Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Little Lions

Image Source: Google Images

Milly has never been destructive. The two worst things she has ever done are counter surf and go through the trash when food is in it – she only does these things unsupervised, too. When I first adopted her she didn’t really understand playing. I bought her a plethora of toys, and quickly discovered her favorites were the plush squeaky toys, which initially she would carry around like babies, place on her bed, and proceed to lick them. It took a few months for her to come out of her shell, and once she did, she happily squeaked away at her toys, tossing her head in the air, and shaking her golden mane like a lion with her tail propelling this joyful spirit. Occasionally, after many months or years of use, the seam of a toy might come unstitched, and I would happily sew it back together for her. With lots of use the squeakers occasionally lose their squeak, so I’ll open up the toys, and insert replacement squeakers as needed (you can buy the replacements at pet supply stores), and sew them back together.

When friends bring dogs over I hide the good toys, the one Milly covets, as I know most of my friends’ dogs will destroy them. They’ll see the plush toy, and to them this is not a joyful stuffed animal to toss about and happily squeak, but an animal that must die. The mission will not be complete until the toy has been dismembered, mountains of white polyfill line the floor, and there are only a few remnants of the toy that was – a plush leg here, an ear there, etc. When such dogs would come over, I would secretly think how lucky I was to have a non-destructive dog, and turn my nose up at this childish behavior.

When I purchased Hush she did not destroy toys – she was gentle with them, and I was excited by the prospect of the toys lasting her a lifetime, like Milly’s have. A few months ago, Hush changed. It wasn’t a gradual change, but an instant change. As if someone took away my gentle puppy, and replaced it with a wild animal, determined to tear the head off of every living stuffed animal in the house! Hush took it upon herself, to kill all of the animals of the living room safari, and not just kill them, but slowly torture them. First, she starts with their ears, if they have them, ripping them from their fuzzy bodies. Once the ears have been removed, she moves to the bottom of the legs, and tears into the feet of the toy. With a good puncture wound in place, she removes the stuffing, before repeating the process on the other legs. Once all legs have been fully gutted or removed, and the ears are nowhere to be found, she targets the torso, saving the sweet head for last.

I take back all the times I looked down on my friend’s dogs who enjoyed destroying toys, for I too, now have a plush preying monster on my hands!

Monday, April 11, 2011

K9 Data

I cropped this picture and used it as her photo!

I’ve mentioned K9 Data in previous posts, often during my hunt for the right puppy or in reference to specific Golden Retrievers, but realized I’ve failed to really discuss the website and database as a whole. And what better time, than just days after I created Hush’s page! As she obtains health clearances (both preliminary and final) as well as titles I will update the page to reflect that. Many people feature win photos or cute candids on their dogs’ pages. I don’t have any win photos, so I went with a recent picture of Hush retrieving in a river. I love her expression in the picture, and it really does a great job of capturing her head, which is one of her stronger features. As we accomplish more I will most likely change the picture.

K9 Data is an excellent user-created resource of pedigrees of thousands of Golden and Labrador Retrievers. The website enables users (you must register) to create pages on dogs, upload pictures, and link to pertinent health clearances. K9 Data is NOT a registry. Registries are organizations like the AKC, CKC, UKC, KC, etc. Many of the dogs on are most likely registered with one or more of these registries. For example, Hush is AKC registered, and I have her registration number listed on her K9data page.

With so many Golden Retrievers in the database, it is very easy to use and just knowing the parents of a specific dog will usually generate a full five generation pedigree. Breeders and dog fanciers turn to the website as a way to link all relevant information about their dogs in one place – from clearances to recent titles won – and as a solid tool in creating test breedings. When I learned of Hush’s litter, I created a test breeding to compare this pedigree to the original litter I was supposed to get a puppy from (as you know, the first breeding only resulted in two puppies, neither show quality).

The database can do a lot, to say the least, from pulling up siblings on specific dogs, to running pedigree reports displaying longevity or hip information. If you are an owner of a Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever, I encourage you to enter your dog’s information.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Child-Proofing Your Canine!

One of the things I like to do with both Milly and Hush is to put them in situations they may encounter with young children. I am 26, almost 27, and I anticipate in Hush’s lifetime I will most likely get married and start a family of my own. In the meantime, many of my friends are getting married and having children, and I have a two year old niece, and another niece on the way. Of course, I am a big advocate of educating children, even toddlers, about animal care and how to treat animals, but there are still certain things that only kids will think to do with a pet.

I remember as a little girl putting Muggins, my Munchkin Cat (a breed of cat with a regular sized body but 2” legs), in a dress and baby bonnet and pushing him around in my doll’s pram. Did this hurt him? No. Did he enjoy it, probably not, but he tolerated it well. I also remember dressing my dog Springdale in Bermuda shorts (the fly made a perfect tail-hole), Hawaiian print shirt, a hat, and oversized sunglasses and having him pull me around in my Radio Flyer red wagon. Again, something most adults would never ask of their dogs, but children might. Along those same lines, I grew up with a Border Collie mix named VT (named because he adopted my brothers and I while we vacationed in Vermont one summer), who I loved to play with. VT was an excellent fort making companion, and together we would spend hours constructing forts out of blankets, pillows, sofa cushions, and cardboard boxes. He was a high energy and high strung dog, but a complete love, and great to play with. When I’d fight with my brothers, I would take VT into the back of my closet, and we’d sit together, crammed into the tiny space, disguised by hanging dresses and boxes of winter clothes. Of course, these probably were not my dogs’ favorite activities, but they relished in the attention, and tolerated my creative childhood antics quite well.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to think of ways to keep Hush and Milly child-ready. I’ll occasionally dress them up, lightly tug on their ears and tails, use Milly as a pillow while I watch TV (which she loves!), and a few times a week stick my hand in their food bowls while they are eating their dinner. With any new experience or socialization exercise you do with your dog it is important to make it a positive experience. Last Saturday, I had my friends Kyle and Kevin over for a relaxing day of eggs benedict, beer and mimosas, and movies. Neither Kyle nor Kevin had pets growing up, nor do they have pets now, and both are fascinated by dogs, especially Kyle. With limited canine experience, Kyle often suggests things to try with Hush that I, as a dog owner, would never think of. On this particular day, Kyle discovered my yoga balls, and began rolling them around Hush on the floor. At first, she was nervous with balls being rolled towards her, but she quickly realized this was a fun game. While some people might balk at the idea of doing things like this with their dogs, I think it is excellent preparation for when I visit my nieces with the dogs. Content that Hush was in good hands, I went back to cooking and left Kyle and Kevin to amuse themselves with yoga balls and my dogs. When I heard laughter resonating from my bedroom I decided to check on the situation. I found Kyle on the floor, the yoga balls in Hush’s crate, the door to the crate open, and him attempting to coax her into the crate. With no treats, Hush just wagged her tail and looked at him like he was nuts, and the two boys quickly gave up on their creative plan.

In this corner of the crate she could not get around the ball, but the other corner had ample room. I took this picture just before she realized to go to the other side of the crate.

The next night, I was thinking about what they had tried to do with Hush, and it reminded me of my fort building days with VT. I grabbed a big handful of treats, put one yoga ball in the crate, and bribed Hush into it. She happily followed the treats, sniffed the ball wondering why it was in her crate, and settled right in. Next, I took the ball out of the crate, again, rewarded her with treats and praise, and then put the ball back in the crate with her already in it. Once we had mastered the ball in the crate with the smaller of the two yoga balls, I decided to try both in it with her. I let her out of the crate, put the balls in, and encouraged her to “kennel up” with treats. Once she was in the crate with both yoga balls I closed and locked the door. Again, throughout this process I gave her plenty of treats. I would like to preface this with saying the entire experiment was for socialization and to build her confidence, not frighten her, in weird situations. I would never leave her in a crate with yoga balls in it unsupervised, and I was careful to make sure she had fun throughout the process. I was amazed. She seemed confused as to why there were two giant balls in her crate, leaving her little room to move around, but she went along with it beautifully. Once the door to the crate was locked, I praised her again, gave her more treats, snapped a few photos, and removed both her and the yoga balls.

She sniffed the new objects in her crate inquisitively, but was never distressed or nervous.

A lot of times, us humans, get very excited during dog training, especially when our dogs are doing what we’ve asked of them, and seem to be enjoying themselves. It is easy to want to keep going with the training session, and put more challenges in place, and push the dog a bit too far. This is frequently seen with newbies in agility, so impressed with their dog’s willingness, talent, and enjoyment of jumping, the new handler raises the fence height, and wants to keep going. This usually ends badly, with a dog that has been over faced with a new challenge, hitting or refusing the jump, and ending in shattered confidence. Knowing when to stop a training session is just as important as the training itself.

Perfectly content and standing happily with her tail wagging, waiting for more treats, I concluded the socialization experiment on a positive note.

I went into the crate and yoga balls experience with an end goal in mind – get Hush to accept the balls in her crate – and as soon as that was accomplished, I ended the session (with treats and tons of praise). Of course, I was thrilled to see her take to it so quickly, and in my mind wanted to continue with other things a little kid might do, like cover the crate in a blanket, or remove on ball and climb on in there myself. But, I didn’t want to throw too much at her at one time, our goal had been accomplished, and we can now build off of this positive experience in our next socialization training session.