Lost Dog...Found Dog?

...So, this past Saturday, I was heading back home with our little old Corgi Mickey after our morning walk. And this guy in a big silver SUV pulls over to the curb to ask if I may have seen his lost female Siberian Husky puppy who'd escaped from his yard earlier that morning. He'd been searching all over the neighborhood for her. She was just a year old, small, black, gray and white, and he'd only had her for a couple of weeks.

As it happened, I had indeed noticed a nice neighbor couple walking an unfamiliar dog matching the lost puppy's description, not twenty minutes earlier. The mystery was soon solved when the neighbors came back with the happy Husky after they'd taken her on a walk to see if they could find her owner. So this story had a swift and satisfying conclusion.

Unfortunately, while we hear tales of dogs who miraculously trudge miles and miles over months and years to find their way home, that's rarely what really happens. The website Petplace.com says that shockingly few lost dogs are reunited with their humans -- as few as 5 percent! Most lost dogs get hurt or killed, or end up in animal shelters.

So what can we do to change that? Simple: make sure our dogs are always wearing snug-fitting collars with current ID tags, and/or have them micro-chipped by our veterinarians. Is one better than the other?

I don't know. It's true that tags and collars may come off a dog wandering through suburban shrubbery or woods and underbrush. But a snug collar is likely to stay on, and an ID tag will allow anyone who finds my dog to either call or return her to me. A micro-chip helps if a lost dog is taken to a vet or an animal shelter, where they know to scan incoming animals for an ID chip.

But if a dog had only the chip and no collar tag, someone finding that dog may not even know about micro-chips. That person might just keep the stray dog rather than bringing it someplace equipped to do a quick scan.

This little lost Husky was micro-chipped, but she didn't have an ID tag. In this case, an ID tag would have made it possible for the couple who found her to know exactly where she lived.

The best plan, then, is to make sure your dog has both an up-to-date tag and a micro-chip. Tags are inexpensive, easy to get online or at local pet-supply stores, and there's really no excuse for not having one. Your vet can answer all your questions about micro-chips, which are about the size of a rice grain and are implanted under the skin.

We never know when a leash might break, when dog might dash out an open door, or charge off after a squirrel. Dogs are natural escape artists who can climb over, dig under or jump fences. And if you think an invisible/electric fence will keep your dog from pursuing a cat who saunters by, think again. Given a compelling reason, dogs will zoom right through an electric fence-line without a second thought.

So be prepared with tags, or micro-chips...or both! Dogs do get lost -- but we humans can give them a fighting chance to make it back home. 

Howard Weinstein started Day One Dog Training in Howard County, Maryland in 1998. You can reach him through www.dayonedogtraining.com. He's also the author of Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other (available in both paperback and e-book at Amazon.com or www.dayonedogtraining.com).

Halloween Dogs: "Trick-or-treat" & "CLICK-and-treat"!

"No trick...I'm really dis cute!"

...So, yeah, this is a rerun -- but well worth reading again to keep your dog safe and happy when Halloween arrives in a few days.

Most of us don't actually dress up our dogs in costumes for the holiday. But having neighborhood kids constantly ringing the doorbell for Trick-or-treat can drive our dogs nuts.

Our solution:  I go outside with the big bowl o' candy and intercept the Little Monsters before they can go up the steps, ring the bell, and launch Mickey and Callie into a barking frenzy. This works out well -- it spares the kids and their parents the trudge up our front steps, and it saves the dogs the stress of barking their little heads off every time the doorbell rings.

But if you don't want to do that, then try putting your dogs in a quiet room far away from the front door. Put up a baby gate, or close the door, and turn on the TV or some music for them (to drown out the sound of the doorbell). You'll not only save your dogs considerable "high-alert" stress, you'll also keep them from darting out the door every time you open it to toss some candy to the kids.

If you opt to take your dog out for an on-leash walk among the Trick-or-treaters, remember that kids your dog may otherwise know can look different or scary in their costumes. Take your own treats and clicker out with you so you can practice getting your dog to sit and stay and greet goblins, ghouls, Jedi Knights, princesses and Harry Potters calmly and happily. If every "Trick-or-treat!" encounter with costumed kids becomes a "Click-and-treat!" for your dog, then Halloween can be a fun experience for the dogs as well as the kids.
Most people know chocolate is toxic to dogs (NO candy is good for them). The smaller the dog, the more chocolate, the bigger the danger. If your dog nabs a single chocolate Kiss or a couple of M & Ms, you're probably fine. But here's the biggest risk:  you leave your bowl of outgoing candy or your kids' incoming bag of candy where your dog can reach it, turn your back for a minute, and suddenly your dog can be nom-nom-nomming the whole candy supply --
wrappers and all!

So keep all that candy out of your dogs' reach...or keep your dogs far away from the candy...and you, your dogs and your kids should have a happy Halloween, free from tears -- or visits to the emergency vet!


Howard Weinstein started Day One Dog Training in Howard County, Maryland in 1998. You can reach him through www.dayonedogtraining.com. He's also the author of Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other (available in both paperback and e-book at Amazon.com or www.dayonedogtraining.com).


Pill Noms!

"Go ahead! Gimme more pill nomz!"

Do you have trouble getting your dog to take pills without struggling and spitting them out?

Some dogs will happily vacuum up anything mixed in with their regular food in the ol' supper-dish. Others are experts at eating around any medicinal intruder, leaving nothing behind but a slimy pill or capsule in the bottom of the bowl.

We've found several effective ways to hide and deliver pills to our dogs.

1- Banana! Slice or bite off about an inch of a banana, then insert the pill into the center of the 'nana chunk until it's hidden. A small amount of banana is fine for dogs, and probably even good for them. Most dogs love the flavor. (Our Corgis Mickey and Callie expect a banana chunk every time I slice one up for my breakfast cereal, and they get very annoyed and impatient if I don't deliver the goods.)

2- A glop of peanut butter or cream cheese -- Just completely bury the pill inside...a little messy, but both of these usually work well. You can use the glop to top off a bowl of dog food, or give it separately.

3- Butter -- slice some butter off a stick, and fold it over the pill.

Our dogs think of these as special treats, and they don't even know they're taking pills. Much better than forcing stuff down their throats! Your dogs will probably appreciate appreciate their pill noms the way ours do.

Howard Weinstein started Day One Dog Training in Howard County, Maryland in 1998. You can reach him through www.dayonedogtraining.com. He's also the author of Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other (available in both paperback and e-book at Amazon.com or www.dayonedogtraining.com).

Dog Training Choices & Consequences

 "I hearz dis training stuff is gonna be fun, right? Right!"

...So, at my puppy class session this past Sunday, while we were watching the cute puppies happily playing with each other, one of the humans told me a story about a friendly but ill-mannered English sheepdog his family had some years ago. Fed up with a variety of misbehaviors, they contacted a trainer they knew who specialized in training attack dogs. My client asked this trainer if they could send their dog to him for a while to be properly trained in basic obedience.

The trainer kept their sheepdog for over a month, and when the dog finally came home, he would indeed respond to obedience commands with something approaching military precision. Unfortunately, he was also anxious, and even growled at the kids when they got rowdy with him -- something he'd never done before. As my client sadly said to me, "He was never the same dog after that. I guess I made a mistake sending him to this trainer."

While I don't know how long ago this happened, nor do know the trainer or the methods used, I'd bet this poor sheepdog was subjected to harsh, boot-camp-style coercive training: if you do something wrong, you get punished. Mercifully, many trainers have evolved beyond such stone-age methods. But a shocking number still use them. Why? Because it's what they know, it's what they've always done, and if it was good enough 40 years ago, it's good enough now!

And harsh training methods can yield apparently-desirable results -- that's why they got established in the first place, back in the dark ages when people thought they had to dominate animals by "teaching 'em who's boss." Such trainers probably mean well -- I don't think people go into this line of work because they hate and want to abuse animals. But (as I've written here before) it borders on malpractice when trainers refuse to open themselves up to other methods built upon new(er) information and knowledge about animal behavior. We humans with our big brains and opposable thumbs oughta better!

For dogs with no egregious behavioral issues, there's no imaginable reason to use harsh training methods -- which may indeed teach them to listen to us, while also teaching them to fear us.

For dogs with serious behavioral issues -- any form of aggression, destructive separation anxiety -- harsh training methods will almost certainly make those problems worse.

What my client observed and recalled with so much regret was a dog who'd been taught to fear the nasty consequences of not listening to his human masters: a painful yank from a choke or prong collar, a jolt from a shock collar, being yelled at or hit or intimidated. This robotic dog may appear to behave, but he will be an anxious ticking time bomb always seeking to avoid retribution...until some inevitable moment when his desire to lash out overwhelms his fear of punishment.

What we should be doing instead is teaching dogs to look forward to the positive consequences of good behavior: a treat, petting, a kiss on the head, a walk with his favorite humans, playtime. This dog, by contrast, has learned that good manners yield rewards -- he's been taught to think, and to believe he can make good things happen by doing things that make his human friends happy.

Which kind of dog would you rather have?


Howard Weinstein started Day One Dog Training in Howard County, Maryland in 1998. You can reach him through www.dayonedogtraining.com. He's also the author of Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other (available in both paperback and e-book at Amazon.com or www.dayonedogtraining.com).

NEWS FLASH: Dogs Train Themselves!! (to do everything you DON'T want them doing)

"Yoo-hooo, Hoomin... Howard sez itz NOT my fault!"

...So, sorry about the fine print there in the title. But I just had another one of those infuriating, mystifying phone calls from a dog-training client saying, essentially, "We don't know what we're doing, we don't know how to get our dog to behave and stop peeing all over the house, but we're not going to follow any of your advice because my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't want to change, even though what we're doing plainly doesn't work...but thanks for your help..."

OK, so I added a little subtext to the actual verbal message. But that's pretty much the content, in a proverbial nutshell.

I don't run into these situations that often -- maybe a few times a year -- but in my 14th year as a pro dog trainer, they still both infuriate and mystify me: Why the heck would people reject helpful advice -- for which they're PAYING me! -- without even trying it? It brings me back to something I wrote in a blog some time ago: "You can lead a person to information, but you can't make him think."

And yet, even though I KNOW that, it still bothers me. And here's why: about half the dogs in any animal shelter at any time are less than a year old, which means they're puppies. How did they end up there? Because they're no longer little and/or cute, they're not potty trained, they tear up the house, they jump on Gramma...and it's easier for many people to blame the dog than blame themselves. Much easier to say, "Oh, that dog was too dumb to learn" than to admit, "Well, crap, I'm too dumb to teach him." That human inability to recognize our own ignorance/incompetence (hey, nobody's perfect) means many of these dogs will either be passed along (complete with behavior problems) to another owner. Or they'll be euthanized. It makes me both sad and angry that so many potentially great pets are ruined by careless humans.

But even more mystifying are folks who are clueful enough to know they need help -- and then they don't utilize the information they're given by somebody like me. Of course, I kinda know the reason for that, too: People often want you tell them what they WANT to hear, rather than what they NEED to hear.

Here's the truth everyone with a dog (or contemplating getting a dog) needs to hear: It's NOT the dog's fault! Whatever it is you don't like your dog doing, it's NOT the dog's fault. Let's repeat that once more for good measure: It's NOT the dog's fault! If your young puppy or older dog does stuff you don't want him doing, it's up to THE HUMANS to figure out how to replace misbehavior with better alternatives.

It's always easier to start out right, which means starting training the day your dog comes home with you -- either on your own or with the help of a trainer, in either group classes or private lessons. But problems can almost always be fixed or managed, so never assume you're stuck with a dog who is the product of your or somebody else's mistakes. Get some help!

When I work with clients, I never say "My way or the highway." I'll try to help them find strategies they can live with which also solve their problems. But some folks just refuse to be helped, and those are the ones about which I feel the worst. I can walk away knowing I gave it my best shot -- but I also know this dog and his humans are not likely to have a good outcome, and human bullheadeness means there was never anything I could have done to change that.

Howard Weinstein started Day One Dog Training in Howard County, Maryland in 1998. You can reach him through www.dayonedogtraining.com. He's also the author of Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other (available in both paperback and e-book at Amazon.com or www.dayonedogtraining.com).

A "Tail" of Three Dogs: Clicker Training Rocks!

...So, last week, I had a whole week of fascinating and divergent clicker training experiences. Three different dogs with totally different stories and sets of problems, but all with the same happy result: clicker training is without a doubt THE best dog training method I've ever seen (or used) in 30 years with my own dogs and 13+ years as a professional trainer. As you'll see, it has incredibly varied application to all kinds of behavioral issues.

Dog #1 was a 4.5 year old boxer named Moose. Boxers in general are very high-energy dogs, and if they're not taught good manners early, they can get pretty crazy as adults -- especially when greeting human visitors or other dogs on the street. After belatedly concluding they hadn't done enough puppy training, Moose's mom and dad finally decided to do something about his unmanageable manners. Though early training is best, it truly is better late than never...and it's almost never too late. On my first visit a couple of weeks ago, Moose was so wild, we had to talk without him in the room for a half hour, and only then bring him in (on leash, of course). He lived up to his wild-and-crazy billing, with frantic barking and flailing on the hardwood floor ("I needz sneakerz!!!") as he tried to tackle me in order to say "Hi!" -- until we got his attention with some gooooood treats, and started giving him clicks and treats every time he managed to sit still for a second. By the end of the hour, Moose was hooked on the game and already showing some improvement.

On my second visit, Moose's wild-greeting behavior lasted just a few minutes. Over the course of the next 55 minutes, he mastered sit (which he sorta already knew but had a hard time doing when over-excited...which was much of the time), figured out down (a command he'd never done before), even allowed me to start teaching him to stay (the one "must-know" command for dogs to learn patience and curb over-excited behavior). Then Moose did some nice stays for mom and dad, and displayed a level of focus and attention far beyond any rational expectations. What's more, Moose enjoyed the whole hour of training because it wasn't work for him -- clicker-training made it a fun game for a dog who reveled in his new-found power to make humans give him clicks and treats simply by sitting, lying down, staying and watching for just a few seconds at a time. Superstar Moosie!

Dog #2 was a 6-year-old Springer spaniel named Charlie. I'd first worked with Charlie and his family when he was a baby puppy (before I started using clicker training). Then, almost two years ago, I got a call from Charlie's mom because he'd started biting workmen coming in and out of their house. By that time, this nice family had added a child and another Springer spaniel puppy (Molly), so things were getting complicated anyway -- too complicated for Charlie as he tried to protect his home from invaders. Poor, stressed-out, mixed-up Charlie! Obviously, dogs who bite out of misguided territorial/protective instincts or fear can be a real problem. By then, I had added clicker training to my menu of options, so we used it to both refresh Charlie's education and train Molly on her basic good manners. The dogs loved clicker training, and I hoped Charlie's humans would use that and a variety of management strategies to keep him out of situations where he'd feel compelled to chomp on visitors.

Recently, unrelated to dog training, I had the occasion to contact Charlie's mom, and I also asked how they were doing with his biting. Unfortunately, for various understandable reasons, Charlie's family hadn't been able to shield him from situations which made him anxious enough to bite, so the problem was unresolved. When I swung by Charlie's house last week, I found him patrolling his spacious, invisible-fenced front yard, as I expected. Not knowing whether he'd remember me from two years ago, I came prepared with clicker and treats, and I was on high alert myself (since I'd prefer to not be a chomp-ee if I can avoid it). Well, Charlie's initial greeting was not at all welcoming: angry warning barks and looking fearsome. Then, from about 10 feet away, I tossed him some treats, for free. He stopped barking long enough to find the treats in the grass and eat them. Each time he stopped to munch, he got a click and another treat. Within a couple of minutes, Charlie relaxed, as if to say, "Ohhh, yeah!  I remember you...and I remember the clicker game! More noms, please?"

That was an interesting experiment for me, something I'd never tried before: would a dog who had lots of fun the last time I saw him remember me from almost two years ago, and would I be able to get him re-interested in clicker games quickly enough that he'd relax and forget about biting me?  The answer was a resounding "Yes!" -- and though I was relieved, I wasn't really surprised, now that I know the power of clicker training.  So I had a nice visit with Charlie and Molly (instead of searching for disinfectant and a big Band-aid). And I'm hoping Charlie's humans were reminded of the relative ease with which they could duplicate what I did to help their otherwise smart and lovable dog to relax before he feels compelled to bite somebody.

Dog #3 was potentially the toughest case -- a beautiful mixed breed puppy named Chelsea: less than two years old, with Golden retriever fur and tail, an elegant face and perky ears. As is often the case, it was hard to pinpoint what breeds might be in her genetic mix, beyond Golden retriever. Chelsea has a mystery history, other than knowing she was a skinny stray before being rescued and adopted.
I can't imagine anything more terrifying for a puppy than life as a stray: other dogs scaring you off, people yelling at you to go away, noisy and threatening traffic, being cold, tired and hungry. Some dogs carry those psychological scars for the rest of their lives. It's no surprise strays often have fear and fear-aggression issues -- and that described Chelsea. The first time I visited, she waited in the driveway with her mom. The instant she realized I was walking toward her, she flipped out with ferocious barking and lunging. So Chelsea was put back in the house, and we humans parleyed in the living room about possible training strategies. Chelsea's vet then prescribed Prozac to help reduce her anxiety.

We started all over two weeks later. This time, I came into the house without Chelsea present. I waited at the far end of the living room, armed with hot dog chunks, and her mom brought her in. Chelsea saw me and started barking again, but this time her mom simply sat with her outside the living room, distracted her with hot dog treats, and rewarded her for calm behavior. Now, Chelsea's family had previously observed that the sharp snap of a clicker seemed to upset her, so we had two options: trying a quieter plastic clicker (more like the soft click of a ballpoint pen) and muffling the standard loud metal clicker in a pocket or under a pillow. I decided to try the plastic clicker first -- Chelsea's ears twitched, but without great alarm. Within minutes, Chelsea got the connection between her calmness, the soft clicks and the hot dog treats.

So we took a literal step forward: Chelsea entered the living room, close enough for me to start tossing her treats, accompanied by progressively less muffled clicks. We humans continued to talk, her family started asking her to do things like sit and down in order to earn treats, and we could see her anxiety replaced by interest, and -- more importantly -- curiosity about me as a source of hot dog noms! At one point, she crouched her shoulders, lowered her head, and stared at me without blinking. But it wasn't a threatening stare, it was Border collie "eye" -- that intensely-focused look dogs give to a herd when they're they're working: "Sheepies? You are mine." Or, in this case, trying to hypnotize me into dumping all the hot dogs on the floor for her! At that moment, putting the stare together with other behaviors, it became pretty clear Chelsea was part Border collie. And knowing that alters how we'll approach her training and personality.

As our session drew to a close, Chelsea was not only not afraid of me, she was totally engaged in trying to figure out how to get me to give her clicks and treats. I'll be seeing her again soon, and I don't know what the future holds for this smart, heartbreakingly gorgeous puppy trying to overcome so many scary experiences in her short life. But we know clicker training will help her open up and embrace training with puppy joy, and help her humans as they ease her adjustment to the secure life with a loving family that all dogs deserve.

I'm a relative newcomer to clicker training, only been using it for two and half years. I sure do wish I'd started using it decades ago! People who become dog trainers generally choose this path -- why? -- because we love dogs. There should be no room for human macho in dog training, no feeling of accomplishment in physically dominating an animal who can be taught how to behave by gentle, enjoyable methods.

Now that I've seen how effectively it works, with all kinds of dogs in all kinds of situations, I'm going out on this limb: any trainers who fail to adapt to new information -- fail to update their methods to include clicker training -- are flirting with malpractice, and doing their clients (dogs and humans) a huge disservice. There's no reason to ever use fear and pain in training any animal. Ignorance is not an excuse.

No matter how old your dog may be, no matter what breed, whether you're dealing with serious behavioral problems or just want to teach your ol' dog some new tricks...if you love your dog, you owe it to yourself to try clicker training. If you live in Central Maryland, you can get in touch with me through www.dayonedogtraining.com. You can also find out lots more info from www.clickertraining.com.

Howard Weinstein started Day One Dog Training in Howard County, Maryland in 1998. You can reach him through www.dayonedogtraining.com. He's also the author of Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other (available at Amazon.com or www.dayonedogtraining.com).

Happy 30th Annie-versary: Tribute to a Great Dog!

...So, 30 years ago today (June 7, 1981), a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy was born on a little farm in the rolling hills of northern New Jersey. She would become my puppy two months later, named Mail Order Annie. And for almost 15 years, she was my best little pal and filled my life with astonishing joy every day we shared together.

The truth is, Annie changed my life in so many ways that I could write a book about her. Oh, wait...I did that already! It's called Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul & Other Important Lessons You & Your Dog Can Teach Each Other.
Yeah, the title's a mouthful -- but it also tells you exactly what the book is about.

(Puppy Kisses is available from Amazon.com -- just type "Puppy Kisses" into the book-search box -- or directly from us at http://dayonedogtraining.com/puppykisses.html)

I've loved dogs since I was a little kid -- probably the influence of watching all those LASSIE episodes! Growing up in suburban Long Island, New York, I wanted a dog more than anything (and we actually had a cute little Beagle-Basset puppy for one disastrous week when I was nine). As it turned out, I had to wait until I was an adult before I got my dog for keeps. And the truth is, I had no idea what I was doing! We fumbled our way through Annie's first three years...during which, without my even noticing, a miracle was happening. Annie was growing up to be a nearly perfect dog, despite my mistakes. She was smart, clever, sweet, friendly, determined...and exceedingly patient with all my human failings.

   Long ago: Annie with baby Katie Greenberger

Having Annie so surpassed my expectations that I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined how enriching and enjoyable it would be to share my life with this little dog. And when our time together was done, I knew I had to write about her, for a couple of reasons: knowing how fleeting memories can be, I didn't want to forget. And I wanted to share all those experiences and lessons with other dog owners, because I came to believe that every dog could be a great dog, and every human could enjoy having a dog as much as I cherished my years with Annie.

If you've ever loved a dog, I wrote Puppy Kisses for you. You will surely see your own well-loved dogs in my tales of Annie's life and times. And if you want a dog, or are about to get your first dog, then Puppy Kisses will give you a clear idea of what to expect, help you avoid all the dumb mistakes I made, and provide a blueprint to follow so you can get as much pleasure from life with your doggie pal as Annie generously gave me.

In the movie STAR TREK II, after Spock dies saving the starship Enterprise and her crew from certain destruction, Captain Kirk honors his alien Vulcan friend with these haunting words: "Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most human." 

I can truly say the same about Annie. She was as magical, remarkable and amazing a creature as I have ever encountered. Yes, she was a dog and a pet, but she was so much more. She was my best friend, and my furry little spirit guide. She made me a better person, and she's why I became a dog trainer -- with the mission of sharing her lessons with as many other dog owners as I can.

Though she's been gone for 15 years now, I still miss her every day. I would happily give up a year of my life to spend one more day with her. Of course, life doesn't work that way, so I'm left with my memories of Annie, and the inspiration she gave me just because she could. Not a bad deal.
Thank you, Annie, for the pleasure of your company.

Happy 15th Birthday to Callie!!

Baby-Waif Callie...where did 15 years disappear to?!?
...So, our Pembroke Welsh Corgi Callie almost didn't get a name. We'd picked this mysteriously serious and observant little puppy from among her littermates when they were seven weeks old in the summer of 1996. We'd be going back to Pennsylvania breeder Susan Strickland to bring our new puppy home in another two weeks. And we could not decide what to call her.

Annie had been named after one of my favorite Harry Chapin songs ("Mail Order Annie"). Mickey had been named in memory of Mickey Mantle, my childhood baseball hero. But what would we name this new puppy? With the clock ticking, we were at a total loss -- until we wandered into a mall bookstore and happened upon a book of Celtic folklore. We liked the Celtic link, since Corgis originated in Wales. And then we found the perfect name -- Callie Berry, after a Celtic moon goddess and goddess of the hunt. This litter of puppies had been born under a full moon, after all. (As for the hunting aspect of her name, well, Callie proved very adept at hunting for noms!)

For the first few months we had her, tiny baby Callie seemed to be clinically depressed -- she didn't display the playfulness we'd expected of a puppy, and it probably didn't help that 3-month-older adopted sister Mickey pushed her around all the time in order to establish dominance over this interloper. Then Callie discovered the joy of toys -- she loved anything that squeaked -- and learned that she could communicate with humans with the simplest tilt of her head, directional gesture with her nose, or the grin on her face.

Callie also displayed unquenchable curiosity. At the vet, she wanted to know everything going on around her. In those days before computerized records, when the vet would set the paper chart down on the exam table and jot his notes, Callie would walk over, stand on the chart and watch what he was writing. When he'd take a sample back to the lab area, she would follow and observe.

I'm still planning to write a children's picture book called Callie the Curious Corgi, all about how her inquisitiveness and intelligence gets her and sister Mickey into and out of trouble.

At home, Callie became convinced early on that I was too dumb to remember to feed her and Mickey. So, every day, 30 minutes before meal time according to her stomach clock, Callie would stare at me, and gesture with her nose toward the closet where the dog food was kept. And she'd keep doing that until I finally got up from the computer and fed them. As far as Callie could tell, she made that happen.

All these years later, Callie is still inventing new ways to get me to give her food. When I make a bowl of cereal, Callie will watch until I start slicing a banana into the cereal. Then she will stand right beneath me at the kitchen counter, and gently but firmly press her right hand on my toes -- we refer to this as "pressing the nom pedal." It always makes me laugh, and Callie and Mickey always get a slice of banana as a result.

Callie has always been quick to learn new things. But she was also born shy and skittish. Despite that, she eventually overcome her shyness to be a brilliant demo doggie at puppy school orientations -- and for our summertime visits to the "Pets & Vets" class at Howard Community College's Kids on Campus day-camp program. Callie loved doing all her tricks for an appreciative audience of fifteen 8-to-10-year-old kids and entertaining them by rolling her treat-dispensing ball around the room.  You can see from her "class photo" that she loved being Professor Callie --

Callie has always had this amazing, thick-bunny-fur type coat which -- for lack of a better term -- is essentially "Scotch-guarded" in that she literally sheds water and dirt, and has always smelled like flowers and baby powder. Not that we needed any other proof, but we knew there was something enchanted about her when she was a very young puppy and a gorgeous blue and black butterfly landed right on her back (just like this one) --

At 15, Callie doesn't see or hear so well any more. But she's still bright-eyed and attentive, still does her puppy baby-bounce dance when she's happy, still likes going on walks to discover what might be smelly and new out in the world. We love her dearly (as we do sister Mickey) and we're so lucky to have had this endlessly fascinating, funny little Corgi for so long. Happy, happy birthday, Callie-bean! 

Howard Weinstein is the author of PUPPY KISSES ARE GOOD FOR THE SOUL (available from Amazon.com). He also runs Day-One Dog Training in Maryland (www.dayonedogtraining.com).

Why the HECK Would a Vet Prescribe a SHOCK COLLAR?!?

"Pleeeze to NOT hurt puppeh, OK?"

...So, I was stunned recently to hear from a client that her vet had recommended using a shock collar on her aggressive dog.

I'd been trying to help this family deal with a multiplicity of behavioral issues among their trio of dogs. The most serious of the three was an older dog who'd been abused by a breeder who'd used him as a show dog for several years, and was now displaying a nightmarish complex of fear, dominance and territorial aggression. Basically, he has canine PTSD, and apparently feels compelled to bite pretty much every new visitor to their house. Not a good situation, and this mixture of aggressive behaviors is very, very difficult to manage. Notice I didn't say fix, because it probably can't be fixed or completely solved. I see lots of dogs with various aggression issues, and just trying to improve such situations is neither easy nor fast.

When I started out as a trainer 13 years ago, I thought it was easy -- use a choke collar (I've never used shock collars, but the principle is the same) to punish and negatively reinforce bad behavior. The theory behind this is to stop the "bad" behavior with a harsh enough response so the dog will think twice about doing it again. And they really DO think twice, which is why harsh training methods can make it appear that the problem is miraculously fixed! But it's not, it's just masked under a new layer of fear.

Using pain to force a dog into submission is simplistic and crude, and fails to address the underlying questions, the answers to which might actually solve the problem (or at least make it manageable): Why is a dog having an unwarranted reaction to something? How can we change the dog's perception of triggers which are not truly threatening? How can we replace the bad behavior with a more appropriate one which reduces anxiety -- or, best case, eliminates anxiety?

At some point, it sunk into my own head that harsh methods could NEVER change a dog's perception and would only make the dog MORE anxious rather than less. And harsh reactions make the human the punisher, not the leader. Dogs need us to be their leaders, and punishment is a poor and ultimately ineffective method of leadership.

But I still needed a different and better method of helping dogs with aggression or anxiety issues -- which I found when I started reading articles and books by veterinarians like Dr. Nicholas Dodman and Dr. Karen Overall, leading behavioral experts at top vet schools. They deal with these problems all the time, and research them at the same time. And it's the information I've learned from these experts that I pass along to my clients.

Chances are pretty good that this particular client's dog will repeat his behavior and try to bite every new visitor. If his owners use harsh training techniques -- shock collar, prong collar or even plain ol' choke collar, all of which can inflict pain -- that would mean every encounter with new visitors would involve punishment. Which means he will associate new visitors with being punished. Which means he will dislike new visitors even more. That's the cycle we were trying to change by 1) prevention, 2) basic obedience training which he lacked, 3) human control and leadership, and 4) positive reinforcement of even the smallest good (or even neutral) behaviors.

When my client's dog got fear-aggressive at the animal hospital, the vet apparently scolded the owners for not harshly stopping the behavior and punishing their dog when it happened. I'm sure this vet meant well, but I think she was looking at it incorrectly (although vets understandably don't enjoy being bitten). Stopping the behavior means you've failed to prevent it -- and learning how to prevent it is the first step toward (hopefully) changing, moderating or eliminating the bad behavior. Every time this massively confused and anxious dog gets to bite somebody -- or even tries -- if his humans react with understandable anger and a harsh correction, they're inadvertently reinforcing the behavior they're trying to get rid of...which only makes it MORE likely to recur, rather than less.

(In the case of taking an aggressive dog to a vet, the short-term answer is for the owner to muzzle the dog at home -- using a basket muzzle which allows for panting, drinking and eating -- then play some fun games with treat rewards at home, continue those games at the vet -- and voila! -- not only can't your dog bite anybody, but he may not even mind the muzzle. Prevention!)

Unfortunately, desperate dog owners often seem to be looking more for somebody to tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. I see this when clients tell me I'm their third trainer and they've switched vets a couple of times. If you look long enough, you'll eventually find someone who tells you what you want to hear. But that won't solve your problem.

As I said, I'm sure this vet meant well. I just happen to think she's wrong. It's really time we moved past using pain and physical coercion to deal with dogs who misbehave.

STARTREK.com Interview: My "Other Life" as a STAR TREK Writer

...So, not about dogs today. I've been a professional writer for 37 years, since I sold a TV script to the animated Saturday-morning revival of STAR TREK in 1974.

StarTrek.com interviewed me this week and it should be up on their website this afternoon:  http://startrek.com/

We chatted about how I happened to sell that story to the animated series while I was still in college, and also about the TREK comics and novels I've written since then...even about my experience contributing story-development tidbits to STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (still my favorite of all the TREK movies).

We also talked about a new internet publishing venture called Crazy 8 Press -- co-founded by my creative-writing colleagues Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg and me. We'll be making our new books and stories available directly to our readers. Crazy 8 Press will offer both e-books and paper copies, depending on readers' preference.  We hope to have our first titles available this July. Find out more (and sign up for e-mail newsletters) by visiting  www.crazy8press.com.

If you're a STAR TREK fan, please go take a look at StarTrek.com. You'll find lots of other interesting content -- for instance, this week has been devoted to the animated series, featuring all the episodes and interviews with longtime animator and director Hal Sutherland, actor and writer Walter Koenig, and TRIBBLES writer David Gerrold.

Live long and prosper!