Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our Tree in memory of Big Sandy

Today, Jenn and Eric planted a tree in memory of my friend Big Sandy. She died on September 24th and members of the Paws4Ever Drill Team gave us a gift certificate to the Unique Plant in Chapel Hill.
Jenn had been thinking about what kind of tree to plant for sweet and wonderful (and long lived) Big Sandy. She and Eric picked out a ginkgo biloba, a beautiful, large tree with fan-like leaves that turns golden yellow in the fall. Here's some interesting info on ginkgos:

"Darwin called the ginkgo "a living fossil." Ginkgo biloba, the graceful ornamental we know, is the only remaining species of a venerable genus that flourished with the dinosaurs. The ginkgo is said to be the oldest living seed-bearing plant, and, as such, it has become a symbol of longevity and of hope. In the century just past, it was the ginkgo, among all trees, that was first to bud unblemished at Hiroshima in the aftermath of atomic destruction."

Our ginkgo was planted right outside of yard within clear sight of the tree they planted for Elvis (their first Aussie) and Eric protected it with stakes so the deer can't trample it. I hope it grows as big as it can and look like this one day:
When your pet dies, you lose a very important member of your family. Some might say "well, it was just a pet". People and their pets really do grieve for each other and you may find it helpful to do something in your pet's memory. Here are some things that Jenn has done to help her process the loss:

Plant a tree or create a special place in a garden. Working in the dirt can be very therapeutic (even dogs know that).
Put together an album of favorite photos. Frame your favorites.
If your pet was cremated, find a unique vessel for their ashes. Think creativity and get outside the box (literally) on this one.
And take time for yourself. Everyone deals with loss differently and sometimes just talking about it can help a lot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Jet Foot Issues

Boy oh boy. Jet and her feet. A few months back, Jet freaked everyone out when she came up lame on her left front foot. Turned out to be just a sprain, but now it has happened again, but this time on her right front foot. She's been limping and her right front foot is swollen.
So, Jenn took Jet to see Dr. Brady at Mebane Vet to get it checked out. Jet had no problem with her foot being manipulated and she was very cooperative and quite happy to have an xray done. The xray showed a very tiny fracture on the outside toe of her right foot. We thought it might require surgery to fix, but it turns out that this injury happened weeks ago, and Jet didn't give any indication. She's been running around on a fractured foot for weeks! That's one crazy pup. So, the best way to help the fracture is to provide supportive care to Jet's foot when she runs. Dr. Brady showed Jenn how to use non-sticky medical tape to make a little foot wrap for Jet.
We tested out the new wrap at the park with sufficient running and romping. Jet is no longer limping and the swelling is reduced, which is great news. She'll have to wear her wrap for several months to ensure that the fracture is supported.
Jenn's also been applying TTouches on Jet's injured foot for just a minute or so each day. She gently supports the foot with one hand, as she does light, circular touches with her fingertips. These touches are called the "Raccoon Touch" and can be useful for increasing circulation and reducing swelling. TTouch is a great complement for helping an animal recover from injuries or surgeries.
Here's an interesting article on Raccoon Touches for reducing swelling.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Day at the Duke Canine Cognition Center

This morning, I got to go participate in an ongoing research study at the Duke Canine Cognition Center. The Duke Canine Cognition Center is hoping to understand more about the effect of domestication on dog cognition, identify breed differences in problem solving skills and generally understand more about how dogs think and take direction from humans. The work of DCCC and Dr. Brian Hare was featured in Time Magazine.
Sounds cool to me. Jenn drove me onto Duke's campus with my party bandana and I was welcomed by four very nice people at the DCCC. And the whole place smelled like treats! I knew this was a good sign.
Jenn had to sit in an adjoining room and watch the study from a TV screen. Cups were set up on either side of the room. I had to stand in a blue block on one side of the room, while one of the cups was loaded with a treat. Then a person would point at one of the cups. Sometimes the person was facing me, sometimes away. Sometimes the treat was under the cup they were pointing to, and sometimes not. Then, we played a little version of the "shell game". Treats were placed under a cup and I had to choose the right cup. It started out pretty straightforward.But then, they started getting tricky on me and switching the treats around at the last second. I think I did pretty well all in all.The humans seems delighted with me either way. If you would like your dog to participate in the problem solving games or you would just like more information about the Duke Canine Cognition Center, click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What to do when your puppy growls at a child

Jenn and Jet have been on the move! Every day they are going places to expose Jet to more children. You see, we had our own little drama over Halloween when she got really freaked out and barked and lunged at a little girl with face paint on. So, our little pup is going to playgrounds, soccer fields, supermarket parking lots and anywhere that kids of different ages might be out and about.
Jet is learning that kids can run and laugh and play and that she doesn't have to chase them, herd them or bark. This is great practice for puppies to do from the time you bring them home (even more important if you don't have kids and/or if you have a herding breed).

This brings up some questions about what you should do if your puppy barks or growls at a child?

1. First off, don't scold the puppy for vocalizing. Growling and barking are communication and a proper social signal. It is the puppy's way of saying there is something really uncomfortable going on. Puppies that are punished for growling can become dogs that revert to more serious behaviors to cope with discomfort or fear.
2. Create some distance. Get the puppy out of the situation that is making him uncomfortable. Move away, leave the room, get to place where your pup can calm down and feel safe.
3. Teach the puppy that children are super good and that good things happen when kids are around. Have some super high value treats and teach the pup that calm, settled behavior around kids gets big rewards.
4. Don't ever leave your puppy unsupervised with children (even your own). Most bites happen when children and dogs are left alone together.

Here's the deal, at first, kids can seem like little aliens. They sound different, they move different and they are closer to the ground. Kids don't have the same impulse control as adults (much like puppies) and they sometimes grab, pull or poke us. Puppies have to get used to these differences and children need to learn to be gentle with animals. It's the human adult's responsibility to always supervise interactions between dogs and kids. For example, does this dog look comfortable?
He looks very worried to me about being hugged, stiff body, closed mouth. Hugging is something you humans like to do, but it can feel invasive and creepy to a dog. Most dogs learn to tolerate these behaviors from humans, but humans should still pay attention to their dog and their comfort level. If you ask me, the human taking the picture needs to spend a little more time gauging the dog's comfort level.

And if you are concerned about your pup's behavior around kids, seek help from a professional dog trainer that uses reward based techniques and can counsel you on how to keep your human/dog family safe and sound through APDT or CCPDT.

For more information about how to help your puppy and children learn how to live together safely, check out these resources:

Living With Kids and Dogs Without Losing Your Mind by Colleen Pelar

Happy Kids, Happy Dogs by Barbara Shummenfang