Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Trainer - SUCCESS!!

We had our first training session with the new trainer last night and WHAT A DIFFERENCE! The new trainer is actually an acquaintance of mine, which is good because she knows how I work with my dogs and understands that while I am certainly no Cesar Millan, I am also not an inexperienced, first time dog owner.

We were about ten minutes early to class, and Bugs of course went all nuts over the other dogs that were waiting. There was a cute black lab, about 6 months old, and a little pit mix, also about 6 months old. Both wanted to focus on Bugs as much as she did on them, and lots of snarling and barking happened on all sides, so we took Bugs around behind a display so she couldn't see them. She laid down on the floor, then rolled on her back for belly rubs, so clearly the facility isn't the issue.

Then a man came out of the classroom with his dog. They were about thirty feet away. Bugs leapt to her feet and started her craziness, and I had difficulty controlling her. The man then WALKED HIS DOG OVER TO US and let him get in her face!!! I yelled, "She's dog aggressive! She's dog aggressive! Back up!" They had us cornered in between two large displays and Bugs was just going crazy and this dumbass just stood there and smiled, would not remove his dog. I was THISCLOSE to just letting Bugs go nuts on his dog, but of course that isn't ever a solution. He finally turned around and walked away. His dog was curious and not behaving aggressively but seriously? Seriously? It was not ambiguous in any way that Bugs wanted to eat that dog. Hair up, teeth flashing, growl-barks, lunging. No one could ever misconstrue that for play.

So the guy leaves and then here comes a young girl, in her teens or very early twenties, with the cutest puppy. Oh I wanted to hug that puppy so bad! It looked like a Bernese Mountain Dog. So incredibly cute and floppy and cuddly! Bugs didn't see it that way though and went crazy all over again. And yet again, the handler just stood there. My best friend/sister from another mister, Michelle was with me and she's trying to help me hold Bugs and we're both yelling," Get your dog away! She's going to bite him! GET HIM AWAY!"

The last dog we met was an equally cute chocolate lab puppy. OMG. Seriously, I could not handle the cuteness coming out of this classroom! The lady walked by and Bugs started her shenanigans, I said, "She's dog aggressive," and the lady immediately turned the corner. Her kids, who were older, maybe 12 and 14, wanted to pet Bugs, and as soon as she calmed down, I let them. (And of course they fell in love! She was all full of wiggles and kisses!)

I know this all sounds really bad. It sounds like my Buggles has serious problems, and that she's just a huge jerk who hates everyone.

But the trainer watched her closely in class and thinks its not that at all. She said she needs to see her in action more but she thinks Bugs is unsure of herself and fearful (common for dogs this age) and so we need to get her tons of positive experiences so that her fear doesn't shape her attitude towards other dogs in the long run. Bugs learned quickly that neither me nor the trainer will put up with her focusing on other dogs, or barking. As soon as she does, I stand up and redirect her face (luring with my hand, or by positioning my body so she can't see the other dog.) The instant she chills out, we stop the redirection. After four or five times, she was laying on the floor like the good girl that she is, showing off all her tricks. The black lab and pit mix kept focusing on her and barking and my amazing little gal was still paying 100% attention to me! She just completely ignored them!!

She did try to get in my lap a couple times, and when that didn't work, tried to get in Michelle's lap. Then she went to the end of her lead and attempted to climb up in the trainer's lap!

Despite the way she behaved initially, she had the whole class roaring with laughter, the way she'd roll around on the floor, paw at me, and flop over and groan when we weren't paying attention to her. She really seems to have a sense of humor and knows how to get me laughing.

When we left, she ignored the other dogs and walked beautifully. We got in the car and drove maybe two miles... and then Bugs took a huge crap in the backseat. Apparently the excitement was too much for her! We pulled over and Michelle held Bugs outside while I cleaned it up. Luckily my car is ancient and has leather seats that are easy to wipe clean! Then Bugs decided to climb in my son's booster seat and sit like a kid. She is just so funny and sweet, I can't get over how amazing my girl is!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quick update

Bruno's stitches are out and he is loving it!! He kept trying to lick the vet's face when he was removing the stitches. It made me laugh because the vet was being cautious, and was concerned that Bruno would nip or growl, but of course he didn't. Bruno would never, ever hurt a person.

Bugs got her drain tube out yesterday, but the stitches have to stay in a few more days. She is healing up beautifully! I was sick yesterday so my husband took her in for the tube removal, so I don't know how she acted. He did say that she walked fine on the leash until they got into the office, and then she started jumping around like a fool. That's my girl! :D

Even though she still has stitches, we're going to go to training tonight. We found a different trainer who has experience with dog-reactive dogs, so my fingers are crossed for a good outcome. I'll take off Bugs' cone when we get there and put it back on when we leave. I doubt she will lick at her side. She doesn't even seem to know that anything happened to it, because she's such a goofball.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Training Fun, with a video!!!

Here's a video of Bugs and I working together!! We are reinforcing what she already knows, and we'll start introducing new commands when the stitches are out and the cone is off, which should be tomorrow!!

Couple disclaimers:
1. No, I am not wearing socks. I never do, even if it's freezing out.
2. Yes, my kids are hollering in the background - notice how Bugs doesn't even flinch???
3. Why, yes, that is a big unused crate with a torn up paper plate. Bugs doesn't fit in it, with her cone, but little Nightmare thinks its a great place to stash the stuff he steals from the garbage.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Funny Bugs!

Oh, poor Bugs and her cone. She looks so pathetic! Fortunately, her wound is healing up beautifully and the cone doesn't seem to slow her down a bit. She takes great delight in going outside and scooping up snow in her cone, and then coming in and jumping around, flinging snow everywhere. Such a funny, sweet girl.

The cone hasn't slowed us down at all and we are still training daily. Nothing new introduced, because it does distract her terribly when we're working - but we're still handfeeding, and she still has to "work" for her food. Look-Touch-Take It. She can now touch without verbal cue, and can touch up high, off to the side, where ever I place my hand.

Bruno gets his stitches out tomorrow, and Bugs gets hers out on Tuesday. Both are healing up so well that there is barely a scratch, just scar tissue, so they should be able to romp and play soon! I'm sure they will both be thrilled. It's so hard to keep them separated. Of course both dogs still get equal attention, but they want to play with each other desperately.

Bugs is doing absolutely wonderful with the "Leave It" command. However, I have reinforced a silly, possibly negative behavior. Every time I tell Bugs to Leave It, she immediately drops the item or walks away from it, and then I praise her and love on her. Well, she took it a step further and now brings me everything. She picks things up around the house and drops them at my feet, then looks up at me, stump wiggling like crazy, for her praise and ear scritches. (Yes, scritches is a word, even if its underlined in red squiggles!) The other day I was working on the computer (and by working, I mean playing around on facebook) and when I looked down, about five minutes later, I was surrounded by stuffed animals and shoes, and there was Miss Buggles, just wiggling like all get out! Of course I laughed and gave her love - which sent her on a mission for a towel out of the laundry room!

She likes to move her bed all over, so sometimes its in front of the stove, other times under the buffet, and one day she put it on the stairs and had scooched herself all onto one step, legs falling off and head propped on the railing. Of course, she jumped up when she saw me so I couldn't snap a picture.

Bugs also has a pencil that she loves to carry around with her like a baby. I am not really sure why, because we have plenty of squeakies and stuffies - but she loves that pencil. I did end up taking it away because if she got it in her head to chew it, it could be dangerous in her tummy.

Here is a picture of Bugsy sleeping in front of the woodstove. She is such a doll.

Also- I shared this pic on facebook and my friend Amanda had a good point - isn't the woodstove going to melt her cone? Well, it actually burns wood pellets, and doesn't get hot on the outside, just blows hot air out the top fans. It does, however, stay very warm around the stove, probably 85 or 90 degrees, which Bugs just loves. All the dogs do; I often find Bugs sleeping there with her tiny brothers, Lucky and Nightmare.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why Dobermans are Better than Kids

I have both dobermans and kids, and I love them both with all my heart, so this is, of course, very tongue in cheek. :D

1. Dobermans don't generally draw on the walls
2. You will never have to convince a Doberman to just put his damn shoes on already.

3. Dobermans don't insist on eating nothing but mac n cheese, nuggets, and fruit snacks.

4. A Doberman will never complain that the collar you picked out is like, so totally 90s, Mom.

5. You will never, ever have to help your Doberman with complicated math homework.

6. Dobermans don't usually make a habit of spilling juice on the couch.

7. You will never have to listen to your Doberman practice an instrument.

8. Dog food is so much cheaper than people food - even the expensive stuff.

9. You'll never have to threaten your Doberman's safety in order to get him to clean his room.

10. It's highly unlikely that you'll ever have to wash your Doberman's mouth out with soap.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Terrible Accident - Please Go Check Your Fences

Before I write about this, I'll tell you the ending first - Bugs is absolutely fine now, and will recover from her accident with no ill-effects, except for, perhaps, a scar on her side, which should be covered in hair and not visible.

So I will tell you this story now, from the very beginning.

Bruno and Bugs can't be outside together due to Bruno still having his stitches in, so Bugs was out in the yard by herself. It's cold here, so she wasn't out long - maybe five minutes tops.

I went to the sliding glass door and she was facing me, waiting. I gave her the "sit" signal but she wouldn't listen (which is pretty much what she does every time, stubborn girl) so I opened the door a crack to give her the verbal cue. When she sat, I noticed what looked like a tuft of fur on her right side, behind her ribs and just in front of her hip.

I brought her in and sat on the floor with her to look at it and realized that it was a very deep, nasty cut. It was the size of  quarter perhaps, and I could see the fat layer. It did not seem to bother her in the least, but I could tell by the depth of it that this was nothing to be messed with, so I called the vet.

I could not bring her in immediately, because the kids didn't have school that day and I didn't have room in my car for five kids and a bleeding dog. Fortunately Nate was on his way home from work, so we didn't have to wait long. I immediately put Buggles in her crate and then went out to see what she could have done.

I found the culprit right away.

We have a "drive-through" gate - two gates put together, so a truck can get through if needed. There is an L shaped rod, maybe 3/4" in diameter, that slides through a hole in the gate and down into the ground, to stabilize it and keep it from moving. The short end of the L serves as a handle to pull it up out of the ground when you want to open the gate. This piece is normally flush with the gate, but somehow it got turned around was pointing inward, and Bugs snagged her side on it.

We got to the vet about 3:45, and we immeditaely took her back into a holding kennel. I had to leave her there and wait for the vet to call me with the update. I told them just fix her up, I don't care what it costs, the price is not going to change my mind about whether to treat her or not.

The vet finally called me. Bugs needed 6 internal stitches, to repair the muscle, and 6 external stitches. She has a drain tube in place because the skin separated from the muscle and the visible wound was less than 25% of the actual wound. All of that will be removed on Tuesday, if she heals properly.

She had to spend the night because she was so groggy from the anesthesia. She was SO happy to see me when I picked her up - all wiggles and joy!

As luck would have it, I am completely broke this week, so I busted into my Porcupine Mountains jar and counted out all the change - $29. The vet took that and then put my credit card on file and will run it Friday when I have money (thank you God for this wonderful veterinarian!) Altogether this cost $168.

She is home and happy and the injury is still not bothering her at all. She has a cone and can't fit in her crate so I've used babygates to close off the breezeway for her at night.

I am asking you now - if you have a fence, go check it TODAY. Check it frequently, because your kids or dogs could be injured in a split second. I found several other questionable areas on the fence, and I am covering them so no one gets hurt. The rod that hurt Bugs is now zip-tied to the fence so it can't dislodge and turn inward again.

Bugs is going to be just fine. She is on antibiotics daily to ward off infection and aside from a scar she is going to be okay. But this all could have been avoided if I had been more vigilant. So please go check your fences and gates. Make sure your yard is safe for dogs and children.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bugs the Wonder Dog!!

It seems like I've spent a lot of time talking about Bugs' problems, but really her issues are far outweighed by her wonderfullness.

She amazes me daily with how loving she is, what an old soul she is. Yep, she's a hyperactive doberteen - but when she looks at me with those beautiful almond eyes, I can see the amazing, precious girl that she is. She gives the BEST hugs, and has a real gift for understanding human emotion.

She is also hands down the smartest dog I have ever met. She learns incredibly fast. She knows come, kiss, sit, down, leave it, take it, drop it, look, and touch. She also understands how to walk on the leash, loosely, by my side. And of course she is potty trained.

Here's what feeding looks like now, just a week into handfeeding -

In one hand I have a handful of kibble. My other hand is outstretched, palm facing her. Bugs has a sequence of three things she has to do to get the kibble - look, then touch, then take it.

She looks me in the eyes, then touches her nose to my palm, then waits to take the kibble till I say take it. I switch my hands around, so sometimes she touches my right palm, sometimes the left. I don't instruct her to look - she knows the look command and will look without being prompted (usually.) If she isn't looking, I say "Bugs, look!" and she makes perfect eye contact. Then "touch!" and she touches her nose. Then "take it!" and she takes the kibble.

When she isn't eating, she needs to look and  touch my hand randomly, no treat.

Touch is a very easy thing to teach your dog and is important if you want to teach other tricks and targeting, such as learning the names of things, putting toys away, turning on lights, etc.

How we did it is very simple. I always teach new things when the dog is hungry (whether its Bugs, Bruno, Lucky, or Nightmare.) I put a piece of kibble between my index and ring fingers, and hold my palm out. When Bugs goes to take it, I say "touch!" and treat her out of my other hand.

This took Bugs literally thirty seconds to learn. The first two or three times, she went after the kibble. After that, it was a pure nose bump and no kibble was required.

Bugs is a dog that absolutely thrives on mental stimulation. Training her is a joy - she is very eager to learn and seems to be in her element when she's working. A good training session drains as much energy from her as a walk does.

Bugs does have a few bad habits, yes. Such as....

...... Getting in the trash. "But MOM! There was still a little bit of sour cream in that container! I didn't want it to go to waste!!"

But her amazing qualities far outweigh any of her problems. And while I do talk about her issues frequently, they really aren't that bad. Bugs has gone Red Zone on another dog, but only once. She has a hard time meeting other dogs. And then there's that whole trash thing... and the stealing kids' stuffed animals..... but even these issues aren't bad, and I'm 100% confident that I can train these things out of her. She's so smart and gentle and full of love.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ideas for the Meantime

Bugs is clearly a reactive dog.

Before I had her, I stupidly assumed that reactivity in dogs was due to abuse or neglect. Boy was I wrong! Bugs has never been abused or neglected, and yet she has major issues with other dogs.

We're going to keep working on it. I'll never give up on her. She adores her pack members, but other dogs are just not good. She has potential to get along well with them, but mainly I just need her to not try to eat them.

We can't spend our walks and socialization periods in fear of seeing another dog. It just isn't healthy for anyone. And when I have Bugs and Bruno together, it's nearly impossible to do anyway. There's no way I can haul a combined 150+ pounds of determined dog back away from anything.

So, my plan for the meantime is this:

Get both Bruno and Bugs acclimated to wearing a backpack. Not just when we go away, but around the house too. This will be a huge help to me - they can carry water, dog food, my wallet, etc. It will be great in the summer, when we can do all-day hikes.

Start using these backpacks on our walks around town.

I don't want to avoid people and dogs but until I start working with a trainer that I trust, I need a backup to keep people and their dogs at a safe distance. (Both dogs adore people, but have a long way to go as far as "sit to greet" instead of "jump in people's faces to greet.")

I found this link with instructions to make a dog backpack.  This link also has some great ideas. The dogs will be on their prongs, so I don't need the backpack to double as a harness.

This link has all kinds of patches for the dogs - obviously mine are not service dogs, so I'm looking at the "In Training" and "Do Not Pet" patches.

Training update - you want me to WHAT???

Bugs had obedience class yesterday. She is progressing well, but I am quickly losing confidence in our trainer.

First the good - Bugsy learned "leave it" and "take it." Of the three dogs in class, Bugs is the only one who is food motivated, so the trainer used her as an example of how difficult the "leave it" command can be. Well, Bugs showed her! She learned it in twenty seconds flat! In less than a minute, we were able to place a piece of deli roast beef on her paw, tell her to leave it, and she ignored it completely, looking into my eyes and waiting.

She had a few minor issues with the other dogs in class but with redirection she did great and there were no problems at all. She always puts her hair up and focuses on other dogs and I will not allow this. But she is getting much better.

Now the bad -

Our trainer doesn't allow prong collars and required Bugs to be on a head collar. The prong does not hurt Bugs at all, because it's properly fitted and used correctly. She shows absolutely no distress with it, and gets excited when it comes out because she knows shes going to work. The head collar? She hates it. She spends the whole class digging at her face and trying to get it off. She runs when she sees it and fights me in putting it on - none of the wiggly happiness that she displays when the prong comes out, even though the end result (walking and training) is always the same.

Additionally, the trainer wants me to talk to Bugs. A LOT. Not commands or occasional reassurance, but constant talking. Like, as we're walking, and Bugs is doing well, I'm supposed to constantly talk to her to let her know she's doing a good job.

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

I hardly ever talk to my dogs when we're working. Not the dobies, not the little guys. Even dogs that I've just met - I don't talk to them much. We communicate with body language, tiny hand movements. When Bugs and I are cuddling are playing, then I talk a lot. Or if she's hanging out in the house and I walk by, I'll say "Oh, there's my pretty girl!" When we hand-feed, I talk a lot, telling her she's good.

When we work, Bugs and I communicate solely with body language, hand motions, tiny leash corrections, an the occasional verbal praise or correction. I will also tap her with my hands, shins, knees, or feet (emphasis on TAP - this is a guiding touch only, not a hit or kick.)

Not only that, but the trainer thinks Bugs should be able to explore while walking, and to that I say HELL NO. I control the walk, not Bugs. She walks near my side - not in a heel, but at my side - and I tell her, through the leash, when she can explore. I give her this opportunity frequently, and she isn't stupid. She knows what it means when I tell her, through a leash position, that she can explore, and she knows what it means when I tell her, also through the leash, that she needs to come back to my side.

This is what walking looks like with this trainer:

Dog in front, not pulling, but out in front sniffing. Handler in back with a constant stream of chatter - "Good Bugs! Ok, this way! Yep! Oh, good dog! What a good dog! Lets go this way now! Goooood! Good girl! Ok, let's go over here now! Yeah! Good girl! Oh, that's some good sniffing you're doing! Yes! Now this way! Good! What a good girl!"

This is so unbelievably stupid to me. Just beyond stupid. Dogs don't use sound as their primary source of communication, and any trainer (or dog owner) worth his salt knows this. They use body language, then nose, then ears. Watch dogs playing together - they make sound and react to sound, but what are they primarily doing? Posturing, sniffing, reading each other. The noises are secondary to all of that.

I want to yell at this trainer, shake her and say IT'S A DOG, NOT A HUMAN IN A DOG SUIT!

I can't do much about it at this point. I paid for the classes and can't get a refund. We'll keep going, if only for socialization, and then I'll never, ever go back. I found a facility that seems much better and classes start in April. I'll observe a few classes and then put her in it, if its a better fit.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fun with Other Dogs (and One Very Mean Man)

We found a new dog park, closer to home, with a group of regulars that meets every evening.

Bugs was initially fearful and displayed fear aggression. She had her hackles up, teeth bared, growling and barking at the 12 or so other dogs there. I put her in the small dog area (which, at this dog park, is much nicer, with little hills and trees and things of interest.) She raced along the fence, and after just a minute or two, started licking the other dogs through the openings! I let her acclimate a little more and then made the decision to put her in with them.


She let all the dogs sniff her, and then with some invisible cue, they were all off and running. She was confident, assertive, and excited, but not overly so. She ran all around and kept coming back to me for a pat, but after maybe twenty minutes she stopped doing it to me and started doing it to everyone else. She did jump up on everyone, bonking their faces with her nose. We really need to work on that ... :-/

All was grand until a beautiful black Great Dane showed up. The Dane was fine - it was the owners that were trouble. Nice people, but fearful. I could feel the anxiety pouring off them. Bugs was near the gate with a GSP and a lab mix, and it was like slow motion - the whole attitude of the pack changed and suddenly even the friendliest dogs were on alert. The GSP started the nastiness, growling ferociously (or, well, as ferociously as a GSP can growl) at the newcomers. Bugs watched him closely, and then started to growl as well, taking her cues from him. The GSP then turned his fear and aggression on Bugs and attacked her. She fought back and a lady got in between them to break them. Of course, my dog, being the new one, and carrying her breed's bad rap, got blamed for it. But it wasn't her at all. She was reacting to the situation. This is not the reaction I want from her - she should have backed off and came right to me, but she is a puppy and this was her very first experience with a large pack.

A man grabbed Bugs, and she tried to bite him. I would too! If I was acting aggressively and a strange man just picked me up from behind, I'd go for his face too!

BUT here is where it gets bad. The man SMACKED her right in the snout with a closed fist!! Then he literally tossed her into the small dog area.

I immediately leashed her and left. I should have said something but I was all shaken up, because it all happened in flurry of teeth and fur, even though it seems like slow motion now, and I was standing literally right there, helpless.

Now I am stuck in a bad position. This dog park is great and the dogs have good energy. Even that little bastard GSP - his energy was good until that woman came to the gate. Dog pack + anxiety + newcomer = fight, usually every time. But how in the world can I possibly bring my beautiful girl there again, with a human that has no qualms about hitting a dog?

Now part of me wonders if he took those cues from me, because when Bugs got there initially, I corrected her for aggression. A quick poke to the neck - NO PAIN - and a low, growly sound, which is impossible to type but is her cue for correction - and that's all she needs. Everyone saw this and I wonder if this guy thinks I was using a more physical correction. Even so, there is no reason to ever - EVER- hit a dog, especially one that you've never met before.

Tomorrow I'll be at the dog sanctuary all morning and then Bugs has obedience class at 2:30, and I'll definitely bring this up to the trainer and get her opinion on it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Surgeries and Cesar Millan!

Yesterday's vet appointment went well. Bruno doesn't need new staples or stitches, but he does need to wear a t-shirt in addition to his cone, because he's learned to rub his itchy wound on the furniture. (Ick!) Last night he got the shirt off while we were sleeping and managed to open it up a bit, and it bled. Does not look like he needs another stitch, so the vet said to keep him on the antibiotics and put a tighter shirt on him. Bruno wasn't pleased with me, because I had to clean the wound and put antibiotic cream on it, but he didn't growl or snap because he's such a good boy. :)

Bugs has her spay surgery set up for March 5th. I am hoping and praying that she heals up better than Bruno has. The vet is very optimistic and thinks it should be fine, because of the location. (Apparently Bruno's issues are because the incision is in an area that moves all the time, just with breathing, let alone his normal movement.) I'm crossing my fingers that Bugs doesn't end up with spay incontinence, since that's so common in dobermans, but if she does, the medication is very inexpensive. I just think she will be embarrassed if she pees on herself. 

In other news, my husband gave me the best Valentine's Day present ever - tickets to see Cesar Millan live! I know that his methods are controversial, but I love him and his ways with dogs. He can read them so perfectly, and I've learned a lot about dog behavior from his shows, books, and website. And now I get to see him in person! The seats are very close to the front and I am so ridiculously excited! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

And Back to the Vet We Go


Well, actually, this time it's not his fault. The staples that were put in at the E-Vet weren't done well, and not only are they falling out, but they're not holding the wound together well. It's closing up very nicely where the stitches are (half the wound) but where the staples are, it's much wider, weeping, and not staying together well.

Luckily its a weekday (so they're open)  and I won't have to pay for this visit, as all follow-ups are included in the price of the surgery. I hope they don't need to sedate him, because he's already eaten breakfast today.

I am going to also ask if the emergency vet did the staples correctly. If not, I will be writing them and asking for that portion of my money back. I will not ask for the $93 office call, because that was provided in a timely manner and the exam was done well. If it turns out the staples were done poorly (as I suspect) I think it's only fair to be reimbursed. If I provided a service and didn't do a good job, I would expect to reimburse my client - its the right thing to do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hand-Feeding - How and Why

Today we're switching everything up and starting hand-feeding. The plan is for Bugs to be hand-fed only for about a week and gradually step down to eating from her bowl.

Firstly you are probably wondering why we would do something like this. Doesn't everyone just put the food in a dish and let the dog eat it? Isn't that easier?

Yes, it probably is easier. But hand-feeding a dog does two things: It teaches the dog that you are the benevolent leader, and it strengthens the bond between leader and dog. It's also a great opportunity to teach the dog it's name, if you happen to have a new puppy or dog.

You don't have to do this with a new dog. If you notice that training is slipping a bit, or if the dog is starting to bond other dogs in the family more strongly than with the leader, start hand-feeding to reinforce your place as the wonderful Giver of Food.

So - how do you hand feed? It's easy. Tether the dog to your waist and prepare the meal. Sit in a chair and place the dog in a sit, if he or she is large. Now take scoops of the food and gently hold it out for the dog to eat from your hand. As you do this, touch the dog gently and say his or her name. Keep your voice quiet, calm, reassuring, and full of love. Exuberant phrases like "Good dog! What a good dog! Atta boy, dog!" will only distract your pet. Instead, say gentle phrases. It doesn't matter what you say - dogs don't speak human language. Something like, "Oh, gooood girl, Bugs. Thaaaat's a good girl...."  --- Just be absolutely sure that your energy is calm and positive.

When the meal is done, say nothing. Just stand up and walk the dog to it's potty area.

Make sure that all human members of your family hand-feed the dog, once you've done it for a few days. Supervise children very carefully and don't attempt with kids under the age of 9 or 10, because the dog could accidentally bite a small finger while trying to get the kibble.

Try it out for a week and see if you can tell the changes in your dog!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bugs at the Dog Park - with video!

Bugs is a sad, sad girl.

Her very best Buddy in the whole world, Bruno, is not allowed to play with her. They aren't even allowed to be near each other, because her very presence makes Bruno quiver with excitement. They wrestle and play for hours a day, and that kind of activity is strictly off limits for Bruno right now.

To make up for it, Bugs has been getting lots of walkies and treats. Today after a long walk (and, unfortunately, completely uneventful - we saw no one) we hit the dog park for some fun. There were no other dogs there, so my eleven year old daughter and I had to provide the entertainment.

Towards the end of our trip, a german shepherd mix came in. She was a bit unstable in her energy but Bugs did well. We got in the car and then Bugsy lost it, barking and growling. I am glad she is learning when and where it is acceptable to bark and growl. :)

Here is a video of Miss Bugs racing around at the dog park!!

Bruno's Surgery

Bruno had his surgery on Friday, to remove a cancerous mass on his side. It was perfectly round, like a ping pong ball, but it never bothered him. I could move it all around and mess with it and he never minded.

The surgery went very well. The vet said he didn't even bark in the kennel as he was awaiting surgery. He made friends with the whole staff and they couldn't stop talking about how wonderful he is. (Of course, I already knew this!)

Despite having the time of his life at the vet, he was still very happy to see me when I came to pick him up. He rode all the way home with his head on my shoulder. Luckily he is big enough to do that from the backseat!

He came home with a large shaved area and 6 sutures. The first day, he was fine. He didn't lick at the site or anything. Most of Saturday was fine too. I should back up here and tell you that Bruno is incredibly attached to me and never strays more than five or six feet from my side. He is always either right behind me or at my feet. He never gets in my way, but he has this thing where he HAS to be near momma at all times. So it was very easy for me to watch him and make sure he wasn't licking his incision, or having any drainage or swelling.

Then, yesterday evening, my best friend and I went to the bookstore and left the dogs and kids at home with my husband. When I came back, I discovered that while I was gone, Bruno went up to the bedroom, under the guise of napping, and chewed out more than half of the stitches.

The wound wasn't bleeding but it was gaping open and I could see his muscle underneath. I knew it couldn't stay like that so off the emergency vet we went.

The trip cost more than the whole surgery itself, but they were able to put in a local anesthetic and staple him up. (To have him sedated and stitched was going to cost over $400!!! So we chose local and staples, for $200.)

Now he is home, with a huge cone. He thinks he can't walk with it on, and when I can convince him to walk, he bumps into everything. He is mad at me for putting him in this ridiculous contraption. I'm sorry Brunski - you're the dog brain who decided that the stitches had to go!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Puppies and Preachers and Parks, Oh My!

Yesterday evening, Bugs and Bruno accompanied me on a walk through downtown Lowell. It amazes me to see Bugsy's behavior, as young as she is, and to see her behaving in the manner for which she was bred. She is incredibly discerning about new people, and once in a great while, when she meets someone who makes her nervous, she places herself physically between me and that person. It's a subtle move that she accomplishes with a single step.

Our walk was very calm. Lowell wasn't busy, so we didn't meet very many people - some joggers, people walking in and out of restaurants. We met a woman with a blue heeler puppy, maybe 12 weeks old tops. Both dogs wanted to play rough and I did have some difficulty controlling them in that situation.

We walked near the grain mill, and the dogs weren't too keen on the sounds. There was lots of nosy grinding and high pitched repetitive sounds. They both maintained a good loose walk, but their body language told me that they were uncomfortable. Near the mill we saw a man near a semi truck, and Bugs pricked her ears and watched him hard. She almost imperceptibly put herself between me and him, but continued walking, and once we were past, she went back into a heel without being asked.

And then we encountered the scariest thing of all - street preachers!

I made sure to give them a wide berth because they were shouting through a megaphone and using lots of large arm movements. Bugs was clearly uncomfortable with these people. Although we were a good fifty yards away, she moved between us and out to the front, not in a menacing way, but with clear intentions of protection. It is almost impossible for me to describe the difference in her behavior. The protection behavior is 180 degrees different from interest or excitement. It's VERY subtle, with no pulling on the leash or other bad manners. I suppose the only ones who would understand what I mean are people who are familiar with the behavior. It is my understanding that this behavior doesn't generally kick in until dogs are more mature, but I'm glad that she's doing it, because it's a great learning opportunity for her.

After about an hour of walking we decided to see what was up at the dog park. There were two large friendly dogs in the big dog area - a black lab and a black standard poodle. We went into the small dog area, just in case my dogs acted up.

Bugs was GREAT and displayed all the normal dog greeting behaviors through the fence - sniffing, play bows, etc. But Bruno was not well behaved and barked and barked at the other dogs through the fence. He displayed slight aggression that could have quickly escalated, so after only a minute or two I decided to leave. I didn't see anything in the other dogs' behavior to set him off, but I was paying more attention to my dogs so there may well have been something there that I didn't pick up.

As we left, a little boy and his dad were bringing their chihuahua in. I asked the little boy to hold the dog so mine wouldn't go after it - they have a high prey drive and I don't think they would hurt a small dog on purpose, but could easily injure it in excitement. Bugs did very well - she did pull the lead and wanted to sniff the chihuahua, but was otherwise fine. Bruno went into "red zone" and pulled terribly, barking and snarling. I need to find better ways to socialize him, perhaps with people who understand the behavior. He has great bite inhibition, so even though he has tried to fight with other dogs, there have never been any injuries. But I want him to be with people who understand this and won't go into panic mode if a tussle ensues.

After the dog park we headed home and Bugs kept trying to drive. Silly gal - we haven't worked on that yet! LOL. We came home and Buggles enjoyed dinner and a good brushing, and before we knew it, it was bedtime.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hungry Bugs + Agility + More!

Yesterday, about an hour after Bugs' bleeding started, she threw up. And then in typical dog fashion, she ate it. I wasn't too worried because usually if they barf it up and then eat it, it means it just didn't agree with them the first time and everything is fine.

A little while later, she threw up again (I didn't let her eat it.). This time she seemed really distressed and asked to go outside, so I let her out for awhile, and then put her in her crate for quiet time, since she wasn't feeling well.

Then I got a hold of the vet, who said that the vomiting is unusual but can happen with first heat, and is nothing to worry about for now. (They gave me a list of warning signs so I'll know when/if I need to bring her in.) But poor Bugsy!! The vet said to give her a tablespoon of Pepto Bismol, and then put her on a 12 hour fast.

Buggles is a rapidly growing puppy and is accustomed to two meals a day with plenty of treats in between, so those twelve hours were very difficult for her! I made sure to feed to other dogs in a separate room so she wouldn't smell it as strongly, but it didn't make a difference - by morning she was rooing and crying for breakfast.

She ate her breakfast as though she hadn't eaten in a year - so fast that I had to take it away and meter it out, because deep chested breeds like dobermans can get a very serious, often fatal condition called bloat if they wolf down their food. All day she's been giving me the hungry eyes, but because of the fast, I can't just pack her full of kibble. I'm going to split up her evening meal and give her some around 4, and then the rest when we get back from our evening walk.


I've been in contact with some of the members of the Grand Rapids Agility Club and we've come up with a great plan of action! In April, Buggles will start an in-depth obedience class at The Well Mannered Dog. These trainers also teach the agility classes, so she'll learn much more than in the typical obedience class. We'll start working on body awareness and focus, and then probably in another 6 months she can start basic agility classes! She can't do jumps, A-Frame, or other very rigorous agility exercises until her growth plates are completely closed, because there's a very big risk of serious injury before that. At this point we have no intentions of doing any sort of competitive agility, but we'll play it by ear and see how she does. If it turns out that we're both great at it, then we'll go further. I will be attending the next local agility trial in May as a helper, so I can see first hand what goes into it. I'm excited about it - I told Bugs but she didn't seem to care either way, lol.


My good news is that in addition to apprenticing with my trainer and volunteering at Mackenzie's Animal Sanctuary, I will be starting my formal dog training education at the end of February - much sooner than expected! The school is budget friendly for most people, but I run a tight ship and had to make 100% certain that I could afford the monthly payments. So starting in a few weeks, I will officially be a student of CATCH Dog Trainer's Academy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Our Baby Girl is Growing Up

Today I noticed a few drops of blood on the floor. I checked thoroughly and sure enough, it's coming from Buggles. She's in heat.

This is good and bad news. Bad, because it may delay her obedience classes. Good, because that means she can be spayed sooner than I anticipated.

Her behavior doesn't seem to be affected but then, it's only the first day. I've never really dealt with a bitch in heat so I'm watching her carefully, reading what I can, and of course, leashing her for potty. The dogs have a large fenced yard to play and potty in, but a determined dog who smells her will have no problem scaling the fence, so no unsupervised potty for awhile.

Bruno has a cancerous lump that he's having removed Friday, so it actually works out perfect. By the time she's out of heat and able to be spayed, I'll definitely have more as far as finances for her surgery. I had to use quite a chunk of the "dog fund" for Bruno's surgery, but it should be replenished in a few weeks. Technically she could be spayed while in heat, but it carries more risks, so I'd rather be vigilant about neighbor dogs for now and wait till her body is through with this.

It explains her grumpiness the past few days -- PMS, anyone? :P

Monday, February 4, 2013


Yesterday we took Bugs to Menards. It was cold and she's a pup, so we kept training very short, but it was positive for both of us!

My husband took the boys inside while Bugs and I worked in the parking lot. It wasn't too busy, but there were people coming and going. She was absolutely great - no barking at strangers, no signs of anxiety. After three or four minutes of just hanging out and treating (and asking her to look at me - I didn't want to make her sit in the ice and snow) I noticed that there was an unused door down at the end of the building.

We walked over there, treating all the way. She approached the door and saw her reflection in the glass, and her hair went up and she growled. I redirected her attention and treated. That was it - she didn't notice herself anymore after that.

The area was covered so we worked on sits and looks. When a car drove by, I treated her - but only if she noticed it and then looked at me. If she put her hair up or growled at it, no treat. If she was interested and calm, lots of treats. By the third car she wasn't nervous anymore.

After a few minutes we stopped the formal stuff and just played. We romped around and jogged and just had fun - with LOTS of treats. I want to show her that being in public is lots and lots of fun. While we were playing, a couple came up towards us. Bugs wasn't too interested at first; she was very focused on me. From about 25 feet away the man asked if we were training. I told him yes, we're working on socialization. He asked if he could pet her, and I said sure. I gave him a handful of treats and he approached her exactly the way I want someone to approach my dogs - confident, calm, straight back (not stooped over.) He reached his hand out and treated her. She was so good, didn't even go dobershark on his hands.

His wife patted her and was equally good, no excitement, just calm energy. Then they told me they had a doberman at home, which explains why they knew how to approach her.

Around that time, my husband came out of the store, so we got back in the car and headed home. He bought her a toy which she squeaked all the way home, and then she came home, went potty, and wrestled with Bruno until bedtime.

It went so well, and I am so proud of my Bugs!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Disastrous Obedience Class

Bugsy had her first obedience class last night. There are two other dogs in her class - a 6 month old German Short-haired Pointer, and an 18 month old Lab/Husky mix.

Bugs was terrified. Initially, she wanted to see the other dogs, but her fear took over and she started to growl at them. I placed her in a sit next to me, and she started to "roo" and cry. She quivered like it was freezing, and alternated her "roos" with heavy panting.

The trainer got out the treats and Bugs was all over it. As soon as she smelled the liver treats she was completely focused on the trainer. We have been working on focus at home and it showed. The trainer uses the command "watch me," but I use "look." She was the only dog who understood the look command. I expect my dogs to be looking to me for guidance and she did it perfectly every time.

Then it was the other dogs' turn to work with the trainer, and Buggles got all quivery and noisy again. Except this time she upped the ante and spent the next twenty minutes trying to get in my lap. (Sorry to break it to you, sweetheart, but you're a 70 pound Doberman, not a 5 pound lap dog!) It got to the point where I had to stand up - my lap was just not big enough for her. I placed her in a sit and she leaned into me, which seemed to make her feel a bit better. (Bugs isn't as velcro as Bruno, and doesn't normally lean the way he does.)

I posted about this situation on Doberman Talk and got some very good suggestions. We're going to ease her into socialization and distraction so that she can feel more secure when we're out and about. That means that instead of jumping into a trip to PetSmart, we start out with walks in a quiet neighborhood, then progress to a busier neighborhood, and then near shopping malls, etc.

Our trainer was very impressed with Buggles and said that she shows enormous potential, if we can get her over this socialization issue. She suggested that we start her in agility soon, but take it really easy until her growth plates are closed (around 18 months.)

I'm excited and honored to help Bugs with these issues and help her reach her full potential. She's an amazing dog!!