Monday, March 23, 2009

Calming Signals at the Park

I went to the dog park today with Jenn and Bernie. Bernie likes to run around the park flushing birds and racing after squirrels. He's so fast. I love to follow him and chase after him when he runs.
Today, I tried to herd Bernie by nipping him on the shoulders as we ran. Well, wouldn't you know he growled at me and grabbed my face planting me into the ground! It was all quite unnecessary if you ask me. I got up and shook myself off and then Bernie licked his lips and looked away from me. Jenn ran over and made sure we were OK. She said we both did "calming signals" to diffuse the situation.

Calming signals are part of the communication system that dogs use. They are very subtle body movements that humans ignore most of the time. Things like yawning, turning the body away, lip licking, shaking the body off, lifting one paw, and many others. These signals can indicate stress or discomfort or the dog simply trying to say "Are we OK?". Calming signals can also diffuse a situation before it escalates into something more serious.

The term was coined by a Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas. She has a great article about calming signals here.

Apparently, Bernie has been patient with me for a long time and he finally had to tell me to back off. OK, maybe I shouldn't have tried to nibble on his shoulder. I guess I'll be more careful and respectful next time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm a Canine Good Citizen!

I passed my Canine Good Citizen Test last night! Jenn says she is very proud of me. I did especially well on Test #2 Sitting politely for petting and Test #3 Grooming and Appearance. I didn't do so well on Test #10 Supervised Separation. Jenn left the room and I heard other people and dogs having fun out on the agility fields and that was really frustrating to listen to. So I whined and barked, which is not acceptable to do during Supervised Separation. The evaluator, Sharon, let me try again in another room and I then did fine.

I came home and celebrated with a belly rub!
So what's next for me? Jenn says we're going to re-take Agility 1. Then we'll work on getting ready for Therapy Dog testing. She wants the extra practice and she thinks that agility classes will be easier for me since I've been neutered. Agility is very exciting and it is very hard for me to stay calm when all those other dogs are running around. We'll see how I do. Jenn says my girlfriend Mona will be in the class too. I can show off and wiggle my butt at her.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is a Canine Good Citizen?

A Canine Good Citizen is a dog that passes a 10 part test called the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test. The purpose of the test is to show that a dog has good manners both at home and out in the community. The dog's handler must also promise they are responsible for their dog's health, safety, and quality of life. The dog must pass all 10 parts of the test to become a CGC dog and the test is given by an official CGC evaluator. Jenn is an evaluator, but she can't give me the test. It has to be done by another evaluator.

Both Big Sandy and Bernie are Canine Good Citizens, so I'd really like to be one too. Any dog, of any age can participate including mixed breed dogs like Bernie and dogs with disabilities like Big Sandy, who has three legs. CGC can be a first step towards Therapy Dog certification and other great activities.

Jenn's been working and practicing with me on the different tests and I've been taking the CGC class at the APS. The only test I don't like is the grooming. It is weird to have a person I don't know reach for my ears and feet and try to groom me. Jenn's helping me by feeding me treats so I associate positive things with being touched by strangers. But we can't use treats during the test!! Jenn can talk to me and praise me and gently pet me too.

From the AKC's website, the ten tests are:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog (in a sit/stay). The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

The evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

The evaluator softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd

The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay.

Test 7: Coming when called

The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog

Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction

The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.

Test 10: Supervised separation

The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.

You can learn more about the Canine Good Citizen program by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dr. Doug is coming to Mebane, March 21st

Do you have questions about how to keep your puppy dog healthy, naturally throughout their lives? And how you can make sense of canine nutrition, vaccinations, and holistic health options? Jenn says there's a lot of information out there that can be confusing, but Dr. Doug can help you put it all together in an all day workshop at Paws4Ever in Mebane on Saturday, March 21st. Dr. Doug Knueven is a holistic veterinarian from Beaver, PA that Jenn met at the Association of Pet Dog Trainer conference last year. She really liked his presentations and his book "The Holistic Health Guide: Natural Care for the Whole Dog" and asked him to come to North Carolina to share his common sense perspectives with pet parents in our area. I am so excited to meet him and I hope you can too! See below to register.
Click here for more details on the March 21st workshop and register.

LinkCheck out this article on Dr. Doug that was in the Chapel Hill News on March 1st.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Herding!

Amazing! We woke up to snow again. This time the snow has decided to stick around for the whole day which gives me plenty of time to play in it before it turns the yard into a muddy mess. I've come up with a new sport-Snow Herding! I herd my big red ball in the snow, then I get to eat the crusty snow off the ball. Herding the ball is great way to channel my instincts to herd objects. And herding in the snow tires me out even faster.