It’s been awhile, and Breed Specific Legislation   6 comments

I’ve been so busy with Castiel that I haven’t had time to update his blog!

Castiel is doing very well.  We start formal training classes in a week.  He’s learning to heel with a wave of the hand near our hip.  He walks beautifully on a loose lead.  He cuddles us and loves us.  He’s learning manners.  He’s very well socialized and now weighs 40 lbs!

His recall is quite good (practiced in a fenced off area) as long as he’s looking at us.  Down the road, we’ll likely get a remote vibration collar to use as his ‘look at me’ command.

He gets along really well with our cats and he loves people.  Most people don’t believe us when we tell them he’s deaf.

All that said, and I’m going to be updating MUCH more regularly, I’d like to take a moment to talk about another marginalized group that’s in more danger even than deaf dogs.

I live in Ontario.  In Ontario, all ‘pit bull type’ dogs are banned.  This includes any animal that looks like a ‘pit bull.’  If your animal is mistaken for a pit, they can enter your home and remove the dog and you may or may not be able to get them to bring it back to you, even if you are able to prove that your dog is not a pit.  It’s stupid and dog bites haven’t decreased in the years since this legislation passed.

If you have a ‘grandfathered’ pit bull, then your animal must be muzzled at all times in public.

Today, Castiel and I attended the Million Mutt March in Toronto.  Sadly, Kelly had to work.  While there, Castiel saw muzzles for the first time in his life.

A friendly, sweet natured ‘pit bull’ approached him, tail wagging. This dog was muzzled. Castiel, my puppy, in a panic, snapped and yelped and skittered backwards in horror. The dog in the wheelchair didn’t frighten him. The dog with no eyes didn’t scare him. My puppy, who confidently approaches ‘scary’ breeds like Dogo Argentine, was frightened in a way that I have never seen before. Castiel has been introduced to somewhere in the vicinity of 150 to 200 dogs or more in his short life.  We strongly believe in socialization as being one of the best ways to have a balanced, good natured animal.

I attribute his terror to the muzzle on the animal’s face. That was the only reason for him to be afraid. That was the only difference between this dog and any of the hundred or more others that Castiel has met and gotten along with. I spoke to my friend, who has two great danes, and apparently hers are often afraid of dogs with certain muzzles on.  Her dogs fear the cage style muzzles.  Castiel seemed most afraid of the strap type ones.

After awhile, Castiel stopped panicking when faced with muzzled animals and he calmed down. We had a great time at the March and met so many awesome people. In spite of that, the image of Castiel running from a potential friend in terror stays with me.

Why are people really afraid of ‘dangerous breeds’? I believe that the muzzles make people afraid of the dogs, as much as anything, and that their fear reactions instigate fear reactions from the dogs, in a vicious cycle where someone, in the end, gets hurt.  Any trainer worth their salt will tell you that reacting with fear to an animal will make it scare you and can create behaviour problems!

Why are we making dogs scary? Why are we making it so that animals respond to each other and us in fear? Why are we CREATING a problem in this manner?

Please help Ontario stop breed specific legislation.  First they came for the Pit Bulls… Who’s next?  There’s a city in the US where all dogs over 100 lbs, regardless of breed, are banned as dangerous animals.

I leave you with a quote from Martin Niemöller.  Just replace socialists, trade unionists and Jews with pit bulls, rottweilers and dobermans and you’ll have some idea of why breed specific legislation affects EVERY dog owner.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is the poor baby that terrified Castiel.  Photograph courtesy of Paul Hickey Photography.


Crates are lifesavers. No ifs, ands or buts   5 comments

After the past week, there is very little doubt in my mind that crates save lives–and not just due to accidents.  As discussed in a past post, puppies are balls of mischief, urine and teeth.  They are constantly underfoot.  They need constant supervision.  If you’ve ever read Harry Potter, remember the battlecry of Mad-Eye Moody–“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”  You now have an idea of what life is like with a new puppy that you don’t want to lock into a single empty room.

We put off too long getting Castiel’s crate.  And thus we had no crate when he arrived.  We said “Oh, don’t worry about it.  We’ll just tether him to us 24/7 and it’ll be the same thing.  We’ll get his crate in a few days.”

Those two days took their toll on us.  We had him in bed with us.  He was tied to us 24/7.  By the time a day had gone by, we were exhausted.  We couldn’t eat–food prep was impossible with puppy teeth in our ankles.  We couldn’t sleep enough to have any meaning–puppy was bouncing on us wanting to play.  We couldn’t take a deep breath and sit at our computers for ten minutes to think–puppy wanted to know what these things were we were paying attention to when we should CLEARLY BE LOOKING AT HIM!

We made it five nights like that and both of us were honestly just about ready to pack it in.  Five nights of constantly needing to pay attention to the puppy with no ability to sit down, calm down and breathe.  We were exhausted.  We were fighting with each other.  We were getting short with him.  I’m not ashamed to admit this because it will help others.

Then we went out and bought his crate.  He’s never in there all that long–we want to take him out and play with him.  But when we are making food or eating, it’s so nice not to have a puppy helping.  We got sleep last night.  Actual sleep.  Hours of it.  It was brilliant.  I have never enjoyed a meal more than I enjoyed the food we ate with him in the crate for our first meal after CONSTANT VIGILANCE.

Anyone who might say to anyone that a crate is cruel and you wouldn’t cage a family member, I laugh.  You most certainly would.  If you had a baby who was just starting to crawl, wouldn’t you put that baby down somewhere enclosed, like a pack and play or a crib, in order to keep them safe while you did laundry or the cooking?  If you wouldn’t, then you’re probably wearing the baby on your chest or in some other way restraining it.  Puppies need restraint.  No one can, 24/7 be on alert.  You can’t do it.  It’s impossible.

If you had a colicky baby who required 24/7 carrying and soothing, you would eventually need to put the baby down for five minutes and walk away or you would go insane and do something unpleasant to yourself or the child or someone else.  Crates are the place you can put the puppy to nap so you can do something that doesn’t involve the puppy.

As I write this, Castiel is sound asleep in his crate, curled up with his pet pteranadon, Myfanwy and his Nylabone.  We had a late dinner and I decided to write this after eating.  He hasn’t woken up since we started eating–and he went in the crate when we started.  He hasn’t been in there long, but he’s totally happy to nap.  It’s no different than napping at our feet, except that we don’t have to spend the whole time watching for signs of wakefulness and worrying that we’re not going to be able to finish dinner.

And that, my friends, is what we call a lifesaver.

That’s one way to prove his hearing (or lack thereof)   3 comments

When the vet saw him to determine his hearing, the vet’s opinion was that he was almost completely deaf or deaf and no further testing was needed.  There was some debate as to whether he might have some small amount of hearing, but he was so non-reactive to sound that it didn’t matter for training purposes.

This afternoon, the fire alarm went off.  Kelly was home with Castiel.  Castiel was napping in his crate (He is a puppy and, as stated in a previous  post, he can get obnoxious, so Kel was taking a brief puppy break).  The fire alarm for our building is very loud.  It’s louder and more piercing than any school fire alarm that I’ve ever heard in my life.

Castiel slept through it.  He didn’t even wake up until Kelly opened the crate door to take him outside.  When he was awake, he was completely chill about it and didn’t react to the sound at all.

We’ve found some benefits to this lack of hearing.  We can discuss things while the puppy is napping without waking him up.  We can do dishes without having the puppy get disturbed.  When the cats start yelling at each other in the other room, the puppy doesn’t go to investigate.

It does pose challenges.  I mentioned bite inhibition before.  We have to grab his muzzle and give him a shake to train him not to bite, which I feel so bad doing to a puppy his age, but, as someone said to us, imagine how bad we’d feel if someone got hurt, dealing with animal control and insurance companies.

This is certainly a new and exciting journey for us.

Posted February 24, 2011 by thoenix in bite inhibition, chewing, Deaf dogs

And it begins-training!   3 comments

I am going to tell you a secret.  Some people might be horrified to hear it.

Puppies are not tiny balls of sunshine, happiness and perfection.  They are four-legged balls of mischief, urine and naughtiness.

The ‘shiny’ of getting a new puppy wears off very, very quickly.  Usually about the third time they pee on your floor or the fourth time you take them out in freezing temperatures to pee only to have them stare at you like you’re the biggest moron they’ve ever seen in your life and refuse to urinate–only to do it as soon as you get into the nice, warm house.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss a quote I found in another blog called Dog Foster Mom. I found this quote in a post entitled Deaf Dogs, discussing her first deaf foster, a dog named Tulsa.

“I forgot one basic rule – a dog is a dog first, their breed second, and their disability last.”

Castiel is an 8 week old puppy.  His personality is perfect for us and he will grow into the dog we want, I’m sure of that.  But right now, he’s a dog first and a puppy more specifically.  He chews everything in sight.  He barks at the cats.  He wants to play when we don’t want to play (like at 2 am) and wants to nap when we want to play.  He’d rather chew anything we don’t want him to chew than what we do want him to chew.

None of this has anything to do with his breed or his disability.  This all is simply a reflection of being a baby animal with sharp pointy teeth and the ability to move around with some level of co-ordination.  He is a dog.  At this point, his breed doesn’t even play into it yet, outside of his size.  It’s a little frustrating to take the puppy for a walk and have him get tired and need to carry home a dog as big as he is!  But that’s our fault for overestimating his stamina.  We’ve made a sling out of a bedsheet to take with us in case of over-tired puppy.

When he gets just a little tired or doesn’t want to move, he simply puts his butt down and stares at us.  We’ve decided to just ignore him when he does this–within a few seconds of no attention, he changes his mind and decides to come with us after all.  He wants attention.

He also wants both of his people together.  He wants us both in his sight whenever possible, which is rather adorable.  He’ll sit his bum down if someone falls behind on a walk and wait for them to come into sight.  He’s already bonding to us and that’s wonderful.

He’s sweet.  He’s cuddly.  He’s very excited to see us.  We love him like no one’s business.  He also seems to have some cleverness to him.

About 4 out of 5 times, Castiel is responding correctly to our sign for sit.  It’s not set in stone and we’re reinforcing it heavily, but this is huge.  He’s been home just about 48 hours, so this is a big update for us.  Other commands will take more time, but hopefully this is an excellent start and is a sign of good things to come.

Castiel is now home.   Leave a comment

Castiel arrived home yesterday.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t be home to meet him–I had to work.  This made me sad, but I survived.  He’s beautiful.  He’s sweet.

And he chews everything! He’s also a ‘steal pee-er.’

We’re working on the chewing.  I was expecting it.  He’s an 8 week old puppy.  They chew things.  So we went out and bought him toys to chew on.  He’d rather chew on our bike tires (we keep our bikes in the apartment because there’s no safe place to keep them here), our dustpan, our clothes and us.  So the name of the game right now is redirect, redirect, redirect, redirect and ignore him when he chews on us.  We’ve added a plastic pop bottle to our list of ‘acceptable chewies’.  He likes to chase it when we toss it.

I’m having some issues with bite inhibition–traditional bite inhibition won’t work with him because he doesn’t respond to a ‘yip’ sound.  I’ll be consulting trainers for this, but, for now, the response we’re using is to remove whatever he just nipped and then ignore him until he does something else. We’re doing a LOT of rewarding him for good behaviour to make sure that poor behaviour is not nearly as appealing as good behaviour.  We’ll be meeting with some new friends of ours who have trained their deaf danes without help (and trained them pretty much perfectly) for advice and assistance and we’ll start puppy classes next month.

As for housebreaking, well, that’s a challenge wholly unrelated to his hearing!  Castiel pees on the sly.  I don’t mean by that that he goes to a corner he can’t be seen and pees (we don’t let him out of our sight in the flat).  I mean that he doesn’t sniff or paw or even squat before he starts peeing.  We’ve got him on a timer when he’s awake right now.  Every ten minutes, he goes out.  He gets a couple of minutes on a patch of grass outside and, if he pees, he gets loving and a little fragment of a chicken dog treat (pure baked chicken).  We had a couple of accidents last night while we adjusted to the stealth peeing and discovered a timeline that worked for him (fifteen minutes is too long–we kept missing him by literally one minute), but, knock on wood, no accidents yet today.

Castiel slept through the night very well, between us in bed (so we could take him out right away when he woke up to catch him peeing and be able to reward him for peeing outside).  We’re currently following umbilical or tethered training techniques because we want him to learn to look to us before doing anything.  We need for him to learn to look right at us so we can give him commands.

We’re working on teaching him to sit right now and, when greeting people on walks, we don’t allow him to put his paws on people at all.  The number one thing we’re trying to remember with training Castiel is that, while he’s small right now, he is growing up very quickly.  If it isn’t something that would be okay for a 150 lb dog to do, then it isn’t appropriate for him to do now.

Castiel visits home   2 comments

Today, we got to meet our baby for the first time.  He’s beautiful.  His temperament is absolutely perfect for us.  He and his mum and his Grandma Dori came to our place to let him explore for a couple of hours.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Castiel appears to have some very limited hearing, though we’re not sure on it.  When he’s asleep, if you clap right near his head or whistle right next to his ear, he does wake up, but it’s not with a startle.  It’s more a gentle ‘something just bugged me’ so it may be that he is very sensitive to air currents.  If he does have any hearing, it is limited enough that it may as well not exist.  We tried clapping away from him when he was awake and, while his mother startled, he didn’t even seem to notice.  At this point, though, it’s impossible to say if he heard it and was just so overstimulated that he didn’t notice or if he just couldn’t hear it.

We had a lot of fun.  Our smallest cats weren’t very happy, but they had calmed down by the end of the visit.  He pranced around and investigated everything.  He really liked the water from our cat fountain, which just cemented the fact that I’m going to buy a larger water fountain for him.  I was so happy.

At the end of his visit, we took him to the pet shop around the corner to meet our favourite clerks.  He had a collar and leash on for the first time ever and he walked brilliantly.  His leash was loose the whole way, pretty well, though he didn’t seem to like his paws on the very cold cement, so we ended up carrying him for stretches to let them warm up.

At the pet shop, he explored for a few minutes, then fell asleep on the floor between my partner’s feet.

He comes home the 19th and we can’t wait.

Posted February 10, 2011 by thoenix in Deaf dogs, Preparing for a puppy, The perfect dog

An email from Castiel   Leave a comment

Today, we got an email from Castiel.  He’s doing well and growing every day.  The picture above is of his first drink of water from the big dogs’ bowl!  He’s a cutie pie.  I love the dribbles on the edge of the bowl!

Here’s the body of his email:

To my new family,
Hi this is castiel here, it is very difficult to type with claws but I am gonna try while grandma dori is out of the room, You see I love exploring and I hate being cooped up in the pen with Mom and my siblings. Today Grandma let me out and I hung out with my dad Cruiser and my half sister Rain (she is 14 weeks so is fun to play with but sometimes I think she thinks I am one of her stuffed toys she has one that is bigger then me!!) but not for long cause I am growing every day.  It was so much fun to be free!! and then I got to take a nap on Grandma’s bed with Rain. it was better then the dog bed we have in the pen and beside shade never lets me or any of the Harls in. just Her and Trent get to go in and she growls if  me or the harls try! She is very Bossy!! but she will be so jelous that I got to go on the big bed…
then I got to drink out of the big dogs water dish but I don’t like water very much it is too cold, I prefer Mom’s milk cause it is nice and warm. We got shavings in our pen yesterday so we are learning how to not potty on the blankets. I sometimes forget but when you gotta go you gotta go.
we also got to try this Mushy stuff that Grandma put in the pen yesterday. It was really good and I had a great time slurping it up but then Mom gave me a bath which I hate, she puts her giant foot on me and licks me all over and I can’t move until I am clean.

well I gotta go… (feel free to put this on my blog!!) have more adventures will type more msg to you just wanted you to know what a day in the life of me was like…

Clever little thing, isn’t he?  Thanks to his Grandma Dori for ‘helping’ him with that.

We’re very fortunate in that Grandma Dori is also willing to board him any time we need to go away, which makes me very happy that he’ll be going to someone that we KNOW loves him already.

Posted January 17, 2011 by thoenix in dog boarding, Preparing for a puppy, The perfect dog

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