Archive for the ‘Care’ Category

Let’s get a dog!

January 18, 2013

I’m on Facebook and (since they are a favorite breed) I belong to several German Shepherd communities. One or two of the groups are always posting questions from members. I’ve noticed several commonalities: 1) MANY questions are about young dogs; 2)  MANY questions are about behaviors or caring for the breed.

As I’ve watched over the past few weeks, it would seem to me that very few people have a clue about what they’ve brought home. I’ll bet some people know about the gas mileage on their car than they do about what behaviors they might expect from a given breed.

As a dog obedience trainer, my phone never rings with someone calling me to tell me their dog is well-behaved, etc. My phone rings when dog behavior gets bad enough, that pain level high enough that people finally realize they need help with their dog’s behavior. Sometimes it’s funny…

“I have a Terrier that likes to dig….”

“My Border Collie chases the kids in the yard and tries to keep them in a group…”

“When my Beagle starts sniffing, he won’t listen…”

and so on.

REALLY!?

You have a Terrier that digs? A Collie that herds? A Beagle that locks out while scenting? I think some people would be shocked that their Retriever likes to fetch. So, first an apology for the sarcasm in this post, but please, please, please, take some…

Time for research…

If you are on Facebook, or other forum/social media site, join some general dog communities, but especially, join communities that about the breed(s) you are considering. Yes, every dog will have an individual personality; my current German Shepherd (GSD), Axle will chase a stick as long as your arm holds out. The one before (Lexi) couldn’t be bothered. But, overall, you’ll learn a lot about certain health challenges of certain breeds, how they need to be cared for, how you need to groom the dog, and if their are benefits to a give breed (low/no shedding; low maintenance; Hypo-allergenic/etc).

You may also learn that having a Golden or a Weimaraner are not good apartment dogs, or why if you live in the country, leaving a Lhasa Apso outside may give some hawk digestive ideas that wouldn’t be an issue with a  Newfoundland or Burmese Mountain Dog.

Axle Playing at Moms Upsidedown

Axle being a puppy!

When you realize your busy schedule is going to be interrupted by a dog that WANTS to work and be exercised every day (My GSD harasses me at my computer around 9am every morning until we go play fetch for even just 15 minutes. He HAS to burn off that energy, trust me!!) and you live in a 1BR apartment in mid-town Manhattan, you may want to reconsider your choices.

Why are they surprised?

“Oh, I’ve just ALWAYS wanted a _____(fill in blank)_____” Great, but now 6 months later you realize that, yes Virginia, your English Bulldog DOES have more energy than the local power grid and you are considering the dog pound.

Do a basic internet search on the breed. Look up Dogs 101 to see if they did a feature on the breed you have interest in. That show is a wonderful resource. Ask someone that owns that breed. Do you know a local veterinarian? Ask your friends for a referral. Call the vet and ask. You may not be able to talk to the vet, but the staff works with various breeds all the time and may help guide you. Look for local clubs/groups that support that breed and ask LOTs of questions! Pet stores have dedicated books and magazines about breeds too. Amazon may help there too.

There really should be few surprises when you bring a dog home. However, so far, this has been mostly about “pure breeds”. In past posts you’ll see I’ve said that when you adopt from a pound or rescue it can take weeks to know the true personality of your pooch. When I rescued Axle in Oct of 2012, I really feel it took me 6 weeks or more to help get him to my “normal”… that is, not dealing with remnants of being a stray or the pound experience.

Add in the variables of a mixed-breed and you do have more challenges. Best to you and your efforts to save lives by adopting!

Grant

Dear Santa, I want a PUPPY for Christmas!!

December 10, 2012

Are you adopting a puppy/dog (kitten/cat?) for Christmas?

Well it’s that time of year again. Our wonderful holiday season is in full swing. And Santa is getting requests from great kids everywhere for a puppy for Christmas. So here’s my thoughts from years of training and observation…

Party time!

I believe the biggest argument against bringing a new pet into the house is the amount of energy during the holidays. So let’s look at that first. We basically have three scenarios: 1) Tiny puppy, right now with his litter-mates and mom. 2) Dog at the pound. 3) Dog with a rescue group/in a foster home/etc.

In my mind, #3 is the most likely built for success. The dog is already in a home/loving situation and used to the hustle and bustle/energy of a home.

#2: Any dog that is in a pound of any kind is under stress- period. It is NOT a loving, stress-free environment. I know shelter workers don’t work there to get rich and have a great heart for pets in general and they do the best they can with limited budgets. But if you’ve ever been to the best pound/shelter, the stress of 36 dogs barking is NOT a loving environment.

And we don’t know where that dog was last week. Running in a field or allotment, hungry? Where the neighbors throwing stuff at the dog, yelling at it to go away? Then they’re taken to a pound with a concrete (cold) floor and walls… you get the picture. STRESS.

I always remind people that the dog they see at the pound is NOT the dog they’ll have in three weeks when the dog is more comfortable in their home- Could be better, could be worse. What is the dog’s medical condition? Were they EVER an inside dog and you want to make it one?

So, look carefully at the situation. Will bringing that dog into your house on Christmas morning be a recipe for success? I think not.

#1: A puppy bought from a breeder. So we go take the 8 week(?) old puppy from it’s warm, comfortable place by his mommy and bring him into your home on Christmas with shreeking children, loud video games and 1000 things that wold scare the fur off a well-adjusted dog. Again, not a good situation.

Serious Questions:

WHY are you getting a dog? Will your kids play with the new “toy (dog)” for 20 minutes until they open the X-Box /Wii/game console with the newest game and forget the dog? (Billy for the 10th time, take the dog out!! But mom, I’m almost at the next level!!) Have you had a dog before? Do you REALLY understand what you’re getting into? With the puppy, remember you’re also taking on potty-training (going into winter), chewing on most anything and more. Have you considered the extended costs of pet ownership? Kennel for in the home/toys/food/flea-tic meds/vet visits/bowls/etc. Have you considered shedding and the type of dog best for your family?

No perfect answer:

Please consider waiting until the blast of energy from the holidays is over. THEN bring your new pooch home. Contact a trainer like Perfectly Pawsible Dog Obedience to help that transition and know what to do. Perform research. Take your kids to a home where theirs games and dogs. What DO the pay attention to.

Best advise I can give you is to be conscious about what you’re doing! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Grant Holmes, Master Trainer (Like us @FaceBook/PerfectlyPawsible)

Tell me again why you called??

December 3, 2012

As you may have read, I’ve moved to TN. In the work to get this off the ground here, I met Anita from Doe Valley Pruning (my snazzy embroidered shirts!) and she was kind enough to invite me to a networking meeting. One gentleman said he had a referral for me (a relative who was at wits-end to get their two young lab mixes under control) and would have them call me when they were ready.

This was well over a month ago. This past week the gal finally called me for an appointment.

First let me say that nobody calls me and says, “I have two perfectly behaved dogs that we just are sooooo happy with. Just wanted you to know.”  No… my phone rings when people are up to “here” with bad dog behavior. One assumes the owner has finally gotten up to “here”. You might be wrong.

So, tell me again why you called?

So, today I arrived at the appointed time, greeted by one mostly well-behaved dog “Skippy”  (Names have been changed to protect the guilty). Skippy didn’t jump, just INTENSE sniffing and one dog being held at arms length by the owner. Owner let go and “Goober” starts jumping and pawing and mouthing/nipping at my hands. Seeing this wonderful behavior, Skippy thinks its a good idea and begins to jump too. Owners try several (failing badly) strategies to keep the dogs from jumping, etc. Didn’t work. Skippy jumps with front paws on counter. Owner,” Sign, we’ve been trying to stop that for months, too.” (hmmmm…)

As I give the dogs no energy or real contact, they finally lose interest. He owner, she owner and I start to talk.

Me: So is this the behaviors I’m here for (jumping, nipping)?

Her: yes, that and not heeling on a walk.

They have two kennels for the dogs. I ask if they go in their kennels eaisily

Her: Yes//Him: No  (hmmmm)  Her: Well, I give them a treat to go in.

Me: Why a treat?

Her: so they’ll listen.  Him: (rolls eyes)

On hearing about treats I ask about their diets.

Her: well we’re vegans and all the dog food on the market is crap (points at dog food they are using), so we give them table scraps too.

Me: did you know giving a dog human food can shorten their lives 3-5 years?

Her: I’ve read that, but it isn’t true and besides we’re health nuts, so they only get healthy food.

At this point I can see where this is heading. She thinks a human vegan diet is great for a canine.

So I start asking about how they discipline.

Her: well, I’m not hitting my dog.   (Me: Looking to find the voice that said someone had asked her to hit the dog)

Her: My father comes over here. He’s really stern with the dogs (no he doesn’t hit them either). They listen to him. When we go outside they follow HIM. (This last said with distaste as the dogs follow the “mean” guy)( not the owners with no rules, boundaries, or limitations.)

Anything I mention about structure, expecting the dog to behave with NO treats is met with a look of disdain, bordering on hate. He and she are sitting on their couch now, but don’t offer me a seat. Part of the reason is the only seat left is the “Dog Couch”. I know if I sit on my own, I’ll have two labs on my lap and have to deal with it.

I ask about keeping the dogs off that couch. YIKES daggers of death!!! I asked what happens if her 90 year old grandma comes over and a 40# dog jumps in her lap? Or the dogs both jump on her at the door like they did me, she falls and breaks her hip??

Silence…… then finally, Her: I hadn’t thought of that.   (huh, really? How self-absorbed are you??)(No, I didn’t ask that).

Her: But I WANT the dogs on the couch.

Me: Is there anything wrong with you “owning” the couch and they could get up if invited?

Her: I want them to have their own couch. (Note they each have a nice kennel with blankets and pillows and all kinds of carpet to lay on. I just don’t like all this “Dominance” stuff you’re talking about. You’re like my dad. I don’t want to dominate my dogs. I want to be able to spoil them. They’re my kids for now.

At some point in an evaluation, when I can see people are struggling with the discipline issue, I’ll ask if they have a spare bedroom (especially if I know/think they do…). After an unusual look I’ll say, “Tell ya what, I’m gonna move in this weekend. I expect to get room and board. I may tear some stuff up now and then. I usually will make myself a pesk when ANYONE comes over to visit and embarrass you. Oh yeah, You’ll have to make sure I get fed on time, you take me out to pee in the yard and cover all my medical. What do you say? Heck, I’ll even play ball with you!!!”

I ALWAYS get a “Probably not”. My point? EXACTLY. The dogs gig here is pretty good. And all you REALLY want is for them to behave?? Not surprisingly, I got silence from them on that.

Me (at the limit of patience now): Sp do I hear you saying that your dad fully expects the dogs to behave and they do. You don’t expect them to, in fact you just told me you expect to spoil them and they don’t listen to you? I’m not sure why you called me. Did you know that these (all) dogs are 98% gray wolf and expect to have a pack leader?

Her: I read that and that’s not true. They’ve had thousands of years to adjust without a pack leader. They don’t need that.

Me: I’m sorry. I can tell that we’re too far apart. I can see even if you hired me, we would butt heads. I choose at this point to part as close to friends as we can get. — I shake both their hands and leave.

Total elapsed time? 14 minutes. One of the shortest evaluations I’ve ever been on.

So tell me again, if all of your fantastic research is working so well and you have it so “under control”… WHY did you call me??

Sigh.

So, if I CAN help you, and you’re willing to accept training from an expert, please stop by the Perfectly Pawsible Dog Obedience web site!!

-Grant

Controlling “Gulping” food

October 30, 2012

I’m brilliant. There I said it.

Okay, not really so much. But here’s the story.
Murphy; A few years back I owned a pure-breed Golden that would eat 1-2 cups of food in under 20 seconds. I’m convinced he never tasted the food. I’ve referenced it here in the blog (and here’s a link to an article on my website about gulping food).

Talking to a dog food salesman (also referenced above), I learned more about dog digestion and how much gulping can affect their digestion in a negative way. To this point, I’d only experienced dogs that graze (keep food out ALL the time and occasionally they saunter over and eat very casually)m, and dogs that GULP (food in dish, and…. GONE! It’s a mad frenzy to eat immediately).

Then I adopted Axle. Axle is a GSD (German Shepherd Dog). I’m told by owners that GSD’s seldom gulp, but I’ve only owned two. Axle didn’t exactly gulp, and he kind of grazed. He could walk by his food bowl many times, even stop to sniff food that was there, but walk away. These are indicators of a grazer. But I did notice that at times, maybe after play or being outside a while, he’d come in and GULP to satisfy his appetite. Almost like he couldn’t stop himself.

Then later, I’d see the previous behavior, a more casual approach. We were feeding nearly 6 cups of food a day. I thought this was a bit high, but he is a big boy and was a little under-weight when I adopted him (now nearly a month ago). So I pulled out the old “stones in the bowl” trick (link above).

My dog is brilliant too…

I live very close to a river, so went out and got a couple nice rocks to use, came in and rinsed them well. Put his food in his dish, dropped the rocks on top. He released to the bowl, sniffed and looked up at me like, “You’re messing with me, aren’t you?” He nudged the rocks around a bit and nosed one out of the bowl. I asked him to sit and put the rock back in. I released him again. He looked down at the bowl, then back at me. The “Jack Benny dead-pan” look on his face was perfect- Like, “Really?” I just laughed.

So while I was smart, so was he…

Now he’s likely to pick up a rock, walk it to the Living Room and drop it there, go back and eat. Sometimes he also just drops rocks right by his bowl. It’s a fun challenge to have a dog as bright (brighter than??) as you are!

The Good News is

His food intake is down, his BM’s are better and he has slowed down. Now it’s man v. dog on the rock thing. As an aside, Murphy never once pulled the rocks out of the bowl. Personalities are interesting!