Friday, December 10, 2010

Doggone Dog Parks

Some trainers say outright that dog parks are just bad, period. They can be doggone awful. But the right dogs in the right park with the right people in the right situation can be dog heaven.

I recently visited a dog park with a client again for the first time in several months, and for me it's bliss to see all these amazing dogs of all breeds running around. This park is one of the largest dog parks around, so we see LOTS of dogs there. There's also a small-dog area, which is crucial. I was reminded again of the pros and cons of bringing a dog to a dog park.

1. Dogs are really meant to play in groups of two or even three at a time. Dog parks almost always surpass this number by far. Best is bringing your dog to visit dogs he's friends with or becomes friends with. No unknowns, if possible.
2. Small dogs are often in the large-dog area--often because there aren't enough dogs for socializing in the lil-dog area. A LARGE DOG RECENTLY MAULED A TINY DOG in this same park. She should have been in the lil-dog area ALWAYS.
3. Exercise with another dog is some of the most rigorous a dog can have. People must moderate the level their dog can handle.
4. Germs. My client's dog now has conjunctivitis--from the park? Almost definitely.
5. Everyone says his/her dog is "fine" with other dogs. Who is fine with every other dog? Or every other person?
6. Children sometimes walk around with sandwiches in dog parks! Really!
7. Dogs need BREAKS! I watched several small skirmishes that could have quickly escalated to fights. The dog guardians rarely seemed to intervene until things were getting VERY out of hand. You need to have time-outs before the dogs are too aroused.
8. After entering the park, people let the dog run off, and the people socialize until it's time to go home. They keep a vague eye on the dog sometimes (mostly not), but they need to be there FOR the dog the entire time. You need to keep your eye on the dog.
9. Call your dog! Don't stand in the same spot for the entire visit. Why should your pup pay attention to you when you stand and chat in the same place every day? Make her look for you once in a while. When she does, call her and exclaim over her brilliance when she comes! Call her at least six times during your dog park visit--and when it's time to go home, she'll come then, too. Who would come when called if it only happened when it was time for the fun to end??
10. Be sure your dog also gets regular walks, too. Dog parks are completely different exercise; walks bond you with your pup.
11. Know what to do if a dog fight happens. Don't grab dogs by collars but by their hindquarters.
12. Take a pet first-aid course.

This young dog client needed to be around other dogs; the dog park has worked out very well for her. It's not for everyone. It's not even for me. Just be careful out there, okay? You're in charge of very precious cargo!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to Keep from Driving Your Dog Crazy

People love their dogs, right? So they shouldn't give them access to completely open car windows in moving vehicles. I have been seeing so many dogs with their SHOULDERS out the passenger window--on the FREEWAY! I am going to have a heart attack, I swear. I was walking Tommy on a major street today and was rather hoping the fluffy yellow retriever mix would take advantage of being parked at a traffic light and make the plunge to visit Tommy and me. Perhaps his person would have learned a huge lesson--one a previous neighbor learned the hard way when her maltese mix jumped out and was run down. Awful. Preventable. Stupid.

The intelligence of dogs has been compared to that of a two- or three-year-old human; you wouldn't trust a toddler to know enough not to jump out. Did you know that dogs suffer eye injuries from debris? No heads out windows, please.

Don't forget about the force of your passenger airbag. Fluffy should ride in the backseat where it's safer--and less of a distraction. And if you are in an accident, your dog, esp. a small dog, becomes a projectile. Tethering is essential. Use a crate or a dog seatbelt or a doggie booster chair or even just slam the end of the leash in the car door so the dog doesn't hop from the back to front seat while you're trying to focus on driving. Easy breezy.

And while we're at it: if your dog doesn't enjoy the car, it's time to make it nicer. Build gradually on getting the dog used to the car (starting by just sitting in the vehicle and not moving). Treats can improve many scary things!

We have to protect our fur friends; we're all they have.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cats and Dogs

Just a reminder to keep your cats' nails short! You never know what might happen and it's better to be prepared.

We have three cats, but only one has any sort of aggressive moments. Baxter grew up in the Bronx and was found living under a car, so we excuse his rough side. Mostly he's great.

BUT I asked him to move so I could make the bed finally (it was 4:30, after all!). He meowled his displeasure--which was enough to make Tommy the Chihuahua go on alert in my defense--which was enough to make Baxter jump off the bed--which made Tommy corner him--which led me to break up a fight.

It's all Baxter's fault; he's much tougher (and TWICE the size of Tom!), but I'm the only one of the three with bite and scratch marks. I guess that means I did my job as a fur parent. Otherwise everyone always gets along.

I had JUST cut most of Baxter's claws, too--but not all. Not all.

Knock on wood, I've never been bitten but a dog, but you sure don't want to be bitten by a cat, either!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Front and Center!

There's not much prettier than a dog who races to get to you! How adorable is it when I call a furry client and he runs over twenty-five feet in what looks like three bounds and he sits almost on my toes, looking way up at my eyes? "Yes, miss. You rang? Are we going to do something fun now? Got cheese? Let's do that again!" One of the most important cues to teach, of course, and one of my favorites when the pup does it with such glee.

A client and I played hide-and-seek in her yard this week. She sat and stayed while I hid. I called and she found me in one second flat. What more could anyone want from a dog?

There are lots of ways to get that reliable recall--but most important? Be inviting! Be interesting! Be unpredictable!

Good human, good! :-)

You know who loved hide-and-seek more than almost anything? Tucker. Still missing you every minute, little man.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Training After Loss

As many of you know, we recently lost our fifteen-year-old dog, Tucker, to liver cancer. It came from nowhere and hit hard (he had full tests done in January after he ate a cat toy and there was no cancer then).

He was my heart--and for so long. It took me two years to get over the loss of his brother, Kelsey, and I don't expect this grief will go away much sooner. He was Perfect in Every Way. He never did anything wrong in his life. Truly. He chewed on kitchen molding once as a four-month-old puppy. That is IT. Hard act for nutty Tommy the Cheech to follow.

We're all managing to keep distracted, which seems to be the only way to survive.

What shocks me is how fine I am training other people's dogs. With the exception of a short session meeting three rescue dogs, I canceled all my training appointments for a week. Now I'm back with my furry clients and loving every minute as usual. I would have expected to have strong reactions to being around other dogs, but it's business as usual.

They're not Tucker. They're all individuals, too, and full of love and joy and friskiness.

It's a great life. Though it was better with Tucker in it.

Good-bye, dearest, sweetest, gentlest, most patient friend. No one ever loved a dog the way I loved you.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No Unwanted Puppies

Guess who's having PUPPIES? The Chihuahua from across the hall! Not the hysterical one--but he's the dad.

How is it possible that people are SO irresponsible? I'm flabbergasted. "I thought I had them separated, but he got to her," I was told. There are enough Chihuahua puppies in Southern California, believe me. The last thing we need is unintentional litters.

Supposedly Lucy will be spayed after this. That's something.

And the noisy dog/father is living somewhere else now. Probably still barking.

People make me sad sometimes. They often don't appreciate the phenomenal beings that are DOGS. We're lucky dogs put up with us.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

Is your dog having fun? Really, that's his goal in life. We should all be more like our dogs, right?

We get so busy that it's easy to take our well-behaved dogs a little for granted. Liven things up! Teach a new trick, throw a new toy, go for a new hike! Thought someday you might check out agility or flyball or another dog sport? What are you waiting for? Take your dog on vacation! There's nothing that my dog Tucker loves more than entering a new hotel room, even at age 15. Hysterical!

Mix it up: on your next walk, try running over to something you spot you know your dog will find interesting. "Oh, Tommy! Look at this! What is this? An old sneaker by the curb? Cool, right? Good smells, right?" Be interesting! A fascinating human will always have a dog come when called!

During commercial breaks you can teach new words! "Look, Tucker! Ball, duck, ball. Where's the ball, Tucker?" Your dog can learn hundreds of words; are you doing your part?

That furry ball of love is a practically infinite computer! Let's help our dogs live life to the fullest! You'll have fun, too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Say Woof to Barking!

We have lovely new neighbors--with two cute dogs. One can NOT be left home without literally hours of barking. I'm hoping his guardian will accept some free advice.

But it's not FAIR! The pup barks because he's having separation issues. Whose fault is that? Even if a pup is barking for another reason--like boredom--whose fault is that? You can't always take your dog with you everywhere then once in a blue moon leave him alone for eight hours! No fair!

If you have a dog, you have to fix the problems YOU create. Simple, free tips to start making the pup feel better before actual training to fix the anxiety:

1. Don't give the dog the whole apartment. Especially a dog in a NEW place.
2. Try leaving on a radio or TV for distraction noise.
3. Give the dog a LONG walk and some mental training work before you leave.
4. Give the dog something different to do while you're gone: a frozen Kong full of treats!
5. Give the dog a cookie before you leave.
6. Don't make a fuss when you leave or after you return.

Now you can call a trainer to guide you in helping the pup adjust to being on his own.

Here's to a more peaceful life for humans and dogs--and neighbors!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pass by Puppies

Most of my clients wouldn't start with a puppy if they could do it over again. Let's face it: most people really aren't cut out for puppyhood. Of course the lil ones are too cute to resist--but resist we must. It has to be the right time and the right match. Truly, most people don't want to raise a puppy.

How long can it take for a pup to "grow out" of nuisance behavior? Depending on the breed, the circumstances, and the individual puppy: up to two or three years. The average guardian is not ready for that.

Some folks have an idea that they'll know better what they'll get in an adult dog if they start with a puppy. Guess what? Most people miss the crucial socialization period with their puppy anyhow. Unless you get your dog before she is 12 or even 14 weeks of age, you've missed it. That four-month-old at the shelter has likely missed all of what she should have experienced already. And if a pup is adopted before 12 weeks of age, what are the chances her human parents will be qualified to socialize her and expose her properly to good experiences?

Guess how old the majority of dogs are in shelters and rescues. One to two years old! Why? They were cute puppies that their people couldn't handle or got tired of. Poor dogs. Please take a second look at that adult dog instead....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Hooray for guardians who keep their dogs' info up to date!!! I am a magnet for lost dogs--well, I smell like liver and cheese, after all. Today's pure white husky found me while I was training a dog in Griffith Park; I think he came over to see the sweet dog I was with more than to investigate my cheddar. Turns out he'd walked over night from Santa Monica! Easily 15 miles! Crazy, roaming huskies!

He has a great mom who'd given him a gorgeous collar with an up-to-date tag: easily traceable through Animal Services, especially when Mom keeps her contact information current.

Do you know what most people forget to do after they adopt a new pet? RE-register their micro-chip information. Do you know how many dogs I've found whose microchip info still lists their address in a state in the Midwest? If you move, you have to tell the microchip company and your old vet!

Christian was lucky his mom is organized. Now we have to teach him to stay HOME!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dogs Aren't Complicated Until We Mess Them Up

Yikes. I have to bring my watch to get fixed. I had no idea I'd spent almost two hours at my new client consultation today. I sure don't mind--but these people probably have other things to do with their Sunday! I do love talking Dog. It's by far my favorite subject.

There's so much to say--yet how complicated are dogs? They're straightforward, sensible creatures with good senses of logic and rewards. Short handbooks have been written on basic canine care and training--and volumes and volumes have been written on correcting all the mistakes we humans make with dogs.

Don't get me wrong: today's dog is only ten months old and is fabulous. His guardians are doing great with him and he has no behavioral issues. Lovely! He's just learning what's proper and what's not proper in his house to chew.

Imagine how much we could have talked about if the dog was having real problems. :-)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Variety is the Spice!

What a great month training! A little of everything: evaluating an aggressive dog, working regularly with a year-old adolescent on manners, helping a new boy get to know his new home with another dog, teaching two sister dogs how to walk nicely, and welcoming a new fourteen-week-old pup into his world…. All adorable and with dedicated guardians! What a terrific life! Lucky me!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why Dogs Are Like Potato Chips

“My dog still has lots of energy after a three-mile hike.”
Have you thought of getting him a dog to wear him out?

“My dog tries to chase me around the house.”
Another dog will play with him in ways you’d never dream of doing.

“My dog looks at me sometimes like I speak martian.”
To him you almost do. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another dog for him to talk to in his own language?

“My dog lunges and wants to play with every dog we see.”
Having another dog at home will give him a doggie fix.

“My dog seems so happy with us. I can’t get enough of her.”
You might have another dog move in with you and share the love—and such a great life.

The ASPCA says that in 2008 63 percent of homes with dogs have one and just 25 percent have two.

Having a second dog is usually not much more work—and it can even be less! Once you already have one pet to care for, what’s one more? There are so many great dogs out there who need us….

Coming soon: How can we prevent dog bites?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leash Laws!

Really? So many people let their dogs run around (literally) without not only a leash attached but no collar! What are you thinking, people? I live four doors in from a very busy street in Los Angeles, and drivers also fly down my side street to avoid traffic. It is more trouble not to use a leash. “Come, Cuddles! Come! Cuddles? Cuddles?” Your dog is so trained and so under control you can let her run from yard to yard (leaving behind presents)?

Dogs need to be leashed: for their own safety, for the safety of the people around them, for the safety of the dogs on leash who feel threatened by crazy, yapping, running dogs, and to avoid being LOST. At least put on a collar! And your dog had better be microchipped.

Had to get that off my chest. I send treats to all you GREAT dog guardians who keep your dogs beside you at all times!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Time to Train

When is the best time to talk to a professional dog trainer? Well, the obvious answer is anytime. But I see some guardians out there who wait so long. The best time to contact a trainer is before a problem arises—or at the very least before a problem escalates. Dog training has changed completely from the rough-handling tactics of the 1970s and prior. There are lots of great trainers out there who can give you great advice. Why do guardians put off training? If you have a puppy, you have a sponge. If you just rescued a dog, now is the time to start things off right. Why would you let a housebreaking problem continue for longer than a month—let alone for years? (True story.) Trainers hear about problems so late sometimes. That’s not fair to your furry friend.

Let’s show your dog how to walk nicely on a leash! Let’s keep him from barking at the neighbors! Let’s get him to enjoy car rides! Now is the time. My sessions are only $85. Having a trained dog is not expensive and it’s lovely!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rescue Dogs

More and more people are taking home shelter and rescue dogs to live with them! Hooray! It seems adoptions are greater than ever and the numbers are growing by leaps and bounds. Nowadays the public really seems more educated about where to find great dogs. Of course ALL dogs are great; it’s their guardians we have to worry about.

But two things need to happen: people need to choose the RIGHT dog for them and people need to spend more time training their rescue dogs.

If you live virtually a couch-potato lifestyle and don’t want to spend hours walking your dog and throwing a ball, you can still make a great companion for a dog. You need to pass right by that adorable Jack Russell! Do not pass go; do not collect $200! There are so many fabulous dogs who have already seen their puppy years and who enjoy shorter walks and more couch cuddling; choose an older dog or a lower-energy breed. I LOVE connecting guardians with the RIGHT dog for them. Send me an e-mail and I’ll meet you at the shelter!

Now that you have found your new friend and are ready to take her home from the rescue, what next? Be sure she is secure and happy in the car (more on that another time), then get her home but WALK her for at least a half hour before even going into your place! A dog who feels as if she’s migrated to a new home will usually settle in more quickly. Easy! It’s what would happen in the wild.

Rescue dogs often experience separation anxiety and/or have some housebreaking issues. Who can blame them? They’ve usually lived in a place with lots of other animals and people coming in and out all the time; now they live in a great place but it’s quieter and their person goes to someplace called the Store and leaves them. And their schedule at the kennel may have had some routine but their walks hardly happened at the same time. Now they’re supposed to piddle outside only?

Ninety-nine percent of dog issues (which are really human errors) can be fixed! Don’t let your new friend down! Do whatever you can for her. You probably don’t even deserve half the love she gives you. TRAIN HER! Exercise her mind with some obedience work! She CANNOT end up back in the shelter again.

I’m here to help!

Coming soon: Why Dogs Are Like Potato Chips