Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dog Obedience Training Treats

Our dog obedience instructor recommended that we use different treats for training than we might use at other times. She said it set things up in the dog's mind that "This is work time." In fact, she often used that word - telling us to tell the dogs it was time to go to work.

One of her favorite treats was hot dogs - cut into small pieces and then cooked in the microwave until they got pretty hard. They're still greasy tho, so don't put them in the pocket of your best jacket unless they're in a plastic bag.

She also recommended string cheese - again cut into small pieces.

My dogs absolutely love liver. I bake it in the oven until the "slimy" goes away, then cut it into small pieces and continue baking it at about 250 degrees until it gets crunchy. In other words, I dehydrate it.

Anything your dog really loves will work, as long as it's different from the normal treats he gets when he's not "working." My son has dogs who love fruits and vegetables, so apple bits would probably motivate them! (Just stay away from the grapes, raisins, and of course the chocolate!)

I quit buying commercially made treats after reading a few dozen labels. I just can't bring myself to feed all those chemicals to my canine kids. So I bake their treats at home. Since mine don't have preservatives, I keep the bulk of the batch in the freezer and keep only enough for a couple of days in their cookie jar.

Our mainstay treats are beef and cheese - I buy inexpensive cuts of roast beef when it's on sale. Then cook it and pulverize the cooked meat in the food processor. After that I cut some chunks of cheese, add some flour so it won't stick together, and pulverize that. Then, a little olive oil and the juice from the roast. After I dump in some whole wheat flour and about a tablespoon of yeast I add water (or beef or chicken) broth to make a mix about the consistency of bread dough.

You can be fancy and roll this out and cut it like cookie dough, but the fast and easy way is to roll chunks into long "ropes" and lay them side by side on a cookie sheet. After the sheet is full, take a long knife and score the tops so the pieces will break apart easily. I usually let the dough raise before baking.

Then bake it in a slow oven until it gets crunchy.

If you'd like to share your favorite doggie recipe - please do!

Here's to happy pets,


Friday, August 29, 2008

Don't Telegraph Your Frustration to Your Dog

When Suzie and I were taking dog obedience classes there were several people in the class with dogs they just couldn't seem to handle. The harder they tried, the more they and the dogs became upset.

Getting their dogs to sit down beside them and stay quiet was almost impossible - until our instructor gave us one simple technique. She pointed out that our feelings - vibrations, if you will - transmit through the leash. So the more we become frustrated, the more the dog feels it and becomes frustrated as well.

We watched several people, especially those with large dogs, being literally drug around by their dogs.

The solution: Get the dog to sit or stand beside you, then lengthen the leash and simply stand on it while you hang on to the other end, just in case it slips. When the dog resists, the leash stays firm. And for some reason, your foot doesn't transmit frustration.

The strange thing was - and I think I've mentioned this before - not all of the human students followed instructions. So our ever-patient instructor had to keep reminding them. She also had to keep reminding them to say "good sit" and "good come" and "good walk" instead of "good dog." I think she shook her head and sighed a lot.

Remember to put those treats in your pocket and hand them out generously until your dog firmly learns each new command. After that, you can give them every 2nd or 3rd of 4th time - just to keep him on his toes.

Oh, and don't forget the praise and the petting. Those are darned important, too.

Another rescued dog finds a home...

I just got off the phone with the animal coordinator at our local shelter, and she told me one of my favorite dogs just found a home - and the other one has a good possibility of being adopted tomorrow. That makes my whole evening brighter.

Both of these two were adult dogs, and so loving and kind. Both prefer being with people and will follow the shelter workers around, begging them to stop cleaning for a minute and rub a belly. Both had beautiful manners. So why were they there?

Poppy lost her home because she chased horses. Well, she's part Heeler, of course she would chase livestock! But her humans didn't want to take the time to teach her when to chase and when not to, so they turned her in to the shelter. My own little Pepper would have been more than happy to "herd" my horses, but we taught him that wasn't the thing to do. We humans actually had a little help on that score from a horse and a well-placed hoof - which thankfully didn't break anything.

My other favorite was Sally - a Siberian Husky who came in with 5 puppies after being found running down a highway. What was her story? Did someone dump her and the puppies and drive off, so she was trying to follow? Or had she been dumped long before and given birth to her puppies in the woods? She was certainly skinny enough to have been going without good meals for quite a while.

We'll never know of course. Thankfully, neither she nor her babies will be having any more babies, and all 6 are now in homes. We can only hope the homes are good ones and that the 5 pups don't turn up later as the unruly teens we talked about last time.

Here's to loving dogs,


P.S. Remember - if you'd like me to list your rescue on this sidebar and on my rescue page at www.doyoulovedogs, all you have to do is comment here or send me a note at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spread the word about your rescue group

This week I sent a message out to my ezine members with an invitation to send links to their animal rescue groups for posting on this sidebar. As you can see, a few have responded. I hope you'll follow their links and see the good work they do - and choose to help them if you can.

If you work in rescue and are not getting my ezines, you can sign up by sending an email to Meanwhile, feel free to add a comment here with a link and information about your rescue.

As well as on this sidebar, your information will be posted on my doggie website with a little information about your group and/or your activities.

And now, back to the dogs themselves...

If you rescue, you've noticed that many of the dogs who come in are "teen-agers" who haven't been taught basic manners. People dump them because they've become unruly - running through the house, jumping up on everyone, knocking things over, getting in the trash, chasing the cats, and generally behaving like wild things.

Of course that isn't the dogs' fault - it's the humans who somehow thought the dogs would learn to behave with no effort on their part. Humans aren't too bright sometimes, but then, if you look around, a whole lot of them think their kids will thrive under the same kind of non-training. But that's a different story, for someone else's blog.

Your challenge in turning those unruly teens into adoptable canine companions is a huge one - especially if you're understaffed and don't get to spend good quality time with the dogs.

You should, of course, begin with teaching them to give you their attention - we covered that in the last post. Then what? For many, it's learning to keep their front feet on the floor rather than smearing mud over visitors - or knocking them down.

Everybody seems to have a different method of training dogs to stay down, and I believe different methods work with different dogs, but there's one thing that should remain constant, and that's the verbal command.

Somehow, each rescue needs to gather all their dog handlers and fosters together to agree on the commands you're teaching these dogs. Otherwise they'll be confused, won't know what you want, and thus won't mind - and then people will think it's their fault.

Commands like come and sit seem to be universal, but what will you say to tell a dog not to jump on people? Some say "Off" while others say "down" or even "get down" and others choose "No" or "damnit, get offa me!"

I recommend a one-word command - a word that's only used for that purpose. But the most important thing is that it be consistent - and that ALL of your handlers use it.

Dog training really is a matter of training the humans...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Step #1 in Dog Obedience Training

This will sound so simple that you'll wonder why I'm telling you - or maybe not.

When we started classes, the first thing our instructor had us do was begin conditioning our dogs to stop and look at us when we spoke their names. We were to choose one name and use it consistently.

None of this stuff like I do now with Suzie. I call her Suzanna, Suzie Q, Sue, and Sue-Bell - and now that she's grown, she knows those are all her names. But we started with Suzie in class.

We were to use their names first before giving any command, so that they knew the words were directed to them. Later on you can yell "Leave it" and all of your dogs should respond at the same time, because they know those words are always for them. (If you forget and use the same command when your toddler is reaching for your new crystal vase, your dog will get confused!)

In order to reinforce the idea that your dog should give you attention every time you speak his or her name, you give a little treat when you get that attention immediately.

Our trainer recommended spending time at home on this - keep a few treats in a pocket and hand them out every time you call the dog's name and get immediate response.

Remember that the dogs are used to you talking all the time - and most of the time you're talking to someone else. If you say their name first and they pay attention, then they'll know what you're about to say is for them.

Unless you use their names first, please don't expect them to know that you're telling them to "come" when you've been saying that to the kids all day. (Just think how many times you say things like "come wash your hands," "come to the table," "come see what's outside," "come say Hi to Grandma," etc. etc. etc.)

Yours for happy dogs,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Should you take your dog to obedience training?

Yep - I firmly believe it. But I didn't always think so.

Before I knew better I thought that taking a dog to obedience school would turn them into some kind of robot or something - that they'd lose their personalities. But I couldn't have been more wrong.

I don't know what caused me to take Suzie - maybe the fact that the classes were being held only a few miles away, or maybe because so many in animal rescue were going and it suddenly sounded like fun.

It did turn out to be fun, and while I enjoyed it, Suzie absolutely loved it! She would get so excited when we drove up to the building where classes were held that she could hardly contain herself. Wiggling all over, whining to get out... she couldn't wait to get to class!

We enjoyed it so much that we took the advanced class and she earned a "Canine Good Citizen Certificate." Then we took the agility class - and she thought jumping was so much fun that when I walked over to a table to look at new leashes she jumped right up on the table to help me!

The best part, of course, is that I now know how to communicate better with her, and she now minds better. It really is a safety issue to be sure your dog knows to come when called, to "leave it," and to sit and wait when told. She slips now and then, of course, and we do need to do refreshers once in a while.

Classes were no longer available when we got Pepper, but I had learned enough with Suzie's classes to transfer some of it to him. So tonight when I let him out of the car and he headed straight for the neighbor's cat he stopped as soon as I hollered "leave it." It feels pretty nice to be able to maintain neighborly relations that way.

Obedience trainers say that dog obedience school really is for the humans more than for the dogs. When we learn to be clear in our requests - and when we learn not to give one command with our voice and a different one with our body language, our dogs are much happier. They do, after all, want to please us.

If you can't get to a class, get a good book and study. Just remember to take it one step at a time so you don't frustrate yourself or your dog.

If you do take a class, be sure to listen - I was always amazed in class when the instructor told us to praise behavior with the name of the good behavior, but otherwise intelligent people didn't listen. When your dog sits on command, your role is to say "Good sit" several times and make them understand that what they just did was wonderful. But a good percentage of the humans couldn't get it. They kept right on with "Good dog" or "Good Hector."

Oh, one more thing. The classes we took were reward based and worked wonderfully. But I've heard of trainers who use fear based and punishment based methods. Maybe those are the ones that turn your dog into a robot with no personality. I wouldn't be surprised.

Here's to happy canines!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Arthritis in dogs

Yesterday I talked about puppies and Parvo - it's only fair to go to the other end and think about older dogs and arthritis.

Just like in people, arthritis can remove joy from a dog's life. When it hurts to run and play, where's the fun?

My dog Ralph was one of those dogs who was suffering. He came to us in 2000 - a puppy with a broken leg. His owner had decided that he'd rather pay to have his dog put to sleep than pay to have his leg set and then have to deal with the recovery period. So... after spending a day on the phone trying to find someone who would take an injured dog, I came home and told my husband about him. And he said "Call the vet and tell him to fix that dog!"

Well, he came to our house to recover, and the rest is history.

One day Carl said "I thought you were going to find this dog a good home." I said "Oh, I did." He said OK and that was the end of thinking that Ralph would ever live anywhere else. He became my husband's shadow.

The vet warned us that he would eventually develop arthritis because of his injury, and sure enough, he did. Then, to add insult to injury, last year he tore a ligament. He could barely make it into his favorite chair, and had to be lifted to get into the pickup. This was not good.

The vet didn't want to operate because doing so would put too much strain on the other leg, so he prescribed pain medication. After losing my beloved Harry to the side effects of Rimadyl a few years ago, I watched Ralph very closely - and after one day discontinued the Rimadyl. So they tried a different medication, with the same results. He started throwing up.

That's when I began my internet search for something natural, and I found it!

Every time I see Ralph running, playing, and tumbling over the other dogs, I send up a little prayer of thanks for having found ArthroIonx. It's minerals instead of chemicals, and it works!

Ralph still gets his glucosamine every day to promote healing, but I credit his return to joy to the ArthroIonx.

If you have a dog with arthritis, click on the name above and give it a try. You have nothing to lose, because if for some reason it doesn't work for your dog, you can get your money back.

I think this product saved my dog - and it might just save yours, too.

Here's to living with and loving dogs!


P.S. Ralph's the big guy in the photo. The little one is Pepper.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The doggie blog is Christine's fault...

She said that since I love dogs, and care very much for their welfare, I should have a blog about them. I said I already had too much to do, and I already have a web site about dogs, but...

Christine was right. Especially since there are so many things to talk about regarding dogs. Their good health, proper training, good food, and the joys of having someone around who loves you unconditionally.

I think it was Andy Rooney who said "Most dogs are better people than most people." And he was so right!

Anyway, to kick off this first post, I want to go back to an article I wrote a long time ago - How to Prevent Parvo. I just talked with a rescue worker a few days ago who was afraid one of the abandoned pups they found had it.

Luckily, "all" it had was a bad case of dehydration from being thrown out on a day in the high 90's and left to fend for itself without water or shelter for a couple of days. Once on IV fluids the little guy perked up and is now almost fine.

But that reminded me of other times when we weren't so lucky, and we lost some adorable little lives to the dreaded Parvo.

Parvo is an extremely contagious disease that attacks a dog's gastro-intestinal tract and then moves into its bone marrow. When treated at home, survival rates are .... read the rest ...

While you're there, look around. Then send me a note at and tell me what else you'd like to see on that site.

AND... if you have had experience with Parvo, please share here. Too many people treat this deadly disease as if it were trivial, and of course you know it isn't.

Here's to happy pets,