Friday, January 31, 2014

Rescue Railroad: 5 New Northwest NR Foster Dogs

Along with Abo we have 4 other dogs that will be arriving tonight for foster homes in Washington and Oregon. Let's introduce them!

Tremolo is a young guy, not quite a year old and weighs about 14 pounds. He's a typical pup - bouncy and friendly and mouthy - and loves everyone he meets.

Gino's owner passed away and he ended up being surrendered to the shelter. He's four years old and weighs 11 pound although he's on the pudgy side and could lose a pound or two. Gino is a sweet gentle boy who loves people.

Tessa is a black and white Rat Terrier who is about 3 years old and our guess at weight is 12 pounds. She has a healed injury to her front leg that New Rattitude will be having x-rayed to see if there is anything to help fix it. She gets around great though and doesn't let it slow her down much. 

Thor had been in the shelter as a kennel mate to former NR foster boy Soos. He's about 12-18 months old and weighs about 12 pounds. He loves to play and tear around with other dogs but is just as happy to play with his people. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Foster Boy Arriving Soon

Our newest foster kiddo is a sweet 1-2 yr old who we have named Abo (Ah-boh). He's very sweet and a bit shy and that's about all we know about him at this point other than he needs to be neutered and house-trained. Since we seem to be perpetually house training at least one dog though, this isn't a big deal.

Abo is named for for the Abo Pueblo unit of the Salinas Pueblos National Monuement. We visited the ruins of the pueblo on our last trip to New Mexico and it was a beautiful location. 

Ruins of the Abo Mission, built in 1640

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Goals and Training Plans for My Dogs

I came home stuffed to the brim with new information and all sorts of training techniques that I want to try. In fact there is so much information dancing around in my head that I need to first slow myself down and make a plan before I start assaulting my poor dogs with a barrage of training that ends up overwhelming them.

I'm a fairly linear thinker so my tendency when I have a goal is to map out the steps needed to get there and then rigidly follow that path, always with my eye on the prize. This is not a good way to train, especially if you are working with fearful and anxious dogs.

Not that a plan isn't good to have, but so much rigidity is only going to slow things down and make a trainer push a dog perhaps faster than they are able to stay a happy, engaged learner. So for my dogs what I want to do is make a list for each dog. 

First will be a list of their strengths. I want to sit and ponder what each of my personal and foster dogs bring to the training table - not what tricks or behaviors that they already know but some of their natural talents.  For my pack of terriers, all four of them (foster and personal dogs) are pretty drivey which can really be a strength in a dog. They love to work! But it can also be a road block when a calm demeanor is needed. Frodo is pretty good at focusing and all four dogs are very intelligent and very motivated by food. Chima, Tilly and Salinas all have very good communication skills with other dogs and clear body language. 

Then I want to lay out some goals for each of my dogs of things we need to work on. For Chima my goals are continuing to desensitize and counter-condition her to touch from humans. Other goals for her are increasing her trust and connection to me and then working on making vet visits and nail trims less scary. Salinas needs to work on entering her crate and entering the house which can both be scary for her. You get the picture. 

The final step is to lay out a few different training ideas for each dog that will help us get closer to that goal. Since I'm not an expert clicker trainer and don't want to frustrate or overwhelm the dogs or myself, we are choosing some beginning training games - one for each dog - and starting simple. Frodo's overall goal is to help him be less anxious so we are starting out with some mat practice to work towards learning to settle. Chima is working on eye contact and Salinas and I are playing some crate games. Tilly and I are playing some games to help her with impulse control - a much needed skill for our resident senior citizen. No dog is too old to learn and the enrichment of clicker training games in my mind is even more important for seniors than other dogs. They need to keep their brains active and engaged. 

Chima showing some good eye contact and checking in with me.

Even if you have several different areas you want to work, unless you are an expert clicker trainer then start with just one thing and work on that until the dog feels super strong and confident with the skill before adding to the training plan. 

Frodo on his first step to letting go of some of his anxiety: working on "settle"

And don't focus on that end result of where you want your dog to be. Instead each day just observe where your dog is at and focus on that. Before you know it, you'll have reached that training goal but by focusing on the tiny steps and successes along the way I promise you that you'll reach your goals much quicker and everyone will enjoy the process more. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Clicker Expo 2014: My Brain is Going to Explode!

My best friend and I just returned from a four day adventure in Southern California. We attended our first ever Clicker Expo in Long Beach,  California. For those of you who haven't heard of Clicker Expo, it's a 3 day seminar with about 60 classes to choose from and the top trainers and behaviorist in the field speaking about just about every training topic imaginable.

What a unique event! These are some of my biggest heroes and the classes are so amazing that many of the instructors are attending classes when they aren't teaching. During one session Dr. Susan Friedman was sitting next to me and borrowed my notes! What can I say? Some people are star struck by pop stars - I'm star struck by behavioral scientists.

The "Room with a View Point" talk where 7 of the speakers sit and discuss random training topics

And then of course it wouldn't be Karen Pryor Clicker Training without all the stuff for sale. There was a great store and I bought some fun new stuff to use while training the dogs - a nice mat for training a dog to go to their spot that ties up like a yoga mat for classes, a container that works for dispensing wet food treats - something I need for Tilly who has a very specific diet she is following due to health issues. And then my favorite - a targeting stick with a clicker built right in to free up a hand while doing targeting training.

Mutt Mat, Clik Stik and wet treat bottle

The Expo was held on the Queen Mary and we also stayed there. Interesting place. It was a little depressing because it could be a pretty excellent venue but it just seemed so mismanaged - bad food at the restaurants, broken soap and towel dispensers in the restrooms, the worst signage I've ever seen, and kind of a shabbiness like everything was in need of a good polish. I found the original art deco interior beautiful and was in awe of some of the fixtures in the huge salons, but overall I was kind of "meh" about the space. I didn't hate the ship but I would have gladly given up the novelty for some numbered floors and good signage.

Queen Mary

The sitting, dressing area of our room

Anyhow, right now my brain is just awash with new information and I learned so much that I'm a bit overwhelmed. Hopefully I'll have time over the next few days to read back through all my pages of notes and get some posts going about what I learned.

The main thing I took away though was that I need to slow way the heck down in my pace of training and I need to strengthen a behavior more before I move onto a new thing. Oh - and observe, observe, OBSERVE. By doing that the dog will tell you everything you need to know about what kind of work should be done in the session.

Oh, and all my dogs would like to extend their deepest thanks to the faculty of the 2014 Clicker Expo for how much they all stressed to increase the quality and quantity of the rewards I'm using. They'd tell them themselves but their too busy eating the roast chicken they earned.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Adopted: Charlie's heading home

I think this may be a record for the shortest time we've had a foster dog. Charlie had an application when she transferred into our home from another foster home and it ended up being a really great fit for her.

Charlie's new mom is retired so they can spend lots of time together. She was looking for a dog who liked to go for walks and who didn't mind meeting new people since she'll go for regular visits at a nearby nursing home. Charlie was just the girl she was looking for.

One thing about Charlie is that she bonds incredibly strongly with her person so I was hoping that she'd find a home quickly before she became too attached to me. Now she can get started relaxing in her new home and bond to her forever mom.

So happy life, sweet Charlie!

Most people are looking for a young dog but they miss out on some really great dogs like Charlie. Often older dogs are well house trained and have less of the frenetic energy of a young terrier. So don't skip over the middle aged or elderly dogs when you next look for a new furry member for your family.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Baby Steps Add Up to Big Change

For those of you who have been following Chima's journey she hit a big milestone the other day. We've been practicing touch for months - first using a long handled artist's paintbrush for a few seconds at a time and moving up to me doing some T-Touches on her using my hands.

Recently she decided that lying beside me on the couch when I'm working on my laptop wasn't so bad and occasionally she'd choose that spot when her sister Salinas hadn't claimed it first (which Salinas usually does since she CRAVES touch.)

Chima lap time
Well the other night she chose to lay on my lap for about five minutes. The rest of the couch was taken up by dogs so I tried to squish in to the side to make room. She's a big girl though and I guess the little spot to sit wasn't comfortable enough so she walked onto my lap and laid down. I was ecstatic and tried not to scare her off with all the photos I snapped with my phone to document the moment that she first laid on my lap.

Wondering why I have the phone waving around
She was quite awkward about it - this hanging out with humans is all new to her - but she stuck with it for almost 5 minutes before she chose to go find a dog bed instead. I can't say it was comfortable for me either having 25 pounds of dog occasionally standing up on my legs and then resettling. And then her big old head and even bigger ears were right in front of my computer screen so all work came to a halt. Regardless of any discomfort though, I was in heaven and we awkwardly sat together for 5 minutes - me grinning and her taking in the experience.

Wondering when I'll calm down and let her relax
What is most touching about the experience is early on with Chima I let go of any expectations of her being the typical Rat Terrier and wanting to snuggle or be physically close to humans. Setting up expectations like that can really force you to push the process and will backfire. Instead I chose to just watch her grow and to help her where she was at - no end goal of where I wanted her to get but instead focused on where she was on a particular day and how to best work with her that day. By doing this she actually has moved faster and further than I ever expected because I think she sensed that she always had choices. If she sat across the room from me in a dog bed, she was a good girl. If she sat on the end of the couch with me, she was an equally good girl.

Settling in
I had said to a close friend who writes another rescued Rat Terrier blog a few months ago that Chima was never going to be a dog who snuggled with her person on the couch. While I wouldn't call her a snuggly, touchy-feely kind of girl I now realize that with time and patience Chima can be any kind of gi she chooses.

finding a way to avoid the phone camera
Good dog, Chima!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Charlie Joins the Pack

We weren't planning on taking on another foster dog until the end of January when I get back from a weekend trip that I'm taking but it didn't work out that way. Our new foster girl is named Charlie and she transferred to us from another foster home because she and one of the furry residents did not like each other.

Have you ever met someone that you just couldn't stand? That you tolerate as long as possible but then just explode? Well, that's how Charlie felt about Penny, a dog in their home. She has been fine with every other dog she met but Penny just stressed her out. It makes sense that dogs each have certain personality types and that some dogs they get along with and others make them crazy. So we should give them that option to avoid a dog, just like we wouldn't want to be forced to hang out with a person we can't stand.

To keep the peace we decided to move Charlie to our house since the personalities of the dogs here are more in line with what Charlie enjoys.

She met the girls and her and Salinas sniffed each other a bit and then went about their business, fine with co-existing. The meeting with Tilly was the same. Frodo was Frodo so he was a bit more verklempt over the whole thing but Charlie was fine with that and let him follow him around a bit.
This is Charlie's favorite dog bed and her former foster parents sent it with her and it will go home with her too. 

Chima is gets a bit more worked up when a new dog is in the house so I was very careful with intros between them and when I saw that Chima was getting obsessed with Charlie, I gave her a time out in the crate with a chew and then when she came out a half hour later everyone was much calmer and Charlie was old news by then. I'll still continue to watch all interactions between the dogs carefully for the next few days, noting their body language and giving everyone breaks until they feel comfortable. It's not because any of the dogs are bad dogs but because that's how dog introductions should be done. A bad first impression is hard to get past and the same thing goes for dogs' impressions of each others. If the humans set things up so those impressions can be positive ones, everyone wins in the long run.
Charlie snoozes while Chima keeps an eye on her

So what's Charlie like? Amazingly sweet, well house-trained, and a Olympic echelon lap-warmer. She enjoys a romp around the yard and likes to hang out with her humans and do whatever they happen to be doing. She's about seven years old and is a little bit on the plump side. We've got her on a grain-free, low carb diet with carefully measured portions so I'm sure that she'll drop the weight quickly. I know that Sal and Chima did when they first arrived.

Welcome to the pack, Charlie!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chima Starts Nose Work

Like any other dog training class, Nose Work class actually consists of a small part of the learning happening with the dog and the largest part of the learning needing to happen for the human. It doesn't seem that way as a beginner. I mean, you start out thinking "I am paying to stand and watch my dog eat treats out of boxes?"

But as the dogs become more confident in their searching, that's when the human learning kicks in. And the major lesson of nose work for humans is that we need to trust our dogs and let them do what they were born to do. 

So much of how we think of pet dogs is about us controlling them. We want them to do this trick, stop this behavior, do more of this one. We push and prod and in our bumbling way try to force them into living in a human setting. It's all about us and the dog doing what we want. In Nose Work though, we humans are delving into the dog's world. Their sense of smell is so exceptional that clearly in a sniff off, we humans have no chance. But we have this set expectation of how our dog should be sniffing or how they should behave like the other dogs, etc., so we start to push and try to control the search. And if we do this, we really hold our dogs back. In Nose Work, the best handlers are the ones who trust their dog and don't try to control the search.

It's this very reason - that dogs have such exceptional schnozzes - that it's a great confidence builder for nervous dogs. If we can let go, stop telling them what to do, close our mouths and put our grabby hands away, they will start to take the lead. They were born to do this. There isn't any direction from us (because it's not like we can sniff it out for them) so they have to let go of dependency and try something on their own. And when they do let go - YES! They are self-rewarded by sniffing out a treat. 

Chima has a really great group of other dogs in her class. I think there are 9 dogs and they range from puppy to senior and from super shy to boisterously outgoing - Shepherds, Terriers, Hounds, Retrievers... Chima, who get's called "Big Momma" at our house is actually the "tiny" dog of the bunch. 

Her first time out searching she was very guarded. Here she was on leash with about 12 people staring at her from the sidelines in a room she'd never been in before - a bit unnerving. She was able to eat the treats but she was super careful and always checking to see what the people were doing. But the second time she entered the room she did a quick scan and then set to work, quickly finding the 3 boxes with treats. Good job, Chima! 

It's really interesting going through the class with a beginner dog after I've fully gone through the beginning and intermediate levels with my dog Frodo. This time I don't feel so insecure. I'm not worried about how Chima is doing compared to the other dogs and am just enjoying seeing her discover how much fun this can be. 
Another Rat Terrier, Gary, is taking the class with Chima. Here he's looking at his mom going "um, what the heck are we doing here?!" He did a great job and as nervous as he was, was able to eat treats there.

And she loves it! A nickname that Chima has earned is "McSnufflington" because from day one of her arriving in our home she was constantly sniffing everything and everyone. It's non-stop so it just made sense that Nose Work would be a great choice for this dog who already took in so much information about person and place through her nose. 
Chima was curious about this box with flaps and not too sure about it
We set up boxes at home to practice last night and because she was comfortable in the space and no one but me was around, she charged right in, nose working overtime. It was exciting to see her already sniffing to find treats rather than depending on her eyes to check each box. The box with flaps was new and at first made her a little nervous but the second time she practiced she climbed right into the box without a pause.

On her second time searching she climbed right in without hesitation
And Salinas is getting in on the fun too since she gets a turn searching the boxes after Chima is done. Salinas has a very needy, insecure personality so Nose Work is going to be great for her to start down a path of building more confidence. 

If you are interested in trying a Nose Work class check out the National Association of Canine Scent Work's Website -  When choosing a class be sure to find an instructor who is a CNWI - Certified Nose Work Instructor. You can find a list of the CNWI's in your state at

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rescue Railroad: Two new dogs arriving in Washington Foster Homes

Because of vacations and work trips in the month of January, the Washington team is a little light on dogs until the end of the month. However, we did manage to bring up two new foster girls thanks to our Bellevue foster home.

First we have Ember. Ember is about 10 months old and ended up in the shelter with her mom and dad. Her family came to reclaim them but decided to leave Ember since she wasn't a popular color/marking pattern for a Rat Terrier and was too old to sell. So her parents went home but poor Ember stayed. Happily we were able to rescue her and she is going to have a great time in her foster home - especially since she'll be sharing it with this next foster pup. Amber is all tan with some white on her chest and she has a docked tail. She'll be fostered in Bellevue, Washington.

The second pup is Ruby. She's about 5-6 months old and was a stray with a broken leg who was brought into the shelter. The shelter's vetting annex set the break, splinted her, and then searched for a rescue spot for her. She was fostered for the shelter by a good Samaritan and now her leg is as good as new! She's heading to Bellevue to hang out with Ember.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bed Time!

I use Molly Mutt dog duvets and their waterproof liners in both Salinas and Chima's crates. I love these beds both for the fun fabrics, the affordable price, and the fact that they are so easy to wash.

The washing part is especially important when it comes to Salinas and Chima since those girls love to tear through the flower beds, kicking up dirt in their hunt for notorious Squirrel. Somehow they manage to bring most of that dirt into their beds - I don't know how. I stuff the liners with holey dog blankies and you'd be surprised the volume of blankets that one bed can take. It's a lot of laundry! So by using the liners I can just do my weekly washing of the covers, switching them out with clean ones and then once a month I completely take the bed apart and wash everything.

Yesterday was one of those days and I had piles of blankets thrown in the middle of the floor, ready for restuffing.

Salinas and Chima had other plans for that pile though and so for several minutes I watched and laughed as they rolled around in the blankets. Sal then had the great idea to bring several balls over so then they dug around through the pile, trying to find the balls. Then found they'd toss them back into the pile with their mouth and start all over again.

I think one of the best things our dogs can teach us is to slow down and find the fun in anything - even laundry.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Terrier Tribble?

I had to go to a wholesale pet supply warehouse to pick up some items for work. Imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner of an aisle and saw box after box of of colorful tribbles! (apologies for Star Trek geek moment)

Well, I had to buy one so I picked out a large purple one and brought it home to meet the dogs. Salinas immediately jumped in and grabbed the little guy and proceeded to start plucking his fur. Chima then got a turn and she took the shaking approach.
Sal plucking a tribble
Chima's turn!
Both waited patiently while the other took their turn and then they tried to tug the poor purple guy apart.

After the wild ruckus I broke things up and the tribble (aka Go Dog FurBallz) lived to fight another battle.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chima and Chile: Friendship Can Take Time

Chile went home on Saturday and his new name is De Niro. He's doing great but before he left he and Chima finally decided the other wasn't so bad.

Chile isn't the most coordinated of dogs and when he was excited he tended to jump wildly and super high in the air, landing on whatever was next to him. Often it was Chima next to him (hoping for a treat) and Chima only puts up with having a dog jump on her one time. If he did it a second time then she would get after him. This made Chile pretty wary of the big girl, and I can't blame her as she can be quite imposing when she's irritated. Add to that the fact that Chima loves to bark and growl while she plays and Chile was not too sure about her.

But on Friday it seemed a truce was finally called. Chile finally understood Chima's style of play and they had quite a fun time tearing around. At one point I was worried that he didn't want to be chased but when I stepped in to break things up and distract Chima, he ran past me trying to engage her again so I let them play.

This happens quite often at our house. Dogs that have not been overly fond of each other slowly grow on each other and after about 4-6 weeks decide they aren't so bad. I tell this story because so often people base whether two dogs are right for each other on a single awkward meetup in an unfamiliar location. When the dogs aren't falling all over each other, they think it's not a good fit. The fact is, if there isn't outright hate and irritation from the beginning, there's a good chance the dogs can live in harmony. How often do you upon meeting someone for the first time decide you want to be best friends and do everything together? Pretty rare. So we need to give dogs the time to develop relationships with other dogs that we give ourselves to get to know other people.

Later the following episode played out that was classic Chima. Chile was having a grand old time rolling around and chewing on Nylabone rings. Chima figured that they must have magically evolved into a fun toy and she wanted a piece of that action. She's not a bully so she doesn't steal toys from the other dogs but she sure makes sure they know she'd like a turn. No barks or growls but just a lot of space invasion and waiting patiently. Chile is onto her though and wasn't concerned in the least by her hovering.
Chima is wondering how this toy suddenly became so great and how she can get hold of it

Chima, attempting to clearly communicate to Chile that she wants a turn. Chile's response? "Whatever"

Clearly this was going to take awhile and her crowding move wasn't working so she decided to get comfortable while she waited him out