Keep Austin Dog Friendly

Through Responsible Dog Ownership.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sugar Mama's One Year Birthday Party! Aug. 29, 3-7 pm.

You love Cupcakes? I know you do! From the massive turn out at the Cupcake Smackdown 1.0, it is quite apparent that your dogs also love cupcakes. What better way to enjoy a Saturday afternoon than with your dog and cake! Join Sugar Mama's in celebrating their One year Birthday Party! It's dog friendly, and promises to be uber fun. See ya there! Deets below.

Hello Sugar Family!

It’s been a long, hot, sweltering, drawn-out, unbearable summer, but we’re nearing the end. It’s hard to believe, but this time last year Sugar Mama’s was opening her doors to Austin’s welcoming arms! Come out to the shop on August 29th from 3-7 and help us celebrate with Sugar Mama’s 1st Birthday Party! There will be food from Casserole Queens, drinks from Tito’s Vodka and Richard’s Rainwater, music from Team Fabrication, ice cream from NadaMoo!, a pie eating contest for charity, and cake from yours truly! The parking lot will be closed for the party, but you can park on one of the side streets (please don’t park in other business’ parking lots).

We’re taking 20 contestants for the pie eating contest, with a $10 registration fee. Those proceeds will go to benefit Austin Children’s Shelter, and the winner will win a basket of gift cards donated from local businesses. Since you folks are our loyal contingent, we thought we’d give you first crack at entering. If you’re interested in competing, reply to this email with your name and number and we’ll let you know if you’re in! We’ll be taking 10 alternates in case someone doesn’t show up or chickens out at the last minute, but you won’t need to pay the $10 unless you’re selected to compete.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mouse's New dog bed

Mouse has never had a real bed. He's had a cot, which I actually use as a makeshift gate, and he's had crate pads, but he's never had a real bed. Now that he's 7 years old and semi-retired, I decided that my veteran needed a real bed. Searching for beds online reveals one thing, dog beds are very expensive. A very nice bed costs well over $1400, and Mouse wouldn't fit into a 24"x36" bed anyways. See here and pictured below. Even medium sized poor quality pillow type beds at Ross are $20. I wanted something that would last, and not look like a "dog" bed.

Instead, I decided to get creative. Knowing that the dogs didn't mind second hand furniture, I scoured craigslist for a baby mattress. Low and behold, I found not just a mattress, but also a cute little frame for just $25. For $25, I wanted that bed badly. Even though the bed was spoken for at the time, the first buyer fell through, and I was able to bring it home. I stopped at Target on the way home to pick up a crib sheet (7.99) for the mattress. The bed is easy to clean as I can toss the sheet into the wash, and wipe down the frame. It can't get better than this.

The bed has been home for about 2 hours, and Mouse is sleeping comfortably on it. Yay! New bed for just a fraction of the cost. Thanks to the family who sold me the bed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to find a dog trainer.

I’ve been asked many times to recommend a trainer. While I have opinions about training methods, I feel that it is best for people to find a trainer that suits them best. With that in mind, here’s a list of guidelines and criteria I use when looking for a trainer. I also use the word handler and trainer interchangeably. Almost all trainers handle their own dogs in dog sports (except in conformation). The person handling the dog is usually the one that also trains their dog. More often than not, those handlers also have trainers.

  1. At a dog sports trial, I look for handlers and dogs that consistently perform well. I ask them where they train, and more often than not, those great handlers have the same trainer.

  2. I hang out at training facilities and watch how the trainers interact with their students (both dogs and humans) . If a trainer yells or looses his/her temper with students, I avoid. The first rule of dog training is that if you are angry or upset, stop training and cool off first. Dogs and people will pick up that you are upset. That’s going to send mixed signals to the dogs and confuse them.

  3. I also look at the trainer’s personality and interaction with the dogs. Is the trainer a leader (all mental, not physical)? Physical force is not needed to be a leader. Confidence is needed. Do the dogs find the trainer fun and interesting without the use of food? Does the trainer motivate the dog and the owners? I watch the trainer’s body language. You’ll notice that successful trainers walk confidently with their heads up high and their dogs following their lead. Unsuccessful trainers seem slumped, draggy, and seem to be pleading with the dogs to pay attention.

  4. Most if not all training methods are available online or in books. Finding the knowledge is easy. Many programs certify trainers as having said knowledge. Finding someone with the personality, temperament, and experience to be a good trainer is an entirely different story.

  5. I talk at length with trainers about their methods and their experience. If a trainer cannot fully understand the different concepts of training methods, I avoid. If a trainer doesn’t understand the difference between classical conditioning and operant conditioning, I avoid. Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are the basis of dog training. Both concepts are taught in Introductory Psychology classes.

  6. I avoid trainers that only have “one” method. These trainers tend to not be as successful as trainers who have more than one skill in their tool box. These trainers often get stuck in a rut when the only method they advocate does not work with all dogs. Having been trained in research, I’m well aware that there is no such thing as one method or theory that will solve all dog training problems. Sorry, just isn’t true. Different dogs need different methods.

  7. I watch trainers and their own dogs in public. If their own dogs are well-behaved in public, that’s a good sign. If their own dogs are NOT well-behaved in public, avoid. Being in public is key. Having a dog that is trained at a facility, but not in other locations shows me that the trainer does not know how to proof their dogs. If I ever hear the words, “But Fido is soooo good at home,” I run away fast.

  8. I ask the trainer about the function of each step in training. Each step has a function. Each word, each treat, each command, and every single praise has a function. If a trainer replies with, “That’s just the way I do it,“ I avoid. The trainer might know what to do, but if he/she cannot understand why, he or she cannot understand or offer advice on complicated issues. These types of trainers might be able to offer a quick fix for small problems, but not create a strong foundation for training.

  9. I avoid facilities that offer training without the owner. Most dog training is training the owner. Sometimes that is the more difficult part. Most of the time, behavioral problems are owner problems, not dog problems. In my opinion, there is no point in training a dog when the people having to live with the dog cannot implement the training.

  10. I look for trainers that are interested in developing a relationship with my dogs and myself. Dog training is a lifetime commitment, not an 8 week commitment. I want a trainer who understands and cares about the well-being of my dogs and doesn’t just treat me like a customer. A good trainer should want to make you a better dog owner for the lifetime of your dog, not just for the duration of the class or consultation.

  11. I also look for trainers that keep improving and keep learning. I avoid trainers with that know-it-all attitude. Every dog is different, and new training methods are being developed every day. A good trainer should be open to new ideas and trying new methods if an old method doesn’t work. You wouldn’t buy a cell phone that is 10 years old because there are probably better ones on the market. You wouldn’t only train with methods that were developed in the 1940’s now would you? I may use old methods in my training, but I also use new ones when appropriate.

  12. When I train, I look for trainers who also show in canine sports including obedience, rally, agility, or etc…While many people say that they just want their pets to have manners, good manners are built on a strong foundation and a strong relationship between dog and owner. Trainers that show are constantly being tested as they must show off their training skills. They must not only have a dog that behaves in at home, but also in public and with many distractions. The dogs much truly understand the concept of particular commands, and they are also proofed so that they can perform regardless of their environment. They must also perform many of the exercises off –leash on a single command. That type of performance can only be achieved if there is a strong handler/dog bond. Many trainers can teach a dog to sit and down on command in a controlled environment, but not many can train and handle a dog in a canine sport. However, not all trainers need to show in canine sports to necessarily be a good trainer. Not all trainers that show in canine sports are good trainers.

Regardless of what you are looking to accomplish with your dog, I urge you to look for someone that has the knowledge, experience, skills, and personality that fits what you and your dog. Happy Training!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paws in the Park - Sept. 12th 11:30-4pm

The Austin Dog Alliance is holding its second annual Paws in the Park event on September 12th from 11:30am to 4:00pm at the Cedar Park Regional Medical Center. We'd like for your club to do a demonstration at our event this year. We hope to introduce a variety of different dog sports to dog owners and dog lovers in our community.
Paws in the Park is a FREE event featuring five (5) circus rings of activities designed for every member of the family:
(1) The Dog Olympics Ring inspires the personal best of our canine attendees in hurdle jumping, speed races, hot dog eating, relay races, and a variety of fun games.
(2) The Training Ring is where local trainers will present 20-minute training sessions throughout the event.
(3) The red ring is the Childrens Ring where kids will be able to earn Girl Scout badges, participate in face painting, the jumpy jump, and crafts designed for younger attendees.
(4) Dog Sports and Fun is the theme for the ring where attendees can see demonstrations of Agility, Fly Ball, Carting, Frisbee, and even Dog Dancing.
(5) Adopt-a-Dog Ring, rescue groups and shelters will showcase dogs available for adoption.
In addition to the circus rings of activities, over 50 rescue groups and dog-related vendors will be in attendance. I have attached a flyer with additional information about doing a demonstrtion at Paws in the Park. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at
Hope you can join in the fun!