Eureka! Dog Blog

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Case Study 3 – One Tough Dog

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Tuffy was a dog who had learned to live without help from people.  He was trapped with a group of dogs in a gravel pit where they could not get out, and it appeared that they may have been abused by people in the area.  He was rescued by a caring person who worked at Operation Kindness animal shelter (www.operationkindness.org), on her third attempt to get any of the dogs out.  Tuffy and a greyhound were the only ones “smart or hungry enough” to be lured out to the edge of the quarry and saved from death by malnutrition.  Operation Kindness gave him several months of treatment for a severe case of Demodex Mange, and for malnutrition, and put him up for adoption.  In the shelter, he only bonded with female employees and was extremely shy of people in general, although he was friendly with the other dogs in his enclosure.

The Gilbert family saw Tuffy on a website, and their hearts melted.  They went to the shelter, and Millie and Joseph Gilbert and their 8 and 10 year old daughters met Tuffy and were able to pet him after some coaxing and offering treats.  He showed no signs of hostility, and they thought his shyness was to be expected, so they adopted him.  This was Tuffy’s second adoption, having been returned the first time for being “too difficult to housetrain”.

Within a week, the Gilberts were concerned that they had made a mistake.  Tuffy was comfortable around Millie, but he barked at Joe and avoided him.  Tuffy would hide at the end of the yard to avoid being trapped, and any changes in the routine, visitors, sudden noises and movements, would cause him to bark and either back away or sometimes walk slowly towards the person.  Joe traveled frequently on business, so while Tuffy was starting to settle into his new home Joe was often not there.  Whenever Joe came into a room, Tuffy would try to leave to go to a safer place.  (It seemed likely that Tuffy had suffered at the hands of a man, as his response to Joe was much stronger than to us or to any of the female members of the household.)

The Gilberts called us in because they were afraid that Tuffy might not be safe around their daughters, and because it seemed that his behavior problems might be more than they could handle.  We arrived at their house early, and saw a dog being walked back to the house.  Rather than meet the dog then and there, we went and parked for a few minutes to give them time to get the dog home.  When we returned, the dog and the dog walker were still in the same place!  Seeing a problem, we split up.  Jan went to the dog and helped Millie to walk him back to the house, while I met with Joe to find out what was happening.  The whole family had taken Tuffy on his walk that day, instead of just Millie.  Tuffy had sat down on his walk, and did not want to move any further.  Nervous about stressing him, Millie had stopped with him, and now could not make him walk the last few yards home.

We spent quite a while sitting in the living room with the entire Gilbert family and Tuffy, until he started to venture out and even take treats from Jan.  It became clear that he was afraid of all the new things he found, and that he had bonded to Millie as his savior, and regarded everyone else as a potential threat.  He tried always to be near where Millie was, or if she was away, to retreat to his crate.  If he was outside and Joe was in the living room, Tuffy would be afraid to venture into the house.  Because everyone was worried about Tuffy, they were trying to get him to respond to them with love and affection, and they were staring at him, which scared him.  Making direct eye contact is a threatening behavior from one dog to another, so Tuffy thought he was being challenged.  However, Tuffy was also a realist – once he had a leash on, he would be calmer.  Once he was sitting next to Millie with the leash on, she was able to pass the leash to Joe.

The Gilbert family had already made a great start on giving Tuffy his new home.  They had already started to have a daily routine for Tuffy, and routine helps a dog become confident in his surroundings.  They agreed to try to change their behavior so that they did not stare at Tuffy, they avoided sudden movements, and they learned to wait for Tuffy to come to them when he was ready to be petted or to want to be near them.  Tuffy was to stay on leash in the house while there were people there to supervise him, so that he stopped running to safe places whenever people moved around.  Joe needed to hold the leash on walks when possible, so that Tuffy could get used to him as a friendly pack leader.  They would walk Tuffy together as a family when they could, so that eventually the girls could take the leash as well.

When Tuffy tried to stop the walk, the person with the leash needed to act like a pack leader – walk on confidently, expecting Tuffy to follow.  That was how Jan had persuaded him to come back to the house.

Within a few days, Tuffy started to show definite signs of improvement.  He continued to be alarmed by Joe, especially when Joe arrived home.  However, he started to differentiate between “Good Joe” who had his leash, and “Bad Joe” who did not.  With “Good Joe”, he was more comfortable, and he would even come to him to get his walking leash put on.  With “Bad Joe”, he would still bark and back away.

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Written by eurekapaws

June 7, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions

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Dog Clean-Up Continued

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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

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Dog Clean-Up

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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

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Articles on Dog Agility

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For the past few days, I’ve been providing comments for a series of articles on dog agility.  Cheryl Spencer has been writing an introductory series of articles on www.examiner.com for people interested in starting to learn agility with their dog.  For a sample article, see http://www.examiner.com/x-11581-Dallas-Pet-Training-Examiner~y2009m5d23-Beginning-agility-training–The-high-jumps or use the link on the blogroll on this page.  Cheryl is writing for people who have not done agility before, introducing the various obstacles.  She recommends agility for a wide variety of dogs, not just the pure breeds that usually appear in competitions.  I’ve been enjoying the fun of providing comments without putting in the hard work of writing the articles!!!

We have been doing an introduction to agility for fun class at Eureka!  The purpose is just to give people and their dogs an opportunity to try out the equipment and see if they want to do “real” agility, and also to spend an hour working and playing with their dogs and socializing.
Playtime at Eureka!You don’t have to have a pure bred dog or do competitive agility in order to have fun with your dog.  Teaching the obstacles and going through the course is fun for both of you, and it helps you learn to communicate with your dog.  We meet lots of dogs with problems because either they don’t get enough exercise or they don’t get out socially with their people.  Agility, even just for fun, gives them outlets and experiences they really need!

Written by eurekapaws

May 25, 2009 at 9:39 am

Nipping Dogs

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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

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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

Case Study 2 – Leader of the Pack

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This is a painful story from one of my first clients.  This experience actually drove me to move to a location where I could bring dogs in for training if necessary.

Mike and Laura are a couple close to retirement age.  They had a very smart little Jack Russell terrier called Jack.  Mike called me in, explaining that Jack had become aggressive at times, biting him and just recently trying to bite complete strangers.  He was afraid that he would have to have Jack euthanized, and he was looking for help to avoid that.

When I arrived at the house, Jack was out in the back yard.  I saw that food was left out for Jack in the kitchen, and also outdoors.  When Mike opened the back door, Jack rushed in, and by way of greeting me, he jumped on to every piece of furniture in the living room.  Jack was a smart little dog, and could do many tricks.  Mike explained that he loved the little dog, who had been his companion as Mike battled cancer, but on several occasions, Jack had been lying in his lap, and had suddenly bitten him, drawing blood.  As he told me about this, Mike played a game of tug-of-war with Jack using a soft toy, and allowed Jack to win.  Laura arrived home soon after, and it was clear that she was avoiding contact with Jack because she expected he might attack her.

We went through a lot of Jack’s history, but the situation was pretty clear.  Jack believed he was in charge of the house, and Mike and Laura were his staff.  He may have started out with respect for Mike, but lost it when Mike became weakened.  There was always food available for him, so he did not see that he was dependent upon them for anything.  He had control of the “high ground” – his jumping on all the furniture made that clear.  He consistently won contests of strength (when I asked Mike why he let him win the tug-of-war game, he said “I thought it would break his spirit if he lost”).  His biting was not an act of aggression, he was disciplining members of his pack who did not act appropriately towards him.  It is likely that he would lie in Mike’s lap, relaxing, but when Mike put a hand on top of him to pet him, Jack corrected him with a bite (the bite would not have done any serious damage to another dog, but Mike was weakened by his illness).

The right approach was also evident.  Jack needed to learn that he was not the leader of the pack.  Until he had learned to follow the lead of the people in his family, he could not be trusted.  If I could have taken him away with me that evening, I would have suggested it.  A few days of boot camp would set him up for coming home to a new world order.  However, at that time, I had nowhere to take him, so Mike and Laura would have to make the changes in his life.  Given that Laura was already afraid of him, and Mike was afraid that he could not control him, I was not sure that they would be successful.  The Jack Russell is small, but full of energy and determined to get his own way.

Sadly, the next day, Jack again attacked Mike, and he was euthanized.  I met Mike and Laura again a few months later, when they were adopting another dog – this time, a calmer, quieter dog – and they assured me that they would make the house rules much clearer from the start.

So, Jack, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.  Now I live out in the country, so that if the situation arises again, I would be able to take the dog away for the first couple of days of the rule change.

For everyone else out there – please take a look at your household from your dog’s perspective.  More than half the time when I go to a new client, the question of who is leader of the pack is behind many of their problems.  If your dog believes he can demand what he wants from you (food, treats, petting, playing, going outdoors, coming indoors, etc.) then he thinks he is in charge of the house.  You don’t have to be mean to him, just make it clear that you are in charge – keep him off the furniture, have him sit before his food goes down, and pick up his food bowl after 20 minutes, have him sit (or down, or high 5, or anything) before giving him the things he wants, make him wait at doors so you go first, then tell him when he can come through.  And if your dog is putting any part of his body on any part of yours (even resting his head on your knee), then make sure that you have your hand on top of him – you are the king of the hill.

Written by eurekapaws

April 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Case Studies

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