Preventing dogfights and other aggressive behavior.

robinswoodWhat does it look like when a dog is about to start a fight? Other than really knowing your dog and understanding their body language there a couple of signs that everyone can look for, in your own dogs and others as well.

Stiff body/neck; watch your dog play with a friend and then watch when they see a new dog that they’re not so sure about, what do you see? Stiff, slightly raised neck, stiff legs, raised shoulders and hackles, if they get close enough, you could see bared teeth as well, or just wrinkled lips. These are the most obvious signs and can roll over into the next one;

Change in play behavior; let’s say the dogs are already playing, pay attention to their body language to see if attitudes are altered along the way.

Dogs actually have pretty strict rules about play behavior. The play bow is an invitation to play, as well as an apology if one dog was too rough as in “sorry, didn’t mean to nip so hard”. Dogs, coyotes and wolves all ostracize others who don’t play by the rules. Biting too hard, nipping too close to the eyes and excessive roughness in any form are all a part of the canine “moral code”.

So now you know what to look for, what do you do when you see it?

The quickest, easiest and safest way to diffuse a potential fight is to remove the threat of proximity; that means, if you’ve trained your dog well, a sharp “this way” or “come” or “here” in addition to you moving rapidly away as well, is all it would take to change your dogs direction, moving him away and almost guaranteeing that there won’t be a fight. If you don’t have that ability to get your dogs attention, maybe throwing a ball or toy could do the job for you.

Picking up the smaller dog. This is a fast way to move a dog you trust not to bite you and again remove the threat and cool down aggressive behavior. But. You could get a nip form the little dog, or worse, make yourself a target for the other dog. That said, I would always err on the side of the little dogs safety and pick them up. Unless they’ve already engaged in a major way, you will most likely be just fine, especially if you turn your back on the other dog.

Lastly, I have been able to grab the attacking dogs’ collar while straddling it from the back. This has a lot of risk to all parties, including becoming the focus of the attack, losing control of the dog and lastly, not finding a way to let go. Yeah, I said it, because at some point you’re going to have to let go and I’m hoping you’ve been able to come to some sort of an understanding by then.

Whatever the situation, I can only hope that you and your dog can better navigate the complex social world of dogs after reading this, and please write in with questions or comments.

Feeding the Always Hungry Dog

Best dog beds

May I?

 

Do you have a dog that just loves his food, I mean really, really loves to eat? I’ve only met a few dogs in my life who actually didn’t, one, my Doberman Khazmo, would only eat if I stood by his bowl; if I left, he did too. Not to mention that any one of my cats could come up and intimidate him from eating any more and then settle down and finish up the poor guys’ dinner.

No, I’d say most dogs do love their food, but some dogs, well some dogs worship food, they live for the bowl; the rattle of kibble, the creak of the can lid, everything that portends a meal or for that matter, a crumb. Chow hounds they’re called and I know that many a pet owner has failed their pet by giving in to the pleading, desperate eyes over and over again, until one day they wake up and their pet is obese.  Of course so many of their owners have the same problem, it’s easy to see how they would transfer that need for food to their dogs. I’m here to beg you to learn to honor your responsibility to our pet and to feed them only the best food that you can afford. Talk to your vet and then research your little head off. One of the best references I’ve found is a book by the original dog whisperer, Paul Owens. His knowledge of pet nutrition will blow your thoughts about commercial pet foods out of the water.

Don’t panic, it’s not only simpler than you think; it’s affordable too. Avoiding corn, wheat and any grains is a great start as well as only buying food with human grade ingredients; absolutely no “animal or meat by products”. Many people do the research and end up making their own pet food, but I’ve found that by adding fresh produce that’s been shredded in my food processor into the grain-free kibble and organic, human grade canned dog food that I feed our dogs daily, they stay full and are vibrantly energetic and of excellent weight. Of course I have to measure out their food, or they could still get fat, but the produce (broccoli, carrots, zucchini, apples etc) really helps to them fill up. You owe it to your dog to help prevent so many debilitating diseases that plague overweight animals; from arthritis to heart failure.

A dear friend allows us to dog sit their ridiculously cute rescue puppy Diesel on a pretty regular basis, and this sweet guy is a true chowhound. The good news is that being food motivated is a great training aid, (it doesn’t hurt that he’s clever and willing to learn), but his talent for inhaling whatever is in his bowl is astounding! Luckily for him, his owners weigh him, measure out his meals and feed him a truly high quality food, which has helped him become a sleek, shiny coated model of health, and all of this in just the 2 short months they’ve had him. Diesel’s penchant for meals can leave him hiccupping though, along with a few other digestive problems, so we’ve come up with the home version of the “maze bowl” that people use to slow down a dogs’ mealtime; we simply add two of his favorite bones to the bowl and it works like a charm to control his feeding time and allow him to actually chew his food before he swallows it.

Now we all sleep a little better (and longer) and I like to think that he feels like he actually had a full meal. Although I have to admit, it was awfully funny to watch him hiccup in his sleep, his little nose bouncing in time on the bolster of his lounge dog bed.

Are your dogs “spoiled’? How would you describe a spoiled dog anyway? I know that my dogs most definitely enjoy more privileges than a lot of other dogs, they’re allowed on the furniture (and before you ask, I’m a clean freak), they come along on family vacations and frankly, we’ve made more than a few detours on those vacations just because there was something I thought the dogs would enjoy seeing or doing.

Excessive? I’m sure many of you would say so, but for us, it’s just a part of the norm. However, and this is a big however, my dogs are trained, polite and almost unfailingly obedient. They eat the best quality food that I can afford, they have regular veterinary care, I groom them regularly and, as I’ve written about before, brush their teeth every night. While this also may seem excessive to some, it is in fact merely what I consider my responsibility to them; to keep them healthy. If your dog only sleeps on the floor or maybe has a cozy dog bed in your kitchen, as well as everything he or she needs to be a happy, healthy member of your family, are you neglecting them? No more than I am spoiling mine. Some might like to buy the finest in designer dog accessories; some might only have an old rope for a leash. As long as you make them a part of our pack, as long as they have what they need physically and emotionally, it doesn’t matter if they have a fancy dog bowl or not. Just as long as it’s regularly filled, you are your dog’s person and they are your very best friend; spoiled or not.

Best dog beds

Tres and the pony Imp, waiting for treats.

 

Wildlife and Dog LIfe

Best dog beds

I See You

 

How many of us can’t wait for the warmer weather to take our dogs on a hike or even just a quick walk in the sunshine? As much as we try in the winter, it just doesn’t happen as often. In my area, we’re lucky to have bike/ski trails where we can stroll in the winter; a nice and quick alternative to snowshoes and a lot of clothes.

Still, come spring, we’re all glad to get out and really stretch our legs. This can be very exhilarating for the dogs and we have to remember to be on the look out for seasonal dangers like wild animals and swift water.

I get such a kick out of seeing the abundant wildlife in my area and obviously my dogs do too, however I certainly don’t want them getting too up close and personal since this could be bad for all parties involved. No matter where you live, the chance of your pets coming into contact with wildlife is pretty high, even if that only means squirrels, mice and rabbits. My neighborhood has an abundance of elk, deer, raccoons, skunk, song birds, hawks, owls, eagles, fox, coyote, wolves, bear, moose and mountain lions. As you can probably figure; mixing up with any of these could be bad for either party, whether it’s my cats, dogs or chickens. And don’t think that it only matters one way or another, I have to disagree; we have a responsibility to our pets and our wildlife equally.

So how do we keep everyone safe and separate? Good question, start with some forethought. If I’m keeping chickens in a rural area, I have to be as prepared as possible for the animals that could eat them, so their fencing and housing have to be as raid-proof as possible. I have to keep bell collars (safety release of course) on my cats because the depredation of songbirds by domestic cats alone is devastating. And my dogs, well they have to be trained to recall on command, no matter what is running by and if they can’t be trusted, then they can’t be loose, period. Chasing deer and elk can stress out the herds as well as put them and the dogs in danger from vehicle traffic. Moose, mountain lions and coyotes can easily kill a dog, whether I’m out hiking or they’re passing through our yard, so again, I have to be careful. For instance, I never leave my dogs out in the yard unattended for more than a minute or two and I don’t let my cats out at night; they’re just not equipped to deal with the predators out there. I’ve heard of several pet owners in my community who acted very irresponsibly and left their pets out to fend for themselves, with tragic results. Not only for the pet, but also for the wild animal that was only doing what comes naturally as a way to survive and then was killed because of that. So you see how everyone was harmed by one person’s inattention? And anyway, who doesn’t sleep a little better at night knowing their beloved pets are right where they belong, snuggled in a cozy pet bed…… inside?

Spring Water Danger for Dogs

alhailthedog.com

So it’s almost spring or, it already is, depending on where you live. Additionally, like those of us in the northwest, it’s spring as we know it. And while that means more fun; more walks, agility OUTSIDE (woohoo), trail rides, dog soccer etc. it also means some increase in dangerous conditions. For my area, that means melting snow making rivers much, much faster with enough ice still around them to make them even more dangerous.

Many of us are well aware of the danger of frozen water; who hasn’t seen the news stories with the daring rescues or devastating losses of life, both animal and human? Only last year, a young woman from our area lost her life when she jumped in a rushing, springtime river to rescue her dog. The dog died as well, and I know full well, that even though I’m armed with all the facts and water rescue trained from my job on the fire department, I would jump in to save my dogs too. Kind of a bad thing all around, so what can we do?

Well I would have to say that prevention is the key action here; for all the training or swimming ability one might have, our best bet is to keep our dogs from getting into danger in the first place. You need to know your area, you have to have sufficiently trained your dogs and you need to be aware of the conditions near you at all times.

While we usually know our “spot” where we walk or hike with our dogs, we can also get a little complacent, especially if it’s an after work walk or you’re in a rush. Situational awareness is something we firefighters are always trying to maintain, but everyone can benefit from it; keep aware, read up on weather alerts, water levels and just pay attention.

The training issue is another matter entirely. I could, (and will, some other time), go on and on about how a trained dog is happier, has a better life and has happier owners. However, for the purpose of this article, let me just say that at the very least, a recall command is the simplest lifesavers around, literally. One of my training trademarks is the “this way” command. Accompanied with a wave of the arm, it’s such an easy command and can teach dogs to dramatically alter their course; sometimes all they need to stay out of trouble. “This way” is not a substitute for a recall command, but instead a quick alternative. It’s also very beneficial because when you’re teaching it, it’s incorporated into a fun activity; as in “hey, lets go up this path” or “look, I’m throwing a ball for you” vs. being put back on the leash (not always super enticing).

One more, oft repeated word; know your dog CPR.  To find a class near you, ask your vet or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AFrUiRIeVo  or any of the great site you can Google Any way you look at it, for us to stay safe and keep our pets safe, we need to take a little time to focus on safety, not just

cute dog accessories, dog treats and the latest toys. Have a happy spring day!

 

How Dogs Work (people too)

snowplayThere’s something funny that I’ve noticed about dogs and humans; some just float through life, others need to take charge. I’m not kidding, I mean I’m sure you know people like that but have you ever noticed those traits in your pets? I have, Rhylee my Border Collie/Heeler mix is the master of The Reigning in of the Unruly; whether it’s rowdy retrievers, furniture scratching cats or barking barn corgis (you thought I was going for the alliteration awards didn’t you)? Rhylee just can’t tolerate unruliness.

Juno, on the other hand, (the puppy) takes life a little easier, actually, a lot easier. For instance, “commands” (I’m pretty sure she thinks of them in quotes) are really just suggestions; she’ll absolutely obey them, however the time frame in which she does so might not be what the human had originally planned. She’s more of a happy-go-lucky type. Now, as the youngest of three sisters and the designated “free spirit” in terms of rule abiding , I must take a moment and apologize to my family-sorry!

As an example, when I walk with my dear friend Karly and her two Golden Retrievers, Rhylee feels the need to break up their rambunctious plays fights in his true herding dog style; he heels them. Juno will then go up to one of the recently chastised offenders and start the whole thing up again with a few playful nibbles and yaps, you see where I’m going with this right?

I was tossing a Frisbee around the other day for both of my dear pets and took a minute to hold Rhylee so Juno could catch it a few times. I have to do this because she is a lot smaller and (passive-aggressively) the submissive one. As much as Juno obviously enjoys this game, she doesn’t always manage to return the toy to me, so I end up cajoling her to “bring it here”. Well, Rhylee is waiting somewhat patiently in the car for us and he finally couldn’t take it anymore. He jumped out, ran up to Juno, grabbed the Frisbee and pulled her and the toy into the car for me.

Then he put himself in his favorite driving spot on his car pet bed and gave me the “ready to go” look.

Priceless.

Working Military Dogs To Be Honored

We all respect the soldiers who fight for our country & I hope that we honor their service & commitment appropriately. I also have another wish, one that is finally coming true; the historic Military Working Dogs Monument will be erected in San Antonio Texas the coming October. Currently, the monument & a host of military dogs are touring the country & you can keep up with their travels & find a city near you to see them at http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/events_new/military_dogs.html

For generations, dogs have served in the military, providing life saving skills for our soldiers while living, working & dying alongside them. Some are lucky enough to retire & be rehabilitated into civilian life, to live out their days with loving families. Too many are injured & killed while serving our country, but now they will all be honored for their loyalty & sacrifice, for performing an important job without ever getting to have a choice in the matter.

Dogs are like that; they live the life we provide for them, without complaint, & in return, they give us their hearts & unquestioning loyalty. We should be so good as to deserve this gift & I hope that those of us who care, who try to be the person our pet believes us to be, can make the lives of all animals better.

One of my favorite authors, Robert Crais, just released a book called Suspect. It deals beautifully & painfully, with the life of an injured, traumatized military dog & her likewise injured & traumatized handler. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, not just as a great novel, but also as a great education & enlightenment into the hidden lives of dogs.

Whatever your opinions are on war & the politics that cause them, I know we can agree to honor ALL of our soldiers; sons, fathers, mothers, daughters & the working dogs who have tried to keep them alive since World War 2. I also know that tonight, when I tuck my sweet, non-working dogs into

their cozy dog beds, I’ll remind them how lucky we all are to have those brave troops who went far from home just to keep that home safe.

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