March 7, 2016 - This is what I'm grateful for this chilly, rainy morning: Three dogs who willingly and quickly go right outdoors and get to work. Not all at once, of course: there is a peeing order that is aligned with the pecking order. The puppy goes first. Tito, the older small dog, goes next. Otto, the benevolent leader of my little pack of three, checks to make sure it's really happening; Tito is so small it's hard to tell. Only after everyone else is done does Otto go back over both spots and mark them himself.
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February 29, 2016 - I'm a big fan of "puppy socials" - a classroom-type setting to which people bring their puppies for socializing with pups of a similar age. It's a powerful opportunity for the puppies, especially the ones who are being raised with no other dog at home to learn basic canine social skills from - or the ones who DO share their homes with another dog, but the dog is super grumpy about puppies.
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February 22, 2016 - For over three months, I had possession of a year-old American Black and Tan Coonhound or coonhound-mix whom I called Maebe. I absolutely loved that dog, and cried when I dropped her off for transport to her new home. AND I'm thrilled and tearful - in a good way - that she found a great new home. That's the bittersweet experience of fostering.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:45PM Comments (16)
February 16, 2016 - I want to congratulate WDJ's long-time contributor, dog trainer/writer Stephanie Colman, for winning a Maxwell award from the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA), for her article, "Service, Please," which ran in WDJ's July 2015 issue. The award is named in honor of the late Maxwell Riddle, who co-founded the DWAA. The awards were announced on February 14, at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City at the DWAA's annual awards banquet, held prior to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
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February 8, 2016 - I've heard it from a dozen different people in the past few weeks: "Oh my goodness, Nancy, that puppy LOVES you!" In every case, the person who made the spontaneous exclamation was prompted to do so by witnessing the same phenomenon: Seeing my new puppy sit calmly and stare, making direct eye contact with me.
The puppy, Woody, may well love me - I certainly love and adore him! But what's the true explanation? Does he stare at me because he loves me, or has he developed affection for me as a result of all the reinforcement he's received for that eye contact?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:51PM Comments (7)
February 1, 2016 - None of you actually had any money riding on the question of whether I was going to keep him or not, did you? I hope not.
Yes, I am keeping the puppy, the one I fell in love with from the litter I fostered for my shelter. One of these days, I'm going to go back through all my files and do the math, but I think that if I added up all the dogs I've fostered for one shelter or rescue or another in the past 20 years, the total would come to more than 25, and this is the first one I've "failed" at fostering. At least, so far. I am still not discounting the idea that, if it turns out that this puppy turns out to be the ideal dog for an ideal family sometime down the road, I could, theoretically, still turn him over to a perfect life elsewhere. Who knows? Maybe he will turn out to be a great service dog or therapy dog, as some of you have suggested. He does have the calmest, most centered personality I've ever seen in such a young dog.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:15PM Comments (16)
January 25, 2016 - As you may know, I’ve been fostering a litter of nine puppies for about seven weeks. From day 1, there was one puppy who stood out to me as a potentially great dog. One of just two males in the litter, he was the first to learn to offer a “sit” when I was getting their food or medicine ready, and to make eye contact with me any time I looked over the group. He also shows great poise and self-control: He will sit and stare at me, even as other puppies are jumping all over him, trying to get him to play with them, and he will just physically shrug off their very rough attempts to hijack his attention, with his eyes fixed on me the entire time. His devotion makes my heart hurt!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:44PM Comments (46)
January 18, 2016 - I’m fostering a one-year-old hound, Maebe, who has a minor amount of separation anxiety. The other day, I left her in a wire crate for about two hours in the house where I have my office. When I returned, I found that she had escaped from the crate and went on a bit of a rampage in the house. She went "counter-surfing" in the kitchen and ate the better part of a cube of butter and a few English muffins. She found a bag of treats on another counter and ate them, as well as half of the bag itself. She got into the trash in my office. She was on my desk - !!! - and knocked over my computer monitor!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:00PM Comments (6)
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 (14)
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)