When I adopted Jasper at nine months old, I knew he was going to be busy. I knew that he was going to require lots of training and time and energy. And, I gave it to him.
We went to the dog park every day – 2 hours a day on average. We attended training at our local shelter. We played ball for hours in the yard. He got bully sticks in the evening to keep him busy.
When he turned three, I introduced new tricks and searching for treats in the yard. I bought games that he had to use his brain to solve (sometimes those actually did wear him out!).
I started coming up with puzzles of my own. I placed a treat in a Kong and placed it inside a sock and put that inside a box. He solved that one too.
I took him to nose work class this summer and he excelled. He loved it.
More recently I have been hiding treats in strategic locations in the yard – under things, in things, around plants, on leaves, in tree bark. He finds them all. He loves the game so much that he begs me to do it again. Sometimes he won’t come inside because he wants to keep looking for them. He beats all the other dogs to most of the treats too.
I’m not saying I’m ready for him to slow down like an old dog. Not yet. Not ever really. But sometimes I wish for a day of relaxation. A day where he just sneaks off to his dog bed and sleeps for an hour or two.
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This weekend is supposed to be our summer reprise; 80’s every day and lots of sun. As you can imagine, I can hardly wait. I am not anywhere near ready for the cold and snow that will soon be coming our way.
Summer seemed to pass us by this year. If it made a stop here in Minnesota, it was a brief one, and only long enough to be leave a lingering scent of its perfume in the air. It says something when your tomatoes start turning red just a week before October. Something was definitely off this year.
I plan to savor these last few days of summer by taking the dogs to the dog beach along the Mississippi River. Let them splash and play and chase and get their snouts wet. That is what summer is all about,
I suspect that our upcoming trip to the beach had something to do with my video selection this week. The dog in this video has a lot of Jasper in him. If he had the chance, I think Jasper would chase a motorized truck too. Instead, he will be chasing waves.
And, I think that’s good enough.
May you all have a lovely weekend.
Over the past week, I have inadvertently ended up in discussions with two different co-workers about puppy mill dogs. Each shared their experiences with adopting a puppy mill dog themselves. They shared what they had done/not done to work with their dogs and how the dog was doing now. The outcomes were very different and I suspect that this was directly related to their experiece with dogs and with the support structure they had around them.
One co-worker was an experienced dog owner who had trained dogs previously and had a lot of dog training knowledge, and access to a lot of other experienced dog people. The other did not seem to have a lot of experience or an extensive support network and struggled with helping her puppy mill dog along, eventually euthanizing him because of his biting behavior.
Both examples were great reminders to me about how important it is that those of us who have experience share our stories with others. Not only share our stories, but also work to build a community where puppy mill owners can share their struggles and victories, and learn how to manage their dogs in day-to-day life. From personal experience, I can tell you that a support network can really help when working with a puppy mill dog. It also makes the process a little less overwhelming.
Dr Frank McMillan of Best Friends Animal Society recently collected data from the foster parents and owners of puppy mill dogs to better understand what works or doesn’t work (Understanding and Caring for Rescued Puppy Mill Dogs).
One of his findings was how much owners can be impacted in the process. Being the owner of a puppy mill dog, when there are no other dogs in the home, can be frustrating, discouraging, and even disappointing.
In many cases, there is no connection between you and the dog (this is especially true in the early days). The normal behaviors and interactions one expects when getting a dog is not there. There is no wagging tail or happy face or cuddling on the couch. It takes time to build a relationship with a puppy mill dog, and it is even harder when they don’t have another dog to look to for guidance on how to “be” a dog. I can personally attest to this. When I lost my dog, Aspen, I felt very much alone, even though Daisy was there with me.
Even the most wonderful adoptive dog parent will get down and depressed under such circumstances. Having a community to go to during those tough times is necessary. Building a community of people who can support and encourage one another and offer ideas about what worked or didn’t work is so vital. One community worth checking out is the Fearful Dogs group on Facebook. It is a great resource for dog owners with fearful dogs. There is guidance on how to desensitize and counter condition your fearful dog, progress updates on dogs who have struggled, encouragement and advice. It is a support structure that I am sure many a puppy mill dog owner has taken advantage of, but if you have not, please do so. You will find it very valuable.
Even as we work to build that community, we know now (based on Dr. McMillan’s study) that puppy mill dogs are nor are they viewed as a burden by those who adopt them.
When asked if they would adopt another puppy mill dog (after their experience with their current puppy mill dog), adopters overwhelmingly responded Yes (95%!).
When it came to recommending the adoption of a puppy mill dog to others, 53% said Yes, 45% said Maybe and less than 5% said No. (I think this makes sense. Not everyone is suited for a puppy mill dog. Maybe they do not have the experience, time or energy to work with one or they just aren’t looking for a challenging dog.)
Even more encouraging however is how puppy mill dog adopters responded to the question around satisfaction levels. When asked their level of satisfaction for having adopted a puppy mill dog, respondents overwhelmingly said they were extremely satisfied. In fact, 91% said so (7% answered moderately satisfied, 1% slightly satisfied and 1%not satisfied). This is wonderful news. It means that even without a suypport network, puppy mill dogs and their owners are managing to have a connection that is valuable and satisfying.
I wonder how much more this would be the case if they had a support network?
Something to think about for the future. :)
The week before last I wrote about how videotaping yourself with your dog, especially during training sessions, can help you to see things you might not have noticed in the moment. Looking at pictures I had taken while working with Maggie made me realize how pressure sensitive she is and how I needed to change my approach with her.
It’s not just the every day dog owner who can be helped by videotaping themselves with their dog, dog trainers do it too. Sometimes they do it to improve their technique or sometimes they do it to observe a dog’s behavior more closely. For many, it is also a way to educate dog owners on how to train their dog, as I believe the video below was meant to do.
While I very much disagree with the trainer’s assessment of the dog she is using in the video, I also had the luxury of watching their interactions (on video) several times. Slowing down a video and watching it over and over again can help you to see so many things. I suspect the trainer in this video was so focused on making a specific training point that she missed all the behaviors telling her otherwise. Either that, or she did not recognize the behaviors at all.
So today, you be the trainer. Take a look at the dog’s body language and describe what you see. Is the dog distracted or is something else going on here?
You can see my observations and analysis below, but try to do a little analysis yourself. What do you SEE? What is the dog doing or not doing? What behaviors is she displaying? Are the ears up, back, or forward? Is her body leaning? If so, in which direction? What else do you see?
My observations of Bubbles, the Border Collie:
- At the beginning of the video, Bubbles sniffs the ground several times and pulls at the end of a leash.
- Bubbles does not look at the trainer, but looks in the direction of the camera and towards the group (perhaps her owner is there?).
- Ears are back and she appears to be panting. (This is about the time the trainer mentions how Border Collies can become very distracted by their environment.)
- 23 seconds into the video, Bubbles’ ears go up and she looks to the left (her left). Her body turns in that direction immediately afterwards. Her ears go back down.
- Bubbles continues to turn left as she goes behind the trainer sniffing and looking distracted. Her tail is down and very close to her body (almost between her legs.)
- When the trainer mentions her name, Bubbles ignores it and keeps sniffing at the ground, moving further left and to the trainer’s right. Her ears are closer to the back of her head.
- Bubbles continues to sniff the ground and moves behind the trainer again and to her right. Her head lifts up. Her ears are pricked and she is looking straight ahead and pulling in that direction. Her tail is down.
- She pulls as far away as she can from the trainer and continues to look off in the distance. Her ears are up. Her body is leaning forward and away from the trainer.
- The trainer shortens the leash and pulls Bubbles around and back to her and uses a treat as a lure. Bubbles’ moves towards the trainer with her ears down. She lip licks and yawns, sniffs the food, and then turns away. Her head is down and her body is leaning away from the trainer.
- At 55 seconds, Bubbles’ body goes down lower to the ground. She is leaning away from the trainer and looking away
- The trainer pulls Bubbles closer. Bubbles head is lower. She looks up and lip licks and turns her head away. Her ears are back and low on her head.
- The trainer crouches down next to Bubbles and reaches her had out to her with the treat. Bubbles does another lip lick and turns away. Her tail is low and wags slightly for a moment.
- At 59 seconds, her body is leaning away from the trainer’s. She rejects the treat in the trainer’s hand.
- The trainer pauses to speak. Bubbles tries to pull away again. She lip licks and glances toward the trainer.
- Bubbles lip licks several more times and glances at the trainer before looking away again.
- She now pulls even further away from the trainer so that her head is the furthest away from her and her butt is closes to the trainer.
- The trainer calls her name and her ears immediately go down and back on her head. It looks like she lip licks before her head and upper body goes down. She moves her body closer and her tail wags low, but she keeps her head as far as she can from the trainer.
- Bubbles moves her body so that she is completely facing away from the trainer. At 1:18 she is leaning away from the trainer and has her back to her. She gives several more lip licks.
- When the trainer calls her name and pull her back towards her again, Bubbles pulls again and then turns her body slightly horizontal to the trainer’s body when the leash is pulled toward the trainer. She sits and looks up.
- She is offered the treat again, but turns away from it. I could be wrong, but her busy seems hunched forward.
- Bubbles turns her head further away and looks behind her, lip licks, and then starts to stand up.
- She pulls away (lip licks), but sits back down because she has no leash length to pull away. She again has her back to the trainer.
- More lip licks.
- Bubbles continues to look away and to the side with her back to the trainer.
- She pulls away as hard as she can and tries to create distance.
- The trainer tries to engage Bubbles “one more time” and pulls her (using the leash) towards her. Bubbles faces towards the camera. The trainer reaches down with the treat in her hand and puts it in front of Bubbles’ nose. Bubbles glances quickly at her hand and turns away. She lip licks and yawns.
- The trainer then knees her in the back-end, forcing her to sit. Her body is leaning away from the trainer.
She glances up at the trainer. Her ears are back. She lip licks again. The trainer reaches her hand out with the treat again. Lip lick again. Bubbles opens her mouth when the trainer inserts the treat in her lip. You can to longer see her ears.
- She takes the treat, turns her head away and lip licks.
- Lip lick again.
- Bubbles starts to stand up again, looking away. She stands with her back to the trainer. Her ears are back and low on her head. Her tail is now between her legs.
- Her ears go up and down again. She lip licks. She sniffs the ground and pulls away from the trainer.
- She continues to pull away in all directions from the trainer.
It clear from all of Bubbles’ behaviors that she was extremely uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because she did not know the trainer (as the trainer admits) or because she was unfamiliar with the setting or even afraid of the camera, or maybe, both. She displays a lot of calming signals – lip licking, look aways, yawning, etc. She also tries very hard to create distance between her and the trainer, over and over again. Bubbles is not distracted by squirrel, but is uncomfortable and nervous. The trainer should have stopped as soon as she saw these behaviors. The fact that Bubbles refused the treat was a dead give away that she was way to nervous to be enticed by a treat. Not only did the trainer’s words not match the behaviors being displayed, but she did nothing to build the trust between her and Bubbles because she forced her to interact with her and even kneed her to sit down. A better approach would have been to stop completely and give Bubbles her space and the choice of whether she wanted to interact or not.
Taken on an iPhone, enhanced in Instagram and Camera 360.
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