Monday, November 30, 2009

Dogs go through developmental stages

A friend of mine has a young pup who is entering a fear stage, and I was explaining what that's all about. I find this website to be a great and concise explanation of the various developmental stages our dogs go through. I highly recommend reading it (it's short!).

View it here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Warm-A-Pup project a big success!

Letter to the Editor printed in the Peninsula News:

Wow! The South Bay Clicker Training Club received an overwhelmingly generous response to our call in September for used towels and blankets to be recycled into winter jackets for the dogs who live in cold concrete kennels at the animal shelter. People brought so many donations to the Pet Foods Market in Lunada Bay that the donations filled up entire room in my house. With the help of many people (including Cindy Chiles of Convergent Consulting LLC who provided additional supplies) we sewed enough dog jackets to meet the needs of the SPCA-LA animal shelter in Hawthorne. We had enough leftover towels and blankets to make additional donations to that shelter as well as the LA County shelter in San Pedro. It’s obvious that people on this peninsula are compassionate animal lovers and we are grateful for your support of this very successful project. We may very well do it again next year. Thank you!

Diane Bassett

Donate a towel or blanket, warm a shelter pup

By Rebecca Villaneda, Peninsula News
Thursday, September 3, 2009 4:41 PM PDT

It’s hard to imagine being cold with the dog days of summer still upon us, but a few local animal lovers hope you can pretend.

(photo omitted: Diane Bassett, left, and Cindy Chiles, right, with Nika, are hosting a towel-and-blanket drive in order to make coats for shelter dogs in the upcoming winter months.)

Palos Verdes Estates resident and dog trainer Dianne Basset happened upon the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ wish list, which had dog coats listed.

“I was surprised to learn that the SPCA was putting out a call for help for jackets for dogs; we usually worry about dogs being too warm,” said Bassett, who also is a foster parent to adoptable animals.

But sure enough, the SPCA said the warmth is needed to combat the cold cement floors during the winter months.

About the same time that Bassett learned about this, summer had just begun and she happened to have just purchased a sewing machine.

An idea was coming together.

“I’m getting out my beach towels and I’m looking at some of them, which are kind of frayed, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is probably this towel’s last season,’” the trainer with South Bay Clicker Training Club said. “And I thought, ‘I know what I could do with this towel.’ And my neighbor down the street, who has three kids who are all surfers, they’re going to be having the same experience — let’s put those to good use.”

The soon-to-be old towels and any old blankets were a perfect solution in creating some homemade dog coats.

The next thing Basset needed was a little help to get her idea to fly.

She reached out to Pet Foods Market owners Livia Varsanyu and Barbara Toth. The two women, animal advocates in their own right, allowed their two stores —one in Manhattan Beach and the other in PVE — to be drop-off sites for the towel and blanket drive.

“It’s an excellent idea, and if you haven’t been to a shelter, the conditions are not the best. They are on concrete in the winter, summer — all the time, and it gets really cold in there, especially when it’s wet,” Varsanyu said. “We collect items for dogs and take them down to the shelter … anything from old leashes, towels, beds, anything that people don’t use — toys that their dogs don’t use anymore, we collect everything.”

The third party in this donation drive is Convergent Consulting LLC owner Cindy Chiles, who will serve as the financer of the project’s odds and ends.

It didn’t take long for the San Pedro resident to agree to help. She recently adopted Buddy, her first shelter dog, that she said has given her a new perspective.

“I’ve had three dogs beforehand that I’ve had wonderful relationships with and long lives with, but … Buddy is just a joy,” Chiles said. “When I got him he had been shaved bald, and had been on the streets for quite a while, and also had kennel cough. He was so heavily matted they couldn’t save his hair. As it turned out he’s just a wonderful dog; he’s very smart and very loving.”

Since Buddy was not a puppy when she got him, she’s had some “unique”

hurdles to get over in getting him trained, but she said Basset has helped with his progress.

“It just seems so unconscionable that he was about to be put down — and he was, because he got kennel cough. It’s so highly contagious … The thought of him not surviving, it just seems unbelievable, because he has so much value and he’s so lovable immediately,” she said.

Bassett, excited to offer shelter dogs some warmth this winter, has already gotten her design OK’d by the SPCA. She will cut the fabrics into triangles and use ribbons to tie it around them, making them adjustable for different sizes.

“We’re not trying to create dog fashion,” she said. “These jackets may get chewed up, so we’re designing them in away that’s low-cost — they’re warm, they’re functional, they’re not necessarily going to be fashionable, but they’re going to do the job, and frankly, the thought of dogs who need homes being cold, makes me sad.”

To donate older towels or blankets drop them off at Pet Foods Market, 6 Yarmouth Road in Lunada Bay.

Book review: Reaching the Animal Mind (by Karen Pryor)

Reaching The Animal Mind by Karen Pryor

Clicker training fans will not be able to put this book down. It starts with some brief but fascinating stories of how Karen and her husband started a sea life park in Hawaii and started training dolphins, porpoises and whales to do Marineland-like shows for the public. Along the way she taught children to clicker-train horses and was surprised to find them surfing together in the ocean, the children riding bareback and the ponies having tremendous fun. She talks about behavior shaping, communicating with animals, animals expressing feelings and showing creativity, and creating attachments. She then goes on to cover the evidence of fear (and it’s detriment to the ability to learn). She covers the common questions around clicker training, and then goes to share some breakthrough understanding that has come from her pursuit of neuroscientists (such as recent discoveries that all conditioned reinforcers travel through the brain via the primitive brain—the amygdala—rather than the higher-thinking cortex). She also covers the revolutionary use of clicker training on people (called TAG teaching). Throughout the book she references wonderful videos and additional references available to all at .

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in clicker training. Karen writes with a straightforward and humble style that is engaging and fun to read. It’s a heartwarming book packed full of information for beginning and advanced trainers alike.

Dog parks coming to the peninsula!

I'm very happy to see that wonderful progress is being made to include dog parks in Hesse Park and Grandview Park. The Daily Breeze just covered this and the article can be read here.

Maureen and Bruce Megowan deserve our thanks for the tireless work they've put into this effort, as does RPV Mayor Larry Clark. Thank you!

Having moved here from the Bay Area 2 years ago, I really miss having a wide choice of legal off-leash dog runs. I used them every day up north and can't wait to use them here, too (I do know about the dog park in Redondo Beach but it's such a long drive just to run the dogs).

Please email the city council members in RPV and express your support for this project. You can reach them all with this one email address: (that autoforwards to everyone on the council).

Thank you!

Training "workouts"

I'm a member of the Lomita Obedience Training Club, and am starting to schedule informal training "workouts" with folks on a weekend morning in one of two parks in Palos Verdes Estates.

A "workout" means we get together to do some training exercises that are best done with other dogs present-- for example, it's harder for dogs to perform reliable recalls and stays in the presence of other dogs. We will work on many basic behaviors, and will also work on "real life" behaviors such as how to go under a chair at a cafe and stay politely and quietly while the owner has a nice coffee and chats with friends. And how to continue to do that even if another dog walks by and sniffs.

I'll be sending invitations to these "workouts" to the members of the club. I encourage anyone in the South Bay who's interested in learning how to train their dog to consider taking the classes with the LOTC. It's a great starting point and they use lots of positive reinforcement (I'm an avid clicker trainer. See for more info on clicker training).