There is thunder. Cochise tries desperately to tell Doug that something HORRIBLE is going on outside and that he NEEDS to come check it out. But, alas, Doug is not paying attention. What ever is a Guardian of the Realm to do?
We’re kind of poking fun here, but some dogs can be seriously stressed out by loud noises like thunder, fireworks and gun shots. What can be done to calm them?
Regular visits to your dog’s veterinarian are an essential part of life if your dog is to remain healthy. Your dog will need a regular check-up and routine inoculations at the minimum, and dealing with health issues or accidents as the need arises. Getting your dog to the vet and answering the questions are tough enough but if your dog is feeling stress at the same time, it can be a really unpleasant experience for both of you (and the vet – and everyone else in the facility!) Wouldn’t it be much better to have your dog enjoy, even looked forward to his regular veterinarian visits?
Preparation Avoids Stress
The first step is getting there. If you have a puppy it’s probably not an issue, if you have adopted an older dog her history may cause her to not like riding in your car. Also, if the only time she rides is to go to the vet, and past vet visits were unpleasant, then she will associate riding with an unpleasant destination. Dissipate any stressful associations by taking her riding to pleasant places: a park for a walk, or to a dog-friendly store to do some shopping, if you haul trash to a collection center, take the dog with you. Do NOT take the dog if you will leave her locked in your car while you go inside, especially if it’s warm out. The purpose of the outing is for your dog to have fun with you while riding or immediately after riding in the car, dispelling the idea that a car ride means bad things are about to happen to her.
Your dog adores you. She follows you around and wants to be near you all the time. And that’s wonderful – until you must go away. Then your dog howls or barks or chews on things until you return. This is called separation anxiety. Unless you can stay home 24/7 or take the dog with you everywhere you go, you must deal with this issue (or replace a lot of shoes and furniture and endure the wrath of neighbors). To make things worse, sometimes this condition is your fault. I know: I’m guilty too.
I was getting ready to go out in the yard and do some work. Marie was resting on the sofa. I informed Marie I was going outside and asked if she needed anything before I left. She said, “Just take Blondie with you: she goes spastic every time you leave the house.”
Blondie has a mild separation anxiety issue. When I leave, she paces through the house peering out all the windows to see where I’ve gone.
Blondie is needy. She spent most of her life in an extremely neglectful situation and was totally withdrawn when she was rescued. We fostered her and helped her come out of her shell. We fell in love with the affectionate, silly girl she became and adopted her. Gun fire and thunder make her very nervous and she comes to me for comforting. I stroke her head to ease her anxiety. That’s the wrong thing to do, but I’ve done it.
We spend all of almost every day together. Blondie follows me around like a golden shadow. Sometimes she comes and asks for skritchies, and I’ll give them for a short time. She is accustomed to my being here, when I leave she gets anxious. But she’s a good girl: never misbehaves, she just runs around looking for me. I’m lucky: many people have dogs that do bad things when they are left alone. If yours is one of them, here’s what this is and how to deal with it.
In part 1, we discussed how to introduce your adult dog to a new dog. This time I want to discuss the importance of socialization between your dog and other people.
Socialization of Dogs and People
Dogs are social creatures. By their nature, they usually get along well with people: unless they have reason not to. Any animal that is abused by a person can learn to mistrust, avoid, and fear people. That’s a blanket statement, so it is true only in the most general terms. If a dog knows only its abuser, then she will most likely fear all people. If a dog is abused by a man, but his wife is kind to her, she may well fear only men. An abusive teenager with kind and gentle (though not very attentive) parents may instill a socialization age bias.
Socialization of a puppy is pretty simple: once he’s had all his shots and the vet gives you the OK, simply expose the puppy to other people in a positive way. Rarely will a puppy pick up a disease from a person, but if these people also have a dog, this is a danger to your puppy. Begin this socialization as early as you can, so the pup doesn’t become fixated on you. Normally, puppies are very friendly and gregarious; socializing with people should not be an issue. Making interaction with other people a regular part of their life will keep them that way.
Dogs are by nature, social creatures. Even in the wild, they exist in packs: social units that allow for sharing resources, mutual protection and companionship. For domesticated dogs there are two types of socialization: getting along with other dogs, and getting along with people.
There would be a third type if you want to include dogs getting along with other species of animals. However, taking a dog that has grown up thinking that cats, hamsters chickies, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, (whatever you have) are food and teaching it to see them as a friend is beyond my scope or ability.
The most common socialization problem we see here at Piney Mountain Foster Care is dogs who were neglected. Sometimes this is a dog that was chained in the yard, given enough food and water to survive, but that’s about it. No love, no personal care. Blondie was one such dog. When taken in by the Dr. Carol Hood Memorial Animal Shelter, she was so withdrawn and depressed she acted as though she were autistic. More often the problem is a family that decided having a puppy would be fun, but they had no idea how to train it. So the bouncy, happy-go-lucky ball of fur turns into a bouncy, happy-go-lucky dog weighing 30 to 60 pounds and hasn’t got a clue how to behave any way other than what has always done: just being its happy-go-lucky self. This proves inconvenient for the family, so they take it to the shelter to be rid or it — or abandon it somewhere to become someone else’s problem.
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.
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.
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 because 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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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.
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.
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
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.
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.