Wednesday, September 25, 2019

For the Love of Dogs

I just got back from spending a week in Irvine helping my daughter, Jessica, move into her new apartment.  Among the myriad things she took with her to college, she took her one year old smooth collie, Westley. Those of you who follow me on Instagram, or follow Desi on Facebook, know that Westley has been a breath of fresh air around here for the last three months.  He immediately learned the routine, and provided Ozzie with a much needed playmate.  Don't get me wrong...Desi is a doll, he just doesn't want to play all the time like Ozzie does.  Ozzie and Westley played together, slept near one another, etc.  Ozzie missed Westley (and vice versa) when Jessica would take Westley to visit her dad for just a few days over the summer. Now that Westley is gone for good until the Christmas holidays, Ozzie is downright depressed.  He misses his buddy and I'm pretty sure his little buddy misses him too.

Jessica is doing her part to make sure Westley still sees other dogs.  She is walking him twice daily, taking him to the park and to the beach, and letting him meet nice dogs that live in their apartment complex. She's even reached out to a So Cal group of collie owners and found someone with two rough collies that Westley can play with. Plus, she found a neighbor whose daughter has a smooth collie for Westley to meet soon!

This is all good for Westley, but what am I supposed to do for Ozzie?  I most certainly am not getting a third dog.  I'm pretty sure my spouse would draw the line in the sand if I did that. But Ozzie does need someone to play with.  Looks like I am going to have to start having play dates again at my house for him.  I may even start taking him more places with me just so he can get out and about more as he loves going anywhere I go.  He's such a sweet, sensitive dog, I worry that he will miss Westley too much and then be a total lunatic when Jess brings him back over the holidays. I guess we will just have to play that by ear.  In the meantime, Ozzie will be camped out under my chair and underfoot.  Hoping this bout of depression passes quickly as he's too big to be a lap dog. Although he'd probably be willing to argue otherwise.

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

Westley looks pretty content.  Hoping he's dreaming about his buddy, Ozzie, 
and the mischief they can get into over the holidays!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

How Long Is Too Long?

I have just started working with a client who has multiple dogs.  She's been experiencing aggression among the dogs on and off for over a year.  One dog has resource guarding aggression, one is aggressive toward the cat, and all three have gotten into it with each other more than once.  I finally got her to admit that one of the dogs (the cat chaser) has actually bitten her as well. When I asked her why she had waited this long to reach out for help, her answer really floored me.

She figured with enough love, the problems would resolve on their own.

I was rendered speechless (for anyone that knows me, you know that's hard to do!).  I asked her if she'd at least consulted with her veterinarian about the problems.  She said no, that she'd just now approached her vet who quickly handed her my card and sent her my way. At this point, she was obviously embarrassed that she had waited so long to seek help.  I know how hard it is to admit that you have a problem with one or more of your beloved furred or feathered family members. The longer you wait to get help, however, the worse the situation can become. If dogs cannot resolve their issues that are resulting in aggression quickly on their own, then you definitely need help. While it is certainly the case that dogs in multi-dog households will get into it with each other on occasion, these occurrences are rare and sorted out quickly without bloodshed or lasting drama.  Sometimes though the problems are bigger; two dogs who are equally matched, both resource conscious, and neither willing to capitulate, for example. And the dog who constantly harasses the cat isn't just going to stop on its own.  Even dogs who get swatted by the cat may continue to chase and grab the cat, causing injury. In some households, separate territories must be established to get some peace among the animal inhabitants. For others, however, even separate territories causes anxiety for the animals and the humans. When that's the case, it is often best to think about the greater good and consider re- homing one or more of the animals involved.  And, unfortunately, the longer you wait to sort it all out, the more likely you will have to make those hard choices in the end.

As for my client, we have set up separate territories for now.  The dog who starts most of the fights and chases the cat is by himself. The other two dogs and the cat are in a different part of the house.  I have a feeling, based on my observations, that removing the cat chaser from the dynamic will be all it takes to get some peace among the remaining two dogs and the cat, but only time will tell. If that is indeed the case, then my client will have a tough decision to make. She will need to decide whether to keep him separate from the others long term, or whether to re-home him.

As always, if you need help with your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

These goofballs get along amazingly well.  Three male collies, all under one roof...mine!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Why Did My Dog Eat the Couch?!

This was the question a client asked me recently.  Apparently, her new dog had not only taken up residence on the couch, but he was methodically tearing a hole in one of the cushions.  Another client complained that her dog got into every wastebasket in the house that he could find, eating whatever (gross) thing he could find there.  He'd already been to the vet's office once to get his stomach pumped.  Both owners made sure I knew that their dogs had plenty of toys to chew on.  So, why were they getting into trouble?

First off, you can have all the toys in the world, and your dogs will still get into trouble.  Dogs are terminal toddlers.  They bore easily and if left unsupervised will eat your couch and surf the trash.  I'm not saying you have to live with a couch eater/trash panda, I'm just saying that I understand why those dogs do it.  So, what's my solution to this dilemma?  It's actually quite simple.

First of all, pick up all of those toys and put them in a box in the closet.  Every day, bring out a few toys for your dog to play with. This maintains their interest in the toys because they seem new or novel.  You should only have about 5-6 toys out at a time, cycling through the toys every day.  Second, any time you aren't there to supervise your dog, they should be either confined in their crate or x-pen, out in the yard if that's a safe space, or on leash, resting quietly at your side.  Dogs who are in their crates or tethered to their owners get into a lot less trouble. And those young dogs really need that enforced crate time to rest and nap so that they don't engage in the witching hour zoomies every evening! Third, any dog who gets onto a piece of furniture and immediately starts chewing on it should have their furniture privileges revoked until further notice.  It's not safe for them to be up there, and couches aren't easily replaced if this is a persistent problem. Instead, teach them to lay quietly on a dog bed and chew on a toy or bone. Definitely go for one of the tough beds that are a bit more indestructible, but you still need to watch them there as well.

Many destructive dogs aren't just bored, they are anxious.  You need to figure out why they are anxious.  Are they not getting enough mental and physical exercise?  If so, interactive toys at mealtimes and adding in an another walk (or two) with a dog walker or doggie daycare may be in order. If the chewing dog is new to your home, it may be the case that the newness of the situation is the root cause of the anxiety.  Recent rescues need structure, rules, and a schedule that they can predict and understand in order to be less anxious and therefore less destructive.

My client is ordering a new couch for her living room. I'm hoping she takes my advice to heart before it arrives!  As always, if your pet is experiencing a behavior problem, you know where to find me.

Westley loves laying on the couch. And rearranging the pillows to suit himself.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

112 Days Until Christmas!

Only 112 days left until Christmas! So, why am I even telling you that?   It's never too early 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. And you have to practice good behavior every single day.  You really do have to take your dog to restaurants and teach them how to behave with wait staff or people passing your table.  Same goes at home.  Have people sit in chairs with food on low tables, or sit on the floor with plates on their laps and practice with your dog so they know how to behave.  Your goal should be to only have to default to putting them in their crates IF there is a possibility of your dog responding aggressively.  If your dog has resource guarding aggression, for example, then having them around unattended or loosely controlled plates of food is too much of a temptation and a big risk for you.  Same for dogs who don't like kids or are afraid of costumes; there is no reason for these dogs to be going to the door each time a trick-or-treater arrives at your door in a Halloween costume.

If you need help prepping your dogs for the holidays, just let me know. You know where to find me.

Ozzie loves "people food," but he knows better than to take food off of the table or off of someone's plate. He will, however, do his best to convince you to share.  Frankly, who could resist?