Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dog Training Tips - Part I

The following article will appear in the April Edition of the Island Locator. Pick up your copy today or visit

Training Your Dog with Kindness and Patience: Part I
By: Katie Busenkell

The idea of training a dog can be daunting. I know from personal experience. I have a boonie dog that is about 3-4 years old. I have never met a dog with so much energy. He doesn’t walk – he bounds, literally jumping 2 feet into the air. He doesn’t walk – he runs like a thoroughbred. On more than one occasion, his high energy levels have gotten us (him and me) into uncomfortable situations with others.

A naughty, misbehaving dog is a nuisance. Nobody, including myself at times, liked my dog. In an attempt to find a solution to his bad behavior, I did some research on dog training. I read books on dog training, spoke with dog trainers and veterinarians, and perused various websites.

Most, if not all of the sources, had one thing in common – it wasn’t just the dog that had to change his behavior. I had to change my behavior, my way of dealing with him, if we (my dog and me) were to succeed at transforming him from a naughty, mischievous dog into an obedient dog.

I cannot possibly summarize all that I have picked-up along the way into one article. So, I have decided to summarize and publish one approach to dog training into a three part series***. Using the methods summarized below, my dog has learned a series of simple commands over the last 2-3 months. These commands include, “sit,” “lie,” “come,” and best of all, “stay.”

I challenge you try these methods at home with your dog. Just remember, be patient and kind. It takes time, but in the end, it pays off!


1. EASY: It’s important that your dog know when to calm down. So the first command is “easy.” This is a relaxing command. Introduce the command to your dog when he is calm. Then, gradually try it in more challenging situations.

While saying the word, pet your dog slowly from his neck down the back. This movement, long calm strokes down the back, mimics the calming gestures of a mother dog. So, while gently stroking your dog’s back, repeat the words “easy” and “good dog” in a soft gentle voice.

You should find that your dog starts to breathe a little easier and that he is relaxed. DO NOT let your dog lie down.

Once your dog has become relaxed, stop petting your dog. However, you want to keep chanting the words “easy” and “good dog.”

2. ORIENTING RESPONSE: An orienting response is a non-threatening sound or move that has a startling effect on your dog. You do not want to scare the dog. Rather, you want to grab the dog’s attention.

Do not use the words “No” or “Stop.” Those should be reserved for another command.

Once you have gotten your dog’s attention again, and you have him sitting or standing next to you, start petting him again and chanting “easy” and “good dog.”

After several days, you’ll notice that by chanting “easy” and “good dog” you will be able to stop petting your dog and he will be sit quietly as you are chanting.

Be prepared in the beginning to use the “orienting response” often. Training a dog takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged. Just remind yourself that it will take some dogs longer than others to decode the human language.

3. RELEASE: The only time your dog should come out of his relaxed state is when you say so. To let him know it is okay to move about freely, use a hearty “OKAY!”

Provide your dog with numerous sessions with the “easy” and “okay” exercises so your dog can learn the difference between the two. You don’t want your dog to confuse “easy” with “sit.” Rather, you want your dog to learn that “easy” means, “move about freely, but calmly and be sure to pay attention to me.”


Teaching a dog to sit, stay, and heel makes the dog a better companion. These commands establish control over your pet and serve as a constant reminder of who is the top dog.

1. SIT: You can best teach the “sit” command by a smooth, steady lift of the leash, saying the word “sit” and immediately releasing the tension as soon as your dog sits. If the dog resists, give a light tap on the dog’s rump. Don’t push the rump down. Pushing the rump down creates a natural counter-pressure that you can easily misinterpret as defiance. So, gently and slightly tap the dog’s rump. This should give him the message of what you want him to do.

2. STAY: With your dog sitting, hold the leash straight up with just enough tension in the leash to create counter-pressure. This allows you to use positive reinforcement (praise) as your dog is staying in position. Gradually reduce the counter-pressure as your dog begins to understand the stay. Naturally, praise the dog as soon as your dog complies.

3. HEEL: The objective of “heeling” is to keep your dog by your side where you have more control of him. Use gentle, but short, snaps of the leash to bring your dog into the heeling position. Again, the key to getting your dog to understand the word “heel” is to repeat yourself over and over again.

Be sure to praise your dog when he is in the right “heel” position. Maintain your pace no matter how hard your dog tries to distract you from the “heel” exercise. Change the pace once in awhile by slowing down and saying “heel easy” or doing a quick paced walk and saying “heel.” Then, add turns. Your dog will start to read your body language and stay in the “heel” position regardless of where you are going or how fast or slow you are moving.

Occasionally, release your dog from the heel position so he can learn the difference between “heel” and a freer walking exercise.

Try these commands, and next month there will be more progressive lessons on dog training. In the interim, if you are interested in learning more about dog training methods and/or dog behavior, I highly suggest you read the following books:

1. Dog Training in 10 Minutes. By: Carol Lea Benjamin.
2. The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions. By: Stanley Coren.
3. How to Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication. By: Stanley Coren.

For a comical read on naughty dogs and the dog-human bond, I highly suggest:

1. Marley & Me. By: John Grogan.

*** The dog training methods provided above were obtained in full from
The Gentle EasyKind Way: Behavioral Training Methods. By Carl A. Koski.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

National Pet Week Committee

National Pet Week is quickly approaching and we need to get ready for our annual celebration! National Pet Week is celebrated in the United States during the first week of May. This year, it is May 4th through May 10th.

In preparation for National Pet Week, PAWS and Beautify CNMI! are putting together a Pet Week Committee. Some, though not all, of the duties will include:

1. Giving Humane Education 45 minute presentations to elementary schools. Please note that the presentations are already prepared - we just need volunteers to give the presentations!

2. Organizing Saipan Second Dog Show. This includes: getting donations, picking up donations, coming up with categories, organizing print jobs, and obtaining support from sponsors.

3. Public Relations - radio and press releases.
If you are interested in helping us promote responsible pet ownership and the humane treatment of animals and/or just want to have a good time at this year's Dog Show, please join us on Monday, March 24th at 6:00 p.m. at Cafe on the Park for a general meeting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Join Us at Our Partner's Fundraiser!

TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW for $25.00 for adults and $15.00 for those under 12 years of age. If you are interested in buying a ticket, or volunteering for the event, please contact Katie Busenkell at

PLEASE, come out and support our partner in making Saipan a more beautiful place to live and visit!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two Itty Bitty Kittys

We have two TINY little kittens that are about 4 weeks old, looking for some TLC and new homes. These were 2 seperate rescues, and not from the same litter. The male is a beautiful bright orange tabby and the female is a grey tabby. They have had their first worming, and are doing well for being abandoned so young. They are ADORABLE and very inquisitive and looking for a family that can give them some special attention and follow up medical care/worming/vaccinations. Contact us on the PAWS HOTLINE: 285-PAWS, if you would like to adopt one of these itty bitty kittys!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Good night sweet girl

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

I lost a member of my family this week. There won't be a funeral. There will be no well wishers. No one will wear black. Some will even casually dismiss as absurd the melancholy that permeates my soul right now. You see, Shelby Turbitt wasn't my wife, child, parent, aunt or uncle; she was "just" my beloved dog for twelve years.

Shelby greeted me every time I walked in the door. She walked on the Oleai Beach Path with me. She watched television with me. When the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, the first time they did so in my mature lifetime, she got as excited as I did -- she just didn't know why. Friends move, stop calling or start ignoring our emails, but our pets are always there, especially if we take care of them -- at least for the relatively short time on Earth they grace us with their presence. She went to the vet each year. She was spayed. She got her preventative medicine. That gave her a relatively long and healthy life. I would urge all pet owners to find a way to do the same. In return for that investment, our pets add a bit of a soft touch to us -- even to a cynical SOB like me. They make us smile. They do things like give sight to the blind and teach children about love, loyalty, friendship and responsibility. They also act as companion to a lot of lonely senior citizens that tend to be forgotten.

It is indeed true that animals aren't people, and lots of good arguments can be made that we dote on them excessively. I "get that" on a pure reason basis, but we people aren't just Apollonian and guided only by reason. We have a Dionysian side that makes us human, not robot, and that makes the pain I feel very real and not the least bit diminished by any rational arguments from those purely practical people capable of minimizing this event -- an event that traumatizes many people who probably feel they need to hide their very real grief.

As couples tend to marry and have children later in life these days, pets tend to become surrogate children. Pet spending has doubled in the U.S. from $17 billion in 1994 to more than $34 billion today. When real children enter our lives, pets do tend to take that backseat. I noticed that trend myself. Shelby understandably went from being the only other living thing in my erstwhile bachelor pad, at least if I cleaned away the mold in the bathroom that week, to the dog that was part of a human family of four. She wasn't as prominent in my life, my older boy took on more of that role as her prime companion, but she and I still had all that history.

I still remember shamelessly walking with her when she was a puppy in the parks near Rutgers University in my mid-twenties for the express purpose of meeting college women. It worked, too. She was a great ice breaker. Every woman I dated had to pass the Shelby test. I knew I was going to be a hell of a lot more difficult to deal with than her, so she was a pretty good filter for potential romantic partners. When I took her into my life, I never imagined becoming an overseas teacher, but that was what I decided to do. I thought briefly about giving her up given the complex journey I was about to make, but she had woven herself into the fabric of my life way too deeply, so I brought her to travel the world with me. I like to joke that this little dog spread fertilizer further and wider than the John Deere Corporation.

In humans our hearts are our weakest organs -- perhaps our pets play a role in softening them. In our pets, kidneys are their weakest organs. Kidneys filter away toxins, kind of like Shelby did for me. Hers began to fail. The veterinarian noticed she was having trouble concentrating her urine a few months back, but there were no other symptoms, and I was never going to do any radical steps to extend her life anyway. I don't believe in that even for people, really. She continued on without any sign of anything unusual for a few months. All of a sudden, I noticed she had lost weight -- weight she perhaps could afford to lose given how well my wife fed her, but there really was not much else pointing to a problem. In a blink of an eye it seemed, she went into kidney failure, vomited blood several times and died naturally in the middle of the night as I petted her and begged God for a miracle -- or at least to ease her pain. It was a harrowing experience. Nature and the circle of life can be a cruel and relentless mistress. She passed away quickly in the middle of the night, and it hurts really bad. There is a scene in Pulp Fiction where Butch aks Marcellus Wallace, after their encounter with the hillbillies, if he is "OK." Wallace responds, "I'm pretty f****ng far from OK." I feel a lot like Wallace right now.

Good night sweet girl. You touched me more than you could ever know.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thoughts at: He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lovely Lady Ready to Join Your Family!

This beautiful yellow dog, goes by Agnes, or Aggie. She is a medium sized dog, about 35lbs and SUPER SWEET! She is up to date on all her shots and has been spayed. Almost a year old, she is thought to been born sometime last April. Miss Agnes is housebroken, socialized and plays well with others.

Contact Susan at #483-7834 right away, to make Aggie a part of your family today!