Why Good Dogs Develop Bad Behavior

Originally published March 31, 2016

The dogtor is in

Jasper has been with us for a week now. He came to us from the local animal shelter because he had been returned to them from a rescue because his bad behavior was deemed “unmanageable”. I was told this meant that he is extremely energetic, jumps on people and cannot be dissuaded from this. This is bad behavior in a small dog.  In one that is around 70 pounds it can prove terrifying to an unsuspecting recipient of such affection. And he does mean it as affection or play.

Jasper exhibiting good behavior not bad behavior
Jasper doesn’t look like a terrorist does he?

This description immediately popped a couple of presupposition flags in my mind:

1) It seems this behavior is often the result of a family adopting a puppy but making no attempt to train it. While it’s an adorable ball of fluff, jumping up on your legs eager for attention is cute. When it becomes a 30 pound dog, it’s less endearing. When it’s 50 or more pounds, the poor dog ends up at the local shelter because it’s a major nuisance and “they can’t do anything with it”. So of course this bad behavior is the dog’s fault. The truth is that no one took the effort to teach it good behavior.

Canine Toenail Trimming

Originally published April 1, 2016

The Dogtor is in

I did some toenail trimming on all the dogs yesterday. Trimming a dog’s nails is a necessary part of caring for them. Sharp claws are a hazard to you and your belongings, claws that push down on the floor as they walk can be painful to your dog. For both your sakes, keep them trimmed.

Cochise is always cooperative: he’s a good boy. Blondie did well too. She has gotten to where I ask, “May I have your paw” and she will lift a front paw and present it for trimming. She does expect the treat after each snip or two, but she sits still. Her hind feet are a little trickier (she’s ticklish) but that went well too.

Offering treats during toenail trimming does not work for Volt submits to toenail trimmingbecause he gets so excited by the prospect of food. I waited until Volt was napping, then sidled in with the nippers and said, “Volt … buddy … may I trim these toenails?”

Volt said, “Hmmm? What? Yeah, sure … whatever.”

Volt got several treats when the session was done.

So they’re all trimmed up and looking spiffy. We do this about every two weeks.

Toenail Trimming Treats

To attain even Blondie Bear’s cooperation (she was once terrified of toenail trimming) I make treats by slicing hot dogs into wheels about 1/4″ thick, spreading them on a paper towel so they don’t touch, and microwaving them for 3 minutes (that will vary depending on your microwave). Raw ones work too, but raw hot dog bits go bad quickly (sometimes in just hours). These cooked (dried) bits will keep for days if you want to use them in a training treat pouch. Longer if you store the pouch in the fridge when you’re not using it. I learned this trick from a book about fictional dog trainer Raine Stockton written by Donna Ball.

To start with, sit down and call the dog over. When she complies, give her a treat. Let her sniff the clippers. Give her a treat. Repeat that a couple of times, so she associates the clipper with pleasure. Snip one nail, give a treat. Be firm, but don’t turn it into a wrestling match. Reward her liberally with treats but only when she complies in some way. Bribery (treats before the fact) does not work on dogs: they’re too smart for that.

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Your Dog’s Tail Tells a Tale

Originally published: May 2, 2016

The Dogtor is in

People are used to reading the body language of other Peoples as part of their interaction with one another. They often do it without even thinking. Some people assume that dogs are just animals and so are simplistic. But they are not. They too use a lot of body language: the shape of their eyes; position of their mouth, ears, and head; their stance; even a dog’s tail speaks of how they are feeling and what they are thinking.

dog's tail Different breeds of dogs have different natural positions for their tails, so allowances have to be made for breeds. For instance, breeds like Malamute, Husky, American Eskimo, and Chow all hold their tails curled up over their backs. Determining if their tail is higher than normal, lower than normal or about average is different than for most dogs who will hold their tails angled up from the spine, in line with the spine or lower, maybe even tucked under their butt, to indicate levels of anxiety.

Keeping that in mind, here are some broad generalizations about how dogs use their tail to express themselves.

When To Throw the Red Flag On Dogs Play

Originally published Nov. 4th, 2016

Cochise on dogs play
Cochise tells the tale

Most dogs like to play. Most of a dogs play is a lighthearted version of real-life skills: chasing, catching, fetching and … fighting.

As long as it’s done in the name of good, harmless fun, there is no problem. But if it should slide beyond play: because one “combatant” feels he is losing and doesn’t want to, things can get bloody fast.

Breaking up a dog fight is dangerous, especially if there is only one Peoples. It is best to red flag it before play turns to fight.

Signs of Play

Sampson demonstrates the classic Play Bow

When we’re playing, the tails will be swinging happily from side to side, we may bounce side to side or enter a play bow (forelegs and chest on the ground, butt in the air), we may lunge and retreat. When happy, our eyes are open and round, ears are up, and our mouths should be open and “smiling”. We may sound like we’re about to kill each other, but as long as it’s just trash-talking we’re okay.

We may wrestle each other to the ground and pin our opponent there. We may leap around and over one another, we may body slam each other, or we may take off and run – incorporating these other moves when we get the opportunity. Biting is okay as long as it’s gentle.

Silent Nights

When our current gang of foster dogs arrived, the nights were not silent.  Definitely not silent!  Rocky and Blaze were vocal day and night.  They barked at anything they could see or hear moving around, they barked at other dogs on the mountain, even quite distant dogs, who were barking at something or just being conversational.

Their first few nights here were exhausting for I had to keep going outside to sit near their kennel to convince them to not bark — and awake our neighbors.  Thank God it was spring, and warm enough I didn’t freeze out there!

After a few nights they caught on and were far less vocal at night.  And that trend has only improved since.

Breaking Brotherly Bonds

Rocky and Blaze, bonded brothers

Blaze and Rocky are bonded siblings: two of 6 puppies that were surrendered with their mother to Animal Control.  The others were all taken away as they were adopted, leaving just these two, clinging to each other for moral support in a scary environment.

When I pulled them from Newport Animal Control, Blaze (the bigger one) tended to cower behind his brother, who would bark fiercely at anyone who stopped at their kennel door.  They were so unruly they had to be carried out to my truck because they would NOT walk on a leash.

Since coming to Piney Mountain Foster they have remained quite close, but not so fearful.  They’d still sleep in a pile, and they love to play together in our big yard.  But Rocky has been nowhere near as protective, and Blaze has started to develop a will of his own.

For example, The wind brought down a good sized Y shaped stick from one of the trees.  Blaze found it and declared it his most favorite thing in the world.  He’d run around waving it, and lie in the grass gently chewing on it.  Rocky came over and grabbed hold of it, intending to take it away.  Blaze was having none of that!  They growled at each other threateningly and had a tug-of-war.  Blaze is a quiet fellow, Rocky tends to yap.  So Blaze waited until Rocky yapped at his brother to demand the stick and Blaze jerked it from Rocky’s mouth and ran off with it.  I’m sure he was laughing!  He’s quiet, but he’s not dumb.

Lennon Gets an Upgrade

Lennon has been spending the nights in a transport box in the Bunkhouse.  It’s warm in there and quiet, and has fewer distractions than sleeping in the people house.  It’s a good place for doggos to start sleeping indoors.

But when Lucy left, it meant that Lennon would be all alone.  So I brought his crate to the house.  I left him in his transport box to provide some continuity in the change.  The people house can be exciting, and confusing.  Having “his room” would help him transition. Besides, the transport boxes are sturdy: offering effective containment.  They are more closed in, offering a sense of security to their occupant.  And any “accidents” are better contained than with a wire crate where a male dog can lift a leg and pee right through the crate onto the floor outside.

Lennon has settled in well and been a good house guest, so today I traded his transport box in on a regular wire crate.  These offer better visibility, better air flow, more interaction with other dogs.  He seems to enjoy it.  But that’s not the only upgrade Lennon got this week.

I was going through communications between our vet and Dr. Crouch as they discussed Lennon’s hip injury and I saw that Dr. Crouch said, “If the dog is very lame, he would be a candidate for FHO (femoral reconstruction)”  And it occurred to me that I would NOT count Lennon as being lame, much less very lame:

There was a time when Lennon would run for a couple of minutes, then slow to a walk and limp just a little as he walked.  But no more.  And I have been giving him a daily Glucosamine Chondroitan / MSM / Turmeric supplement that is supposed to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and promote healing.  I wondered if it was necessary to put Lennon through surgery and rehabilitation.  I wondered if he even QUALIFIED for the surgery anymore.  So I asked Dr. Crouch for his opinion and showed him the video above.

His response was that Lennon was not a candidate for hip reconstruction at this time.  He’d be happy to help if Lennon needed it in the future, but now, he’s looking GREAT!

So it looks like Lennon has been upgraded in this area as well.  We (Steele Away Home) do want to get another x-ray done to see if some healing has occurred.  If so, keeping him on this supplement may be his long-term answer.  If so: he’s ready to seek a forever home.  As long as he’s here I’ll continue working at house breaking him, but other than that he’s good to go.

Yay Lennon!

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Selma and Rebel Get 1st Play Time Together

Her new friend, Rebel, helping her settle in.

Since the moment Selma arrived here, Rebel has been enamored with her.  He sits by her crate to comfort her, he sleeps as close to her as he can get at night.  They chat and tease each other when in their kennels outside.  They REALLY want to play together.

But both are high energy dogs.  Sometimes Rebel doesn’t realize his own strength, so I supervise closely when he plays with the beagles, and then, only indoors.  Can Selma handle him?  There’s only one way to find out.  I put Rebel on a safety tether and let the two of them interact for a bit before I made my decision…

Back to Selma’s Summary Page
Back to Rebel’s Summary Page

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Where Rebel Sleeps

When Rebel arrived here, he stayed in Kennel #1 and had Hudson and Sable as neighbors to keep him company.  That was okay with him as he is accustomed to being an outside dog.  Being a Husky, he LIKES cool, even cold, weather and being in the house makes him uncomfortably warm — according to his former Mom.

But he was exceedingly thin: 45 pounds where he should be around 70 pounds.  As the weather got cold I was not comfortable leaving him outside.  He has a plush coat of Husky fur but absolutely NO fat in his skin.  Plus he is weakened by his starved condition making him more susceptible to infection.  So I started bringing him inside the house at night and in bad weather.

The other two are being crated indoors at night because they don’t like the cold.  Hudson is a lanky hound with short fur that offers little insulation, and he refuses to use the dog house I provide him.  Even when we got a bigger one, he will not go into it.  Sable is a blonde German Shepherd mix and has thick fur, but she’s accustomed to being indoors and does NOT like being out in the cold and will tell me about it.  All night long if necessary.  So they both get crated in another building that is kept heated, but minimally so (50°), to reduce temperature shock when they go back outside in the day.

Rebel can’t be crated in there because his potty habits demand that he go outside every 2 to 3 hours.  Or, so he says.  So I crated him in the den of our house, where I could hear when he needs to go out and accommodate him.  I opened a window a crack and closed the door to let him have a cooler environment than the rest of us.  He liked that for a couple of nights, then decided he was lonely.  Rebel can be quite vocal when he wants something.  He’s a Husky, they do that.

In the past, when we had a needy dog I’d sleep on the floor next to their crate in the den.    But that tends to seriously mess up my back and hips: I’m getting to old to “camp”.  So I moved his crate into the living room where I could sleep on the sofa near him.  That worked for a couple of nights, then he started getting antsy and wanting out of the crate every hour and a half.

I did try crating him in he bedroom with the rest of us, but the largest crate that fits in there is too small for him and he spent the whole night kicking and thrashing about because he could not stretch out.  That plan was quickly abandoned.  Back to the living room.

I don’t trust him to be left loose to wander, but crating him doesn’t really work either, so I tied our longest leash to the foot of the sofa and made that up for sleeping.  I put a blanket down for cush, but he pushes that out of the way, preferring the coolness of the floor.

He tucks in right next to the sofa to sleep.  Before he lays down he sits beside me and rests his head on my shoulder and chest for some pets.  When he’s satisfied he settles in and sleeps until the need to go out wakes him.  I am NOT opening a window while I am sleeping in the same room, but the heat is turned down to a minimal setting (62°).  Any colder than that is too cold for me to be able to sleep, especially on the sofa.  In bed with a quilt and blankets maybe, not on the sofa with a throw.

Rebel gets me up every two to three hours to let him out.  He wanders the play yard freshening his markings for about 10 minutes then comes back inside.  We repeat the settling in routine, then get a little more sleep.

The first night all the other dogs came and slept on beds and in crates (open doors) with us.  Since then, they have returned to the cushy comfort of the bedroom dogs beds — and avoiding the frequent fuss and bother of night time potty runs.  Josephine generally joins Rebel on his @ 2:00 AM run, but the rest stay hunkered into their snuggle beds all night.

Right now Rebel is eating a TON of food to get his weight up.  Hopefully as we taper that off his need to go out so frequently will taper off as well.  Once he learns his house manners, he can sleep in the bedroom with the rest of us and we’ll both abandon the living room.

Go to Rebel’s Summary Page

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Rebel’s Food Rebellion

Rebel is a Husky.  Huskies are opinionated about things.  Apparently they are highly opinionated about their food too.  Unlike most dogs, Huskies won’t wolf down anything you set in front of them.  Oh, no … Huskies like things the way they like them.  Linda Daniels is no stranger to picky eaters, she has a couple as live-ins as well as some in her list of former foster dogs.  She’s been helping me solve Rebel’s aversion to eating.  A few of the things she’s turned up about Husky dining habits are:

  • Huskies don’t like combined foods.  They’re kind of like those people who have to use segmented plates to keep their foods from touching or they can’t eat it,  We found that Rebel likes shredded, boiled chicken breast.  So I tried to ease him into eating the gastroenteric dog food his vet wanted him to be eating by mixing it into his chicken — a little of it each time.  That didn’t fly: he insisted that there be NO “pollutants” in his chicken.
  • Huskies prefer a varied diet.  Most dogs are perfectly happy eating the same food day after day.  Not Huskies.  And Rebel falls in line with this.  I got my hopes up a couple of times when he accepted a little of some food or other.  But the next time I offered him that food, he said, “I had that before.  Want something new.”  Except for the chicken, he has eaten several meals of that, but not consecutively.
  • Huskies can, however, be persuaded through peer pressure…

Rebel’s former mom said that he was eating normally until about three weeks ago.  Since then he eats very little and has lost a lot of weight.  He currently weighs 45.5 pounds and should weigh in around 70 pounds.  Under his thick fur, he’s just bones.

His reaction to almost everything I’ve tried to feed him. (video)

When I was unsuccessful in his first few days here to tempt him to eat  — and I tried a wide variety of kibble, canned dog food, and people foods — I took him to Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital to see if there was a physical reason for is starvation diet.  They ran a G.I.Series with barium.  This eliminated suspicions such as megaesophagus, and bowel blockage.  They sent me home with some special dog food to soothe his gut.  He ate a little, then refused any more..

Yesterday was a good day: Marie got him to eat a some Critical Nutrition dog food, and Josie helped me get him to eat about two cups of Salmon and Potato kibble over the course of the afternoon.

Today, he’s back to refusing most everything.  He ate about 1/2 cup of chicken breast this morning, left the rest of it in his dish, and has refused everything else I’ve offered him.  So the struggle continues …

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