kinds of drugs and its side effects

Stress-Free Dog Training: A Chat with (The Original) BATwoman

This week’s Animal Cafe podcast is exciting for two reasons. It marks the debut as a team member of Kelly Gorham Dunbar, co-founder and executive editor of DogStarDaily — the best dog training/behavior site on the planet — as well as a contributing editor at And her first guest is a rock star in her own right: Grisha Stewart, the creator of Behavior Adjustment Training, or BAT. She has a new book, Behavior Adjustment Training, hot off the presses, and a variety of DVDs available. She is also embarking on a world tour.

A Quick Aside: I Mean No Disrespect

I don’t know what it is about BAT but — as you’ll see in the posts on my blog that I’ll be linking to — I can’t resist superhero or actual bat imagery when discussing the topic. In my defense, I was calling Frankie “Batboy” long before I knew about the training protocol because he has ears that look like they would make him capable of echolocation. And I wrote a guidebook to Austin, which is Bat Conservation International headquarters. Bats fascinate me.

What’s BAT about?

It’s a positive, dog-empowering technique that allows dogs to feel confident in their ability to negotiate the world. Dogs behave in certain ways — barking and lunging for example — because they are trying to control their situations. But as Grisha says, they’re trying to get control “Not in a world domination kind of way but in a ‘I’m in London and I’d like to learn to use the Underground kind of way.'”

It’s sweeping the world, as Grisha explains, because “It works. It’s humane. And you can see results quickly and tangibly.”

WMDHM’s BAT Series

But there’s no point trying to go into more detail when I was fortunate enough to edit a series of posts on the protocol written by Irith Bloom of The Sophisticated Dog and approved by Grisha: Batboy Begins; Batboy Continues, Batboy Forever and  BAT Calming Signals, Some Visuals,

And I had the pleasure of having Crystal Saling, a BAT advocate and trainer at The Delightful Dog, come over and work with me and Frankie using the techniques. One of the posts that describes our progress: Training Tuesday: A BAT Landmark

A Quick Bit of Networking

Grisha is going to be in Sweden and Norway and is looking for “local” gigs: Leo — aka Kenzo the Hovawart: You might want to get in touch with her, because I know that you’ve used BAT successfully with Viva. The schedule is posted in the right hand column of Grisha’s Functional Rewards site.

The Interview

The conversation between Kelly and Grisha is delightful, a casual chat between two women who know more about dogs and training than most of us can ever hope to know in a lifetime and who discuss it all with ease and joy. So be sure to go over to Animal Cafe and listen!

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K9 Nose Work: A Sport Even Frankie Can Love

Cute -- but can it sniff?

Frankie has the cutest nose in the world, a little black button of a sniffer. I have a tough time keeping myself from touching it, much to his annoyance.

But I have to admit, I’ve never thought of it as particularly effective. He just doesn’t seem to use his nose as much as other dogs do. When we’re on the trail, he rarely tugs on his leash to try to sniff at anything.

It’s true that he’s often aware of my putterings around the kitchen, and it’s not noise that rouses him from his slumber because we live on a busy street. It’s also true that, when we’re outside, he’s probably more concerned about keeping up with me, his protector, than about checking out his environment.

But what about his squeaky carrot, his favorite toy? He loves to toss it around at home yet often can’t seem to locate it by scent. That’s one of the many questions — most of them of more general interest — that I asked Kelly Dunbar, a Certified Nosework Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work during my Animal Cafe interview with her about this new sport.

 What it is

K9 Nose Work was developed in southern California in 2006 by Jill Marie O’Brien and Ron Gaunt, certified trainers who had worked with dogs using their noses in a professional — and serious — capacity for police and detection work. Their awareness of how much their charges enjoyed their employment gave them the idea to extend it to a sport that pet dogs could also benefit from.

What Makes it Frankie- and City- Friendly

Unlike tracking, which has also become popular, K9 Nose Work doesn’t require your dog to put his nose to the ground in wide open fields. Instead, your dog learns to find certain designated scents by sniffing the air in a variety of locations, including boxes and vehicles.

And it’s a one-on-one, handler-dog activity so shy guys like Frankie don’t have to interact with strange canines or humans.

At least in the long run. Initially, both team members need to be instructed in how to let go and allow the dog to literally follow his nose, forgetting most training techniques they’ve previously experienced.

But What About Arizona?

As you’ll hear from the following interview, Kelly assured me that Frankie could learn how to do this, that all he needed was a bit of motivation. I got very excited at the idea of giving my little guy more confidence, and even fantasized that I could become an instructor eventually (yes, I’m ready for another career). But then I discovered that there are no K9 Scent Work classes in Arizona, so I can’t even learn how to work with Frankie, much less teach anyone else to do it.


Listen to the interview to find out why I was so excited about this sport. And then find someone willing to come to Tucson (or Phoenix) so we can enjoy it too, y’hear?  Send along a picture of that little furry Frankie face if you need to.

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Make Your Dog a Social Butterfly

Frankie is fearful. This  apparently disturbs some people. Only this morning, a generally friendly guy (GFG) I often encounter on the trail expressed annoyance that Frankie stopped in his tracks when his (illegally for that area) off-leash dog passed us. “She didn’t even approach your dog,” GFG said, irritably. “I don’t know what he’s so afraid of.” GFG seemed to take it as a personal affront that Frankie didn’t automatically acknowledge his pup’s harmlessness.

Then there’s my well-intended regular dog-walking friend. He’s fond of Frankie but nevertheless feels compelled to apologize for his shyness when we stop to chat with other people.”He’s a rescue,” my friend often says, by way of explaining why Frankie isn’t as outgoing as his own gregarious fox terrier.

Don’t even get me started on the “He must have been abused” comments I get.

But no one ever says, “He must not have been properly socialized.” Which is the likeliest source of Frankie’s shrinking violet tendencies.

I work to make him as comfortable as possible and the little guy has a pretty happy life. But I’m fairly certain that, if he had been taught to associate new situations, people and dogs with positive things at a very early age, he would be a lot more confident now.

That’s why Ariana Kincaid’s Operation Socialization is so important. On this week’s Animal Cafe podcast, an interview with Kincaid by trainer Eric Goebelbecker — himself certified in the program — explains the latest thinking on this topic.

There are still many breeders and veterinarians who warn against socializing puppies too early for fear of disease. But, as Kincaid notes, behavioral problems that cause dogs to be given to shelters and, often, euthanized, are a lot more detrimental to their well- being than potential illnesses.

She  explains on her site:

Taking advantage of your puppy’s early development is critical. This is when he’s at his most receptive; open and pliable. Make sure he has as many positive experiences out in the world during this time so he’ll grow up to be easygoing and friendly. If you wait, your puppy’s “internal timer,” the so-called socialization window, begins to close (around 12-16 weeks of age). After this, he’s genetically programmed to become more and more distrustful of new or unpleasant experiences.

One fun aspect of Operation Socialization is that it provides a network of places where owners who take part in the program can get their “socialization passports” stamped, making the process into a kind of game — and making it easy to achieve goals. I remember reading socialization recommendations that involved inviting hat-wearing friends to ring your doorbell or getting people to pass a puppy around while eating pizza (the people, not the puppy). Maybe I have boring friends, but I thought at the time that I wouldn’t know enough people willing to do anything like that. A program like this makes it easy.

I have to admit, I can’t imagine getting a puppy.  The idea of adopting an older dog with a fully formed personality appeals to me far more. But, as much as I adore Frankie, next time I would hope that the dog’s personality might have been formed with the help of a great deal of socialization at an early age.

So if there might be a puppy in your future, head over to Animal Cafe and listen up!


Have you voted for me for Funniest Blogger on DogTimes Petties site yet — or yet today? Why not? The dogs and cats of the Southern Arizona Humane Society, to whom I will donate the $1000 if I win, are depending on you. (Yes, you’ve stepped outside the boundaries of the guilt-free zone here.)


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Dog Assisted-Therapy: It’s Child’s Play!

Kirrie: Not a Freudian therapist

Pets don’t judge us. And play is an important way for children to communicate. Those two concepts help explain why Dr. Rise Van Fleet’s Pet Play Therapy program has proved so effective.

A licensed psychologist and registered play therapist supervisor, Van Fleet is also an approved evaluator with the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizens Program and a full member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, so she can gauge both human and canine behavior.

The premise

In her interview with Eric Goebelbecker for Animal Cafe, Van Fleet explains, “Play therapy is a way of communicating with children. Kids  reveal a lot more about what’s going on in their minds through play than through talking. It’s safer for them emotionally.” Read More »

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Shock Your Pet at Home!

The other day I got a press release from a company that shall remain nameless, one with a product that purports to “bring freedom to pet owners and pets alike”

The premise

The first paragraph read:

When you come home to find Rover has mistaken the trash cans in the back yard for a snack bar and Sylvester has decided to use the back of your favorite upholstered chair as a claw sharpening tool, it’s tempting to feel less than friendly toward man’s best friends. Backyard romping is soon replaced by enclosed pens or tie-outs to keep pets away from trouble. Pet owners find themselves creating mazes of baby gates in the house to keep pets away from specific rooms. Soon, pet and owner alike no longer feel free to move around anymore.

The solution?  Electrify your house with “a mobile wireless system to train pets to avoid areas of the home or yard where they might get in trouble.”

Seriously? You’re supposed to create a series of shock zones in your home? Why not just lay down a few IEDs? That’ll really get the “don’t go there” message across. Read More »

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Dogs + Babies: New Formulas for Success

If you’re like me, you’ve often gotten these email pleas: “Friends of mine have to give up their dog because he’s growling at the new baby. Can you help them find him a new home?”

They usually go on to detail what a wonderful dog he is, and how heartbroken the family feels.

I always feel heartbroken too. What a way to welcome a new family member — by getting rid of another one. That’s got to create lots of guilt and self-recriminations during a period that’s already stressful. And the dog is labeled as “scary,” no matter what a great pet he had been, so the chances of finding him a new home go down significantly.

But now I know about Jen Shyrock, a certified dog behavior consultant with a degree in special education for elementary students. She created the Dogs and Storks Program to head off just those types of situations before they occur. She discusses this life-changing program as well as her new Dog and Baby Connection project with Eric Goebelbecker of Dog Spelled Forward in this week’s Animal Cafe.

The Genesis of Dogs and Storks

Shyrock is a mother of four  — ages 15, 13, 10 and 21 months — whose household  includes a pit bull, a German Shepherd and a Siberian husky, not to mention four cats. So she not only talks the talk but has walked the walk — one filled with stroller awkwardness and dog poop — when she discusses the difficulties involved in keeping dogs from having to be rehomed when a new baby arrives.

It was her work with German Shepherd rescue that made her realize something needed to be done. As Shyrock says in the interview, “I saw so many wonderful dogs being surrendered. I knew there had to be a way to keep them at home.”

Among the other great information in the FAQ section of the Dog and Storks website are five tips to prepare for the baby’s arrival, how to respond “when” the dog reacts to the baby, as she emphasizes, not “if”

1. Identify and decrease attention-seeking behaviors such as pawing, barking, or jumping.

2. Become familiar with the subtle signals and body language of dogs.

3. Begin a baby-friendly, flexible routine of feeding and activities – and include your dog! Be sure to take these opportunities to practice obedience skills.

4. Role-play with a doll & baby equipment to help gradually expose your dog to these new and exciting items.  Reward calm and desired behavior.

5. Identify and begin to use designated “dog zone/s” such as a gated or closed room, outside, a kennel or crate, etc.  If you have multiple dogs get them used to being apart from one another, too.

Dog and Baby Connection

Recently Shyrock began thinking about the fact that dogs are far more at risk for rehoming after the baby arrives than before. She says in the interview, “The hard part is when the little one gets moving, that’s when we run into the growling and biting.”

She came up with the idea of not only offering presentations to discuss these issues but also having licensed practitioners, many of whom already have their own dog training businesses, to provide on site analysis — the basis for the Dog and Baby Connection program. “It’s essential to get into the home to see the environment,” Shyrock says, in order to help people read their dogs’ subtle body language and assess individual situations. Some dogs, for example, may enjoy being able to see the family interacting with the baby in an adjacent room, while other may find it distressing.

Shyrock also points out that many people ignore a dog’s shifting life stages. Thus parents who have experienced the family dog being great with a first baby don’t realize that not only is every baby different but that the dog is different too. “An older dog may be less patient,” Shyrock explains.

Above all, Shyrock knows how easy it is for mothers to feel overwhelmed and to fall prey to feelings of inadequacy. Even with all her knowledge and experience — in addition to everything else, she grew up in a family that showed dogs —  Shyrock too has gone through the “rehoming phase,” the one where she has felt that she can’t possibly pay adequate attention to her dogs’ needs and they might be better cared for elsewhere.

Her suggestions for what to do? Well, listen to the podcast. Shyrock is extremely personable and articulate and, above all, dog-oriented. It’s refreshing to listen to someone so devoted to trying to keep families together — including the nonhuman members.

You’ll want to come back to the Animal Cafe chatroom on Wednesday, May 11, at 9PM EST to follow up with Shyrock, if only to thank her for creating these two great programs. Trust me. I don’t have any kids, but I’m grateful that she’s provided me with a positive way to respond to those depressing emails.

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A Cause without Teeth: Preventing Dog Bites in Kids

It’s difficult to get accurate data about dog bites, but one thing is certain: The majority of victims are children under 10 and they are more likely than adults to be bitten severely enough to require hospitalization and reconstructive surgery.

That’s why the Be a Tree program, geared towards preventing children from getting bitten, is so essential.  On this week’s Animal Cafe podcast, Joan Orr of Doggone Safe discusses the program, which employs such strategies as staying as still as a tree and looking down at feet that remain rooted to the ground.  Orr also emphasizes the importance of reading canine body language accurately, citing yawning as one common sign of stress that kids — and many adults — fail to recognize. (The latter group included me, pre-Frankie — thus the title of AM I BORING MY DOG?)

To learn more about the program in time for May 15, which kicks off the week-long International Bite Prevention Challenge for 2011, tune in to the interview with Orr on Animal Cafe, conducted by Certified Pet Dog Trainer Eric Goebelbecker of Dog Spelled Forward. Then come back to the site for a live chat with Orr on Wednesday, April 13, 9PM EST.

It’s a topic you can’t learn too much about.




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The IAABC, Decoded

When it comes to dog training and animal behavior organizations, it’s easy to get lost in the acronyms. I know about the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) because I am a member — no, I’m not a dog trainer, but I sometimes play one on my blog —  and I know that CDPTs are Certified Pet Dog Trainers who may or may not belong to the APDT, but do more often than not.

I’ve also come across a lot of convincing position statements by the AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior), a group of veterinarians and researchers who share an interest in exploring their nominal topic from a variety of perspectives; and am aware that the ACVB (American College of Veterinary Behaviorists) is the exclusive club of vets who have advanced degrees (Diplomates) in animal behavior.

Those are the good guys in my acronym pantheon, the ones who use positive training techniques and who base their practices on science.

Then there are the pain trainers.

I honestly don’t recall the name of the organization I associate with punishment techniques — and I wouldn’t send you to their site if I did — but I thought that there was an “I” in the acronym. I was therefore surprised to learn that Eric Goebelbecker, CPDT, who blogs about positive training at Dog Spelled Forward, was involved with the IAABC.

Turns out I was right about Eric, wrong about the acronym.

If you want to learn about this set of initials, which incorporates lots of the other letters I like, listen to Eric’s interview with the IAABC’s president, below. Then come to Wednesday night at 9PM EST to participate in a live chat about the topic.


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What’s Unconditional Love Got To Do With It?

In some ways, cats have it better than dogs.

When Sharon Castellanos  (a.k.a. Grouchy Puppy) asked me in her Influence Positively Questionnaire whether I would like to return in my next life as a cat or as a dog, I reluctantly said that I’d prefer to be a cat because they’re less dependent on humans, who are often less than dependable.

Another reason to prefer felinity has recently occurred to me: Cats aren’t saddled with the myth of unconditional love.

Cat owners know their pets love them — but on their own terms. Dogs love us on their own terms too, but we impose “always” and “in every way” expectations on them.

Dogs, so the myth goes, are empathetic. They intuit our moods and know when we need comfort.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. While Frankie is eating, for example, I could be lying on the floor bleeding and not get any attention until he’s done. The other day, he barked irritably at me because I went back to bed with a cold and didn’t want to play with him and his squeaky chile. As I type this, he’s sitting at my feet, demanding attention.

Always empathetic? Keyed into my every need and mood? I think not.

Here are some conditions — a.k.a activities — under which your dog is likely not to love you if you interrupt, depending on breed:

  • When they’re sniffing something delightfully disgusting.
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Quick fixes & cover judging

My pal Debbie Jacobs recently tweeted that she had gotten a lot of traffic on her Fearful Dogs site for a post titled Stop Your Dog’s Problem Behaviors Instantly! People were, apparently, taking it seriously, driven by the desire for a quick fix.

No question: Irony is dead.

When it comes to dog training — or any discipline that requires patience — it’s important to be wary of unwarranted claims, such as guaranteeing results within a certain period of time (or guaranteeing results, full stop).

So when I was sent a copy of 30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog: The Loved Dog™ Method by Tamar Geller, I was more than a little dubious.

Along with the promise of success in a limited amount of time, there was:

  • The trademark symbol after “Loved Dog” in the subtitle. Trademarking love seems a little cold.
  • The glamorous photo on the front cover of the attractive young author wearing white –white! — to coach (her preferred term, rather than “train”) dogs
  • The flap copy proclaiming that the author is “a dog coach to the stars — her clients include Oprah Winfrey, Ben Affleck, Courtney Cox Arquette…”

But a statement in the dog-coach-to-the-stars paragraph intrigued me, the note that the author’s approach is

…simple and down to earth. Instead of utilizing the negative and often painful feedback of physical dominance, choke chains, and prong collars, Tamar recommends love, play and mutual respect as the keys to a happy home for dog and human alike.

Nothing wrong with that. So I dipped in. Read More »

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