First Steps

The first steps in getting ready for a baby are to always brush up on basic commands, in all areas around and inside the house. The only thing I really want to work on with Oreo is the “go to bed” command. I was never dedicated enough to see that through. 

We are currently working with a baby doll. Do dogs know it’s not a real baby? Of course! However, many dogs aren’t sure what to think of their parents carrying something around in their arms all day. Some dogs will think it’s a toy, while others will be curious and some will be scared. 

Oreo was very excited to see what was in my arms when I carried around the baby. She jumped and followed me everywhere, trying to sniff and nibble on the baby. 

The goal is to have your dog be bored around the “baby.” We want the dogs to be calm and act like it’s no big deal to have the baby in the room. This is very difficult with reactive dogs because many times they are afraid of anything new. 

To keep Oreo calm I used treats to first get her to stay on her bottom. Every time she sat down while I was holding the baby I gave her a treat. Eventually, she expected treats every time she saw the baby. Baby = good things. 

The treats became a bit of a problem, or rather the begging did. I had to wait longer periods to reward calm behavior otherwise she started begging. Eventually, she became calm and bored. Bringing the doll out didn’t cause her to run up to me for a treat or to explore. I took the baby outside on walks, on the patio, in the kitchen, and when sitting down. My husband practiced the same. The more Oreo saw the baby, the more calm she became. 

Are we done training ? Oh no, this is just the beginning. We need to work on baby sounds, smells, gadgets and more. One small step at a time. 

Baby Training 

We are expecting! This is a very exciting time and it’s also a time to get Oreo prepared. 

I’ve been doing my research, getting some more Kongs to fill in the freezer, baby gates, a baby doll, and even a fence in the yard! 

Right now she’s hesitant to go and stay outside without us, but with some time she will love it! 

Lots of training to do, so you will see many more posts soon! 

Hey, Can You Blame Her?

Oreo, my parents and I went up to the lake house. We haven’t been there since winter, so some things were new to Oreo. 

Imagine your family bringing you somewhere, but when they try to tell you, you don’t understand. It’s like they are talking another language. Imagine you go to this new, unknown place and you see giant gadgets and things you could’ve never dreamed up. You aren’t sure what they do and you can’t understand what your family is telling you about them. 

That’s how dogs feel, especially reactive dogs. They see something new and strange. They have two options: fight or flight. If they are on a leash they only have one option: fight. 

Some of the lake was familiar to Oreo, but some was new or she hasn’t seen it in a long time. She enjoyed laying on the deck, sniffing the grass and barking at deer. 

There were some things she didn’t enjoy: moving boats, fishing rods, and the space (crack) where two docks connect. 

I knew she was scared because she gets the whale eye-you can see lots of the white of her eyes. She also pants loudly and barks. Sometimes dogs will show signs that let you know they are scared right away and sometimes you have to pay close attention and know what to look for. 

Signs your dog is stressed: 

  • Whale eye 
  • Panting/loud breathing
  • Barking
  • Ears down
  • Tail between legs 
  • Behaves frantically-looking all over, jerky movement
  • Hiding
  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Grimacing 
  • Drooling, growling, shaking

Of course you have to take these behaviors in context. Oreo will grab treats more aggressively from my hand when she is nervous. This means I need to move further away from her stressor or remove her from the situation. 

So when your dog encounters something new and scary say, “Hey, can you blame her?” Either remove her from the situation, train her, or move her further from her stressor.

Chickens and Fences Oh My!

As you can see the chicken has survived longer than any other squeaky toy in history. Oreo even has to rest between chewing it! 

In other news, the neighbors across the way are getting a fence. Yay! Our front yard looks right into their backyard and they have 3 dogs! 

When getting a fence for a reactive dog you should do your homework. 

1. DON’T get an electric fence. If you have a reactive dog they are likely to be petrified, more stressed, or even shut down. 

2. Get a fence that is tall enough. Make sure your dog cannot jump it. Also, if you have nosey neighbos you don’t want them looking over at you in your bikini getting a tan. 

3. Make sure your dog can’t get under the fence. If your dog is a digger ask them to install the fence lower. 

4. Make sure the fence is closed off. What I mean is, don’t have open slats or spaces where kids or people can stick their hands in to try to pet your dog. We don’t want anyone missing any hands. 

There can be other issues with fences such as fence running, refusing to come in, and digging. Most of these can be solved with a designated digging spot, treats and training. Have a happy Friday!

Squeaky Toys

Have you ever noticed how annoying squeaky toys can be? 

If not, then you were probably like me. I have a dog who will chew for less than a minute on almost any toy and it’s popped or destroyed. 

I went in for some teacher technology training today so when I got home I decided to give Oreo a new toy. This rubber chicken is really holding up…except the squeaky noise is really annoying! 

We will see how long this toy lasts…

We are Here 

No, my dog is not injured.This is Oreo relaxing in the sun. RELAXING. That’s a hard thing for reactive dogs to do. Many reactive dogs have lots of anxiety and find it hard to relax, especially in places where there are lots of stimulus. 

This picture was taken in our front yard. Across from us (but not pictured), are 2 dogs and 2 people outside in the yard across the street. At first, Oreo would bark and had trouble relaxing, even though they weren’t close. However, over time and with good treats and toys she lazily ignores them. 

My message is that we are still here. Not just me, but everyone who has or have had a reactive dog. Although we might not post as often, we know what you are going through if you have a reactive dog. 

Last weekend I missed my cousins wedding. It was 5 hours away but i still would’ve enjoyed it. The reason I didn’t go was because Oreo can only trust my sister and parents. I only trust them with her too. Family told me to get a friend of neighbor to let her out and feed her. To a reactive dog parent it just isn’t that simple. Just training her to be okay with them may take weeks.

Could I have paid a dog sitter? Yes, however, she/he would’ve had to come weeks ahead of time for visits and would be paid each time. Having a reactive dog isn’t always about missing out on things. 

Yes, we have to carry around treats, toys, and turn around and go all the way around the block when you were 20 feet from home because of a dog coming your way. We also get a lot. 

We get a deeper emotional attachment, an understanding that we are family and have to protect our dogs from things that scare them into reacting. We work hard and build a bond with our dogs and learn more than we ever wanted to possibly know about training and dog psychology. 

My advice is this: if you are desperately trying to find a way to help your dog and you’re in the panic stage-stop and breath. Read some blogs and training books, but know that not all of them are true or helpful. Find a positive trainer. It might be expensive but it’s totally worth it. Read “Scaredy Dog” by Ali Brown. It started Oreo on her rehabilitation and I was lucky enough to have the author as a trainer. Don’t give up on your pup and find a group of people to chat with- there are reactive dog groups everywhere. Trust your gut-if a trainer or someone tells you to do something with your dog and you think it’s wrong-don’t do it. I once had a friend try to convince me to use a shock collar. I didn’t. Find a positive trainer and remembe, we are still here.

Big Dog Complex and Grumblings 

This little dog clearly thinks she is a big dog. 

We walked about half a mile with that large branch dragging. Although it’s not the largest stick she’s picked up on a walk, I have to give her credit for dragging/carrying it for so long. 

She’s always been an anxious dog since we first got her. Anxious, yet speaks her mind-very often. She was not about to let go of that stick.

She’s quite the grumbly dog who growls or makes noises if you pet her while she’s napping (hey-I might too) and makes these weird grumbling noises when she wants attention. She does it with her mouth closed too-she’s a dog ventriloquist. Another favorite of hers is a large sigh when she doesn’t get what she wants, promptly followed by the sad face with the head down on the paws.

Yawning-I have never heard another human or animal yawn so loud that it would wake the dead. I’ve only had one other dog in my life but is that normal? No, nothing about Oreo is normal. 

When my sister or husband passed us on a walk (and they are in a car) you would swear my dog is screaming bloody murder. The doors on the block literally open to make sure no one is dying and my dog is ok. It’s fair to say if I see my husband walking the dog and I’m driving I will either turn around and go down another street or pick them up. 

She may be a smaller dog but she definitely speaks up. Hopefully she doesn’t speak up too much when we visit the vet next week.