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My vote for TV tonight? Hero Dogs of 9/11 on Animal Planet

September 9, 2013 11 comments

Search and Rescue dogToday I would like to highlight a beautiful film that will air tonight on Animal Planet – Hero Dogs of 9/11.

Back several years ago, when I was a new dog blogger, I had the opportunity to see a short film called by the very same name. The film was created by a fellow blogger and videographer, Kenn Bell of The Dog Files. I remember the social media sensation it caused and how my fellow bloggers and I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. It was emotional and touching and so beautifully filmed. The film Kenn Bell created was not only a memorial to the dogs who served on that day, but also a reminder to all of us that man’s best friend is so much more than “just a dog.” He is a rescuer, a companion, a friend, and a hero.

A few years later, Kenn’s film was featured at BlogPaws and it generated a lot of buzz from those who were there to see it. I may not have been there, but I watched it again at home and remembered the feelings and emotions I had on that day. Through all the horrors that day, and the long days afterwards, the hero dogs of 9/11 were there to search, to rescue and to comfort.

I have seen many of Kenn’s other wonderful videos featuring some of the most amazing dogs, but it is this one that has continued to resonate with me. So when I read that Kenn had been working on an expanded version of his original film, I was thrilled.  How wonderful to see these amazing dogs recognized once again in an hour-long special.

You can read Kenn’s own thoughts on this momentous occasion, but I hope you will do more than that. I hope you will watch it when it airs tonight.

I promise. You won’t be disappointed.

Hero Dogs of 9/11 airs tonight, Tuesday, September 10 at 8 PM ET/PT (and 7 PM Central Time) on Animal Planet

You can watch a preview here.

You can also watch another one of Kenn’s short films highlighting the ceremony that was held on September 11, 2011, to recognize the dogs who served on 9/11 – Hero Dogs of 9/11: Legacy.

Happy Father’s Day! Yogi and His Ducklings

June 19, 2011 8 comments

Not all fathers are the made the same. Some are tall. Some are short. Some like baseball. Some like football. Some don’t like sports at all. But, most just want to be there for you when you need them most.

In short, what makes a father a father isn’t always biology, it’s what they say and do.

That’s why this story caught my attention on this Father’s Day. You see, Yogi is not a typical father either. His wee little ones come with webbed feet. But, he is a father nonetheless.

This picture first appeared on Animal Planet’s Wall of Fame, but it was the follow up story on DisoveryNews.com that I found most interesting. You can read more about Yogi and his ducklings here.

Happy Father’s Day to all those wonderful fathers out there!

Puppy Bowl VI – An annual favorite

February 10, 2010 2 comments

I’ll just admit it.
I am a sucker for the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. And, they’re funny. Who could want more?
Only the hardest of people can resist a puppy, don’t you think?

Anyways, I thought I would share this short behind the scenes video of Puppy Bowl VI. Enjoy!

Alpha Dog Revisited

August 16, 2009 1 comment

42-17207233Last night, I settled in to watch It’s Me or The Dog (on Animal Planet) with my doggie client, Shadow, and my Sheltie, Jasper. I am a huge fan of Victoria Stillwell because her training methods are all about positive reinforcement. I always gain some new insight or training technique that helps me to be a better pet sitter and dog walker when working with my doggie clients.

Since It’s Me or The Dog airs at 8:00 PM here in Minnesota, and it was only 7:00 PM, I thought I would see what else was on Animal Planet at that time. I was surprised to see another dog training show called In The Dog House. It must be new because I had not seen it or heard of it before, nor does it appear on the “TV Shows” drop down menu on the Animal Planet website.

Given that Animal Planet is such a strong advocate for animals, I thought that the show would be another trainer’s take on how to use positive reinforcement to help train your dog. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed. The show turned out to be about a dog trainer who believes that one must be the “Alpha” dog in order to control or train a dog. He uses choker chains, submission and other techniques that mimic another dog trainer’s methods on National Geographic. It pains me to think that Animal Planet would promote another trainer who uses outdated and incorrect information to help owner’s dogs. My concern is that despite the warning at the beginning of the show, dog owners will try to use this guy’s techniques to help train their dogs. Not only will they be using techniques that they are not trained to do, but they will also be using methods that could increase a dog’s aggression.

So, once again I feel I the need to revisit this whole “Alpha dog” philosophy that is out there, especially now that Animal Planet has decided to air this program. By the way, if you had watched both shows last night you could have seen an almost a side by side comparison of aggressive training methods vs. positive reinforcement methods (watch In The Dog House episode “Jekyll and Hyde” aand It’s Me Or The Dog “Unhappy Campers” episode) and how each was used to work with an aggressive dog. It poses a perfect question for all dog owners: If you could use positive and non-aggressive and non-threatening dog training methods, why would you ever use the opposite with your dog?

So here is what you need to know as a dog owner:

1. Dogs are not wolves. There are some commonalities between dogs and wolves, but one should never assume a dog is expressing dominance (or Alpha) like a wolf would be in a wolf pack. Dogs are domesticated animals and thus think and act differently.

2. Alpha wolves are rarely aggressive. Other wolves recognize their dominance and respect them, so there is rarely (if ever) a need for them to “pin” another wolf down like some TV shows promote. Submission is willingly given by the other wolf. And again, dogs are NOT wolves and have not been for a very, very long time.

3. USING AGGRESSION TO FIGHT AGGRESSION = AGGRESSION. In other words, using corrective actions that include things like: pinning a dog on his back or side, kicking the dog, forcing him to release a toy, staring him down and grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, actually can increase the likelihood of an aggressive response from a dog. Meanwhile, using things like food rewards, food for trade and asking him or her to sit for everything are corrective actions that are the least likely to increase aggression and actually may decrease it. (By the way, this info came from a study done at the University of Pennsylvania.)

4. Dogs are likely to do what works – So if you have a dog that barks at you every time he wants a treat, and you give him a treat each time, then you have taught him that barking works to get a treat. If you suddenly change the rules or your expectations around how he gets a treat, the dog is likely to continue trying to use what has worked in the past. When the old behavior does not get him what he wants, a dog may express frustration in several ways, like jumping on you or grabbing for the treat. This does not mean he is trying to “dominate” you. Think of it this way: If Sarah (a 2 year old toddler), has been allowed to pick out a candy bar at the grocery store every time she whines, then she has come to expect that whining will get her a candy bar at the store. If mom or dad suddenly says “no” to the candy bar when Sarah whines, what is likely to happen? A tantrum? It is the same for dogs.

5. There is no correlation between eating order and “dominance aggression” or “Alpha status”. In other words, letting your dog eat before you does not necessarily mean that he or she is likely to be dominant aggressive.

6. Dominance is not a personality trait. You did not adopt a dog that is dominant all of the time and in every situation. Maybe your dog is more dominant when it comes to retrieving a ball, but is less dominant when eating next to your other dog. Dominance is situation-specific.

We often use the term “dominance” or “Alpha” pretty loosly when trying to describe dog behavior, but it is not as easy to define as we may think. Just look at the actual definition for dominance: a) the fact or state of being dominant: as a: dominant position especially in a social hierarchy. Notice that it DOES NOT define it as aggression, or an expression of aggression. Dominance is a much more complicated concept in the dog world than we think it is and it cannot and should not be applied in general terms when describing a dog.

I recommend checking out the following links to further educate yourself on this topic or to seek help from a local dog trainer and animal behaviorist. After all, don’t we owe it to our dogs to try to better understand them?

It’s Me Or The Dog: Victoria’s Top 10 Most Difficult Dogs
Additional articles on pet behavior
Veterinarian Behaviorists Question Dominance Theory in Dogs
Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant located in the Twin Cities
The Dominance Controversy and Caesar Millan

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