Author Archives: Nancy Gallimore

Saving Nadia

posted April 7th, 2016 by
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Saving Nadia

NadiaBy Nancy Gallimore

I woke up this morning with a little black nose pressed into my neck. Nadia, my new foster puppy, apparently decided it would be a great idea to sleep in the human bed last night. I hug the puppy to my chest, and she sighs in contentment. With her sigh, the sweet, distinctive aroma of puppy breath fills the air around us, and I breathe it in, cherishing the scent that will turn into dog breath all too quickly.

Itwas only about a month ago that this happy, cuddly pup was just a small, dark shadow, standing lost in the middle of the road. The moment my Jeep made the turn toward home, the shadow darted away to hide in the bordering brush and trees. I barely saw the movement, but I knew—it was a dog.

I’ve seen it too many times—a dog or cat blindly bolting for cover because this unfamiliar situation into which it has been plunged seems to be filled with nothing but danger and fear. This road, the peaceful country road that takes me home, is apparently a favorite spot for people who want to abandon unwanted animals. It’s a quiet, somewhat hidden side road, but it has just enough homes along the way to pacify a guilty mind—to allow the “I found him a home in the country” lie to have a hope of validity.

I kept my eyes focused on the point where I had seen the little ghost dog leave the road. I slowed as I reached the right spot, and I scanned the brush for any sign of my new friend. The late afternoon sun slanted bright beams into the camouflage of tall grass, weeds and trees, and as I searched, I finally caught a glint of wide, terrified eyes.

She was crouched tensely against a tree trunk beneath some fallen branches, her little face and body tight with stress and panic. Her eyes were round with fear, and every muscle in her body was ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Her soft brindle-hued coat allowed her to easily melt into the wooded background and growing shadows. If she decided to move farther into the brush, I would quickly lose sight of her. Though I wanted to rush in to whisk her away to safety, any sudden movement would have closed the door of opportunity.

There is an art to helping frightened stray animals. A panicked dog or puppy seems to revert to a primal state where raw survival instinct replaces any previously known domestic inclinations and responses. This is the moment when the human has to abandon the notion of how to respond to a pet animal. All of the baby talk and promises of cookies bounce off of terrified ears and a numb heart.

So I parked my Jeep and walked a bit down the road from the puppy, keeping myself at an angle to her but always    keeping her in my peripheral vision. She,  still crouched and tense, did not take her eyes off of me, the potential predator.

I reached a spot about 5 feet down-road from the pup. Her hiding place was about 8 feet off the road, so I was far enough away that I wasn’t putting pressure on her. I sat down in the weeds and gravel because dog rescue never manages to take place in a comfortable location.  Again I kept my body at an angle to the puppy instead of facing toward her.

Well-meaning humans really tend to get it wrong when trying to approach a scared dog. We usually go straight at them, looking directly into their eyes. We immediately thrust a hand toward its face. We lean in and push our faces toward them, all the while babbling in a high-pitched, loud voice. Imagine yourself in a position that is about a foot or so off the ground and how that feels—not pleasant.

Then, we tend to ignore all of their “please don’t pressure me” signals. They glance away. They lick their lips. Their ears will be tense and generally pressed back. The whites of their eyes show. These are all signals that say, please, please back away, but most humans don’t know how to read them. This is how rescue opportunities are lost—or worse, how humans end up with a nasty bite.

So there I sat, glancing sideways at the puppy, talking to her in a low, soft voice, tossing bits of beef jerky near her hiding spot (well, sure, I always keep something enticing in the car!). After about five minutes, the grass rustled, and the young dog cautiously reached out to hungrily snap up a bite of jerky.

Ah, progress. Very, very slowly, I scooted a little bit closer to where the pup sat, watching. Then I just held steady again. I kept my body loose and relaxed. I stayed at an angle to the puppy. I did everything I could to communicate a message that said, “I mean no harm.”

I tossed more jerky, this time not quite so close to where she hid. She crept out to gobble a few bites and then watched me warily, very ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Cars passed behind me. Most ignored me completely; some slowed to see what I was up to. I just sat and prayed they would not stop to help. Any added pressure from the human world would send this puppy racing into the brush. I needed a “please ignore the crazy lady playing in the weeds” sign.

After about 20 minutes of slow progress toward the puppy with a non-stop shower of yummy jerky (I can’t lie… I had a few bites myself), I decided to take the pressure completely off. I scooted slowly away from her and then got up, still in slow-motion and walked back toward my car.

What I hoped would happen, did.

Trailing about 4 feet behind me, a young, thin, frightened puppy followed. She still wasn’t sure about me, but I was the best thing she had found in this big, scary world, and while she wasn’t ready to run into my arms, she sure wasn’t ready to let me go either.

As long as I stayed steady and didn’t move too quickly, I was about to see a puppy make a very difficult choice—the choice to trust this human.

I looked sideways at my little shadow and asked if she might like to come home with me. Her reply was to crawl underneath my Jeep and plop down. Oh, great. First, I got to scoot around in gravel and itchy weeds, now I would know the joy of lying on my belly on the asphalt and gravel under my car. No matter. She was well worth it.

So I stretched out on the road and scootched my way under the Jeep. I would like to say a public thank you to my very significant other, Jim, at this moment for putting a little lift kit on the Jeep. It sure made the scootching much easier. Scootch, by the way, is a technical term that anyone who rescues animals in the field knows all too well.

Now I’m lying on my belly, under my Jeep on a thankfully not busy stretch of road. I extended my fingertips to offer another little bit of jerky. She gently took it from me and swallowed it without even chewing. This was one hungry puppy.

Then I reached out to lightly tickle the side of her neck with my fingers. At this point, I would like to issue another public thank you for the combination of my mom and dad that gave me freakishly long arms. They come in darn handy.

While lightly petting her with my fingertips, I finally saw a change in the puppy’s posture. Her eyes softened. Her ears lowered and relaxed. She exhaled with a distinct, little sigh. This puppy was making a choice to trust me.

I will tell you that when I catch frightened little dogs like this, I do initially take hold of them by the scruff of their necks. That may sound rough to some, but I have one chance to get it right, and I can’t risk a struggle or a fear-inspired bite. It’s important to be very careful when approaching a stressed animal that may feel cornered or threatened. I have found that most small dogs, especially young puppies, will go very still when you take hold of the loose skin on the backs of their neck. Their own mothers know this. It is not painful, and I don’t use this little handle for long, but it can be effective for safely scooping up a scared puppy.

I rubbed the puppy’s neck, and then I gently took hold of her scruff. Together, we scootched out from under the Jeep, and I quickly hugged her close, promising her softly that everything was going to be OK now. The pup quickly decided that I was her port in the storm. She pressed into me without a struggle, completely surrendering her fate into my hands.

The once scared, starving, lost puppy quickly became happy, secure and very friendly. She now has dog friends that play with her. She has soft beds for snuggling. She has many arms that love to hug her. She has all of the food and treats she could ever hope for even though she still inhales every meal as if it might be her last. She has a name, Nadia, earned because she is very agile and loves to tumble.

Most importantly, she has a future.

Nadia is learning skills every day that will ensure she can be successfully placed with a loving family. She is a dear, gentle, smart little girl. Someone will be lucky to love her. I can’t wait to see that match happen.

In the meantime, I will continue to teach her where she should potty and where she shouldn’t. We’ll talk about Jim’s house shoes and why they really aren’t a chew toy. We’ll go for car rides and walks. We’ll approach new things and new situations together as she learns to be confident. We’ll have great fun together.

I will enjoy our snuggle time and her sweet puppy breath. And when she places in a new home? Well, I have whispered in her ear every single day since she arrived that even after she finds her perfect family, I will always, always be right here if she ever needs me.

And I will.

 

Author’s note: The methods I outline here work for me, but I have a great deal of experience handing animals and have been involved in animal rescue for decades. I encourage anyone approaching a frightened or injured animal to exercise great caution. If you are unsure, call the animal shelter or a rescue group for assistance.  No one needs a bite from a stray animal.

I am pleased to report that Nadia’s story does have a “happily ever after.” She has been welcomed into a wonderful home where her life lessons continue. She is safe; she is loved, and she loves her new human. Here’s hoping the same for all of the Nadias out there.

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

posted February 28th, 2016 by
Coconut Oil

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

BY Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

It was a pleasant drive to a spot in the country just outside of Claremore, Okla. I drove up a winding, tree-lined drive to find a lovely home in a clearing. I was there to meet goats, to learn about goats, to write about goats. Yet, there was not a goat in sight. Huh.
As I got out of my Jeep and looked around, I could see fenced areas with shelters. I could see hay. I could see feeders. But goats? None.
Just as I was starting to wonder if I was at the wrong address, Sharon Wilson emerged from her home with a warm greeting. We introduced ourselves, and I asked the obvious question, “Where are the goats?”
Sharon smiled as she glanced around. “They’re around here somewhere.”
She picked up a little bag of goat treats and started calling, “Goats! Here, goats!” I waited, I watched. It didn’t take long. One shake of the little bag of goat chow, and I heard the first bleat. Suddenly, like funny, little horned elves, Wilson’s Nubian goats stepped into the clearing to check us out.
At first, they seemed a little shy and unsure with strangers in their midst, but another rattle of the food bag did the trick; they scurried to us to collect on the promise of a quick snack. Suddenly, we were surrounded by curious faces and agile little lips gently and quickly nibbling goat pellets from our palms.
As we enjoyed their company, I talked with Wilson about her goats and why she considered them good pets. Our conversation, combined with information from other goat enthusiasts, led me to the creation of my top five reasons to (or not to!) add goats to your life.
Goats will likely give you an opportunity to meet your neighbors.
When considering sharing your life with goats, you need to know that they don’t always stay where you want them to. In fact, they could well be the best escape artists in the barnyard, and they do love to roam. You may even find them standing on your neighbor’s front porch.
According to Wilson, the majority of her little herd came to live with her because they were consistently escaping from their former home at Shepherd’s Cross, a nearby working farm. Because the farm was located near a busy road, the owners feared the wandering goats would be injured.
While Wilson admits that she hasn’t been 100 percent successful in keeping the goats contained, her 100-acre property allows the goats to roam safely, and they don’t seem to get into too much mischief. Because goats are at risk to predators, such as coyotes and stray dogs, Wilson does secure her goats in pens by the house each night.
The pens are enclosed with 6-foot-tall chain-link fencing that does keep the goats contained and safe when necessary. Standard stock fencing, like the fence at Shepherd’s Cross, is generally not adequate for thwarting determined goat escape attempts. I have personally seen a small goat hop on a hay bale to hop onto a horse’s back, allowing it to then hop right over a corral fence to freedom. The general consensus among goat owners I have talked with is a goat will almost always find a way out, no matter what type of fencing is used.
Goats are natural landscapers.
Goats are great for weed control. Wilson said she acquired her original two goats, Billy and Bobby, to help control weeds on her acreage. Goats are browsers whose diet consists of about 70 percent non-grassy plants and brush, so they do not compete with other grazing animals for grass and can actually improve lawn and pasture conditions.
At the same time, if you decide to plant a garden or ornamental landscaping around your home, your goats may see it as just another buffet line. Wilson was quick to point out that goats are smart, curious, and can be destructive. If you plan to invest in extensive landscaping, you might first want to invest in really secure goat fencing.
Goats just might teach your dog a thing or two about agility.
Once the picnic was over, the goats meandered away from us and into a fenced area where there were some pieces of equipment generally used for dog agility training. In this case, however, the agile dogs were agile goats.
They immediately displayed their climbing ability by scampering up a narrow ramp to perch atop the dog walk… um… goat walk, a 12-inch-wide plank positioned about 4 and a half feet off the ground. These guys could definitely win an Olympic gold medal in the balance beam competition. Three of them maneuvered around together on the plank with ease.
According to Wilson, if you are going to house goats, it is a good idea to build them plenty of things to climb on. If you don’t give them something to climb on, they will likely find something on their own. That something could very well be your car. Seriously. Goats will hop right onto your car. Wilson, and about a million other goat owners with slightly scratched and dented cars, can confirm this fact for you. She eyed my too-nearby-for-comfort, still-new-to-me Jeep with unconcealed concern. Thankfully, the goats decided to climb elsewhere during my visit.
If you want to have a pet goat, you should double your pleasure by having a pair of goats.
“Goats need companions,” advised Wilson. “You don’t want to have a solitary goat; you need at least two.” But be careful—without a little herd management, it can become a dozen goats in no time at all.
When Wilson originally decided to get goats for weed control on her property, she bought a pair, Billy and Bobby—neutered males, called “wethers” in goat-speak. When she added the goats from Shepherd’s Cross to her little herd, there were a few does and a buck named Joseph in the mix.
With Joseph’s “attention” (keeping it PG-13!), after about five months, the few goats suddenly became a herd of a dozen goats. Nubian goats often have multiple babies, so it is not unusual to see a doe give birth to twins or triplets. This means your herd can grow quickly.
Five of the babies were rehomed, as was the amorous Joseph, but apparently not before he wooed the ladies once again. With a sigh, Wilson pointed to a couple of the does who were displaying suspiciously large bellies.
It appears the stork will visit Wilson’s farm one more time in the coming months. There are few things cuter than baby Nubian goats with their huge, pendulous ears, bright eyes and mis-chievous antics. I do believe this story will require a follow-up visit, and I can’t swear I won’t leave with two baby goats in tow.
If you have goats for companions, get ready to laugh. A lot.
“Goats are clever, funny animals. Ours give us lots of laughs every single day,” Wilson said.
In just the time spent with Wilson and her crew, which includes Billy, Bobby, Mary, Molly, Emma, Sissy and Joey, I could easily understand the entertainment value of having goats around. Some were affectionate; some were shy; some were very curious—I actually cleaned goat lip smears off of my camera lens—and all were enthusiastic when it came to each goat claiming his or her share of the treats.
Honestly, I could have sat and watched this herd for hours. They bounced around, played, and loved climbing on their custom jungle gym, as well as on the agility equipment I suspect was really in place for Wilson’s beautiful Samoyed show dogs.
Of course, when considering adding any animal to your family, it is important to understand the specific care requirements of that animal before diving in headfirst. In addition to fencing challenges, and the need to have at least two goats for company, goats do have some specific diet and care requirements.
Wilson said that while she lets her goats graze freely on her property, she also supplements their diet with quality hay, alfalfa pellets and goat pellets. She also provides them with minerals essential to their health. And of course, fresh, clean water must be available at all times.
Goats also need to have their small, cloven hooves trimmed routinely and be wormed and vaccinated on a regular schedule. Wilson also counsels that you have to watch your goats carefully for any signs of illness, such as dullness or a yellow cast to their eyes, diarrhea, lack of appetite and any nasal discharge. As with any animal, early detection of illness is vital to their wellbeing, so diligent supervision is required.
Despite their hardiness, goats are susceptible to pneumonia during cold temperatures. Wilson stressed that goats need adequate protection from cold wind and damp weather. She has several straw-filled shelters in her pens, which allow her goats comfortable snuggle space out of wind and rain. She works to keep these shelters clean and the bedding dry and fresh.
If you are considering goats as weed-eating pets, information provided by Gary Pfalzbot, author of the website Goatworld.com, suggests it’s important to first define your expectations for a pet goat.
“If you are looking for a pet that sits in your lap while watching TV, a goat is not that kind of pet,” stresses Pfalzbot in an article on his site. “If you are looking for the type of pet that you need to pay very little attention to and feed perhaps once a day, a goat is not that kind of pet either.
“Having a goat as a pet primarily means that you are willing to let it be the type of animal it is—an outside animal that you cannot necessarily have sleeping on the bed with you each night. A goat basically needs to be outside in natural elements.”
Another important consideration when thinking of acquiring goats is to be sure that you live in an area where they are allowed and where you have proper habitat to allow them to thrive happily. For example, goats are not generally allowed within city limits and must be kept in areas that are zoned agricultural. A goat would not do well kept in a small enclosure in a backyard.
Wilson’s goats are all Nubians, a popular breed for goat enthusiasts. Nubians were developed as dairy goats with milk rich in butter fat. They are pleasant, friendly, people-oriented animals with a little spark of mischief readily visible in their eyes.
In a couple of months, when Mary and her other herd-mates deliver new, tiny, floppy-eared bundles of bouncing, prancing joy, I can’t swear I won’t be the first in line to see them and fall in love.
In the meantime, I’m heading to my home in the country to rethink my fencing just in case I “need” to add a couple of goats to my fold. For now, I’m still entirely too fond of my Jeep to even entertain the idea of my future goats tap dancing on the hood.

Homeless, But Not Hungry

posted February 7th, 2016 by
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Homeless, But Not Hungry

By Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

 

She was waiting patiently, lying on the grass in a patch of early morning sun. Her head resting on her front paws, she kept her brown eyes focused on the sidewalk where a steady stream of people were coming and going from a nearby church. She didn’t move a muscle; she wasn’t pulling against her leash; she wasn’t barking or whining.

I later found out that her name is Bella. She is 8 months old. She is the pride and joy of her owner, a slender, quiet young man named Stacy.

Stacy, who was initially too shy to even look at me, lit up when I complimented Bella’s sweet temperament and shiny coat. As the big puppy climbed into my lap and lavished my face with kisses, Stacy told me that a friend had given Bella to him a few months earlier. She had been a stray puppy. Now she was his best friend.

It’s a nearly perfect “boy and his dog” story except for one small issue; Stacy and Bella are homeless. I met Stacy and Bella during breakfast at Tulsa’s Iron Gate at Trinity Episcopal Church. Iron Gate is a non-profit organization housed in the basement of Trinity. Iron Gate’s mission is to provide food in a friendly environment every day for the hungry and homeless of Tulsa, regardless of race, color, creed or religious affiliation. Hundreds of people—old, young, and entire families—come to the organization’s soup kitchen and food pantry each week.

This story is not unique—many members of Tulsa’s homeless population have pets. According to Iron Gate Executive Director Connie Cronley, it is not unusual to see a number of dogs tethered outside the soup kitchen as their owners go in for a bite to eat. While you may think that life on the streets is not a good life for a pet, a little time around some of these dogs and their owners could easily change your mind.

Bella, for example, was a sweet, healthy, friendly dog. She has obviously received good care in her young life. She was leashed to a shopping cart that clearly held all of her owner’s possessions. Among those things was a bowl, a bottle of water, a dog bed, and a gallon zip-lock bag full of dog food. Bella’s owner is dedicated to taking care of his dog.

I asked Stacy if it was hard to find a place to sleep with a dog in tow. He just shrugged and said, “Not really. We figure it out.” I asked him if it was hard to care for Bella. Again, with a slight smile on his face, he said he got food for her from the dog catchers and then he glanced across the parking lot at a truck parked on the corner.

The “dog catchers” on duty were Tulsa Animal Welfare (TAW) Animal Control Officers Jeff Brown and Pete Theriot. Together with Field Services Supervisor Susan Stoker, they formed a support group known formally as Feeding the Pets of Tulsa’s Homeless (FPTH).

FPTH was officially founded in January of 2014 when Stoker received a large donation of dog food and asked Brown what he thought they should do with it. The TAW shelter is a division of the City of Tulsa and does not use food donations for city shelter dogs. Brown, however, had an idea.

In the past, Brown and other TAW employees had distributed donated pet food to Tulsa’s homeless population at various camp sites around the city. Brown suggested that this donated food could be used for the same purpose, and Stoker quickly agreed to the idea. With that first supply of donated food, FPTH was born.

“Initially, we would pull up to a camp or to an area where homeless people congregated, and they would all scatter,” Brown said. “They would take one look at our TAW trucks and assume we were there to take their animals away.” Brown said it took time and a lot of reassurance through word of mouth to assure the homeless citizens the animal control officers were not there to separate people from their pets, but instead to help provide for the animals.

Once trust was gained, and the program began to evolve, Brown found that rather than trying to take the food to various sites, it was more efficient to have specific distribution points. Now Tulsa’s homeless citizens can count on seeing the friendly faces of these dedicated TAW employees every Wednesday morning at Iron Gate, and also on Thursday evenings at Night Light Tulsa, a downtown community outreach program for homeless and low-income individuals and families. There are no  strings attached, no questions asked. If someone says they need pet food, they receive pet food.

“Between the two locations, we hand out nearly 4,000 pounds of dog food and about 1,200 pounds of cat food a month,” Brown said. The food is packaged into gallon zip-lock bags that are easy for the pet owners to carry in backpacks. Because the food is distributed weekly without fail, people can take just what they need for one week and don’t have to try to carry heavy bags.

Visits to both distribution sites made it clear the commitment of the people behind FPTH’s mission runs deeper than just the distribution of bags of pet food. Brown, Theriot and Stoker have forged relationships with many of their regulars.

“Hey, it’s the Dancing Man,” Brown exclaimed in the early morning chill at Iron Gate. The approaching man grinned as he recognized his nickname. Brown and the Dancing Man shook hands and clapped each other on the back. Theriot was already reaching into the truck to get the food he knew their visitor needed for his pets. This welcoming scene played out over and over as people steadily approached the truck to get their weekly ration of pet food.

“We like to interact with all of our friends in the homeless community,” explained Brown. “It’s our way of having a little fun and showing them that we are here to help. There’s too much bad in the world today. If we can put a smile on someone’s face or make someone’s day better by helping them care for their pets, we will.”

At both events, Brown, Theriot, Stoker and a few volunteers helping hand out the food and supplies seemed to be at a family reunion instead of at an outreach for homeless and low-income Tulsans. Heartfelt greetings were exchanged. Friendly dogs were admired and petted.

One man asked if there was anything for a young dog that was a powerful chewer. Brown immediately went to the front of his truck and produced a sturdy bone for   the man’s dog. “We’ve handed out leashes, dog coats, toys, food and anything we think might be helpful,” Brown said. During one two-hour event at Night Light Tulsa,  in addition to handing out food,        the TAW employees also had two big boxes of donated fleece blankets to distribute to the line of people waiting to stock up on pet food.

“The FPTH program relies 100 percent on donations from individuals, veterinarians and pet supply stores,” Brown said. “Without donations, we couldn’t keep this program going. Thanks to area veterinarians, we have also been able to hold clinics to provide vaccinations and wellness exams for these pets and hope to have more in the future.” 

The value of FPTH’s efforts needs no explanation. All you have to do is head downtown to see some of the dogs firsthand. Every dog I met was friendly, appeared healthy and in good condition.

When asked if they had ever taken in any animals from the homeless, Brown was quick to respond. “We have never had to take even one animal because of neglect or cruelty,” he said. “The homeless will take care of their pets before they take care of themselves. These animals are their life.”

What is clear to see when volunteering at Iron Gate or Night Light Tulsa, is that the definition of the word “home” doesn’t always mean four walls and a roof over your head. Sometimes home is the place where you find a loyal companion who trusts you and will stick by you no matter what. Now, thanks    to some very dedicated animal welfare officers and the generosity of donors, the word “homeless” does not have to include “hungry” in its definition.

Who Trained The Trainer?

posted November 7th, 2015 by
20141115c

How to Select a Qualified Dog Trainer

By Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

 

On two different occasions, I have been chatting with friends about dog training, and in the course of casual conversation, both people mentioned how stubborn their dogs were. I immediately questioned why they felt their dogs were being stubborn.

The answers were almost identical. “Because the moment my dog sees our trainer, he hides behind me. He’s just being stubborn and trying to avoid training.”

And this is the point where my heart falls to the floor. If your dog is not thrilled to the point of doing a happy dance to see your trainer, then something is wrong. If your dog does not see training as an opportunity to have fun with humans, again, something is very wrong.

Every dog is an individual training puzzle to be solved, and there are numerous techniques for training dogs. Modern training techniques should (and that is a huge “should”) focus on humane methods, positive motivation and teamwork between dog and handler. Nothing about training should make a dog want to be “stubborn.” And I’m here to tell you that when I’m presented with a “stubborn” dog, I can almost always replace that adjective with afraid, nervous, confused, stressed or frustrated.

Obviously, all dog trainers do not bring the same level of experience, skills and methods to the table. Dog training has evolved significantly over the past few decades to embrace positive, dog-friendly, motivation-based methods versus correction-based techniques. This transition has had a profound effect on not only training but on relationships between humans and their dogs.

Positive reinforcement training found its roots among exotic animal and marine mammal trainers. Think about it… If you can train a large predator, such as a killer whale or a tiger, by focusing on capturing and rewarding desired behaviors, there is no reason you can’t do the same with your dog.

This is especially important to consider when working with dogs demonstrating fear or aggression issues. As knowledge of animal behavior is strengthened through scientific research, the findings reveal that using aversive training methods when working with fearful or aggressive dogs can actually lead to worse behaviors. Meanwhile, the studies also show focusing on rewarding the animal during moments of appropriate behavior can alleviate fears and anxieties, boost confidence and help create more well-adjusted dogs.

This article, however, is not really about how to train your dog as much as it is about how to select someone to help you train your dog. Truth be told, anyone can hang out a shingle, claiming to be a professional dog trainer. This industry is not regulated, so it falls on the shoulders of dog owners to do their homework and do background checks.

For the dog owner looking in from the outside, it can be quite confusing to figure out which dog trainer will be the right match, which dog trainer has valid skills and ability to properly read a dog and construct a sound training plan. You look at websites; you talk with friends; perhaps your veterinarian has a recommendation.

What it boils down to is this: don’t be afraid to ask questions. You wouldn’t hire a babysitter without background information. You wouldn’t select a contractor to remodel your home without doing some research. The same diligence should hold true when selecting a dog trainer.

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization for people who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. The organization also offers great public information about different training methods, as well as suggestions for how to find responsible, reputable trainers.

According to APDT, it’s a good idea to use open-ended questions so that trainers can explain their personal experiences, methods, and philosophies to you in depth. Here is a list of questions you can use as an interview guide, some from APDT, some suggested by certified trainers in the Tulsa area:

How long have you been a professional dog trainer?

How/why did you become a dog trainer.

How long have you been training your own dogs? What types of things do you do with your own dogs? Have you achieved any titles through competing with your dogs in obedience, agility or other events?

What is your educational background in the area of dog training and behavior?

Have you recently participated in any continuing education or attended conferences or workshops?

What methods of training do you endorse?

If you teach group classes, may I come observe a class?

What type of equipment or training aids do you typically use?

Can you provide a list of references? (Clients and veterinarian references would be ideal.)

What professional associations do you belong to? If none, why?

What are your credentials, and do you have any certifications? If yes, through what organization? What are the requirements

for certification? (For example, the letters CPDT-KA following a trainer’s name stand for Certified Professional Dog Trainer -Knowledge Assessed, a certification through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.)

The answers to these questions can help you find a trainer who will help you achieve your goals with your dog, whether you just want a well-mannered companion, or whether you are having issues with your dog that need to be resolved.

Your dog is an important part of your family and your life. The guidance of a good trainer can help you understand the learning process from the dog’s point-of-view, so you can avoid the “stubborn dog” pitfalls and work toward nurturing a mutually-rewarding relationship.

Above all, remember that training with your dog should be fun for everyone involved. Listen to your gut. If you have a trainer asking you to do things that make you and/or your dog uncomfortable, perhaps it’s time to find a new trainer.

The Nitty Gritty on Nail Trims

posted October 17th, 2015 by
20141115c

The Nitty Gritty on Nail Trims

Pups and Pedicures

By Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

 

Get a pedicure?

You don’t have to ask me twice. Why, yes, I would love to have someone pamper me for an hour or so. Count me in.

Ask the same question to just about any dog? You might as well ask him if he’d like to be abandoned in a desert filled with wild animals and broken glass. The mere hint of a nail trim will generally result in a mixed look of pained shock and brimming terror clouding a dog’s normally trusting eyes.

And yet, keeping nails properly trimmed is important to the overall health and welfare of your dog. According to Dr. Patrick Grogan, medical director at VCA Woodland East Animal Hospital, nails allowed to grow too long can actually alter the way a dog plants his foot, causing discomfort, and potentially even a lack of desire to exercise properly.

Another risk of neglecting trims is that longer nails are more likely to snag on things, potentially causing the nail to break off into the quick, the fleshy cuticle inside the dog’s nail. Not only is this painful for your dog and potentially quite messy for you, there is a healthy blood supply in the quick. Dr. Grogan says that if a portion of the nail is still attached or the cuticle is exposed, the dog may have to be anesthetized so your veterinarian can treat the injury.

“Most dogs should have their nails trimmed about every six to eight weeks,” advises Dr. Grogan. “This can vary depending on the size and activity level of your dog. The nails of smaller dogs or less active dogs may grow out faster than larger, active dogs that get a lot of normal abrasion and wear on their nails.”

Dr. Grogan also says that regular trimming is required to not only keep a dog’s nails a good length but to also keep the quick from growing out too long. If nails are neglected and the quick is allowed to grow out, it can be very difficult to return the nail to a  proper length.

If you want to learn how to trim your dog’s nails yourself, Dr. Grogan suggests taking some time to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of a dog’s nail.  The fleshy, tender quick is wedge-shaped and follows the contour of the nail itself, almost like a smaller nail inside the nail.

“The part of the nail that can be safely trimmed generally hooks down a bit and is thinner at the point where it clears the tip of the quick,” Dr. Grogan says. “Ideally, you want to trim the nail two to three millimeters from the tip of the quick.”

If you are lucky and your dog has light colored nails, you can actually see the pink quick inside the nail. If your dog has black nails, it’s a bit trickier. Dr. Grogan suggests snipping just a little at a time.

If your dog will accept it, you can also use a grinder to smooth the tip and edges of the nails. If your dog’s nails are very long, trim them back first and then use the grinder to smooth the edges. Be sure to keep the grinder moving, just lightly tapping the dog’s nail. The sandpaper and friction get very hot if held to the nail surface too long and can cause discomfort.

OK, it’s one thing to know how to trim your dog’s nails, but it’s another issue to convince your dog it’s a good idea. Well, my certified-professional-dog-trainer take on  the situation is that with nail trimming, and many other important grooming tasks, we tend to take an ill-advised all-or-nothing, grab-‘em-and-force-‘em-to-accept-it approach with our puppies and dogs. Obviously, this is not the best of plans for the long haul.

Dr. Grogan and I agree that while most dogs do not naturally like to have their feet handled, you can teach them to accept nail maintenance with graceful resignation (don’t go so far as to expect tail-wagging joy). The key word here is “teach.”

It’s a great idea to spend some time prepping your dog for the idea of a nail trim. If you grab the dog and start issuing commands, pinning your dog to the floor, and grabbing his feet and trimming away, my guess is that you’re going to be met with some serious resistance that will get worse with every attempt.

But if you teach your dog to accept a nail trim in a positive fashion, it doesn’t have to be a battle. Think about it: if you go in for a pedicure, the technician doesn’t just grab you, pin you to a chair and start trimming your toenails. I know my pedicures start with a relaxing foot bath… a little massage… the offer of a cool beverage.

While your dog doesn’t necessarily need that level of spa pampering (or does he?), it’s a good idea to have your dog relax on the floor beside you while you give belly rubs and lightly touch each paw, rewarding with treats as you do so. The idea is to give your dog a very calm, positive experience in conjunction with having his feet handled.

The next step would be to touch the nail clippers to each toenail with plenty of calm praise and rewards sprinkled throughout  the process. When you feel ready to start trimming nails, Dr. Grogan offers some   great tips:

Purchase good nail clippers. You may want to ask your local pet supply store for recommendations.

With your dog in a calm environment, trim just one foot per day over the course of four days. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t rush the process.

Offer lots of treats and praise after each snip.

Enlist the aid of an assistant. One person distracts the dog and gives treats while the other person trims the nails.

If you do accidentally trim a nail too far back and see blood, don’t panic. While nails can bleed impressively, Dr. Grogan says it is not cause for huge concern. You can apply pressure for a few minutes, or you can apply a clotting powder like Quick Stop if you have it on hand.             Dr. Grogan says you can even just let your dog go relax outside or in an area where a little blood won’t be a problem. The nail should clot within 10 to 15 minutes.

In the event that you do cut into the quick, the trainer’s note here is to also try not to make it a big issue with your dog. Don’t panic and apologize like a crazy person. Talk calmly, reassure your dog and offer a good jackpot of treats to make amends for your mistake. Then take a break and try again in a day or so.

If you still feel a bit squeamish about diving in, ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim your dog’s nails. “We are always happy to show owners proper nail trimming techniques,” says Dr. Grogan.

If you aren’t willing and/or able to trim your dog’s nails yourself, there is no shame in leaving the procedure to the professionals. Your veterinarian will always be happy to give your dog a nail trim, or you can use the services of an experienced, professional groomer who will work with your dog to help him accept a little pedicure. When the pros are on the job, the trim is generally over before your dog even realizes what is happening.

If you have a dog who has had a previous bad experience during a nail trim, or one who is overly sensitive about having his feet handled, you may want to enlist the aid of a qualified dog trainer to work with your dog. A good trainer can help condition your dog to accept different types of handling and grooming procedures in a positive manner.

The overriding lesson is this: you teach your dog where to potty; you teach your dog what to chew and what not to chew; you teach your dog basic cues like sit, down, and to come when called. The teaching must continue when it comes to basic maintenance routines such as nail trims.

With a little work, a little patience, and perhaps a good number of hotdogs, you (or your veterinarian/groomer—it’s OK to bail) can give your dog a perfect pedicure. Keep calm and trim on.

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

posted September 18th, 2015 by

BY Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA

 

20150115 TulsaPets Magazine

Five Great Reasons To Get Your Goat

It was a pleasant drive to a spot in the country just outside of Claremore, Okla. I drove up a winding, tree-lined drive to find a lovely home in a clearing. I was there to meet goats, to learn about goats, to write about goats. Yet, there was not a goat in sight. Huh.

As I got out of my Jeep and looked around, I could see fenced areas with shelters. I could see hay. I could see feeders. But goats? None.

Just as I was starting to wonder if I was at the wrong address, Sharon Wilson emerged from her home with a warm greeting. We introduced ourselves, and I asked the obvious question, “Where are the goats?”

Sharon smiled as she glanced around. “They’re around here somewhere.”

She picked up a little bag of goat treats and started calling, “Goats! Here, goats!” I waited, I watched. It didn’t take long. One shake of the little bag of goat chow, and I heard the first bleat. Suddenly, like funny, little horned elves, Wilson’s Nubian goats stepped into the clearing to check us out.

At first, they seemed a little shy and unsure with strangers in their midst, but another rattle of the food bag did the trick; they scurried to us to collect on the promise of a quick snack. Suddenly, we were surrounded by curious faces and agile little lips gently and quickly nibbling goat pellets from our palms.

As we enjoyed their company, I talked  with Wilson about her goats and why she considered them good pets. Our conversation, combined with information from other goat enthusiasts, led me to the creation of my top five reasons to (or not to!) add goats to your life.

Goats will likely give you an opportunity to meet your neighbors.

When considering sharing your life with goats, you need to know that they don’t always stay where you want them to. In fact, they could well be the best escape artists in the barnyard, and they do love to roam. You may even find them standing on your neighbor’s front porch.

According to Wilson, the majority of her little herd came to live with her because they were consistently escaping from their former home at Shepherd’s Cross, a nearby working farm. Because the farm was located near a busy road, the owners feared the wandering goats would be injured.

While Wilson admits that she hasn’t been 100 percent successful in keeping the goats contained, her 100-acre property allows the goats to roam safely, and they don’t seem to get into too much mischief. Because goats are at risk to predators, such as coyotes and stray dogs, Wilson does secure her goats in pens by the house each night.

The pens are enclosed with 6-foot-tall chain-link fencing that does keep the goats contained and safe when necessary. Standard stock fencing, like the fence at Shepherd’s Cross, is generally not adequate for thwarting determined goat escape attempts. I have personally seen a small goat hop on a hay bale to hop onto a horse’s back, allowing it to then hop right over a corral fence to freedom. The general consensus among goat owners I have talked with is a goat will almost always find a way out, no matter what type of fencing is used.

Goats are natural landscapers.

Goats are great for weed control. Wilson said she acquired her original two goats, Billy and Bobby, to help control weeds on her acreage. Goats are browsers whose diet consists of about 70 percent non-grassy plants and brush, so they do not compete with other grazing animals for grass and can actually improve lawn and pasture conditions.

At the same time, if you decide to plant a garden or ornamental landscaping around your home, your goats may see it as just another buffet line. Wilson was quick to point out that goats are smart, curious, and can be destructive. If you plan to invest in extensive landscaping, you might first want to invest in really secure goat fencing.

Goats just might teach your dog a thing or two about agility.

Once the picnic was over, the goats meandered away from us and into a fenced area where there were some pieces of equipment generally used for dog agility training. In this case, however, the agile dogs were agile goats.

They immediately displayed their climbing ability by scampering up a narrow ramp to perch atop the dog walk… um… goat walk, a 12-inch-wide plank positioned about 4 and a half feet off the ground. These guys could definitely win an Olympic gold medal in the balance beam competition. Three of them maneuvered around together on the plank with ease.

According to Wilson, if you are going to house goats, it is a good idea to build them plenty of things to climb on. If you don’t give them something to climb on, they will likely find something on their own. That something could very well be your car. Seriously. Goats will hop right onto your car. Wilson, and about a million other goat owners with slightly scratched and dented cars, can confirm this fact for you. She eyed my too-nearby-for-comfort, still-new-to-me Jeep with unconcealed concern. Thankfully, the goats decided to climb elsewhere during my visit.

If you want to have a pet goat, you should double your pleasure by having a pair of goats.

“Goats need companions,” advised Wilson. “You don’t want to have a solitary goat; you need at least two.” But be careful—without a little herd management, it can become a dozen goats in no time at all.

When Wilson originally decided to get goats for weed control on her property, she bought a pair, Billy and Bobby—neutered males, called “wethers” in goat-speak. When she added the goats from Shepherd’s Cross to her little herd, there were a few does and a buck named Joseph in the mix.

With Joseph’s “attention” (keeping it PG-13!), after about five months, the few goats suddenly became a herd of a dozen goats. Nubian goats often have multiple babies, so it is not unusual to see a doe give birth to twins or triplets. This means your herd can grow quickly.

Five of the babies were rehomed, as was the amorous Joseph, but apparently not before he wooed the ladies once again. With a sigh, Wilson pointed to a couple of the does who were displaying suspiciously large bellies.

It appears the stork will visit Wilson’s farm one more time in the coming months. There are few things cuter than baby Nubian goats with their huge, pendulous ears, bright eyes and mis-chievous antics. I do believe this story will require a follow-up visit, and  I can’t swear I won’t leave with two baby goats in tow.

If you have goats for companions, get ready to laugh. A lot.

“Goats are clever, funny animals. Ours give us lots of laughs every single day,” Wilson said.

In just the time spent with Wilson and her crew, which includes Billy, Bobby, Mary, Molly, Emma, Sissy and Joey, I could easily understand the entertainment value of having goats around. Some were affectionate; some were shy; some were very curious—I actually cleaned goat lip smears off of my camera lens—and all were enthusiastic when it came to each goat claiming his or her share of the treats.

Honestly, I could have sat and watched this herd for hours. They bounced around, played, and loved climbing on their custom jungle gym, as well as on the agility equipment I suspect was really in place for Wilson’s beautiful Samoyed show dogs.

Of course, when considering adding any animal to your family, it is important to understand the specific care requirements of that animal before diving in headfirst. In addition to fencing challenges, and the need to have at   least two goats for company, goats do have some specific diet and care requirements.

Wilson said that while she lets her goats graze freely on her property, she also supplements their diet with quality hay, alfalfa pellets and goat pellets. She also provides them with minerals essential to their health. And of course, fresh, clean water must be available at all times.

Goats also need to have their small, cloven hooves trimmed routinely and be wormed and vaccinated on a regular schedule. Wilson also counsels that you have to watch your goats carefully for any signs of illness, such as dullness or a yellow cast to their eyes, diarrhea, lack of appetite and any nasal discharge. As with any animal, early detection of illness is vital to their wellbeing, so diligent supervision is required.

Despite their hardiness, goats are susceptible to pneumonia during cold temperatures. Wilson stressed that goats need adequate protection from cold wind and damp weather. She has several straw-filled shelters in her pens, which allow her goats comfortable snuggle space out of wind and rain. She works to keep these shelters clean and the bedding dry and fresh.

If you are considering goats as weed-eating pets, information provided by Gary Pfalzbot, author of the website Goatworld.com, suggests it’s important to first define your expectations for a pet goat.

“If you are looking for a pet that sits in your lap while watching TV, a goat is not that kind of pet,” stresses Pfalzbot in an article on his site. “If you are looking for the type of pet that you need to pay very little attention to and feed perhaps once a day, a goat is not that kind of pet either.

“Having a goat as a pet primarily means that you are willing to let it be the type of animal it is—an outside animal that you cannot necessarily have sleeping on the bed with you each night. A goat basically needs to be outside in natural elements.”

Another important consideration when thinking of acquiring goats is to be sure that you live in an area where they are allowed and where you have proper habitat to allow them to thrive happily. For example, goats are not generally allowed within city limits and must be kept in areas that are zoned agricultural. A goat would not do well kept in a small enclosure in a backyard.

Wilson’s goats are all Nubians, a popular breed for goat enthusiasts. Nubians were developed as dairy goats with milk rich in butter fat. They are pleasant, friendly, people-oriented animals with a little spark of mischief readily visible in their eyes.

In a couple of months, when Mary and her other herd-mates deliver new, tiny, floppy-eared bundles of bouncing, prancing joy, I can’t swear I won’t be the first in line to see them and fall in love.

In the meantime, I’m heading to my home in the country to rethink my fencing just in case I “need” to add a couple of goats to my fold. For now, I’m still entirely too fond of my Jeep to even entertain the idea of my future goats tap dancing on the hood.

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