Houston SPCA caring for dogs seized from filthy trailer

Owner says circling UFOs made the animals unhealthy

By ANITA HASSAN
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Dec. 13, 2008, 8:56PM

photo
James Nielsen Chronicle

Dr. Dev Rajan, of the Houston SPCA, holds one of the terriers seized from a trailer in Fayette County earlier this month.

Houston SPCA veterinarian Roberta Westbrook lifted a trembling toy English fox terrier into her arms Saturday afternoon to examine the dog’s emaciated body.

The spine and ribs of the malnourished terrier were visible. The dog’s nails were overgrown and her tiny paws were soiled from living in her own feces. The dog was among 42 terriers brought to the Houston SPCA Friday from the Gardenia E. Janssen Animal Shelter in Fayette County.

Authorities in Fayette County seized the dogs on Dec. 3, after they were found living in a 5-by-9 foot trailer — eating, sleeping and giving birth in their own waste — with a woman who claimed the terriers were unhealthy because UFOs were circling above her home, said Houston SPCA spokeswoman Meera Nandlal.

“We don’t know if she was breeding them or why she was living with them in such a small space, ” Nandlal said.

Authorities in Fayette County could not be reached for comment on Saturday. It is unknown at this time if any charges will be brought against the woman.

The animal shelter enlisted the Houston SPCA’s help to house and care for the 40 dogs, some of whom are as old as 10. The terrier Westbrook was examining gave birth to two female puppies since she was removed from the trailer.

Most of the dogs are in poor physical condition. Two of them are missing limbs for unknown reasons.

“They could be purebred, but not the best standard,” Westbrook said.

All the dogs will undergo medical and behavioral evaluations. After being cleaned and treated, healthy dogs will be put up for adoption, Westbrook said, adding that those who need more time to recover will be placed in foster care.

The Houston SPCA often sees many large animal seizures, Nandlal said. Recently, the organization took in 70 feral cats.

“Unfortunately, it’s not unusual, ” she said. “There are all kinds of animals that are put into situations they have no control of.”

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The “Off” Switch. How to bring “Calmness” to your dog.

BEST DOG ON THE BLOCK  Dog Tips 

 

The “Off” switch.  How to bring “calmness” to your dog.

by Mark Siebel – Owner – DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training

 

I often walk into customers homes to be greeted by their dog’s high energy, often resembling that of a NASCAR racetrack.  The living room couches and love chairs are actually being used as a race track!  I typically get jumped on and greeted by a choir of glorious barking.  A dog’s high energy is great, but when used in an unfocused channel, it can become unbalanced and destructive.

 

A dog’s energy is generally determined by the overall energy of the other animals and humans around it.  This is easiest to see when you have a multiple dog pack.  Within minutes, one dog can begin a flurry of excitement among all!   If your home has been turned into the Talladega Superspeedway, follow the simple tips below to restore harmony with your dogs:

 

1.                    Zip it.  My favorite calming technique is the verbal silencing command called ZIP IT.  This is a command originated by DOGGIE STEPS and is very effective in connecting with a dogs mind set to eliminate and silence barking.  I like to give my dogs a 5-7 bark limit.  After the 7th bark, I command, ZIP IT.  Once they have silenced, I praise with voice, affection, and possibly food.  In time, your pooch will adhere to the verbal address of ZIP IT and the reward that follows.

 

2.                    5 in 1.   For many of my high-energy/aggressive cases I always want to give the dog a “job” or “alternate” task to complete when it appears that the energy is escalating into an unfocused channel.  I teach agility commands to accomplish this.  5 in 1 is a term DOGGIE STEPS uses to channel a dog’s energy on a table command.  Find a raised platform (i.e.,concrete block or picnic table) and begin a command sequence with,  table (or up), sit, down, stay, and off.  There you have it!  Five commands in one exercise!  Not only will this exercise work your dog mentally and physically, but will offer you an alternate task when confronted with an unbalanced energy challenge.  When the 5 in 1 exercise is completed in a set of three or more reps, it can also be referred to as “increment” training.

 

3.                    Party’s Over.  In order to obtain control and encourage calmness in your dog, they must know when the “off” switch has been flipped.  As discussed with the “Zip It” command, your dog must have an understanding of the energy you are willing to tolerate.  Party’s over is a term I use when a dog play-time session has lasted long enough, and I now want to gain calmness within the pack.  When that time arrives, address your dog pack as “Dogs!” and command, party’s over!  Place your body in the middle of the dogs to illustrate boundaries.  If the dogs continue to play, bite, or chase, address your command again and continue your body blocks.  Over time, your pack will learn that a play session has now ended, and the “off” switch has been flipped.

 

4.                    The importance of the Release.  With many of the commands I teach (i.e., leave it/take, heel/go play), it is vital that your dog makes the connection with the appropriate release.  Once you observe increased calmness with the “Off” switch, you can now begin to release your dog for normal play energy.  I then use “go play” or “free” to signal my dog that they are now free to play or run.  

 

So, for all you NASCAR fans out there, let’s keep the high energy races on the race track and NOT in the living room!  Dogs are extremely perceptive to a pack leaders energy and will begin to mimic your presented calmness when need be.  Stay focused with these new tips, and you’ll be crossing the checkered flag in no time!

 

Mark Siebel has trained over 500 Arizona Valley dogs, has dog training tips published monthly in various AZ magazines, appears on NBC Arizona Midday & ABC Sonoran Living, speaks regularly with local schools youth groups about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to kids who want to learn more about dogs.  He is a member of APPSA (Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association) and ASC of Arizona (Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona).  Mark owns (2) Australian Shepherds named Leinie and Kugel.  For more information or general dog questions, go to:  http://www.doggiestepsdogtraining.com/index.html or call Mark @602.318.0122.

Off-leash obedience; How to keep your dog close.

Off-leash obedience; How to keep your dog close.

by Mark Siebel – Owner – DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training

Oh…the dream of taking your dog to the park, taking him OFF the leash, and playing fetch without him running away! For some dogs this can be a reality. Unfortunately, for others, the instinctual desires to smell and track will make it difficult to trust their “off-leash” freedom. I tell customers that off-leash obedience is NOT for every dog, so be sure that your dog has mastered the “come” command before attempting any off-lead work.

Off-leash obedience takes time, repetition, and your dog’s awareness that YOU are the pack leader. Through daily exercises and by using a stern-voiced recall, followed by a treat and strong praise/affection, your dog may have what it takes to play fetch unleashed. To see if your off-leash dream can become a reality, follow the simple tips below:

1. Off-leash at your local baseball diamond. A great way to get your dog prepared for off-leash obedience is to work with him at an enclosed baseball diamond. Find a local ball diamond and arrive early or late in the day to ensure you will be the only ones there. Go prepared with a leash and poop bag to pick up after your dog. Enter the ball diamond and be sure ALL gates are closed behind you. Release your dog from the leash and begin to walk the perimeter of the park. After only a few times of this routine, your dog will begin to follow/come to you! You can also practice running backwards combined with the “come” command in the ballpark. For a local ball diamond near you check out: http://phoenix.gov/parks/parks.html

2. 50-foot lead. Next, your dog must link the off-leash connection at the ball park to the eventual freedom in an open park/field setting. To achieve this, purchase a 50 foot training lead from: http://www.choicepetmarket.com/ With the 50 foot lead, go to your local park or greenbelt and tie one end of the lead to your dog and the other to your waist. The purpose of this long lead is to teach your dog that he has a 50 foot radius in which to roam. If he goes straight right, you go straight left. Just as the lead is about to get taut, you will command “come!” and continue walking in the opposite direction as your dog. In time, a boundary will be set, and your dog will not exceed the 50 foot radius. Practice this exercise often until your dog no longer exceeds the entire length of the 50 foot lead.

3. Playtime with dogs already off-leash trained. With your dog now familiar with a 50 foot boundary, its time to acclimate him to a play environment with dogs already trained to be off- leash. I often help customers with this by bringing my two Australian Shepherds. Having dogs that STAY close to the handler off lead will keep a new dog close to the pack 90% of the time. If you see any oncoming passersby with or without dogs, leash up your dog to ensure they don’t run. If your dog begins to stray from the pack on this exercise, you may want to have a 4 foot lead attached just to stop your dog. If your dog roams and doesn’t stay with the pack, repeat tips 1 & 2 for a few more weeks.

4. Finally, off leash with lead still attached. You’re almost there! Now that your dog knows its boundaries and has run with an off-lead trained pack, you now can do the final test. Pick an early morning and go to your local park/field. Take some tasty treats and a ball with which to play fetch. Be sure no other passersby are near and drop your lead. Have your dog explore with the lead ON to be sure you can stop him if he strays. After you’re sure the boundary is being obeyed, you can then remove the leash and your dream has come true!

Off leash obedience can be achieved with time and patience. As stated earlier, this is NOT for every dog. After you have tried tips 1 & 2 you will have good idea if your dog will have the capacity to achieve off-leash obedience. Please also be aware of your local OFF LEASH LAWS. I’d recommend off-lead work ONLY for exercises like fetch or general retrieval. Otherwise, for safety and dog etiquette, have your dog remain leashed.


Tired of chasing your dog down the block? Read on-Mark Siebel

Come-Recall command. Tired of chasing your dog down the block? Read on..
by Mark Siebel – Owner – DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training

Have you ever seen the movie “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase? He has an Irish Setter named “Yellow Dog” and as soon as he brings him home, the dog runs away! Throughout the film, the dog reappears but will never come to anyone who calls him. Don’t let this happen to you! The come/recall command is a vital connection between you and your dog. It is important not only for safety, but for establishing the appropriate hierarchy in your pack structure.

The come command can be mastered with only a few simple exercises. With consistent practice and praise to your dog, your neighbors will be astonished in no time! To ensure your dog WON’T be a Yellow Dog, follow the below simple tips:

Come is ALWAYS a happy place. The come command should ALWAYS result in praise and affection for your dog. You NEVER want to recall your dog and correct or discipline. Any corrections or discipline should be used when you approach your dog, not on a recall command. A good recall exercise can be achieved on your daily walk; with your dog on the lead, run backwards and command come in the most energetic, enthusiastic voice you can muster. The more tone/pitch/frequency in your voice the better! I want your neighbors to look at you funny due to your heightened excitement! Bottom line, your positive energy will attract your dog to come to you, and will be seen as a happy place.

Hide and seek. A dog’s best sense is scent, followed by sound, and finally sight. To challenge your dogs’ senses and to help him register the come command, practice a good ole’ fashioned game of hide and seek. While your dog is distracted eating or playing with a toy, have you or one of your children run and hide in another room and yell “come fido!” When your dog seeks you out (via scent & sound) praise him with good come! This exercise will teach your dog that he is coming to a happy place when he finds you in your hiding spot.

Off-leash at your local baseball diamond. A great way to get your dog prepared for off leash obedience as well as mastering the come command is to work him at an enclosed baseball diamond. Find a local ball diamond and arrive early or late in the day to ensure you will be the only ones there. Go prepared with a leash and poop bag to pick up after your dog. Enter the ball diamond and be sure ALL gates are closed behind you. Release your dog from the leash and begin to walk the perimeter of the park. After only a few times of this routine, your dog will begin to follow/come to you! You can also practice running backwards combined with the come command in the ballpark as well. For a local ball diamond near you check out: http://phoenix.gov/parks/parks.html

Finally – Practice, practice, practice. Mastering the come/recall command takes time and practice. As I’ve stated in prior articles there is NO perfect dog, so, remember that if your practicing come/recalls be sure to use the leash until your dog is 70% confident of the command. The leash will always reinforce that the dog MUST come to you.

Sometimes the solutions to our problems are right in front of our noses. Don’t make the come command any more difficult than it is! Dogs instinctively WANT to follow a leader. With the proper recall techniques – tone of voice, praise, and affection – your dogs days of “cat & mouse, chase me down play” will be a thing of the past. Say NO to Yellow Dog, and say HELLO to your Good Dog!

Mark Siebel has trained over 500 Arizona Valley dogs, has dog training tips published monthly in various AZ magazines, appears on NBC Arizona Midday & ABC Sonoran Living, speaks regularly with local schools youth groups about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to kids who want to learn more about dogs. He is a member of APPSA (Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association) and ASC of Arizona (Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona). Mark owns (2) Australian Shepherds named Leinie and Kugel. For more information or general dog questions, go to: http://www.doggiestepsdogtraining.com/index.html or call Mark @602.318.0122.