Volume 1

October, 2004


How to get your dog to let you do it's toenails without major trauma for you both.
By Cynthia McCollum

Ch Savvy Midsummer Nite's Dream CGC/ Whoopi 12/20/92 - 7/21/04.

 Our old dog, Casey (Traveling Salesman X Pet Store Cocker) was acquired from the SPCA at age 8 weeks. We lived in the city in a town house with no yard. All of Casey's exercise happened on leash on concrete. Doing toenails was never a problem. She wore them down walking. She was 2 when we moved to the suburbs and bought the dog a respectable fenced yard. She was in heaven, running and keeping the yard safe from marauding squirrels, birds and lizards.
About 2 months after we moved, it came time for Casey's annual vet visit. The vet tech took her history and her temperature, all normal. She picked up the nail clippers and Casey's foot and cut one nail. Casey bit her.

I was appalled. The tech, while not happy, said no problem, we'll wait for Doctor.

 Doctor picked up the clippers. The tech put Casey in a headlock. Casey proceeded to have a screaming, peeing, pooping, snapping fit. She bit the tech and the vet in the process. In the end it took 4 people, tranquilizers and a muzzle to get her nails done.
Years later now, I guess I should thank Casey for a career. Our subsequent visits to a canine behaviorist and Casey’s progress landed me a new job apprenticing with the behaviorist and then onto my own business.

The problem with “toenail terror” is fear of dominant handling (handling the toes) and restraint (the headlock). Heavy discipline compounds the problem. Positive reinforcement conditioning and calm determination on the part of the owner can overcome most “toe terrorists” in a very short time. The program outlined here calls for twice daily 5 minute training sessions for 1 month, each step lasting one full week. DO NOT RUSH ANY STEP!

Casey was put on a basic obedience training refresher. She had taken a basic class as a youngster, but we wanted to condition her to respond instantly to commands. Teaching Sit, Down, Stay, Heel and Come help conditions the dog to listen to you even in other areas and under different circumstances.

NOTE If your dog is a serious biter you will need a basket muzzle. If your dog is a serious biter, you need the help of a professional trainer.

During normal snuggle sessions, handle each paw gently. If the dog pulls away that’s fine, but go back to that foot until you are the one deciding to release the foot. This exercise is continued FOREVER. We also brushed her every day and wiped her feet every time she came back in the house, not just on muddy days.

1. Put the dog on leash and get some food treats. Use something special like cheese, liver or chicken cut into small pieces, not just a boring old dog biscuit. Sit on the floor with the dog and sit on the leash. Show the dog the treat. Pick up one foot. Let the dog nibble the treat while holding the foot for just 2 seconds. Before the dog finishes the treat release the foot. Praise in a high, happy voice Wow! What Good Toes! You are now a cheerleader for your dog. Avoid whiny, sympathetic voices. If the dog struggles, take the treat away and say NO in a calm firm low voice. There is no need to yell. Go back to holding the foot. Then, still holding the foot, give the dog a treat and praise highly as if there had been no struggle. Patience and minimal restraint are the keys to this step. Praise the smallest progress. Start with 2 seconds of foot holding and gradually increase the amount of time until the dog is accepting foot holding. If the dog begins to panic you are holding too long. Patience.

2. Get the nail clippers, the dog, the leash and the treats. Start by holding a foot, and then handle each toe with treats and high praise for compliance. Pick up the clipper and stroke it across the top of the dog’s foot. Treats and high praise throughout this section of the exercise help condition out the fear of the object (the clipper).

3. Get the nail clippers, the dog, the leash and the treats. Repeat step 2, but stroke each toe and nail with the clippers. More high praise and treats.

4. Gather your dog and all your stuff. Repeat step 3, but at the end actually clip ONE nail. Be absolutely sure you do not hurt the dog (if you do, go back to step one). Before the dog has a chance to react, praise as if it just rescued your entire family from a burning building. Quit toe practice and go play ball. Play after training is a good stress release for both of you and is crucial. In this step it is important not to rush and try to do all the nails. You can do another the next day and at all other sessions during the next couple weeks. You will need to practice regularly for a long time, gradually working your way up to trimming all the nails in the same session. Weekly nail trims of just a tiny bit are better than whacking blindly into a long nail.

Even when the dog will let you do the nails without a battle, remember they don’t have to like it. They only have to tolerate it. I’ve used this method on all my dogs since Casey and hundreds of clients. And while no dog likes toenail trims, they love the treats they get for tolerance!

Pet Friendly Shelters
by John Pfohler

 Is there one near you? Will you ever need to know. You bet! You live in Florida and I think all of us now know what a hurricane really is. As I'm writing this Jeanne is dumping rain and gusts of 60 mph through my backyard. I still haven't recovered from Charley and Francis!

To find out if there is a pet friendly shelter close by you need to contact your County's Emergency Operations Command. The number can be found in the government listings of your phone book. Chances are pretty good that if you live in Florida there won't be one close. (We'll discuss how to fix that later on) If there is one you will be required to have certain things to be admitted and we should all have these handy anyway!

 Things you'll need
1: Proof of vaccinations (This should be easy, Gail and I keep a copy of all our dogs important papers in our vehicle)

2: A crate for your pet/pets (This is not a requirement at all shelters, but it's best anyway to insure your pets safety)

3: Food for your pet, litter and a box if you are bringing a cat, any medications your pet may need, proper identification for your pet (collar and tags).

4: A good attitude! You may be asked to keep your pet away from the general people population, to only "air" your pet at certain times in certain places, etc... PLEASE, obey any rules of the shelter. We want to make pet friendly shelters the norm in Florida! don't have a pet friendly shelter in your area.
Can you change that? You bet!!! Here's how.

1: Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper encouraging your county to open their shelters to pets. Be nice! Harsh words or criticism of local officials are almost sure to fail.Find a sympathetic reporter or editor and get them on your side. Public opinion can move mountains.

2: "All our shelters are run by the Red Cross and they have a policy of no animals."
No big deal. That is the National Red Cross's position but local chapters can be swayed. You have to align yourself with other pet owners (be it an obedience club, breed club, humane organization, etc...) and get your local commissioners on board. Most counties have an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, attend meetings, go to county commissioner meetings and fill out a card to speak before them. Go prepared! The local Red Cross will probably have a whole list of reasons why pet friendly shelters aren't feasible in your county. You need to be able to take every one of those reasons away with solutions. This means you will need people to volunteer to "police" pet friendly shelters. It usually only takes 4 to 5 people per shelter, max. This means you need to have a network of like minded people behind you willing to work at making it happen.

Every county in Florida should have at least one "pet friendly shelter".
You can make it happen.

by PJ Lacette
 Every one of us wants to show off how smart our dogs are, and a great way to do that is to teach them some obedience tricks. Common tricks such as sit, down, stand, stay and come are fun to teach and demonstrate for our friends, and the marvelous fringe benefit is that dogs who learn these behaviors are very pleasant to be around.
A dog that is sitting on cue is not doing any of a thousand other things at the same time, like jumping up or chewing on the sofa. One that comes when called is not running away or stealing shoes (or at least if he is stealing shoes he brings them right back!).

 One of the most efficient ways to teach puppies to sit, down, or whatever is desired, is clicker training or operant conditioning. Using operant methods, the puppy is rewarded for offering a behavior such as a sit any time he happens to plunk his bottom to the ground, but the cookie is preceded by the sound of a toy clicker or some other auditory signal or word. Pretty soon, the puppy is sitting at every opportunity, looking up at the owner with a flat-coat grin and wagging his whole body while doing his best to still keep that flat-coat butt firmly planted on the ground!
The puppy gets clicked then treated for every behavior resembling one you want it to do and a cue (command or signal) is added. If it is not offering enough of what you want, then treats or toys can be used to help the puppy figure out how to win the game.
To teach the puppy to sit, for instance, lure the pup’s head up by teasing him a bit with a yummy dog cookie. To teach “down,” slowly move a cookie from right in front of his nose to the ground in between his front paws. You can reward for tiny bits of the behavior at first, like lowering his head to smell the cookie, even before he lays down all the way.
Don’t forget a stand position, too, since that is handy for wiping off muddy feet and at the veterinarian’s office for examinations. Lure the puppy forward from a sit or down until he is up on all four feet, then click and reward.
Learning to do a trick on cue will make it easier to control that behavior at other times. A classic example is “speak” because a puppy that will woof on cue will find it easier to learn the "off switch" for barking as well. Some behaviors are innately rewarding for puppies, though. Barking can be stress-relieving for dogs even though it tends to promote stress in people, so make sure the cookies for barking stop very quickly! Get your barking puppy to bark nonstop for about 10 minutes during a planned training session – with only praise as his reward – then give him really great, strong-smelling treats for stopping the barking. He will quickly figure out that “shush” is a great game, and is much more rewarding than the “speak” game!
Coming when called is a lifesaving issue for puppies. While he is very young, your flat-coat pup will tend to stay very close to you, but as he enters adolescence he will range farther on his own. Make sure “come” is never associated with anything the puppy perceives as less than thrilling and give your puppy lots of cookies for coming when called to build up a reinforcement history.
Play hide and seek a bit with young dogs in safe areas far away from traffic and other animals, where you pop out of sight for a moment or two. This teaches the pup to keep an eye on you because it has learned that otherwise you might disappear!
Giving a yelp of pretend (or real!) pain as soon as sharp little retriever teeth hit your skin, then placing an appropriate toy in his mouth and encouraging chewing on that, will help your puppy understand people have delicate skin and should not be considered giant chew toys. If he continues to play roughly with his mouth, put the pup quietly in his crate for a few minutes without any corrections. If he plays gently when he comes back out, reward him with treats and more play time.
One of the favorite tricks of all dog owners is housetraining. Puppies rewarded for eliminating in the right spot outside, and supervised closely (even rigidly) at all times when loose inside, quickly housetrain themselves. Verbal and physical punishments for housetraining can actually set back the process because the pup becomes afraid to get your attention when he needs to eliminate. Teach your pup to sit at the door before going out and soon he will try to get your attention by sitting and staring at the exit door to the potty area.
Pulling on leash is another common problem that often results in your giving the dog attention when he is doing something you would rather he not do, so try to change that pattern. If the pup pulls ahead, you stop your forward motion, stand still and become silent, moving again only after rewarding the pup when the tension goes out of the leash for a brief moment and he looks back at you.
To ward off chewing problems, praise and reward your puppy for gnawing on safe chew toys such as the hard nylon bones, Kongs and sterilized bone (treats, peanut butter or leftovers stuffed in the Kongs and sterilized bones will make them more desirable).
When you live with a retriever, it is a bad idea to yell at him for picking things up even if the object of his desire is the remote control or a shoe. Once it is already in his mouth, praise him for bringing it to you and trade it for a toy in the early stages of learning, then later for one of his own toys. Correct him if you must when he reaches for inappropriate objects, not after they are already in his mouth, so he will not be afraid to approach you with anything he “finds.” Also teach him a “leave it” command by covering up a tidbit in your hand, and he only gets to eat it if he draws his head back from your hand.
One of the rewards for teaching obedience tricks is that very soon you may find your flat-coat is ready to earn obedience titles from the American Kennel Club or other registries. At beginning levels, dogs can earn a Canine Good Citizen title for demonstrating mastery of basic skills like walking politely on leash past people and other dogs, briefly staying in position, coming when called, accepting brushing and petting, and behaving well around distractions like bicyclists, joggers or loud noises.
Obedience trials put on by AKC clubs offer an opportunity to further demonstrate your flat-coat’s joyful enthusiasm channeled through heeling, group stays, recalls, retrieving, jumping hurdles, scent discrimination and other skills. Dog and handler teams have to earn a qualifying score under three different judges to earn titles at each of the three obedience levels: novice (for a Companion Dog or CD title), open (Companion Dog Excellent -- CDX) and utility (Utility Dog -- UD).
A novice title only requires heeling (both on-lead and off-leash), stand for examination, recall and group sit and down stays. Open and utility classes are entirely off-lead, and add jumping, retrieving and other skills to the fun.
There is also an Obedience Trial Championship (OTCH) for the creme de la creme of obedience competitors. Once dogs already have their UD titles, an OTCH is earned by reaching the 100-point mark for top placements in Open B and Utility B obedience classes. AKC has also added a Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) title for those remarkably consistent dogs that qualify in both open and utility on the same day in 10 obedience trials. Like the OTCH, this title is earned only after the dog’s UD has been completed.
Obedience competition is a wonderful family-oriented event that requires teamwork, sportsmanship and communication – pretty much the same skills that help you train your flat-coat to be a loving, well-behaved companion.

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