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February 2012


I feel like February is the month that we (I) really start complaining about Wisconsin winters.  Given the incredibly mild winter we have had, I cannot think of anything bad to say about it.  The dogs have had a great month, getting to spend a lot of time playing outside as compared to a typical February.  We have introduced two new toys to daycare that have been INCREDIBLY popular.  The Rough and Rugged Ring and the Kong Safestix have been the prize of countless tug of war matches.  My favorite match occurred between a large Great Dane and a tiny Boston Terrier.  We did get a picture, but the quality is too poor to share.  The dogs don’t seem understand how long you have to stay in one spot to get a good picture with your phone….

Anyhow, I have been amazed at how well these toys have held up in what is clearly a tough testing environment!  We have brought them into our retail area as well if you are interested in having one at home.  Both toys are malleable but tough.  The dogs appear to like both the function of the toys as well as the material itself, as you rarely see either of these toys lying on the ground.  Even if they aren’t being tugged, they are being carried.   The Safestix was a particularly exciting find as we knew dogs love sticks, but also knew the dangers of a stick in our environment.  Several years ago my own Labrador impaled himself carrying a large stick.  Luckily he had great veterinary care, and was back to himself in no time.

I hope you all had a very good Valentine’s Day.  I know Esther did with her new Valentine’s caterpillar!

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or suggestions!

Becky Mittelsteadt



Dog of the Month: Riley 

Riley has been coming to the Hound Huddle since we first opened.  He is a very handsome seven year old golden retriever who can talk with the best of them.  Riley was the first dog to conquer the back yard slide.   You would be hard pressed to find Riley without a toy in his mouth. He is a people dog and the Hound Huddle people are no exception.  We love his complete exuberance coming to daycare.  It can be so hard to contain that excitement but he tries really really hard!  Most importantly, Riley does a fantastic job taking care of his mom.  He is every reason a person has a dog. 


Product of the Month: Halo Treats  

Try these new tasty, healthful, pet treats with easy to identify natural ingredients you expect in our (people) food. Nutritional calories - not empty calories, made without corn, fillers, added salt, sugar or molasses. Elle DeGeneres is the co-owner of Halo treats and “believes in treating pets like you’d treat yourself”. The Healthsome dog biscuits are prepared to provide a nutritious snack with an aroma and taste your dog will love.  Wholesome natural ingredients, with protein and fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetable, are baked to perfection to give dogs the healthy reward they deserve.  We carry several flavors—try one today!


Training Classes

We have several spring classes to consider with three unique and fun trainers.  If you have any questions about any of the classes please give us a call.  All classes, except the Puppy Party, are 6 weeks long and cost $90.  The Puppy Party is a 4 week session and is $60.

Puppy Pre-School 6:15-7:15 p.m.  Thursday, March 15 thru April 19 2012 —w/Dan Antolec

A six-week course with instruction on socializing a puppy including supervised off-leash play in class. There is also instruction on several obedience commands using positive reinforcement, nutrition and toys, understanding canine body communication and other topics. A written training guide and DVD are included. Please bring a hungry dog, a 4 to 6 foot leash, and great training treats to class. Cost is $90.


Puppy Party Class 10:45-11:45 a.m. Saturday, April 14 thru May 5 2012 – w/Dan Antolec

Marley jan 2012.JPGThis class is ideally for puppies. Do you want to socialize your new pup with other playful pups and other dog-friendly people?  Do you want to learn how to develop a close and lasting relationship with your pup?  Do you want to learn how to interpret dog-dog interactions so you will know whether your puppy is safe, or if and how you should intervene?  Well then, come join the party!  This four-week hourly course focuses on the socialization process that is crucial to having a well-adjusted, confident and friendly family pet dog for a lifetime.  Class instruction and activities address topics such as how to thoroughly socialize your puppy, nutrition and exercise, and preventing common problems.  Learn how a puppy’s brain develops, how it learns, and how to teach a puppy to pay attention to you.  Weather permitting, we will venture into the neighborhood and seek out additional socialization opportunities.  An instructional DVD is included. This course does not focus on obedience and manners training.  The cost is $60.


Pet Manners 1 2:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14 thru May 19 – w/Renee Grittner

This class is for dogs 4 months or older who have not previously had an obedience class, or dogs that need a refresher. Pet Manners 1 uses dog friendly positive reinforcement methods to help you build a positive relationship with your pooch. Topics of interest are loose leash walking, sit, down, heel, recalls, and the beginning of stay. This class uses lots of fun interactive games to teach dogs and humans how to work together. Basic learning theory will be taught throughout this class. Please bring a hungry dog, lots of small tasty treats, a 4 to 6 foot leather or nylon leash (no flexi or chain leashes please) an open mind and a positive attitude! Optional is a clicker and a tug toy.  Cost is $90.


Beginner Obedience 6:15-7:15p.m. Tuesdays, March 27 thru May 1 2012 —w/Scott Lindner

For dogs age 6 months and older, and for head start graduates. Classes will re-enforce basic manners and commands. Dogs will learn the command “stay” as well as to focus with lots of distractions using traditional training methods. In this class we learn to "heel" with our dogs and have plenty of question and answer time. Cost is $90.

 Mokie jan 2012.JPG

Agility Foundations  2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Saturdays, April 14 thru May 19—w/Renee Grittner

This class is designed for all dogs and handlers!  Dogs only need to know how to sit and lie down.  The class will work on teaching focus on handlers, body awareness and beginning jump training.   The cost is $90.  This is a great opportunity to do something fun and challenging with your dog.


Canine Good Citizen 7:30-8:30 p.m.  Tuesdays, March 27 thru May 1 2012 —w/Scott Lindner

This is an opportunity to build on basic obedience skills focused on good manners in the home and in the community.  Here you and your dog will develop the skills required for the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification.  The first five classes involve instruction and practice, with testing in class six.  Passing the test qualifies for AKC certification.  Cost is $90. 


Pet Manners 2 6:15-7:15 p.m.  Wednesdays, March 21 thru April 25 2012 – w/Renee Grittner

For graduates of Pet Manners 1 or Puppy Kindergarten. Continue honing your dogs manners and obedience skills using familiar positive methods. As with Pet Manners 1 and puppy class, lots of fun games will be used to keep the atmosphere light-hearted and fun. We will begin to build duration and introduce distractions into previously learned exercises. Please bring a hungry dog, lots of small tasty treats, a 4 to 6 foot leather or nylon leash (no flexi or chain leashes please!) an open mind and a positive attitude!  Optional is a clicker and a tug toy. Cost is $90.


Rally  7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March 21 thru April 25 2012 – w/Renee Grittner

For graduates of Pet Manners 2 (Intermediate Obedience) or upon approval of instructor.  Teach your dog the fun and exciting sport of Rally-Obedience! Rally is a fun, competitive sport in which dog and handler navigate a preset course using common obedience skills. Many maneuvers will hone your dogs heeling in a fun, ever changing way. Dogs should have a good understanding of sit, down and heel. Please bring a hungry dog, lots of small tasty treats, a 4 to 6 foot leather or nylon leash (no flexi or chain leashes please!) an open mind and a positive attitude!  Cost is $90.


Dan’s Dog Den

Scaredy Dog

Many dog owners report that their otherwise confident canine companion is afraid of the vacuum cleaner.  Some dogs run and hide at first sight of it while others hold their ground until the vacuum cleaner approaches them, unleashing a barrage of barking, lunging or even biting at the dreadful thing when it comes too close.  On the other hand, some dogs seem to not even care and settle down for an afternoon nap, steadfastly refusing to get out of the way while you try to clean the house and nudge them out of the aside.  Good grief, what is going on?

It helps to consider what the vacuum cleaner may appear to be from the canine perspective, rather than the human perspective.  When we gain that understanding then perhaps we can muster up some empathy for our dog and set aside our confusion and frustration.  Finally, there are two courses of action available for you to deal with the situation, which I will address later.

Let us imagine what a vacuum cleaner appears like from a canine perspective.  Dogs are conscious of height, size and elevation as it relates to their social order and sense of security.  When two dogs challenge one another they stare directly into the eyes of their antagonist, puff out their chest and rise up in posture, trying to look larger and more intimidating.  By making a direct face-to-face approach they increase the challenge.  Now consider if you were as tall as your dog, looking up at a large and strangely configured thing that moves unlike any animal previously encountered, and at the flip of a switch the thing emits a loud high-pitched persistent sound…like a growl or a roar…while the main body of the thing increases in size.  If you have a vacuum cleaner with a dust bag, that is what your dog sees and hears.  How could they perceive it as anything but threatening?

In addition, the loud roaring thing looming overhead has an unnaturally long tail, and huge glowing eyes that stare intently and never blink.  Dogs have far better hearing than humans and can hear the ultrasound range, so high-pitched metallic sounds such as a running electric motor are likely to cause discomfort or even pain.  Worse yet, the scary thing lunges back and forth at the dog in repeated direct and threatening movements.  What is a poor dog supposed to make of it all?

When a dog is frightened it may try to escape, so some dogs will get up and move away from the vacuum cleaner.  Of course, if you are cleaning the house that means your dog may eventually be “chased” by the vacuum cleaner wherever it runs to and will have to escape again, and again.  Other dogs will try to warn away the scary thing by barking at it, baring their teeth, or even lunging and biting.  They are saying “Go away, you frighten me!” but the scary thing ignores their warnings and moves directly toward them anyway.

OK, so now that we have a different perspective on how our dog may perceive the vacuum cleaner, how should we deal with the problem?  One choice is to manage the situation; another choice is to change the (fear) response that the dog has learned to associate with the vacuum cleaner.  There is no right or wrong answer.  It may be easier to simply put your dog in the yard or in another room with a tasty treat or favorite toy, so you can clean your house and your dog is not exposed to the scary stimuli.  Many people will find this the easiest choice but it does not address the fear. 

The other option is to engage in a series of training exercises that retrain your dog to have a different response to the vacuum cleaner.  This is called counter-conditioning.  It is simpler than it sounds and will be a great confidence boosting experience for your dog.  Rather than avoid the problem, it actually fixes it.  The choice is yours, but if you want to help your dog overcome fear of the vacuum cleaner then I will describe how I achieved this with Gandhi, our young Lab.

We rescued Gandhi after he was found running as a stray.  He was underweight, had intestinal worms, and with winter approaching and nobody to care for him, he must have felt anxious and afraid.  Indeed, we discovered he had separation anxiety after the adoption and so we applied counter-conditioning exercises to remedy that issue.   With three Labs running about the house shedding hair like dried needles falling from an old Christmas tree, I found it necessary to vacuum the house every day.  The thought of seeing Gandhi run away in fear of the vacuum cleaner every day of his life was contrary to our intent to provide a safe and secure home for him, so I added counter-conditioning exercises to his daily training program.

First, I set the vacuum cleaner in the living room and left it there for a few days.  I only used it when Gandhi was outside, so he learned to see it as just another harmless part of the environment.  After a few days I moved the vacuum cleaner to the middle of the room and whenever I practiced obedience training with Gandhi.  We walked throughout the house and occasionally practiced within 15-20 feet of the vacuum cleaner.  As the days passed I gradually coaxed him closer to it, lavishly rewarding him for his obedience responses until we practiced while he was standing right next to the cleaner.

At that point I began placing tasty training treats on various parts of the vacuum cleaner, drawing him nearer using food as a lure, asking for obedience responses and rewarding his performance.  Rather than lead him to the vacuum cleaner, I simply practiced within easy sniffing range and I let him choose for himself when he wanted to actually close the distance, sniff the machine and take treats off of it.  The entire process up to this point took several days.  Patience is very important and it gave Gandhi the time and repetition necessary for him to decide that the vacuum cleaner was not a fear inducing thing, but it had become a fountain of treats and something to enjoy.  He gained confidence with each exposure because I controlled the level of exposure and ensured that he was never pushed to the threshold of fear.

The next step was to turn on the vacuum cleaner motor.  I decided to start by turning on the motor while Gandhi was in a different room, so he could simply adjust to the sound while we practiced his obedience training.  He learned to ignore the sound of the motor and focus on me, and was rewarded for doing so.  Over the next few days I gradually moved Gandhi closer to the vacuum cleaner while the motor was running, essentially repeating the process that I used when the motor was turned off.  Eventually Gandhi was willing to walk up to the vacuum cleaner and take treats that were placed on it, with no fear.

Moving the vacuum cleaner with the motor running was the final step and I began by pushing the cleaner away very slowly with one hand, while giving Gandhi treats as far away as possible with my free hand.  You may find that is too overwhelming for your dog, so another person might be enlisted to move the vacuum cleaner slowly back and forth at a farther distance as you gradually coax your dog closer while doing obedience training.  With Gandhi I was able to treat him with one hand while moving the vacuum cleaner with the other and in time he learned to feel relaxed whenever the formerly terrifying device was present. 

The basic principles that made this process work were simple, and apply to many situations in which your dog expresses fear.  Start with a significantly reduced version of the stimuli, so your dog is exposed to a less threatening version of the thing that is frightening.  Then, provide ample rewards and positive reinforcement while your dog is exposed to the reduced version of frightening stimuli.  Allow your dog the time to develop a different response to something that previously induced anxiety and fear.  Finally, gradually increase the intensity of the stimuli while continuing to provide positive reinforcement to your dog. 

The end result is a dog that feels more secure in the face of something that once induced a fearful response.  You and your dog will feel better for your effort.  Now if only I could teach my Labs to stop shedding!

Dan Antolec


Past Newsletters

January 2012 * December 2011 * November 2011 * October 2011

September 2011 * August 2011 * July 2011 * June 2011 * May 2011 * April 2011

March 2011 * February 2011 * January 2011 * December 2010

Hound Huddle · 1145 Park St · Oregon, WI · 608.835.6622 · 608.835.2662 f

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