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.