Friday, June 17, 2011

Mommy Time

Tonight I was walking one of my three dogs down the street when a neighbor asked why I was only walking just one.  I explained that sometimes I just like to have some one-on-one time with each dog, because (aside from the fact that walking 3 dogs at once is a different experience than walking just one) it helps each dog keep a close bond with me and, I hope, lets each one know how special he or she is to me.

When you have a multi-dog household, keep in mind that they don't always have to do everything as a pack.  It's important to get them each out and train them individually, socialize them, and have that deep bonding time.

I call it "Mommy time".  I want each dog to have a certain amount of individual "Mommy time".  It's good for them, and it's good for me too.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tips for living with dogs

Dogs need to live in the home with us, not out in the yard (this is essential for their socialization, manners, and ability to bond and integrate with the humans in their household). I've come across a great book review of a book that provides some wonderful tips for living elegantly with dogs in the house.

See the entire review here.

While we're on the subject, I'll share some of my own tips:
  1. Teach "go to your spot" (or mat) and have mats in a few places that are discreet and unobstrusive, to help your dogs be with you but not underfoot.  For example, one of the mats our dogs are trained to go to is under the kitchen table.  When we're in the kitchen, "go to your mat" moves them under the table where they can watch the cooking action, but stay out of harm's way (hmmm, did I just imply that my cooking is harmful?)
  2. Washable dog beds.  Never buy a dog bed that doesn't have a zip-off, washable cover.  Wash them often-- it prevents dog smell.
  3. Slipcovered furniture.  If you allow your dogs on the furniture with you (and we do), it's great to be able to wash those slipcovers.  Consider not allowing dogs on furniture that isn't slipcovered, or require them to lay on a blanket (which is starting to look... unelegant).  It's OK to have rules about which furniture a dog is allowed to lay on-- they are totally capable of learning this.  You just have to be there to control their access, and be consistent about the rules.
  4. Change your furnace filters religiously.  Dogs in the house usually mean shedding, and this will get into your furnace intake filter-- so be more conscientious than most people about changing it.
  5. I'm a huge advocate of crating.  I think dogs should sleep in the bedroom with you, and if they still need to sleep in a crate, incorportate it into the bedroom as a side table to the bed or something-- put a table top on top of the crate, for example.  You can also raise the crate onto a small platform to make it the right height for your room. 
  6. Discreet tethers in the baseboards to keep your dog in place in "company" rooms like the living room.  This allows your dog to hang out with you all without being a pest and mugging your guests.  I really dislike being mauled (even in a friendly way) by dogs when I am visiting someone's home.  For a deeper discussion of tethering dogs indoors, click here
  7. The best tip for living elegantly with your dogs is to continually train and tune up your dogs' manners.  There is no substitute for a well mannered dog.  Even a large dog brings peace and calm to a small space if that dog is well mannered.
We live with three dogs in our house, ranging in size from a giant breed (Borzoi) to medium sized (a small Lab and an oversized Sheltie).  We love every minute of it. What tips do you have for living elegantly with dogs?  Share them with us in the comment section please!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A tribute to one of my favorite trainers, Emily Larlham

One of southern California's most gifted clicker trainers, Emily Larlham, is moving to Sweden. What a boon for them, and what a loss for us. Thankfully, Emily is active in digital media and has posted a generous series of training videos on YouTube.

I frequently send my students links to her videos-- her ability to simplify things for her learners (both human and canine) is wonderful.

Emily, we are going to miss you very much and we wish you the best in your new adventure. Tell those Swedes we said they're darn lucky to have you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dogs in the yard

I'm really sad.

Angry, sad, frustrated. Irresponsible dog owners have resulted in the unnecessary death of two wonderful dogs.

A family in my community has (had) 2 beautiful dogs (whom I've met). The various family members for several years allowed a situation to exist where their two dogs repeatedly escaped their yard and would run around the community creating havoc. The dogs and the family got a reputation.

Despite knowing about dog crating, and despite having done so when the dogs were pups, the owners did not crate them, or kennel them when they could not be directly supervised. Instead, they rebuilt a fence (which the dogs still found a way to escape).

To make a long and tragic story short, the dogs killed an elderly cat, the owners were warned, the dogs got out and did it again, and the dogs were held and turned over to the authorities and will be euthanized.

I'm so angry about this I don't even know where to begin.

So let me say this. If there is a lesson out of this it is that if you have ONE situation where your dog gets out, you MUST take immediate and effective action to prevent that from happening again. This family had literally dozens of cases where their dog got out.

People's reluctance to crate train their dogs can be deadly for their dog. It was in this case.

People, crate train your dogs. It's humane, it's safe, and it's a great fall-back if for whatever reason your dog likes to escape your yard. It's almost impossible to create a back yard that will contain a dog who is determined to escape and go have some fun (and once that happens once, it's very positively reinforcing so it's very likely to happen again and again).

The owners in this case are personally responsible -- 100% responsible -- for the senseless death of their two beloved dogs. These were really nice dogs. And these were really annoying owners. I'm heartbroken by this situation, and I'm angry.

Please, everyone, crate train your dogs. Use crating as necessary. But use it. Don't let a situation escalate like this. If a dog escapes even once, take it very seriously and jump on it. If you're unwilling to confine your dog with a crate, buy an enclosed kennel for the yard.

Denial kills.