Big Shoes to Fill Wednesday, Nov 30 2011 

Bri has a really big set of shoes to fill, or vest I guess.

Holly and Bri, past and future Service Dogs. They make quite an interesting pair.

Since washing out in August Holly has been a happy pet, except for coming with me to see my therapist. She had been comfortable working in that setting and I fully intended to have her continue to come with me until Bri was fully ready to take over the job.

Holly's always been such a good girl, I love my hound girl.

Unfortunately yesterday I decided we need to completely throw in the vest. She showed a very, very high level of stress and worry when I started having an attack. She still did her job, but I think it’s time to hang up the vest until Bri is ready to take on the task.

Holly's vest looks so strange on Bri.

Bri has a lot of learning to do and growing too.

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Brigantia


Rollin’ With the Big Dogs Wednesday, Nov 30 2011 

Today, Bri gets to start rollin’ with a dog that may be only a little smaller than she’ll be when she’s grown up!

Huck and Bri, all big grins. Edna was on the sidelines trying to pull Holly off her high horse.


Huck’s a handsome Bernese Mountain Dog, he’s joining our Noonish walks on Tuesdays. Hopefully he’ll tag along a little more often, he’s sweet, sweet boy!

Our Tuesday Noontide gang now numbers four;

Left to Right: Huck, Bri, Edna & Holly. Usually they never get to pull like this, but I wanted to grab this shot.


They’re quite a fun group, though Holly, brat that she is, dislikes the enthusiasm of the other three. She has decided to treat them with great disdain.

Bri really liked Huck, he probably reminded her of a Newfie.

On the training front, Bri is starting puppy classes at Ahimsa Dog Training this Thursday! Ahimsa is a lovely clicker training school, owned by Grisha Stewart, the developer of BAT. We’re so excited to start there! I think that both Bri and I will have a much better time with this more competent school.

Until Later!

Kat & Holly

Is It Ending? Sunday, Nov 27 2011 

I sure hope it is!

I think (and I say this with fingers crossed, touching a horseshoe, and knocking on wood) that Bri is finally coming out of her fear stage!!

As I’m sure many of you know, one of the absolute most important things in a Service Dog is being friendly with dogs and people. Friendly, but not fling-themselves-at-you kind of friendly.

One of the things that has been making me incredibly nervous about Bri and her future as a Service Dog was how she was nervous of people and other dogs. After chewing my nails and talking to several other people who are very experience with the giant breeds, they confirmed that Newfies, as well as other giant breeds, mature more slowly than most breeds of dogs. So Bri entered her fear stage later and would come out of it later than, say, a Lab puppy.

Holly's almost bombproof. Even when being jumped by a galumphing Ninja wannabe.

This didn’t make me any less nervous though. Just a bit more willing to let it wait, make sure Bri went with Holly to meet people and dogs, and that we took it slow and only had positive experiences.

Well, today, at last, I think that she’s well on her way to getting out of it! Holly, Bri and I went out for a nice long walk in the damp, overcast, sort-of rainy weather. We ran into several people that Bri had never met before, and though she was a little bit slower to greet them than Holly was she didn’t tuck her tail, or pull away, or show any fear, she followed Holly’s example and went up to them, tail wagging. Have I ever mentioned just how much I love Holly and her mentoring skills?

Bri went on her first outing today! Well, a semi-outing. She wasn’t vested, and she won’t be for a while yet, and Holly was with us. We went to several small pet boutiques that are in the area.

I have to say I’m incredibly proud of how Bri behaved. For her first time in a building other than a house, she was amazing. She pottied when I asked her to, went in and greeted the store clerk and the customers, then came with Holly and I pick out our goodies. She even sat with Holly and waited for the treats they get from the clerk!

The second boutique is a little farther away. I didn’t actually mean to go there, but I wanted to wear the pups out a little more, and thought it’d be fun to go somewhere new.

The other store was more crowded, a lot of customers and several other large dogs. Bri stopped a few times to greet the other pups, and though she was a little bit worried, she was no where near as nervous as she’s been in the past. She was happy to meet the clerks and the people, and wagged the whole time she was being pet.

Bri has yet to learn that she can't steal other pup's toys.

We treked on home and the pups were given their first prizes; Himalayan Dog Chews! The knucklebones will have to wait until after dinner for Holly, and I’m going to give Bri hers in the crate.

Himalayan Dog Chews!

Hope you all are having a fantastic weekend!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly, & Brigantia

Bone Dance Friday, Nov 25 2011 

This week is Miss Zoe’s 5th Birthday!

Holly and Zoe.

Zoe is a dear Miniature Poodle who comes over to our place at least a few days a week. She’s right up there with Dozer when it comes to tolerating all the stuff that Bri and some of the other visiting dogs throw her way.

Zoe’s lovely owner brought over Birthday Bones for all the dogs, including Winter, the elderly Vizla who is also visiting this week.

Thus begins the Bone Dance.

None of the dogs can just keep to their own bones (picked out specifically for them according to size by Zoe’s person). Instead they all engage in the ancient and sacred rite of The Bone Dance.

First, for a few precious minutes (if we’re lucky) everyone has their own, proper bone.

Then, Winter, picky old baby that she is, decides she’d rather not have one.

No bone, thank you.

So, Holly, food loving hound that she is, races to steal Winter’s bone.

Holly bone hogging.

Bri and Zoe stay with their bones for a few minutes.

Content for the moment.

Birthday gal!

Until Zoe gets bored and wanders off to check out Bri’s bone and Bri pounces on Zoe’s.

Meanwhile, Zoe gets bored of all the bones. Holly steals what used to be Bri’s bone. Bri grabs Holly’s original bone.

Greedy hounds. Winter couldn't care less.

Zoe’s bone was ignored.

Poor lonely bone...

Thus concluded the complex Bone Dance. It’s more entertaining the more dogs there are participating.

What did we humans have?

Well… we stuck with Chocolate Truffle Cookies.

So much nummier than bones. *grin*

Until Later!

Kat, Holly & Brigantia

Force and Its Consequences Thursday, Nov 24 2011 

Thinking about several blog posts I’ve read recently, and our Little Disaster I think the time has come for a more serious post on some of my personal training philosophies.

An update on Miss Bri’s confidence first. Thankfully Bri is recovering quite nicely. My sweet, amazing, wonderful, Helper Hound, Holly, has been mentoring her. She’s showed her the ropes, proper greetings for humans and canines, good house manners, how to wait, sit pretty, and wave. Bri’s also been learning good leash manners from her. Believe me or not, I haven’t taught Bri those things, yet she knows them. Love my hound!!

Holly has an exceptional amount of tolerance.

As Bri gets used to our lifestyle and is coming out of her fear stage she’s getting better and better with everything. True to what her breeder said, she recovers remarkably quickly from scares. She refocuses on me when asked, and checks in with me with surprising frequency. Her focus is quite strong too, and she’s learned to offer behaviors when seeking treats and praise.

Brave lil' thing.

She’s also taken to having her teeth brushed. I rather think she enjoys it! I was all geared up for having to work a little bit at a time for several months to get her used to it, but we’re up to about a half minute of brushing and she doesn’t fuss at all. She just waits for her reward, which is the opportunity to lick the toothbrush clean at the end of the session.

All said, Bri is truly an exceptional pup so far. I’m so looking forward to continued work with her, she’s intelligent, witty, and friendly without having the Lab-type over-enthusiastic joy. (Not that that’s bad, but I’m just glad I don’t need to worry about her jumping up too much.)

Silly girl.

Now, with my bragging out of the way, on to my opinions on training.

I quite firmly believe in pushing the boundaries of comfort, both my own and my dog’s. However, I will not, ever push them beyond what they will do themselves. If I need to take the leash and pull, push or physically manipulate them into something, they’re not ready for it.

I learned this with Holly. If I forced her into something she’d shut down. I know what it’s like to shut down, it’s not fun, and in my opinion it’s beyond cruel to push any living creature beyond their limits in that way.

I eventually figured out that I could convince Holly to do things she wasn’t comfortable with, by simply working on her threshold. I’d up the criteria just a liiitle bit,  as soon as she made one tiny step towards whatever it was I was looking for, jackpots of high value treats were given, and praise lavished on her.

Soon enough Holly was starting to push the boundaries on her own. At a word from me, a little bit of encouragement she’d up her own threshold. She’d work just a little bit harder at overcoming her fear and she’d do it!

In my opinion, force is completely unnecessary. If you cannot convince your dog to do what you’re asking without physically making them then you have pushed too far.

What is the point of using force?

In my experience, when force was used the only result was a shut down. What sort of relationship is that? When you care for an animal, any animal, you are taking responsibility for their wellbeing. You owe it to them to understand their limits and work within those boundaries.

When an animal shows clear signs of fear or dislike for something and you ignore it, that is showing an incredible lack of respect for their needs. When an emotion is shown, whether it be fear, dislike, or joy, pay attention! For the love of this good green planet, don’t just force them through it thinking that “Oh, they’ll just get over it.” No! They are learning that their handler won’t listen to them, and that leads to them feeling the need to deal with their problems without your help, leading to things like reactivity.

If you cannot get your dog to work on an obstacle, or in a situation without physically manipulating them, then (in my opinion) you are doing something wrong.

Part of working with a Service Dog or Service Dog in Training is learning mutual trust. While Holly and I were working out in public, and still, even though we’re not in stores or buildings, Holly trusts me to know what we’re doing, and where we’re going and to handle it. I trust Holly’s ability to know when I’m going into an attack, and to take control of the situation should I no longer be able to. We each have our jobs, each of us knows what our parts are.

She is not my pet, not just my dog, she is my partner. I am as much hers as she is mine. I trust her judgment, completely and without question. I would be dead many times over if she had not been around, I would have been run over, abducted, assaulted, hopelessly lost, suffocated, been so far gone that my mind would have been lost in a half world forever, if she had not had my back.

Where would I be if I had not backed up when she pulled me back from a street corner seconds before a fire engine raced past?
Or when she barked at the creepy man who was starting to get too close?
What would have happened had I not trusted her to take me home when a combined asthma and panic attack were close to making me pass out?
Or if she had not put herself between me and the friendly stranger I later found out to be a convicted child molester?

I’m so glad I’ll never find out.

Yes. My trust in her is absolute.

You may wonder where I’m going with this, and I’m well aware I’m starting to ramble, but I do have a point.

My point is that she trusts me just as much as I trust her.

I did not gain that trust by forcing her. She knows I will never drag, push, or prod her into doing anything. I accept that she has things she is uncomfortable with, just as she accepts the same, and more, for me.

This is as much a rant as a statement of my opinions. I’m so sickened at the lack of trust and bond between so many people and their dogs. This belief that you must dominate them, that they must listen to you and do exactly as you say because if they don’t they’re being knowingly disobedient. Words alone aren’t enough to describe dense and idiotic this is to me.

So, thank you to those of you who know your dog’s boundaries.

Happy training to all, and thanks if you’ve had the patience to read this massive post!

Holly wishes you all a fantastic day!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Brigantia

Dog Art Wednesday, Nov 23 2011 

So, I’m on the phone with Belle, my bestest bud and Dozer’s person, and I start fidgeting. What happens when you have a fidgety dog lover in a room strewn with dog toys? (*cough cough* Thanks Bri…)

Well, you get an incredible OCD urge to stack the toys, no matter their incompatibility.

I proudly present, Dog Art.

Two marrow bones, a Kong, and half an old stuffie. Skills...

Fifteen minutes to set up and seconds to knock down. I wonder if I could sell it for a bazillion dollars? Wouldn’t that be nice!

Speaking of Belle, head on over to her blog Just Between Us she’s getting her CCI pup Riley today! Huzzah!!! Go Belle!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Brigantia

Better & Better Saturday, Nov 19 2011 

Thankfully things have just been getting better after our little disaster!

Holly and the big baby Bri!

Following the advice of some wonderful, experienced owner trainers I have backed way off on the socialization with Bri.

Bri is going out on walks with Holly and I and a few of my nice client dogs. However, she won’t be going to structured obedience situations for a little while yet.

Unlike what that… ah… dear trainer said, Bri is a Newfie, a giant breed. Giant breeds mature more slowly than the average sized breeds. So at this time she’s just beginning to come out of her fear stage. The last thing she needs is to be exposed to lots of new and scary situations. One more outing like our disaster and I may as well wash her out on the spot.

Holly is proving to be a wonderful mentor dog, she’s boosting Bri’s confidence and showing her appropriate behavior on walks. (Except when it comes to squirrels and cats.) Bri is learning to wait at corners, sit when asked, check in with me, and not pull on the leash. She’s also learning how wonderful strangers are and how to properly greet them.

More and more confident!

Because of Holly’s past dog reactivity, we’re mostly avoiding other dogs save those we know well. Once Bri has her last set of shots and is confident enough to work outside by herself, we’ll worry about meeting strange dogs, for now, she’s doing wonderfully!

She’s also grown quite a bit. I don’t have a new weight on her, but she’s now taller than Zoe, a large Miniature Poodle who visits us regularly. My guess is that she’s gained about five pounds in the last week or so. She’s going to be a big girl!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly & Brigantia

Back to Square One Friday, Nov 11 2011 

I have some very, very serious objections to aversive training. I have since Holly developed issues because of them.

Well, my extreme dislike for aversive training has just gotten much more intense.

Sweet lil' Bit.

Now, first off, when I say I loathe aversive training I don’t mean that it can’t work. It can. Just not when idiots use it. Besides, why use something so harsh when you can get the same results and a much more eager-to-please dog with a little clicker training?

Since our “Little Disaster” on Tuesday night I was thinking that we were incredibly lucky that Bri hadn’t suffered any trauma and was continuing on as normal. Unfortunately I found out yesterday that that wasn’t the case.

Playing with the leftovers of a toy that lasted all of three days.

We went out in front of our house to let her go potty and a lab puppy and owner walked by. She leapt to the end of her leash with her tail between her legs. Joy.

Bri had been a littler nervous about new people and dogs before, but I had just chalked it down to being in a new situation. This was just appalling, so much more fearful than she had been before we went to the group.

Partially dry after a bath. She looks like a drowned rat.

So it’s back to square one. No aversives. At all. Not a single one.

Anyone who knows me knows just how hard that is for me. Especially in the mornings if I haven’t gotten good sleep. I’m not a morning person, not in any way, shape or form. However, I can’t risk Bri becoming more fearful, or unsure. Everything she comes into contact with needs to be absolutely wonderful.

Thankfully Holly is a good girl for this sort of thing and will be Bri’s mentor. The vet has given us the all-clear to go on walks and meet with new people and with dogs that we know. So long as we aren’t in dog parks, or parks in general, and so long as we keep her away from unknown dogs.

Holly, the mentor hound and all that remains of aforementioned toy. The pups loved it, but it had a short life.

The socialization marathon has really begun!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly, & Brigantia

Rage Does Not Cover It Wednesday, Nov 9 2011 

In this post I mention no names, no programs, and no particular locations or groups because I do not wish to offend. It is not my intention to be rude, or to offend anyone. With that said though, this is my blog. The things said here are my opinions nothing more and nothing less. If you are really that mortified by them don’t read them. Again, these are my opinions, and my experiences. Other people have had wonderful success with this group and trainer, so what I say is purely from my experience.

Infuriated, fuming, raging, seriously pissed off, and madder than hell, cannot even close to cover how angry I am right now.

I was rather excited about going to the group last night, I have noticed that Bri is a mite behind on her socialization. She’s a little wary of new people, dogs and situations. Not good traits in a Service Dog candidate, but definitely workable and I wasn’t too concerned. I’d heard excellent things about the trainer and was really looking forward to working in an environment that would understand my disability and be able to work with me, and my dog without pushing either of us too far, too fast.

Boy was I wrong.

First off, we were late. Terribly so. It was rather mortifying, but we got horribly lost in unfamiliar territory and ended up missing about a half hour of the group session.

When we finally got there I was very anxious, borderlining on panic attack, but also excited. What a wonderful opportunity this was going to be!


We walk in and the first thing we get from the trainer is a glare.

Okaaaay… understandable I guess, considering we were extremely late. But it only gets worse.

Bri was getting rather nervous, tucking her tail, not wanting treats, and even huffing softly at other dogs that were too close. Not good. I recognize these signs from Holly before we started working on her fear issues. So we wait.

The trainer then has me walk her around the room, Bri is nervous, not wanting to go. I wasn’t praising well enough so I get yelled at. Again, understandable, I do tend to be really quiet when praising, particularly when around groups of people. Social Phobia, remember? But the trainer doesn’t really know me, so I just shudder through my panic attack and keep going.

Then we go to try out one of the obstacles, the stairs. Easy peasy right? We have four flights at home that Bri bounds up and down with ease. Nope, she’s still really nervous and doesn’t want to go. So I try coaxing her up, nope. Luring doesn’t work either, I’m about to move away and give her some more recovery time when the trainer comes up, and without a word to me grabs my puppy, picks her up, and proceeds to drag and push her up the set of stairs.

During this nightmare training session, I would have traded the world for Holly, my rock. She always knows what to do in a tough spot.

Let me make this note here. When I’m in an environment that is this stressful for me, most of my mental energy is going into not running screaming from the room, or bursting into tears, which at this point I desperately wanted to do. When I’m this way, I’m mentally absent. I see what’s happening, try to keep a normal face, but behind it all I’m not processing things correctly.

Both Bri and I were getting more panicked. I took Bri around the loop several more times before the trainer came up to us with a wheelchair for us to work around. Great!

Again, ha!

Bri was nervous about the wheeling thing and started backing away from it, so I proceed to encourage her forward, just like I’ve done with Holly. If you change their emotions while they’re near the object then they come to associate the new, better emotion with it. Big mistake. The trainer then lectures me on how I should never encourage or comfort a scared dog, then drags her near the wheelchair and corrects her every time she tries to back away.

Again, mentally absent, so I smile and nod. But somewhere back in my head I’m thinking, hmmm, this doesn’t sound right.

The last big thing that just hit me between the eyes as inappropriate, rude, and completely uncalled for was the trainer’s comment on Newfies.

Bri was lying down next to me, sleeping as the class dispersed, and I asked if I should work on getting her more focused while we’re out. The trainer looks at me down her nose and says: “You got a Newfoundland, better start learning to live with it.”

Excuse me??

By the time we reach the car I’ve finally snapped. For all my mental blocking and efforts to cope I’m past the point of no return. I sobbed, shook, and tried to figure out what I had done wrong the entire ride home.

Finally I get home. I’m still in an attack, still crying my eyes out, but my mental functioning is beginning to return and I’m starting to be able to process all of what just happened. Slowly, the panic fades into irritation, then cold fury.

Yes, this is a program group, but it’s also supposed to be for kids with Service Dogs, or Service Dog candidate puppies. Never once was it acknowledged that I might need a little more room.

Secondly, again, yes this is a program group with a trainer used to working with a certain breed of program bred dogs. However, Bri is not her typical breed, nor is she from the program. She is my personal dog, I paid for her, I work her, I own her. How dare someone lay a threatening finger on my dog. This is my dog, my way of training, my investment, and my future. I don’t care how long you’ve been training, or how smart you think you are. She is my girl. Period. End of story. Whether you agree or not, how I train her is my decision, don’t force her to do anything. Not. Ever.

Lastly, the trainer seemed to think that I had gotten her without thinking, without research, and without any dog knowledge.

Sorry to disappoint. I do my homework! My breeder is amazing, her bloodlines are superb her dogs are Champions, or Grand Champions, all thoroughly health checked. Puppies are placed with the home for which they are best suited.

I did not take the decision of getting a second dog, especially one that is so expensive, lightly. I did not get the first dog to catch my eye. I’m sorry if the trainer did not think that Newfies are wonderful dogs. Tough stuff! I have a list of needs, a Newf fills them all.

To wrap up this rant:

I will not be going back to this group.
I will never recommend this group.
I will never recommend this trainer
I cannot in good conscience raise a puppy for this program.
I will never again allow my fear to get the best of me in a situation where my one of my dog’s well-being is at stake.
I will never, ever allow someone to manhandle my dogs again.
I will follow what has worked best for me, not what a stranger thinks is best.
I will never push my dog into a situation they are not comfortable in.

Holly used to be incredibly fearful. Thanks to NOT pushing her too far, too fast, she is now the best dog I could ever hope for.

Whether others like this or not, this is how it is. Yes, I may be a teen. Yes, I may be mentally disabled. But I am not stupid.

I could go on forever. I’ll write some follow up posts on how I train and why, but for now, the rant felt good.

Hope you’re having wonderful, successful training days!

Until Later,

Kat, Holly, & Brigantia

New Favorite Thing Wednesday, Nov 9 2011 

The Classical music station.

So, the first night home no one slept. Not me, not Bri, and I’m pretty sure Holly didn’t either given the way she slept through most of yesterday. Because of a complete lack of success or improvement throughout the first night we decided to try something a little different last night.

She plays so well with herself!

Armed with some real ear plugs, so as to have a back-up plan should this effort prove unsuccessful, we headed for bed a little early. So far, Bri hasn’t wanted to go in her crate, I’ve had to pick her up and put her in at night, or when leaving her alone. At first we just played around directly outside her crate. Then, when she was tired and starting to doze off, I picked her up and put her in the crate, then praised and pet like crazy.

At first she just wanted to leave the crate, so I let her. As soon as she was out of the crate I ignored her. Then, after a little while I put her back in the crate and gave her loooots of love. She stayed a little while longer this time, but again, when she went out I ignored her.

She also sleeps a lot.

We repeated this several more times, and she was getting really tired, so finally she just fell asleep in her crate. I left the door open and went about my nightly routine in a normal manner.

When it was finally time to really go to bed I gently closed the crate door, she started to whine and was looking a little worried, so I turned on the Classical music station, and sat directly outside of her crate with my fingers through the bars for a few minutes. She settled really quickly and was out like a light.

She was out for most of the night, there were two times she started getting antsy, not barking but starting to whine. I thought she might have to go potty, so we went outside and both times she lay down and went to sleep on the concrete walkway outside our house.

Our second “real” night was a success! I got (some) sleep, she slept well, and Holly slept well too. Hopefully she’ll be completely comfortable in her crate soon!

Holly's trying to recover from lack of sleep, due to Miss Bri.

Tonight is our first night going to the local 4-H group, it’s a group for puppy raisers and disabled kids and their Service Dogs. I’m really hoping that everything goes well.

Until Later,

Kat, Holly, &  Brigantia

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