Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Working Class Dog

I have a couple of clients whose dogs are able to go to work with them on most days.  Their employers not only are okay with dogs in the workplace, they encourage it!  Seems that more and more businesses are realizing that people are productive and more relaxed when they have their dogs with them.  I can understand that; they aren't worried about working long hours and leaving their dogs home alone, as the dogs are right there with them!  Having a dog with you at work means you can reach down for a few pats when you need to decompress, and that dog will need a few bathroom breaks which means you will stretch your legs as well.  That definitely helps you recharge and refreshes your productivity.

Dogs in the workplace isn't a completely new idea, of course.  Back in the 80's, I was taking my dog to work with me. I was a graduate student at UC Davis, slogging through classes, student teaching, and long hours in my office.  Having Shadow with me meant I didn't have to run home several times each day, and she wasn't lonely.  It also meant that stressed out undergrads who came to my office hours could pet Shadow and (hopefully) feel a little better.  I have certainly been into many small businesses where dogs (and cats) are on site, cuddling up to patrons and welcoming you to their shops.  Frankly, I love seeing dogs and cats holding court in indie bookstores, antique shops, and home stores.  However, I also know there are people who don't like animals or are afraid of them.  Do they avoid patronizing these businesses where there is an obvious animal on the premises? According to The Hartford, a major business insurer, the answer is an unequivocal yes.  So, if you are a business owner that has an animal on your premises, and you are in a customer service type business like a shop or store, what can you do to insure that you don't lose that potential sale?

I think the real issue here is the behavior of the animals on the premises.  If your pet is well-behaved, approachable, well-groomed, and outgoing, but not pushy, I doubt that their presence will be a huge deterrent. If, however, your store pet isn't well-behaved, or appears threatening in any way, I can understand why people shy away from coming in. Even if you work in an office where pets are allowed in your office or cubicle, it is still important that they be well-behaved, well-groomed, etc.  You are still working with other people and it isn't fair for your dog's behavior (or their odor!) to impinge upon someone else's work experience.  In fact I had one client reach out to me because she'd been told she couldn't bring her dog to work anymore until she got his lunging and barking under control! And if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, taking them to work with you doesn't solve the problem, in fact, your dog will likely still exhibit symptoms there if you walk away from them for a moment, thus disrupting your workplace and jeopardizing your ability to bring them with you.

Bottom line here is that I like to see animals going to work with their humans, hanging out in stores, etc.  As long as those animals are well-behaved, I will always welcome them in my space.  How do you feel about animals in stores? In offices? Do you take your pet to work with you?  As always, if you need help getting your dog's behavior "office ready," you know where to find me.

Desi and Pearl used to love loading up in the truck
 and heading to bookstore with me when I worked there.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Great Expectations

No, I'm not trying to re-write my favorite Dickens' novel.  I just wanted to talk briefly about, well, great expectations, as they relate to the dogs we choose to share our lives with.

Recently, I've noticed a plethora of online questionnaires allowing potential dog owners to "answer these 10 questions and we'll tell you the perfect dog breed for you!" First off, there's no way a canned, 10 question test can accurately match you with your doggie soulmate.  Just as with the perfect human match for you, there is a lot more involved than just 10 questions.  Plus, I've noticed that these questionnaires actually suggest some very questionable matches.  I've taken the tests many times, as have many of my colleagues, because we find them entertaining, often eye-roll worth, and quite frequently face-palm inducing. I took one recently where they suggested that a Malinois was a good choice for a novice owner who enjoys a smart active dog.  Are you kidding me?! Anyone who knows this breed knows they aren't for novices and to say that they are simply "smart and active" is like saying that "rain is wet." Thank you Captain Obvious.  What about why they are that smart and what it will take to keep them engaged?!

Here's the thing. If people just took these tests for the fun of it, I'd have no problem with them. Like those online buzzfeed quizzes, they give you a good giggle over your morning cup of coffee. No, the bigger problem is people think these quizzes are real and the answers are all they need to make their next dog companion choice.  This is simply not true and likely to lead them down a path filled with frustration, unhappiness, and unfulfilled expectations.

So, when you are ready to choose your next dog, you certainly can, and should, approach it in a scientific manner. Research breeds while first taking into consideration the very basics.  That is, where you live, how much time you have to exercise the dog, how much time you have to devote to grooming, any allergies in your household, and your budget. The answers to these basic questions will narrow your field of choices significantly.  Then, you need to think about behavior and temperament.  Are you looking for a laid back companion to lay on the couch and watch Netflix with you? One with a lot of drive to perform, who will work with you on an agility course 5 days a week?  Or maybe a weekend warrior like yourself who will be happy to hang out at home during the week, but wants to hit the beach and the park on Saturdays and Sundays?

I am assuming you've noticed that I haven't once mentioned what the dog looks like or how popular the breed is.  That's because people get too wrapped up in "the cute factor" or the "in vogue factor" to understand that some of the most beautiful, popular dogs in the world aren't perfect in every home.  Plus, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people think Pugs are ugly. I for one think they are adorable and their temperaments make them suitable to a lot of home environments, including those with young children.

I have my own questionnaire that I give owners (and one for their kids, if they have them!) which is a lot longer than 10 questions!  At the end of the process, I match people with breeds that meet their expectations.  And more than once, I've told people that the dog they are looking for does not actually exist.  Reality can be a real downer sometimes. However, if you really know what to look for, your great expectations for your next canine companion may be closer to a reality.

So, if you've taken any of those online quizzes, would love if you would share the breeds you were matched with, versus what dog you actually have!  I had a friend who was looking for a laid back companion dog with a low maintenance coat.  She got matched with a German Shorthair Pointer.  Are you kidding me?!  They got the coat maintenance thing right, I guess, but laid back?! Anyone who has ever lived with a GSP knows laid back is not the description most often used for them.  Anyway, share your experiences.  And, as always, if you have questions or need help choosing your next dog, you know where to find me.

My perfect match. Always <3

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Grief Is Complicated

One of my clients just recently lost her dog.  While feeling blessed at the extra months she had with her dog (the dog had responded well to chemo), she was feeling raw, devastated, and fraught with despair now that her beloved dog had passed.  I truly felt her pain.

I hate platitudes. Don't tell me, "it's just a dog." Or "you'll feel better soon." Or "Just get another dog. They will keep you busy and your mind will move on." Or any of the other million, un-helpful things people tell you when you lose a dog.  As is true for many of my clients, my dogs are beloved family members and their passing is grieved like the loss of any two-legged family member.

So what did I do when she called me? I cried with her.  We talked about how wonderful her dog had been and how truly fortunate she was to have this dog in her life for so long.  We talked about heart dogs.  And most importantly, I just listened.  She needed to be heard and I most certainly can listen.

I know another dog will be in her future.  She is a "dog person." When that will happen, though, isn't something we can speculate on and I gave her "permission" to wait however long that takes.  Grief is complicated; it's ugly and messy.  Some of us grieve loudly while others grieve in silence. But you have to grieve before you can ever consider opening up your heart and home to another dog.

It really is their only fault. Dogs just don't live long enough.

I still miss this sweet girl. Pearl you will live in our hearts forever.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Letting Dogs Be Dogs

I had a really fun conversation with a client this morning.  He has an adolescent Pit Bull mix who is absolutely adorable. She's just a big, goofy, ball of enthusiasm and joy. There is simply no other way to describe her.  So, what's the problem? My client was told by a couple of people at the park that he needs to teach her "impulse control" so that she will be a "good dog."  I am so pleased that he called me before googling what this means, or even worse, trying to do it to his dog.

Come on folks. Dogs are dogs.  Dogs are not people. They are not little kids.  They are not infants.  They most certainly are not wolves.  We can't get upset with dogs for behaving like dogs.  Choosing to share your home with a member of another species is a choice.  Dogs most certainly can make great companions.  However, assuming that they *will* does them (and you) a disservice. You do have to take an active role in this relationship.  It isn't all sunshine and rainbows.  There will be accidents in your house, torn up stuff, and hurt feelings.  It is up to you to teach and train your dog to meet your expectations.  So, let's get back to my client's Pit Bull mix.

He loves his dog. They run together every day, get puppuccinos at the Starbucks drive-thru once a week, and love to play on the beach at Fort Funston. He knows that she needs lots of exercise and he makes sure she gets it.  He takes her to the park to play and removes her when she is tired. So what impulse needs controlling?  Her impulse to run? To play? Dogs don't need impulse control. People need to better understand that other species they've chosen to live with.

Dogs like to run, sniff, and pull on leash to get to the next smelly thing.  They like to forage.  Feeding them in a bowl is so not a dog thing.  Feeding them from an interactive toy so that they work for what they eat makes more sense to them.  Whiles puppies sleep 18-20 hours a day, adult dogs sleep 12-14 hours.  Sure, they can sleep on your couch or your bed if you want them to, but the bottom line is that they do need somewhere to sleep, and that couch looks pretty comfy. They like to play, and enjoy the play more if it's not always the same game. Novelty is good. Dogs are territorial. They will bark when someone or something changes on their home turf. Even if it's just leaves blowing by, squirrels, or a FedEx delivery. Dogs will sniff crotches and jump up.  Some dogs hump people when excited, grab people by the hands or clothing, and pee on the floor.  All dog things for sure.  It is your job to teach your dog what works for you and what doesn't. Be clear in what you are looking for.  Reinforce them for the good choices they make and let them know when the choices they've made don't work for you.  It isn't about controlling their impulses so much as showing them the appropriate outlets for their normal dog behaviors.

I know those people at the park meant well. They thought that this sweet, goofy Pit Bull might be judged by others negatively for her enthusiasm.  Me? I see her behavior as normal for an adolescent dog of this breed.  While I do think we need to work on her propensity to chase cats, I don't think that the fact that she wants to chase cats is abnormal. Dogs like to chase stuff. I get it.  They just can't chase the cats that they live with for obvious reasons.

Let's all make a better effort to understand dogs for who they are.  They branched off from wolves more than 14,000 years ago, so using language that relates to that non-domesticated species isn't helpful.  Dogs are learning from us every single day.  They learn even when we aren't actively teaching them.  They have certainly taken the time to understand us, manipulate us, and predict our behavior, perhaps we should do the same.

Long collie noses are most likely the result of some long ago breeding with sighthounds like the Borzoi.  Nowadays, many a collie likes to use those long noses for getting into other people's business. It's my job to remind Ozzie why such behaviors are not appreciated.