Stop That … Come Down Here and Play with Me!

It never ceases to amaze me how infinitely patient a dog can be … and how psychotically impatience they can become when they are ignored!

These passed few days (Saturday and Sunday) I decided I needed to take some time off and get away from work, the phone and everything I spend all my time doing to try to get ahead. So I declared the weekend a “mental heath” weekend. And after the extra pressures of the past few weeks I felt it was much needed so didn’t become a “clock-tower sniper” or something.

Saturday I made breakfast and then I just “bummed” around the house. In the late morning and into the afternoon I working in the yard and played fetch and frisbee with the dog. We spent several hours walking the neighborhood too. While Patchs sniffed around catching up on all of her “pee-mail” messages that other neighbor dogs left in the grass and on the telephone poles, I took the time to say hello and “chit-chat” with my neighbors who were also taking advantage of the nice weather.

When we finally got home, we hung out on the front porch, had a nice cool drink and kicked back for awhile.

Sunday, it was more of the same …

But have you ever noticed … when you spend that extra time with your dog, he /she seams to feel that you should do it ALL of the time?

I ask this because, as I got back into “work mode” again this morning I got a look from my dog that seamed to say, HEY, STOP THAT … Come Down Here and Play with Me! Let’s go for another one of those walks!

Well, I love my dog, so I got down on the floor and played for a few minutes. And that seams to have made her happy. For a few minutes anyway!!!

Happy Monday everyone! Hang in there! Friday is just a few days away … 😉

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The Warm Weather Is Back … It Can Kill Your DOG!

The weather here in the Midwest has been real nice all winter. Very little snow this season combined with warmer than normal temperatures have helped to deliver spring about 5 weeks early.

Some forecasters have been saying that the early warm-up may be a sign that we are headed for a hotter than normal summer.

The summer sun can raise the  temperatures inside a car very quickly. Without ventilation it only takes 3-5 minutes to turn the inside of you car into an oven. Temperatures can rise 20-50 degrees in just a few minutes. That can Kill Your Dog.

I know that it’s early in the season, but we have already had a few days in the low 80’s, so I want to remind you to keep your pet’s safety in mind when you travel with them this spring and summer. NEVER leave your dog in the car. If you must leave them in the car for a few moments, park your car in the shade and be sure that you open all of the windows to provide proper ventilation. When doing so be sure that they can’t jump out the windows. That’s not safe either.

While it’s important to socialize and expose your dog to the world, it’s always better to leave your dog at home in the air conditioning when temperatures go up this summer.

Is Your Dog a Loaded Gun?

No, I’m not asking you if your dog is a killer! But if you aren’t COMPLETELY sure your dog is safe in any and all of the situations you put it in, you need to realize it and make sure you protect yourself and others from a potentially dangerous situation. And I’m not just talking about Dobermans, Pit bulls, German Shepherds and Rottweilers! I’m talking about ANY dog because all dogs can (and will) bite if they are put in a stressful situation that they are not prepared for.

In the best case scenario, all dogs should be widely socialized. They should be exposed to the same wide variety of experiences that we as humans are. A well socialized dog is happy and confident and can deal with anything it encounters without reacting adversely. That’s not to say that they won’t react … after all, when you hear a sudden load noise you may jump and become “startled” but you don’t hit someone or run away and hide! Right?

Being able to completely trust your dog is not something that happens overnight. It comes with time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. Depending on the dog, it’s surroundings, it’s past, and the baggage it bring into your life it can take months and even years to completely trust a dog.

Dogs coming out of a shelter experience often bring baggage like shyness or fear. Some even need basic training like house training and basic obedience.

Puppies are experiencing EVERYTHING for the first time, so they need time to learn and mature before they can be completely trusted.

All dogs must learn to trust you before they will ever become trustworthy. They need to know that no harm will come to it.Working with them on a daily basis is the best way to build trust. If you’ve read much of my stuff you’ll remember that I call it “bonding”.  Once you have bonded with your dog it will trust you.

Working with your dog will open the lines of communication and you will be able to tell your dog the things you want it to know. Training and working with your dog is a life-long project. Just like children, they need daily guidance and learning never stops.

Like any student, your dog must be tested. In the dog world it is called “proofing”. A dog is not 100% trustworthy until it is tested and passes the test in “real world” situations. Just because your dog will stay seated in your kitchen when you open the door, doesn’t mean it can be trusted on the street when a bunch of little kids come running toward him screaming at the top of their lungs!

As a dog owner you are responsible for everything your dog does. You must know how it reacts to every situation. If you don’t you are walking a loaded gun. If you are walking a loaded gun you MUST keep it away from a situation that could make it “go off” …

As a “loaded gun” dog owner, you need to be aware of your dog’s changing moods and attitudes. Body language is the fastest and best way to do this. If your dog becomes tense, frightened or confused when you cross paths with a new dog or a person in the neighborhood you need to know it and you must be able to calm your dog or remove it from the situation before something happens.

Anything can set of a “loaded gun” dog. Some dogs react adversely to someone who moves quickly. Standing over them while trying to pat them on the head can also get you bit. Still other may try to protect themselves if someone tries to grab their tail or touch their paws. I’ve even seen a dog turn and bite someone that is standing behind them.

My suggestion is to do everything you can to get your dog used to every situation this life has to offer. Take them everywhere you can and spend as much time as you can with your family and friends and their dogs.

Personally, My goal with any new dog I get or work with is to have the dog meet one new person and one new dog every day for one year. It must work because I have never owned a dog with social issues and the ones that started with them, didn’t have them for very long!

DANGEROUS STRANGERS … Aren’t Always People

As dog lovers, we all want to believe that every dog we meet is a happy and well-adjusted dog that loves to be petted and played with! Unfortunately that is nowhere near the truth!

Case in Point:
As Patchs and I were enjoying our walk the other day we came in contact with an elderly gentleman who was walking his two little dachshunds. Its was one of those peaceful scenes that would make a great painting.

As we came closer to them, the dogs both exploded into a volley of uncontrollable barking and lunging in our direction. In itself, this is not that uncommon. But this time it made me a bit concerned. That was because just a few houses away from us were several small kids playing in the front yard. They looked to be around 4-7 years of age.

With their tails tucked and the hair on the back of their necks standing straight up, these two dogs were showing me signs of fear aggression. They were obviously very uncomfortable and warning us to back away. The owner was apologetic. I assured him that I understood the situation and we moved back and across the street to defuse it.

We held our position for a minute or two and watched them move down the street. As they did, I noticed that the man also crossed the street to make more distance between he and the kids. I was glad to see that he was aware of the possible issues at hand.

My concern became confirmed as I saw one of the kids run to the curb as the two dogs began to pass by. I held my breath for a few seconds, but relaxed when I heard the child ask if she could pet the dogs.

The man thanked the little girl for asking but told her that his dogs were not used to being around kids so she better not take the chance. Needless to say I was very impressed with both the child and the dog owner.

After giving the man a minute to make his way down the street, we continued down the street. Sure enough, the girl asked me if she could pet Patchs. So I put Patchs in a “sit” and told her it was OK to come over. I took the opportunity to praise her for “asking” before she approached us.

Just then her mom came out of the house and asked what was going on. I explained the situation and told the mom that I was very impressed with her little girl. After talking with the mom for a few minutes I found out that the family had just gotten a new Yorkie from the shelter last week and that she is teaching the kids about dogs. I told her about the Iowa Dog Trust and my website “A Better Dog 4U” and offered my help if they wanted it. Then we continued on our way.

For many years we have made a very big deal of teaching our kids about the dangers of talking to strangers, but not all dangerous stranger are humans! It’s also very important to teach our children about the dangers of approaching dogs, cats and other animals that they don’t know.

Many thousands of dog bites can be prevented and the lives of thousands of good dogs could be saved every years if teachers, parents and dog owners will just take just a few moments to instruct the kids they know about these dangers. It’s up to all of us to keep our loved ones safe. The human ones … and our pets!

What Ever Happened to Honesty

In the immortal words of singer Billy Joel,

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

While these words are true for humans, but they are also just as true for our four-footed best friends.

Dogs never lie.

Oh they may know how to play on our emotions … and to some degree every dog knows how to manipulate us to get what they want, but they never lie about it.

As dog owners we all need to learn how to “read” our dogs. With a bit of training and some basic knowledge about body language it is very easy to see what our dogs are feeling at any moment of the day.

If you know what to look for, you can tell when your dog is happy, sad, excited, scared or angry. Knowing what to look for can be critical because It can help you avoid some bad situations when you are out in public. Being able to read your dog will also help you read other dogs that you may encounter during your walks or when you are at the dog park.

Being able to read your dog can also help you when working with YOUR dog!

Not only is it important for us to learn to read our dog’s body language, it is also important to realize that dogs can read OUR body language as well. It is important to know that not only do they know some of the words we use, they also understand our vocal tones and feel our emotions (a.k.a. our energy or ora). Because of this we need to be in touch with our feeling and have them under control before we take Fido on a walk, train him or even interact with him.

EXAMPLE: You’ve had a bad day at work, and you are angry and stressed out when you walk thru the door at home. Your dog will immediately sense this and try to avoid it. But as you walk in to the house you want your dog to come to you. So, not thinking, you bark “COME” to your dog! Sensing your bad mood, the dog tries to avoid you and may not come to you right away. Not realizing why your dog is not coming to you, you may get mad at the dog … and the dog suffers your anger for doing something that comes natural to it … and that is avoiding unstable emotions!

On the other hand, if you take a few moments to remove your work related frustrations and stress BEFORE you walk thru the door, your dog will be glad to see you and come running as soon as he hears you put your key in the lock.

There are many other examples I could use, but you get the idea. Right?

Don’t lie to your dog! Tell him how you really feel, not how bad your day was!