Wow Willie, What a Good Dog

WH run tog 5-27-10

Oh my my my. Life has a way of being so interesting. Last night Willie boy reminded me of the joys of a well-trained dog. I am still full of relief and pride that he was such a good boy. Here's what happened: Willie and Hope and I were outside right before dark, enjoying the perfect evening (most appreciated after a week of  hatefully hot and humid weather). We tend to stay behind or beside the house, because of the road that runs by the farm in the front of the yard. We are situated at the bottom of a steep, curvy hill in one direction, and a blind curve coming the other way. There aren't a lot of cars on the road, but when they go by, they go by very, very fast, and most of them couldn't stop if they wanted to. Needless to say, if I'm going to have dogs loose outside in the yard Read More

Tail Wags Translated

I love tail wags: they are such an interesting expression of internal affect and indicator of a dog's emotional state. And I know the professional trainers who read this blog know how often they can be mis-interpreted by the general public. "But he was wagging his tail...!!!!" is a phrase heard painfully often, by people who have been bitten, or whose dog just snapped, nipped or bit. Ah, but a tail wag is like a smile: often an indicator of happiness, but not always. For example, we all know what a "phoney" smile looks like. The lips part and the corners of the mouth rise but the eyes never change. I'm remembering one person who smiled at me in a way that caused me to think I was in danger.  There was nothing friendly about this guy's face, because his eyes were cold and hard, and the Read More

The Puppy Chronicles: Chapter 3 — Puppy Tests Revisited

I'm about to take a week's vacation and wallow in puppy breath, flowers, and friends. Jim's surgery next week isn't quite what we planned, but at least we didn't have anything else scheduled besides enjoying spring and being together. I'm going to take a blog/email break and concentrate on my Jim, Will and Pup for the entire week, but I wanted to close out the chapter on the puppy tests, at least for now. As you may know, I do the puppy tests, but am never sure how much to make of them. So far, I am impressed with their predictive value (but it is VERY early in the game, so this question needs to be revisited in 12, 24 and 36 months). The standard tests that I did ask how a pup relates to an unfamiliar person and the environment. Mick was only 1 of 2 pups who followed me, unafraid of loud Read More

What Training Can Do, and What It Can’t

The PATRICIA McCONNELL RETURNS A PUPPY! brou-ha-ha (It's almost been worth it just having an excuse to use that word: brou-ha-ha. Say it over and over and try not to laugh!) has brought up one of the most important questions in dog training. What "problem behaviors" can be ameliorated by training and/or management, and what can't? Ah, the answer is a book unto itself (and yup, it's going to be a topic of the book I'm about to start writing), so I can't answer as fully as I'd like here. But here are some thoughts, that relate to my recent experience and to our relationship with dogs in general. First, as many wise readers have noted, there is such a thing as temperament in dogs, just as there is in people.  Temperament is defined as a set of behavioral predispositions that are seen very Read More

Two Great New Books!

There are two great new books out, one I have mentioned before that I drank up like a cup of hot chocolate on a warm day: Scent of the Missing, by Susannah Charleson is out, and I just loved it. I liked it so much I contacted her PR rep with the publisher and said "Please bring her to do a signing in Madison!" Here's what I wrote about it: " A brilliantly written book that should be on every dog lover's bed stand. Charleson's use of language is so rich I'm not sure I want to read her book or eat  it." Micheal Perry, who wrote the gorgeous book Truck, and a first great book, Population 485--(wonderful wonderful books) wrote "... With lean, lovely prose she takes us on a clear-eye, compassionate journey into a mysterious world in which every story begins as a ghost story." Scent of the Read More