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News: Guest Posts
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
Inexplicable phobias and unlikely explanations

“Mitch, you know the rule! No standing in the house! Dude, if you want a drink I’ll get you one, but you can’t stand up—it freaks the dog out.” Whenever my friend Mitch comes over, this is my reality. Most of the time, life at home with the dogs is pretty uneventful. The dogs keep themselves occupied playing with toys or enjoying the backyard whenever we’re not snuggling on the sofa. From time to time, my friend Mitch (a towering six-foot-four, bearded lumberjack of a man) will show up, and Skipper does not like it. My usually friendly and docile dog barks constantly at him, clipping his heels, until he sits down. As soon as Mitch hits the couch or chair, it’s like someone flipped a switch and Skip goes back to normal.

  Fear of unusually (i.e., freakishly) tall people is only one of Skipper’s many strange and inexplicable phobias. He also fears karate, a fact I discovered when Skipper witnessed our friend Andy doing a Tae-Bo workout video. Additionally, and perhaps more logically, Skipper fears smoke. If we’re getting overzealous with the panini maker or those s’mores are getting a little out of control, Skipper will cower and hide in the bushes and look so sad it’s enough to break your heart in two.   This unique constellation of phobias has lead me to only one logical conclusion: Skipper’s previous owner must have been some sort of ultimate karate master (I’m thinking Bruce Lee), who met his demise at the hands of a giant, bearded redhead (plausibly Chuck Norris) during some sort of epic showdown in a burning building. Skipper likely employed an arsenal of canine kicks and punches to save his sensei, but either the smoke was too thick, or perhaps, Skipper was cruelly thrown aside (which also explains his blindness in one eye), and could not save his dojo-master. That, or like many owners, I have constructed an alternate reality to explain the source of all my dog’s fears with one traumatic event.   It’s a natural tendency to want to believe that Skipper’s life was perfectly happy until one fateful day everything came apart, but it all worked out because I adopted him. It’s almost a mode of self-preservation, considering that I already get overly emotional when watching those ASPCA ads of dogs in shelters: I couldn’t handle imagining poor Skipper going through an extended ordeal. The reality is though, any dog, whether from a shelter or from a responsible breeder, can develop strange phobias that we don’t understand.   Think of it this way: As humans, not all of our phobias come from rational places. Case in point, I had (OK, let’s be real, HAVE) an irrational fear of E.T., stemming from my childhood. This doesn’t mean that I was at any point abducted by aliens, or lured into Drew Barrymore’s closet after following a trail of Reese’s Pieces, or forced to fly away from government agents on a 10-speed bicycle (at least, I can’t recall ever having any of these things happen to me). Sometimes, dogs, like their people, just develop phobias we can’t explain. (Some canine compulsions might even have a genetic component.)   As much as I love Skipper and want to know everything about him, I have to accept that’s not possible. Instead, I just have to be the best dog parent I can be, and deal with his quixotic fears. Unless, of course, I am totally right about that Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris karate showdown. In that case, Skipper has just been trying to tell me something and I should be very, very afraid.

 

News: Guest Posts
Study Dogs Sought
For study of canine compulsive behavior

The Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University is currently enrolling:

  Terriers (except Bull breeds) German Shepherds Border Collies   into a study regarding the genetic underpinnings of compulsive behavior. Dogs that are affected and unaffected are needed. You will be required to fill out a survey about your dog’s behavior and a blood sample will be taken. A visit to Tufts is not required. If you are interested in learning more about this study, please contact Nicole Cottam at 508-887-4802 or nicole.cottam@tufts.edu.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Unlikely Couple
The love of a goat and a dog

It’s hard to say what makes a pair fall so deeply in love, and when a close bond develops across species, it is both more puzzling and more endearing. A goat named Minelli and a Great Dane named Judy used to spend all their time together—sleeping, cuddling, and just being with each other.

  They were strays, though, and are now being held in an animal care facility in Dallas for the required 18 days in the hopes that their owners will claim them. Minelli is in an enclosure with more closely related animals. Since being separated from Minelli, Judy barks all day and seems highly distressed. A member of the staff at the facility describes it as heartbreaking and everyone involved in the situation hopes they can be reunited soon. They are separated as required by law, although the deputy involved declined to state which law specifically doesn’t allow them to be together.   Dogs and humans obviously form intense social bonds with each other. Have you had any other animals of different species who are obviously in a close relationship?  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs at the Farmer’s Market
Handling dogs and crowds

In my town, Flagstaff, Ariz., dogs are welcome in many places, and one of the hot spots for dogs is the Sunday morning Farmer’s Market. It’s great to see people and dogs out enjoying the beautiful weather and the purchase of fresh foods. Regrettably, what’s not always so great is seeing people frustrated or angry with one another because of the dogs.

  Sometimes people, especially kids, pet dogs without asking permission first, or dogs jump up on people or lick them while a guardian is busy picking out heirloom tomatoes or the perfect bunch of basil. I regularly see many dogs who are stressed out in the crowd at the event or dogs greeting each other in a tense way that makes me concerned that the interaction might escalate into trouble.   When dogs and people are interacting at any sort of community event, following a few guidelines can make the difference between a positive experience for everybody and a situation full of tension and bad feelings. My top tips for people who want to take their dogs to such places include: 1) Crowded situations are not for every dog, so if your dog is not at his best in such situations, don’t put him in them. 2) Don’t let your dog jump on people or lick them unless you know they are okay with that. 3) Know the signs of stress in dogs. Watch for any indications that your dog is no longer having a good time, and if that happens, be willing to leave even if you’d rather stay a bit longer. 4) Don’t let dogs greet each other unless both guardians have agreed that it’s okay.   If you like to take your dog to various events about town, how do you make it work for both you and your dog?  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy Mischief
What has your little “angel” done?

I was talking recently with my Aunt Liz, who had the Great Danes I knew and loved as a child. We were discussing what great dogs they were, and I guess I only remembered the good times when they were in their prime. I had never known about their puppy antics, and she filled me in. “The worst moment was when Drinan ate the couch,” she said.

Having had many clients who discovered scratches, tears and bite marks on their furniture, I felt very sympathetic when I asked, “How bad was the damage?”

She replied, “It wasn’t a matter of damage. She ATE the couch.” She went on to tell me that her dear dog had actually consumed a large portion of the sofa. She had not just nibbled on the legs or torn open the cushions. Knowing that the dog had survived the incident and that the relationship between Drinan and my aunt and uncle had not only made it past the couch debacle but flourished into true love, it was easy to laugh about it now.

Most of us can look back fondly on the puppy days of the dogs we grow to cherish with our whole hearts. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t live through a certain amount of gnashing of teeth (our own!) when those beloved dogs were puppies. And there’s no need for shame because there’s no judgment here. Anyone who has ever had a puppy has had a moment when in the time it took to sneeze twice, use the bathroom, or answer the phone, something horrendous has happened. Please share what your puppy has done that you just couldn’t believe.

News: Guest Posts
Bringing Up Leo
For better or for worse

Adopting my first dog Skipper was, without a doubt, the best idea I have ever had. This is no small claim, considering that I am full of incredible ideas. Don’t believe me? Take this idea for instance: Prince and the surviving members of Queen get together and form a band called King. I know, right? Incredible idea. And that was just off the top of my head. Even with so many great ideas, adopting Skipper ranks as number one. However, the jury’s still out on my other dog Leo.

  Leo was by no means an impulse decision. Often while I worked at home, Skipper would lie on his dog bed nearby and let out long, loud sighs. Dog behaviorists, say what you will, but those sighs combined with his ultra-sad eyes was all I needed to see. Skipper longed to be part of a pack—not a pair.   Initially, I was unsettled by the feeling of wanting another dog. What if even after I got the dog I wanted another? Wasn’t this how people became animal hoarders? I cast these unreasonable fears aside, and Petfinder.com soon became my browser’s homepage. I grew obsessed with trolling the site for hours to find the perfect second dog. After almost six months of searching, Skipper’s rescue contacted me out of the blue. They had another Schipperke, and from the picture they sent me this dog looked like a dignified, if not royal, canine. It had to be a sign: This was my next dog.   Unfortunately, like many relationships that begin on the Internet, Leo was not who I had in mind.  It was like I was expecting Orlando Bloom and Gary Busey showed up. The dog was a hurricane: wild, uncontrolled and destructive. I’m still not sure why I agreed to adopt him, but I did. The first few weeks with Leo were rough, to say the least. On the car ride home, he became “fiercely romantic” with my Marc Jacobs sweater in the backseat. He and Skipper incessantly bickered. As much reading as I had done on welcoming a new dog into the family, I was unprepared. Every day, my boyfriend Jason would ask me, “So, when are you taking Leo back?”   It wasn’t until one night, when I left the dogs with Jason while I ran out to get groceries, that one of their fights transformed into a friendly wrestling match, ending with both dogs on the floor licking one another. They made their peace, and suddenly realized they couldn’t live without one another. Jason couldn’t explain it, and I didn’t need an explanation; I was just relieved.   Slowly, Leo began to calm down and became manageable. He began to find his place in the family, becoming more confident and less aggressive over time. In turn, Skipper stopped his sighing and moping—he was too busy enjoying Leo. Fights turned into brotherly roughhousing, knocking over freshly folded piles of laundry and dismantling sofa cushions. Leo’s wild, fun-loving nature brought out a liveliness and joie de vivre in Skipper that hadn’t been there before, and I grew to love Leo for his affectionate and quirky personality. Though Leo remains imperfect (where do all my socks keep going?), he has changed our lives for worse and for better—the calm in my home is gone, but it has been replaced with excitement, laughter and two very happy dogs.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Most Dogs Hate the Smell of Citrus
Does yours?

Typically, dogs like going for walks, eating chicken, belly rubs and chasing squirrels. Sure there are exceptions, but these truths apply to most dogs. Similarly, there is general agreement among canines about what is undesirable, or even repulsive. At the top of that list is the smell of citrus.

  Dogs’ distaste for oranges, lemons, grapefruit or the smell of same can be useful. Many dogs can be deterred from chewing on items that have been treated with citrus odors. (To be fair, a small percentage of dogs just consider these flavors to be the icing on the cake, so to speak, and are even more likely to go after any object covered with such an odor. This is nature’s way of preventing any of us from ever feeling confident that we know what is going on.) To see how your dog feels about these fruits, peel a messy orange so that your hands are covered with the sticky juice and put your fingers near your dog’s nose. If your dog backs away, making a face, then you’ve got a member of the citrus-hating majority. If your dog licks your fingers, then you don’t.   If your dog dislikes the smell of these acidic fruits, it may be possible to use the scent or juice of them as a deterrent. However, be mindful of using these odors to scent your home for your own pleasure. You may inadvertently be making your home smell as bad to your dog as a trash dump would to you.   This video shows Aspen turning away from an orange. She is among the citrus-hating majority of dogs.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Talk
Do you say canine-related things?

Among people who work with dogs for a living, it is not unusual to use familiar expressions with a slight dog twist. For example, we might say, “I’ll cross my paws for you,” if someone is hoping to get an offer accepted on a house or if they are waiting for news from a medical test. On the “paw” theme, a response to someone’s request to meet with me just as I have arrived in the office might be, “Sure, let’s talk. Just give me a few minutes to get my paws on the ground.” This is not said with any attempt to be amusing or to make a point. It’s just a way to convey information in an understandable way.

  Besides modifying common phrases, the behavior of dogs, which we all understand, allows for descriptions of people and situations with a kind of shorthand. For example, years ago a friend of mine was dating a man named Scott who gave her a gift that didn’t quite suit her and helped her to realize that HE didn’t quite suit her. It was a jacket that said “Scott’s girlfriend.” When she told me, “I’m surprised he didn’t just lift his leg and pee on me,” it was just another way to express that she found him to be too possessive.   What expressions do you use among your doggy friends and colleagues that you might not use with the population at large?  

 

News: Guest Posts
I’ve Had It!
If I hear “but he’s friendly” one more time, I’m going to lose it

I’m bruised and beat up, and not sure what to do. This morning, I took my three large dogs for a walk. We were 50 yards from our driveway when a loose black Labrador retriever came into the street to greet us.

I know this dog; I've found him wandering before and brought him back home several times. He's a friendly boy. That said, my three dogs do not appreciate having a strange dog run up to them and get in their face.

I told the Lab, "No, go home!" in the sternest voice I could muster. It didn't deter him. Nor did three large barking, snarling dogs. And that's when I saw him - the dog's owner. He was standing right there on the front lawn.

By then, it was too late. As I envisioned this dog getting bitten by one of my dogs or worse, I lost my balance and fell backwards onto the asphalt. Incredibly, I didn't hit my head or break an arm. Just some ugly, searing scrapes on my knees, elbows and knuckles. Somehow, I managed to grip the leashes tight and not let my dogs go free. And thankfully, a car didn't come zooming around the corner like they sometimes do. What if we had all been hit?

My neighbor came out and got my dogs’ attention, helping calm all of us down while the Lab’s owner put his dog inside. The Lab owner then started to cross the street to approach me, politely asking, “Are you alright?”

Adrenaline still pumping and before I could think clearly, I screamed, “Please don’t come talk to me! I can’t talk to you right now! Why do you let your dog be loose? I’ve seen him go up to other people and their dogs while walking. Why do you let him do that?”

The Lab owner looked at me like I was nuts – it certainly wasn’t my best moment – turned on his heel and went inside his house to hang out with his no doubt equally bewildered Lab.

Now I feel like a jerk. And my neighbor, who is wonderful and loves my dogs and kept my heart from jumping out of my chest, says, “But you know he’s friendly, right?”
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Raccoon Attacks Woman and Dog
Rabid animals pose danger

When wild animals attack people and dogs, it can be a sign that they are rabid. Rabies affects the behavior of animals including raccoons, skunks and foxes. One of the signs of rabies across species is a tendency to bite without provocation. A couple in Georgia found out for themselves how scary an attack by a potentially rabid animal can be when a raccoon attacked them and their puppy. The man knocked the raccoon out with a stick when it grabbed their puppy’s head. The woman has now gone through the painful rabies treatment and their dog had to be quarantined for 10 days.

  Where I live, in Flagstaff, Ariz., efforts are underway to vaccinate wild animals against rabies with edible packets of vaccine. In order to make sure that these vaccines are consumed by wild animals rather than by pets, there is a pet quarantine in effect for the next couple of weeks. Dogs and cats are required to be either confined indoors or kept on a leash of six feet or less.   Have you or your dogs had a run-in with a wild animal acting in an unusual way?    

 

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