A Daily Dose of Mindfulness

Life seems to have a way of sneaking up on a person.  It goes along like the day before and then BAM, something crops up which disrupts our routine, but also causes us to push the pause button. The break in our daily tasks makes us face the reality of life that of which we, including our pets, have a finite time here.

I had a experience like this last week. Jack developed a lump, the size of a quarter, on his face overnight. I didn’t immediately freak out and catastrophasize the problem.  I immediately thought it was a bug bite or a spider bite or otherwise and allergic reaction to something.  I did a bit of googling which eased my mind a bit and I waited on taking him into the Vet’s office.  Well, a few days later, the lump stayed there and it was irritated because Jack kept on fiddling with it by rubbing his face, scratching it and doing whatever else.  I decided in taking him in for an evaluation.

I informed the Vet of what I thought it could be and wouldn’t you know, he thought the same thing, but there was still a question mark and a bit of a cause for concern for him.  He prescribed him some meds and asked us to come back in a week for the possibility of doing a biopsy. I was prepared for this potential, knowing cancer can appear suddenly even with taking precautions and taking care of ourselves and our pets. I wasn’t prepared for waiting.

The past few days, I’ve found myself wondering if the medications are working in reducing the size of the lump or if my own denial of how Jack isn’t going to live forever changes my perception of the size of the lump. Dogs don’t have the life span of a person, mine and Eddie’s life are forever changed because little Boogs is apart of it and the likely hood Jack will depart this earth before us is a real possibility.  I didn’t realize how much so until the finality of Jack being actively a part of it became a reality. Throughout the past 4 years, Jack made me dig a bit deeper and find patience, an open heart and creativity in coping with things outside our norm. I discovered just this when we were at the Vet’s office this past week. The office was packed and I know how Jack becomes a bit high strung when there are strange people and strange dogs. He did well, in the beginning. I first noticed there were many people waiting in the waiting room, so I checked him in and let the receptionist know we would sit outside. We waited for about 15 minutes and this was Jack’s tipping point. He started getting frustrated. He acted this out by barking at people and dogs. People looked at him and at me like “control your dog”. I’ve had those looks before and I’ve often felt a bit of shame or embarrassment because in that moment, I couldn’t control him, Jack was over threshold and I felt a bit out of control myself. That day was different, I just ignored them. I felt a bit freer and less consumed about how others perceive a certain situation. I know how far Boogs and I came in our relationship and I wasn’t so worried about this moment.

The icing on the cake happened after the visit and I was paying our bill. I had Jack’s leash and the receptionist was passing my credit card and receipt back to me when another dog and owner came out through the door. This jolted Jack back to alert mode and he started barking. I know Jack, he wanted the opportunity in greeting the other dog, so I wasn’t concerned. I proceeded in asking the receptionist if I can book an appointment. She looked at me with puzzlement and asked “you want to book one right now”.  Normally, I would be apologetic and immediately remove Jack from the situation and come back and wait for my turn again. Not this time. I said “yes, please”. I felt more relaxed having a JRT as a companion than I ever did before.

The likely hood this is just a blip on the screen of things happening and not having any major life changing implications is pretty high. I guess what it caused me was an opportunity in being present. It keeps me grateful. I’m more aware of my own gratitude for things in my life on a daily basis. The things I’m most grateful for today is, how soft Jack’s fur is, how much he makes me laugh and how much more I’m aware of myself because he’s been apart of my life.

What are you grateful for?!

A Treat Is A Bridge To A Pup’s Heart

The past few weeks have been CRAZY!  I’ve been working more hours at my other job, a before/after school program turned into a summer camp for a few more weeks.  The increased hours doesn’t lend me in having much time for dog training, but I certainly make time when I get a call.

I met with a woman, I’ll call her Terri, a week or so ago who was interested in training her tiny puppy to become a service dog.  I was excited about working with a puppy and at least helping the client start off by getting basic obedience down pat with her pup.  My enthusiasm was met with an old skool and in some ways, a hardened heart.  This meeting went south, pretty quickly.  Terri was quick on telling me her pup, I’ll name Bubba, absolutely knows the word ‘No”.  She also shared whenever the puppy gets close to an electrical outlet, she smacks the puppy on the nose.  The last thing she tells me before I intervene is that Bubba already drew blood.  The puppy was only 8 weeks old! I calmly informed her she’ll get more reliable results with positive reinforcement training and actually, the smack on the nose can get her the opposite of what she’s intending. She took my information and I left knowing I wouldn’t get a call back from her.  I’m beginning to understand the culture here in SW Oklahoma is decades behind in dog training and my frustration with this type of culture is how people who adopt this thinking perceive reward based training is so ‘candy’ and passive.

When I came home, I felt so deflated.  I felt like I didn’t do enough and the whole meeting was a waste of time and resources.  Then I found this article and it solidified the reasons behind positive reinforcement training and the why’s behind it working.  Do Dogs Prefer Petting or Praise is a great easy read on the psychology of how dogs learn and what their preferred method of doing so is and why.  We know dogs learn by association.  We know dogs or any animal for that matter will show a conditioned response after a stimulus if the response is reinforced.  For instance, if a dog sits and you give him praise and a treat, he’ll begin to associate that behavior will get him a treat and will start to give it to you more frequently.  Then you can begin generalizing the behavior by giving more real life rewards. On the other hand, if a dog doesn’t sit when you need him to and then you pull on this pinch collar, he’ll associate the pinch with not giving you the behavior and will likely only do things in order to avoid the punishment. Then you run the risk of not being able to generalize the behavior using aversive methods since he’ll not be wearing a pinch collar and leash 24/7, so how will a person give a ‘pop of a collar’ when the pup doesn’t sit when asked?  There is also the risk of changing the dog’s emotional response towards the negative and potentially making the dog unintentionally aggressive.

What about praise alone?  I’ve often had discussions with other trainers about the pros/cons of using praise in conjunction with treats and just praise alone.  Well, the findings detailed in the article show dogs don’t understand only the verbal.  “If saying “Good dog!” is always followed by a treat, it will come to have some meaning for the dog since it predicts a food reward. However, without this conditioning, it doesn’t have any significance. – See more at: Companion Animal Psychology 2015.  Dogs perceive unconditioned verbal praise as no interaction at all while the praise with the treats or the petting is what dogs are looking for in building a relationship with their companion.

Amazing! There is concrete evidence on the types of praise and in encouraging a dog to build a relationship with a person.  The more of this idea spreads, more of a culture shift can happen.  I know its a long road ahead, but knowing there are some truly wonderful people who are fully committed to their pups, I’m hopeful the tide will turn and more positive reinforcement approaches will be sought after here.

Garlic? To Eat, or Not to Eat?

Summer is here and with all the warm temperatures, we increase our vigilance on preventing fleas and ticks.  After taking time in researching different methods of preventing and controlling those annoying pests, I’ve grown ever so weary of using insecticides which are either applied behind the shoulder blades of dogs and absorbed through their skin and circulated throughout their bloodstream or our pets are dipped into a bath of them.  The idea of regularly applying these toxic chemicals directly on to our pets makes me cringe with how this adversely affects their health.  I know I wouldn’t want a monthly dose of insecticides!

After some enlightening conversations with friends and colleagues and reading Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health For Dogs and Cats, my mind was opened. Dr. Pitcairn discusses and focuses an entire chapter on the benefits of exercise and holistic ways of caring for our pets.  The holistic ways in caring for our pets is one which stood out for me.  For the longest time and maybe with being inundated with marketing on flea and tick control brands, it honestly, never crossed my mind in finding insect repellent naturally in our foods.  I’m grateful for being exposed to the sea change in how we feed our pets.

Garlic is touted as a great antimicrobial, dewormer and preventer of fleas and ticks.  I decided to try it out.  Well, actually, I decided something bigger than just supplementing with garlic.  I decided in feeding my Bears real food like a variety of vegetables, fruits, meats and bones.  Along with their evening meals, I include a clove or two of garlic.  Eddie and I changed them over to more of a BARF and raw food diet a few months ago and I have to say, I’ve not seen a tick or flea on them.  I live in OK, and we’ve had a tremendous amount of rain and sometimes we haven’t cut the grass in a timely fashion, so the environment was ripe for these issues.  I check them often and I’ve not see any signs contrary to this.  The ABC Pet Nutrition and Diet program I successfully completed along with Dr. Pitcairn’s expertise touches on the idea that the problem isn’t with eradicating fleas and ticks all together, but rather seeing pets riddled with fleas is more indicative of a pet suffering from suppressed immune system, therefore a pet not living with optimal health. Diets can affect how we behave, our ability to focus, work and relax.  The same, I believe, is true for our pets.

Even though I believe in the power of real food not only for ourselves, but also our furry friends, I also believe in being knowledgeable about issues before a decision is made.  If you’re curious about finding out for yourself, check out Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

Dog Food Advisor (a website I often site to clients when we discuss pet foods) came out with pros and cons for feeding garlic: Dog Food Advisor-Garlic.  This website may focus more on the negatives, but its also good to consider.

Finally, Dogs Naturally Magazine discusses the pros of garlic in our pets diet: Dogs Naturally Magazine

I would like to hear from you all about your experiences!

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