Dog trains man

Monday, February 25, 2013

When I Grow Up I Want To Be ...

Kenzo - 5 months

Kenzo - 2 years

Kenzo - 4 years

Kenzo - (almost) 8 years

... A guard like my dad Odin.

Going done memory lane with the family photo album, I realized Kenzo's passion for his Stake Out job goes back longer than I thought.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Off Leash: The Careless, The Clueless and The Judges

It seems like ages ago Viva was fear aggressive towards almost every other dog. She lunged, showed teeth, growled and barked, even to dogs far away. When an off leash dog came close despite all her warnings, she could lay shivering on the couch the rest of the day. I remember, just after we adopted her, how clueless I felt about what to do. Thankfully, BAT - Behavior Adjustment Training - was the answer for Viva.

Today, Viva is far from what people would call a "social" dog, as she rarely goes beyond a sniff exchange. But neither is it my goal to have her engage in play or other social contact as she rarely wants that. The important thing is she now has the social skills to communicate to off leash dogs she really is not interested to meet them, without asserting to aggression.

Working with BAT did me a lot of good too. I am studying dog body language of every dog we are about to meet to judge how Viva would react and learned a lot from that. Can we pass by on a short distance? If not, how much distance would we need? Dogs that mirror Viva's calming signals, like looking away and starting to sniff something on the ground, have a good chance Viva will allow them a sniff, might they want that.

An excited youngster with a lot to learn, is no threat either, although she will tell them to bugger off when they would try more than a sniff, as they usually do. Viva does give the message on an appropriate level, making it a good lesson for the youngster as well. Her only nemesis are still the dogs that zoom in on her, and have a stiff stance. They send her over the threshold once more. Her message is clear, don't even think about getting closer. Still work-in-progress on that one.

Do you really want to meet us?
Would such a dog try to come close, I usually drop the leash on Kenzo. He will firmly yet politely convince the other dog it is probably not a good idea to continue to approach Viva. He is her biggest help.

The best possible scenario is, when it concerns a dog that was allowed a sniff, the other dog makes a play-bow right after the sniff. Something only the dogs with the most savviest social skills will do. It rarely happens, but it will trigger Viva to engage in some play and gain her a new friend. It was also exactly what Kenzo did, first time they met.

Along the line, I found out I can get a lot of clues studying the body language and habits of their dog owners as well, at least the ones that always have their dogs off leash and thereby could cause some trouble for us. I call them the Careless, the Clueless and the Judges.

Thankfully the majority of people that have their dogs off leash, are not Careless, Clueless or Judges, and do show empathy when they meet us on their paths. They make Viva's life so much easier. They leash their dogs, when they see we go leashed or when they see us trying to avoid them. Or they recall and have their dog to heel. At the minimum, they also study Kenzo and Viva's body language, to measure what is coming up the road ahead of them.

The first are the Careless. They seem to show no interest into what their dog is up to. They talk on their cell or are occupied with other things. A Careless owner with a dog that displays a stiff stance, are a risky cocktail. I make a U-turn when I see them come.

One of the Careless we've met, with a young exuberant dog bullying others on every opportunity he could get, really baffled me. When he noticed his dog was speeding towards us for a rump, he must have thought: "Ah great, he found somebody to play with", and sad down on a bench to make a phone call. After a body-check and a tumble Kenzo was laying on top of the dog. He just doesn't accept impolite greeters. The guy almost dropped his cell.

Then there are the Clueless. They are very into what their dog is doing yet they don't seem to get a message, and their dogs usually don't listen to them. When I feel that Viva would not like to meet their dog and try to create some distance or avoid them, they follow us, usually while shouting: "My dog is friendly!". It is hard to get away from the Clueless or try to explain it is not a good idea. Luckily they hardly ever have dogs that come with a stiff stance or zoom in on Viva, so I can relax more now, would they catch up with us. And as soon as Viva does her "one sniff is enough" bark, it also usually sends them packing, while rolling their eyes.

The worst are what I call the Judges. Self-confident, with a walk like they own the world. God's gift to the off leash dog scene. We are walking on their path. Whatever will happen next they're right and I'm wrong. Would we meet, we'll usually get scolded for being something inferior, and nothing is their responsibility.

When one of the Judges would have a dog that displays a stiff stance, that means real trouble. When we meet this combination, we get the hell-out-of-dodge. I remember once while getting away, such a couple met another dog when I looked over my shoulder, they found another dog to bully, commented by the Judges with: "They must find out of it among themselves". Their favorite sentence.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Something Is Different This Time

What many already feared, is becoming reality. The Danish Hovawart puppy mill is attempting to get back in business, like they did so many times before in the past.

The family tried to disappear below the radar, by closing down their main website and leaving a comment they have no desire to continue to breed Hovawarts. In the meantime rumors flourished about dogs that were kept hidden from the original two raids on the puppy mill. Also, the family was allowed to keep some dogs, under the condition they would re-home the dogs themselves. Of course that never happened.

Rikke Christensen-Lee, the Danish vet from "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" doing so much to help the rescued dogs and put the puppy mill out of business is convinced they already started under a new name - Goldies - and a new owner. Rikke tells to "Roskilde" local paper:
"In January it was Christina Thiim that was not allowed to run the operation anymore. It was her that took over in 2008 from her stepfather Torben Weiss when they came in to similar problems. Now they continue again, with Christina's partner as the new owner. The last dogs they promised to hand over we never received. We have to face that we have been fooled."

I had a hope that this time it would be the final end of them. You probably did as well, and although it was disheartening to hear the news, it was expected by some, especially the people that are already fighting the puppy mill for more than twenty years. At least we know what we are up against, a family so cold and without remorse, they can relaunch in the blink of an eye and once more parasite on the next generation of innocent dogs. Hard-core animal abusers for own profits, only a sentence and jail-time can stop people like this.

"Dyrenes Beskyttelse" is working on an animal neglect case, Rikke Christensen-Lee has already reported the new breeding operation to the police. Many of you reading this are still making an effort I know, by finding purchase papers of dogs they sold after August 2012, which will send them behind bars as well. We updated the Facebook campaign and you can help by sharing this page and we are also running google adds to find buyers - see the Danish version on the right. The Danish Kennel Club has now also joined the fight, and are investigating the role of the Police's vet, which role is dubious to say the least. The club is also more actively bringing news out towards their members. Papers are still writing and journalists still listening.

And that is also what is different this time. We are all still here, committed to make this stop. They can't fool us this time. Stay tuned.


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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wizards Susanne and Frederik, and their Hovawarts, Mammoet and Rico

I am very excited to introduce you to our latest Hovawart Wizards, Susanne and Frederik!

Susanne shares great photo's and daily tidbits on Facebook of her journey with a very special Hovawart, that truly is a "gentle giant". And not just because of his name.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizards: We are Susanne and Frederik. I, Susanne, was born in the suburbs of Hamburg, Germany. Frederik was born in Maartensdijk, near Utrecht, the Netherlands. We are living in Rotterdam at the moment. Frederik is finishing up his master of mechanical engineering and I, Susanne, am running my own doggy day care center at our house. It’s not very big. I only take care of 4 dogs total at once, including my own. Me and the boys really love it, we’re having doggy friends over almost every day.

Hovawarts: I’m the proud owner of 2 beautiful Hovawart boys. Mammoet ("Mammoth"), a black male of 3 years and Rico, a charming young boy of just 12 weeks. We bought both of our Hovies from a breeder. Mammoet comes from a breeder in Gouderak, a small village nearby. Rico we bought a few weeks ago from "Hovawarte aus der Zauberkuhle" in Burscheid, near Cologne, Germany.

First love Kessie (left) - Anton (right)
When I was about 13 years old I began to walk some dogs in the neighbourhood. One day, when I went by a house right next to the park where I always went a women called me and asked if I would like to walk her dogs as well. She had a gorgeous Hovawart girl and a black Terrier mix. I had seen those dogs quite often and always wanted to walk them but never dared to ask, because I figured that they wouldn’t let a “little” girl like me walk those big dogs. So I happily said yes, and that was the beginning of my Hovawart obsession.

I was deeply in love with Kessie, the Hovawart girl. She was my best friend and felt what I felt. I walked her for 6-7 years, until I moved to the Netherlands.

First after I had gotten married, had finished my animal care studies and was working at a dog walking service, we finally were in the position to get a Hovawart of our own. When we visited a breeder a puppy got on my lap and I was asking him: “are you Mammoet?” and he looked up right in my eyes like he was saying: “sure I am! Can’t you see?!” And that was the beginning of my second big Hovawart crush. Since then Mammoet and me are inseparable. He feels what I feel and I feel what he feels.

When we, at the end of last year, decided to have a look for a second puppy, I wanted the second Hovie to be more mellow than Mammoet, because he has quite some energy and temperament, and we found "Corvin aus der Zauberkuhle", now called Rico.

As I said, I work at home so I have a lot of time to enjoy my lovely boys. Except of the three mornings per week when I help other people with their household. In the morning we usually go to the park or to the forrest so they can run and play. Mammoet has a rubber ball on a cord which he loves. I throw the ball for Mammoet and little Rico jumps along with him when he comes nearby. So Mammoet gets his exercise and little Rico can’t overdo it.

On Saturday mornings I take the boys to the dog school. Rico just started his puppy class and Mammoet now started his third course of Agility, which he loves. Every now and then me and the dogs visit my sister, who lives in Amersfoort. She has 2 Bernese mountain dog girls. One of almost 2 years and one of 4 months, so they are great playmates for my boys. Rico’s sister lives nearby in Zeeland, so occasionally we go and visit her.

I love about my boys that they love doing things with me. Mammoet is very smart and able to learn new things and tricks very quickly, and he loves doing it. He is doing so well that we were offered a spot in the competition group of the dog dance class in the dog school. Although we never practiced dog dancing before. I’m so proud of my little champion.

Mammoet is just my best friend, I can take him everywhere and wherever we go I get compliments about him, how beautiful and how well behaved he is. He’s just a great guy and such a big help to me. He helps with the day care dogs that come here.

We have a coffee table right at tail wagging hight. So we taught him to clean up his own mess. When ever he wags something off the table like a remote control he instantly turns around, picks it up and gives it to me. He can even pick up playing cards and give them to me without any damage to it. He also brings me kiwis every now and then when my husband gives them to him in the kitchen and tells him to bring them to me. I can also send him to get my husband when he’s sitting in his room studying. He just stands whining in front of his door and hitting it with his paws until Frederik comes out and then he takes him to me.

Rico is of course still small, so he can’t do as many great things as Mammoet. But he’s getting there. He already listens very well for a 12 week old puppy and mimics Mammoet at a lot of things. When Mammoet sits at the edge of the sidewalk before crossing the street, Rico goes and sits as well. The same when we came in from a walk. He already lies quietly at Mammoet's side in a restaurant until we leave again. He’s really a great guy, he’s smart, and is already trying to outsmart us. We try not to let him. He’s a thinker. Quite often you’ll just see him sitting there looking, thinking. With new stuff he needs his time. He first wants to look at it and sniff it thoroughly before he trusts it. And he’s very strong headed.

Both my boys are great with people. Rico still has to learn not to walk up to everybody we meet. Mammoet is also really good with children, even though he didn’t grow up with them. He’s very careful and nurturing. I think he just senses that they’re fragile and you have to be careful around them. Rico also loves children. A little too much at the moment. He loves jumping up against them very happily. We’re still working on that.

Mammoet likes to sneak up on dogs. Sheep herding dog style. Until we’re close to them, then he walks normal again. I would like him to stop that, but how to try and convince him. He loves Labradors. You could even say he’s obsessed with them. He runs after them whining and squealing and licking their you know what when he gets the chance. Doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. Silly dog!

Because of all the dogs that come into our house, also dominant intact males sometimes, Mammoet learned not to start trouble with other dogs, but to ignore it. So he would never start a fight with another dog. He’ll just defend himself if necessary. Rico is great with all dogs. Just a little too enthousiastic sometimes. But well, he’s still a puppy. They’re supposed to be that way.

If you want to get a Hovawart of your own, make sure that you know as much as you can about training strong dogs, the nature of dogs and why they do certain things. If you are able to understand your Hovawart very well you will be able to train him better and you’ll have a great friend for the rest of your life that wants to spent time with you and will help and protect you in any way he can.


Hovawart Wizards, like Susanne and Frederik, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Going Raw in Baby Steps

Kenzo's facial expression after each raw meal reveals it all. Welcome to the dog equivalent of experiencing michelin stars and haute-cuisine. Every meal is now a feast.

We are making baby steps going raw. I keep a close eye on how Kenzo & Viva are responding to their new menu, mainly by doing a daily poo inspection and also following any change in behavior or energy.  The first week they still had kibble in the morning and only raw in the evening for just the first consecutive three days. Everything still looks good, and moving into the second week, it is all raw for evening meals. By next week, when everything is still good, we will go raw around the clock.

After Jan Wolfe gave us the final push to give a raw diet a try we tried to prepare as good as we could, yet it was daunting to actually start, just as Jan described. Like Jan, watching Kenzo & Viva chew through their first raw chicken bones, I too wondered if I would have to rush to the vet later that day. And every worry I had about raw feeding before, from salmonella to not-balanced diets, returned to hunt me, until my mind was spinning.

Viva growling in the dark...
It was fun to watch how differently they got reacquainted with their raw side. They both took everything out of their bowls and started to move it around in the house - while I was running after them and cleaning up after them where the chicken touched the floor, inspired by the salmonella ghost that was whispering in my ear.

Viva basically devoured her chicken, it couldn't go fast enough, while she was speeding to the darkest corners in the house she could find. We were just doing so good with her resource guarding issues, and I knew we had to start all over with that, when I heard that once familiar growl that send both me and Kenzo a meter up into the air. We'll have to return to feed them separate again, going forward.

Kenzo was very curious at first, and he inspected his chicken very thoroughly, sniffing and licking it, before he was content, and started chewing and eating.

Sourcing the food turned out to be a challenge, as we live in the supermarcado-big-city. I wanted to pay our local butcher a visit, but the reasons why I never come there all came back at once as I saw the doorknob of his shop. Instead, I took a drive and went to one of the more "fancy" butcher's downtown.

Apparently he already had a very good clientèle for his chicken carcasses and other left overs, so I ended up buying one of his organic whole chicken's for Kenzo and Viva's first raw dinner. With a price tag of 200 Danish Kroner (35 USD), they ate better than us that day.

Happily one of my Facebook friends, Torunn Kolberg, came to the rescue, and tipped me "Vom & hundemat", a Norwegian product of raw minced chicken, tripe and liver, that Torunn feeds her dogs in Norway. We were lucky, as it was available in Denmark as well, and I had a "dealer" close by. And on entering his shop, I discovered it was a raw diet Valhalla with everything between heaven and earth, when it is about raw feeding. We hit the jackpot, sourcing problem solved.

I only had to add some veggies and fish-oil - one day I added some brown rice too - and dinner was served. And a bone for dessert. Funny enough Kenzo loved the minced meat even more than the "pure" chicken, and this time it was Viva that was a little more reluctant. Maybe because it was minced? It only took her a day though, to return to her old devouring self.

And a big plus was, they didn't run around the house with their meals and ate it nicely from the bowl once more. I could put the cleaning detergent back into the cupboard. Excellent, as especially when you eat haute-cuisine, you have to mind your table manners.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spotting UFO's Kenzo Style

What do you do when your name is Kenzo and you spot a U.F.O in the water?

Over here!

Stay behind me dad.

I'll check it out, this is huge

The bridge we pass almost daily holds a life buoy for emergencies. Some vandals threw it in the water. Of course, that is noticed and taken advantage of by the Drama Queen.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

England Here I Come

Kenzoooo!, you are chasing the wrong ball, it is right behind you...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Celebrate Life With Cliff

Today I hand the blog over to Thomas, as promised in last week's Hovawart TV: Cliff's Smile. Thomas' Hovawart Cliff suffers from degenerative myelopathy. and they share their story on how they continue to fight back, and celebrate life against all odds. 


"Take him back!"
We always had dogs in our lives. Akki, a Siberian Husky. Mickey, a cross between a large and small Munsterlander. The story of Cliff the Hovawart actually starts with Pepper, our Dalmatien. Pepper was incredibly lively and couldn’t do anything at a walk – his slowest gait was a trot. In 2003, when Pepper was 6 years old, we got Cliff.

My daughter and I wanted to have a second dog, although my wife was not so sure about this. Our vet’s wife raved about the Hovawart breed and so we searched the internet for information before deciding that a Hovawart it would be. We preferred the black and tan markings and we definitely wanted a male. Finally we found a breeder in Saxony-Anhalt. There were two males still available – the strongest of the litter, a black one, and the slightly smaller blonde one, Cliff, who immediately pounced on my wife before she could even take her coat off. Who picked who? Four weeks later he moved in with us.

Young Cliff at 2 years old
Pepper was not so amused, his eyes said: "Take him back!" But after three days, they bonded and became firm friends. From the start, Cliff was very eager to learn and he has always been a wonderful dog – even as a young dog, he wasn’t particularly naughty. He has been content with his status as "beta" dog, and that only changed when Pepper was no longer so good on his feet and going a bit senile.

In the summer of 2011 we noticed that Cliff’s rear right leg wasn’t quite right. His claws seemed to be dragging on the floor at times, and they were shorter than those on his left foot.

Our vet found nothing, but as a precaution, he took an x-ray – everything was okay – no hip dysplasia, no spondylosis, nothing obvious could be identified. Then we noticed the dragging was getting worse, and when standing still, he would stand on the toes of his right foot rather than on the pads. The vet now referred us to a clinic for a CAT-scan and further investigation. Again all seemed well, and in the recovery room the vet confirmed that they could find no hip dysplasia, no herniated disc, no spondylosis – we breathed a sigh of relief. Then, the bombshell.

Because he was showing these symptoms, with no obvious cause, there was a high probability that Cliff had degenerative myelopathy. The vet's description of this condition didn’t fill us with hope, and when we went home and researched the internet we could only reach one conclusion. Shit! Shortly after the CAT-scan, Cliff’s foot drag even caused a claw bleed – he was very sore, very sad and his eyes said “I’m not moving now”.

We found a company called SABRO and ordered their Toffler Paw Protection Shoes. Two days later, they arrived – Cliff gave the shoe a thorough examination while we told him he would be able to run better with it on. He looked at us and I swear he understood every word. We put the shoe on his right foot – he looked at it once and that was it – “Yippieyeah! I can walk again!“

It didn't last long. Seven or eight weeks later, he had problems getting up, he could walk a few steps, but then his right hip would collapse, his right foot would cross over to the left and he fell over. He could no longer lift his leg to pee and reverted back to a puppy position for that.

In early January 2012, I therefore became more and more interested in buying a “dog wheelchair“. I found the German forum for disabled dogs “Behinderte Hunde Forum” which is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. All disabled dogs are represented – blind, deaf, three legged, dog in wheelchairs.

I found that the wheelchairs were expensive at 400-800 euros so I spoke with a friend, showed him some photographs and we decided to build a Dog Ferrari ourselves. Take a look at the photos and video to see the result.

During the building of the cart, Cliff had to have fitting sessions to make sure it was exactly the right size and shape for him – he was never scared by this strange thing, and in the middle of March, it was ready. We went out with Cliff into our courtyard and sat him in his “driver’s seat“. My wife, daughter and I were very excited at what he would do. He stood still, looked around at us, and I swear we saw him smile before setting off on his own exploring and sniffing every corner of the courtyard. An hour later we had our first little walk with him out in the fields. Once again he was a happy dog, free to go and sniff wherever he wanted.

Since March 2012, Cliff has gone everywhere in his wheelchair and we have only had one negative comment from a woman who had a hovawart girl and had to let her go due to her age. She said she would not do that to her dog. Everyone else so far has been very positive. Other dogs look suspiciously at the wheelchair at first, then sniff the tires, and that’s it!

Peeing and pooing whilst in the wheelchair is so easy for him too – he discovered he can just keep walking and his “trademark” is now a zigzag line on the road!!! Then in September /October 2012 his right rear let began to drag on the ground so we tied that leg up with a cord and he continued to walk in his cart with three legs. Then his left one also began to lose power and at the beginning of December 2012, we started to tie his left leg up too. Sadly, he is now unable to wag his tail...... We had reached the stage of needing to help him around the house.

He cannot use his cart indoors as he is unable to lie down when it is attached. I started to look for a harness for helping disabled dogs. After much research I found one in the deep depths of the internet, in the USA. It is called a Hartman’s Harness. He can wear this harness all day and it has a handle above the hips, rather like the handle of a suitcase. So, we can carry his back end while the front end is running – and I mean running!

He had to learn the meaning of the word “slowly“! Most of the weight of a dog is at the front, but the back end of a 40kg Hove is not exactly light – and 15 kg is a heavy load when it is moving forward at speed!

In summer 2012 I was looking for a second dog again, a while after Pepper passed due to old age. When I saw Cooper I fell in love. It took some persuasion to get my wife even just to go and see the puppies. It wasn’t that she didn’t want another dog or a puppy, but she was very worried that she would not be able to care properly for Cliff and also look after a new puppy, and make sure that neither were neglected in any way. It was a huge comittment and we had no guarantee that Cliff would be able to cope, either.

We talked at length between ourselves and also with the breeder, and finally decided to go and see them. Cliff came with us, and he was the first strange dog the puppies saw. He lay outside the puppy-area, behind a fence and looked at them. He was even nose to nose with one of them, but that wasn‘t Cooper. The next day my wife agreed.

Two weeks later, we drove back down to see the breeder and Cooper came home with us. Looking back, the first six to eight weeks were certainly very hard, but we have all adapted and grown used to one another, and even Cooper is more sensible now! He is very different to Cliff and announced his arrival on the first day in his new home by standing on the stairs outside barking at some pedestrians passing our property.

Cliff sometimes plays a little bit with him and sometimes even licks his nose. But when Cooper gets too wild, Cliff shows him his teeth. At the same time, however, Cooper can be very careful around Cliff. He brings him some toys and wants to play with him.... and Cliff obliges!

I don’t think Cliff loves him much, but he does accept him. For now, Cliff seems content and he is happy when we tie on the Tofflers and go for a walk with his wheelchair. We all hope that his condition doesn’t get any worse.

Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord.


Update May 22, 2013:

Late yesterday the news reached us that the lovely and beautiful Cliff passed away. We are so glad to have got to know him - although never in person - and his owner Thomas. For us Cliff will always be the one that taught us to celebrate life, even when it is against the odds. Run free, Cliff. You will be missed and we will always remember you. We wish Thomas Moers all the strength to cope with his tremendous loss.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hovawart TV: Cliff's Smile

A smile can mean so much. In Cliff's case, it means the world.

Seeing that smile at the end of this half-a-minute video warmed my heart when I saw it first. And it still does when I see it over and over again.

Please stay tuned, as Thomas - Cliff's parent/caretaker - shares Cliff's amazing story coming Monday on this blog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stake Out

Kenzo's self-appointed job is to keep an eye on things. To be a Hovawart or not to be. It is hard work. A lot of responsibilities.

Not now dad, I am working, I am keeping an eye on some hikers.

 Have to stay absolutely still ... and focused

Still, focused ... and vigilant

Oops, I moved. Did I still looked good?

It is not a coincidence Kenzo sits on that little porch on the side of the house. It is his favorite stake out place. He has a full view to the path that goes through the forest where people hike, and if he just turns his head to the right he can see through an opening in the fence - in the pictures behind him - to spot if someone is coming on the driveway that leads passed our house to the neighbors. Everything is under perfect Hovawart control.
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