Friday, September 2, 2011

Little Dog Blues

Did you know that dogs are dogs? Big dogs can be sweet and gentle yet barky. Little dogs can be feisty and fun and quiet. What you see depends on the breed. Depends on the dog herself. Primarily and completely depends on her training.

I'm a trainer because I genuinely love every dog I meet. My husband says I'm an addict, and I guess that's true. A dog and I will see each other across a crowded street and wag our tails the entire time until we can finally meet. I'm drawn to a dog's particular personality--and yes, even his issues; I don't care what SIZE he is! I just love them all.

I really don't want to hear one more time from anyone, "I'm a big dog person." Please? First of all, no one ever seems to say, "I'm a little dog person." What species is a little dog but a dog? They come with the same equipment as large dogs and can be all they can be. And there are perks. (I'll get to that in a moment.)

Westies are my breed, always have been. I was drawn to them since an early age. They're not toy dogs, but they're not large. Accidentally I now live with two Chihuahuas, and our new puppy is a Papillon because her size suits the other dogs--and the space we have left (we have three cats, too). You can believe me when I say they do all the same things Labs do. No, they are NOT barky. ("Yappy" is what "big dog" people call them.) I TRAIN my little dogs, which, sadly, a lot of people who have them don't do enough of. If you want to call yourself a "trained dog person," I'm with you. Little, medium, big--training is required. Just because you can pick up the dog doesn't mean she doesn't need manners like every other dog.

Now for the plusses!
Portability: traveling anywhere is EASY, even on a plane if need be.
Money: Chihuahuas eat only a half cup of food a day and require MUCH less medication if something is needed. Even toys and bones are cheaper.
Hair: imagine how little shedding a toy dog can do, if any.
Walking: though many tiny dogs can walk for miles and love to, most are happy with jaunts around the neighborhood.
Cats: most small dogs do well with cats since everyone is the same size.
Love: small dogs make good lap dogs. Try three at once!

Currently at the rescue I work with, Forte Animal Rescue, we have three Malteses and three Chihuahua mixes out of about fifteen dogs. And every week at adoptions they seem to attract the least attention. The Malteses are new, but the Chis have been with us for three months--and NONE of them has any issues! People want that big guy they grew up--whether a Husky fits their grown-up lifestyle or not.

Help me stamp out Little Dog Prejudice. We're not all Paris Hilton. Most important, choose the dog that suits your lifestyle.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ho-Hum Walks

"My dog doesn't listen to me." "My dog doesn't come when I call." "My dog always pulls on a walk." "I admit that I don't like to take my dog for walks."

Common statements from human clients. Do you know that one of the ways to help is to be more INTERESTING? Yes, you also still need training to have your dog truly listen better and reliably come and stop pulling on walks--but if you take an interest while you're on a walk, so will your dog. The result is a dog who listens and WANTS to come when she's called.

Be the most fascinating person your dog knows! In your home as well, but especially on walks. For most dogs, walks are one of their very favorite things, right? But for humans, they can be a dreaded chore. Guess what? Muffin KNOWS you think it's a chore--and tries to enjoy herself despite you.

What if your walks were a time out there to have a good time together? Isn't that why you adopted a dog? Companionship and FUN?

Leave the latte at home! Do NOT answer your cell phone; just leave it in your pocket for an emergency! This is your Together Time! Your dog deserves your full attention (and it's safer). When I walk a dog, I don't even THINK about anything else while we're walking. It's about US. We vary our route; we stop at corners and the doggie sits; we suddenly turn around and go the other way. Be unpredictable! Be FUN!

Add in some training on your walks--not so much that the walk is ONLY about training but enough to be sure your dog will listen outdoors, too. Showing you a nice "stay" is easy in your kitchen when the food bowl is full and waiting on the counter. "Staying" while a cat walks by outside on the street is harder. Change up your pace! All of a sudden Muffin is running and she did NOT expect that. One of the most fun things is watching Polly tiptoe with you at a snail's pace for twenty feet. Cute!

"Oh, what's that, Polly? Let's go see! Oh, look, Polly, it's a dead pigeon! You may sniff it for three seconds; just don't touch it. OK, let's go, Polly!"

"Oh, is that an old sneaker? How in the world did that get there? Let's go see, Muffin! It's awesome, right?"

See fun BEFORE your dog does! It's good to be your dog's best friend, isn't it? You don't want to ALWAYS be the bad guy, right?

Still having trouble getting your dog not to drag you down the street? Try more left-hand turns (if you walk your dog on your left--be consistent with that). Every time you hit a driveway, you have more space than a standard sidewalk width and can make a nice square that includes FOUR left-hand turns. If Polly's nose bumps your knee when you turn, she won't step in front of you; she's clever like that. Still pulling? Are you carrying yummy treats? NOT dry biscuits: blech. Moist, chewy small bits of something your dog really likes. Why would Polly walk anywhere else than beside the liver-yielding, pigeon-finding human?

If she still does, call me and we'll work on it. :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Be Stingy with Toys!

I'm often surprised by the toys clients offer their dogs. At every age, dogs need new toys--and a variety. Look in your dog's toy box right now: see any he hasn't played with in a while? Hide them for a week and reintroduce them. Or is there a toy he's never played with? Swap with a friend! Dogs have different tastes. Of course.

Now swap out his toys. Don't let him see all of them all the time. Hide them away. Be interesting! Save some toys for when you're out of the houaw and he can stay busy.

What kind of toys should he have? Depends on the dog, of course, but do be careful. When I've looked over clients' dog toy boxes, I'm often appalled to find dangerous toys for that particular dog. Your large-breed dog should NOT have small vinyl squeak toys, no matter how gentle she is! In two seconds flat a dog that size can rip open the vinyl cat and choke to death on the squeaker. And a long narrow rope tie can easily end up in a dog's intestines, potentially causing major damage and surgery. (A senior dog I knew decided one day to eat the belt from a bathrobe without her person's knowledge! Yikes!)

What's good to try? Kongs! Stuffed or even stuffed and frozen! Busy toys and puzzles--there's a zillion on the market now. Galileo bones! Nylabones--not the edible (destructive) kind. Kong Wubbas wrapped in fabric! Katie's Bumpers! Large rope toys! Stuffed and unstuffed animals ONLY when you're supervising.

What household items make good toys? NONE! No, not even the empty Gatorade bottle. You CAN put an empty water bottle in a Katie's Bumper toy and your dog can enjoy that crunchy sound--supervised!

How many? Your dog should have at least 20 toys! Really! How many does your four-year-old child have? Yes, they cost money--but most last and last. You guessed it: your dog deserves the best!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teething Puppies

For the past month we've been raising five young puppies: a hundred blog topics but who has energy to blog with five puppies in the house? They came to us at eight weeks of age (and I do say "us," because I may have been the one who raised my hand to say yes, but I would not have survived five puppies without my husband's fabulous help). They were all adopted by twelve weeks--and the last goes home on the weekend.

The goal was Terrific Socialization. That period between eight and twelve weeks, even fourteen weeks, is SO crucial, SO important that you want to do your very best to bring your puppy everywhere, show him everything, have him meet everyone, hear every sound, smell every smell--all before he has been completely vaccinated! Not such a simple task, especially with five, but we've done a solid job.

It was lovely to put in practice again what I preach about puppies. It's been a while! Remember those razor-sharp puppy teeth? Yikes. No matter how you try, the puppy enthusiasm wins and arms will be scratched. But even with five nutty pups, our house is still standing. Our possessions are intact. Proving that proper chew toys can always make the difference!

At night the puppies had our guest bathroom all to themselves for four weeks. They had lots of rowdy times in there and should have gotten bored, too--bored enough to chew our cabinets and moldings and doors. (Did I say we bought our place only five months ago?) NO chewing! EVER! Five puppies??

I did spray Bitter Apple on the baby gate and the cupboards and all, but so many dogs actually LIKE that taste.... I credit really good chew toys: lots of them and a variety. Best? Blue nubby Gumabones that Nylabone no longer seems to produce! Argh! I had four of different shapes in my bin from who knows when. Thank dog. They also had rubbery chew toys and Kongs (of course) and rope toys and even a few well-made stuffed toys (so they wouldn't chew up their blanket). The hard Nylabones are never as popular, but those saw some action, too.

And during the day we kept changing things up: puppies have ADD, if you hadn't heard. Best trick? Wet and freeze an old washcloth. Pup-sicle! Of course filling a Kong with peanut butter is a good tool, too--and not having one for every puppy kept them busier!

I will admit that some dog did use his paws to try to burrow his way to Arizona through a tiny bit of wall under the bathroom cabinet. The polite pup chose a spot no one can see unless lying on the floor in exhaustion beside a bunch of puppies. That proves yet again how dogs LOVE crating--but that's another blog post.

I'm off to nap again. I wouldn't have traded fostering this litter for anything, but I'm so glad it's over.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

They Are What They Eat

We know we are what we eat, but not every human worries much over what her dog eats. Good nutrition obviously may prevent health issues, but have you thought about good food affecting a dog’s behavior, too?

If you’re picking up your dog’s food in a supermarket, there’s a good chance it’s giving you the kind of results that giving your five-year-old child sugar for dinner would give. I’m surprised that clients spend money on a dog trainer but buy their dog twenty pounds of food for ten dollars, literally. If you haven’t thought much about what your dog eats, you most likely need to change his diet. Talk to your vet today! There are so many fantastic foods on the market now! You can actually feed kibble that contains chicken, vegetables, and whole grains! No more “by-products” or even “chicken meal.”

And while we’re talking food, isn’t it time to stop feeding from the dinner table? Treats are okay, especially treats like carrots and apples, but how about asking Sammy to do something for his treat first? “Come” for that cube of liver! “Down” for that biscuit! You earn your paycheck and he might as well, too.

Your dog’s good nutrition is worth a little extra money, so don’t scrimp. Don’t buy a two-star food when you can purchase a four-star meal! Sammy deserves it.