Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where they used to Drown the Dogs

Believe it or not, in New York City they used to take care of stray dogs by drowning them. God help you if your dog got loose and wasn't identified by a collar and tags. To understand the scale of the operation, in a single day 738 adult dogs and 20 puppies were purposefully drowned in 1877. I find it hard to believe a person could carry out such an act, but carry it out they did. The dogs were put in cages that were purposefully put under water for 10 minutes. The dead dogs were then sold for their furs. Thank God Americans now find the idea of dog fur horrific.

I guess there is a bright side to everything. About ten years ago I saw a horrific report on the dog fur trade in China. At least the dogs in New York were drowned before their furs were taken. In China, dogs are skinned alive to obtain their fur. On a news report I watched they showed a gorgeous German Shepherd being skinned alive by some wacko Chinese woman who was a fur trader. I hope she burns in hell.

Well if the good people of New York can go from a city that once drowned dogs to one that will be entirely no kill by 2015 (their current goal), maybe the Chinese will give up their torture of dogs and the dog fur trade. Interestingly the humane societies, which were originally formed to stop horse abuse, took action in the late 1800s to stop the practice of drowning dogs in New York. Here we are more than a hundred years later and great progress has been made, last year the percentage of dogs euthanized in NYC dropped from 75% to 43%. This is a goal every city should strive for.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Final Week of Dog Heartworm Treatment

My German Shepherd Dog Tony is entering his last week of heartworm treatment. Or more accurately his last week of being confined. Thank God for that. I can barely take it anymore, and neither can Tony.

Dogs seem to have an amazing ability to bounce back. I think they're a little healthier mentally than humans are. Think about it. Heartworm treatment for dogs involves locking them up for 6+weeks (turned out to be 9 weeks for Tony). Plus the dog has no idea why you're suddenly shutting them up. Imagine if you woke up to find yourself locked in a small room, with someone bringing you food and water now and then-and not knowing why you were in there. A person would go bonkers under those circumstances.

You're supposed to keep the dog in a crate, or at least in a small room so that they don't get active. Tony was going nuts in the crate so I've been keeping him in an unused bedroom. He hasn't been too unhappy, after all he has this big mattress to lay on. Nonetheless he's been pretty lonely and has really gotten restless the last two weeks. Well anyway just 6 more days of this nonsense, then the vet says Tony can resume his normal dog life.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Todays Dog Hike

This afternoon I took a few of the dogs up to Doc Longs Picnic area, which is in the Sandia mountains next to Albuquerque. I've attached some pictures to show you what its like if you've never been there.

Doc Longs is just off the turn off on the road that goes up to the ski area and crest. When you pull in there is an area with some picnic tables and built in charcoal grills, and restroom facilities that are open from April 1-October 31.

I actually haven't been there in some time. One reason is the last walk I ever took my dog Sam on was here. I took him here one afternoon and went on a long hike, and he died that night from stomach torsion. So for a long time it was kind of emotional going to this place.

Anyway, the route I like to follow is to park next to the picnic area, and then go up a nice wide trail that is just to the north. It takes about 15 minutes to hike the length of that trail, which then cuts off suddenly. At that point I turn to the south and head down a pretty steep slope that cuts acoss a small stream to the main trail. This trail leads to a trail that goes all along the Sandia
mountains called "faulty trail". You see a lot of mountain bikers and hikers on the trail. Its a really nice trail and in some places its very steep, so you get a really good workout. The dogs love it.

I took Jake and Brandy along. Jake is on the left, and Brandy on the right. Brandy had also come along on that fateful day for Sam.











I also took my Akita Naomi. I am going to have to look up the history of Akitas, because Naomi leaves no stone unturned. So I'm wondering if they were bred at one time to hunt animals that had to be dug up out of the ground. Or maybe Naomi is just curious. She has to check out every single flower, blade of grass, hole, and rock. Her nose is on the ground the entire time I take her for a hike.










Here is a shot of the trail that leads to faulty. As you can see the vegetation is pretty thick. Hard to believe this is just 10 minutes from Albuquerque, huh? As you might imagine there are all kinds of critters in there like bears and such. Coming back, I did see a big animal! But I'm not sure what it was. I was coming back pretty late, it was starting to get dusky so most of the people at the picnic area had left and it was extremely quiet. I heard some cracking sticks up the slope to the south of the trail, which is really steep. We stopped and looked for a bit and I saw an animal go by near the top really quickly. The brush was really thick so it was hard to see what it was, but it appeared to be fairly big.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dealing with a lonely Dog

Our dogs are pack animals. They’re highly sociable creatures with a genuine need to socialize and interact. Because we humans have done such a bang-up job in domesticating our canine friends, socialization with other dogs isn’t enough for your friend: you are the center of your dog’s world. She needs to spend time with you.

Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done. Life, for most of us, is pretty busy, and at times it’s difficult to find genuine pleasure in performing the most basic of caretaking tasks for our dogs. When time is short, responsibility becomes a burden.

It’s even worse when added responsibilities or increased demands on our time begin to detract from the quality of the time we do spend with our dogs. If other stresses are weighing heavily on your mind, everyday pleasures with your dog can morph from a joy into a headache – the half-hour walk after work is just one more thing to get through, rather than an opportunity for you both to unwind and spend some time together in mutual, tacit admiration of the natural world.

Whether we like it or not, the lifestyles that we choose (to a certain extent, anyway) to put ourselves through – a general dearth of time, moderate to high stress levels, job anxiety, shifting personal commitments – affect our dogs as well as ourselves. Sensitive pooches can become so negatively impacted by the less-than-positive frame of mind held by their owners that they themselves become depressed and anxious. Other, more well-adjusted dogs suffer through isolation: when obligations are pressing, the twice-daily dog walk can be the easiest thing to relegate to the back of the line (your dog can hardly raise his voice in outrage, can he?).

Making time for our dogs isn’t always as easy as we would like it to be. But it doesn’t have to require a huge input of time or a Herculean amount of energy: there are ways that we can include our dogs in our lives without spending minutes and hours that we don’t have.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Bring her along with you. When you’re running errands – picking up the mail, dropping children off to music lessons, soccer, and Little League, stopping by at work – your dog will jump at the chance to come along. Even if she stays in the car, the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy a change of visual and olfactory scenery will be genuinely welcomed by her – and it’s a good way for the two of you to spend some casual one-on-one time together. If your errands involve other people (ferrying kids around, picking up a spouse, visiting a friend), accompanying you can go a long way towards meeting her social requirements for the day, too. (Tip: if you’re going for the Big Grocery Shop, or plan on doing something else that requires an extended absence from the car, best to leave her at home – any more than half an hour alone in the car is pushing the boundaries of responsible ownership for most dogs.)
  2. Invite her into the bedroom. You don’t have to ask her up on the bed with you; she can sleep on her own dog bed, either in the corner of the room (most dogs prefer to sleep with something at their backs) or next to your bed. This is a fantastic way of spending “down-time” with your dog (you’re both enjoying the same pastime in an undemanding way), and of increasing your bond, too. Dogs like to sleep with their pack (that’s you!). As pack animals, they’re hardwired to enjoy close contact with others during their most vulnerable hours. It reinforces their sense of togetherness and security. By allowing your dog into your bedroom at night, you’re fostering closeness with your friend. And it’s easy, too!
  3. Spend time in mutually-enjoyable activities. Walking the dog becomes a chore when it’s boring – if you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll be more likely to devote more time to it, which is good news for your dog, yourself, and your relationship with each other. Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to the same old twenty-minute circuit round the park – break out and explore new territory. As much as dogs love to reinvestigate familiar turf, they appreciate new sights and sounds too, so try the riverbank, the dog beach, a different park, dog exercise yards (you get to chat with other owners, too, while your dog makes new friends), hill trails, or go for a walk downtown – with your friend on a leash, of course.
  4. Perfect the art of multi-tasking. Whenever I’m cooking dinner or reading a book, my Rottweiler plumps himself down about two feet away from my ankles and stares at me dolefully from under wrinkled, upslanted brows. This used to bother me: I could almost sense the waves of silent accusation wafting off him. “Why aren’t you playing with me?” I felt like he was asking. “How come whatever that is gets your attention when I don’t?” As much as I love him, I still feel that I’m entitled to my one or two chapters a night (and a well-cooked dinner); so I decided to counteract the tear-jerking expression on his face by learning to multi-task. So now, cooking time is also training time: I use the momentary hiatus in between stirrings and choppings to practice Sit and Down. Reading time has become read-and-cuddle time: we sprawl on the couch together, I get to relax and read my book, and he gets his tummy rubbed while he snoozes. If I had a TV, I’d use my TV-watching time for grooming time, too.
  5. Counteract the “one-man dog” tendency. If you live in a multi-person household, it makes things easier on you if you can share the responsibility around a bit. It’s healthier for your dog, too – the more she interacts with the people that she lives with, the better. You can share responsibilities like walking, playtime, feeding, and grooming: the more social stimulation your dog gets, the happier she’ll be. If you have children in the household, the amount of responsibility they get is really best decided on a case-by-case basis: some younger children are perfectly OK to walk the dog, but some can find the experience traumatic and scary (which makes it unsafe for the dog, too). As a general rule of thumb, before allowing a child out of doors and unsupervised with a dog, make sure you’re OK with how the dog and the child interact. The dog should obviously know that the child “ranks” above her in the social hierarchy of the household, and obey her commands reliably; the child should be able to handle herself confidently with the dog, and know the basic rules of dog-walking etiquette (leash-laws, poop-scooping, dog-on-dog social protocol, and so on).

Obviously, these tips aren’t intended as a substitute for that quality and quantity of time together that your dog lives for – and that makes life as a dog-owner so rewarding and fun, too. Your dog still needs to spend active, focused time with you, in training, playtime, general cuddling/manhandling, and exercise. But with a little forethought and effort, you can go a long way towards ensuring her emotional and psychological welfare without adding too much to your own workload.

For more information on responsible dog ownership, including detailed advice for handling and preventing problem behaviors, step-by-step how-to’s for obedience work and tricks, and an in-depth look at canine psychology and communication, check out SitStayFetch. It’s the ultimate resource for dog owners!

Visit the site by clicking on the link below:

Dog Training

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barking dogs – Understanding it and dealing with it

Some owners seem to want their dogs to stop barking, period: a good dog is a quiet dog, and the only time that barking’s permitted is when there’s a man in a black balaclava and stripy prison outfit, clutching a haversack marked ‘Swag’, clambering in through your bedroom window.

Dogs don’t see barking in quite the same light. Your dog has a voice, just like you do, and she uses it just how you do too: to communicate something to the people she cares about.

I don’t think that barking is necessarily a bad thing – in fact, I think it’s encouraging that my dog wants to “talk” to me, enough so that I can overlook the stentorian qualities of his voice (which, in enclosed spaces, is positively overpowering) in favor of his desire to communicate with me. It’s the thought that counts (even though I feel better-equipped to stand by this sanctimonious belief when my ears are sheltered safely behind industrial-quality ear-plugs).

Unfortunately, the language barrier between dogs and humans is pretty well impermeable, which means it’s up to us to use the context, the body language of our dogs, and the circumstances of the vocalization to parse meaning from a volley of barks.

So why do dogs bark? It’s not easy to say (it’s like trying to answer the question, “Why do humans talk?” in so many words). Let’s start off by saying that dogs bark for many different reasons.

A lot of it depends on the breed: some dogs were bred to bark only when a threat is perceived (this is true of guarding breeds in particular, like Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds); some were bred to use their voices as a tool of sorts, to assist their owners in pursuit of a common goal (sporting breeds such as Beagles and Bloodhounds, trained to ‘bay’ when they scent the quarry), and some dogs just like to hear themselves talk (take just about any of the toy breeds as an example of a readily-articulate dog!).

However, all breed specificities cast aside, there are some circumstances where just about any dog will give voice:

* She’s bored
* She’s lonely
* She’s hungry, or knows it’s time for a meal
* Something is wrong/someone is near the house
* She’s inviting you to play
* She sees another animal
* She needs the toilet

If your dog is barking for any of these reasons, it’s not really realistic for you to try to stop her: after all, she’s a dog, and it’s the nature of all dogs to bark at certain times and in certain situations. Presumably you were aware of this when you adopted your friend (and, if total silence was high on your list of priorities, you’d have bought a pet rock, right?).

Of course, there are times when barking isn’t only unwarranted, it’s downright undesirable. Some dogs can use their voices as a means of manipulation. Take this situation as an example:

You’re lying on the couch reading a book. Your dog awakes from a nap and decides it’s time for a game. She picks up her ball, comes over, and drops it in your lap. You ignore her and keep on reading. After a second of puzzled silence, she nudges your hand with her nose and barks once, loudly. You look over at her – she assumes the ‘play-bow’ position (elbows near the floor, bottom in the air, tail waving) and pants enticingly at you. You return to your book. She barks again, loudly – and, when no response is elicited, barks again. And this time, she keeps it up. After a minute or so of this, sighing, you put down your book (peace and quiet is evidently not going to be a component of your evening, after all), pick up the ball, and take her outside for a game of fetch. She stops barking immediately.

I’m sure you know that respect is an essential part of your relationship with your dog. You respect her, which you demonstrate by taking good care of her regardless of the convenience of doing so, feeding her nutritious and tasty food, and showing your affection for her in ways that she understands and enjoys.

In order for her to be worthy of your respect, she has to respect you, too. Something that many kind-hearted souls struggle to come to terms with is that dog ownership is not about equality: it’s about you being the boss, and her being the pet. Dogs are not children; they are most comfortable and best-behaved when they know that you are in charge. A dog has to respect your leadership to be a happy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved pet.

In the situation above, there was no respect being shown by the dog. She wasn’t inviting her owner to play; she was harassing her owner to play. In fact, I’d even say bullying. And even worse, the behavior was being reinforced by the owner’s capitulation – effectively, giving in to this behavior taught her that to get what she wants, she has to make a noise – and she has to keep it up until her goal is achieved.

Affection and play-times are obviously necessary aspects of life with a dog, but they have to be doled out on your own terms. If she learns that she can get what she wants by barking, then your house is going to become a Noise Pollution Zone (and this is not going to endear you to your neighbors, either).

To prevent this bullying behavior in your dog from assuming a familiar role in her repertoire of communications, you have to prove to her that you’re not the kind of person that can be manipulated so easily. It’s simple to do this: all you have to do is ignore her. I’m not talking about passive ignorance, where you pay her no attention and simply continue with whatever it was you were doing – you need to take more of an active role. This means conveying to her through your body language that she is not worthy of your attention when she acts in such an undesirable manner.

The absolute best and most effective thing for you to do in this case is to give her the cold shoulder. When she starts trying to ‘bark you’ into doing something for her, turn your back on her straight away. Get up, avert your eyes and face, and turn around so your back is towards her. Don’t look at her, and don’t talk to her – not even a “no”.

She’ll probably be confused by this, and will likely bark harder. This is particularly true if you’ve given in to her bully-barking in the past – the more times you’ve reinforced the behavior, the more persistent she’s going to be. In fact, the barking will almost certainly get a lot worse before it gets better – after all, it’s worked for her the past, so it’s understandable that she’ll expect it to work again.

As in all aspects of dog training, consistency is very important. You must ensure that you don’t change your mind halfway through and give in to what she wants – because by doing so, you’re teaching her to be really, really persistent (“OK, so I just need to bark for ten minutes instead of five to get a walk,” is the message she’ll get).

But what can you do in other situations where bullying isn’t an issue and you just want her to stop the racket? If you want to get the message across that you’d like her to cease fire and be quiet, the most effective thing you can do is to use your hands.

No, I’m not talking about hitting her: this is a perfectly humane, impact- and pain-free method of conveying that what you require right now is peace and quiet.

Here’s what you do: when she’s barking, give her a second to ‘get it out of her system’ (it’s a lot kinder, and a lot more effective, to give her a chance - however brief – to express herself before asking her to be quiet). If she doesn’t calm down under her own steam, reach out and clasp her muzzle gently, but firmly, in your hand. She’ll try to shake you off, or back away, so you can place your other hand on her collar to give you greater control.

This method is useful for two reasons: firstly, it effectively silences the barking (since no dog, no matter how loud, can bark with her mouth shut!). Secondly, it reinforces your authority: you’re showing her through direct physical action that you’re a benevolent but firm leader who will brook no nonsense, and who won’t balk when it comes to enforcing your guidance.

Hold onto her muzzle and collar until she’s stopped trying to break free: only when she calms down and stops wriggling does it mean that she’s accepted your authority. When she’s still, hold on for one or two more seconds, then let her go and praise her.

In addition to this short-term fix, there are also a few things you can to do to reduce your dog’s need to bark in the first place.

The number-one cause for unwanted barking (as in, the kind of barking that’s repetitive and is directed at nothing) is nervous, agitated energy – the kind she gets from not getting enough exercise. Most dogs function best with one and a half hours’ exercise every day, which is a considerable time commitment for you. Of course, this varies from dog to dog, depending on factors like breed, age, and general level of health. You may think that your dog is getting as much exercise as she needs, or at least as much as you can possibly afford to give her – but if her barking is coupled with an agitated demeanor (fidgeting, perhaps acting more aggressively than you’d expect or want, restlessness, destructive behavior) then she almost definitely needs more.

Fortunately, the fix for this problem is pretty simple: you’ll just have to exercise her more. Try getting up a half-hour earlier in the morning – it’ll make a big difference. If this is absolutely impossible, consider hiring someone to walk her in the mornings and/or evenings. And if this is impossible too, then you’ll just have to resign yourself to having a loud, frustrated, and agitated dog (although whether you can resign her to this state remains to be seen).

The second most common cause of excessive vocalization in dogs is too much ‘alone time’. Dogs are social animals: they need lots of attention, lots of interaction, and lots of communication. Without these things, they become anxious and on edge. If you’re at home with your dog, you’re not paying attention to her, and she’s spending a lot of time barking at what appears to be nothing, she’s probably bored and lonely and would benefit from a healthy dose of affection and attention.

Recommended reading
If you’d like more information on unwanted behaviors that your dog’s exhibiting, you’ll probably be interested in taking a look at SitStayFetch. It’s a complete, A-Z manual for the responsible dog owner, and deals with recognizing, preventing, and dealing with just about every problem dog behavior under the sun.

You can check out SitStayFetch by clicking on the link below:

Sit-Stay-Fetch

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cesar Millan on O'Reilly Factor

Cesar Millan talks about the necessity of projecting a calm, assertive state when dealing with dogs. Cesar says that dogs communicate by smell, and if you're not feeling calm and dominant a dog will pick this up automatically. He says most dog owners are not in this zone and they aren't a pack leader for their dogs. This causes most dog problems. Something else he talked about I thought was really interesting, is Cesar says he matches the dogs intensity with his touch etc.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cruelty to Animal Charge for Elderly Couple After Leaving Dog in Car

Last week I wrote about the nutty excessiveness of the Albuquerque Animal Ordinance called HEART. Let me say I am completely against animal cruelty from the get-go, what bothers me about HEART is excessive government intrusion over things like how many SQFT a person should have for each dog, banning plastic bowls, and other absurd government controls like that.

A recent case in Albuquerque highlights the problem. A man and his wife were out shopping and had their dog with them in the car. The woman went in to the store while the man stayed behind with the dog. From what I understood he had the air conditioning on (the engine was running) and the dog was drinking water.

The dog ran out of water and so the man cracked open the windows, shut the car off and ran into the store to get some water. A passer-by, thinking she was seeing a dog left to bake inside a car, called police saying the dog was in distress and the windows were slightly cracked. The cops showed up and arrested the couple. While the man was sitting handcuffed in the car, he had a heart attack and had to be taken to the hospital.

From here the story gets out of control, with a police officer feeling she was under "immediate threat" by the old couple, and all sorts of charges being bantered about. Today most of the charges were dropped. And, although the couple was allowed to take the dog home, a charge of animal cruelty will go to trial.

To read more about this crazy story, click here.

Dog Training 101: Leash Problems

Exercise is a major part of our dogs’ lives. Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer”, tells us that to maintain a healthy relationship with our beloved pooches, that relationship should consist of 50% physical exercise, 25% discipline, and 25% affection. That’s a lot of exercise!

In order for us to be able to enjoy exercising our dogs as much as they need, it’s important for them to behave well both on the lead. Unfortunately, there are many dogs out there who are afraid of the leash itself – resulting in neurotic, fearful, submissive behavior whenever the lead comes out.

In this newsletter, we’ll take a look at the most effective way to deal with fear of the leash.

Fear of the Leash
The majority of the time, the sight of the leash is enough to bring on a fit of joy – the dog knows that leash = walk, and reacts accordingly.

For some dogs, though, the leash connotes fear and submissiveness more than anything else. Perhaps the leash was used in a negative way with a previous owner – as a tool for dragging the dog around. Perhaps it was used to confine the dog for long hours at a time. In some extreme cases, dogs have even been whipped with the leash as punishment. Or perhaps your dog is just very highly strung, and is prone to developing phobias seemingly arbitrarily.
Although fear of the leash can have a severely negative impact on your walks with your dog, the good news is that it’s easy to cure. You just need some patience and some basic equipment.

What you’ll need
- A leash, made of webbing or leather. Approximately 5 feet (1.25 meters) is a good length, as it enables control without risk of the dog getting tangled in the leash when out walking. Chain-link leashes aren’t recommended, as they’re hard on the hands – and also can flick the dog in the face, which isn’t something you’d want to inflict on any dog, let alone one that’s suffering from fear of the leash!
- A good-quality collar, again made of leather or nylon webbing. If you’re using one with a snap-lock, make sure it’s safety-approved and won’t come undone under pressure. Slip-chain collars (also known as ‘choke-chains’ or ‘check-chains’) should never be used on an unattended dog, as they’re a training tool, not a real collar.
- A little bit of time, and a little bit of patience.

What to Do
- Your aim here is to accustom your dog to the lead a little bit at a time, keeping him well within his comfort zone at each step of the way. Because he’s already got a fear of the leash, some discomfort in its presence is to be expected, but watch out for signs of extreme fear: hyperventilating, drooling, submissive urination, rolling eyes (often showing the whites).
So step one: remember to take baby steps at all times!
- If he’s really afraid of the leash, you’ll need to accustom him to it very slowly indeed. Practice leaving it out in full view, preferably in ‘fun’ places: next to his food bowl, in preferred play areas, near his bed.
- Once he’s stopped reacting to the sight of it, introduce the leash to him in a more active manner. You can do this by wrapping it around your hand as you pet and groom him. Hold the leash in your hand as you prepare his food; sit by him and stroke him, with the leash wrapped around your hand, as he eats. Keep this up until he’s stopped showing any signs of discomfort – it may take some time, but remember that you’re aiming to accustom him comfortably to the leash. Any rushing is counterproductive.
- When he’s not showing any signs of nervousness with this level of progress, you can start attaching the leash to his collar. Put him in a sit-stay, using a firm, calm voice, and clip the leash on. Don’t make a big deal out of it: your dog will take his emotional and psychological cues from your behavior. If you act as though it’s not a big deal, he’ll follow your lead.
- Once the leash is on, give him some time to get used to the sensation of something hanging off his neck. He may get a little panicky at this stage, and start pawing at his neck and trying to rub the leash off along the ground. If he’s showing signs of nervousness, distract him with a game: a short game of tug-o’-war (providing he knows to drop the toy when you’ve had enough) is a good idea; if he can run without getting tangled in the leash, play a short game of fetch; or, if the two of you are outside in a safely enclosed area, you can go for a short walk. Don’t attempt to touch the leash at this stage, just let him walk around freely.
- Take the leash off after five minutes or so, and praise him lavishly for being such a good boy. Give him a couple of small, tasty treats, and lots of petting.
- Repeat these last three steps several more times before progressing to the next level: you want to give him plenty of opportunities to get used to the sensation of the leash itself before you start using it to control his walking. The more positive associations he forms with the leash (which he will do through the games, walks, and treats while wearing it), the better for his progress.
- Next, it’s time for a short obedience-training session while he’s wearing the leash. Five minutes is plenty: practice a sit-stay and the recall command (“come”) while he’s wearing the leash. This will reinforce your authority and leadership, and remind him that he’s still expected to obey you while wearing the leash.
- When he’s readily obeying your commands with the leash on, you can take him for a short walk while he’s wearing it. If he’s jumpy, do not reinforce his nervousness by rewarding him with attention. Simply ignore him and carry on walking. Remember, he takes his cues from you, so keep calm and wait for it to pass.
- If, at any point, you feel that he’s simply too nervous to proceed (for example, if he’s still panicking after three or four minutes of walking on the leash), go back to the level at which he was last 100% comfortable. Wait a few days at this stage before attempting to proceed.

Things to Remember
- Remember to be patient! Don’t attempt to rush your dog’s progress: using force is counterproductive to your end goal. You’re teaching him to relax and be calm around the leash – if you get stressed or frustrated with his lack of progress, he’ll be able to tell, and his anxiety levels will increase, not decrease.
- Remember not to indulge his nervousness or coddle him if he plays up or gets nervous. If you react to his crying and trembling with petting and cooing, you are telling him that it’s OK to feel like that. If he’s nervous, either ignore it and carry on, or distract him with a game or short walk. If he’s still panic-stricken after three or four minutes, revert to the previous step and give it more time.
- This should go without saying, but never correct or punish him for skittishness or nervous behavior – again, it’s counterproductive in the extreme.

For Further Information
For more information on a variety of leash-related problems, as well as a detailed look at the whole spectrum of common canine behavioral problems, you may want to check out SitStayFetch. It’s a comprehensive training compendium for the responsible owner, and covers just about every topic you could ever need for building and maintaining a happy, healthy relationship with your dog.

You can check out the SitStayFetch site by clicking on the link below:

Sit-Stay-Fetch Dog Training

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dog Ownership Guilt

Call me neurotic, but it always feels like I never do enough for my dogs. I'm constantly worried about them and get plagued by guilt when I don't have time to go for a walk or play ball. Sometimes the realities of life just intervene and there isn't enough time for my dogs, and I end up feeling guilty about it.

This past weekend was a case in point. One problem is I also own 3 horses. For the most part, I only get to see them on the weekends and sometimes on Saturdays I'm out at the horse ranch all day long, and that happened this Saturday. Then I had a social commitment Saturday evening, so didn't see my dogs until it was already very late. By that time I was tired and ready for bed. So I pretty much just fed them their dinner when I got home and then went off to sleep.

Sunday was no different. I had promised myself to spend more time with them and take the dogs for a walk, but I wasn't able to get around to it. I went out to see the horses again, and then had to go with a friend to a family gathering. I was gone most of the day. I stopped by in the mid-afternoon to check on my dog Tony who has heartworm, and when I was leaving my dog Jake was trying to get me to play ball with him. He looked really sad as I walked out the door, leaving me feeling overwhelmed with guilt again. I felt so guilty that even though I got home at 9:30 PM (hey thats late for a work night) I took Jake for a half hour walk.

I am wondering if other dog owners get these feelings of guilt when they can't walk their dogs or spend time playing with them.

Dog Training 101: Digging

There are two extremes of opinion when it comes to dogs and their digging habits: one, that a dog is a dog, and we should permit him to express his true canine nature by allowing him free reign over the yard and flowerbeds; and two, that a flowerbed is a flowerbed, and no dog should even think about expression his dogginess if such an expression comes at the price of a season’s worth of rosebuds.

My own viewpoint tends to favor the middle ground. Although plenty of dogs do love to dig, and it’s healthy for them to be permitted to indulge in this habit from time to time, there’s a difference between permitting your dog to express his inner puppy, and allowing him to run rampant in the yard. I don’t see why a dog should have to come at the price of a garden, and vice versa: flowers and dogs can coexist peacefully. If your dog’s developed a taste for digging, it’ll just take a bit of time (and some crafty ingenuity) on your part to resolve the issue satisfactorily.

First of all, if you have yet to adopt a dog and your concern for the fate of your flower-beds is purely hypothetical, consider the breed of dog that you’d like. If you’ve got your eye on a specific mixed-breed dog, what seems to be the most prominent?

The reason that I ask is simply because breed often plays a significant role in any given dog’s personal valuation of digging as a rewarding pastime – terriers and Nordic breeds in particular (Huskies, Malamutes, some members of the Spitz family) seem to particularly enjoy digging.

Of course, when you get right down to the sum and substance, each dog is first and foremost an individual, and there’s no guaranteed way to predict whether or not your chosen familial addition is going to be a burrower or not. But if you’re trying to reduce the likelihood of an involuntarily-landscaped garden as much as possible, I suggest you stay away from all breeds of terrier (the name means “go to earth”, after all!) and the Nordic breeds.

Why do dogs dig?

In no particular order, here are some of the more common reasons that a dog will dig:

  • Lack of exercise. Digging is a good way for a hyped-up, under-exercised dog to burn off some of that nervous energy.
  • Boredom. Bored dogs need a “job” to do, something rewarding and interesting, to help the time pass by.
  • Digging is often the ideal solution for a bored dog: it gives him a sense of purpose, and distracts him from an otherwise-empty day.
  • The need for broader horizons. Some dogs are just escape artists by nature – no matter how much exercise and attention they get, it’s nearly impossible to confine them. For a four-legged Houdini, it’s not the digging in itself that’s the reward, it’s the glorious unknown that exists beyond the fenceline.
  • Separation anxiety. To a dog that’s seriously pining for your company, digging under those confining walls represents the most direct path to you. Separation anxiety is an unpleasant psychological issue relatively common among dogs – but because it’s so complex, we won’t be dealing with it in this newsletter. Instead, you can find excellent resources for both preventing and coping with the condition at http://www.kingdomofpets.com/dogobediencetraining/

Curbing the habit

Many of the reasons contributing to your dog’s desire to dig suggest their own solutions: if your dog’s not getting enough exercise (generally speaking, at least forty-five minutes’ worth of vigorous walking per day), take him for more walks. If he’s bored, give him some toys and chews to play with during your absence, and wear him out before you leave so he spends most of the day snoozing. An escape-artist dog might need to be crated, or at least kept inside the house where he’s less likely to be able to break free.

For those dogs who just like to dig as a pastime in itself, though, here are a few basic tips for controlling inappropriate digging as much as is reasonably possible:

  • Restrict your dog’s access. This is the most effective thing you can do: if he’s never in the yard without active supervision, there’s no opportunity for digging.
  • Use natural deterrent. 99.9% of dogs will shy back, horrified, from the prospect of digging anywhere that there’s dog poop. Even the ones who like to eat poop (a condition known as coprophagia) generally won’t dig anywhere near it – it offends their basic, fastidious dislike of soiling their coat and paws.
  • Use nature’s own wiles. If the digging is bothering you because it’s upsetting the more delicate blooms in your garden, plant hardier blossoms: preferably, those with deep roots and thorny defenses. Roses are ideal.
  • A more time-consuming, but super-effective way of handling the issue: roll up the first inch or two of turf in your yard, and lay down chicken-wire underneath it. Your dog won’t know it’s there until he’s had a few tries at digging, but once he’s convinced himself that it’s pointless (which won’t take long), he’ll never dig in that yard again.

Accept your dog’s need for an outlet: give him a place to dig

If your dog is set on tunneling your yard into a grassless, crater-studded lunar landscape, but you’re equally determined to prevent this from happening at all costs, please take a moment to consider before embarking on a grueling and time-consuming preventative strategy.

Setting yourself the goal of eradicating all digging behavior, period, is pretty unrealistic: it’s not fair on you (since, really, you’re setting yourself up for failure), and it’s not really fair on your poor dog either – if he’s a true-blue digger, it’s just part of his personality, and he needs at least some opportunity to express that.

But a lawn and a dog don’t have to be mutually exclusive: the most humane and understanding thing for you to do in this case is simply to redirect his digging energy.

You do this by allocating him an area where he’s allowed to dig as much as he pleases. Once this zone’s been established, you can make it crystal-clear that there’s to be absolutely no digging in the rest of the yard – and you can enforce your rules with a clear conscience, since you know your dog now has his own little corner of the world to turn upside down and inside out as he chooses.

But what if you don’t have a “spare corner” of the yard? What if the whole thing, grass, flowerbeds, and gravel path, is just too dear to your heart? That’s OK too – invest in a sandbox, which you can place anywhere in the garden.

You can even make one yourself (the deeper, the better, obviously). Fill it with a mixture of sand and earth, and put some leaves or grass on top if you like - get your dog interested in it by having a scratch around yourself, until he gets the idea.

Make sure the boundaries are clear

To make it clear to him that the sandbox is OK but that everywhere else is a no-dig zone, spend a little time supervising him. When he starts to dig in the box (you can encourage this by shallowly burying a few choice marrowbones in there), praise him energetically – and if he starts digging anywhere else, correct him straight away with an “Ah-ah-aaaah!” or “No!”.

Then, redirect him immediately to the sandbox, and dole out vociferous praise when digging recommences.

To really clarify the lesson, give him a treat when digging gets underway in the sandbox – the close proximity between the correction (for digging out of the sandbox) and praise/reward (for digging in the sandbox) will ensure that your point strikes home.

Further reading

For more information on recognizing and dealing with problematic behaviors like digging, chewing, barking, and aggression, check out SitStayFetch. It’s a detailed how-to manual for the responsible owner, and is packed with all the information you’ll need for raising a healthy, happy, well-adjusted pooch: from problem behaviors to dog psychology to obedience work, SitStayFetch has it covered.

You can check out SitStayFetch by clicking on the link below:

SitStayFetch Dog Training Guide

Nature's Miracle Pet Odor and Stain Removal to the Rescue

Cleaning up after my dog Tony who is shut up in an unused Bedroom for heartworm treatment has been a nightmare. Naturally he had to go potty while I was at work all day and he left a nasty stain right on the mattress. So I went to the pet store and picked up some Nature's Miracle. Man was this stuff amazing. You pour it on the stain and leave it there for a few minutes, and when you come back the yellow is completely gone. This stuff really works. It also breaks down the urine and removes the ugly disgusting smell. Works like a charm-that is no lie! You can also put it in carpet cleaners. There were a couple of stains on the carpet, and what I did was first I poured some directly on the carpet and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then I put some Nature's Miracle in the carpet cleaning machine with some ordinary rug cleaner, about a half and half mixture. I cleaned the carpet and it was as if no potty accident had happened. The smell was gone and the stain was no longer visible. This stuff really works. Getting rid of urine stains and especially the nasty smell is no easy task, so don't pass this stuff up.

Click here to learn more.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heartworm Update

My plan to keep Tony, the German Shepherd Dog with heartworm, in a bedroom has predictably turned into a disaster. And when I had to leave him alone for several hours he pooped and peed all over. Starting this upcoming Monday I still have two more weeks of confinement, giving a total of 9 weeks. What a nightmare. Rather than accepting it he is getting more antsy as time goes by. I've tried bringing him out on leash to sit with me in the living room and he's pretty calm when I do that, but maybe its making it worse during other times-since he knows what he's missing being shut up in the bedroom. It seems like it'll be a miracle if he makes it through this and then when he does, I've got to potty train him all over again! I'm thinking of going to Pet Smart and getting some of those potty training pads for dogs to see if he will at least stick to those instead of going all over, now that he's discovered that he can poop in the bedroom.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dog chasing laser light

A few weeks back I mentioned that one of those pen lasers is a great toy for dogs. My dogs go ABSOLUTELY NUTS chasing around the little red dot. Here is a video someone made of their boxer going around in circles chasing the light.

Hey its an easy way to get your dog some extra exercise!

Incident Between Miami City Employee and Dog Probed

Wow if you can believe this some wacko city employee in Miami was caught with his pants down-with a dog. Seems like everywhere you turn these days there is a fruitcake of some kind. This weirdo is 69 years old for Christs sake!! But the poor sap only makes $28 k a year, so maybe he's having a hard time picking up the babes.

Read the Story Here

The Albuquerque Pet Ordinance

The Albuquerque Pet Ordinance (HEART or Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment) is one of the worst examples of government gone bad. Taking a basically good idea-getting people to take good care of their pets-and turning it into a bureaucratic nightmare of government control, this sweeping document is the height of absurdity.

Now many of the laws in this document would make good suggestions, but having the government mandate them is what gets my goat. Here are some highlights:

  • A dog is required to be on a leash no longer than 8 feet long.
  • "Feces and soiled bedding must be removed at least weekly to prevent odor"
  • Companion Birds kept in Cages must have enough room to spread their wings and have at least 2 perches of different diameters available to them.
  • All Animals shall be groomed in accordance with this article...
  • Crates are prohibited as a means of outdoor confinement in non-residential areas.
  • Animals riding inside vehicles that are not in Crates or other enclosures must not be allowed access to a window opened wide enough for the Animal to jump, fly or fall out
If you live in Albuquerque, watch out! The plastic dog bowl or cat bowl for food is strictly prohibited!

  • Food and water dishes must not be made of plastic and must be washed after every meal.

Here is one of my favorite parts, where the amount of square feet per dog and cat is dictated:

  • Cats shall have a minimum of four square feet of flat floor space and twenty-two inches of vertical space.
  • Dogs weighing less than 30 pounds shall have eight square feet of flat floor space and two feet of vertical space per dog.
  • Dogs that weigh more than 65 pounds shall have 24 square feet of flat floor space and three feet of vertical space per dog.
Now of course in anything the government does, there has to be a revenue generating machine. This ordinance is no exception:

  • All residents of Albuquerque who own Companion Animals shall have a current annual Albuquerque Companion Animal License for each Companion Animal they own that is over the age of three months.
  • A License Tag shall be issued with each License.
  • Replacement License tags shall be sold at the AACC at a cost of $ 4 each.
  • The fee for late License renewal shall be a minimum of $10.
  • Owners of female intact Companion Animals must obtain a Litter Permit
  • Any Person intending to exceed the maximum limit of six Companion Animals, no more than four of which are dogs, in a Household shall obtain a Multiple Companion Animal Site Permit (MCASP).
Permit Fees.

(1) Intact Companion Animal Permit fee is $150 per animal.

(2) Litter Permit fee is $150 per litter.

(3) Exotic or Wild Animal Collection Permit fee is $35.

(4) Multiple Companion Animal Site fee is $25 per site.

(5) Guard Dog Site fee is $150 per site.

(6) Animal Service Provider fee is $25 per year.

(7) Pet Store Permit fee is $50 per year.

(8) Animal Drawn Vehicle fee is $150 per Animal.

(9) Trolley Permit fee is $25 per Animal.


That last one really gets my goat. Sure we don't want to enable hoarders, but why is the GOVERNMENT dictating to an American citizen, a supposedly "free" person, how many dogs they can have? Not only this, but if your animals irritate your busy body neighbors, they can file for a hearing:

  • Any adjoining property owner may petition the Administrative Hearing Officer for revocation, modification or suspension of a MCASP if the adjoining property owner is reasonably aggrieved by any effects of the Multiple Animal Site.
Don't get me wrong. Animal abuse and neglect should be prosecuted by the government, and hoarders should not be allowed to stuff 50 animals into their single wide trailer. Dog fighting should definitely be illegal. But when the government is dictating how many square feet a dog must have or what kind of bowls they can eat out of, things have been taken way too far. Over-breeding, puppy mills and other issues are best dealt with by education, not sweeping government mandates. Pretty soon there are going to be so many laws that you won't be able to go outside without being arrested.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heartworm Update

Well its late and I confess-I'm drinking wine in order to stay sane while my dog goes nuts confined to a single room for 6 weeks now.

The vet was adamant: keep the dog STRICTLY confined. He even suggested putting him in an airport carrier. Have you seen those things? They allow the dog to see out the front, but the sides are COMPLETELY blocked off. And you want me to keep a dog confined in THAT for six, seven, and what has now turned into nine weeks? You have got to be completely insane.

Well I had a hard enough time keeping him in a standard wire crate, and as I've mentioned in previous posts I ended up letting him have an entire bedroom to himself. This calmed him down quite a bit and he spends most of his time laying on the bed.

But TIME IS PASSING. We are approaching the seventh week of this pure insanity and as you might imagine, my dog has had enough. For one thing he isn't stupid, he can hear the other dogs and myself out in the living room. And he can hear when I take the other dogs for walks. He can hear when I let the other dogs out into the yard. He is going absolutely bonkers.

So being a softie I've recently taken to bringing him into the living room on leash. This keeps him from getting active, he pretty much just lays next to me (he is laying next to me right now as I type on the computer). But he is a whole lot happier since he is part of the gang. I hope this doesn't end up killing him. He isn't getting overly active from this but considering the vet wanted him confined in an airplane carrier he's pretty out there.

If you had a dog with heartworm how would you handle it? Two weeks to go from this upcoming Monday.

Does your dog chew grass?

My dog crops grass like a cow. He eats it with gusto whenever he encounters it, to the extent that my friends have begun to refer to him, jokingly, as ‘The Ruminant’. This habit of his doesn’t bother me at all, since it seems to have no ill-effects on him whatsoever - although, when I’m standing outside in the cold waiting for him to relieve himself during one of his infrequent small-hours toilet calls (normally his timing is much more considerate), it’s hard not to hop impatiently from foot to foot while he enthusiastically tears out the mandatory five to seven mouthfuls of grass, chews thoroughly, and swallows, instead of just getting on with the task at hand.

Unless your dog’s digestion is suffering unwanted upheavals from his grass-eating habit, it’s not really a problem. Dogs have been eating grass since the dawn of time (or at least, of the species) with few ill-effects, aside from the odd bout of vomiting - and really, this is one of those things that seems to bother owners a lot more than their dogs; most dogs, will simply re-ingest the vomitus and go about their day unfazed.

Truthfully, nobody really knows why dogs eat grass. There are a variety of theories as to why animals that are widely regarded as carnivores would willingly consume moderate quantities of vegetation.

One of said theories pertains to the fact that dogs are not, actually, carnivores. They’re omnivores, which literally means, “eat anything”.

This theory postulates that the modern-day dog eats grass in a deliberate attempt to supplement his diet with nutrients that are missing from his daily meals. The main crux, thrust, and gist of this argument centers around the idea that dogs, as omnivorous animals, are eating too much meat and need to balance this out with some greenery on the side, much as you or I might crave a nice tart salad to go with our steak.

If you ask me, this is nonsense. First of all, most of us feed our dogs primarily on kibble, which contains the full spectrum of fully-absorbable nutrients that dogs require (or at least, high quality kibble does; I can’t vouch for the quality of supermarket-brand dog food). If you’re feeding your dog on meat alone, whether canned or fresh, there may be some substance to this theory – dogs need a wide range of vitamins and minerals for optimum health, most of which are not contained within fresh meat. It’s true that canned meat has some added nutrients; the main problem with canned food is that it’s too soft and jelly-like to maintain healthy teeth and bowels. Dogs fed primarily on canned food are far more prone to developing dental disease at a relatively early age (not to mention an increased incidence of constipation and flatulence, from the lack of fiber and roughage).

As far as dog food goes, unless your dog’s on a specific, prescribed diet, kibble should constitute the main part of his diet – you can add a few spoonfuls of canned meat for variety and temptation, if you like.

Another popular theory is that dogs use grass as a sort of natural emetic: that, since a nauseous dog lacks the phalangeal structure necessary for the good old ‘finger down the throat’ move, he’ll resort to nature’s bounty as an alternative. It’s true that grass does sometimes make dogs vomit – those tickly stems can irritate the stomach lining, and there have been a few occasions when I’ve seen dogs vomit up a chunk of something that’s proved to be indigestible, and along with the offending article, there’s also been a clump of grass in the vomit too.

However – and I’m sorry to pour cold water over this one too – I have to say that this is pure conjecture, and somewhat nonsensical conjecture at that. Dogs are perfectly capable of vomiting all by themselves, without the assistance of grass; I’ve seen too many dogs enjoying a post-prandial mouthful of mixed lawn greens, without any regurgitational side effects, to lend the theory any credence.

If you’re worried that eating grass is going to hurt your dog, you can lay that concern to rest right now. The one possible downside is that he’ll irritate his throat or stomach lining, but this issue will only cause him strife for a second or two at most: he’ll either cough the problem away, or will toss his cookies without further ado (which rarely bothers most dogs).

Really, grass-eating is nothing to worry about – it’s a life-long habit with many dogs, and if yours does decide that it’s no longer in his best interests, he’ll simply stop eating it all by himself.

You may need to keep an eye on him around recently treated lawns, or anywhere where nasties like pesticides, snail bait, and rat poison could be around, since most garden chemicals are highly toxic to dogs. Ideally, you’d be keeping an eye on him anyway if he’s around those substances, but grass-eaters are at higher risk than most since they’re more likely to ingest plant matter that herbicides and other toxic chemicals have been sprayed onto.

In addition to this, it’s also best if he’s kept away from those clumps of dried-out grass that lie around on the lawn after it’s been freshly mowed. It shouldn’t be a problem if the grass is mowed by a push-mower; but if it’s been through a gas-operated machine, the grass will be tainted with petrol fumes and grease, which at best will taste horrible and at worst can make him pretty sick. (Fortunately for your peace of mind and your dog’s peace of digestive tract, all but the most food-obsessed dogs will usually spurn this smelly fare in favor of clean, fresh grass.)

If your dog’s grass eating is really bothering you, presumably this is out of concern for your lawn, rather than your dog, since there’s ample evidence that dogs suffer no adverse effects from frequent grassy snacks. There are a couple of things you can try doing to reduce his desire to supplement his diet with eatables from the backyard – but, because this is one area of dogdom that nobody really knows that much about (scientists are frankly mystified by the appetite of the average dog for verdure), the success rate is more hit-and-miss than guaranteed:

  • Try varying his diet slightly. Unlike humans, dogs do not need a widely varied diet to keep them “interested” in food; they’re creatures of routine, and diet is no exception to this rule. However, since one of the theories that attempts to explain why dogs eat grass is centered around a lack of nutritional variety, you can try introducing various tasty vegetables into his food: most dogs enjoy tomatoes, carrots (either steamed or raw) and chopped apples. Be sure to stay well away from grapes, raisins, and onions, since these are toxic to dogs.
  • Supervise him whenever he’s around grass. This may not be a particularly user-friendly option, especially for off-lead walks; you’ll have to keep a real eagle-eye on your canine walking buddy to make sure he’s not making a dash for the greenery.

Realistically, there’s not really a lot you can do about your dog’s grass-eating habit (aside from deny him access to grass utterly, which wouldn’t be fair to your dog and would make your daily dog-walking expeditions more of an exercise in frustration than a relaxing stroll).

The general consensus from the experts seems to be that grass-eating, although somewhat of an enigmatic pastime to us humans, is just ‘one of those things’ as far as your dog is concerned. It won’t do him any harm, and you can be sure that if he’s eating it, he’s enjoying it – so there’s really not a lot to be said for depriving him of that simple pleasure.

Furthermore, and in addition to the logistics of permitting this penchant, I’ve got to say that watching your dog ripping up and chewing generous mouthfuls of turf with an expression of half-lidded bliss on his face can provide you (and passersby) with some unexpected entertainment when the two of you are out and about together!

For further reading …

For more information on dog psychology and general canine behavioral traits, with a particular focus on problematic behaviors, you’ll probably want to take a look at SitStayFetch. It’s a complete, detailed manual for the intelligent and responsible owner, and covers everything from obedience training through to preventing and handling a huge variety of common problem behaviors. Well worth checking out!

You can visit the SitStayFetch site by clicking on the link below:

Sit-Stay-Fetch

Iams Dog Cruelty

Want to feed your dog Iams dog food? Watch this video to see how they treat dogs in their testing facility. Sick.



Iams Cruelty Website

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Stay Command for Dogs

The stay command is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. Imagine being in the front yard with your dog loose and being able to put him in a stay before he runs out into the road. Or being able to put him in a stay at a park full of children. A stay command can be a life saving command, for your dog or others.

This guy uses clicker training. I'm not too familiar with clicker training, but it might be something worth investigating. Whether you use clicker training or not watch the video for some tips on how to teach the stay command.



Need to train your dog? Visit the Kingdom of Pets Sit-Stay-Fetch Dog Training Program

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Recognizing, preventing, and handling dog aggression

A dog is an instinctively aggressive creature. In the wild, aggression came in very handy: dogs needed aggression to hunt, to defend themselves from other creatures, and to defend resources such as food, a place to sleep, and a mate. Selective breeding over the centuries has minimized and refined this trait significantly, but there’s just no getting around it: dogs are physically capable of inflicting serious harm (just look at those teeth!) because that’s how they’ve survived and evolved. And Mother Nature is pretty wily – it’s hard to counteract the power of instinct!

But that doesn’t mean that we, as dog lovers and owners, are entirely helpless when it comes to handling our dogs. There’s a lot that we can do to prevent aggression from rearing its ugly head in the first place – and even if prevention hasn’t been possible (for whatever reason), there are still steps that we can take to recognize and deal with it efficiently.

- Different aggression types -

There are several different types of canine aggression. The two most common ones are:

- Aggression towards strangers

- Aggression towards family members

You may be wondering why we’re bothering categorizing this stuff: after all, aggression is aggression, and we want to turf it out NOW, not waste time with the details – right?

Well … not quite. These two different types of aggression stem from very different causes, and require different types of treatment.

- Aggression towards strangers -

What is it?

It’s pretty easy to tell when a dog’s nervy around strange people. He’s jumpy and on the alert: either he can’t sit still and is constantly fidgeting, leaping at the smallest sound, and pacing around barking and whining; or he’s veerrrry still indeed, sitting rock-steady in one place, staring hard at the object of his suspicions (a visitor, the mailman, someone approaching him on the street while he’s tied up outside a store.)

Why does it happen?

There’s one major reason why a dog doesn’t like strange people: he’s never had the chance to get used to them. Remember, your dog relies 100% on you to broaden his horizons for him: without being taken on lots of outings to see the world and realize for himself, through consistent and positive experiences, that the unknown doesn’t necessarily equal bad news for him, how can he realistically be expected to relax in an unfamiliar situation?

What can I do about it?

The process of accustoming your dog to the world and all the strange people (and animals) that it contains is called socialization. This is an incredibly important aspect of your dog’s upbringing: in fact, it’s pretty hard to overemphasize just how important it is. Socializing your dog means exposing him from a young age (generally speaking, as soon as he’s had his vaccinations) to a wide variety of new experiences, new people, and new animals.

How does socialization prevent stranger aggression?

When you socialize your dog, you’re getting him to learn through experience that new sights and sounds are fun, not scary.

It’s not enough to expose an adult dog to a crowd of unfamiliar people and tell him to “Settle down, Roxy, it’s OK” – he has to learn that it’s OK for himself. And he needs to do it from puppyhood for the lesson to sink in.

The more types of people and animals he meets (babies, toddlers, teenagers, old people, men, women, people wearing uniforms, people wearing motorcycle helmets, people carrying umbrellas, etc) in a fun and relaxed context, the more at ease and happy – and safe around strangers - he’ll be in general.

How can I socialize my dog so that he doesn’t develop a fear of strangers?

Socializing your dog is pretty easy to do – it’s more of a general effort than a specific training regimen.

First of all, you should take him to puppy preschool. This is a generic term for a series of easy group-training classes for puppies (often performed at the vet clinic, which has the additional benefit of teaching your dog positive associations with the vet!).

In a puppy preschool class, about ten or so puppy owners get together with a qualified trainer (often there’ll be at least two trainers present – the more there are, the better, since it means you get more one-on-one time with a professional) and start teaching their puppies the basic obedience commands: sit, stay, and so on.

Even though the obedience work is very helpful and is a great way to start your puppy on the road to being a trustworthy adult dog, really the best part of puppy preschool is the play sessions: several times throughout the class, the puppies are encouraged to run around off-leash and play amongst themselves.

This is an ideal environment for them to learn good social skills: there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar dogs present (which teaches them how to interact with strange dogs), there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar people present (which teaches them that new faces are nothing to be afraid of), and the environment is safe and controlled (there’s at least one certified trainer present to make sure that things don’t get out of hand).

Socialization doesn’t just stop with puppy preschool, though. It’s an ongoing effort throughout the life of your puppy and dog: he needs to be taken to a whole bunch of new places and environments.

Remember not to overwhelm him: start off slow, and build up his tolerance gradually.

- Aggression towards family members -

There are two common reasons why a dog is aggressive towards members of his own human family:

- He’s trying to defend something he thinks of as his from a perceived threat (you).

This is known as resource guarding, and though it may sound innocuous, there’s actually a lot more going on here than your dog simply trying to keep his kibble to himself.

- He’s not comfortable with the treatment/handling he’s getting from you or other members of the family.

What’s resource guarding?

Resource guarding is pretty common among dogs. The term refers to overly-possessive behavior on behalf of your dog: for instance, snarling at you if you approach him when he’s eating, or giving you “the eye” (a flinty-eyed, direct stare) if you reach your hand out to take a toy away from him.

All dogs can be possessive from time to time – it’s in their natures. Sometimes they’re possessive over things with no conceivable value: inedible trash, balled up pieces of paper or tissue, old socks. More frequently, however, resource-guarding becomes an issue over items with a very real and understandable value: food and toys.

Why does it happen?

It all boils down to the issue of dominance. Let me take a moment to explain this concept: dogs are pack animals. This means that they’re used to a very structured environment: in a dog-pack, each individual animal is ranked in a hierarchy of position and power (or “dominance”) in relation to every other animal. Each animal is aware of the rank of every other animal, which means he knows specifically how to act in any given situation (whether to back down, whether to push the issue, whether to muscle in or not on somebody else’s turf, etc etc).

To your dog, the family environment is no different to the dog-pack environment. Your dog has ranked each member of the family, and has his own perception of where he ranks in that environment as well.

This is where it gets interesting: if your dog perceives himself as higher up on the social totem-pole than other family members, he’s going to get cheeky. If he’s really got an overinflated sense of his own importance, he’ll start to act aggressively.

Why? Because dominance and aggression are the exclusive rights of a superior-ranked animal. No underdog would ever show aggression or act dominantly to a higher-ranked animal (the consequences would be dire, and he knows it!)

Resource guarding is a classic example of dominant behavior: only a higher-ranked dog (a “dominant” dog) would act aggressively in defence of resources.

To put it plainly: if it was clear to your dog that he is not, in fact, the leader of the family, he’d never even dream of trying to prevent you from taking his food or toys – because a lower-ranking dog (him) will always go along with what the higher-ranking dogs (you and your family) say.

So what can I do about it? The best treatment for dominant, aggressive behavior is consistent, frequent obedience work, which will underline your authority over your dog. Just two fifteen-minute sessions a day will make it perfectly clear to your dog that you’re the boss, and that it pays to do what you say.

You can make this fact clear to him by rewarding him (with treats and lavish praise) for obeying a command, and isolating him (putting him in “time-out”, either outside the house or in a room by himself) for misbehaviour.

- If you’re not entirely confident doing this yourself, you may wish to consider enlisting the assistance of a qualified dog-trainer.

- Brush up on your understanding of canine psychology and communication, so that you understand what he’s trying to say – this will help you to nip any dominant behaviors in the bud, and to communicate your own authority more effectively

- Train regularly: keep obedience sessions short and productive (no more than fifteen minutes – maybe two or three of these per day).

Why doesn’t my dog like to be handled?

All dogs have different handling thresholds. Some dogs like lots of cuddles, and are perfectly content to be hugged, kissed, and have arms slung over their shoulders (this is the ultimate “I’m the boss” gesture to a dog, which is why a lot of them won’t tolerate it.) Others – usually the ones not accustomed to a great deal of physical contact from a very young age – aren’t comfortable with too much full-body contact and will get nervy and agitated if someone persists in trying to hug them.

Another common cause of handling-induced aggression is a bad grooming experience: nail-clipping and bathing are the two common culprits.

When you clip a dog’s nails, it’s very easy to “quick” him – that is, cut the blood vessel that runs inside the nail. This is extremely painful to a dog, and is a sure-fire way to cause a long-lasting aversion to those clippers.

Being washed is something that a great many dogs have difficulty dealing with – a lot of owners, when confronted with a wild-eyed, half-washed, upset dog, feel that in order to complete the wash they have to forcibly restrain him. This only adds to the dog’s sense of panic, and reinforces his impression of a wash as something to be avoided at all costs – if necessary, to defend himself from it with a display of teeth and hackles.

Can I “retrain” him to enjoy being handled and groomed?

In a word: yes. It’s a lot easier if you start from a young age – handle your puppy a lot, get him used to being touched and rubbed all over. Young dogs generally enjoy being handled – it’s only older ones who haven’t had a lot of physical contact throughout their lives that sometimes find physical affection difficult to accept.

Practice picking up his paws and touching them with the clipper; practice taking him into the bath (or outside, under the faucet – whatever works for you, but warm water is much more pleasant for a dog than a freezing spray of ice-water!), and augment the process throughout with lots of praise and the occasional small treat.

For an older dog that may already have had several unpleasant handling/grooming experiences, things are a little more difficult. You need to undo the damage already caused by those bad experiences, which you can do by taking things very slowly – with an emphasis on keeping your dog calm.

The instant he starts to show signs of stress, stop immediately and let him relax. Try to make the whole thing into a game: give him lots of praise, pats, and treats.

Take things slowly. Don’t push it too far: if you get nervous, stop.

Dogs show aggression for a reason: they’re warning you to back off, or else! If your dog just can’t seem to accept being groomed, no matter how much practice you put in, it’s best to hand the job over to the professionals.

Your vet will clip his nails for you (make sure you tell him first that he gets aggressive when the clippers come out, so your vet can take the necessary precautions!). As far as washing and brushing goes, the dog-grooming business is a flourishing industry: for a small fee, you can get your dog washed, clipped, brushed, and whatever else you require by experienced professionals (again, make sure you tell them about your dog’s reaction to the experience first!)

For more information on handling aggressive and dominant behaviors, as well as a great deal of detailed information on a host of other common dog behavior problems, check out SitStayFetch.

It’s a complete owner’s guide to owning, rearing, and training your dog, and it deals with all aspects of dog ownership.

To get the inside word on preventing and dealing with problem behaviors like aggression and dominance in your dog, SitStayFetch is well worth a look.

You can visit the SitStayFetch site by clicking on the link below:

Sit-Stay-Fetch Dog Obedience Training

Jake the German Shepherd Dog

Until recently, I hadn't been known to hoard animals. For most of my life I was a one-dog man, and then in 1996 I moved up to two with a Dalmatian named Tasha and a German Shepherd named Sam. Tasha had to be put down about a year and a half later because she was really old (nearly 16) and had a massive tumor on her leg. After that I got a second German Shepherd named Brandy, and had the two Shepherds from 1999-2007.


For reasons that I'll explain another time, by the spring of 2007 I had four dogs: Brandy, Lucy, a new German Shepherd named Tony and an Akita named Naomi. Well at this point I was like having four dogs in one house is completely insane, so there was NO WAY I was getting another dog. Well not until I met Jake that is.

My beloved German Shepherd of ten years Sam had died that April from stomach torsion, and things just didn't feel right. It was about then that a lady at a ranch where I board my horses began talking about getting rid of her German Shepherd. It was kind of strange because only a few weeks earlier she was ranting and raving about how wonderful it was for her to have come across this dog (whom she adopted from some doctor). He resembled a German Shepherd she had left behind in Jersey not just physically, but with his penchant for chasing and chewing on dogs.

The problem was the lady had just acquired some pygmy goats. One tragic Sunday morning the neighbors dog got in her yard and YIKES! killed the goats. This caused some soul searching-not only was the act of killing the neighbors dog considered, but she began to worry if her recently acquired German Shepherd might kill the goats too. Apparently he had made some displays of fondness for meat, and was eye-ing the goats a little too often.

There was also talk that he was too thin and had to stay outside all the time by some other people at the ranch. So a woman (who will remain nameless but plays a significant role in my life ;) convinced me to go over and take a look. First the idea was to just check on him and make sure he was OK, but one Sunday evening I dropped by to inquire about adopting him.

For an animal nut like me, this is of course a major mistake. Once the decision has been made to look in on a critter I may as well just say drop him off at my house. So I drove up there, knowing full well there was no way I would leave this dog behind.

The doctor had originally named this dog Kozmo, but the woman who now owned him sensibly changed his name to Jake. She had a whole army of animals, from a pair of gay (yes homosexual) canaries to four small dogs, two goats and two big dogs. The small dogs were allowed in the house but the big dogs had to stay outside with the goats. Since Jake had his eye on gourmet goat meat, he was kind of living as a loner.

Jake greeted me with a ball in his mouth. Living up to his description, Jake is a German Shepherd that is downright obsessed with rubber balls. In fact as I type this he is laying on the floor waiting for me to throw his ball to him now. Anyway, I looked the situation over for a few minutes pretending I would think about it and then told her I'd go ahead and take the dog. She was pretty happy I was taking this burden off her shoulders, she could stop worrying about the goats and her dog had a new home. So off I went with Jake, with the realization that I now owned five dogs slowly sinking in....

Honestly Jake was a mess. He was about 75 pounds looking very skinny, had pannus and an itchy skin condition due to allergies to some kind of mite that all dogs have. After putting him on my regular feeding schedule I use with the other dogs he's up to 95 pounds, and he's getting medication for his pannus and skin condition. I recently put him on Solid Gold Dog food in the hopes his skin my improve a bit and I could cut back on medication.

Well despite the fact I'm saddled with five dogs, Jake has turned out to be the perfect addition. He was eight when I got him (so kind of close to Sam's age) and he has many of Sam's best personality attirbutes. Jake is a fairly quiet dog that doesn't like getting into trouble, so he avoids bothering the other dogs. He likes chomping on his balls (the rubber ones, PLEASE...) and also has a fondness for tennis balls. An interesting quirk is that Jake can fit two or three balls in his mouth at the same time. Sam always tried, in fact Sam tried to fit two tennis balls in his mouth up to the day he died, but never succeeded. Jake also walks good and enjoys going for hikes in the mountains. I guess I would call it chemistry, but his chemistry is very much like Sam's. Having Jake there made me feel whole and secure again in a way I hadn't felt since Sam's death.

Jake has this funny quirk, sitting in the space on the floor between the front and back seats in the car. I don't remember if I've posted this pic before, but here it is, kind of grainy since I took it with the cell phone.

In any case, Jake is the best that a German Shepherd can be. Friendly, gentle, smart, loyal, and fun.

Be a Leader for Your Dog

A fiery debate at a blog called fugly horse of the day got me thinking about why there are so many problems with animals. In particular, why are so many dogs put in a position where euthanasia seems to be a viable option for behavior issues?

To find the answer to this question, we need look no further than the mirror. The problem is us and its time for dog owners to take responsibility and say the buck stops here.

I've come to this conclusion under some influence by Cesar Millan and others. Owning horses as well as dogs, I've gotten heavily involved in natural horsemanship training. One thing that is clear from natural horsemanship is that you need to become a leader for your horse, and you need to communicate with your horse using his own language. The same is true for dogs, and this is exactly what Cesar Millan is teaching. If you're looking for a happy, successful relationship with your dog, having him around the house and hoping for the best ain't going to cut it. You need to become a leader for your dog. And like natural horsemanship teaches, "dog whispering" is about speaking to your dog in his own language.

Let's take an example. A poster mentioned that a child rang the doorbell one day, and her dog burst forth and bit the child. This is a tragic situation to be sure. On impulse, you would probably say the dog should be put down, and that's exactly what happened. The owner of the dog reports being mystified as to why the dog did what he did. But is it really that mysterious?

The dog was following his gut instinct-which is to protect the household. That is not mysterious behavior. The question we need to ask then, is why did the dog decide to inappropriately bite a child, who is not a real threat? The answer in many, if not most cases is that the dog felt it had to act because the owner was not in a leadership position as far as the dog was concerned. Without an alpha dog in the household, the dog felt insecure and assumed the leadership position on his own. So he did what came natural to him, he saw a stranger at the door and proceeded to defend the household.

I want to make it clear I am speaking in general terms here-I never met the particular dog in question and wasn't there, so can't address that specific dog and owner. That dog might have been truly insane with euthanasia as the only reasonable option. With that as a given, what I am doing is addressing the situation in general and what is usually at play in most cases.

So how can we work to minimize the chances that our dogs will attack at will when someone rings the doorbell, especially a child? What a dog owner needs to do is actively assume the leadership position in the pack. A dog would rather not be the leader. The fact is he is going to look to you to be the leader and will only exhibit aggressive behavior like that when is failing to see you acting as the alpha.

There is nothing mysterious, new agey, or flaky about dog whispering or natural horsemanship. Maybe what's mysterious is that Cesar Millan figured all of this stuff out on his own, but the truth is you can learn it too. All dog whispering is about is taking a new view on dog ownership. Some suggestions:

  • Read, read, and read again. Study every book on dog behavior (and yes, wolf behavior) so that you understand why dogs behave the way they do.
  • You might spoil your grandkids or your 3 year old nephew, but don't view your dog as a child that should be spoiled. When it comes to the dog, start viewing the household in terms of a dog pack.
  • You assume the leadership position of the pack. Read dog whispering books and watch dog training videos to learn how to do this.
  • Don't neglect basic obedience training. Your dog should be an expert at sit, stay, down, down-stay, and come commands.
That last point might be as important as any other. If your dog is well trained at down-stay, you can put him in a down-stay when the doorbell rings-and he is going to stay in that position until you tell him otherwise. That is the hallmark of a well trained dog. Don't make any excuses. If my dog can't do that-its my fault and nobody else's, and the dog doesn't need to be put down. I need to invest more time and energy into training the dog. Euthanasia should only be a last resort for behaviorial problems. Start putting energy into training your dogs properly today.

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