Dog trains man

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What you liked best with Kenzo the Hovawart in 2010

With only one day left in the year, what did you liked best on this blog in 2010? Here is a Top 5 with the most shared, viewed and commented posts from 2010:

Two posts on Shiloh the Hovawart needing help to get adopted. The attention makes me very happy but this gives us all mixed feelings. The turn-off of course is that Shiloh still has not get adopted.

Next to the BSL stories probably one of the most important news items I could bring to you from little Denmark. A puppy mill that exports to the U.S., among others. Thank you for helping spreading the word getting this puppy mill exposed.

Inspired by the real story of my dad getting severely bitten while intervening in a dog fight. What we can do to prevent, and also how to act in a dog fight. Today, my dad has fully recovered from his injuries.

One colored, truly biased and overly positive look on the Hovawart breed. But hey, this would not be a Hovawart blog without a muse on this beautiful breed we have come to love so much?
 
With all the training and socialization we do with Kenzo, he can still awe me with what he can do when acting from within his own natural being. This is what makes me the most proud of him.


Loved your choices, my own top 5 would not have been much different. Looking back is great but what lies ahead?

You will have to be patient until January 10, when we come with a post as part of the Pet Blogger Challenge, organized by Edie and Amy, from the Will My Dog Hate Me and GoPetFriendly.com blogs respectively.

Stay tuned and best wishes for the New Year!
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Viva La Bella

Viva La Bella
We do not usually have a "Wordless Wednesday" - posting pictures without words on wednesday - on our blog. But I couldn't resist after taking this wonderful picture of Viva today. We named it "Viva La Bella". Me adding these comments didn't help either we will ever get wordless on any wednesday whatsoever.

We tried to get Kenzo in the picture also, but he was too busy with things that matter more to him:

Viva:"Kenzo wait for the photo", Kenzo: "No time, the snow could melt"

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Might be coming soon in a theater near you

A brand new dog show aired on Danish TV recently. It has a refreshing concept building on dogs, kids, adoption, and positive reinforcement.

After watching the first couple of shows I am so positive about it as it conveys some great messages on adoption and getting professional help when adopting. I hope production companies in other countries get inspired by the concept.

Dog trainer Jan Vestergaard in new Danish TV-show
The show

Each show is about a family. The children's greatest wish is to have their very own dog, while the parents do not think their children can take on the responsibility to care for a dog. They say No.

Together with Jan Vestergaard - the newbie TV host and a dog trainer/behaviorist in normal life - the children meet with three dogs. Each dog has been preselected from the local shelter by Jan Vestergaard. He helps them to choose one of the dogs, and the kids are allowed to take the dog home with them for a couple of days.

Jan Vestergaard visits the family and teaches the kids how to walk with a leash and other basic routines using positive reinforcement. You can almost hear the kids think "that's easy we are home-free!" Of course, during the days the dog stays at the family, issues turn up. Jumping on guests, barking at the door bell, not being house-broken, etc.

Unfortunately for the kids the parents discover this also and point it out to be not acceptable. "Bummer! not so easy after all!". Jan Vestergaard shows the family what they can do and works with the kids to chance the behavior, of course with success. He succeeds very well in explaining it as not being something bad about the dog, and turns disappointment into success. Positive reinforcement for the whole family.

The show closes with the "moment supreme", asking the parents for permission to keep the dog. You know how that turns out, as we are still watching television.

Popularity driving change

I would say nice things about any TV-show that is not about the usual pack leader blabla. But I especially like this show because it promotes not only adoption, but also getting professional help when adopting. When the show increased in popularity, you could see dog trainers in Denmark doing more to promote their services to help families adopt a dog. And clearly the show has contributed to people's interest in this service.

Why is that a good idea? Kevin Myers wrote a very good post on his DogLoversDigest blog: Keeping It Real When Adopting a Dog – Step Two: Find a Trainer. I say no more.

Excuse my Danish

The name of the show itself is "Så er der hund", which is impossible to translate to English. What it tries to convey would be something like "And now we have a dog / are a dog family / gone to the dogs". All at once.

Unfortunately I have not much else to show for because all is in Danish, but for the not-so-faint-hearted here is a link to episode 10 from the show: Clara from Østerbro, Copenhagen

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hovawart weather

Winter came early this year. It started snowing last week and we already have a nice white cover of 12 inches (30 cms) deep. As soon as the first snow is falling, Kenzo and Viva are excited like little children to come out and play. Hovawarts are playful by nature, and snow is the ultimate on their fun scale.


Their thick coat makes them oblivious of the sharp cold, and they seem to enjoy a temperature of 23F (-5C) as if it is wearing-your-shorts-for-the-first-time-weather. How different in the summer. Where temperatures above 77F (25C) sends them into some kind of summer hibernation. The less you move, the better, is their motto then.
All the excitement makes them forget how to heel and to go without pulling the leash. I indulge them and set up my own pace instead. People are laughing at us when they see us pass by. Two Hovawarts plowing through the snow dragging me along. But the fun outweighs the embarrassment by far.

Kenzo and Viva also seem to think that the snow is especially laid down by the squirrel and rodent God himself, and continuously dive into the snow when they pick up a scent. Could they be hiding here? Or here!
During winter they salt the roads a lot in Denmark, which is not good for their paws. Therefore all our walks in the winter are out in forests and the country side, adding to the fun.

Would the snow last until March like last year? Kenzo and Viva definitely hope so.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The small fearful dog therapist

Kenzo doesn't cease to amaze me when we encounter small fearful dogs. He likes to interact with them in what seems to be an attempt to comfort and protect them.

When we were out with our tracking class the other day on one of our tracking locations, Kenzo did it again. Along this particular tracking location, there is a small fenced-in area where dogs are allowed off leash. After tracking we go there to let the dogs play a little. After a little while, a couple came in with a small dachshund. The dachshund definitely thought that it was not a good idea to walk in an area with 9 large dogs and protested. I usually leave when I see other people approach as I am weary of meetings in dog parks, but knowing Kenzo's reputation with smaller dogs I decided to stay.

Capable of empathy?

The owners walked towards us dragging the dachshund behind them on a leash in obvious discomfort. Kenzo positioned himself between the group and the dachshund. Cautiously, in a calm and relaxed way, he moved up to the dachshund. Not imposing a greet, but inviting nonetheless. As the dachshund was sizing Kenzo up, she finally became relaxed enough to take a little sniff up in the air. And a few moments later both her and Kenzo exchanged a little sniff. After that Kenzo kept a small distance, but remained all the time between the dachshund and the group.

I was just awed. What did I just witnessed? That Kenzo is nice with smaller fearful dogs I know. But what puzzles me is that none of the other dogs approached. They probably all have seen that this was a fearful dog, but I would have expect them to join after Kenzo's greet. But somehow they didn't. Maybe he didn't let them? Could Kenzo be able of empathy? Some research show dogs can indeed be capable of empathy. My twitter pal @dancingdogblog, an animal welfare advocate and author of the Dancing Dog Blog, mentioned she has experienced this behavior before with puppy mill dogs. Where dogs would gather around a fearful individual, trying to protect, and comfort the fearful dog.

The therapist

One of our dog trainers picked up on this special capability of Kenzo already in his adolescence. She had one small dog in her class that was fearful of larger dogs. It had been attacked by a larger dog and sustained severe injuries. He allowed no larger dog to approach him.

When she noticed to what lengths Kenzo sometimes went to comfort a small dog when greeting, even laying down to make himself smaller and not a threat, she asked us if we would like to help her with the fearful dog. We did some setups in which we let them meet, first on a distance, and closer by when the little dog showed interest. After a couple of sessions, they were able to meet and the little fellow was not afraid of Kenzo anymore. I hope it helped him in getting over his fear.

What could have shaped this?

Kenzo's special relationship with smaller dogs already started very young.

During puppy hood we let him meet small dogs just like we would with any other dog. Already as a pup he was larger then most small breeds, and we made sure he didn't attempt to bully them. When I try to rewind the movie of his puppy hood and adolescence to find a clue what could have influenced him with smaller dogs, I cannot come up with anything out of the ordinary except one thing.

On our evening walk we once walked by a garden surrounded by a thick, high hedge. Behind the hedge a fierce watch dog was ready to protect his property and we didn't noticed him until we were only a couple of feet away. When the dog started to bark we got a scare at first, surprised by the bark that suddenly was coming from close by. My second reaction was one of relief and made me laugh. Judging the volume this wasn't your typical watch dog. When we continued along the hedge, the watch dog followed, barking on the other side. I could see there was a fence at the corner of the garden. As I was curious what kind of dog it was I took a quick peek in the garden through the fence and looked into the face of one very angry Yorkshire terrier. There is something about these brave small creatures that touches me, and I threw in a treat and called him "good boy!". Also Kenzo got a treat so he wouldn't be jealous.

When we went on our evening walk the next day, I thought it would be fun to see if the yorkie would still be there and we took the same route again. And he was there again. From then on, we made it a tradition to walk by our new buddy. The whole scenario would repeat itself. And both the yorkie and Kenzo got a treat when we reached the fence at the corner. After a while his bark and anxiety changed into a greet, and he ran to the fence to meet us, tail wagging and ready for his treat.

At the time I thought it just was a fun thing to do, but could Kenzo have learned something from this. Could this explain his special relationship with small fearful dogs? Could he have understood that they are not to fear and behind all the barking there could be a new friend? I think it did.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Training tracking and the holy treat

When we train dogs we use treats to reward them. That cannot be that different when you train tracking? Well, it is not that easy. The use of treats in tracking training is not as straight forward as it seems to be in something like obedience training. We can reward with treats when finding objects on the track or the person the track leads to. But what about laying down treats on the track itself?

Natural behavior

To follow a scent track is a natural thing to do for a dog. That explains how it can be possible to train tracking without treats. The dog is already doing what is natural, no reward needed. Much unlike obedience training where we want the dog to sit, lay down, heel, etc. Which is not natural behavior and we need treats to "lure" them in doing what we want them to do.

But although following a track is natural, there are those elements in tracking as a sport we humans added. They are not natural and we have to teach the dog. Moments like the initial finding of a track, marking objects that are found on a track, not getting distracted by crossing tracks, turns in tracks, etc. And here it sure is convenient to use treats. But they come with a downside. The dog is vulnerable to take the whole thing for a treat search. Using treats is a shortcut, allowing you to quickly overcome an issue. But using them too much or too long will set your dog back, and feeds his interest away from the track and towards the treats.

You can overdo it

Mea culpa. As shown in the next video I overdid it with treats on the track for Kenzo. I used treats in the start of the track a couple of times. This helped to make Kenzo eager to find a track in a starting area. Already after a few times, he got it. But I continued a couple of times more with treats although unnecessary. The result is that Kenzo now continues searching the start area for treats. When he is sure there are no tracks with treats he first starts to follow the track. And that is not good, he must choose the track, not the treats:



Treats are a shortcut, and they do offer a quick fix. But use them with care. Rather too little then too much. It is difficult to get a dog of the treats again when you took it too far. And you do not really need them. Breaking something up in smaller pieces is also a way, it just takes some more time. In Kenzo's case I could also have teached him to find a track by increasing the distance to the track with small intervals in each training session.

Controversial

Treats are a controversial subject in tracking circles. If you would not know the subject, you could mistake a discussion about treats between tracking dog trainers into a holy grail discussion between religious fanatics. As always, the wisdom is right in the middle. What is your opinion on treats?

***

More tracking posts:
How to: Going your first track
Preparing to move beyond the first track: studying body language
Tracking: training turns
Training tracking with your dog, raising the bar

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Are you prepared for a dog fight?

Remember your very first pup and the plans you had for both of you? Your pup will  have outstanding manners. Nice to people and other dogs. Come when you call. No problems whatsoever, just enjoying doggy life. It is a nice dream isn't it.

Somewhere down the road we find out that even if we have the nicest and most obedient of pups, we still need two to tango. Not everybody we meet is as nice and well-behaved as we would like them to be. Even dogs that seem to have great personalities, might just not get along. Like people.

Owning a dog means you have to be prepared for a dog fight. Unfortunately but inevitable. Even if your pup is not reactive, you will meet one that is.

You will be too late

Don't fool yourself you are able to distinguish a dog fight from a skirmish. Dogs just read each other quicker, and they decide quicker. You don't have a chance. When you are still contemplating about if what you are seeing is a dog fight or an impolite exchange of macho dog talk, things are already enfolding. Acting on a fight which is not is just as dangerous. Shouting and intervening will only add the stress that can trigger an actual fight.

Avoid

Ninety percent of the solution is to avoid. Tune in to the body language of the approaching dog and your own dog beforehand. Is your dog avoiding the dog that is coming, or showing stiffness? Be alert. With stiffness, walk in the other direction immediately. When your pup starts to move in a different direction and sniffing casually, follow them and don't force them to meet or walk by the other dog. Support them in their actions and walk past in a circle. Handlers of search-and-rescue dogs have a great principle to live by: "Trust your dog". This is one of those times. Giving your dog this trust will strengthen your teamwork and your dog's confidence.

If possible, avoid places where dogs can be off-leash, like dog parks, when you don't know all the other dogs and dog owners. Only have an off-leash walk or dog park visit with people and dogs you know and can trust.

Approaching dog

When you are good at avoiding you could still walk into an off-leash dog or a stray that might turn aggressive. That's why you should always carry a citronella spray with you. Or at least a water-bottle, even better pepper-spray when that is legal in your state/country. When you are unsure about the dog's intentions try shouting to make him think twice about coming any closer. Use the spray if that doesn't help. Don't wait until it is too late. Once there is a fight, the spray will have little effect. Think about before hand on what exact distance you would like to use both, this will make you act quicker in the situation itself, when there is hardly time to think. When nothing helps to stop the dog from approaching drop the leash of your dog. This might seem strange, but dropping the leash removes tension from your dog and might enable them to send the correct message to the unwanted visitor. On her blog, Laurie Luck tells how it helped her to avoid a dog fight.

In a fight

I am sure instinct will take over now, despite of what I will write. But please stay with me on this one. When you are in a fight, drop the leash of your dog to give him a better chance to defend  himself if you didn't already.

The last thing you should do is trying to step in and grab either dog by its collar, spark or kick. The chances for a dog bite are high and you can get severely injured. If the other owner is around you should both try to grab a dog by its hind legs or tail and trying to pull them away from each other. Usually there is no time to explain, just start pulling on their dog so they get the picture. Although this is also with risk, and can also provoke a bite. On her blog, Karen Friesecke wrote some other options down that might also work.

Everybody is different, and I do respect when you are that kind of fearless person that in a split-second jumps in the middle of a fight to protect your dog. But beware the consequences. My dad is such a person, and he has been in a dog-fight three times during the last year in which he got bitten each time. The last time it was that bad that they had to do surgery on his hand twice, and we feared he would loose the function of his hand. Do not underestimate the force of a dog bite. And when you get severely injured, what does that mean for the life of your dog?

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

We are rockin' !

We joined the R.O.A.R. (Rescue Owners Are Rockin') squad and as of today it is official: We are rockin' !

Only half a year ago we took a leap of faith and adopted Viva. If only I would have known then, what I know today, one question comes to mind. What kept me so long! We have such a special and deep bond together, it is like we were meant to be.

Adoption is the coolest thing around. It just is. When you have adopted, join the ranks of the R.O.A.R. squad and help promoting adoption. If you don't, adopt, and then join the ranks :)

The R.O.A.R. squad is founded by Shauna Stewart and her rescue, Miss Kayloo (picture on right). She is seeking rescue owners from every US state and all other countries to help her prove that rescue has nothing to do with stories about "broken" animals, but instead are fabulous stories about love, joy and fulfilment. Join the R.O.A.R. squad !

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome to the world of scent

One of the things that have always fascinated me is a dog's scenting capabilities. When a search-and-rescue party is on the news, or a drug smuggler is arrested at the airport by a K9 unit, I find myself wanting to know more about the dogs involved and how they did it. Next to the actual story itself.


It takes just a sniff

Everything a dog does has to do with scent. They live in a world of scent. Take a dog walk. You have probably noticed you can pass by another dog when it is out of sight and going downwind. But if you were going upwind it is like your dog's nose from one moment to the other is catched by a virtual fish hook. They don't see the world, they smell it.

What an interesting world that must be. I could go to my favorite restaurant, sniff a little, and know which of my friends or foes have been there before me. And from the people I have not met before, I quickly find out their age, gender, and general state of health.

Trust your dog

It is the dog that can step into that world of scent, we are merely outsiders and have no clue on what they "see". That's why handlers of search-and-rescue dogs always say "Trust your dog". But thankfully our dogs love to tell us in their own language what they are scenting so we can engage in their world. With a little imagination we can paint a picture of what they are really experiencing in daily life. Make a habit out of observing your dog on your daily walk and wonder why they stop at certain places. Let them to go off the path and indulge them. They don't have to "heel" all the time. Let them be dogs and prepare to be awed.

It is difficult to imagine how it would feel if we could distinguish as many scents like a dog. On top of that it depends on wind directions, humidity, going up- or downhill, and a lot more factors. When you have already been going to nose work classes or have done some first tracking with your dog you are probably wondering about what you have been observing and which factors played a role in your last "search".

Scent and the scenting dog

Fortunately, there is an excellent book about scent, "Scent and the scenting dog" by William G. Syrotuck. If you want to know more about the world of scent this is definitely the book to read. It is obligatory material on police K9 training schools. It is not so much a training manual, but more a thorough description of what scent is all about, and what your dog can do with it. After you have read this book, even a routine dog walk will never be the same. Welcome to the world of scent !

I hope this book can bring you closer to your dog and maybe also inspires to engage in nose work. What could be better then to let your dog explore his own "dogginess"? It is one of the most rewarding activities you can do together. To quote Randy Hare: "Anything a dog can learn on his own is more effective and better understood than what humans can force on the dog".

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Danish Hovawart puppy mill active again

Any regular reader of this blog knows I am a big fan of the Hovawart breed and both my dogs are Hovawarts. Unfortunately, Hovawarts in Denmark have a bad reputation because of health and mental issues. Why? Most of them come from a puppy mill called the Hovawart Kennel. After some years in hiding, they have now become active again. They also started exporting to the USA under the name Hovawart puppies.

Bad rep

The first time I went to our vet with Kenzo he was still the smallest of puppies. Our vet was in chock. "Oh no, a Hovawart? Where did you get him?". She was relieved to hear he didn't come from the puppy mill. She told me about the "Hovawart Kennel" and that all her former Hovawart patients came from this notorious breeder, and she had to put all of them out of their misery before the age of three, except one. And this is not the lucky one, he had a very expensive hip replacement, and can still not walk properly.

It didn't get better when I tried to find a club to train small Kenzo. They were reluctant to take on a Hovawart, as they had so many bad experiences with them. They did let me join a class. One of the owners of a German Shepherd Dog even threatened my health if his dog would get hurt by Kenzo.

Hovawart puppies for sale

As it seemed, the "Hovawart Kennel" has been active in Denmark for almost 15 years. Under different names, like "Kennel Hof-Joy", but with the same owners and on the same address. They have been exposed several times by puppy buyers that lost their dogs very early, even days after buying a Hovawart puppy. They have been in a TV-special about puppy mills on Danish television. The Danish Kennel Club and the Danish Hovawart Club (both officially recognized by FCI) threw them out. The police investigated circumstances and found the dogs in very bad conditions. Unfortunately, by Danish law, they were only fined with an amount less then the price of a puppy. Ridiculously low. A lot of owners appeared on television, complained on Internet forums, but nobody stepped forward to press charges.

Under the radar

It went quiet in a couple of years in which they apparently have been living in the USA. But now they are surfacing again under a new name in Hovawart circles. This time because they have acquired a Hovawart from another breeder, and have been using this dog for litters outside of the control of the Danish Hovawart Club and the Danish Kennel Club. No complaining owners yet. But it is very suspicious that they re-registered this dog in the Continental Kennel Club, which is not recognized by the FCI. The dog was already officially registered with the Danish Kennel Club, an FCI-recognized organisation. Obviously not something you can use in this type of business. Even worse, as it turned out the owner of "Hovawart Kennel" is also the owner or representative of the Danish branch of the "Continental Kennel Club". And that is more then just a conflict of interests. It is the setup of a hoax.

The breeder of which they acquired the Hovawart that should serve as a stud, repented. He went public by placing adds on the Internet warning people about the kennel being active again. Kudos for this breeder, that made a mistake, but didn't want to hide and went public instead.

Absent voices

But apart from this one breeder it is awfully quiet. The website of the Danish Hovawart Club has a list of responsible breeders, but doesn't mention which bad breeders are active. They don't mention anything that has transpired in the last 15 years. The Danish Kennel Club is not much better. They only have one hidden reference under the old name of "Kennel Hof-Joy" on their website, a moderate "we knew" response to one of those (now outdated) TV-programs that has been aired years ago. One could expect a more pro-active attitude from the people that strive for the perfection of all dog breeds. At least a regularly updated blacklist of breeders. On the Internet please. Where the fight is taking place.

Apparently law in Denmark is not equipped for this kind of situations. The police has no real power and can only fine the breeders for ridiculously low amounts. It is very bitter that this can happen in the same country that has just accepted a new Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) to ban no less then 13 breeds. A worst-case scenario of mixed-up priorities. If our laws on puppy mills were as harsh as those that ban breeds, maybe we wouldn't have to ban breeds in the first place?

What about Kenzo?

All ended well for Kenzo, everybody in dog training class is crazy about him. He is extremely nice to smaller dogs, and especially smaller dogs that are afraid of large dogs. One of our trainers has even had Kenzo and me assist her in setups to help a couple of smaller dogs to overcome their fear. Even the German Shepherd Dog owner became a big fan of Kenzo. I am happy that Kenzo is such a good ambassador for his breed.

It is not the breed, but actions of us humans that makes, or breaks, the dog.
Any dog.
Of any breed.

***

For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Kibble quest

A quest for kibble? Yes. Kibble. Dog food conveniently delivered in a large bag. What about home cooked or going raw? It crossed my mind. But I have to admit that home cooked dog food in my case is wishful thinking. Feeding raw has my interest and I will keep my eyes and ears open on how it will develop further. But for now it is kibble. Because it is convenient. But how to find a quality that ensures a long and healthy life for my dogs. Surely that must be possible?

I chew this during your quest
Inconvenient doubts

The products we have been using so far were brought to us by the sponsored recommendations from the breeder (Techni-call), the dog training school (Olivers) and our vetenerian (Hill's Science Plan). My own clumsy attempts to find higher quality dog food lead me to Regal Pet Foods and CANIDAE.

Kenzo, our dog, thrived on all of the brands we have used so far and had no health issues what so ever. But would it stay that way on the long run? The list with recalled kibble is staggering long. And why use money on a bag that mainly contained cheap fillers like corn and wheat but was marketed well for a high price, if a bag of quality food could be attainable for almost the same amount?

Welcome to the jungle

Finding better information on dog nutrition to sustain my kibble quest was not easy. I went to a seminar on dog nutrition, read a couple of books, and spent hours of reading and browsing on the Internet, if not days. Only to find out that it would take a PhD. degree, preferably in nutrition, to be able to call myself capable of making a good choice. Suppliers are just to sophisticated in their marketing. As an example try to Google "corn in dog food". You will find as many experts arguing in favor of corn as you will find arguing against it.

I am not going to try to be another expert, you have to make up your own mind. If you go corn, or no corn. If you go organic or not. If you accept meat byproducts. Want fruits and vegetables in your dog food, and so on. That said, I hope you go no corn, organic, do not accept byproducts, want fruits and veggies. And while we are at it, lets add Omega3/6 fatty acids to that list. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

When it is time to find the kibble that meets you criteria you should try the Dog Food Rating Tool on the K9cuisine.com website. It was a big help to me.

How does it work

The Dog Food Rating Tool asks you 31 questions about the ingredients list of your dog food. It delivers a great recommendation of what could be improved, but also tells what was good about the ingredient list. Why certain questions are asked is explained along the way. Which helps to understand why a certain result is reached.

Here is an example of what the Dog Food Rating Tool told me about Orijen Adult, the brand I chose as the kibble we are going to use from now on:

Your score is: 109 out of 100

Grade: A+

Summary:

Fruits: The grade was raised because the food contains fruit. Higher quality foods are adding fruits to maximize nutrients not found in other complex carbohydrate ingredients. This is another distinguishing characteristic of super premium pet foods.

Vegetables: The grade was raised because the food contains vegetables. Vegetables are a great source of complex carbohydrates and are being added to higher quality super premium foods to improve specific nutritional values.

Fish Oil: The grade was raised because the food contains fish oil. Fish oils are excellent sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. They contain Omega 3 Fatty Acid. They are excellent sources of much needed Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).

Hormone-free and Antibiotic-free: The grade was raised because the meats are hormone and antibiotic free. Some manufacturers of super premium foods are certifying the meats to be hormone and antibiotic free. We believe this is a good practice and helps distinguish super premium brands.

Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin: The grade was raised because it contains glucosamine and/or chondroitin?. Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements which improve a pet’s joint health. Some super premium foods are incorporating these supplements in their ingredients. At K9 Cuisine we favor foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin.


Above is the result for Orijen Adult. I was in doubt on two of the questions. One was the "is the food baked or extruded?". Orijen Adult is steam cooked. Which is a fancy name for extruded. And a question if the food contained salt. Orijen Adult contains a little sea-salt, but would that count as salt? Also I misunderstood their claim to be "biological appropiate" to be organic. Which it is not. I run the Tool twice with different answers and it scored lower as a result, but still an A, instead of an A+.

If you are on a quest too, try the Dog Food Rating Tool, it is a great help. Kudos to the people of K9cuisine.com for bringing this tool. Anthony Holloway, CEO and founder, even answered my questions on Twitter and gave me some leads to quality dog foods that are exported to Europe. That made it much easier for me as not all brands are available outside the US.

But is it convenient?

The downside of my whole quest is that I did find quality, but found myself challenged on the convenience side. I learned that in Denmark, we are way behind the US on dog nutrition. Walking in a pet shop brings the usual brands: Hill's, Royal Canin and Eukanuba, together with one or two more obscure ones. But not necessarily of a better quality then the former mentioned.

The brands that deliver quality are usually from the US and Canada and are hard to get. They don't run all the products from a brand, but only one or two. With Regal Pet Foods I ran into a delivery problem. With CANIDAE I couldn't get a bag that hadn't passed the expiration date. For Orijen I found only 3 shops (thankfully with Internet shops) that carried the brand.

I guess that on my quest I found a business opportunity too, that would just need some good marketing ... ahum.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Shiloh is ready for you

This week is Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week, raising awareness of the wonderful pets who too often get overlooked. Pets like Shiloh. Spending over a year in foster, she has more then earned our attention.


Shiloh is a sweet 2-year old girl and has spend most of her life in a rescue and in foster. She is a real family dog and just gets along well with everybody. The people of the rescue where she resides say she is one of the most affectionate dogs they ever had. Her favorite past time is to give hugs and kisses. She has no issues with other dogs and is very playful.

Harry Potter

So why on earth is she not getting adopted? Well, first of all, she is from the Hovawart breed, a very unknown breed in the US. Which makes people reluctant. "A Hova...what? Is that from a Harry Potter movie?". But Hovawarts are absolutely great dogs. I have two of them. They are devoted to their family. They make excellent watchdogs. And unlike other watchdog breeds they will accept someone when you say the person is fine. They are from origin working dogs and they excel at anything in training or sport you would like to do with them. They will love it. And so will you.

Shiloh is 2000 years old

If it is not the breed, could it be the name? Shiloh is a beautiful name, but can carry the wrong message for some. Being named after the religious capital of Israel in Biblical times, the place where Mozes took the Ark, might seem like a heavy burden to carry for some. Or more "recently": one of the Civil War battles was fought at Shiloh, Pittsburgh. You might want to give her another name, I am sure Shiloh will like it just as much if not more.


Special care

When it is not the breed or the name, it must be that little extra care she needs. Shiloh has had health issues she is currently recuperating from. At a young age she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The people of the rescue project HALO have taken excellent care of her. Shiloh has been operated on both hips and is in the process of recuperating from the surgery on the last hip. Her future shines bright. It will ask from you as a owner to take some special care of her as her muscle build-up still needs to improve. But imagine how this will deepen your relation even more. And the love she will give you. One of my own adopted Hovawarts, Viva, also had health issues. All the love I have given by caring for her, she gave back tenfold.

Meet Shiloh

Could Shiloh and you be meant for each other? Go over and meet her, talk with the people of project HALO. Shiloh is more then ready for you!

If you are interested in adopting Shiloh please visit http://www.projecthalo.net/ to fill out an application or contact Rhonda at projhalo@bellsouth.net for more information.

You can also ask me, I can forward any questions you might have, or answer anything you would like to know about Hovawarts.


***

Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week is organized by Petfinder and the people of Blogpaws. More info you can find here and here.

***

Links:
Shiloh on petfinder
project HALO
More stories about Shiloh:
Meet Shiloh, Hovawart in need of help
Blog the change for Shiloh the Hovawart
Shiloh Is Headed For A Second Hip Surgery And Hopes To Find A Forever Home

Update January 2012: Shiloh adopted after 2 years

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Viva into BAT

We were warned by the local shelter about Viva. She doesn't "like" other dogs. Reason unknown. We let Viva meet Kenzo, our other Hovawart, under supervision of a dog trainer of the shelter. This turned out very well, so how bad could it be?

Viva watching dogs in distance on beach

During the first time we spent together with Viva, she told me which dogs she didn't like. Any dog that is not immediately sending her calming or playing signals, is met with reactive behavior. She did well with dogs that had great social skills, explaining why she accepted Kenzo. We were able to make some more friends that way. But overall she launched at them, growling and showing her bare teeth.

Way over my head

I must admit this was going way over my dog skills. I started getting advice and read a lot of blogs and books what to do in such a case. This quickly got us started with a counter conditioning and desensitizing approach. Exposing Viva to low levels of fear (other dogs far, far away) and giving her treats, learning her a positive association: dog means treat.

Good timing is of the essence her. Maybe it was just too difficult for me, but I was only allowed to do this on very long distances to other dogs. Over the period of at least two months we couldn't come an inch closer. The last thing that had Viva's interest when a dog appeared at the horizon, was a treat. She could only stand stiff, stare at the dog, and when it came over the threshold, she launched. We had to find another approach.

BAT to the rescue

I did hear about Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) before but it never became clear to me what it entailed, until Edie Jarolim started a series about BAT on her blog Will my dog hate me? together with Irith Bloom, a BAT expert and owner of The Sophisticated Dog, a pet training company.

What would Viva really want when she sees another dog but still well within her comfort zone? A treat? Or walk away? She would definitely want to walk away. BAT addresses this and let the reward be what the dog wants in the first place. Doing BAT in Viva's case would mean as soon as I see her displaying calming signals, the reward is to walk away, not a treat.

Our first BAT setup

Inspired by the notion that in theory this could work for Viva we did a BAT training setup the next week, while we were on vacation. Just along our summer rental, only a few feet away, there was a path that lead to a small center inside the park/resort. A lot of people and dogs came by on this path. Every time a dog emerged, I marked it, took Viva inside, and gave her a treat. We closed some curtains so she could not see the dogs at all anymore. I repeated this for two days. On day two she was clearly more relaxed and even lied down (although her facial expression was still slightly tensed when looking at the path, see photo below). From the second day I even noticed her making some lip licking calming signals when she saw a dog approaching on the path.


New setup needed

We repeated this training after we came home in different types of setups. And I was starting to see more stable behavior of Viva with calming signals. Along the road she started to change her behavior again. With some dogs approaching, she started to lay down, and didn't want to move away but meet the other dog! I had to find a new setup now, as I couldn't let her drag me towards the dog on a tight leash. But me pulling the leash trying to come away could also give her a backlash.

The new setup we choose was doing BAT on the beach. Here I would have ample opportunity to see other dogs coming. We could retreat behind a beachclub if necessary. And I put Viva on a long line instead of a normal leash. That way I prevent leash pulling but could control her if she would want to get to close. We did our BAT training. When she was lying down, I let her have her way and come closer to the other dog. She did great. Never went all the way to greet, but moved up to a distance of around 30-40 meters. When she stopped I made a recall and she came back, happy and excited. I never had to grab the long line. I played with her and praised her, getting her focus away of the other dog. Which was then allowed to pass. On a safe distance.

BAT continues

Viva is clearly improving her social skills. My guess is it will still be some time before we can relax on our walks, and I am speculating on what our next step in BAT will be. I guess Viva will show me. Thats also so great about BAT, you just have to do what your dog would really want at the moment, basically. Also other people in our dog training school are interested in BAT hearing Viva's story. It would be great if somebody could join us in making proper BAT setups.

Don't worry ! Kenzo (left) and Viva (right) playing, not fighting

If you think BAT is something for you and your dog, please follow the advice in the links below. With BAT, setup is key, and the above examples of Viva are far from ideal BAT training. It is just what I was able to do with the opportunities at hand. Here are some great resources on BAT and other methods on working with fearful dogs:

Ahisma dog training, by Grisha Stewart, founder of BAT
The Sophisticated Dog
Series on BAT, by Edie Jarolim
Fearful dogs

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pedigree Adoption Drive & Hope returns to Denmark

My message is simple. When you "Like" the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive on Facebook, a bowl of food is donated to a shelter dog. Did you do it? Please do, you can read my blog later. So far, more then 1,100,000 bowls have been donated. Lets add some more.

When you not only "Like" them but also blog about the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive on Facebook , PEDIGREE will donate a 20 pound bag of their new Healthy Longevity Food for Dogs to shelters for each blog that writes about them. Join us when you have a blog, read on Boulder Dog's blog how to do it.

The PEDIGREE Adoption Drive is a great initiative by the PEDIGREE Foundation and I thought I take it up with my local shelter why Denmark is not in the loop here. Or are we? I was lucky. The shelter run an open house event today, there should be a at least some I could discuss this with further.


A lot of people where present on the event, and as I arrived, somebody was making a speech to the assembled crowd. He was talking about animal welfare and being the change. About our personal responsibility to become that change. Coming closer I suddenly recognized who he was. It was Christian H. Hansen. He was a member of parliament and left his political party and his seat in the House after disagreeing with his party's support for the new Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in Denmark. As it became clear to me during his speech, he has now founded a new political party, the Focus party. Their goal being animal welfare and bringing balance between human kind and the way in which we use natural resources. And more pratically, end the BSL in Denmark.

How great to find a voice against the BSL madness in Denmark. I gave him my support and signed the petition. They will need 20,000 signatures to be able to erect an official political party in Denmark. Unfortunately I cannot vote, because I am not a native Dane, but I will make sure to carry his message on and help where I can. If you are a Dane, or live in Denmark, here is how you can help.

What a great day, starting with the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive, visiting the shelter's open house and finding out there is a voice to get rid of the BSL. Hope has returned to Denmark.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

BSL up close and personal

The new Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is now effective in Denmark for 3 months. Earlier I wrote about the crazy situations that came about, soon after BSL was put in effect: How BSL can bring a whole country into madness. Shelters were overrun, Vets refused to euthanize dogs, politicians calling for "do-it-yourself" euthanization of banned breeds. And things have only gotten worse since.

Look-a-likes

The police found a litter of dogs, that looked a lot like one of the 13 banned breeds. The owner couldn't prove what breed, or mix of breeds, her litter was made of. The new legislation allows euthanization of any dog born after July 1, of which there is a suspicion it belongs to (a mix of) the 13 banned breeds. The police therefore confiscated all dogs in this case, and had them euthanized. The owner (breeder?) goes free.

Who should wear a muzzle

People don't muzzle their banned dogs, which is a requirement in the new law. A political party suggested to force dog owner's to use the muzzle on punishment of euthanization. This is the same political party that called people to euthanize their dogs "do-it-yourself" style in answer to the vets refusal of euthanizing perfectly healthy dogs. And it is not your ordinary party, they are part of the coalition that governs the country. It doesn't look like their wishes will be fulfilled, but again they manage to sustain the witch hunt that has been created.

Up close and personal

My stepson owned two dogs. Ronja, a Dogo Argentino, and Freja, an American bulldog/staffordshire mix. They both belonged to the banned breeds.

Freja (left) and Ronja (right) in happier days

Unfortunately, during the period in which he had Freja and Ronja, the time available he could spent with them decreased drastically. The under-stimulation soon created problems which only got worse over time. Against better knowledge that re-homing was the best for his dogs, he helt on to them. Love blinds. But after several biting incidents, they also started biting him.

They payed the ultimate price. Euthanization. BSL forbids re-homing or adoption of banned breeds.

Freja and Ronja, may you rest in peace. You will be missed. I am so sorry you had to pay the price for humanity's mistakes.


***

Links to newspaper articles describing the above, in Danish:
11 puppies on death row
Danish party suggests euthanization when not wearing muzzle

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Viva showing remarkable improvement in health

I admit. I am a very happy person. Although we knew Viva was neglected and in poor condition, it was still a shock to discover her many health issues. Now, five months after we adopted her, we can see how much she improved. It is so much more then we could have hoped for.

Viva the Hovawart

A small recap of her issues: Viva has spondylosis, a form of osteoarthritis, food- and dust mite allergies, and was overweight.

The easy part was the overweight. Viva is now on 86 lbs. Perfect for her size and body structure. She lost 14 lbs with a strict diet balancing everything from her meals as well as her treats and a daily exercise program. She must enjoy not having to drag along all those extra pounds on her already sore back.

Spondylosis

The gravest of her conditions gave us a lot of worries. Spondylosis cannot be cured. It leads to pain, stiffness, lameness, restricted mobility and muscle weakness. Possibly also incontinence and an inability to coordinate placement of the feet. Dawgblogger wrote a very informative article about the disease: The Many Faces Of Arthritis: Viva Has Spondylosis.

Viva having acupuncture
We were so fortunate to find an excellent vet that studied Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). She suggested a treatment based on acupuncture, physical therapy, and a food supplement consisting of glucosamine, organic anti-inflammatories and Omega 3/6.

The acupuncture had an immediate effect. And after a month also the physical therapy and the glucosamine supplement started to pay of. Viva is today clearly in less pain. She enjoys long walks and playtime with Kenzo. And she likes playing rough. Where at first she sometimes whined and squealed because of (the anticipation of) pain, it is now Viva that initiates playtime and wrestling is her favorite. Her back is more agile. Where it first only moved up/down when she walked, it is now noticeably also moving left/right. This means she has become able to use the spine in her back!

Our daily work out (Viva is the darker Hovawart)

See also
this video that show progress in her muscle build-up after one month of training.

We could have done better though, as Viva's muscles are not strong enough yet. A daily work out is limited in its progress. When Viva becomes tired on the walk she adjusts her level of activity, meaning progress is slow.

We did join an underwater treadmill program, but were not able to carry that through on a regular weekly basis. Viva stepped into something sharp and hurt her paw. Twice. Meaning a set back in the training program as we had to start over. But hey, it is great there is still room for improvement.

Allergies

To treat her allergies Viva is only getting low-allergy kibble and for her dust mite allergy we administer monthly shots of an allergy vaccine that is specifically developed for her. We also bath her regularly with a special dermatological shampoo.

Although progress was slow the allergies bother her a lot less. From a state of obvious discomfort, reddish skin, biting, itching and almost inflamed paws she now only has slightly reddish paws left. Biting and itching only returns incidentally and not so intense as before.

The vaccine is first fully active after nine months and we therefore still expect to make more progress. Her skin has such a beautiful pink color and the dandruff has disappeared.

The years to come

Today we visited the vet for her regular acupuncture treatment. She was very pleased to see Viva. The stiffness in her back is completely gone. Her muscles are not tensed anymore. We can stop now with the regular acupuncture appointments and just see when we would need it again might the pain return. The vet added that she was especially happy with Viva's progress, and that she has a completely different aura now. Viva is one of her patients that made the most remarkable progress.

What will happen in the years to come we don't know. But we are so hopeful for Viva's future. We cannot win the battle with her spondylosis. But we can enjoy each day we are allowed to spend with her. In good health.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scent of the Missing

Scent of the Missing. Love & partnership with a search-and-rescue dog
by Susannah Charleson

Are you intriged by K9 search and rescue? Do you wonder why dogs are so good at this and what the partnership with such a dog would be like? Be prepared to be swept off your feet by this book.

Susannah Charleson takes you on a journey in the search and rescue world. She is herself intriged by search and rescue (SAR) work, joins a SAR team in Texas and decides to become a handler. After a long search she picks a Golden Retriever puppy as her partner, Puzzle. With her high drive and willfullness Puzzle is like born to become a SAR dog. The story follows Susannah and Puzzle through the many training sessions to become a team, and as they search for the lost.

What I love about the book is that it describes so well how the partnership between Susannah and Puzzle evolves and deepens. And to which lengths Susannah goes to understand how Puzzle works, how she thinks, and how her world of scent must be like. Not a training book, but a book on partnership, love, and understanding.

But this book is also for you if you are mostly interested in a dog that is "just" a part of the household. SAR, like tracking, works with a very important principle: "Trust the dog". You don't have to practice SAR to benefit from this principle in the everyday life with your dog. When your dog barks, or starts to act strangely, trust him, what is he trying to tell you?

I am really excited about this book and will probably read it again. And again. And again. If you love dogs, you must own this book.

***

Interview on Fox with Susannah and Puzzle (video)
Patricia B. McConnell book review of "Scent of the Missing"
Scent of the Missing, official website

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Training tracking with your dog, raising the bar

Are you ready to raise the bar and start with some serious tracking? There are many things you can practice beyond the first track.

Lets start as an example with a video of Kenzo where I train dry weather conditions with him. Here in Denmark it is rarely hot and dry, so the weather from last week with 30C/90F gave an excellent opportunity to train this. Kenzo also doesn't like hot weather at all. Together with the fact there is not much scent on a dry track, it will ask the out most of Kenzo. The track you are about to see is a 300 step track, laid by a "strange" person, has one turn, and we use a lot of objects on the track he has to find:



Under normal weather conditions, this track would have been a piece of cake for Kenzo. But you can see how difficult he gets it by just changing one variable: the temperature. He wasn't eager to find the track, he passed some objects, and he lost the track once. Although loosing the track is not a problem at all. The important thing is that he keeps on working trying to re-find it, and he did just that.

When you are ready to raise the bar too, make sure to draw up a schedule or journal for each training exercise. Then you are sure only to raise the bar on one or two variables. Especially note the weather conditions, as they will usually change, you will need to adjust your schedule according to them. Don't move forward to soon, and redo some tracking scenario's to ensure practice and a successful outcome. Here are some variables you can start working with:

Track length
Add to the length of the track in 50-steps intervals. You can also lay separate tracks and run them as legs. Make sure to have water with you on tracks that are more then 500 steps. Have a water break not to exhaust your dog. Each training exercise should end in a success.

Track scent
Instead of laying the track yourself which has a very familiar scent for the dog, let him follow the scent of a person he is unfamiliar with. This is something you need to do regularly, so your dog doesn't think the meaning is to follow your scent only.

Find the track
With the first track we had the dog laying down in the start of the track. Let him find the track by taking some steps away from it and let him search for the track. If you always indicate the start of a tracking exercise with putting on the harness, he will know it is "tracking time" and will start to look for the track himself. Move away max 10 steps from the track.

Weather conditions
Make sure to train in different weather conditions. Extreme dry weather and extreme wet weather are difficult to track in, as these weather conditions don't hold the scent. In drougth, the lack of moisture needed by the bacteria to work and be part in producing scent is missing. They same is true with extreme wet weather, also here the bacteria are not doing their scent producing work.

Age of the track
Let the track age in 15 minute intervals. Dogs can still track even hours after the track has been laid. This is also important to train, as in the first hour of the track the human scent is prevalent. After this period, the human scent fades, and the scent of the crushed vegetation by our footsteps is all what is left. The dog has to learn also to follow these types of tracks.

Tracking surroundings
Lay a track in grasslands, areas with low vegetation, forests and rural areas. And also in this order. Grasslands are the easiest, rural areas are the most difficult. When tracking in a rural area, make sure to start tracking with 30 minutes old tracks again, as it is mostly the human scent the dog can follow. But also think about tracking in a valley, or on hills. Where the wind blows of the scent differently then it would on a plain field.

Turns
Make turns on the track in different angles. Make sure to mark an upcoming turn with a marker 5 steps before the turn. When turning left, put the marker to the right of the track and vice versa when turning right. When you use a lot of turns make sure you or your tracking partner draw a map of the track. You should always know exactly where the track is, if it would be needed to help the dog.

Distractions
Add distractions to the track like road crossings, change in vegetation, other persons laying tracks that cross yours, tracking along roads or farms with animals. You can use this to teach your dog to focus and not get distracted by external factors. When he does, make the stop and hold the leash until he re-finds the track. If you dog has forgot about the track, mark that with saying "No" as a correction, and put him back on the track again like if you would start the track. When crossing a road it is very likely he will loose the track. And you don't want your dog circling on a road trying to re-find it. Just move to the other side of the road and set him on the track again.


You are going to enjoy working with your dog! When you have practiced the above, you should take a moment and reflect on where you stand. You are already a pretty good tracker and very close to getting your TD certificate!

To help you draw a schedule for your training exercises, I can recommend you to read the book Tracking Dog: theory & methods, by Glenn R. Johnson. The book lays out a very balanced training schedule. And is also a very good book to learn tracking and help you troubleshoot along the way.

***

Related posts:
How to: Going your first track
Preparing to move beyond the first track: studying body language
Tracking: training turns

Kenzo on a "wet" tracking day
Note: For everybody that was asking why on earth I was wearing long trousers on such a hot day. Good question ! The answer is ticks. After the track I removed 7 ticks from Kenzo and 2 from myself that were looking for a place to dig in. Kenzo is also well protected for ticks. But this is something you have to look out for when tracking.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travelling by car with two Hovawarts

One of the challenges we faced with Viva joining the family as our second Hovawart was how to travel safely by car with two 90 lb dogs.

I did some research on blogs and resources on-line and also got some great advise from Rod Burket from GoPetFriendly.com, by commenting on his guest post Show Some (Car) Restraint! on Edie Jarolim's blog Will My Dog Hate Me?.

Rod advised in our case to go for the crate solution. Mainly because of the size of our dogs. And I agreed with Rod on that. But things turned out easier said then done.

You can't always get what you want

The crating solution gave us some short term challenges, as the crates we would need for our Hovawarts are the XX-large kind. And they don't fit into our current car. We went looking for a car that matches the size of the crates, but buying a bigger car in Denmark is not something you do lightly. Just a hint: you pay 180% tax on cars in Denmark. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

But something needed to be done. When we only had Kenzo we used a harness and seat belt system. Just putting Viva next to him in her own harness seat belt system made me worry that they could hurt each other by smashing into each other, would an accident occur. Like the big dogs they are, the chances of them hitting the side of the car or the front seats on impact seemed too high. The seat belts would protect us from them becoming a projectile in the car, but I felt their own safety was at risk.

Putting Kenzo restrained on the rear seats and Viva restrained in the back of the car would not leave enough room for much else. We tried that once and it didn't work.

Down to the car repair shop

What could we do to improve our current car while waiting (and saving) for the final solution? This is what we came up with:



We let the car repair shop rebuild the back of the car into a dog safe area. A steel safety grill has been set up between the back and the front of the car which will prevent them from becoming a projectile in the car. A steel compartment divider splits the back in two so they will not smash into each other with an accident. There a sun screens for all the windows protecting them from direct sunlight. And finally, a load compartment mat in plastic, resistant of any dirt their paws may bring in and a smooth surface like Hovawarts prefer. There is a harness for both dogs which we will attach with a long leash to a belt system in the back. The only function this will have is to prevent them from walking out in traffic, would an accident occur.

Test driving

Viva ready for a test drive
It might look like a lot of space on the picture but it is not for our Hovawarts. They are able to just turn around in each of their space. They can sit, stand up or lay down in reasonable comfort. When we make enough stops they should be alright. We are going to do some test drives to see if they can enjoy the ride and if there is enough space. One of the great things with this solution is that I can re-arrange the steel compartment divider in the middle to the left or right and create more space for one of the dogs. The other can then move to the rear seats in our good old harness and seat belt system. So we would still be able to do some fine tuning down the line.

Roof box

To create some more space and not to have all the luggage laying around in the rest of the car, we also bought a roof box. Which should be able to contain most of our luggage if we would travel light (hope my spouse is reading this too). Whats wrong with buying some new clothes and dining out a lot on your destination? We are on vacation!

For the moment this is as good as we can do, to travel safely with Kenzo and Viva. But we are looking forward to the crates, and the car that would fit them.

***

Here are some great resources with information on safe travelling by car:
GoPetFriendly.com
Dog Jaunt
Dog Cars, see also the car review section by make and model

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blog the Change for Shiloh the Hovawart

Blog the Change

Today it is Blog the Change day. A wonderful initiative by Be the Change for Animals. So far I have been reading a lot of great and inspiring blogs. In particular the blog by @boulderdog Healing the Planet One Animal at a Time.

Looking in my heart I know what really would be the change for me. It is also healing the planet one animal at a time. And that one animal for me at this moment is Shiloh the Hovawart. For her to get healthy and live without pain. For Shiloh to find her forever home.

Shiloh has been in my sights now for more then half a year. She is only 2 years old. And all that time she has been cared for by the rescue project HALO (Helping Animals Live On). Me and my twitter pals have been tweeting almost daily for her and were able to raise enough donations for her to get a necessary 2nd hip operation.

But Shiloh is still in need of a family. It is now already more then half a year. If we could be the change for Shiloh, wouldn't that be a great change?

Update January 2012: Shiloh adopted after 2 years 

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

How BSL can bring a whole country into madness

In 1600, William Shakespeare wrote in his play Hamlet: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark". Today politicians in Denmark proved him right. A Danish political party, part of the coalition that governs the country, thinks it is alright for people to euthanize their dogs themselves. When their dogs are banned by Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).

How did this madness came about? I will try to give you an update on what has transpired in Denmark so far.

Bad press
After bad press where people where severely injured or even died after a number of dog attacks, the government installed a commission that should investigate how BSL could be installed in Denmark. Like it would in most countries, this let to a heated debate between the people in favor and against BSL. The final conclusion of the commission let to a new BSL, which was accepted by law on July 1, 2010.

What does the law say
The law bans 13 breeds. One of the banned breeds only has a dozen individuals present in Denmark, and one of these individuals is used as a service dog. How the commission came to the actual list, remains therefore vague at least.
The ban enforces people to muzzle their dog when outside. It is prohibited to breed, buy dogs or re-home them. The sanction for people not using the muzzle is a fine the first time, the second time the dog will be put down. For not wearing a muzzle.
The law also applies to crossings of the banned breeds. If the police is suspicious that a dog is a cross from one of the banned breeds, the owner is obliged to find prove to the contrary, otherwise the dog is euthanized. On a suspicion.

Shelters overrun
It took only one week to get the first signs of BSL not working. Shelters rapidly noticed a sharp increase of owners trying to hand over their banned dogs to the shelter. Dog owners tell the shelter they don't want the dog anymore, because wearing a muzzle gives them a feeling of being looked upon.
The law prohibits the shelters from re-homing the dogs. Their own policies keep them from euthanizing the dogs. The only thing they can do is refuse to take the dog in. The shelters feel powerless.

Vets refuse to euthanize banned dogs
The Danish Veterinarian Association was against the law in the first place. During the discussions they repeatedly pointed at it is not a problem of breed, but of irresponsible ownership. They advised their members not to euthanize banned dogs that are healthy and sound. A lot of vets are following this, and as one vet puts it: "I have not become a veterinarian to euthanize healthy and sound animals, just because politicians can't do their job". Vets are not obliged to euthanize and they can refuse if they want that. Kudos for the vets, but what follows now, is shocking.

Do it yourself
The Danish political party, "Danish people's party", stepped into the BSL farce. This is not your ordinary political party. They are part of the 3-party coalition governing Denmark. What they suggest is that, in light of the refusal of the vets to euthanize banned dogs, owners can euthanize their dog themselves. I was shocked and couldn't believe what I just heard. Their spokesperson added nicely "as long as it is done in a humane way". Wash your hands beforehand? We all know how people will do that "humanely": drawning and leaving the dog behind on a desert place are probably the preferred humane methods. This is an outrage, and downrigth animal cruelty. That a political party can call for this, makes it even worse. She is now saying she didn't mean it that way. Politician afraid of losing votes?

Madness
How the BSL is evolving in Denmark proves again it doesn't work. Again, yet another showcase. Will we ever learn? The dogs suffer. Irresponsible owners looking for ways to get rid of their banned dog and are on their way to destroy the next breed they lay their hands on. A political party supports them in getting rid of their dog in a cruel way, or at leasts creates a suggestion. Everything leads to the opposite of what the law was intended to achieve. Complete and utter madness, I have no other words for it.


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Links to newspaper articles describing the above, in Danish:
Shelters overrun
Vets refuse to euthanize banned dogs
Danish people's party in dog fight
Press release: Danish politician says she has been misunderstood

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