I was kind of going to take a pass on a blog post today, but then, a friend sent me this… Tevlin: Rain or sleet can’t stop your mail, but a tiny dog can (Star Tribune, dated June 25, 2014, by Jon Tevlin). Seriously. I’m not even kidding.
Here is a quick synopsis of the story:
- 11 lb dog gets loose from its leash while out on a walk.
- 11 lb dog runs to mail carrier and jumps up on her and barks.
- Owner apologizes profusely and gathers dog up (one added detail) and she apologizes profusely.
- The mail carrier does not react or say anything to the owner.
- Next day, Minneapolis Animal Control visits owner and reports mail carrier claims she was bitten on inner thigh and has several puncture wounds.
- Mail carrier claims to have gone to Urgent Care for treatment, but no photos can be provided.
- Owner agrees to get dog trained and to keep her on a short leash and to keep dog inside when mail is delivered.
- Next day, mail delivery is stopped for the entire building where the owner and dog reside.
- Post office manager notifies residents that they can either get a P.O. box or get rid of Nano (the dog).
- Post office manager refuses to respond to resident’s calls to discuss the issue.
- Now owner must move out or euthanize her dog. (Her agreement with Animal Control forbids her from giving the dog away.)
I can think of all kinds of cuss words I could use to describe how I am feeling about this story, but really, all I can think of is “Where the hell is the adult in this story?” I mean I read this and all I can see is a lot of miscommunication, lack of communication and just plain old poor communication. I don’t see a whole lot of negotiation or reasonable boundary setting. I don’t even see proof of the actual bite being shared.
So here is what I would love to do today. Instead of posting this story and having a bunch of people angry people post negative and hateful comments on my blog, I would love to have you, the reader, offer ideas of how this could have been handled differently. How would you have handled this if you were one of the adults in this story?
Feel free to rewrite it in a way that you think it could have gone if people had communicated effectively. How could it have been handled in a way that was better for all involved? What would you have done if you were any one of the parties involved in this situation?
I really look forward to hearing your ideas.
Have you ever had a dog escape your arms or car or home? What is the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you chase after them. They run and then you run. It seems almost instinctual, doesn’t it?
I’ve come to believe that it REALLY IS INSTINCT that takes over when we chase after our loose dog(s). It’s not just something we do when our own pets get loose, but something we do when a friend’s dog gets out of the house or when we see a stray dog running down the street or the highway. There is even a recent video showing police officers chasing after a dog on a highway in California. They never even had a chance of catching him. It was a losing proposition.
The problem with our first instinct (to chase) is that it rarely gets us closer to getting them. In fact, the more we run the more they run, and in most cases, they run even harder and faster. It must be pretty scary seeing a bunch of people chasing you. (Heck! It’s scary being a human and having a bunch of people chasing you! I would run too!) I don’t imagine a dog is likely to stop and ask itself “Does that person mean me harm?” No. They’re probably thinking “I am in danger. I need to run!”
The truth is it can be pretty hard to go against the instinct to chase a loose dog, but we really must learn to so, because when we chase we risk putting ourselves and the loose pet in danger.
This past week, a lost dog was lost forever when a good samaritan gave chase. The person was only trying to help. They saw a lost dog and wanted to reunite him with his owners, but in giving chase, they put Marty in more danger and sadly, he was hit by a car and killed. I cannot imagine how the person chasing him must have felt. One never expects to do a good deed and end up feeling like they did the opposite. I feel badly for both Marty’s family and the good samaritan. How could the person chasing Marty know what would happen? He/She was doing what was instinctual.
But what is instinctual is exactly what is most likely to put the dog in more danger.
There are a great many things I learned while working at our local animal shelter, but among the most helpful were the tips we received on how to get a loose dog back once it has slipped its leash or collar. I thought it might be helpful to share them here in the hopes that it will prevent one more family and good samaritan from feeling the pain of what happened to Marty. (Please note: These may not work with every dog, but they have worked with many.)
What to do if a dog gets loose:
- Stop, drop and lie down - It might sound silly, but dogs find the behavior odd. When you don’t give chase and instead lie down and lie still, a dog will get curious and will often come back to see if you are okay or to see what you are doing.
- Stop, drop, and curl into a ball – This is also a curious behavior for a dog. Because you are not moving and your hands are closely wrapped around your head, they see you as less of a threat and will come to check you out. This gives them a chance to sniff you and realize it’s you, their owner, or to allow you to pet them and grab their collar.
- Run in the opposite direction – What? Run away from the dog? That’s right. Some dogs love a good chase. Instead of you chasing them, let them chase you. Even if the dog is not up for a good chase, he may be curious about your odd behavior and follow along until you can get him into a building or car or someplace where it is easier to corral him.
- Sit down with your back or side to the dog and wait – Again, dogs are thrown off by this odd behavior and will become curious and approach. The other advantage is that by sitting down with your side or back to them, you appear less threatening and they are more likely to approach. If you have good treats, place a few around you to draw them near.
- Open a car door and ask the dog if she wants to go for a ride – It almost seems too simplistic and silly to be true, but many a dog has been fooled into hopping into a car because they were invited to go for a ride. It makes sense, especially if the dog has learned to associate the car with good things (e.g., the dog park).
Although it is no guarantee, I can tell you that I have seen nearly every one of these work with one of our shelter dogs. The key is to fight your instinct to chase the dog and do something that is not as instinctual. Instead, do what seems counter-intuitive to both you and the dog.
Have you had luck catching a loose dog doing something counter-intuitive? Please share your own experience. I would love to learn from you too.
My condolences go out to Marty’s family and the person who tried to help. May what happened to Marty be a an inspiration and reminder to us all so we can help reunite other lost dogs and their owners in his name.
Note: If you are chasing down a dog that has been lost for a few days or more, then I would recommend your read my other post “Why your lost dog may not run back to you” for more tips on how to capture a lost dog.
April 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.
It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a Blog the Change event, but even with the distance of time (6 months), I knew fairly quickly what I wanted to blog about today… organizations that helps pets and their people.
It’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Pamela from Something Wagging This way Comes first brought it to my attention with her Blog the Change post “Want to Protect Animals? Care About People. “ In it she talked about the connection between animal welfare issued and people in need. It’s probably something we don’t often think about, but as she pointed out, animals don’t thrive where people don’t. We are dependent on one another in so many ways. By focusing on only one we neglect the other, and in the end, both fail. She encouraged us to find the “ways helping animals also helps people.”
This mindset has started to change how I look at animal welfare issues. Yes, I can rail at the injustice done to animals. I can complain, bitch and moan about the fact that so many people surrender their pets at kill shelters when the going gets rough, but the reality is that is ALL I am doing. Nothing more. I am not making a difference in changing the reality. In effect, I am whining.
More and more I am taking a look at how I can contribute to making a difference that helps both the animal and their person. Sometimes it’s helping a pet get into rescue instead of being sold on Craigslist (much to the relief of the owner), sometimes it’s bringing attention to an organization that treats both the person and their human (like Downtown Dog Rescue) and sometimes it’s contributing money to the group that is making a difference and needs funds to continue doing so.
Solving the pet overpopulation problem and animal welfare issues cannot be fought on any one single front. It must include a more holistic approach. One only has to hear about battered women shelters starting to accept the battered woman AND her pet to know that they are connected. Hurricane Katrina changed how states and the federal government handle emergency evacuations. Pets are a part of the process now.
So today I would like to encourage you to support those organizations that make a difference in your communities. Care about animals? Great! Look for groups who make a difference in helping animals, but also help the people who own them. I guarantee you there is probably one in almost every community. They are out there, doing the hand work. Go find them. Support them. Volunteer for them. Share their work with your friends and family.
Don’t have any organizations in your area that fit the bill? Then consider starting one in your own community.
Need some ideas? Here are just a few organizations that make a difference in their own communities. I hope they will serve as inspiration for all of us.
Downtown Dog Rescue – This is a great organization located in Los Angeles County, California. They focus on rescuing dogs, but they do so in a way that looks at the problem holistically. They provide services for low-income pet owners and help in ways that allows them to keep their pets.
“…volunteers will fix a fence to secure a yard, foot a vet bill, teach a family to housebreak their dog. They offer low-cost spaying and neutering, and hold training classes for dogs and owners in a nearby vacant lot.” Program with tiny budget makes huge difference for pets, owners, Lost Angeles Times, dated May 11, 2013
The Pet Project - This is a local Minnesota organization that, like Downtown Dog Rescue, focuses on keeping people and their pets together by providing pet food to food shelves and offering assistance with veterinary care whenever possible. They provide resources and information on housing, local food shelf locations and veterinary care. They would love to receive your donations (monetary and otherwise) so they can help more people and pets in need. It’s all about keeping pets with their people whenever possible.
“It’s part of a fledgling movement nationally to make sure people don’t have to choose between keeping food in the kitchen or Fido in the living room.” Kibble with a cause fills Fido’s bowl, StarTribune, dated September 13, 2009.
Animal Care Network – Be The Change for Animals featured Pam Porteous and the Animal Care Network in the 4animals section back on April 30, 2012. That article highlighted the work that Pam is doing in her community of Flint, Michigan. Focused on keeping owners and their pets together, Pam and ACN have ensured pets made it to spay/neuter clinics by picking them up and delivering them to the clinic and then back home. They have conducted home checks on animals, done wellness checks, offered low-cost spay and neuter clinics and Pam her self “educates families and distributes food, water, hundreds of doghouses, thousands of straw bales and other supplies.” She also offers neighborhood talks on how to care for pets.
“Her neighborhood talks cover the importance of spays/neuters, vaccines, and the dangers of cold weather, hot weather, and chaining.” 4animals: Stories to Inspire, dated April 30, 2012
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.