General Interest

Invisible Dogs

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

It was an exciting day at my house— the day I got to pet my foster dogs. This may not sound like a momentous occasion to most people, but those who have rehabilitated a seriously shy or under-socialized dog realize it’s a pretty big step.

My foster dogs are a pair of 4-yearold Dalmatians that were rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri and have no concept of life as a companion animal. Dubbed Jack and Jill, the two actually climbed onto my bed today and let me reach over to pet them. I could not face them directly, and I could not stand up, but we actually had a moment where my touch wasn’t such a terrible thing.

Training sessions on my bed? Well, not what I had planned, but if it works, I’ll run with it. Every dog is different, making every training plan a puzzle to be solved.

There are a number of factors that can cause certain dogs to be shy. For some, it can be blamed on a lack of proper early socialization. Puppies are like little sponges during the first 16 weeks of life. Dogs not properly exposed to human handling as young puppies will have a much harder time assimilating into our world as companion animals.

Dogs that experience stress can also become shy. A stray dog may learn that humans can’t be trusted. A dog in a shelter environment may start to withdraw. And of course, dogs that have experienced abuse or neglect may also become quite timid.

Then, there are genetics. Just as some people have a natural tendency toward shyness, so do some dogs. You can have a litter in which each of the puppies has been raised with the same level of socialization and interaction, but some of the pups might be shy while others are quite outgoing. Whatever the root cause, our shrinking violet dogs are often misunderstood and can be a source of frustration and embarrassment to their owners.

Truth be told, humans tend to be a bit narrow-minded when it comes to communicating with dogs. Usually our intentions are good, but our dog communication skills are often quite clumsy. While most dogs take it all in stride, shy dogs can find the human approach to friendship very overwhelming and confusing.

When humans meet, direct eye contact is expected. We tend to stand squarely facing each other. We immediately grab each other’s hand for a firm shake. It’s all very direct and considered polite.

Now look at things from the dog’s point of view. The average dog generally stands a couple of feet tall or less. Human strangers tower overhead. To greet a dog, well-meaning humans generally move straight toward the dog while bending forward at the waist, staring directly into the dog’s eyes and talking in a loud, high-pitched babble. Then toss in a hand immediately reaching out for a too-much-too-soonpat on the head.

So, when the shy dog backpedals and looks more than a little panicked, what do we do? Well, most people either scold the dog, drag it back toward the newcomer by the leash or collar, or a lovely combination of both. At the same time, the newcomer loudly proclaims that “dogs just love me” and proceeds to try even harder to make the dog submit to attention.

When you consider the dog’s perspective, it’s a giant recipe for disaster, isn’t it? A truly fearful dog who feels trapped and threatened might even resort to growling or barking at the stranger in an attempt to end the confrontation.

So, what to do? How can we help our shy dogs come out of their shells to learn to accept and, hopefully, enjoy socializing with our species?

First, be your shy dog’s champion. Understand your dog’s personality and work to help shift the perception from “new person equals scary” to “new person equals safe interactions and reward.”

Be prepared to explain to people interested in meeting your dog that he or she is a bit shy. Ask them to not acknowledge the dog for a few minutes, so your dog has a chance to smell the new person from a safe distance beside you. If possible, ask the new person to squat down or sit down at an angle to the dog. If the dog chooses to move forward to sniff the newcomer, let that happen without any attempt to interact with the dog. Just give the dog a little space and time to feel secure.

If you see signs that your dog is relaxing, you may want to just stop there. The dog has had a good experience and is starting to feel at ease around a new person. Resist the temptation to ruin that progress by moving forward with too much contact too quickly.

Let the dog move casually away from the new person and quietly praise the dog. By remaining calm yourself, you are setting the stage for your dog to remain calm and happy as well.

Another great tool in helping a shy dog gain confidence is to enlist the aid of another dog. In my experience, most people-shy dogs are good around other dogs. If your shy dog enjoys interacting with other dogs, enlist the aid of a friend with a confident, friendly dog to serve as a good role model. Take the two dogs out to socialize together. Ask people to pet and pay attention to the confident dog while pretending the shy dog is invisible. Just let the shy dog observe the interaction with no pressure to join in.

After a few outings, you may find that the shy dog will start approaching new people along with the confident dog. As this starts to happen, remember the “don’t overdo it” rule. Perhaps let the shy dog sniff the newcomer and maybe have the stranger offer both dogs a treat. End the interaction at this point, again walking away in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.

My shy dog duo is particularly fond of my personal dog, Howie. Howie is a very social, easy-going dog. By petting and playing with Howie, I’ve been able to start including Jack and Jill in the fun. Howie is the best teacher I have for these two dogs.

Formal training with your shy dog is another great way to boost confidence. A group class can provide a learning opportunity where no one dog is the center of attention, allowing a shy dog to blend into the class. If you do choose to take a group class with your dog, be sure to let your instructor know about your dog’s issues, so he or she can adjust lessons accordingly.

For some dogs, however, a busy training school might be too overwhelming. If your dog walks into a training facility and shuts down or panics, perhaps you should contact a trainer for a one-on-one private session. No matter where you train, make sure the methods employed focus on positive motivation training to help boost your dog’s confidence in a fun, engaging manner.

The more you can teach your dog, the more tools you have for helping your dog cope in uncomfortable situations. For example, if you are out for a walk and a neighbor comes to greet you, ask your dog to sit and stay by your side. You have now given your dog a “job” to focus on instead of allowing it to worry about the stranger standing nearby. When you release your dog from the stay, offer lots of calm praise and perhaps even have your visitor casually hand or toss a treat to your dog. This gives your dog a positive association with your neighbor and rewards appropriate behavior.

Another fun exercise I use in working with shy dogs is the touch game. Extend your flat palm to your dog. Most dogs will sniff your hand out of curiosity. When your dog sniffs your hand, or touches it, praise the dog and immediately offer a treat. Then, repeat. Pretty soon you will see that your dog quickly touches its nose to your extended palm when you give the verbal cue “touch.”

Once your dog catches on, you can move your hand from place to place in front of you, beside you and even behind. The dog will enjoy the fun interaction.

This game can then become a tool to use with a friendly stranger. Have a visitor sit and, without staring at the dog or trying to touch the dog, offer a palm in front of the dog and give the “touch” cue. The beauty of this game is that the dog gets to initiate the contact. Keep it simple, short and positive. Hopefully, you will soon see your dog feeling more comfortable around newcomers.

These ideas are just a few of a number of ways you can work to socialize your shy dog. Most importantly, vow to stay patient and, please, always obey the shy dog golden rule: Do not force your shy dog into the spotlight. As much as you want your dog to be social, and as much as people want to win your dog’s affection, trying to force your dog to like new people will almost always backfire.

As for my extremely shy foster dogs, training sessions on my bed with the help of mentor dog, Howie, continue. I look forward to helping them understand that people are a source of good things. In the meantime, I will celebrate every touch and every small step forward.

Winston’s Noble Cause

posted January 15th, 2012 by
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By Anna Holton-Dean

From his docile, sweet disposition, you would never know that Winston had once been treated so cruelly, so inhumanely. “When he gets excited, he jumps around as if he were dancing,” his owner, Lisa Lewis, says. “He loves to be hugged and petted. Like most Boxers, he loves to be with his family.”

TulsaPetsMagazine.comHis scars, however, tell a different story. Winston’s tragic, yet uplifting, journey began in 2008, when then-Medical Director of Tulsa Boxer Rescue, Cris Amos, received a phone call about a Boxer that had been found wandering, along with others, in North Tulsa with severe burns covering 90 percent of his back and continuing down his legs.

“After leaving the shelter, I transported Winston—the name I came up with in the car because he needed something noble—to the vet clinic that TBR uses for emergencies,” Amos says. “Their opinion was a caustic substance (acid) had been poured on his back. He looked more like raw hamburger than a dog.”

Despite his mistreatment, Winston was trusting of Amos’ intentions. “I have found that most Boxers, or any other dogs,” Amos says, “really don’t hold a grudge, even though he was so brutally abused. I really think he knew we were there to help him.”

Amos immediately went to work finding Winston a forever home, where he would be nursed back to health and loved. He remembered that a family member, Lisa Lewis, was interested in fostering, “but not a young, active dog.”

“I suggested a medically-needy dog, and she was all for it,” he says. “All I had to do was wait for the right dog to come along—Winston was the right dog.”

Amos checked on Winston every other day in the beginning as he healed, and the Lewis family doted on him unconditionally. TBR allowed them to adopt him (on their oldest daughter’s 16th birthday), and even waived the normal adoption fee due to the scope of the injuries and the time the Lewis family had put in bringing him back to health.

Stay-at-home mom (and dog lover) Lewis remembers taking care of Winston in those first critical days. “It took six to eight weeks for his wounds to heal completely,” she says. “After that, we were careful to keep a shirt on him when he was outside, so that his new skin wouldn’t get sunburned. Now, his skin has toughened a little, and he isn’t outside that much. The only thing I do now is spoil him by massaging the skin daily and putting Vitamin E oil on it when it looks dry.”

Three and a half years later, he continues to heal, growing in new hair all the while. “I don’t think it will every completely grow in over his scars, but it has grown in far more than anyone who saw him ever thought it would,” Lewis says. “He is so handsome that we don’t notice his scars anyway!”

Now, Winston is just as much a member of the family as the four Lewis children, and everyone pitches in to care for him. “Winston [technically] belongs to our oldest daughter, Amanda, who is now a freshman in college,” Lewis says. “Winston and she are very close, and he misses her living at home a great deal. Amanda loves animals and spent time volunteering for Tulsa Boxer Rescue. Winston is very protective of her and doesn’t like it when other male dogs try to get close to her.”

These days, 11-year-old Caleb has taken over Amanda’s duties of caring for Winston and helps Lewis take him to donate blood; 10-year-old Devyn helps bathe him and takes him for walks. And the youngest member of the Lewis family, 4-year-old Wyatt, learned to stand with Winston’s assistance. “When Wyatt was a baby, Winston would stand over him while he was sitting on the floor,” she says. “Wyatt would reach up and grab Winston’s jowls and pull himself up to stand. Winston just stood there and let him do it. They spend hours in the back yard playing ball. My husband, Chris, is a pilot, so he is out of town half of the time. When he is gone, Winston is the man of the house. He follows me around the house all day and protects me from the trash man and mailman.”

From a victim of abuse to a loved family pet, Winston is one “lucky dog.” And being that Boxers are the universal donors of the dog world, Lewis and Amos decided donating blood would be an ideal way for him to “pay it forward.”

“When word of Winston hit the news media, many people donated money to help with his medical bills,” Lewis says. “One group of coworkers brought him a shirt and some toys to play with. What better way to express gratitude for the people who helped Winston than to help others.

“Winston was a little nervous the first time he donated blood, but he has gotten used to it. The actual donating takes about 15 minutes. There are no restrictions on the dogs after they donate, and they are able to give once a month. He gets treats afterward, and he has a special tag on his collar that identifies him as a donor.” His tag reads, “I give so others may live.”

Tracy Hendrickson, a medical technologist and owner of Companion Pets Veterinary Blood Bank, says donations from Winston and other donors have helped save puppies and adult dogs with problems such as Parvo, rat poisoning, cancer, and flea and tick anemias, just to name a few.

Hendrickson says one of Winston’s personal donations was used to save a dog that was hit by a car and needed emergency surgery.

Companion Pets Veterinary Blood Bank is unique in that there are very few animal blood banks across the country. So most vets must have blood shipped, or they have donor dogs on site.

“We have a donor pool of over 200 dogs that we are able to draw from throughout the year,” Hendrickson says. “All dogs are typed and disease-free before units are released. The profits are donated back to rescue groups since we operate as a non-profit business.”

Lewis is proud to say Winston is one of those 200 dogs giving a second chance to others. “As you can tell,” she says, “we love Winston, and I could talk about him for hours!”

Can You Hear Me Now?

posted January 15th, 2012 by
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TulsaPetsMagazine.comClose your eyes, plug your ears and welcome to the world of a newborn puppy. Those adorable little balls of fluff snuggled up tightly to one another look so at peace and content, especially for lacking two major senses. The idea that pups are born functionally deaf (with their ear canals closed) and blind (with their eyelids tightly shut) makes every move and mealtime seem like quite an accomplishment. As the days pass, senses develop and exploring begins, but sadly, not for all. Some puppies, due to genetics, are born blind or deaf. Typically, blind pups are easy to identify, so their special needs can be met, but deaf dogs can be trickier to detect.

Any dog lover will tell you how amazing canines are, how smart and intuitive. So the thought of a dog overcompensating for a disability is no surprise. Dogs that are born deaf don’t know what they’re missing, and even though they can’t hear you call their name, they can feel the vibrations of your foot steps and come running. Many people never even know that their pet can’t hear them. How could they if sometimes Rover comes when called and other times he ignores them? They chalk it up to stubbornness.

If you find yourself frustrated by a non-responsive pooch, or one who responds half the time, a simple BAER test could be in order before deciding that your canine acts more like that of the swine family (aka pig-headed)

The BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) machine/ procedure uses a computer to record the electrical activity of the brain in response to sound stimulation. This is the same test used to check the hearing of human infants, and it measures the same range of hearing. The test is not painful and can be performed on any dog over six weeks of age.

Unfortunately, BAER machines are very expensive and, therefore, not common. Only two are known of in Oklahoma. One is located at Oklahoma State University’s veterinary school and the other is right here in Tulsa at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Carol Best, owner of Best Friends, says the hospital purchased the machine in September, and the response has been very positive.

Oftentimes, the BAER test is used to detect deafness for breeding purposes. “As with any genetic problem, early diagnosis of the affected animals can keep them from being used for breeding and, therefore, should help reduce or eliminate the gene from the breed,” Dr. Best explains. As the BAER machine becomes more commonplace, those considering adoption from a deaf-prone breed may inquire if the dogs have been tested — eliminating any of the guesswork up front.

However, there are also benefits for the average dog owner who simply wants to better understand and meet the needs of his or her furry family member, making life easier for everyone in the home. The BAER test is the only sure way to know if a dog is deaf; it is a 100-percent reliable method for measuring the extent of hearing loss.

Dr. Best says certain breeds are more prone to deafness than others. Dalmatians and Australian Cattle Dogs are at the top of the list. Other breeds include: American and English Foxhounds, Boston Terriers, Bull Terriers, Collies, Dachshunds, English Setters, Fox Terriers, Great Danes (color linked), Great Pyrenees, Maltese, Miniature Poodles, and Scottish Terriers.

If you suspect that your dog might be deaf or have hearing loss, Dr. Best says there are some signs to look for. “They can include not coming when called, especially if their back is to you, not waking up when you come home, and having trouble locating where a sound is,” she says. “Signs of hearing loss can be subtle, especially if only one ear is affected.”

While the BAER machine can work on all types of animals, Dr. Best says it is mostly used for puppies. If you’re interested in having your pet’s hearing tested, you can contact Best Friends Veterinary Hospital at (918)

By Kiley Roberson

Photos by Sirius Photography

15 Lessons from Your Pooch

posted January 9th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

Sure, we teach our animals—how to do tricks or how to relieve themselves outdoors. But what can we learn from them? According to, here are 15 life lessons we could stand to learn from our four-legged companions.

  1. Clean Your Plate. Don’t let those veggies go to waste. Remember to use portion control while filling your plate. Then, just as Fido would do, lick it clean!
  2. Take Naps. In our overworked, overstressed society, it’s good to recharge with a power nap. There’s a reason your pooch takes time out for zzz’s. It is actually heart healthy to rest during the day.
  3. Sniff It Out. The first thing furry friends do is sniff out each other when they meet. Take a tip from your dog and investigate before jumping into commitments whether it’s business or relationships. “If it smells fine, it’s OK to play.”
  4. See Your Partner with Fresh Eyes. You probably don’t meet your significant other at the door by jumping up and down, but wouldn’t it be nice if someone was that excited to see you? So, welcome your sweetie home with exuberance.
  5. Find Something You Love and Do It Over and Over. The same way your furry companion could play fetch all day, you should find something you are passionate about and pursue it. Not only will you get to enjoy it over and over, but you’ll get better at something you love. Practice makes perfect.
  6. Breathe Deeply. While humans do not need to pant to regulate body temperature, it is helpful to remember that deep breaths create emotional balance and relieve stress.
  7. Speak Up When Things Don’t Feel Right. Trust your instincts, and let people know how you feel. You might not want to bark in their faces, but when spoken in calm words, your opinion or needs will be well received.
  8. Learn to Receive. Dogs are experts at not only giving but receiving love.  It may be easier than you think. Let yourself feel and be loved in any of its forms.
  9. Know Who You Are. It didn’t take your pooch long to learn his or her name, and chances are, he or she comes running at the sound of it. Explore yourself. Once you know who you are, don’t be afraid to be your true self.
  10. Take Lots of Walks. We already mentioned that dogs know the importance of rest. Likewise, they know the benefits of a good walk. Remember to walk each day and reap the physical, as well as emotional and mental, benefits.
  11. Drink Your Water. It’s a no-brainer. Pets know to drink water to quench their thirsts after exertion. We, too, must stay hydrated for optimum health. Make a resolution to drink plenty of water in 2012.
  12. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Dirty. Wanna do something new or fun? Just do it! Some new experiences are cleaner than others, but don’t let that stop you.
  13. Shake It Off. Stuff happens. The sooner you let a bad experience or situation go mentally, the better. Just as your dog shakes off that water (from the bath or mud puddle), so should you.
  14. Good Looks Will Get You Anywhere. When Fido shreds your new throw pillows, you know you will forgive him after he throws you a cute look. Take a lesson and play up your “cute factor.” It will get you out of many a jam.
  15. Don’t Hold Grudges. Your pet doesn’t live in the past. After you’ve scolded him, he is ready to feel your loving touch only a moment later. Be as forgiving, and you will enjoy your life more.

Sweater Weather: Does your dog need extra winter covering?

posted January 2nd, 2012 by
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By Anna Holton-Dean

It’s wintertime again, and here in Oklahoma that means ice, snow and bitter-cold wind. Even for dogs covered in hair or fur, the cold can be more than uncomfortable. If you have ever wondered whether or not your pooch needs a winter sweater or coat for trips outdoors, says there are three types of dogs that may need extra covering:

  • Small dogs.
  • Dogs who are elderly, chronically ill or both.
  • Dogs of a thin body type, especially those with short fur, such as Greyhounds or Whippets.

Dr. Marty Becker explains that these types of dogs have a tougher time generating and retaining body heat, so any assistance in keeping dry and warm is helpful. He also suggests leaving the sweater on indoors if you keep your thermostat turned down to save energy.

Protective clothing is also a good idea for dogs with arthritis to make winter months more comfortable.

Dr.  Becker says, “Even if your dog doesn’t need a coat, having one certainly won’t hurt him. I know many people who put slickers on their pets before taking a walk in the rain or snow because it saves them the trouble of cleaning a wet dog at the door before coming inside, for example. Boots help keep things neater, too, and where de-icing solutions are used, they can protect your pet from licking toxic chemicals off his paws.”

That’s good advice to keep in mind for Tulsa pet owners who certainly will be taking their dogs for walks in the snow and ice this winter season.

Indoor Activities for Cooler Temps

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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By Stacy Pettit

Winter can be tough for pets and owners alike with biting temperatures and that knawing itch to get outside and play that can never be scratched.

And although the temperature outside might be dropping, that does not mean Fido and Mitten’s energy levels are dropping as well.

Well, TulsaPets Magazine has come up with a few ideas to keep both you and your furry friend entertained and moving this winter season.

Check out the list below for a few thrilling ideas to keep you busy during those chilling winter months.

1. How about taking a tip from Jack Frost outside? Try freezing one of your K-9’s favorite gooey treats, such as peanut butter, inside a Kong or other puzzle toy. Your pup will be entertained and stimulated while he tries to get to that gooey and delicious center.

2. Being confined indoors does not mean you have to stay in your own home. Why not head to your local pet supplies store and go on a shopping spree? Not only does your pet get to pick out his or her own toys for the day, but Fido and Mittens might also make a few other furry friends while browsing the store.

3. Every hound loves a magnificent mutt magic show! Let your pup watch as you place a treat under a cup on the floor. Then place two other cups next to it and switch the cups around in front of your dog. Once you stop, allow your pet to sniff out and nudge the correct cup. If he gets it correct, give him the treat and praise him for his magic trick! Warning: Keep the magic down to a minimum. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat might be a big headache and could end in chaos for said rabbit.

4. The great thing about indoor games is that they don’t have to cost you a dime. To keep your cuddly kitty entertained, try attaching a piece of material onto a string. Drag the material across the floor to grab your cat’s interest. Once you have Mittens’ attention, the chase is on!

5. Who says you are the only one who deserves a day at the spa? Truthfully, Fido has probably had quite a few more mud baths than you have, even if they were not approved by you first. Take a while to give your pup a pampering bath by using replenishing oils and washing away any signs of a dirty dog. Finish off the spa day by brushing your K-9’s coat, ensuring that he continues to be shiny and clean.

6. Everyone can feel a little closed in and secluded during the winter months, but inviting a few friends over always cures those winter blues. The same goes for your pet.

Invite friends with their furry companions over for a puppy play date.

7. If your pup is missing his normal routine of jumping in his backyard, try this trick. Use an old broomstick and prop it up in a doorway.

Then, teach Fido to hop over it. Hopefully, this game will allow your hopping hound to enjoy jumping without jumping onto the dinner table for that turkey dinner.

8. The trick to keeping your kitty entertained could simply be meeting other outdoor creatures’ needs. By hanging a bird feeder near a window, Mittens will have an irresistible scene to watch outdoors.

To ensure your furry feline is comfortable, make the perfect watch spot by placing a cushion or blanket by the watching window.

Try one, or all, of these suggestions to liven up an otherwise boring, chilly day. Your furry friend will thank you.