All About Dogs
Posted on Thursday, Aug 25, 2016 3:22 PM by Gregg Flowers
Question: We have small children and one day we’d like to get a dog, but for now, I just want them to know how to greet a dog for the first time. Can you give us some guidelines here?
Answer: This is a great question, because if you show me an adult who is scared of dogs, I’ll show you somebody who probably got bitten by a dog as a child. So it’s our responsibility to show our little ones the proper way to meet a dog who doesn’t know them. This really gets into the realm of “kid training” because dogs have their own way of doing things, and when it comes to certain scenarios like meeting them for the first time, it’s really best to go along with their natural way of acquainting themselves with humans.
Remember, dogs read “energy.” This is how they interact with other dogs and how they interface with us. Fluffy can tell a lot about someone just by picking up on their energy. This is why, if your dog feels funny about someone, your antenna should go up a little. Dogs can have a sixth sense about someone’s intentions. Part of this may come from the fact that when we get anxious or frightened, our body chemistry shifts. Because Fluffy’s sense of smell is a thousand times more keen than ours, she can literally smell this change, and she knows that something’s up. If you’ve ever heard the expression “dogs can smell fear,” that’s where this comes from.
It’s important to remember that small children are a very different animal to a dog. Yes they’re “humanlike”, but they’re dissimilar in a few ways. For one thing, they’re little. And they can be LOUD. And children certainly (often) possess a certain frenetic energy. Many times to a dog, children can come across not too much unlike drunken little midgets! Depending on the dog, this scattered, frenzied energy might not go over too well. Conversely, some dogs are so mellow, they can put up with anything, but the greeting protocol should always be the same, and it’s important to teach kids when they’re little how to do it, but this method works for all of us.
It’s always a good idea to squat down and keep your voice in a softer register, when you first meet a dog. Even a little person is bigger than many dogs, so squatting is a less threatening posture. Next, extend the back of your wrist so the dog can smell you. There’s a lot of information scent wise, on the back of your wrist, and it’s less potentially menacing to a dog than an open hand. Do this without making eye contact. Eye contact communicates a dominant message. (Note: This is why children 6 and under are in the largest bite demographic.) Sometimes if a small child inadvertently gazes in the direction of an edgy dog, he may misinterpret that as a threat, and snap at the child.
Usually in a minute or less, a dog knows it’s “safe” and you can pet him. Scratching his ears and under his neck is better than patting on top of his head. All of this needs to happen in a very unhurried, calm fashion. As hard as it is for children to be calm, they must learn to take their time and have a gentle heart. Teach your kids now, dogs need to be treated very gently at first.
Posted on Wednesday, Aug 3, 2016 5:20 PM by Gregg Flowers
Question: I love my little dog so much but some of my friends say I spoil Toby. I give give him pieces of my food while I eat, he sleeps with me, and I let him do whatever he wants to on our walks. One friend in particular says that these are all bad ideas. What is your take on this?
Answer: One of the best things about having a dog is that they give us somebody to love. And that’s a beautiful thing. The irony in many relationships I see with people and their dog, is the part of us that loves, the human, loving heart, can actually hold us back in terms of being an effective leader.
Dogs naturally, often gravitate toward love and affection. But as far as it technically being an important integral part of the pack mentality and paradigm, it just isn’t. That said, is the love I share with my dog a really important part of my relationship with her? Absolutely! And I pretty much have to have that. It fills my heart.
BUT pragmatically on another level, I understand what she really “needs.” And as much as I adore her, I understand that human “love” is not what my doggie needs the most from me. Beautiful part of our relationship — not the most important thing. (Not really.)
The thing our dog needs the most, the thing that makes our dog feel safe and secure, the thing that fulfills our dog and draws him to us in a deeper way, is leadership. Subconsciously, Toby craves a leader.
It’s important to think of yourself as the higher ranking dog in your pack. Even if it’s just a “pack of two.” Your dog needs this. You must (begin ital>act<end ital) like a higher ranking dog as well.
This doesn’t mean becoming a drill sergeant. That’s human stuff too. This boils down to communicating appropriate messages about who’s who in the pack. Four legged pack mates do not have a conversation about this. They demonstrate non-verbally, who outranks who.
If your pack is well balanced, your habits with Toby might not be a problem at all. But if he leans toward the dominant side of the scale, and you have any problems that look like “disrespect,” your current habits definitely exacerbate that syndrome. Especially feeding him while you eat, as wolves understand when the leaders eat, the subordinates stay away from the food.
It’s simply the wrong “dog message,” if you truly are the pack leader. Letting him lead you on the leash sets an unhealthy precedent as well. To Toby, whoever leads on the leash is the leader.
It’s not uncommon for dog owners to give their dog a pass on little things, and make excuses for behaviors like pulling on the leash, occasionally raising a lip and growling, or being ugly to strangers and other dogs. But we never have to allow a dog to keep exhibiting bad behavior. All you ever have to do, is become a better leader. My definition of “spoiling your dog” is when your pooch has bad habits and you allow them to continue because you’ve given up on it.Featured | Home | Uncategorized
Posted on Thursday, Jul 21, 2016 1:28 PM by Gregg Flowers
Question: I am trying to teach my puppy the basic obedience commands, but using treats is not that effective with him. How do I motivate him to do what i want?
Answer: Most trainers will tell you a puppy isn’t really ready for basic obedience until they’re 6 months old. The thinking here is that before that time, he’s too immature to focus. But about the only thing you can get two dog trainers to agree on is that third dog trainer doesn’t know what HE’s doing!
That said, I personally do not subscribe strictly to the 6 month rule, because quite simply, all dogs are different. For example, Labrador retrievers are notorious for remaining “puppyfied” for quite some time. Like up to 3 years in some cases. It’s more commonly two, but I had a Lab puppy once who was only 4 months old, and was one of the steadiest, most focused little dogs I’ve ever seen. A very serious little boy.
So even though there can’t be any hard and fast rules on this, the 6 month notion is a decent guideline. Your problem may well just be an issue of maturity. Often we want to teach our puppy basic obedience skills right now, but he’s just not ready. Make sure your little guy has had enough time to be a puppy before you start requiring him to focus on more than he’s really ready for. He’ll be a mature dog in due time. First things first.
It’s more important to set the proper precedents with young Max. In other words, you must treat him like another dog who outranks him would. Don’t worry about hurting his feelings. He won’t perceive an “injustice” behind your boundaries.
Instinctively, he will understand why you disallow him from putting his teeth on you for example, or jumping on you. You will be either a leader or a follower to him, and this comes down to appropriate messages, like the above two.
Puppy leash work is less structured than what he’ll learn when he’s more mature as well. He still has to get used to the leash, but you don’t want to be jerking him around so that he hates it.
Basic puppy leash parameters include no sniffing the ground until released to do so, maintaining a nice, constant forward momentum and not letting him lead you.
He doesn’t need a drill sergeant right now, but he does need some simple, consistent limits. And enforcing the proper leash boundaries as a puppy, indoctrinates him to a proper oriented pack hierarchy.
I use treats for some things, but not all dogs are treat motivated. Love, affection and praise are always our best rewards anyway. Treats should always basically “appear out of nowhere,” as opposed to being used as bait (with the exception of maybe to teach ‘sit’). And all rewards should happen within 3 seconds of compliance. And if you’re going to use treats, they should always be used simultaneously with affection and praise. Because it’s not a lifetime of rewarding with treats, but it is a lifetime of rewarding with at the very least praise.Featured | Home | Uncategorized
Posted on Thursday, Jul 14, 2016 2:28 PM by Gregg Flowers
Question: My girlfriend has a small dog who I love, but she doesn’t love me. She’s very protective of my girlfriend and often growls at me when I come near her, or when I enter the bedroom at night. She has nipped me before too. My girlfriend says she doesn’t like men in general, but could Zoe’s problem be something else?
Answer: First, I want to address the “She doesn’t like men” theory. If you’ll notice, even though we commonly hear about this behavioral trait, we basically never hear about a dog who “doesn’t like women.” How is that possible? Because no dog has been ever been consistently exposed to a female human who showed a pattern of being mean to them? That can’t be true.
So while of course there are dogs who may show an distrust towards men, that narrative is largely a story we tell ourselves. I know this because I have won the heart of many the little doggie who purportedly “didn’t like men.”
Relationships in a dog’s world are based on loyalty and trust. Some dogs may well have some psychological “distress” around male energy, but patience is always our best tool working with a dog, and if a dog who “doesn’t like men” is exposed over a period of time, to a patient, loving man, almost always that dog will come around.
How long that takes depends on the dog and on the depth of distress he carries. It can conceivably take months to win the heart of a distrustful dog.
One complication here is, I have noticed that sometimes a dog who “doesn’t like men,” is owned by a person who basically doesn’t like men. Dogs pick up on our energy.
In your situation, your girlfriend has not claimed her position at the top of the pack order. The pack leader makes the rules and boundaries, and one rule absolutely must be: “you can’t be ugly to people!”
Zoe probably thinks she’s her mom’s protector. But that’s not her job. The pack leader is responsible for the safety of the pack, and a dog who is confused about the pack leadership, will be conflicted about that too.
There are many things your girlfriend can do to reclaim her rightful position. First, somehow, some way, she must walk that dog every day long enough to calm her mind. And she must walk her in the proper fashion. Meaning on a slack leash, at her side. This might take some doing, but that one thing is crucial, and the cornerstone of all obedience. It also imprints our leadership position in the very most profound way, on our dog’s mind. Also, she’ll have to start maintaining appropriate rules and boundaries in the house. Like no jumping, no pawing and no climbing into her lap without an invitation.
If your girlfriend learns to walk Zoe the right way, and maintains appropriate rules and boundaries in the house, including correcting her for being ugly to you or anyone else, Zoe will change. And this could take a while! No matter. She should stay the course.Featured | Home
Posted on Thursday, Jul 7, 2016 10:54 AM by Gregg Flowers
Question: I would like to adopt a pit bull mix from a local shelter, but my wife is adamant that this is a bad idea. We have a 6 year old boy and she claims this breed will turn on you. Please advise on whether or not that’s just a myth, and if pit bulls are good dogs or not.
Answer: Yes a dog “turning” on you, is just a myth, and every time there’s a story about a dog turning on someone, I can guarantee you, that dog had previously shown some sort of aggression or dominance earlier in time. Now, we may have missed those signals, but they were there. Many times we ignore tangible dominance cues like a little growling, or maybe food protectiveness, at our own peril. And then seemingly “out of the blue” Max snaps at somebody.
The only variable in dog psychology and behavior is where he falls on the dominance/submissiveness scale. A more dominant dog is pushier than a dog on the submissive end. This is the guy for example, who just will not stop jumping on you. But it’s a lot more than that. Subconsciously, (even though he secretly craves a leader), instinctively, he’s driven to be your leader.
No breed is inherently dominant however. Dominance is on a litter by litter basis. And that has absolutely nothing to do with the breed. That means even in a litter of the almost always docile golden retriever, there will be one puppy who has a little more “juice” than everybody else.
In every litter of puppies, there’s at least one little guy who is the truly dominant one, and he’s pretty easy to point out if you know what you’re looking for. For starters, he’s more noisy and active than the others.
“Pit bull” is really not a breed per se, but an amalgam of the so called “bully breeds” developed in the 1800s and brought to the United States by English immigrants to work on their farms among other tasks. They are naturally very bright, athletic, easily trained, loyal, protective, and tenacious. They’re terriers.
Unfortunately, it’s because of these very traits, they’ve been exploited by essentially horrible human beings, and used for fighting, because when you put one of these guys on a task, they’re committed. Here’s the flip side though. If the task is watching your child, he’s committed to that, too.
As a matter of fact, in the ’50s and ’60s, pit bulls were America’s darling and referred to as “nanny dogs.”
A pit bull’s natural, default demeanor is to be very sweet. But even a sweet and submissive dog can be taught to be aggressive and even to fight.
If you decide to get one of these wonderful dogs, you’ll have to be a good leader to him. He’s highly intelligent and wants to learn, so you must take advantage of that, and teach him basic obedience.
And because of his athleticism, he has a high requirement for exercise. You have to be on board for that too. Without leadership, training and exercise, you can get into trouble with one of these dogs though. But isn’t that always the case with the smart kids?
— Gregg Flowers is a professional dog trainer who writes a weekly column for the Herald-Tribune. Direct questions and comments to floridadogtraining.net, [email protected], or at P.O. Box 25461, Sarasota, 34277. Topics: All About Dogs, dog training, dogs, pit bulls, training | Featured | Home | Uncategorized
Posted on Thursday, Jun 30, 2016 10:05 AM by Gregg Flowers
Question: I have a well-balanced two-year-old German shepherd. We have activities planned for the Fourth of July holiday, and we’d like to include him. What precautions should we take?
Answer: If you are going to a party, save yourself the hassle of supervising your dog by leaving him at home.
If Max does attend, keep an eye on the alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is bad news for your dog. Depending on his weight, lapping up an alcoholic drink could have dire results. Besides becoming intoxicated and weak, alcohol can cause depression and coma in dogs. Worst case scenario? Death from respiratory failure.
Also, keep him away from onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins and yeast dough, as all sorts of problems can arise from him ingesting these things.
Even though Max may seem unfazed by pyrotechnics, he doesn’t associate the noise, flashes, and smell of burning fireworks with celebrations. His predominant sense centers in his sniffer. Dogs are consumed with their sense of smell, especially when it’s as unusual as burning chemicals, so they generally are unsettled by fireworks, and some are downright terrified.
Never set off fireworks around your dog, or expose him to them. Unused fireworks also pose a danger to Max, because many contain toxic substances such as potassium nitrate and arsenic.
According to the American Humane Association, July 5th is the busiest day of the year at shelters. It’s common for pets to panic because of the noise, smell and confusion surrounding Fourth of July celebrations, and just take off.
It makes way more sense to protect Max and Fluffy from all of that, and sequester them in a safe quiet place in your house. Even with that, your pets should always wear a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, phone number and other contact information.
Keep citronella candles, insect coils and tiki torch oil products out of Max’s reach. Ingestion can cause stomach irritation and even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia.
Avoid putting sunscreen or insect repellent on Max unless the product is labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy, and the misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
Don’t put glow jewelry on Max. While the luminescent fluid in these products isn’t highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from eating the stuff, and intestinal blockage can occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic.
Posted on Thursday, Jun 16, 2016 10:25 AM by Gregg Flowers
Question: I have a two-year-old male dog who, aside from a few small issues, is well-behaved. We’d like to get another dog. What’s your advice?
Answer: Sometimes the best thing for your dog is another dog. Dogs dig the companionship of other members of their tribe. And often when the incumbent is older, another dog can actually add some years to his life. The older dog feeds on the energy of the new dog and the new relationship. I have witnessed the revitalizing influence of this dynamic many times.
Dogs are often the best trainers of other dogs. For example, sheep dog puppies aren’t trained by the shepherd. Those pups are allowed to run around with the working dogs as they do their thing, and what at first looks essentially like play, is actually training. So Max will teach the new dog how to conduct himself.
In your situation, since you said he had some issues, I would suggest you spend at least a little time getting him tightened up. It will be worth it.
If Max has a barking or jumping issue, put the effort in getting that fixed. No so-called problem cannot be fixed, no matter how old he is. “Old dog, new tricks” isn’t about dogs.
The most important thing is walking on the leash. This pays huge dividends, because our dog needs at least one daily walk, depending on the dog, and in his mind, whoever leads on the leash, is the leader. So in addition to the physical aspect, there’s a psychological element to the walk that lends itself to strengthening your pack hierarchy.
Tighten up Max’s walking behavior, and the new kid will take his cues from him.
When you have two dogs that don’t know how to walk on a casual, slack leash by your side however, you cannot attempt to teach them the appropriate walking method simultaneously. That’s way too much of a hassle. If the incumbent knows what he’s doing, though, he can actually help you teach the new guy.
It’s important to teach the new dog some respect for the incumbent, especially if he’s older. Max should get petted first, should never eat after the newcomer, and should have the preferential sleeping spot. Keep eye on their playtime together. Max may want to romp with the newbie, and that’s great, but he may well tire of that at some juncture, too. This is where you come into the picture as the leader, teaching the new kid to respect Max’s boundaries. Use “Leave him alone” and then make it stick, ushering the new kid away.
Posted on Wednesday, Jun 8, 2016 10:43 AM by Gregg Flowers
Question: I have an older dog, and I know her days are limited. How will I know for sure it’s time to let her go?
Answer: This is a very provocative and important question. We are usually so emotionally attached to our dog, this is a very hard decision to come to. I think it’s important to try to remain as pragmatic and objective as possible, as difficult as that will be. We always want to take Fluffy’s quality of life into consideration. But what is that, and how can we determine whether or not she’s still experiencing a decent quality of life?
That decision will be unique to every pet and every owner, but there are definitely some factors to consider when you attempt to make that assessment.
Your older dog might lose mobility and not be capable of climbing stairs, hopping into a car or onto a chair. But at this stage, she may still be relatively healthy and happy, and you can easily make accommodations for her reduced ability to get around. But when she can hardly move, that’s really another matter altogether.
Can she get to her feet without assistance? Or sit and lie down without collapsing? Can she walk or handle basic functions like squatting to pee and poop? Or does she whimper or growl if you attempt to move her? Some dogs can get so crippled with hip dysplasia that they literally have to drag their hindquarters across the floor. In my world, this represents a definitively poor quality of life, and I wouldn’t want to put my dog through that.
How about this? Can she eat and digest enough food to stay nourished? Does she throw up after she eats or have difficulty swallowing? Does she even want to eat, or do you have to coax her? A dog that can’t eat or get enough nourishment from her food, is on the road to starvation, which is actually what would happen in the wild.
Incontinence is often a tell-tale sign that it may be time. As a basic survival mechanism, dogs instinctively won’t defecate where they sleep.
A common indication of pain and distress is “denning.” An animal in pain will seek a safe place where it won’t be disturbed by other animals. If your pet has forsaken its usual territories or sleeping places for the back of the closet or a spot under the bed, this may be a sign that she is pain and feels vulnerable.
It can be hard to tell if your dog is in pain though, because they instinctively mask discomfort. So take note of her posture, expressions and energy. Does her face appear furrowed or “worried” as opposed to relaxed and happy?
Look, this decision will rarely be an easy one. Dogs bind themselves to our heart in an indelible fashion, and there’s simply nothing like those relationships. But sometimes the most noble, unselfish and loving thing we can do to honor that relationship, is to end our dog’s suffering and embark on the path to accepting our own.
Posted on Thursday, Jun 2, 2016 9:59 AM by Gregg Flowers
Question: You did a great job last week explaining why it’s crucial to provide your dog plenty of water during the summer. especially in Florida, and to avoid walking him during the hottest part of the day. What other precautions do you advise?
Answer: Several hundred dogs die from the heat each summer, and the No. 1 cause, no drum roll needed, is: leaving your pet in the car.
So right off the top, do not leave your dog in your vehicle, even for one minute.
On a merely “warm” day, temperatures inside your car can spike to lethal levels. If the temperature outside is 85 degrees, for example, the temperature inside your car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, it can hit 120.
Common sense and simply being a responsible guardian of your pet can help you avoid a dire circumstance. But let’s say you get yourself and Max into a jam somehow with the heat, and he’s in potential heat distress.
Outward symptoms you should look for are: heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, labored breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue and seizure.
The very last thing to follow those symptoms will be unconsciousness, and unfortunately by the time your dog is actually exhibiting some of these signs, it may be too late to save him, so if you think he may be on the threshold of a heatstroke, call your vet first, tell them what’s going on, and that you’re headed their way. Then they can be prepared when you get there.
Before you load him up however, move him immediately to either the shade or preferably air conditioning, to start cooling him down.
To cool his core, offer him small amounts of cool, not cold, water, as a large volume all at once, might make him vomit. Take his temperature if possible. Naturally, this is a rectal reading, (sorry). A dog’s normal temperature is no higher than 102.5 degrees, so if it’s to 104, you need to initiate cooling procedures, and it he’s already to 106, something needs to happen right NOW, as he is in real trouble. Never put cold water in a dog’s mouth if he cannot swallow on his own.
Use a hose, wet towels or any other source of cool water and concentrate on cooling his head, neck, the areas underneath his front and back legs and his foot pads.
Carefully cool his tongue if possible, but don’t let water run into his throat, as it could get into his lungs. If able, get Max into a tub of cool (NOT cold) water and put a fan on him.
Continue to check his temp every few minutes, and if it gets to or below 104 degrees, stop the cooling process. Further cooling can lead to blood clotting or a too low body temperature. At this point, load him up and head to the vet, even if he seems to be recovering.
Your vet will have a number of tests to perform.
If you follow some simple precautions, particularly about leaving your dog in the car or walking him during the hottest parts of the day, you can avoid this horrific situation.
Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2016 9:02 AM by Gregg Flowers
Question: With the warmer weather upon us, I’m starting to wonder about what precautions I should take with my new Boxer. Can you tell me what I need to know?
Answer: It’s never too soon to begin taking precautions to protect your dog from the heat, especially here in Florida.
At least several hundred dogs die each summer from heat-related issues, but a little common sense will save her from an agonizing, ghastly death, and you from the worst summer memory of your life.
A dog’s normal temperature is 101 degrees to 102.5, so any temperature over 104 degrees requires action, whereas a temp of 106 is a dire emergency and heatstroke is imminent. Any time Fluffy is outside, make sure she has protection from the heat, and plenty of fresh, cold water. Add ice to that water during heat waves. Tree shade and tarps are ideal for protecting your outdoor dog, because they don’t obstruct air flow.
Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans. They cool themselves primarily by panting. The moisture of their nose has a cooling effect during respiration as well. They also expel heat through the pads of their feet. But if a dog cannot effectively vent body heat, his internal temperature will start to rise, and once it gets to around 106, damage at the cellular level begins, as well as to his brain, GI tract and kidneys. This can all happen very quickly and, in many cases, the damage is irreversible.
Summer heat is particularly hazardous for brachycephalic dogs like yours, (dogs with pushed in noses: Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Shih Tzus and so on). Brachycephalic dogs are much less efficient at panting. Older dogs, puppies, short dogs who are physically closer to the ground, medically infirm or overweight dogs, and dogs not conditioned to prolonged exercise, are all at a higher risk in the heat as well. And it’s not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet, because if it’s too high, the respiratory, panting element doesn’t work as well, and your dog can’t cool himself effectively. When that happens, his internal temperature can jump to dangerous levels pretty quickly.
Hypothermia is a condition wherein there is a dangerous increase in body core temperature. When a dog becomes hypothermic from the heat, heat exhaustion or a heat stroke can result. Heatstroke is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of a heatstroke are detected, there is precious little time before serious damage or death can occur.
So, we have to be careful when exercising our pet in the summer. Adjust the intensity and the duration of his walk according to the temp. On really hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with dogs that have white colored ears, as they are more susceptible to skin cancer. Asphalt can get pretty hot and can burn Fluffy’s paws, so walk her on the grass if possible. Carrying water on your walk is a good idea. too. Then if she needs some water, you can let her drink from a foldable, canvas water dish purchased at the pet store, or she could just drink from your cupped hand.