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Collecting Performance Dog Titles is Fun

Author and Truman Blue Awarded Farm Dog Certification

Truman Blue is the “most funnest” dog I have ever had. Training dogs is rewarding on so many levels, the most important being training teaches you and your dog to communicate with each other. The least important is brag rights, but that’s fun too.

The Gestalt theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is exemplified in the relationship between a human and dog. There is power in tricks and skills.

The first trick I remember teaching a dog, I learned from watching Rin-Tin-Tin. I was six years old and taught my basenji-fox terrier mix to attack my merciless older brother. “Get him!” Fortunately, the dog just nipped. I don’t think my parents believed my brother who claimed their adorable six-year-old daughter would or could do such a thing. Suffice to say that my brother no longer teased me when Frankie-dog was with me.

When I was nine, my dachshund and I received a blue ribbon at a “family fair dog show” because he sat more quickly than any other dog. It was the beginning of my interest in performance events.

I entered adulthood looking for ways to better connect with my dogs. I showed in conformation classes, and obedience classes, but they were not the best fit for me. I did put champion and obedience titles on two fox terriers, and four obedience titles on my two Siberian huskies, but wanted something different.

When I trained my first therapy dog, Leala, something clicked. Truman Blue is my third certified therapy dog, and my first crisis response dog. I enjoy serving my community by comforting people with my dogs. If feels right.

I also learned the fun of dog tricks, and teaching with all positive reinforcement. I start out by watching my dogs, observing their natural inclinations. Teaching them to watch and listen to me is rewarding for the dog and the human.

Over the years, AKC changed its face from a purebred dog organization to an organization that supports dogs. Truman Blue is an AKC registered All American (AKA mutt), a Labrador-Bloodhound with a dash of pit, boxer and some middle eastern hound. He is an AKC registered PAL.

We have had loads of fun putting AKC titles on him. He is titled SWN THD CGC FDC TKA, and although it is not AKC recognized, certified crisis response dog. He has also acted in a stage drama. Our next title will be CGCU (Canine Good Citizen – Urban). What those titles show is that we have fun together. We have trained a lot, traveled some, taught each other, and comforted each other. (see below for title explanations)

Although I taught tricks to all my dogs as I journeyed around the sun, I really learned about the dog human connection about five years ago, when Truman became part of my family. I read Kyra Sundance’s “101 Dog Tricks” and read several books about dog’s intelligence levels including Stanley Coren’s “How Dogs Think,” “The Intelligence of Dogs,” and “How to Speak Dog, and Gregory Bern’s “How Dogs Love Us.”

I have always loved dogs but over the years working with my dogs, I have learned how much my dogs love me, especially Truman Blue.

How do you determine what tricks or skills to start teaching to your dog? Watch what they love to do and work with it. What would you teach Bear as his first trick?

Truman Blue titles

  • SWN – Scent Work Novice -means he passed three tests in each of four categories
    • Containers
    • Buried
    • Interior
    • Exterior
  • THD – Therapy Dog (AKC) – means he has visited as a comfort therapy dog at least 50 times
  • CGC – Canine Good Citizen – means he has passed a test that shows he is a good dog around other people and dogs
  • FDC – Farm Dog Certification – means he has passed a test that shows he is a good dog around farm complexities
  • TKA – Trick Dog Advanced – means he has passed the novice, intermediate and advanced level tricks with increased difficulty at each level.
  • Certified Therapy Dog – means he has passed a test that shows he is able and willing to comfort people in controlled settings
  • Certified Crisis Response Dog – means he has passed the training and test that shows he can comfort people in chaotic disaster situations.
dog play, Dog Training, dogs, Mixed breed, puppy, Rescue dog, Uncategorized

Predicting Good Dog/Bad Dog (Truman/Bear)

I admit, I hadn’t read the scientific research papers. When I learned about the connection between behavior and left/right handedness in dogs, I was delightfully shocked. How had I missed that?

As it turns out, there are predictors of a dog’s propensity to be a more easily trained, and less troublesome. The predictors are based on observable physical characteristics that are associated with left or right paw preference.

On the left you can see Truman and Bear playing. Bear has a definite preference of using his left paw to whack Truman. He doesn’t just “paw” at him, he actually whacks him, like a–well–bear would. Bear usually steps off to a walk with his left foot first. He was too “playful” for me to get a snapshot of the whorl on his chest, the whorl being another predictor. I tried several times.

On the other hand, the right-hand photo shows the whorl on Truman’s chest. This is the first and only picture I took because Truman was so cooperative. The whorl goes counterclockwise. A sign that the dog is more trainable. I’d put money on Bear’s whorl going clockwise. Truman generally steps off with his right foot.

Truman is the easiest dog I have ever dealt with. He loves to please. He listens to everything I say. He listens and learns so quickly that he seems like a dog genius. Bear, on the other hand, while sweet as he can be, seems head strong, persistent. He is fearful of odd things even though I have worked on desensitization. (Nutcracker cracking pecans at a distance). Bear runs out of the room if he sees the nail clippers. Truman offers me his paw to get nails trimmed.

Below is an over simplification of right and left brain functions in humans (which is comparable to dogs with obvious differences). Possible dog behaviors in italics

Right side of the brain controls:

  • Physical: left side of body (left dominant)
  • Thinking: attention, memory, reasoning, problem solving
    • “Squirrel!!!!!”
    • Escapes from fence
    • Helps themselves to food on the countertop
  • Feeling: alertness, determination, disgust, avoidance, fear
    • Digs the whole yard trying to get a mole
    • Hates going to the vet
    • Stubborn

Left side of the brain controls:

  • Physical: right side of body (right dominant)
  • Thinking: language, number skills, reasoning, scientific skills, spoken language
    • Quickly associates words or signals with actions
    • Good at solving “dog puzzles”
    • Watches you to try to understand what you want them to do
  • Feeling: comfortable approaching and engaging with the world, happiness, pride, anger
    • Good therapy or service dog
    • Easy to get along with
    • Dignified

Bear isn’t really a bad dog. He does have different behavior than Truman. That doesn’t make him bad, it does make him more challenging.

Of course, selective breeding pre-determines many behavioral characteristics. But within each breed, there are differences. The moral of the story is, as a general rule, if you want a dog that is more tractable, and less worrisome, pick a pooch that is right-pawed and has a counterclockwise chest whorl.

Predicting Good Dog/Bad Dog (Truman/Bear)
dogs, Mixed breed, Nose work, Scent work, Uncategorized

High in Trial – Truman Blue Scores!

Soggy dogs. It rained and rained, but the participants in the scent work trials were used to working in natural elements. Canines and people were wet and muddy, but that didn’t matter at this show. It was the ability of the dogs to locate a hidden odor cannister that counted.

Scent work is a dog sport where the handler learns more than the dog. The dog already knows how to find things with its nose. They are born that way. It is the handler who must explain to the dog which scent he should find, and then allow the dog to do its thing. It is an amazing privilege to understand how a dog reads the world with its nose.

This was Truman Blue’s first AKC Scent Work Trial. At this one show, there were two trials with identical classes. We entered four classes in each trial, so a total of eight classes.

  • Containers (the scent hidden in one out of 10 boxes)
  • Interior (the scent hidden in a room in a barn)
  • Exterior (the scent hidden in a roped off area outside)
  • Buried (the scent hidden in one of 10 boxes filled with sand)

Truman earned four first place ribbons, three second place ribbons, and bombed one class…more later on that one bomb, and the handler’s role in reading the dog. His desire to please and ferret out scents earned him High in Trial at his very first dog show

Cozy mystery, dogs, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries, Uncategorized

Truman Blue Double Blue Muffins

Truman Blue Double Blue Muffins are super easy and to die for if you like blueberry muffins. If you add the blue cheese filling, they are to double die for.

Blueberry Muffin Recipe

  • 1 cup flour (I use gluten free, but it’s your choice)
  • 1 cup frozen mini blueberries (Available in grocery stores. As a kid, we called them huckleberries when we picked them at the forest edge).
  • 1/3 heaping cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 melted butter (vegan option coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt (or some kinda plant or animal milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (vegans know how to sub!)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl ad stir until completely blended. In another bowl, melt the butter, add the yogurt, vanilla, and egg, and stir until completely blended. Mix together well, the dry stuff, wet stuff and blueberries. Put globs into silicon muffin cups, filling about 1/2 full. (You will make about 16 mini muffins)

Cook in air fryer at 360 degrees for 10 minutes. Let them cool a bit so you don’t burn your mouth. If you slather with butter, or fill with the ingredients below you will be in heaven.

“Blue” Filling

  • 2 oz cream cheese slightly warmed so it spreads easily
  • blue cheese to taste

Split the muffin, spread with the soft cream cheese, and add as much blue cheese crumbles and you want. You can probably mix the cream cheese and blue cheese, but I like the uneven bites, some thick some sprinkles of blue cheese.

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Sadness to Smiles: Job Description for a Crisis Response Dog

Job Description of a Crisis Response Dog

Reports To: Certified Handler, who may feel weepy, overwhelmed, and tired.

Job Overview: Responsible for raising the spirits of people whose lives have been dramatically changed by devastating circumstances, without saying a word.

-Success is Measured By:

  • The number of sad faces turned to smiles
  • The number of hearts warmed for an instant
  • The number of humans provided with a moment of normalcy

Duties:

  • Approach hundreds of strangers who may be at the lowest points of their lives
  • Offer a warm furry body to provide comfort through the sense of touch
  • Care about humans with every fiber of your body
  • After comforting people you don’t know, comfort your handler

Qualifications:

  • Education & Certification
    • Obedience trained (CGC level)
    • Therapy Dog registered
  • Abilities
    • Ability to ignore food left on the floor, even if it smells really good and you are hungry
    • Ability to maintain composure around forklifts, people yelling, crying babies, boxes falling, inclement weather, big trucks revving engines, sirens, airplanes and other chaotic noises
    • Ability to endure hugs around the neck
    • Ability to endure boredom while handler chit-chats with other humans
  • Skills
    • On all types of footing, walk on a leash without pulling
    • Sit when told
    • Down when told
    • Stay when told

Physical Characteristics

  • Be a dog
Truman Blue at a disaster distribution center. Crisis response dog support staff as well as victims.

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Can You Still?

It was the first time since COVID. It’s a catch phrase with a new global understanding. It’s a phrase signifying as humans we collectively went through a change in our universe. We all wonder if we can still do “it”, whatever “it” may be.

Saturday, Truman Blue started back doing therapy visits at the hospital. In the past year and a half, he had done two crisis response visits but no regularly scheduled therapy visits. I wondered if he would still enjoy it, or if during COVID seclusion he decided he wanted to be a homebody and prefer the routine of the backyard to the stresses of meeting new people who had expectations.

As a therapy dog handler, I am very conscientious of my dog’s feelings. I don’t want to be the handler who pushes the dog up to someone, only to keep riveting eye contact with my dog as it endures the caresses of a stranger. I have seen therapy dogs who look to their handler with an expression of “can I walk away now?”. In dog language, they inform the petter that they do not want to be perceived as a threat by repeatedly turn their heads and eyes to the side. The dogs yawn to relieve stress. I don’t want my dog to be stressed by doing therapy visits.  

So, I arrived at the hospital branch, apprehensive. I chose a dual-purpose parking space under a shady tree. When Truman got out of the car, his nose went up and he surveyed the area. After using the tree, he headed straight for the door of the building. That was a good sign.

When the activity director opened the door, Truman pulled forward to say hello and to be petted. Truman was on it. He visited patients, obviously enjoying their caresses. He did his tricks flawlessly. He was on it. He drew smiles from folks who weren’t feeling it when we arrived.

Truman still does it.  

dogs, Therapy Dog, Uncategorized

Comforting Still

A tragic accident took the life of a elementary school student. COVID had everyone scared. Truman Blue and I responded anyway, in hopes of bringing smiles back to the child’s classmates. He did. The kids loved Truman.

Truman visited seventy something children and teachers. He was more quiet than usual, but I thought it was because we had not been able to visit in almost a year. He did his job and the kids smiled. What I didn’t know was that Truman had a painful ear infection. I found out when teacher rubbed him under his ear and he yelped. Fortunately it was near the end of our visiting. We only had a handful of very special children left to visit.

Although he did not show any of the regular signs of dog ear infection, only an occasional shake of the head. Of course Truman went to the vet and was put on medications for two weeks and recovered well.

I can’t help but love this dog more and more. He willingly endured pain while small children surrounded him. I don’t think I could have done that. He’s a good, good soul.

Book Cover for Cozy Therapy Dog, Connecting the Dots, A Truman Blue Mystery Book 1, Jane McAllen
Cozy mystery, dogs, elderly and dogs, Labrador Retriever, Margie Vonn, Mixed breed, old dogs, Senior dog owners, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries, Uncategorized

Book Launch! It’s Here! The first Truman Blue Mystery is out

The first book in the series is now available digitally for free from August 15 through August 19, 2020. Enjoy reading about the real life dog Truman Blue who is fictionalized Cozy Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries. Is fun, with a splash of education! Click here to order.

Book Cover for Cozy Therapy Dog, Connecting the Dots, A Truman Blue Mystery Book 1, Jane McAllen
Cozy Therapy Dog, Connecting the Dots, A Truman Blue Mystery Book 1