Patchs and Neka Playing


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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Don’t Worry, My Dog is Friendly – Giving Other Dogs and Owners Their Space

While it is very true that not all dogs get along with each other, most actually do! After all, dogs are basically very social animals. But just like humans, there is always that possibility that there can be a conflict of personalities between dogs. It’s not necessarily a German Shepherd vs. Doberman thing, or even a Pit-bull vs. Pit-bull thing. It’s usually just a difference in energy levels, amount of socialization or a resource guarding issue.

Because of this it is the dog owner’s duty to make sure that their dog has proper leadership and is always under their complete control. It is also important that the owner doesn’t try to force a meeting if either of the dogs is not in a completely calm state of mind.

When less social dogs are in public they need to be given every possible chance to interact with other dogs and humans. This is a great way to desensitize them. But interaction should only be done in a controlled environment with the help of a trained professional. It’s not something that should be done in passing on a public sidewalk. This is how people and dogs get hurt!

As a responsible dog owner you must be able to read the signs and the body language of both, your dog and any approaching dog you cross paths with. If you see that your dog is getting over excited, distressed, or even aggressive you need to remove it from what ever is causing the problem. That means stop advancing, turn away, or make whatever correction it takes to calm the dog. You also need to let the other person know that something is wrong, and they need to stop too. It is NOT rude to do this. Most owners will actually appreciate it.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard, “Oh, It’s OK … My Dog is REALLY a Very Friendly Dog!” To which I usually think to myself, “Sure it is …that’s why it’s barking, growling and trying to bite through his leash!” Frankly, this person is either: A). an owner that is in denial, B). doesn’t know any better or C). just lacks proper leadership skills. Unfortunately, it’s up to you to figure out which of the three it is.

When I’m out in public with my dog, or with a dog I’m working, I am relaxed and in the moment. And we usually have a great time on our walks. But I’m also very aware of what’s happening around me. I’m always scanning the area to see if there are any possible issues that I may need to address. With my dog, we are currently working on her pray drive. When she sees something move, she gets very excited and wants to give chase!  So you can imagine what she is like when we meet another dog! But she is learning that she has to remain calm or she doesn’t get to meet them.

Many loving families share their lives with dogs. Some choose (for a variety of reasons) not to socialize their dog with other dogs or humans. We should be very careful NOT to judge them for this. A lot of times, there are some good reasons for it. Here are a few for you to think about.

  • The dog is going through service dog training
  • The dog has injuries or a painful physical condition
  • The dog is intolerant toward other animals
  • The dog is recovering from surgery
  • The dog suffers from uncontrollable fear or an anxiety disorder
  • The dog is elderly and frail
  • The dog is owned by someone that want to be left alone
  • The dog is used as a personal protection animal
  • The owner is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to stop and talk

These dogs have every right to be out in public without having to interact with humans or other canines. When you come in contact with someone walking his or her dog, be sure to ask if it’s OK to interact. I do it all of the time, and no one has ever had a problem with it.

I have a lady in my neighborhood with an American Pit Bull Terrier that has had a very tough past. It is very aggressive toward other dogs, but is very sweet with humans. On occasion I find myself walking down the same section of street with them. We spoke in passing several months ago and she told me the story of her dog. So, now when I cross paths with her, I move to the far side of the street and make my dog sit as quietly as possible until they pass. This serves two purposes. She and her dog don’t feel pressured to interact, and her dog learns that not all dogs are out to get her. Over the past few months I’ve seen a marked improvement in the dog’s reaction to my dog.

It is very important that we give other dogs and owners some space. We need to learn that imposing ourselves on other dogs and owners is not always good for the dogs. Well meaning dog owners need to ask if it’s OK for them to meet, NOT insist on meeting them. It’s all about showing respect and realizing that we don’t always know what’s best. After all, we don’t always know the full story behind the other person and their dog.

Neka and Patchs at Play

If your browser can’t see the embedded video, here is a hard link to it.

Sorry for the lawnmower in the background! The neighbor was mowing his yard.

This was a typical play session with Neka and Patchs. Before Neka’s passing this spring, I would spend hours watching them play together. Most times, the neighbor’s labs would also join in on the fun!

Taking Your Dog for a Walk – How Much is Enough?

How much exercise should your dog get?

The requirements vary based on the breed and with each individual dog.

Some breeds have lower physical demands and remember size doesn’t determine that. Breeds like Pointers, Retrevers, Border Collies and Jack Russells are extremely high-energy dogs. They may require several hours of excersize and stimulation every day.   

This doesn’t mean that you have to walk them for two hours, it just means that they need something to do (a job if you will) that will keep them busy for at least two hours per day.

If your dog runs with you or plays with other dogs, chases a ball or frisbee every day, or has an outlet to burn off his energy and have fun then walks are not as big ofa deal. But this is still not a replacement for walking! Your dog still needs to go for walks in order to interact (socialize) with his environment, other humans and other dogs.

As I mentioned in yesterdays blog, walking helps to provide mental stimulation and the exposure to new people, animals and situations helps to build it’s confidence. Learning to deal with different circumstances is part of socialization. A well socialized dog is more predictable and better rounded. It makes it much more fun to be around, and is much less likely to destroy your home and property.

Walking is also a great way to bond with your dog, and don’t forget all the health benefits for yourself.

OK, now that you are ready to walk and interact with your dog everyday, here’s a good rule of thumb to go by.

All dogs need your complete attention for at least one hour per day. Larger dog add ½ hour. Extreamly large dogs – add 1 hour.

You can divide this time up how every you wish. I divide my time into 15 min pieces. We play with toys twice a day for 15 mins each, we go out and play with the neighbor dogs for about ½ hour per day, and then we walk for about ½ hour.  

If you plan to JUST walk your dog, Small Dogs, (those who are under 15 pounds), need to walk at least a half mile per day. Medium dogs – 1 mile, Large dogs – 1.5 miles, and Very Large dogs – 2 miles or more per day. These numbers should keep your dog at a fairly calm level. Bur remember, a tired dog is a happy dog. And a happy dog doesn’t get into trouble.

Just remember to factor in to this, the natural energy level of your dog. If you have a hyper active dog you could about double these numbers. Subtract the energy level of an older or more calm breed and you can reduce these numbers a bit.

Tomorrow: Rules For Dog Walkers