After I got the mats off of Jack our foster pup his mood improved greatly. While he was still hesitant, he was more friendly. What a sweet boy he is! Took him for his first vet appointment on Monday afternoon and he got micro chipped and his rabies vaccination. He was friendly and happy at the vet, even after all the pokes!
Then today, he was groomed. The groomer said he was very good, stood nicely and let him work on him. He looks like a completely new dog! A well cared for and loved dog. And he is. And I also suspect that he was loved in his previous home. It is always such a curiosity to me, how these dogs end up in that high kill shelter. He sits nicely when he wants something, is quiet as a mouse in his crate, is good with kids and other dogs, he is nearly perfect! He just had a bad habit of marking (with pee) on things in the house. He keeps his crate dry but I have to keep him close by to prevent him from practicing that. But all in all, he is a dream pup! So happy for him that he gets a second chance.
Many many people have very strong feelings about the prong (or pinch) collar. I have to admit it does look like a piece of medieval torture equipment. It looks dangerous and almost violent. But it works like a dream on many many dogs.
Recently, in one of my classes I had a student who also happens to be a working veterinarian, who has a very rambunctious, very strong dog she recently adopted from rescue. She came to class with a head halti, the training device that covers the muzzle of the dog and helps to control the dog’s behavior by controlling their head, much like a bridle works for controlling a horse. While this tool is often very effective for some dogs it was not working for this dog. Her dog was lunging and jerking her all over the ring and the force of all that power was being absorbed by the dog’s neck. It was clear that she was becoming more frustrated and admitted after class that the halti wasn’t working. I suggested trying a prong but said she didn’t want to because she believed prong collars were “inhumane.” In my work as a trainer, I’ve learned that the best tool is the one that addresses the dog’s behavior problem with the least amount of force and that the owner feels comfortable and capable of working with. So, even though it was clear to me that the prong would likely work wonders, I spent time explaining ways she could make the head halti work for her and advised her to be more careful of how she worked with the halti.
The interesting thing is, I believe that she could have had success with my method of working with that tool. But it would have taken a LOT of work on her part to convey to the dog what behaviors were correct and which were not. It seems to me that a lot of dogs really just don’t understand that we’re frustrated with them when we yank them around by their leashes. It almost seems like they think it is a weird game we play. If you ever watch dogs play with each other you know how physical they are, how banging into and grabbing and jostling one another is all part of the fun. I really believe that most dogs being yanked around by their owners think that we’re having fun. To make the halti work for her in this case she had to make it crystal clear what behaviors were unwanted, and what ones were, and most importantly that this wasn’t a game but rather, work. This would take a lot of training sessions with impeccable timing and lots of attention. And frankly, most people want faster results or just don’t have the time to devote to this sort of thing.
I don’t know what her specific situation is but this week in class she reached a sort of person limit. She was clearly frustrated and the dog was confused. When the handler and dog aren’t working as a team, no learning can happen. I gently suggested she just try out a prong for the class to see if she liked the results, and she agreed.
The results were, as you’d expect, remarkable. The behavior improved immediately and the handler became more calm, more confident and better able to train the dog. The dog’s focus on the handler improved and there was more eye contact between the two and therefore more opportunities to reinforce the focus and the work. I really watched this team and challenged myself to see if the dog had just “given up” or had lost its spark and was just complying out of fear. I didn’t see that. What I did see was the same dog, just a better, more focused, more self-controlled version. The dog seemed to finally understand the purpose of the whole training thing – it was like her mind said, “OH, that’s what you’re trying to tell me!” And when the handler expressed her pleasure at the dog’s behavior , the dog responded with pleasure right back. That’s the whole point of training in my opinion – to get on the same page with our dogs so we understand each other’s role and what is expected, and we know how to meet those expectations.
Moral to this story? Be careful of dismissing any training method or tool based on a story, a belief or an opinion. Keep your mind open and your focus on exploring what works. Trust your gut, but be honest with yourself. If your way of doing something isn’t working, ask for help and try something outside your comfort zone.
Brandyleft us just over a week ago. It was her time, she told me so in many ways. I could see it in her eyes, her behavior, her abilities, they all said to varying degrees that she was done. I’ll spare you the details of her declining health. She passed quietly in our home, with the kind and gentle assistance of our vet. Euthanizing Brandy at home helped to bring closure for our family and our pack. Bella, Hermes, and Lollie passed her one by one, sniffing her body curiously, knowing she was gone. Kristin and I wept as Ryan asked lots of questions. The vet and his assistant who made the house call were caring, compassionate, respectful, and professional – as they were when we put Sadie down five years prior.
I kept reading and hearing that when it was her time, I would know. And they were all right. The topic had been a frequent one in our home for months, increasingly so in the past several weeks as evidence mounted that Brandy’s time was near. I wavered as I took in the information she presented to me. I really wasn’t sure until I was sure, if that makes sense. But once I knew I didn’t hesitate or look back – it was her time.
I miss her but oddly not as much as anticipated. I guess I had a long time to think about her decline and had come to terms with it gradually. These past months I spent more and more time sitting quietly next to her, gently petting and stroking her head, neck, and back the way she liked. As Brandy aged, she was very reactive to sudden moves or any kind of jostling so I moved slowly and deliberately. She would relax and slowly lick her front paws and occasionally my hand or arm as I pet her. It was in those moments too that I knew she was ready. On her final day I came home from work early to pet her like she likes. She was stoic, guarded, with a long stare that seemingly told me she’s ready. My timing was perfect.
Brandy is gone in body but not of course in memory. I loved this poem authored and read by – of all people - legendary actor Jimmy Stewart on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The poem is called Beau, the name of Stewart’s dog:
This disturbing report from Rubi‘s family (of Willow‘s litter):
Really wish I lived closer. If you ever do a get together of all of Willow’s litter mates, we will hopefully be able to do something like that. It would be neat to see how Rubi Red reacts.
A quick update on her. Lets see, how do I make this quick. 2 weeks ago, Rubi started throwing up her food which is very odd as she doesn’t throw up. It wasn’t every time she ate, but when she started to get a tiny bit lethargic, it started to get us to really think. From Wed to Fri, she threw up 3 times and I decided to take her into the vet on Saturday morning just to make sure.
Good thing I made an appointment because she threw up on Saturday morning. They took x-rays, but thought maybe she just had a poop build up. They sent me home with that prescription bland diet and gave her an anti-nausia shot. She did NOT get any better and was drooling like crazy. On sunday, she stopped drinking water and eating. There’s no messing with that and we brought her to the emergency vet. They took more x-rays and were about 80% sure that something was stuck in or around her small intestines. So, they did immediate surgery. Turns out, she had eaten a part of the blanket she lays on. It filled an entire sandwich bag. She stayed at the vet for a couple days for observation as her pancreas was a little swollen from the blanket that was jammed in there. She was slowly getting better that week, BUT on Saturday night, she stopped eating and drinking again. ugh. We brought her back to the same emergency vet on Sunday and they figured her pancreas might be a little inflamed still, so they put her back on antibiotics and gave her fluids and some anti-nausea just in case. Poor Rubi.
Her staples are out and she’s back to bouncing off the walls! I guess that wasn’t a short update, but I’ve been meaning to email you and update you on what happened with her.
Oh MY! I am SO happy that all is ok now. What a scary situation for you both. Good job acting fast and keeping on it. I’ll post this as a cautionary tale to those with puppies out there.
The end of the road is nearing for Brandy. I find myself conflicted on deciding when is her time to go – if it should be my decision at all. She could die naturally, but seeing her decline is so hard for me I wonder if it is not kinder to put her down.
I bought Brandy from Animal Kingdom on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago in September 1994 when she was 6 weeks old. She was always a fairly high energy dog who loved to run and jump like most dogs but I will always remember how she seemed to love the wind. On windy days she would stop in her tracks to face the wind, sniffing, blowing her floppy Snoopy years backward. After a short time, she would bolt from that position and run around crazy – sometimes just I circles – as if to celebrate. This is a vivid but now distant memory. She is old now, arthritic, and increasingly losing the muscle needed to remain standing on all fours. Her legs will frequently slide out from under her in all directions just while she is standing or leaning over to drink some water. I’m sure she wishes we had carpeting to assist rather than our wood and tile floors.
Here is a note from Tucker‘s family:
Took Tucker to vet yesterday and he also has mange. He is there getting treated as I send this and God knows he will be wound up and ready to go when he gets home!! Here is his latest portrait…..the vet said yesterday he is HUGE for 5 months…54 pounds and is guessing he will be around 100 when full grown!!He has his moments as puppy’s do, but he is 99.9 accident free now and loves to cuddle. We are working on NO for jumping and starting drop leash training. Still too many distractions…squirrels, birds, leaves and the like. He has discovered laundry and LOVES socks, flipping them, shaking them and playing tug of war with Tanna. Still loves his naps and snuggling up in bed.
Submissive urination…ah yes. You’d be surprised how many puppies do this but if you understand why it makes more sense. Puppies in their first two weeks of life are physically unable to eliminate on their own. The mama dog has to stimulate them to do so as she cleans them. This makes sense when you think about how the mama has to keep the den site clean to avoid predators, it is easiest for her to just ingest the waste. So one theory is that puppies have a “hold over” response from those early days and when they are feeling unsure or want to tell someone they are truly submissive, they will pee a little. This can become a problem for dogs when the owners see it as a reversal of house training and punish the action. Think of it from the puppy’s point of view – they are trying hard to show good manners by telling their big strong owners that they are no threat, they are ok with their submissive position in the pack. And as a result of this they are punished! It must make them SO confused and of course it just intensifies the behavior as the puppy tries even harder to convince the person of their willingness to be submissive.
I got a request for “advice’ recently that I wanted to post. It is important to always remember that this sort of advice can not be as thorough as that given by someone directly involved with the family or the dog. This advice should also not be used in place of veterinary care or professional dog training.
We adopted Jessa three months ago…she was a stray wandering the streets of Aurora. We don’t think she was a stray for very long, as she didn’t really have any physical or emotional scars. She’s incredibly friendly to all people and other dogs. She loves kids. She’s a very happy and lovely dog. The vet says she’s about a year old, give or take a month or two.