Ruff Tough Kennels: They're Crate!

At My Dogs Mind, we take crate training very seriously. We are pleased to announce we are now an authorized distributor for some serious crates, Ruff Tough Kennels. If you are a "crater" we needn't say more. Come by MDM to check out the new line of one-piece, roto-molded kennels and accessories. We will be happy to help you find the perfect fit and configuration. If crating is never how you roll, then you have some more reading to do.

What makes Ruff Tough Kennels MDM worthy?

  • One piece construction makes them more durable and easier to clean
  • A composite door allows for quiet operation and a tighter grid pattern makes them safer for paws or jaws
  • Crates can be stacked and/or tied down to save space or make travel safer for your dog
  • Raised floor provides cushioning and warmth from surface below
  • Optional double-door configuration allows quick access to the back seat from either side of the car
  • Smart accessories including a solid privacy door cover, stackable top tray and portable dog waterer are available
  • They come in four sizes to provide an optimal and safe experience for your dog
  • Rough Tough Kennels have a Five Year Warranty

More info over at rufftoughkennels.com

Your Dog is Your Mirror - A Book Review

Your Dog is Your Mirror:
The emotional capacity of our dogs and ourselves
By: Kevin Behan

Review by: Daniel Oatis

Since I was a boy, I have felt comfort in the presence of other animals around me; people, fish, sheep, and especially dogs. Needless to say, the task of spending time at My Dogs Mind helping Terence develop the new My Dogs Mind website was a welcome departure from my home office in Connecticut. My visits were always too short and, like a special toy being "put away hot", I found my interest in dogs, especially dog behavior, growing stronger with every visit.

At the same time, my wife and I were preparing for a new start with a dog in our lives after the last of our accumulated pack of three Weimaraners, passed away the previous spring. Over the following months, I turned my attention to training theory books and all other dog related information I could get my hands on. I was both excited about getting a new dog and about comprehending more about what I was seeing and experiencing during my visits with Terence in New Hampshire.

After reading a number of popular titles covering classical conditioning, positive reinforcement and pack theory, I still thirsted for something with a stronger finish. Something that would evoke me to think about it, long after reaching the back cover. I texted over my particulars for a new read to Terence. His response was simply "Kevin Behan."

So I found it on Amazon; Your Dog is Your Mirror by Kevin Behan. I purchased the Kindle edition for immediate indulgence. And... it was exactly what I was hankering for. Here's why.

Your Dog is Your Mirror is not a traditional training book. Although Behan clearly has the chops as a world-class trainer and has authored a previous title about his Natural Dog Training techniques, his latest title stays true to its theoretical premise which, to borrow from his website:

...proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog's behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn't respond to its owner based on what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions.

How's that for deep? I appreciated that Behan took the time to thoroughly explain his concepts repeatedly, using many different angles and examples. Like shaping a complex obedience behavior, it requires a slow additive approach and repetition to comprehend.

I found that his candid "voice" and willingness to reveal many of his own sometimes uncomfortable memories and experiences allowed me as the reader to pause and "go there" in my own life and relationships with dogs. 

I can't screw it up. I don't feel comfortable practicing new handling or behavior correction exercises that I only see in a book. Behan writes,

I'm coaching people not in how to train their dog but in how to learn to accept what their dog is making them feel - rather than reacting instinctively to what their dog is making them feel.

So I have nothing to loose by trying to be more in-touch with my own emotions and thus improving the relationship with my dog.

Finally, this is the first book review I have ever been compelled to write. To the extent I adopt Behan's philosophies is irrelevant to the point that I can't stop thinking about it.

My Separation Anxiety

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First family photo with Katie, only minutes into her new life

While my wife and I were patiently waiting on a new Weimaraner puppy due this past April, our destiny took a slight turn. We decided to adopt an 11 month old Weimaraner, Katie who's future life "down under" in Australia was no longer in her cards. After a few weeks with us, including an action packed week with Terence up at "Kamp Kirby" her tail was still wagging, so we were all in.

Much of my desire to get a puppy this time around was due my dog Indigo's life-long struggle with separation anxiety. When I say life-long, I rescued her at around 18 months old and she suffered from it from day I drove her home 700 miles away, to the day she died, 14 years later. When I say separation anxiety, at her worst she broke through her crate climbed up onto a dresser to jump through a screened window with an 8 foot drop. Once outside, she tore the screens off the front door and windows trying to get back in. I found her panting at the front door when I returned home. I never gave up on her and when my wife and her two dogs joined our family it did get more manageable, but it never went away and took it's toll on all of us. So, as you can imagine, I was determined to not let it happen to me or my dog again.

Katie was crate trained when we adopted her. I remember the relief I felt when she fell asleep downstairs in her crate the first night without a peep. I also remember the wave of anxiety that swept over me the fist time I heard her yip from her crate as I closed the back door. I just sat in the car and felt my heart slowly sink. I had turned on the music. I had stuffed the frozen kong. I had crated her without making it a production 10 minutes before I left. How could this be happening?

Over the next few weeks she would occasionally vocalize for a bit when either my wife or I crated her and left the house, which was probably normal behavior, but, we were noticing that she was more likely to be vocal when I was the one leaving her versus my wife. We were both following the same protocol of calm exits and returns.

I concluded the difference was due to my working from home and spending more time with her during the day both training and playing. She must feel closer to me and therefore misses me more when I leave.

This takes us right up to the time I picked up Your Dog is Your Mirror. As I started to comprehend more about what I was reading, It became quite clear to me that what might be coming to the surface with her behavior was in fact my anxiety about her perceived anxiety. I just dwelled on it a lot more than my wife did. My wife put her in the crate when she had to go to work or needed a break from pulling inedible objects out of her mouth. I on the other hand, since I spend most days at home, put her in the crate and left when I felt I needed to train her. I would think about it a lot before I did. Then I would worry about her while I was gone. She could be seeing right through my best calm confident facade and I could be stressing her out.

According to Behan, the steps toward resolution and solution of the dog behavior should include the person acknowledging and working on unresolved human emotion which is in fact responsible for your dogs behavior. So I'm going to go a layer deeper, beyond my behavior, down to my emotions. The first sentence I wrote was, "Since I was a boy I have felt comfort in the presence of other animals around me." The flip side to this comfort is the fact that I do not like being alone. I'll save the rest for Psychology Today but what I see in her dog behavior that upsets me could actually be something I have struggled to be comfortable with about myself. Makes sense to me.

Regardless of what the secret is, I have worked hard at altering my deep feelings about leaving Katie at home. She is a great dog and I now give her the credit and responsibility she deserves. She continues to impress me with her ability to adapt to her new home and become a cherished family member. I have never felt better about helping her be the best dog she can be and my role as her guiding human counterpart.

A Unique Pawspective

Day school instructor Katie McHugh pulls double duty at My Dogs Mind. She is equally talented behind the lens or at the end of a leash. Katie is the creative eye behind many of our great Facebook and website photos.

Katie's Favorites
I started working with horses when I was 8 years old at The Hair of The Dog Farm in New Ipswich, NH. I helped out as a barn hand in exchange for riding lessons. My horse trainer, Karen Miller, also trained black German Shepard Dogs for Search and Rescue, which always fascinated me. About a year ago in March of 2012, I starting working with dogs here at My Dogs Mind.

When did you become interested in photography?
I've been in love with photography for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I constantly shot pictures of flowers, trees, animals, and nature in general. Since I've been at MDM, I've taken well over 6,000 pictures and 1,000 videos at work. Doing photography here has allowed me to refine my skills and expand my horizons, for which I am extremely grateful.

Many of your photos involve unusual points of view, can you explain?
I am continually trying to convey the emotions and personalities of my subjects. I think getting up-close and right down at their level is important to capture genuine emotion. Even if it means constantly wiping nose prints off my lens.

Sounds like playtime could be rough on your gear?
It can be. I use an SLR Canon PowerShot for distance shots or anything I need complete control over. To get right in the action, I have been experimenting with a GoPro camera. The weatherproof build stands up to licks and bumps and the wide-angle lens draws attention to my subject. Still looking for the perfect "dog-proof" camera.

What's the future hold?
I'd like to pursue more education on animal behavior and psychology. I'm really enjoying the dog training and day school activities at MDM. Of course I'll keep up with my photography.

New Training Area Complete

Lush green grass and dogs is sort of an oxymoron. Now imagine hundreds of dogs a week running, wrestling and doing their business on it. Ahh yes the mud yard, dirt on good days.

This past summer 2012 My Dogs Mind decided to turn to technology for this old problem and install a state-of-the-art outdoor turf surface in the main dog training area of our facility. To be more specific, the back training area of 5000 sq ft has been covered in soft, durable and hygienic Pro-Turf by On Deck Sports.

The process was not as simple as you may think. In fact it was the biggest and most involved installation undertaken, to date, by contractor Anthony Curro of Earth and Stone in Hampton New Hampshire. It started by completely excavating the area and developing a substrate base that would not only drain efficiently but also offer impact absorption for everyone running around above. The area was finished off with plenty of large boulders, great for hiding or playing "king of the rock". Direct access to the area is now available via a double (dog-safe) gate located to the left of the barn. The entire space is enclosed by a 6ft cedar privacy fence.

We would like to thank all dogs and owners for their patience throughout the renovation. We would also like to thank Anthony Curro and On Deck Sports for going above and beyond with their expertise and service. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing 20 dogs playing on a lush green lawn in the middle of a New Hampshire winter, or year-round for that matter, it is a magnificent experience. You owe it to yourself to stop by.