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Chandra's Blog

 

Entries in Dog Whisperer (4)

Thursday
Mar222012

Guest Dog Blog--Anna Cole and Claude Giroux

This week's guest dog blog is a young German shepherd named after the Philadelphia Flyers hockey phenom Claude Giroux. His owner Anna Cole plays incredible defense and is a natural leader on the Blizzards womens hockey team with me. Sampson and young Claude have met once or twice at the local rink (with mixed results) when we cheer on our sons or our husbands are there to cut the ice. You can read Anna's post about a recent training lesson with Claude below, or follow along on her Life Coach website and blog.

 

 

 

Claude Giroux -Gets a Quick Lesson -Easy Puppy Training

This is our baby, Claude Giroux, he is quick, agile, smart and very loyal to his team.
We are his team and we want to train this guy.
Look at his face, he wants to work and please.
It's a spring-like day in mid-February and I take him for his morning walk, to practice heeling, him walking by my side on a leash and following my lead. He generally does well at the heel as long as there are no other dogs around.
 
 
I quietly pray today this will be the case.
The sun is shining, and the air is clear. Everything is going well, until we both realize there is another dog walking in front of us. Margo, a community acquaintance of mine, walks her puppy whom is so very obediently at her side.
Margo's puppy reminds me of Lady, from Lady and the Tramp, as she elegantly and obediently walks beside her owner.
Claude, on the other hand, begins pulling and lunging, as normal, wanting to approach the dog ahead of us.
We eventually catch up to the Lady like dog and her owner, and my embarrassment shines bright as I apologize for my lack of control over my thirteen month old shepherd who would love nothing more than to initiate a play date with this adorable female puppy.
I come up with a few excuses for Claude's lack of restraint, He isn't fixed yet, other dogs are a challenge for him...
Margo requests, "Can take him for a bit?" Surprised by her offer, I consent, and we trade leashes.
She proceeds to walk with Claude correcting him with quick jerks to his collar while simultaneous giving him immense amounts of praise and treats. She basically teaches me the ropes of what a walk with Claude can look like, and she seems to do it effortlessly.
AND Claude listens and responds to her methods.
She returns Claude and we decide to walk together.
Whenever Claude begins to lunge out of line anticipating a romp with a dog passing by I use Margo's teaching techniques and this makes for an enjoyable walk.
I am grateful to have met my town's own Cesar Millan.
__________________________________
[About+Anna+Photo.JPG]BIO: Anna Cole is a Certified Life Coach through premier coaching school Coaches Training Institute. She works with busy moms and professional moms to strengthen their relationships, let go of guilt, improve self confidence, and make time for themselves so they create lives and careers they love.

 

 You can find out more about Anna here on her website  http://www.annacole.com/

Tuesday
Jul052011

Guest Dog Blog -- Forrest, lab-mix from Colorado

This week I have the pleasure of introducing Forrest, a lab-mix rescue dog who chose Ivan Junge in Colorado. I was especially interested in this because not only are Sampson and Forrest related in the way that their people are cousins, but Labradors and Newfoundlands share similar bloodlines. That said, I think their history is more geographic than genetic as Sampson and the four previous Newfs in my life show zero aptitude for fetching. The Newfy MO is more 'you throw a ball, I run after it unless or until a) I get tired b) it seems too far away c) there is a low hanging pine branch in closer proximity than the ball that might need to be peed on or d) I get it and then lie down where I found this ball and crunch/gnaw it to death with my massive, underused jaws.

Please enjoy Ivan's essay on Forrest! 

 

Selecting My Dog

 

When I decided to get a dog I did a lot of research. I think I watched every episode of The Dog Whisperer.  Some people watch the show for its entertainment value. I watched it for research. Cesar can control almost any dog without ever having met them and leave the dog feeling peaceful and at home. 

 

For a long time I had known about the universal dog-body-language sign for play – kneel down on the ground with your arms outstretched (kind of like the yoga downward dog but kneeling) and make eye contact with the dog…  then get ready to run, zig and zag. This is kind of like fishing – if you present it the right way the animal cannot resist. When appropriate, it’s helpful to let a new dog know what kind of relationship you want to have with them and put them at ease. 

 

There are many other messages to send to a dog, especially if you are the owner. Caesar is the master of distinguishing these messages. If you watch the show, which I highly recommend, listen to what he says. And most importantly, listen to the part where he says, “I rehabilitate dogs… I train people.” What I hear in that is it’s always the responsibility of the owner to train himself or herself for the sake of the dog. Otherwise the dog doesn’t know what’s appropriate. 

 

I had a woman’s dog steal our tennis ball once and the she sighed and said, “Well, it’s going to be a long time before you see that ball again. He never brings them back.” Any version of the dog doing something that the owner doesn’t want it to do and the owner accepting it frustrates me. Cesar would calmly explain that the owner has allowed the dog to think it’s OK, or a game not to bring the ball back. Solution: more people training. When your dog knows who is in charge and what the rules are, it will listen. 

 

But I digress. I knew that I wanted a Labrador-mix for my dog. The fact that labs are bred to work for people (retrieving) means that they have a desire to listen and do what the owner wants them to do. This is a very helpful breeding trait. Retrieving is also a game that is fun for me, as the human, to play. Double bonus. 

 

Sometimes I watch other dogs slowly wading in the water up to their bellies (like our old family dog) and then backing out of the water because they were scared. I get the pleasure of throwing a ball into the water and watching my dog enjoy his life mission – swim, locate, and retrieve. That’s a lot of fun for me and for Forrest.

 

The cool thing about having a work/play motivated dog is that they are easy to control. Some dogs are bred to herd or attack other dogs. You can teach them not to do that but you will have your work cut out for you. I can hold up a tennis ball and I have total attention and focus. That’s really nice.

 

I also wanted to avoid the common health problems that often come along with a purebred dog. Mutts tend to have less of these issues. That worked out well for him. 

 

I totally understand the desire to pick a less-active breed. If a dog is bred to work then that’s what they will want to do. Just remember that this less-active dog might not be very fun at the park, unless you want it to just sit on your blanket with you. 

 

I wanted a companion for my outdoor activities. I wanted a dog to run with me while I mountain biked. I wanted a buddy for hiking, backpacking, camping, playing catch, etc. I called all the local shelters and told them to notify me of any puppy, lab-mix arrivals. Forrest, waiting 

When I met with the final litter of puppies at the shelter I noticed that the other ones were into getting their bellies scratched. My little guy decided to chase the others around the pen and repeatedly untie the shoelaces of those who participated in the belly scratching. I knew what I was getting myself into and I admired his playfulness. 

 

It’s worked out well for the two of us. I never seem to play quite enough for his liking but I far prefer that to the alternative. He’s a motivator for me to get outside and have some fun. That’s a good friend in my book. 

 

* *** *  


 

 

Tuesday
Jun142011

Weekly Dog Blog -- Sampson, 9 Weeks

Age: 9.5 weeks

Weight: 30.4 lbs

Yes, you read that correctly. In his first three weeks home, Sampson has almost doubled his body weight. 

 

The past week and a half have flown by with my husband's birthday and the arrival of my sister's family as they transition from full time Caribbean life to a US existence. I have hardly known how to handle myself, so many exciting things at once. If you haven't  read This POST about the fabulousness that is my sister, you might not get how giddy this makes me, to have her family shouting distance away... 

 

Piper and Quinn with their ongoing painting projectAnd Piper has been thrilled to have my sister's daughter Quinn, her sister-cousin. Both girls agree that Sampson's chewy phase is unwelcome. He loves following the little girls' flouncing skirts and thinks their delicious, sun-warmed forearms are just ripe for nibbling. Perched up on the kitchen counter out of the way of Sampson the other night, Piper told me:

"I have decided I don't want a puppy. I want a dog. The worst Jonah ever did was shake his wet on me."

 

Throughout this time of helping their family to settle in, Sampson has been a game little shin-high compadre, toddling cheerfully between their new house and ours. He should be relishing his final moments indoors at Casa Nowak because the white carpet comes tomorrow and it's not going to be much longer that J can do this: Over the Shoulder Puppy Holder

In addition, this past week we had our annual family reunion--a tradition my maternal grandparents started more than 50 years ago. From these two people, who had seven children, there are now 72 relatives--their children, grandchildren and great-grands with three new babies due. This year, we decided to hold it locally, literally in the common property. My grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday and we are all feeling blessed to have him as this winter he underwent treatment for cancer and beat it. The day before the fesitivities began, he played his first full round of golf. This is the cake my sister and I made to celebrate my grandfather's return to one of his favorite pasttimes:

Grandpa's Golf Cake

 Because of my grandparents' belief in family, because of them starting this tradition, my children know their second cousins more intimately than most people know their firsts. It was so fun to see the twenty great grandchildren traveling in a pack, fishing and bouncing and running wild. Sampson got to be underfoot for much of the family festivities in the backyard, scavenging under banquet tables, frolicking with my cousin's two-year-old Bernese Mountain dog and snuffling small cousins.

Our typical 4 am pre-dawn walks were spent restocking the hidden treasures for the weekend-long scavenger hunt and Sampson was a game little companion, sniffing out . In order to control him in such a crowd and monitor his bacon intake, I started attaching a leash to his collar. He mostly dragged it or carried it proudly in his mouth, but it was a start.

There was also time for a little bit of this--early morning writing with my sweet boy at my feet: 

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THE FAMILY THIS WEEK... WHAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING WITH SAMPSON?

Holy Biter, Batman!

When I was growing up, conventional wisdom was that when a dog nipped or bit, you 'popped' them under the chin. Never over, so they wouldn't see it coming or get head-shy of petting. This doesn't jive with our parenting style or who we are as people so I have been researching some non-violent approaches to keep Samps from being too bitey with the under-four set. 

1. LICK

In this, we coat Piper's palm with a smear of peanut butter, and then she calls Sampson to her and tells him to 'lick', while repeatedly praising him. The idea is that when he runs up to her, mouth open, she can hold out her palm and say 'lick', and he will do that instead. This has about a 35% success rate. The rest of the time, he just looks at her incredulously like, "Wow, you're giving it to me? It's more fun when I chase you down and you squeal but okay..." before chomping down with his needle teeth. 

2. "YIPE"

So when that doesn't work, we have tried to teach her to 'yipe', high pitched and loud, like one of his litter-mates, to give him the message that that's too much. If you know Piper, and her big-eyed, soft-spoken ways, you know that this only works when I am right there and 'yipe' for her.

3. Mama Dog Says NO

This is another one that is only effective when I am around and comes straight from the Dog Whisperer. When he gets her, I make my fingers into a claw/jaw and close them over his skull like a mama dog's jaw and hold it there making a low growl until he lets go. This is the most effective of the three, though nothing quite beats the foolproff way of keeping Piper from getting nipped--carry her; everywhere. 

 

If you have a great puppy-training method, I'd love to hear it! 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun012011

WEEKLY DOG BLOG--Sampson, 7 weeks

I have decided to add a new feature to my blog, a weekly entry for fellow dog lovers, puppy breath addicts and those with a high tolerance for the furry and cute. One of the reasons is that, thinking back, my early memories of our original Newf Jonah are pretty cloudy, lost in the haze of the fact that we made the crazy decision to get a puppy and have our first baby at the same time.

Prepare for a weekly feature that will include photos of the famously-hard-to-photograph Newfoundland as he grows (you can almost watch it happen) and a journal entry that chronicles this exciting addition to our family. The other reason? Let's face it: my littlest kid just turned four. It's been too long since I've had something tiny and helpless and endearing to slather with affection and obsess over. 

 

SAMPSON COMES HOME: 

7 weeks, 16 lbs

In January, a few weeks after our Newf of almost ten years died, I happened to come across a farm near Harrisburg that was known for Newfoundlands, miniature silky goats and dried flowers, whose name was Opening Heavens Doors. I thought it might be a sign. Some of our dearest people and animals had recently gone to the other side, so anything that promised some kind of connection to this seemed auspicious. When I perused the website and found a female looked exactly like Dakota, the Newf I'd had since I was 16, the one who marched in Cornell's graduation alongside me and whose immediate acceptance of my then-casual-boyfieind, now-husband J made me think twice about him, sealed the deal. I contacted the owners, paid our deposit and we began the wait. 

 

In the past three years, my children have lost their grandmother to cancer, suffered the sudden departure Uncle Matty G, and then the loss of Jonah, their lifetime canine companion, their constant. I have been a little anxious about the idea of loved ones as 'replaceable' and so the waiting period was important. Waiting to hear if the breeding took, if there was a black male in the litter, and finally, driving to Harrisburg to pick out the newest member of the family. 

 

In the interim, I did exactly what I did when expecting Hayden: I read. Piles of books on dogs and training, though this time around I had the sense to get them from the library. I remember before our first child was born, I had been reading "The Baby Whisperer" and I took a long walk with my aunt, mother of 6 (5 boys and 1 girl) and told her how great things were going to be when the baby arrived, according to this book. There was even an acronym for it! E. A. S. Y.= Eat, Awake, Sleep, You Time! I told her how we would never nurse or feed our baby to sleep so he didn't get used to that as the norm, and how we would not need to change our life for our baby: the nanny whisperer told us to 'invite the baby into our life'. Which, in our appropriately selfish mid-twenties, included lots of job changing, frequent sports-inspired vacations, liquid dinners and constant moving. 

I remember my aunt very politely, gently said something along the lines of 'wait and see when he gets here'. Which, when it happened, turned our lives upside down and created a complete 180 in our parenting views. Invite him into our lives? We had planned a surf trip to the Bahamas for weeks after our due date, reasoning that one of us could hold the newborn in the shade, and then we'd swap. We were so anxious to show everyone that a kid wouldn't slow us down or change us. As the plane ticket came and went, we found ourselves in the NICU at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, praying for the life of our first born, making promises that included never seeing the ocean again if he would just survive. (You can read about this story here.)

 

The books I checked out this time around, about adding a hairy, four-legged addition to your family or pack, were surprisingly familiar--The Dog Whisperer, and Natural Puppy Rearing. If you subsituted 'baby' for 'puppy' in these texts, the polar messages were exactly the same. I inhaled them, checking in about what resonated and what didn't apply.

 

J scoffed a smidge at my need to revisit texts from the 'experts'. "We've raised two great dogs and three amazing kids in the last 15 years--why do you think you need to read books again?" But I did, just to reaffirm where I stood. I'd read parts of the text aloud, things that didn't resonate, 'tests' we were meant to put our puppy through, and principles that probably do apply when you are the Dog Whisperer rehabilitating pit bulls, but maybe not so much when you have an underactive, home-raised seven-week-old Newf on your hands, or in your family bed as the case may be. 

"Rust" (future Sampson) on left, Q-tip on right, 6 weeks

Choosing Sampson was easier than I had worried it might be, and we wanted to do it quickly so there was no sadness or second-guessing. Taking both was not an option--whoever didn't come home to us was going to a baker. Both boys were on their stomachs on the cool tile floor, front paws outstretched, back legs pointed behind them, in tiny little Superman position. Both would have made great additions to the family, but we chose the sleeker, 1 lb heavier boy on the left.

The several hour ride home, despite the nail in our tire, Piper clipping her neck in the clasp while trying to don Sampson's collar, and Hayden losing privileges for taunting a cross-legged Max with hissing 'pee' sounds and Sampson snoring away was pretty good too. 

Piper, Hayden and Max take turnsAt home, our first night was surprisingly smooth. We sat out in the late evening air and let Sampson and our cats get a gander of each other, and then he wandered into his little spot in the ktichen and passed out. 

Sampson and "hedgie" acasa

 

I had these expectations that we would co-sleep with our new puppy--we still have a musical beds schedule with most of our kids, and Jonah certainly enjoyed his years in the 'pile of puppies' style of family bed. But for whatever reason, Sampson was cooler and more comfortable in his own little spot by the a/c vent and an ice cold stainless bowl of water  in the corner of the kitchen. 

So J and I went up to bed, feeling pretty smug. He had gone to the bathroom several times outside, had lolled in the kids' arms the whole car ride home. No accidents, no crying. I remarked that I felt about him like I had when bringing my babies home: I loved them on principle, but didn't feel like I knew them yet, and I lived in quiet fear of The Night and all of the unknowns it might bring. With Hayden, it was months before he came home, and Max was such an easygoing little fellow that I didn't have a dreadful newborn night until I brought home my third, Piper. Piper and Mama, April 2007By your third kid, you're supposed to be seasoned. You're supposed to know better than to feel like a cocky pro on the maternity ward when your little angel (left) sleeps all through her first hours of life and by god, you're supposed to know better than to rush home. But I didn't. I begged to be discharged at less than 24 hours, and took a borderline jaundiced Piper home to meet her brothers and even did some gardening.

But when night fell, and her thready wails began, I am embarrassed to admit that not only did I call all my friends who had three or more kids and hold the phone up to her for a diagnostic, not only did I call my Labor and Delivery nurse friend on the West Coast, but I actually called the staff at the hospital that I had campaigned to be discharged from, and suggested I bring her back. Just in case, you know, she was crying because there was seriously something wrong with her. I swear you could see the eye-rolls through the phone. 

 

So our first night with little Sampson, J and I went to bed with a small amount of terror in the pit of our stomachs. It wasn't long before I noticed he was gone. J slept much of the first half of the night on the kitchen floor beside the puppy because of Sampson's penchant for putting his whole face in his water bowl while sleeping. I'm not kidding, (photo at end,) and upstairs, I fretted about the peaceful silence, the calm before the storm, anticipating the moment that the howling would begin.

 

3:36 am: you would think harbor seals were being slaughtered downstairs. I took a shift on the floor wondering when was the last time I scrubbed the baseboards, J took a second, I took a third, he took a fourth, and finally at 4:45, little man was up for the day. I carried him outside for the summer dawn chorus of birds and did some halfhearted weeding in my pajamas while he got into some determined grass sniffing. 

Despite the lack of sleep, our first full day has been an early summer delight. Sampson and Piper watered the lima bean garden before she went to her final day of preschool and the heat index got so high that our panting black woolly bear caterpillar had to stay inside with the AC running. Atticus and Sampson face off

 

Early morning, Sampson and Atticus went Round Two. Atticus is our junior kitten of three cats, 2 years old and full of attitude and machismo--he took a soft paw to Sampson's downy cheek in their first few minutes together, and then has made a point of following us everywhere, and then scampering ahead to flop in our path and flick his tail, just so we're clear that he's really annoyed. Shades of toddler Max's fantastical "Ben 10" rage-transformations when baby sister arrived on the scene. If I'd had more than three hours of sleep last night, I would find the video of one of these and post it. Lordy.  

 

Midday, 96 degrees in the shade, we took Sampson to the pool for his first swim. You'll have to ignore my Kenny Loggins thrift store sunglasses--it's crazy sunny out and I am in desperate need of a trip to Target for some more cheap UV protective eyewear, but until then, try to take me seriously in these. (My husband can't.)

Sampson was calm and relaxed in the water, and when Hayden took him in, even tried a few tentative paddle strokes. Could it be? We might finally have a Newfoundland, the famous water-rescue breed, who actually swims?!


First day swimming

Cheering squad of three

 

Aside from swimming, most of the day, Sampson has slept and eaten, gnawed and drooped his little head into the fresh ice cubes in the water bowl. We have done our favorite summer tradition of an evening walk with bikes and it fills my heart to have a dog along again. Piper and all of the kids are getting very good at the art of distraction, (chew a stick instead of the hem of a pretty 3T sundress,) and are taking my suggestion not to use the word "no" with his name seriously. The boys had three mini training sessions and swear he comes when called, can sit on command, and has mastered 'lie down and sleep'. 

Piper and Sampson make their way homeIt's dark again, and the kids are settled, J is home from work, and Sampson is showing off his puppy skill of sleeping, eyes closed, chin-deep in the water bowl. 

Snoozing

Stay tuned for more Sampson next week, when 73 members of the extended family arrive for a reunion, two-year-old cousin Quinn moves in next door, and we might try something really rigorous, like walking him with a collar and a leash.