Sunday, July 31, 2011

So, what's really important?

When Elka and I are out about town, walking, we see (and hear) a lot of different dogs.

Some of the dogs are on leashes, and calm.  Some are off leashes, and calm.  Some are off leashes, and little monsters.  Some are on leashes and monsters.  Some are clearly alone in houses, some are in yards with people who yell at them for barking, and with people who don't.

Clearly, different people have a lot of different ideas about what they want out of their dog's behavior.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Party Naked

Lately, the topic of dog nakedness has come up in a few places I've looked.

By "naked", I mean whether your dog wears her collar at all times, or only wears a collar when going out.  So, no collar when crated, no collar around the house, no collar at bedtime.

Really, before I started reading forums and blogs written by hardcore dog people, I had no idea that peoples' dogs went collarless.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tennis Balls: Contestant Number Nine

In Tractor Supply today, I happened upon a type of tennis ball I had never seen before.  Shall I describe it to you?

They were, well, tennis ball shaped, and tennis ball covered, and had paws on it, as dog-intended tennis balls so often do.  What really caught my eye, though was that they were "mint".  I was fascinated, skeptical, and happy all at once.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Product Review: The Everlasting Treat Ball

Sometimes, you look at a product, dismiss it, and then look at it again going "Well, maaaayyybe".

I did this with the Everlasting Treat Ball.  At first glance, I really didn't think that it was made out of rubber tough enough to withstand being wedged between Elka's molars and really gnawed upon.  I didn't think the edges would stand up to a very intent Doberman's tender mercies.  I thought the treats themselves might be too brittle, and just crumble, and if I didn't use the treats themselves and just put treats in the center, well, why not use the Kong or Monster Mouth instead?

Well, I was wrong.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Command Clinic: Teaching a new trick

When I teach Elka  a new trick, it happens for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it's because I see or hear about what another dog can do, and I think "Well, Elka can do that."  Sometimes, some behavior she's already exhibiting is something that I wand to shape and encourage into a complete behavior.

Whether you're using a clicker or not, you need to have criteria.  You have the finished product in mind, and have to have an idea of what steps you want your dog to correctly take in order to reach that product.

"Find it" is something Elka already knows, depending on the context.  She knows the names of a few of her toys (Gumby, Pokey, ball, etc.) and I can say "Where's Gumby?  Find it!" And she'll find Gumby and bring him to me.  We in fact play the "Where's Gumby" game for some indoor fun; I have her down-stay in the kitchen and I hide Gumby in the living room, and then release her.

Then I heard about the Kyra Sundance Trick Dog title, and thought, "Well, Elka can do that."  I'm confident she has Novice in the bag (and already have a willing witness lined up), and am more or less confident about the Intermediate, but thought we ought to brush up, and perhaps add some more.  You can always add more tricks.

So, I saw the "Which hand holds the treat?" and thought it could be a different "Find it" context. To teach it, I have Elka sit, show her a treat, rub it between my hands, and then close each hand into its own fist, with the treat in one of them.  She can sniff both hands all she wants, and lick; I decided that my criteria for the trick to be successful is for Elka to put her paw on the hand that holds the treat, as it seemed much clearer to me than just nosing or licking.  Sometimes she will sniff the correct hand for a good long time before bringing the paw into play, but really, we've only had two sessions of it.  Unless I have it in my teeth, I can't use the clicker for this particular trick, as both hands are already occupied, so I'm using "Yes!" as a marker for when Elka uses her paw correctly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dog Fighting: Crime or Culture?

It's taken me along time to work up to writing this post.  Not because I'm afraid of making people angry, or because I was afraid people wouldn't agree with me, but because I wanted to collect my thoughts and make sure I was being clear.

Back in April, I reviewed The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant, but I didn't discuss Michael Vick at all, or dog fighting at all.  Just a bit of breed prejudice, and rehabilitation.

A lot of people argue that dog fighting comes from one's culture, which I can both understand and not understand.  There is a certain demographic (low income, black, urban, white, rural, high income, middle class) that seems more likely to have dogs that they pit against one another, but not all of those individuals choose to do so.  In fact, I'd say that most people live their lives never watching nor inciting animals to tear into one another.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Something to Chew On

Did you know that rawhide isn't good for dogs?  That, in fact, in many cases rawhide can be bad for dogs?

For example, the Exer-Hide brand that Wal Mart (and other places, I'm sure) sells has caused death, fevers, seizures, and other unpleasant things for dogs, and has for years.  The claim is largely anecdotal, and "undetermined" on, but enough anecdotes from dog owners is enough for me.

Rawhide can also be treated with things like formaldehyde, harbor things like Salmonella, and is more or less undigestible to a dog.  If your dog eats a lot of it or swallows big enough pieces, it can cause an intestinal blockage, which involves surgery to fix.  If the surgery isn't done within a certain window of time, the affected tissue dies, and the dog will not survive.

So, now that I've done my bit of fear-mongering, here's the question:  What should I give my dog to chew?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Your Reference: 2011 revised ADA service animal rules


How “Service Animal” Is Defined

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.
Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general’s office.


Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals

  • When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
  • Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
  • Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
  • People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
  • If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.
  • Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.

I Can Fix Your Problem Dog!

Now, what was it that made you click so quickly?

What is it about your dog that makes him or her a "problem"?

In fact, let's make a list of the top five "problem dog" behaviors, shall we?

1. barking
2. pulling on the leash
3. jumping
4. nipping/biting/chewing
5. "she's just out of control"

Are these behaviors you have to deal with, from your dog, on a daily basis?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: The Last Dog on the Hill, by Steve Duno

Ever have a single event change your life in a really profound way?  Steve Duno did.

He and his girlfriend were driving...well, from Point A to Point B.  They pulled over when they saw puppies in the "wilderness" on the side of the road, slightly marshalled over by a Rottweiler crunching down a deer that may or may not have been roadkill.  All of the puppies ran off up the hill, but Steve, on a whim, whistled.  And the last dog stopped and looked back.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Special Needs Dobermans, and a specific Doberman in need (Whisper!)

Occasionally, situations conspire to produce vet bills beyond what people can normally pay.  Special Needs Dobermans ( is an organization that helps Dobermans in need, and also senior Dobermans specifically.  Donations made to them helps dogs that are owned, dogs who are fostered, and dogs who are in rescue.

SND has a fundraisers page with some dog and Doberman related items on it, and also has auctions, both of which benefit, you guessed it, the Dobermans!

I was going to get around to posting about Special Needs Dobermans eventually, but I currently have a specific Doberman in need who I'd like to talk about, Whisper (Aka West Virginia Whisper).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Command Clinic: Look at me

Theoretically, in doggie body language, direct eye contact is not polite.  It could be a threat or a challenge, or it could just make other dogs uncomfortable.  It depends, and I dont' know enough of the particulars beyond what I just said to discourse on it just yet.

To humans, though, eye contact is very important.  If somebody avoids eye contact, they don't like you, or they're lying.  If they give you direct eye contact, it shows you're important to them, they're paying attention.  If they absolutely won't look away, it could be a threat or a challenge (I'm seeing some overlap here).

Let's focus on the "important" thing, though.  Sometimes, it's important for our dogs to look at us.  It could be so you can give them cues, which could be very significant with regards to safety or with regards to Qualifying on that agility course.  It could be so you can take a picture.  It could be just to get your dog's attention.  Overall, "Look at me" is a pretty handy cue.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An attempt at communication

This morning, when we got up, Elka ran downstairs to greet my fiancé.  He'd been there all along, you see, but every time Elka leaves a room and comes back, she gets excited to see who's there.

Typically, when Elka greets somebody, she finds a toy and brings that.  This time, she brought Pokey, who has increased in popularity since a visit from our 1 year old friend Noah.  Noah thought Pokey was neat, and played with him for awhile, which has increased his value in Elka's eyes.

After Elka greeted my fiance, she went into the kitchen.  After I greeted my fiancé I looked in the kitchen to see Pokey in her food bowl.  My fiancé said "This is an attempt at communication.  She's so hungry she could eat a horse!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rachael Ray's "Nutrish"; meditations on a free sample

As I discussed in my What's For Dinner? post, I feed Elka Taste of the Wild, Wetlands fowl flavor.  So why, you might ask me, do I have a tiny bag of Rachael Ray's "Nutrish" in my house?  Open, no less?

Well, it was free.

I saw the free sample offer and thought, "eh, what the heck".  Especially since I've gotten the Just 6 treats for Elka, and she's liked them, and I've appreciated that the ingredients list was, in fact, comprised of only six items.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dogs and writing

In addition to writing a blog, I also write fiction.  I've wrote short stories and a big long (and very bad) fantasy epic in high school.  I took writing classes in college, and even now dabble in short fiction and start the occasional novel.  Nothing has been published yet.

Since 2007, I've taken part in National Novel Writing Month, which is an online even that traditionally takes place in November, in which your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days that comprise the month.  That's a novel of about the length of The Great Gatsby, or Of Mice and Men, for a point of comparison.

In 2009, when we got Elka, I discovered that it's difficult to accomplish something like sitting at your computer for an uninterrupted block of time to compose stories and characters from the Æther.  Not impossible, just difficult.  Puppies, like babies, are Up To Something if they are too quiet for too long, and such a thing is quiet distracting.  We worked with it, though (Kongs helped. So did a duck.)  This year, for the first time, we have Camp NaNoWriMo, and at the very least, I'm giving July a whirl.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Loose Leash Walking Breakthrough!

As I mentioned, I went on vacation for a week.

I think I can accurately assume that nobody worked with Elka with the clicker, because 1. I'm the one who does that and knows how it works and 2. I didn't tell anybody where the clickers were. So, our first walk after vacation was a little rough so far as leash work and attention went.  The second walk, though, was so good I thought it had to be a fluke.

See, we were walking, and Elka was in just the right spot, so I clicked.  She didn't look at me.  I counted five steps, clicked again, and she sort of languidly pointed her muzzle in my direction, and I gave her the treat.  She ate it, but didn't disrupt her walk pattern.  I watched her, still walking, and put the clicker and handful of treats away, only keeping a few out.  And she was perfect.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tennis balls: Contestant Number Eight

Bolstered by our recent success with the Chuckit! (Contestant Number Seven), I hastened to a nearby purveyor of things (Rite Aid) and bought a package of Hartz tennis balls.  I recognize the Hartz brand from the days of yore, when I was 10 or so and had a hamster.

Elka was stoked for this as well.  Perhaps she thought I was going to give her the other Chuckit! from the package; I did not.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Doberman Do's: a short list

Elka is my first dog, and my first Doberman.  We've been over this, I know.  And of course, as my smart and beautiful girl, I find her to be unique and, well, some days more perfect than others.  Of course, some days I'm more perfect than others.

What I'm going to lay out for you I'm sure applies to living with dogs in general, but definitely applies to Doberman living.  Their distinct intelligence and personality makes life with them both easy and hard, from what I've experienced and from what I've gathered visiting Doberman forums.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tennis Balls: Contestant Number Seven

Okay. I thought I'd shell out and try one of the Name Brands for this round of tennis ball destruction.

That's right, I went with the ChuckIt!

Good size (they're all pretty much the same size anyway, unless you get "mini" or "monster" tennis balls), good heft, fantastic bounce.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Velcro Dog

So, this last week, we were on vacation.  We did not bring Elka, but had people she knew and loved stay at the house with her.

So, guess who was exceedingly happy to see her people come back?