Fourth of July Is Almost Here!

Now time for an annual reminder—it's almost the fourth of July! Why does that matter? Because it's the day our Founding Father's signed the Declaration of Independence? Well, sure, although the exact date of the signing is disputed (it may have been later), but more importantly because of this quote from a letter independence advocate and declaration signer John Adams sent to his wife Abigail after the Declaration had been approved: "It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other." It seems people have taken Adams's advice to heart. Independence Day is now celebrated from coast to coast with fireworks shows and other loud celebrations. In many neighborhoods, people also set off personal fireworks and firecrackers of varying legality. In many areas, fireworks will start tonight, if they have not already, and will continue through next weekend. During this time, it's important to keep...
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New and Notable

I gave a workshop for new and prospective dog adopters last weekend. One of the topics we covered was socialization. Socialization is key for puppies, but is more important than many realize for newly rehomed adult dogs. (It can also be important for moving with your dog, but I won't cover that in depth here.) Regardless of their background, your home is not exactly the same as your new dog's previous home and will include new things to which your dog needs to be socialized. This is increasingly important to keep in mind in our area as more and more rescue dogs are brought into local shelters and rescues from other areas of the country. For dogs that come from an entirely different background, whether an outdoor life, a rural area, or a racetrack, the reality of everyday life in a city or suburb is filled to the brim with new experiences and stimuli. What do I mean? Let me give you a...
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Preparations Underway

Written March 29, 2017. As many of you know, we lost Sirius Black to illness back in February. Every loss is unique, and this one continues to hit us hard. When I am not concentrating, I still find myself glancing around the room, looking or listening for what Sirius is up to, and it's a new blow every time I don't see him and everything hits me again. That being said, we are a dog household, and, within the Sirius-shaped hole in our lives, is a dog shaped hole. Therefore, we decided to move forward with a process we had been exploring for some time, and we are hoping to bring home our new retired racing greyhound this weekend. At this point, we don't know the age, sex, or size if the dog we will be adopting. Nor do we know whether the dog has been in foster or will be coming directly from a track environment. This means there will be more...
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A Painful Goodbye

I have spent the last week looking for words more elegant than “I feel like someone ripped a hole in my heart,” but I haven't found any. Perhaps there aren't any. Last fall I shared a bit of the experience we had been going through with Sirius Black. After he went blind, it was initially diagnosed as SARDS, a poorly understood condition, but one that has few side effects besides the blindness itself. Over time, he should have adjusted to the blindness and generally resumed generally normal activity. He didn't. Over the last few months, his condition gradually deteriorated. He could walk less far and became confused more often. Eventually, he could not walk or even respond at all. Looking back, we can even spot signs of deterioration in June of 2016 or possibly earlier; before he showed overt signs of blindness. Frequent vet visits and repeated tests brought us no closer to a firm diagnosis, while gradually eliminating possibilities that promised...
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Day 31: Social Play

Play is important for dogs. However, not all dogs are instinctively good players, and not all dogs are good play matches. If possible, try to find good play matches for your dog(s). Puppies and teen dogs may benefit from socialization classes to build or improve their social skills, and even some adult dogs may do well in social play classes. Negative interactions with dogs can be harmful to social skills, especially for young dogs and teen/young adult dogs in sensitive socialization periods. Look for positive interactions, and don't be afraid to step in—calmly—if you feel a situation is getting out of hand. Thanks for joining me for 31 days of dog training! Keep training!...
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Day 30: Safe Spaces

It is important that your dog have a safe place in your house to go when necessary. This could be a crate, dog-safe room, or other location. For Sirius, he goes in his crate when we leave the house, because it is the safest place for him to avoid dangers such as stairs while unsupervised. Safe spaces may also be used when contractors are in your house, when your dog needs a quiet area, or for other reasons. Your dog's safe space should be just that—a safe space and not a punishment. Ideally, your dog would know how to go to his or her safe space on a cue. ...
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Day 29: Use Outside Cues

We make heavy use of visual and verbal cues in dog training, but we often see the other cues in the environment as an impediment rather than a help. We complain that our dog won't sit in an unfamiliar location or come in the face of a competing distraction. These are issues that we have to train to overcome, but we can also build situations that allow us to use outside cues in our favor. One of my personal favorites of this type is the use of a special bed or blanket for relaxation exercises. When consistently used for this purpose, the bed or blanket becomes an independent relaxation cue, reinforcing the cue you are giving. ...
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Day 28: Go for a Walk

Nice weather? Take the opportunity to get out of the house. Undesirable behavior can be a result of excess energy. When bad weather—cold, dark, snow, etc.—reduces outside exercise time, these problems can become more pronounced. When you get a chance to enjoy nice weather in the winter, take the opportunity to burn extra energy through outside exercise. ...
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Day 27: Have a Release Cue

If you are asking your dog to stay in one place for a given length of time and she is listening, that's great! Now here is the next step: letting your dog know that she can move around again. Many people instinctively want to use "OK!", but I would caution against doing so. "OK" is such a common phrase and is used so widely in our culture that it becomes very easy to accidentally release your dog with potentially problematic—or event dangerous—results. Instead, choose a word that isn't part of your regular lexicon or used for another training activity. Personally, I use "Let's go!" ...
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Day 26: Interspecies Relationships

Dogs are social creatures. They can form friendships with humans and other dogs, but also with cats, birds, and small animals. Of course, the potential for such friendships varies based on the temperament and socialization of the animals involved. It also varies based on management. Good relationships depend on strong management by the human members of the household who keep everyone safe and reduce stress levels. ...
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