On Storm Keeping Ants Out of His Belly

Storm the Border Collie

Storm the Border Collie

I knew there was trouble as soon as I rounded the corner and caught sight of Storm’s kennel.  He was laying in it, as usual, peering up at me with those round, little Border Collie eyes.  However the shreds of plastic laying near the kennel entrance were new.  What the?  Oh no, it hit me like a wrecking ball (thank you Miley)…he had made an early morning snack of one of the ant traps I had set out!  Where’s the box, I thought, hoping that somewhere in the fine print it would state “really toxic to ants, but perfectly fine for canines to ingest and share with other doggie friends.”  Unfortunately, there was no such gentle wording on the box I yanked from the shelf (where I put all of the chemicals so the dogs don’t get into them…hrrrmmph).  It plainly stated that whatever was in those attractive little black discs was toxic for domestic animals. Now in my defense, the little voice in the back of my head had told me to be cautious.  For I know….I have an eater!  Storm has ingested items that would make any other dog shake his head in disbelief.  He has an affinity for toilet paper rolls and steals them from bathroom wastebaskets any chance he gets.  Cotton swabs are a delicacy in his eyes.  I still can’t find the tiny remote that belonged with my digital alarm clock….huh.  Anyway, I thought I was exercising caution when I put the ant trap up high and behind some appliances that would be tough to maneuver around.  Darn that canine sense of smell for betraying my stealth and cunning.  Storm must have smelled whatever attractant is housed in those black domes, and he wasted no time working to get to it.  I am still not sure how he maneuvered onto the kitchen island and around the appliances to get to it, but a snack was available, and he was going to have it!

So as it sank in that Storm could get seriously sick, my heart sank at my apparent lack of caution.  I hurriedly called my vet and luckily, since Storm has just recently enjoyed his unconventional meal, there was a chance that vomiting would help keep him out of trouble. One teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide was prescribed…two if he wasn’t “hurling chunks” in a matter of a few minutes.  Disclaimer:  this doesn’t always work, and certain things ingested are not good to bring back up so in short, kids, don’t try this at home without your vet’s approval.  Being a dog who tries his best to respond quickly to any demand placed upon him, Storm was launching remnants of ant bait, plastic and the morning’s kibble towards the floor shortly after I administered the first spoon of peroxide.  Good boy!  Just to show off, he threw up two more times afterwards. Ok, that’s enough…you can stop now!  Poor dog, he looked absolutely pitiful after all of this.  I am sure I did as well, but I was immeasurably relieved that my sweet boy was likely going to live to eat another toilet paper roll.

Dogs are certainly very intelligent and perceptive creatures. However they need us to be constant ambassadors to the human world and to help them stay away from things that they are just not able to interpret appropriately.  Especially if they are like my sweet Storm, and everything is interpreted as the next great meal!

Playing Around with Dog Training

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My hand lifts up slowly and Storm’s eyes follow it, full of anticipation and razor sharp focus.  He is seated and his head is slightly low, in classic Border Collie focus fashion.  The ball in my grip is his only concern at this point, and he is poised to go as soon as I launch it down the hallway behind him.  Except for one thing.  I have now told him to “wait!”  As I let go of the ball, it flies, fast and furious, towards the end of the hall.  Storm is still planted in the same spot, looking at me and waiting, waiting, waiting for…”bring it!”  Upon release of the magic words, he turns on a dime and goes after the ball as if his life depended on the retrieve.  He quickly catches up to it, scoops it up with his mouth, and returns it to me for another throw.

This type of scenario happens often at our house.  I am a big time multi-tasker, so anytime I can shove two tasks together in one frame of time, I do it!  Hence, it is wonderful for me to be able to combine ever-important training with play when it comes to my dogs. This was especially true when I was considering competitive obedience for my dog Storm.  I trained and/or reinforced the wait, send away, sit, down, stay, and drop on command…all through a retrieve!  Not only did it make for more efficient training, it was fun!

Here’s how you can explore this type of training with your dog (or other pet). First of all, find out what types of play your dog really enjoys.  Retrieving is a wonderful tool, and even if your dog is not a natural retriever, you can teach it!  Click here for  a great article by the ASPCA on how to do that.  Tug can also be used, or perhaps you have a dog that likes to catch things (although similar, this can be different from the retrieve…I have cared for dogs who aren’t so excited about retrieving but think catching objects in their mouths is pure awesomeness).  Touches or “tags” could also work!  For instance, ask your dog to sit, and then offer a quick touch/tickle wherever your dog likes one after releasing him.  Perhaps then puppy gets to chase you for a moment.  Be open to thinking outside of the box!

Once you’ve found something motivating, us it as a reward for the behaviors you are trying to teach!  You can show your dog how to do behaviors as you play with him.  Targeting is great here, because you can teach your dog to target your finger and then use it to direct the dog quickly and then reinforce the behavior with play.  In other instances, you can reinforce a behavior you have taught your dog via other methods by rewarding the behavior with play after you’ve requested it.

I always say, training should be fun, and there is not better fun than training a dog while playing with him.  I hope you find some great ways to play around with your dog’s training!

May I pet your dog?

This lovely post reiterates a concept that, I don’t think, can be shared enough. I also love the fact that there is an analogy contained therein which speaks to how we humans would perceive an unexpected intrusion. Walk a mile in my paws.

Dog's Day Inn

May I pet your dog?

This is a very simple and important question, yet so often unasked.One of the biggest concerns we hear from clients is how other people will rush up to pet their dog without asking. Likewise, strangers will allow other dogs to pounce upon their dogs, again, without asking. Although the gesture is intended to be “friendly”, the importance of asking permission to pet or touch another dog FIRST should not be overlooked.

Remember, not all dogs want to be greeted, and there are many reasons for it. Dogs can be very protective of their owners and may consider the intrusion into their space as a threat. It is also very common for a dog to have a fear of strangers and your advance could cause a defensive reaction. The dog may even have aggressive tendencies that should be avoided for your own safety. Lastly, he may…

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No Stimulus Goes Unconditioned: Thinking out of the NILIF box

Following is a link to an excellent blog post about pairing classical and operant conditioning in dog training (might as well use all the tools in the toolbox, right?).  It speaks to me particularly because I strongly believe in resolving behavioral problems, not simply putting a bandage over them.  Check it out here:  No Stimulus Goes Unconditioned: Thinking out of the NILIF box.  Here’s a sneak peak to get you started:

When I first read Kathy Sdao’s book, Plenty in Life is Free, I cried. I cried because her words made sense. I cried because she described the incredible impact, negative and positive, we can have on our dogs’ lives through what we choose to reinforce, and through the contingencies we place on those reinforcers. It’s a daunting responsibility, but one that is so rewarding if done correctly.

As you can probably guess by now, I do not recommend Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) protocols for my training clients. Sdao explains the pitfalls of NILIF much more eloquently than I ever could, so I will refer you to her book for those details. At times, depending on the severity and urgency of a behavioral problem, I will “close the economy,” meaning I ask owners to feed their dogs a certain portion of their food via training, either via classical or operant conditioning. But this is different from NILIF, and this difference is critical when working with fear-based behaviors.