Do You Love a Breed As Much as I Love the German Shepherd Dog?

For me, German Shepherds have always been my soul dogs. Do you have a breed like that?

Annie Phenix

This article is close to my heart.  I just got a 15-week-old German Shepherd Dog    -Diana Davidson

I have a new German Shepherd puppy. This whirling dervish is named Trinket. She was the runt in her litter but you’d never know by the size of her paws. She keeps me on my trainer toes because she is brilliant, feisty and easily bored. She’s not my first German Shepherd, nor will she be my last. I am nuts about this breed.

Every year when annual “most popular breed” reports arrive, I keep hoping my favorite breed — the German Shepherd — will finally be announced as the No. 1 breed in the country. They keep getting beat out by Labradors and Golden Retrievers as America’s favorite dog. Every year I check these listings and my beloved German Shepherd never lands in the No. 1 spot.

I only want my favorite breed to be No. 1 so that others publicly acknowledge what I know about these dogs: They are phenomenal! I don’t really want them to be as popular as they are because so often when a breed becomes that big, their health goes down the drain as opportunistic breeders start breeding the popular dogs for a lousy buck. That part of being a popular dog truly sucks.

I have started thinking lately about why German Shepherds are so loved. This breed came from herding stock in Germany, hence the “shepherd” part of their name. Herding breeds are nearly always put near the top of the list when it comes to which dogs are the most intelligent. I like a smart dog. I am particularly found of herding dogs because they are among the few we allow to have some sort of original thought process as they work. A herding dog must make split second decisions, and since they are eye level with the sheep and the handler is not, a good sheepherder is invaluable to the working shepherd. Usually the dog’s intuitive decisions are faster and better than the human’s. The dogs do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and they do it far better than we ever good.

The German Shepherd is a good-looking dog. They look a bit like a wolf, and perhaps that ancient bond our ancestors likely developed with people-friendly wolves speaks to us still. Their appearance in my opinion has suffered the past few decades, when breeders fell in love with that sloped back hip appearance. I hate that look and like many other aficionados of this breed feel that their hips and thus their health have suffered from breeders going for that famous slope.

Shepherds can have serious health concerns. I’ve shared my life with many of these dogs and only one of them lived until 13 years old, and he was a rare Shiloh Shepherd. I mourned so many shepherds dying so young that for a decade I shifted over to Border Collies. I once again have a gorgeous German Shepherd puppy in my life, and now my life feels complete again.

German Shepherds are quite possibly the most versatile dog there is. You see them as police dogs, war dogs, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, obedience competition dogs, sport dogs and on and on. It would seem that whatever a human can think up for a dog to do, a German Shepherd can do it — just one more reason for their popularity.

For me, German Shepherds have always been my soul dogs. They both represent and speak to my soul somehow. Is it their eyes and they way they look deep into a person’s inner self that makes them seem so soulful? Is it that they seem to know exactly what their human is feeling and how to help when you are sad or upset, as well as how to share in your joy when you are really happy? Perhaps it is that every shepherd I have shared my life with walks right next to me of their own free will, constantly checking in with me by looking right into my eyes. Perhaps what they truly shepherd are our souls?

All of these things and more make German Shepherds famously popular. Even saying all that I have about this great breed, they are not for every person on the planet. For one thing, their big brains mean you need to keep them mentally stimulated. This is not a dog who will sleep all day and night and leave your couch, shoes, walls, and whatever unmolested if you have not satisfied his mental genius each day. They are supremely built athletes (except for those sloping hips) and you must ensure they get daily exercise. Please do not bring a German Shepherd into your life and home unless you truly can commit to daily brain and physical work. Shall I repeat that? These dog are a lot of work, so if you are a lazy owner or hate to work hard on behalf of a dog, skip this breed.

Sometimes people get German Shepherds for macho reasons. They think they look tough or menacing or God knows what with a German Shepherd dog at the end of the leash. People who have this dog for this reason have little understanding of the true nature of this breed. Underneath all that they can do, there is nearly always a sensitive dog soul in there who loves his human so deeply that he is willing to die for us in the line of duty — especially when the shepherd sees his duty as protecting us. We humans owe this breed more and have to finally step up and stop the everyday abuse from owners and trainers who insist that this sturdy German dog needs a “heavy hand” in training.

All of my shepherds are clicker trained, even my super brave, incredibly feisty working-stock, long-coated German Shepherd puppy. She has that powerful canine brain coupled with a desire to please me, and we get along famously in our training sessions. My only real problem in training is keeping her from boredom.

As you can tell, I love this breed. I wish more people could look deeply at this magnificent creature and see that while they are tough, physically strong and brilliant, they are still vulnerable and have feelings inside just as we do. They give us so very much of themselves, so lets give them back a little of us and do right both in breeding and training these loyal, beautiful dogs.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

Animal Rescue: Animals are Optimistic

Rescued Animals Are Optimistic

 

All animals deserve love and care, especially those who have been neglected and left to fend for themselves. For all of those individuals who’ve rescued a lost, abandoned, or unappreciated animal, your kindness has not been overlooked and is making a bigger change than you may think.

A new study by scientists at Queen Mary, University of London has discovered that animals rescued from abuse and neglect, aren’t a lost cause. These animals can recover and in some cases have a more optimistic outlook on life compared to other animals.

As the first scientific study of rescued animals, 18 goats were observed – nine who had experienced a poor diet and lack of shelter, along with nine who had been treated well. Placing the goats in a spatial awareness test, the scientists observed how the two types of goats engaged in finding food in an area unknown to them.

Believing the well-treated goats would perform better, the scientists were surprised to discover that the positive treatment the neglected female goats received at the sanctuary, made them more optimistic.

“Mood can have a huge influence on how the brain processes information. In humans, for example, it’s well known that people in positive moods have an optimist outlook on life, which means they are more resilient to stress. In the same way, measures of optimism and pessimism can provide indicators for an understanding of animal welfare,” explains co-author Dr. Elodie Briefer from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

So even though our furry friends can’t literally thank us for our hospitality in their time of need, it’s their outlook on the future, after they’ve been cared for, that proves that we are making a difference in each rescued animals life one at a time.

Take a cue from Fiona, a rescued pooch from South Los Angeles. She was found blind, flea infested, and fending for herself, but after being rescued you can see in her demeanor and wagging tail how she’s come a long way from that parking lot she was found.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Pet Safety in EXTREME HEAT

Pet Safety in EXTREME Heat

According to composer George Gershwin, summertime means “the livin’ is easy; fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high”. This special season can also mean we need to protect our companion animals from extreme heat.

Keep in mind that when it is hot for you, it is even hotter for them. Dogs and cats do not sweat through their skin. They cool themselves by panting or rapid breathing, which means animals must work hard to stay cool.

Too much heat can be extremely dangerous or even fatal. If your best friend has a shorter nose, like Persian cats and bulldogs, he is more susceptible to heatstroke than breeds with longer noses.

If your dog or cat begins very rapid, noisy breathing, has trouble swallowing, and looks very distressed, she could be having a heatstroke. Heatstroke is an emergency. Get the animal out of the heat. Apply cold, wet towels to the back of the head. Place cold packs wrapped in towels or plain wet towels between the back legs and on the belly. Cool off your furry friend and then take her to the vet immediately.

The best plan is to keep your dog and cat protected from the summer heat.

  • Always make sure that your dog or cat has plenty of fresh water to drink. A bucket that holds a gallon or more of water will stay cool longer than water in a shallow pan. Some dogs consider ice cubes a treat, and you can add a few to the water bowl.
  • Dogs and cats do sweat a little through the pads of their feet. The cats I know do not appreciate water added to any part of their body, but dogs often enjoy having cool water on their feet. Some dogs enjoy walking through or even lying in a child’s wading pool.
  • It is dangerous to leave your dog or cat in a car for 5 minutes. If he cannot go inside at every stop with you, he is safer at home on hot days! Car interiors heat very quickly in the hot sun, even with the windows open. If it is 85 degrees outside, it will climb to 102 degrees inside your car within ten minutes. In half an hour, it will reach 120 degrees or more! If it is 90 degrees out, temperatures can top 160 degrees faster than you can walk around the block.
  • While walking your dog outdoors, play particular attention the hot pavement or sidewalks that make your dogs walking area hotter and can even burn their feet. Early morning and later evening walks will be more comfortable for you both!
  • Animals who go outside need access to shade. Dark coats absorb heat. Lighter coated animals, especially white ones, are at higher risk for skin cancer from exposure to the sun and they are more susceptible to sunburn.
  • Longer coated dogs and cats who are brushed regularly have natural insulation from the heat. However, if the coat has gotten matted, a summer clip will make your buddy much more comfortable and allow you a new start at keeping him brushed. Remember, newly clipped animals can be sunburned.
  • If your dog spends time in the yard, make sure she has access to shade. Shade trees, a covered patio, or a cool spot under the porch can help keep her comfortable.

Companion animals want to be with you. They will be safer and cooler inside with you, where they can spend their time doing what they do best: being your best friend!

 

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Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Dealing with Death of a Pet Dog, my Logan, a GSD

Logan crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on April 22, 2013.

It has been two months.  So, why am I crying like a baby now…two months later?  All day I have been angry at whatever and irritated at whatever.  I am never diffusely angry and irritated; not my nature, but it was today.

Now, I am sitting here crying my heart out thinking of him and the things we did together; the times we shared, good and not-so-good.  He was always there and now he isn’t.

I did cry when he left, but not like this today.  It is like the tears have been waiting to come up; the pain waiting to be experienced, biding their time for the right moment when I could handle them.  I don’t feel like I can handle them at all right now; but know I must and know I will…..but when?

Logan, your spirit will always be with me; always.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 

Veterinary Stories of Dog Nutrition Studies

I spent last week in Seattle, WA at the 2013 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum. My professional organization, the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, held its 13th Clinical Nutrition and Research Symposium in conjunction with the forum. The symposium features oral and poster abstract presentations of recent or soon to be published studies. I would like to spend the next three blogs filling you in on some of the interesting research findings featured at that symposium.

Glycemic Index and Diabetic Dogs

As many of you know, the Glycemic Index (GI) of carbohydrates is a ranking system for sugar containing foods based on the speed and quantity that glucose is absorbed from the gut and the intensity of the insulin response to the elevated glucose. Foods with a low glycemic index number (Glycemic Index Chart)elevate blood sugar and insulin levels more slowly. Low glycemic index foods are helpful in regulating insulin requirements for human diabetics. These foods also reduce abdominal fat without total body fat loss and reduce the risk of cardiac complications for human diabetics.

A new study in dogs evaluated the effects of a diet with a high glycemic carbohydrate, white rice (GI=70), and a diet with a low glycemic carbohydrate, peas (GI=40). The absolute calorie counts, protein, fat and carbohydrate amounts were identical. The dogs were fed to maintain their present obese weight. The researchers found that dogs fed the pea diet had a reduced insulin response and reduced abdominal fat despite maintaining overall body fat. These dogs also showed smaller increases in the heart wall thickness ratio than the rice fed dogs.

Increased heart wall ratios correlate with heart disease risk and are part of “the metabolic syndrome” associated with abdominal fat in humans. More studies to confirm these findings may spark more interest in the Glycemic Index of pet food.

Dog Milk Replacers

This was a particularly disturbing presentation. Researchers evaluated 15 milk replacers, many well-known, compared to collected bitches’ milk. The dietary requirements of the bitches were controlled so that contents of the milk were not influenced by diet and supplementation. None of the milk replacers were a nutritional match for “mom’s milk.”

Calorie counts varied despite identical feeding instructions and some contained levels of lactose that would cause diarrhea in newborns; 14 of the 15 had DHA levels below that of bitch milk.

Over half of the products had a key amino acid, arginine deficiency, and 1/3 had a calcium-phosphorus ratio well below bitch milk and below accepted nutritional standards.

The study did not identify specific brands and problems so I cannot make any recommendations. Suffice it to say, orphaned dogs on milk replacers will be behind the nutritional eight ball and will need to be weaned to a liquefied or blenderized balanced puppy formula as quickly as possible.

Taurine Deficiency Cardiomyopathy in a Dog

Cat owners are well aware of the cardiac consequences of taurine deficiency in cats. Because the taurine requirement is lower in dogs, they typically can easily meet this requirement with the meat protein in dog food and seldom develop this condition as a result of diet.

This was a case study poster presentation about an English Bulldog that presented to the Ohio State Veterinary School teaching hospital in heart failure. The dog was diagnosed with the same dilated cardiomyopathy found in taurine deficient cats.

As it turns out, this dog had severe allergies and the owners were feeding a diet exclusively composed of lentils, brown rice, and potatoes using an online recipe to control the dog’s skin problem. The owners supplemented with a daily multi-vitamin/multi-mineral capsule and calcium citrate tablet, so they felt that the diet was nutritionally adequate. Non-animal sources of protein are extremely deficient in taurine and this dog’s blood taurine level was 2nmol/ml versus a normal of 60-120nmol/ml (don’t worry about the meaning of the units).

Happily, the dog was put on a taurine supplement and a complete hypoallergenic, limited ingredient dog food that controlled his allergies. On the balanced diet and supplements, the heart changes reversed and the dog was tapered off taurine supplementation.

My now stale but important message: Always get professional assistance and/or proof of nutritional content (all 42-44 essentials) when feeding your pets homemade diets.

Dr. Ken Tudor

Dog Psychology: Is Your Dog an Extrovert or an Introvert?

Is Your Dog an Extrovert or an Introvert?

My Border Collie Echo doesn’t like crowds, just like me, but Trinket? She’s the opposite of shy. What about your dogs?

  |  Jun 12th 2013  |   32 Contributions


I am an introvert at heart. I know that because every personality test I’ve ever taken says that I am an introvert. Also, crowds wear me out. Also, I am perfectly fine being alone. Well, alone except for my dogs, and since I have five dogs that means I am never really alone, at least not for long.

Echo and I don’t like crowds — we’re far happier when we’re out alone in nature.

We know people fall somewhere along the introvert/extrovert spectrum, but have you ever thought about where your dog might fall? I think about it all the time, not just as a dog trainer but as a dog owner. If we knew more about dogs’ personalities, it would help to create better matches between dog and owners. After all, you are committing at least ten years to your dog and many dollars in vet care, so why not know going in whether your dog is outgoing or more on the shy side? Why not know for sure which kind of dog you prefer?

The dogs in my pack are more outgoing than I am.

I’ve always been drawn to breeds such German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, etc., and have shared my life with many shepherds and one intense Rottweiler. Generally speaking, they seem to be more of an extroverted breed, though of course there is great variance in any breed. For many years I was hung up on Scottish Terriers -– if that breed isn’t extroverted than none are. Something shifted in me more than a decade ago and I found myself attracted to herding breeds, Border Collie specifically.

Trinket is watching Radar watch our horses, which he feels he ought to shepherd somehow.

When I started looking for a rescue Border Collie in need — most of my dogs have been rescues and I’ve fostered 400-plus dogs over a decade — I kept hearing a rather ugly saying about herding dogs: “You kick a Heeler; you scream at an Australian Shepherd; you whisper to a Border Collie.” (And no, not as in The Dog Whisperer whispering. He actually shouts at dogs with his coarse body language when he tosses them on their backs to teach ’em who’s boss.) I love Heelers and Aussies and wouldn’t yell or kick at either breed, but the whispering part got to me regarding Border Collies. I ended up with a brother and sister pair whom I rescued from the back of a horse trailer. They had nearly become feral because the ignorant breeder refused to let them around people “so they bond with their new owners.”

My Border Collies happened to be monster sheep herders. I took the female, Echo, to a sheep herding clinic when she was one year old. The clinician told me she had big talent, just before he yelled at me and threw me out of the herding round pen. It was so hot that day, and because my Echo was so sensitive to me and my movements, when I got cussed out I momentarily put my hands on my hips and gave Echo a hard stare –- not meaning to. I was complaining about the heat with my body and Echo took it as a threat that the sheep were mine and she backed off. I hurt her sensitive Border Collie feelings with just my body language.

Because Trinket is so social and outgoing, I have to adapt when I’m with her.

Echo, like me, doesn’t like crowds. She and I are both much more comfortable outside in nature, preferably hiking a mountain in gorgeous Colorado, where we live. Echo becomes bold around sheep or my donkeys, which may appear to her as particularly funny-looking sheep. She is friendly to guests in our house but is timid in the way she approaches to be petted.

My newest family edition –- a four-month-old German Shepherd puppy named Trinket -– is the opposite of shy. She loves everybody. She is also bold in training. Just this week we were doing some nose work in our basement and I had out the food box up on a chair. She couldn’t quite locate the box but she got damn close when she launched herself fearlessly onto the shelf three feet up and next to the food box. Nothing seems to scare her.

Trinket never met a person or a critter she didn’t love.

People fawn over both dogs when I walk with them in town, but they flip out over Trinket. Is it because she rushes to meet them, tail wagging and happy as a clam to say how much she loves them, even though she just met them? Echo would never do that. She will walk up to a stranger and sit politely, and if you want to pet her, that’s okay. If you don’t, that’s okay, too.

Perhaps Trinket and the humans she loves are getting a mutual high on a feedback loop: she runs to great them and they rush to pet her in return. She says in her doggy way: “You are a good human and I looooooove you.” We all love to be loved. Echo’s approach mirrors my own on meeting strangers: “Meh.”

I’ve noticed something about myself recently as it relates to Trinket. I now expect people to tell me how gorgeous and friendly she is, as though I had anything to do with that (I didn’t). I even find myself mad if people fail to notice her, as though she were my daughter and she was the prettiest, most popular girl in school and that somehow reflects positively on me.

Echo doesn’t rush up to strangers the way Trinket does — and that’s okay, too.

When I am with Echo, I find myself giving other humans a wide berth, because Echo isn’t wild about strangers petting her. I find myself presenting my own body language with a “don’t talk to me” stance, which is for me a natural way not to have to talk to strangers (it works). I appreciate that Echo and I don’t always want to chitchat with every person on our path.

Trinket is such a lover that I got stuck talking to a drunk lady in town last week. She told me she would fall on her knees and worship Trinket and, oh, would I please give her my dog? She felt Trinket was her soulmate. Just after that, Trinket jumped up on a man minding his own business drinking coffee at an outdoor table. She spilled his coffee on him. He didn’t seem terribly upset because then she tried to lick the coffee off of him …

Trinket will sit in my lap for hours, but she gives every stranger a moment of her time.

I also find a little smugness in something Trinket does. She expresses absolute delight in meeting strangers, but she’s quick about it. She’ll say hello and “I love you!” in a just a minute and then she’s done and on to the next stranger. And, she always looks back at me in between meeting newcomers, and I am pretty sure I see true love in her eyes. She is willing to sit in my lap for hours, but for strangers, they get a minute and that’s it.

I have the best of both worlds in Echo and Trinket, and they each express a true part of my nature. I don’t wish them, or me, to be any different than we are.         by Annie Phenix:

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Managing Dog Play-Biting/Mouthing/Agressive Biting

Managing Dog Play-Biting

Lisa Giroux, 

All dogs play using their teeth, and this can be a large concern to pet owners.  Whether it be a very young puppy incessantly chewing on hands or an older dog that grabs pant legs or shirt sleeves, it can be an extremely annoying behaviour to pet owners and the people who encounter the dog.  At worst, it can escalate into more severe issues that are much harder to deal with.  In any case, training is necessary and advisable for any dog, no matter what the size or breed, so that he can learn to behave appropriately.

One of the most common issues for new puppy owners is how to handle their puppy’s needle-sharp teeth.  Parents of small children feel the greatest brunt of the problem.  The children run around, the puppy gets excited, and the next thing you know the puppy is hanging off the pants or hair of a child that is screaming in pain.  Although the puppy is not trying to hurt anyone, its needle-sharp teeth easily break the skin.  Many a puppy has been re-homed or put down because it has put scratches or holes in a child’s face.  Adult owners of new puppies often feel frustrated because they cannot interact with their new pet without having hands bitten and clothes torn.  No matter what they do, it always ends painfully, and they start to think the puppy is “bad” or “doesn’t like them” and they might even wonder if the mouthing will lead to serious biting when the dog grows up.

Older dogs who mouth a lot scare strangers who aren’t sure if the dog is behaving aggressively.  Also, dogs who mouth their owners a lot are often confused about the leadership structure in the household (and think they might have a shot at being the boss, which can lead to multiple serious problems). 

For these reasons, dog owners should know what mouthing is, reasons why it needs to be thoughtfully and seriously managed, and how to teach a dog appropriate use of its mouth among humans. 

What is dog play-biting or mouthing?

All dogs play and interact using their jaws, teeth and tongue. Called “mouthing” or “play-biting” (very different from aggressive biting), it is their instinctual programming to play with their littermates and other dogs by jaw-wrestling and inhibited biting.  Most dogs attempt to play with humans in this way as well, especially during puppyhood when the urge to use their mouth is strongest.

Play-biting serves an important purpose in a dog’s life.  Because dogs use their mouths to interact with their world (unlike humans, who usually use their hands) it is crucial that a dog keeps this sensory organ in good shape with lots of exercise.  Jaw-wrestling and inhibited biting are important parts of a dog’s social behaviour, and much rehearsal is necessary for these social behaviours to become honed to the point where the dog can function properly in doggie society.  So, dogs mouth and play-bite throughout their lives to learn how hard or soft they should bite, and to keep their mouths speedy and functional.

Young puppies learn a great deal about how to appropriately use their mouths from their mother and littermates from four weeks of age.  The mother dog will quickly and firmly discipline a puppy for mouthing too hard or too much, and the littermates will also teach each other when things have gone too far.  People who don’t know any better often feel that because the puppies are weaned (happens at around 4 weeks old) and because the mother is becoming “mad” or “rough” with the puppies, that it’s time to send them on to their homes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Puppies need that experience in order to develop proper inhibition.  Puppies that are taken away earlier than 7 weeks often mouth excessively and harder, and have more difficulty learning appropriate use of their mouth.  Because play-biting is part of the social repertoire, dogs taken away too early can have more trouble than average when interacting with other dogs.

Why does mouthing need to be managed?

Dogs have to live with people.  For this reason it is critical for dogs to learn appropriate use of their mouths with people.  Because dogs can bite with great force, even in play, it is crucial to get a management plan and thoughtfully teach your dog what is appropriate, and what isn’t.

In particular, great care needs to be taken with dogs and children, who present the ultimate in excitement for a canine.  They move quickly, they like to have fun, and best of all…they SQUEAK when bitten, better than the best squeaky toy on the pet store shelf!  A child’s natural reaction to painful puppy teeth is to back or run away screaming shrilly.  This stimulates the puppy to higher excitement levels and harder, more intense mouthing.  An adult dog can badly bruise a child while innocently trying to play, and at the extreme worst, become so stimulated that they see the child as prey (especially when they hear that rabbit-like squeal and see the child running away).

Children like to “horse around” physically with dogs and often actually encourage the mouthing (until it gets too hard, at which point they “squeak”).  This can lead to ripped clothing, bruises, broken skin.  In the worst case, it can lead the dog to believe that the child is similar in status to a littermate or another dog that is lower in status.  Dogs readily discipline dogs that are lower in status. A dog that has been allowed to mouth children can unintentionally learn that it’s OK to discipline a child for wrongdoings such as bumping into them, disturbing the dog while it is resting, trying to put the leash on and off, and for coming to close to anything the dog “owns.” 

The same is true when adults horse around with a dog and allow mouthing.  Dogs that are allowed to use their mouths on humans will sometimes get the idea that they are equal to or higher in status, and certainly will feel free to whip around and mouth during necessary handling or other times when the dog disagrees with what’s going on. For instance, when dogs are lying on the couch and the human tries to get them to move over, the dog that has been extensively allowed to mouth might choose to snap or even bite (the same thing he would do if a lesser-status dog made the brazen move of trying to push him out of his comfy spot).  Putting on or taking off the leash becomes a struggle to stay out of the way of the dog’s teeth.  Vet visits become a nightmare and nail clipping virtually impossible.

The dog learns that sometimes when it bites, it can cause a human to flinch, move away or stop.  This is a very dangerous thing for a dog to learn.  Dogs do what works.  If snapping or biting has worked for them in the past, they will continue to try it in the future.  For example, a dog that has whipped around and snapped during leashing will certainly escalate to actual biting in the future if the whipping around and snapping made the person even slightly flinch (and it’s almost impossible NOT to flinch under those circumstances).

This disciplinary behaviour can no longer be called “play-biting.”  It is the real use of force and aggression to get their way, and definitely stems from the dog thinking it is allowed to use its mouth on people. 

Another reason for thoughtful management of play-biting is how dogs act with people outside the immediate family home. If the dog encounters a stranger and tries to play-bite it can easily be misconstrued as aggression, which is dangerous to the dog.  Often, dogs rip people’s clothing in an attempt to play.  It’s easy for a dog to bruise or break skin while playing. All it takes is a person or two that claims the dog “bit” them to send the dog on a one-way trip to the vet’s office.

For all of these reasons, it is inadvisable to allow your puppy or dog to play with you using its mouth on your skin, clothing or hair. 

When dogs play together, they usually play-bite and mouth.  Often there is a great deal of growling and “imitation” aggression which can look and sound like true aggression—loud and scary!  This is usually nothing to be worried about—it’s practice for dog/dog social behaviour, and you shouldn’t interfere unless one of the dogs is much larger than the other, much more physically fit (as in puppy/old dog situations) or much shyer.  If you see desperate attempts to get away, it’s a good time to break it up.  If the tone of the wrestling play begins to look more serious, it might be a good time for a break to allow the excitement levels to die down a bit before continuing play.  Otherwise, play-biting between dogs is a nice way for the dogs to enjoy themselves, and is really important for maintenance of social skills. Generally it is not something to be concerned about and will not lead to dog/dog or dog/human aggression.

How is play-biting managed?

Fortunately, managing excessive mouthing is a simple exercise that gives speedy results and is very easy for the dog to learn.  Dogs readily learn to distinguish between appropriate dog/dog play and appropriate dog/person play.  Whether it’s a new puppy, a new older dog, or a dog that is already in your household, the methods for management are the same.  Prevention, Redirection, and Punishment.

Prevention:  Prevention of the mouthing is the first priority.  Do not horse around with the dog and encourage it to mouth.  It is difficult for the dog to learn that mouthing is only appropriate SOMETIMES.  Consistency is the key.  Also, be aware that as the excitement level of play gets higher, the tendency to mouth goes up exponentially.  This means that if you are playing with your dog and he begins to get really excited, he will probably mouth you. Predict this fact and try to make a break in the play BEFORE the excitement levels go too high. In dog/child interactions, parents should carefully observe the puppy and break up the play before it gets out of hand. 

Also be aware that as excitement levels increase, playful mouthing can easily become very hard biting or true aggression that is meant to do harm.  Dogs that get to a really high level of excitement lose bite control/inhibition and can actually “click over” into aggressive mode.  This is why it is particularly important to monitor excitement levels in play, and try to keep things to a medium or lower level.

Remember that dogs learn to do things by rehearsing the behaviour over and over.  If the dog needs to learn to sit on command, the learning takes place by doing it again and again, and the dog gets better and better at it.  So if the dog is allowed to play-bite again and again, he will definitely get better at it.  The best way to teach a dog to mouth/play-bite is to allow him to do it! Prevention of this kind of learning is the first (and most crucial) step in managing this issue.

Redirection:  A great way to play with your dog without encouraging mouthing is to use a toy or bone.  In this way you can physically play with a dog, allow them to use their mouth, yet teach them that there is to be no contact with human skin, hair or clothing.  You can get the same fun down on the floor horsing around allowing the pup to chew on a bone you are holding in your hand, a tug toy, or a stuffed animal.  

The human must control the game, NOT the dog.  Never start a game because the dog brought you the toy–keep fun toys up off the floor, and get them out only when you want to interact with the dog (you can of course leave some chewing items down).  Then initiate the game and have a great time!  To end the game, simply take the dog’s collar, hold him still, and let go of the toy.  Wait for the dog to drop the toy, give a treat or praise, and put the toy away. 

If a dog begins to mouth you, and you have a toy nearby, you can firmly say NO, then pick up the toy and encourage play while praising.  This shows the dog that teeth on skin or clothes is a no-no but teeth on toy is fine.

Redirection allows the dog to play in the way nature intended, without harmful side effects.  The dog gets a mentally and physically entertaining experience and you get to “horse around” with your dog!

Punishment:  The dog needs to understand in very clear terms what IS allowed, and positive reinforcement should be used as much as possible, but at some point (especially in the case of puppies, who mouth much more than adult dogs) punishment will be necessary. 

What works best as punishment for mouthing is simply to end the game.  Have a baby gate or small room nearby to where you normally interact with your dog, and as soon as his teeth touch you, immediately stop and put him behind the baby gate or door for a time-out.  It must be done extremely quickly, the instant he touches you with his teeth.  Immediately drop eye contact, stop speaking to him, scoop him up or take him by the collar and good-bye doggie for a time-out from humans.  The whole thing should be unemotional and FAST. 

The play must be stopped and dog in the time-out area within 10 seconds of the mouthing for this to work.  In addition, it might be a good idea to intentionally stimulate mouthing (get down on the floor and horse around) over and over for 5-10 minutes so that you can quickly show him that not mouthing=continued play and mouthing=game over.  Many repetitions in a short period of time is the quickest way for a dog to learn.  With new puppies, doing this twice or three times a day will help them to understand more quickly. 

You needn’t be harsh or physical with your dog to teach him not to mouth—just consistent.  TOOTH CONTACT=TIME OUT.  No exceptions!

Using this method also produces a very beneficial side effect—it teaches the dog “who’s the boss” and reinforces that humans are the leaders.

Advanced Method:  Another method is to allow the dog to mouth your hands, and time him out as suggested above only when he bites too hard. 

HARD tooth contact=TIME OUT. The game is always initiated and ended by the human and not the dog.

It is theorized that this method teaches the dog that humans are much more delicate than dogs. Certainly dogs playfully bite one another much harder than our sensitive skin can tolerate.  Using this method, you might be able to get some “insurance” that the dog will realize that bites to humans need to be more inhibited, so that if the dog ever does bite fearfully (a possibility with any dog) hopefully the damage will not be as great as it could be.  This theory is of course impossible to prove, but makes a lot of sense.  Correct implementation of this method does not produce the harmful side effects of un-managed mouthing.

However, this method presents several challenges to its success and is not the best choice for dog trainers to advise to clients, or for inexperienced people to attempt.  It is difficult for a person to accurately judge just how hard is “too hard” on a consistent basis.  Most dogs are interacting with more than just one person in the family, and if Jimmy lets the dog mouth very hard before timing him out and Molly times him out for just a little pressure, there is so much inconsistency that it’s difficult for the dog to learn.

This method requires extremely good judgment and timing.  Because most people are not experienced dog trainers, good success is difficult for the average home. In capable hands and with utter consistency, however, it is probably an ideal solution for managing mouthing.

I use this method successfully with my own dogs, but do not recommend it to most pet homes due to my experiences with a general lack of success in those situations.

Other Methods:

Dog books and internet sites widely promote many different methods for managing mouthing. Unfortunately, these methods don’t often work, sometimes make the mouthing worse, or cause unwanted side effects such as fear or aggression.

Forceful Methods:  These include slapping the muzzle, squeezing the mouth shut, forcefully shoving your hand down the dog’s throat, etc.  Sometimes these methods work to stop the mouthing, but usually produce unwanted side effects.  A dog with a soft temperament will usually stop mouthing, but has a good chance of becoming fearful, anxious, distrustful of his owner, or even become so fearful that he bites. With “harder” dogs, this method rarely works to stop the mouthing and will usually actually cause the mouthing to get worse.  With Labrador Retrievers, for example, this method is FUN.

Pushy, physical dogs actually take the physical contact as a “bring it on” signal and escalate the mouthing, or may try to bite you to discipline you for daring to push THEM around! 

Yelping:  Puppies and dogs often yelp when they are bitten too hard, causing the dog doing the biting to cease momentarily.  It is theorized that when the puppy bites, imitating this yelping or yelling OUCH in a high-pitched voice will make him stop.  The yelping/OUCH method sometimes work, but only with pups of a shyer or softer temperament.  Bolder pups can take it as an exciting “squeak” and become more excited which of course leads to more, harder mouthing.  If you wish to try this method, YELP loudly and sharply, and if the puppy stops mouthing, quietly and slowly stroke the puppy’s head and verbally praise as soon as they stop. 

Be aware that with any method you choose, puppies will be much more persistent in their mouthing attempts than adult dogs and require far more attention and consistency of handling in order to improve.  Certain breeds such as terriers and nearly all of the retriever breeds have extremely high “oral fixations” and puppies from these breeds usually need careful management for months before the concept is truly understood and accepted.

If your gut feeling is that the biting is coming from a motivation other than play, you might be right and should seek professional help for a solution.  The problem will not go away on its own and action needs to be taken to prevent further escalation.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbows Bridge Poem

RainbowBridge.com

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…. 

Author unknown…

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 


Is the Pain of Losing a Dog Stopped You From Getting Another One?

Has Losing a Dog Ever Stopped You from Getting Another One?

The thing with animals is that they have terribly short lives; heartbreak comes so very quickly.

I’ll never understand people who don’t like animals.

When I was about 10, my sister, my Mum, my Dad and I (back when we were a foursome and not an eightsome) rented a log cabin in Wales for my Mum’s birthday. My parents loved to take us on the kind of holidays that would involve wellies and fields and cows and floods. So much rain. Have you ever been to Wales in October? It’s wetter than an otter’s pocket.

We’d stay for a week in the middle of nowhere and play card games inside while the rain beat down on the wood outside, the tiny TV showing some Welsh-speaking soap that we attempted to watch, making up our own storylines. My sister and I would fight and then write in our respective diaries, underlining in different colored gel-pens the many reasons why the other was a meanie.

Me and six-month-old Bumper. Check out my Kappa tracksuit! So ’90s.

We loved it.

The Octobers in Wales all sort of blur into one, as memories do when you’re a child unless something remarkable happens, like you got your ears pierced or you kissed one of the Woods twins in the field by your house in the summer. One of those holidays does stick in my mind, though.

The log cabin that year was part of what I remember to be like a nature reserve. It probably wasn’t, there were probably houses right by us. But I remember the exciting isolation, feeling like Laura Ingalls or an Enid Blyton character. Every day we played out our own Famous Five adventure, but with four of us, two being adults.

Outside the cabin was a fenced-in field with horses in it, and despite being the most allergic child on earth with streaming eyes and sneezing explosively every time I looked at them, my sister and I would go and chat to them, and give them presents of grass and sugar cubes.

One morning we watched as the horses cantered around the field and spied a tiny little kitten dancing around their hooves, a tiny little thing, all bones and ears. Our parents came to investigate and to our surprise this teeny wild kitty came bounding over, lolloping around on paws too big for her and crashing to a stop at our feet.

Little old lady Bella, the day before she died last month.

When she discovered we were her friends, she didn’t leave us alone. We quickly realized that she was alone in the world — bar the horses — and was probably going to fade away to nothing. We drove out to the nearest supermarket and stocked up on kitten food and fed her every morning while we were there, her tiny, broken mews waking us in the morning. We’d head out for the day and return in the dark, her head lifting from the outside deck of the cabin as she heard the car and jumping up onto all four paws as we ran over to her to say good evening.

The farmer who owned the land told us how she’d been abandoned by her mother, that she would surely die. He didn’t have the time or money to look after her, this pretty little thing with those big brown eyes and the almost smiling mouth that dribbled with pleasure if you gave her some attention. She returned home with us.

Bella ruled the roost. We doted on her, and she adored us — she’d come into my bedroom at night and sleep under my duvet with me, her head on the pillow next to mine. She died last month, an old thing, but still pretty and loving and tiny.

Bella was joined by Bumper, the most ridiculously loving Boxer you could ever imagine, who would shake his whole body in joy in lieu of a tail when he saw you. I remember hot days walking in the parks near our house, hiding in the long grass and staring up at the sky, with six weeks of summer holidays stretching out endlessly while he licked my face to tell me he liked me and that I was all right.

Bumper at Christmas with the family. This was pretty normal for us.

His presence in our house was massive, a character so huge that you couldn’t help but love him endlessly, even when he would eat all the turkey for the Boxing Day dinner overnight and then crap all over the living room before our guests arrived.

Bumper was there when my parents broke up and I left school. I would walk him around town while listening to my iPod and stomping, stomping, stomping all the hurt out. Bumper was there while my Dad went through chemo, twice, while I disappeared, unable to watch it happen. Bumper was there to be his best friend while I ran off to Ibiza so that I could pretend it wasn’t happening.

The thing with big animals (animals in general) is that they have terribly short lives. Ten years is nothing, an instant, a blur of walks and hugs and throwing massive sticks into lakes. A massive family presence, visibly fading and ageing after only a few years until you know they’re about to go, so you run away again.

I’m 26 now, and as with many people my age, I can’t imagine actually ever being able to afford to live in a house with a garden.

There is an ache in me that knows that I want a cat or a dog to be mates with and hang out with. Our balcony is a perfect home for the many pigeons who come and hang out and leave their mess all over it, but we won’t be able to get a pet. But a big part of me thinks that’s OK, because the heartbreak of losing an animal comes all too soon. And I don’t want anything to run away from.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

11 Hazardous Items to Ban From Your Home For Your Dogs Health

Some items are so dangerous to dogs’ health they should never be in any house with a dog.


Dogs are unbelievable on many levels. They are unbelievably good companions for humans. Their beneficial effects on our mental and physical health are so numerous that they defy belief. They are unbelievably loyal and loving. And they are unbelievably silly.

That last item — the silliness of dogs — is part of their charm. But it also gets them into trouble. Dogs will eat the darnedest things, and many of these things can cause them serious harm. This article is dedicated to some of those things.

 

In fact, some common household items are so lethally dangerous — and so attractive to dogs — that I recommend that they never be present in homes with dogs.

If you own a dog, I recommend that your household be forever free of these six items:

1. Sugar-free gum and candy

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is purported to have actual health benefits in humans. For instance, it supposedly reduces cavities in people that use it in place of sugar. Dogs, however, reap no health benefits from xylitol whatsoever. In fact, xylitol can cause fatal hypoglycemia and liver failure in dogs. Dogs exposed to the stuff might require several days in the hospital for dextrose supplementation — and then might still suffer from fatal liver failure. I therefore recommend that dog owners keep their houses free of sugarless gums and candies containing xylitol.

Good for your teeth? Yes. Bad for your dog? Yes! Photo by Nomadic Lass.

2. Grapes and raisins

Although I’m a bit skeptical of xylitol’s human health benefits, I will concede that grapes and raisins are healthy and nutritious for us. Sadly, the same is not exactly true for canines. These fruits have been associated with lethal kidney failure in dogs. It is not clear whether the unidentified toxin is in the fruit itself, or whether it is produced by a mold that grows on the fruit, or something else altogether. What is clear is that some dogs will be in big trouble if they eat grapes or raisins. I recommend that your house be free of them, including the especially attractive (to dogs, and to me) raisin bread.

3. Pest-control products

Household pests certainly are nuisances. Gophers dig up the yard, snails and slugs destroy gardens, and mice and rats cause damage and contamination wherever they go. But the poisons designed to kill these pests also can kill dogs. Gopher bait liberates phosphide gas into dogs’ intestines, causing intestinal necrosis. A painful death can follow. Snail and slug bait causes tremors and seizures — again, a painful death can occur. Rat and mouse bait either contains products that prevent coagulation — leading to life-threatening hemorrhage — or a product that causes brain swelling and death due to neurological complications. An antidote exists for the hemorrhage-causing products, but they are being phased out in favor of the product that causes brain swelling and for which there is no antidote. All of these pesticides come in forms that are designed to be attractive to pests — and are therefore also attractive to dogs. Don’t keep them in your house or garage.

4. Antifreeze

Speaking of your garage, be aware that the antifreeze that might be stored there can be deadly toxic to dogs. It can cause fatal kidney failure. The main ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, tastes sweet and is attractive to dogs. All major antifreeze manufacturers have recently agreed to add bittering agents to their products to reduce canine and human exposures. However, older products might still be lurking and pose a significant risk. If you own a dog, don’t store antifreeze and don’t let your car’s radiator leak.

5. Sago palms

Sago palms are beautiful ornamental plants that also are phenomenally toxic when consumed by dogs. Dogs that consume them might suffer liver failure, leading to vomiting, jaundice, loss of appetite, diarrhea, uncontrollable hemorrhage, and death. No house with dogs should contain sago palms.

6. Chocolate

The final item that should never be present in dog-owning households is chocolate. Oh, who am I kidding? Dog-owning households will never be free of chocolate, and fortunately chocolate isn’t so dangerous that they need to be chocolate-free. Remember, however, that chocolate is almost as attractive to dogs as it is to people. It also is toxic to dogs, so keep it out of their reach.

In addition to this list, there are several other items that, although dangerous to dogs, aren’t such a huge risk that you need to rid your house of them.

Here’s five things to keep a sharp eye on:

1. Dishwashing detergent

Most people don’t realize that dishwasher detergent (and many other detergents and fabric softeners) is much more dangerous for dogs than regular soap. The individually wrapped packets seem to draw more canine attention than big boxes of powder, but it all has the potential to cause harm. Dishwasher detergent can cause serious damage to the mucus membranes of the mouth and intestines. Keep it locked up.

2. Foxtails

Although foxtails pose a risk wherever they grow, remember that many dogs are exposed in their own yards. I recommend that all dog owners regularly check their yards for these weeds. Remove all that are found.

3. Medication for humans

Myriad human medications are potentially dangerous to dogs. Both prescription and over-the-counter varieties pose a risk. Human medications always should be stored in an area that is inaccessible to dogs.

4. Garbage

If you have a big cookout, don’t forget that the garbage produced could pose a significant and nearly irresistible hazard to your dog. Rib bones, corn cobs, steak fat, and more can be found in cookout garbage and can wreak havoc on your canine friend.

5. Marijuana

I have to say it: if you have a dog, keep an eye on your stash. Although edible marijuana products are the most attractive to dogs, pets have been known to consume baggies of buds straight up. Marijuana toxicity usually isn’t fatal, but I am sorry to say that there have recently been reports of rare fatalities after consumption of medical-grade products.

Finally, remember that dogs are unsurpassed in their silliness. This means that they will consume just about anything you can imagine — and many things that you can not. This list — and any list of hazardous items for dogs — is therefore by necessity a partial one. As always, diligence can be your pal’s best friend.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 

 

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