Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book review: Mine! A practical guide to resource guarding in dogs

Mine! A practical guide to resource guarding in dogs (by Jean Donaldson)

Jean Donaldson, if you didn’t know, is the director of the SF SPCA’s Dog Training Academy and has written a number of excellent books that address the kinds of behaviors that often land dogs in animal shelters. This book is not new, but it’s a gem and the used copies cost almost as much as the new ones—that’s dramatic market value!

The book is indeed valuable. It takes an objective look at all the various forms of resource guarding (including body handling issues) from a behaviorist perspective. Written for the professional dog trainer (not the common dog owner), the book is heavy on technical jargon but in her defense she defines every term she uses. But it’s not a light read. I’ve got two clients currently reading it, and am asking them to highlight any areas that are confusing to them so we can go over those together. I expect a lot of highlighting. But I still recommend the book because it’s very systematic and provides clear, achievable protocols for helping a dog become more reliable in situations that would normally elicit a very reactive response.

One of the most difficult parts of the equation, of course, is the denial or lack of commitment and compliance from the owner. One of the reasons I have some clients read this book is to break them out of the mind-set that they can find a quick fix to this kind of problem. The books talks a lot about managing the environment between training sessions (to prevent a dog from going over its threshold and becoming reactive), which is something that some owners seem reluctant to do. They don't want to reduce the dog's freedom, they just want the problem to go away. Denial. I can't help them until they break through that.

Jean covers all the basics of desensitization, counter-conditioning, developing a conditioned emotional response (CER), and teaching the dog an incompatible behavior to perform instead of the guarding response. She does not cover the basics of operant conditioning (and refers repeatedly to Karen Pryor’s book, Don’t Shoot the Dog) but she does a nice job of explaining the crucial nuances in the subtle timing of the presentation of the cue and the reward, and its subsequent impact on the guarding behavior. Getting this wrong can really derail your results.

I love the book, and I’m a big fan of Jean’s. Next I’ll compare it to Pat McConnell’s book on the same subject, Feisty Fido, which is written more to the average dog owner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

South Bay dog owners match up for doggie play dates

Now South Bay dog owners can easily find nearby dogs that are good matches for play-dates for their dogs. Membership is free, and people can join by simply sending an email to or by clicking here:

Messages to the group are moderated, which protects the group from spammers, so the messages go out about every other day.

Join us and let your dog get the socialization and exercise it craves!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Heartworm medicine just became more important for your dog

Folks, if you're not current on your monthly heartworm treatments for your dog, it is especially important to get back on the program. The risk just increased significantly (because if they found a surge of 300 you know there are many others they have not found yet...).

Rare Mosquito Species Threatens L.A. County Dogs
WEST COVINA, Calif. (AP) ― A surging population of rare western tree hole mosquitoes in the San Gabriel Valley threatens dogs.

A surging population of rare western tree hole mosquitoes in the San Gabriel Valley threatens dogs.

The San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District this season has trapped 300 western tree hole mosquitoes -- known as Aedes Sierrensis. The district has previously collected only 30 of the mosquitoes in the past 17 years.

The district covers neighborhoods from Altadena to Claremont and south to near the state Route 60.

Unlike other mosquito species, Los Angeles County health department Dr. Emily Beeler says the western tree hole frequently carries heartworm.

Worms fill up the heart of a dog and eventually kill the animal. Cats also get heartworms, but dogs are much more susceptible.

Monthly treatments can avoid heartworms.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Canine Companions for Independence opens Los Angeles office!

Canine Companions for Independence just opened a satellite office in Los Angeles! This is the first part of a campaign to increase CCI's presence in LA County.

CCI breeds and trains dogs to assist people with disabilities other than blindness (for example, people with mobility impairments from a stroke, or people who use a wheelchair. They also provide hearing dogs for the deaf.)

Dennis and I have volunteered for CCI since 1989, and have raised 10 assistance dog puppies in training. (Our wonderful Lab, Nika, is a pup we raised for the program but she was released as a "career change" dog because she alert-barks when people walk by the house. That's fine for a pet dog, but not OK for a service dog.)

CCI is in great need of more volunteer puppy raisers who receive a specially-bred 9-week old puppy and raise it and train it until it's about 18 months old. When it's time to give that pup back so it can go through advanced training, it's time to start a new one. If you would like more information about puppy raising, please don't hesitate to contact me.