Feeding Raw

How to Feed Raw Meaty Bones (chicken wings and necks)

Sometimes I get questions from dog owners who are ready to try a raw food diet for their dogs. They want some tips on how to feed the raw meaty bones (RMBs). They’re concerned it might create a mess or that multiple dogs might argue over the meaty bones.

Dogs know that a real bone is a high value item. So, when feeding dogs RMBs you get to see their natural canine behaviors emerge. For example, when a wolf pack accomplishes a kill, each wolf grabs a little piece and retreats to a safe place to eat — a protected place where another wolf won’t take it from him. This can affect your feeding arrangements.

If you want to feed indoors, raw meaty bones can be fed in a crate or ex-pen. If each dog is fed in a confined area, it eliminates theft and arguments. If your dogs have a history of arguing over food, go this route.

If you feed a single dog indoors, it’s not unusual to see the dog take his RMB to his bed, crate, or under your kitchen table to lie down and chomp it up. If you have a prized Oriental rug under your table, you might not appreciate this.

RMBs can also be fed outdoors. This is what I do. I’ll feed my dogs outdoors in all but a torrential downpour or freezing temperatures. If the weather is nice, I’ll sit at the picnic table with the package of chicken wings doling them out one at a time. Each dog will take one and walk off a ways to eat it. Since there’s lots of space for them to spread out, they’re relaxed, feel safe, and no arguments ensue. I enjoy watching them eat this way.

I like doling out the wings only one at a time because if I were to put down two bowls each with several chicken wings, one dog may wander off with his first wing, and another dog, a faster eater, might help himself to the rest.

Feeding the puppies.

When they’re all done I just have to wash my hands. Quick, neat, and tidy.I hope this helps you and your pup.

English Shepherd Puppies for sale

See our 2017 litter.

Pointing Fingers

Teehee. This entry is not about placing blame, it’s about getting an English Shepherd to go where you want him to go. 🙂

My husband, Daniel, is very, very good at getting the dogs to position themselves where he wants, and more importantly single out a particular hen or goose. Here I am with all my years of competitive dog training experience, Daniel with none, and he was doing such a much better job than I.

It took me a long while to realize what he was doing. He was pointing his finger! That’s it, just pointing. The dogs must be able to quickly discern what he’s pointing at. Daniel will point and say something like, “Bring me that chicken.” And, voile! Dexter calmly brings him that chicken.

Dexter is not the kind of dog that enjoys constant verbal direction. By pointing a finger, Dexter does the job without getting frazzled or frazzling the bird. If you have a dog with a similar personality, try pointing! It might be just the ticket.

I hope this helps you and your pup.

English Shepherd Puppies for sale

See our 2017 litter.


Teaching Dogs to Wait at Doors and Gates

I don’t like my dogs to rush through doors and gates. I don’t want them to scatter or injure livestock as they pass through a gate. I worry that I could get hurt if they were to crash into my knees. And it’s possible they could hurt themselves in their excitement.  So, I use Dawn Jecs’ method to teach dogs to be mannerly at doors and gates. If you start this when your pup is young it will be easier than retraining an older dog already used to rushing the gates.

Clara and Dexter eager to head through the gate.

Prepare to open the gate or door as usual, except this time open it only a few inches, hold on tightly, and quickly close it again. If your dogs are used to racing past you they may try to squeeze through, so hold on tight. Your goal is not to have the dog hit the door/gate. It’s simply to quickly close off his passage.

I’ve opened the gate about 8″ and will immediately close it. Notice how Dexter is making eye contact with me.

Repeat the process several times. Open the door/ gate a few inches, hold on tight, and quickly draw it back so the dog can’t pass though.  The dog will be surprised the first time this occurs.

After three to four times, the dog will typically back off his attempt to rush through. He may look up at you as if to ask, “What are you doing?” He may even back up or sit down. At that point — when the dog is making no attempt to go through the gate, and he is looking up at you — you may then tell him, “Ok”, giving permission for him to pass, while opening the gate/door fully.

It is very important that the dog make eye contact with you to ask permission. If the dog doesn’t look up at you, especially if he’s focused on something on the other side of the gate, simply waiting it out may result in the dog looking up at you. If you’re in a hurry, positioning yourself between the gate and the dog might break his focus. I have also been known to make a small click or tutt-tutt sound to get the dog’s attention on me during the training phase.

In time, the dogs learn to make eye contact, realizing this is what’s required before they can proceed. I was taught to name a behavior right as it happens, so now you can name this behavior. I use “Wait”.

Plan on approaching each and every gate/door this way. Otherwise it may be confusing to the dog. This should include stall doors, car doors, and crate doors. Practice lengthening the seconds he must wait. Practice holding the gate open wide enough that he could physically pass through, while telling him to “wait”.  Practice walking through the door/gate yourself while having the dog wait. All these things make the behavior more reliable.  I hope this helps you and your pup.


Bad Behaviors

A decade ago, when I was still active in AKC dog sports, I’d spend each summer at Dawn Jec’s dog-training camp in Puyallup, Washington. It was fabulous. We’d talk all week about the minutia of dog behavior. Dawn would go around the room asking each of us what we wanted to work on that week. Lots of people wanted to fix problem behaviors in their dogs. They’d say, “I want my dog to stop doing…” this, or that, or the other thing.

And then Dawn said something that changed how I thought about “bad behaviors” forever. She said, “If you don’t want the dog to bark at the neighbors, and if you don’t want him to dig in the yard, and if you don’t want him to chew the furniture, and if you don’t want him to chase the sheep, then what DO you want him to do? ” In other words, we couldn’t just expect the dog to stand still all day. LOL. We couldn’t just keep the dog crated all day (ok, that does happen in some horrible situations). We had to start thinking about what behaviors were okay with us.

Now, I think about that all the time. For example, if I’m pushing a wheelbarrow and the dog is trying to herd it / barking at it (behaviors I don’t want) I will pick up a stick, hand it to the pup and say, “Have a stick.” Once they’re older I can just tell them, “Go get a stick.” Then they either run with the stick, try to take it from each other, or lie down and chomp it to bits. These are all behaviors that are fine with me and I can continue with the wheelbarrow, unimpeded.

Another example of this is when I go to feed our free-range birds. If a young pup is just too nosy with the hens, sticking his nose into their butts or upsetting the geese (behaviors I don’t want) I tell the pup to “look for a mouse” (a behavior I do want). It’s not really that we have mice everywhere. It’s simply an activity that’s ok with me.

They know the word “mouse”, because whenever I see them digging and really excited, I say, “Is that a mouse?” It’s fascinating how quickly they understand that word.  I hope this helps you and your pup.



Ribbon–A Puppy Training Tool

This technique comes from a gifted professional dog trainer named Dawn Jecs of Puyallup, Washington. She recommends using a piece of grosgrain ribbon about 10-15 feet long to help keep a puppy out of trouble when the pup is off leash but still not entirely trustworthy. Grosgrain is the ribbon with the ridges in it. It’s recommended because it holds up well over time.

The ribbon can be tied directly to the collar, to a leather tab, or a metal bolt snap.
The lightweight ribbon simply trails out behind the puppy until you need to stop the pup / prevent an unwanted behavior.

The ribbon can be used to prevent a puppy from chasing other animals. It can be used to reinforce the “Come” (come when called.) It can be used to teach a pup the property boundaries. If your puppy is developing a behavior you don’t like, put a ribbon on and try to prevent the behavior just before you expect it to happen.

I like using a ribbon when I introduce a puppy to free-range chickens for the first few times. I anticipate that a young pup will want to pounce/play/chase free-range birds. If the puppy becomes overly interested in the birds and starts chasing them, I simply step on the ribbon. The puppy will come to a stop with no verbal corrections from me.

If the puppy looks in my direction, I praise the pup. This is a nice way to teach the “leave it” command. I was taught that you name a behavior at the moment it happens. So as the puppy turns away from the item of interest, that’s the moment I say “leave it”, followed by praise.

When the pup shows too much interest in the birds, I step on the end of the ribbon.
“Leave it!”… “Good Girl!”

I like to use ribbon that’s about 1 inch wide. I use a cigarette lighter to melt each end so the ribbon won’t unravel. One end of the ribbon is tied to the puppy’s collar. The rest just trails behind the puppy.

I’ve also tied the ribbon to what’s called a “tab”. This is a tiny leather strap with a snap. It aids in a quick removal when we’re done using the ribbon. You can also purchase metal bolt snaps at the hardware store.

Do not tie any other knots in the ribbon. This is important. Knots will catch on things like shrubs and furniture and get hung up. Ribbon with no knots just slides through things. Ok, if a pup circles a tree two or three times, that will get hung up, so supervise the puppy when the ribbon’s on.