When Dogs Learn New Tricks
Emma and her dog Csar are a Swedish dancing duo. Csar won the freestyle championship at the World Dog Championship in Stockholm in June 2008, competing against more than 20,000 dogs.
Chris says you need to use positive reinforcement to train a dog to do new tricks. "I use all positive training techniques with my dogs," he says. "I have found it takes a lot of patience obviously, but you have to be consistent in training your dog." Of course, training a dog to do extreme stunts takes time. "The handstand trick took a good six months or more, but it takes a year to two to get our dogs trained professionally and doing live shows," Chris says.
Jen (on the right) lives with her husband, their four cats and two dogs, Maisy and Loki, in Chicago. She says that while she's had her dogs for seven years, they're still not house trained.
Jamye (in the middle), who is Skyping from Atlanta, has had her dog, Zoey, for three years. "She's been an amazing force in my life and has caused so much change to occur," Jamye says. "It's this love and connection that you have with a creature that loves you unconditionally."
Watch Maggie do math for Oprah!
"I hear Jack Russell terriers are smart," Oprah says, "but this is ridiculous!"
Jessie says Maggie is also able to learn names and even fetch a tissue when someone sneezes. "You can actually teach dogs things very, very quickly with positive reinforcement," she says.
Allie says she got the idea from a show she saw on Animal Planet. "Another zoo had some golden retrievers and some labs they used to help nurture and stimulate baby animals ... so that's when I got my golden retrievers," she says. "Isabella just happened to be lactating when the mama tiger abandoned her cubs, so we put them on [Isabella], and away they went."
Today, Boo Boo eats 2 tablespoons a day. "Her biggest meal is breakfast. She has a tablespoon of food," Lana says. "I fix her ground turkey with peas and carrots in it."
Today, Dominic can do all normal canine activities. "He can do whatever he wants," Kay says. "He can run downstairs, jump on furniture, go in the cupboard and get his own treats."
Felicity—and Tucker—also have big news to announce. Felicity is helping Iams' Home 4 the Holidays dog adoption drive. Now in its 10th year, this program seeks to get a million dogs out of shelters and into adoptive homes by the holiday season.
"They have 3,000 shelters which are a part of it, and there's even one in Iraq," Felicity says. "Not only do they want to place the dogs, but they give you pet food, they give you coupons for savings, and then—what I feel like is the most important—they educate you."
Felicity says education for people who are thinking about adopting pets is crucial to making sure the animals don't end up back in shelters. "There's a lot to know when you adopt a pet. You know: How to introduce it to your family. How to make your house dog-proof. ... There's this great honeymoon period when you first get a dog. 'Oh, it's so cute. It's so great.' And then it eats your shoes and poops in your house and suddenly you don't like it so much."
That show increased awareness and spurred action. Tips to the Humane Society led to a raid on a puppy mill in Tennessee. The 747 dogs in that facility were transferred to shelters in seven states, and its operator has been charged with 24 counts of aggravated animal cruelty.
The owner of a 1,200-dog breeding operation in Wisconsin retired. Rather than letting the dogs be sold to another mass breeder, the Wisconsin Humane Society bought the kennel and proceeded to work on finding adoptive home for the dogs.
Authorities raided a farm in Pennsylvania and arrested the breeder who sold a fatally ill puppy to an undercover investigator. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of animal cruelty and surrendered his kennel license. A judge banned him from ever breeding dogs again.
And just weeks ago, more than 1,000 dogs were rescued from a puppy mill in West Virginia.
After animal inspectors in Pennsylvania visited a puppy mill in Berks County, the owners were ordered to take 39 dogs to a vet for flea bites. "And instead of doing that, he basically shot all of the dogs in the kennels," Bill says.
In all, 80 dogs were reportedly shot. "They didn't have a chance," Bill says. "They were born in that facility and they were just meant to die there, and it was just heartbreaking."
Bill says Main Line Animal Rescue organized a candlelight vigil to pay respect to the killed dogs and to call attention to how the government was powerless to punish the puppy mill owner. "It's horrific and yet it's legal in the state of Pennsylvania to do that. Nothing happened to him. He admitted to doing it, and nothing happened," Bill says. "That's one of the reasons why we're pushing for better laws."
The good news is that the legislation—House Bill 2525—was recently reintroduced. Because of public support, it passed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It is currently up for a vote in the Pennsylvania Senate.
Bill says H.B. 2525 will strengthen laws in Pennsylvania to increase cage size and require veterinary care. "[And] they'll no longer be able to shoot these animals," Bill says. "Perhaps that tragedy in Berks County would have been avoided."
On October 8, 2008, thanks to your help, H.B. 2525 passed the Pennsylvania Legislature and will become law!
Bill says dogs like H.B. are the reason laws need to be changed. "He had his leg cut off with a pair of tin snips," he says. "He got his leg caught on the wire flooring of his rabbit hutch. Most of these animals are kept in rabbit hutches and stacked. A dog below him grabbed his leg and it became swollen and the farmer, instead of cutting the wire, he cut his leg off. And that's typical. ... He's also missing an ear, probably from a dog fight because he was in a cage with another 12 dogs. He's the sweetest thing in the world."
"What we do is make a commitment to the animal for a lifetime. We just want to make their lives magical and special until they take their final breath here," Susan said. "We focus on what they can do as opposed to what they can't." Since that report, Angel's Gate has raised $400,000 from generous Oprah Show viewers.
The Skypers™ were all moved by Susan's story of devotion.
Jen says she decided to do more to help animals. "I used to volunteer for pit bull rescue," she says. "I just kept adopting dogs and stopped volunteering. Now I have to do more."
"I was thinking how wonderful those dogs are," Robin says. "I mean, they have a place where they can go. I wish there were more facilities like that."
"We really are supporters of Atlanta Humane Society," Jamye says.
Kathleen wrote, "While I appreciate your exposé on puppy mills, I found the lack of support for reputable responsible breeders very sad. We are all now painted with the same brush."
Oprah disagrees. "There are a lot of wonderful breeders out there and obviously because you wanted to write me, you must be among them," she says. "And so I just ask people to be more thoughtful and responsible when you're buying your pets. ... But as we were saying earlier in this show, there are 8 million dogs in shelters. Many of them purebred dogs. And so I've been encouraging people to go to the shelters. But if you want a purebred dog and know of a great breeder we welcome your support of the breeders also."
Do you have a question for Oprah? E-mail her! Your message could be read on a future show.
Oprah has one more word on pets. "Remember," she says, "one of the best things you can do for your pet is spay or neuter."