Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Very Sad Day in Pibble Land

Otto was a beautiful, kind soul of a dog. In all honesty, he was never meant to be. He was the result of poor breeding, inbreeding at that. He was rescued at 4 weeks old - if he had been left, he would have passed with the rest of his litter due to parvo. Instead, he spent a year with our family, terrorizing stuffed animals and chasing figments of his imagination. I think he knew that, though he had a lot of great things on Earth, he was meant for something more. Even as a young puppy, he had a distant, sad look in his eyes. Nothing anyone did would take it away. Nothing on this Earth could.

The perfection I saw in him did not save him from his problems - he was dog/dog and people aggressive. He had hurt other dogs, and snapped at people. Anywhere else, that was grounds for putting him vet even advised it on more than one occasion. Being human, and being selfish, I thought living was in his best interest, of course.

I worked with training. He was very intelligent. He knew several signs in modified ASL that I taught him. His favorite things included kisses, Elmo, clean sheets and car rides. He didn't care whose car it was...if the door was open, or even a window, it was an open invitation for a ride.

I thought if the Vick dogs could be rehabilitated...and if other deaf dogs turned out would Otto. I was wrong. The older he got, the worse he got. If he didn't like something, he would grab your hand with his teeth and put pressure on it until he got you to stop whatever you were doing. He had to muzzled just to go to the vet...and I mean muzzled before he got out of the car. If any other dogs were around, he would try to attack them.

He would bark at us when we walked into the room or into the house. He would bark first, wag later. He was fine with long as they came to HIS house. He would bash his head senselessly into the side of Axle's kennel, growling and barking because he wanted at him so bad. He would snap at the hands of strangers...and sometimes of familiar people.

When a vet told me I should put him down...I switched vets. Even the one I trusted the most told me it would be the best decision. I just wasn't ready for that.

I worked harder, tried harder, everything, but nothing worked. If you only had contact with him through Facebook, sure, he was the sweetest thing in the world. If you met him in person? You probably saw some of the behavior issues we talked about. I was videotaping Otto and Axle discovering a gopher turtle in the woods one day when it turned into a fight. It's graphic, and I won't post it, but it's there, plain as day. I knew my sister had a dog once that was a lot like Otto. Her dog made it to the point where she had to live outside in a kennel. She got out and killed another dog, and they had to make the decision then. Knowing that would be Otto's fate, I had to make the best decision, though it was the hardest one.

There was 101 great things about Otto, but his flaws were fatal ones. I couldn't bear to think of him hurting another dog, another person...even me. Sometimes, if you truly love something, you have to let it go.

We laid his body to rest in the ground last night, his big white paws curled around Elmo, his eyes closed as though he was asleep. I know that if anything on this planet has a soul, it's a dog. They love unconditionally, forgive everything and are loyal to their last breath. I know Otto's soul is at peace now. He is having his first Christmas in paradise, and I know he couldn't be happier.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Take on Cesar Millan

I'm part of a bully breed discussion group on Facebook. A topic that recently surfaced was about two dogs (1 older, 1 younger), both male, getting into a fight that lead to blood shed. She was concerned that it would happen again and didn't know what to do. She received a lot of advice...and some of it was pretty good. Cesar Millan came up...and I don't like him. I was bashed a little hard for it, but here's how I view it.

Cesar uses the term "pack leader" a lot...and I do mean a LOT. That's a good thing to be. You want your dogs to look to you for everything. You are to be their most trusted and most respected pack member. To reach this point, you have to earn their trust and respect. Cesar's Way employs more of a dictatorship approach to being the pack leader - Cesar's Way or the highway. He uses short kicks, leash jerks, finger pokes, alpha rolls, etc to get his point across. He insists that the dog walk behind him, however slightly. There's very little chance to sniff along the path, which is entirely natural for a dog to do.

Here's how Axle learned to walk on a leash:

Prerequisites to leash walking: sit, watch me.

1) Associate the leash with good things - treats/praise.

2) Make dog sit before leash attached to collar. Praise.

3) Start with dog on left side, in a sit position. Use a phrase like "Let's go!" or "Axle, heel!" to cue the dog to begin walking, along with you taking the first step with your left foot. If the dog takes off before you give the command, start over in the sit position. Remain calm...if you begin to get upset about the dog needing to start over, take a break.

4) As your dog walks along side you, praise him/her

Make sure you reward the dog with praise or treats throughout each part of learning to walk. If you begin with treats, try to wean them off of the treats as they begin to get the hang of what you want them to do. If a dog only gets treats as a reward, he/she will always perform with the sole purpose of receiving that treat.

Cesar also really downplays aversive dog training. He claims the leash jerks and kicks he uses are good because they imitate behaviors displayed in a natural pack order. All aversive actions cause an unpleasant sensation, which is what makes them work. Causing pain or fear in a dog only works to weaken the bond you have worked so hard to create.

Cesar doesn't explain the equipment he uses very well. I let everyone know what equipment I use, how I use it and why. I don't just accept whatever they are using, as that simply reinforces in their mind that the equipment they are using is okay.

I don't use choke collars. I have used a slip-lead on Axle, but only after he had completed walking training. I prefer Martingale collars that are custom built for my dogs. They fit lose around the neck and tighten when walking so the dog cannot slip leash.

Basically, Cesar isn't all bad, but I can't support a "dog whisperer" that is more interested in kicking, tugging and other aversive actions than actually dealing with their individual needs and personalities.

For a lot of great training tips and more information on Martingale collars, go to I use for my collars.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pibble Mornings and Grievances

Axle sleeps in the bed with us every night. Otto, on the other hand, chose to sleep elsewhere when he was about 3 months old. He usually curls up in the living room on his dog bed or on the couch. His favorite thing to do is to sail into our bed when Axle has been let outside. He wallows and plays like he's getting away with some delicious crime. If you approach him on his couch or dog bed, he'll show you the drowsy, pet-me-attention like in the photo above. He's all play once he's awake, though!

Some people have asked about the sleeping arrangements we have for Axle and Otto (Axle sleeps in our bedroom with the door shut and Otto in the living room). They are only a month apart in age and both are considered "bully breeds." Otto's deafness tends to lead to interaction problems with other dogs. He is a very confident dog (I've never seen him tuck his tail), and he doesn't understand what's going on when another dog hears something. I can see where it would be frustrating. Axle tends to surprise him a lot, which usually doesn't bother Otto. When they are outside together, they play and romp like they should. However, when they are both inside together, Otto behaves like a cranky old territorial man and Axle like a pestering gnat. When they were younger, this lead to some all out brawls. When they were really little, it was just teeth gnashing, growling and tussling around. According to everything I read and heard, this was normal. Plenty of puppies play this way. They never hurt each other, so it seemed fine.

Once they reached about 4 months (Otto) and 3 months (Axle) things began to take a turn. Toys, food and attention were all resources to be challenged over. Axle wasn't really the type to start a fight, but he wasn't going to give in to Otto (who is Alpha) and he was going to have the last say in the fight. Not a good combination. We followed protocol - keep toys away, feed them separate, pet Otto first, then Axle. It worked for a little while.

We also had them neutered, which needed doing anyway, in hopes that the lowered levels of testosterone would help their behavior. It seemed to, for a time. My sister and her 6 month old baby boy came to visit with us for a little while. Otto and Axle fell head over heels for the little man. Axle would lie on the floor and let the little boy tug his ears, pull his tail and roll all over him. Otto loved to snuggle with him and give him big puppy kisses. My sister, the baby and I were out of town shopping when my husband called. A fight had occurred. He said it was bad - as in they were still at it when he called me. He couldn't separate them. Water, compressed air, whistles, calm voices, distractions...nothing could get them apart. We hurried home.

By the time we reached the house, the dogs had been separated. Otto, normally solid white, was pink and red. Axle's face was swollen on one side, as was one ear. I bathed them and doctored their wounds. Otto, though huge, is an even bigger cry-baby. This time, though, he had something to cry about. He had two puncture wounds in his right foot, which he showed to me multiple times. He's lift his foot as though to say, "Look, mom, look what he did." His ears were both worse for wear, one having a puncture wound through the center. His legs were a scattered mess of bloody scrapes. Off to the vet we went - pain meds and a round of antibiotics each.

The vet I had to see was not their routine doctor...he was actually one I had specifically requested not to have. My husband said he wasn't thorough (he had missed a large tumor on a cat his mom had adopted a few years back) and I soon saw exactly what he meant. He didn't check their temperatures or their eyes or their ears. I knew I needed antibiotics, and I think telling him is the only way I got them. He didn't even really check out their wounds. He did, however, take plenty of time to tell me that I had a "lot of dog" on my hands and having "two pit bulls" (Otto is not even a pibble...) was asking for trouble. He told me I needed to get a handle on my dogs or they would "turn on me." I told him what I thought about that and we left.

I went back to the drawing board. I didn't want to lose either of my dear babies. I couldn't bear the thought of finding a new home for either of them, but I couldn't handle them hurting each other, either. That's when I came across the "crate and rotate" idea. We modified the method to suit our needs, and it's worked out great. Here's how we do it:

In the mornings, Otto gets let outside first. Axle is let out of the bedroom to eat and drink, then he also goes outside. When it's time to leave for work, Axle is let in first and lead to his kennel, where he has a comfy rug and some toys to play with/chew on. I bought him a dog puzzle which he seems to like. Otto is then let in to have run of the living space (all doors are shut). In the afternoons, Otto is let outside first, then Axle. After Axle has relieved himself, we go for a walk. I bring him back in, let him eat and drink, then play with him for awhile. He goes out, I spend time with both of them outside and also clean the yard, then Otto comes in. (The next night, Axle comes in first.) When it's time for bed, Axle goes to our room and Otto stays in the living space. This has worked out really well for all of us. We would rotate who gets the kennel during the day, but Axle is destructive when we're gone...and sometimes when we're not. I've read that Pit Bulls usually don't stop that puppy behavior until they are around 2 years old.

Otto and Axle still have some inside time together, but it's not often and usually very brief. The last time was for about 10 mins and we heard Otto issue a warning growl, so we hurriedly separated the two. When they are together like that, you have to be super vigilant about watching their body language and listening out for any signs of an argument.

That being said, I still kiss both my dearies on their noses (sometimes on the lips) and on their ears. That vet was one of the many ignorant people that believe dog on dog aggression leads to dog on human aggression. Not true!

Peace, Love and Pibbles!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Pibbles Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a triple feast - three sets of parents. Otto and Axle certainly weren't left out! They had green beans, English peas, carrots, potatoes and corn. They even got some ham and turkey! No, they weren't given any bones - turkey bones can splinter like chicken bones and cause complications with your dog's digestion/intestines. Pibbles and other "deep chested" dogs are especially prone to a condition where their stomach "turns." When they eat too much or too fast or eat something they shouldn't, there is a possibility that their stomach will turn. This is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. It often requires surgery to untwist the stomach/intestines. So do your dog (and your wallet) a favor and don't give them bones!

My sweet Axle wasn't satisfied with the trimmings and the visitors. He wanted to look out the window at all of the neighbor's children playing in their backyard. You can't tell by the picture, but his tail was wagging so fast, I think he could've flown out the window! Love, Peace and Pibbles!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ginger Ale and Pibbles

We ate Subway for lunch today, and I'm pretty sure something on the sandwich was bad. Not 10 mins after we ate, I was violently sick. We're talking cold sweats, feel-like-you're-dying sick. We finally made it home, and I headed straight for the cold tile in the bathroom. Axle, still in his kennel, was practically sobbing to get out.

I let him out and made for the couch with some ginger ale. He sat across from me on the futon and kept looking at me with this concerned look on his face. It was as if he was saying, "Feel better! You worry me!' He really is the sweetest thing. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Let me introduce you to the family!

Axle is the youngest, an American Pit Bull Terrier. He was born 01/21/2011, so he's still a young thing right now! He loves to snuggle and go for long walks. He's super responsive, and he's done really great in training at PetSmart the past couple of weeks. He really is a prime example of how pits really are. I can't tell you how many people have petted him and then recoiled after asking his breed. It's ridiculous - they've already fallen in love with his floppy ears and bouncy personality, yet they let an unfounded stereotype scare them away. It's definitely their loss. <3

Otto is 11 months old. He was born 12/23/2010, almost a year now! He doesn't know it, but his birthday present is in the closet! It's a stuffed whale!! His favorite toy is his stuffed Elmo, which he carries around and mouths until he goes to sleep. He is a rescue from a puppy mill (I'll write more on that later). He was labeled an Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, but I seriously have my doubts! We have a DNA test in with Mars Veterinary right now. :) He's also deaf. I don't consider it a handicap at all, though. It adds to his personality, if nothing else.

Be sure to tune in for more! Also, you can follow them on YouTube on my channel - TheRiverFinn.