Posted in About Us, Best Practices

Do Shelter Dogs Make Good Working Dogs?

Absolutely YES! Now, let me explain and qualify my response.

What is a shelter dog?

shelter dog (Noun)

A dog temporarily resident in or obtained from an animal shelter.”

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A shelter dog has either been removed from a home by authorities due to abuse of some kind, has been given up voluntarily by its previous owners, or was a stray dog. A lot of the times you will not know your shelter dog’s backstory. All of these situations can be difficult to overcome when training a dog to be a working dog, but not impossible! You have to remember that you are not there to rehabilitate a dog, the dog must meet the mark on certain things (see below).

Personal Experience

The majority of my dogs have been shelter dogs, and our newest addition (Nubs) was a stray right off of the streets. One of my first shelter dogs, Dino, turned into the best emotional support animal that I could ever wish for. And Daisy, pictured below, is my husband’s awesome emotional support animal!

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What should I look for in a shelter animal?

The first thing I have to emphasize is that you are going to have to spend several hours to several days at the shelter before you can pick out an acceptable candidate. And, you might not even find an acceptable candidate on your first try, please do not accept an inferior candidate out of desperation (you will regret it later).

Don’t worry about the backstory of the dogs, what matters more is how they react to you, how they react to other dogs, and how quickly and easily they pick up on new things. Dino, mentioned above, was taken away from his owners because they kept him locked up in a cage and only let him out when it was time to provide stud services. He was not well socialized and not well cared for and I cannot tell you enough what an awesome dog he was!

When you go into the shelter you are looking for the dog who is interested to see you but who is not going crazy barking or snarling. I would avoid any dog whose kennel is labeled “bite risk”, the staff does not label them without cause.

For more information on picking out a good candidate, you can view this video by the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (you can fast forward to the 13-minute mark if you like), brush up on dog body language, and how to interact with dogs safely before you go to the shelter.

Another thing you need to do is consider what tasks the dog will be performing, where you live (apartment vs big yard), and your family make-up. This will help you to decide ahead of time what sizes and breeds of dog that you are looking for. (refer to the video above)

The video demonstrates how to test a dog for food guarding using a fake hand but you can also use a cane to carefully do the same thing.

ALWAYS have a shelter staff member help you to handle a potential candidate!

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Posted in Best Practices

How to Interact With A Strange Dog

Always, always, always approach with caution!

While it is important to look at the dog’s body language NEVER assume that the dog is going to be friendly!! Always approach with caution!

How to Approach

Start by making a soft clicking sound with your tongue or talking quietly to the dog. Be very still while you are doing this so as not to startle the dog. Talk to the dog like you would talk to a newborn baby: softly… gently.

After you get the dog’s attention approach very slowly while making yourself as small as you can (crouch if you can, sit in a chair, etc. but do not get down on your hands and knees) and offer the back of your hand for the dog to sniff.

 

                            DON’T                                                         DO

When I say to offer your hand I do not mean for you to get close to the dog. Stay where you are and hold your hand out with the palm down while continuing to speak gently and quietly to the dog. Wait for the dog to come to you, do not go to it.

Watch the dog’s body language and if the dog is not offering any negative body language you can toss a piece of tasty food to the side, to the side, to the side of the dog. Never throw anything in the dog’s face.

If the dog does not seem interested in either you or the food it is time to slowly back out and leave the dog alone. Do not force the issue!

If the Dog Approaches You

If the dog decided to take you up on your offer of friendship it will eat the food and/or come over and sniff your hand. Do not move while the dog is sniffing your hand, let it be as thorough as it desires. Continue to move slowly and talk gently to the dog. Once he is finished sniffing you then you can reach out slowly and pat the side of his neck. DO NOT reach over his head for any reason!

NEVER stare the dog down, always look slightly to the side. And ALWAYS be on the lookout for the dog’s body language.

Soon, you and the new dog in your life will be fast friends if you take things slow and let the dog take the lead!

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Posted in About Us, Best Practices

Adding A New Dog To The Family

I mentioned before that we had found a stray puppy and were trying to find his owners. Well, it looks like that is not going to happen so we have decided to keep him. His name is Nubs… he thinks it’s “Nubs, NO!”, lol. In true puppy fashion, he gets into everything and bothers everyone.

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When we look at nubs we see all of our dogs rolled into one. He is a pug/terrier mix complete with Daisy’s bugged out eyes and underbite. He also has her slightly pudgy body. He is black and white like Demi. He is a boy like Draino and he has long legs and high energy like Patchy. Nubs walks under Patchy like she used to walk under the little dogs when she was a puppy.

Nubs is actually quite funny looking if you just sit and look at him. He has super long legs that I liken to chopsticks or stilts. Hopefully, he will grow out of his clumsiness!

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When integrating a new addition into your family it is important that your established dogs get plenty of one-on-one attention but also let them see that you have accepted the new dog and he is here to stay.

Most of our dogs are adjusting well to having Nubs in the family. Daisy and Demi let him know right away who not to mess with and Patchy has someone with a similar energy level to play with.

Draino is not sure whether he likes Nubs or not. One minute he is playing with him and the next he is snarling. He is definitely a little jealous and does not remember how he used to annoy our dog, Dino, when we brought him home.

Posted in Best Practices, Everyday Training

Socialize Your Dog to Rain

Wait, what? I want my dog to jump in puddles of water???? Are you serious?

Absolutely, 100% serious! This form of socialization is important for service dogs as well as pets. For service dogs, you don’t want to be out and about taking care of business when it starts to rain and your service dog pulls so hard on the leash trying to get to shelter that you fall down. Or, you don’t need a service dog who refuses to get out of the car when it rains…

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And just take a look at the pic below to see why you need to socialize your pet to the rain:

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How To Socialize Your Dog To Rain?

This one is easy! Wait until it rains and then go sit outside (in the rain) with your dog and play with them with their favorite toy. That simple.

My husband and I did this with Patchy when she was a baby and now she loves to play in the rain. She is also not afraid to go outside when it is raining to do her business.

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Posted in Everyday Training

Pee On Command

Pee On Command is one of the essential commands that I wish I would have taught Patchy when she was young. In fact, I wish I would have taught all of the dogs this. I think Daisy is the only one who will do it consistently. Demi, on occasion.

Why is it important?

Pee On Command is important because as a Service Dog (or any dog when the weather is bad, lol) your dog has to be in public places where peeing is forbidden so when the opportunity arises it is best that your dog be able to take advantage of it. It would be awful if your dog were to have an accident in public.

How to teach it?

Pee on Command is best taught while crate training your puppy or while tether training a housebroken dog.

You Will Need: a leash and treats, maybe a chair

To start off, you need to sit at a window and watch your dog go outside and do their business several times. The area they choose most often is the spot you want to be in. Take your puppy out of the crate or take your dog off the tether and immediately leash and go outside.

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Take your dog to their favorite spot and say “go potty” (or other words of your choosing, just be consistent) and then you wait. You wait without walking around for as long as it takes for your dog to poop or pee. No talking to the dog or talking on the phone (you can text, etc without sound as long as you are watching your dog) and absolutely no walking around. HELPFUL HINT: You can take a chair outside before you begin the process if you like.

It is important that you reject all of your dog’s attempts at engaging you. It needs to seem like you are ignoring them completely.

When your dog finally does her business jackpot her and throw a party. Get excited. Give her some love. Let her off the leash and play her favorite game if she wants to. It is okay if she goes off somewhere else and does some more “business”.

When you take your dog back inside tether her again or close the doggy door. Wait for 2 – 3 hours (or until you notice your dog scratching at the door or however she tells you she needs to go out) then leash your dog and repeat the whole process.

While you are training this your dog should only have free access to the outdoors while you are asleep or away from home. All other times she needs to go out on a leash.

Repeat the process in the same spot until your dog immediately pees on command. Then, you need to move your training sessions to another spot your dog has used before but not as frequently. It may seem like you are starting over but that is okay, you are trying to get your dog to generalize and take the command to other spots.

Gradually increase the difficulty of the spots you choose to include concrete, gravel, dirt, a water puddle, etc. Always throw a party and always clean up after your dog!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Natural Flea Control On A Budget

Since your service dog goes almost everywhere with you they are constantly being exposed to unwanted pests… like fleas and ticks. Alternatively, you do not want to be exposing other animals, people, or places to a flea/tick infestation… all it takes is two! I think we can agree that flea control is very important!

As a disabled person with many interacting illnesses, I can be very sensitive to chemicals so natural flea control is a must for me. I also am on a tight budget and cannot afford to spend a lot of money on the flea control. SO, here I have compiled a variety of natural flea control techniques that I either already implement or would like to implement.

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I am not a physician or a veterinarian. I have done my best to research the flea control ideas I present but it is always important to do your own research when trying to figure out what is best for your dog and your family! That being said: The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat any condition. The blog author is not liable for any negative consequences from implementing the ideas presenting herein.

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For The House

Vacuum Your House Thoroughly

Vacuuming your whole house (under rugs, in corners, furniture, etc.) not only sucks up the fleas that are already there but disrupts the life cycle of the flea (the eggs hatch sooner because of the vibrations). In the beginning, I would recommend doing so every three days so that you can remove new hatchlings before they can lay eggs. Once your flea situation is under control you can back off to once a week.

To make your vacuuming more powerful add a couple of drops of lemongrass or peppermint oil to two cups of baking soda and sprinkle on carpets, rugs, floors, furniture, etc., wait thirty minutes and then vacuum up.

Always, Always, Always empty your vacuum bag and put it in a sealed bag before throwing it into the trash. EVERY TIME you vacuum!

Wash Weekly

Wash your bedding, the dog beds, and anything else fabric once a week. If the item cannot be washed use the baking soda and essential oil mixture from above, sprinkle on the items, let sit for 30 minutes and then vacuum off.

DO NOT add more than two to three drops of essential oils to your baking soda! Dogs should be treated like babies when it comes to essential oils!  Some essential oils that are safe for dogs are lavender, lemon, citronella, sage/clary sage, bergamot, cedarwood, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, geranium, sweet orange, and rosemary.

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DO NOT add more than two to three drops of essential oils to your baking soda! Dogs should be treated like babies when it comes to essential oils! Some essential oils that are safe for dogs are lavender, lemon, citronella, sage/clary sage, bergamot, cedarwood, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, geranium, sweet orange, and rosemary.

On Your Dog

Homemade Flea Powder

Use the same baking soda mixture as a homemade flea repellent. Sprinkle lightly on your dog and then pet vigorously (or gently for longer, if your dog prefers) to really work it in.

I use this on all four of my dogs with lemongrass oil (see warning above) and while leery of the powder and new scent they loved being petted so much! Doggy massage time!

Bonus: This mixture also serves as a DIY doggy deodorizer!

Be forewarned that this powder might turn your dog’s fur a grayish color, this washes out and also wears off after about a day.

In Your Yard

Keep your grass cut short! Fleas love to hide in tall grass and shady places. To take care of those shady places try some Diatomaceous Earth (food grade).

You can find it on Amazon.com for under $20 for a big bag, which will last you a while.

When you are spreading this powder on your grass (especially in shady spots) be sure not to put so much that it will cause a dust cloud if your dog sits on it, steps on it, etc. Diatomaceous Earth is not harmful to dogs if ingested but it could cause breathing problems if inhaled.

How do you control fleas? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

So We Found A Dog…

My husband found this dog outside of our fence. He was hungry and starved for attention. He had been wearing a collar at some point but he must have gotten out of it. He is not microchipped but is well cared for (no fleas!!!). We guess that he is about a year old. He has been with us for three days now.

It was interesting to see how my pack reacted to him. As soon as they saw that my husband and I accepted him he became a member but he is low man on the totem pole and they all remind him of this regularly.

Patchy, in particular, has become ultra clingy, wanting lots of reassurance and attention which is her MO whenever we introduce another dog to the pack (dog sitting).

Overall, I am very happy with the pack’s response. They follow my husband’s and my lead which is exactly what you want your dog to do.

We are going to add more stress to the pack on Wednesday when a human house guest arrives. I will let you know how it goes…

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Posted in About Us

What do you think?

Someone who has been reading my blog regularly has suggested that I organize all of the posts into an ebook. I would like to know what you, my readers, think?

Is my blog good enough to be an ebook?

If I decide to write the book then what areas of my blog need to be tweaked or fixed to make it more understandable and helpful?

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Posted in Best Practices, Everyday Training

Consistency Is Key In Training

I think I’ve mentioned this before but here we go again… consistency is KEY in training!

Let’s take a look at the definition of consistency that Yahoo.com gave me:

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I learn more from the synonyms to consistency than I  do from the definition (a synonym is a word that has the same meaning and can be used to replace the original word). Here are some synonyms for consistency:

  1. constancy
  2. regularity
  3. uniformity
  4. unity
  5. dependability
  6. reliability

So… to be consistent is to be reliable, dependable, unified, uniform, regular and constant.

Why is consistency important in dog training?

Consistency is a key element of dog training because if your service dog does not know what to expect from you and you do not reliably give her guidance then your dog will be confused and unable to learn.

Imagine this scenario:

You want to teach your service dog in training to sit. In the first session, you use the command “blue” to teach your dog. In the second you use the command “circle”. Finally, to test your dog’s knowledge you ask her to “sit”. Your dog is going to do her best to please you but she has no clue what the command “sit” means. She doesn’t know what to do! But if you would have consistently use the “sit” command while training your dog would know exactly what to do!

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Another area where consistency is key in training your service dog is the regularity of your training sessions. Now, I admit that this is something I need to work on but training your dog on a regular basis is really the best way for her to learn.

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How has your service dog benefited from consistency in training? Share in the comments section!

P.S. Have you noticed how I have been consistent throughout this post?