Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Update from the Pack

Hey there!  It’s me, Pip Squeak.  Mom* has been very slack about writing lately so I have taken it upon myself to write a note and let you know how we are all doing here “down east”.  First, Mom’s been working a lot.  Let me tell you, she’s up and going in the morning and doesn’t get back until 5 or 6.  Then we go for a walk, have a little play time in the back yard, have dinner, maybe chew a bone and go to bed.  That’s about it.  On the weekends, we go for a longer walk and get bigger bones.  All-in-all, it’s okay but I’ll admit things are a little boring.  We are trying to be good and take it easy on her though. 

This morning, we went for a run.  Now honestly, I really can’t tell much difference between our “walks” and our “runs” except that I don’t have to wait up for her quite as much on the runs.  She’s never going to break any land speed records, let me tell you and boy does she look silly doing it.  Don’t tell her I said this but she kind of waddles when she runs instead of trotting all nice and slightly diagonally like I do.  Dogs are so much more efficiently built than humans. 

Today we did “intervals”.  That’s her word for running more like us.  When she runs intervals, she runs and stops then runs and stops again.  This is similar to the way I run except I can never tell what Mom stops for.  I stop to sniff good things but lots of times Mom runs right past the interesting stuff (turkey poop, coyote tracks, deer rubs) and stops in the middle of nowhere just to pant!  I like running without my leash best because then I can stop at the good stuff.  Otherwise, I have to stop when she stops and, as I said, her choice in stopping places can be pretty lame.

When she does start running again, it’s funny because I never see what she’s trying to chase.  It probably doesn’t matter though because Mom’s never going to catch it!  Ben says he ran in a race with her once and there were some very fast humans there.  He thought some of them could even keep up with us chasing a turkey.  I wouldn’t believe that based on watching Mom run.  Heck, she can hardly catch up with me when I’m standing still getting ready to roll in something fabulous. 

Lots of times Mom stops to make us pose so she can take a picture.  Really, you would think she has enough pictures of us at this point but no it’s, “Sit here so I can take a picture” or “Lie down there, that will make such a cute picture”.  She even waits until we are all facing her before she’ll take the picture.  Honestly, there are things to sniff and chase crazy lady!  Let’s go.  We do pose to humor her though.  Today, she made us take a picture in front of an old airplane strip.  It was so boring it took a couple of tries before she got a picture with all of us looking towards her.  We were all scanning the woods for something more interesting!  Meanwhile, she ignored the perfectly intriguing pile of coyote poop right in the middle of the road.  People have weird priorities. 
This is us in front of the airstrip.  Anticlimactic right?  For those of you who don't know us personally, that's me on the left!

Mom told us today that we were lucky because even though she is slow, some people don’t ever run with their dogs.  Some hardly even walk with them.  It is hard to believe, but I’ve seen how excited some of the foster dogs get when Mom takes them running so I guess it must be true.  It’s funny but kind of sad at the same time.  It’s the most fun we have (other than chewing on bones of course).    

So, I told Mom that the next note she writes should explain to people how to get started running with their dogs.  I know how fun it is to go for a run with Mom as slow and clumsy as she is so if people just got started even a little bit, I know their dogs would appreciate it.  So stay tuned for her next note and get ready to start running with your dog. 

*Mom isn’t really my mom.  My real mom was a very nice border collie.  I call Lisa “Mom” because she took my family out of the shelter when we needed homes and she kept me forever because I was cute and persistent.  She also found homes for my real mom and my sister Ginger.  So she’s the mom of the family I live with now and it’s nicer than just calling her The Food Lady. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teachable Moments

This week's post is by Terri Wilkes, a Mid Atlantic Border Collie Rescue volunteer.

I often use this phrase while working with children, but today it dawned on me that it is a perfect opportunity as a dog owner to work on improving my dog's behaviors.  As Sarah can attest, I am known for adopting the schizophrenic pups.  Actually, my dog Sophie (a corgi/border/something mix) is 11 years old and has come such a long way in the last few years because I decided to stop protecting the world from her nonsense and make her 'deal with it'.

We have a big issue with the door, any door.  If a person comes through--even one of the family, the dog goes nuts. The barking, shrieking and running away from us goes on and on.  I just got fed up that I can't speak to anyone without my dog freaking out. When the doorbell rings I changed my body language.  I don't instantly search for her or try to get her contained before I answer the door (I look like a frantic fool).  I simply answer the door, give her a firm "quiet" and proceed to let the person know that the dog doesn't attack, she barks and I open the door and allow her to go out on the porch.  She gives them a few sniffs and barks and then we all enter the house.  Once she sees that I am ok with this person she settles and I reward her with a treat. 

Today the cable man arrived.  Big, scary, stranger with tools and wires.  So I proceed with the same process and it worked!  She started to huff and puff and carry on a bit inside when he was moving about from room to room and opening the garage door.  I decided that this was my opportunity not to stress out, but to make it a "teachable moment".  I am in the middle of the exact situation I want to work on with her.  I planted myself at the dining table with my laptop to work.  I got a few delicacies from the fridge (cheese bits, meat, etc) and kept them next to me on the table.  This is Sophie's currency !   

Each time she was quiet, sat next to me and allowed the cable man to pass by I rewarded her with a treat and praise.  I ignored any stuff I didn't like.  For the first time I had someone in my home for hours and she was just acting like nothing was unusual!  She got her toy and went and lay down.  She even followed the guy around wagging her tail.  I am almost looking forward to having more people show up so I can reinforce this. 

I hope that this inspires others to use those moments when you feel out of control of your dog's behavior and use it to teach. I realize I have to change my reactions and behavior in order to get her to.   Took me a little while, but I am getting it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Training Tip for Today:

Take the blame out of training time.  Your dog isn't being stupid, stubborn or "dominant" and labelling him as such doesn't help you train him better.  He either doesn't understand what you are asking, isn't sufficiently motivated or you are asking for too much too soon. Take a step a back and look at your training program. Figure out how to make the right behavior easy, the wrong behavior hard and reward each tiny step in the right direction.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Clearing up Myths Surrounding Animal Rescue

Today I'd like to share an article written by our friends at Mid Atlantic Border Collie Rescue.  

Clearing up the Myths Surrounding Animal Rescue   
When you have been involved in animal rescue long enough, you hear so many things that people assume which are simply not true! So, in order to clear up so common myths or misconceptions, we have listed a few of them here.
Myth: Rescue groups exist to serve and assist former owners and future adopters.
Reality: Rescue groups exist solely to serve the animals it seeks to save and must always do what is best for its animals, and not the potential adopter or former owner.
Myth: Rescue groups are grateful and happy to receive the donations of animals from their former owners.
Reality: Rescuers are saddened when someone who acquired an animal with a promise to love and care for them are now giving them away. We are people who believe that caring for an animal is for life, not for convenience.
Myth: Rescue groups are desperate to find homes for dogs, and any home will suit.
Reality: Quality rescue groups are very careful about placing the right dog in the right home. Some dogs have special needs and are placed into homes appropriate for them. We invest time speaking with potential adopters, getting to know them. We visit their homes to make certain that the dog we place into their home will thrive in the home that applicant has to offer. We want every adoption to work and to be the best adoption possible and are very careful about our placements. We always try to do what is in the dog's best interest; we are, after all, the guardian of the dog.
Myth: Rescue groups are just like shelters.
Reality: Rescue groups tend to be experts on the breed(s) that they are representing. Rescue groups also tend to foster their dogs, rather than to house them inside of kennels. Because of that, rescues tend to know their animals more intimately than a shelter; therefore can really help to place the perfect pet into the adoptive home.
Myth: Rescue groups never have puppies (or kittens) available.
Reality: Rescue groups do sometimes have puppies available, and often they are quality pups who came out of unpleasant situations. If you are set on a puppy, consider applying and asking to be put on the waiting list.
Myth: Rescue groups always have puppies (or kittens) available.
Reality: Only occasionally do most rescues have young pups available. However, the majority of dogs we rescue are between the ages of one and three years. When considering adopting a rescue dog, please be flexible in your expectations.
Myth: Adult animals are difficult to train and do not bond as tightly as animals adopted in infancy.
Reality: Adult animals are almost always far quicker to catch on to new rules and in the experience of many adopters, may actually bind tighter, almost as if to not ‘lose’ their new person. While adopted adult dogs do come with history or ‘baggage’, so did your spouse/mate/friend and somehow you manage to love them and they you.
Myth: There is something wrong with an animal that is in rescue.
Reality: The large majority of animals in rescue have simply been tossed away. Sure, some of them do need some honing to become perfect, but most of us need that as well! Many of these animals are shy and under-socialized. They have not been abused; they have not been trained or exposed to the world. This is an easy thing to accomplish and the large majority of animals respond well to simple exposure.
Myth: Adopting a child is easier than adopting an animal through a rescue group.
Reality: Adopting an animal is sometimes time consuming and yes, you will need to answer questions and allow us to visit you in your home, however, comparing pet adoption to the adoption of a child is ridiculous and incomparable.
Myth: Rescue people use rescue to make money. If they were really interested in finding animals homes, they would give them away rather than charge a fee.
Reality: While some rescue groups get financial support from a national club (either the breed's club or a national rescue for that breed), most money that is spent on the care of the dogs in rescue comes from the rescue. In order to continue to rescue animals, the rescue must charge a fee or the rescue will fail. Each animal receives the vet care needed to ensure that they are reasonably healthy when they are adopted. Vet care costs, as does food, and shelter. In reality, the Adoption Donation made for an animal is far less than the actual cost to care for the animal while it is in our care.
Myth: Rescue is going to ‘make money’ from the animal that I donate, so there is no need for me to give a financial donation if I choose to relinquish my animal.
Reality: Far from it. The rescue that kindly accepts your animal into its rescue program will likely invest double its adoption fee into your animal before it is placed into its forever home. Your donation ensures that your dog receives the best care possible and that the rescue can continue to operate in order to save another animal.
Myth: The breed rescue people will take my dog if it has bitten and will rehabilitate and re-home that dog.
Reality: If you do not trust your dog, you should not ask anyone else to trust your dog. Dogs ‘speak’ with their mouths (teeth), and some dogs speak more loudly with them than others. In a situation where a dog is unpredictable, it cannot be placed safely into a new home. Please take responsibility for your dog and either handle him with training or management, or in severe cases, euthanasia.  
Myth: The rescue people will take my old or sick dog and care for him in his final days
Reality: Breed rescue does not exist for your convenience. Rescue exists for the animals, and our ability to re-home them. If an animal is ill, or old and infirm, it is far less likely to be re-homed, therefore, we are unable to assist.
Myth: Breed rescue will adopt out intact dogs for breeding purposes.
Reality: As unbelievable as this is, many people think we will do this. The truth is, we aim to REDUCE the number of dogs who wind up in shelters, not to INCREASE those numbers. No ethical rescue person will adopt out an animal that is intact.
Myth: Rescue groups are the people who have dogs that sniff in rubble or avalanches to find bodies or trapped people or rescue groups are the people who train dogs to help the disabled.
Reality: Not us. The first is Search and Rescue, the second is Service Dogs.
Myth: Animal rescue groups are against breeding as a general practice.
Reality: While some rescuers are against breeding in general, many people involved with rescue are breeders themselves. What we are against are irresponsible breeders who are uneducated and are not breeding in order to improve their chosen breed. Breeding is not something to be taken lightly. It is not something one just does, out of curiosity, to teach the kids about nature or to make some extra pocket money. When done correctly, breeding is not profitable, and is done ONLY to improve the overall quality of the breed. There are many people out there who breed simply to satiate the demands of the "pet" market, which ends up weakening the genetic pool of the given breed. This is what most rescuers are against, because we do not want to see anything happen that will diminish the quality of the dogs we love so much.

© MABCR 2009
Portions of this document have been borrowed from various animal rescue sites on the internet, as well as valued MABCR volunteers.