Sunday, February 27, 2011

Look! Sun!!


It seems like it's been forever since we've seen much sun where I live.  The winter is usually bleak, but this one has been harsher than usual.  We've had less sun, more snow, and colder temperatures than I can remember having in a number of years.  It started snowing here on December 4 and except for two brief thaws that gave us approximately two days of some patches of grass, the ground has been covered in snow.  That's nearly three months of constant snow on the ground.  Even for this area of the country, that's unusual.

Well, we've finally seen a bit of sun!  It didn't last long (one day last weekend; one day this weekend), but it's something.  The sun is getting higher in the sky and felt wonderfully warm today.  Here's to hoping for some more sun soon!  *raises can of Diet Coke*  I need the snow to melt before St. Patrick's Day.  See, I bought silly things to put on Dahlia for a photo shoot and somehow it just won't look Irish if the pictures are taken in a foot of snow!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Dominance training" is silly

I've recently come to the conclusion that the entire idea of "dominance training" is silly.  Now, mind you, I'm not talking about the type of folks who alpha roll their dogs or who use harsh physical punishments to "teach them their place."  Those folks are whole different kettle of fish.  I'm talking about people who feel the need to somehow demonstrate to their dog that they're the boss, the alpha, the top dog, the dog about town, or what have you, usually by doing something they would feel utterly embarrassed to be caught at.

Here's a pretty simple one straight out of Jan Fennell's The Dog Listener:

By ensuring they eat first at meal times, the Alpha pair signal in unequivocal terms that they are the leaders. By giving their leaders first refusal at every meal time, the rest of the pack are acknowledging that they instinctively understand this. Even if there is only enough food for two wolves, the pack will expect the Alpha pair to eat it all to ensure the survival of the pack.

Gesture eating is my way of demonstrating the owner's primacy at feeding time.

The basic gist is that you pretend you're eating something, even part of their own food if necessary, to show them that you can eat first, to show them that the "alpha pair" always eat first.  Try this with your dog sometime and see how silly you feel pretending to eat something to prove something so abstract to a dog who is probably sitting there thinking nothing more than "mmmm food."

Here's another fantastic suggestion from someone commenting on a "tip" about resource guarding.

For example. If my dog is not sharing the food dish i do not “alpha roll” him or put him into the submissive position. I get down on “all fours” and place my head over the top of his, so that my [sic] he is looking at my neck. And then i proceed to back him away from the dish, allowing the other dog to eat.

Now do me a favor and really think about this for a moment.  Let's forget for a second that if a dog has a real resource guarding problem this is sure to result in your getting bit, likely in that neck that the dog is looking at (a place on your body that could result in your getting severely injured, or even killed, and will most certainly end with the death of the dog).  But think about getting down on all fours and pretending you're a dog to somehow "dominate" your dog away from his food.  How silly would you feel if someone came into the room while you were doing that?  I know I'd feel ridiculous even if no one was around to watch.  And I'm pretty sure I'd get laughed at by anyone with any sort of training background.

Other suggestions I have seen range from the misunderstood (playing tug with your dog is not about competition and if the toy ends up with the dog and not you, it doesn't mean he has "won") to the ridiculous (a dog getting on the furniture does not mean he thinks he's the "alpha") to the downright creepy (one trainer suggested humping your dog to show that you're the dominant one).

I'm not really sure how people can believe such silliness.  So have you ever read anything that just made you scratch your head or giggle?  Let's hear it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A post I didn't want to make

"Since our hair match so well. The dog
started humping my head like a wild
beast." -- Kevin Salem
Some of you may remember that once, long ago, I wrote a blog post about being careful about who you went to training for. This all originally came about because I was looking for places to train in agility and was having a hard time finding someplace that seemed to fit my ideal (positive training, dogs and people having fun). On a lark, I googled the name of someone who had recently been disparaging positive trainers by calling them "cookie trainers" and writing long diatribes about how awful they were.

I really didn't expect to find much. But imagine my surprise when I discovered a world of horror surrounding Kevin Salem! I used him, along with Fred Hassen of Sit Means Sit, as primary examples of what to watch out for. While I don't care for Hassen's business at all, I do have to respect the fact that he made one comment to me (a disparaging, ridiculous one) and left it at that.

Salem, on the other hand, obviously doesn't have the confidence in his own business or training to let it go. Instead of laughing it off, it made him enraged. So enraged that he has been harassing me since October 2009. Many of the first messages he wrote to me were misogynstic in nature, alternately calling me a whore and telling me I need to get laid, insulting my imagined heritage, even my hair color. Here I present to you a few select quotes from the e-mails sent to me, and I apologize ahead of time for the crude content.

Would you sell your pussy at that hell call center for FREE? F*ck no, you wouldn't. Even your red pubic hair got some bills to pay.

Fast forward to three years from now: you are still suckling ... Oops. I misspelled that. my English teacher. c*ck at some call center.

That's what happens when you work ten jobs. No time for getting laid.

How sad. I hope you're not a chick with dick. That would totally ruin it for me and I will go away then for sure. (Shhhhhh. Don't tell nobody. All these dikes are or is it dyke? You would know. They are all jealous of my mullet. Mine is long, soft, shiny and manageable.) What do you use? VO5?

Is that what you wanted to hear? That's what happens when the carpet matches the drapes.

These are just a small smattering of the comments that have come my way since October 2009, when he launched his attacks against me.

Since then, he has threatened lawsuits (come to find out his "lawyer" is really just a barista), gone after my partner, and generally made a nuisance of himself. His latest endeavor is to disparage my dog training business.

What? you ask. What dog training business?

That's right, gentle readers, the dog training business I do not have. As anyone who reads my blog or who knows me in real life knows, I do not have a dog training business. I train my dog and occasionally help out others with their training. I have studied a lot about dog training but only in order to further the training of my own dog. I hope to foster dogs someday and will be able to put all of that study and work to good use, but at the moment there is really only one dog that I regularly train: Dahlia. And since she can't read fake reviews online by someone who claims to have boarded their dog (in an apartment that I do not live in anymore because I couldn't have dogs there), I'm not terribly worried. Hell, if I did board and train dogs in that apartment I would have had a lot more to worry about than some fake reviews by a jerk like Kevin Salem. I would have been fined $1000 and evicted.

But ultimately, I'm not in the business of dog training. It's a hobby for me. It's a hobby that I'm incredibly passionate about, but it's not a business and nor has it ever been.

So Kevin? You're wasting your time. You haven't fazed me one bit. The original post still stands.  Maybe I'll take this one down though if you stop your harassment.

Wordless Wednesday: The "I'm gonna laugh at you" version


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Barry Park Snowman

Dahlia and I frequently take long walks in and around Barry Park.  On January 29, Dahlia and I were headed into the park when we saw this fabulous snowman, complete with snowy top hat, made up on the small hill at the entrance to the park.  I was so impressed I got a photo of it.


Then we had a few days of slightly above freezing weather.  The snowman melted a bit.  The top hat fell off and soon the head followed.  I thought that was the end of it.  But then on February 12, I drove by the park on my way to the store and discovered that the snowman had been remade.

It was now a Hula Snowgirl.


I was most impressed with this, as you can imagine!  Someone has some great creativity.  The lei around her waist was made up of trash bags of various colors.  The "skirt" were reeds plucked from around the nearby pond.  The hat was made up of parts of those same reeds and fake flowers.  It was a most impressive display!

And then last Friday we had a huge thaw.  Much of our snow melted (though not all of it!) and the hula snowgirl had melted into just a big lump.  The decorations were removed from it and it was just sad reminder of the neat snowmen that had appeared in the park.

But then on Sunday, I again went by the park and discovered that the snowman had taken on yet one more incarnation.

Snow face!


The snow face currently still stands.  I'm looking forward to seeing what might come of it next!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On dogs and comfort

Last Monday I got some dreadful news.  It wasn't news that was entirely unexpected, but it was news that we were hoping with all our might would not come to fruition.  I received the news while at work and after hearing it, I went back to my desk.

And I stared at the computer screen for a moment.

And I thought "If anyone tries to talk to me, if anyone tries to get something out of me, if anyone is rude or nasty, they are going to get a nasty tongue-lashing."  This sort of attitude is, of course, not really conducive to being in the work place.   While sitting there allowing these thoughts to ruminate, everything sort of blanked out.  I was left with one thought:

Get home to Dahlia.

I left work immediately.  I knew in that moment, when my world had come crashing down around me, that the one creature on this earth that would offer the exact kind of comfort I needed was my dog.

What is it about dogs that make them so comforting in such a horrible moment?

Is it that they offer wordless support?  They cannot ask questions.  They cannot murmur meaningless platitudes.  They cannot try to get your mind off of it.

Is it that they have soft fur and allow you to cuddle with them and cry into that fur without getting annoyed?  They won't tell you to buck up.  They won't look impatient or uncomfortable upon hearing your news.

Is it that taking them out for a walk makes you breathe easier?  Or maybe that it makes you think about other things as you watch your dog walk merrily along, sniffing anything in her path and bounding into the snow with gleeful abandon?

Maybe it's all of those things.  Maybe it's more. Whatever it is that makes dogs so comforting, I'm glad for it.  After taking a long walk in the afternoon snow with Dahlia, I felt much better about everything.  No, the news is still not good.  But I was able to free myself of the burden for a little while and just enjoy watching my dog be a dog.