Saturday, August 31, 2013

Calling All Dog Lovers

Not all dog lovers are able to freely love dogs in the comfort of their own homes. Often landlords, leases, allergies and finances won't allow the true gift of dog ownership. But, luckily that shouldn't keep you away from (wo)man's best friend!

Find a local animal shelter or Humane Society and ask how to get involved. Not only would you be doing a great service to a non-profit organization, but the animals are so appreciative of your time and affection. The fullness in your heart that you'll feel after volunteering your time will be worth the time.

Offer to be a buddy to a neighbor or friend's dog. The situation is an easy win/win. Your friend can rely on you to walk his pup while he's away and you get your dog fix. Plus, spending time with a dog is just plain good for the soul!

Looking for part time work? Find a veterinarian's office, a pet store, a kennel or a grooming facility and see if they're hiring. Although you need formal training to medically care for dogs, many of these businesses just need  a dog loving person to walk, bathe, feed and play with the animals. I visited a big-name pet supply store recently and noticed that they put in a glass encased room for the dogs to play while their parents were at work. A doggy day care?!?!  After 20 awkward minutes, the staff acknowledged me and also acknowledged the drool and mascara all over the glass because my face was eerily plastered up against it. They decided not to call security because I assured everyone that I was simply trying to figure out how I could squeeze being "a professional doggy play person" onto my already hectic work week. At any rate, if you've got some time to kill and if you're just looking to make some fun money, maybe check around to see if anyone needs another pair of hands to care for dogs.

Check around your town or city. See if there's a dog park. Technically you don't need a dog to visit a dog park. You might get some strange looks when you start playing with someone else's dog, but hey...nothing that a quick explanation couldn't fix!

Whatever your outlet may be, spending time with animals is proven to enrich your life and warm your heart. So many dogs simply don't get the human contact that they need because their owners' lives get too darn busy. Be the person who can bring an otherwise lonely dog some attention and affection.

~Happy Tails!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Let's Talk "Dog!"

The most valuable advice I've ever received regarding dog training was not to teach your dog YOUR language, but to try and better understand his. Sure, there are key words in your vocabulary that your dog can pick up on, but mostly it's the inflection and the tone of your voice that your dog responds to--not the actual words. It's best to get down to his level and communicate with him in a way that he can understand. You wouldn't bark at a baby, so you understand why yelling at a dog doesn't really work.

Here are some examples:

1.) Owner: My dog is so difficult on a leash. He pulls and pulls, so I bought him a choke chain and he still pulls!

Trainer: Do you know why he pulls? Because he can. You're physically allowing him to pull you. The discomfort of the choke chain is worth the excitement in the pull. Stop allowing him to pull you. When he pulls, snap the leash quickly one time and stop walking. The reinforcement is the actual walking. He'll catch on very quickly that in order to walk, he must walk at your pace, at your side.

Doesn't that make more sense than being dragged down the street and allowing your dog to do so?

2.) Owner: Our puppy steals toys from our kids and it takes us a half hour to catch her!

Trainer: Stop chasing her. It's a game and you're playing it.


3.) Owner: Our dog pees all over the place when we get home. She's so excited to see us that she literally pees on us!

Trainer: Ignore your dog when you walk in the door. Completely turn your back and/or walk right past your dog. Don't make eye contact. Don't greet her, nothing. When she is calm, you may walk over to her and give her all the affection you want--but it must be on your terms. (ps. This one was the MOST difficult for me because I'm the person who runs in the door yelling, "Who's a good boy??? Oh, who's a good boy?  Ohmygoodness I missed you so much!!!")

4.) Owner: Help!! Our puppy only pees on the wee wee pads half the time! How do I get her to pee on the pads all the time?? 

Trainer: You can't. You can't allow your dog to pee inside some parts of your house, but not others. You're setting him up to fail. He isn't going to be able to differentiate between an expensive rug, hard wood floors, newspapers or a wee wee pad. You have to be consistent in your training and if you'll allow him to go on a wee wee pad, be prepared for him to occasionally go where he's supposed to and occasionally where he shouldn't.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when training your dog is, "How is this working for us?"  If your answer is, "it isn't." then it's time to change your strategy.  In other words, if you say, "Our dog keeps jumping up on people! We shove her down, but she keeps doing it!" My immediate answer would be, "Then stop shoving her down. Because it's not working."  If you keep laying wee wee pads out, and she keeps going elsewhere, it's time to realize the wee wee pads aren't working. Dogs are very intelligent animals, but they aren't so intelligent that they understand sarcasm, language or impatience. They only learn to do what works for them, because they're animals. You can't not train your dog and then expect that he become a well trained, obedient pet. You have to teach him how you want him to behave because he only knows what's worked for him thus far. If the only way your puppy can get you to pay her attention is by peeing on your bed and jumping on you, guess how she's going to obtain your attention?

It makes so much more sense when you think in simplistic (dog) terms. Your dog isn't going to understand your language. You must communicate with him in a way that he absolutely understands. I always say, "Great dogs aren't born, they're trained." ......and that's what you sign up for when you take on a dog! It's hard work, but so, so worth it!

Don't forget to check out for awesome tips and helpful suggestions on housebreaking.

Happy Tails!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Relapse In Training?

Much like toddlers, puppies can and will often regress in their training. You know how young children like to test their boundaries and keep you on your toes? Yep, puppies will pull the same tricks, just to see what they can get away with.

You might notice that your (once housebroken) puppy is starting to have accidents again. For some reason, I see this a lot around the 6-10 month mark. The following incidents could trigger a relapse in house training.

An extended visit from another dog. Dogs often mimic each other's behavior, so if one dog has an accident, your dog might think, "Well, if he can pee in the house, I can too!"

You return from vacation to find that your well-behaved puppy is now back to chewing, biting and peeing in the house. Whoever was caring for your dog (a boarder or a friend) might not have implemented the same structure that you have and the result is a dog who now needs a refresher course in doggy 101.

Different work/school hours. The dog can pick up on a change in their routine and they might show their displeasure by acting out/regressing.

Any type of injury, illness or infection. Recently, our dog needed surgery and he had to stay the night in the hospital while he recovered. Although he was completely housebroken, the 3 night hospital stay threw off his schedule and when we finally got him home, he peed everywhere! He was unsure of his new/old routine, so it took another day or so to get him back to our house rules. Or--if your dog gets a bladder infection and accidents are unavoidable, it's not uncommon for the behavior to continue after the infection has healed. You'll need to correct the behavior by offering him a crash course in housebreaking.

Lastly, a relapse in training for no reason whatsoever. Your dog might decide to forget everything you've ever taught them, quite simply because they can. Testing, testing, testing! It's up to YOU to help get them back on track. If you let them get away with naughty behavior once, they'll remember that and they'll try it again. Consistency is key!

Keep in mind, puppies are just like kids. Their first year is filled with experimenting, learning, teaching, testing and exploring. Be patient while they find their way. Expect for things to get chewed and accidents to happen. Remember, great dogs aren't born, they're trained. :)

Happy Tails!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Is this vet worthy??

Most people don't have pet insurance, despite it's availability. Pets' unforeseen illnesses, accidents or conditions can be concerning, especially if an unexpected trip to the vet doesn't fit into your budget. Many dog owners skip the vet due to the cost (and it CAN be costly). Unfortunately, unless you went to veterinarian school, you might have a hard time deciphering a life threatening condition or a minor set back. Luckily vets are animal lovers by nature and I can't imagine a veterinarian refusing to treat a sick animal just because the owner doesn't have the funds. So, when you're choosing a vet, make sure he/she offers flexible, affordable payment plans.

These are things that would likely necessitate a trip to your veterinarian.

A sudden and/or uncharacteristic lack of appetite. You know your animal better than anyone and only you if your dog is acting odd. Refusal to eat could indicate an illness.

Vomiting. Most dogs vomit from time to time. But if they don't bounce back afterward, or if the vomiting continues for several hours, you want to call your vet. At the very least, you'd need to address the possible dehydration. It could also indicate a blockage somewhere in their digestive tract.

An unusually swollen ear. It's called a hematoma and it is often uncomfortable, sometimes painful for the dog. Often caused by ear mites, the dog's aggressive scratching can break open capillaries in the ear. If left untreated, it can become infected or it could rupture which would lead to surgery to repair it. For the cost of antibiotics and an office visit, it's worth being seen by a vet.

Unusual frequency in urination, uncharacteristic accidents in the home, compulsive licking to the genitals. This could indicate a bladder or urinary tract infection. Again, only a vet can diagnose that and the condition can be easily cleared with antibiotics. If left untreated, the infection can travel to kidneys and cause further damage. It's also very uncomfortable, sometimes burning or painful to the dog. Unfortunately, a lot of times the undesirable behavior will continue after the infection has cleared up. It'll be up to you to offer a refresher course in housebreaking once your dog is infection-free. If training your dog is harder the 2nd time around, I would suggest visiting for helpful suggestions.

An apparent paralysis. If your dog can no longer move a specific extremity, lower extremities or a paralysis from the neck down, there could be a pinched nerve or a ruptured disk. From personal experience, it would be helpful to know up front if your vet has the capability of making house calls if you can't physically move your pet. Only an MRI could determine nerve damage.

Lethargy. If you notice that your typically active dog is particularly "mopey" or lethargic, there's often a reason. Again, you know your pet and you know what's normal and what isn't. In the summer months, dehydration or heat stroke could be the culprit.

Establish a good rapport with your veterinarian. If you develop a relationship with your dog's physician, he or she will be more likely to be honest with you when you call with a concern. If he or she doesn't know you or your dog at all, she'll be much more likely to tell you to bring in your dog at the first sign of trouble. If she knows your animal fairly well, perhaps she'll be more apt to offer you a phone consultation if there's an obvious solution.

Remember--YOU are your pet's only advocate. Be their voice so that they can receive the care that they so deserve.

Happy Tails!