life with dogs
Dog's Life: Humane
1. Every time you volunteer, you are fueled by love. And that kind of fuel is different from greed, or fear, or competitiveness. It will give you the strength to do things you never thought you could do. And then some.
2. Dress for the occasion, meaning wear jeans and a T-shirt that have seen better days. Leave your jewelry, especially dangly earrings, at home. Keep your hair in a messy bun (some dogs mistake pony tails for rope toys). Please don’t bother with makeup, it will inevitably be licked off your face. And for the love of God, no flip flops. The day you wear them will be the day you inevitably step in poop.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk to the animals. Tell them about the advice you give but cannot follow. Tell them your secrets and fears. And then let their tongues and thumping tails and clumsy paws remind you that there are still plenty of reasons to smile. That life is not as serious as it seems.
4. It is not a good idea to try posting pictures of dogs on Instagram when they are jumping all over you. Rather than typing, “Adopt Joey and Spot at the Department of Animal Services,” you will inevitably type “Department of Anal Services.” And then your post will go viral for all the wrong reasons.
5. When you tell someone that you volunteer at an animal shelter, and they say that they love animals—but it’s too sad, they could never do it—tell them that you once felt that way, too. Tell them how shocking it was to find out that you could in fact do it. And that sadness is not the enemy after all. The enemy is doing nothing. The enemy is fear beating out compassion and empathy and love.
6. Dog poop is gross, but not life-threatening.
7. In most cases, it doesn’t take much to make a tail wag. A yard of grass. Fresh food. A warm touch. A soft blanket. A ten-minute walk. Dogs appreciate the little things, and we can learn a lot from this.
8. The animals are seeking what we seek. They want to be warm, not cold. They want to be safe, not vulnerable and unprotected. They want to be seen and heard and loved, not invisible. They want to be themselves, not somebody else. They want to forget the pain of their pasts, but sometimes they can’t.
9. Learn to take care of yourself, even if at first, it’s for the sake of the animals. If you try to be everything to everyone, you will burn out. Set boundaries. If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of them.
10. Goodbyes are hard. Always.
11. Frequently ask yourself this: How might my life be transformed if I treated myself with the same love and kindness that I offer to the animals I care for? And then, every day, try to do it.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
These working dogs calm harried travelers.
Traffic on the way to the airport makes you late. Rushing, fearing you’ll miss your flight, you anxiously stand in endless check-in and security lines, annoyed at the delay. Your stress level increases with every passing minute. Finally clearing security, sitting to put your shoes back on, you notice something unusual across the room: an enormous harlequin Great Dane wearing a vest that says, “Pet me!” A smile breaks across your face and your blood pressure immediately drops. You say a quick hello to the dog and rub his soft ears, and the tension of the past hours melts away.
We’re used to seeing security dogs at airports, but those dogs are working— no petting allowed. The “pet me” dogs are a different story altogether, reflecting the industry’s growing understanding that helping passengers destress, especially during busy holiday flying seasons, has value. These dogs are all about being touched!
So far, some 30 airports across the country have therapy dogs on duty, and luckily for travelers, the number is steadily growing. The idea started at California’s Mineta San Jose International Airport shortly after 9/11 as a way to ease traveler jitters. Videos of those dogs at work convinced other airports give it a go.
The distinctively outfitted dogs and their handlers position themselves throughout the airport, from checkin to boarding—wherever passengers can use some calming canine love. Recognizing that not everyone loves dogs, the teams typically remain stationary in an open area so those who wish to greet the dogs can do so while anyone not so fond of dogs can easily avoid them.
One of the most recent converts to the service, North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, began deploying professionally certified therapy dogs in March 2015. Currently, there are 15 dog/handler teams providing coverage daily between 10 am and 4 pm. Lauri Golden, the airport’s manager of customer engagement, supervises the all-volunteer CLT Canine Crew. “We wanted a way to create a sense of place,” she says. “Our airport is a hub for American Airlines; 70 percent of traffic is connections, so the passengers just see the facility, not the city.”
Initially, Golden worried about finding enough volunteer teams. However, the pilot program created to iron out the logistics was an instant success. “We expected that kids would like the dogs, but even more, it’s the adults benefiting from them,” she says. “They pull out photos of their own dogs; talk about ones recently lost; take selfies; ask the name, age and breed of the dog … lots of questions. The dogs create a gathering, an audience, which creates its own community as people talk to each other, sharing dog stories. They are our superstars.” The demand for teams is high, and Golden is constantly recruiting.
Max the Great Dane and his handler Fred McCraven make up one of the Charlotte teams. “When I asked Fred why he wanted to join, he was so honest: ‘I just want to show off my dog.’ Max is a complete sweetheart!” says Golden.
Fred thoroughly enjoys taking Max to the airport. “Some tourists just light up when they see Max, and take photos,” he says. “Some look at him funny, like, ‘Please don’t bring that big dog near me.’ I try to gauge peoples’ reactions. Even those who don’t come up to touch Max are smiling. I once met a woman who was traveling to her brother’s funeral. Her brother had a Great Dane as well and she took it as a sign her brother was okay.”
Los Angeles World Airports (LAX) was the third to create a therapy dog program, after San Jose and Miami. Heidi Heubner is director of Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) and volunteer programs for LAX. PUP, which launched in April 2013 with 30 teams, now has 52, allowing them to have dogs in most terminals every day of the week. Each PUP dog has his or her own baseball card–style ID, which is given to passengers as a keepsake.
Heubner enjoys observing the interactions between volunteer teams and passengers. “The dogs bring strangers together,” she says. “We’re often afraid to talk, or are on our devices, but with the dogs, people are sharing stories and photos of their own dogs, talking about where they’re going. I never get tired of watching them. Sometimes my face hurts from smiling so much, watching them in action and listening to what the passengers are saying.”
Therapy teams are also called upon to calm passengers when things don’t go as planned, Heubner notes. “One day, a f light was cancelled. A f light attendant asked if one of the dogs could visit with the passengers. The passengers loved it, were saying, ‘Who cares that we’re delayed! It was worth it to see the dogs.’”
Airport therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds but the thing they have in common is that they’re all certified by one of the country’s therapy-dog organizations; for example, Charlotte and LAX use teams certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. New teams do an initial walk-through at the facility to make sure the dog is comfortable with the noises, smells and crowds of strangers. If that goes well, they’ll go through a more thorough vetting, with the human half of the team undergoing background and security checks. Once approved, teams typically work one day a week.
Dog-loving passengers rave about the programs. A letter sent to the Charlotte program expresses an often-repeated sentiment: It was like having my pups with me though they are miles away. The stress that is lifted when you see and touch a dog, it’s indescribable and it was the best part of my trip today. I cannot thank you, the staff that implemented the program, the handlers and the dogs enough for this remarkable program.
Clearly, these programs are positive for passengers and airport staff, but they’re also proving beneficial for the handlers. “Max has made me a better person,” says Fred. “I’m not a very social person, sort of a lone wolf, but taking Max to the airport has gotten me out and around people, improved my social skills. And it puts me in a good mood. Last week I had a bad day at work. I took Max to the airport and came home in a totally different mood.”
News: Guest Posts
There’s something special (and valuable!) about it
Having two dogs can be more than twice as much work as having one, and having three can require way more than three times as much effort. That pattern continues as the number of dogs increases. There’s no doubt that having a multi-dog household is a big undertaking, and yet many people can barely imagine having just one dog in their heart and home at the same time. They would miss scenes like the one to the left of an adorable dog pile.
These are the three dogs—from two different households—that my family recently hosted for a couple of days, and it was a good experience for all of us. (They live on the same street and their guardians are friends, so they know each other. Luckily, they all get along.) The companionship they gave one another during their stay with us made me happy, and not just because it took some pressure off of me to make sure that they were having fun. When I observed them together, there was a comfort in the company they provided one another that was lovely to see. I’m not saying it is better or worse than the social benefits to dogs of being around people, but it’s different.
Despite the extra work for the people, I kept thinking about the benefits for the dogs of being in a group, beyond just how nice it was for them to have a couple of buddies of the same species around. There are obviously drawbacks to having more than one dog, but some of those can be channeled positively. Having multiple dogs can provide training challenges, but it also offers opportunities to help dogs learn to attend to a person despite big distractions. While these dogs were visiting us, I made a point of doing some training sessions with the added difficulty of having other dogs around. Here is a photo of Marley and Saylor successfully holding their “stay” while Rosie (out of view) played with a toy nearby.
Performing any skill in a distracting environment is a challenge, and the presence of other dogs is often particularly hard for social dogs. With three dogs in the house, it was easy to set up situations where one dog worked on a skill while one or both other dogs were there. Rosie worked on her “spin” trick a lot during her visit. In the first video below, she practices it while the other dogs are not around. That work was to lay the groundwork for the success you can see in the second video, in which she spins when the other two dogs are present.
Walking three (or more) dogs at the same time is not always easy, but it offers opportunities, too. Each time one dog stops to sniff or for a potty break, the other dogs need to exercise patience.
It’s hard standing around when you want to keep going, but being required to do so brings benefits. Handling frustration and exhibiting self-control in such situations is beneficial to dogs. Similarly, waiting your turn when it comes to treats or dinnertime also gives dogs practice with emotional self-control, and that is an important part of maturing into a pleasant adult.
My main concern before the shared visit was making sure that Marley, who is 10 years old, had some peace and quiet from both his regular housemate Saylor, who is about a year old, and from his neighbor Rosie, who is about eight months old. Marley likes both dogs and often plays with them, but he needs more rest and snoozy time than the young pups. He opted out of some play sessions, as many older dogs often do. He would take a rest, hang out with us or chew on something while the other two played.
We also helped Marley get away if he wanted to by letting him up on our couch, but not allowing the younger dogs to bother him when he was there.
The only reason it ever felt overwhelming to have three dogs was a result of bad luck in the form of the weather. It rained all day in the middle of the visit, which meant that every time the dogs came inside, we had a dozen wet, muddy paws to deal with. I’m not going to lie—that was a big hassle. Other than that, we had a glorious time while these three little angels were visiting us.
What advantages do you appreciate about having multiple dogs?
Are the rules governing service animals on airplanes about to change? The US Department of Transportation’s advisory committee on accessible air transportation met recently to consider refining the presents rules for Emotional Service Animals. Ever since 2003 when the DOT revised its policy on service animals to include emotional-support animals, there have been no restrictions for these animals and no real definition of a service dog. As Jenine Stanley, who serves on the committee and is with the Guide Dog Foundation, has noted there are no real rules as to what is a legitimate service or support animal.
“Once you board your plane with your animal and you say ‘I am coming with a service animal,’ i.e. an animal that is trained to medicate my disability, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it’s true or not,” she said. Which is why the U.S. DOT wants to change the rules.
There have been numerous complaints from fellow travelers about the wide assortment of species, from miniature horses, pigs, boas, cats, and of course, dogs, that have been accorded the status of ESA and who usually have scant training about how to behave on an airplane. Some of the complaints have also been generated by people who have highly trained and skilled service dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs. Many of the ESA pets on planes can also distract (to put it mildly) a service dog from doing her job.
One key issue the committtee looked at was: Should specific species be defined? If so, what are they? The group suggested only dogs be listed as service animals, and dogs, cats and rabbits qualify as emotional support animals.
Another complication surrounding ESAs are the legal ramifications to the mental health professionals who are providing certifications. The University of Missouri recently conducted a study about the possible conflicts this presents to psychologists. Cassie Boness, a graduate student in clinical psychology, says these requests for certification for emotional support animals present several potential conflicts for mental health professionals.
“There are no standards for evaluating the need for an emotional support animal, whereas there are concrete rules to determine if someone is eligible for a service animal. These emotional support animal letters are formal certifications of psychological disability, and the psychotherapist is stating, by writing such a letter, that the person needing the emotional support animal has such a disability and that the presence of the animal addresses that disability.” Jeffrey Younggren, professor of clinical and forensic psychology, believes that the evaluation process should address the specific psychological issues that are going to be improved, and not just that the owner wants to be with their pet. They also noted that the lack of scientific guidelines regarding emotional support animals would make it difficult for the psychologist to defend this certification letter in court.
Younggren noted that "the study recommended was two fold: First, that these letters not be written by treating therapists for ethical issues but that they should be written by forensic evaluators/psychologists who do not have a dual role with the client. Second, we stated that, since these are disability determinations, there needs to be some type of comprehensive psychological assessment of that disability and that assessment should directly assess how the presence of the animal ameliorates the disability."
The working group committee members include representatives from American Airlines, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs. Key issues about service animals can be found here.
Stanley said she expects the new rules to be out for public comment within the year and to be set within three years.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Our House/Dog House
Great design is about creating spaces that work for the way you and your family live— and that’s true whether your “family” walks on two legs or four.
Indeed, a recent study by the National Kitchen & Bath Association showed that more than half of its member designers had been asked to design spaces specifically to accommodate pet needs in the past year.
The most common requests were for pet feeding areas; pet baths or showers; cozy bed/den areas; and storage for food, leashes, toys and grooming products. But, unlike the crates, portable dog beds or food bowls of old, these requests are being met in increasingly elegant and innovative ways. From furniture-style gates that retract seamlessly into the cabinetry to islands with built-in beds and wall niches that hide canine water fountains, the possibilities are endless.
“It’s not just a crate in the corner anymore; people want to designate a more permanent place in their home for their dogs, a place that incorporates them more fully into the home, just as they are incorporated into our everyday lives as family members.”
—Betsy Bassett Betsy Bassett Interiors
1. For tight spaces, consider tucking a dog bed under a table to give the dog a private spot out of the main traffic flow.
2. This dog-friendly space used a nook in the mudroom area to give the dogs their own space while also allowing the owners to shut the door and use the mudroom as a luxury kennel when they go out.
3. Even when space is at a premium, with a little design creativity, a private hideaway can be devised. Here, the dog’s nesting area is built right into the stairs.
4. A built-in dog bed keeps the dog tucked away in luxury comfort, while the cabinetry above provides space to store leashes, food, toys, and other gear.
5. A comfy sleeping nook for the family dog was a high priority for the owners of this NKBA award-winning kitchen.
6. This kitchen pull-out from Rev-A-Shelf can be configured to provide storage for leashes, grooming tools and more, keeping them organized and out of sight when not in use.
Design professionals also cite a growing trend toward creating dog-specific spaces— perhaps a mudroom or section of the laundry room—to contain the plethora of accessories common to the well-loved pooch.
The personalization trend is also hot, with dogs’ individual needs and preferences helping to shape design solutions. For instance, older dogs suffering from arthritis may benefit from pet whirlpools, while an outdoor shower for the mud-loving Lab will likely improve dog-human relations. And, wider walkways will simplify navigating the home if the dog likes to stay close to the pack.
While a host of stylish pet accoutrements are now available, ultimately, great design is as much about solving problems as it is about style.
“It’s so easy to design in a single or multiuse dog wash—and the dogs will much prefer this to being blasted with ice-cold hose water outside. This is more like a doggie spa, with warm water and shampoo, maybe a little cream rinse, followed by fluffy towels and finally, a brush down. Could it get any better?”
—Doug Walter Doug Walter Architects
1. Even when space is limited, an efficiently designed utility area can incorporate appliances, a cozy sleeping nook beneath the laundry folding table, plus a dog shower and storage cabinets.
2. Dogs accumulate stuff just like people do. In this design, Nick Sannes of the S. J. Janis Company, Inc. notes, “We were able to help our client move this clutter into the dog’s own space with a mudroom addition that features a dog-washing station as well as integrated food and water bowls.”
3. An outdoor shower located conveniently near the mudroom entrance is perfect for cleaning up muddy paws (and muddy dogs).
4. Responding to the growing interest in pet amenities, manufacturers are creating pet concept spaces, like this Wood-Mode bathing area.
6. For older or arthritic pets, the Jentle Pet Spa from MTI Baths offers the choice of a soothing soaker tub or whirlpool system with five full-size massage jets to provide hydrotherapy benefits.
As Dave Burcher, CKD, of In House Kitchen Bath Home says, “Our pets want to be with us and we want to be with them, so we have to look at where the activities happen in the home and where we can craft cozy resting places for them. The kitchen is typically the biggest gathering space in the home and we spend the most time there, so that’s a natural fit.”
Build in a quiet hideaway for when company is over, or an eating area out of the main traffic flow. Tuck food and water bowls under an extended countertop for privacy, or consider adding a floor-height drawer to incorporate bowls.
Remember, the best designs help bring family together while giving everyone a place to call their own. That holds true for all family members—including the furry ones!
Don’t forget cleanup: “Rather than a wood top, an easy-to-clean surface should be used on the feeding station’s ‘counter’ surface.”
1. Removing a single base cabinet and adding a mesh door beneath the island creates the perfect den for the family’s two dogs, Scout and Maxie, who can relax in their private spot when they need alone time, or enjoy being in the kitchen with their family without getting directly underfoot during meal prep.
2. To keep the eating area neat and tidy, a pull-out drawer holds food bowls, while the adjacent waste/recycling center is repurposed to hold dog food.
3. Pet bowls should ideally be tucked out of the main traffic flow. In this built-in feeding niche, the stone top provides easy cleanability as well.
4. When space is at a premium, consider a pull-out feeding area that can be tucked away when not in use. The placement against the wall also keeps it out of the walkway, where human family members might trip over it.
5. For those who hate having a crate clutter up their home, here’s an innovative solution: a kitchen gate that recesses seamlessly into the cabinets when not in use.
6. A built-in water fountain tucked into a wall niche means you’ll never trip over the water bowl again!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
1. TURTLE DOG
Keep your dog nice and warm with a stylish and soft hand-knitted neck gaiter. Made of 100 percent merino wool yarn, no chemicals or dyes. Long-necked dogs will love their Turtle Dog as much as 10-year-old Patrick does his. Machine washable. 5 sizes (XXS to L) to fit dogs up to 65 lbs.
Available for $20 to $28.
2. K9 SPORT SACK
Little dogs have all the fun! From puttering or biking around town to shopping or hiking trips, your small pooch will be safe and sound up on your back. The washable, comfortable Sport Sack comes in three sizes, and fits dogs up to 23 inches long. Since sizing is important, email them a photo and they’ll recommend the best size to order.
Starts at $49.95
We love the Doghook, the perfect hitching post with many uses. Strong and secure, this versatile, sturdy, stainless-steel hook can be mounted to wood, laminate, masonry and metal, and comes in three sizes with a capacity range of 5 to 150 pounds. Order one for your favorite café, vet office or groomer, or for your own patio or mudroom. Made in the USA
Available for $24 to $36
4. PURA-TIPS EAR CLEANSING SYSTEM
A new easy and safe way to keep your dogs’ ears fresh and clean. Removes oil and dirt with a cleansing serum that contains organic mullein oil and witch hazel, naturally anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. The gentle Pura-Tips can be rinsed off and reused. No synthetic dyes or perfumes, comes with 30 tips. Made in the USA.
Available for $19.99
5. PETTURA’S HEALTHY JOINTS
A veterinarian-formulated liquid supplement that helps support joint function and enhance flexibility. Made with glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin, the top three ingredients known to specifically target joint and mobility concerns. Just add to your dog’s food. Easy-to-dose pump action, fast-acting and drug-free.
Available for $29.99
6. TRAIL TRASH
A clever way to “carry.” The folded Trail Trash bag attaches to the leash; when needed, simply unfurl and stash those full poop bags until you reach the next disposal opp. Perfect for trail hikes or neighborhood walks. Made in the USA.
Available for $12.97
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
When shopping for a trainer, look behind the advertising language.
If you live in a big city like I do, you’re overwhelmed with choice for just about any service you can think of. I could get a different coffee and haircut every day of the week and never leave my local neighborhood. This is great, in theory, but how do I choose the best place for my morning latte? Who should I trust to get my hair faded just right?
Choice is also a benefit when you’re looking for a dog trainer, but you can end up facing the same kind of issues, with a lot more riding on the outcome than a bitter drink or a less-than-stellar ’do.
So how do we find the right trainer if we have only Google to go on? Online reviews are hardly fair and balanced, but we don’t always have the luxury of a personal recommendation. The answer is to learn how to interpret the language used on dog-training websites.
Think of a trainer’s website as an infomercial. Although we know it’s designed to convince us to sign up, if we’re savvy we can also pick through the language to find clues about a trainer’s methods and beliefs. Let’s start with the most common word, one that pops up on almost every trainer’s site: effective.
Of course, we all want our dog trainer to be effective. Who would sign up for Dave’s Ineffective Dog Training? We’re spending time and money trying to help our dogs become well-mannered citizens, and we don’t want to feel like our efforts have been wasted. However, there are many different ways to accomplish training goals, some more fraught with potential pitfalls than others. Efficacy is important, but ethics are important too, and are something that trainers also reflect in their word choice.
Words like compassionate, fair and humane indicate what trainers believe about themselves, but they don’t add much clarity for potential clients. All three are subjective terms; what I believe represents compassionate training might not be what you envision. Besides, what counts as humane and compassionate is determined by a trainer’s beliefs about how dogs learn and how best to teach them, so these words raise questions rather than answer them.
Trainers also use a relatively small number of more specific, objective sounding terms on their sites. Because these can provide a general idea of the kinds of things that might happen to a dog during training, it’s useful to understand what they mean. Following is a list of the most commonly used.
Trainers who describe themselves as “force free,” or some variation of “purely positive,” will never deliberately use pain or fear in their training. They will focus on finding ways to reward a good behavior that is incompatible with the behavior they don’t want to see, like sitting politely instead of jumping up on guests. Often, they’ll use a clicker and treats, paired with ignoring the dog when he’s doing something inappropriate.
The key thing to remember here is that although these trainers might see themselves as using only positive, gentle methods, what really matters is how the dog sees things. Force-free trainers who put clients’ dogs in situations where they feel uncomfortable, or who can’t teach their guardians the skills required to carry on after the session, can cause frustration and anxiety and even reinforce undesirable behavior.
Trainers who describe themselves as “balanced” may use everything from electronic collars to clickers in their approach. The balance here is between things designed to punish bad behavior and things designed to reward good behavior. However, not all balanced trainers will use every tool, or the same balance of rewards and punishments. Some will use punishment only in certain cases, others will use it most of the time. Many balanced trainers make distinctions among different breeds of dog, or different types of problems that they believe won’t respond to the kinds of reward-based approaches on which force-free trainers rely.
For example, many balanced trainers claim that although dogs can learn tricks using a clicker and treats, they can be taught to avoid rattlesnakes only by associating the snakes with something unpleasant, like a shock. Force-free trainers strongly disagree with claims like this, which has led to serious rifts within the dog-training community.
LIMA AND HUMANE HIERARCHY
These terms are less common than the previous two, but they are gaining traction in professional circles as a way to explain both an ethical stance and a practical approach to dog training. LIMA stands for “Least Invasive Minimally Aversive,” meaning that with any set of possible interventions, the trainer will always try whatever is least likely to cause pain or punishment first, only moving to more potentially unpleasant options if he or she feels the need. (This position is endorsed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.) The Humane Hierarchy was developed by Dr. Susan Friedman as one way of organizing potential interventions, from most to least punishing. A trainer who uses these terms is engaged with the latest thinking on ethics and wants to display this engagement to potential clients. It’s very unlikely that trainers who align themselves with LIMA will use punishment, especially for basic obedience issues.
BOOT CAMP (and other military terms)
This kind of language usually suggests that the trainer believes in punishment as the best way to manage behavior. Trainers who sell themselves as providing this type of intervention often also subscribe to ideas about dominance and “being the alpha.” They appeal to frustrated owners who are faced with dogs who seem rude and out-of-control, but their approaches can be harsh and lead to suppression, not modification. Trainers who describe themselves or their approach in this controlling, militaristic language are probably best avoided altogether.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SUBSTANCE
Although being able to parse these terms and understand them gives us more of a picture of how a trainer operates than the words “humane and effective,” it’s clear that each label still represents a spectrum of beliefs and approaches.
The only way to get the clearest possible information is to ask trainers directly. That means you’ve got to shop around, get in front of trainers, and ask unambiguous and substantial questions about what is going to happen to your dog, and why. Dog behavior consultant John McGuigan proposes the following questions, which every trainer ought to easily be able to answer: What will happen to my dog if she gets it right? What will happen to my dog if she gets it wrong? Are there less invasive alternatives to what you propose?
These questions don’t cover everything, and they can’t inoculate you against a marketing spiel, but they’re a good place to start. If you’re not comfortable with the answers you get; if the trainer becomes evasive and starts using concepts like “energy,” talking around the question or invoking his or her years of experience; or if the answer involves anything that is designed to cause pain, to startle or to do anything else unpleasant, think twice. It’s your responsibility to exercise due diligence when choosing a dog trainer, and it’s always better to risk being seen as a busybody than it is to put your dog in a situation you didn’t want or expect.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Home Design Tips for Dog People
When Vern Yip talks style, we listen. Not only is he a multi-talented fabric and accessory designer and an HGTV Design Star judge with multiple seasons under his fashionable belt, he and his family share their Atlanta home with big dogs. Following are a few fieldtested pointers. For more decorating advice, pick up a copy of his new book, Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home, from Running Press.
• While I prefer the idea of a comfy dog bed with a great-looking, washable cover next to the main seating area, if you want your dog on the sofa, go for a low-maintenance, stain-resistant indoor/outdoor fabric or distressed leather. Many leathers scratch easily, so it’s best to avoid anything with too fine a finished surface. (Washable slipcovers also work in these instances, but staying on top of keeping them laundered does add to the chore list.)
• Does your dog sleep in your bed? If so, avoid dry-clean-only fabrics for duvets and decorative bedding items. Sending bedding out to the dry cleaner with any frequency can get expensive. Alternatively, place a dog bed alongside your bed. Having multiple dog beds throughout your home is a great way to keep your canine companions with you but off the furniture.
• To keep your house looking clean, go for rugs and upholstery with patterns, which tend to hide dirt and hair better than solids.
• If you have tall dogs with long tails or active dogs who run through your rooms, secure your easily damaged decorative items with museum wax. Museum wax can be purchased online and in many hardware stores, and doesn’t permanently stick to surfaces. However, objects secured with it won’t move until you intentionally sever the bond. Test a bit of the museum wax in an inconspicuous spot to be sure it won’t harm whatever surface you’re working with.
• Select furniture that goes all the way to the floor or has taller legs, which will allow you to see under the piece. Dog hair is notorious for traveling everywhere; when your sofas and chairs are on small, low-profile, block legs, it’s easy to miss all the hair that collects underneath, and vacuuming it up means moving the furniture.
• Is your dog a drooler? If so, avoid silk for upholstery, curtains or any other material surface. Silk is a beautiful home décor fabric but it does stain.
• When you refinish wood floors, choose a durable product such as Bona Traffic, a waterborne commercial and residential hardwood floor finish, to help ward off claw dings.
• Consider carpeting your stairs or installing a runner. Smooth surfaces such as wood, stone and tile may be easy for your dog to negotiate when he’s younger but can cause problems as he ages. Carpet not only protects your steps, it also provides dogs with reassuring extra traction.
• Putting in a tiled floor? Use bigger tiles to minimize grout joints. Tile is wonderfully hard wearing, but grout can become stained, dirty or damaged; smaller grout joints (¹/₁₆-inch is ideal) help keep that to a minimum. Fewer and smaller grout joints are also beneficial if your dog has an accident, since grout tends to be porous.
News: Guest Posts
When people try to be helpful but aren’t
Advice is wonderful (really it is!) but only when you want it and are ready for it. It’s certainly nothing close to wonderful when people are condescendingly presenting it to you like a gracious gift with the attitude that they are brilliant and you are ignorant. Dogs are well loved by so many people who are knowledgeable about them, which is a good thing. However, what is NOT a good thing is when that leads to unsolicited advice with the assumption that the receiver knows nothing about dogs.
Over the years, a great many people who don’t even know me have volunteered their opinion on what I should or shouldn’t do regarding the dog I am holding, walking, training or playing with. I’m not sure why it’s so common to feel confident that after observing a dog for 30 seconds, they have all the answers, but that’s often the case. I have been told I needed to be tougher with the dog and show him who’s boss more times than I can count. People have informed me that the breed of the dog I am with is dangerous or vicious. Some unsolicited advice has involved letting me know that the dog will never be properly trained if I use treats to teach him what to do.
Here are some other examples of unsolicited dog advice that has come my way:
I generally respond with a cheerful, “That’s certainly something to think about.” It usually gets the person to leave me alone and it is completely non-committal. Best of all, it leaves me free to think that the advice was unwelcome, unhelpful and wrong without having been dishonest. I know other trainers and behaviorists who refuse to respond to a person giving unsolicited advice or actually say, “Shut up!” but neither of those suit my style.
What unsolicited advice about your dog could you just as well have done without and how did you respond?
News: Guest Posts
Can you do it with a simple phrase?
Sometimes, people tell me who their dogs are with such concise and clever accuracy that their explanations stay with me forever. Describing complex individuals of any species takes insight and skill, but to capture the essence of someone with just one phrase is particularly challenging. Most of the time, the phrases people use are positive, but a few may seem derogatory. Let me assure that even the ones that aren’t obviously complimentary were expressed with such love that I know the guardians meant them in the nicest possible way. Perhaps you’ve had or met a dog who matches one my favorite explanations of who a dog truly is.
How would you describe the essence of your dog’s personality in a single phrase?
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