Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

My "I'm Grateful for" list...on a sort of wordless Wednesday...
I am grateful to live in such a beautiful area!....

 For my current and past dogs....and all the people who have allowed me to get to know their dogs, and help them in one way or another...

 For the places that allow me to train in their facilities such as The Pets Stop Inn,
 and the Chehalem Park and Rec.

The dogs themselves and their goofy antics!

For my wonderful family and the bond we have together!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here to all of you out there! Feel free to leave what you are thankful for in the comment section below! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What to Expect When Your Expecting, With A Dog

So what's cuter than a baby and a dog?  Not much really.  It's great when they get along just fine from the get go.  The problem is that is not always the case.  Especially if you had the dog first.

I have had this question a few times, and it always goes something like this: "We just had a new baby and the dog is acting like he/she wants to bite it, or is growling at it.  We are not sure what to do, can you help?"

Why do dogs not always seem to share our overwhelming joy in the new addition? I have to say, for many, many reasons.
First of all, a lot of the time your dog has had your undivided attention, and now he doesn't.

Second, babies make a lot of unexpected loud noises and disrupt everyday life, as they knew it.  You had at least 7 months to mentally prepare yourself (most of the time), and you still struggle with it.  Expecting your dog to take to it all without a hitch is like expecting you to welcome the burglar in your house to becoming a roommate.

Thirdly babies smell different, dogs don't see them as small humans, they see them as a strange alien animal they haven't seen before.  They move in jerky motions, and jerky stiff, motions to dogs mean that the animal giving the signals are feeling aggressive.

Given that information, put yourself in their shoes.  What would you do if an alien burglar decided to make himself at home in your house?  What if your spouse didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with it?  Would you feel the need to protect everyone in the house from it, or at least yourself?

Now, how to help your dog understand, or at least feel more comfortable with this new strange addition.  If you have yet to have your new bundle of joy arrive, find a place that you can bring your dog that you know has babies.  Maybe have a friend or relative come around with theirs.  As your dog comes around just for checking things out, click and treat.  The goal here is to make your dog think that these weird alien things are cool treat dispensers.

If you have already brought the new baby home and are dealing with the fall out, please keep the dog away from the baby at first.  Bring out some of the babies clothes or blanket that the baby has been wrapped up in. Click for investigating the clothes. Once you have the dog happily sitting when you bring out baby smelling items, then you can move on to bringing out the baby, wrapped up in a blanket that your dog is used to smelling.  At first you are going to want to stand while holding the baby out of reach, while having someone else click and treat your dog for good behavior while the baby is out.  You can gradually lower the baby as long as the dog remains happy and does not close his mouth or freeze.  If you see any of those behaviors please remove the baby or stand up so the dog becomes comfortable again.  It will take every dog their own pace at learning to accept a strange new member of the family.  Don't rush them.  Ever.  That will only be putting the baby in harms way.

Tips for toddlers.  Please don't allow your toddler to pull lips, poke eyes, or bounce on your dog.  While your dog may tolerate this behavior for the time being, you never know when the time will come that your dog will decide that it is done being tolerable.  Teach your children from an early age to treat the furry members of the family with respect.  Your dog may tolerate such behavior, but other dogs may not.  So when visiting other dogs that will only put your child at risk.

I love seeing well adjusted furry and non furry siblings playing together.  I just don't want to hear sad stories of families having to rehome, or worse, having to put their dog down because it bit the baby.  Remember there is more at stake here than just a little nip.  Lives really are on the line.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Dog Whisperer

What does the term "Dog Whisperer" mean to you?  For me it used to mean someone who could understand the body language of dogs, specifically, someone who had some unattainable attribute that gave them Dr. Doolittle powers.  That's what I used to think, till I started having clients call me one.
 Now I am not simply trying to toot my own horn here.  At first I politely denied it, still thinking that was a title that was meant for someone else, not me.  But after seeing what other trainers were doing who called themselves a dog whisperer, I decided that I should stop declining the title I was being given, lest some of these people started to believe in the other "whisperer's" less effective, and dangerous methods.

Now let me tell you something else.  If I can be a "dog whisperer," so can you.  Most people say that and believe the same thing I did.  It's an unattainable trait that is only granted to a few special people, which they happen to not be.  That's where you are wrong.  All it takes, if you are really interested, is a detailed observation, knowledge, and more observation.

For me it all started years ago, way back when I was 17 or so.  I had a horse, and I read a book that changed my outlook on my relationship with animals.  Around that time was when the book, by Monty Roberts "The Man Who Listens to Horses," came out.  I was given that for Christmas, and I devoured that book in days.  I then raced up to the stalls to try out some of what Monty Roberts had described in his book.  This was my horse, Stacy.  I rode bareback most of the time, and I spent as much time as I possibly could up there for those few short years before life, and it's many twists and turns happened.  What I learned up there though has stuck with me all these years.  I learned that I could have a real relationship with animals, I learned that we could even communicate.  Horses are wonderful that way.  They are so sensitive to their rider's mind.  If I saw a log on one of the trails we would ride on, and I just stared at it, I learned that Stacy would spook, or at least take the long way around that log.  She was picking up on what I was concentrating on.  I could do that with anything, a rock, or a clump of grass.  She was a wonderful teacher.  So forgiving too.  It was here though, that I learned the art of observation.  I watched how the horses interacted with each other, I watched how they interacted with different people.  I watched how they interacted around me.  I discovered that if I took the time to learn why they acted a particular way, it paid off in the long run.


Animals who lack a large vocal language rely on their every movement to relay information to those around them.  An ear flick, a raised leg, even a lip movement are sentences to those who know understand.  We are so lucky to live in a day and age where our own communication can be relayed around the world in a blink of an eye!  It might take a bit of digging, but you can find others out there with years more experience at reading animal body language than you have.  Then comes the fun part.  This is where you need to do your own observation step again.  Apply what you have learned and from others and their research and observation, then see if it holds true in your situations and circumstances.  Most people who have done degrees, or spent years learning animal body language will not always agree on the exact meaning of all the twitches and movements of a particular animal.  So what's a person to do?  Now is where you take all that you have learned from your studying and apply it to as many situations as you can.  All the while, keep abreast of the latest studies that are constantly coming out.  It would never do to think you have learned it all and that was it.  Until we have a universal animal language guide book, we should never simply take someone at their word, if we can help it.  We need to experiment with it ourselves.  However if you have hit that point, you have made it.  You too will probably get people calling you an animal whisperer, whether or not you feel qualified to be called one.

Whether it be a dog, bird, horse or cat, we all can discover the "Animal Whisperer" inside all of us, all it takes is a closer look at the world around us.