Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tyrone Square Mall February 28

Our Tuesday meeting in February brought us to Tyrone Square Mall, where we gathered in – or maybe I should say "took over" – the central court to begin.

Marcy had organized a scavenger hunt that took the puppies into several stores to experience many different types of environments, including Old Navy, Finish Line, Yankee Candle, Starbucks, Express, and Bath & Body Works. It was also a test of our puppies' abilities to NOT "busy" in the tempting confines of a shopping mall. I know of at least one puppy that did not pass that test – my own Mars, who made his debut at this meeting with his brother Popi. Let's hope this is not a harbinger of things to come.

Here's Popi with Ric and Betty Jo. What a good boy!

And here's Mars with Larry and Gabrielle, acting all innocent just before emptying both bladder and bowels in the mall. There's a reason we travel with cleanup supplies!

Along with the scavenger hunt, a roving train, a kiddie ride, and (at least for some of us) a food court provided further exposures for our pups before we called it a night.

Tampa International Airport February 11

Our Saturday meeting in February was at Tampa International Airport, which provided a whole host of different exposures from our visit to the much-quieter St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport last August. For one thing, it was much harder to describe where to meet!

But meet we did in one of the parking garages, where we divided the group into older and younger pups for some obedience exercises, including offering the pups the chance to do their business on concrete before we headed to the almost-completely carpeted terminal building. We also did a collar check to make sure the young puppies' buckle collars were no looser than two finger widths. It's important to keep these collars that tight so that if something unexpected frightens the pup, it cannot slip out of its collar and run away.

We began our journey by riding the monorail, one of the few working train-type transports in the Tampa Bay area. Here are Eric, Petey (aka St. Petersburg's First Puppy, attending his first meeting), and Eckerd (along with their handler torsos Melisa, Dave, and Kerry) enjoying their monorail ride.

After riding the monorail's full circuit, we walked by the monorail track to get to the terminal, so our pups could experience train travel from the outside too!

Once we got in the terminal, we took the elevators down to the ground floor to some grassy "busy" areas by some loud and misty fountains.

Then it was back inside to baggage claim, where a flight had just arrived to accommodate our exposure needs. Below, Tammy (with handler Darlene) looks ready to grab the first bag she recognizes, while Tommy (with Donna), Maytag (with Jen, Lincoln, and Julianne), and Nancy (with Starr) wait patiently.

We got back in the elevators to go to the concourse level, where we stopped by the observation deck (a good place to run to if you need a cement busy area ASAP), then walked by several shops as well as some diners just on the other side of a low fence at TGI Friday's. Mmm, French fries!

An airport display in the process of setup or teardown provided an impromptu obstacle course for the pups, who navigated it effortlessly by just following Tommy as he found the way to the wall. We continued through the Marriott hotel's lobby to their outside patio, complete with a wooden bridge for us to cross, as Polly (with Jean) does below.

We rested at the end so Dave could hand out Petey's business cards advertising Walkathon. Then we had one final exposure on a bridge over the roaring fountains that led us back to the parking garage and home.

Canine Body Language January 26

Our "Tuesday" meeting in January was held on a Thursday as we got together with the North Pinellas group for a presentation by Jen Gerrity about canine body language. We met at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater, where our first step was to go through building security.

That done, we made our way to a second-floor conference room, where we all barely fit in. Fortunately, Jen was able to connect her computer to the projection system without a hitch.

Jen talked about various aspects of canine body language, including:

- ear position (up and alert may indicate tension, hanging normally indicates relaxed confidence, and lying back shows fear or submission);

- tail position (high can be tense or aggressive, normal is relaxed, low or curled under is fearful or unsure); and

- body profile (puffed up with hackles raised is aggressive, normal is relaxed confidence, low with the head turned shows stress or uncertainty).

Jen also answered raisers' questions about various issues they were having, such as relieving separation anxiety by using a toy filled with food as a distracting challenge or correcting jumping by having a leash on the dog when company is expected and being ready to give firm downward leash corrections at the first sign of jumping.

We look forward to our next quarterly meeting with Jen.

Saturday Morning Market January 14

It was a brisk, sunny day when we met at St. Petersburg's Saturday Morning Market.

After walking around the area a bit to get the pups loosened up and relaxed, we stopped at a park across from the market for some pre-market business.

Due to changes in the Pinellas County groups, we had several new raisers with us for the first time, so we started with introductions.

We then began going over some new information posted by Jen Gerrity on The Blue Coat Journal (since renamed The Blue Cape Journal) about greetings.

First, we practiced how our puppies should greet people, putting the pup in a sit when the visitor is a few feet away. If the pup is in a controlled state, we can then say "take a break" to allow the pup to go up to the visitor to greet. Giving the pup this opportunity to move toward the visitor on her own makes it less likely she will want to jump. If the pup jumps or otherwise misbehaves, correct her, move away, and try again. If the pup is under 10 months of age, this is an example of a time when it's OK to use "take a break" with your puppy in coat. If the pup is 10 months or older, petting in coat is to be discouraged, as by this time, the pup should be focusing on working when in coat.

I was the lucky one who got to be greeted by all the puppies! And they all did well. Good job! Here I am practicing with Melisa and Eric.

We next worked on greetings with other dogs. It's important to remember here that your pup should be behaving on a loose lead before he is allowed to greet another dog. The greeting is a reward, and you don't want to reward unacceptable behavior. Also, greeting other dogs should only occur out of coat. If your puppy is too excited to greet nicely, distract him by calling him to you and go on your way. If your puppy is focused and obedient, you can allow him to greet the other dog briefly. It's important to make the greeting brief and to avoid greetings when either dog is overly excited or tense, with raised hackles and a stiff posture. When the brief greeting is over, call your dog and go on your way.

Jen's post also mentions that it's OK to use "take a break" with a puppy in coat under 10 months old when releasing her from an obedience exercise. She also suggests interrupting play dates with moments of calm, going to your pup to put his leash on and having him settle down for a bit before he can resume play. Be sure to read Jen's entire post for a fuller understanding of these new uses of "take a break" and more.

I also had a lot of announcements to make at this meeting. In brief:

1 - We have new puppy raiser shirts in a different fabric and color. These will be rolled out slowly, with raisers receiving a new shirt when they get a new pup.

2 - The January Puppy Raiser Newsletter was full of information about:

- the ABCs of Awareness (knowing what your pup is doing and how she is reacting at all times as well as checking her physical condition), Balance (mixing up what you do with your dog, so sometimes he's in a crate and sometimes on a tiedown, usually he's with you but sometimes he's home alone, some exposures are familiar and some are new, taking him out both day and night), and Consistency (in your commands, actions, praise, and corrections);

- being aware of toxic foods (e.g., grapes, coffee, and xylitol in sugar-free gum) and plants (e.g., some types of palm, oleander, and rhododendrons); per Puppy Raising Services,

Should your pup eat anything toxic or you suspect is toxic DO NOT WAIT to seek treatment even if you cannot reach the school or your AC or the pup seems fine. Toxins can cause damage even after the ingested material is initially purged.

The ASPCA site is a great resource for information on this and has a 24-hour poison control hotline (1-888-426-4435, with a $65 consultation fee);

- the latest Puppy Raiser Survey results, which show great satisfaction with Southeastern's puppy raising program; new initiatives planned to arrive this summer include an updated, online Puppy Raiser Manual, online training videos, an online forum, and more.

Be sure to let me know if you are not receiving the Puppy Raiser Newsletter!

3 - This year's Walkathon is March 3rd! We discussed everything about Walkathon so that everyone would understand what it's all about and how to make the most of this exciting annual event – our biggest of the year, being held in St. Petersburg for the first time!

4 - Due to an abundance of puppies in the puppy kennel, volunteers may be needed to house young puppies for a few days before they go to their raisers.

Whew! After admittedly a lot of talking, everyone was ready to go across the street to explore the sights, sounds, and smells of St. Pete's well-known and very popular Saturday Morning Market, which also provided a great opportunity to practice working around a variety of other dogs – and people. I don't know about John, but Legion definitely looks like he's heard enough!