Sunday, December 20, 2009

Beggin’ by the Christmas tree

When I arrived home from work last night, my husband had finished most of our Christmas wrapping and so, I sat down next to the tree and looked at all the beautiful gifts.
Sensi was, as always, at my side. However, while I picked up and admired all sorts of different presents, he was interested only in a few — his.
No, we didn’t point them out to him. We didn’t say anything to him. We’ve kept everything very low key because there’s no point in getting him all excited when Christmas is still about a week away.
It doesn’t matter though. He knows which ones are his gifts.
He went around to each box, sniffed it, wagged his tail, cocked his head and gave me that look.
“It’s for me. I know it’s for me,” he seemed to say, his eyes glistening and barely audible whines coming out of his mouth. “So can I open it? Huh? Huh? Can I open it?”
Keep in mind that my husband and I took great care to ensure that Sensi never saw any of gifts ahead of time — he was put in a separate room while I brought them into the house and all his gifts were kept hidden behind closed doors.
When he realized there would be no opening of presents, he laid down beside the tree, rested his head on the carpet and let out a big sigh. He laid by the tree for quite a while like that.
I’m reading this new book called “Power of the Dog: the things your dog can do that you can’t” by Les Krantz and it led me to reflect for a moment about how Sensi knew which gifts were his.
The book goes into detail about great powers of the dog, their incredible scent included. It also talks about a dog’s eyesight being different than humans.
You’ll have to read the book for a better explanation than I can recount here, but basically, the same physical elements that allow dogs to see movement in the dark also restrict them from being able to clearly pinpoint objects in their immediate vicinity — things like toys, no doubt.
So if your dog can’t really see that bone he’s chewing on or stuffed animal he carries around, how can he so clearly identify it? Scent is the answer for this one, folks.
My guess as to how Sensi knew which gifts were his, then, is by their scent. Certainly, the Nylabone dental chew bone I got him may have been easily identifiable — perhaps it smelled similar to Nylabone toys he’s received in the past.
But what about the stuffed animals I picked out from Salvation Army? These items probably belonged to unknown children before him. Perhaps they sat around in attics or basements for years before being donated to the store. There were probably hundreds of scents associated with these items — kid smells, house smells, store smells and more — none of which would be familiar to him.
As the book explains, dogs are able to smell the tiniest of molecules. The book uses, for example, walking into a bakery. We smell the scents of baking bread, muffins and icing while our dogs would instead smell the yeast, eggs and different types of sugars used to make the products.
Amazing, right?
On that note, perhaps what Sensi was smelling and recognizing as something for him was not the objects’ most recent scents — human handling, house smells, store smell, etc., — but instead the fibers used to make the stuffed animals, the different felts used to make a nose or plastic materials commonly used in making stuffed animal eyes.
Who really knows. All I can say, without a doubt, is that Sensi was able to identify the four boxes that were his and showed no interest in the dozens of other boxes, despite the fact that they all had pretty much the same outward appearance.
I often say on this blog that if we only knew more about our dogs, we could stop buying into all these warm and fuzzy but vastly untrue myths about our four-legged companions. If we really took the time to learn the truth about dogs, we could simply appreciate them for being the amazing animals that they truly are.
Sensi with his favorite all-time gift from a Christmas a couple years ago, a Jolly Pets Teaser Ball.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A dogless night

The emptiness in my house was overwhelming.
There was no tail-wagging, smiling dog to greet me as I walked in the door. No pit-patter of paws down the hallway. No big eyes beggin’ to secure a spot on the couch. No four-legged creature to jump up from a deep sleep just to accompany me as I walked to the fridge.
It was a dogless night at my house.
Oh, the emptiness. I don’t know how those non-dog owners handle it.
It wasn’t exactly like we were worried for our pooch, thinking of his loneliness as he spent the night in a cage at the vet’s office or something. In fact, it was exactly the opposite — our dog was out having a doggone good time, getting lots of love and special attention from my Dad.
It was Thanksgiving when my Dad, who just adores my dog, made his request.
“It gets kind of lonely at the house, ya know,” he told me. “I was wondering if I could borrow Sensi for the night — he’s good company. I can talk to him, play with him, even just take a nap with him.”
I was touched. My Dad and my dog really do have a special bond. I have this picture of my Dad hugging my dog and Sensi is clearly hugging him back, his big ol’ pit bull head nestled right into my Dad’s neck.
Of course, I said yes. But even as I said it, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy night.
My husband and I coped in an odd, somewhat comedic manner. He’d call out Sensi’s name, perhaps just to say it like he normally would, and I’d do the same.
Perhaps the worst was when I grabbed my keys to put them in my purse. It was a strong reminder of the associations I’ve made in my life. When I grab my keys, I expect to hear the jingle of my dog’s collar as he leaps up and makes his way to my side to figure out what’s going on, if I’m leaving and if, just if, there’s the possibility I might want some four-legged company on my travels.
But last night, there was no jingle of the collar. No dog at my side, peering up at me with great hope in his eyes that I might just take him on a little trip in the car. I looked at my keys for a moment, sighed and then, with a heavy heart, put them away and went back to what I was doing.
“He’s having a blast with your Dad, Karen,” I told myself. “Don’t be such a loser. It’s not like he’s gone for good.”
Truly, though, his absence last night made both my husband and I think about those awful days that will come after he is gone. As I’ve said before on this blog, my dog is getting into his senior years and what will inevitably come is not lost on me.
“We better have a replacement lined up,” I told my husband last night, half-joking but more serious than I’d like to admit. “I just can’t handle all this emptiness. I need a dog underfoot.”
There was one upside to Sensi’s absence and that was the good night’s sleep that both my husband and I got, considering no 90-pound dog had climbed up between us on the bed to stretch out and steal all our covers.
Which made me think: the next dog will be crate trained. No doubt.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don’t unwrap that!

We enjoy watching our dogs unwrap gifts, with a couple caveats — it’s got to be their toys and it’s got to be on our terms.
That means no sneaking under the Christmas tree one week beforehand and stealing arbitrary gift boxes to unwrap.
Think about what the ideal situation would be. On Christmas morning, you pull out your dog’s gifts from under the tree and create a little pile especially for him just as you do for your other family members. You hold one up to him and say, “Open it up, pal, this one’s for you!”
When he’s done unwrapping and everyone’s had the opportunity to coo over how cute and human-like he is, he runs around with the new toy in his mouth, his tail wagging and chest protruding with pride.
Then you say, “Come ‘ere boy, I got another one for ya,” and he trots excitedly back to you, ready to do it all over again.
Keep this entire image in your head and do not stray from it. This is important.
The dog will quickly start making associations, usually “wrapped gift equals toy for me.” After the second or third unwrapping experience, he may completely lose interest in the toy that’s inside and instead move on to the next box, ready to do it all over again.
This is not good. If the dog quickly discards the toy and heads for another box, stop him. You may even give him a correction command, like “No!” or “Bad!” to stop him in his tracks. If you have to, put the remaining wrapped boxes up and out of his reach.
Tease him with his new toys and try to get his attention with them. If he’s determined on unwrapping more gifts, he may move in on the next person and their pile, whether it’s your 2-year-old, 15-year-old or yourself. If he does this, be swift with the correction.
“Bad dog!” as soon as sniffs out a box. “Go lay down!”
Let him sulk for a moment, then tease him again with one of his newly unwrapped toys. Once he appears to have forgotten about those magical wrapped boxes, you are free to give him another one.
The key is in the giving, literally. You want your dog to make the association that he may open gifts once you or another human hand has given them to him and encouraged him to open them, and only then.
This means he may not select his own boxes to open. He may not start unwrapping random boxes on the floor. In order for Fido to unwrap, there must first be a hand extending a gift to him. Not even the slightest of deviations should go unnoticed or without a simple “No!” correction.
By setting up the game this way, your dog has parameters by which he can understand the whole ordeal. Otherwise, how would he know that he can’t open any ol’ gift that’s laying around?
Think about a 2-year-old for a moment. If we never took the time to teach them that gifts can only be opened at certain times and that only certain gifts were meant for them, don’t you think they’d be going around, opening up any wrapped box they laid eyes on?
Dogs are the same.
My sister, by the way, used to put a baby gate around the bottom of the tree for a couple years. Bubba did enjoy stealing gifts every now and again and the baby gate proved to be an effective solution for her.
With time and as the number of children in the household grew (hence meaning there were more birthdays for children where there were not gifts for the dog, providing the dog with many experiences where he was told “No!” when he went to open gifts that were not his), Bubba learned that not all gifts were meant for him. Nowadays, she doesn’t have to worry about him sneaking off with a gift.
So, enjoy an unwrapping experience with your dog this Christmas. Just make sure the only gifts he opens are the ones you hand directly to him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dogs can unwrap gifts too

Not like this is big news to dog lovers. Most dog owners, I think, probably have discovered and regularly enjoy watching their dog unwrap gifts.
Before having a dog of my own, I really had no reason to give any thought to the issue. It was while celebrating Christmas with my sister and her dog, a Boxer named Bubba, that I realized watching a dog unwrap gifts can be as rewarding as watching kids unwrap gifts.
At the time, it was just her and her husband and the dog. Bubba really ripped into that wrapping paper and, just like a Boxer, used his forelegs and paws to bang the toy around and aid him in the unwrapping process.
Once the wrapping paper had been crushed under his paws and the toy was in his mouth, he pranced around the room like he was king of the world. He wasn’t just happy to have a new toy — he was also very proud of himself for “discovering” it.
The following year, I had my own dog at Christmastime and I was determined to have him unwrap his gifts. That first year, much like a child’s first year, he wasn’t very good at it. He took small bites at the paper and then spit it out. Once we got the item partially unwrapped, I’d finish the job and hand the prize over to him.
Again like a child though, by the time his birthday came around months later, he had greatly improved his gift unwrapping skills. And by his second Christmas, he was a pro. He went straight for where the wrapping paper had been taped together, carefully punctured the tape and paper with his teeth and peeled back the wrapping — often exposing the gift in one very talented unwrapping maneuver.
I love watching him unwrap gifts and I’m continually amazed by how good he is at it. Sensi tackles a wrapped box in a practically scientific manner — personally, I think it has a lot to do with their sense of smell, but that’s another topic for another day.
Teaching your dog to unwrap gifts comes with great challenges, though.
First, how do you ensure the dog won’t decide to open up all those gifts under the tree while you’re gone at work one day, or sleeping comfortably in bed one night? And just imagine how horrible that would be — iPods ruined by teeth marks, mauled Barbie dolls, toy trucks missing wheels, etc.
And secondly, what if that exuberant unwrapper of yours decides the wrapping paper is quite tasty?
Well, there’s a few things you can be sure of — Gifts will be gone or damaged, Christmas will be ruined and you may wind up paying for an expensive emergency surgery to remove Joey’s iPod or Jessica’s Barbie from Fido’s tummy.
In my next blog, I’ll give some tips on how to make sure you’re canine unwrapper doesn’t ruin Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Puppyrific presents

I have no kids and so, like many people out there, Christmas morning at my house is all about the dog.
Through the years, I’ve found that the packaging of the gifts can be as much fun for my dog as the toys inside them. I’ve also found that I can get my dog an abundance of gifts for a very small cost. So, now on my seventh year of dog-centric Christmases, here are my tips to make the morning a merry one for your four-legged pal:
Just one quick disclaimer — My dog has been trained to rip apart, shred and otherwise destroy things without eating them. If your dog is a shred-it-then-eat-it type-of-guy, some of these suggestions may not be healthy for your dog, as emergency room visits are often the result of dogs eating things they shouldn’t.

1) The (empty) 12-pack of beer gift.
No, I don’t allow my dog to drink alcohol. I have, however, found empty 12-pack beer bottle boxes to be perfect for wrapping. A quick stop by a thrift store or dollar store with anywhere from $5 to $10 will fill the box with those types of toys that your dog loves — you know, the cheap squeaky toys and stuffed animals that they rip apart in a matter of minutes and then you have to crawl around to pick up the remains and throw them away. But hey, it’s Christmas. Why not let your dog shred enough stuffed animals to make it look like it snowed on the carpet? The added bonus of the 12-pack of beer gift is that you can let the dog go nuts ripping into the box to get his toys because, who cares if an empty 12-pack gets shredded?

2) The you’ll-never-get-me puzzle gift.
I like to go all out on these gifts. Take a tasty, very smelly morsel — a stinky rawhide, pig’s ear or lamb’s ear or something of that sort, and wrap it up in an old but clean rag which you have no intentions of keeping. Wrap it up really good. Tie those knots as tight as you can. Maybe use a second rag to create a double layer, or even a third. Then, maybe put it in an old margarine bowl or something that you wouldn’t mind being ruined. Finally, put it in a box (another empty 12-pack?) and wrap it up. Your dog will be entertained for hours as he works his way through the puzzle to get the treat! (He may need some encouragement from you if he’s never worked his way through a puzzle before.)

3) The good-luck-getting-these-tennis-balls-out gift
My mother actually deserves the credit for this gift. Years ago, she began stuffing tennis balls in anything she could find — those long 12-pack pop can boxes, empty Capri Sun boxes, cardboard tubes, partially-ripped open stuffed animals, etc., etc. Just look around your house. My favorite is the partially-ripped open stuffed animal. Up the ante on this one by getting him a new stuffed animal, cutting a small hole that’s just big enough to squeeze some tennis balls inside of it and then give a few cursory stitches to close up the hole enough so that the balls don’t drop right out, but not so well-closed that you can’t see the tennis balls. When your dog finds the stuffed animal, point out the tennis balls to him and encourage him to get them out. He’ll love the challenge and the reward!

4) The where’d-your-present-go gift.
Who said all gifts have to be placed under the tree? Take one of your dog’s smelly gifts — bones work well for this, so do Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and rawhides, pig’s ears, etc. — wrap it and hide it. Unless you and your dog regularly practice games of hide-and-seek, I wouldn’t hide it too well. An obscure corner of the room, behind the magazine stand, underneath a desk or table or partially covered by a blanket are some good examples of dog-friendly hiding spots. Once your dog has opened all his gifts, tell him he has one more and get him all pumped up about it. You may need to help him look around a bit but don’t totally give away the hiding spot. Get him close enough so his nose can smell the bone or Kong, but let him find it on his own — his reaction will be worth it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The chase game: a dog’s perspective

My belief is that games of chase, just like tug, can be a very rewarding energy-outlet for your dog, if played properly.
Of course, I have to preface this blog by stating that you need to know your dog. The game of chase stems from the wolf’s hunting of prey in the wild, and certainly, it is not a good idea to let your dog chase a child, other small animals, or even you if you think such a game could inspire your dog to move from the act of chasing to attacking.
Secondly, it’s always good to train your dog that there’s a difference between chase and keep-away. I don’t like keep-away. It’s pretty simple to nix the keep-away aspect; just stop playing whenever your dog insists on keeping the toy away from you and more than likely, he’ll learn and learn quickly that keep-away is a surefire method to stop the fun.
No dogs like to stop the fun!
When I began playing chase with Sensi, it was generally in small, indoor areas. I’d chase him around a bit, then ask him to bring the toy to me and drop it, then throw it for him and switch the game to retrieve for a little while.
He likes to do the circle thing, where both parties end up doing half-circles because they keep meeting each other and having to turn around and go in the opposite direction.
The half-circle thing gets boring quick, so every once in a while, I’d head off in the opposite direction, running into a bedroom or down a hallway or just somewhere else to give the game some diversity.
What did I find? That even if my dog is the one with the toy and I have nothing, if I turn around and run in the opposite direction, he will follow.
The other day, I even picked up a toy and took off running from him. He had a toy in his mouth too and never dropped it. We were just two idiots running around together while hanging on to dog toys.
So here is what I think — Chase does not necessarily mean that the dog is prey and you are chasing it, or that you are prey and the dog is chasing you. As I warned before, if you think your dog may assume you are prey if you run, then don’t play this game and even better, address this behavior and change it before your dog attacks someone.
My thought is that to the dog, the game of chase is more about you and the dog working together like a pack to get the prey. It doesn’t really matter who has a toy or if you both have a toy or who’s leading and who’s following, it’s simply about the action of running around chasing something like members of the same pack.
Many behavior experts have the same view of tug — it’s not you verse the dog, but rather you and the dog working together to rip apart “dinner,” which, in this case, is a tug rope.
I can’t stress enough that you really need to know your dog, though. Many dogs will move from chasing prey to attacking prey. If you’ve got one of those dogs, I recommend working with your dog to establish what is an acceptable prey to chase (the ball) and what is not (humans, cars, etc.).
If not, chase is more than just a game to your dog and is instead a behavior that could eventually lead to injuries, both for the human and the dog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving me the run-around

I’ve said before that dogs are always studying us closely, picking up on things we don’t even notice about ourselves to help them determine if “good things for dogs might happen.”
Here’s a cute example of how my dog turned the tables on me, using his observant manners to train me and modify my behavior.
I call it the run-around.
This might be a topic for another blog, but I enjoy two games with my dog that most people hate or say shouldn’t be played at all — chase and tug. (I can just hear the jaws of the anti-pit bull peoples’ mouths hitting the ground, thinking about my defenseless, girly-self playing such dangerous games with a pit bull, at that!)
Think what they may, I look at the games as another good outlet for my dog. Plus, they make him smile and I love seeing him smile and look all happy.
Anyhow, the chase game has been going on for years. In the old house, he used to run circles around the couch. I’d run half way in one direction, then turn around and head in the other. He’d do the same, and we’d repeat this for a couple minutes until I tired out and sat down.
He signals the start of this game by running up to someone with a toy in his mouth, doing a play bow and then taking off in the opposite direction as fast as he can.
At the new house, the couch is against the wall so he chose a new circle — around the TV. This is a very small circle, and from very early on, he’d sometimes bolt down the long hallway toward the bedrooms and see if he could get me to follow.
I usually did not.
Sensi is most playful after breakfast and again after dinner, but the morning play routine is definitely more energy-packed. On the weekends when I’m home in the morning, I put forth a good effort to play with him and try to relieve some of his extra energy.
Also on weekend mornings, I do laundry.
Sensi began following me back to the bedroom, where I generally sort, fold and hang up all the laundry, with a toy in his mouth. Once or twice, with laundry basket in hand, I’d chase him back down the hallway.
He really liked this.
In fact, he liked it so much that he began making sure whenever I walked down that hallway, he was at my side with a toy in his mouth, ready to be chased back down the hallway. He’ll sit and wait patiently for me to finish whatever I’m doing, be it hanging up clothes, folding towels, etc.
A few months ago, he tried something new on me — instead of running straight back down the hallway, he went into the bedroom across the hallway from ours, through the jack-and-jill bathroom connecting it to a second bedroom, then back out in the hallway and towards the living room.
This has now become a daily routine, beyond just laundry-time.
Once, twice or more times a day, I chase him from the living room to my bedroom, then from my bedroom through the other bedrooms, back out into the hallway and again to the living room.
It truly is the run-around because it circles pretty much our entire house.
I have to laugh at the thought that Sensi totally created this game, shaping my behavior from first getting me to jog after him while returning from the room with laundry basket in hand to what has now become a multiple-times-a-day jog around the house.
The funniest thing about this chase game is, it really doesn’t matter who is chasing who or whether one of or both of us have a toy in possession.
In my next blog, I’ll explain why this really doesn’t matter and perhaps, just perhaps, I can change some peoples’ opinions regarding the merit of chase and tug games.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Can you train an old dog new tricks?

Can it be done? Can you really a train an old dog new tricks?
My answer is an emphatic yes.
The degree of work involved in doing this varies, however, depending on the amount of positive-reward training the dog has gone through in the past.
A dog that has a lot of experience with positive-reward training will be super-adept at learning new things regardless of his age. It is, effectively, because the dog has a set of expectations when that cookie jar or fannie pack full of treats comes out; he expects that will be asked either 1) to do something he already knows how to do, or 2) will be asked to figure out what new behavior you want from him.
Positive-reward training is, from your dog’s perspective, a game of trial and error. He tries to figure out what you want from him and when you reward him, he is closer to understanding what it is that you want.
A dog with a long history of positive-reward training will instantly click into trial-and-error mode when all the signs add up that you’re playing this game — signs being things like treats in hand, or in pouch, and vocalizations coming out of your mouth that perhaps he doesn’t understand.
I’ve never met a dog who, with a history of positive-reward training, didn’t fall in love with what the dog perceives as a very fun game that brings him lots of goodies. And so, the dog — young or old — is usually thrilled and fully engaged to be playing this “game” where he learns new things.
Take my dog, for instance. I don’t know if a week has ever gone by in his life where he didn’t do some kind-of positive-reward training, be it for learning something altogether new, reinforcing old commands or for behavior modification.
He’s almost 8-years-old now — an old age for his size — and yet he can figure out what new behavior I’m asking of him within a matter of minutes after we start a training session. He’s been playing this “game” for so long that he knows how to read and follow my body language for hints of what I’m asking him to do. Training him new tricks is so easy that it’s hard not to do it.
Right now, Sensi is honing his tracking abilities through a simple game of hide and seek, learning to crawl on command and we’re perfecting the command that asks him to go get a toy from his basket and bring it to us.
I am constantly seeking out new ideas of things to train him specifically so I can keep that positive reward training going, and my reason — it is such a healthy outlet and stimulus for my old man, and likely his most favorite “game” of all.
So, if you practice positive-reward training with your dog — and remember, dogs do best with short training sessions of 5 to 15 minutes, so it’s low-impact on you too — you get a dog that learns to love learning and will become a pro at learning new tricks, even into old age.
If you haven’t done positive-reward training with your dog, now is a good time to start. It doesn’t matter the age. But the less experience the dog has with the “game,” the slower you need to move.
Start with something simple, like a sit-stay or, depending on his current repertoire of tricks, a paw shake or even just a sit, if it’s not something he’s already mastered.
I’ve seen older dogs that have no experience with positive-reward training be very slow starters to catch on to the game. The best thing to do is to keep the training sessions short and upbeat. Inexperienced dogs can get frustrated and bored easily, which is why it’s important to start with something they’ll have an easy time picking up on, keep the session short and end on a good note.
Lastly, this note is very important — don’t ask your dog to do more than he’s ready to. Move slowly, one small step at a time, and if your dog is really having a tough time, take a step back and make the game a bit easier and more enjoyable for him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doggie dental health

We’ve all had the experience of being around a dog with such wretched breath that it turns your stomach from even a few feet away.
Generally speaking, when a dog’s breath smells that bad, it’s a more serious problem than a dental chew bone can take care of. Usually, it’s a sign that the dog’s teeth have begun rotting.
If the bad breath smell and the fact that your dog’s teeth are or may begin rotting isn’t enough to encourage you to take care of your dog’s canines, then perhaps knowing that regular dental care can add years to your dog’s life is.
Sensi is now approaching his senior years and his breath has begun to get a bit smelly. For years, I relied upon brushing his teeth with doggie toothpaste and a regular toothbrush every once in a while.
Nowadays, I brush his teeth more than just once in a while — once a week, is more like it. If I can prevent that smell from worsening, it’s worth the five or ten minutes it takes to give his teeth a good brushing.
Plus, God knows I want to keep him around for as long as possible. If a weekly brushing can add a year or two to the time I get to spend with him, I’ll do it.
Even if you regularly brush your dog’s teeth, there’s still an extra measure you may want to consider.
Your veterinarian can perform a full dental cleaning service on your dog’s teeth. Think of it in terms of people — we get our teeth cleaned once a year, why not do the same for our dogs?
And just think of how much more useful the service is to our dogs, who don’t brush their teeth twice a day, floss to get out all that kibble stuck between their chompers or use a mouthwash to keep things fresh in there.
Let me note here too — don’t use human toothpaste, mouthwash or even flavored floss (if you think you might actually be able to floss your dog’s teeth anyhow!) on your dog. It can be poisonous for them. Buy doggie-specific products.
Back to the teeth cleaning service at the vet’s office though — it’s expensive. It usually runs around $300.
Why so expensive? One word: anesthetic.
Think about it. In order for vet to do a thorough cleaning of your dog’s mouth, he or she has got to be able to get that mouth open and get it to stay open without that wagging tongue trying to lick those human fingers away.
So, anesthetic is needed to put the dog out for awhile so the cleaning can be performed. And the anesthetic is pricey, pricey, pricey. Generally, it’s well over $100 just for the sleep-inducing drug.
Even so, it's well worth the price.
I encourage everyone — if you can afford it — to make this investment in your dog's health.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My farting dog

I love that on this blog, I can stray from all the seriousness of newspaper articles and have a little fun with less-than-tasteful topics.
Farting dogs are no big surprise to any of you, I’m sure. Anyone who’s owned a dog knows of their ability to empty a room. We all share our stories — inevitably, you run into the person who’s dog appears to scare itself when it toots.
“He jumped up and looked back at his butt like, ‘What the heck was that?” says an adoring and laughing dog owner.
My farting dog story goes back to when Sensi was a puppy. Years later, it’s still funny.
Brent was living with a friend at the time and his friend used an automatic feeder for his two dogs. Sensi, about four months old, was still getting puppy chow in a bowl a couple times a day.
We knew that Sensi couldn’t figure out how to work the automatic feeder. It was an antique-looking kind of feeder where the dog pushes in the door to access the food. Sensi never seemed to bother with it. He was always happy enough with his puppy chow delivered via doggie food dish.
We never had any sort of concern about him learning to use it either. We figured that at some point, he’d just start eating out of it.
I was at work — back then, working as a waitress — one night when Sensi first figured out how to use the automatic feeder.
I remember getting there at about 10 p.m. and my eyes went directly to my dog, who was splayed out on a pile of laundry and looked fatter than I’d ever seen him before. He didn’t even get up to greet me, just smiled and panted while I crouched down to pet him.
“What is wrong with him?” I asked Brent. “He looks bloated.”
Brent and his friend began cracking up.
“I didn’t think it was that noticeable!” Brent said, laughing.
The guys filled me in on how Sensi had learned to use the automatic feeder. By the time they realized he was standing there eating from it, only God knows how long he had been gorging himself.
They let him continue eating for a while, at first a bit proud that he’d learned how to use it. But then, they realized he wasn’t stopping and eventually they had to pull him away from the food trough.
It was all over for Sensi by then though.
Brent said Sensi had gone to the bathroom several times that evening, but it wasn’t enough. Sensi was bloated and he retired to laying on the laundry pile, as stretched out as can be, and hadn’t moved much since.
As they were filling me in, Sensi ripped a huge fart, sighed as if he were relieved and rolled over to lay on his other side.
The guys started cracking up and I was laughing too.
“He’s been doing that all night!” Brent told me. “Ever since he finished up going to the bathroom, he’s just been laying there and he farts, sighs and rolls over. Wait 10 or 15 minutes — he’ll do it again.”
And he did, like clockwork. Fart, sigh, roll over. Fart, sigh, roll over.
Not so different from us humans, I suppose.
It was a long and smelly night, but Sensi was feeling a world better by the morning.
He continued to eat out of the automatic feeder, but never again did he overeat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Speaking the same language

I write a lot about communication in this blog. I’m often angry at us humans for not making better use of our brains to understand our dogs and communicate more effectively with them.
I’m not angry today.
In a recent blog, Capitalizing on common phrases, I wrote about using common phrases with consistency and how doing so can aid your dog in understanding you. I also wrote, verbatim, “The problem is, we just don’t speak the same language.”
To clarify, I should write that we don’t, and we do.
Very clear statement, huh?
Here’s the deal. Humans use a highly developed vocal language to communicate. Dogs use vocalizations as well, but it’s not the same or even close to being the same language we utilize.
Both humans and dogs, however, rely heavily on body language to communicate. Like our vocal languages, the body language used by both species is very different.
For a dog, body language may well be the primary mode of communication with other species. Dogs are very, very adept at reading body language.
In fact, dogs usually catch on to our hand signals and other body language cues in their training before learning our vocal command. Eventually, they associate the hand signal with the vocal command.
To test this, I’ve gone through all of Sensi’s commands without speaking a word. I relied upon the hand signals and body language that I wasn’t even conscious of before, and it worked like a charm.
Read more about that topic by going back to my blog Hand signals.
While a dog’s body language may be entirely different from ours, their great ability to learn and read our body language coupled with the fact that some things, like our eyes, convey a nearly universal language makes body language a great tool in communicating with our dogs.
I encourage everyone to do a little experimenting with their dog.
Out of the blue, catch your dog’s eyes and smile, a big toothy smile, at him. Dogs are quick to learn that smiles on human faces are indicative of good moods and good moods equal a better possibility of good things happening to dogs.
When I smile at my dog, he smiles and wags his tail. See what happens with yours.
One of the neatest ways my dog and I can effectively communicate is when I tell him where to go.
Most of us have had the experience of pointing at something and assuming your dog will follow your pointing finger to an object or place only to watch the dog fixate on your finger or perhaps begin running around the entire house with no clue as to where you want him to go or what you want him to do.
Obviously, finger pointing is not one of those universal communications.
What about your eyes, though? Ever noticed that if you look out at the window at something, your dog comes up beside you and tries to follow where your eyes are looking?
Eyes, I believe, are universal.
Here’s a scenario that didn’t work for me until I starting using my eyes.
My husband and I have a sectional couch with an ottoman on one end, which is “our spot.” And the dog thinks it is his spot too.
To be more specific, he thinks his spot is on the ottoman between Brent and I. He is a 90 lb. pound dog, and our ottoman is not some extra-large thing. As Sensi gets comfortable and starts stretching out, our legs get pushed to the edges of the ottoman, suddenly we’re sitting on angles to accommodate him and it’s just a little ridiculous.
Especially when there’s two other very large sections of the couch sitting empty.
So, I would tell Sensi, “Get up, pal, get up.” This is a command he knows means to stand up.
And then, pointing with my finger toward the empty section of the couch, I’d say, “Go over there and lay down.”
He used to jump off the couch and lay down on the floor, sighing like a grump. And I was not asking him lay on the floor; I just wanted him to go to the large, empty space on the couch.
One day, rather than pointing, I turned my head and directed my eyes right at the open space on the couch.
I watched as he turned his head and looked at where I was looking.
Then it happened.
Standing up on the ottoman, he didn’t even bother to get down. He stepped carefully over Brent on the couch and walked right over to where I had looked and laid down.
It was that easy. All along, it was that easy.
Let this be a lesson to explore how much we can use our body language, especially our eyes, as a communication tool with our dogs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Are certain breeds more dangerous?

On my recent blog, Culture at fault, someone recently posted this comment.

"If the most popular breeds in America are Retrievers, Shepherds, and beagles why are the majority of dog related mauling deaths blamed on pitbulls, bulldogs and the mixes?
You say: stay away from all dogs but the truth is not all dog breads are as dangerous as others. Are you are truly unaware that certain dog breeds are more likely than others to do harm to humans?"

First, let me clarify one thing. I did not say to stay away from all dogs. The point of the blog was to state that all dogs have the propensity to bite or maul and that society does nothing to prevent this, as the popular views on dog behavior and dog ownership are a world different from what science has told us about what makes a dog tick.

In short, if we knew more about canine behavior, we'd have less bites and maulings.

I tried to post a rebuttal comment on the blog, but I think it may have been too long. So, I'm going to post it here.

Statistics kept on dog bites are no longer kept by the CDC; the latest report on dog bite fatalities (from the 1990s) was the last report to be produced by the CDC because of the way it was misconstrued by breed ban proponents. In fact, the cover letter attached to the report says this, verbatim: "In contrast to what has been reported in the news media, the data contained within this report CANNOT be used to infer any breed-specific risk for dog bite fatalities (e.g. neither pit bull-type dogs nor Rottweilers can be said to be more “dangerous” than any other breed based on the contents of this report). To obtain such risk information, it would be necessary to know the numbers of each breed currently residing in the United States. Such information is not available."

This is in area in which I have done a lot of research, and even interviewed one the people who led that study.

I think it is slightly unfair to say pit bulls are more dangerous than other breeds, especially based on statistics that even the CDC found unreliable enough to stop collecting data.

A Lab was responsible for the England woman who had to have the first face transplant. A Pomeranian fatally mauled an infant. Golden Retrievers and other popular breeds, like Cocker Spaniels, have failed canine good citizen tests at a greater percentage than pit bulls. German Shepherds used to be thought "more dangerous" than pit bulls and other breeds in the 1970s.

Saying that one dog breed is more dangerous than another is discrimination. Dogs are individuals too. They have inherent characteristics, which mesh with their environment and socialization to create their behavioral patterns. I know the argument here, from the anti-pit bull crowd, is that the breed is full of inherently bloodthirsty, aggressive maneaters. This is very untrue. Pit bulls, by breed standard, are supposed to be extremely human-friendly, regardless of the situation. The breed may inherently have a high prey drive or exhibit aggression toward other animals, but they are far from the only breed — big and small — to have this trait. And, it can be effectively combated with proper socialization.

What I'm trying to say with this blog is that until we start using our highly intellectual human brains to understand and utilize the vast amount of information available on canine behavior, we are putting all dogs at a disadvantage as far as bites and maulings go. Many bites and maulings could be prevented if only we humans knew more about our dogs.

Unfortunately, whenever someone tries to talk about canine behavior, we're written off as spewing crazy-talk "doggie psycho-babble."

The idea that if we just got rid of pit bulls, rottweilers and bulldogs the world would be full of rainbows again is a crock of crap, and I will stand by that.

Let's remember a couple neat facts too — aggression was successfully bred out of the English Bulldog as an inherent characteristic at the time the breed was rescued from near extinction. The Doberman was the pit bull of the 1980s, when many untrue myths about brain swelling and turning against its owners circulated. The German Shepherd got the same treatment in the 1970s. Now, because these two breeds are not the popular choice of breeds amongst shady criminals and is instead owned by responsible, regular folks, no one mentions them in breed bans anymore. And, even if we did eradicate the pit bull completely, there are breeds that have similar histories. What about the Tosa Inu, the Dogo Argentino, the Cane Corso, the Canary Dog, even the wrinkly and much-loved Shar-Pei has a fighting history. And since Mastiffs are big and scary, are we just going to eliminate them too? There goes a dozen breeds or more if we decide to do that. Also, the Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to hunt lions — they have a high prey drive and they are big, strong animals. Should we get rid of them? Chihuahuas are bred to exhibit aggressive tendencies. Should we mark them off the list too? Huskies and Malamutes have strong prey drives and need just as much socialization and exercise as pit bulls. Ban them too? St. Bernards have big jaws and if they bit or attacked, they could inflict nasty wounds. Other dogs are big too, with big jaws. Do we get rid of all big dogs? Where does it stop?

I do advocate the right owner for the right breed. Grandma who lives alone and has little interaction with others, people and dogs, and is unable to provide daily, strenous exercise should probably not own a pit bull, huskie, Jack Russell terrier or even a Viszla. Do your research and pick a dog that fits your lifestyle. Pit bulls and Rottweilers are not the best fit for many people.

My point is, all dogs can be dangerous in the hands of an uneducated owner. Banning breeds won't stop dog bites or fatal attacks. The best thing we can do to circumvent attacks is learn more about canine behavior. We are the more intellectual species, after all. Why is it that as a society, we just kind-of expect our dogs to learn how to live with us and we do next to nothing to learn about them? It's backwards.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Capitalizing on common phrases

Think about your daily interactions with your dog. Are there things you usually say during certain situations?
There probably are.
For instance, do you tell your dog to be good while you’re gone before you walk out the door to work every morning? Do you ask your dog if he’s hungry before dinner time?
Becoming aware of the vocabulary you already use with your dog is one big step toward improving the communication between you and your dog.
I have a lot words and phrases that I use with Sensi that, nearly seven years later, Sensi has learned to understand without me having put in any active training to teach him.
Here’s a few —
“Let’s go” for any sort of forward motion when I desire that he be moving with me.
“Be good, we’ll be home later,” for when he is left at home alone.
“Breakfast?” and “Dinner?” for obvious situations.
“Go potty” for urination.
“Lay down over there” for when we want him to move to a different section of the couch, eye-contact and some hand gestures are also part of this one.
“Other side” for when I want him to switch the side of his body he is laying on — this is especially handy for and grew out of ear cleaning.
“Get back” for when I want him to take a few steps back from an area.
If you use the same phrases with consistency in the same situations, your dog will make associations with those phrases over time. For instance, when you say “Dinner” your dog knows food will be put in his bowl.
Or, when you say “Go potty” your dog will know you want him to relieve himself.
Be sure to make the distinction that this is not training. You cannot say phrases to a dog and expect him to react just how you had planned, nor should you punish a dog for not reacting how you thought it should.
If you want the dog to take exactly three steps back each time you say “Get back” then you need to do some active training to teach the dog exactly that.
So then, what is the purpose of recognizing and re-using the same phrases with your dog?
If your dog has a set of expectations that go along with a phrase which is commonly used by you, that’s a good thing. It’s communication.
Our dogs, I believe, want to communicate with us and try to communicate with us just as much as we try to communicate with them. The problem is, we just don’t speak the same language.
But, dogs are perfectly capable of making associations between our vocal phrases and situations. In fact, they’re always making those associations.
I’m just advocating that we help them make those associations by becoming aware of phrases we commonly use and using them with consistency in the same situations.
It’s a bit like giving them a road map to navigate around our households with, and who doesn’t want to know where they’re going?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Should helper dogs be allowed everywhere?

We have a dog in our newsroom, a Golden Retriever and Labrador mix named Norton. He was trained by Paws with a Cause to help one of our reporters who uses a wheelchair.
Norton is great. He helps pull his human, Jerry, in the wheelchair and picks up pencils and papers Jerry drops. If Jerry were to fall, Norton not only is trained to help him get up, but he’s also trained to seek out another human and lead them back to Jerry.
Norton’s training was a process that went on for probably about three years. The puppy stages were spent with a foster family who had instructions on socialization and general training and then highly experienced trainers worked with him daily for about a year. After he began living with Jerry, the training continued for perhaps another a year or so.
As a helper dog, Norton is legally allowed to go everywhere Jerry goes. And generally speaking, I’m OK with that.
I know Jerry and I know the types of places Norton goes to with him — auditoriums where Jerry gives speeches, on various assignments Jerry gets here at work and to family functions, etc. That's all fine and dandy in my book.
I think, though, that we tend to forget these helper dogs are still dogs. They’re still on the lookout for a treat, a squirrel still catches their eye — even if they don’t chase it, and they still like to chew on a good bone. I could go on and on.
Back in the summer, I wrote a blog about a dog parade that was led by bagpipers. It struck me that this is the level of discord we humans have with dogs — that we would actually place the most loud, siren-like, ear-piercing noise a foot in front of a large group of dogs.
Remember learning that dogs’ hearing and smelling abilities are crazy-better than ours? That also means their ears and nose are far more sensitive than ours.
And if you stand a foot away from a bagpiper going full-tilt, I bet your ears are going to be feeling incredibly sensitive. Just imagine what a poor dog would be going through.
Some of the dogs in the parade looked so nervous and on-edge. Can you blame them?
This brings me to the point of this blog.
A co-worker shared with me that she spotted a helper dog, a mastiff, in the pit area of a rock and roll concert at The Palace a while back. The dog was limping as he pulled around his owner and looked uncomfortable, surrounded by a wall of human bodies and just feet from some of the loudest sounds we humans create.
A staunch advocate for the underdog, my co-worker confronted the dog’s owner, who seemed to shrug off all her concerns as, “The dog is fine, he’s already been to 22 concerts this summer.”
Twenty-two concerts? I don’t think we humans instituted helper dogs to help their owners navigate a mosh pit at AC/DC. For goodness’ sake, this person couldn’t even have taken a seat further away from the stage to save the poor dog’s ears? Can you just imagine how quickly this dog will be going deaf?
This I would classify as borderline animal abuse or extremely irresponsible and uncaring ownership, at the least.
My problems don’t stop there. My co-worker found out this dog is not a certified therapy dog.
Believe it or not, a lack of certification does not take away any of the legal privileges given to a helper dog. And while the dog certainly had training, here’s another issue I have — there are no mandatory certifications or educational requirements for a person to call themselves a professional dog trainer.
Anyone can call themselves a pro. This means we allow anyone-who-calls-themselves-a-professional-dog-trainer to train helper dogs to go anywhere-humans-are-allowed.
Even mosh pits.
What a world we live in.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Culture at fault

Reading the article about the 3-year-old Waterford Township girl mauled by an American Bulldog staying temporarily at her family's home has compelled me to make a few points here.
First, let's understand that this is not a breed banned by Waterford Township's pit bull ban. The reason: it is not a pit bull.
It is a breed — one of many, in fact — commonly mistaken for a pit bull, simply because it is a large, powerful and often menacing looking dog.
I will not rip apart any dog breeds in this blog.
The problem in this situation, the reason this mauling occurred, I believe, comes back to popular beliefs about canine behavior.
Dogs are supposed to please us, some dogs have a natural instinct to attack, but most dogs are just good dogs — unless it's a pit bull, of course — and we don't have to worry about good dogs misbehaving.
It's all untrue, and if we humans would take responsibility to go beyond the myths we've been told about dogs and actually learn a thing or two about canine behavior, most maulings could be totally circumvented.
I wrote a blog, a while back, about how dogs lack the ability to generalize. This means, two identical objects, like a sofa set, for instance, can be completely different in a dog's mind.
Everything is this way to a dog. Every person is different — your dog is not thinking, "Everyone under 4 foot tall is a kid, everyone else is an adult."
Every situation is different to a dog. Your dog might sit perfectly on command for you in the living room, but how about at the dog park or even just in the backyard?
And, every dog is different. There are internal, inherent factors that go into making a dog's personality just as much as its environment and experiences do.
One thing remains the same for all dogs, however, and that is the imperative need for proper socialization starting from the time the dog is born, most important through the time the dog is about four to six months, and important to maintain throughout the life of the dog.
Dogs need to be introduced to all facets of human life it will encounter in order for it to be successfully well-balanced dog.
If you don't have kids, this means taking your puppy out to parks where it can meet kids and taking extra measures, like bringing along treats and asking the kids to give them to your dog, to ensure that new experiences are wholly positive.
Millions of dogs out there, who have not been raised with young children, are not used to kid's tugging and poking at them or simply hanging all over them, invading their personal space.
If you know your dog has not experienced this before and it is now an adult dog, it is simply risky to let a kid do so.
Don't put your dog in situations that it has not been proofed against.
But even so, if we as a culture made an attempt to learn about canine behavior, we would see warning signs and could circumvent such maulings.
For instance, did the dog turn it's head away from the kid, then maybe scoot its butt a bit so it was facing away from the kid?
Did the dog walk away from the kid? Did it sniff the ground for no apparent reason? Was it yawning a lot?
All of these are early indicators that the dog is uncomfortable.
Sure, you may see a growl or snarl, the dog showing it's teeth, but that's not always protocol.
A dog can go from yawning to biting in a split second and to write it off as, "the dog must have had a thirst for blood," or, "that's a bad dog, kill it" is just ridiculous.
Dogs are always communicating to us, we just rarely hear what they're saying because we, as a society, think learning about canine behavior is some sort of "doggie pyscho-babble."
I assume that in the situation with this recent mauling, it was a mixture of both a lack of socialization and a lack of knowledge about canine behavior that allowed for this attack to take place.
Perhaps the dog was really great with kids, but was tired and wanted some space. Perhaps the dog was trying to communicate this and no one had the knowledge of canine behavior to realize that the dog's frequent yawns or other small body language communications was its way of saying, "I want to be left alone for a bit, please."
And then, when the "please" communications didn't work, the dog did what dogs do — it bit. It's like dog's way of yelling.
So what's really at fault? It's not the dog's fault no one knew what it was saying, it's definitely not the kid's fault, and it's barely the adults' fault.
It was not necessarily the fault of bad dog owners, bad parenting, a bad kid or even a bad dog, but probably just miscommunication (between dog and human) gone wrong.
I put culture at fault, because until we as a culture begin to realize that a little scientifically proven knowledge about canine behavior might be useful and is not just psycho-babble, we will continue to allow popular myths and old adages guide us in raising dogs. We will keep passing on that ill-fated knowledge to our children, and them to their children.
We call the dog man's best friend, but we're not holding up our end of the bargain. If I were a dog, I'd be pretty mad that we humans aren't living up to that "best friend" title.

Friday, September 11, 2009

For all the water dogs

Got a dog who loves the water?
The Troy Family Aquatic Center is hosting the “Dog Water Extravaganza” tomorrow for those pooches with a passion for swimming.
There will be three separate swim times for large, medium and small dogs. Dogs weighing less than 40 pounds can swim from noon to 12:45 p.m., dogs weighing between 41 and 65 pounds are slotted for 1 to 1:45 p.m. and big dogs, those weighing 66 pounds or more, can swim from 2 to 2:45 p.m.
All dogs must be six months of age or older, and all must be wearing their dog license.
Owners have to register their pooches and pay a fee of $11 for Troy residents and $13 for nonresidents.
You’ll get a commemorative t-shirt, but that’s not the reason to go.
Everyone knows the benefits swimming has for people — it feels low impact and is really easy on our bones and joints, yet it’s truly a huge work out for us.
Swimming is so good that water therapy is often used to help people rehabilitate from injuries and build muscle strength.
Think it’s any different for our dogs? Nope.
It’s just as good for them as it is for us.
Especially for those of you with senior dogs or dogs that have hip dysplasia or other joint issues, swimming is really good.
It doesn’t hurt their knees or hips and it isn’t overwhelmingly strenuous for them, yet it’s a fantastic exercise to help your aging, round-bellied dog shed a couple pounds here and there.
Which, by the way, is also important. The less weight on the dog, the less miserable their aching joints feel.
On another note, if you’re dog is afraid of water but friendly with other dogs, this may be a great opportunity to get them swimming.
Of course, you never want to force a dog into the water. I’m just saying, if your dog sees a bunch of other dogs swimming around and having fun, it may perk their interest enough to make them want to give swimming a try.
The event is co-sponsored by Camp Bow Wow and Longview Boarding & Gromming, and the Troy Aquatic Center is at 3425 Civic Center Drive. Call (248) 524-3514 for more information.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Healthy

Good news from the vet trip last Saturday — Sensi is a healthy dog!
He lost five pounds during the last year, due mostly to the fact that he was not around my parents as much as the year before.
This is a true testament to what people food does to your dog.
Everyone seems to be aware nowadays that people food is not good for our dogs. It packs on the pounds like nothing else, and the scary thing is how much more one pound of additional weight affects our dogs verse how it affects us.
Every extra pound is a heavy burden for our pets. Often, though, it’s just too hard to turn away from those beggin’ eyes.
Brent and I, from the very start, said we weren’t going to have a begging dog. This means no people food. Once you start feeding people food to a dog, you set in motion those beggin’ eyes and they’ll never go away.
Not to say he’s missing variety in his life. We keep three different kinds of yummy but low-fat dog treats in the house, he also can have green beans, carrots and potatoes — real, raw potatoes, not processed things like French Fries or greasy things like hash browns — and we spice up meal time every once in a while with a can of wet food.
But this was never enough for my parents, who are convinced that I am a horrible dog mother for not enriching his life with a daily sampling of all our meals.
So, they snuck him people food whenever my back was turned.
Last year at the annual vet visit, Sensi weighed 92 pounds and we were told he needed to shed some weight.
Nothing has changed in our lifestyle except the fact that Sensi is no longer around my parents for several days of every week.
A year later, he’s 86.2 pounds — a weight that the vet said is “ideal for Sensi.”
He’s aging, which means his bones and joints are aging too, and taking off those five pounds will make it that much easier for him to get around.
My advice to all of you is to find a common ground regarding people food. Find some things you can give your dog that aren’t hugely fattening, but enable you to lose the guilt about not giving him people food.
Keep in mind that whole, raw potatoes are great. Sensi plays with them like balls and chews on them like a dog bone.
Just throw them out before they get all rotten and gross!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Trip to the vet

Tomorrow, Sensi will head to the vet’s office for his annual physical and vaccinations.
He’ll be super-excited to get in the truck and be going somewhere with me.
He’ll be excited with a huge helping of anxiety once we pull in the parking lot.
Then, his nose will be overdrive, a hundred miles a minute trying to read the scent of every animal who has passed through the doors.
Eventually, we’ll get in the exam room, where he will hide underneath my legs from the nice vet techs who he honestly believes are there to do bad things to him.
He’ll shake and quiver, even though he doesn’t appear to feel the little injections. It’s never been the needles or procedures that bother him — just these strange people getting close to him.
Despite his inability to relax and be friendly at the vet’s office, this annual visit is so important for his health and I hope everyone takes the time and money to do the same for their pets.
I know times are tough, but let’s not neglect the welfare of our pets.
In years past, I’ve really dropped the ball on the fecal exam. Who really wants to put a load of their dog’s crap in a bag and carry it around? Not me. But this year, I’m going to be sure to do it — and with good reason.
Not too long ago, I was watching one of medical mystery shows on TV. One person featured was a little boy who seemed perfectly healthy, until he went in for a routine vision exam.
The doctor found the boy’s vision was perfect in one eye and practically gone in the other.
What does this have to do with your dog’s fecal exam?
Well, the boy had ingested worms routinely carried by dogs. His mother believed that a handful of sand from a sandbox that the toddler tried to eat may have been the cause.
Worms, the show went on the explain, generally have a negative and noticeable effect on puppies. When we notice the bloated bellies and squirmy poops, we get our puppies dewormed and voila! All taken care of, right?
Not exactly. Adult dogs often carry worms without any noticeable effects. In fact, adult dogs can be carriers and show no symptoms or have no truly adverse side effects.
But, the worms do come out in their poop. Then, they live in the ground for quite some time until another host is found.
In humans, worms don’t do so well. Generally, our immune system kicks their butt. Before this happens though, the discombobulated worms can work their way into parts of our bodies and really hurt us.
The boy featured on the show no longer had any worms in his system, but before his immune system killed them all, they managed to get into his eye and ruin his vision. There is now no turning back the damage that’s been done.
The moral of the story: pick up that bag of poop and bring it into the vet’s office. This way, vets can be sure your dog isn’t carrying any worms and that is a good thing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pit bulls and parolees

I was all set to blog about the body language of fearful dogs today, but then I came across a story on our Petropolis page about a new reality show airing next month on Animal Planet.
It’s called “Pit Bulls and Parolees” — a very fitting name as it appears the show will be about just that.
A California woman runs Villalobos Rescue Center, where she works on adopting out 225 pit bulls and providing jobs for parolees, who work with the much-maligned dogs.
I’ll be tuning in to watch this show, and I hope I like what I see.
If I do, then it’s another step in turning the tide of public perception regarding my favorite breed, pit bulls.
In the past few years, there’s been a lot publicity that has begun showing that this breed is just as capable as any other breed of producing good dogs.
First, there was Cesar Millan with his show “The Dog Whisperer.” People got to see, probably for the first time, how massive numbers of pit bulls live amongst one another, not restrained in the least bit, without a problem.
And they got to see his mascot, the old and sturdy pit bull Daddy, help rehabilitate other dogs — from tiny Chihuahuas to other pit bulls and everything in between.
Then there was the Michael Vick scandal. A quote from the article on Petropolis says it best.
The owner of the shelter, Tia Maria Torres, said:
“As horrible as it was, it changed everything for the pit bull. Shelters are looking at the dogs differently, the public has a lot more empathy and adoption rates are going up. The dogs that died at his hands were the sacrificial lambs. Almost like war heroes, they died for the rest of the dogs.”
National Geographic did a series on how most of the Vick pit bulls were able to be rehabilitated and rehomed, despite their miserable and abusive past.
And closer to home, there’s the story of the pit bull mix Madison who was set on fire by teens at barely 8 weeks old. For all she’s been through, she’s well on her way to being a shining example of all the breed is capable of.
I hope the good publicity continues.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is that a fearful dog?

Here’s a scenario to think about:
You walk up to a very handsome black dog. He’s holding his tail low, but it’s wagging. You don’t notice that as you get closer, the tail gets lower and lower but starts wagging with greater velocity.
All that matters to you is, you’ve seen a wagging tail. That’s a sign of friendliness and happiness, right?
The dog not only appears to be smiling, but his tongue starts going the closer you get. It’s out and licking at your pant leg before you even get close enough to make physical contact.
Wagging tail, licking tongue. Must be a friendly dog.
You don’t notice that his hair has poofed up a bit a long his back — it’s too small of a change for you to pick up on. You don’t notice his rounded eyes darting back and forth, whites of his eyes showing while he avoids making direct eye contact with you. You don’t notice that his ears are glued back against his head.
All you see is a handsome dog with a wagging tail and a licking tongue. A friendly dog.
So you reach your hand out to pet this friendly dog, and WHAP! You’ve been bitten. It was instantaneous. You are left in a state of shock, holding your bloodied hand and wondering what the heck happened.
It happened so fast, you didn’t notice that the dog recoiled at the sight of your approaching hand before rebounding and sinking his chompers squarely in the palm of your hand.
The dog bit quickly, broke the fine skin on your hand, then released and ran away.
What happened? Why in the world would this friendly dog bite you just after wagging and licking?
The answer, of course, is that you’ve just approached my dog, who is extremely fearful. And this is how he reacts.
Most people do not believe me when I tell them Sensi is a fearful dog.
They see a happy, handsome, laid back, relaxed and impeccably well behaved dog. My dog does not give the appearance of being fearful, at least not the type of appearance people recognize.
I, on the other hand, can see a bite coming a mile away. It didn’t always used to be that way, though.
I searched and searched for answers as to what was making my adolescent dog suddenly become aggressive. Was he dominant? Was he protective? Was he picking up on something bad about a person that we didn’t have the instincts to know? What in the world was making my dog freak out and become aggressive in the most unexpected situations?
I gathered all the information I could about different types of aggression. None of it fit Sensi and the behaviors he was displaying. I felt like I was at my wit’s end.
Then I read an article about how a fearful dog may react to a new person, and the article was a play-by-play of exactly every motion made by my dog. From then on, I knew what I was dealing with.
But oh boy, did it take a lot of time to learn how to deal with it.
Tomorrow, I’ll go over some of the physical displays dogs engage in while scared.
Knowing all the ways your dog is trying, usually in vain, to tell you it’s scared is the first step in learning to deal with a fearful dog.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The fearful dog

I bet that 99 percent of you would say that, without a doubt, you could tell if a dog is fearful.
You’d pick the little Chihuahua or Yorkie who can’t stop shaking. The big dog with the tail tucked so far under it appears to be glued to his stomach.
And you’d coo at the dogs, “It’s OK, sweetie, you little pumpkin wumpkin. You’s so sweet, it’s OK.”
Even if you didn’t know them, you’d be cooing at them, trying your human best to let them know that you are a nice person and would never hurt them. Perhaps you’d reach out to pet them and knowingly scratch under their chin, remembering that it’s not good to pet a fearful dog on top of its head.
You think you’re pretty well versed in identifying and handling a fearful dog, don’t you?
You think all that dog needs is a lot of loving and someone to protect it from all the things that make it fearful, and then, the fear will just go away.
Well, you’re wrong. The fear will not just go away.
Worse, when it comes to handling a fearful dog, you have only fraction of the knowledge you need to be both successful and, most importantly, safe.
Like human emotions, fearfulness in dogs varies greatly depending on dog’s inherent personality, early socialization and lifelong experiences, and their current environment.
It is possible to have a very fearful dog who would never bite. It is also possible to have a dog who shows very little evidence of fearfulness, but then bites out of fear once in his life. And of course, there is the fear biter — the dog who bites regularly out of fear.
The telltale signs of fear also vary greatly. Generally, all dogs will use the same signals, but they will use them differently depending on the situation and depending on the dog.
Fear can be a hard one to figure out. Often, by the time a human realizes a dog is fearful, the signals emitted by the dog are so extreme they simply cannot be missed.
But, by the time the dog has taken his signals to such an extreme, the situation has become dangerous.
The biggest mistake humans make is thinking that a fearful dog is like a fearful person, that a little coddling and comforting can make it all better.
Most people never realize that in dogs, fear often drives aggression.
And just the opposite scenario is also often overlooked — most people never realize that much of an aggressive dog’s behaviors are driven by fear.
We just don’t usually make the link between fear and aggression.
This is unfortunate.
Being the owner of a fearful dog, I could ramble on forever about fear. I will try not to do that. Keep reading and I’ll try to shed some light on this subject, without overdoing it, I hope!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rehabbing food aggression: part 2

Once you’ve made some positive steps and notice your dog is a bit more comfortable with you around the food dish, there is still more to do.

• Rather than giving the dog its meals all at once, divide it into three portions. Give the first portion, let the dog eat, then ask it to back away from the dish, sit, and stay. Then, give the dog its second portion of the meal. Repeat.

• Practice hand feeding often. At first, you may want practice tossing kibble or treats to your dog. Work your way up to extending an open hand towards him, holding kibble, and allowing him to eat directly from your hand.

• Give the dog an exchange at feeding time. Have something delicious on hand, perhaps a little wet food or some cooked chicken. When the dog is eating, wave the other dish with the more delicious food near enough so he can smell it. Once you’ve got him begging for that food, put that dish down on the floor. When he begins eating from it, pick up his other food dish. Of course, when he finishes his tasty little treat, give him his regular food back.

• Get the rest of the family involved. Just because the dog is learning that you are not a threat to his food source does not mean he’ll assume all family members are non-threatening. Dogs don’t generalize, so get everyone involved in the training exercises you are working on — just be sure not to involve children until the dog has loosened up a bit, and be very cautious. Use common sense. Do not let children do any exercises that could put them in danger, and be sure to supervise every second of the training.

Object guarding
Oftentimes, food aggression goes hand-in-hand with object guarding. If your dog is growling at you when you walk near his food dish, he may also growl at you when walk near his bone or stuffed animal.
After all, the dog views both food and toys, especially real bones or rawhides, as resources.
The greatest way to overcome and proof against object guarding is the exchange game. Whenever the dog gives up a toy, he gets something better — a treat or another coveted toy. You are teaching him that releasing toys to you is rewarding for him.
Check out this article, which offers valuable insight to rehabilitating both food aggression and object guarding.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rehabbing food aggression

As discussed in previous blogs, dogs owned by hoarders may have food aggression issues.
If the dog was in a situation where there were tons of other dogs, and perhaps not enough food to go around, survival mode would’ve kicked in.
Any food morsel a dog managed to grab for itself would be dearly guarded from others. After all, it sometimes becomes a matter of life or death.
I admit, I do not have much experience with food aggression. I actually have more experience with the other end of spectrum; getting fearful or bored dogs to stop refusing to eat!
I believe, though, that some basic laws of socialization can apply to food aggression.

1) Do not use an automatic feeder. This is a big no-no. As humans, we think, “Once the dog realizes that food is always available, he won’t be aggressive anymore.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember, dogs do not have the capacity for analytical thought.
An abundance of food will not rehab their aggression. Instead, the dog will become super aggressive and protective of the feeder.

2) After feedings, when your food-bowl-protective-little-monster is off somewhere else in the house, pick up the dish. This way, at feeding time you are not trying to reach down and swoop the bowl up, which could create a potential bite from the little monster. Be sure your dog is not around when you pick it up. Put the bowl up somewhere that the dog cannot reach it.

3) At feeding time, call the dog. Allow him to watch you fill his food bowl, but ask him to sit. This is a perfect time to work on perfecting the dog’s sit-stay. He must sit and stay until you give the release command. He must not move an inch when you put the food bowl on the floor. Once the food is on the floor and he is still sitting and staying patiently, go ahead with the release command. (I use “OK” and it means, whatever I’m asking you to do is now over)

4) Stand near the dog during feeding time, but allow him whatever distance he feels comfortable with. Don’t stand so close that he growls at you between bites. If that means four or five feet, or even ten, do it. But each day, gradually inch forward.

5) When he is done eating, approach the bowl and toss a treat in it. Do not bend down or get closer than is necessary.

If you’re feeding your dog twice a day and you’re practicing this exercise at every feeding, the dog will gradually become more socialized to the idea that human+food dish=good things.
This is a good start. Be patient. It may take a lot of time.
Remember, all canine rehabilitation needs to be done in baby steps.
Tomorrow, I’ll go over some more advanced techniques that can be used once the dog’s aggression around the food dish has been toned down a bit.

An IMPORTANT note on the sit-stay
A dog just adopted from a hoarder will probably not have a clue what a sit-stay is.
I recommend working on this during day one of bringing the dog home, just for a couple minutes here and there. Don’t make a production out of it.
It’s a very low impact exercise, it’s rewarding for the dog if trained properly with lots of positive reinforcement (treats, games), and it’s so very helpful in so very many situations.
If you can’t get your dog to perform a sit-stay at feeding time during the first few weeks, involve a second person in your feeding routine.
This person will hold the dog on a leash. Once you put the food on the ground and have given your release command, the second person may drop the leash.
Allow the dog to eat with the leash on.
Remember, safety is first. The purpose of the leash and sit-stay is to avoid any situations where your hands and face are near the food dish at the same time the dog is.
The long-term goal, of course, is to be able to do just that. But in the beginning, you have got to play it safe.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The remarkable recovery of Madison

I interrupt my series on getting the dogs owned by hoarders adjusted to normal life to write this special blog about a little pit bull mix named Madison.
In 2007, she and her littermates were cruelly burned by, allegedly, some teenagers in Detroit. She was the sole survivor and had serious burns on about 80 percent of her body. If you haven’t seen my full story, be sure to check it out (it’s in today’s edition).
The follow-up on Madison, who we reported on when the accident happened, was a very long story for me to write. And still, I just didn’t feel I included all the wonderful and interesting things I learned about the dog.
Saundra Hewitt, the surgeon at OVRS who adopted Madison, is great. She’s funny and down-to-earth, and here is a list of things she shared with me about sharing her life with Madison.
• With half of Madison’s body being hairless, winter time requires some clothing for Madison. Several of the staff members at OVRS have bought her stylish outfits, from light jackets to full-blown snowsuits that cover Madison’s rear legs.
“You have to keep in mind, I’m a surgeon,” Saundra said. “We don’t put bows in our dog’s hair. We don’t put clothes on our dogs. I had no idea what to do.
“I had an ER doctor who sent me a coat (for Madison), then she went out and bought like 10 of them. So I get up in the morning, I put on scrubs and then I have to figure out which outfit she’s going to wear today?”
• Saundra lives near the clinic and often walks to and from work. During one winter day, Madison was wearing one of her coats that does not fully cover her hairless butt and legs.
Saundra was walking home and decided to carry her tired dog, who thoroughly enjoys being carried with her front legs over Saundra’s shoulder, just like a child.
“This lady (in a car) pulls around me, I could see she’s really agitated,” Saundra said. “She pulls into the ditch and she’s laughing so hard because she just saw a bare bum and thought it was a kid.”
The lady was on the phone with police, reporting Saundra because she mistook Madison’s bare butt for a child’s.
• Madison’s injuries have not slowed her activity level one bit. Saundra reports that Madison has two speeds — full speed and no speed. Around 8 or 9 p.m., she tires out and begs to cuddle with Saundra.
Many people, seeing Madison’s hairless and injured rear end, feel sympathetic for her. Saundra said many people will make, “Oh, poor dog!” comments while they’re walking, even despite the fact that Madison pulls around both Saundra and her other dog, an aging Border Collie.
• Madison does almost everything every other dog does, with a few exceptions. She can only tackle a couple stairs at a time, and while she jumps at frisbees with no problem, she sometimes has problems sticking the landing.
• The staff at OVRS love having Madison around, so much so that many of them eagerly share their lunches with her.
Madison knows when lunchtime is, and she long ago figured out how to get out of the baby gate that kept her in Hewitt’s office during the day.
During lunchtime, it is reported that Madison can be found going room to room, getting a bite of everyone’s sandwich.
• Back to wintertime issues: Madison makes quick business of going potty when it’s cold out. Hewitt has ramps installed going to her door to make it easier for Madison, but in the winter time, the door has to stay open until Madison has finished going to the bathroom.
“She comes running up that ramp and she’s ready to go inside — she’ll run right into the door because she can’t stop very fast,” Saundra said.

Having personally met Madison, I’m very happy to learn that she’s got a fantastic home and some wonderful friends at OVRS.
Behavorist Theresa DePorter said it best:
“I think it’s inspiring for us to see her from beginning to end,” she said. “We can realize that we can all, dog or person, overcome whatever it is.
“Whatever this dog can do, we’re going to do it to the highest level and treat her as normal as possible.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Potty training the Dearborn dogs: part 2

A lot of ground was covered in yesterday’s blog on potty training the Chihuahuas that came from the home of the Dearborn hoarder.
We know the basics — don’t punish the dog for going potty in the wrong places until it fully understands what the right place is, thoroughly clean up any accidents, take your time introducing them to grass and make sure it’s a positive experience, and if they do go potty in the right place, treat them like they’ve won you the lottery.
But how do you teach the dog what the right place is?
If I were adopting one of these dogs, I’d invest in a lot of pee-pads. There’s a ton of “puppy pee-pads” on the market. To be quite honest, I’m not sure which brand is better than the next.
Puppy pee pads are like absorbent, disposable little blankets. The bottom side is usually waterproof to keep the urine from seeping into your floors, the top side soft like toilet paper.
Most companies state that the scent of these pee pads draw dogs to them and encourage them to potty there.
When I fostered a couple puppies for a weekend, I spread the pee pads out all over the place inside my house. While the two pups didn’t always make it to the pee pad, they did on more occasions than not.
Every time I caught them using a pee pad, I immediately gave vocal praise. It’s important to start giving the praise while the dog is peeing or pooping. As soon as I could make it to them, I brought treats and as soon as they were done, they got lots of cuddles and some play time too.
And every time we went through this routine, the puppies were more likely to return to their pee pad. By the end of the weekend, the number of accidents dropped dramatically.
During the night, when they were put in a large crate, I divided the crate into two areas. The back of the cage was covered with pee pads. The front of the cage had blankets and toys.
In the morning, I’d find the pee pads full with all that yucky stuff and the blankets impeccably clean.
Pee pads would be a good way to start training the Dearborn dogs because it moves their routine incrementally from anywhere-in-the-house to on-these-white-pads-in-the-house.
As long as you follow the rules — ignore the other messes, celebrate and praise messes on the pee pads — the dogs will gradually learn that messing on the pee pads yields the greatest reward.
Once the dogs are going 100 percent of the time on the pee pads, start putting them in strategic places.
Slowly move them from where you have put them in the past, maybe a foot or two at a time, toward the doors in a room. Over a period of weeks or perhaps even months, depending on how much work your dog needs, you want to narrow down the indoor pee pads to only being by the doors in your house that you will eventually use to let your dog outside to go potty.
During this same time period, you will also be making sure your dog has plenty of great experiences outside, where he will eventually go to the bathroom at.
When you feel your dog has the pee pad routine down pat, start moving the pee pads outside. If you can, catch him while he’s headed toward the pee pad and swoop him up, bringing both him and the pee pad outside.
Make a routine of doing that, and then one day, don’t put the pee pad down on the grass and wait. And be ready to wait, and wait, and wait some more.
But when that dog finally lifts a leg on the grass, put everything you have into celebrating the moment.
Then be ready to repeat, over and over again.
Is it a lot of work? Sure. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a lot less work to spend several months properly potty training your dog than it is to spend the rest of that dog’s life cleaning up your house, several times a day, because you have not taught him properly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Potty training the Dearborn dogs

Don’t fool yourself — it’s not going to be easy.
But, I’ve got some solid advice, great resources and also suggestions from Nicole Pawlowski-Herr of Herr Pet Training, the couple that is featured in our K-9 Classroom video series.
Let’s think about potty training a new puppy. Have you ever done it? Probably. How successful were you? If it was anything like my experience, you probably weren’t.
Sure, years later your dog has it down pat. You can’t take that as a measure of success.
How long did it take to reach this point of potty perfection? How many rolled up newspapers, smacks on the butt, nose in the doo-doo and shouts of BAD DOG did it take?
A year? A little more than a year? A couple years?
That’s not success. I’ve seen puppies who were solidly potty trained at eight to ten weeks. That is success.
Before you even think about potty training one of the hoarder-kept Dearborn dogs, throw out everything you’ve ever been told about potty training.
First thing is first: before you can say nary a negative word toward a dog for going to the bathroom in the “wrong” place, you must put in some time teaching the dog what the “right” place is.
The challenge with the Dearborn dogs is that they have spent their entire lives going potty in what we consider the “wrong” places. You cannot simply start punishing the dog for doing what they’ve spent all their lives thinking is proper.
If you do begin punishing these dogs right away for going wee-wee on the carpet, couch or curtains, know that you are setting yourself up for certain failure.
The dog will only learn two things: 1) to be fearful of you, 2) that it is not OK to go to the bathroom while you are around and, in order to wee-wee on the carpet, couch and curtains, they must wait until you are out of sight.
Good luck trying to correct that. It’s a real doozy of a challenge to reverse that behavior.
This means you will have to accept some indoor accidents. Ignore them, give the dog no attention for them. Quietly and thoroughly clean up the mess.
The cleaning is important, and for some tips on how to truly clean a doggie mess, watch the video from our pet trainers at the bottom of the blog.
Here’s another need-to-remember statement from our trainers, who e-mailed me knowing I was working on this topic.
“Most of these dogs have probably never seen grass, much less understand that it’s supposed to be their bathroom,” Nicole Pawlowski-Herr wrote.
You’ll need to work gently getting dogs accustomed to grass. Take them out, let them explore and make it positive with lots of treats and toys and praise.
Certainly, if you catch them going potty, make it a huge celebration. But don’t expect it from them in the beginning. Just use everything in your power to make the feeling of grass under their feet become associated with wonderful-things-happen-to-dogs (toys, treats, praise).
One more thing — read this book: Way to Go: How to Housetrain a Dog of Any Age by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D.
Our trainers write that it is the BEST resource on potty raining available, and it’s only $5.95.
Order it online at Tully’s Toys.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dealing with the Dearborn dogs

Try to put yourself in the shoes (paws) of one the dogs born and raised in the hoarder’s Dearborn home.
What would life be?
You’re entire world, instead of being this large round Earth, would be just a little house. There’s a chance you never went outside of it. Perhaps you never even looked outside of it.
Inside your world were hundreds of your own kind. You enjoyed all the company, but not at feeding time. You had to compete with hundreds of other mouths to get the nutrition you needed to survive.
All of your doggie relatives had left their scent all over the place, pooping and peeing on top of older feces. You had no choice to do the same, and in time, you came to believe that it was proper conduct. In fact, the excrement became such a part of your habitat that it was inescapable.
Everywhere you went, there was doo-doo. And so, you had no choice but walk in, sit on and even lay down and sleep on the doo-doo. Again, it was acceptable and proper conduct in your small world.
I’ve heard these dogs should be available for adoption starting on Monday, and that their health varies from one dog to another.
Since they’ve been removed from their world, they’re probably pretty scared.
If you thought the entire world was a small home populated by hundreds of your own kind and suddenly, you get taken out of that world and exposed to things you had never seen or knew existed before, wouldn’t you be scared?
Fear is one issue these dogs are likely to deal with. The degree of fear — whether it can be overcome easily or whether it’s deeply ingrained and produces other issues, like aggression — will vary from one dog to the next.
Age, amount of handling, exposure to the outside world and the dog’s individual personality will affect how much or how little each dog is fearful. The same factors will also affect how easily the dog learns to “bounce back,” or accept new things.
Food aggression is another likely issue. I don’t know the specifics of the situation and I’m not saying that these dogs were malnourished, I’m just stating what seems obvious to me. Hundreds of dogs were roaming freely about a house. At feeding time, there had to have been competition. Dogs would’ve learned to be aggressive and protective of the tasty little morsels they managed to snag.
Potty training will be a big deal. Again, these dogs have lived in a world where it was not just acceptable but necessary for them to go to the bathroom inside a house, then walk on it, sit in it and even sleep on it.
They have no clue that most dogs go to the bathroom outside — they didn’t even know what outside was until just recently — and that most dogs avoid even stepping in their own doo-doo, nonetheless sleeping on it.
I’ll try to go through some basic ways of rehabilitating these issues in the next few days. Because Sensi is a fearful dog and it’s something I have a lot of experience with, I run the risk of over-doing it on the fear topic.
I’ll try to keep it simple, and perhaps I’ll start with rehabbing food aggression and potty training and leave the fearful stuff for last.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Adopting the Dearborn dogs

The top local news story lately has been the removal of hundreds of Chihuahuas from a Dearborn home owned by a man who was mentally ill.
The dogs lived in squalor, some were found dead and frozen in freezers and there’s been some talk that the house might not be salvageable.
That’s a serious mess.
Donations have been pouring into the Dearborn animal shelter that is caring for the dogs, and so have inquiries about adoptions.
The latest I heard on the TV news was that the dogs won’t be available for adoption for a while yet. They need some medical attention — I’d assume most need to be spayed or neutered and that all need to be updated on vaccinations.
For more than 100 dogs, the process will take a while.
The shelter also needs some time to evaluate the dogs. I’m sure they’ll find a host of behavioral challenges with these little dogs.
For those of you who have your mind set on rescuing one of these little Chihuahuas and are willing to wait until they’re available, I ask you to be prepared.
Animal hoarders, unfortunately, aren’t that uncommon. Watch an episode of Animal Cops on the Animal Planet and you’ll find that agencies are constantly dealing with hoarders.
Sometimes, animals owned by pet hoarders don’t have behavioral problems. It all depends on the degree to which the owner hoarding.
When a person collects too many animals, especially in the case of the Dearborn man where it appears the Chihuahuas were breeding and overran the entire home, the animals don’t get exposure to a normal life.
Oftentimes, cats found in the home of a hoarder are feral. It can be unusual to find even one cat that can be saved from those situations.
Dogs are much easier to rehabilitate and reintroduce to our society. Tomorrow, I’ll post about some of the behavioral problems these dogs are likely to have.
My goal is lend to some advice. These dogs can become our family members. It’s just going to take a little knowledge and some time and work from us.