House Hunting For You and Your Dog

From time to time we are fortunate to have contributors to the Darwin Dogs’ blog, as we like to look at things from a fresh pair of eyes.   Our most recent contributor is Bernie the Boxer.  Special thanks to him for this blog post, and his amazing ability to type it out without opposable thumbs.  

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

You love your dog and want him to be happy. He greets you at the door when you come home from work, tail wagging and eyes staring at you with adoration. He senses when you’re sad and even snuggles with you as you sit on the couch drowning your sorrows in a pint of ice cream. So is it any wonder that when you begin house hunting, you want to find a house he’ll love just as much as you do? But how do you go about finding the right home for your dog? Read on for tips on how to score the perfect home for you and your precious pooch.

Pet-Loving Realtors

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

When you want to find a home, think about hiring a realtor who’s a dog lover. Realtors who adore man’s best friend are more likely to take your dog into consideration when helping you find a home. Some realtors may even get sellers to agree to let your pet visit homes with you as you check out different houses. This way, you get your dog’s opinion on the home too!

Style of Home

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Determine the style of home you want. Do you prefer a two story? This might be a wonderful type of home for dogs who are young and spry. But what if your dog is elderly? Older dogs may not be able to climb a lot of stairs because of joint pain. Tiny dogs like toy poodles may not have the ability to scamper up a flight of steps. Consider these factors before deciding on a style of home.

Your Canine Companion’s Size

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Before you select a new home, consider your dog’s size. Larger breeds like golden retrievers and labradors need enough space to walk through rooms without knocking over your prized knickknacks. Trying to cram a super-sized dog into a one-bedroom home or condo might make your dog unhappy and uncomfortable.  If you own a smaller dog, tiny homes probably won’t bother him at all.  And don’t forget to consider the yard: small dogs won’t mind much if space is limited outside, but big dogs love expansive yards where they can romp and play.

Location of the Home

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Dogs are social animals that crave love, attention and companionship. You’re their entire world. So it isn’t surprising they don’t handle it well if you’re absent from the house most of the time. Dogs who are frequently left alone for extended periods of time develop separation anxiety. This leads to chronic barking, excessive chewing and other undesirable behaviors. Save you and your dog a boatload of heartache by choosing a home that isn’t too far away from your job. When you have a long commute back and forth to work, it takes time away from your furry friend.

If you still end up purchasing a home far away from work, enroll your dog in doggy day care or pay someone to pet sit him for a few hours.

Nearby Dog-Friendly Parks

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Do you long for a home your pet will adore? Consider buying a house near a dog park. Dog parks are amazing outdoor places where dogs run free, play and hang out with other dogs. Whether your pooch wants to meet some new furry friends or just lay out in the sun, dog parks are the perfect place to make it happen.

Getting Used to the New House

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Dogs love being the masters of their domains. So when you take a dog out of his usual territory, he may feel confused. Prevent this by letting him visit the house before you move in. Take him on a walk through the new neighborhood so he becomes accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of his new domain. He’ll get the chance to see some of his new dog neighbors, and he won’t feel threatened by them.

Before your dog enters the house, take a towel from your old home and rub it against the walls and furniture of your new home.  Familiar scents from the old house will make your canine feel more comfortable.  Make sure you’ve tucked away any detergents, bleach, or other household cleaners you may have used to prepare the house for move-in—your pup might chew to ease the anxiety of his new environment, so keep anything toxic completely out of his reach.

As soon as your dog enters the house, let him explore the rooms. Show him where his dog bed and toys are located. And don’t forget to have his favorite blanket ready for him to snuggle against.  Of course, make sure he knows where his water and food bowls are located as well.

Don’t just find the perfect house for the humans in your family. Canine family members need to approve of the new house too. If you take the time to choose a home that fits the needs of your furry baby, he will grow to love the new house as much as you do!

 

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland Ohio

Her Name is Wendy

Nurse. Just another word to describe someone strong enough to tolerate anything and soft enough to understand anyone. – Unknown

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very, very long time, and last night’s session reminded me why I needed to do it.  I want to talk to you about nurses and teachers.  Oh, yeah… and dogs.  Believe it or not, these three things have a lot in common.  

Last night I hit the lottery with my clients.  Woman’s name was Elsa.  Man’s name was Jack.  And then there was this cute little guy, Rally:

Alias: Get Back Here

Alias: Get Back Here

Rally is your typical No No Bad Dog. Definitely not dangerous; just really really annoying.  No No Bad Dogs tend to be between 5-12 months of age.  They jump a lot, pull on a leash, and may even do a bit of counter surfing.  Technically, they aren’t “bad” dogs, they’re perfect….dogs.  They just really suck at being human.  That’s why we’re here, to help them with that by answering their questions.  Not bullying them. Not dominating them.  You are not their alpha, any more than they are yours.  You are their Pilot.

So back to Elsa and Jack.  Both are young professionals with a brand new No No Bad Dog.  Both are eager to work with Rally and help him be the best dog human he can be.  Neither were prone to losing their temper, nor getting frustrated with Rally no matter how obnoxious he got.   Both humans showed extreme amounts of patience.  Suspiciously so.  On top of that, neither of them ever gave up.  They just kept answering Rally’s questions until he accepted their answers, learning how he communicates, so as to be the best humans dogs they can be for him.

I had to ask what they did for a living.  Elsa told me that she was a teacher (2nd grade, I found out later).  I wasn’t too surprised.  Think for a moment about what she does all day for a living.  She’s a chaos director.

 Yes, Penelope, it's a bee. No, Johnny,  you aren't going to die.

Yes, Penelope, it’s a bee. No, Johnny, you aren’t going to die.

There really isn’t too much difference between Piloting a dog and Piloting a child of that age.  Each ask really stupid questions…or do they?

When my son Eric was 3, we had a very edifying conversation.  We were in the car, on our way back from a trip to the dentist, and Eric wanted to know why we brush our teeth.

“Well,” I explained, taking the imperious, condescending tone that parents sometimes accidentally take, “Right now you have practice teeth.  If you take good care of your practice teeth, and brush them and don’t eat too many sweets, they will eventually fall out, so you can get your grown-up teeth.”

Eric was quiet for a few moments. Then a tiny voice came from the backseat, “Do we get to keep our eyeballs?”

It seems like a stupid question, “Do I get to keep my eyeballs?”, until you realize where he’s coming from.  He literally has no point of reference upon which to draw. Just as he thinks he’s go this whole “being human” thing down, what do I tell him?

Yeah, kid…body parts start falling out of your mouth.  

Second graders may have a little bit of an easier time, as they’ve been around the block a time or two compared to a toddler, but it’s still so difficult for them.  Will I be able to make friends?  What if I forget what’s 2 + 2 on the test?  I don’t care what anyone says, being a child is terribly difficult.

So what does Elsa do all day?  Manage these little humans.  She is charged with not only educating them, but she has to Pilot them through various crisis situations.  Like when little Tommy loses a tooth during spelling.  There is a terrified child with blood dripping out of their mouth and a tooth in their hand.  What do you do?  Answer his questions and calmly be there for him.

Fortunately for Elsa, these children know and trust her.  She’s been their Pilot for a little while now.  They now welcome her answers and even though sometimes she can be The Meanest Teacher in the World (seriously?  Reading homework on a weekend?) they trust her to care for them and to protect them from things like, stray teeth and bumblebees.

On to Jack.  He’s a nurse.  Not only that, he’s an ER nurse.  My favorite.  Think about what an ER nurse does all day:  answers the questions you have on the most terrifying day of your life.  They Pilot you.  Only, unlike Elsa, they don’t even know you.  They have to earn your faith and trust in a very, very short amount of time, while taking care of you, remaining safe themselves, and working as part of a larger team.  Talk about organized chaos!

And sometimes, they have to stand up for you when things get scary. They speak for you when you can’t.

 

When my son went into the hospital at 3 years old for strep, I had a nurse named Laura skillfully Pilot a situation for us.  Eric was stretched out on a hospital bed, frail and weak from dehydration.  I was terrified, as just 10 hours prior he was fine.  Then Nurse Laura informs me that they need to get an IV in him immediately.  So I inform Eric that they are going to use a needle to poke his skin to put medicine in him.  I told him that no matter what, he mustn’t move.

Obviously it hurt. Truly heroic, Eric never moves, but starts sobbing, “Mom, she’s hurting me!”.

Actual footage of my heart breaking.  I was about to start sobbing myself, watching my son crying on a gurney, desperately trying to be brave, accepting that someone was hurting him, and I had to let them.  ”Mom, she’s hurting me!”

Until Nurse Laura walked over by us, leaned down by Eric, and whispered loudly, “Her name is Wendy”.

I started laughing, and Eric got through his little ordeal.  Nurse Wendy didn’t want to hurt Eric, but she knew what needed to be done, and shut out her own emotions to do it.  In other words, trying to comfort him by telling him it didn’t hurt (it did!), or that it would only be a moment (it wasn’t) wasn’t going to make anyone feel better except for herself. She quickly did her job.  Nurse Laura didn’t give us a pep talk.  She didn’t try to convince us that it didn’t hurt.  She gave us what we needed: a bit of levity.  There’s a difference between comforting someone and Piloting them.  Wendy and Laura Piloted all of us, and thus comforted us.

Where do dogs come into all of this?  Well, whenever I’m dealing with a dog who is scared, acting aggressively, or just simply a No No Bad Dog, I always think back to Nurse Wendy and Nurse Laura. I try to act how they need to act for 12 hours straight every day.  Not lying.  Not sugar-coating anything.  Calmly answering questions.  Calmly being there, and setting the tone by their example.

So when your dog is scared going to the vet, or is anxiously barking at another dog during a walk, remember, dogs suck at being human.  It’s not a situation they were meant to be in.  You have to Pilot your dog through the situation.  Not with saccharine words nor with phony falsetto words rapidly thrown at them.  Don’t mix your wanting to placate them with what they actually need. They need calm. They need rational.  They need you to act completely normal.  They need a Pilot.

They need Wendy.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Just Because

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” 
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

I’ll never forget a conversation I had several years ago with a friend who happens to be a (great) vet.  She was asking me about the “come” command, and what my thoughts were about having a special “come” command, or an emergency recall.  A special word that means “come”, no matter what? Did I have a command like that?

“Yes”, I replied.  ”The word is “come”‘.

I have a lot of people who ask me why their dogs won’t come when they’re called.  My usual reply?  ”Why should they?”, which is always followed with some type of justification on the owner’s part.

  • Because I called them.
  • Because I’m their owner.
  • Because I’m their pack leader.

Just “because” isn’t an answer.  It’s a polka.

Hey, I'm Slovak.  What did you expect?

Your dog needs a reason to come when called, and there’s only one reason a dog will come when you call them.  That reason is you have more money is your Piloting Piggy Bank.  You simply must have more money in your piggy bank than your dog does.  Claiming to be Pilot or Leader doesn’t mean much unless you actually are.  I can claim to be Queen of the Scots, but unless I have something to back up that claim, well…Here, I’ll let Bruce explain.

So, to that end, I present to you How To Attain (Near) Total Recall.  Notice the caveat in there?  ”Near” Total Recall.  Because we are dealing with living, breathing animals, not machines who are programmed to respond a specific way to specific sets of stimuli.  No dog will ever have 100% recall.  So let’s do this.  Let’s get Fido to (Near) Total Recall.

 Oh, "Rekall, Rekall, Rekall." You thinking of going there?

Oh, “Recall, Recall, Recall.” You thinking of going there?

A few simple rules about (Near) Total Recall.

1. Remember the three steps to working with your dog:

  • Control Yourself.  Are you angry? Rushed?  Annoyed?  If so, it’s not going to work.  Calm is the only way to get what you want, and that goes for the “come” command, too.  Take a break and listen to the polka music again.  Nobody can be in a bad mood while listening to a polka!
  •  Control the Situation.  In other words, don’t start working on recall when your dog is chasing the mailman down the street.  Start in a controlled environment, say….your living room!
  • Add Stimulation (“Come”).  Let’s get ready to rumble!

2. You MUST use positive reinforcement.  In other words, “COME HERE!!!!” will never work.

Yeah, I always preferred Liu Kang anyway.  He was the only one who didn't seem to be on a roid rage.

Yeah, I always preferred Liu Kang anyway. He was the only one who didn’t seem to be on a roid rage.

Start in your living room, with your dog not too far from you. Make your body into slight letter “S”.  The object is that you don’t look intimidating, but rather, inviting.   Call them.  Remember you are teaching your dog a new language, so repetition is integral.  One word only.  In our house, it’s “come”.  In your house it could be “Pajammas” for all I care, just so long as you are repeating it over and over again. Pat your leg consistently to give them something to focus on,.   Hopefully, they will start walking to you.  The moment they get to you, they get high value positive reinforcement.  If your dog is food motivated, give them a treat.  If they are praise motivated, praise them heartily.  If they are love-bugs, give them a thorough belly/back scratch.  In a perfect world, you will be doing all three.  This is called Touch, Talk, Treat.  You are creating a Pavlovian response by linking these three things.  Pretty soon, you don’t need all three!  The Touch and Talk can take the place of the Treat.  That way you don’t need to rely on treats all the time to get your dog to come when you call.

Now that your dog came when you called, try it again, from farther away.  Pat your leg, move into an “S” shape, and start calling them.  Uh oh.  This time they’ve decided to ignore you. What do you do?

1) If you are home alone, quietly stand up, walk towards your dog, take them by the collar and start gently tugging (not dragging!) them to where you called them, repeating “come, come, come” the entire time.  Once you get to where you originally called them, they still get Touch,Talk,Treat.  There is absolutely no punishment, ever.

2) If someone is with you, have them retrieve the dog to where you are.  The person bringing you the dog should merely act as a disembodied hand that is bringing your dog to you. You will still be saying “come, come, come” over and over, and yes, they still get Touch, Talk, Treat when they get to you.

Practice this a few times. Pretty soon your dog will come bounding over to you to get their treat.  Now it’s time to start weaning them from the treats.  Now it’s 9/10 times they get the treat.  Then 7/10 times.  Soon it’s 1/30 times.  No matter what, they still get lavish praise and affection when they get to you.  Call them from all areas of the house so they actually have to find where you are.  Get them accustomed to actively looking for you when they hear they are being called.

Now you’re ready for outside.  But there’s a trick to it.  Yes, it’s easy to get your dog to come in the house, but outside they’re, well, loose!  Even in an enclosed back yard it can be difficult to catch a dog who won’t come.  That’s why I use a cotton clothesline initially.  About 20 feet will do.  Tie a big knot about every 2-3 feet along the line, and then attach it to your dog’s collar.  Now let them outside. When you call them, and they won’t come, remember, they’re dragging 20 feet of rope behind them.  Simply step on the rope (the knot will catch on your foot), and you can tug them along two towards you, calling them the entire time. And yes, they still get Touch, Talk, Treat when they get t you.

So you’ve been working at it outside, and your dog has (Near) Total Recall outside. Now you’re ready to lose the clothesline, but if you just instantly take it off, your dog may figure out that they’re completely free again.  Instead, gradually start cutting the clothesline smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left.  Your dog will never know the instant where you can’t catch them anymore.

What does it take?  Effort.  I loathe the people who tell me this doesn’t work, and when I ask them how long they’ve been at it, “Oh, at least 2 days now!”  You are training a dog to be human.  To respond to human speech, and to trust that you make a better Pilot than they do.  To this day, I still work at the come command with my dogs, even thought they attained (Near) Total Recall a long time ago. Work at it, because the first time you call your dog and this happens:

 

…it will all be worth it.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Pride and Prejudice

charlie1

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

In the September of 2009, the City of Brook Park enacted  BSL.  According to the City of Brook Park’s website:

PLEASE NOTE: ALL Pit Bull Dogs, Canary Dogs and American Bulldogs are deemed to be dangerous animals, and must be registered with the Brook Park Animal Control Department. A Pit Bull Dog means any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog. If there is any question about whether a dog’s breed falls into any of the above categories, the Safety Director or his/her designee shall make the determination as to the breed of the dog.

The logic of laws such as this befuddle and confound me.  Though a countless number of resources have proven time and time again that these dogs are no more dangerous than any other breed of dog, they are still enacted and upheld.  Per All Breeds Lakewood, a local group dedicated to responsible dog ownership as well as ending BSL:

It’s been nearly five years since Ohio repealed state-wide Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Instead of defining a “vicious dog” by its breed, the Ohio legal system defines it by behavior alone. Unfortunately, despite this progressive state-wide change, our otherwise welcoming and diverse city of Lakewood, OH blindly prohibits the ownership of certain breeds. All Breeds Lakewood is working to replace this ban with a more safe and effective law that protects citizens from dangerous dogs of all breeds and holds irresponsible owners accountable.

 

The list of organizations who oppose breed bans is growing exponentially, including:

 

  • American Bar Association
  • American Kennel Club
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Animal Control Association
  • National Canine Research Council
  • Obama Administration
  • State Farm Insurance
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • The U.S. Department of Justice

So despite overwhelming evidence that BSL is ineffective, costly, and enforced unequally, why does it still exist, and how can one explain cities introducing it?

In July of 2008, Lakewood City Council passed an ordinance that outlawed pit bulls within its borders. While all of us genuine dog lovers can agree that this is an extremely unfair and, frankly, unenforceable law, few believe that it was actually done for public safety.  The term “public safety” is bantered about like a overwhelmed parent throws out the word “maybe” to a child asking for a treat later.  We all know it means nothing.  We all know it’s a veneer to cover up an answer we really don’t like. For the City of Lakewood, as well as for quite a few other cities who instituted Breed Specific Legislation (“BSL”)  the answer is simple and horrific:  prejudice.

And I wish I were only referring to the prejudice against dogs.

There is a specific recipe for BSL to be enacted. Let’s take a look at several cities that enacted BSL, and how their demographics changed.

According to the 2000 census, city of Brook Park, Ohio had a demographic of:

-94.49% White
-1.95% Black
- 1.99% Hispanic

By the 2010 census, the city had vastly different numbers:

-92.19% White
- 3.25% Black
-3.45% Hispanic

That’s an increase of over 50% in the Black and Hispanic populations respectively. Meanwhile, the population of Whites went down by 11.6%. Interesting, but hardly noteworthy.  Until you start to connect the dots. Brook Park enacted their BSL in 2009.

Parma, for instance. Population of Whites in Parma has never dipped below 90%.  BSL was enacted in 1987, and has been going strong ever since.  No coincidence that it happened concurrently with the largest influx of Hispanics in the United States:

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial census of population, 1980 to 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial census of population, 1980 to 2000

Even better, this is how the population of Parma was broken down in 1990*:

  Total ancestries reported.........................................    120,938
Arab................................................................      1,429
Austrian............................................................        523
Belgian.............................................................         24
Canadian............................................................        126
Czech...............................................................      3,932
Danish..............................................................        120
Dutch...............................................................        686
English.............................................................      6,425
Finnish.............................................................        127
French (except Basque)..............................................      1,543
French Canadian.....................................................        293
German..............................................................     26,348
Greek...............................................................      1,197
Hungarian...........................................................      5,746
Irish...............................................................     12,379
Italian.............................................................     11,827
Lithuanian..........................................................        413
Norwegian...........................................................        169
Polish..............................................................     16,218
Portuguese..........................................................         43
Romanian............................................................        542
Russian.............................................................      1,459
Scotch-Irish........................................................        821
Scottish............................................................      1,157
Slovak..............................................................     12,603
Subsaharan African..................................................         30 
Swedish.............................................................        622
Swiss...............................................................        359
Ukrainian...........................................................      3,743
United States or American...........................................      1,626
Welsh...............................................................        663
West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups)......................          0
Yugoslavian.........................................................      2,436
Other ancestries....................................................      5,309

*source: Ohio Census Archives (1990) 

Perhaps the biggest change came in Lakewood, who started 2000 with a showing of 93.07% for the white population.  By 2010, that number dropped down to 87.47%, as the Black population increased to an amazing 199% during that ten year period. Hispanics had a dramatic 69.19% increase in their population as well.  It was during this growth that the BSL was enacted in 2008.

So far I’ve only shown that an increase in minorities in a cities triggered BSL.  But what about cities that don’t have BSL?  Is there a correlation?  Let’s see surrounding cities’ numbers.

Bay Village – 2000

98.05% White, 0.27% Black, 0.98% Hispanic

2010

96.97% White, 0.54% Black, 1.6% Hispanic

So yes, while the black population nearly doubled, that’s not saying much if the Black population literally started at 43 and went up to 85.  That’s right: total population of Bay village as of 2010 is 15,651, with only 85 of those individuals being Black.

So obviously the issue isn’t an increase of Black nor Hispanic population in a city.  It’s the reoccurring theme of an increase in the number minorities in an overwhelmingly White population.  Let’s face it: 85 Blacks in a city of 15,651 isn’t a staggering increase.  At least not an increase that might pose a political threat.  Because that’s what BSL is: an effort to preserve Our Way Of Life.  Let’s look at how many Black or Hispanic city council members there are/were in each city.  How many mayors were of a minority group?  From the looks of it….

I’m not going to say, because nobody can tell ethnicity based upon how someone looks. But what I will say is that these individuals all agreed that a pitbull can be identified by how it looks.  By the way, how is that going so far, Lakewood? How many times has a dog been misidentified as “pitbull” when in fact it wasn’t?  What about obvious pitbulls that have been given the green light by officials?

Let’s call BSL what it is: another attempt by White politicians to keep out minorities.  Or rather, the minorities who have committed the faux pas of not removing every trace of their culture.  For not trying to “pass” as White.  The sin of not trying to assimilate. Basketball courts disappearing overnight in 2006 in Lakewood. Quoted in Michael Gill’s article Scene:

Councilwoman Madigan is not opposed to returning basketball courts to Lakewood. She simply lays forth a series of conditions for doing so that paint their own picture of the trouble they brought to the neighborhood in the first place.

“What would be ideal is a fenced area where kids and adults had an ID, and there was tracking, and you could tell who was there at what time, and it would be documented by cameras,” she says, describing a hoops paradise George Orwell might have envisioned.

An ID to play basketball.  Let that sink in for a moment.

If you’re still questioning the basis of BSL being rooted in racism, please remember what Jeff Theman of Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent pointed out:

During the 1980s and ’90s, this law spread like wild fire, hitting several larger urban cities. In one paragraph of a report by sociologist Arnold Arluke called “Ethnozoology and the Future of Sociology” (published in the 2003 International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Volume 23, Number 3), a single excerpt about the collaborative effort between law enforcement and animal control explained it with clarity:

“To accomplish their overlapping aims, members of this task force carried out joint ‘sweeps’ in suspected inner-city neighborhoods to spot ‘suspicious’ dog owners and disarm them by taking their animals. Driving through certain high-risk urban neighborhoods allowed for opportunistic spotting of African Americans walking with Pit Bulls on sidewalks or sitting on stoops with their animals, the assumption being that these dogs were not mere pets but illegal and dangerous weapons. Task force members would ask if dogs were properly licensed and, if not, seize and take them to the local shelter. Of course, the apparent owner was told that a license could be applied for if proper forms were completed, including name, address, phone number, all to be verified. However, task-force members believe that these individuals do not want to show their licenses if they have them or apply for new ones if they do not, in order to remain anonymous from authorities.”

Lakewood, is an amazing, wonderful town.  But like so many other cities, it has a problem with minorities.  From cops breaking a young black girl’s jaw to removing basketball hoops to BSL.  We all know racism when we see it.  It’s time we do something about it.  Yes, this is still about good dogs being removed from loving homes for how they look.  It’s still about judging a dog based upon its merits and not its breed.  And yes, it is still about racism and prejudice, and I’ll be damned if I’ll stand idly by and watch it happen again.

 keep-calm-and-stop-racism-19Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

The Simple Life

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Entering into a new training session, there are always a few consistencies.  I have only two hours to accomplish many things:

  • Gain the trust of the humans
  • Gain the trust of the dog(s)
  • Ascertain the situation
  • Develop a game plan for addressing the behavior issues
  • Create bonds of communication between dog and owner
  • Have fun.

It doesn’t necessarily happen in that order, but that’s a pretty good synopsis of everything I can accomplish in two hours.  It seems like a lot, but as I’ve stated numerous times, dogs aren’t stupid. I also believe that (most) people aren’t stupid either. There are, of course, occasionally the incredible human exceptions.  Dogs, however, are amazingly simple.  That’s why I’m able to keep my training sessions short and simple.  Remember, there is nothing wrong with your dog; he just sucks at being human.  And most people are pretty decent humans; they just suck at being dogs.  So, simply put, we need some communication going on, not a bunch of rules and regulations about how the two species should interact.  Three steps to working with your dog; that’s all it takes for any situation involving a dog to be solved.

I firmly believe dogs ask questions.  We’ve already agreed that dogs aren’t stupid, so of course they ask questions.  They’re curious creatures, and aside from wanting to know about their world around them, they want to know what you think of the world around them.  How should they react?  Should they react? And most importantly, is it time to eat?!

3-17-16-1

All of their questions can be answered, but not all of them necessarily need to be answered.  There are simply some that must be answered.  But more on that in a moment.

Working with your dog involves 3 components: Piloting, Activity and Work, or what we refer to as The PAW Method.  To break it down:

Piloting: Answer your dog’s questions. They only ask “yes/no” questions, so it’s pretty easy to do!  Learn how here.

Activity: Keep ‘em moving and active.  Ever experience something called a runner’s high?  Yeah, well, neither have I, but I hear it’s wonderful, and dog’s are addicted to it. They need their Activity, and either you give it to them, or they figure out how to get it themselves, and that’s never a good thing.

sled

Work: Dogs aren’t stupid, nor are they merely knick-knacks strewn about your house to be idly admired: they are thinking beings with cognitive abilities that we still haven’t fully explored in the tens of thousands of years they’ve been with us.  In other words, keep them mentally engaged. A bored dog is truly a destructive force.

03-17-16-2

That’s the groundwork, your foundation.  Make it a good, strong foundation, and you can build upon it by answering your dog’s questions. Dogs are binary, which means every question they ever ask you will require a “yes” or a “no”, which is different than “good” or “bad”.  Your dog is incapable of being bad: he will always choose what’s right for a dog, which may be in direct conflict of what’s right for a human.  Remember, you are merely answering questions for your dog, not punishing them, nor should you be inflicting pain or fear upon a dog.

Using “yes” and “no” can be very confusing.  When do you give negatives, and when do you use positives?  Simple.

Negatives/No

1) When you don’t like what your dog is doing.  Sounds simple enough, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t understand that “No” is a complete sentence and can be used liberally.  Ask yourself, “Do I like this behavior that Fido is doing?”  If the answer is “no”, then give them a negative.  Anything from jumping, barking, and getting on furniture to the simple questions Fido may ask on a walk: “Do we turn left here?”.  If the answer is “no”, then give them a negative!  Remember negative doesn’t mean bad, it just means “no”.

So how do you answer a dog’s questions?

Use your body language to answer these questions. If your dog is staring at a treat on the floor and then at you, he’s asking if he can have it. If you do not want your dog to have it, answer his question by walking in between him and the treat, facing him, with the treat behind you. This means that you are “claiming” the treat. You can move into his personal space to back him off it a bit.  Once he’s engaged with you, nothing, or everything (in other words, looking anywhere but at the treat), remove your strong body language by walking to the side or away from him. This shows him that he is giving you the correct response: accepting that the treat is yours. If he looks at your treat again, simply use the body language again.

Think of it as a game of hot/cold.  His question is, “Can I have that?”  The answer is “No”. You answer his question using that body language.  When he accepts the answer (looking at you, everything, or nothing, but definitely NOT looking at the treat), then you’re finished.  Remove your negative body language.  You may have to put the negative body language right back on him if he immediately tries to go for it, but that’s natural – it may take him a few times to accept your answer.  Remember, remaining calm is the key.  Anger should never be a part of this exercise.

So again, Piloting is answering a dog’s questions. You would answer the question in the same way if he is asking if something is a threat (stand between your dog and the perceived threat, facing your dog, and simply back him off while standing up straight). Pretty easy, huh? The more you show your dog that you are capable of being in control and the Pilot, the more your dog will be able to relax and actually be a dog. He’ll look to you for guidance instead of feeling as though he needs to protect you and your family from every garbage can, dog and plastic bag in the neighborhood.

2) When your dog is “Yo, Bitch”-ing you.  Wow….there’s a term.  What’s “Yo, Bitch”, anyway?   Symptoms include: slapping you with their paw, trampling you, pushing you out of your seat on the couch.  Basically, any behavior that would translate to : “Yo Bitch, give me a cookie”, or “Yo Bitch, pet me”.  It’s as detrimental to your healthy relationship with your dog as it would be in any human relationship!  Respect yourself enough to expect respect from your dog.  Your dog is perfectly capable of a “May I Please?” instead of a “Yo, Bitch”, and you know the “May I Please?” look.  It goes something like this:

03-17-16-5

 

“May I Please” ….have a cookie?  Go for a walk? Jump in your lap?  All of these can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.  Your choice.  But if your dog is “Yo, Bitch”-ing you, the answer must be a negative.  Don’t accept a bully dog‘s behavior.

Positives/Yes

1) The “come” command.  Always, always, always…positive.  Give them a treat. Tell them how wonderful they are!  Scratch their belly.  Whatever it takes to get them to understand that what they did was wonderful.  If you need help with “recall/come”, check out this link.

2) Asking a dog to do a “human” behavior.  Your dog is a perfect dog, and can be expected to do dog things wonderfully.  Being a human, on the other hand…well, that’s a little different.  Any time you are asking your dog to do something that another dog couldn’t ask them to do, you must use positive reinforcement.  For example, a dog will tell another dog to go away, or play, or stay away from their toy.  But they don’t teach each other English (sit, stay, come, etc.), nor do they teach each other tricks.  If you ask a dog to do a human thing, make it worth their while.

3) When they’re calm.  This is the most important of all. I always tell my clients I want “calm” to be like a lottery ticket:

1) you have to play to win;
2) You probably aren’t going to win; and
3) But unless you’re holding a ticket, you’re definitely not going to win.

I want your dog holding a many lottery tickets as possible.  Because the more tickets they have, the better their chances are at winning.  Reward calm any chance you get, and pretty soon Fido will understand that “calm” is like a magic button he can press that will (sometimes) get him exactly what he wants.  If you see your dog sleeping on the floor, give him a gentle scratch behind the ears.  If you’re cuddling on the couch, give him gentle praise for being calm.

And remember, calm is about progress, not perfection. So if you’re dealing with separation anxiety, just reward progress.  If you are crate training, but your dog in the crate and walk into the other room.  He’s going to escalate to a decibel 11….simply wait him out until he goes down to an 8 before re-entering the room.  You are trying to catch a behavior: increased calm.  It’s not always immediate, and it is rarely perfect, but that doesn’t mean the behavior isn’t there to catch.  Make sure you reward it.

So let’s break everything down:

Your dog needs Piloting, Activity and Work (the foundation).  Only once you have given them what the need are you able to build upon that foundation by answering your dog’s questions using “yes/no”.  Pretty simple.  You’ll notice I didn’t give a lot of rules.  I hate rules.  They don’t take into account human and dog personalities.  I know many trainers who:

-Insist a dog should never be on your bed.  Why not?  I sleep better snuggled next to a dog.  Just remember it’s your bed, and your choice who is in it.

-Don’t give your dog people food. Because….?  My dogs get plenty of people food (in a healthy moderation, of course).  If it isn’t on the lethal list (grapes, onions, chocolate, etc.), and your dog isn’t “Yo, Bitch-”ing you for the food, go ahead!  Just remember, it’s their right to beg for food, (“Can I have some?”) just as it’s your right to answer “no”.  

- Never play rope toy/tug/wrestle with your dog because then they’ll know they can beat you.  News flash:  my dog already knows they can beat me.  Using that logic I should never run with my dog because they are faster.  Playing rope/tug/wrestling with your dog is all about setting your boundaries.  We bond through play, and this is a prime way to do it…if you wish.  Set your boundaries.  For example, when Sparta and I play, I have very limited rules:  she’s allowed to knock me down, grab the rope, even (carefully) bite me.  But the second I feel it has gotten too rough, I give her a negative, and she instantly stops.  Some days I’m up for a WWF-style match, other days I’m only good for a drastically diminished version.  Just because we romped hard yesterday doesn’t mean that’s what our game is going to be about today.  You set the rules for each and every match…anything from “no rules” to “not playing at all” is acceptable.  Think of it like Fifty Shades of Grey:  Anything’s okay so long as you are both okay with it.  That includes not wrestling at all.

grey

So stop complicating your bond with Fido.  No more lengthy list of rules and regulations trying to define your relationship with your dog.  Your bond is unique:  just as there will never be another bond like I had with my first dog, Darwin, there will never be another bond like the dog you have with your dog.  So no more One Size Fits All training style, nor endless rules for working with your dog..  Only you know what you need from your relationship with your dog, and now you have the foundations to build that relationship.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

Restraining Order

Freedom is not the absence of obligation or restraint, but the freedom of movement within healthy, chosen parameters.

Kristin Armstrong

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Last week I had a rather full schedule training, including a couple of dogs who were, for lack of a better term, “aggressive”.  And this is how my week ended.

image1-8I really wish I could say I got it doing something exciting. It didn’t happen while I was training dogs.  It happened while I was painting.

I’m officially middle aged.

Anyway, I’m supposed to rest it for at least a week, so as far as sprains go, it’s not too bad.  Now that brings to light a few questions, though:  how am I supposed to do this week’s training sessions, which includes one aggressive dog, as well as 3 super-hyper dogs, whom will undoubtedly need work on leash walking.

The answer is that if I can’t walk dogs with a mildly sprained wrist, then I can’t walk dogs.

The secret to working with dogs is to never make them feel restrained.  In other words, I shouldn’t need muscle to walk a dog.  If I am able to drive a car (which I am), then I am okay to walk a dog.

The biggest complaint I hear about people walking their dog is that the dog is pulling the whole time, causing the owner’s arms to become tired very quickly.  But let’s think about it  rationally:  the dog physically can not be pulling you unless you are pulling back.  In other words, you are pulling backwards just as much as they are pulling forward.  You are trying to muscle your way through the walk.  Even worse, the reason why your dog is pulling is because you’ve restrained them…no, not with the leash, but with the tension attached to the leash.  You’ve engaged their fight or flight response, causing them to pull forward, which in turn engaged your flight or fight response, causing you to automatically pull backwards.

Number5

But what if you didn’t fall into that vicious cycle?  What if you didn’t sink your feet into the ground, and pull back with all your force?  No, I’m not stating you should let your dog run amok while you follow meekly behind.  But rather than using brute force, have you tried answering your dog’s question instead?

Dogs ask a lot of question, all the time.   Answering your dog’s questions is called “Piloting” them.  Some questions you can ignore (“Is it okay if I scratch my ear now?” or “Mind if I take a nap?”).  Others you want to give a profound, hearty “yes” to, (“Should I potty outside?” or “Should I sit politely to get that treat?”).  But the most important ones sometimes require a “no”, such as, “Can I jump on your guest?”, or, in this case, “Can I lead our walk?”.  The answer must be “no“. So how do you “answer” your dog with a negative?

Easy.

Stand up as straight as you can, pretend your dog is a lot taller, and simply invade their personal space.  Keep your feel like a letter “V” so you don’t accidentally step on their paws.  The moment they are no longer “asking” the question, you are done.  So, for instance, if my Sparta were barking at something outside the window, I would simply stand up straight and get between her and the window she’s barking at, and back her off the window using strong, confident body language. I’m “claiming” the window, or, as we put it, answering her question, “Should I be worried about that dog outside?”.  The answer is “no”.

How can I tell when she’s accepted the answer?  She will stop barking for a moment, perhaps look at me, sit down, turn her head away, or even just walk away.  She is no longer actively engaged in the window, or what’s outside, therefore, I no longer have to answer her question.  I’m done.  No force involved.  I didn’t drag her away from the window, I merely crowded her out from it, using my body.

So how does this work on a walk?  Well, let’s start with the three most important steps:
1) Control yourself. No anger, no yelling. Good, confident body language. Fake it if you have to.

2) Control the situation.  Did you just walk out that door with the dog dragging you, and then continue walking? Control each and every moment.  If you lost control, that’s okay, just reboot to regain control.  Don’t just follow the momentum. Create calm.  It’s okay to stop and start over.

3) Answer questions as they come up, using the body language.

Okay, now you’re ready.

Go to the front door.  Put Fido’s leash on.  Now I want you to “claim” the door.  In other words, Fido’s first question is going to be, “Do you want me to lead you out the door?”  Your answer is “No”, so simply pivot on your foot that’s closest to your dog, and now you should be facing Fido, with your back to the door. You yourself should look like you are a door that just slammed in Fido’s face.  Using your body language, gently back him away from the door, using an occasional tug, tug, tug on the leash if necessary, but never holding him back physically. Now he’s calm?  Okay then, you’re ready to walk outside.

Take each step slowly.  If he tries to drag you down the front steps, stop, give a series of gentle tugs until he is close by you again.  His ears should never be past your knees – if they are, he’s leading you.  Simply answer his question; the moment his ears get past your leg, give a gentle tug on the leash, and/or pivot on your foot so you are now facing him, again, looking like you are a door that just closed on him.

3

 

When Fido backs up to where he belongs, and/or looks away, you’re good to “unslam” the door and move on.  No pulling, no yanking, and now restraining.  Merely answering questions.

At first, Fido is going to have a lot of questions that need answering, because let’s face it, he’s always lead you on the walks before.  Stick with it.  Answer his question each and every time he asks if he should lead.  The first 10 minutes are going to be very frustrating for you.  The next 10 minutes will be less so.  The final 10 minutes are going to be like a whole new, positive experience.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Another No Good, Very Bad (Rotten) Day

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
-Winnie the Pooh

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

A few days ago, Danika posted a wonderful article about her day when nothing seemed to be going right with Porter.  Glad she posted that, because oh, boy, did I have a doozy with my day today.  Only mine involved a severely dog-reactive dog, and this:

*cue dramatic music*

*cue dramatic music*

But we’ll get back to that in a moment.

I know I’m not perfect.  Actually, I’m glad I’m not perfect, because that’s such a high expectation to live up to.  A pretty big job that I certainly don’t want.  However, that doesn’t mean I can’t do the best with what I have.  Sometimes I don’t have a lot, either.  So let’s start with my frame of mind when I first started to go for a walk with Sparta, my dog reactive dog, this evening:

My daughter (River, aged 8) decided she wanted to be vegetarian. We agreed, but we informed her that meant she needs to eat everything we cook for her, because she’s growing, and nutrition is important.  Fine.  Well, today she didn’t like what I cooked.  I told her that she didn’t have to eat it, but that I would not be making anything else, and reminded her that she needed to stay healthy.  ”I choose death instead”, was the response I got from her.

What I felt like

What I felt like

Apparently part of “being the adult” includes not getting to smash things when you’re angry.  So I used the PAW Method (as I so often do) on my darling little child.  In other words, I followed the three most important steps to Piloting your demon child:

1) Control yourself.

I didn’t immediately respond to River’s demand for death (which she was this close to getting).  Instead, I took a deep breath and controlled myself.

Because, like, "adulting" and stuff...

Because, like, “adulting” and stuff…

2) Control the situation.

There was no way I was going to be able to make her eat her food without a long, drawn out battle. I knew she was going to try to push my buttons, so rather than fight with her, I moved the fight to my desired location.  Meaning, I told River that if she chose death, there was nothing I could do about it, as I already tried to feed her, and could she could go ahead and starve to death upstairs in her room.  She quietly went upstairs as she was told.  In other words, I diffused the situation.  I didn’t fuel it.  Gasoline and Fire went to their respective corners.

3) Answer the question/correct the behavior.

I wasn’t there yet; remember, I had to send River to her room to keep from squishing her like a grape.  It’s okay to get angry, but you are responsible for how you act upon your anger.  In other words, I had control of the present situation…but if I had added even an ounce of stimulation (say…an eye roll), I knew I could lose it.  And once words are said, they can never be taken back.  So I left River to stew in her room.

Now.  Back to that first picture.

Sparta, as you may already know, is very dog reactive.  That’s why I choose to (mostly) walk her at night, especially if I’d had a rough day already.  Today was no different.

mostlySo we went for our walk.  Me, not thinking about how keyed up I still was about River trying to commit hari kari by not eating dinner.  Sparta obviously felt it.  We usually go for about 2 miles, and she did mostly well during those two miles, without a lot of Piloting that was needed.  However, the wind was blowing pretty badly, and of course it’s garbage day tomorrow, and debris was blowing everywhere, including right at us.  So now Sparta was on her toes, getting a little jumpy (to be honest, so was I – it was pretty bad).

When I was young, I used to think this was my 3rd grade teacher. Now I know better.  It was.

When I was young, I used to think this was my 3rd grade teacher. Now I know better. It was.

Now for the dramatic twist.  Another dog.  I spotted the dog before Sparta sensed it.  It was about 1/4 block away from us, headed in our direction.  The owner seemed to be doing well with the dog, who appeared to have already caught a whiff of Sparta.  In other words, the owner was Piloting their dog (which kinda surprised me, which in a way is sad).  The owner was taking their time, and just looked calm and relaxed, helping their dog relax.  I answered Sparta’s question (“Is that dog a threat?”) about the dog when she spotted it, and once she accepted my answer (“No”), I took her across the street so as to control the situation better.  Considering the high energy we both had going into the situation, she did pretty well.  When she’d ask the question again, I’d answer, and because I was too keyed up myself to go right back to walking, I’d turn her around the other way to calmly take a few steps, almost like getting a running start before hitting the gauntlet, before starting again.  She was doing fine, until…..I tugged on the leash, which suddenly wasn’t attached to my dog anymore.  The clasp had completely come undone, broken from the main part of the leash.  Sparta immediately went running across the street after the dog.

Now, I had a few choices:  I could either panic and start yelling and shouting frantically at my dog, but that would only add energy to a situation I didn’t have control of.  So I chose a different path.

Thanks for the reminder, Liz.

Thanks for the reminder, Liz.

I took a deep breath, and speed walked my way across the street. I called Sparta’s name repeatedly, but not in a panicked fashion.  At this point, she had already gotten to the other dog, where she had started to bark at it, and essentially try to chase it away.  I grabbed Sparta, looped what’s left of the leash around her neck, and controlled the situation as best I could given the circumstances. In other words, she calmed down, and the other owner (#OhMyGodImSoSorryAboutThat), was able to safely take their dog away. As they were walking away, I heard the owner say something to the effect of, “Calm down Sheila”, at which point I said, “It totally wasn’t Sheila’s fault.”

Now, a word about the other owner.  He never lost his cool.  He was calm, and bored, and essentially an amazing Pilot, especially given the circumstances.  Quite frankly, he was the reason the situation was resolved so quickly: he added no energy, and just diffused his dog, and ignored mine.  Beautiful.

So, he continued on his way, and I took Sparta back home. I sat down in a chair, whereupon Sparta curled up at my feet, just like she always does.  The incident already out of her mind.  Yeah, it was scary, but either we could dwell upon it, or move on. And honestly, part of Step 2 (control the situation) is knowing when the situation is over.  Just let it go. Nobody was hurt. Nobody got hit by a car. I was able to Pilot Sparta pretty quickly, and we got home safely with 1/2 a leash.  I couldn’t be angry for Sparta for being who she was (fearful of other dogs), but I could be proud of her for trying so hard to move past her fears.  She’s an incredible dog who has come a very long way.  She’s not perfect, but I don’t want her to be.  That’s such a difficult thing to be: perfect.  She did the best she could with what she had.

As I was sitting there, my daughter came back downstairs.  She said she decided she wanted to live, and that she loved me.  I told her I was very proud of her, and that no matter what, she’s always My Favorite Little Girl in the Whole Wide World.  We hugged it out, and I knew that I needed to control the previous situation: by letting it go.

So there I was.  Another No Good, Very Bad (Rotten) Day that ended with my two girls, Sparta and River, both doing the best they could with what they had, just as I had tried to do.  Not perfect, but who wants to be perfect anyway.    After all, it’s about progress, not perfection.

Keep calm and pilot on

Questions

Set your course by the stars, not by the light of every passing ship.  - Anon.

All that sass...

All that sass…

My daughter, River (aged almost-10), and I got into a battle of wills the other day.  I realize it’s part of growing up: expressing a difference of opinions, not readily agreeing with with everyone says, and generally breaking away a bit.  Just because it’s a normal phase (and let’s face it, necessary), doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Or even fight those battles.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I am not my daughter’s “alpha” any more than I am my dog’s “alpha”.  That term actually disgusts me.  What I’m here to do is answer questions for my daughter as long as she needs me to do so.  As she gets older, the questions get less frequent, but more intense and definitely more serious.  When she was 4, she wanted to know if she could have candy for dinner (um…no).  Now that she’s a tween, she wants to know if she can spend hours on her computer and neglect her homework.  It’s obviously not a question that is vocalized, but rather asked through her actions (or lack thereof).  Again, the answer is “no”.  Eventually, she will be at a point where she doesn’t need me to answer her questions anymore (though she still may want to seek my advice). I will hopefully have done my job as a parent, and showed her how to think for herself; how to take information and act upon it.

It’s a difficult break when the time comes, but as a human, that’s my goal:  a child who will always be my little girl. To the rest of the world however, she will be a strong, courageous woman capable of both standing up for what is right, but also apologizing when she’s wrong.

River in full bloom.

River in full bloom.

I raise my kids in a very similar way that I raise my dogs.  No, really.  I’m here to answer my kids’ and my dogs’ questions.  As far as my dogs go, Sparta’s big questions usually involve other dogs, and if they are a threat or not.  For Orion, it’s usually about a fear of being separated from me.  I’m not their “alpha”.  I’m the person who has answered all of their questions in a way that they understand, and doesn’t scare them. I don’t lose my temper…at least not in front of them.  (Hint: It’s okay to walk away.)  The difference between dogs and kids, though, is that you aren’t raising dogs to be independent.  Dogs will always require a Pilot to help them navigate our human world.  The important thing to remember, is that it is still their right to question our answers.

Let me repeat that: a dog is allowed to ask questions, and to challenge the answers you have given them. 

03-17-16-5

The key is that you have the right to stand firm in your answer.  For instance, Sparta’s main question, as I’ve stated in an many posts, has to do with other dogs.  She perceives them as a threat.  Her question is usually, “Should I kill it before it kills me?”.

Of course my answer is “no”.  But it is her right not to immediately accept my answer.  I call it the Are You Sure.   The object of the game isn’t to bully her into accepting that my answer is valid and correct.  It’s to help her understand that I will stand firm in this answer, and that I will keep answering her questions until she accepts my answer.

Look at it from a human perspective.  I recently bought a new house, and did a 100% gut and remodel of the interior.  During the process, I was convinced that I wanted hardwood floors.  I love the look, the feel and just the vibe of hardwood.  My husband, on the other hand, suggested tile floors.

No way.

So he set about answering my concerns about it:

It will look cheap. No, there’s tiles that look exactly like hardwood floors.

We can’t refinish it like hardwood. We won’t need to refinish it; it’s so much more durable than hardwood.  

It’s cold.  We can put radiant heating under it.  

So eventually, I took the leap of faith (after many, many more rounds of Q & A). I accepted his answers to my questions.  We put in the tile.  

And I love it!

But bear in mind that my husband did not “alpha” his way into getting me to accept his answer.  He gave his answers in a calm manner.  He didn’t ignore my questions, nor did he try to distract me from my questions about the tile.  He definitely didn’t use an electric shock collar on me to get me to accept his answer (I mean, wtf?!).  He answered questions for me until I felt that his answers made more sense than mine did.   Now, I’m not going to say I can always be this cool and rational about a difference of opinion.  After all, I’m human, and so is he.  We sometimes throw emotions into it.  The really nifty thing is that dogs don’t.  They are logical, sensical beings who, once you have a higher amount of money in your Piloting Piggy Bank than they have, will acquiesce. And the more money you have in your bank, the more they trust your answers.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

I will never bully my way into being Pilot.  I want them to ask questions of me. To feel safe asking questions that I will always answer for them (to the best of my ability).  One cannot use the pain of a shock collar to establish your role as Pilot.  That role is earned, not inherited just because I have opposable thumbs and they don’t.  I answer their questions.  And most importantly, I choose my battles.  Yes, I usually answer their questions (“Can I bark at the mailman?”  ”May I please have a treat?” “Can I pull on the leash?”) but only if I feel mentally capable of doing so at time.  I need to be calm and rational when answering questions.  Not harried and frustrated.  Let’s be frank, the more I answer their questions, the more money I get in my Piloting Piggy Bank.  But sometimes, I just don’t have it in me, and that’s fine.  As I told my husband the other day, I win 100% of the battles I choose to fight with our dogs (and our kids!).

So that battle with River I had? It really wasn’t a battle of wills.  It was a battle of my being tired after working all day, along with her being a tween and trying to move her boundaries forward.  But I’m the adult.  I’m her Pilot.  I knew I wasn’t in a position to Pilot her correctly when I was tired, so I didn’t.  I told her issue was valid for discussion, and that we would address it in the morning when we were both more rational.  I stood hard and firm in that conviction, and gently, but firmly negated her attempts to discuss at that moment.  After a few “Are You Sure’s” from her, she accepted that answer, and we did end up discussing it in the morning.

And you know what?  I answered her original question (Can I have a later bedtime) with a positive.  She presented her answers why she should be allowed, and I agreed.  She was right.  Piloting isn’t always about standing firm in your convictions; it’s about being able to change your views when presented with more information.  That’s what Piloting is about: giving the correct answer, not the easiest nor the most convenient. And that’s how to win a battle correctly.

image1 (4)

 

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Bringing Up Baby

Hold puppies, kittens, and babies anytime you get the chance.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

So here I am, a deadline for a blog post looming over me, and I’m drawing a blank on what to write.  To my rescue:  a telephone call from a past client.   Apparently they’ve brought home a new addition over the weekend and wanted to verify how to integrate their current dog with the new addition.  After verifying that they meant a new baby, and not a new puppy (completely different set of rules), I set about giving them the lowdown on creating a harmonious house while dealing with a new baby.  So here are a few things to bear in mind:

It sucks.

You’ve just given birth (historically, if you’re female).  You’re sore, tired and overwhelmed with both love and the looming, daunting task of raising a mini-human.  Unfortunately, the dog is going to fall by the wayside for a little bit.  That’s okay (short-term).  Okay, it’s not really ok, but you’re going to do the best you can with what you have.  Piloting doesn’t mean being perfect…it means accepting that you’re the one in charge with difficult decisions, and that you will answer all questions.  Only now you’re doing it on 2 hours sleep a night.  There is only so much of you to go around.  It’s okay.  Fido will manage.  This is short term, until you find your footing.  Right now you’re doing triage, so don’t beat yourself up if Fido doesn’t get his usual 5 mile hike each day.  Just do your best.

Look For Shortcuts.

Just because you’re doing your best doesn’t mean there isn’t a baseline that needs to be adhered to.  For example, when I was pregnant with my son Eric, Darwin was already an old dog of about 10.  His baseline for activity was at least a walk of about 1/2 mile every day.  That was no where near his maximum capacity, but that was the sweet spot.  Any less than that, and he would start to exhibit unsavory behaviors, such as hyperactivity, pacing or even destruction.  Right after I had Eric via c-section, I wasn’t even up for 1/2 mile hikes, so I did the best I could to equal that amount of activity.  Short cuts, if you will, such as these.  Think outside the, uh…leash.  Agility, backpacks or playdates.  I had a client who, while pregnant with twins, trained her dog to run up and down the steps on command, just to wear him out.  No, this won’t work forever, but it’s not meant to.  It’s meant to be a stop-gap between the time you give birth and the time you are able to sleep more than 4 hours a night.

The same goes for Work.  Make sure your dog is still getting the mental Work they require.  Otherwise they will come up with something to occupy themselves, and believe me, you won’t like it.

Remember Whose Baby This Is.

I’m all for bonding kids and dogs, but the time to do that is a little bit later.  Right now Fido needs to understand that this is your baby.  And thank you for the offer, Fido, but I think I’ve got it.  Odds are Fido will ask you questions about the baby.  It’s natural to be curious about something new (and loud and smelly) that enters your life.  However, it’s up to you to set boundaries.  With my children, the boundary was roughly 2 feet.  My dogs were not allowed within that area of my child.  Mean?  Maybe.  But there were no bites – no issues with uncertainty around my children.  They were mine, and I’ll tend to them, thankyouverymuch.  I treated my infants as if they were a chocolate frosted cake I was carrying around.  Would you let your dog go nose-to-nose with that?  Nope, didn’t think so.

By making sure Fido understands that this is your baby, you are removing all his rights to correcting the child (read: nipping the child to get them to stop crying).  There will be no face licking when the baby spits up all over (a dangerous and repulsive behavior).

Once the child is about 6-8 weeks old, it’s a good time to start slowly introducing them.  If Fido is on the floor sleeping by you, and the baby is calm, take the baby’s foot and start slowly petting the dog with it, immediately giving calm positives when the dog remains calm, and giving a gentle, but firm, negative if your dog gets excited or hyper.  You are training your dog that calm interactions with the baby equal positives.  Add more stimulation to the situation as your dog grows accustomed to the interaction.  Gradually start to bridge the 2-foot perimeter you set up for safety previously.  Gently redirect your baby towards appropriate petting if they start to grab Fido’s fur.  Praise positive, gentle petting.  You are setting the flavor of future interactions.  Read: no pouncing on the baby.  No jumping on the toddler wandering with a handful of pretzels.  No pulling on Fido’s ears/tail/tongue.  You are setting the scene for future interactions between your child and Fido now.  Don’t wait until there’s a problem – establish calm as the go-to mode between them.

Abuse Your Dog (a little)

Yeah, this one’s a bit of a heartbreaker, but you’ve got to get Fido used to some things that babies may do.  Obviously it’s up to you to make sure that your children are acting appropriately towards your dog, but accidents happen in a heartbeat.  Set everyone up for success.

Start pulling on Fido’s tail (and then immediately giving them a reward).  Take a knuckle and “noogie” his ears gently.  Pry open his mouth, and then give a positive.  Get them accustomed to anything that a young child may do.  No, it’s not fair that your dog has to go through this to help de-sensitize him – it’s always up to you to make sure you child acts appropriately – but if you screw up (because, like, you’re human), then hopefully you’ve set the groundwork for success rather than becoming another statistic.

…And Protect Your Dog

Yes, kids can be jerks to dogs, knowingly or otherwise.  Make sure you handle it.  If a toddler-aged child is abusing an animal, give them a hardcore consequence – I don’t care what your parenting style is, drop the hammer!  A harsher punishment is nothing in comparison to a dog bite!

If it’s an 8 month old baby, that’s a different story.  No, a child that young doesn’t understand that it is wrong to yank fur off the dog, but your dog will need to see you are protecting them from the threat your child is giving.  Protect your dog!  (Another good reason for the “2 foot rule” regarding babies, as I stated above.)

In my house all the animals are mine.  Yes, my children will cuddle with whatever animal is available, but they are borrowing my animals.  Because let’s face it, elementary school kids don’t always take good care of what is theirs.  Toys get broken or discarded.  However, what belongs to mommy?  Well, that’s a different story.  What’s mine will be treated with respect and with the understanding that consequences happen if my things get broken, abused or disrespected.  If my kids treat the dog well, get him water if the water bowl is low or simply engaged appropriately?  That deserves some praise.

“Help” the cat down the back porch, though (as my daughter, River, did)?  That was a full week without any type of electronics.  My daughter almost died during that week.  I had the eulogy written out and everything….we were frankly surprised she was able to pull through, but miraculously she did. And has never done anything remotely disrespectful to the animals again.

River, aged 7, exhibiting advanced stages of "Not Allowed On The Computer-Itis".  Note the apathy towards life, the "I'm Bored" mantra, and the general distaste for ever disrespecting a cat again. Please also notice absurdly loyal cat patiently waiting by River's bedside for her recovery.

River, aged 7, exhibiting advanced stages of “Not Allowed On The Computer-Itis”. Note the apathy towards life, sulking under her covers, the “I’m Bored” mantra, and the general distaste for ever disrespecting a cat again. Please also notice absurdly loyal cat patiently waiting by River’s bedside for her recovery.

In short, use common sense.  We need to bear in mind what we are integrating: a young child and a dog.  Not two grown adult humans.  Misunderstandings happen.  It doesn’t mean that your dog is Cujo, or your baby will grow up to be Elmira.

Seriously, was I the only one who watched this show?!

Seriously, was I the only one who watched this show?!

Address the small issues as they happen, so they don’t grow to be huge incidents later on.  Above all, maintain a sense of humor.  Because when you look back, yes, these were  the good ol’ days…but only because you’re finally out of them.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

“Mine” Craft – Working with Food Aggressive Dogs

“People aren’t against you; they are for themselves.” – Anon

A shelter dog undergoes the SAFTER test.  Food reactivity is guaged when the fake hand tries to take away the food.

A shelter dog undergoes the SAFTER test. Food reactivity is guaged when the fake hand tries to take away the food.

A few days ago I had a very difficult situation to work with.  The dog in question, a Shar Pei mix, I’ll call Lisbon, was food aggressive (had actually bitten people and other dogs in the house) as well as resource guarding (resource guarding is the same as food aggression, only in place of the food, she was aggressively guarding areas in the house she deemed as her own).

If a dog is reacting with aggression over anything other than their safety (i,e., they’re scared of you), or the safety of their pack, that’s trouble.  That’s the sign of a dog who is in the Pilot position, and who is frequently more than happy to try to take money out of your Piloting Piggy Bank.  Remember, whomever has the most money wins, so frequently these dogs are indeed the Pilot in the house simply because snapping and growing over a resource works.  Essentially, they tell you “no”, and it works because, well, teeth can be scary!  The more often they tell you “no”, and the more often you accept that as an answer, the more money the dog has taken out of your Piloting Piggy Bank.

Most other things aren’t quite so dangerous to work with because we are working with questions that the dog actually hopes end in a “no”.

Will that other dog kill me?

No, Fido.

Have any dogs ever died in a thunderstorm before?

No Fido, and I doubt you’ll be the first.

Resource guarding is different.  A dog has decided that something is theirs, and no matter what, they are keeping it.  Sometimes when I come into a house a dog is resource guarding, but their heart really isn’t into it.  They’ve accidentally become Pilot in the house because the owner has never properly communicated with the dog, letting them know that they don’t have to be Pilot.  Hint:  most dogs don’t even want the job!

These dogs aren’t resource guarding so much as taking all the perks that come with the Piloting position.  For a dog, being Pilot can be scary, terrifying, and generally sucks.  Just like not every human feels comfortable leading, the same is true for dogs.  If they’re going to be Pilot, there had better be some perks that come along with it!  These include the right to eat first, the right to sleep where they want to…basically, the right of first refusal for anything.  For the dogs who aren’t even really into the Pilot position, and didn’t want the damn job to begin with, merely Piloting them and taking the money out of their bank is sufficient.  They aren’t true resource guarders.

As Danika mentioned in her blog post On Food Reactivity….Nothing Personal.  Really.,   they aren’t doing it because they hate you.  Or because they want to hurt you.  In their minds, you are asking a question:  Can I have that back? They are answering your question (No), but you aren’t listening, apparently, so they have to answer it with more force, until you finally back down.

Dogs and wolves are a pack. They are a single entity driven towards one thing, survival and continuation of the pack.  In the pack, only alpha male and alpha female breed.  They are the Pilots.  They have (for the moment) the best shot of perpetuating the pack because they are the best dogs/wolves in the pack.  Obviously this can change.  Dogs and wolves don’t vote in who they think is the best for Pilot.  There’s no bribes.  Either you are or you aren’t and accepting another dog’s “no” to a question you asked can take enough money out of your Piloting bank to no longer make you Pilot.

Wolves deciding who's eating first. The wolf on the left is giving typical "back off, it's mine" body language. The wolf on the right is submitting.

Wolves deciding who’s eating first. The wolf on the left is giving typical “back off, it’s mine” body language. The wolf on the right is submitting.

So back to resource guarding.  It isn’t a bad behavior.  Remember, nothing a dog does is bad; it’s always perfectly correct.  For a dog.  However, as humans, we can not safely tolerate resource guarding.  It’s dangerous, and for kids, it’s the second biggest reason I see them get bit, (first is teasing or torturing the dog).  The difference is, a bite because a child is manhandling a dog is usually a sudden nip.  Yes, it may cause blood even (remember, you’re supposed to be covered in hair and loose skin, like a dog, not soft vulnerable flesh), but it’s typically not that bad unless the dog hit a lucky spot.  With resource guarding, it can be a lot, lot worse.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  resource guarding is one of the few things (the only?) that I will tell a client to put a dog down for.  Yes, they can be worked with, and you can indeed take the Piloting position back, but you will have to defend it the rest of your dog’s life.  They may challenge you at any moment.  You may absent-mindedly drop food on the floor, lean over to pick it up, and the dog decides at that moment to claim it, meaning a bite.

These dogs can be the sweetest, kindest dogs on the planet, as Lisbon is.  Wonderful, loving family pets.  But once the food comes out, they are like a vampire who hasn’t fed being led through a blood bank.  Yucky, ugly things ensue.

So back to Lisbon:  how did things end?  Well, they haven’t yet.  They never will.  Some dogs you can slack with on the Piloting and still be fine.  Lisbon’s owner will always be on alert for any sign Lisbon is trying to take money out of his bank.  Lisbon’s owner is single with no kids, so he doesn’t have to worry about a child being bit.  He also understood the severity of the issue.  He is dedicated to the training regime, which includes:

- Feeding Lisbon after a successfully Piloted walk.  A walk done correctly (read: you are leading, not your dog) takes money out of their Piloting Piggy Bank.  We want to empty Lisbon’s account out as much as possible before feeding.

- Lisbon will always be on a leash during feeding times, just like you always wear a seat belt in the car.  You may never truly need it, but there’s nothing like feeling safe to help bring out the Pilot inside of you.

- Hand feeding Lisbon.  Food only comes from him, and no other source.  We want to remove everything as a possible option for Lisbon to acquire food.  She need to be dependent upon her owner for all food. Food is placed on the counter, and Lisbon will be seated and fed one handful at a time, and only if she is calmly waiting.

- Removing signals that may increase energy during feeding time.  For example, when Lisbon sees her owner grab her food dish on the counter, she knows her owner is about to feed her.  Her energy level goes way up, and she can be difficult to manage.  Lisbon will never be fed out of a bowl again.  Even the vessel used to contain the food while she is being hand fed will be switched out frequently so she never knows if food is coming or if her owner is merely grabbing a cup for some coffee.

- Dropping food on the ground doesn’t mean it’s yours!!!  Lisbon’s owner, while hand feeding Lisbon, will occasionally gently place food on the ground behind him, moving very slowly.  If she lunges for the food, he can redirect her with the leash, wait until she’s calm, and then slowly pick the food up and throw it away.  Lisbon will never have the right to food on the floor.  Ever.  If she remains calm during that little exercise, she will get another handful of food.

- Never toss food at Lisbon.  The very act of snatching food in the air is aggressive.  In some dogs it’s not a big deal, and is even amusing (Darwin could catch food out of a dead sleep!), but those dogs aren’t really jockeying for Pilot position.  We are driving the point home that calm is the only thing that gets Lisbon food, and lunging towards food won’t be accepted any more.

- Getting her used to disappointment.  A lot of resource guarding dogs get upset and retaliate if they think they were about to get food but don’t.  For example, the now-defunct food bowl.  If Lisbon’s owner simply picked up the food bowl to move it without feeding her, Lisbon might retaliate.  You were supposed to feed me, remember?  Touching the food bowl is a visual marker that is supposed to end a certain way, and if it doesn’t…bad things happen.  So he’s going to get her used to disappointment.  Dropping the food on the floor is a good start, but sometimes putting food in a cup on the counter, creating calm with Lisbon, and then dumping the food back into the bin, all in a controlled manner.  Calm doesn’t always get Lisbon food.  It’s merely the only way she might get food.  It’s like the lottery:  you don’t always win, but unless you play, you aren’t going to win.

Hand feeding... in the good way

Hand feeding… in the good way

I have great hopes for Lisbon and her owner.  Lisbon is a great dog, and they made wonderful strides in the two hours I was with them.  Lisbon’s owner is dedicated, and he understood the severity of the problem.  If anyone has a chance at a safe, wonderful bond with a resource guarding dog, it’s him.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio