Therapy Dogs – Born or Made?

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As many of you know I recently presented a seminar on animal assisted therapy in Naples Florida. (Yes, it'll be out as a DVD later this winter. Happy Dance!) One of the motivations for doing the seminar was the number of clients I had who wanted me to help them prepare their dog for therapy work. Sometimes it was like swimming downstream on a warm, cozy river. Their dog was a perfect fit and ended up doing wonderful work in the community. Other times... well,  it was reminiscent of trying to paddle up a cold, frothy waterfall. The fact is, therapy work can be hard work, and it takes a special kind of dog to be both good at it and to enjoy it. The directors of AAA and AAT (AAActivities and AATherapy) will tell you that one of their greatest challenges is working with people who want to Read More

What Emotions Do You Share with Your Dog?

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Surely you'd agree that both you and your dog can be frightened, but what about feeling jealous? Guilty? Ashamed? Ah, now it gets trickier, doesn't it? Emotions like jealousy and guilt are called "secondary" emotions, and many biologists, psychologists and philosophers believe that non-human animals can't experience them. The argument is that they can't be experienced without a relatively high level of cognition, particularly the ability to be self aware and knowledgeable about the mental state of others. I'll talk in the next post about research related to whether dogs feel guilt or jealousy, but for now, I'd like to replicate another piece of research that asked people what emotions they think animals experience. [If you came to the Madison Seminar, no fair answering after you saw the Read More

TOOT TOOT TOOTSIE, HELLO!

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Here's TOOTSIE! Also known as: Little Bit, Mini Me and my favorite, Mop of the Woods. There's a new kid on the block, or at the farm I should say. Meet Tootsie, a 7 year old King Charles Cavalier who was rescued by Lucky Star Cavalier Rescue from an Amish Puppy Mill, after the owners had used her up. Her mouth and ears were horribly infected; she had twenty teeth extracted.  She also was fat as a tick, so you couldn't say she was starving. She weighed 22 lbs (now she weighs 15 and is still a bit overweight). And what, you might ask, is a Cavalier doing at Redstart Farm? Doesn't every farm need a Cavalier? (What, you think we farmers don't have laps?)  Seriously, there is logic to all this. Here's a brief version of the back story:  If you have been following the blog for Read More

Expectations: Adults versus Puppies

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Karen London and I are working on our edits to the new booklet on adopting adolescent and older dogs, and something hit me as I was writing that I thought was worth talking about. After considering my own experiences bringing "non-puppies" into my home, talking with folks in rescues and shelters, and working with clients for so many years, it strikes me that one of the biggest problems people have when they adopt an "older" dog (not old, but not puppy either) relate to unrealistic expectations. I don't mean that in the usual sense, say, for example, expecting a dog to behave perfectly on day one, but more in the sense that we have certain expectations of adults that we don't have with puppies. Take house training, for example. Everyone expects puppies to have "accidents" in the house Read More

New Puppy Primer

Wheeee! I've been working on an updated version of the Puppy Primer for six months now, and it feels SO good to finally hold the finished product in my hot little paws. In it, co-author Brenda Scidmore and I emphasize the benefits of positive reinforcement, of letting dogs initiate the correct action themselves when possible, the importance of realistic expectations and of going step-by-step in training. That last issue is such a big one to me: so many of the problems I see people having with their dogs relate to them jumping from Step 1 to Step 25, without knowing that there should be many steps in between. For example,  there's (Step 1) sitting on cue in the kitchen while holding a dinner bowl and (Step 25) sitting on cue when 5 people come to the door and there are 3 other dogs barking Read More