Posts Tagged ‘dog’

Remember, They have to Adjust too!

November 5, 2009

For those of you that follow this blog, you know I’ve been moving for the last several weeks. While Amanda, my office assistant, helps here and there, much of the work falls on my shoulders. So everything goes slow. Very slow in some cases. Then there’s running the business, doing various Chamber events (we support both the Canton Regional and Jackson/Belden Chambers of Commerce), singing at Primavera’s Italian Restaurant on Friday nights, teaching for Portage Lakes Career Center – oh yeah and sneaking in some sleep here and there! So my apologies yet again for not being as “on top” of this blog as I’d like to be.

That preamble sets up something we tend to forget: The dog. Lexi, my German Shepherd, is an amazing dog. Incredibly smart, more obedient than I even understand, and a great companion. This week, I finally brought her to the new pad/office; our new home. We tend to think because we understand something, so will the dog. How ignorant we are sometimes! More than that, I think it’s how much we take our pals for granted. Even though I had brought her here to visit several times, for the first three days she pretty much had the runs. It’s called stress.

Remember that anything outside of your dog’s normal routine will cause stress. Sometimes its no big deal, sometimes it is. It depends on the cause of the stress, the intensity, duration and then just how your particular dog will react to those variables. She also ate less food for a couple days. Both reactions are perfectly normal.

Another way we take Fido for granted is that while we have meetings and work and all kinds of ways to help us or entertain us, all your dog has is you. We’ve had Lexi since May. In that time, I can’t think of a single “human” thing she’s gotten into. She just doesn’t touch stuff unless it’s specifically placed in her mouth. This week has been particularly stressful working with utilities and many, many meetings. Yesterday I was in and out way too much; every time allowing her out to do her duty. But when I got back yesterday, she had found a roll of masking tape and a carpenter’s pencil. Both items had my scent on them. Both were chewed to throw-away status. Many people think their dog is “punishing them” for a lack of attention. I don’t think that dogs think that way. I DO think, however, that my dog so craved SOMETHING from me, that she found some stuff with my scent on it in an effort to help her comfort level.

What did I do? No punishment whatsoever (Why punish the dog because I was an idiot?). I threw them away and spent about 30 minutes on the floor with her, petting, playing and giving her attention. The rest of the night she was under my feet, which is very unusual for her. Lonely? I think so.

Remember that you brought the pet into your home. They really didn’t choose you. We have to make sure we honor that responsibility. If you’ve never read it, we have a Pet 10 Commandments on our website. I didn’t write it. Many pet sites have borrowed it. Read it and remember; they need to adjust too!

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Stories You Hear at Dog Events

September 29, 2009

Ho boy. How long THIS blog can be. I’ll try and keep it under 10,000 words. Okay, a LOT shorter than that! Spent most of Sunday at the “Mutt Strutt” event that supports the Stark County Humane Society.
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But first a really cool dog video I just saw. Think our furry friends don’t think or feel??
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofpYRITtLSg
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I observed a lot on Sunday. Several hundred dog owners and the requisite number of pets makes for very interesting entertainment. Was it Yogi Berra that said, “You can observe a lot by watching.”?

A guy with two Golden Retrievers, both at least 80-85lbs. walks down the middle of where we’re set up with booths. We all know Golden’s are very strong. He can barely hold them back (as in: can BARELY control them). He’s got a death grip on both leads. A lady in a booth holds out ONE treat for the two dogs.  One moment here:
    Really? Do people THINK anymore? Do people observe and try to use common sense? “I know, here comes a guy with two dogs barely under control- I think I’ll tease them, then be surprised when they tow the owner over to my booth and jump up on me.” OBVIOUSLY, “NO” to both questions.
The guy is actually smiling as this all happens. Either he is clueless, or the strain of pulling on the dogs just LOOKS like a smile! “Obedience” doesn’t fit here. Weird.
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A guy with a dog that barks at other dogs every time it sees one (see previous observation on HUNDREDS of dog owners). So the dog pretty much barked at everything. You can tell he’s very frustrated. He’s using a Halti (which in my opinion are pretty much worthless) and the dog is barking. So he pulls the dog back to him, makes him sit, closes his mouth with his hand to get the dog to quit barking, and pets him (giving affection). Then they asked me why he continues to bark. Let’s review:
1) Using a collar that provides pretty much no real control over a dog.
2) When the dog barks, YOU close his mouth instead of training him to quit barking.
3) Giving affection to the activity you’re striving to stop.

Note to owners: you don’t give affection when the dog is misbehaving. Never. Ever. Well, unless of course you wish to NOT correct the behavior. Remember that affection to a dog is better than ANY treat you can give. Give affection to support good behavior.

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A lady whose designer dog barks at everything holds the dog to give it security- so it quits barking: rewind to above. Dog barks, owner picks up dog, pets dog (“Good Girl, Sassy!! Thanks for Barking!!!”) Owner puts dog down only to be surprised when dog barks again. See above three points.
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To the guy with the 110lb. German Shepherd who was as gentle, quiet and well-behaved as they come: THANK YOU! And to the guy with the Pit/Boxer mix of the same description: THANK YOU, TOO!

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When I get home my two dogs, Murphy & Lexi, are running around the yard playing and wrestling. I’m reading a book, occasionally watching them. Suddenly I hear a different bark. There’s a cute little retriever mix running in the yard with my two. It’s not real sure it wants to play, but it wants to play. Thirty seconds later comes the young gal owner from a party down the street, calling for her dog to come to her. Short story is I tell her to squat down and pet Murphy. Sure enough, the dog being a golden mix realizes Murphy is getting more attention and comes over to get his share. I pretty much figured that would happen. So she grabs her dog and thanks me. As she pulls the dog up the driveway with her hand on the collar (yes, I wonder where the lead is too…) she starts to smack the dog and tell him what a bad boy he is.

If you read my blogs you know I preach about NOT punishing your dog. She must not be a reader. I called her back. I asked if I could ask a question, “Sure,” she said. I asked, “If I called you over here and gave you a dope slap, how likely would it be that you’d come back over, even if I use a really nice voice?” “I probably wouldn’t,” she said. “Exactly,” I said, “So when you call your dog and you get a hold of it, and you smack him, what do you think his motivation is to come to you next time?” She didn’t say anything but got the point. I told her that while it may seem very (humanly) backwards, even though the dog ran, when you catch him, praise him for coming and being a good dog.
1) Maybe next time he won’t run as quickly or as far.
2) Maybe next time he’ll remember getting petted and praised and come more quickly?!

Till next time!

Is Your Dog Really “Jealous”?

September 22, 2009

I take our dogs a lot of places. Various events all over the place. People are always coming up to pet Lexi & Murphy. I find it interesting how often I hear people say, “Oh… my dog is going to be soooo jealous!” And I always think, “Really?”

We pick up a thousand scents everyday that we’ll never smell, but our dogs will. I left yesterday for a non-dog appointment and when I got home our two were all over me, smelling specific spots on my pants and shoes. I’m fairly certain they were not jealous as there was nothing to be jealous of; short of me having chicken for supper that they didn’t – but then they never get people food, so why would they be? Okay, enough of that!

I am always amazed at how dogs will sniff, sniff, sniff, then razor in on a spot the size of a dime. Lexi, our German Shepherd, will sniff her food for the fish oil pill we give her. Ironically, at first I had to give them to her in peanut butter to get her to eat them. Now she finds it first (no peanut butter). Go figure. But in all the different food smells, she can pick out that fish oil tablet. You ever smell one? NO ODOR – to me at least, but Lexi knows it.

My point? You can read on-line most anywhere about how sensitive a dog’s nose is. Trust me, when you get home, your dog wants to know what’s going on and end up doing the same thing to you that they do to each other… they sniff! So quit giving your dog the human capability of jealousy and assume they are just curious. You know why?

They are!

Quit Being Nice…

August 31, 2009

This weekend a good friend had a salesman in her home. He refused to leave when asked nicely. While things turned out okay for her, it did shake her a bit. I’m constantly telling women to “Quit being nice!” I’m not saying to be mean! I’m saying that in a given situation, you need to insure your safety. And in this case, possibly insure the safety of others in the future!

I could go on about safety for women, but this is a dog-blog. So what’s the point? Well; Quit being nice! First admit that you know there is a difference  between being “nice”, being “mean”, and being “neutral” (and all the other shades in there too!). Many owners we work with think they can either be mean to the dog, or be nice. So what do we end up with?

1) We end up with owners that are nice to the dog. “Oh, I couldn’t hurt Sassy!” Who said anything about hurting the dog? They get the dog a treat when the dog wants it. They cater to the dog’s every whim, and then are surprised that the dog acts like she owns the place. Hmmm…
 -or-
2) We have people that think they have to be mean to get a dog to listen. So they growl at the dog, keep a rolled up newspaper handy, constantly yell at the dog, then wonder why Spike cowers in the corner and gets snappy when someone reaches for him. Hmmm…

How about being neutral? A Calm, Assertive approach is what we teach our clients. Why? Because dogs ‘get’ rules, boundaries and limitations. They get discipline. Notice I didn’t say punishment, they get discipline! “No” means “no”.

I’m always sad when we work with a client and dog to correct behaviors that the owner has allowed to occur. We leave and everyone is happy. The dog is more obedient, the owners are more relaxed. Then comes the slip. Today, they didn’t make Zeke get off the couch and by the end of the week, their lack of reinforcing discipline is allowing him to get up on the counter, and somehow it’s the dog’s fault. So they get mad and punish the dog. When all the dog needed was consistent reinforcement of the rules.

I am constantly amazed at what my dogs pick up on their own. They just need help in understanding what we want. Wait for your dog to THINK. Give the dog TIME.

NICE: Stop being nice; require your dog to behave and follow the rules. I often teasingly ask a client I am meeting for the first time, “If I started jumping on you and licking your face, how long would it be before you kicked me out of your home?” Homeowner: “Not very long!” Me: “Then why is it acceptable behavior for your dog?”

MEAN: Why do you HAVE a dog? If you are so without skills that the only way you can relate to an animal is to punish, beat, hit, maybe you should get some fish? About being mean, I always ask clients, “Do you speak (insert some unlikely foreign language here) Latin? No? Well, what if we landed you 600 years ago in the middle of some European city. Some guy runs up to you and starts shouting at you in Latin. After a moment of your obvious confusion, he yells LOUDER (if you ever travel abroad, remember that volume does NOT improve translation), then after you don’t take off your glasses, he hits you with a rolled up newspaper.” Make any sense?

Of course not. So don’t expect your dog to know any different. Quit being Nice. Quit being Mean. Start being a calm, ASSERTIVE pack leader. Your dog WILL respond!

Dangerous Dogs

August 25, 2009

Many of the dog issues we see from day to day have to do with people assuming dogs have the same emotional structure we do.

They don’t.

We often see dogs that are given way too much credit for being “nice”, when in fact they have aggression or dominance issues. We see dogs that are labeled mean or aggressive when the owners just haven’t decided the dog needs ANY guidance or discipline or exercise.

So what is ‘acceptable’ behavior from a dog? I suppose you could make a distinction: What is ‘acceptable’ in your home if you and your pack are the ONLY ones ever affected by your dog; versus what is acceptable behavior towards others (dogs and humans!).

Few dogs live in a home only to ever see the owners. Most are out here and there, going on walks, going to the groomer, visiting the vet, etc. Therefore, I feel that acceptable behavior is that other dogs will not jump on me, will not focus on my privates, sticking their nose where I’d rather not have it. Essentially the dog should show ambivalence to others – or maybe: just good manners.

Most dogs are friendly and interested in people. We have a four year old Golden Retriever that HAS to meet people. He’s a recent adoption and is learning manners, but still wants to nuzzle, etc. We’re getting there. The challenge is that dogs that jump on people don’t know the physical difference between a healthy 14 year old, an 18 month old, or an 80 year old with one hip and two knee replacements. Where we can visually judge that a certain person is frail, the dog doesn’t know. So, a dog not jumping on people to me is non-negotiable.

But let’s talk about dogs that are dangerous. You could certainly argue that an 85 pound Labrador that jumps on people is dangerous! However, many people are afraid a dog will bite them. There was a recent article published in the Akron Beacon Journal about dogs attacking humans. This is an extreme case, but it’s something I remind every single client: At one point, 10,000 years ago or so, your dog was a wolf. The quicker we remember that, the more easily we can understand their emotions and communicate with them. It is a factor in their metabolism, the way they communicate, the way the form ‘friendships’, the reason they have to sniff and more.

What dogs are dangerous? Ones that are nervous, scared, incredibly hungry, in new situations, pregnant, under stress and more. That means when somebody says, “Sassy growls, shows her teeth, but she’s never bitten anyone!” In my mind, I add “yet”. I can’t imagine a scenario where my German Shepherd or Golden Retriever would bite someone, but I’ve seen dogs nip, bite and otherwise be very aggressive to the “hand that feeds them”. What might they do to someone they don’t know?!

So, how do you know? A given dog, in a given situation, is a 50/50 toss up. Certainly we can make educated guesses, but the most important point I need to stress here is that if you have children, remember to ASK the owner about approach. At least you’ve engaged them and involved them in decision making. In our profession, we often have to put ourselves ‘at risk’ in order to save a dog, but most people aren’t trained to do that. If you have small children that may like to color, feel free to download and print our coloring sheet that teaches kids “DOG” ABC’s ; Always Ask Before Cuddling!

“Ten Commandments” for a Responsible Pet Parent

August 7, 2009

We found this on the internet recently (in 1000 different places). We’ve attributed it below, it is not ours (emphasis is ours). However, when we read it, we can’t help but agree. 10 barks to whomever conceived this!

 “Ten Commandments” for a Responsible Pet Parent
(As told from a pet’s perspective)

  1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be very painful.
  2. Give me time to understand what you want from me.
  3. Place your trust in me – – it is crucial for my well-being
  4. Don’t be angry with me for long and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment. I only have you.
  5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it is speaking to me.
  6. Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.
  7. Before you hit me, remember that I have teeth that could easily crush the bones in your hand, but I choose not to bite.
  8. Before you scold me fore being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart may be getting old and weak.
  9. Take care of me when I get old. You too, will grow old.
  10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, “I can’t bear to watch it” or “Let it happen in my absence.” Everything is easier for me if you are there.

Remember, I love you!

Attributed to: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas, May-June 1998

Dog Safety Tips for You and Yours

July 31, 2009

There’s a gaggle of pages on the internet about dog safety for kids (If you know a group that would like a speaker to come and speak on dog safety, check this link). But we digress…

Nearly every day we have one or more of our dogs in public. Whether in a school, the dog supply store, walking the neighborhood and more, it constantly amazes me how many kids will just walk up to our dogs and reach out to pet them without any thought to getting bit! Let me correct that; it constantly amazes me how many PARENTS (or parents that just aren’t paying attention) allow their kids to just walk up to our dogs and reach out to pet them without any thought to getting bit!

When we’re out, we most often have our “branded” Perfectly Pawsible t-shirts on. Maybe parents see that and assume our dogs are “safe”, but you would think it would be worth their peace of mind to be sure! Sometimes we’re training our dogs on specific behaviors and don’t want our dogs bothered. I KNOW my dogs are safe. I KNOW I do everything to ensure that ANY child around us is safe. However, remembering that we’re talking about animals that used to be predator-wolves, should get our attention. So how can you help ensure the safety of your children around strange animals? How can you help ensure their safety around ‘known’ animals. Start with one simple rule;

Always, Ask Before Cuddling

Click here to download our ABC coloring page

Click to download our ABC coloring page

Hardly ever do you see a “Beware of dog” sign when it really matters (like on that cute little Chihuahua at the pet store)! And even though ‘that’ dog over there is safe, they don’t wear ‘safe’ signs either! So teach your kids when they see a dog (and cats can be nasty too!!!), ASK before they approach. Who do they ask? Well, you teach your kids NOT to speak to strangers, so continue that thought. Your kids should come to YOU and ask, “Mommy, can I pet that dog?” This gets you involved on an adult to (hopefully) adult level with whomever is handling the dog in question. Then YOU ask, “is it safe for my children to approach/pet your dog?” Then YOU decide.

This GUARANTEES nothing, but at least a responsible pet owner should say, “Buffy is a little ouchy today. Maybe next time.” Hey, dogs have bad days too! Maybe Buffy just had shots or surgery and is a tad nippy. This brings up our next point; Just like we react differently to different situations, so do dogs! Maybe “Spot” is normally a great, calm dog. But what you don’t know is that if his male owner isn’t around, he gets real possessive and may nip.

Next (actually first, but who’s keeping track besides my editor?) teach your kids to be kind and gentle to pets. My dogs’ tails are not handles, the ears are not there to be pulled on and they really like their fur where it is. Honest. Approach gently. Gentle is good! Gentle approach, gentle petting, gentle retreat.

Fear; This is not intended to teach your kids to fear dogs. In fact, it’s great that they don’t FEAR, but they RESPECT dogs. Introducing weak or fearful energy to a dog that’s already unsure of itself is a recipe for disaster. Remember, dogs are inherently a predator. They LOVE to chase stuff. Especially if it’s a stray that has been chasing to catch it’s only food. Beware. So teach your kids NOT to run from a dog, even though every instinct is telling them to.

This page is not intended to be the end-all authority on dog safety. It is intended to remind parents that it is their responsiblity to teach their children to respect animals. Remember, the younger your child is, the simpler the instructions; be gentle; and Always Ask Before Cuddling!

She Makes Me Laugh

June 29, 2009

Dogs are such a great gift to us humans. There are many reasons. Maybe I’ll take a few blog posts here and give you my take on those reasons. Would love to hear what your reasons are, too.

We all think of guard dogs and lap dogs or therapy animals as great reasons dogs are around us. But one thing I’ve noticed about Lexi (our German Shepherd) and our last dog, Buddy (Golden Retriever/Yellow Labrador mix), is they always seem to be doing something that gives us a reason to smile, giggle, or laugh out loud!

I’m sure there’s a perfectly good psychological reason that someone has figured out, but I think it’s just that we come at the world from different perspectives, so we often expect the dog to see and react to the world in the same way we do.

But whatever the reason, they are fun. On Saturday night, we got home from a great motorcycle ride, tired and ready to relax. It was as if somebody said, “Lexi, You’re on!” She was doing all kinds of goofy things. We’d gotten her a small ball (around 5″ diameter) which was big enough that she had to work to get it in her mouth. For days we’d been trying to get her to play with it. (Readers of past blogs may remember that we got Lexi out of a pound near us and she really didn’t “know” how to play. So Saturday night, she decided to play with the ball. With that concentration it didn’t take long till one of her canines punctured the ball and it deflated. She pushed on the ball and it went a little flat. She hit it with her nose to roll it. It didn’t budge. She just stood over it and stared at the ball for like 20-30 seconds. It was so fun to watch her try and figure out why the ball didn’t want to play with her anymore.

From time to time that night, as the ball naturally went back to looking inflated, she’d decided it would play more and of course as soon as she’d go to pick it up, it would go flat and she’d stare again.

And there was the moth that flew down our chimney into the fireplace. THAT was interesting to watch. The ants crawling on the porch, and more.

Whenever we start training another dog, it’s always fun to listen to the stories owners tell about their dog’s quirks. Got any to add?

Today we started working with Amanda’s dog, “Big Red”. Big Red is a one year old ‘red’ Husky. He is smart and beautiful! But, willful. So we will work on that. By the end of our session today, he was already starting to ‘get’ “Heal” and a looser leash!! I’m always amazed at how much our companions want to please us and learn! Remember consistency is the key!

Teaching Lexi to Bark…

May 26, 2009

Okay, you don’t really have to teach a dog to bark, per se. In fact, across the street is a nice little white dog that barks and barks and barks an…you get the idea. From the minute she’s put out to potty, “Miss Barksalot”… barks… a lot. She barks at nothing in particular, she just barks.

Why would you live with that?

So on to our German Shepherd, Lexi, that we’ve now had for almost two full weeks. Lexi is on the total opposite spectrum as MissBarksalot. Lexi pretty much doesn’t bark. When we picked her up at the pound (which is WAY out in the country), she barked at some deer on the hill. I think she’s barked twice inside our house – one night when she heard something outside she wasn’t sure of.

So, today we started our goal of teaching Lexi to at least bark when asked to. If you’d like to feel real silly, please stop by and we’ll let you bark at Lexi and try to get her to bark back at you. She doesn’t get it. She just stares at us with those big Shepherd eyes & EARS and looks at us like we’re insane. In fact, as I think of it, she looks exactly like she does when she stares at the dog across the street when she barks.

Today while our other trainer, my son Aaron, was working with her, she saw something down the street that did cause her to bark. We ran with that, encouraging her to “Speak Lexi!” She actually responded for a bit. Sigh.

I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world if your dog only barks at ‘legitimate’ threats instead of that leaf that moved, but it will be interesting to get to bark on command. Work on your dog. Our last dog was trained to only bark on command or at his decision. Buddy knew when to bark. Just like Lexi seems to. But when my wife was alone and someone called on the phone she didn’t know, she made sure to give Buddy the hand signal to bark. Or when someone came to the door, he pretty much knew to bark at the door bell. Makes people think twice.

Stay tuned, we’ll let you know how she progresses.

Lexi, the German Shepherd and House-training

May 21, 2009

As you know, Lexi came home with us from the pound last Wednesday, so we’ve had her now just over a week. It’s both frustrating and fascinating to not know ANYTHING about a dog when you adopt. Maybe I should say nothing about their past as we DID know she was female and that it’s pretty obvious that Lexi is 99.5% German Shepherd.

But we don’t know for sure. Two things; One is that we could do a DNA test and know for sure, but everything about Lexi, from her marking to her radar-dish ears tells us all we need to know. And that’s point Two; we really don’t care ‘what’ she is, breed-wise. We fell in love with her loving, quiet personality.

Lexi has really progressed too! I started the blog talking about house-training which can be challenging to say the least! She’s not yet gone in the house. That’s part of that “not knowing”… was she house-trained before? Was she an outside dog only and so only knows to go outside???? Sigh, who knows? I’ll take it! She’s also pretty much going on command at this point too.

So, a little house-training for your pooch, which you can find everywhere on the net!… Take your dog to the same spot in your yard whenever possible. Take your pooch out at any obvious time they may need to go out… when they awake, if you’ve been away for a few hours and they’ve not been outside, a while after they’ve eaten (each dog/diet is unique). Tell your pet, “go potty” or any other phrase you wish to use. Remember, it’s not the word, it’s the consistency of that phrase when they are going. If you don’t like having a “potty mouth”, use a goofy word like, “tractor”. Just realize if anyone ever watches your dog for you, they might not get your special word.

After a few days, your dog will begin to “get” what they’re supposed to do and when. Also REALLY important is to praise your pup whenever they get it right! Don’t Surprise your dog by YELLING, “GOOD DOG! GOOD DOG!!!” the minute she squats or you may give her a fright! Just nice soft words will do!

And finally, remember that your dog is trying to figure out what you want. Yes, some dogs ARE willful- But I tire of hearing trainers always talking about how a certain dog is “fighting” or resisting house-training. Give your dog a break!! It doesn’t speak your language, may not yet know your body language or energy. Give it time to adjust and don’t punish. Your dog will just get confused and possibly just find a better hidden place in your home to have the accident.

Praise and consistency wins every time!!