Posts Tagged ‘spike collars’

New Year, New Challenges…

January 2, 2015
Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

What an interesting year it has been for me.  Mixed bag.  The week of Thanksgiving, I lost my very dear friend Janie Wondergem to lung cancer.  Then, the week before Christmas, Jerry Schinberg, who founded the  first grooming contest in the country, died.  These people are my contemporaries.   Were it not for Jerry, i would neve have met Romaine Michelle—the  top groomer in the country for years. Gives one pause, as they say.

If it’s at all possible, I learned last year to be more skeptical about any job offer.  I have blogged ( about a year and a half ago…) that I quit working for Pet Care Plus because the owner, Jennifer Stavrianos was not only NOT AT ALL ENGAGED IN DOG CARE AT HER DOG CARE BUSINESS, but she hated the environment of  this business so much she refused to believe anything her managers were telling her, and wouldn’t vheck anything out herelf.  (This is not uncommon  with  pet stores and dog daycare/boarding businesses….more and more, they are being operated by business people with no interest in having a relationship with a dog, the fancy , animal husbandry, or animal welfare).   Because she didn’t like the way  the Force dryer looked (it looks like a vacuum cleaner, which, basically, it is), she put it up in the ceiling where I could not turn it on 1 switch at a time and let it power up, but had to  turn it on by a wall switch–  not how it was designed to be used.  She did this because her  ‘fenemy’ and competitor had done it—but she didn’t ask how the competitor had done it, or why.  She refused to believe it was unsafe, and that  it was blowing fuses even over night.  My roommate, a forensic  engineer, who investigates fires and explosions, told me to bring my personal effects home because there was going to be a fire.   The dogs were alone at night. Nobody was on site.  By the time anyone  would hear a smoke alarm, the dogs would all be asphyxiated.   Just for the record, I would never board my  pet at a facility where there was not somebody on site 24 hours.  However, this is very common, You  can’t just assume  that people who operate  pet service businesses really love pets enough to have integrity.  I quit, she hired 2 people to replace me, one whom she fired for being  clueless, the other quit because she wasn’t making enough money.    She  asked me to return—full time 6 months later (she cultivated me for about  two months).  I was working else where making  triple the money, but the commute was  three hours. I had negotiated  for a 5% raise in my commission and a parking place.  She then ‘forgot’ to tell her management staff  of these details, creating a lot of friction.   She never gave me  a written agreement.

She appointed an assistant manager to be a business manager, and to oversee the build out of a new facility, someone with less than a year  experience at her job, and no actual kennel experience at any other  pet business.     A contractor joked that she didn’t  know what  B was paid to do, and compared her to  George Costanza on Seingelf.  By the time  Stavrianos finally took me to see the build out, all the infrastructure issues were behind finished walls. I told her that her architect ripped her off.   He just manipulated a CAD design.  it was the same design—right down to many of the wall colors, I had seen at another facility I had worked in!  That angered her.  Her newly hired general manager (by now, it was July)  who had no pet industry service  experience, just retail, agreed with me,  and Stavrianos told him not only to find excuses to suspend me, but  to build a case to fire me,  and that she intended to fire all staff after the New Year.  Why?  Who knows, as she  didn’t know any of the procedures that were involved in  boarding dogs in her own kennel.  She had never taught any staff. All her staff  was originally’ inherited ‘ from another business, and they  trained other employees.   Illinois is a  fire at will state.  Technically, she doesn’t need an excuse. I told my  manager we were losing our organizational memory. Stavrianos found out about this because, although I had sent the email to the manager, she decided, after hiring him in July, to request he take a 50% pay cut in October. He quit, she intercepted the email I sent to him, and decided I had created a hostile work environment.  It might have been a coincidence that her customer service manager quit a week before, then the manager.  So , since Illinois is a fire at will state, it was my word against hers, and  we are still fighting over whether I am entitled to unemployment compensation. The manager  who quit knew that  Stavrianos was having  some sort of neurological problems because  she kept forgetting conversations  that there were witnesses too, as well as written phone texts she had sent!

I have been offered  several jobs, but  when  doing the test dogs, I was learning that most  businesses offering me job were owned by people who  are new to the industry, and really didn’t care if an employee could make a living wage.   They really didn’t have enough business to hire me even part time, and were in denial. They are destined to get people right out of grooming school who can only shave dogs.   One still owes me $200 (Bella’s in Bolingbrook—I have a case with the ill. Dept of labor).  It’s sad that the industry is really facing a decline, but  all industries go through cycles.  I mean, video rental (Blockbuster) lasted  about 20 years, then Netflix came along, then  even Netflix started offering streaming, and there are no more blacksmiths.

I am lucky that I have enough income coming in from other sources that I don’t have to take just any job, and  can manage to piece an income together.  I also have the free time now to be a court advocate for animals in the court system, and possibly be of service to other nonprofit groups, and possibly do more consulting.  I am optimistic.

A bummer lurks on the horizon in the fact that my old Whippet, Bebop, whom I got  from  Whippet Rescue before there was WRAP, is now 15.  He had an episode  of vestibular disease, as well as a benign but rapidly  growing tumor.  He had the tumor for over a year, and it finally got larger than his head and burst.  We didn’t take it off when it was small because  I didn’t want him to go through the trauma of surgery, and we both thought he’d die first.  The  veterinarians were able to remove it, and his quality of life is better, but he is having cognitive issues.  He is now blind, deaf, and  very stiff.  Glucosamine chondroitin helps, but the Sam-e did not.  He has become  incontinent, but my roommate is quite helpful, and loves the little guy.  In fact, Bebop had come to live with me and Dazzle (now gone 2 years) just a few months before  Kunihiro arrived.  It would be much easier if it weren’t so cold.  I absolutely must put his coat on him.  He’s still eating, and if he hears anyone going to the kitchen, he will trot across the apartment to see if there is a dish on the floor.  It is what it is. Every day is a gift. As long as he is still eating, and seems to have some cognition,he has a right to his life.  Sometimes, it seems to others who don’t know your dog that your dog looks awful or in pain, but you know your own dog.

I’ve had tenants  break a lease unexpectedly when  one  lost a job. This is always a pain in the neck, and I had to replace the clothes dryer and a ceiling fan. When I got the  credit card bills, I looked at the amounts owed, and exclaimed, “What did I buy?” Kunihiro laughed and said he often feels the same way.

Berbop on Santa's lap, with Dash

Berbop on Santa’s lap, with Dash

My real indulgence has been dog training. Dash is much different than Bebop. Bebop, while very brave,  was a tough guy, and I never felt he was perfected enough to  compete in obedience with (although he probably was…I just couldn’t find a class that offered AKC novice ).  Dash got his Canine Good citizenship in ’13, and  his  Junior Courser title this past Spring, and  in early November ’14, got his Beginner Novice and Rally Novice titles at the same trial!  I was very pleased.  The thing is, he doesn’t own the venue for any performance, and is very well-behaved at dog  shows and obedience trials.  He believes he owned all the  concrete from my house to about a mile around it, and gives every dog the stink eye (if it isn’t another sight hound) and is crazy reactive.  he will  just go berserk, then sit and look at me for  two seconds, and resume being crazy,m sit, look at me, resume—you get the picture. . Sort of embarrassing, but that just means I have to keep him under control and remind him acting the tough guy fool is inappropriate.

Are we making progress on the humane issues that I think are important?  Hard to say.  I had a nice chat with Beverly Isla, who may or may not edit it for a webcast.  One thing I always do is remind people  there are  small  things they can do that have a big impact.  I subscribe to a feed, Flagging Animal Sales on Craigslist, which has over 5600 members.  It used to be that  four or five different isps could get a post flagged off, but now it seems it is taking more than 10.  We just have to get more people flagging. In any case, there is an American Bulldog breeder—a backyard breeder, very arrogant, who has litter after litter and posts  on Craigslist to sell. Seems that one of us called the guy, paid him a visit, found out he lived in the city limits of Waukegan, Illinois , was running this as a business, and the police confiscated his litter.  Hope the word spreads.  The  backyard breeders and mini puppy mills have libeled  and harassed me and my employers, and I am sure most of the dogs in animal shelters come from these types of breeders—as there is a lot of evidence they are coming neither from commercial puppy mills nor hobby breeders. If we could pass a law in Illinois mandating the microchipping of every  dog and cat, we could find out more about who is  abandoning  pets people get bored with (nobody who loves a pet  is moving into housing that doesn’t allow pets. That’s an excuse. Nor is anyone getting a job).We just have to make it crystal clear to everyone breeding for fun and profit that they are responsible. They should be funding the animal shelters—not me.

Family issues—I will be glogging n a few weeks about the  dynamics among my sisters, etc.  Amusing and aggravating at the same time…but my  parents raised us to be contentious.

I thank my long term subscribers to this blog.  You need to know that my blogs on prong collars and housebreaking difficult dogs are the most  clicked dog blogs, and the  blog on the Murdoch map of Africa is a close 3rd.  The one I did on fake animal rescues is getting read more and more.  Social media is helping get the word out that there is a community that  won’t allow inventors in the pet industry and  unethical breeders set the tone.

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The Spoiled dog, and Why Obedience Training Works

June 22, 2012

I had started to write about  how to find a facility:  dog groomer, dog day care, or kennel, or even  someone who boards & cares for dogs in their home, but I  immediately realized the problem many people have, which they tend to discount. That problem is….their dog is spoiled.

I know how easy it is to spoil a dog.  I  have spoiled a few.  In my quest to understand why my dog was unhappy (I can read body language and  can tell when a dog  wants something ) I have indulged bad behavior.  I have also trained/behavior shaped many dogs.  One of my clients said a very important thing to me which I have never forgotten. She had 2 large dogs, and had acquired a toy breed. She said, “Do not allow behavior in a small dog that you would not allow in a large dog.”  No kidding.  Most owners would not allow a large dog to bark incessantly and demand being held or picked up, or annoy the neighbors. Most would not allow a large dog to lunge at other dogs.  Yet they seem to find  ratty behavior cute in a small dog.

I  have worked in several facilities that offer dog daycare.  These days, the French Bulldogs & the Bostons are worse trouble makers in  og packs than Pit Bulls,. I am speaking in generalities, but it is a fact that they are always harassing other dogs. They might want to play, but they are not acting playful…they are acting aggressive.

That is a problem.

Another problem is the dog who refuses to be confined. Fact—dogs are den animals. They are born seeking places that are confined to sleep. This is the value of a dog crate.  Yet, people, being anthropomorphic and assigning human emotions to their dogs—-purposely break this instinctive behavior.  Some dogs, when they move to a new home, and have gotten used to being cuddled, will whine when they are confined. What do owners do? They don’t want their little precious to suffer…so they reward bad behavior by taking the dog out of the crate and cuddling the dog. Thus the dog learns to not find his own comfort in his own place.  Then, the dog gets frantic if confined at a groomer’s or in a kennel. &, it seems not to matter how large the crate is.  If the dog can see barriers beyond the crate, he wants to be loose wandering the perimeter.   The thing is…the dog never relaxes.  He paces until he becomes exhausted & passes out. This is not healthy.

I tell my clients to think this through:  if their dog ever has to be confined for a medical reason, the dog will be so stressed out it will never heal. What kind of favor are you doing your dog when you don’t recognize this?

There is a TV show that plays in America called Supernanny.  It is about families who have way too many children to manage. They indulge the children—spoil them  —let them get out of control, and they then need an outsider to insist THEY—the parents—-follow through on discipline.  &, indeed, half the show is showing how long it takes the parents to follow through.  People make excuses for why they do not follow through.

So, let me put it to you in a way that will seem harsh, but  check it out:  spoiling does not mean pampering .  It means wrecking. It means breaking. It means destroying.  It is not cute. It is dangerous.

If you want to  change the dynamic, and  allow your dog to be comfortable, calm, and  not get stressed, you are going to start on the sit/stay, and  first work up to  30 seconds, then, 1 minute, them 3 minutes….and you are going to be at least 6 feet away from the dog, and work up to  being 20 feet away from the dog.  Then,  you are going to work on a

down/stay,  start for 30 seconds, & work up to 5 minutes, standing farther and farther away from your dog.  Every time the dog breaks the sit or stay, you must stqrt over, and if your dog can’t do  30 seconds, you have to keep at it  until he can, before moving on.

Why does this work with the spoiled dog that has separation anxiety?  He has to concentrate —first—on not moving, and gradually he sees he won’t  die  if he isn’t flued to you, and can  handle  being alone….because ultimately, you are goi9ng to work on leaving him in a down stay for  5 minutes and leave the room.

How long will it take?  Believe me—the first 30 seconds are going to take a lot of repetitions.  You don’t see Justin Silver, who hosts  Dogs in the City doing all the repetitions, but it works.

Now, you can’t do just one thing. You have to get out of the mindset of  spoiling the dog, and into the mindset of being in charge and not indulging bad behavior. Good luck. Find a mentor who has successfully trained a dog!

Dog Collars: Prong/spile/buckle/choke/Martingale…& Harnesses

June 7, 2012

As a groomer, I see dogs wearing all sorts of contraptions, and more and more, I see them in harnesses.  I know that people don’t want to hurt their dogs, but, unless your dog has a serious diagnosed trachea problems and/or is a guide or tracking dog, harnesses are the wrong choice for most dogs.

I’ll get into why they are so wrong, but let’s start with the various choices and the right choices.  Now that we know  what humane training methods are and that you don’t have to  choke your dog to get his attention—that you can get the dog to follow a toy or a treat, chokes are generally a bad choice for every day wear.  Virtually all groomers  know of someone whose dog got stuck in the collar. The collar was too loose, and the links got stuck in the dog’s teeth, or got hung up on a fence or on furniture, and some dogs strangled.  IT’S A TRAINING COLLAR.  But, like the prong/spike, people leave them on their dogs, use them incorrectly, and hurt their dogs.

Buckle collars, which you can adjust, attach a leash to, and leave tags on, are generally excellent choices.  Now, I know many dogs are micro-chipped with the owners contact info (a very good idea), but if your dog becomes loose & is found, many people don’t know to take the dog to be scanned for a chip, or don’t have time. A tag with owner contact info (in fact, a tag that include’s a friend’s or groomer’s phone number as well) is what most people look for.

Sighthound owners use MARTINGALE style collars.  I feel these are excellent for most dogs, as they tighten up from both sides &  not like a choke.  But the dog can’t  back out of the collar if it is properly fitted.  Premier makes an excellent,  cheap line of Martingales, and there are many manufacturers you can find on line.  I noticed that Justin Silver, the dog trainer on Dogs in the City, suggested that  his client with the Bulldog take the dog out of the harness, and use the Martingale, with immediate success.

People tell me they use harnesses because their dogs pull.  Well, if your dog is a Seeing Eye or Guide Dog, or a tracking dog, you WANT your dog to pull without being constrained.  Why would you want your pet dog to be able to pull you around? This not only makes no sense at all, it creates a bad dynamic.

What I see happening is dogs wearing harnesses,  out of control because they haven’t received any obedience training, but who want their people to be leaders, are put in the position of being a leader…but the dog doesn’t want to be a leader, so he pulls wherever his ‘instinct’ (or nose) tells him to go. The owner pulls back, but the  dog’s instinct is telling him to pull away, and the dog becomes even more neurotic than he would be otherwise.  I see this all the time, and the owners tell me the dog is hyper active, or sensitive, or crazy….but I never have any problem with the dog. My body language tells the dog I am in charge, and he can relax.  No joke.

If the dog pulls,and you don’t want to do formal dog training (not sure why you would say you love your dog, but not want to learn  how to communicate with the dog….), a Halti or Gentle Leader, bridle type  head harnesses, works extremely well with most breeds—at least the dogs that aren’t bracheocephalic (with the pushed in faces).

Here’s the thing:  dog ownership is not a democracy.  In nature, there is a pecking order. If you are not going to choose to be in charge  and be the leader, you force your dog to take control, and believe me, the dog does not want to be in charge. Too much responsibility for his little brain.

The Falacy that Prong Collars are Humane

April 15, 2011

This is the  4th or 5th time I am updating this. Please read carefully.  I think  I’ve clarified my own thinking on this. However…I have not changed my mind!

They are legal, and  probably the top selling style of dog collar in the USA:  the ‘prong’ , ‘spike’ , or ‘pinch’ collar.  You know what I am talking about:  the  martingale collar of links that can be removed or added,  where the  spikes  poke into the dog’s neck if he pulls.

In 40 years of dog training (admittedly, I have only put obedience titles on 2 dogs), I’ve only seen the collar used properly once:  on an out of control Malamute—& even then, it was not effective.  The dog had been  behavior shaped to pull his owner around, and she could not control the dog—& even the prongs poking into his neck  did not slow him down.  There is a reason  this did not work, and I will explain.

Think about it & look at the collar:  it is designed to PINCH the dog all around his neck. Why would you do this to your dog?  & then, why would you deny it hurts?  Yet people do deny it hurts.  IT WAS DESIGNED TO HURT.  That’s the only reason to use it:  to hurt the dog enough that if he  tries to pull you,  the pain will slow him down.  I’ve even had people defend this, saying—-veterinarians have said it does not harm the dog.  So—what’s the pount of doing it if you don’t want to hurt your dog into submission?

Yet—we’ve all seen those dogs wearing the prong collars who still pull their owners in spite of the pain.  The reasons are probably two:    1: According to Temple Grandin, in her book, Animals in Translation, it hurts, but not enough to bother the dog.  2: The dog might be trying to get away from the ‘pain’, so he pulls harder.

So—- people retort that the dog is NOT being hurt. Well, not enough to slow him down!  So, what’s the point?  Why not  just  put a buckle collar on the dog  and get his attention to follow a treat he likes, and TRAIN HIM TO NOT PULL BY USING THE CLICKER /TREAT METHOD?  What are we missing here?

Prong collars are not only illogical—they send   a message to anyone that sees you walking a dog with such a collar that you can’t control the dog.  Worse, you are too stupid or lazy to train the dog to not pull you!

I work in boarding kennels where lot of  out of control dogs are boarded.  I have been injured.  However, because we don’t have time to fit a  prong collar to each & every dog, we just use  slips or choke chains.  I would prefer Martingale style combos—but these places are owned by NON-DOG business people!    I am not defending the use of chokes as regular day-to-day collars, but  we can’t risk a dog slipping out & running. I have trained dogs using properly fitting choke chains—and if you  think they are not humane…here’s the deal:  you can train a dog quickly not to pull. I have ‘trained’ dogs in less than 2 minutes to NOT pull me using a choke or slip. They ‘get it’.   You just stand still.   I don’t like using a  choke or slip, but  free spirit dog  owners who  give their dogs over  for care to someone  the dog does not know, and has no  idea of what is expected of him leave us no choice. A slip is  “1 size fits all’.  BUT THERE IS A MORE HUMANE METHOD!   I have recently used this method to  train a dog with a martingale. The  trainers I work with suggested moving backwards, and the dog will learn to not forge ahead. You just have to be the boss of the dog.  I have to do this, or I am going to be injured.   What this means to me is  being in control.  I wouldn’t have to  do this if so many idiots  didn’t walk their dogs on either prong collars or harnesses.   These days, however, on my own dogs,  I use  nylon Martingale collars.  I am also walking backwards a lot.

What bugs me more than the prong collar on an untrained dog, is the prong collar with a flexi!  Totally incomprehensible.

I am not fond of harnesses, either. I would use a  Halti or ‘head harness’ before I’d put a harness on any of my dogs. Harnesses were designed to  allow dogs to pull you without pain—which is why sled dogs  & guide dogs wear harnesses. Why would you want to  train any dog that it is ok to lead you around?   Yeah, I’ve heard it:  the collapsed trachea.   so, TRAIN THE DOG to follow a cookie, use a wide greyhound type flat buckle collar or head harness, and  don’t allow the dog to pull.  Not only  this, but  putting a dog in a position of leading an owner may make a dog even more insecure , or more aggressive than he would be otherwise .

For some reason, most American dog owners still think they are buying Lassie, or have some sort of  idea in their heads that training a dog requires magic.  It just requires patience and persistence….and the idea in your own mind that you are a leader.

Because Americans don’t take   responsibility for controlling their dogs, there are breed bans and dog restrictions all over. Out of control dogs are dangerous.  No doubt.  But hurting your dog is not the solution.

For all of you who don’t want to be swayed by the facts:http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201404/the-effect-training-method-stress-levels-in-dogs, abd you might want to check this out as well: http://thelifeofroyal.blogspot.com/2011/11/prong-collars-are-pain-in-neck.html