Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shelter Problems

Having been volunteering at the Brown County Humane Society since January one thing has become blatantly obvious. This one thing is that the longer a dog is in the shelter the greater the potential for unwanted behavior.

It is unhealthy for a dog to be penned and left alone, separate from people and other dogs. It is accepted fact that dogs are pack animals and live and work in a group. This means that when we kennel dogs separately and leave them alone for long periods of time they are experiencing something unfamiliar and unnatural. These strange situations bring with them added stress and excitement.

It is usually a pretty easy thing to deal with when you own your own dog that gets to run around, play, and go on walks whenever you are home from work, a dog that spends the vast majority of its day out and in contact with people and possibly other dogs. Shelter dogs that are kenneled for the vast majority of the day turn to unwanted behavior to deal with the stress and excitement of this situation. This will start to make them less desirable and in turn almost always guarantee that the dog will be in the shelter that much longer. It all revolves around in a circle. First the dog is in the shelter, then stress and excitement lead to unwanted behavior, then the dog stays in the shelter, and then more unwanted behavior results from the added stress and excitement.

How do we fix this problem? For some shelters it is a possibility to hire some full-time staff. This coupled with a lower number of dogs will decrease the amount of time that a dog is separated and forced to be alone. This will give the dog interaction with humans and hopefully supervised play time with other dogs as well.

But what about a shelter that is entirely volunteer operated? How can a shelter like this cope with these problems? I am seriously asking for some suggestions because I don't know what to do in this situation. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Loyalty the Fault

Loyalty the fault, full of game.
The seasoned weight lifter is tame.
The paper seeks only the fight.
Exploiting the powerful bite.
The pit bull does not plot to maim.
She will work until she is lame.
She would tackle any task that came.
Anything to please. What a sight!
Loyalty the fault.
As darts seek targets she takes aim.
Let loyalty and game be her fame.
Pit bulls full of strength and might.
Lips pulled back, flashing teeth of white.
Nurture brought about such a dame.
Loyalty the fault.

Dogs Under Stress

Today we had a situation in which one of our dogs was ready to attack another. The dog that was doing the attacking is usually a very happy, stable dog. The one being attacked always seems to be stressed out and nervous.

It started off very well. I walked these two dogs together this morning. Both dogs assumed a calm-submissive state of mind right away so I rewarded them by giving them the full length of the leashes. Both dogs went out in front of me. Both dogs remained calm-submissive for the rest of the walk and their bodies reflected calm-submissive minds. Both dogs were loose and allowed their bodies to sway as the walked. Neither one was ridged. The sniffed each other and investigated the same smells and the same holes. They looked like the best of friends.

When we got back inside the building and to the large back room where we keep the dogs I handed the leash of the more nervous dogs to another volunteer. At that moment both dogs became stiff as they sniffed each other for maybe five seconds then the more stable dog growled and lunged at the other.

Why did two dogs that were the best of friends turn on each other?

Having had time to reflect on everything that happened this morning and also what I know about both of these dogs from other experiences with them, as well as other dogs I have worked with, it is quite clear why these two dogs 'turned' on each other. It goes back to a long debated question, how much is nature and how much is nurture.

Both nature and nurture have their places in this confrontation. The stable dog attacked the unstable dog: nature. This is what must happen in a pack of dogs to ensure that the pack survives. Cesar Millan often explains how stable dogs will attack instability because it is weak. Instability hurts the pack so it must either be altered or eliminated. The first message the attacking dog wanted to send was, "you are unstable but I am stable. You need to become stable like me." If the unstable dog does not respond by becoming sable then the message becomes, "you are weak and need to be eliminated."

I also said that nurture played a role in this incident. The unstable dog had been nurtured in his nervousness and in his stressfulness. If his nervousness and stressfulness had been corrected the first time he exhibited these mindsets and behaviors he would not continue to go back to those states of mind. The fact is that these states of mind have been reinforced by how people have tried to deal with them. Pampering reinforces the state of mind that the dog is in while being pampered, it does not change the state of mind from nervous-excited to calm-submissive. The unstable dog had learned that when it was inside the building that was a place where he was supposed to be nervous and stressful.

The unstable dog made himself weak because that is what had been reinforced in him by the way that people dealt with his weaknesses in the past. The stable dog reacted in the way that its nature had determined was the best way to make the pack survive: get rid of the weak behavior by either changing it to strong behavior or eliminate the one projecting it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dogs Rehabilitating Dogs

Chelsey has been considered an unsafe dog for the past few weeks because she attacked another dog after being threatened. Should she have attacked? No. Does the attack make her a bad dog? No. What happened this morning is proof that she is neither unsafe nor bad.

This morning Chelsey, a large white pit bull mix, was walked with Emmitt, a brindle dog that looks like a dingo. The walk went very well so the man who walked them wanted to see how they would play together and he put them both in the large kennel area that had been Emmitt's alone. The two of them got along wonderfully. After about 20 minutes or possibly more they were the happiest that I have seen either one of them in all the days they have been at the Brown County Humane Society.

I am convinced that what I have thought about Chelsey for a couple weeks now is actually true. I believe that she is in fact a very stable dog. Most if not all of her hostile encounters with other dogs have been her reaction to an unstable dog.

Both Emmitt and Chelsey are fairly stable dogs although Chelsey a little bit more. For the 20 or so minutes they spent in the same kennel playing they held a very high energy level. The play of these two dogs reminded me of what it was like to go grapple around on a wrestling mat in high school with no clock and no score cards. Just to have a good, physical, fun time.

Both dogs left that play session tired, relaxed, and happy. This will become a regular part of our morning shifts with our dogs. Giving them supervised playtime with each other in order to establish a stable pack that will hopefully one day include all the dogs of the Brown County Humane Society.


Boomer has left the Brown County Humane Society. Do not be sad because he has not been euthanized. He has gone to a pit bull rescue in Malaca, MN. He was exchanged on Saturday for a smaller, more stable pit bull named Amy. On Sunday morning we got a report that Boomer was comfortably lounging in the house at the pit bull rescue with as many as eight other pit bulls roaming around in the house. He was getting along wonderfully with the other dogs there and appears to be on his way to becoming a very stable dog, capable of interaction with other animals and a vast number of people.


When running an animal shelter organization is key. You won't notice it though until you suffer from lack of it. At the humane society where I volunteer there were two dogs adopted on Saturday. Two dogs adopted is awesome, but how it happened was so much. Two different families showed interest in Lulu, the lab mix puppy. The family that wanted her first went home to get their dog and test the two of them together. When they got back the second family had signed the papers and paid the fee and Lulu was theirs.

The first family that missed out on adopting Lulu wrote down their name and phone number in case another puppy came in. Then a different volunteer rekindled their interest in another dog, Tina. She was a medium sized dog with pinto colorings and short hair. Unfortunately a third family was already talking to another volunteer about adopting Tina. An argument ensued between the volunteers who where talking to the two different families and one family had its hopes of a second dog dashed twice.

Both instances could have been avoided through better organization and communication. I have suggested that an authority person be established so that whenever a family or person becomes interested in a dog they must inform the authority person. This way that one person would know exactly who was interested in a dog and who was in the position to make the first decision. Also a clear list of required materials that an adopter needs to have as well as make it known to everyone who comes in to adopt an animal exactly what must be done to secure the animal they one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Backpacks for Dogs

A while ago we had gotten two backpacks to put on our dogs while we walk them. Our initial reason for using them was to provide a more intense workout for the dogs in a shorter amount of time. It works very well, but I have recently discovered a second, but more important benefit to putting backpacks on our dogs while we walk them.

I have discovered that putting a backpack on a dog is an excellent way to establish myself as the leader. I approach the dog in its own kennel and take ownership of that kennel. Calmly I put the choke chain and leash on the dog and then also the backpack. By doing this calmly I present myself as a calm-assertive leader and the dog is very willing to follow me. The fact that I have put the backpack on the dog does not mean that all pulling will be gone for the walk but is usually minimized.

I have walked five of our current dogs with backpacks and of these five dogs all of them adopt a follower's attitude which makes the walk easier and more enjoyable for both of us.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pit Bull Progress

Our three pit bulls are working hard. Unfortunately we really do not have the resources to rehabilitate the two with the greatest problems. There is a slight possibility that our pit bulls will be able to go to a specialized pit bull rescue where they will have more time and be able to maximize resources better than we can at Brown County Humane Society. In the mean time we still do what we can to work with these dogs and take baby steps in the right direction.

Chelsey is by far the one with the least difficulties. The problem with Chelsey is that when she feels like there is no one else to take control of a situation she must, and she takes control by baring teeth and biting. Once there is a clear authority however she will refrain from snapping and allow the person in charge to take control of the situation.

Boomer is a very dominant aggressive dog. Whenever he sees something moving he feels a great need to control it. If it is a person, a car, a dog, or another animal he feels this great need to control, or sometimes even to kill. We have started using a dog backpack on him when we walk him so that he needs to focus more of his mental energy on the job he has been given. This does a lot for burning off energy. I can only speak for myself here but Boomer is doing much better on walks than he used to. Now he willingly takes on a follower's role walking next to or even behind me. The downside is that he still tries to go after people, cars, and animals.

Much of Hershey's aggression is fear driven, but some results from excessive excitement. She needs to learn how to control her emotions in a way that will benefit her.

Yesterday Izzy, the black lab mix puppy was adopted and today Penny, the beagle was adopted.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Out of her shell

This morning Penny took great strides as she began to step out of her shell. As you probably remember Penny is a small beagle that is a bit on the shy side. Today she really let me know the she really is all beagle.

When I walked her this morning a few rabbits ran across our path and the first thing she wanted to do was to chase after them. I didn't let her. I didn't want to worry about what could happen if she was off the leash, the danger to her and also the possible danger she could present. As soon as she realized she couldn't run after the rabbits she began to bey. It was a beautiful sound! She took a stance that was bold. She raised her head high in the air. She leaned forward, wrinkled her forehead, and let her ears move slightly forward as well. She was no longer the timid little dog that I described yesterday in my post. Now she was a small dog full of determination and attitude. She refused to give up on the idea of chasing those rabbits until I was able to remove her from the area, much like Old Dan after he killed the mountain lion in the book Where the Red Fern Grows.

Tomorrow is adoption day at the Brown County Humane Society from 10 am to 2 pm. I hope that we will be able to say "goodbye" to some of our current dogs and send them on to loving forever homes.

If you are from the are and are interested in any of these dogs or would just like to look around feel free to stop by. The link to the Brown County Humane Society is on the left hand side of the page.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My apologies to my readers

I apologize to all of you who have been reading my blog. As a college student nearing the end of the school year and graduation things are very hectic.

The Brown County Humane Society is as full as ever. We currently have ten dogs which include a beagle, a corgi, four black lab mixes, three pit bull mixes, and a shepherd mix.

Our beagle's name is Penny. She is roughly five years old and on the small side for beagles. She is very quiet and timid and unsure around new people but is beginning to warm-up to me as well as the other volunteers.

Our corgi is in high demand. Her name is Chloe. Right now we have two different parties interested in her so she probably won't be around for long. She is a very playful pooch and walks quite well.

Our first black lab mix had to have her left eye removed do to some misfortune but she is a dog just as much as any other. There is no need to feel sorry for her because she doesn't know the difference. Also feeling sorry for her will only cause problems, not fix them. She is a very high energy dog and needs an owner that has a very high energy level to match hers. Her name is Hope.

Our second black lab mix's name is Izzy. Despite the name Izzy is a male (most people assume Izzy is female because of Grey's Anatomy). Even though he is small he wants to be the one in charge of all the other dogs. This makes him aggressive with most larger dogs but he gets along quite well with smaller ones. He has a lot of energy as he is still a puppy and most likely not fully grown.

The third black lab mix is also a puppy. Her name is Lulu and she is younger than Izzy. Lulu does not understand boundaries yet which is very evident in the way she walks on a leash. Don't worry though this is because she is a young puppy and hasn't learned much yet. She seems to be housebroken though.

Our last black lab mix I do not know much about, in fact I don't know if it is a male or female and I don't know what its name is either. I do know it has ringworm and our volunteers are doing what is needed to clear up the ringworm.

Two of our pit bulls are looking for places in a pit bull rescue as we do not have the time they need. With plenty of work they could become good family pets but they need someone who has the knowledge and time to get them to that goal.

Our third pit bull's name is Chelsey. She can have problems with other dogs but she can also do quite well with them. Proper introductions are very important. She is a strong, muscular dog with a very obedient personality. She gets into trouble when she is alone with other dogs, without someone she can look to as her leader.

Our shepherd mix is a very beautiful dog. He bears a strong resemblance to a wild dingo. He does quite well on a leash and in certain structured situations does well with other dogs.

This post will serve as a new starting point for my blog since I have not been keeping up with it as well as I would like. I may not make updates to all of the dogs daily but I hope to write about one key event every day. I will also make notes on any adoptions and any new dogs that we take in. Some dogs may not be discussed in great detail or even at all but I hope you enjoy what I do choose to discuss in this blog.

Check back tomorrow for some news from the Brown County Humane Society.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rewards from Rescue Dogs

Today was a very rewarding day at the Brown County Humane Society in New Ulm, MN. Two things of great importance happened. The first thing is that we have 3 pairs of dogs that walk well, and the second is that Boomer looks like a different dog when he wears the backpack. I don't know if it would be fair to say that either of these two discoveries is more important than the other but they both hold great importance in different areas.
First off I mentioned that we have 3 pairs of dogs that do very well. This means that we have 3 different cores into which we should be able to start introducing other dogs. Before we introduce other dogs into these pairs I it will be a good idea to mix and match the pairs we have so that each dog will become comfortable with a number of dogs. This will be good for their own individual psychology as well as for making them more appealing to those looking to adopt. If we can successfully mix and match our 3 pairs we will have one very strong core of six dogs into which we will be able to introduce the other dogs that may not do so well. The goal here will be to use the structure of the original core to rehabilitate the new dogs which we choose to introduce.
Now for the second great discovery of the day, Boomer and his backpack. As you may recall from previous posts Boomer is a very dominant dog which can easily turn him into an aggressive dog. While on walks it was very normal for him to pull on the leash, to lung after cars, birds, people, and other dogs. We had made some progress in the past. The last two times I walked him by the end of the walk he was choosing to walk behind me and give me full authority over him. But this didn't happen until the last half, or even quarter, of the walk. Today was completely different, in a much better way.
Since I was able to fix the dog backpack yesterday I couldn't wait to use it today and see how it worked. Boomer was my test subject. At first he didn't really like the idea of me putting it on him as he tried to run away from me but as soon as it was on him it was obvious that he was focusing all his energy on his new job which was to carry that backpack with two cans of dog food in it until I made it clear that he had finished his job. And as soon as I opened his kennel it became even more clear that he had already accepted the role of follower when he took on the backpack. The walk with Boomer today was the most enjoyable walk I have even had with him and I am convinced that this was the case for a couple of reasons.

1) I established myself as his calm-assertive leader the moment I picked up the backpack (before I even entered his kennel).
2) I did not give in to him when he showed me that he didn't want the backpack. Instead I insisted on putting it on him, but once it was on him I did allow him a couple minutes to get used to it.
3) The new object connected to him and swinging on his body gave him a new, more intense job to do rather than just walk.
4) We still followed the normal procedure set out for walks (He doesn't go through the door until I let him and he is always next to, or behind me among other things).

From the moment we walked out the door Boomer assumed a follower's position. As a reward I allowed him the full length of the leash to roam around next to or behind me. Through the entire course of the walk he did not lung at a single car, person, bird, or dog, and he never pulled.
A simple tool like a backpack can do wonders for releasing pent up energy in your dog as is clearly visible in the account of Boomer I have just given. Other accounts of this type of success can be seen in various episodes of Cesar Millan's show The Dog Whisperer among other sources.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dog Backpack

The Brown County Humane Society now has two dog backpacks. One of the dogs had chewed up one of the backpacks but I was able to fix it this morning. The backpack will become a regular part of the dogs' lives and the volunteers are thankful that we have them now.
The best part about the backpacks is that we now have a way to increase the intensity of the exercise of the dogs without increasing the length of the time doing it. At this point I do not know the time ratio for walking a dog with a backpack to walking one without it but Cesar Millan and other dog professionals advocate the use of backpacks to increase the amount of energy burned during a walk or just while the dog is going about around the house.
After I fixed the backpack that had been chewed through I wanted to see how some of the dogs reacted to having it on their backs. I picked Boomer and Chelsey. They reacted in completely different ways. When I put it on Boomer it was so foreign to him that he froze for about 2 minutes. The added weight of the backpack and the two cans of dog food that were in it were so strange that Boomer didn't know how to react. It was so strange that even though all four legs were not under him when I put the backpack on him he wouldn't move to a more comfortable position. Luckily though he did eventually become more comfortable and he did start to move around in his kennel with it on. Once he became comfortable with it I took it off so the next time I put it on him he will remember the relaxation he felt at the end of his trial run.
After I took it off of Boomer I went to put in on Chelsey. Like I said earlier Chelsey reacted in a completely different way than Boomer did. Chelsey welcomed the backpack and acted like it wasn't even on her back. As you may know from earlier posts Chelsey is usually very obedient and an excellent walker. In her kennel however she can get quite excited and loves to jump up to be close to you. The backpack didn't keep her from jumping, not even a little bit. For all I know she didn't even know it was there. It will be interesting to see how she does with the backpack when she goes for a walk.
I hope to have an update on this tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Rewarding Experience

Yesterday I had one of the most rewarding experiences I've had since I started volunteering at the Brown County Humane Society. I was walking Boomer with a choke chain like I usually do. I was keeping his leash real short to prevent him from being able to assert control over me. I don't want to give him the slightest clue that he is the one who needs to be in charge and not me.
For the first half of the walk he struggled against me. I exhibited the behaviors that I have come to expect from him, lunging after cars and animals, and struggling to take charge and lead. As usual I gave him corrections whenever he behaved in an unwanted manner. Finally at about the halfway point in the walk he settled down for about two minutes and I wanted to reward him for it to reinforce his good behavior. I didn't have any treats left because I had used them all up in the first half of the walk as I tried to reinforce the sit command so instead of giving him food I gave him the rest of the leash. What happened next was amazing.
Boomer took the freedom of the longer leash and reinforced the fact that I was his leader. He didn't take the opportunity to walk in front of me and sniff around but he went directly behind me. This was the first time that I knew Boomer was putting me in the position of his leader and he wanted me to be in that position.
I am not always the best at recognizing my own attitude, or energy as Cesar Millan would say. Sometimes I am very good at ignoring the dog but I think most of the time I focus on the dog. I like to see what the dog is doing so that I can correct bad behavior immediately before it gets out of control. These are the times I have the most problems with the dogs. When I focus on the dog I tend to worry about what the dog will do, but if I focus on the goal I am more calm and assertive. When I focus on the goal I know that I will accomplish it on my terms which gives me more confidence in my abilities.
Looking back at yesterday's walk with Boomer I can pinpoint the transition between Boomer pulling and following to the moment when I decided in my head that I was working toward the goal of a completed, well mannered walk. At this point I started not to worry about what Boomer was doing and I led with confidence rather than with worry.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Update/things to come

I arrived back in New Ulm about an hour ago (9:30 PM). This means that tomorrow I will once again be volunteering at the Brown County Humane Society. As it looks on we have some new dogs as well as some old ones. It looks like Chelsey is still there as well as Boomer with the addition of a couple others and still some more that I just haven't been able to mention yet.
As I said in my last post I hope to start doing some clicker work with one or more of the dogs. I am very excited to see how it goes since I haven't done clicker training before. I hope you are excited to see the results as well.
Another new feature that I hope to include in my posts are videos. I bought a flip video over my break so I now will be able to shoot short video clips of the dogs and and work I do with them.
Check it out in the next few days and see whats new and let me know how you like it. Your feedback is how I know what you want and what you don't. Thanks and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Clicker Training

When I get back to New Ulm and volunteering again I will start to use clicker training on some of the dogs. Of course this will be after the time when the old ones get to know me again. Anyway the basic idea behind clicker training is that when the dog does what I want it to do I click my clicker and then proceed to give the dog a treat. The clicker is used as a bridge between the action and the reward. It cements the cause and effect relationship between the dog doing what I want it to do, whether it be sit, lay, or something else, and the reward. When the clicker sound is connected to the treat reward the dog will begin to react to the clicker just like it does to the treat.
One of the main benefits of the clicker is that it becomes much easier to pinpoint the behavior that is wanted and reward that specific behavior rather than cause confusion as to what is actually being rewarded.
Clicker training can be used to teach a variety of animals a variety of different behaviors. You can train anything from a dog, to a mouse, to a horse, to a bird, and a multitude of other animals. The behaviors you can teach are only limited by the limits of your imagination.
Next week when I begin to use clicker training with the humane society dogs I will also be able to shoot some short videos and then update you on what progress is being made.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Possession Guarding

Possession guarding in dogs is a serious issue. This is even more serious when the dog that practices it is exposed to strangers on a regular basis or to children. In both of these cases the dog exhibiting the behavior is most likely approached by people who do not know of this issue or how to behave around a dog with this issue.
Solving this problem takes time. You are not going to be able to make your dog give you any object you want whenever you want it in a single day or even two. Depending on the degree of the possessiveness it may take weeks or months to fix this problem. Don't give up. It can still be done. Before you reach the point when you can take anything from your dog you want it is a good idea to remove toys and other objects your dog guards from its access. Put toys away so that you have to give them to your dog for your dog to play with them. Then when you do decide to give your dog a toy keep treats at your disposal to toss to your dog in order to make him give up the toy, even if it is only long enough to pick up the treat and swallow it. This is the way it has to start. This begins the connection for you dog between you and all good things. The idea is that from this point you will be able to progress ever so slowly to the point when your dog will take the treat out of your hand and then to the point when you can trade a treat for the toy and then to the point when you will be able to tell your dog to drop the toy and he will allow you to take it.
Again, this is not something that is fixed over night, it takes time and patience. Other important factors can include other areas of your life with your dog and how your dog perceives your interactions with each other. In some instances this can be the result of allowing your dog, or making your dog take the position of leader. If this is the case you will need to establish yourself first as your dog's leader and then proceed to work on other issues after that. If your dog does not look at you in a leadership position he will not respect your wishes or your commands. If you have not already established yourself as your dog's leader a structured walk is the best way to do this in my opinion which Cesar Millan supports. This includes boundaries like where your dog must walk in relation to you, and making your dog become calm before you take him out and making him follow you out the door and possibly for the entire walk (I like to keep dogs with their heads parallel to my thigh with everything from their shoulders back behind me).

Friday, March 6, 2009


Last night Abby went back home to my brother and his wife. This means that I no longer have a dog to work with for the next week until I go back to New Ulm, MN on the 15th. There are still a few things for me to write about before I go back to New Ulm so I encourage you to visit a few times before the 15th. At least one of those posts coming up will be about possession guarding/aggression. This is one of the issues Abby has which I started to work on with her and I am hoping my brother continues to work on it with her. Right now the basic idea is that whenever she is given a rawhide bone she will be given very small treats to encourage her to give up the rawhide bone. It starts with only getting her to drop the rawhide in order to pick up the treat and then go back to the rawhide but with time and patience the result should be that she will allow anyone to take anything away from her without any negative responses.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dog Walking, Abby 2

Today I spent a full hour and a half working with Abby on walking. She already does well in a heal position as I stated in my last post but needs work on not pulling when she is allowed more freedom.
When I walk dogs I like to keep them in a heal position for most of the walk but I use the freedom of a longer leash to give rewards along the way by giving them more space and the opportunity to roam a little and sniff about more. Obviously if this is my general practice when walking dogs it is going to be the same when I walk Abby. Since I know that she does not always do so well with the limits of the reward time I started out by requiring her to stay in a heal position for a greater period of time. After establishing the rules of the heal position to a greater extent it was much easier to carry over the limits of the leash to the reward times. All I needed to do in the reward periods was give a small flick of my hand on my end of the leash and Abby would relax and release the tension on the leash. Another important part of this is that while I allow her the freedom of a longer leash the boundaries or clearly defined. As soon as the leash became taunt I flicked my hand because that was too far. I want a loose leash and that was as far away from me as Abby was allowed.
In addition to this the length of the reward period is important. As suggested by Cesar Millan, I only give five minutes of reward time roughly every fifteen minutes. This limits the chance that Abby will start to view the reward time as time when she is in charge and not me.
When I got done working with Abby today I gave her a rawhide bone as a reward for doing such a good job. This is when I discovered a problem in her behavior. Abby is very possessive of her rawhide bones. Since the bone I gave her was a large bone I took it away when she had eaten half of it. To my dismay she clenched it in her teeth, growled, and raised her hackles. I was able to take it when she settled down to start chewing on it again and set it down for a second but this is an issue that needs to be addressed differently from now on or it will most likely become worse.

Once again thank you too my readers and feel free to comment.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dog Walking, Abby

Abby is my brother's dog. Since he is on vacation I get to take care of her for the week. This means that I become her leader. She has already become a model walker for me...when I keep the leash short and want her at my side. She takes corrections at my side very well and learns to walk with a loose leash in a heal position very well but as soon as I want to reward her by giving her the full length of the leash she is pulling once again. I am confident that this problem can be fixed by investing more time in the walk with Abby.
In addition to being a good walker in a heal position she does well while walking with more than one person at a time. She does not get confused as to who her leader is but I think part of this is due to the fact that my fiancee and I took turns holding the leash and making the corrections to make it clear to Abby that we both were her leaders.
After today it is clear to me that she needs work in two areas for sure. The first area is that of walking on a long leash. The second is running on a leash, or it might just be running with a person. I'm not sure at this point but tomorrow I should be able to determine the second area more specifically.

At this point I would like to thank all of my readers and invite you to leave comments whether they be positive or negative. That way I will be able to reach my readers more effectively. Thank you.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A couple notes about dogs

First off, I am now 6 hours removed from the humane society as I went home to my parent's house and will be here for two weeks. That means no updates on the humane society dogs. On the upside I will still be posting about different techniques and tools that I have found to be helpful but just haven't written about yet. This post is just a heads up for what is to come. I will also be working with my brother's dog so I will make some posts about her. That is all for now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dog walking, Chance

I have been told a number of times that Chance is the worst dog we have when it comes to walking on a leash. I disagree. Today was my first opportunity to walk Chance. He started out a little head strong and stiff necked but I was firm, consistent, and calm as his leader. First things first, I wait until every dog is calm before a let them go through the door, after I do. This means that I am the leader and I require a calm-submissive attitude before I let them do anything. Since there are three different doors that I need to take a dog through before we get outside the repetition does amazing things. Some dogs, like Chance, will still want to pull when I first get them outside but after about two blocks of timely and consistent corrections they tend to settle down and assume a follower role, even Chance.
Obviously one walk in which Chance was able to eventually assume a follower position is not enough to deem him a good walker. This does however give us a very good starting point from which we can improve.
My tool of choice is becoming more and more a chain. Most dogs are already used to having a collar around their necks so they usually accept a chain very easily. I find this the best for me to use with most dogs, although with dogs who put their heads down to sniff constantly I prefer a halti or gentle leader. With these dogs a chain will slide to the base of their necks and make it useless. The halti or gentle leader maintains control over the heads and necks of these dogs.

It is becoming more and more obvious to me that Cesar Millan is right when he says that 99.some% of all dogs are able to become balanced dogs. Every day I work with these dogs they become one step closer to better balanced and better behaved dogs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some of the Dogs

The dog on the top is Zoey. Middle is Boomer. Bottom is Chelsey. Boomer and Chelsey you have heard about already. Zoey was a stray that came in some time yesterday. She is still a puppy. She walks very well on a leash. I don't know much else about her because I haven't had much time with her yet.

Dog Socialization

Socializing a dog is one of the best things that you can do for your dog. When you socialize your dog with other dogs he is forced to learn to interact with other dogs. This goes a long way toward becoming balanced. Socializing your dog means that you provide frequent opportunities for your dog to interact with other dogs, getting to know them and playing with them. In doing this it is very important to pick dogs that are already balanced to be playmates with your dog. If you introduce your dog into a group of unbalanced dogs it will do more harm to your dog than good.
Your dog is able to pick up on the energy, or attitude, of the dogs to whom it is introduced, and start to exhibit that same energy. This means that if you introduce your dog to a pack of dominant and aggressive dogs that push everyone else around your dog will probably either be pushed around and become extremely timid or your dog will adopt the same energies and attitudes of the pack and become dominant and aggressive as well.
Socialization is important but so is finding the right dogs for your dog to socialize.
The second part of socialization is with humans. For a dog to be comfortable among strangers that dog needs to be socialized and shown that strangers pose no threat and at the owner's decision they can be approached or simply ignored.
Along the topic of socialization, Chelsey was introduced to another dog today. While I was bringing her back to the Humane Society another volunteer was taking out Chance. I had already established a trusting bond with Chelsey so when I corrected her for inappropriate behavior such as mounting and biting she complied and stopped her bad behavior. Chance on the other hand did not do so well. He repeatedly tried to assert dominance in ways unacceptable.
There are a number of things that will be put into order to help move Chance beyond this behavior and help him associate with other dogs. This will come in a later post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boomer is getting better

Boomer does great in a place without distractions. I was able to work with Boomer for about an hour and a half again today with a good chunk of that time doing some work at the park. On the way to the park Boomer was the most aggressive. At the park and after the park Boomer become much more calm and submissive but not completely.
An empty park is a nice place to work on a particular problem without distractions like cars, people, and other dogs. I used a long line of about 20 feet. We ran and did some basic obedience work.
The run is what set up the bond that made it possible to do obedience work. Even though I gave him the full 20 feet of line I made it clear that I was his leader. I didn't hit him or punish him. I led and corrected him. I started by giving him about 5 feet of line and had him run next to me. Almost immediately he moved behind me and I rewarded his submissive behavior by giving him more line and inviting him to come next to me and even in front of me. After running for about 20 minutes I had him stop and sit. I had him sit until I had stretched the rope out and then would call and have him come to me. Every time I bent down to reward him with petting. After the basic obedience work we ran a short time again and then we went back to the humane society.
The walk back to the humane society started a little rough as Boomer wanted to take control once we moved to a new setting. By being a calm-assertive leader I was able to get him to calm down and he was totally ignoring both cars and people but still had a little trouble with other dogs by the time we got back.
If we are able to get Boomer out for workouts like this he will be well on his way to becoming more adoptable. We will still need to work on introducing him to other dogs and how he interacts with them but I think it is a very good possibility that this can happen.

Walking, regular collar with a leash

The most obvious option for walking a dog is probably the regular collar/leash combination. This is a collar adjusted to fit around the neck and not slip off over the head. This is one of the last steps before you are able to walk your dog off leash. A collar like this does not increase control beyond the point that the dog cannot actually run away from you. If your dog is one who leads you it will most likely be pulling you down the sidewalk rather than being calm and submissive next to or behind you.
With a dog that recognizes you as leader 100% of the time you will have no problem walking your dog with a regular collar/leash combination.
I would not recommend only this set of tools for teaching any dog how to walk properly on a leash or in your pack.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Walking, halti, gentle leader, etc.

The halti, or gentle leader type collar is a second type of tool that you can use to teach your dog how to walk on a leash. It does not have to be one of these brands. The basic concept is that in addition to the collar that goes around the dog's neck there is a loop that goes over the muzzle and is fed through a small hole in the collar. The leash is attached to the loop that goes over the muzzle after it is fed through the small hole in the collar.
These halter type collars operate on the idea that the dog will follow his head. You are now able to determine how far you will let your dog go away from you. When the dog reaches this limit and tries to go beyond it the loop around its muzzle gently turns its head back toward you. Whether you let your dog walk ten feet in front of you or you don't let it lead your side as soon as the dog tries to go past your boundaries the leader will turn its head back to focus on you.
This is a tool that can help prevent your dog from becoming stiff-necked and stubborn. When your dog fixes its attention on any object other than you it is very easy to make a quick correction to refocus your dog. A quick little pull toward your body will direct your dog's head away from the object it is focused on and back to you, its leader.
The downfall of these halter type collars is that it can be very hard to get your dog to accept it. The idea of something looped around its muzzle regardless of whether or not it inhibits jaw movement is foreign and unnatural. Some dogs will toss their heads continuously, some will use their front paws to pull it off and some will chew until the leader is broken.
One way to help your dog accept a halter type collar is by associating the collar with food and treats, also start slowly. First, you can clip just the collar part around your dog's neck without putting the loop over the muzzle (how long you need to do this will very from dog to dog). Most dogs are ok with a collar around their necks so this shouldn't be a problem. Second, you can use food treats to intice your dog to put its muzzle through the loop but be sure to give a treat every time your dog puts its muzzle through the loop. After this has become comfortable for your dog you can move on to putting the loop around the muzzle and clipping the collar in place(give a reward treat) and leave the halter on for a time. At this point you can start walking for short amounts of time with the halter collar. Continue to increase the time your dog has the halter collar on little by little until you reach the amount of time you need for a full walk (you can continue above and beyond that).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dominant Boomer

Today I had the opportunity to work with Boomer for almost two hours. The whole time was spent either walking or running. Much progress was made however because the whole time he was required to take on the role of follower in my pack and also every time he exhibited any unwanted behavior he was immediately corrected.
From the beginning to then end of the walk he went from lashing out at an approaching dog to tolerating a dog's nose between his legs (for this to work Boomer had to be restrained).
At about half way through the walk I took Boomer to a good sized park, probably about the size of 4 or 5 football fields. There I ran him next to me doing speed changes, quick stops, and figure eights. For this to work it was imperative that he follow me unconditionally and look to me to guide and direct him. The run/workout at the park helped to drain some of his excess energy as well as further establish the bond between him and me. This helped to cement the idea into his head that I am his leader and he follows me.
By no means is he now the perfect dog who loves everyone and is fun for everyone to be around. He still has a great deal of aggression toward other dogs and even other humans. The other volunteers are good with him but it takes him a little while to accept new people.
Lastly he showed great improvement over his obsession with moving vehicles from the beginning of his walk to the end. When we started he was constantly lunging at anything that moved but by the end of the walk he barely turned his head. Through the course of the walk I made consistent, quick corrections the moment he turned his head or shifted his ears. Because of the timing he was able to associate the correction with his action and he stopped going after vehicles.

Chelsey 2

Chelsey is still a very good dog. She does not need any work as long as she continues to have a calm, consistent leader. As long as she has this type of leader she will always be looking to her leader for guidance. The only downfall that Chelsey has is that at this point she cannot be with other animals. The biggest improvement area we are working on right now is her socialization. We try to give her some supervised interaction with other dogs but this usually ends rather quickly. It is as if she forgets that you are her leader when another dog is in the room with her and she wants to be the boss. I think that with good consistency and firm leadership she will be able to get along with other dogs but this will take a great deal of time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Walking, chain

I use one of four tools when I walk the different dogs. These four tools are a chain, a halter type collar, a regular collar/leash combo, or a leash clipped onto the collar with the other end looped around the dogs neck much like a chain.
Each of these tools can be very affective if used correctly. From my experiences I have found that different tools can work better with different dogs. With Boomer, a dominant boxer mix who tends to hold his head high, I usually use a chain. Because he already holds his head high he makes it easy to keep the chain at the base of his head and right behind his ears. In this position I am able to maintain the most control over his behavior on the walk. I also require him to keep his parallel with me or behind me, never in front of me.
At this point Boomer is far too dominant to be let to roam in front of me. As soon as I allow him to do this his tail goes straight up in the air as he tells me through his body language that he has taken the role of pack leader away from me.
The combination of the chain kept high on Boomer's neck and his body position next to, or behind me gives me the opportunity to give quick, gentle corrections whenever he tries to take over the leader role or when he starts to become aggressive toward other animals, people or cars.
The longer the walk the better the leader follower relationship can develop. This only works when the walk is done with a definite structure and consistent boundaries and corrections.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boomer Progress

Today Boomer started to show some improvement with his dominance and was becoming a little more submissive. One of the other men that volunteers at the Brown County Humane Society worked with Boomer this morning on his food aggression. He used techniques like holding the bowl of food while Boomer ate to show Boomer the whole time that the only way he can have his food is through the human who is caring for him. This makes it the human's food and not Boomer's and allows the human ownership rather than Boomer. If Boomer does not see the food as his he won't become possessive over it.
I was also able to work with Boomer this morning in the area of dominance on the walk. I keep him on a very short leash and I use a chain. This way he is only allowed to have his head next to me and the rest of his body behind me. This makes me the leader and him the follower. The chain helps make corrections. When he starts to go too far forward or if he shows excessive interest in cars, people, or other animals a short quick tug on the chain corrects and refocuses his action and mind.
Another very good way to achieve dominance over a dog is to show the dog that you own the house, door, and everything else, specifically in dealing with going through doors, for example on your way out for a walk. In this area it is important, especially with a dominant dog like Boomer to own the door by going through it first. The only way for this to work is to make sure that the dog, in my case Boomer, is calm and submissive before he is allowed to follow you through the door. This may take some time but the results of being strong, assertive, and consistent are far better than giving up to avoid the initial struggle.

These techniques are all techniques that Cesar Millan uses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Boomer is a dominant boxer mix. The challenge with Boomer is that at a volunteer shelter with a limited number of volunteers we do not have the time or manpower to work with him as much as we would like. I have talked with some of the others and we have set up a plan so that his walks will be structured and long. This way, just as Cesar Millan has said many times, Boomer will start to establish his position in the pack as a follower. He will not be allowed to take charge and lead.
The first step in working on his dominance is to establish him as a follower to his human caregivers. Once he sees his human caregivers as his leaders we will hopefully be able to start introducing him to other dogs. The hope is that if he sees humans as over him and the other dogs he will be more likely to obey the humans than to be aggressive with the other dogs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Pack

Late last week we got a lab mix in and today she was introduced to another lab named Walker. Between the two dogs, Millie and Walker, Walker is definitely the leader. I walked the two of them together and Millie was looking to Walker the entire time for guidance and permission to go ahead of him as I wanted her to.
Later as the two were allowed to play together Walker asserted his dominance very clearly but without aggression. He used eye contact and body position to communicate with Millie and tell her what he wanted her to do.
While I only got to observe these two interact with each other for about an hour I saw some of Cesar Millan's theories in a real life situation. Energy^1 and body language^1 were exactly how Walker and Millie communicated with each other. Walker was clearly the dominant dog in the pair and he showed it through his body language as he nudged, pushed, corrected, and herded Millie to make her do what he wanted.
On the other hand, Millie showed her submission to Walker in her posture. She kept her tail low but moving to show her calm-submissiveness. She kept her ears back as she was intent on what Walker wanted from her.

The most important part of this observation is the application to the life of dog owners and dog trainers. As humans striving to make their dogs well behaved to make humane society dogs more adoptable it is important to understand how dogs think and interact with each other to keep the pack stable and productive. Humans hoping to control their dogs and fulfill their dogs need to take the role of the pack leader just like Walker has done in his relationship with Millie.

More will come as I continue to work with these dogs in the days to come.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Chelsey is a pit bull mix. She is actually one of the dogs that does not need very much work. She is an excellent walker who understands a calm-assertive leader^1 when she sees one. Since she has pretty well mastered the calm-submissive energy^1 of a follower I am hoping to be able to introduce her to some of the other dogs, quite possibly Walker. If we succeed in this introduction we will be able to start building a good core into which we can introduce other dogs.
The way to do this will be to take an approach that Cesar Millan uses quite often. First we will use his philosophy of exercise discipline affection^1. I plan to have both dogs be taken on long, fast-paced walks to drain energy and put them into calm-submissive^1 follower mindsets. After the exercise will come the introduction where the two dogs will be closely monitored for any inappropriate behavior. If any should arise it will be corrected immediately before it has a chance to escalate.
If this introduction between these two dogs is successful it will be one more positive quality to an already adoptable dog.

1. All of these terms or philosophies can be found in Cesar Millan's books Cesar's Way and Be the Pack Leader. Both books were published by Random House, Inc. in New York City in 2006 and 2007 respectfully.

The Dogs

The Humane Society I volunteer with is the Brown County Humane Society in New Ulm, MN. This is a link to their website where you can find some of the dogs I that I will be talking about.

At this time there are only two dogs listed. There are more but not all have been updated on the website.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I recently started volunteering with "problem" dogs at the Humane Society. In this blog I will be updating you on different approaches I try and my success with them in making the dogs more adoptable. I have started by using some techniques that Cesar Millan promotes. I have read both of his books and am working on reading some more about dog psychology.

I will give you information about each of the dogs that I work with and their progress to becoming more adoptable.