Archive for April, 2010

Here’s a post from our dear friends at Smart Dogs that is a must read:

See no evil, read no evil, cite no evil.

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Recently a friend relayed an analogy she’d heard about “meet & greets” with dogs. The speaker compared dogs & their owners’ introductions to the receiving line at a wedding. It was cute and obviously memorable. I’ll probably be using it in classes, but I’ll be elaborating on it.

In a receiving line, things are kept moving along. Conversation is a couple sentences long –“the flowers were gorgeous.” ” The bride’s dress was beautiful.” Things like that. Seldom do you see a fight break out in a receiving line. I never have seen it, but I imagine it IS possible. Things are kept moving so people can’t get in trouble.

I believe because everyone around is also on best behavior and being “hall monitors” that adds the unlikihood of a fist fight occuring. Uncle Fred could say to the bride “how far along are you?”  Not typical receiving line conversation and not expected.  It throws off the whole energy of the people in the line.

What happens next depends on lots of other factors.

It could be a private joke between the two and the bride can laugh it off, choosing to ignore it. OR it can strike a nerve and make the bride bristle a little. The reaction of the bride can set off a whole chain reaction up and down the receiving line. Have a line full of people ready for a fight and it could get really ugly. Have a line full of people able to deal with inappropriateness correctly and politely and the situation could be diffused quickly.

We want our dogs to be able to deal with inappropriateness correctly and politely. Most times we have to intervene for our dogs to make sure that things are diffused. Meaning we also have to be able to deal with inappropiateness correctly and politely. That means we always have to be paying attention!  Not just to our dog, but to the other dog as well. Is the dog on the receiving end of your dog’s meeting enjoying the encounter? Is your dog doing something unexpected? Is the other dog able to laugh it off or is it striking a nerve? Be the next person in the receiving line asking to keep things moving. Diffuse it calmly but assertively.

The analogy goes on to talk about the reception. It’s easy to have a fight at a wedding reception. Just adding alcohol makes the likelihood rise. {Side note: I wonder if Labs would be the happy drunks of the dog world…would Chessies be the mean drunks?}

Dogs shouldn’t be visiting the cash bar for the behavior-changing chemical called alcohol, BUT there is another behavior- changing chemical we ALL carry around with us -adrenalin.

Dogs can overdo it and get drunk on it. It’s our job to be their parent and designated driver all rolled up into one. First, making sure they don’t over-imbibe on this powerful biochemical in the first place it the best scenario.

Second, keep them out of trouble if they do over-indulge until they can sleep it off. This means enforcing a time out- a long down stay works wonderfully for this!

When we meet a dog on the street, then, remember to keep things quick and polite. Pay attention to the body language and reaction of BOTH dogs. If things get tense, move away and take a time out-for both you AND your dog! Don’t let the energy of the situation build. Be in control and keep things moving along -“Your dog is gorgeous. Time for us to go smell some flowers”.

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I was watching our youngest, Seda, the-now-8-month-old Swissy, wrestle with our current board and train, a 5-month-old Golden. I couldn’t help but think how different our dogs’ lives are than most typical pets.

Our dogs have a very active life. We walk twice a day at least, some days more than twice, and often times several miles. When I say several miles, I mean several miles for the humans. The dogs are off-lead and putting on many, many more miles than we are.

We share our lives with wildlife. We feed the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and whatever comes around.

The dogs are not allowed to harass the wildlife. They can watch from a distance, but not chase, bark at or otherwise pester. Because Mark is a wildlife rehabber, currently a bear cub and a baby gray squirrel are downstairs. The dogs aren’t allowed to interact with them, but they can certainly smell them in their house, hear them when they fuss and watch from a safe distance as Mark feeds them.

We foster dogs. Often there are dogs coming and going. We overnight dogs for evaluations or take them into our house for board and trains. When we do this, they are treated as one of our own, so our pack better be pretty welcoming (and they are).

Our dogs all help me teach classes and lessons for other dogs and their people. Some days, depending on my schedule, it means they have to spend a good portion of their day away from the comfort of their house (read that our comfy larger-than-king-sized bed). Some days they have to wait patiently in the kennel at the vet clinic with its own set of smells, sounds and activities.

When most people think of working dogs typically service dogs, guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs and the like come to mind. But our dogs are working dogs.

They have to earn their keep by being good role models for all they come in contact with.

In return, we keep them healthy physically by watching their weight, feeding high quality food and giving them exercise. We also keep them healthy mentally by training them so they can be included in all our activities and challenging their minds.

This should be basic to every dog owning house. All dogs should do some kind of work to earn their keep -even if the work is something as simple as sitting for supper or waiting at the door and not jumping on people. The goal should be to make your dog a working dog.

So really our dogs shouldn’t lead lives so much different than yours.

Well, except for the bear cub downstairs!

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Be on the lookout for hidden dangers for dogs in the Easter baskets in your house. Some very common items causing problems for dogs:

Easter Grass: eaten it can cause intestinal problems or worse yet injury requiring surgery

Chocolate: Four ounces of milk chocolate can kill a small dog. Dark chocolate is even more potent.

Sugar free gum or candy: Xylitol, a common ingredient in sugar free items, is poisonous to dogs

Raisins: can cause kidney failure in dogs

Small toys dogs would be able to swallow can be a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockages requiring surgery.

Stuffed animals for kids: Some are now being treated with flame retardants and miticide. If a dog ingests the stuffing, it turns to gel and is fatal to the dog.

Keep an eye on your dogs and the kids Easter baskets. Even better, make up a special basket of treats just for your dog.

Be careful, use common sense and have a Happy Easter!

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