If there is one thing that drives me nuts at the dog park it’s dogs mobbing the front gate, the gate through which dogs enter and exit. There is so much energy at that front gate. The dog coming in is excited and amped up and the ones inside are excited and amped up and become even more so when they see another dog coming in who is in the same state.
When there is a mob by the front gate, I wait for the other dogs to leave. If they don’t, I ask their owners to come and get them. If that doesn’t happen, I leave and go to another gate or leave altogether. I won’t put my dogs at risk for an attack.
Last week I witnessed two dogs start to fight after an excited setter entered the park and several dogs mobbed the gate. The owner really should have waited until the dogs had moved away or until the owners moved their dogs away physically, but she didn’t. She probably wasn’t aware of the dangers in not waiting. As was expected, the excited setter was attacked by one of the dogs on the inside of the gate as soon he entered. And as the two wrangled a bit, several other dogs decided to join in. Fortunately for the dogs, the owners were close enough to intervene and did so quickly, but for a second there I thought it was going to devolve into something more.
Entering a dog park can be dangerous if an owner is not aware and does not plan ahead on what they will do if there is a mob at the gate. Given my recent experience, I thought it might be good to share another video from Great Dog Productions showing just such a situation at a dog park. I am also including the slow motion version of the same video so you can see how quickly things can turn ugly. Watch as some of the other dogs join in after a black and white dog jumps the doodle that is entering the park.
Here is the slow motion version of the same video. Notice how the Lab is pushed away from the gate, but quickly comes back when the black and white dog goes after the doodle. Also notice the little Westie who started to join in. Watch the body language of the doodle. How is he feeling right about now? Scared? Nervous? You bet.
Trips to the dog park have been pretty rare lately. A combination of whole “fall back” time change and the extremely cold temperatures has made it near impossible to get there, except on the weekends. On Saturday it was warm enough to stay for over an hour. We saw lots of our friends and some new ones.
Towards the end of our walk, I was chatting with one of our friends when I noticed a yellow Lab running across the field with an Irish Terrier in hot pursuit. I watched as they had a fun game of chase, taking turns on chasing and playing.
Suddenly, two other dogs joined in on the pursuit and what was a fun game of chase quickly became harassment. The terrier, already over aroused and excited, amped it up, and then the other dogs joined in on the pursuit. Soon the Lab was running for his life and had one dog nipping at his side and two others on his tail.
I could tell the Lab wasn’t having fun anymore – his hackles were up and several times he stopped and rolled on his back in hopes of stopping the hot pursuit and harassment, but it only led to the terrier nipping at him continuously while the other two dogs barked and lunged and barked and lunged. He quickly got up and started running again.
Realizing that someone needed to intervene, I yelled “Hey! Hey! Three on one is no fun!” and started walking quickly towards the dogs. My shout got the other owner’s attention and they started running towards their dogs to intervene too. A couple of owners made a grab for their dogs and pulled them away from the interaction. The Lab ran back to his owner for reassurance and just like that, the whole incident dissipated.
Afterwards, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s not often you see owners intervene like that on behalf of a dog. And yet in this case, all the owners intervened. It was awesome to see such involvement. I wish we all saw more of this type of owner behavior at dog parks.
Later, the Lab’s owner mentioned that he wasn’t sure what had happened because just before his dog had been playing chase very nicely. His comment was not surprising. All it took was an excited dog getting amped up and a couple other dogs keying in on that energy and joining in, and suddenly everything changes. It’s a great example of why owners must always be aware of what is going on and be ready to intervene if necessary.
This incident reminded me of another dog park video I had recently watched showing some great examples of dog harassment at a dog park and what happens when an owner intervenes. It’s a great reminder that we dog owners can help dissipate this kind of behavior by simply interrupting the behavior before it gets out of control. I hope you will watch and then pass it on.
Just a quick reminder – not all dogs should be at a dog park and not all dog parks are safe for dogs. You have to be your own dog’s advocate. Be aware. Be alert. Be ready to intervene.
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.
Troll around on Twitter or Facebook and you’re likely to run across a “cute” child and dog video. I very rarely share them. Why? They make me cringe. Most of the videos you see showing children and dogs together are not what they seem. They are not “cute.”
To a dog owner or parent unaware of dog behavioral signals it can look adorable, but if you know even a little bit about dog behavior, you can see what they do not – most of these dogs are not enjoying the interaction, and in many cases they are being way more tolerant than one would expect. Thank goodness too, because in many cases a dog bite is a death sentence for the dog, even when they were telling everyone with eyes to see that they were nervous or uncomfortable, or felt threatened. To the unknowing owner, they think the attack came out of nowhere, that it was unprovoked, but in truth, this is rarely the case. Most dogs tell you what they are feeling long before they bite.
Recently an online dog-oriented website shared a video of a Golden Retriever and a baby and titled it as “Baby and Golden Retriever share bonding time.” I would have to disagree. What is happening in this video is not bonding. It’s stress and calming signals from the dog, and all the signs indicate that dog and/or baby should be removed from the situation.
What you will see in this video is a series of calming signals. My guess? The dog is stressed by the closeness of the baby, and possibly the fact that the baby has already grabbed its jowls and pulled on his face, and is very much trying to calm himself and ease his stress.
What dog signals did I see?
- Yawning (several times)
- Looking away(several times)
- Avoidance (pretending the child is not there; avoiding the child)
Dog and baby videos just aren’t as cute as people think. You just have to be watching to see it.
Jasper and Cupcake, my four-pawed trick-or-treaters, decided they wanted to have a little Halloween fun too. So while I was away, they went shopping and came home with some costumes of their own.
So many pets get lost on Halloween because they get frightened by the scary costumes and strangers at the door. With doors opening and closing to hand out treats, the chances that a dog will bolt out the door and get lost increase.
Jasper and Cupcake, along with their friends Enya, Maxwell and Riley, ask that you please keep your pets safe by following these simple rules from Lost Shelties MN:
PLEASE…Know where your best friend is before you open any doors. Use a baby gate to block their any access to the door that will be used to pass out candy or put them in their kennels away from all the commotion.
Put locks on your yard gates. The goblins don’t always go up and down the street. Place a lock on your gates to avoid anyone from leaving them open. Then when the porch light goes off and you’re putting things away, you let your best friend out you won’t have to worry was a gate opened.
If you have a lost dog, I like this tip from Lost Cats MN. Make up 1/2 sheet flyers, post cards or business cards for your Lost Cat and hand them out to all the Trick or Treaters that come by! Most Lost Cats do not wander very far and are usually found within a few blocks of home, so this is another good way to get the word out to your neighborhood again. Also, always keep a sign up in your yard so that anyone going by will see it and if they do notice your cat they will know that it is LOST and it’s not just out roaming around. (Insert “dog” for “cat”
Please…Please…Please – know where they are when the door is opening. So many Shelties bolt out an opening door. Don’t have the next one be yours. It really is preventable.
When you’re out with your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids & friends please think of all the missing Shelties and keep an eye out for them if you are in their areas. These beautiful Shelties are still missing from 2013. If you click on the link to missing Shelties it will show you the ones still missing from previous years also.
Other links to check out. Please look at all of them. Each containing some VERY good information.
Jasper and Cupcake wish you all a safe and happy Halloween!
Ask most dog trainers how they feel about dog parks and I guarantee that most of them would say they hate them. I know many of my friends, who are dog trainers, have told me as much when I have told them stories about things that have happened there.
Perhaps the biggest issue most trainers (and I) have with dog parks aren’t the dogs, but the owners – they don’t pay attention, they don’t have control over their dog, and they don’t intervene soon enough. It’s one of the reasons I am so hyper-vigilant at the dog park. I want to know where my dogs are, where other people’s dogs are, and want to walk away from trouble before it begins. My dogs love the dog park, but I think they would love it less if I wasn’t so focused on making sure they are safe and having fun while they are there.
Being a dog owner means not only being responsible for your dog, but also being his advocate. If you go to a dog park, you better take this role seriously because if you don’t your dog, or another dog, could get hurt. Here are some suggestions on how to keep them safe:
- Keep your dogs moving. The more they are moving and exercising, the less chance they will be engaged in trouble with another dog.
- Intervene if you see more than one dog ganging up on another. Way too many dog owners don’t intervene when they should. This often leads to trouble and can cause a dog to be injured. If more than one dog is harassing one dog, it is not play, it is bullying.
- Walk away when they excitement level between dogs at the dog park reaches a hyper level. When I see dogs overly excited, I take my dogs in the opposite direction. Overly excited dogs tend to get other dogs excited and pretty soon you can have over-the-top trouble. Better to stay away from that kind of activity.
- If your dog is hiding between your legs, hiding under a bench or picnic table, or looks scared and unhappy to be there, LEAVE. A dog that is scared to be at the dog park is not a happy dog. Why would any owner force their dog to stay in a fearful state?
- Make sure your dogs are well-trained and respond to your commands. If you don’t have control over your dog, you should not be at a dog park. Period. No one wants to deal with an unruly dog and an irresponsible owner.
Not sure what to watch for? Here is a great video that illustrates some of the behaviors you should be watching for at the dog park. I highly recommend every dog owner watch it.
Dog parks can be fun places, but it takes knowing your dog and knowing what to do if you see trouble. Not every dog wants to go to a dog park nor should every dog be at a dog park. Owners need to know what to watch for and to be an advocate for their dog and know when the dog park is not the best option.
October 15th is Blog the Change for Animals Day. It’s a day when bloggers unite to bring attention back to an animal cause they care deeply about. It’s also a day in which you, our friends and readers, can also do something small to make the difference in the life of an animal.
Today I am continuing the theme from the last Blog the Change, by asking for your help to spread the word about:
1. A little lost Sheltie in Minnesota, and
2. Another missing dog from your own area.
Two years ago next month, I lost my own Sheltie, Cupcake, when she slipped her collar after being frightened. For 11 days I lived in fear that she might be hit by a car, harmed by coyotes, or simply disappear forever, never to be found again. Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who cared enough to share Cupcake’s story and made sure that word got out about her. People I didn’t even know spread the word and because of them (because of many of you), Cupcake was brought home safely. It was a miracle I will never forget. It’s a miracle I wish for every owner of a lost dog.
Now there is another lost Sheltie that needs our help. His name is Tucker and he has been missing since August 23 of this year. He went missing while away from home and in the care of someone else.
He is very much missed by his family, who has done everything to find him, including handing out flyers, making signs, spreading the word online, traveling to the town he went missing in every weekend, and speaking with animal communicators to try to find him. What makes finding Tucker so much more important is that he also serves as a support dog and friend for the young man in his home. He misses him deeply.
We know Tucker is out there. We just need to find him.
Tucker has been sighted most recently sighted in Jordan, MN on October 10th.
How can you help?
- Go to the Lost Shelties MN page and share Tucker’s picture and information on Facebook. Ask your friends to spread the word.
- Share this post or Tucker’s flyer (above) on Twitter or tweet “Lost
#Sheltie in #Jordan #Minnesota. Support Dog. Brown and white. Do NOT chase. Contact https://www.facebook.com/LostSheltiesMN if seen.”
- Keep him in your thoughts and prayers and send him mental messages asking him to seek help from a person. Ask him to let himself be sighted so we can help find him.
Help another dog in need closer to home
So many dogs and cats go missing each year. Many in your own state or in ones near you. Below I have posted several of the well-known Facebook groups responsible for reuniting lost dogs with their owners. Help make a difference for someone else in need:
- Take a moment to click on any one of the lost dog links below and share another lost dog on Facebook and Twitter.
- “Like” the page and help spread the word on other lost dogs in your own area.
- Offer an encouraging word to someone who’s dog is lost. You’d be surprised at how much it can help buoy their spirits. I know first hand how much these kind words helped me to not give up hope.
It might seem like a small thing to ask, but every share you do of a lost dog actually does make a difference:
- Because someone shared Cupcake’s story, I met people who helped me bring her home.
- Because I snapped a photo of a lost dog and shared it online, another lost foster dog made it back home. (I still have their thank you note to remind me why I want to continue to help others.)
- Because someone shared, a lost dog someone found was reunited with his owner this past week.
Sharing makes a difference.
Please Be The Change that makes a difference today.
Click on any one of the links below and share a lost dog picture or story on Facebook or Twitter.
Despite what we often may think, dogs can be pretty complex creatures. They speak a different language than we do, they have quirks in their personalities that can make them quite unusual sometimes (like us humans) and they often display anxiety and discomfort in ways we don’t.
I’ve written plenty about their behaviors and what they mean, but one of the things I am still learning about is dog thresholds. According to Mardi Richmond at the Whole Dog Journal, a threshold is “when your dog crosses from one emotional state to another.” They might be happy one second and concerned or stressed the next. Often the stress or anxiety comes from an outside trigger, like seeing another dog or a person or even seeing a new object in their environment.
Although I had plenty of experience with dogs crossing thresholds at the animal shelter, I don’t even think I knew what the term meant back then. I just knew that some dogs would go from being relaxed and happy to lunging and barking whenever they saw another dog.
What I didn’t know then, but know now, is that the term can also be applied to dogs who go from relaxed and happy to shutting down or freezing in fear. They might be totally different emotional states, but the same thing is happening. They are crossing a threshold.
In the early days, Daisy had a low threshold for nearly everything in her environment – the car, the house, wood floors, people, noises, sudden movements, and me. Any of one of these could put her into a fearful state, but put two or more of these together and you could guarantee she would pretty much shut down, going into a nearly helpless state. Have you ever seen a dog get a vacant, empty look in their eyes? That was Daisy in the early days.
These days, Daisy has a much higher threshold on a whole lot of things in her environment, but I also know that a combination of any of her triggers could still cause her to shut down again. It’s something I always keep in mind whenever I am trying to decide whether to bring her along with me to an event or to leave her behind at home, where she will be safe. Most of the time I leave her at home, unless I know I can control the environment for her. I do the same with Cupcake as well. She has a much lower threshold for new people and activities than Daisy, but unlike Daisy who just shuts down, Cupcake’s first reaction is to flee. I just won’t put her at risk of getting lost again. She is happier at home anyways.
Understanding dog thresholds has taught me how to keep my dogs safe, but for other people it may be how to keep them calm. Knowing what they are and how they work can go a long way towards improving your relationship with your dog. I know it has with mine.
I don’t know if you’re interested, but I found a great video that explains a little more on thresholds and something called “trigger stacking.” It is really worth watching if you want to understand your dogs better.
It seems children and dogs have been at the forefront of my mind lately. It could be because I have read several great blog posts on the subject lately, but I think it might also have something to do with a video I saw a few weeks ago that featured both a child and a dog.
A friend posted it on Facebook and expressed her concern about it. I watched it and was just as concerned. It is disturbing on so many levels… it involves a child and a dog (who does not seem to appreciate the child touching him), it demonstrates poor parenting and supervision of said child and dog, it involves the much maligned breed, a pitbull, and it is a potential dog bite or attack waiting to happen. That the video is still up is disturbing in and of itself.
I honestly debated sharing it on my blog because I knew it had the potential to create a lot of anger. But then I read a really interesting post this week that seemed to be a perfect way to tee up the conversation.
It was a blog post written by Robin Bennett, a certified pet dog trainer (CPDT-KA). The post was titled “Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work.” I absolutely encourage you to read it and then share it with everyone you know. Actually, I beg you to read it and share it. I think it is exactly what we should be telling parents who have both kids and dogs living together in the same house.
Robin hit the nail on the head. It’s not just about supervising a child with a dog, it’s about watching what the dog’s behavior is when a child is near, and then knowing what that behavior means and what to do about it. Parents need to know what their dog’s behavior means or they have no context in which to anticipate a bite or to stop it.
So in honor of that key point, I am going to break down the video I mentioned above to explain why it is so concerning and why any parent seeing this kind of behavior in their own home, should be deeply worried and should intervene immediately to stop it from ever happening again. I have linked to the video here. I encourage you to watch it with a discerning eye and share anything you saw that I missed.
The video: Several interactions between a child and a dog (I chose to refer to the dog as “he”, but it could be a “she”)
The subjects: A young child, a pitbull type dog and two supervising adults (possibly the child’s mother and father)
Behavior of the child in the video:
- Stands next to couch, stretches out arm, pulls both arms back and then grabs the dog’s back foot.
- Pulls arm back, clutches hands together and laughs.
- Reaches out again and grabs at the dog’s back feet, screams, pulls back slightly and then goes after the dog’s feet again.
- Laughs and pulls arms back again, and clutches hands together again.
- Reaches out and grabs the dog’s back foot again with one hand. Laughs.
- Continues to hold onto dog’s back foot tightly and then pulls it towards her. Holds on and pulls harder before letting go.
Behavior of the dog:
- Laying in couch next to the supervising adult with one paw on the adult’s leg
- Sees approaching child and turns head slight towards child. Lip licks. Could be a whale eye showing.
- Turns fully towards child. Ears are back. Mouth is tight. Clearly worried and stressed.
- Lunges towards child’s hand as it reaches for his leg. Encloses child’s right hand completely in his mouth. Lets go and puts mouth on left hand which is touching his foot.
- Pulls body closer together and scoots towards the supervising adult.
- Reaches/Lunges out over the edge of the couch to grab the child’s right arm before it can come over the couch fully. Encloses mouth around the child’s right arm. Mouths the child’s right hand. Lip licks.
- Mouth drawn tight. lunges again for child’s out-stretched right hand. Lets go and grabs child’s left hand which now has the dog’s foot. Mouths the child’s left hand. Lip licks. (Dog is now leaning forward with front legs hanging over the front of the couch. Ears are far back on his head.)
- Dog lets go of hand and physically turns head and body away from the child. Brow is furrowed. Ears are back.
- Lunges at child’s hand again as it grabs his leg. Mouths child’s hand. Lip lick as child grabs his foot and pulls on it.
- Hard eyes. Possible whale eye. Pulls lips back to show teeth (does this a couple of times). Lip licks again. Shows more of his teeth.
- Video stops.
What the dog’s behavior means:
The combination of lip licking, furrowed brows, turning away from the child, leaning against the woman or mother, and mouthing the child’s hands and arms are all calming signals and indicate the dog is stressed. This dog was extremely uncomfortable with the child grabbing at him and was trying to communicate this through the body signals.
The wrinkled nose and mouth, and bared teeth looked like a snarl to me, but there was also a lip lick in there so I wonder about a possible submissive grin. Regardless, it was most definitely a warning sign to the child (and the adults) that the dog was extremely uncomfortable. He was definitely being pushed past his comfort zone and could have bitten the child. Maybe he did bite the child. Maybe that’s why the video stopped. This was a situation that was completely avoidable, but the supervising adults had to know what to look for in order to see it clearly. I suspect they had no idea that this was an extremely dangerous situation until they saw the snarl. I hope to god they took action then and didn’t wait for a bite to occur.
I welcome your own observations on the behaviors you saw in the video and on Robin’s post about why supervising is not enough. What did you see? What stood out to you about Robin’s post? Did I miss anything in the dog’s behavior?
I hope that this video motivates parents to become more knowledgeable about dog behavior. To help, I have provided a few links below. They are worth reviewing if you have a child and a dog in your house.
The Family Dog: Dog Training for the Whole Family (My thanks to Pamela from Something Wagging This Way Comes for sharing this one on her blog. They have a great video you can share with children to help them understand dog behavior.)