"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume II - Issue 44:  December 17, 2004
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...
Internet Toy Drive
Listen to:
"Children are the Very
Heart of Christmas"

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=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  Leashes, Collars and Check Chains, OH MY!
=>  Quote of the Week
=>  Breed of the Week - Shih Tzu
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  T'was the Night Before Christmas

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Gang!

Well, only seven shopping days left until Christmas. I will have to admit I will be glad when this year is over. It seems there have been far too many pushy people out there shoving their way through the stores. Glad I finally have all my shopping done!

Recently, in Gainesville, Florida, a man was arrested for biting his dog, a Jack Russell Terrier, as punishment. He told the police that biting the dog was good punishment and that's how you train them, that dogs bite so that's what they understand.

What I find so funny is that when the police arrived to arrest him (to punish him for his actions) the little pansy used his other dog, a 200 lb. Mastiff to keep the police away from him. Fortunately, the officers kept their cool as this jerk was taken into custody without injury to the Mastiff. Hopefully, his cellmate, Bubba, will introduce this guy to several new types of behaviors.

This week, I saw I saw a DVD called “Triumph The Insult Comic Dog.” It is based on a character from Late Night with Conan O'Brian. Triumph is actually a hand puppet of a Rottweiller and a humor that reminds me of Richard Prior. He goes out to places like the Westminister Dog Show, MTV Awards and basically insults everyone in his path.

Now I normally wouldn't watch this type of movie but was kind of talked into it. I have to admit though, I nearly peed my pants laughing. It's got to be one of my favorites of the year. Now, I have to tell you, this is not for the easily offended and certainly not for children. There is some profanity and questionable behavior but if you have a warped sense of humor, it's worth the cost of the rental.

The Paws for Change calendar is still available and we have quite a few orders. Time for Christmas is drawing near and these things make a wonderful and unique gift for the dog lover in your life or just a treat for yourself. Lets face it, we all need a calendar so why not get one that helps the furkids? Go check them out at:


Keep those letters and suggestions coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!



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I've had dogs all my life and have tried nearly every type of leash and collar there is out there. More often than not, I end up spending too much money for what ends up being little more than crap. When I have found something good, I can't find another one when I need it. Beyond that, there always seems to be some new “wonder” leash, collar or harness that promises to provide amazing results.

Is there a line of gear you recommend or guidelines you have when selecting gear for your dog? Is spending more better or is there a cheaper way to go. I don't mind spending a little more for something that works and lasts. Help!

Yvonne V.
Point Loma, CA.

Leashes, Collars and Check Chains, OH MY!

All you have to do is walk into any chain pet supply store, and you will find literally hundreds of choices when it comes to dog gear made of all sorts of material. You can get leather, nylon, plastic, rope and cloth, all in a variety of colors, configurations and price ranges. It can be a little daunting.


When I went to pick up the Chongqing dogs from the airport, I had forgotten their leashes and collars at the house. I was three hours from the house and going back to get them wasn't an option, so I found a pet store and sent my son in to buy a couple of leashes and collars. I told him not to buy cheapies and gave him a couple of product names to look for.

Well, almost $40.00 later, he came out with the requested gear. At first glance they looked fine and since I was already running late getting to the airport, I really didn't give them a proper inspection. They got the dogs home but within a couple of weeks the handle on one of the leashes had frayed and the plastic buckle on the collar had cracked.

Now I have to admit I haven't bought dog gear for many years. I have had the same leashes, collars, check chain etc. for over ten years. It's not fancy or colorful, just well-made gear. The company I bought them from is, of course, now out of business.

I decided to go and buy a new leash and collar for my newest furkid that was, I hate to admit, a little foo-foo. (I'm getting soft as I get older) It still had to be functional and well made. So, off I went to one of the pet super stores.

As I looked at all the gear they had, I was amazed at the poor quality and cost of most of their selection. The moderately priced gear was flimsy and poorly constructed. I did find a total of three leashes that were what I would call quality and the cheapest was over $20.00! The collars were even worse. I found two collars and they too were over $20.00. Keep in mind, these weren't fancy items, just a plain old six foot leash and collar. If I wanted all the bells and whistles, it was going to be even more.

Now maybe I'm just cheap, but there was no way I was going to pay that amount of money for a leash and collar, so I went to a couple of other stores and looked on the internet. After over three weeks of looking and talking to friends, I came to the conclusion that my search was futile and I was just going to have to spend the money.

What You Need

In today's society, we tend to want the newest gadgets, fashions and toys for no other reason than to keep up with the Smiths or make our life “easier.” When it comes to what gear we buy for our dogs, this is definitely the wrong approach. As many of you who are long time readers know, (and for new readers you will soon discover) I am a firm believer in the old K.I.S.S philosophy. Keep It Simple Stupid!

I have just a few pieces of equipment I use and really consider them “must haves.” Some are for training purposes, but I still think they are useful if you have an active lifestyle. They are:

18-inch leash
6-foot leash
20-foot leash
Check Chain

Most of the time, all I use is my six foot leash and check chain. I use the eighteen-inch leash when I go to dog shows or am walking on crowded city streets. The twenty-foot leash is for doing distance training or when I take the dogs to a park other than the dog park. This allows them a little more freedom to run around without giving up control of the dog.

The collar is for doing advanced or distance training or when they are just lounging around the house. I keep a muzzle for a couple of reasons. First, my vet requires them when dogs are going to be given shots or have any type of procedure done. They have muzzles there, but they don't fit properly. Also, there are businesses that will allow your dog to enter the establishment, but only if they are muzzled.

Quality Control

The only two materials I recommend for leashes and collars are leather and nylon and then only if they are properly constructed. There are a couple of critical areas to look at before you buy either of these items.


When looking at leather leashes you want to get a braided handle as opposed to one that is riveted. The clip on the leash should also be braided or knotted on. The leather should be fairly stiff when it is new. It will soften once it is conditioned, but we'll talk about that in a minute. Don't buy leashes that are riveted. The rivets will become weak as the leather ages and exposed to the environment. I have seen many dogs break the handles of riveted leashes.

Leather collars should be double stitched where the clip and leash D-ring are attached. The stitching should be wax coated to prevent it from deteriorating when conditioner is applied to the leather. It should have a metal snap as opposed to a buckle to ensure they have a proper fit. If you do go with a buckle, be prepared to punch additional holes in the leather to get a correct fit.

All leather gear should be conditioned with Neats Foot oil. When first purchased, you want to really give it a heavy coat and allow it to thoroughly soak in for a day or two. This will help to soften the leather and will also protect it from the elements.


I use to be a die-hard leather fan, however, I have been leaning more towards the nylon recently. First, you don't have to mess with conditioning it. Second, if it is properly constructed, it is every bit as durable and strong as leather.

All nylon gear should be double stitched as a minimum anywhere hardware is attached. The nylon should be fairly thick or doubled over for added strength. Never buy a nylon collar with a belt buckle style clasp. Any time you put holes in a strap of nylon, the strength of the piece is compromised. It should have a snap clasp

Check Chains

Check chains should be stainless steel or galvanized. Do not buy chromed or painted check chains. They are often cheaply chromed and will deteriorate rapidly. Chrome is okay on other equipment as it doesn't have all the rough contact a check chain does. All the links should be welded closed to include the end rings. Make sure there are no burrs or sharp spots on the chains welds.


The only muzzles I like are the nylon cylinder style. However, it is important the top portion of the muzzle should not touch the eyes of the dog. The strap should be adjustable and have a snap clasp to ensure a proper fit.


All the hardware (snaps, clasps, buckles etc.) should be stainless steel, brass or chrome. Absolutely no plastic. It's cheap, breaks easy and is a safety hazard. Make sure all the clasps are strong and can't be easily opened. Make sure it can't be opened with a simple bump.

Whenever looking at new gear, don't let fancy packaging or a brand name fool you into believing the product is quality. Yank on it, pull it, kick it around a little. Try the gear on your dog and make sure it fits your dog properly. Remember, the gear you have is not just for looks. It's for the safety of your beloved furkid.

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
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Quote of the Week

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring -- it was peace.

~ Milan Kundera ~


Shih Zhu
Shih Zhu

Most people believe the Shih Tzu came to be by crossing the Tibetan Lhaso Apso and the Chinese Pekingese as far back as the seventeenth century. They quickly became a favorite of the Imperial Chinese Court. Their breeding, for many years, was restricted to the confines of the Forbidden City of Peking.

They were cherished so much, the breed was not allowed to be taken out of the China until 1930 when the first pair was exported to England and later to the United States. They were recognized in Britain in 1946 and by the AKC in the United States in 1969. Today the breed is very popular, both as a companion and in the show arena.

If you have ever seen the Shih Zhu march around the house or yard, you know the inner pride this breed has. Their rounded head held high and bouncy gate make you wonder if the understand they were “descendants” of royalty.

Their thick double coat consists of a woolly undercoat and long thinner outer coat where any color is acceptable, however, show judges tend to prefer the dog have a white forehead and tip of the tail. Their nose has an upward tilt that is black (except in liver colored dogs which usually have a liver colored nose) that ends in a definite stop.

Their wide-set eyes are usually dark, but they should be lighter on blue and liver colored dogs. Their ears are medium sized and the fur blends the ears into their coat. Their teeth should meet in a level or undershot bite, however the undershot is preferred. The body is level and should be slightly longer than it is high at the withers and the tail should be plumed and curl over the back of the dog.

Some breeds tend to have less individualized personalities than others. The Shih Tzu is one of the breeds with an abundance of personality that is rather diverse. Some would prefer to sit by the fire or on your lap than anything else, where others have a ton of energy and can keep you on your toes. Much of this depends on their breeding.

Either way, they are very alert to their surroundings and environment and thus are proficient in letting their owners know when something is going on around their house making them a fine choice as a watchdog. They can be a little yappy but this can be controlled through proper teaching.

They can be a little bull-headed and will need to have consistent training that is reinforced through out the life of the dog. This loyal dog will do fine with well-mannered children and makes friends easily when given the opportunity to be properly introduced. Like many smaller breeds, they can be a little snappy if startled or teased, therefore, they should be extensively socialized with numerous people and other animals from an early age.

Overall, this is a relatively healthy breed. Some lines are prone to ear, eye and respiratory issues, but conscientious breeders are working diligently to remove these traits from the breed. They should receive regular teeth cleanings to prevent a premature tooth loss. They also tend to snore, but hell, so do I.

Like many dogs that are longer than they are tall, they can develop spinal disc disease so it is important to monitor their weight so as not to exasperate the problem. They vary in height from 9-11 inches (23-28 cm.) at the withers and weigh from 9-15 pounds. (4-7 kg.) They have a life expectancy of 14-16 years.

These little dogs require a good daily grooming using a bristle brush. A topknot is usually tied with a bow so that the dog can see properly. Some owners prefer to have them trimmed to make the coat easier and less time consuming to care for. Shih-Tzu's have sensitive eyes that should be keep clean. This breed sheds little hair and can be a good choice for allergy suffers if their coats are kept very well groomed.

The Shih Tzu will do okay in an apartment if given ample exercise. Exercise and diet are particularly important to maintain the dog's health and they should be given at least thirty minutes of daily exercise. Since they can be sensitive to the heat, they should be exercised in the cooler part of the day.

The Shih Tzu is a good dog for almost every household. Their unique personalities, loyalty and love will provide their owners with years of companionship and comedic relief. Take your time when selecting this breed and only obtain one from a breeder with references. So, if you're looking for a little dog, check these guys out. You won't be disappointed.

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Joke of the Week  (NOT funny!)

T'was the Night Before Christmas
(The Thinking Man's Version)

T'was the nite before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nick soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
No thoughts of their dog filling their head.
Momma in her kerchief and I in my cap
Knew the dog was cold, but didn't care about that.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Figuring the dog was free of his chain and into the trash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But Santa Claus with his eyes full of tears.

He unchained the dog, once lively and quick
Last year's Christmas gift now painfully sick
More rapid than eagles he called the dog's name
The dog ran to Santa despite all his pain.

Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen
On Comet on Cupid on Donner and Blitzen
To the top of the porch to the top of the wall
Let's find this dog a home where he'll be loved by all.

I knew in an instant there would be no gifts this year
For Santa had made one thing quite clear
The gift of a dog is not just for the season.
We had gotten the dog for all the wrong reasons.

In our haste to think of the kids a gift
There was one important thing we obviously missed
A dog should be family, and cared for the same.
You don't give a Gift, then put it on a chain.

And I heard Santa exclaim as he rode out of sight ...


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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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