Carting with Emma

23 Aug

Emma pulling her very own dog cart.

It still needs some adjustments, but soon she’ll be driving Tigress all around town!


This Cat is Driving Me Crazy!

23 Aug

If you’ve ever found yourself saying that your cat (or dog) is driving you crazy – don’t despair! Depending on what your cat is doing that’s making you nutty, you might actually have a budding superstar on your hands.

In Cat Vs. Tail, Cat always wins.

Tigress’ brand of insanity has to do with food. She was grossly overweight when she came to me (a hefty 20 lbs) and has since lost over 7 pounds! Unfortunately (for her) she’s always hungry and unfortunately (for me) she’s not afraid to complain and do what she can to get her way. Once she lost enough weight to enable her to jump on counters, I had to baby lock all my cupboards because she raided them hourly. I had to hide all plastic because when hungry she would chew plastic to bits, going so far as to ingest pieces. Eating was dangerous (for me and the dogs) – she would literally stick her paws in my mouth trying to fish food out – any plate within reach was fair game. More than once she knocked food off my fork en route to my mouth (she trained me to eat very quickly!). Dropped treats inevitably went to her – dogs never had a chance. And anytime I handled anything she thought was edible she would wail and moan and brush herself against me.

Thankfully I’m a clicker trainer and she was my “secondary species” for the Karen Pryor Academy. From the moment I began training with her, she lit up and never was the same again. I had to teach her impulse control and a solid sit-stay for the times I need to handle food and would prefer to not trip over her. I also taught her a solid recall for her counter-surfing days, and to give the dogs a break when she tried to steal their food. And then came the trick training. She nose touches, paw touches, spins in either direction, sits pretty, goes into a crate, walks on a harness, and now we’re working on fetch.

"You realize petting doesn't make me like the harness any more."

Tigress is so food motivated I’ve found that training her is comparable to training dogs. The body language is different and her brain works differently, but when she gets it (and she gets it quickly) she seems to have a better retention rate than the dogs and needs fewer repetitions to keep it solid.

I realize she’s a rare cat who loves food so much and is so willing to work for it – but this is also to say that you shouldn’t overlook and discard your dog’s (or cat’s!) “problem” behaviors. Most super high energy dogs who drive their owners crazy and make poor family pets (not to mention probably destroy thousands of dollars worth of “stuff”) would be excellent work/sports dogs if their natural prowess were harnessed. The clever dogs who get into the garbage, find the expensive shoes, open cupboard doors, would make excellent trick dogs. The dogs who do more sniffing than walking outside could be excellent detection dogs. The nutty rescued pup who almost literally pulls your arm out of its socket anytime you try to walk him could be a superstar weight puller or bikejoring companion. The little fluffy dog who won’t stop barking could make a formidable alert dog. And the cat who fights and beats a Pit Bull for a piece for dehydrated lamb lung can be a superstar obedience cat!

She's so sweet when she's sleeping

Hiking – Minnewaska

21 Aug

My mom took the pups and me to her favorite hiking trails at Minnewaska in New Paltz on Saturday. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in some time.

My mom was born and grew up in Vilnius, Lithuania, and one of her childhood pastimes was picking mushrooms for dinner. Lately she’s gotten into it again, and on our hike up to the view point, she got me hooked too! All in all we collected a little over two pounds of mushrooms that we cooked up with onions and potatoes for dinner. I would never feel comfortable doing this myself, but my mom has years of experience separating “good” ‘shrooms from “bad” ‘shrooms.

Dog trainer that I am, I started clicking the dogs for sniffing/interacting with the mushrooms in the hope they might help me track them down. Here’s Charlie as he found a particularly large and juicy mushroom. Click/Treat!


All in all we walked about 6 miles or so. Before we started on the hike up to the view point, we walked around this really beautiful lake. As we got near it, we noticed a female Mallard duck hanging out in the water, bobbing for whatever it is that ducks bob for. All of a sudden Charlie took off after her, flying into the lake. [Note: He’s been with me for 10 1/2 years and this is the first time he’s shown any interest in fowl, his preference is usually squirrel.] He swam after her for 150 feet out into the water. It was really cool to watch. We couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t fly away – she always kept just 6 inches in front of him and would slow down when he got too far behind. At a certain point he seemed to get a bit tired and turned for shore. As soon as he turned the Mallard gal raised up out of the water and flapped her wings at him. Then she followed him back, quacking and nipping at him!

My first thought (and fear) was that maybe she was protecting a nest, but ducks hatch in early spring, so that couldn’t have been it and she didn’t have any ducklings with her (they would be huge by now, anyway). Then I thought maybe she was just being territorial. Who knows?

Charlie then played fetch with some huge logs for fifteen minutes while everyone gushed over how cute he was. I’m a terrible dog mom and didn’t catch any of the duck action on video.

When we finally climbed to the view point we were all exhausted, but the views were so worth it.

Charlie lives on the edge!

Just taking it all in.

My favorite picture.

By the time we made it back to the car, we were all quite pooped. It was very hot and humid and we were all beat.

Charlie found that under the car was the coolest place to be while we loaded all our stuff back into the car.

Emma was just so happy we were going home!

And as if that wasn’t enough for one weekend, Charlie and I manned a booth at Astoria’s 2011 Shore Fest all day today. We fielded some really great training questions, Charlie did a few demonstrations, and I even demoed with a newly adopted puppy on how to clicker train a loose leash walk (pup got the game in under 30 seconds!).

All in all, we’re both exhausted and looking forward to a week with several clients away on vacation!








19 Aug

OK I realize it’s been ages since I’ve participated in the blogging community, and for that I apologize. I have been very busy though, and have much to show for it!

Drumroll, please.

I am a Karen Pryor Academy – Certified Training Partner!

Charlie and I passed! Woohoo!

In other news:

My foster dogs are no longer with me. One puppy got adopted, one puppy was adopted and then returned, and momma is still at the shelter. I have distanced myself from this rescue and don’t plan on fostering for them in the future, but I really hope the pups find great homes.

I’m really focusing on my dog training business and it’s still so hectic. I’m currently working on getting my website set up (the facebook page is doing well, make sure to check us out!) and will discontinue this blog (not like it’s been so active!) in favor of one attached to my new website. It will, of course, be training-focused.

I realize I’m like a stranger at this point, but I plan on making the rounds soon enough!

More News!

18 Jun

Lucy with my neighbor

Pups are SEVEN weeks old today!! And they have their first interested potential adopter. AND she’d only be able to take ’em home after July 4th, which is PERFECT because they’ll be ten weeks old! YAY!!

And it looks like I might end up staying in NYC afterall, and pursuing my dog training career here. We have so many dogs in need, and so many less than ideal trainers, I feel like it’s the least I could do. I’m seriously considering opening up a large training facility (large enough to hold agility/nosework/etc. classes) and rig up a rescue at the same location. I figure if I can get a nice enough facility I can even hold seminars and etc. here, which I feel are really lacking in my area and really bring clicker training to the masses of NYC!

I’ve been less than thrilled with a local rescue and I think I can make a huge positive impact on my neighborhood and really help a lot of dogs. I’m excited, can you tell? I’m envisioning indoor/outdoor runs either on the roof or in a backyard. I understand it may be difficult to find my ideal location, but I really hope it’s possible. And I’d love to do kids and puppies programs, and have a volunteer program. And maybe even have a pilot program to train some shelter dogs as service dogs.

So I made a fledgling facebook account for my business while my friend’s working on my real website:

Come say hi and check us out!

I’m currently giving free intro to clicker training classes at a local park and today was our first one. It went swimmingly, if I may say so. We had FIVE people! And a child, so five and a half? Let’s make it six, she participated in the exercises. Tomorrow is part 2. I’ve broken it up so that part 1 sessions on Saturdays are people only so I can teach basics and handler skills without boring dogs, and part 2 sessions are on Sundays where they’ll bring their pups, show off homework and focus on working with their dogs. Charlie was our demo dog today and he did really well – worked for everyone!

So that’s what I’ve been up to, in addition to all my KPA stuff. My head is just swimming!!

The new face of my business. I'm working on getting a better picture, but it's cute, no?




Tasmanian Devils, I Tell You!

14 Jun

Puppies are driving me crazy!

6 weeks old already!

They have sharp little teeth and they BITE HARD!

When they’re out they’re little more than black whirlwinds wrecking havoc and demolishing everything in their path.

When they’re in (their ex-pen) they want out and HOWL. Like little wolves. At five AM. Every day.

But dammit if they aren’t the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

So the three or so times a day I clean their ex-pen of poop-art (budding geniuses, I tell you), wash them down, gird my legs, toes, ankles, and nose from sharp teeth, and stuff the pillow over my head every night to try and get just a *little* more sleep, I remind myself that the alternative is grim.

And once they’re washed, dried, fed, pooped, and peed, they are FUN to watch.

But no one else agrees.

Charlie will not get off the bed (which they can’t get onto, it’s his sole haven). Tigress will not get off her tree (I had to give her her own water bowl up there). Emma has learned to snarl (I didn’t think her lips were that flexible!). And Lucy goes from playing with them to snarling when they try to nurse (she’s weaning them and I don’t blame her!).

The last few days as they’ve really gotten nutty I’ve considered shipping the lot of ’em back to the rescue, but I know it will mean a total cessation of socialization, and life in a wire crate for 19 hours a day. It will also mean they’ll either be with mom 24/7 or without her 24/7, both of which are not ideal. And the little gains I’ve made in Lucy’s housebreaking will have flown out the window, along with the trust I’ve built up in her.

But I also haven’t done a smidge of work for the KPA and I’m starting to worry. Charlie’s smart, but we have a LOT of stuff to learn and the less frequently we train, the harder it is for us once we get going.

So I’ve been battling with myself. They’re quite the handful (Lucy’s no easy cake herself), but I’m pretty sure I’d never forgive myself if I did let them go (other than to a new home). I wish I could just fast forward their development and get them adopted already!

Once they’re gone we’ll all take a well deserved and NEEDED break from fostering. And I probably will not foster puppies again until Charlie has passed. I wasn’t planning on fostering puppies this time, it just happened that way.

OK, how about some pictures?

Introducing Jude!

Introducing Sergeant Pepper!

I just want to mush on them!

And then they woke up . . .

Say it with me . . . AAWWW

Just for a scale, the black strip is two inches wide. And that came out of my puppies!!!!

My old farts trying to beat the heat.

One of Emma's new mouth tumors =-(

So please forgive me for going AWOL in blog land. I realize at this point there are probably few people still reading my blog, and I’m sorry I’ve fallen into oblivion! Once the monsters are gone I might regain my sanity.

And yesterday was my cousin’s wedding. I had the great responsibility of being her Maid of Honor and it was absolutely fantastic. I’ll share pictures once I get them.

For some reason, even after I’ve cleaned, it just always smells like poop here.

OK off to sleep. I want to try and make off leash hours for the adults tomorrow morning.

Venting – Bear With Me

25 May

Crazy life these days – barely time to sleep so I haven’t posted in quite a while.

Pups are great. I found out their birthday was April 26th, so tomorrow they’ll be a month old! I thought they were younger, based on their development, but I guess if Lucy was malnourished when she was pregnant it could have an effect on that. I’ve got this insane socialization schedule planned for them. I’ll write it up soon and post. Let me know if you have any crazy socialization ideas for me to expose them to. They’re growing like weeds and are barking and tugging and playing already. I’m just beginning to wean them, though they much prefer momma’s milk. She’s being nice and letting them nurse even with super sharp puppy teeth.

OK, now for my rant.

I was walking one of my clients, Frisco. Frisco’s a huge (85#) long haired German Shepherd. Think coolest, awesomest, most beautiful dog imaginable, and you’ve got Frisco. Add in a blue backpack, a head halter, a clicker, and a bag of treats, and we’re quite a sight together.

He LOVES other dogs and blows up into a ball of frustrated reactivity when he sees other dogs and can’t get to them. So we’re working on keeping his brain functioning when he sees other dogs. We run into a cute 6 mo GSD female with her owners. I ask them if she’s friendly, and if they wouldn’t mind helping us train by just waiting there and we’ll make our way towards them (I use penalty yards when he pulls and/or barks, so it can take a while for us to actually greet). They were excited to meet Frisco, so they waited for us.

Two penalty yards in, the guy shouted out that I needed to put a choke chain on Frisco. Ugh. Gag. My desire to work Frisco to meet their dog just dropped exponentially. Thankfully Frisco caught on to the game quickly and walked beautifully for me over to their pup. I proceeded to explain that their dog (wearing a prong collar) only learned to escape pain, whereas Frisco was learning to actually walk nicely. I also told them that those collars can create and exacerbate aggression in dogs.

Next the guy proceeded to tell me that Frisco is, in fact, a Belgian Shepherd. Because he heard it from some guy who was an “expert.” Right. I won’t go into that snippet, he didn’t make much sense and I don’t think he took in much of what I was saying. But it led to him stating that all Search and Rescue dogs are “those Belgian dogs” because “you know, they’re lighter on their feet and smell good.” When I told him that yes, many SAR dogs are GSDs, but there are also plenty of Labs, and GASP even Pit Bulls, as well as lots of mixed breed dogs, he gave me the stink eye and ignored me.

Then we hit the money. His dog wasn’t spayed and just got through her first heat (Frisco was really giving her a good sniffing). And he asked me if he could breed Frisco to her. So then I tried to get in some information on the millions of dogs and cats euthanized every year, and that they could get a puppy from a shelter and save two lives, and that they’re not professional breeders, and don’t actually know what they’re doing, and their dog’s only 6 months old, how could they know they wanted to breed her, they don’t even know if she’s passed her health checks or what her adult personality will be like. And then they really gave it to me. They got her from a pet store. And tried to convince me that pet stores “won’t just sell a puppy to anyone.” Right. They said they paid $2,500 for their pup. I told them that anyone who walked into the store with that money would walk out with a dog. And that frankly, they got ripped off, seeing as their dog most likely came from a puppy mill and really wasn’t a great specimen of her breed (in the short time I was there she showed some worrisome nervousness, especially for a dog her age).

And to top it ALL off. This guy drives up in a huge SUV and shouts out the window that he’s got this gorgeous GSD from Germany who he wants to breed but he can’t find a good bitch. And the people I was “chatting” with then began to swap numbers so they could breed their dog. Meanwhile I’m yelling at all of them that they have no business breeding dogs at all.

I nearly lost my shit right there.

In order to keep my shit, I U-turned Frisco and we high-tailed it OUT of there.

I’m not sure what else I could have done. Stayed and argued another hour with them? It just makes me sick, I feel sick right now, knowing that these people are planning litters with dogs from puppy mills, with no health or temperament testing, and sending the breed to shit. I am all for a freaking license to own dogs. Pass a damn test, please. And owning intact dogs should be illegal unless you have a Master’s in genetics and animal behavior.

What do you think? I’m still so upset I can’t think clearly. I’m going to go snuggle some puppies and try to cheer up.

Oh, and Charlie was a super star at the KPA workshop. SUPER STAR.

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