SPEAK! Oklahoma's Only Talk Radio Show for Dog Lovers

SPEAK!  Oklahoma's Only Talk Radio Show for Dog Lovers
KTOK, 1000 on the AM dial, at 1:00pm cst, listen live from anywhere at www.ktok.com

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Common Questions About Therapy Dogs and Their Training

1. What exactly is a Therapy Dog team?

A Therapy dog is a pet that has an outstanding disposition, basic obedience training, and an owner interested in doing volunteer community service.

Qualified Therapy Dogs and their owners take a special kind of love and support to those who cannot have their pets with them during a difficult time. The loss of love can be one of the sad realities of life in a nursing home or other institutional setting. A visit from a dog is sometimes the bridge for love and communication.

2. How can I tell if my dog would make a good Therapy Dog?

A dog with a stable temperament that would be suitable for Therapy work would be relaxed and confident in new surroundings. They love all kinds of people and are not nervous or sensitive when being handled in unusual situations. They are not fearful or reactive to sudden noises or quick movement, and they should have never ever growled or snapped at anyone for ANY reason. NEVER means at the vet’s office, while being groomed, or during eating. Therapy Dogs are the exception to the rule of average canine temperament or behavior.

3. What kind of training does my dog need to be a Therapy Dog?

The dog must be able to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test under the observation of a Therapy Dog International Certified Evaluator. This test is a temperament test, and a gauge of basic obedience and control under everyday distracting circumstances. The average untrained dog can pass this special version of the CGC test after 10-12 weeks of formal training in group classes.

Dogs have to be able to pass the test on a flat buckle collar, or harness, without using the leash to position or guide the dog. The dog must be under voice or hand signal control. The dog must be able to hold a stay position through the distractions of being petted, having another dog walk up to them, and having a stranger walk close by.

4. What age dog makes the best Therapy Dog?

The dog must be 12 months old to be certified through Therapy Dog International. The training is easiest when started as a puppy, but old dogs can learn new tricks. We have had dogs start therapy work at 5 years of age and some breeds can continue to make visits until 9 or 10 years of age.

5. After my dog is certified can he go anywhere with me like guide dogs and other service dogs do?

NO. Therapy dogs are only allowed in areas where they have been permitted by the facility, and where they will be interacting with patients.

6. Can my friend or family member take my dog to facilities if I am the one that trained the dog.

No. The dog must be handled by the trainer(s). If you have a friend or family member that wants to participate, the dog can be trained by both of you and do very well as long as there is consistency in your commands and expectations.

7. What agency governs Therapy Dogs, and are there any special rules?

Therapy Dogs International is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and Therapy Dogs for visitation to institutions and facilities.

You and your TDI certified dogs will have liability insurance during visitation at no expense additional to the nominal yearly fee for membership.

Training a Therapy Dog could well be the most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do.

Therapy Dogs “DO IT WITH LOVE”

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Puppy Aptitude Temperament Testing


The above link is for the video for the puppy aptitude temperament test of a litter of Whippet puppies.  I have a wonderful boy from this litter.  For one year I had two, to closely follow their temperament, trainability, and strength of nerve and coping skills.  Both had the exact same in whelping box experiences, both were tested at 49 days, and removed from the litter at that time.  Both were raised together and had exactly the same experiences in my home.  One was exactly who he showed himself to be at the time of the Positive Puppy Preview Working Dog Test, the other, sadly was also who he was during testing. 

While testing is not considered an exact science, it has proven correct again and again when picking the right family pet, or high level competition dog.  I so wanted one puppy to excel.  He did not.  It was the brother that I did not want due to size and color.  Again, pretty is as pretty does.  The brother with the "issues" was returned to his breeder for re-homing.

NUISANCE BARKING ! Sounding the False Alarm

Scene: Spring, 1990, 5:30 p.m., As I arrive home from work, my neighbor approaches my car:

Ms. R says: “You know you have the world’s smartest dog.”
“Oh, thank you!”, I respond proudly, “What did she do?”
“She only barks when you are not at home. She starts as soon as you leave, and she doesn’t stop until she hears your car turn the corner at 5:30. ”

This conversation began my search for training information on controlling the nuisance barker.
Dogs bark. They call up reinforcements when they hear or see something about which they are alarmed. They bark in prey/chase mode (cats, squirrels, running children). Dogs bark because we have positively reinforced barking. “Not me!”, you say. Really? Murphy woofs, you let him out, he woofs again, you let him in. He hears a noise, he barks, and you praise him, he woofs while you are eating, it’s cute, you give him a bite. We have to change how we allow our dogs to communicate with us. Dogs who do not easily accept barriers or boundaries are the dogs guiltiest of nuisance barking. This is another reason for crate training dogs early. Also, teaching our dogs as puppies that they can go out and enjoy their yard, bask in the sun, chew their bones and chase butterflies without us. We must not let them in when they bark or scratch at the door. It is ok for dogs to tell us when they need to go out, but not demand when they are coming in.

Until we find the right combination of correction and confinement, it is up to us as responsible owners to keep our dogs from being a nuisance to our neighbors. It is especially important to confine the barker at night. Most often fines and court dates are issued to the owners of dogs that bark between 10:00pm and 6:00am. Dogs, being pack animals, were really never meant to sleep separated from their family. Barking can be a reaction to boredom and isolation.

If your dog is barking in the house or during walks in the neighborhood, then use your leash to help you control the dog. Back away from the distraction causing your dog to bark, and make the dog sit in front facing you. Don’t let the dog turn around and watch whatever was stimulating the barking. Reward the dog when the barking ceases (even for just a second). Barking is often the first step to aggression to visitors, joggers, kids on bikes, and other dogs in the neighborhood.

Most training techniques fail because of inconsistency. Often we forget to respond to a problem with a consequence in conjunction with the verbal reprimand. We are not trying to eliminate all barking. Most of us want a dog who barks when they hear a strange noise or if the doorbell rings. The dog should be allowed to bark until we give the “Quiet” command. After we have assessed the situation and have told the dog to cease barking, we must follow through with a physical interruption in the barking. This is how we get that ON/OFF switch, this is how we ensure our alarm-barker watch dog does not become a nuisance barker that neighbors learn to ignore even when there might be a real threat.
An interruption must be delivered each and every time the dog barks after the “Quiet” command. The command must not be repeated over and over or you will create a dog that thinks you are barking, too. You say “Quiet”, dog barks, “Quiet”. Dog barks–you bark. Now the dog sees you as joining him in the bark-fest, participating in the very behavior you are trying to correct. We must also positively reinforce with praise and treats the dog that obeys the command and stops barking. If the dog resists temptation that previously would have made him woof, immediately reinforce the effort.

Let’s talk about other forms of correction:  the ultrasonic devices just don’t work. I have never had an owner purchase one that wasn’t disappointed. You can use sprays, like diluted vinegar and water, but I haven’t seen it work as well as simple attention training using eye contact with the owner, and teaching the dog quiet respect in a sit or down position.

If you have a dog who is barking outside while you are gone, there are several options. One of the most effective methods of bark control is the citronella collar. Vibration from the dog’s throat when barking makes the collar emit a spray from a small box underneath the dog’s chin. The formula is totally non-toxic and won’t harm eyes. This collar has proved to work better than shock collars, and is certainly more humane.

Let’s talk about Surgery: The debark surgery can be less expensive than some electronic collars. It is less invasive than a spay or neuter surgery. There is no incision made in the neck. The veterinary surgeon will perform the operation by going in through the mouth. Some dog owners feel that this is inhumane, but if you’ve tried everything, and your only options are to confine the dog constantly, shock or spray the head-strong dog over and over, or get rid of the dog; the surgery is to me, more humane. Nothing is harder on a dog than being shuffled from home to home because no one else wants to own a nuisance barker. The dog won’t know he is debarked; he can stand out in the yard and vocalize to every cat, squirrel, meter-reader and gust of wind, but the voice is now a whisper, and the neighbors won’t hate you, or your dog.

Remember, dogs are social animals; they need our company. If you have to work long hours, you might want to take your dog to a doggy day care for 6-8 hours of play 2-3 days per week, or hire a dog-walker or petsitter to exercise your dog, play ball, or just hangout. Most behavior problems can be eliminated with regular exercise, a little training, and time – time spent with you. That time with us is the most important thing to our dogs.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

****** Ten Rules For Living With A Pushy Dog: ****** Structure Without Force


Until you have owned your dog for at least 6 months, and have completed a training course to help you evaluate your dog,  don't get in a big hurry to allow your dog on the bed or to jump up on the furniture uninvited. It takes some dogs a while to show you who they are--if they snap or growl, believe them! An aggressive dog is telling you it needs more structure, is uncomfortable, and needs less opportunity to make decisions about space. 

Have the dog wear a leash in the house (only when supervised of course) and remove the dog from the furniture using the leash.  This makes it safer for dogs that might bite if you reached for the collar to remove them.


If your dog demand barks for food, has been shown to be more reactive in areas of food preparation, then food should be presented to the dog after it responds to a few simple commands.  No free choice feeding.  Any food not consumed in 10 minutes is taken away and not offered again until the next meal time. 

Owner aggressive dogs will benefit by having several meals per week hand fed. Each handful should be earned by the dog's response to a command.


Don't let your dog control your movement.  Teach your dog to "heel" or walk with respect at your side without pulling you. Head halters, and a good obedience class will work wonders. Don't let the dog lean forward and balance on the front end.  Teach your dog that a good brisk walk does not entail sniffing, or repeatedly dropping their head.  Think about the walk as more of a structured march than free time for the dog.


If the dog chews, urinates, and/or has displayed pushy, controlling behavior, it is time to limit freedom. Crate train for times when you are away from the house, and some when you are home, the dog should be crated and be expected to be quiet and accepting. Use baby gates, or "stationing" when you are there to supervise.

Stationing: tie your dog to a doorknob or heavy piece of furniture. Give the dog something acceptable to chew. The dog can be stationed during the family's meal times, when guests arrive, or anytime you want the dog to be part of the family but under control. Stationing can be done for 20-30 minutes for young dogs up to several hours for older dogs. Be sure and give the dog appropriate potty breaks.


Don't play tug-of-war with your dog unless you do so with control,  and teach an "out" or "drop-it" command. When you play "fetch games" start and end the game with possession of the toy. It is not acceptable for the dog to bite at your skin or clothes.  Children should not engage in tug games with the family dog. 


Ignore nudging, whining or bringing you toys. Have your dog obey a command before giving it attention. All treats must be earned. Games are earned. Control the reward of going outside and coming in; be sure you are not jumping up and down to let the dog in and out at every demand.


Don't let your dog decide what handling is appropriate. Handle your dog's ears, feet, tail, etc. and groom it as long as you choose.  Read about Touch Desensitization in Brenda Aloff's book,  Get Connected With Your Dog.

If this is a problem, seek help from a licensed behaviorist, or a NADOI or APDT endorsed instructor in your area.


The threshold of your home is yours--not your dog's. Teach your dog a "quiet" command so that alarm barking does not become uncontrolled nuisance barking.

Do not allow the dog to greet your guests before you do. Dogs are easily taught to back up, so that you are between guests and the dog until the dog is more calm. This will also stop most jumping up on guests. You can also meet and greet guests with the dog on leash to help control barking, jumping, or circling (many reported bites are to the back of the legs of guests). Dogs who are persistent in attention demanding behaviors should be ignored for the first few minutes that you are home. Visitors should ignore your dog for 5-10 minutes.

Ask the dog who is determined to door-dash to look up at you when approaching a door. Food lures work well for teaching stationary attention. 


Train your dog to walk on a short, loose lead in the direction you choose. Male or female dogs should not be allowed to urinate away from home territory on your neighborhood walks. To allow this makes the dog think they are marking a very large territory. If your dog tries to mark every tree and post, continue to walk briskly.

The dog should have a good energy burn-off every day. This can be through walks, swimming, biking (check out the Springer apparatus for safely biking with your dog), or retrieve games in addition to the structured walk.


Some owners see their dogs as children and make excuses for behaviors that are often dangerous. Some rescue dogs may have had a rough experience, but it is we who remember the incident, not the dog. Being a victim of neglect or abuse is not a reason for aggression. 

Other owners want to blame the dog and give him or her human characteristics and reasoning abilities of which dogs are simply not capable. Dogs are not vengeful or vindictive, they are not capable of complex retaliatory acts (like chewing your new shoes because the dog was mad about something that happened yesterday). Dogs understand through instinct and training. Dogs need consistency, and time, time spent with their owners. That time is the most important thing to our dogs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Choosing the Right Breeder: Ethics vs Profit

People ask me all the time how to choose the right breeder. They also ask me how I have ended up with healthy dogs, dogs who live a long, long life, and how I have had dogs ranked in the top 10 in the country for their breed in AKC obedience, but haven't spent a fortune. The answer all goes back to the origin of my dogs. That begins with the breeder.

Here are the most common mistakes that owners make when buying a dog:

1. Buying A Dog From An Internet Website

So many people have shown me sites, and they were so proud of where they purchased their dog. What dog-knowledgeable people could tell from the site was that it was a front for a puppy mill. Here are some of the things to look for that are bad news: Selling multiple breeds, and not listing a physical address that you could actually drive to the location to inspect the facilities. Showing 8-10 males or females used for breeding. Not listing PENN-HIP, OFA or CERF numbers or ratings. Not listing any titles on the breeding dogs. These should be Championships, CDs, CDXs, Agility titles, Schutzhund titles, etc. If you don't know what the titles after a dog's name stand for, then look it up. These titles will tell you a great deal about the temperament and trainability of the parents, which means your dog will be easier to live with and train. Also, be a detective. Type in names, addresses, phone numbers, see if they are listed on any of the "Buyer Beware" sites. When doing a search on a breeder for a friend, I found they had a USDA number. USDA numbers are given to commercial kennels who breed so many dogs that they have to be inspected. They usually sell dogs to brokers and pet shops.

2. Not Expecting Enough Of The Breeder Or The Breeding Dogs

Many breeders want to charge you 1-2 thousand dollars for a dog. These are not necessarily good dogs or good breeders. I actually know someone who was quoted $6,000.00 for a German Shepherd adolescent whose parents have no titles. The good German Shepherd breeders both locally and in Germany have had a good laugh at this guy. But you know he may find someone with more dollars than sense.

I purchased a great German Shepherd from a European breeder. I spoke with at least 25 people who have purchased dogs over many years from this breeder. I emailed and talked with people by phone. I spoke with the breeder several times through email and by phone. My dog's parents are both titled, her father has won many German Schutzhund trials, and placed in the WUSV (huge honor and accomplishment.) My female is healthy, has a great brain for learning, very confident, courageous, has been a certified therapy dog, and will compete in Schutzhund, AKC Obedience, and Agility. She was $1,000.00 plus $400.00 airfare. She came with a health guarantee for any genetic problem including hips and eyes.

A good breeder belongs to a governing agency or club that makes them sign a code of ethics. Most of these agencies forbid breeders from selling to pet shops, brokers, or selling dogs for resale to retail outlets or brokers. A good breeder wants a cradle to grave aggreement which means that if the new owner doesn't want the dog, the dog has to go back to the breeder, not end up in a puppy mill and bred to death, or dumped in a shelter. If a breeder brags on how much money they have made in puppy sales -- RUN!

3. Not Meeting The Puppy's Parents

Bad breeders will make all kinds of excuses for why you can't meet the mother of a litter. If you go to visit a breeder and a litter, make sure the breeder knows in advance that you are coming to meet the dam (mother of the puppies), and the sire (father). Sometimes the father is not on the premesis because semen is flown in, and he lives in another state or even country. But there is no excuse for not letting you meet the mother except that maybe she is a fruitcake. If the mother backs away, growls, barks, or in anyway acts fearfully. Do not buy a puppy. I don't care what excuse the breeder gives for her temperament.

A great deal of a puppy's temperament is inherited from the mother dog. Again, often a bad female is bred to a great male hoping to correct a problem in the pups, but what you get is usually the good genes watered-down by the bad. Also, I have seen dozens of new momma dogs who welcome visitors after the puppies are 6 weeks old. She is ready for them to go. So don't listen to how she is being protective of her young. That is just one more excuse for bad temperaments.

4. Assuming That Because A Dog Is Pretty, Or Even Has A Championship, That The Dog's Temperament Is Good

There are breeders out there who only breed dogs for conformation shows. Often these dogs come from a long line of champions. But many of these dogs have lost their ability to work. There are Border Collie Champions who will not herd. There are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers who are afraid of water, and who are aggressive with children. Many AKC Champion German Shepherds have such extreme conformation faults that they have to be euthanized at 5-6 years of age because of their hips and backs. Many of these dogs are fearful, too. Great dogs worthy of being bred have titles in working sports. They are more apt to be trainable and heathy.

5. Not Recognizing Buzzwords That Are The Mark Of Poor Breeding

Dogs are not Grand Champions. That is reserved for Hogs and Cows. Dogs are BIS (Best in Show) or Group Winning, or have CH. before their registered name. People who sell dogs having "Champion Bloodlines" are not being really honest. Almost any dog, even those in shelters, or mixedbreeds may have a champion somewhere in their background. It doesn't matter so much what the greatgrandparents or grandparents have done, what did the Sire and Dam do?

Buzzwords like "tiny" "teacup" or "extra large" are all ways of saying the dogs are not correct. Dogs who are larger than they are supposed to be or smaller than they are supposed to be usually mean lots of vet bills and a short life. Look at the AKC Standard for the breed you are interested in, and then look for a breeder who breeds within the standard.

Mixed breeds are great dogs. BUT please adopt, don't buy. Only unethical people cross breeds and sell to those who just want something different and again have more dollars than sense.
Some of my best dogs are adopted ones. They are healthy, and I got them from purebred rescues or shelters. Shelters and rescues screen the animals for health issues, spay or neuter, vaccinate, and make sure the dog doesn't have parasites including heartworms. The adoption fee is usually less than it would cost you for the vaccinations alone. Also, most rescues and shelters will let you have a trial period to make sure the dog fits your family. You can get any dog you want, purebred or mixed from shelters and rescues. You can get puppies or adult dogs without having to look very hard, or go through trying to find the perfect breeder. All of my pet dogs are neutered, spayed, and most were adopted. Only my competition dogs were purchased from breeders.

Be informed. You will save money, and you won't be the schmuck that the breeders laugh about as they vacation in the Bahamas on your money.

If you would like information on breeders, rescues, or training, please visit us at http://www.fullcircleobedienceschool.com/ or call 405-721-7829

Friday, November 20, 2009


I believe the Internet is a wonderful, powerful tool that has now made things possible that most of us could have never imagined. Thirty years ago it would have been difficult if not impossible to find good European breeders, and converse with dog trainers all over the world. But I also believe the Internet has made it possible for shysters, and liars to succeed. There are dog trainers who claim to train drug detection dogs, apprehension dogs, search and rescue dogs, cadaver dogs, personal protection dogs, competition dogs, therapy dogs, seizure detection dogs, and teach classes, train dogs that are boarding at their facility, etc., etc.

Why can't the public see that no one person can do all of that? Most of these with the jargon can never produce an actual working dog that they have trained. I have met great trainers at seminars and workshops, and all who are great specialize in a very few things. Many of the blow-hard trainers are also "breeders." They have overpriced dogs just waiting for people with money who believe their slick stories. It is a joke among the dog-knowledgeable as to the poor quality dogs that many wealthy people have been duped into buying, and the money they have spent on mediocre to downright poor quality instruction, or abuse in the name of training. WHY would people spend more time selecting a car or furniture than they do researching an animal they are going to spend 15 years with, and some with the potential to rip the face off of their kid?

Why don't people investigate? Sadly, the public thinks that if the facility looks good, that if the breeder "promises" that the dogs are healthy and of exceptional quality, that they got one hell of a deal. When actually they ended up with a poor specimen of the breed, or a designer-mutt, with no real potential. Most people don't know what questions to ask, they don't know that titles on the parents prove that the parents at least had some genetic predisposition for learning, coping, and instinct for whatever work the dog was bred to do.

Why don't dog owners want to learn? Off and on for years I have tried to interest people in consultations or seminars on how to select a breed for what the owner wanted. The public just doesn't give a damn. They don't want to learn anything about the beings that they are selecting to share their life. It is for that reason that in the USA that 43 percent of all dogs are re-homed after 6 months of ownership. Many of these dogs end up in rescues, shelters, or passed from person to person, sold in newspapers, etc.

I am not a breed or competition snob. I believe though if you want a dog that is a good companion that matches your energy level and fits in well with your lifestyle you have to know what you are seeing in the pup, adult dog, or when selecting from a litter, what the parents will tell you about the offspring. This can be a $2,000.00 dog or a dog from the shelter.

I have lap-dogs, and working dogs. I have expensive dogs, and rescues. Both can be trained, but my Italian Greyhound is not going to excel at Schutzhund like my German Shepherd imported from Europe who has all working titled dogs in her pedigree for 5 generations. My IG though is just as important to me, and she will make a great therapy dog, she loves agility, and she is a great bed-warmer and fun to dress up! ;-)

Why can't people see and hear the truth? The sign of a crappy breeder is when they point out that "the great great grandfather was a grand champion." Oh dear god! First of all there is no such things in dogs as a "grand champion." That title is for hogs and cattle. Champion means that the dog was judged on beauty and those traits can be lost in one generation of breeding to an ugly dog. Also, conformation champions don't usually have a brain left because of selective breeding for beauty traits only. So if you want a show dog, the odds are against you unless one or both parents are show ring winners. If you want a great herding dog, just because the dog is of the herding breed, it doesn't mean the dog's instincts or trainability has not been lost through mediocre breeding when no one is truly testing their dogs in trials. Genetics are everything. "The dog is what it is when the sperm hits the egg." (That quote is from my good friend and German Shepherd enthusiast, Sandy Tam-Armstead).

If you want a field retriever that wins hunting trials, you better see that one or both parents are field titled. Now if you want a retriever that is a great pet and lays by the fire at night -- you do NOT want a field bred dog.

I also just love people who purchase a working dog, and then never hunt, or herd, or bother to even complete a 6 week training course. Lofty goals require hard work. Sorry, but I only see that perseverence in about 2% of the people who train. In my Schutzhund club over the last 14 years I have seen hundreds of people show up a time or two and then never show up again. Now that dog with all the energy and the genetics is sitting in a yard until the owners decide to sell or just keep the dog as a lawn ornament.

I am pissed. I am burned out. I need to get away from humane issues, because I just cannot tolerate the ignorance surrounding dogs much longer. From now on, I am not going to coddle ignorance. I am not going to reinforce stupidity with niceties. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars going to seminars, reading books and scientific studies on genetics in dogs, watching hundreds of dvds and documented hours of videos of dogs displaying neurotic or psychotic tendencies. Yet, people will flatly ignore my advice, or travel to another trainer who will sugar-coat things and tell them what they want to hear.

I am tired of old men who are too insecure to take advice from a younger woman. Several years ago I attended an adult education workshop. There the speaker said that the hardest group of people to reach and train with a new idea are men over the age of 50. Heeheee.. sighhhh, boy ain't it the truth. All of the instructors at Full Circle are female. I think it makes the instruction better. I also believe women do not tend to make the dog an extension of our egos. But we have our problems, too, like using dogs as a child substitute, or a substitute for a human relationship.

So one more "why". Why not take the time to ask for proof of what a trainer has done. Why not ask about seminars instructors should attend to continue their education -- not to improve their salesmanship. Why not try to get the best dog and then the best training that is the best fit for your family?