Taking Dogs For Walks in the Winter

I wrote this great article about taking dogs for walking in winter weather conditions and I’ve been waiting for the weatherman to start talking about bad weather conditions, (you know: below zero temps, blizzards, hazardous travel conditions and ice storms), but so far its been a nice winter.

I know, we’ve had a few below zero temps at night, but all in all, it’s been great so far. We’ve had NO snow at all and, In fact, today it was 52 degrees and sunny. Patchs and I took two walks for a total of about 5 miles and the only thing blowing out there was a few left over leaves that didn’t get picked up off of the yard!

So I guess I’ll just save it for a little while and tell you about our walk today.

As we were walking I came across a guy I used to see quite a bit. I haven’t seen him for about six months and it turns out that he has been working 3rd shift so our schedules didn’t cross until today. I think he took the day off to enjoy the weather!

He noticed that I had a different dog with me so I told him about Neka passing (that’s who he remembered me walking) which led to him to telling me that his dog had passed away on Thanksgiving weekend.

He told me that he would be getting a new dog this spring and he made a point of saying that it would be “another” rescue. It turns out that he has had many dogs over the years and they have all been rescues.

We spoke for about 10 minutes and when we left to continue our walk he mentioned that when he gets his new dog we should get our dogs together. I said “absolutely” …

So the moral of the story is: no matter what time of year it is, take the time to say hello to the people you see. When you do, you may be able to help them become a better dog owner … or, like me, you may find someone that will inspire you to continue on!!!

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.

Mental Health Days With Your Dog

The hustle and bustle of life can really twist you up and wear you down. Stress is a killer, and is one of the major causes for illness and poor health in adults today.

It is a fact that when you have daily interaction with your pet it offers a lot of calming, mood-enhancing benefits. A recent study found that people with serious illnesses were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet.

Yes, it’s possible for me to used ACE inhibiting drugs to reduce my blood pressure. But they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. And besides that, I don’t role that way!

In a recent study, a group of hyper-tense New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t have pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!

Now I’m no rocket scientist, but this should tell us ALL something! And it shouldn’t take a Mack Truck hitting us to get our attention.

I have personally found that it’s completely impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy’s eyes are looking into mine. When I get home in the evening it doesn’t matter how bad my day has been. When I walk through that door my focus changes completely. But sometimes it just isn’t enough.

For over 15 years I have been taking one day per month, and used it as something I like to call a “Mental Health Day” … By that I mean: I Unplug, Turn Off, Shut Down, Get Out, and Get Away with my dogs.

This past Sunday was one of those days.

After “sleeping in” for an extra hour or so, I got up. I let the dog out to do “her thing” and announced to the neighborhood that she was out and on-guard. About an hour later I met some friends for a nice leisurely brunch at a nearby restaurant.

Afterward it was back home to relax and unwind for the day. I opened the door, grabbed the leash and we were off for a nice long walk. On our walk we ran into several dogs and their owners. On a few occasions we stopped to chat and swap a few stories. Then we were back on the walk.

At the end of the walk we stopped to visit my next door neighbor who was busy working in his yard. While we talked, we turned our dogs loose to run around the yard and play. We had a blast watching them, and they were having a lot more fun than we were.

Before I realized it, most of the afternoon had passed. But I wasn’t surprised … or upset. I was however, completely relaxed.

After returning home, we went inside. I joined the dog on the living room floor and we played with her toys for awhile. When she had gotten enough playtime she went out to the kitchen for a drink of water. Then she settled down on her doggie bed and closed her eyes.

I made a quick bite to eat and settled into my recliner. I turned on the TV and promptly fell asleep. After a few hours, I got up and went to bed!!!

What a GREAT DAY!!!


NOTE: It is important to note that owning a pet isn’t for everyone. Pets require additional work and responsibility, which can bring its own kind of stress. However, for most, the benefits of having a pet outweigh this extra work. Having a cuddly best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times are tough.