I inwardly cringe as I walk up the steps to the door. Just inside I am met by a large fellow with a round, ruddy face. He smiles broadly, “Well hey there, Doug, how you doing?” and sticks his hand out. I wonder for a moment what would happen if I told him how I’m doing – but immediately dismiss that. I’ve seen it before. I’d tell him about my concern and that would open the door to a rebuttal involving a litany of atrocities that make my ailments seem penny-ante indeed. So I shake his hand and say, “Fine, just fine.” I deliberately leave off the expected, “and you?” We will just leave that door closed. We smile at one another and move in divergent directions.
This exchange is repeated a half-dozen times before I locate a spot that is the slack-water of the room where I can be present, but out of the way. Not hiding, but not easily accessible either. Continue reading Fine, Just Fine→
Dogs tend to protect or “guard” things they feel are most important to them, things they feel they can’t do without. Some will guard toys, some food, some will “guard” or become vicious when others approach their people. Guarding is rarely a desirable trait. Food guarding is dangerous to other dogs and to the people who care for the dog. It needs to be corrected.
Why Is the Dog Food Guarding?
Some dogs just have a greedy nature, even (perhaps especially) as a puppy. They don’t share well. Working with them as a puppy is needed to correct this early. Some dogs guard food because they came from an environment where food was scarce and they had to fight for every scrap they got. Some dogs guard because, although food is plentiful, others steal theirs.
This update on Jasper will not be especially impressive to anyone who is not familiar with Jasper because play time with him now looks much like any other dog. But to those who know him, this example will bring a smile to your face.
Jasper was sent to us because no one could manage him. He was just over-the-top energetic. He was being playful, not mean, but when a larger dog puts a certain level of energy into play, there is little apparent difference to the recipient of his affections. He jumped on people, he pawed them, clawed them, mouthed (gentle biting) them, sometimes tearing clothing, breaking jewelry, and leaving scratches on skin. And worst of all, he could not be deterred! If you defended yourself, he thought you were playing and ramped up the play efforts. Telling him to stop or get down were totally ineffective: he paid no mind to anyone. He had no idea what those words meant. Continue reading Play Time with Jumping Jasper→
I did some toenail trimming on all the dogs yesterday. Trimming a dog’s nails is a necessary part of caring for them. Sharp claws are a hazard to you and your belongings, claws that push down on the floor as they walk can be painful to your dog. For both your sakes, keep them trimmed.
Cochise is always cooperative: he’s a good boy. Blondie did well too. She has gotten to where I ask, “May I have your paw” and she will lift a front paw and present it for trimming. She does expect the treat after each snip or two, but she sits still. Her hind feet are a little trickier (she’s ticklish) but that went well too.
Offering treats during toenail trimming does not work for Volt because he gets so excited by the prospect of food. I waited until Volt was napping, then sidled in with the nippers and said, “Volt … buddy … may I trim these toenails?”
Volt said, “Hmmm? What? Yeah, sure … whatever.”
Volt got several treats when the session was done.
So they’re all trimmed up and looking spiffy. We do this about every two weeks.
Toenail Trimming Treats
To attain even Blondie Bear’s cooperation (she was once terrified of toenail trimming) I make treats by slicing hot dogs into wheels about 1/4″ thick, spreading them on a paper towel so they don’t touch, and microwaving them for 3 minutes (that will vary depending on your microwave). Raw ones work too, but raw hot dog bits go bad quickly (sometimes in just hours). These cooked (dried) bits will keep for days if you want to use them in a training treat pouch. Longer if you store the pouch in the fridge when you’re not using it. I learned this trick from a book about fictional dog trainer Raine Stockton written by Donna Ball.
To start with, sit down and call the dog over. When she complies, give her a treat. Let her sniff the clippers. Give her a treat. Repeat that a couple of times, so she associates the clipper with pleasure. Snip one nail, give a treat. Be firm, but don’t turn it into a wrestling match. Reward her liberally with treats but only when she complies in some way. Bribery (treats before the fact) does not work on dogs: they’re too smart for that.
Jasper has been with us for a week now. He came to us from the local animal shelter because he had been returned to them from a rescue because his bad behavior was deemed “unmanageable”. I was told this meant that he is extremely energetic, jumps on people and cannot be dissuaded from this. This is bad behavior in a small dog, in one that is around 70 pounds, it can prove terrifying to an unsuspecting recipient of such affection. And he does mean it as affection or play.
This description immediately popped a couple of presupposition flags in my mind:
1) It seems this behavior is often the result of a family adopting a puppy but making no attempt to train it. While it’s an adorable ball of fluff, jumping up on your legs eager for attention is cute. When it becomes a 30 pound dog, it’s less endearing. When it’s 50 or more pounds, the poor dog ends up at the local shelter because it’s a major nuisance and “they can’t do anything with it”. So of course this bad behavior is the dog’s fault. The truth is that no one took the effort to teach it good behavior. Continue reading Why Good Dogs Develop Bad Behavior→
We have been contacted by several families in the past year because they adopted a dog that we fostered and trained. We gave a good report on the dog as being non-aggressive. The rescue that handled the adoption also saw no sign of aggression. So why, all of a sudden, is the dog getting aggressive with the family that just wants to give it a great home and lavish love on him? Continue reading The Importance of Pack Order→
When used properly, crate training provides you and your dog with multiple benefits. For you it provides a simple, effective means of restricting your dog when you cannot provide close supervision. If your dog is an explorer, he may get into things that will harm him. If she’s a chewer, your home may suffer from allowing her to roam unsupervised. Crating also helps with housebreaking because a dog has a natural aversion to soiling its own sleeping space.
For your dog crate training offers a safe haven, a room or space of his own. It is a familiar place. Whether you go on the road or just move around a large home, having a place of his own brings your dog a feeling of safety. If your dog is ill or just been spayed or neutered, a familiar crate is quite comforting. A crate is effective in combating separation anxiety or fear of a thunderstorm because of the snug, safe feeling an enclosed crate can provide.
Your dog adores you. She follows you around and wants to be near you all the time. And that’s wonderful – until you must go away. Then your dog howls or barks or chews on things until you return. This is called separation anxiety. Unless you can stay home 24/7 or take the dog with you everywhere you go, you must deal with this issue (or replace a lot of shoes and furniture and endure the wrath of neighbors). To make things worse, sometimes this condition is your fault. I know: I’m guilty too.
I was getting ready to go out in the yard and do some work. Marie was resting on the sofa. I informed Marie I was going outside and asked if she needed anything before I left. She said, “Just take Blondie with you: she goes spastic every time you leave the house.”
Blondie has a mild separation anxiety issue. When I leave, she paces through the house peering out all the windows to see where I’ve gone.
Blondie is needy. She spent most of her life in an extremely neglectful situation and was totally withdrawn when she was rescued. We fostered her and helped her come out of her shell. We fell in love with the affectionate, silly girl she became and adopted her. Gun fire and thunder make her very nervous and she comes to me for comforting. I stroke her head to ease her anxiety. That’s the wrong thing to do, but I’ve done it.
We spend all of almost every day together. Blondie follows me around like a golden shadow. Sometimes she comes and asks for skritchies, and I’ll give them for a short time. She is accustomed to my being here, when I leave she gets anxious. But she’s a good girl: never misbehaves, she just runs around looking for me. I’m lucky: many people have dogs that do bad things when they are left alone. If yours is one of them, here’s what this is and how to deal with it. Continue reading Separation Anxiety and Your Dog→
In part 1, we discussed how to introduce your adult dog to a new dog. This time I want to discuss the importance of socialization between your dog and other people.
Socialization of Dogs and People
Dogs are social creatures. By their nature, they usually get along well with people: unless they have reason not to. Any animal that is abused by a person can learn to mistrust, avoid, and fear people. That’s a blanket statement, so it is true only in the most general terms. If a dog knows only its abuser, then she will most likely fear all people. If a dog is abused by a man, but his wife is kind to her, she may well fear only men. An abusive teenager with kind and gentle (though not very attentive) parents may instill a socialization age bias.
Socialization of a puppy is pretty simple: once he’s had all his shots and the vet gives you the OK, simply expose the puppy to other people in a positive way. Rarely will a puppy pick up a disease from a person, but if these people also have a dog, this is a danger to your puppy. Begin this socialization as early as you can, so the pup doesn’t become fixated on you. Normally, puppies are very friendly and gregarious; socializing with people should not be an issue. Making interaction with other people a regular part of their life will keep them that way. Continue reading Dogs and Socialization: part 2→