Thursday, November 5, 2015

Eclipse, the service dog puppy in training

Episode 1: Eclipse goes to boarding school

Eclipse left the only world he knew four days ago. He was one of a litter of nine black Lab puppies living in a beautiful country setting.

He didn't know what awaited him when he was plunked in a crate in my car. But he knew enough to vocalize about it.

Half an hour later I pulled into my driveway in a suburban neighborhood. Imagine his surprise at how different this new place looked, smelled and sounded. Did he wonder if his litter-mates were here, too? What a surprise when he saw no other baby puppies but three adult dogs. He wanted to engage with them immediately. Another surprise: boy dogs don't provide mother's milk from their under parts.

It's been a busy four days getting Eclipse acclimated to a new environment and starting crate and potty training. He had his first vet visit and was pronounced a happy, healthy puppy.

He's learning how to be on a leash and that no matter how loud he gets ..."I want out of this crate NOWWWW and I'm gonna make noise until that happens!" ... it doesn't work. I tell new puppy parents all the time: ignore puppy vocalizations that are purely attention-getting mechanisms. The noise will stop eventually. Puppies do what works. If being quiet gets the attention they want so badly, quiet will ultimately win out. And just so you'll know, I haven't entirely won that battle yet but will persevere.

Puppy Eclipse will be here for a while - until his forever family gets moved into their new home. They will do most of his training, with guidance from me along the way. That's because Eclipse is in training to be a service dog for a very special little boy.

Learn about Pawwsible, the organization making Eclipse's training possible. You can also follow Pawwsible on Facebook.

You can follow Eclipse's escapades on my YouTube channel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seasons greetings

'Tis the season
It's here: the hustle and bustle that lasts through New Year's day. 

Think for just a moment about how the holidays affect your dog. First, he doesn't have a clue what a holiday is - only that there may be more people in his home than usual and that his house smells and looks really different than any other time of year. Second, his family may leave him - either at home with a stranger (dog sitter) or somewhere with dogs his doesn't know (boarding facility). 

If this is your dog's first holiday with you or if he has anxiety issues, all of this may be confusing or even frightening to him. Here are some tips to help you and your dog through what can be an overwhelming time of year.

The bump on his dog's toe was tiny. The owner was only mildly concerned when his dog kept licking it. She'd had a problem with a split toenail on that same paw earlier in the year, so he decided to err on the side of caution and take her to the vet. That's when everything went sideways. His happy, healthy, four-year-old Lab was diagnosed with amelanotic malignant melanoma (digital). His hope is that with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, his dog will live a long, happy life. 

But cancer is scary and treatment is expensive. And that's by Fetch-a-Cure and organizations like it exist. Their Companions in Crisis fund is all about hope:
The Companions in Crisis fund provides financial assistance to families unable to bear the cost of the life-saving treatments for their pets that have been diagnosed with cancer. This program strives to provide pet owners with a sense of hope when facing a cancer diagnosis.

As you consider your charitable donation options this month, think about donating to Fetch-a-Cure or an organization like it in your community. They fight the good fight, every day.


Wishing you joy and peace this holiday season and throughout the new year.

Dee, Cody & Murphy

That's my yellow Lab, Cody on the left. She just turned 13.
And that's Murphy, my chocolate Lab,
on the right. He's nine

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Heart Murmurs in Puppies

I was with a service dog client and her puppy for their very first vet visit. That little Labrador retriever puppy was 10 weeks old. The physical exam went smoothly. After listening to the puppy's heart, the vet said - almost in passing - that the puppy had a heart murmur. You could have heard a pin drop in that room.

Since that experience, I have learned that juvenile heart murmurs are not unusual in puppies. I asked my vet to describe them for me, so I could share the information with you. Here is what she said:
"Basically a heart murmur is a turbulent or abnormal blood flow.  We use a scale of 1 to 6 to "grade" them based on severity.   Most puppy murmurs we run into fall into the juvenile or "innocent" murmur category.  These are soft (grade 1 or 2) murmurs that 90% of puppies will grow out of by the time they are 6 months old.  The louder, more severe murmurs (3 to 6) are more concerning in puppies as they may indicate something more severe (septal defects - hole in the heart wall, etc.)." 
I hope you never hear the words "heart murmur" associated with your own puppy. If you do, know that the odds are good that it is an issue that will resolve itself, as it did with the puppy I described above.

Learn more about puppies in the 2014 print edition of Puppies chew shoes, don't they? Available now at CreateSpace and soon on Amazon.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2014 "Puppies chew shoes, don't they?", the book

Available soon on Amazon: the 2014 edition of my puppy book. I've updated it, added 30 pages and an index. Check out the excerpt on Goodreads.

Most of the photos in my book are of puppies with whom I’ve worked as a trainer. My thanks to them and their people for making my life extraordinary for having known them. This book is dedicated to all of them. A special “paws up” to Kim & Lily (above left) and Jacob & Shalom (above right). 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Do you need a treat pouch to train your puppy?

If you have pockets, keep treats in them. Otherwise, you really do need a treat pouch. This one's the best. Other pouches fall off belts and waists and scatter treats all over the place, especially when a dog walks up to you and noses the treat pouch. If you're short and your dog is tall, he may be able to walk right up to you, put his muzzle in one of those other pouches, and snarf up all the training treats before you have time to stop him. Got big hands? Many of those other pouches are meant for people with small hands and your big hands will get stuck trying to pull treats out.

This pouch is hinged, staying open for easy access to treats. The opening is big. And best of all, the pouch closes with a touch and stays closed, keeping dog noses out! They come with an adjustable belt, they're tough and they last. I've had mine for years.

Here's one way to use this pouch (or your pocket) and your puppy's dry dog food to train house manners. Each morning measure out a day's worth of dog food. Let's say you feed two cups a day. Feed your puppy 3/4 cup morning and evening. Put the other 1/2 cup in pocket or pouch. Use this food to reward good puppy stuff. Let's say your puppy comes running up to you and instead of jumping, sits ... looking up at you. As it's happening, be reaching for a couple of pieces of his food. That sit won't last long, so say "good sit" as you reach down with one hand to give him an "atta boy" pat while bringing your other open hand under his chin. This is so he can eat his reward right out of your hand without moving. As soon as he's eaten his treat, stand, tell him he's a good boy one more time and walk away. In those few seconds (it happens fast and you have to respond fast), you are teaching your baby puppy what sit means, that sit gets rewarded, and that you're paying attention. Bravo!

The new edition of Puppies chew shoes, don't they? - with major revisions, a new chapter and an index - will be available in print for the holidays from Amazon. If you want to be notified when it is published and when giveaways happen, follow this link. You can also keep up with my giveaways on Goodreads.

Saturday, October 25, 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 during this period of transition and his first board and train experience:
  • 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.
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.