Over the holiday weekend, my dogs enjoyed daily visits to the dog park. They loved getting to walk in the woods every day and to meet up with some of their old friends and hang out. Daisy is more comfortable exploring when she knows her friends. She knows what to expect from them and she knows they will respect her space.
Going to the dog park can be quite an eye opener for the new dog owner. Not all dogs have doggie social skills or a respect for other dogs’ space. You have to know what to watch for and have an understanding of what is really going on.
I have been known to intervene in situations where I feel a dog is in danger, afraid or in need of a little assistance. I am used to hearing people say “Dogs can work it out themselves.” or “Let them be. They’ll work it out,” but that is not always the case. We as dog owners have a responsibility to protect our dogs and to prevent them from harm. In some cases, that means not going to a dog park at all. In others, it means you need to be aware and know what to watch for in case trouble starts.
The video below was taken at a dog park and demonstrates some of the dog behaviors that every dog owner should not only be aware of, but also be ready to intervene in, if they see it. It’s worth watching if you do not understand dog body language. The commentator does a good job of describing what is going on. I have already shared it with my dog park friends, please feel free to share it with yours.
This past week Mr. Winter finally made an appearance. I know I didn’t leave out the welcome mat, but clearly someone did. Was it you???
Despite being less than pleased to see him arrive at my door, I think he’s starting to grow on me. The dogs certainly seem to love him. We shall have to see how this works out. If he overstays his welcome, like last year, we may have to give him the boot.
In the meantime, it seemed appropriate to feature a fun video featuring old man Winter and a gorgeous Border Collie named, Vicky. You have likely seen her before in other Favorite Friday videos. She’s kind of a favorite of mine.
Happy Friday everyone!
It’s getting to be that time of year again. The time when darkness pervades our mornings and our nights and Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends. it’s my least favorite time of year because it means the dogs and I will be relegated to walking in the dark or just on weekends.
If I lived in Arizona or Hawaii or Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, I wouldn’t have to set my clock back at all and the dogs and I could walk in the morning. But since we live in Minnesota, and no one has seen fit to get rid of this archaic and outdated policy, we will be making the best of it by playing dog puzzles and other silly games.
Truthfully, the dogs actually love our dog game nights. They look forward to taking their turn at finding treats in the dog chess game or digging a Kong out of a box and taking it out of a sock. It’s a challenge and something different and interesting for them to do.
Cupcake has gotten especially good at playing dog chess, so I am thinking it may be time to try some new games. Here are just a few I am looking at. Have any of you tried these? I would love your opinion on which ones might be a challenge for my little dog prodigy.
I first saw her, the young Husky, as the dogs and I entered the dog park. She looked sweet and friendly. She waggled her butt as she sidled up to me and asked for a pet. I reached down to pet her when I heard her scream and watched as she ran down the path to my left. At first I was confused. What had just happened? I watched her run, frenetic and scared, and then scream again and run in another direction. Then I got mad. I couldn’t see the shock collar around her neck, but I knew it was there. Someone was shocking her. I looked around the park, trying to identify the idiot shocking his dog and scaring the shit out of her.
I finally saw him standing across the park near the open field. I watched him as he called his dog’s name, and when she didn’t respond, hit the button on the remote in his hand. Immediately after that, I would hear the now familiar scream and watch as his poor dog ran in yet another direction. She was trying to escape he shock and didn’t know how, so she just kept running. She was completely terrified.
I couldn’t help but wonder what he hoped to gain from this experience. Control of his dog? A sense of superiority? A need to feel all-powerful? What was it that made him think shocking his dog was more preferable to using a more positive method of training? Why did he choose to shock his dog for not coming instead of praising her for coming to him?
tr.v. con·trolled, con·trol·ling, con·trols
1. To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct.
2. To adjust to a requirement; regulate.
3. To hold in restraint; check.
4. To reduce or prevent the spread of.
As human beings, I think we often feel the need to be in control. The need to feel like we have a say or an ability to affect an outcome. I know I do. I try to control the outcome of many things in my life. But I know that the control I “think” I have is really more of an illusion of control than real control.
The man shocking his dog thought he was developing control of his dog through use of force. He thought that using a shock would force her to come to him. The reality is that he never had control – from the first shock to the last one. His dog was scared out of her mind and running in fear. She was so scared that she couldn’t even hear him call her name. The control he had was an illusion.
Recently, I read a blog post that addressed The Control Myth we all have when it comes to our dogs. It was written by a certified dog trainer named Michael Baugh. His words were quite powerful and insightful, and even though his post was directed towards other dog trainers, I think we all can take something from it.
At one point in the piece, Michael asks us “What do we want, control or connection?” What a great question. What is it that we want with our dogs? Is it really control we want? Or is it the bond and connection that we crave?
In Michael’s words… “The illusion of control is alluring. But connection, a real bond with another living being – that’s the stuff. That’s the stuff.”
Yes it is. It is “the stuff” that we all want.
Controlling a dog using force might make one feel powerful and in control at the time, but it never feels good in the long run. It doesn’t increase the bond with your dog. It doesn’t make you feel good about yourself either. It can often leave you feeling guilt and shame.
Control is temporary and fleeting. Connection is something strong and lasting and so much more powerful. It’s what fills us up. It’s what makes us smile when our dogs greet us at the door after a long day at work and it’s what makes us cry when we have to say goodbye to them. It’s what we crave. What we want most in this world.
The question is can we give up our need to control our dogs so we can have the connection we so fiercely desire?
I really hope so, because there is so much more to be gained by building a connection with our dogs than to be gained by control.
We can achieve great things with our dogs, or we can find greatness in the simple things with them. Even the dogs who seem to be out of control have a place with us. Chodron was speaking about our fellow humans when she wrote, “Be grateful to them; they’re your own special gurus, showing up right on time to keep you honest.” I think we can apply the wisdom here to our dogs as well. Who’s teaching whom? It’s hard to tell. Maybe not knowing makes the joy even greater. The Control Myth by Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC
I love watching working dogs do what they were meant to do. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of helping out at a sheep herding trial and watching several different compete. I was surprised at how many of breeds were represented – Border Collie, Rough-coated Collie, Rottweiler, Kelpie, Australian Cattle Dog, Samoyed and even a Bouvier des Flandres.
Unfortunately, I was so busy watching I often forgot to take pictures, but I did manage to snap a few. Enjoy!
Back when I was a pet sitter, I would schedule an initial meeting with my potential clients and their pets as way for all of us to get to know one another. This meeting was their chance to interview me and to determine if I would be a good fit for their pet, but it was also a chance for their dog or cat to get to know me.
I think many of my new dog clients were surprised when I showed up for the meeting and didn’t make an immediate beeline towards their dog, or in some cases, completely ignored them. It might seem like an odd thing to do for a pet sitter, but I had a good reason for doing it. I wanted the dogs to know that THEY were the ones who got to decide how they wanted to interact with me. I let them decide how close they wanted to get to me, whether they wanted to be petted or just wanted to sniff me first. If they wanted one of the treats I carried in the pouch hanging at my side, they could have one but they got to decide whether it would be from my open hand or tossed to them (because they felt safer there).
Being a professional pet sitter requires you to work with people as well as their pets, but when it came to my client’s dogs, I wanted them to know from the beginning that I respected their need for space.
Earlier this year, I wrote about attending an educational seminar with Suzanne Clothier. In the day-long session, Suzanne demonstrated (with a Great Dane) how to tell at what distance a dog is comfortable meeting a new person (in this case her and the other attendees). As she explained at that time, every dog is different, but each one has a spatial parameter in which they feel comfortable and uncomfortable. What most people, including experienced dog owners, don’t realize is that space is often much larger than our own.
In her demonstration with the Great Dane, Suzanne used a game that she developed herself when working with dogs. It’s called Treat and Retreat. It’s a wonderful way to observe a dog and to get a better understanding of the spatial perimeter at which they feel most comfortable. It’s also a great way to help a shy or fearful dog to gain confidence and maybe even shorten their spatial perimeter. Even though I didn’t know it as Treat and Retreat back then, it is very similar to what I did with Daisy in the early days.
I thought it might be fun to share a video of this game with you. It’s definitely something you can try with your own dog. As you watch the video, notice how the dog in the video tells the people in the room, the people tossing the treats, at what distance she feels most comfortable. Also, notice how the trainer has them switch off throwing the treats near and far, allowing the dog to retreat to a more comfortable distance. You also see as the dog progresses that the people tossing treats start walking around and kneeling down. This is after weeks of work and progress,but it is a great example how treat and retreat can help a fearful dog.
If you do decide to try this with your own dog, I would love to hear what you discovered. Were you surprised by anything? How close or far did your dog get to you? Did it make a difference if you were sitting down or standing up? Let us know.
- Aggression & Some Reasons Behind It by Suzanne Clothier
- Desperately seeking distance by Debbie Jacobs
- Building Your Dog’s Confidence Up by Pat Miller
A co-worker of mine just returned from a two-week trip to Europe. She spent a good amount of time in Finland and Sweden, and some time in Belgium and elsewhere. Of course, she had a great time (who wouldn’t?) and saw lots of great sights. but there was one thing she said she noticed above all – the huge number of well-behaved dogs walking with their owners. She said she saw dogs everywhere she went and she was amazed at how well-behaved they were. No jumping up on people. No begging for food. No barking uncontrollably.
It seems she isn’t the only one to notice this either. Scout’s mom posted this on Dogster in 2006:
My husband and I took a trip to Paris and Germany and noticed the oddest most amazing thing. EVERY SINGLE DOG WE SAW… that’s right EVERY SINGLE one in the big city in Paris, in the small towns in Germany were well-behaved and walked behind their furless ones! It was so weird. It was like all the dogs were sedated! They didn’t pull on leashes, they didn’t look at people, they didn’t beg for food at the cafes and most of all- none of them were shy! Some were even off leash in Paris walking next to their furless ones- even stopping at the cross walk!! My husband and I took so much video of these dogs because we just couldn’t believe it! All kind of dogs too- big dogs, little dogs, all kind of size dogs. Has anyone else seen this in Europe? It makes me want to send Scout to Europe for training! We can’t figure out why- maybe because their lifestyle is so different? Different quieter home life? It was so cool!
There were lots of interesting responses to Scout’s mom’s question. Some thought it was because dogs in Europe were allowed to go everywhere with their owners and therefore had to behave better. Others thought it was because they got out more than American dogs and got more exercise than American dogs. I suspect there is truth to both of these theories, but it seems like there must be more to the story, so I am asking you, my readers, for some input.
Are dogs in Europe better behaved than American dogs? If so, what makes them appear to be better behaved than American dogs? What behaviors do you see with dogs there that you don’t see here?
Do you live outside Europe and America? How would you describe how the dogs behave in your country?
So how much did you observe your dog this weekend? Other dogs? Did you catch anything interesting? Some new behavior you’ve never seen before?
I had the opportunity to do a lot of observing this past weekend. The dog park was a busy place. So much so that it was almost impossible not to observe something. It also made concentrated observation time difficult because there was SO much going on.
I wish I had taken more videos of dogs that I could observe later. It would be fun to see what things I missed (quite a bit I am sure!). Since I have no slowed down videos of my own to share, I thought I would share a great one I found a couple of weeks ago. This video was posted on YouTube by Gentle Canine. It’s another great example of dog body language. What I love is that Kirsten (the dog trainer) gives a more detailed rundown of the behaviors displayed, and what they mean, on her website. I would encourage you to check it out.
As you watch the video ask yourself these questions…
- What behaviors do you see?
- What stands out?
- Did you notice a dog freeze?
- What were the positions of each dogs’ ears?
- Were the dogs leaning forward or backwards?
- Was there lip-licking observed? What stood out the most to you?
- What did the husky mix do at the end of the video? Why?
Curious what all this means? The Whole Dog Journal has a Canine Stress Dictionary listing all or most of these behaviors and how to interpret them. I highly recommend it.