We are pleased to present the most complete program ever written on swimming pool safety for the family dog. This program has appeared in more than a dozen dog related magazines in the USA as well as other countries. It has also appeared in part in the articles of others writing about the subject. The complete program appears here, in its entirety. We encourage anyone who has a dog and a swimming pool to take the time to do the program. It is a fun activity which both your family will enjoy and most important .....
It may save your dog's life.
Dogs and Swimming Pools
Catherine J. Crawmer
Another one! That’s all I could think of when I heard that yet another dog had been found drowned in the family’s swimming pool. It doesn’t make the newspapers so, unfortunately, people don’t realize just how often the family dog dies in the swimming pool. There is nothing rare about this tragedy. There are many public notices every year about leaving a dog in a hot car. I believe the same frequency should apply to warnings about dangers inherent in the family swimming pool.
“My dog never goes near the pool. He’s afraid of water. He hates a bath so he would never go in the pool.” These are some of the most common statements made by dog owners. As with many tragic events, it’s all OK….. until it’s not. A dog running by the pool can slip and fall in. A dog playing with another dog can be pushed in. A dog that never has gone into water just does, and the reason why is never known.
Most municipalities require that a fence be placed around a swimming pool to thwart area children from wandering onto the property and ending up in the swimming pool. While home owners do put up a fence they, as often as not, fence in a large portion of the yard around the swimming pool as well. The family’s children and pets have access to the yard at all times with this fencing arrangement. While this system does restrict entrance by unauthorized individuals it does nothing to inhibit accidents that might occur involving the family. There is no doubt about it; a locked fence closely surrounding the family pool is the better option.
Those people who have a dog that enjoys swimming tend to feel very comfortable since they spend so much time in the water with their pet. They shouldn’t feel so comfortable. Until the dog is trained to get out of the pool, in the absence the family, he can be more vulnerable to drowning than a dog that actively avoids the pool. Fortunately, it is possible to train the dog what to do in case he finds himself alone in the swimming pool.
First, make sure that your dog is able to easily exit the pool on the stairs that are in your pool. There are some considerations on this. First the stairs should be spaced to allow the size dog to easily step from one stair to the next. If the dog is small stairs spaced for humans will not be sufficient. Second make sure that the stairs have a non slippery surface. If the stairs in your pool are inadequate for your individual dog’s needs there are now special stairs available for purchase that are designed specifically for use by dogs.
Training the family dog to exit the pool is important but it is fun too and the whole family can, and should, be involved. Get some treats. The best kind to use will involve no chewing and be very small. Hot dogs work well. Cut them lengthwise four times and then sideways. This should give you 80-100 little pieces. Place the pieces on a large plate and separate them all on a paper towel. Microwave the pieces for 3 minutes or so. Some microwaves will require more or less time. The goal is for the hot dog pieces to assume a rubber-like texture. This will give you a lot of lessons, little grease and little smell, making them perfect for this kind of repetitive training.
Always start the training while the dog is still fresh and has not been swimming for any length of time. If someone can be with him in the pool and another family member on the outside of the pool this is ideal. Only the person on the outside will have treats. Start with the dog placed very near the stairs. The person in the pool will direct the dog to the stairs and the person on the outside will encourage him with excited praise and by showing him the treats. If the dog needs any physical assistance the person in the pool will provide it. When the dog exits the pool the person or entire family on the outside of the pool should praise and pet him. The dog can then be placed back in the pool for repeated sessions. How much of this should be done is very individual and should only be repeated as long as the dog is excited about the lesson. Care must be taken to not continue when the dog is obviously tiring. This training program takes very little time per session but additional sessions should be repeated until the dog is exiting confidently and quickly.
When the dog is negotiating the stairs easily he should be gradually moved back a short distance from the stairs so that he will have to swim to the stairs. The lessons should not be moved forward until the dog is noticeably moving to the stairs from all areas of the pool. Since there is a lot more exertion on the dog’s part only a few of this type of lesson can be done at one session. Each animal is an individual and care should be taken to keep the energy level high and the lessons fun for all concerned. The goal is to end every session at a high point of success! How each session ends will be important since the dog will start the next session with the same information he had when the last one ended. It is a common fault of beginner trainers to continue a session to failure. Don’t fall into this trap.
Now the dog is moving to the stairs from all points of the pool. It is at this point that families, in error, think the job is done and that the dog is now safe from pool accidents. Nothing could be further from the truth. The next phase includes the most important exercises in the program. It is important to continue the program now to insure the pet’s safety during an unexpected pool entry.
It is obvious to all concerned that the dog knows where the stairs are. Now it is time for the person in the pool to get out of the pool but stay nearby if reentry becomes necessary. At this juncture the person holding the treats on the outside of the pool calls the dog the same as before but from a position several feet to the side from the location where the stairs are. The goal is to get the dog to move away from the person calling him and get him to move toward the stairs. To get to a successful outcome this phase will take longer to accomplish than anything that has been done thus far.
When the dog will turn away from the person calling him and go instead to the stairs the person gradually moves from one point to the next, away from the stairs and around the pool. It may take many lessons to achieve the desired goal. The end goal is for the person to be completely on the opposite side of the pool from the position of the stairs with the dog actively turning his back on the person who is calling him, swimming away from that person to get to the pool exit. For most dogs this phase of the program will take some time since dogs are taught to come directly to the person calling him.
The final part of the program is realistic preparation for a pool accident and has two parts. The dog is put in the pool far from the stairs and opposite the last known location of a person. There are now no people around the pool for the dog to see. Watch from a distance out of the dog’s sight and be ready to help him if needed. He should, even with no encouragement and nobody around, seek out the location of the stairs and exit the pool. Finally, we have the ultimate test. The dog is put into the pool at the far side and opposite the stairs. Everyone has moved out of the dog’s sight and starts calling him from a distance opposite the stairs. It is critical that the dog not move toward the voices he hears but swim away from those voices and toward the stairs.
Depending upon the individual animal’s progress and the amount of time spent on this program it could take weeks or months to accomplish the aforementioned goals. Done in systematic fashion, using only small increments of time, the dog and the family should enjoy the sessions while a life saving skill is being learned. The dog may never fall into a pool by himself and every physical contingency should be considered that would prevent it from happening. However, if it did happen, this fun packed training program could save his life and prevent his becoming one of the thousands of pets who lose their lives in swimming pools every year, every one owned by a person who thought it would not or could not happen to them.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer, author and speaker. Contact Crawmer’s Animal Training PO Box 364 West Sand Lake, NY 12196 518 477-8230 Email: TrainEmAll@aol.com
A Job For Every Dog
Catherine J. Crawmer
It is imperative for those seeking a pet to realize that they are buying much more than an appearance. There is work involved, and plenty of it. Realistic expectations are often totally lacking when a person selects a dog. Dogs eat, need to be walked, need veterinary care, need training and need exercise. If it is an active breed or individual that is selected it may need exercise more than it needs food! A bored dog is an unhappy dog.
Most calls our business gets are from clients who express a desire to stop objectionable behaviors. Everyone seems to know what he doesn’t want the dog to do. Very few individuals give any thought to what they do want the dog to do. You have the choice of directing your dog to an activity that will challenge him physically and mentally or you can wait until you see what activity he selects for himself. While a popular choice, I would not suggest the second option.
You can involve your dog in obedience training, tracking, agility, therapy dog work, schutzhund, flyball, search and rescue, scent hurdle racing or any one of many other useful activities. You can also pick more than one. If you quit your job and just worked with your dog all day he would be delighted with the schedule.
If you are not proactive in your dog’s activity list selection he will pick a “job” for himself. As time goes on he will get really good at whatever he selects. He will likely pick a dog game that has some component of chase it, catch it, shake it and find it. Don’t ask what “it” is since you are leaving it to chance. You may want to look around your house and property. It won’t take much imagination to guess what “it” could be. To support his objective to get to “it” the dog may also involve himself in behaviors such as digging, jumping out windows, pushing through open doors, jumping out of cars, barking constantly, pacing, whining, fighting, pulling on the leash etc. You get the picture.
The one thing that you can be assured of is that your dog is going to find something to do. It is your choice or his. What’s it going to be?
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer, award winning author and owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training PO Box 364 West Sand Lake New York 518 477-8230
Breeds You Can’t Housebreak
Catherine J. Crawmer
“He’s a 9 month old Pekingese. We need help. I’ve been on the Internet and I know they are hard to train but we have to do something. We’re getting nowhere with this!” The breed being described as “hard to train” could also be a small poodle, a yorkie or a pom. The breed doesn’t seem to matter much. However, all the breeds reputedly hard to train have one thing in common, they are all small. I have heard a lot of reasons given for this problem. “They develop slower.” “Tiny dogs have smaller kidneys.” “Big dogs can find the door easier.” While all these things are obviously not true, the fact remains that people have a lot more trouble with housebreaking issues with the toy breeds than with any other size dog.
What this particular Pekingese owner said was certainly true. The information she found on the Internet confirms that she is not the only one having the problem. If everyone else is having the same issue it is easy enough to come to the conclusion that whatever is going on has something to do with picking the wrong breed. In fact, the number one reason for toy size breeds ending up in shelters is for lack of housebreaking.
Now there are a lot of toy breeds! Can all of them be plagued with the same physical or mental deficiency making house training a problem? Maybe toy dogs aren’t as “smart” as big dogs? Well now we are treading on dangerous ground, my friend! Toy dog owners are adamant, “He is the smartest dog we have ever had! It’s just this one thing that we are having trouble with.”
Any time you have a problem shared by so many it is not likely to be a coincidence. There is a sound reason for the difficult housebreaking process which seems to plague the owners of toy breeds. It’s not that they have a physical problem and, heaven knows, they are as “smart” as any big dog ever was.
When an 8 week old Yorkshire terrier urinates on the floor it is almost cute! “Someone, qet a cotton ball and soak up the droplets! Little Ringo just did a tiny pee pee”. Bring a Q-Tip from the bathroom when you come out. Now where did I see it? Can you find it? I thought I just saw him go.” Oops, there is a little mistake over here too, or is it just a raison from the kid’s cereal? I’m not sure. Guess you should bring a tissue too.”
That’s the first issue. It’s small. The second issue? You can’t find it. The little guy is running all over the house. He is also being shuttled around from room to room by every member of the family. Everyone wants to hold him. The kids fight to have him sleep in their room. Why would anybody put him in a crate, as cute as he is? You could take him outside but why would you want to put him through such a thing? After all, it’s too cold, it’s snowing, it’s too wet, the grass is too high and………..it’s too much trouble.
Habits are being formed and they aren’t good. It will be a while before it becomes an issue though because puppy urine doesn’t smell and the little guy doesn’t lift his leg….yet. The little spots disappear completely on rugs, nowhere to be found. As the months go by ten little spots turn into thousands and finally someone asks, “What’s that smell?” When a “smell investigator” finally turns over one of the throw rugs the magnitude of the problem suddenly hits home.
It is interesting to note that, in more than 50 years of training dogs, I can’t remember a single case where I was called to solve a housebreaking problem with a 9 month old Great Dane or a Saint Bernard. Urine marking with an adult, every once in a while, but never the puppy housebreaking issues of the young toy breeds. The reason for this disparity in big dog and small dog housebreaking skills is not that much of a mystery at all. When a 12 week old giant breed “goes” on the floor you don’t need a cotton ball. You need a garden shovel and an industrial mop with a wringer bucket. Now there is all the incentive necessary to confine the puppy when he is not being watched and take him outside, and often. Who cares what the weather is? Mystery solved.
Training for housebreaking is a combination of training and management. Puppies have to go often and have very little advance warning themselves. Puppies have to go out TWICE first thing in the morning. For best results take him as soon as you get up in the morning and again about 15-20 minutes later. As he starts to relieve himself let him get more than half way through the process and then use your established conditioned reinforcer (clicker, word or other) to reward the behavior of relieving himself outside.
Collars & Leashes
Catherine J. Crawmer
What could be more confusing than a walk down the collar and leash aisle in any pet store? It seems that the selection is endless. What type is right for your dog? Do you choose something because you like the color? Is a proper fit the most important thing to you? And, now that you are thinking about it, what is a “proper fit” anyway? Do you pick the least expensive? Is there any advantage to selecting the most expensive?
Selecting a collar and leash for your dog may be among the most important purchases you make for your pet. As important as this is only a very small number of dog owners give this issue the consideration that it really deserves.
Consider first where you will be using this equipment. Do you need a collar to carry your dog’s identification and license? Even if your dog rarely leaves your property it is always wise to keep ID on him. This will help if he should wander away or otherwise end up in a place where he should not be. It is very likely that you will also need an additional collar for walking and going on public excursions.
The first order of business is safety. Collars that carry a dog’s identification are important for several reasons. The dog will wear this collar most of the time. The collar should be of sturdy material with a solid and strong buckle. It should not be so big that it will go over his head when he puts his head down. It should not be too tight. The standard rule is that you should be able to put three fingers easily between the collar and your dog’s neck. But even this rule is not valid for all dogs or all situations. Check the fit carefully for your dog’s individual needs.
Chain, choke type, collars are often seen on dogs when they are not attended by a person. This type of collar, or its nylon equivalent, should never be left on a dog unless you are actively engaged in walking him on a leash. The accident possibilities of this type of collar are endless. Even two dogs wrestling in play, with one or both of them wearing a choke type collar, can turn into a disaster. These collars have unlimited constriction.
The reel type leashes have become very popular in the last few years. They may be very handy for some types of country or suburb walking. At first glance, one might conclude that, with a push of a button, the dog will be reeled back to the wrist. In truth, this type of device has limited application where real control is needed. In an emergency situation the extended cable can become dangerous to both the dog and you. Once extended the dog must take the pressure off of the line before it can be reeled in. If you need to get the dog back quickly you will find that you must grab a thin cable with your hands and attempt to wind it up. This is a very risky business that could result in serious injury. At the very least, you have no control at all when the cable is extended. Dogs have been hit by cars while the owner held the handle of the reel tightly in his hand. He could do no more than watch.
There is no one equipment type that will sufficiently address the needs of all dogs or situations. First one should consider the breed of dog. Dogs of a type that have thick necks and narrow heads may lose a collar by backing up or dropping their head quickly. Greyhounds are a good example of a dog that can easily loose a collar. Shelties have thicker necks covered by a lot of hair, yet the head is narrow. Fit is of primary importance when selecting a collar for these dogs and others like them.
It is reasonable to assume that your dog will need a few different collars and leads to accommodate his different activities. He needs a collar to carry his identification. He needs a collar for his walks, his veterinary visits and a collar that you will use for his training. If your walks are done in a quiet area with minimum chances of meeting a loose dog and if you expect to encounter little or no traffic, the reel type lead may be fine. For trips to the vet, in heavy traffic, or in situations that are not readily predictable a chain choke type collar will prevent any chance of the losing the collar over the dog’s head. I chain collar can be used with another collar with a leash attached to both. That way, if the material collar goes over the head the chain will remain as a backup.
A leash of 6 foot or shorter lead will advisable in situations where control is important. Leads should be strong with a solid clip strong enough to hold the size dog that you have. Chain leads are very hard on the hands. Nylon leads are slippery and hard to hold onto. While they do come in attractive colors and patterns they often have sharp edges that, when sliding through your hands, can make control in a stressful situation difficult at best. What is the best leash choice for most situations? I would go with a solid leather lead with a strong dependable snap.
Price has to enter into almost every purchase, to some degree, and collars and leashes are no exception. The price range of these items is amazing and can range from the grocery store purchase of less than a dollar to hundreds of dollars for elaborate special designs that may include jewels, silver or gold. As in most life choices, a balance must be achieved between what is best and what one can afford. Consider the safety issues first, taking into consideration the strength and size of the dog being fitted. Then think about the logistics of the environment where you will be walking your dog. The cost of obtaining the proper equipment for the job should never deter you from selecting the safest equipment possible.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer, author, lecturer and owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training PO Box 364 West Sand Lake, New York12196
Phone 518 477-8230 TrainEmAll@aol.com
Catherine J. Crawmer
It seems that most of my time is spent problem solving. Unfortunately, rarely does anyone contact a trainer to develop a program to teach the puppy what he should do. If only people would come to realize that the time spent training the puppy appropriate behaviors in the beginning would save time, money and heartache later on. So often the dog/owner relationship is destroyed while owners are attempting to break all the habits that developed from their doing nothing. Dogs continue to learn something whether you deliberately train them or not and sometimes they do exactly what you train them to do.
Last winter, I went to the home of a couple with a small black pit bull female about one year of age. When you see a lot of dogs they kind of get muddled in your mind but every now and then one really stands out for some reason. This was one of those dogs. All dogs see you but this one “looked” right at you. She looked smart and she was smart.
The owners, unfortunately, did not seem to share the dog’s level of intellect. First of all, they were both quite intoxicated. The bottle and the glasses were on the coffee table. They did offer me a drink but, intent upon doing my job, I chose to refrain. As the session wore on I reached a point where I regretted my decision.
My services are not cheap. When a decision is reached to pay me for help people are usually ready to commit themselves to the process. I asked the couple how I could help them. Getting right to the heart of the matter, the woman stated that the reason that I was there was that their dog kept jumping up on company, especially when they were sitting on the couch and chairs. While she was explaining this, the dog was spread out on the couch and across her lap. The woman was petting the reclining animal with one hand and balancing a near full glass in the other. I explained that she just might be giving the dog confusing information if she was petting the dog for doing what the dog was not supposed to do. While I was explaining this the dog left the woman’s lap, jumped up on the other side of the same couch and climbed up on the man’s shoulder. The woman, indicating me with a motion of her glass, told her husband that he should not be petting her to which the man replied, “How can I not pet her? Look how cute she is!” The woman then expressed a concern that they might have to “get rid” of the dog if this habit could not be broken.
At another home there were four family members. It is always helpful to get everyone together so that all concerns and expectations can be addressed. The first family member, a young woman, spoke up expressing her dissatisfaction with their dog who jumps on company. “I wouldn’t have a dog if I knew he was going to be jumping all over everyone.” Her brother spoke next expressing an opposite viewpoint. “Why have a dog if you can’t enjoy it?” He liked to roughhouse with the dog and encouraged jumping up every chance he got. As confusing as this was the next family member had the ultimate expectation for the dog. She explained that she didn’t really mind the dog jumping up most of the time. After all, she did a lot of gardening so her clothes weren’t fancy. But one day a week she worked as a nurse and she had a real problem with the dog jumping up on her white nursing uniform. As long as the dog didn’t jump up on her on Thursdays she was happy. Consider the message this family wants to convey to the dog. Never jump up. Always jump up. Jump up except on Thursdays
Everyone is aware of the fact that there are a lot of dogs picked up as strays in every municipality in this country. Lost, confused, seemingly despondent, these animals are found wandering neighborhoods often an incredible distance from the home where they have spent years, or their entire lives. . More than a few of these animals run right out the doors of their homes seemingly making a beeline to parts unknown, never looking back. Like most people, I assumed that dogs just do not understand the realities or dangers inherent in leaving the loving home so familiar to them. However, after more than 50 years in animal training, I believe that I have compiled enough evidence to now prove that these unfortunate incidents are indicative of desperate decisions made by dogs who just couldn’t take it anymore.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer, speaker and author. Contact Crawmer’s Animal Training PO Box 364 West Sand Lake, New York 12196
Phone: 518 477-8230 Email: TrainEmAll@aol.com
Dogs And Car Rides
Catherine J. Crawmer
A dog with poor car manners is less an inconvenience and more an issue of safety. Many accidents occur because a dog has not been trained to properly ride in a vehicle, as well as enter and exit that vehicle. Proper training from the beginning is the best way but older dogs with bad habits can be effectively trained to make car riding a pleasant and safe experience for all. First you need a plan and then put it into practice!
- Train dog to maintain a desirable location in the car before the trip starts. It may be very difficult to get him to stay in the back seat if he has always ridden in the front
2. Teach your dog to exit a car only on your command. This is very important safety
3. Teach your dog to stay away from the open windows. It is not unusual at all to have
a dog jump out an open window. Dogs do not consider the speed of travel when
they decide to jump
4. Do not let the dog hang his head out of open windows. It’s not good for the eyes
and ears and also puts him in perfect position to jump out if he sees something
5. It may be necessary to leave a leash on him for a while as he is being trained to
maintain his position in the car. Be consistant! Make certain that
other family members are on the same program.
Catherine J. Crawmer is owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training in
West Sand Lake, NY
Who Needs….. Walking On A Leash?
Catherine J. Crawmer
“After all, we live on a farm”. “He never leaves the property.” “He doesn’t like it.” “We just never taught him to do it.” These and many more reasons are given when an adult dog does not walk on a leash. The truth is that every dog should be taught this basic life skill and every dog, no matter his age, can learn to walk on a leash.
Every dog needs to see his veterinarian. Regular visits are necessary for basic examinations, including wellness checkups, vaccine, worming and flea/tick control. Injury or illness will indicate a veterinary visit at other times during the life of every dog. While trips to the vet can be stressful enough a dog without basic leash walking skills can make an uncomfortable situation far worse. Imagine a dog being dragged, lifted and hauled into the vet’s office while he is fighting the leash with every breath of his being! What could have been a simple office visit has now turned into a battle causing great stress for both the dog and his family. This experience will be remembered by the dog and associated with the visit to the veterinarian, when really; his problem was more with the lack of leash training than with the veterinary visit. The next visit will be even more difficult as will all subsequent visits.
In the lifetime of a dog it is likely that he will need to be boarded at a kennel. He may go along on vacation with his family. He may go visiting with his family or he may stay with someone while his family is out of town. His family may someday move to a location where he can no longer run free. In the event of a real emergency it may be necessary to move a dog quickly out of the house, car or away from a situation. Just imagine a dog that cannot be moved in such circumstances simply because he has never been trained the necessary simple life skill of walking on a leash!
Use a snug fitting collar made of webbing or leather and a long lead at least 6 feet in length. Get a pocket full of tiny, easy to eat treats. Take him outside, attach the leash and go all the way to the end of the lead and wait. Don’t pull and don’t drag the dog! Wait. The dog will want to be close to you but seeing that you have moved away he will come towards you. As he is walking reach toward him and give him a treat. It is very important to give him the treat WHILE he is moving. If you give him the treat after he has gotten to you the treat will be given while he is standing still. Moving toward you is the thing to reward. After the treat is given move again to the very end of the lead and repeat. If the dog moves away from you simply stand your ground, the lead will tighten and he will not be able to proceed. Use verbal encouragement and treats to get him to move in your direction. In only a few minutes a day and you will have taught your dog the important life skill of walking on a lead and built a closer relationship with him.
Good Dogs! Good People! Bad Choices!
Catherine J. Crawmer
What do we remember most about the dog we grew up with? He was perfect! There were no bad habits, no clean up problems and no expense to speak of. We may recall the dog of our childhood so affectionately that we often seek to replace him in our adulthood.
Unfortunately, disappointment often results when we find that the perfect pet that we remember is nothing like the dog that we acquire as adults, no matter how similar in appearance the animals may actually be. There is a good reason for that. We were never responsible for the animal’s care or training and neither were we financially responsible for its upkeep. That was our parent’s job.
All this being said, most adults will acquire the same breed they remember growing up with. Many will continue to hold that breed in high regard, so much so, that they will own several of the same breed over their lifetime. This may not be a problem. On the other hand, it could be a major issue. While our breed of choice may not change, we do change as we get older. If the breed of our youth was an active, high-powered Labrador Retriever or a strong willed German Shepherd, from working lineage, we may be faced with an animal that we simply cannot handle at that point in time.
The number of calls our professional trainers get from people who have simply chosen the wrong dog is staggering. The breed of dog is often the same that they have always had but suddenly this particular animal is being described as the worst example of the breed they have ever seen. How can this be? What is wrong with the animal? Nothing! What is wrong with the owner? Nothing! It’s a good dog, owned by a good person, who has made a very bad choice for this stage of his life.
The very same dog that is right for a 20 year old is not necessarily right for a 40 year old and maybe nothing short of a disaster for a 70 year old. Change! Above all things, change is the most difficult concept for the human being to accept. We want to do all the things that we have always done and have all the things that we have always had. Like it or not, our activity level changes, our priorities change and our physical capabilities change as we age. As we age things that were easy at one time in our lives can be a burden. Some of the activities that we engaged in at a younger age can be dangerous.
What? I should get a Miniature Pinscher instead of a Doberman? A Tibetan Terrier instead of an Old English Sheepdog? A Pug rather than a Mastiff? Maybe so! When size and strength are issues you may want to consider a smaller size breed than what you have traditionally chosen. Many people have grown accustomed to a particular “look”. By getting some information on various breeds you may be able to find that the basic look you are after is available in a more diminutive size.
Size, however, is not the only concern. Some breeds of dog, although small, are possessing of an activity level that is not acceptable for some people who have the desire to lead a quieter, less physically active lifestyle. A small border collie, from working lineage, may be fun for a young and physically active person but may prove a serious challenge for a person who finds himself at a less vibrant stage of life.
The dog you choose now is a choice you may live with for 10-14 years. Where are you now in your life? How do you expect your life to change over the next 10 years? The best place to start may be with a look in the mirror and an honest self-evaluation. Consider your changing lifestyle, your activity level as well as your physical capabilities. You can certainly have a dog at any stage of your life as long as you consider two important factors. Your dog of choice should be an animal you can physically handle with no risk to your safety. It should be an animal with a temperament and activity level that fits your lifestyle.
Catherine J. Crawmer is owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training in West Sand Lake, New York. A professional, all species animal trainer, award winning book author and lecturer. Catherine can be reached at
Pit Bulls In the Sport of Agility
Catherine J. Crawmer
After competing for many years, the standard poodle that my husband, Glenn Stevans, had been showing was starting to show his age. Byron was a special dog. Glenn and this giant white poodle had become a fixture at agility competitions all over the East coast. He had quite been successful with many titles and many wins in two different agility organizations.
Highly competitive, Glenn needed a dog capable of competing at the highest levels. He asked me to keep an eye open for a dog that would have the ideal qualities to compete and win in the sport of agility.
What was I looking for? A temperament. A drive. An undeniable enthusiasm for life, that comes across more as a feeling than a look to those who recognize such things. There was no breed preference, no preference of size, of color or of sex. While everyone was out buying border collies and Australian shepherds I was out looking for an agile mind full of fire packed into the body of an athlete built for speed. How I would find this animal or where I would find it I didn’t have the slightest idea. As it turned out this dog found me.
It was 1992 and I was in the stray section of the humane society. I had been there many times before. All the runs were full when I heard a voice. “Over here! Hey, hey, hey! Over here, over here!” While it wasn’t audible I heard it as clear as anything I have ever heard. It was a female black and white pit bull. She was up on her back legs with her front feet on the wire smiling at me and doing everything possible to get my attention. She got my attention and when I put my fingers through the wire she rubbed against my fingers to the point that I ended petting her whole body. She looked about 8 or 9 months old. What a great dog, I thought. A real fireball.
At that time all pit bulls were euthanized at that shelter. I noticed the date on the run card. Her time was just about up. She had been found wandering the streets of Albany New York. According to State law, the owner has five days in which to claim her. After this period she would be put to sleep. I shook my head in sympathy and left the shelter. I thought about her that night. A pit bull? Was I looking for a pit bull? No, I don’t think so. A pit bull. I don’t know. It was unusual for me to be called to the shelter two days in a row but I was. When I saw the dog again I knew she was the one. Since I had connections at the shelter I was able to adopt her.
Would she get along with our other dogs? Since I was a breeder of poodles I had a collection of them, both toys and standards. We also showed some Chihuahuas and several types of birds. This was no puppy either. We didn’t know a single thing about her background. Was she even housebroken? I glanced over at her as she sat smiling and happy on the passenger seat next to me I remember thinking on the drive home, “My God, what have I done?” Glenn hadn’t seen her yet. She didn’t smell too good and she had a good case of fleas. She went out of the car and into the grooming shop for what was, undoubtedly, her first bath and dip.
Glenn loved her immediately. He named her Mickey. The housebreaking was great and she never bothered our other animals. It didn’t take a full day before she was attached to Glenn. He promptly took her to the field and taught her to go through a tunnel. One thing was really evident, this animal was FAST! Fast and agile. Lighting fast She was fearless. Byron was a good agility dog but things would bother him. If he slipped on an obstacle work would be needed to improve his confidence before he would get on that obstacle again. Mickey was very different. Nothing bothered her. She wanted to just GO! I mean run full out. In the first year or two of competition she was extremely frustrated at not being able to go as fast as she wanted and she took to grabbing Glenn’s shoelaces and violently shaking them. She was disqualified numerous times for this activity.
As Mickey matured she became what I can only describe as intent. She was intent on speed. The only thing she saw was the next obstacle and the only thing she heard was Glenn’s commands. Unfortunately, Glenn was often unable to say the obstacle name as fast as she could negotiate them. She never missed the contact points on the 6-foot scaling wall at anytime during a competition or in training. In seeing the videos of her you could see why. Her style of negotiating the wall made missing the contact points impossible. As unbelievable as it seemed for a dog that measures 19 inches at the shoulder, she would hit the wall at the ascending contact point and jump clear, never touching the top of the wall and literally land on the downside contact zone. If we hadn’t seen it over and over on video I wouldn’t have believed it.
On every course there is a maximum time limit. In order to qualify the dog must complete the course within that timeframe. Maximum time was never an issue for Mickey as she entered course times that were often half that of her nearest competitor. Glenn told everyone that she was going to beat the time of border collies and she did, many times. Mickey had no trouble telling the difference between practice and competition. She was always fast in practice and at class but when she got to a show she was a changed dog. When Glenn brought her into the ring and they were awaiting the signal to start Mickey would lower her body position, with one front leg forward. She turned her head and looked upward at Glenn with one eye and would shake! People would remark from outside the ring, “Look! That dog is shaking!” When she finally got the signal to go her start could better be described as a launch. She developed quite a fan following. Here was a little pit bull as fast as any border collie and people enjoyed seeing her streak around the field.
Mickey had two operations for torn ligaments on the knee of her back legs. In both instances she slipped on the ice during the coldest winter months. She had a habit of running in circles when she felt good and once she started it was pretty hard to slow her down. This dog loves to run. Mickey is now eleven years old. She is retired as of this year. She puts on exhibitions of distance control that boggle the mind. It is rare to see a dog that works at such great distances and takes direction so incredibly well. Because of Mickey we acquired more pit bulls, Happy, Coan, Missile and the newest competitor, Rocket.
As an ambassador of the breed Mickey has been marvelous. I have lost track of the number of pit bulls that have been acquired because people have met Mickey. Our agility classes have many pit bulls and many are competing because of what this little black and white pit bull has been able to accomplish.
After being intimately involved with the pit bull breed, with animals of my own and those of my clients, I have come to appreciate them for many reasons. I can see why they are so popular for all the wrong reasons. Their attributes are also their downfall. The breed has an incredible enthusiasm and they are looking for work. When they have been introduced to the work, whatever it may be, they seek to put every ounce of their being into the task. What a great dog for the sport of agility! Since they are animals they accept direction from those humans who choose to acquire them. When they are directed by human beings suffering from a notable deficit of morality the poor animals cannot rise above this affliction. Rather than be the breed of dog sought by people looking for a competitive agility dog they are abused by those who take advantage of their innocence by turning the poor creatures toward activities indicative of their own human illness evidenced by the sociopathic activities they are involved in.
I would recommend the pit bull breed for agility. Certainly some individuals will be more suitable than others, but the general attributes of this breed make it an attractive choice to consider if one is interested in a high level competitor.
Kids and Puppies; Not Always the Best Choice
Catherine J. Crawmer
Imagine raising two babies at the same time! What a chore and what a challenge! While a child and a puppy playing together may be cute in photographs the realities of such a combination are often too much to handle. Puppies have very sharp nails and very sharp teeth. It will be many months before the puppy is trained and meanwhile your puppy views babies and children as he would a member of the litter he has recently left.
Children are short in stature so the same sharp puppy nails that scratch the adult’s knee will scratch the baby or young child in the facial area. Such unfortunate experiences can make the child fearful of future contact with the puppy. In the child’s attempt to defend himself from the well-meaning puppy’s play-assault the child will often run, scream and flail his arms about. All the attempts made by the child to stop the puppy from biting may serve only to increase the intensity of the puppy’s game.
Chase is a popular dog game and all puppies enthusiastically engage in it! In the puppy’s attempts to play with his new human family he will wrestle, chase and bite the same way he would with his litter brothers and sisters. A child may be scratched, bitten and be knocked down repeatedly by a puppy who is too young to know any better. This early childhood experience of dog interaction serves neither the child nor the puppy very well.
Young children and babies should be paired with older puppies or adult dogs who have been trained to a degree where they are past the point of play biting and excessive wrestling. No dog of ANY AGE should be left unattended with a baby or young child. It is unfair to expect a dog to be treated like an unfeeling play toy. Animals thus treated may react to pain and fear caused unwittingly by young children and babies. A dog should always have his own space, as well as an opportunity to retreat from any situation should he desire to.
Before you obtain a puppy ask yourself honestly, are you really ready to add another “baby” to your household? If the answer is no, you may want to consider selecting an older puppy, an adult dog or maybe no dog at all while you have babies and young children in the home. It is wise to take stock of your situation and avoid taking on more than you can handle.
Designer Dog Breeds
Catherine J. Crawmer
They can cost thousands of dollars. They have been getting plenty of media attention. They are“Designer Dogs”! People are lining up to lay down their hard earned money for various combinations of two purebred dogs. What are people really getting? Who is benefiting?
Everyone wants to have something unique, something special and nothing fits the bill like owning this latest craze of the dog world. They come with various names, usually parts of two purebred names that are then combined. Labradoodle is a mix of Labrador retriever and poodle. Cockapoo is a mixture of cocker spaniel and poodle. The chicapoo is, no, not chicken and poodle, but Chihuahua and poodle. Then there are combinations of the schnauzer and poodle. There are a number of mixtures that do not involve poodles although why the poodle is the most chosen mixture is a mystery. Media attention to this latest craze has done nothing but encourage more breed combinations and more money for those individuals interested in turning a fast profit.
Why have breeders spent so much effort and so many years developing distinctive dog breeds? The reasons are many including the goal of achieving predictability in size, color, temperament and type. A visit to any dog show will demonstrate the degree to which these goals have been achieved. The exhibition quality poodle, Labrador retriever, American cocker spaniel and chihuahua are nothing less than works of genetic art. Read the AKC standard of perfection for a cocker spaniel and that of a miniature poodle and the first question that comes to mind is just, “WHY?” Why would anyone breed together two animals so completely different in every possible feature? The same could be said about most purebred dogs. Those who are selling these combinations are reasoning that this combination “brings out the best features of both breeds.” Anyone who has read an article on basic inheritance knows that it doesn’t work that way. Another popular reason given for the intentional production of these mix breed dogs is that “they are healthier than purebreds and are not given to the genetic problems of a purebred.” Again, go back to basic genetics. This statement has no foundation in scientific fact.
“Designer Dogs” are mix breeds. Some of the combinations have been around for years such as the cockapoo. The only new thing about this current advertising campaign is the term designation of “Designer Dog” which seems to have given new life to an otherwise very old practice of intentionally producing mix breed dogs for those who will, unwisely, pay way too much for what is nothing more than what some would call a mutt. There is nothing wrong with a mix breed dog but the shelters are too full of them to justify their intentional breeding or a price tag of thousands of dollars to acquire one.
Of course someone who just paid a fortune for what they have been told is special, unusual and unique is not going to like hearing that they are now the proud owner of a very expensive mutt! All this creates something of a problem for the professional groomer, trainer or veterinarian who is now, not only expected to be in awe of the opportunity to touch such an expensive and unique creature but also is expected to know how “they” are supposed to be look and what temperament "they" are supposed to have. After all what kind of professional are you if you don’t have any idea how to groom a dachaschnauz? (a mixture of dachshund and schnauzer). Since it is unlikely to see two mixes that look alike it is more a matter of individual qualities!
Temperament varies from one breed to another and one individual and another. To assume that the temperament of two totally different breeds equals anything for sure is to go way out on a limb! Every dog is beautiful and has worth as an individual be he purebred or mixed breed. However, the intentional pairing of two purebred dogs with the goal of producing a mixed breed dog makes no genetic sense.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional groomer and trainer and owner of Crawmer’s Grooming and Training in West Sand Lake, New York TrainEmAll@aol.com