Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What are we really telling our pets.... 1

While on vacation I started thinking about how I see a lot of owners handling their dogs in a way that is very confusing to me.  I watch them react to their dogs behavior in a way that is completely baffling.  I think, "why are they doing that, that is causing that problem but not making it stop"  Then, I realized, they just don't know, so they do what they think is best.

So, here is the scenario; Paul and I were walking Wiley (old dog) past the campground of people.  Coming from the other direction was a woman with three yorkies headed our way.  I said to Paul before they were close enough, "watch these dogs are gonna go crazy when they get closer".  Sure enough, even though we were on opposite sides of the street, they went nuts!  They were barking, growling, jumping in their little harnesses, and spinning around.  That poor woman!  I would feel sorry for her but she created this problem and it will only get worse.  This is what started my thought process of 'maybe she just doesn't know'. 

I am under the assumption that if a person has three dogs, then they must have a good amount of behavior knowledge to keep their house from being crazy.  But, sadly, no, they don't and I can't imagine the noise and frenzy that happens when her doorbell rings.  (of course, these might even not be her dogs but I will assume they are for this post)

This is what she did to 'stop' the situation.  She stopped walking, bent down, pulled on the leashes trying to reel them all in; all on flexi leashes, pinched one dog's mouth shut and held fast, said, "it's ok, no!, it's ok, Stop!" to the others in between yelling names randomly.  Meanwhile, Paul and I smiled, said, "hi" and never skipped a beat walking.  Wiley, never even showed an ounce of interest.  Now, you say, Wiley is deaf!  Yes, he is but he isn't oblivious and hasn't lost his sight or sense of smell.  He simply didn't care.  We kept walking and we began discussing with each other how everything she did was giving the opposite information to the dogs and she was actually causing all those problems.  I was inclined to think negatively about her and those dogs (I'm just being honest) but stopped and felt sympathy for her instead.  She has no idea what to do in that situation and was probably very embarrassed and encounters this behavior with all those little dogs often.  This will lead me to blogging about behavior and how to 'help' in these situations. 

I am a dog trainer and teacher to other dog owners that believes understanding your dog's behavior is necessary for all training to be successful.  So, here goes...

How she could have handled the situation without getting into a huge training session.  What does the owner do when she has little behavior knowledge and practice?

First thing, get through it; don't stop, don't acknowledge (the dogs), just pass through quickly and deliberately with no emotion (happy or angry).  Shorten your leashes as you walk with purpose, pulling the dogs behind you if needed.  Most importantly, be confident, do this like you know what your doing.  I think of it like dragging a garden hose across your yard.  It's heavy and the easiest way to pull is face forward, not even looking at the hose, walking a steady pace.  You don't yank, stop and start, or get angry.  Think of this when your dragging your dogs away from something they are barking at or pulling toward.  (this is skipping 'marking' all the good behaviors which I feel is too much for an inexperienced owner)  Just walk past the thing that makes them go crazy and keep going.  YOUR COLLAR/HARNESS NEEDS TO FIT!  If you pull your dog through this, make sure you can't pull them out of their restraint.  Snug that collar down....nothing worse than pulling them through only to have the collar slip over the head and now you're screwed. 

Second, do not under any circumstance, tell your dog, "it's ok"  You know how people jokingly add at the end of fortune cookies...."in bed" LOL!  Then, always think of finishing your "it's ok" sentence to fit the situation.   This will help you remember why it's not good to 'soothe' your dog.

"it's ok to bark at those people/dogs"
"it's ok to bark at the mailman"
"it's ok to growl at the neighbors dog"
"it's ok to want to chase that little kid on the skateboard"

Do you see where I'm going with this?  Every time you say, "it's ok" and try to soothe your savage beast, you are actually encouraging that current behavior.  This also works for scary situations.  Once again, tighten your collar down and walk confidently with purpose through and past the scary object or environment and don't acknowledge.  Remember to finish your sentence if you want to soothe your dog.

"it's ok to be afraid of the thunder"
"it's ok to shake and tremble at the fireworks"
"it's ok to whine and howl at the lawnmower"

Now, I understand and I'm aware of many other techniques to desensitize, build a positive relationship, operant conditioning, etc. but I am talking about the typical dog owner with only love in their hearts and no former training and knowledge.  What is the easiest and quickest way to get through that specific scenario I encountered while on vacation without harming the dog and without the watchful eye of a qualified trainer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Morning with the wooly and feathered friends

So, every morning, for now, I take the sheep on their walk to the pasture.  They know the routine now so it's just a relaxing walk from the barn to the field.  Thought I'd snap a photo on the way out.  These are the ewes heading out for the day.  Sometimes we still use the dogs, but today was a quiet, peaceful morning and the sheep seemed calm enough and not looking to go exploring.

After taking the girls out I then let out the feathered tenants.  Since acquiring 6 new ducks, we now have too many!  So, here are the 18 ducks and the 3 turkeys that think they're ducks.  There is a little sheep tush in the background eating breakfast.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Runner Ducks

So, we picked up the new ducks and let them out to the big world today!!  We kept them penned up in the duck stall for a day, so they could meet their new friends but not run away.  Then, today they got their first taste of 'free range'.  I think they love it but not sure what to do outside a pen.  They followed the current residents around wondering what all the fuss was about in every pasture.  Then, they settled in and started pecking for bugs and yummy stuff.  They climbed in the big pools, took a well needed bath, and preened in the sun.  So, they fit in great and seem to love their new home! 

These ducks are Indian Runners and are the gray color.  2nd from left is a hen, 3rd from left is the drake...and then on the right side of the photo, 2nd, 4th, and 5th from right are the other gray hens.  3rd from the right is our first 'trout' colored hen.  Trout color is a lighter version of gray and sometimes happens when you're breeding for grays.  I've always wanted trout and have a hard time finding them.  So, now there is one here...I think.  She is still young and we'll see how her color changes.  


Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Beginnings

Well, some new updates for our farm.  A month ago, we added to new members to our flock.  A big, muscle boy from Triple L Finns in Washington State.  We named him Dexter and he is brown.  This boy is going to be wonderful.  He came to us about the same size as our lambs but has now doubled in size.   I am very excited to add him to our breeding this fall for Spring lambs.  He is an out cross to all our ewes we currently have for breeding.

We also got from Leanne at Triple L Finns, an adorable ewe lamb that we named, Bella.  She is a grey and will carry that wonderful non-fading grey gene.   Her fleece is amazing.  So, soft, crimpy, and shiny.  Unfortunately, last week, she was taken from us by a coyote.  It was completely heart breaking.  I have had no trouble with coyotes until now.  I was a mess for a while and have tried to move on and we have been locking up the rest of the ewes until we figure this out.

RIP Bella, you were a wonderful girl with loads of potential! 

So, with a heavy heart we picked a ewe that was destined to leave the farm to stay back.  We are hoping for our top 10 ewes and 2 rams for keeping through the winter and breeding for Spring. Here is a picture of the current ewes after a storm.  All the lambs are gone and we are ready for a new season to begin.
ewes  (9 finns, 1 hair, 1 tunis)

This tragedy is now pushing us toward a new investment, a guardian animal for the sheep.  We talked with many sheep people and finally last night decided on a Llama.  I made a number of calls today and found a farm with 40 registered llamas about 35 minutes away.  This gentleman has placed llamas with a number of friends of mine to guard their sheep and his animals are great.  So, we went and picked out a female today, named Tango.  She is 10 years old, halter trained, been shown, hooves done, and handled a lot!  So, she is friendly, walked right up to Paul and loved the attention.  We will make the arrangements soon to get her here and start getting her acquainted with the sheep.  I was looking for a cheap llama just to guard the sheep and came to realize that my sheep are worth a lot to how much do you spend to protect them?  A very personal decision.  I also needed to take into account that I will be sending my dogs out to work the sheep and want to be able to remove the llama so it won't attack my dogs.  Bill, the owner of the llamas also stands behind every animal, so if she gets here and doesn't do her job, he will take her back and find one that will.  A wonderful guarantee.  

Then, after checking out the llamas, we headed out to the west side of Williamston to look at some runner ducks.  I met a gentleman that had the grey colors (mallard) and a trout color.  So, picked those up for a fantastic deal.  Now, to decide which current ones leave to go and live with my friends.  Yes, the friends homes are already set up and they will continue to be pets.  But, we don't have to feed them all winter and I can keep a variety of colors and quality.  I set up a smaller pen in the stall with the other ducks and they can learn to live with each other without actually being able to touch.  Then, when they are attached to my current ducks, we can let them out to be free-ranging and enjoy to paradise our ducks have here!  Pictures when they leave the stall - it's too dark.  

Continued another day......