Dog Training – A Rescue Dogs Perspective

< A version of this article was published in the January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News>

By Muppy Hanson, CUTE, ADORABLE, VIVACIOUS

Hi, everyone! My name is Muppy. Don asked me to write this month’s column because he thought I could provide some valuable insights. Plus he said if I did this for him I would get some extra tummy rubs and yummy treats!

Muppy and Ernie on the way to Maine
Muppy and Ernie on the way to Maine

So what do I know about being a rescue dog? I am one, thanks to the kindness and compassion of several people in my birth state of Mississippi. I might not be here without them. I was living with a family, I had puppies, and then one day my people moved away and left, and my puppies and I were all alone. Fortunately, a nice lady named Catherine heard about me and rescued me by taking me to Rose, another nice lady. Rose fostered my puppies and me until we could be put up for adoption. I took good care of my pups until they were eight weeks old and then they were transported to New England to new homes. Soon after that, I was also sent to a rescue group in Maine, Helping Paws-Maine, where I was placed into a foster home until I was adopted. I got to ride to Maine with my friend Ernie who was also going up for adoption.

I did not know it, but Don and Paula were looking for a dog about the same time I was arriving in Maine. They found me on PetFinder, completed an application and made an appointment to meet me at my Maine foster home with another nice lady named Victoria.

When I first met Don and Paula in my foster home, they were sitting on a couch with Ernie. That boy is quite the social butterfly, unlike me at the time. When Don sat down next to me on the floor, I moved away because I was not so sure about him. However, once he started giving me some treats, I decided he was safe!

We all visited for a while, and then Paula and Don did some paperwork and then I got to go for a car ride to Bangor. It was May 1st, and I had a new home! When we arrived in Bangor, Don spent the rest of the day with me. We started off

Napping on Don's Lap
Napping on Don’s Lap

snuggling on the floor and then I took a nap in his lap while he was in his recliner. I got to explore the yard and that evening I again fell asleep in his lap.

The next morning started with Don taking me out to do my poops and then he sat down on the floor with my breakfast and started teaching me an attention behavior. All I had to do was look at him, and I’d get a piece of kibble. Yummy! I like this game! Over the next few days, I got to meet the staff at Don and Paula’s business, some of the dogs, my new veterinarian and the people at the bank.

Don told me that eventually I would get to go to school, but because I was a bit unsure of new things, especially people, he said he was going to let me settle in first. He hung a bag of treats on the door to his office along with a sign asking people coming in to grab a treat to give to me. Until then he worked with me on the attention behavior, recall and sit. He said I was a fast learner, and I loved how he rewarded me when I got it! He always makes training fun for both of us.

One of the things I started doing in my new home was to jump up on people I liked. I just get so excited when I see a person that I like, that I cannot help myself. I see them and POP! my front paws are on them, and I am smiling, hoping they will pet me and say “Hi.” Since I was shy, Don allowed me to do this as it was so rewarding to me. Since it was something I felt good about it helped me feel good about interacting with people. One day a strange man came to visit Don in his office, and I did not even think about being shy. I just ran up and jumped and said, “Hi! I am Muppy!” He patted and talked to me and was real nice. After that Don told me it looked like I was over my shyness and we would now start to work on sitting for greeting. I do pretty well, most of the time. There are some people that I like so much; I am talking about you Deb and Miriam, that I cannot always contain myself!

I started my first group training class at Green Acres on August 30th, 2013, four months after joining the Hanson family. Both Don and Paula went to class with me; Don says it is very important for all family members to be involved with training.

Muppy Running-Square
Muppy’s Famous Recall*

In that class I learned to do the following on cue; look, sit, lie down, walk nicely on a leash, come when called, leave it, and wait or stay. I have since taken Green Acres Level 2 and Level, 3 classes, as well; some more than once! I love training classes because it is so much fun! It is an opportunity for me to interact with my favorite people whether we are actually in class, or I am working individually with Don on the days in between class. Moreover, when I see Don out in the training field teaching classes filled with other people and dogs; I let him know I want to have fun too! That is why he keeps enrolling us in classes because it is so much fun for both of us.

Don and Muppy in class*
Don and Muppy in class*

So I guess this is where I am supposed to tell you what I have learned. Every dog should be trained; training helps establish a bond and makes us better companions. It also makes it possible for us to go more places with you and to spend more time with you. Isn’t that why you got us in the first place, to be your steadfast companion? Work with a professional dog trainer either privately or in group classes as they can help you learn about your dog and make the process of training fun for both of you. Make sure any trainer you work with is committed to methods that are force-free, pain-free, and fear-free. The Pet Professionals Guild (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/) can be a great resource for finding such a trainer. If you have a rescue dog like me, starting in a group class immediately might not be the best thing to do. A professional trainer can help you make that determination and can help you start working with your dog at home. Lastly, be patient with your dog and yourself and most importantly, ALWAYS make training fun!

*Photos by Debra Bell, Bell’s Furry Friends Photography

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Complementary Medicine – Tikken – Vaccines, Aggression & Homeopathy

This article is part of a larger article, Trends in Training – The Evolution of a Pet Care Professional, which describes my development as a professional dog trainer and our involvement with holistic veterinary medicine. You can find the entire article at: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2008/04/19/professional-development-trends-in-training-the-evolution-of-a-pet-care-professional/

Tikken for ad 242x300In April of 2000, our Golden retriever Tikken went to her veterinarian for her annual examination and received a two-year rabies booster. At the time, Maine law required a rabies vaccination every two years even though the vaccine was labeled as effective for three years.

It was in July of 2000, when my sweet, cuddly Golden Retriever suddenly, and without warning or provocation, transformed from Tikken to Cujo, just like Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde. One moment all of our dogs were lying calmly on the floor as my wife Paula watched television. Suddenly Tikken just exploded and within seconds she had ravaged Crystal, our Pekinese, causing the loss of Crystal’s left eye.

While we had seen a few small signs of “irritability” in Tikken over the past couple of months, the apparently unprovoked nature of this attack, and its severity, led us straight to our veterinarian for a thorough check-up, including a complete thyroid panel and behavioral assessment. Her thyroid was abnormal, but not in a manner which suggested the need for medical treatment. However, based on the advice of the veterinarian, we started Tikken on a course of Clomipramine. We also began a strict management protocol with the dogs. Unless we were present Tikken was separated from all but one of our older dogs, Shed. Tikken and Shed had bonded closely when Tikken was a puppy, she was always very respectful of Shed, and they were similar in size.

We noticed increasingly anxious behaviors by Tikken. Now she became overly excited at mealtime, and became enraptured by any shadows or moving lights. These behaviors became so obsessive that I could not even distract her with fresh meat when she got caught up in a shadow or flickering light.

Seeing no improvement in Tikken’s behavior, our veterinarian recommended a consultation with Dr. Dodman at the behavioral clinic at Tufts University. They recommended we put Tikken on a higher dose of Clomipramine, establish and maintain a dominance hierarchy, manage her environment, and institute a Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) program. We were already managing and doing NILIF and I had concerns about the validity of the hierarchal approach, so we were really hoping for the Clomipramine to work. What we ended up with was a dog that was so doped up that she seldom moved. She still became excited at mealtime and got caught up with shadows and light. She just moved slower. To us she seemed to have lost her will to do anything but lie around.

We were very concerned about Tikken’s quality of life, and with no changes after

Tikken under the duvet
Tikken under the duvet

six months of the higher dose of Clomipramine, we contacted Dr. Patricia McConnell, a behaviorist we had previously worked with when we were in Wisconsin, for another opinion. After reviewing Tikken’s history, Trish advised us that she had not had much success with dogs exhibiting Tikken’s issues using behavior modification, drugs or a combination of both. She did however indicate she had heard of some successes when treating with homeopathy. We immediately made an appointment with our homeopathic veterinarian, Dr. Judy Herman at the Animal Wellness Center in Augusta.

Dr. Herman diagnosed Tikken with rabies miasm. A miasm is when the body/mind/emotions of an individual manifest signs of the disease without actually having the disease. Tikken was given a homeopathic remedy at the conclusion of the consultation and within eight weeks she was weaned off Clomipramine entirely. We were soon seeing dramatic improvements in her symptoms. Tikken was treated two other times with the same homeopathic remedy over the next few months. We still managed the dogs closely, but Tikken eventually became reintegrated with the rest of the pets in the household. Homeopathy gave us our sweet, cuddly Golden back.

Working the Kong 400x671Since Dr. Herman felt that Tikken’s issues were the result of a reaction to her rabies vaccine we evaluated our vaccination protocols with all of the dogs. We have been doing titer tests in lieu of vaccinations since that time, with the exception of the rabies vaccine. Tikken did receive two subsequent rabies vaccines under the guidance of Dr. Herman, followed by treatment homeopathically. When she developed a second immune mediated disorder (pigmentary uveitis) in 2004, we decided to stop any further rabies vaccines, and she now has a medical exemption which still allows her to be licensed.

Paula and I both started to read more about vaccines and become further educated about alternatives. We made the decision to allow our clients to also do titer tests in lieu of vaccines, as long as the tests were done under the direction of a veterinarian.

Paula and I felt so strongly about the vaccine issue that in April of 2002 I wrote

Tikken and Batman at window
Tikken and Batman at window

Rethinking Annual Vaccinations for the Green Acres newsletter. In this article I disclosed that as early as 1992 veterinary textbooks were questioning annual vaccinations (Current Veterinary Therapy, volume XI, pp202-206: “A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccination. Almost without exception there is no immunological requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years in the life of the animal.”Dr. Ronald Schultz, Veterinary Immunologist. In this article, I suggested that minimally clients talk with their veterinarian and ask if titer tests were an option. Needless to say, several veterinarians in our service area were not too happy with me, but I still believe I did the right thing. I felt somewhat vindicated a year later when the American Animal Hospital Association published their new vaccination guidelines which started a move away from annual vaccination.

UPDATED – March 2013

We were very fortunate that Tikken overcame her rabies miasm and remained with us until she crossed the crossed the Rainbow Bridge on February 7th, 2013 at the age of 16 years and 27 days. It was several months after her treatment with homeopathy before we fully reintegrated Tikken with the rest of our pets; however, she lived the remainder of her life in complete harmony with them and even became buddies with Batman, a rescued cat that joined our family. Tikken did require ongoing treatment for her pigmentary uveitis and eventually also required treatment for hypothyroidism for the rest of her life. We are convinced that homeopathy, tittering instead of regular vaccination, and a raw diet contributed to Tikken’s long life.

Paula, Tikken, Don & Batman - 2012
Paula, Tikken, Don & Batman – 2012

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>