Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vizsla dog sitting exchange

Owning Vizslas is not comparable to owning most dog breeds. I think you would get general agreement with this statement from almost all Vizsla owners.

The bond master and Vizsla establish makes it almost impossible to send our dogs to a "boarding kennel" if we want to take a vacation. Joanie and I have not taken a vacation without the dogs in well over two years. It was time to do something about it.

One solution many Vizsla owners use is a "dog sitting exchange" co-op. Last Sunday, we started our first exchange with a wonderful 5 -year-old male named Moose. His folks are up in Eastern Canada for the week and so Moose came to live with us.

Three weeks ago, Moose's owner came along with Joanie and me as we went for a three-mile off-leash walk with Bailey, Moose, and Chloe to see how they related with each other. They did well so we made our arrangements for this week.

I gathered Moose during the last Sunday's Vizsla Walk at Point Pinole.

Moose spent three hours with Bailey and Chloe with about seven other Vizsla in this "Dog Disneyland." When it was time to leave, it was treats for all three and then a "TRUCK" command to one dog after the next. After the "What the hell are you doing in our Jeep" look Moose got from Bailey and Chloe, there were a couple low growls, and then everyone settled in for the half-hour ride back home.

Once home and in the driveway, it was back walking, but this time it was on leash for another hour around our neighborhood and down to the local school yard.

By the time we got into the front yard, the dogs were tired. After letting them off their leashes in the front yard, they played for a bit before we headed into the house. Moose had been with Chloe and Bailey now for four and a half hours before we hit the door.

Bailey and Moose love nice, long bike rides. Moose is a good, strong dog and it's fun to see the two dogs try to outdo each other, pulling on the harnesses attached to my bike. After 5 or 6 miles they relax and just join along for the ride.

All the dogs sleep in crates at night and Moose, who had never done this, after seeing Chloe and Bailey dive into their crates and sleeping bags at 9pm when I hit the bed, thought nothing of it.

It has worked out very well.

Kind of fun having three dogs for a bit.

Oh, as I write this we have four dogs hanging out in the living room. Our daughter dropped Rowdy, our granddog, off tonight so that they can go out for New Year's.

We're bringing in the new year with a howl!

May your dogs live lives as good as our two have in 2009. Get out and enjoy nature with these "gifts from God." There might be more important things to do, but I can't think what they are.

Happy New Year!

Wish us luck. A week from Saturday, Bailey and I are back in the field trial circuit. This one is in California City, out in the desert of Southern California. More on that later.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"I'm lost without you"

Some Vizslas just can't stand the idea of being without their masters.

Another great walk at Point Pinole on a wet and cool December morning.

Female Vizsla heat cycle explained nicely

The Internet is an amazing tool. Yahoo groups have several Vizsla centered discussion groups. Vizsla Talk being the largest and most active in the USA.

This morning I opened MY YAHOO GROUPS page and found the below article on "First Season", an explanation of female dog heat cycles in Vizsla Talk. This was written by Ms. Berner, owner of Miravizslas.

Our female, Chloe, was spayed before her "first season," so we never experienced this. Our male, Bailey, is not neutered. This article gives me a better understanding of what to look for when he goes "nuts." The information on the mating act of females and neutered males was unexpected. My appreciation of responsible breeders has risen even higher.
First Season

"Okay, my bitches bleed for about 3 weeks. Right now I have 9 intact
bitches. I have had as many as 13 at once. I cannot even count how many
heat cycles we've managed (with sometimes up to seven bitches in
standing heat at the same time)

My girls come into heat every six months like clockwork (Cass is almost
to the HOUR). Their first heat cycle usually comes at around 11 months,
and it is every six months thereafter.

When the discharge changes from blood to a more opaque color, THAT is
when the bitch is fertile, and needs to be watched the most carefully,
not when you slack off.

Use a dog crate with an easily washed/bleached light-colored blanket
inside so you can monitor the discharge and know where the bitch is
every waking moment. When all discharge and swelling stops, you continue
the monitoring her for another week (so, 4 weeks total). You will want
to change these blankets a couple of times a day to launder them, and
control the odor, so have multiple blankets. (I do not use the panties,
as I frequently forgot to REMOVE them when taking the girl out to potty
until it is too late)

Females who have been bred can "hold" the semen for 5 days to to wait
until the moment of ovulation -- so absolute caution in necessary until
all discharge has stopped and all swelling has gone down. A breeding tie
can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours and still produce puppies.
So a bitch who is out of sight for even 10 minutes could conceivably
take the opportunity to get bred.

Boarding kennels are NOT a good option. If you are not capable of taking
responsibility for 4 weeks for every waking moment of your dog's life,
then get her spayed BEFORE the heat cycle. Passing the responsibility
off to anyone who is not the dog's breeder is a cop out. Besides, I
think you will find most boarding kennels would refuse to take a bitch
in season in to board because they do not want the responsibility or

Neutered males are NOT immune from the allure of a bitch in season. You
can still get a breeding tie, but won't get puppies. Injury can come to
both male and female during the tie, so you need to protect your girl
from even neutered males, and especially from inexperienced intact males. "
Ms. Michel Berner
Mira Vizslas
Good Dog Health

A great book on the Vizsla.  A must own for any serious Vizsla owner.   
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Versatile VizslaVersatile Vizsla

Monday, December 28, 2009

The History and Misconceptions of Dominance Theory

Had a discussion with Bailey's breeder, Kay Ingle yesterday about "Alpha males" and dominate behavior during a Vizsla Walk. I called Bailey a "Alpha male." She told me that Bailey most-likely wasn't an Alpha male. Alpha male dogs are very rare in human society. The simple reason is that humans for many thousands of years have taken over that role.

We are "dog sitting" another male Vizsla for a week and Bailey and Moose had to sort out some "middle-ranking pack" issues.
As of tonight, the two males have worked it out and are getting along very well.
Kay was good enough to send me the below article. Interesting stuff.

The History and Misconceptions of Dominance Theory

Note: The information in the following article came from an interview with Dr. Ian Dunbar, who spent nine years studying the social behavior of dogs during the study mentioned below. In an earlier version of this article, Dr. L. David Mech was credited with the 30-year study. This was a mistake. The researcher who conducted the study was Dr. Frank Beach. An effort has been made to correct this error. However, if you know of a place where the original article was published, please notify the editor and request a correction.

The original alpha/dominance model was born out of short-term studies of wolf packs done in the 1940s. These were the first studies of their kind. These studies were a good start, but later research has essentially disproved most of the findings. There were three major flaws in these studies:

These were short-term studies, so the researchers concentrated on the most obvious, overt parts of wolf life, such as hunting. The studies are therefore unrepresentative -- drawing conclusions about "wolf behavior" based on about 1% of wolf life.
The studies observed what are now known to be ritualistic displays and misinterpreted them. Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of the "dominance model" comes from, and though the information has been soundly disproved, it still thrives in the dog training mythos.

For example, alpha rolls. The early researchers saw this behavior and concluded that the higher-ranking wolf was forcibly rolling the subordinate to exert his dominance. Well, not exactly. This is actually an "appeasement ritual" instigated by the SUBORDINATE wolf. The subordinate offers his muzzle, and when the higher-ranking wolf "pins" it, the lower-ranking wolf voluntarily rolls and presents his belly. There is NO force. It is all entirely voluntary.

A wolf would flip another wolf against his will ONLY if he were planning to kill it. Can you imagine what a forced alpha roll does to the psyche of our dogs?
Finally, after the studies, the researchers made cavalier extrapolations from wolf-dog, dog-dog, and dog-human based on their "findings." Unfortunately, this nonsense still abounds.

So what's the truth? The truth is dogs aren't wolves. Honestly, when you take into account the number of generations past, saying "I want to learn how to interact with my dog so I'll learn from the wolves" makes about as much sense as saying, "I want to improve my parenting -- let's see how the chimps do it!"

Dr. Frank Beach performed a 30-year study on dogs at Yale and UC Berkeley. Nineteen years of the study was devoted to social behavior of a dog pack. (Not a wolf pack. A DOG pack.) Some of his findings:

1. Male dogs have a rigid hierarchy.
2. Female dogs have a hierarchy, but it's more variable.
3. When you mix the sexes, the rules get mixed up. Males try to follow their constitution, but the females have "amendments."
4. Young puppies have what's called "puppy license." Basically, that license to do most anything. Bitches are more tolerant of puppy license than males are.
5. The puppy license is revoked at approximately four months of age. At that time, the older middle-ranked dogs literally give the puppy hell -- psychologically torturing it until it offers all of the appropriate appeasement behaviors and takes its place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The top-ranked dogs ignore the whole thing.
There is NO physical domination. Everything is accomplished through psychological harassment. It's all ritualistic.
6. A small minority of "alpha" dogs assumed their position by bullying and force. Those that did were quickly deposed. No one likes a dictator.
7. The vast majority of alpha dogs rule benevolently. They are confident in their position. They do not stoop to squabbling to prove their point. To do so would lower their status because...
8. Middle-ranked animals squabble. They are insecure in their positions and want to advance over other middle-ranked animals.
9. Low-ranked animals do not squabble. They know they would lose. They know their position, and they accept it.
10. "Alpha" does not mean physically dominant. It means "in control of resources." Many, many alpha dogs are too small or too physically frail to physically dominate. But they have earned the right to control the valued resources. An individual dog determines which resources he considers important. Thus an alpha dog may give up a prime sleeping place because he simply couldn't care less.

So what does this mean for the dog-human relationship?

Using physical force of any kind reduces your "rank." Only middle-ranked animals insecure in their place squabble.

To be "alpha," control the resources. I don't mean hokey stuff like not allowing dogs on beds or preceding them through doorways. I mean making resources contingent on behavior. Does the dog want to be fed. Great -- ask him to sit first. Does the dog want to go outside? Sit first. Dog want to greet people? Sit first. Want to play a game? Sit first. Or whatever. If you are proactive enough to control the things your dogs want, *you* are alpha by definition.

Train your dog. This is the dog-human equivalent of the "revoking of puppy license" phase in dog development. Children, women, elderly people, handicapped people -- all are capable of training a dog. Very few people are capable of physical domination.

Reward deferential behavior, rather than pushy behavior. I have two dogs. If one pushes in front of the other, the other gets the attention, the food, whatever the first dog wanted. The first dog to sit gets treated. Pulling on lead goes nowhere. Doors don't open until dogs are seated and I say they may go out. Reward pushy, and you get pushy.

Your job is to be a leader, not a boss, not a dictator. Leadership is a huge responsibility. Your job is to provide for all of your dog's needs... food, water, vet care, social needs, security, etc. If you fail to provide what your dog needs, your dog will try to satisfy those needs on his own.

In a recent article in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) newsletter, Dr. Ray Coppinger -- a biology professor at Hampshire College, co-founder of the Livestock Guarding Dog Project, author of several books including Dogs : A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution; and an extremely well-respected member of the dog training community -- says in regards to the dominance model (and alpha rolling)...

"I cannot think of many learning situations where I want my learning dogs responding with fear and lack of motion. I never want my animals to be thinking social hierarchy. Once they do, they will be spending their time trying to figure out how to move up in the hierarchy."

That pretty much sums it up, don't you think?

Melissa Alexander
mca @
copyright 2001 Melissa C. Alexander

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Roading safely with Vizslas on bike

I have posted before on bike riding with our Vizslas. Here are a series of pictures taken on one of the neighborhood streets of South Lake Tahoe.

With a "Springer" attachment firmly attached to the seat post of my mountain bike, the dogs both run to my left.
This keeps the dogs close by but the spring action of the "Springer" takes away the side pull.

Good place to buy a "Springer"

Note in the above picture the following:

The quick release pin at the seat post. This allows you to remove the "Springer" in 2 seconds.

The plastic attachment to the line that is designed to break if the dog gets hung up on a pole so the dog does not get hurts.

The harness the dogs wear I got from Petco. These are leather harnesses sold with AKC brand. These are a must. Never use the dogs collar to do this. This can damage the dogs neck. Bailey and Chloe both pull and with a harness, the forces are spread correctly mostly along their chest.

The "Springer" is attached to both dogs with the use of a "Y" leash and a 20" plastic leash. I purchased these on line from

Each ride was safe and the dogs are very used to it now. When we left the house we rented to the marsh area or dog park, this is how we got there. The dogs could play with the harnesses on and the 20" leash and "Y" can be used to walk the dogs.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why a rookie owner/handler can beat pros

Experienced Vizsla friends have told me,
"Hey, rookie, hang in there doing field trials with Bailey. You can do well against the professional trainers and handlers."
The belief is that a Vizsla, because of the great bond the dog develops with its owner, will "walk through hell" for his or her master.
This same strong bond would not develop between the dog and a "pro."
Other pointing breeds, like German Shorthairs and English Pointers, don't seem to create this same great bond with their owners.

The more I am around my two young Vizslas, the more I am beginning to see what they mean.

On the drive back from the High Sierras, we stopped along the American River near the town of Coloma. Here the water was running quietly but steady along a rocky shore.
The water was quite chilly! The dogs came out of the Jeep and when I took the ball and threw it in the stream, they both went in without a hesitation.

Back they came to shore after retrieving the ball and wanted more. They so want to please me.

After five times in, that was enough. They needed toweling off for they were cold and shivering. If the first two pictures were video, you would see Bailey and Chloe shaking like leaves in the wind.

Bailey and Chloe give so much of themselves for me, that they deserve the my respect and love.

Vizslas are great dogs.

Monday, December 21, 2009

South Lake Tahoe water dog park

Ragan Park in on the eastern end of the Al Tahoe area of South Lake Tahoe. During the winter, you play on the frozen edge of the lake.
The little black dog playing with Chloe and Bailey is Rowdy, our granddog who just turned one.

To play in this wonderland is something I would recommend any Vizsla owner who lives any where near California to make the trip up to South Lake Tahoe one winter. If only for a long weekend.

The economy has really taken a toll on this area.
We had places to ourselves that in years past would have been crowded with hundreds of others.

The number of "pet friendly" houses for vacation rental are in abundance. The dog friendly water front is new this year.
Renting a house with well mannered dogs is easier than ever. We had a great and relaxing time.
We have had great luck finding rental houses on
VRBO stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner.

South Lake Tahoe Marshland

Just before the 2009 Winter Solstice in South Lake Tahoe, California we rented a "pet friendly" two bedroom house in the Al Tahoe area of the city.

If you find a map of South Lake Tahoe, find El Dorado Road and Oakland Road.
From here are several entrances to this marshland. Dogs are officially to be on leash. We had the marsh to ourselves and tempted fate and went leashless.

Just to the west of this area is a wide open marsh area that this past weekend was as close to a perfect place on earth as I have ever come across.

The frozen creeks that run through this area and wide open fields of powder snow make great walking trails.

The snow covered mountains that surround Lake Tahoe were loaded with fresh snow from a major snow storm that came through the area a week before.

The weather cleared and with temperatures in the 40's. The dogs were in heaven.
This was my church for the weekend.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the number of things that take our breath away."

Every few minutes as I looked around and as I watched the dogs happily bounding through the snow or slipping and sliding along the frozen creek did my heart good.

Over thirty years I have skied these mountains and never even noticed places like this. How these dogs have expand our lives.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cats and dogs

We currently own two young dogs and two old cats.
Both of our cats have very different personalities, just like our two dogs.

One is more like the overly dramatic cat pictured above.

One is more like the fearless cat that you see below.

Just like people we have known, our pets have come with their own unique personalities.

Over the 35 years of our marriage, my wife and I have had many cats and dogs.

These creatures are such a part of our lives that I have a hard time understanding the emptiness of a petless household.

Merry Christmas to all the loved pets of the world and their lucky humans.