Monday, May 31, 2010

Fayes Firsts

When you have a new puppy there are so many 'firsts', especially during the socialization period, birth--20 weeks. We checked 2 more off our list this weekend, swimming and a Parade. Faye took to the water like a fish, or labrador *grin*. It's always fun to watch a puppy swim for the first time, lots of splashing around until they figure out how to make those webbed feet work. After a fun day of swimming we were on to our next adventure a Parade on Memorial Day. There were marching bands, fire trucks, lots of kids, tons of dogs and a ceremony complete with a military gun salute. I was so proud of Faye, she was calm and relaxed the entire time. She met alot of new people and ignored alot of obnoxious dogs. As Faye approaches 5 months of age I'm amazed at her progress, she is such a wonderful puppy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Final Farewell

On this beautiful sunny day I gathered with my family, friends and of course our dogs to say a final farewell to Isaac. When Isaac died in February it was such a sad time for me and my family. To loose him at such a young age was a shock and we still miss him everyday.

Isaac loved to swim and his favorite spot was at our good friends pond in Blissfield. We spent many a warm summer days hanging out there watching the kids and dogs swim. I invited our regular swimming buddies to join us so that we could scatter his ashes in the pond he loved to much. With the sun shinning, kids swimming and all his doggie buddies splashing around, it was a wonderful way to say our final farewell to our sweet boy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Would you like to volunteer in your Community with your dog? Are you hoping to train your dog to become a Social Support Therapy Dog? Does your dog have solid obedience skills, sound temprement, enjoys human contact and adapts well to change? If so, you should consider training your dog for a career in Therapy Dog Work. In the past few years Therapy Dogs have become very popular in medical settings, schools and as social support companions for persons with special needs. Therapy Dog are used in hospital settings to bring comfort to patients or trained to actively participate in Physical Therapy programs. Therapy Dogs participate in the R.E.A.D. Program (Reading Education Assistance Dogs). R.E.A.D. Therapy Dogs, visit libraries and schools as part of a fun Animal Assisted Activity which allows children to read to the dog one-on-one. Social Support Therapy Dogs are life changing for persons with Autism, developmental disabilities or chronic health conditions. These dogs offer companionship, emotional support, participate in therapies to improve speech and coordination and improve social skills K9 Home Schooling developed and offers the only Therapy Dog Prep School in southeast Michigan. This program is unlike traditional obedience classes or CGC classes in that it is geared specifically for the training needs of dogs and humans pursuing Therapy Dog Testing. Our instructor, Michelle McCarthy is a Certified Therapy Animal Consultant and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She has years of experience working as a Therapy Dog Team in the community. Michelle worked with staff members to develop and launch a Therapy Dog Program at Chelsea Community Hospital called Paws-itive Comfort. She coordinated and launched R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dog) Programs at the Ann Arbor and Chelsea District Libraries. Michelle is a Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs Incorporated, a national Therapy Dog Organization. Upon successful completion of either Pup Start or Dog Training Fundamentals-1 you would be eligable to enroll in Therapy Dog Prep School. The 6 week session allows students to begin preparing their canine companion for a career in Therapy Dog Work or as a Social Support Therapy Dog. There will be instruction and practice with successful therapy dog commands as well as discussion on techniques for effective interaction between visiting teams and patients. Students enrolled in Therapy Dog Prep School are eligable to participate in Socialization Classes we hold at local Malls and Medical Facilities in the community. These classes allow teams to practice skills learned in class. These classes are not designed to certify dogs, but rather to give both handler and dog the tools to become effective therapy teams and to be better prepared for tests conducted by various programs. The next session of Therapy Dog Prep School will be in June 2010. For more information contact

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Overcoming Fears and Phobias

As Faye nears the end of the puppy imprinting phase we have one last thing to work on. She is afraid of garbage bags. I first noticed it when I was changing a garbage bag in my kitchen. As I was opening up the bag she ran and hid in another room. She seemed very anxious and would not return to the kitchen until the lid was back in the garbage can. While this may seem totally unreasonable to be afraid of a garbage bag, it's not my place to question why, but rather to help her learn to not be afraid. To often we get hung up on trying to figure out 'why' our dogs are afraid of something rather than putting our energy into helping them overcome their fear. In the case of the garbage bag it could be any number of things triggering her fearful response. She could be afraid of the sound the bag makes, the smell, the way it looks, etc. A response such as Fayes does not typically resolve on its own so it's best to do desensitization exercises as soon as you notice the fearful response other wise it can become a lifelong fear.

To help Faye feel less anxious about garbage bags I started by holding a garbage bag in my hand and offering her a tasty treat from my other hand. I didn't make her interact with the bag, just being near the bag made great treats appear. As she became more comfortable I put the bag on the floor and tossed treats on the floor near the bag for her to eat. She quckly was taking the treats off the floor. After a few sessions I was able to toss treats onto the bag and she was happily eating them while walking on the bag.

I'll continue to do these short sessions until she no longer fears garbage bags.

When you notice a fearful response from your puppy or dog don't ignore it or assume it will just go away. While we can't fix everything there is alot we can do to help our 4 legged friends overcome their fears. And of course, when in doubt always seek the help of a professional Dog Behavior Consultant.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer Fun!

The first HOT day in Michigan and the dogs are loving it. As the the temps creeped past 80 degrees we knew we had to pull out the doggie pool and throw a pool party. This was Fayes first time in the water and though it took some time for her to warm up to the idea, she eventually was splashing around with her buds Leo and Cali.

When exposing a young puppy to something new like water, make it fun. Quite often our puppies first experience in water is the dreaded BATH. I try to make their first water experience a fun time with doggie friends. Of course a Winter Puppy in Michigan can throw a wrench into that plan *GRIN*. I start with a kiddie pool, add water, a few good doggie friends, lots of toys and let the fun begin. Faye was not quite sure about this whole pool thing but after watcing Leo and Cali splash around she decided to join in on the fun.

As temping as it may be to "toss" your puppy into the drink to help them get used to the water, it's best to let them take their time and inch their way into the water. After all there's nothing fun about being forced to do something you're unsure of, puppies are no different than people in that way.

If you plan to spend time at the water with your dog throughout their lifetime it's always best to introduce your dog/puppy to the water ASAP. While not all dogs love the water, most tend to enjoy it if they were exposed as a youngster.

So get outside and enjoy Summer with your dog, SURFS UP!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Off Leash Playtime, It's a Must!!!

How important is playtime? Aren't leash walks enough? Isn't letting my puppy or dog run around the house good enough? These are questions I'm asked on a regular basis by clients. My students know that I am a BIG advocate of off leash playtime. I supervise playtime at the end of group classes, encourage students to connect outside of class for playtime and provide my own dogs with an abundance of off leash fun. While I do walk my dogs on leash daily, it does not compare to a good off leash romp. I think about my own exercise routine and how much I need it to stay healthy and happy. When I head out for a long walk I am relaxed, free to move about as I please, walk or run, you get the picture. If on the other hand I'm walking with someone whose holding my hand, controling my pace,dictating which direction I head, I would not get the same benefits or enjoyment out of my workout. I think the same can be said for our dogs. When our dog is on leash they are not free to move about as they please, they can't explore, jump, roll, sniff, etc. A young active puppy or dog can out run most humans, so walking on leash rarely helps them expend their boundless energy. A senior dog may not have the stamina to keep up with his power walking human, so walks can be stressful if not painful. Allowing your puppy or dog to play off leash gives them the freedom to play at their own pace.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that we turn our dogs free to run anywhere they please. We need to find safe fenced areas to let our dogs play. This can be a challenge when most people don't have fenced yards. If you don't have a fenced yard, find a friend or neighbor that does and become their best friend *grin*. Find a well run socialization playgroup in your area and sign your dog up. There are many good doggie day cares that provide supervised off leash playtime and exercise. You need to find the right option for your dog.

I encourage my students to connect with other pet parents for playdates.   I am always thrilled to hear that people are willing to take time out of their busy shedules to give their dogs much needed off leash exercise. I also hear about all the great friendships that develop, an added perk for the humans :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Pets Ten Commandments


1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.

2. Give me time to understand what you want of me

3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being..

4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment, but I have only you.

5. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.

6. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.

7. Before you hit me, before you strike me, remember that I could hurt you, and yet, I choose not to bite you.

8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I have been in the sun too long, or my heart might be getting old or weak.

9. Please take care of me when I grow old. You too, will grow old.

10. On the ultimate difficult journey, go with me please. Never say you can't bear to watch. Don't make me face this alone. Everything is easier for me if you are there, because I love you so.

Take a moment today and be thankful for your pets. Enjoy and take good care of them.

Life would be a much duller, less joyful experience without them.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Keeping Your Puppy Busy And Out Of Trouble

Today I found pieces of my favorite decorative plant spread all over my familyroom floor. And in the middle of the action was Faye enjoying the dismanteling process. My first reaction of course was the same as every other puppy parent, I was REALLY irritated. I then caught myself wanting to rant and rave at her until realized someone must have left her unattended. I also realized that she must have been bored or she would not have found my belongings so appealing. With a young puppy in the house it's my job to keep her out of trouble. It's also my responsibility to provide her with appropriate chew toys and mental stimulation. I cleaned up the mess and went in search of a fun toy for her to play with. I found her Kibble Nibble, filled it with treats and watched her roll it around the floor so the treats would dispense. I am constantly reminded that puppies need supervision, not only when we have time, but all the time. These early months are hectic and demanding of our attention, but they don't have to be miserable. If you find yourself frustrated with your distructive puppy, take a closer look at your role in supervising and providing appropriate outlets for normal puppy behavior.