Do Unto Others: Intimidation in Dog Training. A thoughtful post about the reciprocal relationship between aggression toward your dog fueling his aggression toward others. This just reminded me that we so often forget the impact of our body language and actions toward our dogs. If only more dog owners could read and know and believe this. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)
A Lesson in Timing: The Tunnel’s End Nears. Ximena, as always, outdoes us with her seriously thoughtful and sincere approach to training–in particular, timing and how very important it is. Such a good reminder (and not to mention intimidating)! I have already learned, from our first weeks in class, that I am NOT good at timing and it’s really something I need to work on. (Identity: V+E)
10 Top Dog Training Tips You Can Use Every Day. Great, practical reminders from Pamela to improve our day-to-day training regimens. I particularly liked her reminders to incorporate training elements (treats, rewards, other motivators) around the house, so you can’t help but train throughout the day. (Something Wagging This Way Comes)
Fishing for German Shepherds. Jura sent me her lovely photos of this handsome German shepherd swimming in Hanoi. Gorgeous dog! It’s so interesting to see how dogs live around the world. Thanks again for sharing, Jura! (Hound in Hanoi)
Facebook Pup Learns to Herd. Mark Zuckerberg’s puli, Beast, attends his first herding lesson and you can see the photos on Facebook, of course. (The Bark blog)
SilhouPETte Charm Necklaces. I’m not really one to get into breed paraphrenalia/clothing, but I would totally wear one of these pretty necklaces with Pyrrha’s profile. Would you? (Pretty Fluffy)
Dog Shaming. Despite the sound of the name, this is my new favorite dog-centric Tumblr: Photos of dogs with signs detailing their misdeeds. I can already think of a few signs I’d write for Pyrrha… (Dog Shaming)
Husband-and-wife team Ali Canova and Joe Canova founded Mountain Freaks Agility in New Jersey and wrote this clear, helpful introduction to agility training. The book is colorful and easily readable and filled with instructive photographs and step-by-step training techniques.
I don’t know if we’ll even have a dog who will be interested in or capable competing in agility, but I’m certainly fascinated by it and I have always been interested in agility as a canine sport and discipline.
The Canovas are positive reinforcement trainers and they begin the book with encouraging you to establish a strong working relationship and basic obedience training with your dog before beginning any kind of agility work. They stress that your relationship with your dog, knowing him or her well, and establishing trust is critical before agility can begin.
The book moves from there into specific chapters on how to train for each hurdle or challenge on an agility course. How do you set up jumps? How do you desensitize your dog to the slamming board of the see-saw? How on earth do you train weave poles? The Canovas have these answers and much more.Agility Training for You and Your Dogalso moves into advanced techniques in the latter chapters, including course plans and movement strategies for more experienced handlers and dogs.
If we do bring home a dog who seems like he or she would enjoy this sport, I think I’ll definitely be returning to this book for future guidance.
When I’m sitting in my gray cubicle, staring at a computer screen, I can’t help but daydream about what I’d rather be doing instead. Those daydreams usually involve me frolicking in a field with my future dog, or a whole pack of my future dogs. These are some quasi “jobs” that I often daydream about having, even though I’m sure they’re all far less glamorous than they are in my imagination:
Reinforcement trainer, a la Patricia McConnell, Pat Miller, or Karen Pryor. I daydream about this a lot. I’ve even sporadically browse the CCPDT website to read about their testing requirements, recommended reading, and timeline for becoming a certified trainer. I love watching dogs learn and teaching them–and especially their humans–how to shape appropriate or desirable behavior. I still have so much to learn in this area, but I’m looking forward to the trial-by-fire that will be coming our way this summer.
Full-time dog walker/runner, a la Lindsey Stordahl. That is one fit and adventurous woman! I say I want this job now, but in reality, I’m not sure how long I would love it, since it calls for being outside regardless of the weather (I can’t believe she does it in Fargo). Mostly, though, I’m up for it, because hardly anything brings me as much joy as walking dogs.
Agility trainer/co-competitor. (What do people who do agility with their dogs call themselves?) I am probably not as competitive as most of these people are, but everyone looks like they are having such a darn good time! I love watching agility trials and it’s a nice daydream to entertain, raising up an agility champion…
Shepherd. Or a farmer with lots of dogs, I guess. But having a team of dedicated herders at my disposal is also a nice dream.
Volunteer in some dog-based therapy program. Dog-assisted therapy is so moving and meaningful to me. I am especially fond of the programs in elementary schools, whether teaching kids how to behave around dogs or being reading partners. I also love the idea of visiting nursing homes. I wonder if I’ll ever have a dog calm enough to do either of those things…
Writing the daily blog from the perspective of Martha Stewart’s French bulldogs. OK, maybe not really, but whatever intern has that job has it made! Just hanging out around her estate, photographing the dogs doing silly things, and then writing about it? Yes, please. I’ll take that job.
Do you entertain any dog job daydreams? Or do you actually HAVE one of these jobs? If so, I envy you… in my imagination…
I think what my weekend at the SPCA taught me is that the smart dogs are often the difficult dogs. The ones who are the quickest to learn also tend to be the ones that are the most challenging to handle. To explore this notion, I’m thinking about three dogs that stood out to me from my back-to-back days of dog walking this past weekend.
Jim Bob is the unfortunately named darling, whom I don’t have a photo of, because he very fortunately got adopted on Sunday! I had the pleasure of working with him on Saturday and fell in love with this little guy (which ever increased my anger that someone would give this beautiful little dog such an undignified and unsuitable name).
Jim is a small (20-30 lb.) black sheltie/spitz mix with a TON of energy. The kid could jump six feet in the air from a standing position. I noticed him anxiously jumping and pacing in an outdoor pen while I was walking the other dogs. He was very vocal about his unhappiness of having to stay in that pen while everyone else got to walk around. From time to time, I’d stop at his pen, let him greet the other dog I was walking, and slip him a little treat. He sat very politely and waited for me to hand the snack over before snatching it out of my hand. I was impressed with his manners, which, for a shelter dog, are quite rare. I also admit I was quite taken with his good looks.
Later in the afternoon, I found out he hadn’t been walked that day and got to take him out. A band of volunteers were repairing the trails and the wheelbarrows and rakes made Jim very nervous, so I decided to take him into the fenced-in agility ring on the SPCA property. I had a feeling that this little guy would be an agility star. He was whip-smart, extremely agile, and had a TON of energy! Plus, he followed commands very readily. To my delight, he soared over the different jumps next to me and seemed to love every minute.
As I walked him back, I thought about the right home for Jim. From my half hour with him, I felt sure that he would be best in a home with someone who would be willing to give him a lot of time and energy. Otherwise, this smart but inherently nervous dog could turn out to be a domestic nightmare. I’m happy that he got adopted. I just hope his new family will give him all of the love and attention that he deserves.
I try to be gentle with every dog I encounter, but I’ll admit that Cory really tried my patience. I noticed that when I walked up and down the kennel run, he was exhibiting a worrisome stereotypy of bounding from one wall to the next with his front paws. He did this without ceasing as long as someone was near his kennel door. From just a glance, it was evident that he was a very anxious and mentally shaky dog. I certainly felt for him.
When I finally got to his kennel to take him out, he was extremely difficult to wrangle. The hardest part of dog walking at the SPCA is just getting the dogs out of the kennel! Putting an Easy Walk harness on a highly reactive dog in a tiny, urine-splattered kennel is not a lot of fun. Cory proved his point. As soon as I stepped in there, he latched onto my leg and started humping me. This was not a huge concern, as he is a fairly small dog (30-40 lbs.), but it was annoying and instantly frustrating to me, because whenever I pushed him off and turned around, he just jumped on again. When he wasn’t humping me, he was biting my hands and snapping at my face. I could tell that none of this was done aggressively; the dog was just so damn excited to be going on a walk that he could not control himself.
Even knowing this, however, it was hard to keep myself from being very irritated with Cory. I tried waiting to see if he would calm down. Not going to happen. I also had about two dozen other dogs who hadn’t been out yet, so I couldn’t wait for him to sit still all day long. When I finally got the harness on him, he shot out of the kennel door like a rocket and pulled me into a fence. I really wanted to curse at him.
I know it’s not his fault. I’m guilty for not being more patient with him. But I have to wonder: With limited time and resources, what could I have done better with Cory? Any advice?
Finally, I got some quality time with Phantom, who is quickly becoming a favorite. You might remember Phantom from an earlier post. I can’t believe this handsome guy is still in the shelter. As you can see from the photo, he’s very attractive and fit. He’s also extremely smart. He knows how to sit, lie down, stay, and shake, which is four more commands than almost every other dog at the shelter. Under different circumstances, I think I would have been extremely tempted to take Phantom home myself. He’s just an all-around great dog.
Phantom loves to fetch and run and he still likes to hide things, as I mentioned when I first met him earlier. On Sunday, he hid a brand new tennis ball that I gave him to play with in one of the fenced-in enclosures. I promised him I wouldn’t watch where he was hiding it, because every time he saw my gaze on him, he’d move to another location. Silly puppy.
My best guess as to why Phantom hasn’t found a home yet is because he’s a pretty intimidating guy to walk past; he has a loud and boisterous kennel demeanor. Let me explain my theory on this. I feel like kennel demeanor is one of the things that can make or break a dog’s chance of adoption. I only wish I could tell the dogs this. A dog like Pooch, for example, could be very misleading. Unlike all the other dogs, Pooch does not bark or jump at you when you walk past his door. He sits very quietly and just looks at you. He looks like a complete gentleman and the perfect picture of calmness. But the second you snap that leash on, BOOM! The dog is dynamite. He has more energy than almost any dog at the SPCA, but you’d never know it unless you took him on a walk.
Phantom has perhaps the opposite problem with regard to his kennel demeanor. He barks wildly with excitement when you approach his door. He also shows a lot of big, gleaming teeth when he barks and has a very deep, imposing voice. To most people, I’m sure that he looks like a pent-up dog full of aggression and anger. But nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a complete sweetheart and he walks beautifully on the leash. He’s very attentive to people and isn’t a pain to walk, like Pooch can be. I just hope someone will give Phantom a chance sometime soon.
Do Dogs Have Gender? Kristine writes a really interesting post on how we treat our dogs based on their sex. Do we culture them to act like “boy” or “girl” dogs? Great thoughts here. (Rescued Insanity)
Rez Dog Biographies. Photographer Steven Sable’s moving series of the homeless and/or neglected dogs who live on Native American reservations in the American West. It’s easy to forget that there are still many “feral” dogs living in the U.S. (Steven Sable)
Top 10: Beautiful and Artistic Dog Portraits. Always love a good dog portrait! Have you ever hired a professional photographer to take pictures of your dog? I’m tempted to call up our fabulous wedding photographer, Meredith Perdue, who is also a respected pet photographer, once we get our dog… (The Hydrant)
Weaving Machines. A fun checkerboard photographic montage of dogs doing weave poles. (Paws on the Run)
Top 6 iPhone/iPad Apps for Pet People. I don’t have one of these fancy smartphones/devices, but my husband does. When the time comes for our dog, I imagine I’ll be convincing him to get a few of these handy apps. (Pawcurious)
You’re Fooling Yourself. This photographer walks around San Francisco and takes photos of dogs tied to things, waiting for their people. He writes often hilarious meditations on what the dogs might be thinking. This one particularly made me laugh. (Dogblog)
Corgis are the pint-sized members of the herding group, my favorite breed category in the AKC. Corgis come in two flavors: the Pembroke Welsh corgi and the Cardigan Welsh corgi. Pembrokes typically come in the fawn and sable variety (like the sassy Pembroke in the photo above) and have docked tails. Cardigans are slightly bigger and have tails; Cardigans may also come in a wider range of colors, like the tricolor puppy in the photo below.
Queen Elizabeth II is largely responsible for the popularization of this spirited little breed in the 20th and 21st centuries. She grew up with corgis and continues to keep them today. I also think she has a great collection of names for them; Myth and Fable were two of her corgis and I think those are great dog names.
Like most herding breeds, corgis are known for being snappy and vocal. They are quick-witted and easily trained. And despite their short legs, many corgis also excel at agility.
Many people who are fond of the bigger herding breeds often pick up a corgi along the way. Corgis pack a lot of dog into a little body. I’m certainly open to the idea of a corgi at this point, but they admittedly rank below some of the other breeds in my mind right now.
As you probably know by now, I’m very fond of the herding breeds. My top three choices for a dog right now would be a German shepherd, an Australian shepherd, or a rough collie. These are all very intelligent breeds with a well-deserved reputation for being high-maintenance dogs. Not high maintenance like a pampered Maltese, though. These dogs are high maintenance because they were bred for their considerable intelligence and their overpowering drive to work.
If left to their own devices, GSDs, Aussies, and collies become difficult, destructive, and occasionally dangerous dogs. In all of my reading and my interaction with these breeds, I’ve come to learn this full well. I know that most herding dogs come with a caveat emptor.
The standard advice for someone planning to get a high energy dog is to be sure to have “a job” for the dog to perform. I’ve heard this a lot and I often repeat it to other people, but if I’m honest, I don’t always know what that means. Since I don’t have a flock of sheep handy, what qualifies as a “job” for my future herding dog?
Here are some of the little “jobs” that I’ve been contemplating teaching our future dog, in the absence of actual herding:
Agility, if the dog is so inclined. There are a number of agility classes around here. I know that Aussies often excel at agility, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a GSD or a collie in an agility trial.
Retrieving games. So long as the dog enjoys retrieving, we will have him retrieve everything: Tennis balls, toys by name, his leash, our slippers, etc.
Obedience trials. This might not qualify as a job, but regular and ritualized obedience training would at least give his mind something to do.
Therapy work. I would love to be able to train a dog to visit schools or nursing homes.
Does your household (non-working) dog perform any jobs? If so, what are they? Any you would recommend? I’m all ears!
A Dog Post. A funny comparison between the regal profile of a Rhodesian ridgeback and the sloppy face of a Basset hound (including a wonderful montage of Bassets running, which is always the funniest thing I see all day). (Confessions of a Pioneer Woman)
Not Your Stick. A helpful photographic explanation of how the game “Not Your Stick” is played. (Raised by Wolves)
Self-Gratification. A hilarious montage of one German shepherd’s delight in a big orange bucket. (Raising K9)
Initial comment: Thanks, everyone, for all of the kind and encouraging comments this weekend. I was floored and flattered to be featured on “Freshly Pressed” on the WordPress home page. Your input has been so valuable to me! I hope that Doggerel will continue to be a fruitful and useful guide to the wide world of canine pursuits. With that, and my humble gratitude, here’s a semi-scathing book review… — Abby
This book had a lot of potential to be an interesting memoir. The subtitle is “My Year of Competing Dusty, the World’s Least Likely Agility Dog.” I read a few agility blogs and am interested in the sport as a whole, particularly since the dogs I’m interested in tend to be fairly good at agility.
But I found Dogged Pursuit, by Robert Rodi, to be almost unbearable. Mainly because Rodi comes off as such a pretentious jerk. I’m sure he’s probably a very nice human in “real life,” but his writing persona was so arrogant and off-putting to me.
The book chronicles Rodi’s journey of adopting Dusty, a nervous wreck of a Shetland sheepdog, from a sheltie rescue agency in Illinois. Rodi decides to get Dusty after his agility champion dog, Carmen, another sheltie, is forced into retirement by an injury. Clearly, he is adopting Dusty to turn him into a champion athlete. Which is fine. But it seems like that’s the only reason Rodi wants another dog. Throughout the book, Rodi expresses not a shred of affection for Dusty. Which is also fine–the dog does sound like a disaster–but it’s also not particularly endearing when you’re reading a canine memoir.
From the beginning, Rodi wants his readers to know how extremely cultured and educated he is. He wants you to remember, constantly, that he just “doesn’t fit in” with his fellow agility aficionados. He reads Tom Stoppard; they read Tom Clancy. He eats pancetta and pappardelle; they eat pizza rolls. In every chapter, he has to detail why he chose this particular, delicate Dvorak symphony for his drive to the next trial. Ugh. I think he keeps harping on how sophisticated he is for comic effect, but it falls completely flat. Instead, Rodi just comes off looking like a pretentious ass.
But that’s not even his most egregious vice.
What’s more upsetting to me about Dogged Pursuit is that Rodi is blatantly breaking what, to me, should be the cardinal rule of agility: You should only compete in agility if your dog genuinely loves agility. If agility trials turn your dog into a bundle of snapping nerves and you have to drag him out of a crate to compete, maybe you shouldn’t be competing in agility. Rodi never gets this. He forces this poor, anxious dog from trial to trial, desperately trying to prove something with this trembling creature, and for what? The dog certainly doesn’t care about qualifying for Regionals; Rodi does. And this dog doesn’t even enjoy being here. So stop. Shut it down, Rodi. Go home and stop dragging your dog to agility trials. He clearly hates it.
So, what did I learn? If decide to try agility one day, I’ll just do the opposite of everything Rodi did. In that sense, I suppose this book was helpful.