DESIGNER PUPPYS: Everything you wanted to know about raising designer or mixed breed dogs,
featuring The BOYZ: Prince Alvin His Cuteness (on left) and Sir Simon The Sad, Cockapoo pups.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Meet Simon, Alvin's Cockapoo Bro

Introducing Simon, an 8-week old Cockapoo we bought today in PA. We had no intention of buying another pup, but in our PA travels we discovered the perfect breeder with the perfect pup. Now Alvin has a companion - guess that's one way to reduce separation anxiety!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Am Smarter Than a 6-Month Old Pup

Alvin Sez:
You're Going Where?
Why Aren't You Taking Me?

I need a vacation and thank you very much - I am going on a see-5-baseball games-in-10-days hot dog, beer, and baseball stadium vaca.

There are 2 doggie issues swirling around this vacation:

1) Prince Alvin sometimes makes me crazy so I need to get away. Today he escaped through a carefully handcrafted gate into the forbidden living room. Once he arrived, he happily started pillow chewing. Fortunately a family member noticed the method he used and let me know. Ten minutes with a few pieces of wood and some screws and his escape route was sealed off. However, as I informed Alvin that he was done being Houdini, the same family member pointed out that my maniacal laughter was a wee bit unsettling. Yes, I am smarter than a 6-month old pup.

2) The same pup who makes me crazy has a bad case of separation anxiety. When we leave for a few hours, he waits for us at the top of the stairs and whines and barks. How long will he wait when we're gone for 10 days?

I don't think it'll be too difficult to have a good time on a baseball vacation. And yes, I will miss Prince Alvin - a lot.
Hopefully, Alvin will get plenty of visitors (people) and see a few dog friends (Snowy, Zoey, Scooter, Artie, and Lexie) and forget about us. And make someone else laugh maniacally!


Are YOU Training Your Dog or Is HE Training You (4 of 6)?

This is the fourth in a series of blogs about dog training:

Training Foundation
Obedience Commands (you are here)
Overcoming Aggressive Behavior
Advanced Commands/Tricks

Obedience Commands

I refused to take Alvin to one of those puppy obedience classes. Not only did it cost too much, but I wanted something I could use over and over again. So I checked out the dog training DVDs on Amazon and came up with It's PAWSible! Dog Training and Puppy Training DVD
This DVD is the best substitute for formal training you will find for both basic commands and some of the more advanced commands.

Here’s why:

  • It’s truly well thought out train-the-trainer approach so that owner can correctly train their animals as long as you are consistent and patient with your dog.
  • It’s a highly organized five-week training program you can easily follow.
  • The instructor demonstrates commands using puppies and dogs who have had no previous training as well as the instructor’s trained dogs.

These are the basic commands I taught Alvin using this DVD (which I played so many times I started sounding like the instructor):

  • Sit

  • Down

  • Stay - The pup needs to know Sit and Down first. Then teach “Stay” gradually from both the Sit and Stay. Stay is a gradual training from small steps to larger ones.

  • Come - This is the most important command and of course, it’s also the command that’s the most difficult to teach to get the highest percentage of recall. Alvin is rarely let off leash because we have not perfected the Come command.

  • No (not in the DVD, but essential to arrest negative behavior) - You need to say this word with conviction and every human family member has to practice the same degree of conviction (words of wisdom from Alvin’s vet). Alvin tends to backback when reprimanded but we ignore his belligerence.

  • Leave It

  • Drop It

  • Leash Training - This is another training process that tends to take a lot of time for some dogs. Alvin pulls constantly so the walks are short to modify his pulling habit.

There are other basic commands, but the ones mentioned above are the most critical.

The most important lesson I learned from It's PAWSible! Dog Training and Puppy Training DVD (and Alvin) is as follows:

These commands must be repeated in short training sessions on a daily basis and reinforced whenever possible.

For example, Alvin is required to sit and stay before he goes outside and before he comes inside. He comes in and goes out after I do. This did not happen overnight, but after a lot of repetition.

And Alvin is by no means the perfectly trained dog (yet) as you will see in the next blog about overcoming aggressive behavior (this blog and the next will publish on approximately 8/10/2009).


Monday, July 27, 2009

Mention "designer dog" and people get nasty!

Yup - I'm a Designer Dog and Proud of It

Sometimes you just have to laugh about how people react to the simplest of things.

I was on a dog community recently where I had posted a plea from Alvin for yapstar votes. Simple - right? Please vote for the cute dog.

I called him a "mixed breed" knowing that if I used "designer dog" or even "hybrid dog" I would be personally attacked. People bash the concept of mixing breeds, designer dog breeders, people who have bought designer dogs, yada, yada, yada.

Some people refused to vote for Alvin because they won't vote for a "designer dog." I wonder if these people refused to vote for Obama because he's Afro-American.

And even though I thought I sidestepped the personal attacks, someone referred to the "ignorant buyer" without even knowing if I had purchased the pup.

The designer dog naysayers might consider the fact that the current group of dogs we call purebreeds are sometimes crossbreeds. Review the following quote from -

"Did you know?

  • A Yorkshire Terrier was crossed with an Australian Terrier to produce the Silky Terrier.

  • The Bulldog was crossed with a Mastiff to get a Bullmastiff.

  • The German Shepherd was crossed with the German Pinscher to get a Doberman. Later crosses with the Greyhound, Weimeraner and Black and Tan Manchester Terrier were made to refine the Doberman."

  • And a Bichon Frise is also a crossbreed (see

Something to think about, and I'm certainly not going to change the minds of people who are so adament about their beliefs. But in the future, let's keep our heads about this issue and open our minds to other people's point of view.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Are YOU Training Your Dog or Is HE Training You (3 0f 6)?

This is the third in a series of blogs about dog training:

Training Foundation
HouseTraining (you are here)
Obedience Commands
Overcoming Aggressive Behavior
Advanced Commands/Tricks


Search for “crate training” and “housetraining” on the net and you will get hundreds of references. Read just a few of them and you will find that “crate training” and what I call “scheduled housetraining (no crate)” are the two major methods.

Alvin did not respond well to crate training, but scheduled housetraining is (95%) successful. At 6 months of age, he does have accidents occasionally; mainly because he decided that one particular area of the house is his potty. I’m guessing that we were not diligent in completely deodorizing his mistakes with the enzyme cleaner. Anyway, he’s banned from that area.

In retrospect, I wish I had access to the Secrets to Dog Training coverage of housetraining. All key points and “how-tos” are captured in one pdf document, including the correct way to handle accidents (no punishment involved).

Note: In this series of blogs about dog training, I am referencing Secrets to Dog Training quite frequently. But you need not rely on my recommendation – google “review of secrets to dog training” and you will find that several independent sources have critiqued this product.


Vote For A Cute Pup on Yapstar

Hi Fans:

I'm Alvin and yes I am a cute pup (so says all my owners and all the people in the pet store!).

So please can you vote for me on Yapstar - I need to compete with Ruby Blue Eyes and he's way ahead of me in votes!

You can vote every day until August 31. Click on my Yapstar icon to the right (under search this blog) and then click these words:

Thanks for your help,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are YOU Training Your Dog or Is HE Training You (2 of 6)?

This is the second in a series of blogs about dog training:

Training Foundation (you are here)
Obedience Commands
Overcoming Aggressive Behavior
Advanced Commands/Tricks

Training Foundation:
8 Concepts to Understand Before You Begin Dog Training

Are You Committed to Training Your Dog?
Committment to dog training is the primary key to its success. There is no giving up in dog training.

There is a roller coaster of emotions ranging from extreme frustration when you’ve said “No” for the 35th time on a given day or are picking up poop from your living room rug . . . to absolute elation when your pup responds promptly to your command despite distractions or calmly greets you at the front door.

Let’s be serious here – dog training is domestication of a canine, a descendant of wolves. It’s true that most of the wild side is gone, but your dog is still a wolf in his individual breed “clothing.” Take a good look at your pup's teeth the next time you brush his teeth. Those nasty, muti-pointed ones were made for ripping and tearing flesh, not for eating grass.

Establish Yourself as the Leader of the Pack

You are the leader of the pack. Your dog is a member of the pack. If you cannot assume a leadership role, your dog will take it over. He knows no other way to live in the pack. When he takes over the leader's role, you can guess who will be training who.

One way to see this concept in action is to watch a few Cesar Millan (the “Dog Whisperer”) episodes on the web or on the National Geographic channel. Keep your eyes on Cesar.

Another good source of “alpha dog” information is the kingdom of pets Secrets to Dog Training media package (pdfs, DVD, audio). This media package reinforces the “alpha dog” concept throughout the entire set of topics.

Your Dog is a Family Member

Treat your dog as a family (pack) member, and he will respond accordingly. Do you take your dog with you when you go out (event permitting)? Or do you leave him home to fall asleep or chew the furniture in complete boredom?

When you work around the house, is your dog with you or not? Alvin likes to bite the broom, bark at the vacuum, and grab the rake outdoors. Obviously, your dog can’t help you mow the lawn, but he can be at least present for other activities.

Communicate with Your Dog
People talk is NOT a dog’s native language. He will NEVER, EVER understand your entire message. Maybe a few words. Certainly the tone of your message. And he will get a very clear message from your body language.

You need to communicate in dog talk. Of course, you won’t be barking, growling, or biting (unless you want to) – but you need to understand your dog’s body language and sounds. Alvin combines a sound (whining) with a look. He communicates “You left my treats on the counter and I want them” with a whine and a longing stare in the direction of the treats.

How do you learn dog talk?
Watch the animal! Try and figure out what certain body language means by his actions.

Search the Internet with keywords such as “dog talk” and you’ll get all kinds of help in many different formats.

A word of caution: get specific training information from known experts. They know what works the majority of the time. This is one reason why I finally leaned toward Secrets to Dog Training. Dog experts created this training.

Patience and Consistency are Mandatory
If you want to train your dog, but you are not a patient person, best of luck to you! You may be handing your dog’s training over to a competent one-on-one dog trainer. They’ll make fewer mistakes, but then you’ll need lessons from the trainer about how to use commands. And will the trainer show up to teach housetraining – the type of training that requires the most patience?

All dog training requires consistent application of the same activities in order for training to turn into everyday practice. For example, once you teach a dog to sit with a hand signal, everyone in the household should be using the same signal. If a dog is not supposed to jump up on one family member but is allowed to jump up on another, you will have one confused dog!

Rewards Work, Punishment Does NOT Work
Dogs respond to rewards of food, attention, and toys as long as the reward is immediate (within a few seconds of the request/command). When a dog’s action, whether it’s positive or negative, is rewarded, he is more likely to repeat the action.

Punishment does not work with dogs. Dogs cannot connect a whack on the nose with mischievous or otherwise bad behavior (from the human viewpoint). Punish repeatedly and fear and/or aggression will result. On an episode of "It's Me or the Dog," a snarling Boston Terrior would not let his owner touch him. Turns out she had been coming at him with a broom. It showed what the menacing broom looked like from the terrier's viewpoint. No wonder he became aggressive.

Show Respect for Your Pup
No matter how mischievous, aggressive, or destructive the dog, he will respond based on your respect for him. He senses how you feel by your attitude, tone of voice, and actions, no matter how subtle or how unaware you are of the way you are acting.

Dogs Deserve Excellent Treatment
Dogs DESERVE clean water, nutritious food, medical care, shelter from the weather, and our attention and caring. Training is what owners provide so that they can live comfortably with dogs.

If you are not willing to provide what dogs deserve, perhaps you need to re-think why you got a dog in the first place.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Are YOU Training Your Dog or Is HE Training You (1 of 6)?

Alvin Showing Me How To Leash Train

This is the first in a series of blogs about dog training:

Introduction (you are here)
Training Foundation
Obedience Commands
Overcoming Aggressive Behavior
Advanced Commands/Tricks

When you hear or read about “dog training,” it might suggest teaching obedience commands like “Sit” and “Stay.” Or it might suggest puppy housetraining. Or teaching a dog tricks. Or specialty training like guide dogs or the police canines who sniff out drugs.

Dog Training as an Ongoing Process
All of these types of instruction fall under the category of “dog training.

It’s an ongoing process and never ends.

Either you are training your dog from the day he arrives in your home or he’s training you. Hopefully, it’s the former activity.

Why Dog Training is So Critical
I did not think about dog training as an ongoing process until I saw the movie “Marley and Me.” Soon after, I got a pup and realized that unless I took control of his education, he was more than likely to show signs of behavior problems. Also, I’ve seen animal-lover friends face serious behavior issues with dogs whose training was sporadic.

At this point, I believe the major reason dog shelters overflow with unwanted canines is owner lack of commitment, especially regarding training. Obviously, in these economic times, some people cannot afford their dogs. But the majority of dogs are given up because owners fail to understand the amount of time and effort a dog requires. Untrained dogs are frequently left in a shelter or abandoned.

Types of Dog Training Covered Here
Because I want a well-trained dog in my present and future, I decided to research what was available for certain types of training. I am continuously searching the Internet, talking to people who have dogs, watching trainers in action, and evaluating training DVDs. And I am determined to use what I learned. Any recommendation I make in this blog is a product I’ve used myself.

By the way, I’m NOT discussing specific training methodology (dog whispering, clicker training, reward training). How a particular type of training gets performed (methodology) is not talked about except in passing.

I consider the following types of training/information under the umbrella of “dog training:”

Training Foundation
Obedience Commands
Overcoming Aggressive Behavior
Advanced Commands/Tricks
Specialty Training (example: guide dog, performance training)

In future blogs, I will recommend specific aids based on my research and application for each of these training types, with the exception of Specialty Training.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dog Groomer Critique - Need an Opinion

Like his Cockapoo and Bichon parents, Alvin requires grooming every six weeks else he truly resembles a raggedly doll.

The first time he was groomed, I took him to a pet store, paid way too much, and ended up with no real style at all - just a short face cut and trimmed every where else.

This time I hired a mobile dog groomer who came to the house, spent about 1 1/2 hours, and gave Alvin a more stylish cut. Again, it was pricey, but the look is more of a style than just a cut. But I may be biased, so I need opinions.

Here's his picture after the most recent grooming:

Please respond with a critique of this grooming look for a Bichon Cockapoo.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Dog Dental Trauma - Losing a Tooth

Interesting coincidence - there are no accidents!

A few days ago I visited my dentist who somehow found out I have a puppy. I got a short lecture on dog dental care and in my take-home package I found a tiny toothbrush. My dentist recommended meat-flavored toothpaste. You can read about special toothpaste for dogs here.

Then this morning Alvin suddenly went into a fit of mouth hysteria - he kept licking the side of his mouth, was bleeding a little, and appeared to be choking. We checked - there was nothing in his mouth.

This scenario continued for about 10 minutes during which we were deciding how to get him to the vet as quickly as possible. Finally he dropped something white on the floor - a nasty looking tooth - sort of a molar with points on it. Now I know why no one wants to be a dog dentist!

Does the tooth fairy know it's a dog tooth and put a dog bone under the pillow?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Puppy Training - The Big Picture

I finally got smart about puppy training - it's not a finite thing with a beginning and an end - puppy training turns into dog training and NEVER ends.

At first, I thought I could housetrain Alvin and teach him a few commands, and then bingo - a perfectly trained, obedient puppy. What WAS I thinking?

First, I discovered the Basic Command training needed constant reinforcement (this was explained very thoroughly in the It's PAWSible! Dog Training and Puppy Training DVD I used for training). The best example is the COME command - Alvin conveniently forgets that one. And if he's distracted - a rabbit, a bird, someone cooking food - he might forget "SIT." At times, "NO" is clearly a foreign sound. And housetraining - that's a never-ending vigil. One little lapse in his schedule means a possible accident.

Then the behavior/agression issues started in the last few weeks (Alvin is now 5 plus months):
  • Jumping up on everyone
  • Barking for seemingly no reason
  • Backbark (similar to people backtalk)
  • Biting/Nipping
  • Pulling on the leash
  • Constantly getting into mischief (pulling socks or clothes out of a drawer, chewing slippers, chomping on the computer mouse)
It was clear that housetraining and basic command training were not enough and it was time for a new plan. This must be the stage where many people give up training and decide the puppy wasn't such a great idea. And that's how dogs end up in shelters. Lack of committment - people just give up.

What's the solution in Alvin's case - a look at the issues and how to address them with more comprehensive training. And it seems to be working - one day at a time.

More details in future posts . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pet Transport Has Reached a New Level - Pet Airways

I stand corrected - this post is now outdated - Transporting a Pup by Plane - There are no Positives with the introduction of Pet Airways, a new airline that transports pets only!

I have no reviews yet, just a newspaper article introducing Pet Airways - Travel for Your Best Friend!

Pet Airways features cabin (not cargo) travel for pets - what better treatment could your pet get - first class travel at commercial airline pricing! No more cargo travel for 6 plus hours at a time in a cold or hot environment with no food, water, and pee/poop breaks. See the details here.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hybrid Dogs for Retirees

What's the ideal dog for a retiree?

In the August edition of Consumer Reports Money Advisor, Greg Daughtery, the "Retirement Guy," "consulted the Association of Pet Dog Trainers for advice on dogs and retirees. Generally, the trainers favored smaller dogs. "Breeds such as poodles, Malteses, Yorkies, Bichons, and any mixes of these breeds are great."

"Another major point - most of the trainers recommended adopting a mature dog rather than a puppy. Choosing an older animal means that you can provide a home for a shelter or rescue dog."

This advice makes a case for the suitability of hybrids to retirees and at the same time satisfies the designer dog naysayers who cannot understand why people go to breeders for hybrids instead of to shelters.

And I have to agree about retirees getting a grown dog. Puppies like Prince Alvin are a lot of work to housebreak, train, and care for.

Although the report indicates that "small dogs cost $1300 for food and care in the first year," it also states that "those of us who take pleasure in canine companionship would agree that few if any investments offer a better return."

I'm sure the $1300 figure is based on valid estimates, but I can debate this item (in Alvin's case) in a future post.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Capturing Puppy Memories Digitally

When you get a new pup and realize he’ll be a pup for only a few months, you may decide to capture the memories while you can. So you find the camera you use on vacation and try snapping the pup’s expressions.

And if you’re skilled at photography, you’ll take clear, properly composed shots of everything from the pup sleeping upside down to playing with his friends. Not being that skilled, I take many pictures to get a few good ones. Thanks to the photography gods for digital cameras!

Whether you use a point and shoot camera or a digital SLR, you can get puppy memories captured with these tips:

Take the pics where there’s good lightning, either inside or outside. Flash does not always produce true colors. The one time where flash came in handy is when the light is behind the dog (he’s backlit). For some reason, outside on a cloudy day is the best lighting.


Out-of-focus shots are maddening. You have this outstanding pup expression, but the picture’s fuzzy. Get the dog’s attention with a toy or another person and shoot away before he moves (uh huh!). You can also use a tripod if you get blurring. For example, on the left is a sample of an out-of-focus shot I call “the stuffed animal.” Would have been a great shot if I focused the camera correctly.

Angle of shot
Technically, you should shoot at the dog’s level. Sometimes that’s a little difficult but you need to be creative. Put the dog on a chair or a top stair so you can get to his level.

Zoom In
All cameras have a zoom feature. Get a full body shot and a head shot and one from the front. The pup’s image should fill the frame.

Fix your mistakes
Not every one has Photoshop, but there is software (it may come with your camera) to crop, fix lighting and sharpen pictures. It is best to take a good picture, but that’s not likely if you’re an amateur.

Create pup memories now. Time’s ticking away . . .

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bichon or Cockapoo traits or both?

Did you know – A Bichon Frise is a cross breed?

This post is the second of two posts about looking at Prince Alvin's Cockapoo and Bichon traits. First post is Designer Dog - “Luck of the Draw”. Breed information in this post is from

Wow – Alvin, a Bichon Cockapoo, did get the “Luck of the Draw,” at least in appearance. He shows more Bichon than Cockapoo characteristics in this area. But when it comes to certain types of behavior, I wish he had more of the Cockapoo attributes.

Here’s the Bichon ( traits Alvin displays:
  • Bichon Frises have long, elegant necks, strong chests, short muzzles, and a scissors bite. They have a dark halo around the eyes and a dark nose and lips, giving an inquisitive facial expression. This inherited facial expression is what makes Alvin such a handsome pup (in my opinion).
  • The Bichon Frise is highly hypoallergenic and does not shed, making it a good breed for those with allergies.
  • The Bichon Frise is sensitive, responsive, affectionate, and abundantly playful. It is a perky, jumpy, happy dog that loves companionship and is happy to cuddle up.
  • Bichon Frises have an easy, happy disposition.
  • Bichons may bark frequently or tend to nip when playing. Alvin has become increasingly vocal, usually when it’s not appropriate (from the human viewpoint).
  • Like cats, Bichons have sudden spikes of energy which cause them to run wildly around the house. It’s called Frise Frenzy and looks like pure craziness!
  • The Bichon Frise is highly intelligent, making training a fairly simple task. Bichon Frises can be difficult to house train (ain't it true!).
  • The Bichon Frise is an active dog that needs daily exercise. It is eager to play vigorous indoor games, romp in the yard, or take short walks on the leash.
  • Bichons may have allergies or be sensitive to flea bites. Alvin appears to be allergic to something – we’re trying to figure out the allergen.
  • The Bichon Frise’s coat needs to be brushed and combed every other day and trimmed every two months.

In retrospect, when looking for a dog breed, I should have had second thoughts about the "difficult to housetrain" and grooming characteristics that show in both the Cockapoo and Bichon lists. But the positive traits outweigh the negative and besides - in general, we are happy with our Bichon Cockapoo. We know he needs additional training, but that's a whole new topic of discussion!
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Designer Dog - “Luck of the Draw”

Did you know – Cockapoos were bred as early as 1940?

When people mention the term “designer dog,” they typically are referring to the more common mixed breeds such as Cockapoos, Labradoodles, and Puggles. When you are looking for a mixed breed, you need to look at the characteristics of each
breed in the mix.

In Alvin’s case, we looked up Bichon Frise and Cockapoo. We were able to find a “breed description” for Cockapoo on as well as for Bichon Frise (>Find a Puppy>Enter Breed>Find My Breed>Click Breed Name).

Now that it’s a few months after we brought him home, I revisited these descriptions to see how what well they fit Alvin’s physical and behavioral characteristics today.

Here’s the Cockapoo ( characteristics Alvin displays:
  • The Miniature Cockapoo weighs 12-20 lbs, with a shoulder height of 14-15”. At 5 months, Alvin is already 12 lbs and about 12” tall.
  • The Cockapoo can be a wide variety of coat textures and colors such as white, cream, tan, or a mix thereof. Alvin is mostly white with buff/cream, and a little black. His coat is straight.
  • Cockapoos are outgoing and eager for human companionship and attention. The Cockapoo will grow unhappy if it is left alone too often.
  • Cockapoos enjoy the company of all living things, including other dogs and pets.
  • Cockapoos do not shed much, however the coat does require extensive grooming. Alvin doesn’t shed at all, needs to be brushed every day, and needs grooming every 6–8 weeks.
  • Cockapoos are intelligent and eager to please, which usually makes training a simple procedure. House training the Cockapoo may be difficult (Yes, yes, and yes!).
Wonder what Bichon characteristics apply in Alvin’s case? The answer was a wee bit surprising. I’ll continue this discussion with the next post.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It Ain't Easy to Bathe This Dog

Bathing a dog should be easy, especially a 12-pound pup like Prince Alvin. Dogs like water - right? Spray his coat with some warm water, work in puppy shampoo, rinse, and dry.

Alvin had other thoughts about bathing yesterday. It didn't help that he was on the deck free to escape at any time. Thinking it would create less of a mess, I had him outside on a sunny day so he could air dry in the sun. Bad idea! Ever chase a wet, soappy dog bent on escape?

Luckily, I managed to catch him and rinse off the soap. He whimpered pitifully while I dried him off. The next time I'll take the advice I found in an article about bathing a dog who hates baths.

This bathing episode resulted in a clean but tramatized pup. Based on Alvin's past behavior, it'll require a lot of TLC the next time I give him a bath!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Puppy Socialization

Alvin Playing with Snowy, a Westie

All pups learn basic socialization (pack) skills when they're with their mother and the rest of her litter. But what happens after the pup leaves the litter? If there are no other dogs in the house, how will the pup learn how to interact with dogs?

We think it's important for Alvin to be with other dogs so we visit friends and family who have animals. On the July 4th weekend, he hung out with two groups of dogs. First, he played with Artie, a Wheaton Terrier and Lexie, a Carin Terrier. Artie's one of those laid back dogs who had no problem with Alvin's puppy playing. But Lexie is the lead dog so once she established who was boss, she tolerated Alvin. And she clearly outscored Alvin in the ball retrieval game. He just could not compete with her.

Next we picniced with friends who have three Westies and several cats. The leader of these Westies is a male, Scooter. He met Alvin at the front gate growling and did not stop until the ceremonial smelling of rear ends was complete. Even then he barely tolerated the pup. And the Prince decided he'd retaliate by barking at Scooter. Today we needed to supervise their interactions closely.

On the other hand, Alvin was able to play most of the day with the two Westie females Snowy and Zoey. He also met a cat for what must have been the first time. He growled at Oreo for quite a while, but nothing more.

What's interesting about these multi dog interactions is the clear dominance of one dog in a pack and the way the dominant dog interacts with a visitor (intruder). I guess that's what happens in a human group situation - a leader eventually emerges. Sometimes the human leaders are just as obvious as Lexie and Scooter!

I'm wondering if dog parks provide additional opportunity for positive socialization. Please comment if you believe there are any benefits to visiting dog parks.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Designer Dogs from a Historical Perspective

I literally stumbled on an article written in the NY Times (February 7, 2007) about the history of designer dogs. It's a long article, but worth reading if you want to know about the origin of this class of canines. The author, JON MOOALLEM, makes some important points such as the following:

"what we label a dog — how we brand it — doesn’t necessarily have much bearing on its quality. Ultimately, the value of any dog, purebred or hybrid, is bound up in the priorities of the people stewarding it through the hazards of nature and nurture. " My point exactly - I wish I had written this statement!

Should you choose to find out more about the class of dogs we call "designer" or "hybrid," this article is an excellent starting point.

Click here to read The Modern Kennel Conundrum by Jon Mooallen.

For those of you who aren't sure about the meaning of conundrum, here's the definition:
1. a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words, as What is black and white and read all over? A newspaper.
2. anything that puzzles.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Recall Training Tip - Lure versus Reward

Alvin's typical reaction to the Come Command

If you're new to training a puppy basic commands, you're going to make mistakes. If your pup is not responding the way you want him to, the dog's not stubborn or stupid, you're doing something wrong.

A Prince Alvin example
The Prince responds quite nicely to both verbal and hand commands for sit, stay, and down. The command "Come" is the problem. As long as he's fairly certain I have treats on my person, he'll come when called, even if there are distractions. But when there are no treats in sight (or smell), the reaction is what you see in the picture above.

So what's a newbie trainer to do? In the case of the Come command, my mistake is that I'm using treats as a lure instead of a reward. I finally remembered the discussion of lure versus reward in the training DVD I'm using (see Bringing Your New Pup Home continued). The trainer in "It's Pawsible" recommends phasing out the lure (treats in your hand) to the point where there are no treats in your hand. Once the phaseout is complete, you reinforce randomly with a positive comment or a treat as a reward (but not originally in your hand as a lure).

Over time the pup will associate the treat with the command even if he doesn't get a treat every time. According to this trainer, treats will always be needed as a reward. The trainer asks this question, "Would you come to work if there were no paycheck?"

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