The rule of threes

I hear a lot of excuses from people about why they can’t adopt, or, far worse, why they can’t keep their newly adopted dog, and at least 75% of them happen in the first three days.
As you read my blog, you’ll find two common, recurring themes:
1) Dogs are awesome, and we can learn an awful lot from them.
2) It takes time for dogs to recover from shitty behavior they experienced from people.

If you’re considering adopting a dog, whether for the first time ever, or it’s been a long time, or maybe you just want to learn more about how to be a better adopter, be sure to check out my other posts about adopting, and why time is so critical.

Remember, you didn’t become an awesome person in a day!

Weekly Round-up: October 6th

Hello all!
This past week has been a whirlwind for me, and for the dogs!

Kirby got a clean bill of health this past week, which means he’s free to roam about, play, and generally ‘let loose’, as well as get his next surgery scheduled.
We were able to schedule the next surgery for October 17th so we’ll have a little time to let him be a dog, as well as see how his training is coming along, before he goes back under the knife.
Kirby has been getting used to the leash, is balancing his new-found energy and freedom with the introduction and enforcement of boundaries, and is continuing to make progress across the board.
Kirby’s big adventure this past week was getting to run free in a dog park for the first time (with me anyway), which he seemed to enjoy with gusto!

Kirby enjoying new friends at the park!

Scout’s been doing well, though she was as surprised as I was when we learned just how quick Kirby is! While he doesn’t have the endurance she’s got (yet!), he definitely keeps her on her toes!
The biggest challenge she has now is having to squeeze her way in to snuggle at times, but she’s definitely doing well to become more assertive, which I’m enjoying.

Amp is still enjoying life at Mandi’s house, and he’s recently learned a new trick!

Uh-oh, looks who’s talking on command now!!!

Of course the running joke is, ‘Great, now he’ll never shut up’! 😛

After just three sessions with one of my home-training clients, we’ve been able to figure out what the issues are, and we now have a work-from-home plan to resolve those issues! The owner is quite happy with the turn of events, and is an excellent handler, so i’ve no doubt that’ll turn out wonderfully in short time!

It’s been a great week with the dogs, I got to talk to several people about how to get their dogs to behave as well as mine do, and i’ve got more material to bring to you, my wonderful readers!

Kirby got a shower

Kirbys back after his visit to the vet to get his stitches out, and he’s been happily bouncing around, enjoying life with love.
After three weeks of mostly bed rest and a few trips a day outside, he was starting to smell…. not so great, so it was finally time to give him a shower!

He wasn’t too keen on it first, but once the rubbing started he got pretty okay with it. He was calm and patient with me, letting me scrub, wash, and rinse all the dirt away.

I paused after drying off his head to take a picture, and you can see how much he liked that…..

No no no, no picture!

Once he got all dried off he was happy to go rest in his crate for a little while, and enjoy being clean!

Kirby is still on limited activity, but he’s pushing the boundaries of that everyday, and uses all four legs most of the time he’s out and about now.
He’s healing and progressing very well in all aspects, and we’re excitedly looking forward to getting his right knee repaired, too!

Thank you very much to all of you have donated, shared, or otherwise supported this adorable little guys journey to a better life, and here’s to more happy tails! 😀

Weekly round-up

Yes yes yes, I know, i’m a day late or so. Bite me. 😛

Projects are all moving along, things are getting done.
Scout is doing well, enjoying picking on Amp to get him to play. Amp tolerates it fine and will eventually go play, but definitely needs more exercise.

Kirby is recovering nicely from his surgery, and while annoyed that he’s not allowed to play much, he’s enjoying lots of nap time, in his crate, on the bed, on the patio, and sometimes in the patio potty box I made. Yeah, he’s a little weird, but hey, so am I.

All stitched up and healing well.
The patio potty I made for Kirby.

Kirby goes in for a check up on Tuesday to see how he’s doing, and should have his stitches out the following Tuesday. Four weeks later he should be fully recovered, and ready to have surgery for his right leg. Here’s hoping all stays well for this sweet little guy!

The weekly roundup: The mutts are nuts!

This past week has been extremely busy for me, and while i’m getting a lot of things done that I need to get done, i’ve not been spending as much time exercising the dogs, and it’s showing.

As a trainer, the most valuable skill I have is my assessment of a dog, which gets better with more experience. Being able to understand not only what the dog is doing, but why they’re doing it helps to narrow down the source of behavior we don’t want, and how to correct that behavior. In this case, the issue I kept facing was lack of obedience, specifically lack of timely command response. In moving to make corrections, Kirby has a tendency to just flop down, Scout will work on melting into the floor, and Amp tends to take off, seeking the comfort of his crate. That last one is a big problem, especially when he has muddy feet, and doesn’t let me wipe them off before traipsing all over the house, so i’m working on getting him into the habit of wiping feet.

However, rather than punish for this errant behavior, because I understand they’re anxious, and dealing with some pent-up energy, I chose instead to back off a little, gently make the needed corrections, and then go wear them out at the dog park.
We’ve been twice this weekend so far, and it’s been wonderful to see them run (except Kirby, he’s on restricted activity), play, and explore. Scout, of course, is happy to be the ‘bullet dog, fastest fur-missile in the land!’, while Amp is happy to simply wander along, occasionally breaking into a trot.

Giving them an hour or so at the dog park is a great idea, one to aim for every day, but at least once or twice a week. Generally speaking, if your dog is ‘acting up’ or ‘acting out’, your first stop should be to the dog park so they can burn off some energy, and make sure you stick around after they get tired so you can give them a second chance to run if the wind kicks up.

Getting back to the mutts, Kirby is doing alright with his ‘trick knees’; he’s taking painkillers to help him relax, he gets help going up stairs or onto elevation (i.e. getting on the bed, his favorite place to be!), and he’s getting ready for surgery.
Amp is still enjoying life, working on his manners, and is slowly getting used to be handling his paws. We did get to teeth brushing for Amp this week as well, and while he was not a fan, he suffered through the ordeal, and was quickly enjoying pearly white teeth…. chomping on chicken jerky.
Scout is doing fine, still happy to tell me that ‘boys are dumb’, and occasionally stirs stuff up among them to get someone to chase her, but they all get along well.

I’m looking forward to getting Amp into a home of his own, preferably with two kids that want to play with him a lot, and to getting Kirby into surgery one of two (they’ll work on one leg at a time to ease the overall burden for him) for his knees.

Stay tuned for more adventures of the mutts!

Kirby: The Whimper

It was a Monday evening, like any other Monday evening, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

All three dogs were in the backyard, playing, chasing stuff, sniffing the smells, and generally enjoying some outside time. Running along as they usually do, Kirby was chasing Scout, and in the middle of a sweeping right turn, he whimpered, stopped, and dropped his butt to the ground, sitting lopsided with a tongue hanging low out of his panting mouth.
I stepped over to him, my right calf just at his left shoulder, and he leaned onto me with a heavy weight, hanging his head low.
I examined him all over, and finding nothing to suggest the cause of injury, I stepped back to give him a little space, which he quickly filled by pouring himself to the ground. Once he’d had a few minutes to rest, he tried to get up, but couldn’t quite get his hind legs under him. As I helped him inside to cool off, I realized something was amiss with his back legs, so I got a hold of Mandi, and she made arrangements for him to see his Doctors the next morning.

The trip down to LaGrange was a tough one, for me; Kirby, sitting curled up in the passenger side floorboard, watching me, his eyes drilling deep into mine, his little tongue flicking out now and then, and his constant effort to get a little more comfortable, urged me on down the road.

We got to LVH around 1030, and they had us in an exam room in no time. They did some checking and weighing and examining and thinking and such, and decided to keep him for a bit to confirm their suspicions of him having trick knees.

I spent the next several hours handling busywork, getting small things done, but my mind never strayed from his face, that little smile he always has, and those brown eyes, seeming to softly ask for just a little less pain.
It felt like weeks, but after only five hours, Kirby was coming out of sedation with x-rays to confirm the diagnosis: Bilateral Patellar Luxation (medical words that mean his kneecaps don’t stay in place).
We discussed treatment options, concluded that surgery is needed, and very likely to solve the problem permanently, and can be done at LVH, so now it’s just about getting that all set up.

Watching Kirby transition from several months at the shelter, through my training program, and into the sweet, loving, happy pup that he is now is very rewarding for me. Watching this issue come up and bite him in the ass (almost literally!) has been difficult, but hammers home two very important points:
1) Every dog deserves a chance to have love. Some need a little more discipline than others, but they all need training and care.
2) Every day that goes by is another day that proves Kirby was mislabeled, and almost died because of that. Sometimes, people suck.

The weekly round-up

Ok, more or less a weekly round up, but hey, it’s a dogs life over here, and i’m just trying to keep up with ’em! 😛

L-R: Amp, Kirby, Scout

Amp is having a good time, and has adjusted well to Kirby being around. Those boys get to rough housing now and then, all in good fun, but boy do they knock the dust loose! Amp is always up for a good pet or head scratch, is never late for a treat, and will sometimes come sit with me during morning coffee to say hello!

Amp wants to try my coffee…..

Kirby is making leaps and bounds of progress in his program, has become calm and confident in his daily activities, and enjoys testing boundaries by giving a new thing a little nibble, then looking at me to see what i’ll say. Thankfully, he responds well, and quickly, to a simple voice command! His face is usually smiling, and his nose is usually sniffing… even when he’s snoozing! He, too, likes to say good morning while i’m having coffee.

“I like coffee… I think…” -Kirby

Scout is finally enjoying having two boys to play with, and is happy to get out there and play rough with the boys, too! Last seen aggravating the mess out of ‘them boys’, she was lost in a cloud of dust as she sped away!
(She’s too fast for a picture) 😛

This past weekend all three dogs got to travel with me to a friends house, where their three dogs got to all meet and play with Kirby (who is new to them) and my two (who are not new to them). The initial meeting was tense because two of the friends dogs did NOT want to be nice, but Kirby responded very well; he was calm, cool, and did not fight, lunge, attack, or even growl back when provoked! After a few hours of sniffing and posturing, all six dogs were seen running circles around each other in the backyard, having far too much fun to care about who’s new or who’s who!

I’m very proud of Kirby for coming out of his shell, putting his past behind him, and quickly learning to thrive in his new life. I look forward to introducing him to his new family when the time is right, and I know they’ll have many happy memories with him!

Kirby: Settling in nicely

Kirby has now been with me, *checks his timer* 4 days and 8 hours. He enjoys playing with the other dogs, playing with me, and snuggle time (boy does he ever enjoy snuggle time!).

While his first meeting with Scout didn’t go so well, they’ve mended their differences and decided to be friends, with a little help and training of course.


Kirby has shown himself to be a wonderful dog, no rougher around the edges than any other dog fresh out of the shelter, and loves to be loved. He responds well to training, is quickly picking up all the things i’m putting down (food on the floor AND manners/obedience/commands), and has already racked up several compliments near and far in the neighborhood.

He has also found the pleasure of the bed, and while I keep an eye on him to make sure he leaves my blanket alone, he’s happy to snooze behind me while I whittle away my keyboard.

Kirby is a terrific example of the travesty of ‘breed labels’, and exemplifies exactly why they should be ignored; he’s nothing like Animal Services said he is, he’s just a dog, mis- treated by humans, judged harshly by humans, and, thanks to the wonderful human that runs the Humane Society, given a second chance to have a wonderful life. I’m honored, and still a little awed, at being a part of that, and not a moment spent with Kirby goes by that I don’t enjoy having him around.

Adventures of the mutts…

One of the biggest causes of aggression in dogs is food, which falls under ‘Resource Guarding’, a behavior that’s common for dogs that were never taught to share.
When you’re dealing with one, or more, aggressive dogs in a pack, you have to be careful not to have food out as it’ll usually cause a fight.
For my pack, I simply refuse to tolerate that kind of behavior, and I insist that everyone get along nicely. For those who don’t want to get along nicely, i’ll adjust training to modify (remove) that behavior so that we all get along nicely.

As you can see in the video above, all three dogs are getting along fine while working on one plate (a terrific way to wash dishes AND save water, by the way!), even Kirby, who came to me with the dreaded, ‘Aggressive’ (mis)label. Keep in mind that this video was taken July 9th, so Kirby had been with us for less than 3 whole days. It’s amazing what a little love and training can do for a dog!

Dog Training: The Corrections

In all forms of dog training, corrections need to be made. In that, there are three main types, or ‘levels’ of correction in my system.

One: Voice correction.
Voice correction means i’m just using a word, a noise, or a tone, nothing more than my voice, to make the correction. There’s a wide range available here, from a gentle, ‘hey’, to a loud, sharp, “NO!”, or anywhere in between. This level is the gentlest, and it is my goal to get my dogs to this level ASAP.

Two: The Touch.
The Touch is the first of two levels that are physical, and is also a range. The Touch can be a quick, light touch, like a poke (or when you boop the schnooop), or on the other end of the scale, it’s a sharp smack or slap. No, be mindful that this needs to be used in a corrective manner, not an abusive one, which means it’s just ONE touch, not repeated.
I use this as level 2 for behavior, again anywhere on the scale where appropriate, but after i’ve used my Voice correction.

Three: Let’s get rowdy
Let’s get Rowdy is the highest level, and it’s what I use to get dogs to cooperate. Now again, it’s important to note that this needs to be used in a corrective way, not an abusive way, so you’re not ‘beating the dog up’, you’re simply controlling the dog, physically, until you get the dog to cooperate with you. When using this level, i’ve exhausted the other two levels, and I need the dog to cooperate for whatever reason.

So let’s put this all into perspective. First, I only use the level that’s needed for the issue at hand. If my voice is all that’s needed, if my, ‘no sir’, gets the dog to stop that behavior, then i’m all done, and i’ll give a praise and pet so they understand that listening and cooperating is good, is nice, and they’ll want more of that.
Second, I do make every effort to go through the levels, but I will go through them very quickly if needed; if the dog is simply not listening to me voice recall them in my fenced in backyard with no dangers around, we’ve got time, and things are very slow.
If the dog is barreling down the street towards some small kids after digging under the fence, then i’m moving very quickly (think, ‘greased lightning’, it’s why I eat a lot of bacon).
In this example, i’ve got a dog not listening to my recall, running away from me, which means i’ve use level 1, so i’m working on level 2. I if I can get close enough to the dog for a Touch, i’ll use an appropriate touch to get their cooperation. If that doesn’t work, i’ll go to level 3, which means i’m grabbing the dog, and then physically controlling their body while they’re trying to get away. Again, not abusive/mean/violent, but part of dog training means you may have to physically overpower and control the dog at some point.

So, three levels of corrections. Used correctly inside your training system, you’ll have your dogs down level 1 at no time, and be able to maintain that. Voice controlled dogs are the best! 😀