Learning shouldn’t hurt…

Sometimes balance can be a good thing. But in dog training the word “balanced” is often a pseudonym for use the use of punishment-based training. This style of training alternates between praise for success and pain in the form of a choke, electronic nick or physical contact. It can unhinge nervous dogs to the point of becoming reactive or just plain sullen and distant. It is a relationship based on fear rather than wanting to please the owner.

Balanced trainers often cite their success with training “difficult” dogs and working dogs.  Many of them do board and train so their clients do not need to witness their dog being shocked repeatedly for not sitting correctly and the like.  And when the dogs return the behaviors gradually begin to fall apart since the family does not keep up with reinforcement therefore the need to often return for more “training”.  In another example a trainer will use their ands vigorously to push the dog into a sit or down or to sharply pull upward choking the dog in a correction in order to make them sit more quickly rather than teaching the dog to sit first and then reading only for the quicker sits.

Yes you need patience for positive training.  There are no shortcuts to teaching and learning. Anyone who has spent time in a classroom as a student knows this.

Right now veterinary colleges and institutes of higher learning like the the Penn Vet Working Dog Center are taking the initiative and exploring new positive methods for training working dogs positively. The result is a dog that likes to work, wants to work as part of their nature, and is reward-based not punishment-oriented.  And there is a stronger bond between handlers and their dogs who serve police departments, patrol our airports and whose lives we depend on.

I am a trainer with a long-abandoned balanced past.  At one time I was reliant on the choke collar as it was all that was used for training for obedience.  And I hated it. Eventually I abandoned the use of it and sought out new ways to get better attention and response from my dog. After all the higher obedience exercises were all off-leash.  I wanted my dog to want to please me and I wanted to enjoy having a dog that actually liked to work.  And having a terrier to top it off, I was told I was a dreamer thinking that I could even think of training it to be a working dog.  I am here to tell you that it is possible.  My Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers became part of a grand experiment to prove not only the breed’s versatility but to also nourish my need to find a method that made sense and did not cause pain to my dogs and guilt in me.

Using positive leadership-based methods do work provided that they are applied with consistency, in multiple settings and with limit-setting.  My dogs get absolutely nothing for free…ever.  Their food, attention, going outside, in and out of the car, on the sofa-all of this must be earned. And it will be a part of their lives forever.  This is how I maintain the bond. I expect it of them and nothing less. And we are happy together doing all sorts of things that people told us we could not do. This form of obedience blends into our everyday lives and they not only listen but are quite happy to do so.

As a professional certified trainer  I highly suggest that you consider this style of training for your dogs no matter what their breed.  I have always felt that dogs should have a chance to learn behaviors first, reinforced by something of value and taught in multiple locations. Dogs are not universal learners like we are.  Commands need to be short and sweet and sound like you mean business. Some dogs are visual learners and hand signals are another way of communicating.  Positive reinforcement and leadership-based methods builds confidence in dogs that have had a rough start like rescues and also those dogs that are a bit of a challenge.

Having your dog know the value of rewards including attention, food, freedom, praise and play and who they come from-create a better-behaved, respectful dog that listens without hurting them physically or emotionally.

®Dorice Stancher 2016 Canines Can Do, llc® All rights reserved.

Dorice Stancher is a professional trainer certified CPDT-KA, CTDI with an MBA in Organizational Behavior. Her dogs have titled in Obedience/Rally, Conformation, Barn Hunt, Pet Therapy and Dock Diving. They enjoy paddle boarding and dogsledding when not competing.

Getting your dog to look at you…

One of the biggest complaints I receive from pet owners besides barking and jumping is that their dogs simply will not pay attention to them in public. They are so distracted.  Here are some simple tips to teach your dog to acknowledge and check in with you. Remember the more that you reinforce a behavior, the more likely it is to increase.

  1. Have your dog earn all of their rewards.  For me this is the most important foundation to all training.  It is simple, easy and once made a part of your everyday routine establishes your position as leader.  Waiting for the food bowl, having your dog wait and then on permission follow you outside, waiting when crossing the street and asking permission before being allowed on the sofa by offering a behavior are all a part of the plan.
  2. Teach your dog to look at you. Start in a quiet place like your home, then move outdoors and try different venues like pet stores and banks.  One way to do this is  to praise your dog every time they look at you. Another is to actually teach this behavior by taking a treat and placing it up by your nose so that as your dog looks at you they look into your eyes.  A quick ‘Yes” to confirm their success. Then once they understand see if you can move the treat to the side of your face, say their name and get eye contact.  Say your dog’s name and then WAIT for them to look at you. Say it once.  And when they do big praise and a nice treat.
  3. Be interesting! Besides using your voice you can pat your leg, change your pace and your voice, use a sound that catches their attention, master silly walks.  The goal is to be far more interesting than anything else in the environment. Squeak a toy, whistle or prance and when you get that look praise and treat.
  4. Take your training on the road. In the photo above Krista and I are practicing at Porcelanosa in Ramsey, NJ. Ask permission from local store owners. Pet stores are a good place to start, moving up to local banks which for the most part are dog-friendly. Remember to bring a treat pouch so you can work hands-free, wear comfortable shoes, and have your dog go to the bathroom BEFORE you even think of entering the store. When training outside the home I make sure that my dog will WAIT until I give her permission to leave the car and before entering any building.  Most pet-friendly shop owners will be thrilled to see that you have practiced this skill. And once your dog has begun getting in the habit of working for you it just gets better and better!

What treats do I use for training in public?  Cooked chicken, beef and cheese cut up into very small pieces.  When the weather is warmer I bring a small lunch tote with ice to keep things fresh.

My next article is dining with your dog in public.

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Copyright Canines Can Do, llc® Dorice Stancher 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Teach your dog to walk nicely on leash

Get your walking started off right!

  1. Teach your dog to pay attention. Before you even put the leash on make sure that you train your dog to look at you. Say their name and treat when they turn to make eye contact with you. Practice in a variety of places and use high value rewards and praise.  All dogs should learn the “touch” command where you present a flat palm and they touch with their noses.  This will help your dog to learn to follow your hands and to help you get them in the right position.
  2. Choose your equipment wisely. I like the use of a 6ft. leash preferably made of leather, and either a flat collar, martingale or the Easy Walk harness. I do not recommend the use of a slip or prong collar especially on a puppy.  This is because of the damage that can happen to the trachea if the collar is not positioned properly, and the fact that in the very beginning your dog will pull and be strung up in a very uncomfortable walk.  And they may equate the choking and pain with the approaching child or dog that they just can’t wait to greet.
  3. Take the time to practice heeling patterns. This teaches your dog when to move and how to follow closely by your side.  When teaching heeling we often face our dogs firs treating them for coming and then turning forward in the heel position. Another popular method is heeling around cones at different paces in a figure-eight.  The main thing is to be creative and do the opposite of what your dog wants to do.  In order to engage your dog you should change your pace to make things interesting. And you can bring a small toy with a squeaker to engage their interest.  Don’t forget to bring some tasty treats and praise for good behavior.  Practice makes perfect!
  4. Shape heeling behavior by using walls. One of the easiest methods to teach heeling is to find a long building in a safe area where you can practice with your dog on your left side against the wall creating a narrow space so they are focused on proceeding ahead by your side.
  5. Be patient and have fun! On your first experiences teaching your dog to walk you may not get very far but with patience your dog will be a willing companion.

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Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA , Master Trainer Canines Can Do, llc ®

http://www.caninescando.com

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Your Dog from Lunging

It’s loud, embarrassing and drives many dog owners to just give up walking.  Lunging and growling at other dogs and people can be a challenge, but with the help of a professional trainer and a few changes in the way you handle your dog,  you can get this behavior under control.

  1. Have your dog earn all of his rewards including meeting another dog. When dogs are not given limits they simply try to take what they want. When you have your dog earn his food and treats,  wait politely as you go through doorways first, and in general respect you he is more likely to listen to you.  Have your dog learn to do something like touch your hand or sit in order to earn the opportunity to meet a friend.
  2. Teach your dog to look at you. So many dogs will just ignore their owners when in pubic.  Start training in a quiet place using high value treats and then gradually add distractions.
  3. Learn and practice heeling in a circle. Heeling in a circle and adding U-turns helps you control what your dog sees and has access to.  It puts you back in charge and allows you to move away from the other dog under control and with confidence.
  4. Use an Easy Walk harness, Gentle Leader or similar product. Sometimes dogs will lunge out of fear and adding the pain of a prong or choke collar not only can harm your dog but actually increase anxiety. This is because your dog may actually begin to associate the discomfort with the approach of the dog or human.
  5. Use a marker sound or word to indicate success. When teaching a new behavior your dog will need to know he is on the right track.  I use the word YES or a clicker to isolate and reward good behavior.
  6. Be patient and practice often. Change does not happen right away and takes multiple reinforcement.
  7. Consult a force-free trainer. Since anyone can say they are a dog trainer make sure that your prospective candidates have the CPDT-KA designation and discuss and observe their training style.

Put on your walking shoes, bring your soft and high value treats and get started training your dog to be a pleasure walking!

©Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA  Canines Can Do, llc

 

Celebrity Trainers Can Create Owner Frustration

It all started a few years back when love him or leave him, Caesar Milan hit the airwaves with the blessings of National Geographic, a household name that was synonymous with those yellow banded periodicals showing glimpses of cultures from around the world. And since that time there have been many other dog trainers using the medium of television, You Tube and the like to entertain, illustrate their training “style” and get the all-important marketing message across. But do these 20 minute or less snippets cause more harm or good for the pet owners trying to bring about change with their own dogs?

Can those 20-minute episodes sandwiched between diaper and  kibble ads that address more serious issues like aggression or separation anxiety cause more HARM than GOOD?  The answer is yes. According to a recent article in the Boston Globe instant gratification has caused us as a society to be less patient.  According to the article:

“The need for instant gratification is not new, but our expectation of ‘instant’ has become faster, and as a result, our patience is thinner,” said Narayan Janakiraman, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Texas, Arlington.” And according to Phil Fremont-Smith of ImpulseSave, a Cambridge company that encourages individuals to save through an app that tracks spending and sends congratulatory messages, “We’re not wired to think about the long-term anymore.”

Dogs are long-term commitments, and anyone that has ever encountered serious behavior issues will tell  you that it can take weeks or even years to counter-condition and build or change behavior.  It is a time consuming process.

And yet I have customers who will ask me why it takes so long for their dogs to learn the behaviors they saw rectified on television in just 20 minutes. I am not surprised. It is a natural response.  And often they feel frustrated and depressed when faced with the reality of their situation. That training takes time and dedication.

What will they do? They can take on the task themselves or they can shop for someone else to train their dog.  Don’t get me wrong…I have “Board and Train” clients but quite honestly it all comes back to the owner building a bond with the dog through daily interaction.   And I tell them this right up front.  And then they have to make a decision.

And those that choose to stick with their dogs…to invest their time and patience in their pets…they have truly amazing results. I smile when I see them parading through Valley Hospital or the local libraries with their therapy dogs.  They show me photos of their families growing up with the dogs. Their trips to visit colleges together and family vacations are all wonderful to see and share.

Life is about making choices. And when it comes to dogs we need to step back, take a deep breath and realize that spending time with our dogs and training them is time well spent.

 

Take Back Your “Alpha”

The word “alpha” has become one of those “don’t go there” words since it is often used to justify excessively harsh behavior, or to put forth the erroneous comparison of dogs and wolves.  But too often in an attempt to train positively, many dog parents will completely give up their position of power and rank within their dog family hierarchy.  This is not a good thing.

For me the term “alpha”  means strong and consistent leadership.  It is a person who makes rules and then sticks to them.  And when authority is challenged it is dealt with in a clear and concise manner, and without cruelty.  The best alpha is confident, has a game plan, sticks to it and when there is a need for corrections does not bite when a growl will do.  Being a strong leader takes courage. And when we step up to the challenge we can help fearful dogs gain confidence, stop dog fighting within our homes and keep our dogs well-trained.

It is a known fact that dogs thrive on consistency. In an attempt to be good pet parents, many will give in to demands or negotiate with their dogs in an attempt to win them over through bribery or accepting non-compliant behavior.  This is a mistake. Trained behaviors begin to unravel until one day it happens-your dog gets loose, is headed for the road and you can’t get them to come back.  They were allowed to make their own choices little by little, until one day they decide to take charge with potentially disastrous results.

Some frustrated owners at this point will put their dogs with a trainer who will “fix” their dog for thousands of dollars over the course of weeks, using aversive methods such as e-collars and prongs. They bar the owner from witnessing their methods, deliver a “trained” dog and over time the behavior falls apart as the owner starts to give in to the dogs demands.  And some dogs cannot handle the rough treatment.  I was savagely bitten once by a Wheaten puppy that had gone through a program like this in NJ at 6 months.  It remains on Prozac to this day and wears a muzzle in public. Being an good pet parent is a commitment and is hard work.  But it can be done in a way that builds a strong and reliable bond based on respect between the handler and the dog.

Here are 5 tips to taking back your leadership position:

  1. Set the rules early, make sure all family members are in agreement and begin training at home and in multiple settings to make certain that the dog understands that “sit” means sit no matter where they are.
  2. Once a behavior is taught through the use of reinforcement and motivators (food, praise, play, touch, free space) and understood through multiple repetitions in multiple settings,  compliance is reinforced.
  3. Behaviors are taught with distractions and in the case of multiple dogs, each dog is taught the behavior separately and then reinforced.
  4. When a dog disobeys it is held to task. A corrective word or sound marker can be used and the behavior once again reinforced, checking to see where the behavior has broken down.  When was the last time you used this command? Practice makes perfect.  And when your dog complies be sure to pay them off with one of the five motivators.
  5. Don’t give in to sloppy behavior. Many owners fall prey to the “just this time” thinking and ultimately this can lead to a breakdown in response.  Say what you say and mean what you mean. Positive training does not mean permissive.

As you are training remember that trust can be a very dangerous thing.  I can guarantee that dogs will behave like dogs almost 100% of the time and that is why when in public using a leash can be so important for controlling and re-directing behavior. Distractions and new situations can throw off even the most well-behaved canine.  I knew a dog once that was a tremendous obedience champion until one day an animal escaped from the zoo and he was gone for days following it!  When working in public the use of a long line (not a flex-lead) should be a part of your tool kit.  My next post will show you how to use SOUND to teach your dog how to be more responsive.

Copyright 2016 © Dorice Stancher/11666274_1135397353155251_7128176675293338049_nCanines Can Do, llc.  All rights reserved.

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Happy Thanksgiving friends and family!  Here is a quick guide to surviving Thanksgiving with your dog. Yes I know your dogs are the perfect family members but sometimes things can come a little unhinged with all the food and humans coming in and out.  So here are some tips to help with the holiday…

  1. Exercise for you and your dog.  Think of a ball toss but even better is at least a nice walk.  Add in some mental exercises like waiting to cross the street, turns, etc. as mental stimulation is good for the both of you and can be tiring to your dog.
  2. Who will be the responsible human? Will it be your niece the dog-lover who wants a puppy?  Whoever it is, make sure they take your dog out for regular potty breaks.  Have a supply of stuffed Kongs or bully sticks to give your dog when they are in “quiet time”.
  3. Greet guests with your dog on leash (6 ft. or shorter) and please no flexi-leads, or have an established quiet place like their crate, away from the action. When greeting guests step on the leash and allow your dog to sit or stand but not jump.  Teach the humans to keep their hands low. Have a toy handy to give your dog as dogs usually will not jump with a toy in their mouths.
  4. Do not allow guests to feed your dog near the dinner table and monitor what is fed to your dog.
  5. Have fun and look and count your blessings.

 

My Dog Is Reactive-5 Simple Tips To Save Your Dog and Your Peace of Mind

©2015 Dorice Stancher, Canines Can Do, llc. All rights reserved. Yes all of them/

Is your dog reactive?  Does he bark and lunge and pull your arm out of the socket?  Have walks become a bit of a struggle?  Here are some simple and easy tips to turn things around and make walking fun again.

  1. Socialize your puppy…Yes I know the vet says you cannot take them out until they have had all their shots.  But does that mean that your puppy has to be like Rapunzel in the tower, locked away from human contact?  Notice I said human contact.  Pick up your little pooch and after he has gone to the bathroom at your “safe” place at home take him out with you to visit. You want to hold your little cutie and like any good parent bring some wipes so the humans have clean hands and in case there is a little “mistake”.  Bring some tasty treats that are soft for your puppy so they associate these experiences as being positive and fun.  Be sure to have proper identification and have fun!
  2. Add positive reward-based obedience to the picture…Nothing gets your dog’s attention quicker and builds confidence faster than getting those basics under control and then heading outside to make sure your dog understands the commands there as well.  My dogs work for EVERYTHING and so should yours.  And tricks training is really just another form of behaviors put in cue so don’t let anyone tell you that doing tricks isn’t “real” training.  We are looking to build attention, drive and bonding folks.
  3. Exercise is the anti-anxiety drug of choice for humans and their dogs.  But what to do if the outside world is just a bit scary?  Try some agility and tricks at home in your backyard before doing your public training and walks.  Taking the edge off is good for the both of you. Often owners of reactive dogs anticipate the worst and it makes them nervous which the dog will feed off of. It goes from your brain, down the leash and into their little noggins.  Instead breathe deeply, relax and remember that today is a new day.
  4. Have a plan and stick with it. Prepare ahead of time with your treat pouch. There is not time to fumble with plastic bags and you need your hands free to signal and reward your dog.  Be sure to visit the clips attached from Dr. Sophia Yin, one of the foremost experts of our time on dog reactivity.  You want to have some practice defensive moves in your tool kit. Circling, U-Turns and Back Up Recalls help your dog to focus on you and avoid trouble.
  5. Practice at a farther distance and gradually counter-condition so you do not overwhelm your dog or yourself.  Think about how far away you are before your dog reacts.  We want to keep this in mind as we gradually counter-condition our dogs.  A game I like to play is “Surprise Party” where I give my dog lots of attention and yummy treats as she works for me when the dog is present or when she sees another dog.  Then when there is no dog present it is ho-um boring.

When practicing in public if you have a dog that has the potential to bite I recommend a muzzle that is a cage type so you can feed your dog and he can breathe normally. And I love the Gentle Leader as it seems reassuring to both dogs and owners that we are guiding the dog from up front which gives greater control and eye contact.  Keep practicing and visit my Facebook page Canines Can Do Dog Training for more helpful tips.

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Link to great Reactive Strategy by Dr. Yin…DSC_0288

Training with our Canines Can Do Walking Club part of MEETUP…

Reactive Dog: Moving Past Distractions on a Walk

Dog Tricks are the Key to Getting Your Kids Involved in Training

Please note: this article applies to happy, friendly dogs that do not have problems with aggression or other serious behavior issues. For these types of problems it is suggested to call a certified CPDT-KA or contact your veterinarian.

Did you know that almost 80% of family dogs in this country are usually trained by moms? What starts off as a good idea–getting a dog for the family–often ends up being the responsibility of mom.  Want to get your kids back in the picture and have them involved in training?  The answer may be as simple as adding some trick training to the repertoire.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when starting any training program with your dog. All dogs respond better to training when they earn all of their rewards including food and treats, petting and play.  There are no freebies. When I work with families I usually suggest a plan of leadership with all family members school age and beyond repeating the same consistent behaviors with the family pet; all learning to speak “dog”.  Of course all interactions between children and dogs should be supervised. And even well-meaning friends can behave inappropriately with the family pet leading to safety issues.  By getting everyone on board early to understand how to stay safe and have fun, training becomes a part of everyday living.

One program that really gets kids excited about working with their dogs is Trick Training.  One of the foremost authors on the subject is Kyra Sundance has published more than 15 books on the topic.  Her books are richly illustrated and geared toward making your dog into a little circus performer.  But the best part is as the dog is taught the behaviors, they improve in their relationship with the family. They begin to understand and respond to commands.  And your children can earn national titles with their pets all in the comfort of their home with her “Do More With Your Dog Program”.

When introducing trick training adults should supervise the interaction between child and dog to offer encouragement and to make sure interaction is appropriate.  Training should be kept fun and positive, with praise and treats for good behavior.  It is far easier to start where there are little distractions such as indoors before attempting to train outdoors.  When working outdoors care should be taken to be in a “safe” area such as a fenced yard and it is often easier to gain the dog’s attention after they have had a some exercise and not after eating a big meal.  This usually makes them sleepy or unresponsive.

Trick training is “real” obedience because it teaches your dog to give attention when asked, to understand and perform a specific behavior, to enjoy working with their owners, and to adapt to new environments. Some favorite tricks of my students includes teaching their dogs to “say their prayers”, to jump through hoops and dance with them.  But my favorite part is having their children get excited when I arrive for a lesson to show me what they have trained their dog to do this week. In order to get the dog to understand that they must listen to their young trainers, parents should take an active role getting things started by modeling the behavior and then having their child follow accordingly.

And not surprisingly, many of the children that took an interest in their dogs early on are now active doing community service with their dogs as therapy teams and visit local hospitals and nursing homes. Some have even gone on to earn titles with their pets in obedience, rally and agility or had the thrill of entertaining their scouting friends and classmates as they work toward their badges.  It is a great lesson in patience, perseverance and success!

Want to get started?  Here are some links to find out more information about trick training.  And of course consulting a local  Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) that is certified for trick training is a great start too.

For more information on trick training here are some handy resources:

http://domorewithyourdog.com/pages/spark.html

http://www.caninescando.com

Written by award-winning writer and trainer Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA owner of Canines Can Do, llc. Her dogs are multiple titled in conformation, obedience/rally, trick training, and enjoy kayaking, surfing, skijoring and dog sledding.

Feeling Jumpy?

There are two types of jumping.  There is good jumping as in I want my dog to jump over an obstacle in an agility run or dock-diving event, or to jump and climb a tree for a trick as I did here with my dog, Duffy; and there is the jumping that interferes and is unacceptable in the home and in public.  Interestingly, one can help the other. Making sure your dog has enough daily exercise through walking and free play is a great way to tone down the overly energetic dog, but then comes the important second act–training to NOT jump. And this includes training the HUMANS that allow it to happen and even encourage it in the first place.

Here are three great ways to get the jumping to stop. Remember patience is the key along with repetition in multiple environments both in and out of your home. I do not recommend the “knee to the chest method” since it not only can hurt your dog, but also does not help your dog understand he cannot jump on others.

1. Examine your behavior and those of your family members.  Is the dog being acknowledged and petted when his feet are on you when your are standing or sitting?  If so, stand up and walk away ignoring until the exact moment…wait for it…when your dog has four feet on the floor.  I mark the behavior with an enthusiastic “yes” and bend over to pet my dog.  But if the feet are up I fold my arms and ignore my dog until the feet are on the floor again.

2. The Advance and Retreat method is best illustrated by these young ladies in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csuMGROvvVU  There are many variations on this method of training including when you are alone…tethering your dog and then having you approach in a similar manner. At no time should the dog be on a choke or prong collar. I like the use of a flat buckled collar, martingale or harness. Another method is to give the dog a 30 second time out on the tether and then reuniting with them to show that jumping loses attention and inclusion.

3. Teaching your dog an alternative behavior. I love teaching dogs to “go to their mat” when guests arrive at the home.  It takes persistence, especially when linking this behavior to the sound of the doorbell but totally worth it.  Another approach used by many trainers is stepping on the leash with two feet and having the dog self correct.  Even Ian Dunbar has advocated taking a break mid-walk and teaching the dog to “settle” which is a terrific idea.  First we jazz the dog up and then we quickly ask for a DOWN.  In public places remember to use something of high value as a reward such as chicken or steak pieces.  Initially we start with this high value food and gradually wean them off. http://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/jazz-settle-down-–-sirius-adult-dog-training

Usually it is a combination of methods that gets the job done.  When training your dog it is handy to bring a log to class and take notes, then once training at home keep a record of your progress.  Dogs learn every moment they are with us, so we need to be aware of what we are saying to them through our interactions with them.

©2015 Dorice Stancher; All rights reserved.

Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA has certified thousands of dogs for the AKC Canine Good Citizen and pet therapy wit the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs.  She is an award-winning trainer and journalist, and a regular contributor to AKC Family Dog, AKC Gazette, and WebVet.