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Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Jacobs’

Maggie: Puppy mill dog progress is measured in small steps

May 5, 2014 13 comments

IMG_6217Maggie has made some great progress over the past few weeks and month. She might not be ready for a new home yet, but she is definitely heading in that direction. She eats and drinks comfortably in and outside of her kennel. She no longer needs to be led inside and outside the house most days. She now follows the herd, and sometimes, she even beats them to it and gets to the door first!

One of the things she does well inside the house, but not outside, is coming to me for treats. She will hop up on the couch next to me when called and she will engage in hand-targeting easily, but outside she keeps her distance from me.

Like many shy dogs, Maggie is afraid of someone approaching her while they are facing her. It is scary to have someone looming over you when you are a shy dog (actually many dogs hate looming, not just mill dogs). To have someone come towards you and loom? Terrifying. Maggie will run to the opposite side of the yard to maintain a comfortable distance from me at all times. She trusts me, but only so far. There is safety in distance. Maggie loves cheese

To help Maggie with this I have been slowly working her up to being more comfortable with looming. This is something I have been looking forward to trying now that we all can be outside without freezing our patooties off. Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldog’s Blog, first shared this idea with me soon after I started fostering Maggie. She did the same thing with her dog, Nibbles. (Thank goodness for her Nibbles videos!)

I started by tossing cheese to Maggie and my dogs while sitting in a chair on the patio (Maggie loves cheese and the word “cheese”). Then I started asking my dogs for tricks for cheese while Maggie watched and got tossed a few pieces here and there. This drew her nearer to me as she wanted very much to have more cheese (“More cheese, please!”). Over the past few days, she has been steadily getting closer and closer to me in anticipation of getting more cheese.

Yesterday, I decided to switch it up a bit and stand in the yard and toss cheese to all four dogs. Of course, my dogs were ALL over that. Maggie kept her distance, but she would run in to nab a piece the other dogs missed. After doing this intermittently throughout the day, last night I decided to try to see if she would participate in a game of hand-targeting with me looming over her. She watched for a while as the other dogs all touched my had and got a piece of cheese., then started moving closer and closer. From time to time, I would offer her a chance to touch my hand, but always she would back off. Then, just as I was starting to run out of cheese, she did it! She targeted my hand twice while I was standing and looming over her! Yay Maggie! #Camera360分享#

I think we’ll keep working on this one for a while, until she feels much more comfortable with looming, but I am hoping we’ll be working up to walking on a leash in the yard soon. Cross your fingers!

Curious about looming and what Debbie Jacobs did to help her dog, Nibbles, become comfortable with it? I’ve attached the video here, but to read the whole story on Nibbles and looming, go to her post titled, “Learning to like looming.”

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Dog behavior – Stop assuming and start asking questions

February 7, 2013 14 comments

Recently, Debbie Jacobs from Fearfuldogs.com shared a video demonstrating how we can misinterpret a dog’s behavior.

Is your older dog suddenly refusing to sit on command? Maybe it’s arthritis.

Is your dog suddenly afraid to go outside? Maybe those new wind chimes you placed outside is scaring them.

Does your dog suddenly stop and refuse to move on a snowy street during your walk? Maybe the salt the city put down is hurting their paws.

Our dogs are telling us something all of the time, we just have to take the time to listen to them. I think the biggest mistake we (myself included) make when it comes to our dog’s behavior is not taking the time to understand the “why” behind it. Is it because there is something of higher value to them in their environment? Possibly. Did he have a bad experience in this environment that is affecting his ability to do something now? Could be. Is what we are asking of our dog confusing? Very likely.

It’s so easy to scold our dogs and assume they are refusing to obey us because they don’t want to do it or they don’t want to listen, but before we jump to the easiest, and most often the incorrect, conclusion we may want to take time to really listen to what our dogs are telling us.

Before making a judgement about their behavior we should… Watch. Look. Listen.

Here is that video Debbie shared. Take a look and let me know what you think.

The Top 12 Dog Blog Posts of 2012

December 30, 2012 29 comments

FD004740Here we are, looking at the last day of the year, December 31st, 2012. It’s hard to believe it is almost over isn’t it?

What will the new year bring? Only time will tell. I guess if you believe in numerology, then maybe there is some good news to be found in numerologist, Glynnis McCants’,  prediction for the new year. According to her, 2013 is a “6” year (2+0+1+3 = 6) which means a focus on family and business – “I see it as a good cycle for everybody who felt this year they couldn’t get it together…they have another chance.”  Pretty good news if you felt a little out of sorts (like me) in 2012. We shall have to see if it really comes true.

In the meantime, I thought I would use this last day of the year to share my annual list of favorite blog posts.

As with every year,  I had a hard time whittling my list down to just 12, but I think I did it.

Please note: These are blog posts I selected myself because they had an impact on me. I also thought they might be of interest to you. If you have others you think qualify, please do share them in the comment section below. I love finding new ones to read. I would love to know what blog post(s) touched you most this year.

So, without further ado, here are My Top 12 Blog Posts for 2012…

1.  Pondering Poppies In January – My friend Jenny Pavlovic is probably the most fearless person I know. She tackles the biggest problems as if they were merely a pebble in her path. She helps animals and humans, and tries to make a difference in all that she does. To be honest, I am a little in awe of her ability to just barrel ahead – fearless, dedicated, committed and kind. Earlier this year she wrote a blog post that pretty much summed up her philosophy on life. I admit I have a personal connection to this blog post, but it wasn’t why I chose it.

2.  A Perfect Storm – This blog post made the rounds in February after a news reporter was bitten in the face by a dog that had been rescued from a reservoir the day before. I am sure many of you recall the discussions that went on at that time – who was to blame, what people could learn from it, how to prevent a dog bite like this in the future, etc. What struck me most about Kari Bastyr’s words were both the measured way she discussed the issue and how she highlighted the need for us humans to better understand our dogs. In her own words, “Going forward, I would like everyone to take a step back and think about all the things your dog is trying to tell you. Do away with everything you ‘think’ you know about dogs, everything you have learned from your dogs growing up, and everything you try to do to ‘make’ your dogs listen. Watch and learn because your dog is trying to tell you things every single second.” Powerful stuff. I hope you will give it a read. It is well worth your time.

3.  Tread lightly – My friend Debbie Jacobs is probably one of the smartest people I know, and that doesn’t just apply to her knowledge of dogs. Her wisdom about fearful dogs, however is quite amazing (and helpful!). I thought this particular post was quite powerful. I could not agree with her more. As she says in the post, “When interacting with a fearful, shy or anxious dog, tread lightly, you may not be able to see the cracks in the ice.”

4. A Dog Park is No Place for a DuckKristine Tonks from Rescued Insanity is a thoughtful and thought-provoking type of blogger. I always know that she will leave me thinking (and in this case, laughing). This post had me not only laughing out loud, but doing so while riding on the train, during rush hour. I even made a point and going back to read it when I got home that evening. I knew then it just had to be on my 2012 list of favorite blog posts. Need a laugh? Read on!

5.  How I Failed as a Rescuer: Lessons from a Sanctuary – This post from Notes From a Dog Walker is pretty powerful stuff. The number of comments (629) should tell you enough about it’s impact. I think it’s a good example of what we as dog bloggers do best – share the raw emotional truth of our experiences with our pets, and the pets we care for, whether in rescue or a shelter. I guarantee it will leave you thinking.

6.  Chix-A-Lot Friday: Let’s be gentle, not judgmental – I have to admit, I love Aleksandra’s blog, Love and a Six-Foot Leash, for two reasons: 1) She is a fantastic photographer and I love looking at her pictures of her dogs and the dogs she has fostered, and 2) she is another blogger who is wise, thoughtful and thought-provoking. This post is one of her more thought-provoking posts and one that I think every dog trainer, dog blogger and dog “expert” should read. I know that I am still learning the lessons shared in this post.

7.  Exploding Dog Butts and Ill-Fitting Clothes – An Experiment in Looking on the Bright Side – If you haven’t been following Elizabeth’s dog blog, The Chronicles of Cardigan, you really should. She is about as funny as any standup comedian. I love her humor and I love her Corgiis. How could I not? They’re adorable and they provide fodder for Elizabeth’s humor. This one in particular had me in stitches. The title says it all. 🙂

8.  There’s A Sucker Born Every Minute and Things Dogs Brag About – I appreciate a lot of things about my friend Kevin Myers, among them are his knowledge of dogs and his love of coffee, but perhaps it is his sense of humor about us and our dogs that I love the most. These two posts are perfect examples of how well Kevin knows us and our dogs. See if you don’t agree. I guarantee you will at least laugh.

9.  Will in December – I highlighted Tom Ryan and his dog, Atticus, back in September, but what I didn’t know then was that he had since taken in another dog, one that very much-needed his loving care. To say that Will is a special needs dog would not be that far off. Neglected, unwanted, and in pain, Will was the older dog that everyone passes by. Thankfully, Tom was not everyone. This loving tribute to Will is so worth reading, although I warn you, you may need a tissue by the time you are through.

10.  An apology to Jehan and Farouk – Georgia Little Pea is normally a quite funny person. In fact, she is more than funny. She is talented. This past year she has been sharing all sorts of interesting stories about her life as she cleans house and considers moving to new locales. This particular post has stuck with me since she wrote it. If you have ever had a dog and felt the guilt of not being the dog owner you had once envisioned yourself being, then this post will resonate with you. I hope Georgia won’t mind me sharing it, but I thought it was worthy of sharing. Maybe read this one first and then read Aleksandra’s (#6).

11.  The Puppiness Project – Trust the Universe; Trust Yourself – Pamela often uses her dog, Honey, to help her, and her readers, better understand our complicated human emotions. It might seem a bit cliché to say that we should be more like our dogs, but I think Pamela has demonstrated that we can certainly learn a lot about ourselves through them. I think this particular post resonated with me because, like Pamela, I’m not much on trusting the universe either. That’s where Honey comes in. See what Pamela has to say on learning trust from her dog Honey.

12.  #20 ~ saved from a life of doglessness – This post just might be one of my favorites for the year. Maybe it’s the beauty of Eleanore MacDonald’s words or maybe it’s the fact that she has had the chance to watch as “the dark shroud of trauma began to wear away” from her dog Lovie (like I did with Daisy), but either way, I found her post powerful and touching enough to want to share it with all of you. There is something about Lovie’s story that hit me at my core. Maybe Eleanore’s talent with music has woven its way into her blog? She certainly has a beautiful voice, and after listening to her music, I already know that she is one amazing woman. I hope you will check out her blog post AND her music.

Favorite Video Friday – Daisy’s friend Gracie

February 9, 2012 12 comments

This week I’m doing something a little different for Favorite Video Friday. I’m sharing a video from our friends, Lizzie and her dog, Gracie (see below), and some pictures of my dog, Daisy.

Lizzie and Gracie live across the pond (that BIG pond we call the Atlantic Ocean) in the United Kingdom.

When Lizzie first wrote to me in May of 2009, she had found Daisy’s blog through a mutual friend, Debbie Jacobs of fearfuldogs.com. She read Daisy’s story, and her search to find her inner Lab (after spending years in a puppy mill as a breeding dog), and shared her own story about her dog, Gracie. Gracie is also “an ex breeding dog from a puppy farm” , and even though Lizzie and I and Gracie and Daisy live so far apart, we have much in common. Both our dogs are from puppy mills, both are fearful, both of us were (and are) learning how to work with our dogs and to help them to be less fearful, and both of our dogs are Labs. Yellow Labs to be exact, and not just that, but yellow Labs that look so similar they could be sisters. Maybe that’s why I feel such a kinship with Lizzie and with Gracie. We’re both going through the same things at the same time and making real progress.

When Lizzie sent me this video, I cried. Why? Because in every picture I could see Daisy as she used to be (even though it was Gracie in every photo) and I could see the progress in Gracie as I had with Daisy. There is nothing to describe the joy you feel when you see a dog that is so fearful that they will chose to hide in a laundry basket (see the video to understand) rather than come to you blossom into a happy dog who wags their tail and is happy and finally enjoying life, love and affection. I don’t know if everyone will be able to relate to Lizzie’s loving tribute to her dog Gracie, but I hope that all of you will appreciate the progress Gracie has made and celebrate her success. Lizzie – you are a wonderful mom.

“I know how much I’ve learnt from Gracie but I look at those early shots from time to time just to remind me how utterly terrified she was, and how bad she must have felt. The photos of her in the laundry basket were taken on her first day here; she saw the open door under the stairs and leapt into the basket where it was dark. I can tell you I had a job to get her out, as at that time I could not get near her!” Lizzie

As an addendum, I have added some pictures of Daisy that mirror the ones of Gracie. Can you see the resemblance?

Happy Friday everyone!

Daisy at the beginning

Daisy cuddling up next to my dog, Aspen. Her rock in a storm.

My fearful girl in the early days

Aspen and Daisy

Daisy and her first Woobie

Daisy and her friend River

Daisy, Jasper, and their friend, Mya

Daisy and Jasper, with friends, Henry and Sunny (and Bob, the man with the treats)

Daisy and Jasper having fun on a walk

Daisy - My happy girl

When a vet visit goes badly…

June 5, 2011 39 comments

Recently, my brother called me quite upset. It seems he had just taken his dog, Dozer, to the vet to get a check up. His experience had left him extremely upset, mad, and feeling quite guilty.

I was more than a bit surprised by his experience because our dogs happen to go to the very same veterinary clinic. In fact, I chose this clinic BECAUSE of how well they cared for his last dog, Remy. They were great with my last dog, Aspen, and have been absolutely phenomenal with Daisy and Jasper. Listening to my brother’s story left me sad and very disappointed.

As the owner of a fearful dog, I know how stressful a vet visit can be. Knowing that Daisy’s vet and her staff are experienced in handling fearful dogs made all the difference for me. In Dozer’s case, he saw a new vet and a new staff person. I wasn’t there so I can only relate his experience through his eyes, but from what I can gather, there was a lot of man-handling (it took several staff to hold him down to draw blood) and the use of a muzzle. While Daisy likely would have just shut down in this situation, Dozer reacted by biting – thus the muzzle.

My first response after speaking with my brother was to contact my friend, Debbie Jacobs, over at Fearfuldogs.com and share his story. I asked her to please continue to spread her knowledge of how to work with and approach fearful dogs with dog owners and trainers, but to also share it with veterinarians. I suspect that many veterinarians are taught the medicine side of vet care, but perhaps not as much the animal behavior side – something that is so badly needed.

Thankfully, Debbie responded pretty quickly. It turns out that has already begun to connect with veterinarians. She is sharing her book with them and offering to meet with them individually to help them better understand how to handle fearful dogs. Just like many vets, Debbie wants to make the visit to the vet clinic as stress-free as possible.

Debbie also shared with me that Dr. Sophia Yin, animal behaviorist and veterinarian, has some great information for owners and veterinarians on her website. As luck would have it, a dog training friend of mine shared a wonderful post on this topic just today. It is here – I highly encourage people to read it and then pass it on to their veterinarian and other dog owners.

My brother still feels guilty for letting the vet and her staff do all that they did to Dozer and is looking for a new vet. I can only hope that his and Dozer’s experience hasn’t left a lasting impression that will haunt them both on future vet visits.

Meet Debbie Jacobs! The Fearful Dogs’ Friend

January 20, 2011 13 comments

I have been wanting to interview Debbie Jacobs (from FearfulDogs.com) for some time now. Her dedication to helping fearful dogs and their owners makes her not only an interesting person but also a great one. But, I think she is a great resource for ANY dog owner. That’s why I wanted to highlight her on my blog. Read on to learn more about Debbie Jacobs and fearful dogs.

Debbie Jacobs CPDT-KA, CAP2, is the author of “A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog”, which was a finalist in the 2008 Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition. This popular Ebook is now also available in hard copy.

She lives in Vermont with her husband and 4 dogs and created the fearfuldogs.com website to help owners and trainers learn about the most effective and humane ways to work with fearful dogs. She met her fearful dog Sunny, the inspiration for the fearfuldogs website at the Humane Society of Louisiana’s Camp Katrina after the hurricanes of 2005.

Debbie – Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. To start with…

What is a fearful dog?
Good question. Plenty of dogs are afraid of some things, some of the time. Being afraid helps keep animals alive. Zebras wouldn’t last long if they weren’t afraid of being eaten by lions. I use ‘fearful dog’ to describe dogs that suffer from anxiety related disorders or phobias.

What causes a dog to be fearful?
Certain medical conditions can cause dogs to behave fearfully. It is important to rule these out. Pain or injury can cause a dog to behave in a fearful way. If your back hurts when people pick you up, you might start acting afraid when you are going to be picked up. If your hips hurt you might try to avoid going up stairs.

A genetic predisposition can cause a dog to be fearful. Anyone who has raised children can attest to the fact that personalities in children can be observed from very young ages. Some kids rush right in, while others hang back. Dogs can be the same way. Since we cannot test for this and since many of us get our dogs as adults, we will never know if this is why our dog is fearful, shy or anxious.

Trauma and abuse can cause a dog to become fearful. Most people assume that a dog that behaves in a fearful way was beaten, hurt or abused. That well may have been the case but one of the leading causes of fear based behaviors in dogs is the following- The lack of adequate and appropriate socialization when the dog was a pup. There is a window of opportunity during which puppies need to be exposed, safely, to novel objects, situations, new people, sounds and experiences. If this doesn’t happen, there is no going back and ‘fixing’ it.

Are there certain characteristics or behaviors people are more likely to see in a fearful dog?
Most people can identify when dogs are afraid if they cower, hide or run away. These are ‘big’ behaviors that are easy to notice. There are many other ‘smaller’ more subtle behaviors that dogs perform which indicate varying degrees of fear or discomfit. A dog might yawn, lick their lips, lower their head, turn their head, tuck their tail, squint or close their eyes, freeze, pant, drool, shed, sweat from their paws, pee or roll over. A dog behaving in an overt aggressive manner is often afraid. When we see aggression in dogs it can be scary to us and we are less inclined to empathize with the dog. Most dogs go through a series of attempts to make whatever scares them go away or leave them alone, When it doesn’t work they may begin to escalate toward a more aggressive response. This is not an attempt to ‘dominate’ their owner, a stranger or other dog, it’s how a dog says, “Really, I mean it, back off.”

How does a fearful dog’s behavior differ from a “normal” dog?
In some cases a fearful dog can behave like other dogs that are not fearful. If a dog is not exposed to the things that scare them, they may be happy and confident. It is only around these things that their fear based behavioral responses are seen. Dogs without problematic anxiety or fear, typically recover quickly from being scared or startled. A fearful dog may need a longer time to recover from a scary episode. Fearful dogs’ behavior will often get worse, rather than better the more they are exposed to things that scare them.

You help a lot of people with fearful dogs, what are some of the common issues you come across?
Common issues for the dogs include; fear of people, other dogs or novelty (sudden changes in their environment)
Common issues for owners include; a lack of understanding of how to handle dogs that are afraid. They usually don’t realize the time, energy and patience their dog is going to require in order to develop more confidence.

What are some common mistakes people make when working with their fearful dog (i.e., one they adopted)?
In general most owners put too much pressure on their dogs without understanding how counter conditioning and desensitization are used. They try to change their dog’s behavior rather than try to change their dog’s emotional response. Change the emotion and the behavior usually changes along with it. People often want and need their dog to behave a certain way and use force or coercion to get these behaviors from their dog. Dogs are punished, corrected, yelled at and generally scared, in the name of ‘training’.

So what are some basic things an owner can do to help/work with a fearful dog?
Understanding triggers, thresholds, counter conditioning and desensitization provides the foundation for the work with do with our fearful dogs. To begin with, stop putting your dog in situations in which the dog is afraid. A dog will not learn to feel good about something or someone until they stop being scared by it. Each fearful response just makes it more likely that that response will be repeated in the future. Our fearful dogs’ brains have become very good at being scared and easily startled. We need to stop having them practice that. Keep your dog in situations in which the dog feels safe and never feels the need to run or resort to aggressive behavior to protect themselves. Only when you understand how rewards are used to change how our dogs feel should you begin to expose your dogs to its triggers. Figure out what rocks your dog’s world. What do they love to do, what makes them feel great? Give them as many opportunities during the day to experience these activities. Building a positive, trusting relationship with your dog is also key. Few of us would want to hang out with someone who always made us do things that scared us. Why would our dogs?

What videos/blog posts/etc (from your website) would you recommend a new fearful dog owner check out?
Owners should visit fearfuldogs.com and click through the site. There’s lots of information and resources. The first step to changing our fearful dogs’ brains usually includes changing ours.

My many thanks to Debbie Jacobs for this interview!

As an added note, I would also recommend you check out Debbie’s blog. She not only shares some great food for thought (applicable to all dog owners), but also some additional info for owners with fearful dogs. It’s also a great place to meet other people with fearful dogs. We’ve created a nice little community of support there which has been greatly helpful to so many people, including ,myself.

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