How Mean is Your Pup?

Do you guys remember the challenge we talked about last week? We want you to send us some photos of your ‘dangerous’ dogs (pitties, dobermans, rottweilers, GSD, mutts, etc!) at their ‘meanest’. We will then turn the shot into a fun graphic with text, and share it on here, as well as on our facebook page. Not only will this help to spread awareness for these misunderstood dogs, but each submission will equal one pound of dog food, which will then be donated to a nearby animal shelter, courtesy of And Foster Makes Five! What more could you want? Helping animals, in two different ways… it doesn’t get much easier than that!

So please send us your best shots! Submissions should be sent to sel1490@gmail.com, and must be received by Friday April 26th.

In the meantime, here are some of the awesome submissions sent in by our friends and readers thus far. Which one is your favorite, and why?? We wanna know!

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Recognize the ladies in this photo, and the pups in the next? You should! They’re from Temporary Home, Permanent Love!

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Thank you guys so much for your submissions thus far! It is such fun to see adorable photos of your pups, and find fun ways to express their personalities. The homeless shelter pups will be even more thankful!

Warming Up

I wish I could say that I am referring to the weather here in Pennsylvania, but in reality, there is still a lot of this…

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and this…

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and this…

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Which has all resulted in a lot of this…

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and this…

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and this…

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Wait… what?!

If you are very observant, you may notice that the last photo shows three… count them, THREE, pups all cuddled together indoors. If you are even more observant, you may have recognized that such a photo has never graced the pages of our humble blog! What must this mean??

The frigid temperatures have kept us largely indoors. Because of that, the dogs have been extra cuddley, and needed even more attention than usual. You may remember that while Georgia has been integrated with Tonka, the male, indoors for a while now, we have closely monitored her indoor interactions with our female, never letting them off-leash inside, unless closely monitored or behind respective baby gates. The nasty weather has relegated us indoors, and forced me to focus on proceeding with their integration. While working with them off-leash this past week, Gaige and Georgia both finally decided to break down their barriers… with a BANG! Not only were they interacting indoors, but they were playing, cuddling, wrestling, and even sharing toys! We could not be more impressed or surprised by this sudden transformation.

Every pittie's favorite game: bitey-face

Every pittie’s favorite game: bitey-face

The swiftness of their friendship had us scratching our heads a bit, so we were cautious to take things slowly at first… they still were never together while unsupervised, and still required some direction from the two-leggeds. However, after a solid week of playing and cuddling and learning one another’s limits, with no arguments in sight, we think it is safe to say that they are total BFFs.

All four of our "dogs" waiting (patiently?) to go outside.

All four of our “dogs” waiting (patiently?) to go outside.

You can check out a funny video of the girls here. This was the very day, the very minute, that they decided that playtime was a better option than being constantly separated. Therefore, you can hear the surprise (anxiety?) in my voice. Please ignore my excessive verbal input, but enjoy their friendship. They are now absolutely inseparable… can anyone imagine how this has Georgia’s foster parents feeling?! Ugh… let’s just say, the idea of giving up our baby girl gets more bittersweet with each passing day!

Learning New Tricks

You may remember us mentioning our plans to enroll Georgia in obedience classes. This is not because we think she is difficult to train, but rather because we would like to make this an automatic step for each foster pup that comes into our lives. It is a great way to spend focused time on their training, while also exposing the dogs to new people, environments, and dogs! We have gone to two classes so far, and are really loving it!

Our classes take place at Ringer’s Pet Dog Training, which is a quick drive for us, as they are located in Tarentum, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh). They bring a fun, practical, and of course positive, approach to dog training. We have a great time during our class, and we think the dogs do, as well! Not only do they do a great job of helping our dogs (and their owners!) reach their full potential, but they are extremely friendly towards mutts, fosters, and rescues. They gave us an incredibly generous discount on our rates, because Georgia is a foster. They also offered to refund or roll-over the classes, if she is adopted before the class concludes. (Ringer’s also offers a really cool class called Nose-work… check out their page for more info, but we plan to do a post on it at a later date.)

The instructors utilize clicker training as a method of positive reinforcement. Georgia, being the… ahem… little piggy that she is, is of course ALL ABOUT this. Essentially, you are teaching the dog that the clicking sound is their reward. So of course, we teach them to positively associate with this sound by giving them treats… lots, and lots of treats. Last night was only our second class, and while we did our best to remain impartial, we have to say that Georgia was the rock star. While most of the other dogs were barking and trying to get to the other pups, Georgia was content to sit or lay quietly at our sides, with a wagging tail. Not only was she friendly yet aloof with the other dogs, but she also made a total liar out of us, and didn’t jump at all. She was absolutely a great representative of her breed, and picked up on each cue with ease.

Ignoring the barking dogs... what a great student!

Ignoring the barking dogs… what a great student!

As the owners, we were given homework to work on for the week. Georgia is a master at sit, and some of the other simple cues, but the ‘down’ request seems to be a bit difficult for her. You may remember that we have taken her to our friend Dr. Dave, who is a fully-licensed canine chiropractor. We are thinking that her hesitation with the down cue may be due to some lingering back pain, so we plan to take her for a visit to his office, to see some improvement.

One main theme of the exercises dictated in our classes, is to teach your dog to look to you for reassurance and guidance. This is a great tool for dogs who are reactive to other dogs, or just a little A.D.D. easily distracted. Below, check out a brief summary of our classes so far.

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Clicker Training

  1. The first step of clicker training, is to reward your dog for focusing on you. If you get a head turn in your direction, you are to click, and then feed your dog a treat. You will then advance to rewarding the dog only when they are looking at your face. It is important that the dog is associating the ‘click’ as the reward, as opposed to your hand movements or rustling treat bag. Therefore, keep your empty hand at your side when clicking, and don’t reach for a treat until you have achieved the behavior and applied the click.
  2. The next step is to reward the dog for a ‘sit’. If you have been working on step 1 for very long, your dog will probably fall into a sit on their own. The reward is the same; click, then treat. Once it is clear that your dog understands your cue, work on allowing them to figure out the behavior on their own, by not verbally or manually requesting that they sit. They should fall into it on their own, which shows confidence, independence, and intelligence. If your dog gets ‘stuck’ in the sit, try dropping the treats to the ground, rather than feeding them directly. This will get them moving, so that they must then exhibit the behavior independently.
  3. Once the above steps were achieved, we advanced to a head turn. Putting either hand out to the side, the dog was supposed to turn his or her head in the direction of the hand. This was rewarded, and we progressively worked to rewarding the dog for leaning toward the hand, and eventually moving their feet so that they came closer to the hand. This is especially great for timid or fearful dogs, as it gives them confidence when greeting new people. It can also help for positioning your dog, which could help in an environment such as the vet’s office.
  4. The next step was to work on the ‘down’ command. First, the dog was guided down into the laying position by dragging the treat slowly from their nose to the ground. Once the dog was making full body contact with the ground, they were rewarded with a click and then the treat. This was repeated 2 more times, to help the dog understand the behavior. Then, the handler was to stand in front of the dog with the treat visibly in hand, and the dog was to (ideally) figure out what they needed to do to earn the treat. This step required a lot of patience for some teams!
  5. We finally worked on an off-leash ‘come’. This can be intimidating and distracting in a classroom environment! For some dogs, the temptation of play-time with other dogs seemed more intriguing than their owners with a pocket full of treats! Person 1 would hold the dog on-leash at one end of the room, while Person 2 was positioned about 15 feet away, with the clicker and treats. Then, Person 2 would say the dogs name, and the command, just one time (Georgia, come!). Once the dog was moving in the commander’s direction, Person 1 released the leash, and Person 2 was only then to begin rewarding the dog verbally (Good girl, that’s it!) in a high-pitched voice. Once the dog met Person 2, they were given lots of treats and lots of love. This distance could be widened with each successful attempt.
Playing with the instructor

Playing with the instructor

While these steps may seem pretty intuitive, the classes are a great way to cover all of your bases in a focused setting. I really recommend them for any dog owner! It added a degree of difficulty to work on Georgia’s obedience with the temptation of other dogs, new people, and interesting smells. I cannot wait to see what kind of dog is on the end of our leash at the culmination of these classes!

PS- Did I mention that she is still conked out after all of her hard work last night?!

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The Vow

As we approach February 14th, whether single or otherwise attached, it can be automatic for our minds to wander to the mystery of relationships. When a couple gets married, they are pretty clear on what kind of commitment they are making. (I consider myself an expert, considering it was only about 9 months ago that I said my own vows!) They know that they are agreeing to love, honor, and cherish, in sickness or health, and for richer or poorer. They commit to being faithful, all the days of their lives.

Photo courtesy of Jenni Grace Photography

Photo courtesy of Jenni Grace Photography

Somehow, some people seem a little bit confused about this, and 50% of marriages sadly end in divorce. (Stick with me here, dog-lovers, I’m not attempting to start sharing marriage advice on this page!) However, as much as some individuals in our society have a problem with loyalty in human relationships, there is an equal (or greater? certainly more deadly…) problem with our commitment to animals. I thought that perhaps, if we wrote out the commitment being made, both by the animal and the adopter, that it would be a bit more clear. It will certainly bring me some peace of mind in giving up our girl. In this case, I will define the promises I know Georgia is willing and able to make to her adoptive family, and, in exchange, the commitment that I expect the adopter to uphold.

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I am sharing my sweet baby girl with a family, giving them a big chunk of my heart, because I believe she will bring endless joy to them. It is a truly unselfish act, and because of its worth, it does not come without expectations.

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Georgia:

I promise to gobble up any crumbs you drop, before they even fall to the floor you try to clean up. I promise to protect my family from loud noises and dark shadows, including the scary, noisy, tall, moving box that tries to eat the floor and all of my crumbs.

I promise to try my hardest to remember everything you teach me, especially when it earns me treats or pets. Please try to be patient with me. I will try to be gentle when you are quiet, and playful when you are active. I will try to remember to play with my body, and not with my mouth, like dogs do. Even though off-leash walks are my favorite, I will try to remember that you are busy, and not always able to entertain me. In those times, I will learn to entertain myself.

I will always kiss you, especially if you have salty water spilling out of your eyes, or food on your face. I’m a good friend that way. I will always be able to tell when you are sad, or when you have had a bad day. I will respond appropriately with quiet cuddles and snuggles on the couch or bed… I’ll even let you choose which! When you tell me all of your deepest, darkest, secrets, I will never, ever tell anyone. Not even that nosy poodle down the street. I will love your human puppies just like I loved my doggy babies, and I will teach them how loyal the best dogs really are.

I promise to always look at you like you are the Best Person in the Whole Wide World. Because you are. And I will always love you more than anything. Even more than my elk antler or nylabone. Please remember that you are everything to me, and that when you are not here, my world seems empty. Please don’t leave me for longer than you really have to, or lock me up for long when I misunderstand. Know that I am convinced that my presence is necessary in the bathroom, but I will try to be patient if you disagree.

I will trust you to protect me, and to finally give me my real, honest-to-goodness, forever home. Please trust me, too. I am a good dog. I know because my foster mom told me so, every day. If you lose your temper with me, I will never retaliate, and I may not forget it, but I will always forgive. Please remember that when I make mistakes.

When I get old and gray, please don’t grow tired of me, or frustrated with the conditions age brings. Remind me that you love me, and of all of our fun times together. Carry me outside to enjoy the sunshine and green grass, and maybe even the water now and then… you know it is my favorite. I will join you on all of life’s journeys, as a willing and loyal partner… please be the same for me. Everything in life is better for me if you are there too.

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Adopter:

We promise to bring you into our home as our forever friend. We will never leave you for long, and will always provide for you as a member of our family, even if our lives get hard. We will always remember that your life has been hard before, and we will never again let you know hunger, fear, pain, or loneliness. We will always remember that our commitment to you is as important as any other we have ever made. We will teach our children how valuable your presence is in our lives, and show them how to be kind and caring toward you.

We promise to keep in touch with your foster family and blogging friends, and let them know how wonderful your life is with us. We will send pictures when we can, and maybe even arrange for reunions whenever possible. We will remember that were it not for an army of individuals, we may not have been blessed with your presence in our lives.

We will bring patience to all of our endeavors together, and use training to improve our relationship. We will become careful students of your body language, and work to communicate on your level, not our own. When it is obvious that you are not understanding our requests, we will remember your want to please, and look first to our own actions for miscommunication. We will never use force or isolation in an attempt to convey our requests.

We promise to offer you as many cuddles and tummy rubs as you could ever want. We will let you snuggle up on the bed or couch, at least some of the time, or we will crawl down to the floor to join you for a cuddle session. We will never yell at you for the millions of kisses you might try to offer to us, even if we are on the way out the door and you are covering us in slobber. We will understand that you just wish we wouldn’t leave again, and want other dogs to know we are ‘yours’. Even when we are busy, we will remember that you have needs in terms of social interaction, physical activity, and mental stimulation. If we do not provide for you in these ways, we will be prepared for repercussions of chewed pillows.

We promise to speak to you like a friend, because you are that for us. All we ask in exchange is a wag of your tail or your protection by our bed. We will always remember that for what we offer to you in shelter, food, and water, we are more than repaid in your endless love and loyalty. We will always be indebted to you. When you remind us that we are your whole world… please remember that while we may fill our lives with other things, you are what makes our lives whole.

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“The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take the wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens . . .”

Everyone’s Best Friend

It’s just been one of those days. You were late for work because of construction, your boss blamed you for something caused by a co-worker, you forgot your lunch, had a fight with your husband, and were late to pick up the kids from the babysitter because of a flat tire on your car. You can’t wait to get home and put your feet up. Once you do, your dog jumps up beside you to cuddle your stress away. They look deep into your eyes, and let out a deep sigh as they snuggle up against you. You stroke their soft fur coat, and are immediately taken away from the worries of your day.

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If this is a common occurrence for you (the snuggling part, not the bad day!) then you might be able to understand why the use of dogs as therapeutic treatment is growing in many different circles. It has been scientifically proven that animals can decrease depression, lower blood pressure, and increase immunity. As if you didn’t have enough reasons to be grateful for your pet!

Walk into any progressive school, and you might just find a few four-legged counterparts. Some counselors and psychologists now employ the use of animals in treatment for children. Nothing can make a child open up quite like a furry friend. Growing in popularity are programs called ‘Reading with Rover’. In this instance, certified therapy dogs are brought into schools to assist children with learning disabilities. The kids often find it less intimidating to read and explain stories to the pups, as opposed to their potentially judgmental peers. This not only assists in reading speed and ability, but also retention and cognitive processes.

It is not uncommon to find animals in nursing homes and hospitals. However, it is now becoming more commonplace to see therapy dogs in schools, physical therapy offices, and mental health clinics. When the dog first prances into such a clinical environment, most people do a double take… a split second later, a broad smile will likely spread across their face. Most likely, you have seen a therapy dog out and about, but did you ever think about what hurdles they (and their owners!) had crossed to get there?

One way to gain access to many places where pets are typically off-limits, is to achieve certification through Therapy Dogs International. This is the organization that facilitates the testing and approval of the prospective therapy dogs. The testing is incredibly demanding and in-depth. It includes simulations of hospital environments, as well as testing the dogs’ reactions around children, medical equipment, and other dogs. There are also phases that included ‘unexpected situations’ (such as loud noises, people running, dropping objects, etc) as well as a ‘leave it’ phase (they have to ignore a yummy piece of food!) and a phase where they are handled by a stranger. Of course, throughout the testing, they are looking for specific behaviors, including a quiet disposition, a willingness to be around people, and obedience toward the handler.

One subject addressed on the TDI website is that therapy dogs are born, not made. These dogs must be predisposed to this lifestyle. Of course, it is possible to teach a dog mannerly behavior (did you hear that, Gaige?) but you cannot change a dog’s inherent temperament. The dog should have a natural need to be with people.

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So, you may be asking why we are choosing to discuss this topic today. It is because we have some very exciting news! TWO of Georgia’s potential adopters have a strong interest in pursuing therapy work with their new dog, whichever that may be. While we would never think to require such effort on the part of an adoptive family, we do feel as though this is a ‘meant-to-be’ situation for her. Anyone who has met Georgia, can see instantly that she has an absolute longing to be around people. Cuddling, petting, playing, tummy rubs… she doesn’t care how you’re touching her, she just wants to feel you nearby! Everyone from our rescue, LCPO, (myself included!) has always held aspirations for Gia to continue on to be a therapy dog. It is a beautiful thing that she may just be able to meet that goal!

Do you think that your dog might have what it takes to become a therapeutic dog? A great first step is the Canine Good Citizen certification. Classes for this designation are offered in most areas. Even if you do not have plans to achieve therapy dog status, CGC dogs make fabulous ambassadors for any breed!