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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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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Something Unseen

Something Unseen

Sorry that I haven't written in a while. It has been a bit of a rough period. As you're about to read. I have discussed before what happens when we change the rules for our dogs, but the truth is, we don't have to change anything: life is always changing. A few months ago, we started noticing some changes in Sirius Black’s behavior. He was no longer reacting to, or even seeming to notice, wildlife along our walks, unless it crossed directly in front of us. He also showed some hesitancy on walks, above what could be expected from the hot weather. He also had accidents in the house at times when he never would have normally. We had no reason to particularly link these behavior changes, and, at first, we didn't. Then, about two weeks ago, he started walking into things. This wasn't just an enthusiastic dog who wasn't watching where he was going. He was walking straight into trees. He...
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Ignoring the Outside World

I always try to emphasize the importance of finding times to practice in your daily life. It's important for so many reasons, especially because if you save practicing for "when you have time," you probably won't practice (maybe at all, certainly as much as you want to). In addition, everyday life is when you want your dog to be able to perform whatever behaviors you are practicing, isn't it? That being said, there are always moments when we are not as on top of what is going on as we want to be. In those moments, we are left reacting to what happens, and figuring out what happens next. We had such an incident when a delivery person came to our door and I was unable to respond either to the door or to redirect the dog. (I was home on sick leave with limited mobility.) For once in my life, I was even without a cheesestick! A few minutes after that issue...
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Happy Fourth!

I love fireworks and thunderstorms. I feel almost guilty admitting this, when these loud noises are so terrifying for so many dogs, including Sirius Black. However, at moments like this, it seems especially important to admit the truth. This is Fourth of July weekend, and I will probably attend at least two fireworks shows this weekend. In fact, a lot of my planning around Fourth of July usually goes into deciding when and where to attend fireworks. And, since this is the mid-Atlantic in summer, I have been told to expect thunderstorms several days this weekend. That will make it an even tougher weekend for Sirius, who is already on edge after several bad storms this past week. It's always important to practice good fireworks safety, but it's especially important to look out for the safety of our pets during this holiday. Every year, many dogs and cats are reported missing over this weekend, since even pets that normally don't react to...
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Behavior Suppression

"What if he has no personality?" "He has a personality." "How do you know?" We both stared at the dog, who was lying unmoving on the floor of the living room, in the same spot where he had lain down upon entering the room. No personality was in evidence. Six years of experience has proven me right: Sirius Black is full of personality. However, it is equally true that he demonstrated little of this personality during the first days and even weeks in our home. In fact, confident as i was that he had a personality somewhere, i anxiously questioned the trainer about the fact that he wasn't accepting trrats from us and other similar concerns. While not always as extreme as what we observed during our first days with Sirius, it is common to observe a reduced behavior in dogs both in the shelter and in the immediate post-adoption period. This period is sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon" period, because adopters may observe...
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Give me space!

Give me space!

The room had been set up with round tables, and I was sitting with my back to the presenter. Which was fine, until she walked up behind me and put her hands on my shoulders. My friends around the table could all tell immediately that I wasn't happy, but I don't think the trainer ever noticed. In that way, it was a lot like many dog-human interactions I have observed over the years. It's not that I hate touching under all circumstances. I love hugs with my family. After years of conditioning, including one intense semester in Costa Rica, I have even learned to enjoy social hugs with friends. And, of course, I love cuddling with my animals, especially when I am upset or have had a hard day. I don't like strangers to come up behind me and touch my shoulders. I don't like hugs at business meetings. Many dogs have similar preferences. While there are a few who love all contact...
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BOO! Watch Out for Halloween

This week is Halloween—the start of the fall yard decoration season. The return of cold weather means that winter clothing, including parkas, hats, gloves, and scarves, are making a return as well. What does this mean for you and your dog? Yard decorations can be scary for many dogs. They appear where nothing was before. Many move, flash bright lights, or even make noises, all of which dogs may find unnerving. Halloween decorations will be quickly followed by holiday decorations at many houses. As a dog owner or walker, you are responsible for being aware of these potentially scary objects and planning accordingly. Never force dogs to approach things they may find scary. A forced approach may reinforce fear in the object and also erode your dogs trust in you to keep him safe. Additionally, a sudden movement or sound from a motion sensitive decoration may also startle your dog, increasing fear. Keep in mind that scared dogs may also redirect...
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THUMP! – A reminder travel safely

We had attended two weddings 600 miles apart in less than 24 hours—driving through the night to make it to the second one on time. People said we were crazy, but we didn’t feel we could let down the friends and family that were counting on us. In the end, the trip had been successful, and the car was packed for the trip home. There had been some light rain, but the road conditions were fine, and we expected an uneventful drive. Certainly, we didn’t think anything of having to stop behind several other cars to wait for another vehicle to turn left. That is, until I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the yellow Jeep coming up behind us. It was braking, but not fast enough to stop on the slightly slippery road. Thump! We both jerked forward in our seatbelts, glanced at each other, and pulled to the side of the road. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad,...
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Life of the Party: 5 Tips for a Safe and Successful Party – With Pets!

Christmas has come and gone. Stockings have been opened and family have departed, but with New Year's Eve fast approaching, party season is far from over. Whether you are planning to entertain for or in the New Year, here are a few tips to help you host a successful gathering. 1. Consider individual needs. Not everyone is a party animal. You may have your heart set on a free-for-all with children and dogs running gleefully around the backyard (ok, maybe not in Maryland for New Year's), but unless you select your guest list carefully, that just isn't going to be in everyone's best interest. The needs of human and animal guests need to be carefully considered. If you want to let all your friends bring their dogs, are all the dogs likely to get along? Do you have enough room to separate them if you need to, either because they don't get along, or because some are overwhelmed by the number...
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