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Blog the Change for Animals: Support organizations who help people and animals

April 15, 2014 5 comments

Blog the Change 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.

People and their animals are uniquely connected. Treat the human and you treat the pet. Elderly Man in Wheelchair

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

The hidden dangers of entering a dog park

January 6, 2014 23 comments

DSC05342If 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.

The Top 13 Dog Blog Posts of 2013

December 31, 2013 27 comments

IMG_1443It’s become an annual tradition for me to end the year by sharing those blog posts I thought were most touching, interesting, or emotionally powerful throughout the past year. There was no shortage of amazing writing in 2013.

You may not have the same posts on your list that I have on mine, but I hope you will find them worth reading and sharing.

Have one of your own you want to share? Please do in the comment section below.

Happy New Year everyone!

1. Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work  and My Dog Got Kicked Out Of Daycare Today by Robin Bennett - Yes. Robin had two great posts that made my list this year.  The first one covers an issue near and dear to my heart – dogs and kids. The second one covers another topic I wish all dog owners would heed – not all dogs are made for dog parks or doggy daycare. Both are worth reading.

2. A Cautionary Letter by Nancy Tanner – I remember the first time my friend Nancy directed me to this post. I had such strong feelings after reading it – anger, sadness, despair. If ever there were an argument for people to better understand training methods and their impact on fearful dogs then this is it. Trust me, this will leave an imprint on your mind.

3. What My Dying Dog Taught Me About Life by Alisa Bowman of Project Happily Ever After - Even though I read this post in January, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days afterwards. It is a loving, and at times funny, tribute to a dog who loved well and was well-loved. I cannot help but think that Rhodes left an imprint on many a reader (like me).

4. What Does It Mean to Give Your Pet a Good End? Maybe Not What You Think by Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me? - Too often in this world we judge one another based on what “we” would do vs what is right for the person in question. Edie takes on an issue that is often considered taboo in pet lover’s circles – should you be with your dog when their life ends. She handles the issue with her usual class and grace, but makes a great point that I think we could all stand to hear.

5. What’s in a Name? A whole lot of bullshitittypoo by The DogSnobs writers – Okay. I admit it. I really do love The DogSnobs. I love that they have a  no-holds-barred kind of writing style and an I-don’t-give-a-sh*t-what-you-think attitude. This particular post makes fun about all the silly names breeders have given designer dogs. Want to read more? Here are a few that made the Honorable Mention list:  Owner Profile: The Distracted DingbatYour dog isn’t being friendly. He’s an asshole. And so are you., and Put it back, you don’t need that! a.k.a. Picking the correct breed is important. Don’t fuck it up.

6. This test that you keep using…… and Beware the Straw Man by Linda Case of The Science Dog - Although these are two posts in one, they are really linked. Both deal with the issue of canine assessment tests used by many shelters and animal control centers to determine if a dog is adoptable or destined for euthanization. I admit I have a bias on this issue since Daisy and Jasper likely would have fallen into the latter category if they had not ended up at my shelter. Thank goodness they didn’t.

7. What it’s like to meet an angel… by Kaylee Greer of Dog Breath Photography - I first read this story on Kaylee’s Facebook page and was moved to tears. Her big heart and giving nature made one woman’s painful day a little brighter. She later posted it on her blog and I read it all over again. If you haven’t seen any of Kaylee’s photography, it is magical, whimsical and beautiful. You can see some of her work on her blog and on her Facebook page.

8. The Four Phases of a Positive Reinforcement Trainer by Katie Hood of When Hounds Fly - Even though I am not a dog trainer, I could completely relate to this post. In any ways it was the post that created a light-bulb moment for me and changed my overall response to animal welfare issues in general. If you have ever worked in the animal welfare arena, it is worth a read. You will find yourself nodding your head in agreement or holding up that figurative mirror of self-reflection.

9. Chasing Sunsets by Leo of Kenzo the Hovawart (and Viva) – This post may have touched me more than most because it was by a fellow dog blogger and friend, but I thought it would resonate with many of you who have recently lost a beloved four-pawed friend. Recently, Leo and his family went on a journey to retrace the steps he had taken with his late dog, Viva. I thought it was a beautiful follow up to her story.

10. They Never Told Me I Would Love the Snow by Kristine Tonks of Rescued Insanity - Anyone who has read Kristine’s blog knows she has a talent with words. This one in particular is a special one. It’s like poetry. Beautiful and visual.

11. Do Some Dogs Need a Heavier Hand? by Nicole Wilde – Nicole is well-known in the dog training world, but what I love is her unique way of getting a pout across by allowing you to examine the issue from all angles. Here is one particular post that resonated with me this year.

12. Chix-A-Lot Friday: Fostering as a New Years Resolution by Aleksandra of Love and a Six-Foot Leash – I love this post simply because it is so thoroughly covers all the things one should think about and plan for when fostering a dog. If you are considering fostering a dog, read this post first. It can help set your expectations and help you prepare ahead of time.

13. Letting Go Of Ruby: A Lesson In The Dying Light by Lisa from Going to the Dogs – Even though this is a more about her mother than her mother’s dog, their tales and lives are woven together. Poignant and heartfelt. Written beautifully.

Dog behavior to watch for at the dog park – Part Two

December 15, 2013 21 comments
IMG_1219

Lab being chased by three dogs. You can’t even see the terrier because she is so close to the Lab and harassing him with nips to his side and head.

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. 

Dog behavior to watch for at the dog park

December 2, 2013 30 comments

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.

Dog and baby videos are not cute

November 25, 2013 12 comments

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?

Dog and baby videos just aren’t as cute as people think. You just have to be watching to see it.

Four-pawed trick-or-treaters and Halloween pet safety

October 31, 2013 6 comments

IMG_9700It’s all Hallows Eve and the neighborhood kiddies are all excited to put on their costumes and make their annual trek through town to fill their plastic pumpkins with stashes of candy.

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.

Even though they can’t go out for treats (chocolate is bad for dogs you know) they decided today would be a good day to spread the message about pet safety.

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.

IMG_9682Have the candy dish up and out of your best friends reach. They can be very determined. Chocolate is a big no-no for them. Be careful of the wrappers too.

If you have a lost dog, I like this tip from Lost Cats MNMake 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!

IMG_9695

The Ninja and the Fairy

The Ninja and the Fairy

Dog park safety – Do you know how to keep your dogs safe? (video)

October 21, 2013 18 comments

IMG_0536Ask 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.

Blog the Change For Animals – Help a Lost Dog in Need. Help Tucker.

October 14, 2013 9 comments

Blog the ChangeOctober 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.

Still Missing Tucker

How can you help? 

  1. Go to the Lost Shelties MN page and share Tucker’s picture and information on Facebook. Ask your friends to spread the word.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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:

  1. Take a moment to click on any one of the lost dog links below and share another lost dog  on Facebook and Twitter. 
  2. “Like” the page and help spread the word on other lost dogs in your own area.
  3. 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.

Thank you.

Click on any one of the links below and share a lost dog picture or story on Facebook or Twitter.

LOST Dogs Arizona

Granite State Dog Recovery

LOST Dogs Iowa

Lost Dogs-Illinois

Lost Dogs-MN

Lost Dogs New Jersey

LOST DOGS Texas

Lost Shelties MN

LOST Dogs of Wisc

What is a dog threshold and why does it matter?

September 22, 2013 14 comments

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingDespite 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.

Also check out the article from Whole Dog Journal that I mentioned above - “Across a Threshold.” It’s a really good read .

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