Monday, November 23, 2015

I shaved my double coated dog!!!!

In July I shaved my dog LiLo. I gave her a lion cut because I thought it would be cute and I also wanted to see what her hair would grow back like.

There is a lot of talk surrounding whether or not you should shave a double coated dog. The information being shared here is based off of my own personal experience. I am not recommending that anyone shave their double coated dog if it isn't necessary, just sharing the information I gathered.

I shaved my double coated dog LiLo in July of this year - here she is before clipping:

Here she is after clipping in July:

 I used an 8.5 blade so it wasn't super close to the skin, but it completely exposed her undercoat. Even at this length what was left of the undercoat protected her skin and when I bathed her it tried to repel the water.

It has taken 5mos for LiLo's hair coat to return to almost normal, this picture was taken earlier this month:

 LiLo is 10 years old and has no health issues other than hip dysplasia.

It will be 5mos in December since I clipped my double coated dog. Her hair coat [although it is hard to see in the pictures] is not completely grown in. I shared pictures of LiLo in a group on facebook and had multiple groomers tell me that every time they shaved a double coated dog, the hair never grew back correctly or was fuzzy. Most people who actually have their dogs shaved regularly will bring them in every 8-12 weeks, that is NOT enough time for the hair coat to recover, so of course the groomer will see a fuzzy coat.

Here is a picture of LiLo mid hair growth in August:

And here she is in September:

So you can see, if a person was on a regular grooming schedule, if they brought the dog back within an 8-12 week period the hair coat would be in a weird state of growth.

Hormones also play a huge role when it comes to the hair coat. Here are pictures of a Samoyed before and after her spay. I wish I could give credit to the dog's owner, I saw these pictures in an ovary sparing spay group, but if you google "samoyed before and after spay" these pictures come up on reddit:

If a groomer has long time clients - from puppy to adult, they might see these kinds of hair coat changes and it may have nothing to do with being shaved, it may be the difference between the dog being spayed or neutered.

Shaving the hair coat closely and often, with something like a 40 blade can damage the hair follicles which would cause the hair to not regrow, however I don't know many people who shave their dogs with a 40 blade.

That being said, a 40 or 50 blade is used to prep dogs for surgery, and I know many double coated dogs who have had knees surgeries, the whole leg has to be shaved and while it takes time [6mos+] the hair always grows back. Unless a dog has a health issue, like a thyroid problem, the hair should grow back.

I have heard a lot of stories about ruining the double coat by shaving but I have yet to see a scientific study or any true research that is not a personal account or opinion. This post is not a scientific study, as I mentioned above this is simply to share my experience. I shaved my dog because I wanted to see if it would grow back okay, and I also thought clipping her like a lion would be cute. I don't recommend shaving your dog for no reason, but I wouldn't condemn a person in a hot climate wanting to help cool their dog, or if you own a dog who will not let you actually brush the under coat out - a shaved dog is better than a matted one. If you do not take care of the under coat by brushing it out, your dog's coat will be completely ineffective in any temperature, it is also impossible to bathe your dog properly without first brushing out the loose undercoat. If you do not maintain the undercoat through regular brushing the hair will mat and be painful to remove, it will also make it impossible for you to get the hair coat fully clean.

Anyway, in closing, I think if a double coated dog is healthy, you can shave it and the hair coat should recover, but it needs at least 6 months to a year to go back to completely normal.

Monday, October 26, 2015

New title, passing of time, experience gained.

This past weekend Seppel finally earned his IPO-VO title!! Our scores are not brag worthy - 71, 71, 79 but this trial was so much more than the title.

The day started with tracking. Seppel did kind of what he did at the last trial, he got off track and kind of started running around. I thought for sure we would just have to call it. However, since I was not competing against anyone for my title [I was the only VO] the judge offered up some help. Basically he had me use a lot of handler help and even though I lost a lot of points, it was better than losing the entire exercise. Seppel's failure with the track was 90% handler error. I am still really green when it comes to tracking and I did not keep the line taught enough, and I wasn't sure how much I could help him without losing the whole thing. The judge also told us the morning of tracking that in order to be successful, we have to fail and that if you are afraid of failing you won't be able to win. Everyone fails at some point and it is nothing to be afraid of. The morning started off really well for me with that sage advice because it was so true.

The second stage of our title was obedience:

To a lot of people we probably look like a train wreck, but I am really happy with how Seppel performed considering. We went up two days before the trial to get acquainted with the field and also to work on Seppel's gunfire problem. The issue we are having is that Seppel is not afraid of the gun, when he hears it go off he thinks it's go time for protection. When we went for practice the guy firing the gun is someone Seppel doesn't like and he did it in front of us - so we were heeling towards the gun fire. In every trial the person shooting the gun is off to the side or kind of behind. The shots are heard as we are heeling away. I didn't realize that when we were practicing, and Seppel was horrible.  I have tried EVERYTHING to try to work on this problem. I've used positive reinforcement and I have used punishment. Corrections make it worse, in fact they actually make him more amped up/crazy. Positive reinforcement [allowing him to run around after the shots are fired] at this point just made things worse also. When he bolts for the off-leash heeling that is a direct result of us letting him run around the night before. When we walked onto the field he was already on edge, again, I feel as a direct result of the horrible training session we had prior. Even though his obedience performance was far from perfect I thought his heeling [when he wasn't being a jerk] was spot on, his flat retrieve was perfect, AND he didn't break his down when the gun shots were fired while the other guy was working! He sat up, but he didn't leave! I didn't have to return to him which would have taken all of the points.

As far as tackling the gun problem, while I know it will take a lot of time and repetition, I think I do need to let him "break" after our two shots as long as he is fairly under control while heeling. It is very obvious to me that using punishment/corrections will get us no where and only make things worse, my hope is that in time when I release him he won't actually find the gun holder interesting. I know it can only get better, he was already improved from the horrible night he had so I think it is within our reach.

The third portion of our trial was protection:

I left part of the critique on the video [I was in a hurry.]. I don't completely agree with the judge, when Seppel was growling it was primarily when I grabbed his collar. He is well beyond VO protection and if I had been able to heel him away instead of grab him he would not have been growling. I feel that grabbing his collar created some conflict as well as just amped him up even more [like a correction]. I do think he is more of a defensive dog and there is a part of him that would like to flee if things got too intense, however like the judge said, even if we work in strictly in prey we will be losing points. I am hoping in time Seppel will become braver working with other helpers and working in the trial environment. He is kind of weird about new places and change and it's just something I have to accept. I still felt like he did wonderful and his outs were fabulous.

Overall the trial experience was a great one. I now have more experience under my belt for trialing and the information that the judge shared was so helpful. Like he said as well, not that many people actually go to trial, people sometimes wait years and the sport is reliant on those of us willing to participate. He wasn't suggesting you trial a dog who isn't ready, but he was basically saying kudos to those of us getting out there and gaining experience. He said it doesn't matter how much you practice or how many mock trials you go to, nothing can replace the nerves of the real experience.

If Seppel is not ready for his IPO I in the spring we will go for a VO again, in hopes of improving our scores.

Another thing that happened last week is that Seppel has been here for FOUR years!!!! When I chose to take in Seppel, I had no idea what we would be doing. He has changed my life in so many ways. Because of him I am a much better dog owner than I used to be. With lower drive dogs the need for exercise is a lot less great[Not really, but they let me be lazy!], since I got him I exercise my dogs daily and their fitness has become so much more important to me. He has taught me a lot in terms of teaching obedience and teaching different exercises and behaviors. He has also taught me to just laugh at myself or laugh at him when he does something random or weird. I can really appreciate his antics sometimes because I know he's not a herding dog and I know it's just how he is. We still train and I still try to teach him impulse control and reliability, but I know he's not a border collie. I feel so lucky to have him and so lucky that because I have him we can compete in a sport that we both enjoy. I would not have the opportunities I have had if it were not for him. It blows my mind four years have already gone by, it seems like only yesterday I told my parents I was only going to "foster" him until I could "find him a home."

I look forward to our future together and hope that we can still continue to train and trial and have a good time in the process.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Clicker training: I don't have time for that!

I was going to wait to write this once I have taught my dog Seth to pick up the bite sleeve [that he's afraid of] but I can't wait!

I've said multiple times on this blog, I am not a PR only trainer! I do use a clicker and food and generally speaking try to use motivation to get my dogs to do things, but I am not afraid to use properly timed and effective corrections when I feel the situation calls for it. Those situations are few and far between.

Earlier this year I talked to someone who told me they had a dog struggling with the retrieve. The dog would get the dumbbell but would not bring it back. This person was under the impression the dog had been taught a forced retrieve. For anyone reading who has no idea, a forced retrieve is where you cause the dog pain [typically an ear pinch] and once the dog is vocalizing you shove the item to be retrieved into their mouth. Eventually the dog somehow gets the idea that if it does what you want in the correct sequence it will avoid pain. I get it, it will eventually work A lot of people use this technique. I am NOT judging. To each their own. Do what you gotta do/do what you know. Anyway back to the story, I suggested that this person use a clicker after explaining that I had a dog who was afraid of the dumbbell and through the use of the clicker I was able to help him get over his fear.

What did she say to me?

"Oh, I don't have time for that!"

I honestly don't know how I kept my eyes from rolling back up into my head. All I can wonder is, does this woman really want the dog to bring her the dumbbell or not? If she does, does she want the dog to be happy about it?

It really took me by surprise because I am not pure positive in my training methods and I thought she was looking at me like I was one of "those people". Not that that is a bad thing! But I was thinking, it's not like I am a purely positive trainer waving my PR flag throwing cookies at everything. I thought I was legitimately helping her out because the clicker worked GREAT for me! I feel like Seth is proof that clicker training is effective and that it works! I know I have shared his dumbbell videos before, but here is Seth when we first started trying to get over his fear of the dumbbell:

As you can see, he's very unsure and nervous about putting the dumbbell in his mouth. He does it, but he's not exactly excited about it.

Here he is just a few days ago:

And here he is today! We still need to work on perfecting the jump portion, but I never imagined he would retrieve over the jump!

He's like a completely different dog!

I think it is important as dog owners to have a large "tool box". No two dogs are the same, so when one training approach is not working you might need to try another one.

I really enjoy using the clicker because I feel like it makes marking a behavior very easy. You can also say "yes!" but I feel like my finger is faster than my mouth and the clicker is a very unique noise - so I feel like dogs pick up on what it means right away. I have also seen a lot of people overuse "Yes" and it becomes more meaningless. Unless you repeatedly click the clicker over and over, you can't really overuse it and it is really easy to capture a certain action or behavior.

I am really pleased with Seth's progress and extremely happy with my results in using some positive reinforcement and clicker training. I don't think this kind of result could have been achieved any other way, I do not think he would be where he is at if I forced him into the retrieve.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Dock Diving/Stability

Saturday I took Seth to the Oregon State Fair to try Dock Diving! It was a very interesting and fun experience. X-treme Air Dogs is hosting the event at the fair and they have it set up so people can bring their dogs to give it a try. It's $15 and you can try multiple times between waves [their competitions] throughout the day. There is a trainer there to help you and help your dog. Seth thought the pool and the ramp were really weird. I didn't think about it being 'odd' to him, but I think it is a little more daunting for them transitioning from open water to a pool because they know they are "stuck" in the pool. The first time in Seth immediately wanted to try to exit the pool via one of the sides. He has a good recall so we got him back up the ramp. Speaking of the ramp, that was also weird for him. I think he was having a hard time gauging where the ramp ended. He jumped off of the dock once but I think it surprised him/I don't think he was prepared for the jump. After that he did not want to jump off of the dock. He would go off of the ramp no problem, but the dock was a no-go. I tried twice with him and the trainer even got into the pool but he just wasn't going to jump in. Unfortunately I had some other things I needed to do that day so I decided to walk some of the fair and head home. I think eventually he will figure it out, but we definitely need more time to work on it. There is supposed to be a pool opening up nearby in September specifically for dog swimming and dock dogs - so I am really hoping to be able to take him there so we can work on this!

Overall even though he only jumped in once, it was a great experience. It was also good "trial" experience because we had all kinds of people watching us as we fruitlessly tried to encourage Seth to get his ball from the pool.

Dock diving aside I also wanted to talk about how stable Seth is, and how much I really appreciate it.

It's been a long time since I have taken one of my dogs to a public event setting like the fair grounds. Generally speaking if I am going to a Saturday market or something I don't bring a dog simply because I don't trust other people with their dogs, and if I intend to buy things it's easier to not have a dog tagging along.

Seth had to hang out a lot while waiting our turn to try dock diving. We had several people and several kids ask to pet him. Seth was happy to get some attention and was very happy to interact with people and with children. I only had maybe two children who did not ask touch him, but it was quick and in passing. All of the other children and people we encountered were very polite and asked to pet him. Seth was super relaxed while we waited in line for our turn, he even was lying down on his side a few times while waiting, sniffing the ground and just hanging out. People walking all around us didn't seem to bother him at all. It brings me back to the day he got his CGC. We were in a room with probably 30 other dogs while we waited our turn and here he is lying on his back pawing at my friend Lynna's dog, like he didn't notice any of the commotion at all.

Saturday just really made me appreciate Seth's stable, easy going temperament. He was in his element with all of those people. He was happy to interact with folks who wanted to interact with him, he never once seemed worried or stressed out. It was just nice. It also made me really happy to give adults and several children a very positive experience with a dog. It made me feel good that the folks interacting with him felt good. Kids really aren't my cup of tea but I was glad to be a part of their 'good dog experiences'.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Oh, to be the squirrel!

This is my 200th post on my blog and I thought I would share an epiphany I had.

Our friends at ZoePhee mentioned "being more fun than the squirrel" on facebook and it really got me thinking!

I've been told in the past by a trainer before to be "more fun than the squirrel."

The truth is, if you own a head strong, independent dog with high prey drive - you will never be more fun than the squirrel. I'm not saying that you should just throw in the towel and not try to be. But what I am saying is that I have accepted that my dog, no matter what I do, is not always going to choose me instead of the "squirrel". Of course, the "squirrel" can be anything in life. This is kind of a metaphor for being the most fun thing ever, to be more fun than the thing your dog really wants! For your dog to choose YOU and NOT the THING!

What I like about IPO is that while I will never be as awesome as the bite sleeve/helper, my dog is willing to do the things I ask - in order to bite the sleeve. Because of this kind of training [if you heel you can bite, if you sit you can bite etc.] it has definitely helped with his impulse control and there has been a 100% improvement from the dog he used to be. By breed and genetics Seppel is an impulsive dog. He will always be one to act first and think later, but because of the training that we do he has gotten a lot better.

I think impulse control games and really any kind of training that involves allowing the dog the thing it wants in exchange for a task, etc, is awesome. I think they work in helping teach our impulsive dogs to think about their choices. However, as I said above, I have fully accepted my dog for who he is. He is not a working breed, he is not a herder, his brain does not always immediately go to me. I see it daily in the choices he makes. Like today, when running the blinds he insisted on "checking" the hot blind, he KNOWS what he should be doing, he could hear me calling him fruitlessly, but he still did what he wanted to do. I'm not trying to make excuses for him, but it's like with some things he just can't help himself, his self control is extremely limited. It's just the kind of dog he is and I am totally okay with it.

On the flip side, I have been learning how to do helper/decoy work from our trainer. Thinking about it today I realized, when I am wearing the sleeve, I get to be the squirrel! I get to be the squirrel for my dog and for other dogs, and that is awesome! It's a wonderful feeling to be the thing that they want most! I am really excited to continue to learn helper work. I don't know if I will ever be great at it, but I hope I can help my club out and be good enough to work their dogs even on a basic level. If anything I am enjoying learning to new things and adding to my training tool box. It's pretty freaking fun to "be the squirrel" :D

Monday, August 17, 2015

Three Years

I've said it multiple times, when I decided to take on Seppel I had absolutely no idea what I would do with him.

For those who might be stumbling upon this blog, I got Seppel from an internet friend who passed away. Through the efforts of a dog forum and his owner's daughter we had him flown to OR from NC.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The summer of 2012 I joined another Pit Bull forum that had local members on it and I was re-introduced to the sport of Schutzhund/IPO. Seppel took to bite work immediately. The "club" was a group of people who got together on Saturdays and some weekdays. Unfortunately this club was 2.5 hours from my house and it was a really long way to drive for training. I ended up looking for trainers more locally and wound up finding my current trainers down in Salem. It's still an hour away but the drive is much more manageable, not to mention it has been totally worth it.

Seppel has exceeded any and all expectations I had for him. Before we started doing IPO I was really worried about what I would do with him. Training Seppel was very different from training my dog Seth. Seth picks up things fairly quickly and has been pretty easy to teach new things to. Seppel and I did not have the same kind of connection and I was really at a loss as to what to do with him because more often than not he really frustrated me. [I'm sure the feeling was mutual!].

Here we are three years later. We are in an IPO club. Seppel has his CGC, URO1, and a BH. We've got our sights set on an IPO-VO in October and and IPO1 next summer. He knows "all the things" when it comes to protection and could do all three IPO protection routines. We're playing catch up with Obedience and Tracking but he has also proven to be a great little worker and is a lot of fun.

I could not have lucked out more than I have. I'm so thankful to have a dog that I can compete with, in a sport that we both enjoy. He's taught me how to be a better dog owner and a better dog trainer.

I also could not have had a better dog to introduce me to the  Pit Bull breed. Seppel is dog selective but he is not all out dog aggressive. I don't know if he would ever actually grab a dog, but he's shown me in several instances that he could be aggressive. I believe if another dog wanted to go, he would be down. While he can be selective, he is controllable around most other dogs and can control himself when we are working. I am always really careful if I have him off leash somewhere, I try to be mindful and watch the area - if another dog comes into an area that we are in I will typically leash Seppel until the other dog is out of sight. Usually if I have his ball he's fine - all he cares about is the ball. He has a lot of energy but it is manageable. There have been days where I have been too sick to exercise him and he is okay although by day 2-3 he is pretty restless. Generally speaking if I don't do something with him daily he will follow me around and has a hard time settling down. Seppel is not a "real deal" apbt, but I think he is a very good "starter" dog for me in the breed. He is tenacious, he's always game to do whatever it is I want to do. He always wants to have fun and can usually handle anything I throw at him. As far as his personality goes I think he is everything a Pit Bull should be.

Seppel has absolutely changed my life and I am so thankful he's here!

He's even been teaching me how to be a helper!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What to Look for in a Dog Trainer

Just what should you be looking for, when looking for a dog trainer?

I think this is something important to write about and share because when I threw this question around to a few of my friends they agreed this question is kind of subjective.

I chose the trainers that I train with based on experience and certification. I was also looking for someone who specialized in the sport of Schutzhund. Jennifer has been in the sport of Schutzhund for 20+ years and is a Schutzhund judge. To become a DVG judge you must:
  • Be a minimum of 25 years old and maximum of 55 years old
  • Be a DVG member for a minimum of 5 years
  • Have at minimum, 1 year as training director (club or LV)
  • Have been a trial chairperson for a few trials
  • Only be a judge in one organization
  • Have titled two dogs from IPO 1 to IPO 3 or (VPG) and one of these dogs (or another dog) must have a BH and an FH
  • Have been a helper (in some cases theoretical knowledge is enough)

Ryan is a level 3 helper which is the highest certification you can receive. It means that he is certified to work competitions on the National and International level. He too has 20+yrs of dog experience.

For what I want to do, both Ryan and Jennifer are more than qualified. When I first met them for training I was able to see how they worked with both my dog and I. We share similar ideals and philosophies when it comes to dogs and I am comfortable with the way they train. Jennifer has used e-collars on some of the dogs she trains but has never made me feel pressured to use one. What I like about both Jennifer and Ryan is that they treat dogs as individuals and there is no one training method they use. Most of their training is motivational reward based training but they do use some aversives. I am not purely positive but I do not use harsh corrections with my dogs. I prefer to use rewards and motivation in my training. They are happy to accommodate that and I have never been pressured to do something with my dog that I am not comfortable with.

As a person who may not be looking at a specific sport here are some things I think are important to look at when considering someone.

-What are their qualifications? Do their personal dogs seem well trained? Have they titled dogs in any sports or conformation? How long have they been working with dogs? What is their training background? How much experience do they have training dogs?
****While having titled dogs is not a requirement for teaching the basics, if this person has done nothing with their dogs - how do you know they are capable of training your dog? A title essentially shows that the person was capable and willing of putting the work in to train their dog for something specific. It is a way to show the effort that they have put in in training the dog.
-What breeds do they have experience working with?
****You want to find someone who has experience with multiple dog breeds, also someone who sees dogs as individuals and doesn't approach every dog the same. Not every dog thinks the same way.

-What methods do they use?
****Be clear in what your intentions are. Does this trainer use aversives such a prong collars, choke chains, or leash corrections? Does this trainer use a clicker? Does this trainer use positive reinforcement only? I strongly encourage researching various training methods to decide what you think is best for your dog.
-Can you audit a private session or class?
****You should be able to watch this trainer train to decide if they would be a good match for you and your dog.
-Talk to people! Meet with various trainers, talk to them about your dog and what you are looking for. You don't have to settle with just one person, interview several and then decide who might be the best match for both you and the dog.

As I said previously, what we all seek in trainers is dependent on the individual and what they need.

At this point in time, you do not have to have any special qualifications to become a dog trainer. There are schools: Starmark Academy, National k9 School for dog trainers, Florida Dog Trainer[E-collar], Animal Behavior College just to name a few. There is also certification via CCPDT. However nothing is required and anyone can claim to be a dog trainer. As a dog owner it is our responsibility to research and advocate for our pets.
****Experience is more important to me than a piece of a paper. Many trainers have years of experience under their belt but have not gotten any special certifications. I wouldn't rely on a piece of paper to determine whether or not a trainer is a good one.

I would not recommend any type of "boot camp" or training where you leave the dog with the trainer for X weeks. While it's great to send your dog off for training, YOU need to be there to learn how to train YOUR dog! Not to mention you don't know how they are treating your dog if you are not there seeing the dog daily. An exception would be a place that boards & trains, while having you as the owner out multiple times a week to learn how to work your own dog. Overall I just don't think that type of training is necessary, you are better off scheduling a private lesson once a week so you can work one on one with the trainer to learn how to teach your dog specific behaviors.

In closing, for the goals I have personally I would not seek out a trainer who did not have titled dogs. Often times the trainers I recommend to people are active in the dog world, they either do obedience or they show in conformation as well as various other dog sports. Especially for training basics I feel an obedience instructor, or someone who competes in obedience, is more than capable of teaching basic commands because obedience as a sport is just an extension of the basics - sit, down, heel, stay etc.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. I didn't want to get into it too deeply but hopefully this gives you a place to start when looking for a trainer!