Monday, December 29, 2008

My 2009 Rescue Resolution

I invite you to join me in my New Year’s Resolution. Let’s each of us do one thing for a rescue group or animal this year.

For example:

• Donate a bag of food

• Donate some money

• Do one home check for prospective adopters

• Deliver a dog or pick up a cat in a shelter.

• Foster a dog just one time

• Work at a rescue event

• Answer phones for one week, or respond to emails

• Evaluate an animal in a shelter

• Take some photos of homeless pets for an event or web site

• Donate something to a fundraiser

• Buy something at a fundraiser

• Write a press release or brochure

• Process paperwork

• Solicit for donations

• Place or sponsor ads in the paper

It’s hard to volunteer for rescue. Many volunteers work so hard they burn out and quit. Some can’t bear to see the shelter animals, knowing so many of them will die. There is plenty you can offer without actually working with animals.

If $5 is all you can do for rescue this year, thank you. You have made a difference.

You may have read the story of the starfish: 

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed 
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. 

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean.  
The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?  
You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, 
and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said…”
I made a difference for that one.”

Original Story by Loren Eiseley

Artwork above: "Starfish" a yellow Lab named Shelby holding a starfish on the beach. © Terry Albert

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to my friends, family and clients (who I also consider my friends!) from Terry, Tux, Bonnie, Lily, Desi, Sterling, Whisper, Ari, Star, Red, Fred and Ethel (the box turtles!) 

Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Train a Basset Hound

I recently watched the training DVD that comes with Basset Hound, Your Happy Healthy Pet. The publishers used five breeds in the video: Bulldog, Corgi, Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound and Beagle, which represent the five breed books they released all at the same time. I didn’t participate in the training video, so this was my first opportunity to see what they had done.

Bassets don’t have a reputation for being easy to train, but they absolutely can be trained, and do well in obedience agility, tracking, and other dog sports. While researching the book, I had the pleasure of watching Cathy Wheeler and Kevin Whelan prove the doubters wrong as their dogs went through tunnels and over jumps numerous times for our photographer. You’ll see some great shots in the book. 

But on the video, the trainer is trying to demonstrate how to teach a Basset to come when called. She calls and encourages the dog, who just sits there and looks at her. (I imagine Ben Stein doing a Basset voiceover: “Why are you jiggling the leash and jumping around? You look ridiculous!”) Finally the dog just gets up and walks away in the opposite direction, giving the trainer a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how to give an effective correction. The Basset responded nicely, thank you very much. I laughed out loud…

If you find training more of a chore than a challenge, more frustrating than fun, then a Basset Hound is not the right dog for you! Tune up your sense of humor and pretend you are teaching tricks. Make it fun and interesting for the dog, or forget it.

I remember watching an obedience competitor who showed a Bloodhound when I lived in Washington State. He seriously challenged her patience. She fed him a spoonful of Fancy Feast cat food as a reward when he did something right. As the tall cousin of the Basset Hound, I saw why — yummy, smelly food for a scenthound.

Rules for training a Basset Hound:

• Keep it fun. Make it a game so he won’t get bored.

• Figure out what motivates your Basset – food, toy, tummy rub – and use it as a reward.

• Train throughout the day, not just at lesson time. Sit for food or petting, down-stay while you eat dinner, etc.

• Short sessions! A Basset is not hardwired for endless drills doing things he thinks are useless. He’ll quit on you if he’s had enough.

• Train with distractions. Once he knows the basics at your house, add distractions, like a cat, kids, skater, interesting smell on the ground, etc. to teach him he needs to respond all the time, not just when there’s nothing better to do.

If you are serious about winning lots of ribbons and titles with your Basset Hound, I recommend tracking. This is not a breed that is highly motivated to please you, so obedience is especially trying. But tracking uses their sense of smell, and a Basset is a scenthound with a nose second only to the Bloodhound in ability.

One of my funniest incidents with training a Basset was when I was teaching one to walk on a leash. They tend to lag behind, and the more you drag them to keep up with you, the more they lag. So this one just quit and lied down on the ground in a pose known as “flat-basset” to Basset Hound lovers the world over. NOTHING would get him to stand up! Totally humbled, I learned that positive motivation works much better with this hard-headed breed!

Photo above: Cathy Wheeler demonstrates that a happy Basset Hound really can come when called!

Be sure to check out the free online chapters of the book at