Summer Fun, from Frogs to Sheepdogs

frog, eastern grey tree

It's a light post today, in celebration of the waning days of summer and a bucket of writing to do for speeches (both on "People, Dogs & Trauma,"one a Keynote at ADI Trainer's Conference in Denver, the other a Keynote at APDT in Hartford, CT), revising a chapter with Aubrey Fine in the Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, and working on my memoir.) Every day I ask myself what I am grateful for, and today I'm thanking the universe for this little green frog who is an Eastern Grey Tree Frog. (Apparently you can order them in a variety of colors. This one arrived in green.) There is no scale in the photo, but he is tiny, perhaps an inch and a half max. I never would have noticed him if I hadn't been on my daily round of picking Japanese Beetles off of my plants and dunking them Read More

Sunflowers Make Me Smile

sunflowers 2 pope conservancy

Today's blog isn't quite what was planned, because Willie scared us by developing a mass on his foreleg that looked exactly like the sarcoma tumor his uncle Luke had at a similar age. Willie's mass developed quickly over the weekend, looked like a copy of Luke's tumor and is on the same part of his foreleg as Luke's was. Scary stuff. But good news! It looks like it is just a cyst, so in all probability it is nothing to worry about. The vet did still recommend taking it off, in part to prevent it growing and causing trouble, and also to be absolutely sure that it isn't cancerous. Willie will have the surgery tomorrow, which means much of our sheepdog work will have to go on pause until he recovers in 14 days. He is NOT going to like being back on a leash (argh, breaks my heart to do this Read More

Consciousness in Dogs

maggie tongue flick on wall 2014

Ray Coppinger loves to start controversies, and he did a great job of it at the SPARCS Conference in June. He began his talk by stating that dogs are have no consciousness and are merely "acting out motor patterns." It's always hard to know what Ray believes and what he is saying to generate a conversation, but needless to say, he was highly successful at the latter. The number of attendees who believed that dogs are not conscious or self aware was small indeed, no surprise there. I'll say right off the bat that I'm one of those who believe that dogs are indeed conscious and aware, but I also think it is an important conversation to have. First, because the more we learn about comparative mental states between people and non-human animals the better. Second, because the minds of other Read More

Intervening in Tug Games: Plan A to Plan B

hay to barn 2014

When do you intervene when your dog's play becomes borderline? We all know that there is no simple answer to this question. (Except, of course... "It depends.") I wrote extensively on this topic in May. However, the evolving relationship between Maggie and Willie continues to keep the question relevant on a daily basis. You might recall that I mentioned earlier I was quietly intervening when the dogs became emotionally aroused while playing tug. Maggie gets so excited she starts sounding like a chainsaw on steroids, and Willie sometimes gets that flat-eyed, lizard look that means he's about to do something he shouldn't. When that happened I began saying, always in a cheerful voice, "That'll Do" or calling Willie's name to come to me. I was always happy and upbeat about it, careful not Read More

When to Intervene in Dog-Dog Interactions

Luke, Indiana & me

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked, and with good reason. It's a tough one. It's also relevant to my own life right now, after having just introduced a new dog into the household, and having to make split-second decisions several times in the first few weeks. I should say first off that there is no ultimate truth here. No research, no data, just my opinion based on experience with thousands of client dogs and plenty of my own. Certainly there is no dearth of opinions about when to intervene when dogs "get into it," from the extremes of "I never intervene, I just let them work it out" to the opposite attitude of calling a dog off instantly, or correcting her, for a hard eye or a quiet growl. You won't be surprised to learn that I live in the middle ground, not being Read More