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Tweets from my dog.

A friend suggested that I write some tweets from a dog’s perspective. I thought that was an intriguing idea and found myself wondering what my dog would say to me in 120 characters or less.

The first one that came to mind was “In my defense, I was left unsupervised” which I originally saw on a T-shirt. I could see my dog sending this as an after thought to such puppy inpulses as: shredding my current book, chewing the thumbs off my favorite gloves, or ingesting an entire loaf of bread I irresponsibly left on the counter. Careful and consistent management (of dog and environment) is an important part of training and may help to prevent humans tweeting: “In his defense, he was left unsupervised.”

On a post on Care.com titled 26 Hilarious Hypothetical Dog Tweets I found this one: “Just got back from taking my person for a drag around the neighborhood. Remember: keep your human on a leash. It’s the law.” Dogs are not naturally inclined to walk sweetly at their humans’ sides, so teaching leash manners can be challenging to say the least, and may lead to the unfortunate use of prong or choke collars. I have many posts on loose leash walking, but if you are having difficulties getting Rover to resist the lure of squirrels and the base of every tree, contact a positive reinforcement trainer to help.It just might help to prevent you tweeting: “Just got back from being dragged around the neighborhood. Keeping him on a leash may be the law, but I’m headed to the doctor. #shouldersurgeryhereIcome”

“Dogs, just warning you, do not read “Old Yeller.” #prayforoldyeller.” (Care.com) I clearly remember reading Old Yeller in 4th grade and exactly where I was sitting when I read the end of the book. I was heartbroken, but also amazed at the power of good literature to move you to the core of your being. I think that was the moment I became a bibliophile. For a guide to some great books on dogs, where at least some dogs do not die, listen to our podcast: Literary Dogs. If there is a child in your life who loves to read and would like to read a story to your dog, check out Three Stories You Can Read to Your Dog.

 

“Leaving? I don’t think so.”

“Where are you? When will you be home? You coming home soon? #10minutesisforever.” Dogs are social creatures and do not revel in your absence. I don’t believe that Zuzu is hoping I will go away for several hours so that she can work on the great American canine novel. If you do need to leave your dog alone for several hours, be sure they are not going to get into mischief (#carpetsarenotjustforpee) while you are out. Making sure your dog has had some exercise, some mental stimulation, and something appropriate to do while you are gone** will help to make sure his next tweet isn’t, “Who doesn’t like Italian leather chew toys? #gottachewshoes.”

 

And of course who wouldn’t want their dog to tweet, “(insert your name) is the bestest friend ever. #lovemyhuman”

 

“Love you too buddy. #bestdogever”

 

 

*The Association of Professional Dog TrainersIf you need a trainer in your area, you can do a search by zip code at . Requiring that the trainer be certified helps (but does not guarantee) to locate a positive reinforcement trainer. If you are uncertain about how to choose a trainer, see: How to Choose a Dog Trainer (blog) and Choosing a Dog Trainer (podcast).

 

**For help with taking your dog from crazed to calm see my blog, “Fun-nel” of Activity, and our podcasts:  Funnel of Activity. and Tellington Touch Makes “Melty Dogs”

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Toys for Tough Chewers

Dogs just wanna have fun, but in their pursuit of play, some dogs are overly exuberant with toys. Stuffing is removed in a microsecond, limbs are severed, and “indestructible” toys are demolished in record time. So, what is an owner to do? Are there toys out there that will actually withstand the rigors of a dedicated destroyer?

Recently, I was in Granville’s Village Pet Market* and as I was checking out, asked whether a particular toy floated. That led to a discussion of toys and their durability. According to the helpful staff, there are three companies that make durable toys.  I have not used them with my dogs yet, but the ones recommended have been tested, unofficially, by the Granville vet staff’s vigorous chewers.

Planet Dog. The toy I asked about was a rubber ball on a nylon rope. According to the packaging, the toy is a 5/5 on the “Chew-O-Meter” which equates with “extremely durable”. We have not played with our ball yet, so I can’t verify whether or not this is actually extremely durable, but I have been assured that they are tough, and other Planet Dog balls we bought have lasted through multiple dogs. Moreover, “Planet Dog took the top two spots of the most indestructible toys in the industry…” in the Whole Dog Journal’s rating of balls for “Fetching and beyond.

If your dog isn’t crazy for fetch, there are a lot of Planet Dog toys that may appeal to your pup. They even have a page on their  website about How to choose the right toy for your dog. Check out the variety of toys they offer and I am sure you will find one that suits your beast. Moreover, they state: “Our products are 100% guaranteed. If you are not satisfied for any reason with our products, rest easy. We will make it right.” Nice.

West Paw Design. The “Jive Zogoflex” ball is guaranteed tough. It has an interesting shape with curves and valleys that make it easier for a dog to grab, but also make for interesting bounces when tossed.** It comes in three sizes, can be thrown with a “standard ball-thrower,” is dishwasher safe and recyclable. It is also a 5/5. 

My dogs have not used this ball, but have used the Bumi Tug Toy. It is durable, and for dogs who live for tug, I would give this a try. The only caveat: because it stretches, it is not as durable and is rated 3/5.

West Paw also makes food distribution toys, bones, and flying discs that are rated from 3-5, so be sure to get one that is the right durability for your dog. They also guarantee ” the performance of every product we design and manufacture here in Bozeman, Montana (that’s all of them). We want you to love West Paw’s products. If you don’t, we’ll make it right.” That helps make spending $15 on a ball worth a try. 

 

 

Spot. Play Strong S Bone. This 12 ” bone is apparently a favorite amongst the dog staff at the vet’s office. Designed with chewing in mind, it also floats and is hollow so that treats can be added. This is the long S-shaped bone, (which if you ask me is just begging for a game of fetch..) but the Play Strong toys also come in shorter (4.5″, 5.5″, and 6.5″), straight bones, and balls.

 

I hope that one of these toys will work for your vigorous chewer and provide your dog with hours of fun. Let me know if they work for you, or if they don’t! And, don’t hesitate to let me know what you have found satisfies your dog’s need  to chew and play. 

 

 

 

 

*As I have mentioned in previous posts, we have two wonderful pet supply stores here in Granville,  The Village Pet Market, and Bath and Biscuits. Both offer terrific food as well as toys, collars, leashes, etc. Bath and Biscuits also offers grooming as well as a place for you to bathe your dog. They are well worth your patronage. 

 

**Interesting bounces mimic the ways in which prey animals try to throw off a predator by moving erratically when being chased. Unpredicatible movement is intriguing, fascinating, and dare I say, addictive to some dogs. 

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A few close friends…

I was skimming through my photos for a particular image and found so many that I enjoyed, that I decided to do a post just on the happy animals who have populated my life in one way or another. Some of these are my animals, some are clients, some are just buddies I have made during my travels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

First, here is my granddog Tex* enjoying the water:

Flatties (short for Flat Coated Retrievers) just wanna have fun:

 

 

Kids and dogs (or cats as the case may be!):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few friends of mine…canine and others of a different nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly some former chicken clients say hi to their mom…

 

I hope these snippets make you smile and cheer up your day as much as they have for me!  And, remember, life is short, so go play with your dog!

 

 

 

 

*Tex, unfortunately is no longer with us. We miss him terribly, especially his exuberant nature and enthusiasm for life.

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Being Anxious is No Fun for You or Your Dog.

Anxiety is something that everyone experiences at one time or another, to one degree or another. Perhaps when you had to give an oral book report in front of your 6th grade class, or your first presentation to a new boss, or when you were waiting for a loved one to get out of surgery. Often times, others don’t even know you are anxious as you devote every resource to making yourself appear fine (at least outwardly), while praying that no one asks you to something as unreasonable as multiply 6 times 8.

You may have tells, such as biting your lip, twirling your hair, pacing, or tapping your foot, that people may or may not recognize as symptoms of stress or anxiety. When I was a kid, my mother, assuming I was bored rather than anxious, would tell me to “Stop figeting!” My sister on the other hand, would get quiet and withdrawn, earning her the title of the “Good Kid.”

I have written (and podcasted*) about stress signals and the importance of recognizing your dog’s particular behaviors that indicate he is not comfortable. Learning to read your dog and understanding the way in which he communicates his discomfort is the first step in helping him with his anxieties or fears. But, that is just the beginning. What do you do when you see Rover is uncomfortable with the situation?

“There’s a big dog over there…”

The first thing I recommend is physical distance. For example, if your dog is uncomfortable with large dogs and you see a great hulking beast headed your way, don’t insist that your dog meet his fears head on. Instead, add enough distance so that your dog can watch Sasquatch go by without overreacting. Give him lots of tasty treats as the dog goes by so that he is focused on you, rather than his fears.** This teaches him that the presence of dogs means I should look to my person for assistance. Moreover, because good things now happen to him when scary dogs come by, he will begin to look forward with anticipation (rather than fear) to big dogs. 

I am frequently asked if I am rewarding the dog’s fear by giving him treats when he is scared. My question in return is: When you are scared, does it help to have someone comfort you, offer you something else to focus on and give you a reason to not be so afraid? With our dogs, we are trying to change their emotional responses from fear to anticipation. When we offer them treats, the chewing and eating helps to not only distract them from the menace, but it also makes them happy. And, it is very very hard to be both happy and afraid at the same time. 

So, what do you do when a big dog appears out of nowhere, and you have no room to move away? This is where you need to give your dog mental distance from the situation. Take a fistful of treats (yes, an actual fistful, this is no time to skimp!), and put your hand right at your dog’s nose! (Your hand needs to be touching his nose, not 6 inches in front of it.) This should get your dog’s attention and now you pick up the pace and move as quickly as possible away from the situation, all the while keeping the treats right at your dog’s nose. When you get a reasonable distance from the distraction, give your dog 3-4 of the treats in your hand, tell him he’s good boy, and resume your walk.

What does your dog love? Be sure to have it readily available so he is motivated to focus on you when scary things come by.

If you really cannot move your dog away from the problem, try to position yourself in front of your dog, blocking (or at least partially blocking) his view of the dog. Stay calm and keep the treats close to his head, feeding him one at a time as the other dog moves away. As soon as you can add physical distance, do so, treating him as needed to keep his focus on you. 

Keep in mind that it is far better to get your dog away from a situation that will cause him anxiety, fear, or to overreact, than it is to try and force him to deal with his fears in an unexpected and distressing situation. By adding physical distance before he reacts, or using food to lure him or encourage him to focus on you and forgetting the scary thing over there, you will be teaching him skills that will make his life (and yours) easier.

If, however, your dog is consistently overreactive to a particular thing, such as other dogs or people, or he seems to be getting worse, then consider hiring a positive reinforcement trainer who is experienced with fearful dogs. Using a controlled setting that allows him to learn, without being overwhelmed by his anxieties will help Fido get over his fears, as well as boost his confidence. When your dog can negotiate difficulties without fear, stress, or anxiety, then he will see that the world is a happy and safe place to be. 

Nothing to fear here!

 

*In pretty much every podcast Colleen Pelar and I discuss stress signals in dogs, so it is hard to make a specific recommendation for which one to listen to. Thus, I heartily recommend that you start at the beginning, listen to every one, subscribe, and write a wonderful review on iTunes. But, that’s just a suggestion…

**If your dog will not take any treats, then you are probably too close to the thing which scares him and you need to add some more distance.

And, alternatively, if your dog is toy rather than food motivated, have a tug toy or squeaky toy in your pocket to use as a distraction when the scary thing comes by. There’s nothing like a good game of tug to keep your mind off that which scares you. 

Behavior or "What the heck?" Care and management or living together in harmony General Shy dogs Stress: signals, management, & warning signs0 comments

Holiday Happiness for You and Your Dog!

 

“I’m dreaming of a treat-filled Christmas, just like I had a year ago!”

 

Christmas is coming and you want to give your best buddy a special gift and make his Christmas fun and stress free. Over the years I have written and podcasted about great products as well as simple ways of helping your pet have the best Christmas holiday ever.

First, here are somethings you can do to make sure your dog’s holidays are as stress free as possible.

Blogs:

Fido’s Guide to a Stress-free Holiday, Early Edition 

Santa Paws is Coming toTown!

Holiday Happiness or enough already?

And there’re off!

Make Your Holidays Merrier!

Podcasts:

Making Happy Dogs Happier (Low cost ways to improve your dog’s life.)

Helping Your Dog on Halloween Night  (Yes, Halloween is long gone, but in this episode we discuss how to tell if your dog is enjoying, tolerating, or trying to end an interaction, and strategies for making holidays more enjoyable for your dog.)

Funnel of Activity

“Biscuits on counters, and chasing the kittens, bright shiny balls, and chewing on mittens. Brown paper packages, chewing up strings, These are a few of my favorite things!”

And secondly, here are some things that might brighten up your dog’s life:

Blogs:

Whoever said breakfast had to come in a bowl?

Intelligence toys revisited.

A few of my favorite things!

Another day, another dollar…spent on the dog…

Podcasts:

Some of Julie’s Favorite Things

Some of Colleen’s Favorite Things

 

It’s been a great year for A Positive Connection as well as Your Family Dog  and I am looking forward to continuing to serve you and your dogs next year. Have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

 

 

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Ouch! That really hurt!

I have written (and podcasted) a lot about the importance of positive reinforcement training and the need to avoid using positive punishment for training your dog. Dr. Zazie Todd* in her blog, What is positive punishment in training?clearly defines positive punishment:** 

Punishment means something that reduces the likelihood of a behaviour happening again i.e. the behaviour goes down in frequency. And positive means that something is added.

 

So positive punishment means adding something after the dog did a behaviour that makes the frequency of that behaviour go down.

 

For example, if the dog jumps up and you knee [it] in the chest, and next time you see [that] the dog does not jump up, you have positively punished the dog jumping. You added something (the unpleasant sensation of a knee in the chest) and reduced the frequency of the behaviour.

A prong collar.

With a correction collar such as a prong or pinch collar, you are using positive punishment by adding pain when the dog pulls against the collar or when you jerk on it to “correct” your dog’s behavior.

Some claim that this correction doesn’t hurt as it mimics a mother dog’s hold on a puppy’s neck, but frankly, I don’t buy that. A mother dog carries her pup with a soft mouth and holds it by the scruff (on the back of the neck) or around it’s body. The mother dog does not clamp down, nor does she put pressure on the front of the throat around the windpipe, which is exactly where the pressure occurs with a prong collar.

Yvette Van Veen writes about these collars and how it feels to wear one in her blog Pinch Me, A.K.A. Prong Me. She started her experiment by placing a prong collar on her forearm and pulling. She was surprised when it did not cause pain, and she thought she might have to admit that she was wrong about it being painful. But, then she moved on to the next part of her experiment, placing the prong collar on her own neck! 

Carefully, I adjusted the number of links so the collar sat high up on my neck, snug but not tight.  Gently I pulled on the ring where the leash attached.  Again, I was legitimately surprised that spikes did not dig into my neck, and there was very little pain.

 

My husband entered the room, rolled his eyes at yet another “experiment”.  Jokingly, he grasped the chain.  Using his fingers only he tugged.  “You’re coming with me!”

 

That is when the prong collar “bit” me.  As the metal of the prong pressed against the bone of my spine, it created sharp, intense pain.  I screamed – yes screamed – for him to stop.  My husband blubbered, “I didn’t pull hard.  It wasn’t hard at all.  I just used my fingers.”

Since a friend had pointed out to her that dogs’ necks are more muscular and the pressure would be different because they walk on all fours, for the next part she got down on her hands and knees:

Head down (literally, I got down on all fours) we attached the leash to the collar.  My son “walked” me around the house.  He was applying FINGERTIP pressure.

 

It was here that the collar “bit” me for the second time.  It was not painful.  I think it was worse than that.  The pressure from the evenly spaced links didn’t distribute evenly, the way it had on my arm.  Walking on my hands and knees, the collar did not pinch.  It pulled up against the front of my throat, an area that has very little muscle to afford any protection.  Checking the front of my dog’s neck, it becomes quickly apparent that his muscular neck and shoulders do not offer protection to the front of his neck either.

 

As I crawled along the ground, and the prong dug up into my windpipe, I felt a primal urge to recoil and relieve pressure.  While not quite a choking feeling, it was a gagging, gurgling, inability to swallow.  My stomach seized and I felt panic.  In an instinctive need for self-preservation I gasped, “Drop the leash!”  Grasping at the links, my hands shaking, I immediately struggled to remove the prong collar from my neck.  Having felt both the pain of prong on bone, and the pressure of a prong on my windpipe, the pressure on my windpipe was, at least to me, far worse.

Notice the lack of heavy musculature on the underside of the neck by the man’s hand. This is where a prong collar should be placed, right on the windpipe.

As Ms Van Veen pointed out, the heavy muscles are on the back of the dog’s neck and the underside is very much like a human’s with the windpipe unprotected by thick musculature.  Researchers at the University of Minnesota college of Veterinary Medicine, showed that the use of any collar increased intraocular pressure which can be particularly problematic for dogs with exisiting ocular issues. According to veterinarian Dr. Peter Tobias, choke, prong, and shock collars can irreversibly damage your dog, causing, “a whole array of problems… including lameness, skin issues, allergies, lung and heart problems, digestive issues, ear and eye conditions and thyroid gland dysfunction, to name a few.” He goes on to state that “neck injuries can cause a variety of problems including emotional trauma.”

In addition to the the possible physical damage or problems that may arise from the use of choke or prong collars, the punishment that is delivered can adversely change your dog’s behavior. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has a position paper on the use of punishment to modify animal behavior. They state,

Even when punishment seems mild, in order to be effective it often must elicit a strong fear response, and this fear response can generalize to things that sound or look similar to the punishment. Punishment has also been shown to elicit aggressive behavior in many species of animals.

Punishing a dog for any behavior may result in a dog who is not only more fearful, but who is more likely to be aggressive towards people, as well as show other behavioral issues. (Companion Animal Psychology). I would also contend that using force, pain, or fear to train your dog is not conducive to building a relationship that is companionable and grounded in co-operation and trust. 

Instead, consider a body harness for your dog. The Whole Dog Journal rated several of the front clip no-pull harnesses this year and there are many wonderful choices out there. I have tried all three of their top rated ones and found them to be easy to use and comfortable for my dogs.

So, before you reach for the prong collar to teach your dog not to pull while on a walk, think about the unintended consequences of this force based method. Is this really the best way to treat and train your best friend?

Tank and Roodie demonstrate two reasonable alternatives to collars: a Gentle Leader head halter and a front clip body harness. Both of these work best in conjunction with positive reinforcement training.

 

 

*Dr. Todd (Companion Animal Psychology) was a guest on Your Family Dog and we had a wonderful time talking about how to make happy dog happier. Click here to hear the podcast.

**When talking about reinforcement and punishment there are four combinations to consider: positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, and negative punishment. Positive in these cases means adding something, negative means removing something. Reinforcement means the behavior will increase in frequency, punishment means the behavior will decrease in frequency. Thus, positive reinforcement means that adding something will make the behavior happen more often. If your dog sits, for example, and you give him a cookie when his bottom hits the ground, then he will be more likely to sit.  Click here for a good graphic on this. 

Care and management or living together in harmony General Informational or Doggie Demographics Philosophy of training or "Why be positive?" Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"0 comments

Just for fun!

So this week I decided that I’d seen some great animal videos lately and wanted to share them. Since it’s October, I’m starting with the cats in the pumpkin hats:

 

Let me say that not only do these cats and their earnestness delight me, but the training here is all positive reinforcement. There is no way you could shock or choke an animal into this, nor would the animal be willing to try another bell or ring it multiple times if the consequence for trying something would hurt.

 

I love this next one because it is just a dog being a dog, and how wonderful is that?

 

 

And for the winner in Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun category:

 

 

This Bernese Mountain Dog is so wonderfully patient and really shows off the gentle nature of this breed:

 

 

I love invertebrates, and I am a sucker (pun intended) for Octupuses. Here’s a lovely summary of how amazing they are (tool using, planning, walking wonders):

 

 

And last, here is one of my favorite videos of Homo sapiens doing one of the things they do best, dance!

I hope you enjoy these, let me know some of your favorites!

 

 

 

 

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