Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday & Hounds....Human madness!

This is an old article of mine...but a fun one.  Enjoy!
Holiday Madness from a Dog’s Mind

As the holidays approach and you make your plans keep in mind that stress and changes in routine can impact our dog’s behavior. 

Often we get frustrated and are on edge as there is so much to do to prepare for dinners, visits and other celebrations. The following is a glimpse of some of the confusion our canine family members may experience. Keep in mind that as you are busy rushing around your dog is observing and sensing a change in you. They may “act out” if and when usual attention seeking methods do not work.  

This is predictable and can be avoided by being aware and maintaining some of the usual routines your dog is comfortable with.  Plan and prepare ahead for success.

I wrote this years ago (2005) with my dog Carin in mind.  This is what I imagined when I put myself in her shoes on a busy morning like this.

Hi, My name is Carin. I am a spunky young and beautiful female dog. I am writing to share an experience with you that many of us dogs feel needs to be addressed and understood by all of our 2 legged friends. So, here is the story.
This morning was different then most. My 2 legged friend got up before I was ready and convinced me it was time to go “potty” in the dark. Seems a bit backwards from my point of view and I was a bit thrown off. Anyway, I went with her odd idea of going potty before the sun went up. It is only every now and then that she does this odd routine change. This means our whole day is unpredictable. What is she thinking!?!         

As I am out there doing “potty” she is rushing me. What is wrong with her!?! Geesh, I have not gotten an opportunity to sniff properly to strategically place my gift to the earth. “Let’s go Carin.” She says as she heads for the door. As I turn away from the opportunity to explore and leave more gifts, I wander behind her back indoors. I head for the bedroom but no, this is not where my 2 legged friend is headed. She is really confusing me. I follow her to the kitchen and figure I will just snuggle up here for a nap and ignore her apparent memory loss about the sun coming up and our relaxing time in bed together for a morning cuddle. Seems she has forgotten altogether about that as I watch her from under the table. She even nudged me with her foot once not paying attention to my being there. Something is definitely different about today.

As I try to catch up on my interrupted sleep, I am aware of many things. My 2 legged friend is rushing from place to place. The phone is ringing and she is busy doing things I am not too happy about. She uses this loud thing that eats things off the floor. I used to chase it but that was not appreciated. Now I know to go to the corner to observe the beast. Then once she had finished with that beast she was using the spray bottle with something YUCKY smelling in it. YIKES!  I recall one time getting squirted in my foster home by a spray bottle once when I went to visit my feline friend's potty area.  I was only trying to help and clean up but it seems that too was not appreciated. As I keep my distance to watch her use the spray bottle I cannot stop sneezing!   What is in that! YUCK! My friend is putting it everywhere and wiping things. I sneeze, and shake off my fur hoping it will go away.
Holidays are tiring!
I tried to follow my person around to make sure she did not altogether loose control.  After all nothing was normal about this day so far and I was concerned. I ended up going back to my spot under the kitchen table as clearly she did not understand my concern and dedication to making sure she was fine. I was apparently in the way and although my sneezes were cute that was all I heard from her accept “go lay down” and a lot of “move it.” I am confused and tired. Finally my person comes into the kitchen. YEAH! Maybe now things will go back to usual. I get up and stretch and go over to greet her. She pats me on the head. This annoys me! What about a scratch of the ears???? No, she is busy. I continue to wonder what is going on today! Then I see it. She reaches in the refrigerator and pulls out this HUGE great smelling sight! Oooooohhhhhh, aaaahhhhhh wag, wag, wiggle wiggle! I am so excited as it smells so good. She tells me “go lay down! Not for you!” Darn! As I go back to my spot under the table I hear her talking to the large bird she is touching instead of me. Now I am very confused.  She puts this item in the oven and then heads out of the kitchen. I follow her and now, yep now she is going to the bedroom. It seems today she wants to sleep when the sun is up. How odd?!?         

I join her in the bedroom and then realize I have to go “potty.”
   I wiggle by the bed, and lick her hand and wiggle some more. She invites me on the bed but I HAVE TO GO POTTY! I can not stop wiggling! She is resting and gets irritated as I am wiggling so now she tells me “off!” What am I going to do? I have to go!?! I bark, and wiggle and circle but she is now asleep. I go to the door hoping it might open on its own or she will hear me but then I realize my body relieved itself.   I tried to go outside and to let my person know but it is a weird day and I am not sure what to do. I now go and lay down in the bedroom with my person. It is naptime for now.

The above is just a guess at how bizarre things become as we plan and prep for holiday festivities in our homes.   Many of us will have guests visit and will be busy and changing our normal routines. Keep in mind that your dog is paying attention to you and your level of stress at these times. Often dogs become stressed due to routine changes. It is important to think of ways to help your dog stay comfortable even as you are busy preparing for a big family dinner or gathering.

Hmm?? Who is here?
If you normally have a quiet home with few visitors it is even more important that your dog has the comfort of routine during the day when you will be having many young and old visitors in your home. If your dog is stressed due to a lack of routine during the day then they will be less tolerant once the guests arrive.         

Here are some points to remember 
when you have large gatherings in your home. 

1. Visiting children can cause even calm and tolerant dogs stress.  All dog and child interaction needs adult active supervision. 
tongue flick
can mean stress
2.  Observe your dog’s body language. Licking lips, turning head away, yawning, shaking, lifting paws etc may be subtle cues to you that your dog is a bit stressed or is anticipating conflict of some sort. Pay attention and allow breaks from the busy activities.
3.  Be aware of people sneaking your dog tidbits that may come out on the rug later on!
4.  Respect your dog’s tolerance limit. If you notice your dog looking for a quiet spot then provide one.
5.  Your dog may guard novelty food items when there is a gathering even if they normally do not. 

Suggestions for success!
1.  Sometimes putting a leash on your dog may help them to feel more secure. 
2.  Keep it short and sweet!  Let your dog/s visit for short periods and then secure them away from the activity if you can not fully supervise them.
Yummy special treat!
3.  Allow your dog to have their own celebration treat with a stuffed kong or other yummy treat. Frozen filled kongs are wonderful for these times.  There are many doggie food puzzles that can be perfect for these special times.  Be prepared and plan a fun frozen filled goodie for your pup to enjoy in a room away from the crowd.  This way you can truly enjoy your guests and your dog will enjoy their quiet time.   
4.  Adding a fan for white noise helps dogs too in their quiet area.

Most of all enjoy your family and friends and stay safe this Holiday Season!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can they meet?

As we take Quentin out and about we are experiencing the "social pressure" I am assuming other new puppy and dog owners encounter.  I have addressed this before about children and dogs and now am experiencing this with our pup.

Here are some situations.
1.  Walking in our neighborhood and a dog is lunging on leash and owners asks "can they meet?" (me...uh no)
2.  At park and dog lunging and barking on leash and owner asks...."can he sniff?"
3.  Trying to enjoy baseball game and other adult dog attending barks and pulls towards our pup and owner asks "would it be ok for them to meet?  He'll calm down after he sniffs your pup."

My answer in all cases is "No, I am sorry but we are not introducing our pup to other dogs on leash."    Or "No, we are not doing greetings."  or "no, he is training."

It is clear that we as dog professionals have communicated that "socialization" of dogs with other dogs is important but .....maybe we need to be clearer about the type of socialization and circumstances.
Several times the people we have encountered said something like "oh, I figured you'd want to "socialize" him with other dogs."  Or, "our dog would relax after she sniffs your pup."
This is very frustrating as a dog trainer but also for a new pup owner.  It shows a limited understanding of what is meant by socialization and how it is meant for dogs to succeed long term. Dogs do need to be exposed to and learn how to behave around other dogs, people, environments etc.  That does not mean that they should meet all other adult dogs or puppies.

That said here are the situations we have decided on for our pup.
1.  No intros to dogs while on leash.
We do not want our dog knowing or practicing the options of moving towards other dogs on leash.  We want him to learn that he sits or makes eye contact or just hangs out with us when other dogs are around and he is on leash.
This helps to avoid the crazy pulling and lunging behavior when walking and other dogs pass by.  If the person is always more important than the passing dog and the passing dog never leads to play then this makes for good behavior around other dogs.
Teach your pup what you want from the beginning so there are no other practiced unwanted options.
2.  When greetings will happen
It will be with familiar people and dogs.  Rules are in place and there is supervision.  We want Quentin to meet other dogs we are familiar with behaviorally so that we know he is learning appropriate behavior vs. inappropriate doggie behavior.  This will be with leash dragging and play pause, play pause pattern in place.  Short successful encounters for both dogs.

i do recognize that our pup needs to meet other dogs and more importantly needs to "see" other dogs of different sizes, colors, behaviors etc.  I also know that these opportunities must be handled carefully for me to have a well mannered dog who learns how to behave appropriately in public around other dogs.  It is up to us to decide and be sure any introductions are safe and handled properly.  Not all dogs are appropriate for this situation.   It is important to keep in mind that any dog your dog meets is "teaching" your dog how other dogs behave. Dogs are learning all the time.  Make your choices wisely.

I often see owners misreading their dog's cues and setting up other dogs and people for a negative encounter.  There is a great deal of pressure when it comes to people and their dogs.

As a family we must set behavioral goals and expectations so that we can help our pup be successful in our encounters.  We must decide what to do and under what circumstances as we know what our family goals are.  I encourage all families set these types of goals and expectations so that they can be consistent and their dog can be successful.

Having a pup has allowed me to revisit so many things.  I hope that by sharing these moments it can help others to make better choices for their family too!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Setting up for success

Having a toddler and a pup is like having two toddlers.  Planning and staying 10 steps ahead is essential for success.  Thinking through your day and scheduling time for puppy activity, toddler activity and so on takes time and preparation.  Here are some things I think about and consider:  This takes planning ahead!  Pups are learning every moment!  Make every moment count!

How can I include Kelsyann in this? We are handfeeding Quentin so Kelsyann is able to put kibble in his crate or through the x pen when Quentin sits.   She likes this.

Potty time!
Where will Kelsyann be when this happens? How can I keep her entertained to not distract pup from his focus of Potty?
Sometimes I encourage kelsyann to bring her play puppy out when Quentin is pottying.  I also have bubbles out so she can do that or sidewalk chalk.

Puppy nap crate in our room.  White noise on and baby monitor so I can hear when he wakes up and take him out to potty.  I usually have kelsyann get her play puppy to go out potty with us.

Puppy independent x pen with safe chew and squeaky toys.  Quentin has plenty of alone time so that he is comfortable being left in a variety of rooms alone with toys or chews.  This is important to decrease the chances of separation anxiety.  With kids and dogs in the home you must be able to have your dog in their "dog zone" when things are hectic.  Puppies need to learn this from the start!

Playtime is the hardest as Kelsyann and Quentin need run around time and this time often overlaps.  Here are some things we have found that both can be successful with!

On the left is a sheet I cut up and tied knots in.  This is great for Kelsyann to drag around and allows Quentin an object to chase and target vs. her.  I always have a long line on Quentin so that I am able to step on the leash should he miss or Kelsyann changes direction and is in the "nipping zone."  Pups naturally chase and kids love to run.  This can create a great game.
 Be sure there is plenty of dragging sheet for the pup to successfully target.
It is important that this game is only played with the pup on a loose longline and that the adult is very aware of where the pup is headed.  We are only encouraging the pup to chase the moving item on the ground vs. any upward movement.  We encourage all family members play this game so that when the toddler does this the dog is already familiar with it.  If at anytime the pup goes for the person then the game is over and toy goes away.  Having the pup on the tether allows the adult to be sure the pup does not jump up on a child. They can easily step on the long line to prevent this.

Allow your pup opportunities to enjoy a chew on his own while your toddler runs around.  Not all games are for them and the sooner they learn this the better.  Here Quentin is enjoying a good chew while Kelsyann runs around with the ball.  Quentin is not invited in this game right now.

Along with the long tied up sheet, we love to have a large ball that Quentin can chase when we kick it.  Kelsyann loves to chase the ball too!   This is fun as Kelsy is running and laughing while Quentin is running.  Both are moving and focusing on the ball.   Any nipping is at the ball.  We often stop and wait for him to sit and then begin the game again.  This is a great game.  Again this is safest with a long line and an adult.  Never alone with toddler and pup.

Puppy teeth are SHARP and can easily scratch or cut our skin.  Providing your pup with ample appropriate chew items is very important.  Toddlers act in ways that make them appear to be desirable chew objects.  They move quickly, they make noise when nipped etc.  It is a parents job to set their toddler and puppy up for success by preventing opportunities where the pup practices nipping behavior towards small children.  it is NOT ok to allow this using the excuse "he is just a pup."  Pups are learning every moment through all interactions.  Set them up for success by being prepared and thinking all things through.  Again, pups are work and need time, patience and planning when in a home with toddlers.  NEVER allow pup loose roaming with a toddler!  Here are the managements we have in place with our boy Quentin to help him make good choices and prevent opportunities to practice unwanted behavior.
1. Travel crate (upstairs by my bed) for night time and some naps
2  Medium size crate our living room for chew time, play time and napping sometimes.
3.  x pen in playroom (for independent play and sometimes napping)
4.  Long line for use outside  (30 foot) for ball play and running around
5.  Leash
6 tethers (success stations)

Life is busy and again, I never would have taken this challenge on without the help of my 3 older children and wonderful husband!  Toddlers have fulltime needs and so do pups.   My hope is that by sharing all that we are doing people will understand that having a pup is a fulltime job!  Ok...gotta wake up pup to go potty and play before Kelsyann comes back from her sitter.  This way he will nap when she returns.  See...planning!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Puppy teeth & puppy paws

When you look into the eyes of your gorgeous pup it is easy to forget that they come equipped with powerful dangerously sharp teeth.  This is very challenging when you have a toddler in home as they want to interact and pet or "hold" the puppy.  It is puppy nature to nibble and paw as they learn how to be gentle and bite inhibition. Toddlers can not be expected to handle puppy behavior of this kind.  Our family has 3 older children who are quite capable and willing to engage our pup or our toddler in appropriate activities so we are doing much rotation.  We are respecting that up until now Kelsyann was the focus of our attention and that  has shifted a bit and she is now sharing the spotlight with a 4 legged toddler.  We consider every waking moment a learning opportunity for pup and have had many family discussions about what is acceptable and what is not.

For example:
Quentin must be sitting before we enter the xpen or he leaves crate.
Quentin sits for treats or his hand fed dinner.  He is a quick study!
We always have  him crated, or in the xpen or on leash in the house.
All food is either hand fed or given in puzzle.
****Kelsyann is never to be with Quentin unless Mom or Dad are supervising*****

Having a puppy and toddler is exhausting and we are constantly moving and thinking ahead.  When does pup need to go out?  Where will Kelsy be when I take him out?  Due to his playfulness and lack of bite inhibition now we need to keep she and he a safe distance when he is jumpy or playful.  Puppy teeth hurt and while he is learning what is acceptable and what is not...we must keep Kelsyann safe and away from him when he is playful.  We do not want him to practice this undesirable behavior.  Lessons happen every moment.  We also don't want her to become fearful of him.  Proactive Supervision is the key to prevention. Quentin and Kelsyann both need constant supervision and it is double duty for me and my husband.  Even though our older kids are 10, 14 & 15....this is up to myself and my husband to monitor our toddler and any puppy interaction at this stage.

Again, we went into this decision expecting and knowing that it would be time, energy and loads of management!  Puppies are WORK but so worth it when you have the time and patience and entire family onboard.  I never would have done this when my other children were younger.  An adult rescue dog was the perfect option for us at those times.