Teaching your dog to shake

shake a paw

After sniffing the treat, Yogi stopped and gave me eye contact.  Asking "what do I need to do to get this treat?"


Shake a paw.  Everyone wants their dog to shake, right?  Strangers often walk up to dogs expecting them to "shake."  

Shake a paw is cute and very easy to teach a dog to do.  It can be evolved into other cute behaviors like high five and waving.  So how do you teach a dog to shake?  Patience, much like many other behaviors; you need to wait until your dog offers a behavior.  The best way to ingrain a behavior is for the dog to figure it out themselves.  That means no cheating.  No grabbing their foot and shaking their paw for them.  

The way that I teach the shake exercise utilizes both lure and shape training.  The lure is a piece food in the hand and the shape is waiting for the dog to paw the food.  

Sniffing the treat under my thumb

Sniffing the treat under my thumb

Here's how

  • Put a small piece of food (not too high value) in the palm of your hand and cover it firmly with your thumb. 
  • Place your hand on the floor near your dog with your palm facing up.
  • You can break the exercise down into many baby steps but I normally prefer to wait for the pawing action.  But if a dog is easily frustrated I will then break the behavior down into baby steps (next blog) to avoid this. 
  • Wait for dog to paw at your hand and immediately open hand, rewarding dog.
  • Do this until the dog is reliably pawing at the hand immediately.
  • Then remove the food from the hand and put it into your other hand and behind your back.
  • Place the empty hand on the ground in the same position with thumb on palm and wait.
  • As soon as the dog paws at the hand reward them with food from the other hand.  Repeat.
  • Next paw attempt, hold your dog's paw gently while rewarding.
  • Move hand up from the ground and remove thumb from palm
  • Add verbal cue "shake, give me paw" etc. 
  • Gently add a full foot handshake while rewarding.
  • Be careful to never grab the dog's foot negatively (too hard, too long, too much shake).  This could create an unwillingness to continue. 

So there you have it, the shake.  

Yogi didn't get the shake behavior at my house on this day as we only worked for a few minutes on it.  I was showing his Mom what to do when she went home.  After a few moments at home working on it Yogi's Mom accomplished the highly prized "shake."  

Trying to nudge the treat out of my hand

Trying to nudge the treat out of my hand

You can evolve this behavior to the high five and wave by simply moving your hand slowly to different positions and rewarding.  




Dog training help now. Online Consultations!


No matter where you are...

"I need help, right now" the email said.  The woman was having some huge canine issues with her new puppy and needed HELP!!!!!!  I replied right away "I can help right now."  I sent her the questionnaire and we began immediately.  

The new canine guardian had been ready to pitch everything.  She was starting to regret ever getting a dog and was ready to give up.  Sometimes you need help right away; and that help can come in many forms.  One form of help that I offer is my online canine consultations and I have to say that "I LOVE IT."  I love being able to connect with people right away.  The ability to get them started on their very personalized remedy to their problem with their dog, instantly is wonderful.

So what does my online email consultation look like and who can benefit from this service?  First it is a very cost effective remedy to your canine behavior issues.   We work via email which enables us to communicate back and forth over a period of time.  This lets you, the canine guardian get to work right away.  We can span the emails out as far as you like.  As you and your dog make progress we walk through new things that arise until you have a handle on your problem.

And it doesn't matter where you live, which is the greatest thing EVER.  

Online canine consultations are geared to those who want to address their problems.  That means that I tell you how to help your dog.  Then you tell me how its going and we work on fixing more, until you are happy with your dog's behavior.  Sound good?  

I offer local hands on behavior modification but I'm not limited to local anymore.  I love helping people all around the world with my online canine consultations.  

Often a couple of emails are all that's needed for a canine guardian to be on their way to complete success.  And I might add, they did all the work; which I believe is essentially important for the best possible outcome.  This is because a guardian needs to understand what's going on. With the personalized give and take of an online consultation, that happens very naturally.

So wherever you are and whatever your canine problem, shoot me an email.    


Dog on a leash. Pay attention!

Fanny pack gone wild.  :)  I had to bring several balls with me to this beach in Connecticut.  Other dogs stole the balls all the time so I had extra bags to put the wet balls in.  

Fanny pack gone wild.  :)  I had to bring several balls with me to this beach in Connecticut.  Other dogs stole the balls all the time so I had extra bags to put the wet balls in.  

I see ducking dogs everywhere.  Team after team stroll past Elsa and I; at the beach, the park, malls and street, ducking.  What do I mean ducking?  

Ducking - to avoid or evade a blow, unpleasant task, etc.; dodge.

Humans strolling along, walking their dog with their arms swinging back and forth.  Along with their arm swing is also the leash swing, perhaps a poop bag swing if you are one of those folks who attach a poop bag holder to the leash.  While the leash swings the dog ducks to avoid the constant and annoying leash and/or poop bag holder hitting them in the face or head.  

When I am working with a client on walking, loose leash walking or heeling, I'm all eyes.  I was trained as a youngster in obedience by a very strict obedience teacher.  She was unfortunately a harsh conventional method trainer but that was many, many years ago when there was nothing else.  She watched our every movement looking for things that would interfere with the robot like obedience we were training our dogs to do.  

The obedience teacher hated when the human students swung their arms about willy nilly.  She'd scream at you until you stopped.  If you held your body crooked, you'd hear about it.  Anything that was unlike a statue was not allowed.  So, although I hated the training method; movement was something that was drilled into my head.  To this day, the arm that holds Elsa's leash is motionless, typically held by my waist.  For those students who did not catch on to the "no flailing" rule; they were told to keep their hand in a belt of waist of pants.  

I see people walking along, not paying any attention to who is on the other end of the leash.  The leash can be whipping them in the face, their collar half pulled over their head, the humans hand even hitting the dog in the face as it swings.  So many dogs walk very far away from their human simply due to an avoidance behavior.  The guardian has no idea that their dog is not enjoying the walk because of the swinging.  

When you walk your dog, pay attention.  Yes there are times when something can happen for a moment and you might miss it.  But typically if you look down at your dog on a regular basis you'll notice this kind of stuff.  Does your dog strain at their leash?  Either sideways or backwards?  Well maybe they are trying to avoid the swing.  

The whole poop bag holder is a big thing now.  I don't understand attaching one to a leash, honestly.  I wear the very chic fanny belt; although it is not on my fanny.  ;)  I carry everything I need on a walk in it, poop bags included.   

So pay attention.  Ask someone to watch you walk.  Be aware of what your body is doing.  Along with the annoying face swapping, there could be other things going on that you have never noticed.  

Canine interaction etiquette


Elsa and I got out of the car and headed to the Veterinarians entrance.  A gentleman sitting in an area off to the left reined in his Basset hound hard.  This was a "clue" for me to keep my distance.  I opened the front door, checked the area before bringing Elsa in and head to a bench on the far side of the waiting room. 

Oddly enough, another Basset Hound sat in the waiting room who was not with the other.  The dog was attached to it's human by a choke collar and extension leash (another blog).  I heard the leash release as the man set his dog free to come to see Elsa.  My protection reflex kicked in as my leg shot out in front of Elsa.  "No" blurted out as the rest of my body language followed suit.  "She is not comfortable with dogs she doesn't know" I told the man.  "Oh okay" he said in a "whatever" tone.  Do I care?  Nope.

I am a stickler for canine etiquette.  What does that mean?  It means that just because you have and love your dog does not mean that everyone else wants to interact with your dog.  Especially at the Vets, keep your dog with you.  Dogs are sick, stressed and in close proximity.  It is not the place to socialize.  I don't care how friendly your dog is, keep them close to you and under control.  

There are places to socialize with your dog.  Play dates at your home, dog parks and socializing classes.  Other than somewhere meant to encourage canine socializing, don't.  If there is a dog leash law, obey it.  Yes, you need to obey just like you expect your dog to.  When I go to a park, beach or location where leashes are required I expect to have Elsa on a leash where she will not have to worry about lose dogs running up on her.  

When out on a leash walk, keep your dog to yourself unless you ask first.  I cannot tolerate humans who allow they dog to come at Elsa or other dogs uninvited.  "He wants to say hi" I often hear.  I don't care if he wants to say "hi," Elsa doesn't.  Even if Elsa did want to say "hi;" I'm not a fan of on leash interactions.  They can get weird very quickly.  

The biggest concern in canine etiquette is you.  Do not force your dog on any other human or dog.  You added the dog to your life, not other's lives.  Always ask before putting your dog on others.  Think about it.  It is your dog, not mine.  


Trust, does your dog trust you?


The door opened and we stepped inside.  I paid close attention to Elsa's body language as the doors closed again behind us.  It had been six years since she'd been in an elevator.  Now as an adult and only dog, there would be more focus on where we were.  But she also had a great deal of life experience to lean on; that and our steadfast bond of care, protection and trust to rely on. 

Trust is so important when dogs are dealing with anything that they are unsure of.  Trust between a guardian and their canine is something that is built over time.  Forged by a history of  the "I got your back" sense of security.  Trust grows with every experience that you prove your  unwavering "step up" response for your dog.  With this type of trust, your dog will naturally look to rely on you.

As Elsa and I took our elevator ride I could see that she was a bit concerned when the transport box shook a bit.  Her pupils dilated slightly as the doors opened again.  We calmly stepped out as I thought about our next ride.  I was going to be proactive, because this elevator had a  few shakes in it.  

Armed with a bra full of treats (somewhere I keep my treats when wearing yoga pants) we made our way to the elevator again.  I was ready for this trip.  Elsa had no problem getting into the elevator.  It was just when it shook that she didn't like it, so out came the treats and sit.  I kept myself as calm and cool as a cucumber  :)  I watched for moments of calm and dished out the goods.  As the doors opened and she prepared to bolt out the door, I stopped.  We were not charging out of the elevator; that would be like running from the scary monster.  I asked for a sit, watch for a calm reaction, rewarded that and then we made our low key exit in a relaxed state.  

The next elevator ride was much better.  Elsa focused on listening to my requests and treats.  After a few more rides she was only slightly reacting to the "shake" moment of one particular elevator.  By linking the elevator with treats, it was then a different experience.  Treats were only given inside the elevator making being in the elevator much better than getting out.  If she saw the open door as a trigger to run; we had to sit with an open door then calmly exit.  

Having the ground move under your feet can be a very freaky thing for a dog.  Elevator visits should definitely be on the puppy socializing list.  Elsa was introduced to elevators as a youngster and it definitely helped her when she was reintroduced as a six year old. 

BUT, trust as a reliable leader can never be underestimated.  

Shutdown behaviors in dogs


You can clearly see the puppy edging out of a shutdown.  Elsa doing her expert work.  

They're there, then they're gone.  Shutdown behaviors are common in dogs but often misunderstood.  What is shutdown?  Shutdown is when a dog ceases to react.  The only reaction may be eye movement.  They will typically be hunched down, having reacted into a final spot of discontinued behavior.  Like all other behaviors, there are many different levels of shutdown.

From mild shutdown in highly sensitive dogs to paralyzing shutdown in severely fearful dogs, shutdown is just that, a shutdown of most behaviors.  Although shutting down is itself a behavior to be addressed.  When a dog shuts down, it is a signal that they can tolerate no more or they feel a sense of helplessness.  

We had a foster puppy here several years ago that demonstrated shutting down.  It was a tiny and very fearful puppy, who was not comfortable with Elsa's advances.  Elsa is an expert at dealing with most behaviors and tried very carefully to get this little puppy out from under the furniture to interact.  The puppy displayed very aggressive behavior towards Elsa, without actually connecting.  Elsa got lower and lower physically in her attempts to convince the puppy that she was not scary.  When Elsa stood up to get closer the puppy shutdown; ceasing any further behaviors except for being frozen.  It was like the puppy had left the building.  In seeing this Elsa hit the ground again and went upside down.  This was expertly offered by Elsa which pulled the puppy out of shutdown and began the interaction process.

Just yesterday, Elsa's best friend Yogi displayed shutdown behavior.  Yogi is the sweetest boy around and highly emotional.  He tends to worry about a lot and is not a fan of Miss Elsa's over exuberant retrieving.  He has been in the path of Elsa's retrieve before and the more she charges around the more he shrinks.  Even picking up Elsa's ball will shrink Yogi, he really does not like the action packed retrieving that Elsa adores.  He can only tolerate a small amount until he sticks his head under the table and there he remains frozen until the retrieving is over.  He may even go and stand in a corner until the retrieving is over.  This behavior has grown over time so we have switched things up when they are together.

Seeing that Elsa's supercharged retrieving disturbs Yogi, we have stopped picking up the ball.  If there is no tossing and no retrieving by Elsa, they will interact and play intense chase and wrestle games.  Just don't pick up the ball.  

Anything can cause a shutdown, knowing how to help a dog out is key.  I have dealt with many dogs who have  history of severe shutdown resulting from harsh training.  Constant punishment can also cause shutdown.  When harsh physical treatment directed to a dog causes shutdown, aggression can follow if they are pushed further.  

Addressing shutdown requires patience, thought and counter conditioning.  Changing how a dog feels about a particular stimulus.  Whether that reaction comes from flying balls, the advance of a dog or human interaction or anything else that trigger a sense of overwhelm must be addressed slowly.  

Removing the trigger stimulus and reintroducing along with counter conditioning can help to remove or lessen a shutdown.  




Repairing mild trauma in dogs


What happened?  What's going on with my dog?  These are common questions when faced with fear reactions that our dogs can exhibit.  Often we are able to figure out where the problem came from, sometimes not.  Whether or not we can conclude a reasonable explanation for a fear behavior matters not.  The behavior needs to be addressed head on to help repair a trauma.  , 

Trauma has many different levels and degrees.  I am addressing mild trauma; something that triggers a fear response but is not all consuming on a 24 hour a day basis.  Just yesterday Elsa and I went live on my FB page.  Someone who attended the "Just Dogs and Wine with Sherri" event explained how her dog has a fear response to some noises.  Noise is a common fear trigger.  Something visual can also be a trigger.

So what do we do to help our dogs get through their trauma?  Some traumas will remain longer than others; the length of time that it has been going on will factor in on repairing or replacing the trigger with something else. 

Counter conditioning is what should be implemented.  This involves changing how the dog responds to a stimulus by associating it with a positive activity.  One cannot be fearful and non fearful at the same time.   

A good example is a thunder storm.  Many dogs are traumatized by booming thunder; it is a very common fear.  But, if you introduce a thunder sound at a very low level and far distance while implementing a positive stimulus then you can work over time to erase the fear response.  The positive association must be valuable or good enough to begin the repairing and replacement of the fear response. 

Counter conditioning is done in baby steps; some times even baby steps need to be broken down into baby steps within baby steps to achieve the best results.  If you consider the whole "association" in repairing a trauma it is easier to understand.  You must replace the negative with a positive association.  Many dogs have traumas; what you do with that trauma with either help to repair or make it worse.   



Dog training, Orange County, CA

Laguna Beach, ca

Laguna Beach, ca

I'm super excited.  Yep, I'm training again; the hands on fun stuff that I love.  I've been a dog trainer in South Orange County, CA for a long time but took a much needed break a while back to catch my breath and write some books.  Books are done, breath caught, sort of and we're back at it.  

Training and behavior is in my blood.  Even though I took a break from the hands on stuff I never stopped working.  I am constantly studying dog behavior both in the form of books, courses and live studies.  There isn't much more interesting research than watching dogs interact with other dogs and people for me.  I could literally watch and study 24/7.

My training focuses on a well behaved dog; whether it is a young puppy or uneducated older dog.  That means I come to your home where the work should be done.  Your home, your dog, your very personalized program.  I specialize in new puppies who come with lots of natural dog behaviors that we don't always appreciate as humans.  So work starts right away, as soon as that puppy joins your family.  

All training is done in a positive manner; no yank and choke type training EVER at Just Dogs.  This makes training more fun for everyone involved.  You will learn how dogs think and learn and how best to ensure a great connection and bond.  The whole family is invited to work and learn how to interact with your dog so that everyone is on the same page.

We have one time new puppy visits, house training specific, full course training and many more options.  Even if you are just thinking about getting a dog, I can help with that too.  

If you have a puppy or dog who needs an education, call or email me and I will show you how to train your dog.  Contact me now. 

Serving South Orange County, CA

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Dogs and common sense - Using grey matter


"I just got him yesterday," the man said.  My daughter was at the park with her children when she met this man with his "new" dog.  The dog was off leash and as any savvy Mom, my daughter was being extremely cautious.  She hovered around her two year old as the dog ran around the playground.  

First, no dog should be running around off leash in the playground area; that is unless there are no children anywhere  in the area.

Second, even leashed dogs need to be strictly supervised around children, especially children that are not your own.  

As my daughter conversed with the man she learned that the dog had just been rescued the day before.  Not only was this dog running loose in the playground, but the man didn't even know this dog.  They were in fact complete strangers; the dog didn't know the man and the man didn't know the dog.

This could be an extremely dangerous situation for everyone involved.  The man did not know how the dog would behave with children.  The man had no idea what would happen should the dog run off.  Well as it turned out, the dog did run off with the guy in hot pursuit (but of course it did.)  Honestly.  Listening intently to my daughters story, I was fuming and shaking my head.

Can you imagine rescuing a dog and then letting it off leash the next day?  I can't even ask "what was he thinking" because clearly he was not thinking.  I LOVE dogs and I ADORE children; but when the two come together, great care must be taken to protect both involved.  Not all dogs love children, especially unknown children.  I often see dogs at parks where there are lots of children and they are typically on leash and very close to their guardian; which is where they should be.  Dogs should not be wandering around a children's park off leash.  

Just a couple of days ago I was at a park with my daughter and two grandsons.  They were having a great deal of fun and as we were leaving a man with an off-leash bulldog headed our way.  I immediately got in-between them and my two year old grandson.  But I was happy to see the man leash his dog as they got closer.  You just never know how a dog will behave around children; there is no way for everyone to know every dog.  Many people don't fully know how their own dog deals with unknown children.  It is always best to veer on the side of safety.

The off leash dog at the park, who was just rescued the day before has me still shaking my head big time.  Come on...

The need for space

Beautiful morning for a walk.

Beautiful morning for a walk.

I knew that we'd need space.

Space - the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.

Elsa needs space when she is confronted with dogs that she does already know.  This has evolved being attacked.  The attack on her was from a dog on leash and caught her completely off guard.  So...understandably she does not trust dogs that she does not know.  Dogs can need space just as much as we do.  

The other day I was at HomeGoods doing some shopping when I noticed a guy looking at me about six feet away.  I didn't look at him but just took note.  Then he got closer and asked "do people you for an actress?"  Making small talk I told him that I'd been told that I look like...a certain actress but couldn't remember her name.  He then told me that he would remember the actresses name and let me know.  Before moving off he had some other things to say to me that made me uncomfortable.  Hmmmmmm...time for space. 

The actresses name is Lea Thompson, by the way.  

As I meandered around the store I realized that he was following me around so I picked up what I needed and made a quick exit.  I needed a great deal more space.  The level of threat that we and/or our dogs feel factors in how much space that is needed. 

As Elsa and I walked down the path; the dog coming towards us was a shepherd mix.  He was very large, had a dark face, erect ears and a tail that was held very high.  None of these things bode well for close proximity with Elsa.  I remained completely calm as I always do to let her know that nothing will happen as I plotted my course for space.  

If I had nowhere to go I would simply put her on my safe outside.  She would snort which is what she does when she is stressed and we would keep going.  Unfortunately not everyone keeps their dog under control; often letting them lunge out at us.  I hate when people are so clueless about this very unwanted behavior, but it happens a lot.  

Elsa took things into her own paws.  She knows that space is what she needed so she took it.  With a creek on one side and a hill on the other; she moved methodically albeit calmly up the hill.  Often being on the outside of me is enough for her as we pass unknown dogs but this guy made her a bit nervous with all his body up and alert.  I smiled as we made our way three feet up the hill and she glanced over her shoulder as he went by.  I'm usually in charge of the space but she was ahead of me on this day.  She took what she needed.  She's crazy smart. 

Elsa use to snort every time we passed another dog shortly after the attack.  Since she has learned that we will give her comfort room, space to feel safe.  I have even had to step in a couple of times and physically stop a loose dog from getting to Elsa.  It's my job and I take it very seriously.  If Elsa has no faith in my ability to protect her; she will then feel the need to protect herself.  As the one who is there to make sure that nothing happens to her; she can then let her guard down knowing that I've got her back.  

Space is often all that is needed to feel safe.  Space gives one a chance to think, time to ponder and react.  I don't like surprises myself; being caught off guard is a really bad feeling.  It typically sends adrenaline lose in your body because you didn't have time to respond accordingly.  This is one reason that I prefer to be able to see what is out ahead of us on our walks.  A heads up gives us the ability to react calmly and appropriately instead of an adrenaline induced response. 


T'is the season

A huge ball given to the wolves at the California Wolf Center for entertainment.  Great idea!

A huge ball given to the wolves at the California Wolf Center for entertainment.  Great idea!

The season is upon us and for many of us it is time to think about holiday gifts for our canines.  I love giving, isn't that what the season is all about?  Of course receiving is nice but giving is much more rewarding.  So when it comes to our canine companions, what should we give them this season?  

When I give gifts to humans and canines alike; I go for things that will make the receiver happy.  The whole act of giving is the givers reward, right?  So for my dogs I have always tried to focus on things that will make me happy to give to them.  That means thinking about them.  Elsa and the extended family canines will be receiving stuffed toys.  They all LOVE them to bits so a stuffed thing is a must.  I purchased all my stuffed things months ago; it is an easy gift to cross off the list.  Sure to please all the recipients.  :)

But what else would be a good gift?  A new comfortable bed would be a great idea.  Although it won't be something that I buy.  I've got a stock of them in storage because other than my office Elsa is on the furniture.  A new harness would be a great idea; get that collar off their neck and put them into a comfy harness.

How about some yummy cookies?  I'm really fussy in this department.  Ever taste a dog cookie before?  Most are horrible and taste pretty much like cardboard.  I like to make my own and just happen to have our Just Dogs with Sherri 2017 cookie club here on the website.  That would be a wonderful gift to give your dog; a promise to make healthy treats for them this year.  I like to taste what I'm giving Elsa as far as cookies go.  I feel very strongly that if we should not eat them then we shouldn't be giving them to our dogs.  

How about something to chew?  Safe and healthy chews are out there, you just have to look for them.  How about a bag of raw oxtails?  Mmmmmmm, nothing says I love you like a cow tail to chew on.  

What about a new coat?  As most of my long time readers know; I'm not a fan of clothing for dogs unless of course they need it for warmth, then I'm all over it.  Comfort is huge so I like the really stretchy coats for extended use and the big fluffy ones for real warmth.  

How about some obedience classes?  Agility, scenting, flyball etc etc?  

Whatever you're thinking about giving your dog this season; think about your dog first.  And the best gift of all for human or canine is always your time.  Promising to give the gift of yourself is never a bad idea.  

Happy Holidays

Dragonluck's Red Ruby

The canine world has lost another angel.

                  Dragonluck's Red Ruby August 27, 2002 - November 21, 2017

                  Dragonluck's Red Ruby August 27, 2002 - November 21, 2017

Peacefully, surrounded by her family, Ruby passed in the wee hours this morning.  She will be missed desperately by her family and anyone who had the chance to meet her.  Ruby was one of the most devoted canine girls that I've ever had the privilege of meeting.  She liked people in general but her family... well there was none like them and I have to agree.  The life they shared with this girl was one that most dogs would dream of.  


Ruby was the first dog for my sister's family.  She joined their family when my niece and nephews were very young.  The kids (now grown) spent most of their lives with her by their side.  Ruby watched them grow and kept them in order.  She had a very different relationship with each member of her family and liked it that way until the end.  

I met Ruby when she was just a youngster; full of beans and raring to go.  Her absolute favorite thing in the world was balls and water.  A true Nova Scotia Tolling Retriever, Ruby excelled at water and land retrieval.  She went through life never far from a tennis ball.  


As part of Ruby's extended family, I was one of the lucky ones.  I got to spend hours photographing her as a youngster, in her prime, golden years and beyond.  I loved shooting her in high gear; leaping into the water for her ball and bringing it back.  She could often be seen sitting on the front of the kayak as my sister paddled around the lake.  

tOLLER altered.jpg
TollerRubyJuly0800013option2 copy.jpg
Ruby graced the cover back in 2005

Ruby graced the cover back in 2005

Ruby also snuck into the hearts of Grandma and Grandpa where she was a special spot for her alone.  They adored her and she them.  It was a very special connection.  

Ruby spent enviable time at my parent's (Grandma and Grandpa's) cottage.  Whether she was diving in the water, retrieving on land, kayaking, swimming, sleeping by the fire or just enjoying the great Canadian outdoors, she loved life to the max.  


Just two weeks ago I headed home to visit my sister and her family.  I captured some great moments of Ruby enjoying her golden years.  


But my absolute favorite thing about seeing Ruby again just weeks ago was watching her care team.   Observing her family dote on her every move; help her up and down the stairs, tag team feed her and care for her was heartwarming.  She was as loved as any dog could ever be loved, if not more.  There is now a huge hole in many hearts today.  But soon those holes will be filled with loving memories.  The memories that our dogs leave with us that can never go away.  They are stored away in a special place in our heart until needed.  


Ruby leaves a legacy.  As the first dog she has set the ground work for those to follow in her footsteps.  She has instilled the love, care and connection between human and canine.  She will be deeply missed by many.  Rest now sweet girl.  



Ruptured Liver Tumor - a final decision


We need to stop the bleeding.  "If this was your dog, what would you do?" I asked.  The Veterinarian explained with tears filling her eyes; "I'd take him home and spend another day with him."  I was filled with questions; I felt like I was reliving Tilley's medical emergency only three years earlier.  

"I'll give you something to stop the bleeding; it will give him and you time," she said.  Luke had a massive tumor on his liver that had ruptured causing him to fail really quickly.  Knowing that we wanted to do a home euthanasia but wanting to do what was right for Luke; I looked to the Vet for solid advice.  She told me to take him home and give him whatever he wanted.  But this was not a long extension; it was only for a day or two.  That allowed us time to give Luke his "last day."  

I was given Aminocaproic Acid and Yunnan Baiyao to dose to Luke.  The results were amazing and I wanted to share this because it gave us time without causing Luke to suffer further bleeding.  It was unbelievable when I gave it to him; he was able to get to his feet and even go out to pee.  I could not believe how fast it worked.  It also made Luke feel better of course because he was not losing blood at the rate that he had been.  

The first, Aminocaproic is a pharmaceutical and the second, Yunnan Baiyao is a Chinese Herb.  I don't know if one worked better than the other or if it was the combination; but these pills gave Luke and us the time we needed.  The time to make plans, the time to avoid euthanasia at the Vets.  We'd had no time with Tilley and had to make the decision right then and there.  I already knew that I'd wanted Luke put to rest at home and this allowed us to do just that. 

We spent the next day giving Luke his favorites; cold meat smoked turkey and potato chips, that's it.  That's all he wanted and that is what he got.  I lay beside him for hours and followed him around the yard when he wanted out.  It was a wonderful but sad day; a day we could not have had without these two drugs.

The drugs actually worked so well that it gave me a false sense of no more urgency.  But it was short lived and I knew what we had to do.  I didn't want Luke's last moments with us to be suffering and perhaps an emergency situation.  I knew the facts and what had to be done; the drug had just given him and us extra time.  

I was going through closets the other day and found these two bottles of pills stashed away.  I couldn't look at them when it happened but did know that I wanted to write about them in the future.  I'm glad I came across them because hopefully others in this situation will be aware of this wonder drug.  

RAW food and much more


I was in the Toronto area recently for a visit with my sister and her family.  When we were there she thought that I'd enjoy a trip to the local Raw food supplier just around the corner from her.  Boy did I.  

Upon entering the building, this is who we were greeted by.  

An eight month old Leonberger with her Great Grandmother.

An eight month old Leonberger with her Great Grandmother.

The place was bustling.  People coming and going; employees filling freezers and customers leaving with boxes of fresh meat products.  Canine guardian clents were chatting with the owner and handing over lists to the staff to fill.  

As my sister and I wandered around looking at the stacked shelves a very knowledgeable employee asked us if she could help.  Bonnie (my sister) explained her 15 year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers medical issues.  We were then told that the owner would help us as she had a wealth of knowledge and experience about such issues.  

Lori and Ed Dzingala own Heronview Raw and Natural Pet Foods.  Their website can be found at www.heronviewrawandnatural.com

Lori finished up with another customer and came over to talk with my sister.  She is a wealth of knowledge with regards to feeding and using natural supplements.  I wish I had a place like this down the street from me, I'd be a regular.  


My sister who is taller than me is easily dwarfed by this eight month old.  



I was alternating between watching the staff fill orders; boxes overflowing with bones, frozen cubes of raw food, supplements, chews and the three Leonbergers wandering about.  You can't miss a Leonberger, they are HUGE.  As a canine behavior specialist I loved watching the young eight month old interacting with the older dogs and people.  She had an amazing temperament but was clearly a puppy as she tried to nibble on my down jacket and pestered her elders.  She was adorable.  

Heronview Pet Foods is what we need more of.  They fill a much needed market for canine guardians who want to feed better food to their dogs.  My sister purchased several supplements for Ruby along with a frozen cube of organs and bone meal after speaking extensively with the owner, Lori. 

I LOVE how they sell many of their products in frozen cubes.  Just pop one in the fridge to thaw and it's ready to use.  Along with their huge variety of raw food they also sell dehydrated treats, supplements, soaps and toys.  

I was super impressed with Heronview and highly recommend a visit today if you are in the area. 

Beholder of beauty

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, truly. Have you ever met someone who instantly became more or less attractive as soon as they opened their mouth?  Perhaps it took a bit longer to get to know them before it happened, but it does.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people exclaim to me "omg I would love that dog," when glancing at a canine that they would deem as beautiful.   I say to that  "do you know what those dogs are like to live with?"  "No," is the answer probably 99% of the time.  Do you want to live with a dog that wants to swim all day?  Do you want to live with a natural guard dog who may not accept your neighbors with open arms?  How about a dog that wants to catch rats 24/7?  No? then look deeper than exterior beauty.

Like us, dogs are all different.  That said there are some natural traits that typically appear  within each breed.  Sure there are times when a Labrador doesn't want to swim; a Doberman who opens the front door for burglars or a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that does not want to sit in your lap.  But generally you can research a breed to know what you might be looking at as far as living day to day with this dog.  Even if you are looking at a mix, there is temperament testing.  

If you really want to know what you might be living with in particular dogs; then choose a breeder, rescuers or shelter that does temperament testing.  I am a HUGE advocate of temperament testing.  It is something that I offer as one of my services within Just dogs with Sherri and it is something that I look for when choosing my own or client dogs.  Why not choose the best match that you can?  It doesn't make sense to do any less.  

I know breeders, rescuers and shelters that just leave it to "luck of the draw."  There are also people within these groups who think that they know the temperament of there puppies.  But there is knowing your puppies and "knowing your puppies."  It is very hard to know how a puppy will deal with life beyond litter life if they have not been out on their own and introduced to a great deal of different environments, surfaces, weather, people and dogs.  How each will deal with socializing within the pack will be entirely different from the individual response to stimulus.  

It is absolutely fascinating to me how each puppy in a litter can be so different.  I have tested litters who were very similar; others could not have been more different.  It is so interesting to see the depth difference in each puppy.  Why not get the dog that will match you, your family and lifestyle?  

Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.  I happen to think all dogs are beautiful; which is one reason that I hate the "Ugliest Dog Contest" that is held every year.  Superficial beauty is only skin deep; true beauty comes from within.  

Whispering to dogs

Watching and listening

Watching and listening

Luke stood in the middle of the living room and let out a couple of deep alarm barks.  Both Jessie and Tilley dropped their bones as their ears shot back and flat.  They listened for another moment and then charged the front door.  Both had jumped to the conclusion that someone had knocked at the door.  Luke smiled and grabbed one of the bones that had been dropped in the confusion.  Smart boy.

Loud can be confusing.  Unfortunately many humans feel the need to "get loud" when asking their dog to do something.  Loud is better, right? Not with dogs it's not. 

Have you ever whispered to your dog?  If not, try it.  You will see how much better they listen.  Even when you remain completely silent yet use your body language, your dog gets it.  Dogs are all about body language; so when someone shows off to you how their dog can use hand signals alone for their obedience, it's not so impressive although it is cool when someone gives this knowledge to their dog.  Dogs actually learn had signals before they learn the verbal cue for anything.

Why dogs hear better than we do - headstuff.org

Using your body alone enables you to get a glimpse at how our dogs communicate at the level in which they do.  Watching for those tiny signals can be a difficult task if you have never watched for them before.  Once you start to see them, you can't stop seeing them.  

When we talk quietly to our dogs they actually listen more carefully.  Don't you find that when someone yells at you or has a very loud and obnoxious voice, you shut off your listening?  Same goes for your dog, less is more.  I often chat away to Elsa (yes I do talk to my dog) while I am in the kitchen or even watching a t.v. show.  The words don't have a great deal of importance to her but she does listen for those specific words that might.  Perhaps I'll say "cookie" in a long and drawn out sentence.  Her ears at attention hoping that a meaningful word like "food" will be spoken.  

The smarter the dog, or I should say, a dog who is accustom to learning will have a large retention for verbal cues.  They can also learn to anticipate words through tone and our body language.  So if I stand in the middle of a room remaining completely still and say "'cookie," Elsa will raise her ears with anticipation.  She will then wait for my follow up movement.  But, if I move towards the kitchen and say "Elsa do you want a cookie?"  I will receive a much more significant response from her.  

I remember waaaaaay back when I was a young'n just learning about conventional obedience.  You know the yank and choke type from back in the 70s and 80s?  Makes me shudder now but there was nothing else back then.  We would have our dogs down by belting out DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!  As if somehow yelling the word would make our dogs perform better.  It actually has quiet the opposite impact.  Nowadays I simply point to the ground and Elsa will down.  She often goes half down and waits to see if I really mean it; and my still body lets her know that I am serious.  

I love to whisper to my dogs.  Of course as they age, whispering goes out the window with many.  All of my dogs but Luke lost most of their hearing in the very senior years.  This was when body language and signals became imperative.  

Dogs can hear far better than we mere humans.  Why then do we feel the need to yell out to them?  Who knows, humans are weird.  


Heartbreak, loss

The canine love of my life, Luke.  

The canine love of my life, Luke.  

There are many things in life that will leave you with a broken heart; one of those things is the loss of your canine companion.  

After losing Luke, my canine companion of 14 1/4 years I was devastated.  His loss was by far the worst I had ever suffered; leaving me  compelled to write a book on canine loss.  The sadness can come before the loss and after; lingering for months or years even.  Often the best help can be in the form of an understanding ear; someone who's been through it and clearly grasps your sadness and pain.  

Sadly, most of us will have to deal with the loss of our companion at least once in our life if not over and over again.  Dogs do not live long enough; although they fill their short life with so much giving.  The amount of joy and love that they bring to us makes it easy to see how they leave such a massive hole in our hearts when they are gone.  Sometimes it is more than we can bear, and we need help to move on.

Knowing when to let our beloved canines go can be the starting point of a downward spiral.  No one ever wants to make that type of decision but it is often ours alone to make and we must.  The last act of love that we can ever give to our much loved dog.  A step to help them to skip over pain and suffering, moving onto what comes next in peace.  This stage can also call for an understanding ear, someone who has been there before.  

The end is all about our dogs.  It brings with it much suffering for us but it is their life that is ending.  It should be all about them and that is how the best decision are made.  When you can step away and see what your dogs life truly entails.  Then it can be clear and easier to do what you must.  

Just the mention of Luke often brings a tear to my eye; but it is now accompanied by a smile.  A memory that has been left in my heart to draw upon when needed.  Sure I'm still sad but there are so many great memories to sift through; that there are far more smiles now than tears.  

"Moving Through The Loss Of Your Canine Companion" was written out of a need to share.  I know that there are so many others who have suffered like I did with his loss.  And, I wanted to help those who have yet to deal with loss; are dealing with it now or will be soon.  The book is written for anyone with a dog; because we all will face loss one day.   

We will all have to deal with the sadness that comes with losing a canine companion.   Moving through it to where the happy memories are stored is the goal.  That is where they spend the rest of our lives with us, our heart.

click here for Luke's memorial

click here to see Moving Through The Loss of Your Canine Companion

Canine emotions and body language

Lots being said here. 

Lots being said here. 

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. ... People have also routinely attributed human emotions and behavioral traits to wild as well as domestic animals. (Taken from Wikipedia)

Yes, people do put human emotions onto dogs BUT...

There is a huge difference between putting a human emotion onto a dog and explaining canine emotions in human terminology.  We have to use our human terms but we should not put human emotions on dogs.  Why?  Because herein lies the injustice to our dogs. 

Dogs most definitely have emotions.  

- an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.

Elsa is a very emotional dog, her emotions run deep although she is not overly sensitive.  Each and every dog is vastly different from one another just like us.  Some dogs are not emotional at all and just go through life sort of scratching the surface of everything; never letting anything bother them either good or bad.  There are dogs that are so emotional that it becomes a real task in our learning how to deal with them correctly.

Knowing your dog is essential to connected at a higher level.  Sure there are folks who will never connect with their dog, simply because they do not have the desire.  There are also people who think they know their dog but they don't really understand "dog."  Everything they understand about their dog is from a human point of view.  This is a huge problem with many canine guardians.  

Wouldn't it be great if everyone had to take a crash course in "dog" before adding a canine to their family?  I think it is a wonderful idea and wish that it was mandatory.  So many people I talk to have no idea how dogs work or think.  Even people who have had dogs all their lives astound me with how they think about dogs.  

Watching your dog is the key to understanding dogs.  They are master communicators, often giving so many signals of communication in a minute that we can't keep up.  If you are not watching for the signs you are never going to see them; meaning that you are never going to understand what your dog is saying.  The slightest of body movement contains so much information.  

When I temperament test a litter, I watch for the little signs.  Sure there are lots of big signs but the small ones are often missed and can be more important.  Ears are a huge indicator as are tails and the rest of the body.  But the ears and tails are the easiest to see when you are first learning "dog."  1/4" movements of the body can communicate huge amounts of information and emotion.  But we must understand dogs to know what our dogs are feeling.  Otherwise we simply put our human emotions onto them.  

Dogs are simple and extremely complicated.  Their emotions should be understood in dog, not human.  


Ball dog. Golf day?

Elsa left the balls in front of her only licking them occasionally.  She enjoyed being surrounded.  

Elsa left the balls in front of her only licking them occasionally.  She enjoyed being surrounded.  

I'm a newbie, a golf newbie that is.  I've just recently taken up golf with the gift of a great bag of clubs.  This is something I never thought that I would enjoy but I have a very competitive spirit; I love nothing more than a challenge to improve at new activities.  I've yet to play a round, but visit the driving range a couple of times a week.  The atmosphere is casual and relaxed with people even bringing their dogs sometimes.

While observing others with their dogs, sitting quietly watching; I wondered if I could bring Elsa to the range.  Although Elsa is amazingly well behaved; she is a ball dog beyond all else.  She has a very difficult time not interacting when a ball is involved.  Even when my Grandbabies hit foam pucks around the house with their little hockey sticks (hey, we're Canadian) Elsa can barely contain herself.  She's driven to say the least.

Stalking, chasing and acquisition is her game.  She is excellent at sharing her prize and has never guarded any ball.  She prefers to share and invites her friends to join in the game of chase and tussle over a ball.  She loves balls, all balls.  Small, big, weird shaped and everything in between.  Knowing this I decided to try.

I knew it would be tough.  Just getting to my spot on the range would be a challenge being so new to the sport.  My golf bag is almost as big as I am.  Carrying the bag, holding onto Elsa, getting my basket of balls and bringing water for both of us.  I had more than my hands full.

The first shock for Elsa was the ball delivery machine.  Without doubt, Elsa would love one of these at her house filled with large tennis balls.  :)  The golf balls shot out at high speed as Elsa took a step back and watched.  It is loud when the balls come out but by the third fill she was fine and just observed.  Next was the task of getting to our spot.  I must have looked like a someone in a comedy movie.  But I managed and we found our spot. 

It took me a while to get settled and place Elsa in her spot.  She was already amped.  So many people to talk to; Elsa adores people and is very cat like in her greetings, wrapping herself around people.  She draws people in and they come in droves.  This alone is an issue to deal with while I am trying to get her to settle and stay in her spot.  Of course it is a good problem, having a dog who loves people so much. 

I grabbed a club and walked onto the green.  Elsa's pupils dilated and I prepared to drive.  Elsa came unglued.  There were balls flying everywhere but it was my ball that hit hardest.  Mom was hitting balls and she could not go get them.  This is horrifically difficult for a ball dog.  Elsa whined and stomped her little chase feet.  I returned to her mat and placed her back.  Back to the green to try again.  Elsa barked in complaint but she stayed on her mat.  I quickly brought her a treat.

This went on for a half hour.  She had bouts of jaw trembling and whining with the occasional defiant high pitch bark.  She spotted a flag flapping in the wind behind her and sounded off with her howl barking.  Something typically saved for when she sees horses.  What a girl. 

I was determined to get some balls driven with Elsa under control.  This was far more a dog training session vs. a golf training session.  Getting in some positive reinforcement was a quick step dance.  One ball, back to reward her for settling on her spot.  Back and forth, back and forth with continual interruptions of people greeting.  People can't not come visit and talk to Elsa, everyone loves her.  

As Elsa and I worked through it, the man beside us was smitten.  I smiled watching him talk to Elsa.  His golf game had taken a back seat as he watched us work.  As I walked to the green again I could hear him saying "just stay there Elsa" to her.  He wanted her to get her treat.  It made me smile again, this was regular life.  

Nearing half my basket of balls, Elsa was getting it but needed more help.  I decided to place the basket of balls right in front of her; giving her something to focus on other than my flying balls.  Then I uped the game placing a line of golf balls on her mat in front of her.  Getting back to the green I checked in on her and she was checking out all of her balls.  Then I told her to leave them, she had a job to do now.  This was the help she needed.  Lots of treats for Elsa for remaining in her spot.  I didn't care if she stood, sat or lay down, as long as she stayed in her place.  

The green stand to the right side is the ball wash thing that came down.  Geeesh

The green stand to the right side is the ball wash thing that came down.  Geeesh

"Quit while you're ahead" one of my steadfast quotes about life.  I was about to leave at the success we had achieved and then decided to push it.  I shouldn't have, I should have left but I didn't listen to myself so we went past the "ahead" stage.  A man walked down the isle headed straight for Elsa.  Something about this guy made her lose it.  She started her hinged in the middle routine and pulled to get to him.  She had been tied to the ball wash stand (something I thought had been concreted into the ground) when it started to move.  I ran to grab her, the leash and the stand but missed it by a millisecond.  Down came the stand full of water, the basket of balls and my clubs.  

Elsa was only slightly phased by the event and continued her greeting to the man who had unglued her.  For some reason she really, really had to meet him.  He was a super nice guy as he helped me gather Elsa, the balls, her now soaked mat and clubs.  We laughed for a bit at the mess and craziness before he went off; leaving me in my "I knew I should have quit" moment.  

Will I bring Elsa back to the range, darn right I will.  I like a challenge.  Control is everything regarding drive and dogs.  I clearly remember trying to teach Tilley to wait off leash while I threw her frisbee for Luke.  She was a bundle of tension but managed to control herself.  Elsa will get it but it will not be easy.  Balls are her thing and being surrounded by flying, rolling and sitting balls everywhere is no easy task.  But we're up for it.   

Next time I will bring one club, not my whole bag when dog training at the range.   ;)




Canine behavior - a true passion

Sherri at Algonquin 6).jpg

Attending my first "official" canine behavior college course.  I believe I'm 16 in the photo taken by a very good friend.  A very long time ago.  

I can't remember when I wasn't drawn to dogs.  As a very young child I just loved them.  At nine years old I had no idea how involved the species was, it was just a love that I had for them.  Now at fifty five my love for them has grown and changed.  I am passionate about canine behavior as I always write about, I could watch it from sun up to sunset and beyond. 

From just wanting to be around the canine species to loving the aspect of communication of dogs.  It has always been there, even when I didn't know what it all meant.  The more I learn about dogs; the more I want to know.  

Canine interactions with the same or different species is where my heart is.  How dogs interact with their own kind, humans, cats, horses or anything else.  Knowing what the smallest of head tilts, tail swing, visual glance or vocalization allows me a glimpse inside the dog.  

I love the outside of dogs, but it is the inside where my passion lies.  I care not about the size, color, coat type or body structure when it comes to my passion for dogs.  I wish that humans had not ruined so many breeds (but that's a whole other blog) giving them their functional body back.  I have a keen eye for proper body structure which I can't seem to shut off.  Look at a wolf to see the true resemblance of structure that dogs should possess. 

It is their mind and amazing ability to communicate without any or very little vocalization that intrigues me.  Each and every dog has this ability, some more than others of course just like humans.  Dogs do not lie; that alone makes them far superior to humans.  A dog will always communicate what they are feeling unless they have somehow been broken.   Humans tend to misread dogs, putting our human understanding of emotion onto them.  This is our downfall as humans, not the dogs who are communicating incorrectly.   

Dogs fascinate and amaze me.  From the most minimal of body gestures to a full blowout of behavior they are communicating.  If you are not watching for behavior then most miss the really subtle parts.  These slight movements make the canine an exquisite communicator.  Can anyone learn to see these faint communications?  Yes, most definitely.  But not everyone  on has a passion for it, like anything else.  Dogs are my spirit, they are not everyone's zest of life and there in lies the difference.