Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fun in the Sun!

It was bright and sunny this afternoon, so I told Elka "let's go out back and play!"

Well, I don't need to ask her twice. She grabbed a tennis ball, and away we went.

It's the Meet & Greet Blog party Hop!

My name is Jen.  I saw a blog party going on, and thought I would join in! In college, I majored in Psychology, with a strong interest in other things like Anthropology, Philosophy, and Creative Writing. I'm working as a library clerk, which is a good thing, because I wouldn't be able to afford all of the dog books that I read! My fiance, Jim, and I got our Doberman, Elka, in 2008.  She was born in May, she came home in July, and has been a wonderful facet of our lives since.  I've learned a lot about dogs and about dog training since then, and started this blog as a result.  I also have a Twitter of the same name if you want to hop on over there, @TheElkaAlmanac

Friday, April 29, 2011

What's for dinner?

Elka gets some pretty classy kibble.

Currently, we feed her Taste of the Wild Wetlands formula.  It's grain free, has wholesome-for-dogs ingredients in it, and Elka really really likes it.  Before we got Elka, I didn't really know much about pet food.  I didn't buy what we fed the cats, nor did I research animal nutrition at all.

That isn't to say I've become a nutrition expert, mind you.  Per agreement with the breeder, I use the Whole Dog Journal approved list for my choices, and then head over to Dog Food Analysis to have a further look.  Then I see what's actually available in my area.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Dog, a Duck, and Destiny

Once upon a time, Elka had a duck.

It was not a real duck, as this is not Disney, so we won't have a heartwarming story about a cross-species friendship pluckily beating the odds in a grand adventure.  No, it was just a stuffed duck.  And it didn't squeak, but rather had a thinger in its neck (yes, that's the technical term) and an attached plastic bag in its belly that made it "quack" rather convincingly when it was squeezed in a particular way.

Anonymous dog opinion, two

Round two of anonymous doggie opinions comes from the illustrious Tufts University Press, and is entitled Best Behavior: Unleashing Your Dog's Instinct to Obey.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Service Dogs: ins and outs

Elka is not a service dog.

A service dog, by definition, performs a service for the owner (or handler, depending on which terminology you want to use) that the individual would otherwise not be able to accomplish on his or her own as a result of a disability. A service dog is hopefully of steady temperament and a good working drive.  A service dog has been extensively trained and behaves appropriately while "on duty".

Here's the ringer, however: is there a nationally recognized certification for service dogs?


Tennis Balls: Contestant Number Two

I didn't think to take a "Before" shot of the Zoink! doggie tennis balls.  I did take an action shot, however:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tennis Balls: Contestant Number One

On Friday, Elka and I took our walk, and then hopped in the car and took a field trip to Tractor Supply.

She was the only dog in the store, and received an overall positive response.  She politely sniffed hands to meet people, and did no sled-dog like pulling, and did no jumping.  Elka no longer precisely jumps onto people; rather, she stands up on her hind legs so that she might smell their face.  It can be disconcerting.

Our primary reason for the trip was to take a trip.  Secondary, to get more dog food. And third, it was the prime opportunity to get a doggie tennis ball!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Training Treats: where the hot dog is (was) king

Elka loves people food. Dogs in general, I think, love people food. 

When we go for a walk, I typically have a previously pictured baggie of cut-up hot dog pieces.  Depending on what else is in the fridge, I'll dice a string cheese stick, leftover roast, pepperoni, or cheddar (we always have cheddar).

You can find a lot of web sites where people generously share their own personal, at-home dog treat recipes (Dog Aware is one of them).  I have yet to Susie Homemaker bake my own treats for Elka, though I have occasionally cooked for her.  Or at least sauteed liver that one time. Such web sites certainly recommend drawing and quartering your hot dogs, and then microwaving them for a few minutes.  I'm not against nuking hot dogs, I'm just typically lazy and chop 'em up and figure I'm good to go.  When the Doberman is ready for the walk, you want to get out there as soon as possible.  I did mention the whining.  I may have left out the staring.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant

Though I do not personally own a pit bull, Dobermans get lumped into the same "vicious dogs" list as pits, and so I'm sympathetic to the prejudices against them.  "Blame the deed, not the breed" is a good slogan, and one must behave rationally around every dog, regardless of breed.

So, I read The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant, because I'd heard about Michael Vick in a satellite sort of way, that he was a Bad Man and dogs had been hurt.  I wanted to read the story for myself, and the circumstances involved with the case, because it's easy to jump on a bandwagon if you feel strongly enough about the topic.

And this is where it gets tricky.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Obviously, I do my best to make Elka come off like the perfect dog.

Just as obviously, I want to seem like the ever patient and benevolent owner/trainer, who thinks rationally and reacts well, regardless of what the Doberman has decided she was going to do.

I don't want to completely dispel this myth, but I do want to talk about whining. Elka whines a lot. I think, perhaps, Dobermans whine a lot. She does her share of "talking", which is delightful and thoroughly encouraged. She barks every once in awhile, typically a single big, deep-chested alert, if she thinks somebody's screwing around outside and needs immediate attention. But she also whines.

If I'm upstair and she's downstairs, she'll whine. If I've left food on a plate and am not immediately eating it, she whines. If I'm in the bathroom, she whines. If she feels it's feeding time, she whines.

The phrase has occasionally been uttered "Elka, I don't think you're a Doberman. I think you're a Whineraner."

Photo from our walk (it's funny 'cause it's Earth Day. Maybe a little bit ironic.)

Two examples of German Engineering

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Monster Mouth

Elka has a number of toys which can be stuffed with a variety of treats.

The point is to cleverly stuff them, and then give them to the waiting DoberMaw, to be tossed about and nosed around and licked until all the treats come out and it just smells vaguely of peanut butter and deli products.  Freezing said items definitely increases the longevity of this venture, which is timed to both distract the Elka from me, that I might accomplish non-dog things about the house, and to mentally wear her out, so she might nap and let me accomplish non-dog things about the house.  Many trainers, some of whom I like and some I don't, say "a tired dog is a good dog", and that is a fact.

The Monster Mouth came into our lives towards the end of last summer.  Like the clicker, I bought it at Tractor Supply on a lark. I thought it looked fun, and perhaps challenging, and the rubber didn't smell bad. These things are important.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Officially a (big) dog person

Cats no longer come up to me in the street.

In fact, little dogs frequently don't want much to do with me.

The big dogs, though, they'll always say hi. And they'll want to lick, which I've never minded.  Elka is a big licker, and we let her.  Sometimes other peoples' dogs jump, and I understand, because Elka has done that in the past, and sometimes still does.  More often than not, though, her jumping now is standing on her hind legs next to somebody so she can sniff his or her face.  That is how large my dog is.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Command Clinic: Down

Hello and welcome to the second "Command Clinic" installment.  To continue with the "basic commands", if you've already mastered Sit, "Down" is the next logical progression.  If you have little carpeting in your house, and a lot of wood and tile like I do, your dog probably will already Down from a Sit very frequently.  More reliably than she will hold a sit, perhaps? I know we've certainly encountered that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rewarding the experience

If a dog has done something correctly, you want to reward her, so she does that right thing again.  Right?  Has it occurred to you to think about how your dog would prefer to be rewarded, versus what you think of as a good reward for your dog?

In The Bark magazine, Patricia McConnell has an article called "Rewards Redux" in which she discusses this very thing.  I enjoyed the article when I read it, and in the online dog circles I follow, it keeps cropping up as more people discover it.

I've discussed this a little bit, in the Clicker Crossover: Loose Leash post.  On walks, if I run out of treats but in other instances just to switch things up, I get Elka's play drive revved up.  I have a variety of rope toys that I carry, and once she's stayed in the proper loose leash "bubble" for a proscribed amount of time, we have a round of tug, and then I let her shake the toy around for awhile, and maybe even carry it for a block.

Anonymous dog opinion, one

I work at a library, and so many of the books I read, especially dog and dog training books, are borrowed there.  More than occasionally, one comes through Interlibrary Loan for me with a mini-review attached, given by a prior borrower's dog.  This first example is How to Get Your Dog to Do What You Want: a Loving Approach to Unleashing Your Dog's Astonishing Potential, by Warren and Andrea Eckstein.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tennis Balls: star search for sturdy doggie ones

Elka loves tennis balls.

I got a tube of them for her when she was just a puppy, and she bounced around the house gleefully with her first ball, until it popped a hole in it so loudly that she dropped it and leaped away, then picked it up and ran to me.  She shoved that ball in my lap and backed away, looking me in the eye and mouthing the air, very clearly meaning for me to fix it.

She's become less sensitive about their welfare.

Doberman Rescue Unlimited: a place to check out

So, say you were wooed by my post Why a Doberman?  You think that the breed sounds like a good match for you, and you're ready for the next step: actually getting a dog.  Lots of people want a puppy, and you know, that's all right.  Do your research, find a good breeder (I'll discourse on this another day, I think), meet the parents, meet the breeder, pick the puppy. Done.

Not everybody wants a puppy, though.  Not everybody wants to go through the puppy experience, which is a unique and exquisite form of torture, compounded the fact that they're so darn cute.  Puppies, like babies, survive their early stages by being cute.  It's a get out of jail free card.  But an adult dog is 1. still cute and 2. typically past all those pesky things like ear posting (if the dog was cropped) and house training.  Or, sometimes Doberman rescue is a venue to find an entirely natural dog, with ears still floppy and tail intact.

The place (or a place) to find such a Doberman in New England and Eastern New York is Doberman Rescue Unlimited.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Review: Scent of the Missing, by Susannah Charlson

Working dogs fascinate me.  It doesn't matter if they're herding sheep (of which I have none), protection dogs, or service dogs, I love reading about them, and their training.  The versatility and intelligence of the dog is something I don't get tired of.  Scent of the Missing, by Susannah Charlson, is the memoir of a woman who works with a search and rescue team, who then gets approved to be a handler and gets her own search puppy to raise to be a search dog.  The puppy is a Golden Retriever and charmingly named (I thought) Puzzle.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Clicker Crossover: Loose Leash

Everybody wants their dog to be a dream on the leash.  Some dogs are such maniacs with leash clipped on that they don't get walked, which makes it that much worse. I've been lazy at times, I'll admit it, and Elka has not been so great on the leash in the past.  Not out of control, necessarily, but certainly not in control either.  And a big puller, certainly; it isn't as though she was even being "bad", she just wanted to see what was over there. Right now.

I've tried a variety of methods, so you can add "inconsistency" to the list of things I've done wrong.  I've tried to "Be a tree", where I just stand there if Elka is not in the position I'd prefer, waiting for her to smarten up and get there.  It turns out, she can wait at the end of a leash, staring off into nowhere, for a good long time while I be a tree long enough to grow some leaves.  I've tried to change direction erratically, so that she needs so pay attention to keep up, but it turns out that Elka is very perceptive, and can change direction and sprint ahead of me again before I've made it very far. I've tried positioning her collar up behind her ears and walking her on a very short leash, which keeps her by me (and walking as though she should've had a V8), but isn't at all pleasurable for either of us, and is punishing rather than teaching.  Briefly, when she slipped a previous collar, Elka wore a choke chain, but I switched that out very soon. Elka didn't really care if she was being choked, for one, and I knew I was doing it wrong.  Really, I'd much prefer my dog to go along with what I'd like, rather than be muscled into it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Clicker Crossover: Paradigm Shift

I wish I'd picked up a clicker sooner.

A month or more ago, when I got food for Elka at the Tractor Supply Company (the only place around here with Taste of the Wild food), I saw a bunch of clickers hanging on one of those little plastic racks in the aisle, and thought, "hey, why not?"  Why not sooner, is the question, really.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Command Clinic: Sit

I don't know if normal people dream about the first thing they want their dog to learn. Or if people have thoughts about it, and then those dreams fall by the wayside, when they learn that things like "Sit" are learned far more quickly than, say, bite inhibition.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Elka's favorite toy: The Third Man

Elka has a very clear preference for one of her toys: Gumby.  The evidence:

Why a Doberman?

My name is Jen, and I own a Doberman.

Elka will be two years old in May.  Her AKC registered name is Elka V, and though that really just translates to "Elka five",  I look at it more as a stage name, as though her name is Elka Von [insert famous family name that must be protected here].  She was sixteen pounds when we got her at the tender age of eight weeks, and is 77 pounds now.

The first thing a lot of people ask is "Why a Doberman?"  The Doberman is a breed that's been regarded as a "vicious killer" for some years now, reinforced in television shows and movies.  However, how many Dobermans have you known?  When we chose the breed and began to look for a breeder, my answer was none.  I knew zero Dobermans to that point in my life.  Hadn't even touched one.