Four Feet and Food

A blog about life and training with dogs


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Chile’s World 7.29.19

Flores2018-3

Hi Friends, Chile here again.  I’ve been thinking more about my complaint from last week.  I understand now why my mom needs to tell other humans about what we went through with my separation anxiety so they can better help their dogs.  But, as the canine side of the equation, I feel like I should also tell the story from my point of view.  I have to warn you it may be a bit difficult to read.  I struggled a lot with the gremlins that came over me when I was alone and really bad things happened. Don’t worry, I’m still here to tell you about it and I DID get better.  So there is a happy ending.  But there is a lot to tell and I can’t do it in just one post.

CRATE EXPECTATIONS

Going all the way back to the beginning, more than 16 years ago, I would say that I always had some trouble being left alone.  It’s strange to say but there really was no reason that we knew of it was just the way things were.  My mom loved me, of course, and let me sleep on her bed and did all the things humans should do with their dogs.  Her love did not cause my problem.    In every other respect, I was a normal, outgoing, and extremely confident puppy.  I feel I should also mention I was absolutely adorable, even back then. When I was very young, mom started to train me to be comfortable in my crate.  She wasn’t a professional trainer yet.  That came later after everything we went through together. But she had read lots of books and things on the internet saying it was good to crate train your puppy. I learned to like being in there and could sleep there through the night until she took me out in the morning.  I could also be in there while she was home.  Although I thought that was kind of weird because why wouldn’t I just be in her lap? Humans do strange things though and I just let that one go. But when she would leave me in my crate all alone in the house that was when the bad things happened. When my mom would get home she would often find my blankets and me drenched in drool (and I am NOT a drooling dog!) Sometimes I even had accidents in the crate even though I always went to the bathroom outside when she was home.  One day I got so scared and panicked when she was gone that I ripped out two of the bars on the metal crate and squeezed my body through the tiny opening.  My mom and dad were so confused when I met them at the front door when they got home.  They couldn’t figure out how I had gotten out because the crate door was still closed.  Then my dad found the two bars inside the crate.  At the same time my mom picked me up and I screamed because I had bruised my ribs while getting out (and cracked a few teeth).  She cried a lot that night because she thought it was her fault. I licked her face so that she would know it wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t mine either.  It was the gremlins.

THE LAUNDRY ROOM MASSACRE

After that, they tried leaving me alone without the crate.  They made a safe place for me in the laundry room with my bed, toys, water bowl, and some treats.  My mom knew I wouldn’t like the door being closed so she put a baby gate there instead.  It was a nice gesture and a comfortable space. UNTIL they left me there by myself.  Again, I met them at the front door when they got home. I was running around panicked and there was blood EVERYWHERE.  My mom tried to check me to make sure I was ok and then my dad found out what happened.  While scaling the baby gate to get out of the laundry room, I had caught the toenail on my back paw and yanked it out completely. It was painful but, again, when the gremlins took over I had no control over what I was doing.  Thankfully I was ok and the wound where my nail was healed quickly.

STOP THE PANIC

That terrible incident helped my mom finally realize that we needed to resolve this issue and that, in the meantime, I could not be left alone.  She was a little slow to come to that conclusion but don’t hold it against her—she is only human.  I’ll have to stop this story right here for now because it’s almost time for my dinner and if I don’t start barking fifteen minutes beforehand they might serve it late.  But I will leave you with this, friends: from the moment my mom decided that I could not be left alone until I was comfortable, my whole life (and hers) changed for the better.  You’ll start to learn more about our journey to recovery in my next post!

 


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Chile’s World 07.24.19

Hi Friends, Chile here, and I have another complaint today.  It’s about my mom’s job.  Don’t get me wrong, I know she’s doing good work and helping dogs with separation anxiety and their humans all over the world. The job itself is not my issue.  You see, while she’s “working” she talks about ME– a lot! I’m ok with that part too.  Why wouldn’t she talk about me?  After all, I am fabulous and the most important thing in the world to her.  BUT why does she always have to talk about problems from my past?

Day in and day out I have to listen to her talking to people on the phone or on the computer about all the things that used to happen when I was left alone. It’s like she forgets that I’m a completely different dog than I was back then. She knows that I can completely relax on my own when she leaves now (she thinks I don’t know about the camera on the fireplace…but, of course, I know). She says that she tells people about how anxious I used to be because they have dogs that feel that way too and it gives them encouragement that their dogs can learn to feel more comfortable alone just like I did. She also tells me that I’m still the worst separation anxiety case she’s ever seen and that if I could get better there is great hope for any other dog. I think that’s a little rude but I’m sure she doesn’t mean it to sound that way. Did I mention I’m the most important thing to her?

It’s true that I used to panic as soon as she left my sight. I don’t know why; it just happened. It’s like a little gremlin took over and I was no longer in control of the things I did or what happened to me. I know it was very upsetting for my mom (and later my dad too when he came into the picture) but to her credit, she never yelled at me or punished me no matter what happened while she was gone because she knew it wasn’t my fault. I hear her tell this to the people on the computer too. So hopefully that helps them understand that it’s not their dogs’ fault and that they should never reprimand their dog for what the gremlins made them do while they were alone.

Ok, I guess it makes sense that she has to talk about my history and the embarrassing things that happened to help other dogs and their people. I just wish she would also talk about all the great things I’ve done, and how pretty and smart I am. Does she tell them about how I went to college too? She claims that she took me to classes with her because I couldn’t be alone but I know she needed me there to help her study. I also went to college parties. Oh, the stories that I could tell! But I won’t do that to my mom. I won’t tell stories about her past. But she should talk a little bit more about how I’m the best dog in the world.


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Why my dogs don’t know “No!”

no means no

A friend and I were recently walking out my front door while my dog, Kona, was close at our heels.  She turned around and told him “no”.  I told her that word means nothing to him and asked him to “back up” instead (a behavior he knows well).  This sparked the conversation of “you’re a dog trainer, how does your dog not understand the word ‘no’?”  My simple answer is “because he’s never been taught what that means”. 

Dogs are not born with an inherent knowledge of the human language or culture.  Can they learn a word by the context in which it is delivered?  You bet!  But it’s up to us to attach some useful information to that word to help them navigate our world where we expect them to live within our expectations.  If I yelled “no!” at Kona in a stern tone would he immediately stop what he was doing? He might stop in that instant but what is he supposed to do after that?  It’s not really fair for me to tell him to stop doing something without providing any follow up information.

How many of us have had this conversation with our significant other:

You:  What do you want for dinner?
SO:  I don’t know. What do you want?
You:  How about Chinese food?
SO: No.
You:  Ok, how about Mexican?
SO: No.
You:  Then why don’t YOU pick something!

It’s frustrating when someone tells you “no” without providing an alternative isn’t it?  Without any additional information you don’t know what to do next.  Is he/she saying “no” to Chinese food because they aren’t hungry or because they don’t like Chinese?  Did they just eat Mexican for lunch and don’t want it again for dinner? WHAT DOES IT MEAN??  Without any additional information you have no idea what to do next!  It’s the same for our dogs.  “No” doesn’t hold any weight unless you’ve associated a meaning to it for a specific behavior.

It is very common for us humans to think “no” can be just a blanket term for “stop what you’re doing this instant” (and don’t do it again) but in reality, most dogs have no idea what that means and are just responding to the tone of our voices.  I have taught my dogs many useful behaviors that are all on cue, meaning they have a word or signal attached to them. I have taught them to problem solve and to respond to my cues.  I taught them all of this through positive reinforcement training based on mutual trust and respect.

I have never had the need to teach my dogs “no” because it has no use in our relationship.  Do my dogs do things on occasion that I might not like?  Of course!  But that’s where the other behaviors they know come into play.  I will discuss some alternate behaviors you can teach to prevent unwanted behaviors in a follow up post.  In the meantime, if anyone has a solution to the ongoing “what do you want for dinner?” debate with your SO, please share in the comments!


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A little change in perspective (but not so little)

When I originally started this blog, it was meant to be a way for me to document the way I was feeding my pets while also helping other people who were looking for ways to improve their pets diet and well-being.  Since my last post, which was a long time ago, I embarked on a journey to not only help people keep their pets healthy by feeding them a good diet but also helping to improve their overall health by learning a different approach to training and behavior modification.

When I decided I wanted to get my certification as a professional dog trainer I searched around the internet a lot and found a lot of different schools.  There is no real governing body that oversees the industry so anyone can call themselves a “professional dog trainer” but there are a lot of schools out there willing to sell you a certification.  I reached out to people in my dog loving community (which was WAY smaller at that time than it is now) and told them what I wanted to do and asked their opinions.  During my research I came across the Karen Pryor Academy.  I read a little bit about their philosophies and programs.  What really stood out for me in this school was their “no aversives” approach to training, meaning no choke, pinch or shock collars.  No corrections.  This was exactly the kind of training I was looking for, these were MY people.

I really want to post more about my journey going through the Karen Pryor Academy because it is, and continues to be, so exciting for me but there’s just so much to write!

So to begin with I want to explain why I am so averse to aversives:  When Chile was about three years old (she’s now twelve) I decided to take her to a “professional” dog trainer to help me make her stop doing things that I didn’t want her doing (barking at the doorbell, pulling on her walks, barking at other dogs, etc).  The first thing this trainer did was take off Chile’s body harness and put a choke collar on her.  I was about 23 years old at that time and my only excuse is, I did not know any better.  I had paid for 5 sessions with this trainer but after the second session decided I didn’t like her methods (popping/choking Chile every time she didn’t obey a command and giving her praise and treats when she did) so I stopped going. We did, however, keep the choke collar on Chile while we walked her even after we stopped the lessons.  In our minds it was helping us to have more “control” over her while we were outside.  Long story a little shorter; pulling on the choke collar resulted in Chile getting a herniated disc in her neck. Chile was in indescribable pain for days, even on medication, before we finally got her in for surgery to fix the disc.  Any disc/back problem is always a risk with a dachshund, but one that was the result of equipment I chose to put on her was pretty much the most horrible feeling in the world. Needless to say, Chile has never been walked on anything other than a body harness since then and I have been an advocate of only using positive reinforcement training, although nine years ago I didn’t really know what that meant.

Again, the bottom line is, I just did not know any better when I started using the choke collar as a tool for training and there are so many people out there who are in the same boat.  I thought I was doing what was best for my dog by taking her to this professional trainer and followed what she told me to do.  I was seeing improvements in the behaviors I wanted to change so I continued to use the tool, even though I stopped seeing the trainer.  There was no one around at that time to tell me there were other ways that I could teach the behaviors I wanted while building a stronger relationship with my dog at the same time.  So now I love telling anyone who will listen, there is another way!  A way that makes your dog an active learner in the process and gets you both to the training goal you want to achieve in a fun and positive way!

I plan to post a lot more about the things I’ve learned but for an overview of the methods and philosophies you can checkout: CK6F3314http://www.clickertraining.com/

And my very own training website!: http://www.doggyeinsteinstraining.com/


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Feeding Raw Should NOT be scary!

 

http://pippamattinson.com/are-vets-driving-raw-feeders-away/

The above link is a great post about feeding your dog raw food. If you ask your vet about feeding raw vs kibble/canned diet and he or she’s answer is an immediate “raw food is bad” I strongly advise you find a new vet. A raw diet is not recommended for all dogs (especially if their immune systems are already compromised) but for an overall healthy dog it’s certainly worth looking into. Feeding your dog a raw diet poses no more of a health risk to you than preparing meat to cook for yourself. Chile has been on a raw diet for over 6 years now and I can’t begin to list all the positive changes we’ve seen in her health.  I’ve had people tell me that they “tried feeding raw” and that their dog got an upset stomach so they stopped.  As with any change in an animal’s diet you have to do so gradually.  A dog’s gastrointestinal system is designed to handle raw meats and bones you just have to introduce it slowly to give  their bodies time to adjust from all the processed food they’ve been fed their whole lives.  When Chile was on a “high-quality” (read: EXPENSIVE) commercial processed food diet (kibble and canned) it seemed as though anytime she ate something out of the ordinary (even the smallest piece of cheese that she found on the floor) she would have diarrhea for days.  This made me very anxious at the thought of switching to a completely different RAW way of feeding.  I was in absolute shock that gradually adding in raw food and eventually converting completely, gave Chile little to no stomach problems.  In fact since we’ve had her on a total raw diet, her bouts with gastrointestinal distress are almost non-existent.  Also, no one we know has ever had salmonella poisoning from being in our house or around our pets.

Chile, Chief of Salivary Operations, enjoying a beam


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Some HONEST treats

Although I love giving Chile homemade treats, I also appreciate being able to buy certain store bought treats to give her a little variety.  I’ve mentioned a few other brands that I have researched but I would have to say, when it comes to packaged treats, there is no company I trust more than The Honest Kitchen.  The Honest Kitchen (THK) also makes excellent quality dog and cat food that I have fed Chile in the past but since she’s now on a homemade diet we only purchase the treats.   THK has a wide variety of treats but the two that suit Chile best (the right texture and ingredients) are Wishes and Beams.  Both products are made from a single fish product.  Wishes are 100% wild-caught Icelandic Haddock and Beams are 100% wild-caught Alantic catfish skins.  I love that the fish are responsibly and sustainably fished and that there are no other added fillers.

Wishes are dehydrated haddock fillets that are easy to break into smaller pieces for whatever size dog you have.

Wishes

We were first introduced to Wishes when we attended a fundraiser for the local Pug Rescue where THK had a booth set up.  Chile is obviously not a pug but she likes to support the adoption of all breeds of dogs 🙂  The product representative offered Chile a few of the normal “biscuit” type treats (which are also made with high quality ingredients) but she turned her nose up at each one.  I was quite familiar with most of THK products having bought most of the treats for Chile myself but ended up giving them to friends for their dogs since she wouldn’t eat them.

The rep went under the table and pulled out a new bag of treats I hadn’t seen before, called Wishes.  As soon as she opened the bag Chile’s ears and nose perked up.  She was definitely interested in THOSE treats and gobbled them down.  The rep told me they were new and they didn’t have any sample bags so I ran down to Dexter’s Deli the next day to find some.  Unfortunately they don’t keep them in stock, it’s a small store, but they’re always happy to order anything for us.  We’ve been buying Wishes for Chile ever since.   Of course they do smell rather fishy, being made purely of fish, but the scent doesn’t linger long.

Chile standing ready for some Wishes at The Honest Kitchen's booth

Chile standing ready for some Wishes at The Honest Kitchen’s booth

Beams are a relatively new product of THK.  When I read on their Facebook page that they were coming out with a chewy treat that could be an alternative to chicken jerky or bully sticks I was pretty excited.  When I saw them in the store, however, I was a little disgusted.  Fish skins aren’t the most appetizing thing to look at let alone smell.  The nice lady working at the counter of Dexter’s Deli gave me a sample of a stinky fish Beam to take home to Chile.  Chile absolutely loved the sample I gave her so, of course, Beams are always on the Dexter’s Deli list too.  Be warned though, these are even stinkier than the Wishes and they are chewier so they take a dog Chile’s size (12 lbs) a bit longer to eat.  Any surface she eats them on smells like fish if it’s not cleaned right away.  When we take Chile to restaurants we like to bring along a toy or a chew to keep her busy but Beams are not really restaurant friendly because the stench travels.  At home, however, we are more than happy to deal with the smell because she loves to chew on them so much.  Another HUGE plus with the Beams is that they don’t upset Chile’s stomach no matter how big  of  a chunk she swallows.  Other chews I’ve given her in the past have caused all kinds of gastrointestinal distress because she’ll chew them down until they’re just small enough and then gulp them down as if she were a pelican.  I usually try to take away any treats that she doesn’t chew down all the way to prevent problems later but sometimes she is just too quick and I also hate having to throw away a quarter of every treat I give her.  She has had no problem at all with any size Beam she’s forced down her gullet.   Although you should always closely supervise your dog when giving any kind of chew, it’s nice peace of mind to know I don’t have to wrestle the last bit of soggy fish skin away from her when she’s about to swallow it.

Although Wishes and Beams might be considered on the pricey side to some ($8.99-$12.99 depending on the size of the bag) they are definitely worth every penny for the high-quality, human-grade ingredients that are healthy for your dog and responsibly sourced so they are healthy for the environment too.

Chile, Chief of Salivary Operations, enjoying a beam

Chile, Chief of Salivary Operations, enjoying a beam


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Chile’s Chicken Jerky

Yesterday I finally got around to making some homemade chicken jerky.  It was very easy and turned out pretty good for a first try.  Just like the sweet potato chews this is probably much faster with a food dehydrator but the giant cupboard in the garage where I keep my kitchen gadgets is approaching maximum capacity and an oven seems to do the job just fine.

The instructions are as follows:

  • Pre-heat oven to 210 degrees
  • Cut boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces into 1/4 inch (or preferred size strips)
  • Lightly grease a cookie sheet with olive oil to prevent sticking.  I covered the cookie sheet with foil for easier clean up and brushed it lightly with some EVOO.
  • Place chicken strips in a single layer on the cookie sheet as spread out as possible.

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  • Place cookie sheet on middle rack of the oven and check on the strips after about thirty minutes. (The “recipe” I found online said 20 minutes, mine were not even CLOSE to being jerky at 20 mins).
  • Continue checking on the strips every thirty minutes until they are firm and look chewy.  I had VERY small strips and pieces, it took about 3 hours and 30 minutes. 

The pieces did harden up a bit after I turned off the oven too. 

I’ve stored them in the refrigerator because I’m not sure how long they will last at room temperature without any preservatives. 

Chile absolutely loved them and I don’t have to worry about any recalls !

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