I can’t believe another year is almost over. I know, it is such cliché talk, but it’s true. Time flies. At least for us it does, perhaps because we are so busy. Although there are days I wish had more hours in it, I am thankful that everyone in our family has work; enough income to pay the bills with a little left over. In today’s world, that and health make any year a good one.
Of course, there were ups and downs. It is life. Losing our beloved Aussie Davie to cancer in March was a big blow that still sideswipes us periodically, especially when something strongly reminds us of her – a certain place, or a song that has a special meaning. Last week our favorite grocery store played Robbie William’s version of “The Things we Used to Do”, which was Davie and my Freestyle song we danced to. Happy-sad moment.
The highlight of the year was in August, when our daughter who lives 5000 km away came for a visit. We had a wonderful time exploring Cape Breton and traveling one of the most beautiful coastal highways in the world. Of course Will came along.
The remainder of the year was journeying a smooth path, spotted here and there with interesting dog-related information and products I want to share with you.
My favorite new walking tool is the Freedom Harness I discovered recently thanks to dog guru Pat Miller. I already mentioned it in my post "Tools of the Trade", and the more I use it, the more I like it. You can check it out at Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers.
Another product that really works is the Wysong Denta Treat Powder - I get mine at the Bark and Fitz in Halifax. It is an oral health- promoting supplement for canines and felines that is sprinkled on kibble. I skeptically started using it for our 10-year-old Will in September, and am amazed by the results. Her teeth are visibly cleaner, whiter and gums healthier.
The Lickety Stick caught my eye last month while shopping for dog food and training treats at Global Pets in Truro. If you picture a roll-on deodorant you get an idea how it functions, except instead of a pleasant smelling stink neutralizer it releases a natural tasty liquid the dog can lick. I can see it work nicely with polite leash manner training, but also to change a nervous dog’s mind about a hand reaching for him. Many of my consultations involve dogs that bite, and specifically hands. Dogs, it seems to me, are increasingly more suspicious of hands and I believe that is because the famous Dog Whisperer demonstrates that hands should pin and poke, not gently stroke and deliver a food treat or toy. Even though I like the Lickety Stick, I won't use it much, because it is made by PetSafe, the leading shock collar manufacturer, and that puts me in moral conflict; enough to stay away from their good products as well.
Those are the things that stuck out, but I also found a bunch of mention-worthy information. There are many websites that advance the gentle and dog friendly treatment of our hairy sidekicks, but two I especially liked: www.domesticatedmanners.com is based in the UK and has really good video clips, including one on how to desensitize a dog to a wear a muzzle, and one how to teach “drop it”.
The other, www.trulydogfriendly.com, is an international directory of, as the name implies, truly positive dog trainers. Unlike some other groups and associations that don’t always screen if everyone follows their mission statement, or are all-inclusive to begin with and accept anyone who can hold a leash regardless how aversive the method is they use, joining this one is by referral only. Yours truly made the cut, but is not yet listed because, I was told, the site is managed by volunteers and updating can be a tad slow. Understandable, but I hope they’re finding the time so that more and more dog owners can locate a truly positive dog pro in their area.
And of course there were books. There are always books. My favorite one this year was “Alex and Me” by Irene Pepperberg. It is actually not about dogs, but an African Grey Parrot, Alex, and Dr. Pepperberg, a scientist curious about bird brains. Alex stands for Avian Language Experiment. I loved the book because it is science-based and therefore the findings documented and verified, while at the same time it is written in a conversational and easy comprehendible style. Alex’ level of cognition astounded many, even critics, and because he was able to use English words proving what he was capable of was easier than it is for our dogs who can’t speak our language. I often wonder what they would tell us were they anatomically equipped to talk like we do, or Alex? I mean, their communication is quite clear, but still, it is not our own and we can never be 100 percent sure if what we think our dog thinks is accurate.
“The Scent of Desire” by Rachel Herz is also not about dogs, but about the sense of smell. I was surprised how intensely it impacts so many aspects of human life. How much more important must it be for dogs who have a much keener sense of smell than we do. Especially the chapter on pheromones was super interesting. It explained how they affect the selection of a genetically perfect mate to increase the chance of healthy offspring. How many female dogs are allowed to freely choose their mates these days?
A much anticipated book I just finished reading is BAT by Grisha Stewart. This one is about dogs, not bats. BAT stands for Behavior Adjustment Training, and is geared to help reactive dogs. In a nutshell, it teaches people how to use functional rewards, namely distance, to reinforce socially acceptable behaviors in the presence of a trigger. I love and apply the concept since I saw Suzanne Clothier demonstrate something very similar a few years ago. Grisha makes a reference to Suzanne Clothier and Ian Dunbar in the book’s appendix, and also to CAT – Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Kellie Snider’s Constructional Aggression Treatment, which also uses distance as functional reinforcement, but with the distinct difference that the trigger moves, not the dog.
Here you have it: a quick review of my rather good year. Perhaps one or the other item finds itself on your wish list, and if you’re not done Christmas shopping yet, maybe you just found the perfect gift for a loved one.
I leave you with my best wishes for a Merry Christmas, or whatever it is you are celebrating this time of year, and even-keel sailing in 2012.