Sunday, June 27, 2010

New art for dog rescue groups

This week I finished two projects. One is a cartoon for the Australian Terrier Club of America breed rescue. I started with a formal logo design, but they decided a cartoon would be more fun, and I have to say I agree. I don’t consider myself a cartoonist, but I do love a challenge! I hope to soon see it on their rescue web page.

Last year, I did a painting for their 50th Anniversary National Specialty show. This art was made into trophies and limited edition prints for the club.

Here is the finished art for rescue:

Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue
I didn’t design this logo; SPDR has used it since 1987, and the original is long gone. They needed a new clean copy of the logo that wouldn’t look awful when used large on banners and small on printed materials. So I redid it, and cleaned it up, using Adobe Illustrator to create vector art that can be scaled without getting pixelated. This is totally different from sketching a cartoon, so once again I stretched myself. I’m getting lots of practice with Illustrator, so that’s an added benefit to this project. My recent Bernese Mtn Dog art was also a vector graphic created in Illustrator. I gave them several different versions in color and black and white. In each, the type is a little different, either solid black, outlined, etc. I'm sure they will settle on one version after awhile. 

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A design for the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America

At last I can share this new art with you! I had to keep it a secret until The BMDCA unveiled it at their specialty in May. Every year the club does a logo, featuring an adult dog, and a mascot featuring a puppy. I am proud that I was chosen as the artist for the mascot for 2011. I did two versions for the club. As you might guess, the specialty will be held in California next year, in Del Mar, just north of San Diego. 

This is vector art, done in Adobe Illustrator. And here is the second version.

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tough dogs

Last week, a golden retriever decided he didn't want to be groomed, and he mouthed my arm so hard that he broke the skin. It wasn't actually a bite, nor overt aggression where a dog attacks, but it was definitely a warning to me. And I listened.

I am a pushover and I know it. This was a wakeup call. For all the advice I hand out freely, it was time to take some of my own medicine. This week's challenging guest was a shepherd/lab mix who also tries to mouth my arm when he doesn't want to do something– specifically, go in the crate. 

I should not be holding dogs by the collar. I keep leashes handy and usually snap one on when I want to ask a reluctant dog to do something. Joe's owners swear to me he is crate trained, but Joe was having none of it. And he needed to be crated. So after I tried to shove him in, lead him in, lure him in with treats, back him in, and all my other little tricks, I decided I needed to get serious.

I sent all the other dogs outside. I put a leash on Joe and got out the hot dogs. (Recipe: slice hot dogs in thin pieces, then cut each circle in half. Nuke in the microwave for three to four minutes. Tiny bites make great treats and they don't goop up your pockets with grease like uncooked hot dogs)

Our first "trick" was the sit. He perked up instantly when he tasted his reward. After a few sits we tried a down. Nothing doing. "Never!" his body language screamed. He looked away, licked his lips, leaned on me, and started wrapping himself around me. Pushy pushy pushy; he would do anything but lie down.  

After a few minutes of practice, he lied down, but after several repetitions, he still wasn't doing it immediately or willingly. I always gave him treats and praise while he was in the down position. I wondered if he'd ever learned it before. But he started to comply more willingly, so I quit while we were ahead.

An hour later, we did it again. A little better response this time. Now that he was listening to me, it was time to try the crate. 

With all four paws braced against the door frame, pulling back with all his might, he wasn't going to give in. I threaded the leash through the wire and put pressure on him. Whenever he gave to the pressure a little, I loosened the leash and praised him. He immediately tried to jerk away. I was NOT using a choke collar or pinch collar. Finally he just sat in front of the crate and pulled back, refusing to look at me. The hot dogs in the back of the crate beckoned to him. 

After a five minute standoff I almost  gave up, but he suddenly gave in, walked in the crate, and started munching the treats. I shut the door, praising him to the skies, and dropped in more hot dogs. Then I did one of the hardest things I ever had to do in training.

I let him out. That was his reward. All that work and I immediately let him out. He walked on the leash for a circle or two, and I asked him to go back in the crate. He went right in. DONE. 

I took off the leash and let him loose for the rest of the evening. At one point, he walked in the crate and looked for more hot dogs. I praised him from my seat in the recliner, but didn't close the crate door. At bed time, he went right in the crate and didn't complain once all night. 

The rest of the week was uneventful. Joe spent a lot of time napping in the crate with the door open.  

What a GOOD dog.
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A happy ending picture story

A few weeks ago I sent out an email to all my pet sitting clients about a litter of puppies that needed homes. My client Diana had contacted me about the litter, because the mother dog belonged to her son.

She wrote:
8 week old puppies, both parents are medium size mixes with excellent temperaments. Guessing that there is Shar Pei, Chow, shepherd mix (dad looks like a short coyote :) in there somewhere. They are many generations from purebred...Shouldn't get over 45 pounds. Ready to go to their new homes.  

They are weaned and eating solid food. More females than males in a litter of 11. Five have found homes. 
I'm happy to report that all of pups have found homes, and I hope they are forever homes, the kind we dream about in dog rescue. Diana and her family adopted one of the pups, and here are some pictures. I didn't think they looked much like Shar Pei when they were little, but now you can see it. 

Bandit, the new little guy will be a buddy to Cowboy, their current dog. Cowboy has been boarding with me since he was a puppy, and I always laugh when they drive up to my house. Cowboy is a big dog, and sits between his owners with his head sticking up through the sunroof. Enjoy the photos!

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Obedience classes: where you learn how to train your dog

A boarding client, Tara, told me a story about taking her dog to obedience school, where the teacher wanted everyone to use clickers to train their dogs:
I just couldn’t get the timing right, and I’d click when I wasn’t supposed to. The trainer was getting frustrated; I was getting frustrated. The instructor said “Here, I’ll click YOU when you do it right.” I was totally humiliated. I just wanted to quit and go home.
I understand what the instructor was trying to do. In fact, Karen Pryor’s latest book, Reaching the Animal Mind, goes into great detail about using clicker training to teach gymnasts and other athletes. The method is called TAG teaching (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) and is an exciting discipline in the field of education. By clicking at the exact moment the performer is doing it correctly, the athlete achieves a better understanding of the movements required to perform the exercise. Instead of constant corrections, he is rewarded for his (or her) correct performance.

I’m sure this is how the obedience instructor was trying to teach Tara. But she didn’t really understand, and the effort backfired. Tara is now looking for someone new to help her train her dog.

Although clicker training is a wonderful method, it isn’t right for everyone. Using the clicker is the easy part. It takes some effort to understand the training concepts behind it and to apply them correctly. Perhaps a more complete explanation would have saved the situation.

Dog training is a learned skill
When we go to an obedience class, the instructor is teaching us train our dogs. We learn how to get new behaviors from our dogs, how to reward the dogs, and how to correct them when they made a mistake. If we just turned the dogs over to a trainer to do the work, we’d have well-trained dogs, but no skills to reinforce the training when we got home, and the dog would quickly forget.

Dog training for owners needs to be fun, or they won’t do it. People need positive reinforcement too. I’m sure many owners give up because they are frustrated, rather than because the dog can’t learn.

It’s not just about the dog. You both have to practice to be successful.

When you enroll in a college course, you expect to work hard and have lots of homework. Training classes are the same way. You and your dog are both in school, learning new skills. There is no magic pill to make a dog behave. You have a lot to learn, but a few months of committed diligence will result in a relationship you will both enjoy for a lifetime.
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.