The Importance of Pack Order

The dogtor is in

We have been contacted by several families in the past year because they adopted a dog that we fostered and trained. We gave a good report on the dog as being non-aggressive. The rescue that handled the adoption also saw no sign of aggression. So why, all of a sudden, is the dog getting aggressive with the family that just wants to give it a great home and lavish love on him?

Crating and Free-Play

Cochise tells the tale

One of the things foster dogs do as they transition from crate training to house training is to get some supervised free-play time in the house. They still get time in the yard too, but we add house training to teach them to behave in a people house. There are more rules to house play than there are to yard play.

Roger has done well with his crate training. He rarely gets rowdy any more and he fusses only when he needs to go outside. He can go from the crate to the door and back without a leash, and he goes right in his crate to get his cookie. He has watched Blondie Bear and me being house dogs and has taken notes. He is still energetic, but more controlled. Sometimes he does play little games with Hairyface:

When Roger arrived here, he came with a treasured toy: Remington the Duck. A volunteer had given it to him while at the shelter. They told Hairy that Roger loved that toy so much that when they would go in to clean his run and dish up food, Roger would snatch up his duck and sit watching them with the toy clenched in his teeth, “This is my duck. You can take anything else, but not my duck.” So when they sent Roger here they sent Remington along with him.

Sometimes in free-play time they play “Retriever” (a.k.a. Fetch the Duck) and sometimes Roger just wants to play Duck-Slayer:

Even though it looks like he’s being really rough with it, the toy is perfectly intact. Roger will take our plush toys and try to rip them up (the Peoples stop him) but he never damages Remington.

These free-play times are getting longer as Roger learns to be self-controlled. He will always be energetic — that’s just Roger. But as he learns to behave well, and can show that his house-breaking is holding, he will get more and more time out of his crate. The goal is to get him to where he only goes to his crate when he wants to during the day and confined there only at night.

crate training
This silly Snoozer is obviously comfortable with his crate.

To those who think that crating a dog is cruel and unusual punishment: you could not be more wrong. If crate training is done properly, our crate is a safe-haven, a space all our own. I loved my crate while I was being house trained, and insisted on sleeping there for a long time afterward. Eventually I abandoned that for a snuggle bed, but I never viewed my crate as punishment. You have your bedroom, I had mine. That’s the way most of us feel.

Being comfortable in a crate, even if not used all the time, can also be a benefit to you if you decide to take us traveling with you. We may not be as welcome to run freely in a relatives home. If you leave us in a motel room while you go for breakfast, a crate will avoid any unfortunate surprises when you get back.

Roger does not think of his crate as punishment. He is delighted to come out and play, but when free-play time is over, he is just as willing to go back to his big blankie, his chew toys, Remington, and a cookie (for being a good boy). He knows if he fusses, he will be allowed to go outside, so it is not imprisonment. It’s just part of being a house dog.

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Kathy and Mr. Toad


The Dogtor is in

This morning, while we were all escorting Marie to the side gate and her departure for work, I encountered a good-sized toad: about the size of a tennis ball. I encouraged it to leave, it refused. Toads can be kind of pig-headed. To keep the dogs away from it I created a shelter by leaning a board against the fence it sat next to. I didn’t want the dogs to take an unhealthy interest in it, and maybe the roof would encourage it to go through the chain-link and up into the grass.

We saw Marie off. I headed into the garden to see what needed to be picked this morning. The dogs were wandering around the play yard.

As I was finishing up and heading into the house, Kathy trotted by smacking her mouth, which was dripping white froth. I had forgotten about Mr. Toad. Toads have a defensive mechanism of secreting a foul tasting liquid that can in some species of toads be highly toxic to dogs. I know the giant Bufo toad (Colorado River Toad) is extremely poisonous, often killing dogs in 15 minutes after mouthing one. Those are not native here in Tennessee, but Kathy is a pretty little gal, I’d best be sure she’s not in danger. I found Mr. Toad near where I’d left him, upside down with legs tucked in tight against his sides. He looked dead, but that could be a ruse.

I took Kathy inside (Blondie and Cochise came in as well) and wiped her mouth off, then used a wet paper towel to repeatedly rinse off her gums and tongue. She did not like this much. Then I looked up what the symptoms were and identified the toad in question.

As I suspected, Mr. Toad is an Eastern American Toad. Mildly toxic. had this to say about toad toxicity symptoms:

Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of the toad encounter and may include the following:

  • Crying or other vocalization
  • Pawing at the mouth and/or eyes
  • Profuse drooling of saliva from the mouth
  • Change in the color of membranes of the mouth – may be inflamed or pale
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Unsteady movements
  • Seizures
  • High temperature
  • Collapse

after toad careOther than the white froth around her mouth and the “Yech, yech, that tastes terrible” mouthing, she shows no symptoms. I’m watching her closely (with Nurse Blondie’s help) for a while but in the past 20 minutes she seems to be doing fine.

I took a plastic bag out to pick up the toad carcass. Mr. Toad was sitting upright, right where I left him, looking quite smug, “I guess I showed that dog!” I used the plastic bag like a glove to pick up Mr. Toad and give him a good heave up into the tall grass and brush well above our fence line. Better hunting up there anyway, I suspect.

Normally I make the small toads who inhabit the garden welcome. They eat bugs. I respect that. But when they get a bad attitude with me I’ll evict them. Especially if they threaten my dogs: that don’t fly here … but attitudinal toads do!

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The Truth Behind the “Pit Bull”

pit bull originationThe dog we commonly refer to as the Pit Bull was developed in England from a cross between the English Bulldog and terriers. The exact terrier breeds used to create this cross is not clearly recorded, but popular opinion points to the White English Terrier, the Black-and-Tan Terrier and the Fox Terrier. The result of these combinations became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and were used to manage cattle and by hunters to help hold wild boar and other game.

As time passed, the breed entered the blood-sport of bull and bear baiting. After these sports were outlawed in England around 1835, dog fighting rings took their place. Dogs were forced to fight one another to the death in hidden arenas called “pits.” The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was highly successful in the fighting ring because of its tenacity, courage, stamina, strength and intelligence. Equally important was its loyal, non-aggressive and responsive nature with people. Fighting dogs were expected to be obedient, trustworthy and easily handled by their owners at all times. Because of their popularity in dog fighting pits the breed became known as “Pit Bulls”.

Advantages of a Mentor Dog

Cochise Mentor dogIn previous posts I have talked about Dolly and her amazing ability to nurse, mother and mentor other dogs who have come into or though our home. We lost a really good one when she passed away. But Cochise, who was a paduan learner of hers, has stepped into the void and has proved immeasurably helpful with the dozens of foster dogs that have come here for recovery, socialization and training.

Because we are not dog “trainers” we do not get into the advanced stuff: we focus first on civilized behavior and socialization, then a few basic commands like “sit”, “come” and “shake”, then we get into housebreaking.

The first lesson for any dog is that I am the head honcho, the giver of food, the dispenser of affection, the praiser of good dogs. I share that role with Marie, but since I am the one who is here full time, they see me as the primary honcho: Marie is co-honcho. Then we make sure they recognize Cochise as The Big Dog.

Dogs and Weather

The Dogtor is in

After seeing Marie off to work I left Blondie Bear and Cochise on guard at the house while I went to spend some time with Babes and Smokey, our foster dogs. After that I went to do the daily gardening chores. There wasn’t much of that to do and it didn’t take long. When I was done with that I considered getting back to work on our deck/boardwalk project. This is a large project I’ve been working on for months, but had to interrupt to build a couple of items that were ordered.

It was a nice cool morning. I scanned the skies: partly cloudy, they were fluffy and white, not gray and ominous, and there was enough blue showing through to be encouraging. It should be a good day to work outside; at least for a while.

Bweather dogut Blondie and Cochise both were insistent that it was going to rain and they wanted to go inside NOW. The weatherguessers said rain was possible later in the day: I should have at least 5 hours to work before that. But they are often wrong, the dogs are generally right. The workshop is a good 200 feet away from where I would be working. Do I dare drag tools and lumber over from the shop to work out in the open? MMMmmmmm … I don’t think so.