It’s Official!

7-14-16 smiling at park

I confess: I wanted an official portrait shot to commemorate this special  occasion, but life (as it tends to do) got in the way of my plans. So instead of delaying the announcement, I chose to include this candid shot taken at the park. More than any other photo I’ve taken, this one captures that lovely “Sheltie Smile.”

And what’s so special, you might ask?

Sasha is officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha.

We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a bit of a double play on that last word. We included Summer because we chose July 4th as her official birthday (independence, after all!) and because she has a warm sunny spirit. And I wanted her call name included because she came to us with that, so including Sasha gave us a bridge between her past and present.

If you’re new to the world of purebred dogs, you might not know the AKC is a non-profit organization dedicated to  “championing canine health research, search-and-rescue teams, acceptable care and conditions for dog kennels, and responsible dog ownership.” (See more details here.)

The organization sponsors many terrific programs all around the country, including many family-oriented competitive events. Two of these are Agility and Rally Obedience which both promote performance skills and opportunities for handlers and dogs to work as a team. Sasha got a taste of Rally Obedience as part of her “final exam” in the Intermediate Obedience class and she clearly enjoyed herself. To participate in the AKC events, though, I needed to have Sasha recognized as a purebred Shetland Sheepdog–more commonly known as a Sheltie. And that’s where I ran into a glitch.

If you’ve been following Sasha’s story, you may remember she came to us six months ago in poor condition after being surrendered to a rural county sheriff’s office with no documentation. Since then she’s been evaluated by breeders, groomers, an AKC judge (who breeds Shelties too), and other Sheltie owners. They all agree that she reflects the physical characteristics of the breed, and her temperament and habits are consistent with the breed as well, right down to “herding” anything that moves and that oh-so-distinctive piercing bark!

Fortunately, the AKC offers a Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program to recognize purebred dogs of AKC-recognized breeds who, for various reasons, were not registered with the organization. Sasha certainly qualified and the application process was easy with a super-quick response from the AKC.  (If you’re interested in the PAL program, you can find eligibility details here.)

I’ll close with this series of photos taken over the past six months as well as my sincere thanks to everyone who’s helped us along this journey!

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Summer Smiles

Sasha made it through the marathon of fireworks with only a few anxious moments, and seems to be settling in well to the summer routine. It’s too hot for walks after 8 a.m., and by the time the pavement cools off in the evening she’s usually already settled in for the night. The weather and some other issues have caused us to limit our outdoor exercise to early morning jaunts and intermittent bursts of playtime and training time in the yard. We’re fortunate to have plenty of shade, and she’s quick to retreat inside when she’s had enough.

We hit the park early this morning, long before anyone else was out and about. I took the long line and we did some basic training, but for the most part I just let her run at the end of the 30′ line and enjoy herself. Here’s proof:

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Color me biased, but isn’t she beautiful? Compare these photos to those taken back in February when she first came to us, and the difference is amazing. Her Sheltie sense of humor is shining through now, and she keeps me laughing. What a gift she’s been!

How do you manage to keep your dogs entertained and exercised during the heat of summer? Inquiring minds want to know!

The Big Bang: Managing Your Dog’s Fear of Fireworks

flag and firecracker

CC0 Public Domain

 

Anyone following Sasha’s journey knows my Sheltie is no fan of noise. She was hypersensitive to clickers, coffee grinders, and any number of household sounds. (Want to know how we’re managing those? Catch up on that part of her journey here.) So it’s no surprise that fireworks invoke an Aaugh!!! reaction.

Before the storms rolled in last night and sent the celebrants scurrying for cover, it seemed half the neighborhood was setting off bottle rockets, roman candles, cherry bombs, and any other sort of firecrackers guaranteed to delight thrill-seekers. Everyone else? Not so much.

We’d done our best to create a calm environment for the holiday weekend. Even without knowing Sasha’s past, we already knew Buddy the Cat’s attitude toward fireworks. Buddy was a rescue who came to us at just three months of age, so we’ve had lots of time to create positive experiences for him. Still, those first three months on his own are etched in his memory, and the Feral Cat Within emerges in times of stress or pain and his first instinct is to hide.

My Rescue Kitty Buddy

“Make that noise go away, Momma!”

We’ve managed his anxiety by keeping fans running and doors and windows closed, Willie Nelson on the stereo (Buddy’s a big fan) and a movie he gets to choose from the cabinet. (Hey, everyone gets a vote in this household!)  He still dives under the covers now and then, but that tends to happen when he just feels the need for solitude. As those solitary periods tend to coincide with linen change, I suspect he’s successfully overcome his early trepidation.

Sasha, in contrast, was on high alert and making the rounds with every bang until I distracted her with beef jerky strips–something new for her. An instant hit, making me grateful once again for all the delicious treats we received as part of Sasha’s goody bag at the Humane Society of the Ozarks’ annual Dogwood WalkAnd since Sasha’s idea of her “safe place” is wherever I am, I positioned her bed next to my recliner, close enough so she could snuggle as she liked. Once she realized the rest of us were calm and relaxed, she settled into her bed to enjoy the movie.

Not every cat or dog has the same luxuries during fireworks season. Some reports suggest dogs can be frightened by the fireworks and often escape the yard, winding up lost, injured, or worse. I hope you’re taking whatever precautions you can to keep your furry family members safe and secure this weekend. As this graphic from http://www.thatpetblog.com/ shows, being prepared and holding to a relaxed routine can go a long way toward helping pets:

pet safety 4th july

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Here are more useful tips to help keep your dog safe, courtesy of the Such Good Dogs blog:

Have ID on your pet:
This is the number one most important thing!  More pets run away on July 4th than any other day of the year.  Be sure that your pet has proper identification tags with updated contact information.  On the 4th, be sure to keep your pet on a leash and keep a close eye on him when out and about.

Preparation:
The best thing to do for a dog that gets nervous, anxious, or fearful during fireworks is to properly prepare BEFORE the day arrives.

Try Lavender Oil:
Lavender is a naturally calming scent for both humans and dogs.  I have recommended lavender in the past for dogs with arthritis.  To use lavender for your dog, take some time to give your dog a massage and give some good petting.  Put just a little dab of lavender oil on your hands before massaging your dog and/or petting him in his favorite spots.  Use nice, calm, slow strokes.  Slowly massaging the outsides of the spine from the neck down is another proven approach.  Be sure not to use a lot of lavender.  A little dab will do just fine.  You do not need a lot to get the smell, and we do not want to have dogs licking excessive amounts of oil off themselves.  The point of this exercise is to associate the smell of lavender with a nice calm, relaxed state of mind.  You should do this for a few days (or more) prior to the fireworks on July 4th.  Your dog will build an association to the smell of lavender and being relaxed and calm.  Before the fireworks begin, put your dog in his “safe place” with the scent of lavender.

Have a “Safe Place” for your dog:

For many dogs the thing that makes them feel best and most safe is to be able to get as far away from the sights and sounds as possible.  Have a spot ready that your dog will enjoy and be comfortable in.  Make it somewhere far away from outside walls and windows.  This will make it easier for him to relax.  The best thing would be a kennel or crate.  Dogs generally enjoy den-like enclosures, and having your kennel or crate set up before the 4th will help them have a nice spot to go.  It is also helpful to place sheets or towels over wire crates to help block sound and lights.  Be sure to take the temperature into consideration.  It is summer and things get hot quickly.  Do not make your “safe place” uncomfortable for your dog by making it too hot.  You are most looking for a den-like area for your dog to feel safe.  If possible feed and/ or treat your dog in this area prior to the 4th.  Make sure the area is lined with a bed or comfy blankets for your pup as well.
Also remember to try and give your dog something he enjoys to help occupy him such as a chew bone or Kong filled with some yummy treats or peanut butter.

Communication & Energy:
If you will be around your dog during the fireworks, the best thing you can do for them is to remember to remain calm and feel like the fireworks are no big deal.  Dogs react to energy.  If your energy is telling your dog that you are calm and not at all worried about the sights and sounds, your dog will feel that it is okay for him to relax as well.

Exercise your Dog before Dusk:

A fantastic way to help your dog is to thoroughly exercise him before the fireworks begin.  Be sure to get your evening walk in before it starts to get dark.  The less energy your dog has, the less energy he has to put towards being fearful.  A tired dog will be more comfortable and will be able to more easily ignore the sounds and sights of the night.
Read the entire article at the Such Good Dogs blog.
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The American Kennel Club always has helpful information about canine care, and they’re put together a sensible list that’s worth keeping for year-round reference. (New Year’s Eve, for example, often ends in a frenzy of fireworks.) Find that here. And here’s a great graphic, courtesy of the AKC, that sums up the key points to help keep our beloved pets safe. Wishing everyone a happy and safe celebration!
INFO_Fireworks_201507_Infogfx

Party Time, Sheltie Style

Note: I’m reblogging this post with the express written permission of Dawn Kinster who writes the blog Change is Hard…But Change is Certain.  I’ll be following up soon with my own thoughts about the “nipping” issue–and why I don’t put Sasha into situations that bring dogs too close for her comfort. (Sasha, by the way, is in full agreement with Katie’s comment that “We got along just fine by ignoring each other.” I suspect if we’d attended this dog party Sasha and Katie would have been just fine together under that picnic table, each in their own space. )

For now, I hope you enjoy this “dog POV” about a day in the park with Shelties. My sincere thanks to Dawn and Katie for sharing this great tale!

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A sheltie party!

Posted on June 27, 2016 at https://dawnkinster.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/a-sheltie-party/

All content including photographs are copyrighted materials and may not be reproduced without permission.

See me? I'm about 4 dogs in from the left.

See me? I’m about 5 dogs in from the left.

Katie here. Well! Mama said she’d top our last camping trip and this just might have done it! She took me to a sheltie meet and greet where there were close to 25 other shelties. And do you know what? They were at one of my parks! MY park!I did not invite all these other beautiful dogs to my park! I am supposed to be the supreme princess! The most beautiful sheltie around! It’s supposed to be all about me! Me me me me me!

One lady. Lots of shelties.

One lady. Lots of shelties.

Ahem.

I had to go to the groomer to get beautiful just for this party, and that’s not fair either. But I’ll stop complaining now.

Emily Ann was the star of the party!

Emily Ann was the star of the party!

Because actually it was pretty interesting. My dad even went! I mostly sat under the picnic table while he talked to some people that had two shelties. The three of us hung out together under the table. We got along just fine by ignoring each other.

Lots of sheltie smiles.

Lots of sheltie smiles.

In fact I was content to ignore all the other shelties but not my mama! Oh no, she had to go meet them all. I watched her sit down on the ground with some of them and pet them and tickle their tummies and I wasn’t jealous at all because I had my dad.

One of the only pictures of ME!

One of the only pictures of ME!

My mama didn’t even take very many pictures of me! Can you imagine that? She was busy taking pictures of all the other shelties. She kept saying things like “Wow, that’s a beautiful dog!” and ” oh look at that one!” You’d think I’d get a complex or something.

Sheltie kisses.

Sheltie kisses

But I didn’t, because lots of people thought I was beautiful too, and offered me treats which I politely refused. Until my mama took me for a walk and I met one lady sitting on a blanket. There were dog treats on that blanket! Her dog Sadie hadn’t eaten them, so I scarfed them up. Always willing to help out you know. Then she gave me a big treat and I chopped it right down.

Lots of sheltie lovers.

Lots of sheltie lovers

But then I did a bad thing.

Sadie came by and sniffed my butt and I turned around and nipped at her. My mama was mortified. And as our parents were pulling us apart I nipped at her again! Well! Sadie is only a puppy and my mama said I should have had better manners.

Sadie and her mom.

Sadie and her mom

I was getting tired and hot by then and when we went back to daddy I nipped at another dog. So mama and daddy said that was quite enough and we went home. Mama says I have shown my true colors and now she knows to keep better watch on me.

Whatever that means.

I thought the party was interesting but I just got too warm and too tired and that made me cranky. A princess does not like to be sniffed so much. A princess is supposed to be kept cool and hydrated and well fed. I didn’t even have my princess pillow! I mean really, what were they thinking?

Sadie and a new friend.

Sadie and a new friend

Anyway. I’m sorry I nipped at those dogs and I’ll try to be a better sheltie-citizen in the future. Meanwhile, I think all the dogs had a good time and I’m glad mama and daddy took me.

Cookie has the right idea. Time for a nap!

Cookie has the right idea. Time for a nap!

Time for a nap now.

Pet me! Pet me!!

Pet me! Pet me!!

Home Sweet (Rented) Home: The Dog Challenge

Dog with Computer

Photo Shutterstock via Curbed San Francisco

Many years ago, with a new job waiting several states away, we grabbed a weekend to find a rental close to the university where I’d be teaching. We scouted a few places and were lucky to find one that fit the bill, mailed in our application along with the requisite funds, and got the keys by return mail with a note welcoming us to town.

Fast-forward to 2016 when nothing’s casual about the rental property business. And if you have a dog—particularly a big dog—finding a pet-friendly rental can be downright challenging. If the rental ad suggests the landlord/property manager will consider pets, you’ll want to do everything you can to make the best impression possible. How? By creating a dog resume, of course!

Realtor.com suggests dog resumes “might be the next big trend in renting. And even if a potential landlord doesn’t ask for a CV for your canine, you might want to have one ready.” The goal, of course, is to demonstrate that you take your responsibilities seriously and have a well-behaved canine companion.

As a landlord myself, I’m happy to have tenants with dogs. My insurance company doesn’t discriminate by breed (some do, so check with your own agent), and their sole exclusion—no dogs with bite history accepted—matches my own preference for minimizing liability.  That’s a reasonable standard many (most?) landlords and property managers might agree with provided other criteria are met. So, assuming your dog doesn’t have a history of aggression (which may require much more documentation to even be considered), let’s highlight the basic content you’ll want to include in your dog’s resume.

Get personal: Include a photo or two that shows your dog in the best possible light. Literally! No dim shots, or big dogs curled up in such a way the prospective landlord can’t easily see the whole dog. Add the dog’s name, age, weight, breed details, temperament, etc. Housebroken? That’s a must, and landlords will want to know. (Soiled carpets, damaged flooring, and dog waste left in the yard are unfortunately common problems in rental units.)

My insurance agent strongly suggests I require tenants to carry renter’s insurance with sufficient liability. Amounts and exclusions can vary by insurance company and locale, so check requirements in your own area. Let prospective landlords know you’re insured and that their property will be well cared for.

Some landlords and property managers place restrictions about breed, age, size, and weight. Be truthful and as accurate as possible. Misrepresent the facts and you risk violating the terms of your lease, losing your deposits, and even facing eviction.

Focus on wellness: Identifying your vet clinic is a good start. Note the name, address, phone number, website, and Facebook link (in other words, make it easy for the landlord to reach them). Include your veterinarian’s name; this helps demonstrate that you have a relationship with someone who’s important to you and your dog. Add in health status, flea/tick preventatives, vaccination info (including tag #), and microchip info (company name, chip #). My community requires all dogs be microchipped; consider this even if it’s not a “must” where you live.

Is your dog spayed or neutered? The Canine Journal suggests spayed/neutered dogs exhibit “overall behavior improvement” and are less likely to roam. That can translate into fewer headaches for landlords.

Have a groomer? Provide their name and contact info. Well-groomed dogs have shorter nails and that can reduce the chances for badly scratched floors. Plus, a regularly groomed dog won’t be riddled with fleas. (Trust me on this; flea infestations can be a serious headache for everyone involved.)

Oh, and add in contact info for an emergency caretaker, someone not living with them who’s able and willing to care for the dog if needed. You’re demonstrating care and attention to detail, and that’s something prospective landlords will appreciate!

Highlight training & activities: While obedience training isn’t a cure-all for behavioral issues, it can certainly reduce the potential for problems. If your dog completed a formal obedience class, list those details. If you or someone else trained the dog informally, list the specific skills and abilities that demonstrate good canine behavior. If your dog has earned the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification, you should absolutely highlight this, and be sure to add “CGC” after your dog’s name at the top of the resume.

As a landlord, I want to know your pet is well cared for. How do you keep your dog in shape and happy? Well-exercised dogs tend to be happier and quieter than those left alone too long. If you enjoy daily walks or playtime with your pet, mention that. If you’re away from home for long periods, do you have a family member, friend, or a dog walker who can spend time with your pet?

Share testimonials: You could attach references and letters, and that might be necessary if your dog has a documented history of aggression. Otherwise, consider short “blurbs” from your veterinarian, groomer, and neighbors as well as current and former landlords or property managers. Include the person’s name and contact info so landlords can follow up as part of their screening process.

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Learn more: Whether you’re searching for an apartment, a condo, or a single-family residence, you’ll find good info in this 2012 article by Alex Bevk.

Here are two samples you might find helpful (click on image to go to original website):

Dog Resume

Rent With Pets Dog Resume

And if all this seems too complicated, here’s a fill-in-the-blank template from RentLingo.com with cue questions to help you create your own.

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Okay, dog lovers: have a renter’s experience of your own to share? What tips can you suggest to help others with dogs?

Landlords and property managers: what did I forget? What would you like to see from applicants and prospective tenants? Inquiring minds want to know!

Then and Now: Sasha’s Journey

Sasha's first day February 5th 2016

Sasha’s first day February 5th 2016

Sasha three months later (May 5th 2016)

Sasha three months later (May 5th 2016)

 Those of you following Sasha’s saga may remember she came to us in February frightened of ANY loud or unusual sounds. Clicker training in particular was an ordeal for her, so I turned to my friends and colleagues in the Dog Writers Association of America for help. They suggested wrapping the clicker it in a mitten to soften the sound. That sounded (no pun intended) like a good idea but Sasha still panicked at the noise. Thinking to muffle the sound even more I put the mitten-wrapped clicker in a coat pocket. I even tried clicking a pen instead of an actual clicker device. The result was the same: Sasha cowered as though she expected to be hit, which makes me seriously wonder what happened to her before she came to us. Given her fearful reaction, I discarded the idea of clicker training.

Enter obedience classes at the local kennel, where we were surrounded by a dozen people, all clicking merrily (and seemingly endlessly) through the hour-long training classes.  I distracted Sasha by moving away from the clicker crowd and treating her while praising lavishly, and she gradually calmed and focused on the exercises. Intermediate obedience was better when folks switched to verbal clicks, but some handlers insist on always using the actual clicker. (For the record, I’m not a fan of the “click/treat anywhere & everywhere” approach. Use it at home or in select training environments, sure. But learn to fade the lure as described here.)

I’ve learned a verbal click (“Yes!“) seems the most effective in gaining Sasha’s attention in a happy, positive way. Interestingly, that smart cookie also understands and obeys the “Neh!” sound when I don’t want her doing something–such as chasing ducks or moving toward vehicles as they pass by. I also use the “leave it!” command, but sometimes that single syllable “Neh!” works best.

If using the clicker is important to you and your dog reacts fearfully, consider these strategies to help your dog. And if your dog isn’t hyper-sensitive to such sounds and you want to learn more about clicker training, here are some basic training tips to help you get started.

Fresh-roasted-coffee-beans-and-grounds

Image courtesy of foodal.com

The clicker wasn’t our only sound-related challenge these past few months. The coffee-bean grinder left her literally shaking and barking wildly even if she was at the other end of the house, or even outside with doors and windows shut. It became obvious this dog takes hyper-sensitivity to sound to a whole new level. We tried showing her what it was so she wouldn’t be scared. Tried distracting her, supplied extra love and attention. Nothing worked.

Then I got smart and turned it into Special Treat Time. I got the bag of Fromm’s big oven-baked biscuit treats (something I don’t use during obedience training because of the time needed to chew), put her in a sit-stay where she could see the grinder, praised her, and gave her a treat. Repeated the process when we measured the beans into the grinder, again when the grinder started and yet again when the grinder finished. Yup, lots of treats, with plenty of time to chew before we moved on to the next step. Since we don’t use the grinder daily it took some time to condition her to the sound.  And then one day she came running into the office, whined softly to get my attention, and then trotted back to the kitchen just as I heard the coffee grinder start working. I was heading for the treats when I realized she’d already moved on to play time with Sock Monkey:

If you have a dog that’s fearful of loud noises, the Whole Dog Journal offers tips and strategies to help you. You can also check out this video from Pam’s Dog Academy for some useful ideas to desensitize your dog to whatever noises scare the dog. Whatever strategies you try, don’t expect immediate results. Depending on your dog’s age and the origins of the trauma, the “counter-conditioning” process could require multiple sessions over a period of weeks or even longer.

For some dogs, rare events such as fireworks celebrations can be a source of serious stress. Here are some great tips from the Michigan Humane Society via the Detroit Free Press:
Keep Pets Calm During Fireworks
Desensitizing a hyper-sensitive dog takes time, patience, and a willingness to adapt strategies to find what’s best for you and your dog. Whether it’s clickers, coffee grinders, or some other loud noise, it is possible to help your dog become calmer and happier.

Sliding into Summer

time_flies_by_janussyndicate

“Time Flies” by Janus Syndicate (Creative Commons License)

Time seems to slide by faster as I age, or perhaps it’s age itself that heightens awareness of time passing. This weekend I realized it’s been more than a month since I shared a post here.  And what a month it’s been!

The month of May brought the spring academic semester to an end. No matter how well organized and carefully paced our syllabi might be, the final weeks of the term inevitably devolve into a madcap rush to the finish line.  A colleague likened the experience to running the 100-yard dash at the end of a marathon. That certainly seemed true this spring!

May also brought a temporary halt to the formal side of Sasha’s obedience training. We finished Intermediate Obedience with a Rally Obedience mini-course as the final assessment. As you might expect, Sasha was terrific while her handler (me) got a bit dizzy navigating the 270-degree turns. True to form, Sasha patiently waited for me to untangle my feet and get moving again.  I can’t post her certificate of completion because the kennel doesn’t offer such certification; they’re missing a valuable marketing opportunity there! They do, however, provide one for completing the Basic Course, although we had to wait six weeks for a correct one to be issued. We’ll be going elsewhere for the Canine Good Citizen test, as I think it’s important to challenge Sasha in multiple environments with different trainers and evaluators.

May also saw Sasha’s first BIG experience with crowds and dogs. We participated in the 24th annual Dogwood Walk, which is a major fundraiser for the Humane Society of the Ozarks. Sasha  demonstrated her skill with several Canine Good Citizen test items: #1 accepting a friendly stranger; #2 sitting politely for petting; #4 walking on loose leash; and #5 walking through a crowd. She graciously accepted treats from several folks and even ignored the dogs who got a little too up-close-and-personal in her private space.  (Expect a blog post soon about dog owners’ manners…)

We rounded out May with medical adventures for the both of us, and after two weeks of “inside only” activity we’re back out in the neighborhood and on the trails, enjoying life!