Monday, October 25, 2010

Life is good

We recently rented a cottage and spent a week up in the Haliburton/Algonquin area.

Our criteria when it comes to a cottage:

Must allow dogs
Have a large area dogs can run free
Be very private
Cost as little as possible
Have a place dogs can swim safely
Be open in the early spring or fall
Be clean
Preferably heated

We don't spend a lot of time in our cottage so it doesn't have to be large or pretty. I'd prefer if it wasn't - the less we need to clean and the fewer things to be broken the better. It's our base camp, most of our time is spent hiking and now caching with the dogs. We make our own food, eating before we leave in the morning and when we get back at night, with a lunch and snacks packed for when we are hungry during the day.

The spring or fall is the best time to go, there are no bugs, the trails are nearly empty and it's gorgeous! Perfect temperature for hiking. In the early spring many of the trails haven't been cleaned of fallen trees and some bushwhacking may be required, and the trails tend to be muddier. Yet you'll pass even fewer people than in the fall which is perfect for us.

We hike.

My Bully.


Kevin with the girls.

About as top of the world as you can get in these parts.

We cache.

Our first earth cache on the Spruce Bog Boardwalk trail in Algonquin. GC1626P - A waterlogged desert.

Bullet doing an excellent down stay at the cemetery gates while I search for a cache. He's usually by my side helping me but not here.

Caching helps you discover trails, places and landmarks you never would have found on your own.

Although some discoveries have you scratching your head wondering "why?"!

At the end of the day we make a fire or crash with a book.

Other than not working, our vacations aren't that different than everyday life. We just get to do the same things in new places.

Life is good :)

Brad Pattison vs Cesar Millan - Client relations

Watching an episode of "At the End of My Leash" with Brad Pattison never fails to cause a shudder or two (or three, or four, or five...) go up my spine. What I would LOVE to see is him take on some of the dogs Cesar Millan deals with.

Strike that last sentence.

What I would LOVE to see is no more At the End of My Leash.

In yesterday's episode I watched in horror as Brad grabbed one dog's collar and started pulling it towards him. The dog did what most dogs would do... He resisted by planting his feet. It was opposition reflex in action, NOT aggression or blatant disrespect for his "authority"! If a stranger grabbed me and started dragging me forward I guarantee I would resist. (Sure I'm anthropomorphising here but I don't think I'm way off base.) Brad didn't like the resistance so he then proceeded to lift the large dog off the ground by his collar. The dog panicked, whipping his head around, only then trying to bite the hands at his neck. What other options did the dog have? I wish he had managed to land one of those bites.

Halfway through the episode Brad convinced the family that the dog's many aggressions were too much for them to deal with and he himself drove the dog to the shelter. By the end of the episode they had a new puppy. I was disgusted by how it played out.

He's rude to his clients and why people continue to trade money for his abuse is beyond me. I don't feel that badly for them, they've seen his show. I do feel for the dogs and any children who are involved. To make a point he's always invading people's personal space by touching or lifting their kids, (GET YOUR HANDS OFF THE CHILDREN BRAD! Am I the only one who notices this???? GRRRRR.) sitting on the adults, grabbing or pushing at the dog. And his need to put surveillance cameras everywhere? Disturbing.

He seems to have stopped the human relationship psychiatry which is a very good thing. In the recent episodes I haven't seen him demand pushups or barge into a woman's bedroom at 6:00 in the morning. It's been a while since I've seen him rummage through people's homes while they sit outside. Also a good thing. It looks like he's trying to soften his image but all I see is very bad acting.

When you watch the show you'll see that most of his clients are put off by his abrasiveness and are uncomfortable with how he deals with their dog. I wish they could hear me screaming through my TV that they should follow their heart (and entire intestinal tract for that matter) and run as far away from him as possible.

If are currently having problems with your dog I guarantee there are trainers out there who will put you at ease and treat you (and your dog) with respect. When things get that bad, finding someone to help you work through an issue is the first step. It IS possible to find a trainer you enjoy dealing with, and guess what? You can even have some fun along the way! It will take work and cooperation on your part, a behavioural issue isn't caused in a day and habits can be hard to break - both yours and the dogs. But if you are consistent and work at it you will see improvement.

If you don't feel comfortable with a method you should always have the right to question it and then say NO if you don't like the answer. Even to a "professional". A real professional won't take a question personally so if you don't understand something, just ask! Don't be afraid to walk away and find another trainer. Because someone has a TV show does not make them special.

It's always better to confront any issues with a professional before they become too much for you to handle.

Watching Cesar deal with clients is great. He listens intently to them. He observes the dogs in action. He gets the full story before trying to solve anything. He doesn't sugar coat the truth, but he communicates to the people clearly and on an individual level. Politely! If the client is a business owner he'll draw parallels between how they deal with employees and how they should carry that over to their animals. He wants them to understand and has saved the lives of many desperate dogs.

It makes me laugh when Cesar is dealing with a dog and it reacts. He stays totally calm and continues his conversation while still working. He'll comment "That's good, I wanted you to see that" as he's trying to stop a dog fight, or "That's what I wanted" when things start to fall apart. Like it was his idea. He stops panic before it starts and deals with the situation quickly, efficiently and smoothly. Always in cool control of each element.

He practices with his clients what he preaches about the dogs - calm assertiveness.

Brad looks like he's desperate to prove something, what exactly that is I'm not sure. He's teeming with tension and seems to consider everything a battle. He must always be right, in control and "winning". He demands that everyone respect him. He demands trust.

The thing about respect is that it cannot be demanded. It must be earned. From your clients, from the dogs and from an audience. Same goes with trust.

Cesar has my respect. Brad, not at all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gib Laut!

I've recently started teaching Lexus to "Gib Laut" (to bark on command). It's time for her to learn the hold and bark.

This is something I could have easily taught earlier but to be honest I didn't want to encourage more barking around my house, the Schnauzers give me enough noise. She is refreshingly quiet at home. She has no problems barking for a tug so I've never worried she would have a problem learning this exercise. This is simply the next step - self control. Striking the tug as soon as it comes within reach sure is fun, but it's not the only part of the game.

She's starting to grasp what I want, her mouth is opening and she's going through the motions of barking... without the noise! Hilarious! This won't last long and I'm afraid I may have already missed it, but I'm hoping to get a video to share.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bringing up Beauty

Sylvia McNicoll is a Canadian author from Burlington who has written a series of 3 teen books about service dogs in training from Lions Foundation Dog Guides here in Ontario. They are called Bringing up Beauty, A Different Kind of Beauty and Beauty Returns.

Having just finished reading the second book I'm going through puppy withdrawal. Serious puppy withdrawal. I'm not sorry we kept Lexus, but I know I'll foster again. I miss it! Having a new dog on a regular basis has been a huge part of my life for a long time, and it's something I really enjoy doing.

Fostering may be a selfless act for many people but it wasn't for me I have to admit. For me it was about getting my hands on new dogs that I didn't have to keep. It was an opportunity to learn. Oh, and being able to take cute puppies into public places was a nice bonus!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre - As the Wolf Turns

Currently the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre has 4 wolves:

HAIDA - Alpha male born May 8, 2007:

CEDAR - male, born May 11, 2002:

GRISSOM - male, not sure of DOB but younger than Cedar, older than Haida:

GRANITE - the only female, littermate to Grissom:

No puppies have been born since Haida's litter. I'm curious as to what will happen next, Granite hasn't produced a litter yet and if that continues they'll have to bring in another female. From what they were saying at the centre it would be a puppy. They are unsure if they will introduce new blood or find a pup from a pack they've donated to in the past.

I had to question how healthy it is for them to inbreed. Maybe there is a reason no litter has been born since 2007?

When I asked, the answer I got back was that wolves are not like dogs. Humans play matchmaker with dogs resulting in weak specimens living and breeding. In a wolf pack only the strongest survive, only the top two can breed, therefore the pack stays strong.

Ok, maybe.

But with 4 wolves? Father impregnating daughter or siblings mating? This doesn't sit right with me. This ISN'T a wild pack. This is a pack of 4, all related, in a 15 acre enclosure, fed by humans. Humans ARE playing matchmaker here. There is no opportunity for fresh blood from other packs. An individual does not have the ability to separate from this pack if they wanted to. I wonder how often new blood is introduced in the wild and the circumstances surrounding it?

The pack in 2007.

Feeding time - fall 2007.

Haida as a puppy in the rear. They want to get black back into the pack, (say that three times fast!) possibly one reason to use their own lines. Suddenly starts to sound like a dog breeder, doesn't it? Not natural selection making the pack strong.

Visiting the Haliburton Wolf Centre is something you should do if you are in the Algonquin/Haliburton area of Ontario. Don't forget your camera! The wolves spend most of their time sleeping, but if you are lucky enough to visit at feeding time they get super active. I love seeing how they interact with each other and watching them float over the ground on their long legs with massive paws. Hopefully there will be new wolves in the pack in 2011.

I want to visit the wolves at least once a year. Watch for future installments of As the Wolf Turns!

Read more about the Haliburton Wolf Pack.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The perfect dog

Ever since Bullet was a puppy I've called him the perfect dog. This got a few reactions along the lines of "there is no such thing as a perfect dog" which caused me to call him perfect even more often. I do things like that. And enjoy it ;)

But Bullet IS perfect. He's healthy. He's trustworthy. He's a constant companion. I feel safe with him. He's great around children, in public, at work, at home. He's always willing to do whatever we are doing and will turn himself inside out to please. He's got a great heart and such a cute face!

Perfection to me isn't about points in a trial. It's about life between trials. Bullet is everything I wanted and more, therefore he's perfect.

I won't mention the fact I've had the occasional daydream about debarking him along with his sister. (Maybe the vet could give me a two for one deal?)

Or that I wish he'd think twice before chewing the dumbbell... or the sleeve... or the Kong that's he's always got stuffed his mouth while sitting there staring at me.

So what if I have to take a shower after training to remove the slobber he coats me in from head to toe?

And why, oh why, does he INSIST on tearing up my lawn every time he urinates?

No. I will not mention those things because they don't matter.

Turns out that I'm an incredibly lucky person - Lexington is also perfect. I've got two perfect dogs!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

A rare shot

My dogs live together and interact freely, but Bullet and Lexus are the two who happen to always be with me when I have my camera.

Sharing = holding on until the others give up.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The wolf and the crane

A Wolf who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for a large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone. When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed: "Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the mouth and jaws of a wolf."

~ Translation by Townsend, 1887

In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The "make it up as I go" method.

I rarely mention training here on this blog. In fact, if you were just skimming it you’d have no idea how often I do train or what I train for. I’ve been contemplating starting another blog that will focus on training sessions with details on what I’m working on, but really doubt anyone would want to read that. Or that I would be driven enough to actually write in it. We’ll see.

The day I stop evolving by trying new things is the day I become less of a trainer.

Over the years I have learned from many sources - People, books, videos, seminars... but the dogs themselves have influenced me the most, they let me know if I'm on the right track or not.

It’s hard to train alone. Friends and mentors are necessary to help point out mistakes and make suggestions on how to improve, as well as offer encouragement - I value and respect these people. I still take my dogs to obedience classes and most likely always will. I attend seminars. I watch people handle their dogs in training and trial, and learn from their performances. I'm on a never ending quest to do better and learn more. I'll "talk training" with anyone!

Yet I’m past the point where I need or want a training director. By training director I mean someone telling me what to do and taking offense if I chose not to do it “their way”. Directing the flow of a session is another matter, that is necessary in a club or classroom setting.

I’m a free spirit and prefer to use what I like to call the “make it up as I go” dog training method. This independence carries through all areas of my life from work to making dinner in the kitchen. Recipes and instruction manuals are too restrictive!

Each of my training sessions are molded towards a final snapshot of a perfect performance in my head. I go with the flow, reading my dog to determine what I should work on next. (Dog must be faster, more precise, steadier, with more intensity, etc.) Most often I’ve got a plan in place, but sometimes I’ll get creative and try new things - just to see what happens. It's like dancing with dogs. If it doesn’t work out no problem. There is always tomorrow and I have the freedom to try something else.

Maybe if I were to follow someone's method my dogs would do better in the few trials I actually enter. Maybe. But I can’t handle the pressure of performing for people. I hate feeling that I must succeed to accurately portray someone's "brand" - and that if I fail I’ve done something horribly wrong and it will reflect on them. I’d rather take responsibility for my own performance and leave it at that.

Training a dog brings me joy. Developing a relationship with an animal that loves to work with you is incredibly rewarding. They are my friends and I like spending time with them, and as a bonus training makes them even more enjoyable as pets and companions. To this day I'm continually blown away at what animals can be taught to do, and when I look down at a dog I've trained I realize what amazing creatures they really are.

Ears and nails

Every summer the end of Bullet's ears get injured. The cuts don't seem to hurt him and they never gets infected, but once open they generally don't heal over until winter. We live with the occasional blood splatter up the wall or spots of blood on his dog bed.

The cause of the injured ears is swimming. When the weather is nice it's the perfect safe exercise for him. Every time he gets out of the water he drops his toy and shakes, causing his big ears to slap against his neck and head. He shakes like he does everything else in life - he gives it all he's got!

All-in-all the ears are minor. Once the snow hits and his ears heal it's his feet that take the beating. With the icy ground frozen solid and no water to swim in, the running, turning and slamming on the brakes wear his nails down. Nail injuries can be serious in a Giant Schnauzer and I prefer to keep Bullet's feet in as good condition as possible. Boots will be in his wardrobe again this winter right from the start of the season.