Dogs, Loss, AND Love

June 3rd, 2008

One of my favorite quotes is “The beauty of AND versus the tyranny of OR.” How does this apply to our dogs?

We can lose a beloved pet AND have love for another. That’s the thing with LOVE – it doesn’t end. You can’t use it up and it never hurts. Loss hurts. Loss hurts AND love flows.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I miss Olive tremedously AND I have endless Love for Moby, Zoe, Mac, and. . .there’s Love for more.

I say this because whether we are experiencing the loss of a friend, family member, or pet, we can miss them AND live life as they would want us to. If they could give us permission, they would. Maybe they do and we don’t want to see it because we feel like we are dishonoring them.

It’s good to remember the power and freedom of living in the realm of AND.

Knowing Dog Behavior

June 2nd, 2008

As a dog trainer/behaviorist, and more importantly as a person who loves and respects all creatures, I have to be careful that I don’t assume that I KNOW dogs. There is currently a lot being said about the need for humans to be assertive pack leaders. That’s true.

What I’m concerned about is that whenever we decide that we KNOW something, we limit what the truth may be and consequently, we’re not open to other possibilities. The BIG difference – we’re humans and they’re dogs. We can study animals and how they live as a pack, but there’s no way we can understand everything as an absolute.

I met someone who said they had worked with dogs for 35 years. Oh. As she hesitated to pet my loving pup, she said that the glossy-eyed look of my dog was most likely an indicator of aggression. She couldn’t have been more wrong. In this case, it was because of depression (I don’t know what that would be in dog language). People live together for 50 years and never KNOW each other. Why do we expect that there would be just one way to know our dogs?

Dogs may be more predictable than humans, but I have learned to never assume that I KNOW all there is to know about dogs or their humans. There’s always room for growth and learning. . .oh, and love.

Our Dogs Need Us

May 31st, 2008

We need our dogs. I wonder if as humans we need to be needed. If we choose, we can learn a lot and gain a purpose outside of ourselves.

I knew that my dog needed me, but what I didn’t consider was how much her needing me was a part of my every day existence. She needed extra time for eating and she required a lot of special attention. I guess I was limited at times because of her. In those moments, I didn’t see it quite like that. She needed me.

She never complained. Dogs don’t. She never apologized either. She needed me. I would have chosen nothing else.

Until. . .I couldn’t help her any more. I couldn’t be happy enough to make her happy. I couldn’t empathize enough to heal her. I couldn’t get rid of the pain that was deep inside her.

I could let her need me for something far grander. A selfless gift of freedom from the fear that she carried in her. She needed me to give her wings. To free her from the physical realm to a place of peace. She would never be afraid again. She needed me now more than ever.

Today, I can sense her peace. I miss her needing me. I miss everything about her. Now, she needs me again. She needs me to celebrate the life we shared and to know that she is free. . .

Changing Dog Behavior

May 28th, 2008

You might have heard it said that when we choose a behavior we also choose the consequence. It is much the same with our dogs. However, they choose a behavior and we may be the one to provide a consequence.

A consequence isn’t only negative. Consequences are also good – very good. However, the positive doesn’t seem to get the same attention as the negative (for us or our dogs)!

As pack animals, the consequence of a dog’s choice comes in the form of acceptance or not. IT HAPPENS IN THAT MOMENT. It’s not likely that one of the dogs says “wait until your Father gets home!” or “when I tell your Mother what you’ve done, she’ll be so proud!”

In our families, if our dog exhibits a behavior that is considered good, the consequence should be IMMEDIATE praise or some sort of reward. Acknowledge it! If the behavior is not desired, then they should receive an IMMEDIATE correction – verbally or with a collar and leash.

Acknowledging your dog’s behavior in the moment will bring good consequences for both of you!

Train Your Dog To Talk?

May 26th, 2008

Our dogs do have something to say!  This video has been around for years and it always makes me smile.  Something to share on a Holiday that will make you smile.

Dog Training Expectations

May 24th, 2008

At some training sessions, the best information I provide the client is to lower their expectations. In a time of keeping ourselves overly busy with not enough hours to get everything done, we get a new dog. There are expectations that the dog will quickly acclimate to it’s new home.

Whether it’s a puppy or a dog with a history, it will take a few weeks for it to settle into it’s environment. During that time, it’s very important that the dog learns from you where it fits in and what the “rules” are.

Or, perhaps you’ve had the dog for awhile and now realize that they didn’t automatically fit in as you had hoped. If this is the case, it my be time to start over. It may be necessary to lower your expectations.

I suggest that you expect less so that you can take the time needed to work with your dog to become a member of the family. Frustration with an apparent lack of progress, won’t help anyone. A calm, assertive, consistent leader will gain much more than a frustrated, angry, random one. It also does more harm than good to realize that you’ve been impatient with your pup, so you overcompensate by letting all rules slide.

Once you and your dog have established a relationship, that is the time to raise your expectations and to live with your dog with authority, confidence, and love.

Dogs Will Be Dogs

May 23rd, 2008

I mention this because I remember recently when one of my dogs brought in a tiny, baby rabbit to show me. I responded with a “thank you for sharing this with me” quickly followed by an “oh, no.” I went outside to check and she and my other dog had found a small nest. Fortunately, there were only a few rabbits. Dogs will be dogs.

Zoe, the female who is quite the hunter, is just doing what dogs do and what is instinctive to her breed. While she responds to sit, down, stay, and come, she is also a hunter of rabbits, mice, lizards, birds, etc. I’m sure that even if I dressed her in the latest doggie fashion accessories, she’d still have caught that rabbit. But, she’d look quite stylish doing it! We don’t train instinct out of a dog. Nor should we want to – or at least not entirely.

It’s good to have our dogs respond to us and a command like “leave it” is important particularly when it’s in the dog’s best interest. However, it’s also good to know your dog and understand the instincts of the breed. For example, if you have a dog that’s considered a working breed, there are ways to channel that instinct productively. Something as simple as putting a small backpack on your dog before a walk can give it a sense of purpose. Agility classes work wonders for some breeds.

Know your dog and just remember that for as much as you know – some days DOGS WILL BE DOGS!

Stop Your Dog From Jumping!

May 20th, 2008

A jumping dog is the number one complaint of people with larger breed dogs and of the friends and family of people with little dogs who think that it doesn’t bother anyone that their dog jumps to greet them.

It’s important first to look at what we do to contribute to this response. Our front doors are typically a place of greeting – animated voices, excited energy of seeing who’s there and welcoming them into our homes. If they are dog lovers or suffer from guilt of not being, they may anxiously speak to the dog as they touch him as he’s jumping up on them. You’re telling the dog “off!” and your friends are saying “Oh, it’s okay!” I think it’s obvious to understand the confusion of the dog.

The focus is the door and the entry. Good things happen there! Your dog is not only responding to the excited energy of everyone greeting each other, but to being touched as he jumps. So, he’s also getting affection while he’s jumping. Not exactly what you want!

The other part of this is the all-important question of how much you’ve actually worked with your dog using a situation like this for training purposes. Here is one way of breaking your dog from the habit of jumping on people when they are at the door.

  • Stage a visit – have a friend or neighbor come over and work with you and your dog.
  • Put a leash on your dog and keep them back from the door far enough so that they can’t immediately jump on your guest.
  • Invite your guest to let themselves in and to walk past you as they ignore the dog. Yes, ask them to ignore the dog – completely! If the dog jumps as they enter, immediately correct them and have them sit (the dog, not your guest!)
  • When your dog is calm and sitting, you may have your guest greet them.

This may not produce instantaneous results, as it is a process. Consistency and patience will pay off and will bring better results. Your dog will learn that they get affection and praise when they are away from the door and off your guests! There are other suggested ways to work with your dog not to jump. I’ll cover those in later posts.

Why Dog Commands?

May 16th, 2008

That’s a good question. I heard Cesar Milan make reference to the fact that dog training per se is a human thing. That’s so true! Humans developed training methods in order to live with dogs and to bring them into our environment as pets. These methods have changed almost as often as the teaching methods used by our own schools.

I have four dogs and I’ve never witnessed them conducting school where a fellow pack member is up in front teaching everyone how to sit and stay. (That would be wonderful!) Obviously, dogs learn from each other in different ways and when we can closely emulate that, we have success.

So, we bring dogs into our homes and practice our methods of teaching things like sit and stay. Amazingly, the dogs get it. They even like it! I don’t suggest that you just let your dogs be dogs without leadership, structure, and training. I do however, think it’s important to remember that we think differently than them and when we forget that, no one pays attention.

The basics of good communication with dogs is really no different than how we communicate with the people in our lives – some are difficult, some don’t seem to listen, some are hard to understand, some don’t care what we have to say, and some would do better with a different form of teaching.

Be willing to listen and to try a new approach if needed – with your dogs and you can try it on your humans too.

Seven Reasons to Train Your Dog

May 14th, 2008

1. It creates a better relationship between you and your dog.

2. You’ll be happier with your dog.

3. Your dog will be happier with structure and purpose.

4. You won’t be embarrassed as you walk your dog down the street!

5. Once the dog is trained – you can lower the dose of your blood pressure medication.

6. You’ll save money on furniture, nice pillows, Persian rugs, and other unintentional dog “toys.”

7. You CAN live in harmony with your canine companion.