Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Wilson got adopted today. I'm sad to see him go but the family that has adopted him is so wonderful I can only be happy for them and him. The couple live in New Jersey with a big yard, and have four children between 5 and 12 who showered him with affection when they came to visit. He will be in heaven with grass to roll in, and children to play with. And talk about devotion - the family says they will take him on every holiday. Their last dog, also a rottweiler at 170 pounds! who passed away a few weeks back, would sit on the sofa with them, pillow under his head, and blanket on top. They have puppy neighbours too, so it is everything I could have wished for for the little guy. From the streets of Harlem on his own three weeks ago, Wilson now has a huge loving family. A very happy tale. 
I wanted to share something I read recently in a book called 59 seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman. Those with dogs know only too well the benefits of having a canine friend but Professor Wiseman has researched scientific evidence to prove that having a dog is truly good for us. Karen Allen of the University of New York at Buffalo assembled a group of city stockbrokers suffering from hypertension and randomly divided them into two groups – one of which was given a dog to look after. After six months, the blood pressure of those that were assigned dogs was significantly lower than the group without. Dogs also proved more effective in alleviating mental stress than one of the most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension. 
Wiseman goes on to discuss several theories as to why this may be. Arguments being that the exercise associated with walking dogs have a physical and psychological benefit. Another is that dogs act as the ultimate "non-judgmental friend" like a devoted therapist. An alternative is that touching and stroking a dog has a calming benefit. But the biggest argument made is that dogs make people sociable - by talking with other dog owners in the park, or being stopped by strangers on the street who want to pet your dog. Says Wiseman: "As spending time with other people is a major source of happiness and health, dogs' inadvertent but effective ability to bring people together plays a major role in promoting the well-being of their owners". So there we have it. As proven by scientists, we should all have a dog in our lives.
Here's a photo of me with Brian - foster number 1 – an old chihuahua that had been set upon by rats. That was a year and a half ago. Am I less stressed now than pre-Brian? Hmm, I'm not so sure. But I do have a lot more friends.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


So Wilson is still with us, getting bigger by the day. A potential adopter is due to come in about 10 days so fingers crossed for him. It will be a heart-wrench to let him go. He's a real Mummy's boy. 
Fortunately he was house-trained within just a few days. I wonder if that was from his previous owner. In part I like to think it was down to having him on a schedule. The rule of thumb being: the number of months is the number of hours they can hold their bladders – so I've made sure he goes outside every three and a half hours and gets lots of praise when he does his business outside, and no water is left out past 8pm. Now he's confident enough to run down the stairs and go in the yard when he needs to - sorry neighbours!
I was fortunate to go on a training session with Lee Charles Kelley for a cute little yorkie puppy who had some separation anxiety. It became clear how important it is for puppies and dogs to play with toys. This little yorkie was not into toys at all so when he became stressed that his owner had left the room, he had nowhere to turn to to relieve that anxiety. Wilson, happily, is keen to sink his teeth into anything and I make sure he has lots of gentle tug of war and fetch. When he whines when I eat, it is only a few moments before he runs off to grab a toy to chew to relieve his energy, and on walks when he gets a bit daunted, I take a toy for him to chew on on the way. Encouraging dogs to play with toys takes time. Using treats as playthings, or even using the natural things that dogs choose to play with like paper or shoes can help put them on the path towards playing with toys. Fingers are still not preferable, and it seems the bitter apple spray on hands and feet has made Wilson learn that he needs to look elsewhere for something to chew. Fortunately he leaves the furniture alone, although socks and trousers are fair game (when they're lying around – not when they're being worn!)
Anyway, we are off to the dog park, where I am happy to say Wilson is becoming more confident. He had to spend a few days at a boarders in Massachussetts - The Woof and Whisker Inn - where the owners kept him in their home and he could play outside all day with doggy daycare clients. It's done him the world of good being around dogs so much, and it's so nice to see him becoming more comfortable with his doggy peers. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


After a long summer away from the city, it's nice to be finally back on east ninth street. What's even nicer is that foster number 12 has arrived – a three/four-month rottweiler mix weighing in already at 27 pounds, named Wilson after my favourite House character and the basketball that is a loyal companion to Tom Hanks when he is stranded on a desert island.
Wilson arrived two days ago, having been found wandering the streets of Harlem, and is a little handshy and nervous around dogs.
I spent some time talking about puppy training with Lee Charles Kelley and have started some gentle socialising exercises to help him get over his nerves.
We're spending an hour or so in the dog run which he was initially very tentative about. One tip is to move a step away from him every time he tries to sit on my feet or hide between my legs so that he gradually becomes more comfortable with feeling on his own in the run. He runs for cover under the nearest bench though when dogs seems a little too interested in him. It takes a lot of will-power not to try and comfort him when he's scared, but lots of "good boy!" and little by little he'll find his feet there rather than becoming over-reliant on an owner.
One tip for getting him acclimatized to all those hands that keep coming his way to pet him is to put some butter on your palm and let him lick it off. Then, putting a treat in a closed fist and smearing butter on the knuckles, he is learning that licking the outside of the hand gets the treat inside. Hopefully this will prepare him.
I also took Wilson out today to Stuyvesant Town where there are lots of children so he can become comfortable with little legs running past him and seeing a human at eye level. He passed with flying colours, letting children gently pet him without the usual puppy biting.
Above all, I'm trying to follow the natural dog training methods that mean not inhibiting his puppy bite (as with Daisy) and allowing him to explore a little on his own without fussing over him. He's a little independent anyway so fingers crossed he is going to grow up to be brave and well-adjusted rather than suffering from separation anxiety down the line.
Oh, and we also tried water today! Making every new experience positive is the best thing to do for a puppy. Skateboards, bikes, squirrels, cats and showers all become chances for playtime or treats and lots of praise. Bless him, he jumped into the shower to join me on his own accord. He's going to be a 120 pound heartbreaker when he grows up!
Here is a blog by Trisha Selbach who is raising her puppy purely as per Kevin Behan's natural dog training book.  http://hero.naturaldogtraining.com/