Do you want to pet “all” the dogs? I do! Do you believe that all nice dogs love to be petted and approached if you approach them the right way? Have you always loved dogs and believe that all good dogs love you?
I confess. This was me until a couple of years ago. If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I have a young dog that I rescued 10/2015 that is currently leash-reactive. My hope is that she will not always be reactive on leash. I have been doing my very best to tackle every behavioral issue that crops up with my Betty. I have learned a lot since I brought her home. We have made some definite progress too. We have handled digging and nuisance barking. I train her daily. Lately, we have gotten to the point that we can train pretty close in proximity to distractions. I use the engaged/disengage game to desensitize her to stimulating distractions and she is getting to the point where she can watch a bicyclist ride by and she will look at me instead of lunging or barking at the bike. She does well at the park when we go to practice around kids too. I have grandchildren that are quite happy to go to the park so Betty can train. They are very helpful. I have been working very hard to help her learn how to be calm. But, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with petting dogs?
The short answer: everything… Many dogs are reactive, timid, or shy around new people. I love dogs and I do want to pet them all. They don’t all want me to pet them though. Some, like my Betty, get way to excited by the prospect of a new person. She is what the trainers call a “social butterfly”. She is also beautiful and fluffy. She looks very happy and sweet — and she is. More people want to meet Betty because she is especially pretty. But she is more than just a pretty face. She gets frustrated when someone new is petting her and they stop. She reacts by barking and lunging — which looks aggressive. One minute you are petting her and she is loving it. The next (when you pull away), she is barking like a crazy thing. It isn’t attractive at all. This started a few months ago. When I am prepared to practice greetings, I have treats handy. I keep the greetings very short. And, she is treated when the petting stops and she remains calm. We just started this because this problem just started… When we are not prepared (like the first potty break of the morning before I have had my coffee and I am stumbling around with my eyes barely open), it is easier to just have our walk and not greet people. She is in training so she is not proofed for greeting everybody all the time. She is also learning that she doesn’t get to greet everyone that she sees. Sometimes I am in a hurry and I have somewhere to go. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Our trainer told us to practice polite non-greetings and then we will graduate to polite greetings. When I am prepared and mindful, this dog does everything right. When I am not paying attention, have my hands full, or am in a hurry, that is when she misbehaves. I know that I can do better. With more training and time, I know she can do better too. Some dogs are very fearful of new people. Some have been horribly abused and may never want strangers walking up to them and petting them. It isn’t you. It is them. For others, it is just their personality. You can train them to accept greetings politely — but they may never really love it. Just like some people are more introverted than others, dogs do have varying degrees of sociability. Service dogs need to work for their owners and should never be bothered or touched by strangers. Okay, but what do you do if you still want to pet the dogs?
The owners usually know their dog’s temperament and training level. If you ask to pet someone’s dog AND THEY SAY YES (this is also a prerequisite), then pet the dog. Don’t pet them too long. Don’t get in their faces or be rough. You are a total stranger to this animal. Animals need personal space to feel comfortable just like we do. Never. Never. Never just walk up to someone and start petting their dog. A perfectly calm dog can get freaked out in a matter of seconds if a stranger walks up to them and starts handling them. It seems like common sense to me now — but I have been the person that wanted to pet pretty dogs that I did not know.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
Do you want a dog or cat — but it isn’t the right time because you’re housing is temporary? Maybe you are a military family and you move every few years? –
Perhaps, you want a pet and you have the time to spend with them — but you aren’t really sure you can afford the pet (food, vet bills etc)?
Not sure how to pick a dog? You don’t really know what breed will be best for your family?
Maybe you have small children or a spouse and you are not sure how they will react and adjust around a pet and you don’t want to make a long-term commitment yet?
There is something that you can do. It is usually completely free and there is no long-term commitment…
You can foster dogs and cats. Pet rescue centers always need foster homes to save more animals. All ages, breeds and sizes end up in shelters and rescue centers. If you are not sure about breeds, you can foster different breeds to get a better idea about what different breeds are like. While breed plays a role in how a dog behaves, temperament and personalities will all be different. Training is extremely important in how well behaved a dog will ultimately be. Fostering a great way to get an idea of what it is like to bring a pet home without the commitment. As with anything related to live animals, there are always risks. Here are a few things to consider before signing up:
Animals that have been surrendered to shelters are often fearful because they do not understand why they just lost their families There is an adjustment period of days or weeks before you will see the animals true relaxed nature. Some have been abused or neglected and they will need extra care.
Many have received little to no training. Some may not be house-trained. You will probably want to do a little training to be able to enjoy having the dog in the house or go on a nice walk. You don’t have to be a trainer or have a lot of experience. When I adopted Betty, she was crate-trained and house-trained. She had a very sweet temperament but had not been exposed to many common things like bicycles, joggers, or ceiling fans. These things scared her at first. If you h ave trained pets previously, the training that you do with them can make them more adoptable and save them.
Most rescue organizations will provide food and medical care for the animals. Most will spay or neuter the animals. They usually also micro-chip the pets. These costs are usually covered by donations and the adoption fees of the people that adopt the animals.
The rescue group will have an idea regarding the pet’s temperament. If you are inexperienced, you can start with an “easy” foster pet. There are pets of all sizes and ages that need a safe place to stay while they are waiting for their forever people.
There are breed-specific rescue groups. If you have always wanted a certain breed — but have no experience with the breed, this is a wonderful way to get to know the breed while helping to save a life. I adopted my dog from a Border Collie Rescue group. Most breeds have similar groups nationwide within the United States.
Fostering may lead to adopting. You may foster an animal that captures your heart. This is your greatest risk. You may find one that you simply cannot give to someone else.
Fostering is a great way to have a pet temporarily. The more foster homes for animals in need, the more animals are saved.
Nikki was a Labrador Retriever puppy that was brought home by my ex-husband one day while we were still married. She was about 8 weeks old and super cute. He brought her home as a surprise. I love dogs and we didn’t have a dog because we both had agreed that we moved too much because of his job. A co-worker had told him that if he didn’t find a home for her that day that he would hit her in the head with a shovel and bury her in the woods. Of course we kept her. She became my dog very quickly. I fed her and trained her. I walked her. When our marriage started falling apart several years later, she was my companion. When he would yell at me or get angry, she would sit at my feet between us. She was protective of me. I loved her. After my divorce, I moved to California to be closer to family.
Nikki came with me. My ex wanted nothing to do with her. I went through a seriously depressing period in my life during that first year after I divorced. I was running out of money and I had a job that I worked 14 hour days with one day off per week. Nikki had been a house dog. I took a job a few hours away from family and Nikki stayed with my very pregnant daughter while I found a house to rent. Nikki joined me after a few weeks. She was stressed out from being left behind and all the changes. While I was at work the first day, she ate the metal mini blinds in the living room of the home that I was renting. I figured this out when I came home at lunch to check on her and let her out. I didn’t have a crate back then. People were just starting to take their dogs to doggy-day cares — but I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t even know about crates. I couldn’t tie her outside. I didn’t have a kennel. The backyard was not fenced completely. The second day she tried to eat her way out of the front door and damaged much of the door frame. I tried putting her in the backyard next and she ran away two days in a row. I had to leave work to get her from the local pound — twice. I had a terrible boyfriend at the time that was completely wrong for me. Dating too soon after my divorce was just one of many bad choices I made that year. The job didn’t work out. The boyfriend left (thank goodness). I ran out of money and I couldn’t afford my rent. My son had just joined the Navy. My daughter had just had her first baby and had moved to Washington with her husband that had just joined the Navy too. I had no friends or family that could or would take Nikki. I didn’t know where I was going to live or work. If I could have thought of ANY way to keep that dog, I would have kept her. Looking back, I probably should have stayed in California. I ended up moving back eight years later anyway. I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight back then though. But, at the time, I felt like my best choice was to move back to Arkansas where I knew people in the car business (my line of work at the time), and could afford the cheaper cost of living (my rent went from 2000 per month to 800 per month). I knew I could work there and afford it. I also knew that I would be living out of a very cheap hotel for the first couple of months and dogs were not allowed back then. I made the choice to find my dog another home. I hated the idea. I couldn’t think of any other way though. I found a lab rescue group and they took my dog. A week later, they told me that they had found a retired couple living near the beach that wanted Nikki. I still miss that dog. I still feel guilty about having to give her up. My children were mad at me. I was mad at myself. It wasn’t a decision that I made lightly for a dog that had been there for me for 7 years. I received a very kind letter from them telling me what a great well behaved dog she was and how happy they were to have her with pictures of their grandchildren playing on the beach with Nikki. I know that Nikki had a better life with them than she would have had with me post-divorce. So, when I hear about someone that has to make that choice, I go a little easier on them. Many people are very quick to judge anyone that says that they need to re-home their pet. I have been that person. It was not my first choice. It was my last resort. It was a terrible decision for me. It was the right thing for my dog though. I hope I never have to make a decision like that again. I am glad that there was a rescue group to help me. Five years later, when my circumstances had changed, and I could be a good pet owner again, I chose a rescue group for this reason. I have been on both sides of the rescue process. I don’t judge Betty’s former owner for surrendering her. He did the best thing for her if he could not care for her. I am thankful.
I wrote about estate planning yesterday. It started a conversation that I was not expecting. I did not realize that a growing trend is to be buried with your pet. In the last few years, laws have been changed in the UK and New York (among others) to allow the burial of cremated pet remains with human remains. Several articles have been written about this lately. On the surface, it seems like a sentimental notion. What is not mentioned is very dark in my opinion and was shared by friends that work in veterinarian offices across the country.
Do you know that people are putting directives in place to euthanize their healthy pets to be buried with them? Yes. You read that right. They are putting in their wills that when they die, to euthanize their pets so that they may be buried with their owners. Some of these people have older pets and believe that their animals are better off dead that with someone new. In fact, convenience euthanasia is common. Thankfully, not all veterinarians perform euthanasia on healthy pets. But, unfortunately, many do. The thinking is that if the owner wants their pets to die, at least they can die in peace rather than be possibly tortured and neglected by owners that are “stuck” with them. Animals are property by law in most areas. But, these stories are animal cruelty in my opinion. I have heard stories where a woman brought a cat to the office and was embarrassed that the cat had fleas so she requested euthanasia for the cat. Another had a puppy with a broken leg and couldn’t afford the medical bill so they requested euthanasia. It is no wonder that veterinarians have higher than average suicide rates.
Some veterinarians work with rescue groups and have the owners sign the pet over to them so they can coordinate with a rescue group to save the pet and place it with an adoptive family that can afford medical care. Many people refuse to place their pets up for adoption though. They would rather euthanize their pets than have them re-homed. I don’t understand this kind of “love”. I don’t want my pet killed so it can be buried with me. If I was unable to care for my pet and had no family or friends that could care for my pet, I would stipulate in my will that my pet be put up for adoption. Many seniors do not want a young active dog but would like to have a senior pet. I know when I get much older, I will not be able to handle a large active dog like I have now. I plan to have a dog in my family for as long as I can care for it properly. If the time ever comes that I cannot care for a dog in my home, I will find it another home. Things happen that are out of our control. We may have a dog that is aggressive or has behavior challenges that are beyond what we can handle. Thank goodness we have other options. There are trainers and rescue groups that are devoted to saving as many pet lives as possible. At some point, a pet may be too sick or injured to recover and euthanasia may be kinder and more merciful. If you can’t manage your pet or care for it, please try a rescue group before euthanasia if the pet is healthy. My birthday is this month. I am donating my birthday to Best Friend Animal Society. They are a group dedicated to saving the lives of as many animals as possible.
I don’t think that anyone gets a pet with the mindset of not being able to take care of the pet. Sometimes a pet turns out to be more than you can handle or dangerous. You can lose a job or home unexpectedly, get divorced, get sick or injured. Whatever the reason and in spite of good intentions, you may need to re-home a beloved pet. I don’t understand how you could have a healthy and balanced pet killed because you don’t want it to live with someone else though.
I met a new client this week that has had two strokes in the last six months. She wants someone to help guide her as she walks her dogs. Since her stroke, she has become blind and uses a walker. She didn’t want me to walk her dogs for her. She wanted someone to help her walk her dogs. But then she got sick again. She cancelled the walks. She was worried about what would happen to her dogs if she had to be hospitalized again. She is 60 years old and had been a nurse and was considered healthy prior to her strokes — not overweight, no diabetes, no diagnosed health issues. It got me thinking. How many people are ready to get sick? What happens to your pets?
My daughter wants my dog. She would take Betty from me now if I let her. She jokes about getting Betty in my will. I have always talked about the importance of making arrangements earlier rather than later so my kids are not afraid to speak of these things with me. I have recently moved and a few other things have changed so I need to update my will. I am not sick. I am healthy and have no reason to think that anything is going to happen to me. I think this is the perfect time to put my wishes down on paper and let my kids know what I want to happen “someday”. I also have a mother and grandmother alive that do not have wills. I am not looking forward to dealing with either of their estates eventually — so I understand that most people simply do not want to face their immortality. Here are a few of the reasons that I hear from family and friends that don’t have a will and what I say to them…
I don’t have anything. Maybe you don’t have much cash. But do you own a home, have kids, or pets? Do you want the state to decide in time what will happen to any of these? Do you want your kids to end up in foster care or with a relative that is not your choice to raise your children? What about your pets? Do you want them to end up in a shelter? Many older pets do not get adopted. I see pets posted regularly for adoption from owners that have become ill or deceased. Post stickers on your front door alerting first responders that you have pets. Keep a card in your wallet that says that you have pets at home alone. Have emergency numbers on this card. Give them a key so they can get into your home and feed, water, and let your pets out if you become hospitalized or worse. Please talk to your friends and relatives and figure out who wants to make your pets part of their family.
I can’t afford a lawyer. Maybe you don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on something that you don’t really want to do. Do you have $39? There are online forms that are state specific that can write a basic will for you. You can take the forms and get them notarized for about $10. For most people, a cheap will is still much better than no will.
I’m too busy. I’ll do it later. I’m healthy. This is a bad idea for most things. You know that this is a huge risk to put something so important off for another day. We never know when we will be too sick to handle this. My Grama cannot execute a will because she has dementia. We talked to her about it for years and she waited too long to get her affairs in order. The idea scared her and she never wanted to think about it. So, now, she is 94 years old, sick and we will have to deal with her estate without a will.
It won’t matter to me, I’ll be gone. Seriously? Thanks! You are getting socks for Christmas.
I know nobody wants to think about being gone or hurt. It isn’t a fun topic. I also know that if you get it handled, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. That is the great thing about handling it. You can just enjoy your day doing something else and know that if the worst happens, your family and friends know what you want.
Therapy dogs, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) Service Dogs, or family pets… Life is better with dogs. I think everyone should be allowed to have a dog live with them. If it was up to me, they would be allowed in all housing without an additional pet fee or pet rent. I don’t think you should have to have a mental health diagnosis to have an emotional support animal. I think we all benefit with dogs in our lives. I know some people have pet allergies or fears. This article is not about people that do not want a dog. I am talking about people that do want dogs. While, I am making my wish list, I would love to see affordable dog obedience classes offered at community centers and senior centers. For those that are confused about the different classifications, click here for definitions. It is important to know the legal difference between the classifications covered by the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). As a pet sitter, I meet all kinds of people. I know a stroke patient that can no longer walk her dogs. People with PTSD benefit greatly from the company of dogs. I have helped all sorts of people that travel frequently for work. I know firsthand how much dogs enrich the lives of their owners. We know that dogs are loyal and faithful.
I am blessed to have five generations of women living at the same time (shown in the photo below). I can see in my family how much a good dog can add to life at any age. My grand-daughters love to learn about dogs, my daughter loves to play with them, my mother loves the companionship, my grandmother still enjoys the comfort. Dogs are happy to be part of the family. In my family, most of us have dogs that we think of as family. We all love our dogs. How many of you have felt like your dog or cat is your only friend at least once in your life?
I live in Los Angeles and it is a very dog-friendly place. But, I have lived many places that were not dog-friendly at all. So, what can we do to help our animals be more welcome in even more public places (and at homes)?
Obedience train your dog. A well behaved dog is more pleasant to be around. This is true regardless of the size of your dog. Larger dogs are scarier to a lot of people so people tend to take training them more seriously. Small dogs need obedience training too. If your dog is reactive or aggressive, work with a trainer to minimize this behavior before you bring them around other dogs and people — especially dog parks.
Train your kids how to behave around dogs. Kids need to learn how to treat animals for their own protection as well as the animal’s safety.
Follow local animal laws. Leash your pet. Scoop the poop. People that believe these laws are for other people are the problem — not their pets. Even if your dog is friendly — follow the leash laws.
Avoid the scams. There are many scams out there to “register” ESAs. There is NO legal registration for ESAs. Scammers out there are taking your cash to “register” these animals.
Don’t lie about it. It makes it so much harder for people with genuine Service Dogs to travel when people try to pass off family pets as service dogs. Don’t be part of the problem. If you don’t legally need an animal to perform tasks for you, don’t pretend that you do. It is illegal and it is really wrong.
These few things can make living with pets easier and more pleasant for everyone. We owe it to our pets to do our part. They do so much for us.
How to curb excessive barking and keep the neighborhood peace.Does your dog bark at cats, people, other dogs, squirrels, boredom, or the washing machine? Maybe they just bark at people or other dogs while on a leash?There are too many things to list that a dog can and will bark at. What can we do about it?
The quick answer is that it depends. Dogs get noisy for a variety of reasons. How we solve the problem depends upon the reason the dog is barking in the first place. Here are a few of the main reasons that dogs get noisy and things you can do to help curb the noise:
Anxiety — Scared dogs can be noisy dogs. Many dogs experience separation anxiety, anxiety in new surroundings, or anxiety around new people. Dealing with the anxiety and desensitizing the dog to the source of the anxiety will usually diminish barking if it is a new habit. The longer the dog has been barking, the longer it will take to teach them a new response. The sooner you deal with it, the easier it will be.
Boredom — Bored dogs will sometimes bark (among other unwanted behaviors). Gone are the days that dogs must be left alone all day at home or alone in the backyard left to their own devices while you work. Doggy daycare, pet-sitters and dog walkers are everywhere now. Daily walks and playtime are good for the pet owners too. All work and no play makes for destructive and noisy behavior. Crating will often help to settle down a dog that has been crate trained.
Interesting creatures outside the window — If your dog goes crazy for squirrels or cats, an easy fix is to block windows or close off rooms while you are gone. Another popular way to manage this is to reward the dog for calm behavior around these critters. Have treats handy.
Reactivity/Over-stimulation — I won’t sugar coat this one. It can take a while to teach a dog how to be calm. It can be done — but it can take months (or even years) for some dogs. Lots of praise and rewards when the dog is quiet and calm are the way to go. Another popular method for dealing with reactivity is to play the engage/redirect game and to desensitize the dog to the stimulation. I care for a dog that lives next door to a small dog that is let out into the backyard a few times each day. Whenever the dog is let out, it runs out of the house yapping in delight. This has become something that my client dog can hear from anywhere in the yard and will run over to greet the neighbor dog by barking back. I have practiced with my client by teaching her the command “quiet” and rewarding her with high value treats for not barking. The client dog has already been taught to bark on command so it was not hard to teach her quiet. Obedience training in general will help calm a dog. I also practice obedience drills when the neighbor dog is outdoors to redirect the focus away from the barking neighbor.
Leash reactivity — If the reactivity is towards other dogs while out walking on a leash, the most common method to train for quieter walks is to maintain distance around other dogs and to reward quiet behavior, change directions and gradually shorten the distance. Again, this is easier in theory than in person. I have moved to a much busier metropolitan area and sometimes it is not possible to avoid other dogs. My progress with my own dog with this problem has been slower than I would like. My border collie is too friendly and she gets frustrated on a leash when she cannot greet people and dogs. She wants to be everybody’s new buddy. I had to stop letting strangers pet her because it caused too much stimulation and frustration for her. Many people want to pet the pretty dog. It just isn’t what is best for her training at the moment. We are still working on teaching her how to greet people and other dogs politely while on leash. Another thing that I have learned the hard way is that if you have two leash reactive dogs, DO NOT WALK THEM TOGETHER. They will feed off of each other’s energy and the barking will become exponentially worse. Work on the dogs individually. Walk them separately.
Attention seeking — If a dog is getting extra attention from barking and you yell at them to stop, they are getting what they want. Do not yell at a dog that is barking. They will just think that you are barking too. Ignore them until they stop. Once they are quiet and calm, praise and reward. Never praise or reward during the barking to distract them — unless you want more barking.
Guarding — Some dogs have issues with resource guarding and will bark to keep other dogs and people away from their resources. Working on desensitizing to whatever is triggering this will help. If it is food, hand feed the dog to help them understand that good things come from you and do not need to be guarded. If it is a person that they are guarding, teaching them to go to their mat, will help reduce guarding their people.
Keeping your dogs fairly quiet can be a legal concern in many cities such as Los Angeles where they can revoke your dog’s license, confiscate your animal and bar you from owning any animals for one year. If all else fails, some people have had success with ultrasonic anti-bark devices that emit a high pitch unpleasant to dogs when activated by barking. I have one of these at home and it worked on both animals in my home immediately. The first day, the dogs activated the device by barking at some dogs walking by the patio. Once the device was activated, the dogs stopped barking and looked around. Then they hid under the bed. They were skittish for the first few days — but quiet. After a week, the dogs acted normally and were still not barking. It did not teach the dogs to stop barking altogether. My dogs still gave me a little woof when they needed a potty break or wanted to play. They learned to bark softly instead of big crazy barks. My dog also barks much less in general now. When we are out and away from the device, she hardly barks at all. These do not work on all dogs and tend to work best for dogs that bark at home because the transmitters have an effective radius usually less than 35 feet. However, if you have tried everything else and your dog is still barking and you need to get it under control immediately, they are humane and worth a try. The sonic device and all the other training combined has taught her to bark much less. I don’t have any experience with bark collars so I can’t comment from personal experience regarding them. These tools are not a substitute for training. But, they can speed up the process. As with many other issues related to dogs, there isn’t one right way to fix the problem instantly for every dog. It can be time consuming and frustrating at times. Stick with it and be consistent. Give yourself a break if the first few things you try don’t work right away. It is a process…
The idea of a dog park is wonderful. Your dog gets to run around off-leash as nature intended with other dogs while getting much needed socialization with other dogs and people, plenty of exercise and new things to sniff. Ideally, only pleasant and healthy dogs will attend. What actually happens can be very different.
Here are things to keep in mind before you go to your local dog park:
Is your dog healthy? If you have a dog with a compromised immune system or an illness, you really shouldn’t be going to a dog park. This seems like commonsense to me. But, when I was at a local dog park in Los Angeles last week, there was an owner that brought his dog to the park with a very nasty looking eye infection. The eye was oozing and the dog could not see out of the eye. When other dogs were on his bad side, the dog became frightened and then defensively aggressive. This dog did not need extra playtime. He needed to heal. The owner said that it was not contagious — but 50/50 on whether or not he would lose vision in the infected eye. I personally did not want my healthy curious dog anywhere near that dog. Any time that you bring your dog in contact with other dogs, you risk illness. Dog parks are for healthy dogs. Make sure your dog is current on all recommended vaccines. Consult your vet if you are not sure. Many parks do not allow dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. In California, it is the law that dogs must be neutered or spayed to be at any public dog park.
Does your dog get along well with other dogs? Tell the truth. Has your dog been in a fight or bitten another dog? Do not be that person that feigns shock when you dog starts a fight for the first time — except people recognize you and it happens weekly. Please. Just. Don’t. Is your dog frightened of other dogs? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, try a play-date with a dog you know that your dog likes. A dog attack is not worth the risk. As the owner, you will be liable. If your dog is the victim, it can cause additional behavioral issues with any dog — especially with a dog that is already timid. If your dog needs to be muzzled, he should not be brought to a dog park. This will be extremely stressful and potentially dangerous to the muzzled dog. When you arrive, take you dog for a short walk to help them calm down a bit. Most parks have an enclosed entry area with double sets of gates. These are to give your dog a chance to sniff around and calm down before you open the second gate. Give them a minute or two to relax before entering the main park.
Can you watch your dog and supervise their behavior or do you have a “dogs will be dogs” attitude? Nobody want to see you texting or surfing Facebook while your dog humps every dog in the park and jumps on every person. If you cannot supervise and control your dog, please do not bring them. It is not cute. Perfection is not required and probably not possible. Just watch your dog. A dog should have some basic manners before going to the dog park. Again, you will be liable for injury if your dog jumps on someone and hurts them (think about the elderly and children).
While we are mentioning children, dog parks are for dogs. Babies and toddlers can be hurt very quickly at a busy dog park. Some dogs love to play with other dogs but will chase small children and bark at them. Herding dogs are notorious for this. Children (and adults) that are afraid of dogs will attract barking dogs. It is not a good idea. If you want to help your kids be comfortable around dogs, that is wonderful and I wholeheartedly encourage it. Start smaller. Find a friend, neighbor or family member with a good dog and introduce your child to them. Any older child that enters the dog park, should know how to be safe around strange dogs. They should not run or scream around strange dogs. They should be supervised at all times. I have a border collie that naturally wants to herd. She has been taught how to behave around my small grandchildren that do not scream or dart around her. If I see a bunch of little kids running around making a lot of noise, I can’t bring her into the dog park. I won’t risk her getting too excited by the kids and playing too rough. The next person may not be as diligent.
Does the dog park have faucets or water for the dogs? All that running around and playing can make a pup thirsty. Communal water can be filthy and harbor disease. Bring your own bowl and fill it with fresh clean water. Keep your dog from playing in stagnant water.
Is the park secure? I always walk the perimeter checking for holes in the fence that a dog could use to escape. I also look for weeds growing in the grass called fox-tails. These can injure paws and get lodged to the point of infection. Are there tricky potholes that a dog could get hurt running through? If the park is not safe, you are better off taking your pooch for a nice walk.
Is there dog poop everywhere? It can breed disease. You must scoop your dog’s poop everywhere public- even at the dog park. It’s the law in most places these days.
Is the park too big? Will your dog come when you call? I prefer smaller parks because my dog doesn’t tire quickly and although she will come when called, she really doesn’t want to leave the park at times. A over-sized park can make it very difficult to capture your dog if they are not ready to go home.
Ultimately, the decision is yours to make whether or not the dog park is right for your dog. I think they can be wonderful for some dogs and terrible for others. I have a very social active dog that loves the parks. I enjoy meeting the other owners. I always put my dog’s safety first. If something seems dangerous or risky, we leave. We can all make it a better experience by using some commonsense and courtesy. We might even make some great new dog loving friends.
Dogs that have been crate-trained in a positive manner often learn to love crates. We would hate them so many people that have not trained their dogs in crates cannot believe that dogs would actually like this. But, they love them.
Years ago, I didn’t know anybody that crate-trained their pets. I had never used one. It seemed cruel to me at the time. I thought of it like caging my animal. It seemed to be a type of jail. I couldn’t imagine doing that to my family pet. I wish I had! A couple of years ago, I got Betty, my border collie. She was a year old and had been crate-trained by her foster family at the Border Collie rescue group. I didn’t think I needed a crate though. Well, I brought Betty home that first day and she was scared. She was pacing and nervous. She did not settle down at bedtime. I tried putting her in the bathroom because she was not completely potty-trained and I didn’t have any pens or crates yet (I didn’t realize I was bringing her home that first night. I thought I was just going to meet her.). She cried all night. She scratched. She chewed things. What had I gotten myself into? I tried letting her in the bed with me and she wanted to sit on my head. It was a rough first night. The next day at work, I was talking to a co-worker that had crate-trained his dogs. He offered me the use of a spare crate. It was the right size. I accepted the offer after he told me a little more about it. That night, I brought the crate home and set it up. Betty went right in and settled down. What just happened? I couldn’t believe it. She had terrible nightmares the first few months, so I closed the doors and she never had a problem with it. I was learning. She slept well in her crate. So, I started reading up on crate-training. I learned that dogs actually like a private den-like space to relax in. Wolves sleep in dens in the wild and dogs, like their ancestors, enjoyed a nice cozy sleeping spot. I found that she settles down in her crate and will go in it to relax when she needs some space. Here are a few things that I learned as I explored this whole crate-training thing for Betty:
Get the right size. A crate should be large enough for the dog to walk into, turn around and lie down easily. A larger crate won’t feel as cozy to a dog and a smaller size will be too cramped. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep. A crate will make potty-training much easier. A blanket or crate cover helps make it even more private and den-like. You can find crates at pet stores or online easily. Great places to get a crate at a good price are garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. There are also a lot of great designs to camouflage the crates and make them look more like furniture. I love looking for ideas like this on Pinterest.
Find the right bedding. My Betty runs hot and doesn’t like anything too fluffy. I bought a beautiful, expensive crate mat when I purchased her crate (I had to return the borrowed crate). I heard Betty pushing the mat around at night. Betty ate the mat when she couldn’t scrape it to the side one day while I was at work. She also ate a very lovely dog bed. It was about a year before she stopped eating beds. Some of the dogs that I boarded would bring their own crates and mats. One of my customers had the great idea to use a small area rug instead of a crate mat. Betty kept going into this pet’s crate when he visited us. So I put a fluffy microfiber bath mat in her crate. It was a perfect fit and Betty didn’t eat it. This was washable too. Find what your pet likes.
Location matters. An ideal spot for a crate is quiet and not too hot and not too cold. I keep Betty’s crate in my room near me. I don’t close the door anymore and she can spend a little time with me when we first go to sleep. She always goes back to her crate to really get some good sleep though. In the beginning, I closed the doors at bedtime and when I would go to work. She loves the spot by the patio door at my mom’s house even better with her crate by the fresh air.
Start slow. I was fortunate that someone else had already exposed Betty to a crate. A dog that has never been in a crate won’t take to it instantly. Start by having the crate in the room and putting them in for short times. Gradually increase the time.
Good things happen in the crate. Many people give special treats and toys that the dog only gets while in the crate. Many people feed their dogs in their crates. I save messy chews for the crate.
No punishment in the crate. Do not ever use the crate as a time out spot. You do not want the dog to associate the crate with punishment. You want the dog to want to go into the crate.
No kids in the crate. The crate is the dog’s sanctuary. Teach your kids that the dog needs a spot to have quiet time.
A crate is a safe place. If you have an ill or injured dog, a crate keeps the pet calm and contained. If you have a chewy or destructive pet, the crate keeps your furniture and home safe. It also keeps the pet from ingesting things that it should not. Thunderstorms and fireworks frighten most dogs. A crate is a nice safe cozy place for them to wait out these scary events. When I visit family I bring Betty’s crate. It comes in handy to keep her out of places that she doesn’t belong and away from kids or pets that become overwhelming. Most of my family has pets so it was nice to have a crate handy when introducing Betty to new canine family members. Betty was happy to go into her crate when we were teaching the kids to be gentle and unafraid of dogs as well as desensitizing her to small children.
If you ever need to board your dog, being crate-trained will reduce the anxiety of boarding because kennels and most private pet-sitters and boarders will crate your pet at bedtime at a minimum. Being able to separate animals into crates will also keep them safer. Many pet-sitters prefer crate-trained pets. There is always a risk of injury if the animal is allowed to roam at night because they are unsupervised while the humans are sleeping and can get into things. If there are other dogs present, fights can occur. I am not boarding animals currently -but when I did, I never allowed pets from different households to roam freely together at night. It was far too risky for the pets and my furniture. I have a client that I pet-sit that enjoys having Betty come provide companionship during our visits. I bring Betty’s crate for overnight sleeping. She sleeps better and doesn’t roam the house. I can sleep better know both dogs are safe while I sleep.
Not every dog will “love” their crate. Some rescued dogs that were abused and crated will have negative associations with crates. I do believe that every dog should have one available for emergencies and to keep them confined as is sometimes needed when injured or recuperating from an illness or injury. Having them acclimated to a crate ahead of time will reduce the stress of being crated.