Archive for the ‘Responsible Dog Guardians’ Category

Golden Retriever Puppy Sleeping

See, I can sleep just fine on my pillow.

The day we brought Honey home, she whined for less than a minute before falling asleep in her crate by the bed. At 3 months old she was already sleeping through the night! She was a perfect puppy.

What happened? Here are the steps:

1. Puppy swallows squeaker.

2. Puppy goes to hospital for squeaker removal. Her recovery schedule includes being woken at 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to eat.

3. Puppy comes home with a disrupted sleep schedule and a bad habit.

Or at least that’s all I can think of.

Ever since Honey has come home from the hospital, she’s been more likely to whine in her crate. Loudly! And no, we don’t ever let her out of the crate while she’s whining. She’ll stop for a day or two and then start up again.

And I’m beginning to wonder if she should be crated at night at all.

I never crated my previous dogs. In the first case, I should have. It would have saved me a $1000 couch, $300 worth of cookbooks, several stained floors, and a couple of dog fights.

When we brought Shadow home as an older dog, she was so calm there was no need.

So now that Honey is a teenager, should the crate go in the attic? She goes to her crate easily without much fuss. She sleeps in her crate at my office. But Honey doesn’t seek out a crate as a refuge. Like most dogs, she’s perfectly happy on the floor, or on the couch, or on somebody’s lap.

And we’ve had to reorganize the bedroom furniture in a funky way that House Beautiful would never approve just to fit the crate at all.

Is it time to banish the crate? What do you think? Do you have a crate permanently for your dog? Or did you stop using it after housebreaking? Does your dog prefer the crate? Or do you prefer it? Any and all advice will be considered.

Or else we’ll just banish the crate to stop the whining.

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Dirty Golden Retriever Puppy

Bath? We don't need no stinkin' bath!

  1. Make sure your dog actually needs a bath. Frequent bathing can irritate a dog’s skin so ask your vet what’s best for yours.
  2. Have fun and treats in the area where you’ll be giving the bath. For example, if it’s your bathroom, use that as your new room to play tug. Or practice tricks, if that’s what your dog enjoys.
  3. Have everything ready for the bath before running any water. There’s no need to leave your dog wet and shivering in the tub while you look for dry towels.
  4. Put a sturdy mat on the tub floor to keep your dog from slipping and sliding.
  5. Allow your dog to get into the tub on his own, if it’s safe. Do this without planning to run any water so your dog can see it as a fun game.
  6. Make sure the water is not too hot or too cold for your dog.
  7. Provide a distraction to keep your dog entertained while you’re bathing her. My favorite trick is to fill the soap dish with peanut butter (see the picture below).
  8. Use soaps that aren’t too “perfume-y.” Think of what a dog thinks smells good–it’s probably not lavender and peppermint.
  9. Rinse your dog thoroughly. If you don’t have a spray attachment, use a pitcher.
  10. And the most important tip of all? Start making your dog feel comfortable with the idea of a bath long before you need to give him one–I’m talking weeks! Bath time will be much easier for your dog, and for you.

    Dog Eating Peanut Butter

    Yum! Bath time sticks to the roof of my mouth!

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Hound and German Shepherd Mixed Breed Dog

This Post is Dedicated to My Formerly Less-Adoptable Dog, Shadow. I Miss Her Everyday.

Today is the last day of Petfinder’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week. This is their campaign to bring attention to the many pets who may wait a long time for their forever homes–because of special medical needs, old age, and even their color or breed. Many wonderful pet bloggers have posted this week on this issue and brought their own special spin to the issue (Check out here and here to find two of my favorite posts on adopting older dogs–my personal soft spot.)

But what Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week doesn’t address are the many dogs in foster homes with people trying to help them become adoptable at all. Someone in a shelter or rescue group meets a dog that has great potential. But they have some major issue that prevents them from being adopted. Sometimes it’s resource guarding. With others, it’s sensitivity to other dogs. And some have aggression issues with people.

Two blogs I follow highlight the challenges in working with these dogs (and yes, I know I need to update my blogroll to get more of these sites listed).

First is 3 Woofs & a Woo. Blogger, The Food Lady (it’s nice to see a dog guardian who understands her place in the universe), posts beautiful photos of her Border Collies and Woo (a mystery BC mix?). In this post, she tells of the challenges of helping her foster dog West become less reactive to strangers while managing her life, her other dogs, and the unplanned circumstances the world throws at her.

Second is Dog Foster Mom. Laurie posts about her work fostering pets with all the joys and sorrows that go with it. She has a great sense of humor that comes through in her writing. And Laurie has Ziggy.

Ziggy is deaf. Ziggy is a pibble mix. Ziggy is incorrigible. Recently Laurie had to board her own pet Remi out so she could continue to work with Ziggy and stay within the dog restrictions of her subdivision. Laurie has amazing commitment and passion for fostering.

So when you’re thinking of adopting a less adoptable pet, say a little thank you to the many shelter workers, rescuers, and foster parents who work so hard to help un-adoptable animals become less-adoptable animals (and hopefully, someday, adopted animals).

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I’m slow to react to the news. I don’t like to get caught up in the misinformation, rumors, and hysteria that often accompany breaking stories. So I’ve quietly watched the stories about Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring unfold over the past several years.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the behavior of Michael Vick and his dog fighting friends was egregious and inexcusable.

But I also understand that real people do stupid and vile things because they’re weak and fearful.

When we lived in Southwest Philadelphia, the teenagers in our neighborhood liked to keep pit bulls for “protection.” They’d tie them up, deny them food, and taunt them to make them “tough.” Of course when any one of these pitties was out on their chain and prong collar, they’d come up to me and my husband with stubby tails wagging and tongues hanging out with sheer joy for the attention we gave them. We kept telling the neighborhood kids that if you want  a protective dog, you feed him well, bond with him, and be the best person in the world to him. Did any of it get through to them? I don’t know.

So when I first heard about Michael Vick and his Bad Newz Kennels, I thought of those scared teenage boys who wanted to look tough. Who knew that if they didn’t hurt first, they would get hurt. And scared people can do a lot of damage. As Michael Vick did.

Jim Gorant, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, has written a book entitled The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption. And the normally sedate comment section (at least by typical internet standards) at the NPR website is showing its crazy side. Evidently some people  hate to see so much time taken up on the care of animals as opposed to humans. And others resent a Sports Illustrated staffer wasting his time on dog fighting instead of important stuff like football and basketball.

And this is the wider world that those of us who are interested in the welfare of animals need to inhabit. Those of us who believe that humans benefit greatly when we care for animals need to participate in these conversations. So I’m planning my comment at the NPR webpage and maybe you want to chime in too.

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Baby Raccoon

First rule of staying home alone? No visiting friends when the folks are away!

It’s been a busy week and it’s only Wednesday. In a phone conversation in my hotel room Monday night, I discovered that my husband also had to travel out of town for work (although not overnight). Then he revealed his plans for Honey!

He was going to take Honey with him to a day of meetings in a hotel. Honey, the wiggling love whore, was going to ride in the back of the car for over an hour with his very nice boss who usually wears black. (If you can’t guess, Golden Retriever and black clothing? A bad combination.)

I won’t go into any more details but that suggestion was quickly moved off the table.

The final decision? Honey would stay in the kitchen at home with the back door cracked open so she could visit the yard when necessary. She’d have plenty of toys and a big fat Kong to find after she finished her breakfast.

My biggest fear was of someone taking her out of the yard. But, since Honey’s not a barker, most people would walk by the house and never know she was there.

Of course, I knew my hostas were dead meat. Honey has started digging in them and I knew that with an entire day to fill and no one to supervise, they’d receive some rough, puppy treatment.

End result? All was well. My husband picked up Honey when he returned and brought her to my office when I returned so I could see with my very own eyes she was alive and well.

What about my hostas? Well, maybe they’ll come back next year.

Golden Retriever Puppy Resting

See, I told you I'd be ok home alone.

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Golden Retriever Puppy Chewing a Bone

I've got my chewing technique down. What more do I need to learn?

Yes, I know that I have some wonderful dog training resources in books and on the web. And if I just practice a few minutes throughout the day, Honey will learn all she needs to be a well-mannered dog.

But what can I say? I love taking training classes. And I learn so much in the presence of a good trainer–little tips and refinements I just can’t find on my own.

Tonight was orientation for our new class being taught at the local SPCA. I met the teacher over a year ago and was impressed by how she taught her dog to help in her graduate field work. I won’t go into details, but it was very impressive. And I thought it was so cool to find a new (to me) way to work with your dog.

So I look forward to learning myself,  working with Honey in a distracting environment, and seeing the fun my classmates have with their dogs.

This class will use clicker training which appears to be fairly new to the other students. I remember when I first learned about clickers with Shadow and found a whole new world opening up to me. It will be exciting to watch other people make that same discovery. And just darn fun to spend an hour each week in the company of dogs and dog lovers.

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In a previous post, I promised some resources for people interested in moving beyond dominance based training. What follows is just a small sampling but I think you’ll find plenty to whet your appetite.

  • Dogstar Daily may be the most comprehensive website for positive dog training. Founded by Dr. Ian Dunbar and his wife, Kelly, the site is a wealth of resources. Content comes up at random on the main page, allowing you to sample the wide variety of information. Various dog trainers and animal behaviorists write blogs on a variety of topics. Finally, there is excellent video of Sirius puppy classes in action as well as various dog trainers showing their work with their clients.
  • Patricia McConnell, animal behaviorist and dog trainer, has a blog well worth following if you want to learn more about why dogs behave they way they do with real world applications. At The Other End of the Leash (also the title of her book), you’ll find the science of dog behavior presented in a very accessible way. Plus, you’ll see how Dr. McConnell tries to apply her knowledge with her own animal companions. I expect to learn when I read the blog; I’m always surprised to find how often I’m touched.
  • Not every trainer employing positive methods and operant conditioning uses a clicker. I’ve found, however, that the clicker helps me with my attentiveness and training. Developed by Karen Pryor, Clicker Training uses a simple mechanical device (the clicker) to mark a behavior that will be rewarded. The Karen Pryor Clicker Training website is a good place to start if you’re a newbie. You’ll find thousands of clicker trainers once you get started.
  • Finally, I’ve learned much from reading Norwegian dog trainer, Turid Rugaas. Her website introduces the concept of calming signals dogs use to communicate. For example, a dog that’s uncomfortable in a situation may lick her lips. Knowing these signals and how to respond to them can deepen the bond with our dogs. At Turid’s website, you’ll find an FAQ section that covers every potential behavioral issue and some excellent photos of dogs exhibiting calming signals.

These are just a few of the All Stars who are providing good science and excellent practical resources for people who want to have a good relationships with their dogs–no alpha rolling or choke chains allowed.

Golden Retriever Puppy Sleeping on the Grass

If you try to roll me, it could get dangerous! I might lick you to death.

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Dog trainer Colleen Safford posted some great dog greeting video and commentary over at Dogtime. My previous dogs were pretty reactive so I tried to develop my dog watching signs so that I wasn’t surprised by sudden bad manners or doggy corrections. But I always found it tough to read the dog language of a greeting because everything happened so much faster than I could process it. I’ve relied on the pictures in Turid Rugaas’s On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals (an excellent book). But it’s just not the same as moving pictures.

The dogs involved in the video are Great Danes and move at a much slower pace than the shepherds and labs I’ve been used to. That, added to the commentary, made for a really helpful video if you’re interested in learning about how dogs greet each other and determine what is acceptable behavior.

I find in many gatherings that people intercede too quickly between dogs–not giving them enough time to sort things out. I personally might have jumped in to the situation in the video since the merle dog was so slow to get the message. But the dogs came to terms and worked things out appropriately. And of course, that can only happen when dogs have been properly socialized from the beginning to behave appropriately around other dogs.

Now, if only someone would shoot video that helps people become better at making friends.

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Sleeping golden retriever puppy


Honey is in the hospital today. She’ll be back home with us in a few days. But now, she’s recovering from abdominal surgery to remove a blockage in her small intestine.

I’m hoping someone will read something here that will help them keep their little loved one healthy.

Honey’s been alternating between sick and well for a little while. When she started vomiting, we put her on bland food and her vet performed fecal tests looking for parasites. Honey also took antibiotics for a possible infection.

The tricky thing was that one day Honey was happy, healthy, and hungry and the next she’d be vomiting and lethargic. And she was losing weight. Our vet did xrays and referred us to get an ultrasound so we’d have better info about the “thickening” seen in her small intestine. Sure enough, it definitely looked like a blockage and we were advised to schedule surgery right away.

Everyone questioned us: is there anything missing around the house? Has Honey chewed up string? Or clothing? Or carpeting? Or furniture? No, no, no, and no. Honey’s just not a typical puppy chewer. Until we remembered something–

Back in early May, someone gave Honey a cheap, plush toy with a squeaker. It was a risk letting her play with it but she loved it! And we couldn’t deny her.

When I heard Honey chewing plastic and realized she had loosened the squeaker from the body of the toy, I went to grab it from her (this was before she had “leave it” down as a solid behavior). When Honey saw I was going to grab the squeaker, she, in a fit of uncharacteristic orneriness, swallowed hard. I gave a gentle, Puppy Heimlich before stopping in fear that I could cause more damage forcing the plastic part up her throat than if I let it go down.

We were advised that we should keep an eye on her but the item might pass safely. We took more interest in puppy poop that month than I’m happy to admit but we never saw a sign of that squeaker ever again–until last night, when the surgeon recovered it from her small intestine.

No, it’s not typical for a swallowed object to cause a problem 3 months later. But it’s what happened to Honey.

I’ve felt a bit stupid buying such expensive dog toys for Honey but I see now that the sturdy things we normally have around the house show little sign of wear and hold up well to tug, chew, and whatever else Honey wants to do with them.

Lessons learned?

  • Invest in good toys.
  • Don’t be afraid to deny your puppy something that you know could hurt her.
  • Have excellent vets with good judgment, clinical skills, and communication.

Thanks to everyone at Cornerstone and Colonial for providing such excellent care for Honey.

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Over at Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of the Leash, you’ll find a summary of a nuanced discussion of dominance mythologies by animal behaviorist, Suzanne Hetts. Good topic. Fast learning.

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