Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Story from Cathie

leave a comment »

Cathie and Maverick were students in a Canine Good Citizen class at McKinney Community Center in 2009.  Cathie has written a delightful account of thier experiences, which I’m happy to share with you!  (I hope we’ll be able to add a photo of Cathie and Maverick to this post later!)

The Situation

I was scared: my neighbor accused my dog, Maverick, of biting him and trying to kill his dog. I hadn’t seen what happened, but my husband’s version of it was:

“Maverick just ran down the driveway. He said Mav bit him and his dog, and he’s calling the police.”

My husband is a big man who’s never been afraid of anything. He could not understand why our neighbor was so upset about our 150lb dog galloping up to him to play with his 18lb dog. And my husband was quite sure Mav didn’t bite anyone.

I understood my neighbor’s fear. And I know Texas state law requires that a dog accused of biting be quarantined for 10 days to observe for rabies. We visited Maverick in quarantine, and some days found him loose in the kennel—the staff hated to keep him kenneled all day and definitely didn’t consider him dangerous.

Maverick isn’t dangerous, but he looks it. A huge Great Dane, his front legs look like fence posts. I wouldn’t want him running up to me if I didn’t know him.

The evening after the incident, I went to my neighbor to express my concern. I told him I was very sorry there had been a problem. I was surprised when he showed me his “bite,” since I was certain he didn’t have one. What he showed me was a tiny red spot on the back of his hand. No big puncture, no stitches, no band-aid. Not surprisingly, his little pooch didn’t have any injuries at all.

I said again how sorry I was about what had happened. My neighbor asked if I would get rid of my dog. I said no. I said, “I’ll take him to obedience school and promise you he will not be loose in the yard again.”

I had to find a way to allay this man’s fear of my dog because if I didn’t, I was sure he’d accuse Maverick of another bad act. I needed to get Maverick under verbal control—no more loping down the driveway to greet passersby.  Maverick needed better manners. I had to find a good obedience instructor to help me get Maverick in line.

The Solution

I have the good fortune to live near the very best boarding facility: Pet Paradise in Melissa. One of Pet Paradise’s owners, Hazel, had been a professional dog handler with top awards to her credit, so I called Pet Paradise for a referral to a trainer. The receptionist said Hazel recommended only one: Jane Davidson.

I contacted Jane and was enrolled in a Canine Good Citizen class that would run for seven weeks.

Maverick was quicker to catch on to commands than I thought he would be. He has an aloof/dopey look on his big mug most of the time. He’s a rescue Dane, purebred but not a particularly fine specimen. He has a pointy head and floppy ears. He just doesn’t look smart. Scary? Yes. Smart? Not so much. But Maverick is smart, and he associated commands to actions quickly. He learned sit, down, come, stay, heel, and off within a couple workouts. When he heard my command, he would do it.

Most of the time…

Slowly…

A foot or ten off the mark.

Sometimes he ignored me altogether, and that’s why I needed the trainer. I know the commands and how to teach them. I’ve done it before, even competed in obedience events with my other dogs. But no one can properly train her dog by herself. I needed Jane to watch and guide us in order to get Mav to obey commands immediately, every time, on the mark. I could not see what I was doing wrong with my commands, body language, and attitude. But Jane could.

By the end of our seven weeks, I had learned to stand tall and state commands in a manner that Maverick hears every time. Jane was able to show me when what I said, how I moved, or my posture or tone confused rather than commanded Maverick. Jane would gently point out that I was using words in casual chatter that had specific meaning for Maverick. She’d tell me when I wasn’t being Maverick’s “pack leader.” Dogs always read your mood and ‘tude, and if it isn’t masterful, they’ll know it. Which is to say, Maverick learned everything he needed to know in the first two weeks. The last five weeks of class were for training me.

The Success and Joy

Maverick and I work out every day. He sits while I get his breakfast, he comes whenever I call him, he stays where he’s told even if his favorite toy is three feet away. Our favorite days are when we go on long walks with other dogs and kids and bikes and big people because that’s when he gets to show me and everyone else what an obedient, gentle dog he is.

He is not perfect. No dog gets his butt on the ground slower than Maverick does when he hears, “Sit!” When I say, “Maverick, come!” he runs right to me and sits… somewhere. Try as I might, I haven’t yet gotten him to sit directly in front of me on recall. Not perfect, but Maverick now has his AKC issued CGC (Canine Good Citizen Certificate). He passed the test on his first try.

That would not have happened without Jane Davidson and Eureka! There were too many things I was doing wrong, inconsistently, and over-anxiously for Maverick to have been successful working with me alone. I simply could not see or hear the words, tone, and movements I was using that were confusing to the dog. Jane’s directions and corrections were always clear and delivered with kindness and good humor. Had she been a domineering trainer, or an apologetic, nervous trainer (I’ve worked with both kinds) Maverick would not have earned his CGC. There is a right way to train dogs, and it’s unique to each dog and owner. Jane knows this, studies it, and acts on it.

I now have a giant dog I am proud to take with me everywhere. I know exactly how he will behave, and he knows exactly what I want him to do whenever I ask him to do it. But we’re not done: I want Maverick to become a therapy dog for struggling readers. Reading to a big goofy dog improves your reading quickly because dogs never criticize. In fact, you become a perfect reader in the only way a human is ever perfect: in the eyes of her dog.

As for my neighbor, he hasn’t come walking with us yet, but he hasn’t accused Mav of any new transgressions, either.

And he won’t.

Written by eurekapaws

February 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Thoughts from Dan – Leadership

leave a comment »

Dan English has been working with Eureka! Canine Behavior Specialists for the last few months.  He has a 2 year old American Bulldog, Tex, and has a long history of training dogs of all sizes.  His skills are particularly impressive with the larger, more assertive breeds.   From time to time, he will be writing blog entries on various aspects of dog training.  Here is his first.

 

I was assisting Jane during a Canine Good Citizen class with my 2 year old American Bulldog, Tex.  Tex had reacted with some tension around an unaltered male so I was closely monitoring their interaction.  At one point I had to walk past the dog on the left so I put Tex on my right side.  I began walking him on my right side instead of my left when he was young while we were at parks to avoid the zooming bicycle riders and joggers and other dogs.  Initially Tex would try to cross over to the left side and I extended the hand with the leash out to the right (no jerking, just a little pressure on the c0llar) and gave the command of “Don’t cross that trail.”
 
So as we walked past the dog Tex showed interest, I moved the leash slightly and gave him the command.  The dog’s owner walked up to me and asked me how I trained him to do that.
 
I really did not have a clear answer for her.  But as I started to ponder how I should have answered that question it all came down to one thing.  I was Tex’s leader.  There had been no “don’t cross the trail” training sessions.  I did not teach him to not cross the trail like I had taught him to sit, down and stay.  Those skills were accomplished in sessions using treats and commands in a repetitive way.  The command for Tex not to cross the trail was on the job training but it became possible because I am his leader.
 
People come to us with a variety of dog behavior issues and they ask our help to bring about the behavior they want to see out of their dog.  Different training techniques are required for different situations but one thing stays constant.  Leadership.
 
How do I stop my dog from barking?  Be their leader.
 
How do I stop my dog from pulling on the leash?  Be their leader.
 
The basic commands of sit, stay and down can be accomplished by formal training and rewards.  They learn pretty quickly that if they perform a certain trick they will be rewarded with a tasty treat.  But in order to change unwanted behavior or to teach a dog more abstract skills you must be unquestionably the dog’s leader.
 
In the dog world there are only two positions.  Leader and follower.  If you are not one, you are the other.  And with almost every dog behavior problem I see the problem is that the dog does not recognize the owner as a leader.  This can be because of the youth and inexperience of the dog or it can just be a learned behavior of not taking the owner seriously.
 
So how do we become our dog’s leader?  It begins when the alarm clock rings in the morning.  Canines in the wild never stop posturing and they never allow a breach of etiquette.  Rules like “No Free Lunch” and the controlling of food and the high ground put us in position to lead.  You can spot a dog with a strong leader pretty easily.  They are a pair that seem to have a vibe going on.  Almost like the dog can read the owner’s mind.  The truth is the dog has learned to pay close attention to their leader and has grown accustomed to their mannerisms.
 
Exercises like “Watch Me” and “Leave It” focus the dog on the owner.  Giving the dog clear physical boundaries that they can understand like the tile in the kitchen or around the entrance way to the front door puts the owner in the leadership position.
 
No matter how domesticated your dog is they still react with instincts.  What we as owners need to learn are the skills to tap in to those canine pack instincts to bring about the behaviors we want.  One of the most important instincts is that the pack must have a leader.  And if we do not take that position and maintain that position every day, the dog will attempt to take it.
 
The good news is that it is not impossible to be a dog’s leader.  In fact most dogs want us to lead; freeing them up to just be a dog and exist in the world in a carefree state.  They will relax knowing that you are there to handle whatever situation comes up.
 
So find the skills you need to become your dog’s pack leader and use them every day.  Do not practice them, use them.  You will see your dog look to you for guidance and reassurance in every situation.

Written by eurekapaws

October 1, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Articles, General, Training

Tagged with

Farewell to a Friend

with 2 comments

Dazy was a great dog.  She was a catahoula / pit bull mix, and she was full of life and energy.  Unfortunately, she was also a challenging dog to control, and had a history of reactiveness/aggression towards other dogs.  Our friend David loved Dazy, but he also has multiple children.  The other day, Dazy snapped in the face of one of his children to tell him to back off.  The shelters are full because of the economic conditions, and Dazy was a pit mix, and would have to be labeled unsuitable for homes with children.  David knew that if he gave her to a shelter, she would spend a period of time confused and unhappy living in a cell, and then probably be euthanized.  He made the best decision for her by taking her to be euthanized rather than handing her over to strangers.  A very hard decision to make, but fairer to Dazy.  Here is the poem he wrote afterwards.

Run, Dazy, Run

Run, Dazy, run.
Pant in the heat of the Texas sun.
Stretch your legs of sinew and follow your heart,
Do not stop!
Run until the chase is done.
Then run, again, once more.

Run, Dazy, run.
Even though you sleep, your mind cast adrift,
I know of what you dream.
Smooth strides, a thunderous locomotive at full steam,
No hurdle too large;
No creek too wide;
No grass too long; as you move swiftly through the fields,
Magnificent, like a Cardinal’s song.

Run, Dazy, run.
Alas, you will run no more.
Your heart has stopped,
Your handsome head, dropped.
Hypnotic eyes of green, blue and brown, no longer shine,
For you now sleep and are no longer mine.
Legs, once taut as steel rope, now rest with your last breath,
And you will run, no more.

Run, Dazy, run.
As you stride, magnificently, towards the last horizon,
You will not escape me; my mind is already burned with your memory.
A permanent fixture in my heart,
A heart that is sore and hollow with you gone,
For you, were the only one.

Written by eurekapaws

July 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

Posted in General

Tagged with

Eureka! North Now in Vermont

leave a comment »

Jan Gordon headed back to Vermont at the start of June, to avoid the Texas summer!  She arrived there on Friday June 5th, and did her first consultation as Eureka! North on Sunday June 7th.  We’ve added a page to the website so people in Vermont (especially around Stowe and Burlington) can find us. 

Meanwhile, business continues to grow in the DFW area.  We have Canine Good Citizen classes on Saturday mornings at the McKinney Community Center, and a fun introduction to agility at our location near McKinney on Sunday mornings, as well as providing in home consultations and training.  Of course, we are also proud to be local distributors for The Honest Kitchen nutritious dog foods and treats (featured recently in the Food Network’s “Will Work for Food“).

Jan of course is greatly missed but continues to provide advice and support from the frozen north.  However, to help meet growing demand in Texas, we have started working with Dan, and he is assisting with classes and on some consultations.  He also works independently with clients who need assistance with dog walking or “walking dates” for their dogs.

Written by eurekapaws

June 30, 2009 at 4:44 pm

No one should abandon a dog

leave a comment »

Times are hard for many people, and animals are suffering as a result.  Last October, we heard about a sweet young dog, Blue, who was trying to find a new home.  We offered a free training session to whoever adopted her, and the foster home passed that information to the adopter.  They also offered to refund the money and take Blue back if it did not work out.   A single mother adopted the dog, and she and her boyfriend came out with Blue and we gave them some tips on how to keep control and walk her properly, and teach her basic commands.

A few days ago, we heard from the foster home.  They had been contacted by an animal shelter in May, as Blue’s microchip had been traced back to them.  Blue had been abandoned, and the property owner had asked the shelter to come and pick her up.  The shelter did not find the chip when they scanned her, but they kept her for 2 weeks.  Then she became sick and they decided to euthanize her.  They did a final scan, and this time they found the chip.

The foster mother went to the shelter, and in her words “I went and picked her up and was shocked at her appearance. She was skin and bones and had a horrible head cold with kennel cough. We have decided to keep her because she had been through enough hell in her short life…I would like to sue [the adopter], not for the money but as an example. There was absolutely no reason for her to let this happen. I even told her that I’d give her money back if it didn’t work out with Blue.”

If you take a dog into your home, you have responsibilities.  There are many circumstances where it is not possible to keep the dog yourself.  Your responsibility is to find a new home for that dog.  In this case, there was a place they could have taken the dog, but they chose not to do so.  Dogs left to fend for themselves do not usually do well.  They end up abused or killed, either by wild animals or by people, or simply in accidents.  They become sick and often starve to death.  People who abandon a dog simply lack the moral courage to take action.  If the dog lives with you, you can find a shelter to take him or her.  Even if it is not a no-kill shelter, the dog will be given food and safety and a chance at adoption – they will not end their lives in fear and misery.

Some people simply leave their dog in the house when they go away.  Typically, those dogs starve to death before they are found and can be rescued.  Other people seem to think their dog will survive if abandoned in a rural area.  Perhaps they have some fantasy about returning a domestic dog to the wild.  Around here, there are coyotes, wildcats, snakes, and other abandoned dogs, among many other hazards.  You do not do your dog a favor by leaving him or her to try and survive in a hostile environment.

Blue is a very lucky dog.  She still needs training, but she has been rescued by people who care.  If you are running into difficulties and there is a possibility that you will not be able to continue to provide a home for your pet, DO SOMETHING.  There is no reason to make a family pet suffer and die.  Start looking at the options available in the worst case scenario.  Abandoning a dog is cowardly and unnecessary.

Written by eurekapaws

June 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

Posted in General

Tagged with

Dog Clean-Up Continued

leave a comment »

Well, I have to report that the vegetable oil was awesome in helping me remove all the tar from Xena’s feet.  It was a big worry, because she had a huge amount of very sticky tar on all four paws, so her ability to cool down was compromised.  The vegetable oil made chemical changes to the tar over a 24 hour period so that it could easily be picked and washed off.  Of course, she was not steady on her feet after the initial application!

The other great piece of news is that courtesy of the Skunk Whisperer, we now have a good recipe for removing the skunk smell from dogs and their collars.  It is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid dish soap, see www.totalwildlifecontrol.com.  This recipe comes with all sorts of warnings, because it can be an irritant, so be sure to wash your dog after it has done its work, keep it away from eyes, etc. and make sure your dog gets plenty of oils for his/her skin.  And you can’t prepare it in advance – it has to be freshly made each time!  But it worked much better than the commercial remedy I was trying.  (But I still think that Skunk Off is a good commercial remedy, I just didn’t have any.)

Written by eurekapaws

June 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Posted in General

Tagged with ,

Dog Clean-Up

leave a comment »

Someone said to me the other day “of course, everyone thinks their own dog is unusually smart…”  Actually, I have toXena Deep in Thought admit that my dog Xena is quite remarkably NOT smart.  She came to me from Hurricane Katrina, a dog who had seen a lot of trouble.  She was heartworm positive, and I fostered her while she went through the heartworm treatments.  (For anyone who is not sure they need to give their dog heartworm preventive, please understand that heartworms are very damaging to the dog, and the treatment is really nasty and dangerous.  Make sure your dog is adequately protected.)  By the time Xena was well enough to be returned to the shelter, she had bonded so strongly with me that I simply could not take her back there, so I adopted her.

Here are two examples of Xena’s intelligence.

  • I have a dog door in the back door out to the yard.  One day, Xena was preparing to go in through the dog door when I walked up to let myself in through the door itself.  As I opened the door, Xena kept following it around so she could go in through the dog door when it stopped moving.
  • Xena has been exercised along with other dogs at a baseball practice area.  This area is surrounded by chain link fence with one gate in it.  When we let all the dogs out through the gate, Xena ran up and down the fence line, trying to work out why she couldn’t reach the other dogs.  She thought she was in a maze, and someone had to go in and guide her out.

So, you get the idea.  Xena will not win any Nobel prizes.  In the last week, she has managed to create severe clean-up emergencies for herself twice!

The first emergency was a skunk.  Xena was off-leash in an open area, and she and a friend managed to trap a skunk, getting squirted full on the face and neck.  The smell was unbelievable.  Her collar is hanging on a fence outside, and after 4 days, I still can’t bring it into the house because it smells so bad – within 2 hours your eyes start to sting from being in the room with it.  Xena has been banished to sleeping in my bathroom because we don’t to share the air we breathe with her.  Tomato juice works on people, but not on dogs – their skin is different from ours.  We got rid of some of the smell on her with bathing, but we did not have the Skunk-Off product on hand, so the rest of it will have to wear off.

Two days later, she thought she was on the trail of something else, and managed to get all four feet covered in fresh tar.  She came home with long streamers of tar attached to her feet.  After frantic research on the Internet, and some experimentation, we settled on vegetable oil as the most effective solution we had on hand.  It really has done well, although it is a lengthy process.  The oil needs to be rubbed into the tar and left for 24 hours.  During that time, it breaks down the structure of the tar so that it can be washed off with soap and water.  In Xena’s case, she had so much tar worked into her feet that we are still only about half way through the process of cleaning her up.

Xena is still trying to work out why she is suddenly so unpopular.  In any other dog, I would hope that she had learned a lesson from all this.

 

Xena Deep in Thought

Written by eurekapaws

May 29, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Posted in General

Tagged with

Nipping Dogs

leave a comment »

It seems like everyone has the same viewpoint on this – MY dog nips in play, YOUR dog bites and is vicious.  Well-behaved, well-adjusted dogs don’t nip or bite, period.  If they do, it’s because we have decided to tell them it’s OK to do that.  I do not believe that one breed is more inclined to nip or bite than another, it has far more to do with their conditioning than their breeding.  Of course, the problem is far more obvious and more dangerous if the dog is a large animal with strong muscles and jaws.  However, many small dogs have caused serious injuries.

Some dogs nip or bite because they are afraid.  That’s a serious problem, and you need to see a trainer or behaviorist.  (Unless, of course, the dog is being attacked, when it is a sensible move by the dog to defend himself.)  If your dog has serious fears that make him a danger to the public, eventually he will bite someone, and that may result in him being euthanized.  (And of course, you may be sued.)

Some dogs bite because they are aggressive, and they want to do damage.  We saw a dog like that recently, who would attack seriously and without warning.  If there is an obvious trigger, then it may be possible for a professional to work with the dog and modify his behavior.  If the attack comes with no apparent trigger, the dog continues to be very dangerous.

Some dogs nip or bite because they believe that they are the leader of the pack, and they have the right to discipline other members of the pack.  In your home, it is your responsibility to make sure that the humans are leaders, the dogs are followers.  Otherwise, elderly people and children are at risk of injury.  This is a very common situation – trainers see it every day, and can help you to rectify it.

But most dogs nip because people have encouraged them to do so – or have failed to discourage them.  If a puppy plays hard with his litter mates and causes pain, they will soon let him know about it – and dogs have tougher skin than humans.  People often think it’s cute, and do not consider that it will be less cute when he weighs more than 50 pounds, and the person being nipped is their grandmother or their toddler.  Any time your dog or puppy puts teeth on a person (or their clothing), your response should be immediate and consistent.

  1. Make a sharp noise as it happens – the dog needs to understand exactly what caused your response, and that sharp noise will help him pinpoint it.
  2. Immediately stop playing with or petting the dog, stop speaking to him, turn away from him, and if necessary, put a door between yourself and him.  Your dog wants your attention, even if it means being yelled at.  Do not give him any attention for several minutes, and make sure no one else does either.
  3. After a few minutes, return to the dog.  (If he immediately starts to use his teeth again, just say “No” and walk away again, and wait a few more minutes.)  If he is acting normally, then tell him to Sit (or Down, or Shake, or any similar command) – when he does as he is told, you can praise hm for being a good dog, and you can continue as normal.

This is one of the most important things you can teach your dog.  If you know he will not use his teeth on people, you will feel comfortable taking him places, and letting him meet visitors to your house.  And he stands a better chance of a long and happy life in your home.

Written by eurekapaws

May 5, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Adopting a Second Dog

leave a comment »

Wonderful, patient Libby

Wonderful, patient Libby

This comes directly from my own experience.  I had a wonderful dog, Libby, but the two of us were my entire household, and I was at work (bad old corporate days!) a lot of the time.  I felt that I needed to get a second dog for several reasons, mainly:-

  • As company for Libby, especially during the day while I was at work.
  • To take the pressure of what was an increasingly co-dependent releationship between Libby and me.
  • Purely selfishly, I felt that my world would collapse if anything happened to Libby – I needed another family member.

Since this dog would spend more time with Libby than with me, I made sure she was part of the interview process.  My criteria at the time were simply that the dog be a little smaller than Libby (I was worried about getting a dog too large for me to carry in an emergency), and a young dog 6 – 18 months old (not a puppy, I was not at home enough hours in the day to care for a young puppy, but still not yet fully grown up).  Libby was generally a quiet dog, so I thought she might like a lively dog to play with.  The two of us went to the shelter (Operation Kindness in Carrollton, a great place to adopt a dog, and Libby’s own alma mater) and I selected candidates, and the two of us would meet them. 

On our first visit, I picked out a sweet sandy haired spaniel mix who was very timid.  Libby growled at her.  Then I picked out a little male terrier, who Libby loved – he peed on my handbag the moment I took my eyes off him.  The third dog refused to interact with either of us.  At that point Libby was starting to look stressed, and I took her home.

On our second visit, the first dog I pre-selected was a little female terrier about 10 months old.  She was very sweet and lively with me, and she and Libby started to play together.  The adoption counselor and I stepped out of the room and watched them through a window.  It seemed like a great match.  We went ahead and adopted the dog, who was called Bailey.  As we went through the adoption process I learned that she had been adopted out before, but returned due to “allergies”.  She nipped the technician who clipped her nails just before she left the shelter.

As soon as we walked into my house, Bailey stopped and took a dump on the carpet.  The speed of it took my breath away – I had turned my back on her for less than 5 seconds, and when I turned back, she was squatting.  Still, I told myself she was probably very scared, and I should just let her know that was not the right place, and then go on as though nothing had happened.  Over the rest of the day, Libby and Bailey played happily.

For the next few days, Bailey was in a crate while I was at work, and I came home in the middle of the day to make sure she was OK.  For several days, she managed to have explosive diarrhea while she adjusted to her new life and diet, but that gradually faded.  In the evenings, she and Libby and I continued to have fun.  There were quite a few occasions when I found myself locked in power struggles with a 20 pound dog.

About day 4, Libby started to stare pointedly at me.  It was apparent that she felt our guest had outstayed her welcome.  While I had been interviewing for a lively long-term companion, Libby had been focussed on having fun for an hour or so.  She enjoyed her quiet life, and didn’t want an annoying yappy dog constantly trying to play-fight with her and instigating security alerts all the time.  For my part, I had started to realize that Bailey was a very pushy little dog with no interest in my plans for the household – she had moved in, and she planned to take over.  Although a lovable lap dog when she felt like it, any noise outside would put her on full alert; she would leap out of my lap and charge around barking fiercely.  On off-leash walks, she would torment poor Libby, who would run away from her at top speed.  Bailey’s little legs could not keep up with Libby’s speed, but she would run after her at full speed, barking “wait for me” at the top of her lungs.

In the first month that Bailey was with us, Libby and I were engaged in constant struggles with her for control of the house.  I quickly guessed that her previous home had given her up because of her personality, and just said it was allergies so she would stand a better chance of finding another home.  I did not have the heart to return her from another home – we had to make it work.

Terror Bailey (sorry, I mean Terrier Bailey)

Terror Bailey (sorry, I mean Terrier Bailey)

And several years later (and now with many more dogs in the house), she still torments Libby and she still considers herself in charge of Homeland Security.  She has learned that she is not the leader of the pack, and she did very well in obedience training.  People meeting her for the first time often remark on how cute she is (Libby can be heard muttering “take her, she’s yours”).

There is no guaranteed way to make sure the new dog will fit well in your household.  Of course, it is best to make sure that the potential newcomer gets on with your current dog(s), but the fact that they get on for half an hour on first meeting is a long way from proof that they will be prepared to shared a home, and a pack leader.  I know now that Libby was not interested in having a constant companion, and that she enjoys long, comfortable silences.  Having to adjust for a new dog in the house was really tough for her.

If you want to bring in another dog, that is a great idea.  Be aware of the following:-

  • Any increase or decrease in the household (human or animal) upsets the hierarchy, and your current dog(s) will have to work out who is leader of the pack all over again.
  • Some dogs are not prepared to share a home or a pack leader (you) with another dog.
  • Your current dog(s) need to have met and approved the newcomer before you decide to bring him into your home – but since you can’t explain to them what your plans are, they may still complain when he comes to stay.
  • You have to make extra time so you can work with each dog separately on house rules, obedience training, and walking politely on a leash.  If the newcomer does not follow the rules, your current dog(s) may decide they don’t have to either.
  • When you bring a dog home, his full personality will emerge slowly.  The dog you meet in a shelter or in someone else’s home is usually different from the same dog after he has been living with you for a while.  You will see him change over weeks and months, as he gains confidence in his new home.
  • The dogs will decide pecking order amongst themselves.  No matter how much you want a particular dog to be top dog of the house, you may not be able to make it happen.

Written by eurekapaws

April 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

How Many Dogs are Too Many?

leave a comment »

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

We’ve seen a lot of problems and questions over the last couple of months around bringing extra dogs into the household. Everyone who loves dogs wants to save more of them from living rough, being abused, or being euthanized. The reality is, no one can save them all. You have to remember the effects on your household, and on your own dogs.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’d love you to adopt as many dogs as you can take proper care of – but please make sure that you have considered the impact realistically first!

Based on personal experience, there is a maximum number of dogs that each dog wants to see in the pack.  For some dogs, that number is one!  Most dogs are happy with a pack size between two and four dogs.  Once you pass that point, you are inviting trouble.  Of course, many people have had large numbers of dogs in their homes and it has been successful – but today, most people find it difficult to find the time to give one or two dogs the attention, care and exercise that they need.  Cesar Millan has a pack with many dogs in it – but he also spends hours every day giving them exercise.

So, let’s talk about a few recent conversations with clients, family, and friends.

“My older dog is getting on in years, and I’m thinking of bringing in a new younger dog to make the transition easier.”  This one sounds so sensible, but isn’t.  The older dog will be less than thrilled to have the new youngster throwing his weight about, being liveley and energetic, and trying to take control or make him play.  The middle dog will still have to adjust to a new dog coming into the household and the old one dying – that’s still two major adjustments, the same as if the new dog arrived after the old one had died.  The people in the household will be trying to teach a new dog the house rules (and making sure that the dog bonds first with the people, and then with the other dogs) while still taking good care of two other dogs, one now senior.  Don’t do it – give your old dog a peaceful retirement, grieve for him when he goes, and then consider a new dog.

“I have two puppies that I am still trying to get trained and under control, but two homeless dogs have followed me home.  They seem like nice dogs – what should I do?”  It’s great that you have a big heart.  But you have two puppies that still need a lot of training, and that are going to be at risk if these dogs have diseases (which homeless dogs often do, alas).  Find a no-kill shelter that will take them, if you can.  They will check to see if these dogs are sick, and will try to find a home for them.  If after mature consideration, you decide you can afford and have time for an additional dog, then go and adopt one.  But when these dogs placed their future in your hands, they were looking for you to do the right thing for them.  The right thing may very well be finding them another home, but it does not have to be yours.  I knew someone who took home a stray dog, and then found it might have parvo – if he had had a puppy in the house, that could have been a death sentence for the pup.

“I adopted a cute puppy from someone who couldn’t keep her, but now she and my dog are fighting – I have been hurt separating them, and I have a child in the house.”  I believe it was Clint Eastwood who said “A man’s gotta recognize his limitations”.  Yes, these were both nice dogs, and with work, they could probably have worked through their differences.  But it’s tough to keep everyone safe when there are children in the mix.  If the dogs will fight over the attention of the child, that is a dangerous situation.  In this case, kudos to Suzanne for finding a new home for the pup.  She didn’t just drop the dog off at a shelter, she took the responsibility and found a good home for her, and has followed up to make sure the pup is doing OK.

Written by eurekapaws

April 6, 2009 at 2:55 pm