Saturday, November 8, 2014

Break Time

This post has nothing to do with resting, but everything to do with relieving.  One of the  basic functions of dogs, and one of the most frustrating issues of the owner of the untrained dog, is eliminating.  We call this "taking a break."  However, with consistency and attention, you can equip your dog with the skills to eliminate on command.

Meal Time:  By keeping meal times consistent, you establish routine and predictability in your dog.  We feed our dogs every morning after their initial "break".  We feed them the same amount every meal.  Normally, they wolf their food down in minutes; any uneaten kibble is removed from the crate and not offered again until dinner (or for training purposes).

"Good break, puppy!"
Break Time:  After we've finished our breakfast, we have someone on duty to take the dogs out for another "break".  Generally, this is about an hour after feeding. This has allowed the dogs to consume and digest their meal.  The person on duty leads the pups over to the "Break Area" and says, "Take a break."  Because we have done this every single time since we moved here three months ago, the dogs know that this is where they eliminate and they are ready to perform.  We just count seven "poops" until we know that everyone is finished, and then we take them up to the kennel for their morning session.

Every time we transition the dogs from crate to kennel, kennel to crate, or take them for a training session, we visit the "Break Area" for them to do their business.  This establishes routine and quickly forms a habit for them.

This week I took a young pup to town to be my shopping buddy.  At this point our pups are just over four months old.  He looked so handsome with his black coat gleaming under his red "Service Dog in Training" vest.  Between stores I told him to "break" in a designated place.  I was so proud of him when he immediately began doing his thing.  Confidently, I entered the store, assured that he wouldn't be doing anything naughty once inside.

Dogs instinctively like to keep their "den" clean.  We rarely have messy crates (I can only remember cleaning two since we've been here), and when they do have an accident it's either because of a sick dog or a handler that waited too long.

Training in public
Canines are creatures of habit and will eliminate in the same area, even without being trained.  Their sensitive snouts can smell things that we can't, and will find the odors associated with elimination.  That's why it's imperative to clean any messes in the house immediately and thoroughly, because they will return to that spot and do it again.

And finally, when you do take your dog into public, be prepared.  We always have little doggie bags tucked away in our service vests for public breaks.  This is just being responsible and respectful of others.

Well, it's been an hour since the dogs were fed, so it's time to go "take a break"!
Socializing at a Family Fun Day

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pups' Day Out

Whew!! It is always an adventure training and socializing puppies. Yesterday we had grocery shopping to do, so we decided to let a couple puppies tag along.  However,  that is not as easy said as done.  Our goal was to leave around two pm, but, by the time we finished all of our studies, chores, and were ready to leave, it was three-thirty! 

Finally, in the van with four boys, two puppies, Bailey, Mom and I, we were on the road.  Stopping at the post office, Mom let Wyatt, the two puppies and I off.  We then walked about a block across a beautiful park to the library. The puppies did fabulous.

Cocoa and Bailey
Then we went to Albertsons, and while the others and Bailey went shopping, I showed the pups around Subway. The outside that is.  They are not quite ready to go in. From there, we made our way to Walmart, were the others, again, went inside, and I socialized the pups in the  parking lot.  They did very well around the barking dogs you always encounter in a Walmart parking lot. You'll notice there are no pictures of the dogs in the parking lot-- that's because everyone else was shopping and I haven't figured out how to be a photographer and dog handler at once!

It was a full afternoon for Cocoa and Lucky. However, they learned a lot, and are well on their way to becoming solid companions for their kids.

A tuckered Lucky
On place in the van

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Basic Training Begins

We’re so busy training puppies, that there’s just enough time for the rest of life—cooking, cleaning, and schooling!  But, we have a lot to share that’s transpired in the last month of our puppies’ lives.

We left via Yosemite.
Cody, just outside of Yellowstone.
Three weeks ago, we traveled one thousand miles from California to Wyoming with eleven dogs and six children. That experience has its own blog post in case you missed it.  Needless to say, it was an experience we won’t soon forget!

A pit-stop in Nevada

Since then, we’ve settled into our new location in Cody, Wyoming and hit the ground running!  Basic obedience training began two weeks ago for each of the puppies who were just at the 10 week mark.  It is so rewarding to train a smart dog!  

We have a training rotation in place to rotate all of the future service dogs between our four lead trainers.  This allows each of us to concentrate on one or two dogs each week (depending on the trainer) and really develop a connection with that dog.  Then the next week, we rotate dogs so that each dog is experiencing a different handler and their different training mannerisms.  Although we all as trainers have a consistent method of training, we are each unique in our particular style.  This gives the dogs the opportunity to adjust to different personalities and respond appropriately.
A junior trainer ready for action.

Always ready for training.
As I worked with my charge today, a sweet chocolate male who reminds us of his Papa Bailey, I was quite pleased with how well he had “come”, “sit”, and “down” mastered.  We worked on “stay” and he picked it up so quickly and eagerly.  These dogs are so eager to work and pick up basic obedience readily.  As with child training, consistency and kindness accompanied with firmness are key elements to successful training.
Kindness and Consistency are Key for children and dogs!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

From Yosemite to Yellowstone

Recently our family of eight took a road trip-- and brought our eleven dogs.  Leaving California via Yosemite National Park,
we traveled to Cody, Wyoming arriving through Yellowstone National Park.

As if traveling with six children didn't already require tons of forethought, throw in nine puppies!!  The two groups complemented each other nicely however, both requiring about the same amount of time between pit-stops.
Pit-stop outside of Yellowstone

Somebody had a birthday along the way!
Since all 19 of us couldn't fit into the blue van, we drove two vehicles-- the van and the truck pulling a cargo trailer with all the stuff!!  One extra-large crate of puppies went in the truck and two crates of the same size went in the back of the van.  It actually worked perfectly and the puppies traveled marvelously. 

We began crate-training the puppies at night a few weeks prior to our trip, so they would be comfortable in their "dens".  This proved valuable, because there was very little whining heard from the puppies (nor from the humans-- they were NOT in crates) for the entire 1000 miles.

Pit-stop in Nevada
We stopped every two hours for a stretch break and potty stop.  We tried to avoid places where other travelers would take their pets for a "break" to keep germ exposure low for our puppies.  Since most of the drive was very rural, this wasn't hard to do.  Thankfully, we didn't have a single messy crate to clean the entire trip, although we were prepared with rags, paper towels, and plastic bags should the need arise.

Pit-stop in Wyoming

Something smells good. . .
Of course, we had to camp along the way.  It's hard enough to find a motel that will accomodate our large family, without throwing in eleven dogs!  The KOA in Cody, Wyoming was especially hospitable.  In addition to their lovely grounds, free pancake breakfast, and very low fee, they let us check-out late in the day without charging us extra.  The kids and dogs had a great time!

Pit-stop at a park in Idaho.
We were so proud of the dogs-- they weren't a nuisance at all to any of our neighbors, although we certainly attracted attention and visitors wherever we went!  It felt like the circus was rolling into town!

                             Needless to say, we were ALL very happy to roll into Wyoming!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

We've had a Photographer!

We have had a photographer that would like to start pet photography business.  She asked if she could come up and take pictures of our pups.  We, of course, couldn't pass up such a great opportunity,  so here are just a few of the shots she took. 

We will be adding more in the future.  Hope you enjoy them!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Puppy Pictures, One Month

The puppies are growing fast, so here are some updates.  They are starting the weening process this week and are LOVING the puppy mush. Jackie is also happy to have more free time away from the pups. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tioga is off to Colorado to serve...

Sometimes things don't turn out the way you think they will.  This has been the case for our sweet Tioga.  When we acquired her last October, we intended to use her as part of our breeding stock.  We loved her solid, cheerful disposition, and she brought such delight to our team.

As we do with all of our breeding stock dogs, we had her genetically tested to ensure that she would not have any genetic issues with her eyes or hips.  Imagine our sadness when Tioga's results came back showing that she was "affected" with PRA-- bottom line, Tioga may eventually go blind.  With this information, we could not use her to breed nor could we in good conscience place her as a medical service dog.  So what to do with the precious creature?  As lovable and solid as she is, we really desired for her to "work", and not be re-purposed as a pet.

We started thinking about therapy dogs.  It seemed that this would be the perfect new job for Tioga, since their jobs are not to provide medical support, but comfort and emotional support.

Tioga has now left us to go and serve someone for the rest of her life.  Today Tioga arrives in Colorado to meet her new master, Amy, who serves others in the name of Christ using therapy dogs for Canines for Christ.  This wonderful creature will be greatly missed around our home base, however, it is great to know that she is on her way to serve and change another life for the better.

Tioga is a "bomb proof" dog.  We have dropped a pan near her sleeping black head and she barely acknowledged it.  Yet, as soon as you say her name she will jump up from a deep sleep, ready to assist you in any way you might need her.  Tioga is a great dog that will bring MUCH joy and peace to many in her new role as a four-legged ambassador for Christ in Colorado.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer heat

Combating the summer heat can be exhausting, but imagine being stuck in a parked car for 30 minutes in 95 degree weather. Combine that with wearing a fur coat, and not being able to perspire!  What if you didn't know when you were going to get out of that car!!!  Watch this video of a vet who tried sitting in a parked car for 30 minutes, and remember this next time you take your dog with you somewhere. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Finding Their Voice

As a puppy grows MANY amazing changes take place in rapid succession of each other.  Some of these are not easily noticed such as day to day growth, however, others like the eyes popping open are very obvious.

Our new litter of Duty Dogs puppies are growing fast and are steadily changing.  Lately, the young ones have found their voices and are using them heavily. This chocolate in the picture to the right is particularly loud.  As the photo was snapped, he was yelling to the world his opinions on life.

Another new change that has taken place is the eyes are open.  They are beginning to get a hazy picture of this new environment.  Newly opened puppy eyes have a cloudy haze.  However, they will quickly clear up to look normal.

These puppies are on their way to being reliable DADs, and we have high hopes for them.  The Lord is truly blessing our family venture.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Labor Day Chronicle

As the mom of six children, I've (Alicia) had my share of labor stories.  One of the things that I've learned along the way is to take good notes during labor and as soon as the whole event is finished, WRITE IT DOWN!!  Not only is this nice for posterity, but it's a very handy reference tool for subsequent labors.  So, here's Jackie's maiden birth story. . .

"Just hold me."
Monday morning it was evident that our very pregnant chocolate lab, Jackie, was ready to get to business.  In addition to her temperature falling below 100F, which is indicator that labor is starting, she was looking for a place to nest.  Hannah took her into the whelping box, where she’d already spent some time getting used to it, and the two of them hung out for the entire day.  Normally not the snuggler, Jackie practically laid on Hannah’s lap all day, while Hannah read, listened to audio dramas, watched a movie, and ate all her meals.  I guess Jeremy did spell Hannah a time or two, and Jackie behaved the same with him.  At one point he remarked, “If she could crawl into my skin, I think she would!”
Ready to go

Water Breaks!
Shortly after dinner, about 7:00, the report came that Jackie’s water had broken.  All right!  Now it was time for the fun to begin!  Excitedly, we called our mentor Debby Kay in West Virginia to share our exciting news—it was kind of like calling “Grandma” since Bailey and Jackie came from her kennel.  Expertly, she briefed us on what to expect, the supplies we should have, and shared in our enthusiasm.  Thankfully, Hannah had done an excellent job preparing for the births, and we had everything Debby mentioned (perhaps Hannah will do a future post on supplies for birth).
With Debby’s encouraging pep talk, we were ready for a night of labor.  Of course, everyone in the family was anxious for what was to come.  So, we decided to let the littlest Becker be the first birth attendant, and promised the rest that we would wake each of them up one at a time to witness the miracle of birth.  
                                                         First Puppy
Puppy #1
Little 4 year old MJ quietly watched from the chair while Jackie experienced her first wave of powerful contractions.  Just as Debby predicted, you could watch the contractions cause her sides to “heave”, and then after a few moments, they would relax and her panting would ensue.  This continued for about thirty minutes before a black form, encased in a sac, emerged nose-first from the birth canal.  At Debby’s recommendation, we jumped to work aiding this little creature in experiencing its first breath of life.  Carefully, we broke the sac and immediately suctioned any fluid from its mouth using a bulb syringe.  Unfortunately, the placenta did not deliver and the cord was already torn from it, but we still tied what remained of the cord roughly 3/8” from the pup’s body, and then cut the excess with sterilized surgical scissors.  After drying it vigorously with paper towels, we weighed the little guy, put a blue ribbon around his neck and then put him back in the box with Jackie.  However, Jackie was very wary of this little creature and growled as we introduced him to her.  This went on for several minutes until she reluctantly consented and allowed him to latch on and begin to nurse. This behavior concerned us; perhaps she would be one of those who didn’t take to mothering naturally.

Second, Third, and Fourth Pups
After MJ was put to bed, his bigger 6 year old sister got to join the Birth Team—and boy was she needed!  About half an hour after Puppy #1 was delivered, Jackie began another wave of contractions followed by tearing up the newspapers in her box, and the heavy panting.  Soon, another dark sac emerged, back feet first, and we followed the same routine for this little chocolate boy.  Thankfully, the placenta was delivered as well.  This time however, we didn’t whisk the pup away immediately, but allowed Jackie the time to lick her pup and make the connection.  This turned out to be a good decision, because Jackie allowed this little guy to snuggle in and find a spot to nurse without growling as she had done before.
growing nursery
Shortly after, Puppy #3 was delivered.  And #4 right on the heels of #3!  That was when we were very thankful to have our super little helper JF available to help with drying pups and putting them in the “nursery”.  She did just as she was asked and didn’t get in the way of all the activity.  We added her permanently to the Team and allowed her to stay up while her big brother JJ was roused for his turn.  So far we had a black male, black female, and two chocolate males.
About half an hour later, JJ got to witness his first pup being born, another black female that came out back feet first.  The “nursery” was growing!

"Is it almost over?"
Following these deliveries, part of the team decided to sack out on the floor.  At 1:AM, Jackie had a drink of water and shortly began another series of contractions.  Unlike the previous births, her pushing didn’t produce anything.   Unsure what to do, I checked the birth canal to see if a pup was “stuck”, but felt nothing. Growing concerned that something wasn’t right, we woke up Jeremy to get his opinion.  She didn’t seem distressed, but the clock was definitely ticking and nothing was appearing for her efforts.  We thought a trip outside for a “break” might help.  When we returned, Jeremy did a “check” and could feel a tail at the entrance to the canal. At 2:20, we called our friend who is a vet to get his counsel (thanks so much, by the way for the middle of the night consult).  Still no pup.  Finally at 3:30, before calling the emergency vet in Fresno, we called our breeder Debby since it was 6:30 in West Virginia to get her advice.  She highly discouraged any kind of checking in the canal due to the introduction of germs (oops!), and helped us realize that our only viable option would be transporting Mom and pups the hour drive to Fresno to the ER Vet for a c-section.  Most likely, we would lose the pup, but in an attempt to preserve the remaining three and Jackie’s health, this seemed like what we needed to do.
I began gathering all the supplies we would need in case a pup happened to be delivered en route. While Hannah monitored Jackie, in another room Jeremy looked up the number for the ER Vet and made the call.  Just as the vet’s office answered and Jeremy said, “Hello,” Hannah hollered, “MOM, get Dad now!”  He cut it short and we both raced to the delivery room, just in time to see Hannah holding another black sac-enclosed pup.  Despite my jubilation, I fully expected this little stuck pup to be expired.  But he wasn’t!!!  As I suctioned his little mouth, I just kept saying, “I can’t believe it!  Thank you Lord!”  He was so merciful to save us (and Jackie) the trauma of a long ride to Fresno, a possible c-section, and of course, the ER bill!
With #6 safely out of the way, the remaining three pups got busy and made their way into the world.  A nice 30 minute pattern developed, until finally, exactly at 6:AM, #9 made her appearance, ending the eight hour delivery of nine healthy pups.

The Wrap-Up
A much slimmer Mama happily enjoyed a bowl of kibble mixed with yogurt.  After sharing the final delivery status with Debby, she recommended oatmeal with a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses to help restore some of the minerals Jackie had depleted during labor.
Thankfully, Jackie had adjusted to the concept that she was now a Mama and these puppies were hers to protect and nourish.  No more growls, well, except when the pups first latched on to the tender “nozzles” as one of the kids calls them.  But ANY mother of ANY species can understand that!!
The full line-up