Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rewarding Work

Positive reinforcement gains good results in dog training, and it does the same for my self-discipline. Rewards keep me working. Like Pugs, I am food-oriented and I do use food rewards to keep me on task all day. After a long, continuous workload of 12-18 hour days, a bigger reward is due. I am looking forward to a little day trip, just enough to shake off some of the clay dust. Being self-employed, the hours are what I set for myself, but unlike other employment, I also work every night shift and every weekend. To maximize duration of reward road trips, I find ways to make each one doubly functional (fun, yet business related). It is not often that I get to combine Pugs, visiting friends, delivering orders, and raising funds for something near and dear to my heart.

I have been looking forward to the Greater Atlanta Pug Specialty show for months. I plan to visit with friends, meet some in person for the first time, and sketch some gorgeous Pugs. I have a vending table reserved, and a mess of back orders to deliver. Right there, it's both business and pleasure.

On the fundraising side, it also a double. The Puggy bank-custom-to-planter that I donated to this show is being raffled for the Pug Dog Club of America's Health Fund. My original Puggy Bank limited edition sold out in two hours, so this is a rare variant of a very hard-to-get item. The planter will be displayed at my vendor table.

Independent of the show, I finished the Pawprint Ornaments that you've been reading about. I will be bringing the available ones to sell at my table, and all proceeds also go to the PDCA Health Fund. The Health Fund sponsors research in Pug diseases, including developing testing. Through this work, and when breeders apply the test results to their selection processes, these inherited diseases may be eradicated.

Tonight, the kiln is cooking, the Pugs are snoring, and I'm dreaming of my reward day out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Paws to Help Others, part II

Last you saw, the clay pawprints had just been cut into little Pug faces. The clay dried to a lighter gray color. Each "cookie" was allowed to airdry and warp in unique ways, suggesting different Pug facial expressions. I then cleaned up the rough edges and drilled a hole in the top for a ribbon hanger.

To get the fawn Pug look, it takes three different colors of underglaze (pigmented liquid mud). I airbrush the cute little pawprints to further emphasize the faces. At this stage, the cookies go in for their first baking in the kiln.

The cookies are now "biscuit", or bisque fired. I had fun painting silly Pug faces on them. I let the directions of the toe prints suggest where the Pug should be looking.

The next stage is to apply the clear glaze over all. It looks pink, but that color burns out in the glaze firing.

These cookies have been glaze fired and the ribbons added. They may be hung in windows or for holiday decor. The glazed ceramic will never fade in sunlight. With careful handling, they will last forever.

These will be only available as a fundraiser for a Pug charity. I will post more information as it becomes available.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help to Others' Paws

After I trimmed the Pugs' nails yesterday, I thought about how often I have been asked how I do it. Pug owners can attest that for all their cuteness and love, Pugs turn into squirming, squalling, incredulous hulks when it's time to trim nails. How can this possibly keep feet and pasterns healthy?! Who do we think we are? There is a scale of disgusted behavior that ranges from little whines and yawning for mercy, all the way to so wild, only the entire vet staff holding on, all at once, can manage it.

Theory: stress reduction
Years ago, I read about a product called the Anxiety Wrap. I took that thought and went a step further- how to keep myself from getting pawed to death while trimming Pug nails. Pugs of the breed standard size slide neatly into an old flannel shirt sleeve. You may have to do a little shopping to find a sleeve that fits a larger Pug.

Gently fold the forefeet to the chest and make sure the Pug's face is at the end, for safe respiration. This hold keeps the Pug calm and prevents you from getting kicked.

Start with a hind foot. Be gentle, it's just a little guy! Isolate the foot as shown and snugly wrap the other hind and the rest of the Pug with the remainder of the shirt.

These diagrams show two common problem nail shapes.

Practice: sculpting the nail
I use both a dremel with a sanding drum and a regular human nail file. Use eye protection, a dusk mask, and flexible but thick gloves for this job. Before I turn on the dremel, I check the claws to see if the back edge is "hooking" into the toe pad behind it. Hooks are removed by sliding the file between the hook and pad, yet keeping it off of the pad surface (you don't want to sand the Pug's skin). This part of the claw seems to grow much faster than the front. The front wall of the nail is the thickest. I find that sculpting this down, as well as the very end, until you reach the rubbery end of the quick, helps the quick recede naturally.

If the quick stays long, the nail stays overgrown. Dremelling is pretty easy, just put it on slow speed and take your time, dabbing at the nail. The whitish part of the nail below is where it has been dremelled. The other nails are untouched. .

Do not hold it on to get it done faster; it will build up heat and burn the dog. If you see lamina peeling, stop! You are about to quick the dog. Keep QuickStop gel ready, in case you make a mistake. It is both a pain reliever and coagulant. Nails should be done once a week. If you show, you may have to do it twice a week to keep that ideal rounded profile. Dogs who are exercised on asphalt and who lack enough biotin may have flaky or slow growing nails, so adjust the diet and trimming schedule accordingly. Have patience and don't expect perfect nails the first trim. It takes weeks of careful trimming before the quick recedes naturally, from contact wear.

Work your way around all four feet, taking care to rewrap the other limbs each time. Some Pugs complain a little for the duration, but others are so secure in the wrap that they actually snore through it all. When unwrapping, be sure the place the Pug on a floor with a texture for grip, such as a carpet or rubber mat. They are backing out of the sleeve blindly and could slip or fall. This trimming method does not work for all Pugs, but it is worth trying if you have a problem child. It helps to start training your puppy early, in proportionately sized sleeves. A behavior hint: negative reactions to stimuli are "contagious". A normal dog will take a cue from a dog who is expressing disgust (such as of trimming). Trim each dog in isolation, or you will end up with all of them misbehaving the same way. If you take no other advice here, be kind and don't be bullied by your Pug.

DISCLAIMER: The techniques and materials suggested on this site are merely suggestions. The advice given here is not intended as a substitute for a professional veterinary opinion. The site owners, authors, and affiliates are not responsible for the misuse or use of any advice or recommended products.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Paws to Help Others

Pugs have big hearts, and so do Pug people. We love to find artistic ways to raise money for charities. Poots, Paul, and I have teamed up for a new fundraiser mission. Between many other studio projects, Paul created a metal cookie cutter from my original drawing. While I had something else drying, I threw a thin clay slab on the floor. Poots watched from the puppy pen, yarfing with excitement. How do they know? I lightly pressed outlines for each cookie in the clay.

I asked Poots to put her best foot forward... and she gave it her all. Her knowing half-smile is priceless.

After all were stamped, I used Paul's cookie cutter again. Even at this stage, the paw prints suggest a funny little Pug face on each one. It's also time to trim those nails!

You may be wondering why I didn't ask Tater to help. Tater is a temperamental artist and she stomps everywhere, shreds the clay, and leaves messy prints all over the studio.

In a few days, we'll share another sneak peek. Do you have a skill, no matter how humble, that could do some good for others? You don't have to shoot for the stars; we are down here, on the floor, pushing mud around.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Low Pug on the Totem Pole

We oddly social mammals love to bring other species into our families. It's interesting to observe our fabricated packs as they settle and reinforce their ranks, through very subtle eye and tail gestures. Our Tater has always been on the bottom rung. It doesn't matter how many dogs are at play, nor how old they are, nor the location. Other dogs, especially puppies, that try to include her in the fun only send her running. As close as she ever came to an equal, a true playmate, was her "brother", Little Man. But, that is a story for another day...

We went to a model builders club meeting, and the hobby shop had a giant plush Pug on sale for a song. All the ride home, we looked forward to seeing Poots' reaction. She has a history of boxing the ears of any remotely Puglike plush. She loves real Pugs, but not the "skin jobs".

True to the breed's trait of doing something unexpected whenever someone is watching, neither Pug reacted. They just wanted dinner, as usual. A few minutes after dinner, the solemn Pug giant sat alone in the middle of the living room. I heard a noise behind me, and managed to snap only this one pic before Tater saw me and showed doggy guilt. She had knocked it over, biting and clawing like it owed her money.

Witness: the only Pug she outranks.

Think about how much strife the world would be spared, if more people played Wii Boxing. Take another lesson from Tater.

Clay Going In, Clay Going Out

I'm new to this blog habit. The topic today, geophagy, is not new. Living things eat clay as a strategy to safely bind and excrete ingested toxins. Another biological fact is that among living things, Pugs are among the most open-minded when it comes to ingestion.

I have a professional pottery studio. On occasion, I make exceptional clay messes that spill over onto the floors. The floor is the domain of the Pugs. You see where this is going.

In the past, I've caught the Pugs hoovering up bits of clay. They leave it when told. It never gives them any change in processing, and it possibly fulfills a basic need that some dogs try to meet by eating their yards. It is worth noting that quantity makes a difference in outcome. I suspect that the tipping point for Tater could be measured in terms of teaspoon fractions.

When I have to spend long, consecutive hours in the studio, I bring the Pugs along. Another biological truth: Pugs were invented for companionship; they thrive on being with their people. Poots toddles off to Paul's side of the studio and lurks his comfy office guest chair. Tater, however, is devoted to me and snores for hours on the dog bed at my feet. Recently, I was in the midst of a mind-binding project that generated a fresh clayfall. My entire faculties devoted to the task at hand, I failed to notice that helpful Tater was making a dent in a wet clay drift. The "Leave it!" command never came. The next day, my perfectly housetrained Pug was not-so-much. Tater timed it admirably. She waited for me to leave the room, followed me to the bathroom door, and left her first "clay sculpture" in the main studio. She left it in Paul's area, not in mine, because she has a sense of loyalty. After cleanup, I took her back to the house for a time-out. Pugs who take liberties lose their liberty in the studio. I didn't realize she'd only just begun, and I'd just left her alone with carpet.

To make an unpleasant story short, I was glad I had just bought a new gallon of Nature's Miracle. Tater is inarguably a self-made expert in the detox diet movement. The puppy pen has returned to service, as long as I am in this phase of this project. Sorry, Tater, but I don't need a living extruder.