Friday, June 24, 2011

Camp Doglando Week 2 Day 9

What the kids can teach you about Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer).

Today was a much relaxed day in terms of structured events, the kids had a lot of freedom to do more of what they enjoyed most in this camp.... and that was to be amongst the daycare dogs and help in our day care routine.

They got to witness a new dog's first day of Doglando and saw what it was like dealing with dogs that not only are untrained, with very poor name recognition, boundary control and mouthy.... and also totally unfamiliar with our environment and how much work it is to transition these dogs into our group.

Pickles, a boxer/pit mix was being taught to wait at the gates until called, when she choose to thrash herself against the staff and bulldoze her way through. The staff member grabbed her by her collar, in an attempt to stop her, and asked her to sit until she was deescalated and her arousal level was at a manageable and more coherent level. She fought this with full strength, attempting to lunge, back of her collar, wrap her feet around the staffs arms and then eventually even made teeth contact on the staff.

I came in to assist the staff, while another called all the dogs into a different yard (as we always do) and asked the kids to watch from the other side of the gate. Just as Pickles tried to fight her way out again, we heard one of the campers say "ohhh poor thing," I had a feeling she was not talking about myself or Charolette (our campus coach).

Finally, when we were at a point to allow the other dogs and campers in, we discussed what had happened. The kids got to see first hand how quickly dogs escalate and how important it is we work as a team. There was a point that Pickles was panting really hard from her attempt to win the fight, that you could see her esophagus totally open and gasping for air. The kids had never seen this before, and it were shocked at how enlarged it really was.

Many people don't know this either, but this particular breed's structure is very different than many dogs.They are meant to hold on to large animals and not let go. This is enabled by a wider mouth, and a larger esophagus because it allows the dog to hold on yet breathe at the same time.

Anyway, so after about spending 20 minutes with Pickles, helping her realize we followed rules at Doglando, and that freedom was earned slowly over time, not on her first visit, the kids realized why our dogs are so manageable and obedient compared to those they had seen at dog parks. This led to a great discussion.

Later on, we had a temperament assessment for two long haired dachshunds about 7 and 8 years of age. Silvia (Assistant Dean) was conducting this assessment, while we were in the class baking our puppies their graduation cake. In two weeks, the kids have learned to appreciate our "non barking" environment that even they have started responding to the slightest bark.

One of the dachshunds was waiting in our hallway, while the other was being assessed, when he started barking very loudly. The kids were quite irritated by his persistent bark, but the tone of the bark was concerning to me, so I went over to check him out. He was on full alert, guard, and displayed total threat to bite if approached. One of the campers looked over the half door that lead to the laundry room, and he came lunging forward towards the door. I grabbed our healing stick, and walked in extending the stick while pointing it to the ground. I did not want to approach him, but rather see what he would do if I were to stand on his side now, and not back off at his threats. The dog meant business. He came lunging forward, grabbed a hold of the bottom of the stick and then held it.... it was quite powerful and with a lot of strength coming from this little guy.

We asked the kids to leave so that we could continue our assessment without provocation and added stress, but just being there was more than what he could bare with.... we had to call it quits. We called his dad.

When he arrived, we explained to the father what he did, and how we could try and help. I asked him what his goals were for his dogs, and what the purpose of bringing him here was. He did not reveal much. I told him "in my opinion, unless you can truly stay committed through this process, and its going to be a long term one, starting by bringing him everyday and allowing for this to become part of his routine, then getting to the point where we can reduce his visits to 5 times a week, to 4 times a week to 3 times a week, as low as once a week.... and considering the stress this will put on these dogs at this age, we should really evaluate the purpose of this....." and our conversation carried on.

I did not realize one of the campers was in the hallway listening and watching our conversation, but she over heard him say "well Cesar Milan can work with these kinds of dogs, and he is not a dog that he would put in the red zone......" implying clearly we had not idea what we were talking about. I assured him that the dog could be helped, but again not without a commitment from him, its is certainly not something we can start working on only for him to say, well I don't see progress fast enough its not working or to quit.... this certainly would not be fair to the dog. He made another statement about Cesar Milan's ability to "cure" dogs like this, and ended with "what do I owe you."

Silvia wrapped up the conversation with him, and I left to go back to the campers, this is when I saw her in the hallway. During lunch, she brought up this conversation. She said "Miss Teena, you know the man you were talking to with in the shop, the one with the dachshunds, why was he acting like the dog had never done that before?" I was baffled. I always tell parents, kids are so darn sharp, they are always listening, and watching. They know! You can't hide the truth from them! And here it was, she over heard me ask him "have you seen this in your dog before, has he ever acted this way before?" And his answer was "he is a rescue." okay, what does that mean I thought to myself and asked, "how long have you had him? " He said "since he was 1."

I shared the story with the other campers who were not around at this time, and told them what he said regarding Cesar Milan. I asked the kids, "what do you think about that?" Their hands shot up like rockets, not waiting on his turn to answer one camper said out loud "Duh, its a TV Show!" and then thumped his fist on the table and shook his head. Another said "well then why don't you call him, why did you come here." And then sarcasm took over.

I told them this was a very common part of our job and something we have to deal with on a frequent basis...we talked about all the different types of situations we run into, they were so taken back by all this, I think they were really shocked! Maybe today they learned their first lesson on "common sense is not common!"

The rest of the afternoon was great fun! One of the campers loves to bake so she finished icing and decorating the cake, while the rest went swimming. You have to watch the video to see what I mean by great fun:


Denise Zaldivar with IES said...

I am truly enjoying reading about camp, the kids and dogs. I found the dachshund story very interesting. Thank you so much for sharing! And, yes, kids are great observers and learn very fast. Today, our almost 17 months Natalia went around our 4 dogs looking underneath to try to find their "boobies", because we were explaining to her and Gabi that dog Mamas also have "boobies" (which means, to them, they have milk). So, there goes Nati snooping around our 4 dogs. It was very clever and cute of her...

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