Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I Became A Trainer

Yesterday was a good day.  For those of you who have seen me recently, you know that I just closed on my first house this week.  Instead of supervising movers yesterday, though, I went with my clients and friends, Jean and CJ, to support them as they took their CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TDI (Therapy Dog International) tests.

When I first met Jean and her husband (and as I worked with them) I was told, "We really do believe that CJ was meant to be a therapy dog.  He was meant to help people."  So, we had our goals, and we were off!  Jean was wonderful with CJ.  I enjoyed watching her become more confident with her CJ, and I especially enjoyed watching CJ start to respond to her.  They were really developing a special bond.

Admittedly, CJ and Jean had tried for the CGC once before.  CJ was fantastic and did great on 9 out of 10 steps, but on the 10th (reaction towards other dogs) he just became too excited.  He's definitely a dog who loves to play!  It was hard to watch Jean's reaction to the news.  Of course, she loves her dog, but she was obviously disappointed.  She was disappointed in herself, in her dog, and whether she's willing to admit it, I'm sure she was a little disappointed in me.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed in me too!

Luckily, though, she's not a quitter.  We reevaluated what was going on and got right back to work.  Obviously he'd be a great therapy dog.  He loves being loved and he loves other dogs (even the dogs who don't love him).  He just needed to learn how to control his excitement.  We took CJ to the dog park, and we brought dogs to him.  We worked on techniques to keep his attention focused on Jean, and we worked with Jean to ensure she knew how to handle any situation that came her way.  By yesterday, I was confident he'd pass with flying colors.

I was confident, but that doesn't mean I wasn't nervous.  I didn't know if I could handle that sort of disappointment again.  After 45 minutes of testing, however, Jean and CJ were given the news they'd done wonderfully and had passed.  YAY!!!  I took pictures as Jean did a happy dance and CJ, realizing that work was over, tried to find a dog to play with him.  I was happy for them.

It wasn't until we got back to their house, however, that I realized how wonderful the situation was.  I watched Jean interact with CJ.  Of course she was thrilled, and CJ just soaked up all the love and affection she could give him.  I watched Jean give CJ kisses, walk away, and then walk back just to give him more kisses (multiple times).  I watched as she hugged CJ and told him what a wonderful, fantastic boy he was.  I watched CJ as he wagged his tail and gave kisses back.  I watched until I couldn't watch any more and had to join in the fun.

The entire time I was watching, though, I was thinking, "This is why I'm a trainer.  I love seeing this!"  I became a trainer to help people build and develop that special bond with their dogs.  I want to see them reach their full potential and not just get along with their dogs, but really enjoy them too.

Congratulations Jean and CJ!  You deserve it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Vaccines are Making Our Dogs Sick

The above link talks about the hazards of over vaccinating.  It says that, yes, dogs do need vaccinations but they don't necessarily need them every single year, and that such a schedule only benefits drug companies and veterinarians, but may harm our dogs (and cats).

I wasn't completely convinced by the article, but I thought I should ask my vet anyway.  Here's what Dr. Lori Pasternak from Richmond, VA has to say about the issue:

I do have my own opinion about vaccines, although it's not black/white. I see many dogs still die of parvo and less often distemper. I've seen a few cases of leptospirosis in the past 3 years and kennel cough is very common (I think of it as the equivalent of doggie flu). So yes, vaccines are very important. The big question for me lies in, how often? And that is where the veterinarian needs to talk with the owner to determine an individual pet's risk for these diseases. Not every animal needs every vaccine out there. A pet's lifestyle, where they live and go should determine what diseases they are at risk for. I do think all puppies should be vaccinated and boostered until they are 16 weeks, after that, it should be determined by a conversation between client and vet as to what the pet needs. Just like with my kids, I educated myself about the diseases my kids were to be vaccinated for and made an educated decision about what vaccines were right for them. Pet owners should do the same. I must admit, I do not vaccinate my pets annually but they are very low risk as they are old and never leave my property anymore.  Drawing blood for titers is an option, but it is costly. The vaccines are labeled my the manufacturer to only be effective for 1 year, but I'm sure in some/ most animals they may last longer. The only way to know from animal to animal is to run titers.  Once I did run a titer on a dog after 1 year post vaccine and that dog had a strong titer for distemper,  but no titer for parvo. Interesting, but really confuses the issue. I hope this makes sense. Not very cut and dry, but nothing about vaccines is.

So there you have it.  The vaccination issue isn't completely cut and dry.  It may not be in your best interest to vaccinate every year, but seven years may be too long.  One thing you should keep in mind, though, is that the yearly vaccinations also allow your vet to do a general health check, checking on eyes, ears, and general overall well-being.  If you do decide to vaccinate less, I still encourage you to keep regular vet appointments.  It is important to keep the conversation open with your veterinarian.  Talk to your vet and together the two of you can come to an agreement on what may be best for both you and your beloved friend.