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Wordless Wednesday

June 15, 2011

EARS

(oh hey, i’m back. or at least i’ll try.)

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Free-dom!

February 27, 2011

You may have noticed it’s been awfully quiet around here… that’s because Daphne is staying with my dad for a little while.  Since she’s not here, there’s not much to share about her, but I thought this was a great email I got from him today:

“Can you tell me why, when I put Daphne’s food down at 6:00 in the morning, she consistently looks at me expectantly rather than eating? She needs to be urged at least five times over the course of ten minutes to eat her food. What is she looking for?”

Oh. Um. Did I forget to mention that we trained her she has to sit – nay, lie – several feet away from where we put the food and wait there until we say “free!”?  And sometimes, I even walk away and pretend to forget about her for a minute to test her waiting skills?  Oops.

Yes, I wrote back and told him to “free” her up in the mornings – hopefully this will fix the problem! So proud of my well-trained beast, but so guilty for not relaying this information.

What Would Daphne Do: The Dog Walker Edition

February 16, 2011

Dear Flying Dingo,

I need to find a stellar dog walker.  Can you tell me about some experience you’ve had with dog walkers, and how I should tell who is awesome and who sucks?  What would Daphne Do?

-Anonymous

Well, Anonymous, funny you should ask, because the topic of dog walkers came up for us at the dog park.Yesterday I talked about our adventures of simply getting many, many pounds of dog to arrive successfully at a fenced in dog park, and today I’ll tell you about meeting a professional dog walker there.

After we had been at the park for about ten minutes, a man showed up with – ready for it? – nine dogs.  Here I was, impressed that I’d gotten my three dogs into the confines of the fence without losing anyone or falling on my face, and then he appears with nine. NINE.  He methodically lets them all off their leashes and the guy standing next to me mutters that this Dog Walker Guy (hereby referred to as DWG) is amazing, that he has total control over all the dogs and even has a GPS tracking system on each dog.

So at first, I’m pretty impressed. DWG got a stellar recommendation right off the bat, he did seem to come in confidently, the dogs all seemed to know the drill, and after my managing just three dogs – well, did I mention I was impressed that he had managed nine?

And then I noticed they all had prong collars on them.

Every single dog, except for the two very small ones, had a pinch collar on.  Not the worst thing, but my little red flags went off.  I know these collars work for some people, but I also know there are a lot of other methods that don’t use discomfort to gain control over your dog.  Then again, what do I know? I don’t have nine dogs.

And then he starts telling the other people at the park about the one new dog in his pack: a rottweiler.  This dog was beautiful, and probably only a year old; he was bouncing around with the other dogs, happy and friendly and relaxed as can be.  DWG kept saying, “Well, I’ve known him since he was a puppy. It’s his first day with the group.  He’s doing well.  I don’t usually take aggressive breeds, but I’ve known him since he was a baby, so, you know.”  Emphasis mine.  Excuse me, aggressive breeds? I didn’t realize there was such a thing.  Yes, there are dog breeds that have reputations, but we should be looking more at individual dogs than any individual breeds, and I would expect a person who works with dogs professionally to understand that.  And frankly, he seemed far more concerned with repeating how he didn’t take aggressive breeds than he was with watching the small dog who kept baring its teeth and tucking its tail when approached (oh, hello there, Disaster Waiting to Happen).

Not the actual dog, but similar body language. Click image for source.

Okay, so dog parks are tough places.  They’re open to the public, and there aren’t really limits on which dogs are and aren’t allowed inside.  My leash-reactive dog can be a rockstar in a dog park where she has room to run and room to avoid the people.  She does fine with the other dogs, and is really happy as long as no one tries to pet her.  And if they do try to pet her, she just runs away.  But what about the dogs that are fine until… approached from behind? Or until touched just so? Or until a bigger dog jumps on them?

Who is regulating this?  It all ties back to my frustration around leash-laws in my town and, quite frankly, leaves me feeling a little at a loss for words.  It’s up to us, the owner, to decide whether our dog will be safe and happy in a dog park setting, and the sad thing is that too many owners don’t know how to make the distinction.  Not all dogs want to be friends. Imagine if we took you and shoved you in a room of 13 other humans and said, “Now all of you should be thrilled to see each other!” You’ll probably really like one other person and even get along with several other people, but if there’s some jerk who keeps poking you in the forehead the whole time, you won’t even be able to make those connections.

relaxed pup at the dog park

Anyway, here’s what I do have to say: if you’re hiring a dog walker or exerciser or “Dog Adventure Guru”, do some research first.  DWG had a fancy GPS system, and that’s pretty cool, but I wasn’t sure he would know what to do when his little yippy dog finally had enough and bit the lab mix that just didn’t seem to get that yippy dog was afraid of him.  DWG was not watching all of his dogs’ body language – how could he? There were nine dogs mixed up with the five who had been there when he arrived.  DWG clearly had his eye on the Rottie to make sure nothing went awry there, but he was missing a lot of what was happening with the other dogs.  How many dogs can one person watch at a time?

If you’re looking for someone, find out how much time and attention will be given to your dog.  Find out what would happen if someone got bitten, because you can bet that’s a distraction.  Who is the backup caregiver?  What happens if a medical condition arises? Get personal references. Most importantly, trust your instincts; even if someone has awesome reviews, if you just don’t feel right, don’t do it.  It’s easier to not sign up with someone than to have to break up with them later.  Also, a friend of mine just got a new dog walker who does a two-week trial period – I love this! Make sure it’s a good fit before you sign on for keeps!

cutest friends ever

As far as What Would Daphne Do goes?  Um, she would have an unemployed mama and a high level of comfort hanging out in the car when Mama has to travel.  Also, she knows some people who are willing to take care of her now and then (hi Grandpa!) if it comes up.

Do you have a dogwalker, or do dogwalking, or even just visit a dog park? What are your experiences there?  Tell me your crazy dog person stories!

(Leave your What Would Daphne Do questions in the comments!)

Triple the dogs, triple the fun/terror!

February 15, 2011

Today I single-handedly handled 200+ pounds of dog.

Daphne and I trekked through Boston, picked up Olive the Mastador

and headed south to spend some quality time with Miss Harriet.

Then the three of us ventured off to Harriet’s local dog park.

Some lessons learned (interpreted?) in my last couple of weeks of dog-sitting (please note that I am not yet a behaviorist, and a behaviorist might have some different interpretations; if you are, and you do, please chime in!):

  • Dogs are jealous, and you can use this to your advantage. If Daphne didn’t respond when I called her, I just called one of the other dogs over, told them to sit, and gave them a treat.  As soon as Daph heard “sit”, she came flying over.  “Uh, mama? I can sit. Treat for me? I can sit!”  Worked 95% of the time.  And it worked in the other direction, too; if the other dogs didn’t come immediately, I just started loudly praising whichever dog did come, and the others quickly realized she was getting something awesome, and they wanted it.  We should get a second dog just so our first dog listens better.
  • A dog’s insecurities can be really beneficial.  On the way back to the car, I knew that I could not safely walk on a path of ice and handle all three dogs (hence the “terror” aspect of this post title), but I could certainly handle two.  Which would be allowed to run loose? Harriet was familiar with the area and confident in the woods around the park, so I wouldn’t put it past her to run after something interesting; Daphne was unfamiliar with the park, but confident having me nearby, and likely to do whatever she wanted to do as long as I was in eyeshot or even just earshot.  She’s good at disappearing and then catching up.  But Olive? Unfamiliar with me, compared to Daph (but knew I had treats), and had absolutely no idea where we were.  So she was the one allowed to walk off-leash, and she nailed it.  Stayed by my side the whole time and hopped right into the back of my car.  Awesome.
  • My Subaru Forester can fit 200+ pounds of dog in the back. Impressive.
  • Three dogs is far too many for me to own, but a really good number for me to hang out with an be in charge of.

Have you experienced canine jealousy? Have you wrangled more than twice your weight in beasts recently?  How much does Olive make you want to run out and get a Mastador (the answer should be: A LOT)?

What Would Daphne Do: The Stray Edition

February 10, 2011

This morning, I almost got a new dog.  He looked like this, minus the collar and much scruffier looking.

 

click for source

He was wandering the street, pretty nonchalantly  avoiding being hit by the several cars ahead of us.  I, in my infinite wisdom, simply stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out, ran over, and tossed him some Mother Hubbard treats.

Daphne would have been offended at his response: not only did he bark at me (she does not approve of other dogs barking at or jumping on me, for the record), he also showed no interest in the treats I offered.

We were in a neighborhood that we frequent with our dog, not far from home, but I don’t really know the people or other dogs in that area.  Luckily, there was a man approaching with a friendly-looking dog on a leash – terrific! I would just wait for him to get closer, ask if he recognized the dog or knew where it lived, and (in my dream, obviously), he would say, “Oh it lives right here and the owner is watching from the window,” or, better yet, “Thanks so much for finding my dog! Here’s a million dollars.”

So I’m standing there tossing treats at this dog who is barking at me, and the man disappears.  I wonder if he went into a house a few doors down… until the stray stops barking and the man reappears.  Don’t worry, you guys, he was just hiding behind a snowbank from the girl with the crazy dog.

Look, I may be the crazy dog person with the dog who barks at all the other dogs in real life, but this was not my dog!  My dog would have snatched up those biscuits.  My feelings were a little hurt that this guy hid from us.

 

hiding from the crazy dog lady (click image for source)

Anyway, the man eventually approached and confirmed that he’d never seen the dog before, and by this point, the pup had not only not approached us, but had barked one last bark and run away behind someone’s house.  While I had been prepared with treats galore and ready to load the dog into the car until we could find its home, it apparently had other plans.

What are the lessons and reminders here?

  1. Duh: leash/collar/keep an eye on your dog.  Even when Daphne gets out, it’s pretty clear we’re looking for her: we’re the two crazy-looking ladies running around calling her and flinging treats.  If your dog gets out: look for it.
  2. Not all dogs speak the language your dog speaks or understands.  I know what little steps I need to perform to get my dog in my grasp – you could say I have her well-trained on this one, but that would be a lie: she has me well trained.  Say “sit”, toss three biscuits to the left, pretend we’re doing some obedience games, try a “wait” over here, swoop in for the collar. Success! Well, success with Daphne.  But this dog was having none of it, and that in itself was another reminder that not all dogs speak the Human Language that my dog does.
  3. Though it wasn’t successful for us this time, I was really grateful that we have an emergency dog pack easily accessible.  We keep a bag in the car with two containers of treats (soft and hard), a small bag of dog food, an extra leash, a collapsable bowl, a water bottle filled with water, a spare leash, and maybe a toy or two.  Sometimes a few of these things are missing (today, no leash! But we didn’t get close enough to use it anyway), but all in all, it’s a great thing to have on hand.

I did not call the dog officer; I figured by the time he got my message an hour later, the dog would be home or at least far from where I saw him.

And just to answer the question: What would Daphne do? Well, she would have eaten those treats and taken off.  And made sure we were close behind, because it’s not a good game unless your mamas are chasing you and throwing cookies.  I didn’t say our method was perfect.

What would you have done in this crazy situation?  Are you a Pull the Car Over and Catch the Dog type, or the one who’s watching me and thinking I’m nuts?

*Edit: I just searched Craigslist for “schnauzer” and found that one went missing about 4 miles away.  Called the owner, who’s still looking for his dog.  If you see a missing guy in the Cambridge, MA area, the info is here: please call! Mooch probably wants to go home, even if he didn’t want my Mother Hubbard biscuits (you’d better bet that other dog ate them up when she finally passed by!).

Struggling: where do we fit?

February 8, 2011

Some days, you just cannot shut me up about my dog.  In fact, today was one of those days, and as a result, I feel like I have little more to say than what I’ve already said aloud.

But here is something that I struggle with constantly:

How can I be a good dog owner and a good neighbor/member of my community?

Some people don’t have to find this balance. I would venture to say that the majority of people don’t worry about whether they’re toeing this line.  There’s an Australian Shepherd who lives around the corner from us, walks happily off leash, greets every human and animal politely and appropriately, and does not seem to have any issues.  If she looked more like Daphne, we would definitely pull some sort of Grand Puppy Swap.

But really, here is a question for you: do you think that a lot of people have Dogs with Problems?  Whether the problems are behavioral, fear problems, aggression, barking, not knowing how to interact with strangers in an appropriate and safe way, do you think it’s pretty common that these issues come up?

I know I’m rambling a little bit here, but, as I said, I’m struggling with this right now.  This can’t possible only be us.  I know it’s not just us, but I suspect it’s also not just us and the two people I’ve found on the internet with similar dog issues.  How many dogs are kept behind closed doors because owners don’t feel safe taking them out? How many dogs get walked late at night when no one else will be around?

I guess what I’m wondering is: is it more common to have a happy, well-adjusted dog or a pup with a few issues?  Is your dog Perfectly Behaved?

How to meet the neighbors: Poop is often the answer

February 7, 2011

Hey, folks, are you new to your neighborhood, and wondering how to meet your neighbors?  Well, Sunday morning we came up with a great solution.  Let’s start with a little background: one reason we moved to our current place was the back yard.  It was not yet a fenced in back yard, but with a baby gate here and there and a big piece of lattice blocking off our deck, we had a pretty secure area to let Daphne run around.

Until the Snowpocalypse.

(Yes, I know you’ve seen the video before, but it’s just so FUN! And yes, I’m biased.)

Anyway, here’s how to meet your neighbors: first, wait till the snow gets pretty high everywhere – this will allow your dog to jump any fence with ease.  Then run around the neighborhood trying to figure out where she went. Some neighbors will become acquainted with you just by watching this antic, and you will probably be known as Those People Who Are Always Chasing Their Dog Around the Neighborhood. Or maybe Those Crazy Lesbians.  Or possibly Do You Think They’re Just Roommates, and What Are They Doing? We haven’t confirmed what these quiet neighbors think.

In all likelihood, your dog will run into the yard across the street – yes, the one that’s usually full of children.  And then she will poop in it and run gleefully away!

Just for the record: we do not let Daphne run off-leash through the neighborhood.  We do not say, “It’s a quiet Sunday morning, have at it!”  We say things more along the lines of “Noooooooooo” as she clears the fence and “Sit! No, really, right there! Stop! Come back!” which is, of course, very effective.

This is MD saying "NOT MY DOG" and trying unsuccessfully to escape us

Anyway, if your dog poops in the neighbor’s yard, your neighbor will come out with a bag and introduce himself.  Luckily, we are blessed with nice neighbors, and New Neighbor Steve seemed grateful that we were happy to collect the giant poop ourselves.  We thanked him profusely for the bag, because we had left ours at home in our scramble to follow the dog over the fence.

What can we all learn from this situation?  Well, first, that the work I’ve been doing to get Daph to sit spontaneously (if you click this link, see: the work we’re doing) is paying off: as my wife approached Daphne, she said, “Sit!” and Daph dropped to the ground from several feet away.  Okay, fine, I’ll take a Down instead of a Sit if it means she’s staying still enough for us to catch her. Second, maybe we should introduce ourselves to the neighbors who think we’re just the crazy roommates who occasionally run around the neighborhood chasing a dingo.

 

run away!

Anyone else with some embarrassing dog-neighbor interaction stories? Please, please tell me we’re not the only ones.