Introducing…..

Aunam Cara’s Joke’s On You “Joker”

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Strange looking GSD, right? But I am now a GSD AND Aussie Mom! 🙂 Of course German Shepherds will always be my number one breed, but the Universe had something different planned for me and so little Joker came into my life. He is going to be my agility dog, trick dog, and who knows what else! I am excited to see where our journey goes!

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Joker is the first male puppy I’ve had, the first male performance puppy I’ve had, and the first performance puppy that I’ve raised from scratch. I’ve heard a lot of people say that working with male dogs versus female dogs is vastly different, so this should be a fun journey!

On this blog, I think Joker will go by the name, “The Wrong Shepherd.” 😉

Dr. Ian Dunbar Seminar: Day 1

I had the wonderful & exciting opportunity to see Dr. Ian Dunbar in person on the weekend of April 17th & 18th when he presented in Denver. Having never been to a seminar before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I quickly learned that it is a giant classroom full of fanatics who choose to sit for 8+hrs a day to listen to someone speak about a particular topic. And yes, I was one of those fanatics, coming back the next day to do it again. (If only high school classes allowed you to choose the topics of the seminars you attend!).

Being close to a celebrity (in my mind), Dr. Ian Dunbar walked into the room and my first impression was “My, he’s shorter than I pictured!” (I think that has something to do with the ‘height/success dynamic’ that is talked about in psychology classes). My second impression was, “Wow, what a bushy head of white white hair he’s got.” And those salt & pepper eyebrows over bright blue eyes definitely completed the picture of a kindly grandfather-figure with a wonderful bloody British accent.

It quickly grew apparent within the first half hour of talking just how passionate he is about dogs and dog training. You have to admire someone who has dedicated their life’s work to learning, discussing, teaching, debating, writing, and educating for and about a certain topic. And what is more amazing than the dog-human bond in this day in age? Dr. Dunbar talked with his hands, his facial expressions, his mannerisms, and his tone. He was very particular about certain things, such as the colors of the markers he used to draw on the whiteboard. And other things he said with such exaggeration and astoundedness that you could feel it wash over you like a wave and leave you thinking, “Well hell yes, duh, of course!

Disclaimer: I have attempted to divide the seminar into broad categories for easier readability and understanding.The following post will be a summarization of my notes from the seminar. These notes do not necessarily state my agreement or disagreement with Dr. Ian Dunbar’s views. 

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The first seminar of the weekend was entitled “Dog Aggression: Fighting.

Ian started out with the question Why are there more reactive/aggressive dogs these days? The audience gave two main answers: less physical exercise (Ian said no) and less mental exercise (Ian said yes yes yes!). Reactivity is caused by pent-up mental energy that has seen less and less release in dogs in the last 20 years, causing a massive trend towards more reactive/aggressive dogs. Dogs have not, in the strictest sense, been allowed to be dogs.

Puppies & Bite Inhibition

Dr. Dunbar believes this issue has always started in puppy class: A normal puppy class should have a minimum of 50 minutes of off-leash playtime, and preferably more. This allows two key things to occur: teaching the puppy bite inhibition & socializing the puppy with dogs. In order for a dog to live in human society, the top three most important things for a puppy to have are, in order:
1. bite inhibition [learning to inhibit & control their weapons (i.e. teeth!) against their own kind (other dogs) and humans]
2. socialization to people
3. socialization to dogs

Why have people become so afraid of letting their dogs off leash to play with other dogs? Fear! – of their dog getting hurt, of their dog hurting another dog, & of being held legally liable for damages that occur. This is where he stressed objectivity – being objectively aware of the likelihood of such a thing occurring, and of stemming fears & anxieties that are based on blown-up images of harm & legal fees. He seriously stressed the difference between dogs fighting & dogs biting – i.e. the difference between reactivity (fighting) & dangerousness (zero to little bite inhibition, mutilates).

He brought up what he called the Fight:Bite ratio.
Fight = how many fights has dog had
Bite = how many trips to the vet (for other dog) as a result of fight
His opinion is that it is inexcusable for any dog to grow up dangerous to humans.

DYK?
People will keep a dog that bites
more than they’ll keep a dog
that is not houstrained.

Ian summarized his belief about aggressive & reactive dogs in two answers to one question: Does your dog have bite inhibition?
Yes – you don’t have a problem
No – you have a hell of a problem.

Off leash playtime allows puppy biting. Puppy biting occurs more than any other behavior. Puppy teeth are needle sharp in order to hurt! Communication from other puppies allows a puppy to learn bite inhibition. All puppies should be off leash, interacting with each other, big, small, shy, over-the-top, scared, etc. If needed, the puppy can be socialized to one dog at a time i.e. see a dog –> get rewarded (and repeat over and over as needed). A puppy that appears to be bullying another puppy can be picked up to see if the “victim” puppy tries to initiate play again. He stressed that lack of socialization won’t become apparent until at least 5 months of age because the majority of 8 week old puppies are friendly and social to dogs & people, leading owners & handlers to believe they don’t need to put as much attention on socializing.

Differences in sexes/Dominance

There were 13 men in this seminar and about 90-100 women. It is no secret that the majority of dog trainers and veterinarians are women, although the number of men are rising. Women tend to be better observers, more fluid in their communication, and are less likely than men to get physical with a dog. However Dr. Ian Dunbar stated that the empathy that is a woman’s first instinct for an animal works against them! They need to learn to not show their fear, to learn to change the energy they give off towards their dog. It does absolutely no good for a reactive dog to sense their owner’s fearful energy. “What would the dog say about the owner if we interviewed him?” Ian asked.

In regards to dominance theory, Ian said that dog fights are more frequent in the middle ranking dogs than in either the top dog or under dog (his terms). He stated that dogs do have hierarchies but that they are not maintained by dominance. He also stated the opinion that dogs are more aware than humans of a “potential jerk” on the scene and so seemingly unprovoked (from the human’s POV) attacks on a dog are justified in other dogs’ eyes. [And an extra tidbit: dominance theory (or dominance rubbish, as Ian called it, was first thought up from research by men… who are naturally more aggressive and physical than females because they have more testosterone!]

Dog Trainers & Working with Reactive/Aggressive Dogs

A trainer is someone who changes behavior though consequences. Dr. Dunbar seemed to equate the term “behavior” with “temperament.” Socialization & training is the only thing we can use to change behavior. Dogs learn through feedback. According to Ian, most owners give less than 2 pieces of feedback to their dog. Some trainers give between 15 and 20 pieces of feedback. Ian says he gives roughly 80 pieces of feedback a minute.

Dr. Dunbar described 3 levels of feedback to be used with reactive dogs:
1. S- (stimulus absent) = zero feedback
2. S+ (stimulus present with a reaction) = small feedback (“Ah ah why would you react like that?!” disapproving tone)
3. S+ (stimulus present, no reaction) = lots of positive feedback! (treats, lots of yay!s, happy dance)
He calls this differential classical conditioning (DCC). You are classically conditioning the dog to differentiate between different scenarios (& his reactions to each) by the level of reward & reaction that you as the handler are giving off.

Reward has to be binary – meaning the trainer must tell the dog both what is right AND what is wrong. However, what the dog did wrong should only occur once or twice in every 10 trials. In regards to reactive/aggressive dogs, praise should be given to a dog for NOT fighting. It is harder to notice things that are absent (fighting, which gets negative feedback) versus things that are there (not fighting, which gets praise). Up until the dog is 3yo, every single social interaction should be acknowledged & given feedback (positive or negative). And remember, it is the dog’s perception of positivity or negativity that counts, regardless of what it looks like to the owner or to an onlooker.

Example: If you ask your dog to dog something and he does it, praise/reward him. If he doesn’t do it, *don’t* say “bad dog!” – get his attention and make him do it (i.e. through luring, repeating command).

According to Dr. Dunbar, a trained dog is one that is under verbal control at a distance with distraction and zero training tools (treats, toys, leashes, collars, etc.). A training tool should be judged by how easy it is to fade out and still get the same results. He’s a big advocate of using food as a reward because it is easy to lure with, can be easily used to create a chain of behaviors, and can be easily faded out. He does make the assertion that a reward only influences behaviors that occurred in the last 3 seconds. Any longer decreases the effectiveness of the reward to increase the target behavior.

Any neutral stimulus can become a secondary reinforcer, like the clicker. Likewise, an aversive (to the dog’s POV) stimulus can also be turned into a secondary reinforcer (ex: collar grab = treat!). Turning a stimulus that a dog would normally react to into a secondary reinforcer is one way to reframe the situation for the dog. Dr. Dunbar says that if a dog doesn’t not care for food, it can become a secondary reinforcer for anything and everything else the dog does like/enjoy (ex: treat =  go outside to play, go for a walk, access to a treasured toy etc.).

Dog-dog aggression, according to Dr. Dunbar, is predictable by looking at the owner: by not praising good interactions and falling into an emotional puddle when dog gets in a scrap with another dog. He suggests doing something with rhythm when approaching another dog, such as reciting a poem, counting, etc. He also described something as the jolly routine: being overly happy and excited and joyous to let your dog know that you’re happy when another dog is around, and hence that there is no reason to react.

Troubleshooting with the reactive dog

Dr. Dunbar stressed the importance of creating set-ups to train what your dog reacts to before it happens in a real-life situation. For instance, the idea of a “trick walk.” Walk along normally, then slow your pace and treat the dog. Repeated over and over, the dog will begin to associate you slowing down with getting a reward and so will look up at you. This allows you as the handler to keep a sharp eye out for your dog’s particular triggers and prevent a reaction from occurring. The same can be associated with seeing another dog, if that happens to be one of your dog’s triggers. What he calls stimulus locking is rewarding the dog for looking at his hand, allowing him to survey the environment for triggers.

An emergency command such as “sit” or “down” can be used to control the dog’s behavior & body language when the handler is not next to the dog. Ian likes to use “sit” as his emergency command over a recall because it stops the dog from moving.

Resources
The following are links Dr. Ian Dunbar mentioned during the seminar.

Dog Star Daily
Sirius Pup
Bite Scale

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And I believe I covered all the major and minor points in this seminar that I could absorb and write down! If you made it all the way through, congrats and thanks for reading! 🙂

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever dog training seminar. The topic, the speaker, and the information were all extremely worth it and definitely gave me a lot to think about.

Please, share your thoughts below! Have you ever been to a Dr. Ian Dunbar seminar? What do you think of the information I have in this post? How could you use it in your life? What do you do differently? What do you agree or disagree with?

Sadie Lee: Adopted!

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Yesterday, April 22nd, 2015, Dustin & I drove Sadie to her new home in Greeley, CO. The couple who adopted her fell in love with her the moment they first saw her a little over a week ago. Dustin and I were confident they were a perfect fit for crazii Sadie Lee after meeting them as well. They have an 8yo male GSD who is trained in personal protection work. Sadie will have a nice big yard to call her own, and an awesome little “hidden” cool cubby in the basement.

The couple who adopted her are very involved with their dogs and more knowledgable about GSDs and dog training than the general dog owner. They don’t plan on having kids or being around kids, which also solidified our confidence in them. They are willing to put in the work to help Sadie reach her full potential. And maybe best of all (for me & Dustin, anyway) they are extremely willing to keep in contact with us, share photos, and go hiking together! So we’ll hopefully be seeing Sadie regularly. 🙂

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All in all, this fostering thing is hard. As soon as I closed my car door and put my seatbelt on, the tears came. Sadie was with us for 7 months. She gave me some serious lessons about loving, giving, and listening. But I know she will teach her new family just as much, if not more. ❤

Love you, Sadie Lee.

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Taking the leap!

After talking to a new dog friend whom I met over the weekend, I believe Dustin & I are going to take the leap into feeding raw!

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I have wanted to feed raw for quite a while now. I do believe a species-appropriate diet is the best option for my dogs. I’ve just always been intimidated by all the different options and opinions on what is right, correct, etc. Well, no more! As soon as Hawkeye’s bag of kibble is gone, he will begin getting fresh raw chicken to start the journey.  No more excuses, no more piddle-paddling.

Since this is my first time feeding raw, it’s going to be a fun learning experience for all of us, Hawkeye included! I have been doing a ton of research and reading up on it. I have calculated the amounts to feed, the percentages of muscle meat, bone, & organ. But the one thing I have seen over and over is KNOW THY DOG! Meaning, let the dog tell you what works for him. And Hawkeye can’t tell me anything if I don’t start letting him talk about it. So come follow us along on this journey!

Does anyone else feed raw? For how long? What experiences have you had? 

Lessons From Dog

This post is kind of geared toward performance dog people. As I don’t believe there is anything less than perfect dog to have in your home as a general dog owner. ❤  

Someone once asked me, if I had the choice between having my *perfect* dog – behavior & personality, among other things – for a short amount of time (say 2-4yrs) versus having a dog with issues – like behavior problems – for a longer amount of time (say 7-10yrs), which would I choose?

My answer was the second dog, and it stands to this day.

my two girls <3

I have been humbled over the years, by each dog that has come into my life. Each individual has given me much more than I was ever able to give or teach them. Each individual has shaped me, bit by bit, into the person I am today. And the ones who clashed with me, who weren’t the so-called “perfect” dog, have been the greatest teachers. The ones who have insisted on their way, have told me – in their own way – their perspective on the world. They have forced me to step outside my comfort zone, to accept differences, to step down from my high horse of humanity.

me, Secret, Jayde, and Mandy

Mandy, my sweet little girl who started it all, was “perfect”. She showed me the world of obedience and rally and dog ownership. She was down to do absolutely anything with me, and put up with me and my odd human ways for all those years.

Then came Jayde, my first GSD. From our very first training session, she told me that she didn’t like how I was doing things, and that I better change. Something about her warned me that I had to change my ways. She put up with me, for the most part, but she made sure her opinion was heard. She was not a “perfect” dog. But to the very end, she was the perfect teacher.

Jayde quote

Mimosa, my first foster. Pulled from a shelter, about 18 months of age. Beautiful, sweet, smart. She was the “perfect” dog. Her only issue was pulling. She got along with all dogs and people she met. She loved kids and adults alike.

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And now Sadie, the one who made me think back to that day in the car a long long time ago when that person asked me that question. Sadie is far from perfect. She is excited, emotional, intense, sensitive, sweet, daring, brave, easily-aroused, expressive, loud, insistent, obsessive, wild. The entire package of Sadie Lee all at once will knock you to your knees. She tells you how it is, how it’s going to be, and how big of an idiot you look  at the other end of the leash. But when you look in her eyes and ask her to work with you, she gives you everything she has. The most perfect imperfect dog.

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What would be your choice?

What We’ve Been Up To

The month of March was filled with lots of breaks in routine, so my blogging habits broke as well. IMG_2460This month I am looking forward to attending my first ever dog training seminars, presented by Ian Dunbar! I don’t know what to expect but I am very excited to extend my knowledge and resume!

Sadie is still with us, as you can see in the above photo. We went on an Easter hike yesterday and the dogs got to swim a bit, which they loved. We’re hoping to start hiking more now that the weather is getting nicer. May be meeting up with someone from the Hiking With Dogs Facebook group later this month, too! I love that there are so many places to get outdoors and immersed in nature in this beautiful state of Colorado.

Training wise, I have begun taking Sadie’s self-control training more seriously now that she can handle more. We’ve been working on nose touches and waiting for release (to go through a doorway, down the stairs, through the gate, to chase the kong). Hawkeye’s self-control is pretty good but he’s been getting a refresher as well.

That’s basically all that is new with us! I’ll try to post more this month! 🙂

Hawkeye’s First Massage!

Hawkeye got his first massage today! I’d been wanting to get him one for a while now, mainly because he has always seemed to be sensitive about his rear end. Since he’s a rescue, there’s no telling what his history is and I’m concerned about hip issues.

Anyway, Jim wanted to see how Hawkeye moved. We took him out to the parking lot and after watching him for a minute Jim remarked that he was one of the most balanced shepherds he’d ever seen. 😀 When we got inside and set him up, Hawkeye was extremely unsure at first.

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It took him a few minutes to settle down and begin trusting that strange man who was touching him.

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These next couple photos surprised the heck out of me. Hawkeye actually stood up while Jim was massaging his rear end (can’t remember the name of the muscle he was massaging at the time)! Normally he sits down or tries to avoid a lot of touching or pressure around his hips and croup.

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There were some moments that Hawkeye was very unsure, particularly when Jim was working on his… I believed he called it the iliac muscle?…. and also his groin muscle. Both of which Jim told me were very tight and uncomfortable for Hawkeye!

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He *really* enjoyed the relaxing, strong strokes down his back. 🙂

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What do you think? Think he enjoyed his first ever massage? 🙂

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Some Fun GSD Accessories!

A friend of mine from work surprised me yesterday with a few GSD goodies! I already had one of the pens, but I’m happy to have another because they write awesome. And look at that luggage tag! So cute. I might put it on my purse, because I rarely use my suitcase. And of course you can never have enough refrigerator magnets! It’s perfect. 🙂

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Thanks Kayla & Victor! I think I need to check out these new pet supply stores in town.

Hawkeye’s Funny Habits

Hawkeye has always been an odd duck. But a cute one. He has this thing he does that after I take him outside in the morning (or when I get home from work and take him out), he’ll go potty then come over to me and start loving on me like he just realized I was there. It’s awfully adorable when he nuzzles his nose in my hand and insists on putting his paws on my shoulders and giving my face a good wash.

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Playtime consists of another idiosyncrasy of his.

“Hawkeye, go around!”

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But sometimes, he anticipates the “Go around”. 😉

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He definitely makes us laugh. 🙂

Does your dog have any strange or funny habits that make you laugh?