"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume I - Issue 4:  October 24, 2003
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  To Lick, Or Not to Lick
=>  Today's Quote
=>  Breed of the Week
=>  The Mail Bag
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  Penny, the Hero Dog

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Everyone!

Has it been a week already? This one seems to have flown by at an incredible rate. More email problems, although I didn't lose any this time. A few hairs maybe, but no email.

We're also dealing with the new California Spam Law, which borders on ludicrous. Next thing you know, they'll want a fingerprint in blood from the subscriber to prove they wanted to receive the newsletter.

Speaking of that - I wonder if you might be willing to help me grow this newsletter list? Could you please forward a copy of this newsletter to anyone you know who has a dog? Or, send them the URL of the online issue and ask them to take a look?

Just be sure to write them a note, letting them know you are forwarding it, tell them why YOU like "Bark & Scratch" and ask them to subscribe at the web site. Thanks!

Please keep sending your comments and ideas. This newsletter is about giving you all the information you want!

Happy Halloween, Everybody!



Dog Chewing the Sofa?  Puppy Eating Your Shoes?

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"My dog - a tiny, 5 lb. poodle/terrier mix - spends much of his time licking his feet and the lower part of his legs. What would cause such behavior? It isn't a food allergy since he has always done it (though it has been more prevalent lately) and he has been on three different DOG foods during his 16 years.

He did break his front legs when just a puppy (around a year old). Could discomfort from these old breaks be the cause of his licking?"

Anita D.

To Lick, Or Not to Lick

Licking can be an indicator of a medical condition that has yet to be diagnosed, or it can just be an annoying habit. I always prefer to error on the side of caution and call the vet. Often, people will start training to correct an action that is more veterinary in nature than it is behavioral. This is the main reason I ask several health related questions of new clients before I ever begin training.

In Anita's case, I tend to believe the cause of the licking could actually be both. Let's step back and look at the whole picture. The dog broke his legs at one year old and the dog is now sixteen. He has always licked his legs, only now it is more prevalent. We can eliminate food allergies based on the owner's statements.

Logically, my first assumption would be arthritis is starting to set in from the old breaks and the licking is a way of trying to relieve the discomfort associated with the condition. It sounds as though it started around the time of the original injury, and that would be consistent with the behaviors a dog will exhibit when injured. Dogs will instinctively lick an injured area.

First and foremost, in a case like this, the dog needs to be examined by a vet, preferably the same vet that set the legs when they were broken. I say the same vet as, hopefully, the vet retained the original x-rays and has a history with the dog. This will assist the vet by allowing them to view the original x-rays with any new ones they shoot in order to detect any new deterioration to the affected area.

If the vet gives the dog a clean bill of health, we have a couple of other things to consider. Since a vet has cleared the dog, we'll assume the licking isn't causing any types of sores or other topical conditions. We now have to consider the psychological aspect of the behavior and or just how important it is to us to make the behavior stop.

The first thing I would want to know is: has there been any type of environmental changes that occurred when the licking behavior became more prevalent? Dogs and their individual personalities are as diverse as humans. They'll respond to stress and change in several different ways and an environmental change can be a biggie for a dog.

If there have been changes, the dog needs to be socialized to the changes slowly and properly to prevent these changes in behavior and relieve the associated stress. In most cases, proper socialization at the time of the changes can eliminate these nervous behaviors.

In this case, we'll again assume the dog was cleared medically. The licking could still be very much connected with the injury. Now I know that sounds a little contradictory, but I'll explain.

A few years ago I went through a series of knee surgeries that eventually ended in a complete knee reconstruction. Now I'm cleared medically and can do most of the things I use to do. I can't jog like I use to and can't lift in the same way, but for the most part I'm able to live with little discomfort, provided I don't over do it.

My point is that even though I'm okay, I still find myself rubbing my leg unconsciously. Not because it hurts, just out of habit.

Now in the case of our dog, if it's just a matter of habit, we have to decide if it's really necessary to try to modify this behavior. If the licking isn't causing the dog any physical difficulties, and it isn't destroying any property and provides the dog personal comfort, my thought is let him lick his legs. We all have things we do out of habit that give us comfort and aren't hurting anyone else, so why sweat it?

If licking is causing damage to property or just needs to be stopped for one reason or another, the best thing to do is find a substance the dogs finds distasteful, and place it on the area the dog is licking. The next time he licks the area, he won't like the taste, and will eventually associate the area he was licking with the unpleasant taste.

As a result, he'll stop the behavior. There are several products on the market designed for just this purpose as well as several home remedies.

Whatever the reason for the licking, we must remember to meet the needs of the dog first. It doesn't matter if it is physical or emotional in nature. This should always be the primary focus when dealing with non-dangerous behavioral issues, even if they are embarrassing to us. After all, they are dogs.

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2003 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
VISIT NOW: http://www.Master-Dog-Training.com

Have a question you would like to see answered in this newsletter? I'd like to have your questions be the primary focus of future articles. So, come on. Send them in! Click below to send your question.


He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion..

~ Unknown ~


Border Collie

This is one of my favorite breeds to work with. These dogs are extremely intelligent animals with more personality than many people I know. Their energy, stamina and brains have made them one of the leaders in agility, herding, obedience and Frisbee™ competitions. They live for affection from their Alpha and can be rather sensitive to harsh treatment.

Even with all their wonderful qualities, this breed is not for everyone. Due to their very nature, they require tons of exercise and, preferably, a job to do. I would never recommend them for someone with an apartment and not even someone in a standard suburban house unless they were willing to commit a solid hour a day to vigorously exercise for them. When these dogs do not receive the exercise they require, they can be come destructive and, in a few cases, aggressive.

Extensive socialization and proper training are required for this breed. The great thing about this is their intelligence makes the process easy. They'll do well with all varieties of family pets provided the aforementioned is accomplished. However, without socialization and training, they can become unruly. This is another reason this breed may not be suitable for someone who cannot commit the time to them they so dearly deserve.

Now, for the dry stuff. Border Collies generally run from 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm.) at the withers and range from 27 to 45 lbs. Traditionally, they are black and white with black being the primary color. They also produce a merle color and many merles have one blue eye and one brown/black eye. Similar shape and looks to the Australian Shepard without the bobbed tail. They have a tendency to look as like they are saying, "Oh really," when you give them commands. Since they were bred to be working dogs as opposed to “show dogs” confirmation varies.

This is a very hardy breed with few genetic flaws provided they were properly bred. They do have to be looked at for hip dysplasia and Collie Eye Anomaly. Some are also prone to deafness, however I'm personally convinced this is a breeding issue rather than a breed specific disease. You can plan on a life expectancy of 12-15 years.

Border Collies originated near the English and Scottish border approximately 200 years ago. However, the time line is disputed by some. They are capable of maneuvering herds of any kind with what appears to be relative ease. This “sheepdog” has a startling gaze that many feel hypnotizes herd animals to respond the way the dog desires.

If you have the time and space, this dog is a winner!

Breed requested by Paul, from Kansas

Have a breed you would like to see featured in the newsletter? Give me a holler and we'll get it featured as soon as possible.


The Mail Bag


This looks like a winner of a site for Dog Lovers. I am looking forward to your newsletter!



Hello Christopher,

I very much enjoy your newsletter.

We have recently purchased a 5 year old English Bulldog, I would like for you to feature this breed in your column.

P.S.  I am a member of icop and you sound just like your mother in your writing, very entertaining and you get right to the point.

Keep up the good work!
Beth Siess


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Penny, the Hero Dog

What makes a dog a hero? It's not just the rescue dog who finds a lost child, or the police or military dog who saves a human life by sacrificing his own. It's also the dog that goes above and beyond his duties as a companion, and shows a love and intellect to provide for their human when humans are unable to provide for themselves. The first dog I'll feature is just such a dog.

My daughter's great-grandfather was a good man. He didn't cure any diseases nor did he find a solution for world hunger. He was just a good man. He was a merchant marine in WWII and then worked for the city Parks and Recreation Dept. for thirty years.

He was frugal his entire life, but after he retired, he bought his dream property: three acres in Northern California. He lived there for two years and then he bought Penny, a Border Collie puppy.

She was a typical good dog that loved to chase the ball for her "dad" and served as his constant companion. Then, one year while "dad" was on a dream trip to Spain, he suffered a severe stroke that left him unable to communicate, walk or care for himself without assistance.

He was in Spain for two months until he was able to safely travel and return home. When he finally did return home, Penny did what so many humans I know have never done. She stepped up to the plate.

Penny sensed her dad's disabilities and immediately took on the role of a service dog with absolutely no training or guidance. Her dad was eventually able to drive an electric scooter and roam around the property. Penny began to herd him from dangers, like the lake and hills.

She started bringing the ball to him to throw, however, rather than just drop the ball on the ground a few feet away, she would bring it directly to his hand and wait to ensure his grip was true before she ran off to chase the ball once it was thrown. She would retrieve items he dropped, and track him down on the rare occasions she did not see him leave in his scooter.

Penny's "dad" wandered off on the property without any humans being aware, a trick he often did. On two separate occasions when he did this, he suffered mini-strokes and fell from his scooter. The ever-vigilant Penny ran to the house, retrieved "mom" and led her to Penny's fallen dad. On one of these occasions, he probably would have died, had he not been found as quickly as he was. All thanks to Penny.

For the remainder of his life, the only time grandpa showed any true happiness, other than from his family, was when Penny was there, watching over and caring for him. She allowed him a certain level of independence and dignity, as well as an ability to continue to enjoy strolling around his dream property, and playing a game of fetch with his best friend.

That, my friends, is a hero dog.

You can see a photo of Penny, still taking care of her family as she watches over my daughter at:


Have a story about a hero dog? Please send it in so we can acknowledge the unconditional love of "man's best friend."


Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2003 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies


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