A day at doggie boot camp

Otis 98


Boarding the dogs I once fostered is an interesting thing to do. I get to see what fine specimens my little babies have grown into and I get to see what characteristics from puppyhood are still with them.

Today we are boarding Otis, formerly Willow‘s puppy, Ash.

(Click on the smaller photos to see larger ones…)


He seems to have some lab in him and some blood hound too. But look at this point! Who knows what else he's got floating around in his blood.

He is a little over 6 months old and he is big. I mean big. (824) 88 pounds sort of big.

He is a little over 6 months old and he is big. I mean big. 88 pounds sort of big.

A dog as young as Otis young who is that big had better have good manners…and, well, let’s say he is still working on it.

Hermes and Bella, my working dogs who go with me everywhere I can take them are helping me.  Notice how Hermes is telling Otis, with his body who is in charge. And Bella, is telling the world (with her barking) what is happening.

the pack the pack
the pack Bella

After romping in the yard and getting to know one another we took a pack walk. Otis did well and it is clear that his owners are doing a lot of things right. He walks nicely and seems to know his place relative to the walker.

the walk the walk

Those who know me often hear me talk about how to walk a dog correctly. I call it a “controlled walk” and here is a great photo illustrating one of my main points…I say, “pretend there is an invisible line coming out of each hip and no dog can cross in front of it.”

invisible line coming out of each hip

invisible line coming out of each hip

Tomorrow Otis leaves but not before another one of his pack mates arrives for her stay at our “doggie boot camp” – Abby, formerly Ginko will join in on the fun tomorrow morning.

10 Party Tips for Dog Owners

With the holiday season upon us, I’ve had many questions about what to do with “rowdy” dogs during a party. Here are my top ten pieces of advice:

1. Feed the dog prior to the party starting and then make sure you take them out to potty after about 15 minutes. If they don’t produce for you, then make sure you make a note for yourself to try again in another 5 minutes. Nothing worse than a potty accident right at the start of the party.

2. WALK them as long as you can as close to the start of the party as possible. Make this a controlled walk, dog at your side, you determine the pace and the direction. Try for a 45 minute walk but no less than 30 minutes. More is better.

3. Advise guests to completely ignore the dog when they arrive and not to pet, look at or talk to the dog until you give the go ahead. Prepare for this to be the hardest thing to accomplish! Only let guests say hello to the dog once the dog is settled nicely. Expect this to take awhile – likely a good 45 minutes into the party.

4. Keep the dog on leash during the party. There is no reason to let a young or out of control dog have free reign of the house during the party. Keeping them on leash and nearby is far better than isolating them to their crate or a back room. This will only cause barking or possible distructive behavior. Dogs are social like us, they deserve to be wtih the group.

5. Work the obedience skills – especially down/stay. Have treats ready and practice these two commands while you take a break and sit down. If you can’t take a break from the action then …


Take Your Dog With You

If you want to teach your dogs to work with you and to trust you, bring them out into the world with you whenever you can.  Avoid the mind set that makes you do all your errands alone while your dog sits at home.  Bring her along and always maintain the leadership position in those outings.  Do not let your dog haul you around by the leash, do what it takes to keep you both working as a team.  At first this will usually require one of two things:  1) immense strength and patience or 2) a good training collar or harness.  I’ve talked about harnesses I love in a previous post as well as the prong collar, both useful tools.  But the ‘where of walking’ is what I want to cover here. 

Take your dogs wherever you can think of taking them.  Ask before entering a store you aren’t sure they allow dogs, and most people will say “ok” and let you in if you seem confident.  If you aren’t that sort of person, call ahead first.  Here in the Fox Valley, IL area we have a great opportunity for many on leash experiences in the Geneva Commons

Their website indicates which stores allow leashed dogs.  If dogs are welcome you can bring yours!  Then you have to make sure you take charge of the situation.  Walk your dog outside a bit to burn off some energy and get them emptied out (how embarrassing to potty in Victoria’s Secret!!)  Make sure you enter the establishment first, your dog following you.  Have your dog “sit” and “wait” if they are trying to rush you into the store.  If you enter in a controlled fashion you are communicating to your dog that you are in charge.  Once inside, you decide what you look at and where you go.  If someone wants to pet your dog, ask them to wait until your dog is under control and take as much time as you need to get your dog seated and calm.  Then let them approach.  Done correctly, these sorts of outings are a great way to put the basics of obedience training into a package of usable manners. And it’s a great way to get some holiday shopping done too!

Nail Trims and Grooming

How many of you out there regularly brush and bathe your dogs? How many out there trim your own dogs’ nails? How many of you out there brush your dogs’ teeth? My guess is that the numbers decreased with each question. Most of us understand that bathing and brushing come with owning a dog. And for many of us, these tasks are an enjoyable part of interacting with our dogs. Some of us, for many reasons, choose to have our dogs professionally groomed. But all of us expect that there is some “maintenance” required in owning a dog.

However, many of us forget about the rest of the animal. I have seen many dogs with extremely long toe nails, some so long that the foot is being deformed and the dog is clearly uncomfortable walking as a result! These dogs are usually loved and cared for but their owners, for whatever reason, have neglected this part of their anatomy. Nail trimming IS often difficult. Most dogs dislike having their feet handled and if a dog hasn’t been given regular nail trims from puppyhood, they can resist nail trims with a nearly violent reaction.

Lollie after a nail trim

Lollie after a nail trim

My own dog, Lollie, hated nail trims. I tried to give them to her as a puppy but she struggled so much she often got out of our hold. Once she learned that she could escape by fierce struggling, she struggled all the harder with each attempt. Add to this my fear of her reaction and we had a horrible situation on our hands. It got to the point that at one attempt I was certain she was going to bite me. I stopped trimming her nails and took her to the vet. There she was muzzled and put on her side and struggled so much that the vet assistant, who was restraining her, ended up with multiple scratches and the vet’s glasses were flung across the room (her flailing foot caught the stem of them and off they went, into the air). I realized that we were in for a lifetime of panic and unnecessary drama unless something radically changed.


10 Tips For Your New Puppy

Willow‘s puppies all went home today with their new forever families. Here are tips for all families that bring home a new puppy:

  1. puppy sitsLimit the number of rooms the puppy/dog has access to for the first week or so.
  2. Limit the amount of “attention” you give the new member of your family for the first few days…let them get acclimated a bit.
  3. Place the crate in a bedroom for the first few nights or sleep next to the crate. Remember, all the puppies slept lumped together, spending the night alone will really be scary and having you nearby will greatly help.
  4. Unless you want a dog that whines in her crate, do not let her out when she is crying/whining/pawing or barking. Wait until she quiets and then let her out. To avoid this, set an alarm for every 3 or 4 hours that first night and wake her up to take her potty. Soon you will be able to cut out those middle of the night potty breaks but if you do this for that first few nights (first week?) it will really pay off. The alternative, letting the dog wake you up can lead to reinforcing whining and barking in the crate. We don’t want that!
  5. puppy too cuteTake your new family member to the same spot in the yard every time he transitions to a new activity (or every hour or two) and tell him “go potty” or some such command. If nothing happens in a few minutes, come back inside.
  6. Watch for nervous behavior, circling and sniffing the ground, whining – these are cues that your puppy needs to poop.
  7. You have 3 seconds to reward or correct a behavior! That’s it! So, unless you catch the puppy in the act of peeing, scolding him will only make him afraid of you. If you miss it, let it go and commit to being more attentive in the future.
  8. Your puppy won’t need a real walk until they are about 4 months of age but do get them used to their leash and collar by putting them on and walking around the yard and house.
  9. Remember: these guys (Willow included) are like blank slates…they will learn what you teach them or let them do regularly. Be mindful not to condition them to expect behavior that you won’t want a full grown dog to do. A good example, letting them pull you to the door. As anxious as you are to get the out to potty, try to keep good leash manners in front of your mind. Walk to the door with the dog/pup at you side or behind you. Go out the door first, then the pup/dog. Once outside, give a command word as you walk to your potty spot and then let them have full reign of the leash. Otherwise, you are teaching a dog to pull on leash while you are house training it!
  10. two puppiesRemember to love them up good but don’t “cut them slack” – keep in mind the behavior you want and reinforce it (with cuddles, praise and treats) and ignore or correct (NOT PUNISH – just make a disapproving sound – I like AH!) behavior you don’t want. They will appreciate the clarity.

Cherish your new family member!

Puppies start to walk and open eyes

Well tonight (Monday) it was clear that these pups are out of the woods. And I am relieved. I noticed two days ago that some of them had little slits opening in their eye lids and today about half of them have their eyes almost completely open. We won’t be having photos for a week as the flash is harmful to their developing eye tissue. I may try on a sunny day to get some but not tonight. In addition to their eye development, they are starting to walk! It is only for a few steps, and they are very wobbly, but they are walking!! They seem to be right on schedule, so their bout of kennel cough didn’t set them back, developmentally, at all. In fact, as I watched them nurse tonight I was struck by how vigorous they all are. I think they are really hungry now, and I’ve noticed Daisy‘s food intake increasing (finally). Yes, it seems the consensus is for the name Daisy so Daisy it is. I may be supplementing their nursing sooner than I had planned…I usually wait until they can stand (duh) to introduce them to lapping formula from a bowl and that usually happens after week 3…but here we are at 2 weeks plus one day and already they seem ravenous. If Daisy can keep up, then I’ll let her.

I also gave them their first worming today and from about 1.5 pounds at day 3 they are up to 4 pounds!! Yeah. I am really proud of this group. Also, I cut toenails tonight. They were crazy long and really scratchy. You are welcome, Daisy.