Whole Dog Journal Blog

Better Safe Than Sorry

December 15, 2015 - Let me just start with the moral of this story first: If you have a dog, keep some nice, fresh hydrogen peroxide on hand, won't you? Last night, I'm feeding my three-year-old grandson dinner, and he wants to simultaneously play with these little wooden cubes at the same time. The cubes are about a quarter-inch cubes, and have a tiny magnet glued on one side; they are supposed to be arranged in various artful ways in the accompanying metal tray. Because he's actually a little young to play with this particular toy, and is more fond of just scrambling them around, I tell him, "You can play with them for a minute, but make sure they stay in the tray, okay? I don't want them on the floor."
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:46AM Comments (8)

Thanks, Dogs

November 30, 2015 - I am thankful that I'm from a family that loves dogs. My sister hosted Thanksgiving this year. Her husband recently retired and they moved to my town - across the street from my office/house! They have three little dogs: perhaps 10-year-old Bo, a scruffy Terrier-mix they adopted from a friend whose life was too much in flux to keep him; Daisy, a 2-year-old Jack Russell-mix adopted from a Jack Russell rescue; and Dinah, the ?-year-old "mommy dog" that I fostered (along with her puppy) last summer. (My sister dog-sat for me when I was traveling and ended up falling in love with soft-coated Dinah, her first non-terrier!) Daisy is the most social and well-adjusted with guests, jumping into anyone's lap for petting and play, but the other two both spent a fair amount of time on the laps of the people they knew. It was nice to be able to reach out and pet a dog in any room we were in before and after dinner! To keep the chaos level low, we made sure that they were the only dogs in their home.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:10PM Comments (5)

When You've Come to the End of a Trainer’s Positive Skill Set

November 23, 2015 - This happened to two couples I know - one, very recently: They adopted a dog who turned out to have some "issues." Each couple hired a trainer to help them manage and change the dog's behavior. The trainers started out with teaching them very dog-friendly basic training techniques that helped them get their dogs' attention, improved basic obedience and cooperation, and generally encouraged the couples that there was hope for their dogs. But then, when progress wasn't being made fast enough - at least, in the eyes of the trainers - the trainers started using (and encouraging the couples to use) punitive, force-based methods. In both instances, my friends contacted me to ask for a reality check, like, "Is this okay? Is this what we should expect?" In both cases, my answer was, "Oh heck no!"
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:33PM Comments (7)

First Pet Professional Guild Conference

November 16, 2015 - Last week, I flew to Tampa, Florida, and attended the first-ever educational conference of a relatively new organization, the Pet Professional Guild, "The association for force-free pet professionals." PPG is a membership organization "representing pet industry professionals who are committed to results-based, science-based, force-free training and pet care." The members are mostly dog trainers, as well as behavior-savvy vet techs, dog walkers, pet sitters, and groomers.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:07PM Comments (3)

Highway Dog Rescue

November 10, 2015 - I've read articles about people who got hit by a car and killed while trying to help a wounded or simply frightened animal on the highway. I've warned people against doing this - stopping their cars and getting out on a freeway to try to capture a panicked dog. And yet, when a scared dog is running in front of YOUR car, how do you not stop and try to help?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:03AM Comments (5)

Signs That You Love Dogs

November 3, 2015 - I was driving the other day and saw a car with a personalized license plate proclaiming their love for "K9S". I love seeing dog-related personalized license plates, but I never thought to take pictures of them and "collect" them before - and I don't know why! (I think we should use the WDJ Facebook page to make a collection of them! If you have a dog-themed license plate, post a photo!) Ö
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:27AM Comments (10)

Fat, Not Fair to the Dog

October 27, 2015 - I was walking Otto the other day when his head and tail went up and he gave a little whine Ė one that usually indicates that heís spotted a dog in the yard we are about to walk past. In our town, there are lots of dogs that are lying on porches or under trees in fenced yards, and when you walk by with your dog, they come flying toward the fence: some barking hysterically, some staying silent until the last terrifying moment when they hit the fence and let out a roar. Otto is as good as any dog Iíve ever seen about holding our course in the face of these dramatic approaches; he neither runs nor retaliates nor attempts to fight through the fence, but he usually will let out a whine of anxiety or excitement, prance a little, and (occasionally) will stop and lift a leg on the fence, and sometimes the very nose of the offending dog on the other side of the fence!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:51AM Comments (3)

Sometimes a New Home is Best

October 19, 2015 - I had a hand in a "rehoming" event recently, and while itís often framed as a failure when a dog is "given away," in this case - as in so many - it was absolutely the best thing for the dog, his former owner, and his current owners. As someone with a strong interest in training, I was confident that I could help Murphy's owner train him into being a good dog. Murphy is the dog I wrote about in the October issue editorial; he moved into the house where I have my office with a friend who was seeking refuge from a traumatic divorce. Murphy had been rehomed badly several times in his short life already (he was just 10 months old), but this was not a great fit, either.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:04PM Comments (4)

Research the Breed!

October 12, 2015 - Why do people get certain types of dogs, dogs who were bred to have very strong behavioral tendencies, and then try everything they can to discourage those behaviors? I'm talking about people who want a small dog but hate barking, German Shepherd Dog lovers who despair of their dog's predatory urges, and fans of Vizslas or Weimaraners who don't have time to run their dogs enough to make them tired. I'm talking about hound owners who go bananas when their dogs bay, and Australian Shepherd owners who hire trainers to try to make sure their dogs don't try to herd or nip the neighbor's active, outdoor children.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:38AM Comments (13)

When Cancer Strikes, It's Hard to Not Panic

September 29, 2015 - Why isn't there a roadmap for treating cancer? It seems like there ought to be a database, with every type of cancer for every companion animal species, with lists of what therapies have been tried and the success rate of each, with the side effects listed... And then you could just select the course of treatment that's had the best results with the least side effects - and feel good about your choices. But in my experience with cancer, you almost never feel great about the choices that you make. Even when treatment is successful, most people Iíve known with cancer, and most pet owners who have had their pets treated for cancer, have been left with niggling doubts.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:51AM Comments (12)

Pat Miller Was Here

September 22, 2015 - Iíve been working with Pat Miller for the past 17 years. Sheís had an article in all but one issue of WDJ in that span of time Ė and that one issue that was published without an article from her was my mistake, not due to her missing a deadline. Sheís a gifted trainer, a lifelong learner who continues to read research articles and pay attention to new discoveries in animal behavior and animal cognition, and she has a consistent, calm, compassionate voice that advocates for well-reasoned training methods applied with kindness and patience. I met Pat when she wrote some articles for the publication I worked for prior to WDJ, a little magazine called The Whole Horse Journal! She wrote an article about clicker training for horses with extreme fear-based behaviors, and used her off-the-track Thoroughbred mare as a model for the article. When our publisher asked me to be the founding editor of WDJ, and I was rounding up writers to form the nucleus of our core contributors, someone mentioned to me that Pat, whom I knew only as ďthat clicker horse trainer,Ē was actually a dog trainer. I didnít know much about dog training at the time, or maybe I would have known that already. I contacted Pat and asked if sheíd be interested in writing for WDJ, she said yes, and sheís been writing for us ever since. Further, she was absolutely instrumental in helping me develop WDJís all-positive voice and mission statement Ė and completely convincing me of the countless benefits of force-free training.
Posted by Nancy Kerns, WDJ Editor at 08:36AM Comments (5)

Do you recall?

September 1, 2015 - There is an article on the WDJ website right now about recalls that is available to subscribers and nonsubscribers alike. Iím glad itís available to anyone who is interested, because it contains information that I wish every dog owner would read and embrace. Itís by trainer Lisa Lyle Waggoner, and itís about how to build a consistent ďrocket recallĒ response in from your dog. Iíve used the exercises described in the article over the years with my dogs, and I can honestly say that their response to the recall cue is pretty darn sharp.
Posted by Nancy Kerns, WDJ Editor at 08:29AM Comments (3)

The Virtue of (Your Dog’s) Self-Control

August 25, 2015 - The more time I spend with dogs (my own and particularly other peopleís), the more I think that promoting a dogís self-control is the most valuable thing we can do to make him more enjoyable to be around, while preserving both his dignity and individuality. That sounds like a lot of new-age mish-mash, so let me explain. I donít like it when dogs jump up in greeting, or crash into me when playing with each other. It makes being with them unpleasant Ė to me, anyway, and maybe some of you. Making a lot of rough physical contact with us doesnít seem to bother many dogs, probably because itís something that many dogs do among themselves. Also, I donít want to have to struggle with my dogs physically, ever. I shouldnít have to drag a dog somewhere he doesnít want to go or physically restrain one from doing something he really wants to run toward or check out.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:37AM Comments (6)

Mid-life Surveillance

August 18, 2015 - Iím the owner of two middle-aged dogs. Iím also a friend to many people with senior dogs with serious medical conditions. Iíve started worrying about my middle-aged dogs, especially Otto, my 70-pound wonder mutt / ďheart dog.Ē (Small dogs live longer, so Iím less worried about 10-pound Tito, who lives with us but who keeps his own counsel and has never achieved ďheartĒ status with either my husband or I.) I know that every disease is best treated early, so Iím scheduling a major middle-aged wellness exam for Otto next week, in preparation for his first dental cleaning. Iíve had his blood tested annually, for blood cell counts and blood chemistry Ė and for vaccine titers. (He was vaccinated a LOT at the shelter I adopted him from when he was about 7 months old, and not since, except for rabies as required by law and once, a bordetella vaccine that was required in order to admit him to an agility class. His vaccine titers have always come back super strong.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:32AM Comments (16)

Time to Get Seriously Social

August 11, 2015 - This summer is FLYING by. There is so much to do. But thereís one task right under my nose that hasnít been getting done, that HAS to get rolling: socializing ďMommy,Ē the Dachshund/Chihuahua-mix Iíve been fostering for . . . gosh, I donít even know how long. Letís see, I went to the shelter looking for a puppy to photograph for an article in the June issue, and we put that together in April . . . When I saw this cute little mommy dog trying valiantly to protect and raise her tiny, single, three-week-old puppy in the shelter, I immediately asked if I could foster them both. I took them home that day.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:25AM Comments (33)