Monthly Archives: April 2012

Calming Cooper’s Quirks: Basic Obedience

As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, Cooper has turned out to be quite the little handful.  As much as we adore the stuffin’ out of him, we found ourselves at a loss when dealing with some of Cooper’s more complicated issues.  Rather than hang our heads in defeat, we sought help.  We enrolled Cooper in  “Basic Family Dog Manners” class with Dogs and Kat – run by the extraordinary Kat Martin, who also happens to own See Spot Eat, the doggie bakery where we bought the cake for Oscar’s birthday.

Kat has been training dogs for over a decade, and has a passion for animal rescue.  She works with Agape to offer canine education to foster dogs in their program at discounted rates.  She knows that sometimes the difference in a dog getting adopted quickly and spending months upon months in “the system” is as simple as getting the dog a sense of basic obedience.   

Kat’s classes based on clicker training.  Clicker training is just good old-fashioned operant conditioning – when a good thing (reward) gets associated with a cue (click) after performing a behavior (sit, down, stay, etc).  The idea is to get the dog to associate the click with a Very Good Thing, like a high value treat.  For Cooper, we use teeny tiny (think tic tac size) pieces of cheese or natural chicken treats.  There is a wealth of information out there on clicker training, so I’m not going to go into a lot specifics here, but I do want to highlight a few important points which we’ll be keeping in mind with Cooper:

1) The click creates a snapshot of the behavior.  Timing of the click is imperative, even more important that the timing of the treat delivery.  Think of the “click” as a snapshot of the behavior you want.  For example, when teaching “sit,” you click as soon as the tush hits the floor, and then deliver the treat. 

2) Click only to reinforce the behavior you want.  Don’t click to get your dog to do a behavior, wait until you he offers the behavior before you click.  If you are trying to get your dog’s attention when he is distracted by clicking, you are rewarding him not paying attention to you.  Wait until he turns his head in your direction on his own before the click and treat.  Eventually he will want to give you his attention, because he now knows that you are a magical treat factory!

3) Get the behavior first, then assign a name to it. Dogs do not speak English.  If you are teaching a behavior for the first time, your dog does not understand what “sit” means.  Kat teaches us hand signals for each behavior, which are designed to lure the dog into positions.  For example, the signal for “sit” is holding a treat in the your hand and chest level, palm flat facing upwards, and raising your hand up in front of your chin.  This simple raising of the treat naturally lures your dog into a seated position.  Once he is seated, click and treat.  Once he is consistently sitting for the hand signal, start adding the command “sit” as you do the hand signal.

4) Only say the command one time.  Repeating a command only shows your dog that he doesn’t have to listen to you the first time.  Say the command, and wait for the behavior. You may have to wait awhile at first, but eventually the time you have to wait will get shorter and shorter.

5) Keep it short, keep it positive, keep it consistent.  Training sessions should be 5 – 15 minutes, three times a day is ideal!  Always end with something your dog knows how to do well, so you end on a positive note.  And consistency is key – if you click, pay up!  The clicker will lose value if you do not deliver when promised.  Eventually the click itself will become the reward, but at first when your dog is learning behavior, make sure to deliver a treat every time you click.  Make sure you hand signals and voice commands are consistent as well, this is especially important if you’ve got more than one person that the dog will need to take commands from.

Cooper has attended two classes so far, and is responding well to the clicker.  So far, Kat has taught us People techniques for teaching Cooper “sit,” down,” “let’s go” (or loose leash walking), “touch,” and “come.” Coop is about as food motivated as they come, so getting him to demonstrate the behaviors and reinforcing them has been a snap click.  What we’ll need to focus on next is asking Cooper to relax, and keep his attention on us instead of on the other dogs in the class.  

If you’re interested in adopting Cooper, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Vitamin D: good for what ails ya

Molly Tamale is recovering nicely from her unscheduled pedicure.  She’s putting weight on her foot again and, though gingerly, has resumed normal play activity with her brothers.  Even though she’s still not feeling 100%, Molly is well versed in the healing powers of the sun and has been taking full advantage of the morning rays.

If you’re interested in adopting our little sun goddess, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

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We Play Ruff

Molly Tamale can hang in there with the big dogs, that much is clear.  She gets in there with the play growling and neck biting with the best of them.  Which is why we didn’t think too much of it the other day when we heard a small yelp out of her during a particularly rowdy play session with her brothers last week.  After all, she is smaller than they are, we figured she got stepped on or something.  She went right back to roughhousing and she seemed just fine.

Then over the weekend, we noticed her start to favor her back right paw a little bit.  When we took a closer look, to our horror we noticed this:

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture, but one of Molly’s toe nails had broken clean off!  All dogs have a vein that extends down into their toe nails, called a “quick.”  If a nail gets broken too low and the quick is exposed, it can bleed and is very painful for them.  (Ever heard the expression, “cut me to the quick”?) 

We got her into the vet as soon as we could on Monday. She must have known we were there to make her feel better, because she was very polite in the waiting room. She sat patiently and quietly until it was her turn to be called back to see the doctor. 

The doctor trimmed back the rough edges of the nail and cauterized the open wound to stop the bleeding, so the nail can heal and regrow itself.  Molly hobbled away with a pretty new bandage and a round of antibiotics.  She will soon be good as new!

She was still a little uncomfortable last night and was reluctant to put weight on it, but as soon as we got home she retreated to her sanctuary, where she spent the rest of the evening, happy to be home.

Of course we blamed ourselves for the entire ordeal…We’d been meaning to give Molly’s nails a trim for about a week, we just hadn’t gotten around to it.  We know that keeping our dogs’ nails trimmed up nice and short can help avoid ingrown nails, splits and tears in the nail.   A good rule of thumb (paw?) is that if you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the tile or wood floor, then it’s time for a trim.  We like to use a Dremel on our dogs, because instead of sharp edges, it leaves the nail nice and smooth. 

So what have we learned?  One: Keep dogs nails nice and short – Molly’s nails grow at a speed that requires a trim about once every three weeks.  And two:  always remove the lens cap or hold onto it securely to keep it from clicking against the camera or bouncing into the frame when taking video:

If you’re interested in adopting Molly Tamale, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

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There’s Something About Cooper

Something about Cooper just makes you fall in love with him over and over again.

Maybe it’s the perma-grin? The puppy enthusiasm?  The stunning good looks or comic timing?  The tail that wags so hard that there’s a distinct thud-thud-thud on whatever surface it’s against, even if it’s a soft pillow?  The fact that he wants to please you SO. BAD.

…or the fact that he simply can’t all the time, even though he tries so hard – it’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.

When you leave the house, he will break your heart in half – the way he gets so freakin’ excited, “Surely you’re going to take me with you!” then you watch his ears droop as he realizes he has to stay home while you head out to some exiting adventure without him.  If only I could explain to him that work or the grocery store are not, in fact exciting adventures!

But when you come home again, the excitement and pure joy you see on Cooper’s face is enough to make the stress from even the worst day fade into a memory.  That’s not even fair, because it’s not just on his face – the elation Cooper exudes seems to fly off of every inch of his body – it’s contagious.  There’s just no really good way to describe it – Cooper is Happiness.

At the same time, it’s gonna take a very special kind of family for Cooper.  One that has unending amounts of love to give, and lots of patience.  I’m not gonna lie, Cooper is a handful. He’s clingy. He’s needy. He wants to be right next to you all the time.  He reminds me of this, but sped up about a hundred times, and not standing nearly as still:

He sleeps on our pillow at night – not just in our bed, but up on our pillows.  He’s still not 100% potty trained – his limit is about 5 – 6 hours he can spend alone without leaving a little puddle on the floor.  He has separation anxiety and a taste for hardcover books, remote controls, CD’s, coffee table corners, pillows, board games, leather chair arms, and pretty much anything else that’s handy.  He refuses to be crated – he’ll either escape or make himself bleed trying to.  He’s dog reactive on a leash.  He’s possessive of his toys and his People, and will snap at another dog if they try to invade his cuddle space.

“Hey, wait just a minute!  Aren’t you trying to get Cooper adopted, here?  Shouldn’t you be advertising his good qualities instead of listing the bad?”

Of course, our end game is to find Cooper the most perfect Furever home in the entire world.  That is – the most perfect home for Cooper.  We’ve already had one match that we thought was made in heaven turn out not to be the “happily ever after” we thought it would be, and the last thing we want to do is repeat that. We want Cooper’s new family to know exactly what they’re getting with Cooper – a lovable snuggly little wild man, with boundless energy and an appetite for chaos – who is utterly impossible not to fall head over paws in love with.

Cooper’s quirks could take months to work on, and will probably need a lifetime commitment of continued training and practice.  We’re taking steps to work on each and every one of them, which I’ll talk more about later this week. Every day is a learning experience with Cooper, but man, oh man…we just love this dog. 

After all, sometimes it’s the dogs that are the hardest to love, who need our love the most.

If you’ve got enough love and patience in your life to share with Cooper, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Foster Update: Foxy Roxie

I was beyond excited to recieve this touching note from Roxie’s new mom, Stacy. It brings happy tears to my eyes to picture this sweet puppy, who entered our lives so unexpectadly, living the life she was meant to live, with the family she was meant to love.  We couldn’t be happier for her.  Enjoy! ~Laura

Picture Abby drew for Roxie on her first night in her new home, so she would never forget her Foster Family - the first people (and dogs) who ever loved her.

I have never had a big dog.  In fact, I think my largest pet was my beloved Boston Terrier, Brandi, who weighed in at a whopping 18 pounds. My husband, Dale and daughter, Abigail, have been talking about adopting a family pet for quite some time.  But, I had my special Brandi, my little lap dog of 12 years, that would not have approved of another dog in the house.  Let’s face it…she really didn’t approve of having Dale or Abby in the house either, but she learned to tolerate them over the years.  Sadly, my beloved pooch passed on a few months ago.  The word “devastation” seems like an understatement. 

Through my grief, I announced that I was never going to have another dog.  The pain of losing Brandi was too much to think about having to go through it again.  I cried, I sulked, I slept, I didn’t sleep, I ate too much and then I didn’t eat at all…I just missed her terribly. Then, I remembered something…a promise that I had made to a total stranger 3 years ago.

Abby and I had gone to the “Mutt Strut” in the summer of 2009.  I was proudly parading Brandi around Centennial Park, when we came upon an information table for Agape Animal Rescue.  I had a very nice conversation with a lady who was promoting the rescue. Abby was going crazy over the dogs that were being promoted that day.  I took her card, and told her that someday we would call her, when were ready to adopt a family pet.

Abby loves training Roxie! She got Roxie to "down" for her on the very first try - even before Dad!

It was a Saturday morning when I remembered that story, and I immediately decided to Google Agape’s website.  Of course, I had no intentions of even looking at “adoptable dogs” once I got to the webpage, because I was never going to have another dog…right??  I scrolled down and saw a picture of Roxie.  My heart just leaped out of my chest. She was beautiful black and white pittie mix.   I watched her video and felt my heart strings pull.  I called Dale and Abby in to watch the video, and they loved her goofy little personality. We met Roxie the very next day and knew that she was a special girl, and that she would be a perfect addition to our family. 

I must admit that I was a little reluctant at first, because I still missed my Brandi so much and I still am grieving over her loss…but, I know that Brandi would have wanted me to give another stray the same love that I had given to her, and it was just selfish for me to think that I could keep that love to myself.  As for Dale and Abby?  Well, they never hesitated.  They knew she was the “one.”

She has fit right in…she goes with Dale to work in the garage,  she rides in the car every morning to drop Abby off at school, and then she spends every evening curled up on my lap.

We love our big ole lap dog!

Roxie with her Dad and new BFF, Diamond. Diamond, a pittie puppy just about Roxie's age, lives next door and comes over to play every day!

Congratulations on scoring an amazing Furever Home, Roxie – you really hit the jackpot!  We love you forever, and we’ll never forget you!
Love, Foster Mom & Dad

~

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I Work Out

(…if you are awesome a dork like me, you have already sung the title of this blog post in your head, along the lines of this post here. Anyway…)

Cooper has been with us for three months now.  We didn’t notice it right away, it’s been a gradual thing, but Cooper has undergone a bit of a physical change over the last several months.  This is what Cooper looks like today:

That’s a good lookin’ dog, right?  I mean, even with his eyes closed, handsome fella, right?  Just so we’ve got a good visual in our minds, here he is last month, covered in filthy dirty mud, on the Best Day Ever:

Now take a look at this photo from back when he first arrived at Foster House:

Compared to now, he looks to have been a little on the tubby side, no?  Just to make sure, let’s check another angle:

Yep, Cooper has definitely lost some weight.  When he arrived, we didn’t necessarily consider him chubby.  We didn’t put him on a diet or anything, we just fed him the recommended portion from the dog food bag.  Maybe it’s all the exercise he gets playing with his foster brother & sister, or the healthy snacks, or maybe Coop is just finally starting to lose his extra layer of puppy chub. 

Lookin’ good, there Coop.  Lookin’ good!

If you’d like to add Cooper to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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A Room with a View

Cooper is a “People Dog.” He wants to be right next to you, all the time.  Molly Tamale, on the other hand, is not.  It’s not that she doesn’t like people – she does!  But as we’ve talked about before, Molly likes her space sometimes.  If we ever don’t see or hear from her in a while, we always know where to find her.

As it turns out, the blanket is merely a formality.  It doesn’t matter if Foster Momma decides to be really mean and pick up her blanket for washing, as long as there’s sun shining on the floor, Molly Tamale is keeping her Wonderful Spot nice and safe. 

This is Molly’s own little sanctuary.  We tried for a while to reintroduce the crate with Cooper, but it failed.  (Miserably – more on that another time.)  However, we leave the crate where it is, with the door open, you know – “just in case.”  It turns out that Molly loves it – when she’s laying on the blanket staring out the window, she’s hanging out in the crate…staring out the window.

This Wonderful Spot has several perks that Foster Dad and I can come up with, aside from the lovely warm sunshine that streams through it in the early hours of the day.  Number one – neither of her foster brothers seem to spend much time in that area, so it offers her refuge when she needs it. 

Number two – the view! Maybe it’s because of her short little legs that Molly enjoys watching the world go by from up above.

Which brings us to a very important requirement for Molly Tamale’s Furever Family: a window!

If you’re interested in adding Molly Tamale to your family, and have a window that needs a furry fixture, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

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