Nova – a new star on the beach

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“I just moved here a year ago, but I haven’t been in town a lot. Nova is an 18 week old Australian Shepherd. Part of getting him was so I could settle down a little bit and stay in town.

“I would love to do herding with him! Some day if I get my dream to have a farm… He herds me when I run! Ya well, we run, walk, run, walk. He’s not quite there yet. He needs to be a little bit bigger to run. But he enjoys it. He’s very well behaved. I purposely got a high energy dog. I wanted him to be active. I’m permanently tired, but happy!”

I love your energy Super Dave, it was nice to meet you

 

From a radio I hear Patti LaBelle singing Lady Marmalade as I walk up to a fellow walking 3 Bulldogs with his sons. Turns out he is a local dog walker.

“These two belong to one family and this guy here belongs to a different family”

Are they all buddies?

“Oh ya, uhuh. What’s your name?”

Peggy.

“I’m Super Dave, they call me the Dog Whisperer of San Francisco.”

Nice to meet you. What’s the best part of hanging out with dogs?

“Oh my goodness! For me, it’s been that they help me be the father I’ve always dreamed of being. You know… and that’s just a small drop of what the dogs have given me. They’ve helped me find the boys education. They helped me be husband I always dreamed of being. They helped me… I also do Kung Fu… my Kung Fu Master wants me to stay in the moment… and dogs keep you in the moment. And they help me make a connection with everyone! All walks of life… people who normally wouldn’t conversate with someone that looks like me… because I’m with a dog, automatically it breaks the barrier… you know… they help break the barrier… and I love that. They fill me with so much joy. Most people think… what am I high on? But it’s dog energy and the energy is so amazing… I can’t keep it to myself.”

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I love your energy Super Dave. It was nice to meet you.

“Well thank you for sharing this moment with me.”

 

San Francisco

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Last Fall I was down in San Francisco for a 3 day weekend. We had tickets for the Sunday performance of the Bridge School Benefit Concert.

The concert is actually down in Palo Alto but we spend some time up in San Francisco before hand. What a vibrant town. We end up having some really great walks over the weekend and meet lots of people and their dogs along the way. The Presidio was a lovely surprise. Five minutes from downtown and you are on some of the nicest beaches. Lot‘s of trails for running, hiking or walking with dogs. For lunch we walked around Hayes Valley where the shopping is funky and original… not a chain store in sight! Everyone is out and about with their dogs.

The San Fran Posts follow.

Meet Cooper

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I am going to break slightly from the regular format. While out for a run one day, I came across a woman rehabilitating her dog, using clicker training.

Behavioral problems are the number one cause of dog relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age. Preventing the development of behavioral problems is what spurred us on to create our web site.

It is not common for people to rehabilitate a dog, so seeing this young woman clicker training was an opportunity I could not pass up. I was interested in talking with her about the work, but we end up talking about a variety of things.

Jacqueline’s effort and commitment to helping Cooper are really commendable. Our conversation follows (over a number of posts).

Cooper is her 2 year old Labrador/English Setter mix and has recently developed a fear of cyclists, joggers and skate boarders. 

How old was Cooper when you got him?

“10 weeks.”

…and how has he changed you?

“I love my dog. I love having a dog! I honestly can’t even imagine my life without him now. He’s so much a part of it. I don’t know, he’s literally my little buddy. I love him.

“This is it. He is so good. He’s house trained. He’s so gentle. He’s really great with children, people and other dogs. That’s why this behavior was particularly alarming. So yes, this has been the biggest challenge.”

Were you ready for a dog?

“Actually, to be quite honest, I should have put more thought into it. Simply because I saw his photo on Kijiji and thought, I have to have that dog! Then, when I got him, I thought it would be a lot easier than it was…because I grew up with dogs. But you don’t realize how much work your parents actually do. When I look back on the dogs we were raising, I probably had very minimal involvement in their care. So I got him and he doesn’t know his name, he doesn’t know what a collar is, he’s running around the apartment going crazy! I had this brief moment of panic where I was… oh my god, what did I get myself into?! I’m not ready for this. But then I was like, no, no, I can do this. I then did as much research as I possibly could. I enrolled him immediately in puppy socialization classes and brought on a trainer. We were really fortunate because he was so easy to train. ”

So you knew to go and get some help…

“I thought it was the appropriate investment to bring in a professional. And it’s funny, when you first get a dog and you don’t quite know what you’re doing, your impression of the best training is Cesar Milan. He is the most famous dog trainer. People who don’t even have dogs know who he is. So if you don’t really know what you’re doing and you get a dog… probably you will go that route. And she, [the trainer] immediately was like, no, no, no… you need to actually watch and go beyond his accolades and just watch what he is doing. You’ll see that his training methods are punitive. They are quite forceful. They instill fear in a dog. And if they do respond to him [Cesar Milan], they are only responding out of fear.

“I really had no idea this other method of training existed and that it could be so effective. Rather than her saying something that made me want to do it, it was seeing it. Within 30 seconds Cooper knew how to sit! And we had to bring the trainer on so soon because crate training proved to be a bit of an issue with Cooper. She clicker trained him in one session to like his crate. Very quickly she not only brought this method of training to my attention but she also showed me how effective it was. I quickly saw the power of this type of training.

“After that, I focused my searches on positive reinforcement training methods. When I was enrolling him in puppy socialization classes, I focused on classes and instructors that employed that method.”

[this journal continues in the next post…]

Clicker training with Cooper

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“I actually can’t pinpoint the specific moment it started. It just seemed unusual because we raised him in the city and it’s not like he’s never seen joggers and cyclists. Anyhow he developed this behavior and we think it’s either because now he is 2 years old and it’s been brought to my attention that he has entered his teenage phase (sic) and the hormonal changes can cause an anxiety in dogs. But more likely, possibly something at a very minimal level kind of spooked him. Either a jogger or a cyclist and it took a while to kind of build up into something. Now, pretty much anything that’s fast moving causes a reaction in him. His reaction is very fear based. He will chase them away and bark at them. It’s not a reaction to play. His reaction is to get them away from him. And again, I know it’s not uncommon. I see dogs all the time that will bark at cyclists and such. But I wanted to address it because first of all we do live in the city and I don’t think it’s acceptable to just walk around with a dog that lunges at other people.”

As we’re talking, Jacqueline is continuing to click and reward Cooper for not reacting to a cyclist that whips by us.

“We’re treating this training like a game. This is just what we’re working on now. Actually yesterday’s session in the morning went so well that yesterday evening’s session we did just off Yonge Street, which is much busier. There are cars there and a lot more pedestrians. And more joggers and cyclists. And he did so well.”