If left to his own devices, my teenage son would spend hours in front of his computer, playing Minecraft or some other online game. Last Saturday was a beautiful day, the perfect day for a mother-son outing. No amount of cajoling will coax him outside, I know that much by now. There is only one surefire thing that can lure him away from the siren call of the computer – sushi.
So, with the promise of a sushi lunch, my son exited the house and we set off for the short walk to our neighborhood Japanese restaurant. He was in a fairly good mood, visions of salmon rolls dancing in his head. We walked for several minutes in peaceful silence and then my mistake – I dared to engage him in conversation. The mother asks a question, the son mumbles an answer. “What did you say?” I asked him, “I couldn’t hear you.”
“Mom! That’s it. I’m going home” and he turned around to stomp off in the direction of home. My hope for a happy lunch with my son now faded with each step. I was racking my brain for a response that would not make the situation worse… we were one short block from the restaurant, how could he go now?
In a fit of desperation, I had a small flash of inspiration – I would try one of the techniques that the trainers use when the dogs misbehave. When a dog jumps up on a trainer at the Center, the trainers turn their back on the dog, standing still as wooden soldiers and refuse to make eye contact or acknowledge the jumping dog. And then they wait it out. “Any type of engagement”, I remember Trainer Danielle saying, “can reinforce the bad behavior.”
And so, as my son stomped off, yelling, “I’m going home now”, I turned away from him, avoiding eye contact, arms at my side and just stood there, not engaging him in any way. I…just…stood…there…and…waited. 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds and then, (miraculously) he reappeared at my side! “I think I’m ready for some sushi”, I said and he nodded, as if nothing had happened. (I resisted the urge to pat his head and tell him he was a good boy.) We continued the rest of the way to the restaurant.
And that is how I used the dog training I learned at the Center on my teenage son. And how we both had a happy sushi lunch, thanks to Danielle.
Photo of volunteer Scott employing “turn away” technique.]]>
Mondays, 7:30-8:30p, starts Oct. 27th
$150/6 week session
Click HERE to learn more and register.
Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30p, starts Oct. 29th
$100/4 week session
Click HERE to learn more and register.
Thursdays, 7:30-8:30p, starts Oct. 30th
$160/6 week session
Click HERE to learn more and register.
It is 7pm and all the dogs have gone home. The boisterous daytime sounds have been replaced by the gentle hum of the vacuum cleaner. Each evening the entire Center is vacuumed, errant tuffs of dog hair quietly disappear into our trusty Miele.
As I vacuum, the gentle hum causes my mind to drift back to thoughts of college.
We could have used a good vacuum cleaner sophomore year. I was living in a small row house in West Philly that served as our sorority house. Sophomore year, one of my sorority sisters brought her dog to school, her father saying that the dog was lost without her.
The dog in question was a Norwegian Elkhound named Click. Click was the best trained dog I had ever encountered at that point in my life. We all swore that the dog was really a person inside a dog suit and as such, she was given an honorary membership to our sorority and henceforth known as “Sister Click.”
We loved Sister Click and were amazed at her endless talents and array of tricks. Sister Click could flip dog biscuits off her nose and catch them in mid air. She was the queen of the command “stay”… holding a stay for 10 minutes, even if my friend hid around the corner; sitting quietly until my friend reappeared. We came to find out that these talents were the result of hours of training on my friend’s part as she spent almost every afternoon working with Click.
As amazed as we were by Sister Click’s tricks, we were equally amazed by her constant shedding. Elkhounds shed like crazy in the Philadelphia heat and we did not have a vacuum cleaner. So my friend cleaned up the inevitable dog hair off her carpet with a sneaker. This became an activity known as “sneakering the floor.” Even with two people using two sneakers each, this operation could take 30 minutes. We all pitched in to sneaker the carpets because we loved Sister Click and we didn’t want anyone to complain about the fur. Happily, Click lived with us the entire year.
With or without a vacuum cleaner, good dog training can strengthen the bond between dog and owner. Many dogs welcome the challenge of training, finding it mentally stimulating. The Working Dog Center offers dog training classes for both puppies and adult dogs, throughout the year. The next series of classes begin Oct. 27th. Carpet sneakers are not included.
Photo of volunteer Vaugh
New Classes Start October 27th
It’s not my husband’s fault he’s a cat lover. His mother was a breeder of champion Burmese cats when he was a kid. He has been known to honk at “Cats Rule, Dogs Drool” bumper stickers. But, since opposites attract, my husband ended up marrying a dog lover. My many pleadings for a dog have been met with a scrunched up face and a shake of the head. “No Dogs”. (So now I am getting my dog fix by volunteering at the Working Dog Center.) Our pet philosophies collided the Friday before Labor Day. All the dogs at the Center live with foster families and one of the foster families was going out of town. They could not take the dog with them and needed someone to watch their dog for 2 days. “Could you take one of the dogs for the weekend?” a staff member asked me. And, it wasn’t just any dog… it was one of Zzisa’s new puppies. A Puppy!!! My little dog-loving heart jumped with glee. I immediately called my husband and braced myself for a heavy negotiation session. I was surprised when he agreed to have a four-legged house guest.
So, Friday afternoon I arrived home with a crate, expandable gate, a suitcase full of dog toys and one very cute Labrador retriever puppy named Pierce. Pierce is as sweet as can be and very well-behaved but being only two months old, requires certain attention. I forgot how much work a puppy can be. Besides the frequent potty walks, Pierce needed someone to pay attention to her and talk to her. Leaving the room was met with howling. Lest our neighbors think I was torturing her, I set up puppy camp in the kitchen. One of us was with her all day, except for nap time. Even my cat-loving husband was won over by the sweet puppy and laid down on the floor with her, “so she’d know it was nap time”.
The weekend went by quicker than I’d like and on Sunday, I returned Pierce to her foster mom. The whole experience made me realize how dedicated the foster families are to our dogs. It is a labor of love. The fosters share their home and hearts with our dogs, knowing that one day, the dogs will graduate and move onto their permanent home. Until that time, those puppies are making dog lovers out of cat people one husband at a time.
Photo of Pierce with foster mom Allison
From the time my son was strong enough to stand, he periodically did something that my sister-in-law dubbed “the happy dance”. Pure joy radiated from his little round face and spread through the rest of his body. He would hoist himself up, holding onto the nearest piece of furniture, get up on his tip toes and step excited back and forth, wagging his rear end and shriek with glee. The happy dance could be brought on by just about any joyous occasion such as me coming home from work, seeing a chocolate chip cookie or playing peek a boo with his Elmo doll. The simple joys of life.
Now that my son is a teenager, he rarely does the happy dance. I was bit sad to think the happy dance was a thing of the past. However, just the other day, I was volunteering at the Working Dog Center and I saw the happy dance! In fact it took a moment to register that I had seen it many times at the center. Many of the dogs do the canine version of the happy dance. Like my son, the happy dance can be brought on by the sight of a favorite trainer, the whiff of a hot dog or the sight of a favorite toy. I have to whisper when I say this, but the sight of a tennis ball (shhh) can send a dignified, highly trained dog into fits of dancing glee.
One has to be particularly vigilant when walking dogs near the training yard or the search building because the sight of either of those can also send the dogs into the happy dance… a wiggling, swaying, prancing, bum wagging “I’ll do anything for a tennis ball” happy dance. Trainers routinely hide tennis balls in only their right pants pocket so the ball is not in the line of sight for the dog (who is trained to always walk on the left side of the handler). There is something profoundly touching about seeing the joy of a dog, playing with his tennis ball after a training session. And even more touching is how the dog’s joy brings a smile to the face of the trainer. Makes me want to do the happy dance.
Photo by Tracy Darling
Patterson, one of Zzisa’s puppies, does the happy dance in anticipation of getting to work.
If you are interested:
STEP 1: visit http://bit.ly/X7RSA6
STEP 2: apply for reference number 58-18408]]>
I sit at my desk listening to the sounds of children playing in the school yard behind my house. On a beautiful September afternoon, the sound of them happily playing some version of tag or chase can get so loud that I sometimes have to close my window if someone calls on the phone. It is a happy, innocent noise and so my window closing is one of a practical matter; I am not annoyed. I can not be annoyed because I remember a similar beautiful September afternoon, thirteen years ago, when there was no noise at all in the schoolyard. There were no sounds of planes flying overhead (my house is on the flight path of planes approaching the Philadelphia airport). In fact, there were no noises at all in my neighborhood. On September 11, 2001, we were all sitting quietly in our houses, watching the news and trying to comprehend the tragedy that unfolded earlier that morning.
Most of us who are old enough, will never forget that day; the question of “what were you doing the morning of 9-11?” eventually comes up in conversation. I remember reading that the search dogs were getting frustrated because they were unable to find survivors. Their years of training did not prepare Thunder, Morgan, Logan (for whom our WDC puppies are named in honor) or any of the other search dogs for the level of frustration they encountered that day.
Thirteen years later we have all become less naïve about our global neighbors. Luckily we have tried to prepare ourselves better for the unexpected, including continued improvement in training methods for search and rescue dogs. So my thanks go out to Dr. Otto, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and this next generation of Thunders, Morgans and Logans. May their efforts enable the children in all school yards play happily every afternoon.
Maxine is one of our dedicated volunteers and will be a contributing blogger, giving readers insight to the daily life at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.]]>
Don’t work a dog? Skilled back-up personnel are essential to maintaining a K9s safety while working.
This class includes a combination of lecture and hands on experience.
Register now, space is limited!]]>
Date: October 10, 2014
Time: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Far too often officers are thrown together with minimal experience working with one another when the suspect clearly holds the advantage. In response, participants will be provided techniques critical to a high risk K9 deployment. The participants will have the opportunity to apply these techniques in practical scenarios.
Scenarios will combine factors including weather, terrain, communication, and decision making. K9 officers are urged to bring back-up officers from their department and neighboring departments that they often must rely on.
This training will also offer officers the opportunity to learn tactical veterinary concerns and practices as they relate to the real-world scenarios.
Download information flyer HERE.
Check out other classes at the WDC including
Puppy Socialization – starts Monday, September 8th
Basic Obedience – starts Wednesday, September 10th
Help raise money for the WDC and cheer on Pacy as she throws the first pitch!
Bring the whole family, including the furry 4-legged members, out to watch the Camden Riversharks face off against the York Revolution.]]>