Posts Tagged ‘feeding dogs’

Finishing Kory’s feeding protocol

July 26, 2009

At this evening’s dinner we began putting the parts of Kory’s feeding protocol together, specifically,  1) keeping Kory’s nose in his own bowl in the presence of other dogs and,  2) keeping Kory’s nose out of the other dogs’ bowls while they eat.

For dinner tonight I put Kory on lead and tied his leash handle to the door knob inside the basement. The other dogs barely noticed the new kid hanging out by the door and, of course, were so intent on their dinner they didn’t go near him.

When everyone’s bowl was down and all were eating I picked up Kory’s bowl and walked him about 4 feet away from the pack, put his bowl on the floor, had my clicker handy, and my hand on the leash.

Kory glanced at the other dogs and dove into his bowl, never stalling out, never breaking position to visit the other dogs, just intent on his work. I clicked and praised for his workmanlike approach to dinner.

After about 45 seconds I hung his leash across his back. He stayed focused on his bowl without changing position at all.

As he was finishing his meal some of the sharks began circling, so I left his side to shoo them out the door. Kory held his place and continued eating.  More clicks and calm praise from me.

When he finished I gave him huge praise which he was delighted to receive, wiggling and kissing my face. I then put him out the basement door and he calmly walked amongst the rest of the pack. Within 30 seconds I said, “Kory, hurry up!” and he produced”poopage,” which is an accomplishment itself.

I believe this feeding training is going to change both Kory’s behavior in the pack , giving him more self-confidence (he’s been WAY too submissive, especially to a couple of our bitches) and his image of himself as a more mature dog.

Hopefully Bud will read this, curious as to what I’m doing with Kory while he’s away, and be pleased with our progress!

more on Kory’s feeding protocol

July 25, 2009

There was a 36-hour delay in publishing my last blog which was written Thursday night. Here it is Saturday morning and it just got published.

Kory’s put-your-head-in-your-bowl-and-eat protocol has progressed nicely.

On Friday he again ate his meal in the basement in the general area where other dogs eat, but in their absence. He again was clicked and encouraged to consume a large bowl of food without stopping or pausing. He again created “poopage” immediately upon consuming this large meal.

Friday evening we added distractions. My mom and sister were here so I fed Kory about 3 feet from my family. He was slightly distracted but got down to business and finished his meal, then pooped for me!

Saturday morning he got to pee before I left to swim. I was gone from 6:30 to 9:15. Upon my return I let all the dogs out in the yard where Kory immediately peed and then pooped!  This was a great bit of progress on regularly scheduled poop performance.

I put the older dogs into the basement, left Kory in the yard, and laid out the pack’s food bowls. As they got busy with their meal I brought Kory in, held his collar, and let him watch. He was fascinated by the feeding frenzy and wanted to check out all the steel bowls. I hung on to him while most dogs finished and began milling around.

I then opened the basement door and shooed Kory and 7 dogs out the door.  Banner and Wizard (my slow-pokes) finished eating and we left the basement.

We came into the house and I got Kory’s breakfast and my clicker. We walked to a spot just six inches from the baby gate separating him from the pack.

Kory took one look at the pack, all of whom were staring at his breakfast, and dove into his meal (earning a click and praise).

I stood nearby until he was diligently working away at his meal, then stepped back 4 feet. He hesitated, I stared at his bowl, he dived back in, I clicked and praised, then stepped back another 3 feet.

By the time he finished his breakfast today, with the entire pack drooling nearby, I was able to walk around the living room putting away my swimsuit, opening windows, doing chores.

Now I need to start putting the pieces together — 1) Kory eating in the presence of the other dogs in the basement feeding zone,  and  2) Kory observing the other dogs eating their meals without hassling them.

Tomorrow is a workshop day and Tracy Waite is going to be my assistant instructor. She’ll have 4 beginners and 4 intermediates. I’ll have 9-10 advanced dogs on my end of the floor.

So today I’ll be setting equipment in the building, doing some straightening up, then may take the pack down to the building for an outing. They love to experience the “wilds” beyond the building and chase each other around the agility field.

training Kory in Bud’s absence

July 25, 2009

When I’m faced with 3-4 days of training Bud’s dogs in his absence I generally pick a specific behavior that needs to be added to the puppy’s reperitoire, but which won’t detract from what Bud’s working on at the time.

For the next 3 days Bud’s judging USDAA at Janet Kemerer’s place in Washingtonville, Ohio. Like a lot of folks who offer trials in this lousy economy, Janet found that entries didn’t justify 2 judges so she asked Bud to judge all 30-some classes over 3 days. He’s going to work his butt off for the next few days so feeding and training Kory is the least I can do.

FYI — I heard on Ohio Public Radio this week that 279,000 more Ohioans lost their jobs in the last quarter, bringing the total number of lost jobs in Ohio to over 679,000. The economy in our part of the state has been stagnant for many years, so this latest crisis isn’t hitting us as hard as it’s hitting the highly populated parts of the state. We had no bubble to burst.

Anyway ….. I’ve chosen a skill to teach Kory that will enhance his life, his relationship with our pack, and our lives.

Kory is going to learn how to put his head in his food bowl and eat without dumping his food, without playing with his bowl, without timing out.

Our pack needs about 90-120 seconds to consume their breakfast, and about another 90-120 seconds to consume their dinner. A puppy who shows little interest in his food bowl, who wanders and nibs into other bowls, is going to get into trouble and is going to have his food stolen.

Until now Kory has been fed separately with Bud implementing mealtime training protocols. Hopefully, by Monday, Kory will be ready to join the pack for a hearty meal without starting any squabbles or suffering meal theft.

I began with our first meal opportunity — Thursday’s dinner. Bud left a couple of hours ago so I fed the pack as usual at about 5:00 p.m.

When everyone had finished their business I blocked them in and brought Kory and his dinner to the basement. I brought along my clicker as well — Kory has been worked a good bit with his clicker so he gets excited when he earns a click.

When I set his full bowl on the floor Kory sniffed it, got a click, and I fed him a few pieces of kibble from my hand. He had no interest in putting his snout in the bowl but I continued to click any instance of Kory’s snout facing the bowl, touching the bowl, going in the bowl.

Each click was accompanied by kibble from my hand which piqued his interest a bit more. As it began to dawn on him that the click occurred when his snout went into the bowl he became more and more intent on continuing to eat.

After about 45 seconds I discontinued feeding him from hand. He put his snout in the bowl, I clicked, he ate kibble.

It took him approximately 5 minutes to finish his bowl of kibble. By the end of the meal he was focused on finishing the food, getting periodic clicks for diving in with gusto after pausing to chew a mouthful.

After dinner I convinced him to produce “poopage” in the back yard quickly, and without the hours of delay he gives Bud. Unless Bud decides to read my blog he’ll have no idea what’s going on here. <g>

………… hours later ………….

Got back into the house from our Thursday night fun run event. Kory and I played fetch with the green kong toy for a few minutes. On his last fetch he caught the kong, spit it out, licked his lips, sniffed a spot on the ground, and gingerly picked up the kong again.

Yep, when I checked, there was a tooth on the ground. He’s dropping them everywhere. We both wear shoes in the house ’cause walking into a puppy tooth, barefoot, on hardwood floors, is just not worth thinking about.

basic obedience modules

July 7, 2009

Our basic obedience training is offered as private lessons. In one-hour lessons I explain the 2-Minute training protocols, demonstrate the homework, and have the clients demonstrate their understanding of the homework exercises.

At the end of the hour I ask “is this sort of training something you think you can do?”  I also ask if they have any questions or if their dog has any behaviors not covered by the training I’ve suggested.

Anyone who has done basic obedience training for any length of time knows what I know — that the problems people face with new dogs, with young dogs, with puppies, whether they’re from a shelter, from the neighbor’s litter, or from a pet store, fall into one of a few categories.

1) My dog bites me. It’s usually “mouthing” more than biting. I find the owner is usually focusing too much attention on the dog’s mouth, putting their hands on or near the snout, constantly touching the dog’s muzzle, sometimes actually sticking their hands in the dog’s mouth. By working the 2-minute protocols the owner learns a new way of interacting with their dog. I also show them how to pet their dog in a way which the dog finds enjoyable without engaging the dog’s muzzle.

2) My dog jumps up on me. In my experience there’s almost always someone in the house encouraging the dog to jump up. This is sometimes an unconscious behavior where the owner simply doesn’t know the proper response to jumping up. Occasionally it is a conscious desire to sabotage the training efforts of the person who dislikes the jumping-up behavior. All the exercises will encourage the dog to adopt a begging position with all 4 feet on the floor. The name recognition, recall, and attention exercise have the dog sitting in front of the handler. Other exercises have the dog walking beside the owner, sitting beside the owner, or lying down.

3) My dog drags me with the leash. When puppies are little we laugh as they drag us around, then we expect the behavior to diminish as the dog gets older. Even experienced obedience and agility exhibitors let their dogs drag on the leash. I’m always careful to have folks practice loose-leash walking while I can oversee their practice. They must be 100% consistent in their responses in order to extinquish leash pulling. If mom and dad do the exercises and kids allow the dog to drag them the lesson will rarely stick with the confused puppy.

4) My dog poops and pees in the house.  Occasionally I meet folks who accept the idea of their dog pottying in the house. They just clean it up. But the vast majority of housetraining problems are created by undisciplined and disorganized people. Faced with a disciplined routine most dogs quickly move toward compliance. My biggest issue in this part of the world has to do with teaching people not to punish the puppy for housetraining accidents. Of course, lots of dogs around here are stuck in the yard and aren’t allowed in the house.

5) My dog runs off and won’t come back. The statement I hear more often than any other is “we can’t have a fence.” This is usually because the family has a large piece of land. So the puppy gets turned loose on this expanse of property and learns to wander at will. The family works on attention to name and recall for a week or two, then expects the training to work forever. My protocols are designed to be repeated as needed. As dogs age they’ll drift in and out of attention versus distraction. The new dog must be trained and can’t be expected to respond the same as the aged dog you just lost.

6) My dog won’t let me take toys, trim nails, put her harness on, etc. This is a skill which people often give up on. Even savvy dog trainers will often come up with tricks to make the dog surrender toys, gimmicks to get the dog to file their own nails, or ways of holding treats to make the dog walk into leashes or harnesses. Sometimes it’s important that dogs accept some things they don’t like. I encourage owners to think of their dogs as 7-year-old kids, or teenagers, to tap into what might be a more natural response to the dog “not wanting” to perform certain behaviors. With my own dogs I often say, “because I’m the mommy, that’s why you must do this.” I know there are complex conditioning exercises we can do to get a dog to accept nail trimming, for example, but most dogs quickly give up resisting when they realize you’re not planning a surrender.

My 2-Minute training for basic obedience is designed to focus the dog on positive behaviors during mealtimes. At all other times I encourage the owners to use routines and management techniques to eliminate the opportunity for the dog to engage in negative behaviors.

For lots of dog trainers this is natural, common sense. What I’ve always found, however, is that there’s no common sense with dogs. Either you have it or you don’t.

Bud’s Kory and his 2 minutes of stay

May 21, 2009

In just 10 days Kory has progressed quickly in his 2-minute training sessions.

What began as sit and down exercises, then tossing the kibble with “go find!” and recall to sit, is now sit/stay and down/stay training.

I generally observe from a point where I won’t distract him, at least until he gets settled in his work. Bud puts his food bowl on a deck chair, sets Kory up in a sit/stay, leaves him to walk to the chair, brings back kibble, and feeds.

Kory is about 90% solid on both sit and down/stay. It’s amazing, really, how clever this boy is. When he’s working, he’s steady and focused, all at less than 14 weeks of age.

When he’s not working, by the way, he’s schmoozing with the pack, forming alliances and posturing appeasement to the less welcoming of our dogs.

On Sunday afternoon, during our agility workshops, Kory got to stay in his ex-pen with our student, Nancy, doing a little puppy-sitting.

The rules were that, if Kory was noisy, he was told to “settle.”  When he went into his down (for “settle”) she’d count 1-2-3 and feed a treat. If the treat is given too quickly the dog assumes a behavior pattern of jump-up-on-the-pen, hear “settle,” lie down, eat a treat. Dogs will jump up just to start the behavior chain.

By counting 1-2-3 (and, later, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10) the chain is broken, the dog is holding the down, and they’re being rewarded for staying settled.

Kory did really well at class on Sunday and I wanted him ready to accompany Bud to the building for camp Tuesday through Friday.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I walked to the building mid-afternoon and there was Kory, curled up with his head touching Blue’s rear, sound asleep while Bud taught in the other end of the building.

As I watched agility I heard activity in the ex-pen. Blue was explaining to Kory that the ex-pen was for resting between exercises, not for rowdy play. She was explaining it as only a bitch can. Gently, but noisily and firmly, Blue got the message across in no uncertain terms.

Beginning today I’ve asked that some of Kory’s stay exercises include an obedience “return to heel position” as Bud brings the food back. I don’t expect Kory to have much trouble staying while Bud walks around behind him.

In other news, I’ve heard through the grapevine that HSOV’s (Humane Soc. of the Ohio Valley — Marietta’s shelter) new executive director has taken it upon himself to fire the new shelter manager.

The board of directors hired them simultaneously and they’ve both been working out of the same office for about 2 months. I try to stay out of the politics but, honestly, how on earth does this happen?

Rather than having management attacking each other it would be nice if someone at the top would start managing the staff of young men who seem to spend 50% of their time on smoke breaks and texting their friends on their cell phones.

It amazes me how some kids get by with low-paying jobs (or no jobs at all) and a $40/week cigarette habit. Who supports that habit?

Hickory, the mamma’s boy

May 16, 2009

Hickory’s been my dog for about 24 hours now. I’m doing some puppy 2-Minute protocols with him using his meals, as well as working on housetraining and getting him some exercise in the training building.

Hopefully Bud will read my blog so he knows what I’m up to. <g>  (Bud’s judging agility in Texas.)

With lunch yesterday I introduced the concept of a formal recall to a sit in front.  Hickory’s been doing downs for about 3 days and that’s become his default in the presence of food, his begging position.

I took a piece of food and taught him to follow a toss with the subsequent roll of the kibble. It took him a few tries to follow the rolling food but, thankfully, it was hard kibble on hardwood floors, so the sound helped him follow the movement.

When he was following the food nicely I introduced the recall just as he was reaching to eat the kibble. “Hickory Come!” with him flipping around and roaring back to me, “Sit!” as he approaches, and feeding the moment his butt hits the floor.

He’s really quite clever, though, and can just as quickly slam into a down as do a sit, so I’ve got to be pretty quick.

When working on sit with Hickory, the sequence is mostly “Sit!”- he sits, he eats, he lies down, “Sit!”- he sits, he eats, he lies down, etc. I’ll introduce the concept of sit-stay later this weekend.

For now, he’s a mamma’s boy. And this morning he also learned he isn’t supposed to pass through the babygates, even though he can.

We have an iron railing between the dining room and the living room, with a babygate providing the door through which dogs are supposed to pass.

Hickory (Hazard too) passes through the iron railing like farts in the wind. Hazard will always be able to do it, Hickory not so much. So today I threw a blanket over the railing and blocked passage through. We’ll see if it gets taken seriously or if it just becomes another barrier to conquer.

another 2-minute training concept

April 2, 2009

It occurred to me last evening that I use a great deal of 2-minute training other than mealtime training for specific dog-sport behaviors.

From oldest to youngest:

   Banner — age 13 — we do “see me – catch me” games for about a minute a day. I don’t want her to get lazy about trying to see things so we play the game where I entice her to follow me, then have her chase me around the sofa and recliners (at a dead walk), then she gets to catch me and celebrate.

   Bogie and Birdie — age 13 — I’ve started using hand and arm signals for both of these boys. There’s some blindness and a great deal of deafness going on with all our old dogs, and neither of these two require much training. They’re perfect just as they are. Birdie, by the way, has perked up considerably since I put all the oldsters on a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, plus started soaking his kibble for a few hours before his meals.

   Wizard and Ringer — age 11 — for two wild yard dogs these guys actually have really nice recalls. Several times a week we go on family walks, down to the training building and around in the dog-fenced, 2-acre, run. Ringer is the only dog who can’t cross the driveway without taking off, so he has to walk on a leash. I’m teaching him how to put his leash on nicely. Ringer’s preferred method of getting leashed is to run full force at the person holding the leash and bounce his front feet off their gut. (He’s a puppy-mill rescue with no manners – we call him “Mr. Inappropriate.” <g>) I hold the leash loop in front of me. If he approaches nicely it slips over his head. If he runs straight at me I roll to the side. He’s actually picking it up rather quickly.

    Dash — age 9 — always has to lie down for his meals. Dash has no natural confidence. All he has came from me and food. So he’s my spoiled brat. A terrific obedience and agility dog, Dash has to show a touch of self-control before getting any rewards. Last evening we tried to practice his stupid-pet-trick (Dash shops and prioritizes a pile of objects and retrieves them in the same order every time) and it would seem the trick has vanished. He now picks up the first thing that appears before him, and retrieves the entire pile in no particular order. Oh well, there’s a reason I called it a stupid pet trick. <g>

    Red — age 5 — an interesting dog, clinically insane, perhaps. She always has to lie down and stay at the back of the pack for her meals. Red will nudge and nip at any dog that comes around her when food is involved. We keep trying different foods and supplements but I fear she’s going to be my go-along dog, for a few more years anyway.

    Hazard — age 5 — Bud’s tiny sheltie has to be quiet for one minute before I’ll set her food bowl down. She’s a lovely agility dog though none of us get out often enough to accumulate many titles. She got her TACH without Bud being aware of it. We’re going to to be working with her on the teacup equipment, building speed and distance.

    Blue — age 2 — a rescue from the Marietta shelter (HSOV), Blue seems to have issues with start-line timers. I’ve talked with a number of people in the dog agility world and we’ve concluded that Blue’s issue is not with the sound of “GO!” coming out of the speaker. Her issue is with the little bleeps and bloops that happen as the system records the end of the prior dog’s run and resets itself. These sounds are so close the the sounds made by an underground fence shock collar, warning the dog that it’s getting close to the line. Blue’s reaction, when she hears the dog ahead of her clear the last jump and the system reset, is to look for a way out of the ring. I’d like to dig a hole big enough to bury all those darned shock collars forever.

In my basic obedience lessons I stress that every interaction with our dog is training, so the day is full of 2-minute training steps.

Sorority volunteer day at the Shelter

March 1, 2009

On Friday I got to the shelter about noon and picked up “Farley,” a dog that resembles a miniaturized Rotty.  Our HSOV staff doesn’t list anything on their website or on as a rotty or rotty mix, probably because they think they won’t get adopted, but I’ve found the rotty mixes there to be pretty solid citizens overall.

Farley got loaded into my dog crate in the back of the Tahoe, along with 3 beautiful little cats, and we headed off to We Luv Pets in Lafayette Square. Once again we were welcomed with open arms by the terrific staff and manager there, everyone made a big fuss over Farley, and he had an exciting 90 minutes greeting visitors and schmoozing with the staff. Farley walks beautifully on a leash, so I spent time walking the aisles of the store with him.

I needed to buy dog food before I left, so I loaded Farley back into the crate and returned to We Luv Pets for a bag of Nutro Senior. It took me about 5 minutes and, upon returning to the truck, I was greeted with a familiar smell.

I still don’t know if it was vomit or poop (the shelter’s food is a cheap mix of whatever-gets-donated so it could have been vomit, but the shelter only feeds once a day in the afternoon so it must have been poop) but there was a big pile of it in my crate.

Poor Farley had stepped in it once, so there were footprints on the bedding, but I got his leash on quickly, got him out of the truck, shook off the bedding quickly, then got a poop bag and picked up all the little bits I’d missed when I pulled out the bedding. A benefit of layering bedding, of course, is that you can capture messes in the upper-most layers.

I generally layer old towels and blankets in my truck crates. Poor Farley was, I believe, certain he was going to get punished but I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t give him an opportunity to take care of business before loading him into the crate. I was thinking of him like he was one of my dogs, not a shelter dog, with their constantly unsettled digestive systems.

I returned to the shelter, got Farley happily back in his kennel (he was such a good boy!) and used shelter cleaner and paper towels to finish the clean up in the back of the truck. All in all, I’ve seen much worse, and it was a pretty easy mess to deal with.

Upon returning home all the bedding got laundered, then returned to the truck, so Saturday morning I was good to go with no residual smells in the truck.

Saturday I got to the shelter about 11:30 to prepare for Marietta College’s Chi Omega sorority work day. Our shelter gets a great deal of casual assistance from Marietta College students, and a couple of these girls are in the group working up PR material for the shelter for their writing class as well.

Angie, at the shelter, had a list of things she wanted done. When the 20-30 girls arrived we wrote the jobs on slips of paper (for example, if 3 girls were needed sorting food in the garage we wrote up 3 slips with “food in garage”). Each girl drew a slip of paper and we started dividing them up. Since Angie was more knowledgeable than I as to where supplies were, what needed done, how to do it, etc., it took us 15 minutes or so to get things started.

As my big 2009 donation, I stopped on my way to the shelter at Lowes and picked up a 5-gallon bucket of white primer (good for drywall as well as masonry) and 5 cheap brushes. While Angie settled 20 girls into cleaning and sorting tasks I got 4-5 girls painting the back hallway of the shelter with white primer.

We dug up a few little step ladders, so we were able to do upper trim AND the metal strips holding up the dropped ceiling. The ceiling panels themselves are going to be replaced, but we put a coat of primer on the grungy metal framework which holds the panels in place. These strips will, no doubt need another coat of primer or (better yet) a spray-coat of white Rustoleum.

By 12:30 the shelter was BUZZING with college girls. They were scrubbing the walls of the lobby, laundering bedding, folding and sorting towels, climbing all over pallets and shelves sorting food, organizing the donated plush toys and rawhides, unfolding and folding newspapers, scrubbing the outside sidewalks with disinfectent, cleaning the doormats, picking up poop and trash, scrubbing and hosing out all the transport crates, stacking the transport crates in the storage room, cutting donated bedspreads in half and folding for bedding, scrubbing the ceiling vents, and (of course) painting the back hallway.

When they finished the shelter just FELT better. It looked brighter, smelled better, like a breath of fresh air had blown through. The shelter staff were, at first, a bit shell-shocked. The guys who spend their days cleaning up after dogs and cats were shuffling around, not knowing what to do or how to get involved, but I believe they appreciated having everything organized and straightened at the end of the event.

As volunteer coordinator, I think I’m going to try to find someone who would like to go to the shelter every week or so to put the garage in order. The job involves stacking dog food and cat food, sorting kitty litter, folding and stacking pee pads and newspaper, etc.  Not exciting work, mind you, but I’ve got a couple of people who want to volunteer but can’t bear seeing all the animals in cages and kennel runs.

This would be perfect work for an organized, soft-hearted volunteer. I’ll make that my job for this week (among other things, of course <g>).

As for the guys who work at the shelter — they’ve got a dirty, low-paying job and (like most guys, sorry if I’m generalizing) they’re not big on organizing and beautifying. Other than one older fellow who took charge of the transport cages and back walkway (providing supplies and leadership to 3-4 girls), the guys shuffled around doing animal care and generally avoiding prying eyes. One middle-aged woman could outwork 2 of these fellows.

Hopefully they’re not interested enough to read a blog about HSOV and be offended. In my years at Fenton Art Glass I saw this phenomenon quite a bit. I believe this lack-of-motivation is a leadership problem so perhaps our new shelter manager (Sue Goff) will change the attitude of the shelter workers.

After the girls started trickling out I started showing a new volunteer, Marlene, some of our SMART techniques. We talked about dog training in general, rewarding the behaviors you wish to encourage and ignoring the behaviors you wish to extinquish.

I got to meet with a young mother and her small daughter who were looking for a new dog. “I promised my daughter a dog as a birthday present and as a potty-training present.” We walked through the big-dog room and talked a little about dear “Farley.” We put Farley on a leash so Mom and daughter could take him for a walk. He got to show off his marvelous leash manners, greeted the little girl calmly, and generally was a gentleman.

The young woman said, “my parents had Rottweilers, and I always loved them, so he might be just perfect!” We returned Farley to his kennel and the woman’s husband will be brought back next week to see him. Such a nice boy, I hope he finds a good family with kids.

2 Min. Dog Trainer (Sport Foundation Package)

February 12, 2009

The pdf of my Sport Foundation Package has gone to Bud for inclusion in our webstore offerings. These 2-Minute Dog Training brochures cover foundation skills for obedience, rally, and agility. Even if you don’t do performance sports you’ll find that sport foundation work builds a great working relationship with your dog.

I use these exercises with rescue dogs and have trained each of our new agility dogs for the past 9 years with these mealtime methodologies. I hope everyone enjoys the packet, whether you’re using it for your own dogs or are giving the brochures to your students.

The material is copyrighted but instructors or clubs have my permission to reprint the brochures for free distribution to students. The easiest way to print the packet is in the following order:   page 1,  pages 2-4-6-8-10-12-14-16, letting the pages stack naturally, flip the stack and print 3-5-7-9-11-13-15-17.  Disregard the previous sentence if you’ve got a bizarre printer like mine which gets cantankerous with stacks of paper printed on the flip side.

After printing both sides, fold in half with the name of the skill in red on the front cover. Place your label or business card on the bottom of the front page so students can contact you if they have questions. As dog-training instructors we have a responsibility to get warm bodies in our classes. It’s good for the people and it’s good for the dogs, so encouraging class attendance is job one.

My next 2 Minute Dog Training publication will address the 30+ skills we need to train for rally obedience performances. I’ve published all these exercises, specifically for instructors in a group class setting, in “Go Rally Training Manual.” The 2-Minute versions of the training exercises will provide homework assignments for students in a group class, and will address the fine points a handler must put on performance to achieve consistent responses to cues.

The 2-Minute Dog Training brochures will follow the order of “Go Rally Training Manual,” but the skills will each be covered individually in the brochures. An instructor, presenting 2-3 exercises in class, may choose which brochure each student needs, thereby customizing homework assignments for each handler.

Shelter news includes a new adopt-a-thon idea I had this morning. Rather than taking 15 dogs and 5 cats to one location, requiring a dozen or so dog-walkers and several large crates, with our transport team making numerous trips from the shelter to the site, I’m recommending a down-sized, more targeted approach to the adopt-a-thon.

I’m going to visit with 2 Marietta businesses who support the shelter and ask if we can send 1-2 volunteers with 1-2 dogs and maybe 1 cat to their business, possibly EVERY Saturday, from noon to 2:00pm, for example. The volunteer would show up at the shelter, get their dog, drive to one of 2 businesses, set up their chair/handouts/donation box, and let the dog be showcased to customers, pack up everything, return the dog /cat and donation box to the shelter and head home.

Here’s my thinking on the benefits of this — 1) this system is considerably less disruptive for the shelter staff,  2) customers of these 2 businesses will begin to expect a shelter dog there on Saturday afternoon,  3) each dog will behave better and look more attractive to potential adopters,  4) guests of the shelter, after looking at the dogs available there, can be directed to the 2 business locations to view other dogs, thus building foot traffic in the supporting businesses,  and  5) the shelter gets weekly exposure and has weekly fund-raising opportunities.

Negatives include  1) the difficulty of getting proper transportation for some of our volunteers (I may have to drive some of them to these businesses, then return to pick them up),  2) the slight possibility that some volunteer will take it upon herself to release a dog to an adopter without permission from the shelter and without going through proper adoption channels (unlikely, I suppose, though I’ll have to caution them against this),  3) volunteers will be representing the shelter so I’ve stated that “clean clothes, polite and helpful attitude are a must” (I’m certain I’ll be given the opportunity to police that).

There’s always a possibility a shelter dog will manage to get lose from the volunteer’s protection, but this possibility existed under the old system as well.

On home news, I was feeding dogs 2-3 days ago and saw something skitter up an electric cord out of my peripheral vision. I looked everywhere for a mouse and discovered little mouse turds everywhere around my dog-food station. I found the critter had eaten a bunch of bird food Bud left unprotected nearby.

For the last 3 days, therefore, we’ve been on a mouse-killing rampage in the basement. At last count Bud’s traps had killed EIGHT mice. YUCK. It’s the season for them to be creating litter after litter of baby mice and I suppose the warm basement is much preferred to the cold, windy outdoors. But they don’t get to live in the basement, sorry.

Spring planning 2009

February 10, 2009

This blog is my personal journal, but I always keep in mind that others read my ramblings here. As an explanation, this post is an attempt at a bit of closure and an explanation of the conception of our Private Lesson Sale.

Two years ago Bud and I bought this piece of family property from my parents. In the ensuing years my siblings have carped, complained, threatened, and manipulated the tenuous emotional state of my 85-year-old father so that he believes I cheated him out of his property and robbed my siblings of their inheritance. My mother, who co-owned the property, is in complete disagreement with all of them and has subsequently filed for a divorce after 60 years of marriage to my father.  In other words, my family has imploded.

This state of affairs is not unique to my family. Having talked to other people with battling families and disputed property, this nearly always happens when one family member purchases property from aging owners. I’m not sure if knowing that prior to the sale would have dissuaded me from pursuing this property, but hindsight is 20/20.

A week ago I received a long, detailed letter from my youngest brother, explaining how my error was in not acquiring permission from and consensus between my siblings, because it was their business. For 2 years I’ve allowed my brothers and sisters to argue loudly amongst themselves, figuring it would fizzle out. Now, for the first time in 2 years I decided to respond to the letter and present the details of my perspective.

When I finished my e-mail response, my finger hovered over the mouse pad, with the pointer on “send.” Should I save this as a draft? Delete it entirely? Swallow my anger and just hope it would blow over? Nope. I sent it. And then I breathed a long cleansing breath. I’ve received no response to my answer, and can assume it was either accepted (an unlikely possibility) or that he’s no longer speaking to me (more likely).

Regardless, I’ve felt more peaceful since sending the response. And I’ve felt more than ever that, whatever happens, this is my home, my responsibility, and my number one favorite project. Rather than living in a sort of limbo, being unenthusiastic about projects, I’ve got a major burr up my butt about planting flower beds, putting in guardrails, getting ground-cover started, and making our woods more accessible with paths and benches — in general, making this a spot where people really want to spend a relaxing week’s vacation.

Simultaneously, Bud came up with his work-study partnerships, with campers able to clear paths, build benches and bridges and fences, planting trees and flowers, in exchange for agility or rally training. What can I say, great minds run in the same direction. Perhaps it’s just cabin fever, but we’ve initiated a couple of new programs to jump start the 2009 beautification of Country Dream.

The second program, my idea, is to have a private lesson sale. Beginning now our private lessons will be $20-30 less than normal, with the proceeds going toward the purchase of plants, flowers, bulbs, shrubs, trees, and any soil amendments or covering needed to keep them alive. I’m picturing the place with lovely evergreen plantings and ivy covering those red-clay hills. Flower beds will be popping up at the cottages, around the pond, and along the woodsy paths.

This sale will continue indefinitely, not only as a way of allowing our students to “own” the beautification projects they fund, but also to enable economically challenged agility enthusiasts to continue training their dogs. It will apply to basic obedience, rally, and all levels of agility. It will apply to group privates as well as individual lessons. It will apply to old customers, current customers, and new customers.

My post to local lists announced my …

P  R  I  V  A  T  E       L  E  S  S  O  N       S  A  L  E    !  !  !

        — agility, or rally-o

        — weekdays, evenings, or weekends

        — with Bud or Marsha Houston

        — full-time students = $25/hr

        — part-time students = $35/hr

        — non-students = $55/hr  (Sarah, this applies to your group on the 27th!!)

        — any number of dogs in your group

        — any number of hours

I’m going to use the plat map of our 28 acres to plan this beautification project and to report progress. Hopefully our students will enjoy seeing their contribution as it grows, blooms, and spreads.

Shelter news for the day includes a couple of e-mails as I didn’t visit the facility (it’s Tuesday and I go back on Friday).

Yesterday I noticed that the puppies were in individual steel cages and weren’t getting lunch. I asked their keeper if the puppies were fed once a day or 3 times a day and was told “they’re fed once a day.” When I asked if food was left with them all day I was told “yes, we leave the food.” So why didn’t I see any food bowls with puppies?  I’m talking 8-10-week old puppies, gorging at 5:00 p.m. and then getting no more food for 24 hours.

An adult dog’s metabolism can adapt to that feeding schedule, but a puppy?? 

On Friday I observed the feeding of adult dogs and saw bowls with 8-9 cups of food being given to every dog regardless of size. The adult dogs were being given SO MUCH food that they were gaining weight, getting heavy, and turning their noses up at treats. I’m going to research the clinical pathology of the person who overfeeds their dog, overfeeds their cat, or overfeeds their family member and try to get a handle on this but, in the meantime, I recommended that the 20-40-pound dogs get 2 cups a day (figuring that will get them down to 3-4 cups) and that the 41-90-pound dogs get 4 cups a day (figuring that will get them down to 5-6 cups).

I forwarded my recommendation about the adult dogs, and my shock-and-recommendation for the puppies, to the board president who, hopefully, is implementing a change. It takes time to reverse long-held beliefs about pet care, but hopefully the shelter dogs will start looking a little leaner (it’s the job of the adopter to fatten up their new dog). I also hope the dogs will start looking forward to training more.