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Aging Gracefully, part 2: Stem Cell Therapy, the first weeks

It has been a week and a half since Sally went in for stem cell therapy. No further blood tests or other diagnostics were necessary, the tests and radiographs performed at her visit a few weeks ago were all that was needed in order to begin.

We dropped Sally off at the vet’s office around 8:30am on March 22nd. Around 1pm, we were able to call and check on her. Her stem cells were going through processing still, but she was doing well. At around 2, we were told that we could pick her up any time! Wow!

What happened while she was at the vet: an incision was made by Sally’s shoulder, a few inches long, and a chunk of fat was removed. The fat was treated with a patented enzyme compound and treated under an LED light that helped to break it down and activate the dormant stem cells therein. The stem cell solution was then injected into each of her stifle joints (rear knees) and hips, the places where she experiences the most arthritis. The remaining stem cell mixture was then injected intravenously so her body could distribute them however needed.

You can see the shaved areas where the fat cells were removed (near front shoulder) and two of the injection locations (hip and knee) here. Taken first night home.

When we picked Sally up, she was doing some more severe limping than normal, which we were told to expect due to inflammation, but was pretty spry. She was able to eat that evening, and she was acting normal, just sore. We let her rest that night.

The next day, we began a week’s worth of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication (Keflex and Rimadyl) and started doing rehab therapy. Our instructions were to walk on leash for 5 minutes 2-3 times each day, and follow all rehab with ice packs on her affected joints for 20-30 minutes. I have a confession to make: We never made it to 20. Baby girl starts fussing after 10-15 and so we stop. She seems to be doing just fine.

During this time, we have not had to do anything all that special in terms of limiting her. She is allowed to go up and down the stairs, get on the furniture, and move normally at a casual pace around the house and yard. We have not been allowing her to run, so she hasn’t gone into our bigger yard to play, but she’s really enjoying her walks and wishes they were longer.

Observations, I took careful note during the first week because I had read a lot about fast-acting changes post-treatment:

Day 1 after procedure: very stiff and sore, doing okay. Slipped on the floor a couple times due to being overly cautious.
Day 2: limping worse than before treatment, but happy and bright. She also, for the first time in years, felt and gave in to the urge to jump on our very tall waterbed. I could count on one hand the number of times in the last five years or so that she’s done this, with most of them being the whole five years ago… I think she’s feeling much better!
Day 3: limping is only occuring after walks, then goes away. Sally starting to pull harder on leash during walks, wants to go longer.
Day 4: limping a bit after ice therapy, but no other time. Bounces on hind legs when excited to go on walk.
Day 5: does “sit” faster than she’s done in almost six years.
Day 6: really wants to go-go-go on leash.
Day 7: caught limping after she went to sleep on the hard floor for a while, not sure if her leg fell asleep; goes up the stairs faster, acting really normal and very happy.

Last Friday, the rehab changed to 10 minutes of walking 2-3 times daily and some “assisted sit-stand” exercises with 15-20 minutes of *heat* afterwards.  Sally does not like the heat but she is enjoying her walks tremendously and is not limping.  Ten minutes of solid walking on pavement would have led to stiffness and limping later before, but because of the heat and presumably, her treatment, she is handling it well and building up strength.  Assisted sit-stands are simple exercises where the dog must sit squarely, then be assisted to her feet via a sling or human hand, and hold the stand for up to three minutes (at our current level.)  I’m honestly not sure if I’m doing it right; she doesn’t seem to be getting much exercise from it, but we continue as instructed!  This level of rehab is two weeks long.

Summarily, it seems that Sally is truly improving already, but this is a long, hard process.  I highly recommend taking into consideration the time constraints of rehab/therapy if you are looking into doing this procedure.  Be prepared to give up a lot of your day sitting with numb hands holding ice in place, going for walks, even in the rain or snow, and keeping your dog fairly calm.  While not all vets use the same protocol, our veterinarian works very closely with Medi-vet, the most sophisticated stem cell therapy company, and he travels the country (and beyond) educating other vets regarding the procedure.  He is one of the most experienced vets in the United States in this therapy.  We are happy to follow his protocol and recommend others do the same.

Stay tuned in weeks to follow for more updates on Sally’s progress, and that arthritis meds/supplements post!  Do you have any questions about arthritis management or stem cell treatment? Leave a comment!

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Puppy power!

I haven’t had the time to prepare the next blog post that I was hoping to write, because things have been pretty busy here processing applications and working on rescue business.  Another hindrance is the temporary addition of a puppy here while we help her prepare for her (hopeful) new home.  Bella is learning sit, down, a recall, and we’re working on housebreaking, by which I mean we’re mostly working on just making sure she doesn’t pee in the house- this is much more difficult than it seems, as she tends to just squat where she stands and piddle.  She always gets rewarded for pottying outside; she hasn’t pottied once without my being present, and I’m hoping it helps her realize that’s where she needs to go but until she starts to understand, I’m basically spending all my time following her around or taking her outside.  This of course means I’m not spending as much time at the computer.  Ah, well.  In the absence of a meaningful post, here are some cute Bella photos to tide you over!

Taken yesterday:Image

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Today:Image
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The Not-so-Great Dane video: Patience ≠ Permission

Before reading my post, please watch this video, (sorry I’m unable to embed here for convenience.)

To summarize the video for those that couldn’t see, it shows a great dane being used as a piece of furniture by a toddler.  She crawls around on him, playing to the camera, digging her elbow, feet, knees, hands and butt into the dog while she mumbles and her parents record proudly.  The video is called “Why Great Danes are Great!” and the description says: “One very patient Great dane and one adorable little girl. Listen for her to sing her Bumble bee song.”

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.  This dog is indeed very patient, and very tolerant.  That doesn’t mean that the poor thing is okay with what is happening to it.  In fact, from the very beginning of the video, the dog looks uncomfortable.  He is offering stress signals as though he is reading them from a text book.  Initially, he blinks, looks away, and then starts to pant rapidly.  Throughout the video, the dog avoids eye contact with the camera/mother and the child.  His ears are drawn back.  He yawns.  The little girl tries to grab his face to give him a kiss and he pulls away- gently, but deliberately.  These are clear signs of distress.  As he tries hard to convey his discomfort, the mother says, “wanna try and give him a kiss again?”  At this point, the little girl stands and kneels on the dog, her knee jamming into his back as she steps on his hip/haunch with her other foot.  The response from behind the camera? “Climb careful.”

At this point, the dog would be completely within its rights to bite this child.  The fact that he doesn’t speaks volumes for this dog’s temperament.  The little girl now sits on the dog like a bench and slides her butt across his ribs, scooting closer to his face.  The dog freezes, lips tight, head down, moving only his eyes to make indirect contact with the offending toddler.  She bends forward and gives him a kiss on the head while he is in this state.  This is so dangerous.  A dog that freezes has moved beyond simple stress signals.  Freezing is a WARNING sign, and is often followed by fight-or-flight type response.   The family continues to give her instructions on what to do next, and she begins using her bottom to rock back and forth on the dog’s ribcage as she plays with his ear. “Dane,” the dog, is holding his breath.  This lasts for around a minute, the dog staying frozen in place as the girl’s parents tell her to move closer to his front, and then she starts singing and clapping her hands with her arms outstretched fully, right in the dog’s peripheral vision.  He yawns, tightens his ears closer to his head, and begins panting again.  He looks away, pulling away from her clapping hands.  His brow is now significantly furrowed as he looks back and forth.  The little girl eventually climbs onto him entirely, laying on him like he’s a mattress, while still fidgeting so that her legs are rolling around on his ribs.  He has now frozen again, brow still furrowed, ears pinned, lips tight, holding his breath. She digs her elbow into the base of his neck and then puts her face against him.  She sticks her foot in between his body and his haunch (I call this the “legpit”) and pushes into it.  He does not move.  The father says “say nighty night,” and shortly thereafter this 2 and a half minute dog torture session comes to an end.  I shuddered at the words “nighty night” because it was clear that this family had no idea that they were putting their child at risk by allowing this behavior.

I’m not sure which is more abusive, the physical discomfort that this dog has to be going through because dogs are not pack horses and are not meant to be sat on, ridden, stood on, etc, and great danes in particular are prone to a lot of pain-riddled health issues like dysplasia and arthritis; or the blatant disregard of the dog’s gestures meant to put an end to this uncomfortable situation.  I am concerned about the behavior that this little girl believes is acceptable due to the encouragement of her parents and how this will progress into more painful abuse of the dog, but more importantly, I’m concerned that the dog will be pushed beyond its tolerance threshold one day and will respond naturally, only to be euthanized as a “dangerous” dog.  In the case of great dane vs. toddler, could mean serious or even fatal injury to the girl.

Body language is so important to dogs.  They can’t say, “I am uncomfortable with this” in English.  This dog spends the duration of this video using stress signals because it is the only way he knows how to convey that this situation is upsetting him.  When you ignore- or are simply ignorant about- the signals a dog gives to you, sometimes it creates a scenario where the dog now feels as though he must increase the level of his signals.  This could mean that he escalates to a growl, or it could be a snap- with or without body contact.  Sometimes, though, the dog simply feels compelled to attack- and why shouldn’t he?  Obviously his signals are not working, and he has to protect himself if his adult caretakers will not take action to defend him.  The family will then say, “he just TURNED on us.  He was always so good with her… he even let her climb on him.  This was totally unprovoked!”

Don’t let your dog or child pay the ultimate price.  Learn about canine body language and how to read the signals your dog is sending.

Here are some resources to help you:

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary guide to help demonstrate dog body language.

Dog bite prevention post by Dr. Sophia Yin.

This excellent post by my friend Tena uses photos as a guide to help understand ways a dog may signal that it is uncomfortable.

Books on canine body language:

Canine Body Language: a Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff.

Dog Language: An Encyclopedia of Dog Behavior by Roger Abrantes (note, I have had this one recommended to me but have not read it)

Canine Behavior: a Photo Illustrated Handbook by Barbara Handelman (tons of photos, I’ve not read the whole thing but lots of good information.)

If books aren’t your thing or you want to see dogs in action displaying different behaviors:

The Language of Dogs: Understanding Canine Body Language and other Communication Signals (DVD) by Sarah Kalnajs

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2011, a year in review

Tumors, cancers, kidney issues, death. New family members, awards, media attention.  New car, trying to get rid of the old house.  Attempts to turn the corner to a new life with our animals and rescue work. Two-thousand-eleven was too emotional. I’m hoping for more peace and calm in 2012.

January:

Started the year on Jan 2nd with our first rescue intake: Willow.

Adopted JB, Linus and Hurley from Small Angels (my first pet rats!)

Linus was diagnosed with advanced scarring from a mycoplasma-related respiratory infection.

Jonas came back to live with us after being in a home with a good friend for three years.

February:

L’orange was diagnosed with cancer.

Bunny went missing from her “forever” home. My heart broke irreparably; I haven’t been able to pick up the pieces.

Launched into action to try and maximize the chances that we would find her (and her companion, Brock) but they were never seen again. STAR made two papers with the dogs’ story.

March:

JB the rat developed a tumor.

Dover was the last of my dogs to receive his Canine Good Citizenship certification!

I was interviewed for a local paper for the rescue!

Cody, a mixed breed dog, was pulled from a shelter to go to an aussie rescue that agreed to take him.  He stayed here for a week before going to rescue, and four days later, they gave up on him.  We placed him in a new home to become (hopefully) a search and rescue dog.

April:

Sowen was hospitalized and had emergency surgery for urinary tract blockages.

Murphy was returned to the rescue after a serious dog bite in his home of over three years. We strived to give him sanctuary here.

I was featured in another newspaper article.

May:

Murphy’s dog aggression was severe and we felt we couldn’t house him here permanently.  He was euthanized.

JB was euthanized due to his tumor.

L’orange continued to go to the vet regularly.

Barney the basset/beagle with an injured leg arrived from Kentucky, at the time it was the longest transport into rescue that we’d ever had.

We took in Maia and Maddox as an emergency, dogs with porcupine quills that had been found at a gas station.

Hailey arrived.

June:

We bought our first new car, Scooby the Subie Forester.

Lots of vet trips, as usual.

July:

We acquired Yoda the degu.

Hailey was a demo dog in a Patricia McConnell seminar. I got to accompany a few others for dinner with Dr. McConnell that evening, one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had.

I attended a Dr. Dodds seminar the next day.

Eleven fantastic lab rats came to live with us.

Linus lost his fight with his respiratory problems and he was euthanized.

Gale and Zephyr, two foster pigs, became permanent after Gale developed cystic ovaries.

August:

Seminar with Nicole Wilde.

Mom had surgery on her leg and did just fine.

George broke his leg somehow…

Girlfriend passed away at the vet. She wasn’t sick until the day we took her in. Appeared to be kidney issues.

Performed a small miracle to get Frawley the English setter up here from Alabama, and it worked!

Noble and Sully’s transport came together and they were brought up from a horrible neglect situation.

Saw Phantom of the Opera as it toured for the last time.

Neville joined the family.

Moo was diagnosed with kidney disease.

September:

L’orange was also diagnosed with kidney disease, just a few days after Moo.

Saw Wicked the musical.

We lost Ross’s maternal grandmother, Elsie.She was so full of love and light, and is sorely missed.

October:

I had a photo shoot for Pittsburgh Magazine because of the 40 Under 40 Award that I was chosen to accept.

Peanut the rabbit was returned to the rescue with a severe head tilt and transferred to Rabbit Wranglers for rehabilitation, and we got Bugsy in exchange.

We began house hunting, sort of.

November:

Sweetpea, one of the lab rats, passed away.

I was honored with the Pittsburgh 40 Under 40 Award for public service.

Milo was returned to the rescue for a bite, and is getting the chance we couldn’t give Murphy earlier in the year.

December:

Frawley was adopted!

Peachblossom, another of the lab rats, passed away in her cage.

SERIOUSLY started looking into house hunting and a new home. Applied for loan pre-approval.  Wish us luck, our goal in 2012 is to move on to the next chapter of our lives- somewhere else!

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Frawley’s Excellent Adventure

Frawley's shelter picture

When Frawley’s sad face appeared on Facebook on August 4th, I didn’t know what I could do to help him.  The message under his photo gave his location as Florence, Alabama with a note that said: “This is Frawley, a 9 yr old, male setter. He is so sweet and the owner just brought him because he was getting old.” I see lots of emails about animals in southern states daily, but I can rarely do anything special to help them.  With all of my contacts in setter rescue, I thought there was surely someone that could help him.  I started crossposting and trying to find someone with some room.  It became pretty clear that no setter rescue was able to take him in and his time grew shorter. I began asking for a foster home, and declared that if we could find a person willing to foster, I would commit to pulling Frawley. I asked everyone I could for help, which came in the form of a high school friend.  She had never fostered before but had always wanted to, and so she stepped up to help Frawley.

With a foster home lined up, I knew that we were on our way, but there was the issue of finding  a way to get Frawley to Pennsylvania.  Until teleport is an option, there are few options for moving rescue dogs over great distances.  I found, through another rescuer on Facebook, a transport group that does paid trips from Calhoun Georgia up the East Coast every two weeks.  Once they were checked out and lined up, there was only the matter of getting Frawley to Georgia.  Enter Jeff, a pilot who loves dogs and transports for Pilots ‘n Paws.  He happily agreed to help and we set up the flight and transport arrangements.  A shelter volunteer had him vetted so we could get his health certificate and we set up an auction of a watercolor portrait of Frawley to raise some money to help pay the costs that were already adding up.

Frawley's transport heroes- air and ground.

On August 11th, Frawley flew to Calhoun, GA, and was picked up by the family that runs the transport company, and after a sleepover he started a drive that would be twelve hours if it had been straight through but was closer to 24 with the stops that the transporters had to make.  Poor Frawley was so exhausted after the ordeal that he didn’t want to get up once we got home at around three in the morning.  He was every bit the handsome man we expeced. He met my dogs briefly but then went into a crate for the night so he could rest, and the next day he went to the temporary foster home that was to help evaluate him and hold him while we got him to the vet.

On August 16th, we took Frawley to the vet where he showed us how resilient he is.  He spent much of the time there soaking up whatever attention he could get and winning over multiple vets, techs, the girls at the front desk and people in the waiting room.   We put him through the ringer and had bloodwork, multiple parasite tests, even an x ray, and thorough physical exam performed.  He went through it all like a champ and the news was good for the most part, but the x ray was disturbing.  Poor Frawley has been shot with a shotgun and is loaded with birdshot pellets.  It doesn’t affect him at all, it’s just sad as a human to know that someone did this to such a wonderful dog.

Frawley was neutered soon after this first vet visit, and on September fifth went to stay with Laura, a first time foster parent, and her family.  While things were a bit rocky with one of the resident dogs, Frawley was thriving under the loving attention of Laura and her family.  He won over the hearts of people on his neighborhood walks and really learned to enjoy being a house dog for probably the first time in his life.  Unfortunately, no one searching for a new dog seemed to realize how wonderful he truly was, and he sat in our rescue for several months, just waiting, without one single inquiry.

It was on December 5th, right after we planned to take Frawley to a Petco adoption outing that we received an email from a friend that I have worked with and known the entire time I have been working “in” animal rescue.  She wrote with an interesting question: would we somehow be able to help her surprise her sister with a new dog for Christmas?  Her sister had divorced and lost her dog to Cushing’s syndrome in the recent year and she was miserable with the upcoming holiday.  She thought Frawley sounded like a perfect fit, but she realized that I would not agree to allowing her to adopt Frawley to give as a gift.  Normally, there would be no option but since I knew this person, I got her sister’s information and she essentially filled in the application on her sister’s behalf.  I called her landlord and saw her chart myself at the vet’s office, and all looked well.  The next step was to arrange a meeting between dog and sister.  I took Frawley to my friend’s house so she and her mother could meet him, and both felt he was perfect.  They asked the lady of the hour to show up at my friend’s house, and I hid in the kitchen when she arrived.  I was so nervous- we had never done anything like this.  As she walked through the door, my friend gave her a little speech announcing what was going on, and I released Frawley’s collar and sent him into the family room.  He ran to the woman, and when she sat on the floor with him it was clear he was in love.

He rolled on to his back, and that was that.  After an hour or so of cuddling, she knew she wanted to adopt him, and I asked her to wait and to sleep on it (so much for that- she went out that night to buy him things…)  The next day, she asked if Saturday would be a good day for a home visit and adoption.  Every day, she wrote to ask questions, tell me what she had bought for Frawley, and finalize a time for our get-together.

The big day came, and this dog- this scrawny, neglected dog from what was almost certainly a crummy life- dragged his foster mom and her roomie into his new home with a huge smile on his face, and made his rounds.  He peed on the Christmas tree (which elicited a laugh and a shrug), zoomed up and down the hall, and gave hugs to all.  Within fifteen minutes after we’d arrived, my friend showed up, then her mom, and then her husband, for a true welcoming party.  Frawley was so excited that everyone was there just to see him, and went from person to person giving hugs.  We stayed for a while as he got to know his way around the home, the yard, and then found his bed.  This home, that started out as such an iffy concept (a Christmas gift?) turned out to be better than we ever could have hoped.  While he may not have been the dog she would have chosen on her own, he was the RIGHT choice, and he has made his new mom so happy, just in time for the holiday.  His updates are perfect; he has not stopped smiling since he arrived, and I believe that his new mom probably hasn’t, either.

This rescue proved how many people it can take to help a dog, and how many lives that dog can touch along the way.  The people at the shelter, the people that crossposted on Facebook and other sites, the ones that tagged suckers like me (;)), the transporters, donors who helped us fund his vetting, fosters- temporary and long term- who love and care for our animals and provide for their needs without discrimination, those that help us process applications, and the families that provide a lifetime of love to these wonderful creatures.

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A Day with Dr. Patricia McConnell

Despite turning in far too late, when I first rolled over and opened my eyes this morning, it was 4:03am.  With an hour until my alarm was set to go off, I closed my eyes and counted my breaths, focusing on each inhale and exhale, and drifted off to sleep again.  When I next awoke, I peeked at the glaring red lights above my head and sighed: 4:09am.

I was having a difficult time sleeping because I knew I had a busy, exciting and somewhat frightening day ahead.  Having prepared for this day for weeks, I was as ready as I was going to be and hoped Hailey was, too.  At 6:11, dog and her belongings loaded into my vehicle, we headed off to the buildings where we would spend most of the day and arrived before anyone else.  Hailey was not totally unfamiliar with the club, but I walked her around and onto the empty stage.  I had taken her to the buildings previously and let her explore, get used to the sounds and sights, and played with her to encourage a positive association with the place.

Hailey was set up in a crate in the non-seminar building while I worked at the book table with some wonderful ladies from Barnes & Noble, amazed at how much we were able to sell.  It was there that I first met Dr. McConnell, and we spoke about her books and about Hailey.  I liked her right from the start.

The first part of the seminar was on reactivity.  The subject matter was nothing utterly groundbreaking but was presented in a great and interesting way with nice videos and of course, live dogs!  A border collie was the first demo dog and I was nearly done watching her when I was retrieved and told that “your dog is loose.”   She had broken out of her crate, and proved her intelligence by doing it again half an hour later, with me in the room! After the second time, Tena and Miranda kept her entertained while I worked at selling books (thank you, guys!! <3)  Tena even got Hailey to start tugging, something that she hasn’t done at home, and when the seminar started back up, we worked on loose leash walking, sits and downs, attention, and played with her toys until it was our turn.

"To Hailey- You're gonna be great!"

My nerves were crazy but Dr. McConnell is reassuring, warm and sweet- no wonder she gets along so well with dogs!  Hailey warmed up to her and explored the stage a bit before a dog that would serve as Hailey’s reactivity stimulus was brought into the building.  Hailey did great and I was happy to be simply a leash holder until Patricia McConnell handed me her clicker and told ME to work my dog, on stage, in front of a crowd nearly 150 strong (with the majority being dog trainers), standing next to the author of “The Other End of the Leash.”  Really, I cannot convey what was going through my head because it was a non-verbal equivalent of “OMGOMG.OH.EM.GEEE.”    When I voiced my distress (did words come out?  I felt more like a squeaking mouse) she asked the audience to help by saying “click” when I should click.  Let me just say this. I am no stranger to a clicker and have gotten very good and confident with it in the past couple years.  I love using a clicker with fosters and helping them learn how to think for themselves.  But holding that clicker in my hand, I felt like a total klutz.  I missed a lot of click opportunities (although I was spot on with more than a few, thankyouverymuch) and it is NOT a good feeling to have dozens of dog trainers telling you “CLICK! CLICK!” all at once.  More than once, I wasn’t ready because I was fiddling with treats with both hands.  Poor Hailey.

Except… maybe NOT “poor Hailey.”    She NEVER REACTED.  Using the clicker- something that Hailey had never experienced more than two weeks ago, mind you- she was able to get within about 25 feet, maybe less, of the stimulus dog and was offering a head turn after just moments each time she looked at the dog.  Sometimes, her attention was on my face and on me so much that it was hard to get her to look at the other dog.  Her demonstration ended very quickly compared to the other dogs simply because she had done such a good job and we needed to end the session while we were ahead.

Tena and Miranda pinch-hit for me once again in holding Hailey, and hubby Ross came to pick her up so she wouldn’t have to spend her day in lockdown in a crate, miserable.  The rest of the seminar was great.  There was another demo dog, lots of great information on dog play, with a lot of videos and a lot of opportunity to compare my own observations of dogs with Patricia McConnell herself as she talked about what we saw.  I spoke with her one-on-one during a break as she signed my book, and she gave me some advice for Hailey and gushed over how well she did.  She was so proud and so heartened by the progress Hailey made in such a short time frame. More than a dozen people, many total strangers, came up to me to give encouragement and praise for my job on stage and say that Hailey was wonderful.  It was an incredible experience.

After the seminar, I was part of a small group, eight total including Trisha, that went to dinner at a local restaurant.  Dinner was an amazing informal gathering where we talked about, yes, dogs, and Patricia asked some questions about Hailey before telling me she was “the star of the show,” or some similar sentiment.  She reiterated that Hailey will make amazing progress, that she is very intelligent and a really great dog (we knew that!), and that “she really lucked out to end up with you.  She is so lucky, right guys??” to which the entire table agreed.  Sitting there, I blushed and brushed it off, but here in private as I write this, I am overwhelmed with tears of pride, humility, and awe.  To be made to feel so worthwhile, to be encouraged by someone I respect greatly (someone that nearly has her own shelf on my bookshelf) is a feeling I will never forget.

Not asleep, just enjoying a chest rub, tired after a very long day!

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Dogs don’t have a “How to Live with Humans” manual

Twice this last week, I was saddened to read similar posts on a dog forum in which I participate regularly.

[My new puppy] is 10 weeks old and a total doll! Training has been going really well, I think, but I do have one concern….she has not had an accident in the house yet and it has been 4 days! I know, I know, not really a “problem” per se, but i’m afraid that she will not really be potty trained if she does not go in the house at least once where I can tell her “no”…

I was taken aback to hear from someone whose concern is that their dog hasn’t had any accidents.  I encouraged them to keep up the supervision and potty schedule that is working for their dog and not to rush her, and hope they listen.  Today this snippet came from another poster:

Just wondering, if we never punish [our 9 week old puppy] for going inside, how will she learn she can ONLY go outside, and not just anywhere she wants?

Sometimes people act so confusing for dogs that I'm sure they would be better off if there WERE a manual...

Not a thought about making sure that the only place the dog WANTS to go potty is outside.  This way of thinking is really difficult to grasp for some folks.  I don’t know why we tend to expect so much of our dogs but turn around and underestimate their capacity for learning.

I don’t believe either of these dog owners would mean to do harm to their puppies, but I believe that they are thinking in a detrimental way.  When potty training our children, do we punish them for not going to the toilet, or expect them to know how to use a toilet from the moment they can walk?  No, we manage their behavior with diapers and paying attention to their needs while we teach them where they should go.  Why, then, should we expect an animal species without the ability to communicate verbally to know the rules and understand the appropriate place to relieve itself around our unnatural human homes?

Scolding, physical corrections, scaring your puppy by yelling or making noise, etc, are meant as a penalty for a “wrongful” act. The problem with the idea of a dog or cat doing right or wrong is that would require a moral code and animals just don’t need one.  They follow their instincts or act based on training and experience.  A puppy or new dog peeing on the carpet  is not doing anything “wrong,” it has simply yet to be taught what you expect of it.  I think that’s where people struggle.

Imagine you are a school student.  You have not yet been taught PEMDAS (order of operations) and someone has asked you to complete a lengthy math equation.  Do you expect to be scolded, shouted at or worse, hit, for solving it incorrectly?   You would not look forward to math class or have a good relationship with your math teacher if this was the way these situations were handled.  Luckily for humans, it’s unlikely that you will be punished for this anyway because it just doesn’t make sense.  It’s unrealistic to expect a party to understand something that hasn’t been taught.

With positive reinforcement based training, true operant-style R+ that is, sweeping the globe and recruiting converts from the compulsion camp, it is my hope that things like this will someday be common knowledge and the idea of punishing an animal for our own mistakes or shortcomings will be long gone.

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