Archive for October, 2012

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Dangerous training methods

October 17, 2012

The writing of this post was prompted by an unfortunate series of events last night which resulted a dog being returned to the greyhound rescue. Leaving out any names, of course, here is a summary of what occurred. A young, male greyhound was recently adopted by a family: a man, woman, no kids, cats. He has exhibited some typical dog naughtiness like stealing things out of the trash or off countertops. And last night, he apparently growled at the woman when she tried to take one of these things away from him. She attempted to discipline him by performing something known as an “alpha roll,” an outdated dog training technique made popular again in the past decade by Cesar Mill*an and the TV show The Dog Whisp*erer. It involves pinning the dog down on its back to show your dominance. You can find many examples of it on youtube.

When she attempted to do this, the greyhound became terrified and bit the woman’s arm. She has a puncture wound and some bruising. She called the greyhound rescue and told us she wanted the dog put to sleep. We were able to convince her to return the dog to us. She never showed up, and we discovered the police had been called. We were able to go to their home and pick up the dog, and the police were supportive of our observing and rehoming him.

What I want to address here is the use of dominance-based training techniques. I will acknowledge that there may be SOME dogs for whom these techniques may be effective. But even in those cases, those techniques should ONLY be performed by a trained animal behaviorist. Even on the popular TV show, each time Cesar performs a technique like an “alpha roll,” a box pops up on the screen that reads “Do Not Try These Techniques at Home.” The reason: this is purely, undeniably dangerous. This is an excellent way to get bitten.

This dog was returned to us with a folder of his medical records. In that packet was a handout the family had been given by their vet, but clearly never read. It’s written by the Humane Society and is titled “Positive Reinforcement.” In the section that talks about punishment-based training, it says:

“…Never use physical punishment that involves some level of discomfort of pain, which may cause your pet to bite to defend herself. Holding the neck skin and shaking your dog, or performing “alpha rolls” (forcing your dog onto her back and pinning her on the floor) are both likely to result in bites. And punishment might be associated with other stimuli, including people, that are present at the time the punishment occurs. For example, a pet who is punished for getting too close to a small child may become fearful of, and aggressive toward, that child — or toward other children. That’s why physical punishment is not only bad for your pet, it’s also bad for you and others.”

Here are some other articles that support that statement:

Using Dominance to Explain Behavior is Old Hat

If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too

Most behaviorists do not subscribe to dominance-based training techniques, because they are both ineffective and dangerous. The Animal Humane Association, The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists have all publicly come out against these methods. They are NEVER APPROPRIATE for greyhounds, who are sensitive dogs and cannot emotionally handle fear-based techniques. They are also physically delicate, and such techniques are likely to cause them pain or injure them.

For an alternative, please check out the trainer that our rescue uses: Pretty Good Dog Training. If you need help working through any behavior issues with your dog, please contact your adoption representative, day or night, we are here to help.

We will be observing the dog for any behavioral issues. In our experience he has been a sweet and gentle dog. When we are confident that he is not showing signs of aggression, we will be looking for an understanding and positive forever family for him. He is beautiful, excellent with cats, smart and affectionate.

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Ernie

October 12, 2012

When Ernie arrived here the first week in September from Iowa, he was very scared. When you approached his kennel, he would huddle against the back wall. He was not a fear biter, so you could go in and pet him, but he obviously was not happy about it. As the days went by, is behaviour didn’t change much, but when you went to pet him he would actually extend his head toward you just a little bit, like he might actually want you to keep petting him.

After a week or so of this, I decided that we weren’t going to get anywhere with Ernie with him living in the adoptables kennel. So I brought him inside. Against his will. I had to take him by his collar and pull him into the house, where he refused to leave the kitchen landing that leads into the kennel for a while. When he thought we weren’t looking, he jetted into the living room and immediately dove into the corner behind our large beanbag chair. This has been his go-to spot ever since.

When it became clear that he intended to remain back there indefinitely, I put a couple blankets down on the floor so he wouldn’t be sleeping in such a hard spot. And for a few days he was back there ALL the time, except when we made him go outside to potty and drink water. I brought him food back there because he wasn’t coming out to eat, and he would only eat the food if he thought I wasn’t looking.

I spent time sitting on the edge of the beanbag chair talking to him and petting him. At first he would squish himself farther into the corner when I came over. Although if I turned my back, I could hear and feel him edging closer to me and sniffing the back of my head. Soon, he was almost pleased to have me come sit with him.

After a few more days, he started to come out at night. He would wander around the house, get some food and water. Although if I sat up, he would dash right back to his hiding place. A few more days and he took to playing with toys alone in the dark at night, even lying out on the dog beds to sleep for a while, as long as no one in the house moved or acknowledged him.

One day we had a duck-stick breakthrough. We buy these nasty dried duck strips in big bags at Cost*co and pass them out once or twice a day as treats. I had brought him a couple once to his hiding place. One day I was handing them out in the kitchen, and Ernie came to get in line! He snagged the treat out of my hand quick as he could and made off with it! 10 seconds later, back in line. We did this no less than nine times, it was the closest he had willingly come to me yet.

After that, every time I went into the kitchen, he was there at the edge to see what I was doing. And each time he took a little more time going back into his hiding place. He would get water, walk around a bit. If I walked towards him, zoom! But if I went about my business he would stay out.

Next, he learned that if I was sitting in the living room with my computer, I was unlikely to make any sudden movements. So he started to behave at those times like he had been doing at night. He would come out and lie on a dog bed, play with a toy, hang out, until I put my computer down or stood up.

In the past week, his goofy personality has started to emerge. One afternoon he stole 5 pairs of underwear from the hanmper and brought them out to the living room to play with. (Unfortunately, he tore up one pair.) I watched him going back and forth, back and forth, just laughing. Just underwear, nothing else, although I did find a dirty sock in his hiding place one day. He will also steal spoons or forks off the table if no one clears them quickly after eating, and has eaten at least 3 or 4 pencils. (Well, he is barely 2 years old, what do you want?)

Now we are at the point where he will actually come up to me for loves. He sits on the couch about 25% of the time during the day. He’ll run back to his spot if the rest of the human family is home, or if I make sudden movements. But he is doing awesome.

I have had the flu for like a week, and today I was lying on a dog bed next to Tigger taking a nap (yes, I take naps on dog beds on the floor – so?), and he came up for pets. After a while, he actually laid down next to me and snuggled up! It was fabulous.

I’m going to have a hard time letting go of this boy. But we have a dozen now, and he’s very young, I know the right family is out there for him. As he gets more comfortable with me, the next goal is to get him to extend that trust to other humans. He’s such a good boy, though. He is smart and learned his name right away, will often come to me when I call him (if the situation isn’t too scary). Sadly, he has gotten nipped by the other dogs several times because when he is fleeing to his hiding space, he will run OVER whoever is lying in the straight line between him and corner. But he does that less and less. We’re getting there.

Ernie will turn 2 years old on Tuesday!

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Summer wrap-up and asking for a little help

October 10, 2012

Well I’ve put all the human kids’ summer clothes away and I sent them off in sweaters and boots this morning. Even had to send the dogs in fleece jackets to MNGR’s event last weekend! Hard to believe Summer is gone already. We had our busiest Summer ever at MNGR! To date in 2012 we have placed 53 hounds!

Our Summer events were AWESOME and we’d like to thank all the volunteers who helped out, especially Ms Betsey with hounds Oliver and Holly, who was there for pretty much every one. We couldn’t do this without all of you!

If you’re not our fan on Facebook or a follower on Twitter (@MNGreyhound), we hope you’ll join us there for real-time photos of all our events, plus photos from hauls and the daily goings-on at the two main MNGR households.

We have been full to the gills all Summer with hounds, having taken in some pretty big hauls from Kansas, as well hounds from Iowa, Florida, and soon to be Alabama. Our most recent haul had EIGHTEEN dogs, most of them well under 2 years old. And we’ve gotten a few fabulous brood mamas too!

That’s where the asking for a little help comes in… Recently we’ve taken in more than our average number of dogs with some extra needs. Our beautiful broodies all came with some very nasty teeth, and Candykiss’s vet bill alone was $1200 — she needed 33 teeth extracted! Also with very high bills were broodies Killy (now adopted), Nikki (now adopted), Amy (still waiting), and Stephie (now adopted — not a broodie but a little 8-yr-old girl found wandering loose).

MNGR still only asks our regular adoption fee for these gals, despite putting way more money than that into their bills. We would deeply appreciate any donations toward their bills, however great or small.

Check out some pics of these lovely girls:

Candykiss, 8 yr old brood mama, still available!

Killy, 8-yr-old brood mama, adopted

Amy, 6-yr-old brood mama with some special needs, available.

Nikki, 6-yr-old brood mama, adopted.

We’ve also recently taken on some special-needs babies. The Kansas haul of 18 hounds was from a very large greyhound farm, literally hundreds of dogs, and the pups we received had spent their entire lives in outdoor runs. They are extremely undersocialized, and several of them were extremely shy. One boy, Pilot, would not come into the house for about 2 weeks because he was so afraid, even if you left the room and just left the door open. He has been staying at MNGR Rochester, where they were eventually able to get some anti-anxiety meds into him. He has been making amazing progress, but is still nowhere near being adoptable. Pilot is the worst, but there are a couple others in the same boat.

MNGR is completely committed to these pups (all less than 18 months old), and with love and work we hope that they will all find their families someday. If not, they will live out their lives here with us. However, MNGR pays for all the food and vet care that they will need in the meantime, which will be far more than the average hound we adopt out. Once again, any donations to contribute to their care would be very appreciated.

Here’s how you can donate to MNGR.

Here’s a couple of our shy babies:

Paige

Pilot