The weekly roundup: The mutts are nuts!

This past week has been extremely busy for me, and while i’m getting a lot of things done that I need to get done, i’ve not been spending as much time exercising the dogs, and it’s showing.

As a trainer, the most valuable skill I have is my assessment of a dog, which gets better with more experience. Being able to understand not only what the dog is doing, but why they’re doing it helps to narrow down the source of behavior we don’t want, and how to correct that behavior. In this case, the issue I kept facing was lack of obedience, specifically lack of timely command response. In moving to make corrections, Kirby has a tendency to just flop down, Scout will work on melting into the floor, and Amp tends to take off, seeking the comfort of his crate. That last one is a big problem, especially when he has muddy feet, and doesn’t let me wipe them off before traipsing all over the house, so i’m working on getting him into the habit of wiping feet.

However, rather than punish for this errant behavior, because I understand they’re anxious, and dealing with some pent-up energy, I chose instead to back off a little, gently make the needed corrections, and then go wear them out at the dog park.
We’ve been twice this weekend so far, and it’s been wonderful to see them run (except Kirby, he’s on restricted activity), play, and explore. Scout, of course, is happy to be the ‘bullet dog, fastest fur-missile in the land!’, while Amp is happy to simply wander along, occasionally breaking into a trot.

Giving them an hour or so at the dog park is a great idea, one to aim for every day, but at least once or twice a week. Generally speaking, if your dog is ‘acting up’ or ‘acting out’, your first stop should be to the dog park so they can burn off some energy, and make sure you stick around after they get tired so you can give them a second chance to run if the wind kicks up.

Getting back to the mutts, Kirby is doing alright with his ‘trick knees’; he’s taking painkillers to help him relax, he gets help going up stairs or onto elevation (i.e. getting on the bed, his favorite place to be!), and he’s getting ready for surgery.
Amp is still enjoying life, working on his manners, and is slowly getting used to be handling his paws. We did get to teeth brushing for Amp this week as well, and while he was not a fan, he suffered through the ordeal, and was quickly enjoying pearly white teeth…. chomping on chicken jerky.
Scout is doing fine, still happy to tell me that ‘boys are dumb’, and occasionally stirs stuff up among them to get someone to chase her, but they all get along well.

I’m looking forward to getting Amp into a home of his own, preferably with two kids that want to play with him a lot, and to getting Kirby into surgery one of two (they’ll work on one leg at a time to ease the overall burden for him) for his knees.

Stay tuned for more adventures of the mutts!

Kirby: The Whimper

It was a Monday evening, like any other Monday evening, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

All three dogs were in the backyard, playing, chasing stuff, sniffing the smells, and generally enjoying some outside time. Running along as they usually do, Kirby was chasing Scout, and in the middle of a sweeping right turn, he whimpered, stopped, and dropped his butt to the ground, sitting lopsided with a tongue hanging low out of his panting mouth.
I stepped over to him, my right calf just at his left shoulder, and he leaned onto me with a heavy weight, hanging his head low.
I examined him all over, and finding nothing to suggest the cause of injury, I stepped back to give him a little space, which he quickly filled by pouring himself to the ground. Once he’d had a few minutes to rest, he tried to get up, but couldn’t quite get his hind legs under him. As I helped him inside to cool off, I realized something was amiss with his back legs, so I got a hold of Mandi, and she made arrangements for him to see his Doctors the next morning.

The trip down to LaGrange was a tough one, for me; Kirby, sitting curled up in the passenger side floorboard, watching me, his eyes drilling deep into mine, his little tongue flicking out now and then, and his constant effort to get a little more comfortable, urged me on down the road.

We got to LVH around 1030, and they had us in an exam room in no time. They did some checking and weighing and examining and thinking and such, and decided to keep him for a bit to confirm their suspicions of him having trick knees.

I spent the next several hours handling busywork, getting small things done, but my mind never strayed from his face, that little smile he always has, and those brown eyes, seeming to softly ask for just a little less pain.
It felt like weeks, but after only five hours, Kirby was coming out of sedation with x-rays to confirm the diagnosis: Bilateral Patellar Luxation (medical words that mean his kneecaps don’t stay in place).
We discussed treatment options, concluded that surgery is needed, and very likely to solve the problem permanently, and can be done at LVH, so now it’s just about getting that all set up.

Watching Kirby transition from several months at the shelter, through my training program, and into the sweet, loving, happy pup that he is now is very rewarding for me. Watching this issue come up and bite him in the ass (almost literally!) has been difficult, but hammers home two very important points:
1) Every dog deserves a chance to have love. Some need a little more discipline than others, but they all need training and care.
2) Every day that goes by is another day that proves Kirby was mislabeled, and almost died because of that. Sometimes, people suck.

The weekly round-up

Ok, more or less a weekly round up, but hey, it’s a dogs life over here, and i’m just trying to keep up with ’em! 😛

L-R: Amp, Kirby, Scout

Amp is having a good time, and has adjusted well to Kirby being around. Those boys get to rough housing now and then, all in good fun, but boy do they knock the dust loose! Amp is always up for a good pet or head scratch, is never late for a treat, and will sometimes come sit with me during morning coffee to say hello!

Amp wants to try my coffee…..

Kirby is making leaps and bounds of progress in his program, has become calm and confident in his daily activities, and enjoys testing boundaries by giving a new thing a little nibble, then looking at me to see what i’ll say. Thankfully, he responds well, and quickly, to a simple voice command! His face is usually smiling, and his nose is usually sniffing… even when he’s snoozing! He, too, likes to say good morning while i’m having coffee.

“I like coffee… I think…” -Kirby

Scout is finally enjoying having two boys to play with, and is happy to get out there and play rough with the boys, too! Last seen aggravating the mess out of ‘them boys’, she was lost in a cloud of dust as she sped away!
(She’s too fast for a picture) 😛

This past weekend all three dogs got to travel with me to a friends house, where their three dogs got to all meet and play with Kirby (who is new to them) and my two (who are not new to them). The initial meeting was tense because two of the friends dogs did NOT want to be nice, but Kirby responded very well; he was calm, cool, and did not fight, lunge, attack, or even growl back when provoked! After a few hours of sniffing and posturing, all six dogs were seen running circles around each other in the backyard, having far too much fun to care about who’s new or who’s who!

I’m very proud of Kirby for coming out of his shell, putting his past behind him, and quickly learning to thrive in his new life. I look forward to introducing him to his new family when the time is right, and I know they’ll have many happy memories with him!

Kirby: Settling in nicely

Kirby has now been with me, *checks his timer* 4 days and 8 hours. He enjoys playing with the other dogs, playing with me, and snuggle time (boy does he ever enjoy snuggle time!).

While his first meeting with Scout didn’t go so well, they’ve mended their differences and decided to be friends, with a little help and training of course.


Kirby has shown himself to be a wonderful dog, no rougher around the edges than any other dog fresh out of the shelter, and loves to be loved. He responds well to training, is quickly picking up all the things i’m putting down (food on the floor AND manners/obedience/commands), and has already racked up several compliments near and far in the neighborhood.

He has also found the pleasure of the bed, and while I keep an eye on him to make sure he leaves my blanket alone, he’s happy to snooze behind me while I whittle away my keyboard.

Kirby is a terrific example of the travesty of ‘breed labels’, and exemplifies exactly why they should be ignored; he’s nothing like Animal Services said he is, he’s just a dog, mis- treated by humans, judged harshly by humans, and, thanks to the wonderful human that runs the Humane Society, given a second chance to have a wonderful life. I’m honored, and still a little awed, at being a part of that, and not a moment spent with Kirby goes by that I don’t enjoy having him around.

Adventures of the mutts…

One of the biggest causes of aggression in dogs is food, which falls under ‘Resource Guarding’, a behavior that’s common for dogs that were never taught to share.
When you’re dealing with one, or more, aggressive dogs in a pack, you have to be careful not to have food out as it’ll usually cause a fight.
For my pack, I simply refuse to tolerate that kind of behavior, and I insist that everyone get along nicely. For those who don’t want to get along nicely, i’ll adjust training to modify (remove) that behavior so that we all get along nicely.

As you can see in the video above, all three dogs are getting along fine while working on one plate (a terrific way to wash dishes AND save water, by the way!), even Kirby, who came to me with the dreaded, ‘Aggressive’ (mis)label. Keep in mind that this video was taken July 9th, so Kirby had been with us for less than 3 whole days. It’s amazing what a little love and training can do for a dog!

Dog Training: The Corrections

In all forms of dog training, corrections need to be made. In that, there are three main types, or ‘levels’ of correction in my system.

One: Voice correction.
Voice correction means i’m just using a word, a noise, or a tone, nothing more than my voice, to make the correction. There’s a wide range available here, from a gentle, ‘hey’, to a loud, sharp, “NO!”, or anywhere in between. This level is the gentlest, and it is my goal to get my dogs to this level ASAP.

Two: The Touch.
The Touch is the first of two levels that are physical, and is also a range. The Touch can be a quick, light touch, like a poke (or when you boop the schnooop), or on the other end of the scale, it’s a sharp smack or slap. No, be mindful that this needs to be used in a corrective manner, not an abusive one, which means it’s just ONE touch, not repeated.
I use this as level 2 for behavior, again anywhere on the scale where appropriate, but after i’ve used my Voice correction.

Three: Let’s get rowdy
Let’s get Rowdy is the highest level, and it’s what I use to get dogs to cooperate. Now again, it’s important to note that this needs to be used in a corrective way, not an abusive way, so you’re not ‘beating the dog up’, you’re simply controlling the dog, physically, until you get the dog to cooperate with you. When using this level, i’ve exhausted the other two levels, and I need the dog to cooperate for whatever reason.

So let’s put this all into perspective. First, I only use the level that’s needed for the issue at hand. If my voice is all that’s needed, if my, ‘no sir’, gets the dog to stop that behavior, then i’m all done, and i’ll give a praise and pet so they understand that listening and cooperating is good, is nice, and they’ll want more of that.
Second, I do make every effort to go through the levels, but I will go through them very quickly if needed; if the dog is simply not listening to me voice recall them in my fenced in backyard with no dangers around, we’ve got time, and things are very slow.
If the dog is barreling down the street towards some small kids after digging under the fence, then i’m moving very quickly (think, ‘greased lightning’, it’s why I eat a lot of bacon).
In this example, i’ve got a dog not listening to my recall, running away from me, which means i’ve use level 1, so i’m working on level 2. I if I can get close enough to the dog for a Touch, i’ll use an appropriate touch to get their cooperation. If that doesn’t work, i’ll go to level 3, which means i’m grabbing the dog, and then physically controlling their body while they’re trying to get away. Again, not abusive/mean/violent, but part of dog training means you may have to physically overpower and control the dog at some point.

So, three levels of corrections. Used correctly inside your training system, you’ll have your dogs down level 1 at no time, and be able to maintain that. Voice controlled dogs are the best! 😀

Kirby: Post 2, he caught a shoe…

Me: “No sir, you may NOT chew on my shoe”.
Kirby: “But, I wanna!”
M: “Nope.”
K: “Fine, but i’ma hold it….”

Kirby has officially been here for 48 hours at the time of writing this post, and in that time he’s responded very well to love, discipline, and training. I’ll peel off and rant about dogs being labeled in shelters in other posts, but the very very short version is, “It’s fucking stupid, and it needs to stop now”. Ok, back to Kirby. 🙂

Part of training is correction, and correction comes in three main forms (another post). One of the indicators I use is how quickly can I move UP the list, from the worst to the least? With Kirby, he’s already responding well to voice correction for almost everything, which reinforces that he IS a great dog, and all he needs is a little love, care, and discipline (all dogs need that, and people, too).

So here I am, working from home, doing all the stuff I do, and now having a dog that I keep a 24 hour watch on (it’s my system). The staff at the shelter he came from are no doubt eager to hear of his failure (or mine) because he’s on their list of dogs to destroy. We know he came from a ‘breeding house’, was not socialized, was not taught how to ‘play nice’, and because of that some people marked him as ‘aggressive’. Well, they were wrong.
The biggest problem I have with Kirby is that if I sit down on the floor with him, he’ll either come play with me, or, he’ll flop himself into my lap and press his whole body into me until i’m rubbing his head and his belly. He demands both hands, both, none of this, ‘one handed nonsense’.

It really irritates me that people are so quick to want to destroy this dog without spending any time, putting in any effort, or giving him anything close to love, care, patience, discipline, training, exercise…..
Luckily, Kirby is full of love, happiness, and smiles, and he’s been happy to share those with me!

Meet Kirby

Kirby is tired… 🙂

Hello everyone, meet Kirby! Kirby is a beautiful young male Staffordshire Bull Terrier, full of energy, and loves to play! He comes from a rough background and tends to play too rough sometimes, which is why the Humane Society brought him to me for some in-depth training!

I met Kirby yesterday (Friday) at the Humane Society, and my first impression was, ‘he’s smaller than I thought he’d be! :)’. He’s small, but he’s solid; overflowing with love, energy, and a zest for life!

Kirby is a perfect example of how dogs become what they are trained or taught to become. He comes from a rough background, living in a breeding house, a product of inbreeding, kept in a kennel by himself, and not allowed to play or socialize much. He was rescued from that life by chance, and easily passed all of his temperament tests to make it to the Humane Society, but three months of sitting in a kennel has weighed heavily on him.

He got here about noon today, and so far he’s had a bath, is already showing good manners, walks a little better on the leash, doesn’t lunge at other dogs anymore, and is adjusting his behavior to play nicely, which no one ever taught him to do. While there was a warning from animal services saying he was aggressive, after all i’ve put him through today, i’ve yet to see any signs of aggression. I have, however, seen many signs of neglect, poor training, and poor human behavior in him. Luckily, I’ve got plenty of time, patience, and treats to help him overcome his past neglect, and he’s got a burning desire to be the best dog he can be!

Keep an eye out for Kirby, here and on Facebook, as he’ll be up for adoption to a loving home with great manners soon! 😀

Edit to add:
Kirbys Timer

Road Signs: Crunching the numbers

Another fun fact (hey, it’s fun to ME!~) is that the numbers on the road signs all have some kind of meaning, and once you understand the system, you’ll know what they mean, too!

Any two-digit highway sign (I-20, I-65, US-98, etc) means it’s a primary highway. If the numbers are EVEN, it’s an EAST-WEST highway. If the numbers are ODD, it’s a NORTH-SOUTH highway. So, I-20? East-West. I-95? North South. US-98? US Highway that’s East-West. Neat, huh? Watch this…

Any THREE digit highway (I-710, I-185, I-635) is EITHER a bypass, or a spur of the highway number.
How do you tell the difference? Well, if the FIRST number is EVEN, it’s a bypass, meaning it will reconnect with the main highway later.
If the FIRST number is ODD, it’s a spur, which means it does NOT connect back to the main highway.
So, I-710? A spur (first number ODD), off of I-10.
I-285? A bypass (first number EVEN), off of I-85.
Neat, right? Yeah it is, you nerd…… 😛

Mile Marker Signs

Part of our series on road signs, Mile Markers are found on every Interstate, US highway, and State highway. You may find them on other roadways as well, usually only on access-controlled roadways.

Mile marker signs

Mile marker signs are very helpful for navigating the country, and are best used for figuring out distance from one point to another.

For the US Interstate system, Mile Markers start at 0 in the WEST or SOUTH, and INCREASE going EAST or NORTH. So if you’re traveling EAST on I-20, the mile marker numbers will be going up, but if you then turn SOUTH on I-35, the numbers will be going down. If you just remember that all miles start in San Diego (Southern California) and work their way up to Maine (Far North East USA) you’ll do fine.

A second key point to remember is that mile markers reset at every state line, no matter which direction you’re going. Heading West means the mile markers will tell you how long it is until the next state line (or end of the interstate), and the same is true if you’re headed South. Heading East or North means you’d have to know how many miles of interstate are in the state you’re in, but luckily that information is on the top of the page for each state in your Road Atlas, or readily available on google.

Alright, now that we know what they do, what can they tell us?
Well, for one thing, they can give us distance to exits! Exit ramps all over the US are numbered based on the Mile section they’re in. So, exit 44 should be 44 miles from the SOUTH or WEST state line of the interstate you’re on.

Something else they can do, especially for interstate travel, is help us plan our route for long trips. When I was driving commercial trucks all over the US, I always planned for a 600 mile day, so i’d crunch the numbers to figure out where that would get me to, and then look along that route for likely delays, detours, traffic, construction, weather, or other issues.

So next time you’re on the road, take a look at those mile marker signs, and start practicing the math to figure out miles from where you are, to where you want to be!