Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Outlaw Pooches

No, those aren't the Outlaws.  That's just Kim, Max and Bella (left to right).  How adorable are they, and how cute that B was holding onto her stuffed panda toy that matches Max's "style" so perfectly?

And SNOW!  Yep, that's right.  Our first mini-snowstorm of the season.  Of course, it was all gone by that afternoon, but hey.  Winter is coming!  Uh, ahem, tell that to our 60-degree weather today...

Dogs On The Run

Interesting editorial in the link above from one of our local papers, The Sheet, regarding leash laws. On the one hand, responsible dog ownership means keeping your pup - as well as others' pups - safe. On the other, how sad would it be if our pups were never given the freedom to experience the world without being tethered to their owner (and that owner's perspective). Am I the only one who thinks our pups need to feel complete independence every now and then to live a truly satisfied life? What are your thoughts on this touchy subject?

I was informed by the owner of one of my current daycare pups that he was attacked last week by an off-leash pup right on her street! That had to be so scary for her (and him, poor guy). He's healing well, but the frustrating part is that this owner still continues to allow his dog to go for walks off-leash...

Visit us on Facebook and go to the "Discussions" page to comment.  Sorry, we don't have comments up on this blog, but I really want to hear your thoughts on this one, so please comment there (and "Like" us while you're at it - well, if you do like us!)

What will it take for people to take responsibility?

Social pressure? Stricter laws? Perhaps mandated education programs for anyone who wants to adopt a dog? What do you think? What's the answer here - or, more likely, what are the answers?

The one thing that the article (Dogs On The Run) didn't address is poo-pickup. Especially in the winter, if your pup is off-leash, how in the world are you going to make sure that you're picking up their waste? I've been guilty of the "If it's more than 5 feet off the trail, it's fine if I don't go get it" rule in the winter. The problem with this is that

1) Dog waste is horrible for the environment, especially plant life. Contrary to popular belief (according to my own unscientific survey), dog poo is NOT just like that of wildlife, or the cows we have roaming around places like Crowley Lake & the Upper Owens river. The high percentage of protein content makes for a toxic "result".

2) Even though that hot poo may sink into the fresh powder in the winter - surprise, surprise - it doesn't actually disappear! And just because your dog prefers "privacy" and chooses a potty spot that's 15 feet from the trail, it doesn't mean that some future hiker won't wander off the trail and ... ahem ... stumble upon your pup's little gift. Come on, you've never gone off-trail? If you do, I highly suggest watching your step!

3) Letting our pups experience the world off-leash is a privilege, not a right. We've already been punished in the Shady Rest area in the winter because of our lax attitude on waste pickup. Dog walkers lost the unofficial privilege to let their pups frolic off-leash in Winter 2008-09. Tickets are now being handed out by the snowmobile-bound DFG. I believe it's something like $50 to pay the fine.

I personally stopped taking my pups there a few years ago because of the disgusting state of the trail. No wonder the cross-country crowd complained! This is another case of "If I ignore it, it didn't happen", laziness and a lack of facilities available for walkers to do a good job of cleanup. Sure, your pup's little pile is small, but just think about what happens to that pile when it's run over by the visiting snowmobile-rs!

Who's The Poo Sheriff In This Town?

It's one of my goals to be a leader here in the community on this issue. After all, our 2-Hour Adventure Hike service is dependent upon access to safe, off-leash areas near town. We really want to figure out the best way to address this issue. It's not as simple as it first sounds:

If we designate a fenced "off-leash dog park" here in town, who will be responsible for cleanup? Who will plow the snow around or in the park, as well as in the parking lot? As the snow piles up, will we need an adjustable fence to compensate for snow height? How will this work and who will take care of it? How will we fund the facility? Will we attempt to ask for funds from the MLTPA (basically from the town budget), or is this something we can run with the help of volunteer efforts and donations? Insurance for facilities of this sort is quite expensive! Do we enact rules to keep the pups safe? Will we only allow social, friendly pups inside? What is the evaluation process for those who'd like to join? Will we rent the materials needed (fencing, snow equipment, trash barrels), or will they be permanent fixtures? How will we go about getting a permit to open the facility (who will do the research & write up the application... okay that'll probably be myself...)? Where will it be located?

Lots to think about, lots to figure out. I would love the input of the community, which includes both local clients as well as visitors to town, since you are most certainly also impacted by off-leash dogs.

Visit us on Facebook and go to the "Discussions" page to comment.

* Note: Try and keep the discussion to experiences in and around Mammoth Lakes, since there is a different sort of "vibe" here than in most urban communities. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh, How I Do Love A Good "Bahloo"

How is that spelled?

I've had a bloodhound over for a few days of Daycare, and I was smitten within minutes.  He blended so well into our little family pack within a half hour of being picked up, and his personality has been shining ever since!  My goal with all of my clients' pups is to get them to a place where they're relaxed and happy.  Where they're comfortable with these strange new arrangements.  After all, who is this weird lady and why are we in this place?  And most importantly, why did my owner not come with? 

Owners always ask me how their pup did, especially on their first day.  Although everyone is different, there is definitely a trend.  So in case you're wondering what your dog did at first, let me describe:

  • When we started up the car, he looked around, wondering why we were taking off, and why you're just standing there.  You fool, we're leaving!
  • A few minutes into the drive, I glanced back and noticed that he's ... pouting.  
  • When we unloaded the car and walked to the front door, he was either a) super excited, since he knew you were behind this new door! or b) a little worried... he doesn't like surprises
  • As we walk inside towards the play area (outside or in my office), he's looking around with hesitation.  He takes in the smells, walking tenatively.  Hmm...

Social Etiquette Teachers

Then we've got a break in the type of experience your pup may have had.  Very few (we'll say 5%) of the pups remain in this hesitant, concerned state.  Those days are sad for me, since there's just nothing I can do to help them relax.  As much as I hate to lose a client, those are the pups that might benefit from another care option. 

But let's talk about the positive!  Most pups start to let loose within the first few hours.  They play hard, then nap hard.  They slurp up some water in between.  Their bodies; their breathing; their eyes are generally relaxed, and they share their time equally between the other pups and myself.  Oh, and they settle themselves down for some private time (usually a nap or looking around calmly). 

They try hard to let the other dogs know what they like and what they don't like.  This is the most fascinating thing that I get to see during my day.  It's the amazing talent that dogs have to encounter a new friend, to assess their personality, to determine how that pup likes to play, and then work so hard to get that pup to play in a way that's more compatible with their style.

I'd love to use this blog to share more about that idea.  I mean, talk about "Positive Punishment"!  For those that don't know, positive punishment is the idea in training that if you add something to the dog's experience when he's doing something unfavorable, he'll be less likely to do that naughty thing in the future.  Bella is great at this (I'll try to find a video to share).  If another dog is playing too rough with her - let's say that the pup loves to chase, but takes it too far by pushing or biting at B - she stops the chase and flops on the ground.  If he wants to play, he has to play nice.  Game over.  Sorry.

Have you ever seen your own dog do this when another pup is getting to be too much?   

All this is good, but the amazing! part is how dogs are tenacious about trying to teach the other dog how to behave with them.  They are really tolerant.  Over and over, the other pup tries to slip in a bit of naughty, and your dog has to correct them again and again, or flop over, or whatever else they do.  Sometimes things escalate, where your dog may need to give a little "lip," or even a lunge-bark ("Stop it!  I mean it!"), but think about this:  They keep at it.

Do you keep at it?

For those who are working at training your dog, put yourself in Bella's "shoes".  If you've got one of those pups who throws in a bit of naughty every now and then and keeps testing your limits, are you tenacious, too?

It's rare that a dog uses dominance to put another in check, to teach the other pup how it must behave in order to be friends. 

But whether you use dominance, positive, or natural dog training methods, you as the human have a choice when teaching your own pup how to be friends with you:  you can be tenacious, or you can give up, saying, "It's no use, he'll never learn."

Think about Bella.  She can't give up.  This other dog is in her world and unless I separate them, she's stuck with him.  It's like that annoying co-worker at your office.  He just doesn't get it that you don't like him to stand so creepily close to you as he asks how your weekend was.  So how do you deal with this situation?  Do you keep at it?  Do you try all different sorts of tactics to get him to give you more space?  First you use body language, but he doesn't get the hint, so maybe you try avoidance, but that still doesn't work (he just finds you wherever you go!), so you have two choices: be tenacious and try something else (perhaps running away screaming like a crazy person?), or give up.  After all, his breath isn't that bad.

"My dog's digging in the trash - barking - peeing in submission when meeting other dogs - toy possession - food aggression - whatever - isn't that bad." 

Is that you?  Come on, now.  Let Bella be your inspiration towards tenacity.

Back to the Bloodhound!

Here's a little video of Daycare today.  Watch at the end for a little doggie-collision!  I don't think you can hear it, but there was a seriously loud "Thud!"  I was cracking up for some time after that happened.  Dogs are funny.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Big Move...

So here's the story.  

Don't worry, I'm not closing my doors.  What's going on is that I'm having to relocate by December, put together a revised business plan, apply for a minor Use Permit with the Town of Mammoth (no small feat), and get some investments lined up in order to open Après Pooch in a commercial space.  And if I can't do all that in the next two months, well then I need to arrange for temporary in-home daycare space until after the busy season.  Then I'll have more time to pick up this big-move project in the spring.

Attention! Winter 2010 vacationers

I just thought of this.  If you are considering a trip to Mammoth this winter, please be sure to call me as soon as you know your dates.  I'm already getting bookings for this winter!  Omigoodness, I am excited.  Repeat clients!  I cannot wait to get my annual "dose" of puppy love.  So far I've got Ra, Ti, Hu & Bi, Ja, Ze, Mu, Mo, Ch & Su booked; you know who you are.

Here's the problem: I don't want to let anyone down

Yes, I'm a dog lover, and I get the most satisfaction out of my day when I see that I've really helped someone's pup become comfortable here, or in letting my client know something hilarious that their pup did that day.

But I'm also trying to be a smart business owner, and one of my marketing goals is for clients to trust that I will be here for them year after year.  That (as long as they give me at least a few weeks' heads-up that they're coming into town) I will have a space for their pup.

The reason I didn't want to post this is that I don't want to let my clients down.  After all, what if I can't open up this facility?  I'm super-excited about the potential expansion, but the What-Ifs make sharing this new step pretty scary.  My clients are great, though, so I don't expect anyone to get mad at me over the uncertain location for this winter.  Whether it's at a nice, new fancy facility or just another in-home spot, I'm still going to provide the same attention and love to the dogs, they'll still be with me and the other pups.  That's what essentially defines a "good day" for the Daycare (or Boarding or Sleepover) pups.  But it's still frustrating not knowing where we're going to get to have that good day.  

What happened?  Why do you have to move?

I've been pondering this one for some time.  How much to share.  On the one hand, the point of this blog is to be honest and let everyone know what's happening, and on the other, I am still emotional over having to make the choice to move.  I think the best way to handle this is to leave out the history of why this is happening until a later date; until I can be a bit more objective in telling the story.  Hopefully within a few months it won't be such a touchy subject. 

So I'm going to leave it with the following answer: A non-life-threatening, not-too-life-changing personal event occurred, and I chose to move the facility to Mammoth.

In the end, it's pretty cool

This was my original plan when I decided to go into pet care.  I'm just ahead of schedule.

My original goal was to start seriously planning for a "real-life" facility in Mammoth or the surrounding area in April or May 2011.  In fact, on the customer surveys I've sent out, I'm sure you've seen the little note about opening a Daycare the winter of 2011/12.  I've been dabbling in those plans (in my "free" time) since 2007.  Planning has simply intensified, and rather than having 9 months to put things together, I have three months.  Yikes!

I gotta say, thank goodness for a slow-ish October, because I don't think I could get this done if I was as busy as this past summer.  Whew!  I've got one pup at my feet under my desk right now (Bella's sister, "Krissy"!!!), absolutely loving my "belly rub breaks" every twenty minutes or so as I type-type-type away.  Talk about personalized care.  She's got it pretty good this week.  I tell ya.

She's one of those pups that would much rather stay glued to my hip than play with the other pups.  Well, that's not true.  As long as I'm out there playing with her, she's more than happy to play games.  But if I move away from the group at all, look out.  Here she comes, wondering, "Where are you going?  What are we going to go do now?"  The only thing that she's more fascinated in than me is Toby (our 6-month old kitty), who is having fun with Krissy by hiding behind the closet door and poking his paws out at her, then slipping back into the darkness.  Krissy is absolutely thrilled by this game.  Puts a smile on my face to watch.