Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saying Goodobye

We recently had to say goodbye to our beloved Isaac. Over the past few months Isaac was showing signs of neurological problems. The condition worsened and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize him. This is a tremendous loss for my entire family. Isaac had just turned 2 years old and was the life of our house. He was my birthday present 2 years ago and since the day he arrived at our home he has been making us smile. I truly was not expecting the intensity of greif I would experience from his passing.

He was first and foremost my beloved dog whom I adored. He was affectionate, playful and always wanted to be part of what ever I was doing. He loved to ride in the car with me, cuddle on the couch and sleep at my feet underneath my desk while I worked on my computer. It was not uncommon to see him carrying his stuffed Tigger or sleeping with it. He was a full blood brother to our dog Leo and together they filled our lives with so much love.

Isaac was also my work partner and had spent the past 2 years going to classes and workshops with me. He was my demo dog at class and at public events. He was truly amazing to work with, he loved to train and taught me so much.

But aside from his great skills, my biggest pleasure came from watching him play with his many doggie friends. Throughout his lifetime he had met and played with a countless number of dogs. He had such zest and helped many puppies get off to a good start in life by learning proper play skills.

When Spring arrives we plan to scatter his ashes at his favorite swimming pond in Blissfield. He spent many warm summer days swimming with my kids and his dog friends so it only seems fitting that we should say our final farewell to him there.

Our sincere thanks to those who have remembered us with cards, flowers, emails and in your prayers. Even though his life was too short, we were truly blessed to have him in our lives.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Last Days Of Pain Training Are Upon Us !

February 22nd, 2010 by Drayton Michaels

On February 12th, 2010 American Humane announced that there will be a symposium on humane dog training and behavior. The impetus for this symposium is that for 6 years the ideology and methodology of Cesar Millan and his show The Dog Whisperer have been under fire by everyone from humane organizations to positive reward based dog trainers and aware dog owners.
There was a collective law suit brought against Millan in late 09 by a number of humane organizations, and there are even whispers Millan’s show will not be picked up by Nat Geo next year.
With all this pressure mounting, it’s no wonder that Millan and his people have asked for a sit down with the best of the best in dog training and behavior. Remember, he and his people asked for this due to mounting pressure. This is not a joining of forces per say; that remains to be seen. It may be spun by the Milan machine as a meeting of the minds, but in actuality this is in essence a clean up your act or else situation.
There is skepticism in the positive dog training community about the sincerity of Millan’s interest in a different approach to dog training. After all this criticism is not new and he and his people obviously have had access to the same information as the rest of us. So why now is there a desire to meet and learn? Perhaps that cash cow of a TV show is in jeopardy of not returning, and they have nowhere else to turn except to the legitimate humane crowd. The simple fact that Millan and his people have asked to meet with the people that have been criticizing his show/methods & ideology is an admission that he needs to change his way. Regardless of why it is happening we should all rejoice that it is happening.
Look at it this way...
After the symposium is complete and Millan and his people are educated first hand, it will be hard for him to go back to his fear and pain based methods, simply because he has now been schooled by the best, and he has met with people willing to teach him how to be humane. He is under the spot light and it’s hard to hide when you are on TV.
The jig is up as they say. If he was not doing anything harmful, why would there be such a clamor from everyone from dog owners to behaviorists, humane dog trainers and the humane orgs about his methods and ideology? Dogs are conduits of the truth and you cannot mess with them for too long without getting caught, it’s that simple.
This meeting of the minds is the beginning of the acknowledgment by Millan and Nat Geo that indeed his methods and ideology are faulty, harmful and not humane. If he were not doing anything harmful this symposium would not be happening. Think of this an intervention of sorts.
What has many people concerned is that Millan will do a 180 and become a humane trainer over night, and he will not admit to doing anything wrong or that his show has caused countless dogs to be unfairly harmed under the guise of training.
A new spin on his old show will however not be enough to really satisfy. There will have to be a public admission that he was wrong and that he has now seen the error of his ways, without that it will reek of entertainment people scrambling to save their pay checks. That might be the case no matter what, but as long as he admits he was using out dated methods and was under the guise of a faulty ideology, who really cares? The goal here is to help dogs and owners get the correct information.
The other reason we need Millan to come out and publicly decry his ideology that dogs are dominating us at every turn and that his approaches are harmful is so that dog owners who religiously follow his advice and mimic his methods will stop doing so and seek out legit and humane approaches. This is perhaps the most crucial aspect concerning the outcome of the symposium.
There is also the question of the Dog whisperer shows that run on Nat Geo repeatedly showing the out dated methods and that spew the Dominonsense ideology. This will be a big question and a legal one for Millan, Nat Geo and the American Humane TV & Film unit to hash out.
After all once Millan changes his ways, and he will, what about the old shows? Once he denounces his old ways, why would he want them represented on TV and on DVD? Syndication of his show is a large question to be answered and that has more to do with legal contracts and a whole lotta money at stake than anything else.
This ripple effect that Millan has had to the detriment of dogs, could in one fell swoop begin to reverse that damage by him simply asking his followers to follow the humane advice of behavioral science and positive dog trainers and to give up his old ways.
It would be a big step, but it is the necessary step for us to believe he is genuine in his admission that he wants to not only learn about humane dog training but also become a legit and humane dog trainer. Without it, this will be seen as lip service.
This is the “educational opportunity” that American Humane speaks of in their announcement of the symposium; the education of Millan and the trickledown effect it can have in culture. The ball is already rolling and the tide is already turning. All we need is the Oprah moment of “I’ve seen the light” and it will be complete.
Now; if nothing changes on Millan’s part and he takes a few new ideas and implements them into a watered down version of his show, he’ll look really foolish and no one in the legit dog behavior and training camps will trust him anymore than they do now. I do not think that is what he or his people want out of this. In fact I think what they want is more money, and what a better way to make more money than include all of us legit people. His show needs new life, and what else has he got left?
Making the personal choice to inflict fear and pain on a dog under the guise of training or otherwise can be done only out of ignorance, a lack of understanding or a lack of information, IE: lack of education. After this meeting of the minds Millan and his people will not be able to claim any of those as excuses any longer. Of course they can’t claim them now in any believable sense, but after this symposium, they’ll really be foolish to continue their ways.
From this symposium relationships will be forged and doors will be opened, so there will be no excuses any longer. All that will be left will be actions, words will not be enough. America loves a good transformation; and this will certainly be quite a change if indeed Millan does change, and he will because what’s left?
The lemming mind set of the sycophant fans will follow and they’ll make claims of how great he is, how open minded he is, even if the impetus to change may have more to do has with money than a desire to learn. It might be both, we’ll only know if he comes out and tells us. Millan has the chance to fix the damage he has created with his show. He also has the opportunity to get the best help out there in doing so. I hope he takes this opportunity to man up and change his ways.
We should not stop educating people about the harmful effects of pain and fear based training, we should not stop eradicating the dominance nonsense from dog behavior education, as this will be an ever vigilant job until dogs are protected under the guise of training by the law and we have uniform education of people about dog behavior.
The larger issue at stake here is the issue of consumer protection in pet dog training. Millan has by and large been the reason why so many people are out there taking money for dog training services are not doing anything to really help people with their dog’s behavior. It’s not all dominance, it’s not all force and control, and if it were that easy then there would be no need for anything else. What is being recognized is that these whispery ways have finally come to the end.
Please don’t get this twisted people of the humane and positive training camps, this is not an admission that his ways are legit, it is the realization by Millan and his people that it’s time to change or else. Even after Millan has a change of ways and he will eventually as behavior does not change overnight; there will always be a need to stop the spread of ignorance about faulty dog training and the need to explain dog behavior in legitimate factual terms. It will be nice to have his help with that, after all people do listen to the man.
We should take some comfort in the fact that this symposium is happening. This is the first step, though it will not be the last. There is work to do and there will always be work to do. Education is a lifelong pursuit for the person that wants to grow and change and improve as well as a lifelong job for those of us devoted to helping dogs live a better and more humane life along side us.
Let’s not spoil this by being jaded or being shortsighted. Have some faith in American Humane they are not swayed by Hollywood. Have some faith in the human spirit, there is a chance to make a massive change here and it can be done, and it is starting already. Lastly have faith that dogs are conduits of the truth, and the truth is going to be told very soon in a public forum.
The last days of pain training are upon us.

**This article was written by Michael Drayton for Dog Star Daily**

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fun For Fido!

Leo and Isaac have been having a blast playing with their new interactive toys the Brick and Tornado. These toys were developed by Nina Ottoson and are great fun for your pooch. The toys not only provide a fun activity for your dog but stimulate their minds aswell. The toys have compartments for hiding treats, your dog has to 'work' the toy to find the treats. There are spinning pieces and sliding slots which need to be moved by either their nose or paw. Dogs love to hunt and scent so this is a great way to let them use their natural abilities. You can use the toys during training, when your dog is bored or feed them a meal out of it. Either way your dog will have fun and stimulate their brain at the same time!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Adventures of Molly

For the next year we are going to follow the adventures of Molly, the Portuguese Water Dog/Therapy Dog in Training. Molly came over to visit her buddies Leo and Isaac this past weekend. With the snow and cold many dog are getting 'Cabin Fever' as they are unable to spend much time outside. With the temps dipping below freezing and the wind whipping, our housebound doggies can start to get a little crazy. All the dogs enjoyed a few hours of indoor and outdoor playtime and Molly is now fully refreshed and ready to begin her work week at Moore Pediatrics. My dogs enjoyed having some playtime too and have been content to lounge around today which makes life easier for everyone!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Therapy Dog Team Diana and Boomer

Boomer began training to do therapy work when he was six months old. He came to my family from Shetland Sheepdog breeder who was planning to show him in the ring. But he grew too big and became available as a companion. He is my second sheltie, my sweet Murphy was the first. Having spent several months in the hospital in 2000 and not having therapy dog visits available at that time, I longed to see Murphy. He was so gentle and loving, everyone loved him that met him. I promised myself when I was better I would train my dog Murphy and visit others who were in the hospital. Murphy however, passed on later that year with a brain tumor and I was so grief-stricken I waited a while for Boomer.

I began training with a puppy positive reinforcement class taught by Michelle McCarthy of K9 Home Schooling. Using treats and a clicker, I began the training to develop Boomer into a therapy dog. Michelle also did a few home visits with my family present, to make sure we were all being consistent with Boomer in the home too. While that was going along well, more training for a young dog is to expose him to as many different situations as possible. I took him to Timber Town and walked him in some tight spaces with kids running and yelling around us. We went into church and had use of practicing going in and out of an elevator. We went to the banks, pharmacy, wait outside of school at the end of the day, and any place that would allow him in. He was developing into a great dog to take out his obedience was to me was always 100%. When he turned a year old, my husband and I adopted a daughter and Boomer's days out were less and less for the next two years.

Then in 2008 I took a therapy dog training class taught by Michelle who is also a therapy dog tester. After graduation the class we had to be tested twice more in the hospital on visits. Boomer did great! Since then we did visiting at the Head Pain clinic at Chelsea Hospital. The patients are there for a short stay but come from as far away as Scotland. Many of them have pets and greatly appreciate the petting and calmness Boomer brings with him. You can see people relax and their focus shifts from their chronic pain to a beautiful dog with soulful eyes, breathing steady and hoping for a pat or two. Shelties are known to be sensitive to people and I have witnessed him soothing people when I did not realize the depths of their pain. It is amazing!

Boomer also loves children and we are involved with the Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D. program at our Chelsea Library. Children sign up for 10 minutes sessions to read by themselves, aloud to Boomer. Children who participate have shown a gain in confidence in reading and have improved test scores. They also receive a free book on their third visit.

Therapy work with Boomer is extremely rewarding for me and Boomer too. He gets so excited when I put that vest on him! If you see us out, stop and say Hi