Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dog ownership for dummies?

I don’t like government any more than the next person and the last thing I want is to advocate for more laws and restrictions.
We have plenty of laws already; laws that tell us what kind of pets we can own and how many, where we can and cannot walk our dogs, and in some communities, we’re even told what type of dogs we can and cannot own — laws that come from our townships, our county and all the way up to the state and even some federal laws that address animal rights.
And those are just animal-related laws. We have tons of other laws coming at us from all sorts of directions. It reminds me of the Tesla song, “Sign says that everybody got to have a membership card to get inside ...”
Sure, signs aren’t laws. But the message is the same — we’ve got people telling us how to live our lives in every direction we care to look.
And while I might not be into that, I understand that lots of laws serve good purposes and I can even think of some new laws that would add value.
For instance, I wouldn’t mind that all first-time dog owners be required to take a short class and become certified before being allowed to own a dog.
Think about it — why should it be any different than getting a license to drive a vehicle? Or a license to carry a gun?
Dogs can be as dangerous as guns and more difficult to manage than a vehicle. And certainly, the standard of care required to be a dog owner is greater than owning a vehicle. Vehicles need gas, oil, money and maintenance and if you screw it up, you’re probably the only one to be negatively impacted by it. But if you do hurt someone else with your vehicle, we have all sorts of punishments lined up for you.
Dogs need companionship, medical care, food and water and shelter and so much more. Screw up dog ownership and you could inflict pain and misery on not just your dog, but you could create a dog that inflicts pain and misery on other people or other dogs. And yet, the punishment is usually small and nothing guarantees you won't own another dog in the future.
I’m not saying we should have an extensive, prohibitive system blocking people from getting a dog. But why not offer a free, one-hour required class where someone talks about the importance of vaccinations and daily feedings, regular medical care and how actions like leaving a dog on a chain can create behavior problems, and making licensing part of the program. It’d offer a venue to hand out literature — think pamphlets listing local training resources, veterinarians and little tid-bits of dog ownership advice.
At the end of the hour, each person must pass a short and easy test to determine that they at least know what the law requires of dog owners. Here’s a sample of questions I envision:
  1. Is it state law to keep your dog vaccinated against rabies? Yes or No
  2. How often must you renew your dog’s license? A) Monthly, B) Yearly, C) Every three years
  3. If you intend to keep your dog outside, what must be provided for it? A) A chain, B) Food, water and appropriate shelter from the elements, C) A companion animal
  4. If you keep a dog outside in cold weather, what is the best thing to provide warmth? A) blankets, B) hay, C) A bunny
  5. Animal cruelty charges can result from which of the following: A) Not seeking medical attention for injuries, B) Dressing your pet in silly outfits, C) Walking your dog regularly
So you can see, I’m not talking about a brain-splitting battery of questions. Just simple things that so many people don’t seem to know.
Take, for instance, the case of an 18-year-old man from Eaton Rapids who was caught dragging a Rottweiler mix named Lucky behind his SUV — causing the poor (and might I say, unlucky) pooch to lose her pads and toenails, suffer severe road burns and undergo three surgeries so far for her injuries.
Or all the cases of pit bulls getting loose and chasing, attacking and even killing people and their pets.
It’s all wrong, so clearly wrong. How anyone cannot see what is wrong with their approach to dog ownership when their dogs are getting loose and harming others, or worse, as they’re dragging a poor dog behind their vehicle, is just beyond me.
And so yes, I think an dog-ownership-for-dummies class would be a worthwhile requirement — as would tougher punishments for bad dog ownership.
If your pit bull gets loose and kills a puppy or mauls a person, you should be banned from owning dogs. You had your shot at dog ownership and you did such an incredibly bad job that other people or living beings had to suffer as a result of your stupidity and/or irresponsibility.
And if you’re caught dragging a dog behind your car, well ... I hope karma gives you back the pain you caused another living being tenfold.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bathing tips

Having gone through periods with my dog where he needed to be bathed on a weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, basis, I've got the bath thing down pat.
Sensi is so good for his baths. He doesn't like them, but does what I ask with sad, obliging eyes. The poor dude even pushes his head into me, trying to bury himself and seek comfort in the arms of the very woman who is forcing this awful bath on him.
Here's 10 tips to improve your dog's bathing experience. I guarantee that making the bath better for your dog will make the whole experience better for you as well.

1) Nix the outdoor hose idea unless your dog is caked in mud or something. If it's a normal bath, use a bathtub, lukewarm water and purchase a hose attachment for the faucet.

2) Buy a cheap mat for the bottom of the bathtub. Sensi really hates the sensation of sliding around on the slippery bathtub bottom, so a cheap plastic bath mat made a world of difference in his comfort level.

3) When asking the dog to enter the bathtub, drape a folded towel over the ledge — especially if your dog is older or has a hip or arthritis issues. The towel simply gives them some traction as they enter the tub. Once he's in, I take it away and save to use for drying him.

4) Don't wash the head. Dogs hate having water sprayed on their face and ears and the sensation is usually what prompts them to shake all that water off (bad for the person giving the bath). Plus, you don't want to get water into the ear canal and you don't want any soap getting into their eyes, nose or mouth. Wash the dog up to the back of his ears and wash from the chest as far up under the mouth as you can without getting soap on your dog's bottom lips. To rinse, simply hold the sprayer directly on or about a half-inch away from the dog's fur — this ensures the water doesn't spray up around the mouth but rinses specifically the areas you applied the soap to. (If you have a really small dog, that technique won't work.)

5) Do wash in between your dog's toes, both on the front and on the back. These are the dirtiest places on your dog's body and you must do them justice. I drip soap inbetween the toes, lift the paw and scrub with one finger between each toe. Then I put soap on two fingers, relift the paw and scrub between the toes on the underside too. Make sure the dog is positioned securely on the mat when lifting the back paws for cleaning; he'll appreciate having the extra traction as you take one of his leg supports away for a moment to wash.

6) Do seek out a good shampoo that does not irritate your dog. If the shampoo turns your dog's skin red during the bath, seek a gentler or hypoallergenic shampoo. Prescription shampoos and conditioners are available from your veterinarian, but a quality oatmeal shampoo is a gentle way to clean a sensitive dog too. Always use products made for dogs. Their skin's PH is different than a human's skin and they have different needs from shampoo and conditioning products because of it.

7) Do try to create a shake routine. For Sensi, as soon as I drop the spray wand, I quickly pull the see-through shower curtain closed and tell him "OK, shake it off." At first, he'd just stand there looking really sad and confused. Wait for it. You know the dog will eventually shake. After he does, praise him, pull back the curtain and get to towel-drying. Nowadays, Sensi knows the routine so well that it goes like clockwork. I turn the water off, pull the curtain closed, he shakes, I open the curtain, towel dry him and off he goes.

8) Do help your dog use towels after the bath. If your dog is like most dogs, he'll want to roll around and rub on stuff after the bath is over. Why not turn those behaviors into a drying routine by encouraging him to roll and rub on towels?
(Check out Sensi's dry-off routine in the video below)

9) Do bathe your dog regularly starting from a young age, and do touch your dog's paws often starting from a young age. The more you can get your dog accustomed to taking baths, the less stressful it will be for him. And one day, you may reach a point where, like me, you can point at the tub and tell your dog to get in and he just does — no coercing, no carrying, no spastic attempts to avoid the tub. Touching your dog's paws is important too, not just because you need your dog to let you touch them at length in order to wash them, but also because you need to be touching them for regular nail clippings too. So make a habit of just reaching out and massaging or holding your dog's paws a couple times a day.

10) Do reward your dog after the bath. I've used plain old treats, new toys or just games of fetch or tug to reward Sensi after a bath. I do the same thing for nail clippings — another procedure he really hates, but goes through with flying colors despite his complete Eeyore attitude. It's just getting your dog to realize that sometimes, experiences they hate are worth enduring because it ends with an experience they really, really love.

(Photo credit: My friend's Brittany, Ruger, peers into a mirror while he gets dried off after a bath.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hi mom, can I have dinner now?

As I mentioned in Monday's post, I was out of the office for a few days this week. I took a short business trip and so, I was away from home and my dog as well.
I was expecting Sensi to welcome me home yesterday the way he normally does whenever we leave him — he does his best to hold back his excitement to see us, but licks and wiggles and wags and sniffs for a few minutes anyhow, and then sulks away to let us know he's not happy with us.
Perhaps sulk isn't the right word. But either way, after that initial greeting, he turns away from us as if he's turning his nose up at us. "I don't need you either, guys," he seems to say. "How do you like it?"
He seems to ignore us for a little while, but by the night's end, he's curled up on the couch soaking in all the attention he can get. He forgives easily.
It was just me traveling this time, though, while he stayed home with Brent. Apparently, it was like I'd never left.
When I got home yesterday, the first time I'd seen my dog in three days, what did he do? He asked for dinner.
Sure, I got the regular wiggle-butt and tail wags, but nothing more than usual. And after a good sniff of my pant leg, he did his little dinner circle dance and wound-up in a play-bow facing his food bowl. There was no mistaking what he wanted — just dinner.
No "I miss you" or even the usual "I miss you but I'm mad at you so I'm trying to hide it."
Nope, just "Hi Mom, can I have dinner now?"
This must be what it's like to have kids.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mark the end of summer with your dog

All right folks, I'm going to be out of the office for a bit this week so bear with me if I don't post as much as normal. But don't worry — I'm not leaving you empty handed.

I finally updated my dog events calendar today, excluding only those events that are taking place in October. Can you believe fall is here already? Getting these fall press releases is always a bummer this time of year, reminding me summer is once again coming to a close.

And once again, I never did buy one of those kiddie pools for Sensi. I'm so disappointed in myself.

I am, however, looking forward to getting back out into the nitty gritty backwoods of our state parks again. I tend to avoid the wilderness trails in the dead heat of summer, when the biting flies are usually too voracious to make a walk worth your while. The fall can be a bit sketchy too because many of the places we visit allow hunting, but I always take caution to wear my orange vest and yes, Sensi has his own orange vest as well.

But enough about the fall. Here are some of the summer's last dog-related events.

As a side note, the Paws in the Park event in Canton looks like it'll be awesome. I know it's a drive, but some of the coolest doggie sports will be taking place and in many cases, you and your dog will even get a chance to give some of the sports a try too. I don't know about you, but I get stuck on ESPN every time I see a lab or chessie splash into a big pool for the dock diving event. Would your dog do that? If not, perhaps skip the drive to Canton and just take your dog for a swim at one of the county parks to mark the end of summer. Dogs in a pool ... how cool is that?

Canton — Oakland County residents up for a bit of drive may want to check out the second annual Paws in the Park event held at Heritage Park, 1150 S. Canton Center Road. The two-day event is brimming with a variety of activities, contests, entertainment, adoptable pets and more. For a $15 donation, attendants can take part in the one-mile Paw Walk Saturday morning. Paw Walkers are encouraged to dress up and even create floats to be eligible for a six-month supply of dog food from Canidae Pet Foods. Dogs and their trainers will also put on a ‘Rock n’ Roll K9s” event featuring a 45-minute agility show choreographed to music. Attendants can also have their dogs give a shot at the Ultimate Air Dog Competition, where dogs run and jump off a dock into a 30-feet-long pool — the longest jump wins (this always looks like a ton of fun!). There will also be fastest dog competitions, look-a-like contests, pet trick contests, wiener dog races and more. Lots of dog-related vendors, both local and national, will also be on site — including Davisburg dog trainer Shelli Kizner of ClearMark Clicker Training. See the full schedule of events by hour online by clicking here. Cost to attend is $4 in advance or $5 at the door, with children ages 10 and younger getting free admission. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.

Warren — Donations of pet food will be accepted from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays at Flame Heating, Cooling and Electrical, 2200 E. 11 Mile Road. Donations will benefit the Michigan Humane Society and can also be brought to the MHS location in Rochester Hills at 3600 W. Auburn Road.

Northville — The “Pints & Pups” fundraiser to benefit The Detroit Bulldog Rescue will be from 7 to 10 p.m. at Poole’s Tavern. Tickets cost $10 at the door and the event is dog-friendly and open to all breeds, as well as people who do not have dogs. Dogs must be leashed and socialized. A silent auction and Bully Bakesale featuring chef-prepared wheat-free dog treats will be available, as will a variety of fun games. Call 248-739-9199.

Waterford Twp. — Register now to ensure your dog gets a spot at the annual Bow Wow Dog Swim held at Waterford Oaks Waterpark, 1702 Scott Lake Road. Only 75 dogs per slot will be admitted and there are a total of five slots, including two for large dogs and two for medium-sized dogs, and one for really small dogs. Pre-register for $10 — which includes an owner t-shirt, parking, entry, one 55-minute swim session and contest entry — by clicking here, or register for $15 at the event. Registration must be postmarked by September 6. Dogs that are 70 lbs. and larger can swim from noon to 12:55 p.m. or 3 to 3:55 p.m. and dogs between 31 lbs. and 69 lbs. can swim from 1 to 1:55 p.m. or 4 to 4:55 p.m. Dogs 30 lbs. and smaller can swim from 2 to 2:55 p.m. Only dogs will be allowed to swim. A contest for best wet look and best swimsuit will be held. Contact 248-858-4929 for more information, or email stasiakl@oakgov.com.

Madison Heights — Oakland County will host its second Bow Wow Dog Swim at the Red Oaks Waterpark, 1455 E. 13 Mile Road. Only 75 dogs per slot will be admitted and there are a total of five slots, including two for large dogs and two for medium-sized dogs, and one for really small dogs. Pre-register for $10 — which includes an owner t-shirt, parking, entry, one 55-minute swim session and contest entry — by clicking here, or register for $15 at the event. Registration must be postmarked by September 6. Dogs that are 70 lbs. and larger can swim from noon to 12:55 p.m. or 3 to 3:55 p.m. and dogs between 31 lbs. and 69 lbs. can swim from 1 to 1:55 p.m. or 4 to 4:55 p.m. Dogs 30 lbs. and smaller can swim from 2 to 2:55 p.m. Only dogs will be allowed to swim. A contest for best wet look and best swimsuit will be held. Contact 248-858-4929 for more information, or email stasiakl@oakgov.com.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dogs days — event this Sunday!

I've been busy today and wasn't able to get a full calendar together, but here's a couple events — including one taking place this Sunday. It sounds like there will be a lot to do at the first ever "Paws in the Park" event!

Independence Twp. — A “Paws in the Park” event will be from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22, in the Lakeview Picnic Pavilion at Independence Oaks County Park, 9501 Sashabaw Road. A picnic lunch, half-mile dog walk and fun activities for dogs, kids and adults will be available. Activities for dogs include bobbing for milkbones, paw art, a kiss your owner contest, a just-for-fun agility course and massages. Several games for people, from face painting to horseshoes, volleyball, raffles and more, will also be available. The event will also offer $10 microchipping for the first 24 dogs who register at the event, nail clipping and a limited number of canine breed identification test kids. Animals will also be available for adoption. The event costs $10 per adult and is free for dogs and children younger than 13. All proceeds benefit the Troy-based Paws for Life Rescue and Adoption. Email info@pawsforliferescue.org.

Northville — The “Pints & Pups” fundraiser to benefit The Detroit Bulldog Rescue will be from 7 to 10 p.m. at Poole’s Tavern. Tickets cost $10 at the door and the event is dog-friendly and open to all breeds, as well as people who do not have dogs. Dogs must be leashed and socialized. A silent auction and Bully Bakesale featuring chef-prepared wheat-free dog treats will be available, as will a variety of fun games. Call 248-739-9199.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My new dog is aggressive to my other dogs; what do I do?

A reader e-mailed me a tough question today:
She rescued a 13-month-old female American Bulldog from a living situation where the dog was kept mostly in a cage throughout her vital socialization stage. The problem is, the new female is behaving aggressively toward her other two male dogs, one of which is also a bulldog. She’s having to keep the dogs separated, meaning the female bulldog is back to spending a lot of time in a cage.
“We want it to work so bad,” she writes. “Do you have any suggestions?”

Indeed I do. I’m posting what I wrote back to her and I hope it’ll help others dealing with similar situations too:

One thing you've got working in your favor is that she is a girl and the other two are boys. I do highly recommend seeing a behaviorist or a trainer who is experienced in canine behavior. This should help you determine if the aggression she is displaying is dog-on-dog aggression, or if it's motivated by fear because of her limited experiences with the world due to her previous living situation. Either way, it's a dangerous situation. But if it's fear that's motivating her behaviors, it might be easier to get her to overcome it. Keep in mind, though, that her extremely limited socialization during her first year may always be a handicap for her in a variety of ways. Just think of it this way: anything she was not exposed to in her previous living situation may cause her to react badly, even aggressively (generally motivated by fear). It's another reason to get her working with a professional now, while she is still young, so you can really get to work on turning her around.

One thing you can do on your own is make sure you have the right equipment to handle the dogs physically. Once you have all that in order, then you can start working on them with walks. This can make a huge improvement, but having the right equipment is absolutely necessary considering the breeds you are working with.

If any of the three dogs pull on the leash, I recommend investing in gentle leaders. I'd get a Halti for the female because it has an extra strap that tightens around the mouth when the dog pulls, acting as a muzzle. My pit never goes on a leash without his Halti, though I use it more for its natural anti-pull effect than the muzzle. If I'm introducing him to a new dog and I'm not sure how well it's going to go, I put a mesh muzzle on him first and then put the Halti over top. You can never have too much insurance that those teeth won't get out! I'd recommend using both on her to start.

Gentle leaders work exactly the same way as the muzzle, except without the extra mouth strap. Depending on your level of comfort with the male bulldog (if she lunged at him, might he bite back in his defense? Not that it'd be wrong for him to do so, but it'd definitely make a bad situation a million times worse) I'd go with either the Halti or the regular gentle leader.

The next step is for you and your boyfriend to start walking all three dogs daily. One of you walks with the boys — keep both boys at your side. These walks are not for sniffing around and peeing on bushes! The other walks with the girl behind the boys; keep the girl at your side too. If you have to start out with a lot of distance between the two groups, then that's just what you have to do. But you want to gradually decrease the distance. The goal is to have her get many good whiffs of their butt scent. You want to see her nose start working. In fact, I'd take treats with you and if you're walking her 4 to 2 feet behind the boys and you see her nose start sniffing without any aggressive body posturing, reward her for the sniff. Dogs sniff eachother; aggressive dogs generally don't. So you want to start reminding her that she is a dog and they are dogs too. At some point, give the boys a little time behind her so they can smell too, but you'll otherwise want to keep her behind them.

Whenever I introduce my pit to a dog I'm not sure how he'll react to, the walk comes first. I have a lot of control of my dog with the Halti and can feel comfortable about the situation with the muzzle on him, so I'll take him in one hand and the other dog in another and we'll walk until they're tired. Then I keep the muzzle on him and let them have some off-leash time so neither feels cornered. The goal for you would be to eventually be able to have just one person capable of walking all three dogs; with their gear on, of course.

The hope is that a walk will show her that all of you are a family, a pack, make her feel like she is part of it and hopefully, make her want to become more involved with the other dogs and show her that the other dogs are not a threat. It’s a bonding thing. Like I said before, if her aggression is motivated by fear, it will be much easier than if it's dog-dog aggression.

Walks alone will not be enough to make your living situation a happy one, so here's my recommendations for trainers:

1) Theresa DePorter, animal behaviorist at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in Bloomfield Hills. DePorter is an educated, degreed professional and those can be rare to find.

2) Herr Pet Training, Nicole and Brian Herr. The married couple focuses on solving behavioral problems and have the same philosophy about training as DePorter. They've dealt with a lot of harry situations and are very capable, experienced trainers. They do individual sessions focused on solving your dog's behavior problem.

Lastly, I recommend reading Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. I call it my canine behavior bible. It's very easy to read, even fun, and will give you an insight into dog behavior that is beyond invaluable.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No bones for Sensi

Sensi has food allergies. I’ve been blogging about this all year; his allergies exploded in late December and we’ve been dealing with getting him healthy again ever since.
Part of getting him healthy means going through food trials, a process of elimination used to find out what he is allergic to. He is on a very strict, prescription diet. One week, we add a novel protein like chicken or beef, to his meals. The next week we take it away and watch for symptoms, then start all over again.
We’ve gotten through chicken, salmon and pork with no allergies. Last Wednesday, I started the test for beef — a product he tested allergic to years ago when we went through food trials.
I was hoping for a miracle; hoping that his allergy might’ve magically gone away after all these years that we’ve starved him of bones, rawhides and beef-flavored anything.
I didn’t get a miracle. Sensi is still very, very allergic — proven by his severe reaction to the beef test.
We started the test on Wednesday. By Friday, he seemed very sensitive to petting; hardly a pat on the belly would get that back leg thumping. He was itchy.
The sensitivity continued on Saturday, but he wasn’t scratching or licking himself too badly, so we continued.
On Sunday, he was scratching and licking persistently. Then, the dreaded head shake began at about 4 p.m. What’s so bad about a head shake? It indicates a problem in the ear, usually an infection.
We stopped the food trial promptly, bathed him in a prescription shampoo designed to kill any bad stuff living on the dog’s skin and used an anti-itch leave-in conditioner. He then got some Claritin and later, I applied some hydrocortisone cream on some scratches under his armpit.
By Monday morning, only one armpit looked bad still, but it did look considerably worse. The scratches were puffy and swollen like a Staph infection had moved in. More hydrocortisone, more Claritin and off to work I went.
I got home at 10:30 last night and promptly sat down to look at Sensi. I was mortified at what I saw — a cherry red lesion had spread above his armpit, down his foreleg and on to his chest. Swollen, circular red spots were extending further on to his chest and belly like a rash. It looked painfully red and covered an area about six inches in length and four inches in width.
Luckily, we had leftovers of all his medications from earlier this year on hand. I pulled out the peanut butter and gave him a variety of pills — cephalexin, prednisone, ketaconazole and more Claritin. He looked better this morning, but I gave him another round of pills — minus the ketaconazole, he’ll get that tonight — before I took off to work.
And I took video too.
Take a look and remind yourself that a food allergy can wreak this type of havoc on a dog.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What is with dogs and vacuums?

If you asked someone, off the top of their heads, to name a few things all dogs in general seem to be afraid of, I bet most people would quickly answer, “the vacuum!”
I’m not sure what a dog thinks about the vacuum. I’m sure the noise coupled with the movement is what triggers most fears. And you’ve really got to try to get in the mindframe of a dog to understand where I’m coming from with this one, but honestly, I think the dog sees that human plus vacuum creates some super monster. They don’t see you — their loving human and pack member — and then the vacuum as separate things; they see both you and the vacuum combined as some huge and noisy beast.
Hence why most dogs are OK with vacuums when they’re sitting idle, unplugged and lonely with no human nearby.
It’s kind of like how a dog really thinks his toy comes alive when you pick it up in your hand. Same thing with the vacuum, except when you touch the vacuum and it comes alive, it scares the living daylights out of your pooch.
When Sensi was younger, he tried barking and biting at the vacuum — no doubt behaviors he rolled out in attempt to stop the human-vacuum monster and make it go dormant again.
That was a pain in the butt, so we yelled, “No! Bad dog!” and would make him move away from the vacuum.
Ever since we conquered the vacuum attack, the fear that drove those behaviors became readily apparent. As soon as I pull the vacuum out of the closet, Sensi jumps back like someone just snuck up on him. He’ll walk into another room, trying to keep an eye on the vacuum while trying to stay out of its path too.
When the vacuum moves away from him, he’ll cautiously walk in closer — his body trembling a bit and crouched down too. As soon as I turn the vacuum around, though, he’ll run away like he really believes the vacuum is going to chase him down and bite him.
It’s a tiring routine and one I’m not very proud of.
This is, after all, a dog who has been taught how to play pool. He can learn something complex like that, but yet he’s still afraid of the darn vacuum?
On Saturday, I put my foot down and decided I was ready to conquer my dog’s fear of the vacuum.
I got out a little purse, filled it with kibble and strapped it around my shoulders.
As I vacuumed with one hand, I used the other hand to toss pieces of kibble at him. Even though he was in a different room and reasonably far away from the area I was vacuuming, he was still so scared that he wouldn’t even eat the kibble.
After the fourth or fifth piece I tossed his way, he finally dipped his head down to start eating the kibble. And the games began.
He then started watching me to see if I’d throw another piece, and when I did, he’d try to catch it or race after it. His tail became relaxed, he un-crouched his body and he definitely became focused on the kibble-toss rather than the vacuum monster.
By the time I was finished, he was wagging his tail and coming within four or five feet of the moving, noise-making vacuum, but staying focused entirely on the kibble.
It was a total success, and a fast one at that.
Of course, he’ll still jump the next time I take the vacuum out of the closet and he’ll still be afraid. One time is never enough. This will have to become a routine for quite a while yet, but eventually, he’ll learn that human plus vacuum equals good things for dog.
And that is the goal.
I read a blog recently that said behind every good dog is a lot of work. It’s true, but the work doesn’t have to be arduous or miserable. There’s nothing difficult about tossing treats to your dog while you vacuum — it’s a minor inconvenience for a huge pay off, and when you really think about it, you’re helping your dog be happier and healthier too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Animal uprising: sensationalism at its most entertaining

Animal Planet first aired its hour-long program, “The Uprising” on Sunday, but my husband and I caught it on TV last night.
I was flipping through the channels when I came across images of dogs viciously attacking something. Generally speaking, any image of a dog on TV will make me stop on that channel.
At first, I was shocked at what the program was reporting — that packs of wild dogs are turning against humans, attacking them not just for food, but out of aggression alone. The wild dog segment of the program profiled an elderly couple believed to be killed by a pack of wild dogs and talked about the growing wild dog problem across the globe — even mentioning a giant pack of dogs in some remote country that targeted a small village and went on a rampage, killing nine people.
The segment also mentioned Detroit’s wild dog problem, which there most definitely is one. My husband works in the neighborhood streets of downtown Detroit every day and many of the guys in his crew keep bags of dog food in their trucks, throwing it out to those feral dogs that look sickly and emaciated.
The program went on to profile a number of incredible attacks launched by animals on humans — from New Dehli monkeys killing the city’s deputy mayor after he stepped out on a second floor balcony to the python problem in Florida’s everglades and perhaps most interesting, the growing coyote population of inner-city Chicago.
The coyote segment was perhaps when I realized just how far this show was taking rare instances and trying to turn them into a pattern.
A female singer was killed by a pack of coyotes in recent years. It happened somewhere out west and let’s be clear, this is an incredibly, incredibly rare incident. The show did disclose that no one really knows what happened to the young woman — whether she was somehow injured or had fallen prior to the attack — and that it’s only the second human death resulting from a coyote attack to ever have been recorded.
The show then turned to Chicago, where coyotes are adapting to the urban environment. Their inner-city population is increasing, yet in keeping with coyotes’ nature, they’re rarely seen.
I found the show to be captivating, but very sensational. They highlighted specific instances of extreme animal behavior from around the globe and mixed it in with some real problems, like invasive species of snakes invading Florida, and wrapped it all up in one big conclusion that animals are turning against humans because we’re taking up too much space.
The conclusion is the sensational part that I have a problem with. Animals are not forming some sort of animal army, communicating across their species and across the world to plot how they will eliminate humans. That’s just foolish.
And it’s foolish to make people terrified of coyotes or even wild dogs.
Coyotes are small animals who hunt alone except for in very rare circumstances. They naturally want to stay away from humans and I’ve heard wildlife officials say the scent of urine from a large lab is enough to keep a coyote at bay. Conversely, they do pose a threat to smaller dogs and cats and they definitely are here in Oakland County. (Read more about coyotes in Oakland County)
To make people think that coyotes might just gang up in a pack and set about killing humans on a regular basis is just sensationalism, though.
Same with wild dogs. Dogs do not revert to being hunters of wild game just because they’ve been abandoned. They’re far more likely to survive in an urban setting, where they can scavenge for food in garbage cans and outside residents, than in a rural environment. (Read an earlier post about dogs being abandoned in the wild)
Wild dogs can carry diseases, become territorial and behave aggressively in a myriad of situations, however. I recommend people stay away from feral dogs. You just don’t know how the dog will react to any sort of advances.
And while a growing wild dog population certainly is a problem, I don’t think it’s the type of problem this program chalked it up to be. There’s lots of reasons to worry about wild dogs, but the idea that our household pets might desert us and join up with a gang of wild dogs to exact revenge on us is not one of them.
Having said all that, I found the show absolutely fascinating despite it’s sensationalism.
Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do dogs go to heaven?

Apparently, the answer to that question all depends on your religion.
Two churches of different faiths argued the point on their message boards. What resulted is one of the funniest exchanges I've ever seen, and definitely one of the funniest email forwards I've ever gotten.
I got this email about a year ago now, but was reminded of it during a conversation I had with my mom a little while ago.
Even if you've seen it before, enjoy another look.
Here's the photos:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oh, beef

Think, just for a moment, what your dog’s life would be like if he couldn’t have any beef products.
No beef food? That can’t be too difficult; just pick up a bag of chicken or lamb kibble, right? Wrong. You’ll spend a half hour or more reading through the ingredient list of every commercial dog food looking for one that does not have animal byproducts. Because think about it — what is an animal byproduct? Other than the fact that it’s from an animal, you really don’t know. And if your dog can’t have beef, you can’t risk feeding him something with animal byproducts because those byproducts might just come from a cow. So, good luck finding a commercial dog food.
What about bones? Well, most bones come from cows. Same goes for rawhides. Your dog’s favorite treats have just officially gone out the window. Good luck satisfying his urge to chew now.
You’ll just buy some of those durable Nylabone chew toys, right? Think again. It can be difficult to find Nylabones that aren’t flavored with beef. Even many rope toys and other toys are now flavored with beef too, so you must be careful about selecting non-flavored toys.
How about treats? Most treats are beef-flavored or, like commercial dog foods, contain undisclosed animal byproducts. Luckily, there is a wide variety of non-beef treats on the market right now and this is one of the easier hurdles to overcome.
It doesn’t stop there. Dogs that can’t have beef, due to allergies, may also have issues with leather. This, thankfully, is also not such a big deal. It just means using nylon collars and leashes rather than leather ones, which most people already use anyway.
All things considered, though, a dog who can’t have beef certainly is a challenge, and it makes you kind of sad for your dog too. How would you feel if you could never give your dog a tasty bone to chew on again?
I started testing Sensi this morning to see if he is still allergic to beef. This is the second time in his life that we’re doing food trials to determine what he is allergic to — though admittedly, if we’d done a more thorough job the first time around, we probably wouldn’t be doing it all over again.
A food trial is when you limit the dog’s access to anything other than his veterinarian-approved diet and water until the dog has no symptoms of allergies, then you add a specific food item to his diet daily for one week and watch for symptoms of the allergy to return. The week that follows, you return to his veterinarian-approved diet only and continue monitoring the dog for symptoms of allergies. The next week, you start over with a different food item. It’s a process of elimination way to determine what foods your dog is allergic to.
We’ve already tested Sensi for chicken, pork and salmon — all of which seem to be OK for him.
I’m nervous about the beef test because I feel pretty confident that he will react.
If, by some miracle, he does not, you can bet I’ll be going out and buying him the biggest bone I can find. The poor dog hasn’t had a bone in almost five years!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Notes and rants

This is kind-of an unusual post for me, but I have a couple quick hits I’d like to post:

Note: I took Sensi to Addison Oaks County Park this weekend. They’ve got a 24-hole disc golf course and my husband and I are avid disc golfers. I skipped out on the golfing part, though, to bring Sensi along on a nice long walk. We walked with my husband and his friends as they made their way through the extra-long course. It was fantastic and a perfect fit for my aging dog because the pace was slow and we stopped often to wait on the golfers making their shots.
The park is absolutely gorgeous and Sensi just loved being out there. The 24-hole course takes you heavily wooded areas, lightly wooded areas, thick, swampy areas and a variety of mowed meadows and long-grassed fields.
Dogs must be kept on a leash at the park and I certainly had Sensi on one the whole time. Even so, it was an enjoyable experience as he got to climb on rocks, meander down trails and have some good rolls in the grass.

Rant: Walking into work today, I had a message from a Waterford Township woman who is being asked to relocate or euthanize her 11-year-old mixed breed dog because the township feels it is a pit bull (Waterford has a breed ban). There’s always two sides to every story and I admittedly just heard one side, but according to her, a person entered her yard with another dog and her elderly dog — which she says is not a pit bull — bit the trespassing dog.
Her dog has problems walking and is losing her vision. I’d like to point out here that as dogs age and lose the senses they rely so heavily on, and begin feeling the aches and pains of old age, they are more apt to be frightful and ornery in situations they haven’t been before. Not so different from people.
This drives home two other points — 1) Don’t trespass on other people’s property or approach dogs you don’t know without the owner’s permission, and 2) Even if you have a well-behaved dog who stays in your yard without a restraint, or even a physically disabled dog who literally does not have the type of movement that makes it capable to meander outside of your yard, there is still a reason to use restraints to keep your dog in your yard. Why? Because it's not just about keeping your dog in your yard, it's also about keeping other people and other peoples’ dogs out of your yard.

Lastly, a note to all pit bull owners and all owners of bully breeds in general: Be mindful that there are people out there who will seek to instigate your dog to hurt themselves or their pets in an effort to get a financial settlement. Everyone who owns a bully breed should think of themselves as a target for people who want to exploit them. The onus is on you to protect yourself and your dog.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dog days

Lots of dog-friendly happenings coming up, plus a TV special that may be worth the watch.

Farmington Hills
— The 5th annual “Bowl-4-Animal Rescue” will begin at 7 p.m. at Country Lanes, 30250 W. 9 Mile Road. Tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door and includes three games, food and a shoe rental. Auctions, raffles, door prizes, music, karaoke and a cash bar will be available. Professional bowling champions Aleta Rzepecki-Sill an
d Michelle Mullen are hosting the event. The person with the most pledges wins a free bowling ball with a lesson. All proceeds will benefit Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter and the Michigan Animal Adoption Network. Tickets may be purchased by calling 248-615-9060 or emailing michelle@yourbowlingcoach.com.
Lake Orion — The “Dog Days of August” event will start at 10 a.m. in the village’s downtown. Vendor booths and registration tables will open at 10 a.m., a blessing of the dogs is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. and the doggie parade will be at 11 a.m. Wiener Dog Races will begin at 11:30 a.m., a doggie fashion show will be at noon, more dog-related contests will take place at 12:30 p.m. and the doggie mayor drawing will be at 1:30 p.m. Call 248-425-2003.
Auburn Hills — Get a low cost, professional photo of your pet while also helping the Michigan Humane Society at the ‘Dog Daze’ event happening from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Nicole Rollin Photography, 63 S. Squirrel Road. Participants will receive a 15-minute photo session and a 5x7 print for $30, with half the price being donated to MHS. Appointments are required. Call 248-275-1517.

Waterford Twp.
— A spay and neuter clinic for low-income pet owners will be hosted by All About Animals. The procedures, completed by Michigan State University instructors and students, will cost $20 and are available by appointment only. Pet owners must show proof that he or she is on some sort of state assistance. Call 248-212-0781.

Television program
— I usually stick to events only for this calendar, but I’m interested in watching this show so I thought I’d let all of you know about it too. At 10 p.m., Animal Planet will host “Animal Planet Investigates: Gang Dogs.” The show is an investigative look at how gangs continually corrupt their canine comrades to fit into their abusive culture and promote their way of life. I imagine it will be an eye-opening show. Animal Planet might be sending me some video clips from the show and if they do, I’ll be sure to post them.


— The “Pints & Pups” fundraiser to benefit The Detroit Bulldog Rescue will be from 7 to 10 p.m. at Poole’s Tavern. Tickets cost $10 at the door and the event is dog-friendly and open to all breeds, as well as people who do not have dogs. Dogs must be leashed and socialized. A silent auction and Bully Bakesale featuring chef-prepared wheat-free dog treats will be available, as will a variety of fun games. Call 248-739-9199.