What difference can a piece of string make ?

Hoss calmer for his piece of string

Hoss calmer for his piece of string

It’s nothing really…just a four foot piece of string tied to a dogs’ collar. What good is that going to do? How’s that going to change the world?
In the above picture, Hoss, our foster dog, has a piece of yellow string tied to his collar, I know its not very grand and certainly not befitting a gorgeous dog like Hoss, but that piece of string does a very important job.
When Hoss is playing too rough, or we need to calm him down, we tie that piece of string on his collar and he calms down within seconds. It is as if we push a magic button.
I have to be honest, it doesn’t work this way with every dog; but it does work with a dog whom you have a great relationship with, one who seriously values his freedom of movement like hunting and working breeds, a dog who is touch sensitive and one who has been leash trained.
Here at the Ranch, we use the short trailing leash to remind the dog that he isn’t completely free to make all of the decisions. We want him to remember that while he may be free to run and play, he is answerable to someone. The trailing line dragging on the floor as he runs is a symbol of his connection to us.
The feeling of the leash connecting with the ground below is hard for a sensitive dog to ignore as it sloughs around on the earth or concrete below his neck, so it acts as a signal to him to watch his behavior.
Kind of the canine equivalent of the WWJD bracelet worn by Christians all over the world to remind them as they use their dominant hand, to use it appropriately………In this case though, I want Hoss to think WWAPD? (What would Aunty Pen do…..?)
If ever Hoss, or any guest, disregards the string and continues to play inappropriately, we then go to level two and pop a leash on him in the field and have him walk beside one of us for about five minutes. It’s a simple form of time out where the dog feels the consequences of his action even moreso than if he were put up and away as he can see the play, hear it, and experience everyone else having a good time, but hes being stopped from joining in.
We sometimes have to put dogs into a real time out, but its very rare once they know the drill here, and even then, only for severe behavior that might lead to injury. In those cases, we instigate a time out inside the house for a few minutes (three max) and then lead the dog to a quieter area with different dogs of a different energy level.
I’m very well aware that these measures are akin to dealing with children and of course, that’s very much the way we deal with dogs here at the Ranch. Its all about boundaries, respect, guidance and love.
We operate on a policy here of ‘Least invasive, minimally aversive’ which basically means ‘As hands off as possible and as little unpleasantness as possible’…
No need to shock the living crap out of some poor dog for inappropriate behavior, that just seriously damages brain function.
No need to put him on his side and do the outmoded Alpha roll…that’s just basically telling the dog you can kill him if you want to, take him any time you please because you’re the big cheese…..a little over the top for your best friend, huh?
No need to smack him on the nose or the rump…..that just tells him you’re an idiot that doesn’t understand dog behavior. Dogs don’t smack each other, and they have no conception of why we do that.
The ‘time out’ in either of these forms is a really great way to check your dogs behavior…it gives him time to settle, then rethink his behavior and reboot. We want the dog to learn from his mistakes, so giving a mini time out in situ, so that he can go ahead and get a do over is a great learning opportunity.
So for Hoss, who was playing a little too physically with Gunnar yesterday, the three times that we checked his behavior by popping the leash on him, presented three opportunities………..1) to catch the behavior, 2) make the point, and 3) drive it home.
…And no animals were hurt during the making of this point!


This Jailhouse absolutely rocks !!!

Hoss chillin at the Ranch

We have had lots of people asking us about the Jaildogs programme this last couple of days, as so many of you saw mention of it on the messages on our facebook page and also saw pictures of Hoss and Hank, the two dogs we’ll be working with here at the ranch.
I thought I would just give you some brief details so that you can understand why, when we were asked, we literally jumped at the chance to be involved in this worthwhile programme.
Quite simply, the jaildogs programme is the absolute win win situation for behaviour modification for both humans and canines. Inmates at the jail are carefully screened before they can enter the programme to ensure their suitability to work with the animals, and those allowed to be a part of it then work with dogs that are pulled from Gwinnett Animal Control, learning to care for them, train them, feed them and live with them side by side.
Those of you who understand the concept of hospital therapy dogs and the benefit this has on patients will already grasp the importance of this programme and how life changing it can be; in this case, however, its even more important, because we are not just talking about reducing stress levels and providing a focus of calm love and companionship at the hospital. The jaildogs programme is literally about saving lives in a very direct and immediate way.
Because of overcrowding and the sheer numbers of dogs being given up or left to go stray, Animal Control simply cannot house them all and so many have to be euthanised, which sadly encompasses even good dogs. Its a situation that cant be helped while people dont bother to spay and neuter their dogs, train them or build good fences [bit of a soap box issue of mine..].
‘Jaildogs’ picks dogs that show potential and removes them from Animal Control to be entered into the programme at the jail, where they have one inmate as full time handler and then two back up handlers. The dogs get a lovely comfy bed to sleep on in a warm caring environment, good food and treats, and are trained every day for hours, to make them highly adoptable. They work with different handlers in case prisoners get moved or go home, but also so that it gives them exposure to being well behaved for lots of different handlers, a huge plus for a dog that will be rehomed.
Local trainers generously give up their time to get involved in this programme and show the inmates how to handle the dogs’ training in a calm, positive way.
Those of you who adopted dogs during times of stress in your life know only too well the incredible benefits of doing so; the unconditional love and support is a lifesaver for so many people…for the inmates, they learn new skills, get to work and live with someone who is never going to judge them, care what theyve done, only what they DO and how they care, and for the dogs they get to be worked on by the most focused handlers in the world..people who live, eat, breathe and sleep the positive nurturing of their charges.
What an amazing programme, and its happening right here on your doorstep.
Like most things, the jaildogs programme needs funds to survive and succeed so please, if you can, make a donation to them…go to jaildogs.org for details of how to donate using Paypal. It doesnt matter how small your donation is, every little helps..