Porn-Sniffing K9’s? Growing Demand for Electronic-Storage Detection Dogs

Humans have trained dogs to use their amazing noses to identify all kinds of things – explosives, illegal drugs, bedbugs, cancer, even ancient burial sites. But did you know that dogs can help police sniff out evidence against child pornographers?

It’s true! In 2015, after a lengthy investigation, the home of Subway franchise spokesman Jared Fogle was raided by FBI agents with the help of a black Labrador Retriever named Bear. At Fogle’s home, Bear indicated three finds by sitting in front of their locations, then pointing with his nose to each scent source. One of Bear’s finds was an incriminating thumb drive missed by human searchers containing evidence that helped send Fogle to jail.

For the record, electronic-storage detection dogs (ESD K9s) have no knowledge of the content stored on the devices they seek. They are often called porn-sniffing dogs because those who treasure illicit images usually save them on electronic-storage devices that are small and easy to hide. 

A RELATIVELY NEW DOG JOB

In 2011 Jack Hubball, Ph.D., a chemist at the Connecticut Scientific Sciences Forensic Laboratory, discovered that electronic storage devices carry unique scents in their circuit board components, such as triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO), which dogs can detect. Armed with that chemical key, Connecticut State Police began training Thoreau and Selma, dogs who were too active to complete their training at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in New York. 

The officers started with large amounts of the chemical and gradually reduced its quantity, placing devices containing the odor in different boxes and eventually in different rooms. After five weeks of odor detection training and six weeks of training with his new handler, Thoreau, a yellow Lab, was given to the Rhode Island State Police. On his first official search, he discovered a thumb drive containing child pornography in a tin box inside a cabinet. 

Selma, a black Lab, worked with the Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit, where she uncovered devices in recycling bins, vents, and radiators while working on child pornography, homicide, parolee compliance, and computer hacking cases. 

With those successes, an entirely new type of law-enforcement career for dogs was established.

STANDOUT DETECTIVE DOG

Bear, the dog who helped make the case against Jared Fogle, started life as a pet dog in a family who loved him – but who couldn’t prevent him from jumping on counter tops and eating everything he could reach. When he was 2 years old (the age at which many out-of-control dogs are surrendered to shelters), his owners offered him to Todd Jordan, an Indiana firefighter who trained dogs for arson investigations.

Today, Bear lives and works with his Seattle Police Department Detective partner.

Instead of training Bear to detect fire accelerants, though, Jordan chose to help friends on the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, who were frustrated at not being able to find thumb drives and microSD cards when searching the homes of child pornographers. Inspired by the electronic-storage device detection dogs Thoreau and Selma, Jordan focused on developing Bear’s ability to detect tiny digital storage devices – th ekind that might be hidden in wall cracks, clothing, ceiling tiles, radios, closets, books, boxes, furniture, dirty laundry, or garbage.

Most search and rescue (SAR) dogs are rewarded with toys that satisfy their prey drive, but food was Bear’s favorite reward, and he was highly motivated. Jordan started training Bear in his own garage, hiding USB drives for Bear to find, and eventually began working with task force agents. Soon Bear and Jordan began accompanying detectives on warrant searches, where Bear found thumb drives missed by human searchers.

A few months after Bear’s successful search at Fogle’s home, he helped police gather evidence that led to the arrest of Marvin Sharp, a USA Gymnastics coach charged with possessing child pornography; Bear found microSD cards hidden inside Sharp’s gun safe. 

In 2015, Seattle Police Department Detective Ian Polhemus, an eight-year member of the ICAC task force, went to Indiana to learn how to work with ESD K9s. Jordan matched Detective Polhemus with Bear, and not long after, sent Bear to live and work with Polhemus in Seattle. The new partners began sniffing out electronic evidence of crimes almost immediately. In one case, investigators completed their search of a suspect’s home and then Polhemus brought in Bear for another search. In just a few minutes, Bear located five devices, some of which contained child exploitation material, that the initial search team had missed.

Bear trains every day, Detective Polhemus explained in a 2018 KIRO Seattle radio interview. “Because he’s a food-reward dog, he’s highly motivated. So what that means is the only time he eats is when he’s working,” says Polhemus. Bear is fed three cups of food throughout the day, whether he’s working on a case or practicing.

“I’ve got three training boxes with holes in them and only one of them has a device in it that he should indicate on,” Polhemus says. “When he gets to the box that has a device in it, Bear is a passive indicator, which means he’ll sit. I’ll give him a supplemental command and then he’ll shove his nose in the hole and his tail will wag and he’ll sit there and hold his nose in the hole until I reward him with food.” 

GROWING DEMAND

Illinois State Attorney Michael Nerheim became interested in ESD K9s when he learned about Bear’s success. “We were seeing a trend here where child pornographers, rather than downloading evidence onto a computer, would download evidence onto a removable device and then hide that device in their house,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2018. 

Subsequently, today, there are at least two ESDs trained by Todd Jordan working in Illinois. These dogs, named Browser and Cache, now work for the Lake and Will County attorney’s offices, respectively. Child exploitation cases are their main tasks, but the dogs can help with any crime that involves computers or computer records.

“Browser has assisted on dozens of search warrants,” says his handler, Carol Gudbrandsen, a cybercrimes analyst. “He routinely performs searches in the jails and has been performing sweeps with the Lake County Probation Department when they do home visits on their sex offenders. Browser and I also do presentations in the schools in Lake County, speaking on internet safety and cyberbullying to students, staff, and parents. When I bring Browser into these situations, he instantly grabs the attention of our audience, and our presentations have become even more effective.”

JOB REQUIREMENTS

To date, Todd Jordan has trained 30 ESDs and nearly two dozen accelerant-detection dogs at his business, Jordan Detection K9. Jordan adapts his training methods for dogs who are ball- or toy-driven, but his primary focus is passive-response (indicating by sitting quietly), food-reward training. 

“Our canines are hand-picked, based on their willingness to please and their willingness to work,” he explains at his company’s website, electronicdetectionk9.com. “Most are second-career dogs. We also work closely with several Labrador rescues in order to give good dogs a chance at a fulfilling life. 

“We select dogs with high energy and hunt drives. Many of the dogs have failed guide-dog or service-dog school because they may chase after small animals or bark at other animals or other people while working. Although those are instances where a canine would not be good for a person with special needs, they are still great for what we do.”

TRAINING METHODS

Some trainers of law-enforcement dogs use only toys and play as training reinforcers, and worry that using food for rewards opens the way for an abuse of the system, so to speak: that someone could use food to distract a law-enforcement sniffing dog. The human partners of dogs like Thoreau, Selma, Bear, Browser, and Cache beg to differ.

“I had prior canine handling experience with ball- and toy-driven dogs, and had no experience with food-driven canines,” says Special Agent Owen Peña at the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General. “Todd made a believer out of me for the advantages of using a food-driven canine for this type of work and breaking me of my old toy/ball-driven habits. With the canine being food-driven, I feel there is a better bond and connection that I and my family have with our canine, Joey. Now Joey is part of my family and he just happens to have a job.” 

Special Agent Joey, of the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, is another alumnus of Jordan Detection K9’s.

Like other electronic-storage detection dogs, Joey works with just one handler, food is an integral part of his daily practice, and he is well fed in the process. Because the dogs eat only when they find a device, their handlers run trainings every day to keep their skills sharp.

Do they actually offer false indications just so they can steal food? In 2016 Special Agent Jeffrey Calandra of the FBI’s Newark, N.J., Field Office started working with Iris, a black Lab, in cases involving organized crime, drug gangs, and cybercrimes including child pornography. In one search, FBI agents were confident that there was nothing left to find in a room with a desk, but Iris alerted to something in its top drawer. Calandra opened the drawer and didn’t see any evidence. When he said, “Show me,” Iris pushed her nose onto a pad of sticky notes. 

Calandra assumed that Iris was faking her response so she could steal food, but when he pulled her away from the desk drawer, she pulled back. This time she picked up the pad of sticky notes with her mouth and flipped it over, causing a microSD card to fall out.

“She was correct and I was wrong,” said Calandra. “Either the individual was concealing it, or it got stuck in the pad and you just couldn’t see it. That’s why the dogs are so good.” False positives are not usually a problem, he added, explaining that he’s more concerned about the dog missing something, though he says that hasn’t happened yet.

IMPRESSIVE FUN

At the Connecticut State Police Forensic Laboratory, Jack Hubbell hopes to identify the lowest detectable scent levels of TPPO, measuring not only part-per-million levels but part-per-billion levels. The dogs’ noses are that impressive, he says, and they consistently out-perform any odor-detecting devices invented by humans. 

As far as the dogs are concerned, finding evidence that helps police and the ICAC task force is a series of fun games and all in a day’s work. 

The post Porn-Sniffing K9’s? Growing Demand for Electronic-Storage Detection Dogs appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

Life With Dogs In The Age of The Coronavirus

 Life as most of us know it is being severely disrupted by the restrictions and common-sense guidelines being put forth in nearly every community in order to slow the spread of covid-19. Are there any “winners” in this strange new world? Many of our dogs, it turns out, are benefitting from having their owners working from home or caring for kids whose schools and daycare centers have closed. I know of many dogs who are getting more walks and much more family time than ever.

On the other hand, many people whose livelihoods are
dependent on dog-related businesses are definitely worried. I am seeing a lot
of angst in the social-media feeds of dog trainers, walkers, groomers, daycare,
and boarding facilities. Many dog owners are canceling services and appointments,
either because their travel has been suspended or because they are
self-quarantining, or just to protect themselves from possibly being exposed to
the virus in public places.

(I know that there are MANY people whose livelihoods are
taking a big hit right now; I’m speaking only about dog-related businesses
because that’s in my wheelhouse!)

What you can do to help

I know of many small and micro dog-related business owners
and employees who are suffering major hardships at this time. I’d like to
promote a suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere: If your income or job is stable and
your income is NOT taking a hit due to the various virus-containment strategies
in place, consider sending a check to the dog walker, groomer, or trainer you
would have ordinarily seen during this time. Consider it a holiday bonus!

The only dog-related businesses that I’m aware of that are
doing well at the moment? I know that companies who sell food and other
supplies online are getting buried in orders; many are announcing that there
will be delays from their usual prompt delivery times. Also: Trainers who teach
using video or live-streaming. Many trainers are switching to that format to
keep their income (and their clients’ education) on track. If you are stuck at
home and bored, and your dog could use some training, consider asking your
trainer if she’s set up for a video consultation. Or book a training
appointment with a professional on the other side of the country! This is a
perfect time to get access to people who ordinarily would be too busy to book online
appointments with out-of-the-area clients.

At last word, health officials still approve of people getting outdoor exercise, as long as they maintain a distance of six feet away from other humans who are not members of their household. You know what else is six feet long? The best leash for walking your dog! If you are stressed by the news, we’d like to recommend a long walk with your dog outdoors (as long as you are feeling well).

Hang in there, wash your hands, order your dog’s food
earlier than usual, and take care!

The post Life With Dogs In The Age of The Coronavirus appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

Dog Receives Outpouring Of Adoption Offers After 7 Years In Shelter

Ginger, a Labrador Retriever mix, has lived at Dogwood Animal Shelter in Missouri for 7 years. 7 years!!! The poor girl came to the shelter from an abusive situation, which obviously impacted her behavior. Not to mention, living in a shelter for a long period of time can have its own negative consequences. All the odds were stacked against poor Ginger, through no fault of her own.

The good people working at the shelter refused to give up on this dog. They knew she just needed a certain type of home. On Facebook, Dogwood Animal Shelter explained Ginger’s situation, which isn’t all too uncommon unfortunately.

“Long term residency for animals in a true no-kill shelter is a problem not unique to Dogwood Animal Shelter. Like most rescue dogs, Ginger came in to Dogwood with her own set of medical, emotional and behavioral issues which made her unadoptable for a long time. Dogwood’s staff and volunteers have diligently worked to address those issues and to locate a suitable home for her. She is and has been adoptable.”

@MissionDrivenGoods/Instagram

Ginger needed a forever home with no other animals or small children, which limited her opportunities. There’s no reason it should have doomed her to spending most of her life inside a kennel though. Fortunately, some good people recognized that and did something about it.

Getting Ginger The Attention She Deserves

Scott Poore, the owner of clothing brand Mission Driven, frequently uses his platform to promote shelter animal adoptions. His Instagram post featuring a sad-looking Ginger in her kennel gained traction. Eventually, that image was reposted by Paws Up, Ellen DeGeneres’ animal sharing account.

Thanks to the recent publicity, the elder dog received an outpouring of applications for her adoption. People from Canada to Texas wanted to help get this girl out of a shelter for good.

Ginger

Thank you for the outpouring of concern about Ginger. Long term residency for animals in a true no-kill shelter is a problem not unique to Dogwood Animal Shelter. Like most rescue dogs, Ginger came in to Dogwood with her own set of medical, emotional and behavioral issues which made her unadoptable for a long time. Dogwood’s staff and volunteers have diligently worked to address those issues and to locate a suitable home for her. She is and has been adoptable. The fact that she would be best placed in a home with no other animals or small children has narrowed the possibilities, but we never give up trying. Come visit Dogwood and tour the facility, where you’ll find that our kennel floors are heated and there’s a Kuranda Bed for every dog. Meet the dedicated volunteers and staff who walk and care for the animals daily. See first hand the high level of care our animals receive.

Posted by Dogwood Animal Shelter on Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Not One More Day In A Shelter For Ginger

On March 13th, Dogwood Animal Shelter proudly announced that Ginger had been adopted. Finally, she found her perfect human match!

“Ginger has gone home! Her adopter has no children and no pets, has a fenced in yard and experience with dogs with dispositions similar to Ginger’s!”

Ginger, at long last, is now permanently home. No more kennels for this patient gal!

@Mission_Driven_Goods/Instagram

Thankfully, Ginger’s sad story did end happily. Still, it highlights a problem for many shelter dogs who appear unadaptable due to their living situation and anxiety. If you missed your chance to adopt Ginger, consider adopting one of the many other long-term shelter residents near you!

H/T: People
Featured Image: @Mission_Driven_Goods/Instagram

The post Dog Receives Outpouring Of Adoption Offers After 7 Years In Shelter appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

Give Your Puppy a Smart Start

When it comes to puppy training, it’s never too early to start. Puppies are more than ready to learn by the time they leave the litter and transition into a home. After all, they’ve been learning since birth, so why not keep the ball rolling as soon as you welcome a puppy into your family? 

It’s our responsibility to teach puppies how to successfully live in our human world, which has a rule structure quite different from what they’re used to with their littermates. There are plenty of options for positive-reinforcement training starting at a young age: a well-run, in-person puppy kindergarten class; one-on-one instruction with a trainer; an online program; books and videos; your own knowledge of training; or a combination of options. No matter what you opt for, starting sooner, not later, is key to success. From the first day you bring your puppy home, have these three basic principles in mind:

1.  Have clear goals for your puppy’s behavior from day one and support his understanding of them every day. 

It’s important to have some basic training goals before your puppy comes home, so you can create clear behavior contingencies from the very beginning. 

Your puppy is constantly learning. From the moment he sets paw in your home, he will be learning which behaviors get him things he wants and which ones don’t. Make it easy for him to get what he wants when he does behaviors you like, and prevent him from getting what he wants when he explores behaviors you don’t want him to practice. The more black and white your expectations, the easier it will be for the puppy to figure out what works for both of you. 

So, as just a few examples: If you don’t want a grown, 80-pound dog jumping on you to get your attention, avoid petting the tiny, 8-week-old puppy when he jumps on you. Instead, if he happens to sit or even just greets you with happy eye contact and all four paws on the floor, go ahead and tell him what a good puppy he is and lovingly give him all the petting he wants! If you want a well-housetrained dog, commit to paying close attention to your puppy’s need to eliminate, not giving him a single opportunity to “make a mistake” indoors. And if you don’t want your adult dog to sleep with you on your bed or your nicest sofa, don’t allow the puppy to do so, either. 

Gray areas are challenging for dogs. It’s not fair to make exceptions to what we know our rules will be later (because the puppy is so cute!) and then change the rules as she grows. It’s also harder to “fix” unwanted behaviors than to train correct behaviors from the beginning. (For more about this, see “The Biology of Early Learning”)

2. Make your interaction with your puppy rewarding and engaging. 

Teach your puppy that spending time with you is fun! Be generous with rewards of food, attention, petting, and play so the puppy is eager to focus on you in anticipation of enjoyment. 

Build a strong history of reinforcement (with treats, toys, praise, and play) for behaviors that you like from your puppy; she will strongly associate you with all these good things, helping cement a solid relationship between you.

A great strategy is to aspire to feed more of your puppy’s daily ration of food from your hand than from a bowl. This makes you the primary source of a pretty great thing and gives you plenty of calories to leverage to your advantage by reinforcing any behavior you’d like to see more of. 

Be super generous with rewards with a young puppy because, as the puppy matures, environmental distractions will become more interesting, and it’s helpful for the puppy to have a strong history of finding you rewarding. This makes it easier for the puppy to continue to choose you, and what you have to offer, over the environment. No need to worry the pup will end up “only doing it for the food.” Since the food comes directly from you, you gain value by association. Plus, when you pair praise and petting with the delivery of food, the food increases the value of your praise and petting, so it is more reinforcing in the future if you choose to use fewer food rewards in training.

Don’t forget to mix lots of play into your interaction. It’s fun (for puppies and people!), it breaks up training sessions, and studies show following learning with play can lead to improved performance in subsequent sessions, when compared to immediately following learning with an opportunity to rest. Playing with your puppy, in ways you both enjoy, convinces your puppy that you’re a blast to be around because you know how to play all the best games. Who doesn’t like hanging out with the fun guy or gal?

What you can expect?

With frequent, short training sessions, most young puppies can start offering simple behaviors like “sit” in anticipation of “good stuff” as early as 6 to 7 weeks old, even before they leave the litter. If you really want to stack the training deck in your favor, look for a responsible breeder or rescue that provides early enrichment and basic training opportunities to young puppies in an effort to set them up for success when they meet their new families. 

If you’re starting from scratch with the basics, it’s still reasonable to expect a young puppy to quickly learn to offer a “sit” for a food bowl or when approaching people, or follow a hand signal to lie down. In fact, in many cases, people report their puppies readily respond to cues for “sit,” “down,” “come,” “leave it” and a parlor trick or two by the time the puppy is 3 months old. 

The catch? This degree of understanding is generally limited to the home environment. Sound familiar? “But he does it at home!” is one of the most often heard frustrations among dog owners when attending a group class or otherwise asking the dog to perform seemingly “known” behaviors away from home. Learning to do these behaviors in the face of a highly distracting, enticing world takes a little more time and maturity.

Learning the physical mechanics of the behavior is easy. Adding duration, making the behavior resistant to distractions, and properly generalizing the behavior so the dog understands the same rules apply anywhere, anytime is a process that takes time and patience. Try to avoid thinking your puppy truly knows a behavior until you’ve seen him be successful under a wide variety of circumstances. Until that point, he’s learning a behavior. Working in a new environment, around new people, other dogs, interesting smells, etc. makes it harder for the puppy to perform correctly. People often become frustrated and view the pup as being “stubborn,” when really, he’s just not developmentally mature enough to concentrate for long periods and in the face of distractions. He’ll get there with patience, maturity, and continued training support. 

3. Keep training sessions short but frequent.

Like young children, puppies have short attention spans. The most effective training happens frequently throughout the day, but in short sessions each time, and with a high rate of reinforcement. Three to five minutes is perfect for a young puppy. 

Try five repetitions of cheerfully saying your puppy’s name when she’s not looking, and rewarding her when she turns to orient toward you. Practice “sit” and “down” a couple of times, changing your position relative to the pup with each repetition to help her begin to “generalize” the behaviors, understanding that “sit” means the same thing whether you are standing right in front of her or next to her.

Bust out a toy for a quick round or two of tug, trading the toy for a treat to begin a “drop it” behavior, then playfully run away from the puppy, encouraging her to follow you with a happy, “Let’s go!” as you take off. Reward her when she catches up to you, with treats or another one of her favorite toys. Aim for three to five short sessions each day. Also, remember every interaction is an opportunity for learning, so be prepared to help her practice desirable behaviors every time you casually interact with her, too.

Formal training sessions that are short and fun keep the puppy’s head in the game. More importantly, they teach the puppy to enjoy and look forward to training sessions, creating a pup who exhibits a happy conditional emotional response (CER) – that is, she becomes visibly excited – when our behavior starts to predict a training session is imminent.

The Big ‘A’ (Adolescence)

Trainers who teach group classes have seen it a million times: Owners bring their young puppies to “canine kindergarten” classes and are delighted with all the cues and behaviors they and their puppies learn to do. After graduation, a few months roll by, and gradually, more and more of those formerly delighted owners start reporting that their puppies “don’t know anything anymore!” Sit, down, come, stay – all the basic behaviors the pups “knew” when they were tiny seem to be gone! What gives?

The simple answer is adolescence. 

Adolescence is a natural part of canine development. It’s generally said to begin when the dog is about 6 to 9 months old and lasts until about 18 months old. (Different breeds mature at different rates. Smaller breeds mature faster than larger breeds. Whereas a toy breed might be fully mature at 12 months old, a giant breed won’t fully mature until closer to 2 years old, so the adolescent phase will vary from breed to breed.)

If you don’t want your puppy to chew your shoes or any other household items, make sure you provide him with a large and varied assortment of “legal” chew items and toys, so he always has “good” choices available.

Dogs go through lots of changes during this time – physical growth spurts, hormone surges, and an increased need to chew in an effort to fully set adult teeth into the skull. These physical changes generally coincide with the secondary fear period, a developmental stage where dogs often react fearfully to things they’ve been fine with in the past.

Much like in human adolescents, a hallmark of canine adolescence is a push for independence. Dog owners often report the adolescent dog is “blowing them off,” “being stubborn,” or otherwise seems to have forgotten everything she’s ever been taught. 

Although it can be a trying time, patience is a virtue. Find ways to foster success and prevent failure in training. For example, if your young adolescent is overly distracted by other dogs when in a group class, add distance or use a visual barrier between the dogs to filter the distraction. If the dog is clearly driven by his nose, avoid letting him off-leash in unfenced areas. Avoid scary or painful punishers, as they can erode the relationship you share with your dog. The good news is, this too shall pass. 

The Bottom Line

When we bring a dog into our life, it’s our responsibility to teach them how to successfully live in our human world. Good training is a partnership. It’s not something we do to our dog, it’s something we do with our dog. It’s also ongoing. We get out of it what we put into it. With modern-day positive reinforcement training methods, it’s easy to make training an enjoyable way of life that creates treasured companions for years to come. 

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The Biology of Early Learning

Puppies are often described as sponges due to their ability to soak up information, especially during their critical socialization period, which occurs between 3 to 12 weeks of age. To learn more about what goes on inside the puppy’s brain, we reached out to Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD, a post-doctoral associate with the Karlsson Lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she works with the genomics of canine behavior.

“When a dog learns something new, the synapses between neurons become stronger, connecting the neurons more tightly, so that information – in the form of neurotransmitters – flows between them more readily,” Hekman says. This process is part of what builds the brain’s ability to take in information and make decisions based on that information.

One difference between the brains of puppies and adult dogs is that the puppy brain initially makes lots of extra synapses to support the puppy’s ability to rapidly learn about the world. This means there are more pathways available for learning. This age-related increase in available synapses is short lived, as the brain can’t sustain so many simultaneous pathway information exchanges at once. As the early socialization window closes, weaker synapses (those with fewer learning experiences) are weeded out in a “use it or lose it” process known as “pruning.”

This is why thoughtful socialization during early puppyhood is so important. You want to strengthen the synapses for experiences like, “Strange men in hats mean cookies are coming!” due to repeated positive experiences with men in hats, and synapses for “Strange men in hats are scary” to be weak (because the puppy had few negative experiences with strange men wearing hats).

This is why it’s also wise to begin basic manners training as soon as possible with a young puppy. We want strong synapses related to lessons like, “Four paws on the floor brings cookies and petting,” “Running to my person when she calls my name makes her play with me,” and “Lying on this dog bed makes good things happen.” Conversely, we want synapses associated with less desirable behaviors to be weak. When pruning occurs, we’re left with brain wiring that’s better equipped to support behaviors we like and can continue to reinforce. 

Hekman explains that, whereas a young puppy’s brain is constantly evaluating situations (which is exhausting), by the time the early socialization window closes, the brain is relying more on its carefully pruned garden of knowledge and can start making assumptions about situations. Ideally, this is when you’ll see a return on your investment in thoughtful socialization via a dog who doesn’t bat an eye around the tall stranger in a hat; the well-socialized puppy’s brain simply assumes it’s fine. 

This is also why it’s easier to teach desired behaviors from the beginning than to un-do unwanted behaviors. When a young puppy’s synapses related to “Butt-on-floor brings good things” are stronger than synapses related to “Jump on the human to get what I want,” the brain assumes “butt-on-floor” is the way to go, and we see a puppy who eagerly offers a “sit” in anticipation of good things. 

“When you are helping a puppy make good associations during his socialization period, what you are really helping him do is to prune his synapses in a way that is appropriate for the world he’s going to live in,” says Hekman. “We want him to keep a lot of connections and to have them be good ones.”

To read more from Hekman about what’s happening during socialization and early learning, look for her article, “Puppy Socialization: What happens inside the brain?” in the free e-book Growing Up FDSA: Surviving Your Dog Sports Puppy, available from Fenzi Dog Sports Academy at fenzidogsportsacademy.com.

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Give Your Puppy a Smart Start

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Photographer Hosts ‘Dinner Pawty’ For Adoptable Dogs

Sometimes rescue dogs just need a chance to shine. Waiting for a forever home can be exhausting and scary, so it’s hard for them to let their true personalities show. However, a photographer known as “The Dographer” knows all about how important a dog’s personality can be, especially for rescues.

This photographer’s career centers around photographing dogs. Their mission is also to find forever homes for as many dogs as possible. So, they partnered with Lil Rascals Dog Rescue to create the most exciting photo shoot yet!

The Dographer decided to throw a dinner party for a few of Lil Rascals’ adoptable dogs. With the rescue’s help, they selected 8 amazing dogs that needed a chance to show their true personalities. They chose dogs of all different ages and breeds.

Van Gogh and Dallas – Image: @LilRascalsRescueFL/Facebook

Thanks to The Dinner Party Project, the ‘dinner pawty’ came to life. They lent their studio space to this adorable event. They even had their sponsor, Tito’s vodka, share plenty of dog supplies for the occasion. All the dogs had a blast, and The Dographer was able to capture each of their unique personalities in the photos.

Meet the Dogs

Oreo and Dwayne Johnson were two of the youngest guests to attend. Both of these puppies were excited to be there. However, their personalities are very different from each other. Oreo could barely contain his excitement, and he took plenty of bites out of his doggie cake. On the other hand, Dwayne Johnson is a bit shy, but he loves to snuggle.

Oreo – Image: @thedographerofficial/Facebook

Cali was also one of the younger guests, but she was full of elegance and grace during the event. She wore a beautiful blue dress during the dinner. Of course, she was very well-behaved too.

Major arrived at the shelter unable to use his back legs. He has had a long recovery process, but he’s doing much better now. He has a sweet, energetic personality despite what he’s been through.

Major – Image: @LilRascalsRescueFL/Facebook

There were also a lot of senior dogs at the party. Ludwig is 9 years old, and he needed plenty of treats to get him to pose for a photo. Lil Chip is 15 years old, but he only weighs 5 pounds.

Van Gogh and Dallas are also senior dogs that were happy to attend. They both love to nap and snuggle, but they stayed awake for this dinner party because of all the tasty food! They arrived at the rescue together, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Lil Rascals hopes that they will be adopted together.

Lil Chip – Image: @LilRascalsRescueFL/Facebook

Were They Adopted?

The Dographer hoped that this adorable dinner party would help all these dogs find their forever homes. So far, at least 4 of the 8 dogs have been adopted! Oreo, Ludwig, Lil Chip, and Cali have already found their forever families. However, the other guests along with many other adoptable dogs are still waiting for a place to call home.

Cali – Image: @thedographerofficial/Instagram

“I want every shoot to be unique and different,” said The Dographer. “The goal is, after all, to get people to take notice of these dogs and find them homes.”

Lil Rascals Dog Rescue is located in the Orlando, Florida area. If you’d like to adopt any of these dinner party attendees or any of the other available dogs, please fill out an application! These dogs had a blast at this event, but they’d be even happier if they had a family to love them. Please help in any way that you can!

Ludwig – Image: @thedographerofficial/Facebook

H/T: insider.com
Featured Image: @LilRascalsRescueFL/Facebook and @thedographerofficial/Facebook

The post Photographer Hosts ‘Dinner Pawty’ For Adoptable Dogs appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

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  • STRESSED OUT
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Coco The Therapy Dog Loves Posing In Unique Ways

Taking the perfect photo of your dog can be tricky. Oftentimes, even just getting them to look at the camera can be a challenge. However, Coco the Maltese was born ready when it comes to photoshoots. While other dogs just sit and look cute, Coco masters her signature pose. 

Whenever Coco’s family tries to take a picture of her, Coco loves to stand up on her back legs with her paws in the air. She doesn’t even wait for a command, she just knows that she looks best with her head held high. Her unusual skill brings smiles to faces all over the world.

Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

Mastering the Look

Coco’s mom, Katee Lauchner, says that Coco is always eager to learn new tricks. She’s very food-motivated, so if she knows there’s a treat involved, she’ll happily listen.

“Within only a week of having her as she was already trained to do sit and then the following week she learned ‘down’. Then it was roll-over and then high five!” said Katee’s daughter, Jessie. 

Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

The family knew that Coco was special right away. After learning a few basic commands, they decided to move on to some more difficult tricks. Next, they trained her to ‘sit pretty’, which consisted of Coco sitting upright on the couch. However, Coco knew she was capable of much more than just that.

Eventually, Coco decided to make the ‘sit pretty’ command her own style. Instead of simply sitting upright, she started standing up with her paws in the air. Her family had no idea where it came from. She just does it on her own without anyone telling her to. In fact, her family has a hard time getting her to pose normally now.

Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

Coco started doing the pose so often that they decided to make her an Instagram page. The page is for her and her Maltese sister, Cici. However, Cici doesn’t like photos as much as Coco, so she rarely appears in pictures by herself. Luckily, Coco always wants to be the center of attention anyway. So, most of their Instagram consists of photos of Coco standing tall with her belly showing.

“We never force either dog to do anything they don’t want to do,” Katee said.

Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

Helping Others in Style

Coco and Cici are adorable little companions, but they also love to help others in need. They’re both certified therapy dogs. They visit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital often to cheer up patients with their love and affection. Plus, Coco’s adorable trick is enough to melt anyone’s heart.

Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

“We love to make people smile and spread a little joy with our posts and in person when we work at the hospital,” said Katee.

Coco and Cici have quickly become famous on Instagram thanks to Coco’s adorable talent. Their cuteness brings happiness to patients at the hospital and their online fans. The two silly pups are always up for new adventures, so their family documents every exciting moment on their social media.

If you want to see more adorable photos of these two sisters, please check out their Instagram page!

Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

H/T: boredpanda.com
Featured Image: @cocothemaltesedog/Instagram

The post Coco The Therapy Dog Loves Posing In Unique Ways appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.