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,...
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...
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...