one is a huge pain and takes more effort because the other two want to participate. I need to learn how to give the other two something to do while I work with the third. Ideally I should be able to put all three in a down, call one over do some stuff and then have it return to the other to and down with them and then take another one to work with. We’ll figure it out.

Another thing I want is to

For fun I’m also getting a harness that will hold an action camera (I use a Drift Ghost). I can’t wait to see how it works. Hopefully I’ll have some great video to post.

After the Canine Good Citizen thing though I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do. A few things that come to mind are:

  1. Cats  – I need to get the entire pack to ignore my cats completely.  They’re not aggressive toward the cats, they are just really interested and want the cats to play.  The cats on the other hand want nothing to do with the cats.  My desire is for my cat Lorie to go back to sleeping with me at night.  When I only had Kaiser she slept with Kaiser on the bed with me.
  2. Perfect return – I want all three dogs to return to me on command regardless of the distraction.  On return I want them to sit in front of me facing me.  Whether alone or in a group I want them to perform this behavior perfectly every time.
  3. Barking – First: I actually like that my dogs bark at people who approach the house.  However, I want them to stop when I tell them to stop.  For instance: I’m good with them barking when the pizza guy shows up, they’ll start barking when he comes up the drive way and I like that, but once I know it’s the pizza guy I want them to stop barking.  In some ways this could be related to the perfect return.  The key is that I want them to stop barking when I tell them to stop barking no matter what is going on.
  4. Perfect stay – This obviously is related to the perfect return.  I want to be able to put the dogs in a down and have them stay there until I release them no matter what is going on.
  5. Search – Search is related to my interests in SAR.  I’m not sure what I want here and I need to do more research, but I’d love to be able to train my dogs to work in SAR.  This however might not be realistic.  On the other hand some of the skills should be teach able whether or not we actually get involved in SAR.

We need fosters!

Ffff@$%^@%^&*(&!!!!!!!!!!!!. Rescues need fosters and adopters NOW!

We are barely a week past Christmas and the puppies are already pouring in. DFW GSR has already picked up a few puppies. HSFM Love on Wheels is trucking in 7 (?) puppies and there are tons of others. We need fosters.

If you’d like to foster a puppy or younger dog now would be a great time to step up. All rescues are going to need help. Whatever breed is your preference: just speak up and they’ll find you a dog to foster.

What if you decide you want to keep the dog? This is what we call a “foster failure”. In some ways it’s not really a failure, it just means you have a match. You can look a foster as a type of pet dating if you don’t already have a dog. You bring in your foster, you spend some time together and if you decide this is your dog you finish the adoption process. If you decide it’s not quite a match then you help find the dog its forever home and help it on its way. However, I have yet to foster a dog that I would not have happily kept. There are two reasons I don’t keep my fosters: first, I already have 4 dogs in my house and in my town I can’t have keep a fifth dog. Second, Love on Wheels specifically forbids you from keeping the dog because it has to go to New York. If you’re really concerned about foster failing just tell the rescue organization to not allow you to keep any dogs.

The hardest part for my family is when the new adopters don’t stay in touch. It’s cool getting to see pictures of ‘our’ dogs with their new family and knowing that they’re well cared for and loved.

The down side of fostering is getting involved and knowing what goes on. Knowing how many dogs are killed every year because people insist on doing the things people do. DFW GSR’s intake coordinator has to deal with tons of emails from families wanting to surrender their aging German Shepherds because they are suddenly too expensive to keep. At this time of year we have to deal with all of the families that thought it would be cool to get little Jonnie or Suzzie a cute puppy and then they discover that raising a puppy is actually more work than raising a baby. Luckily for them getting rid of the puppy is easier than getting rid of a baby. Personally, I’d prefer to euthanize those people for helping create this problem in the first place.

Anyway, if you’re up for it: volunteer. It’s very rewarding and you don’t have to get as involved as I have. Actually, just foster the dog and stay the hell away from all of the rescue news would be the way but it’s too late for me.

The Clicker Mafia

A common reason for dogs to arrive at an animal shelter is their behavior. Unfortunately for dogs their natural behavior is not completely compatible with living in a modern home. Jumping up on people to greet them, mouthing, counter surfing, taking slices of pizza out of your hand as you’re about to eat. Not to even mention house breaking. All of these little things too often land Fido in the hands of an animal shelter. All too often because there are too many dogs and not enough shelter we kill them. If you have even the smallest amount of humanity in you that should bother you.

What to do about it? The answer should be obvious: train the rotten mongrel. As it happens there are a lot of different ways to go about training a dog and I think this is actually a good thing. What is interesting about it is the human behaviors that get wound up in this stuff. What I refer to in the title of this post, “The clicker mafia”, is the way some people act when it comes to the different ways to train.

What I have seen from people is that if you are not using entirely pure ‘positive reinforcement’ training methods you must be some type of racist knuckle dragging homophobic puppy killer. If you so much as own a pinch collar, let alone a choke chain you’re going straight to hell. Out of a small sense of decorum I’ll not even touch shock collars.

In one case a trainer is working with a dog that has some socialization issues. He commits the sin of not doing it the way the clicker mafia believe he should so the entire pack proceeds to attack. A little digging reveals that they really are like a mafia (Beyond Cesar Millan). Here’s the thing: while they may have a point somewhere and in some fashion their troll like attacks are not helpful or beneficial to anyone. In fact they mostly succeed in turning people off of dog training all together.

Watching what goes on with dogs (and cats too) and having a small piece of insight to the problems make this type of internet trolling that much more frustrating. This guy was taking the time to show and explain what he is doing and his reasons for doing it that way. But because the new hipster training method says something else these people decide he must be drowned.

I do own a pinch collar but I don’t use it. Why not? Initially because I just didn’t like it and I had just started learning positive training stuff and it said not to bother with one. Over the past year I’ve learned a lot more. Along the way I learned how and when to use a pinch collar. There in is the problem in my opinion. If you’re first teaching a dog some new behavior you don’t need a pinch collar. A toy, some treats, or just praise will get the job done really well and in the process the relationship with your dog will grow stronger. Once the dog knows what to do most of the time in most situations that is where a pinch collar might be used. However, your ultimate goal in training your dog should guide that decision. My dogs are companions that go hiking and get taken places with me. They are not guard dogs, they don’t compete in anything. They’re my fur kids. I don’t need 100% obedience from them 100% of the time. So no need for pinch collar or any other aversive training aids. If you can actually get your dogs to the point that you can walk them through your neighborhood off leash, encountering other people and dogs without incident and want to go even further (no idea where you go from here – beyond camping) then rock on. But for 99.9999% of the population simple positive training techniques will take care of you.

There are situations, dogs and people who this may not work for. Other training techniques are valid. From my perspective if that trainer can keep the dog out of a shelter so that it can live a long happy life with its family – I honestly don’t care. But from what the clicker mafia writes and their behavior I’m thinking they’d prefer to see the animal euthanized.

 

 

Another one off

Today we sent Shiloh off to New York. It was not easy to do.

Shiloh is a border collie mix and has such a great personality. She got along great with my pack and did ok with the cats.

One aspect I hate about this is not knowing the background of these dogs. I have no idea how she ended up in a shelter. When I got her from Love On Wheels she was a frightened little dog. I got her home and carefully introduced her to my pack. Imagine being a little 20 pound puppy having 3 big German Shepherds crowd around you. Yeah, not intermediating at all. Luckily my dogs have gotten used to our guests so they roll with it pretty well, but I still supervise their interactions pretty carefully. Anyway, the first few days she was a little withdrawn, but it didn’t take her long to move in and let her personality show. She went from frightened to comfortable to confident over the few weeks I got to have her.

Initially she didn’t really play with toys, but over the past two weeks she started copying Lola by picking up tennis balls and running around the yard with them in her mouth. She even started playing tug with me. The fact that she will play tug in my opinion indicates that she’ll be really easy to train. Hopefully her forever family will take full advantage of that eagerness.

Rosie (my Red & Black Shepherd) tend to play the role of mother to our fosters. I’ve talked about Rosie before and she continues to be such a great find. I feel sorry for the family that returned her (but they can’t have her back now), had they listened to me and had more patience they would have scored such a huge win. Rosie has mothered every foster that has come in to this house. It’s always fun and heart warming to watch her interactions with them.

And yeah – make backyard is destroyed. We don’t have grass anymore, just mud. Something about having a 90lbs turbo charged puppy just spells doom for grass. I’m planning to redo the yard to try and save it. The biggest problem is that Kaiser, besides tearing up the grass likes to play in mud puddles and the whole pack tracks dirt in to the house so we have to constantly sweep and mop the floors.

One small issue I have is that I’m very permissive as a handler. The dogs get away with bloody murder. No wonder they love me so much. Above we see what happens when somebody leaves their poster project stuff out. Shiloh got ahold of a Crayola marker and she had sooo much fun.

We’re going to miss that little turd burglar. She definitely earned the title with some of her little stunts. Whoever is smart enough to adopt her will bring so much love in their house they won’t understand how they got along without her (just keep the markers out of reach, and shoes, stuffed animals and well – keep an eye on her).

We’re going to take a week or two off but we’ll be fostering another dog soon. Our intention is to foster a Shepherd from DFW German Shepherd Rescue where my pack comes from. There are so many needing rescue it’s heart breaking, but the truth is there are dogs of all breeds needing rescue.