Friday, September 26, 2014

Is your dog prone to ear infections?

Of the four Labs in my house, Murphy is the only one who has, over the years, had recurring ear infections. So ...

Last spring it was obvious it was happening again. He was scratching his ears and shaking his head a lot, in obvious discomfort. When I took a peek inside, his ears were more red than pink and he had a good amount of waxy buildup. A quick sniff confirmed his yeasty ears were back.

Murphy runs like the wind from ear washes and ear drops. The whole process has always stressed him out. Between that and having grown weary of the amount of money I spend on vet visits, I went looking for an alternative treatment. I've learned to appreciate essential oils, so that's where I started. And here's what I found.

Purification from Young Living. I combine four or five drops of Purification with olive oil in a small glass jar. Here's more on the many uses of Purification. Murphy was kind enough to allow me to demonstrate:

That first time, I cleaned Murphy's ears several days in a row to make certain I got them good and clean. Now, I clean his ears as needed. In six months, he has not needed a vet visit, ear wash or ear drops. Woohoo!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Training a puppy

Meet Astro. He's a three-month-old Australian Shepherd. He left the breeder - and the only family he's ever known - three days ago. In about a week, he will go to his forever home, where he will be trained by his new owner to be her service dog. But this week, he's learning how very different life is when you move from a farm to the suburbs, leaving your Mom, the other dogs, and your old life behind. So here's what we're working on:

  • Crate training. The only problem so far is that Astro has a voice and is not afraid to use it. He wants to be with people every waking hour and that's not realistic. He howls/whines/barks if I'm not in the same room with him. And he's LOUD! We're working on extinguishing that behavior. Other than that, he's perfectly happy being crated. I move the crate around my house during the day. A puppy shouldn't care where the crate is ... only that it's his safe place. At night I move the crate to my bedroom, where he sleeps contentedly all night.
  • Potty training. Astro is great about relieving himself outside on a 4-foot leash without dawdling. As soon as he is finished peeing or pooping, I tell him he's a good boy and give him a treat. He hasn't used my house as a bathroom yet. Why? Because I anticipate his needs and make certain he has regular opportunities throughout the day to potty outdoors.
  • Sit. Astro came to my house knowing how to sit. Now he's learning that sitting makes praise, food, and play happen. Sit taught as a default behavior to a puppy can mean that you will have a dog who never jumps on people or barges headlong through doors, tripping up anyone in the way. Sit also teaches a young dog patience and self-control. 
  • Leash training. Unless I'm playing with Astro, he is on leash or in his crate. Why? Because a puppy needs boundaries. From day 1 he's been learning that my house is not a playground and what rooms he's allowed in. He's learning how to walk on leash with a person attached and four Labrador retrievers to maneuver around. His leash training extends to the larger world, as well. He hasn't had all of his vaccinations yet, so I don't take him anywhere dogs gather (like the pet store). But I'll take him to places like Lowes or Home Depot, the local firehouse (firemen invariably like dogs), BassPro and Dick's Sporting Goods. In my town, these kinds of places are dog friendly but never have a lot of dogs in them.
This morning, I added a short down/stay to Astro's repertoire, as you can see in this video. That's my 9-year-old Lab, Murphy, overseeing the process.

In the photo below, you see Astro's introduction to eating his dog food out of a Kong. I measure his food for the whole day each morning. He gets a Kong full of dry food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the remainder used as training treats throughout the day (I always have a pocket full of his food, in case he does something brilliant that I want to reward).

In a few days, Astro's board and train with me will be over. Check back to follow his progress as he goes to his new home, his new family, and a big life as a service dog in training.

Questions about service dogs? Get in touch.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Are you considering training your own service dog?

In my new book, A guide to choosing and training your own service dog, I address a lot of the questions you are likely trying to find answers to.  

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 2.
"There was a man whose family wanted him to have a service dog. They thought if he got a puppy to train himself, it would fill a void in his life. He reluctantly agreed. He signed two contracts – one buying the puppy and one with a service dog trainer to help guide him through the training process. A few months after he got his puppy, he gave her back to the breeder and defaulted on the training contract. Why did this happen?
"Neither the breeder nor the trainer properly vetted this gentleman. If they had, they would never have placed a puppy with him. He lived alone in an apartment. The family members who wanted him to have the puppy in the first place were not available to help him with the logistics of working long hours while raising and training a puppy. With no one to help him, he found himself more and more frustrated. He lived in a place where the summers are long and extremely hot. His puppy arrived in the middle of one of those summers. The only time he could be outside with his puppy – around the apartment complex where he lived – was very early in the morning and near or after sunset. By the time he got home after a long day at work, he was tired. He wanted peace and quiet but what he got was an enthusiastic puppy who had been home alone all day and needed to play. 
"This man’s income was not sufficient to hire a dog walker or send his puppy to doggy day care. Fearful of losing his job, he was unwilling to take his dog to work. Eventually his hours were cut and his borderline income decreased even more. The stress in his life increased and so, although he loved the puppy, he had to send her back. 
"A puppy who does not get the right amount of exercise, human contact, consistent long-term training, and intellectual stimulation will not thrive. Think long and hard before you make the decision to train your own service dog. It is a huge commitment. And it can be heartbreaking if it doesn’t work out."
In A guide to choosing and training your own service dog, I address the cost of service dogs, how to go about choosing the right dog to train, purebreds vs. rescue dogs, and puppies vs. adult dogs. And I answer questions like "Do I have get rid of my family dogs before I get a service dog?". Learn about the rights leashes, collars and vests, as well as how to keep your working dog healthy and safe. There are resources and forms and checklists galore ... all meant to help you make a good decision about a service dog.

I invite you to take a peek into the wild, wild west that is the world of service dogs.

Available on Amazon.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thank you to the canine heroes of 911

The search and rescue dogs of 911
Three years ago, on the tenth anniversary of 911, a photographer went about finding some of the search and rescue dogs who worked so hard at rescue and recovery after that terrible day. See some of those beautiful gray-muzzled dogs here

On this, the 13th anniversary of 911, take a moment to reflect on how our world has changed. And thank a first responder.