[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday

Paws Abilities

Photo by Dakota Duff Photo by Dakota Duff

If you decide you want a cake for dessert but don’t have the 45 minutes to bake it at 325, hopefully you don’t think you can bake it at 450 for 20. You’ll end up ruining it. A similar thing is true for our fearful dogs. That you need them to be braver within a certain timeframe and think that resorting to force and flooding is going to do it might just leave you with a bigger mess to have to clean.

– Debbie Jacobs

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My dog bit my son today*……

jessmax3Yes MY dog, a dog who has been with me for more than ten years (got him when he was 3). A dog you’d never guess in your wildest dreams would ever bite anyone, let alone my 2 year old son. Ten years ago, before I knew better, this dog put up very patiently with my youngest daughter who was then a toddler. She’d sit on him, lay on him, tug an ear or his tail now and then, and he’d just go about his day seemingly unbothered by it.

She would do the very things we see posted in pictures and videos on Facebook, Twitter etc. on a daily basis. All those seemingly harmless “cute” photos and videos.

Ten years ago I would’ve thought these photos and videos were cute too. Some days now I wish I could go back to just seeing cute photos and videos rather than reading what the dog is really saying and thinking “I hope I never see them in a tragic news story ‘Family dog mauls toddler”

Ten years ago I may have even jumped on the bandwagon of people defending these photos/videos when someone dare say the dog is stressed and the child is in a potential bite situation.

It doesn’t seem to matter how nicely the person points out the danger, or what credentials they have, the backlash that ensues can get downright nasty. It leaves you with a sinking feeling, you were only trying to help prevent something bad. Continue reading

Ghosts, Goblins and Ghouls! Oh my!

Halloween is right around the corner and neighborhoods will soon be filled with excited candy seeking kids wearing all sorts of costumes. For the kids Halloween is exciting, the one day a year where they get to dress as crazy as they want without being told to change, and they get rewarded for it with candy too.

As fun as Halloween is for the kids, it can be downright scary for our dogs. We look out the window and see kids in cute (or scary) costumes, your dog looks out the window and thinks there has been an alien invasion. Dogs don’t understand the concept of “removable parts” so they don’t realize that under all the masks, wings, and make up there really are children. Even if your dog adores kids, the sight of a kid in a costume can scare him.

As a responsible dog owner it is your job to keep your dog feeling safe and to keep him from accidentally injuring anyone. Here are some tips to keep everyone safe, happy and having fun this Halloween.

  1. To keep your dog from bolting out the door consider keeping him on leash or using a baby gate to keep him away from the door. This allows him to still be a part of the action, while keeping him safely contained.
  2. If you have an outdoor dog consider bringing him in for the night.
  3. Keep all candy up and away from your dog. Dogs love sweet things and that big bowl of candy will be very tempting.
  4. If your dog is skittish or reactive, crate her with a yummy chew toy or stuffed Kong until the action dies down. We all want our dogs to part of things, but it’s not always best for the dog. Trust me, your dog won’t be mad because he didn’t get to see little Timmy dressed as Batman.
  5. Leave your dog safely at home while out trick or treating with the kids. If you decide you just can’t leave Fido at home, watch carefully for signs of stress. If he starts getting stressed, he needs to go home. A stressed dog is more likely to bite.Here you can download a poster on fear signals your dog may give http://info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs/ You’ll have to fill out the info at the right, but don’t worry they won’t spam you or sell your email.  As always bring along pick up bags as well.
  6. Make sure your children know they are not allowed to tease dogs. Some kids find it funny to scare a dog or make it bark and growl. It is not funny, and could be dangerous.

We hope these tips help you and your family have a safe and fun Halloween.

Taken from my Examiner.com publishing site with some alterations. I did not like the amount of ads (I had no control over that or what they showed) that constantly popped up there and will be moving all my content away from it.

Reward The Nothing

the nothing

When I’m going through group class orientation, and we come to the place where say “I want you to be rewarding your dog for doing absolutely nothing during class”, the looks on people’s faces would suggest that I’ve suddenly morphed into something like the photo above.

Isn’t that image scary? Taken from the move Neverending Story (one of my faves) that is Gmork, the face of The Nothing, delivering ever lasting Nothingness to the land of Fantasia.

Honestly, I feel like Gmork when I suggest this. Yet people ask How do I get my dog to stop freaking out at the mail man? how do I get my dog to just chill out during the day? I ask What do you want him to do? And the answer usually is I don’t want him to jump around on springs at meal times, I don’t want him to freak out at the door, etc. etc. In essence what these people are looking for is for their dog to do NOTHING.

There are many times a dog does absolutely nothing. Especially during puppy hood when they take those hard core naps. You can also set them up to do Nothing.

For the puppies doing nothing, most will tip toe around OMG DON’T WAKE UP THAT PUPPY! I need a break for God’s sake! While I see it as the perfect time to reward that puppy.

My house is a bit chaotic, and man if you can sleep through the chaos in my house (kids, dogs, cats, construction etc.) you deserve to wake up to a nice tasty treat. Even if it cuts your nap short, chances are the puppy needed the nap, he’ll smell the food, work to get the food, and konk back out.

Set them up so you can reward the nothing. I take my dogs out for walks, find a bench and sit on it. Depending on the dog I may or may not ask for a down. I might just wait until they offer it and then reward it. I sit at this bench and do my thing, ignoring my dog other than to drop food on his head for just laying there and watching the world go by. What does this give me? A dog who plops down and watches the world go by while I get to relax on a bench in the park. How nice is that? This also works well for me when I do event booths. My dog is happy to chill out in their camping chair while I talk to people, hopping down only when I ask so we can show off some of our stuff or let people pet the pretty puppy. Doing nothing while sitting in their chair is also highly rewarding for them.

In group classes I frankly don’t care if your dog isn’t doing the exercises we’re working on. If they are sitting there calmly, REWARD it. Many of my classes are held in a very busy park. There’s traffic, loose dogs, people walking dogs, baseball games and kids playing. If your dog can chill enough just to sit there, reward it. If he can’t do the exercise, no big deal. Reward him for chilling, watch what we’re doing and practice it at home. I bet you the next week, if you’ve done your homework, he’ll do it in class too.

Doing nothing is far from easy work for most dogs. Partly because they’re dogs, they like to be busy and partly because rewarding nothing is something many don’t do. It takes great impulse control for a dog to just do nothing rather than running amok checking out all the cool smells, sights and sounds. It is something we have to teach them, and we need to make it as rewarding as possible. In this way doing “nothing” can become a default behavior. “Hmm, we’ve stopped walking, I’ll just chill here until we start moving again” your dog will say.

So please don’t look at me like I’ve turned into Gmork when I suggest you reward your dog for doing nothing at all. After all that is what we want them to do much of the time. You get what you reward, so heavily Reward The Nothing. Unlike “The Nothing” in The Never Ending Story, a dog who does “nothing” isn’t scary at all, in fact being able to have your dog do nothing is quite nice when you’d just like to hang out in each other’s presence.