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Favorite Video Friday – Chihuahua Frisbee Dog

August 5, 2016 6 comments

I’m going to admit a pet peeve when it comes to some owners of little dogs. I hate it when they treat them like babies or dress up dolls. I am not applying this to all owners of small dogs, but only to those who treat their small dogs like babies. They drive me nuts.

Just like a big dog, a small dog needs training, daily walks and enrichment (e.g., dog games). They are still a dog and need to be treated respectfully as such.

That’s why I love seeing dogs like Misa Minnie, who does numerous tricks and has an enriched life, and Cleo the Chihuahua,  who runs, chases birds, plays with big dogs, and catches frisbees.

Have you ever seen a frisbee dog who was also a Chihuahua? Well, now you can!

Cleo is totally awesome (some might even say she’s rad!). No seriously. She catches frisbee as good as any big dog. She gets air time, retrieves, and shakes that frisbee with a tenacity reminiscent of a border collie.  She reminds us that she is more than just a cute little dog. She is a dog who loves being a dog. I LOVE her!

I hope you’ll enjoy today’s favorite Friday video. Go Cleo!

Happy Friday everyone!

 

Favorite Video Friday – Fun in the snow

February 5, 2016 3 comments

On Tuesday, we had a large snowstorm blow through town. It snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed. We got over a foot here at Casa del Mel. Just enough to cover all the dog poop I hadn’t gotten to yet, and enough for the dogs to have a grand ole time playing in the fluffy stuff. They were SO happy to have the fresh snow.

We’ve been enjoying it all week long.

It seemed appropriate to share a little of that snow joy with you today via our favorite Friday video. Meet two Aussies who really know how to have fun in the snow.

Not enough? Then come on up to Minnesota! We’ve got plenty and more is coming!

Happy Friday everyone!

Favorite Video Friday – Ski Patrol Dogs of Snowmass

January 29, 2016 2 comments

Minnesota has been a little lacking in snow accumulation this year. We’ve had a lot of hazy, cloudy, warm days and not a whole lot of sun and snow (for those of you in warmer climes, the sun seems to come out more when it gets cold, and that cold comes from having lots of snow to reflect the sun).

Instead, all the snow appears to be going to everyone around us – the west coast and Rocky Mountains are especially getting a lot of snow this year. No doubt the downhill ski business is booming (much to the relief of many a ski business owner).

I think that’s why this week’s video seemed like the right one to share this Friday. It features the ski patrol dogs of Snowmass, Colorado. Gray, Piper and Caleb are well-trained, professional and absolutely adorable. They make me want to pick up skiing just so I can meet them!

Happy Friday everyone!

Ski Patrol Dogs of Snowmass from Vital Films on Vimeo.

The ASPCA Rehabilitation Center that is changing the lives of damaged dogs

January 13, 2016 10 comments
Maggie gets this close for chicken. #sheltie #puppymilldog

Foster Maggie telling me it’s too much pressure to “touch” my finger when I am this close.

If you would have asked me what my dream job was five years ago, I would have said professional pet sitter. It was what I was doing at the time, and I loved it. I loved caring for other people’s pets and making them feel loved while their parents were away. I also loved being able to train and socialize the ones I walked each day. Puppies were the easiest, they were always so eager to learn, but what always got me excited was working with a shy or fearful dogs. I can’t explain it, but there is something so rewarding about being able to build their confidence and win their trust.

Even when I volunteered at our local shelter, it was the shy or fearful ones I was most drawn to each day. In the 8 1/2 years I was there, those were the dogs I woke with most. I think it’s in my DNA. It’s most certainly how I met my dogs Indy, Daisy and Jasper.

Several years ago, I heard about a small facility that was being set up as a pilot site to work with and better understand how best to help dogs coming from dog fighting rings, puppy mills and hoarding cases.

Operating out of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison New Jersey, the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center rehabilitates dogs that are damaged and traumatized by abuse and neglect. Their goal? To give dogs, most likely to be euthanized at local and county shelters, a new leash on life.

Back when I first read about it, it was more of a proof of concept, an experiment designed to prove that these dogs could be rehabilitated. But, it was also a study into learning what worked and didn’t work when rehabbing these dogs.

Fortunately, it appears they are succeeding. Thanks to the ASPCA and the wonderful people working at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, dogs are successfully being rehabbed and placed into new loving homes.

And now, they are ready to graduate and take it to the next level. Recently, they announced that they will be moving to a brand new (and much larger) facility in Weatherville, North Carolina in 2017. This is HUGE news. For those of us who work with puppy mill dogs, it means we may soon learn more about how best to help these dogs recover from abuse, trauma and neglect, and that really excites me.

This is my dream job! Think they would be open to a Minnesota transplant with a silly Fargo-like accent? Would it work if I made up a sign “Will rehab dogs for food?”

A person can dream, can’t they?

If you want to learn more about the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, there is a great piece on it in NJ.com: Meet the ‘miracle’ dogs: N.J. center rehabilitates animal cruelty victims

Kindness to animals

The Top 15 Blog Posts of 2015

December 30, 2015 11 comments

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It’s become an annual tradition for me to end the year by sharing those blog posts I thought were most touching, interesting, or emotionally powerful throughout the past year. This year I have decided not to limit my selection to just blog posts. Among those included in my list are articles, Craigslist postings and other pieces.

The hardest part was whittling down my list. You may not have the same ones on your list, but I hope you will find them worth reading and sharing.

Do you have one that you want to share? Feel free to share!

  1. Heartfelt Open Letter To Dog Owner On Craigslist Moved Me To Tears – This powerful post is actually a posting on Craigslist. It is an adopted dog owner’s letter to the original owner of a stray dog, named Laurel, who showed up outside an animal shelter one day.

  2. Tails: Let’s focus on getting them back home, not adopted. – This piece is a particularly important one to me. Too many lost dogs are ending up in our shelters as strays. We need to do a better job trying to reunite them with their owners.

  3. Rescue Decisions: The Dog, or the Community? – Sara Reusche is an amazing dog trainer and a great writer. Her blogs posts are relevant, thought-provoking and well written. This one is no different. Borderline dogs are something we should all be talking about.

  4. 10 Things To Do If Your Adult Dog Bites – This post was written by my friend, Nancy Freedman-Smith, who is a dog trainer and a wonderful writer. This time of year is particularly hard for dog trainers because it is when people start calling them asking for help after their dog bit a child or adult or another dog over the holidays. This piece may help them as the grapple with what most likely was a preventable situation.

  5. 4 Things Dog Trainers DON’T Do – This is a great piece by Laurie Luck. I first shared this on my Facebook page back in June of this year, but it is worth sharing again. I can vouch for the 4 things on her list.

  6. I Rejected The Perfect Pet Adoption Family For The Wrong Reasons – This post was penned by Julie LeRoy in place of Cuda the Pit Bull, who passed away earlier this year. I thought it had a powerful message for those of us in animal rescue. it certainly gave me food for thought.

  7. You Can Survive Burnout: How To Regroup When Your Year Really Sucked – This post came in under the wire (it was just written this week), but it was so impactful that it made me want to share it far and wide.  The author is Dr. Jessica Vogelsang DVM. who is a veterinarian I really respect, not only for her brevity and wisdom, but also for her honesty and reflection. She always leaves me thinking.

  8. The Biggest Mistake Pet Owners Make at the End – This is another post penned by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang DVM. I shared this on my Facebook page earlier this year and was disappointed to see that many people had not only NOT read it, but left comments that clearly showed they hadn’t read it. We need to stop telling people that our pets will tell us when it is time, because more often than not, they won’t. Please read and share. Another great post is by Jessica Dolce, How to Talk to Your Gynecologist About Euthanasia. Definitely worth the read.

  9. What’s Important to You? – I don’t know about you, but it seems like the pet owner world has become more and more like the mommy wars over the years. What I mean is that just like the competitive mommy world where judgement about how you raise your children is at an all time high, the same is seems to be the case in the dog world. Trainer and writer, Sara Reusche, shares her perspective. I like it.

  10. Training “Calm?” – I love this piece of Denise Fenzi. Training “calm” is not something that is often discussed amongst dog owners, but maybe it should. It could go a long way towards helping the dog/human bond.

  11. Pet Safety: How Safe Are Pet Products? – Blogger Mary Haight’s, piece on pet safety was an eye-opener for me. If you think your pet is safe in a crate, in a car seat or with the toys that you buy, you may want to thin again. Very little safety testing is done on those items that you think will keep your pet safe. If you really want to learn more about the dangers that lie in the pet product industry, listen to her podcast interview with Linsey Wolko, Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Center For Pet Safety.

  12. Comforting an Old Dog – A powerful piece by Shirley Zindler highlights the important role Animal Control Officers have with the animals they capture. Sometimes just being there is the most important part.

  13. Screw Finding Your Passion –  This second to last one has nothing to do with dogs, but has a powerful message nonetheless. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

  14. That thing others are shaming you for? Do it anyway. – Crystal Paine’s post on being your authentic self is one worth reading. If you have ever felt like hiding your true self or worried about criticisms by others about how you look or how you speak or write, then this piece is worth reading.

Favorite Video Friday – Australian Shepherd beauty, Lissy

October 2, 2015 4 comments

It’s fall, the weather has been lovely, my dogs are happy and I’m loving life. So, why not share a video that reflects pure joy and happiness?

I love Lissy. Could she be more beautiful? Or, more intelligent?

Happy Friday everyone!

Favorite Video Friday – A last hurrah to summer

September 3, 2015 5 comments

This Labor Day weekend feels like the last of the glory days of summer for 2015. Even though the temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s and the humidity is sky-high, the sunlit nights are waning and soon Fall will be here.

I don’t know why, but this video just feels like the last hurrah to summer. Without a doubt, the musical background adds to the ambiance, but it is the most adorable April I love to watch. She is a Border Collie who appears to be much-loved.

I hope you will enjoy this fun, but somewhat nostalgic, video selection this week. If nothing else, it will leave you with a smile and a nice tune rolling around in your head. 🙂

Happy Friday everyone!

Favorite Video Friday – The amazing Alex and Jumpy

July 31, 2015 4 comments

I am constantly in awe of dogs who can do a multitude of tricks. They are so physical and magical at the same time. The ones who can fly through the air, and manage to look like they float there, are just awe-inspiring.

Of course, we all know that behind every amazing dog is an amazing human. A human who spends lots of time with their dog and who trains them and builds a strong bond with them. These are the people who impress me.

Today’s Favorite Friday selection features an amazing dog with his equally amazing owner. Can you imagine going down the street and seeing them flying and flipping through the air? Wow!

I hope you enjoy the video.  Happy Friday!!!

Fetch-For-Fosters: A program that proactively helps rescue dogs to get adopted

July 6, 2015 5 comments

Woman Rubbing Noses with PuppyIf you’ve read my blog, then you know that I am a big believer in dog training and helping people to better understand their dogs through dog body language. You probably also know that I am also a huge supporter of animal shelters and animal rescues.

The biggest issue many rescue organizations face is making a dog more adoptable. Training is key to making this happen. How a dog behaves is one of the biggest factors that impacts whether a dog will be adopted. It is a key factor in keeping an adopted dog in their new home.

Today, I would like to introduce you to someone who has a novel new idea that I hope will become a model nationwide. Fetch-for-Fosters is the brainchild of dog trainer Katie Grillaert of Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. It is a new program focused on proactively addressing a dog’s training needs while he is still in the shelter or in a foster home; before he is adopted, and where needed, working with the adopter to ensure his forever home really is his home for life.

Below is my interview with Katie Grillaert.

 

What is Fetch-for-Fosters?

Fetch-for-Fosters is a social entrepreneurship initiative, meaning that we are using business methods to try and solve a social problem.

Our vision is to shape and support a rescue community that both understands and prioritizes the value of training.  I’d really love to see a trend toward proactive dog training, rather than reactive.

Fetch-for-Fosters provides low-cost training and behavior services to rescues and shelters in order to facilitate the adoption of pets; as well as to help them stay in their new home. We prioritize education and promote training techniques that are effective, ethical, and that nurture the human-animal bond.

Our Fetch-for-Fosters staff are talented trainers who have been accepted into a training/behavior internship with Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. The program allows them to see a diverse range of dogs and students as they work toward their own goals. For example, one of our trainers is also a veterinary student with a special interest in shelter medicine and behavior. I mentor the trainers through this entire process, so we maintain a high quality of service for all of our rescues.

The program is new, but if things continue to go well I am excited about the growth goals that I have been brainstorming… but I’ll just have to leave you with that teaser for now.

 

I love the idea of helping a dog to stay in its home. What motivated you to create Fetch for Fosters?

My first dog, Petra, was a rescued Belgian Malinois. She was my shadow. She read my mind. I was heartbroken when I had to euthanize her due to serious behavioral issues due to extremely poor breeding and poor puppyhood socialization. Her sacrifice is what drove me deeper into behavior modification and rescue. Every time I can help another dog, I can honor her a little bit.

I have been fostering and doing volunteer training for a long time now, including through the birth of my business Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. As the business grew, I continued to volunteer, but found myself with limited time for volunteer work. (This saying is so true: “Entrepreneurs: The only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks.”). I wanted a way to formalize giving back to my community, but also to make it sustainable.

I’m fascinated with the way for-profit companies can provide social benefit. For example, Grameen Danone Foods Ltd. created a fortified yogurt for malnourished children in Bangladesh, improving health outcomes and creating local jobs. They are a sustainable business, but do not return any profits to their shareholders – it is all reinvested in the social business.  (http://socialinnovator.info/ways-supporting-social-innovation/market-economy/social-business-partnerships/partnerships-betweeen/grameen-danone-partnership-b) This is my current answer for my local community, in my area of expertise and passion.

 

How does the program work?

Our service contract is with dogs in foster care – the actual rescue. We will provide email/phone support when the dog is adopted so that we can advise new owners on what work we did with the dog, and how this relates to the settling-in process. In fact, we’d love to disclose this to adopters before they even adopt the dog – that piece is up to the rescue, as we are not involved in the adoption process.

If adopters have questions beyond the scope of work that we already did, or beyond the initial two weeks, we might refer them to our training business or another local trainer. This is for their benefit – there is a real importance to the trainer being able to observe the dog in its new home, form a connection with the dog’s people, and make sure that the trainer is getting the full picture before making a training program. This avoids wasting time and money (at best), or the behaviors worsening.

 

What kinds of issues do you generally see?

Adolescence is a frequent time that people decide to re-home their “annoying” dog, so we see a lot of regular goofy teenage behavior. First-time fosters do quite well with a session or two to help them understand how to communicate with their youngster, and how to develop good behavior.

Separation distress and leash reactivity are both quite common as well, and those are things that we want to address immediately so that they don’t become big and costly – they rarely resolve on their own, and in fact they can get worse quite quickly.

It’s also not uncommon for us to work with fearful dogs, usually puppy mill dogs, to help them conquer their fears, and especially to help their fosters understand how to support them.

We are also able to address any training issue – house training, manners, puppy issues, polite walking, chewing, digging, grooming, barking, and so on.

We can also offer limited services for fear, aggression, and anxiety. Hopefully most dogs in rescue will not have serious fear or aggression, but sometimes these issues pop up when the dog has already been accepted into the rescue. We can help the rescue address management and safety concerns with the foster, and give our professional assessment of the issue. Long-term behavior modification assistance may be available, but this takes a large commitment from the rescue.

 

Do you provide the rescue updates on the dogs you work with?

We will disclose personal information upon request if the legal owner of the dog has given us permission to do so. In general, it is the rescue’s responsibility to follow-up with owners and track the progress of the dogs they have placed.

 

What is the cost, who pays, and what does it cover?

I want this program to be sustainable – helping my community for a long time. If your organization – even your nonprofit – could not function without some key people, then I think you should be putting things in place to make sure those people stay happy and available to you. That’s my goal. Therefore my trainers for Fetch-for-Fosters get reimbursed for their travel and time spent with the dogs. Because they are paid, there will always be space on their schedule for foster dogs. I think this will be fundamental to the program’s success.

We directly invoice rescues for their training sessions. A $45/session for a training issue (this is something I think we should highlight) with my regular Fetch-for-Fosters staff, includes:

  • Approximately, one hour with the trainer.
  • Our summary of the session and homework for the foster family, which is shared with the foster and the rescue.
  • Two weeks of email/phone support with the adopter once the dog is adopted. (We’ll also provide follow-up support to the foster family, but we may ask that we see the dog in-person again if there are many questions, or if they are complex.)

Most rescues will only need these regular training sessions, as that is the category where most adoptable dogs will fall.  However, we do offer behavior consultations for $75/session, and we’ll staff an experience behavior consultant for this. Often behavior consultations need at least one follow-up, if not more.

Our fees allow us to purchase insurance and to pay our professionals for their time. The other overhead costs are supported by Fetch Dog Training and Behavior, which is one major reason why it makes sense for me to operate this as a social initiative of my business, rather than a non-profit – it keeps our costs significantly lower.

Donations for training, submitted directly to the rescue, are tax-deductible. We do accept online donations to our program, but these are not tax-deductible. Online donations may be earmarked for a specific rescue, or may enter our general pool and distributed as a scholarship.

 

Do you only work with foster dogs?

Our work is entirely with dogs in foster or shelter care. We support adopted dogs through their two-week transition to the new home if we have already provided them services during their time in rescue, so that the adopter understands exactly what work we’ve done with the dog and how that may relate to helping their dog settle into his new home.

We do not work with “owned” dogs; we’d refer someone to our business or another local dog trainer. I believe that training is a really important part of owning a dog, and should be planned for just as are veterinary and food expenses. Good trainers spend a lot of time on their education and professional development, and deserve every penny that they make. If they couldn’t get paid for their work, they wouldn’t be able to get really good at their craft – and that would be a loss for everyone, foster or not.

 

How does a rescue organization contact you if they want to be a rescue partner or want you to help one of their dogs?

Any interested rescue can send an email to info@fetchforfosters.org and we’ll provide our program information right away. There is no cost for rescues to become a rescue partner. By becoming a partner, they  are able to schedule our services whenever they need them.

We’re able to do some special services for our partners as well, such as running a group class for their foster dogs. So far, we’re doing this on a case-by-case basis, brainstorming together to address a particular need.

It’s been a lot of fun for me to work with the rescues to see what we can accomplish together, and we are all excited about the potential for growth – which, of course, is how many dogs and families we can positively impact.

You can learn more about Fetch-for-Fosters on their Q & A call this week, on Wednesday, July 8, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central time . To join the call, go to their Facebook event page by clicking here

 

Katie GrillaertKatie Grillaert is a professional trainer and behavior consultant specializing in work with fearful and aggressive dogs. She holds two certifications from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA) and is also a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She is pursuing a degree in the Interdisciplinary Master’s Programme in Human-Animal Interactions at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Dogs and Kids: Stop pretending that dogs don’t bite them

May 20, 2015 42 comments

Jasper's new friend. He threw his stick for him until he could barely chase it anymore.On Wednesday night, I took the dogs to the dog park (like I usually do). Jasper spent his time chasing after sticks, Daisy explored the woods and Cupcake sniffed to her heart’s desire. We even walked with some friends (Tom and his dogs Ruby and Max), and said hello to a few other friends we know. It was fun evening

It was towards the end of our walk that we first heard them. Children. Little ones. We could also hear their dog barking, and the owner calling it over and over again, with absolutely no success. Trouble was coming. I could just feel it. I called Daisy, Jasper and Cupcake to me and we headed out of the woods and across the field to the far end of the park.

I admit I am always little wary of anyone bringing kids to the park. You just never know what can happen. I watched from across the field as the little children exited the woods with two women. They all turned and walked along the edge of the field – away from us.  I breathed a sigh of relief and led my dogs in the opposite direction.

As we walked, I noticed that the older child, about 5 years old, was carrying an arm load of sticks. The other child a toddler about 2-3 years old, followed closely behind him and then stopped to pick up a stick of his own.

The older boy followed his mom and the other woman down the mulched path, away from the toddler. I kept watching as he and the two women kept moving away from the toddler, widening the distance between them. They got a good distance away from him before they even turned to see where he was. They seemed unconcerned that they were so far away from him.

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingIt was then I saw the dog approach. He went right up to the child’s hand and face and grabbed the stick right from his hand. (Luckily, the toddler did not try to take it back.) The dog stayed there, looking at the child, no more than a couple of feet away from him and his face, not moving closer, but also not moving away.  It was not until  his owner called him back to her, that he finally left the child. Thankfully, he had a great recall.

The whole time this was going on, the mother and other woman just stood there, almost half the length of the dog park away from the toddler. They did not yell, or call his name, or even start to run back to him. They just sent the older son back to retrieve him. I don’t even think they realized how dangerous a position her child had been in. I don’t think she realized how quickly this incident could have turned into a tragedy.

She was damn lucky. How foolish that mother was to bring her small child to a dog park, filled with dogs she did not know, and then leave him in such a terribly vulnerable position. A dog bite could have happened so easily. Another dog could have caused some serious damage to her child. That this dog, or another dog, did not do so is a miracle. That mother was so very lucky that the dog her toddler encountered was well-trained and had a good recall. She was lucky her child encountered  a “good” dog. But, let’s face it, even a “good” dog can bite.

We humans have to get better at preventing dog bites. We need to take interactions between dogs and kids more seriously. We need to be more purposeful about where, when and HOW we expose dogs and kids to one another. And, I’m not just talking about stranger’s dogs either. More children are bitten by the family pet than by a dog they do not know.

So how do we get better at keeping both dogs and kids safe?

We must:

  • Teach kids that they have to ask permission before approaching a strange dog. ALWAYS.
  • Educate kids on how to tell when a dog is safe to approach and then how to do so safely. Make it a game. Quiz them in the car and in the park. (Stop the 77 has a great video for pre-schoolers called “I Speak Doggie.”)
  • Supervise, whenever a dog and child are together (NO multi-tasking or playing on your cell phone). We need to be completely present and watching their interactions. We also need to be watching for signals that the dog is done with the interaction. (4Paws University shared a great graphic and information today on their Facebook page.) If you see a dog LOOK AWAY, TURN AWAY or MOVE AWAY, the dog has had enough and you need to either remove the dog or the child from the interaction.
  • Stop punishing dogs for growling. This is your warning sign that your dog has had enough. When you punish a dog for growling, you are taking away the alarm bell that tells you a bite could happen. (4Paws University shared a great graphic on this one too.)
  • Teach our kids how to act when a strange dog approaches them that is scary. (Doggone Safe shows children how to Be Like A Tree in order to avoid a dog bite.)
  • Stop pretending that your dog is different from other dogs and that they like having a child climbing on them. They really don’t. Do you like it when a child pulls your hair, yanks on your ear, steps on your gut, kicks your leg or bites you? No? If we don’t like it, then why do we expect dogs to like it any better? It’s not cute. It’s rude (and dangerous).

When a dog bites a child, everyone pays a price.

You lose a dog and a best friend.

Your child loses a friend and his love and trust of dogs.

The dog loses its life.

The kind of behavior displayed in the video below (And if that doesn’t scare you enough, maybe this one will.) has lose-lose results for everyone. Let’s make it stop.

Stop pretending dogs don’t bite.

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