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Dog Training Techniques

I know I said I wasn't going to waste any more time talking about Kozies Shepherds, but I feel I should clarify a few things.

In researching obedience classes after I got Zada, I wanted to be sure I found someone who was somewhat "Cesar-ish" - meaning a calm, firm leader. I ended up finding a friend in my dog obedience trainer, Linda, but also someone who taught me the wonderful results I could achieve using positive reinforcement and behavior modification.

It was a learning curve for me, as I'd never used these methods before - but they really work! Marking the behavior - at the INSTANT it occurs - lets the dog know exactly what they did right (or wrong). You never use any other mode of positive punishment ("adding an offensive or adverse stimulus"), i.e., striking the dog, or using a shock collar.

Why? Because the very BASIS of behavior modification strives to teach the dog what they're doing correctly, and in telling them they're displaying the behavior you want - and subsequently rewarding it - teaches the dog to try more often and harder to recreate the behavior, because it's a pleasing experience.

You might wonder why positive punishment wouldn't do the same thing - if the dog's being bad, and you strike it, that'll tell that darn dog not do do THAT again. BUT, you didn't tell the dog what he SHOULD be doing; you're worrying about what he should NOT be doing. Since dogs are always doing something, and we want them to be confident, we can't expect them to head out and try new things, since they won't know when the next fist is going to strike them or when the next shock will come.

The reason I'm outlining all of this is for those people who keep finding my blog when they're searching for Kozies Shepherds and find it necessary to tell me I don't know what I'm doing with my own dog. Recently I received a comment from one of them stating, "Mark Kozitza is very knowledgable in raising dogs and you probably should have taken his advice about how to handle it."*

Since I'm being called out on this, I'll tell everyone, I DID call Mark after Zada stalked, pounced upon and bit that girl last September. I called him after I got done crying for about 3 hours, not knowing if I was going to have to put her down for aggression. I asked him how to handle this situation, stating it had started - and I'd been working on it at dog parks - with other dogs. Keep in mind, this is a very dominant dog (I've seen her lift a leg like a male when she's marking), and it's a constant struggle with other dogs, but of course I had NO idea she was capable of transmitting this behavior to kids.

Mark's solution? Put a pinch collar on her, with a long rope, and give it a "quick jerk" when she reaches the other dog. OR, he also said to put a shock collar on her if that didn't work. Okay. Let me tell you what's wrong with THAT: even the most novice of dog trainers will tell you a dog won't learn not to stalk, rush, and pounce on things if you punish it for the instant it's already leaping.

The behavior starts long before the actual leap - with Zada, I can tell: her eyes get focused, her ears prick, the tail goes up, and then she charges. The INSTANT she "hones in" on another dog is the time to correct the behavior; not when she's already honed in, rushed, and started barking.

What I do is catch her the INSTANT I see her perk up - I distract her, and she gets rewarded (her extreme ball drive helps here) for paying attention to me and not the other dog. Does it always work? No, because MY timing isn't always consistent - it's hard to constantly watch her at the dog park, or when we're camping...she's caused some squabbles because I've looked away or didn't see the signs (again, my fault) and she's charged another dog who's willing to stand their ground to her.

She's had a fear/dominance issue with new dogs since the day I brought her home. I've often wondered, why??? The only explanation I can come up with is Kozitza had her segregated from all the other dogs (she was 4 months old) and when new dogs would come in for training, he'd let them rush her pen and he said she'd "started barking at strange dogs" and I witnessed it - at 4 months of age, she was displaying fear aggression with new dogs. He did nothing to correct this at the onset, and I've been dealing with it ever since. That's a lesson to me - never get an older puppy who wasn't properly socialized its entire life (not just the first 8 weeks of life).

It's a constant struggle on my part nowadays - I'm ALWAYS watching her, because I just don't quite trust her...neither does anyone who knows about her "incident" last fall. I'm entitled to my opinion, and I'll never purchase from Kozies Shepherds or recommend them.

* PS: For those of you who have an issue with me and like to name-call, I don't post comments from people I don't know. I find it sad that you feel the need to conduct yourself in an inappropriate manner.

A Weekend of Trail Riding

Dog, Horse & Silhouette of RiderThis past weekend I trekked up North (once again) to Pillsbury State Forest for a weekend of horseback riding. As it turned out, it ended up being just a bunch of girls - although a couple dads showed up for dinner on Friday, mine included - and it turned out to be a FABULOUSLY fun time! (Self Portrait with Ole & Z )
Skinny Trail Riding
Most of the trails we traversed were "skinny trails" - i.e., skinny enough that a horse just fits through. Keep in mind, I was on the biggest horse there (Olephant) so sometimes we had a bit more trouble squeezing through than others :)
( Mom & Ben on a skinny trail)

There were a few times I had to get off and clear the way of broken branches, trees and the like...being in front carries with it the responsibility of making sure there IS a trail.
Horseback Trail Riders with Dust & Sun
Sadly, I ended up ripping my new boot cut riding tights, but with all the brush I was crawling around in, it was inevitable. They're very comfortable, though, and as long as I wear half-chaps to keep the burrs to a minimum, I think they're my new favorite riding pants. Pretty sure in Italy we won't have to worry about clearing a path on which to ride, anyway :)

We ended up riding around 12-13 hours in two days, which was good for me - I need to get in shape for Tuscany. The weather was gorgeous, and we had a great time not only trail riding but also having our "bareback" time back in camp after dinner (hence, no pictures - it was dark).A Schipperke Relaxes on Her Owner's Lap
Zada with The Perfect Stick

Speaking of camp, we had quite the crew:
  • 4 camping rigs (motorhomes, trucks, trailers)
  • 3 moms
  • 6 "kids" (I was one :)
  • 9 horses
  • 5 dogs (2 Schipperkes, 1 Mini Aussie, 1 Jack Russell & 1 German shepherd)

We only had 2 dogs that came with on all of our trail rides - Zada, of course, and Mya, one of the Schipperkes. All of 20 pounds, she kept up and was a little trooper. Of course, she'd definitely take advantage of her owner's lap and relax after a ride! Ms. Z, not so much, as evidenced by the "here's-my-stick-now-will-someone-please-throw-it-for-me" picture.

All in all, it was a weekend of "Happy Trails" and "Happy Tails"!

Lessons Learned at Hooters

Clint and I met his sister's softball team (the Easton-Hooters Rockets) out for wings and beer this past Monday. They were celebrating their win (a 6' tall trophy) from the 50th Annual Bloomington Firemen’s Tournament the weekend before.

Anyway, at one point I had to use the "ladies'" room. I was 2nd in line, and even with only 2 stalls, I figured it wouldn't be too long of a wait. I was wrong. In each of the stalls was a Hooters girl, getting dressed either for the evening or for a photo shoot. Or both.

They were taking their sweet time, dilly-dallying while dressing and talking about modeling, and whether or not they needed to wear their white socks or not. Scintillating conversation, let me tell you.

One girl finally exited - typical "I'm-cute-but-there's-not-much-between-the-ears" - but the gal in front of me had a squirmy baby in need of changing, so she was taking her time controlling that whilst I waited for the OTHER Hooters chick to vacate the remaining stall. She was in no hurry, and when she finally got out of there her apparent lack of brains matched the first girl's.

Not to say that all Hooters chicks are less smart than servers in other establishments; just in MY experience (yes, I've been there several times) that's the story.

I certainly made people at the table laugh when re-enacting the conversation that occured while I was waiting in line. That being said, I might've offended someone who's daughter is actually...yup, you guessed it...a waitress at Hooter's. Oh well, can't please everyone.

Ok, so lesson learned. Pee BEFORE you get there, just in case. Also, if you do find yourself in such a situation, best to merely roll your eyes and take it out on the girls from the safety of your table...that is, don't spout advice (e.g., "who cares about your stupid socks, get OUT of there") because they're all in cahoots and then the girl serving your table will know it was YOU that was nasty and you won't get a drink the rest of the night.

Oh, and PS: when you say "I got 4th in a modeling contest" from behind the stall door, in a bathroom full of girls, you'd better be drop-dead gorgeous when you walk out, or else you're going to get elevator-eyed, judged, and found wanting. Either a) talk about that stuff when us judgmental females can't hear you, b) don't shout it like it's still true, or c) be honest and say that there were only 4 of you IN the contest.

All in all, it was a fun evening. The wings weren't that good, but beer is beer, and the company was good. Plus, I squirrelled away a few of the "wet naps" (they had sayings on them) to remind me that you can, indeed, learn things at Hooters.

Here are my 3 favorites:

1/2 of all people are below average. (Pssst: this goes for Hooters waitresses, too.)

Friction is a drag. (Short, sweet, and to the point. Like our server's hoots.)

If you can't be kind, be vague. (On one hand, our Hooters Girl was very kind. She was also kind of vague. Hmmmm....)