Becoming Juliette

Written by Panorama resident, Ann Friedman. August 2017

Several years ago, we had a golden retriever and a pound hound dog. Both wonderful dogs in their own way. They played, slept, aged, and became ill together. Ultimately they were euthanized together in our home.  We said, “We never want another dog!”  It was just too painful a process to lose them.

That lasted about two weeks. The house was just too quiet. No one greeted us when we got home. No one let us know that the mail had arrived. No one was handy to scarf up a stray Cheerio. Something was missing. Should we get another dog?  Richard said, “I don’t want to vacuum up all that dog fur anymore!” I said, “I don’t want the hard work of a puppy.”  We both agreed on a non-shedding adult dog…but what?

We found that there were several choices. Some breeds had hair that would need to be groomed. There were hairless dogs (no!!). Then Richard read about Greyhounds. They don’t shed much and have calm temperaments.  But whoever sees a Greyhound and how would we get one? The closest breeder was hundreds of miles away. But, remember, we don’t want a puppy.

Upon further investigation, we discovered organizations that travel to Greyhound racetracks across the country and pick up truckloads of dogs before they can be “put down”. These dogs are spayed or neutered, health checked, vaccinated, tested for cat tolerance, and made available for adoption. They are anywhere from two to five years old. Some have only had one race, others many more. All are fearful to some degree at first. They have never had the same experience with people and things that other dogs have had.

There were a few rescue organizations near our (then) home in Sacramento, CA. We contacted Greyhound Friends for Life and learned that there were some conditions that must be met in order to look at the dogs available for adoption. First, we filled out an application.

That was reviewed and accepted. Next, we had a home check. This is important to make sure your Greyhound will be safe.  Rescued Greyhounds are runners and they have never been in houses before.  Our house, yard, and fence passed inspection.  Last step, actually seeing a live Greyhound up close and personal.

We drove the fifty miles or so to a lovely Greyhound refuge in the Sierra foothills. There were eight new hounds in the large grassy enclosure. They were big. They were fast.  They all raced towards us in a herd.  It was a little intimidating. They all just wanted attention. We spotted a small Greyhound in the group. It was a female with beautiful black and tan brindled coloring. Racing Greyhounds aren’t bred for specific coat color so you’ll see black, tan, white, spotted, and brindled.

We were attracted to this delicate girl and learned that she had come from a track in Phoenix, AZ. She had raced fifty-three times and come in first or placed twenty-five percent of the time.  She came when we called her by her track name, Juliette, and looked us right in the eyes.  As I began petting her, she leaned against me. Best of all, Juliette was not timid with Richard.  We were smitten. It was the fall of 2009 and we adopted her then and there.

Juliette w Ann

Because racing greys rarely walk on cement or black top, we had to condition Juliette’s paws by giving her short walks at first. She was a little fearful of passing cars and strange men, but loved women. She housetrained quickly using a crate, which she was very comfortable with, and it is what she knew.  Plus, she was unique to greys in that she tolerated our cats.

Juliette w toy

Speed ahead eight years and here we are living in Panorama. Because she no longer has a dog door, Juliette has many more walks. She loves meeting folks on her potty walks and “Walk the Loop” Tuesday evenings. Juliette has helped us meet so many nice people.

But her favorite thing to do is to visit the Panorama dog park. She is there most afternoons and although we were a little wary at first wondering how she would do with mostly small dogs, it was a needless concern. It took a few dog park visits but Juliette is learning how to play. She runs with the other dogs, small and large. She especially likes to chase McTavish, the Scottish terrier, and hang by Trooper, the shepherd. If the small dogs aren’t going as fast as Juliette, she just jumps over them and runs on.  She and Wyatt, the dog, share playground monitor duties barking and scolding the others if they get too rowdy.  Everyone gets along and enjoys their time together.  The people do, as well.

Juliette in Pool

In reviewing Juliette’s adoption papers and track record in preparation for writing this article, I discovered she is actually a year older than I remembered. She will be twelve this September. That’s very old for a Greyhound but you’d never know it by seeing her.  She is peppy and excited for every walk and dog park visit.  We think she is finally having the puppyhood she missed by being a professional runner.  Everyone thinks she is a lucky dog, but we think we are the lucky ones for owning Juliette, the Greyhound.

Dog Training – One Resident’s Perspective

Molly Van Nuys

Written for The Pet Gazette (Summer 2016) by Panorama resident, Becky Johnson.

I was asked to write an article about dog training. . . . Everyone I’ve run into at Panorama who has a dog or two has engaged in dog training to one degree or another. So I’m simply offering some thoughts for approaches I’ve found helpful over my close to fifty years of training and competing with my own dogs, as well as teaching obedience to others over many of those years.

To start, dogs don’t speak English! What a surprise! But they can learn many words and your expected behavior for those words, as long as the words are used CONSISTENTLY in a given situation. If “Down” means to not jump up on someone, then “Get Off”, “Quit it” or “Off” are not alternatives. Multiple commands for the same action create confusion and the dog’s response will be as inconsistent as the command.

Responses to commands taught to the dog can be reinforced by rewarding the correct response. The simplest reward (and often the most effective) is your praise. It could also be food goodies or a special toy. Initially, rewards should immediately follow the correct response since dogs aren’t too good at connecting reward to action if there is a time lapse involved. As the dog’s response becomes more consistent, making the reward less consistent will strengthen the behavior as the dog anticipates the reward.

It is also worth noting that once your dog understands the command and is consistently performing it, give it once, expect the response and reward it when it occurs. If you repeat the same command over and over while waiting for the proper action, you have just taught the dog to count. Don’t reward the correct response to the fifteenth command. Instead, go back to basics and reward when the proper response occurs on the first command.

Your voice is one of the best tools you have in training. Praise is important, but your tone of voice should be light and happy and not your usual every-day tone. Ladies are lots better at “happy voice” than fellows (who often have to work at it). Use praise whenever you get the response you are after and be sure the dog knows he’s done what you wanted. Actually teaching the word “Good” or “Yes” can help clarify that you’re very happy with him. By the same token, when correcting negative behavior, teach “No” or “Leave it”, and cultivate your “bad dog” voice. This is much easier for fellows than for the ladies, but it’s important to differentiate from a normal voice or a praising voice.

One owner behavior frequently observed is inadvertently praising and thus reinforcing a negative behavior. For example, the dog who lunges at another dog while on leash, or who displays shy or anxious behavior, and is then soothed, petted, and told “it’s OK” in a nice soft voice by the owner, has now received reinforcement for that negative behavior. The lunging dog should receive a sharp “No” or “Leave it”. The dog hiding behind Mom’s legs should be spoken to in a matter-of-fact voice so that the situation is more apt to be interpreted as a normal one rather than a scary one. In both situations, the soft “it’s OK” response will certainly reinforce the unwanted behavior, not resolve it.

All of us here at Panorama who have dogs also walk dogs. Having a dog who walks nicely on a leash is a real plus to all concerned. The dog needs to learn to walk within a space you define for him close to you, and you need to be able to reinforce that space, correcting the dog if it moves outside of it, unless you allow it (with a release word like “OK”). That is why I always walk my dogs on a collar rather than a halter. I can make a leash correction if the dogs move outside their space. Most halters don’t allow effective correction, so it is harder to explain your expectations to the dog with a halter than to a dog with a collar. (The neck muscles of a dog are very strong – he has to hold up his head for his entire life – so collars properly used very seldom cause injury.)

There is much discussion about Flexi-Lead retractable leashes. Many folks like to use them because the dog has “more freedom”. There are major downsides to them, though. From my perspective, the greatest disadvantage is that the handler has only poor control of the dog. If the dog is out on the extended leash and lunges at a squirrel or goes visiting another dog, getting him/her stopped and back to you can’t be done quickly. Your extended arm has much less strength or control than if your elbow is bent and you’re working closer to your body. Flexis can also cause injury to the dog, the handler, or another dog if the thin cord becomes wrapped around a dog’s or person’s leg. For these reasons, I’m a strong proponent of a four- to six-foot leash. And with more than one dog, you have even less control with a Flexi, since you must hold a handle in each hand, thus minimizing your ability to easily maneuver one dog or the other with any degree of dexterity.

That said, Flexi-Leads can be great training aids. Most basic commands – “Sit”, “Stay”, “Down”, “Come” – should initially be taught in close on a short leash, with time, then distance, being added as the dog becomes dependable. But when training at a distance, using a Flexi can halt the dog which gets up, leaves, or doesn’t come when called. Calling the dog to you with dependability should definitely be taught (or reinforced) while you can control the response, ie, the dog is on leash. Use a Flexi, call the dog (giving a little pop if needed to get him started), and then bring him in. Reward him with lots of praise and goodies (if you wish) when he has come to you. Hopefully, that will help to develop a consistent and dependable recall from the dog.

Perhaps the most important outcome of training your dog – to whatever level you wish – is that the more you successfully communicate to your dog and he understands and responds to that communication, the more you and your dog will enjoy one another. And as a secondary result, you and your dog will be more enjoyed and appreciated by the other dogs and people you encounter together.

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Becky Johnson, an owner of Standard Schnauzers for about 40 years, joined the Panorama community with Gunner and Daisy May in 2015. Following in the footsteps (or “paw prints”) of all of her predecessors, Daisy is pursuing a Utility title in obedience, the highest level of obedience competition recognized by AKC

Daisy

Becky’s dog, Daisy May

Gunner - AKC Obedience Trial copy

Becky’s dog, Gunner