Friday, March 29, 2013


We decided to do some fun recall training with Cody. Recall is a vital skill often overlooked. It is as important as house training, but while house training is the first thing worked on recall frequently falls by the side! However recall can save a dogs life when it slips a collar or harness on a walk, when it slides out the front door, or even when it sees a cat, small animal, or a friendly face across the street and darts into traffic. Being able to turn the dog around is a skill that can never be overtrained or overemphasized.

To start with, Derek and I stood on opposite ends, each with a baggie of treats. We'd come about halfway up, then call Cody with a "Cody, HERE!" and take off running. We could have stood there and called him, but running away encourages the dog to chase and increases their reinforcement for coming to us. Once there, we touch his collar while feeding treats.  Touching his collar is vital - if he ever gets loose I need to be able to grab his collar without him shying away from my hand because I haven't done it enough to associate it with good things!
This is a very fun game. Cody can make mistakes but there aren't any corrections, only lost chances at reinforcement. If Cody doesn't come to a person, then the other person goes neutral position. This means standing still, avoiding talking, touching, or looking at the dog, and if need be, turning his back on him as well. Meanwhile the other person is watching for some acknowledgement from Cody such as Cody glancing back, turning and coming towards the person, or in extreme cases, even things like small head movements or ear flicks! When the dog successfully recalls there is a big party for him working through that and making a good decision.
In this next video Cody has two failed trials. In the first he pauses in front of Derek and tries several attempts to get his attention. He figures out that Derek isn't giving him anything and so he trots off. When he disengages from Derek that is my cue to grab his attention and reinforce for coming to me. It doesn't matter if he was already coming to me or if I verbally caught his attention - I said his cue of "Cody, HERE!" and he came to me, so he gets praise and rewards.
There are several opportunities to teach a recall, and its good to use a variety. If you're out walking on leash, then randomly call your dog's name and the cue ("Cody, here!") and reward when they come into you. It doesn't matter that its only 2-4' recall - we are rewarding the action of turning back towards us and coming into our space - the distance can be 2' or 200'!! We do want to work at varying distances, but we don't start out by working a recall off leash at a dog park on a busy Saturday! Start small and build up! Some ways to practice recall -

- Call from different rooms in the house
-  Toss a toy, then when the dog chases the toy call the dogs name and start running across the room
- Walk down a moderately busy street and recall on-leash
- Walk into a busier street or quiet pet store and recall
- Take a dog on a long-line of 20-40" and practice recalling in a park, starting out with short distances and working up to longer
- Walk by dog parks and recall on leash, starting with a short 4-6' leash and working up to the long-line
- Walk by a busy wildlife area filled with birds and squirrels (or at least their smells!) and recall off interesting smells and droppings

Below is another example of teaching the recall. Instead of bouncing between people, I hold Cody by his harness and Derek calls him and starts running. Before he just bounced between us, but now I'm holding him back just a split second so when I release him he is really raring to go. You can feel a dog increase their drive in the bunching of their muscles, the strength they show when they try to launch away from you, and some dogs will even vocalize!
And of course it's good to change the picture up a bit and work it on the other side as well!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Birthday Party!

Maya and Sappho had something to celebrate Monday night, and Cody celebrated with them! Maya turned 6 years old, and Sappho celebrated her 5th Gotcha-Day! We waited until last night to celebrate though so a very special cupcake could be had.
Maya, Sappho, and Cody share one thing in common - they love coconut! A local cupcake place makes a cupcake with coconut cake, coconut icing, and topped with shredded coconut. After Mom took some pictures, it was time to eat!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Glamour Shot

During my time with the lovely Lucia, we did some glamour shots at the Bravern. We had fun doing that - I got to take some cute pictures and Lucia got treats. So it got repeated with Cody!
How do they compare?
I adore Cody's offset lower lip!
Working so hard for that treat!
Any food in here?
What about your hand?
No? Can I check just in case?
Ok, well what is over here?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Loving Touch, Part Two

The first time Cody wore a harness - a big milestone.
Cody was making progress with me, but I had to use a different technique for helping Cody learn that touch is enjoyable from other people. We started by doing all of our walks and potty breaks with treats on hand . My usual go-to for any dog is Ziwi Peak, a air-dried raw meat product that doesn't need to be refrigerated and keeps very well. It's pure meat and I've yet to meet a dog who won't devour it. Sometimes freeze-dried tripe is in another pouch as backup, since that is another fail-proof treat!
Working so hard can really tire a dog out!
I would ask folks who I knew - mainly the valets and concierges at the Bravern - if they could give Cody a treat and not touch him. These people are wonderful and helped me out immeasurably with Cody. Lots of people don't understand why they couldn't touch the dog, and are happy to give them a treat and reach out to touch them. This early in the game that could provoke a strong fear reaction from Cody and make him very anxious about new people. Instead, I didn't let anyone who I didn't know interact with Cody. I would tell them "he isn't friendly" or even "my dog bites!" if they tried to touch him. Of course I didn't mean it. Cody loves people, and of the rare times he has bit me I deserved it for doing something stupid, and never once has he even left a bruise. He has never tried to even snap at anyone else, in part because I remove him from any situation where he might. Folks frequently don't listen if I try to explain to them "Cody is nervous and is learning to love touch and and and...." By that point, they're trying to touch him and I have to react to interrupt before Cody has a bad experience. I experience the same issue with owners of strange dogs who wanted to walk up and meet Cody. Cody enjoys other dogs but gets nervous with face to face greetings, and since I don't know the other dog I avoid interactions to be safe. I would announce the same thing - "my dog isn't friendly!" or "my dog bites!" to interrupt the situation before it possibly turned into something negative for Cody.
Cody seeking some touch from a Bellevue foster parent.
 The concierges and valets knew to give Cody a couple treats and not try to touch him. Cody would even invite touch and rub up against them but I asked them to still not touch. Before any touch could happen we had to build up a strong base of "people = treats." If Cody had been fearful of humans I would have started with him checking a human out then taking the reward from me, but since Cody's issue was touch and not humans in general we started with strangers giving him the food.
Trying to relax in the papasan at home.
Soon Cody sought out these people to get treats from them. He would pull me over, impatient that I was slowing down his treat acquisition! After a few weeks of treats, I asked them to brush the underside of his neck or rub him with their arm as he rubbed along them. I stood by with treats, watching Cody for any sign I needed to interrupt. If I did see those signs I would call Cody to me, reward with treats, and thank the person petting him and move on. Sometimes he'd growl and I would do the same - call him to me and reward. Cody wasn't very good at interrupting himself once he started to get anxious and growly, so my calling him interrupted the cycle, and him recalling to me is a behavior I continue to reward even now.
Cody takes a huge leap of faith by asking for a belly rub.
From this point on the main change was in the duration of the touch. Several weeks were spent with them feeding and doing brief touches, with me calling him away if he started getting anxious. Soon though, we had to change our reward implementation. It is easy to pair 1 treat with 1 touch, but for Cody to progress we had to increase what earned that treat. I would still give the valets some food to give to Cody, but I started bringing the clicker with me, and each time he sought out attention I would click and reward. Quickly Cody caught on and would run towards the staff, do a quick wag and brush his body against their legs as he whipped around to stare at me for his treat!
Seeking out kisses. 
At the same time that I was achieving more touches individually with Cody, both longer in duration and over a wider part of his body, Cody received more and more touch from other individuals as well. We reached a milestone where certain strangers (who didn't have a dog, who looked like they would listen to me and not pet him roughly) could say hello, and Cody would run up to them, wagging with his ears back, and twist around knowing that as soon as they touched him I would start clicking!
Cody on one of his favorite activities.
We've been doing this for several weeks, and we are at the point where I rarely use the clicker. Not because it isn't still very effective (it is!), but because I often forget it but we can succeed without it. Cody knows the behavior, and the cue is "go say hi" to encourage him to greet the person. Once he greets them and is being petted, he gets rewarded.

Cody has come so far and is showing what a loving, intelligent, and funny guy he is. I cannot wait to see how much further he blossoms as he continues to learn how wonderful touch is.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Loving Touch, Part One

Cody is a very loving boy, but humans set up his world so that he'd never get regular touch for several years. He would get vet checkups that required sudden touch and possibly rough handling, and then nothing for many months afterwards. It is no surprise then that touch, while something he enjoys, can be very overwhelming for him and causes him to feel that he has to growl to stop the touch.
The very first night Cody came to me.
When a dog has a serious fear to work through, we must move with them and not shove or drag them where we want them to be. We can walk up to the edge with the dog, but the dog must make the choice to cross it with us. Dragging the dog along destroys trust and reinforces the dog's fear of the stimulus. How then to show Cody that touch is a wonderful thing?
Cody wanted touch desperately.
Two methods were used for Cody. I did one method, a slower acclimatization where I would do casual brief touches throughout the day. I'd brush my arm against his side as he walked by, or trail my fingers a few inches down his neck. If he growled at me I'd act like nothing happened and remove my hands as normal. I never made my touches longer than a couple seconds and that allowed me to get in touch without putting him over threshold. He growled frequently at me, but it was a low, slow growl and not a higher pitched, rapid growl that indicates he's reaching his bite threshold. I respect his growls, and he needs to feel that his growls are respected. If I jerk my hand away, correct him, or do anything but react as if the growls never happened (although still removing my touch) then I would reinforce to him that he had to growl. Jerking my hand away is a sudden movement likely to make him nervous, and also likely to provoke a bite out of any dog who is approaching their bite threshold. If I corrected him then I'm telling him he's wrong to growl, and he isn't! The growl is an expression of his tension and concern, and I would no more correct him for growling at me then I would correct a child for saying "I'm scared and don't like this."
Mashing into my hand.
Short touches and growling at me were one thing. While I was sure Cody was not a bite risk to me as long as I respected him, I had to consider what was ethical and fair to both Cody and the people interacting with him. The acclimatization I was doing wouldn't work for these people who were eager to meet Cody and help him heal, so we had to try something different.
Everything was very hard for Cody - even playing with a ball.
That would change though!

Monday, March 18, 2013

How's Moche Doing?

Fabulously! Sweet 1-year old Moche is thriving at home with her Mom, Dad, and big four-legged brother Gauge. She spends her time playing with Gauge, cuddling, and Mom says she has Dad wrapped around those little paws. No surprise - she stole my heart too!
Cuddling with a niece.
Moche was renamed Penny, a perfect name for this little girl with the classic tri of black, white, and copper. I love watching Penny and brother Gauge play. Penny is so saucy and Gauge is very careful with his paws. Penny is not his first little dog buddy and so he knows to place his body and paws carefully!

You hit the jackpot little girl, and I know you'll continue to have a wonderful life with your parents and your wonderful big brother!
Penny and her Momma.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Magic Treat Box

Those of you who follow Cattie Rattie's blog and the Rescued Ratties blog will recognize this one! After seeing the fun their dogs had getting to choose from a magical box of treats, I knew this is a bandwagon I better start riding!
This is a pretty easy game. I fill a box full of chewy delights. This box has duck feet, 3" sections of beef trachea, beef lung, dried pigs ear, and bully sticks, but it can include whatever I have to offer and the dog might like. I put the box down and let the dog choose which treat they desire. There is no right or wrong answer, and no matter what they choose they win! It's a great game for your dog to experience choosing for themselves without any pressure or consequences - besides getting a treat of course! Plus, its a lot of fun to see them perusing the selection like we peruse the dessert cart at a restaurant, and it helps us know what treats our dogs prefer the most.

After doing a session of TTouch groundwork, Cody is rewarded by having first pick out of the box! Maya and Sappho got to participate as well, and showed that each dog has their own favorite!
In case you missed it, Cody first chose a trachea, dropped it, and went back for a ducks foot. Maya decided on a slab of beef lung. Sappho chose a trachea for herself. Looks like the bully sticks and pigs ears aren't at the top of their lists!

Thursday, March 14, 2013


I like to expose my foster dogs to the escalators here at work. My goal isn't to make them want to ride on them, but rather to be comfortable with the noise and movement. The more we socialize our dogs in a safe, positive fashion the more we help them be comfortable with novel stimuli. I hadn't yet exposed Cody to it, but one day we walked up to it and Cody raised his hackles, leaned back heavily into his haunches, and let out deep-chested woofs. I had the other two dogs with me, so instead of trying to counter-condition at that point I move away from the stimulus and left it for another day.

The next day I took the camera, a bag of treats, and and planned to video myself counter-conditioning him to the escalator. Instead, over the course of 24 hours he went from hackling and barking at the escalator to....
Why did it change? Hard to tell. Only Cody knows and he likes to keep his secrets. This was a different escalator, one further from the street and lower trafficked. Perhaps the change in environmental appearance did the trick. Perhaps after barking at the escalator he had time to process the event and when exposed to the stimulus again it wasn't as scary. He may have had an "off" day that first time and the escalator was spookier than it normally is. Or, the second day may have been an exceptional day and next exposure I will have to counter-condition it to have him even step on the metal.

No matter what, my responsibility is to respond to where he is right now, at this moment. Dogs have good and bad days like we do, and anytime we go into a training session we have to work with how they are currently, not how they were yesterday or a week ago.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lucia Update, Part 2

After we loved on Lucia for a while and chatted, it was time to play! Her first foster parents brought a cat ball for her, as Lucia is a great lover of kitty toys!
Afterwards Lucia settled down for a nap, following her brother's example!
Ray shows Lucia how it's done.
Lucia does it pretty good herself!
On a more personal note, this visit was very healing for me. She is a very special dog who is talented at worming her way into your heart and enchanting you. While her adoption was a source of great joy, it was also a source of immense pain when I let her go. I missed her desperately and couldn't even look at pictures of her for about three weeks after the adoption. I've continued to miss her, but something wonderful happened that day.
I realized Lucia has moved on. She still loves me as she still loves her first foster parents. However she has bonded to her Momma and I'm a good friend now only. I saw how joyful she is and how she is living a charmed life that would be the envy of almost any dog. I could finally let go and love her as a former foster dog who I will always love, but who is living a better life than I could provide her. She is unconditionally loved by the incredible woman who adopted her. Lucia doesn't need me anymore, and and she hasn't needed me since she was adopted.

After a wonderful visit it was time to head home, but along the way I stopped in Olympia to drop off the sweetest Jack Russell foster dog, sweet Paisley, with her foster mom. She is the cutest Jack Russell I think I've ever seen, and rode perfectly in the car!
Sweet Paisley is up for adoption!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lucia Update, Part 1

On Saturday Cody and I had a very busy day! Maya and Sappho stayed home, and Cody and I headed down to Oregon to visit the head of Jack Russell Rescue. Cody hung out in the car since bringing him into a pack of nine dogs wouldn't have been fair at all! So instead he snoozed in his crate, and afterwards we headed up to Vancouver, WA to visit the beautiful and wonderful Lucia!
Handsome Ray!
Lucia has a wonderful old brother, 9 year old Ray. Ray is a rat terrier as well and is a sweet, dignified gentlemen. Sometimes he seems to ask his momma what has she done bringing in this 4 year old upstart, but they have settled into being a pack together.
Walking the backyard.
Ray snoozing.
Lucia lives the high life with her momma in a beautiful backyard on a quiet street. Once a week she goes with her momma to work at the University and gets her all to herself for that day! Ray also gets a day where he goes to work, and Lucia spends the day peacefully snoozing.
Lucky for Lucia, not only did I stop to visit but her first foster parents did as well! They spent some time in Portland and finished up by seeing Lucia. She seemed quite delighted to see all three of us!
Sweet girl!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sick Day Snacks

I've been sick. Sick enough that I took Friday off from work and stayed home with the pups. I spent a good part of this catching up on emails in my office, which is also Cody's room. Poor Cody is used to snoozing the day away in a crate in my car, so having me there really upset his schedule and he started to get bored. He would settle down for a few minutes, then pop back up and wander around. Sometimes he'd come over by my chair and just stand there while I stroked him.

Something had to be done to engage this boy. I couldn't let him out into the backyard to soak up the sunshine since a driver passed out from a medical event and took out part of our fence last week. The up slope is blocked off but I can't let them out unsupervised. I was too sick to take them for a walk, and I didn't have the brain power (or motivation) to do training. So I turned to another tool every dog owner should have in their belt - food puzzles!
Not quite secure backyard.
I decided to make a completely edible treat and use tracheas as the container. A single 12" trachea gave 3 large sections. I made a slurry of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, just straight pumpkin!) and mixed in some wet dog food. A green apple was cut up to add some internal crunch and some sweetness.
One messy preparation later...
Looks delicious doesn't it? Well Cody and the girls thought so at least!
Already licking his lips!
"Look how good I'm sitting Momma!"
I got my 30-45 minutes of peace that the tracheas provide. Afterwards, all that physical and mental stimulation from a food toy led to....
Nap time!

Friday, March 8, 2013


Rescue is a lot of work. It involves time, energy, and sometimes money in the form of gas, treats, toys, and harnesses. It can be exhausting, smelly, frustrating, and heartbreaking. New Rattitude is a volunteer only rescue and we receive no monetary compensation, but we do it because these dogs need and deserve a chance. We do it because it is life-affirming and these little dog fill our lives with love, pride, and laughter. We meet the most amazing and generous people. We make friends who are as devoted to saving these lives as we are and will do whatever they can to help. While this is not the first time I've experienced such generosity from fellow rescuers and it won't be the last, a huge gift was given to me for which Will and I are incredibly thankful.
Being a huge dachshund fan, I asked for Will to be sent to me. I knew I'd love him right away and I was confident he would merge into our pack without a hitch. I was partially correct.
He got along well with my girls and we were working on he and Cody's interactions. He would follow me around and I loved having him underfoot. Yet he wasn't happy with me. I work long days and I am usually gone a minimum of 11 hours. My dogs stay in the car in underground parking and snooze until lunch time rolls around when we head out for a walk around downtown Bellevue. Will doesn't like being away for that long and he would bark, asking for someone to come back and spend time with him. Some folks complained about the noise and I risked losing my ability to bring my dogs to work. I had a hard choice - either leave him at home for 11 hours a day (far too long!) or find another placement for him.
The initial meeting
Last night Will started with a new, much better foster family! He is now living in Marysville with a pack of four dogs, including a New Rattitude alumni who also loves to play!
Adding a fourth to the mix.
Breaking apart as sniffing finishes.
Will's new foster parents are retired and are home most of the time - just what Will wants! He will enjoy being a part of a pack and having another little male dog to play with, and not having to worry about his foster mom being gone for so many hours a day! So who is in his pack now?
Molly the Jack Russell/Clydesdale horse mix.
Penny the rat terrier (behind Molly, Penny's camera shy!)
Blind, deaf, but still delightful and adorable Toby!
And I saved the best for last of course - the New Rattitude alumni. He was originally fostered by Catty Ratte and is one of the Puppy Mill 7 along with brothers Hoagie and Reuben!
Do I have something on my face?
I am so grateful to Will's new foster family for taking this amazing dog on as their own foster. I will miss him. His sweet face, hilarious wiggle, and even his two differently shaped ears. Letting him go was hard, and I wrestled with the decision right up to the time I pulled into the driveway of his new foster parent's home. It isn't about me though, and I had to do what was best for Will.
Good luck little guy. You're in a better home than I can provide and you'll thrive there in a way you never could with me. Now go have fun playing with Jasper and getting love from your foster parents!