Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting your dog ready for holiday photos

This year I'm determined to get Christmas cards out in December.  I've completely failed to do them at all the past two years, and my friends must think I don't care about them.  I do care about them!  I just wasn't organized.

So it's October and I am determined to get it all organized, photographed, and written this month.  (I know, I'd better hurry up).  So I thought I'd share some tips with you about including your dog in the holiday photo.

  1. Do include your dog, but don't exclude yourself.  Your friends and family want to see you in the photo.
  2. Figure out what you want the photo to look like.  And realize that you probably need to do some training sessions to prep your dog for photo session.
    1. If at all possible, enlist the help of a friend to be the photographer.
    2. If there are props involved, introduce them well in advance to your dog by bringing them out, and then clicking and treating (for no reason, just for the presence of the props).  After a few C/Ts, but the prop away and the party stops for 3 minutes.  Now bring the prop out and the party starts up again.  This is called "classical conditioning" and it creates a happy response in the dog when the prop is presented.
    3. Think through the new behaviors you'll have to train for the photo...."Take" and "hold" behaviors are required for a dog who's expected to hold the handles of a gift bag in the photo.  A dog who is expected to have a Christmas wreath around his neck must learn how to voluntarily put his head through the opening, and sit and stay with the prop on.  Create a training plan for any behaviors you need, and start training a few weeks before the photo session. 
  3. Ideas for photos:
    1. Your dog is on a table and holds a champagne glass in his mouth, looking at the camera, and you hold a glass, standing behind him.  The champagne bottle is on the table next to the dog.  You raise glass in toast 
    2. You stuff some Santa legs up your chimney, like Santa is coming out, and you and the dog stand at the fireplace looking up at the legs like you're wondering how to help. Or better yet, get your dog to pull/attack the legs while
    3. Your dog is on a table, and you're posed behind him (on the table, or behind it)... he's in a big wrapped box that's disheveled, like it's been popped open. He's in the midst of a bunch of tissue paper.  He's posing with his feet on the edge of the box (like he's sitting up, resting paws on the edge of box)
    4. Dog is on table, in front of a plate of cookies that say "For Santa".... he is obediently "leaving it" but looking at the cookies with great interest.  You're reaching for a cookie, with your other hand at your lip in the "shhhh" position...  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Repair the squeaker in your dog's toy

Once your dog eviscerates its toy and the squeaker is either pulled out and lost or punctured, you can get inexpensive replacements here

You can also make inexpensive dog toys with old socks-- put a few squeakers in the sock, and sew the top closed.  Don't use socks if your pup is young and is still learning what's legal to chew and what's not!  You can also sew a tube for this from an old towel.

If you make it the right size to insert an empty plastic water bottle, your dog will also enjoy crunching that flat.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

News on Pet Airways (the pets-only airline)

I've been following the progress of Pet Airways, an ingenius business that provides air transportation for pets and only pets.  Located in small airports very close to major airports, the idea is that you'd fly on the main airline and your pet would fly on this side airline. They keep all the pets in crates in the cabin, not the cargo hold, making it much MUCH safer and more comfortable for the pets.  Major airlines will not even consider flying a pet during many months with high temperature risk, and I wouldn't consider it either. 

But Pet Airways solves that problem.  They've been adding flights and destinations.  They can operate economically because they don't have to have all the amenities that commercial consumer airlines have to have.  They DO have a staff person who rides in the cabin and checks on all the animals every 15 minutes. 

So I'm happy to see that the company is doing well.  Here is an analyst's enthusiastic report about them.  I didn't realize they had gone public, and I don't own stock in them but am watching them. 

This is one more reason all dogs should be crate trained!  Air travel will be less stressful for your dog is she's already accustomed to hanging out in a crate for awhile.  Crates = a safe place to hang out.

What are your thoughts about air travel and pets?  Share them in a comment below!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dressing up dogs for Halloween?

I have a confession to make.  I am not normally a Scrooge, but I'm very bah humbug when it comes to people dressing up their dogs in costumes.  I know everyone does it, but when they do I can't help but look at them and hope they get professional therapy for it. 

It's a free country, folks can do what they want.  I have a friend with a Chihuahua that she dresses in little outfits to match HER outfits.  She calls her dog a "Bling Chihuahua"-- her accessorizing him is the focal point of their relationship.  That poor dog.

Some major brand pet stores are now selling little outfits that look like infant clothing.  They're high-margin pet accessories for little dogs.  They're encouraging the madness.  I admit to having a few high-margin pet accessories of my own-- my Borzoi has a few really magnificent collars from Two Hounds Design.  She wears them all the time though, they're collars.  It's not a tutu or a bee costume with wings and antennae.

I'm not opposed to beauty.  I'm opposed to people thinking their dogs are little dolls to be dressed up for their own amusement.  It's gross.  Dogs are already beautiful.  They don't need to be made ridiculous.

Dogs may need a jacket for added warmth-- I'm OK with that, of course, and it can be beautiful.  But I'm not a fan of the dog costume thing.  I love a party opportunity to get people together for dog training games, but you won't see me dressing my dog in a costume.  It's just undignified.

I laughed the other day when I picked my dog up from the groomer and saw that the kennel offered an extra service to dogs boarded there (for a fee of course)-- they could have a bedtime story read to them.  A bedtime story read to them.  I laughed out loud.

I hope everyone has a very fun and happy Halloween, and that their dogs can get through it without being transformed into a Yoda, or a Zoro, or a hot dog, etc.   Teach your dog to hold the handle of a little plastic pumpkin for trick or treating and sit up and beg for a treat with it.  That's cute. 

Having said all this, though, I will leave this topic sharing a fun video from fellow trainer Emily Larlham, from San Diego.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Traveling with our dogs

We just got back from 5 days in San Luis Obispo, enjoying the annual plein air painting art festival.  We took all three dogs with us.  We stayed at a lovely vacation rental right in town that doesn't allow dogs, but that's OK, because our dogs never came inside it.  Because they're crate-trained and because they each have their own crate in the car, they happily slept there each night.

The first few days were quite hot so we took a great deal of care to ensure that they were always cool and safe.  We parked in open, covered parking garages, leaving windows wide open with a crate fan blowing on the door of each crate, to ensure a comfortable and constant air flow throughout the car. 

Because they travel so well we were able to zip out to the dog park each day, and let them play there for a bit and get some exercise.  But the biggest bonus was being able to take them to an area of the beach in Morro Bay where you can let them run off leash.  Bella, our Borzoi, ran like the wind and it was magnificently beautiful.  Our Lab convinced her to go into the water up to her knees, which was a first.  We all had a blast.  And you can tick off the behaviors that were previously trained to enable this: a solid recall, and great socialization skills.

We'd go out to dinner each night and then take a long walk through the little town with all three dogs, giving them another chance to stretch and get some exercise (skills:  loose-leash walking, heeling, "leave-it", and great socialization).  Other times we'd take one out for various activities and leave the other two in, rotating them so each got some one-on-one time (for example, while we were watching the artists create paintings in the mission plaza on Saturday morning, we traded the dogs off but never brought all 3 out at once).   At one point we both had some work to do on our laptops, and we set the dogs up on their beds (taken from their crates) on a beautiful wrap-around porch at the home we rented, and tethered each dog to the railing to keep them on their beds  (skills: "down").  We opened the french doors and let them hang out with us, meaning they could see us but they could not come in the house with us.  They enjoyed it an snoozed and were very relaxed.

We drove up to Cambria for a day and the dogs of course came along for the ride.  It was just a joy to have them with us and better yet, it was easy because they are so well trained.  I don't say that to brag, I say that to encourage you to do the same-- because it enables you to spend much more time with your dog in the long run.  They had much more fun than they would have if we had left them home with a dog sitter coming in to care for them.

Think about how you can increase your bond and your time with your dog by training him to be easy to travel with.  Share your experiences and comments with us here at the blog!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Traveling with your dog

We just got back from a wonderful vacation in San Luis Obispo, and we took our three dogs.  This article will share some of the techniques we've learned over the years to make it very enjoyable and easy to travel with our dogs.