Compassionate Costumes and Clothes

With Halloween approaching I admit I am reveling in dog costumes!  I love dressing up and as it is not socially acceptable for me to go out in costume as an adult, I indulge myself by dressing up the dogs . . . with some caveats.

First, they have to like it.  When I put a coat on Tabby it was very clear she thought that coat was going to steal her soul and leave her for dead.  She froze, she went belly up, she shivered worse then she did in the snow.  I tried a costume to see if something less restrictive might be more appealing. It was not. I told Tabby I received her message and instead of using a coat I carefully monitor her time outside when it is cold, and she remains a nudist.  Costumes are not put on Tabby.

Jasper does not mind a coat, but he does not love a coat so I was not sure about costumes.  Last year he was all puppy and felt costumes were for chewing.  This year I tried out some different things I had for different dogs, and well, costumes are hit or miss.  Some of the ones with appendages he thinks are more fun to chew then wear.  Anything that goes near his head and flops around he does not like, or covers his ears, so, things with “heads” or hats are mostly out.  I do not want to limit his vision or his hearing – and not just because it is uncomfortable. Jasper is a cautious dog and he startles, putting him in something that makes it harder to see leaves him easier to surprise, and just plain stresses him out. I do not put him in anything restrictive to his movement – he is a young dog and should be able to move freely.  And so he tolerates them, and I respect that he is wearing them for me, not him, and do not keep him in them for long, or for more then a picture or two.  Which is a shame because he looks totally adorable in them.

I will chew this the second you look away.

Pirate we once put a coat on, getting it off was an adventure, we do not dress Pirate, he let us know VERY clearly it is not his thing.  Although for some reason he does not mind hats. Pirate is weird, but he is entitled to his opinions on clothing.

Enter Magdalina.  Magdalina is the most tolerant dog in the house.  I can put her in a lion’s mane, I can make her a rainbow, she is an adorable frog too!  But she tolerates, she does not love, and putting them on her sometimes makes her a walking chew toy for Jasper who thinks frogs legs are delicious!  I learned with Magdalina too that HOW a coat or costume fits matters as much as anything else.  Magdalina has arthritis and achy legs, manipulating them to put them in a coat or a sweater or a costume can be painful for her.  I have to find things for her without sleeves and that attach by the neck and under the belly. In an attempt to find something light weight I even broke out my knitting needles to make her a sweater that does not involve sleeves.  With her skin and sparse hair coats are sometimes a necessity, and she does appreciate the warmth, but, it is hard to find appropriate clothes sometimes.

But I have to talk about Shadow, Shadow loved a tutu.  You put him in a tutu or his Batman costume and he would strut his stuff and be so proud.  I could put him in so many things and as long as the camera was out, he was posing.  He was a dog that loved a costume, or maybe he loved the attention it brings.

He is not alone! My foster dog Nellie adored being dressed up, for her I think it was also about the attention. But she had no issues with costumes or clothes. Poor dog was put in many outfits.

My friend’s dogs love costumes and clothes so much they come running when she gets them out. Memphis and Bella are dressed more often then they are not and have the biggest wardrobe of any animals I know.

So, this Halloween as you are picking out your outfits take some time to think how they will fit your dog, how they will affect their vision, how they will affect their ability to move, and do doggy things. If you notice them stressed out, take it off. Watch for lip licks and ears back, and do not wait until Halloween day to put on the costume for the first time. Halloween comes with enough stress and weirdness without leaving your dog feeling uncomfortable in a costume too.

Have fun this Halloween, but make sure your dogs are having fun along with you.  And send pictures. 

My meatballs bring all the dogs to the yard.

More specifically the kitchen, but, that does not fit the song as well.

Confession – as much as I love a cheese stick for high value treats, Jasper is a total meat dog. I am not a huge meat eater, and hot dogs have a lot of stuff in them, so, I have been experimenting with different treats. He loves chicken but it shreds in my hands, and makes a mess on the floor. He will happily eat steak, but, that is not budget friendly. Liver is harder to prep and gets soft in my hand. So I have been buying pre-made meatballs for Jasper for agility class lately.

They are tempting to him, easy to defrost, and store, and because they are frozen they do not spoil on me before I use them. But, I do not love all the ingredients (onion powder), and they are a little fattier then I like. So, today I decided to make my own. Judging from how his head lifted and his nose hit the air as they came out of the oven, and how quickly Tabby came running from upstairs when I brought one to the living room for sampling, I think they are a hit.

I also like how they break up easily without being too crumbly, although, next time I might add some shredded mozzarella cheese to help them bind up even more.

Full confession, I was learned to cook from my Armenian grandmother, and mother, so, until it feels right is a common measurement in my house. I did my best to track amounts though.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (96%)
  • 1 lb ground turkey (85%)
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 Tbs. canned pumpkin
  • 3 Tbs. grated or shaved parmesan
  • 1 Tbs. Nutritional yeast (confession, I am trying to use it up, you can ommit it!)

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenehit. Then put the ground beef and ground turkey in the bowl, followed by the egg. Add the canned pumpkin, grated parmesan, the nutritional yeast (if you are adding it) and then mix (I did it by hand, but, you can use a spatula). If you sing ‘my meatballs bring all the dogs to the yard’ at this stage, it adds some extra love.

Prepare your baking tray buy lining it with foil, and if you prefer, placing a baking rack on the tray too (I did not do this but I wish I had). Shape the meatballs so they are about 2 inches in diameter (should make about 15) and place the meatballs on the rack/tray. You can make them smaller, or larger, but you need to adjust your baking time. I made them large planning to defrost a few at a time and break them up as needed.

Place them in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees farenheit.

Once they cool, store them in the freezer and take them out as needed. If you forget to take them out the night before, you can pop them in the microwave for a quick defrost.

Like I said, if you want them to be less crumbly, you can add some shredded mozarella cheese to the recipe. Play with it, make it your own, and let me know how your pups like them!

Preparing for the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is one of the hardest times of year for our dogs.  It is hot, there are many events, and, there are fireworks.  Here are some tips for getting through this time of year successfully.

  1. Leave your dog at home.  As fun as it is to have our dogs with us at picnics or events, it is often stressful for the dogs.  Add in the risks of open gates, dropped leashes, unsafe foods being out and about, hot weather, thunderstorms, the stress of new environments, excited children, and fireworks, leaving your dog at home is often the safest bet, and where they would rather be if given the choice.
  2. Make sure they have an ID tag and their microchip info is up to date. The Fourth of July is one of the biggest days of the year for lost dogs.  Dogs get spooked by fireworks, or gates are left open at family events – and if your dog is on the run, you want to make sure they have current and up to date information that is still readable.  It doesn’t hurt to make sure their license is up to date as well, as another way to ensure your dog gets back to you safe and sound.
  3. If your dog gets out, know what to do.  I already have a post about what to do if your dog is lost, check it out and make sure you are prepared.
  4. Plan ahead!  Know when the fireworks are going to be going off and make sure you get your walks in ahead of time.  If you suspect your neighbors might be setting them off, plan for a day with the windows closed, the air conditioner on, and keep the TV, radio or white noise playing to keep things as quiet inside as possible.  Get an awesome marrow bone, some bully sticks, make sure there is a frozen Kong ready to keep your dog entertained and focused on something other then the noise.
  5. Watch the heat! Dogs do not sweat like we do, and can overheat easily.  Do not leave your pets in cars, and watch them when outside.  Especially the black dogs, or dogs with short noses who overheat a lot faster.  Also remember young dogs and older dogs, and dogs with certain medical conditions can be even more sensitive to heat.  So, keep them cool and comfortable.
  6. Talk to your vet.  If your dog is truly phobic, see if there is a medication or supplement that may help.  Some people are reporting success with CBD oil, or supplements containing lactium, but as always, make sure you check with your vet first.
  7. If you have to leave them, leave them safe.  Make sure they are in their crate in a room that is calm and quiet, with something safe for them to do.  Close the windows, pull the shades, blast the air conditioner and leave a white noise machine on, or calming music like Through a Dogs’ Ear.
  8. Do not be afraid to let them know it is okay.  If you are with your dog, and your dog is upset, it is okay to be there for them, and to soothe them and reassure them.  It will not reinforce their fears, it will let them know they are not alone.
  9. Know the closest vet, and emergency vet.  Know which vets near you are open, where the closest vet is, and have their number in your phone.  Heaven forbid an emergency happen you want to know where to go, and how to get there.

How to Pick a Puppy (or Not)

When I met Jasper, I knew he was not your typical happy to lucky puppy.  The vet who gave him his second round of shots called him a worried rocket scientist.  The plan had been for me to foster him, and I had not been looking for a puppy.  In fact, I usually preferred adult dogs.  But, his worry made me worry, so, I started talking to other trainers about what they thought about him.

Cydney Cross of Crossroads for Dogs met him first, Jasper sat in his crate in the car and looked at her, and processed things.  He stepped back when she came close, and when she tossed him a treat, he watched her for a bit before trying it.  When I took him out of his crate, he stuck to my side.  He was four months old.

Jasper was clearly attached to me but was not that interested in other people.  I showed off some of his tricks, and Cyd told me what a great dog he was – she loved how smart he was, how observant, and how well he focused on me.  I was relieved, and I asked if she thought that meant he would be easy to adopt out.  She told me no, he was the type of dog who might find a home quickly, but who also was likely to be returned at a year old after having bitten.  Not because he was aggressive, but because he was a worrier, and if someone did not help him with his worries, they would become fears.  Cyd suggested I keep him.

What you typically look for in a puppy is the social one, the one coming to greet people, eager to interact.  The one that hears a noise and while they might be startled, they rebound quickly.  Jasper was none of those things.  But he was smart, and he was sensitive, and with the right support, he could build confidence and overcome his worry.  Jasper would never be a social butterfly, but, he did not need to be.

I was not in the market for a puppy, but, maybe a puppy had found me.

Not sure what to do, I brought Jasper to Suzanne Clothier.  When it comes to puppy assessment, there are few with more experience, or a better eye.

Of course he hopped out of the car far less worried then expected after an hour plus drive, and while he did not run up to greet her, food soon won him over, and Suzanne got to know Jasper. We saw him with other dogs (German Shepherds were scary), with people (John was also kind of scary), we saw him when I left (WHAT MOM COME BACK!) and I eagerly awaited her verdict.

Suzanne agreed with Cyd – he was a worrier, and he was smart, and he was a bit of a project.  But she also told me with the right socialization he thought he would be an awesome dog – was I up for the challenge?

Well, we are a year in and still finding that out.

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The Heart of a Champion

Tilly is fourteen years old, and has been a much loved family pet for years.  Until now Tilly did not go to class because Tilly did not need class, she has basic obedience down and is generally a mellow girl.  But the family thought that Low Impact Agility looked like fun, and that maybe Tilly might want to try it.  And that is when we realized that inside Tilly beat the heart of a competitor . . .

Tilly is a Low Impact Agility Super Star!  She used to take a minute to run through a course but now she can do it in 30 seconds, and her tail is wagging the whole time.

Best of all her family says Tilly seems to be more relaxed and confident in their home.  When you say “school” she gets excited and runs to the door.  While I love working with all the dogs, dogs like Tilly touch my heart in a special way.  I love seeing these “Elder Dogs” have fun and use their brains and get out and just have fun and all the benefits that come from that.

Allow me to brag . . .

When your 14 year old dog earns his second Wag It Games Sniff It Title you are supposed to brag right?  Shadow earned his fifth qualification in Search last night getting him his Search Wag It Games 1 Title.

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So proud of this boy!  He has only been working for a little over a year and a half and did not start until he was 12 years old, but he took to Sniff It and does it with joy and focus (mostly).  When we were posing for our picture he wanted to go back and look in the tents some more which made me smile – even though he was totally ignoring his recall and doing what he wanted, what he wanted to do was work.  That’s my boy!

And a private victory is Shadow did it while being polite among the other dogs, no barking or staring or kicking up a fuss, Shadow was there and ready to work and relaxed (mostly) around the other dogs.  Time and patience do so much, and yes, old dogs clearly can learn new tricks.

Katy Bug the Brave . . .

What does a beagle do when they come to scent class?  They put their nose to the ground and they get to work!

This video is extra special because just a few months ago Katy was living in a lab being used for pharmaceutical testing and research.  In December she found a home and now she making up for lost time, getting out into the world and experiencing lots of new things.

It has been a pleasure to be a part of helping her learn and build confidence, and watching her and her mom become a team.   I have loved seeing her go from the shy dog, quietly entering class to the dog pulling on the leash excited to use her nose!  When Katy is working she is on a mission and her tail is up, her nose is down, and she knows just what to do.

Find it!

We just started a Scent Class for reactive dogs, and two weeks in I am not only impressed at how great the dogs and their owners are doing, I’m also excited by the positive feedback we’re already getting.

I’m hearing how the dogs have more confidence, how they are happier, how they are sleeping after class and excited to get into the car and come back – it is wonderful and total reinforcement of why I do what I do.  So happy to be helping dogs, particularly dogs who do not always get included in things outside of basic behavior.

This is a video I put together from the scent runs on our first week of class – some of these dogs had never tried scent work before and by the end of the hour they were consistently identifying the boxes, and better yet, they were excited to work!

Such a great group of dogs and people!

 

 

Tabby

Tabby started in our home as a foster dog, for two years.  Peppertree Rescue, Tabby is a shy dog working very hard to be brave in the world and looking back at the early pictures, and e-mails, oh how she has grown.

Tabby was a fearful dog, and a life lesson for me.  When she arrived I tried to desensitize her to a lot, walks, cars, people, dogs – and I watched her just tense up and shut down each time.  So, we slowed down, we went at her pace and we focused on quality, not quantity.  I took the pressure off her, and me, and with the help of time, puzzle toys, snuffle mats and some good meds, Tabby has become a braver dog.  She still does not want to go on walks, but, she loves her car rides, and she went from being a nocturnal dog who ran at the sight or sound of people to going out in the sunlight and barking at the neighbors.

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The biggest positive change in Tabby’s life came in the form of two kittens.  We had always joked that Tabby was a cat trapped in a dog’s body, but when we brought our foster kittens home we saw this in truth.  She would groom the kittens and snuggle the kitten and to this day Rory would rather snuggle with his Tabby then with us.  Because of their bond she wanted to be where they were, and would start exploring more parts of the house as they explored.  And then when we added Jasper, whose puppy enthusiasm for play and all things naughty were not to be ignored, Tabby started playing more, and that led to her engaging with us more, and now she is a dog who greets me at the door with the rest of our slightly dysfunctional pack of dogs and cats, instead of waiting upstairs with a tucked tail and worried wag.

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Tabby still hides when people come over, and sudden movements will sometimes still send her running.  She still hates walks, and she will not pee for days when she is being dog sat, but Tabby is happy in her day to day, and getting more confident.  Cannot wait to see how she continues to grow.

Yaddo

Yaddo, also known as Shadow, also known as the Elkie.  A senior Norwegian Elkhound that brought a lot of laughter to our lives, and who I am pretty sure was around to keep me humble.  While he was officially a Canine Good Citizen, Canine Good Citizen Advanced, and a Therapy Dog, Yaddo was also a stubborn, independent dog that liked to live life his own way and reminded me daily that dog training sometimes requires creativity, and always requires patience.

Yaddo is why I work to keep things fun, and was a wonderful example of how training can enrich a dog’s life, regardless of their age.