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!

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. 

The Chicken Thief

There is a chicken thief in our midst…and her name is Oreo!

My husband bought a chicken sandwich and fries from Checkers and sat down to have his delicious lunch. However, the world had other plans for that sandwich. 

  He got up to take a phone call, leaving the sandwich and fries on a tv table (easy access for the chicken thief). When Matt arrived back to his seat after the call-the chicken sandwich and fries were missing!

The chicken thief was caught red handed with a wrapper hanging out of her mouth.

Boy, my husband learned his lesson. Dogs easily become thieves when chicken sandwiches and fries are involved.

The guilty girl aka chicken thief:




Compulsive Canines

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-yes, dogs have it. I was reminded of my dog’s compulsive behavior this morning as her head went from the water bowl to the foot bowl-nose touching each, then touching the floor outside the bowl in a sweeping motion. Oreo would touch the water, the food, then the floor, around and around. I happened to be standing near her, so I interrupted the behavior by throwing another small tidbit of chicken in her bowl. This discontinued her behavior.
Oreo used to do this A LOT before we did training and added anxiety meds. She would not only make a mess in her food, but she would spend over 15 minutes with this round about behavior. When she was younger, she also had obsessive fixation on certain toys. It wasn’t the cute kind of fetch or chewing, it was very aggressive, whale eye, I can’t stop myself from chewing this ball/bone/toy. 

So where do these obsessive behaviors come from? Obsessive behaviors that interfere with your dog’s life should be checked out by a veterinarian. Your vet can rule out any medical problems. Many obsessive behaviors can be neurological, while others can be caused by anxiety or environment. Dogs that are very intense, hyper, motivated, and in the working group are the canines most likely to develop obsessive compulsive behaviors. 

It’s best to address these issues when they start. Here are some ways to treat the behavior:

Create a routine. Many times these behaviors can be from stress or anxiety. A clear and regular routine could soothe your dog’s fears and reduce the ocd behavior.

Exercise. Exercise will not only help keep your dog’s mind at ease, but it will help them feel better.

Try T-touch or massages (if your dog is used to them, if not-read up on T-touch it has many benefits). This can relax your dog and release stress.

Use a thunder-shirt to help your dog relax (it has helped my dog!)

Train your dog using positive training. This will allow your dog to know what’s expected and if you want to interrupt the behavior, you can with some tricks you taught your pup.

Involve a positive trainer. Trainers can help identify what your dog is motivated by and stressed by. They can also teach incompatible behaviors. For example, my dog is highly driven by food and toy rewards. When she started her food/water obsessive behavior, I interrupted it by adding some chicken to her food. I also can stop her excessive licking by giving her a toy. 

Training and routine are VERY important for dogs that are stressed-so is exercise. Try writing down the things that stress your dog. Next, eliminate them if you can. If you can’t eliminate the stress, then manage it, train your dog, make a positive association, or give them something else to do (example: if they are stressed by you leaving, give them a kong filled with peanut butter when you walk out the door). If you have tried all of these it may be time to visit a behavioral veterinarian. They will be able to help you analyze your dog’s behavior, try training and medicine to help.

Don’t be afraid to use medicine if training does not work. Find a GREAT positive trainer (your dog deserves the best). If with training the compulsive behavior does not work, get a vet involved. Put yourself in your dog’s paws-would you want to be in their position? Wouldn’t you want help? Help your pup!!!

Trusting a Select Few

  This picture would’ve seemed impossible years ago, but now Oreo trusts my dad so much she jumped up on his lap to lounge.

Some dogs trust a select few people in their short lives. Oreo is one of them. Oreo’s fear and anxiety is caused from being taken away from her mother and siblings too early. Pups should stay with their mother for 12 weeks. During this time puppies learn many important lessons and if taken away earlier can lack social skills and are more prone to be nervous and fearful. 

Oreo trusts me the most since I spent years working with her at reactive training classes. She also trusts my husband, and parents. She has a tenuous trust with my brother in law and some trust with my sister. She has a select few she trusts and has a hard time bringing more people into her “circle of trust.” 

Building trust with reactive dogs can be long and hard but their trust is an amazing gift. In the next post I will talk about ways to work with a reactive dog to earn their trust. 

There’s Nothing to Worry About: Dad’s Back!

I got off my lazy day recliner to get a drink and I come back and see this! Oreo seems to say, “Don’t mind me, I’ve just made myself comfortable.” 

Her dad was gone all week for a conference down in Florida so she spent much of her time in the evening watching the door and looking out the window. Her father arrived home last night and now her life is complete: a pillow, blanket, and her dad. Lazy day. 

Do the Flip!

As I sit here watching tv, my dog daughter jumps up for a cuddle. This is my view while watching American Idol. Notice the ears-flipped! If you have a dog with long ears it’s vital to keep them clean and dry-so flip them when they are relaxing! This helps get air in there. 

Oreo has had lots of allergy problems and ear infections when she was young, but flipping the ears has really helped, along with weekly or biweekly cleaning with witch hazel on a cotton ball. You can tell a lot about the health of your dog through his or her ears. If they smell or have blisters get them to the vet! If they are dirty-clean them and get some air in there: Do the Flip!

Find a Different Way

We are currently sitting outside while my brother-in-law is cutting wood, making us a shelf for our patio. There was once a time where just seeing him would cause Oreo to fly into a barking panic and hearing the noise of a saw would send her into a fit. 

However, we have to find a new way to do things so that our anxious dogs are no longer worried, but calm and relaxed. For example, Oreo use to back up and bark excessively out of fear when she saw Chris (brother-in-law). This would happen if we greeted him inside.

 Instead, we tried the greeting outside, by doing a quick sniff, turning and walking with him. This technique seems to work with most people, sometimes even strangers. Many times we think, “Well this is how my dog is supposed to act, why aren’t they listening?” Or sometimes we give up all together and avoid what we think scares them. Reactive dogs think differently, so we should too. Having a reactive dog can be difficult, but it’s much easier if you find a different way.