My goal with this blog is for you to enjoy your time here. Most of the posts talk about my experiences raising my two yellow Labrador Retrievers, some are just for fun, and others share the best dog related information and products I have found.

Use the tabs above for quick navigation. I have imbedded links for as much as possible so that you can find the resources easily from this blog. The links in the side bar are for websites that have been helpful to me. I hope that you find them useful for you and your canine "family member"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The "Shake Off" - Why dogs sometimes shake for no apparent reason.

There are several blog feeds that I enjoy reading on a regular basis. One of them you can find in my sidebar - Pappy's Dog Blog. The most recent post titled"Hippy Hippy Shake" made me realize how much I've learned about my dogs communication without realizing it.

In her book Canine Body Language: A photographic Guide, Brenda Aloff offers one explanation for this behavior. She points out that the "Shake Off" is something dogs will do that "indicates that the dog is coming down off adrenaline" . . . and "is moving into a Thinking or Responding state and out of a Reactive and unpredictable state." She goes on to explain more about this particular behavior and how this behavior is played out in dog/dog interactions. She has great pictures to go with her explanation that show various breeds of dogs demonstrating this behavior.

I can attest to the accuracy of this explanation with my own dear Shelby a prime example of a Reactive Dog. If he is in a "reactive" (or hind brain) mode and is trying to self calm or refocus he will shake from head to tail. It mainly starts with his head being most vigorously shaken but can go all the way to his tail sometimes. As he gets excited when he sees new people or if other dogs approach our gate I often see him try to shake off his "reactivity" if I give him an anchoring command like "leave it", "sit", "heal" etc. I'm asking him to refocus and it his way of trying to comply as quickly as possible. Sometimes it will happen without my intervention or redirection but after he has gone a bit "reactive" i.e. seeing a squirrel, bird close by.

I'm sure there are other reasons why dogs shake. I can tell you however that knowing as much as possible about why my dogs may do something gives me such an invaluable understanding of what my dog may be telling me. I highly recommend Brenda Aloff's book. Reading her book is similar to when you've gone to visit a foreign country and all you here is gibberish then all of a sudden someone comes along and starts translating the gibberish into meaningful words and phrases. Your whole world changes. That's what this book did for me and my ability to understand my dogs. It was a beautiful thing!!!

Side note:
For those of you who come regularly and have been wondering where I've been, sorry I've been MIA. A friend has just brought his mom home on hospice and I've been helping out. This was a nice break from where my energy has been focused recently. I hope you find the information interesting and hopefully helpful.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Down the White Rabbit Hole" again . . .

There are two ways to spend your Sunday mornings when you own a dog and you have a blog. Option 1) Dog Dreams - & other Sunday morning reflections, or option 2) "Chasing White Rabbit's" on a Sunday morning.

As I got to sleep in yesterday and it was my turn to get up with the dogs today there was no enjoying option #1. So this morning finds me "down a rabbit hole again" as I enjoyed option #1 on Saturday. Here's what I've found so far "chasing white rabbits" this morning.

Check out the beautiful work of animal portrait artist Katja Turnsek, from Sweeden at Pet Portraits, by Katja Turnsek. She also has a Blog, where you can read about some of her current projects. She also offers generous Free Stuff on her website that features her artwork.

Then I owe a huge thanks to Karen Shanley for the new link in my side bar tab:

from James & Kenneth Publishers. They are "proud to publish all of Dr. Ian Dunbar’s dog-friendly dog training books and DVDs". Also available on their website: [Excerpt]
In our attempt to educate prospective puppy owners before they get their puppies, we have convinced Dr. Ian Dunbar to allow us to offer his book BEFORE You Get Your Puppy for free.
Also check out this great FREE article ontraining your "Hyper Dog". This in only one of several other great FREE articles in their Behavior Problems tab on their website. The website also offers for sale Ian Dunbar's DVD's and Books.

Taking a different turn in my journey here's a couple great product finds:

If you are looking for a waterproof blanket here is the best product result I've found so far: Mambe Blankets. Here are some of the qualities of the "Outdoor Polarfleece® Blankets" If this is what your looking for than look no further:
  • Stay Dry: 100% water-proof and wind-proof
  • Lots of colors and prints
  • Sizes for 1 person up to 10 or more
  • Easy Care - Machine washable
  • Guaranteed for life
  • FREE Shipping!
Along those same lines is the "Mega Mat™ padded picnic mat" from "The Kitchen Store".

If you have a large dog or two medium-large dogs like I do than maybe you'll be excited with the great dog bed finds at Mammoth Outlet like I was. I haven't ordered from them myself but their prices are really competitive. If anyone has ordered from them please leave your feed back here in the "tail wag" comments section. I'd love to hear about your experience as I'll be updating some of the beds around our house in the next 6 months.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Life Is A Beautiful Dance"

Once again, because dog pictures make great blog posts, here's a close up of a smaller photo already on this site!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A "Tired Dog" is a "Good Dog"

And now back to our regularly scheduled topic.

When you own a dog, not to mention a big dog, and he just happens to be a reactive big dog, you are very familiar with the idea that "a tired dog is a good dog." That being said, be very careful just how quickly you jump to this solution. The phrase should really be "a calm dog is a good dog." When I say calm I mean a dog that has self control, a dog that can self calm, one that can modulate it's own behavior on command. At the very least it is a dog that will hold a neutral position whether that is a "sit" or a "down" despite being excited, until they are calm.

When I started classes with Trish I figured that exercising them before class would help. It totally backfired on us. Instead of being easier to direct Shelby was even more "ampted" up.

My girlfriend who has a "reactive" female Labrador decided to put her in agility. The logic being that it would focus her energy and give her an outlet for all her extra energy. Her dog did well but in her second class she was bit by one of the other dogs. There are so many things that should have been done differently to avoid her dog getting bit but that's not the point here.

My point is however that an easily over excited dog should not have another over stimulating outlet for their energy until they have a bit more self control. If you want to hear from the experts as to what this should look like check out these great resources:

Guidelines For Teaching Self Control, by Suzanne Clothier
Understanding & Teaching Self Control, by Suzanne Clothier

At our house it looks like the following:
  • Both dogs have to go to their bed and lie down quietly before each meal time. (Quietly being the operative word here when it comes to Shelby.)
  • Even after their food is served they must wait until I give them the release command which in our house is simply "Release"
  • If one dog is getting affection the other can not push in. They are told to "sit" and "wait". Whining and vocalizing gets them nothing but the command to "be quiet". Sometimes I have walked away without giving Shelby even a pat if he has been exceptionally demanding
  • If we are going somewhere and they have gotten over excited they have to sit at the open door until they are calm and quiet before I "release" them outside.
  • If they are overexcited and barking when we get to the park they have to lay down and not until they are quiet are they "released" out of the car.
  • Our dog park is double gated at the entrance. My dogs have to hold a "sit stay" with their leashes off so I can go and open the second gate. They don't move to enter the park until they are "released".
This last one has a made a huge difference. Before I started insisting on this, Shelby would make such a racket that all the other dogs that were even slightly excitable would hover by the gate and charge him in their excitement as he entered. He never got hurt but it was enough to make me worry. Now even if we enter with him barking and whining by the time we enter the park any interested dog has lost their initial interest and my dogs can enter without getting mobbed. All around much safer for all the dogs.

One more point to keep in mind is that your dogs will take thier cues from you. It's hard wired into thier instincts as pack animals. When you raise your voice or talk sharply, a dog hears this tone as being excited, similar to barking. Realize that it will only reinforce their already excited behavior, and give them the idea that you are excited too, so it must be okay! Instead speak softly and in quiet tones to get your dog to calm down, and they'll realize soon enough it's not appropriate behavior for the situation.

Trust me this is not an easy thing to always practice when you own a "reactive" dog. They seem to be able to go from "zero to crazy" in a split second all on their own. I continue to struggle with keeping my voice calm everyday. That being said, it's good to keep reminding myself what my focus should be and why. Hopefully it will help you too, if you as well find yourself with a dog that needs self control as much as they need exercise.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Z-list for You and Me

While I'm off typical topic today here's a "Z-list" started by Karen Shanley, and how you can "spread the love"

There’s a meme going around called the Z-list. (The original list was for techie and marketing blogs). Karen Shanley thought it would be great to start our own Z-list meme for the dog blogs/personal blogs we enjoy reading. The idea is to give exposure (and link-love) to worthy blogs that, perhaps by the nature of their subject, aren’t getting their proper due. There are a lot of really wonderful blogs out there with some first-rate writing and content that deserve a wider readership. So let’s share the list of blogs we love, and pass them on.

Below are the meme instructions:

Create a post on your blog, and then CUT AND PASTE this post with the instructions and the list I have below, and then ADD any blogs you think are terrific and send them some link-love. You can add one blog, or a hundred (or none if you simply want to repost the same list), but the idea is to find those great blogs that, for whatever reason, haven’t been getting their due.

Then, after you leave your post, the next blogger will do the same thing — cut, paste, add, and repost.

The end result is that many great blogs will get a ton of extra exposure, we’ll all find some great new blogs to add to our reading list, and you’ll get mucho good karma points for helping out your fellow bloggers! Here’s my list (Cut and paste to your blog, and add as few or many blogs as you like):

BooBoo, Ginga and the World of Dogs
For the Love of Labradors - "Thanks for the link love Karen"
My Life as a Writer, Mom, and Dog Nut
PetSit USA
Pappy’s Dog Blog
Motherhood in Alaska
The Dogs of Jackman Ave
Open Book
Biz and Buzz

Some of mine:

Just Golden
Dog Each Day
Daily Dose of Imagery - "Because a picture is worth a thousand words"
waiterrant - "Start at the beginning with this one!"

Some from Terese:
Austin Dog Trainer Blog
Bark ‘N’ Blog

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

On further investigation as to what exactly the Z-list is supposed to accomplish I ran across an interesting article, "I Don't Get the Z-list". Mitch Joel brings up a couple good points here. Perhaps if I had read this first I may not have done a Z-list. I would, however, have updated my sidebar links to the new websites that are my favorites that make sense given the context of this blog. Anyway, an update is long overdue so keep an eye out for my new favorites. If you are planning on doing a Z-list than read the article first, then if you still want to do a Z-list go for it. You don't have to copy the whole post. Just copy the "list" and the "instructions". It would however make sense if you title your post "A Z-list for You and Me."

"Chasing White Rabbit's" on a Sunday morning

Here's what happens when a California girl "goes surfing", or as I also fondly like to call it "chasing a white rabbit down a rabbit hole." Whatever you call it I thought I'd diverge a bit from the dogs and take you "through my recent looking glass."

It all started with "Just Golden" a website I follow on occasion. There you will find a guys perspective on raising two Golden Retrievers. Great pictures are hidden everywhere so follow all links carefully.

A recent commenter on the site was "burg" who blogs at "deeper shades of red". I liked her candor, she calls it like she sees it.

A comment on one of her posts took me to "Bone" and his blog "If You Read Only One Blog This Year". There I read a fun post on "National De-lurking Week". And how it all started, "National De-Lurking Day"

A Google "Blog Search" took me to "I speak of Dreams" and then "Paper Napkin."
Whew . . ., that was a fun ride.
Along the way, thanks to "I speak of Dreams", I discovered a new tool from "coComment", this could be an interesting tool.
And "the moral of the story is": Ok, I know I'm two days too late but "De-Lurk" anyway and leave a "tail wag"!!

Friday, January 12, 2007

How much do you love your dog(s)?

There's nothing like the weather to really test your dedication and love for your dog.

With not just one but two Labradors, no less, in the family exercise time is essential. So today found me out at the park "chucking" a tennis ball for 30 minutes. The day was clear and the sun was bright but the thermometer read 45° and the wind laughed in my face and said, "45° - ha, ha, ha, here's 37° just to test your resolve. Now I realize that many of you are sputtering, "45°, 37°, I'd take that in a heartbeat," but for my soft California skin, today was truly a test of how much I love my dogs.

And yes, I love my dogs!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Keeping harmony in the family" - Living in a multi-dog household

If you haven't discovered Karen Shanley's blog yet, it's well worth your time. You can link to her blog anytime from the "button" I put in my right side bar, or you can check out the link in this post. Her blog covers more than just life with her dogs but when she shares her insights on her canine "family members" there's a lot to be learned. In her recent post she offers some great advice in answer to a very important question from one of her readers:

Take some time to read this great post if you are even remotely considering adding a "family member".

If you are like me and started with two from the start you have my appreciation for the challenges this may have brought you. One of the things you may have not have noticed or considered is shared below. I contributed this to Karen's post in the comments section but on further thought realized that it could really stand alone when it comes to living in a multi-dog household wether or not you are introducing a new dog to a resident dog. I hope that between both posts you will gain some new insight that will make your life with your dogs even better.

My advice on living in a multi-dog household . . .
[taken from my comment on her post]
. . . one thing that may be important to consider in a multi-dog household is that “You” may become the prime target in resource guarding. It was my experience that the more intune I became with my dogs needs (especially during adolesence) the more I realized that when I was giving out affection to one the other would try to push them out of the way to get at me. I had to set up strict boundary commands and used a word they were already learning “Wait”. That meant, “stop, and wait for me to invite you to get some affection”. It was amazing how this improved the over all emotional health for both dogs. Nutmeg became less “needy” and Shelby began to demonstrate better “self-control” even beyond affection time.

Despite how flattering it is to have not only one but two dogs clammering for your attention don’t loose site of their needs in the process.

Another thing that helped build self confidence and anchor my dog’s bond and trust with me is seperate training, play, and affection time with each dog. I don’t know if this element is as important when bringing an older dog into the picture but I can’t see why it wouldn’t also hold ture, at least on some level.

On a side note: I love my two dog household, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I do however wish that I had known from the start what I know today. That being said there is a lot of truth to “experience being the best teacher”.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

83 and still going strong!!

In celebration of my 83rd post I'm sharing the awesome accomplishments or one inspiring 83 year old woman. Watch her in action here:

Saturday, January 06, 2007

"Honey, I think the dog's tail is broken ! ! "

Excerpt from: "Cold Water Tail" by Diane O. Gifford

"Cold water tail," "limber tail syndrome," "broken tail," "dead tail," "broken wag" are all euphemisms for a relatively common occurrence in sporting dogs. The tail of the dog hangs down from the tail base or is held horizontal for three or four inches and then drops down. A flaccid tail episode appears to be a painful, but relatively benign affliction that can occur after swimming, after a heavy hunting day or even after a bath with cold water or water that is too warm. It is not always associated with swimming or water, but can happen after a heavy day of work that involves a lot of tail action. The majority of limp tail cases have been reported in sporting dogs or hounds -- Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Setters, Pointers, Flatcoats, Foxhounds and Beagles are the breeds frequently named. Almost all dogs that suffer through an occurrence return to normal within a few days. Affected dogs may or may not have a repeat incidence during their lifetime. [It is this author's experience that symptoms will repeat in the same animal and can be triggered by something as simple as a cold water bath.] This affliction has been described by the layman as a "sprain," fibrosis or a "cold in the tail." The affected dog is miserable at the onset and the tail is painful. If neither the dog owner nor the veterinarian is familiar with this condition, it can be disturbing--fostering conjecture on a possible fracture or spinal cord disease.
Here's another good link.

As for Nutmeg, it wasn't until that evening after the swim that her tail went limp. You could really tell that it was uncomfortable for her to sit straight down on it. She was quick to shift all the way onto her hip. She did more standing or lying down during the 48 hours that her tail was too sore to lift. Hopefully if you see this with a similar onset you won't freak out and have to pay an unnecessary vet bill. Just be sure it is not something more serious before you dismiss it as something that will resolve on it's own. I always have on hand a herbal tincture called "trauma" from our holistic vet. It has arnica in it and other healing anti-inflammatory herbs. She got one drop every hour to two hours that evening then 4 times through out the next day. By the following day she was noticeably pain free and wagging her usual high and happy tail.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Does your dog listen to you when you whisper?

Over the course of the past 10 months I have re-thought all the interaction and training approaches I had fallen into in the first 8 months we were raising our dogs. The improvements in all our lives has been invaluable. My often OCD controlling dark side rarely surfaces anymore much to my husbands delight not to mention the dogs.

When we started this venture it was easy to let my voice escalate in volume when re-directing the dogs, not to mention the often increasing harshness in my tone of voice as I was saying the same command for the hundredth time. It was quite easy for it to go down hill from there quite quickly. The image of the tiny pebble turning into the gigantic snow ball that consumes everything in its path is quite appropriate here.

After much work, primarily on my part, and a little bit of maturing on the dogs part the harmony in our house is a beautiful gift. I fell into, by accident almost, giving my commands to the dogs in a whisper. Quiet peaceful moments are so special now that disturbing it with the sound of my voice does not seem right sometimes. I should not have been surprised when the request was immediately complied with but I was.

I'll be very honest, I don't whisper all my commands to the dogs. I do still raise my voice at times, and Shelby still seems to have that wonderful knack of drawing the "most charming" tone of voice out of me. (Yes, I'm being very sarcastic here.) But the more I remove my voice out of the equation the more I notice their active intelligent response to my request. They may think and pause a bit when all I give them is a hand signal and body language direction, but there is a lot less "arguing" and "back talk" especially from Shelby. (If you have a dog I'm sure you know what I'm talking about when it comes to "arguing" and "back talk".)

When my sister and I sit down to talk and share we often say, "yeah, I know what you mean." She however is raising to boys ages 4 and 6, while I have two yellow Labradors. "Impossible", you say, "how could you have anything in common with a mom of two boys?" Trust me when I tell you that we have more to commiserate about that I had ever thought.

Dogs are living breathing, feeling, emotional beings and anyone that says otherwise is missing out on the best part of owning and living with a dog. We all have emotional needs, to say otherwise is truly unfair. For me finding the least possible force to direct my dogs is what I am striving for. Right now adding in a whisper when ever I can is a great start for me.

Here's to whispering more and shouting less!!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Truth about Cats and Dogs

As far as the cat's concerned, I wouldn't call this "love", I wouldn't even call this "like". When it comes to the dog, what I will call this is "respect". Whether that "respect" was for me and the rules of the house or for his sister is left only to my imagination. Needless to say it was a moment I was happy to have my camera on hand to capture the "drama" as it unfolded.
The cast of characters:
"Shelby" the Yellow Labrador,
"Bella" the reigning Queen of the House our cat.

"OK Mom, I know the vet said to have her eat next to us
to get her to accept us, but did you have to put her so close?"

"Wow, that actually smells real good!"

"Maybe if I just ignore her she'll go away and leave it there for me."

"Hmmmmm . . . , Do I eat her or do I go for that
awesome mouth watering food she's devouring?"

"This is just cruel Mom!"

"I'll just sneak a quick look, if I'm real
slow maybe she'll be nice and share."

"Mom, how much longer is this torture going to last?"

"I give up, I got to rest, the stress is killing me!"

"So Bella, can we make a deal here?"

"Never mind, I'm sure you're not interested anyway . . . "