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)
September 1, 2015 - There is an article on the WDJ website right now about recalls that is available to subscribers and nonsubscribers alike. I’m glad it’s available to anyone who is interested, because it contains information that I wish every dog owner would read and embrace. It’s by trainer Lisa Lyle Waggoner, and it’s about how to build a consistent “rocket recall” response in from your dog. I’ve 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)
August 25, 2015 - The more time I spend with dogs (my own and particularly other people’s), the more I think that promoting a dog’s 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 don’t like it when dogs jump up in greeting, or crash into me when playing with each other. It makes being with them unpleasant – to me, anyway, and maybe some of you. Making a lot of rough physical contact with us doesn’t seem to bother many dogs, probably because it’s something that many dogs do among themselves. Also, I don’t want to have to struggle with my dogs physically, ever. I shouldn’t have to drag a dog somewhere he doesn’t 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)
August 18, 2015 - I’m the owner of two middle-aged dogs. I’m also a friend to many people with senior dogs with serious medical conditions. I’ve started worrying about my middle-aged dogs, especially Otto, my 70-pound wonder mutt / “heart dog.” (Small dogs live longer, so I’m less worried about 10-pound Tito, who lives with us but who keeps his own counsel and has never achieved “heart” status with either my husband or I.) I know that every disease is best treated early, so I’m scheduling a major middle-aged wellness exam for Otto next week, in preparation for his first dental cleaning. I’ve had his blood tested annually, for blood cell counts and blood chemistry – 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)
August 11, 2015 - This summer is FLYING by. There is so much to do. But there’s one task right under my nose that hasn’t been getting done, that HAS to get rolling: socializing “Mommy,” the Dachshund/Chihuahua-mix I’ve been fostering for . . . gosh, I don’t even know how long. Let’s 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)
August 3, 2015 - It's very difficult for those of us who always scoop our dogs' poop to understand those who don't. I honestly have never heard anyone defend their habit of looking the other way (and then walking the other way!) when their dog defecates somewhere he or she shouldn't - such as on a public sidewalk, on someone else's lawn, or outside of a hotel - and I really just can't imagine what such a person is thinking when they do this.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:37AM Comments (28)
July 27, 2015 - One shouldn’t watch the latest videos from the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) on a full stomach. Even though NO ACTUAL DOGS ARE HARMED in the videos, watching a few of them may make you feel ill. The videos are the product of the CPS’s latest round of testing safety restraint systems for dogs who are passengers in our cars. The CPS, you may remember, is the nonprofit organization prominently featured in WDJ’s January 2015 article, “Restraining Order,” which discussed CPS’s testing of car safety restraints for dogs. (Also discussed at length: the fact that only two harnesses on the market passed the crash-tests. The article, available free to our subscribers, appears here:
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:16AM Comments (18)
July 21, 2015 - I’ve said it before and I will say it again: There is nothing as valuable as a “best dog friend” (BDF?) for your dog – particularly when you have a young, playful dog. Then, having or knowing a dog who plays well with your dog, and is available to you on a regular basis, is just priceless. My son’s coonhound, Cole, loves coming to stay at my house when my son is travelling, but not because of who he gets to play with here – because he mostly has to play by himself here. He gets lots of off-leash running and swimming, and lots of love from Nana (me), but no love from my dogs, who are above playing with youngsters anymore, middle-aged bachelors who just don’t want to do that anymore.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:08AM Comments (8)
July 14, 2015 - I own two dogs. One is Otto, my heart dog. He’s a largish mutt, about 7 years old, well-trained, well-behaved, and well-socialized. He serves very effectively as a watchdog, letting us know when anyone enters our front gate – and when UPS has a package for us. Or anyone else on our street. Barring his suspicion of UPS, he’s a joy to live with. The second dog I own is Tito, also about 7 years old. He’s a probable Chihuahua-mix, having been purchased (by a relative) as a purported purebred puppy from a likely puppy mill. His start in life was a little rough, and he bounced from one relative’s home to another, picking up “issues” along the way. But he’s an astute observer of behavior, and once he landed here he just started going along with the program, more or less. Aside from his barking when friends arrive, he stirs up no trouble in the house, in the car, or on the trail. He follows Otto cheerfully, and though they don’t cuddle or sleep together ever, they get along with perfect understanding.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:47AM Comments (15)
July 7, 2015 - The dog shown here is half Bloodhound, half Border Collie. I was skeptical, too. Bloodhound I can see. But I don’t see a trace of Border Collie. Then I learned her story. Indy was an “accident” – the product of two purebreds owned by a family who actually breeds and shows Border Collies and Bloodhounds. I wouldn’t have guessed that a fan of one of those breeds would also possess the other, but you never know about people.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:23AM Comments (45)
June 30, 2015 - It’s that time of year again: when rising temperatures lure dogs and dog owners to bodies of water, intent on cooling off, and when the water itself becomes dangerous to drink or swim in. The dangerous element, a toxic substance often called “blue-green algae,” is more accurately called cyanobacteria. Genuine algae are simple plants; cyanobacteria refer to a group of microorganisms that possess characteristics of harmless algae, but differ from algae in that they produce highly potent toxins. When the conditions are right, with high temperatures and shallow water, the population of this microscopic bacteria explodes, causing a sudden and highly visible “bloom” of blue-green scum on the surface of the water. That “bloom” is also responsible for the release of the toxins into the surrounding water.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:36AM Comments (0)