A Post from FosterDad – December Edition

Juliana recently had her 1 year anniversary of fostering. Zabora, Baxter, Otis, and the occasional short term visitor have made this past year much different than the first few years we were together. Juliana loved all of the dogs that passed through her door. Some she handpicked, others picked her.

None of them picked me.

Don’t take this the wrong way, because I love dogs and have had a great time helping Juliana take care of these pups, but I never felt connected to these dogs at a deeper level. Juliana would have the first few days with the dog and because of our schedules we wouldn’t have much time to see each other. By the time I was able to interact with the dog, it was as if there were two sides and the dog had already chosen Juliana’s. I honestly never felt included.

And that was mostly my fault.

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This changed when Juliana brought Charlie home for a week. I was able to be around the first days he was in the house, but I was also able to hang out with Charlie alone. We spent a morning together working on his hesitation with basements. We built trust and team work (AKA I gave him a lot of yummy food), and this made it easier for Juliana since I was actively engaged with the dog (not that I completely wasn’t with the others).

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My point is, taking care of a dog is a group effort. From picking out a dog to training a dog everyone needs to be involved. With Christmas coming up here is an important reminder: it can be okay to give a pet as a gift only if you let the receiver pick out which pet to adopt rather than letting it a be a surprise. As much as we love to relish in the excitement of a surprise, an animal should never be a surprise. And after welcoming a new member to the family be sure to involve everyone. It’ll be better for the pet, and better for everyone else.

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Guest Post: Training Horses, Training Dogs

My mom is my role model, and growing up as an equestrian I remember her looking at our relationship with horses differently than I did. To me, my horse was my competition partner. I loved him and we worked hard together, but I didn’t take the time to learn how to communicate the way he did. My mom always had a gentle and understanding approach to figuring out what my horse was trying to say. If he was being fussy one day, my mom would question his comfort whereas I would brush it off as him having attitude. See what I mean? So as I learn about behavior and communicating with animals, I realize my mom’s had it right all along. Here is what she has to say about working with her horse – it’s amazing how much her observations match mine when I work with dogs.

Juliana and I often find ourselves talking about subjects like behavior modification, positive reinforcement, and T-Touch training. Juliana is talking about canines, and I am talking about equines. We find that many of the methods used to train dogs also apply to training horses. “Training is Training,” I tell Juliana.  “You’re right. How about doing a Guest Blog?” she replies. What – me?

Since you are a PL&F follower, you are probably already well educated in training methods, and you know there are no shortcuts or miracle cures. So, what can this Guest Blogger offer? How about a reminder of some principles of training that can be adapted to whatever methods you employ?  Here are four primary principles that Juliana and I both agree on: Knowledge is Power, Establish Leadership, Be Consistent, and End on a Success.

Knowledge is Power. I am not a professional trainer, but I have access to a lot of professional information. There are great resources on the Internet, TV, and in books. Find a trainer or method that you like and learn as much as you can. It took some investigating before I found an Equine trainer I liked; one who is clear, concise, and I can understand.  I first found him in a book, and I have since discovered that he has a TV Program.  I DVR every program, then I watch at my convenience – sometimes over and over.

A tip that my riding instructor tells me is, “write it down.” Keep a journal of goals and training sessions.  It’s easy to get discouraged when I think I haven’t gotten very far or that there is so much more left to do. Having our journey on paper makes a big difference. When I look back, its amazing how much I have actually learned and how far the training has come.

Establish Leadership.  My Vet once told me, “An insecure horse is a dangerous horse.” “Yeah,” I replied, but I wondered whose horse she was talking about? Surely not mine – my guy is sweet, and cuddly, and funny, and he LOVES me! Well, he is also a bit skittish, and sometimes a little pushy, and he doesn’t always listen to me….  An insecure horse may be dangerous because of its size, but an insecure dog can also be aggressive, ill-mannered, and annoying. Establish yourself as the leader, the head of the herd. Leading in a positive and consistent way creates a secure, calm, and happy animal that looks to you for direction, reassurance, and comfort.

Be Consistent. Be black and white, keep is simple, repeat, and follow the same rules. “He’s been so good, I’ll let just this one go,” can set you back sessions. Changing strategies can be confusing, and changing the rules can lead to insecurity. Be consistent – 100 percent of the time. It’s a huge challenge, and it makes all the difference.

I have also heard, “Repetition to Automaticity.”  If you repeat an exercise until it becomes automatic, then you can communicate with a whisper, a gesture, or even body language. When a training session is structured, consistent, and repeated, success will follow.

End on a Positive. End before the session gets frustrating. Don’t be tempted to “do it one more time,” to get it perfect. Or, if the session isn’t going the way you hoped, find one small success, celebrate it, and end on it. Keep the sessions short, positive, and fun. After a great session, have a special play time or rewarding activity. My guy’s favorite activity and reward is grazing in a patch of clover. This time is quiet and relaxing, and it’s a luxury that is part of the schedule.

What has become of my insecure Gelding? People at the barn, and my vet, tell me he’s a “different horse.” When Juliana rode him recently, she noticed the difference. I told her that I had found a training method that is positive and that I agree with, and we work at it regularly and consistently.  My guy is now relaxed and confident. He doesn’t look for his buddies in the field, because I am his herd leader. He stands quietly wherever I drop his lead, he respects my space, and we are developing a wonderful understanding. He whispers to me with his body language, and I understand. Our unspoken communication is amazing and a gift that I treasure. This is the reward.

So, training is training. These principles apply to training a horse or a dog, and you can also apply these principles when modifying the behavior of a child, peer, or co-worker :-). Remember the basics, and you’ll discover success!


Guest Post: Work of Passion

I’m actually pretty excited to have this break on the blog between dogs to share posts related to other things. One of my favorite in-between-fosters posts are the ones written by guest writers. My boyfriend Mark stopped by the blog in March, and now his mom is taking a shot at it. I love hearing what other people have to say, and I love giving them an opportunity to share it – so I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

“ONE PERSON WITH PASSION IS BETTER THAN 40 PEOPLE MERELY INTERESTED”     –  E.M. FORSTER English Novelist

Hi. I am Profitta and Seamus Mom (Mark’s too).  After moving to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh (where our house and yard were too small for a dog- at least according to my husband!) we were waiting for our new house to be built, so I researched the golden breeders in the area and found one that breeds to the size I wanted and Profitta was born April 2001. Raising a puppy is a WORK OF PASSION! Among other puppy traits, she loved to eat our new dry wall.

Fast forward to the fall of 2008 when our third and youngest son, Mark went to college.  Thinking back I was so excited anticipating him leaving but…..? On the day we dropped him off at the dorm, I became very depressed and on the way home I called my kennel  who I knew had a 14 month male golden that was given up and said to have him ready in the morning. I was coming to get him. When my husband got home from work the next day, he asked “if this was permanent????”  I gave a non–committal answer, but I knew it was. Seamus had been neglected by well-meaning but elderly owners and possibly abused as well, as he was very shy and fearful of everything. Now, 4 years later, he is much better (but still leaves the room when he sees a broom!).  After going to a dog behavior therapist with both dogs we worked it out. Thus another WORK OF PASSION.

Now Mark has graduated from college and I have completed another WORK OF PASSION with all of my boys living on their own.

I met Juliana in September of 2010 and since she started fostering dogs in the summer of 2011, I have seen her WORK OF PASSION.  Her Peace Love & Foster Blog is a constant homework assignment Sunday thru Thursday nights that is meaningful and compelling every day.  Good blogging makes me want to start my own blog and that’s why I asked to be a guest blogger today. I am an avid gardener and keeping “the goldens” out of the tomatoes makes my life very interesting.

You take the very best things in life along with the disappointments and thus life is a WORK OF PASSION.

As Bill Cosby has said ANYONE CAN DABBLE, BUT ONCE YOU’VE MADE THAT COMMITMENT, YOUR BLOOD HAS THAT PARTICULAR THING IN IT, AND IT’S VERY HARD FOR PEOPLE TO STOP YOU. That pretty much defines the meaning of WORK OF PASSION for me.