Dogs Have Never Had It So Good!

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Dogs have never had it so good! Before the 18th century you wouldn’t see any lap dogs, especially not dogs sleeping in the bedroom. Dogs were kept as hunting partners and guards, not friends or family. In fact, in the 16th and 17th century they were thought as dirty animals that carried disease.

“Hair of the dog that bit you” was a common phrase in the 16th century to say to someone who had rabies-the “hair” was the cure.

“If you lie with the dogs, you get fleas”…pretty self explanatory.

Phrases that were common for people who caught stray dogs were called, “dog skinners, dog drivers, dog whippers, and dog floggers.”

“Not fit for a dog” and “As sick as a dog” were phrases that showed dogs were thought to be horrible animals.

In the late 18th and 19th century, dog baskets and treats emerged. Small dogs were kept as house pets.
In the 19th century the phrase “A dog is man’s best friend” was coined. Dog hospitals opened and dogs were seen as having feelings.

It’s sad to see that some people still believe dogs don’t have feelings. Now a days dogs are family members (and rightfully so). They share our homes and many times our beds also. They are loving companions, daughters, sons, and sister and brothers to our children. They kiss us when we’re sad and stay by our sides. They jump, lick, and wag their tails to share our joys. They are so much more than just dogs. They are us. In fact better than us for they don’t judge or hold grudges. They give unconditional love. We should all look through the eyes of a dog…to see such a large world around us, yet appreciate the little things.

A Little Hair…

Oreo has done so well in the trainings the last few weeks, it was actually boring for her. However,we had her walk around the lake following another dog, and she definitely needs work on that. The whole time she is pulling,crying, wanting to get to the dog. She is play bowing, so I believe it is because she wants to play, but one can never be sure. That is her pattern…so excited to see dogs,then when she does get up close, she changes her mind and becomes afraid and wants to snap at them!

We had our first private lesson to try to rehabilitate Oreo to relax around other dogs. The ultimate goal is for her to do just that…be able to relax with other dogs around and perhaps one day play with them (she is torn about this,wants to play, but is scared). The lesson didn’t go anything like the trainer or I expected, unfortunately it was much worse. We started by discussing what we were going to do, then the trainer brought her dog in (also trianing her dog at the same time). She sat on the other side of the room and I entered with Oreo and did our focus/door work activities. Then I sat in a chair and rewarded her for looking at the other dog calmly. The goal was to have her sit on her own or lay down and just relax and be like, “Who cares that there is another dog over there”.

However, this was not the case. She barked, play bowed, lunged and cried the entire time. We tried re-entering the door and she did better the second time. We followed each other in a circle but Oreo did so much lip licking to calm herself down, she was extremely uncomfortable. I should have known better, but we continued and did some calming curves, but instead of calling Oreo back to me, we let her just stop and check out the other dog. She was nervous, but did a good job being so close to the other dog. The trainer suggested having her sniff the other dogs butt, to teach good manners when approaching other dogs.

She turned her dog around, Oreo went to sniff, and the trainers dogs’ head turned…so we retreated. We went back and tried again. This time Oreo looked at me for a long time, and didn’t seem interested at all, or nervous. All of a sudden she went to bite the dog in the butt! She got a mouthful of hair, and that’s it–luckily no skin was touched and no pain.

Next class we are working in the pole barn, a much bigger area with longer leads. Hopefully the space will allow her to calm down. It was hard for her for many reasons. She is fine with all the dogs in class, but has never met this dog before. Also this dog was a BIG, HAIRY, BLACK dog! The trainer also pointed it out, but we can’t work with another dog that is also in training until she can calm down. We don’t want reactive dog training with another reactive dog. She does have an idea for a brown dog as a playmate one day. The training makes me extremely nervous, but we will take it slower, and I have to trust my instincts on what is okay for Oreo and what’s not. She doesn’t seemed stressed by the incident at all, so that is good. Well, that’s all for now!

Yes, Dogs Not Only Pray…But Smile Too!

I am currently reading a book called, If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered, Bones Would Rain From the Sky” Deeping our relationships with dogs. Suzanna Clothier is inspiring. I have only read the first few chapters, but already love her, and her passion for relationships with animals.

She speaks of a friend who adopted a dog who came from a bad situation. The woman had previously had a dog all her life who behaved, grew up with her throughout her life, into teenage years and adulthood. The dog obeyed, was her partner and companion. This reminds me of my own life. I had a dog from 2nd grade until I was in college, then in adulthood adopted another dog after my first dog passed away. Anyway, the newly adopted dog had issues at training and with trainers. However, the real problem was not the dog, it was the trainers. These trainers would hold down dogs until they were submissive and the dogs peed themselves out of fear.

Many times we blindly follow trainers, thinking they know the best for our dog (I have done this). In the book, the dog runs away from the woman (it was a stray for a long time, and was in a shelter for over 6 months in a cage). The dog seems panicked and will run and not come back. On the advice of trainers, she did a shock collar, and the dog was terrified. It made the dog regress and the relationship between herself and her dog was torn apart.

Training is not really training, it is building a relationship with your dog. This makes me realize, as I have in real life, we must LISTEN to our dog, like Suzanne says. Our dogs are always sending us messages, talking to us, but most of the time we aren’t listening. We know when our dog is nervous and doesn’t want to do something. We know when our dog is excited. They talk to us. Not in human talk silly, but in dog talk. When they are nervous we see their tail go up, we see them get rigid and they look alert or freeze. We know when they are happy…YES dogs not only pray, but they smile too!

 Sometimes I admit I have not listened to my dog telling me things. For instance, my dog was telling me not bring her close to someone she was scared of, ears alert, tail up. Someone with me said that it was okay, don’t be such a worry wart, the dog will be fine. I listened of course, and it wasn’t okay. She freaked and I took her away. But the trust was gone there after a few times of not listening to her. Building a relationship takes time. I have taken time with her, and we rebuilt our relationship and it has blossomed. Suzanne tells in her book about how we should think about dogs. We should treat them like we want to be treated. We should think about our relationship with them such as, “What would you think if someone shocked you, or pinched you? Would you trust and like to be around them? Would you listen to them?” It’s true. What kind of relationship with our dog, who we love is that?

This woman’s story is very true to everyone in the world. Some people think of dogs as being “just dogs”. They are not just dogs. They have emotions, feelings, and even PRAY! They pray for things to fall when you are cooking. They pray to run in an open field. They pray for people to stop hurting them, or to get out of a cage. Like Suzanne says, their prayers are sometimes answered when we “accidentally” drop food. They communicate and pray, you can see it in their eyes! Haven’t you ever seen them just staring in the distance, or looking up at you as if they are seeing through you? Yep, they are praying!

I have so much more to say on so many topics brought up in the book. Suzanne has so many good things to say which I have mentioned! More to come later.

Leave Your Dog For a Night…MIRACLE!!!

I was discussing dogs with friends at my mother’s surprise 60th party last weekend. A couple complained that their dog is uncomfortable with other dogs, and with people having close contact (hugging, shaking hands). They stated that they were afraid their dog would attack the neighbor’s small poof ball dog that runs along the fence taunting their dog. Mentioning some trainers nearby, I suggested the one I went to, which is mearly 5 minutes away. I also mentioned it will tak e a lot of work to help your dog, but it’s worth it. Her quick reply was that she is going to try leaving the dog with a “dog whisperer” type for a night….then miracle! The next day pick your dog up and they are fine with EVERYTHING!!

Wow. This “dog whisperer” must create miracles. She went on to say it’s quicker and less work than classes. In America we always want a quick fix don’t we? Yeah, drop your dog off and all of a sudden in one night everything is okay, they will be running with the “pack”.  I shudder at thinking what these people must do to create a miracle???? Shock the dog? Hit it? Yell in it’s face “chh, chhh!!!” If a dog is truly reactive and they force it in a pen with other dogs, that would be flooding ( a technique people think will help the dog by essentially bringing a dog to it’s triggers and surrounding them over threshold). This is a horrible idea. Flooding is an old technique, though of to help dogs who are scared of something by overexposing them to it, or flooding them. Flooding is a bad idea in any situation. Some trainers still use it and recommend it, but I would think more than twice about using it. It happened to our dog (not purposely), but we wish we could go back in time. Not only does it not help and scare the bejesus out of your dog, they regress and can/will get much worse. Our dog is much more fearful. It is not only our experience, but I have read countless stories. Think of the word “flooding”. Is a flood a good thing? Is it something you would like to experience? Literally? Or let’s think of flooding in dog terms. Let’s say you are super super scared of spiders like my sister-in-law. She screams and runs out of the house when she sees one, and can’t calm down for days, constantly looking around. Let’s imagine you are her, and we decide to flood you-let’s put you in a room with the door locked so you can’t escape, and put spiders everywhere. They are covering the walls, the bed, and even crawling on you!!??? Do you think you would come out of that less fearful of spiders because somehow you realized they are okay?

Back to the miracle worker.  This couple wants to leave their dog there and commented about how their dog is a stray, fearful dog. I tried to slide in some words of advice, but they continued to say that they read people’s comments on the site about how it really worked, so it must work. Would you leave your child alone with a stranger for a night? Very odd how people can leave their dog with a complete stranger, at their house or facility, and let them do whatever they need to do to have your dog behave. My guess is that people get the dogs back and they are shut down. What I mean by shut down is dogs who have bowed out. They have decided that life is too scary, they will mope around and be nonresponsive. Many people get their dogs back and think wow…MIRACLE!!! But in fact, the dog has been abused, or scared so much that they have decided to shut down and be away from life (not care).

People…DON’T LET YOUR DOG STAY WITH STRANGERS!!!!!

Just like Normal

Did you ever see the joy on dogs faces when they are playing with their best friend? I have, and it makes me forget that Oreo is reactive, just for those minutes, it’s as if she is the friendliest dog ever! She was just outside playing with her best friend, Boomer, a large dog who lets her jump on top of him and roll over and play ball. They share toys, run together, and lay next to each other. It is truely a sight to behold.

Oreo is afraid of strangers, and will even sometimes lunge/bark at them to try to ward them off. When she is playing EVERYONE is her friend. Even the scary neighbor guy who comes out with his dog. When she would once bark at him and lunge, she goes right up to him and all of the people outside for petting and playing. She even lets all of the older SCARY MEN pet her. It’s like magic, and it makes me feel happy to see her so happy and not worried. If every day could be like this! This bring up feelings of why? Why is she okay now, playing in the backyard, when other times she definitely isn’t?

The other day one of the scary neighbor men came right up to us and she had a fit, barking, lunging, and I’m sure if she was close enough she probably would’ve tried to bite him to make him go away he was so scary. We put her in the house, then minutes later took her out the back to play with her friend Boomer. A scary man was sitting next door with Boomer’s mom, and Oreo never met this man before–she went right up to him jumping up on him licking him loving the petting! What is up with that? Pehaps she has associated the back yard with good experiences, and good people? Who knows, but I wish it wouldn’t stop. Unfortunately her best friend boomer will be moving in less than 2 weeks 😦 So we have to savor the moments we have…

On another note I am proud of some of the little things I have seen from her. When she is tired of playing, she will walk away from Boomer or lay down. This is a smart decision for her because sometimes she gets over tired then gets snappy. Another thing I noticed was when the other neighbor’s dog came out she did not go over there. I actually think she knows this dog is super shy. It might sound weird, but I think she knows. She uses calming signals with this dog EVERY SINGLE TIME. When she seems him she automatically turns her head and lays down. If you haven’t read about calming signals you should definitely do that. She is trying to calm the other dog down (yay!). Usually she is the one out of control, but after hanging around this dog a few times at a distance, and having her friend Boomer around she has been more comfortable. Also, she was looking out the door and saw a dog coming, barked 2 times, then walked away. Yay! Small victories when there is a long way to go keeps you going…

Growing Up Dog

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.  ~Ben Williams

You heard it right. My best friend is my dog. When I was in second grade my parents got a west highland terrier puppy, we named her Snowy. She lived to be 19 years old!!! She was with me through all of the hard times and the good times too. Some people will just say that I’m crazy, but for those of you that know what it’s like to connect with a dog, they are a member of the family.

I always used to say, “Snowy is my favorite family member”, as I rubbed her head telling her it. Everyone would groan, “We know!” She would close her eyes slightly and smile. It became a joke, but it also showed how much she meant to me. When I was in elementary school and a boy on the bus would bully me, pull my hair, I had Snowy. I would go home and talk to her and tell her. My mom told me to ignore the boy, but Snowy just listened…and agreed. Well, I assume she agreed, she didn’t say anything.

When I was in middle school and trying to fit in with the cool crowd, I would come downstairs in a mini skirt and my mom would tell me to change. Snowy just came up and greeted me and said, “You look lovely.” Okay, she didn’t say it, but she didn’t say anything, she just looked happy to see me. When I came home crying because girls made nasty rumors about me, who was there? Snowy. She laid by my side and liked my face when I cried.

When I got my first job at Dunkin Donuts and I had to get up at 5am, who was there to greet me in the morning when I could hardly get out of bed? Who was there when I got home and opened the door exhausted? Snowy was there wagging her tail. She did not judge, she did not argue, she just listened. I made sure I told my family those things too.

I went to college and knew I would miss her. I rubbed her head goodbye and gave her a hug and kiss. By this time, she was slowing down and her eyesight was going. I felt bad to leave her, but knew that she always liked my mom best and would be in good company. I returned to finish college locally and saw her health slowly deteriorate.

It made me sad to see her move slower and stop playing. I gave her my bean bag for her to lay on close to fire. Hopefully that helped her rest. I remember coming home late one night, and finding her down the hallway. As I went to say hello, she growled at me. Snowy wasn’t usually a growler, so it startled me. I told her that its just me Snowy, and she stopped, realizing through her blindness I was approaching, and not a stranger.

At night she would bark, perhaps she had dementia. Perhaps she couldn’t see well and was afraid. Perhaps she had bad dreams. We thought she had to go outside to go the bathroom, and it became a routine waking up once a night. Eventually it progressed to a few times a night. My parents were miserable. I ended up getting a job after college and moving out, so I didn’t know what it was like to be woken up constantly. I would go visit my parents all the time and see Snowy. Her normal excitement to see me was gone, and she looked sad. When I say she looked sad I mean her tail didn’t wag much anymore and she just laid sleeping in the laundry room, on the dirty clothes.

She would growl at other dogs and had arthritis. We tried giving her pills to help her, but it didn’t seem to help. My mother would always say that she hoped Snowy would pass in her sleep, that one day she would go downstairs and find her peacefully “sleeping” in the laundry room. It stung everytime she talked about it. I told her Snowy would live forever, and was my best friend.

I knew she wouldn’t live forever, but didn’t want to face the fact that my best friend would be gone sooner than I hoped. I grew up with her, and she was there for me. I remember going to the Poconos and it was about a week before I would be going on vacation to Las Vegas. As my mom played cards with a friend, I went into the dark bedroom to find Snowy laying on the ground. She didn’t look happy, so I went and laid next to her with my arm around her, petting her and telling her I love her and what a good girl she was. I remember my mom looking at me and talking to her friend. I knew she was talking about me and the dog, and I knew she was thinking of putting her to sleep.

My mom asked many times if we (someone in the family) would go with her to put the dog down since she was miserable and hurting. I said no and so did everyone else. We didn’t really mean we wouldn’t go, we just thought mom wanted to go soon, so we all thought that saying no would delay the process. I packed up for vacation and said goodbye to my parents. As I left out the door, I saw Snowy laying in the laundry room looking at me. I waved and said goodbye. As I stepped down from the door,  something stopped me. I froze for a second and thought that maybe I should go pet her and say goodbye. Deciding against this, I knew I would see her when I came back.

Arriving home from vacation, I went to my mother’s for dinner. She was still in the Poconos, but was packing up to come home. I walked in the door and automatically looked to the left for Snowy. “She’s in the Poconos, ” I thought. I figured I would hang out and wait for my parents to return for dinner. Needing a drink, I went into the kitchen and noticed Snowy’s bowl was gone. “Hmm, that’s strange”, I thought. “No, they couldn’t have, must have taken it to the Poconos, or they must be cleaning it”. My fiance was with me and I told him out loud that the bowl was not there. I think I knew it then.

Moving to the living room, I looked for the bean bag I had given her many years before, so that she was comfortable. She would always move around in circles, creating an indent on the bean bag perfect for her shape. The bean bag was GONE. I increased my pace, now a fast walk to the laundry room. No dirty clothes down there for her to sleep on. I jogged around the house looking for toys. No toys. “It couldn’t be, she couldn’t have”, I thought.

I immediately called my mom and her voice sounded very surprised that I beat her to the house. She then told me what she did. She took the dog by herself, while everyone was at work to the vet to put her to sleep. She sat alone, in the waiting room with Snowy, while Snowy shook in her arms. Snowy always shook in the waiting room, terrified. I can imagine her shaking with fear, and my mom crying in the waiting room, holding her, trying to tell her everything would be okay, while tears of guilt and saddness of what was to come streamed down her face. I can imagine my mom bringing her in, crying to the vet,  and Snowy thinking it was just another shot or puff of air for another vaccine. I can see the vet putting the puff up her nose of air that would soon put her to sleep while my poor mom watched our family member slowly drift away.

I can’t imagine the horrible images that day has left in my mom’s memory. It is a hard decision to put a dog to sleep, and harder to do it yourself, with no one there. The day still haunts me and I can’t believe my mom had the strength to go herself. I still cry, in fact I’m crying as I write this. It must be the worst feeling in the world watching the one you love dying, and by your choice. I know she was miserable and hurting and went to a better place, but I miss her. For years afterward I would look into the laundry room at my parents house when I walked in the door thinking she was still there. Sometimes I still slip up and call my new dog Snowy.

I know this blog is about reactive dogs, and I have a new dog now who brings me joy, but I write this because it upsets me when I see things in the news about people shooting their dogs or other horrible things. People who say dogs don’t have feelings must never have spent time with a dog. When we brought our new dog Oreo home, she cried and howled as a puppy. She was lonely. When she is hurt she cries and screams. When she is scared her eyes get real big and she freezes. When she wants attention she barks or stares at us. I think with reactive dogs you also see more emotion. The highs are very high, with her jumping around uncontrollably zooming, and her lows of freezing when she is scared or lunging and barking out of control in order to scare away whatever is scaring her.

 Yesterday I had a conversation with her. Well, not quite, but I would say something, and she would give me a little bark back. This continued for a few minutes. I wanted to youtube it, but figured most dogs do this sometimes. Whether people want to admit it or not, dogs have feelings and deserved to be treated like family members.

Dogs are miracles with paws.  ~Attributed to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

Thundershirts

I’ve undertaken something new…a thundershirt. At our training lesson last Wednesday, the trainer suggested a thundershirt and asked if I knew what it was. She was very surprised to know that I have been doing all this research. I promptly searched local stores looking for a thundershirt in hope that this will help Oreo. Thundershirts are like wraps that velcro around the dog to create a feeling of safety, security, and lessen anxiety. There are many great reviews for this product, and some not so great. Many people use thundershirts to lessen the fear of thunder (hense the name).

It was suggested that I put this on her a few times a day leaving it on for different amounts.  So…I put it on her and she stood looking at me, wide eyes, and didn’t move. It was like she was in shock. Then she looked around and wobbled a little like she was off balance. I actually believe she may be getting her balance. Some dogs do not really notice their body. They don’t know their body extends and aren’t aware of it, so that makes it scary when people touch them. I am hoping the thundershirt and ttouch will help with this.

So…she followed me around like a lost puppy dog. She stood on me, followed me to the chair and jumped up to stand on me. It was like she was in shock. To me, she seemed super anxious, although she wasn’t whining or anything, she was just looking, and not moving, very odd. So I took it off after 5 minutes so she can get used to it. Next time I tried to put it on…what do you think happened? She RAN!!! I e-mailed the trainer telling her what happened, and the trainer said that she thinks this will help so I should try to get her used to it. REALLY. That hit me. Wow, yes I am a worry wart. But considering the way she acts when I tried putting something she is scared of near her (she tried to bite, snaps, growls, shows teeth). So I confronted her. Usually not the best thing to do..but I followed my gut. She hid, but I put it on top of her and she did not resist, she did not bite, or growl, or snap.

I’ve putten it on her a few more times and she’s been sleeping on the floor with it on, I think it may be working, relaxing her a bit. She is taking treats now with it on which is good. She still will run at the sight of it. Hopefully she likes it and I’m not forcing her into something scary. I think she has a love/hate relationship with it. She loves it because its calming to her, but she hates seeing it. I think each time I put it on she is a little less scared and a little more relaxed. Hopefully the trainer is right. Not sure yet…I’ll keep you updated.

Do Fidos Need Furry Friends?

I didn’t take much interest in the subject, until I learned today that Oreo’s best friend and neighbor will be moving soon. She is reactive, and only gets along with dogs she knew before the attack. She would do anything for this dog. We go outside and she lays hypnotized at the door, hoping for Boomer to come out.

I love seeing her play with Boomer. She is careless and anxiety free. They romp around the yards, diving on top of each other. Oreo is a smaller dog, while Boomer is the size of a golden retriever. Boomer will lay down and let Oreo jump and pin him down. They play tug with toys and I feel this is a time when Oreo can really be herself. It is truly a joy to watch.

I am saddened to know they are leaving, to know Oreo’s one true playmate will be gone. Walking outside, Oreo heard Boomer barking and whining inside because he is crated when his parents are gone. She layed down outside and refused to move. I enouraged, pulled, and instead of moving with me, she flopped down on her side. She did not want to move. She wanted to stay by Boomer, even though he was inside, she wouldn’t miss a chance to see him.

After learning of their moving, I did some searching about Pet Pals. In fact, I found that most dogs do not enjoy the company of other dogs, but are just tolerating it. I can see that especially when we force dogs to meet on leashes, facing each other. I also realize that many dogs form a very special bond. I think Oreo has that special bond with Boomer.

With my research, I have found that dogs can be just as happy if not happier spending time with family (humans), and it can sometimes be much betters, especially for anxious dogs. I am not saying that dogs do not need socialization, of course they do. Here is a great article about socializing dogs and if they should have friends http://shibashake.com/dog/dog-socialization-good-bad .

Play dates and socializing depend on every dog. I thought bringing my dog up to meet every dog when she was a puppy was a fabulous idea. While trying to socialize her, I think she thought she could go up to every dog then, and that every dog wanted to play. She also probably got anxiety from greeting many dogs. Now I would hate it if someone came up to me and my dog walking wishing to greet us. You live and learn I guess.

On a different, yet interesting topic. I have noticed every time Oreo encounters a fellow neighbor dog who is a small hot dog, she lays down and turns her head right away as soon as she sees him from a distance. YAY! Good Oreo for using calming signals. She is scared of every other dog, but uses appropriate calming signals with this dog. She doesn’t love to play with him, actually he is too frightened, he may come sniff but then runs away. She must know he is scared to send off calming signals. It is very interesting. I hope to utilze this somehow in the future.