Recently I saw an article that stated the number one complaint state forest rangers receive from the public in the state forest campgrounds concerns dogs. Complaints range from barking dogs left unattended on campsites, running loose in the campgrounds, dogs on beaches and in picnic areas to serious dog bites.

The rangers’ response to this was, of course, to strictly enforce the pet regulations -with good reason.

As a responsible pet owner, this saddens me greatly.

Something about being the setting of the Northwoods makes vacationing visitors think they don’t have enforce good dog behavior. Common sense seems to take a vacation, too.

Yes, we have trees and lakes and fresh air. Your dog can enjoy all this without having to run loose, chase wildlife and be a nuisance to residents (people and animals).

We have dangers not found in the urban environment: bears, porcupines, wolves. We have some dangers found in the urban environment: cars, poisons, skunks, other dogs.

It’s not all tourists contributing to this problem, however.

I would say one of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is out of control dogs…but not THEIR dogs. Out of control dogs accosting their now mannerly dogs while they’re out on a walk…or even worse yet, their own yard!

This isn’t unusual. Trainer’s across the country talk about advice to give their clients about this problem. Some suggest carrying stun sticks-small stun guns. They say the sound of the static charge is usually enough to scare a dog off. This equipment is illegal is some places. The state of WI is one place this is illegal. Others suggest an air horn to scare off the offending canine. Trouble with that is it’ll most likely scare your own dog, too. On the way to work a couple weeks ago, I saw a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk. She was carrying a big, over-sized plastic wiffle ball bat. I suppose some people wondered why she was walking her dog with a bat. I didn’t wonder. I offered it up as a solution to some of my clients. It’s lighter than heavy walking sticks some carry.

If you find yourself out on a walk being approached by a strange dog, first thing- get your dog under control.  The SIT command is great for this. Step between your dog and the approaching dog. Your dog is trained and should hold his SIT behind you. Watch the approaching dog and trust your dog to do what you told it to do. Then protect your dog. You are the leader so act like it. Chase the offender off.  Use your air horn, walking stick or your BOOT.  Then work on getting your dog and yourself to safety.

One thing I will start recommending my clients carry on their walks is called Direct Stop or SprayShield. It’s a citronella-based spray similar to pepper spray. It sprays 10 feet. There are about 12 one-second sprays in a can and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve heard good things about it.

If you run into the same person(s) and dog(s) out of control on your walk, maybe educating them is an option. The more trained dogs with responsible owners we have out and about, the better equipped we will be as a group to defend ourselves and our rights.

Offer to walk together so you can be an example of a responsible dog owner without being in their face about it. Offer helpful, honest tips that may have helped you in the early stages of training. Don’t be confrontational. Remember what it was like to not have control of your own dog. Maybe discreetly place the business card of a trainer under the windshield wiper of their car while they’re chasing down their dog. Be helpful and use it as a training opportunity!

If the offending party is not approachable, make sure you and your dog stay safe-even if that means maybe having to find another place to frequent. Exposing your dog to potential attacks, unbalanced energy and negative experiences can make him lose trust in you. That can be very hard to rebuild.

The bottom line is to be polite and use common sense…even when on vacation!

Must Read

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.

Meet & Greet

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”.

Our Dogs’ Lives

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!

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!

Wild Again

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, but I wouldn't believer her.

Hips Revisited

Tringa turned 2 last month.  Traditionally, 2 years old would mark the milestone at which dog owners would have their dogs’ hips x-rayed to be evaluated by Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Most people doing this would be those interesting in breeding their dog. Many breeders ask their puppy owners to do this even if they’re not planning on breeding to give the breeder valuable info about their breeding program. Many breeders use OFA as a determining point for guaranteeing hip health (the presence of dysplasia or not).

Hip dysplasia simply means malformed hips. Being dysplastic in itself isn’t always a problem. Some dogs are dysplastic and never have any problems well into their advanced age. Others can go on to develop degenerative joint disease and arthritis at a very early age.

In our house, we choose to PennHip. See The Value of PennHip for a greater explanation of what it is and why we chose to do this.

PennHip can be done very early. We have our dogs PennHipped when we spay or neuter them. They’re already under anesthetic so it’s easy enough to do one more procedure.

There’s been discussion among breeders and dog fanciers that PennHip can’t accurately predict what dog’s hips will become.  

Puppies in general have a lot of laxity in their joints. It’s what keeps them safe from injuries while they’re trying to get themselves coordinated and developed. Therefore we expect them to have some distraction in this technique.  I would anticipate their hips to “tighten up” somewhat as they mature. To what degree is the question we wanted answered.

For our own information and curiosity, we chose to reshoot Tringa’s PennHip when she turned 2.  In Tringa’s case, there was a degree of “tightening up”-but not much.

Her first PennHip was shot when she was 7 months old. Her left hip had a DI of 0.82. Her right hip had a DI of 0.85. Results on both hips state “DI is greater than 0.30 with not radiographic evidence of DJD. There is an increasing risk of developing DJD as the DI increases; low risk when DI is close to 0.30, high risk when DI is close to 0.70 or above.” (see The Value of PennHip for explanation of this lingo).

Because of the knowledge we gained from Tringa’s first PennHip, we were able to change her activities. No jumping, no Frisbee, no anything that would stress hip joints. Swimming, dock diving, etc are things to help her stave off arthritis or joint problems. We did things to help build and stabilize her muscles. We kept (& keep) a close eye on her weight. We added supplements. We crossed our fingers and hoped the critics were right in their suspicions of the ability of PennHip to predict the future.

Tringa’s second PennHip was shot 13 days after her 2nd birthday. Alas, even before the radiographs were sent into PennHip for evaluation, we could see the remodeling. In layman’s terms: PennHip DID predict the future.

Her left hip DI was 0.71 and her right hip was 0.75. Results on both hips state “CONFIRMED HIP DYSPLASIA. DI is greater than 0.30 with evidence of mild or moderate DJD.”

Even with the changes we made, in the second set of x-rays we took, we can see remodeling. Remodeling is the term used when the bone changes shape.  Here are a couple of photos showing the two views taken in PennHip. Each photo has the original film compared to the second film.

Can YOU pick out the remodeling?

Tringa's Second PennHip Distraction View

Tringa's Second PennHip VD View











If it was too subtle for you to pick out, here are a couple more photos with the changes highlighted with arrows.

Arrows highlight remodeling in Tringa's Second Distraction View

Arrows highlight remodeling in Tringa's second PennHip VD View














And to make it an even more informative comparison here they are side by side:

Side by side comparison of Tringa's PennHips Distraction View

Side by Side Comparison of Tringa's PennHips VD View


What does this mean for Tringa’s future?

Well, we can already see her hip problems in her gait and she’s already shifting more of her weight from her rear legs to her front legs.

We’ll continue to monitor her and adjust her activities accordingly. We will take it into account when we ask her to do things and her compliance of what we ask. Is she refusing to obey or CAN she obey?

When she needs it, she’ll get meds to help relieve discomfort.

I also believe by doing a PennHip in her early age we gained valuable information that helped us put the need for medication off into the future.

Holiday Photo Tips

In our house around this time of year we start thinking about taking a family photo for our holiday newsletter. Subjects in the photo are varying numbers of dogs, depending on the year (the cat always seems to have good excuses for not being in the photo) and us most years. Some years we have good excuses for not being in the photo, too!

Inevitably, without fail, at least one person will ask “How did you get them all to sit there?” To which either my husband or I will answer “We told them to”.

Honestly, many people forget this, but obedience commands have their place in everyday activities…such as picture taking.

A simple SIT or DOWN depending on how you want your photo composed is a start. The attention command such as WATCH gets the dog looking at you who has the camera so therefore…the dog looks at the camera.  Simple.

Well, simple for one dog. It gets a little more challenging with multiple dogs. The more dogs, the better the obedience will need to be.

For those occasions when you want to be in the photo with your dog, unless you want your dog looking at you when you take the photo, the WATCH command won’t work. WATCH means to focus on you. You can teach a separate PHOTO or LOOK command to get the dog to look away from you and to whatever it is you want them to concentrate on (in this case the camera).

If you don’t have time (or the desire) to teach a LOOK there are a couple tricks to get your dog to focus on the camera (or at least the direction of the camera). These tricks still require solid enough obedience for your dog to hold their SIT or DOWN commands in mild distractions.

If you’re using a helper to take the photo for you, have them make interesting sounds, shake a treat box or squeak a favorite toy.

If you’re using a tripod to take the photo yourself (with a remote or a timer) try throwing a treat bag or toy in the direction of the tripod just before the shutter releases. Be aware the dog’s gaze will be wherever the object ends up so practice throwing before taking your photos.

I’ve also hung something of interest to my pack from the tripod with a small line to where I would be seated. When we were ready, I’d tug the line slightly to move the toy or feather or whatever near the camera. Dogs focused there and viola, family photo.

Here are a couple photos from years past. We’re still waiting for snow for this year’s attempt.

Oh, and remember to HAVE FUN and BE PATIENT.

Using holiday type props can enhance your photo


Family portrait from years past

Remember Veteran’s Day

Thank a Veteran — those still here and those who’ve left us!

Ky helps sell poppies to support veteran causes

Ky helps sell poppies to support veteran causes