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.”
Are you, or is someone you know terrified of dogs? Do dogs single you out and bark at you? Lunge at you? Do you have kids that are afraid of dogs and want to help them know how to behave around dogs to be safer? People often say that dogs can smell fear. I don’t know about that. But, I do know that there are common things that people afraid of dogs do when approached by a dog that I can spot every time. These fearful movements trigger barking and lunging in many dogs.
I live in a crowded area that is very dog friendly. Even so, not every neighbor loves dogs. Some are visibly terrified of dogs. This body language is very clear to me and startling as well. I can only imagine how it seems to a dog that is much more attuned to pay attention to body language. This behavior scares many dogs. . Many children are also very fearful of dogs. Being aware of your own body language can really help improve how dogs react to you and your kids if you are afraid of dogs.
When you see a dog on a leash, do you stop suddenly with a terrified look often accompanied by a sudden gasp for air and throwing your hands up while staring at the dog. People actually do this. Don’t. Instead, when you see a dog and you are startled or overcome with fear, turn around and go the other direction if the dog is leashed and walking with it’s owner. Or, if you have enough room to pass without the dog lunging at you, keep walking normally.
If the dog is off-leash, back away without turning your back on the dog. If the dog approaches you off-leash, yell “no”, do not run. Do not turn your back on the dog. Teach your children to be a tree and to yell “no” to the dog. Breathe normally. Do not stare at the dog. Look away. Staring at a dog is aggressive as far as the dog is concerned. Create some distance from the dog if you can.
Do not run or cycle closely by a dog from behind. You do not want to startle a dog. If you must pass a dog and dog owner, call out and let them know that you are passing (on the left is the standard side to pass). Give them as much room as possible. If you cannot pass at a safe distance, wait until you have enough distance to pass comfortably. Teach your children to not dart past dogs and teach them to give a safe distance.
When you pass someone walking a dog, do you pass tentatively while staring? Tentative, abnormally slow walking while staring gets a dog’s attention. It is aggressive body language to dogs. Don’t move like you are stalking a dog. Keep moving normally. Don’t stare. Keep a safe distance. This happened to me during my morning walk this morning. A young boy came running around a corner and practically ran into us. I kept my dog calm. That was our first “win”. Then there boy jumped up the nearby stairs, stopped abruptly and leaned over the rails to stare at us. My dog tensed up immediately in response to his unusual movements. Don’t do this. Teach your kids how to be safe around dogs.
Do you or your kids shriek when you see a dog? If you think about it, that is pretty scary to a dog. Please don’t shriek. I have been walking my dog minding my own business with a calm dog as someone saw us, got startled and started shrieking. Of course, my dog reacts to this with barking and lunging. If you or your kids are so scared that you want to scream, please cross the street or go far around us.
Do you take small fearful children to the dog park? I see this happen. Don’t do it. Dog parks are for dogs. They are not for small children or people that are obviously afraid of dogs.
If you see someone walking their dog on a retractable leash while texting, do not pass closely. Retractable leashes break and give a dog too much room. It can take too long to regain control of the dog. The owner may not have enough time to pull their dog back in if they are oblivious to their surroundings. This is common behavior with retractable leashes. About 1% of the people using them are safely doing so.
I believe that dog owners are responsible to keep their dogs under control and as well behaved as possible. Dogs should be leashed in public for their safety and the safety of others unless they are at an off-leash park, private property, or are a highly trained service dog that is working. But, dogs sometimes escape their yards or owners. They shouldn’t — but it does happen. If you are afraid and can be aware of the message that you send to dogs through your body language, you can help reduce the risk of being attacked with these tips.
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Do you have a dog that is potty trained “most” of the time? Maybe it “hides” accidents sometimes? Thinking about rescuing an older dog? Or do you have a new puppy and you want to potty train them correctly from the start?
Let me tell you a story about a relative of mine. She loves her dog. She takes care of him the best way that she know how to care for him. She would never do anything to intentionally harm him. She has sort of potty trained him to go on pee pads sometimes. He has some accidents — a lot of accidents. Sometimes she says it is because his stomach is upset. Or “he hardly ever does that. I just don’t know what got into him.” I do! HE ISN’T POTTY TRAINED. She has never had a dog that was completely potty trained and she doesn’t really know how or why. You can’t train a dog if you don’t know how. If you have a dog that is not quite trustworthy or even a dog that is not trained at all, the process of getting them trained is the same:
Decide whether you want your dog to pee/poop inside the house or outside. If you want your dog to think it is okay to go potty inside the house, you can go ahead with pee pads. If you want your dog to go potty outside, DO NOT USE PEE PADS AT ALL. Pee pads teach a dog that it is okay to go potty indoors. Do not use pee pads as a drop cloth and hope you will figure out where the next mistake is going to occur. You can put down pee pads in every room and the dog will go somewhere else anyway. The dog I mentioned did just that. She had pee pads in every bedroom and the dog went poo SIX times in the dining room without letting anybody know that he even wanted out. It was normal poo. He was not sick. She cleaned it up and took him on a long walk. Then once they were home, he went in the dining room and did it again! Not once did he use a pee pad. I do not want my dog using any part of my house as a toilet so I will only include how to teach your dog how to go outside. This is not a judgement. It is your dog. You can teach it whichever way suits your lifestyle best. If you don’t mind having your dog poo and pee wherever and whenever he/she wants, then by all means, don’t bother potty training them. In the interest of full disclosure, I prefer dogs peeing and pooping outside so that is what I can share and help to teach. I have never taught a dog to go potty indoors. I feel that using pee pads some of the time is confusing to dogs if you want them to go potty outdoors most of the time. Don’t confuse your dog.
Tethering your dog to you will also speed up the process. You can easily tether your dog to you by fastening their leash to your waist or a belt loop. This is especially effective for dogs that seem to go unexpectedly or “right in front of you”. If your dog starts sniffing around, it is easier to notice if they are tethered to you. If your dog starts to sniff around, scoop it up and take it outside. If it starts to go potty, scoop it up and take it outside. Yes, this can be messy. Don’t wait for them to finish. Do not scold, yell, swat, or smack them. DO NOT RUB THEIR NOSE IN IT. NO ROLLED UP NEWSPAPER. Those old methods that our parents used have been proven to not be the most effective. You will end up with a dog that is frightened to go potty around you and they will be more likely to hide going potty under tables or they won’t want to go potty while with you on a walk. Don’t shame your dog. This is not their fault. It is your responsibility to train your dog to know how to behave. If you don’t know how, here is some help. Here is an article from UC Davis that talks about the negative effects of punishment on dogs and why positive methods yield better results.
Clean up accidents with a good enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle that removes the scent completely. Masking the scent is not enough. Do not make a big fuss when you are cleaning it up. Try to clean it up when the dog is not looking if possible. Ammonia based cleaners will attract more accidents. Vinegar is often recommended but I have had mixed results with using vinegar. Use a good enzyme cleaner for best results. Nature’s Miracle is a favorite of pet sitters and it is easy to find.
Take your dog out frequently (every couple of hours at first) and take them where you want them to go potty. Praise them and give them treats when they go. Walk them long enough. Many people do everything right except they shorten the duration of the walks. Huge mistake. An extra 5 or 10 minutes can make all the difference.
If you are going to just let your dog out in the backyard, will have to watch them carefully to make sure that they have gone potty and not just played around in the yard. I like to take mine out on a leash to the potty area first. I unleash them for play after I know they have gone potty when I am training them to go potty outside. That way I know that they have done their business.
If your dog is trying to get your attention, do not assume that they want to play or are just restless. They may be trying to let you know that they need to use the toilet. I have made this mistake with my own dog. She often seems overly friendly when she has to go potty.
If you want your dog to let you know that they need to go potty in a more obvious way, you can teach them toring a bell to go out.
Be consistent and patient. Your dog’s success will be directly related to your willingness to be consistent.
Don’t make excuses and live in denial. Either your dog is potty trained or they aren’t. If a dog is sick and can’t hold it, that is something that needs to be addressed. UTIs, parasites and upset stomachs happen. Always rule out medical conditions first.
If you have a puppy and are starting from scratch, this is not going to take very long. I have potty trained puppies in a few days. Older dogs that have been allowed to have accidents, have used pee pads, or have not been trained will take longer because they will have bad habits to overcome. The longer you wait and the more you let it slide, the longer it will take for your dog to learn the correct way to go potty. As long as the dog is healthy and has no medical or psychological conditions that cause incontinence, they can and will learn. They are not bad dogs. They just need proper effective training. Eddy, I am talking to you!!
Do you ever worry about your pets being caught in a house fire? Here are a few ways to be more prepared in case a home fire:
Have leashes by the door and spares by crates. Many people are afraid to leave pets in a crate while they are away from home because they worry about a pet being trapped during a fire. During a fire, animals often hide under beds and are too terrified to try to escape. Their chances of being rescued are actually greatly improved by being crated when you are not home. Place crates near windows or doors to make rescuing pets faster and easier. Let your neighbors know that you have pets.
Also put a sticker on your doors and on the window nearest the crates location stating that you have pets that need saving in case of fire. It will be much quicker if the animals are easy to find. Sometimes there is not a lot of time.
Always have your pet wear a tag with your information clearly stated and also micro-chip your pets in case they lose their collars during the disaster.
Desensitize your pets to noise, other people and other dogs. This is especially true when you are dealing with rushing crowds of frightened people, sirens, flashing lights, and other pets.
Have first-aid kit, bowls, dog and people food and a few gallons of water for both you and your pet near the door and in your car. In the summertime, the car can get really hot and heat up plastic to levels that will leach into water so make sure the bottles are BPA free.
Keep a copy of important personal documents handy near exits in a grab and go folder with originals in a fire-proof box in addition to veterinary records for pets.
Make sure to have flashlights with good batteries in your car.
Teach dogs that the car is a safe place to relax. It provides separation from crowds and emergency vehicles if the commotion is just too overwhelming for your pet.
Teach a good heel. You don’t want to worry about losing your pet during a disaster. Teaching a good heel and recall can save your pet’s life.
I also keep a small sleeping bag, tent, and camp axe in my trunk. I also always have a gym bag with spare clothes in my trunk.
Keep you cellphone charged and keep a charger in your car.
Never let your gas tank go below half empty in case of emergency evacuation.
Always have some cash on hand hidden away.
Oh and I almost forgot, keep some decent clothes nearby if you sleep in the buff. Have some shoes near your bed too. You don’t want to run out of a burning house with little or nothing on!
Home fires are devastating. Being prepared will not undo the loss of a home or personal belongings. Hopefully, it can help save lives.
It was a day like any other in the summer of 2007. I got home early (around 7;30) and was greeted by my dog with her same happy attitude that she always had. I loved coming home to her. I poured her dinner from the kibble bag and went to check the mailbox. Something odd caught my attention when I looked at my dog. She seemed uncomfortable and really BIG.
When did that happen? HOW did that happen. I was stunned for a second. Then, after shaking the confusion out of my head, I realized that she was in real trouble. I just didn’t know what had happened. I called the Vet. They were closed. I called the emergency dog clinic and described the very strange symptoms: Huge belly (like watermelon size), panting, whale eyes, obvious discomfort, pacing, and reddish gums. I was instructed to hang up and rush her to the clinic. She was 90 lbs and I was home alone with her. I hoped she could walk. She could — but barely. When I arrived, we we taken to the back immediately and I was asked to wait outside. I was told that she had Gastric-Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)-more commonly known as bloat. What was this? I had never heard of this before. Basically, it is when the stomach twists and can cut off circulation and kill the animal very painfully.They tubed her and were hoping for the best. Surgery during the night might be needed if the tubing didn’t work. They told me that the bill could be $3500 and she might not survive. Did I still want to proceed? I had a commission check in my purse for that exact amount. Yup. I wanted to take a chance and try to save her. So, I went home with a lot of anxiety and questions. I started trying to figure out what I did wrong. Here is what I discovered are the things that put your dog at risk for bloat:
While bloat can occur in any dog, large deep chested dogs are more at risk for bloat. (Nikki was large and had a deep chest)
Rapid eating or drinking. Have you ever had a Labrador that didn’t eat as fast as they could? They make puzzle bowls to slow them down. (Nikki always ate too fast)
Eating one large meal per day. This was the accepted feeding recommendation for adult animals when I had Nikki. Most recommend twice per day feedings nowadays.
A dry food only diet. (Her food was dry)
Heavy exercise after a meal (she didn’t have time to run around after that meal)
Anxious or stressed-out personality. (yup for Nikki)
Abnormal gastric motility (genetics)
Hormone secretions (genetics again)
Male gender (My dog was a female and it still happened)
Being underweight (My dog was not underweight)
Advanced age (not in our case)
Nikki did not have all of these. She did have #1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. She could have had #7 and 8 without my knowledge.
I was lucky. The tube that they used to untwist her stomach worked. They did not need to do surgery. They warned me that once a dog has bloat, they are prone to have a repeat episode. Nikki never had another episode of bloat. We were very fortunate. I could afford her care at the time and she recovered. Many people cannot afford the vet bill and dogs die from this. I hope you never see what this looks like first-hand. Know the symptoms though. Take precautions where possible. Taking quick action can mean the difference between life and death to your dog. All of the pictures in this article were taken after Nikki recovered.
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.
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.
I am a pet sitter. As a pet sitter and a dog owner, my first priority is the safety of the pets in my care. I connect with many other pet sitters and I hear of sad stories every single week about dogs that have become injured or have escaped a yard because someone left a door or gate open. The saddest of the stories are the accidental deaths that occur: the dogs that run out a door and into the street, the dogs that run away and are lost forever, the dog that slips out of a loose collar while walking, the poor dogs that fall into a pool and are not discovered in time to be saved, and the list goes on. How can you keep your pet safer at home, when visiting family and friends, or leaving your pet with a sitter?
First off, let’s examine the potential dangers and ways to prevent a tragedy:
Escaping the yard or front door — This happens far too frequently. If you have a dog that wants to dart out of the front door or backyard, teaching the dog to wait and not bolt is the best choice for when they are home. However, if you are dropping your dog off at a different location, assume that your pet will have some anxiety initially about being in a strange place and is much more likely to try to escape. When you meet the sitter, do they have baby gates blocking the front door? How do they handle drop-offs and pick-ups? Do they separate multiple dogs to minimize the chance of an escape with crates or kennels? How many people live in the home? Do they have gardeners, housekeepers or others that might let your dog escape? Are there kids in the home that might be more likely to leave a door open? Is there a doggy door? It is harder to keep track of dogs if they can come and go as they please. For this reason, I am not a huge fan of doggy doors. Not to mention, I have seen videos online of coyotes following small dogs into homes. Is the backyard securely fenced? Are the gates solid and locked? When you meet a potential sitter or visit a friend, walk the perimeter of the yard and look for any places where a dog could escape. Will the sitter ever allow the animals alone in the yard unattended? An anxious dog will look for ways to escape. A visiting dog should never be left outside alone or with other dogs unattended — not even for 5 minutes. Is the fence high enough to avoid a dog from jumping over the fence? How about squeezing under the fence? Can they easily dig their way under the fence? Small dogs can and do escape through some very small holes. It happens all the time.
Swimming pools — Will the dog have access to a swimming pool? Is the dog a great swimmer?Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good swimming dog can be fine in a pool alone. Dogs that are great swimmers can and do drown. If the dog has a seizure or some other medical event while swimming, if no one is there to scoop them out, they will drown. Can the dog find the stairs? If they can’t get out of the pool, they will tire eventually and still drown.
Predators — Birds of prey and coyotes are in many neighborhoods now. They don’t just pick up dogs out of backyards in the movies. I live in Los Angeles and we have urban coyotes pluck small dogs from their yards weekly — and it is increasing.
Poisoning — Dogs can easily get into things that are dangerous. Your neighbors may have a rodent problem. Rat poison and antifreeze are both highly poisonous to dogs. If your dog captures a poisoned mouse or rat, they can consume a fatal amount of poison. Many fertilizers are also lethal. A garage can be a very dangerous place.
Theft — There are evil people out there that will steal or poison an animal left in the yard unattended. I have a friend that had her dog stolen from her front yard this year while she was standing there! A few weeks ago, a handyman that I met at a client’s home lost his dog to poisoning. He suspected a neighbor’s kids. Watch for any unusual activity or people. Cameras have gained a lot of popularity for this very reason.
I wish that I was being overly cautious — but I am not. Dogs are dying too often because we are not being careful enough with their surroundings. Our animals trust us to keep them as safe as possible. We would do just about anything to keep them from harm. It hurts my heart every time that I see another post on Facebook or the local news about a dog that was accidentally hurt or killed because someone thought a dog could be safe in a yard. Everyone that has experienced this says the same things, “It happened so fast” or “I only left them alone for a minute.” Don’t be afraid that you will offend a pet sitter by asking too many questions. Any professional pet sitter will want to keep your pet safe above all else. If their yard or home doesn’t seem safe, get someone else. Accidents do happen. Let’s prevent as many as we can and be ready for the ones that we cannot prevent. If you move to a new location, get recommendations for a new Veterinarian. Locate the closest 24-Hour Veterinarian Emergency Clinic. Take a First Aid/CPR course for pets. Prepare a first-aid kit for your pet (and your people). I keep mine in a backpack in my car. It is amazing how handy it can be to be prepared. I am a strong believer that many accidents can be prevented or minimized with some good preparedness and constant vigilance.
More dogs run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. Fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud explosive noises are terrifying to many dogs. About ten years ago, I had a golden Lab named Nikki. She was a great, easy-going dog most of the time.
The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I love fireworks, summertime, picnics, and barbeques. I decided with my family to go see fireworks out on the Arkansas river from our fishing boat to celebrate the holiday. We loved taking Nikki with us on the boat and she always enjoyed a nice boat trip too. We spent the day fishing and swimming. It was perfect until the sun went down and the fireworks started. My poor normally calm dog, panicked. She desperately wanted to escape the boat and the exploding fiery sky. She tried to crawl into any hiding space that she could find. She tried to create hiding spaces. She was panting heavily and trembling. We had made a huge mistake subjecting her to fireworks. We had no idea that she would react so badly. We probably should have thought it through better — but we didn’t. She was fine around shooting, thunder and lightning so we thought it would be okay. We were wrong. If we had not been on a boat, she would have bolted. I hated seeing her so frantic while knowing that it was completely my fault and could have been easily prevented. I should have left her at home where there were no fireworks going off in our neighborhood.
I have a border collie now named Betty that is afraid of thunderstorms. I rescued her when I lived in Arkansas where there are frequent storms. She trembles and hides under the bed or in her coveredcrate until the storm has passed. Her fear is not nearly to the same level of panic that Nikki had during fireworks. Still, this is not a dog that I would take out in public on the Fourth of July. Because fear of fireworks and thunder is so common among dogs, I would not recommend taking any dog out to enjoy fireworks. As much as we may love fireworks, we have learned to love them. Fire in the sky is what dogs see. It is unreasonable and unfair to your poor dog to think they will share your love of fireworks. I learned this the hard way. Some dogs can be destructive when fear turns into panic. Betty gets crated if we are having a storm. If my neighbors decide to set off fireworks, I will put her in her crate to keep her safe. Her level of fear can be managed with these simple precautions.
For some dogs, this is not enough. There are several other things you do to try to help calm dogs that are extremely fearful during storms and fireworks and to keep them safe:
Crate train your pet. A crate can be calming to a dog that is already accustomed to being in a crate. It can also prevent your pet from running away or becoming destructive.
Thunder-shirts help calm dogs in the same way that swaddling comforts babies.
Calming collars are infused with naturally calming smells like lavender.
Turning the television or music on low helps drown out some of the scary noises.
Placing the dog in a quiet room (preferably in a crate).
Giving the dog treats during storms and other loud noises can help improve the association that they have with storms and ultimately help desensitize them.
Make sure your pet has a collar with your current information should they become lost. Make sure they always wear a tag on their collar with your phone number on it.
Microchip your pet. If they lose their collar -or someone takes it off, a vet or shelter can still determine how to get your pet back to you. Make sure that your microchip info is up to date. If your pet is already micro-chipped, have your vet check by scanning your pet during your regular exams to be certain that the chip has not migrated out of your pet. This can happen! My Betty was micro-chipped by the rescue group before I got her. When I took her for her first vet visit, the vet could not locate the chip, so we chipped her again. The vet explained that sometimes the chips do work their way out of pets.
Know your pet. Building trust is calming to a pet. Do not expose them to more than they can handle like I did with my old Lab. Most dogs, even if they are trained to tolerate fireworks, will not actually enjoy the festivities like we do. I hope you and your family (and pets) have a very happy Fourth of July.
More bad news… Anybody that promises you that if you follow their advice, your dog will be completely trained in a few months is, more likely than not, lying to you. Yes, we have all seen the puppies that are a few months old and seem to be completely trained. I don’t have one of those dogs. And, you probably don’t either.
Don’t get me wrong. Someday, I hope Betty will be much closer to a perfectly well-behaved dog. I do train with her most days and she has made wonderful progress when I compare her now to what she was like when I first brought her home 18 months ago. Her first year of life was spent being ignored in a backyard and escaping that same backyard. She has a typical rescue dog story. Too much work and energy for her previous owners to handle.
I met Betty when she was 11 months old. She has always been sweet-tempered. But, she had not been exposed to very many things so she was reactive to most noisy common things. Babies crying, small children running, bicyclists, skate boarders, cars, other dogs on leash, leashes, and collars were scary things. She also barked at coffee pots and ceiling fans. She had terrible nightmares every night. During these nightmares, she would bark ferociously in her sleep. I got her a crate. This helped her as she was already used to this from being in the shelter. We worked on potty training. She learned basic commands so quickly that I thought I had a genius on my hands. She learned all the basic obedience commands the first week that I brought her home. She dug holes in the yard with true passion. She jumped up on every person she met with exuberance. She barked — like a fiend some days. She tied herself up in curtains after months of being good in the house and chewed up a windowsill trying to free herself. I kept training her. After about 9 months of exposing her to new things and training her at home, she had overcome many of her initial fears. She was really great at home and with low distractions. It was time to up the distractions. We signed up for group classes. We have been taking group classes for about 6 months off and on now. We took some time off during a major move. The training never stopped though. She is a pretty great dog nowadays — not perfect yet though. I spent a lot of time training my grandchildren how to be calm around dogs and they are a large part of the reason that Betty is great around kids now. We have done a ton of training at parks full of kids playing. We started far away and have gotten closer and closer.
I know that I am on the right track with Betty. I also know that it takes time to work out the kinks. She still pulls a little (sometimes a lot) when we go for walks. We go on four walks per day on average. She still is leash-reactive if you walk your dog too close to us. If I pull to the side to give you room to pass, that is not a cue to come over and say hello to us. If she was in a backyard or at the dog park off-leash, she would not bark at you or your dog at all. She doesn’t dig anymore. She doesn’t bark at home unless she has a good reason. She might still jump on you if you greet her with an excited voice. So, please be calm. Don’t tell me that it is okay for her to jump on you as you pet her. I am training her to not jump on anybody and you are making it take longer. I will try to step on her leash and keep her from jumping up on you in the first place if you insist on greeting her. I am trying to teach her that she doesn’t get to greet everyone. So if she is already worked up and you ask to pet her and I say no… it is not about you. She is in training. If you greet her calmly, she will sit (most of the time) and wait for you to pet her. You can bike past her and skate past her now. She can watch your kids playing at the park and not bark. Yes, I work with dogs full time. I love what I do. No, my dog is not perfect and may never be. I know that people will judge my skills with animals based on the manners of my own dog. After all, Betty is the face of my brand. The one thing she has always mastered is making me smile. Please go easy on us if you think she should be better after all these months. We have come a really long way already.