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Dog Body Language – Test your skills

January 25, 2015 3 comments

I don’t know about you, but I have been seeing (and reading) some really great articles on dog body language and dog behavior lately. It’s really exciting to see so many of them out there and so readily available to dog owners who want to better understand their dogs.

Even though I have some education in understanding dog body language, I always like to learn more, and I especially like being able to practice my skills whenever I get the chance.

Reading dog body language is a skill that must be developed. You can’t just watch a video and suddenly know it. Even the best trainers practice their skills whenever they can. Understanding dog body language not only helps you to better understand your own dog, but it also help you to know what another unknown dog is saying, especially if it is in a dangerous situation.

You can see a full list of the articles I have been reading below, but I thought it would be fun to share a few photos with you today and see if you can tell what these dogs are saying. Give it a try and check back tomorrow. I’ll share my observations then. (The results are in. Head on over to the blog post that contains my observations.)

Picture 1: Lab and St. Bernard

  • Take a look at how these two dogs approach one another. How do they greet one another?
  • Where are their heads and bodies in relation to one another?
  • Where are their tails? Their ears?
  • What else do you see in this picture that can tell you more about these two dogs and what they are saying to one another?

Well hello big guy. #dogpark

 Picture 2: Sheltie

  • What is this dog telling you?
  • Where are her ears?
  • What do you notice about her eyes? Her mouth? Her body?

Maggie gets this close for chicken. #sheltie #puppymilldog
Picture 3: Husky

  • What do you notice about this dog?
  • Where are her ears? Tail?
  • Does her mouth look relaxed or hard?
  • Is she leaning forward? Back?

Husky says hello

 

Picture 4: Lab Mix and Shepherd Mix

  • What do you see in this picture?
  • Where are each dog’s ears? Feet? Body?
  • What do you notice about their eyes?
  • What else do you see?

Millie crashes. Big dog waits for her to get up again.

 

Reading List: 

These next five are all by Ann Bernrose of Woof Work Blog:

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Introducing a new dog into your home when you already have a dog

November 11, 2014 8 comments

The girlsOver the past couple of months, I have had several friends adopt a new dog into their household. Given the fact that each already had a resident dog in their home, it is understandable that each one of them worried about how to introduce the new dog into their home. They also worried about how the new dog would make their current dog feel and whether they would get along.

I remember how nervous I was in bringing each one of my dogs into my home. (I think you would have to be a fool not to be a little nervous and anxious!) Every dog is different and every situation must be managed to ensure success.

When Cupcake first came into my home as a foster, it was a tough go. Not because she wasn’t an awesome and very sweet dog, but because she felt like she had to establish her place as top dog right away. She claimed the couch and snarked at Daisy and Jasper whenever they came close to her. Jasper and Daisy were intimidated by her behavior. Daisy started staying in her kennel to avoid her.I think it was at this point I seriously considered giving her back to the rescue.

But then, I remembered to use the skills and knowledge I had gained from so many other trainers. I took away Cupcake’s couch privileges to eliminate any snarking. Then, I started enticing Daisy back to the couch with treats and rewarding Cupcake with treats as well to show her that staying on the floor was a beneficial spot to be. Soon, the snarking had stopped and Daisy was feeling less stressed. We worked on other things too: waiting for dinner, not stealing other dogs’ food, sharing toys, etc.

Introducing a new dog into your home when you have another dog can be difficult. I’ve been offering my own advice and suggestions when asked (think baby gates, crates and slow introductions), but then I remembered that I had attended a webinar earlier this year put on by the ASPCA. The guest speaker was well-known author and animal behaviorist, Patricia McConnell (PhD, CAAB, Author). The topic? Multi-Dog Households: From First Date to After the Honeymoon (You can find more materials and information here as well).

It was a great seminar and discussion and one that I suspect would be beneficial to many an adoptive parent and/or rescue or shelter. I’ll definitely be sharing it with my friends. You can check out her presentation deck here

So how have you handled introducing a new dog into your home? What worked? What didn’t work?

Doberman Dog Evaluation: A study of dog body language – What do you see?

November 5, 2014 3 comments
Doberman Card

Photo credit goes to Jack Huster via Flickr

I try to always be present and conscious of my dogs’ behavior when we are out and about together, but like many dog owners, I can be easily distracted by what is going on around me and who I am engaging with at that moment. It can be easy to miss something when so much is going on around you. We can’t be hyper-attentive to everything all at once.

I imagine that many dog agility people can relate. Events like agility require an owner to do many things at once. They need to read their dogs’ behavior and the cues they are giving them so they know how they feel about it. They need to know the course and the task at hand so they can accomplish their goal. They also need to be hyer-focused and attentive to what we are doing so we don’t make a mistake.

Being hyper-aware of how a dog is feeling in these moments can be hard.

Although I think the owner in the video below is aware of her dog and his behavior in certain settings (since she mentions his avoidance at one part of the course), I wonder if she was aware of how he was feeling throughout the course? Maybe she was and was trying to help him work through it. Either way, it makes for a great study of dog behavior.

Watch the video below and share what you see. How does the dog look as he travels the course? Are his ears up or down? What is he doing with his head? His feet? His body? What does he do when meeting new people? What does he do with his mouth? Can you see what his eyes are doing? 

I have put my own observations below (due to the length of the video, I assess the first two minutes), but see what you see before taking a look at my observations and summary. How good were you at reading this dog’s behavior? What did I miss?

Dog body language before Working Aptitude Evaluation (WAC) begins (first 30 seconds):

  • Ears back
  • Panting (it might be a hot day so this may or may not be stress induced)
  • Circling handler
  • Couple of lip licks
  • Body is facing away from the man with the clipboard and as far away from as possible. His butt is closest to the man and his head is the furthest away from him.

WAC Begins:

  • Red starts to trot alongside the owner, and then ahead of her, as they move towards the woman in the blue top. His ears are alternating between up and down and then going to straight down and back as he approaches the woman (the neutral stranger).
  • As they get closer to the woman, he veers off to the left, creating distance between them, only to come back around as he reaches the end of the leash, and circle behind her. His ears are down.
  • At 32 seconds, his mouth appears drawn tight and his body hunched. He gives a lip lick.
  • Red moves around the woman and closer to his owner, ignoring both, but placing his body so his head is further away. He looks away from her and in the other direction.
  • Red completely ignores the woman and moves further away from both his owner and the woman,. almost taking up the full length of the leash.
  • At 38 seconds, they continue to the next woman (called the Friendly Stranger).
  • Red trots ahead again and as the approach the friendly stranger he lowers his head and keeps his ears down and back. The friendly stranger leans down, puts her hands on her legs and looks at him.
  • Immediately, he veers off to the left in an attempt to avoid interacting with her.
  • When called by his handler, he veers back towards them. his ears are down and his head is lowered to the same level as his shoulders. He is panting.
  • Instead of stopping at the Friendly Stranger, he walks right between her and his owner and keeps on going.
  • He turns around when he reaches the end of the leash and heads back towards the women. His head goes up briefly as if to say hello, but then lowers and he goes right back through the middle again and off to the other side. His head is lowered, body hunched and ears are back.
  • He quickly circles back and lifts head again, but only briefly, He then sees the man with the clipboard and does a lip lick and a couple of head turns.
  • At a little before the one minute mark, the handler and man discuss next steps while the dog paces. He does not interact with the man or owner, but instead paces or turns so his head is away from them.
  • He does a couple of lip licks, head turns and pants.
  • At 1:13, he hides behind his handler’s legs.
  • They turn and head towards the white truck, there appear to be no people around besides his handler. His ears come up. He trots along. His gait looks more relaxed. His tail is up.
  • He goes around the back of the vehicle and then heads back towards his owner. He looks up at her briefly.Hi ears go back and as he sees the man with the clipboard he changes directions and circles back towards his owner.
  • A couple of look aways.
  • At 1:30, the man and handler move to the right. Red follows, trotting alongside his handler and then ahead of her. His ears go up and down. Tail is up and he briefly sniffs the group before a shot goes off from the gun.
  • When the shot goes off, his ears comes back, his mouth is drawn tight and his tail goes down (1:38).
  • His ears go up briefly, but go back down when the 2nd shot rings out. He circles his handler several times as shots 3 and 4 ring out.
  • He trots ahead of the handler as they move away from the woman with the gun and his ears go up and prick forward.
  • At the 2 minute mark, he stands next to the handler, touching her legs. He looks away several times as she speaks with the man. His ears are back and his eyes appear to have a ridge between them (2:06).
  • They head towards the woman in the chair. Red looks away as he walks by his handler. His ears go up and down, but at 2:13 they prick forward as he sees her handle an umbrella.
  • The umbrella opens and he veers back, ears are back on his head. He checks out the umbrella very briefly and then looks around it and then at the woman. He turns his nose up towards her and then veers back towards his owner. His ears are way down (2:16).

Summary:

Based on my observations, I would say Red was very uncomfortable throughout his evaluation. His body language indicated he was nervous, stressed and most likely would have preferred not to have been there at all. His body language indicated that he was stressed. He used avoidance (creating distance between himself and the people and looking away) in almost every circumstance to distance himself from the people in the assessment. Even at the end of the video, Red cant wait to distance himself from all of it, pulling on his leash and removing himself from the area quickly.

My guess is that Red is not a confident dog in new situations or ones in which he is forced to interact with strangers. This type of activity is not fun for him at all.

My Writing Blog Tour hits No Dog About It

September 1, 2014 9 comments

IMG_1287Today I am taking part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour.

I was tagged by the most wonderful Maggie Marton of Oh My Dog! blog. Maggie is a professional writer so I was really interested to learn more about her writing process. It’s always nice when you can learn from the best. If you get a chance go on over and read about her writing process.

Unlike Maggie, I am not a professional writer. (Oh, I write communications and project plans for work, but that is quite different from writing for a blog.) However, I do write and I love doing so. My hope is to write a book some day, but that will require a lot more discipline than I have right now. 🙂

For this tour, I have three questions to answer:

Question #1: What are you working on?

In all honesty? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Like Maggie, when it comes to my blog I am more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. I used to be much more disciplined, but as my life has gotten crazier (is 4 dogs crazy enough for you?), I have found it much more difficult to plan ahead  and get things done before the week begins. Thus, I usually end up writing a blog post at 9 or 10 pm and publishing it around 11 pm and editing it a couple times after publishing it. I know. Not exactly the best way to manage a blog, but there it is in all its messy glory.

I should mention that I also have about 43 drafts sitting in my drafts folder just waiting for my mind to formulate the words. When everything clicks into place, I write.

Question #2: Why do you write what you do?

Hmmm… That is truly a tough question. My writing has changed over the years so I can’t really say that there is one “why” to my writing. I started writing about Daisy, my first puppy mill dog, to document her progress, but when I started my pet sitting business I needed a blog that would allow me to share information with my clients. I kept it much more light-hearted in those days. Me and Daisy

Now I try to write a little bit for myself, a little for you and little bit for fun. I write about what fires me up. but I also write about what I think most people would want to know if they had the good fortune to be exposed to a wealth of dog training knowledge via their friends (as I do). I want people to have a chance to learn more about their dogs and about dog body language. The one thing I don’t want to be is a blogger who just rants, What’s the fun in that? Who wants to read a rant every single day? Not me. That’s why I add in photography and Favorite Friday videos. I want others to have fun too.

I write about what I am passionate about. It allows me to let a little bit of my creativity out.

Question #3: How does your writing process work?

IMG_5891As I mentioned above, my writing process right now is pretty disorganized. I have the 43 drafts available if choose to use them, but I also save a whole series of stories, studies, news reports and training information in my Blog Topics folder. If I am feeling a little unmotivated or not sure about what I want to write, I go to my folder and peruse it for an idea or story I want to share. Usually, they are an impetus for me to write about a related topic.

I also keep a series of folders filled with YouTube videos I can go to whenever I need one. I even have them organized by category!

Sometimes I write a post in one shot, and publish right away, and other times I start the post and save it as a draft to be finished later. For example, my blog post Are we rescuing? Or, are we passing the buck? sat in my drafts folder for over a month before I actually finished it. Sometimes my mind just needs time to roll the idea around before I can write it. When I do create a draft, I will often include the links (and videos) that inspired me in case I want to refer to them in the post.

So now that I have shared a little about me and my wiring process, here are a few other people I would like to tag for this tour. They have two weeks to answer the same questions. I can’t wait to hear how they approach their own writing process:

Notes from an Endless Sea by Eleanore MacDonald – I love the way Eleanore writes. Her words flow like water and have a beauty that is indescribable. She draws you in like a friend and confidante and leaves you wanting more. I always feel richer for having read her blog.

Will My Dog Hate me by Edie Jarolim – Edie is a professional writer and someone I admire very much. I often wish I could write like her. She can make any story sound interesting and often does. Reading her Labor Day post about her mom was wonderful and interesting and enlightening. I would love to pick her brain if I could. This is my chance.

Back Alley Soapbox by Jen K – Jen hasn’t written since early July, but I am hoping she will do this one. She is always a fun read and I love her perspective on things. She is a knowledgeable dog person and loves the outdoors and her two big black Newfies, Moses and Alma. I enjoy her writing. I hope she will share her perspective on her own writing process.

Celebrating Labor Day with your dog

September 1, 2014 5 comments
A German Shepherd dog at work.

A German Shepherd dog at work.

Today, September 1st, is Labor Day. This day, the first Monday in September, was set aside by Congress and President Grover Cleveland after the federal marshals and the Army killed 30 striking Pullman workers in 1894. This day is meant to recognize the American worker, and their contributions to our country. It’s not something we recognize much anymore, but it is a day we should all remember.

For many of us, Labor Day signals the end of summer and beginning of students heading back to school. It is a day we barbecue and have picnics or make our way back from vacation. Here in Minnesota, it is also your last chance to visit the state fair and enjoy a pronto pup or some fried cheese curds or a fresh, hand-squeezed lemonade. It’s a day to be with family and friends.

It may seem odd that dogs would somehow fit into this day, but in searching the internet I found a few Labor Day events that celebrate dogs:

  • Alabama: In the Key Underwood Coon Dog Graveyard , residents get together to celebrate the loyal lives of coon dogs long passed.
  • Washington DC: The annual Day of the Dog is held in the Congressional Cemetery and includes activities for both pets and their owners.
  • Ohio: In Cleveland, patrons can join the Cleveland Labor Day Oktoberfest and enjoy the wiener dog races.
  • New York: Labor Day also signals the beginning of long walks with your dog on a beach. In many cities, like Fire Island, New York, dogs are banned from beaches from spring to Labor Day. Bur after Labor Day, dogs and their owners can walk the shoreline in relative peace.

Here at Casa del Mel we will be celebrating the day with a walk at our local dog park and relaxing with each other. What do you and your pooch have planned for today?

Let’s pretend you’re a rescue, who would you adopt to? (Polls included)

April 23, 2014 22 comments

Let’s face it. Rescues often get a bad rap from people looking to adopt. People find their restrictions limiting, their paperwork daunting and their process somewhat convoluted and exhausting. I get it. Everyone wants to meet a dog and be able to adopt it right away. Waiting is hard.

I also get the frustration people often have with some rescues, who are so rigid in their adoption qualifications that nobody could possibly live up to their standards. In some cases, I believe this to be valid, but not in all. There are good reasons for some of the strict adoption qualifications rescues have in place. For instance, Shelties tend to be a much higher flight risk than many other breeds, so in most cases (not all) a fenced yard is a must for our rescue.

I recently participated in a discussion where people shared the restrictions some rescues had for qualifying adopters. As people shared their experiences, it suddenly occurred to me that almost everyone in the group was looking from the outside in. They had never had to make the difficult decision to place a dog with someone. It set my mind to thinking. Was there a way to let people play at being a rescue and share their own insight into how they would run things if they were adopting the dog out to someone? Hmmmm…. Maybe.

This is my attempt to let you, the adopter/potential, play at being the rescue. What follows is a description of the dog, it’s known history, and a series of choices you get to make as head of the rescue in selecting the dog’s new owner. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Meet Jenny. Sad Looking Chocolate Lab
Jenny is a stray that was rescued from a kill shelter. She is shy, nervous, and frightened of men. When she came into your rescue, she had mange and had to be treated before she could be adopted out. She also had to be spayed and vaccinated to ensure she would not get sick or get other dogs sick. She has been living in a foster home for the past two months and is now ready to find her forever home.

Keep Jenny in mind as you think about what you would do if you were a rescue.

 

As head of the rescue, you have a specific process that you like to follow when matching a dog with a potential adopter. These process includes the following (pick all that you would include in your process):

 

As the head of the rescue, you also have a certain set of criteria you use to weed out potential adopters who are not a good match for a dog in your rescue group. People you would automatically weed out of the adoption process include those who…

 

 

Three potential adopters have made it through your process and all three are interested in Jenny. Which one would you choose for her?

So what did you think? Was the process easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What the heck breed is a Teddy Bear dog anyways?

April 3, 2014 27 comments
am3_1403_thumb

Teddy Bear

That is the question I posted on my Facebook page last night. I asked the question after seeing a posting for a missing dog that listed the breed of dog as Teddy Bear. Ummmm… What?

Two thoughts immediately ran through my mind when I read that posting:

  1. What the heck is a Teddy Bear?
  2. Who the heck is going to know what a Teddy Bear is so they know what to look for?

I can reassure you that the dog has since been found (thank goodness), but it led me to ask the question of my friends “What kind of breed is a Teddy Bear dog?”

Here are some of the answers I received:

  • A pom mix?
  • Never heard of it.
  • Shichon or cross between a shih tzu and bichon.
  • Also called a Zuchon.
  • Bichon and Pom and Shitzu (I think).
  • It can be any mix usually toy anything that will sell.

I Googled it and came up with this:

Hybrid Parentage

Teddy bears are “designer dogs,” hybrids of two or more breeds. Most commonly, their parents are Shih Tzus and bichon frises or bichon-poodle mixes, although breeders continue to experiment with adding other dogs, such as schnauzers, to the gene pool. Because of their small size and sweet nature, teddy bears can be perfect pets whether you live in an apartment or a large house.

Apparently, according to this page, they are also great therapy dogs, perfect for people with allergies (yeah, right), and smart and easy to train. 13_8_2012_12_30_44_SAMYOAD-233x300

The most likely reality is they are also mutts (yes mutts) with a cute name and numerous health issues that cost thousands of dollars and were raised by puppy millers looking for another quick buck. I can’t wait for the new waves of puppy mill breeding dogs soon to be headed to your local shelter (after a raid of a breeding facility).

To steal a phrase from a friend (Thanks Marie!): “Good Grief. People will do anything to say they have a “rare or special” dog breed won’t they?”

Yes. And, people will pay anything for a dog with a cute name.

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