Who's a Good Dog?


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OMG puppies!

When people find out I volunteer at the shelter, they will often say something like “I could never do that.  It would be too sad.”  And I admit, some days it’s not easy.  But yesterday was not one of those days because–puppies.

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I got to spend part of my afternoon hanging out with a litter of five-week-old puppies.  Technically, I was there to help socialize them.  But that pretty much amounted to being buried in puppies and squeeing over their cuteness.

If you’d like to have some of this puppy cuteness for yourself, the Center is looking for fosters.  Visit their Facebook page for more info.


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At the Market

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Didn’t have a photo from the market to accompany this post, but here’s Arlo giving a tongue flick (stress signal) in response to my camera.

Arlo can be anxious when he meets other dogs, especially ones he doesn’t know—I think he’s conflicted: he wants to meet them and he doesn’t.   This is not a huge problem, but it is something I’d like to change so that both of us can relax a bit when we’re out in public.   We started inside (with help from our trainer) with CC/DS to a stuffed dog, then reinforcing him for check-ins, then CC/DS with real dogs outside but at a distance, then reinforcing for check-ins with actual dogs first at a distance and then gradually a little closer.  He’s been doing well on walks in our neighborhood, so for the past two weeks, I’ve been working with him at the Farmer’s Market, where there is always a good chance of seeing other dogs. We don’t actually go in to the market area—he’s not ready for that. Instead, we stay in the area across the street so he can see other dogs, but we have good distance and plenty of room to get outta Dodge if necessary. And because it’s a new environment, I’ve gone back to just CC/DS.

The first session went well. The most recent one was less successful, possibly because there was another dog there who was very stressed and barking at all the other dogs. Arlo heard the other dog before he saw him and immediately started whining and worrying. Then he barked at an adorable little dog coming toward us who didn’t even give us a second look.   (This kind of escalation is also known as trigger stacking.)  I needed to get him out of the situation ASAP, so he and my husband took a walk around the block, well away from the stressed out dog and all of the commotion while I did some quick shopping. Interestingly, although they ran into other dogs on their walk, once Arlo was away from the stressed out dog, he was ok. Our walk home was uneventful, so in spite of a rough start, we were able to end on a good note.

I felt sorry for the little dog, though. His owner was oblivious—even laughing at his dog’s stress. He probably didn’t realize the dog was uncomfortable. At least I hope he didn’t.

I love that people can bring dogs to the Farmer’s Market. It’s lovely to see dogs enjoying an outing with their humans. It’s lovely that people want to have their dogs with them, not to mention that we have a dog-friendly Farmer’s Market. But not all dogs enjoy these outings. And I say that as a person with a dog for whom the Market is overwhelming. I hope that with support and training, Arlo will improve, but I also realize he may never be comfortable there.

Another thing I observed at the Market—dogs on choke chains and prong collars. I hate those things, and I wish people would stop using them. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available about the dangers of these devices, and I’ve included some resources at the end of this post.

But if you only read this post: understand that if pinch and prong collars “work” (prevent a dog pulling on the leash), it’s because they hurt the dog. Period. And what concerns me about dogs on these collars in a public space like the Farmer’s  Market is that the collars are adding pain and stress to dogs in what is already a highly stressful environment. So dogs who tolerate the environment are actually learning to associate something negative (pain around the neck) with the environment, and especially with meeting new people (including children) and dogs. And of course dogs who are already anxious about the environment are being made to feel even worse about it. For either kind of dog, these collars are not, in the long run, doing any kind of good. They may make it possible to take a dog to the Farmer’s Market on a given day, but there are costs: pain and the possible association of people and other dogs with that pain.

Also understand that most dogs do not “naturally” walk politely on a leash, especially in a place as distracting as the Farmer’s Market. Neither of my dogs initially had great leash manners—I had to teach them. And that’s how I know that there is better equipment available for teaching leash walking and that doesn’t harm the dog. Two of my favorites are the Freedom Harness and the Ruffwear Front Range Harness.

Apparently when A. was walking Arlo, a woman stopped and asked lots of questions about his harness (he was wearing the Front Range harness).  I hope she was convinced to try it out, or one like it.

Sources and Resources:

“Choke and Prong Collars,” positively.com

“Fallout from the Use of Aversives,” eileenanddogs.com

“Prong Collars,” Glasgow Dog Trainer

Steinker, Angelika and Niki Tudge,“Choke and Prong Collars: Health Concerns Call for Change of Equipment in Dog Training,”


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Dear B&A

arlo

Dear B&A,

I see you’ve bought us a new quilt.  I’m not sure why we needed one–to be honest, it seems like I only just got the old one broken in the way I like it.  You know, with the right blend of dog hair, muddy paw prints and holes.  But you have your reasons, I’m sure.  Just wanted you to know that I’ll get to work asap breaking this one in too.  Should only take a few weeks.

Sincerely,

Arlo


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Inside Games for Bad Weather Days

The dogs and I are taking a great online class through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy called Stir Crazy.  It’s taught by Donna Hill and focuses on games you can play in small spaces–like in your living room when it’s raining outside.  Here’s a clip of Arlo, Katie and me playing one of the body awareness games.  I thought it would be a good post for Force-Free Friday.  The idea is for the dog to go around and through the cones without touching them.  At nearly 4 years old, Arlo is still wiggly enough that this game is a bit of a challenge.  But Katie is older, calmer, and more experienced, and she had no trouble at all.  I cleared out most of the furniture in the living room and used ring gates to create an “audience” area for the non-working dog.  (I had to revise that plan a bit after Arlo figured out how to get around the gate and ask whether it was his turn again.) One of the really nice features of the course is that the games are suitable for dogs with a range of abilities.  My senior girl Katie who has some mobility issues has been able to do everything so far.  You can see from the dogs’ body language on the video that they’re both having a really good time.  Ditto for me.


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August Garden Notes

Earlier this week I ordered oat and winter rye seeds for fall cover crops.  It’s been a really good garden year, and I’ll be sorry to see it end.  But I’m already making notes for next year.  For instance, adding more raised beds was definitely a good move. 

tomatoesThey make everything easier for me–including watering and weeding, the two most time consuming summer garden chores.  The community garden has water, but in order to conserve our supply, which depends on rainfall, doesn’t allow hoses.  And watering by hand takes a l-o-n-g time.  We also had good success growing potatoes in raised beds this year.  The plants were huge and healthy and it was really easy to keep the beds free of weeds.

photo 1This is half of our crop–harvested yesterday and currently curing in the basement.

photo 2Another big discovery this year was that when it comes to weed control on paths between the beds, I much prefer newspaper to weed block and straw to mulch.  Last year I tried a few different methods, and I was pretty sure weed block plus straw or mulch would be most effective.  But I discovered this year that some weeds grew on top of whatever I used, especially when topped with mulch.  Rather than pull weeds from the weed block (which kinda defeats the whole purpose of weed block) it’s much easier to just put down more newspaper and straw.  No weed pulling required, maybe just a little trimming if the weeds are high.  It’s also more environmentally friendly–weed block eventually gets holes in it and has to be tossed out.  Newspaper and straw decompose.

Two other things I will definitely do again next year:  plant a buckwheat cover crop and grow lettuce under shade fabric.  I’m weirdly proud of my buckwheat cover crop, which I planted in June in the recently harvested garlic beds.

photo 3This was my first attempt at a summer cover crop, and it was really successful.  The buckwheat sprouted in about 10 days, and has done a fabulous job of blocking out weeds.  Not only will it eventually serve as green manure, but in the meantime, it’s attracting lots and lots of pollinators.

And then there’s my summer lettuce–heat tolerant, heirloom varieties grown under shade netting.  photo 5It’s way too hot here in the summer to grow lettuce in the open.  This shade netting (from Gardener’s Supply) worked great  and enabled us to have lettuce during the hottest months of the summer.  I’m trying to decide whether I even need to plant fall lettuce, because the summer crop is still going strong.

lettuceAlso thriving in the garden this week are Dragon’s Tongue Beans and basil (that’s my mom in the photo, helping me pick basil for pesto).

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And last but maybe my most favorite–I spotted this guy yesterday hanging out on the milkweed I planted at the beginning of the summer.  He spent a long time there and didn’t seem to mind me taking photos.

 

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