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Adventures in Dog Bathing
The great escape

The moment I looked out my window and saw the dog running down the street, I had a pretty good idea what had happened. He was dripping wet, which narrowed down the possibilities considerably, as it is too cold for standing water, but the suds all over him were the real give away. This was a dog who had escaped mid-bath and was running all over the neighborhood.

I understand that many dogs don’t like baths, and I’m sympathetic to a point. I really feel for them, and I certainly urge people to be gentle and kind as they bathe their dogs. I also recommend that a dog be bathed no more often than necessary. For many dogs that is almost never or just a few times a year, while for dogs with high grooming needs it may be every 4-6 weeks. Still, it’s my personal view that into each life, some rain must fall. Sometimes a dog needs to be cleaned up, whether it’s for routine hygiene or because he rolled in something foul, and that’s just the way it is

Rather than his psychological state, my more immediate concern about this dog was that temperatures would be dropping near zero overnight, and it’s not safe for a soaked dog to be roaming outside in such conditions. I rushed to get treats, a towel and a leash in the hopes that I could lure the dog to me, bring him inside to warm up and find out who was missing one half-clean dog.

By the time I made it outside, the dog was out of sight. I walked half a block hoping to catch sight of him again, and I saw that a neighbor was holding the dog. I rushed over to lend my leash and towel to the cause. After feeling relief for the dog, I looked at the man with concern. The man was wet and a little sudsy, his pants and shirt were torn, and his knees plus one elbow were badly scraped. He had made a diving grab at the dog, which was successful, but not smooth. I was impressed. Having spent a year working as a dog groomer, I know how hard it is to hold onto a wet soapy dog, and I’ve never had to “make a tackle in the open field” as they say in football.

Neither of us knew who the dog’s guardian was, but as we were heading to my house to warm the dog up, a very damp, slightly soapy and tearful woman came running around the corner, screamed “Shadow!” took the dog in her arms, and hugged him so hard I thought for sure he would have preferred the bath to the embrace. She told us that Shadow had jumped out of the sink right as her kids were coming home, and he had bolted through the open door. Luckily, it had only take her about 10 minutes to find him.

Few guardians’ lives have been free of adventures in dog bathing, though it’s rare for a dog to flee to the great outdoors. It’s typical to have dogs jump out of the tub, shake all over the living room, and rub their bodies along every bed and couch in the house, though some dogs simply try to hide.

Has your dog ever escaped during a bath?

Dog Beds Can Be Stylish
Home décor meets canine functionality

I’ve already put considerable thought in to why the dog is so often under the table even when nobody is there, eating and dropping food by mistake. I suppose it was natural that I would next contemplate why the dog bed is NOT under there. As long as the dog will be resting beneath the table, why not make it as comfortable for him as possible?

There’s the added bonus of having the dog bed out of the way. Beds are wonderful items, but they take up so much floor space, especially if they are for big dogs. They usually have dog fur so they match the rest of our furnishings, but they are less intrinsically stylish and not always as attractive. It was natural that appreciating the design advantages of putting the dog bed under the table led to further consideration of aesthetics.

I generally just try to stay in our color scheme and let the dog beds fall where they may, meaning that I put them where they work for dogs. Since my focus is always on dog behavior, I still stand by this guideline as hugely important. That’s why I like dog beds to be where dogs will not be stepped over, where the temperature suits them and not right by windows that cause them to be vigilant instead of relaxed. Depending on the dog, a bed that is out of the way, allowing true peace and quiet, may be best or one that is right in the middle of the action may make more sense. Ideally, dogs have choices with their resting spots so they can be off by themselves or not as the mood strikes them.

It turns out that I am way behind the curve when it comes to decorating my home with an eye for style while incorporating dog beds. There are so many ways to make them part of the furnishings, whether it is under a table, in an old television or as part of a storage area. I’m definitely impressed by the creative ways to avoid allowing dog beds to detract from a home’s beauty. Function and the dog’s happiness are most important to me and always will be, but I’m newly inspired to work within that framework while making the dog beds more appealing to humans. And to think, I recently thought myself clever just for putting a dog bed out of the way under the dining room table!

How does your dog’s bed fit into the design of your home?

Deductions For Your Dog
Some tax laws benefit guardians

It can be psychologically damaging to keep track of how much we spend on our dogs. There’s something to be said for just acknowledging that the dogs create a problem area in the budget and moving on. I realize this goes against what every financial planner says, but it’s hard to put a price on our mental well-being.

On the other hand, with possible tax deductions available from the IRS for dogs, it may be worthwhile to face the music and log those expenses. It can take a lot of money to care for dogs, so it makes sense to try to figure out if some of those expenses are deductible.

The bad news is that even though most guardians consider their dogs to be family members, they are NOT deductible as dependents. The good news is that there are still ways that you may be able to write off some canine expenses. If your dog qualifies as a medical, business or hobby expense, there may be tax benefits for you. The costs associated with moving your dog when you relocate for a new job may be written off. Fostering pets from qualified organizations also allows you to deduct certain expenses.

It’s worth checking with a tax professional, and saving the receipts, just in case. For heaven’s sake, though, don’t add them up unless it’s necessary in order to file your taxes!

More Determined As They Age
Are older dogs less willing to be interrupted?

“This way,” I said in that sing-song voice that tells the dogs in my life that I am about to get moving and that they should join me. It’s not a cue for a specific behavior, and it’s certainly not a command. It just means, “I am going to be moving, so you should pay attention to the direction I go.” When an off-leash dog hears it, I expect them to take note of me so they can follow me when they are ready to go.

Marley has always been agreeable about this, but this past weekend, he really had his nose to the ground and was slower to follow than usual. It didn’t bother me, though. We were in a safe place, I like him to have his freedom and I figured the warm weather was making smells extra distracting.

Then I walked him a couple of mornings later on leash around the neighborhood in sub-freezing temperatures and he did not budge when I gave him a typical, “Marley, let’s keep going.” This is also not a cue or a command but generally encourages him to keep it moving. Because I was cold and ready to go home, I really noticed that he did not want to interrupt his sniffing. I gave some serious thought to what is going on, and I think some of it is just a common age-related behavior.

Marley is at least six and perhaps a few years older than that, and I think he’s an older gentleman now who wants to do what he wants to do, rather than stop and do what I want him to do. Sure, the smells might be extra enticing, but I’m beginning to think he’s just more willing to assert his own desires rather than act as biddable as he has in the past.

He’s about the most agreeable dog I’ve ever known, and in no way stubborn as a major personality trait. I simply think he’s secure in himself and sometimes acts on his strong opinions, which include not wanting to stop doing something he’s enjoying just because I’ve suggested it. I’ve noticed this with other dogs over the years, too, and wondered about it.

I’m a big fan of letting dogs in their golden years have a little more leeway about doing what they want, and I try not to interrupt their sniffing or snoozing any more than necessary. Marley is far from being old, but he does seem to be channeling his inner middle-aged-fellow-who-wants-what-he-wants and is less willing to be influenced by anyone, including me. In my mind, I hear him saying things like, “In a minute,” or “Hold on a sec.”

His behavior does not reflect any sort of training issue. He’s still as responsive to cues as ever and will respond well to any that he knows, whether it’s something basic like “Sit” or “Come” or tricks like “Sit Pretty” and “High Five.” It’s just that he is not as quick to follow if I’m merely suggesting that I would like to move on. I love that he is smart enough to distinguish between cues that he’s supposed to respond to and mere indications of what I’m going to do. If I need him to come away from something, I can use his recall, and he’ll do it, but he used to act almost as if I had given the cue “Come” when I said, “This way.”

Has your dog become less likely to interrupt what he’s doing and respond to you as he’s gotten older?

Running Off Leash
Does your dog have the opportunity to do this?

It makes me happy to see a dog running through the woods, in a field or on the beach. Few thing make dogs happier than the chance to run free, to make choices, and to move at their own pace. Many dogs would likely choose this as their treat of choice if only they knew that it existed and was a possibility.

Safety concerns as well as leash laws severely limit many dogs’ opportunities to run off leash. It would be wonderful if everyone had acres and acres of fenced land for their dogs to enjoy, but in most communities, there is a shortage of places that dogs are legally allowed to be off leash. Dog parks are a mixed bag, and while they allow off leash opportunities, they are certainly not right for every dog. It’s a big challenge for most guardians to find a way to let their dogs run unencumbered and unrestrained. It’s a shame, too, because it’s so good for dogs to be able to run without being physically attached to a person.

I’m not opposed to leashes, by the way. In fact, I’m a huge fan of them. They protect dogs from cars, from running away and becoming lost and from misbehaving in ways that get them into real trouble. As much as I believe that dogs can benefit from running off leash, it often makes me nervous to see dogs enjoying their freedom near roads or at parks full of children.

Dogs should only have as much freedom as they can handle, and that varies from dog to dog. A dog that won’t run away, always comes when called, is polite and social with people and other dogs, and would never chase cars or bikes can obviously safely be off leash in a lot more situations than dogs who don’t share these qualities. Some dogs can be off leash anywhere that it’s allowed without a problem. Other dogs are more limited, but an off leash romp in the right situation is still a ticket to happiness.

How often does your dog have the chance to run off leash, and where can you go to do this safely?

It’s Dinnertime!
How does your dog let you know?
What does a dog have to do to get this thing filled up?

The dog was definitely letting us know that he was ready to be fed, and that he wanted us to get our sorry selves downstairs to the kitchen to attend to this pressing matter. Dinnertime is usually between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and it was nearing the end of that hour. His stomach certainly knows how to tell time.

He kept opening and closing his mouth, looking around, and snapping in the air repeatedly. He walked to the top of the stairs a few times and then returned to the bedroom where we were all hanging out. He gave some sighs, a few longing looks and had a tendency to jump up if any of us made any sort of move. I guess he hoped that any action was a hopeful sign that someone (anyone!) was finally going to feed him.

When we did head downstairs at last, he was positively gleeful, bounding right over to his bowl and looking up expectantly. It was only then that we were certain what his slightly agitated behavior had been all about. He doesn’t usually act pushy in any way, including over food, so this was somewhat new behavior. I can only assume that he was especially hungry that evening, and eager to have his evening meal.

A lot of dogs have dinnertime alert rituals, whether it is barking, running to the cupboard where the food is stored, standing by the food bowl or picking it up and holding it. How does your dog let you know that it is time for dinner to be served?

Are You Special To Your Dog?
New research confirms that you are

Does your dog recognize you, the guardian, as unique in his life? Naturally, you consider him the most important, best, most special dog in the world, but does your dog view you as a unique treasure, or just as any old tall-two-legs capable of feeding him, putting on the leash, opening the door and playing with him?

A recent study in the journal Behavioural Processes titled “Dogs and their human companions: The effect of familiarity on dog–human interactions” investigated questions like these. Specifically, the scientists wanted to know whether dogs interacting with guardians, other people they know well and strangers behaved differently depending on how well they knew the person. With a series of tests on 20 dogs who were well socialized with some training experience, the researchers concluded that:

1. Dogs responded differently to the guardian and the stranger in most situations.  That is, if your dog is like the family dogs in this study, you matter more to your dog than a stranger does. (Whew!)

2. Dogs acted differently when they were with their guardians and when they were with a familiar person when the situation involved playfulness, fear or anxiety, or physical contact.

3. Dogs reacted similarly to their own guardian and people that they knew well when the task involved responding to obedience cues.

Understanding the effects of the guardian on dog behavior is important because it informs us about the attachment between humans and dogs. It also matters because it shows that behavioral research is affected by which humans, if any, are present during experiments.

2015 Puppy and Horse Super Bowl Ad
True friends always have your back

Cuteness reigns! Budweiser is sticking with their ads about puppies and horses because it’s a winning combination. This year’s Super Bowl commercial stays with the theme of real friends always being there for each other, and that is its strength.

Opportunities to pull at our heartstrings are certainly not in short supply: the puppy in a pile of hay, waiting out a rainstorm in a metal box, returning home filthy with the horses following him, licking the man’s face after being bathed. There’s a nice reference to last year’s commercial when the man puts up a “Lost Dog” poster with a photo of the puppy and horse.

In this 60-second story, the farm’s Labrador Retriever puppy gets lost, and suffers through some hazards before the horses who love him come to his rescue. One danger is traffic, but the main threat is a wolf. It looks to be the end of the dog until his horse buddies show up and scare the predator away. If I could change one thing about the commercial, it would be the depiction of wolves as the enemy. I thought that the “big bad wolf” stereotype had faded away, so Budweiser’s attempt to revive it is unfortunate.

Still, the commercial is about friendship, and you can feel the love on that farm in so many scenes: when the horse and man seek comfort from one another while their beloved puppy is missing, when the horses rush to the aid of the puppy, the expression on the man’s face when he first sees that his dog has come home and when the horse and puppy play together at the end.

I’ve always been impressed with how well these commercials capture happy dog behavior in the scenes that require it, which is not easy on a set with huge horses, a lot of people, cameras and other equipment. (The one miss I noticed in this commercial is at 52 seconds when the puppy tongue flicks—a sign of anxiety—right before he licks the man’s face, supposedly joyfully.) Showing dogs looking forlorn in the rain or other sad scenes seems an easier task, but I give them credit for accomplishing it anyway.

This commercial has been viewed over 17 million times already on YouTube. Do you consider it a winner?

The Challenge of Children
I’m sympathetic to many dogs

We all know that dogs and children can be a volatile mix, and that we must take care to protect kids from dogs. Regrettably, some kids are bitten and even more are scared or hurt by dogs chasing them or jumping up on them. As both a parent and as someone who works with dogs professionally, I see this as an important issue that we as a society must continue to improve.

Still, many times the interactions between kids and dogs leave me more concerned about the dogs than the children. Though far too many dog bites to kids happen, sometimes I think it’s amazing that there aren’t more considering what dogs have to put up with. While I think the majority of kids are kind to dogs, such good behavior is far from universal.

I’ve heard many people over the years praise their dogs by saying, “The kids can do ANYTHING to him.” I always respond by asking, “What are the kids doing to him?” while inside I’m crossing my paws and hoping it’s not too bad.

The answers range from the relatively benign (they follow him to pet him constantly, they dress him up) to the deeply concerning (they make a game of jumping over him, they use him like a pillow, they carry him around a lot) to the truly horrifying (they poke him in the eye, they pull his tail, they scream in his ear to wake him up, they try to ride him like a horse.)

My years working with clients as well as observations of dogs outside of work leave me with tremendous gratitude to the enormous numbers of dogs who react peacefully to kids. Some dogs are dealing with kids who are a bit rough, totally thoughtless or even downright cruel.

Without excusing dogs who have bitten kids, I think we’re asking dogs to put up with an awful lot considering what goes on in many households with kids. Almost every day, I silently thank the millions of dogs out there who have refrained from biting kids who bother them relentlessly. We’re very lucky as a society to have so many amazing canines as pets.

Do Dogs React to Being Laughed At?
I wonder if it makes them feel bad

Marley had jumped up on our bed, as he is allowed to do, but the rule is that he has to get down if he is asked to do so. On this particular night, he seemed exhausted and eager to go to bed. Once ensconced in his favorite spot, he avoided eye contact with all of us. Wherever our faces were, he was looking the other way.

I proposed the idea that perhaps he was trying to avoid being told to get down off the bed, in an “If I can’t see you, you can’t see me” kind of way. This was pure guesswork, but the rest of my family thought it was funny because it really seemed to fit.

We began to act like him, looking away, pretending that nobody could tell us it was bedtime or anything else we didn’t want to hear, and we were all laughing. I caught a glance at Marley, and he looked really unhappy, which is when I said, “I wonder if he feels bad because we’re laughing at him.”

In truth we found Marley endearing and funny, and meant no disrespect, but how did he perceive it? Dogs are so in tune with our emotions and actions, and they are obviously intensely social beings, so it seems possible that he felt himself the object of derision where none was intended.

It made me sad to contemplate the idea, and my husband and kids felt the same way. We stopped laughing immediately and began to pet Marley as we usually would when we’re all about to go to bed. Soon Marley looked happy again, though still tired.

It’s no fun being laughed at, and it does happen to dogs, whether our intent is hurtful or not. Do you think your dog can tell if others are laughing at his expense?