“Dog Town”, Another Barking Great Read

DogTown: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Redemption Stefan Bechtel

covers_dogtown_hp

The BlurbA national rescue organization with more than 200,000 members, DogTown is the area where dogs live at the nation’s largest companion animal sanctuary run by Best Friends Animal Society. This informative, inspiring book presents representative stories of dogs considered unadoptable by other shelters. They come from many backgrounds: some were abandoned; some prowled the streets as strays; others suffer from mysterious illnesses, serious injuries, or antisocial behaviors that discourage potential adopters. But good fortune led them to Best Friends and the dedicated people devoted to helping them recover and find welcoming homes.

These compelling, winningly illustrated true stories, each uniquely moving and inspirational, draw upon the experience of veterinarians, trainers, and volunteers to probe a range of tough, touching cases that evoke both the joy and the occasional but inevitable heartbreak that accompanies this work. Each chapter follows a dog from the first day at Dogtown until he ultimately finds (or doesn’t find) a permanent new home, focusing both on the relationship between the dog and the Dogtown staff and on the latest discoveries about animal health and behavior. We learn how dogs process information, how trauma affects their behavior, and how people can help them overcome their problems. In the end, we come to see that there are no “bad dogs” and that with patience, care, and compassion, people can help dogs to heal.

What I Thought:

Sometimes I avoid dog books because I become upset when reading of an animal’s suffering and the cruel things people can do to them. However, I’m happy to report that this isn’t one of those books that focus’ on the suffering – it rather focus’s on the dog’s recovery and it’s “happily ever after”. It is filled with life affirming moments both from the actions of the wonderful staff and the dogs themselves. Even when dealing with a death there is great solace that the dog found its way to a place where it could experience happiness, comfort and a fulfilled life.

After reading this I too want to pack up and head to DogTown to not only help out in caring for the animals, but to also meet the amazing, dedicated people who care for them.

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Rescue Dogs, Various Behavioural Issues

Tool(s) Used: Book Resource

Cost: I got the kindle edition from amazon.com for $5.79

Ease of Implementation: Not applicable. Though there were some really great tips in the book, these are aimed more at dog owners and inspiring them when things are tough, as opposed to a “how-to” guide.

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Effective mainly because it inspired me to carry on and realise that there honestly is a light at the end of the tunnel and that with time and effort I just know we’ll get there – she’s already made so much progress!

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Have you read the Dogtown book, or seen the TV series? What do you think of it?

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What is the Canine Good Citizen Test?

What is this Canine Good Citizen (CGC) stuff, anyway? Regular readers of the blog will know that as part of our hard work with Phoebe to overcome her fears and reactivity, we’ve been completing some of the Canine Good Citizen Tests. You can read about how well she did at the Bronze CGC Test in 2013, as well as the Silver CGC Test in 2014.

In the posts I tried to give as full a description of the test as possible, but words still don’t paint as great a picture as an actual video. This great YouTube clip shows exactly what the Bronze Level Canine Good Citizen entails for those who are interested in learning more about the test.

 

As you can see, the tests are all quite simple, but require that your dog and you have a great bond and that he listens to you, with understanding of expectations. When you see each item you can also see where each of these would become useful in everyday situations, like walking with sudden noises in a street, getting a veterinary / groomers examination etc – which is after all the main aim of the test.

For a dog like Phoebe to pass these simple, yet important requirements has made me so proud of her. With her unknown history and various reactivity and fear based issues these tests have made identifying goals and progress so much easier for us on our journey to recovery. We’re even busy practicing for the Gold Level CGC!

This test is one that I highly recommend that every owner should do – whether formally through an accredited tester, or even at home by reading the tests and practicing them all whenever you get the chance. Both you and your dog will be happier for the quality time spent working together!

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. To read the full “effectiveness” review you can refer back to the posts on achieving the Bronze and Silver Certifications I wrote up about Phoebe.

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So what do you think? Can you see the effectiveness of a qualification like this?

Apple & Oat Puppy Bites

I have many different talents and skills, but I must be honest an admit that being a culinary genius does not rank amongst them. Don’t get me wrong, with a lot of practice and hard work I can now confidently whip up a meal for a group of dinner guests without the threat of poisonings or having the house burn down (mostly), but being in the kitchen doesn’t come naturally so I’m usually weary. This changes however when my taste testers are my canine kids.

In their eyes everything I whip up is absolutely delicious and truly gourmet! This means that I love finding new treat recipes for them, and regularly use them as rewards for training and good behaviour.

We’ve run out of treats, and my cupboards closely represent those of Old Mother Hubbard, so I searched for treats that were simple in terms of ingredients and skill level. That’s when I came across this great recipe from Two Little Cavaliers for Apple and Cinnamon Treats.

These were quick, easy and they passed the all important taste test!

Apple & Oat Pup Bites

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Oatmeal
  • 1 Cup Apple Sauce
  • Pinch of Cinnamon
  • 2 Large Eggs

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 180C (about 350F)
  • Combine oats, apple sauce and cinnamon
  • Add eggs to the mixture and combine until sticky and smooth
  • Scoop into molds, or drop a teaspoon full onto greased and oiled baking sheet and flatten slightly (this is what I did)
  • Bake in oven for +/- 25 minutes
  • Allow to cool
  • Give some to the dogs to test, and store the rest in an airtight container

… and of course the pictorial recipe review:

ingredients

Combine

Mix Egge

bake

result

Dogtails’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Training, Nutrition, Food, FUN

Tool(s) Used: Your kitchen and baking skills

Cost: Low

Ease of Implementation: Easy

Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 I wasn’t very sure if the dogs would like the apple and cinnamon taste as it’s a new one to them, but I’m happy to report that they all gobbled them up!

…. and don’t worry, I learnt my lesson from last time so these were introduced sloooowly and carefully to avoid any major tummy upsets! 🙂

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Do you ever make your own homemade treats for the dogs? If so, what do you make?

Phoebe passes the Silver CGC Test!

So many celebrations over here! Phoebe has made me so proud by going out there and getting her second Canine Good Citizen rosette!

Phoebe has officially received her rosette for passing the Silver Level of the KUSA Canine Good Citizen test!

Some of you may remember when I was so nervous about enrolling her for the Bronze Level KUSA Canine Good Citizen Test – which she passed with flying colours! As a reactive rescue dog seeing her achieve that was beyond my wildest dreams, and then she went ahead and once again overshot all of my expectations making me so very proud.

I once again went into it thinking that it would be totally fine if she didn’t pass first time round, participating is good enough, and I don’t mind a second go at it if we needed it. But of course she did great first time round at everything. But to be honest, I wasn’t quite as nervous this time because the biggest worry is her getting close to other dogs and only the Bronze Level had this one.

For those who aren’t sure what the Canine Good Citizen Test is, it’s an international standard test presented by Kennel Clubs to test if your dog can achieve the basic expectations of a ‘well-mannered’ dog. You can go here to read more about it.

So what did the Silver Test entail?

Similar to the previous test we had to hand over the vaccination cards to be checked before doing anything. Our Evaluator, Mrs Liz Chamberlain, was really nice and made sure we were all at ease with the dogs before starting so that there was no stress on either side of the leash! As she did this she was also walking around and observing the dogs for manners and sociability.

She first started by testing the two Bronze CGC participants (who also did Silver on the same day), and then commenced with testing us all for the Silver Level.

Then we were onto the formal part of the test:

Test 1: Play with Dog

This is to demonstrate that the dog will play with its handler. Play is an extra dimension to a dog’s life and can be a used to make training fun. When instructed to do so the handler should commence to play with the dog. Play should be under the handler’s control and if it involves articles the dog should readily give them up. Formal retrieves will not be deemed as appropriate play.

Suki and Mirco play with their Mom's for Test #1

Suki and Mirco play with their Mom’s for Test #1

Test 2: Roadwork

This is to demonstrate that the dog has the ability to walk on lead under control. The handler and dog should walk along a pavement, execute a turn, and then stop at the kerb where the dog should remain steady and controlled. Having observed the Highway Code, they should proceed to the other side, turn and continue walking. Distractions are incorporated, such as normal passing traffic.

All walk in a line around the block to test roadwalking skills

All walk in a line around the block to test roadwalking skills

Test 3: Rejoin Handler

This is to demonstrate that the dog will remain steady when the handler leaves the dog but the dog will rejoin the handler when instructed to do so. Having left the dog and moved approximately 10 paces away, when directed to do so, the handler should call the dog. Having rejoined, the dog should stop close to the handler in any position, the lead shall be replaced.

Test 4: Stay in one Place

This is to demonstrate that the dog will stay on the spot while the handler moves away. The handler should place the dog with the lead attached in any position of their choice. Upon instruction, having quietly dropped the lead, the handler will move a distance of 5 paces away for a period of 2 minutes.

*Note we did this in conjunction with Test 10. We took our clipboards, walked a couple of paces away and only when we finished the questionnaire could we rejoin the dogs

Phoebe, Emily and Mirco eagerly parctice their "stays" for a minumum of 2 minutes while we fill out the Q & A of Question 10

Phoebe, Emily and Mirco eagerly parctice their “stays” for a minumum of 2 minutes while we fill out the Q & A of Question 10

Test 5: Vehicle Control

This is to demonstrate that the handler can get the dog in and out of a vehicle in a controlled manner. Without pulling, the dog should be taken on a lead towards a vehicle and remain steady whilst the handler opens the vehicle door. The dog should not attempt to get in until instructed to and should enter willingly. Thereafter, the door should be closed. The handler, Evaluator and, if necessary, a driver will get into the vehicle. The engine should be started and run for a short time to enable the Evaluator to assess the effect upon the dog which at all times should remain quiet, relaxed, and under control. The dog will then be instructed to exit in an orderly manner.

Test 6: Come Away from Distractions

This is to demonstrate that the handler has control over the dog when there are distractions. The handler should take the dog, on lead, to a gathering of people with dogs also on lead. When instructed to do so, the lead should be removed and the handler should walk or run away calling the dog, which should return without delay and be placed on the lead

For this test we were all placed about 3-5 metres from each other in a loose circle in the shade with us and our dogs in a relaxed lie down, then we had to go through the middle with our dogs. This made me nervous as Phoebe’s reactivity is better, but still there – especially as there were two other dogs doing the test whom we didn’t know. Luckily we were allowed to run through, and not just walk slowly. I’ve learnt this is a key handling trick to keeping Phoebe’s attention on me when other dogs are around because her drive to stay by me when I run away is far greater than worrying about any other dogs she would have to turn away from me to get to. She flew through the path without even registering the 5 other dogs! How awesome is she? 🙂

Test 7: Controlled Greeting

This is to demonstrate that the dog will not jump up at visitors etc, The Evaluator will greet the dog as might be done when entering a house. During this greeting, should the dog jump up, the handler must be able to make the dog cease doing so.

Emily waits patiently as she waits to see what her Mom wants her to do while she greets the evaluator

Emily waits patiently as she waits to see what her Mom wants her to do while she greets the evaluator

Test 8: Food Manners

This is to demonstrate that the dog has good manners when aware of peoples’ food. Food should be handled or consumed while the dog, on a loose lead, is taken in close proximity to it. The dog should not unduly respond to this temptation (i.e. not to beg for food or steal).

This is one command our group is usually good at, as we do the “Leave it” command with the dogs regularly, but the evaluator had some treats that were apparently amazingly tempting! All the dogs passed, but only just. I need to find out what those magical treats were!

Those tasty treats were almost irresistable for all of the dogs, but when the tester accidently dropped them on the ground Mirco was amazingly controlled. Well done!

Those tasty treats were almost irresistible for all of the dogs, but when the tester accidentally dropped them all over the ground Mirco was amazingly controlled. Well done!

Test 9: Examination of the Dog

This is to demonstrate that the dog will allow inspection by a stranger as might be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon. The dog on lead will be required to be placed for inspection of mouth, throat, eyes, ears, and feet when standing, sitting or lying down as required. Other than mild avoidance the dog should allow inspection without concern.

Phoebe calmly stands for her examination

Phoebe calmly stands for her examination

Test 10: Care & Responsibility

This is to demonstrate that the handler has a good understanding of the responsibility required to care for their dog and the responsibility with regards to their neighbors and community. The handler will be asked 6 of the 10 questions by the Evaluator from Section 1 of the non scheduled document titled “Care and Responsibility”.

Learning these 4 pages for the test was very nerve wracking for us! The thing is, the questions are hard, basically because they’re all complete common sense, so it’s easy to forget to mention specific clauses. For example, Dogs Rights is a section of 7 different clauses to remember, included in these is the right to food, the right to water, the right to shade and the right to affection. They’re so straight forward they’re easy to forget!

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… and with that, we were all done and we anxiously awaited the results of our test…

And then it happened! She came up to us one by one and we each proudly received the certificates on behalf of our dogs. What a great moment for us all!

Receiving Phoebe's Silver Canine Good Citizen Certificate and rosette

Phoebe curiously looks on as I receive her Silver Canine Good Citizen Certificate and rosette on her behalf

We were all so happy for our dogs, and each other! It’s such a rewarding feeling after all that hard work. Each one of us had specific areas of concern for our dogs, but they all shone and performed beautifully!

Do you recommend the Canine Good Citizen (Silver) to others?

I am still a big fan of this test because of all it represents to the dogs and other dog owners. And especially for those who have reactive dogs, getting these qualifications behind you is a real boost for your confidence. The preparation is also great because it gives you very clear and specific goals to tailor play and learning time with the dogs.

I think the Bronze Level is the basic one everyone should go for, but in all honesty, the Silver isn’t too much more difficult, so try getting that too (even on the same day, like two of our class members did!).

Will there be more?

Well, after looking at the requirements for the Gold Level I was adamant that it would be too difficult, but as it now turns out… we’ve decided that all four of us who got the Silver will go ahead and give it a try! Why not? It’ll take a few months of hard training, but we’ll get there, I’m sure!

The evaluator, Mrs Chamberlain, also encouraged us to all enroll for the Gold as she says so few people go on to complete this, and it’s a really nice test to practice for and judge. Looks like we’ll be fulfilling her wish!

And once we do that, who knows, maybe I’ll have time to fit in some training preparation for Cooper to try out since he did so well at his Obedience Class tests! Who knows what the future holds? 🙂

The Canine Good Citizen graduates from "Dog on the Couch" School! The two  on the left (Mirco, Suki and owners) got both their Bronze AND Silver, while the two on the right (Phoebe, Emily and owners) achieved the Silver

The Canine Good Citizen graduates from “Dog on the Couch” School! The two on the left (Mirco, Suki and owners) got both their Bronze AND Silver, while the two on the right (Phoebe, Emily and owners) achieved the Silver

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus, Fun

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate (we go to Dog on the Couch school every week, so this can add up depending on your trainer)

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Phoebe loves attending her classes, and through these guided lessons we both learn new coping methods and ways to have fun. Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen Test was sometimes difficult and stressful, but ultimately fun and rewarding for us both.

Note: This is a very overdue blog post because we did the test 3 months ago, but better late than never, right?! Practicing for the Gold Level is underway as I type!

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Is the Canine Good Citizen Test something you’d be interested in doing with your dog? Do you think your dog would pass easily, or that there would still be a lot more work ahead of you?

DIY Fun Food Dispensing by ‘Barking Mad’

I’m always on the lookout for fun, easy and affordable activities for dogs. Particularly through my long journey with Phoebe, I came to realise how very important it is that dogs have some way of keeping themselves busy so that they remain healthy in body, mind and soul.

I’ve previously posted about how wonderful the Kong is, as well as a post on some home-made puzzle bottle food dispensers you can make. I saw this on the facebook of one of my favourite rescue organisations, Barking Mad, and just had to share this easy Kong alternative.

Here is the simple instructions as they posted them:

“So with the heat, come mid day, the last thing the dogs feel like is a walk up the mountain. So we have created peanut butter bomb snacks and meals for them to pass the time and keep their minds busy. We vary the peanut butter with liver spread. We place a blob of peanut butter at the bottom of the bucket then put in some of their kibble with a few slices of hot dog mixed in. Then we fill the bucket up with water and put it in the deep freeze and voila a great treat that will cool them and down and keep them pretty busy for a while you can do this with kongs to or empty margarine tubs

barking mad diy dog treats

 Here they are in the deep freeze once they are frozen the dogs will have a great time. Some of these we have made as per their meal portions with a few little treats, others are just small treats versions to keep them busy. “

barking mad diy dogs treats

Some of the Dogtown SA residents enjoying their treats

It’s so heart-warming to see how much work Barking Mad puts into not only rescuing dogs, but also how much they try to help and complete them to become adoptable and happy. The dogs at Dogtown SA truly are lucky!

If you are in South Africa, remember to go click on their site to feed the dogs, and to sms “Dog” to 38919 to donate!

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I will be trying this out this weekend to see how much the dogs enjoy it (but judging by their love of the Kong, I’m pretty certain this will be a hit!

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Separation Anxiety, Mental Stimulation, Play, Haet stroke

Tool(s) Used: Any empty containers, water, kibble, snacks

Cost: Low.

Ease of Implementation: Low. You can premake it, put in the deep freeze then just grab and go whenever you need one

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 for Mental Stimulation and Play. The concept of these kong-type treats are all the same, and will be loved by all. And like the Kong, this also doubles up a s a great way to control your dogs’ temperature in the rising summer heat!

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DIY Puzzle Food Dispenser – Filling Bottles

An affordable alternative to the Kong! This easy to DIY food dispenser is great for improving those sniffing skills, mental stimulation, and providing slow feeding.

When Phoebe first came to me she was struggling with a number of issues, but the most lingering of them was her severe separation anxiety. I checked the internet, read books on the subject and consulted our trusty dog Behaviourist to find solutions to her extreme distress at being left home alone.

On the advice of the Behaviourist I decided that first and foremost I needed to find a way to distract Phoebe in a way that would keep her mind and body occupied. The discovery of the Kong was heaven-sent for me, but I needed more to keep her busy. My budget didn’t allow for the purchase of multiple Kong‘s, so a new plan had to be made.

The Behaviourist had a great suggestion – using plastic bottles as an alternative to the Kong. And what a great idea it is!

All I had to do was portion out Phoebe’s dry food for the day and place them in the bottles, add a taste of something that smells and tastes delicious then scatter them across the yard before leaving.

Here are the simple steps to creating puzzle bottle dog food dispensers:

Step 1: Find a suitable plastic bottle. Any bottle will do. Here I used some of kid’s sparkling juice bottles as they were small, but I usually use empty water bottles that have been washed and dried.

phoebe bottles

Step 2: Take empty bottles, wash and wait for inside to be completely dry. We keep a bag in the kitchen where all the emptied and cleaned bottles are kept to be used whenever we need them.

bottles

Step 3: Fill bottle with small-medium size kibble. Quantity will depend on how many bottles you are using and how you have measured out the full food intake for the day. You don’t need a lot in the bottle – just enough to rattle around and fall out when manipulated.

kibble bottles

Step 4: Take a teaspoon of anything that your dog thinks is tasty and will be able to sniff out in the yard and slather it over the top part of the bottle (don’t close the bottle top as kibble still needs to fall out easily). I usually swap between cream cheese, anchovy spread and peanut butter.

kibble bottle flavour

Step 5: Scatter bottle(s) in the yard and watch as the dogs enjoy sniffing them out, licking off the delicious paste, and then playing with it until every single bit of kibble spills out and is eaten!

kibble bottles

And there you have it! A quick, easy way to give your dog a treat while exercising body, mind and soul! 🙂

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Separation Anxiety, Mental Stimulation, Play

Tool(s) Used: Any empty drinking bottles; various food ingredients

Cost: Low.

Ease of Implementation: Low. You can premake it by filling a number of bottles with measured out amounts of kibble to just grab and go

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 for Mental Stimulation and Play. Phoebe enjoys rolling the bottle around the garden until there is nothing left inside, then goes of exploring for the next filled bottle!

Note: Surprisingly neither Phoebe nor Cooper has ever tried to just rip the bottle in half with their teeth, opting to naturally rather enjoy the puzzle side of it by throwing it around and rolling it with their paws and mouth. I suspect most dogs like GSD’s or Pitties would probably be impatient and just rip the thing in half, possibly cutting themselves on the exposed plastic bits. So I recommend you supervise your dog the first few times just to make sure they have the hang of it, if not, rather stick to the hardier and stronger Kong.

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Have you got any other DIY ideas for play and stimulation? I’m always looking to try something new so feel free to leave suggestions!

New Years’ Fireworks Coping Mechanisms

Happy 2015! Here’s wishing all you bloggers and visitors out there a joyful and happy 2015! Whether you are staying in for a quiet night with the family, or going out for big New Years’ celebrations, be sure to spare a thought for your furry loved ones who may experience a lot of stress if there are fireworks and noise in the neighbourhood.

Where I live the use of fireworks is thankfully very limited and regulated by the police and city council, but on special occasions there are still some people who shoot off fireworks illegally. Since you do not always have control over this, and might not be able to pinpoint the location of people setting them off, here are a few tips that might help to calm your anxious animals who are afraid of the loud noises:

  • Use herbal anti-anxiety medications such as Calm Eze or Rescue Remedy. Be sure to test it’s effectiveness before hand so that you know what works and in what dosages.
  • Use Vetrinary prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Again, be certain of dosages and only use exactly as prescribed by the Vet.
  • Put a thundershirt on your nervous dog or cat
  • Play calming music or other sounds above the noise of the bangs as a distraction
  • If you are with the dog do something to make them feel less stressed. I personally don’t think that soothing a dog is a terrible thing that teaches them fear is to be indulged – fear is real and soothing calms them. But rather than just coddling them, distract them through play and activities they enjoy
  • Give a Kong that will keep them busy and focussed
  • Keep them in a safe place like their crate or a locked room where they can’t hurt themselves should they get spooked. Many dogs get injured trying to run away from the noises by jumping over fences, through windows etc. On that note, also make sure your pets are tagged and chipped so that if they do manage to escape they can be safely returned as soon as possible.
  • Report any unsafe fireworks to your local authority or City Council. If you are in Pretoria, note that bylaws clearly state under the Explosives Act 26 of 1956. article 10.34: “it is unlawful to discharge any firework in any building on any public thoroughfare or in any public place or resort without prior written permission of the local authority” and “no person may discharge fireworks on any property without the consent of the Chief Fire Safety Officer.” Any complaints can be referred to: Chief Fire Safety Officer Pretoria on (012) 3586255.
Fireworks awareness  poster created by the Animal Anti-Cruelty League Johannesburg. https://www.facebook.com/AACLJHB/timeline

Fireworks awareness poster created by the Animal Anti-Cruelty League Johannesburg.
https://www.facebook.com/AACLJHB/timeline

May you all have a wonderful, fear fee night for all family members!