Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two New Dog Training Workshops added to our calendar!

Just Added: Two New Workshops!
Friday January 30th, 12:00 - 1:00 PM. $10.00 per person ~ your lunch hour will be fun AND productive!

In this workshop, you will learn important techniques that will prepare you to successfully coach your dog in everyday situations-whether you are at home or in a public setting.

This monthly workshop is designed just for people (no dogs allowed please). We want your undivided attention to help you better understand how your dog learns and communicates so that you can successfully coach and motivate your dog to develop good manners.

You are also encouraged to use this dedicated "people" time to really focus on addressing your concerns-without any canine interruptions or disturbances! You come in with your questions, and go home with an actual training plan to help get the behaviors you want your dog to have!
Sunday January 4th, 3:30 - 4:00 PM (following our Manners class orientation) $5.00 per person (*FREE for those currently enrolled in our Manner's class).

Learn about fun activities, new toys, and training aids that really do work to prevent boredom. We'll answer that burning question: "What do I do with this Kong toy???" You can either bring your own, or purchase one from us. Bring your dogs favorite foods, and whatever leftovers you're willing to share with them. *20% off Kong stuffing toys for attendee's!

For additional information and to register, you may visit our
Web site, or contact us via email or phone.


Our Dog Training Manner's Course is now FULL!

Many thanks to all who pre-registered for our Good Manner's course at the Inquisitive Canine.

For those who are still interested in getting your dog into one of our Manner's Classes, you may contact us to place your dogs name on our "waiting list".

You may also register for Ventura College Community Education Canine College. Registration for the college begins in January. Course series starts February 10th.

For additional information you may visit our
Web site, or contact us via email or phone.

Happy PAWlidays to all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PAWliday shopping made easy!!!

A special PAWliday shopping event!

Sunday December 21st
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

~Natural Balance goodie bag give-away~
~hassle free parking~

To celebrate this holiday season, THE INQUISITIVE CANINE is making shopping easy and budget friendly. This SUNDAY December 21st from 12:00 noon to 2:00 PM all merchandise is on sale! 

That's right! All merchandise including Easy-Walk Harnesses, Kong toys, treat bags, bones and dog treats will be marked down 10% - 40%!!! What a great opportunity for you to shop for your own dog, as well as the other canine friends in your life! 

We appreciate your business, and hope you to see you this Sunday!

Happy Pawlidays!
Joan and The Inquisitive Canine

2159 Palma Drive, Suite D
Ventura, CA 93003
O: 805.650.8500
F: 805.650.8501

WHO do you really want to blame???

I was in one of my favorite stores yesterday...waiting in line to buy groceries for din-din, and couldn't help overhearing the conversation between one of the cashiers and a customer. As soon as I heard the words "my dog" my ears perked up...Like any predator, my sense of hearing improved once I acknowledged my "prey" - so to speak... 

I guess the customer was buying lots of doggy treats, because the cashier commented about her own dog, and that she loved her dog etc... but that she (the dog) was "naughty" and in the "dog house".... Yes, this is what caught my attention, blaming the dog for something the human probably did in the first place to set the dog up for "failure"... 

From what I heard, and trust me, I didn't listen very long... once I heard the blame-game I shut my ears and diverted to the luscious chocolate display next to me...plus, I saw a friend there, who happens to be a former student of both my private and Manners class. Anyway, she arrived at the perfect time. We started chatting away, which was a great diversion for me. 

What was being said you ask? I guess the cashier and her boyfriend left a pile of food out on the counter at their home... including a pizza... Well, counter-surfing is a grande game to be played by any animal, especially dogs (and husbands when freshly baked cookies are sitting out)... Not only can dogs jump up on counters easily - or stretch and put their paws up...they're also quite efficient at using their mouths and paws, pulling items onto the floor to be devoured. Especially when the said item is a freakin' pizza!!! YUM! What a HUGE payoff!!! 

So, come on!! Really? Blame the dog? Really? Hmm... I myself applaud the dog for being so resourceful and clever, and for hopefully teaching those humans a lesson about "puppy proofing" their home... I say put the humans in the dog house for being naughty... Oh, and by the way, as much as I hate to admit it, being the professional that I am, it's happened to me too! Yep, me, the one who teaches everyone else about dogs... My own dog Poncho taught my husband and myself about puppy proofing out home! Let's just say we're much more careful about where we leave food, especially when we're preoccupied with each other :-) These animals learned!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Defining a subjective term.

I hear the words quite often...But what do they all mean? What exactly is being described? What is the message being sent? It's difficult for me, the dog trainer that comes from the "academic" "science-based" philosophy camp, to judge or determine why a dog is doing what they're doing based on these subjective terms that owners share with me. What words am  I speaking of? Allow me to share: 
  • My dog is being dominant.
  • My dog is being alpha.
  • My dog is being controlling
  • My dog is being aggressive.
  • My dog has learned to be submissive with me. 
First off, let's see what some of the true definitions are, shall we?
  • Dominant: commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others.
  • Alpha: something that is first.
  • Controlling: inclined to control others' behavior : domineering.
  • Aggressive: tending toward or exhibiting aggression. 
  • Aggression: a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master
  • Submissive (submission): to yield oneself to the authority or will of another
Wow. I find all of these terms pretty interesting - and confusing, and frankly quite negative in describing a loved one, including our pets. I think we all understand what they mean, and how they would pertain to describing another human. But describing our dogs? Really? Okay, I'll give you "aggression". That one I've used myself when describing dogs that would fit into my Feisty Fido class - one with dog-dog issues, or dog-stranger issues. But even a word like "aggression" can be very subjective. What's "aggressive" to one person, might not fit that same picture to another. Geez, you should see me on the road sometimes, I can be pretty "aggressive" ;-) I've been known to bark more than my own dog Poncho... at times. 

As for these catchy and popular terms... well, humans can use them all they want to describe their dogs behavior... but what it comes down to, and what I will ask right outta the gate when working with clients is, "what is your dog doing? Paint me a picture." Why? A few reasons are: 
  1. Subjective terms don't tell me anything substantial to correctly evaluate a situation. 
  2. The descriptions could be more about an owners own frustrations with their dogs behavior, vs the actual behavior of their dog. 
  3. Acts of "dominance" to one person could mean something completely different to someone else. 
  4. There is no exact scientific measure, standard protocol etc... of these descriptive terms. 
What are dogs really doing when people use the above descriptive terms? Is your dog bolting out the door before you? Uh, hello? Is that being "dominant" or are they just being a bit more impulsive? After all, they are dogs, right? Impulse control is usually not in their behavior repertoire. How about jumping up to greet when you get home? Is this "aggression" or just the normal greeting behavior or dogs? I believe the latter. As for "submission", well, I ask you what the underlying motivation is there when animals "submit" to us humans. Usually "fear". They don't want to "get in trouble" (yikes, dare I use this phrase...) so they provide their innate body language of "I'm no threat to you." 

Regardless if you use these terms or not, it's probably more important to pay attention to what your dog is doing and not try to figure out what they're thinking... I'm not clairvoyant, but I'm a good history taker and can observe your dogs behavior, the details, triggers, and of course how and or why a behavior is being reinforced - by you and/or the environment. Which brings me to this important question for you to take with you today: if you think your dog is controlling you, what are YOU doing that is reinforcing the behaviors you don't like? Ouch, there's the word of the day: "accountability". 

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Is a New Pet the Right Gift for the Holidays? What to Consider Before Getting One."

This is such a hot topic right now, don't you think? I hear it every day, "I'm going to get the kids a puppy for Christmas. What do you think?" Hmm... I'm thinking SO many things, I don't know where to begin. Instead of bursting anyones "Hallmark moment" bubble, I just smile, giggle, and agree that having a puppy (or adult dog, or cat, etc...) is magical - there really isn't anything like the love and joy of a furry friend...trust me!

I get it! I'm sitting here right now with mine, Poncho, on a Friday night, playing training games, kissy face, and fighting for the computer...instead of out with my hubby at one of his holiday office parties... but when it comes to buying one for someone else, even if it's within the same household, I encourage people to really think hard about this type of "purchase", for both the giver and the recipient(s). 

The following are questions posted by a journalist through a friend of mine: 
  1. Is a new pet a good gift to a child or loved one for the holidays? This is a "yes" and "no" question. If the person on the receiving end is an adult who is expecting one, then I would say it would be a great gift. If it's been discussed and planned out then yes. If it's for a child in the family, then I would want the entire family to agree to welcoming the new pet, and realize that everyone will be involved, one way or another. 
  2. Should the giver ruin the surprise by asking if the recipient wants that pet and breed before giving it? Definitely yes! Because the recipient not wanting such a "gift" could be a bigger surprise! An alternative would be to give someone items related to the pet they intend to give: books, pictures, toys, etc... along with a "gift certificate" good for "shopping" together. This way if the person really wants this pet, it can be a shared experience, which can be more meaningful. 
  3. What are the dangers/risks/drawbacks of giving an animal as a present? The biggest one is the person doesn't want it, and the innocent animal has to be returned. It can be very traumatic for all involved. The person may want it, but then doesn't realize the responsibility that's involved with owning an animal. It's the pet that ends up suffering the most if it ends up in a neglectful home, even if unintentional. It can also damage the relationship between the giver and recipient if one feels imposed upon or slighted, and neither feels comfortable talking about it. 
  4. What is a more appropriate vs. a less appropriate pet gift to give a child? It really depends upon the child, how involved they intend to be, and how responsible they are. It also depends upon what the parents expectations of the child are. Parents should investigate different types of animals that can be kept as pets, and the needs of that particular animal. Then match it to what the child can do to participate in its care. There are also many toys and virtual games that help build responsibility in pet care. 
  5. Are there any special things the gift giver should do or consider before giving the pet as a present (i.e., they should ensure that the pet has all its vaccinations, is microchipped, etc.)? Assuming that it is a welcomed gift, taking care of the initial health care needs and requirements is always nice. The gift giver may also want to include a items including: a carrier, crate, bedding, proper collars, leashes, car seat-belt, walking harness, food, treats, elimination box if necessary, elimination bags, ID tags, licensing fee's, a gift certificate for a veterinarian wellness visit, training class if it's a dog, a few toys, books or other information about the specific pet. 
  6. Where should a gift-giver try to get an appropriate pet (i.e., a reputable breeder or shelter)? What sources should the giver avoid? When it comes to adopting a pet or buying a pet, it's really up to the individual. There are reputable Web sites that can help the decision making process. With millions of shelter animals being killed every year because of irresponsible breeding, irresponsible ownership, etc... shelters are certainly a good choice. However there are responsible breeders as well, and should be considered if that is the persons desire. The American Kennel Club has information on helping people choose a breeder. 
  7. Is it a good idea to research and suggest a reputable veterinarian/animal hospital in the recipient's area at the time you give the pet gift? Yes. This would be a nice gesture for the new pet owners. I would investigate, then provide a list of a few names, allowing the recipient to make the final choice. They might also want to provide a "gift certificate" for a wellness exam. 
  8. Any special tips in terms of how to actually present the gift? Any creative ideas that won't threaten the animal's safety? A client of mine gave their son a puppy last Christmas. She placed the puppy in a large stocking for the presentation. Very cute. Attaching a fabric bow to the collar is sweet, and shouldn't endanger the animal. A large basket on the floor with the animal nestled in can be cute, but it may jump out, so you need to be careful. You can also gift-wrap all of the accompanying goodies. 
  9. What are some good alternative gifts to giving a pet animal (i.e., membership to the zoo, donation to an animal-friendly cause or shelter, virtual reality pet game, etc.)? All of these ideas are good. If possible, the person can get involved with the local shelters. They always need volunteers. This way they can get the "pet fix" without the responsibility at home. 
  10. Any other thoughts or recommendations on this topic? Pets are an absolute joy to have as part of any family. Unfortunately, they are still considered property. With that, folks sometimes treat them like inanimate objects, and not like the living, breathing, individual beings that they are. If they don't want it, they can't just stick it in the back closet and ignore it. It's also very difficult to return. Giving someone a pet as a gift is like giving someone a baby. It needs constant care and attention, and not just for a year or two. Adopting a puppy means having a dog for around ten years or more. Parents buying a puppy for their pre-teen kids means the parents will still be taking care of the dog once their child heads off to college...unless the child continues to live at home. There is also a financial responsibility. I'd say before buying someone a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient really wants it, and knows the responsibilities that go with it. 
So, is a pet a good gift? Again, it is if the recipient not only wants it, but is responsible enough to take care of it, for the lifetime of the pet.