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A Trick for (giving) Treats

When training a dog, I find that giving SMALL treats as a reward for proper responses speeds the learning process and makes the session far more enjoyable for the dog and for myself.  But what do you do when you have a dog that is so eager to get that treat that she’ll take your thumb and finger with the treat if you hold it between them?  Here’s my Trick for Treats:

When a dog is gentle about taking treats, this is not an issue — like Ugg:

When giving larger treats (not training treats) presenting them sideways to the dog helps prevent the dog from taking your hand along with the treat:

When NOT to use treats in training

When I first start training a dog that has been living on the streets for a while, I don’t use treats at all.  These dogs are often so food-centric that as soon as they discover I’m carrying food they will do anything — including knocking me over and tearing open the pocket or pouch — to get it.  They have no idea about doing what I want them to do to get the food doled out to them a morsel at a time.  They want the food, they want all of it, they want it NOW.  That can be dangerous.

So instead I reward these dogs’ good behavior with head scratches and neck rubs.  And that may take some work too.  Dogs that have been abused or neglected for a long time are not accustomed to being touched except in violence and will be skittish about it.  Be patient.  Take it slow.  Earn his trust. Use a soft voice, and stay as low as possible so you are not towering over the dog.  That’s intimidating to them.  Also avoid staring at her eyes: her instincts tell her this is a challenge and hostility.

Once he’s adjusted to the idea that touching is pleasant, petting will serve as reward enough until you’ve gained enough respect that he will trust you to give out the food treats as they are earned.

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Peanut Butter Moonshine

I spent just under four hours today making just over 1,000 peanut butter dog treats. Ostensibly these are for the Quilts and Canines event on the 15th of the month. In actuality, some will be needed elsewhere before then so I’ll have to make more next week.

The process of making these peanut butter treats left a large peanut butter jar empty. I like to give the empty jars to the outside dogs because they tend to miss out on a lot of treats the house dogs get. But today I decided to give it to Blondie Bear. She’s been feeling down.

There was a time when she and Cochise were the only house dogs. Occasionally a foster dog would earn enough Good Dog points to come in for housebreaking, but the vast majority of the time it was just the four of us and Cochise and Blondie got lots of attention from Marie and me. But then we adopted Josephine. And Buddy. And Callie. And Moonshine is an in-house foster dog. Blondie is pretty laid back and doesn’t get huffy when the others push in front of her to get the People attention. But it hurts her feelings. So I thought it might lift her spirits if I gave HER the peanut butter jar this time.

She was laying on the floor in the kitchen watching me work, everyone else was snoozing in the living room or the den. There should not be a big tussle as the others try to get it away from her.

I set the jar down beside her. She looked at it, looked at me, looked back at the jar. She licked tentatively at the rim and said as she stood up, “Too rich for me. I’m trying to watch my figure.” and walked away.

By now some of the others got wind of the fact that I gave her something that I did not give everyone else and came to investigate. First on the scene was Moonshine. At first she stood off about four feet, her glance darting around the room looking for the others. She glanced at me several times, judging whether that jar was fair game or if I would scold her is she approached. I just watched as I worked.

Josephine was creeping up on the scene from the other side of the table. Moonie decided it was now or never. She stepped up, still casting furtive glances, maybe deciding if this was a trap. It sure smelled GOOD! Josie was stepping closer, so Moonie lowered her head, ever so slowly, still glancing about, and took the rim of the jar gently in her teeth.

She paused, listening, glancing at me, glancing at Josephine, then slowly lifted the jar, turned, and tip-toed out of the room. Once she got into the hallway I heard her claws clickety-clacking rapidly down the tile floor to the bedroom.

I was cutting out treats and loading them on a tray while this was going on. Timing is important in this, especially when I’m doing multiple batches, so I had to keep going until it was time to put that tray in the oven. With that done I took a moment to slip back and make sure Moonshine wasn’t making a mess of the carpet.

She was lounging on a bed, thoroughly enjoying licking every morsel of peanut butter she could reach out of that jar.

As I came to the door she grinned at me, flapped her tail a few times, and stuck her nose back into the jar, tongue snaking out as far as it could to retrieve that peanutty goodness.

That thing kept her happily occupied most of the afternoon! I’m sorry Blondie wasn’t interested, but glad Moonshine enjoyed it. She has started her heartworm treatment and will be getting the injections soon. I’ll have to make sure I empty another peanut butter jar when she comes home from that.

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Mitzie Steele: Notes on a foster dog

Mitzie is an Australian Shepherd / Cattle Dog mix rescued from the Mountain City TN Animal Shelter where she was about to be put down. I understand that the manager there called Steele Away Home and said, “PLEASE help me save this one.” One of our fosters drove two hours to pick her up. But once she got Mitzie home, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work because Mitzie has a high prey drive and was after the cat and the chickens. So, here she is, at Piney Mountain.

Last updated: Aug. 6, 2018

Base Info:

  • Arrival date: July 17, 2018
  • Breed: Australian Shepherd Mix
  • Sex: Female
  • Age: @ 1 year
  • Weight: @50
  • Spay/Neutered: Yes
  • General Health: Excellent
  • Temperament: High energy when playing, but sweet and attentive, even a little clingy, when calm. Brilliantly smart!
  • Gets Along with Dogs: Defensive-aggressive at first, especially if she is confined and the others are not. Playful and open once she’s settled in. May be too energetic for some small dogs.
  • Gets Along with People: Yes
  • Housebroken/Crate Trained: Yes

History

Surrendered to an animal shelter by her owner because the family was moving.

Transported to A Pathway to Hope on Aug. 3, 2018 for adoption.

Known Issues & Progress

High prey drive: cannot be trusted around cats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, or small wildebeests. This may have been misinterpreted: Mitzie loves to CHASE things, but may not be as focused on killing them as was thought. Still, I advise caution in this area.

High energy, she needs space to run. Walking on a leash is not sufficient all the time. She will walk on a leash, but is accustomed to being able to run.

Mitzie has a routine (hers not mine) of needing to get out in the yard at meal times (we feed at 7:00 am and 6:00 pm) so she can walk or run for 5 to 10 minutes and have a bowel movement. THEN she will return and be ready to eat. If I just give her her dish of kibble, she’ll sniff it, walk away, and refuse to eat until she gets her constitutional.

Mitzie has recovered well from her spay surgery and is again playful and happy.

Gallery

In roughly chronological order, newest at the bottom. Click the thumbnails to enlarge.
Some pictures are linked to Doggy Tales or videos about Mitzie, click those to open the related story.

 

Mitzie
Yes, you may pet me.

Getting used to Rainy

I *like* this bouncy thing!

A first good look at Mitzie (vid)

(Video)

Blondie teaches Mitzie to play nicely.

Mitzie is fussy about toys, but she LIKES this one!

Mitzie and Dani get loud sometimes, but are mostly peaceful.

One last play session for these two friends.
. . .

The Lion Queen

Callie and Rainy had an issue with one another over a plush toy that Marie found. Others got involved as well. Will they be able to resolve it peacefully? Who will be, The Lion Queen?

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Altering S.S.P.

It has been S.S.P. (Standard Sleeping Procedure) forever that Blondie Bear inhabited the snuggle bed at the foot of our bed and Cochise preferred to sleep in the corner by the wall. During times of high stress (heavy rain, thunder, fireworks, hunters on the mountain at night, etc) Blondie would slip around and sleep beside my side of the bed. Here she could prompt me and I could slide an arm over and scratch her head when she needed comforting. Yeah, I know: we’re not supposed to do that, it just encourages fearful behavior. But she’s my “sweetface baby girl” and I am a softie sometimes. Especially where she is concerned.

Blondie’s Safe Sleeping Spot

When Cochise passed away, Blondie began sleeping along side the bed every night. She’ll lounge on her bed until we’re all settled, but once we’re ready to sleep, around she comes. This could be a problem with mobility as I get up at night to tend to dogs clickety-clacking along the hallway — potentially needing to go outside. But I know she’s down there, so I probe gently with my feet as I sit up. Blondie stays real still, letting me discover where she is not so I can find floor and stand up. That’s trust!

I have to think she is still missing her best friend and is seeking solace in staying close to me at night. Most of the time she does not seek skritchies. Once in a while I am awakened by her big square nose poking me gently, but most of the time she is content with being close.

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Hindering Houdini: How to Prevent Dog Escapes From Your Yard

The Dogtor is in

Anyone who owns a dog knows that dogs love to run and play. Perhaps a geriatric dog would rather lounge in the sun and warm his aching bones, but most dogs want and need exercise. Walking on a leash with Master is seldom enough so, unless a dog park is nearby, a play yard is required. If planning a play yard, preventing dog escapes is a critical aspect to consider.

Why Your Dog Escapes

Most dogs are protective. Some are natural hunters. Therefore dogs will want to drive away perceived threats like other dogs, school bus monsters, delivery service trucks, and cars with loud exhaust systems. Some will chase prey: cats, squirrels, bunny rabbits, and birds. Others are gregarious and want to play with passers-by. Some have an adventurous spirit and occasionally get the wander-lust.

Blondie Bear looking fit specializing in dog escapesOur “Houdini dog”: Blondie Bear, fell into these last two categories. She likes to make friends, but also has (or had) a strong wander-lust. She’s a big girl: 90 pounds, but powerful and surprisingly agile for her size. She posed quite a challenge in preventing dog escapes, until I learned a few tricks. Tricks on preventing dog escapes that I will now share with you.

Chain-Tether-Run

Some dog owners opt for the simplicity of putting their dog on a chain or vinyl coated steel cable that is attached to something solid. As a permanent solution to dog escapes, this is a terrible idea. Many communities are passing ordinances making it illegal to tether a dog for more than a very short time (like an hour). No one wants to see a dog living his live on the end of a six foot chain staked to the ground. This is abuse and can result in criminal prosecution.

Using a run wire to preven dog escapesIf no other solution is available, using a cable & trolley run to extend a dog’s range while keeping him secured is better than a simple tether, but still presents problems especially in the area of potential injury to the dog.

Innovation In Dog Treats

The Dogtor is in

The old saying about necessity being the mother of invention is absolutely true. In so many instances I have cobbled together something or other specifically to meet a need in the life of my family or friends. Even my life as a furniture maker was made successful because I could design pieces to meet the specific needs or desires of my clients. I find that even in making dog treats, I’m looking for ways to innovate.

Being Fussy About Dog Treats

dog treats in a bowlFor the past few months I have been helping out our canine rescue group: Steele Away Home, by making healthy dog treats that are sold in Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital. The purchase price of these treats gets applied to the rescue’s medical bill at Cedarwood. This is one of several efforts Marie and I do as The Julian Fund, which raises funds specifically for S.A.H.’s veterinary bill.

Comfy Dog Bed for Christmas

Cochise, on the new dog bed
Cochise tells the tale

HairyFace’s sister sent our family a Christmas card that included a Petco gift card and instruction to get us doggies something nice for Christmas. Hairy went shopping. He found himself looking at snuggle beds and decided to use the funds to get me a really nice orthopedic dog bed (figuring that, like each dog bed in this place, it would get shared and used by all four house dogs). He explained to NiceLady that he chose that one because I am 8 years old and my joints are getting cranky, especially in this cold, damp weather. A feeling he understands all too well! This bed is built to relieve stress on my joints.

dog bedThe new dog bed arrived in a box SO big there was no reasonable way to set it aside for Christmas morning, so he unpacked it and set it out in my place in the sleeping room. He then moved my old bed to Josephine’s spot as an upgrade for her – which she appreciates – and moved her old dog bed out to the picture-box watching room for sun snoozing, which all of us appreciate.

Blondie Joins the Fun

Cochise, on DST
Cochise tells the tale

Blondie Bear has been feeling poorly for the past few months: she has the itchies real bad.  She’s gone to see Dr. Sandra a couple of times.  Dr. Sandra gave HairyFace some medicine for Blondie: that helped the itchies but made her sleepy.  Now that the problem is clearing up and Blondie isn’t spending all her time either scratching or sleeping, she is getting to be her spunky self again.  And that means she can be trouble for me sometimes.