Sunday, May 30, 2010

Street Dogs Hanging Out

Dog behavior might be better understood, if we knew more about how they live their lives when not under our control. So much more than a collection of drives, they make choices each day about where they go, if they hang out with the gang or go it alone.
Dogs can make bitter enemies. Peanut, the little guy facing the camera hates Stormy with a habanera passion. They were once friends. This cunning little dog has the ability to motivate other dogs. Last year I watched him get the larger dogs to threaten Storm into staying outside the pack and away from Blondie, who they were breeding. She even threatened Storm when he got close to her even tho they are good friends.
This photo was taken just before the lead pic. It's Peanut gratifying himself on a much larger boy.
Often people talk about little dogs having a Napolean complex, usually it's just bluster or the owner backs his play. This is the first little dog I've seen to actually be a tyrant all on his own steam.
Zorro is the dark red dog with black fringe. Last year he was so high ranking that when he walked up to the pack breeding, the dog that was on her dismounted so Zorro could breed. He was more of a loner then, this year I see him in the pack more frequently. He has lost vigor. It's probably much more difficult for the larger dogs to maintain themselves on the meager food supply. 
The day before there were eight dogs hanging out. Of the six this day only four were of the original group. Later in the day they were all back at their spots hoping for leftovers.  

PAWS, Puerto Rican Animal Welfare Society Adoption Day

The smiling lady holding the puppy is Evelyn Ramos, who lead the team of volunteers. Evelyn has run this adoption event for seven years. Her day begins gathering equipment and bathing puppies. She knows all about the personalities of each puppy, who's outgoing, who's shy and needs more social time. This program is a success because of Evelyn's expertise. 
Mercedes, the charming lady in the foreground has a quick eye for what's going on and how to best help Evelyn. 
Crowds gather all afternoon. Everyone wants to see and maybe hold a puppy. People passing have their stories of how many dogs they, many adopted right here.The kids held the puppies gently. The best part was the more the puppies were held, the more they clamored to get out and be held. PAWS is a no kill shelter affiliated with the Pet Vet, both are in Isabela.
 Their good work needs support.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Pack of Street Dogs

These dogs were about a half mile down the hill from where we live in Puerto Rico. Dogs pack up to hang out for a while. They don't run in a pack like this full time. Each dog has a spot where it lives. Some spots can accommodate more than one dog depending on the food supply. These dogs live in front of the gate pretty much as singles. I am just getting to know them.
Stormy, Blondie & Bonita visit with these guys seldom as far as I know. When they leave this spot, it isn't together. Sometimes I think it's because they don't want to leave their spot unattended.
These are some of the dogs I believe Stormy barks to on dog chatter nights. Where I live in Illinois is flat open country. Here it's like living in a bowl, the acoustics are different.  Everything sounds close.
The other night a dog barked in pain for almost five minutes, which is a very long time for a pain bark. At first I could hear the shock and terror in the bark, then it took on a mournful tone, finally it muffled into silence. This is usually the sound of a dog that's been hit run over by a car.
Notice in the picture the dog standing several feet behind the pack holding his left front foot up. I would bet that this is the dog whose pain bark I heard. The voice matches the size of the dog. Dogs of this age are really street smart, I don't understand how he got hit; unless he is a car chaser like Stormy.
You might think that these dogs all live in front of houses right in a row or very close to each other. Their spots aren't all that far apart. but there are other dogs living between them. It makes me wonder why these guys decided to hang out today and not the others.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Adri Lastra Galler, Dedicated Animal Savior

Adri Lastra Galler, Amigos de Animales was the first name that began to show up when I googled the Puerto Rican island dogs.
The Amigos de Animales web site gave me the first glimmer of what is really happening with the dogs.
The peace and contentment of one who is living her life's purpose is in her eyes almost as much as the sadness that comes from never being able to do enough. 
During the years I couldn't afford to return to the island, I read what Adri had to say about the dogs and the horses she has rescued. Where animals were in need; there is Adri Galler.
When the dog catchers threw the dogs off the bridge, Adri was one of the first to be called because they know Adri cares. 
When gangs were using and abusing horses, Adri was instrumental in catching criminals and saving horses. 

All the while caring for her bricabrac collection of strays/satos. Adri could continue with the placement of her strays in the states; that would be a full plate for most, but no there's more.
The one woman mega force brought a standard of education in animal control to Puerto Rico. Because of her efforts no dog will be thrown off a bridge in Puerto Rico by any animal control officer. 
Adri saw what was wrong, then worked to fix it. She worked long and hard; not for thank you, but for her beloved "Satos". Congratulations to Adri as the second course for Animal Control Certification begins in June, 2010. 
There is no rest for the dynamic lady. The offspring of her Animal Control Course is the Federation of Animal Control Officers or FOICCA. By popular demand Adri has agreed to take a more active  of the fledgling organization for the benefit of the animals and members. 
Adri has earned the respect of animal activists around the island and elsewhere. I am so proud to call her my friend and mentor. Thank you, Adri, this is one more good thing you're doing.

Puerto Rican Dogs

What about these island dogs? Who takes care of them? It would surprise you to know how many people you can ask these questions without a helpful answer.
This was back in the day before I knew anything about google, when ferreting out information was an art. Lord, help me I still complain about searching for info.
Roving vans of veterinarians were said to be neutering throughout the island. Others told us of a government department that handled the dogs. We were assured that somebody was doing something.
When you're post op, feeling like dog dirt...well, let's just say prayers were said.
My journey into the landscape of island dogs began in a drug induced stupor as I convalesced. The beauty of the island viewed from the car window was punctuated with free ranging dogs. Like a little kid, I chirped, "There's one!" It became my dog fix to see these dogs going about their business.
A friend gave us a tour of the Atlantic side of Puerto Rico, where I met the beach masters. The people here are good to these dogs at the beaches we began to frequent.
There is so much talk on the island that people don't care; I disagree, many care. We would arrive with our leftovers; this is my dinner these machos were sniffing  with disdain. The real hot dogs pretended not to notice we were there, but let another male look  in the direction of the offering plates scattered about his head testosterone would ooze out of his pours adequately to dissuade any lesser male.
For a long time I believed there was more going on to help the dogs, than there really is.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Puerto Rican Dogs

The Puerto Rican island dogs have been calling my name. Does anybody believe in meant to be or destiny?
The crazy people of the world run around on this crusade or that endeavor for a wider benefit. The simple beauty of a life lived in pursuit is the peace of mind you can never get in the I me mode.
Throughout my life there has been the constant thread of dogs. Some years it was in the back ground, but always present. Dogs!
There are so many wonderful "dog" people around the planet. There are the biggies whose names we all know. There are the dog lovers, who toil in obscurity taking care of strays in their back yards, pouring every extra dime they get into improving the quality of life of dogs where they can. 
The love of dogs unites us in a spiritual way. During the animal control officers course in San Juan last January, the positive energy was stimulating. 
I believe that God puts us on a path. My path has lead to Puerto Rico and the island Satos. 
If somebody finds my instruction manual, please return it. I am here, but I don't know that the heck to do.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Praise With A Purpose & A Plan

OK, guys let's make one thing perfectly clear, anemically saying, "Good dog" once in a while is not good enough!
Most trainers tell you to praise your dog; there is nothing new in that.
What we are talking about is praise with a purpose and a plan.
The plan is to get your praise to matter to the dog. If your dog falls in love with being praised, pleasing you becomes important.
In order to implement this plan, you have to praise a lot. If your dog looks like he is thinking about doing right, he needs to hear a happy, "Good dog!"
You want to praise so well that the dog butt wiggles all over at the sound of , "What a good dog!"
If your dog does not look at you when you praise, you're not doing right. Don't be above giving treats, if the dog doesn't care about what you have to say. Just remember the plan is to love the praise, so tone of voice is major.
In the initial stage of this program you want to praise so often that your dog comes to look for the reinforcement.
My dogs expect to be reinforced. If I don't tell them they are good, they wonder what they have done wrong.
The purpose is to identify the good dog zone. That's where they get the praise.
It's a beautiful thing to how confident a dog becomes when they know what they are doing pleases you.
Dr. Temple Grandin has identified fear as the strongest emotion in animals. Recently I've had some experiences that have brought this message home to me with a vengence.
Conitioning my dog to identifly the good dog zone has taught him to place pleasing me above his reaction to fear. That's pretty powerful.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Special Dogs

Lately I've been dealing with a lot of dysfunctional dogs: barking, biting and fighting.  Getting a dog's behavior to turn around is always a source of satisfaction and often frustrating. 
On any given day I enjoy the company of dogs, but today I'm thinking about a couple of dogs endowed with a special spirit.
The first that comes to mind is a lovely Rottie girl named Belle Star. She was a hero I wrote about in an earlier post, who saved a child from being kidnapped.
That night my first Rottie girl, Testie died; my heart ached. Our dogs are not allowed in the bed. Belle had never before or after gotten into our bed. As I laid in bed sobbing, she landed gingerly next to me. Her body was an inch from mine, only our energy fields touched. I started to tell her to get off the bed, but I was comforted by her presence. For the moment I didn't care, my grief was overwhelming. When my crying stopped, just before I fell asleep she lightly jumped off. Belle showed me an uncommon empathy.
The second special spirit was Mabeline,a Bullmastiff.
Mabel hit the front door to come in the house. This wasn't unusual. My husband, Kirt let her in then sat down. Mabel came over to Kirt and put her head in his lap. He stroked her head. She opened her mouth revealing a live  baby bird, which he took.
She headed back to the door. Kirt followed her to where she found the baby bird. It wasn't ready to fly. The wind blew it out of the nest. Thanks to Mabel Kirt put the fledgling back in the nest. Her tender heart transcended anything that could be explained by drives.
I wonder what gift of spirit that allows a being this altruism, when others struggle with acceptable behavior.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Socializing Puppies With People

Raising the perfect dog takes planning. 
The early weeks with a new puppy are consumed with socialization to this big world. If we want our dog to be comfortable with something, the pup must meet it.
Meet & greets with children of as many age groups as possible are important. When we go to the park with a puppy, it becomes a child magnet. The important part is supervising the activity. A child, who is afraid of dogs may put their hand out to pet the puppy only to pull it back triggering the pup to try to grab the child's hand in its mouth. After a few times of that you end up with a pup that grabs kids hands. This is important to my dog's future, so when I come across a child who is afraid; I think it is better to move on with my puppy.
It's a valuable lesson for puppies to learn to run with children, so they don't chase them later. This means running with one child and groups of kids.
Dogs need to be comfortable around people in wheel chairs or who walk with canes. Now is the time for meet & greets. I find that if we take the pup to the bicycle path, exposure to people on bikes covers the wheel chair situation rather well.
Our puppies go to greet people in the parking lots of super markets. The more types of people a puppy meets, the better. I don't want my dog to bark at men in hats because my puppy never met any. We don't smoke, so I've seen my dogs curl their lips when a smoker reaches out to pet them. Try explaining to someone that the dog wasn't growling at them, but just didn't like the smell of their hand.
Summer outdoor concerts, sports events, fourth of July fireworks are great places to go to get a puppy to learn that it can handle this great big world.
We like our dogs to be able to go with us as many places as they are allowed.
Well socialized puppies make well behaved dogs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Improving Our Relationship With Dogs

Dedicated to improving our relationship with dogs has been our motto at Carrvilla for more than twenty-five years.
So how do we do that? What single thing can we do to improve how we relate to our dogs?
Let them know when what they do pleases you, praise. It's so easy, just say, "Good dog."
If you have ever had your boss look over your shoulder at your work and then say nothing, you know how disconcerting silence can be. A simple, "That's good." makes all the difference in the world.

Old school task masters say stupid thinks like, "A dog must earn the praise." That is so much humbug.
Praise when given freely increases the chances of the dog wanting to do what pleases you. Think about it. Every time the dog gives us a wrong we correct by saying no. The dog gives a right answer. If silence is the only greeting a correct answer recieves, you have just decreased your chances of getting that answer again. 
If we mark the behavior we want with praise, we teach the dog to recognize what we like. 
Before we can get to that point, we need to get the dog to fall in love with the sound of our voice telling him how good he is. In this first falling in love stage we need to give praise often or else who the heck cares.
Not too long ago a woman said to me, " You don't expect me to say good dog every time the dog does what I say; do you?" I had to laugh because I'd been listening to her say no to the dog every few seconds for what seemed like forever. 
When you praise the behaviors you like, the dog becomes confident that he is pleasing you. Now, who doesn't want a dog hooked on praise?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Listen To The Dog

If dogs are able to communicate through barking in a meaningful way, not just intruder alert and I am so bored; how should we respond?  
If I am yelling at the top of my lungs, "I am scared, somebody help me." and I get a face full of citronella; I 'll probably just get more upset even if I shut up. That's a devil of a predicament; isn't it? We are so very glad that we never did that here to quiet dogs.
 The joyeous barking of the dogs when we turn them out to run has a different tonal quality. It makes me smile. People sometimes stop to watch the dogs run. Dogs barking in the kennel is a problem for me. The stress in their voices shreds my nerves.
When people other than staff come into the kennel, the dogs bark. That's normal and acceptable; scared lonely dog barking is not. So what do we do about it in a kennel situation?
What seems to work best is simply visiting with the dog when it first arrives. Often I've gone to visit with these stressed dogs. By spending a few minutes with them at the beginning of their stay we calm them. This sets them up to look around, to start to interact with our staff and the other dogs.

For a large percentage of barkers this is the answer. Our house is fifty feet from the kennel, so we are acutely aware of barking.
If a dog is allowed to languish in that sad state, the rest of their stay is impacted.When staff take the time to happy talk a dog through the fear they feel when they are away from the people they love most, they fall in love with being here.
It is surprising how few barkers we have. I thank my staff for the fine job they do making dogs feel at home here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Breeding Dogs

Spring breeding season is here. Breeders planning litters have researched potential mates. They look for a dog whose conformation will compliment and improve that of their bitch. Health clearances are checked. When the time is right, supervised copulation occurs.
The breeding of pure bred dogs is planned parenthood. Breeders dedicated to improving their stock attend seminars to gain skills in this endeavor.
Educators like Dr. Carmen Battaglia will lead the way in breeding better dogs as he has for decades. His popular seminar always contains the latest advances in science. I remember how exciting it was to hear him speak about the genome project, when they didn't know anything more than the sequence. Now, scientests have learned so much about what trait is where on the DNA chain.
Lately, pure bred dogs have taken criticism. Breeding for popular features has created problems, no doubt. Breeders have advances in science to aid them as never before, so the outlook has hope.
Where is the hope for the millions of stray dogs procreating without any human intervention? I hear talk of mix breeds being healthier, more sound. Sure, why not with a mortality rate of maybe seventy per cent, the ones that make it should be plenty strong.
The stray dogs I am familiar with are the Puerto Rican island dogs, the Satos. I've seen bad bites, mismatched fronts and rears. These are things breeders try hard to prevent. The pups with more serious defects die alone after miserable suffering.
As we prepare to head back to Puerto Rico in time to watch dog behavior during breeding time, I think about how much I have learned from this spectacle. Dogs acting normally without our interference teach us so much.
I look forward to reporting on all that I see and hear, but make no mistake my great objective is a massive nueter campaign.
Dogs are our creation. I support the breeders of the planet, who love dogs enough to take the time and money to educate themselves to breed the best dogs they can. That is still no guarantee, but with the help of science we are getting there.
If any of you know about writing for grants, please, contact me. It's another one of those areas where I am going to need some help. Thanks.