As well as working with clients “virtually” when shutdown began in March 2020 I also continued my growth and education in the dog training and behavior field and am now a proud graduate of the Victoria Stilwell for Dog Training and Behavior Academy!
As many of my clients know, continuing my education in the field of dog training and dog behavior is of paramount importance to me so that I keep my knowledge and skills fresh and current. I do this each year by attending conferences, webinars, reading books by renowned trainers and each year choose a course that I feel with further my development.
This year I chose to do the Victoria Stilwell dog training and behavior course. I have followed Victoria for many years and am a great admirer in her belief of positive/force free training but also of the huge work she does both here in the USA and the UK to really drive this training philosophy forward. She also does a lot of work to promote and support rescue and shelter dogs, something that is very dear to her heart.
The Victoria Stilwell Academy is the world’s premier institution for professional dog trainer education founded by renowned dog behavior expert Victoria Stilwell, and graduates of VSA have been individually taught in-person by Stilwell and other VSA faculty. All VSA graduates are rigorously assessed at the highest level for both skills and knowledge in the areas of dog training, behavior modification, canine ethology, creative problem-solving and more.
Additionally, great emphasis is placed within VSA’s industry-leading curriculum upon effective and empathetic human communication skills. This unique focus results in professional dog trainers who are prepared not just to train dogs successfully using powerful force-free, positive reinforcement-based tools and techniques, but also to help dog owner clients to learn how to truly transform canine behavior and set their dogs up for success using the latest in modern behavioral science methods.
I throughly enjoyed doing the course and am delighted to be part of the Academy where I will continue to receive good input from fellow trainers and a support network. The course also kept me focused during what has been a very stressful and difficult time for us all!
For any aspiring dog trainers out there I highly recommend this course, details of which can be found below.
A sad beginning with a happy ending for Cleo!
~ by Jen Dehestani
My name is Jen Dehestani and I am very involved with animal rescue on the Caribbean island of Aruba. Aruba has an estimated 30,000-40,000 stray and semi-stray cats and dogs on an island with a population of a mere 105,000 people, and geographically is only 21 miles long and 6 miles wide. This ratio is quite staggering. Many go to Aruba on vacation to enjoy a slice of paradise but it is no such place for the animals of the proclaimed “One Happy Island”. Many locals view animals as vermin and treat them extremely poorly. Even many “owned” dogs are not treated well, not cared for properly/ neglected, and left to roam around on the streets, reproducing freely with other unsterilized dogs. Below is the story of one such dog, “Cleo”.
Cleo(patra) was found in an overheated concrete backyard. She was tied to a pole with an iron chain in the hot sun with no shade available. She had to keep herself and her six puppies alive for a very long time without food or water.
She was extremely skinny and dehydrated, in very poor condition, neglected, and not well cared for. Her owners had left the country on vacation and thought the dogs could survive without food or water for a FEW WEEKS while they were gone.
Nearby neighbors made reports and tried to improve Cleo and her pups situation by contacting a group in Aruba called the Crijojo Trappers, who primarily focus on spay/neuter but often help with many calls about animal abuse/ animals in need. When the “owners” were reached, their response was “we don’t want her, you can have her killed” (killed in this awful place called “the kill cage”, where animals are placed no questions asked and killed by a government employee within 24 hours).
Cleo had no place to go, as all the fosters on the island were full and all the rescue groups on the island were at capacity and unable to take in any additional adult dogs. So together with a foundation called Cunucu Dog Rescue we put our heads together and started fundraising to be able to pay for Cleo to stay at a lovely dog daycare / boarding facility in Aruba called Iguana Dog Resort run by two amazing people, Joop and Liz. Through the kindness and generosity of donations from many individuals, we were able to pay for vet /medical care and months and months of Cleo staying at Iguana Dog Resort until a local foster became available on the island.
Then finally after six long months Cleo was officially adopted by a wonderful family in Belgium recently! Lots of land for her to run, children to play with, even horses. A “forever“ home to finally call her own. Cleo’s journey is one that began in despair and suffering at the hands of her previous “owners” to a completely new lease on life, a home where she will only know love and kindness for the rest of her days on earth. Her story had the ending it did because of the kind hearts of so many people along the way. A village of good people.
There are a handful of amazing animal rescue foundations who work around the clock helping Aruba’s animals. Sgt. Pepper’s Friends, New Life For Paws, ARF, Luna Foundation, Cunucu Dog Rescue, United Dogs Aruba, Crijojo Trappers.
Cunucu Dog Rescue, ARF, Luna Foundation, and New Life For Paws, are all 501(c)(3) organizations. Should you wish to make a donation (that is tax deductible) the donation links are below.
In times of darkness, the light is what will get us through. We keep on fighting the good fight!
How to ensure that your furry friends have an enjoyable and safe summer too!
Who doesn’t just love opening the blinds in the morning to that glorious sunshine pouring into our homes. It’s the season that everyone enjoys, including our pets, so here are some tips to ensure that your canine family stay safe over the summer months.
For a lot of us it will be coming on to 8 weeks that we have been in lockdown and I know that one of the suggestions I have found helpful as a coping mechanism is to adopt a new routine and stick to it. But what about our dogs, how are they coping? Here are some key things to remember to help our furry members of the family get through this difficult and different period that we are experiencing.
Walking & Exercise
Although many of us are restricted by the number of times we can go out at the moment try as far as possible to ensure that your dog has at least one walk a day. Walking your dog is not only good physical activity but it is also good mental enrichment especially when you allow your dog to smell and sniff trees, flowers, grass etc as that is how they get their information about the environment and what is going on. When your dog has had physical activity plus mental stimulation that wears them out and helps to promote a calm dog. If it is difficult for you to get out with your dog remember that a game of “Tug” or “Fetch” in the garden is good for getting some energy out of them plus you are giving them one on one time too!
Our dogs are very intelligent animals therefore to get the balance of their needs physical exercise is part of the equation the other being mental stimulation! There are plenty of ways that you can do this with your dog. Practice those training cues with them, teach them some Tricks! There are some great puzzle toys on the market. Nina Ottosson puzzles such as Doggie Tornado, Dog Brick, Hide and Slide are great fun for them. I use these with my dogs a few times a week. If you purchase a couple and rotate them around for about 30 mins that is great exercise for your dog’s brain.
Other enrichment toys include Kongs, Treat Balls, Snuffle Mats or a great “DIY” Muffin Tin Game! All you need is a muffin tin, 12 tennis balls (or as many sections the tin has) and dog treats! Place treats at the bottom of each segment where you would normally put the muffin casing and then put a tennis ball on top. Ask your dog for a “Sit” and a “Wait” before you place the tray down and then let them search for those treats! These are just a few that I use with my own dogs and they keep them entertained for quite some time!
Safe Place - What is this and why do they need it?
What we as dog owners need to remember is that this moment in time that we are all experiencing is tough and it is stressful for us humans, but it can also be a tough time for our dogs too. Dogs feed off our emotions and if we feel low, which is not without reason at this time, our dogs’ sense that emotion from us which in turn can make them feel tense and anxious. So watch out for that.
Also, in our “usual world” there are many dogs that are used to us being away from the home for a period of time during the day. During this time, they get used to space and having down time until we return home. But at the moment with the whole family at home and the house being much busier than it normally would be our dogs may not be getting the same amount of down time they are accustomed to and need. This can lead to them feeling anxious and stressed or over stimulated. Therefore, to avoid any unnecessary tensions or conflict create a “safe place” for your dog to go to during the course of the day where they can have time on their own.
This can be done by putting their crate or dog bed in a quiet area or room in the house. Plus remember if the dog is sleeping and toddlers or younger children are around be sure to teach them not to disturb the dog when it is asleep as this can cause the dog to jump and possibly lash out unintentionally simply because they have been startled. Setting up an area like this can benefit your dog immensely giving them the opportunity to have the down time they need. Additionally, if you throw in some classical or reggae music on top that will create an even better, relaxing and calming environment.
Lastly, the new guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends social distancing for dogs too. So, when out on walks keep to the 6 ft guidelines for your pets as well as you and don’t let your dog interact with other dogs and avoiding dog parks at this time is advisable.
Please continue to Stay Safe, Stay Positive and Stay Healthy ….
When my husband and I moved to California in February 2013 from Switzerland with our two West Highland Terriers, one of the first things that struck and impressed me when I used to walk our dogs in the neighborhood was just how many other dog owners that walked their dogs had rescued them from local shelters or abroad. I soon realized the huge drive and encouragement in the USA to rescue and was very impressed with that. Since working as a dog trainer here I have worked and trained many many rescue dogs both in a shelter and a dog training school, and now having my own business here in Massachusetts I continue to work with many clients who have adopted dogs from a shelter or abroad.
I have found that there can sometimes be a stigma or myth that dogs surrendered to shelters are there because they are “bad” dogs, that there must be something wrong with their temperament, or that they have challenging behavior. However, in a lot of cases this is simply not an accurate depiction of the events that led to their being sheltered. There are many other reasons why dogs are unfortunately surrendered which can include:
When you look at the list of reasons above it really emphasizes the point that the most important thing a person or family has to do when considering to get a dog is “do I/we have the time and ability for this”. Dogs are very different pets compared to cats. They require a lot more of your time, energy and attention on an on going basis. When considering whether to add one to your family remember this is a life long commitment as dogs can live for between 15 to 20 years.
4 Things to Consider Before Getting a Rescue Dog
1. Can you afford this?
Dogs will require annual vet visits, flea, tick and heart worm prevention treatments, teeth cleaning, and depending upon the breed you may have a dog that requires regular grooming. If you cannot come home during the course of the day to allow the dog to have a potty break, do you need to think about a dog walker or doggie daycare and obviously the latter two will be additional costs.
2. Do you have the time for a dog as an ongoing commitment?
Initially the dog you adopt will need some basic training - will you be able to commit to this? It may have behavioral problems. A lot of behavioral problems actually stem from lack of crucial socialization that a dog which may have been living on the streets etc will not have gotten. They may therefore have developed fears of, for example, other dogs, people, noises, various forms of transport, trucks, motor bikes etc. In which case will you be able to commit to a longer period of training to help the dog through its fears? All dogs, whether they are small dogs or big dogs need exercise which is important for their physical and mental wellbeing - will you keep up with this and not just put them in the back yard to run around?
3. What breed or mix of breeds should you get?
When adopting if there is a specific breed that you are attracted to there are many rescue groups that deal with specific breed types. But one thing that you must bear in mind when thinking of a particular breed or before you go to the shelter and fall in love with a dog that is that a mix of breeds such as a Border Collie and Springer Spaniel, or Doberman and Retriever, is to make sure that you do the research on the breed types that you like to ensure that you can cope with the energy levels of a particular breed or breeds. Unfortunately many dogs are surrendered because people end up with dogs that are jumping, barking or destructive simply because they are not giving the dog enough exercise and mental stimulation.
4. Puppy or Adult dog?
For families that are thinking about a puppy, who themselves require a lot of care and attention in the first few months, children that are 6 years old and above are better suited but should still be closely monitored around the puppy. Young pups have sharp milk teeth that can hurt when they nip children and sharp nails, and what you want to avoid is children’s’ excitement of getting a puppy turning into them fearing a puppy because of the nipping or scratching. So with young children an older dog might be better suited. Older dogs have a more established personality and don’t need to potty as often as a young puppy.
In essence, think very carefully when deciding to add to your family with a four legged friend. Ensure that the whole family is on board with the decision and that you make the right choice on the breed(s) that you choose.
Dogs can be such a rewarding member of the family, fun, playful, encourage you to take more exercise. You will meet new people when you get a dog therefore increasing your network of friends. In a nutshell they can be a huge joy once they are trained, they understand their boundaries, and they are cared for in the appropriate way.
Does your dog bark and lunge at other dogs?