I have owned and worked with dogs for about 40 years. My love of dogs and seeing how some dogs are treated these day has led me to becoming the Founder and Director of the Iowa Dog Trust.
My goal and the goal of the Trust is to show young people how to interact with dogs in a positive manner and show them that when a bond is established in the correct way, dogs can and will respond by doing what we ask of them.
A secondary goal (but not any less important) is to give young people more self confidence and more feeling of self worth through the interaction with dogs and with other humans. With all of the pressures our youth experance today, it is important that we give them the tools and support they need to make the right choices and become productive members of our communities.
We hear a lot about leadership with dogs. But what does that mean, and how important is it to our dogs? Like any social creature, dogs use a variety of signals to navigate day-to-day life, and they look to those they live with to do the same.
Photo by Chris K. Photography
Traditional advice urges owners to eat first, go through doorways first, alpha roll their dogs, force dogs to walk behind them, and engage in similar behaviors designed to artificially increase their rank in their dogs’ eyes. The message drips with fear (not to mention a healthy dose of paranoia): if you don’t work hard to keep your dog down, he’ll stage a household coup. Dogs are social climbers, we’re told, and if we don’t view every interaction as a contest that we must win, our dogs will take advantage of some perceived weakness and take over.
This is a video of Patchs and Neka playing. It was taken in my back yard in June 2009. This kind of play session happened 2-3 time per day, everyday! And they both looked forward to some rough-housing to burn off their extra energy.
If you read my past few posts you will remember that Neka was a “basket case” when I got her. The Rescue I got her from told me that she was so anti-social that she would never be able to be around other dogs, and would have to be the “only” dog in the household. They also had concerns about her being around kids and men as she seamed to be very fearful.
This video was taken almost 22 months after I got Neka. By this time I had worked with her for hundreds of hours. Both alone and in controlled situations with people and with other dogs. She was pretty well over her fear issues and had been well socialized. She had learned that dogs and humans were her friends and she loved to play with other dogs and loved to be around people, especially little kids.
When this video was taken Patchs had been living with us for about 2 months and it was like they had been best buddies for ever. They bonded almost instantly! In the 3+ years they were together they only had one little issue and it was over a treat that fell on the floor. The whole thing lasted about 2 seconds because I was right there to stop it as it started! (Patchs started it).
Socializing dogs correctly is the key. With these two, it took me almost a full month of backyard playtimes to make sure that they were cool with each other in every situation before I agreed to bring Patchs into our home!
Socializing is not rocket science. It is just a matter of being aware of the dog’s personality and body language, and then being able to control situations before they get out of hand. This comes by bonding with the dog as soon as you can. Being able to stop play sessions like this one when I saw things starting to “heat up” kept them from playing to rough or going to far. A simple “Enough” followed by “Lay Down” given to each dog was like pushing the “restart” button.
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If I Were a Dog, I would want to be loved by a kind and caring master. … I would want to be loved just as unconditionally as I love. … I would want to hang around with my master all of the time – my master is the center of my world. … I would want to have a warm and comfortable place to live with lots of food and water. … I would want to be outside all of the time when the weather is nice. … I would hang out in the yard or on the deck and soak up the sun. … I would relax and breathe the sweet, clean air and listen to the sounds of nature around me. … I would run and play all day long because that’s what makes me happy. … I would want to be friends with everyone I meet. … I would play and share my great life with anyone who is my friend. … If I was alone, I would call to my master and ask him to share the joy I’m feeling. … I would share my happiness with the ones that love me. … I would go for walks every chance I get because I love to discover things. … I would strut proudly as I travel, because I’m walking with my master. … I would be sniffing side to side to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. … I would give chase to anything that moves, not to hunt it, just to play!
But if I were a dog and I had a master who beat me or treated me badly, I would run away and look all around until I found a master who loved me for who I am. When I found him I would lick his face and cuddle with him so that he knew I loved him.
But since I’m not a dog, I promise to always keep these things in mind as I interact with all dogs. I also promise to look out for, and help dogs that need my help to live the life I would want … “If I Were a Dog!”
Feel Free to re-post this as long as it is done in it’s entirety
This is a photo of my dog Princess Neka. She was one of my biggest challenges and one of my greatest learning experiences. She came to me as a “frightened of everything” German Shepherd Dog. She had been dumped in the country as a young dog and she had no trust of humans beyond the point of taking food and water. The rescue told me that she would never get along very well with other dogs and she should never be around kids.
I worked with her every moment I could for about 6 months. After just 8 weeks she had 5 new dog friends and was hanging out in my back yard with 3-4 of the neighborhood kids.
Before she passed away she was visiting a Nursing Care Center and she was mentoring several dogs that I was working with that had behavior issues. She was just days away from taking the test for CGC when she passed away of a sudden illness. She was only 6 years old.
Unless you own a Malamute or Husky, or unless you live in Alaska or in the Arctic, your dog is probably not able to live in extreme winter weather conditions. This being said, if you have an outdoor dog you need to be aware of temperatures when they dip below Zero degrees fahrenheit. In order to make sure that your dog is safe, you need to set up an area for your outdoor dog that is inside and out of the wind, ice and snow. Since your outdoor dog is accumulated to colder temperatures you could put a kennel or travel crate in your basement for those really cool days and nights. If this is not an option, you need to set up an area in an enclosed building or your garage. Just make sure it has “some” ventilation but is out of the wind. Normally an inclosed garage or barn can be 5-15 degrees warmer than the outside temperatures as long as the doors are closed to the outside air. You can also add straw, hay or old blankets to the area or crate to aid in keeping your dog’s warmth next to your dog. Avoid using a forced air heater that is pointed directly at the dog. If you use a heater it should warm the area, not just the dog.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a dog house with some straw in it is a perfect winter weather haven! It’s NOT!!! The reason that this is not true is that often these structures are no warmer than the outside because they don’t block enough of the cold. One way to check if your dog’s cold weather hideaway is warm enough is to get in it with a light jacket or sweatshirt on and see if it provides you with adequate shelter from the cold and wind.
If your dog is going to be outside and has access to a warm, dry shelter, it is also important to make sure that it has drinking water that isn’t frozen. It’s food should be covered as well. Most importantly, don’t neglect to spend time with your outdoor dog just because it’s cold outside. Remember, your dog needs to know that you are there and that you care. OK, now let’s talk about your inside dog!I know that your dog looks cute when it is all dressed up in it’s little coat and booties, but you really need to resist the temptation to outfit your dog with a “winter wardrobe” before it gets really cold. Your dog was born with a fur coat for a reason. That natural coat will keep it warm well below freezing as long as it is not exposed to wet conditions or the cold temperatures for long periods of time.
Neka loved the cold. She looked forward to going out and laying in the snow.
Dog clothing and accessories are more enjoyable to pet owners than they are to pets who must wear them. In some cases they actually distress the pet. We have to make sure that the clothing actually meets the dog’s needs, not our own. Dog dresser-uppers must make sure that the clothing they buy is not tight. If it is to tight it will actually cause the dog to become chilled instead of doing what it was actually designed to do. It should also not be pulling the dog’s fur, impede natural movement, or block openings for elimination.
Next, have you ever gone into your bathroom on a cold morning and wished that the seat had a heater? What do you think your dog is thinking when you open the back door to let it out during the winter? To make your dog’s outdoor experience more pleasant during the winter months try clearing the area where your dog regularly goes to the bathroom. Remove snow and ice from the area and create a path to this area. This will do several things. It will help aid your house training by keeping the dog’s routine as consistent as possible. It will also keep your dog warmer and drier because it won’t have to walk in deep snow, and it will reduce the amount of snow tracked into your home.
Inside, make sure that your dog has a warm, dry and comfortable place to sleep. Make sure that it is free of cold drafts. This can be done is several ways. You can just lay a blanket on the floor in a warm place or you can spend a few dollars on a bed designed to fit your dog. The cost of these beds can range widely so shop around and get the right bed for your dog’s needs. I also suggest that you keep an old towel by the door to dry off your dog’s paws and belly after it goes outside. This will keep the dog’s coat clean and dry.
Play with your dog more in the winter. When winter weather makes it hard to get out and do things, your dog is just as bored as you are! It’s very easy for us as humans to “veg-out” when the cold weather gets here. And we adjust to this reasonably easily. Dogs do not adjust nearly as easy! A lot of us pet owners are less likely to take the dog on walks or to the dog park for exercise so this means that your dog is going to be looking for something to do to stay busy. If you don’t play with your dog, your dog will start to look for things to do. And trust me, you may not like what it finds to do.
Taking regular daily breaks to play with your dog will provide necessary exercise and mental stimulation to keep your dog healthy and happy. It also offers some human benefits as well. Playing with your dog reduced stress and blood pressure and can also alter your mood. I use the winter months to reinforce training and to work on all of the tricks and commands that I have taught my dog over the years. We also use the time to learn a few new tricks every winter.
No matter whether your dog is an inside dog or an outside dog, winter feeding recommendations for your pet may change too. If your dog is going to be outside it should have a food that is higher in fat because your dog burns fat to stay warm. Always check with your vet to make sure that your pet’s food is the right one for your dog’s needs. Also make sure that you aren’t over or under feeding during the winter months.
Since your dog relies on a warm coat when it goes outside we advise that you skip going to the groomer and avoid unnecessary bathing in the winter months. Many vets recommend not bathing your dog more frequently than every 6 to 8 weeks to allow the natural skin oils to replenish. So plan your last bathing session for mid November and hold off with the bathing until it warms back up. There are a lot of great “dry” shampoos that you can use through the winter months if you must bath your dog. You can also wipe down the dog with a damp cloth rather than submerging it in water. Try to skip a mid-winter grooming appointment altogether or just ask for a trim instead of a full cut.
From the beginning Sarrah did not like to be alone. She could hear me upstairs working, instead of playing with her, and howled most of the day in a display of what I was told is called “Separation Anxiety”. For such a little being she could make the loudest most heart breaking howls, for hours at a time. She would wail, most of the day, while I tried to ignore her and worked. Creating a habit, I started taking many breaks to spend time a little time with her; she rewarded me with clumsy excitement and delight. Leah eventually tried a prescription for this anxiety, but gave up on it. As like many issues there is not a magic pill cure-all.
Sarrah did not like to be outside, alone. She insisted that I join her! She actually delighted in being outside, but solitude was not a friend to her. When the weather was less than wonderful, she wanted nothing to do with it, alone. She would sit by the door and whine. If joined she would rally a little, at least long enough to take care of business and inspect the grounds. In an effort to make the backyard more suitable for Sarrah I got her a ‘doghouse’, one of those nice modern two-piece molded plastic types resembling those in the monopoly game. It was a larger version of the ‘cat condo’ that was frequently used and greatly appreciated by Tux and Simon. Apparently it never became hers, as Sarrah rarely used the little house, so it was merely a place to store her toys and clutter the deck.
I knew nothing about Dalmatians’ except for that they make a good draw for a children’s story. It turns out that they are a high maintenance, high-energy breed of dog. They require lots of attention and outlets for this energy (or they will destroy whatever they find), at least in the case of Sarrah. She chewed, dug and clawed her way through many material possessions in her youth. Later, I saw part of dog show on television claiming that they were bred to trot under horse drawn carriages ten to fifteen miles per day in defense of the horses and people. This explains a need for exercise, fierce loyalty to chosen humans, intrigue with large animals and aggression toward other threats.
IMPORTANT = = MUST READ = = PROTECT YOUR PETS FROM COLD WEATHER
With the current cold snap pushing in on the Midwest and Eastern United States it is very important that you watch your Dogs and other pets very closely so that they don’t become sick from overexposure to the elements.
Cold weather can be just as hard on pets as is it on people. Sometimes pet owners forget that indoor pets are just as acclimated to the indoors as they are. Some owners leave their pets outside for extended periods of time thinking that all animals can adapt to the outdoors because they have a natural fir coat. This kind of thinking can put their pets in extreme danger of serious illness and even death.
It’s true that some pets can remain outside longer in the winter time than others can. But this is NOT true for all pets! Use your common sense: long-haired breeds like Huskies and German Shepherds will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds like Dachshunds and Dalmatians. Small dogs that have to wade through the deep snow will feel the cold sooner than larger animals.
Your pet’s overall health will also affect how long it can stay out. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise your pet’s ability to regulate body heat. If your pet is not generally in good health, it should not be exposed to long periods of winter weather. Only allow them to be out long enough to do their “business” and bring them back inside. Very young and very old pets are susceptible to illness during the cold months as well.
An average sized dog in normal health can feel the effects of the cold weather in as little as 10 minutes. When there are severe weather conditions that time can be easily cut in half. Frostbite can occur on a dog’s paws and noise in just a few minutes when wind chills reach below -10 degrees.
Patchs is Ready for the Cold Weather
A good rule of thumb is: if you are cold outside, so is your pet.