Thursday, October 31, 2013

#PetSafe & The Bloggers Summit & A Special Contest

Stratosphere above the skyline in Knoxville

When the invitation came from PetSafe (Radio Systems) to join their Bloggers’ Summit this year I thought there had to be a mistake. I’m quite outspoken against electronic collars and fences. I don’t believe in aversive training. It hurts the dog and breaks down the human-animal bond. And there’s no need for it when we live in a kinder, gentler world, especially when we can use operant conditioning or lure and reward. It’s no secret that I’m fully supportive of The No Shock Collar Coalition (
On the other hand, Radio Systems had purchased both Drinkwell and Premier. I was pretty sure the fountains were safe but I am one of those who has been very concerned about their purchase of Premier which specialized in products for positive training for dogs and cats.
            I was up-front about wanting to see whatever was positive and, to their credit, they did not rescind their invitation. If I was destined to be the thorn in their paw, so be it. Truthfully, they could not have been nicer and made a point of telling me that they have had veterinary behaviorists visit. They want to hear from those of us who don’t agree with them. Are they hoping to change our minds? Maybe. Will they? No. There is too much information to back-up what so many of us believe about electronic collars and fences.  Sadly, I got to witness it first-hand.  The toughest part of the trip was a demo by their “trainer.” He had his own dog, a German Shepherd there who he said hadn’t had one of their collars on in a long time, as well as a lovely Pit Bull in for training. When he started to put the collar on his dog, the dog tried to get away, and rightly so.  When he finally got the collar on and the dog’s head went down, there was no question that the dog’s entire body language changed. His head and tail went down, he drooped, he looked defeated. I could have cried. Then the “trainer” said he was using “positive” training while he used the collar and threw treats at the dog! This is NOT positive training. He really has no understanding of the basics. It was gut-wrenching to watch.
            That said, it’s not all bad news and I hope you will stick with me through this post because I have much to say.
            The people who work at PetSafe are lovely and the positive products deserve our attention.  Why?  Because they are doing the right thing with the Premier line and we need to encourage the good. If the company sees that we find the positive in their positive line, they will give it more attention – that’s just good business sense.  And they do have some wonderful things for our companions.  The familiar Premier clicker is still there. They have created something called Lickety Sticks, a very low calorie treat that you can use for rewarding your pet. YOU hold it and allow the dog to lick it. It comes in several flavors. 

I suggested they make one with a long, or telescoping stick for tall people with small dogs. You do NOT allow the dog to have the entire stick or hold it because the dog could swallow it. The treat is strictly controlled by the owner. There’s a clicker leash with the clicker attaching right onto the leash itself. PetSafe has expanded out the bait bag to now hold more, including a special spot for Lickety Sticks.
There is a line of clothing that goes over the dog’s four paws and velcros down the back – easy on and easy off and nice and warm for your little companion. 
There’s a remote treat dispenser for your dog or cat that you control.  They even have new housetraining systems that will have your pup rewarded for going on the right place.  This I see as good for apartment dwellers and elderly people who may not be training their pets to go outside.  And they have so much more.

            Premier’s safe cat harness with the great bungee leash is still there, they have an assortment of positive cat and dog toys.  They have oral care biscuits and treats.
            The company’s president and founder, Randy Boyd, sees much good in putting back into the community, along with the communities in other countries where his company has an office. They create dog parks with rules for safety, they contribute to The University of Tennessee’s Veterinary School where we toured the hospitals. The University has the ultimate training program for people who want to learn physical therapy for pets, among other wonderful programs. Some of the company’s products are in a new house on the Home and Garden Network based at Scripps, which we also toured. That’s also the home of DIY Network and The Food Network, among others.

            The company gives money to animal welfare and youth organization education. Returned products that aren’t defective are given to local shelters in a 7 county radius. They donate to the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation, support local dog and cat shelters in Shenzhen, China and they support Tennessee Achieves wherein mentors support kids through college admissions and staying in school and they pay for kids to go through community college.  They also have a contest to put a dog park into a community in the. U.S.  They are helping to increase the number of dog parks in the U.S.
            I’ll be revisiting PetSafe periodically with reviews of positive products, some tested by my Aimee, others tested by pets who can give these items the challenge that they need. 

            While we got to visit Knoxville’s highlights, our last night was spent at the home of singer/composer, Jay Clark who also has a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. His wife, also a Ph.D. works for the forestry service. Both were laid-back and charming. We were treated to a concert beside a bonfire, which followed a wonderful catered barbecue with real down-home food. The stars were many in the clear sky.  It was a nice way to end our few days in Knoxville.  
Jay Clark and his Group
            Now, for those of you who have stuck with me through this entire post, and most of you should know by now that my blog is content-rich, I have a contest for you.  PetSafe has agreed to put together a PetSafe Positive Package for my readers! You will receive one of their nice new Bait Bags, Lickety Sticks, a Clicker and a species-appropriate toy, so whether you have a cat or a dog you are eligible to win!  Just comment on this post and tell me why you want to win!  The contest ends on November 7th.   That gives you plenty of time to enter!
            And let’s all remember to reward the positive!

NOTE:  PetSafe paid for my airfare, hotel and meals. The opinions expressed are, however, entirely my own.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: Bite This Book

When Lony Ruhmann adopted a puppy named Juve (Hoo-Vee), the poor thing developed distemper, a disease that has all but been eradicated. While others may have had the dog put down, Ruhmann decided to to treat the puppy, nursing him back to health.  It was a major effort that would take 6 months.

Part of Ruhmann's process wasn't just talking to the puppy, but reading to him as well.  This is an interesting technique that I have known others to use but my guess is that they came upon it individually, that there is no formal effort behind doing this for a dog.  Much as you would read to a sick child, there is comfort for both the reader and the patient in the soft, sing-song words of a child's book.  

About two years after this took place, Ruhmann now has a book written for dogs, to be read to dogs at any time, containing vignettes that support the dog's point of view.  Allegedly, the book was also written by Juve. Make of that what you will. 

The simple text is colorfully illustrated by Pritali Joharapurkar and would appeal to children with its bright tones. 

Will your dog like it? Your dog will like anything that allows him to share quiet bonding time with you. This book is simple, inexpensive and charming in its way.  Ruhmann's purpose in writing it was to encourage people to adopt pets, preferably special needs dogs. In that his goal is admirable.

Should you read to your dog?  Why not?!  

Ruhmann with Juve
Choosing to build the bond is a wonderful thing and you don't have to wait until your dog is sick. You can start today.

Visit the book's website:

You can order the book from Amazon:

DISCLAIMER  I was sent a digital review copy of this book but have received no compensation for this review.  The review itself is my own, containing my thoughts on the book.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

CHASER; Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words

Those of us who have had and loved dogs have known how smart they are. We don’t really question that our dogs understand what we say. We know that eventually we have to spell words like c-o-o-k-i-e and w-a-l-k.  And after awhile only the first couple of letters of the word will elicit a response. That’s the way we pet owners discuss it, anecdotally.  But scientists demand far more proof that the dog actually knows and understands the words that are spoken.  Enter John W. Pilley, psychology Professor Emeritus at Wofford College and his Border Collie, Chaser, whose experience is shared in Chaser Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John W. Pilley with Hilary Hinzmann.

Chaser entered Pilley’s life in 2004 when his wife decided her husband needed a puppy for Christmas. Chaser was acquired from a dedicated breeder whose dogs are known for their herding skills. From the day Chaser came home with Pilley and his wife, Pilley began talking to her, somewhat in the way a parent would talk to a small child, which is how children learn languages.

While teaching Chaser the basics of obedience, using positive reinforcement, all of Chaser’s learning has been the result of positive reinforcement using play. Pilley began teaching her the names of her toys. Adding to them, and building problem-solving situations into each new level. She has learned the names of over one thousand objects. Yes, you read that correctly.

A study of another Border Collie, Rico, in Germany was not as comprehensive. Rico only knew about a hundred words and the scientists picked apart the study. Pilley, while allowing Chaser to be a wonderful, happy companion, also used games to teach Chaser and to build a scientific study that ultimately could no longer be challenged.  How he accomplished this is carefully laid out in the book.  As a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, I was intrigued but the nice thing is that this is written in such easy style that any pet owner can read it, enjoy it, and relate to Prof. Pilley and Chaser.  And they can try the same things with their own dog.

Chaser has been seen on television, has been the topic of news reports, but here you get to meet the dog up-close and personal, to see the love and the bond between dog and owner that will be so familiar to dog owners. 

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I think you’ll agree. I highly recommend it. It will be available on October 29th.

See the Book Trailer here:

See more about Chaser and links to buy the book here:

And you can follow Chaser on Twitter:

You are invited to participate in a special #BlogPawsChat on Twitter where you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book. I hope you’ll join us there on October 22 at 8PM ET.

NOTE: This is a sponsored post for CHASER in cooperation with BlogPaws ( however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

National Feral Cat Day 2013

October 16, 2013. What makes this day special?  It's National Feral Cat Day 2013. Alley Cat Allies ( does a wonderful job of helping make life better and safer for Feral Cats.  Too much misunderstanding surrounds these cats. For years, volunteers have fed, watered, trapped, neutered and returned feral cats to their colonies where they can live out their lives in peace, no longer able to reproduce but quite capable of leading happy lives, allowing for as much or as little human interaction as they like.

These cats have been vilified by far too many people, including slanted alleged "studies" of the "harm" they do to birds and the environment. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.  They are living, breathing sentient beings who deserve to live out their lives in peace and, through attrition, the colonies of these cats die out of, hopefully, natural causes, not reproducing any more. Sometimes the kittens can be rescued and can be gentled to become loving indoor pets. Wherever they are they have a right to live out their lives in peace and relatively good health.

A number of events are scheduled around the country, more than 400 of them!  You can find one near you by going online to:

There will also be an online Webinar at 7 p.m. EDT on the 16th. For the Helping Cats in Your Community Webinar point your browser to:

It's important for all of us to remember humane animal care. Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane treatment of Feral Cats.   There is much to learn and much to be celebrated.  I hope you'll help celebrate National Feral Cat Day 2013.