Take The Edge Off

Take The Edge Off

Sometimes you adopt a dog that has a pre-existing behavior issue that shows up only in a home environment. For example, your new pup barks at men with beards. If this is the case, then desensitizing your furry friend is an excellent way to eliminate the issue.  Desensitization means exposing a dog to such a low level of stimulus that s/he does not react: this technique can be applied to any number of situations. Take the example of men with beards. The first step is to identify that a bearded man is a trigger that sets your dog barking. Once the trigger is identified, what can be done? For the facial hair phobic dog, this means finding a distance at which the dog sees a bearded man but doesn’t react. That might be 5, 10, 20, or 50 feet away. The actual distance doesn’t matter, because what you want to do is reward your dog’s calm behavior in the presence of a bearded man.  You can enlist the help of a bearded friend or a fake bearded friend. Let your dog see the man and when he does not react, praise and reward him. Have your assistant move closer, and if no response from your dog, repeat praise and reward.   If the dog’s body language changes, such as they step away, hackles rise, head drops or ears go back, then before s/he starts to bark get them to sit as your bearded assistant calmly walk away.   The next session restarts with the bearded assistant at a distance that doesn’t provoke a response.  Keep desensitization sessions short, fun, and rewarding. In this way,...
Fear or Aggression?

Fear or Aggression?

  Let’s take a look how a dog’s past experiences may influence their future behavior.   You have adopted a male dog, and he’s settling in well. In fact, better than you dared hope. Encouraged, you introduce him to the other dogs at the local park. Everything is going well. He behaves perfectly and meets dogs of all shapes and sizes, without issue.   Then it starts to rain. A woman walks past with an umbrella and your dog, bares his teeth, growls and snarls with a real intent to do harm. If you had not had him on his leash, he might have attacked the woman. Then it happens again! He snarls at an elderly man walking with a cane. Your friends say that your new furry friend is “aggressive.”   What the world sees as an aggressive dog, may just be in reality fear. In your dog’s past life, his owner may have abused him repeatedly by beating him with an umbrella. Your dog associates umbrellas with pain causing him to lash out in fear. He extends this fear to any object that looks like an umbrella, including canes, brooms or any long object a person can carry.    A fearful dog has two options: run away or stand and fight. If he decides an attack is his best defense, the outside world deems him aggressive.   Your job as an understanding owner is to unravel this chain of events and retrain him. An intricate puzzle, the best bet is to desensitize him slowly. Exposing him to the fearful stimulus at a sufficiently safe distance where he...
Muzzles and Body Fat

Muzzles and Body Fat

People regularly ask me, why do Greyhounds in the pictures posted all wear muzzles?   It’s not because Greyhounds are aggressive or mean. Actually, generally speaking, they are sweet and playful. The pictures posted are from when I volunteer at Hemopet. When Greyhounds exercise and play in a group, it’s very easy for one dog’s eye tooth (it’s big) to graze and catch the body or neck skin of another. Wearing a muzzle is simply for their protection. When Greyhounds are exercising and playing, it’s very easy for one dog’s eye tooth (it’s big) to graze and catch the body or neck skin of another. The result could be a huge skin tear (like a zipper opening up). Greyhounds have little protective body fat “cushion” underneath their thin skin layer. Our Greyhound Mickey Mouse has a gentle style of play, similar to our other dogs; there isn’t a need for him to wear a muzzle. We monitor playtime since Mickey is so much larger and faster than our other dogs, he’s can be a bit intimidating. Due to Mickey’s thin skin he also needs to be watched hiking through rough terrain. Sharp branches and rocks can tear his skin quickly, just like teeth can from dog...
Happy Tails?

Happy Tails?

Some of you know that recently we adopted a big black 2-year-old Greyhound named “Mickey Mouse”, Mickey is a happy boy who fits right in with Olivia and Bailey. His first few days with us were quiet and uneventful. On Mickey’s 3rd day with us he started to cry when trying to stand up or lay down. Thinking either Mickey had a leg or God forbid a back injury, I made a call to Hemopet’s Dr. Woods. Even though it was near closing, we were told “get him here as fast as you can!”(We love Dr. Woods and his staff!) . Dr. Woods quickly discovered that Mickey had what the Greyhound world calls “Happy Tail”. Being a volunteer at Hemopet I’ve observed Happy Tail more than a few times. Usually, it comes with a lot of blood but Mickey never bled. So what is Happy Tail? One of the amusing characteristics of Greyhounds is they usually have lengthy and somewhat fragile tails. Their happy nature usually shows in joyful wagging of their tails. Skin and hair on Greyhounds are thinner than most other breeds and is prone to skin cuts. When a Greyhound wags their tail quickly against something hard (a corner of a wall, door, cabinet, furniture), it can easily break the skin or fracture a bone. If not prepared, this can be a scary moment and requires swift first-aid action before your home looks like a CSI crime scene. Some injuries are severe enough to cause amputation of the tail. Mickey’s tail was fractured at the base, and his skin was not punctured. Dr. Woods prescribed medication...
Do You Use Retractable Leashes?

Do You Use Retractable Leashes?

When you shop for a leash, look for a standard nylon 4-6 foot leash. As tempting as it may be, as fun as it may look, avoid the retractable leash. You’ve probably seen them being frequently used by dog owners in your area. I’d like to caution you against them, especially when you’re working with a new-to-you rescue dog. First and foremost: you can’t control the dog when it’s 20-30 feet away from you. No matter how experienced a dog handler you are nor how well-behaved your dog might be. You cannot effectively control a dog at that distance – and this can lead to tragedy. In fact, I’ve personally seen several dogs killed who were on retractable leashes. It happens in the blink of an eye, and stories like these are unfortunately all too common. I was in a store in line behind a woman checking out at the cash register. She had her dog on a retractable leash. As she paid for her goods, the dog ran towards the automatic door which opened. Quickly the dog ran out the door, got to the end of the leash and with its force pulled the leash from her hand. The over-excited dog ran out into the street and was hit by a passing car and killed – in just seconds. Another instance, I was at a park with my dogs and came across an owner on his cell phone. His dog was on a retractable leash as he was encouraging his dog to chase squirrels, as he laughed at his dogs antics. The dog darted out in the opposite...