Dog Aggression- Finding Help

Aggression: Find Someone to Help

If your dog is showing aggression, a well-planned program of obedience training and behavior modification can help you manage, control and save your relationship with your dog.

It’s important to take action when assertive behaviors appear. Look for defensive, fearful or reactive responses. A dog may stare, growl or show teeth. A stiff body posture, raised hackles and a raised, slow tail sweep are warning signs, too. Dogs may be protective of food or objects, snap or growl when pushed or handled or chase fast-moving objects.

Find a qualified trainer or behaviorist if your dog is showing any of these signs. Ask the following questions before making your decision:

• How much experience do you have dealing with aggression?
• What techniques do you use?
• Have you written or lectured on the subject?
• Do you have client or veterinary references*?

There are many ways to handle aggression. A skilled and reputable trainer should acknowledge this and never promise a sure-fire “cure” for your dog’s condition. There are no guaranteed, permanent fixes but many dogs can be safely managed and controlled.

Avoid trainers who use dominance to control aggression. While a highly skilled handler may be able to restrain an aggressive dog, few dog owners can do so safely. A frightening additional warning: if a child attempts to mimic these dominance-based techniques, he or she could be severely injured.

* Some forms of aggression respond well to medication. Find a trainer willing or experienced to work with your veterinarian.

A skilled trainer will identify the type of aggression your dog is showing, work with you to identify the triggers and design a multi-faceted plan to manage and rehabilitate your dog.

Usually, canine aggression can be managed but it cannot always be “cured.” Ultimately, you are responsible for the safety of your dog and the people he comes in contact with.

Dog Training 101: Leadership

The Basics of Leadership

When I was in grade school, gym class was a torment. Led by a muscular, energetic man with very little knowledge of what it’s like to be a twelve-year old girl, Mr. Dix (seriously, that was his name) would pick the two best athletes in the class and then let these girls pick their own teams…and woe to the slow, the clumsy and the uncool. As the pool of candidates shrank and the choices got more difficult, Mr. Dix would blow his whistle impatiently and shout “Just pick one!” Thirty years later, I’m still a little mad at Mr. Dix. He was a bad, bad leader.

A good leader or team captain is empathetic, supportive and patient, bringing out the best in everyone. As your dog’s team captain, always be the kind of leader you would want to follow. Don’t be a Mr. Dix.

Use the 5:1 Ratio

Consider your dog’s perspective and be patient as you train her. She doesn’t understand the difference between a stick and a chair leg—wood is wood in her mind. She may think it’s her job to protect you from intruders, even if the “intruder” is your 85-year old great aunt. Try to think like your dog and use training exercises to guide her towards a better way of reacting.

A good team leader encourages more than discourages. Aim for a 5:1 ratio – say GOOD DOG five times for each NO you say. By focusing on good behavior, you make your dog feel good about herself, and she will cooperate more. Use food and toys to motivate your dog early on, but never let these rewards take the place of verbal and physical praise.

Tip: It is important to say your commands once, clearly and firmly. Repeating a direction like “Come” or “Sit” is confusing and delays understanding.

Play Training With Your Dog

Sharing your life with a dog should be fun. Training doesn’t have to be laborious or overbearing-there are many lessons that can be folded into play time. Here are a few of my favorites pastimes.

I’ve Got the Better One At least twice a day give your dog 5-15 minutes of interactive playtime. Select your dog’s favorite toy and buy multiples. In our house we use tennis balls for my lab and a stuffed squeak toy for our German Shepherd Dog. Toss one toy and praise your dog for chasing it down. Then play with the other toy as if you have the best one. When your dog comes wanting yours, insist on the four-paw rule, then toss the toy. Get the other toy, and do it again, and again, and again until your dog’s tuckered out. Each time your dog comes back to you for your toy, shout “Come*” just before you toss it.
Play this game with empty plastic bottles; kicking the one the dog is not focused on. When he focuses on your bottle, make him “Wait” and praising him for standing still.

Treat Cup Name Game Take some dog treats and break them up in a small Tupperware container. Shake the container and reward your dog until there’s a connection to the sound. Use the treat cup to play hide and seek, calling out your dog’s name. Say “Come*” as you reward and pet them.
Stand apart from other family members and send your dog back and forth using her name as well as the human names too: “Go to Lindsay!” “Go to Daddy.” If your dog is confused let them drag a light leash to guide them. Soon your dog will be able to identify everyone.

What’s in the Grass Go about your yard or open space, using a long line to give your dog freedom if unconfined, and pretend to find things in the grass. Pounce or dig or just pick up sticks: by not watching your dog you will peak his curiosity. When he approaches you say “Come*” and reward him.
* When you first teach the “Come*” command use it to highlight your togetherness—not separation and frustration.

Life is so serious. Let your dog training be fun!

Training Your Dog to Give You His Paw

Some dogs are naturally paw expressive: some need a little urging. Sometimes the real trick is teaching them to keep their paws to themselves! Regardless this is a fun trick that’s easy to learn.

* Get a hand full of your dog’s favorite treats or a toy. Put your dog on a light leash or hand lead for easy guidance.

* Kneel down in front of your dog. Encourage him to sit and reward him!

* Now you have two choices:
1) Fold the treat or toy in the palm of your left hand and bring it to his nose.
Press gently on his left shoulder muscle with your right thumb.
The moment his leg flexes, cup his paw in your right hand, say “Paw” and reward him.
Do this three times, then switch sides to determine if he’s a lefty or a righty!

2) Hide the treat or toy in your right hand and hold your hand down on the floor in front of him. If he paws at you say “Paw” and reward him immediately.
Gradually bring your hand up and turn it over so your fingers are facing up.

After you’ve got the hang of it, you can start being really creative: added High Five or Wave to your bag of tricks.

For this and other fun tricks read Sarah’s “Dog Tricks and Agility for Dummies.”

The Chemical Behind the Warm and Fuzzy

As anyone who has ever loved a dog or cat can tell you, touching a pet relaxes the spirit in ways few other things can. Whoopsie, our ever-patient Labrador Retriever, roams around our house offering medical-grade stress relief with nothing more than her velvety ears and big, lap-sized head. If I could patent her, I’d be a millionaire many times over.

In my therapeutic out-reach program, I watch as formerly withdrawn or isolated individuals open up, petting and reminiscing about the dogs they’ve known and loved. Owning or simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure, fight depression, improve immune function, combat loneliness and reduce stress. Wow!

So how do dogs work this magic? Part of it is the patient, loving non-judgmental thing that dogs do so well. But there’s a bio-chemical component to you dog’s healthy Mojo. It turns out that when we participate in enjoyable activities, our serotonin and dopamine levels climb. And when that happens, we experience a calming, pleasurable effect.  It also seems that warm-blooded animals manufacture a special hormone called oxytocin, which is associated with loving and trusting.

So the next time you’re feeling stressed, lonely or sad, look for the nearest dog, cat or bunny. Rub two ears and call me in the morning!



Training your Dog Where to Dig

Most dogs enjoy digging—some more than others! Young dogs love the sensation-like kids and mud. Others dig for fun, to cool off, or relieve boredom and stress. To shape and redirect this behavior remember:

* Never garden in front of a young puppy or an earth-loving dog. Think: Monkey See- Monkey Do. If she sees you put it in, don’t be too surprised if she digs it out!

* If possible, assign a special- digging place, under a porch or in a pile of leaves at a local park. Dig with your dog hiding treats and bones where she can find and unearth them.

* If it’s hot out make sure your dog’s either inside or able to find shade. Leave plenty of water outside for easy access!

* To discourage digging, play and exercise with your dog. If possible keep her with you when you’re near by or isolated indoors for short periods. If you have to leave your dog outside, isolate her away from the properties edge, leave plenty of water available and a cool area (such as a garage) accessible.

* If your dog still insists on digging, place her own stool in the holes as well as some red pepper dust before covering the holes up.

* When you can supervise your dog outside, leave a long light line dragging for quick interference. If she begins to dig, calmly pick up the line and redirect her to a digging place or another playful activity.

For more helpful tips on dog training and problem solving read Dog Perfect, by Sarah Hodgson.

Beat the Heat!

As summer approaches temperatures spike and the dilemma of regulating body heat becomes a canine’s chief concern. With few pours on their body to release perspiration metaphorically it could be liken to our wearing a fur coat 24/7. As you’re enjoying the pleasures of this season keep these points in mind to insure that your dog is not only safe-she is comfortable too.

➢ Access to water Place dishes of fresh water about, indoors and out. If you prefer that your dog not drink from toilets, fountains or pools have a large dish along side each of these locations. Should your daily fun include an excursion, take a collapsible bowl and a bottle of clean water with you.
➢ Keys in the car Pack an extra set of keys in the glove compartment of your car. Should you need to leave your dog in the car for any reason, lock it with the ignition running and the air conditioning left on. A car can overheat in minutes.
➢ Slowing metabolism During the hot months your dog’s metabolism will slow down naturally. Do not be alarmed if her food consumption drops or her interest in exercise and play dwindles, especially during the hottest part of the day.
➢ Feel the pavement Your dog’s “bare” paws are the most sensitive part of her body. If walking on pavement, place the palm of your hand down before forcing your dog to follow you. Too hot? Walk in the shade or hose the area down.
➢ Access to shade and pools of water When leaving your dog alone, a cool indoor location is ideal. If forced to spend time out of doors provide access to shade, a shallow pool to lie in and plenty of fresh water to drink.

Left to their own devices a dog will enjoy the pleasures of the extreme: a sunny spot to warm themselves and a cool shaded or wet location to cool themselves down.
One entertaining observation in our own home is how our big black dog Whoopise enjoys shuttling from the warmth of the sun into the cool of our cubbied shower. Self-regulating, she often slurping a large swallow of water on her way!

Keeping Your Dog Safe and Happy in the Summer Heat

As first seen on the Bedford-Katonah Patch

As the temperatures continue to inch upward, my dogs spend most of their time wandering from the deep shade beside the training studio to the enticing cool of the frog pond.

Balder, still young enough to muster some dramatic bursts of energy, expends most of it during our early morning romps. The rest of the day is spent sprawled next to Whoopsie, patiently waiting for the relief of sunset.

I don’t envy dogs during the summer. Trapped in fur coats without the ability to produce a cooling sheen of salty sweat, dogs pant to regulate body temperature. And while I’m not a huge fan of sweating, it certainly beats panting.

Checking the weather for the next few days, it looks like another weekend of sweating, panting and frog pond dipping…temps in the 90s and plenty of scorching sun. Here are a few tips to keep your fur-clad kids safe and comfortable during a summer heatwave.

Water Water Water
Dogs have a rough time keeping their body temperature in check. To help your dog stay comfortable, have water bowls available at all times and if possible fill a small kiddie pool for your dog or puppy to wade in. Hard plastic pools are best; your dog’s nails may pop an inflatable. Look for one with a drainage hole and refill the pool each day— it will double as a giant water dish, so keep it clean!

Air Conditioning
Humans are not the only ones who love air conditioning. For those blessed with central air, you may notice little change in your dog’s energy level or mood…until you take him outside. The heat will hit your dog like a ton of bricks and he’ll hurry through his routines in order to get back to his air conditioned den.

Not very wolf-like, but there you have it. The only downside to this uniquely modern doggy lifestyle is energy management. Indoors, it feels great and your dog wants to go, go, go. Outside, it’s stifling and he wants in, in, in.

Confined, restricted and a little bit bored, your dog may start to misbehave by barking or chewing. Older dogs may revisit puppyhood issues, becoming overstimulated when people come and go. Plan a few adventures to get you and your pampered pooch out of the house. Be sure to pick a place with plenty of shade and maybe a water feature. Take walks in the early morning or evening, after the pavement has cooled. Lay your hand on the surface to check the temperature.

Two keys please
All dogs love a car ride, mine included. I love taking them with me. They always jump in the front seat while I’m gone and they always take up the same seats: Balder drives, Whoopsie rides shotgun. For the past few weeks, however, I’ve had to sneak out of the house, carefully cupping the car keys to avoid the telltale jingle that screams “CAR RIDE!!!!”

Cars heat up shockingly fast. On an 85 degree day, your car can reach 125 degrees within 30 minutes. If you must bring your dog, carry an extra set of keys so that you can leave the air conditioning running while you’re gone. But be aware that this is not an entirely safe solution; dogs have been known to press the AC button while they roam around the interior. With the windows shut tight, the consequences can be disastrous. Leave your dog home whenever possible.

For more summer tips, including tips on pool safety, you can download my newsletter online. Have fun and stay cool—no matter how many paws you walk on!


Holidays are upon us: hide the chocolate!

This week’s coinciding religious celebrations brought certain business to a stand still while racheting up others. Perhaps at no other time in the year were so many chocolate bunnies, coins and eggs, sold and eaten in one three-day period. Whether your ritual hides eggs or matzoh, the general reward for either is a large douse of chocolate in a variety of forms, and while that is celebratory for children (and many adults), it is something that could be potentially deadly to a dog. Before you panic and induce your 100-pound Golden Retriever to vomit up an M& M, read this article to understand how much and what type of chocolate poses a real threat.

First, let me start by saying that holidays, regardless of what is ingested, are stressful times that require a mindful effort to attend to the needs of our dependents. Just because you are rushing to fulfill your holiday checklist does not mean that your dog or child will be any less needy. In fact, our stress pushes them to cling more. Often our distraction results in a host of attention-getting rituals that rarely jive with our timetable. Children are more accident-prone, whinny or delinquent; dogs are more impulsive and pushy. Such is life.

When impulsivity mounts, a dog generally has few other outlets than to steal and scavenge. The first inclination is to mirror your activity, pilfering items held in recent possession. Unlike cats, who will “consider” the source before ingestion, a dog will generally eat first and suffer the consequences. Chocolate, though never savored in a canine’s mouth, is often devoured if it is left out.

Now the question comes down to what is in chocolate that causes a reaction, and how much is dangerous. Is eating a Kit Kat bar, for example, as dangerous as eating a pound of Bakers Chocolate? The short answer is no, but here is why.

Dogs are allergic to the drug “theobromide” found in the cocoa bean used to make chocolate. In concentrated form, even small doses are deadly. The dilution of the cocoa bean used in the formulation of milk chocolate, drink mixes and white chocolate, limits its effect quite considerably.

If your dog ingests chocolate, quickly gage the amount and the type in relation to their size. If it is even near the “toxic” level, induce vomiting. I use hydrogen peroxide to sthis end, although speak to your veterinarian to hear his suggestion and discuss the proper dose for your individual pet.

Symptoms of poisoning include rapid breathing and increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, seizure or coma, and the effects may be draw out as the effects of the drug are protracted.

Of course, prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. Especially if those pounds are weighed in chocolate.

Sarah Hodgson has trained dogs in Westchester for over 20 years and published many books on this subject, including Puppies for Dummies and Dog Perfect.

Stair Training for Dogs and Puppies

Many puppies are thrown off by stairs: they can’t make sense of the depth and angle. Although it’s tempting to sooth and lift your puppy up and down, try not too—your pup will develop learned helplessness! Here’s how to encourage a Can-Do Attitude!

* Ask a helper to stand a the top or bottom of the step. Place your puppy a few stairs from either end.
* Put him down gently and lace your fingers securely about his ribs to support him and alleviate his fear of falling.
* Ask your helper to wave toys or offer treats to excite his determination. If he’s still nervous guide him through the movements with your hands and reward him at each step.
* Gradually increase the number of steps your puppy must conquer until he is rewarded. Leave on a Hand or Finger Lead to support and guide him through the motions until he is confident and proud of himself.

Excerpt “Teach Yourself Visually Dog Training,” Sarah Hodgson

Training Your Dog: The First 24 Hours

The first day your dog is with you is both exciting and a little odd. After all the anticipation and preparations your dog is finally home. Some jump right into the swing of things; others take a more reserved approach. Don’t compare your puppy to others you’ve known and don’t worry if he seems too rambunctious, too cautious or too anything! You’re home will be new to him and he’s trying to figure our what’s going on. Here are some quick tips to get you started:

* Confine a room with gates or a fold out playpen: too much freedom is overwhelming to a new puppy. Decorate this area for your new addition and puppy proof it by removing mouthables and other distractions like wires and dishtowels. Use gates, a crate or a fold out playpen to keep your puppy contained for the first few days. Place a dog bed or mat in one section of the area, and his food and water bowls in another. Have one area papered or a route organized to take your puppy out if he needs to potty. Hang a bell if he must get through a door to eliminate.

* Let your puppy do what he needs to do. If he wants to sleep, let him. If he wants to sniff about you can watch him and clear away distractions that would tempt him. Provide food at mealtimes but don’t be discouraged if he won’t eat at first: there are a lot of changes. Supervise him, but don’t overwhelm him with commands or over-excitable praise. If you think he needs to potty, direct him calmly and praise him when he’s finished.

* You puppy has been used to sleeping with his littermates. The first few nights will be an adjustment. If possible bring your puppy to your bedside in a crate or box. He may whine but he’ll feel safer than if he’s all alone. He may need to get up in the night: take him to his bathroom spot and then back to his enclosure. Don’t play games or give him attention at 3AM unless you like the habit. If the bathroom is out of the question crate him or enclose him in a small area, like a bathroom. Consider placing a snuggle puppy by his side: a similar affect can also be had with a clock and a stuffed toy.

Ahh…the joys of puppyhood.

For more helpful hints on pre-puppy considerations can be found in Sarah’s book: Puppies for Dummies.

Training Your Puppy Not To Nip

Puppies use their mouth a lot like children use their hands and their voice. They nip to interact and play and discover. Puppies need to learn another alternative with humans, but nipping is normal and can be shaped out with patience, consistency and repetition.

* Spread butter on your hand or arm and encourage your puppy to give “kisses.” Encourage friends and family to do the same.

* When your puppy is playful focus on toys and do not try to hold or pet him. Like babies they cuddle best when calm.

* Puppies like babies have five basic needs: to eat, drink, play, sleep and go potty. When a baby is needy they cry; puppies nip when they’re needy—when they’re overtired or need to go to the bathroom. Leave a drag lead on your puppy when supervised and re-direct him, don’t correct them.

* Remember corrections are often seen as confrontational play and make the matter much worse. When a puppy is nipping use butter or toys to re-direct their enthusiasm.

* Use a long line or indoor drag lead on your puppy and direct them away from you using a command like “Away!” Redirect them to an object or consider what else they might need.

Harsh corrections (muzzle squeezing or pinning) only frighten a puppy and make them more confrontational or fearful.

For more helpful hints on raising and caring for puppies refer to Sarah’s book You and Your Puppy, written with James DeBitetto, DVM.

House Training Your Dog

Potty training is hard step for puppies. Their internal regulation is one gigantic step towards independence. Set aside the time to help your pup re-organize their day to include potty trips.*

Follow these quick tips to get started:

* Chose a potty area—indoor or out. Like a bathroom it should be secluded and close by.

* Take your puppy to his area after eating, resting, playing or containment.

* Hang a bell and encourage your dog to signal you when he needs to go to his area. Tap the bell as you’re walking through a door or other otherwise blocked threshold.

* Say a short phrase like “Get Busy” as your puppy eliminates. Say it once in a clear voice as your puppy either pees or poops for two weeks. Soon this cue will prompt your puppy.

* If your puppy gets fidgety, nippy or moves towards and rings his bell take him to his spot immediately.

* Praise lovingly and reward him with calm, reassuring affection.

For more help with Housetraining refer to Sarah’s Puppies for Dummies and her Teaching Lead training video.

* Excerpt from Sarah’s syndicated column on the Bedford-Katonah Patch.

Training Your Puppy what to Chew

Puppies like kids like to investigate anything new. Kids use their hands to pick up, feel and manipulate objects. Puppies use their mouth. It’s a healthy sign of normal development. Even as a pup matures he will often investigate new objects by picking them up. If you shout he’ll consider your envious and want a challenge. Avoid “Prize Envy” and teach your puppy to show you the things he has found.

* Set a place for your puppy in all rooms you share. Decorate this play station with comfortable bedding, and a few chew toys or bones.
* Each time you walk your home with your puppy point out his area and direct him with familiar directions: “Go To Your Bed” and “Get your Chewy.”
* If your puppy won’t sit still and is prone to grabbing your objects and running away, either keep him in his area on or secure your puppy to this play station with a short station lead.
* Make treat cups and place them about your home. Each time your dog grabs an object, shake the cup and encourage him to “Give.” Praise him for the grab and show.
* If your puppy is already conditioned to run from you, put him on a light indoor drag line when supervised and approach him calmly and step on the line before asking him to give.

Remember that puppies cannot distinguish between what belongs to you and what belongs to them. Limit your pups choice to a few select objects, play tag and run away games with their things to encourage interest and stay calm and positive if your puppy grabs something that you’d rather he not. Teach him to show you these treasures, not covet them.

For other helpful tips on raising a puppy refer to Sarah Hodgson’s book “Puppy Perfect.”

Training Your Dog To Love The Car

Going in a car should mean adventure, togetherness and fun! For some dogs however the rides make them sick or uneasy. To help your dog over these “road blocks” to travel here are some things to keep in mind.

Some dogs have issues with motion sickness. The rocking of the car paired with their distressed pacing or other movement further exacerbates this condition, leading to vomiting or excessive drooling. Many dogs resist travel due to the stress of the car ride.

* Decorate a space in your car for you dog. Place bedding, chewies and toys there. If your dog paces, secure a seat belt lead or consider using a crate to keep your dog in one place while you drive.

* Make the car a fun destination for treats, rewards and attention: even when you’re not going anywhere! Stop off and sit in the car while you read your mail, talk on the phone, or eat a snack. Say “Car” and point to it when you go and reward your dog when you arrive.

* Test out different areas of the car to see if one is preferable. On the floor of the front seat, behind you in the drive-side passenger seat or secured in an emptied, well-ventilated cargo space using a rear gate or station lead secured to a dog’s harness.

* Put on some soothing music, leave a favorite chew/toy and drive carefully—avoiding sharp turns and potholes. Try to make short trip to fun destinations!

* If you’re planning a long trip speak to your veterinarian about prescribing something to sooth your dog for the trip.

For more tips on social excursions and car travel safety get Sarah’s book titled: “Miss. Sarah’s Etiquette Guide for Dogs and People.”

Training Your Dog to Stay off the Counters

Counter cruising a normal sign of healthy bonding and development. A dog who scopes out the counter is copying their human parents, like a child who wants to help carve the chicken: monkey see, monkey do. Here are some quick tips to teach your dog not to jump on counters.

* Keep your counters cleared off when you can’t supervise your dog or puppy. If she can get to objects easily when you’re out of sight she’ll learn to wait until you’re not in the room.

* Yelling at your dog after she’s nabbed an object will be perceived as prize envy: whatever she’s got has value as you’re willing to invest your time to get it back. She’ll learn to grab and gobble it or wait until your back is turned or you’re out of sight to cruise.

* Leave your dog on a light drag leash when supervised around counters. Correct her the moment she shows interest in what’s on the counter. It’s best to catch her before she’s had a chance to jump up. Make a sharp startle sound like “Shhht” or “Ep, ep, ep” and tug on the leash.

* Don’t look at your dog or puppy: you’ll frighten her. Remember that what she’s doing is completely normal- a healthy sign that she wants to be like you. Yell at the countertop “Bad Counter” and slap it (all eyes on the counter): it is equivalent to telling a young child the stove is hot.

* Remember that prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. Give your dog something to do while you’re cooking or preparing food, such a bone or toy to play with, and praise him for watching you rather than milling about.

For more tips on this and other problem solving and dog training techniques see Sarah’s book “Teach Yourself Visually Dog Training.”

Training Your Dog To Tolerate Fireworks

Poor dogs…their acute sensory grounding has no reference for the fun and folly of fireworks! For many dogs, the sudden appearance of noise pollution under a dark and sleepy sky could metaphorically be interpreted as the emotional equivalent of Chicken Little: the sky is falling, the sky is falling. . Limited to few communication options don’t be surprised if your dog needs a little reassurance. Left with few options, an emotionally distressed dog will give you all the tell tale signs of utter distress including hiding, panting and pacing—which only escalates your anxiety! What to do?

* Many dogs who rattle when faced with an incomprehensible stimulation, simply need a calm authority figure to mirror: a person or dog who takes it all in stride. Keep your dog near you on a teaching lead or hand lead. Do not look at or soothe your dog: guide him with familiar commands and act as though you’ve experienced it before. No big deal. If you sit down urge him to lay under your legs or the table.

* Use familiar directions to orient your dog and act once again, resist the temptation to soothe or physically comfort your dog, as these responses will only serve to reinforce her fear.

* If you’re not going to be home consider another plan. Containment in these circumstances is crucial, as an anxious dog will work himself into a tizzy. Use a crate or corner off a familiar area and leave on music to soothe and objects to destroy (such a toy filled paper lunch bag). Whatever you come home remember that their experience will have been far more traumatic, than your reaction to it.

Please read Sarah Hodgson’s Understanding Your Dog for Dummies, with Stanley Coren, for more helpful tips for living with and understanding your dog.

Healthy Tips for Keeping your Dog Tick Safe this season

Tick season is particularly bad this season. Here are some tips on keeping your dog tick safe this summer!

Pros and cons of a topical solution… sold through your veterinarian it’s very effective, but extremely toxic…after all, they kill ticks. Aside from not wanting such toxicity near my dogs, I’m an avid dog hugger (like me). My children curl up with the dogs too and as per the instructions on the box you should not touch the neck region for three days. I do not use these products.

Consider an herbal alternative. Start with a spray bottle filled with water, add 40 drops eucalyptus, 10 drops lavender, 5 drops tea tree oil. (Viles of these oils can be bought on line). Spray your pets before going outside. I use this spray on humans too!

Lawn treatments. If you’re blessed to have a yard, chemical sprays are available as well as a sand spray that is said to be affective in reducing tick populations.

Purchase a flea comb and use it during or right after your pet’s exposure. I use it on my children’s hair as well as my own! Fine toothed it lifts the ticks out of the fur before they’ve attached.

Getting in the habit of the using the Spider Crawl! Wiggle your fingers across the surface of your dog’s coat daily: keep your feelers out for anything bumpy.

Find a friend who can show you how to remove ticks. Ticks stick their head into your dog’s skin: I envision the tips of my nails as tweezers and pinch the head out. There are also special tick tweezers on the market. Either way, this will cause a pinch, so praise and treat your doggie while you do it!

Dogs In Snow, Let’s Go!

In much of the country, winter mean snow. Here’s how to keep your dog safe when the snow falls:

Dogs, like kids, get excited when they see white. It’s wet, it’s fluffy, it’s cool to the touch. Don’t take it personally if your dog doesn’t listen to your directions very well. He’s just having… well, fun! Pure unadulterated joy, and that is as it should be. Don’t let your frustration creep up and get the better of you or your dog will have just one more reason to keep his distance.

To avoid being a wet blanket (no pun intended), think Yum, Run and Hide. If you’re loaded with treats like a human Pez dispenser, a quick shake of the container will attract your wanna-be sled dog. Yum! Try racing around, kicking up snow and tossing snowballs in the air. Run! Your dog will excited by your enthusiasm. He’ll stay close and watch you for clues—what next? If the snow is deep and clingy enough, hide behind a drift or snow-laden bush. Call your dog’s name as you run and hide. Combine this game with the shaking treat cup and it’s a sure-fire winner; a game the whole family can play.

Now think about where your wet blanket instincts may have lead you: staring at your dog and shouting “COME” repeatedly at the top of your lungs. Bo-ring. Your dog is like a little kid—especially when the snow falls. Toss off that wet blanket and explore the fun that awaits you!

OK, now that I’ve got everyone revved up, let me offer a few warnings. If you’re playing in an unconfined area close to roadways, you may need to keep your dog leashed. When possible, use a long line (25-50’). Hook a leash onto the very end of it and let it go. Your dog will feel like he’s free, but you’ll have a handle on him should he stray or bolt. Keep your eyes open though: a long line can get tangled around things, especially feet. Make sure youngsters are agile enough to jump-the-rope if necessary.

Excitement can cause predatory behavior in young or untrained dogs. This may lead to combat postures and the clothing grab. If this sounds familiar, do not exercise your dog with young children. Instead, focus your dog’s attention on large balls or empty gallon jugs. Pack a spray bottle or small mouth spray to defend yourself if you catch your dog running too fast in your direction.

I strongly suggest that you call a trainer to get a handle on your pooch before he hurts someone–by accident or intent. Dogs should never be confrontational in their relationship to humans.

Finally, beware of ice. Ice cuts are the number one cause of emergencies in temperate conditions. While snow can be a blast, if there is a sudden freeze it can conceal a layer of ice that can rip into your dog’s foot pad like a sharpened butcher knife.

As I write this piece, I’m watching my three kids–two human, one dog–making snow angels in our front yard. The resulting forms are all shaped very differently and some require a bit of creative interpretation…but they all look like angels to me.


Choosing A Dog Breed

Buying a dog is more like adopting a young child, then a guinea pig or rabbit. A dog will demand involvement and react to everyday situations right along side of you..

* If you’re planning to add a purebred dog to your family it’s important that you consider a suitable breed. Think about what you and your family want and know what the breed was bred to do. There are many breeds registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), subdivided into seven groups: Sporting, Terrier, Hound, Working, Herding, Non-Sporting and Toy. Each group shares common characteristics: when choosing a breed go beyond what they look like and discover their passions and their adaptability to your lifestyle.

* Have children? Your breed should be relaxed with changes and have a low threshold to excitement. Protective breeds or instinctive reactionary breeds do better in households that have less chaos and fewer comings and goings.

* Love to exercise or Prefer to chill? There are breeds that thrive on activity and others for whom a short outing will satisfy their exercise requirements. Find a dog’s whose energy level matches your own. Sure that muscular Vizsla looks beautiful, but if you’re not able to obligate to daily outings the beauty may wear thin.

* Where are you now, where will you be in five years? When considering a breed consider where you will be in five to ten years. If you’re planning a family or a move remember your dog will need to adapt to these changes too.

For other helpful tips on choosing a breed you can refer to Sarah Hodgson’s book Puppies for Dummies.