Who's a Good Dog?

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Puppy Diaries–Week 1

Yesterday marked puppy M’s one week adopt-a-versary. We are of course still getting to know her, but so far she seems to be a smart, confident little pup. My first training priority is just getting her to like us and to think that interacting with us is the bees knees (grateful for advice about this from books by Denise Fenzi, Kay Laurence, Claudine McAuliffe, Kathy Sdao and Suzanne Clothier). In addition to that, lots of handling—ears, paws, toenails, teeth, tail, etc. And recognizing her name. Pretty standard stuff.

The really big surprise this past week has been Arlo, who turns out to have some excellent puppeh skillz. He has been a huge help socializing her and tiring her out.   As some of my FB friends know, we actually had to bench him for a couple days because he played so much that he was limping.

We are starting to see some progress with crate training. After just a couple days of feeding her meals in the crate, she started racing to the crate when it was time to eat. I’m leaving the door open so she can leave when she wants to—which she does. It will take awhile for her to want to stay in there, but right now, she only has to go in at night (because that’s the only time I can’t watch her). Because we’re all in the same room, she doesn’t complain as much. In fact last night she hardly made a peep. A few whines and then she settled down and slept until she heard me get up around 6:15.

I am a huge fan of Kongs for all kinds of dog training tasks, but I have recently added to my list of favs the Toppl by West Paw Design. The Toppl has a bigger opening and consequently is a bit easier for puppies to empty. I am feeding Maria half her food inside her crate in a bowl, and the other frozen in a Toppl or Kong which keeps her busy in the morning while I do other chores (like feed the rest of the animals). I bought one to try and liked it so much I bought two more so that I can always have one ready.


Toppl by West Paw

Last, I mentioned earlier this week on FB that a new puppy was an opportunity for some creative problem solving. Turns out it’s also an opportunity for some humility and willingness to practice what you preach. How many times have I said to people, set a timer and take your puppy out every 20 minutes unless she’s sleeping. More than I can count.  It took me a few days to follow my own advice, but it is much easier to set the timer than to remember how long it’s been since the last time she went out.



Sources mentioned in this post

Suzanne Clothier, Bones Would Rain from the Sky:  Deepening our Relationships with Dogs

Denise Fenzi, Beyond the Back Yard:  Train your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere!

Kay Laurence, Every Dog, Every Day

Claudine McAuliffe, Mindful Dog Teaching

Kathy Sdao, Plenty in Life is Free

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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.


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


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


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.



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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.