Dog trains man

Friday, December 23, 2011

Howling Hovie Holiday Wishes

That's all you got ?!
We wish you a Merry Christmas and Howling Hovie Holidays! We hope you will have a couple of great days together with everybody and everything you hold dear.

As you can see on the picture, Kenzo & Viva are extremely disappointed as snow didn't visit for Christmas this year, apart from some pathetic snowflakes the other day.

We admit to envy all the beautiful white imagery displayed over at Lilly and Ginko in Boulder and Bajnok and Derria in Norway. They are so lucky with all that snow.

But Kenzo & Viva will enjoy their special holiday treat ... pork skin. Yummy.

www.flaeskesteg.dk
Danmark is one of the few places in the world where pork skin - "Flæskesteg" - is actually on the human menu as well. We are making a traditional Danish Christmas dinner for our family so there will be plenty of pork skin around.

As an expat, I had to try it. It actually tastes alright, but my Dutch mind cannot come around eating pork skin. There will be plenty falling off my plate for Kenzo & Viva. They love it.

On one of our holiday trips back to Holland, I promised to prepare it for my family. The Dutch butcher was horrified when I ordered a piece of pork with the skin still attached and telling him what I needed it for didn't help calming him down. He could only prepare it when a new shipment arrived, and after returning to pick it up, the entire staff was signaling each other: "That's him!". My Dutch family took it well, by the way.

So taking the menu and the absence of snow into account, me, Kenzo & Viva will launch yet another charming offensive for the family to migrate more up North. We want snow to go with our pork skin.

Happy Holidays!
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twitter Giveaway - Support Your Animal Charity of Choice With Cash



A group of bloggers are giving away 325$ in a social media holiday event:
  • 213$ to your animal charity of choice and 
  • 112$ all to yourself.
Last week you could use your Facebook account to participate and this week the event has come to Twitter.

Tell in the comment section which animal charity you would like to support and raffle with your Twitter account in the "Rafflecopter" below. Remember to return next week when you can raffle with your Google+ account too. In order to win you do not have to participate in all three parts of this event. We know that not all of you have accounts on all three platforms which is why they have been separated so everyone has the same opportunity. Good luck !

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hovawarts To The Rescue

This week I turn my blog over to Caroline Dunn - dog trainer, Search and Rescue handler, and Hovawart enthusiast - to provide us with a peek in the exciting world of scent and how you and your dog can do nose work too.

Venka, the Search and Rescue Hovawart, courtesy of MindYourDog
How did I get involved with Search and Rescue (SAR) and the wonderful world of nose work? Well, it all started with a Hovawart. A hov… what!? I hear you say. No, nothing to do with the famous school for witches and wizards. Although I think I may have been struck by a spell for luck the day I came across this rare German breed.

The Hovawart is a versatile general-purpose working dog from Germany, calm in the house but full of energy outdoors. They have been known since the middle age as faithful protectors of their families, watching the livestock and their master’s property, while also being excellent at tracking criminals.

Venka, courtesy of MindYourDog
Ours is called Venka. She has been working as an operational lowland SAR dog since she qualified with NSARDA in 2007. Many people have met our bouncy girl. She will lean on you for a cuddle at any opportunity. But nobody really knows Venka until they have seen her searching. Working with a Hovawart is a fantastic experience. It is all about respect and teamwork. They work with you, not for you. They have an excellent understanding of their task, great focus, but still retain a sense of initiative.

A lot of SAR handlers work border collies, some have spaniels or labradors. We have no reason to envy them. Hovawarts are amazing working dogs. To be fair though, many canines have the potential to be great for the job. Most of the breeds from the gundog, pastoral and working groups could do it, apart from those at the very end of the scale in term of size and weight. Having said that, I knew a SAR Newfoundland and once he had picked up scent, he was unstoppable. Mongrels don’t have to stay on the "back bench" either. We have a fantastic rescued boy called Red currently training in our unit, who is believed to be a collie x staffie. I will be very surprised if he does not pass with flying colours before the end of the year.

You may wonder what SAR dogs do exactly. Most use a technique called air scenting to find vulnerable missing people. They analyse scent that is being carried in the air. Many elements such as temperature, wind and terrain will affect how scent travel and a real partnership between the dogs and their handlers is necessary to ensure success. The dogs cover vast area off the lead, following directional commands from their handler and constantly checking and reviewing scent. Once they identify human scent, they will pinpoint the source, alert their handler, usually by a bark, before taking them to the location of the person.

You don’t have to join a SAR unit to have fun with your dog though. Getting started with scent work is easy. Here is a simple and fool proof method to teach a basic game at home, without any special equipment and whichever breed your dog is. You will only need a helper to get you started.

Start in a closed room, hold your dog and ask your helper to show them a "prize" such as a dog biscuit or a favourite toy. If needed, they may tease by shaking it in front of your dog's nose and talking to them in an exciting manner. Then, they should place the prize just out of sight, for instance behind a box or a piece of furniture, and take a few steps back. Release your dog saying "go search". As they have seen where the prize was placed, they should go straight to it. When they do, praise them. Play with them for a short time if the prize was a toy. Repeat this once or twice, not necessarily with the prize in the same place.

The next step is slightly different.  Your helper should still place the prize just out of sight. But then, instead of releasing your dog, either cover their eyes or turn them towards you so they can’t see what is happening. Your helper should then as quietly as possible move the prize a little further. Keep it simple at first, the prize should be on the floor and within a relatively short distance. When you release your dog - remember to say "go search" - they should go straight to the place where they think the prize is. They will be surprised that it is not where they though and start searching. Unless the dog stops searching or looks too confused, don’t repeat the command. I see many people who think they are encouraging their dog, while they are actually distracting them. SAR dog handlers direct their dogs during searches, but they also know when to shut up and let their dog work. Well, have you ever try to concentrate on something while your colleague is speaking loudly on the phone or your teenager has put the volume up on their stereo? And dogs are not always a lot better at multi-tasking than men… come on guys, you know you can't talk while you're shaving!

Coming back to our scent game, once you have done this a few times in different locations in the room, your dog should not need to see the helper place the prize to a "dummy" location first. Instead, cover your dog's eyes or turn them towards you from the start, have your helper hide the prize and then send your dog with a "Go search". Always use the same cue when releasing the dog.

The dog will very shortly understand the game enough so that you won’t need a helper anymore, simply place your dog in one room, close the door and hide the prize in the next room. Open the door saying "Go search" and watch your dog go.

Then the limit to how far you take this game is only your imagination, you can make your dog search one room, the whole house, the garden, the dog park… If you do not always use the same prize, then make sure that the dog is shown it first and has a chance to sniff it. Otherwise, you may be surprised what your dog will find for you!

There are many more scent games you can play with your dog. Air scenting is just one aspect, then there is trailing, tracking, scent discrimination, etc… Why not check if your local club offers any scent activities or join a nose work boot camp? All dogs love scent work, it is suitable for all size and breed. Learn the techniques and take your relationship with your dog to a whole new level. People who have dogs who always seem to want to do more will get the added benefit of finally finding an activity that will tire their dog out. Scent games can even help with dogs who bark or get destructive when bored.

About Caroline Dunn
Caroline lives in Kent with her family and their hovawarts. She is the head trainer at Mind Your Dog, where she create happy relationships between pet dogs and their owners. Caroline and her husband James are also members of NSARDA Cantech, a charity which provides SAR dog teams to assist in locating vulnerable missing people.

For more information about Search & Rescue dogs visit the NSARDA and the Air scenting search dogs websites.

For more information about Mind your Dog events, including their scent workshops, visit the Mind Your Dog website or follow Caroline on Twitter.

This story was first published on Safe Pets UK.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Facebook Giveaway - Support Your Animal Charity of Choice With Cash



A group of bloggers are giving away 325$ in a social media holiday event:
  • 213$ to your animal charity of choice and 
  • 112$ all to yourself.


Tell in the comment section which animal charity you would like to support and raffle with your Facebook account in the "Rafflecopter" below. Remember to return next week when you can raffle with your Twitter and your Google+ account too. Good luck !

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Once Upon a Time There Was a Mutt


The modern Hovawart
You probably remember the BBC show Pedigree Dogs Exposed. In 2009, it revealed how breeders prefer exterior characteristics above health. Crippled and sick dogs became the winners of dog shows and were used in breeding. The end of the pedigree dog as we know it was predicted.

What about the Hovawart?
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Plastic Surgery For A Hovawart


B-day. The day of Kenzo's neutering. My subconscious made it's final move: surely the appointed time with the vet was a mistake? But the vet - she is starting to get to know me - called after us with a reminder of the appointment.

And so Kenzo went on the operating table, well on his way of becoming 100% gorgeous to famous movie stars like Katherine Heigl. Have you not seen it? According to Katherine dogs are already 98% gorgeous, and removing two tiny little not-so gorgeous obstacles - according to Katherine - is the only thing needed to reach a one-hundred-percent of absolute gorgeousness.

As you can see on the photo, he didn't feel gorgeous right after the procedure. But despite small red eyes and wobbly feet he made sure to cover Viva with ear-nibbles on return. After all, he is 100% gorgeous now, and he knew Viva must have been looking forward to his return.

Everything went well. After all it is a simple procedure. And as soon as the anesthesia started to wear off, we got a smile too - although still with small eyes. It feels good to be gorgeous. Or doped? Alright, maybe both.

To all you commenter's on last week's blog, FB and Twitter: thank you for your thoughtful support and for cheering us up. You guys rock!
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

There Will Be No Small Kenzo's


But she is still my girl
Kenzo is getting neutered. Yes, we did embark on a project to show him, get his mental- and health state tested. And maybe it would lead to small Kenzo's, eventually. But we are going to leave that path.

I hoped it would take a year, and in that time Viva would only come in season twice. Not that we want to breed Kenzo with Viva, her health doesn't allow to be bred and neither does it allow a risky surgery getting her spayed. But the issue is that Kenzo with his manhood intact just goes through the roof when Viva is in season.

During Viva's season period he is howling and whining and only stops from pure exhaustion. He hardly eats, drops a lot of pounds and doesn't find joy in many other activities. Not even tracking which he loves so much otherwise. For us it is heart breaking to see him that way and we worry for his health.

Normally a female dog would come in season once every half a year. If the project would take a year, it would have meant we had to go through two more episodes. I thought we could handle that. But Viva changed the plan. Since we started, Viva has been in season three times, meaning she is in season every other month.

Every other month. Thats just too much, and not something I want to put both Kenzo & Viva through on such a regular basis. So Kenzo is getting neutered. There is a risk it will not change his anxiety when Viva comes in season. We tried chemical castration, and it had no effect on his behavior otherwise than that he was shooting blanks. But since we cannot spay Viva without risking she wouldn't survive the operation, I can't see any other options.

Their will be no small Kenzo's. In many, many years from now when he would have passed away, it would have made us happy knowing his unique spirit was living on inside some small Kenzo's enjoying their own life. A nice thought. As long at it doesn't hold us back from enjoying the life we have now. I guess giving birth offers a touch of immortality and therefore can blur our judgment sometimes.

Kenzo can have a more fulfilling life with joy and fun, doing the things he wants to do, than being bothered by what he needs to do. I am here. Kenzo and Viva are here, lets make the best out of it, right now.
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hovawart on the Job


Viva defending the company colors
Taking your dog with you to the office can be a lot of fun. Kenzo and Viva join me regularly. We all refer to them as the "Complaint Department".

Now they never read their job description, and a Hovawart will make a guarding job out of anything. Which makes it a little bit more challenging in our case.

Viva is the easiest. She loves people and showers the whole office with kisses. Not everybody in the office appreciates that, but it is hard to stop her when she is in love-mode. Viva needs me to be in eye sight due to her separation anxiety though, making sanitary stops quite a challenge.

Kenzo should have been even easier. He is raised as The Ultimate Office Dog: after all, he grew up in an office. We started our business at the same time we got Kenzo as a puppy. As with most businesses, we started in the garage. And when we were hiring, we couldn't pay a lot more than the wages. We cleared the 1st floor of our house and arranged it as an office space. People were walking in and out. The front door and the door bell were active all day long.

Kenzo was growing up in the middle of all the activity and I guessed myself lucky with some free and necessary socialization. He moved between the ground- and 1st floor as he pleased, and had a lot of fun with his self-appointed role as the doormen. Already that time he was suspicious of new faces, and he needed some hours to decide if my call that it was alright was indeed accurate. You cannot deny those Hovawart guarding genes, especially in a Hovawart male.

It could have ended here would I not have made some mistakes. I took Kenzo with me to basic "Schutzhund" training, just to see if it would be something he would like. He didn't, but he learned enough to pick up some skills he could use. Showing disinterest in training class to "arrest" (barking in front of a person) someone he "knew", didn't mean he didn't learn.

He just applied it in situations he himself deemed necessary. Which sometimes lead to hysterical situations, maybe you can remember his latest drugs bust - revealed in the comments section. Again a typical Hovawart, thinking independently and making his own decisions.

Viva joining the family has changed Kenzo in many ways. Being the man in the house, not neutered, and having "his" girl Viva, made him a lot more ambitious as well. I noticed it all too late, making it more difficult now to get him off the podium he created.

We all got a shock - after we moved to a real office - when a visitor came in and Kenzo decided it was time for his first office arrest. We straightened it out quickly and Kenzo and the visitor quickly became BFF, but I remembered looking in his eyes, this has been a great reinforcer for him. He gloated.

The worst I could do is to not take him to the office anymore. Socializing never stops, especially with a Hovawart. We keep some precautions and Kenzo is on leash all the time. When somebody he doesn't know comes up to me I have to be vigilant and step forward myself. Relieving him of taking a decision on what to do. He is constantly aware, and so should I. This is enough to prevent any "unpleasant" situations from happening.

We all had a laugh last time, when Kenzo decided to take a good nap and stop looking at the door closing and opening all the time. He lost seeing the point I guess, as he knew all those people coming in and out anyway. Yet there was a new person coming in without speaking - he would have picked up a new voice - and sat down in a waiting area.

I thought Kenzo knew - he always knows - and took him with me to go for a walk. Still half a sleep he looked at the person while we passed by but still nothing. I said hello, and as soon as the person responded, we all could see the confusion on Kenzo's face, he missed that one! Even his bark sounded disappointed. To make it worse I rewarded him, now he really was confused.

This post is for all my awesome co-workers. A big thank you for putting up with us!
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gift

It was time for some long overdue recharging of batteries. We all needed it after our last boring busy period. To round it of, we traveled to Holland for business for the week - again - and spent the two weekends trying to catch up some of the time lost on the family's favorite place, the beach at Kijkduin.

It was beautiful autumn weather on the beach. Low temperatures, windy, sunshine, rain, all at once. Excellent Hovawart weather and especially Kenzo couldn't stop bouncing, he even forgot to swim :)


Without me knowing it I was carrying a little gift in my travel bag. Edie started a book club on her will my dog hate me blog. Although I missed the discussion about the first book from Steinbeck, due to the mentioned busy period, I was prepared and had a copy of Following Atticus - by Tom Ryan and Atticus M. Finch - for the next installment of Edie's book club packed for the ride.

After both Kenzo & Viva were laying down after another active day and went to rest for the remainder of the night, I made the mistake to open this book and read the first couple of pages. Just reading the prologue was enough. I was hooked and unable to stop reading until I finished it.

I am burning to tell you all about it, but will not at this time as it is Edie's party. So tune in to Edie's book club session on her blog on December 8 where we can all join and talk about this wonderful book.

It is a story about hiking. And a story about dogs. But it is so much more than that. After you read it, I am sure you will see your dog - and your life as well - through different eyes.

Please read and join us!
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Look at That, Not at Me

No time to look at you, I am looking at that
Dogs learn from each other and copy behaviors of each other.

For Viva I hoped she could benefit from Kenzo, observing how he interacted with other dogs, and how he handles situations that would otherwise impose fear on her.

The exact opposite happened. Viva is making good progress – thanks to BAT (Behavioral Adjustment Training) – but Kenzo is going in the opposite direction. They are copying alright. But it is Kenzo that is doing the copying, not Viva.

Looking back, Kenzo’s change in behavior already started to develop ever since our very first encounter with an off-leash dog together with Viva. Viva snared at her, and the other dog snared back. Kenzo stepped in between the two ladies before it could escalate any further. He did not snare or growled, just moved in between them while making himself as large as possible. The other dog left. I thought it was just Kenzo being his diplomatic self, like he has done so many times before.

This scenario repeated itself with other dogs. And then one day Kenzo decided to act in a preventive way, and moved in between before the other dog could reach Viva at all. And in small increments, he became a little more persuasive as well. Without me noticing it - I was glad for the help while in the background trying to somehow keep Viva from going berserk -, he was learning a lesson I did not want him to learn. Aggression can pay off.

In the mean time Viva became a lot more relaxed due to the progress we made with her BAT training. She became so much more relaxed that I could start doing some “Look At Me” with her on our walks. When another dog approaches, I can use it to have her focus on me. She can still respond to a “Look at Me” only meters away from another dog.

Kenzo gave “Look at Me” a different meaning. For him it was a signal another dog was approaching – which in itself was correct - and he made himself ready to scare them off for Viva. Instead of looking at me, he would scout the surroundings for any dogs and locked in on them as a guided missile system. No matter how much I tried training it with Kenzo separately, on a walk together with Viva, Kenzo mistook it for a warning that danger is approaching.

Now I found myself in a situation where Viva was improving, but Kenzo was clearly in a downward spiral. Not something I would have expected, to say the least. And I needed to fix it fast.

I discussed it a lot with my Twitter pals, and while I chatted about it with @kimhalligan1 and @positivelydog, I got some great advice. According to @positivelydog  Kenzo was an info-seeking dog and with them “Look at That” (LAT) works better. That meant I actually had to reward him for looking at the other dog, instead of trying to have him to look at me. She sent me this LAT video from Leslie McDevitt – author of “Control Unleashed” - and off we went to try it out.

It was easy to train, as I can reward Kenzo for what is natural for him. When we are on a walk these days, we are just asking for a “Look...”. Viva looks at me, and is rewarded. Kenzo scouts the horizon, finds the dog, I praise and he looks at me for a reward. Jackpot!

It is such a small thing when you think of it, but it makes a huge difference. Having regained focus of both Kenzo & Viva once more we can move forward again as a team. The negative downward spiral Kenzo was in has been stopped. 
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grooming a Lioness

Before - After
We started treating Viva for her Cushing's disease more than half a year ago, and soon we were confronted with a harmless side effect.

Viva's hair growth was exploding. Cushing's had been suppressing her natural hair growth so far. And now it was rapidly returning to it's normal state.

In Viva's case, that meant a lot of hair. She quickly developed a "Lion collar", any Hovawart male would have been jealous of. It couldn't be comfortable for her having that much fur. And it wasn't very lady-like.

When I read on Pamela's blog how Honey grew "Muppet feet" and how Pamela executed some do-it-yourself grooming with great results, I went to arms. Viva needed some wellness.

Thankfully I started on the area below the chest, a little out of sight. My few existing grooming skills, if any, seemed to have gone with the wind. I had to give that up and I frantically started to search for an alternative, while Viva's "Muppet feet" where developing into "Muppet flippers".

Armed with a list of test questions on how to groom a reactive dog, I called around to local groomers but was left empty-handed. Nobody seemed to be able to refer us. Not in the dog training club, not the vet. Finally, we got a tip from Viva's water-walker therapist. She gave me the contact details of a groomer that she knew could handle reactive dogs. When I called for an appointment, we got a time two months away.

When the day finally came I told all there was to know about Viva and her reactiveness to our newly appointed grooming-lady, Jannie. She nodded politely through my whole monologue, and reached for the leash to take Viva in. I didn't expect her to do that, as she was physically absolutely no match for Viva and assumed she would need my help getting Viva crated in the bathing area in the back. But Jannie, nodding politely again, said it will be alright and off she went with 90lbs of highly-explosive Hovawart.

The longest 3 hours in my life started. I think I phoned Jannie at least twice. "yes, everything is alright", and "no, Viva is not ready yet".

When I could finally pick Viva up, I rushed into the shop. One groomer was busy with a Corgi mix and Jannie was grooming a Poodle on her table. When I started to approach Jannie and said hello, I noticed a blondish shadow was rising from below the grooming table the Poodle was standing on.

It was Viva, and she was off-leash. I panicked, expecting Viva to lash out to the Poodle. I reached for her, in what felt like being in one of those movies where you see the hero flying through the room in slow-motion while shouting "noooooo...", equally in slow-motion. She was too far away for me to reach. The only thing I could do was to hold my breath in a feeling of helplessness and accept the laws of gravity.

But the Lioness didn't roar. Viva rushed passed both dogs and made a whole spectacle out of greeting me, and the remaining dogs in the shop happily joined in for the concert. Viva had been taking a nap at Jannie's feet while she continued grooming other dogs. My jaw-bone must have reached the floor on the very moment I realized that.

I was so baffled and relieved, I was not capable of having any kind of intelligent conversation about it. Jannie did not give a lot of detail either that could explain Viva's exemplary behavior: "She was nice". Most important, Viva was B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L as well. Her fur was soft from the bath and her trimmed coat had the highest cuddle factor. The Lion's collar was gone as well.

Here are some pictures of Viva new style, and Kenzo seems to approve it too:

Nice trim Viva !
Kenzo takes a sniff on arrival at home

It's OK, Kenzo sends a look of approval :)
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Take the pledge: Boycott Petland

download this "pledge" and share
In an attempt to have Petland USA follow the example of their Canadian branch to stop selling pets from their pet stores that come from puppy mills, a petition was raised. In just one month it already gathered more than 45,000 votes.

When confronted with the results, Petland management decided in all their wisdom to ignore the results and even made up a genuine conspiracy theory.

As a response, a call for action from change.org, the BTC4Animals team and Mary Haight from DancingDogBlog was organized to join a social media protest for a boycott of Petland USA.

Everybody could join by placing a "pledge" badge on the FB walls of the Petland franchises. In an attempt to stop the bad publicity Petland USA closed their FB walls.

WE SHOULDN'T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT.

It is appaling they can still turn a blind eye for the practices that are going on, continue to sustain puppy mills that use dogs as breeding machines. Kept in small cages and never seeing the light of day.

In Europe this was banned 2 decades ago, Petland Canada stopped selling pets through pet stores. Other chains in the US stopped as well. Clearly Petland USA knows this. But they choose to ignore it and make money on the suffering of dogs.

Join this action and take the pledge by sharing the badge on your FB wall, blog or other social media. And lets keep on voting and sharing the petition as well.
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Waiting for The Happy Days

Where is that tracking dude? We are tired of waiting
During some crazy weeks for the business in which we worked like madmen on a bid for three huge "call for tenders", life had to wait.

Walks were just sufficient. No tracking. No training.

Kenzo's activities suffered the most. I canceled his mental test in our show or neuter project, canceled ring-training, canceled mid-week obedience classes, canceled the tracking exam.

Viva's vet visits, the holiest of the holiest, were of course uphold. She is in thriving health, and the latest Cushing's test with blood work came back just fine. I even got her groomed, but that is a different story.

Kenzo & Viva seemed to quickly adapt to the new routine. Spending their time waiting for the happy days to return. I worked a lot from home, conveniently keeping my own guilt feelings at bay. Being the active dogs they are, I expected a lot more protests and new "behaviors". Apart from occasionally stealing some laundry and taking their self-invented guarding duties a little more serious than usual, nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened.

No need to say that the first thing we did today - now all work was "finished" - was to go out for some well-deserved tracking. After Kenzo finished jumping up on me and slobbering my face, he did his best imitation of a vacuum cleaner, while Viva provided a background barking choir, in anticipation of her turn to track. They have just been waiting. Politely and patiently.

Happy days have returned. And while I write you this short note on what we have been up to, Kenzo & Viva are laying at my feet, in a deep and fulfilling sleep from a couple of hours of nose work. Just how we like it. And how it should must be.

I know I'll have to do this smarter next time. On top of all I forgot, when you bid on a "call for tender", you can occasionally win. And that's what happened, we won one already. 

A decade ago I spent a lot of time on books and seminars about balancing work and life and postponed getting a dog. How ironical. All those lessons were in vain and I needed a dog to get the message across. Now I only have to act upon that.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Viva the Tracking Dog Against All Odds

Who said a 7 year old dog that never has tracked before, and is fighting with serious health issues like spondylosis, cushing's disease, allergies and a fear complex, cannot track?

Viva is becoming quite an excellent tracker and Kenzo is getting some serious competition.

Viva has great focus on the track and there is not a lot that can distract her when she is tracking. What I love so much about tracking with both Kenzo & Viva is their different style.

Viva has a determinant style. When we trained cross tracks today - a "fake" track crossing the track I want her to follow - you can see that very clear. When she realizes she is distracted by the cross track, she makes an abrupt turn with her head and snorts, like if she is annoyed she has let herself get distracted! Here is a video of that - although it is difficult to actually hear the snorting part so you have to trust me on that:


Pretty impressive if you ask me! When we train cross tracks I lay treats directly after the cross so there is a reward when they follow the right track, or when they return on it after being distracted. Viva is an easy student.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Story of Ruby: Pit Bull on Death Row

Ruby
Now that there is a chance the breed ban in Denmark might become abolished after the election of a new government, it would be interesting to have look at other countries that repealed their breed bans in an attempt to learn from their experiences.

Yesterday I wrote the first installment about the Dutch, who repealed their breed ban in the start of 2009. This is the second installment.

What we can learn from the breed ban repeal in Holland is best told by Ruby. This is her story.

Ruby was seized in 2008 under the original Dangerous Dog Act, which banned pit bull type dogs. Ruby was put on death-row after being accused of attacking a 1-year old boy, but her owner appealed that decision in court.

When the Dutch repealed their breed ban in 2009 Ruby was still on death-row and her case in court still ongoing. The new law required any dog involved in an incident, regardless of breed, to undergo a behavior test before euthanizing. Ruby seemed lucky. As the new rules will apply for her too she should be tested first.

Ruby gets her test and fails. Spending 11 months isolated in the pound has stripped her from any social skill that was possibly left. Again Ruby is back on death-row.

RUBY BECOMES A NATIONAL CELEBRITY
 
A famous Dutch trainer, Martin Gaus (the Ducth "Victoria Stilwell") goes in and offers to re-socialize Ruby so she can pass her behavior test. The judge allows it. Ruby gets her second test and passes!

Ruby was finally set free, after spending more than one year in dog-jail on death row. Politicians embrace her success story. On April 22, the Dutch Minister responsible for Animal Welfare, declared in Parliament that Ruby was no longer a danger to society.

One month later, Ruby finds herself in the mids of a media storm. She apparantly seemed to have attacked 2 persons on the same day, together with another dog. And after that, attacked a person in the apartment complex she lives. Ruby is seized once more. The media goes in a frenzy:

 THE PIT BULL IS BACK
"The lobby for the pit bull and the new freedom of a notorious pet."

(see yesterday's post for the complete intro to her story as the press wrote it).
The television program "Zembla", the Dutch equivalent of "60 minutes", aires a 35-minute special (video in Dutch) with the above headline. The message is clear, Ruby must die and the Dangerous Dog Act must be re-installed. The behavioral scientist responsible for Ruby's tests, Matthijs Schilder, declares "the test seem not to work as intended and this behavior must be genetic", and decides to put Ruby on death-row once again.

SEEKING JUSTICE

The Minister is under tremendous pressure, but stands firm to uphold the law. Once again, Martin Gaus steps in, he refuses to believe that Ruby could have attacked those people: "I know Ruby so well, she could never have done this". Together with the Dutch foundation "Help For Seized Dogs" and Ruby's owner they go in court once more.

As it turns out, Ruby's so-called "attack's" where nothing more than incidents in which she jumped up to people. As was the case with her very first incident, which put her on death-row in the first place. The owner could not keep Ruby under control and stop her from jumping on to people. The Dutch Foundation and Martin Gaus plea for the re-homing of Ruby. The judge allows it.

Ruby with new BFF Angel
That was two years ago. At this very moment Ruby is living happily with her new - specially selected - family. Her is a video of Ruby in which you can see Martin Gaus on the left and Ruby's mom on the right. It is in Dutch but have a look just so you can see who I am talking about.

Ruby almost died 3 times, because legislation failed, jumping up on people was misunderstood as aggressive behavior, and her owner could not control her appropriately. As a consequence Ruby spend 1½ year of her life in isolation on death-row.

WHAT RUBY TEACHES US ABOUT THE BREED BAN REPEAL

The elements missing in the new law that replaced the breed ban came quickly to the surface in Ruby's story:
  • Behavior tests: you cannot test dogs that have been isolated for a long time. They will need to go through a re-socialize program first. This is now provided by the Foundation "Help For Seized Dogs". It doesn't always work. Some dogs cannot come back, or they do have an issue that cannot be repaired. But at least they should have a fair chance.
  • The owner: a part of the problem lies with the owner. If you cannot fix that, you cannot fix the dog. There is one Dutch municipality, that after Ruby has implemented a test for the dog AS WELL AS the owner. When the owner fails and the dog passes, the dog is re-homed. This is managed in Holland on local level, but hopefully makes it way into national legislation.
  • Law enforcement: the police is still poorly equipped and educated to investigate and report on incidents. In Ruby's case it was long unclear what the facts were. Good instructions are needed, or better even a specialized unit, concerning dog incidents.
  • Fear: the sentiment of people that are afraid does not change because you made a law. Neither does the media. In Ruby's case, her jumping was still misunderstood as aggressive behavior with people. It underlines that exact and precise dog-(bite)-incident statistics not only are necessary for proper legislation, but an essential ingredient to inform and educate the public. Enabling them to make the shift from a state of fear into a state of knowing. Unfortunately the Dutch have not put a sufficient registration in place yet.
The breed ban is still "out of order". Let's hope we all can learn from Ruby's story and how the Dutch are dealing with their breed ban repeal. The BSL ghost is still just around the corner. The Dutch had a close call. Thank you Ruby.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dutch breed ban repealed: what can we learn?

Ruby
Now that there is a chance the breed ban in Denmark might become abolished after the election of a new government, it would be interesting to have look at other countries that repealed their breed bans in an attempt to learn from their experiences.

Like the Dutch, who repealed their breed ban in the start of 2009.

THE DUTCH REPENT

The Dutch implemented a "Dangerous Dog Act" in 1993 in the same knee-jerk response towards dog bites we have seen all over the world when Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is implemented: 3 dog bite incidents - one lethal - made the news in a short timespan. The aim of the Act was to decrease the number of dog bites, and to eradicate pitt bull type dogs. In short, when you looked like a pit bull you were in trouble.

In 2009, when the Dutch found out the only statistic that was changing were the pit bull type dogs killed in the pound, they repented, concluded their Breed Specific Legislation didn't work and lifted their ban on pit bull type breeds. The Act was replaced with a new one, in which it was not allowed anymore to discriminate on breed to depict a dog as dangerous, but focus on the deed instead.

THE NEW ACT

Now what did the Dutch do in their new Act, "Regulation of Dangerous Animals"? The new Act, in short, contains these items:
  • Education and prevention: a campaign was started to inform and educate the public on responsible ownership and how to decrease the risk for dog bites. An excellent and informative website (in Dutch) was build on the subject why dogs bite and how you can prevent from being bitten AND how to socialize and train your dog to function properly in society.
  • Dangerous dogs: any dog, regardless of breed, involved in an incident must undergo a behavior test. Depending the result of the test it can be decided to return the dog to the owner with additional requirements - like wearing a muzzle at all times - or when deemed necessary: euthanization.
  • Mandatory identification and registration: all dogs carry an ID - like a chip - and are registered in a national database together with ownership information.
  • Breeding: a mandatory "good behavior" test for breeds - Amstaff, Rottweiler, Dogo Argentino, Mastino Napolitano and the Fila Brasileiro - that should be part of the pedigree. It is only allowed to breed on parents that passed the behavior test.
  • 5-year evaluation cycles: in which the results of the Act - the number of dog bites - are evaluated and possibly adapted.
Although a very decent list, in which the deed is punished and not the breed, one very important element is missing. When you want to decrease dog bites, you have to take the other end of the leash - the dog owner - into account. A missing element that will soon give the Dutch new headaches. But more about that later.

The new breeding regulations seem to be accepted and carried out by the Kennel Club. But why should we also not do this regardless of breed. I am not sure of the actual genetic effect, but what a great message to sent to the general public all dogs used in breeding are tested. It can stop the "fighting gene" discussion once and for all as well.

WHAT HAPPENED SINCE

As we speak, September 2011, the new law is in its second year. There is still no registration to enable a reliable dog bite statistic. Also the mandatory ID & registration has been postponed multiple times but should be in place before the end of this year. As always, implementing a Law is a lot more difficult than getting it through Parliament. But I don't see any reliable statistics ready before the first evaluation cycle which is a shame.

Where is the press in all of this? They always tend to play a dubious role when it is about dangerous dogs. Well, they waited only until May 2009 to make their first headlines. It is the story of Ruby, of which I will write in the next installment. But here is already a preview of how Ruby's story started, in "Zembla", the Dutch TV show equivalent of "60 minutes", in May 2009:

 THE PIT BULL IS BACK
"The lobby for the pit bull and the new freedom of a notorious pet."

They are known for their aggression, bite force and determination. Pitbulls are among the most dangerous dogs in the street. They caused serious injuries and there are a number of children mauled to death
by pit bulls. For years there was special legislation that would prohibit keeping aggressive dogs. The pit bull lovers revolted and carried a sometimes aggressive campaign to reverse the ban of their dogs. With success, because from January 1, 2009 the law is off the table. Why?

When in in the early nineties three consecutive children were mauled to death by pit bulls, the government acted. On February 1, 1993, the Dangerous Dog Act was introduced. Since then, the keeping and breeding of pit bull type dogs was not allowed. As a pit bull as a breed is not recognized, it was determined by physical characteristics, including width of the jaw and athletic physique. Did the dog resembled the characteristics, it was seized.

UKCE
After the Dangerous Dog Act was implemented, the pit bull association UKCE does all what it takes to stand up for their dogs. Association members intimidate people who dare to say anything negative about pit bulls. Dogs seized are housed in shelters. The owners of some of these shelters are then threatened. The pressure to return the pit bull is apparently so great that the Minister ordered the evaluation of the law by a committee. Their conclusion: the prohibition of aggressive dogs has not worked and should therefore be withdrawn. This happens on January 1 this year [Kenzo: 2009].

Ruby
According to the new law, the government may only seize and euthanize dogs as a behavioral test proofs that they are aggressive. Symbolic of the confusion about the pit bull is the story about Ruby. The dog attacked a 1-year-old boy on January 20, 2008. When the Dangerous Dog Act was still in place. She was put in an asylum and would be euthanized. The owner went into court to fight that decision.

In the long trial which followed it was agreed that due to the now changed legislation after the Dangerous Dog Act was repealed, that Ruby should undergo a behavior test. February 2009 Ruby gets her test, which she successfully carries out. Ruby was returned to her owner. As an extra guarantee Ruby even gets additional training with specialist Martin Gaus [Kenzo: the Dutch "Victoria Stilwell"].

The Minister reported in Parliament on April 22 that Ruby had successfully completed her training and was no more danger to society. But still it went wrong: on March 12 Ruby and another dog attack two people within one day. Ruby goes unpunished. On April 18 Ruby attacks a resident of an apartment again. Ruby is seized
.

Havn't we seen these headlines before? Sometimes I wonder if they wrote it in advance, and just opened a drawer and pressed publish when the time was right.

After the new Act was put in place, a new "lobby" was created with like-minded people that just couldn't cope seeing the pit bull types back in the streets. They erected a number of "hate" websites, like http://www.gevaarlijkehonden.info (dangerous dogs) and http://www.tegenpitjes.info/ (against pit bulls). They are not harmless, and a simple google test in Dutch will point to their sites instead of the ones supported by the government to provide education and prevention on dog bites.

Together with the press they form a poisonous cocktail. Can politicians keep their back straight in this storm. Does reason continue to prevail? Coming up in the next installment: the story of Ruby.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

New Majority in Denmark: Breed Ban Repealed?

Denmark has a new government after yesterdays election. Could this mean Denmark will now repeal it's breed ban? Before and during the election campaign we sure got the impression the new government would repeal the breed ban, once they were in power.

Let's help them remember what they promised. I changed the petition letter to target the new politicians responsible for animal welfare in the new government like this:


Dear Bjarne Laustsen and Kristen Touborg,
Congratulations with your victory in the recent Danish elections.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the still on-going suffering of dogs and dog owners in Denmark. Suffering that was caused by the discriminatory BSL laws (hundelov) implemented by the former Danish government.  I read the reports by Cecilie Thorslund "Danish breed ban rests on historically thin basis" and the recent research of the Danish association "Fair Dog" documenting that dog bite incidents still increase even one year after BSL was implemented in Denmark.

I am writing to you to ask you to re-evaluate the Danish BSL, as you promised during the elections. That BSL doesn't work is the experience from other countries too, like Holland and Scotland, which are a lot like yours. Although BSL does not make people feel more safe and decrease the number of dog bites, it does lead to endless suffering of individual dogs and dog owners, who have done nothing wrong. A new legislation where the deed is punished and not the breed, is needed.

Every time the petition is signed, the politicians responsible for animal welfare in the new government, will receive the above e-mail.

Keep on voting!

 Bjarne Laustsen

Animal welfare spokesman for the political party, The Social Democrats
Kristen Touborg

Animal welfare spokesman for the political party, the Socialist People's Party.







***

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's The Environment Stupid

We rented a small house close-by last week's dog show. Honestly, how interesting can a 3½ hour drive and a dog show be for a dog? So the idea was to give Kenzo and Viva a little bit of extra quality time.

The show was in "Skærbæk". See the right of the map below. And we found a nice place on a small Danish island nearby, "Rømø". A 15 minute drive. We never visited Rømø before, and we did a lot of planning on how to make this work for Viva.


View Larger Map

Traveling with Viva is not easy. Her fear of new places and dogs in particular demands some additional planning. Like to make sure the view of the place we stay doesn't have a whole lot of people and dogs go by. Or to find places for walks that are equally undisturbed.

All our worries turned out to be in vain. The island was beautiful and you could walk and see in all directions without meeting people or dogs. And it quickly showed from the first minute we spent outside, how much Viva just loved this place.

The first thing we noticed her do, was her interest to spider the horizon. You could see miles away and it must have comfort her she could scout the country-side ahead and make sure we were as good as all alone.


When we were on the move, she was ahead of us all the time and made her own decisions as to what direction we should go. Yes, this is the same Viva that is always on my side. Or rear. As manipulative humans, we of course took advantage of the situation and let her walk up and down the sand dunes. A great work-out for Viva to strengthen her muscles in the fight against spondylosis.



Even when we had been hiking for more than 2 hours, she kept on going. Independent. And ahead of us at all times. And sometimes she hit the jackpot. A fresh pile of fox poo to role around in! Sorry there is no video of that, although I am glad I could retrace the spot where I dropped the camera every time she did that.


I have never seen Viva take to a new place like this before. As a matter of fact, she even liked it better than the places we usually have our walks. She told me loud and clear: "It's the environment, stupid!".
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Father and son

Finally the big day arrived. Kenzo participated in his first dog show ever and delivered a "good". But we will remember this day for something completely different.

4 years ago, when we got Kenzo from the breeder, we also received a stack of papers. Inside all the papers was a photo of his dad "Odin". A personal message to Kenzo was written on the back. Kenzo's mother was a black and brown Hovawart. But Odin was a blonde, just like Kenzo. We always kept that photo and wondered if Kenzo would grow up to look like - and act like - his dad Odin.

The breeder unfortunately retired, and contact with the litter and both parents was lost before it could start. But we were glad we had the photo. I researched Odin, officialy named "Chaccomo vom Bohrertal", and found out he even made it to Danish Champion 2009. And when Kenzo reached maturity, he did become the spitting image of his dad on the photo.

When we drove up the parking lot to the show area, people were walking their Hovawarts and made show preparations. I couldn't believe my eyes when we drove by one particular couple. The resemblance with Kenzo was striking, and then it flashed through my mind: could it be Odin?.

What must have looked like an emergency stop, I hit the brakes and opened the car window, asking: "Is that Odin?!". The man, surprised by the sudden commotion, gave a hesitated "Yes?". And I answered: "I have his son in the back" and got Kenzo out of the car so we all could meet.

It felt like a family reunion. Kenzo and Odin couldn't care less, but for us humans it was a little emotional roller-coaster. For us it was awesome to finally meet Odin in real life. And for Odin's parents it was awesome to meet the lost son.

Kenzo (left) and his dad Odin (right)
As we were all nervous for the show, this wasn't what we needed to calm down, but we got through the day before entering some state of nervous break down. Kenzo, aka "Sveablik's Igor", got his "good" and we were all proud.

Due to my ill preparations and non-existing knowledge of ring-etiquette, Kenzo pulled this one through all by himself. Odin's dad gave a lot of good tips from his vast show experience and told were we - read: me - should improve. Odin himself scored an "excellent".

After we came out of the ring, people came to see Kenzo up close, arguing how it could be he didn't score higher. A Swedish breeder fell in love with him and asked me a thousand questions about Kenzo, scribbling everything down on a piece of paper.

From the jury report it showed that Kenzo scored highest on the shape of his head. It is so distinctive, and also what he has in common with Odin. The reason I could pick Odin out of 60 Hovawarts in a split second was his face. Other areas praised in the report were the width and depth of his chest, and his overall angles. And last but not least, probably the most important of all, he was judged a "Freundliches Wesen". German for a "Kind Spirit". Thats my boy.

We had to leave early and couldn't stay to see the finale, as we had to see to Viva back home. All those dogs would just have been too much for her. It was an amazing day, mostly thanks to Odin and his dad. A dog show can appear to be all talk about lines and characteristics. But when you know and love the dogs personally, it is so much more than that. I am so glad to have found this missing piece in Kenzo's tale. Boy, I am so proud of him, that sometimes it hurts.
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guarding Dog In Action: Hovawart Intruder Alert

1. "Who's that?". Here Viva and Kenzo notice a person at the end of the drive way and start to focus. Viva is on the left. Kenzo on the right.


2. "That's far enough". The person is approaching. Very clear body language of the lips in this one.


3. "Alert!". The person moved over the threshold. Kenzo sounds the alert.


The Hovawart is a guarding dog. They are wired to act suspicious towards anything new and unfamiliar that approaches their domain. If I would have opened the door and greet the person while telling them it is alright, Viva would cover the person in kisses right away. Kenzo would still be suspicious though. He will accept the situation, but will not loose the person out of his sight. First after a while or with a second meet, he will be able to relax more.

Anything the person would do during their first meeting to approach him, he would reject with a loud bark. How differently Kenzo behaves when we our out. Just yesterday in training class a person he didn't know came up to him, bend over (!), gave him a hug, and looked right into his eyes. Kenzo is maybe not thrilled when that happens, but he allows it.

I took these pictures when I caught Kenzo and Viva doing what a guarding dog does, and posted them on Facebook. They were so popular I thought you would like it if we shared them on our blog as well.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kenzo in the Surf

We just returned from a 2-week trip to Holland. I had to work a lot, but spend all my time in the evenings with Kenzo and Viva. The place we usually pick for our stays in Holland is pet friendly and close to the beach.

Viva feels comfortable because she knows the place by now. And Kenzo loves it so much here because of the beach. There is only one thing on his mind as soon as we arrive. Where is the beach! When we go for a morning walk, he is determinately pulling me in the same direction: "it is over there, come on, hurry!"

The weather was bad during our stay, but Kenzo doesn't care about that. He loves to play fetch in the surf.


When there is a good surf, he loves to jump over and through the waves. Sometimes a wave catches him and he disappears for a short moment, until he surfaces again. With a huge smile on his face.

Kenzo working on his timing

Although wet, some of the evening walks were accompanied by spectacular sunsets and we enjoyed the view on an otherwise grey day.


The sun did come out one single day though. To Kenzo's disappointment, as there was no surf.

Where is the surf? I want the bad weather to return!

Hovawarts are no natural water dogs like Newfies, Labs and Retrievers. But they can enjoy it, just like any other dog. We got Viva swimming in a couple of weeks. And she was 6 years old and didn't like water when we tried first. Maybe one day she loves it as much as Kenzo does.

On one of our walks we met this fun Retriever, that preferred sand over water. Here he is together with Joska the Viszla - one of Kenzo's Dutch friends - in a fine display of team work. You dig, I get a sand rub!



You dig, I get a sand rub
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Traveling Safe with Gates instead of Crates

Viva desensitizing her Gate
When you - like us - cannot travel with your dogs in crates because your dogs are too big or your car too small, you are going to love this product. A doggie gate. The gate has two separate doors. As if we didn’t re-model the car enough last time. But we felt this was really missing.

The separate doors allow us to get them safe in and out the car, one by one. No more risk of being floored by two stampeding Hovawarts wanting to leave as soon as the hatch opens - which actually did happen once, to the amusement of the travelers on the road stop place and some scratches and bruises for me and my wife.

Another advantage is when we park the car in the shadow in mildly warm weather we can still leave the dogs in the car with the hatch open. The doors can be locked with a key.

Inside look, how it was before
The seatbelt system inside their area did not work very well and they would either get entangled or felt restrained. Not restraining them would give the risk they could walk out in traffic in case of an accident. The gate solves this. Without the seat belts they now move as freely as possible.

The doors are universal and fit in most cars. You can easy assemble it yourself – which I did. We got the "Variogate", manufactured by the Swedish company "mim". As I wanted to see the product before I bought it we made a trip to Sweden to have a look although you can buy it on the web.

When we landed in Sweden our first address left us empty handed – despite calling them upfront and asking "do you really have it on stock? So we can SEE the product?". Luckily the salesmen at the third store helped us and called around to other competing (!) stores until he found one that did actually had one on stock. Swedish people are so nice and helpful !

Hatch open! Cooling down on the ferry
We had a great trip to Holland with our new gate. Especially Viva loved it. When we made stops she could quickly make a pit-stop and went back into her "crate". From there she safely observed the rest of us, while I was exploring the place more with Kenzo. Which made him happy as well.

With warm weather it is difficult to keep them cool on the ferry from Denmark to Germany. We are not allowed to walk on the car deck, but I can also not take two huge dogs into the public area as it is overcrowded with people. This time I just left the hatch open and returned to two very cool dogs, see the picture above.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

My 7 Best Posts

Many thanks to Roxanne Hawn from Champion of My Heart for passing on the “my 7 best posts” to us. Here are the links to our 7 best blog posts:

1. Most Beautiful Post: The Small Fearful Dog Therapist

What is more beautiful than a dog acting out of kindness? Inspired by Kenzo’s special relationship with small fearful dogs we ask the question if dogs are capable of empathy, and if that behavior is nurture or nature.






2. Most Popular Post: Danish Breed Ban Rests on Historically Thin Basis

We can’t take credit for the most popular post as we didn’t write it ourselves, only translated it from Danish with the consent from the original author. It tells the scandalous conditions under which the breed ban in Denmark came about. And how politicians above all want to appear decisive and disregard the facts.





3. Most Controversial Post: Welcome to the Wall of Shame Irene Jarnved

Not many controversial things happened on this blog. Although some opinions we voiced did cost us some “virtual” friendships. Closest we can come to writing something controversial, is the “Wall of Shame Breed Ban” series. They moved around on Danish forums and FB groups, once more sparking the debate, and making Danes aware of the bad publicity their breed ban is receiving abroad.






4. Most Helpful Post: Are You Prepared For a Dog Fight

When my dad was severely bitten trying to break up a dog fight we wrote this post on how to prevent a dog fight and what you can do when you are in the middle of one. We still use the post when we are attending a dog fight discussion in social media, and hopefully made a contribution to dog bite prevention. Having a plan never hurts.




5. Post Whose Success Surprised Me: Embarrassment Is Not an Option

Meant to be a simple rant on why embarrassment is a useless human emotion that poisons the relationship we have with our dogs, it surprised me to find so many kindred spirits.






6. Post That Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved: Meet Shiloh, Hovawart in Need of Help

More than one year ago I first wrote about Shiloh the Hovawart and it leaves me with mixed feelings. Enough money was raised to get Shiloh through her needed hip operations. But Shiloh never found her forever home and is still at the rescue. She is still awaiting adoption.





7. Post I’m Most Proud Of: Open Letter to Merete Eldrup

After seeing the appalling video with the collapsing vet euthanizing 19 puppies, this post was the first of a series in protest of the Danish breed ban. Among others it led to an international petition in protest of the Danish breed ban – you did sign the petition right? -  and other bloggers decided to speak out against BSL in Denmark as well.



Passing it on

We are passing the “my 7 best posts” on to these bloggers, looking forward to see what they will pick:

Julie Danbolt -Moody Mudi

Julie Nutter – Dogs and Tails

Jana Rade – DawgBusiness

Karen Friesecke – DoggyStylish

Jen – My Brown Newfies
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcome to the "Wall of Shame": Irene Jarnved

Irene Jarnved is Denmark's answer to Victoria Stilwell. She is seen as the public Danish nr.1 in dog training and behavior. A TV celebrity with her show "It is me or the dog" - yes, the name is no coincidence - running on Danish TV. There is not a dog magazine or dog related website in Denmark that doesn't have Irene writing editorials and columns. Irene runs her own training center for dog trainers, and is educating the next generation of Danish dog behaviorists.

Irene Jarnved is from the "positive reinforcement school", her methods seem refreshing compared to the average "old school" Danish dog trainer/behaviorist. And therefore it actually hurts me I have to write this. Unfortunately, the comparison with Victoria Stilwell stops at the title of her TV show. Her opinions reveal a lack of basic knowledge about dogs and dog behavior and she is misleading more than she is educating.

Irene Jarnved disappointed the first time one year ago in a TV debate. The debate was about dangerous dogs and if BSL should be implemented in Denmark. Irene talked about "fighting dog breeds" and "muscle dog breeds" - whatever the last might be - making a point that these dogs, at least foreign ones, are bred to fight. Although she is probably correct that some individual dogs have been imported that were bred with fighting in mind, that doesn't make a breed out of them. "Fighting dog" is not a collection of breeds. Fact. Period.

Her official statement is that she is against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Maybe Irene hired the same PR person as Jørgen Hindse from the Danish Kennel Club, and finds it difficult to align her public statements in interviews with what is written on her own website. Summarizing individual dogs bred for fighting and proclaiming them as whole breeds of "fighting dogs" helps to feed the prejudice, it is simply discriminatory, and nothing else. To the dogs, but also to the people that have these breeds.

A couple of days ago, a dog from the observation list - 12 breeds that are in danger to be the next to be banned - made the news after it killed a small dog. I would not have made the news last year, but of course the media is now all over the breeds on the observation list, fueling mass hysteria once again.

The small dog was on the leash of a two-year old child, and went around the corner, where a dog was tied down while his owner was in a mall. What happened in their meeting we do not know other than the horrible and fatal outcome for the poor small dog, but what is wrong in this picture is two things. It shows again it is not a good idea to leave your dog unattended while you visit a shopping center, and it is not a good idea to send your two-year old ahead with your dog. Two dog parents, how sad the consequences may be, that could have done better.

Irene Jarnved commented on this case in the most shameful way. Neglecting the issue of ownership, responsibility, and how to prevent dog bites - she started ranting about dangerous dogs and how to prevent being bitten by them. One of the advices she gave was to "pick up your dog if it was a small enough if a possible dangerous dog was approaching". On top of that, would a fight start, "it is best with a fighting dog to grab it by its collar and turn it around and around until it almost can not breath anymore".

This is absolutely fabulous, so now all people with small dogs pick them up, thereby imprinting their dogs to fear other dogs, and everybody that tries to break up a dog fight will be bitten. You just don't break up a dog fight by grabbing the collar, it is what you should absolutely not do. Did you noticed she mentioned "fighting dogs" again, btw?

Also remarkable in this debate is Irene Jarnved's ignorance of the effects of BSL. The owner of the killed dog expressed her discomfort "I really don't dare to have another dog with all those big dogs running around". My heart goes out to her and it is a very understandable response.

But this is a known effect of BSL, it doesn't help people to feel safer. You cannot ban your way into feeling safe. Irene missed also this opportunity to educate on BSL. Instead her comment on dogs and sizes was "It is never smart to place a dog around the corner, as that makes it hard to avoid an attack if you pass by with a smaller dog". Does that mean if I leave my dog unattended a couple of feet further will help?

What for me is the most disappointing is that Irene Jarnved doesn't use her fame to at least be an advocate in favor of responsible ownership and even better, speak out against laws that discriminate on breed. In that area she still has a lot to learn from Victoria Stilwell, using her fame and good name to influence positively, speaking out against BSL and it's injustice and horror. Like Victoria's article "Why BSL doesn't work", or her speaches about BSL at seminars.

Welcome to the Breed ban "Wall of Shame", Irene Jarnved.




***

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