January 12, 2016 - You will never find a more ardent lover of off-leash dog walking than me. But I'm lucky: I have access to thousands of acres of "wildlife area" near where I live. It's not quite a state park, but state-managed land where certain types of hunting are allowed in various seasons. Dogs can be off leash there much of the year, except for a short period in spring, to allow the many species of ground-nesting birds to lay their eggs and raise their young. When that happens, I either leash up my dogs, or go elsewhere. As much as I love walking my dogs off leash, and as well-mannered as they are, with near-perfect recalls, I'm not ever going to be one of the many people I see who walk their off-leash dogs past the signs that appear there every spring saying, "Dogs must be on leash from March 15 to June 30 for the nesting season." I appreciate and respect my access to that land the REST of the year; I don't want to risk losing access to it EVER.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:52AM Comments (24)
January 4, 2016 - It struck me one day when I was out for a hike with two of my best dog-owning friends and our combined eight dogs: Some people like female dogs best, and others like males. I was there with my two male dogs and my son's male dog (whom I selected as a prospect for my son from my local shelter), whereas both of my friends have only female dogs (three and two, respectively). The longer I thought about it, the more the trend was apparent: every dog I've chosen for myself has been a male. And my two hiking companions said it was true for them, too; their "heart dogs" have all been females.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:20PM Comments (38)
December 23, 2015 - I can't remember if I've written about this before, but if I haven't, I should have. How many of you have electric windows in your car? If you do, and your dog can reach the window, you should always press the LOCK button on the electric windows. I could end this reminder right here.
I am fostering a hound - and can I just ask right now what it is about hounds? Why do they get into on everything you don't want them to? So many of them are so smart, so agile - and fortunately, so sweet, because you want to wring their necks one minute, and the next, you want to hug them for an hour. But this hound I am fostering, even with a harness and seat belt, she manages to step on the buttons on the arm rest in my car.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:37AM Comments (15)
December 21, 2015 - This may not look like a big deal, but for me, it's HUGE! This is the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball. It's made of a soft, rubbery material. You pour kibble and/or treats into the hole at the top, and it takes a dog a good long time to get the treats and/or kibble out. They have to knock it around and toss it; chewing it doesn't really do any good - unless they are the destructive kind of chewer, in which case, this treat-dispensing toy is not appropriate for them! But for dogs who have the persistence needed to work this sort of toy, and who don't chew toys up, this is a really great time-consuming, fun thing.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:56PM Comments (11)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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!) …
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:27AM Comments (10)
October 27, 2015 - I was walking Otto the other day when his head and tail went up and he gave a little whine – one that usually indicates that he’s 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 I’ve 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)
October 19, 2015 - I had a hand in a "rehoming" event recently, and while it’s 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)
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)
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 I’ve 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)
September 22, 2015 - I’ve been working with Pat Miller for the past 17 years. She’s had an article in all but one issue of WDJ in that span of time – and that one issue that was published without an article from her was my mistake, not due to her missing a deadline. She’s 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 “that clicker horse trainer,” was actually a dog trainer. I didn’t know much about dog training at the time, or maybe I would have known that already. I contacted Pat and asked if she’d be interested in writing for WDJ, she said yes, and she’s been writing for us ever since. Further, she was absolutely instrumental in helping me develop WDJ’s all-positive voice and mission statement – and completely convincing me of the countless benefits of force-free training.
Posted by Nancy Kerns, WDJ Editor at 08:36AM Comments (5)