Thursday, September 27, 2018

Little Dogs

Someone asked me yesterday if I like little dogs. I thought this was so funny.  I mean, why wouldn't I like little dogs?  The person asking said that they always see pictures of me with my collies, so they figured that I must be a "big dog person." At this point I decided to quote my late mother, saying "It's not that I don't like (little) dogs, it's that I like well-behaved (little) dogs." For me, it isn't the size of the dog that is important to whether they melt my heart or not. It's their behavior.  Well-behaved dogs always make me swoon, regardless of size.  I will say, however, that there are many benefits to loving little dogs.  They fit better on your lap and don't make your legs and feet fall asleep when they lay there.  They only take up one seat in the car.  They can be scooped up and carried in a shoulder bag when they get tired of walking. They can be bathed in a sink.  These are just a few benefits that come to mind.  My collies are happy to sit on your lap, but your feet will tingle if you sit there too long.  And don't get me started on the amount of space they take up in a car.  I think Desi truly wishes I would carry him when he gets tired on walks.  Baths at home? Not happening with my collies.

I think the bigger issue is that some little-dog-owners don't feel the need to make their pint-sized pets behave.  They allow them to jump on people, lunge and bark on leash, and snap at passersby from their handbags.  None of that is okay, regardless of the size of the dog.  However, a large dog jumping up, lunging, barking, or snapping at people walking by is going to get noticed a lot faster and receive a lot more negative commentary from the public around them.  It's just a fact.  We really shouldn't make excuses for inappropriate behavior in any dog.  As dog owners, we need to just own up to the fact that our dogs jump up, sniff crotches, or whatever it is that they do.  And know that these problems can and should be fixed in any sized dog. Need help? Just ask!

So, yes, I do like little dogs. In fact, there are some little dogs who simply turn me to mush with their overwhelming cuteness. And I am sure the day will come when I see a smaller dog as a better option for me, that day just isn't today.  In the meantime, I do enjoy other people's small dogs.  When they are well-behaved, that is.

Me snuggling with my little dog friend, Posey. She'll steal your heart.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Old School

Recently, I had a wonderful visit with a new puppy owner.  They have had a puppy before, but it's been almost 15 years, so they wanted to meet to get a better understanding of the puppy they have now.  It is such a privilege to be asked to guide a new puppy owner, whether it's their first puppy or their fifth or more!

As I was reviewing house training, the subject came up of taking the puppy over to any accidents and putting his nose in it to teach him not to toilet in the house there again.  It took me a second to realize that this was still a thing that someone might do!  I honestly thought this "technique" went the way of the dodo bird.  Same thing with grabbing a puppy's mouth and closing it tightly to discourage barking or biting.  Is this even still a thing? At this point I realized that while I may have thought that these techniques were archaic and outdated, some people are still doing them.  I know it's hard to break old habits, particularly if you felt they were (somewhat) successful.  However, with all that we know about dog behavior, the benefits of positive reinforcement, etc. I feel like it is time to put these old school methods away and embrace the new.

So, if your puppy has an accident in the house, roll up that newspaper and smack yourself with it. You must not have been watching them closely enough.  Establish regular feeding times, tether your puppy to you so you know where they are (or put them in their crate), and get them outside every 30-45 minutes.  If you do find they've toileted in the house, put them in their crate or pen and go back and clean it up using an enzymatic-based product.  They don't need to see the mistake, nor do they need to be with you when you clean it up. And if you have a puppy who is biting you relentlessly, ask yourself what your puppy is missing. Is he sleep deprived?  Puppies need a lot of sleep and if they don't get it, they are nuts. Are you providing a variety of chewing options for your puppy and rotating those options daily to maintain their interest?  Finally, if your puppy is barking, don't try to hold his mouth closed.  Put something in it!  Redirect him to a toy or a game. If that doesn't work, maybe it's time for a bathroom break/change of scenery and then a nap.

While some old school methods did and probably do still work for some puppies/dogs, the bottom line is that we now know that many of those methods worked simply because it made our dogs afraid to cross us.  These methods often created dogs who did what they were told out of fear, not joy.  And they created a generation of dogs who rarely came when they were called because when they did, something icky happened.

As always, if you have a new puppy, and you'd like some help, don't hesitate to let me know. Puppy 101 is, by far, one of my favorite in-home visits to do!

Here is my buddy, Freddie, who is learning about his world "new school" style. 
He is the picture of confidence and wanting to please!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Random Vacation Thoughts

We just got back from a short trip up the California coast.  I could spend all day every day at the beach.  Watching the waves, hiking on the cliffs, watching the birds.  Heaven for me.  Some of the beaches we walked on allowed dogs, others did not.  Everything was clearly posted, so that made it easy for dog owners to know where they could be and where they couldn't.  We even stayed at a lovely inn where dogs were allowed.  Funniest thing about all of this? We made this trip without our dogs.  That's right.  A real vacation without dogs! While we do enjoy traveling with our dogs (they did a week long trip this summer to Oregon and had a ball), it is often nice to leave them home where they can stay in their normal routine.  Plus, leaving them behind means being able to observe other people and their dogs. Another of my favorite pastimes!  Here are a few things I noticed:

Some people blatantly ignore posted signs.  Oddly enough, there were rangers on the beaches and they ticketed people who brought their dogs onto beaches where they weren't allowed.  No sense in arguing with them either given the amazing signage everywhere which said no dogs allowed.

People letting their dogs chase birds.  This one doesn't bother me too much given that I know the birds can get away before the dogs get to them. But I have often wondered what a rush it must be for those unsuspecting birds!

Unleashed dogs on beaches and walkways where leashes are required.  This is a pet peeve. If it says leashes, please use them. And not those infernal retractable leashes either.  Use a real leash. And if you want your dog to have some distance from you, you can use a long lunge line to do so.  Unleashed dogs are unpleasant for people trying to enjoy the beach who don't like or are afraid of dogs.  Sandy, wet, unleashed dogs who jump up on unsuspecting walkers are also a pet peeve. If you can't control your dog, they really do need to be on leash.

Bringing your pet dog inside the restaurant.  It's not a service dog, therefore this violates California health codes.  So many restaurants have patios dog owners can use. Why make other guests and the wait staff in the restaurant uncomfortable?

Pretending you don't see that your dog just pooped on the sidewalk/beach/boardwalk/trail.  Yes, we are all outside, but that doesn't mean you don't have to pick up behind your dog.  Come on...just because it's a trail off of the beaten path doesn't mean you don't have to pick up behind your pooch.

Nuisance barking.  While many hotels accommodate guests with dogs, they do expect that said dogs will be well-behaved and not bark incessantly.  If you know your dog will bark if you leave them alone in your room, then don't leave them alone.

Two of my favorite new canine friends were Lucy, the pint sized Poodle greeter at the inn where we stayed and a social butterfly of a wirehaired fox terrier we met on the beach.  Definitely got my dog fix.

Do you take your dogs with you on weekend getaways?  Where do you like to go? Any pet peeves?

Ozzie and Desi visiting the Prehistoric Gardens outside Port Orford, Oregon. 
A local attraction that is dog friendly for canines on leash!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! maybe it's a little early to be singing holiday songs given that it is only the first week of September.  It's not too early, however, to start thinking about the behavior of your dogs as it relates to the holidays.  Does your dog charge the front door? Bark at guests? Jump up for attention? Sniff crotches? Invite themselves into people's backpacks and bags? Surf the counters and tables? Beg for food? Behave nervously with guests or unfamiliar people? Afraid of kids in Halloween costumes?

If any of these scenarios (or more than one!) sound familiar, then it's time to get started so that your dogs will be under your control and better behaved when the holidays arrive.  Too many dog owners wait until the holidays and holiday stress are upon them to try to get a handle on nuisance behaviors.  Sure, if your dog is crate trained, you can simply put him in his crate when you have guests or parties.  This doesn't, however, address the underlying issues that are leading you to take the path of least resistance.  Instead, teach your dog the way you want him to behave now so that he will understand what you want him to do.  Just as you've taught your dog to sit, stay, come, etc., you must teach him to not jump, stay back from counters and tables, and refrain from nosing into people's personal spaces. Obviously, if your dog is afraid of kids in costumes, then crating them with something fun to chew on is much preferred to trying to desensitize them to unsuspecting children on Halloween.  However, for most of the other issues listed above, a ready solution is at hand.

For example, if your dog jumps up on people for attention.  Stop giving them attention for jumping up.  Period.  Don't admonish them.  Don't try to correct them verbally, because you've done that before. Instead, block them with your knee, turn around, and walk away. Remove yourself completely.  Same goes for dogs that paw for attention or nudge hard, possibly knocking food or beverages out of people's hands.  When they paw or nudge, get up and walk away.  They WANT your attention, so if you remove yourself, they aren't getting what they wanted.  The moment the light bulb goes on above their furry little heads and they sit instead of jumping up, pawing, or nudging, then acknowledge them for a job well done.

So what behaviors do you need to fix before the holidays?  Let me know if you need help making your pet's behavior shine this holiday season!

Desi showing off his attentive sit for a holiday cookie!