S'Dandi Shih Tzu
All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2008
Sally and Dick Watkeys
8235 Outer Drive South
Traverse City, MI 49684
Graphics courtesy of:
S'Dandi Shih Tzu
Just BePaws . . .
“Do you think it is worth a try?”
“We have considered putting her to sleep---can you help us?”

If you are a real “Dog Person” (capitalized because it IS a title!), you have heard similar pleas over the phone. Those who do rescue work hear it daily. For me, it was for a slightly different reason. The caller had already enrolled her 6-month-old lab mix for the seven-week beginner obedience class that I teach for our Community Education Department. After attending the orientation meeting, she and her husband discussed all of the things that they had done wrong in raising their 1 ˝ year-old Pekingese, Belle, considered the “neighborhood terror.” The 10 lb. Peke had bitten a child that required 5 stitches and “nipped” the mail carrier.
“Do you think we can save her? We would like to try.”

The class was already large and the combination of dogs looked challenging. BUT…how could there be any other answer than, “Sure, we can try.” The woman assured me that the dog was “clear” and able to go home from the vet’s.
“Should I get a muzzle?” was her next question. That statement was a bit worrisome. Exactly how bad WAS this dog? Inviting them to bring her to my home for a better assessment, we met in the driveway. This little Pekingese “terror” did not need to upset my Shih Tzu in the house.

Out of the car popped little “Belle”. She stood at our feet with a “So, what’s not to like?” look on her face. She didn’t look like the wild, snapping thing that had already formed an image in my mind. She walked nicely on a lead. Picking her up showed that she wasn’t totally comfortable, but she tolerated being in my arms. We all went into the grooming space. There was a dog on a table and four more on the floor (safely in an x-pen). The Tzu looked curiously at the visitors but didn’t bark. They just wanted the people to pet them. Even the client dog on the table was calm. Hmmm. THIS is the “terror?” Next, was Belle’s turn on the table. She accepted being brushed, having her feet touched and ears and teeth checked. No problem. I rolled her over and clipped her nails. (Better attitude for this than some of mine!) She was fine.
“Do you think there is hope for her?” her owners asked. I told them that, in my opinion, it would be wrong NOT to try. With some adjustments to the way they do things, she could be a really nice dog.

Situations like the one described above are the reasons for my activity with dogs for 20 years. Loving, studying and working as a Vet Tech, I proudly admit to being a “Dog Person.” My students are told that I am NOT a certified trainer and that there may be dog enrolled that is more than I can handle.

The classes, called “PAWS-ability,” have been well attended for the past 3 years. There are usually four to six classes of 7-week sessions per year. A group of 8 to 10 dogs/owners makes a good social group. There have been two classes this year of 14-16 dogs. The over-whelming response of people realizing that “good dogs don’t just happen” gives the motivation necessary to make the program better. There were times during these last eight years, when the class was run for three people. It was hardly worth the time and little bit of money, but it WAS worth the effort of helping those who chose to come.
The program has changed from its inception. Each class is a little different from the previous one, due to the canine and human personalities. Each set of classes begins with an orientation without dogs. We go over the packet of information, discuss the goals for the time together and explain a little bit of how to become a good pack leader for the dog. Class parameters are based on AKC’s Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) Test. The CGC test items are as follows:

1) Accepting a Friendly Stranger
2) Sitting Politely for Petting
3) Appearance and Grooming
4) Out for a Walk (walking on a loose lead)
5) Walking Through a Crowd
6) Sit and Down On Command (staying in place)
7) Praise/Interaction
8) Reaction to Another Dog
9) Reactions to Distractions
10) Supervised isolation
THIS is the dog a family wants to live with! Even if the dog/owner team never takes the test, it is a very good guide towards responsible dog ownership. So far, six of the teams have gone on to take and pass the CGC (as well as two of my own tzu).

Many people have watched the television program “The Dog Whisperer” and know of Cesar Milan. Having watched him and become a fan of sorts, his philosopy is yet another one to consider. Watching a television program, DVD or reading a book does not offer the fine points of doing anything—including working with a dog. However, Cesar has helped the dog owning public become aware of how their training or lack of it has caused problems in the way their dog reacts to daily living. Cesar has some common sense methods to help put the owner in control as the proper “pack leader.” It seemed important to correctly incorporate some of those methods into the classes. Common sense words like rules, boundaries, limitations, fair, balanced and positive energy have a place in the vocabulary of working with a dog. It has been interesting to watch the change in the owner/dog relationship when the owner is the leader of the pack.

Dog ownership has changed in the last 20 years. It has evolved from the “dog out back in the coop” to the “dog on vacation with the family”. Along with this evolution, has come the realization that good manners are needed. “PAWS-ability!” is not geared to the competitive obedience dog, though it could be a springboard into competition. Instead, it is a way to give owners a place to gain information, support, and practice towards becoming responsible dog owners.

This article will reach numerous Shih Tzu owners that have a wealth of information to share. Sharing is what it is all about. There were numerous times when I shook my head or fumed about the “dog-dim” person on the end of the lead. When you do something so much, it’s hard to understand that some people just do not have a clue to things that we take for granted. If “they” are part of the problem, isn’t it up to us to be part of the solution. For a long time, I didn’t think that it was up to me, but there was nobody else with this information in my community. So, why not me? Wonderful experiences with positive reinforcements have made the time spent with the dogs and people a never-ending learning situation. They have learned from me. I have learned from them.

Maybe your community is thirsty for somebody to show them how. Could it be YOU?
Need some help getting started? Just call or email Ann @ 616-794-3085 or amadandi@hotmail.com.
Do You Have Room For One More?