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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.

Help Your Shelter Pet Learn

posted January 15th, 2012 by
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By Merit Day

Perhaps you’ve recently adopted a puppy or adolescent shelter dog. Kudos to you! But now it’s time to get down to business — the business of training that unruly (and likely poorly-socialized) pooch into the obedient, charming dog just waiting to be cultivated. Let’s begin at… well, the beginning.

Human babies grow and learn by leaps and bounds during the first year of life, from a helpless creature dependent on its mother, to a mischievous toddler exploring its new world. Puppies are not too different; in fact, the majority of a dog’s physical and emotional development also occurs in its first year. Learning during this time has a significant impact on the future behavioral development of a dog. Research shows that socialization and training can greatly influence this learning process. Therefore, (just like children) providing socialization and training at the correct times in a dog’s life is crucial to its future behavior. If your pooch is still in the adolescent stage, the following information on a puppy’s development will help direct your steps as you shape your little friend into a happy, obedient, well-adjusted dog.

During the first eight weeks of a puppy’s life it is driven to bond with its mother and littermates. A young puppy will have its initial exposure to the world through smell, touch and vision. He or she will learn through playtime with littermates what it means to be a dog. Through chewing and exploring it will learn motor skills, early social skills, and even how to eliminate outdoors if its mother has access to properly teach this skill. Having access to a few people, interesting toys, and the outdoors can help ensure a stable, well-adjusted dog as it matures. A puppy has its first “fear period” around 8 weeks old. If you bring home a new puppy at this age, let it adjust slowly to new things. Try to eliminate anything that would constitute “scary” for a puppy during this short period. For example, keep its social exposures limited for a few days to only immediate family, and to a smaller area in the house.

As the puppy develops in its third month, it has increasing social needs, which for the domestic dog includes being open to bonding with humans and developing human relationships. This is a good time to bring a puppy away from its littermates and into its new home. Human owners will now delegate the boundaries for nipping, jumping, and playtime carried over from its mother. The mother will have weaned and trained the puppy in many ways, which is an important step toward accepting limits from human owners. As the dog enters into its adolescent development stage around four months, it is most receptive to learning through positive reinforcement training. The puppy is constantly absorbing and processing information from its environment, and many perceptions are formed at this age. The concept of correlation (consequences) is being learned.

At this time, a puppy will be quick to associate a specific behavior with a reward it receives. This is the time to associate rewards with human touch, restraint, and encouragement. This is a critical process for the puppy called “socialization.” Linked to this is a dog owner’s first big responsibility because the puppy is dependent on its owner to experience new things. Training/learning verbal commands for proper behaviors is easily started and should continue through the pup’s first year.

By the time the dog is 6 to 8 months old, and reaches sexual maturity, much of its temperament is now observable. Researchers believe that a dog’s adult temperament is determined by 50 percent genetics and 50 percent environmental factors. This means it is possible to change or alter a dog’s behavior through environmental influence — either good or bad. At this time, a dog develops independence; therefore, new behaviors will emerge, such as the willingness to explore farther away from the owner’s reach. Any previous training on manners or verbal commands may appear to have been lost as the dog makes the choice to test boundaries and owner expectations. Reinforcement of these things is necessary, but don’t lose hope; previous learning is not permanently lost during this testing period for a puppy. Again, just as children and teenagers test boundaries, adolescent dogs will do the same.TulsaPetsMagazine.com

Understanding which developmental stage your dog is entering or leaving is helpful for identifying its specific training needs. Working with your dog—with these tips in mind — according to his or her age-appropriate needs will ultimately influence its long-term adult behavior — and hopefully lower your stress level.

Fostering for Success

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

So, I just walked into my living room, and there was no place for me to sit down. Every possible surface was covered with snoozing dogs. I wish I could tell you this is an unusual sight for me, but it’s not. I have a lot of dogs. A lot.

No, I am not going to appear on the next episode of Animal Hoarders. At least, I sure hope not. A good number of the aforementioned couch-hogs are not mine — they are my foster dogs. They are my very welcome, temporary canine guests who are staying in our home until the perfect adoptive family comes along to give them a permanent home of their own.

Standing there wondering how and when I might be allowed to relax on my own couch, it did dawn on me that there might be a little flaw in my fostering plan. Dogs free-range in the house and on the furniture… Hmmm…. What if a great prospective home comes along that prefers dogs stay off the furniture? (All of my dogs just gave a huge collective shudder.)

Fostering homeless dogs is a great thing to do. No, this is not me patting myself on the back. This is me patting myself, and a huge number of dedicated people in our area, on the back. The ability to house rescued dogs in private foster homes helps relieve the strain on crowded shelters. It helps non-profit groups save more deserving animals while saving the expense of boarding fees. And for the animals fostered? It lets us learn as much as possible about their temperament and habits, while also getting a jump start on important training. Oh… we’re supposed to be training them.

Ok, I am selling myself a bit short. I do work with my foster dogs to integrate them into normal home life, although I am not sure you can call anything at my house normal. Jim, my ever-patient partner in life and fostering, and I do teach our foster dogs that they should potty outside. We teach them that a dog crate is really just their own private room. We teach them that sitting politely will earn them a cookie. But is that enough? Perhaps not.

According to Amy Hoagland, volunteer with Pet Adoption League (PAL), the most common reason dogs are returned to the rescue is because they are not housetrained. Additional complaints include destructive behavior and/or a lack of manners.

Time for a tiny soapbox moment here. It makes me a tad bit crazy when I am approached by people who want to rescue a dog, but would like one that is housetrained, behaves perfectly in all situations, doesn’t need to use a crate, heels on walks, and if it could make the morning coffee that would be great, too.

Really? Oh yes, dogs just like that are turning up in shelters and rescue programs every single day.  And now I’ll hop back down now. Truth be told, anything a foster volunteer can do to jumpstart a rescued dog’s training is a great thing. It’s part of the job and, hopefully, part of the fun.

Hoagland says that in addition to housetraining, her foster home wish list includes crate training and a routine feeding schedule (no free-feeding!).

“It’s also important for foster families to help socialize the dog and teach it good basic manners — things such as no jumping up on people, not allowing begging from the table and walking nicely on a leash,” says Hoagland. “Instilling routines and boundaries during the foster process will help the dog succeed when it gets to its new home.”

I decided that I should create a pro/con list of sorts for my foster dogs.  If you know a dog’s strengths and, let’s call them “areas in need of improvement,” then you can devise an adoption-focused training plan. Let’s take a look at one of my dogs in waiting.     Meet Suzy. Found stray outside of a convenience store, she is a young mixed breed dog. So mixed, in fact, I can’t really even decide what breeds came together through the generations to create her. She’s about two years old and has a great temperament.  A great candidate for adoption, right? But, she has not yet found that perfect home, so let’s take a closer look at Suzy, and the things I could do to improve her potential.

Pros: Suzy is young, friendly, good around children and good with other dogs. She is housetrained. She will stay in a crate without fussing. She is a nice, medium size and has a short coat that requires little grooming.  She is out of the puppy destructive phase, and she’s very sweet and playful.

Cons: Well, yes, she gets on the furniture. Not a con at my house, but perhaps not what someone else would want. She is housetrained, but accustomed to using a dog door. Without the convenience of a dog door? Well, I’m not sure she understands to cross her legs and whine at the door.

Finally, and perhaps odd for the con list, she’s friendly. Really friendly. When you meet Suzy for the first time, she acts as though you are her long lost best friend. To put it simply, she goes a little (…OK, a lot)  nuts.

On the scale of cons, being overly-friendly may not seem like such a big deal. Friendly is, after all, good. Suzy, however, is bouncy, squealing, jump-all-over-you friendly.  Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming.

To do my sweet foster girl justice, I need to teach her a few more skills to help her find and stay in a loving, permanent home. The housetraining issue just requires that I designate a few key times throughout the day and evening to take Suzy out the back door and then praise her for doing her business outside. I will crate her at night, so I can take her straight out the door in the morning. I can start a potty routine with her instead of letting her come and go as she pleases, via the dog door.

As for the crazy greeting ritual, a little creative training is in order. Suzy’s intentions are good, she just needs a bit of work on her mode of expression. In the positive training world, the best way to stop a dog from doing a behavior you don’t like is to pick a behavior you do like that is incompatible with the undesired behavior. So, for a dog that is jumping up on people, you teach her to sit for attention. The dog soon learns that jumping up does not get attention, and sitting does.

For a dog that is as enthusiastic about her greeting ritual as Suzy is, just teaching her to sit for hello may not be totally effective. In addition to sit for hello, I am going to teach her a few fun tricks that will allow her to interact and receive attention, but in a fashion that is not only appropriate, but also endearing. Suzy is going to learn to high five, perhaps to sit up and wave or maybe to turn in circles on request — all ways to burn enthusiasm without knocking someone over.

I will also teach Suzy to “hug.” Often, when you put an undesirable behavior on cue, you can control it and give it an on/off switch. By teaching Suzy to “hug” on command, she will learn to do it only on cue, and I will be able to tell her when it’s time to stop.

I think this is a good solution because Suzy really loves to hug, and I really enjoy hugging her back. Anyone who doesn’t want a huggable dog should not adopt Suzy. Actually, I really believe that anyone who doesn’t want a huggable dog shouldn’t adopt a dog at all. Food for thought.

OK, back to the situation in my living room. Well, truth be told, I am going to continue to allow my dogs on the furniture. I truly enjoy having them relax there with me. I’m not going to tell my foster dogs otherwise, but my compromise is that I do teach every dog the “off” cue. So, while I am not teaching them to stay off the couch, I am giving prospective owners the ability to ask the dog to move off of prime seating when necessary. If anyone out there is interested in adopting Suzy, or any of my foster dogs, just know that if you don’t care to share your couch, then you’re going to have a little bit of work to do. My guess is that Suzy’s beautiful brown eyes just might change your mind.


 

Training 411

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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by Mary Green

Q I’m fostering a dog right now that really needs some socialization. She is usually really timid around people she doesn’t know. I’ve had her a month now, and it took her a couple of weeks to get used to me. My mom came over the other day and Daisy urinated twice like she was scared. But another time, when we were on a walk, she acted like she wanted to make friends with a lady and then growled at her. I want to help her. What should I do?

A Kudos to you for fostering Daisy and helping her get some skills to be more adoptable! I think it’s a plus that she has bonded with you. Hopefully, by bonding with you, Daisy will show that she can bond with a forever owner. Socializing an adult dog is a bit tricky. Make greeting a new person a very lowkey event for her. You should remove the social pressure she may feel about a person coming too close, or touching her. In your home, have Daisy on leash when people come over. Have some very yummy treats available or a favorite ball or tug toy that she only gets when there is company. She does not have to interact with the company! It’s important that she just make a happy association between company and a really special treat. Let Daisy determine whether or not she wants to approach people, but instruct them not to reach out to her or pet her. Those first meetings should be very brief and not too stressful.
It could be that Daisy urinated when your mom came over because she was unsure about mom. The greeting between the two of you could have been too energetic for her. Maybe you were excited to see mom, and show off Daisy. Or, Mom could have been over solicitous with Daisy (in a loving manner) and it was just too much pressure. Dogs may urinate out of submission, over stimulation, or stress. Daisy may have growled at the lady on her walk because she was getting a little too close. Daisy may have been comfortable enough to reach forward to catch a sniff or two, but if the lady reached toward her, or moved closer, it signaled danger. If a greeting lasts a bit too long (by dog standards) a dog may become stressed. A dog will growl to increase the distance between herself and the stranger. As you meet people on a walk, and you stop to chat, just have Daisy sit politely beside you – or behind you if she’s insecure. If she moves toward the person, just instruct her to sit. You can use the same positive association that you use at home – people equal food! The treats don’t have to come from the stranger, and they should not come from the stranger. You should begin to see Daisy look at you expectantly for a treat when she sees a stranger on a walk. Once that’s happening, you know her perception is changing. Well intentioned people often speculate that a rescued or found dog may have been mistreated, or abused. We can’t ask them about their history with people, but it may just be that she never learned that people are a valuable resource. If Daisy is threatening visitors in your home, or menacing people on walks, you should consult with a professional.

Q We have a little dog that humps our toddler every chance he gets. He doesn’t do this to my husband or me, but he sure tries to go to town with the baby! Help!!

AYikes – no one likes to be the recipient of the dog’s unwelcomed advances. Poor baby! I assume he is grabbing the toddler around his waist. Humping, or mounting behavior, is when a dog clasps his forelegs around something (or someone) and moves his hips forward and backward. Your dog isn’t necessarily trying to “dominate” the baby. Sometimes mounting behavior is for a show of strength or prowess, but it can also be an invitation to play, or just something to do that feels good. Altered male dogs still do mounting behavior, as do many females. Adolescent males are probably the most notorious “humpers,” often choosing a favorite stuffed animal or pillow as his object d’amour. So how do you stop it? You might have to keep your dog on leash when the baby is mobile. Just leave the leash attached and let the dog drag it around. If he makes a beeline to the baby, just interrupt him – step on the leash and call him to you. Teach the toddler how to throw a toy for the dog. If he is running after a toy, he’s not close enough to hump! Please don’t punish the dog. Instead, redirect him to something else to do. If you punish him for humping, he could just decide that the presence of the baby, not his own behavior, is what angers you. Encourage great interactions with baby and dog so they can build a great relationship. When my son was a toddler, our dogs thought he was a Cheerios dispenser. They followed him everywhere, as he dropped Cheerios like the Pied Piper. As he grew, they developed a very strong, lifelong bond.

Mary Green, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed), owns K9 Manners
& More in Broken Arrow. She is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an associate of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and an AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) evaluator.

Training 411

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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Q&A by Mary Green

Q.

My dog Henry is a 35lb fox Hound  mix that can make a running leap  to the top of our 6 ft high privacy fence,  which is made of 3″ cedar boards.  from  the top he jumps to the other side and  roams the neighborhood for about 30  minutes and then jumps back into the  backyard. I am afraid he may get hit by  a car or picked up by animal control on  one of these sojourns. Do you have any  training methods to break this habit? I don’t like the idea of using an electric  fence wire to detour him.

A.

  You’re absolutely right; Henry could  be very much endangered because  of this behavior.  The electric fence (hot wire) is a pretty harsh deterrent, so I am happy to  suggest some less aversive ideas.

It would help to know why Henry is leaving the  yard.  Initially, I would ask you if he is neutered.   If he is intact, he may be leaving the yard to  go looking for love. Next, I would ask if he has  enough to do in the yard. If he is spending a  lot of time outside alone, he may be rather  bored.  Are you doing any sort of enrichment for  him? You can create an interesting backyard  environment by using some of the food delivery toys.  A trip to the pet supply store will give you  some ideas of things such as Buster Cube,  Kibble Nibble, Kong toys, etc. If he can hunt in  his own yard, which provides some nice activity,  he may be less likely to wander. Are you taking  Henry for walks in his neighborhood?  He may  need the exercise and mental stimulation that a  walk can provide.  

There is a product called Coyote Roller, which  is a fence topper that rolls so an animal cannot  get a grip and propel himself over the fence.   Check their website at www.coyoteroller.com.  I  suspect you could fashion a similar design out  of PVC pipe!

There are some  anti-jumping  harnesses on the market.  My experience has been that a pet  owner will put the harness on the dog, and  still leave him unattended in the yard. He then  proceeds to chew the harness up!

How about providing Henry a window to the  neighborhood?  Cut out a small section of your  fence, place screen or other wire in it, and make  a frame around it.  Having a small place to look  through is much more comforting than looking  between the slats of the privacy fence!

Q.

My little dog, Zula has decided  that if she doesn’t want to go  outside she will play hide behind the  couch. She also will not come when called  from outside (unless it’s freezing).  I know  that I have spoiled her and it’s my fault for  always having a cookie when I call her. She will only come if she thinks I have  food now. I was thinking about leaving  the leash on her and giving it a pop if she  doesn’t come. Do you have any ideas?  I’m  afraid to do more harm than good!

A.

You’re right – a pop on the leash does  not generally inspire the dog to come  when you call her. Punishment like that can  make a dog very wary of coming to an angry  owner. Our approach would be to play some  games to get her to come when you call her. At K9 Manners & More, we call this one “Catch & Release”.  Pick a time to practice when Zula  does not need to go out, or come in.  Have some  treats in your pocket, or otherwise hidden from  the dog. Call Zula, and as soon as she looks  toward you – toss her a treat! If she comes all  the way to you, she gets the treat. You praise  her, pet her, and let her go about her business.

When she gets interested in  something else, call her again. If she  doesn’t come all the way to you, toss the treat – gradually getting it close enough for you to  touch her.  Don’t require the dog to sit or do  any other behavior – just a treat for coming. Practice multiple times/day. Catch – release. After about 3 days, do the same thing in the  yard. Periodically go ahead and send Zula  outside when you call her, but only about one  third of the time.  

We also play “Hide and Seek.”  It’s pretty simple – you hide and then call your dog.   She has to  find you to get the treat. If her stay is solid, you  can put her on a stay while you go hide.  If not,  ask a family member to distract or restrain the  dog while you hide. If you can, practice inside  and outside – if you are out of sight, the dog  becomes curious about where you are and will  find you!

Another strategy is to leave the leash on Zula  inside and outside. If she hides, ducks away, or  darts, you can snag her with the leash. If you  have a plain old slip leash from the vet, these  work well. Just loop it through her collar.  You  need to be carefully supervising, though, so  she cannot become snagged on something or  entangled and injured!

Home for the Holidays – or Home Away From Home?

posted November 15th, 2010 by
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Are you thinking about travelling with your pets for the Holidays? Are your out-of-town family members planning to bring their pet to stay in your house? These experiences can be Norman Rockwell painting-worthy, or turn your family into the Griswolds!

Are you contemplating travelling with your pets? Careful consideration and pre-planning can make the trip much less stressful.

How are you travelling?
If you are flying, can your pet travel in the cabin? If he can’t, can he fly safely as cargo? Will my pet be comfortable flying? What will happen if we don’t make our connections?

Be sure you are aware of the airline regulations for flying pets, and the necessary paperwork, and health certificates you need in order to fly an animal.

If you are driving, is your pet prone to car sickness? Is there enough room for everyone to ride safely? In the vehicle, your pet should be secured in a crate, or secured with a pet seat-belt. Is your dog used to going potty while he is on a leash? You must have your dog on leash at any rest stop. It would be disastrous to lose your dog at a potty-stop. Is your dog comfortable in the car alone? You may need to leave him to take your pit stop, or eat a meal. If he isn’t OK alone, who is going to stay with him? And is it cool enough to leave him safely in the car?

Where are you staying?
Are you staying with friends or relatives? Are your hosts going to welcome your pet? Is their household animal friendly – and animal safe? Consider where your pets will sleep, and go outside. Will you have to leash-walk, or if the yard is fenced, is it safe and secure? What about their animals – are they friendly with visiting pets? If your hosts don’t have animals, it may be quite a challenge for them to welcome yours! Wagging tails and joyous spinning can break decorations. And then, there’s the shedding!

Are you staying in a hotel? Staying in a pet-friendly hotel can be great fun, provided you plan ahead. Bring a blanket or sheet to put over the bedspread so your dog can lie on the bed. Don’t leave your dog unattended in the room unless you are certain he will be quiet! If you must leave, give the front desk your phone number in case they need to reach you. Be sure you take your dog to the designated area for pottying, and pick up all solid waste and dispose of it in an outdoor waste can or dumpster.

What should you bring?
Be sure to have an adequate supply of your pet’s food and medications. You may wish to bring water from home, or purchase spring water rather than give your dog tap water from a different source than he is used to, which can cause gastric upset. It is always a good idea to have a copy of your dog’s vaccination record with you. You may have to show proof of his Rabies vaccination in some states with quarantines (like Texas). The Rabies tag itself is not sufficient proof. Bring a couple of your dog’s favorite toys, or his bed or blanket to help him settle into a new environment.

Are your houseguests planning to bring their pets?
Again, pre-planning is the key.

Are the visiting pets crate trained? Where will they sleep? In general, it is much easier to travel with pets that are crate trained. Their crate becomes home away from home, and they are happy to sleep in the comfort of their own bed. If your guests don’t use a crate, ask them to bring a bed or mat from home for their pet to sleep on.

Is your yard safe? Are there any areas where a dog could escape through your fence? Make any repairs needed to ensure the safety of your houseguest. Is there a chance a visiting dog could open your gate? You may need to lock the gate during a visit.

What about your children – are the visiting dogs friendly with kids? Have your kids learned how to properly meet and greet pets? There are some very good resources available to educate children about pet safety. The American Kennel club has numerous age-appropriate resources on their website at www.akc.org/public_education/resources.cfm.

If your pets don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for visiting animals, you may need to utilize dog or baby-gates and keep the animals separated. Try to keep to your dog’s normal schedule as much as possible. Feed each animal their usual diet – and don’t feed anyone table scraps!!!

If you decide it would be better not to travel with your pets, get reservations made ASAP with a reputable kennel facility. Pet sitters, veterinary clinics, and boarding kennels fill up extremely fast around the holidays.

Woofs and wags and Happy Holidays to all, from your friends at K9 Manners & More

Story by Mary Green

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