Earl the McNab

Earl the McNab
Earl the Mcnab

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Chevy: The Saga of a Shaking Puppy

Little Chevy faced challenges right from the start.

His mother Molly, right at the appropriate gestation period of 63 days, first gave birth to a still-born puppy. It was small, not fully formed, and had likely died a couple of days prior to birth. I helped her deliver it; it presented tail-first. The fact it was stillborn meant her hormones didn't kick in properly to deliver the next puppy, so I called the vet and promptly loaded her in the truck to take her in for some help.

When I arrived, I carefully checked the floorboards in the rear of the cab where she'd been sitting. There, breathing but not vigorous, was a small black puppy she'd delivered on the 40-minute drive. I rubbed his chest as I rushed him and his mama into the clinic, calling out, "He's breathing!" to the bewildered receptionist. The staff took him back right away to the exam room and began warming him.

The others - one more of which was still born - were born over the next 12 hours. They were all larger than little Chevy. Typical of a runt, he struggled to compete with his larger litter mates when nursing. They simply knocked him out of the way or squeezed in together so he couldn't force his way to a teat. I'd hold my hands on either side of him to protect his space while he nursed, making sure he fed properly. I weighed him three times a day so I could monitor his growth and compare his rate of weight gain to the others.

Little Chevy (at left, above), snuggling in the arms of his sister, Beni (with the white face). Note how much larger at the other puppies are already.

Left: Chevy showing off the six toes on each rear foot.
On day three, little Chevy suffered cardiopulmonary syndrome. I'd been with the puppies constantly, sleeping on a futon beside the whelping pen, and monitoring them closely. When I awakened after a couple of hours of sleep, I found him nearly lifeless. He was cold, non-responsive, and limp. Having bottle-fed kittens, I knew he was likely hypoglycemic as well as hypothermic. I also knew to warm him slowly and not give him any food (including formula) until he had warmed up. I tucked him into my shirtfront while I warmed towels in the dryer and made an emergency rice heater (a sock filled with white rice which I could then microwave for a couple of minutes).

While the towels were heating, I rubbed Chevy's chest, "swooped" him to make sure he had no fluids interfering with his breathing, and gave him gentle mouth-to-muzzle breathing. My husband took one look at the tiny limp creature and shook his head, saying, "He's gone," but I knew we had a chance. I wrapped him in warm towels, made some KMR (kitten milk replacer) I had on hand, and sent my husband to Tractor Supply for some Esbilac.

By the time my husband returned, I had already gotten some KMR into little Chevy with a puppy bottle. It was slow going. Slowly, he began to revive. From then on, I continued to ensure he had assistance nursing, and I also supplemented his diet with bottle-fed Esbilac. He gained weight, some days; other days he gained and then lost even more, but he grew increasingly lively. The other puppies rapidly outpaced him in rate of gain, even with all the extra feeding. I started him on Nutrical as well.

Chevy seemed to be about two or three days behind all the others in his developmental milestones. He opened his eyes a bit later; crawled later; and so forth. It was when he was about two weeks old I realized something more serious was impacting him. He developed a noticeable tremor in his head and hindquarters, and within a few days it had worsened. The first day or so I noticed it, I optimistically thought it was just muscle fatigue from struggling to keep up; then, as it increased in severity, I researched it. It was a textbook case of "shaking puppy syndrome" or hypomyelination. None of the references cited McNab dogs as having a genetic predisposition toward this disease, so I could find nothing that could give me an idea as to whether he - like afflicted puppies of certain breeds - would be likely to re-myelinate and outgrow the disease or not. Some puppies progress to where they must be euthanized; some breeders simply euthanize any afflicted puppies; and some puppies are given supportive care and eventually (between three months and 18 months of age) recover.

Heartbroken for the sweet little guy, with whom I'd bonded over puppy-bottles and cuddles, I decided that as long as he had good quality of life, I'd give him every chance of recovery. My definition of "good quality of life" meant showing no sign of pain; being able to do certain normal puppy things, such as being able to play in some form; and being responsive enough to show happiness. I had to break the news to the person who'd planned on giving him his forever home, Mary, that he was not a healthy puppy and that I wanted her to consider his beautiful brother, Tank. Although Mary would certainly have given him the love and care he needed, I wanted her to have the healthy, rambunctious, protective puppy she deserves. I am grateful for her immediate fondness for him and her encouragement.

I continued bottle feeding him until he was eating enough solid food to supplement his nursing effort.  Fortunately, his appetite was outstanding.Shaking puppies struggle to keep weight on, as they tremble it right off, so we made sure he had extra feedings (both from his mother as well as from a dish) and that he was undisturbed while eating. Chevy ate longer than the others. It did my heart good seeing him eat.

I began doing a sort of physical therapy with him. I'd support him so he could stand, and encourage him to develop strength and muscles. I flexed his hind legs (his weakness is far worse in the hindquarters) and played with him. I noticed that firm pressure on his body minimized the tremors, as did holding up his head for him. He had no tremors while he slept or when he lay on his side. I also noticed his tremors were worse when he was excited, even if it was a "good" excitement like feeding time, greeting one of us, or trying to play. When the tremors were at their worst, he "hopped" backwards, pulled to the rear by the severe shaking, when he most wanted to go forward.

He never did show pain, but he yelps and cries when he's frustrated. Cognitively, he is fine. He's bright-eyed, sweet-natured, and loves to give kisses. He's playful, too, and he has tremendous heart and determination. However, he wasn't gaining any strength in his rear legs, and his left leg would just slide under him so he almost appeared to have a paralysis. The muscle atrophy was evident. I attempted (rather feebly) to make a set of wheels for him, with no success. I then ordered a canine wheelchair for him from, of course!, Amazon.

Chevy turned seven weeks old this past week. He is still struggling to manage with the wheelchair. His front legs aren't strong enough to pull himself around well yet, and his shaking bobbles the cart around; tomorrow, I'm going to try to weight the end of it to stabilize him. Still, he has figured out how to walk forward already. I want him to know that the feeling of being upright is normal. The cart allows him some relief from dragging his hindquarters, and will help him stand squarely in the front. I limit his sessions in the chair to where he starts showing exhaustion; when he does so, he makes his way to me and rests his head on me.

Having him in the wheelchair requires constant supervision. He's had roll-overs and has turned onto his side. I can't let the other puppies around him when he's in it; they think it's a toy, and try to drag him around. When the cart isn't on him, though, he loves playing with his brothers and sisters; he wrestles, plays tug of war, and has fierce growling matches with them.

With continued care, patience, and love, I'm optimistic little Chevy will have a happy life. He wins over everyone he meets; he's a happy little guy. I'm happy to say no one has suggested euthanizing him. It's difficult to see him struggle to do basic puppy things, but he doesn't know he's different. He does, for certain, know he's loved - not only by the humans in his life, but by his dog and cat family here. One sibling in particular, his sister Beni, is particularly loving and nurturing of him. Right from the beginning they had a special bond; now, she's still the one he snuggles up with, and she often sleeps with her head on him.

Keep good thoughts for little Chevy!

Disclaimer: Product links above are affiliate links. They are products I use and endorse and all statements I've made regarding them are truthful and accurate. 
Copyright (c) 2019 MJ Miller * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

McNab Puppy Progress: First Day of Solid Food

The pups celebrated their three-week birthday today with their first solid food. Their eyes are open, their little needle-teeth emerging, and they are in the early stages of playful behavior. Plus, they give kisses. They bark and growl and raise their paws in invitation to play. There's nothing more wonderful than puppies.

Mattie-K8 (left) helps Molly raise the puppies.

Mattie-K8, our Papillon-in-Charge, has coveted these puppies since their arrival. She initially wanted to steal them; now, she is insisting on co-parenting. She awakens me in the night by barking if one yelps, and she promptly leaps over the makeshift puppy gate and checks on them. She also growls at Molly and insists the puppies are, in fact, hers.  It's a testament to Molly's good nature that she lets Mattie-K8 away with so much puppy appropriation.

Now, the big event: introduction to solid food!  As I note in the video below, I expected the puppies to be reluctant to try something new. Years of marriage to a very risk-free and unadventurous eater have apparently conditioned me. To my surprise, the puppies jumped onto that food (literally as well as figuratively) and devoured it greedily. It was a thing of beauty. 

Although I have a beautiful new stainless steel puppy dish, I opted for a saucer for their first effort, again thinking it'd be easier if they needed coaching. At their next meal I'll use the puppy dish and then get my fingers quickly out of the way of these voracious little sharks. 

I made them a meal of Royal Canin canned puppy food (affiliate link) and water - two parts canned food to one part water.  The Royal Canin is a top-quality food, ideal for weaning puppies as it is only 7.5% protein. Higher protein foods can be challenging for delicate puppy tummies. The Royal Canin also is a paté-type consistency, easy to mix with water and free of big chunks that can challenge little pups. The puppies just wolfed it down. Before I even had the chance to dip the first pup's nose in as introduction, he was squirming out of my hands to eat. No need to baby these babies through! 

Feeding was a messy affair, as you can tell from the photo and video. Many wet-wipes were sacrificed to clean puppy faces afterwards. As soon as they'd had their fill and flopped down for the post-feeding happy-belly nap, I let Molly back in. She promptly cleaned up the leftovers.

On the next feeding, the puppies will be using their stainless steel puppy dish (affiliate link). The dish is weighted, dishwasher safe, and has a raised center to keep food from being pushed inward - which will help keep puppies from having to crawl into the middle of the dish. It's also large enough to provide ample space so the bigger pups, like Tank and Spotty, don't shove tiny Chevy or petite Flashdance out of the way. Mid-sized Flower has no problem squeezing into the fray.

Although Molly will still be feeding the puppies also, I'm going to hang a water bottle on the side of the pen. The puppies will need more and more water as they wean from her. Molly's already seeking more adult conversation these days, and less concerned about feeding the pups. Nature is encouraging her to instinctively spend less time with the little ones. 

Now it's time to do puppy laundry ... again. They're still quite easy to clean up after, and Molly is still helping with the cleaning, but puppies are gonna puppy and that means lots of handy-wipes and wash cycles.

Copyright (c) 2019 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photos or video, may be used without permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are greatly appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You Guys! McNab Puppies!

Right on schedule, at 63 days, Molly delivered her pups. She's been an amazing mother just as we knew she'd be: We've long called her "Nurse Molly" for her loving, nurturing nature. She loves babies of all sorts, from kittens to calves and baby donkeys. Finally, she has some all to herself.

Initially, Molly wouldn't leave her puppies, be it to eat or to empty her bladder. I had to pack the whole puppy crew into a backpack-type animal carrier and tote them outdoors. Molly would then follow and, with a look of panic on her face, instinctively race off well away from them to evacuate. Dogs being den animals, of course, the last thing a mama dog wants to do is foul anyplace near her nest. And nest she did: Before the puppies were born, she went into a nesting mania. I'd built her a sturdy wooden whelping box, complete with a rail to prevent her from accidentally smothering the puppies. After watching her rearrange the towels and pads I put in the box, I had a brainstorm: I put plain brown parcel paper inside. Molly went to town shredding it and arranging it to her liking. It's not what I left as bedding after the pups were born, but it satisfied Molly's instinctive need to create a nest for the little ones.

Once the babies arrived, though, I lined the bottom of the box with cardboard, topping it with bath mats. Foam isn't recommended for newborns due to the risk of suffocation, but bath mats seemed to have the heaviness to remain relatively intact and not fold over onto puppies - and they take a machine washing. The new crate pads arrived today, and now that the puppies are nearly a week old they should be safe with the cozy new pads. 

Watching the other house animals with the new arrivals has been interesting and fulfilling. Little Mattie-K8, the Papillon, has had major puppy envy. She has wanted to steal the puppies from the start, but Molly growled her away. Molly's lightened up considerably since the birth, and tolerates Mattie-K8 looking enviously through the play pen wire, but when Mattie enters the playpen and approaches the box, Molly growls. When the puppies cry, Mattie trembles. At one point, as I was bottle-feeding a puppy who needed a kickstart to get over "fading puppy syndrome," I set him down on the heating pad as I walked off to get his formula. Mattie jumped in and took him, moving him about four feet away. When I returned within just a minute or two, she'd already licked him all over. 

Earl, our ten-year-old McNab, was nervous about the puppies, but not terrified; just apprehensive. Ethan, the father of the litter, was more involved. Fatherhood has matured him: He's quiet (for him, anyway) around them, and respects Molly's space. He and Molly have been exceptionally close, and during the latter days of her pregnancy I confined her at times in the play pen with the whelping box inside it. Ethan, the athlete, nimbly leapt over the playpen side to visit her. Once the puppies arrived, though, he never once attempted it. 

As for the cats, whom I feared might be aggressive - they have been anything but. Froggy-Isabella, the proud huntress, was interested, but neither fearful nor aggressive. Lucy Lovebug was initially frightened, and sought refuge in the basement or outdoors in her catio. But poor Hank - eighteen-pound titan Hank - was utterly terrified. He stayed downstairs in the basement, wide-eyed and trembling, until emerging to visit the catio, and when he did finally come back indoors through the master bedroom door, he climbed onto the bed with my husband and panicked whenever he heard a puppy whimper in the other room. After three days, it dawned on me to put a movie in the player for some background noise. Sure enough, Hank visited and approached the puppy box. He inspected the "threat" and calmly returned to business as usual. 

After the first three sleepless nights since the puppies arrived, we have all settled in. Molly, requiring some "adult conversation" at times, now leaves the puppies to go outside for brief intervals of play. She made up her own bed in a blanket next to the puppy box and when it's warm, she lies on it. She happily greets her most-adored human, my husband, when he gets home from work, and is adopting a healthy routine again. 

One of the many touching and entertaining things she does is line up the puppies side by side and then sits, grinning, admiring them. Nurse Molly - now "Mama Moll" - is so very happy to have her puppies to cuddle and adore.

Copyright (c) 2019 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photos, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Big News from Molly and Ethan McNab!


We are overjoyed to announce that Ethan and Molly are expecting! Molly, a purebred McNab from Garcin's Stock Dogs, is due the first week of April, 2019. We call her "Nurse Molly" for her nurturing nature and can't wait to see her as a loving mama. She is gentle with our other animals and is fascinated with newborns, from the newborn donkey and foals to the calves and baby chicks. She has raised kittens and is now keeping watch over the latest arrival of new chicks. Molly is protective (not aggressive) and very caring.

Ethan, on his first birthday

Ethan, also from Garcin's, has a small percentage of Kelpie and Border Collie in his McNab lines. Ethan is the most athletic dog I've ever seen; balanced, startlingly fast, and particularly fond of jumping and leaping - over, onto, and across whatever obstacle is before him. He has great stamina, fast reflexes, and brains. He's also the orangutan of the bunch: He is into mischief at all times, usually to hilarious results. Ethan is both protective and vocal, but not aggressive. He has been good with toddlers and, like Molly, is attracted to newborn animals. Seeing him play with the baby donkeys is priceless. Ethan is our head "goat watcher" and will, on command, immediately locate our goat when she's turned out, let me know where she is, then will help me return her to her pen when it's time to lock her up. He's a treasure on the trail whether we're on foot or on horseback - the trail dog I always dreamed of having as a child.

Ethan and Molly

The two of them are ever-joyful. Affectionate, happy, and scary-smart, they're going to produce highly active, extremely intelligent, hardy and vigorous puppies. We selected Ethan specifically to cross with Molly; we're thrilled at the prospect of welcoming their babies and giving them a solid foundation. 

Bred to work livestock, these pups will require ranch homes or rural owners who require extremely active and athletic dogs for agility, trail dogs, or lengthy backpacking / hiking companionship. These are not suitable dogs for crating on a frequent or regular basis nor for confinement on small properties with only moderate interaction. Owners must commit to spending the time and energy to provide an intellectually stimulating, loving home and active lifestyle for them. 

We've already reserved puppies on our waiting list. Email me at marcyjmiller06@gmail.com for details. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Best Toys for McNabs

McNabs are unique. They don't necessarily like the same toys Boomer the Labrador or Chloe the Chihuahua enjoys. If you wish, you can just buy one of every available toy on the market (as I sometimes think I've done) or you can try some of the toys I've found our McNabs like the most.

Being working dogs, McNabs like high-octane toys that keep them moving. They aren't content just cuddling up with a stuffed toy or carrying things around like my gentle Labs did. They want to be running, leaping, and chasing. The toys listed below are not in any particular order.

Boomer Ball / Jolly Ball Push-and-Play Ball
Ethan with his much-loved Jolly Pets Push-n-Play Ball

The first Boomer Ball I ever bought was many years ago as a horse toy. At the time I had Dalmatians. One of my Dalmatians went crazy for that original Boomer Ball. To my surprise, she became obsessed with pushing it at speed across the horse pasture, then corralling it with her muzzle and pushing it back, yipping with excitement the entire time.  I still have that original Boomer Ball, which is now over 25 years old. They may not last forever, but then again ... they might.

Once he'd become reasonably mature (over five months old) I introduced Ethan to the Boomer Ball and to my delight, he loved it. I followed up by buying him the Jolly Ball brand equivalent - a 14" Jolly Pets Push-n-Play Ball. Ethan is every bit as obsessed with it as my Dalmatian was. He begins yipping happily as soon as he attacks it, then "herds" it across the property, cuts it off and herds it back. One feature of this type of play is you can use it to teach useful commands that translate to livestock work or other activities.

These balls are hard plastic and can take a beating. They're difficult, if not impossible, for the dogs to chew up as they can't be compressed like vinyl or rubber balls. Take your time introducing the dog to them; show them how to play with it by pushing it back and forth with your own feet like a soccer ball. McNabs learn easily by watching and it won't take long for them to develop confidence with the ball, but at first, until they learn how to maneuver it, they may be intimidated.

You can buy a Jolly Pets Push-n-Play Ball on Amazon here: Push-n-Play Ball(affiliate link). These are terrific for any herding-type dog. (And some horses!) This type of ball can also be filled with water. If you fill them 1/3 or 1/2 way, they'll roll with unpredictable results - which some dogs just love.

Ethan shows how to "herd" the ball.

Three McNabs, one ball, and a human activity director. 

Jolly Ball
Again, my first introduction to the Jolly Ball was via my horses, long ago. I bought a large one for a particularly active colt, who loved to throw the ball - literally - over his arena fence and onto oncoming cars. Ethan, though, is the first of my dogs to love playing with the Jolly Ball, a large, durable (but not hard), rubber ball with a handle. You can buy them through Amazon here:  Jolly Ball (affiliate link) in various sizes and colors. The original Jolly Ball is prone to being chewed. Ethan has gnawed holes near and on the handle on both of his, and I no longer let him bring it in the house. When he's outside, he happily carries it around the property and doesn't destroy it. Because these types of ball don't rely on holding air to hold their shape, they're good in our desert terrain (think: cactus) and don't deflate.

Laser Toy
Yep. McNabs go crazy over the laser toys. From the humble mouse-shaped laser pointer to the grand poobah of all laser toys - the PetSafe Dart - they go bonkers chasing that light around. All three of our McNabs (and all three cats) are in for a good time when the laser game starts, and all six animals play at once. Mass hysteria! If you haven't seen the PetSafe Dart Automatic Rotating laser toy, it's a battery-operated laser projector that rotates, pauses, and otherwise engages the dog (or cat) without your intervention. Ours has stood up to lots of abuse and I've had to reassemble it many times, but it's well worth it. You can buy one through Amazon here: Automated Laser Pet Toy (affiliate link).

Small or Long Plush Toy
Although all three of our McNabs like stuffed toys, their favorites are small, cat-size toys (toys the size of cat toys, not toys the size of cats, that is). Earl, our senior McNab, just loves carrying around plush toys that fit in his mouth. Ethan's favorite stuffed toys are actual plush cat balls (no, not those - the tiny stuffed balls made for cats). Recognize that smaller toys can be a choking hazard, and supervise their play properly. Do McNabs shred plush toys? Sometimes. Ethan does; Earl doesn't. Please use caution with any toys that have battery-operated noisemakers. Those little disk-type batteries can kill animals or humans that ingest them.

When Ethan plays with his tiny plush ball toys, he does so much as the cats do - pouncing on them, tossing them in the air, and retrieving them when I throw them. For some reason he doesn't shred the balls as quickly as he does the squeaky toys; without the noisemaker, there may not be as much incentive to find out what's inside.

Of the larger plush toys, the crinkly ones are Ethan's favorite. He loves to shake them violently. This is his choice: Stuffing-free plush toy (affiliate link).

Earl's choice is the Migrator Duck plush toy: Earl's favorite Migrator Toys (affiliate link).

Cheap Rubber Balls: Earl's favorite toys include plain ol' cheap vinyl balls, the kind you pick up by the half-dozen at PetsMart. He's picky, though: he doesn't like tennis balls, hard-rubber balls, or more expensive types. He likes the kind that don't pick up dirt, squish properly in his mouth, and make a little bit of a squeak when he squeezes them. Here's an affiliate link for Earl's choice: Inexpensive squeaky balls. Earl often carries these around while he's chasing the cows. Also, the cows will eat them, because, cows.

Antlers: Although not technically a toy, I'm listing these here as they are by far the best "durable" variety of chew toy our McNabs like. Not all dogs enjoy them, but if your dogs do, they're a high-quality product that is, in my opinion, quite safe. They don't splinter, they last for a long time, and they do a fantastic job cleaning the teeth. There's no strong or offensive odor, either. I buy them by the pound; before you invest in that many, though, consider buying a single antler for your dog (here's an affiliate link: Single antler. If your dog doesn't take to it right away, you can dip it in peanut butter or even beef broth to get them started. Here's an affiliate link for the one-pound pack: Antlers galore

You can buy antlers in either solid chunks or cross-cut so the yummy inner core is exposed. Our dogs - including the Papillon - will chew these to the point they are completely hollowed out. Here's an affiliate link for the cross-cut variety: Split antler dog chew.

Feather Wands / Cat Teaser Toys: Perhaps I've corrupted my McNabs by raising them among cats. Our cats act like dogs and our dogs often act like cats. Our McNabs are wild about playing "the game" with feather teasers. Just like with the laser toys, they play alongside the cats when the teaser comes off the top of the refrigerator (where the thieving McNabs can't get to it). I buy the teaser toys monthly, as they don't last long. Ours like the retractable type the best, and even when the Papillon has snatched the feathers from the end, the McNabs still love bouncing around when we wave the featherless wand. Here's an affiliate link: McNab feather teaser.

I also bought the McNabs a special teaser toy just for dogs, and they love it - but it's quick and easy to just grab the ol' feather teaser. For more aggressive play and a very durable product, check out this affiliate link for the amazing Squishy Face dog teaser: Dog Teaser Wand. This is the brand I bought, and it's a fantastic way to give your McNab a workout. Also, what a great name ... "Squishy Face."

A Caution About Tug Toys:  Earl and Molly both adore tug toys. However, I no longer encourage them to play tug of war, and I actively try to prevent it. Unlike some dogs, they never did get into actual serious fights, but they played tug so aggressively that Molly, in trying to get a better grip on the toy, injured Earl several times - on two occasions requiring trips to the veterinarian, and one of those trips involving sutures, drains, and costly bills. If you have one tugger in the house, go for it. If your dog is aggressive, though, tug toys aren't recommended. Use your discretion.

Copyright (c) 2018 by MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without express permission of the author, including photos, but links to this page may be freely shared and are greatly appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, emailing, Tweeting, and using carrier pigeon to help grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Rattlesnakes and Shaker Cans

It's the trifecta of perfect conditions for seeing a lot of rattlesnakes here on the ranch: hot weather, sustained drought, and moisture around our trees and container plants. Rattlesnakes don't usually rattle me, and they're fine when they stay in the desert, but there are occasions when you don't have time to catch them and you have to eliminate the threat. The last two to visit us were within inches of the cat exercise pen outside - while the cats were in it - and all of our dogs were milling about. 

In my experience, McNabs are innately snake smart. When Earl was but a pup, several months old at the time, I had left him in the courtyard while feeding the horses. As soon as I heard his "rolling bark" I knew there was a snake in the yard. He wasn't just barking in one place; he was moving as he barked, and McNabs have beautifully communicative barks. I can tell from their barks whether the cows are loose, or if there's a coyote passing by, or if there's a visitor they don't recognize. Earl was giving his best snake bark.  Sure enough, when I breathlessly made it back to the yard, he was about five feet away from the rattler. It was his first exposure to a rattlesnake and he knew to give it space but alert me to the danger.

Since then I've reinforced that snake awareness with all my dogs using a shaker can and an available dead rattlesnake.  McNabs are so easy to train this has worked well. Certainly I don't discourage anyone from having their dogs professionally snake trained, but I'm personally hesitant to have others handle my dogs , and this method has worked adequately for me so far. My greatest concern now with the McNabs and rattlers is that they accidentally step on one while focusing on something else. Ethan, most of all, loves to leap over walls, rocks, and anything else in his path, and he is always climbing onto haystacks and then flying from them. Ethan does his own stunts, and it is glorious.

I keep a "shaker can" handy for snake training. If you're unfamiliar with shaker cans, they're just aluminum cans with pebbles inside. Don't fill the can; just add enough that the pebbles make some noise and have enough weight you can toss the can. This morning I sacrificed a Fat Tire to make a new can up. Fat Tire is too hoppy, anyhow. If you wish, you can buy a shaker trainer here: Dog Shake Trainer (affiliate link). 

Every time we must neutralize a snake, I behead it and safely dispose of the head. Remember that rattlesnakes can bite you or others after the head has been severed. Once you've distanced the head from the snake, grab your shaker can and let your dog out so he'll "find" the snake. It's best to work with one dog at a time.

I don't recommend leading the dog to the snake. You want this to be as holistic as possible: let the dog "find" the snake and try to avoid having your dog associate you with the snake or the correction. As the dog approaches, wait for the moment he targets the snake - you'll see a sudden focus on the snake - and as his nose dips down toward it, toss that shaker can hard next to the dog's feet. Make it count. Refrain from yelling or vocalizing until the dog has backed off from the snake, then - if your dog knows the "get back" command - direct him to "get back" and promptly praise him when he does so.  

McNabs are noise sensitive and the shaker can, when properly used, can be highly effective. Do not overuse the shaker! It'll still be an effective training method but it's stressful to the dog and you can easily create neuroses without intending to do so. I do not use the shaker for any purpose except rattlesnake training. 

This morning, I had the opportunity to snake train Ethan. The rattler was coiled in the planter immediately beside the cat play pen. My husband promptly dispatched it, likely just minutes before a cat (or dog) tragedy would occur. As I prepared for snake training it was, of course, our little Papillon Amazon Warrior Mattie-K8 who first spotted it and darted toward it. I launched the shaker can at her and all three McNabs bolted. We then moved the snake onto the front steps - where we've found several rattlers in the past - and I let Ethan out again. One more toss of the can and he headed to the barn, where he hung out until I did chores. When he did come back in the house, he avoided the front steps entirely and came around the side. That's how quick McNabs are to associate the noise with the snake. It's also a dramatic reminder of how easy it would be to misuse or overuse the shaker can. Papillons, on the other hand, were bred to kill vermin. A Papillon or a terrier is going to be more stubborn and persistent about snake training, so recognize breed distinctions when doing your training. 

Place your snake in an area your dog will discover it.

Every time we must kill a rattler, I use the opportunity to reinforce the training session. If nothing else, it gives me a sense of whether or not the previous lesson "stuck." If your dog is leery and cautious as he catches sight or smell of the snake, you've already made an impact. If he immediately runs up to it and sticks his nose into biting distance, you know you still have work to do.

Shortly after our morning rattlesnake moment, I reached down to shut off a hose and saw the fellow pictured below curled up around it, basking in the cool water. He's one of our many beloved bull snakes-in-residence. Bull snakes do kill rattlesnakes, in addition to eating lots of delectable and destructive rodents. I do not snake train the dogs in any way around bull snakes unless the dogs begin to harass the snakes.

Similarly, we have a great number of Sonoran Desert Toads (also known as "Colorado River Toads") here. They're not venomous but they are poisonous - meaning, they will not inject their venom into you by biting or stinging, but they are toxic if eaten or licked. I'm happy to have the toads around but must train the dogs to stay away from them. Ethan, particularly, tries to play with his toad friends, but he has so far learned not to bite them or pick them up. Another joy of McNabs is they're not predatory creatures; they don't want to kill every small creature they see, and they're easy to discourage from doing so (although they do tend to want to play with or herd every small creature they see). Even Mattie-K8 the Papillon has learned not to kill or harass the toads.

There are a variety of methods to train snake avoidance. You know your dogs better than anyone, and you should choose the method that best suits you, your dog, and your situation. 

Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reprinted without the express permission of the author * Links,  however, may be freely shared * Thanks for linking, liking, tweeting, posting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by and sharing my love of McNab dogs!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Further Adventures of Ethan the McNab Puppy

Ethan meets snow.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Oh, Ethan, you're growing up so fast. You're not yet five months old but you've already had a brief introduction to snow. You've ridden horseback - on the horse, that is, and you've gone on day trips with me to explore some Arizona back roads.

Ethan and I enjoying a horseback ride.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You've gone hiking, and visiting Mom in the care home, and you've charmed the folks at Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply. 

Ethan the ranch dog.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You're a big help when I do the morning chores. By "help" I mean grabbing the flakes of hay and playing tug of war with them when I feed ... leaping on and off the hay bales ... playing with the hay twine ... and grabbing the rim of the bucket when I carry grain. A big help. 

Ethan tends the tomatoes.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You're also quite the gardener. You inspect the tomato plants with me, and you climbed all the way into the empty compost tumbler to ensure I scraped it out properly before starting a fresh load. 

Ethan's yogurt halo
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You also help with the kitchen chores. The Greek yogurt on your forehead is the perfect halo for such an angelic pup.

Ethan and I visited the historic Winkelman bridge over the Gila.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You've already visited some historic bridges that most people in Arizona never get to see. You walked across the old Daniel Luten bridge in Riverside (Arizona), and the Luten bridge in Winkelman, and you've helped me photograph the abandoned bridge at Ray Junction. You met strangers along the way who pulled over to admire you. Yes, you're irresistible.

Ethan's darker side.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

But they do not know the pirate that lies beneath that sweet puppyish exterior.  They don't know that you are the stealer of gloves and socks and eyeglasses. They don't know that we call you "Thiefin' Ethan" or that you're a book-chewy face-licky teaser of cats and shredder of toilet paper. They don't know you are the destroyer of lily pads and that you emptied out the rice heat pack I use for my sore neck so I had a kajillion half-burnt grains of rice scattered in my bed and it was like sleeping on sand. I'm still finding them, Ethan. Still.

Froggy lays down some paw law on Ethan.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

And then, suddenly, there's the day you realize you're no longer the baby in the family. My heart ached for you. You looked so betrayed.

Ethan meets the new filly.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

But as you grow, you discover the benefits of becoming a young man. You are maturing into a handsome boy.  The ladies love you, Ethan. You are growing from an irresistible puppy into a badass chick magnet. And you're still my baby, now and always.

Ethan the Ladykiller
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be used without the express permission of the author, including photographs * I appreciate your links, shares, tweets, +1s, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for visiting and sharing my love of McNab dogs!