Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Keeping a Training Journal - How and Why

Training a dog can be as complex or as simple as one makes it.. Every dog is different and keeping that in mind it is important to note that very few training methods will work the same way with each and every dog and handler. A training journal is one method that in my experience DOES work all the time every time so long as the trainer/owner keeps up with it and does it honestly and in a somewhat standardized format.

A training journal is simply a way to keep record of training sessions you do with your dog both in a group class and on your own. It can be super basic or really advanced as far as the entries goes. I find simple works best for the novice trainer, though somebody working on more complex or advanced behaviors or who is working towards competing in shows may find more detailed journals helpful. For now we'll keep it simple. All you need is a couple sheets or paper and something to keep them in or even better a spiral notebook and a pen.

Firstly you may be wondering WHY you would want to keep a journal in the first place, so lets get that out of the way before we going on to the HOW of journaling. Keeping records of your training at home is amazingly useful in helping you to see your dog's progress through a training program and thus can be a major motivational tool. Without the journal you are less likely to notice some of those baby steps towards perfectly performed behaviors and may assume you are making no progress at all or that training is not working for some reason. With a journal you can easily chart improvements and see the real story on how well training is progressing. As useful as it is in motivation a training journal is even more useful in spotting patterns of behavior, be they good or bad, in your training sessions. For example if a student comes to me and tells me that her wonder pup is having trouble with a given behavior during their at home sessions I can ask her exactly how long the problem has been going on. One of two things usually happens at this point in the conversation Situation one would be the student shrugs and says something to the effect 'I dunno, a couple of days I guess" and because they have elected to ignore my request for them to keep a record of their sessions they can provide no further information to me on when it started and we cannot look back and see what may have caused it. This makes helping them more difficult (however, far from impossible), than it needed to be. The second situation is  much better. My student can pull out her training journal flip it open to Thursday of last week and tell me exactly when the problem started. From there we can discuss in further detail that training session and look over her notes and can often pin point the problem then and there and work to correct it. At the very least we can see the pattern emerging and can counter it and correct it in short order. A wonderful example of this is our young standard poodle Saleen. When Saleen was just 6 months or so old we were working hard on perfecting heel position. Saleen had a bad habit of lagging just slightly behind where she was supposed to be and being less than motivated to catch up. After trying several different ways to speed her up I turned to an old school training collar and gave her a couple of pops with it to see if that helped. It did not. Heeling got much worse and we ended up struggling for several days to try and motivate her before looking back in my records I was able to pinpoint the problem which had started with the collar correction I had given her. It freaked her out and made her shut down entirely, even though it was a very mild correction. For the remainder of the week I worked just on playing and having a good time and SURPRISE her heeling corrected itself very quickly and we began to make big improvements. (This is also an example of how forceful training methods do nothing to help build a strong bond/working relationship between you and your dog). At the next class I attended (yup, even pro trainers have to take their dog to classes for social skills and distraction training) the instructor noticed the improvements in Saleen's heeling. Of course I didn't feel the need to fess up and tell her how I had almost ruined the whole thing in one session lol.

Now that we know WHY we want to keep a journal let get to the HOW. It's really super easy. Whip out your pen and your notebook and jot down the date and the time of day (morning, noon, night). Make a note of where you are training and be specific. If I train at home I specify that I was in the front yard or in the kitchen for most of the session. I also make a note of what I am using for reward and motivation. Write down what you worked on and how well your dog did with the lesson. If you did sit, down, and stay write down how your dog responded to each cue. If you had problems with one of those behaviors make a note of it and make a note of what if anything you tried to do about it. Then make a few general notes such as whether or not your wonder pup was distracted by a car backfiring up the street or if they didn't like a new cookie or toy you tried out. Write down any questions that come up so you can remember to ask the trainer about them if you are taking a class. Keep a log of your class time too in the same way you do your at home training sessions. I also go one step further and make notes of any time I take my dog out in public in my training journals. This allows me to remember any unusual behavior they display or if they were frighten or nervous by a new experience. Keeping track of their reactions to public settings helps me to stop and head off any problems and I can deal with them in training.

Following is an example from Saleen's training journal from when we were very actively working her last year. These entries are 100% real from a real trainer and a real dog working through real behaviors.

June 1st - Group class at Pets Behave 6:00pm
Trained; Heel, Stay, Recall, and Settle
Heel- Lots of lagging
Stay - Good, no problems walked to end of 6 foot lead easily
Recall - Good no hesitation, fast
Responses to sit and down cues were good, very quick
General notes:
Very reactive and easily distracted. Wanted to look at everyone else. Not super motivated, heeling is slow. Needs to be more "up" Not as motivated by carrots and apples for treats. Need a higher vaule treat for class situations. 
Work on lagging during heeling, find a toy to play train with, find a magic motivator treat.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Oh my gosh, I can't believe it's been 6 years since Wonder and I first met. It's amazing to think that time could fly so quickly. Where did it go?? Back then I was a kid fresh out of high school and Wonder was an itty bitty newborn puppy that wasn't expected to survive. Not long after she was born I found myself grieving the loss of my best friend Pia, who was the reining tibbie terror at the time. After Pia was gone the little puppy who could and I got very very attached. When the time came to place those puppies Wonder wasn't going anywhere! We've been partners ever since. Now 6 years later she is a champion show dog who I hope to begin working on a grand championship with and an accomplished trick dog. She helped me pick out my husband and her new daddy and even helped give me away at my wedding. We are both mothers and while her son no longer lives here with us she is very good with baby Nicholas. A very special dog indeed. I dunno what I would do without her! We are having a very special dinner tonight for her and some special dog cookies as well. Happy birthday girl!

Click here to learn more about Wonder

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the road to a Grand Championship

The American Kennel Club recently implemented a new program at it shows that allows dog's who are already Champions of Record (meaning they have defeated a certain number of dogs a certain number of times) to compete for and earn a Grand Champion title. This is LONG over due as a lot of other organizations offer it already, UKC for instance. Howie is already pushing his senior discount card at the kibble buffet and after having a baby I didn't want to maintain a show coat anyway so Bzzzzzzzzzz I shaved him :) That pretty much means he can't be shown again because wow what a difference in the vacuum's war on dog hair that one little haircut made. Wonder on the other hand... da ta da daaaaa is growing her hair back out and will hopefully be able to get stated on her title maybe after Christmas? We'll see how $$$$ looks then because lets face facts it can be expensive to show a dog. She likes to show though and she loves to go places, I think she'd like a few more trips back into the ring. She is also of course the most perfect, most awesome, most WONDERFUL Tibetan Spaniel ever so of course she deserves to be a Grand Champion. Anyone ho dares to disagree or even thinks about it I'm going to personally hunt down and sic my physco kitty Sake' on ! Beware...

So there is our news for the day. Wonder is going to begin her coat care regime this week to get her sparkly clean (she's in heat right now which sucks) and then it's our special hair TLC for the next few months to thicken her coat up and voila SHOW DOG :) Can't wait. Maybe baby Nicholas can come to a few more shows, his first one was when he was 4 weeks old, and help mommy and Wonder win some pretty ribbons. He sure loves to look at puppies :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review - Simple Green Pet Stain and Odor Remover

Prior to now my favorite pet cleaner was Get Serious that I often purchased and loaded up into our rug doctor carpet cleaner. Worked great for spot cleaning too. Not long ago I ran out and about the same time our bad kitty got locked out of the room with the litter box and used the carpet in the baby's room. GROSS!! I loaded up baby in the backseat of the car and proceeded to the pet store. Guess what, No Get Serious in stock. OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I looked over all the various cleaners on the shelf and Simple Green caught my attention. I unscrewed the cap to take a sniff and the smell was fresh and kind of pine like so I shrugged and stuck it in the cart. When I got home I applied the cleaner to the spots on the carpet and scrubbed. Surprise! It works :) Not only did it get those spots out it also cleaned a spot that the previous cleaners I have tried and loved failed to remove in front of the fire place. Yay! So I'm loving this stuff, not that I need a it all that often for potty spots but with 6 four legged children running around we sometimes have puddles that show up. Saleen was in heat recently and it cleaned blood up when she dripped between panty changes. When Wonder licked a frog and threw up all over the living room Simple Green to the rescue.

Another really fantastic plus to Simple Green is that it is non toxic and biodegradable. Saving the carpet and the planet. It is it pretty inexpensive as far as pet cleaners go as well. A product that works and doesn't break the bank. Fantastic! It also smells ok and that's a huge deal for me. I can't stand cleaners that either stink themselves or don't remove the odor from the stain they are cleaning. This not only removed the odor but also leaves a light fresh scent behind. Even after having used a lot of the stuff on the old spot in front of the fire place the odor didn't overwhelm the living room though I could smell it a little. Long story short I am loving this stuff. Based on what I've seen with the pet cleaner version I am totally going to purchase other cleaners in the Simple Green Line

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Creative Color

Creative coloring has been around for years. I have an old poodle grooming book from the 1950's that gives instructions on how to use food coloring to dye light colored poodles. Many people would love to add color to pets and often wonder what a safe way to color your dog is. Now keep in mind I am a DOG groomer, I don't often work with cats and have no opinion on what is and is not safe for your cat. The poodle pictured below is Jazz, she lives here, and is our resident therapy dog. She is often colored for her therapy work and the people she visits love it. Jazz seems to know when she is "in color" as we call it, she prances and wags and is in general very very happy. There are some people out there who disagree with the whole concept of creative grooming in general and creative coloring in particular. They have their reasons. Some say it is disrespecful to the animal, others think it poses a health hazard, and still others feel it is cruel. I can tell you from my experiences that nothing could be further from the truth provided the products used to color my girl's hair are non toxic and safe for her skin. As I said, she always seems happier and she gets TONS of attention from strangers, which she loves, when she is in color. 

I use manic panic with great sucess (to good in fact lol) I have also used food coloring and crayola side walk chalk, crayola markers, and a personal favorite Crayola blow pens. It takes a lot longer to get coverage with any of the crayola products but in most cases water will take it right out of the coat. Very very temporary. Though I did have purple sidewalk chalk stay in Jazz's ears for several weeks once.

Here are some examples and quick facts as I have learned them on a few various methods.

Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2009_0524jazznzoey0007.jpg
Done with blow pens and markers. The blow pens take a bit of work but once you get the hang of it it's pretty easy, like air brushing. Not ok to try doing this for an all over color, you'll get a headache at the least and pass out at the worst (yeah I learned that already lol). The markers are really easy to use but not on long hair, it's hard to do it on long hair. You can use them to stencil but again only on short hair. The longer the hair is the less crisp your line is it just becomes a big splotch of color instead of a heart or a rainbow like you intended. Blow pens WILL rub off on wet hands, as will markers. If it gets wet it will likely run and or fade very quickly. To get coverage in longer hair takes longer and more ink. You'll probably need several blow pens of the same color to accomplish the look you're going for. The method is pretty simple. Blow ink onto hair and run a comb through the hair once to distribute the ink as evenly as possible. All done. Markers are MUCH harder to use than blow pens except on very short hair. Jazz's poms were done with markers I had to sit and color and comb and color and comb over and over to get the light blue I achieve. Looking closely you can see that I didn't get really even coverage. The red was also done with markers but since the hair was so short in the red areas it was very simple. Just color like you would on paper and then blot with a paper towel to make sure it's dry and isn't going to rub off. Keep in mind though, get this stuff wet and it IS going to rub, run, and fade on whatever it touches.

Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2009_10150012.jpg
Done with sidewalk chalk - body and blow pens - mane and tail.

Side walk chalk can be dusty and it's hard to get all of the dust out when you do a full body thing like what I did here. I used my dryer to try and blow the excess off. Problem was it's the dust that is the color so the more you blow off the lighter the color becomes. It's MUCH better used in small areas like highlights for the ears that I did here on my very first experiment with coloring Jazz. It's also hard to get even color on long hair with chalk, easier with blow pens.  To use the chalk you soak it in water, cool water will work but warm water worked better for me. Rub wet chalk on hair and comb through. It will take a couple of applications and you will have to re soak the chalk several times I promise. The wetter the chalk is the more color you will get to stick to the hair. The purple body lasted about a day as pictured and then faded a ton. I also had purple dust on my black leather couch. Probably this was because the chalk was to dry during application and thus was more dusty? I don't know for sure. What I do know is that I won't likely be trying an all over color with chalk again though the ear highlights below are cute and I liked.
Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2008_11150016.jpg
Jazz's chalked ear highlights that lasted for weeks :) even through washing. Most chalk doesn't last that long though.

Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2009_1025pinkjazz0017.jpg
Food Coloring all over
Food coloring in cheap and easy to use. It will not wash out right away or rub off on hands, not even wet hands. It fades gradually with each bath. It's also hands down the easiest to get. Head down to walmart, in the baking isle, and they have boxes of just one color, it's a 1oz bottle. I takes 6 or 7 to dye Jazz in the above picture. Don't get the multi pack of food colors, those are too tiny and don't get any gel colors or anything like that. Just plain old McCormic food coloring. Usually they have red, green, and yellow - I have yet to see the blue but I am sure it exists. Less than 2 bucks a bottle I do believe.What you want to do here is dump the food coloring into a spray bottle and if you desire add a few table spoons of water. I try not to add anything if I can help it because the more you add to it the lighter the color will be since most of it will come off. PUT ON GLOVES before applying color. Spray dog down, careful of the face and eyes, I wouldn't even do the face to be honest, and let sit for 20 or more minutes. Rinse and viola Pink poodle. You will by the way want to remember that you will also get a much much lighter color with food coloring. It will not be possible to get red, it will always come out pink. Some dogs don't hold the blue pigment well and will turn out purple when you try and use blue. I haven't experienced that myself but I have heard of it.

Actual dyes, like manic panic, are reasonably cheap and will wash out eventually... most colors anyway. Red you are stuck with so make sure not to apply it anywhere you want it gone in a hurry. You get much deeper richer colors with dyes like this.
Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2009_0622jazzcreativegrooming0138.jpg

The thing to keep in mind with dye AND food coloring is you need to assume that the finished color will be much lighter than what it looks like in the bottle. For example to dye a poodle pink with food coloring you need several of the larger one ounce bottles of RED food coloring and about half an hour to let it sit in the coat before rinsing it out. Gloves are also a good idea with any color lol.
this is what it looked like in process with the food coloring
Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2009_1025pinkjazz0006.jpg
by the way this stuff will stain anything that will absorb it so while it came off the shower/bath tub pretty easily it didn't come off the rug or the door when she unexpectedly jumped out before she had been rinsed! LoL

Nail polish is FUN FUN FUN!! Love it!! I don't use the pet brand nails polishes either if I can help it. It chips off waaay to quickly, takes to long to dry (IMO) and requires several coats. I go to walgreens and purchase a brand called sinful colors. It lasts just long enough, dries faster than any dog polish I have ever used, and doesn't always need coat after coat after coat to achieve the desired color. It's also in most cases cheaper than the pet stuff. I do have several bottles of the pet nail polish and when I do use it I always put a coat of white (from the above mentioned walgreens brand) on the nail first so I get a truer color. It's an extra step and a pain so as you might imagine I rarely use the pet nail polish.

This is an example of the sinful colors polish job
Hair Bows, Hair Dye and Other Silly Things~**-2009_0525jazz0009.jpg

You might have noticed, I'm a bit of a creative grooming freak LoL though I am still experimenting.I have read of other products that can be used safely to color pets but have never used them so obviously cannot offer an opinion on them. These days there are dyes specificly marketed to pets the supply company Pet Edge sells one for example. I have hear mixed reviews on some of these products and thus haven't tried them out.

One more important note, in some places it is illegal to color your pet. I can think of two off the top of my head. You may check and make sure it is OK  before you color. In some places it is OK for YOU to color your own dog but not OK for a groomer to do it for you, this is the case where I live. While I can color Jazz if I desire I cannot color a client's poodle and charge them for the service. Silly law but honestly I'm fine with it. I don't have time to color every poodle I meet :P

Fleas Fleas Go away (part 1)

Fleas are a huge deal here in the southern part of the U.S. It's hot, it's humid, and it's a year round joy making this pretty much flea heaven. (Not to mention all the other mean biting bugs). Tough economic times as well as a desire for less toxins in their daily lives have people turning away from traditional mainstream flea and tick preventives and looking to home remedies instead. I am often asked what can be done to prevent fleas in the home or get rid of them once they are already present in the home. The following are various methods I have either tried or am aware of for taking care of a flea problem. I think it's important to note that the flea life cycle. Adult fleas can lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime and those eggs hatch in short order, anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the environment. It is also important to note that in most cases no one treatment or method is likely to completely control the problem, this is even true for prescription preventatives. Your best bet is to employ several methods to treat you home, yard, and pet over the course of several weeks to rid yourself of an infestation and to prevent the problem from recurring.

There are several recipes of various essential oils online that you can mix in water and spray on your pet. They include eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, citronella, cedar, lemon. I have myself used combos of several of these oils together mixed 5-10 drops strong into a conditioner solution (conditioner and water) and sprayed on the dog via a spray bottle. Work through coat.

You can cut up two or three (depending on size) Lemons and boil them for a few minutes then strain the liquid and use as a flea spay - it smelled weird to me and honestly I didn't end up using it. I tried to add mint to it as well and that was a mistake because it just made it smell... well I can't tell you what it smelled like.. feet maybe? Anyway I ended up putting it in a spray bottle and forgetting about it and it molded... yuck! I don't know anyone by the way who uses this but I have read a lot of people do. Seems to me it would be easier to just use the oils... ? 

With either of the two methods above you can spray directly on your pet OR you can take a regular nylon collar or just a piece of nylon or cotton cord and soak it in the liquid to make a home made flea collar.The flea collars would need to be re soaked probably weekly. I have a friend who did this but used a bandanna. The collar should be dry when you put it on the dog.

Brewers yeast rubbed through the coat is said to get rid of fleas, do it outside b/c they'll jump ship into your home otherwise. I read this in a book of natural pet remedies that was written by a holistic vet and what do you know, it does kind of work :) I recommended it to another person on a forum recently and she too had success with it.

Borax and salt (or just pick one or the other) will kill fleas in your carpets. Sprinkle down leave for several hours to overnight and vacuum up. I do this one myself often. Also regular vacuuming and in my case I also run over my carpets quickly with my steam mop will help a ton. Borax is pretty easy to find but ironically I couldn't get it at Walmart. I found it in Publix I believe... or it may have been Winn Dixie. Anyway it wasn't where I expected to find it. I usually leave it down over night. I have to say though that borax alone or with salt has worked better than salt alone. Don't ask me why?

Deflea is a mostly natural product you can purchase, comes in a spray and a shampoo and effective at killing the fleas without harmful toxins. It's made by Natural Chemistry. The one and only thing I don't like about this product is the bottle it comes in. I would MUCH rather have a trigger spray that the pump kind. It can be use on bedding and pets so it's useful. It also will not interfere with any topical preventative you have applied to your pet which is nice. It comes in a shampoo as well, even nicer. Doesn't smell fantastic but it's not horrid either.

My mother once read that regular mouthwash like Listerine or however you spell it could be sprayed on dogs and would repel, didn't work. It only repelled people..Oh and it made the dog's coats feel weird and they were itchy. I wouldn't try this one myself but go ahead if you so desire, some people swear by it which is why it is included here.

Apple cider vinegar used as a rinse during baths or sprayed onto a coat right after a bath will not only deodorize but changes the PH of the skin for a very short while and will prevent re infestation. It's benefit doesn't last long though
Putting it in the drinking water is said to prevent fleas in a similar and longer lasting way but I don't notice that it does really, but I also don't notice that it does not if that makes any sense. Maybe it works?? I dunno. I do it for all four of my dogs and still have to keep up on other methods of flea removal to keep the house flea free.

Adding garlic to the diet, I did the stuff in a jar and then tried the garlic powder (my guys wouldn't eat raw garlic) is said to make the dog unappealing to the fleas. It might, your dog will smell a big like garlic if you feed them enough of it, just like a person would. I did this last year to help get rid of a flea problem one of my clients brought into my home. Some people are worried about the toxicity of garlic b/c of recent reports of it killing dogs. I don't buy that myself but you can look it up and decide. I researched it before I added it in and found that while garlic was related to the onion and those are toxic to dogs it had to be given in extremely high doses (waaayyyy more than say onions) to have an adverse reaction to it unless there was some underlying problem. I have given my dog's garlic in the past no issue. They even make brewers yeast and garlic tabs for pets and sell them over the counter. I did it at a time when we were struggling to combat fleas (this past November) and I did notice that this helped maybe a tiny bit. Use garlic with caution though just in case and definitely do your homework on it to decide for yourself if you think it is really toxic or not.

There is an all natural dog treat called Flea Treats which you can find easily online and are said to work WONDERS though it takes a little while to build up in the system.

Washing all bedding in hot water weekly will also get rid of any flea friends hiding there and frankly is just a good idea in general since even clean pets tend to bring in dirt and washing their beds will keep the house smelling nicer.

Disclaimer - While I have cats, I am not a certified feline master groomer (I work with very few felines, mostly I do dogs) and therefor my knowledge on kitties is limited at best. I don't know what is and is not 100% safe to use on your cat so some further research would be in order.

Other things to combat fleas are higher quality diets, especially raw food diets and frequent bathing. Before I got pregnant I bathed my two standard poodles weekly (you obviously need to be careful what type of shampoo you use so you don't dry the skin) and had almost NO trouble with fleabies at all. Now that my LO is here and 5 mo old they get a bath once a month on average and I have a much harder time keeping them flea free without prescription topicals which I don't like to use.