Monday, July 31, 2006

When Good Dogs turn bad.

At five years, seven months and 27 days old, Cooper has just discovered the joys of illicit countersurfing.
His takes in the last 3 weeks:

About a pound of Mackinac fudge: pistachio, chocolate mint and maple praline.
Almost an entire raw chicken, out of the sink.
A tub of feta cheese.
Cat food.
More cat food.
Some vanilla yoghurt.

Now this is a dog who well understands "leave it." I can put food on the floor, tell the dogs to "leave it", and they will, even in my absence - although I don't suppose it would be fair to expect them to ignore food for like a whole day. I've left him sitting in the truck with food accessible, and if I tell him to leave it alone, he will. For all these years, I've left raw meat things - dog food - thawing in the sink with nary a worry.
It's not like he's forgotten - he's only filched things when I'm not in the room. Late last night I tried an experiment and put a treat on a chair, told both dogs not to touch it and left the room for about 10 minutes. They complied.
So, what the hell?
My best guess is a confluence of conditions:

A few weeks ago, Daphne dislocated her kneecap again. It took her a while to heal up and become ambulatory. So, she and Cooper weren't having their usual play-crazies in the back yard....Coop got kind of clingy and followed me from room to room. He normally doesn't do this.
Between my long work hours, the heat and the rain, the dogs haven't been getting as many long walks as usual. Cooper is an easy keeper and gains weight in the bat of an eye - I've cut his food back some so he stays lean.
He's been good about respecting Elvis's food (on a seperate little counter in the kitchen) for almost a year and maybe he finally succumbed?

He lives to eat and is very "food motivated" so I guess I should be surprised that he has been so good for all these years.
The easiest route is to retrain myself to be more careful about leaving food out. The pig! No ill effects from anything he filched, except I found plastic wrap from the fudge in his poop with the writing still intact.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The blue beastie and Elvis.

This is the blue beastie dogmobile. My little Saab wasn't cutting it as a dogmobile, the truck is always full of tools and ladders and paint shit. I bought this old DNR Jeep for $700. It's so basic it even has hand crank windows and you have to pull on a knob to turn the headlights on. How quaint is that, hey?
The speedo & odometer don't work, so I neither know how fast I'm driving or how many miles are on the thing. It has no CD player, though the guy I bought it from put big-ass speakers in the back, so I can listen to my three remaining cassettes very loud. (Human League, Best Of, Vivaldi's Four Seasons and U2 Rattle & Hum.) The guy I bought it from also put heavy duty front end parts and shocks, so I can go chase elephants in the swamps of Tanzania in it. It roars to life and runs beautifully, lots of room for both doggies, and crates, and hey I like Human League.
And the obligatory WOOF sticker of course, bling for my Jeep.

Elvis was under the Jeep toying with a field mousie. I checked, it was beyond saving and is now singing in the heavenly field mousie choir for eternity.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The boy has fun.

These aren't the greatest photos, but we had some smokin' fast clean runs at the trial last month.
Took July off to practice (two classes a week now) and the agility dance card is filling up for August and September.
If there is an agility doG up there, can we please pretty damn please get the final leg of our UKC AG2 title so we can start accumulating points? Thank you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Everybody say, awwwwww!!

This sounds a bit macabre, I suppose. Some people who are very committed to feeding their cats a truly "biologically appropriate" diet of raw meats buy the little feeder mice sold for snakes. The mice can be purchased live or pre-killed. There's a few online purveyors, like Mice On Ice, who will sell you frozen mice for pet food. "Pinkies" are the hairless babies. "Fuzzies" are the older furry mousies. I just imagine having trays of frozen baby mice-icles, like little pink popsicles, sitting in my freezer next to the Red Baron pizza & peanutbutter icecream - awww, no, there went my appetite!

No really, check out the Mice on Ice website, it is quite funny.

I was looking for images of baby mousies and found this sweet little album. The owner bought a very pregnant mama mouse and photographed the babies from birth until maturity - which takes only four weeks,. The photos above are from her site.
Now I am definitely never buying mice for Elvis the cat to eat! Not that I was considering it in the first place, honestly.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Turid Rugaas "Calming Signals" book report.

Turid Rugaas is a Norwegian dog trainer who wrote "On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals." It's the only dog book that fairly exhaustively indentifies and explains canine body language, and how humans can use these signals to communicate with dogs.
While I think it is important and very useful information, I think some of her underlying theories and training methods are misguided at best.
I just posted my opinion of the book on one of my yahoogroups.

I think she has done some wonderful observational work in identifying many body language signals; I learned from that. A couple of things that I hadn't really thought about became clear, in terms of canine body language. A lot of what she writes about how to use body language to communicate with dogs is spot on.
I have a problem with her theory, though. She identifies just about everything as negative stress, and the "calming signals" as ways dogs use to relieve the stress. In fact, she seems to have a real bug in her panties about this stress thing and regards just about everything apart from pure joy and contentment as "stress" which MUST be avoided at all costs. OK, I think that is just silly. First, stress is inevitable and little stresses are normal, it's not the jouney it's the destination. IOW, stress isn't inherently bad (to her, you can stress a dog by stepping over it when it's lying in a hallway, which can damage the dog's psyche and you must not do this, ever, because it is Not Nice.) Things which may stress a dog: Under or over-exercise. Having to hold going to the bathroom. Being alone, too cold, too hot, being startled, hungry, thirsty, being corrected, direct threats, getting overexcited, being pulled by a leash and so on.
Granted these things would be stressful if they were constants in anyone's life, but certainly normal occurences at times.

She then identifies many things dogs do as signs of stress.
Take yawning. Most of us know this habit in dogs and can identify it as a communication of sorts, I figured this out MANY years ago. Mine would yawn loudly when they were in the car approaching the park, in that case I interpreted it - correctly, I think - as anticipation and eagerness, like" are we there yet, hurry UP!"
She makes no distinction between eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress.)
The other problem I had - despite the claim by Terri Arnold on the book cover that every incident recounted in the book is true - I don't believe that. I just don't.
Example: She has one dog, Vesla, who apparently was excellent with other dogs and very good at giving clear signals and getting along with everyone. That part I believe; some dogs are better at giving signals than others, for sure. Turid says putting a nose to the ground is a calming signal. She recounts a story of a client coming to see her, with an extremely dog-aggressive bitch, for whom no other method of training has worked. She instructs the skeptical owner to remove the dog's leash and just let her go, while she and Vesla are standing there. Dog charges Vesla in full snarl. Vesla puts her nose to the ground. Dog screeches to a halt, confused. Then decides to be friendly, and shortly thereafter is frolicking with Turid's pack of dogs with nary a raised hackle. Maybe, but I just don't see it, not with a truly aggressive and dominant dog. She has quite a few similar anecdotes of calming dogs sniffing the ground, turning sideways to aggressive dogs and such to thwart aggressive behaviour. It will work with some dogs in some situations, sure - most people who understand a bit about dogs know that dogs approaching sideways instead of head-on aren't as likely to get into an altercation, it's nonthreatening behaviour. I sure wouldn't count on my turning sideways to a really aggressive, pissed off dog coming towards me as a way to save my skin, though!
Also, she says somewhere that all aggression is born of stress and fear, which I think is baloney. Her assertion that one should never threaten or chastise a dog but only be calming and submissive, is unrealistic and simply will not work with all dogs. Dogs understand corrections and even threats. Fairly and honestly given, this is quite sensible and the message easily understood by them. I agree that dogs also use "calming" signals with other dogs. Well, they also use "threatening" signals with other dogs too - in fact this is largely how puppies learn manners from their littermates and older dogs in the pack! It's not necessarily cruel.
She has some other stories in "My Dog Pulls, What Do I Do?" about how negative associations can have adverse effects.
One, a puppy sees the man of the house walk in the door, moves towards man and a broomstick falls on her and she is startled. A year and a half later, this dog is still "terrified" of the husband. Sure seems to me we're not getting the entire story there. It's normal for dogs to get startled. A mentally sound dog recoivers from the startle quickly.
Two, an Elkhound is being measured with a measuring stick at a show by the judge, is somehow hurt by the measuring stick and becomes "terrified of all people." It takes five months to get the dog past this before she can continue her show career and have puppies. Now it seems to me, a dog this weak-nerved has no business at all having puppies, since temperament is in part genetic. (I'm assuming the judge didn't beat her to within an inch of her life with the measuring stick or something.)
Three, a dog was about to take a drink of water in obedience class, the trainer yelled NO at the same time, and the dog almost died of dehydration because it was then too scared to drink water. Thankfully, Turid to the rescue.
She recounts several stories like this to illustrate why we must never use the word "NO" or raise our voice with a dog, in case it makes an incorrect association and thereafter becomes "terrified." Maybe they raise extremely nervous and sensitive dogs in Norway?
In short, it offers some useful and interesting insights. Speaking of short, it's only 38 pages long and much of that is taken up with drawings - many magazine articles are longer and more information-dense than this book. The training advice is overly simplistic, and while it might work with a soft-temperament, easy going dog, nicey-nice training mehtods are not only ineffective for many dogs, but downright unfair. Dogs understand all sorts of clear signals, not all of them calming and gentle.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Weather here, wish you were sunny!

Had a lovely little mini-vacation in Mackinac. (Pronounced, and often misspelled, Mackinaw.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Yap yap grrrr woof. Uppity puppies.

I'm going for an up-north (Michigan) mini-vacation in a couple of hours. To save time, I'm just C & P'ing an email I just sent to someone who asked me for Rottie puppy advice. Her 8 week old pup has some normal puppy bad manners and is play-lunging and trying to bite people's faces.
I wrote this email in 9 minutes, but honestly here's some excellent advice (if I say so myself) and if you're ever planning on getting a puppy you should take it to heart.
Unedited, if grammar & syntax are off, bite me. No, don't.

"Puppy growling and biting is normal, especially for such a young pup. Never ever let her use teeth on any person, even in play - you can use a tug toy or something, but it won't be cute when she gets to be 80lbs! Jumping at your face is totally unacceptable even for a little pup, though. She might be a bit dominant, or maybe just bad manners (I can't tell from here!)
Say NO (or whatever word you use), grab her muzzle and hold still until she quits wiggling and growling. Not to hurt her, don't get mad, be calm & matter-of-fact. Some people advocate shrieking loudly, freezing still and avoiding eye contact when a pup gets bitey - sort of what another dog would do to her. She'll learn that biting = immediate cessation of all play. If she gets particularly uppity, you can grab her by the scruff and hold her down for a bit. This sort of rude behaviour is more common with pups who are taken away from mom & littermates real young - they learn manners very early on, and now you have to teach her.
She is a little sponge right now - start teaching sit, come, let go, start using the same words for everything - want to go OUT? want to come INSIDE? Time to EAT, etc etc. So she'll learn to be responsive to you & other humans in the house right from the start, make everyone use the same words. Make her work for food and treats, using sit or shake or something. If she is bitey about food or treats, feed her by hand and say take NICE or something, don't let her get into the habit of being grabby or guarding her food. So she realises all these things are yours to give, not hers to take. Don'rt ever let a puppy do anything now you don't want her doing when she is 80+lbs, because it's not fair to change rules on a dog. Always say what you mean, Rotties tend to be real honest dogs and owners should return the favor. :)
OK, that was a five minute brain-dump on puppy manners! Oh, start getting her used to a leash too, even just by dragging it around if she's uncomfortable with it at first. If you take the leash, don't follow her around, she has to follow you...I don't mean dragging her around or anything, let her sniff around and stuff, but encourage her to stay with you.
Get her out of the house and meeting nice people too, now and then, so she is comfortable and confident out in the world and in different situations. Don't baby her if she gets stressed or barks at strange things or people, be cheerful and tell her she is being silly and to knock it off. Pups often go through a couple of fear periods - 9-12 weeks, then again in a few months. I don't know why. But she'll startle easier, don't tell her "there there it's OK" because that will reinforce fear.
Alright, now that was an 8 minute brain dump on uppity puppy 101! Hope that helped. It's all about being a "benevolent dictator" and some Rotties can turn into little monsters when they hit adolescence, you may wonder where the heck your cute little puppy went! So the better foundation in manners, attention and obedience you have, the easier that will be. Not all do, but feisty pups are more likely to try challenging you later on.
Oh PS, bully sticks are awesome chews and you can freeze them first, that will help her teething and feel good on her gums. In case you are wondering, they are bull penises (no, really, and you can get them over 3' long) and they sell them at Pet Supplies Plus and many pet stores. Digestible and long lasting. Rawhides are not real safe, especially for aggressive chewers. I think most vets would tell you that too, they surgically remove many rawhides from dog tummies! Also the ones with knots can be choking hazards.
Hey, that was pretty good, I oughta write another book LOL."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Jumping on the "Five Things" bandwagon.

Five things on the table (actually a great big wood antique radio the size of a Buick) by my front door.

1: Nine leashes. Yes, I have two dogs. Yes, I actually have more than nine leashes. I have 20' training lines, 11" traffic tabs, a coupler for walking both dogs on one leash, a 2' leash, a 7' leash, 6' leashes, 4' leashes, a slip lead or two, a snap's a sickness. I see buttery soft braided leashes in custom colours and must have them. If I can bring myself to spend well over $100, I am lusting after a braided kangaroo leather leash with custom beading and bling of choice.

2: Old Corona beer bucket filled with various plastic bags for poop pickup.

3: An old LL Bean fleece pullover with purple snowflakes on it.

4: A humungous pipe wrench that weighs about 15lbs. I don't know why that is there.

5: A cast iron pig.

So, your pet has gone missing....

This happens a lot around July 4, when dogs or cats get freaked by fireworks.
Someone (Margot, thanks!) posted this great article to our yahoogroup on getting a lost pet back. It's worth bookmarking, just in case.

Years ago I was hiking with Bosco and Phoebe, a friend, and her Rottie in the Colorado mountains. The dogs were all off leash, we hiked tons and they were really good about staying with us. But. A herd of mule deer - like maybe 50 of them - spooked on a hillside and ran. The Rottweilers did a short chase and came back. Phoebe the Nottweiler was off over hill and dale chasing them. We called and looked and waited until dark, no Phoebe. She was gone for 5 days and it was a fulltime job looking for her! Flyers everywhere - with vets, posted all over, visiting and leaving a description with shelters, calling highway patrol asking about hit dogs on the highway, going door to door around the park trailhead. Friends and I walked all over the trails, calling her. We tried to follow tracks in the snow, but there were so many coyotes and other hikers, it was impossible.
After several days, I got a call from a park ranger - they'd seen a big dog hanging around the trailhead parking lot but she wouldn't let anyone near. I spent a day hanging out there, but she never showed.
Got her back in a March snowstorm the 5th day...I had Bosco and a backpack with peanut butter sandwiches, dog food and water and figured I'd hike that damn mountain from dawn to nightfall. Snow was falling in big flakes and we were going up the trail and all of a sudden a shadow-dog in the distance in the snow - Phoebe! I called her and she raced at us and actually leapt into my arms (80lbs of dog) and I swear I cried and hugged her so hard...She was skinny as hell and tired, but otherwise fine. She slept for about two days straight when I got her home.

Both my dogs now are microchipped and have collar tags. There's more chase-able wildlife here in MI, so there's only a few places I let them run offleash - never around woods because there's so many deer. They go regularly to a deserted park by the Flint River, far from any large roads or woods to run, because I think it's important to let dogs run and "be dogs" sometimes. Sometimes we drive up to Bluebell Beach state park early in the morning - there's a half-mile long, wide beach for them to run along.
Because I live in a dodgy part of the city, they are never left outside when I'm not home even though I have a 6' privacy fence, with a gate that is latched both inside and out. I know they wouldn't let anyone climb over the fence - and I can't imagine anyone dumb enough to try, with two Rottweilers in the yard! But you never know.
A few years ago there was an article in the paper - apparently a rash of dogs were being stolen when left outside unattended within an invisible fence. Who knows what for - pitbull bait? Breeding stock?
Elvis the cat does go in and out at will - he was a street cat for who knows how long; he would be really miserable if I tried to keep him trapped in the house. Cats tend to keep to fairly small territories, and Elvis is street smart. Luckily I am on a short street - almost impossible to speed - and several blocks from traffic. He stays right around the house, I think - there are two empty treed lots next to me and if I go out and call him he shows up within minutes. I had an indoor-outdoor cat for 14 years in the city (three different addresses) and she died of kidney failure, never got hurt or lost being outside. Dogs, on the other hand, will travel - it's what many breeds do naturally - and they can go quite a distance in a short time.
Now I'm going to take big bad Cooper for a little early morning travel around the hood. Daphne, the smaller, stupider Rottweiler slipped her kneecap and goes to the vet in a couple of hours so he can massage it back into place (I hope) and give her some better drugs than the aspirin and Benadryl I've given her for pain. She'll be out of commission for at least a week.
Hug your dogs!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Meet Sven.

Remember when Pierre died a few months ago? I did get a replacement Betta - Sven. I decided to choose names from different countries for my Bettas, and this little guy gets a Nordic name.
Since naturally Bettas live in stagnant rainwater in elephant footprints and other depressions in the mud, they are probably happier with plenty of nice organic matter floating around their bowls. The bloodworm season is past, but we have mosquito larvae for them to eat for the rest of the summer. Along with their daily scoop of larvae, they get random dead bugs, leaf debris, Rottweiler hair and whatever else falls into my pond. Some of the visible debris there is skeeter larvae. They live all summer on my back porch.
Must be doing something right, Achmed is about four years old now and quite spritely for a senior fish!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Interesting bug in my bathroom.

Saw this lovely creature clinging to my bathroom wall last night. Maybe an inch & a half long. I took photos and then scooped him onto a piece of paper and unceremoniously tossed him outside. Not the greatest photo because I forgot to turn on the flash.
I've tried to find out what it is - came across this cool site - but no luck so far.

Threecollie at Northview Diary nailed it - it's a house centipede! Harmless, beneficial even. They eat spiders and larvae and other smaller bugs. I should've put it in my 76 year old Scary Basement, there's enough spiders down there to keep an army of house centipedes alive for centuries.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I wrote another book!

Free Image Hosting at
OK, I didn't really. I just wrote the cover, using Click on the image for a larger view.
I bet I could train elephants, though.
(I am working some extremely long hours right now and don't have any extra brain cells left to write a pithy, thoughtful or witty post this week. So this will have to do!)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bosco and the Sunday papers.

I know I've written about Bosco before - the Rottweiler finding the penis.
Here's another cute Bosco story.
His entire life, he used to go out early morning and pick up the newspaper. I had it thrown in the back yard so he could get it without scaring the crap out of the neighbors. IEven after I discovered computers and started reading the paper online, I still had it delivered, just for him. He got quite distressed if it was late or missing and would sadly bring me a twig, or piece of trash - guess he figured even if he couldn't do his job properly, by doG he'd do something similar.
One Sunday morning, he didn't come right back in with the paper as usual. After a little bit I looked out - oops! Back gate stood wide open, no Bosco. I ran in and pulled on some clothes (a naked me would scare the crap out of the neighbors even more than my dog would) and opened the front door.
And there were six Sunday papers on the doormat. Six. And there was Bosco coming up the drive, wiggling with Rottweiler pride, with a seventh paper.
Well, of course. He figured if I was happy with just ONE Sunday paper, how happy would I be with LOTS of them! If bringing in one paper was doing a good job - why, bringing in seven of them must be, well, seven times better! That silly dog saw a glorious opportunity to do an extra special good job when he saw the back gate open. He trucked up and down the street, collecting the Denver Post from all the neighbors' front yards. To a dog, this made perfect sense...
Jeez, I still miss that dog, you know?