Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Puppy at Soccer Practice

At what age should you start training your puppy? As early as eight weeks. Why? Because what you teach (or don't teach) your puppy will stay with him or her for life. You get to choose. Do you want a well mannered dog or one who is anywhere from tolerable to out of control? What follows is from a client with a five-month-old German Shepherd. We have trained together an hour a week since Paladin was eight weeks old.
Woohoo! I took a chance and took Paladin to soccer practice this evening. He did VERY well! He did not bark at any people. He did bark (the high-pitched, playful kind) at a little female chocolate lab that is about his age. He wanted so badly to play with her! But he walked around the field for an hour or more, stopped to let a few folks pet him (still yanking him down from trying to jump, but he is improving), and ended with sitting still next to my "soccer chair" to finish out the last few minutes of practice. We had a nice conversation with a dad and his 1st grader and Pal let both of them pet him. I am so proud of him. My friend who walks with me at soccer is skittish of dogs and especially German Shepherds, but he did quite nicely and she even praised him at the end for being so good. Yay!!
Do you want your puppy to grow up to be a model citizen? Start him early.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blended Families

In August 2009 I was contacted by a woman concerned about the relationship between her cat and her boyfriend's dog. The couple was preparing to combine households and his dog, Lady (a 12-year-old Chow/Golden mix) caused her concern. Lady had lived her life as the only animal in her home. When she visited what was to become her new home, her manners were lacking. Worse than that, she showed way too much interest in the cat. The cat was terrified of the dog and my client was afraid her cat could be hurt by this big, rambunctious dog. I went to the client's home, met with her, her boyfriend, her cat and his dog. The consultation lasted 90 minutes. Four months later I ran into the client and she shared this picture with me. Don't you just love happy endings?!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why I love being a dog trainer!

I usually don't share client testimonials on my blog but decided to make an exception with this one. This is why I train dogs: happy endings. New beginnings.

Vegas, a handsome chocolate Lab, washed out of a service dog training program when he was a puppy because of a heart condition. You would never know he has a medical condition of any kind. He's a big, goofy, high-energy dog. And right there is why I love the breed. He also has above average intelligence. He learned his lessons quickly. Here's what his Mom has to say:
"Dee is a lifesaver! I seriously mean that. We were going to give our 1.5 year old Lab, Vegas, away because he was obnoxious, completely wild around our children and would not sit still for even one minute. In an act of desperation, I called Dee (who had been referred by a friend) to see if she could help. One week after Dee came I could see a lot of positive changes in his behavior. It was amazing! After four weeks with Dee (our training just ended) Vegas is now calm in the house, listens to commands and will even lay on the floor while I am working on the computer. Our lives are so much happier and less stressful since Vegas completed his training. It was truly a wonderful experience and Dee is fantastic to work with. I enjoyed every minute of our training sessions!" SB
If you or someone you know is considering getting rid of a dog, please enlist the help of a trainer. The great majority of behavior issues a dog may be exhibiting can be addressed with training and/or behavior modification. The age of the dog is not important. You can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obese Dogs

I got a call two days ago from our local Labrador Retriever rescue group. They had in their possession a 4-year-old chocolate female described as sweet, smart and overweight. We have four Labs at our house, so if I was to consider fostering this dog, I had to check with my housemate before adding a fifth. She didn't hesitate for a moment. "When can you pick her up?" was her response. So began a new journey in canine foster care.

Her new name is Nani (Hawaiian for beautiful). She is dark chocolate with amber eyes. She has a quiet demeanor, loves people and is blending quickly into the pack. She weighs 122 pounds. My guess is her ideal weight is 75-80 pounds, which makes her morbidly obese. Her brother, Murphy, is two inches taller than her at the shoulder. He weighs a very fit 90 pounds. Her girth (chest measurement just behind the front legs) is 42". Murphy's girth is 33". We have a long road ahead of us to get this girl healthy.

Are you killing your dog with food?
So why would anyone allow a dog to become as fat as Nani? Obesity is not invisible. It's pretty obvious by looking at her that she's really, really overweight. The why is unfathomable to me. So let's address the reasons to keep Fido fit. Fat dogs are more at risk during surgery and are more prone to injury than fit dogs. Extra weight puts stress on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and joints. Arthritis and respiratory problems can be made worse by excessive weight. Pet parents need to understand that food is not a substitute for attention. A lazy owner - one who does not get his dog out daily for play, a leash walk, and interaction with the larger world - not only contributes to his dog's obesity but may well shorten his dog's life. It's neglect, plain and simple.

If your dog is overweight like Nani, where do you begin to get the excess weight off? Start with a visit to the vet for a general health assessment. While you're there, ask if you should change your dog's diet. Certainly cut down on your dog's food intake. Make sure the food you feed is healthy and that Fido gets no junk food. Some vegetables and fruits are great snacks for dogs. Try carrots, green beans, bits of apple and banana. Next, start slowly with a regimen of moderate activity. Ask your vet's advice about Fido's new exercise program. You want to make sure that it will not put stress on his heart or lungs or cause muscle strain. In general terms, a daily walk around the block is a great place to start. Keep a close eye on your dog to make sure he is not having trouble breathing, especially in hot weather. Slowly increase the length and pace of the walk. Enroll your canine friend in an obedience class. It's a great way to expand his world and gently increase his level of activity.

Dogs should have a waist. Between the ribcage and tail there should be an indent. Remember that Fido did not get fat overnight. Neither will he get fit overnight.

 Nani - approximately 40 lbs. overweight.

Murphy's waist.
He's at an angle, so you can only see the dent on his left side.