Snoods are Good

Since was all serious business and ranting around here last week I thought I’d let the Monkey’s lighten the mood by FINALLY posting thank you pics of them in their Embee Cavaliers’ snoods.

We think snoods are just an evil conspiracy to humiliate all Cavaliers!


Snoods may not be good, but the foods you get wearing a snood is liplickin' goooood!


When I first saw snoods I though I would never use such a humiliating torture device on my Cav’s.Then I actually got a Cav and learned how much grooming is involved and now I’m very thankful Mary Beth was generous enough to give each of my pups a snood in her giveaway. More on my grooming woes later, but suffice it to say if you don’t want to spend hours each week cleaning bits of goopy dried food of all sorts out of Cavalier ears you’ll want to invest in an Embee Cavalier snood. Trust me it’s worth it.

I thought about doing a whole bit on desensitization of the snood before you put it on.  I have to admit I haven’t done it myself and chose the lazy trainers route of just putting it on and letting the yumminess of whatever sloppy, messy, and thus yummy to them, food I give them do the work for me. Magnus of course still doesn’t love it. He basically doesn’t love anything resembling handling, or clothes, or harnesses, but he does love the num yums he gets when I put it on so I think his association with it is will be okay over time.

So after all this blah blah blahing let me get to the point and say THANKS Mary Beth, I love their snoods!

Magnus doesn’t think I should be able to post anymore humiliating pictures of him after last weeks Speaking of Dog’s where he made his newspaper debut as a but sniffer, but a little humialtion for the greater good of comic relief is okay so I didn’t listen and now you all get to see how cute they look in their little “bonnets”. Thanks again Embee! You guys are the best!


My Dogs Are My Family

My dogs are my family. When you indicate I should find more “real” friends, you might as well say my mom, my sisters, my brothers and cousins, the kids I don’t have, my FAMILY are not good enough company and I need to find “real” friends to replace them. My dogs are my moms, sisters, brothers, kids and cousins. They are my family. They are my constant companions. They love me at 3am when I’m sick or sad. When you’re asleep in your bed, they’re asleep in mine, snuggling me. They lick away my tears and lay their soft warmth on my sore joints. Their antics are comic relief when I’m sad and giddy laughter when I’m not. They greet me with love and joy wether I’ve been gone two minutes or two weeks. They are happy to go wherever I go, whenever I go there. They are quiet with me when I’m quiet and raucous players when I want to be crazy. They exercise with me, eat with me, play with me and love me no matter what or when. Can you say that about your “real” friends? Can you say that about your family? If you widen your viewpoint and be open to finding love no matter how many legs it has you’ll be surprised how many “real” friends you’ll have.


The Road to Success is not Paved with Intolerance

Our basic obedience class is called C.H.A.R.M. School™. It stands for changing habits and reinforcing manners. The first week we have everyone leave their dogs home for orientation. It’s an hours worth of positive reinforcement theory and method and a dish best digested free of dog distractions.

I’ve been co-teaching and assisting in classes but my first C.H.A.R.M™ class starts next week so to get some practice I covered the orientation two weeks ago. It was my first one and I could never have predicted how it went.

Anyone who knows me knows talking about dogs and clicker training for an hour is not hard for me. For that matter talking about it 24 hours a day wouldn’t be a problem, but when you are the instructor and have 6 students staring at you it all seems different. The night before I kept dreaming that I went 15 minutes over time and then realized I never gave them the clicker or told them how to use it. I never told them to clicker charge their dogs before the next class and as they were all headed out the door I was trying to shove clickers into their hands and cram the info down their throats. It was all very reminiscent of those dreams I’ve heard about, but never had, where you’re naked or lost on the first day of school.

Well I didn’t go overtime, but it did end up being exciting. After everyone filled out their enrollment forms where it explains we don’t allow any prong, shock or choke collars, I asked each person to introduce themselves and tell us something they love about their dog. Most people say their dog is smart, a good snuggler or something of the sort. Then we talk a bit about their dogs’ story and challenges.

This is where it got a bit sticky. The second man was a big guy, the sort of tough looking guy where you know his personality is going to follow his looks or he’s going to end up being a big teddy bear inside. I’ve decided not reveal the breed of his dog or their names to protect privacy. His dog was a bully breed and though I dislike stereotypes I must say he had the look of a guy stereotyped to have a bully breed.

He introduced himself then said, “Am I to understand you won’t let me use my pinch collar here? ‘Cause I’ve trained bully’s for 15 years and they can’t be trained without a pinch.”

Can you see my deer in the headlights look? As if I wasn’t nervous enough! So my head trainer explained that we don’t allow metal collars of any kind, but we’ll be happy to fit his dog in a no-pull harness.

That didn’t go over too well. He said, “You can’t train a bully without a pinch and If I can’t use my pinch here I’m in the wrong place and I want a refund.” Everyone else started nervously squirming. It was very uncomfortable.

So my head trainer tried again by explaining we just graduated one of his bully breed last week and he did great with positive reinforcement training. It was a no go.

He said again, “Well if I can’t use my pinch I’m in the wrong place and I need a refund.”

At that point she shot me a look like, “You got any better ideas?”

I din’t really have anything better than what she’d already said so I just told him I couldn’t give him a refund right then, but he was welcome to call the next day and talk to one of our owners. Yup, when in doubt cop it off and the boss, that’s my theory. I just told him, “You’re already here and if you want to stay and listen tonight you’re welcome to see what we’re all about.” I was sure we’d be giving him the refund the next day.

Lately there has been a lot of talk on various blogs and FB about not blasting traditional trainers for being dog abusers, that it’s better to kill them with kindness than with slander and negativity. Trust me it would have been easy to tell this guy, You’re right you are in the wrong place, give him his money back and not hassle with him. I don’t know how he’d even slipped by our initial screening process and didn’t know he couldn’t use a prong collar. But at that point I could easily have sent him on his way just so I didn’t have to deal with the hassle. That’s not my way. I agree that labeling all traditional trainers as abusive helps no one, not them as trainers and certainly not their dogs. I wanted to reach this man. I wanted him to understand that there are other ways, better ways.

So he stayed and listened. I threw in a few things that I thought would reach him, appeal to him. Still I never thought we’d see him again. Guess what? He decided to come to class and this week he was there! On top of that they are a superstar team! It was so awesome! We gave him front clip no pull harness to try and the next day they bought one. I feel like I made my first real convert. I was thrilled. It’s not the first dog I’ve saved from a choke or prong collar, but it is one that I’ll always feel particularly pleased about.

I guess the 4legged lesson is to save a dog from forceful training methods you have to reach the human first. That applies wether they’re a dog owner or a dog trainer. I’m not preaching tolerance. The bottom line was we is not tolerant of prong collars at our center. We do not allow them in class. However this guy also showed me, once again, not all people who use prong collars are dog hating abusers. This guy loves his dog. He was having a blast working with him in class, one of those quietly proud dad’s that stills looks tough, but with a happy gleam in his eye. It wasn’t intolerant ranting that reached him. It was rational argument and appealing to the fact that he loves his dog and obviously wants the best for him, otherwise why would he be in class? It was the scientific method of positive reinforcement and being reasonable about it.

In orientation after everyone got through telling us about their dogs and what their challenges were my response was, “Obviously we are all here because we love our dogs and obviously we all have things we want to improve on with our dogs. Our goal is to help you do that.”

The next time I have to make a choice wether to blast someone for using forceful methods of training or appeal to their reason I, for one, will remember it’s likely they might not even know a better way. It’s also likely if I condemn them they won’t be back and I won’t have a chance to help them improve their relationships. That’s an opportunity I don’t want to miss. Plus I just like me better when I’m not intolerant.


Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Magnus and the Mean

Can’t go totally wordless on this one since this is a sight I’ve never seen and it sorta made me all warm and snuggly inside. I’ve shared before how Nellie is an evil spawn. Mehusbandy is the only person on earth she likes at all and she’s still a brat to him sometimes. So when she was laying in the only spot of sunshine and Magnus decided he needed to share her space for his daily sunny nap I thought he was asking for trouble. It was a pleasant surprise when instead of trying to slit his throat she let him snuggle up with her. I guess even the Mean needs a Cavalier snuggle once in a while!


Wordless Wednesday: Baby Boy

These pictures were taken in the St. Louis airport the day I met Magnus and he became part of our family. He was nine weeks old.


A Dearest Award

I hope better late than never applies because we were generously awarded the Leibster award by Baika, Brando, Humphrey, Ziggy and Chleo and the boys at Empty Nest a while ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting about it.

Wow! It’s pretty amazing to me we even got the award once, let alone three times! Thanks for honoring us with this guys and I’m sorry it took me so long to respond!

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. In order to accept the award, we must do the following:
1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave us the award
3. Pick our five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award

It’s always hard to choose only five favorites in blogville, so we narrowed it down by choosing five of our favorite Cavalier blogs:

  • Bark’n About Miss Kodee and Becky keep us laughing with their witty repartee.
  • The Adventures of Kendall the Cavalier Even “Flat Kendall” gets to have fun in her travels.
  • Embee Cavaliers Mary Beth writes an entertaining and educational inside look of what it means to be a quality breeder as well what it’s like to love a pup with symptomatic CM.
  • My Dog is Cooler Than Me One of the newer blogs we’ve been following, Elsa is an adorable Black and Tan girl who was the fulfillment of a dream, as it seems so many of our Cav’s are.
  • Your Holistic Dog Kathy and Teko are full of so many natural health tips to keep our pups healthy.

I really feel like I should be giving this award back to Empty Nest, Brando and Bogart and Baika’s Blog since those are three I read most regularly. Since I don’t know if that’s allowed I’ll suffice with a big thanks to all of them for thinking of us!


An Interesting Day of 4Legged Lessons

Magnus and I failed the CGC today.

As a trainer that’s one of those sentences I may be sorry for writing later. As a dog mom and a writer I feel no shame about it. I learned something more valuable to me than a set of letters after my dogs name.

We arrived for the test and the neutral dog that was there is one that Magnus just loves. I have no idea why, but he just goes crazy with excitement for that dog. I immediately thought he will never do Test 8: Reaction to another dog with that dog. Perhaps that’s a trainer fail on my part, since according to the test he should, “show no more than casual interest in [the other dog]. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.” Technically it shouldn’t matter who the dog is, so mark that one down for more practice and as a lesson learned. That was not the main problem though.

Our downfall was stress. I wasn’t stressed when we got there, but due to the way the test worked out we didn’t have a chance to get settled before we did the parallel walk past the other dog and start the rest of our test. It was a bit of a sink or swim with no warm up and we sank.

After the first dismal pass of the other dog he started stress sniffing. I have never had a dog that expressed stress that way like Magnus does. This is so totally the opposite of how Maizey tells me she’s stressed that I haven’t ever learned how to deal with it. That’s my second lesson: learn how to help a dog that disconnects when stressed.

After blowing the pass another dog part of the test we went out the the room to wait our turn for the rest of the test. I knew he was stressed and we tried to jolly out of it, played a few little recalls and took some sniffing time, but then it was our turn. Even though it didn’t go good I’m proud of my choices from here on out.

Based on his performance in passing the other dog I figured we had already failed so I told our trainer if that was the case I didn’t want to test with him stressed. She said if he passed the rest of the test she wouldn’t fail him so we got started. He did fine for Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and Test 2: Sitting politely for petting, but even at his best my boy does not like to be groomed and the next test item is, Test 3: Appearance and grooming. According to the test, “The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot.” He accepted the brushing, but when it came time for his ears he was having none of that and backed right up out of reach. That’s a fail. Since it’s the brush he’s had the most trouble with we practiced the most on that and slacked on the ears. Lesson number three for me: Practice it all, practice more and more thoroughly.

At that point since we’d already failed she offered to work with us on a few things, but I declined and that’s where the most important 4legged lesson of the day came into play. I just wanted to take the pressure off of him. If it’s not something that’s a quality of life issue or a life or death skill, like a recall, the most important thing to me is listening to my dog, not if he performs or not. If I was to do it again I would advocate for him at that first stress sniff. I would speak up and say, he’s stressed and we need to regroup. If that failed us, so be it. I listened when my boy spoke and next time I’ll advocate for him even better and that’s what makes me proud of us.

I’m not discounting the value of the CGC or any other title, but there are no letters after our names that matter more to me than building our relationship. I listened to my dog tonight. There are so many human expectations I could have succumbed to. I’m a dog trainer by profession. Now I’m a dog trainer whose dog failed the CGC. That’s reflection on me, not him. Trust me I feel the pressure of that. I could easily have let that push me to push Magnus to continue the test for my ego. But I didn’t. I also didn’t succumb to the pressure of wanting to please our trainer, who by the way, happens to be my boss. I want to do a good job of course, I want to be worthy of being a trainer there and I want the respect of my boss, so all of that could have crowded in my mind when I saw him start shutting down. Now I have to go back to work on Monday and face all the people I work with who actually know what the CGC is and understand what it means to fail. I’m not immune to those thoughts and pressures, but I’m proud to say in the moment I didn’t think of those things. I thought of Magnus. I listened to him and I hope I conveyed to him it’s okay to get stressed out. Now my lesson is just to learn how to help him work through his stress and find success in a new way. That’s a 4legged lesson learned that I know will make me a much better trainer and mom.

So while I guess I should be feeling a sense of failure, I don’t. Which if you know me is ironic, but I’ll take it as a sign of growth. What I feel is that we learned a lot, have a good plan of action to improve and at the end of the day the title that matters most to me is one that Magnus has mastered: that of Master Toe Warmer and Mom Snuggler!