Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: When Pigs Fly! by Jane Killion

The full title of this book is When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs! 

Elka is not an impossible dog.  She's very smart and sometimes difficult and frustrating because of her intelligence (a combination of "What'll you give me for it?" and "I don't see the point", I'm sure.)

When Pigs Fly! uses clicker, treats, and basic notion of drives and motivations to make working with your dog the joy you hoped it would be.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It may or may not surprise you to learn that not all homeowner's insurance companies cover all dog breeds. Did you know that prior to reading my sentence?  I sure didn't know it prior to owning a house and subsequently purchasing a "dangerous breed".

Dobermans, among others I'll list below, are considered to be "dangerous dogs".  There's a varied amount of politics and a small amount of statistics that goes into what makes or breaks a breed's reputation.  Actual bites and attacks are one of these things, obviously, especially against children.  The fact that all dogs have a mouth full of big pointy teeth is another, with varying PSI of bite pressure ability is another, though I don't think most people think too hard about that.

It's an issue.  I'm not saying it isn't.  But can you guess who I think is to blame?  Poor dog owners, bad breeders, and people (yup, that includes kids) who don't know how to act around dogs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Barking, by Kim Campbell Thornton

Elka is not a problem barker.  She in fact barks appropriately, occasionally in play, but most often as an alert if she feels somebody's approaching the house who ought not be.  I promise I won't brag about this any more than necessary.

Barking is a big problem dogs owners face, however, as I discussed in Dog Manners: the barking edition.  Dogs bark; it's a main means of communication.  And dog barks mean something, whether we humans get the point or not.  So, if your dog is barking, and you think it's a problem, then there's a definite miscommunication going on.

Barking, by Kim Campbell Thornton, is a rather short book that discusses why dogs bark and what owners might do about it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Command Clinic: Bite Inhibition

Puppies bite.  It's what they do.  Babies bite too, or rather gum quite vigorously.  They're new to this whole big world thing, and explore it with the tools that they're given.

Puppies learn about biting, and what's too hard and what's acceptable, from their mother and their littermates.  When you bring your puppy home, the burden of teaching switches to your shoulders.

In addition to barking and house breaking, biting is a common problem when you first bring your toothy little darling home.  It doesn't mean your puppy doesn't like you, it doesn't mean she's aggressive, and it doesn't mean she's spiteful.  It's how puppies play, and it's how puppies interact with the world (though some use their paws too; Elka did.  I imagine Boxers do too, if you can imagine such a thing.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dog Manners: the barking edition

Hey, you know what really bugs me?

Walking down a street and having no fewer than six dogs bark uncontrollably the entire time I'm on their stretch of sidewalk.

Do you know who I blame for this?

The owners.

I continue walking down that street, despite my annoyance, because I'm using those horrible animals to train Elka to behave calmly and look to me for guidance, regardless of the situation.  I talk her through as we walk by, and I assure you I keep my language clean, but what I say is not complimentary to those dog owners.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Command Clinic: Recall

Why won't my dog come when I call her?  Probably because I haven't worked hard enough to tell her that every time she come, she'll get rewarded.  Sometimes the reward will be an immediate return to what she was so interested in to begin with.  Sometimes the reward will be a coveted, high value food item, like a french fry or some bacon.  Elka is learning this, though I should have been working with her on it all along.

One recall pitfall is simply calling your dog's name.  Elka hears her name a lot in the course of the day, I'm sure, and it doesn't mean "come here to me" every time.  Also, we've used "come" enough times without her fully knowing what the word is that we've changed the word.  "Come" means something might be going on, but Elka has learned to ignore it through unrewarding repetition.  "Here", however, means "get over here right now".  It means "what treat will I give you this time?" or "how about we play?"

But, how did I change her mind?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Successful Kong use

Elka loves toys that we can stuff food in.  Even if it's just a schmear of peanut butter, she'll spend (what I feel) is a disproportionate amount of time rolling it around, holding it down with her paws, dropping it, and licking it.

This kind of "work for your food" activity, no matter how short, is good mental stimulation.  The Kong rolls around, has knurls inside that trap the food, and doesn't really have a big enough opening to entirely accomodate the DoberTongue.  Frequently, mental stimulation can be more tiring than physical exercise; perhaps it just puts dogs in a mental mindset, so that they recognize fatigue?  That's my best shot at speculation.

I can't claim to be the canniest of Kong users, but I do have a few tips for making a Kong last longer than five minutes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Allergen Sniffer Dogs

I've mentioned my Service Dog and working dog love and admiration previously.  I'm always fascinated and excited to read about more uses that are being found for the skill set that dogs so obviously possess.

My latest example is from an article in the Seattle Times, though there are a few other examples across the nation: Peanut Sniffing Dogs.

Peanut allergies seem to have gone ballistic in the past couple of years, both in number of individuals affected and in the severity of the allergy itself.  When I was in school, I can't think of a single kid I knew who was allergic to peanuts in anyway.  Now, there are kids going into anaphylactic shock and even sometimes dying from peanut exposure.

Book Review: Rose in a Storm, Jon Katz

Jon Katz has written a good deal of books, many of them regarding his dogs and the farm that he bought after fleeing a suburban lifestyle.  He named the farm Bedlam Farm (or at least I think he's the one who named it; I don't think it came that way), and in its early days had a prolifery of sheep, a rescued steer named Elvis, at least one rooster, whose name escapes me...but, you get the picture.  Bedlam indeed.  But, if you read dog books, pay attention to the dog world, or read, it's likely you already know who Jon Katz is.

One of the aforementioned dogs is Rose, a Border Collie.  Not precisely the main character in Rose in a Storm, but certainly a strong source of inspiration.  I'm given to understand that Rose is one of those Border Collies who is very business-minded, who lives to work the sheep, and thinks about the sheep, rinse, repeat.  I think the population of sheep on Bedlam Farm nowadays is considerably reduced, or perhaps even seasonable, and Rose may occasionally turn her attention to the Frisbee with the same famed Border Collie focus.

But, Rose in a Storm is fiction, and about a working farm, and Rose the Border Collie (mix), and the lone gentleman who runs it all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Doberman Assistance Network

The Doberman Assistance Network is an organization that works nationwide to help Dobermans in need.  There are members who keep an eye on and actively search shelters and animal control facilities for Dobermans.  If I'm correct, they don't have a central location in which they keep dogs, but rather rely upon a network of volunteers and members for fosters and transport, to get Dobermans out of "gen pop" and into Doberman specific rescues, or into breed appropriate homes.

Tennis Balls: Contestant Number six

Since seeing my montage of purchases in my Anatomy of a Petco visit post, some of you may or may not have been waiting with bated breath to see how the exceedingly pink Petco tennis ball held up to Elka's jaws.  I know I would've been, anyway.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Protection Dog

What barks when appropriate, has four legs, and cost $230,000?

Not my Elka.  Well, the first two are right, but she didn't cost more than our house.

Recently, the New York Times had an article, "For the executive with everything,a $230,000 dog to protect it".  Now, I don't intend to use the New York Times as the leaping-off point for many of my posts, but holy smokes.  I couldn't just let that one go.

It goes without saying that our dogs are valuable to us.  They provide us companionship, and indeed protection.  Some are trained and titled in protection, and that's a whole 'nother ball game.  Some seem willing to protect us, through instinct and (dare I speculate?) love.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tennis balls: contestant number five

Up to number five already, wow.  It seems like I have as much fun finding 'em as Elka does chewing them up.  I read somewhere (and I really do too much reading, sometimes, if I can't remember my sources!) that for a dog, chewing something is satisfying an addiction, much the same way having a cigarette is for a smoker.  I remember reading that line, and looking up at Elka, who had a tennis ball between her molars, sticking out the side of her mouth, and was chewing on it with her eyes half closed (this was a sport tennis ball, before I knew better).  I watched her for a moment and thought "Yup, that sounds about right."

I do want to mention that I do realize the point of doggie tennis balls is the playing, not the chewing.  But, Elka likes chewing on them, and I'm sure many dogs do.  If the label suggests you're going to get "Hours of fun" from their "sturdy" toy, I want to know what the actual play to destruction ratio is more likely to be.  I haven't been scientific about this, obviously, but have a general idea of how long it takes.  So far, the Tractor Supply tennis ball lasted the longest.  All of them have been about a dollar each.  This next victim was in the $1 section at Rite Aid, for the three pack.

My first blog award!

Many thanks to Oscar Blogger, who passed on the Versatile Blogger award to me! I was surprised and very pleased!  Blog awards are such a nifty, community building and networking thing, and I'm always happy to see a blog has gotten one.

According to the rules, I must list seven things about myself, and then pass it on to fifteen new or newly discovered bloggers.  So, let's see.

1. My degree is in Psychology, but I probably should have been an English major. I typically read around 200 books in a year, mostly fiction, though with the inception of dogginess, I read quite a bit of non fiction nowadays.  Non-fiction that is non dog related, I prefer to be narrative rather than tood ry with facts.

2. I didn't used to know how to cook.  A combination of blog browsing, magazine flipping, and cookbook/cooking memoir reading has turned that around pretty well.  I also used to be a very picky eater, and though I still don't like things like onions and black olive and tomato sauce, I can pick "grown up" foods from restaurant menus nowadays.

3. I have a habit of seizing upon a topic to research.  Dogs have been a long-lasting theme, from before I had Elka and coming through stronger now.  Other topics have been Chernobyl, American nuclear testing, nuclear accidents, yoga, cooking, and Africa.

4. I have a deep and abiding love for the Steampunk genre.  I'm writing a couple of different novels in Victorian-era, Steampunk (and therefore alternate history) England and Africa (mostly South Africa). Clockworks and gears and keys and corsets are neat things to me. 

5. I write fiction, though I'm unpublished.  I haven't truly settled into one genre, and have written literary short stories, sci fi, fantasy, and horror.  I've participated in National Novel Writing Month every year since 2007 (and perhaps this year's first Camp NaNoWriMo!), and last year is the only year I didn't "win".

6. I wear Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume.  They are hand made, from essential oils, and are of a literary or gothic bent.  There is a new scent every full moon, and special ones at other times, like for Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Lupercalia.  My favorite scent is Shub-Niggurath (from the H.P. Lovecraft mythos), but I also like Goblin, Wrath, Cheshire Cat, and Mort de Cesar.

7. I kept my hair very long for a number of years, but I've also cut it all off (as in, Locks of Love donations lengths) either three or four times.  This last time I decided to return to bangs as well, for the first time since I was 9 or 10.  Elka was slightly confused when I came home with my hair shoulder length instead of waist length, and with bangs, and licked my face for awhile to confirm it was me and I was okay.

15 blogs that are new or new to me (this feels like cheating, I've only been in this game for a couple months)

But, anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy my blog, and these others listed. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dog manners

Manners around dogs work both ways.  You don't want your dog to jump, to sniff intimate human places, to lick indiscriminately (I don't mind licking. Elka just needs to stop when asked.), and especially not to bite.

Dogs don't want humans to approach them too fast, move erratically, hit them, that kind of thing.

These are the basic, mostly understood manners.  Then there are the laws, which allow for the existence of dogs, but more or less don't want them to exist.  In my town, a dog is not to be on a leash longer than 6 feet off of the owner's property, for example.  There is nowhere "sanctioned" to take dogs to run, if your yard is small, or if you have an apartment.  Of course you  have to pick up dog waste not on your property.  Also, "nuisance barking" is ticketable, but that doesn't seem to be enforced very much, judging by the block that I think of as "the gauntlet", as there are six or more dogs barking in houses anytime anybody is on that block.  There don't seem to be laws like that if a child is misbehaving, and I firmly believe it's up to the parents or caregivers to train a child, much the same way owners are expected to train their dogs.  How else will either learn how to behave in public?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dog yoga

Until I saw the article in the New York Times (Bonding with their downward facing humans), I never thought about dogs + yoga.

My Yoga practice has always been exceedingly private.  Home alone, with a DVD, curtains drawn private.  Of course, with Elka, you're never, in fact, alone, and this extends to yoga.  There are even two books about dog yoga (sometimes called "Doga"), one I have read, and one I have not. The Barking Buddha, by Brenda Bryan, with Bev Sparks doing the photography, is the one I have read.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Anatomy of a Petco visit

I was out of town yesterday, and actually got to go to a Petco!  I don't think I've ever been in one before, and the nearest one is about an hour from me in either direction. Elka was not on the trip, but I think she would have been very interested in this store.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fear itself

Can you tell when your dog is afraid?

I touched on this in another post, regarding dogs barking at Elka. However, it came up yesterday while I was at work, as well. A patron came in and said something to the effect of "I just stood in the rain for ten minutes with my dog hoping he'd go to the bathroom."  I commiserated, as Elka does not like going potty in the rain.  She continued, with a smile on her face, "Well, the last time, he didn't go.  He's afraid of the groomer's, and won't walk back with her, so she picked him up, and he peed everywhere.  Like a fire hose." 

And I thought to myself, And you just left him there?  What work have you done to make the groomer's a positive place for him?  I did not preach to her, and sort of regret that I didn't try to go down that conversational avenue, but I doubt she would have welcomed it. Many peoples' attitudes when their dogs are legitimately afraid seems to be: deal with it.  Also, many peoples' attitudes when you give them dog advice is: it's my dog.  What do you know?  Unsolicited advice is rarely welcome.

When I want Elka to go potty in the rain, I want her to "deal with it". When I want her to go someplace necessary but scary, I want her to be calm and realize it isn't the end of the world.  She has never resisted going to the vet, and has always behaved well there.  Below is Elka's "Oh God, it's raining on me!" face.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Down by the river....

I mentioned yesterday that Elka actually got into the "big girl creek".  Today, she very very much wanted to revisit this experience.  Now, it never mattered much to me whether Elka wanted to go into the water or not.  Really, not having a muddy dog is a bonus, but mud dries up and wipes off; Elka is very good about standing for me to have her paws wiped off.  Going into these creeks has been entirely on her initiative, and I don't mind it, so long as she isn't pulling like a sled dog.

Loose leash progress: still clicking away!

Since I've implied more than once that I walk Elka six days a week (which I do, or rather have, when weather permits), I thought it a good idea to update our progress on loose leash walking.

I've mentioned that I don't intend to do competition obedience, nor Schutzhund (well, very probably not) with Elka, and so a perfect "heel" doesn't matter as much to me.  I heel her on my right, as I am right handed, though occasionally I've worked her on my left for variety's sake. Maybe I'll use the German command, "Fuss", for the left heel.  I carry Elka's leash and the clicker in my right hand, and have the treats in my left, supply refilled by dipping into the bag that I also carry slung on my left.  We're still very treat reliant, but Elka's attention and overall walk demeanor is fabulous!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dog sports, number three

While doing activities with your dog. some of them require more human input than others.  With Dock Diving and Flyball, mentioned here and here, there's obviously the training aspect, but once competition is reached, release and recall seem to be the main responsibilities of the handler.

With many dog sports, serious or no, the dog and the handler are a team every step of the way.  The relationships that you can see on the field with these teams is a beautiful thing, and the dogs are obviously happy and eager to be working.

The things you notice

It's funny, what you notice when you're walking around an area, rather than just passing through in your car.  It's also funny to see what your dog notices.

For instance, a person in the neighborhood has a garden with a very low stone wall around it.  The first couple times we passed, I didn't much look into it.  One day, Elka stopped, and backed up, and looked over the wall and then up at me.  Near the steps, in a flower bed, was a small gray stone statue of Little Red Riding Hood with the Wolf standing behind her.  Elka considered it for a moment again, and then looked up at me expectantly.  "That's Red Riding Hood and the Wolf," I told her, because what else was I going to say?  She clearly thought about this answer, and then we started walking again.

A Google search turned up a large statue in Barcelona, Spain that looks remarkably like the one in that person's garden.  For whatever reasons, the small local one isn't there anymore.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book: A New Job for Pearl

Just a quick note and link, to the site where you can buy "A New Job For Pearl" (  The book was written by a second grade class in California, and their teacher.  Apparently, Pearl (since named the ASPCA dog of the year in 2010) is a black lab who got out of her back yard enough that her owners surrendered her to the shelter at which she kept being housed by Animal Control.  An individual looking for Search and Rescue dog candidates evaluated her and brought her home, and since completing her training, Pearl has done Search and Rescue work in Haiti, and in Japan.  The book was created to raise $10,000 to sponsor a search dog through the Search Dog Foundation, which most recently has done work in Joplin, Missouri. Each book is $10, plus $2.50 shipping, and sales are done through PayPal.

Tennis Balls: Contestant Number Four

This tennis ball contestant is the Tennis Ball Value Pack, purchasable at Wal Mart.  I often cruise the dog stuff aisles at Wal Mart, looking for training treats and looking at collars and checking out the toys.  They do sell Chuck It! products there, but they always seem so expensive.

The Rules

Every house has rules.  Businesses have rules.  Heck, every social interaction has rules, whether you consciously think about them or not.

So.  Life with a dog also has a lot of rules.  Most are for safety's sake.  Some are for the sake of convenience.  Many are a matter of preference.  As an example, some people don't want dogs to lick them. I don't mind and Jim doesn't mind.  So, Elka licks.  She has so much tongue to share, after all!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dog sports, part dos

You know that look your dog will sometimes give you, the one that says "Gee, this is great! What are we going to do next?"  Or perhaps "We're gonna play, right?!"  Elka gives me that look if we've gone out back to potty, because inside the fence is where the high speed playtime takes place.

Sometimes, as she takes a couple of bounds after the gate closes, I say "Sorry, not right now" and we go to the back door.  Sometimes, though, I say "Sit", and she's barely able to, haunches aquiver, and I unclip her leash and go for the tennis balls.

We didn't always do the tennis ball things, though, much like how we didn't always do the walk thing (or at least not with anything that began to resemble regularity).  Who  knows what activities we might add?