Sunday, December 30, 2012


Yesterday was the first dry day we've have in some time, so I decided it would be a good day to track. Tracking is an integral part of Schutzhund and can be a good confidence builder for your dog. Seth absolutely loves to track. Tracking had not come as easily for Seppel, when i first got him he couldn't smell food that was between his legs. It's like his nose didn't work properly. Now that he's been tracking, he definitely uses his nose a lot more. Between the boys, tracking definitely comes more naturally to Seth.

I found the *perfect* field yesterday. Well, I've actually laid track there before. It's a field owned by a business similar to intel, but it though - it's the weekend, I'm not going to let my dogs pee or poop there, just run the track and get out of there. The grass was the perfect length and I know people had not been walking on it which is ideal when the dogs are just learning.

I am assuming the security guard saw me lay the track and probably would have let me continue - had I not brought out a camera. I mean, I was out there for a good 30mins, so unless he just saw me, which I feel may be unlikely I think the camera brought him out. Long story short -  got kicked off the property, JUST as I was about to have Sepp track. So lame.

I passed three schools - all had things going on, boys scouts picking up trees, people in the field, and some weird event going on at a high school. I wound up at an elementary school, the grass had been cut at some point and it was fairly marshy. Ugh. But I didn't want to not track, the whole point of this day was to track. I figured I'd give it a go, if the dogs couldn't manage, they couldn't manage.

The dogs actually did alright. This was the first time I've ever done a 90degree turn with Seth and I think all in all, he managed to do it okay. We still need tons of practice and experience time. Both dogs went off track several times, I really credit this to the poor footing, neither boys are that experienced. Seth is better at tracking than Seppel is - he goes off a few times and even backtracked once [which you aren't supposed to allow, but I did because the field sucked] but gets back on track a lot more easily.

For those who don't track, it's pretty simple to lay one out. You set your flag in the ground on your left, stamp out a 2ft square the "scent pad" put some food on it, then walk heel to toe from the scent pad, in the beginning stages putting a piece of food in every heel print. At the end of your track, you make another 'scent pad' and drop some food in it. For Seth, on good grass I can skip several footsteps between food, for Seppel he's still about every 2-3 steps getting food. You don't want a dog airscenting, you want their nose to the ground the whole time, generally speaking you also don't want them back tracking. In a trial both dogs would have been docked points for going off track and for back tracking. In the beginning we laid straight tracks, we're now adding some soft arcs, and in Seth's case I wanted to try a 90 degree turn. We really haven't been tracking at all like we should have been... so the boys are rusty and the conditions for yesterday were crap. However, I'm proud that they both managed to follow the tracks!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dominance Theory/Making Eye Contact

What was the first thing they told us as kids when interacting with a dog? Put your hand in a fist and offer it to the dog to sniff before attempting to pet, but also, DON'T STARE A DOG IN THE EYES!

I work with someone who believes in the totally archaic Dominance Theory. Today I playfully amped Seppel up to go after the guy, and he proceeds to stare Seppel down. This guy is 6ft+ and is challenging my dog by staring at him. Seppel felt threatened and responded by barking at him.

I was like "Are you really staring him down?" And he says "He needs to know his place." I was like "You really believe in that dominance theory stuff still." He said "Yeah. You believe in training a dog to be aggressive." I said "It's not about aggression, it's about obedience." He stalked off saying we would agree to disagree.

You wouldn't stare a dog down for any reason other than to intimidate them. A submissive dog, or a dog who lacks confidence will look away, or get small. A confident dog who recognizes what he perceives as a threat is going to bark and challenge the person staring. Seppel is saying, 'Why are you looking at me like that? You're making me uncomfortable. Stop doing that." He's not trying to be boss, he's not trying to be nasty, he's saying he's not comfortable. I also believe that a fearful dog may react the same way. They aren't saying "I'm so boss!" They are saying "You are freaking me out."

I wish the dominance theory would just hurry up and die.

I would like to add also that yes, I am doing bitework with my Pit Bull. It's a GAME, I don't think he would actually go after someone who was not wearing a suit. If he did, the situation would probably have to be very serious and he would have to be feeding off of my actions. The thing that gets him going for bitework is a bite sleeve and a bite suit. He has never bitten a hidden sleeve or a human arm. When he's given a bite he is given the sleeve - like a toy - as a reward. As we continue to progress in training more commands will come into play, he will bite when told, he will release when told. Slowly he is learning to control his impulses without even knowing that is what we are doing. I would like to think he would go after a person if necessary, but this type of training is for us to go to trial and work for a title, it really doesn't resemble or mimic any sort of real life situation, at least not at this point.

I just have to remind myself that people tend to be against things that they don't full understand or are afraid of. I will continue learning different ways of training, educate myself on different dog sports, try to be as well rounded of a handler as I can be. I'm also not going to worry about my dog appropriately responding to a threatening situation.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Where did that come from??

We went to training today, we did a few escapes and some transports. We tried the bark and hold but again, my dog would not bark.

We worked on a few other things that I can't even give you a specific name for and he was totally on. He out-ed every time I asked. EVERY time! I never had to correct him or anything.

We then had Ryan hide in a blind across the field. Sepp knew he was there, but we were going to send him to the normal blind we "play" with. Of course, trying to convince him to go to the blind in front of us was a task because Sepp is like "The dude is back there!" I had to walk with him, but he did go around the blind and from there I sent him across the field, to which Ryan responded by hitting the stick on the blind.

As I'm running after Seppel Ryan gives him the sleeve. He was barking!!!!!

We did it a second time and this time I heard him barking. Straight up, barking!!!!!!!! Then when I came up to him and got the leash, he was barking!

We ended on that note. I was SO happy he was finally barking. I guess it's true, I'm the problem :p

Today was a GREAT day at training. I'm so proud of how far we've come and where we are going. I am also really glad that I found a place to train and found such awesome trainers to work with.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Feeling Afraid

Sorry to go completely off topic on what this blog is about, but I wanted to write about an experience I had today. I'm not riding enough to actually make a horse blog - maybe someday.

Today I went horseback riding for the first time since probably August or September. Basically, it's been so long I honestly can't remember the last time I got on my horse. I've been lunging her intermittently, for those of you non-horse people you put them on a long-line, mine is 30ft, and using a whip encourage the horse to run around. I move her through a canter and down into a trot by the time we're done.

My friend Mary was out this past Friday and said she'd be back out today around noon. I got to the barn around 11a because I wanted to lunge Cairo[my horse] before attempting to ride her in fear that she thought she was "feral" or "wild". This isn't a realistic fear, but I was prepared for her to be at least full of herself.

I put my saddle on Cairo and went to tighten the cinch. Since I have had her she has always been a little cinchy. Again - for non horse folks cinchy is where the horse is sensitive about having the cinch [part that holds the saddle on] tightened. She's never actually bitten me but she usually makes half hearted attempts, throws her head, or makes ugly faces. It's never been an issue, just something I know she does. Well, today was different. I actually felt afraid of her biting me. Like, I felt a rush of fear. She wasn't even close to biting me, but I felt fear. I told her to knock it off and tightened her cinch most of the way - just shrugging the feeling off. When we went out to the arena I felt kind of weird again, only because I guess I was expecting a giant explosion. Sometimes I get pictures in my mind of her striking out and kicking me in the head. Today I would say I felt that fear, that she might explode and I could get seriously injured. Of course, it didn't happen. She bucked around a little when I asked her to change directions, but nowhere near me.

I just think it's so bizarre, and a little sad that I feel this way. I feel completely detached from my horse. I think because I've spent so much time on the ground I've lost my sea legs, so to speak. Don't get me wrong, I've never been a super confident rider but I've had this mare for 7 years and our relationship has only improved and I've grown as a rider. When I first got her I would get off if she threw a fit, now I ride them out.

Of course, to make my day even better, Cairo did not disappoint. When my friend Mary showed up we actually started to ride, I asked her for a trot and she felt okay. I can't explain it in words, but I did feel like she might be a little mischievous. I don't know why I felt that way - it's probably more of a fear thing than actually knowing she was going to be a boob because we had only been walking around and she was relaxed and fine. We broke into a canter, another gal was lunging her horse and when he came up beside us Cairo started bouncing around wanting to take off. I stopped her and we proceeded to trot for some time and she tried to take off and did a little hopping again. I ended up trotting and trotting and trotting until I felt like she was tired enough/the edge was gone for her to focus and we cantered and she didn't try anything weird.

This whole fear thing was just a major realization to me that I need to get back into riding. Not just for me. I think it's really clear that my soon to be 21-year-old Thoroughbred mare is not ready to be 'done'. I just never thought that I would lose the confidence that I had gained. I think it's smart to be afraid of a 1200lb animal with a brain. However, you can't let the fear of 'what if' stop you from riding and having a good time. 99% of the time she doesn't challenge me and I know in all truthfulness Cairo is not a mean mare, she wouldn't try to hurt me. She's never been nasty or malicious.

It's just very clear to me that I have spent way too much time on the ground and it's time to get back into the saddle.

Sorry for the off topic post, but I really wanted to share.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

You're so spontaneous, er, impulsive!

One thing I've come to learned about the Pit Bull is that they can be very impulsive. They are act now and think later kinds of dogs.

When Seppel first arrived he was very impulsive. The first few walks we took he would cross over in front of me to sniff something and when I walked into him was like "Whoa, where did you come from?" It's like, hello, I've been on the other end of the leash the whole time!

Over a year has passed and Seppel is a completely different dog. In training, and even in other things we do he constantly checks in with me. Don't get me wrong, if the thing he wants is more exciting than I am at the time he will occasionally forget me. Even in those moments where he loses focus he will usually check back in with me after he's done something impulsive, like "Eeek, lost myself, sorry!" 

I think consistency has been the best thing for him. His old owner complained that he ran the fence line and it was impossible to make him stop without physically catching him. When he first arrived he completely tuned me out and I had to step into his path a few times for him to go "Oh." Every time he ran the fence line I would go out there, physically stop him, and bring him inside. Eventually something turned on and he started responding to his name, coming when called even when he was busy running the fence line. He's not 100%, he doesn't always stop immediately, but 99% of the time I call and he comes - leaving the thing that he's barking at.

At our last training session we were sending him around a blind by baiting it with a toy. I'm not sure where my brain was. The trainer told me not to drop the toy but to pretend I had. I did, I sent him, and when he came around my face totally dropped because I thought he missed the toy! He completely read my body language too and thought he had also. I then realized I had it in my pocket and had to throw it for him. It was HILARIOUS. It also really showed me in that moment that he is a lot more keyed into me than he used to be, because not only had I convinced myself he missed it - but I made him second guess himself too!

I believe taking him places, using food as a motivator to reinforce him 'leaving' whatever distraction is going on around us really helped to get him to start looking to me. In the beginning going into places like Petco was overwhelming for him and he wouldn't even take food. I'm fairly certain those kinds of places and experiences were very new for him because his former owner did not drive. As we've continued to go into pet stores and meet people his confidence has grown and he will take food from me no problem. He's also a lot less reactive and even if he loses his mind for a moment I can usually bring him back in. His 'leave it' command has gotten much stronger. I know 'leave it' should mean they 100% leave something alone, for my dogs I don't care if they look at something as long as they aren't trying to get it. If you want to watch something, that's fine, but I'm telling you to leave it which means you stay with me and if I want you to perform a command you need to do it when I ask you to do it. Seppel is pretty reliable at this and over the months has definitely gained better self restraint.

I will say from experience, there is nothing more frustrating than your dog being so amped they won't take food or toys. It's happened a few times with Seppel and I've just had to rely on him following some basic commands, like sit and down to use to distract him from his nerves.

Seppel is still very much impulsive. I don't trust him off leash with distractions and probably never will. However, I think his self control can only improve with time by introducing distractions and rewarding calm or attentive behavior. I've accepted that he will always probably be the 'fly by the seat of my pants' kind of a dog. It's actually something that I enjoy in many ways because it's a huge part of his character. I love my impulsive dog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good job Sepp!

Today I pulled a muscle in my right leg which is already damaged from a bad ankle roll.

Just walking around was absolute agony and Seppel was due for a nail trim. I asked Danielle if she would dremel his nails for me because I was afraid if I got down on the ground I wouldn't be able to get back up. When I do Seppel's nails I have him lay on his side.

At first he was a little weird when she came at him with the dremel and wanted him to lay down. Some of it is that I think he was like 'huh? you don't normally do this to me, do I really have to?' I told him to lay down, as did she, and he did. I initially went to pet his head but realized he'd start moving - it was a total annoying owner moment :p

He didn't move a muscle and let her do his nails no problem.

It makes me feel good that he will allow someone else to do something to him and not be a jerk about it. Not that ever thought he would do something, but it was a good test!

Dogs that Bite

I was looking at old journal entries from when Seppel first arrived. I'll preface this entry by saying a dog biting a human is never acceptable IMO. I mean I guess outside of defending themselves from being beaten, there is never a time that it should be okay.

I put my dogs through very uncomfortable situations, I have vaccinated them, taken their temperatures, trimmed their nails, bathed them, cleaned ears, drawn blood and they have never offered to bite me.

Back in November of last year I was playing Seppel's favorite game. The game consists of me taking a rope toy and swinging it around, Sepp will do back flips and jump for it. A woman came up to me in the parking lot, commenting that it was good exercise. I think it happened when she turned to walk off, but I casually moved my hand and Seppel grabbed my wrist! He immediately let go and you could tell he was like "That is not what I meant to grab." I was so stunned, but it was kind of funny at the same time because it must have been just ask shocking for him as it was for me.

I think Seppel was raised specifically to not be mouthy. He will not wrestle, he won't mouth me or chew on me ever. I know his owner had a very aggressive dog before him, and I think she really tried hard to make sure he would never think using his mouth on a person was acceptable. I could also be talking out of my ass and he's just that way - but I firmly believe his former owner worked very hard to make sure it wasn't a behavior he had.

Through everything I have put Seppel through, he has never ever offered to bite me. It absolutely blows my mind that people would live with a dog that would bite them, that people are willing to walk on eggshells in their own house, tip toeing around their dog.

A particular situation I wanted to talk about is a dog I know that at 16 weeks his owners wanted to euthanize him because he was so aggressive towards them. A veterinarian took it upon themselves to save this dog, they placed him with a breed rescue [he was a purebred], the breed rescue adopted him to someone I know. This person has him knocked out 2x a year to be shaved down, she cannot handle him, if he doesn't want to get into the car she can't make him because she doesn't want to get bitten. He's the kind of dog who will sit there wagging his tail and suddenly lash out and bite you. It completely boggles my mind. There is no way I would put up with that kind of behavior!

We used to have a toy poodle that came in for grooming when I first started working at the vet clinic. The owners actually had all of his teeth pulled[not at our clinic] because he was so aggressive. When they brought him in he would be trying to bite them/gum them. They took care of him until he was like... 18 years old or something ridiculous.

I guess for me, I wonder, what kind of life is the dog having? If the dog feels like it needs to lash out and a eat a person all the time - is that dog really living a good life?

These types of situations with human aggression and lack of bite inhibition are pretty few and far between, but there are just some dogs out there that are wired wrong and it doesn't matter what kind of training you do, outside of not touching the dog as 'management' it's sometimes better to let these kinds of dogs come back as something else, at least that is how I feel.

Monday, December 17, 2012


In May of 2012 I had one of the doctors I work give Sepp a thorough exam. Since about December 2011 he was having skin infections off and on as well as hives. Benedryl didn't touch his symptoms. He also sneezed quite a bit. The vet recommended allergy injections so we sent out blood.

Welcome to the PNW Sepp!

The blood results came back with several types of grasses, a couple weeds, and mold and dust mites. I started giving him the injections. I can't say when it officially worked, but after starting them he stopped having skin infections and the hives went away.

We started the series giving an injection every four days, slowly building up the amount we would give. So the first injection was 0.1ml, second injection 0.2ml. Sometimes dogs are so sensitive you have to give it in even smaller amounts than what is suggested. At one point I believe I gave 0.5ml or 0.6ml and he reacted to it - it stung when I gave it. Because he reacted to the larger amount we had to back off a little and slowly increase the dose. These days we're down to one injection a month, of 1ml of allergy serum. He takes the injections really well [thank god].

Not every dog responds super well to the injections, but if you can try it, I think it's worth it to do so. Heska says it's about 60-80% that respond. Steroids are the most common treatment for allergies. I've been on prednisone myself, and it made me feel horrible. I would rather hold off on using steroids for as long as we can. I definitely understand that this is an option and you need to do whatever you can to make your dog comfortable. But, if you can afford the blood work and shots I strongly recommend it because it has worked wonders for Sepp.

**Edited to add that there are also nasal drops now available. If injections aren't your thing the nasal drops would probably be fairly easy to administer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Biking with Seppel.

Back in January I was brave and decided I would start biking with Seppel. Sepp really needed the energy outlet and I figured it would be a good option for both of us to get into shape. I read online that many pit bull owners found this to be great exercise, that their dogs loved it and would burn off so much extra energy.

Apparently, Sepp didn't get the bike riding memo.

Some days we would ride and he would run fast for the first 5mins or so, and then drop into a trot. Other days we would start out and he would not move above a trot.

I even went out and bought a Springer bike attachment for him, but he was so slow I was almost dragging him while he was attached to the spring.

Here is a video showing the difference between biking with Seth and Sepp:

I don't know what it is. I haven't tried biking since we[LOL "he" I don't run on it!] started using the treadmill. He can run on that for a solid 10-15 minutes so I KNOW it isn't because he's too tired. Even biking, I know he isn't tired because if we see another dog or a cat, or heaven forbid a feakin' squirrel, he's pulling and running his little heart out.

I pretty much decided he just wasn't/isn't that interested in biking and haven't pushed the issue.

As you can see, Seth LOVES bike riding. He LOVES to pull the bike - he's a total spazz about it and gets uber excited to go. I've considered taking the two of them at the same time. Maybe Seth would give Sepp a little competition, but there's no way I could manage them both without dying.

I guess for now, we'll be sticking to the treadmill. When summer comes around and the weather is better we may try biking again, if not for Seppel's benefit, for Seth's.


If you are part of any dog forums online you will at some point heard of 'Nothing in Life is Free' or 'No Free Lunch'.

When I heard about NILIF the article I read tried to say that you should teach your dog to wait for you to exit a doorway first because if the dog came out first the dog would think it was dominant or in charge. I believe when a dog pushes out the doorway ahead of you, the dog is thinking "Heck yeah! We're leaving! I'm so excited I must push past you!" Using the nothing in life is free policy, you teach your dog to 'wait', you put them in a sit, and exit the doorway first. I feel mostly this teaches the dog impulse control, that it isn't all about them and what they want to do - more about what you want them to do.

I read an article that talked about wolves in the wild. It talked about how a wolf might have a rabbit, another wolf comes along, rolling around belly up acting all shy and submissive. The wolf with the rabbit pays no mind and the wolf slinking closer steals the rabbit and takes off!! Dogs are much like their wild relatives - they are opportunists and will take advantage of a good opportunity.

I do think there are some cases of dominant behavior. If your dog stands over you while you lay in bed and is growling every moment you move, I would view that as dominant behavior. I would say that is a pretty rare instance that a dog displays that kind of behavior, but I have heard of it happening.

For the most part I feel like our dogs are not out to control our lives or boss us around, mostly it's a matter of teaching them how to interact properly with us by teaching them some manners and showing them what we expect from them.

NILIF is a great way to lay out some ground rules for life in your house. NILIF basics would be;

- Having your dog sit and wait for you to give the okay before it eats its food.
- Having your dog sit and wait while you exit a doorway, and exiting after you give the okay.
- Doing tricks or following commands for treats.
- Making your dog sit or down before throwing a toy or engaging in play with a toy.
- Being invited onto the couch or bed, not jumping up without permission.

I don't practice NILIF religiously in my house. For the most part, my dogs respect my space and know where they belong in the house. On occasion if someone starts being rude/unruley I will bring the NILIF back out, bring them back to square one. I think the best part about NILIF is it teaches your dog patience, and also teaches them to look to you when they want something. Instead of just taking over the couch - they are asking if it is okay.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seppel - the Frustrator

Monday, I wanted to kill Seppel.

We went to training, my Ibizan Hound friend came along. They had called to tell me our decoy couldn't make it, but I missed the phone call. As it was, I really wanted to work on the bark & hold and was glad he wouldn't be there so we could try the things we worked on during the week.

I was highly confident Sepp would bark. He did it several times last week without issue.

We went into the building we sometimes work in, I handed Seppel to the trainer and proceeded to agitate him. HE WOULD NOT BARK!!!!!!!

We tried and tried and tried to get him to bark. We must have told him to speak 100 times and all he would do is this weird growly noise. We tried tying him to the wall, which then made him shut down completely and he wouldn't even make his goofy noise.

I even tried to get him to do it outside, by the time we were done working [we did some blind checks] I got him to let out two woofs. I'm really glad our decoy wasn't there... because he really blew the wind out of my sails when he wouldn't bark.

This dog absolutely blows my mind. Truly, when he's good he's AMAZING, and when he's bad, he's really freakin' bad!

When we got home, he barked for me as if nothing had ever happened.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Seppel is not an off-leash dog.

Before I got Seppel I really wanted an Ibizan Hound and a German Shepherd and a Doberman. BUT I really wanted an Ibizan Hound and a friend happens to show and breed them and was going to be having a litter in early 2012. The thing is, my friend's 'founding bitch' if you will, is absolutely amazing! She does obedience with this dog which is almost unheard of.

Well, Sepp came along.

It's funny because my main reservation of having a sighthound is that the dog could never be an off leash dog.

Driving home from training today I asked my friend with Ibizans if she ever thought she could even trust Ki [her amazing obedience hound!] off leash. She told me no.

Thinking about it, for Sepp to get to trial he will have to be reliable off leash, however performing in a trial and show atmosphere is different than running around in an open space. I hope when we make it to trial Sepp will be very obedient and well behaved but I know I will never fully trust him off leash.

Don't get me wrong, I have taken all three of my dogs to a giant 100 acre field and let them run around. There was nowhere for them to go, no people to distract them. We didn't stay out there for super long, the dogs had a good run and that was that. I just don't see a point that I will ever be able to trust him to not bolt off after something. I've had him over a year now and he has come so far from the super impulsive dog who didn't know I was attached to his leash. More often than not he will think before acting, but he is still super impulsive. He has a decent prey drive that I will never underestimate, especially after the encounter with my horse!

I've spoken about it in earlier posts. When Sepp and I go out - we represent the breed. I feel like I would be doing a disservice to my dog, and to everyone else's dogs by letting him off leash somewhere - running the risk of a negative dog encounter or a negative human encounter. Even if your dog is well behaved off-leash, you should really consider where you are at and if it's worth the risk. I rarely have my dogs off-leash in public, if we go to a big empty field, or go to a friend's place with property - I will let them run free. The instances my dogs aren't on a leash are usually transferring to and from the car, walking into work, or leaving work if everything is closed up. Even though my dogs are reliable off leash, I see no reason to test it all the time.

It was kind of cool to find the mutual realization between my friend and I that it simply was not worth the risk. Sepp doesn't have to be an off leash dog. We do fine with him being on leash and he's adequately exercised in other ways in his life. It isn't important for Seppel to be reliable off leash.

So in a way, I got my hound that can't be off leash. It just happens to be in a wiggly pit body.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Our House is Toyless

Today I went shopping for toys for Secret Santa dogs. I went to several different stores and each place asked about a specific toy I was buying thinking I would be bringing it home to my dogs.

The truth of it is, we don't really have toys at our house.

Mostly we don't have toys because Seth is a jerk and doesn't like to share. Before Seppel came along, he would share with LiLo. I had a wubba skin and an old rope toy that would be in the yard for the dogs and Seth would grab one of the toys and offer it to LiLo - sometimes hitting her with it to get her to play. LiLo is really the only dog in Seth's adult life that he has been able to share toys with. A long, long time ago he could share with my friend's dog Reno - but those days are gone.

When Seppel arrived I allowed them to try tugging with a toy once. Both of them were way too stiff for me to let it continue. In Seppel's previous home he had another dog that he could play tug with. I've seen videos, I know it happened. But I also know eventually he had to be rotated with the other dog because the other dog would attack him.

For me, having toys out is not worth the risk. Not only do I not want the dogs to get into it, but I don't want the cat to get targeted if he walks by too closely when Sepp has a toy. I don't know how big his bubble is when he has things, but I've never left things out to find out.

That's like feeding time. I feed Seppel in the garage and Seth and LiLo inside. Typically Sepp gets fed first because I fill his dish, set it down, fill the other two and take them inside. I did make a mistake one time where I wasn't thinking and put his dish down with LiLo and Seth still out there - and he let LiLo have his food! Just the same, I choose not to feed them together.

In some ways I feel bad. I house-sit for several people who have toy boxes for their dogs and their dogs can take toys out as they please. Seth LOVES going to those places and taking out every single toy [I watch him to be sure he doesn't get nasty with the dogs we watch]. However, the dogs do all get some toy time and some bone time now and then. If it's marrow bones I will leave Sepp in the garage and Seth and LiLo in the fenced off side yard. If it's toys, I will usually take them out individually to play with them. Seppel is the most toy driven of them all, he has a few rope tugs and a jolly ball. Seth has a couple rope toys too. Overall I don't think they are lacking because they don't have free access to toys all the time. It's just one less thing I have to worry about.

So, we're kind of a toyless house. I wish I could just not worry about it. Seeing clips of Cesar Milan throwing balls for 20+ dogs on his property makes me cringe. I don't know how he can not worry about a fight breaking out especially with so many powerful dogs in one area. There's no way he hasn't had to deal with dogs getting into it. I've even seen a clip or two of dogs on the property having a problem. I don't care how 'in control' you are - throwing a ball for a bunch of dogs really just doesn't seem like a good idea. Even with just two of mine, all I can ever picture is Seppel grabbing Seth or them both letting the toy go and trying to kill each other.

The fearful side completely outweighs the side that makes me want to try and see what happens.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trust yourself, trust your dog, think before you speak.

I want to touch on something I experienced recently. A friend alerted me to their concern for Seppel because they felt in his training video he appeared to be subdued and not his perky self. This person has not seen Seppel in a long time, when she did last see him - he was crazy!

As my sister told me - when you put things on the internet you are basically asking for an opinion and people will give it to you. The above really worried me because I thought that if this person had noticed it, maybe others had but just weren't willing to say anything. If it had been anyone else saying what this person said it wouldn't have bothered me nearly as much. I think more than anything it threw me for a loop. I appreciated that she felt like she could bring it to my attention, and she did it in a private way. But it really shook me up and upset me because I thought I was doing something really wrong.

After this experience it really makes me take a step back and try to think before I speak, especially online. Sometimes the entirety of the situation is unclear at first glance. You might think something is a certain way - only to find out it isn't. I think this is a good reminder that sometimes things aren't as they appear and before you stress or jump to conclusions about something you should take time to find out the entire story.

This is also another lesson to me as well that I need to trust myself. I would never force my dogs to participate in a particular sport if they had no interest. Yes, I trim their nails and put them in the bath tub - those are  facts of life. However, I would never force my dog to do a particular dog sport. This is why I didn't pursue Schutzhund with Seth, he was not interested and it wasn't worth trying to put him through training for it because the drive was just not there. I'm not one of those people willing to shock the poop out of my dog with a shock collar to make them perform a certain task. I am not one of those people who only want perfect scores. I am the kind of competitor that just wants to pass. I mean, I'd prefer to pass a little above whatever the passing score is, but I'm not looking for a 100% score. For me what counts is how my dog does in the moment. Competing in Rally-O with Seth has been a blast. I appreciate that he still listens to me even though I know he can feel how tense and nervous I am. Sometimes he's a boob and he doesn't always listen well, but whenever we go out together we have a good time.

I know my dogs and I feel like I would know if they are enjoying themselves or not. If we are training, I know when to stop on a good note, I also know when 'it's not working' and it's time to quit for the day. People will form their own opinions about anything but only I am living the reality. I think it's very important to remember - especially on the internet, it is easy to tell someone how you would fix a situation. It is easy to say "I would do this." The problem is, these people are not living your life. They don't really know what it is like to be you. They don't see your dog everyday, they don't know what you go through.

I think it's very important to remember to trust yourself as a handler, trust your dog, and just a general golden rule - think hard before you let the words flow :)

Monday, December 3, 2012


In 2010 a client walked into the clinic with a Cane Corso. The guy was giving German commands and when I asked about the dog he said he was doing Schutzhund. Back in 2010 I had Seth and LiLo. I brought Seth to training with this guy's club - Willamette Valley Schutzhund - a few times. They met on Sundays and Wednesdays - at the time I worked Wednesdays, and I couldn't always drive out to where they trained on Sundays. It was $100 a month, but I couldn't afford to pay it and only go a handful of times so I quit going. As it was - Seth was not going to be interested in bitework. He's too easy going and doesn't have a super high prey drive. Plus - if you have met him, you know he is a goof. Seth did excel at tracking and it was something I wanted to pursue with him, but not with that particular club at that time.

I decided to focus on obedience with Seth, we started out doing UKC Rally-O. He actually got his URO1 title this year.

When Seppel came I wasn't sure what I was going to do with him. With his mass amounts of energy I knew he needed to do something, but I wasn't sure what. I joined the Ultimate Pit Bull Forum in May. One of the admins is Diane Jessup. If you're a Pit Bull person you may have heard of her. Her website is Working Pit Bull she has titled many Pit Bulls in the sport of Schutzhund. Diane invited me to come up and check out her training group. They were just starting out, they were meeting about 2hrs away in Washington. There are lots of "stories" on the internet, I even had people close to me warn me about her. Diane is a no bullshit person. She tells it like it is and she doesn't sugarcoat things. She trains entirely with positive reinforcement only - which was new for me. I have always trained using food rewards, but I still use corrections. I decided to give the group a go and went several times. I felt that Diane was a Pit Bull person and would best be able to tell me what I should be doing with my dog. When I met up with them - they all had Pit Bulls and were all Pit Bull people. They were very welcoming and the experience was super educational. After a few times out there we even got the awesome opportunity to work with Shade Whitesel. Seppel got his first try at bitework with this group. If Diane had not invited me, I'm not sure what Seppel and I would be doing right now. Seppel had never done bitework in his whole life, but he showed a lot of promise and seemed to enjoy it from the beginning. Eventually the group's schedule changed and I was unable to make it to training, plus it was just so dang far away!

I started looking for Schutzhund clubs locally. I fell onto Vom Haus Reid German Shepherds, there was a link to Pet Village which is their boarding and training facility. I contacted Jennifer Reid and we came out for training in August. I was semi-leery because they are German Shepherd people. In my opinion, German Shepherds are not the same as bulldogs and my concern is that training a herding dog is not the same. As it turns out Jennifer likes Pit Bulls and we ended up having a lot in common. We train the same way and feel the same way about a lot of dog things. We got along right from the beginning. She's a schutzhund judge and has been working with dogs since she was 12 or 13. She totally had my dream life, and I actually trusted her/liked her so much that I asked about boarding Seppel for 2 weeks in October. I was going to be house sitting and Seth is good buddies with the dog I was watching. I didn't want to have to worry about Seppel eating their dog or their cats and I didn't trust my parents to watch Seppel while I was away. I left Seppel in training for 13 days and was really impressed with everything he had learned.

This is footage taken after being in training for 2 weeks:

Today we went to training and he did pretty well for the most part. We are still working out some major kinks in his bark and hold. When he was in training he barked no problem and was really good at it. Since I have been there he only growls, right now we keep a fence between him and the decoy, to help agitate him, but also so he can't get any cheap shots. He's horrible and won't bark. Today I tried telling him to 'speak'. It worked the first time, but the second time - what we caught on video, he would not bark!

This is from today:

A lot of people thought I was insane for doing Schutzhund with a Pit Bull. Everyone asks "Why would you teach a Pit Bull to bite a person?" It isn't about attacking people, it is like the ultimate game of tug. As we progress with training it all comes down to obedience. In the end, he will have better impulse control, and I will have better control over him just in general. Since 2010 - when I was first introduced I knew it was something I wanted to compete in, but knew my competition dog was long and far away. I feel so blessed that I have a dog who can do it, who wants to do it! For the most part I don't think Seppel would ever bite a human if they did not have a sleeve on. However, he has shown me that if someone is menacing/threatening he will bark - as far as I'm concerned I'm happy enough if he will just make noise and sound scary. In training, he will get excited when he sees our decoy, but he doesn't fully turn on until the decoy is in the suit, with the sleeve. We are training for competition, not for personal protection so all in all I think it will always be about the sleeve and the suit for him. As you can see in both videos he's having a serious blast. No amount of treadmill running makes him as tired as bitework does, it's a mental and physical game for him. Again, I feel so lucky to have him and to be able to have the opportunity to pursue my dream! I'm hoping by next summer we will be able to try for his 'B' it's an obedience test and the first trial you go to before competing for a Schutzhund title. Schutzhund is comprised of three things; tracking, obedience, and protection. I would be happy if we could get his first IPO1 title, but it's going to take a lot of work and time. We'll focus on the 'B' and go from there!

This picture belongs to Diane Jessup. This was Seppel's 1st bite!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

On dog parks...

Friday a client at work had questions about taking his dog to the dog park. I first asked if his dog was other dog friendly and he told me he wasn't sure because the dog met his friend's bossy Pomeranian and his dog [a cattle dog mix] proceeded to try to grab the small dog.

This is WHY I do not like dog parks! There are too many variables! Here's a guy, who has seen his dog be aggressive towards another dog, but he still wants to try the dog park. I advised that I am not a huge dog park fan, that his dog might do better with larger dogs. I told him he could give the dog park a go, but that I think it would be better to go to a dog daycare and have his dog's temperament evaluated in a controlled environment. The thing is, dogs can still get into it at daycare but they are being supervised by dog people who know what they are doing [if it's a good daycare hehe]. At least at daycare the dog's temperaments have been evaluated and they can try to match dogs appropriately.

At the dog park you have no control over what comes in the gate. The dog parks around here are not monitored by anyone in particular. Almost every time I have been to the dog park it has not been a good experience. The first time I ever went was with my dog LiLo - she was my first puppy, I took her to the dog park where a medium sized shepherd went into prey mode. LiLo was screaming and rolling and peeing between my legs and the dog was trying to get her. The owner asked ME to grab HER dog! I was like 'huh?' Another experience was when I had Seth at the park, there was no one there. I called my friend with her Pit Bull and said that no one was there - the boys could play and we could leave if anyone came. My friend came out, probably 10-15mins later someone shows up with a boxer. These people have him on leash and they go on to tell my friend and I that the dog has attacked several other dogs and they are working with a trainer so they brought him out to test his progress.

Wait. What?

Yeah, they were bringing a known dog aggressive dog to the dog park.

After the boxer experience I decided this was all not a good idea. Having Seppel now, I would never even consider taking him to the dog park. The issue is mostly that even if Seppel were a dog friendly dog he's powerful enough to kill another dog and if he and another dog got into a scuffel - caused by the other dog, I could end up in a lot of trouble even though my dog is just protecting himself. It's just not worth it.

As it is, Seppel is not super dog friendly. I believe Seppel gets along with Seth and LiLo so well because Seth and LiLo are pretty easy going dogs. LiLo can be a little grumpy sometimes but it's mostly noise and Seth is just a doofus. Seth and Seppel are a lot alike in personality, Seppel is just the more intense version of Seth. I have noticed that Seppel appears to get along better with female dogs. I watch my boss's older Golden - she and Seppel have had words a time or two, but for the most part they just ignore each other and can coexist just fine. I do a lot of house sitting and I did bring him with me to watch a female bulldog. The bulldog can be kind of bossy but she and Seppel got along really well playing chase out in the yard, they were fine in the house together because for the most part they ignored each other. Seppel also gets along well with my friend's Pit Bull Karmann. They like to play, when we first introduced them he would bark at her and jump around, I wasn't sure if it was friendly or not, but after a few days of him acting this way it looked more like a play behavior, they met and they get along. I did try introducing him to a lab puppy and he immediately wanted to put his mouth on the dog. I also tried introducing him to my friend's lab mix, she was really pushy and he reacted appropriately by growling but didn't immediately get nasty. Honestly, I'm just glad he and Seth and LiLo can get along. He doesn't need to have tons of friends.

This past weekend walking out of a pet store, the pet store owner had a GIANT American Bulldog - with his nuts. The dog ignored his owner and came up to Seppel, I kept myself between the dogs pushing Sepp towards my truck - Sepp was just starting to get a little riled up because this dog was posturing and being a jerk, when the owner smacked his dog and said 'sorry'. It was a tense situation, I'm sure Sepp could read the energy I was giving off, I was very tense and worried because this dog is giant and it would suck if they got into it, the dog was HUGE and all I could picture was having to try to break them apart.

This is my favorite Suzanne Clothier article, it talks about dog interactions and is a really good read:
He just wants to say "hi!"

The thing that I think is so weird is that people expect their dogs to love every dog they meet. As people we don't like everyone that we meet, why should our dogs??

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Pit Bull Changed my Life

This is a post my dad has written about life with a Pit Bull.

I believed half of the bad things I had heard about the Pit Bull breed. I have a prejudice against the breed. I was unprepared for what actually arrived at my house. I felt fear, sense of adventure, and the wish that it was all a dream. I was surprised at the size, the color, the fear, that I saw in the dog from me. I think Seppel had the same emotions that I had - except they were towards me. It's been an excellent learning experience for me. Seppel is acceptable to me as a friend, but, I still have doubts.

The doubts that I have are: If I do something toward him that he doesn't understand - what will he do to me? How can the two of us learn to control his over-the-top enthusiasm towards everything? My biggest fear is if the gate is left open, unattended, would he charge out and challenge someone? I don't feel that he would run out and bite someone, but I do worry that he would act defensively towards someone and if they reacted inappropriately that he would hurt them. I have these feelings because he is a powerful dog and the breed reputation makes me afraid of what he is capable of.

However, at this point I trust him when I'm sitting in the chair or on the floor, but I would not put my face in his face. Not because he has shown me that he would hurt me, but because I'm afraid.

I feel that the good beautiful dog, friendly dog, would protect me if I needed him to. He is an easy keeper - he doesn't dig, he doesn't chew things up.

The only things I really don't like about him are that he is a licker, in his friendliness he doesn't realize the power he has. He could knock me down easily and he jumps up. When he hits me with his tail, it stings.

In summation I am not a dog person, however, Seppel has changed my mind about the breed when it comes to him. If I were younger, he would make an excellent, smart companion/competition partner.

-Tony, Suzanne's dad.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dogs Running on the Treadmill

As I mentioned in the last post and shared a video - my dogs run on a treadmill. Eventually I would like to buy a carpet mill - just can't justify spending $400 right now - especially when I have a working treadmill.

The treadmill is perfect as the rainy season has only just begun, so when it's too gross to do things outside I can just put the dogs on the treadmill. Right now I run them almost everyday. Seppel has been on one before and has been a pro almost from the beginning. Seth and LiLo took some warming up but they are both very confident running on the treadmill now.

A few weeks ago I would have never believed the dogs would be eager to get on the treadmill. Seppel is the most eager of all. I've used Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, and canned food as bait. Almond Butter is actually the best choice because it's thick and sticks to the spoon so you can feed less. Lately I've been using canned food, I split a can between the three dogs. I don't reward them as often as I did in the beginning, but I still reward them fairly frequently because that is the whole reason they want to be on the machine. When I initially started them out I put them in a harness and held them through the process... I think I only did this 1-2 times before they were willing to walk on it by themselves. As we went I just started upping the speed. Seppel got into it right away because he's clearly done this before - Seth took about a week to get really confident in the machine.

As I said in the other entry, I see a HUGE difference in Seppel when he has been on it vs when he hasn't.

Here is an update video from tonight:

Not everyone should own a gun.

Before Seppel came into my life, my Pit Bull experience was limited to dogs I've met working in the veterinary field and dogs I have met owned by people I know. I'm not sure when exactly I decided I wanted a Pit Bull, but at some point a neighbor had a litter of puppies. I remember stopping by to see how much the pups were and fell in love with a black and white puppy. It was from that point I decided someday I wanted one [preferably AmStaff], I wanted it to be Black & White and wanted to name it Dakota. I was convinced I would get one, train it properly, socialize it, and I would show the world how great these dogs can be. Such a pipe dream! As I talk with other Pit Bull people I have begun to realize - some dogs are wired wrong, doesn't matter what you do, they are what they are. I also have learned that it isn't all in how you raise them. There are many "bad" dogs out there who have not been beaten, they live leisurely lives and are well taken care of.

I have also come to see the different sides of the Pit Bull world. I went from a dog forum where everyone had to crate & rotate, they didn't believe in tying dogs outside, everyone believes in management, to a forum where everyone supports tying out dogs [if done properly], culling if necessary, where I also learned that not only is this breed not for everyone - it doesn't make you a horrible person if you cannot manage this kind of a dog. It's understandable when people are passionate about things that they get riled up. I lurk a lot on a fairly popular Pit Bull forum. One day a person came on, not really asking for advice. I think if anything they just wanted someone to say "It's okay." These people had four dogs, one was a Pit Bull. The Pit Bull was buddies with a lab mix that they had. One day the owner was standing maybe two feet away when the Pit Bull hauled off and attacked the lab mix with the intent of killing it. After that they separated the dogs. As the story unfolds the dog has had a sketchy past, the dog has been dog aggressive in the past and is also becoming aggressive with humans. The owner was posting to say "I think we're going to have to euthanize our dog." People whipped around saying "You do what you want, but this situation is EASILY managed." They got absolutely no support, instead they were treated like crap for even thinking that humane euthanasia was an option. I think it's really unfortunate that people so quickly jump to those kinds of conclusions. I sometimes wonder how many people out there are dealing with a dog they really can't handle - but are too afraid to come to these forums and ask for help. Afraid that they will be harassed and shot down for being a sub-par owner.

The thing about dog management is that it isn't easy, especially with this breed. Most Pit Bulls are high energy dogs, if you are in a crate & rotate situation you need to make sure all of your dogs get adequate exercise, if you're rotating Pit Bulls it's even more imperative that they get adequate physical and mental stimulation. I work 7:30am-7:00pm. When I get home I barely have time to eat, shower, and get to bed. If I had to crate & rotate my dogs it would add another couple of hours to my evening trying to spend time with everyone individually. I'm not saying that euthanasia is the route to go in every situation, I am not one to support an easy way out and I feel people need to take responsibility for their choices. However, on the other side of the coin, if the person is not cut out for managing an aggressive dog I feel euthanasia is a safer option vs. the dog being in a poorly managed situation - getting out - biting someone - and spending its last days in a shelter before being killed.

Before I had Seppel, I had no idea how serious this breed is. Don't get me wrong - there are some Pit Bulls out there who do act more like poodles or golden retrievers, but they are few and far between. My friend Danielle's Pit Bull Karmann is a fairly mellow dog. She has some prey drive and she has the energy to get up and go when she wants to, but she can hold still. I would say that mellow personality is more rare unless you know the lines you're buying/you're purchasing more of a show dog. Seppel's energy out-let needs are much greater than that of Seth and LiLo. I've started running all three of my dogs on the treadmill, mostly for Seppel and Seth's benefit.

Seppel was a pro at this, he's had to have been on one before. Contrary to popular belief, treadmills aren't just a tool for dog fighting - they are a way to condition your dog and burn off that excess energy. I tried bike riding with Seppel and all he would do is trot along. There's no way I'm going to ride my bike for hours just to give Seppel an adequate workout. The treadmill is AWESOME. Seth runs for about 10mins at 8mph, Seppel is now just up to 15mins at 8mph. I rotate between the two boys and try to get 20mins in for both of them. I've noticed Seppel is a lot calmer, I run the dogs almost everyday. He settles a lot better after he's been on the treadmill as well. He's never been one to pace or be anxious, but without some energy release he doesn't settle down as well and moves every time I move. I've certainly learned this is not a leisurely breed!

I was at petsmart the other day getting canned food for treadmill bait. I brought Seppel with me. The guy at the counter was all "Oh they are such a misunderstood breed!" I said "Yeah..." he says "You know, they are banned in Europe!" I'm thinking, no kidding. I own one, I know all about BSL. He then says "They are really great dogs." I looked at him and said "Yeah, they are, but they aren't poodles. Not everyone should own a gun, not everyone should own a Pit Bull."

I don't know if the guy really got it. Even as a kid I was thinking that if I raised it and trained it right, a Pit Bull could be like any other dog. Honestly - they are not like every other dog. They are intense, stubborn, intelligent, they can be dog aggressive. Pit Bulls don't just give 100%, they give 110% in everything they do. I noticed it with Seppel, I think it's the tenacity and drive that they have. They just barrel in there and do it. Even when Seppel is being "naughty" or not doing what he should be doing, he still gives it his all. It's that spirit that has made me fall in love with the breed. Seppel never has a bad day, he's never grumpy. He never looks at me as if to say "No, I don't want to do it."

I think the hardest part about owning a Pit Bull is being responsible. Making sure he can never get loose and harm another dog, making sure he doesn't knock someone over, making sure the house insurance will cover us if an accident does occur. I don't think he would ever bite a person - unless I told him to, even then, I'm not so sure. But I am leery of small animals. I think as a Pit Bull owner you have to be overly cautious because there is so much scrutiny that comes your way because of the breed. Pit Bulls are not dog park dogs - if you take them to a dog park and they get into it with another dog, even if they didn't start it - you will get in trouble. Not only is it my responsibility to keep my dog safe, but we are representing the WHOLE breed when we step outside! I think as a Pit Bull owner I feel more pressure for my dog to behave, to set a good example because when we go out we represent them all. In some cases, this pressure backfires because I think we sometimes forget at the end of the day they are a dog before they are a Pit Bull. I also think this kind of pressure can be a good thing because it helps those of us who take the ownership of this breed seriously to learn and grow and become the best dog owners and handlers we can be.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tests

I work in a veterinary clinic. Working in that environment I see everything I don't want in a dog. It's so sad how many people get puppies and don't expect them to do much, then they wonder when the dog is 100lbs and trying to eat us why we can't get a nail trim done without sedation or why we have to muzzle their dog for a simple ear clean. I feel lucky to be in this kind of an environment because I am able to put my dogs through a lot of different things and they learn to accept it as a normal. Just coming to work everyday makes things super easy because it already makes the veterinary environment less scary.

When Seppel first arrived his nails were kind of long. Not terrible, but I am the nail trimming queen and I dremel Seth and LiLo's nails regularly. I tried trimming Seppel's nails at home. I kind of have some post traumatic stress from a friend's pit bull who was HORRIBLE for nail trims and had to be sedated. When I first tried trimming Seppel's nails I made him lay down on the floor in the kitchen. He jumped for every single nail, every single click of the trimmer he jumped. He wasn't trying to eat me - but he did not like the noise of the nail trimmers. I ended up having my friend Danielle trim his nails with me holding and he still did the same thing every time. That kind of behavior just won't work for me. I decided to try the dremel at home. The dremel my mom has isn't cordless, blows air out the side, and is a little loud. I had Seppel lay down in the kitchen and as soon as I turned it on he took off. I ended up having to leash him, hold him in the kitchen and touch the dremel to him. He quickly realized that he wasn't dying so I proceeded to try it on his nails. I would dremel a nail and then give him a treat, he did fairly well but wasn't overly excited about it. These days I dremel his nails every other day. His nails are much shorter than when I first got him, but I can only take off a small amount at a time because his quicks are grown out to the end of the nail. My other two dogs, Seth and LiLo, immediately lay down when I take the dremel out. Seppel isn't to that point yet, but he knows what the dremel is and will lay down when I ask him to.

Most who know me know I bath my dogs frequently. I've noticed Seth, my dog with shorter hair, gets stinkier more quickly than LiLo. Seppel is no different and gets smelly really quickly - especially since he and Seth play pretty hard in the yard and get gross. At work we have a tub with a ramp, I was really surprised that it didn't take much coaxing and Seppel happily climbed the ramp and got into the tub. Baths are not his favorite thing, but he willingly gets in the tub and stands in there to be bathed.  

Face to Face
Around the time I got Seppel this incident occured:
Colorado news anchor bit in face.
It kind of shocks me the amount of crap the reporter, who is a VICTIM got because she couldn't read the dog. Unless you're really keyed into dog body language, the dog didn't really give much warning. As a dog person I know not to get into the face of a dog I don't know, but the average person doesn't. In the video the owner is holding onto the dog very tightly, it makes me wonder if the dog in every day life is not that friendly to begin with. I'm not saying the reporter should not have been more careful, but more often than not I've seen people lean over dogs - they have no clue that it is not a good position to be in. All of this being said, I figured this would be my good dog test. The few times I've gone to kiss his forehead he hasn't offered to bite my face off ;)

Blood Draws
With Seth and LiLo I can draw a blood sample from a rear leg no problem. Seth and LiLo are also fine if I do have someone hold off a leg for me, they don't mind being restrained. After Seppel had been here for a few months he started getting skin infections and sneezing a lot. I decided to send out bloodwork to test for allergies - you have to draw at least 12mls of blood. I remember holding him for Danielle to draw it. I remember saying "Do you want a muzzle?" and she replied "Is he going to bite me?!" and I said "I don't know." and we proceeded with the blood draw. He didn't move an inch and didn't make a peep.

Allergy Shots
When the allergy serum came I started giving him the shots. The first few injections he was great, but one day he cried and whipped around - which freaked me out. I had coworkers do a few of the injections for me because I was spooked, but eventually I grew a pair and started giving them to him again. I give him his injections myself, by myself, and he takes them like a champ.

All in all I feel like I have tested this dog a lot. He has never once tried to bite me, he doesn't overreact to unpleasant things. He's completely adjusted to living in a veterinary clinic and he LOVES coming to work. He's definitely grown this past year in terms of accepting new things, when he first arrived he was afraid of the garage door opening and closing - now he brushes under the door as its raising in the morning to run outside. For the most part I'd say he's a pretty stable and willing dog. He can be cautious at times but I think it's better to have a dog who questions things on occasion vs. a dog who does things without thinking and pays for the consequences later.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We all learn from our mistakes, at least, most of us do.

As I said yesterday I thought I would take the opportunity to share the mistakes I've made, most have been few and far between but just the same I'm not perfect and I have messed up a time or two.

I'll preface this by saying that when I got Seppel I knew it was a serious undertaking. I think the majority of folks don't really take Pit Bull ownership seriously, I think it can be said across the board many people don't take dog ownership in general seriously. I don't understand how someone can bring a 60lb dog into their home - bred to take down livestock - and not take it seriously. That being said, not everyone has the kind of Pit Bull that I have. There are many Pit Bulls out that that are 'cold' and by that I mean they are mellow, easy going, get along with other dogs. I've also heard dogs like this to be called 'curs'. A cur by definition is a mutt or undesirable dog, it can also mean a coward. The traditional Pit Bull is what I would consider to be a 'hot' dog. The traditional Pit Bull is full of piss and vinegar. They are high energy, high prey drive, often times they are dog aggressive, these dogs are reactive, they are robust, and they are brave. To be clear, High Energy and High Prey drive do not equal out of control. I feel that Seppel falls somewhere in between. He has a lot of energy and a high prey drive. He isn't overly dog aggressive but I am very careful about other dog interactions. He can at least be around other dogs and ignore them, but he has tried to bite a dog or two while on leash. I took Seppel very seriously in my home. As I said yesterday the small squabbles he had with my other dogs really freaked me out. Seth and LiLo have the occasional tiff but I knew just how far they would take it. With Seppel, who is a Pit Bull bred for years to be dog aggressive, I wasn't sure how far he would take things.

Of course, as time goes on, you start trusting your new dog. I was no different, as time passed the dogs started being able to be outside without direct supervision. I could see and hear the dogs through a screen door and sliding glass door so I could monitor but it wasn't like the beginning where I felt like I had to be standing out there just in case something happened.

I believe it was a friday morning. I was getting ready for work. The dogs had been out to potty and had been fed and were all in the front room. I came out there after I had gotten dressed and didn't see my cat Napolean. He usually sits on the cable box because it's warm. I started to panic because I knew something was wrong, that was when I walked into the kitchen from which Seppel promptly came running out of. At the time the cat's box was in the utility room which is on the other side of the kitchen, a sliding door separated the dogs from going in there for snacks. When I peeled the door back I found my cat sitting on the washing machine, his eye and nose bleeding. I was all in a panic. I've had a cat with head trauma before. All I could think about was that Seppel had tried to pick him up by the head, I grabbed Napolean and in the midst of trying to get him into a carrier I had to pass Seppel and Napolean wigged out hissing and trying to climb away. By my cat's behavior and the fact that Seppel came running from the kitchen I'm fairly certain he did it. Napolean turned out to just have a scratch in the corner of his eye which is why there was blood coming from his nose. The incident really scared me and at that point I decided Seppel would no longer be loose without direct supervision and I moved the cat stuff into my room so I could lock him in there while I got ready in the morning.
***Today things are different. I still do not trust Seppel 100% with the cat. I crate him at night [the cat has free roam of the house at night]. I sent him to training back in October while I was house sitting and when he came back he had more interest in chewing on the cat, playfully. I keep an eye on them but for the most part they get along fine. The cat harbors no ill will towards him anyhow.

Not two days after Seppel injured my cat I took him out to the barn with me. I figured the cat incident was a direct indication he was not getting enough exercise or stimulus. I had taken him out to the barn a few times and let him run around in one of the pastures without incident. The pastures are fully fenced with 5ft no climb fencing, it's hot on top, the gates are rail and I thought he couldn't squeeze through them. We were playing in the pasture when my horse Cairo came up to the fence, she started to roll and Seppel got excited. He started barking and running the fence line, my horse got up and took off running into her pasture, he stuck his head through the gate - realized he could fit through and took off. I was mortified, running after him - thinking only that he was going to grab her and I wouldn't make it in time. Seppel's plan was not well executed, he started to bark at Cairo, she somehow managed to roll him and step on him, which sent him back past me into the pasture where we started. After this second incident, so close to the first I immediately went and bought him a basket muzzle and was even considering getting a shock collar for at the barn.
***After I had a few days to think about all of this I did and have practiced with him wearing the basket muzzle. I have taken him out to the barn with me but I leave him on leash. The shock collar idea was because I wanted to take him to the barn and have him not go after my horse, or anyone else's, but then I realized there's just no need for him to be out at the barn. He's just not a barn dog. Period. He is not a good barn dog and that is OKAY.

I don't remember the exact time this next thing occurred. Originally when Seppel came I let him ride in the cab of my truck and put Seth and LiLo in the back under the canopy. One day I tried all three of them back there. They were all fine on the way into work. When I was leaving work, I loaded them all up in the back but wanted to put some slip leads back in the building. I thought for two seconds that I shouldn't leave them in there alone - but of course I said "Oh, it'll only be a minute!" I ran inside, I don't even think 30 seconds had gone by, when I came out LiLo was screaming, I flung the side window open - Seppel was muzzle punching her. As soon as I opened the window he stopped. I said some not so nice things and squished him in the corner of the truck bed while I lifted LiLo out. LiLo was fine, but the incident seriously pissed me off, mostly because I was such an idiot for leaving them alone together. But it's also like having kids, "Seriously, I can't leave you alone for even a minute!!!!!"
***We've had to do some serious musical dogs. For most of the year Seth and LiLo rode in the back and Seppel rode in the cab with me. When I first got Seppel he was fine riding in the back of the truck, however, after he rode in the cab a few times he would reluctantly get into the back and proceed to pace and pant and act like an idiot even on short rides. Such a brat. Because the weather is really rainy and bad in Oregon and I'm paranoid I may get rear-ended I cleared out my crew cab, Seppel rides in the passenger seat and Seth and LiLo ride in the crew cab portion. I've left them alone together for short periods and so far everyone seems to fair just fine, if I'm going to be gone for a very long time I will put Seth and LiLo in the back.

The last incident I will share is Seppel trying to pick up my sister's small dog. This actually happened early on... before any of this other stuff. The basics are - I wasn't holding his leash, my sister was leaving for lunch [we were at work], she came down the hall with her dog - Seppel took off, opened his mouth, and my sister nailed him in the gut with her shoe. It totally took him by surprise and he stopped. My sister's dog was okay but since then I am cautious around small dogs. I have introduced him to a poodle/scottie mix and he was respectful but it was in a controlled environment. I do not trust him with small animals in general.

I think I'll leave this post where it's at. In the next few posts I definitely want to talk about the "tests" he passed, nail trimming, baths, letting me squish my forehead to his forehead, blood draws, and allergy shots. I also really want to talk about the differences in the Pit Bull community. Those who want to preserve the breed for what it is vs those who want them to be poodles.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Picking up Seppel... the adventure begins!

On the evening of October 22nd, 2011 I picked up my friend at her house for what would be the biggest adventure of our lives. Alright, maybe not our lives, but the biggest adventure of October 2011! My friend Danielle is also a coworker of mine. She's an amazing vet tech and is also into dogs and dog training. She is owned by an 11-year-old Pit Mix and a 2yr old Pit Bull that she adopted 4mos ago. Her and I train dogs similarly and constantly bounce ideas off of each other so I knew she would be the perfect wingman for the night. I'm so glad she came along because I dread driving around Portland and it was nice to have someone go with me that was excited to meet Seppel too.

Waiting for the plane to arrive.

Seppel's plane landed around 7:30pm. We waited in a small room while they unloaded the plane. When they brought Seppel into the cargo area I could see him through a glass window in a nearby door. I'm not a very squishy person, but sometimes I do think things are meant to be. I don't know how but it was as though Seppel knew I was going to be taking him home. He looked back at me through the glass like he knew me. Dogs are excellent at reading body language, I don't know if mine was screaming "You're coming home with meeee!!!!!" but I will never forget the look he gave me. At this point I was really glad Danielle had come with me because they wanted me to back my truck up that ramp pictured above. I drive a chevy s10, it's a manual, and I hate it. Thankfully Danielle has driving skillz and she backed my truck up the scary ramp.

I can officially say I survived a 45min drive home with a Pit Bull that I had never met before in a cramped close space.

Just quick back story on my living situation at this point. I had been living with my cousin who was facing a foreclosure on his house. It wasn't until Seppel was for sure coming that the bank decided we had to get out of the house. The 22nd was my last night in my cousin's place. 
When we got back into town I stopped at my folks to do a quick meet and greet. I locked Seth and LiLo, my other two dogs in the garage. Both of my parents were apprehensive, they do not like Pit Bulls. I brought Seppel home under the guise that I was fostering him with serious intent to find him a home. My mom said this exactly, "He can stay here for 2 weeks. No more!" If you're getting the feeling that I have used the foster card before - I totally have. I think my mom knew that was what was happening. I am very blessed that I have two parents who are willing to support my effort to repay a debt and do a favor for a friend because ultimately that is why I wanted to do this. I don't think this would have been possible if Seppel had been the man eating monster portrayed in news headlines... I'm very thankful he's the complete opposite.

That first night Sepp got to sleep in bed with me. I told him before I shut the light off that he was not allowed to eat me in my sleep. He just curled up next to me and wagged his tail every time I touched him. 

A slightly stressed Sepp.

There's something that I've heard commonly in Pit Bull circles called "The Two Week Shut Down". I had been advised by people on the board and even a few friends that I needed to do the shut down. 

In the beginning I had all intentions of using this method, but it wasn't really conducive to my lifestyle especially since I was moving back in with my folks and they would not be supporting anything like this. I chose to just let the dogs meet and wing it. The first two weeks were bumpy. Two weeks seems to be about the time it takes for most dogs to settle in, Sepp was no different. I had to look it up on old forum postings but Seppel liked to hump other dogs. Seth and LiLo were NOT having it. I supervised interactions at ALL times because they would get into spats every now and then. In the beginning I think they probably got into a growling/bumping match about once a day. They were very small spats but scared the heck out of me. I'm not going to lie, Pit Bulls are scary. I was second guessing my decision a lot in the beginning wondering to myself, "What did I get my dogs into? They were fine with just the two of them and then I brought this bully home!" I felt so bad that I potentially brought a total terror into the house. 

Because of the mild tension going on, they only went outside together supervised by me. I fed Seth and LiLo in the kitchen and fed Seppel out in the garage. At night and when I was not home to supervise Seppel was kenneled. I made it clear to my parents they did not have to do anything with him. I did not want them to handle him if they felt uncomfortable. That first week I brought him to work on his 5th day being here. The first few days there was some whining, I had to give him a little ace to calm his nerves a little bit. As the days passed the whining stopped but he started doing some growling and barking when people would walk near the cage - even if they were completely ignoring him. One afternoon, a coworker of mine tried to tell him to knock it off and it just made him even more defensive. It also freaked me out because I had  never had a dog act like this and I didn't want to be missing some big dangerous sign. I went to the same board I always went to for advice and was scolded for taking him to work so soon. I don't regret my decision because going to work is a part of my dog's lives. It doesn't matter if he goes now or two weeks from now, coming to work is his new job. As it turns out, with no help from that particular forum I grew to understand the problem. Seppel was not being naughty, I wasn't missing some huge red flag, he wasn't a man-eater.

It couldn't have been more simple really, Seppel was cage protective.

*huge sigh of relief*

I remedied his protectiveness by putting a cover over his kennel. Problem solved. As it is now he is fine with all of my coworkers and their dogs being near or around his cage. I think his initial guarding was because he still wasn't sure of what was going on. I don't know if he had this issue in his former home, it may have been more of a self preservation thing since he was in a new situation. Honestly, for a dog going from a home environment to having to accept staying in a stressful veterinary clinic everyday he took it like a champ. He comes to work with me everyday these days and is happy to go, he's quiet in his kennel and he loves everyone I work with - he has even made amends with the veterinarian that initially scolded him for barking/growling in his kennel. I think it just goes to show the resiliency of this breed, here is a dog who was flown clear across the country, he had to adjust to a new life, adjust to a new owner, adjust to a new routine and he did it. It all sounds so simple but I think it's truly amazing how well he was able to just suck it up and adapt.

Tune in tomorrow... Maybe in my next post we can talk about all of the mistakes I made, like my cat getting nailed in the face, Seppel chasing my horse in the pasture, Seppel attacking LiLo in truck, Seppel trying to pick up my sister's dog. We can even talk about the first "tests" like the nail trim and the bath. Poor guy didn't know what was coming!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hello world!

Hey there, my name is Suzanne. Admittedly I am a blogger virgin - or is that, blogging virgin? Either way this is my first blog and my first blog based post. I've decided to give this a shot, maybe this will be my only post I guess we'll see.

Hmmm so the title of this blog is 'Live, Laugh, Love, like a Pit Bull.' This blog is mostly going to be focused around the past year of my life as I became a first time Pit Bull owner, things I've learned, how life has changed etc. But it's also going to be about the things we're currently doing, not just the Pit Bull and I, but also my other dogs. Not gonna lie, if I owned my own house I would be a hoarder. I've currently got three awesome dogs and I definitely intend to talk about them all in this blog.

I'd like to introduce the Pit Bull that has inspired everything. Because of him I have taken the opportunity to meet different trainers and try different training methods, to try the sport of Schutzhund, he encouraged me to learn about the breed and expand my horizons and beliefs about dog ownership. He has opened my eyes to what the breed really is and has helped me to further accept him for what he is: A Pit Bull.

This is Seppel.

In 2011 I logged onto a dog forum that I frequented only to find out a dear friend had passed away. I wondered about her three dogs, two pit bulls and an older border collie but in the beginning nothing was said about her dogs, just that they were okay. In the weeks leading up to the dogs eventually needing a home the thought had crossed my mind "If only I lived nearby..." It was only a fleeting thought, until it became a reality. Eventually it was posted that one of the Pit Bulls and the Border Collie would be needing a home. At first I jumped at the Border Collie because she was OLD - it would be a short commitment, however, when it came to be known that she was roughly 15+yrs flying her out to Oregon from North Carolina did not look like a good option. In the midst of jumping at the Border Collie posting, a posting for Seppel appeared.

I don't really remember the pm's that transpired, but it involved me messaging the forum admin and saying if we could get Seppel out here I would take him. The thing is, Seppel's owner sent me money to pay for my late dog Sofie to get an MRI and the money she sent also covered some of her chemo. It sounds super easy to take money from someone but it was something I seriously hesitated to do - did my dog deserve it? Did I deserve it? I would never be able to pay her back. The thing is, Seppel's owner wanted to help me. She helped many people and many pets in this way. It was humbling, and eye opening. And now, in Seppel's time of need, in his late owner's time of need, I knew that the way I could repay her was to promise to give her dog a good home to live out the rest of his life. I got into contact with Seppel's late owner's daughter, told her why I wanted to offer him a home, explained how appreciative I was of everything her mother had done for me. I also explained that this would be my first time ever owning a Pit Bull, that most of my experience with them is through working in a veterinary clinic and that my parents were not big fans of the breed. Fortunately for me everyone involved felt I could offer Seppel a good home.

Through the efforts of the dog forum, and Seppel's late owner's daughter, Seppel was flown out here October 22nd, 2011.

Seppel has been here a little over a year now. I feel like I have grown so much as a dog handler. I know if he hadn't come here I would not have had the opportunities I have had now, I would not have met the people I have met, I would not understand all of the Anti-BSL stuff going around, nor would I understand how useless it is, mostly - I would have no idea how AWESOME the Pit Bull breed is.

Stay tuned for post #2, I'll get into the nitty gritty of picking up a dog up from the airport, how to fail at the two week shut down, discuss the annoyance of humping, tell you how to effectively get your anti-pit bull parents to let-you-have-one-under-the-guise-that-you-are-fostering, oh - and we'll talk about how cage protectiveness does not mean your dog is a man eater!