The last week has been hectic because I’ve been trying to train Chance the black pit bull. He is EXTREMELY energetic. He Is about a year old and he can run for long periods of time. A problem is that the people that volunteer at the shelter are older people so they don’t like to take him out on walks because he is very strong. When you take him on a walk he will pull and pull on you. The first method that I tried to use to correct him was to put his attention back on me. Chance know what sit means so I used this to bridge the gap for him to learn a new concept. Therefore, when he would pull I’d stop him and use my finger to point his attention back to me. I’d tell him to sit and use a treat to reward him. He’s listen for a while then I’d he started to get used to it and he’s do it automatically (what we want), so when I stopped he’d just sit down. Then he started getting tired of listening and he wouldn’t react to the treats anymore. He listens to all the construction sounds going on. Another thing I noticed about Chance was that if he hears something he gets protective, so he’ll come and sit at your feet like a guard dog.
Later on this week I tried working with Chance again. When I’d go to the door and he’d be way to excited to go anywhere. I payed fetch with him and other games so that he can get a little bit tired. Next, I had him walk around the play area with his leash on and walking at my pace. He was doing pretty good like he wouldn’t tug and he would maintain eye contact. When you’re training dogs you always want them to look back at you for guidance. I put him in the little cage before going outside but he wouldn’t focus on me. I improvised and I’d open and close the door so that he could get used to it and not get over excited. I did this until it didn’t phase him anymore then I opened the door to let us out. Chance was a breeze on the leash. He wouldn’t pull when we were in grassy patches. Which was major improvement in his behavior. The problem is that when we went across the street onto dirt he’d get bored and he would lose focus. He wanted to escape and drag me everywhere, so I took him back and that’s the next obstacle for Chance.
So this week has been very special and eventful because I am finally able to officially return to my internship. I have been riding the bus and getting to know the bus system which is a new added bonus to my whole SRP experience. Nonetheless, I went to the shelter and I was happy to find out that a lot has happened. The pit bull that was blind in one eye was adopted by a lovely couple and so was a kitten. We got a 4 month old German Shepherd puppy named Travis. He is so adorable! The cat that looked like Frankenstein has healed and she is getting close to normal and she’s no longer in pain. Another interesting thing is that there was a female dog that was terrified of everyone and she’d bark whevener she saw anyone. She’s been getting comfortable with people, but she’s still a bit scared. Her name is Lady and she is very food driven so when I took her for a walk she would be immediately next to my side. She was very cautious as to other dogs, but she would let me pet her. I noticed that when I suddenly stand up or hold eye contact for a bit too long she runs away as fast as she can. For every movement that I made I had to make sure that she saw it as well. I asked if she’s ever bitten anyone but they all said no. She tends to just run away. But I know that a scared dog has flip into an aggressive dog within the split of a second, so I make sure she is not as jittery with me. Another huge sigh of discomfort is that she would always have her tail between her legs. For the entire time she was outside she had her tail down, so I want to make her as comfortable as possible. The ladies that worked there also told me that one day a bunch of kids came to volunteer and she absolutely loved them. She was wagging her tail and wanting for them to pet her.
So, tomorrow I start the training and I get to go back to my internship. We are going to start with Bella or Penny who are both really really energetic on the leash. They do not listen to any commands and they pull on the leash. These are both really good dogs, but to help them out on the adoption side I’d like to train them to stop pulling as if they are Alaskan sleigh dogs. First, I am going to dive right in and work with Penny. I spent quite some time getting to know her, so I will be able to understand her better than Bella. Nonetheless, I want to take Penny to the play area in the hope that she’ll get a bit tired out and I have to teach her how to sit and stay. After we have those down then I’ll put her on a leash. Let’s see if she starts to get fidgety and changes moods. I don’t want to use choke chains or prong collars just because I would rather take the less aggressive approach.
The whole idea is that this method takes a lot of patience but we’ll see how they react. What I have to teach the dog is to maintain eye contact and to be able to focus and this will be achieved by making penny sit down and know the task at hand. She has to learn to sit then have her focus on me then she can walk at my pace. When she starts to want to pull take her back a few steps and pull her attention back to me. The key is for me to stop her before she even starts to pull. Another thing is that while we are walking she may see something and get distracted. I have to move in front of her to get their attention then I’ll move to the side so she can see the distraction but still have her attention on you.
Obviously, it is no surprise that dogs become homeless because of neglect/abandonment but it most of the time it is because the dog is a wrong fit for their family and the family doesn’t have the time or money to help the animal. Here are some common problems that can be easily fixed :
“He’s barks too much and the neighbors can’t stand it anymore”
An easy way to fix this is to train your dog to not bark or even buying a shock collar. This was actually a problem with my dog who is a Jack Russell Terrier. He’s amazing and loving but he can be very vocal when he’s outside by himself and this really irritated our neighbors. My family didn’t want to keep my dog in the garage or in the house all day so we purchased a shock collar from our local Petsmart. It’s pretty simple…just put the collar on then when he barks it’ll give him a little zap. My dad and I were curious on how much it would zap him, so before we put it on him we asked my younger sister to help us. She didn’t know it was a shock collar, yet she was willing to help. She experienced nothing until I made her laugh then there was a jolt. She says that is actually didn’t hurt so much as surprised her. We put it on our dog and waited until he started to bark, it obviously shocked him but now it stops him from barking. It took him a couple of round to connect the dots that shock=bark, but now he doesn’t bark outside and he can take the collar off when he’s inside the house.
So how to train your dog not to bark at the door? You always want to use treats as reinforcement to good behavior. Have the door open so that he can see that someone is knocking and it can connect in his head. Whenever the dog hears the knock try to pull his attention away from the knocking to focus on you and the treat. Go from having the door 1/4 open to 1/8 to less and less until you can have the door fully closed and knock without barking. If the dog starts to bark then simply retrace your steps and start over. Training a dog takes time and patience.
2. “My dog gets really nervous around other dogs or he/she seems to be aggressive”
Okay, so how do you train your dog to be more social with other dogs or animals? An important thing to note is that you want to catch this in dogs while they are puppies so that they have not right amount of socialization. Dogs (like humans) are quite social creatures and when they have little interactions with others it can really harm them. When socializing dogs you want to start off by making sure that the other dog is friendly. Know your dog’s background and test him to see how he is with others aka people and dogs. If you’re getting a shelter dog this is extremely hard to predict because chances are they weren’t treated well. If the other dog that you want to socialize your dog with is extremely energetic you want to get him or her a little bit tired before putting meeting your dog.This is because you don’t want your dog to feel overwhelmed because he or she will then more likely attack/react in an aggressive manner. Keep in mind that every dog has a different personality so your dog won’t react the same with every dog that it meets. Anyways, you can put your dog down and watch his or her body language. If their tail is between their legs or they have their fur standing up then make some distance between the dogs. Start slow and keep a sharp eye out for any triggers that they may have. If there ever is a dog fight, then never put yourself in between to try to stop it. Instead, get an object that you can separate them with like a broom or a stick.
Okay so part two will be coming soon and we still don’t have a car yet so it’ll be a couple more days.
Recently, I got into a car accident where a guy hit me and my car spun 1.5 times. I am just fine but that was my family’s only car. Due to this accident it is a setback in my research because I don’t have a way of making it the shelter. I will take the time in do research online and in the library. Actually this will give me the opportunity to focus on making new small cat toys.
Anyways, Kona-the cat with stitches on her eye-has opened her eyes so she looks a little bit less like Frankenstein. I met a Australian Shepherd mix named Zina and she was extremely shy but when you give her like 30 minutes she’ll turn into a lap dog with tons of kisses. I want to make her less shy. I met another dog who is a female and she has trust issues. She barks at every person and the only way that you can get close to her is through giving her treats. I think that she is perfect for my research because I want to be able to train her to be more comfortable with strangers.
This week I spent it doing work around the shelter like walking and playing with the dogs and looking over their backgrounds and treatments so that I can get to know them better. Every weekend Pima Paws for Life take a variety of dogs to a Petsmart on River and Orange Grove to help get them adopted. This week they took Forrest a Collie Mix, Penny (from last week), a Yorkie terrier called Rusty, a boxer named Lola and a shepherd puppy named Milady. Thankfully, that afternoon was a busy day and withing 3 hours 3 dogs got adopted (Milady, Rusty, and Lola). One reason why Penny didn’t get adopted is because whenever she would see another small dog she would growl and people loved her, but they wouldn’t have been able to handle her behavior. I believe fixing Penny’s attitude towards other dogs will surely get her adopted quicker.
Milady was in a litter of 4 and they were given up because they had parvo and the breeder didn’t have enough money to cover for their medical expenses. Puppies have extremely weak immune systems just like newborn babies, so puppies are put into foster home until they are adopted to lessen the chances of getting sick from other older dogs. The application process for adoption is quite extensive because they want to make sure that the dogs are going into a home where they won’t return to a shelter or enter into dog fighting (in the cases for Pitbulls). An important thing to know is that all the dogs from the shelter are spayed/neutered before they leave the shelter, healthy and the potential owner is told the entire background of the animal. Another thing to note is that all the animals are micro-chipped in the ownership of Pima Paws for Life so that if the animal ends up back in a shelter they won’t be put down. Instead they will do to the shelter to be put up for adoption again.
Half of this next week will be focused on learning about dog socialization patterns and training methods so that I can start training them.
I’ll keep you posted on any new dogs or cats that I come across!
I spent this week getting to know the trouble makers in the shelter. The first step towards starting their training is that I have to be introduced to them, so that I can build their trust. Thus, I would take them either out on a walk around the neighborhood or I would take them to the grassy area to play and explore. I am at the shelter by 8 am and I instantly jump into working with the dogs.
I start working with Baily ( a German Shepherd Mix) who is know to lash out from the noises that come from construction nearby. I took her to the play pen and let her off her leash. It was no surprise that she is very mellow since she is an older dogs (almost 7 years old), but she does respond really well to whistling. She is a older German Shepherd Mix who was brought into the shelter as a puppy then quickly adopted. She ended up back in the shelter because she got too old and the family no longer wanted her.
The next dog that I was introduced to is an energetic black/brown/white Boxer named Dexter. He has quite a character because he loves to play and jump on your lap. Dexter is about 3 years old and he likes to nip a bit when he gets excited around people. He was supposed to be put down in Maricopa County Shelter because he had a really bad case of Valley fever, it got to the point where he could not even walk without assistance. I learned that Dexter is food driven which can help with the training aspect of my project and he is very eager to learn.After Dexter and I had an intense playing session with a bouncy ball and a tennis ball then it was time for him to go back inside.
The last dog for that day is a boxer, just like Dexter, except this one has worse behavioral
issues. Her name is Dee-Dee and she is a 4.5 year old white/ black Boxer. Dee-Dee had Valley Fever like Dexter did, but she also had a upper respiratory infection (she has been on treatment for 8-9 months already). She has been adopted out before twice, then was returned because she does not like any other dogs or cats. She loves people and she is apparently really good with children too. Nonetheless, her issues with other animals has been a huge barrier in her adoption process. I would sit down next to her, then she would start swinging her paws all over the place and she’d get them tangled in my hair. She realized that she was hurting me because I would try to push her paws away, but she revolted and plopped herself down into my lap. She must believe that she is a little lap dog because she refused to move after she got comfortable.
Guerra-American Staffordshire Mix
For the next day/session I asked for another tough dog. Her name is Guerra and she is a 3 year old American Staffordshire Mix which falls into the category of the stereotypical “Pit Bull.” She is very loud while she is in the kennels so they assumed she would be a bit crazy on a walk (later I asked who is next to her in the kennels and it is Dee-Dee and Penny). I was the first to take her on a walk because they were unsure about her behavior.It turns out that she is really easy to walk and she listens well. She does not respond really well to Guerra, and she would instantly respond when I would call her pretty girl. She is such a sweetheart. I swear, I would adopt her right now if I could because she is honestly the perfect companion. I was pained to hear her background. Her owner went to jail, so he kept her tied up to a fence and she was there for three weeks until Pima Paws for Life seized her. If you look at her eye with the brown spot you can see something strange in the inner corner of her eye. I asked about it just to out of curiosity to later learn that she is blind in that same eye. She was abused and is blind but the sweetest creature you could ever meet; yet. she is at an automatic disadvantage in getting adopted because of her breed.
I met another American Staffordshire Mix named Penny.They rescued her from a shelter in Wilcox which is a city about an hour outside of Tucson. She has demodectic Mange which is not contagious and it’s actually in every dog; Demodectic mange surfaces when a dog has a very weak immune system. Penny is 3 years old and very playful. We were playing with a flexible Frisbee but she would tug on it too hard so she ripped it. She is also food driven. Her problem is that she is extremely energetic and loves to meet new people, so she likes to jump up and tug a lot on the leash. I think with a bit of training she can easily be taught to stay calm when meeting new people.
Lastly, I spent a little bit of time hanging out with the cats at the shelter. Many of them have their own issues that I will later address, but one cat stood out to me the most. This is Kona and she had surgery on February 3rd. Kona had a slit on her eye lid, so they sewed it up to make her a new eye lid and now she looks like Frankenstein. She is a bit timid and she responds to treats, but not really to toys.
I will be interning at Pima Paws for Life, this organization is a not-for-profit no kill cat and dog rescue shelter in Tucson. Through the span of my internship, I will be working one-on-one with these rescue animals. I will be helping the shelter by walking dogs, playing with dogs and cats, so they have human interaction and shadowing Pima Paws for Life personal veterinarian. My goal is to help animals, specifically dogs, from acquired behavioral issues while staying at the shelter. The main behavioral issues found in rescue animals are: food aggression, anxiety that comes from meeting new people and socializing issues with other dogs. Furthermore, if they already have behavioral issues I want to test which methods work best to overcome these animals specific issues. I plan to run my own statistical analysis where I will be analyzing which dogs and cats are adopted the quickest and which animals have to wait the longest. Lastly, I will create new, safe, low-cost cat enrichment toys, so that they can play and not get bored in their cages. I want to see what it takes for this shelter to be successful and how to make Pima Paws for Life more efficient.