About Me

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My name is Lesli Hyland. In my fifty one years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty four dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I became a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. Currently, as a Dog Walker I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to experience their unique personalities. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.

Friday, August 31, 2012

From Rags to Riches

BG was born on the streets of Afghanistan.  Mark, a soldier serving there, took a liking to the pup and when she was just shy of 6 mths old, he shipped her to his girlfriend back home in the states. Not long after she arrived, it became apparent that this was no ordinary puppy.  That's when I met Stephanie and BG -short for Baby Girl (men have NO imagination!).

BG was very aggressive toward the resident cat and the senior dog in the house.  Mark's heart was in the right place and Stephanie wanted to do right by this pup, but she was scared for her other pets and pretty stressed out about dealing with this puppy on her own.  I didn't blame her.  This pup was gorgeous - a brindle and white patchwork of colors - but she had an edge to her that sent red flags up in multitudes.   I watched her switch from puppy mouthing to serious biting on a dime.  I watched her stiffen and attempt to bite the old Labrador who was nothing but sweet to her.  I watched her eye the cat like lunch.
"Do you REALLY want to keep this dog?"  I asked Stephanie.
Tentatively, she answered "Yes".  And so began her journey into dog training and the special connection that forms between a challenging dog  and a dedicated owner.

We implemented management strategies at home and began teaching basic skills, including "Leave it" We worked together to decrease BG's reactivity and increase her ability to stay focused on Stephanie.   Because Stephanie really had no consistent way to expose BG to other dogs, we enrolled her in a Basic Manners class.  Having BG in class was difficult.  She would erupt violently at some of the dogs.  We managed the situation pretty well, using distance and visual screening to help BG succeed.  We made progress in inches.  They moved into the Advanced Beginner Class which was  smaller and attended  by dogs and handlers with more experience.  BG was alot better with some dogs, but was still was a loose cannon with others.

Stephanie is a very confident, calm person which helped immensely in bringing BG down when she was hyper aroused, but even Stephanie got frustrated and embarrassed.
"It's only behavior," I told her. "Its not a reflection on you or her".
"Yeah I know, but this is stressful.  This is not fun for me." She replied.
Okay - point taken.

I suggested we try something different and  moved her to a Beginner Freestyle class.  This class was made up primarily of smaller dogs, that BG seemed  to like. Much of the class involved having only one dog on the floor at a time.  This helped alot.  Their progress grew from inches to feet and pretty soon they were working together as a team.

I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing from there on out, but this is not a fairy tale! BG is a work in progress.  She has played successfully with my dog Belle.  She has a couple doggie friends in her neighborhood.  She has learned to co-exist with the cat.  But she still has moments of aggression toward Stephanie's ancient Labrador, Abby.  She still erupts in wild barking and lunging at certain dogs and is unpredictable with certain people.   Stephanie has to be on her toes at all times.

BG has learned how to walk on Stephanie's left and right side, sit, lie down, stand, heel in all directions, march, back up, spin in both directions, jump through a hoop, leap in the air and weave through Stephanie's legs. They have successfully performed a short Freestyle Dance routine at 2 different fund raising events locally.  (Her musical choice of "Under Pressure" by Queen was made tongue in cheek).  Stephanie's ability to laugh at BG has played a big part in their success. She adores her 'problem dog' and accepts her for who she is, while working constantly to broaden her circle of comfort.

Currently Stephanie and BG are working on a dance routine to the song "Thank You for Being a Friend". It is perfect theme song for their a relationship.  They have "traveled down the road and back again" for sure!
Friendship is all about commitment.  Stephanie recently reminded me of my original question to her.
"Do you REALLY want to keep this dog?".
She is so very glad her answer was "Yes".

The following video clip exemplifies perfectly the teamwork and self control that Stephanie and BG have developed.  The smile on both their faces says it all. 
Heel position and back end awareness


Monday, August 27, 2012

And Mamacita makes 7...

So...it looks like Mamacita is going to stay...
SEVEN DOGS????  Am I nuts?  Perhaps...but I see so much potential in MC and so much that could go wrong!  I may not be the BEST dog trainer, but I'm good at reducing reactivity, having lived with a very reactive dog for almost 15 years now and having 90% of my private training business centered around different variations of reactivity.  I know I can help her.
MC's training challenges are as follows:
1.  reactivity toward strange dogs and strange people.
3.  Jumping, pulling on leash, lack of basic manners; intolerance of handling
4.  scratching at people and dogs when excited and playful; scratching on doors to get out/ in
5.  chewing/ destructive behavior

Alrighty then...here's THE PLAN:
1.  Introduce the clicker (conditioned reinforcer) - DONE
2.  Create "Look at that/ Look at me" behavior chain- STARTED
3.  Use counter conditioning / desensitization to decrease reactivity toward people/ dogs - STARTED 
4.  Get her into a basic manners class with a like minded trainer for different exposure.
5.  Introduce her to agility basics. (train GO, HERE, OUT)
6.  Use harness or head halter to help with pulling!
7.  Train SIT, DOWN, WAIT (she has SIT and WAIT under her belt)
8.  Crate her when not supervised - duh!  The chewed glasses, drawer pull, pen and long line...were
     a broad hint that she needed less freedom!
9.  I immediately stop her from the scratching stuf, but I fear it is self rewarding and has a history of
     reinforcement (it works!) so I will need to be creative on that front...
10. Create and reward calm behavior in the house using crates and tethers during 'down time'.
      Train ENOUGH to shut down her craziness and give the other dogs a break from her pestering.
11. Use Counter Conditioning / Desensitization  to increase tolerance of handling/ restraint. (STARTED)

If this sounds like alot of work...it is!  Particularly when you add in the training and exercise and TLC the other 6 dogs also need.  I am thankful for a flexible work schedule, the ability to take dogs to work with me, a VERY helpful husband, a big fenced yard, lots of "dog friends" and access to plenty of off leash hiking areas.  I am lucky and so are my dogs.  I would never attempt to have multiple dogs if I didn't have the lifestyle I do (and a husband who often works from home too!).

Maybe I need to quit my job and become a full time "dog-Mom"!
Of course then I couldn't afford the vet bills...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bye Bye Baby Dog

 Goodbye POPCORN... 
                                                                             Hello   CASSIDY!

Popcorn went to her new home yesterday with a new name!  Though I will miss the little devil, I know her new Dad will take good care of her.  And I'll get to see her in training! 

It felt good to clear out the mudroom and porch, put away the ex-pens and move the cat box out of my guest bath!   Mamacita has been integrated into the rest of the house.  She has a crate in the office for meals and time home alone.  She has a crate in the bedroom.  She has established the back of the couch as a favorite resting place.
Will she be staying permanently?
We'll see...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

And then there was one...

Cookie and Biscuit went off
to their new homes yesterday.
I was sad to see them go,
but very happy with where
they were going!
I can't wait to watch
them grow up!

It is a different experience to have just Zita and Popcorn.  They play for long stretches of time then crash together.  I took her to agility practice last night and she explored the equipment and played fearlessly with a Vizsla and a young terrier cross!  Considering how tired she must've been at bedtime, she still did some screaming last night when she realized that she was alone, but Mom was right outside the pen and she eventually settled.  Out to poop / pee at 5:30 this morning ...playtime with Mom for an hour...out to pee again...now crashed in her pen again...quietly!  She will go to her new home on Monday and then we will truly get to know Mamacita!  Right now she's a puppy thrown into raising puppies herself!  She is  very conflicted -protecting her babies from my dogs one moment, then turning on a dime into a the silly submissive baby she is.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Rule of 7

A tried and true guide for socializing puppies is: THE RULE OF SEVEN.  Simply stated this guide tells you that by 7 wks of age puppies should have met these bench marks:
  • Been on 7 different types of surfaces
  • Played with 7 different types of objects
  • Been in 7 different locations
  • Met and played with 7 new people
  • Been exposed to 7 challenges
  • Eaten from 7 different containers
  • Eaten in 7 different locations
  • met or seen 7 different pets (I added this to the conventional list)
Lets see how well I've done so far!
surfaces - grass, gravel, carpet, linoleum, cement, couch, paper, wood (8)

objects - ball, plush toy, Kong, nylabone, white bone, tennis ball, cardboard, stick, leaf, canvas, rubber squeaky, rope, bully stix,   (13)

locations - front yard, back yard, gravel run, grass/ dirt run, mudroom, kitchen, living room, porch, car, bedroom, under the deck (11).

people - 2 kids, 10 women, 4 men, 1 male teen, 1 female teen (18)

challenges - stairs, ramp, low gate, tunnel, whelping box, crawl over legs, box (7)

containers - plastic bowl, plastic double diner, metal plate, metal pan, metal bowl sm, metal bowl lg,  ceramic bowl (7)

eating locations - kitchen, mudroom, porch, kennel run, yard/front, yard/back, crate (7)

pets- cat, sm dog tan, sm dog bi-color, big red dog (female), big red dog (male), big merle dog, big bi-color dog (7)

Phew!  Looks like we're doing okay!    
The pups will be 7 weeks old on WED 8/8 and will head off to their new homes shortly thereafter!  We will miss them, but they are ready!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The more I learn, the less I know

Those of us who make a living helping people with their dogs are pretty well educated for the most part.  Some of us have many, many years of work experience around dogs.  Some of us have degrees in science and behavior.  I, for one, am very good at reading canine body language and am adept at seeing red flags in a puppy's behavior.  BUT  I am not a dog breeder.  I have had limited experience raising puppies from birth and observing nature at work in the form of the mother/ puppy relationship.    To date I have raised 3 litters - all foster litters from my local shelter.  I am no expert!
The first litter I raised was born to a young Mom who had 9 pups and did the bare minimum with them - meeting their needs but not spending alot of time with them.  She did bond strongly with one of the pups whom she had long term contact with though.  And I knew several of the puppies into their senior years, including my own Pogo who is still with us at 14.5 yrs old!
The second was born to a seasoned Mom who cared for her pups very efficiently and lovingly, but did not really play with them much and who had to be separated from them at 4-5 weeks due to being heartworm positive and needing treatment herself.
And now we have Mamacita and her 3 pups.  They have been an education for sure!

At 2 weeks old these pups would growl like little raccoons when picked up. Uh oh!  I stepped up the amount of handling they were getting to desensitize them and hoped for the best.  They improved.  They opened their eyes fairly late and when they did, they began growling, then latching hard onto their mother's face!  Uh oh!  They were 3 weeks old.  This had me pretty worried.  They weren't playing.  They were stiff and intense. I contacted several breeders including a terrier breeder, she basically shrugged it off saying I should handle them alot and let Mom sort them out.  Okay...I watched and worried.  I noticed that their "aggressive" displays did not upset Mamacita much.  She waited the tantrums out, then firmly continued whatever she had been doing (cleaning their face or whatever).  I followed her lead and did the same when they grumbled at me.  I just kept them elevated gently until they calmed, then put them back down.  They started kissing me after settling.  That made me feel better!
As they got older and more rambunctious , one pup stood out from the others as quite fearless and bratty.  Mamacita began targeting her with very rough play.  The puppy was not playing back.  She was defending herself vehemently.  Mama was merciless, darting in and grabbing with her teeth then retreating.  She was clearly playing but it seemed like she was antagonizing the pup.  Frankly it concerned me, so again, I consulted several dog breeders and some respected behavior people.  Mamacita started playing that way with another puppy too, treating the 3rd puppy more gently.  I sent out the following video clip and my concern was confirmed by the responses I received. rough play? (click here)
"Yikes" pretty much summed up the feedback I got! :-P Though one breeder (experienced with terriers) stated that she saw nothing unusual in the clips.

As recommended to me, I interceded when Mamacita's behavior seemed 'over the top'.  I continued to worry, but somewhere deep inside I felt like there must be a purpose to her behavior.  Though Mamacita was young and inexperienced, I couldn't help but wonder if she knew exactly what she was doing!  Though I admit, to all intents and purposes it simply looked like she was tormenting the poor pups!

The pups are pushing 7 wks old now and it gives me great pleasure to watch Mamacita play with her babies now.  Yesterday they romped together for a solid hour in a completely appropriate manner.  Her pups did not over react.  She did not push them to the brink.  I let out a big sigh of relief. "Tolerance" is a word that one of my behavior savvy friends had mentioned.  "You want pups that develop tolerance" , she stated.
I think that is EXACTLY what Mamacita was trying to instill in her pups by her seemingly badgering play behavior.  And it appears that she has been successful!
Check them out:
appropriate play  (click here)
more play  (click here)

How all this will play out once the pups go to new homes is yet to be seen. These are smart, busy, determined, mouthy pups.  They will need patient, consistent owners, lots of exposure to socially appropriate dogs and plenty of exercise.  I will see them in my classes.  I will stay in contact with their new families, offering as much support as needed.

I will continue to learn from them .