Sept 23, 2011 Issue #17 Published by Sue Skiff


Hi everyone! I am sorry about last week. I’m back, again.

Last week, I got to experience being in a courtroom. I moved within the last year, so as so often in my life has happened after a move, I got called for jury duty. I sat through an afternoon and a morning of jury selection, reached the jury box for a few seconds, and was excused, without reason, by the prosecutor. The last time that I moved, I was called for jury duty every year for a few years, then forgotten. I wonder if it will happen, again.

Today’s e-zine contains an article on jumping dogs, and the story of a little bird that I briefly knew.

Please let me know what YOU would like me to write about. Or, send me your comments, complaints, or questions.

See you next week; at least that’s my plan at the moment.




I’m often asked about stopping dogs from jumping on people. Before answering this, let’s look at why dogs jump. Dogs were once wolves. Wolf puppies jump up and lick around the mouths of adult wolves in greeting after a hunt. This causes the adults to regurgitate food for the puppies to eat. So, when a dog jumps up in greeting, it’s being a submissive puppy asking for resources (usually attention in the case of the domestic dog).

There are many “surefire” techniques for stopping jumping out there: “step on its paws,” “knee it in the chest, “grab its front feet when they’re off the ground,” “teach it the command ‘off.’” All of these have worked with some dogs, but none works with all dogs.

Let’s start with stepping on the paws. You can’t step on the front paws if they’re off the ground, and stepping on them after your dog jumps is ineffective, because your dog will associate it with coming down from the jump, not with jumping up. Stepping on them before the dog jumps just creates a weird game. And you’d have to be extremely agile to step on the back paws while the front paws are off the ground.

Then there’s the ever popular “knee it in the chest.” This can be effective if you catch the dog in the chest as it’s coming up, and knock it backwards. If the experience is unpleasant enough, your dog won’t want to jump on you anymore. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t jump on someone else. And, the real problem with kneeing a dog in the chest is that most people just lift up their knees to block their dogs’ jumps. Unless you’re really conscious of how you’re lifting your knee, your back will bend a little backwards when you lift your knee, pulling your head back. Dogs can interpret that bending backwards as an invitation to come closer, or worse, as submission. This is not what you want to communicate to your dog when it’s jumping.

Grabbing a dog’s front paws when it jumps could be effective if the dog has an aversion to having its paws held onto, or if you can hold the paws long enough to make the dog uncomfortable. However, it requires really good timing, and everyone who meets the dog initially has got to be willing to do it with good timing. Then again, your dog may see the paw grabbing as your way of giving it the attention that is seeking when jumping. Oops!

And then there’s the “off” command. You tell your dog “off” when it jumps. When it gets off, you reward it. The problem is that to get “off,” the dog must first get “on,” so your dog has to jump in order to get the command. You could use the “off” command before the dog jumps, and reward it if it doesn’t jump. However, this a non-specific command. You are telling the dog,” Do anything but jump.” This is a hard concept to teach.

The answer to jumping lies in its purpose. Your dog wants attention, so teach it something specific to do to get your attention. I like to teach “sit” for this purpose. A dog can’t sit and jump at the same time. When your dog wants to greet you, say “Sit” before it jumps. If you dog sits, greet it. Let it know that sitting will get it attention. Then, make your dog sit before you give it any attention.

And, any time your dog is approaching a person, have your dog sit, and then let the person give it attention. I do have to admit that this can be a challenge, not necessarily because of the dog, but because of the nature of people that like dogs. I don’t know how many times I have been told by people that it is ok if my dog jumps on them when they see that I am telling my dog to sit. Some people will just go right ahead and give my dog attention when she is standing, when I have clearly told them she has to sit to get their attention. Yes. People can sabotage your best efforts here, so be assertive with them, and let them know that your dog has to sit to get their attention.

So, what if your dog jumps when you say “Sit,” or your dog jumps up while you’re petting it. Then, withdraw your attention; even turn your back on it. If the dog keeps jumping, walk into it while not giving it attention. If it’s jumping on your back, walk backwards into it. Pretend the phone is ringing across the room, and you know it’s an urgent call. Nothing is going to stop you from getting to that phone. You may knock the dog backwards with your knee, or step on its paws, as you walk, but your dog is not going to be confused by your body language. Don’t look at the dog, or talk to it other than to repeat the command “Sit.” Be consistent, and soon you’ll see your dog sitting without being told whenever it comes to greet you.


During the late 1980’s, I spent a good deal of time living in Yosemite. I was there studying great gray owls. When I first went to Yosemite to study the owls, it was simply a job. I had been working for a professor in Davis studying scrub jays during my last year as an undergraduate, and when the jays finished nesting for the year, he asked me if I wanted to study owls for him in Yosemite. I didn’t hesitate to say “Yes.” After 2 years, I returned to Davis to work on a master’s degree; adjusting part of my owl research to formulate a thesis proposal. This story takes place during my first spring in Yosemite.

It was an unusual spring. However, I didn’t know that, because I hadn’t lived in Yosemite, previously. Two things took place during that spring that I simply assumed happened every spring. They do not. The first of these two things was the storms. Every day in May, and for the first ½ of June, we had thunder storms, and or hail storms. The great things about these storms were that they occurred at about the same time every day, and each storm didn’t last long. I could easily plan my day around them, so that I could be out in the field, and not get wet or electrocuted. The second thing about that spring was the butterflies. They showed up by the thousands; and for whatever reason known only to those particular species of butterflies, they would gather by the hundreds on certain sections of roads. Hence, large numbers of them were being killed by cars. I soon learned where in my travels throughout the park I was likely to encounter them, and utilized this knowledge to minimize my impact on their numbers.

I found Lefty near a road in Crane Flat; well-known to bird watchers everywhere as the place to look for great gray owls. Crane Flat, although not in Yosemite Valley where most tourists spend the bulk of their time in Yosemite, is heavily used by humans. It contains a campground, a gas station, and an environmental education camp. Two highways run through Crane Flat; one leading from the northern-most entrance to the Park into Yosemite Valley, and the other starting at Crane Flat, running up through Toulumne Meadows, over the Sierra Nevada, and out to the eastern-most portion of California. All this presents problems for the wildlife there; as they endeavor to make use of the important system of meadows that attract them to Crane Flat.

Lefty was one of those wild residents of Crane Flat; a dark-eyed junco (or Oregon junco}. For those of you who are unfamiliar with juncos, they are little brown birds (otherwise known to birders as LBB’s), slightly smaller than sparrows, and are most noticeable for their black heads. Like their sparrow cousins, they are normally seed eaters. I can’t remember how I spotted Lefty, but I believe I actually saw her/him from the University of California vehicle I was then using for getting around Yosemite. S/he couldn’t fly. There was something wrong with her right wing (hence the name Lefty).

Now, and even then, I do not recommend that people take in wild creatures, and try to take care of them themselves. But, there I was, not in much of a position to get Lefty to a wildlife rehabilitation center. I had no car of my own, and I was living in the middle of a National Park. I was breaking the law by doing it, I knew, but I couldn’t leave Lefty sitting there, so I took her home. I happened to have a bird cage, and Lefty took up residence within it. I also had a large amount of bird seed on hand, and knowing that juncos are seed eaters, I made this available to Lefty. However, Lefty wasn’t interested in bird seed, not in the least. What Lefty was interested in eating was insects. So, when I was out and about doing my research, I would scoop up dead butterflies from the roads. It was a relief to me that at least some of them weren’t dying in vain. They were providing sustenance for an animal in need.

I did nothing as far as trying to heal Lefty’s wing. It did not have any appearance of identifiable injury. It simple didn’t work right. I counted on Lefty’s own healing abilities to take care of that, and simply gave her a safe place to heal.

Soon, Lefty became more active; bouncing around the cage with great energy. I decided that dead butterflies were not enough challenge for Lefty. So, I shifted to feeding her termites. This was easily accomplished, because I regularly came across termite nests where large numbers of winged termites were leaving to form new colonies elsewhere. I simply would grab them as they left their nests. Lefty really seemed to enjoy going after these insects, when I released them into the bird cage.

All along, I wondered how I would know when Lefty had healed enough to be released. Lefty answered this for me when, one evening, she got out of the cage, and flew to the top of the A-frame cabin where I was staying that spring. She was easily recaptured, since it was nighttime, and she remained still once the lights were turned off.

The next day, I took Lefty back to Crane Flat, and released her where I found her. It was a joy to see her fly off.

Please don’t try this at home. If you find an injured wild animal, you need to contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center. If there is no center near to where you live, you can generally find someone who has had the training, and has obtained the proper licensing, to care for wildlife in their homes.


It’s part of life in the 21st century. You get the kids off to school, work all day, pick the kids up at daycare, make dinner, and collapse. But, what about the dog? How do you find the time to train it to be a good citizen? Maybe, you managed to get your dog into a puppy kindergarten class, and then a basic obedience class. But, you really didn’t have time to practice the way the instructor wanted you to, and now, well now, it’s all kind of fallen by the wayside.

You know that your dog can do better. Perhaps, your dog has some behavior issues. Whether or not they’re serious issues, they make your life harder, don’t they?

So, what do you do when you’re already stretched, and you know your dog needs more? The answer is “day training.” Day training starts with a meeting with me where you describe your dog training needs, and your dog’s behavior issues. I then come to your house for an hour or so, on agreed upon days, to train your dog. You get to get on with your life, while your dog gets training and attention from a professional. And, that training and attention is customized to your and your dog’s exact needs.

Maintaining what your dog learned is also built into the day training program. At the end of each week of training, I meet with you to go over what your dog has learned, as well as what you need to do to maintain the learning. After the agreed upon number of weeks has elapsed, I return for a follow-up or two, to make sure that you and your dog are on the same page, and everyone’s happy. For more information on day training, visit my dog training website

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Silver Linings is a publication of Silver Linings Pet Services, and is published for the purpose of marketing services. The current address of Silver Linings Pet Services is: 5555 Merritt Drive Concord, Ca 94521