life with dogs
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs use creativity to break free
Most people love that dogs are good problem solvers except when they hate that dogs are good problem solvers. Take the age old battle of dog versus crate. This is one of the situations in which we fuddy-duddy humans object to our dogs’ creative thinking and hamster-like wiggling ability. When we crate dogs, we are usually doing it for their safety and the safety of our homes. Millions of dogs love the coziness and security of their crates, and happily trot in to spend some restful time there, but the people who recorded the following videos have dogs who are not in that category. These dogs will apparently do anything to escape their crates, and they are successful at doing so. The many ways that our canine buddies set themselves free show that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
This dog breaks out after much effort, and while I admire his acrobatics and persistence, it is concerning that a dogs who make a break for it in this way will injure themselves. Luckily, this particular dog seems to have accomplished the goal without suffering any damage, but his level of desperation is concerning because he is literally forcing the issue.
What’s interesting me about this next dog is not the “how” of her escape, but the “why” of it. She was so drawn in by the calls of a litter of puppies in the shelter that she was apparently compelled to escape her kennel to be near them. Her own litter of puppies had recently been taken from her, so it’s likely that she her post-partum physiological state made her especially receptive to the needs of puppies.
This dog is methodical in her escape. There is no evidence that she is distressed or emotionally aroused in any way. She seems simply to prefer to be out of her crate than in, so she takes the necessary steps to make that happen in a calm, organized way. She shows evidence of having the emotional stability of an astronaut, to the point that I can practically here her saying to herself, “Work the problem.”
One of the sweetest videos of dogs escaping their crates is this one, because the crated dog had outside help. It’s great to have a pal who can help you get out of a jam!
Has your dog been victorious in a contest of Dog versus Crate, and if so, do you know how the escape happened?
The Shepherd’s View
Last year, in his Bark review of James Rebanks’ remarkable memoir, The Shepherd’s Life, Donald McCaig observed, “It isn’t really a book about dogs. It’s about a world the dogs make possible. It’s the best book I’ve read this year.” Other reviewers also sang its praises; for example, New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani called it “utterly compelling,” and named it one of the Top 10 Books of 2015 (it was also on our list). So, we were thrilled to see that Rebanks has a new book, The Shepherd’s View: Modern Photographs from an Ancient Landscape, replete with his lovely and compelling photography and poetic essays. On its pages, he shares with us a unique view of the pastoral world of England’s Lake District. We caught up with him recently to find out more about these working dogs and his remarkable partners, Floss and Tan, the sheepdogs who help him tend the flock.
Bark: Where would shepherds would be without sheepdogs—would it even be possible to do the job without them?
James Rebanks: A shepherd isn’t a shepherd without a sheepdog, just a fool running round achieving nothing on a mountain. Sheep are quicker than people, and on their own terrain, impossible to manage without a good sheepdog. To gather the flocks on our mountains (we call them fells) takes 5 to 10 shepherds and shepherdesses, and 20 or more sheepdogs. They are our main tool, and key to what we do.
BK: How can you tell if a dog will be good in the field? Is it breeding? Are skills passed along genetically?
JR: We start training dogs when they are very young, so they learn their names and to come to us. They progress as the months go by, until they are fully trained at about two years old. My youngest dog, Meg, is a year-and-a-half and can do nearly all the work of my mature dogs, Floss and Tan. She has learned from them. Well-bred dogs from good families are incredibly gifted, and show their raw talent and focus as puppies. So I think a lot of the instinct is there, waiting to be harnessed and focused through training. Nature gives you the potential, but nurture determines how well that instinct and natural potential are harnessed.
BK: What makes a good working sheepdog? Does the environment determine how well they can do their jobs?
JR: I like a classic Border Collie-type sheepdog. I think they look right, but that is just vanity. All that really matters is how well the dog works. A pup comes to its new owners to start its new life at eight weeks old. Choosing a puppy is about knowing the working quality of the parents. Floss and Tan came from a noted sheepdog breeder whose dogs are remarkably good workers. Different types of landscapes require different types of sheepdogs; fell land requires dogs with stamina and an ability to hunt sheep out of bracken.
BK: Do sheepdogs have different skill sets?
JR: Yes. Some sheepdogs have strong “eye” (power over the sheep with their gaze and presence), and those kinds of dogs like working in small fields close up to the sheep. Others work best in the mountains and across big spaces; they can hunt sheep out of crags and rocky screes. This kind of dog is best for the fells.
All dogs have different character traits; some are confident, others timid. Part of training is learning to connect with the dog and to communicate with it and get the best from it. Floss is a very strong, confident dog who likes to work up close; she tries to dominate me and the other dogs. Tan is quiet and shy, and I have to encourage him and praise him. I change my tone of voice depending on which one I am working, or I can unsettle Tan.
BK: In your first book, The Shepherd’s Life, you said that it’s possible to “make a mess” of training a sheepdog. How does that happen?
JR: The thread between shepherd and sheepdog can easily break. The dog is often trying desperately to please the person she works for, so if you speak in the wrong tone, or get frustrated or cross, you can shake the dog’s confidence, or scare or sicken her and spoil her love of the work. But perhaps the commonest mistake is that the dog just doesn’t understand what the shepherd wants, and becomes disheartened.
A few years ago, I felt I didn’t understand training as well as I should, so I sought expert advice from a trainer called Andy Nickless, who makes DVDs about training sheepdogs. I use his training method and find it works very well.
BK: In the same book, you wrote, “Shepherds hate other people’s dogs near their sheep.” What kind of harm can off-leash pet dogs do?
JR: To sheep, dogs are just wolves. But the sheepdog who is well known to the flock becomes less stressful and scary, and they know it is under the shepherd’s control. A stray, unknown dog —which is often out of control— causes them stress. It may chase them until they collapse from exhaustion, or miscarry; it may attack and kill them. Even tiny dogs can do this. And even the nicest, friendliest family pet can be excited by fleeing sheep and become momentarily wild as the adrenaline kicks in.
So that’s why I hate other people’s dogs near my sheep: they are all potential disasters. Dogs should be kept on leads near farm animals, for everyone’s sake. Responsible dog owners can help by persuading others to do the right thing. And for that, we are grateful.
News: Guest Posts
How many different situations does your dog understand?
Dogs respond to our behavior when we are preparing to leave the house. Reactions are different depending on where we are going. Each type of excursion is associated with a distinct set of (human) behaviors that occur prior to the departure. Dogs pay attention to these different behaviors because they carry a lot of information that matters to them.
The going-to-work behaviors that dogs observe their guardians perform mean that the person is leaving for much of the day. Those behaviors can include packing a lunch, blow drying hair, putting on dress shoes, carrying a specific bag or backpack and possibly being rushed and impatient. Dogs typically respond by sighing, going to lie down, and perhaps acting bored or disinterested. Their reaction reflects their understanding that they will not get to come along.
The actions that take place before a run may be putting on running shoes, grabbing a water bottle, stretching or eating something specific like toast or a banana. It’s easy for dogs who are running buddies to figure out that they get to come along and become excited in anticipation. Many will jump, spin, bark or do some other behavior associated with their enthusiasm or happiness. Some will bring the leash to their guardian, and others will stick very close, as if making sure that they are not accidentally left behind.
The behavior that is often most distressing to dogs involves the actions associated with travel. When many dogs see people filling suitcases, gathering items for a trip or anything else they connect to a long departure, their reactions reflect their displeasure. It’s as though they are thinking, “Uh-oh. I don’t like the looks of this at all.” Some dogs whine, some look sulky and others try to get in the way of our packing efforts.
Some departures are so brief that most dogs don’t make too much fuss over them. If you look outside, slip on your flip-flops and go outside suddenly, a dog who has seen this many times before likely connects those actions to your daily visit to the mailbox. Dogs may watch you from the window the whole time you are gone just to make sure they’ve read the signals correctly, but few experience much distress.
There are so many cues that tell dogs whether or not they are going when you leave, and give details about what’s to come. A bike helmet often means they stay behind (though in some families, it means just the opposite). Picking up the leash is a clear sign that they get to go with you. Shopping bags mean they are staying behind, as does a stuffed Kong being prepared. Grabbing poop bags is a good sign from the dog’s point of view, but grabbing your tablet is not. Dogs pay attention to what we do before we leave because information about their immediate future resides in our actions.
I’ve generalized about the reactions by dogs to various pre-departure behaviors. Obviously, a dog who is too new to the household to know the various patterns will not react predictably to your actions. Dogs who struggle when left alone, especially those with separation anxiety, are often too emotionally overwhelmed and panicky at any sign that you are leaving without them to cope with details distinguishing various situations. (Such dogs are often the most astute at figuring out whether they will be coming with you or being left behind, though.) Most dogs become quite attentive if they’re unsure about what is happening and can’t tell what your actions mean. If the cues that tell them what kind of departure is impending are mixed up or don’t match your usual pattern, most dogs focus closely on what you are doing to try to figure it out.
How many different situations involving your departures can your dog distinguish, and how nuanced are his reactions to each one?
News: Guest Posts
Has it happened to you?
A couple of times a decade, a fall of a truly spectacular nature occurs in my life because of dog-related forces. This morning, for example, an unlikely combination of bad luck and bad timing led to this score: Laws of Physics—1, Karen—0. I was walking Saylor, a sweet, cuddly adolescent dog with more power than you’d think based on her medium size and willowy build. Her strength is most obvious when she sees another dog, but usually I can distract her with treats and (reasonably) calmly walk by another dog without revealing her reactivity to anyone. That’s not how life unfolded today.
We had received more than a foot of snow this weekend. It’s still deep in places but has turned slick in others. (You can probably see where this is going.) On a sidewalk that had not been shoveled, I spotted a sled that resembled a boogie board. Detecting a potential issue, I actually said out loud to Saylor, “Don’t step on that sled. You’ll go flying,” without expecting her to understand. It was just my way of getting her attention so we could veer around it. Saylor noticed the dog before I did, and moved in his direction before I could make an adjustment or give her treats. The dog leapt up on the fence in front of the house so that his head and forelegs were over the fence. He remained there, threatening to make it all the way over, and barked aggressively.
Saylor had charged in his direction with such speed and power that my next step was right on the sled. It traveled in the way that children everywhere want sleds to move—fast and with no friction—resulting in an immediate slam to the ground with my entire backside hitting at the same time. I still had a firm hold on the leash, but that just meant that in addition to my undignified position in a pile of snow, my arm was thrashing about as she lunged at the dog attempting to climb the fence.
“I’m okay!” I said immediately to my husband, who was walking Marley—a dog much older and more calm than Saylor. I assumed (correctly) that my husband would be concerned that such a fall might have caused serious damage. I feel a bit stiff, but I’m grateful to have avoided the usual worries—broken wrist, concussion, bruised tailbone. My pride was far more damaged than my body. I got up laughing, headed away from the debacle of the sled, snow and barking dog on the fence, and worked on calming Saylor down.
I would love to have the incident on video because I’m sure it was hilarious, if not the sort of footage I would use to promote my dog skills. It’s all just part of life with dogs! If you’ve taken a similar spill, please share your story. (And I hope you were also unhurt.)
Dog's Life: Humane
War & Peace
Stella is six years old, but she’s wagging her tail and jumping around with the enthusiasm of a pup. In the Brussels apartment of her owner, Bassel Abu Fakher, there’s a spacious balcony where she can run around a bit, but it can’t compete with the freedom of the city’s parks outside the door. The sun is shining and there are other dogs racing around on the grass of the botanical garden in the city center. Stella rushes from one encounter to the next. It’s a carefree scene, until a plane flies over. Then, Stella cowers abruptly and makes a heart-wrenching, frightening sound.
Bassel’s face tightens as he hugs his dog and tries to comfort her. “Stella is traumatized,” he says sadly. “It’s just like with humans: a dog that grows up with war and bombs exploding everywhere carries that stuff around for the rest of her life.”
The story of Bassel and Stella reads like a scenario for a Hollywood movie. A year ago, they were living in Damascus, the capital of Syria. Bassel, who began playing the cello at an early age, was in the Damascus Conservatory, one of the country’s most prestigious music education institutes; he also co-founded the Qotob Project to bring musicians together. Because of the war, their neighborhood became the target of bombs and fighting. Bassel tried to keep living his life in a normal way; he didn’t want to leave Stella and his parents behind. “I kept walking Stella around the block, even though that was very dangerous,” he says.
In 2011, the war started in Syria. Millions of people fled and ended up in Turkey, Lebanon and Europe. We don’t know much about the consequences for their pets; those stories are rarely told. Dogs have an even harder time than people comprehending the concept of war. But for Stella, life had suddenly become a living hell.
One day, a big bomb exploded only a few blocks from Bassel’s home. All the windows in the neighborhood were shattered. “Since that day, Stella is scared of airplanes,” Bassel explains. She had heard the fighter jet and now associates the sound of flight engines with the fears she had that day.
For Bassel, the situation in his country finally became too dangerous. “I witnessed multiple explosions from close by,” he says. He had to flee for his own safety, but that meant he had to leave his dear dog behind. “My heart broke. I knew I couldn’t take Stella along with me.” So they said goodbye and Bassel asked his mother to take good care of her. He fled via Turkey across the treacherous Mediterranean, which has become a sea grave for thousands of Syrian refugees like Bassel. The rubber dinghy was fully loaded with people, and Bassel got really scared, but he reached Europe safely. “Stella could have never survived that trip,” he says.
Bassel had good contacts in Belgium. He could walk directly from the Brussels-South railway station to his temporary home, where he was sheltered by Joannes Vandermeulen, a Belgian who is concerned with the fate of refugees. “We took in a couple of refugees, but Stella wasn’t with them at that time,” says Vandermeulen.
After a couple of weeks, Bassel heard troubling news about Stella. “She was languishing; she already had a bad relationship with my father, and it got worse,” says Bassel. “My father didn’t walk her, and she got the leftovers of his greasy food.”
When Vandermeulen heard about Stella, he offered to help. “I’m kind of an adventurer; I proposed to bring Stella to Belgium.” What sounded like a crazy idea quickly became serious. Bassel would organize the first part of Stella’s trip, from Damascus to Beirut, Lebanon; then, Vandermeulen would bring her from Beirut to Brussels.
A friend of Bassel took Stella with him in his car past tens of checkpoints; Stella was scared to death in the trunk of the car. They drove on a road less than two miles from the front line with the Islamic State. The road was dangerous, but eventually, they reached the airport, and Vandermeulen picked her up.
“So many things went wrong,” says Vandermeulen with a smile. “I thought it wouldn’t work out more than once.” When he met Stella, she was very upset. She needed a sleeping pill before being loaded into the plane’s cargo area, but she didn’t want to eat anything. “We had to force her to take the pill, but she threw up. It’s a miracle she didn’t go mad,” says Vandermeulen.
While Vandermeulen was dealing with the formalities of the flight. Bassel’s friend waited outside. He wouldn’t go back until he was certain Stella had boarded and nothing had gone wrong. The Lebanese police thought his presence was suspicious and didn’t believe his story. “Bringing a Syrian dog to Belgium—who believes that?” Vandermeulen jokes. The friend stayed in a cell for a night, but was then let go and sent back to Syria.
When Stella finally arrived in Belgium, she was completely dizzy and confused. She didn’t recognize Bassel.
“It was a strange moment; I thought she lost her mind,” Bassel says. “The first days, she didn’t remember who I was. It took her a week to recognize my voice.”
Then the work could begin. Stella was completely out of shape, fat and unable to run properly. “She didn’t want to eat normal dog food. She didn’t care for anything less than a chicken breast with a pepper sauce,” Bassel jokes. Vandermeulen took her along when he went jogging, but she couldn’t keep up.
But slowly, the playful energy of the Husky came back. The patter of dog paws on the wooden floor of the Vandermeulen house became a familiar sound. She also started eating normally again. “Today, she easily keeps up when I go running,” Vandermeulen says.
Bassel is very happy that she’s here with him. Every other day, he puts pictures of Stella on his Facebook and Instagram pages. Stella is happy too. “She’s in love with him,” shouts Vandermeulen’s daughter.
In the parks of Brussels, Stella runs into another dog. They sniff each other. There are no airplanes around. Slowly, Stella is beginning to feel at ease in her new country. Her Belgian friends are getting to know her.
News: Guest Posts
A new study shows dogs display episodic memory supporting what many already knew
Dogs are "in." Hardly a week goes by that a research paper and numerous popular accounts don't appear in the news. This week is no different. First, on the "down" side, we've learned that researchers in some laboratories in the United States often secretively do whatever they want to dogs "in the name of science" in "wasteful, bizarre and deadly experiments" with little to no transparency. Basically, they get away with murder, using taxpayer's money, and no one does anything about it.
On the "up" side of things, I was so pleased to learn about a study by Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, and Ádám Miklósi, who work in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, that was just published in Current Biology. This new and very significant essay is titled, "Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs." Needless to say, this study received broad global coverage in mass media. People really do want to know what dogs know. And, here is a video of how the research was conducted.
Their summary of the important research essay that's available online reads:
The existence of episodic memory in non-human animals is a debated topic that has been investigated using different methodologies that reflect diverse theoretical approaches to its definition. A fundamental feature of episodic memory is recalling after incidental encoding, which can be assessed if the recall test is unexpected . We used a modified version of the “Do as I Do” method , relying on dogs’ ability to imitate human actions, to test whether dogs can rely on episodic memory when recalling others’ actions from the past. Dogs were first trained to imitate human actions on command. Next, they were trained to perform a simple training exercise (lying down), irrespective of the previously demonstrated action. This way, we substituted their expectation to be required to imitate with the expectation to be required to lie down. We then tested whether dogs recalled the demonstrated actions by unexpectedly giving them the command to imitate, instead of lying down. Dogs were tested with a short (1 min) and a long (1 hr) retention interval. They were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both intervals; however, their performance declined more with time compared to conditions in which imitation was expected. These findings show that dogs recall past events as complex as human actions even if they do not expect the memory test, providing evidence for episodic-like memory. Dogs offer an ideal model to study episodic memory in non-human species, and this methodological approach allows investigating memory of complex, context-rich events.
Didn't we already know dogs had great memories?: A brief interview with Dr. Ádám Miklósi
Many animals spend a lot of time resting, often peering around at their surroundings and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. Dogs surely do this. I often smiled as I watched the dogs with whom I shared my home just hanging out and looking around at their dog and human friends and their environs. When I've done field work on a number of different animals, I also noted that they spent a lot of time just hanging out and looking around as they rested. I was convinced that they were picking up a lot of information from just looking around, and that what they learned they could use in their social encounters with others.
In response to this new study I received a number of emails asking something like, "Didn't we already know that dogs had great memories?" Yes, we did, and a good deal of "citizen science" shows this to be so. But, I wanted to know more, so I sent dog expert Dr. Ádám Miklósi, founder of the Family dog Project who was involved in the study, two questions to which he responded immediately. They were, "Why did you do this study?" and "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?"
Dr. Miklósi answered the first question quite easily: "Claudia [lead author of the study, Claudia Fugazza] went to a conference on memory, and then she suggested that maybe the 'Do as I Do' method offers a way to provide some evidence for this."
Dr. Miklósi's answer to the second question, "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?" was: "As usual this is something that dog people may have assumed the dog is capable of doing. But most of them did not think about the possibility that dogs remember specific events happening around them. This study shows now that dogs (and probably many other animals) are able to do this. So they not only remember (spontaneously) what they have done (there are studies on chimps, rats, dolphins along this lines), but also what their owner did. For example, they may watch the owner cut the roses in the garden one day, and then when they see those flowers again, this memory could pop up in their mind. This could happen without showing any change in behavior, because this is just a spontaneous 'thought,' although in some other cases such thoughts may actually become causes of (spontaneous) behaviour."
In one interview I did about this study, I noted, "Dogs have great memories of a lot of events and this study shows that we’re still learning just how good their memory really is ... Dogs need to be able to learn and remember what their human wants them to do, and there won’t always be an immediate association of the events in time ... So, it is not surprising to me that dogs can remember the ‘Do it’ request after a period of time even if they weren’t expecting to be asked to do something.”
A few of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls": Dogs remember yesterday and much more
This new research reminded me that many of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls." They seemed to have a sense of knowing what I was going to do or what I wanted them to do, although I'd never explicitly taught them to make these associations. I felt the same about some of the wild coyotes I studied for years. They just seemed to know what others were thinking, feeling, and wanted them to do. I'm sure the dogs and coyotes (and many other animals) had some sort of "theory of mind." (See "Theory of Mind and Play: Ape Exceptionalism Is Too Narrow.")
As I read through this new research paper I remembered an essay I wrote last year called "Dogs Don't Remember Yesterday, Claims Psychologist," about the seemingly ludicrous claim that "dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow." The author claimed that dogs are stuck in an "eternal present."
In my essay I wrote, "There are many examples of dogs and other animals 'remembering yesterday.' Think of dogs and other animals who have been severely abused and who suffer from severe fear or depression for years on end, and also, for example, think of dogs who remember where they and others peed and pooped, dogs who remember where their friends and foes live, dogs who change their behavior based on what they learned in various sorts of learning experiments, and dogs who remember where they're fed and where they've cached food and other objects. The list goes on and on."
I also wrote, "From an evolutionary point of view it would be somewhat odd and exceptional if mammals such as dogs and many other animals didn't remember yesterday and plan accordingly." Along these lines, the authors of the present study write, "This is the first evidence of episodic-like memory of others’ actions in a non-human species, and it is the first report of this type of memory in dogs. We suggest that dogs might provide a new non-human animal model to study the complexity of incidental encoding of context-rich events, especially because of their evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups."
This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds
I'm very pleased to share the results of the present study with you. Yes, many of us already "knew" from "citizen science" that dogs often know more than we give them credit for, but it's also nice to know that science backs us up. I've learned an incredible amount from people writing to me and talking with me about their dogs, and I've often noted that when the serious science is done, results rarely conflict with what many others already knew.
This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds, a branch of science called cognitive ethology. Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating and "surprising" cognitive lives of dogs and other animals.
Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.
This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
No outfit is safe anymore
The neighbors at the end of our block recently adopted a fourth dog, which no doubt has made for many changes in the household and a lot of adjustments for everyone. All the dogs get along, and the transition seems to have been smooth. I’ve only heard one comment about the new challenges, which is “Now no color is safe to wear!”
That’s because once the fourth dog joined their family, the household contained dogs of every color, meaning that no matter what anybody wears, at least one dog’s fur will show up on it. Enzo is a reddish Golden Retriever, Sake is a black Shiba Inu and Luna is a Pointer and Blue Tick Coonhound mix with black and white mottled fur. The best guess about Candy, who is white with reddish markings, is that her lineage includes Border Collie, Australian Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier.
Not only is fur of every color always present, the guardians of this handsome crew swear that the dogs know what they are wearing and choose to give extra love each morning to whoever is wearing a contrasting color. It does seem as though fur is drawn to outfits that will show it to best advantage, and it’s not much of a stretch to think that the dogs are in on the strategy of making their fur visible.
Fur color is a big deal when it comes to planning one’s wardrobe. Naturally, I am never far from a lint brush, but my best defense against the look of unfashionable dog hair on my outfits is to wear colors that match the current dogs in my life. I have always worn black a lot, and my black dog Bugsy could shed on me without it ever showing. I once traded dogs for the afternoon with a co-worker who had an American Eskimo and within hours, I was streaked with white. My co-worker fared little better, and after a few hours with Bugsy, her crisp khakis and white shirt looked less professional than when she began the day.
Do you have an abundance of colors of dog fur in your life?
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
To avoid an unwanted trip to the vet, be aware of these holiday-related hazards for dogs
If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware of the things you need to do to keep your pets safe around your home. But as the holidays approach, you may have to step up your game a bit to make sure your celebrations aren’t interrupted by a pet-related crisis. A big problem is pets eating something they shouldn’t. Another concern is that in the confusion of guests and celebrating, pets can easily get out and get lost. Candles and holiday decorations can be dangerous temptations for a pet too. So while you’re celebrating, watch out for the following to ensure that your good times are also good for your dogs and cats.
Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season for most people in the United States. For pet owners it marks the start of the season when extra vigilance is required, especially when it comes to dogs and food.
Houzzers have stories galore about dogs eating the turkey (bones and all), the foil and string it was wrapped in, and even the oil it was fried in. Side dishes and desserts are equally tempting. The happy confusion of a holiday meal with family and friends creates plentiful opportunities for a dog or cat to snag some human food. So keeping pets and food separated is always a good idea.
Even if your pets are normally well behaved, the noise and confusion of the holiday may be difficult them, and they could seek to escape if given an opportunity. Finding a quiet and secure place for pets away from festivities is a good idea.
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Christmas comes with a long list of possible problems. Ornaments can get broken, creating a danger of cuts, or can be swallowed. The hooks they hang on can also cause problems if swallowed, as can tinsel. Bubbling lights and fire salts may contain toxic chemicals, while the spun glass that constitutes angel hair can irritate skin and eyes and is dangerous if eaten.
Other dangers are typical holiday plants, such as mistletoe, lilies, holly and Christmas rose, which can cause gastrointestinal distress at the very least. Candles and open fireplaces can harm pets if they get too close to the flames and ashes or, in the case of candles, overturn them. Even the tree water, which can be stagnant or contain preservatives, can cause upset stomachs and worse. And you shouldn’t use a ribbon as a collar; pets can easily get them caught on something and choke.
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Of course, this means your holiday decorating may need some adjustments, such as placing the tree and cherished family heirlooms out of reach.
My family has done just that. For the past three Christmases, we’ve encircled our Christmas tree with a dog fence, keeping the tree, ornaments and wrapped presents safe until the holiday. Since it looks like this may be a continuing issue, I’m already exploring ideas for tastefully and safely decorating the fencing next December.
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When it comes to Hanukkah, keep an eye on any small gift objects or toys and the chocolate coins, which can tempt pets and create problems for them.
Ringing out the old year and ringing in the new is a happy tradition for many on New Year’s Eve, but a skittish cat or dog may be overwhelmed by the noise and confusion. And while balloons and confetti add to the festivities, they can cause internal problems if your dog or cat eats them.
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The same general rules apply to other holidays and other celebrations, especially birthday parties.
Chocolate and xylitol-sweetened gum are harmful or toxic to pets, and other candies aren’t good for them. Candles can be a problem, as pets can knock them over or can be burned by them, while dangling decorations and balloons can be tempting to play with or try to eat. Small trinkets, fake grass and many popular plants given as gifts, including tulips, daffodils and lilies, should also be kept out of your pet’s reach.
Fireworks can be a major problem for pets on the Fourth of July. Some animals do fine; others are freaked out by the noise. If your pets are nervous, ask your vet for antianxiety medications designed for animals. You may need to start some ahead of time.
Remember that pets can become overexcited and act out or run away when things are chaotic, such as during a party or on the Fourth of July or Halloween. You might want to find them a safe and quiet spot indoors and away from the activities, even if they normally live or spend time outside.
News: Guest Posts
How often do you buy them for your dog?
If the pet store is the place where you are at the greatest risk of blowing your budget, I’m eager to hear from you, especially if your purchases involve toys or items to chew on. It is challenging to keep some dogs adequately supplied with these things.
Serious chewers, especially those young dogs in their peak chewing years, need a near endless amount of appropriate things to chew on to keep them from destroying things that are meant to be left alone. There are dogs who have a few favorite toys or only like tennis balls, and the expense of keeping such dogs in toys is on the low end. At the other extreme are dogs who tire quickly of toys and only become excited by new and different ones. Particularly playful dogs often benefit from new, entertaining toys. Though rotating toys every few days will keep some dogs interested in toys for many months, it doesn’t always have that effect. Some dogs make a distinction between toys that are truly new and toys that they just haven’t seen for a while. Regardless of how often they get new things, dogs sometimes destroy the things we buy for them extremely quickly, and are soon eager for more.
During the four years that my husband and I lived long distance, I kenneled our dog every time it was my turn to fly for a visit. I would bring a bag of toys and chews to the kennel with instructions to give my dog one new one each day. When I was home with him, he had a lot of activities such as running with me, going out on walks, training sessions and playing with various neighborhood dog buddies. He did get new toys and chews from time to time, but not even close to every day. When he was at the kennel, I knew he was getting some attention and exercise, but I used the extra toys and things to chew on to help make up some of the difference between the calm life there and the more eventful life at home. Most of my visits were just for a weekend, but twice a year I would go for two full weeks, so we ended up spending a lot of money on these extras for the dog. (We just considered it one more expense related to living 1300 miles away from each other.)
Buying lots of toys and chews is common for people who have young, playful, active dogs, especially if the jaws are among the most active parts of those dogs. Other people cannot resist picking something fun out each time they go to the pet store whether their dog is really into them or not. I certainly know of husbands and wives who have begged their partner to stop buying something on every trip, and I know of other couples whose members are both big fans of bringing something home for the dog at every opportunity.
How often do you buy your dog new toys or new things to chew on? How much do you think you spend providing for your dog in this way?
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Give pets their own safe haven with these built-in dog beds for the kitchen, living areas and laundry room
Pet experts will tell you that dogs need a space of their own to snuggle up and sleep in. Canines curl up in a ball in the wild to retain warmth, an instinct that carries over to our suburban pets. So instead of just throwing a dog bed on the floor, why not carve out a space to satisfy your pet’s denning instinct? As den animals, dogs need a “sanctuary that is just large enough for them to fit inside and feel secure,” the American Humane Association says.
A built-in sleeping area in a home’s cabinetry fits that bill and makes a perfect hideaway for our domesticated canine friends. It can be adapted for any home’s style — traditional, sleekly modern or a bit blingy. An added bonus is that built-ins keep the house uncluttered by clunky dog beds. Here are some striking examples.
1. Lucky, a goldendoodle, enjoys his special spot in his family’s renovated kitchen and mudroom. “The small addition, tucked between existing spaces, gives Lucky his own hangout area in the mudroom, and allows the family to easily (and stylishly) gate him when need be,” Jean Rehkamp Larson of Rehkamp Larson Architects says. “The custom metal gate operates like a concealed pocket door, conveniently sliding in and out of the wall when needed.”
Photo by Dovetail Workers in Wood ltd - Search contemporary kitchen design ideas
2. A dachshund gets a cozy nook in this modern kitchen-dining area in a country house near the appropriately named Petworth, in southern England. The cabinetry doors, drawer fronts and side panels are covered in ash veneer.
Photo by Bunch Design - More midcentury kitchen photos
3. The dog cubby in this kitchen was part of Bunch Design’s partial renovation of a midcentury house in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. The peninsula is wrapped in strips of painted medium-density fiberboard.
Photo by Betsy Bassett Interiors - Discover transitional kitchen design ideas
4. Dog crates, or kennels, can be an excellent housetraining aid, and act as a temporary “special retreat” rather than an all-day cage, according to the American Humane Association. But their boxy, chain-link ugliness is a design challenge. Not for lucky rescue dogs Maxie and Scout, though, who get to hang out in a custom-designed pen in this Newton, Massachusetts, kitchen by Betsy Bassett. The pups open the gate with their noses. The dog den can be replaced with a base cabinet later if desired.
Cabinets: Brookhaven, Wood-Mode; countertop: Jet Mist honed granite; backsplash tile: Desert Sand Stripe, Akdo
Photo by Built Custom Homes, LLC - Discover beach style hallway design ideas
5. This sleeping space under the stairs gets the chic treatment in a Cape Cod-style home in Huntington Beach, California. “Our dogs love it,” says homeowner Janine Roth, who put custom foam beds in the space and painted the walls a dark color, then hung photos of the dogs inside. “Our friends love to stick their heads in and look at all the photos,” she says. The space is bigger than it looks. An electrician fit inside to install can lights, a carpenter added baseboards and a painter finished the walls.
Photo by Board and Vellum - Look for craftsman staircase design inspiration
6. The canine of this house has a view of both upstairs and downstairs from its niche in a stairway landing. The arched opening matches other doorways in the Craftsman homein Seattle. The designers at Board and Vellum carved the recess from an adjacent closet with a dog in mind. The space came first, the dog came later.
Photo by New Old, LLC - Search farmhouse laundry room design ideas
7. Designer Mary Ludemann of New Old was tasked with transforming a small space into a laundry room-pocket office-craft and wrapping area, complete with pet station and wall-hung sink, in this English-style fundraising showhouse in Charlotte, North Carolina. She wanted to get the enormous dog bed off the floor and tucked away, so she created custom cabinets to fit a bed insert. (The cover was sewn by a local seamstress.) Her Labs, Briar and Bramble, are shown enjoying the area. The wood cabinets to the left hold 40-pound bags of dog food.
Paint: custom colors, PPG Porter Paints; art: Decorative Lighting; hooks and bin pulls: Pottery Barn; cabinets: custom, Walker Woodworking
Photo by Lands End Development - Designers & Builders - Search rustic entryway pictures
8. Yellow Labs Blais and Gino snuggle up in bed together in the mudroom of their Minnesota home by Lands End Development.
Wall paint: Baguette 6123, Sherwin-Williams; tile: Gobi large Versailles, The Tile Shop; wood: knotty pine
Your turn: Do you have a smart and stylish sleeping area for your dog? Post a photo in the Comments!
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