Dog trains man

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kenzo's Trash Talking

Trash Talking? Moi?
We ended up scouting the new area we stranded in, Kenzo and me. The car had to get fixed. Again. Thankfully Kenzo was with me, and a walk beats the repair shop's waiting room and bad coffee any day. It was mostly a business park area so I didn't expect to experience any thrilling sights. When you have seen one, you have seen them all. But for Kenzo, a sniff is a sniff. It's good everywhere.

Passing a fenced-in area, I got a shock when a dog on the other side of the fence suddenly started barking. They always do that right at the moment you least expect it and when you go around in your own thoughts. Kenzo pretended he didn't noticed the disturbance, continued with his sniffing like nothing happened and only changed his stance to a little more low and calm, while keeping an eye on the other dog only from the corner of his eyes.

Excellent, I thought. That was an awesome display of calming dog body language, and gave Kenzo a treat for that. It seemed to have a soothing effect on the "guard" dog, so I threw a treat over to him as well - old habits die hard. He followed us all the way down to the end of the fence. And it was a long fence. He was still barking, but the alarm sound in it was missing. Kenzo remained stoic.

On the way back I thought it was better to pass on the other side of the street to avoid all the commotion. No reason to tease the dog after all. This side of the street had a long line of two-feet high boulders along the pavement, and it gave Kenzo plenty of opportunity to do some additional sniffing. Still, the routine repeated itself. When we reached the end of the fence, the dog stopped barking and now he was up for one very rude answer.

Like in slow-motion, Kenzo seemed to use every muscle in his body to make himself as tall as possible. His tail went high up into the air, and he took one step to the closest boulder, lifted his leg facing the dog, looked straight at him with his mouth closed, and released some water. The dog answered with a tail wag.

I just witnessed Kenzo "giving the Finger" in dog language, and I started laughing out loud, while Kenzo already was parading further down the road, celebrating his "victory". Studying all that dog body language is getting more and more fun, now I have opened my eyes for it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hovawart TV: The Housekeeper

You're gonna love this.

And? Was I wrong?


Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Ignore Too Much Bad Behavior

May I jump up on you? Please?
This is a post inspired by - and you might like to read that instead - "You Cannot Punish Love".

If you are still here, I only want to share why it was an Aha!-moment article for us.

We have always been your average "responsible" dog family and learning Kenzo and Viva not to jump up on people was on our shortlist, among others.

It didn't totally work out. Actually it is quite easy to train, you just ignore the behavior and they stop jumping. It was working quite fine if I could have resisted those wagging tails and cute smiles when I come in the door. But I can't. I like it when they jump.

So I admit. Kenzo is a jumper. It is entirely my fault. I look forward to the ritual that is going to go down as soon as I open the door. I just love to have his paws on my shoulders and get my ear nibbled while he bursts my ear drums with loud barks.

Viva is not a jumper, but that is because of her back issues, but she sure bounces. I come down on my knees for her instead so she can make a tiny jump and she loves it too.

Luckily for me they first start jumping up on other people after they have already had a couple of earlier good meets with them, so they will not jump up on just anybody right away. But all our regular house guests know, they will probably jump. If they don't like it, they should just ignore it by turning away, I told my guests. I know, it is not my finest hour.

Other behaviors, like coming over for a kiss and a hug, while leaving fur and slime on my guests' clothes, I told them to just ignore those advances too if they didn't liked it. Some didn't care, and actually let them jump and had a blast with Kenzo & Viva like I do. Others just did the ignoring by turning away.

And then there were the middle-way people. Ignoring the behavior, but making sure they were giving love in some way to Kenzo & Viva, in an other way. Like giving them a belly-rub when they asked for it. In hindsight: they were the smart ones.

Kenzo in particular started to develop a non-relationship to the guests that were ignoring him. He even returned to some of the typical behavior we know when he meets people for the very first time: he became suspicious. And that made things worse, as now these guests started to feel he didn't liked them. And in fact, he didn't. Not anymore.

It always puzzled me why that happened, and what I could do about it. And that's when I read "You Cannot Punish Love". According to the article, jumping up is one of the genetically hardwired tools a dog uses to bond with us humans. My poor guests were not ignoring his behavior and thereby shaping it, they were refusing his love. And as a result, Kenzo loved them a little less, too. In the words of Prescot Breeden, the author:
"it is the product of an entire evolutionary lineage that survived through cooperation and the building of strong social bonds through reciprocity, trust, play and affection. Thus when a dog is being social with us, it is essential to reciprocate their play and affection."
Dogs are complex social beings like us. Probably my biggest mistake was to see it as just another training exercise, without acknowledging what the root cause is that makes them actually jump up in the first place. So it is back to the training of the jumps, and this time in a way to make sure they get the love they are asking for in another way. I imagine my guests now having to perform a mandatory belly-rub or tug-of-war game as soon as they entered the door. At least, if they want Kenzo & Viva to bond with them.

I think I never stop learning, dogs are truly fascinating.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Viva's Inner Cat

We are well into our first month of raw feeding now, after we recently made our first baby steps. To my surprise, the first effects are already starting to show. Viva has gotten a lot more playful and self-entertaining. She even invented a new cat-and-mouse game with the raw bones we give her:




still staring...





The days that Kenzo was the most playful of the couple, or that Viva needed him to engage in some play, are now over. And it is not just the bones. She is a lot more active when we play fetch and she runs through the house with her squeaky toys on her own initiative. It is too early to tell if this is caused by something underlaying, like her allergies, even though we thought we had them managed, or if this is something completely new. Either way, it is a feast to see her enjoying herself.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hovawart TV: Don't Try This With Your Hovawart

Could you do this without the vacuum cleaner getting hurt?

I am impressed.

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!

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