Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dog Obedience: How to stop pulling on the leash

Tonight I got a link to an informative article on Fox news... some good tips on training your dog not to pull on the leash when you're walking, and not to suddenly lunge.

A big dog can knock you to the ground doing that, so teaching them not to do it is important.

In addition to the tips in the article - here's one I learned when Suzie and I were doing obedience training:

Our class held several people with dogs who couldn't quite get the "pay attention" part, so the dogs were constantly trying to pull away from their handlers, and the handlers were becoming more tense and upset - as well as worn out from being jerked around.

Our teacher pointed out that energy passes from a person's hand, through the leash, to the dog - so along with them being able to sense their handler's emotions just because that's something dogs can do, the handlers' stress transmitting through the leash was making these dogs even more unruly.

The answer: Step on the leash. Keep one end in your hand, of course, but just stand on the leash and let the dog jerk on the bottom of your foot rather than your arm. The energy from your hand isn't there, and unlike the reaction he gets from jerking on your arm, there's no give, so he'll tire of that pretty quickly.

The article above discusses using a special control harness for training - we used a choke collar in class. I know, it sounds mean, but when it's put on properly, it isn't. As soon as the dog releases the pull, the collar also releases. So the only time it's even tight on his neck is if you give it a brief tug to tell him something, or if he's pulling.

An obedient dog is a joy - a misbehaving dog is a trial - so take the time to teach your dog good manners. You'll both be happier!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Have you dewormed your dog lately?

I've been telling you about my neighbor and his new puppy... He adopted her from the local shelter and was so careful about following instructions: getting her there for her follow-up shots, and taking her to the vet to be spayed. But they forgot to mention that they had not dewormed that puppy!

So, yesterday he called in a panic - the puppy had thrown up in her crate over night and there were these huge worms! Of course the vet would be closed on Sunday - what should he do!

I told him he should come over, because I had some dewormer paste he could give her.

When he got here he was waving a sandwich baggie containing worms - just so we could see the things and make sure they really were roundworms. I won't repeat what my husband said when he told him to get those things out of his face.

Anyway, we went on line and looked up roundworms, and that's what they were - and that's what the paste I had was made to treat. But we did learn something - and that is that humans can get roundworms too!

Here's the site where we got our information.

The site and my tube of wormer did disagree on the length of time between doses - so we decided she should have 3, two weeks apart, to get rid of all the undeveloped eggs as they hatched.

As an added note: That site is there to promote a topical flea and worm treatment - and those may be fine for some dogs. Just be aware that some are allergic.

Two years ago the deer had fleas - and since my dogs run around in the same meadow as deer, they got fleas. The vet sold me a topical flea killer, which was fine for two and misery for one. The dose lasts a month, and that poor dog didn't stop scratching for the full month. He was actually getting raw and bloody spots just from the scratching. As far as itching went, he was more miserable from the medicine than he had been from the fleas.

If they ever pick up fleas again, I'll search for a natural alternative.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

America's Most Popular Dog Breeds

Although each of my dogs clearly shows it's breed origins, my favorite is still the "mutt" - known for being healthy, hardy, and usually quite intelligent.

And although the Border Collie (like my Suzie girl) is rated the most intelligent of all dog breeds, it didn't make America's top ten. Maybe we humans are afraid of a dog who might be smarter than we are?

Here are America's favorite dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club (I don't suppose they recognize "mutt" as a breed, do you?)

#10: Shih Tzu

#9: Poodle

# 8: Bulldog

#7: Dachshund

#6: Boxer

#5: Beagle

#4: Golden Retriever

#3: German Shepherd

#2: Yorkshire Terrier

And ... tah dah!!

#1: The Labrador Retriever

This one has been rated the most popular breed in the United States for the 18th consecutive year, according to American Kennel Club registration statistics.

So, which is your favorite breed - and why?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dogs - learning to be properly social

Freckles is a sweet young thing - just 4 months old, and so full of silly. She belongs to our neighbor and we're all working to get my 3 grouches to accept her. Ralph, the "big guy" has decided to just sigh and let her tromp on him - as long as she keeps it down. A well said snarl gets her to back off.

And now, she's decided he's her protector. So if she gets worried, she goes and snuggles up as close to him as she can get. This evening she just laid across his back.

But Suzie and Pepper have no patience at all for a kid jumping on their heads! It went pretty well last night, and I think with a few more supervised meetings they'll all be OK together.

Our neighbor likes to get around the neighborhood on his 4-wheeler, and he's attached a rug to the space in front of him and devised a harness that hooks him and Freckles together so she can lay in front of him and not fall off. When she sits there on the 4-wheeler ready for a ride she looks like the queen of all she surveys!

Meanwhile, I had to laugh today because of a wagging tail. I was listening to Joe Vitale's Money Clearing tape and he said "Money can buy you a good dog, but only love can make his tail wag."

A few minutes later I walked up the stairs to the kitchen and Pepper was laying with his back toward me at the top of the stairs. When I spoke to him, the tail started thumping... and that made me feel super!

Gotta love these canines!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let your dog do tricks more often!

When Suzie first came to live with us, she was the only one - so I could spend a lot of time teaching her silly things like roll over and play dead and crawl. She also got really good at balancing a treat on her nose and waiting until I gave the signal to toss it in the air and catch it.

But when you get 3 dogs in the house, it becomes more difficult. They distract each other, and my little Pepper starts to bark at the top of his lungs. I don't know what it is with him - any time someone else gets attention, he barks. You have to tell him to come over for some attention of his own.

Anyway, last night everyone went out for their evening potty run, and Suzie came in first. I asked her if she wanted to play until the others came in, and she got so excited she didn't know what to do first!

We did the treat balancing thing, and then moved to the carpet where she could lay down more comfortably. (Aren't I silly?) As soon as I told her to lay down, she started laying down, almost playing dead, rolling over, and crawling all at the same time. It took me a couple minutes of telling her to pay attention before she'd calm down enough to do one thing at a time.

Did I feel guilty? You bet. I should be playing with her like that every day because she enjoys it so much. Now the trick will be to send Pepper and Ralph somewhere else without them getting their feelings hurt...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dogs: Woman's Best Friend

Just read a news story about a woman who got caught in a mudslide.

She was in her house when the slide hit and filled the house with mud - and when she tried to get out and away she kept sinking in the mud and getting bogged down so she couldn't move. Her large-size dog kept coming back after her,letting her use his body to pull herself out of the mud and keep going. She said he came back repeatedly, taking care of her until she made it to solid ground.

Aren't these critters amazing? Over and over heroic dogs prove their dedication to their human friends, and yet people still abuse them.

How can ANYONE say "It's just a dog."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obedience training: Start early!

Puppies are so sweet and playful - it's easy to forgive just about anything they do.

But failure to teach them manners from the start is not doing them a favor - in fact, it's the reason that so many young dogs end up in shelters. What was adorable in a ten pound puppy is obnoxious in a 40 pound "teen" and even worse in a 60 pound adult dog.

So begin teaching that puppy right away. His attention span will be short at first, but just keep working on it.

In my opinion, the first thing to teach is "come" and the next is "leave it." Both are easier to teach on leash, but you can do it with a dog who is loose in the house with you.

Start by always using the dog's name when you want his attention. When you say the name and he gives you his attention, administer a small treat and praise him. Then proceed to calling him from across the room. With a leash you can give a little tug toward you. But always remember to use his name along with "come."

Give more treats, and more praise, saying "good come." Just saying "good dog" won't get the job done, because he won't associate the praise with the verbal command.

"Leave it" takes a bit of patience, because you never know when he's going to get into something he shouldn't. You can set up "obstacles" if you're on leash, however. Then just pull him away from it while saying his name and "leave it."

In the house, if you see him getting into something, go pick him up and take him away from it while telling him the command. Before long, when you say those words, he should stop in his tracks and/or drop whatever he's picked up.

Your tone of voice plays a role too. I remember being in obedience class and seeing some people who just couldn't get their dogs to respond. Most of them used little polite voices when giving commands - and that doesn't work. You don't want to yell at your dog, but you do want to sound firm - authoritative, even.

I'm not quite sure what you do about a puppy getting into things when you aren't there to stop him. Somehow I think the best idea is to move temptation out of reach. After all, a puppy is still a puppy, and curious about everything in his environment.

My neighbor is head over heels in love with his puppy, and up until today was forgiving of her every error. But today he forgot to pick up his toys before he went outside... and came back in to find the remote control chewed up.

He's a bit upset with his darling - you know how men are about the remote control!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Animal Shelters Overflowing - time to push spay and neuter - again

Just read in the Bonner County Co-Op magazine that the new shelter at Ponderay, Idaho is now filled to capacity. When I was there a month ago it was a little over half full. And they have a brand new building with, I think, room for 100 dogs.

This is partly a result of economic conditions - I read about people abandoning dogs because they can't afford to feed them - but also a result of letting down the pressure about spay and neuter. Shelters all over the U.S. are full.

It takes a consistent effort on the part of rescue groups to get the funds and then make sure they're used for spay and neuter. That means lots of fund raising efforts, and hopefully, some effective grant writing. It also means cracking down on puppy mills and educating all those folks who think that backyard breeding is a good way to earn a few extra bucks.

Too often, rescue groups get no help at all from City and County government - even though those entities have to pay staff to round up strays. You'd think they'd be anxious to solve the problem at its root rather than proceeding with business as usual. You'd also think they'd enforce the laws against puppy mills. If you have the personality for it, start pushing your local officials to take action.

Meanwhile, today, talk to someone about spay and neuter. Encourage them to stop being part of the problem by telling them how many unwanted dogs suffer because of human indifference.

And if you know how to write and follow instructions, contact your local rescue group and offer to help them find grant money. Or just volunteer to head up a fund raising event or start an awareness campaign.

We won't see a day with no more homeless pets unless we all keep working hard.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Does your dog love to play in the snow?

Lots of dogs do, and it's fun to watch them splash into a deep pile and come up covered from head to foot, or burrow themselves in for a furry-dog nap.

But do be careful!

If you take them out to play, keep an eye on them, and don't leave them outside alone for more time than it takes to "do their business."

The snow covers up a dog's natural ability to sniff his way home if he wanders astray, so getting lost is a very real possibility for a dog who likes to take a romp around the neighborhood. At the very least they can give you some worried hours and cut a hole in your day.

My own dogs got themselves temporarily lost one morning a few years ago when they went out with me to feed the horses. One minute they were there and the next minute their tracks went off across the meadow. I trudged and followed tracks across meadows, up the mountainside and down the hill to the creek for at least two hours before I gave up in defeat and headed back toward the house. When I got within about a hundred yards, here they came - from the house!

So - the good news was they found their way home, but it could have been very different. And I wasn't worth much for the rest of the day after trudging around in a foot of snow all that time. For the rest of that winter I kept one of them on a leash when I went out.

Now that they're older they stick close, thank goodness.

The other danger of leaving dogs outside in snow is the possibility of injury. If heavy snow slides from the roof they can be buried and crushed, and if they play in a snow berm and get caught by a plow... I don't want to think about that.

So take them out to play - but bring them back in when you're finished.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Introducing a new dog to the pack

This time I'm writing in hopes that someone has some good advice.

I wrote you about our new "family member" Freckles. She lives with my neighbor a mile down the road. He'd love to bring her along when he comes to visit, and I've always taken my dogs along when I stop by to see him - but one of my dogs is being a complete pill.

She takes serious offense at that puppy rushing up to say hello, and the other day I was actually afraid that she'd hurt the pup, so I hurried and got her back in the truck.

I don't know if this is a jealousy thing, because she always got lots of attention from this neighbor, or if it's just because the puppy is so enthusiastic. When we did obedience classes there were only 2 dogs out of about 50 that she didn't like - so her normal behavior is to be friendly.

Any good ideas?

Give the dog a bone

Do you buy bones for your dogs? Our grocery store meat shop sells knuckle bones labeled "soup bones" and our dogs love them. Unfortunately I have one dog who can't have them often because she eats the whole thing and it turns her innards to concrete. I let her chew for a little while, then take the bone away.

So what about those rawhide bones? My three dogs each have a different approach. Ralphie eats his right away - the whole thing. Pepper chews and chews and chews... working on it for hours. And then there's Suzie. I think she doesn't really like them, but she's not willing to share. So she carries hers around and guards it all day.

Once a few years ago, before Pepper came to live with us, she and Ralph each had a rawhide chewy. Ralph went right to work eating his and Suzie laid down beneath a tree with hers between her feet. When Ralph was finished he went over and asked her to play - no way. She had to stay and guard that chewy. Several times that afternoon he tried to get her to leave it and play with him, but she refused.

That evening when we all went into the house I took it away from her and put it up for the night. Then she went to Ralph and wanted to play. He just looked at her and turned his back - we could almost hear him saying to he-- with you! He was miffed and made no bones about it!

It took a couple of days before the two of them started acting like friends again.

It's pretty funny when dogs behave like immature humans.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Living happily with dogs

Dog lovers need to read more than one doggie blog... so go here and read about 31 doggie duties to do dutifuly for 31 days.

I told my own dogs what it said, and they agreed with everything but #20 - you'll see why.

I've always lived with dogs, and until about 6 years ago had never considered taking one to obedience class. But then our rescue sponsored obedience classes and I had a young dog, so I decided to take part. My dog loved it! She would get so excited when we'd pull up in front of the building that she couldn't sit still. From there we did advanced obedience and then agility - and we had great fun.

So, since these dogs have always been a part of my life, and since I had assimilated what I learned in obedience school into our daily lives, I hadn't been thinking much about the "commands" I give the dogs. I don't much like that word, by the way, but guess it's the one that fits.

Then our neighbor got a puppy and started asking me about how to train her, and I started paying attention to what I was saying and doing with my dogs. I was amazed when I realized how many commands they respond to, and how often I use some of them. Like "wait." I think I say that a lot! "Leave it" is another one - every time they start to harass the cat.

Now I'm hoping that we can find an obedience class somewhere nearby when little Freckles gets just old enough to pay attention.

The reason I never considered obedience class sure sounds silly when I think of it now... I had some notion that it would turn a dog into a robot, or make him lose his personality, or something. In truth, all it did was make us enjoy each other's company a whole lot more.