Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Foster Dog Jake

 Photo: *******TRANSPORT HELP NEEDED PLEASE************

From: Oroville, CA
To: Pleasant Hill, CA
When: Saturday, 12.14, shelter hours 11a-430p
Where: Northwest SPCA
Who:  *Handsome Jake*
Email us at:

Sweetheart Jake needs a ride from the SPCA in Oroville, CA this Saturday to go to his foster home in Pleasant Hill, CA. If you're available to do the entire trip or a portion, please 

email us at,

(Oroville, CA is within the northern Sacramento Valley)
Jake thanks you in advance and Happy Pawlidays!

Saturday we picked up our new GSP foster dog named Jake. He is the sweetest dog who loves anyone no matter what. It is so much fun watching him develop and thrive in our home. His training is a great real world example of what this blog is about.
When he first arrived, we let him get to know the yard, and took him for a short walk around the block. I had someone else walk one of our labs in front of Jake, so that Jake could get used to him from afar. After he was nonreactive to the sight of our lab, I brought Jake closer until he was able to sniff and greet our lab for a few seconds. Once they were bored with each other, we brought them into our yard once again and let them run and sniff together. We repeated this with our second lab.
Once the introductions were over, we let Jake into our house on leash, watching him very closely. He had recently been neutered so he had the urge to pee on everything, even our couch. After a few hours we were able to trust him to wander around parts of the house without following him.
He sleeps in a kennel so that he doesn't pee in the house during the night, and is not allowed to go outside unsupervised.
Jake has a problem with sitting when told. To help this, I take a hand full high value treats (cooked chicken) and let him know I have them. I tell him to sit in a happy voice and when he does I praise him very enthusiastically and give him his chicken. Soon I will not show him that I have the chicken, it is important not to bribe your dog in order to get him to do what he's told.
Jake was also afraid of the bathroom and hardwood floors. This was easily fixed by feeding him his meals in places he is unsure of.
Soon I will take him out on a long leash and practice recall and more commands. Until then happy training!

Photo: A very BIG thank you to brand new foster home Christina and Ben for fostering Jake. Jake was just pulled from the shelter yesterday and is already getting in the Christmas spirit! More to come soon on this cutie pie!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Same gender, same household.


Is it better to have two dogs of the same gender, or different gender? This is a question I have been asked a few times recently, and a topic that I hear many talk about. I feel like people offer advice to other people that its way better to get two different gendered dogs, or write off certain behaviors because its only to be expected when you have two dogs of the same gender. When really they are basing their "facts" on past experiences or on something they once heard.
So what do I think on this topic? I think that unless you have two un-neutered males that are at competition with one another for whatever reason, it really truly does not matter whether you have two male dogs, two female dogs or a male and a female. It all depends on that dogs personality. I've had five male dogs live in the same household together for weeks, and all of them got along just fine. I've had female and male dogs that get along, male and female dogs that don't get along. Female and female that don't get get the point. If your dog has some prejudice against a certain gender dog, not only do you have a sexist dog on your hands, but you also have a dog that is, like every other dog, truly unique with a one of a kind personality and quirks. Your two female dogs that don't get along doesn't make every other female pair not get along. 

I came across this little section of a canine behavior series by Kathy Diamond Davis that I wanted to bring up to prove that some people really think this way;

"When you lose one of the dogs of the same sex, and are looking to get another dog to live with the remaining dog, I strongly recommend you get a dog of the opposite sex. Dogs of opposite sex get along so much more smoothly and safely than same-sex dogs. However--still don't give them food, treats, or edible toys when they are together. That is never safe, no matter what the combination of dogs. It may go along for awhile and seem to be okay, but it's a time bomb."

Now if you share this opinion or one similar, that's perfectly okay. I don't believe there is ever a right or wrong for these kinds of things. I just think that it depends on the dogs. Lots of people generalize their experiences or opinions to every single dog out there, or 'most' dogs like the above paragraph. It can be very misleading when soemeone says 'same sex dogs don't get along' when really they mean 'my aunts two males don't get along, and my two females don't get along, so I've come to the conclusion that same sex dogs usually don't get along.'

If everyone can keep an open mind that all of these things truly depends on the dogs themselves and not their gender, then they will realize that these situations cannot be applied to dogs as a whole.

My point: every dog is an individual and gender, or even breed, does not matter in the big picture.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Escape Artists


To me, this is a very important subject to talk about because one of my dogs recently got hit and killed because he managed to escape from our yard. But I feel that no matter how much someone writes on this topic, they cannot cover all of the ways a dog can possibly escape without suggesting to have them locked in a concrete cellar. Usually though, only a few precautions will prevent your dog from escaping.

First, find out why your dog is trying to escape. Separation anxiety, sexually motivated roaming, boredom and fear are a few reasons. If you can find a reason for your dogs escaping habits, try to find a solution, such as caging, neutering or providing toys for entertaining. Sometimes there is no clear reason as to why your dog is escaping, or he may escape once if the opportunity arises or he becomes scared, as in my dogs case. It is so so important to prevent this before it happens.


Next step is to make your yard as escape proof as possible. Make fences at least six feet tall, and if your dog is a jumper or climber, make the fences curve inward at an angle.
Make sure the fences touches the ground so that there is no room for your dog to squeeze under. Don't be fooled with chicken wire fences, ours was touching the ground with heavy rocks holding it there, and somehow our German Short-haired Pointer  pushed the rocks aside and squeezed under a space only a few inches high.
Make sure all gates can be locked from the outside so your dog cant nudge the latch and open it. This also makes it easier to check if your gait is securely latched.
Usually if your dog isn't actively trying to escape, this should be enough to prevent him from doing so. I'm sure I haven't written about half of the ways you could and should prevent your dog from escaping, as everyone's situation and yard is different, but these are a few pointers that should get you thinking; hmm... will he be able to fit through there?

This was all said and done for our yard, it was virtually dog proof and we left for the day thinking our dogs didn't have a chance at escaping. But that day the roofer was coming, it was the only thing different about that day, the only thing that could have scared our dog enough to escape. Our dog did just that and was killed hours later.
If you know that something is going to be different about that day, like fireworks, a thunderstorm, a loud party, a stranger coming over to your house, make sure your dog is caged or put in a place where he absolutely cannot escape. Even if your dog is totally fine with strangers otherwise, he may find someone climbing on his roof is worth jumping the fence for.

It's better to be safe than sorry, trust me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jumping on People

 Jumping up to great people when a dog is excited or greeting you is natural. But it is also a behavior that most people don't approve of. This is one of those behaviors that takes cooperation from everyone, because if your dog is rewarded for jumping on just one person in the family, it will be near impossible to teach him not to jump on everyone else. Although it may take time to correct, this is a simple behavior to rid of.

If your dog jumps when you come home, then act as if coming home is the most boring time of day. Don't pet your dog, look at him or talk to him. In other words, totally ignore your dog, because if he gets very excited when you come home, it is probably because you are also very excited. Once your dog settles down you can pet him all you want, this his rewarding him for being calm. If at any point he jumps on you, simply turn your back to him and wait until he gets down, don't scold him or touch him. This teaches him that jumping on you does not give him any attention, positive or negative.

Another method that you can use separately, or combined with the previous, is to make your dog sit when you get home. You can also make him shake or do a trick to keep his mind engaged on listening to you, then pet him once he is calmly sitting. (Keep in mind that some dogs get even more worked up if you have them do a trick for you, do what works for you and your dog.)

When guest come over, tell them to specifically ignore your dogs, no petting, talking to or looking at Fido untill he is calm. Also tell them to turn their backs to your dog if he does jump.

Training becomes much more complicated when you add a bunch of strangers to the mix, like dog parks or gatherings. If your dog jumps on complete strangers where ever you are, I would suggest keeping him on a tight leash and preventing him from jumping. It is also important to reward him for not jumping. Take him to stores or parks and have him sit while people pet him, giving him plenty of treats to keep his attention on you.

This behavior can take awhile to train out of your dog, but its worth it in the end. Consistency is extremely important, don't let your dog jump on uncle Joe, but not on you. No jumping means no jumping on anyone, ever. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bath Time!

Don't you just love bath time? Well I bet your dog doesn't. There are the special few who get excited over taking a bath and getting clean, but most owners consider themselves lucky to get a dog who just tolerates it. 
Then there are the dogs that will do absolutely everything in their power to prevent getting in the bathtub. Some run away, some magically get twenty pounds heavier as you try to lift them into the tub, some wait to ambush you when they are wet and soapy. For a lot of owners and dogs, bath time is a dreaded event. But it doesn't have to be so. Just by taking a few simple steps, you could be looking forward to having a clean dog once again.
First, eliminate anything that could be making your dog uncomfortable in the bath. For example, make sure the water is the right temperature, a little warmer than room temperature, you can check the temp by running the water over the inside of your wrist, it should be comfortable to touch.
One easy solution to the difficult problem of getting your dog in the bath is to put a rug or towel on the floor of the bath. Think of the bath from your dogs point of view, they can only see the white edge, the white sides, and no apparent bottom. They would be jumping into a seemingly bottomless, slippery object that gets them wet and makes them smell like strong human shampoos. A rug makes the bottom obvious and less scary, and also prevents them from slipping.
If your dog still doesn't want to get into the tub, start to feed him his breakfast and dinner in the bathroom, getting closer and closer to the tub with each meal. Place some treats on the edge of the tub, and after your dog is comfortable around the tub, invite him in with a treat and his dinner. It took a month of feeding our previous dog in the tub before he was fully comfortable with jumping in and staying there. When your dog is at this point, take the rug out, or at least part of the way out, until your dog doesn't need it anymore. Then turn on the water, just a little, and aim it away from your dog. It is natural for your dog to react negatively to this, if he does, turn the water off and wait untill he calms down, then hold out a yummy treat, maybe smear a little peanut butter on the side of the tub, and turn the water on very slowly.
Continue this until you are able to spray your dogs paws without him freaking, then start to spray a bit of his back, then his whole body, and finally give him a bath while he sits there calmly waiting for his dinner.
If at any time your dog seems distressed, back step and take it a bit slower, all the while providing yummy treats and praising your dog.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Introducing a new dog

When thinking about bringing a new dog into your home, whether it be for good or for fostering, you have to keep in mind how the new dog will react, and how any dogs living in your home already will react. It helps if you know a little bit about the dog you are bringing home, like if he is destructive, or friendly with dogs, pets and people. But precautions should still be made whenever you are introducing a strange dog into your house.

If you have other dogs... 

When introducing a new dog to your dog/s, it is advised to do so in a neutral setting. This means that you should go somewhere your dogs don't see as 'theirs', like a park, to have the meet and great. However, it really depends on your dogs personality and how they do with other dogs. I have introduced at least a dozen dogs to our dogs in our backyard. Tension can be a little high with some dominant dogs we have fostered, but I know that my dogs will do all they can to prevent a fight, and usually within minutes they are all playing. Know your dog. If your dog is aggressive or dominant towards other dogs, and particularly if your dog is very protective of you or its territory, it would be wise to have them meet somewhere other than your house.
In the past I have immediately gone for a walk with my dogs and the foster dog without them meeting. after a few blocks the dogs totally forget about each other and act as if they've known one another for months Another time I have had one person walk the foster dog in front of me and one of my dogs, this foster dog was particularly fearful of other dogs, and walking ahead of me and my dog seemed to help her gain her confidence. Try what you think will work, because you know whats best for your dog.

With a new puppy... 

Puppy-proofing your house is a vital step you should take before bringing a new puppy into your house-hold. Make sure anything you don't want chewed up or peed on is picked up and put away. Make sure anything dangerous, like cords or small objects that can be chocked on are out of puppy reach. Buy the necessities, like a kennel, food, toys, beds and the like. Be prepared for messes and read up on training.
Whew, now that that is all out of the way you can finally bring your puppy home. Make sure you have a safe, warm and quiet place for your puppy to relax if he gets too overwhelmed. The first day can be very stressful, and it may take up to two weeks for your puppy to adjust to it's new home.
Sometimes it helps to keep your puppy on a leash and next to you at home so that you can keep an eye on him at all times, and take him potty at least once every hour. Puppies usually wont cause fights with other dogs, depending on how old he/she is, so introduction is fairly straight forward, just make sure your dogs don't harass or scare the puppy.
Above all, don't lose patience or get frustrated, even if you are kept up all night for a few days, in the end it is worth it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013



With all the stimulation of the outside world, walks are often the hardest to 'perfect' with your dog. Lots of the time it seems like your dog is walking you, but with a few little tricks, some yummy treats, and lots of patience, walking your dog can become more enjoyable and a lot easier.
First, you need to have a goal in mind. Do you want your dog to loose leash walk? Stay by your side in a strict heal? Be able to walk off leash? Or just not pull your arm off every time you step outside?
Then you need to find a training technique that works with you, and stick with it till the end. I am going to write about loose leash walking since it is one of the most popular ways to walk your dog.

Loose leash walking


Loose leash walking is when, as the name implies, the leash is loose at all times. The dog can be ahead or behind, as long as they are not pulling. Loose leash walking can be achieved in many ways, such as: clicker and treats, a spoon with peanut butter on it, a prong collar, switch backs, attention getters and so much more. Creativity is important, try a few techniques out and do what works for you, you may even combine a few techniques or make up your own. I'll explain a few that I have used, and how they have worked for me.

With the clicker and treats, you have to be more interesting than all the smells and sights going on around you. As always, start off in a low distraction environment like your back yard. Walk with your dog a few steps, luring him to stay by your side with a treat. Click and treat every few steps. After a few sessions of this, stop luring and hold the treat out of reach and increase the time in between rewards every session. After a few sessions of this. keep the treat out of sight and wait to reward until your dog looks at you.
 If at any time your gets ahead of you you can do one of many things; make an attention getting noise, stop in your tracks and wait, or turn in the opposite direction. Whichever you choose, click and treat as soon as your dog looks at you.
Over time slowly increase the distractions around you, and the time between rewards.

The switch back is when you turn around and go in the opposite direction you were going in before every time your dog rushes ahead of you or pulls. This works with some dogs, but not with others. It basically teaches your dog that pulling will get him the opposite of what he wants, which is to go forward. Sometimes it may feel like you are making more progress backward than you are forward, but with persistence and maybe a few other techniques used in assistance, this technique can work.

One other technique that I will mention is the attention getter. This is simply doing something, anything, to gain your dogs attention when they rush ahead, and rewarding them when they focus on you. You can use noises, treats, toys, or anything else you can think of. Just make sure you are rewarding your dog for rushing ahead of you, only reward him when he is focusing on you and doing what you want him to be doing.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

How to cope with the loss of a pet

This may not be all that relevant to dog training, but I thought now was a good time to write about this, as I have now lost two of my beloved dogs in the last four days.

Whether it was from old age, sickness, an accident or some other reason, its never easy coping with a pets death. I got the dreadful news a few days ago, my dog, the one I have written about many times on this blog, had escaped from our yard and was hit and killed on the highway. Then today, my 16 year old dog from my childhood, was put down from old age. These past few days have been rough and slow, but I have learned a thing or two along the way.

First thing I learned was that not everyone understands that losing a pet can be just as hard as losing a human family member. Some people have never had a bond with their pets, maybe have never even had pets before, and can't empathize with how you and I may be feeling. It's okay to mourn over a dog like you would a human. Studies have shown that petting a dog, especially in women, releases the same endorphins as holding your own child. That's powerful.

One of the most important things not to do after a death is blame yourself, or others for that matter. Most of the time it was nobodies fault, because nobody intentionally killed your pet (and if they did then I couldn't help but blame them.) Blame gets you nowhere, and it definitely doesn't bring your dog back. Anger, too, is usually a waste of energy. I understand that sometimes these feelings are natural and part of the morning process, but too much will hurt more than help.

Grief comes in waves, some are small, and some knock you off your feet, but with time things start getting easier. Sometimes I feel guilty that I don't feel as sad as I think I should be feeling over the loss of a pet, but then I remind myself that there is nothing to be guilty about. You aren't forgetting your pet by not feeling sad, or some other feeling. You aren't replacing your pet by getting another pet to help comfort you. You didn't let your pet down by not making a bulletproof, tank-proof fence in the first place. Excepting these things brings a peace of mind that you can't get without.

The most important thing I learned is to enjoy the time you have with the pets, and people you care about while you can, because you never know when they might be taken away from you.
Think about the happy memories when a pet passes away, because those memories help to comfort with the knowledge that that dog was a very lucky dog to have you as its loving owner. accept that they are gone, and that you'll never forget them, and then you'll find peace.

Peanut and Annie
Until we meet again at the Rainbow-Bridge.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Importance of Training

The importance of training your dog

Structure and rules are very important to a dog, they thrive on it. A dog with a strong leader and solid rules is a happy, well balanced dog who knows his place. If a dog is not given limitations to follow, he will make them himself. A dog without a leader will become leader, and as many people know first hand, a family who is lead by its dog is not a happy family, nor is the dog happy either.  When a dog does not have a clear leader to follow, he will take that position himself, this puts a lot of stress on any dog, no matter how dominant it may be. I don't care what people say, but every dog naturally wants to be a follower. It is the healthiest, easiest way to go for them.

If you establish a balanced relationship with your dog, where you are the calm and confident leader, you can then establish communication, and through communication you establish rules and structure.

One of the best ways to help you establish leadership is the NILIF program, which stands for nothing in life is free. It means your dog doesn't get anything he wants unless he does something first. For example, your dog has to sit before he gets affection, or lay down and stay before he eats. This lets your dog know that in order to get something he wants, he has to listen to you and follow your lead, then he will get rewarded.

another important aspect to a healthy, balanced dog is keeping your dogs mind and body active. A dog with pent up energy will be 100 times harder to train than a tired dog. I would highly suggest taking your dog for a long run before trying to teach him anything.
 When a dog doesn't have an outlet for it's energy, it will be a very hard dog to handle. A good example of this are working, hunting, and herding dogs who are unable to do the jobs they were bred for. They become frustrated and may start to take out that frustration in inappropriate ways, like herding people or fast moving things, chasing animals and digging, and many other (often) bread specific problems. These dogs need outlets and a job. Something as simple as making your dog fetch the newspaper every morning, or carry something on walks everyday, can help with these problems.
Overall, structure and rules are the basis for a mentally stable dog who is well behaved and happy.