Tag Archives: Dog Training

The Makings of a Good Dog

What defines a good dog? Similarly what defines a bad dog? Is it all about perception from the owner? From others? I’ve been binge watching episodes and clips from It’s Me or the Dog and several of those dogs are “bad” dogs. But are they really bad dogs or products of their environment. Usually that’s the case. They’ve been (unknown to the owners/pet parents) conditioned to act a certain way.

Dog training is more about the training the human than training the dog. How to be a “pack leader” as some might say. Or, in my eyes, how to be a pet parent. Some people say that dogs are dogs and they are not children. I say that dogs (or cats, or other animals) and children are more similar than many think

That reminds me of a time I was talking to my friend who was a mom to a toddler. She would say something about raising her daughter and I would tell her that I experienced the same thing with Haley (she was a year and a half at that time). We talked about having to take things out of mouths, potty training, talking back (yes, Haley did and still does like to have the last word, Eevee is showing those signs as well), and in general just being a mommy. We discovered that being human parents and pet parents aren’t that dissimilar.

I don’t know if I would call any dog “bad” per se. Many people would probably disagree. I believe that dogs are a product of their environment and their genetics. I also believe that dogs become what their humans (knowingly or unknowingly) want them to become: a friend, a protector, something to alienate other people, a device to get dates, a fighter, a coward…well you get the drill. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there truly are bad dogs that no matter how well they’re treated they will always be bad dogs.

What makes a good dog? What are their traits? Does it depend on person to person? What do you think makes up a good dog?

For me a good dog is: a dog that listens but is not autonomous, a dog that knows how to dog, a dog that I can walk with without dragging me, similarly a dog that I can run with whether or not they’re dragging me, a dog that I can relax on the couch with, a dog that will kiss my tears away, a dog that will argue with me, a dog that makes me laugh, a dog that makes me feel like I’m not an ice queen (I’ve been called things like that and have called myself that), a dog that makes other people smile and brighten up their day a little. Wow I have a long list of things. I guess that’s less of what I want in a good dog and more of what kinds of dogs I have. Unless they’re annoying me (something they are prone to intentionally do), I love my dogs and I feel like I have a pack of good dogs. I might be biased.

They could use some work, but ultimately I love them no matter what. Except when Buddy slimes me…that is something I could do without.

Until next time…who’s a good dog? You’re a good dog!

The Pack (2015)

Not to be confused with the 1977 film by the same name. It sure did confuse it. I’ve watched both films too, but today I review the 2015 creature feature.

The film starts out with an elderly sheep farmer leaving his sleeping wife by the fire to investigate why the sheep are having a fit. He barely gets in the door before someone attacks and kills him. Hearing him shouting, wakes the wife and with a flashlight she too goes to investigate, calling her husband’s name as she goes. She’s also attacked and killed.

Dawn finds us at a new location where a struggling sheep farming family lives. While the husband goes to investigate, collect, and burn the dead carcasses of his sheep, the son is seen hoarding two shotgun shells that he keeps in a rusty candy tin. His mom calls him to help her in her vet clinic where she examines an adorable dog. The dog’s heart rate is up, but everything else is normal. The son puts the dog in the kennel and checks on “Fuzball” a cantankerous cat that gives the audience a fake jumpscare. “Stupid cat,” the boy said. As the boy leaves, he grabs some urine samples that his mom told him to take. Also, the mom turns off the radio right after hearing about the elderly couple’s death.

A banker stops by the house and after being offered tea, requests milk for his tea and the mom fetches the milk after glancing at the urine samples in their refrigerator. Honestly, I thought she was going to use one in the milk. She didn’t. How civil.

Down to business, the banker proceeds to tell the farmer and his wife about all of their late payments, which have all been paid. This bit of dialogue is only there to help the audience understand that the family is struggling financially. The banker gives them two options: foreclosure or a $200,000 buyout which meant the family would have enough money to move, find a new place, and still have a little nest egg. The father declines the offer for selling, but their seventeen year old daughter wants them to take it. The father kicks the banker out and assures his family that they will not move.

At this point I’m feeling a bit sorry for the family. They know they’re struggling, but they have to do what the patriarch says. So, they reluctantly go along with his foolish plan to keep the house rather than take the money and run. Please note, that the father gave no explanation as to why they were keeping the property (i.e. the property had been in his family for centuries, their stillborn infant was buried on the property, they had a secret stash of money buried there). Basically, I’m saying that there was nothing there to warrant staying especially when they were offered enough money to start over.

Anyway, the banker too is killed. We see a pack of five or six black German Shepherd type dogs attacking him, with one–I’m assuming the alpha–watching over them. It’s these dogs that terrorize the family all night.

I won’t spoil anymore of the movie for you just in case you want to watch it (it’s available on Netflix). However, I will say that the urine samples and the bullets make an appearance later on in the movie with one of the items being more helpful than the other. I’m sure you can figure out which one.

My overall review is 3/5 stars. It was relatively realistic, but so realistic to the point that it felt like the boring day-to-day life of an average farmer/family. I wasn’t invested in the family. The only one I cared about was Ollie, the family’s Border Collie type dog. Spoiler: He survives, but is absent throughout most of the action.

I do have to admit that I loved how well these dogs were trained in the film. However, the good training sometimes came off as robotic and unnatural especially in cases where someone would walk right by the dog and the dog wouldn’t seem to notice them until they had passed by and gotten into a safe spot. Any dog over knows that sneaking past a dog is impossible unless the dog is deaf (and even then it might be difficult) or occupied with say a peanut butter filled Kong.

These supposed feral dogs had a strange intelligence and were unnaturally strong. A stabbed dog is going to yelp and isn’t going to jump out a window. These dogs also were strong/smart enough to ram through doors and windows to get to this family. I wouldn’t have questioned this had there been some kind of explanation for their intelligence. There wasn’t. The dogs were just eerily smart.

I wish there had been more of a struggle to survive. Yeah, these dogs were strong, fast, smart, patient, etc., but there was no feeling that this family was actually in any danger. Quite frankly, they would have never have needed to leave the house had they practiced some common sense (lock the doors, find a safe room that they can barricade and defend, and wait for morning to come). Nope, they needlessly put themselves in danger.

Also, they never mentioned their money problems again. If I was them, at the end of the movie I would have said, “Those dogs were crazy, let’s let the bank have the place and we start over. Let someone else deal with these murderous beasts.” So I guess the movie wasn’t that  realistic.

Oh well.

Despite my rating, I think it was an entertaining movie to watch and I recommend it. If you do watch or have watched the movie, let me know what you thought of it.

Until next time, if the person on the radio says that there are dangerous dogs/people in the area, fortify your house and no matter what don’t leave the house at night!

Day 22: Intelligence 2 Stars?

I went on Vetstreet to see what the site had to say about Chow Chows. I stopped when it said that a Chow’s intelligence was 2 stars. Apparently Chows thinking and problem solving isn’t the greatest. Shih Tzu on the other hand have a 5 star rating. What gets me is that on other sites Shih Tzu aren’t considered intelligent.

Who makes up these tests to judge the intelligence of dogs? Did someone only sample a few dogs and made a general assumption? Perhaps I’m biased, but Buddy and my girls are all intelligent and sometimes I wish they didn’t demonstrate the problem solving abilities. It sure would be easier keeping them in one place.

Sometimes I wonder if people get a dog’s intelligence wrong because they don’t realize that the dog is manipulating them. I know first hand that Shih Tzu will not perform unless there is something in it for them or if they know that they’ll get something whether or not they do the work. I’m not as experienced with Buddy, but if other Spitz breeds are any indication, I’m sure that the Chow Chow falls into this category.

I do understand the need to make these generalizations. It ensures that people get the right dog for their family. Though it makes me wonder if sometimes these generalizations are more harmful than beneficial. Take Pit Bull types for example. Generalizations made about them have caused them to be banned from certain cities, states, counties, and countries.

I wish there was an alternative to the generalization, but there really isn’t one.

Other times I wonder if human interference has helped or harmed “Man’s Best Friend.” I mean, we have breeds that can barely breathe, some that suffer neurological issues, some that are prone to cancer, and so on. I mean, I love my dogs, but honestly only one of them is suited for life without humans. The other five would probably suffer due to their short snouts.

When I get like this I remind myself that I’m thinking too much. It is what it is. The best thing that I can do is make sure that the dogs in my care are taken care of and that they have an excellent quality of life. Not to toot my own horn, but I think they have a great quality of life. In fact, I think they’re a bit spoiled and a bit arrogant.

Buddy believes that the fan that I put in the living room to circulate the air was actually put in there for him. Silly puppy. Or smart puppy. I’m not sure which, but he sure enjoys that fan.


Due to this particular setting on my camera, both fans looks stationary, but the white one was actually running

I think I’m going to try to shut my brain off and just watch some YouTube videos that don’t make me think. In other news, I think the depression tide has gone out which means that I’ll be able to enjoy about a fortnight of good days before the tide comes back in, but I won’t think about the incoming tide. I’m just going to enjoy the good days.

Until next time, stay cool everyone.

Submission vs. Defiance

Books, blog posts, dog trainers, Cesar Millan, other dog owners, and anybody who has ever petted a dog will tell you that when a dog rolls over on its back it is a sign of submission (or the dog wants a belly rub). After all, when one approaches their dog and the dog rolls over (especially when it has done something wrong) the dog is obviously saying “You are the alpha, I submit to you.”

Ha! And I will say it again. Ha! Whoever came up with the math equation that states: submission = rolling over on back, has not lived with a Shih Tzu (or any other breed that is considered stubborn). Or if no other dog does that, they haven’t lived with my crew.

Scene: It’s morning, you can decide the weather. It’s time for the dogs to go outside. The three younger dogs go outside just fine…most of the time they do at least. Then there’s Haley, resting on her blanket. Her eyes are open, her head is down, and she’s trying to blend in with the Leopard prints.

Me: Haley, it’s time to go out.

Haley: *stares blankly*

Me: Haley, get out!

Haley: *continues to stare blankly*

Me: Haley Madeline Caleb get your Shih Tzu butt out of this house.

Haley: *ignores me*

Me: *walk toward Haley*

Haley: *rolls on back*

Me: *Pick up Haley and put her outside* See, now that wasn’t that hard now was it. *Shuts back door while Haley glares at me*

End Scene

From what we’ve been trained to think, Haley submitted to me. She was telling me that I was the alpha and that she was nothing but a lowly puppy.

The only thing is, Haley is not a submissive dog. Many people have remarked at Haley’s dominant personality. At the dog park, she would make sure that the other dogs—specifically males—knew their place. She’s not the bad dominant that you see on those TV shows. She’s not a royal terror, but she does like things a certain way. Translation: Haley is me in dog form. It isn’t in her nature to “submit,” but it is in her nature to defy.

I know that when Haley rolls on her back she’s saying, “If you want me to do that then you better come over here and get me yourself because I’m not moving.” Then she makes it extra difficult to pick her up. She goes limp and allows her head to fall back; she becomes like a fourteen pound newborn baby. If I pick her up and set her on her feet, she will lay back down and roll back over on her back.

I’m sure some people would say, “Let your dog know who the boss is. You are the alpha dog; the leader of the pack.”

Ha! Ha!

Shih Tzu are a special breed. If they don’t want to do something, no amount of stomping, begging, pleading, alpha rolling (oh wait, she’s already on her back), treating, bribing, cussing, screaming, crying, pushing, pulling, leash correcting, and so on can get the Shih Tzu to do what you want it to do. In my opinion, you don’t “train” a Shih Tzu, you learn what they will dog and what they will do it for and exploit that.

That being said, Haley knows a decent amount of commands and with speak and shake on command. Not because I have food in my hand, but because she loves me. She respects me. I am the alpha. I am her world.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

So that’s my opinion on the whole lying on the back.

On a similar note, an article was recently published in Scientific America about why dogs roll on their back during play (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/2015/01/09/why-do-dogs-roll-over-during-play/). If you have about ten or fifteen minutes, sniff your way on over there and give the article a read, not that it is anything we dog owners didn’t know already. Sigh, science is so far behind when it comes to the domestic dog.

So, until next time, keep showing those bellies and lulling humans into a false sense of who is really the alpha.

Do I Have to Mom?

Yesterday evening, my husband was excited because Haley was listening to him. Her allergies have been acting up lately and sometimes it is more of a pain (to her) to listen to us than to just lay there looking at us like we’re stupid. She’s been on medication for the past three or four days and it has worked wonders for her health and possibly her selective hearing.

But I digress.


So my husband was happy (as I’ve said before). After I got home from work last night, my husband and I ate, and then we played Minecraft. Haley wanted out of the playpen and addressed her barks to me. I ignored her. My husband told her to be quiet. I made some remark about what she wanted and my husband told me to not speak because when I speak, Haley completely disregarded whatever he said. Haley barked. My husband told her to be quiet. Haley looked at me, “Mom, do I have to?” I ignored her and told my husband to do the same as that was the best way of getting her to quiet down. Eventually she laid back down and went to sleep.

I don’t know why my husband gets upset when Haley doesn’t listen to him. I know that sounds cruel, but in my (and her) defense she’s known me since she was eight weeks old. As for my husband–the intruder–Haley has only known him for a couple years and she viewed him as an intruder in her house, in her life, and made sure he knew it. Basically, for three years Haley has only had to answer to my mother and me. So she goes from only having to listen to my mother and myself (both of whom she’s known since puppyhood) to having to listen to an intruder. If that were me, I’d probably look toward the authority figure and say, “Do I have to listen to this guy?”

I think the biggest problem between them is my husband just doesn’t get dogs. Yes, another cruel statement. Or perhaps I should say, just doesn’t get the way Mother and I raised Haley (and our other dogs)

All of our dogs are doted on, but they’re raised with certain rules. If the dogs follow the rules, they get more freedom. If they don’t follow the rules, they get less freedom. Older, more well-behaved dogs, get more freedom than puppies who don’t know the rules. Older dogs are allowed to help reinforce the rules; puppies are encouraged to learn and imitate the older dogs.

Dogs are required to sit before getting anything; sitting up pretty is permissible and gets a praise (yes, I do encourage stupid pet tricks). Dogs are allowed to jump on the furniture, but are not allowed to jump on high beds for health reasons (due to their long backs, Shih Tzu can hurt themselves). If we want the dog on the bed, we pick the dog up. Dogs are allowed to “ask” us if we’ll put them on the bed, but that doesn’t guarantee that it will be granted. Dogs are expected to go to bed when told to do so. Begging can result in a reward, but it can also result in being ignored. Lately, the dogs will beg for a short while and if they don’t get any food will go play or sleep.

I don’t believe in the dominance theory, but I can’t say I am fully on the Positive Dog Training bandwagon. I raise my dogs like I was raised (and how wolves actually raise their cubs): parents are authority and thereby reserve the right to reward and punish depending on the circumstances.

All of that being said, my husband doesn’t always follow how the dogs were raised. He refuses to put the dogs on the bed; rather he insists that they jump on the bed themselves because putting them on the bed “spoils” them. It annoys him when they beg, even if they’re sitting/laying quietly at his feet, so he confines them.

Ultimately, our biggest problem is my husband has different expectations and rules when it comes to the dogs and they make no sense to the dogs (mainly Haley) so they look to me to see if I will enforce it.

Then again, it could be something much more basic than that. My husband usually addresses the dogs in a louder tone of voice than me, especially when he’s displeased with them. I only raise my voice if the dogs are really in trouble, or if they’re in danger. With my dogs I try to keep my interactions as upbeat as possible so that the dogs will want to listen to me. Sometimes I even get on the floor and act like a dog, or I dance around the house like a fool. My dogs love it…my husband thinks I’m weird.

Yeah…that was an incredibly long post. I hope it made sense. Do any of you have dogs that only listen to you (or to your significant other?). Let me know what you’ve done to remedy it…or even if you want to remedy it.

Until next time yes, yes you have to do what the intruder…oops your father said.

Teaching a Dog to Be a Dog

When my Rat Terrier first came to live with us, she was shy around people, preferring to be in the company of dogs. However, it seemed like she didn’t actually know how to be a dog and mimicked my Shih Tzu. Today my RT more or less behaves like a dog rather mimicking the behavior of other dogs.

That was the first time I had ever encountered a dog that wasn’t a dog, or at least wasn’t a dog in my understanding of the term. I understood a dog to be a treat-loving, food begging, carpet cleaning, being that spoke a different language that I do, but somehow we’re able to communicate. Okay, so that’s not exactly how I view my dogs. Basically, my dogs are my best friends and I like to believe that I am theirs. That being said, a dog that startles at every sound doesn’t seem very dog-like to me.

This weekend my dad brought my Blue Heeler named Shelby. She’s been living with him since she was born and he was the only human she really knew. Her life consisted of my dad, her bother, her mother, her father, and their backyard. She had never gotten a treat before; nor had she ever played with an actual dog toy (she’s played with stuff she’s found in the backyard).

Now that she’s living with me she’s an indoor dog. She’s taken to being inside. She’s even taken to dog toys and she’s learned that counter-surfing is a sport that all medium to large dogs should participate in. The only problem is she won’t eat treats or people food–although she sure likes the smell. I should be happy for a dog that doesn’t beg; one that is happy eating her food and only that, but I’m not. Being used to three dogs who come running at the sound of the pantry door opening, I can’t wrap my head around one that doesn’t even know what a dog biscuit is.

Right now a dog biscuit lays untouched in her crate. I gave her a smelly-good treat and she liked it much better. I think she prefers treats that smell really good. That doesn’t bother me. I have plenty of smell-good treats that I don’t give my smaller dogs because they have a tendency to swallow them whole.

Okay, so I guess my Heeler knows how to be a dog, but she has a pickier palate than my other three girls. I can work with that. It gives me an excuse to indulge in her; to buy more expensive treats knowing that they’ll last longer since only one dog gets them. This should be an interesting ride.