Monday, May 30, 2011

Dog sports, first installment

Dog sports are not something that Elka and I are currently involved in.  However, every time I look them up to see what's out there, I'm amazed at the quantity and variety of activities available.

The Doberman is, in general, an athletic breed with a lot of intelligence and drive.  There are any number of things that can be done with them, though I hesitate to declare that they would excel at all dog sports, because I just don't know that.

Elka would certainly like the ones involving a ball.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rolling Thunder

We had severe thunderstorm warnings in my are today, and, for a little while, a Tornado Watch.  In light of what's been happening in the Midwest, the tornado thing  made me a little iffy (but it was a watch, not a warning, so that was good).  Otherwise, thunderstorms don't bother me, other than the occasional startle at how loud thunder can be.

Thunderstorms don't bother Elka in the slightest.  After she's done watching out the window (she'd really like to watch from the porch, which we do, sometimes), she typically snoozes through them.  The thunder doesn't make her jump, or pace, or bark, the lightning causes no anxiety.  She typically won't go potty in the rain is really the main hangup (well, that, and I don't take the dog out when there's lightning. Just common sense.)

Not all dogs (and owners) are as lucky as I am, that they can be so casual about storms.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review: Bringing Light to Shadow, by Pamela S. Dennison

I forget where I heard about Bringing Light to Shadow (subtitled "A Dog Trainer's Diary), by Pamela S. Dennison.  Perhaps in a review of Control Unleashed or a similar dog training book of its ilk, that uses positive methods.  It was an interesting book to read, because it was quite literally Dennison's diary as she brought Shadow (registered name of Dennison's choosing "Ewe Are Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt") home from rescue, discovered he was human aggressive and had a bushel of problems, and then dealt with them.  Using a clicker and treats and other non-corrective positive methods.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is that a Doberman?

The other day, Elka and I were out for a walk.  As we were leaving the park, a woman, perhaps in her 80's, crossed the street to the park and beelined for us.  She put her hands out to Elka, who went to her, and as she was petting my dog, said "What kind of a dog is this?"

"She's a Doberman," I said in a cheery tone, and waited.

Looking down at Elka, still petting, the lady said "A Doberman! I've never seen one up close.  I didn't know they had such sweet faces."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dogs on furniture

You've probably noticed by now that a lot of Elka pictures are of Elka on the couch.  Or on a chair.  None of them have been of Elka on her bed.

The fact of the matter is that Elka can be on the furniture, pretty much carte blanche.  We say "move" or "off" if where she is is not convenient for a human household member.  She has the privileges for a couple of reasons; for one, keeping her off of the furniture would really be more trouble than its worth to me.  We've got slipcovers on a couple of them and she can't have food on them (a restriction that does not extend to the humans).

Some people are of the belief that letting your dog be on the same physical level as you or higher will cause the dog to perceive her rank as equal to or greater than yours, and she may try to assert her dominance over you.

The Social Question

Elka is a friendly dog.  She loves kids, and is very gentle with them, of her own choosing. She loves adults, and is a little less restrained.  I think she thinks people of a certain size should be able to hold their own.  The hole in her socialization is she doesn't know any dogs, and only rarely encounters cats.

So, still basically friendly, Elka will do her hesitant and clumsy best to figure out what best is confronting her. Unfortunately, most of the dogs we meet are under twenty pounds, which appears to be the cutoff for whether one trains one's dog.  So we're concentrating on walking calmly past other dogs (command "On by", cribbed from dog mushers), since their owners don't appear interested in controlling them.

Also unfortunately, cats don't tend to like dogs.  Cats are fascinating to Elka.  There's one that comes on our porch, a detail that she doesn't like while inside.  There's one that sits on its own porch when we take our walks, and she wants to shove her big pointy head in that cat's face to say hello, tail wiggling.  We use "on by" for that one, too, as you can imagine cats are not happy with that development.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Command Clinic: Pawmania!

Elka uses her paws a lot.  I don't know if it's a her thing, or a Doberman thing (Doberman owners, feel free to chime in!), but it's a behavioral quirk that I've been inclined to cash in on.  Elka will use her paws to hold a Kong (or her Monster Mouth) still to get what's inside.

She will use her paws to fish under the coffee table or couch (often unsuccessfully) for a toy that's bounced there.  And because she would paw at us so much, I gave a bunch of those behaviors names, and now she'll do them on cue and not every time she's playing or wants attention.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Say it's Your Birthday

Elka is two!

She is now, more or less, a doggie adult. It's been an interesting thing, picking out a puppy, bringing her home at eight weeks, and then watching her grow physically, mentally, and behaviorally. Elka has learned a lot over the past two years, and so have I.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainy days

Elka doesn't really like the rain.

Thunderstorms don't bother her in the slightest; she would in fact love to be outside to watch them.  But Elka does not like sky-water falling upon her, which can make things like potty breaks and exercising difficult on a rainy day, besides the fact that the back yard gets rather muddy.

So, what is there to do on a rainy day?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dogs in Need: May 2011

Not a cheery post, but I see a lot of this in my Internet travels, and figured if I could help out by giving different causes exposure, it was worth a try.

First off is Japan Animal Earthquake Rescue and Support (  Until a few days ago, animals who were left behind when their owners evacuated the Japanese Exclusion Zone around the Fukushima plant were simply trapped there.  Apparenlty, some owners are being allowed back in, and some rescuers have snuck in anyway, removing animals that they could and feeding animals that they had to leave.  There have been a lot of heartbreaking videos of animals (and people) in Japan post-disaster; this is one way to donate and help them.

Next, is Tyson the Doberman.  For probably genetic reasons, he needs operations to fix his front legs, which have grown in a malformed and evidently very uncomfortable manner.  He seems like a sweet and well trained boy, and is an example of dogs produced when breeders do not fully health-test their sires and dams.  Funds for him are being raised by Second Chance Companions ( through their PayPal; they just ask that you note if your donation is for Tyson's operation.  To my knowledge, to date, Tyson's breeder has not contributed to his care.

Also, Helping Udders ( is an organization with neat products, that donates a purchase percentage to the rescue of your choice.  They have an extensive list from which to choose, and also have a bunch of t-shirts with a rescue bent as well (t-shirts count as purchases that contribute).  They also have a portion of their website that showcases Military Working Dogs and the cooling vests that they require in places like Iraq and Afghanistan ( In keeping with that, there is also The Military Working Dog Foundation, which helps place "decommissioned" dogs, be it with law enforcement agencies or the public.

Finally, to plug them again, there's always Doberman Rescue Unlimited.  However, if your shelter has a website, they probably have a "things the shelter needs" list, and that's always a nice thing to check out.  These organizations only have so much in the way of funds, and fuel the rest of the organization through donations of various things.  Just something to think about.

Book Review: Orchid Beach, by Stuart Woods

I thought I'd switch my book reviews up a little bit; I didn't actually used to read very much non fiction at all.  Of course, I didn't used to read dog training books at all either, and then got the Elka.

Orchid Beach, by Stuart Woods, caught my eye for a number of reasons. 1. There's a Doberman on the cover (albeit a sort of strange looking Doberman, whose neck isn't quite long enough or something. My eye for conformation is still not precise, but getting more educated.) 2. There's a female main character in a police role. 3. The Doberman on the cover is actually supposed to be a character.  It's a constant irritation to me that a work of fiction will frequently contain a dog, but the dog on the cover of the book will not be the correct breed or color.  In this case Daisy the Doberman (yeah, I know) is in fact black and rust.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Night Maneuvers

A few months ago, when it was still icy and snowy out (read: not good walking the dog weather), I bought a laser pointer.  We'd used one to play with the cats at home, this one was four bucks, I figured I would give it a shot with Elka.  Really, you don't need much excuse to buy a cheap laser pointer; it even included the batteries.

Monday, May 9, 2011

10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong Walking Your Dog

Picture this:  it's a bright sunny day, and you and your dog are going for a walk.  You have the leash, you have your keys (and probably phone), and you have your dog.  That's all the preparation you need before you head out the door, right?  Well, maybe.  It probably depends on your dog; for mine, these things are not enough, if we want the walk to be a happy success.

I've thought of a list, by no means complete, of things I myself have done wrong, or have seen people doing wrong, while walking the dog.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Elka's new toy! The Zogoflex Hurley

You might be thinking "how many toys can this dog possibly need?  She already loves Gumby, and loves tennis balls, has the Monster Mouth, and the Kong [which is already redundant]. That's it! Set for life!"

Well, that's a bit like asking me how many more books I intend to read. Or how much longer I'm going to spend on the Internet. Or what more I could possibly do in World of Warcraft or one of the new Fallout games.

Dogs, like people, need entertainment.  Dogs, like people, tend to like new things.  Old things get, well, old.  Boring.  You might revisit them, but why not have a new thing?  Especially if the new thing was on sale for half the usual price.  Especially if the thing is named after possibly one of your favorite Lost characters.

Want to play a game? Tug!

Elka's favorite game is Tug.  She will try to play it with any toy ever, from a rope (you know, marketed as a tug toy) to Gumby (who puts up with it), to a tennis ball (which fits almost entirely into her mouth and doesn't work).

Tug is a fun thing for her, and can be for me too, though the game has to have rules, as one might guess.  There are some people who in fact say that you should never play with your dog, as it can mess up the "pack hierarchy" or make your dog aggressive.  I don't really buy into the whole "pack" notion; dogs know the difference between people and dogs.  A whole bunch of dogs together might make up a pack and have rules within it as such, but if you've got people and an "only dog" in a household, I don't think it applies.

Aggressiveness is a can of worms I don't really want to get into, or at least not when we're talking about a fun game! Suffice to say, if your dog has aggressive tendencies in the first place, or is very very possessive with toys, don't play tug.  There are problems already in place and you don't need to ask for more.  But if you have a well-balanced dog who lets you give and take toys happily?  Tug away!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Walk in the Post-Apocalypse Park

Last night I posted a teaser of this here, and today, it was sunny and beautiful, so Elka and I packed up the treats and went to the park!

Post-Apocalypse park? This bears further investigation.

On our walk today, Elka and I went to a different park that town has to offer.  We'd been before, but around the playground stuff.  Today, we took a left turn into a human-free, eerily quiet area that made me think of 1. The post apocalypse or 2. The Chernobyl Exclusion zone.

On a day we have more time (i.e., beeline straight for this park), we will explore this motif further.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Command Clinic: Stay

I put off doing a Command Clinic for Stay, because it's a command that we're kind of weak on.  Elka will stay for a bit, but then decide she's done, rather than waiting for the release.

Then I realized that I should do the Command Clinic for Stay, because it's a command that we're kind of weak on.  This will inspire me to work on it more closely, yes, and then it will no longer be weak.  That's the notion, anyway.

Eventually we'll get to stuff I've taught with the clicker, I promise, but I taught Stay with eye contact and body language, when Elka was actually rather young.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tennis Balls: Contestant Number Three

I am extremely fond of dollar stores.

They can have some shady items in them, such as obviously lead-painted children's toys, or toothpaste from other countries or whatnot, but I always do look at the dog toys.  The dollar store is where I get a lot of rope toys for Elka, because really, a rope is a rope, and if left alone with one, she can dispatch it quite readily.  Besides, those monkey fist knots are really cool, and that's what a lot of the Dollar Tree rope toys were for awhile.  Animated instructions to tie one can be found here, which is also rather cool.

This trip to the dollar store, I found a three pack of doggie tennis balls!  Patriotic ones, even.  It seemed appropriate.

Service Dog follow up

So, less than a week after I post Service Dogs: ins and outs, the LA Times has done an article on how some people fake having service dogs:  Some Pet Owners Try to Skirt the Rules With Fake Service Dogs. Couldn't have said it better myself.  That, and a service ferret never really occurred to me, but I suppose they have nimble little paws.

Movie Review: Best in Show

I watched this movie once before, years ago, before Elka was even a glimmer in her sire's eye.  Now, having owned her for two years, and immersed myself in at least the print version of dog culture, it was interesting to re-watch this mockumentary, directed by Christopher Guest, who also did such films as "This is Spinal Tap" and "A Mighty Wind".

Monday, May 2, 2011

How to be a better dog owner

Educate yourself.

That's my secret thing that I wish everybody would do.  You're interested in a breed?  Research it.  Read books, join breed specific forums on the Internet (though granted, I read DobermanTalk long before I joined), contact the national breed club for information (The Doberman Pinscher Club of America:  The DPCA has lists of recommended breeders on a state by state basis, and if you go to the AKC web site, you can also view classifieds for available puppies.  You're interested in dogs?  Find out what they need.  Make sure these things fit into your life already, or make sure you're willing to arrange your life to make it so.

I read a lot of dog books.  Not all of them are on training specifically; some are memoirs, which can be just as informational if you read them correctly (sometimes, if only in a "what not to do" capacity), some are on animal behavior research in general.  I've read a hundred or more books comprising those topics since just before getting Elka, back in 2009 (I'll post the list somewhere, one of these days).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just a Walk in the Park

It's Sunday, so I tried to sleep in a bit today.  10:30 instead of 9:30, so sue me.  Elka split the difference and put all four of her paws in my side at 10.  I let her out of the bedroom and she went downstairs to my fiance, Jim, and indicated that she wanted to go out  (she actually says "out", but in a very open mouthed, no-consonants, doggie way, which I will one day catch on video so that people believe me).  Jim leashed her up, and then went outside.  Elka sniffed a bit, and then headed to the end of the driveway, and Jim followed, as it doesn't make much difference where she empties.

She got to the street, sat, and looked both ways.  Jim asked "What are you doing?" and she looked backwards up at him, and then off up the street again.  Knowing I would be preparing to take Elka for a walk, Jim brought her inside and told me the story.  The next noise Elka made at us sounded like "Walk", and so we saddled up and went.