Dog trains man

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Viva The Easter Bunny

Three years ago, on the day before Sheer Thursday and Easter, we brought Viva home with us from the shelter. Our Easter Bunny in disguise, complete with a basket of easter eggs. I can vividly remember each of the eggs she kept hidden for us in her basket during that day.

We discovered Viva was returned to the shelter by her former adopters on the Monday before Easter. I drove by the shelter later that day to have a look and hear more about her and her background. And of course, to express my interest. The shelter people thought it was best for Viva also to meet Kenzo to see if they could get along, and I got an appointment for coming Wednesday to bring Kenzo when the shelter's behavioral expert would also be there.

That Wednesday was the day before Sheer Thursday followed by Easter, which are all public holidays in Denmark, so I was slightly annoyed that would probably mean we could first get Viva home after Easter if it would work out. On the bright side, the selection process is there for a reason, and it would be best for Viva too, not to rush things. Still there was hope Wednesday we could finish the process.

On Wednesday the meet between Kenzo and Viva went excellent and we were invited into the office for the "formal" part of the adoption to answer what felt like a thousand questions. When I heard the shelter's director was not in - she would have to make the final decision - my last hope to make it before Easter melted down like snow in the sun. While answering the questions, my mind already started wandering off thinking about Viva, having to spend Easter in the shelter. My pondering was suddenly interrupted, when the interviewer stood up in the middle of the interview, and said she had to make a phone call.

Sitting alone in the room, me and my wife hardly talked, as we both in silence were trying to accept the situation as it was turning out. Not knowing that in a few seconds, we would both fall off our chairs, when the interviewer returned from her phone call, which turned out to be a call to the director on holiday, bringing the message they would be glad if we would like to adopt Viva. We could take her home with us already today. It was not normal procedure, but because everything looked so good, they wanted to make an exception. For Viva's sake.

The best highs are always the ones, that follow after the lowest of lows, so it took a moment before I could scramble all my brain cells to get used to the new reality while citing each Danish version of "yes, we would love to...", I could think of. My wife still insists to this day, I responded in my native Dutch language, without me realizing it.

Finishing up the last paper work, we finally reached the part in which we could pay the adoption fee and leave with Viva. But the Easter Bunny had one last easter egg still in her basket. The terminal of the shelter didn't accept my card. If my wife's stare could kill, I would have dropped dead on the floor that very moment. As she knows, it is not the first time my irresponsibility with financial matters put us in such a situation.

I rushed out to see if I could get the money from an ATM. And it was a slight relief to find out, after visiting the third ATM of different banks, clearly something was wrong with the ATM network and not with the color of my account. At least I could save face for the home-front, although now I had to fight the banks too to get Viva home.

Blessed with an account at an Internet bank - quite new in those days - I went home to pickup my laptop, and brought it with me to the shelter to make a wire transfer instead, which they approved as payment reading it from the screen. The whole visit to the shelter had taken three hours now, and we could finally leave with Viva to celebrate Easter and introduce her into her new home.

Kenzo and Viva made their first meet on what would be Kenzo's turf for the last day, and as you can see on the photo he was making his best impression of a peacock trying to impress this beautiful lady newcomer:

And soon after, they engaged in their first play. The Easter Bunny came home after all:


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Puppy Mill Relaunch Stopped, Cherry is Safe

Photo Roskilde Avis
The attempts of the puppy mill to relaunch their evil business are stopped. Last Tuesday the police went in and removed 12 puppies - 7 Hovawarts and 4 Golden's - and one of the mothers from the premises of the puppy mill.

The mother dog on the photo is Cherry, safe and sound with her 4-week old pups in the shelter. The news that she is now found and rescued, is especially delightful.

Like many other dogs used for breeding by the puppy mill, Cherry was bought by the puppy mill under false pretenses from a reputable breeder abroad. Now almost 6 years ago. When the puppy mill was exposed and the dogs were seized, Cherry was not among the rescues. The uncertainty started, if Cherry already had died, or if she still was in the claws of the puppy mill, being kept hidden somewhere.

As we now know, Cherry was kept hidden because she was expecting puppies, and was already during the first raids earmarked by the puppy mill owner to be a part of the relaunch. Now Cherry like the others is out of this hell-on-earth, let's hope she can still grab her second chance for a better life. For Cherry's breeder, all the worry, feelings of guilt and powerlessness, can now find closure.

The seizure of the dogs was a clear message to the puppy mill owner that - unlike how it went in the past - this time nobody is fooled by their claim to have stopped breeding, and they will not be lost out of sight, until they are trialed for animal abuse and neglect. A case - build up by "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" - that is well under way, but unfortunately will take to the end of the year to prepare and prosecute.

In the mean time, we still have to keep our eyes open, as this will most likely not be their last relaunch attempt. We must assume, they still have Bamira somewhere, and the next relaunch victim might therefore already be chosen.

It is good to notice that two important allies are added to the opposition of the puppy mill. First, the police. So reluctant to do anything before, they didn't hesitated this time to move in and seize the dogs. Secondly, the Minister of Agriculture & Animal Welfare, Mette Gjerskov. As we know she is working on a proposal to change the legislation for dog breeding operations. And as an indication of her focus on the case, she even had the news on her FB page before me. A prelude to some legislation that can stop this once and for all?


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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Meet-up With The Former Puppy Mill Hovawarts

Not just your average Hovawart meet-up happened yesterday. It was the dogs rescued from the former Danish puppy mill !

The event was hosted by the "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" shelter, in an attempt to keep in touch with the families and help where they can. Not all could make it, as there was a snow-storm obstructing traffic. I think in all there were still around 15 dogs and 40 people, a great turn-up.

The dogs, now ranging from 4 months and up, were first allowed to burn off some energy and play with each other, and mingle with all the people. It surprised me how easy they initiated contact and I don't think there wasn't a pup that didn't rushed up to me to say hello. Not something I would have expected from former puppy mill dogs, and an impressive example of a dog's resilience and how great these dogs are actually already doing.

As the group swelled, I noticed the late-comer - blond Bob - was slightly impressed by the sight of such a large group of dogs and people clustered together, before he jumped head first into the melee of arms, legs and paws. I think that took him a whole second to think about, brave little fellow, just 4 months old now.

And you could already see all their different personalities shine, and yes, they were all rumping and playing and gave everybody a little prelude of some rough play to come, when they get older. Once they all burned some energy, we went inside - yes, the dogs too -, where I was given the opportunity to tell the Hovawart tale.

We talked about the breed's characteristics, behavior, socializing, training, meeting other dogs, every day care, and more. The new dog parents were very curious and asked many questions. Some about the practical things they deal with now, but also what lays ahead, being an owner of a Hovawart and a former puppy mill dog at the same time.

My impression was that "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" has found some awesome families for the dogs. Each one of them displayed a lot of committment. A couple of them were actually former Hovawart owners, that had a puppy from the puppy mill before - although they didn't know at that time it was a puppy mill -, how awesome is that and what a leap of faith.

During the inside session the dogs still behaved nicely, and that made today a great socialization event for them as well. And they were a great help for me too. When we reached to the subject of "bullying", a pup decided to start humping the house-labrador of the shelter. I could rest my case. Next subject.

Meeting all those wonderful people with their wonderful dogs today, was without a doubt, exhilarating to be a part of. I still wish I could be a fly on the wall with them all. I furiously wish them all the best going forward.


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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dogs Play Chess Too

With only one ball to play fetch, Kenzo and his pal Joska the Viszla, change their game of chase into a game of chess - who owns the one ball and how to hold on to it as long as possible.

The problem is though, when you hold on to the ball, it is difficult to greet others or have a sniff, or investigate all the goodies you find on a beach. And once released, the other chess opponent is never far away to steal "your" valuable item.

They think and develop strategies about how they can hold on to it anyway, and outsmart the other. Kenzo thought he had found the ultimate strategy. As Joska doesn't like to get wet above his toetips, Kenzo trots down into the shallow water, drops the ball, returns to do what catched his attention in the first place, and then comes back to pick up the ball again. It worked, over and over again.

Seems far enough over here

Ball is safe, outsmarted him again

To Kenzo's surprise - he didn't notice the small stretch of sand - it was Kenzo that was outsmarted by Joska this time. He could only watch in horror how his strategy just failed, while holding his breath.

This is not happening?!?

Back to the planning board. The chess game continues. I wonder what they come up with as their next move.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hovawart TV: Wrestlemania

If you have a Hovawart you know this picture, wrestle time has arrived!


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.
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