Dog to Dog Communication

 Dog to Dog Communication

Dog to Dog Communication

Without a sound, two properly socialized dogs meeting for the first time can size each other up in just a few moments. An exchange of glances can tell each canine if they’re going to be friends or enemies.
How can dogs do this without a sophisticated verbal language? The answer: facial expressions, body language and posturing. Although dogs signal intent by barks and growls, the message is not complete without the telegraphy of body and facial language.

Dog Body Language

Various parts of the dog’s body are involved in this form of communication.

Here is a quick primer in canine body language. Here are what canine facial expressions, head and neck positions, gestures, tail position and torso position means as to how dogs communicate.

Dog Facial Expressions

A combination of facial expressions communicate a dog’s mood and intentions that can be understood by other species, including humans. Here are a few examples of facial communication:

  • Relaxed mood: Soft eyes, lit up, looking – but not staring. Ears forward or flopped, with tips bent over (if anatomically possible). Mouth open, lips slightly back, giving the impression of smiling. Tongue hanging limply from the side of the mouth
  • Anxiety: Eyes glancing sideways or away. Ears to the side of the head or flopped. Teeth clenched, lips firmly retracted. Tongue either not evident or lip licking
  • Intimidating: Eyes staring like searchlights. Ears forward. Teeth bared
  • Fearfulness: Eyes looking forward or away, pupils dilated. Ears pressed back close to the head. Panting/breathing hard through clenched or slightly open mouth. Jaw tense so that sinews show in the cheeks
  • Stress: Yawning plus other signs of anxiety or fearfulness (as above)

    Dog Head-Neck Position

  • Head down (“hang dog”): Submission or depression
  • Head in normal mid-way position: Everything is all right
  • Head/neck turned to side: Deference
  • Head held high/neck craning forward: Interest or, depending on other signs, a challenge
  • Head resting on other dog’s back: Demonstrating dominance

    Dog Torso/Trunk/Upper Limb

  • Tensing of muscles and the raising of hackles: Threat/imminent fight

    Dog Gestures

  • Play bow – head low, rump elevated: The universal sign of canine happiness and an invitation to play
  • Paws on top of another dog’s back: Dominance
  • Looming over: Dominance
  • Rolling over: Submission/deference
  • Urinating by squatting: Deference
  • Urinating by leg lifting: Dominance/defiance
  • Humping: Dominance
  • Backing: Unsure/fearful

    Dog Tail Position

  • Tail up: Alert, confident, dominant
  • Tail wagging: Dog’s energy level is elevated (excited or agitated)
  • Tail held low or tucked: Fearful, submissive
  • Tail held horizontal and wagging slowly: Caution
  • Tail held relaxed and stationary: Contented dog

The Conclusion on How Dogs Communicate with Other Dogs

There is no one sign that gives away a dog’s feelings but if you consider all the body language signs, you can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the dog’s head. A dog that is staring at another dog, his ears pricked and his tail stiff, is probably conveying dominance, or at least a wish for it.

A dog that averts his gaze from another dog and hunkers down nervously as if waiting for an explosion is likely fearful and is trying to defuse the situation by acting submissive.

Sometimes body language signs can be ambivalent, however. For example, it is not uncommon to observe a dog growling at another dog while occasionally glancing to the side, backing up, and with his tail wagging. Such a dog is invariably fearful. Whenever fear signs are present, fear is in the equation. These dogs are unpredictable with other dogs and will alter their body language and behavior according to circumstances. If the opposing dog retires, they may jump around and “look happy.” If the opposing dog approaches too close the fearful one may snap or bite. Owners, if present, can help defuse their dog’s ambivalence and uncertainty by taking a strong leadership role. It’s amazing how rapidly a fearful dog’s disposition will change when an authoritative owner steps in and controls the moment. Dogs need strong leaders.

Another aspect of communication is odor. Because dogs have such an amazing sense of smell, it is likely that they learn a lot about other dogs from their smell. That’s what all the sniffing is about. It is difficult to imagine what sort of information passes between dogs via this medium. We do know that intact male dogs “smell male” (because of male sex pheromones) and that neutered males do not have this characteristic musk. By neutering males, we alter the olfactory signals they emit and thus other dog’s perception of them. It may even be that the “non-male smell” equates with a diestrus (in-between heat periods) or a neutered bitch smell.

When an intact male dog meets a neutered one, the response may not be confrontational because the other dog doesn’t perceive a rival. He may believe the neutered dog is female.

Non-verbal communications signaling “let’s play,” “leave me alone,” “who do you think you’re talking to,” “I’m not going to cause you a problem, I promise,” are going on all the time between dogs but many dog owners don’t realize it. It’s amazing what can be conveyed with the odd glance or posture. Some dogs are masters at such subtle language.

The worst canine communicators are those dogs that have been raised without the company of other dogs during a critical inter-dog socialization phase of their lives (3 to 6 weeks). Hand raised orphans provide an extreme example of what may be lacking. Many of these dogs are socially inappropriate having not learned canine communication and social etiquette. They may attack and continue to attack another dog when the psychological war is already won. They may not know how to signal defeat when they are being attacked themselves. And that’s just the (extreme) tip of their communication failures.

Most dogs are not this “dyslexic” and can communicate what they need – as with humans – but the good communicators usually have the edge. Fully functional body language is a beautiful thing that can help resolve uncertainties at a glance. Humans communicate in body language too. We’re just not so good at it and some of us are positively stiff. If dogs could talk they’d probably categorize us as “dumb animals.”

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.
310 919 9372

Dog Communication With Humans

How Dogs Communicate with Humans

“He wants to go out.”
“He wants you to play with him.”
“He wants you to pet him.”
“He doesn’t like you doing that.”

Dog owners spend a lot of time interpreting and acting on their dog’s vocal and body language signals. It is an ongoing and interactive non-verbal discourse between members of two completely different species. Let’s look into how this happens a little more closely.

Canine Vocal Communication

Dogs are not big on vocal communication, but they do produce various types and intensities of sounds, ranging from whimpering and muttering to growling and barking, and, through this means, achieve some crude communication with other dogs and humans. Dogs may be better at communicating with humans in this way than with other dogs.

For example:

  • Dog barks furiously (high energy bark – excitement over seeing a squirrel on TV)
  • We try opening the door (maybe he wants to go out?)
  • Dog thinks we’re strange – but registers what has transpired
  • Dog wants to go out – tries a few things that don’t work and then remembers the effect of barking. Tries it out and it works
  • Stimulus-response association is strengthened and high energy barking becomes the signal for going outThe corollary to this communication struggle is human/dog vocal communication. Dogs are by no means linguists: For them, English is a second language. But they do recognize a number of human sounds and are particularly attuned to hard consonants; sounds like “cuh” and “teh” (the word CAT is particularly easy for a dog to appreciate). The late, great Barbara Woodhouse knew this all too well and she favored (and popularized) one-word commands like siT, ouT, waiT, and stoppiT. Dogs can learn literally hundreds of human sounds, but they are no good at stringing them together. You can teach a dog to sit when you say SIT and you can teach him the word DINNER, but when you tell him “SIT IN YOUR DINNER” he will be at a loss as to what to do. That’s where body language comes in to fill the communication gap.

Dog Body Language Communication

Here the talents are reversed. Dogs are experts at sending and receiving body language signals and, in contrast, we are dumb clucks. The signs dogs use to communicate with each other are fairly well known and include certain facial expressions, body postures and movements (see Dog to Dog Communication.)

Of course, dogs try using these expressions to communicate with humans, assuming that we speak the same language. Some people understand what they see – and some don’t. Although most humans understand extremes, such as the threatening expressions and postures of attack, the subtleties of canine “signing” are often overlooked or misconstrued.

Some people, rightly or wrongly, apply their own interpretation of dogs’ body language. For example, the submissive grin of a self-effacing terrier may be interpreted by owners as a smile. The owners laugh and reward the behavior, which is thus conditioned and will later occur on cue; “Have you seen Bonzo smile?” an owner might ask her friend. On hearing the word SMILE, Bonzo then approaches, head and neck bowed and body wiggling, as he displays a super-reinforced submissive grin that looks for all the world like a human smile. Because everyone is happy about this novel event, the smile even appears to occur in context.

We humans aren’t well versed in body language but we do have a little of our own. We stare in indignation and defiance. We crane our necks forward and jut out our chins by way of threat and lower our heads in submission and shame. We don’t do much wiggling of our ears, and we don’t have a tail to wag, but we do have hands that point or threaten. Even though dogs may not initially cotton on to the full significance of human hand jive, they do eventually get the message. Skillful trainers learn the importance of conveying a mix of signs, ranging from direct eye contact and forward body movement to hand signals, when giving a command. One deaf Dalmation, Hogan, knows 45 words of American Sign Language so the potential for learning in the signing department is large. Also, it has been recently shown that dogs can follow our gestures to find hidden objects. The fact that dogs display this talent means that dogs have evolved to understand us, their human caregivers, more than was previously believed possible.

The Mechanics of Dog Communication

Dog Sounds

  • The whimper – anxiety (I’m miserable)
  • The whine – frustration (can be inadvertently reinforced as an attention-getting behavior)
  • The growl – back off
  • The howl – I can’t find you (long distance communication, loneliness, misery)
  • The bark – different types of bark mean different things. There are greeting barks (excitement/happiness), alarm barks, barking for attention and as a threat (frequently reinforced by the person’s response)

    The Dog Look

  • Direct eye contact – looking for attention or serving as a threat (depending on the context)
  • Averted eyes – submission/deference
  • Looking at an object – to direct the owner to the object in question, whether a ball that has rolled under a couch or a door that is creating an impasse

    Dog Head/Neck Posture

  • Up – attention or challenge
  • To the side/turning away – deference/attempts at avoidance
  • Head held low – submission

    Dog Body/Torso

  • Tense muscles – subconscious sign of impending fight or flight
  • Relaxed body, relaxed musculature – easy going attitude
  • Head held low but rear end elevated, tail wagging – I want to play

    Dog Tail

    We can read the dog’s mood from the tail position/movement, but the tail is not really intended to communicate anything to humans. However, when the tail is up it means the dog is actively interested (a confident, attentive gesture). Tail tucked is submission; tail horizontal is neutral mood or indifference; tail movement (wagging) reflects the dog’s energy level/excitement level.

    Dog Movement

  • Movement toward a person is designed to get their attention.
  • Movement away from a person transmits the dog’s uncertainty about that person. The dog’s movement away from the person is a defensive move.

Conclusion on How Dogs Communicate with Humans

However they manage it, and however we manage to interpret it, there can be no doubt that dogs can get their message across to receptive owners and can often direct a person’s behavior to suit their needs. Though deep philosophical discussions are not possible, basic wants and needs can be transmitted, sometimes with remarkable clarity and fluency.

The reverse also appears to be true. If we are sad, our dogs seem to pick up on this, perhaps spending increased time in close proximity to us and changing their demeanor toward us. Sense of smell comes into a dog’s reading of a person, too. Some dogs can tell if a person with diabetes is becoming hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), presumably because they detect the sweet smell of “ketosis” (caused by altered fat metabolism). Other dogs pay inordinate interest to malignant tumors and, because of their interest, direct the owner’s attention toward them. Yet others anticipate seizures in a seizure-prone person before the individual is aware that there is something wrong.

As owners learn more about their dog’s abilities to communicate with them, they build a more harmonious and more fulfilling relationship. The more we can understand about what our dogs are trying to tell us the better dog owners we will become. Some people have lengthy conversations with their dogs. The dog clearly cannot understand much of what is being said, but he may realize that he is getting attention, may recognize occasional sounds, and will probably pick up on the mood of the person talking to him.

Recently, it was reported that reading a telephone directory to a dog using different intonations for otherwise gibberish communication produces responses from the dog that match the tone of the reader’s voice. For example, reading people’s names, addresses, and telephone numbers in a happy tone caused the dog to act happily, head up, standing tall and tail wagging, with the dog seeming to appreciate what was being said. Conversely, if a similar list was read in a morose voice, the dog would act sheepish or depressed, mirroring what he thought to be his owner’s mood. For dogs, voice intonation and actions often speak louder than words.

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.
310 919 9372

Why Do Dogs Smell Other Dogs’ Butts? Understanding Dog Behavior!

 Why Do Dogs Smell Other Dogs' Butts? The Real Answer!

Why Dogs Smell Other Dog Butts

You know the scene: you’re out with your dog when you come across another friendly canine. There’s the initial sniff, and a circle around. Now, another moment and another sniff, right on the rear end. Then it’s time for another loop around and yet another butt sniff. Why do dogs do this?

As a pet owner, the natural thing is to want to pull your dog away from the other dog when they are performing this ritual. After all, it is a little embarrassing when your dog starts smelling the butt of a friend or neighbor’s dog while you are having a conversation.

It seems pretty weird, especially considering how humans communicate, but it’s actually an important part of canine behavior. Here’s why.

Butt sniffing is a very natural, instinctual, and basic form of dog-to-dog communication. Strangely enough, it is how dogs greet and get to know each other. Even dogs that know each other will sniff butts to “see what’s new” and reinforce their bond and communication.

The dog butt sniff is the canine equivalent of “hello, how do you do?” and similar to how humans use a handshake when meeting and being introduced to someone. Dogs communicate with each other using their strong sense of smell and detect signals in the chemicals in smelly oil from the anal glands.

What a Dog Sniff Can Reveal About Another Dog

To understand what a sniff can tell a dog, it is important to understand how dogs are different. There are four main differences in the ways that dogs communicate in comparison with human communication.

  1. The first difference between dogs and humans is a dog’s amazing sense of smell. They are reported to have approximately 40 times more smell-sensing cells in their nasal passages than we do (and some reports suggest an ability as much as 1,000 to 100,000 times greater than that of humans). With such a super ability to smell, dogs rely on this sensory information far more than humans. Some experts believe it consumes over 30% of a dog’s brain function as opposed to about 5% in humans. It’s so strong that a dog entering a room can perceive if another dog previously in the room was happy, stressed, scared, or in heat. Although it is difficult for humans to completely understand exactly how this works, the “sniff” can somehow also tell the dogs if the encounter is likely to be friendly or not friendly.
  2. Dogs have prominent and active anal glands. These apocrine glands, which sit on each side of a dog’s rectum, produce strong-smelling secretions intended to send chemical signals about that dog’s identity to other animals. These signals include information like the sex of the dog, what the dog is eating, and even some clues about a dog’s emotional state.
  3. The third difference of note is the presence of the Jacobson’s organ (also known as the vomeronasal organ). This is a small piece of olfactory nerve tissue filled with extrasensory receptors that perceives odors transmitted through the air. Also present in many animals including cats, snakes, and even elephants, it transmits information to the brain from its position just inside the nose and mouth. You might notice a dog is activating their Jacobson’s organ when they make a funny face called the “Flehman response.” Dogs will often tilt their nose up and curl their lip to optimize their ability to “smell” in this way.
  4. The last big difference is that unlike humans, dogs will reintroduce themselves frequently, sometimes several times in a day or even an hour. Any change or stimulus will often lead to the butt sniff. Some believe the “sniff” can actually relieve tension and stress by helping an individual feel more comfortable about the other dog. Two dogs living in the same house may smell each other when one comes in from the outside or comes back from the vet to confirm information about the dog’s state including diet, stress, availability for mating, and mood.

What You Should Do During Dog to Dog Butt Sniffing

Behaviorists suggest that because the butt sniffing routine is a normal part of dog behavior, it’s best not to interrupt it if the dogs seem friendly. Interrupting this behavior is equivalent to you stopping a friend from shaking hands with someone they are meeting: it can annoy or upset the friend and can make the introduction awkward. In fact, lack of this butt sniffing communication between dogs can create stress between the dogs.

With that being said, some dogs are more aggressive “sniffers” than other dogs and not every dog that meets will actually like each other. If the sniffing gets intense and you notice any other signs of aggression, then it is appropriate to pull your dog away from the other.

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.
310 919 9372

Dog Barking: What is Your Dog Saying?

What is Your Dog Saying with His Dog Barking?

A few years ago, an article in the Smithsonian magazine concluded that dogs may bark for no reason. It’s just something that they do – a function without a purpose, so to speak.

That view is not widely shared. Even dry, dusty studies of wild canine behavior attest to the fact that dog barking serves a function of long-range communication. It is at least as important to dogs as a marine foghorn warning is to mariners. Even the most elementary interpretation of barking is that it is a non-visual communication signaling the dog’s presence and territorial concerns.

On hearing a bark, the receiver of this audible message knows:

  • The presence of another dog out there
  • His approximate direction
  • His approximate distance
  • The sender’s level of the excitement/energy/commitment. The sender of the message knows exactly what he is transmitting but may not know to whom. If the recipient responds by barking back, he confirms:
  • The receipt of the message
  • His presence of another dog out there
  • His location and energy level (by how hard and fast he barks)All of the above is really “old hat” and well accepted. What becomes more controversial, however, is whether the bark is more than just a “here I am” type noise that signals a dog’s location and territorial claim.Most dog owners believe that they can recognize their dog’s different types of barking. The dog may, for example, emit an excited, alerting bark when a friend approaches the home but may sound more aggressive and foreboding when a stranger or a would-be intruder draws close. In addition to the different tones of barking, the same tone of bark can be used in different situations to “mean” different things.If your dog’s ball has rolled under the couch and he wants someone to get it out, he may bark for assistance. A learned communication, like verbal language in people, a bark is used in this context because it works to produce the desired response from you. Once he gains your attention, you recognize immediately what the dog wants by: the barking itself, the dog’s orientation, and the situation. Humans also use a variety of signals to communicate with each other; they speak, orientate, gesticulate, and use facial expressions and other body language.

    But could you understand what your dog wants by listening to it bark on the telephone? Probably not. But you might be able to determine the tone of the bark (friendly or hostile), the volume and intensity of the bark (his state of arousal) and the duration of barking – continuous or intermittent (indicating how intent the dog is).

    Obviously, dog barking is not as sophisticated a method of vocal communication as human language but it works to convey elementary messages. Humans probably grunted their wishes to each other and barked orders a few hundred generations ago. It was a start. Interestingly, human consonant sounds are thought to be “hard-wired” from these humble beginnings just as the dogs bark is “hard-wired.” Human language (in any country) comprises different constellations of consonants strung together in creative ways. Dogs have a long way to go to catch up but some do seem to try very hard with what little hard-wired sound-producing ability they possess by using different intensities, tones, and groupings of barks, growls, and mutters, interspersed with the occasional howl to get their message across.

    Their sophisticated body language compensates to some extent for this limited vocal response. With patience, dogs can “train” their human counterparts to understand what they’re trying to say.

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.
310 919 9372

Hair Apparent — How to Stay Ahead of Dog Shedding

We love our dogs, from the tips of their wet noses to their happily wagging tails. However, when it comes to the problems associated with pet ownership, the issue of shedding hair often tops the lists for most people.

Why Do Animals Shed Their Hair?

For as long as mankind has been living alongside dogs, they’ve spent countless hours removing shed fur from their clothes, homes, and possessions. Dog owners are just as much animals as their pets, and we do our fair share of shedding, too—just check out the drain after you’ve had a shower. But why do animals shed in the first place?

“Animals shed their hair as a natural process to remove damaged and old hair and replenish with new hair,” says Dr. Adam Denish of Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania. “Hair has a multitude of purposes, including sensation of materials, protection of the skin, and regulation of body temperature, among others.”

How Much Shedding is Too Much?

So, shedding is a perfectly normal occurrence, but what’s considered normal? In many cases, this will depend upon the breed.

“Some breeds shed year-round, as in boxers or most short coated dogs, while others, such as Huskies or Akitas, usually shed twice a year. Most people think long coated dogs shed more often, but that is not usually true. Most long coated dogs have shedding seasons when the weather changes,” says Dr. Denish

“When an animal sheds, whether due to nerves, injury, or normal shedding, it is a good thing in most cases. However, for animals that do not groom properly or have certain illnesses, too much or too little shedding can be a result.”

How much shedding is too much? According to Dr. Jennifer Coates of Fort Collins, Colorado, “Owners should be concerned when they observe an increase in shedding accompanied with itchiness, patchy hair loss, skin lesions, or signs of generalized illness. These are signs that your pet needs to see a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.”

“If shedding is abnormal, such as with thyroid disorders, diabetes, or poor nutrition, it can be helped by improving the health of your pet. Shedding should never be stopped, as it is an important process,” says Dr. Denish. “Hair is needed to protect the body in many ways. Too much shedding can be due to many factors, such as skin disease, diet, and gastrointestinal disorders.

How to Control Dog Shedding With Diet

Whether your dog leaves a light coating of fur in its wake or clumps the size of small mammals, here are some things you can do to stem that hairy tide.

According to Dr. Coates, a well-balanced and healthy diet can go a long way to keeping shedding at an acceptable level.

“A mediocre diet will not supply all the nutrients a pet needs to grow and maintain a healthy coat. Adequate amounts of high quality protein and fat, particularly essential fatty acids, are needed to reduce shedding,” says Dr. Coates.

And when it comes to your choice in food, it’s best not to skimp, says Dr. Denish.

“The quality of food that your pet eats greatly influences the degree of shedding and the quality of the coat. Animals that have dry skin, dandruff, or skin diseases will tend to have more shedding problems as well,” says Dr. Denish. “Dermatologists have found that many skin diseases are caused by food allergy. Of course, there is a genetic and breed component to an animal’s shedding.”

The ‘Non-Shedding’ Pet Myth – What is a Hypoallergenic Pet?

In recent years, certain types of dog breeds have been touted as “hypoallergenic,” but this is a misnomer. Allergen researchers have concluded that there are too many factors in play to prove that there is indeed a truly hypoallergenic dog. While some allergic people might tolerate some breeds better than others, allergens are present in dander and saliva, and all dogs shed to some degree—so there really is no guarantee that a dog won’t aggravate your allergies, much less not shed at all.

How to Control Shedding with Grooming

Advice from vets is all fine and good, but if you really want to get the skinny on shedding, you need to talk to someone who’s spent time in the trenches where the fur is always flying: a dog groomer.

Mari Rozanski, of Plush Pups Boutique and Grooming in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, has been primping pooches for more than 25 years. Proper grooming, like so many other aspects of dog ownership, begins at home. In short, you’ve got to brush them. But how often?

“In a perfect world, I would say brush your dog on a daily basis. It’s good for their coat and skin, and it can serve as quality time with your dog,” says Rozanski. “More realistically, brushing your dog at least once or twice a week should help keep shedding to a minimum.”

The Best Grooming Tools for Controlling Shedding

While a multitude of home grooming tools are available for your pet, you certainly don’t need to spend a fortune to keep your dog well managed. A few basic (and inexpensive) items are all that you’ll require to keep your dog looking fine.

“I personally prefer a slicker brush and a metal comb,” says Rozanski. “There is wide assortment of tools available, but some instruction on choosing the right one is necessary. Usually a groomer or breeder can help with this. A hand-mitt, although I have never tried one, is good for a very short haired dog such as a Doberman or a Dalmatian.”

When to See a Professional Groomer

When it comes to grooming, sometimes it’s best to just leave it to the pros.

“Professional grooming every 4-6 weeks is a good way to keep shedding at a minimum and to avoid a mess at home; groomers have all the proper tools and specialty shampoos for shedding dogs,” says Rozanski.

“Bathing at home can be fun, but if the dog is not rinsed or dried properly, or if the wrong shampoo is used, a skin condition can occur. Also, the PH balance/level for a dog is different than a person, so only dog shampoos should be used,” added Rozanski.

Keeping Your Home Clean of Pet Hair

When it comes to keeping your home clean, there are many things you can do to either pick up cast-off dog hair or keep it from becoming a problem. According to Rozanski, it’s always a good idea to keep furniture and other desired areas covered with a throw or sheet, but vacuuming is your best weapon in the fight against dog hair. While a conventional vacuum can be used, there are special devices and attachments that can make the job easier. Rozanski recommends the FURminatorline of products. FURminator manufactures a wide array of brushes, shedding tools, combs, shampoos, and conditioners that are available in most pet supply stores as well as online.

When it comes to quick pickups of dog hair from clothes and furniture, Rozanski is partial to hand rollers from companies such as 3M. If you have wood flooring in your home, a Swiffer or similar type of broom might do just as well as a vacuum, but you will still need one to get in the nooks and crannies of your furniture. Again, none of these actions will completely eliminate shed hair from your home, but they will help you go to great lengths to combat it.

Using Air Filters to Control Pet Hair in the Home

Pet hair and dander in the air can exacerbate allergies, asthma and other conditions, and often the conventional filtering that comes with heating and air conditioning systems won’t be enough to create an easy breathing environment. There are many standalone air filters you can purchase, but Rozanski says she has had particular success with Aprilaire products.

Obviously, frequent filter changes are a must, and for heavily shedding dogs, you might want to change filters more often than the company recommends.

Final Thought on Dog Shedding

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to stay ahead of shedding is by using tips from multiple experts.

“My suggestion for most owners is to learn about your dog and the breed before making a decision on purchasing or adopting the pet. You need to understand the requirements for that pet in terms of veterinary care, nutrition, and maintenance,” says Dr. Denish.

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.
310 919 9372

How to Train a Deaf Dog; How to “Talk” to a Deaf Dog


The very idea of living with and training a deaf dog can feel overwhelming. Here are some practical tips to help get you started.

I’m a bit obsessed with deaf dogs. It started four years ago when we agreed to foster a deaf, ten-week old puppy for the weekend. Fast forward a few years and that puppy, now named Edison, weighs ninety-two pounds and is still sleeping in our bed. Actually, he sleeps anywhere he chooses.

Since that weekend, we have adopted a second deaf dog and have learned many things from our experiences. Whether the subject is communication, training, or safety, there is one guiding principle: living with a deaf dog is different, not harder.

If you’ve discovered that your recently adopted dog can’t hear, this lowdown on living with a deaf dog is for you.

Communicating With Deaf Dogs

It’s important to remember that while we depend on our voice, dogs use their bodies to communicate. Once we flip a switch in our brain and begin to talk with our bodies—you know, like a dog—communication becomes simple.

Training Deaf Dogs

When training a deaf dog, having a plan and using positive reinforcement techniques are key. The first step is to make a list of the commands that are most important to you; however, basic obedience and “watch me” should definitely be on your list.

The next step is to pick your hand signs. You can use a formal signed language, such as American Sign Language, obedience commands, or you can make up your own. Choose signs that are easy for you to remember but keep in mind that one-handed signs are the most practical, especially when holding a leash.

How to Avoid Startling Deaf Dogs

Because some deaf dogs may startle when touched from behind or while sleeping, it is important to condition your dog to being touched unexpectedly. Start by gently waking him up while he’s sleeping. Lightly touch him on his shoulder and immediately offer a treat when he wakes up. Your deaf dog will quickly learn that being touched unexpectedly isn’t something to fear.

Outdoor Safety for Deaf Dogs

It may not be sexy, but deaf dog safety is critically important. A loose deaf dog on the run is a disaster waiting to happen, but being proactive and alert can go a long way toward preventing a tragedy.

First, never let your deaf dog off leash in an unfenced area. You should also regularly check the fencing around your home to make sure that there are no escape hatches. And it’s also a good idea to keep your front and back doors closed and locked at all times—I learned this the hard way!

Since dogs can pull out of their collars, use a harness when walking your dog. When out in public, be aware of changes in your environment so you can let your deaf dog know that a car is coming or when another dog is running up to say hi!

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.
310 919 9372

Puppy Socialization: Creating a Social “Friendly” Dog


The one thing that every new puppy owner dreams of is having their pup grow up to become an adoring, confident, people-friendly dog; just like the good old-fashioned all-American Golden Retriever that dotes on its human family members, loves all visitors, and is long-suffering to a fault (even when besieged by young children). So how does one wind up with a super mellow dog like this, one’s own personal Lassie?

Not by luck, that’s for sure, especially these days. Good judgment, a proper understanding of the issues, and proper management are all involved. Judgment is involved in selecting the right genetic stuff. While there are stable individuals in all breeds, some breeds do appear to have higher proportions of skittish, overly anxious, anti-social individuals than others.

The Center for Disease Control’s dog bite demographics provides some indication of problem breeds, especially when weighted to account for breed prevalence. Even more important than breed tendency is the individual’s genetic propensity for anti-social behavior as determined by the behavior of other dogs in the family line. When selecting a new puppy, it is important to obtain an honest account of the behavior of the dog’s parents and grandparents before making a final commitment.

Assuming all is well with the pup’s genetic stock, and that the playing field of life is even, it is now the responsibility of the breeder and the new puppy owner to make sure that the early environment is optimal for development of full confidence and sociability (this plus a modicum of respect).

If the first 8 weeks at the breeder’s kennel is not optimal, irreparable damage will likely be done to the pup’s psyche, leading to all kinds of problems down the road. The extent of the problems depends on the extent of the shoddy treatment. However, a perfect pup handed over to a new owner at 8 weeks of age can have its good start wrecked by improper training and management from that time forth.

At the Breeders
The optimal way for a young pup to be raised is within a family unit, in the kitchen or living room so that it spends its time with the family members and exposed to the comings and goings of a normal home. This way, during the first half of the sensitive period of the pup’s development, it will be a) with its mother and littermates, and b) continuously exposed to the benign presence of its human caregivers and their guests. Passive and active learning experiences will anneal a trust of mankind onto the pup’s bosom. To emphasize the point further, let us consider some less optimal and even adverse circumstances in which pups may be raised. They are:

a) To be raised in a wire run outside the house
b) In the basement
c) An isolated room in the house
d) In the garage

Things get even worse if the pup is plucked from a suboptimal situation such as this and deposited in a halfway, house kennel-type situation prior to adoption. The worst possible arrangement in terms of sociability, and therefore friendliness, for the pup is to be raised in a puppy mill and then shipped to a pet store. Puppy mills are the hatcheries for all sorts of anti-social behavior in dogs and, no doubt, contribute in a major way to the current epidemic of dog bites that is now occurring in the United States.
In the New Home
If a pup is acquired at 8 to 9 weeks of age, it is still only half way through the sensitive period of development and will still require nurturing, coddling, and socialization, even assuming that it got the right start at the breeders. Of course, if the start it got at the breeders was less than optimal it is even more important to treat the pup properly during the first few weeks at home and the means of repairing some of the damage that has been done. Socially acceptable behavior, a.k.a. friendliness towards strangers, is no accident. It must be worked for if it is to be achieved. The Smith Barney advertisement says, “We make money the old-fashioned way, we earn it.” Similarly, for dogs to acquire a trust of strangers, they must learn it.

One of the first dogmas of medicine should be the first motto of raising a new puppy.First, do no harm. This adage could be modified slightly to be: First, allow no harm to come to your puppy. This means protecting it against the unwelcome advances of bawdy people and unruly children so that it does not form a lifelong impression that certain people are bad news and are to be avoided or driven away (that comes later). Assuming this one premise can be upheld, the next, which is really the corollary, is that pleasurable, or at least neutral, exposure to an assortment of guests should be arranged so that the pup can learn to like people. It is not enough to protect the pup against unwelcome advances by shielding it from exposure to people; there have to be some positive learning experiences, too.

Pups should learn that strangers are benevolent and often come bearing gifts. One way to achieve this end is to arrange “puppy parties” in which you invite a few kindly dog-friendly persons to visit for a pass-the-puppy session, involving their gentle handling of the pup coupled with petting. Sessions like this should be conducted once or twice a week during the critical first 4 to 6 weeks of puppy ownership. They are the responsibility of any new puppy owner who wishes to end up with the dog of their dreams.

The challenge to the pup can be increased incrementally over the ensuing weeks to include an eclectic bunch of strangers: short people, tall people, people with high voices, people with deep voices, clean- shaven people, people of color, Caucasians, people with hats, and people with beards. The common factor is that all the people speak kindly to the puppy, handle the puppy gently, pet it, and offer food treats. By the time the pup is 14 to 16 weeks of age, exposure to strangers will have become an accepted part of its life. The pup will have learned that strangers are not to be feared and that exposure to them is likely to be rewarding. Trust so garnered can be reinforced as the pup gets older by implementing a slightly less rigorous, yet systematic, exposure of it to strangers under a myriad of different circumstances.
The same technique works to alleviate potential mistrust of other dogs though any dog engaged in such socialization with your pup must be healthy, vaccinated, and well behaved, or the mission can backfire. What many owners and some trainers fail to appreciate about desensitizing a pup to strangers or other dogs is that involves a systematic approach, not a precipitous one. Anyone who hears advice like, “If your dog’s nervous around children, bring him to a Little League game,” or “If your dog doesn’t like people, take him to the shopping mall and he’ll meet thousands in one afternoon,” must know, right off the bat, that this approach is incorrect. It is not desensitization, but what usually turns out to be a failed attempt at “flooding” (and often does more damage than it does good). Follow the yellow brick road outlined above and you should have no problems.

As with everything else in animal behavior, its not nature or nurture, it’s both. That’s why it was so important to point out the necessary of obtaining the right individual (genetically speaking) as the substrate for your dreams and aspirations. It is also important to choose the right type of breeder and to socialize your pup intensively in the first few weeks after adoption.

With real estate it’s “location, location, and location.” Well, with puppies, it’ssocialization, socialization, and socialization. If you, the owner, are able to bring all these components together then you will have that all-American, old-fashioned Golden Retriever of a dog when your pup grows up. You will have that Lassie or that Rin Tin Tin, and you will be able to have guests come over to your house without having to put your dog in another room or putting it on lead. All this can be achieved. You can even improve a dog that has not had the most ideal early life experiences by employing the spirit of socialization alluded to above, even into the juvenile period. And, if the worst comes to worse, even a cantankerous anti-social older dog can be turned around, to some extent, if the right approach is used.

You can teach an old dog new tricks – it just takes longer. But the “unlearning” of fears is never complete so it makes better sense to start out right at the beginning with the easily malleable material that is your new pup and to shape it, as if out of clay, into the confident individual that you hope it will become.

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.
310 919 9372

Understanding Dog Behavior: Dealing with Attention-Seeking Behaviors in Dogs

Dealing with Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Dogs are smart; It doesn’t take long for them to figure out how to push their owners’ buttons with attention seeking behaviors. I’ll admit my youngest dog Bones, an English Shepherd, has experimented with some attention-seeking behaviors. For a while he even got away with it. His methods were so subtle I don’t even know for sure when these behavior began. Once I caught on, however, I had a good laugh. Every once in a while it’s good for a dog trainer to realize her dog is smarter than she is.

What Are Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors?
These behaviors are appropriately named. When you aren’t paying attention to your dog and he does something to make you notice him, he may just remember that action and repeat it later.

One of the most common attention-seeking behaviors I hear about from dog owners concerns the phone. The dog might be relaxed and quiet normally but when the owner talks on the phone (or when the phone rings) the dog becomes active. He may run up and down the hallway, bark loudly and incessantly, or jump on the owner. This behavior often causes problems with dog owners who work from home.

Other common attention-seeking behaviors include inappropriate barking and whining, jumping on people (other than a friendly greeting), pawing, and playing “keep away” with inappropriate items. Nose bumping (hitting people hard with the nose, often in the back of the leg) is also common, as is shoving toys at you.

Once I caught on to what Bones was doing, I realized that the behavior he exhibited most frequently was staring at me. He has one blue eye that is quite striking so his stare is an effective attention-gaining technique. If I was reading and he sat in front of me and stared, I would stop reading and talk to him. If he was lucky I’d follow through and interact further with him. Bones’ stare worked in his favor.

Are Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors a Problem?
Attention-seeking behaviors don’t have to be a problem. If I had been reading for a while and missed supper time but Bones was hungry, his need for attention wouldn’t be a problem. Or would it?

The first time this behavior happened I could put down my book to feed Bones and my other 2 dogs. But what would happen if Bones decided to remind me about meals every day? What if he began demanding meals 15 minutes earlier than normal, then an hour earlier? That could quickly become annoying.

Whether or not the behavior is a problem depends on the behavior, why it’s occurring, how you respond to it, and whether or not it turns into a habit. I like it when my dogs communicate with me and I like it when they think and solve problems. That said, I also don’t want my dogs to manipulate me. There’s a happy balance somewhere in the middle.

Reducing Canine Attention-Seeking Behavior
Sometimes your dog will try to get your attention for a reason; maybe he’s hungry, he wants to play, or there is something going on nearby. Many times, however, the dog is bored. You’ve been busy or maybe he didn’t get enough physical or mental exercise. Here are some ways to use up some of that physical and mental energy and potentially alleviate some of those attention-seeking behaviors:

Exercise: A long walk, a brisk jog, a swim, retrieving games, or a hike in the hills are all great for exercising the body and clearing cobwebs from the mind. There is no firm rule as to how much exercise each dog needs but a good general rule is that at least once a day a healthy dog should work hard enough that he needs to stop, pant, and relax. If your dog has health challenges or you have questions, talk to your veterinarian.

Obedience training: Try teaching the basic obedience skills, including sit, down, stay, and come. If your dog has already had some basic obedience training, do a training tune-up.

Trick Training: This is work–just as obedience training is–but it’s great fun that uses mental energy. Teach your dog to spin, weave between your legs, play peek-a-boo, or take a bow. If none of these strike your interest, why not teach him some new tricks of your own?

Play Games: Playing with your dog alleviates boredom but it’s also great for your relationship – you laugh and you both have a good time. The muffin tin game is inexpensive to set up and great fun. Push-ups use your training skills but also require energy from your dog. Commercial brain games are more expensive than the muffin tin game supplies, but are more challenging for your dog and more fun. No matter what games you play, they are great for relieving mental boredom.

The other key to reducing attention-seeking behavior is to let your dog work only when you want him to work. Be aware of what your dog is doing and respond in his favor only when you are willing to do what he asks. If it’s dinner time and Bones has just reminded me, I may be willing to get up and fix the dogs’ dinner. However, if he’s asking to be fed ahead of schedule I may ask him to do twenty push-ups instead, then ask him to lie down and stay for a few minutes. I won’t yell or scold, but with a happy voice I will ask him to do something for me rather than the other way around.
Watch for New Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors
Dogs who are bright enough to develop attention-seeking behaviors in the first place may catch on to the fact that you’re making some changes. They may then try to create a few new attention-seeking behaviors that get better results.

For example, if Bones decided his stare was no longer working, he might begin nosing me in the leg, pawing at my arm, or whining. If I reacted because whining was a new behavior he might decide to whine each time he wants something. That would be even more annoying than the staring!

However, if you are aware that this might happen, you can be prepared. You can ignore or respond to any new behaviors in the way that’s best for you, rather than the manner in which your dog prefers.


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.
310 919 9372