Thursday, June 20, 2019

I'm Officially a Grandma!

Yep, you read that right.  I am a proud Grandma to my first granddog, an almost 10 month old smooth collie named Westley.  He belongs to my daughter, Jessica, and is her first dog of her very own.  Exciting times!  Several people have asked me if there are things I tell my family members that I don't tell my clients with respect to behavior, training, etc. I always find that so funny! Like I'm keeping the "good stuff" for the folks I'm related to and keeping it from everyone else.  That's not me at all!  Jessica is getting the same advice, instruction, and guidance that I've provided to my clients with puppies over the years.  My hope is that she will find it all helpful and encouraging as she moves forward with her new dog and all of their new adventures. 

So, in lieu of an informational blog post this week, I'm just gonna spam everyone with cute pictures of my granddog.  Sorry not sorry ;)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Hot Diggity Dog!

Got a call today from a woman who was furious because her dog was digging so much that her backyard looked like the surface of the moon!  She'd never had a dog that dug before, so the first step was talking about why dogs dig.

All dogs have the potential to be diggers as digging can be quite adaptive.  If a dog is hot, for example, they may dig a hole in the cool dirt to lay in.  If a dog is cold, they may dig a hole to bury themselves in to retain heat.  If a dog has a prized resource such as a bone, and they want to save that treat for later, they may dig a hole to bury it.  And a lot of dogs dig because they see or hear something below the surface and want to get at it (moles, gophers, etc).

Of course, it goes without saying, that there are dogs that dig because they are bored.  Maybe they saw you digging and planting in an area so they figure that's what must be done there!  Maybe they could hear the neighbors next door in their yard, so they are digging under the fence to escape to the great beyond and greener pastures.

So, the first step then in dealing with a digging dog is to determine why they are digging.  In the case of the client mentioned above, she had a young male terrier.  Terriers definitely have a breed predisposition toward digging!  Add to it the fact that this dog owner has had an ongoing problem with burrowing pests in her yard, and now you know why her yard looks like a lunar landscape!  While she thought she'd taken care of the moles, her dog knew better.  I observed him cocking his head, staring at the ground, moving from spot to spot, and then digging. Just because the owner hadn't seen any telltale mounds of uprooted dirt in her yard of late didn't mean the pesky moles were gone.  Now, she needs to bring in a professional exterminator who uses deterrents that are safe in a yard with dogs.  I also suggested that she embrace who her dog truly avid digger!

If you have a dog that likes to dig, let em dig!  You can't make them stop digging without creating undue anxiety. Instead, provide them with a digging area.  Choose a spot in your yard where it is okay to dig. Or build them a sandbox for digging.  Or, you can even use a plastic kids wading pool filled with dirt, sand, etc. Bury interesting items in this approved digging area; carrots, dog cookies, and bones will work.  Make sure your dog sees you burying those treasures.  Refresh the treasures regularly and make sure the substrate remains good for digging. So, if the dirt gets too hard to dig, add water or change the dirt.  You don't want your dog switching his digging from the approved area to your well-watered and tended garden!

You most certainly can put up barriers to your beloved gardens to keep your dogs from digging there. Just remember, however, that they still want to dig and need to dig, so give them an area where it is safe and okay to do so. If they get in your garden, redirect them to their own digging area.  And if you are using sand in your digging area, remember to cover it at night so the neighborhood cats don't use it as an outdoor litterbox!

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Ozzie investigating a spot in our yard where moles have been digging...again!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

If You Take a Dog to a Festival...

On Sunday, my son and I took the collies for a pet assisted therapy visit to a senior living facility.  The weekend before, I took Ozzie to a local kite festival.  I love taking my dogs with me whenever I can.  I think it's good for them to get out of their own backyard, and I think it's good for the public to see well-mannered dogs out and about.  I know I've talked about this more than once, but I feel compelled to talk about it yet again.

I would not take my dogs on these outings if I didn't think that they enjoyed them.  If either dog had not wanted to go on the therapy visit today, that dog could have stayed home.  As it was, they were both dancing around happily waiting for their special leashes they wear on their visits.  And last week at the kite festival, I watched Ozzie to see if he was getting tired, bored, or anxious.  He wasn't at all, so we stayed and watched the festivities.  It was interesting to note, however, that there were people at the festival whose dogs were clearly anxious about being there.  It's one thing to want to go to those types of events yourself, it's a whole other level of responsibility to take your dogs to them.  Dog owners need to make sure their dogs are ready for crowds, noise, strangers touching them uninvited, etc.  It's a fact that dogs who attend festivals will get approached and they will get touched whether you want that or not. If you don't want that, or your dog can't handle that, then don't bring them.  I KNOW people should ask if they can touch your dog, but frankly, they won't always do that and you need to be prepared.

Now, on a pet assisted therapy visit, it's expected that the pets attending like to be touched. A lot.  I find that while Ozzie has learned to enjoy these visits, he's game for about 30-45 minutes of this kind of intense attention from strangers and then he's ready to go, while Desi could stay much longer, especially if we are some place that is air conditioned!  I know my dogs. If a visit will run longer than 45 minutes, Ozzie and I just head out when he's done and he walks around outside sniffing until Desi is done with his visit.  I don't push my dogs, so they trust me.

It really was a pleasure doing that visit with both dogs and my son.  With Taylor being a senior now in high school, I know his free time is becoming less and less. Plus, I am certain there will come a time when he can think of better things to do than hang out with his mom.  However, he's always loved doing pet assisted therapy work and he does love his dogs, so I feel blessed. And I could see the pride in his face when people asked about the dogs and told him how beautiful they were, how soft, how well groomed and well-behaved, etc.  I always want my dogs to represent their breed well and be good ambassadors.  But, I know my dogs reflect back on me too as a dog owner and as an animal behaviorist.  Thus, I am cognizant of their likes and dislikes and I don't push them to perform.  I want them to enjoy our outings together.  Frankly, I think they like all of the extra attention. And I know they love going out to lunch afterward for a special treat.

With more and more businesses and venues allowing dogs on their premises, it falls to us dog owners to know our limitations and those of our dogs.  If your dog can't sit or lay quietly for an hour, don't take them to a busy restaurant.  If they pull on leash and jump on people, don't take them to a crowded street fair.  Be fair to the people around you. Don't let your dog block the sidewalk, push up against other people's tables, etc. I hate when people allow their children to disrupt other guests' experiences in restaurants, and it's just as annoying when it's their dogs that do it.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Practice makes perfect. Start out with short outings and quiet venues and build up to bigger things.  Take notes along the way of what your dog is good at and what needs work.  Finally, be honest with yourself. You can have a perfectly lovely dog that just isn't suitable for taking out in public and that's okay too.

As always, if you have any questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Ozzie and Desi keeping an eye on things 
from our table in the shade at Mel's Diner in Walnut Creek,
 after our pet assisted therapy visit!