Introducing A New Dog: Maggie and Willie as a Case Study

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In hopes it will be helpful to others in the same situation, I thought I'd outline how I handled the introduction of lovely little Maggie into the family. Here's some background on the actors: 1) Willie: Eight-year old BC neutered male, at one point extremely aggressive to unfamiliar dogs, relatively comfortable outside now with new dogs, but tense when unfamiliar dogs come into the house. Willie is a classic alpha-wannabe: Fearful but desperate to maintain control. He is very responsive to acoustic cues from me, 99% of the time a sweet, lovely dog, but can lose his temper around other dogs and be downright rude and inappropriate when tired and/or stressed. Willie at his worst? Think Jack Nicholson's face in the movie The Shining. Willie at his best? The best dog you'll ever be lucky Read More

Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

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The short answer is no, not always. As a matter of fact, our ability to attribute human characteristics to non-human animals is an impressive ability that we should be proud of. In addition, it can make us better dog owners. Lest you think I've lost my mind, let me explain, this time with a longer answer. Go back to about 40,000 years ago, when people began creating figures that combined features of humans and animals. We don't know their purpose, but we do know that our tendency to combine human and non-human characteristics is ancient. Archeologist Steven Mithen argues that anthropomorphic art suggests that hunters were attempting to identify empathetically with hunted animals to "better predict their movements." The term was actually used most often in early history as imagining Read More

Meet Maggie

Happy Maggie

Yup, Redstart Farm has a new member of the family. Maggie, a 15-month old female Border Collie from Idaho, has stolen the hearts of us all, Willie especially. He is gobsmacked. In love. Head over heels. Watching the two of them play has become one of my greatest joys in life. Those of you who have been following the farm for awhile know that finding the right dog for Willie hasn't been easy. He started life as a puppy pathologically afraid of unfamiliar dogs. He grew into an adolescent torn between fear and the desire to control everything, the kind of dog I call an "alpha wanna be." He has always loved to play with dogs who also loved to run together outside, but became tense and a tad crazy if they came into the house. Remember Jack Nicholson's face in the movie The Shining? Read More

How Do You Play with Your Dog?

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Surely our mutual love of play is one of the reasons that dogs and people get along so well. As Karen London and I write in Play Together, Stay Together, "Play is powerful stuff. It influences so many things, including development, motivation, emotions, physiology, communication and behavior. Wow! That's an impressive list." After years working as Applied Behaviorists, it was clear to Karen and I that play has the power to strengthen one's relationship with a dog, or alternatively, to destroy it. You can use play to teach self control and good manners, or to inadvertently teach a lack of frustration tolerance and a lot of rude behavior that ends up getting a dog into trouble. You can use play to allow a dog to release tension, to learn a behavior incompatible with a problematic one, or Read More

Happy New Year and Happy Pictures!

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Trisha is feeling a little under the weather this week, but didn't want to leave you without a few cheery pictures. Here is Willie playing a good game of chase with Lily, Katie's Dogo Argentino, in the upper pasture this week. From all of us at McConnell Publishing, have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year. Give your dogs a good belly rub from us!   __ Read More