Playing Nurse

Yesterday was the date of Kingston’s surgery in which they removed the pin that had been stabilizing his fracture. It is such a relief to know that he is one step closer to recovery. While he is, of course, uncomfortable, this surgery should have a much quicker recovery time. Before we know it he will be able to run and play like a little pup again! (Gaige will be thrilled!)

The original X-ray image

The original X-ray image

I dropped him off for the surgery yesterday morning around 8, but not before going in for the pre-surgery consultation. The good news? Kingston’s fracture site had produced a large amount of calcification, which should be helpful in strengthening the leg and protecting it against future breaks. The doctor (who was amazing, guys! So much better than our last experience…) was confident that Kingston should be able to live a relatively normal life, without worry of re-injury in the future.

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Nervous Nelson…

The bad news? Most likely a mix of his past, as well as the traumatic visits to the vet for surgeries and other uncomfortable procedures, has resulted in a dog who is displaying fear-reactive behaviors when at the vet. Can you imagine having suffered a traumatic life, and then meeting the only people who have ever cared for you? Then these people leave you in a scary place, with strange people and new smells, where you are locked away. Those strange people do things to you that make you nauseous and cause you pain, and you have no idea why! Now, as soon as we arrive at the vet, poor Kingston becomes a trembling mess, and then growls and barks whenever anyone but me tries to come close to his hideout in the corner. While he never tries to aggress or snap at anyone, this behavior is still something we want to resolve for everyone’s comfort. Thankfully, the doctors and staff were incredibly understanding, gentle, and cautious with our little guy. When I left him, his tail was wagging as he walked away with an awesome technician who remembered him from past appointments (where he’d been fine!). When I asked if I could make an appointment once he had healed, simply to allow him to come ‘hang out’ and ensure a positive experience, they were more than willing to make it happen. Do you have a dog that is fearful of the vet? Try asking if you can schedule a few appointments with the technicians! Most likely they will be more than happy to oblige you in puppy cuddles during their lunch break! Kingston is an endlessly loving and affectionate dog, and so I have every confidence that this behavior is nothing a little bit of positivity can’t remedy.

What’s crazy about all of this? When I went to pick him up, I spoke with the manager. I asked her how Kingston had been for the staff, and she looked at me like I was crazy. She laughed and told me that in fact, she really needed me to get him out of there, because none of her techs were getting any work done! She said that every time they passed his kennel, every one of them had to stop and have a quick snuggle. She said he was the most affectionate and popular dog she’d seen come through the clinic! So that leads me to wonder if his antics weren’t more in defense of me, since they seem to disappear when I’m not around…

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I feel so blessed to be a part of this little dog’s journey to happily-ever-after. He really is a special one, friends. As always, thanks for joining us on his adventures 🙂

Blinded by Love

 

One of our most important tasks to accomplish during Kingston’s time with us is working on his socialization. He is a pup who really, really wants to love everyone, but who also has some (totally justifiable) fear of the unknown. Especially when the unknown is a tall, shadowy figure. Most of you who know his story will see this as no surprise. So we have been doing our part to help him have positive experiences with lots of new people. But what we’ve recently learned?

 

There might be more than expected that is shadowy to Mr. K.

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In the photo above, taken last week, Kingston met with an AMAZING force-free trainer who came to the house to help us with his separation anxiety. We had a phenomenal session, one that armed us with some new tools to approach his issues with being alone (don’t worry, we will be sure to share our knowledge in future posts!) But we also got more than we bargained for, when the trainer did an assessment of his vision.

I have always had my doubts about his vision, and had brought it up at one of his veterinary appointments. Kingston seemed to be more hesitant in low lighting, relied much more on his nose and ears, would often miss things that caught the attention of the other dogs, and was not able to even follow food when tossed in his direction. The vet unfortunately brushed off my concerns without assessing him or asking from where my suspicions arose. However, my worries were confirmed during our training session… the trainer recognized his trouble before I even mentioned it!

The good news is that his eye issues are very likely minor. While we will, of course, pursue further medical advice, his eyesight certainly does not seem to interfere with his daily life in a negative way. We have no way of knowing whether this is something that is a genetic issue (he is an all white dog!) or something that occurred as a result of trauma (we know abuse was a regular part of his early life) or some other type of developing medical condition.

What does this mean for his future? Well, not a whole lot. It may mean that his adoptive family should be prepared to approach his training via primarily oral cues, as opposed to relying heavily on visual hand motions. More importantly, it will mean that they need to be diligent about managing his interactions with new people and children.

We love Kingston just the way he is, and want to find a family who feels the same way. We are prepared to help equip his adoptive family with all of the tools they need for a successful life together by being transparent and up-front about all of his many amazing qualities and also his challenges.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for our first installment of Training Tuesdays!

 

Which Dogs are Best with Children?

That question was intended to be ironic… and also to hopefully entice those curious internet searching parents to learn just why they should never trust ANY type of dog to be better or worse with children. It is up to them as responsible dog owners to manage dogs who have healthy interactions with their kiddoes. Don’t believe me? Below I will share the scientific fact behind my position.

If you’ve been following along with us for very long, you probably know that we think the folks at  Animal Farm Foundation are just about the best thing since bully sticks and peanut butter kongs… and if you’re new, you can check out some proof of our admiration, here, here and here! The biggest goal of AFF is to spread the knowledge that dogs should be judged based on their individual qualities, as opposed to breed labels or statistics. Their latest infographics (shown and explained below) share the science behind why an individual approach is not only more fair, but actually also more successful!

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(All of the images in this post are courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation.)

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Did you know that while 50 out of 20,000 (0.25%) of a dog’s genes determine physical appearance, those genes are entirely separate from the genes that influence brain development and function? Therefore, it is scientifically proven that there is NO link between appearance and behavior. And yet our politicians continue to make giant, life-changing assumptions based on that less-than-one-percent. Don’t judge my dog by his cover! Just because a dog looks like a pit bull, does not actually confirm that they have any genetic ties to a staffordshire terrier (think boxer x lab, as just one prime example).

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One reason any vet worth their weight in Acana dog food might suggest that a mixed-breed dog has better odds than a purebred of staying healthy for its lifetime, is because in a closed gene pool (see above) all of the genes are concentrated… the good, the bad, and the hairless (sorry, Chinese Cresteds). Did you know that most purebred dogs originated from only a handful of foundation sires and bitches, which was sometimes as few as 5? Talk about inbreeding! A 1994 Time magazine article on the effects of overbreeding reported that as many as 25% of the 20 million purebred dogs in the US are afflicted with a serious genetic problem. In the world of agriculture and animal breeding, this trend of improved health in mixed-breed animals is called hybrid vigor. By mixing two or more separate gene pools, overtime the recessive genes that carry health and other genetic problems are minimized. All of this contributes to the conversation about individualism in dogs, because a physical appearance really can only tell us so much.

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“Wait, so AFF is telling us that identical twins have identical DNA, but even dogs in the same litter have different DNA? Well, I’ve met identical twins whose attitudes and personalities were nothing alike! I guess it would be crazy to assume that dogs who look similar would have similar behavior…”

Even when dogs are 100% purebred, we cannot predict their behavior. Even in the case of cloned pets (genetically identical animals) scientific evaluation of these animals still shows differences in their personalities and behavior. This is because the behavior of all dogs (or any being!) are not just influenced by genetics and breeding, but also by many outside factors including training, management, environment, and socialization.
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Not only does physical appearance have little to do with behavior, but scientific studies from AFF peers have proven that attempts at visual breed identification by animal welfare professionals (vets, scientists, shelter workers) are incorrect more than 75% of the time. Even worse, those incorrect evaluations are not even the same across the board… those assigning the breed titles cannot even agree! This is because our personal experiences play a large role in the comparisons we draw between a dog’s appearance and their breed of origin.

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This is an interesting way to look at it. Tonka is the offspring of two purebred dogs, and the rest of his 12-pup litter looked very similar to my boy. Any guesses as to the parents’ breeds? (Seriously, would love it if you’d guess in the comments below!) Spoiler alert…

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If I had a dollar for every person that literally ARGUED with me that my dog was at least part black lab, I would be able to take more than one reader out to dinner. Nevertheless, the facts remain that Tonka’s father was a brindle boxer (deep chest, athletic body) and his mother was a golden retriever (long snout, expressive almond eyes, floppy ears)… where did the rest of him come from? I’d like to think that much of his behavior comes from a very conscientious upbringing by me, and thanks to the research from Animal Farm Foundation, I can be confident that this may largely be the truth.

Animal Farm Foundation says it best when they say that: “The only way we can accurately determine what a dog’s needs are is to look at the individual dog in front us for the answers. In other words, we can’t judge a book by its cover (even if that cover looks like other ones we’ve seen before!)”

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AFF: “Treating all dogs as individuals means that we let go of biased thinking, recognizing each dog for who they really are, not who we assume they are based on looks, labels, or past experiences. In doing so, we set all dogs free of the baggage and consequences caused by our assumptions, prejudices, and discrimination.” Hmmm. That sounds kind of like the way most of us agree we should evaluate the people in our communities. From a genetic standpoint alone, why should dogs be any different?

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So maybe (hopefully!!) you already new and totally agree with all of the facts shared above. But more importantly, do you understand why they are so important?

It matters to families and communities…

Regardless of ‘breed’ or ‘type’ of dog, false expectations (positive or negative!) can be dangerous or unfair to the animal, and to the families they love. For example, if we assume that every lab is going to be naturally comfortable around children and have an affinity for water, we might not take the time to set the individual dog up for success through careful introduction and training. This may create a dog that has fear or anxiety issues. You can turn this around in the other direction by recognizing the truth behind confirmation bias… In any situation in life, if we approach with negativity and trepidation, we oftentimes set ourselves up for failure, and unintentionally cause the very events we are anticipating. No breed description should be considered a fool-proof road map of a dog’s preferences, personality, or ability. These qualities are heavily influenced by environment and management. If we approach each dog as an individual, and let the animal tell us more than we assume based on their appearance, we are much more likely to wind up with a dog that is a happy member of our families, and of our society.

It matters to those in the animal welfare industries…

As rescuers, shelter workers, and animal advocates, it is always in our best interest to be as honest as possible with potential adopters, volunteers, and the general public at large. By labeling dogs without factual knowledge of their true backgrounds, we are unintentionally being dishonest, and may be setting the dogs up for failure. Instead of meeting an adopter who wants a Golden Retriever, and providing them with dogs that match that physical description, we need to start advocating for “types” of dog. Maybe to the average dog owner, a Golden Retriever fills them with ideas of a dog who will happily play fetch and join the family on hikes, while snuggling in their childrens’ beds at night. Perhaps your shelter has 3 dogs that match this description, but who may or may not look like a Golden Retriever. In this case, you are providing the family with a variety of dog types, all of whom are more likely to be compatible with their lifestyle long-term, and giving many of your rescue or shelter residents an opportunity at a proper home. At the same time, you are doing your part to not reinforce stereotypes or set up false expectations. No breed description entitles an adopter the guarantee that a dog will act a certain way, or have specific preferences… only each individual dog can tell us that!

Additionally, these preferences, personality traits, and abilities, have a large propensity for change over time. If we assumed that a dog’s genetic composition determines their personality traits (Georgia), we would have never taken the opportunity to improve her associations with other animals… we would have assumed that her preferences were intact and not subject to change. This refutes the common pit bull advocacy statement that ‘it’s all in how they’re raised,‘ because it is in fact, more in how they are managed, that matters most. If we assumed that all dog behaviors were set by their genetics or their early life experiences, we would never give cruelty or neglect victims a chance, and everyone searching for a new family member would be getting their dogs from breeders. And that would be a huge problem!

It matters to politicians and law makers…

Once and for all, it is time to put an end to laws passed on the flawed idea that you can determine how a dog will act based on how they look or their breed label. Rather than punishing all dogs and their owners based on the negative or criminal actions of a few, let’s start legislating and enforcing responsible dog ownership laws for owners of all dog breeds and types. In this way, we hold all owners equally accountable, and thereby truly create safer communities. Dogs should be labeled based on their actions or behavior, not on their breeds or physical traits. No one, human or animal, deserves to be persecuted (or even killed!) based on stereotypes.

The AFM5 Moral of the Story:

The world of animal rescue and advocacy is a huge one, and perhaps because of that, it is constantly evolving. That is a great thing for the animals, because it means that we are always being presented with new tools to improve our understanding, and become more competent at finding homes for unwanted pups, cats, rabbits, horses, etc. We have all been guilty of unintentionally spreading misinformation a time or two. What matters is that you take the time to educate yourself as thoroughly as possible, and keep your own missions and morals at the forefront of your mind. Let’s make sure that when we are well-intentioned in advocating for our animals, that we are doing more GOOD than harm.

 

AFF CITATIONS:

The Dog and It’s Genome by Elaine Ostrander

Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog by Scott and Fuller

National Geographic

Kristopher J. Irizarry, PhD

Janis Bradley, The Relevance of Breed in Selecting a Companion Dog

Dr. Victoria Voith

AFF ABSTRACTS:

Brachycephalic traits

Morphological traits

Brain development genes

Cranial facial development and here

Canine skull development

Friends Helping Friends: Amelie

Our friend Josh from That Touch of Pit has saved the lives of over 55 dogs (and two cats!) in the past year and five months. While all of those pups hold a special place in his heart, he has recently rescued a new dog that needs our help more than any others have before.

Meet Amelie.

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This sweetheart is a one year old pittie pup who was found tied up to a bench in a park just a few blocks from their local public shelter in NYC, unable to walk and crying in pain. The shelter contacted Josh asking if That Touch of Pit might be able to take her, as she could not get the necessary care there. Without hesitating, Josh and his partner Jennifer agreed and rushed her to our emergency vet. The initial diagnosis is that something fractured one of the vertebrae in her neck very severely. She has lost all ability to stand, sit, walk or even use her legs at all. Total paralysis. Heartbreaking? Yes. But what is amazing, is that she has sensation, so the doctors are hopeful that she can recover.

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Amelie’s medical bills alone (this wont include any recovery efforts like physical & water therapy, food, and other necessary supplies) are approximately $7,000. So That Touch of Pit has set up a youcaring fundraiser to help raise some money to cover the exorbitant cost. Here is the link:

 As you can see by the photos, Amelie is a really sweet dog who absolutely deserves a second shot at life. Even just a few dollars can help Josh & Jennifer make that a possibility. We all know that her life is worth skipping a cup of coffee this morning!
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And if you are looking for a way to give back to Amelie, while also having a chance at securing some cool stuff, our friends at Our Waldo Bungie are hosting an awesome giveaway for anyone that donates over $15. Head over there to check it out!
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Foster Dog Update

Sorry it has been a few days, but hopefully most of you have been able to stay updated on Kingston’s progress via our facebook pages. He is doing so well, and it is in large part thanks to all of you and your generous contributions. His surgery was largely successful, although more extensive than originally anticipated. Many thanks to the wonderful team at Butler Veterinary Associates, who took care of Kingston like one of their own, and made every effort to make it as affordable as possible for us. As of tonight, he has officially finished his antibiotics and pain meds, and we are looking forward to his suture removal on Saturday (when he will FINALLY be able to get a bath!)

Not a day goes by that I don't hear Foster Dad reminding Kingston that 'chicks dig scars,' and 'scars are tattoos with better stories'.

Not a day goes by that I don’t hear Foster Dad reminding Kingston that ‘chicks dig scars,’ and ‘scars are tattoos with better stories’.

In approximately 5 weeks, he will again be put under in order to remove the rod that was placed to stabilize the bone as it healed. Only then will we truly get a handle on how he has healed and how his future movement will be affected.

In the meantime, we have enjoyed getting to know this wonderful little guy as he grows more comfortable, physically as well as emotionally. We have learned a lot about him, including:

1) What’s yours is yours and what’s his is yours…

Kingston has no concept of guarding his toys, food, bed, etc. He is more than happy to share with us, our guests, other dogs, and even the cat!

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2) He really does love everyone

Along those lines, Kingston hasn’t met anyone that wasn’t his friend! He is friendly and appropriate with other well-mannered dogs, and if anything is somewhat passive. With that being said, he can be a little nervous around new people, especially at night if he cannot see their faces, or in other new situations. The more friendly and loving people he is introduced to, the more confidence we see in his interactions with them. He warms up very quickly, but his adopters should be prepared to keep his history in mind, and therefore take introductions slowly.

3) He has his driver’s license

Okay, so obviously not really. But he does make an awesome passenger!

4) Basically a teacher’s pet

This boy is SMART. Tell him something once, and he’s got it nailed. He is easily mastering sit, down, stay, come, and a few others.

5) Nobody is perfect

We are working on improving a few things… the first being his masculine tendencies (let’s just say he REALLY loves the dog beds, and loves to display his affection whenever the opportunity presents itself) the second being how to greet people appropriately (now that he has 4 working legs, he seems to want to test their strength!) and the third being house training (although we are almost positive this has been compounded by the many medications he’s been on). Finally, he has some separation anxiety. Any unique or creative tips on how to approach these issues would be appreciated!

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All in all, this dog is absolutely going to make someone a fantastic family member. Even with limited opportunities for exercise, he seems to have the ideal activity level, as he is happy to run and play in the yard, but easily entertains himself when you would prefer to relax. Kingston is incredibly appropriate with other dogs, although it is important to note that his tendency toward timidness may not make him an ideal candidate as a dog park dog. He absolutely revels in human attention and affection, and would do best in a home that is prepared to lavish him with both.

A few of you have reached out to ask what you can do to help our little guy, even though the donations have met the estimates for his medical care (THANK YOU!). You may know that we weren’t planning to foster at this time, but we just couldn’t say no to his handsome face! If you would like to donate a dog bed (even a lightly-used one!) or a bag of dog food (Acana Grasslands) it would be very much appreciated. I should also mention that he has two awesome adoption applications in the works. Pretty exciting stuff! As always, thanks for following along in our journey, and for all of the love and support you’ve sent his way. You are as much a part of his success story as his foster family!

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Perfecting my Perspective

*I know this one is long, but I happen to believe that it is worth the read!*

Those of you that have been following this blog for a while, may know that my passion for animals, behavior, and training first came from my background as a competitive horseback rider. When I had to take a break from riding, and my horses, for a few years, I found comfort in the world of dogs and dog training. It was an easy transition, as there are so many similarities between the two species.

Both dogs and horses are intelligent, athletic animals. They both have a strong tendency towards communication via body language. Both are powerful animals, with a fight-or-flight tendency that gives them the potential to be destructive, but only in self-defense. Perhaps most importantly, both are animals that have evolved to develop close relationships with humans. Because of this, most possess a tendency toward companionship with humans, if not a strong drive to please them. Anytime I give a riding lesson and the rider faces a frustration, I always remind them that our horses rarely willfully disobey, especially if we make the right choice easy. If they are not responding to our cues, it is best to assume a miscommunication on the part of the human partner. Of course, if you are reading this, you probably also know that to be my approach to dog training.

543388_10150945397487427_101345628_nBecause of these tendencies, I largely have always applied force-free tendencies when training either species. While we do use our bodies to cue our horses (as well as tools such as leg aids and bit pressure) the best riders will recognize that they will never be able to overpower a 1,200+ pound animal. Attempting to be forceful or aggressive with a horse will only result in a frustrated animal, that may or may not react by lashing out.

Due to the similarities I see, I will often read articles that apply to one of the two species, and stretch it to apply to training the other. I find this to be a great way to gather fresh or unique approaches and ideas. With that goal in mind, I came across this article last week, and quickly shared it on facebook with an affirmative description. Let me share with you my gut reaction.

The article discussed the perils of ‘spoiling’ our horses. What resonated with me was reflective of two important theories I apply to animal behavior.

1) Animals thrive with structure, discipline, and training. They want to know how to please us (or at least, how to earn what they want) and so we teach them ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. We create anxious animals when we change the rules or never train them to begin with, because they will exist as though they never know when punishment or praise is coming. If you know me, you know that I love to take my dogs on exciting adventures, let them sleep in the bed, and consistently supply them with the newest toys, but I also spend lots of time training them to ensure that they understand what my expectations are, and make them work for their rewards. I can confidently say that because of this approach, our pups are some of the happiest and most secure dogs I have come across.

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2) One fatal flaw (literally) I often encounter in other pet owners, is that they try to show their affection to their pets by form of food. Please do not confuse my criticism as being directed toward those that practice force-free training, and make their pets work for their rewards, while maintaining a balanced diet! Instead, I am referring to those pet parents that insist on feeding table scraps regularly, and ignore the signs of weight gain in their animals. Maybe it comes from my own fixation with healthy eating, but when I see people overfeeding their pets, or feeding them inappropriate items, I can’t help but picture it as literally poisoning their friend!

food is medicine or poisonDon’t just take my word for it! You may or may not recall the invaluable research done by Purina, which produced undeniable results supporting the benefits of an appropriately-portioned diet in dogs. The study took place over 14 years, and compared 48 purebred labrador retrievers from seven litters. Paired within their litters according to gender and body weight, the pups were randomly assigned to either a control group (fed ad libitum during 15 minute daily feedings) or a lean-fed group (fed 75% the amount eaten by the littermates in previous group). All dogs were being served the same balanced, nutritionally complete diets, which started as a puppy variety, and later evolved to the adult formulation, for the entire duration of the study. The only difference was in the quantity provided.

What is your reaction to a dog that looks like this?

What is your reaction to a dog that looks like this?

Any guesses as to the results? I’m sure you can hypothesize where I am going with this, but the actual results were even more astounding than I expected them to be!

  • The median life span of the lean-fed dogs was increased… but by 1.8 years, or 15%. In the lean-fed group, the age at which 50% of the dogs had passed was 13, compared to 11.2 in the opposing group.
  • By age 10, only three of the lean-fed dogs had passed away, as opposed to seven of the control dogs. At the end of the 12th year? Only ONE control dog had survived, in comparison to 11 of the lean-fed dogs. 25% of the lean-fed group lived to see 13.5 years of age, while none of the control group achieved that mark.
  • Additionally, 50% of the dogs in the control group required treatment for chronic conditions at 9.9 years of age. In contrast, the median age for the lean-fed dogs was 12 years. This group had lower serum triglycerides and triiodothyronine, as well as healthier insulin and glucose use.

Think about your dog; your sweet best friend, partner, and confidante. Imagine them aging, slowing down, becoming hard of hearing. As hard as it may be, picture yourself preparing to say goodbye to them when the time comes… in that moment, what price would you pay to guarantee you a few more years of your time with your dog, free from pain and the difficulties that old age brings? I would be willing to bet that no price would be too great. But this study shows us that we need pay no price… to ensure more years of time with our dog, as well as a significant reduction in health problems and associated vet bills, we must simply maintain portion control in our pet’s diet. It makes those nightly tablescraps seem a little less innocent, doesn’t it? Of course, occasional indulgences are not my complaint… but we must keep in mind that when we are responsible for the input of calories in our pets, we must be cognizant of the effects of our decisions. By overfeeding them, we are literally shortening their lifespan.

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While those are the visceral responses I had to the article, a friend of mine, whose opinion on the topics of animal training I greatly respect, had a different reaction. Her reactions were not my initial perspective, but I could not agree with them more. I think it is so interesting that two people who have largely similar approaches to the subject (she also shares an equestrian background, as well as an animal sciences degree, an affinity for pitties and force-free dog training… and we are the same age!) can have such different gut responses to the same topic. This was our conversation:

J: I agree that untrained/”spoiled” horses can be very dangerous – but I’m not comfortable with thinking my horse is “disrespecting” me. To me, this article weighs very heavily in human emotions, and does not seem to address other sources of bad behavior: fear, anxiety, nervousness, insecurity (just like dogs). The “too many treats” argument is often used against reward-based positive training, and, while I agree they shouldn’t be overused, I think that primary reinforcers like food can go a very long way in getting an animal – any species – to change their emotional response to things and therefore their behavior. Thanks for the thought provoking article!!

S: Completely agree J! I wasn’t thinking about it from that perspective… I would never want to reinforce theories that refute force-free training, so thanks for sharing that perspective. Maybe I should have applied that philosophy a little more in my mind before I shared this. I guess what struck me about this article is the fact that humans often anthropomorphize our animals’ behaviors… not wanting to train them or correct them because they worry about ‘hurting their feelings’. I am a strong believer in the fact that happy animals are ones that know what is expected of them, and are corrected when they stray outside of their expectations (not forcefully!) and rewarded when they make the right decisions. I believe that the best animal owners / handlers /etc train their animals to clearly learn ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ so to speak, by making the right choices easy to achieve, and the wrong ones more difficult. Does that make sense?

J: Yep, totally. And I’m completely with you on the not over-anthropomorphizing the behaviors of our dogs (animals) to justify letting them get away with something – that is one of the only things Caesar Milan and I agree on. In sort of but not really the same vein, a big thing I am learning with all the books I am reading lately is that if an animal is not responding to our cue (often quick to be labeled as stubborn!!), it is our job as the trainer to look at how we can improve our communication. Does the animal *really* know what we are asking of them? Anyway, positive trainers often get the wrap that we’re big softies, which is a shame because our animals have a ton of boundaries and expectations, they’re just not upheld in the traditional ways (“let’s make it worth your while to do what I want” vs “do what I want, or else!”).

One difference that my friend has from me, is that she has been a part of the blogging and advocating thing longer than I have, and she has more formal, applied experience with dog training. I think that while we largely share the same views, she has developed a clearer position that she applies any time she approaches a topic. I am still working on developing my approach and perspectives, as well as learning to check myself before I choose to support or criticize an article, group, etc. Do you know that you readers and your comments are a huge part of that learning process for me? So let’s hear it… what was your first reaction to the article? Any similarities or differences to the perspectives that my friend and I had? Can’t wait to hear from you! (PS- As a reminder, I am a big fan of intelligent and respectful debate!)

Sick as a Dog

Early last week, this picture came up on my news feed…

chukie-1His name was Chukie, he was at the NYC public shelter, and he was slated to be euthanized that day. This photo? A shot of one of the volunteers saying his last goodbyes to his favorite pup. Chukie had absolutely glowing reviews from staff members and volunteers alike. Most of us have gotten used to seeing things just like this on our news feeds, multiple times per day. While it is unfortunate, you sometimes have to grow a bit numb to prevent yourself from being in a constant state of despair, misery, and hopelessness. In spite of that, Chukie’s story really struck me, and I shared him in hopes of helping him find a foster or forever home.

I was so pleased when that photo quickly received a comment from my friend Josh from That Touch of Pit and Bully Project. If you are familiar with dog rescue, you’ve probably heard those names a few hundred times… they are responsible for the rescue of so, so many wonderful pups. They do great things for New York’s neediest dogs, and beyond. Josh informed me that although they were still searching for a foster or adoptive home, they had put a safe hold on Chukie. With Josh’s help, Chukie had narrowly escaped euthanasia!

430029_518596208207046_717395621_nUnfortunately, the struggle for Chukie’s life was not over. While he has since been removed from the shelter, he is spending his days in a veterinary office, where they work diligently to save his precious life. This is one sick pup, friends. And because they are struggling to find a worthy foster home, the funds that should be dedicated to his mounting medical costs will also need to be allocated toward expensive veterinary boarding fees. In spite of his dwindling health, Chukie remains friendly and affectionate with everyone he meets. It is easy to see what a wonderful family member he would make, if and when he recovers from his illness.

1000424_518927361507264_795835897_nNow renamed Chunk, this boy has overcome so many obstacles, but he is not yet assured a chance at a happy life. Please help Bully Project help Chunk, and other dogs like him, by making any donation, here. I know that if he could, Chunk would thank you with a big wet, sloppy kiss! I will choose to thank you in a way that is more subtle 😉