life with dogs
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Canines take their share of the spotlight
Watching the US Olympic Trials in track and field is filling much of my recreational time this week, but my thoughts are never far from the world of dogs. More and more often, announcers comment on competitors’ dogs, as do the athletes themselves. When discussing that Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix has had a rough year, the broadcast team spoke of two issues. One problem was an injured ankle that leads to pain with every step and the other was the death of her beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Chloe. Chloe is well known to fans of Felix, who often tweeted about Chloe. Felix has said that Skyping with Chloe when she traveled to races helped her to settle her mind and to feel in touch with home. The two even appeared in a commercial together.
The importance of dogs also came up in an interview with Brenda Martinez. Martinez was expected to qualify for the Olympics in the 800 m event, but that dream slipped away when she was tripped up by another runner near the end of the race. When asked how she put that disappointment behind her in order to focus on her upcoming 1500 m race, she emphasized the role her dogs played. She said that she and her husband had brought all four of their dogs with them and that being with them made her happy and helped her move on emotionally. She visibly relaxed when she spoke of her dogs despite the high pressure situation she is in.
Few of us face pressure as intense as what these athletes are dealing with this week, but many of us still rely on our dogs for relief from the stresses of life. Do you?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Friends Across Species
Dogs and people are truly the best of friends, but that doesn’t mean that dogs can’t be buddies with other animals, too. Though dogs and cats are often considered natural enemies, countless households have a dog and a cat who very close. They play together, sleep together and generally prefer to be near one another.
Less common, but still far from rare, are the dogs who have strong social connections to other species. I have one client whose dog loves to head upstairs in their apartment complex to hang out with the neighbor’s rabbit. A friend of mine has a ferret who plays daily with her dog until they are both exhausted.
Dogs and pot-bellied pigs can be great chums, and countless canines love spending time with their horse pals. There are plenty of dogs whose friends include sheep and goats.
I know of a couple of parrots and parakeets who socialize with dogs, and one pair of these vocalize together with great regularity. I’m not going to lie—the howling dog and the screaming bird don’t sound pleasant to me, but they seem quite happy with their symphony, and that’s what matters.
If your dog has a friend outside the dog or human species, how do they interact?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Seven ways to carpe the summer diem.
Sure, you could sit around inside with your dog, sweating and complaining about the heat. But why do that when there are so many ways to take advantage of the season’s longer days and warmer weather?
Make your dog a warm-weather flop spot. Look for a shady area in your yard, dig a shallow pit sized to fit your pup, line it with a thin layer of concrete and before the concrete dries, poke holes in it for drainage. Once the concrete has set, fill the pit with playground sand, dampen it and let the fun begin.
Plan a toxin-free and dog-friendly landscape. No snail bait, no cocoa mulch, no lethal plants (check out the ASPCA site for a list of ones to avoid), no chemical fertilizers, no fungicides, no herbicides, no pesticides. Ideal landscaping/hardscaping material doesn’t get too hot, is easy on the paws and— in a perfect world—doesn’t track into the house on fuzzy feet; pea gravel and pavers fill the bill.
Have some good, wet fun—summer’s prime time for water play. A caveat, however: keep an eye on your dog for signs of hyponatremia, aka water intoxication, which can come on fast and is life-threatening. Bone up on the symptoms and make sure your dog takes breaks.
Experiment with a new way to cruise. Rent a dog-friendly camper trailer or houseboat and see the world from a whole new perspective. Some camper rental companies will handle delivery, setup and hauling away; do an online search for a company in your preferred vacation spot. For on-the-water accommodations, check out Houseboating.org.
Take in a drive-in. Remember the al fresco movie experience of yesteryear? Some communities revive this lovely summer tradition, and some even allow you to skip the car and loll on a blanket under the stars. Search for summer + drive-in and see what comes up in your area.
Sign up for summer school and learn new skills or master old ones. Training, agility, herding and freestyle are all on the agenda. Then, there are dog camps—the summer camps of your childhood, but way better. For maximum relaxation, match the activity type and level to your and your dog’s temperaments.
Mark your calendar with “dog days” concerts and sporting events. Special offerings tend to pop up this time of the year, perfect for enjoyment with the pooch.
We know we don’t have to tell you this, but while you’re having fun with the pup, keep safety in mind. Stay out of the sun during the warmest hours, have plenty of water available, dab sunscreen on both yourself and your dog (yes, there are sunscreens for dogs), take lots of well-shaded rest breaks and never, never, never leave your dog in the car. If you’re out walking, listen to what your dog’s telling you; let him rest if he wants to and don’t coax him to go faster. Finally, do your best to avoid areas with foxtails, those sticky, diabolical grass awns (seeds) that burrow into fur and skin and, once well in, don’t come out without surgery. If these wild grasses show up in your yard—which they’re prone to do—pull them out while they’re still green.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Carrying dogs no easy task
I saw Lucy at the running store that her guardians own, bandaged up and limping a bit. She was also enjoying the sympathy of customers and friends, especially if that sympathy came with a side of treats. While chasing a squirrel, Lucy had run into a piece of old barbed wire that had sliced her leg pretty badly.
Following a visit to the emergency veterinarian, treatment involving stitches, bandages, antibiotics and painkillers, and a substantial transfer of funds from the guardians to the vet, Lucy is on the mend. She won’t be running for the next little while, but will instead be on a strict regimen of rest and sleep. She certainly will not be left home alone with the other two dogs in the household to play and damage her bandages or healing leg, which is why she was at work.
Luckily, Lucy will be fine, but there is one piece of the story that really stresses me out, and that’s how far Lucy’s guardian had to carry her from the spot where she was injured to get back to the car. I had asked about this specifically because so many people here in Flagstaff, Ariz. love running on remote trails, especially with their dogs. It was alarming to learn that Lucy had to be carried a mile and a half. This was quite a physical endeavor with a dog weighing over 60 pounds—even for her guardian, who is strong and fit. Some adrenaline from concern about her injury probably gave him a little boost, but it was still a challenge.
Even with internal chemical changes that help us out in emergencies, I shudder to think how hard it would be for most people to carry their injured dogs. Depending on the size of the dog, and the strength of the person, it could range from no big deal to actually impossible. If anyone is ever out stranded with a full grown English Mastiff or a Saint Bernard, the situation could become serious quite quickly, but many of us could run close to full speed with a small terrier.
How far have you had to carry your dog because of an injury? How far could you do that if you had to?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Adjustments because of the heat
A client just called me to request that we change our appointment this week to early in the morning to beat the record heat expected over the next few days. We have to be mindful of preventing this dog from overheating because one piece of our behavior modification work each week involves having him play fetch with strangers. The goal is to teach him to feel happy when he sees a stranger by associating strangers with the opportunity to play his favorite game. Right now, he still finds unfamiliar people scary, but thanks to many fetch games, his circle of familiar people has grown. There are now quite a few of us who he greets with happy anticipation, knowing that our presence means that a fetch game is in his immediate future.
Every summer, people make adjustments based on the heat, and this is especially true for those who live in hot climates. Sometimes the schedule changes are as simple as walking the dog a little earlier in the morning or a bit later in the evening. In other cases, physical activities are shortened by running or playing fetch for 20 minutes instead of for 45 minutes. There are dogs who have a seasonal rotation of activities based on the weather, so they may swim or walk in the hottest months, even though they go running alongside a bicycle for exercise during the rest of the year.
The most basic ways to modify activities to accommodate the stress of hot weather are to do less vigorous activity, to exercise for shorter periods of time and to be active during the coolest parts of the day. What changes are you making in your schedule so your dog is not exposed to the excessive heat?
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
These stylish and durable flooring materials and fabrics let you give Fido the run of the house
World, meet Chewie. Chewie is my favorite chow chow–German shepherd mix in the world. But as much as I love my rescued best friend, having him around typically means constant shedding, some drooling and more than a few lost pillows. Sound familiar?
Having Chewie has forced me to consider how to make coexisting under the same roof more of a pleasant experience than a dreadful chore. And all it took was picking some clever materials for our townhome. Below is some advice I wish I’d had before committing to my long-term relationship with my dog. Let’s dig in.
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Let's start at the bottom: the floors. Our townhome has hardwood floors, and I've wished on more than one occasion that they were concrete instead. This is especially true for homeowners who are considering a puppy, because lots of messes come along with potty training.
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Another great floor material for puppy training? Natural stone — though be aware that porous materials, such as marble, can stain. So choose wisely what kind of stone you install.
Porcelain tile is a fantastic alternative to natural stone. To accomplish this sophisticated and clean look, make sure the grout lines are minimal. Also, it's good to note that dogs, seniors and puppies in particular, could have a tough time gaining traction on these floors so watch out for injuries. See our tips on caring for senior dogs.
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Of course, hardwood floors can work well too. Just know that when your pet reaches maturity, you may have to refinish those lovely boards. Thankfully, with hardwood floors, you can always count on intact wood beneath the scratched surface.
Laminate is a practical way to get out of the extensive care of hardwood. It maintains the look while offering a virtually indestructible play surface for your best friend.
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For a softer option, you can always choose carpet. Just be prepared — it will take some vacuuming to keep that freshly installed look.
If you want a more practical option for carpeting, you could choose carpet tiles. Minor accidents (bound to happen) can be remedied by replacing individual tiles instead of an entire floor of carpeting. I speak from experience.
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I would have thought a cowhide would be one of the last choices for floor treatments in a house with pets. To my surprise, the cowhide in my house is one of the most practical decisions I have ever made. Its texture naturally repels dog and cat hair. This interior takes full advantage of the cowhide's beauty and durability.
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When it comes to furniture, my advice is to go for a low-maintenance fabric. I have not found a successful way of keeping my dogs off the couch (have you?), and every day I am thankful for my lucky decision to purchase a microfiber sofa. Microfiber is one of the most forgiving upholstery fabrics; it cleans up with great ease.
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Perhaps an even better option for furniture is leather, especially for dogs. You can simply wipe it clean and be done.
Tell us: What materials have you used in your home to help you with your pet-related chores? How does owning pets affect your choice of furniture and decor? Please share below!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Do you have a runner, a sniffer or a greeter?
Being overjoyed about going for a walk is almost universal among the canine set. If you reach for that leash, lace up your shoes or do anything that suggests even the remote possibility that you are going for a walk, your dog is probably thrilled.
However, dogs are making use of the sacred walk time for different purposes. Though many dogs like everything about a walk, there are at least three categories of dogs, based on what they most love about their outings.
Some dogs are runners. What they want out of the walk is exercise, so they want to be moving, preferably as fast as possible. These are the dogs who need their daily (or twice daily or all day) activity. They often pull on the leash at first, but once they get into a rhythm, burned off some energy and released some endorphins, they settle down a bit. They still want to run or trot, but they are more flexible about whatever pace you choose.
It’s rare to find a dog who has no interest in sniffing on their walks, but for many of them, it is their top priority from start to finish. They have their nose to the ground much of the walk, suddenly getting incredibly interested in stretches of grass that look to us, the olfactory challenged humans, exactly like every other stretch of grass. These dogs seek mental stimulation on walks, and their minds are stimulated by the smells that are here! And there! And everywhere!
Even the most social of dogs are often distracted by their own desire to be active or to sniff all over the place. However, there are some dogs whose main purpose on walks is to meet-and-greet. These are the social butterfly, table-hopper types who simply want to say hello to other dogs, to people or even to the occasional cat. These greeters love to connect with others, and may even be slightly disappointed if there are few others out and about during walks. Related to the social dogs are the dogs whose purpose is marking their territory and patrolling the area. These dogs, like other social dogs, are highly interested in who is (and has been)out and about.
Many dogs are a combination of these traits. The love to run, sniff and say hello, but as a guardian, you probably know your dog well enough to understand which activity is most important.
Do you have a runner, a sniffer, a greeter or a dog with an entirely different priority?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
What non-essential dog items do you love?
As I get older I value my comfort just a little more. I appreciate cup holders, soft cozy blankets, and chairs whose designers were inspired by the human body rather than thoughts of fitting 100 chairs in a storage closet. When it comes to dogs, little luxuries mean more to me, too. Just today I walked dogs with leashes that have soft padding in the handle, and I realized that these are the leashes for me. It’s a little thing, that extra padding, but I just love the feel of it my hand. Even with dogs who have lovely leash manners (but especially if they are still working on them) that extra cushion protects my hands from any harshness, and I love it!
I felt the same way years ago when I first discovered the Chuck It. Okay, a little dog slobber never hurt anybody, but a quart of it on a tennis ball is not what I’m looking for in hand moisturizer, either. I’m also a big fan of the folding dog water bowl. To be able to hike with dogs and easily help them hydrate without having a big, clunky water bowl digging into my back through a backpack adds much joy to the outing.
While I am a huge fan of the stuffed Kong, sometimes it feels like a lot of work to stuff one. (I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.) When such an every day task seems hard, I’m grateful for Kong’s Marathon toys. They can keep a dog occupied for a long time but just take a moment for me to lock the compatible treat into the fitted slot.
Microfiber towels that absorb water and mud from a dog’s underbelly and paws are indispensable to me now. Sure, any basic towel works, but they don’t necessarily work as well as the microfiber ones. Even easier to use (and therefore better) are the microfiber mitts that dry dogs without slipping, which means that your hands don’t get wet and muddy.
There are so many items that I appreciate just because they make life a tiny bit easier and more convenient. Non-stick mats that go under food and water bowl keep bowls from sliding all over the floor are a huge plus—no scratches in the floor, easy clean-up of spills, and no racket from clanking bowls. Travel food bags that only take up as much room as the food you have left are a huge improvement over bulky plastic containers. Poop bag holders that attach to a belt loop or the leash free up my hands and pockets, and therefore belong on my list of non-essential dog items that make me happy.
What little luxuries in dog gear make your life just a little better?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
An adrenaline rush at the movies or on a roller coaster is fun, but not when the cause is seeing a dog dodging traffic. Yesterday, a dog raced across a busy road, right in front of our car, and then perilously close to oncoming traffic. He was running in a zigzag pattern and was clearly not experienced at crossing the street. I honked a few times, hoping to put all other drivers on alert so they could take evasive action to avoid this dog.
Fortunately, the dog made it safely across many lanes of traffic to the other side, but unfortunately, he immediately headed back across the road. There was more honking and braking, some skilled swerving and another blast of adrenaline all around. The dog survived his second crossing with help from a lot of drivers and a bit of luck thrown in. He was then in the grocery store parking that was the scene of his escape, where a woman grabbed his collar and held onto him.
I pulled into this parking lot just in case a spare leash would be helpful.(I usually have one in my car.) I arrived just as the dog’s guardian did, looking incredibly relieved and full of gratitude for the woman who had caught her dog. Thanks to a modern convenience, the dog had been released from the guardian’s car when she accidentally hit the release button for the back hatch instead of the one to unlock the doors. She was just exiting the store when it happened, so she was close enough to the car to activate it, but too far away to stop her dog from leaping out and going on his brief, but dangerous, escapade.
With this technology so commonplace, precautions against the dangers it presents to our dogs are in order. Securing our dogs with crates or barriers is an obvious option for avoiding this kind of trouble. There are so many arguments in favor of having our dogs in crates when they are in the car, and this is just another one.
The guardian of this dog was horrified about his near disaster, and will certainly have nightmares. (I probably will, too!) Even though her dog rides in the crate, she had let him out for a little more freedom while shopping, not considering the potential risk her new car posed.
Has an accidental hatch opening ever given your dog an unplanned adventure?
Let me start by saying that I love you. No matter what else becomes true in the chaos surrounding my leaving, my feelings for you will remain. There is no force on or above this earth that could shake you from my heart.
The world of people is complicated. It’s not just about who smells nice or is easy to get along with. Even people with wonderful personalities and exceptional smells aren’t always made for one another. Things change. Souls evolve. Challenges emerge. People meet, connect, intertwine and separate.
Your person and I thought we had everything figured out. We didn’t. It’s nothing you did. We just ended up in over our heads, like an emotional version of the time you swam too far into the lake chasing geese. We believed we could love like dogs— pure, joyous, unconditional—but in the end we could only love like people. It is a flaw of all humankind.
I am sorry to have to leave. Know that it is difficult. Know that I would never “willfully” abandon you. Know that I will be there should your person ever need someone to care for you. Let me reiterate: I love you.
Other people will come. Please love them the way you loved me, without fear. This is your gift. Love your person, as well. She needs you most in moments like these. She is more your responsibility than you are hers.
I promise this is not the end. I will see you again. I will call your name and bury my face in your fur. We will dance together, your paws in my hands. To you it will seem like no time has passed at all.
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