Monday, March 22, 2010

Canine Good Citizen tests now available!

Rebel Dog Training is pleased to offer AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) prep classes (private and small-group) and evaluations. The tests cover basic good manners exercises, like walking politely through a crowd, being handled by a friendly stranger, and staying in place until the handler gives a release command.

Check out a complete explanation of test items online, or contact us any time with questions or to sign up for a prep class or exam!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight savings can throw off dogs' potty schedules

As you turn your clocks forward an hour tonight, take a moment to think about how this odd human custom might affect your dog's routine. Since dogs can't understand our "time change," and can't control when they go outside to relieve themselves, daylight savings time can force even the most well-trained dog to urinate or defecate in the house.

To help your dog through the time change, take a day or two to shift their eating and potty schedules gradually, if possible. If you're one of the many nine-to-fivers who's accustomed to rushing home right after work to let Fido out, you may need a little help to get through the first few days. If your dog holds it for eight hours every day and is used to urinating at 5:30 p.m.--and 5:30 p.m. on the dot--help him out by having a friend, neighbor, or professional dog-walker come for a ten-minute potty break at lunch or in the afternoon.

By the end of the week, you and your pooch will be back on the same schedule, and your rugs will have nothing to show for it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adventures on the Central Coast

Carpinteria is a slow-paced beach town cradled between the mountains and the sea, about twelve miles south of Santa Barbara. "Carp," as the locals call it, is renowned as a dog-friendly town, and we can attest to its reputation after what turned out to be the perfect four-day camping trip. Our three pooches had a great time running on the beach, hiking the trails, and relaxing on the patios of some very yummy eateries.

Our picks:

In Carpinteria:

All the campsites are just a two-minute walk from the beach, and are adjacent to a great hiking trail with a nice, lush meadow for off-leash doggie play. About a half-mile up the trail is a roped-off viewing area on the bluffs, overlooking the Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary. The protected harbor seals spend much of their time sunbathing on the rocky shore, with occasional dips in the ocean. From December through May, the spot serves as a birthing habitat, and you can watch the little ones playing and swimming in the tide pools.
5361 6th St, (805) 684-2811
$35-55 per night, $10 for day pass

We adore Jack's, where the big patio has shady palms, heat lamps, and lots of room between the tables so the dogs can stretch out. Jack's boasts friendly staff, great service, and the best Bagel Benedict this side of the 101. Try the Salmon Scramble or, for adventurous palates, the Jalapeno Bagel with Jalapeno Cream Cheese.
5050 Carpinteria Ave, (805) 566-1558
M-F: 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Sa-Su: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

This award-winning, family-run brewery is worth a trip in every season. Owner Paul Wright, who got his start at the Marin Brewing Co., is a certified judge and enjoys exploring with limited release and seasonal brews. Island offered just ten gallons of a very dry Passionfruit Weiss this Valentine's Day, and last week introduced their delicious cask Vanilla Bean Stout. Their dog-friendly patio has a restful ocean view, and is a short walk across the railroad tracks from the campground.
5049 6th Street, (805) 745-8272
M-F: 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Sa-Su: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

In Santa Barbara:

If you're after a little more pampering, we recommend these cozy cottage-style studios, just a block away from dog-heaven West Beach in Santa Barbara. Included in the very affordable rates are 3-speed cruising bicycles, a huge breakfast basket complete with dog biscuits, and beach chairs and umbrellas to help you while your day away in comfort.
104 Bath St, Santa Barbara; (805) 962-9745
$119 (cute suite with Queen bed) to $325 (for deluxe King with fireplace or hydrotherapy tub), $15 pet fee

The inn is a short walk away from downtown State Street, where you'll find plenty of dog-friendly restaurants (try The Natural cafe, at 508 State St, for tasty vegan fare), as well as OffLeash pet boutique (1103 State St), in case you forgot Fido's favorite rubber ball.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Catch our article this month in BayWoof!

Pick up a copy of BayWoof at any Bay Area pet-related venue and check out the Good Dog! column. Our article, "Dogs on the Run," covers all you need to know to get started running on the roads or trails with your pooch.

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy your good (and tired) dog!

Daisy and Jaime enjoy a run at Don Castro Regional Park in Hayward.

Shy Girl, and a camping dress rehearsal

We're taking our first family camping trip with all three dogs on Sunday, and have been taking every opportunity to habituate our fearful dog to the things she'll encounter. As far as she's come, we're often reminded that she's still nearly a feral dog at heart.

Willa, aka "Shy-Shy Girl," was one of the infamous Gabbs dogs, rescued from a 150-dog hoarding case in rural Nevada in early 2008. These dogs lived together in outdoor runs, with hay bales for shelter and little to no human contact. Shy Girl was estimated at about five years old when she was rescued from Gabbs, and was found living in an underground den (dug by the dogs) with a few other adult dogs and a litter of puppies. I met her when she arrived at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, where I was working as a shelter dog trainer, and after a few weeks we brought her home to foster. Christened "Molly" by my roommate Dan, Shy Girl made slow but steady progress, and was able to join us in bed for short naps when she thought we weren't looking. After a month, I decided she was ready to find a forever home, and she did, with a very loving woman who worked as a schoolteacher and had a big, quiet house with a secure backyard.

I saw our shy girl, now named "Bella," weekly for a while, as her devoted new mom brought her to a special Wallflowers class at the shelter. She was painfully agoraphobic, and often panicky, but was doing well in her new home. We all breathed a sigh of relief and congratulated ourselves on what seemed to be a happy ending.

That summer, I got a call from Shy Girl's adopter, saying that she had darted out of the car at a trailhead, and that although she'd been searching for hours, Shy-Shy was gone. We contacted all the local shelters, and Shy's adopted mom posted flyers everywhere, and kept searching for weeks, along with friends and a couple of her friends' dogs who Shy-Shy had known and gotten comfortable with. There were a couple of sightings over the summer: a hiker called and said he'd caught a glimpse, and her martingale collar showed up in faraway Danville, but that was all. As the months passed, we grimly assumed the worst.

Until she was caught with a feral cat trap by an East Bay shelter near the trailhead she'd disappeared from, nearly a year after she'd disappeared. There'd been a mistake--she'd been adopted without being spayed first--and a shelter worker had found her with a litter of puppies, and used them as bait to lure Shy-Shy into the live trap.

Her adopted mom cried with joy at the news, and visited Shy Girl at the shelter, but she'd adopted another dog that year and didn't feel confident that she could keep Shy-Shy safe and happy, after all that had happened. Right away, we knew that we'd invite her home with us, this time for ever.

Shy-Shy Girl, once Molly, then Bella, now Willa (but she still answers to "Shy-Shy," and we can't quite shake the habit of calling her that), is not a normal house pet, but she's getting more comfortable all the time in our strange, urban, human environment. She is a domestic dog in the sense that her species has been domesticated, but she is, even now, not quite tame. She doesn't enjoy petting, although she tolerates it. She'll do anything for food, and steals our other dogs' bones and chewies and hoards them in her crate, along with tissue paper and wool socks.

She's still in survival mode. But occasionally, a relaxed, joyful, puppyish version of herself will peek out, and play with other dogs, give me a quick play bow, or chase a pigeon in our backyard. She's conquered lots of demons: she comes out to greet our guests (to see if they have cheese for her--and we ensure that they always do), she jumps into the car and is able to settle nicely in her spot on the floor behind the driver's seat, and even nap while we drive. She knows to look forward to drive-thrus.

So, we decided it's time she come with us camping. It'll help that our other dogs, Daisy and Chew Boo, will be there (and will be enjoying it more than anything else on earth!). It'll also help (I'm hoping) that we've had the tent set up in our living room for the past week, and that Shy-Shy's new pop-up crate has been set up in the bedroom, right next to her regular crate.

Today, two days before our trip, I'm taking Shy-Shy (and Daisy, as Good Role Model) on a camping dress rehearsal at Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Park, a ten-minute drive from our house. We'll bring the tent, Shy's pop-up crate (for inside the tent), some bedding, and lots and lots of awesome snacks and chewies--and a good book for me (The Human Zoo, by Desmond Morris, would be apt). We'll set up, sniff around the campsite, hang out inside the tent for an hour, stuff Shy Girl with hot dogs, and come home. And hope that our little trip on Sunday leads to yet another huge step forward for our little Shy.

Here's to shy and special dogs everywhere--and to vacations for their families!

Resources for shy or fearful dogs:

A must-read: Help for Your Fearful Dog, by Nicole Wilde, available online here.

This excellent book, The Cautious Canine, by Patricia McConnell, is available from

The Thundershirt: compression can help some animals relax (see Temple Grandin's book Animals Make Us Human for a description of the Squeeze Box she invented for cattle, and how the same technique works to calm autistic children). My boss at the time I fostered Shy Girl, Sarah Wharton (the B&T director at the East Bay SPCA), fit Shy with a tight little t-shirt before we took her home, for the same reason. There's no way we can gauge how much it helped, but as they say, it sure can't hurt.

Likewise, soothing music; dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP), available in spray form, as a diffuser, or as individually packaged travel wipes; other scents such as lavendar; and flower essences or herbal remedies, given orally, or as a drop massaged onto the dog's ear or nose, can't hurt and might help.