Starting in late August every year I begin obsessing over Halloween. Not about what candy to buy or how I want to carve a pumpkin or season the pumpkin seeds. Those would all be good Halloween obsessions but mine is what my Daily and Semi-daily walk dogs’ group Halloween photo is going to be this year.
We’ve done pumpkins
We’ve done cowboys and pilgrims
Farmer and Cow
The one constant in these photos is that they are all staged with the dogs in sit stays. People are always impressed that the dogs will let me dress them up and stay put for the photos. Well I’m BORED of sit stays! With good treats, anyone can get dogs to stay put long enough to snap a photo. The more interested in Susan Garrett’s style of training I’ve gotten the more recall games I have added to our playdates. I had a vision for this year’s Halloween photo: all the dogs in superdog costumes (they are ALL super dogs!) running toward the camera.
What I forgot was that this was 6 different dogs with different personalities at different stages of life. The following is a behind the scenes photo essay on the making of 2013’s Halloween photo.
My mother was kind enough to loan us her backyard for this year’s photos and Jason took off a few hours early to be my helper.
With my treatpouch on his hip, Jason corralled all 6 dogs behind the hedges around my mother’s patio. I cued him to release the hounds.
First out of the gate is Sadie with Callie hot on her heels
Beautiful! Exactly what I was going for!
Next up is Sadie’s partner in crime, Lucy with Duffy skirting around the edge
Great, but why is Callie staying back?
Alright, Duffy made a break for it! Run, Duffy, run!
Come on Callie, even Abby is going to pass you!
Or not…let’s just let these two discuss their superheroness and move on.
Fortunately I had another trick up my sleeve. Mother has a shed in her yard. Jason got all the dogs into the shed and, on my cue, opened the doors so they could yet again come flying toward me for the treats in my pouch that Jason was still wearing…um…anyway…
Woohoo! Four dogs running the correct direction at once! Now we’re getting somewhere!
And here comes Django. Hi Django! Um, pay no attention to that hand sticking out of the shed urging Django to move forward.
And there is Callie, finally, hi Callie! Um pay not attention to the large, attractive man urging Callie out of the shed, k?
Here are my favorite shots of my super, Superdogs
Lucy and Sadie
Callie and Lucy
First, lets talk tools! In this post I use the word “dremel” to mean any rotary tool. In all three videos I am actually using Jason’s Buffalo Tools 6 speed rotary tool with flex shaft. This is the closest I could find online to what he has. Previously, I had always used a cordless 7.2v Dremel which usually lasts about 2 years if you are using them on as many dog nails as I do as often as I do. In my experience, the 4.8v just is not powerful enough. Now on to the why and how!
Susan Garrett recently posted a video on her site about the importance of keeping your dogs’ nails well trimmed:
Prior to watching this video, my main concern was what I had always heard: if your dog’s nails touch the floor when s/he is standing, it can cause arthritis in the dog’s paw and leg.
I don’t have any data to back that up but if you look at how a dog’s pastern is structured:
it makes sense that the dog rocking back on the metacarpals (which I believe is being referred to when someone says “pastern”) would cause problems for the entire leg/paw structure.
In this photo of Tintin’s front paws (4 year old Belgian Malinois):
I had just dremeled the paw on the right (his left paw) and previously would have been satisfied with the right paw since the nails are far from touching the porch.but do you see how much rounder his toes are on the right paw? There is a literal spring in his step now after his nails have been dremeled since I have been following Dr. Leslie’s guidelines and making sure you can’t hear nails clicking on the floor at all!
I have been using only a dremel to do my dogs’ nails for the last 15 years because I have never felt confident with clippers. For the first 10 years of using the dremel I pretty much just held the dog down like I was wrestling him/her and made him/her suffer through it. For about the last 5 years I have moved more toward counter-conditioning the entire process with continuous treats and in the most recent 2 or 3 years have progressed to something more like Leslie McDevitt’s Gimme A Break game which I, unfortunately, did not highlight, outline or embarrassingly, even use in the following videos. Hopefully Jason and his children will give me another chance to do so next weekend :-)
First up is 10 month old Lucy the Labrador Retriever:
As you can see, Jason is physically holding Lucy so that she has no option but to be still while I dremel her nails. I have been working with Lucy since she was 7 weeks old and yes, I did several weeks of counter conditioning the dremel beginning with the presence, the sound, etc. starting when Lucy was about 8 or 9 weeks old. Lucy just will not let you actually dremel a nail unless someone holds her and I can’t bear to let her nails get long. Off camera, Jason’s daughter is giving Lucy an essentially constant stream of dog biscuits to keep her distracted and hopefully make the experience less unpleasant for her. This is the old way but hopefully over time her conditioned emotional response will change and we can transition Lucy to the new, better way.
Second at bat is Tintin, a four year old Belgian Malinois. Originally Tintin was much worse than Lucy about having his nails done. After about a year of doing what we did with Lucy I was able to switch to a thrown ball (his highest value reinforcer) reward for each nail and now he gets one for every paw. He is panting here because I wore him out a bit before this session with some fetch.
Early on when I’m working on a front paw, you can see Tintin pull his paw off my leg. That would have been an excellent moment for some Gimme A Break but since I knew we were trying to do video of all three dogs in a limited amount of time and I had to hold not just the dogs’ attention but also a very accommodating boyfriend’s, a precocious 11 year old’s and a 7 year old’s who wanted to do pretty much anything but what we were doing so I just powered through which is not a great training decision but I never said I was perfect :-)
Last but not least is my 9 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Brit:
Brit has been having her nails dremeled for so long, she just doesn’t care. She isn’t overly cooperative but she also never genuinely struggles. I was doing a rear paw at a somewhat awkward angle for the purposes of the video.
Found this on another tumblog and I love the song and the show (Raising Hope) Enjoy!
Today I took Tintin and Butter over to Izzy’s mom’s house so Butter could swim which as a Labrador Retriever is her most favorite thing to do in the whole world! I know this because she has told me ;-)
The rescue Tintin came from specifically said that he was afraid of water. I’ve had him in a couple of creeks, he jumps in my baby pool and I’ve given him a bath but I did not intend for him to do any more than get on the steps of the pool to keep cool. I was throwing biscuits in the pool for Butter to dive in and get and boom, next thing I know, Tintin is in the pool and swimming like, well, like a Labrador Retriever!!!!
I just barely had enough time to grab my cell phone and click the camera on to catch his (as far as I know) very first swim! We had only one second of frantic pawing at the side before I managed to get on the steps and encourage him to keep swimming to me :-)
I love food puzzle toys. I love them almost as much as my dogs love them. Here is a video of Jellybean (Australian Cattle Dog), Britney (Jack Russell Terrier) and Blue (ACD/JRT mix) having breakfast on my freshly mopped kitchen floor this morning. Brit has my original favorite kibble dispensing food puzzle: The Atomic Treatball. Blue is knocking around a pink Treatstik which was briefly my favorite until Kong unveiled the Wobbler which is what Jellybean starts out using.
I love the Wobbler and Treatstik because they can very easily be taken apart for cleaning and can be filled with specific amounts of kibble. The Treatstik and the Atomic Treatball come out ahead of the Wobbler for smaller dogs though since they both come in small sizes while the Wobbler is huge. Hopefully Kong will release a smaller version of the Wobbler soon.
Poor Brit has never gotten to play with small dog toys because I always also have a larger dog and fear the larger dog could choke on a Brit-sized toy but I have clients with small dogs who would LOVE a size-appropriate Wobbler!
Another advantage of the Wobbler and Treatstik which may not be apparent in this particular video is that the dog does not need to move them around a great deal in order to get the kibble to fall out of them.
Jellybean and Blue sometimes quarrel a bit about the food puzzles. If I were not recording the experience I would have separated the two of them and I would not have had to stay on hand to make sure everyone was playing with her own toy.
PLEASE TELL US! Several people wrote in with sad stories of clear problems that trainers or vets never mentioned when the dog was younger. Many people wished that someone had said something to them sooner. The trick is how and when you say it (read on!) KINDNESS Oh please please please remember how fragile and vulnerable we are about our dogs. Expressing empathy and concern goes a long way toward having any comment you might make about someone’s dog be heard. OFFER SOLUTIONS I cringed reading comments about trainers who said things like “You need to get your dog under control!” and kept walking. Isn’t that, uh, what we trainers are for? Don’t people come to us to learn how to do that?
Hmmm last weekend I was trimming the hedges in front of my house. I had Jellybean in a Gentle Leader and leash on a sit stay a few feet behind me in my front yard. She got several compliments from people walking, with or without dogs, down the street on how nicely she stayed and how calm she was.
Then the yellow lab towing the very small girl approached. I have worked with either in boarding, training, pet sitting or dog walking probably 200 labs. I have met ONE genuinely aggressive lab. It could be that this dog’s body language was thrown off by towing 70 lbs of child but he came at us with a very hard stare and what both Jellybean and I perceived as aggressive body language.
I wish that I had reiterated Jellybean’s stay cue, stepped in front of her and let the lab jump into me. Doing that might have prevented the dog from terrorizing Jellybean and I probably could have gotten control of him and given him back to the child. What happened instead was that I let Jellybean run from him into my neighbor’s yard knowing that she is very smart in a feral way and a LOT faster than any fat, out of shape lab. The child got pulled down, lost the leash, the dog bolted after Jellybean who lost him then ran around the house to come back to me. I put Jellybean in the house and went to make sure the child and lab were okay. She proceeded to walk around my front yard with that dog until he took a ginormous poop which she of course did not clean up.
I honestly wanted to follow the two of them home and give the parents a piece of my mind about allowing this child to attempt to walk this dog. She seemed to be somewhere between 8 and 11 but very small and slight. There is NO way she could physically control a 75 pound dog and since the dog obviously had not been taught to walk nicely it was going to take someone who could physically demand that from him to get him from point A to point B.
The potential horrible outcomes are almost too numerous to name: dog starts a fight with another dog and child is injured trying to break up the fight; dog drags child into street where one or both are hit by a car. Not to mention that the child could very easily just sprain/break a leg, ankle, wrist or arm being dragged to the point where she falls.
When I was done trimming my hedges a half an hour later and went inside I could hear her little voice pleading with the dog to stop on the street behind my house. I know that there are a number of not very friendly dogs AND people living on that street.
I am not going to wear red hats with purple. I am going to clicker train beautiful, soothing Koi that don’t bark or need fetch sessions or to be walked :-)