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!

I Just Wanted a Dog – Confessions of a Dog-o-Halic

Sometimes I just sit and wonder, “What the hell have I done.” Then I remind myself, that I was the one that said, “I just wanted a dog!”

It all started when I was a young boy at the ripe old age of eight. Some of my friends had dogs. When I’d go over to hang out with them, we’d play with the dog. We’d throw a ball, and the dog would bring it back. We’d tell the dog to sit, and it sat down. We’d sit on the floor, and the dog would come over and lay down beside us so we could pet it. That was pretty cool.

For over four decades now I’ve owned and/or been working with dogs. Working with dogs is very rewarding! I wouldn’t trade it for much of anything!

But, I’ve also had my patience and my wallet tested to the breaking point, on more than one occasion. I’ve come home to garbage spread all over the kitchen. I’ve also had shredded clothes, couches and chairs. I’ve also had “messes” left for me to clean up at all times of the day and night. I’m a pretty patient person, so they were all taken in stride … for the most part.

Sometimes the health related bills can be more than a lot of mere mortals can take. I’ve had to deal with sickness, injuries and health issues that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. There were times I wondered how I’d every pay the vet bills. I was glad I had a credit card so I could charge it for 30 days until I could earn the money to pay the bill. In the past 30 years I’ve spent 10 times more money on vet bills than I have on my own medical care.

But despite all of these things, having a dog around the house has still been a great bargain for me. My dogs have always been my friends. When I walk through the door they have always been glad to see me no matter how late I got there or where I had been.

My dogs have saved me lots of money on therapy and counseling too. That’s because if I have a bad day, all I needed to do is spend a few moments playing and I feel much better. Taking my dogs for a walk has helps me relieve stress, build cardiovascular strength and has helped me loose weight. So, I guess that made them my personal trainers too!

My dogs have also helped me learn a lot about myself. They have tested my patience, my communication skills, and made me “use my head for more than just a hat rack”. (My Dad’s Favorite saying). My patience is tested when they don’t do what I ask the first, second or even the tenth time. They test my communication skills because it forces my to figure out how to “talk dog” so they will understand me. They can’t speak human you know!

Finally, there comes a point in time, (after all of that training, teaching and cleaning up after them), when they reach an age where it’s smooth sailing! They’re well trained, obedient and other than a trip to the vet once a year they’re very low maintenance. We play, go for walks and visit places together. We visit friends (both, 2 footed and four) and have lots of fun. These are truly the greatest days of dog ownership.

Then one day it happens. They start getting old. It seems to happen overnight. Physical changes take place. They begin to loose the intense energy and playful nature they had as puppies and adult dogs.

In ever case, these changes bring back the challenging times again. Like humans, the changes make it more difficult for them to hear, move and see as well. They can’t play as hard or as long, and they spend more time lying around instead of exploring places and things like they did just a few seasons before.

The challenges then turned to something I hoped would never come, but always knew was inevitable. It’s hard to come to grips with the idea that there will be a day when they will no longer be around.

The feeling is one of sadness and helplessness. You spend as much time as possible doing the things you can with them because you know that the time is short. And just when you thought you couldn’t feel any worse, the day comes when you have to say goodbye.

And the pain comes. You tell yourself, “I’ll never do this again”, “I’m never going to get another pet”, or something similar. I have to admit, I’ve said it myself. I’ve actually said, “I didn’t sign up for this, I just wanted a dog!”

It slowly gets better as you go through the grieving process. You talk with friends and family and you remember the good times. It doesn’t take the place of having your best friend around, but it’s comforting to know that the memories will always be there for you.

But I’m what they call, “A glutton for punishment”. Others would call it being a dog-o-halic! Because I just keep getting dogs. I guess I will “Just want a dog” for the rest of my life. Through it all, it is worth having to go through all of the things I have gone through. Now, I can’t imagine Not wanting a dog in my life!