Behavior | Behavior Behavior en-us Wed, 20 Aug 2014 04:00:00 -0700 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 04:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA[Does Your Dog Have a Special BFF Other Than You?]]> I believe every dog has, and needs, a best friend. For some, it's a favorite stuffed animal, the dog's owner, or even a pig. For my Pit Bull, Axle, it's a cat. I've always been a believer that "everybody needs somebody." We tried the second dog route, but it never seemed to work out, for one reason or another. We also tried play dates, but those were also a bust. When my husband got me our cat, Toby, for Christmas last year, I hoped that they could at least be civil. What I got was beyond that, a friendship that blossomed from simple curiosity to an inseparable pair.

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Cuddle buddies

Lately, I read in the news where a child was left to play alone with several Pit Bulls. The child was killed. The comments ranged from sympathetic to a few crying out for the slaughter of all Pit Bulls. Many of the latter backed their statements up with popular Pit Bull myths, like that they have "locking jaws" and only know how to "grab and shake until the prey stops moving." I told one such person that I should inform Axle of these stereotypes, as we have had him for four years and he has yet to even master the game of tug-of-war. They didn't find my response humorous. 

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Hanging out on the couch.

I think other advocates and myself have proven time and time again that Pit Bulls aren't the Loch Ness Monster of the land. Instead, they are the stars of dock diving, amazing disc dogs, weight-pulling champions, life-saving heroes, and, yes, best friends to cats. For all the hype, for all of the sensationalist media stories, Pit Bulls prove time and time again that they are just like any other dog -- man's best friend with a big, soft heart. 

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Snuggly pals

I don't feel the need to try to force my dog to be a therapy dog, to play nice at dog parks (we don't go), or to be lie-on-his-back-rub-the-belly friendly with every stranger he sees. Those can all be very scary situations for any dog, and mine doesn't happen to like them. No, instead, our advocacy is just being, well, ordinary. Our ordinary means playing with a flirt pole, walks through the neighborhood, and lots of snuggling with the cat, Toby. 

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Hugs and kisses.

Does your dog have a unique best friend? Tell us about it in the comments!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About Meghan Lodge:: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it's in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I'm a former quiet nerd who's turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

Wed, 20 Aug 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/pit-bull-dog-best-friend-bff-cat-myths-stereotypes
<![CDATA[Have You Ever Needed Training to Learn How to Walk Your Dog?]]> From the time I first laid eyes on GhostBuster at the adoption center, I knew I could love him. The question was, could I walk him?

This Lab mix weighed in at 60 pounds, and was easily one of the biggest dogs I've ever known. Before I met Buster I was around dogs all the time, but most of my family and friends have dogs that would be categorized as petite to medium. Bichons, Shih Tzus, Jack Russell Terriers -- these were the dogs I’d known and walked. If they misbehaved I could scoop them up and march them home like a sack of potatoes, but that wouldn't be an option with a big guy like GhostBuster.

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Buster walking with his tiny potato sack cousins.

Before agreeing to adopt GhostBuster I bought a no-pull harness and took him for a practice walk. I knew I couldn't take him home if I couldn't control him. Thankfully, it turned out that I could.  After our inaugural walk I was confident that I could keep him out of trouble.

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Newly adopted GhostBuster in his no-pull harness.

While I had researched plenty of no-pull harnesses before bringing Buster home, I hadn't really researched different styles of walking. I arrogantly and ignorantly thought that years of walking family members’ dogs had made me a pro dog walker. I bought the no-pull harness and figured if I clipped it to his leash I’d be the master of the walk. Walking a dog seemed to be such a simple task that I never considered that I could be doing it wrong.

I started training Buster just minutes after I took him out of the adoption center. I made him sit at the very first street corner we came to, and within days he was sitting at corners consistently -- sometimes without any commands. I knew he was very smart, but I also knew he was a little stubborn. By my third day with Buster both my hands were starting to bruise from gripping the leash, and my whole body ached like I’d run a marathon.

By the end of the week my hands felt better, but I was starting to feel like I had adopted two different dogs. There was the morning and noon Buster, who would trot along on a loose leash beside me like a total sweetheart -- and then there was the evening and night Buster, a dog who felt the need to pull in the direction of every smell, dog and sound around him.

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Wearing his harness while out for a pull -- I mean walk.

It was during one of these pull-tastic evening walks when my husband, GhostBuster and I were approached by a neighborhood lady and her dog. Buster and her pooch got busy in a happy little sniff circle, while the woman started a conversation about what was wrong with our walking style. After checking my dog’s teeth (um, hello, who are you again?) the lady explained that she used to be a dog trainer and suggested a martingale collar. I initially dismissed her advice because I felt martingale collars were kind of mean -- and because I usually don’t take life advice from random people I just met.

Although the unsolicited advice was weird, I realized I was doing something wrong and could use some help. I told everyone I knew about my dog’s pulling problem, and one dog owner recommended a workshop through a local pet boutique. I was a tiny bit apprehensive when I found out workshop participants needed a martingale collar, but my fears disappeared after I spoke with dog trainer and owner of Fetch Haus, Sabrina Thieme. It wasn’t about pulling on a dog’s throat or choking them -- it was just to make sure the pups didn’t pull a Houdini.

“We use the martingale collar because it doesn't allow the dog to back out and run away during a class,” Thieme said. “We want to keep them safe.”

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Buster modelling his martingale collar.

I could obviously get behind that. I could also get behind the concept of umbilical walking (although my husband didn’t love the idea). I liked having the leash around me like a belt, but at first I felt like Buster was walking me, instead of the other way around. It wasn't until I attended the workshop that I started to understand the principles of umbilical walking and learned how to correct GhostBuster’s pulling in a way he would understand. I was surprised to learn that it was as simple as turning around, and I was shocked at how quickly Buster picked up on what I was doing.

“As far as pulling goes, that’s when we work on our change of direction, so it’s you that’s teaching the dog to follow versus any sort of tool,” explained Thieme.

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Time to turn around Buster.

By the end of the workshop I felt like I had a good grasp on umbilical walking, and Buster was starting to get some new commands. I knew that I had to work on a lot of things, including not narrating my walks with Buster; I was all “pay attention to me Buster. Look this way buddy. You’re doing good buddy. You’re so good at walking." I also knew that as a household, our biggest challenge was going to be consistency. My husband couldn't attend the workshop, and I was afraid we’d be walking Buster two different ways. I knew it would be best for us to be on the same page when it came to training Buster, and I asked our workshop instructor for advice.

“It’s all about finding something that you believe in, that you can be consistent with, so that you can be fair to your dog,” says Thieme. “If you've got consistency, regardless of what you’re doing, it allows your dog to learn.”

After the workshop I showed my husband what I learned, and to my surprise, the next morning he took Buster out on an umbilical walk. We’re doing our best to be consistent and fair with our beautiful dog, and he’s coming along great.

Do you think there is a right and wrong way to walk a dog? How do you deal with pulling? Let us know in the comments.

Read more on walking your dog:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author:  Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/how-do-you-walk-your-dog
<![CDATA[Why Do Dogs Keep Showing Us Their "Lipsticks"?]]> Editor's Note: Dr. Eric Barchas is off this week, so we're re-running an ever-relevant favorite of ours today so you Dogster readers can read and comment further on it.

Doggie lipstick has a singular, and slightly ironic, ability to spoil the mood. Imagine meeting a happy-go-lucky, tail-wagging dog who rolls over onto his back for a belly rub from his new best friend (that's you). When this particular dog exposes his abdomen, however, you get an eyeful, and it's not just his belly that you see. Also on view is a moist, pink, fleshy, and -- if you're share the opinion of most people -- disgusting protuberance in the area of his penis. Again, if you're like most people, you will lose the desire to give that dog a belly rub.

That protuberance "in the area of the penis" goes by a number of names. "Lipstick" and "red rocket" are two common colloquialisms. But the actual, appropriate name for the protuberance is: penis.

To understand doggie lipstick you must first know a bit about doggie anatomy. That benign, lightly hair-coated appendage on your dog's underside that you may have thought was his penis is not, in fact, his penis. It's his prepuce. The prepuce is a sheath that protects the penis from trauma on a day-to-day basis (it also protects our eyes from the sight of the penis). The penis itself is pink, moist, and fleshy. Most people don't like the sight of it. To add insult to injury, a small amount of nasty yellow fluid called smegma (the name of the fluid basically amounts to onomatopoeia) usually coats the penis itself.

Why, then, do some dogs but not others frequently show off their lipsticks?

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Photo illustration by Madeleine Weiss. Stafford Terrier image by Shutterstock.

A number of things can cause the penis to emerge from the prepuce. The first is arousal, and not just that type of arousal. In medicine, arousal refers to any form of excitement whatsoever, such as might occur when a dog meets a new person. Dogs experiencing general arousal may, in turn, develop just a little bit of the other type of arousal. In other words, excited dogs sometimes develop slight erections. Erections cause the lipstick to emerge. This phenomenon is more common in but is by no means limited to un-neutered dogs.

Other dogs show their lipstick due to harmless (to the dog) anatomical anomalies. A size mismatch between penis and prepuce, or a penis that is prone to "sagging" out of the prepuce may lead to frequent lipstick sightings. I have known a few dogs whose penises never fully fit into their prepuces and were therefore perpetually on view. These dogs experienced chronically dry penises but came to no significant harm.

All right, it's been four hours. I'm calling the doctor!

Although most people don't like lipstick sightings, most instances in which the penis is briefly visible are not harmful to the dog involved. There is, however, an exception. The exception is a condition called paraphimosis.

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Photo illustration by Madeleine Weiss. Puppy portrait by Shutterstock.

Paraphimosis is a pathological extrusion of the penis from the prepuce. If the penis becomes entrapped outside of the prepuce it may swell. Pain and tissue damage -- potentially severe tissue damage -- can result. Paraphimosis is a veterinary emergency.

Paraphimosis generally has an appearance that is more dramatic than mere "lipstick." A large portion of the penis generally will be visible. It will likely appear visibly swollen, and may be purple rather than pink (these are signs of inadequate blood flow). The affected dog may appear uncomfortable and may attempt to groom himself "down there" excessively.

Paraphimosis most frequently occurs as a result of sexual activity. Misdirected sexual activity, such as "humping" a leg or an inanimate object, causes paraphimosis more commonly than true sexual activity. Because un-neutered dogs are more likely to engage in this behavior, they are more likely to suffer from paraphimosis. However, the syndrome is by no means limited to them.

Here is the scenario by which paraphimosis most frequently occurs. A dog engages in misdirected sexual activity, causing the penis to emerge from the prepuce. The prepuce generally has a thin coat of hair. The hair at the tip of the prepuce can clog the opening of the prepuce, preventing the penis from properly retracting after the activity is over. Swelling, pain, and other symptoms then commence.

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Photo of Dr. Eric Barchas by Liz Acosta

Strong-stomached owners can attempt to treat paraphimosis at home. A water-based personal lubricant such as K-Y Jelly is applied to the penis, the hair at the tip of the prepuce is gently extracted from the opening, and the penis is re-inserted into the prepuce. Avoid using exotic personal lubricants that cause warm or tingling sensations.

Some dogs with paraphimosis will be in too much pain to tolerate home treatment. Others will suffer from paraphimosis that is too severe to be addressed at home. These dogs, or dogs owned by more squeamish people, should receive veterinary attention as soon as possible (although it is still a good idea to apply lubricant to the penis to prevent it from drying out). They generally require sedation or even general anesthesia for the penis to be replaced. After I treat paraphimosis I usually trim the hair from the tip of the prepuce to reduce the risk of recurrence; given the sensitive nature of the site, this is a task that only an experienced professional should attempt.

Doggie lipstick is unsightly but usually harmless. Be aware, however, that in some instances lipstick sightings may be a sign of a serious problem.

Other stories by Dr. Eric Barchas:

Got a question for Dr. Barchas? Ask our vet in the comments below and your topic might be featured in an upcoming column. (Note that if you have an emergency situation, please see your own vet immediately!)

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-health-lipstick-penis-ask-a-vet
<![CDATA[Does Your Dog Ever Get So Scared He Hurts Himself?]]> My neighbor Kathie told me how one day the police came to my house while I was gone. She called them in a panic because she walked outside of her house next door and spotted my 60-pound dog, Trucker, on my roof, standing by the chimney like a mountain goat.

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Some dogs love to climb on roofs. I wondered why Trucker had gone so high. Black dog on roof by Shutterstock

This was just the beginning of insanity that ensued. It may have been less alarming to her if my house was just a one-story ranch. Instead, my house is two stories with a rather sharply pitched roof.

Why was he up there? How did he get there? How would he get down? All were questions pondered by onlookers.

Thankfully I never witnessed all of this -- just his escape route and his wounds afterwards. 

You see, Trucker is terrified of thunderstorms. If someone is with him, he’ll stay close to that person and not tremble or pant. If he is alone in a storm, however, he will try any means possible to get out of the house, fenced yard, whathaveyou. He came into my life at the age of five with these fears already instilled.  

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Trucker got out of one of the little windows above the side door. (Photo by Tracy Ahrens)

I’ve tried behavioral training, anti-anxiety shirts, sedatives, natural remedies, but nothing works during storms to help calm Trucker like having someone babysit him. That’s why I closely monitor weather predictions via computer and try to line up caring babysitters who can sit with him at their homes while I’m gone.  

The rooftop escapade all started with a surprise, intense summer thunderstorm. I was miles away but could see thunder clouds in the distance towards my home. I drove as fast as possible and came home to full sun, but wet ground and downed tree leaves and branches, signs that a storm passed through. When I entered my house and called Trucker, he didn’t come. Panic started to set in as I went up the stairs to my bedroom and noticed that a window, merely 9 by 18 inches, was up and the screen was torn out.

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Trucker hides under the covers when he hears Thunder.

The first year that Trucker was in my life, we lived in a ranch-style home. He pushed up unlocked windows, tore screens with his nails, and climbed out of the house while I was gone. I learned then that windows within his reach can never be left open or unlocked when I am not present.

In my current home there is a second floor and I didn’t think he’d have a desire to jump out of an upstairs window once he realized how far down the ground was. Obviously I was wrong. 

On this particular day he exited through the tiny second-floor window, located 31 inches off the floor and providing just a gutter and minimal roof ledge outside to walk on.

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Dog on roof by Shutterstock

Somehow he skillfully walked along the gutter and the only way out of his predicament was to scale the house up or jump to the ground from at least 14 feet up. I’m guessing that it was also raining and storming during the time of his expedition.

As Kathie, a police officer, and two neighbors from next door tried to talk Trucker down, one person tried to use a tall ladder to reach the roof. But Trucker, in a panic, jumped from the upper roof to a lower porch roof and immediately leaped to the ground, sprang to his feet, and ran like a dart along a riverbank towards town.

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Trucker looking out of the window he escaped from. I'm always careful to lock every window when I go out now. (Photo by Tracy Ahrens)

Kathie hopped into her car to follow Trucker and the neighbors assisted her on foot. The story they tell is that Trucker ran across a very busy highway that runs through town and he entered a park. He then ran from the park back across the highway to the other side of town to a high school where he collapsed in the shade under a tree.

One neighbor picked up Trucker and carried him several blocks to Kathie’s home to rest in air conditioning with plenty of accessible drinking water.

That’s where I came into the picture. I arrived home, noticed that Trucker was gone, saw the upstairs window screen torn out and ran outside calling for him. My neighbor who carried him home saw me and told me that Trucker was at Kathie’s house. That’s where I ran to, dropping to my knees to hold him. Then I heard this story.

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Trucker wore little booties to protect his poor feet after his escape. (Photo by Tracy Ahrens)

He limped on all four feet and left little blood spots on the floor, revealing massive blisters on every toe from running on hot pavement and climbing shingles on the roof. 

The next morning I hurried him to our veterinarian’s office. Workers were shocked and amazed at Trucker’s fleet of angels that obviously protect him. I treated his wounds and he wore white booties on his feet for a few days until the paw pads healed. 

The night of the storm I noticed nose prints on most of my windows, signs that he tried to escape that day from every window. Dirty paw prints on the shower stall wall indicated that he even tried to reach a little glass block window about five feet off of the ground. He found freedom from that one upstairs window I forgot to lock.

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I want to give Trucker a safe and happy life with me. (Photo by Tracy Ahrens)

Now I make sure that every window is locked when I leave my home, and I monitor the weather radar days in advance. Before I leave home to make sure I have a babysitter ready to be with Trucker if storms are predicted.

Some people hear this story and say, “Why do you put up with this dog?”

It’s what you do when you love your pet. You work with them, observe them, talk with a veterinarian and animal behavior consultant, and you help them live a healthy, happy, safe life. 

Sure, I’ve cried. I’ve worried. I’ve wondered in the past, “Can I do this?” But five years of repeated abandonment that Trucker faced before he met me was a result of other people giving up on him. I knew that Trucker couldn’t help himself and he has thanked me for never getting angry with him, never throwing him away, and showing him unconditional love through everything.

Does your dog get scared of certain things? Would he ever react to his fear like Tucker did? Let us know in the comments.

Read more from Tracy:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist, and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at and add her book, “Raising My Furry Children,” to your collection 

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-care-fear-scared-thunderstorm-roof-injuries
<![CDATA[Why Do Female Dogs Hump?]]> "Why do female dogs hump?" It is a question that people have asked forever, or at least since antiquated ideas of gender hierarchy took hold of humanity's fevered imaginations. However, the question is not a lascivious or dirty one, since the answers are varied. So, why do female dogs hump? First of all, rest assured that humping is a perfectly natural and common activity in both male and female dogs.

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Humping is a common, learned behavior in both male and female dogs, fixed or intact. two dogs standing and hugging each other by Shutterstock.

Female dogs also hump the same spectrum of things as male dogs; everything from people's legs to pillows, and from dog beds to other female dogs. Humping, also called mounting, is a learned activity, often taking root well before dogs reach sexual maturity. Humping, pelvic thrusting, or licking at the genital area may indicate playfulness, desire, and stress, as well as hint at medical or behavioral issues that you'll need to address together.

Let's talk about sex

As strange as one may find it, female dogs do, in fact, hump. Puppies as young as six weeks old, both male and female, have been observed to engage in humping or mounting activities. Until they reach the age of sexual maturity -- anywhere from a year to two years of age -- mounting behaviors seem to relate primarily to playful sexual education. As a sexual activity, mounting can be mitigated through a combination of consistent, positive training as well as having your puppies spayed or neutered.

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Sometimes, female dogs hump because they learned as puppies that the sensation brings pleasure. Cute dog border collie and dachshund dreaming in the sunlight at home by Shutterstock.

For the vast majority of adult dogs who have been spayed or neutered, humping behaviors may still serve what we would consider to be a sexual purpose, that of autoerotic pleasure. Yes, that's right, dogs, both male and female, can and do masturbate. Humping is a learned behavior, and, along with licking or chewing at their genital areas, one that they derive pleasure from. Being fixed may prevent a dog from successfully reproducing, but it does not eliminate the joy or relief they experience in the course of genital stimulation.

Boredom and stress relief

Do you leave your female dog alone for extended periods of time? Does she have sufficient toys and other distractions to get her through the day? If not, another reason your female dog humps might be boredom or stress relief. Just as some dogs may bark, bite, whine, howl, rend couch cushions or shoes when they are neglected, so too do other dogs hump as a reaction to ennui or intense stress.

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Loneliness, boredom, or anxiety may cause your female dog to hump toys, furniture, or other dogs. Two playful dogs chilling in the yard. by Shutterstock.

If your dog, female or male, is a habitual humper, you may want to consider establishing a stricter and more regular schedule of walking, running, or interactive play. Engaging with your dog and providing her with a routine can help to eliminate boredom or anxiety as a reason for her to hump objects, people, and other dogs.

Medical or behavioral issues

If your female dog is humping everything in sight, especially if it begins abruptly and is not an occasional or habitual activity, it may be a symptom of a larger and more pressing concern requiring veterinary attention. Physical pain caused by trouble urinating, or a urinary tract infection, may be relieved or soothed by humping anything ready to hand. The same problems may be indicated if your dog begins excessively licking or chewing at her genital area.

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Female dogs may hump other dogs or people as a result of improper socialization or as a symptom of a urinary tract condition. Pomeranian dogs mating by Shutterstock.

Do you have a dog who was a long-term shelter resident or possibly from an abusive or neglectful home? Female dogs may also hump as a response to poor socialization or other stressful conditions. Female dogs that routinely hump in social situations -- at the dog park, for instance, or whenever a new person visits your home -- might have behavioral issues that will need to be addressed through training.

Force of habit

The habitual, and incorrect, assumption about humping is that it is a male-centric activity, and one oriented toward establishing dominance. In adult and older dogs, especially in multi-dog households, or in the wild, humping may serve social purposes or reinforce hierarchies. For every other dog, the reasons for humping are as varied as the reasons why people chew on their fingernails. If it is not constant, repetitive, or disruptive, humping is a natural dog activity.

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If your female dog starts humping, you should attempt to train her not to so that it doesn't become a disruptive habit.Boxer Dog an Labrador Dog in love by Shutterstock.

Like any behavior in female and male dogs, humping is learned, either through frequent repetition, external encouragement, or lack of dissuasion. If you have a puppy and his humping behaviors are met with laughter or simply not discouraged, dogs will not learn that humping is a disruptive behavior or an unwanted one.

Have you owned dogs, male or female, who got into the habit of humping? How did, or do, you deal with it? Share your experiences with your fellow readers!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-why-do-female-dogs-hump-humping-mounting
<![CDATA[5 Ways I Can Tell My Dog Is an Introvert]]> My dog is an introvert. I can say this without hesitation and without question. Sasha is an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix we adopted six years ago. Because she was a rescue dog, we’re not entirely sure of her DNA, but the more I read about Border Collies, the more I see the resemblance in her behavior. And Border Collies tend to be more introverted. And she’s also different than any of the other dogs I’ve had in my lifetime.

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Sasha prefers one-on-one interactions to large crowds.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, defines introverts as “those who have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.” As a rule, Cain says introverts tend to listen more than they talk, think before they speak and have a more cautious approach to risk.

Here are my five top reasons why I believe Sasha is an introvert:

1. She doesn’t like to hang out with other dogs

Introverts favor interacting with people on a one-to-one basis versus in large group settings. And when they find themselves in large group settings, they are more quiet and reserved. I noticed this the first time I took her to a dog park. She immediately ran up to another dog parent and sat on the bench next to her. And if I bring a Frisbee with me to the dog park, that’s all she focuses on and she ignores the rest of the pack.

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Here's Sasha doing her best Greta Garbo impression.

2. She doesn’t like crowds

I’ve taken Sasha to a few large events in the past, and she doesn’t like it. I noticed that she started to look stressed and I moved her to a more quiet location. I think she gets over stimulated by the sights, smells and sounds. Or perhaps she picks up on my stress because I also don’t like to be around large crowds of people.

3. She’s selective about her friends

Sasha can be neutral or even aloof when another dog approaches us on our walks. Many dogs will signal interest in wanting to say “hello,” but Sasha will typically ignore the dog and make a beeline toward the owner. I have to explain to the other dog’s parent that she favors people over other dogs. And secretly I’m thinking, “Please don’t think my dog is a snob.” The exception to this rule is when a similar mix, such as an Australian Shepherd or Border Collie approaches. Then she’s eager to make a friend.

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Here's Sasha attempting to do a mind meld with an unsuspecting lizard.

4. She can stay intently focused

Whether it’s a Frisbee, a squirrel or a lizard, Sasha can keep her eyes and her mind focused on the target. So much so that it’s really hard to break her concentration and get her to do something else, like come in the house. Believe me, I’ve tried.

5. She’s a good listener

Studies show introverts find small talk tedious and prefer to have deep, meaningful conservations. I can attest that some of the most meaningful conversations have been with Sasha. She’s an excellent listener, is non-judgmental and helps me to figure out many of my dilemmas.

How about you? Is your dog an introvert? Tell me in comments!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Cathy Weselby is a purple-lovin’ ambivert who enjoys exploring new places and ideas, the arts, humorous memoirs, collecting old magazines, and making collages. She and her husband live with Sasha, a rescued Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

Mon, 11 Aug 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-behavior-introvert-extrovert
<![CDATA[Does Your Dog Hate Doing "Dog Things" Like Mine?]]> Before my husband and I adopted our first dog, we talked endlessly about the many things we'd do with and for him. Like countless other pet parents, we wanted to give him all the doggie experiences and activities every canine craves. Before long and without meaning to, we had put together a vivid technicolor film reel in our heads, titled, "Fun with Fido."

Soon after bringing Ranger home, however, our mind-movie began to fade, with certain scenes edited and others being cut. What we discovered was that ... gasp! ... not every dog likes all those activities considered typical "dog things."

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There is one stereotypical dog thing Ranger likes to do.

But that was okay, we thought. Maybe Ranger was just different or "special." No big deal. We shelved "Fun with Fido" and forgot about it. But several years later, as we filled out the adoption paperwork for our second dog, we couldn't help it. Our minds re-released a newly remastered version of the film. This time, we knew, would be different. This dog would want to do all those things that all dogs want to do.

Er ... nope.

I don't know if it's because Mayzie took her canine cues from Ranger. Or if she just never learned some of those behaviors because of her neglected background. But whatever it was, she displayed the same laissez-faire attitude toward many of the things Ranger did. 

Here are four "dog" things that my dogs want no part of:

1. They don't want to play fetch

A few days after we brought Ranger home, my husband stood in the backyard with a tennis ball in hand. This was a moment he'd been looking forward to for years -- playing fetch with his best dog buddy. "You ready, boy? You ready?" he asked Ranger. Ranger perked up his ears. He certainly looked ready. "Okay, then, go get it!"

And with that, hubby lofted the ball through the air. It started out promising enough. Ranger enthusiastically and dutifully bounded after the ball. But upon reaching where it had landed, he sniffed it and then wandered away. Undeterred, my husband walked to the ball, picked it up, and repeated the exact same sequence. As did Ranger.

For days, this went on. Hubby throwing ball. Dog running to ball. Dog sniffing ball. Dog walking away. Hubby retrieving ball. Each time, my husband would start out with so much optimism. He did everything he could think of to get Ranger interested in the game. But each attempt ended in utter failure, until he finally threw in the towel. To this day, I wonder if it was possibly Ranger's plan all along to teach my husband how to retrieve. If that's the case, it was a great success!

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So if you want the ball, why do you keep throwing it?

2. They don't want to stick their heads out the car window

I love watching dogs do this. That's why I couldn't wait to roll down my window on a spring day and let my newly adopted dog pretend to fly. Of course, I knew this wasn't entirely without risk, which is why I was totally prepared to buy some of those doggie sunglasses to protect his eyes. In addition to the practical applications, just imagine how adorable he'd look with his head out the window sporting his shades.

So, yeah, that order never got placed. Not with the first dog and not with the second. Because, no matter how excited they are to go for a ride, they immediately lie down and go to sleep when the door closes. Occasionally, Mayzie will sit up and look around for a few minutes at first (see picture below) but that's as close as it gets. On one hand, I'm grateful that they're such low-maintenance travelers. On the other, well, I've actually considered doing a personal demonstration to help them get the idea. My husband, oddly, has discouraged this.

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Mayzie feels it's safer to keep your head inside.

3. They don't want to swim

You know those videos of dogs happily jumping into a swimming pool? Or splashing around on a beach? Or paddling in a lake? Yeah, those are great. Because, as everyone on earth knows, dogs love water. Unfortunately, no one ever told either of my dogs that.

Ranger, to his credit, will at least walk through a shallow creek to get to the other bank. Mayzie, however, is utterly convinced that touching a toe to water might result in spontaneous combustion. So in the wet season here, many of our hikes consist in large part of my husband carrying a 40-pound dog across babbling brooks in order to keep our brindle princess from bursting into flames.

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Ranger says, "Do I look like a Lab to you?"

4. They don't want to eat whatever food gets near them

Aren't dogs supposed to gobble down whatever you offer them? And sometimes things you don't? All the dogs I grew up with sure did. As a five year old, I was delighted and amazed when our dog Boone pooped out a cellophane cheese wrapper. It was like magic!

However, my dogs today regard most food offerings as suspicious (with pizza being a notable exception). Mayzie is especially bad about this. If it's a food she's never had before, she gingerly takes it from my hand and trots into the hallway to inspect it. She holds it around in her mouth for a couple seconds. Spits it out. Sniffs it. Licks it. At this point, she may eat it or she may not. Sometimes she just rolls in it. 

Undoubtedly, this has a tremendous upside. No counter surfers or sock eaters in our house. Still, I half expect we'll get notification in the mail one day that their dog membership cards have been revoked due to this behavior.

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Maybe our next dog will be more stereotypically "dog." Maybe she won't. But it really doesn't matter. What I've learned is that dogs, like humans, are individuals. They don't automatically enjoy fetching just because they're dogs any more than I automatically enjoy sewing just because I'm a woman. Once we burned our remaining copy of "Fun with Fido," it freed us to think outside of the box. Even if they reject certain stereotypical dog activities, there are countless other things they do enjoy, and it's been fun discovering them together.

Your turn: Are there stereotypical dog behaviors your dog doesn't do? Tell us about them in the comments.

 Read more from Amber about Ranger and Mayzie:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the Author: Amber Carlton is a freelance pet industry marketing copywriter and content specialist for hire who also acts as interpreter and typist for her dog's musings at Mayzie’s Dog Blog. She shares life with her husband, two dogs and two cats (all rescues except for the husband). Connect with Amber at her business website, Comma Hound, or on TwitterFacebook, or Google+.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-hate-activities-swimming-fetch-most-dogs-love
<![CDATA[How to Stop a Puppy from Biting]]> You're probably familiar with the consequences of puppy biting. You get home from work and find your couch pillows in disarray, bits of cotton strewn everywhere. Toilet paper rolls lay in tatters all over the hallway. You're crossing a busy road on the way home from the park, and that's when your puppy nips at your heels or leaps into the air and bites your elbow. Let's face it, raising a puppy often requires having to deal with the behavioral problem of puppy biting.

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Puppy teeth serve many functions beyond mastication. Puppy biting, then, is a normal obstacle in raising a puppy. Cute little Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies playing together by Shutterstock.

There comes a moment when we must all face an uncomfortable and irrefutable truth: Puppies do not have opposable digits on their paws. From the moment their mother bites away the umbilical cord and licks them into life, puppies learn that their mouth is a primary means by which they engage with world around them. A puppy's teeth are tools, ones that require use and training from an early age, particularly if they belong to a puppy who will live in the home and around humans.

It's cute when you have precious baby puppy teeth nibbling on your nose or finger, but puppy's bodies mature quickly, and puppy teeth right along with them. It's not long before that once-ticklish nibble draws blood, raises a welt, or ruins your home furnishings. Chewed-up furniture or bandaged fingers may be the result of a puppy who has not properly been conditioned or trained in the use of his teeth. Fortunately, as a dog owner, you can influence and direct puppy biting into gentler and less destructive channels through training.

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Toys, training, and exercise can help stop puppy biting. Cute beagle puppy playing with his toy by Shutterstock.

Why do puppies bite?

Puppies are unlikely to have a finely developed moral sense, and to them, puppy biting is how they gain life experience. Puppies generally do not bite out of spite or with the intent to harm. Given the opportunity to mature with their mother and litter mates, puppies learn valuable lessons in their first couple of months. Natural, formative play with siblings and parents teaches puppies the consequences and impact of puppy biting.

Since puppies are often adopted early in life, they miss out on valuable socialization, which it is up to you to provide, particularly when it comes to puppy biting. In households where they are the only pet, listlessness and inactivity can strongly affect puppies. Boredom is a major cause of a number of puppy behavioral issues, including biting, barking, and howling. Puppies who are active, engaged, and provided with varied sources of amusement and instruction are less likely to persist in disruptive pastimes like puppy biting.

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Be calm and encouraging when you train a puppy to stop biting. Purebred White Swiss Shepherd playing toy puller by Shutterstock.

How to get a puppy to stop biting

By far, the most frequently mentioned strategy for getting puppy teeth under control is bite-sensitivity training. From the yips and yelps of those they bite, as well as their own cries when they are bitten, baby puppies quickly learn the power of their jaws. Bite sensitivity training is one way to mimic that experience. Tensing the hand and jerking it away provides resistance that a puppy may take as encouragement. Instead, when your puppy bites you, try to yelp yourself, allow the bitten appendage to go limp, and calmly turn away from your dog for a short period.

A second common strategy to stop puppy biting is the taste deterrent. This is similar to folk methods for curtailing fingernails chewing in humans, and reminds us that we're all animals from a certain point of view. The taste should be something repellent to a dog, but not poisonous or harmful. Spray or spritz the areas of skin or clothing that your dog tends to bite before you play with her. Pavlovian response will rapidly teach your dog to associate biting people with a foul taste sensation.

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Apply a taste deterrent to areas of skin that your puppy commonly bites. Maybe not your nose, though. Puppy Nibbles by Shutterstock.

My own puppy is a biter, and the most useful and practical advice I've received has been the simplest. I was advised by a fellow dog owner that puppy biting, met with a spritz of water to the face, would startle my puppy out of biting. I got a TSA-approved three-ounce spray bottle, which is small enough to carry and wield at a moment's notice on our daily walks. When I see her gearing up to bite my hand or ankles, I spritz her a tiny amount in the face (avoiding her eyes, of course). After several weeks, I notice that she now hesitates at the sight of the bottle.

If you are out of the house for extended periods of time, you can also stop puppy biting by providing a variety of toys and activities to keep your puppy engaged. Depending on your puppy's personality, a knotted rope, long-lasting chew bone, or squeak toy can go a long way toward sapping some of that excess energy. Regular exercise and socialization also help you stop puppy biting. Whether this entails walking your dog, enrolling her in obedience classes, or taking her to the dog park, interactive play is a necessary part of raising a puppy.

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This is my puppy, Idris, a Bluetick Coonhound mix. To my dismay and occasional despair, she's a biter, but I've found that a combination of a water spritz to the face, chew toys, and regular exercise have helped curb her puppy biting. Photo by Melvin Peña.

Is your puppy a biter? How do you cope?

Raising a puppy is a life-choice. By adopting a dog of any age, you are initiating a new relationship, and any relationship worth having is worth working on together. Violence -- striking at, yelling at, or cruelty in any form -- should never be your primary, secondary, or even tertiary response to puppy biting.

Every puppy is different, and there is no universal, foolproof strategy to stop puppy biting. A review of the available literature on puppy biting, as well as my own personal experience, shows that there are a number of training techniques that can be effective, either alone or in combination.

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Raising a puppy is like any other relationship. If it's worth having, it's worth working at. puppy spitz bites bow by Shutterstock.

Familiarizing yourself as much as possible with the needs and tendencies of the breed or mix prior to adoption can be a useful step. Since every puppy is unique, you'll also need to be attentive to your puppy as he grows and develops a healthy relationship with you.

Is your puppy or dog a biter? Share your training and disciplinary techniques for puppy biting in the comments!

Read related stories on Dogster:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/how-to-stop-a-puppy-from-biting-dog-training-behavior-tips
<![CDATA[Meet Paul Owens, the Original Dog Whisperer]]> Editor's note: Enjoy our interview with Paul Owens and then read on to find out how to win his complete works: three e-books and two DVDs (an $85 value).

Are you surprised to learn that there are, in fact, two dog whisperers? And that their messages are at opposite ends of the dog-training spectrum? Professional dog trainer Paul Owens first called himself the Dog Whisperer more than 17 years ago. He has helped more than 10,000 dog owners train dogs using a nonviolent and compassionate approach. Owens has been written about in a wide variety of national media and in numerous dog training industry periodicals. His calm energy emanates kindness, compassion, and a true understanding of how animals learn.

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Paul Owens and some dog friends who were trained with a compassionate and non-violent approach.

His popular book, The Dog Whisperer, doesn’t mince words on his belief that dog training should never be about jerking, hitting, shocking, or shaking a dog to get a desired behavior. He promotes reward-based training, which is the polar opposite espoused by another vocal person in the dog training world who just happens to also call himself by the same name.

Dog owners have a choice to make between these two competing philosophies. For my money, I choose the original Dog Whisperer every time. 

Annie Phenix for Dogster: What appealed to you about training dogs when you first began training 40 years ago?

Paul Owens: I stumbled into it. We always had dogs when I was growing up, but back then training consisted of smacking the dog with a rolled-up newspaper and rubbing a dog’s nose in poop.

When I turned 21, I adopted my own dog, a Golden Retriever named Tara, and I enrolled in training classes. I was thrilled I could get her to listen to me and started doing obedience competitions. We got Dog World scores and then I started apprenticing in classes.

Do you consider yourself to be a crossover trainer? What caused you to make that change?

Absolutely. When Tara won her competitions back in the 1970s, she wasn’t being trained with treats. It was all leash corrections, pinning, chin-chucks, nose slaps, body jabs, and all the rest. I still cringe and silently apologize to her every time I think of it.

As for why I changed methods, I started practicing yoga and slowly my consciousness changed. It was back around 1988, I think, when someone said to me, “Isn’t your dog supposed to be your friend and a member of your family?” And something clicked. I would never hit, kick, jerk, or threaten my friends and family members, so how could I do that to my dog? Or, as I jokingly advise my clients: “Don’t do anything to your dog that you’d be arrested for if you did the same thing to a human!”

Is there one dog who sticks out as teaching you the most about dog training?

Two: Molly, my Portuguese Water Dog, and Grady, my 100-pound Golden. Molly and Grady were both very aggressive dogs. Molly was aggressive toward humans; Grady was aggressive toward dogs. Slowly, over the years, the training took hold and they went on to helping me in classes, schools, and my after-school children's programs, and never once showed any aggression toward any dog or human being. They taught me that if they could change that much without ever being hit, jerked, pinned, or threatened, people can change without being threatened or treated harshly, too. And that included me.

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(Photo courtesy Paul Owens)

When did you start calling yourself the Dog Whisperer?

Around 1997. One of my students blurted out in class one day, "Oh, you’re just like a horse whisperer, but with dogs!" and everybody laughed. Through word-of-mouth, the name started to spread.

In 1999, when we were thinking for a name for my first book, the publisher said we had to call it The Dog Whisperer or they weren’t going to publish it. Hah! So there you have it.

How do you feel about that other guy with the TV show calling himself by the name you chose for yourself?

Along with many other experts, I sent National Geographic emails detailing why I thought the methods being shown on their program were harmful and often dangerous to both dogs and humans and strongly suggested that, at the very least, they should offer another program that would demonstrate the effectiveness of nonviolent training methods. I received form letters in response.

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Paul with some of his young dog training students. (Photo courtesy Paul Owens)

As to why National Geographic was allowed to use the name, that was a complicated and a potentially very expensive and confrontational issue, so I didn’t pursue it. A strange thing happened, though: Tens of thousands of people learned about nonviolent training because viewers searched the Internet for the term “Dog Whisperer” and bought my products by mistake!

Out of all of those books and DVDs, only five people returned them, even when they realized I wasn’t the guy on the program.

What is your favorite thing about being a dog trainer? Least favorite?

Metaphorically speaking, and hokey as it may sound, I have learned that there is no greater thrill and nothing more rewarding in life than saying hello to Mother Nature and suddenly have her smile back and say hello to you.

For example, I’ll be in a home with a child who is deathly afraid of the family’s newly adopted, yapping, jumping puppy. So I’ll take the child across the room where she feels safe and say, “Now, just say ‘Find it’ and throw this piece of chicken to the puppy.” When the puppy takes the treat, all of a sudden a connection is made. And this simple act of a puppy taking a treat can mean all the world to a frightened little girl. He accepted her gift and the relationship was born. It’s awesome.

As for least favorite: Knowing dogs can be helped and people not helping them.

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(Photo courtesy Paul Owens)

If you weren’t a dog trainer, what other profession interests you?

For me, being a dog trainer has included being a student, teacher, and animal trainer. I’ve been blessed to be able to pay it forward and teach others what I was taught about stress management and how we can improve both our dogs’ and our own quality of life using kindness and compassion through positive dog training. I’ve been able to write books and produce DVDs and travel around the world doing all these things. So, what other profession is there!

What’s the one thing you wish dog owners knew about dogs?

We basically learn the same way our dogs do. And that means the educational process takes time, skill, consistency, and patience. I constantly remind people to be as kind and compassionate with themselves as they are with their dogs. We’re all on the same path learning together.

Learn more about Paul by following his blog and on Facebook,  Twitter, and YouTube.

Now, enter to win the complete works of Paul Owens!

Would you like the chance to win a gift package containing e-books The Original Dog Whisperer, The Puppy Whisperer, and Good Habits for Great Dogs, alongside the DVDs Beginning and Intermediate Training and Solving Common Behavior Problems?  If so, please do the following:

1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.

2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us about your experience with reward-based training -- or, if you've never tried it, what makes you want to use it. Our favorite comment wins. You must be a U.S. resident. We'll close the contest on Thursday, July 24, at noon Pacific time.

3. Check your email for a “You’ve Won!” message from us. Good luck!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA, is a force-free professional dog trainer enjoying her mountain-filled life in Colorado. She is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She and her husband get to take their four highly trained dogs with them everywhere dogs are welcome because of their exceptionally good manners. Phenix generally leaves her six donkeys at home on the ranch . . .but she is thinking about clicker training those little hairy hee-hawers as well.

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-whisperer-training-paul-owens-interview
<![CDATA[Dating as a Dog Parent: Where's Mr. Right for My Dogs and Me?]]> In 2012, I was in triage after having my heart broken into countless pieces thanks to the end of a long-term relationship and engagement. Not only was my heart shattered, but so was my trust, as I learned of the years of lies told to me by my ex. Needless to say, it was hard to date anyone for a while after that horror show.

Along with family and friends, my dogs brought me through the anger, depression, and sadness. When the tears wouldn’t stop flowing, Bella and DiDi (my furry sisters) and Toby (my furry son) were there licking them away. If I spent too long lingering in bed feeling down, the dogs would get me up.  

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Toby and I about to go on a hike with friends. We both love being outdoors.

Six months ago, I reentered the dating pool, and as I did so, I made sure my dogs were right there with me. My future boyfriend would need to like Toby and not mind his constant presence, and he would understand how precious Bella and DiDi were to me. These three dogs literally saved my life and gave me something to live for when everything was falling down around me.

I began to mingle with eligible bachelors online and in person. A few weeks into my new dating journey, I sparked with someone. 

Alex and I met through an online dating site. After two weeks of great conversations, we decided to meet. In preparation for our dinner date, I nervously put on my makeup and spent 30 minutes debating what to wear. The thought of meeting a good guy who would also get on the floor and play with my dogs filled me with hope.

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Toby, DiDi, and Bella are a tight-knit pack.

After walked through the door and greeted Alex, my stomach sank -- he was furiously responding to a work email on his BlackBerry, and he continued for the next 10 minutes. He said his job required him to check in on email during the evenings. I reminded myself to be patient as he typed away. Finally he detached from the BlackBerry and complimented my outfit. 

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I rescued Toby while recovering from the end of my engagement. He never fails to make me smile.

It felt nice to be back out there again, and the date was pleasant -- until the end. Alex awkwardly tried to kiss me but failed to make contact with my lips. Then he just dashed off to his car like he found out I was carrying the plague. No laughing off the embarrassment or walking me to my car (which happened to be on the opposite side of a large and dark parking lot).

As I drove home, I thought, “What if Toby made a huge stink while doing his business? Would this guy run away as well?”

After a few more weeks of dating, Alex revealed what he really wanted. Unfortunately, it didn’t involve getting to know me better or playing fetch in the yard with my dogs.

Sometimes single men are like dogs -- they just want to chase tails.

A few weeks later, I regrouped and locked eyes with a man named Justin at a singles event. We talked, but unfortunately I needed to leave in order to let Toby out. Justin seemed to understand my dog-parent predicament, and we agreed to meet up again at another event or via Facebook. The initial connection was smoldering. I was eager to see him. Weeks went by, and finally, I received a Facebook friend request from him. I happily accepted -- only to learn that he was in a committed relationship. I wondered if Toby was the only man in my life I could trust.

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Hanging out with Bella, DiDi and Toby.

Dogs are wonderful judges of character. The one time Toby was around my ex he cried, growled, and stood behind me. Also, there had been numerous times where Bella and DiDi barked their heads off at disloyal family members and acquaintances who turned out to be trouble. I made a decision to check extra carefully into the character of my next date, via Bella, DiDi, and Toby.

Next came Jack, a paramedic and firefighter with two rescue dogs he adored. Jack was everything I had hoped to find in a date and boyfriend. He was straightforward, kind, funny, career-driven, and a doting dog dad. I was excited for our date. Probably too excited -- I envisioned all our dogs playing in the yard together as Jack held me in his arms.  

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Toby, DiDi, and Bella look under the Christmas tree to see whether Santa brought me a good man.

In real life, Jack came across as energetic and personable, but about 20 minutes into our first date, he decided to tell me how much he liked having sex. I wrote it off as a nervous comment. Then he started to talk, in detail, about how his sex life with his ex became awful. It took a lot of willpower to swallow my dinner and hold onto the idyllic picture of Jack, our dogs, and me frolicking in the yard.

I left the date feeling confused and uncertain, but the next day, Jack outdid himself: He regaled me with a story about him being intimate with a date while one of his dogs went to the bathroom in the hallway. What? Sometimes the "best in show" is just a turd in life. 

I am still looking for the right guy, and I am confident that when he comes along, I will know it -- and Bella, DiDi, and Toby will know it, too. Their tails will be wagging.  

Read more about rescue on Dogster:

About the author: Margot Ahlquist is a dog mom, professional life coach, and creator of Paws to Talk, where the motto is "Life Support For Dog Lovers." She lives near Boston with her dogs Bella, DiDi, and Toby. Margot recently released a product kit, Paws By Your Side, which helps dog lovers cope with the loss of their dogs. 

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-owners-lovers-parents-dating-tips-mr-right
<![CDATA[Could a Professional Dog Trainer Help Stop Luis Suarez from Biting Soccer Players?]]> During this year's World Cup, the Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suarez took a bite out of the Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder towards the end of a match between the two countries. Suarez's chomp was unprovoked and caused a split reaction from the globe's armchair pundits: Half of them mocked little Luis's bite on social media, while others labeled him an animal possessed with the sort of base instincts that have no place in the sporting arena.

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Luis Suarez via mooinblack

With this being the third time Suarez has bitten a soccer player, it got me thinking: If he's prone to behavior befitting of an animal, could a professional dog trainer recommend canine techniques to curb his instincts? Handily, my editors at Dogster HQ pointed me in the way of Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA, who as a former soccer player herself was happy to muse on Luiz's chompings.

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Dogster trainer Annie Phenix (seen here with her dogs Echo and Monster) says if puppies can be trained not to bite, so can Suarez.

Annie explained that dogs usually learn "bite inhibition" from their mother and siblings, and that they can also "learn it as young puppies when they puppy-nip their humans and are shown that it hurts by various methods, including yipping in a high pitch yelp or simply by standing up and walking away from the little biter for a short timeout."

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Dino-chicken Suarez via Instagram

Without being able to confer with Mama Suarez, it seems this early inhibiting stage passed Luis by. Also, his bitten opponents have acted with great restraint, so it seems he'd prove impervious to the effects of someone simply walking away from his dark deed. That being so, I moved on to asking Annie how you'd deal with a dog who proves resistant to the first-wave of non-biting training techniques.

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You can train puppies not to bite, we promise. Puppy bites woman by Shutterstock

Annie burst into life: "Puppies are so easy to train! If a human can’t demonstrate without harming the puppy that their sharp little teeth hurt, they need to find a force-free trainer to help them communicate with their dog. In no circumstances should owners be throwing the dog or puppy on his back to prove to him who is boss. That just scares the dogs and it confirms for him that you are crazy and quite untrustworthy."

It seems Luis Suarez actually has been subjected to lavish doses of force-free training -- and subsequently exploited the leniency. After reviewing Suarez's bite at the World Cup, the sport's governing body, FIFA, handed down a mild punishment: A nine-game ban from playing for Uruguay and a four-month ban from all footballing activity (which helpfully includes the next couple of months when he'll be on his summer holidays).

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Suarez's greatest bites via Instagram

In the aftermath, Suarez also seems to have finagled the situation to push through a reported $100 million transfer from his club team Liverpool to Barcelona. This amounts to less a punishment as Christmas come early. So I asked Annie how the idea of using treats to reinforce behavior would factor into the situation.

Annie responded by saying, "There is a very true statement in dog training: 'You get what you reinforce.'"

So giving a cookie to little Fido immediately after a nip is reinforcing a nip. Instead, use a very brief pause (three to five seconds) when the puppy bites too hard, or better yet redirect those nips onto something he can bite hard on, such as a quality chew stick." Insert joke about Suarez playing with a chew stick in his mouth. (To be fair, one of the less wacky suggestions has been for him to be mandated to play with a mouth guard at all times.)

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Not coming soon to a cinema near you via Instagram

With Suarez seeming immune to traditional dog-training techniques, I decided to delve into psychological waters. The main theory attempting to rationalize Suarez's errant behavior links back to his upbringing: The wonky lore goes that while growing up in the rough and tumble barrios of Salto, he was forced to learn the ways of the trickster in order to survive, both on and off the soccer pitch. So when he acts out during a game, he's simply reverting to his roots.

I asked Annie about issues that may affect feral dogs. "We know that all of a dog’s most important life socialization takes places by the time they are 16 weeks old," she said. "So those first four months are critical for learning about their world.

"We can slowly with behavior modification help many dogs who were not properly socialized during that critical time," she added, "but we are playing catch up, and sometimes the dogs never do catch up."

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Image via almonfoto

Whether or not Suarez is capable of catching up, the feral defense doesn't convince: As a generalization, most football players grew up poor and and learned the game in raggedy areas. But most football players don't bite people. Maybe because if you bit someone in any game of street soccer you'd receive a swift punch to the chops for your troubles -- and quickly learn to never exercise your gnashers again.

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One of Luis's previous bites via Instagram

At this point, most common dog training techniques seem like they'd wash over Luis Suarez's head. So I decided to introduce a wildcard into the socialization of Suarez and ask Annie whether adopting a dog might actually help Luis curb his own biting instincts. And if so, what breed would be most soothing for the modern snap-happy footballer?

Annie wasn't having any of it. "I would worry that Mr. Biter Suarez would not be a good dog owner as he clearly has impulse control issues of his own, and I worry he would use his chompers on a dog as well," she shot back. Annie then recommended that Suarez needs to play with a muzzle, take anger management classes, and ultimately needs to be retired to "a farm far, far away from other humans."

I didn't get to quip whether euthanasia would be another option.

Read related stories on Dogster: 

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Wed, 09 Jul 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-trainer-training-luis-suarez-biting-soccer-football-player-world-cup
<![CDATA[6 Tips to Help Your Dog Survive This 4th of July]]> I love the majesty of thunderstorms and fireworks. However, my adopted Weimaraner was terrified of them. She would cower and shake in the corner until well after the storm or display subsided. I would lie next to her and hold her, stroking her until the ordeal was over. That meant I often didn’t get to enjoy the storm or fireworks myself, but that didn’t matter as long as I had the opportunity to comfort my dog.

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I work with big and small dogs, helping them to overcome their fears.

Offering her the most delectable rewards didn’t make a difference when she was in that state of fear. To understand why, imagine someone points a gun at your head: Would you be tempted to take a bite of your favorite food? 

Loud noises, thunderstorms, natural disasters, and events such as fireworks on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve tend to scare dogs (and people). These stimuli are typically loud, scary, novel, and not part of your dog's everyday life. Dogs don't get a chance to become desensitized or habituated to these stimuli -- most of them have not been exposed to these aversives during their critical developmental period at the age of roughly 3 to 13 weeks, in order for them to more easily make a positive association and to be comfortable with these aversives.   

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Your dog isn't happy about all those bangs and whizzes.

For the Fourth of July holiday and other potential scary events, these are some of the things I recommend to comfort my dog and to prepare for the event: 

1. Make sure your contact details are current

You don't expect your dog to escape, but dog tags fall off or are taken off. Too often, guardians forget to update all of this information and the microchip becomes useless when you need it the most. Make sure your microchip company has the correct name, address, phone number, and email address for you on file.

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Do you have your new phone number on your dog's collar, and is his microchip updated?

In the event that your pet escapes, it is wise to have current photos of your pets (together, by themselves, and with you, in digital and physical copies) and descriptions; include detailed markings of your pets, which are very important to rescuers to identify and bring your pet back safe and sound. These will serve as proof that you are your pet’s guardian.

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Don't assume your dog is as happy about the holiday as you are. Bulldog puppy with flag by Shutterstock

2. Teach your dog to calmly react to unwanted stimuli 

I realize the July 4 holiday is just around the corner, but it's a good idea to work with a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC) on behavior modification, desensitization, and counterconditioning to help your dog adjust to unwanted stimuli in a slow and gradual manner. It may be too late for this year, but another holiday with fireworks will come soon enough. 

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Yorkie listens to music by Shutterstock

3. Create a soothing home environment

Close the blinds, dim the lights, block windows, and drown out external noises with soothing music. Through a Dog's Ear specializes in musical therapy for dogs and offers CDs of canine classical music. Note that the rhythm, pitch, and tone of your voice can also rile up or settle down your pup in no time, so speak soothingly to her and project calm. 

Move your dog’s crate (assuming she loves her crate), toys, and bedding to an appropriate safe zone -- she may even choose this herself. Put a lightly worn article of clothing or towel in the crate or your dog’s preferred spot to reassure her with your scent. 

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Jane Goodall and I share a tug toy. (Photo courtesy Russell Hartstein)

4. Shop for dog-focused calming products

D.A.P. (dog-appeasing pheromone) comes in sprays, diffusers and collars; try the products Adaptil and Comfort Zone. You can also try anxiety vests like Storm Defender, ThunderShirt, and The Anxiety Wrap. Also, lavender chamomile and other calming essential oils tend to have soothing effects on dogs, just as they do on people. 

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Dogster trainer Annie Phenix says her thunder-phobic Border Collie, Echo, is helped enormously by her Thundershirt.

4. Keep up the regular training and exercise

This week is particularly important in the buildup to the holiday weekend. While regular dog training, enrichment, and exercise are vital to your pet's well-being, they are particularly important before a potential scary event, so that your dog will be tired and fulfilled mentally and physically, which will help her settle down and relax. Use food-dispensing toys like Kongs or puzzle toys for all meals and treats, to exercise your dog during mealtimes.

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Kong toys are a great way to feed your dog and distract her. (Photo by Ace's Mama.)

5. Offer only the very best treats

Now is not the time to be parsimonious with your pet! Stay away from the kibble and dry dog biscuits and break out your dog’s favorite high-value rewards (typically human food, meats, and cheeses). Remember your dog is unique, and it is incumbent upon a pet parent to learn your dog’s hierarchy of rewards to speed up learning. 

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This is not the time to skimp on treats for your dog. Haute Cuisine by Shutterstock.

6. Give your dog a taste of the big day

On the Fourth, it's best to not leave your dog alone or bring her to the fireworks display or scary event -- it's important to take care of your dog during this potentially traumatic experience. Also, never scold or punish your dog for being afraid.

You may still have time for mock trials, however, if you plan on going out. If you're taking your dog, go with her to where the celebration you're attending may take place. At home, dim the lights and stay up late, and pretend you're having a party. Get her used to hearing noise at night. 

Remember: The best results come from a combination of the above. They make not make your dog love fireworks, but they could become less dreadful!

Read more about dogs and the Fourth:

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About the author: Russell Hartstein, a pet expert, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Professional Dog Trainer in Miami, is the CEO (canine executive officer) and founder of Fun Paw Care, which specializes in dog training and behavior, dog boarding, pet sitting, and dog walking. He likes to blog about dog training and behavior issues and nonhuman animal rights.

Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/4th-of-july-safety-dog-tips
<![CDATA[Does Your Dog Love to Play on Your Freshly Made Bed?]]> Like ants to syrup, there’s something about clean sheets, blankets, and freshly made beds that seem to attract dogs and cats. I have lots of experience with this behavior. I remember a fun time I had years ago with my two senior cats, Desdemona and C.D. The girls used to love it when I folded bedsheets. They came to watch, crawl under them as they dangled to the floor, and, most of all, ride on them.

Desi and C.D. would sit or lie down on a sheet, and I pulled them across a room. I remember how big their eyes would get as they tried to hold on with their legs spread out. Sometimes, C.D. would walk on the sheet like a treadmill as I pulled it.

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Cats Forest and Jack keep Tucker company on a freshly made bed.

Today, when I start stripping blankets and sheets from my queen-size bed, my three cats come from unknown places to watch and hop onto the bare mattress. Trucker, my 60-pound dog, also likes to join in on the fun. Four furry bodies on the mattress make it laughably challenging to try to turn it. I no sooner dump one cat onto the floor that another cat is sliding between the mattress and box spring, ready to be sandwiched like cream filling in a cookie.

My cat, Forest, can be rooms away and hear me folding a sheet. He comes running and grabs onto the sheet when it touches the floor, holding it with the claws of his front paws. He lies motionless under the sheet using it as a tent. I leave the sheet draped over him in a pile so he can hide for a while.

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"Aaaah, thank you." Happy dog upside down on bed by Shutterstock

Sometimes I get sidetracked while making my bed and I leave the fitted sheet exposed. It never fails that when I return I find at least two cats and Trucker sprawled out on the sheet. One night I stepped away for mere seconds and returned to find Forest at one end of the bed, Trucker in the middle, and my big cat, Jack, at the other end. I didn’t have the heart to move them.

Another time I found Forest lying solo at the head end of my bed on the fitted sheet. He was partially upside down, snoring. I took his picture that I titled “Little Man on Big Bed.” In it, Forest looks dwarfed by the big bed, which was covered with a hunter-green-colored sheet.

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Forest can't resist a freshly-made bed, either.

Applying the top sheet and blankets is yet another challenge, because my cats like to slither between the layers and crawl around like they are on a hunt. I dread when my female cat, Joan, gets trapped between the layers with one of the boys. They sneak after her like a snake through tall grass and scare her into a growling, meowing fit. 

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Three happy dogs on bed by Shutterstock

Then there is the infatuation with one cat hiding under the bed sheet while another watches on top and pounces on them through the sheet. I have a friend who said that while she makes a bed, her cat likes to dive under the top sheet, instantly roll onto his back and stick all four feet up in the air holding onto the top sheet with its claws. 

Trucker likes to burrow under blankets and sheets, too. I love to drive him crazy by tickling his nose through the sheet, hearing him grunt, snort, and sneeze.

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Happy bed partners Joan, Jack, and Trucker.

Shortly after I adopted Trucker at age five, I started taking pictures of him with his many blankets. Though I’ve purchased and given him multiple fleece throw blankets, and surrendered my old blankets to him, Trucker still prefers sleeping on my bed.

Nearly every night when I step into my bedroom, Trucker has already pulled back my sheet and blanket from the head of the bed by raking it with his front feet. He usually has positioned himself on the sheet, curled up like a fawn.

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Trucker hides under the covers when he hears Thunder.

My biggest mistake is stepping out of the bedroom after placing new sheets on the bed and fresh covers on the pillows, and pulling my blanket back so I can slide into bed. I inevitably come back to find Trucker lying on the sheet where I should be, with his head cradled in one of my pillows. I feel bad about moving him, so I leave him be. I slide into the bed from the other side and sleep peacefully beside him.

Read more about dogs in the bed: 

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About Tracy Ahrens: A modern-day Tasha Tudor with a pen as an eleventh phalanx, Tracy is a magnet for small children and creatures, along with strange mishaps and writing errors in need of correcting. Her mind is akin to a 24-hour bustling liquor store and prone to late-night inspiration. She’s most happy planting or pruning something, drinking tea, throwing a tomahawk, drawing or napping. Her obsessive compulsions include planting a peck on each of her pets’ heads before leaving home and brushing/flossing her teeth before bed. Add her book, “Raising My Furry Children,” to your collection. 

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-jumping-on-bed
<![CDATA[3 Steps for Dealing With Crazy Dog-Hating Neighbors]]> I have moved all over the place in four countries and stayed in various apartments and complexes, including semi-swanky and semi-slum. In the process, I have met a wide variety of virulently dog-hating neighbors, the kind of people who hate all dogs in general and your dog in particular regardless of training or behavior.

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Some people definitely take hating dogs too far. Dog, woman, and wheelchair by Shutterstock

They piss me off. That’s only natural. But I don’t like confrontation and I do like to get on with people around me. So I have developed CuReD, the three-step approach to dog-hating neighbors.

Here is CuReD in action:

Step 1: Conciliation

No matter how doomed it might seem, start with the charm offensive. Even if they will never come around, you are better off knowing exactly what the neighbor’s problem is. This involves biting your tongue and asking, sincerely, what is making them unhappy. The ruder they get, the politer you should be. If you can find a way to do them a favor at this stage, all the better, whether they deserve it or not. This is your first chance to seize the moral high ground!

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Maybe he's just scared of dogs. Angry red man by Shutterstock

You might be surprised how often this actually pays off. I had one neighbor who said something I couldn’t even make out, but it was grumpy and involved the word “dog.” I was tempted to fire back and let her know what I thought about her real-fur jacket, but taking the high ground paid off a few days later when she apologized and explained that it annoyed her how the dogs ruined the lawn. I replied that I had to admit the lawns near the doorways looked like they had been hit by incendiary missiles rather than just dog pee, but a lot of dogs do live in the building. She said she realized we weren't doing it on purpose, and we have been on good terms ever since.

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Also you need to make sure that you are being a good dog-owning neighbor. And that your dog isn't getting up to shenanigans while you are away (barking dog-- by Liukov / shutterstock)

Step 2: Remediation

I had one neighbor who was convinced that dogs smelled bad. She even went as far as opening her apartment door and spraying the corridor with air freshener just because I had walked by. Pretty offensive, right? Then she called the building administrator to complain. Well, my response was to say that the landlord or management company could come by any time. If they could detect any odor at all, I very much wanted them to come over, help find the source, and deal with it.

Not defensive, not upset, not even bothering to deny it beyond having to say I genuinely did not know what the compliant was about. This approach made it pretty obvious to the people involved that there wasn’t really a problem, and that was the end of the drama.

Sadly, some landlords are dog haters, and in many cases previous tenants have made them that way. My approach is to never deny that my dogs create extra wear and tear, and to never try and hide the damage they do.

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Damage property? Not my dog! (by Jeroen van den Broek / Shutterstock)

Step 3: Disengagement

Sometimes those neighbors just be crazy. Like the one who thinks that because his apartment building is “no dogs,” I am not allowed to walk on the pavement, or even the road, outside it. Like the one who tries to surreptitiously kick my dog when I walk past.

For these people you have one clear, confident but polite disengaging conversation. Like: “I will walk on this sidewalk when I need to, and if you wish to call the police about that, you go ahead. I have nothing more to say to you.”

Or: “I will avoid coming near you with my dog as much as I can, but it is unacceptable for you to touch my dog. If you have a problem with my dog, you let me know and I will deal with it.”

Don’t wait for a response. Just deliver the message and move on.

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Some people you just can't argue with. Angry woman by PathDoc/Shutterstock

In the end, be polite

You might think that for your dog-hating neighbor, the first two steps are a waste of time, but there is one reason this is not true. Even if the dog hater will not change his ways, you are demonstrating good faith and good intentions. You are showing that you are a calm, responsible person who cares about the opinions of the people in the neighborhood and wants to be a good neighbor.

It is natural to want to shout or argue to defend your dog, and you should never become a pushover. But believe me, excruciatingly polite disengagement pisses off histrionic dog haters far more than anything else you might come up with to “win” the argument. No matter what card they play, being the better person will trump it if you are consistent.

Make a reasonable accommodation to their feelings, but decide where to draw the line, and then don’t stress about it. Now if I walk by the woman who thinks she owns the sidewalk and she hisses some obscenity at me (which is quite disconcerting when coming from an elderly lady in a cutesy sweater set), I just wish her a good day and keep on walking, secure in the knowledge that I have not sunk to her level.

She is not going to ruin my day.

How do you deal with dog-hating neighbors? Do you take the moral high ground or do you get down on their level? Tell us your strategies in the comments!

Read related stories on Dogster: 

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Emily Kane is a New Zealand-born animal behaviorist of the throw-back radical behaviorist type, albeit with a holistic-yuppie-feminist-slacker twist. She spent many years as an animal behavior researcher and is now more of an indoor paper-pushing researcher. Her early dog-related education came from Jess the Afghan Hound and Border Collies Bandit and Tam. It is now being continued by her own dogs and extended dog family and some cats (and her three aquatic snails Gala, Granny, and Pippin -- they think of themselves as dog-esque).

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-training-dispute-resolution-neighbors
<![CDATA[Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? I Finally Know the Answer!]]> Readers of Catster know that Denise and I recently acquired a cat named Abby. My pal Buster gets along with her reasonably well. He mostly ignores her, but he is very interested in two things that go along with her: her food and her poop.

Everyone knows that cat food is a delightfully forbidden fruit for dogs. I therefore was not surprised when, for the first time, we caught him at Abby's food bowl.

I was, however, taken aback the first time we busted him up to his shoulders in the covered litter box munching down kitty rochas. I was also ashamed. My dog is a confirmed cat poop eater. What did I do to to deserve such a fate?

Several weeks ago I wrote about cerebellar hypoplasia on Catster. One of my coworkers is raising a foster kitten who, coincidentally, within a day or two of the article's publication, was diagnosed with the syndrome.

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Photo of Dr. Eric Barchas by Liz Acosta

The kitten, like most individuals with the syndrome, is a cute little guy. His behavior is erratic and uncoordinated. He is not a "normal" kitten. A while ago on an overnight shift during a lull in the caseload, we decided to introduce him to my pal Buster. (People who work at vet clinics often bring their pets to work.)

As our experience with Abby has shown, Buster generally is good with cats. However, he got a little weird with the kitten. He introduced himself, as usual, by sniffing the kitten. Buster usually takes a few sniffs and then moves on. Not this time. Buster immediately became obsessed with the kitten. He sniffed and sniffed and sniffed. He couldn't stop.

I watched this spectacle for a while and ultimately began to wonder what was going on. What was the smell that was driving my dog to distraction? Ultimately, I decided to find out. I nudged Buster aside and took a deep whiff.

It was unfortunate that I did not approach the matter more cautiously. The kitten was rank. He smelled strongly and disgustingly of fishy cat food. I retched but I managed not to vomit.

Once I was out of the picture Buster moved back in. He continued to sniff the kitten, and began gently to roll the uncoordinated little fellow across the floor as he sniffed. Then Buster started licking the kitten. Finally Buster couldn't take it any more. Ever so delicately, he took a tentative nibble.

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Bulldog pooping by

The kitten was unharmed, and Buster was restrained. My thought process thereafter went something like this:

"Heh! Buster was going to eat that kitten because he smelled like cat food. I guess a dog will eat anything that smells like cat food. Holy shit! That's why dogs eat cat poop. It smells like cat food. It's made from cat food originally, after all."

Then I had an epiphany.

People often use the word epiphany to describe relatively bland realizations. My epiphany was more of a classical one in which the heavens opened, the clouds parted, and a formerly blind man saw the light for the first time.

It's not just cat poop. All poop is made from food originally. Dogs eat poop because it smells (somewhat) like food, because poop is made from food. Originally. And dogs, or at least some of them, will eat anything that smells in any way like food.

Readers at this point might be somewhat skeptical. First, why would anyone consider the revelation of the cause for coprophagia to be a nearly religious experience?

The answer is simple. For my entire career, but especially since I started writing for Dogster, I have been hounded by the question of why dogs eat poop. It's not only the most common dog-related question that I have received over the years in person and on the Internet. It's also one of the most commonly Googled dog-related questions.

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We find it unsavory, but some dogs lick their chops at the thought of eating poop. Chihuahua by Shutterstock.

Over the years I have attempted and, until now, failed miserably to answer the question. When people have asked why dogs eat poop I have put forward such lame answers as "because they're dogs," "because it smells interesting," and "because it technically contains a very small amount of nutritional value."

Now that I know the true answer, I feel like I have found one of the Holy Grails of veterinary Internet writing. The answer is so simple and so blindingly obvious, and it has been right in front of me all along. How could I not have seen it before?

A second cause for skepticism among readers might boil down to this: Poop doesn't smell like food. It smells like poop.

That is true -- for us. We humans have a miserably poorly developed sense of smell. Dogs experience smell in a completely different fashion, which we cannot fathom. Their noses are exponentially more powerful. They are also differently tuned.

Poop contains some odors of food because poop actually contains some food. If you doubt that I encourage you to eat corn on the cob tonight.

When we humans are around poop all we smell is poop. But dogs, in their infinite wisdom, smell it differently. They can smell the food that was the original essence of the poop.

That's why dogs eat poop.

Read more on dogs eating poop:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Got a question for Dr. Barchas? Ask our vet in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Note that if you have an emergency situation, please see your own vet immediately!)

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/coprophagia-dog-health-food-why-do-dogs-eat-poop-ask-a-vet
<![CDATA[Has Your Adult Dog Ever Started Peeing in the House for No Apparent Reason?]]> All dogs pee. It's a healthy part of life. I can appreciate that. What I can't appreciate is a dog peeing indoors. Now, I'm not talking about a new puppy or newly adopted dog who is still learning the ropes of indoor life. And accidents happen, even with longtime housebroken dogs.

But within the past month, our three-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier, Axle, decided to start peeing in the house again. These weren't "oh my dog, I just can't hold it anymore" kind of pees. It didn't matter if I left him alone for one hour or for six, I would come home to pee -- the "hike your leg and mark multiple spots" sort of pees. Even after cleaning up the mess and going back to crate training, I smelled pee. 

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Peeing in the house? Guilty as charged.

But determining if it really was Axle who was peeing -- and exactly where he was peeing -- turned out to be much harder than I thought. You see, Axle's pee smells eerily similar to the weed-eater after I get done weed-eating the dandelions, clover, and the other miscellaneous weeds that insist on taking over my yard. If you walk through the freshly mowed lawn, your boots will bring in the same scent. So when I kept getting a whiff of this faint, only slightly offensive odor, I couldn't determine if it was pee (ew) or our shoes. After sniff-checking the shoes, I concluded the scent was, indeed, pee. The problem was that I couldn't isolate the scent. It seemed to be everywhere. Well, when a scent is "everywhere," it's more than likely located close to your air return for your air conditioning unit. Sure enough, the cat tree was marked. I tossed it in the dump and cleaned the floor around it. Problem solved, right? Think again!

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Axle refused to pee in the rain.

I'm not a nasty person. I try to keep a clean house, although it can quickly get cluttered with baby gear, pet toys, and my husband's many "projects." I try to keep everything swept, dusted, and mopped, so the thought of some dog pee residue in my house just makes my skin crawl. It didn't help that no one else seemed to notice the smell (which kept occurring). Was I going crazy? I was bound and determined to find the source, eliminate it, and go back to enjoying my house sans odor. 

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Peeing outside, in the yard. Good boy!

I waited until it was dark and cut out all of the lights in the house. With a blacklight, I started searching. Every room I checked came back "clean." Remembering the cat tree, I decided to check back around the air return. Sure enough, there was pee. Apparently, Axle had decided to mark the whole corner, not just the cat tree. The amounts were clearly small enough that they would be dry before I ever had a chance to notice them, but the odor remained. I broke out the enzyme cleaner and went to spraying and scrubbing. I'm pretty sure I also scrubbed off the top layer of paint, but there was no more dog pee. Satisfied that I had solved the problem, I went back to enjoying my day. 

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"But Daaad, she's telling the internet about me again!"

Later than night, as we were watching Capt. Picard and his crew explore deep space, the air came on and it hit me. Dog pee. OH. MY. DOG. Could nothing eliminate the smell? Had he crawled into the air system itself and peed? (Highly unlikely, as the AC runs through the attic.) I took to my hands and knees and started sniffing the floor. Yep, nose to floor, nose to wall, nose to furniture, I was going to find this offensive thing. My husband thought I was crazy. Axle thought it was a game, and the cat thought I had found something to eat and would run and check every spot behind me. After much crawling and searching, I came to the end table across from where the cat tree had been. Axle had marked the legs on it. How gross! Back to the enzyme cleaner I went. Of course, I finished sniffing around the entire house before I was satisfied that this time the odor was gone for good.

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"Pee in the grass? That's where I play!"

Today, I put Axle in a crate when I'm not home. He doesn't have a UTI, and his food/water intake hasn't changed. I think it may be a territorial thing because of the neighborhood dogs who like to roam through our yard and mark the trees and the front door, but I can't help that. Whatever the issue, Axle has been very agreeable about the return of his crate, and I don't have to come home to any pee. 

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Axle and me.

What about you? Have you ever had an issue with your dog peeing in the house? How did you find it? Tell me below in the comments!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it's in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I'm a former quiet nerd who's turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

Wed, 11 Jun 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-behavior-training-peeing-in-house-no-apparent-reason
<![CDATA[Retractable Dog Leashes: How to Nearly Kill Yourself in Three Easy Steps]]> There was time, some years ago, when I lived in the suburbs with three Salukis. Every evening, I walked several miles around the neighborhood with the dogs on retractable leads. I do not recommend this.

But at the time, I knew no better. There is an art form, a ballet of sorts, involved in walking three Salukis on three flexileads. The dogs dart to and fro, the lines zing and zang, and the walker constantly exchanges leads and hands as the dogs perform complicated pinwheels in opposite directions, like a Cirque du Soleil act. I don't like to brag, but I like to think we performed like a well-oiled machine, a precision dance troupe, and made quite the vision walking along our neighborhood streets every evening. 

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Out for a walk with Luna, Pepe and Prophet.

Until one evening, when everything went haywire.

You see, to change hands and leads and keep your arms from popping out of joint, you have to constantly lift the lines and leads over your head. This is good exercise for the upper body, transforming a dog walk into a full body workout. My neighborhood didn't have sidewalks, but it didn't have a lot of traffic, either, so we generally walked in the middle of the road.

So it was, one dark and windy night, I was climbing the hill on the way home, the leads pleasantly zinging and zanging overhead, when A) a car unexpectedly rounded the bend, spotlighting us, and B) a gust of wind picked up. 

Did I mention I have long hair? 

Turns out, when you call the dogs back to you, retracting the leads while holding them over your head as the wind blows your hair up in the air, several things happen. None of which is good. The dogs all fly back toward you, from various directions, but not by straight routes. The leashes retract -- along with your hair. They suck your hair up all the way to the root, preventing you from unbraiding the tangle the dogs have made of the lines, and in fact wrapping one around your neck when one dog changes direction.

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There's a downside to retractable leashes. Walking a dog by Shutterstock.

After that, things go poorly. The lines keep retracting, sucking your hair along with them, pulling the dogs toward your head and toward each other until they all meet in a sudden impact sort of situation. This in turn causes more things to transpire: Your head is flung to dog-head-level in an attempt to not have your hair ripped out and your breath cut off. The dogs, all now stuck together and blaming one another for the unwarranted collision, realize now is the ideal time to have a massive dog fight, even though they are now attached to your scalp by a matter of mere inches. OK, only two of them; the third one is desperately trying to run away, dragging your head, now in the center of a rapidly constricting cat's cradle, with him.

Luckily, since your face is being trampled by the other two, he can't pull you very far.

At least the car stopped. Who wouldn't, with that kind of free entertainment in their headlights? I think he may have even turned his brights on. Didn't get out of the car or anything rash or heroic like that, but he got a good show. I may have even seen a flash from a camera. Because being blinded also helped.

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My long hair got tangled in the leashes of Pepe, Prophet and Luna.

I wish I could tell you how I got disentangled. In case, you know, you find yourself in the same situation one day. I recall trying to separate the fighters, but this is not easy when your head is the main thing between them. Especially when your throat is being garroted by the third one, who just wants out of there! So, just because I am spoiled and one of my hobbies happens to be breathing, I unhooked that one, knowing she would run home. OK, maybe not really knowing she would run home, but not really particularly caring where  she ran right at that moment. The others -- I somehow got to my feet, bending over, and straddling one and unhooking both, holding them apart, one in each hand. 

I am now in a position to tell you that retractable leads (or at least three of them) are quite heavy when the only thing supporting them is your hair. They unravel so they are hanging by about a foot of line, like some avant-garde hair ornaments. I stand there, trying to figure what to do, plus get the one unraveled from my throat so I can do silly things like breathe. Alas, watching me stagger about was insufficient entertainment for my audience, who started blowing the car horn. We stagger to the edge of the road, the car guns past (thanks for the help!) and I trudge home feeling like Medusa (the one with snake hair) or maybe Methuselah (the one who was about seven billion years old). 

I would like to say that once home, the dogs made up, the leads came out, and we all had a fine laugh. Well, the dogs made up. My hair came out. And my (now former) friends had a fine laugh as I explained the rope burn around my neck.

The retractable leads remain in the drawer, my hair still wound within them.

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With Minka, happily not tangled together.

Today's tenuously related tip:

Don't you love the folks who show up at the vet's office with their dog on a retractable leash and then seem to forget how to retract it? "Oh, he just wants to be friends," they gush, as he bolts across the room to snuffle at your dog -- no matter that your dog is at death's door, comatose or in the throes of a seizure.

I've tried to get my dog to sound like he's hacking up a lobe with kennel cough, but they seldom sound convincing enough, and the owners seem oblivious when you mention how contagious he is. But what does work is to bring a bit of whipped cream with you and discreetly let your dog lap it up, making sure some sticks to his lips. Then declare, "I sure hope they can get his rabies under control!" Most owners, even the ones stupid enough to let their dogs wander about the reception room unretracted, seem to understand the word "rabies," especially when your dog is foaming at the mouth. Zip!

Have you ever had a crazy experience with a retractable leash? Do you still use one? Tell us your story in the comments!

Read more on retractable leashes:

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier

Thu, 29 May 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-training-behavior-retractable-leash-leashes-tips-safety
<![CDATA[The Real Victim of Tara the Hero Cat's Story Is the Dog]]> Updated with an interview with workers who have observed the dog in the shelter. Scroll down to see it.

By now we're all familiar with that viral video of a cat saving a little boy from what seems to be an entirely unprovoked and rather vicious dog attack. The video has caused the Internet to erupt in a cheer of favor for "Tara the Hero Cat" -- and the feline now has a Facebook page with sizable following and was even invited to throw out the first pitch at a local baseball game.

Jeremy, the four-year-old boy with mild autism who was spared from more severe wounds, is expected to make a full recovery. In interviews with the boy, the bond between Jeremy and Tara is clear and touching.

The dog, however -- incorrectly labeled as a Pit Bull in some reports when it was really a Labrador-Chow mix -- remains nameless.

And sentenced to death row.

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More details about the dog's situation have been revealed as the video has gained popularity. According to reports, the dog is an eight-month-old puppy who escaped from the neighbor's yard. The neighbors were present when the incident happened, managed to restrain the dog, and were even the ones to call 911. They voluntarily relinquished the dog to authorities, who are observing the dog before having it euthanized. Jeremy's family, the Triantafilos, will not be filing a lawsuit, and they even remain friends with their neighbors.

It's a sign of forgiveness and good will, and no one has spoken ill of the dog (except for Jeremy, who is, understandably, a little shaken by the "bad dog"). Everyone seems to have come out of the incident fairly unscathed -- the only real victim is the dog.

How did this happen and what, if anything, could anyone have done to prevent it?

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This is not the dog in the video, but an example of Labrador-Chow mix. Image via Flickr

Some Dogster readers have speculated that the dog was reacting to the wheels on Jeremy's toy bike; that, upon hearing them, the dog was driven into a frenzy. It could have been the result of past abuse by previous owners or poor socialization by the current owners. Eight months is still pretty young for a dog, but old enough to establish negative behavior -- especially if the dog was adopted from a shelter or a rescue with no clue about his history.

Yet other readers have confessed that sometimes dogs are just born "defective" -- with something off in their brain chemistry, possibly preventing them from ever being corrected.

This week is also Dog Bite Prevention Week, so we've created this infographic outlining dog body language. Understanding dog body language is key to preventing bites. Check out this article for more information on dog bites and how to prevent them.

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Two workers from the shelter where the dog is being held for observation before being euthanized spoke with FIRST LOOK host Scott Cox. During the interview, they talk about how the dog's aggressive behavior continues and how they don't know the dog's vaccination history. They also talk about they've received numerous calls from deeply compassionate but perhaps misguided people and organizations willing to adopt and rehabilitate the dog. They explain how irresponsible it would be to release the dog, and they wonder why people aren't redirecting their efforts toward dogs with no violent history who are languishing away in shelters.

Their assessment of the dog has me reevaluating some of my thoughts above. While Jeremy escaped the attack with his life, as the selter workers point out, it could have easily ended much more tragically. And if the dog truly is just a "bad apple" beyond salvation, is he really the victim? The video further elucidates the event, revealing that the dog also bit Jeremy's mother when she tried to prevent a second attack. So now I really don't know -- is the dog a victim? Is he really beyond hope? Should the folks calling in about the dog be focusing their energy on the other shelter inhabitants?

What do you think about all this? How do you feel about the dog being put down? About the shelter workers' thoughts? Let's talk in the comments.

Read about dogs in the news on Dogster:

About Liz Acosta: Dogster's former Cuteness Correspondent, Liz still manages the site's daily "Awws," only now she also wrangles Dogster's social media. That's why she wants you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and -- her personal favorite -- Instagram. See ya there!

Wed, 21 May 2014 10:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/tara-hero-cat-dog
<![CDATA[Wait, What? Dogster's Hometown of S.F. Drops Off the "Best City to Have a Dog" List]]> Dogster is based in San Francisco, right here, so you'll have to excuse us if we aren't jumping for joy like those bastards in Portland, Oregon. 

What did Portland ever to do us? Well, it's what it did to everyone: It won NerdWallet's "Best City to Have a Dog" list for the second year in a row, while San Francisco, which nabbed the second slot last year and was gunning for the top slot this year, fell off the list

Not the third-best city to have a dog, not the seventh-best city to have a dog, not the 15th best city to have a dog, not even the 18th-best city to have a dog -- nothing. S.F. is gone. Vanished. Not there. Absent. Lacking. No more. Disappeared. Dissolved. Decamped. Removed. Exterminated. Inactive. Vamoosed. Ixnayed. Bounced. Not. Even. On. The. Etc. 

The List!

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You think Niner likes living in San Francisco? LOOK HOW HAPPY.

But hats off to Portland, absolutely, with your "walkable layout" and your "several pet adoption centers and shelters" that "foster an environment of compassion for all animals."

Hey, we do that too! And we're not even on the list! 

The list goes to 20, by the way. Oakland, Long Beach, and Sacramento are a few California cities that are on the list. We're not on the list. Ask a dog from any of those cities if he wants to move to San Francisco and work at Twitter, and you know what he'll say? Nothing! He's too busy wondering if you're going to pull a hamburger out of your coat pocket because you seem like such a nice person and a dog always hopes. 

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Is that a hamburger in your pocket? No? You sure? It might be. Maybe you should check.

Back to the list, which S.F. fell off of, dropping at least 19 spots (and maybe more!) tumbling like Don Draper in a Mad Men intro. It seems like only yesterday that NerdWallet was calling us a "city for dog lovers" with "plenty of options" and touting our "Pug Sunday at Alta Plaza Park in Pacific Heights."

But that is all gone. We have been shunned ... right off the list. We are like, who the hell knows, St. Louis or something, some city who's never been on the list, who was never No. 2, just last year, sitting comfortably behind Portland and eying its weaknesses, looking for a chance to nab the top slot. 

It seems so long ago. A year ago, to be precise. 

Correction: Sorry for the knock on St. Louis. St. Louis is actually the ninth-best city to own a dog, according to the list. We give up. 

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Look at Niner, having the time of his life in S.F. Not Portland.

According to NerdWallet, the list was created by an old man who spent a month alone in a cave, looking for answers in bat guano. Actually, no, it was made by the students of Glenbrook Preschool, who were given three minutes to figure it out before they got popsicles. 

Actually, it was created by something with some witchcraft called analyzing criteria, with the criteria including the number of off-leash dog parks per 100,000 residents in each city, the cost of a visit to the veterinarian, and a walkability score. 

For example, Portland has 5.7 dog parks for 100,000 residents, the cost of an average vet visit is $50, and the walkability score is 62.8. 

Where did S.F. go wrong this year? One can only assume that a criteria analyzer stood at the bottom of one of our insanely steep hills with his faithful dog, looked nearly straight up at the bewildering vertical climb, noticed with horror that the sidewalk consisted of stairs, and whispered, "Oh, hell no."

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Niner LOVING living in San Francisco -- so many things to stand on!

Here is your 2014 list. Don't bother looking for San Francisco. 

  1. Portland, OR
  2. Norfolk, VA
  3. Jersey City, NJ
  4. Madison, WI
  5. Las Vegas, NV
  6. Miami, FL
  7. Washington, DC
  8. Milwaukee, WI
  9. St. Louis, MO
  10. Long Beach, CA
  11. Baltimore, MD
  12. Seattle, WA
  13. Oakland, CA
  14. Pittsburgh, PA
  15. Tampa, FL
  16. Chicago, IL
  17. Cincinnati, OH
  18. Newark, NJ
  19. Buffalo, NY
  20. Sacramento, CA
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Baltimore? What am I going to stand on in Baltimore?

Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch's Instagram

Read about dogs in the news on Dogster:

Mon, 19 May 2014 10:45:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dogster-hometown-san-francisco-not-best-city-dog-list
<![CDATA[Dog Bites: Let's Consider the Root Causes and Prevention]]> Editor's note: It's National Dog Bite Prevention Week, so we're republishing this timely article from this time last year to give you a chance to read and comment on it.

A blood-curdling scream and a pacing Greater Swiss Mountain Dog alerted me to the horror unfolding about a hundred yards away. Hearing the sound someone makes when a dog bites them is not something I ever wish to encounter again.

The incident happened when my significant other and I were dog sitting a dozen or so Cocker Spaniels and one "Swissie" for a breeder friend of ours. We are dog lovers of the highest order who know what to do in an emergency, and we felt prepared for the task at hand.

I stayed in the house with most of the pack while my partner went to tend to the boys in the kennels outside. We'd been warned that two of the boys could not be kept together because they would fight and bite at one another. Darlene took one male dog out at a time, and when she was returning with Rex, she left Bowser's kennel open. As one dog attempted to lunge and attack the other, Darlene stepped in the middle -- and got bitten.

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Though she was bitten by a dog, her love for pooches goes on and on.

Seeing someone in the process of a dog bite is horrific, to say the least. As I approached the kennels, I saw one Cocker Spaniel clamped down on her arm while the other paced around, snapping at the other dog. I slammed a bucket down on the ground, Darlene screamed and the dog let go. We were able to safely get both dogs back into their kennels and deal with the aftermath.

The unfortunate series of events took place in such a short period. Accidents happen, but when they happen to you and the accident is a dog bite, it really, simply stated, sucks.

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Even puppies have pincer-sharp teeth, so proceed with caution.

We called our friend so she could come home and we could rush to the emergency room. Unfortunately, medical personnel are required to report a dog bite to the proper authorities, who, in turn, will investigate. We felt terrible, because our treasured friend had nothing to do with it. It happened on our watch. It was our mistake. Everything turned out fine, however, and with proper treatment and antibiotics, Darlene recovered nicely, despite having a wounded spirit.

We aren't alone

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), every year more than 4.5 million people in the United States are victims of dog bites. One of the highest incidents of dog bites occurs toward mail carriers. The U.S. Postal Service ranks Los Angeles as the No. 1 city for postal employee dog bites in 2012. Nationwide, nearly 6,000 postal employees have been attacked in that same period.

I know when the postal carrier approaches our residence -- my very own dog, Dexter, barks and wags simultaneously. From an early age, I taught him that the "mailman" is good and welcomed. After the mail arrives, Dexter loves to carry a piece upstairs as a reward.

You have to think like a dog to discover why dogs are so threatened by a stranger on "their" property. The stranger appears almost every day, trespasses, leaves something with his or her scent on it, and then departs -- only after the dog has barked and "scared" the stranger off. To a dog, he's done his duty.

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Dogs read one another's body language when meeting strange canines.

Kids are the No. 1 victims of dog bites. Surprisingly, the AVMA says most dog bites happen in the course of everyday activities with familiar dogs. Seniors are the second most common dog bite victims.

"I've treated dogs for bite wounds on numerous occasions, more than I care to count," says Dr. Lorie Huston, a veterinarian with more than 20 years of experience with dogs and cats. "The most recent was just a couple of days ago. Wounds from dog bites can range from minor to quite severe."

Dog Bites by the Numbers

Why do dogs bite?

There are a variety of reasons dogs bite, and sometimes they are not the most obvious reasons. Dogs bite when they are afraid, feel threatened, get excited, are at play, have been trained to be aggressive, are being protective with food or treats, or are in pain or annoyed.

Dr. Huston says she encounters many people who ignore an owner's request not to pet their dog and get bitten.

"Never approach a strange dog without first asking permission from the dog's owner," Dr. Huston says. "If the owner indicates that handling the dog is dangerous, listen to that advice and keep your distance."

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Dogs are victims of bites, too, as this patient can attest.

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After stitches, the dog bite wound is closed and the patient is sent home with antibiotics.

Laurie C. Williams CPDT-KA is a trainer and behavior consultant as well as the owner of Pup 'N Iron Canine Fitness & Learning Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has been training dogs for years and has a plethora of experience in recognizing if a dog will bite. She also trains her clients to prevent their own dogs from biting.

Williams offers these guidelines to reduce the likelihood of dog bites. 

Tips to prevent dog bites: 

  • Know the basics of a dog's body language. A wagging tail does not always mean a dog is friendly. Depending on the carriage of the tail, it could mean the dog is nervous, stressed, and uneasy.
  • Teach children to never approach a stray dog under any circumstances. And if they are approached by a stray, they should “be a tree,” and not move until the dog moves away.
  • Never taunt a dog. If you dare a dog to bite you, he just might give you exactly what you’re asking for. 

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I posed with "Lion Dog" Charles the Monarch, who was mistaken for a real lion and caused 911 to be dispatched. No one was bitten in the process.

  • Don’t put your face in a dog's face you don’t know. Children should be taught to never get up in a dog's face, even the family pet. Many dogs read that as a challenge and react out of impulse to protect themselves.
  • Respect the growl. A growl is a warning from a dog that he may bite, and you should always believe him!
  • Never sneak up on a sleeping dog. Never approach a dog who is eating. Never back a dog into a corner where he feels he can’t escape.
  • Supervise all interactions between young children (under 10) and dogs at all times. Children forget to tie their shoes and make their beds, so naturally they could forget the correct way to play with and handle the family dog. An adult should always be present to make sure the rules are followed.

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Knowing what a wagging tail means can prevent problems.

Though National Dog Bite Prevention Week happens in May, dog bites are commonplace year round. As for my friend and I, we continue to dog sit, and the dog biting incident has not had any permanent effect on my partner. My heart, of course, continues to beat dog.

Have you ever had a dog bite happen to you or someone you know? Tell me about it in the comments.

Read more about dog bites and prevention:

Mon, 19 May 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-bites-behavior-health-tips-prevention