Monday, May 31, 2010

Why Do Dogs Growl?

Coming across a growling dog is a frightening experience, as any mail carrier can tell you. The sound of a growl heralds the menacing possibility of sudden attack. Our first instinct – to leave the dog alone – is a good one.

But there are different qualities of growls used in different situations. Growling is one of the few forms of "verbal" communication dogs possess. Most forms of growling serve one purpose – to get someone or something to back off.

Most creatures (including humans) instinctively associate pitch and tone to convey the message they want. A larger animal is more intimidating than a smaller one - and a lower tone is associated with a larger animal. A growl – a low, throaty noise – makes an animal appear more menacing.

People react the same way. If you hear a deep, gravely voice, you probably assume that the speaker is more massive. In reality, he may be a 150-pound weakling.

The reverse is true, by the way. A high-pitch voice is associated with a smaller frame. Among dogs, that high-pitch is usually a whine, which is sometimes paired with submissive signals.

The Bottom Line

Growling is usually meant to intimidate someone or something to leave property or valued resources (food, toys) alone, or to indicate that the dog is scared and may bite. In other words, growling is meant to repel.

A high-pitched throaty growl usually means the dog just wants to be left alone. It does not normally indicate that an attack is imminent – it is a warning.

A medium-pitched, growl resonating from the chest indicates the dog is prepared to do battle. If pushed, the dog may attack.

A low-pitched, "belly growl" or growl-bark indicates that the dog is about to bite.

Why a dog growls depends on the dog and the situation, but it is usually associated with aggression. There are different types of aggression. A dog may growl when he is scared (e.g. fear-aggression) or because he is asserting his status as the alpha dog (dominance aggression). On his own property, he may growl to protect his turf from encroachment (territorial aggression) or to guard some valued resource (food or toys). He may also growl or bark when chasing or cornering some small varmint as part of a predatory sequence (in which the object is not to intimidate, but to obtain food). The dogs may also growl at people who approach them or touch them when they are in pain (pain-induced aggression). Bitches may show maternal aggression, involving growling to warn off people or other dogs after delivering their puppies or if experiencing a false pregnancy.

Dogs sometimes growl during play, such as during a rousing game of tug-of-war. A growl in this playful context is not generally meant as a threat. However, if the play gets too rough and the dog is growling, it may be better to stop playing and let everyone calm down.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Babies and Dogs

Now that I am a Proud Grandma of a beautiful two month old baby boy, I have been watching their dogs interaction with him. I have also observed how much Mom and Dad will permit. At first, it was "NO! Don't go near the baby."

The Golden Retrievers wanting to get close, have now been allowed to lick the baby, but only occasionally and a little bit. I can just see this happening in a few short months........

Watch this video of a baby and his dog sharing toys in the bathtub.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Study on Longevity in Dogs

Since the earliest domestication of wild dogs, human beings and canines have been nearly inseparable.

With the passing of time, we have evolved behaviors that cater to the dog's best interests. We have also worked to bring out the traits in them that we find most desirable while simultaneously suppressing those with which we disagree. This has been done through careful application of selective breeding, giving rise to specialized dogs with singular purposes. But a new study shows that in addition to changes in behavior, this artificial selection has also had an effect on canine longevity.

According to the study, to be published next month in The American Naturalist, calmer, low-energy dogs live longer than their bolder, higher-energy counterparts. The scale upon which the docility of the dogs is measured was first introduced in a Journal of General Psychology study in 1995. According to that scale, the mellow Springer Spaniel is 34 percent more docile than a Basset Hound and is twice as likely to live past ten years of age. Poodles, being 24 percent more docile than Boxers, are four times as likely.

The new study’s author Vincent Careau, along with colleagues at University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, was careful to compare dogs of a similar size only and collected the data for the paper from studies done previously. Using this information, he has arrived at what he is calling an “undesired correlation into longevity.”

The greater impact and implications of this study remain to be seen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dog Asking for Directions

What would you do if a dog asked your for directions?

This video is hysterical!

Give yourself a good laugh......

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ways To Show Your Dog You Love Him/Her

We all love our dogs. Dogs are great. They can be so much fun and they can make us smile every day.

How can you show your dog that you love him?

Here are seven loving things you can do to show your love for your dog:

1. Monitor your dog. One way to show your dog that you love him is to monitor him. Note if he is eating, drinking and having normal bowel movements. If he is sitting with you - feel his body for lumps and bumps and note any abnormalities.

2. Keep him healthy. If your dog looks or acts sick, have him checked by your veterinarian. Dogs cannot talk. They cannot tell you when they are sick and they cannot just get in the car all by themselves and go to the vet when they do not feel good. They rely on you to care for them. A great way to show your love is to make sure that your dog is taken care of when he is sick.

3. Give your dog playtime every day. Know what your dog likes and play with him every day. This is a great way to spend time with your dog and to show your love. Good toys are really important to your dog's health and happiness.

4. Quiet time is also important. Not only does your dog need regular playtime with you, your dog also loves quiet time with you. Give your dog an ear rub or a tummy rub (or whatever he likes) while you are watching TV, listen to music, or reading together.

5. Practice good preventive care. In addition to taking care of your dog when he is sick, preventing health problems with good preventive care is also a great way to show your love.

6. Do not let your dog get fat.
Obesity can cause a variety of health issues - especially joint and arthritis problems. Monitor your dog's weight. If your dog is obese, ask your veterinarian about a diet. Cut back on treats Either break the treats into smaller pieces or try a low-calorie treat.

7. Reinforce good behavior. Everyone loves a "good" dog. When your dog does a great job, give tons of positive reinforcement. Then your dog will not only get attention and love from you, but from everyone he meets. This will make him happy and it is a great way to show you love him!

Remember, watch your dog for any signs of problems and spend plenty of quality time together.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Do you see any resemblances between pet and pet owners?

I came across this video of children who look like their dogs.

Very cute, must see video

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tips On Taking Photos of Your Pet

Jim Dratfield is a New York-based photographer who has specialized in pets for 8 years. His sepia-toned animal portraits, taken with partner Paul Coughlin, are available as note cards in gift shops. Chuck De Laney, a professional photographer for more than 20 years, is dean of the New York Institute of Photography in Manhattan.


What Makes a Great Pet Photo?

Professionals use the "ESP rule," says De Laney: Expressions Sell Pictures. "The single most important quality is that the picture gives the sense of the personality of the animal," he says. "And secondly, if the particular pet in question has a unique or rare quality, if you can capture that, that's a plus. What aren't great pet photos are the kind of very stiff and posed pictures we see of the winner of the kennel show. Most of us want to see more life and fun instead of the pet just standing around as the world's stiffest chihuahua."

Capturing the Moment

Some of the best photos catch pets in their regular environments and in the middle of routine activities.

"If your cat likes to play with a sock on a string or your dog has a favorite toy, they'll be more relaxed doing that, and it will also give you a chance to predict where they're going to be," Dratfield advises. "If you know that when you make a certain noise and drag that piece of string a certain way, he's going to peek around the corner, then set up to take the shot at that corner."

It is also a good idea, Dratfield says, to try not to draw attention to yourself. Be very quiet when you creep up on a priceless expression.

Tricks for Staging a Photograph

"If you are trying to pose a dog or cat, the first problem is keeping them still while getting their attention.

"Some dogs like to pose and take instruction well. Other dogs, the minute you do that they get uptight. If it's not in the animal's character, I would recommend against it," says Dratfield. But dogs aren't the biggest challenge, he says. Cats are.

Dratfield will sometimes place a cat or dog on a high chair so that they will hesitate before jumping off. Then he shoots quickly before they do. He will also have an assistant dress in a smock made of gorgeous fabric and hold a cat still in his lap. With the camera up close, the cat looks as if she's draped in expensive tapestry.

Both photographers use food treats, toys and interesting objects to get their subjects' attention. They often hold the objects next to the camera lens, just out of range, so it seems that the animal is looking straight ahead, he says.

"A trick I use a lot with pets and young babies is to exploit their natural curiosity," says De Laney. Pets often ignore routine calls for attention so De Laney surprises them. He fills a paper bag with a handful of rice or dried beans and pulls it out from behind his back and gives it a shake to get their attention.

Dratfield warns, however, that using food with a dog can backfire – "like a Labrador that might start frothing and get all excited."

"If you know your dog gets too wired for that, sometimes there's a word or sound that will calm him down," he says. With one canine, Dratfield started naming destinations. "I tried Oshkosh and Green Bay, and then said Milwaukee. She got excited and her ears popped up," he recalls. It turned out the dog liked to be walked, so the sound of Milwaukee got her attention.

It's often wise to have someone to help you out. One of Dratfield's most striking shots, of two Dalmatians each facing a different direction, involved having two assistants hold each dog's food to a different side so the animals looked in opposite directions.

Another Dratfield trick: To get two animals to cuddle, try rubbing a bit of food behind the ear of one of them, and be prepared to shoot fast.

Getting the Right Colors

De Laney suggests injecting color into the background of your pet's portrait, but says the shade should be complementary to the animal. Golden retrievers and redheads look good against a background of dark green. White-colored cats are flattered by blue or another cool color. And a black Labrador retriever needs a lighter backdrop.

Getting the Best Angle

Place the camera at about the same level as the animal, so the frame will be filled with the subject, Dratfield advises. If you're outdoors, get down on your hands and knees to go eye-to-eye with your pet. Not every picture has to be taken from that angle, but, Dratfield says, "Animals are very pure and honest in their responses, so it's lovely to capture some pictures at that level."

Picture Composition

Pose your pet in a room or on a piece of furniture he considers cozy, or, if you're doing outdoor shots, you can position your subject in front of a tree. "Just be careful that the trunk is not directly behind his head," says Dratfield. He and De Laney both agree it's important to remove clutter from the background, whether the shot is indoors or out.

If a dog has a favorite chair that will make him feel comfortable but the fabric is a busy print, toss a plain-colored cloth over the furniture, De Laney suggests.

Delaney is no fan of funny costumes for pets, saying they tend to make an animal look tense and uncomfortable. "I think the guideline I would encourage pet owners to keep in mind is, 'Would I mind appearing in this outfit, or is it in such bad taste that I'd be insulted?'" De Laney says.

But some dress-up shots work, like a picture De Laney saw of a bunny wearing a pair of sunglasses. "It looked cute," he says. Dratfield believes costuming should be left to the pet owner's taste.

How to Get Your Pet into the Family Portrait

The easiest solution is to place the pet in the lap of someone they feel comfortable with, says Dratfield. But sometimes it's the human members of the family who need guidance. De Laney says family members can feel awkward sitting for group portraits and the challenge is to bring a sense of unity to the picture. Have all the people look in one direction or at each other and strive for a natural effect.

"You don't want a picture of Mom sitting next to the dog like a pair of frogs on a log, so get Mom to put her arm round the dog or scratch the cat's neck, or whatever the case may be,'' he suggests.

Technical Tips

Because pets can be unpredictable and jump at the slightest camera click, set your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/125th of a second. That way your pet won't come across a fuzz ball if he leaps away quickly. "I do 125th a lot, sometimes 250 or even 500," says Dratfield.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last Four Mistakes Dog Owners Make

In conclusion of the top TEN mistakes dog owners make, here are the remaining four mistakes. If you missed the others, please check the previous two blogs.

Mistake 7: Neglecting to Keep Your Pet Mentally Active
Why this is a mistake? Bored pets are more likely to get into trouble.

How to avoid it: Give your pets something to do. For a dog, that can mean having him hunt for food. Place a meal or treats in spots around the house for him to sniff out, or “feed him out of a food-dispensing puzzle toy instead of his bowl,” says Andrea Arden, author of Dog-Friendly Dog Training.

Mistake 8: Leaving a Pet Alone for Too Long

Why this is a mistake? A lack of proper companionship can lead to separation anxiety and destructive behaviors.

How to avoid it: “Don’t leave a puppy alone for eight hours.” Hire someone to watch him or drop him off at a doggie day-care center. Your puppy will need to learn how to be alone for a few hours each day, however, so “teach him to self-pacify almost immediately,” says Andrea Arden. Put him in a crate (or leash him to a stable object) a foot or two away from you, then gradually increase the distance over the course of a week. Then make sure that he spends escalating amounts of time alone in his crate or confined to a room. Break up the day for dogs of any age with a visit from a dog walker or a neighbor, and give your pet access to toys and visual stimuli.

Mistake 9: Failing to Make Your Home Pet-Friendly

Why this is a mistake? A dog without a cozy bed will end up on the couch.

How to avoid it: Dogs need spots where they can cuddle up and feel safe. “A dog needs a crate like a teenager needs a room,” says Arden. Provide a crate or a cozy bed, and make it taboo for your family to pester the dog while he’s in it.

Mistake 10: Punishing Your Pet

Why this is a mistake? You might think Bowser knows you are screaming at him because he ate the loaf of bread on the counter, but he will not connect your behavior with his action.

How to avoid it: Never physically punish your pet; he will just learn to fear you. It is OK to startle a pet out of a behavior, but only if you catch him in the act. Command him with a firm “No!” or “Down!” and he will connect the reaction with what he is doing and learn that it is not OK. Otherwise, the punishment should come from the environment. Teach a dog to stay away from the counter, by arranging sheet pans in a pile that will clatter to the floor. The counter, not you, will become the thing to fear.

I hope you have found some helpful information from reading the series of blogs relating to the common mistakes dog owners make.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Three More Mistakes Dog Owners Make

This is the second in the series of the top TEN mistakes dog owners make. Previously, I posted the first three mistakes and following this one will be the last four mistakes.

Mistake 4: Dispensing Too Many Free Treats

Why this is a mistake? Treats lose their training value if your pet gets them for no reason.

How to avoid it: “Think of treats as currency given to a pet to reward good behavior,” says Marty Becker, a veterinarian and a coeditor of Assign each type of treat a value, and pay according to how well your pet behaves. Kibble is worth a dollar; a chicken strip, five; bologna, 10. “But it’s important to not pay off the good behavior all the time,” Becker says. “That way, your dog will always hope he might get that piece of bologna, and he’ll eventually perform without seeing a treat.”

Mistake 5: Neglecting to Socialize Your Pet

Why this is a mistake? Pets that are not exposed to a variety of animals and people at a very young age can develop fears and aggressive behavior.

How to avoid it: Introduce your pet to adults, kids, animals, and environments so he will take every novelty in stride. It is optimal for a pet to start the process before you bring him home, since the critical socialization period is early in life. “For a dog, it’s between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks, says Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, in North Grafton, Massachusetts. The breeder or the shelter’s adoption counselor can tell you how much socialization an animal has had.

Mistake 6: Skimping on Exercise

Why this is a mistake? Pets have pent-up energy that needs to be unleashed through physical activity. Otherwise it will be channeled into barking, jumping, or even hostile behavior.

How to avoid it: “Walk your dog at least twice a day for a minimum of 30 minutes each time,” says Cesar Millan, host of The Dog Whisperer, on the National Geographic Channel. “To your dog, that’s a primal activity ― birds fly, fish swim, and dogs walk.” Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal-Behavior Center in Urbana, Illinois, recommends that dogs get at least 40 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. “Dogs need more exercise than people do,” says Reid. Try running or biking with your dog or playing fetch or Frisbee.

Friday, May 14, 2010

First Three Mistakes A Dog Owner Makes

I will be doing a series of blogs highlighting the
top TEN mistakes a dog owner makes.
Today, the top three...

Mistake 1: Buying a Pet Spontaneously

Why this is a mistake? That doggie in the window may be darling, but he might not be the right fit for your family or lifestyle.

How to avoid it: Fully inform yourself before you bring home a pet. Every dog has its own needs, some of which are specific to the breed. Terriers tend to dig; Abyssinians explore and climb. If there’s a breed that interests you, read up on it (try the website of the American Kennel Club), talk to owners, and get to know someone else’s Border collie or Persian. That said, not every dog or cat is typical of its breed, so “ask about the pet’s history, health, and temperament,” says Stephanie Shain, a director at the Humane Society of the United States. When dealing with a breeder, you should be shown where the pet was raised and meet his parents.

Mistake 2: Skipping Obedience Training

Why this is a mistake? Bad habits can be difficult to train out of a pet. So unless you have the know-how to school an animal, you need the help of a pro.

How to avoid it: Even before a puppy starts formal training, teach him simple commands, such as sit and stay. A puppy can begin formal training at eight weeks (and ideally before 12 weeks), after he has had his shots. “Between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks, puppies readily absorb information about the world around them,” says Andrea Arden, author of Dog-Friendly Dog Training. To help a dog stick with good behaviors, every few years take him for a refresher course.

Mistake 3: Being Inconsistent With the Rules

Why this is a mistake? If one child lets Fifi on the bed and another punishes her for it, the animal will be confused. Bad behavior is inevitable.

How to avoid it: Make sure everyone in your household knows―and follows―the rules, says Arden. “You want your dog to sit before eating a treat? Then figure out a system that will help your pet succeed.” Pets thrive with a sense of order, so discuss with your family when yours should be fed, exercised, and even given a treat.

Next time, I will post mistakes number 4,5,and 6

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things You Can Learn From a Dog

Our pets can teach us many things - if we are willing to listen. They teach us how to love unconditionally, how to look at each day as a new one, to embrace all the good things and why it really is the simple things in life that we should cherish.

In his book, Souls of Animals, author Gary Kowalski writes about the fundamental lessons pets teach us. "Without many inborn instincts to guide us, we as human beings need models for how to live. ... In a fundamental way, we need other creatures to tell us who we are."

Here are some basic lessons our pets endeavor to teach us:

1. Always be happy to see those you love.

2. Approach each day and each new experience with enthusiasm (even a walk).

3. Never underestimate the power of praise.

4. Play every chance you get.

5. Don't be afraid to show your joy! When you are happy – show it. Wiggle and wag.

6. Take lots of naps and always stretch and yawn before you get up.

7. Never turn down a car ride with someone you love.

8. Be loyal.

9. Lounge under a tree in the shade on a hot day.

10. Every once in a while put your head out the window and feel the air on your face and hair.

11. Have a favorite toy.

12. Don't hold a grudge.

13. When someone is having a bad day – nuzzle him gently.

14. If you feel like it, shake and let the drool fly.

15. Eat each meal with vigor and enjoy anything that's offered.

16. Sleep in any position you find comfortable.

17. Scratch where it itches.

18. Protect and defend those you love.

19. What you look like doesn't matter – it's what is in your heart (and the way someone rubs your tummy).

20. Enjoy every day to it's fullest – even if you are sick, in pain, deaf, blind, wheelchair (cart) bound or just not mentally all there.

21. Take pride in following the rules.

22. Accept praise and attention without giving excuses.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dog Shoes

As Ebony and I were walking down the Chehalis Western Trail in Olympia, Washington, a dog an his masters were walking towards us. I heard this clopping sound similar to a horse walking on pavement and noticed the dog's feet.

Kataro was in red hiking boots complete with vibram soles!

Kataro styling on the Trail

Krista, his master, explained to me that Kataro severely cut his foot pad while chasing a rabbit into the bushes on the Chehalis Western Trail. She had research several dog shoes and found these to be the "best".

Kataro and James

Please, if you use this trail or similar ones, be a responsible citizen and do not litter even in the bushes. Thank You!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Dogs Love to Chew

Dogs love to chew. Have you ever wondered why dogs chew on things? Even better, why do they chew on EXPENSIVE things of yours?

Dogs chew on things for several reasons.

Here they are:

1. Learning. Puppies and young dogs learn about their environment by mouthing and gnawing on objects. Typically the targets are random, and may include shoes, books or bedposts. Investigational or "play-related" destructiveness of this kind is a normal behavior for a growing dog and the number one reason for destructive chewing behavior.

2. Boredom and stress. This is the next most common reasons dogs chew. Some adult dogs chew out of boredom or because they are upset when they are "abandoned" by their owners each morning. In the dog's frenzied efforts to escape the house or find his owner, a dog of this persuasion will dig and chew at doorways, windowsills and curtains. He may also search for shoes, pillows, purses and other personal items to chew on.

3. Nervousness. Other dogs may chew because they have a nervous personality or some phobia. If your dog suffers from thunder phobia, she can cause dramatic damage to your house on stormy days. In addition to thunder, your dog may develop fears of fireworks, wind, and a variety of other noises.

4. Fun! Last but certainly not least, dogs chew because it is "FUN".

If your dog is a destructive chewer, how do you deal with it?

The solutions will vary based on the dog and the reason for the dog's chewing. But one simple time-tested solution is to give the dog something of his own to chew on. There are many chew toy options at the pet store or online.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Dog's Job

Summer is around the corner! It is time to get outside with your dog. People who exercise look and feel better, and so will your dog.

There is a difference between going to the dog park and getting your dog involved in a sport – the dog gets to run and release energy, but she also needs to use her mind and take her cues from you – the pack leader. You are not only giving her the physical exercise but you are also giving her the mental stimulation. You are giving the dog a job, and every dog needs to work in order to be fulfilled.

With so many activities out there for you to bring out your dog’s inner athlete, take some time this spring and summer to do your research and get active! While breed does not necessarily matter, there are some breeds that will take to certain activities better (or quicker) than others. For example, if your dog has an active nose – Beagles, terriers, hounds – you might think about search and rescue training, or tracking activities. Tracking takes place on a field, where dogs are rewarded for finding the “scent.”

For high-energy, working dogs, like Huskies and German Shepherds, think about Urban Mushing – which is essentially dog sledding on city streets with the use of a harness and a scooter, trike, or skateboard.

For water dogs, like Labradors, consider dock diving and dock jumping, the canine equivalent of the long jump, only in the water!

For big and small dogs alike, you can get involved in agility activities, which takes advantage of a dog’s speed and quickness, to jump, balance and run through an obstacle course.

Of course, in addition to organized activities, there are other ways of bringing out your dog’s inner athlete, whether it’s a bike ride, rollerblading, or taking your dog with you when you go kayaking.

Skating with my son's dog Ginger on the Burke-Gilman Trail
in Seattle, Washington

Whatever you choose, engage your dog in the activity with calm and assertive energy. You’ll be amazed at how your dog responds!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Barking Problems

What do you do about a dog that barks too much?

The first step in quieting your pooch is to understand why he is raising such a ruckus in the first place. Dogs, after all, bark for all kinds of reasons. They bark when they're anxious or when they are lonely. They bark to draw attention to themselves or to warn someone encroaching on the property. Sometimes, they bark just because it feels good.

The Alarm Barker

If the dog barks only when you are home, he is probably barking for one of two reasons: Either he wants attention or he is trying to warn you about something. Most dog owners feel safer knowing that their dog will alert them to intruders, so they usually reward alarm barkers. Because you are likely to want your dog to continue his warnings, you do not want to discourage barking entirely, but the trick is to teach him to stop barking when you tell him to.

When trying to curtail a dog's barking, as with any other training program, be consistent and clear about just what you want your dog to do. If you tell him to be quiet, you must then enforce what you have instructed. It does not work to yell "quiet" from three rooms away and then continue to talk on the telephone as your dog rants and raves at the window.

Instead, consider keeping your dog on an indoor lead and having him by your side at potentially problematic times. When you see he is about to bark, pick up on the lead and tell him to sit. Better yet, pair the lead with a head halter – which gently pulls the dog's head up, closing his mouth. When he stops barking, release the tension on the lead and praise him. An extra reward will emphasize your appreciation.

If your dog constantly demands your undivided attention, consider ignoring his demands - consistently - for a week. Try standing up and walking away whenever he starts to bark. This form of training, resulting in gradual "extinction" of barking, is very effective because it removes all rewards that, until now, were reinforcing the behavior. Keeping in mind that even scolding or brief eye contact can be interpreted by your dog as a reward, try to show no response at all. You can take this training a step further by giving your dog attention, such as petting, only when he is quiet. With patience, you can change many kinds of learned behavior through the process of extinction.

More Ways to Abate Barking

Sometimes, you can cut down on barking by using an anti-bark collar. These collars are most useful for dogs that bark when their owners are away and cannot correct them with voice commands. However, do not use one with a dog that shows signs of anxiety; it will only make the problem worse. When left on their own, for example, some dogs become extremely stressed, and act out that behavior by barking non-stop. In that case, the dog should be treated for the underlying cause of the problem – separation anxiety – not just his barking.

Anti-bark collars utilize ultrasound, electric shock, and vibrating devices – they work by punishing the dog when he barks. Electric shock may be effective, but is viewed by many as inhumane: Other types of collars that do not rely on inflicting pain contain citronella oil, its spray triggered by barking, has become available and can be an effective tool for distracting the dog from barking.

Luckily, most dogs will respond to some intervention to curtail their barking. Whether you simply bring an outdoor dog inside (which should calm the neighbors) or take the time to apply behavior-modification techniques, you can cause a dog to be less of a nuisance and to be more socially acceptable.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Barking on Command

Teaching your dog a few simple tricks is fun and entertaining for both you and your pet. It is best if your dog knows and reliably responds to the basic obedience commands of sit, stay and down before teaching him to perform tricks. Most tricks are built on basic obedience work anyway and, in the process of being taught "the basics," your dog will have learned to pay attention to you during training sessions.

Success in training of your dog hinges on rewarding the desired behavioral response in a timely fashion. The most valued rewards differ from dog to dog: For some, food it is the most powerful reward, for others, praise or petting are what they crave.

Some dogs will do whatever their owners want them to just to have a little playtime. Find the reward that best motivates your dog to learn and stick with it. Work with your dog daily in 5 to 15 minute sessions. Keep training fun, and end sessions on a high note with reward for a job well done. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or tired, quit and try again later.

When you teach your dog to SPEAK, you are not giving him permission to bark every time he hears a noise or sees a moving object. This command is one your dog will respond to only when asked. If taught properly, barking on command should not encourage the frequent barker to be more vocal, and may even have the opposite effect. If your dog has a problem with excessive barking, it may be due to anxiety, boredom, or may even be part of a breed characteristic personality. Talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to the problem of a the dog that barks excessively.

"Speaking" should consist of a few short barks, and then your pet should quit. "This is a trick, like "sit" or "shake," that must have a clear end point. To teach your dog to speak, rely on situations that you know cause your dog to bark. Two common bark-promoting circumstances are offering a food treat and knocking at the door (or ringing the doorbell).

To tempt your dog with food, show him a treat. Use a higher, more excited voice than normal and ask him to SPEAK. Most dogs will bark if the treat is withheld long enough. If your dog barks, give him the treat and praise. Practice a few times and then try it without food.

If your dog does not respond to food, but you know he will respond to a knock or a ring at the door, try giving the SPEAK command, than rap on your door or ring the bell yourself. Sometimes your dog will bark even if he sees you do this. If not, enlist a friend to ring or knock right after you give the command. If this situation would normally cause your dog to start some frenzied running around the house, put him on a leash first to control his behavior and focus his attention. Once you get a few barks, offer a treat and praise.

Continue to practice this trick over and over again. Always use a happy singsong voice and lots of positive reinforcement. Eventually, your dog will understand what you want, and when, and will readily speak when asked.

The keys to success in training your dog to perform tricks are patience, practice, praise, and persistence. During training, every small step your dog takes in the right direction should be rewarded as though he had just won the lottery. Tricks are fun – and learning how to do them should be fun, too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yes, Dogs Laugh!

We know when our dogs are happy, sad or frightened,
but do they laugh?

Charles Darwin, father of the theory of the evolution, once tackled this question in his book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872.

He noted that "the upper lip during the act of grinning is retracted, as in snarling, so that the canines are exposed ... but the general appearance of the animal clearly shows that anger is not felt." He concluded that though some people "speak of the grin as a smile," he personally could never verify that claim, much less actual laughter.

There is always a risk in anthropomorphizing emotions – that is, giving our pets human characteristics. For instance, it's a mistake to assume that your dog's guilty look is in response to knocking over a priceless vase.

He has no idea he did anything wrong five minutes after the fact; he just knows you're angry and is desperate to appease you, the pack leader.

But a researcher in Nevada believes she has found a method to prove that the breathy exhalations dogs make during play are a type of laughter. Her results were presented last summer at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society. Patricia Simonet and a team of researchers recorded dog sounds in dog parks from a distance using parabolic microphones.

The breathy excited pants were later played in an observation room. The sounds elicited play; dogs picked up a toy and trotted over to a person or another dog (depending who was in the room). The breathy exhalation was found to have a different frequency than regular panting from exertion. Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than people, so it is theorized that they pick up on the difference and respond to it.

However, whether dogs actually "laugh" is still unknown. For the average pet owner, however, the question is academic. The joyous glint in a dog's eyes, the enthusiastic play bow and the happy bark all communicate the most important thing: "I am having fun!"

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What Is Your Dog Saying When Barking?

A few years ago, an article in the Smithsonian magazine concluded that dogs may bark for no reason. It's just something that they do – a function without a purpose, so to speak.

That view is not widely shared. Even studies of wild canine behavior attest to the fact that barking serves a function of long-range communication. It is at least as important to dogs as a marine foghorn warning is to mariners. Even the most elementary interpretation of barking is that it is a non-visual communication signaling the dog's presence and territorial concerns.

On hearing a bark, the receiver of this audible message knows:

The presence of another dog out there
His approximate direction
His approximate distance
The sender's level of the excitement/energy/commitment

The sender of the message knows exactly what he is transmitting but may not know to whom.

If the recipient responds by barking back, he confirms:

The receipt of the message
His presence of another dog out there
His location and energy level (by how hard and fast he barks)

All of the above is really "old hat" and well accepted. What becomes more controversial, however, is whether the bark is more than just a "here I am" type noise that signals a dog's location and territorial claim.

Most dog owners believe that they can recognize their dog's different types of barking. The dog may, for example, emit an excited, alerting bark when a friend approaches the home but may sound more aggressive and foreboding when a stranger or a would-be intruder draws close. In addition to the different tones of barking, the same tone of bark can be used in different situations to "mean" different things.

If your dog's ball has rolled under the couch and he wants someone to get it out, he may bark for assistance. A learned communication, like verbal language in people, a bark is used in this context because it works to produce the desired response from you. Once he gains your attention, you recognize immediately what the dog wants by: the barking itself, the dog's orientation, and the situation. Humans also use a variety of signals to communicate with each other; they speak, orientate, gesticulate, and use facial expressions and other body language.

But could you understand what your dog wants by listening to it bark on the telephone? Probably not. But you might be able to determine the tone of the bark (friendly or hostile), the volume and intensity of the bark (his state of arousal) and the duration of barking – continuous or intermittent (indicating how intent the dog is).

Obviously, barking is not as sophisticated a method of vocal communication as human language but it works to convey elementary messages. Humans probably grunted their wishes to each other and barked orders a few hundred generations ago. It was a start. Interestingly, human consonant sounds are thought to be "hard-wired" from these humble beginnings just as the dogs bark is "hard-wired." Human language (in any country) comprises different constellations of consonants strung together in creative ways. Dogs have a long way to go to catch up but some do seem to try very hard with what little hard-wired sound-producing ability they possess by using different intensities, tones, and groupings of barks, growls, and mutters, interspersed with the occasional howl to get their message across.

Their sophisticated body language compensates to some extent for this limited vocal response. With patience, dogs can "train" their human counterparts to understand what they're trying to say.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Toxic Toys

Is there lead lurking in your pet's toys?

A concern in the minds of many, there is recent evidence that some products made in China contain unsafe levels of lead. Particularly shaken by the news are families with young children, due to popular toys being recalled, such as the Easy Bake Oven and 1.5 million Fisher-Price toys. With all this frightening news, who can you trust, what is safe? Should you be concerned about your beloved pets?

Is Lead Dangerous to Pets?

Lead can indeed be a threat to pets. Lead toxicity can be caused by the ingestion or inhalation of products containing lead. Some lead-containing products which can be a threat to pets include the following: lead paint, fishing weights and sinkers, gun pellets, linoleum, drapery weights, rug padding, automotive parts, and construction materials among others.

There are numerous symptoms of lead poisoning in pets, many of them mocking symptoms of more common health problems.

Because of lead poisoning's vague presentation and the rarity of such a contamination, the condition can be difficult to diagnose.

Some symptoms of lead poisoning include anemia, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, seizures, blindness, deafness and behavior changes.

For more information on lead poisoning in pets, read PetPlace's in-depth article on Lead poisoning.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) checks the safety of all toys intended for humans. Unfortunately, there are no organizations regularly testing animal toys, and there are no federal standards regarding lead in pet toys. The CPSC enforces a federal standard for lead in paint on children's toys. This standard is 600 parts per million (ppm).

Toxic Toys

In the wake of the lead scare, two laboratories have conducted independent tests on randomly selected pet items. These very qualified laboratories include Trace Laboratories, Inc. in Illinois and ExperTox Analytical Laboratories in Texas. Both labs have found lead and other toxic heavy metals in pet items purchased from American stores.

ExperTox Analytical Laboratories tested a Chinese-made, Wal-Mart marketed cat toy and dog toy. Both were packaged in a clear plastic wrapping with a cardboard label and no brand name.

The dog toy, a latex, green monster, contained high levels of lead and chromium (a cancer-causing heavy metal) and smaller amounts of other toxic materials. The cat toy contained very high levels of the toxic heavy metal, cadmium.

The lab determined these toxins were easily accessed and could be acquired from the toy with a simple lick of the dog's or cat's tongue.

Trace Laboratories tested Paws 'N Claws tennis balls purchased at a dollar-type store. They found an astounding 27,200 ppm lead levels in the ink on the balls. They also tested a ceramic food dish and found lead levels at 2,890 ppm. The lead levels in both these items far exceeded the limit set for human toys.

Should You Be Concerned?

There are conflicting opinions regarding the severity of these levels of lead and other heavy metals in pet products. Because of the lack of federal regulation at this time, it is up to you, the pet owner, to determine your level of concern.

An interesting bit of information to consider: Wal-Mart actually recalled children's toys which are quite similar to their lead-containing pet toys. These Chinese-made, Wal-Mart children's toys are sold at a similar price, without a brand, in packaging very similar to that containing their toxic pet toys. If these toys are not safe enough for your children, should your pet be playing with them?

What Can You Do?

How can you protect your pet? Talk to your veterinarian. Do your research. Check with the manufacturers of your pet's toys; ask for proof of their safety testing. Strongly consider discarding your pet's current products which are made in China. When buying new products, look for items made in the United States. Also, avoid toys made of latex, as they are more likely to contain lead. Above all, be proactive and don't take chances with the health of your pet.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fear of Dogs

Have you ever had a house guest or visitor that was afraid of your dog?

Fear of dogs is very common regardless of whether the dog is big or small.

Big dogs can be scary for obvious reasons - they're strong, they have big teeth, and they may even jump on your guests. Despite their diminutive size, small dogs can be scary too. They can pack an awful lot of noise and energy in such a little package! They move quickly and their bark can be just as loud as a big dog's bark!

Fear of dogs is very common and it can occur on various levels. A mild fear may simply cause someone to avoid walking close to dogs, or perhaps they will freeze up a bit when they see a dog. In more extreme cases, a fearful person may feel panic, terror or anxiety. This type of person may tremble and experience rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath. These people go to great lengths to avoid any type of contact with dogs. This exaggerated fear of dogs is called Cynophobia.

Luckily, most people experience a milder fear of dogs rather than Cynophobia itself. So for these people, there's an easier solution to help alleviate their fears when they enter your home.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Tell your guests that you have a dog before they come over - just in case they're fearful or even if they have allergies. This way, their expectations can be set up front.

2. Walk the dog before your guests arrive or let him run around in the backyard so he can exert some energy.

3. When your guests arrive, put your dog in a confined area and give him some good toys to keep him occupied. That way, he will focus his attention on the toys, not on your guests. This should help your company feel more relaxed as well.