It’s not the dog, it’s the people!

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How often do we hear those words?

“It’s not the dog, it’s the people!”

I have to admit I really take offence when I hear it and I’m not shy about speaking up when I’m faced with someone who says it so off-the-cuff.

When we bring a dog into our lives, we do so with the best of intentions. We do so because we love dogs, we want companionship, we crave unconditional love, we want to excel at a sport or activity, because we long to care for something or someone. We visualize our lives with said dog – family barbeques with our lovely dog running with the kids, playing fetch or running through a sprinkler, hiking with our dog, dog parks, play groups, daycare, training classes, sports like agility or flyball, long road trips with Fido’s head out the window, tongue flapping in the wind, lazy days at the beach, tossing a stick into the water only to have it retrieved and barked at for more.

Most people don’t adopt a dog with the hopes of having a dog who barks and lunges at other dogs, people, children, cars, small animals, cyclists and joggers. We don’t dream of adopting a dog whose separation anxiety is so bad that they claw through our walls, barking all day, causing us to get eviction notices. It’s not often we check off the “most desired behaviour challenges” on that checklist at the breeder or shelter. Most of these behaviours are founded in fear and anxiety and not always because the dog had a traumatic event relating to one of these triggers.

We often hear clients tell us that their new rescue is afraid of men with beards and it’s likely that the dog was abused by a man with a beard. We trainers beg to differ. I would say that more often than not, it’s because the dog had little to no opportunity to build a positive association with men and beards; it’s likely that they were simply not socialized together and now this trigger is ‘new and scary’.

Fear doesn’t need a reason. Sometimes it just is.

Whether we adopt an eight week old puppy from the most spectacular breeder or a four year old rescue dog from the streets of Mexico or a nine year old dog from a hoarding situation, the bottom line is that it’s not always the people who have caused the issues. Genetics and environment always play a part in behaviour so let’s not be so quick to judge the person holding the leash. They’re doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.

I remember the looks I used to get walking Parker down the street two weeks after I adopted him from the SPCA where he had his hind leg amputated. He had been starved and was a wobbly bone-rack, hauling it down the street, barking and lunging at dogs.

People assumed it was me who was so cruel, when I was the one who pulled him from that shelter and gave him soft beds, home cooked food, four walks a day, so much love. If someone had ever said to me “it’s not the dog, it’s the YOU”, I would have crumpled into a ball on the floor.

So before you speak those words, please rethink it and give the person a compassionate word of support and remember that even if they’re making mistakes in training, creating negative associations, even using outdated methods and tools; they’re doing the best they can with the knowledge they have and they truly have the dog’s best interest at heart. 

The world doesn’t need more judgment; that’s for sure.

Why do people still use corrections and punishment?

This was a question asked of me this week and it struck a chord. I can rant all day about the dangers of using leash-corrections, alpha-rolling a dog, hissing and jabbing a dog in the neck or the haunches, or forcing a dog into submission in a fearful situation…but will my words make a difference if people don’t know why they do what they do? Likely not.

This is that hardest part of my job – watching people do the above to their so-called “best friend”. Would you put a prong collar or choke chain on your best friend and yank it when you felt he/she was acting inappropriately or not being “obedient”? I surely hope not; otherwise you’ll have an empty phonebook in no time. Unfortunately our dogs don’t have the freedom to choose their best friend – they’re stuck with us for better or for worse or until we decide the relationship is severed.

The truth is, the TV/Media plays a HUGE role in our treatment of animals and I wish that Cesar’s producers had listened to Dr. Andrew Luescher when it counted.
I think the biggest reason is that we are an impatient species and as time goes on and technology becomes more advanced, we are used to (therefore learn to expect) faster results every time, without question. We want our dogs to behave as humans and we want it NOW.

No thought is given to the fact that these are still animals who are in a domestication *process* that will never end. They’ll never be human, yet we expect them to behave as we tell them to.

The other reason is that (thanks to popular TV shows) people don’t know how to accurately read a dog. We think that a dog who lays down during flooding is a “calm submissive dog” when really it’s a “emotionally shut down and traumatized dog”. We misread all these cues; we call a dog stubborn when it’s stressed and offering displacement behaviours or calming signals and we assume a dog is not trainable when we cannot be creative about finding his/her personal motivators. We punish warning signals (growling, snarling, barking) instead of listening to their communication and trying to learn their language.

We’re becoming a lazy species and that’s only going to get worse as technology gets better, I’m afraid. We are more focused on results than process, short-term rather than long-term effects, faster results and less “work”, obedience rather than relationship.

Our expectations are way out of whack and we need to work harder to keep them in check. Here, we have animals who are genetically prone to aggression as a means of survival and yet we’re asking them to live in *our* world and never raise a lip to protect a resource or bark in fear. We expect them to be okay with people practically molesting them on every street corner during our daily walks where we make them walk slowly and in an almost robotic manner. When a dog acts like a dog, we say he’s misbehaving out of spite, as if dogs have it *in for us* and are conniving and evil creatures.

In the I.T. world, we have something called PEBKAC – Problem Exists Between the Keyboard and the Chair. In the dog training world, I call it PEAHOL – Problem Exists At Handle of Leash. (Yes, I’m aware that when you say it out loud it’s “pee hole” and it’s quite hysterical.)

The best feedback I got this week was:

“I really enjoyed the approach of working within the dogs’ reality.  None of our past trainers worked that way.”

We all learn differently and so do dogs, so let’s pay them the respect they deserve as they learn ESL (English as a Second Language) and be patient. The bottom line is this: would you prefer to learn at the hand of fear and punishment? Or would you rather learn while having fun?

Date: September 13th, 2011
Author: Caryn Charlie Liles
Copyright, Whatta Pup!

Dog-Dog Resource Guarding

Does your dog snarl and growl if another dog approaches her when she’s eating or gnawing on a tasty chew? Does she freeze and look sideways when her canine friends try to join her on the bed or couch? How about starting fights at the dog park when there’s a ball in play?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’re not alone. When a dog acts possessively over an item, place or person we call it “resource guarding” and it’s more common than you think.

What you may not realize is that despite thousands of years of successful domestication, dogs are still animals. All animals have instincts and resource guarding is one of them. Dogs have to guard or protect their resources in order to ensure survival; if they don’t, they lose their dinner, their sleeping quarters, their mate, etc… Looking at dogs today, this may seem like a somewhat useless instinct as we provide our dogs with life’s necessities, but then again, what use is prey drive if they’re fed twice a day by us? What use is turning around three times before laying down to sleep when there is no tall grass to flatten on their cozy bed?

The bottom line is that these are all instincts that are pre-programmed into our dogs whether we like it or not. We can either punish them when they follow these instincts, or we can teach them to control these instincts and defer to us instead.

Resource Guarding is classified under the “aggression” umbrella but don’t let that scare you. Aggression is actually a perfectly natural part of a dog’s world; it is us who have decided that it is unacceptable. There are varying levels of resource guarding and I urge you to familiarize yourself with these levels so that you can deal with it appropriately.

Level One is where you’ll find a perfectly acceptable level of resource guarding; your dog gives a growl, a sideways stare, a stiff body, even a bark as a warning to another dog approaching while she is in possession of a high value item (toy, bone, chew, food, etc…). The important thing is that the warnings remain as warnings and the other dog obliges and creates distance. Management and a watchful eye is advised here. You may consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Two is where you’ll find a dog who gives the appropriate warning and then the other dog instead of creating distance, he decides to take action and “fight back” in order to gain control of the other dog’s resource. The dog with the resource will be bullied into letting the resource go and no conflict will take place. This is not ideal but it’s better than a conflict taking place. Management and a watchful eye is advised here. You may consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Three is where things get a little riskier. The dog with the resource gives the appropriate warning and then the other dog instead of creating distance, he decides to take action and “fight back” in order to gain control of the other dog’s resource. The dog with the resource will engage in the conflict and a snarkfest ensues where no damage is done and the situation is quickly resolved. Management and a watchful eye is required here. You should consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Four is increasingly dangerous. The dog with the resource gives no warning signals – instead, he instantly aggresses towards the approaching dog and the other dog is quick to retreat. No fight or damage ensues. OR instead of retreating, the other dog engages in the conflict and a snarkfest ensues where no damage is done and the situation is quickly resolved. Management and a watchful eye is required here. You should consider contacting your trainer for assistance.

Level Five is nearing the most dangerous level of resource guarding because we have a dog that has no warning system, aggresses instantly but luckily his bites are inhibited, meaning he may cause minimal damage but does not severely injure the other dog. Contact your trainer immediately and put in place all management techniques immediately. Do not delay.

Level Six is the most dangerous level of resource guarding because not only do we have a dog that has no warning system, but we also have a dog (or two) with uninhibited bites. This is where we see the most damage done as the dog with the resource has been pushed past his threshold and has learned that aggression works. The damage done by these dogs tends to be more serious in nature, requiring veterinary care. Contact your trainer immediately and put in place all management techniques immediately. Do not delay.

Warning Signals
A bark, snarl, growl, stiff posture, tongue flick, accelerated consumption of the item, or a lunge towards the threat – these are all warning signals. You may not like these behaviours but keep in mind that these signals are clear communication from your dog. It’s a warning system and it’s important to allow your dog the opportunity to communicate and warn others when he is uncomfortable or threatened. If you choose to punish these warning signs, your dog learns not to use them, therefore he jumps to the next best option; a bite. Never punish a warning system. Instead, listen carefully and jump straight into management mode until you can meet with your trainer to devise a behaviour modification plan.

Management
Management is key as resource guarding is rarely “cured” in an animal. In order to manage, you must be hyper-vigilant. Keep all high-value objects secured and out of reach when other dogs are around. When visiting the dog park, ask others to put the toys away until your pup has left the park, or simply opt for a leashed walk until the toys are out of play at the park. If you have a multiple-dog household, feed dogs in separate rooms or in their separate crates. Whatever you do, avoid allowing your dog to be pushed past his/her threshold at any time; don’t set them up to practice the behaviour!

Behaviour Modification
There are a few different ways to modify this behaviour, but none of them should involve punishment or harsh methods as this can make resource guarding much worse, much faster. The bottom line is that you want to teach your dog to use his/her warning system first and foremost. Then you want to teach them that when other dogs approach them while they have a resource in their possession, great things happen and the resource isn’t lost. The modification plan will vary from dog to dog but enlisting the help of an experienced, positive trainer early, is key.

Resource Guarding is often caused and/or exacerbated by stress, so do everything you can to decrease the stresses in your dog’s every day life. Have a vet examine your pet for any health concerns that might be causing this increase in aggressive behaviour as well.

Note: If your dog guards resources from people, please contact your trainer immediately as there is a different management protocol and program for behaviour modification.

Canine Nutrition

On Sunday I attended a Canine Nutrition seminar by Erica Garven, hosted by All About Dogs. I have been looking forward to this seminar for weeks. As soon as I saw Renee post it, I jumped on it and registered. I was admittedly the first to arrive, sitting on the curb outside, anxious for ten o’clock.

When the seminar began, I could almost feel my skull crack and open up in order to allow the knowledge to pour in. If I could have opened my eyes or ears wider, I would have. I didn’t want to miss a single word or or slide.

Here’s a little background information for you, before you assume that I’ve lost my marbles. My mother is a nurse and I can remember when I was wee and she was in nursing college, I would sneak her textbooks into my room or onto the bay window in order to sift through the information and try to learn some “big girl words”. I had trouble saying stethoscope but that didn’t stop me from trying to spell Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Since those early days, I have always been interested in medicine and the sight of blood has never bothered me. I collect medical textbooks, I watch medical docu-shows and download surgeries to watch during dinner. (Double-lung transplants are by far the most fascinating.) Anything medical or health-related fascinates me, so of course nutrition would be of interest to me – it’s the foundation of good health, after all.

So in comes Erica and I open my notes. She starts off by talking about the simpler ways to eliminate (potential) allergens and what is on the top of the list? Stainless steel bowls. Are you serious? Apparently dogs can have a pretty serious allergy to stainless steel and eating out of the bowls can cause symptoms similar to food allergies, as well as discolouration of the area around the mouth and nose. Instead of switching over to a plastic bowl (which can contain toxins that discolour the nose, turning it pink), she recommends using ceramic bowls.

She told us about her dog, Toby…who is a “lemon dog” (you know exactly what I mean.) and of his serious allergies that she has been able to eliminate or at least manage thus far, giving him back a wonderful quality of life that most of us would likely not have known how to do.

We talked a lot about allergies and what the signs are. Some of the symptoms that I see frequently are:

  • inconsistent or poor stool quality
  • itchy skin
  • chronic infections (ears, eyes, etc…)
  • dull, flaky coat
  • inconsistent behaviour

When I’m working with dogs, one of the first questions I ask is about diet and I include questions about the amount fed and the timing of the meals – oftentimes people are confused about how this is related to training and behaviour, but many times I have seen a complete 180º turnaround simply because of a change in the diet.

Those of you who know me, know that I am a serious kibble investigator and that I’m a big believer in scheduled feedings that take place at least twice per day. I never suggest one meal per day (imagine how that affects our blood-sugar levels!) or free-feeding (leaving food down all the time). I have a list of kibble that I do recommend, but even then, I always suggest keeping up to date with the company’s recall information, product changes, ownership, etc…

Since attending Erica’s seminar and soaking up all the knowledge possible in three hours, I came home and implemented a few changes to Parker’s diet. If you’ve been following lately, I’ve put Parker back on home-cooked food and have seen some incredible changes. His breath no longer smells, his energy levels have evened out, his coat is super-shiny, he is excited about his food (that’s not normal for him), and he’s sleeping better at night. He has also been showing some interesting puppy-like behaviour lately – he’s become more playful with his friends but also his humans. It’s really quite nice.

His regular meals consist of (in no particular order):

  • brown rice
  • two vegetables
  • one fruit & one berry
  • yogurt
  • vitamins & minerals
  • one protein
  • safflower oil

I’ve used cooked rice (of course), raw veggies and fruits, and a cooked protein (or canned if fish). So far it’s been a lot of trial and error – most days have been great, but other days have been not-so-great. I’ve found that sweet potato, carrots and kidney beans go right through him and come out looking just like they did when they went in. I tried cooking them a little longer, but that caused them to come out looking pale and whole. No big change except that I was sure the nutrient value was lessened.

After Erica’s seminar, the changes I made were:

  • use more protein
  • use less carbs (rice)
  • boil all veggies to release the nutrients (but don’t over cook)
  • add water (or broth) that the veggies are boiled in
  • use a food processor to puree everything
  • freeze in weekly portions
  • add this to a high quality kibble
  • use vitamins & minerals

Last night I got to work and I made the first batch. It included:

  • veggie puree (spinach, parsley, zucchini, carrots, sweet potato)
  • strawberries & blueberries
  • vitamin & mineral powder
  • Nature’s Balance kibble

The kibble covers the protein and I’ve added all the extra nutrients that make it even healthier (and tasty). Oftentimes companies try hard to add in all the right ingredients, but if you think about the process kibble has to go through, how many nutrients really make it to the end product? Adding veggies, fruits and berries will only serve your dog well in the end.

Here are a couple of pictures:

For Parker, I add a couple of tablespoons to his kibble at each meal and every now and again he’ll get a full home-cooked meal with a little carb and home cooked protein. Pureeing the veggies and fruits will make it easier for him to digest and metabolize, whereas, as Erica says: “in a carrot, out a carrot”, which is exactly what was happening.

Confession: I tasted it. I swear I did. My brother was witnessing the cooking process and suggested that we try it. It’s just fruit and veggies, so why not? We grabbed a tablespoon of each batch and gave it a shot. The greenish one was very veggie-heavy and a little tart. The lighter coloured one had more strawberries in it and it was a little sweeter. Both tasted good. It made me reconsider how I eat. If I did this for myself every day, I’d be a healthier person…but that’s a whole other post.

I’m looking into booking Erica for a seminar soon and would love for you folks to hear what she has to say. If you’re interested, email me to be notified of the event, or stay tuned on the website.

Woofstock: a review

“Woofstock is the largest outdoor festival for dogs in all of North America.”

In case you haven’t been watching, Woofstock is on this weekend…and where am I? Comfortably seated at home, waiting to take Parker on a nice hike…maybe even a swim. I’m not in Toronto and I’m most certainly not on Front Street in the middle of the chaos. You might wonder why a Pet Professional isn’t participating in North America’s largest pet festival – I’ll let you in on the secrets in this post.

I went to Woofstock yesterday to support Big on Beagles – a wonderful Toronto-based assistance agency for Beagles experiencing troubled times. I spent about two hours before I felt like I was about to explode. My patience ran thin and Parker was sensing it too. I had an inkling this would happen and it even started to show during my first session of the day with my little Boston Terrier, Steve. His pup-parent turned to me and said, “We were going to go to Woofstock today – any words of advice?” I paused and tried to be positive. “Don’t go?” I replied. It was the best I could do.

The truth is, this festival has great intentions and the idea is wonderful. I’ll give it that…but that’s about all I can give it. Our city is crazy enough as it is with all the pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, etc…but now gather over 300,000 dogs and their humans (combined) together in the span of five city blocks, along with loud music, people yelling into microphones, food and drink everywhere, garbage strewn about and piles of ‘caca de chien’ that people have completely missed picking up, overflowing garbage bins covered in urine, and tell me that your dog is not going to become completely over-stimulated.

Yesterday, I ran into some very interesting people and wanted to give you a glimpse:

The Scam Artist

I walked into the Dean & Tyler booth to look at their custom harnesses that are really quite stunning. I was admiring the ones that allow you to add and remove patches that say things like “In Training”, “SECURITY”, “Search & Rescue” and “Service Dog”.

While looking around, Parker made friendly with a retriever mix whose human was paying for the vest he was wearing. It said “Service Dog”. She looked at me while her credit card was being processed and she beamed “You should get one too! Now I can take him everywhere!” I looked at her for a moment and didn’t say a word. “No one’s allowed to ask you for proof, so anyone can wear these now and get access to everywhere!” I let her dig her own hole. I took a deep breath and said “I won’t buy him one because I have integrity and I think it’s awful that you’re using the system for your own benefit when there are people who actually need their Service Dog to accompany them. That’s very dishonest.” And then I walked away. I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that wants to smack people like that right in the mouth.

The “Trainer”

As I walked over to the Big on Beagles booth to meet up with the lovely Marna, I passed by two Rottweiler puppies and their human. I’m a big Rotti fan, so I looked up at her to give her a smile and say “those are cute pups!” when I noticed two things: they were both wearing choke chains. My heart dropped a bit as I thought “poor, unsuspecting owner – she probably has no idea there are better tools out there.” But when I looked up at the owner, I noticed her t-shirt. She was wearing a company t-shirt with a logo for a dog training school, and on the back, it said “Trainer”. My heart dropped into my feet. Clearly, a “trainer” who has zero education in the field.

I couldn’t say anything – I’m not about to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong as I know I have a hard time holding my tongue in situations like this. I’ll leave it to her vet to explain tracheal, esophageal and cervical spinal damage caused by choke chains. They’ll certainly do that, won’t they? [insert head shaking here]

The Purse-Pup Parent

Ah, my favourite. The parent whose dogs are so tiny they are dressed up and carried in a purse instead of actually socializing on the ground with their own species. This one nearly gave me an aneurism yesterday. She finds out that I’m a trainer and she says to me “Oh, I love training. My dogs love learning. Watch this.” And she plops one pup on the ground, she stands tall, sticks out her chest, deepens her voice and stiffens every muscle in her body before bellowing “SIT. SIT. SIT.” and the poor dog sits with his ears pinned back, his eyes averted and his head as low as it can go as he cowers. She continues. “DOWN. LIE DOWN. DOWWWWWWN.” as she uses one hand for the hand signal that looks more like “I’m going to smack the daylights out of you”. The poor dog, still cowering and shaking, lays down and starts to quiver. She turns to face me proudly and says “I’m really good at training. We do this all the time.” I look at her and say “Yeah.” and I walk away. I can’t talk. Nothing I say to that woman is going to change anything and I have the feeling my tongue will split and curl as fire shoots out of my mouth. The best thing I can do is walk away without more than a word.

The Yanker

Parker and I stood by The Hydrant‘s booth, admiring the collars as a woman and her two Great Dane / Mastiff-type dogs strolled by, both on head halters. Parker leaned over to have a quick sniff and one of them turned and gave him a “hey – you’re too close” warning growl (something I find perfectly acceptable) and the woman yanked so hard on the leash that his head snapped right back into place.

Another woman, with her beautiful Doberman (on a prong collar, of course) was walking along, giving the poor dog constant corrections as she walked. The Doberman wasn’t even walking out of line – he was right beside her, but she was so used to “correcting” that she was doing it without even knowing it.

I can’t even count on two hands how many people were walking their puppies and yanking on their poor necks as they walked.

I wish hands-free leashes were mandatory in life.

Woofstock breaks my heart. It’s hard enough walking around on a daily basis seeing prong collars, choke chains, people dragging puppies, fearful dogs and people who don’t even understand the basics of “doglish” but to see them gather in masses to celebrate this amazing species in this way, that’s too much for me.

The last straw was watching dogs strolling around with Kijiji bandanas around their necks. How is it that Woofstock allows a booth to be rented by the number one supporter of puppy mills? How is that acceptable? Where are the standards? I can get past the fact that we now have booths for places like Canadian Tire, Pledge, Rogers, Sony and Winners. These are clearly a money-making scheme that have very little to do with dogs (yes, I know that Canadian Tire and Winners sell a *few* dog-related products – they’re not exactly “pet stores” though). Why don’t we start having booths for anti-freeze and rat poison? As long as the money’s coming in, right?

I had a booth last year. It was $1000 I will never get back and hours and hours of my time that I will never get back either. I barely spoke to a single person who was truly interested in training – the most frequently asked question was “what are you giving away?” to which I started responding “my patience”.

One amazing quote of the day was “this is such a great socialization opportunity for our dogs!”

Yeah, if you want a dog that is completely overwhelmed, overstimulated, emotionally shutdown and perhaps even take on a behavioural issue like leash-based reactivity. It’s fantastic. Really.

I think I will stick with my own ideas of healthy socialization and look to Woofstock as simply a wonderful avenue for rescue agencies and other not-for-profits to get exposure. And if I do go next year, I’m going without my dogs and I’m going to try harder to wear rose-coloured glasses.

…to the wolves…

This week has been eye opening in a way…I’ve seen a few things that have caused my ears to perk up and my head to tilt sideways.

I’m working with a new puppy and his parents – he’s a 13 week old Boston Terrier named Oreo (so fitting!) and he’s an absolute delight. Our main concerns right now are socialization, so yesterday we took him to Urban Dog for a visit to buy a new leash, a little sweater (April = brrrrr!!) and some poop bags. We figured that around 5pm there would be tons of tired out, well-socialized pups being picked up by their parents from daycare, so it was a great time to go.

Of course as we walk in there are dogs everywhere, so we loosen the leash and we let him explore. He meets about 15 wonderful dogs who are very polite and well-mannered and he’s having the time of his life meeting all these lovely people who are just going bonkers over his charming good looks.

All of a sudden two big (beautiful) dogs come bounding out to see their owner and in response, the gentleman takes chunks of dried liver and starts tossing them at his dogs, who are frantically jumping and leaping in all directions to try to catch these airborne goodies. Poor little puppy is at risk for trampling, so we move back a bit. The well-meaning gentleman tosses a treat to Oreo but his big dog gets there at the same time and gives a deep snarly growl (which sends Oreo backwards immediately), before he gobbles up the piece and looks to the sky for more. Of course, the man scolds him for “being a jerk” and then tosses him another chunk (rewarding “jerky” behaviour? Huh?) to devour.

It always blows my mind when people throw treats to a group of dogs. Hello? Have you ever heard of resource guarding? It’s the most common thing in the universe in the animal kingdom. I guess that for me it’s a touchy subject. I had a Jack Russell / Corgi mix who resource guarded everything in the world and would stop at nothing to protect whatever object she had chosen. Buster (my Boxer/Boston Terrier) guards bones/high quality chews, and sometimes myself and his Daddy. I also work with it so frequently in my line of work and have seen some pretty serious cases that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. I take it seriously.

Throwing food to a group of dogs is truly one of the stupidest things you can do; it is almost guaranteed to cause a fight. It may not happen on a Monday, and you may get lucky on a Tuesday, but come Wednesday I hope your vet is on call. I see it as throwing a sheep to hungry wolves.

So back to this guy in the store.

He squats down to give Oreo a piece and I pipe up in a friendly but firm tone – “Oh, that piece is too big for him – please don’t. Thanks though!” He laughs it off and gives it to him anyways – “Oh it’s fine – he’ll work on it for a bit.”, he says to me. “No, it’s not fine, actually. That’s why I said it. That size of a treat would give him diarrhea for a week.” I say to him as I retrieve the chunk out of Oreo’s mouth and replace it with a smaller piece of lamb from my pocket.

How is that acceptable? Who says “oh, it’s fine” to a person who is saying that clearly, it isn’t. Would you try to give a handful of peanuts to a young child if their mother was saying “He’s allergic to those!”? Would you say “Oh, it’s FINE.”?

The answer: people who just don’t get it. That’s who does that. And it’s NOT FINE.

I realized that I have zero patience and tolerance for that type of behaviour and I turned to my client and I explained to him (first time dog owner) that he should never let someone tell him “oh, it’s fine” and that he is his dog’s advocate. People will not listen to you. People will try to pick your dog up without asking. People will feed your dog without your permission. It’s your job to disallow it, no matter how rude you seem.

The staff member at the desk saw the whole thing and was having a good chuckle – he was in agreement. He nodded to me as he truly understands – he sees it every day. Even the woman in line behind us did the same thing; she was holding a carseat with an infant in it. I imagine she has similar struggles. (Maybe not related to dried liver, but…)

Not only did this guy not have polite, well-mannered dogs that he was actively training, but he ignored blatant resource guarding around a delicate puppy, he ignored the request of another dog owner in relation to their dog, and he laughed off any seriousness in the situation.

These are the types of people you should NOT expose your dog to, in any situation. Simply walk away. It’s not worth it. You can preach and teach all you want, but some people simply do not listen.

There’s my rant for the day. Thanks for tuning in. 😉

If you’ve had a similar experience, please share it in the comments!

Homecooking: part deux

Well, it’s been two weeks since I put Parker back on home-cooking and boy am I glad I did. His breath is 100% better, his energy levels have improved, he is sleeping more soundly at night, his reactivity has gone down significantly (more on that later), and he is so motivated and happy!

This past week has been really busy and at one point I woke up and realized that I had no prepared meal ready for Parker. It was quite a rush and that will be my downfall. I’ll have to be more organized going forward. In a rush, I made oats, pumpkin, carrots, apple, banana, chicken breast, tuna. It was quite disgusting. And by disgusting, I mean he loved every moment of it.

Yesterday I was in a bind and made up brown rice, chicken hearts, carrots, bananas, strawberries and broccoli. Lesson learned. Parker thinks chicken hearts are weird and has to chew them 4 times before he believes they are food. He is not a fan of fruit (we knew this before). Chicken hearts are too rich, smell terrible, and cause him to have rabbit poop and Dramatic Groaning Syndrome all day.

Today I got up and raced to Sobey’s to stock up on his ingredients (and heck, even do a little grocery shopping for me too!) and came home with a whole lot for a whole $8.00. It’s important to shop for sales and for fruits and veggies that are in season.

I spent almost an hour in the kitchen preparing the next weeks’ worth of meals for him and he spent that whole hour singing to the heavens just outside of the kitchen. I kid you not. I wouldn’t dare stop him – it was the only entertainment I had while I slaved away in a hot kitchen.

So for this week, his meal consists of:
– oatmeal
– cheerios
– boiled chicken breast
– canned tuna or salmon
– zucchini (HIS FAVOURITE!!!)
– carrots
– apple (still not sure if he will enjoy this long term)
– banana (learning to tolerate)
– green peas
– celery (chopped so small he can’t tell it’s there)
– vitamins/minerals
– safflower oil (sauteed the veggies in this briefly)

What did I learn? He loves peas. I had no idea, but I’m not really surprised. He is like his mama – he loves his veggies, but could live without fruit unless someone force-feeds him.

What did I learn that is even more important? That I have taught my dog to beg and now have to retrain some manners into him. Feeding your dog human food does *not* cause them to beg. Feeding your dog human food from the counter, the stove, the table, the couch – *that* will cause your dog to beg. Oops.

Trainer error. Please try again.

🙂 And now, for a picture-dump. Again, so good that I would eat it.