Service Dogs

It’s official: Doc is a registered service dog! Quite a long way from being on the to-be-euthanized-in-24-hours list at the shelter.

Here’s a little about me: I deal with anxiety. A few years back I finally got on medication, and WOW, what a difference it makes! But a few months ago I started having panic attacks on a regular basis — any time I’m in a crowd of strangers. This makes going to Costco, my honey’s work functions, or the kids’ sports games rather challenging. What we did notice that was that Doc helped.

Because I’ve never trained a psychiatric service dog before, I bought a book. It’s always hilarious for me to buy dog training books; in this case, I was able to briefly skim the first eighty pages on general good manners, and go straight to the last ten pages on psychiatric training! I learned some nifty new things, and got Doc trained.

Before this, I hadn’t known you could have a service dog for panic attacks. I thought that fell under the purview of emotional support animal, which aren’t allowed in many places and wouldn’t do me much good. But a service dog — a dog who is trained to actually DO something in certain situations — can alert to a panic attack, do certain things to make a panic attack less likely (in my case, lay behind me so that people are forced to give me extra space), and if it happens, help short circuit a panic attack (by pressing on the stomach and abdomen with their bodies). Cool!

To have a service dog, you must first have a disability (mental, emotional, or physical) that requires outside service. Anyone can train a service dog (note: a guide dog provides a service, but is not the same as a service dog and specific trainers need to train them), so for those people who can’t afford a trainer, they can do it themselves. A service dog MUST be housebroken and not a nuisance; those are the two reasons an establishment can ask you to remove your service dog.

By law, people can ask what service your dog provides (but may not ask for a demonstration; a good thing, as I can’t have a panic attack on command), but may not ask what your disability is (that is between you and your doctor).

All of this is really just to say, Way to go, Doc! He’ll have his badges and whatnot in the next couple of days. (By law, he doesn’t have to be registered or have any sort of identification. By practicality, it makes life easier if he does!)

Jenna

 

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Boarding FAQ

Okay, some important information to answer some questions regarding boarding dogs here at Feathers and Fur.

1. What happens in a typical day boarding at your place?
In the course of a day, we work on getting along with other dogs, walking nicely, leaving food, clothes, shoes, etc alone, sharing with dogs, pottying outside, good manners inside, good manners outside. If there are other things someone needs work on, we do that, too. (So if a dog is naughty with visitors, I invite people over. If a dog is chewing baseboards, we try and solve that. If a dog is aggressive, we work on being friendly. Etc.)

Usually, 3 days per week I work outside the house. If you’ve scheduled boarding in advance, I work short days (5-6 hours). If you haven’t, I work normal days (8 hours). While not under supervision, all dogs are crated or x-penned so they don’t have the chance to be naughty, and so that everyone gets down time (including my dogs!). If I have a dog not used to holding it that long, my assistant trainer comes by and lets everyone out.

The other four days per week I work from home (or I’m off) and the dogs are in full training.

2. Gosh, boarding with you is expensive. Why is that?
Several reasons. One is that I shorten my work days to spend time with your dog. Another is that I’m working twenty-four hours a day when I board. A third is that I can only board as many dogs as I deem safe: it might two or three dogs from one or two households that are all pretty good, or just one aggressive dog who isn’t safe with others. How much time and effort and sleeplessness I put in all affects the price.

3. I heard you live in the east bay area. I don’t really want to drive my dog all the way up there.
I don’t blame you! I wouldn’t, either. I do live in the East Bay because it’s where I could afford to buy a large, dog-friendly lot. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and weekends I will pick up and drop off your dog for free. If you need a pick up or drop off any other day, there is a fee.

4. Will you take my dog to your classes?
Not likely. I have a lot of other dogs to watch in my classes without paying attention to one in training. More likely I’ll take your dog to downtown or park areas where there are other dogs, and I can focus solely on him or her and his or her training.

5. I don’t like the idea of my dog being crated or x-penned for more than a few hours.
We can discuss it, but safety always comes first with me. I don’t want anything happening to any animals under my care.

6. What the heck is an x-pen?
It’s like a large doggie playpen, for dogs who aren’t used to being crated.

7. My dog uses a doggie door. Can you accommodate that?
Yup.

8. My dog doesn’t use a doggie door. Can you accommodate that?
Yup.

9. My dog has allergies. Can you accommodate that?
I can pretty much accommodate everything.

10. My dog doesn’t really need training, but I want to board with you anyway. Will you cut me a deal?
No. Because I can take on limited numbers, everyone gets treated the same. Otherwise I just stop boarding the “nice” dogs, and only board the dogs who need it. I’m happy to suggest some other places who board dogs in their homes without training, or I am happy to take on “nice” dogs at training prices.

11. My dog is aggressive with other dogs, and I’m worried about your dogs. Will you still take him?
Yes, after an evaluation. I worry about my dogs, too!

12. My dog isn’t aggressive at all, but pees in the house. Can you fix this?
Yes. It takes about 4 weeks.

13. How long will it take to fix x behavior?
Without a consult I can’t even guess. In general, housebreaking takes around 4 weeks. Everything else depends on the problem, the severity, and how close to perfect you want your dog before you take over.

14. Do you offer guarantees?
It depends on the problem. Call for more information.

15. Why should I board with you and not a training kennel? Training kennels are cheaper.
Indeed they are, and oftentimes they’re exactly what you need. If you’re looking to solve problems in a house, then it’s better to board in a house. If a dog is in a kennel and they pee, no one really cares. In a house, it’s different. In a kennel, no one knocks at the door or rides by on a skateboard to induce barking. In a house, they do. Whether you should board with me or in a kennel just depends on what training you want done.

16. Do you trade for board?
It depends on the length of boarding. Most times, no. Occasionally, I can trade for up to 1/4 of the cost of boarding.

17. How many dogs do you board at once?
As many as I deem safe. Typically, no more than two households. (If someone has two dogs in the same family, I will count that as one household.) This changes depending on the dog and what behavior we’re working on. Aggression cases are far less likely to have anyone else boarding. Housebreaking cases with no aggression are more likely to “share space.”

18. What should I bring with my dog when they board?
Their leash, training tools (collar, typically), and food, so they don’t get an upset stomach. If you want to bring something that smells like you or a toy, you’re welcome to do so. (Warning: Lily likes to destroy toys, despite my best attempts to keep other peoples’ toys safe.) I have plenty of beds, crates, bones, bowls, and toys for everyone.

19. Will my dog miss me?
They will be very happy to see you and tell you about their adventures, but while you’re gone they’ll be so busy with work and play that they won’t have much of a chance to miss you. Dogs get a little extra TLC if they’re stressed, and occasionally some Rescue Remedy (a flower essence supplement). Rarely are either of these needed.

20. My dog is/is not allowed on my couch. Will that be true at your house?
Whatever rules you have at your house we’ll do our best to follow at my house. My goal is to keep your dog comfortable while in training, and not un-train anything you’ve done.

21. Can I ask for updates?
Of course! I try to send out picture messages when able, and update Lily and Cash’s Facebook page as well. I like to know my dogs are happy; I assume you do, too!

If your question wasn’t answered here, feel free to contact me at jenna.b.mcdonald@gmail.com or (951) 704-5766!

Jenna

Review: head halters in general, Sporn head halter in particular

First, head halters in general:

Head halters are based on the same haltering idea used for horses. The difference between a dog and a horse, however, is important. Both major differences stem from sheer size: a horse is large. A dog is not. When you pull back on a horse’s halter, the horse’s nose comes into the chest, keeping the spine in alignment. If for some reason you pull sideways, the sheer strength, muscle, bone structure and tendon mass are going to ensure you can’t hurt them. (In fact, with a toss of that great big head they could hurt you.)

A dog doesn’t have that size. When you pull back on a halter with the lead attached under your dog’s chin, it twists his face back and up, putting a great deal of pressure on the spine. In addition, his spine isn’t nearly as strong as a horse’s spine; he simply doesn’t have the bulk necessary to protect it from us humans. For this reason alone, I generally consider head halters to be far too dangerous to use. All it takes is your dog bolting after a squirrel once, you tripping, or constant pressure as your dog pulls against you for damage to be done to the spine.

When I saw the Sporn head halters, which clip in the back and keep the spine in alignment, I decided to give it a try on Cash and see what I thought.

I got Cash used to the head halter via treats so that he was no longer trying to get it off (itself a danger, since dogs can injure themselves attempting to remove it), and took him and Lily for a walk. He was equally stressed/calm as when I use the stop-and-sit method, less stressed than when I used a slip chain. When I pulled gently back on the halter to bring him by my side, it did keep his spine in alignment. These are all pluses.

A minor downside was that if he stopped to sniff something and I pulled gently, because it attaches behind his ears he still felt like he was being pulled backward. Same for if he ducked his head to try and take it off; pulling his head up created more undesirable pressure. This was resolved by not pulling at all, but rather calling his name and offering a treat. If that didn’t work, I tapped his side to get his attention. I would imagine that halters that hook from underneath don’t have this problem.

More importantly, I realized how much pressure there is against his nose. Proponents of head halters usually suggest they are a more humane method of controlling a dog who pulls, but after feeling the pressure Cash brought to bear, I’m not sure I agree. What amazed me even more is that when we finished, his face didn’t bear the little mark across his nose that comes from a dog pulling, which means he was pulling far less than other dogs do.

Because Cash is trained to walk on a loose leash, he really doesn’t pull a lot. I decided to ask him to walk farther back simply so I could see if he’d be bothered by me bringing him gently to my side. While it didn’t bother him, he didn’t figure it out, and he was happy to pull. If I had added in treats I’m sure he would have figured it out, but I was more interested in the ramifications of a untrained pulling, and what that would be like.

In addition, though I never worry about my dogs taking off after squirrels, I did today. As we were walking Cash saw a squirrel race up a tree. As he always does, he stood up tall and ached to run after it (but stayed beside me). The difference this time was purely in me: I suddenly realized that if he bolted, when he hit the end of his leash his entire body weight would come slamming forward onto the thin bones of his face, right below his eye sockets and over his nasal airway, with no muscle, cartilage, thick skin, fur, or tendons to help absorb the impact or support the bone. Perhaps the ones that attach under the chin would work a bit better here, swinging the dog around, using his head as the focal point. However, that would put the pressure against the spine where it joins the skull and is the weakest part of the spine, so I’m not sure that’s any less dangerous overall.

I shortened my leash so that if he did bolt, it would pull him up before he gained much speed for impact, and we kept walking.

In short? Cash was better than I would expect from most dogs, and I still felt like even though it kept his spine in alignment, it put him at more risk than I was willing to take (especially since he, unaware of the risk, was far more willing to pull).

I would recommend this product for someone with a young adult or older dog (where the bones are fully formed) that is having trouble not pulling and has tried all other options, to be used very gently, on an only slightly loose leash, in conjunction with positive reinforcement training. (The goal being to get them off it eventually.)

I would strongly suggest avoiding any of the face harnesses that attach under the chin, as both the face and the spine are in danger. (And that’s not mentioning the slew of dogs who pull so much their faces end up raw. I would think those dogs should be taken off them RIGHT AWAY when the owners realize their dogs are starting to get injured.)

Having now worked with these, I can honestly say… I don’t see how they’re supposed to be more humane. I’ve used prong and slip chains on myself; I’d rather that than a string across my face that could actually cause serious damage, and frequently causes raw, angry skin across the bridge of the nose.

If you MUST use a halter-type harness, use something that attaches in the back to protect your dog’s neck. Otherwise, don’t use them at all.

Does anyone have studies on these? I’ve looked, and found only anecdotal evidence for nearly everything.

Jenna

Tango! Assessing personality in young animals

I was going to have an actual dog post today… but then I went and saw Tango for the first time yesterday! So this is dog-and-bird post instead. Or maybe I should say, “Personality assessment” post.

No creature is the perfect creature; they all have quirks and oddities. The real trick is figuring out which quirks and oddities you can live with! It helps, of course, if you know something about the body language or behavior of the animal, but even if you don’t you can extrapolate.

Now, while extrapolating, you need to be aware the animal may be having an “off” day, or going through a stage. Listen to the breeder. The breeder is the one around them all the time. If you describe your personality and household, and the breeder suggests a baby, give that a lot of weight. That said…

The baby greys were both timid of me when I first got there, but that’s to be expected. Birds aren’t puppies, and they aren’t automatically friendly! There were two of them, a few days apart in age and most easily identifiable by the lack of feathers on the back of the younger one’s neck. See?

tango 6.13.13 2

tango 6.13.13 9

<– Lack of feathers

Feathers –>

The older bird was more wary of me, settling back into a corner and growling. I ignored it to give him/her a chance to see I wouldn’t hurt them. The younger bird after just a second’s hesitation started exploring. S/he came running over to beak my fingers (relatively hard; I quickly got a little piece of cardboard to substitute for my flesh!), and the older bird finally calmed and snuggled against my arm, watching the world.

Eventually, the older bird napped. The younger bird continued to run around, beaking periodically. This doesn’t concern me: beaking is like teething. They don’t know that we don’t have plush, downy feathers to protect us from their beaks, and learning to be careful is just part of birds growing up. (In fact, this is where a lot of people go wrong: they panic because the beaking can hurt during this learning period, and instead of just fixing it — like substituting better toys and keeping their fingers away from the bird’s beak — they react poorly, accidentally encouraging it, or give up entirely. Puppies have to learn the same thing, and people do the same unhelpful behaviors with them, too!)

Over the course of about thirty minutes the younger bird figured out that I didn’t want to be beaked hard, and started softening up. A very good sign; this is quick learning! S/he, hilariously, did his/her best to climb my arm as well. One foot on my arm, one on the towel, and looking perplexed about what to do next. S/he tried to grab the towel on the other side but couldn’t reach, and tried to stretch her/his wings and get up that way. None of it worked, but it was funny watching him/her try! This little bird was very active and unafraid of almost anything: only a few times did s/he growl (greys growl when they’re worried/angry). Eventually, s/he wore him/herself out and — much like a puppy — collapsed in boneless sleep.

tango 6.13.13 13

About that time, the older bird woke up. S/he started out preening the freckles on my arm very gently, and then beaking my fingers. S/he was very, very gentle about it. I did take my hand away after a little while just for training sake, in case s/he goes through a harder beaking phase. But because s/he was gentle and not quite so assertive in his/her mannerisms, I gave her/him a longer chance to taste and check things out. (This isn’t needed in puppies, but birds use their beaks and tongues like another hand; exploring, checking texture and firmness, etc.)

tango 6.13.13 10

The older bird didn’t move as quickly, taking her/his time in looking around. S/he became more alarmed when we moved things around, growling frequently and sometimes even charging, beak open. Once s/he charged me, forgetting s/he’d been snuggled up for the last forty minutes, and when s/he got to me s/he grabbed my finger — gently — and held on. I had a good chuckle. S/he seemed confused as to why her/his tactic didn’t work. S/he also charged Justin, the breeder, once. Justin leaned down and said, “Oh, no, don’t bite the hand that feeds you!” S/he didn’t actually grab or beak that time, just paused and looked at Justin, then calmed down and made cute noises and did some exploring.

With each new change s/he became slightly alarmed and then settled down again. S/he was alarmed at being petted, but calmed down and let me scratch her/his head and under her/his wings after a few minutes of practice.

Shortly thereafter, the younger bird woke again, and the two of them wandered around, picking up shavings here and there, practicing flapping (the younger bird more than the older bird), preening each other (the older bird more than the younger bird) and checking stuff out. Once more, the younger bird would check things out while the older bird would growl first, and be brave after a moment.

tango 6.13.13 4

So, if I take all this information, what do I get assessment-wise?

Older bird: At least when new people are around, s/he is a little more cautious and wary. If s/he has problems, they will likely be of the fear-aggression/fearful variety. Anyone who takes him/her home will have to work on acceptance of new things and learning that aggression isn’t going to work. S/he’ll need a little extra encouragement and TLC. S/he is more cuddly and likely to preen, both very lovey behaviors. S/he likes to threaten, and if it works could become a problem. But s/he is also very gentle, and there’s no reason threatening should work.

Younger bird: At least when new people are around, s/he’s far more active. This is the clown, and the more assertive bird. S/he’ll need boundaries, but will probably take new adventures in stride: no big deal. S/he’ll definitely need more work understanding rules and beaking behaviors, and be more likely to get into things. Because s/he’s more confident with new people around, s/he’ll probably want to be the life of the party — a definite plus.

What the breeder said: The older bird is outgoing and typically the one more likely to interact. What this tells me is that we have one set of behaviors with new stuff, and one set with old stuff (or s/he was having an off day!). Confidence is probably key: when s/he feels confident, s/he’s outgoing. This means that work will need to be done with her/him to make sure we build that confidence in all areas.

What I want: I want a bird I can travel with. I want a non-screamer. I want a bird I can hang out with, cuddle with (not natural for greys), snuggle with (not natural), who will be able to be independent when I need to work, who can get along with lots of people. I want a bird who will hang out with me and my friends, no big deal.

Matching: Either of the above birds would work.

The pros on the older bird are that s/he’s very gentle, the breeder says outgoing, far more of a snuggler, interested in preening and other lovey behaviors, was calm enough to let me scratch under the wings. S/he also got very interested and listened very closely when the breeder spoke to her/him, which shows an interest in people/words rather than the spaces around her/him. The cons are that s/he’ll need some work learning to accept things, and might need more adjustment time if we travel. S/he’ll probably need more socializing work, too, to associate new people with good things. S/he may not be much of a talker around strangers, which makes it harder for vain-me to show off my awesome bird. (Let me be clear: this is a bad reason to have a bird. But I’m aware of my faults, and I might as well be aware of this possibility, since it will affect my emotions!)

The pros on the younger bird: s/he’s very outgoing and will likely take travel, people, etc in stride. Most likely this bird will happily talk with a bunch of strangers around. S/he was also hilarious to watch and play with, a general clown. S/he was definitely able to entertain him/herself. When I was persistent, s/he began to learn gentle beaking. The cons are that s/he was always on the move: no snuggling until s/he konked out, and as soon as s/he woke up s/he was active again. S/he is likely to get into more things, given how much s/he was already climbing on my arm and whatnot. Boundaries will need to be set, and we’d have to continue work on gentle beaking and, until s/he’s out of this phase, be careful with strangers.

Since I can train bravery and socialize easier than I can train calmness and snuggling, I decided the older bird is the one I’d like. That said — I’ve met Tango!

I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours reviewing things from yesterday and looking over pictures and videos. Tango is about 9 weeks old (8.5, the breeder said, but I count 9.5, so only time will tell!), and adorable. The younger bird was starting to try and climb my arm (perch), but Tango didn’t. As noted, s/he wasn’t as active in general, at least yesterday while I was there. Weaning means eating on their own, perching on their own, and able to fly. The breeder said he’ll start giving them weaning food in the next few days, so they’re on their way! Hopefully Tango will be coming home some time in the next 3-5 weeks. Hopefully I’ll have time to go visit before then!

Here are adorable videos. Tango is the bird preening, while T’s sibling is flapping like crazy:

Tango is the one in the back, and if you listen closely you’ll hear adorable bird noises:

Yay! I have an adorable baby bird! ūüėÄ

Jenna

 

**Edit: I was able to take both Quin and my Mom to visit Tango and sib in the following weeks, and discovered that the older bird — the one I’d decided was Tango — was consistently fearful. Given the number of people and dogs I have in here, and the amount of traveling I do, I decided the younger bird was probably better, and that is the Tango you hear about now!

Dog body language: spotting negative and positive emotional states

There’s ¬†a lot that goes into dog body language, but one of the most important things to know is what¬†mood your dog (or that strange dog) is in. If a dog is in a good mood, they’re not going to bite you. If a dog is in a bad mood, it’s time to avoid them! Just by knowing their mood you can get an idea of what to expect.

Body language
The simplest way to tell a friendly dog from an unfriendly dog is their spine. Their spine is the emotional center! When a dog has a stiff spine (and stiff, or tucked, tail) they are in a negative emotional state. They ¬†might be anxious, fearful, predatory, or aggressive — but it’s not good! When they have a wiggly/relaxed spine (or tail), they’re in a positive emotional state: happy, excited, peaceful, content, joyful.
Videos to demonstrate! (I’m leaving out a lot of body language that differentiates between “stressed,” “anxious,” “aggressive,” “happy,” “excited,” “playing,” and “content.” Just focus on positive vs negative!)
This dog has a wiggly, swishy tail. He’s in a good mood, even though he’s barking. When he hops up, he’s asking to play — his tail is still swishy!¬†
This dog starts out kind of relaxed (wiggly), but as the video goes on gets more and more stiff. Even though he’s also barking, it’s no longer because he’s in a good mood. By 11 seconds, he’s anxious and afraid. (The owners are probably totally unaware of this. Most owners are):¬†
The spine is part of the torso and neck, too, remember, so if the tail isn’t swishy but you’re getting lots of bendy neck and shoulder movements, they’re still relaxed! The chihuahua above turned his whole body: he was too stiff to turn just his head. This dog, though we can’t see much of the tail, has a relaxed spine: his head and shoulders turn without moving his whole body.¬†
This dog is calm and in a good mood. Notice how his tail swishes a little as he walks, and his hips wiggle, too — like he’s walking in high heels!¬†
Dogs that are calm but in a negative mood don’t swish. These dogs are using their predator side (negative emotional state) to shepherd animals, though the urge to attack or bite has been bred out of them. Forward to the 30 second mark, and you’ll see it:¬†
Keep in mind that dog moods shift even faster than human moods do, sometimes, so what is happiness one moment might transmute to discomfort the next. That’s to be expected: roll with it, and you and your dog will get along a lot better!
Jenna

Saving money: Dog training isn’t just for the rich

Because I don’t believe that only those with money should be able to train their dogs, I have a few ways to help you out. Many other trainers have¬†similar¬†programs: if you don’t live in my area, you should ask them. Don’t be discouraged if the first trainer says no: keep asking around! (Or ask if they have an apprentice who would like to start cutting their teeth for a discounted rate!)

If you’re thinking, “Gosh, I wish I could afford Jenna’s dog training services,” then read on.

Trade

I do absolutely work in trade. I pay whatever the going rate is for services, no less than $35/hour for what’s considered “menial labor.” Services I’m interested in are:

  • Yoga, pilates, personal training, or other¬†exercise classes (Paying on whatever you would normally charge for them.)
  • House cleaning
  • Yard work
  • Cooking (this is one of the things that has the most bang for your buck: personal chef services are EXPENSIVE. You will want to look up local prices for personal chefs, and I’m happy to adjust: if a meal is a meal for 4 plus two appetizers, I’m perfectly happy to have a casserole for 6 instead.¬†I count it as $80 per meal, averaging from these websites:¬†Dinner By Design,¬†Chef Monalisa. You’re welcome to use a different website and show me.) (Note: I eat dairy, eggs, and fish, but not chicken, beef, pork, etc. I don’t have any allergies.)
  • Pet sitting (mine)
  • Dog walking (mine)

Pro Bono

If you’re really having problems, and you’re working and can’t trade, I do have a pro bono program. There’s a waiting list for this program, but I try to slot in an appointment twice a month: basically I have one pro bono client at a time. If you’re in desperate straits, ask me about it.

Sliding Scale

I’m still trying to figure out how to work a sliding scale, to be honest. I know other businesses do it, and I think it’s a fantastic idea. If you have an idea of how this works, let me know! If you cannot afford my rates and think you have a fair price in mind, feel free to suggest it. (You’ll get farther if you tell me how you came up with it, too!)

Jenna

Cure for Dogs with Diabetes

Two little posts today instead of one big one! I think that’s a fair trade, don’t you?

There’s some exciting news coming out of Barcelona for humans and our canine companions alike! Trials have cured dogs of diabetes, with long term studies showing no relapses for up to 4 years thus far. You can see the article here, but the gist of it is that a series of injections over the course of a day has effected the genes having to do with diabetes, curing it in an array of dogs. Huzzah for science!

Jenna