How Mean is Your Pit Bull? : Contest Conclusion!

Most of you are well-aware that And Foster Makes Five has been holding a contest for the past few weeks. In the contest, we accepted silly photos of your pit bulls (or other ‘dangerous’ dogs) at their ‘meanest’. Each submission counted towards 1 pound of dog food, which we will be donating to a local shelter. Simultaneously, we edited these pictures and shared them on our blog and facebook pages. The photo with the most shares and likes would win an undisclosed prize… well, it’s finally time to announce our totals, our winners, and just what the lucky champions will be receiving!

A few of you may not have heard about our contest until it was too late, but you still wanted to send us some snapshots of your precious pups. We LOVED seeing these photos. Seriously, we think that the AFM5 readers and followers have a disproportionate amount of adorable dogs. It’s just not normal!! While we did not have enough time to edit and add some of these late-comers before the end of the contest, we still counted them towards the totals for the food donation… which was 40! Woo-hoo 🙂 We will be rounding up and making a 50 lb donation to a local Pittsburgh shelter.. stay tuned for that post next week.

There were 29 competitors in the facebook sharing contest. Each like counted towards 1 vote, while each share counted as FIVE votes! Here are our top entries, with impressive numbers!

Winner: Forrest – 125 votes!

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Forrest is a big clown, who also happens to be a foster pup through LCPO, Georgia’s rescue! He is available for adoption, but until his forever family comes along, his foster family is loving every second of his adorable antics. He is approximately one year old, and was saved from death in the NYC ACC shelter system. He loves people, dogs, and cats, and while he is 100% house and crate-trained, he is a diligent student in obedience class. We love you Forrest! Thanks to his foster mom, Chrissa, for submitting this adorable photo.

Runner-Up: Oscar – 109 Votes!

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You may recognize Oscar as the resident Super Dog over at Tails of a Foster Mom! Our friend Rebecca rescued him after the adoption of her beloved foster dog had left her heartbroken, and the rest is history. She received an email about this boy (known as Half-Pint, at the time!) who was slated for euthanasia, simply due to lack of space, and she knew she had to make him a part of their family. His growth was stunted due to severe malnutrition as a pup. While that leaves him with an eternal puppy presence, he certainly doesn’t let it slow him down! He has made a perfect addition to their family, and serves as a great friend and greeter for their revolving door of foster pups!

Honorable Mentions

These two were not at the top of the list as far as votes are concerned, but they were nevertheless two of my favorite submissions, for different reasons.

Midnight

315646_364786986974775_721839060_nI have a soft spot for dogs (and their owners, of course!) who are pulled from NYC shelters, and Miss Midnight is no exception. She now lives out in Western NY, enjoying life as a country girl with her ‘big sister’ Babygirl, a rescued German Shepherd mix.

Norman

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This photo needs no caption. I just can’t get over this shot! It is too adorable for words. You may recognize that sweet face as Norman, from My Two Pitties, along with his feline friend Marty. Too cute!

We thank everyone who made submissions, as well as those who liked and shared. We couldn’t have made this donation without all of you! … Well, okay, we could have. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, and we wouldn’t have been spreading pit bull love throughout the interwebz while we did it!

You may remember that yesterday’s post featured our friends at CharlieDog and Friends. They are generously donating prizes to our contest winners! We couldn’t be more excited to partner with such an amazing organization. Be sure to check out yesterday’s post, and LIKE them on facebook. They deserve all of the support that they can get!

If you are one of the winners, please send your full name and mailing address to me (Stephanie) at: sel1490@gmail.com

Contest Continued!

A few new photo submissions to share! We have to admit, our readers seem to have a disproportionate amount of incredibly adorable pups. Head over to our facebook page to participate, learn more about each submission, and vote for your favorites… there just might be something in it for you! Have a great weekend, everyone 🙂

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Saving Lives, One Paw at a Time

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”
― Jack London

I will keep things short-and-sweet on this Friday, but wanted to include our readers in a giveaway we are offering! We are taking part in a fundraiser to raise money for our rescue, LCPO, and are asking for your help. Please visit the link below to make a donation in support of us and of our rescue… any amount helps, even just $1 or $5! Our goal is to raise a total of $500 before the 5k in June.

Of course, LCPO saves many pit bulls, just like Georgia, from certain death. However, LCPO does so much more for pit bulls and their owners, including the NEPA Pit Fix Program, which assists owners with the high costs of the essential spay and neuter surgeries. They also have some dogs who are currently in boarding, due to a lack of current foster homes. The organization has numerous expenses every month, and yet rarely turns away an owner or animal in need. Please help them continue to help others. Remember, all donations to LCPO are tax-deductible. Even if you are unable to make a donation, we would appreciate you sharing our fundraising efforts with others!

NOW, here is where it gets exciting. We all know that making a donation fills us with happy thoughts and a warm heart, knowing that we are doing our small part to make a difference. Not only that, but I can guarantee that you will be earning the eternal gratitude of myself, J, Tonka, Gaige, and Georgia! What could be better? I’ll tell you what… an awesome give-away!

Did you say GIVE-AWAY?!

I most certainly did! We aren’t just going to ‘hound’ you for money. (ha ha!) We want you to get something extra out of the deal, as well! Both the highest contributor, as well as one random donator, will earn a special prize from us! Stay tuned next week to find out just what that might be… but trust us when we tell you that this is no rinkadink pen or tee shirt. Each prize is valued at well over $50. In the mean-time, we would greatly appreciate your contribution. Please head to the link below, and donate to help save sweet pups like Georgia. You’re saving lives, people!

Georgia says thanks!!

Georgia says thanks!!

http://www.active.com/donate/lcpo5kracetorescue2/smetan

The Nose Knows!

Last week I told you that we had begun taking Georgia to obedience classes at Ringer’s Pet Dog Training. We have been having a great time enhancing our bond with her! We wanted to also bring you some information about a fun new way to interact with your dogs, while simultaneously enriching and exercising their minds & bodies. It is called Canine Nosework, and it is the new up-and-coming sport in dog training and competition.

Look at that sniffer!

Look at that sniffer!

Canine Nosework is regulated by the National Association of Canine Scent Work. Essentially, dogs use their natural abilities of scent identification and retrieval to find essential oil scents of birch, anise, and clove. They are then trained for proper searching and alerting techniques to communicate these findings with their handlers. The dogs start small, by first searching in boxes, and will then advance to searching in a large room, and even on vehicles!

While these training techniques were first employed in teaching search-and-rescue dogs, as well as dogs used for bomb and drug-detection, all dogs possess a natural ability to ‘hunt’… just think about the last time your pup’s favorite toy slipped beneath the couch or behind the desk! Your dog will really enjoy pursuing the scents, and it proves to be a wonderful way to exhaust them. You may remember that in a recent post, we spoke about some ways to enrich our dogs. Nose work is an ideal way to enrich your animal. Sure, they will exert themselves physically, but the exercise provided for their brains will be immeasurable! You will have one tired pup on your hands for a few days after a Nose Work class.

Unlike some other canine sports, where certain breeds excel, almost any dog will do well with scent work. Whether your dog is a Purebred or mixed breed, and regardless of size or age, you will both enjoy these classes immensely. Furthermore, it is a great exercise for dogs who are reactive or mildly aggressive with other dogs, as only on dog works at a time. You will probably notice your dog’s comfort level increase around other pups, as they learn that fun times happen in their presence, without pressure to interact face-to-face. These exercises are a great way to build confidence in your dog!

Our dogs love to 'hunt' in the bushes...

Our dogs love to ‘hunt’ in the bushes…

These classes are available at Ringer’s in Tarentum, PA, but most local obedience schools offer them. If this turns out to be something at which your dog really excels, there are even competitions and trials held nationwide and year-round. Have you ever heard of, or tried, a scent class? Do you think you might? Share your thoughts with us below!

(Never really) Wordless Wednesday: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Why do all of our photos feature sleeping pups? Is it because they are that lazy, or just extra-adorable when silent still snoozing? Either way, I love them all to pieces! Now, what do you think they are dreaming about?

Look at that little paw... Gaige and her daddy

Look at that little paw… Gaige and her daddy

I can't get enough of those ears!

I can’t get enough of those ears!

She buried her head under the covers... not ready to wake up!

She buried her head under the covers… not ready to wake up!

Even the kitty cat Bella gets in on the snuggle-bug action

Even the kitty cat Bella gets in on the snuggle-bug action

Big dog in a little chair...

Big dog in a little chair…

Makes my heart melt... even if their large and in charge presence did kick me to the couch!

Makes my heart melt… even if their large and in charge presence did kick me to the couch!

Comfy, G?

Comfy, G?

Look at those lips!

Look at those lips!

My own real-life teddy bear!

My own real-life teddy bear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three’s a Crowd… Or is It?

We are lucky to be involved with LCPO, the rescue that saved Miss Gia from certain death. We foster through their organization, and they in turn offer us endless training advice, in addition to other crucial resources. LCPO brings a lot of experience to the table, and therefore they require that each dog placed into a new home, whether as a foster or a permanent family member, completes the two-week de-stress upon entering the new home. To put it simply, this is a process in which the new pet is kept separate from any other pets for at least two weeks. Sounds fun, huh? It may not be easy, but this is to help ensure success and happiness for all family-members; both two and four-legged! Utilizing the advice from LCPO, as well as tips we’ve picked up along the way, we wanted to share our experiences in achieving peaceful interactions in a multi-dog household.

1. The first step to happy interactions in a multi-dog household is to understand your dogs’ personality and tolerance levels. Every dog is different! It is vital that we be receptive to our dogs’ reactions around other animals, even when it comes to the most subtle body language!  This bell curve, designed and described by BAD RAP, is used to show the varying tolerance levels of the pit bulls that they encounter while rescuing. However, in truth, it can apply to many breeds of dog.

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  • “dog-social” : These are dogs that truly enjoy and seek-out the company of other dogs, including housemate dogs. These pups are very easy-going, willing to forgive even the rudest of dog manners, and are often happiest when in the company of other dogs. This category would include most puppies, and a smaller percentage of socially mature dogs (14 months+).
My sweet boy Tonka falls into this category

My sweet boy Tonka falls into the first category

  • “dog-tolerant”: These dogs are typically non-reactive on leash, and either indifferent or friendly to other dogs. They show relaxed, easy body language in the presence of new dogs. While these pups may not ‘love’ dogs that they don’t know, they would have decent tolerance for rude behavior (a long fuse). It can be gathered that these types of dogs enjoy known dog friends when properly introduced, and in general, succeed with housemate dogs.
Gaige's designation can vary, but she is mostly dog-tolerant.

Gaige’s designation can vary, but she is mostly dog-tolerant.

  • “dog-reactive”: In this case, the dog would likely have some dog friends, but be more selective in their pairings. He or she may dislike certain ‘types’ of dogs (male/female, large/small, hyper/mellow) and be easily offended by rude dog manners. Can be described as grumpy or sassy, dominant. This dog likes to be in charge and dictate the rules during playtime, and must be reminded by their human to use good manners during play. This dog can succeed with housemate dogs, with supervision.
Because we manage Georgia carefully, she probably can also be placed in the same category as Gaige. However, without careful training, she could fall into one of the latter categories.

Because we manage Georgia carefully, she probably can also be placed in the same category as Gaige. However, without careful training, she could fall into one of the latter categories.

  •  “dog-aggressive”: These pooches may have a limited number of dog friends, or even none. They may be leash reactive if the opportunity arises (weak handler, no training). This dog may have a short fuse during play, even with dogs that it knows. This dog requires heavy supervision during player, and a good leader when out on leash. Many live successfully with housemate dogs (typically opposite sex) with proper supervision and management.
It can be easy to read these descriptions, and draw hard conclusions. However, it is important to note that with proper training and management, which includes structured and slow introductions, most dogs can still be safe members of multi-dog households; it just requires more knowledge and effort on the part of the owner. A dog that has been dog-aggressive, may be managed to be dog-selective. Also, as dogs age and their environments change, so to may their tolerance classifications. Additionally, these traits only apply to interactions with other canines, and in NO WAY guarantee a dog’s attitude toward children, small animals, or people. Those are all separate traits, and must be evaluated separately, in order to set the dog up for success. It cannot be assumed that a dog that is aggressive with dogs will also be that way towards children, and likewise, a dog that behaves well with other dogs should not be guaranteed to be gentle with small animals.

When looking at our own dogs, it can be difficult to place labels on them, but it is imperative for the sake of peace. For example, I would probably put Tonka in the first category. He enjoys the presence of other dogs, has excellent manners around them, and is willing to overlook almost all negative behavior. However, there was a period of time where he was twice attacked by a male labrador. It took many months and positive experiences before we were able to build his confidence back to a friendly level.

Gaige and Georgia (typical women!) can be a bit more difficult to categorize. Gaige enjoys other dogs, but has terrible manners with them. She likes to be in charge, but is submissive to Georgia. While she treats Tonka like she rules the roost, often stealing his toys or chewing on his limbs, she defers to him when he does stand his ground. I would probably consider her to be dog-tolerant. Georgia, on the other hand, is even more of a challenge to define. She is not aggressive, but has a low-tolerance for lack of manners (ahem, Gaige!) She is happy to be around other dogs, and cries when separated from ours, but doesn’t seek out the company of new animals. She is not leash-reactive, yet will defend herself if she feels particularly threatened. However, when she ‘defends’ herself, it is nothing more than a retreat, loud growl or snap… she never tries to bite or fight.

2. The next step in dog-integration is a slow introduction. In the case of multiple puppies, this may be as slow as a few minutes, but when it comes to mature dogs, it may take months! We are in the latter category. Why so slow? When integrating dogs, prevention is key. What I mean by that, is that once dogs have had a serious altercation, it can be very difficult to repair the relationship. Most pups aren’t big on ‘forgive and forget’. If two dogs have had a rough introduction, you may not be able to achieve successful interactions without lots more effort, and perhaps some professional intervention. For us, we decided that it was better to be safe than sorry, and have decided to take things as slowly as possible.

  • The first step to dog introductions is for each dog to have a ‘safe’ place. For most homes, this is a room or secluded kennel. It should be comfortable, and free from many distractions (a sheet or blanket over the top works well). Most importantly, the dog should be allowed to be somewhat protective over this space… it is theirs, after all. Children and other animals should never be allowed play near or inside your dog’s kennel. When not together, the dogs should be placed in their respective kennels. This shows them that while their crate is safe and comfortable, it is not as much ‘fun’ as being social around the other animals.

OUTDOOR INTRODUCTIONS

  • The next step to the introductions, occurring once the dog has begun to feel comfortable in the new environment, would be group walks. These walks should begin by walking the dogs parallel, with humans and a significant distance, placed in between. This allows the dogs to get used to the sight and scent of one another, without the pressure to interact. As the dogs become more comfortable, the distance between them will decrease. Any positive behavior, such as calm tail wags, should be praised by the handler. It is important to be aware of subtle cues of stress, such as yawning. These signs can vary between dogs, but a low tail with a steady stare can indicate aggression. In this instance, you should redirect the dog without rewarding their behavior, perhaps by turning them in a circle, or stepping in front of their stare. These walks may need to continue for a few days or a few weeks. They can be considered successful when neither dog is overly-excited at the presence of the other, nor aggressive or fearful.
  • Following the group walks, it is important to again evaluate your dogs’ comfort levels around other animals, before proceeding. At this point, we had learned that Georgia liked other dogs. She was not aggressive with them, but was also not completely comfortable. We knew that if she was faced with an uncomfortable situation, she would first try to flee (the term fight or flight is important here!). Gaige had no discomfort with other dogs, but lacked proper manners. Therefore, we decided to keep Gaige leashed while walking, but allow Georgia to be loose. If the dogs were to get stressed, Georgia could retreat, while we retained control of Gaige’s behavior, and could correct her whenever necessary. (Of course, evaluate this step at your own discretion. It is ideal to be in a fenced area for this step, or at least to have a strong recall cue on both dogs.)
All three pups collaborate for group 'hunting' in the bushes.

All three pups collaborate for group ‘hunting’ in the bushes.

  • Once you can be sure that all dogs are comfortable in the presence of the others, and that you also have retained control over the animals, it may be time to graduate to off-leash interactions outdoors. During this time, it is important to watch for warning signs, and manage triggers. For example, many dogs will display issues when another dog tries to take their toy, eat something yummy, or approach their favorite person. You can manage these interactions to avoid confrontation (hello, put the toys away!). We know that Georgia becomes uncomfortable when Gaige rushes toward her, and so we try to manage Gaige’s behavior in approaching Georgia. Not only does this show Georgia that we will protect her, allowing her to let her guard down and not stand in defense of herself, but it also is teaching Gaige how to have more polite interactions with other dogs.

We will be back to continue this subject, and discuss integrating dogs indoors! If you this subject is interesting to you, check out the blog written by Debby McMullen. She is a positive-reinforcement dog trainer who specializes in multi-dog interactions, and has given us a lot of insight and tips toward integrating our household.

A successful multi-dog (and cat-dog?) household

A successful multi-dog (and cat-dog?) household

Enriching our Animals!

The new hot-button word in the world of dog rescue and training is ‘enrichment’. It is a tool that has so many applications and approaches, but is endlessly beneficial in the world of animal behavior.

Animal enrichment first originated in the world of laboratory animals, particularly of the primate variety. It was soon apparent that the primates housed in the laboratories needed more than just the typical food, water, and shelter to contribute to their well-being. Not only did a lack of socialization and stimulation obviously contribute to their mental and emotional decline, but these issues also appeared dramatically in their physical health. It soon became common practice to provide mental stimulation to many animals housed in laboratory settings, and researchers now even go so far as to house most primates with other animals. This realization has spread to zoos and most recently, animal shelters.

The blogger that I consider to be the ‘queen’ of doggie enrichment is essentially a hero to shelter dogs, and pit bulls to be precise. Not only is she a blogger, photographer, and foster, but she herself works in a shelter! You can learn more about Juliana and her enrichment pointers here. It is certainly worth the read, and is where I’ve learned some of the information I will share with you!

Why is enrichment so important to a dog’s well-being? A dog, or wolf, in the wild is constantly searching for food, water, and shelter. They are probably interacting with their pack. Their senses are on overload. Compare that to a dog in a small, bland ‘jail cell’ for 23.5 hours a day, in many shelters across the US, and it is easy to see why behavior issues may quickly develop. Oftentimes, these negative behaviors, such as jumping or barking, are not indicative of the dog’s true personality, but simply a product of boredom, stress, and monotony. Enrichment activities are essential to a dog’s happiness and physical health, because they allow the dog to exercise their minds and their senses, and provide an outlet for excess energy. Not only does it make the dog happy, and keep their mind healthy, but it also improves the behaviors that they display to potential adopters. Win-win-win!

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How does this apply to those of us that don’t work in shelters? Very well, in fact! Enrichment can be great for puppies, or any dogs with higher activity levels, as well as foster or adopted dogs that may be learning to adapt to a new environment.

First of all, giving a pup toys or puzzles to chew on means that what they are NOT chewing on are your shoes, couches, walls, etc. You may have heard the training tip, that if you find your pup chewing something that they should not have in their mouths, you take that object away, and replace it with something more appropriate. While that is great advice, and a good example of positive reinforcement, what would be even better is to prevent that behavior before it starts! One way I approach training with my dogs is by not giving them an opportunity to make bad decisions. If, for example, your rescue puppy is working on a toy or puzzle, they are not going to be interested in going for Dad’s brand new, $400, insulated, steel-toe work boots. 😉 Not that we speak from experience, or anything.

Georgia already has a bone to pick...

Georgia already has a bone to pick…

Another great benefit to enrichment, is that it actually serves to tucker out your dog! Believe it or not, a great session with a puzzle oftentimes serves to make our pups just as tired as a long hike on the farm! Their brains are so busy concentrating on just how to destroy or discover or dismantle their toys. One of Juliana’s foster dogs stated it perfectly when he explained that he will, “lie there for hours, meticulously ripping and pulling at my toys, planning exactly which piece of string to pick apart next. I work really hard to be the best Captain Destructo I can be.” In most cases, once the puzzle is complete, your pup will pass out on the spot from the shear mental exhaustion!

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Now that we know about some of the applications of enrichment, what are some ways we can provide it to our dogs? Well, from the most basic of standpoints, a simple toy that your dog wants to chew on can be enrichment. The way they tear at it provides an outlet for their energy. But for dogs that have not been exposed to toys very much, or for dogs in a more stressful environment such as a shelter, we need to find more high-value benefits. In addition, heading to your local pet store and buying toys that you know your dog is just going to destroy, can really add up! Especially on the budget of a shelter or rescue. Therefore, we get creative.

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One common form of enrichment is frozen kongs. Kongs can be stuffed with anything; vegetables, fruits, peanut butter, meat, dog food (wet or dry!), cheese, or just about anything else! What is most important is that it is stuffed in tightly, and that there is a good ratio of liquid to solid, so that the contents will freeze inside. It helps to place a little bit of peanut butter around the openings, to lead the dog into the interior contents, and then place in the freezer for at least a few hours. Some shelters will use pvc pipes with various sized holes, in place of the kongs. Just a cheaper option! A simple google search for kong ‘recipes’ can give you some creative stuffing suggestions.

"Ok now Foster Dad, heavy on the cheese, light on those crunchy orange carrot thingies."

“Ok now Foster Dad, heavy on the cheese, light on those crunchy orange carrot thingies.”

A fun summer-time enrichment for dogs is to fill a bucket with hard toys, like nylabones, treats, etc. This bucket can then be filled with water, and frozen. Talk about a puppy popsicle!! A cold weather version of this game can be to stuff a bucket VERY tightly with various toys, ranging in size, shape, and texture. It can be a fun game for your dogs to work on pulling the toys from the bucket. This game can occupy hours of your dog’s time and energy, because each toy they pull from the bucket will require a good chew or sniff!

Some pet stores are getting on board with enrichment activities, and providing puzzles for your dog. You may remember that I told you yesterday about a fun outdoor toy that our dogs ADORE. It is the only toy that hasn’t resulted in boredom or complete destruction! It is a large plastic ball, with holes, and a smaller plastic ball inside. It is just the right size for two dogs to play tug-of-war, but also allows the dogs to spend hours trying to free the inside ball from the trap! You can find it here.

Gaige playing with their Paw-zzle ball.

Gaige playing with their Paw-zzle ball.

Another great pet store find was actually a gift to the pups from my own mom! It is a three-tiered star, with pockets for treats or dog food. A dog has to figure out how to move the star around with their paws or nose, in order to gobble up the treats! Not only is it an enrichment activity, but it also helps with a dog who eats their food too quickly. To learn more, it is sold here, but there are many variations in most pet stores.

Georgia working hard for her dinner!

Georgia working hard for her dinner!

(It is important to remember that when it comes to food-based enrichment, we don’t want to be adding unnecessary calories to our dog’s diet! Unless your dog is underweight, be sure to decrease the size of their meals, in relation to the amount of food they’ve received from their kongs or other food-related puzzles.)

Enrichment is one of the greatest ways to stimulate our dogs, and exercise their minds. Not only that, but it can be a wonderful way for our dogs to bond with us, and feel more comfortable in their environment. What enrichment activities have you tried with your pets? Which ones have worked for you, and which haven’t? We’d love to hear your ideas!

This Old Dog Learns New Tricks!

(Meaning me, people. Gia is only 2.5, after all!)

This past Saturday, we had the unique opportunity to experience a private training session with Debby McMullen of Pawsitive Reactions, LLC. I had never before hired a dog trainer, and so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect! I feel like I put my whole heart into training and socializing our dogs. I do a lot of research and am constantly researching to learn new techniques and understand canine behavior more thoroughly. I am always open to learning more, but I also hoped that the trainer would be able to recognize that we were very invested in the well-being of our dogs. Once Debby walked in the door, all of these fears were cast aside.

When Debby and Georgia met, somehow Georgia was immediately on her best behavior, and I am pretty sure that the two fell instantly in love. (Although, it probably didn’t hurt that she brought homemade liver treats and peanut butter along.)

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We got right to business, working on Georgia’s jumping. Of course, she was showing off for Debby and wasn’t jumping as much as she usually does on newcomers, but she did offer a few leaps & licks when Debby stopped lavishing her with attention. Debby taught us that rather than directly acknowledge Georgia’s misbehavior by correcting her with ‘No,’ ‘Down,’ or pulling on her collar, we were to turn around. This would, essentially, remove the ‘reward’ (our attention) until she was displaying more appropriate behavior, like a sit or down. At the same time, it would stop the jumping in its tracks. With repeated practice the past few days, we are definitely noticing an improvement in more appropriate greetings.

We are taking applications, however, for local friends that would like to help us with this issue! We need new people to stop over to meet Miss Gia, and not come near her until she is sitting and waiting patiently. The friends and family that have met her have been so kind, but simultaneously, are always telling us ‘Oh, it’s okay! Don’t worry!’ when she jumps up on them. Instead, we need someone who understands that this is only perpetuating her lack of manners. It is one thing to train her not to jump on us, but we need her to understand that this behavior won’t be tolerated towards anyone, including newcomers.

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Once Debby had given us some new tools for the jumping issue, we began talking about Georgia’s basic obedience. Georgia is a very kind dog, and she is always looking to please. When you ask her to sit, or lay down, she is very willing to do so. However, Debby explained to us that we want to teach our dogs to ‘offer’ these good behaviors, rather than always having to request them first. This way, they will learn to make better decisions on their own, and be rewarded for them. This was the main technique that Debby wanted us to utilize was, and she called it ‘capturing’. She stressed that we must notice and mark all behavior that we want to see more of, and pay less attention to the behaviors that we want to see reduced. To put it simply, reward the behaviors that we like, and ignore the ones we don’t! Any attention, even more negative recognition like ‘No!’ is still conveyed to the dogs as attention.

Debby explained that the capturing technique was especially applicable when handling the interactions between the dogs. She complimented us for completing the two week de-stress prior to Georgia’s introduction to our dogs, as well as taking their interactions very slowly so as not to create tension between them. She wanted us to be sure to recognize any positive body language between Georgia and our perma-dogs, however discrete. This could be as minor as moving closer to one another, and as major as tail wagging and licking. It is important to note that the dogs have NEVER displayed aggressive, or even threatening, behaviors towards one another. However, we notice Georgia avoiding the other dogs occasionally, or stiffening when they bump into her accidentally. In this case, Debby recommends ‘splitting’. This is using our own body language to interrupt inappropriate behavior, such as a ‘mom stance’ (hands on hips or arms crossed, looking down at the dog). Not only does this communicate to the dog that their behavior is unacceptable, but it also shows all of the dogs that we as the owners can be trusted to protect and lead them all. Additionally, we are not using a stern voice to correct these interactions, which would only add more tension to the situation.

Cuddling with her favorite.

Cuddling with her favorite.

As per Debby’s direction, as well as advice from the team at LCPO, we will be doing more ‘tethering’. This means securing the dogs by leash to an immovable object, and then having them lay on their own mat or blanket. We will reward good behavior with high value objects such as bully sticks or stuffed kongs. Not only do these serve as a reward while the dogs are in the presence of one another, but they are also are exercising their minds, and recognizing that they are safe when together.

The session culminated with Debby expressing to us that she thinks with more socialization, Georgia should do just fine in a home with another dog, particularly if that other dog is a male. However, she also suggested taking her to some group training classes to work on her socialization. This would enable her to be around other dogs in a controlled setting, without the pressure to interact with them. Our goal will be to reward all positive attention to other dogs, as well as any time she looks to us for information on how to handle herself. Similarly to her interactions with our own dogs, this will show her that her humans are the ones that will keep her safe, and that she does not need to resort to proactive action on her part if she feels threatened.

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Private training is not something that is affordable on every budget. For our scenario, I picked up a few extra hours of nannying and riding lessons, and certainly appreciated a generous discount from Debby. She has a love for pit bull dogs, and anyone that wants to help them, and so she offered us a discount in additional time. I really recommend Debby’s service, or the service of any trainer that utilizes positive reinforcement, to offer you a one-time evaluation of your training methods.

I am happy to have been able to share our experiences with all of you, and I hope that you have taken a few tips from our lessons with Debby!

Busy as bulls! (pit bulls, that is)

Woo! It has been an exhausting few days around here. This weekend, we enjoyed time with friends, did some Christmas shopping & decorating, took lots of family walks, and even had a visit from a special guest… a local celebrity dog trainer! (We will save that last bit for tomorrow’s post, however.)

There is ALWAYS time for snugglin'

There is ALWAYS time for snugglin’

The hectic schedule didn’t end there. Today began with an early morning trip to the vet. Georgia was due for her rabies shot, and had also been itching more than usual. She was an angel for her exam, took the shot like a pro, and shared lots of tail wags and kisses with the staff. Of course, they just couldn’t get enough of our girl. We received a few comments on what a BIG girl she was (don’t they know it’s just plain rude to comment on a lady’s weight? Really… 75 pounds is not that bad!) We only encountered one other dog while we were there, and while Georgia didn’t seem entirely eager to investigate the stranger, she stayed relaxed and quiet. We also have a new anti-yeast shampoo to try, in order to combat the itchies, so we will keep you posted on that!

After our adventures at the vet were through, we took a trip to Petsmart. Georgia’s previous foster had warned that Georgia could get uncomfortable at public adoption events, so she hasn’t been out and about much since coming to live with us. I figured that a quiet Monday morning would be as good a time as any to give it a try, and so I hooked up her harness and had a buddy for my shopping trip. I armed myself with lots of treats to reward positive behavior. Again, we didn’t meet too many other dogs during our excursion, but Georgia was a model mutt, even sitting politely when presented with a treat from the check out girl.

Georgia does so well in the car. She loads quietly, waiting for her cue to step up. She even waited patiently while I ran in to a store and then the post office. She was content to sleep in the back seat for most of our travels, checking in with me occasionally for a pet or a kiss. Can’t you just imagine her as your permanent co-pilot?!

And there is always time for play!

And there is always time for play!

Please stop by tomorrow for a big fat post with the full run-down of our time with a special dog trainer. We will share our new-found ‘expertise’ with all of you… and don’t worry, it’s free only to our readers! 😉

There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Dog

A few weeks ago, I shared a link on our facebook page, that had been shared first by one of my daily reads, Peace, Love & Fostering. The original post was from the blog, Notes from a Dog Walker, and it is probably one of my favorite blog postings I’ve read thus far in our fostering experience. I urge you to head over there to check out the piece. For even some of the most seasoned dog lovers, it just might change your perspective forever.

If there is one thing I could convey to all of you, it would be this… “It’s not how they’re raised, it’s how dogs are managed, that matters most.” A dog with a terrible past can still make a wonderful addition to your family. At the same time, unfortunately, sometimes a dog raised with all of the right tools, whether pit bull or black lab or poodle, will not be successful. Don’t stereotype ANY dog, for ANY reason… it is dangerous, and unfair. Give them a all a fair chance. The Vicktory Dogs & BAD RAP dogs are just two perfect examples of this! These dogs were rescued from the most cruel and outrageous fighting operations. Yet through careful and dedicated rehabilitation, they have become loyal and gentle family companions. If I took the time to list every popular story of a dog fighting victim that went on to live happily with other animals and children, this page would be full.

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I don’t believe that either Georgia or Gaige were ever involved in dog fighting cruelty. Yet if I had a penny for every time someone asked me if my pit bull was aggressive, or had been a ‘fighter’… well, I would have a lot of pennies. And while I don’t like to focus on the negative, I think it is important to note that those questions have come even from those that claim to like pit bulls! The point is, we love dogs because of their loyalty and resiliency. Give them a chance to prove it to us!

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In other news, please check out our facebook page here. We shared a few videos of lucky boy Cash, from yesterday’s post, who has begun his new life! One shows him playing exuberantly with a toy, while the other shows him interacting happily with his new foster sister.

Finally, we are very excited to announce that we have a two-hour training session scheduled tomorrow for Miss Georgia! We will be working with the talented Debby McMullen of Pawsitive Reactions, LLC. Debby specializes in positive reinforcement dog training, as well as management of multi-dog households. She has even written a book on the subject! You can even follow her blog here, and she also maintains a facebook page.  We are planning to focus on Georgia’s issues with overly enthusiastic greetings towards new humans, and also narrow down her discomfort with some other dogs. We are hopeful that we will learn new tools to manage her introductions, and also identify what sort of doggie household she would be most comfortable in. We are anxious to see whether her issues with female dogs are simply a matter of additional socialization, or something that would be best avoided for her comfort level. Wish us luck! We know this will only add to her repertoire of skills and talents, thereby making her more adoptable.

Are you my forever family?

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We hope your weekend is kind to you!