About dogosophykym

Working as a force-free dog trainer in La Grange Park, IL since 2006, I am a licensed presenter for Dogs & Storks, Family Paws and Dog and Baby Connection as well as an instructor and evaluator for Pet Partner Therapy Animals and the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen Program. I work for the Hinsdale Humane Society as the obedience instructor and as a member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators.

When the Wild Wind Blows

CRASH, BANG, SHATTER & BLOW!  So much chaos, sadness and worry in my house lately.  First, the devastation in the Philippines – it’s all just so overwhelming to witness…now my own family is reeling too.

Home av house2

A local home that has been “relocated” recently

My family loves all three pup-personalities in our home, but I am glad to note we are also much loved Granddogs and have a small “Auntie dog” named Bailey who lives in Indiana.  She is a tiny little thing who happens to be a year younger than me.  She has the important role of helping my guardian’s parents navigate through their senior years (being so spoiled, she certainly does keep them on their toes!!).  She takes them for walks each day, reminds them to feed her, love her and pet her.  She isn’t a fan of car rides (in fact, she’s a lot like Sugar, only the Boston Terrier version).  This weekend she had the scare of a lifetime!  Terrible weather moved through the Midwest, and Bailey had to wait out frightening tornadoes while hiding in a bathroom shower (she is NOT a fan of baths, so getting and keeping her in the shower was no easy feat)!  In our home, Sugar, who tries to find respite in guardian’s closet had to be picked up and carried down 3 flights of stairs because she was too frightened to walk on her own to get to the safe cover of our basement.

Thankfully, Bailey’s home is intact and not damaged, but some of the neighbors were not so lucky.  In fact, many of them are not only trying to find a place to stay, but also looking for beloved pets that escaped or were taken away during those wild winds.  It is all so frightening, devastating and hard to conceive of how to begin to reclaim a life (or a pet).  Luckily, there are organizations prepared to help with this.  Scared, scruffy and often injured pets are being found, cared for and hopefully reunited.  Sadly, some may not have made it through.

Even the emergency help needed help!

Even the emergency help needed help!

Our pack is sending lots of prayers to those families and pets and we are all reeling from the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty.  What can we do now?  What could we have done before?  When Mother Nature hits, sometimes the devastation can be all-consuming.

I, Dino, do my best to be a fixer…the good kind.  Not the kind that just makes a problem go away, but the kind that helps one heal and move forward.  I have spent hours bringing joy to elderly in nursing homes, soaking up tears in my fur, being a calm presence for Sugar, and helping our giant puppy-brained new pack member work through his nervous/excited energy.  It’s hard for me to accept that some things can’t be fixed.   So, instead, we evaluate, we prepare, we begin to move forward.

The year I was born, there was a terrible hurricane – you may know it by the name, Katrina.  An entire city was destroyed!  Many perished…human and animal.  8 years later, the survivors are still reeling, rebuilding, rehoming and yes, some are still suffering.  Some of the over 8,000 animals found years ago have been relocated and found new homes, others are still living in shelters and still more have become part of the always-growing stray population now seen as a nuisance and safety issue around the community.  Some of whom were once beloved family pets.   The one good thing that came from Hurricane Katrina was that the government recognized the need for stronger emergency animal assistance.  Say what you want about the government, but FEMA has created a separate protocol for first responders to help pets and their families through disaster situations.  In Illinois and Indiana right now, there are trained teams doing everything they can to make a bad situation a little bit better.  It’s exhausting, heart wrenching, but rewarding work.  They need cleaning supplies, food, blankets, water, crates, medical assistance, transport help – anything you can think of, but they know what they are doing and are making a difference in the world.

Not everyone is cut out for this kind of thing.  Some people are really just too compassionate and have a difficult time even watching the news, but should know that something can still be done.  We can learn from this.  We can prepare for the next time.  There may be no way to keep a house from being ripped from the foundation, but for those who can prepare in advance, life may be easier to deal with after-the fact.  How does one prepare pets for something like this?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Crate train your pets (crate training)!  Even if your dog or cat (or bunny or turtle) doesn’t need a crate, it is a good idea to start them off knowing that it isn’t a terrible thing in case you are in an emergency and need controlled transport.
  2. Create a file of important documents for emergency situations.  This should include a current photo of your pet along with up-to-date vaccination records, licenses and a list of medications he/she may need.
  3. Be prepared!  Store an easy-to-grab bag with extra leash, collar, water bottles and at least 2 days’ worth of food and medicine for each pet.  Keep the emergency documents file in this bag!
  4. Scout out pet-friendly places to stay in the case that you need to evacuate and add this information to your emergency files.  Emergency shelters will not be able to allow your pets to stay with you and will rely on the “best available shelter”.  It is important to find something farther away – if your home is gone, chances are local hotels may be too.  Look for something 50-100 miles away.
  5. Leash your pet, and bring it with you to the safest place you can find – letting them run outside is NOT safe…they cannot protect themselves against the elements.  Crating and animal, putting them in a basement or tied to a tree only sets them up for being trapped with no chance of escape.
  6. If your pet is lost in a storm, don’t give up!  Dogs and cats are resourceful and may be tougher than you think.  As soon as you can, check for your county’s ART (Animal Response Team) coordinator – often found on Facebook and through local government.
  7. MOST importantly, make sure your pet is micro chipped and that the information is up-to-date (cell phone numbers can be crucial – if phone and power lines are down, this may be the only way to contact you)!  Chips can help in any pet loss situation, but is crucial to the teams that are diligently trying to reunite pets with their families.
Peace in Paws, Dino

Peace in Paws, Dino

Rather than dote on the devastation and loss, why not take a few minutes to update and pull your files together and tuck them in a safe place to prepare for those unforeseen disasters?  Then stop to think about the families and pets affected recently.  If you believe…say a prayer (it’s free and it certainly can’t do any harm), if you can, consider a donation.   Most importantly, go hug your pet – be thankful that they are safe, let them know how much they mean to you, and let them help you find comfort and peace in your life.

Peace in Paws,  Dino

A Thinking Dog: part 3

Sugar, always assessing...

Thinking dog, Sugar, always assessing…

It stands to reason that a “thinking dog” is the best kind of dog, right?  I can admit it.  I am pretty great, but being incredibly intelligent doesn’t always work in my favor.  I am constantly observing and assessing what is going on with my humans and around me (I am part Border collie – it’s my job to think a few steps ahead).  I also pay very close attention to everything in my environment (birds, squirrels, leaves falling, butterflies & other insects, other dogs, neighborhood cats, rain…you name it) and sometimes I am so alert, I have a hard time turning my thinking-dog brain off which makes it hard to be “dogosophical“.

As a thinking dog, I have also learned to anticipate certain situations.  Guardian starts putting on makeup & shoes…she’s leaving soon.  (In my world, that’s not all bad, we dogs get the house all to ourselves and that annoyance of a new dog is still in his crate – I love that).

One of the hardest things for me is a car trip!  The humans act like this is the greatest thing in the world.

where oh where are we headed this time?

where oh where are we headed this time?

This may start out as a fun outing, but usually ends up in me being poked & prodded by someone I barely know; sometimes we get left for days at a time with a slew of other dogs in a house I’m not familiar with (how in the world can I protect my humans if they aren’t even around???) and on some occasions, I simply end up getting a bath and a haircut.  At least the latter is generally followed by new toys or treats.  Why oh why do the humans feel the need to torture a thinking dog with car rides?  My guardian keeps treats in the car and sometimes takes me on trips that go nowhere – Honestly, we just ride around then head home again.  This helps, but I am still a thinking dog who is just waiting for the next unpleasant excursion.

OH – and the poking and prodding place, often the car trips still lead me there.   I sniff the same smells and see the same people, but at times, guardian has turned these occassions into a treat session!   I certainly got the leg up on this one…who knew I could train the guardian to take me out for an afternoon snack?  I’m really learning to love that place (despite the white coats & scrubs).  So glad to be a thinking dog!

Really learning to LOVE this place!

A little nervous, but slowly learning to LOVE this place!

Because I am a thinking dog, I can also be a very anxious, somewhat-reactive dog.  This can make life “ruff” for me and my humans.   For instance, I used to pull ahead while on the leash…dogs to see, squirrels to chase, you know the drill.  My guardian sought the help of a professional and was told to use a new collar (this was long before she was “trained” herself).  You may have seen other dogs on this kind of collar; it is called a “Pinch” or “Prong”  collar  and let me tell you, the name fits!  When I would get excited to go toward another dog – OUCH!   The more I excited I was about visiting, the more it hurt!  I started barking, growling and lunging every time I saw another dog (as soon as one was in sight – YOWZA!) Totally not cool!  (Combined_Punishment_Statements)  Oh, those darn dogs…they were becoming less rewarding each day until at last, I had it and finally had the opportunity to let another dog know what all these canines had been doing to me and I bit him!  Hard!  Guardian was mortified so she stopped walking me regularly.  I lost my connection to the outside world and had to mentally survive on the stories Dino would tell me about his visits.  Thankfully my guardian came home one day with a new harness instead.  A “front clasp” harness!  What kind of contraption was she trying now?   She strapped it on and I was nervous at first (have I mentioned that I am a thinking dog?).  Hmmmm…so I thought about this.  There was no pain – it clipped in the front so if I got too excited and pulled, I turned around to face my guardian.  I’ve figured it out and by Dog – I think I’ve got it!  If another dog is coming – I may pull, but harness leads me to face guardian without going “postal”, then I get a treat (well, the postman is another story).  It’s that simple.  Dogs = treats, not pain!  After all, I am a thinking dog!  After just a few months with this, I am able to happily greet other dogs again!

The only thing that still consistently works against my thinking dog brain is a thunderstorm.  I haven’t figured out how to work that one yet.  When one hits, I freak out!  Guardian puts  a snuggly vest on me…sometimes I get a bit of peanut butter (with an odd-tasting bit of crunch in the middle) and it makes me sleepy.  My favorite spot to find sanctuary is in guardians’ closet.  I am surrounded by their smell, there is soft carpet on the floor and it is a dark and cozy spot where the terrible sounds are dulled and not so frightening.

My guardian often says “a tired dog is a good dog”.  I’m not sure what she means by that, but I do love the stimulating toys, long walks or running along with the bike and good solid training time.  Guardian knows I am a thinking dog (not like those other two that reside with us) and she works with it – with me.  Rather than getting frustrated at my barking alertness, or my anxiety, she keeps me busy and gives me fun things to contemplate which helps my “thinking brain” rest when I need it.  I can relax after a session with guardian and honestly, when she works with any of us dogs it is the best, most rewarding experience in the world.  She looks us in the eye, we get treats, praise in that sweet loving voice, and loads of hands-on attention.  Kym_Sugar

Humans are an odd lot – at times they don’t seem to think much, but when you find a good family they can be the most rewarding thing in the world.  If I play my cards right, this thinking dog will continue to help guardian truly help other thinking dogs like me!

A Thinking Dog (Part 2 of a 3 part series)

My guardian calls herself a trainer (she knows it isn’t always about training the DOG if ya’ know what I mean).  She knows what it’s like to work with challenges.  She knows I am a thinking dog.

I’ve been to obedience training, and let me tell you – I used to have them all really well trained!   I’m going to have to up my efforts again though…I overhear my guardian say over and over that training is a “use it or lose it” process.  A thinking dog must stay on one’s toes to keep the family well trained and lately I am seeing some things I’m not so sure I like.

(using my wily ways and charming personality to con my guardian out of a few treats!)

(using my wily ways and charming personality to con my guardian out of a few treats!)

Not only am I a thinking dog, I am a GOOD dog.  I do all the things a dog is supposed to do.

I used to have to help clean the counters when they leave food up there.   I guess I’ve done my job training them, they clean up after themselves now and don’t leave food out on the table or in the kitchen.  I’ve even taught the teenagers to put their shoes away (although once in a while, I do miss the taste of a nice leather boot or the chewy texture of a flip flop) and thanks to me airing their dirty laundry, they manage to get their socks and underwear in the laundry basket instead of leaving them on the floor.

I used to show off my incredibly high-pitched Barking to alert them anytime someone was on our turf (I knew I was doing a great job, because for a while, the whole family joined the fun and would bark along with me!) I may be slacking there, though because they don’t bark along anymore, so I usually have to go investigate why.   I have to stop barking, and then go search for my owner to see what could be more fun than barking at the window!  After all, I am a thinking dog.

Our new dog (keep following our blogs…you’re sure to meet him soon) – I taught him everything he knows.  It can be very tough to work with a stone-headed puppy that is literally twice my size!  When foster dogs come to stay with us for a while, I help teach them manners too.  I am a star at tactfully correcting another dog’s erroneous ways but am always sure to let them know I am friendly and good with socialization.   I am a thinking dog.

I am the best greeter EVER – all I have to do is give a little jump and the visitors just pat me on the head, talk to me and bend down to visit.  (The petting is sometimes awkward and almost as if they were pushing me away but hey, hands on is still hands on in my book!).  These people are becoming less trained by the day…they no longer pet me when I jump.  Often, they offer me a treat for sitting even before I get the chance to jump up.  Sometimes they turn around and completely ignore me – I am mystified by this and often sit down to consider what I might be doing wrong (I am a thinking dog after all)…then BAM!  A treat comes my way.  Silly humans!

I am very good at protection. The mailman and delivery truck drivers are so well-trained now that I don’t even have to bark before they offer me a treat!  I chase any and all wildlife away – I’ve even been known to jump the fence to keep those pesky deer from munching my guardian’s prized tulips!  Almost caught one once… I am so fast that I can run circles around my guardians in the forest for hours on end.  I’m not so dull that a simple treat will lure me in when I’m out having the time of my life.  “Chase” is my favorite game, especially when my guardian runs the other way (I always catch her, and then it’s time to go back in for another treat).   I am a thinking dog.

Hmmm…now that I think about it, maybe what she was looking for all-along was a quiet dog that greets people politely, doesn’t jump the fence to chase wildlife and comes when called.  I may have to re-think my human training routine to keep her on her toes.  After all, I am a thinking dog.

A Thinking Dog (part 1)

I believe you all have been introduced to my housemate, Dino.  Well, he may be considered the family sweetheart (aka, the easy dog, the people pleaser, etc) but I take credit for being the brains behind this 3-dog operation.   While Dino is the epitome of a “dogosophical” dog, I help inspire the teachings to get one there.  I am a true, thinking dog.

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Dino, the Guardian & Sugar – chillaxin’ at the dog park

A little backstory:  You may have read in a previous blog about how Dino, the yellow Labrador came into the life of a loving family who felt the need to make up for “failing” a rescue dog.  Well, I have to respect that he paved the way for me.  Dino became the happy, healthy, well-trained and very social dog everyone wants.  After some great successes over the dog days of summer, thinking that dog ownership is a walk in the park, and knowing that the work days would be picking up for his family, the guardians decided that Dino should have someone else around to spend his days with.  The family also realized that their hearts were really behind “saving” a dog from the uncertain fate that falls many-a-shelter animal and did not want to go the route of another breeder or (heaven-forbid) a puppy store.   The hunt was on to find a dog that they could rescue, a dog that would keep Dino company, a dog that would never be boring…a thinking dog.

After much thought about what they really wanted in a second dog, tons of research on different dog breed traits, and searching multiple dog rescue websites, going to adoption fares, etc. they were found a small “foster-only” rescue organization where they happened upon me.  My “mom” was a border collie, found as a pregnant stray on the side of the road in Illinois farm country in October of 2006.  She was taken in and brought to a foster home in Chicago’s western suburbs and litter of 9 puppies arrived soon after.  Most resembled mom – black & white border collies with little brown tips here and there…then there was me.  I was a smallish, golden-retriever looking pup with a face (and a brain) like my mom.   The rescue organization kept all puppies until we were weaned and healthy and had our first round of shots (about 8 weeks) so they gave us names to reflect the time they hoped we would transition into our fur-ever homes.  My brothers were given holiday names like Humbug, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer, Jacob & Marley and Prince.  The females were Clara, Belle and me – Sugar Plum.  We all ended up being Christmas puppies to families all over Illinois.

Dino & I get along quite well.   He taught me not to bite too hard, showed me where to go when I need to relieve myself, let me know where the best sleeping spots and treats are kept and generally what it takes to keep the two-leggers on their toes around here. To this day, he is very tolerant and doesn’t challenge me much.  He doesn’t really challenge anyone.  That is my job.  I am a thinking dog…

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Sugar Plum – in her “thinking dog” mode

Tricks, Treats & Scaredy-Dogs, OH MY

The weather changes make humans do strange things this time of year!  Why, just a few weeks ago random carcasses started showing up in the house and in the yards around the neighborhood where we walk.   Skulls, femurs, scrumptiously raw, bloody-looking things are all over the place.  It’s really quite confusing as none of these things smell the way they should and you would think I killed it by the way my guardian reacts whenever one of us canines finds these plastic-tasting bones. I’m beginning to think it’s all an elaborate ruse!  The worst part is that soon, there will be hundreds of frightening creatures coming to the door for hours on end.  My guardians…they OPEN the door!  Each-and-every-time!  When will they learn that this can be just plain dangerous?

I just don’t get it…around my house trick or treat is a simple training protocol.  We dogs do a few tricks (roll-over is my particular favorite) and we get a treat!  Simple!  There is no “or” and there are certainly no scary creatures, costumes or door bells involved.

Halloween dogs

As for the treat; in my world bacon is best – plain and simple – no buts about it (although a little rump roast – mmm, mmm, good!)   One of these years, the guardians will wise up and make sure we don’t have access to that stuff they hand out to the two-legged puppies.  Not sure what all this paper-wrapped, sweet-smelling stuff is all about (being in a bowl on the steps, well that just makes it easy pickings).  It doesn’t do much for my digestive system and makes for lots of extra clean-up in the yard for days-on-end.

The other two dogs that share my home feel the same.  Sugar, she’s almost 7. Oh, the barking & ridiculous amount of energy she expends over a silly doorbell ringing!  Of course, she’s a scaredy-dog.  Running to the guardians closet at the slightest sound of thunder and acting all goofy when she sees another dog out on a walk (or squirrel, or leaf blowing the wrong way…you know the type).  Then there’s Chopper…another story entirely!  This one thinks the whole world is here simply to lavish attention on him (little does he know most people take one look and turn the other direction – but that’s another blog entirely).  When the doorbell rings, one quick dash and he’s gone, baby!  Born to run!   We’re working on some serious doorway manners with him.

So, what’s a dog (or his human) to do?  Well, a few things I’ve learned to maintain my dogosophical existence during this horrifying event the two-leggers call “Halloween”:

  • Don’t chew those sparkly things that are on a string & attach to the walls!  (They come out in December too and may be interesting to look at, but they feel like those horrible collars that ZAP some dogs when they get too close to their territory line).
  • Leave the candy alone!  That stuff can be like poison…literally!  Stay far away and stick to the bacon.
  • The bloody-carcass looking goodies – plastic!  Don’t even bother (one of those stuck in your intestines makes for a not-so-fun trip to the vet!)
  • Don’t eat the costume!  Some humans put these goofy get-ups on us dogs.  We’ve got to humor them now and again – and while the outfits can be a nuisance, it’s all about avoiding that trip to the vet!
  • Stay away from the door!  My guardians make sure we furry residents have a safe place all night long.  I go to my crate, Sugar spends the evening in her closet, and Chopper (who loves to be a social butterfly) is on leash all night long.  (They also make sure we have proper ID tags on, and are microchipped just in case one of us slips by them and darts out into the dark and scary night).

Keep those tips in mind and have a safe Halloween!

Dogosophically yours,   Dino

Faith in Dog

DSC_0031Please allow me to introduce myself.  My official title is” Tecumseh’s Diamond Dean Oakley” but for most purposes I am known as Dino.  I seem to have taken on the role of peacekeeper in our home, but this hasn’t always been the case.  My guardian seems to think that I am responsible for the “dogosophical” attitude that we try to live by, but she is realizing that it all begins with faith.

When I came along, my family had just come off of a very “ruff” rescue dog experience…the kind no one wants to have and the kind that can honestly turn folks off to ever having a dog again.  They needed a “safe” dog.  One that wouldn’t bark, growl or bite…one they could trust.  So they decided to begin with a puppy.

I came from a breeder.  My guardian is not a “breeder” type of person, she really prefers to rescue, but I mentioned that she was yearning for a “safe” dog so that’s where she felt she should start.  What she found was that no matter where you get your pooch, one really has to do some legwork – research, research, research!  She spent months trying to find someone that wasn’t in it for the cash…someone that just wanted to produce good, healthy dogs that he could be proud of.  She found it in a small farm family that had been breeding Labradors for over 25 years.  She was interviewed at length over the phone, had to fill out an extensive application and make the drive to visit and actually see how we lived and then be interviewed in person. After all that, she was allowed to take me home.  (A good breeder will not sell to just anyone – they want to be sure their pups will be in kind, loving homes who will care for them under any circumstances).

It was ruff going at first.  The last dog may have had her issues, but my guardian LOVED and missed that dog and felt like a failure.  I, on the other hand was total puppy chaos!   I was a biting, running, jumping 4-legged fury (no, that isn’t suppose to be “furry”) that had no idea where I was supposed to potty or which rugs were ok to chew. (Turns out, none of them!)  They called me “Demon Dino” because I would terrify the human puppies around and tear things apart. (I loved the sound of a good “ripping” and when the kids would start barking back, yipping and running away…well that was even more exciting!)  Some days, my guardian would just sit down and cry and tell me I would never replace her “Diamond” (I later found out that Diamond was the “problem dog”).

After teaching me a few house rules, we signed up for a training class.  Things were going well – I slept through much of the classes (she always took me for a long walk before we went), but would try my best to stay awake and follow the treat.  Someone mentioned a “therapy dog” and she seemed to like the idea.  We went through class after class after class.  Every week we did something new.  Eventually, I realized that she didn’t cry because of me anymore – our interactions were all pets, hugs, treats, smiles and that happy voice that makes me wiggle all over.  I recognize now that I’ve built something with her – we have a special bond since we’ve been through those classes.  Oh, don’t get me wrong…I adore the other humans in the household and we’ve been joined by 2 more dogs since then, but my special guardian is like no other.  We visit all kinds of people.  Instead of crying out of frustration, I help people find memories, I help them learn, I help them build physical strength and gain trust.  I am a therapy dog and get to go to work with my guardian often.

I may not have replaced her “Diamond” at first, but I now know that I was really her “diamond in the ruff” and I shine with pride these days for having been therapy for her.  I have taught her that demon dogs can be exorcised if you look for solutions (and provide plenty of exercise).  I, Dino, have restored her faith in dog!

A dogosophical beginning

This is all new to me, so I hope you’ll bear with my first few posts.  I spend most of my days doing something I love.  The kids are in school, husband at work, I am at home working with my dogs – or someone else’s dog.  People consider me a dog trainer, but the reality is that I let the dogs do the work.  They lead me in the teaching process.  I work by trying to get into a dog’s brain…what do they think? what are their motivations? why do they do the things they do?  By answering these questions, there isn’t a dog out there that needs to be “trained” with force, intimidation, pain or fear.

Rather than trying to “train” a dog, one should be thinking about how to motivate Fido and to help the pup understand what it is we want it to do and why it is important.  If we can accomplish that (not so) simple goal, we build a relationship.  We build trust, we eliminate anxiety, fear, insecurity.  We can live the way a dog does – without complications, without the need for “things”, wandering happily with a companion who can give unconditional love under any circumstance.  Strive to live a “dogosophical” life…a life of composure and calm in the presence of troubles, annoyances (and dog behavior problems).  I hope you enjoy reading from three dog’s points of view.