Dog trains man

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Learning To Share

Until recently, a picture like this made my heart skip a beat:

The toy falls in the wrong place, exactly in the middle of both Kenzo and Viva and they have an equal opportunity to reach it. When one of your dogs is a resource guarder, like Viva, it is a disaster waiting to happen. A resource guarder has to own whatever it is they value high, usually a toy or food. And they'll fight to get it.

When resource guarding would lead to a conflict their relationship could be disturbed for ever. And I know plenty of people that had to give up one of their dogs because it has gotten totally out of hand and the relationship seemed beyond repair.

Managing Viva's resource guarding has therefore always been a big deal to me. The very first time I tried to play with Viva, now three years ago, I remember she left me baffled. She would take the toy as far away from me as possible, and her body stiffened as I tried to approach her. Since then, I worked with her, two or three times a day, to reach where we are today.

The obvious thing to do was to exchange the toy for a treat, and then give it back again, so Viva learns I won't take it away and it is fun to let me have the toy for a moment. Like we did with Kenzo, when he was a puppy, to socialize him how to interact with people and dogs when there are toys in the mix.

But that was a bridge too far for Viva, and the first half year just went by letting her have it, and acting casual and not interested around her when she had a toy. Then when she started to trust me with her toy around, I started making "play-ish" movements in her direction, which she recognized as play, yet kept her distance, but the blink in her eyes revealed she was enjoying it.

I think it was somewhere near the end of that first year Viva decided to make the next step. When I stopped that day with our game - of still making "play-ish" movements in her direction - and put my attention elsewhere, I noticed Viva was approaching me ... with her toy. She didn't want me stop. Finally we could get started with our training, and soon after we made our very first toy-for-treat exchange.

One-and-a-half year in she started to enjoy teasing me with her toy. Sometimes I found Viva standing beside me, pushing her toy against my hand. When I reached out she turned her head or made a step back so I couldn't reach it. After a second, I could feel her touching my hand again, asking for more. And when she dropped the toy she pushed her nose against my pocket, "treat please! didn't you notice?".

Although Viva and me were good now, it took longer with Kenzo in the equation. Thankfully Kenzo is blessed in being the absolute opposite of a resource guarder, and already proved he can cope with resource guarders before. But Viva remained more fierce towards Kenzo if he would run off with her toy. Kenzo quickly dropped it again, as soon as he discovered Viva noticed him. These next shots show how careful he is around Viva and a toy:

Kenzo sneaks in when he notices Viva drops her toy

 Just Viva's head turn makes Kenzo hit the emergency brakes

 Viva has it again ... of course

As it slowly became more clear to Viva that Kenzo was not out on owning what is "hers", she could relax more. At least during that second year, we could have toys laying around, and we could start trusting her enough not to start a fight over it.

Of course Kenzo took advantage of the fact Viva was getting more relaxed, and started to tease her by keeping a toy longer in an attempt to invite Viva to chase him, after which he quickly dropped the toy. And ran a little further, just in case. And so we slowly reached into the third year, where we finally noticed if the toy would end up in the middle of them like in the photo above, Viva was ok with letting Kenzo have it. Also for a longer while.

And this month we had our first encounter where they found themselves both on the end of a tug-of-war rope, and after a second that seemed to last a century, Viva let it go, for the very first time, and chased Kenzo-with-rope instead, because that is a lot more fun.

We can all relax a little bit more now, and although I think it is not necessary anymore to oversee and help them in their play, I think I'll keep my eyes open for a while still, just in case.


Kenzo & Viva Art Surprise

What do you think? Aren't they beautiful?



You probably noticed these watercolor paintings are based on the photo's I carry on the top banner of the blog. I selected them because they both capture their different characters so well. Viva, with her sweet, loving and also somewhat dependent look. It's her expression when she feels safe and just wants to be close to me. Kenzo, the eternal optimist, having fun in the moment, and already scouting for the next thing to enjoy, full of misschief.

All credit's go to the talented and gifted Margie K. for these beautiful watercolor painted versions of my favorite couple. I am forever grateful to you Margie.

When I look at the paintings, I also think back at Shiloh the Hovawart, as Margie and me met trying to help getting Shiloh adopted. Which after a long two year fight for Shiloh and two hip operations, finally got a happy ending.

I have a lot to smile about, when I look at the wall, where they are shining now.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hovawart TV: Interior Dog-orating

What a way to welcome the new puppy:

Odin sets a new standard!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Kenzo The Saluki

When I found out an actual Saluki sighthound was used in the "re-creation" of the Hovawart, I started looking at Kenzo for clues of such an ancestry. And indeed, when he uses all the muscles in his face to retract that, otherwise beautiful, Newfoundland facial skin, it does show:


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Puppy Buyer From Denmark? Hovawart Breeders Beware

When you are a Hovawart breeder you might want to be careful when you are contacted by a puppy buyer from Denmark. The Danish Hovawart puppy mill is out of operation but well underway with yet another relaunch attempt. As their latest relaunch attempt failed, they are trying a new tactic this time.

They are moving to a new address with new owners - still from within the same family - and try to set up a network of "satellite breeders". They have re-opened their website and added an additional website that denies everything that happened in the last twenty years in an attempt to window dress their reputation.

You might wonder why that matters to you and your puppies. Let me explain. As they have only few dogs left, they need to rebuild their stock. Like they have done in the past, when they bought Hovawart puppies from all over Europe while pretending they are just Hovawart-lovers and don't want to breed, hiding the fact they will only move them into their cages and breed for profit. Like it happened with Hovawarts as Cherry from Holland, Bamira from Poland, and many, many more.

This time they will not use their own names, or try to contact you themselves. They will let the new "satellite breeders" do that for them.

In short, if you have a buyer from Denmark, there is a risk your puppy will end up in their puppy mill. The photo on the right is showing how your puppy will spent the rest of its life. I know you don't want that to happen.

Use your Danish network to double check the buyers. If you have none, I would like to offer my help, by checking the buyer's name for you and see if it could be suspect. I count on the Danish network that fights the puppy mill, to pass me the names of people that are suspect and I can cross-check the name on both lists. I know it is not a guarantee, but at least there is something we can do, by working together across borders.

Please drop me a mail at kenzohw (at) gmail (dot) com, or send a private message on Facebook. All requests and names will be dealt with in complete discretion. I will not supply any names to protect people's privacy, but I will let you know when the name matches the name of a suspect person.

I know you will do your due diligence even sharper than usual, and put in your buyer contract your approval is needed if your puppy buyer ever would want to re-home of sell your dog.

Last but not least, let's not forget that people from Denmark are not suspects. We are dealing with just a few rotten apples we need to root out. The majority of callers from Denmark will be loving families, providing good homes for your dogs.

Thank you for helping. Let's keep one step ahead of them.


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


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How A Brave Trio Freed 5 Dogs From The Puppy Mill

There is one more story to tell about the unraveling of the Danish Hovawart puppy last February, when a group of three people took matters in their own hands and freed five dogs from the puppy mill. This is what happened.

After the Danish Animal Welfare Organization "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" in January 16 moved in to seize the first group of 25 dogs, the story reached a wider audience through local and social media, and left many in disbelief there were 30 dogs still left behind. Apart from sharing the news, writing letters and signing the petition that was underway at that moment, many felt frustrated why not more was done, why not more could be done.

It all came to an outburst on Saturday, January 19, the day that by coincidence also was the funeral of Gitte H., one of the puppy mill owners. Two locals Michelle and Ditte had set their minds to free the dogs that day. Through Facebook they discussed it with Linse Kessler, a Danish celebrity and dog lover, and she wanted to join them in the rescue attempt.

Although they very well knew it was illegal and vigilante what they were about to do, they were willing to take the risk for the sake of the dogs. And in the morning, they turned up at the property, which was to their surprise deserted due to the ongoing funeral the trio was not aware of, and they could undisturbed enter the stables. Nothing could have prepared them for the sight that met them inside.

The dogs in need of immediate veterinarian attention were removed some days earlier by "Dyrenes Beskyttelse", but the stench of urine and feces and the sight of emaciated dogs in cages they have spent their whole life in is overwhelming nonetheless. Linse Kessler videotaped what happened when they went in, a tape just recently disclosed in one of her TV shows.

In the middle of removing the dogs, they were discovered by a mailman, who sounded the alarm, and the trio fled the puppy mill with 5 puppies under their arms, Hovawarts and Goldens. They moved them to a secure place and started to contemplate what to do next, as contacting any vet would alarm the authorities, with the risk the dogs would be returned.

Then the most unlikely thing happened, when - as we already know - later that same day four celebrities also paid the puppy mill a visit for the very same reasons as Michelle, Ditte and Linse, and bought the remaining dogs their freedom. Now all dogs could be handed over to "Dyrenes Beskyttelse".

All but one. During the rescue Linse Kessler fell in love with one of the Golden puppies, that bit her hair and stole her hat while driving them away from the puppy mill in the car. Linse was allowed later by the shelter, to adopt this puppy, "Jytte".

The story remained untold until some weeks ago, so I am happy to be able to shed some light on this trio now as well, without that I will have to be afraid to get them into trouble. It might be illegal what they did, and it sure is dangerous, but I am glad they let their heart speak, and were so brave to put themselves in harms way for the wellbeing of the dogs.


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


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First Results Start To Show From Our Raw Diet

I wish I had made a "before" photo. These are Kenzo's teeth, now 4 months into our switch from kibble to a raw fed diet. Most of the tartar on his teeth is gone. An amazing result. Kenzo's vet was as delighted as I was during his yearly check-up. His teeth are doing a lot better.

Kenzo and Viva benefited differently from their raw diet. Viva, at age 8 now, always had healthy teeth, also in her kibble days, and there was not much to improve. For Viva the main benefit was a complete energy boost, that showed quite early in the diet switch.

She needs constant and balanced training for her spondylosis, so her renewed energy is a great help in battling her back-issues. Not too much training to strain her, not too little to keep the joints flexible and muscles strong. We always had to stimulate her to really use her muscles, as strong muscles are essential to compensate for the spondylosis, but that is history now.

On a raw diet she is much more willing to go the extra mile, chase the ball one more time, and use those muscles to keep them fit. A joy to witness. Kenzo benefits too, as they play a whole lot more together, and Viva doesn't give up anymore after a couple of runs.

One of the surprises was that Kenzo's after the switch never had any stomach trouble, where before he always responded sensitive to any change or addition to his diet. His digestive system seems also to have benefited.

During the weekdays we feed them minced chicken with tripe, some cooked veggies, mostly broccoli and carrots as they love those, a vitamin-A supplement, fish oil, and - only for Viva - glucosamine. In the weekend they also get some organic yoghurt with eggs, some offal, and a huge lamb bone for crunching and working those teeth.

I always hung on to kibble because I thought it to be convenient. Now I am surprised how easy it actually is to feed raw and find it just as convenient.

The only thing that still freaks me out is when they crunch the bones. I always keep an eye out and are ready to rush to the vet if we would get unlucky. So far they do their chewing quite fine and methodically.

If you think of switching to raw, you can start by lurking in the Raw feeding facebook group. They have some great start up guides, and the people in it are very helpfull and non-judgemental. It helped me a lot answering the practical questions that follow along the way, like how do I ensure a balanced diet, how about worms and other parasites, how about salmonella, etc. Questions I will focus on as well later on this blog.


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Mystery Of The Blond Hovawart

When you see this photo of a Russian yellow retriever, it is compelling to believe his supposed ancestor, the Russian tracker, could be a Hovawart ancestor as well. Especially when you know it was used for guarding life-stock and had the size of the current Hovawart. On top of it, it would explain how we ended up with a blond Hovawart.

As the myth goes, the creator of the Russian yellow retriever, Col. William Trench, roamed the Russian mountains for these dogs and brought them back with him to breed Golden retrievers.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Blond Retriever Or Golden Hovawart?

They do look a like, the blond Hovawart and the Golden retriever. I always wondered if both could have an ancestor in common that we don't know of. Not all Golden retriever "types" do look like blond Hovawarts, a german Golden is unmistakenly not a Hovawart also because of its smaller size. But when you look at the large North American Golden retriever, it gets a lot more difficult to see who is who.

These photo's from retrieverman's blog set an excellent example, who is the retriever and who is the Hovawart?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Viva Making New Friends

We took a little risk on our latest visit to the Danish West-coast by bringing a house guest. It was Joska the Viszla, Kenzo's great pal, stayed with us for the whole week. Viva knows Joska of course, but so far, Joska was only tolerated by Viva if he would show her his most polite behavior. And Joska walked the gauntlet the first two days, his every move sharply observed by Viva. Until Viva de-iced, and welcomed him into the group.

She even played with both Kenzo and Joska on the beaches, when both were engaged in their special edition of fetch, and had great fun when she could snatch a ball or a stick right from under their noses. Of course sometimes she had to assert her rule, but we knew she had found a new friend when Joska was allowed a place on the sofa.

We made long hikes and the Danish West-coast again delivered the three things Viva loves so much. Space, space, and space. This time we landed in Blåvand ("Blue Water"), and compared to the places we visited earlier, Hvide Sande, the beaches were even wider, and compared to Romø, even more empty.

View Larger Map

We thought we hit the jackpot this time with the house we stayed in, as it had no view to either neighbors or nearby paths, so we could let the dogs roam free around the house. We kept them under supervision at all times, but there was no need to leash them or keep them inside because of nearby traffic, we figured. That quickly changed though, when we spotted vipers in the area. The many vipers also made hiking through the dunes and heath fields not as relaxing as usual, so we turned more to the beaches this time.

The leash laws forbid dogs off leash on the beaches this time of year. But like I said before, with so much space and knowing how rarely it happens Viva can go off leash undisturbed for hours, I'd be happy to pay the 260 Euro fine if we would ever get caught.

And Kenzo needs his ocean. The ocean was quite calm this time, but it didn't seem to disappoint Kenzo there were no waves to surf. On the other hand it was great for Viva now, who ventured further and further into the surf, and even got her elbows wet.

Our west-coast trips mean so much for Viva, when she doesn't have to worry about other dogs and scary things that happen. She can finally be "just" another dog, enjoying the small things in life. We'll keep coming back for more of that. At least until I have figured out a way to convince the family we really have to pack our bags and move away from the city.


There are some more photo's of our trip in this Facebook album.

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