The Importance of Walking Your Dog

Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. — John Grogan

bored-pupDo you walk your dog? Do you walk her/him daily? In today’s fast-paced world, it doesn’t seem like we have much time to take our dogs out for a well-structured walk. We’re too busy trying to earn a living. Some of us have two, maybe three jobs just to put food on the table and pay the rent. So who has time to walk a dog? Well, that’s what I would like to do for you.

So why should you hire me to walk your dog? That’s a very good question. There are hundreds if not thousands of dog walkers out there. What makes me so special? I’ll get to that in one sec. But before I do, let me first explain why it’s so important to walk your dog by painting a picture.

Dogs are living, breathing creatures just like you and me. And you like you and I, we need food, water, exercise, entertainment, and love. We all need those basic essentials and we all do our darndest to fulfill them. When it comes to exercise and entertainment, well, to each their own, right? Some of us don’t all get to the gym as much as we should, while others live by it. But we all do chores around the house like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, preparing food, what have you. The point is that we all get some sort of exercise in some way form or fashion.  By the same token, we all have a favorite activity to keep us entertained. Some people play sports. Others prefer to sit in front of a TV. Some like to browse the web on their computers. Others like to read a good book. We ALL do something to stimulate our minds. Whatever your pleasure is, you have something that keeps you active and/or that entertains you.

What if someone took all of that away from you? What if someone kept you in a room with no TV, no books, no internet. And maybe two or three times a day they’d come in to feed you and to make sure you had plenty of water. And just to be nice they’d might even rub your belly a little, but then they’d walk away and leave you in that room all by yourself, with just your thoughts? Would that be a life worth living?

If I were in that situation, I’d go crazy. I’d probably start bouncing off the walls, yelling and screaming, breaking things just to get some attention. Even if the attention I get is negative, at least it’s something.

So why am I painting this eerie picture? I’m not doing this to make you feel bad. I don’t want you to feel bad. The purpose of this website is to educate people about their dogs. That picture, however horrible sounding it is, that is the life of a dog that doesn’t get regular structured walks.

Dogs that don’t get regular structured walks are bored out of their minds and they will often find ways to amuse themselves in ways that you may not understand nor appreciate. Some examples might be constant barking, chewing on your shoes or slippers, destroying your property, aggression towards other animals or people, unwanted surprises of the fecal kind, the list goes on and on. A lot of these behavioral problems are a direct result of boredom. Face it, if you were locked in a room with nothing to do, you might also resort to some of these behaviors.

How do you entertain a dog? Good question. Think about what entertains you. Humans are visual people. We consume a host of visual stimuli to engage our brains to keep us entertained and hence sane. Dogs, on the other hand, experience the world through their noses. When a puppy is first born their eyes and ears are shut close. They can’t see or hear for several weeks. However, their noses are as developed as they’ll ever get.

A dog experiences the world via their nose. Their sense of smell is everything to them, just like pretty pictures and words are to us. They live for it. If it was left to their own devices dogs would wander for hours on end smelling everything. The world is their facebook and have you noticed that they pee on everything. That’s like them commenting on a post.

Dogs need daily structured walks in their lives. Food, water, and love are awesome and they need that too. I bet you are giving your dog more than they’ll ever need when it comes to those necessities. Why not go the extra mile and walk them regularly?

For those of you who can’t take the time to walk their dogs because you can’t because time is scarce. I mean, who wants to wake up an hour before they have to, to walk around aimlessly through their neighborhood carrying a bag of dog waste. Who wants to come home after a hard days work to do the same? I couldn’t be more sympathetic. Walking is more of a chore than a fun activity for some of us and it’s okay. That’s why dog walkers exist. That’s why we are here for. To help you keep your dogs well exercised and mentally stimulated. So that when you come home, you’ll have a tired puppy with ZERO interest in your shoes or slippers. Because a tired puppy is a good puppy.

Hopefully, by now, you understand why it’s so important to walk your dog and that it’s not just a leisure activity for them. So why should you hire me? That is completely up to you. You should hire a dog walker that you feel comfortable with. Remember, this person will have access to not only your pet but your home, your belongings. You must have a rapport with your dog walker. My suggestion is to shop around and find someone whom you feel comfortable with. Sit down with them and have a conversation about your pet, life, the Yankees, whatever… Get to know your dog walker. And most importantly, make sure that they know the difference between a regular walk and a structured walk.

Dogs need rules as much as they need anything else. The walker should be in control of the dog at all times. The trick is that the walker is taking the dog for a walk, and not the other way around. Unfortunately, a lot of dog walkers don’t know the difference. And while an unstructured walk might provide some exercise, it also provides too much excitement of the wrong kind.

I’m here to help you with your dog walking needs. Give us a call and make an appointment to sit down and chat about your dog and I will do everything in my power to provide your dog with a well-structured walk or run.

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture

I was working with one of my client’s dog and I noticed something concerning while they played tug with him. Playing tug with your dog is not only fun for us, but it’s great fun and exercise for your dog if done correctly; just like anything else. Like many people, my client loves her pooches and they’re great parents. I give them a lot of credit for adopting such powerful breeds and taking such great care of them. The issue is not that they’re doing something wrong, it’s that they don’t quite understand the subtle nuances of dog body language and behavior. For most people, reading a dog’s body language can be a real challenge so signs of aggression are much too often misinterpreted for play and vice versa because the signs are so similar and subtle.

In the case of my client’s dog, he was latching on to his toy rope, growling, pulling and shaking. All normal behavior for tug-o-war. What causes concern for me is the way the dog played. In this case, it’s not the latching on, or the growling, dogs growl when they play, it’s okay, and it’s not so much the shaking of the rope. This article I found clearly describes why dogs shake their toys. The behavior itself isn’t necessarily bad, but one should be vigilant and pay close attention to how they are shaking the toy and why.

In this article, they go into detail about the different reasons why dogs may do this behavior. Most of them are benign, but I want to focus on the dangerous reason because it is important. If your dog is shaking their toy, you should consult a professional to make sure your dog is not shaking their toy out of aggression. Because as cute as it may look, this behavior can lead to disastrous consequences.

As the article explains, dogs shake their toys because it mimics an old instinct passed down by their ancestor the wolf. When dogs in the wild catch prey, they pick up the small animal and literally shake the life out of them. The violent motion is designed to snap the prey’s neck and backbone killing them instantly. Hunting is hard work and it takes a lot out of the animal during the chase. The action ensures that the prey won’t get away after the hunt.

Domestic animals don’t need to catch prey in the wild, but the instinct is still deep within them and must be controlled with guidance and training because if left unchecked, especially if the dog is shaking out of aggression, the next time that small toy could be a house cat or a smaller pet.

There are a number of training tools you can employ to help your dog keep their instincts in check. I would encourage you to google them and try something that will work for you and your dog. Some of the methods can be really fun. For example, you can encourage the dog to play tug. If and when he shakes the toy, watch for signs of aggression. If you’re not sure, consult a professional. When you see signs, stop immediately and discipline your dog. But for the love of god, don’t ever hit your dog. You’re not punishing it, you just want to let them know that you disagree with what they’re doing.

You should never hit your dog or yell at it. NEVER! You’ll just end up making matters worse. A change in your demeanor is all it takes. Dogs are very intuned to our emotions. If they pick up you’re unhappy with their actions, they will know and most of them will get it. Make sure to reward your dog as he makes progress. That will encourage the right behavior and the dog will make the connection that aggression towards toys is not allowed. Training a dog is not difficult. The system is already in place for us in their psyche. Dogs want nothing more than to please their masters. Use that to your advantage and have fun with it.

Nothing But Rubble

This is Rubble. He’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is staying with us for a week. Their parents had a bad experience boarding him once and this time around they were looking for an alternative to boarding. Fortunate for everyone, we were available to offer this service.

When dogs are boarded, they usually stick the dog in a cage and pretty much forgotten about. They may feed them, they might even sneak in the occasional pat on the head, but I doubt they are giving the dog their full attention. They can’t. They have a lot of dogs to look after so it would be wasting their resources to give each individual dog their full attention. I honestly don’t blame them. They are there to make money, not to socialize with the dogs.

We are different. We love dogs and we love having them in our home. We love to watch them play with our own dogs and try to make friends with our cats. But we are also very vigilant. Dogs can be unpredictable if you don’t speak dog. We are fluent, so we are constantly making sure that everyone is getting along just fine.

In the case of Rubble here, he took to our dog Jake right away and Jake was so excited to have him over. When Rubble’s parents dropped him off on Sunday, we took Rubble and Jake for a nice long walk just to get them bonded. The walk is powerful. Nothing builds a relationship and trust between two dogs than a well-structured walk.

When we got back, the two dogs were exhausted and they both passed out for hours. At dinner time, we fed everyone and put them outside to take care of their business. Jake is a 13-year-old Amstaff/Lab mix. He’s a strong dog, but gentle. I know that he is good with other animals because I’ve seen him with other animals. All he wants to do is play. So I had no worries when it came letting the two dogs out in the yard to do their thing.

Within a few minutes, this one-year-old puppy and this 13-year old dog were chasing each other, playing, and having a great time doing so. They were playing like they were long lost friends. I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is to watch two dogs at play.

Rubble has also been helping around the house with our jobs. He’s helped Sarah out by laying on her lap to make sure she doesn’t float away. And he’s helped me walk a client’s dog. He’s very giving and very skilled.

At night, when we go to bed, Rubble gets on our bed and sleeps all night with us. He’s a sweet little guy and we’re sure going to miss him when the week is over. I hope that when Rubble gets home, he goes home with good memories of people who cared for him, loved him, played with him and not be traumatized by being stuck in a cage all week and forgotten about.

If you’re looking for an alternative to boarding, and I recommend that you do, your dog deserves it. Give us a call to check for availability. If you’re not in the area, or if we’re not a good fit for you, try Lots of good people, animal loving people, would love the chance to board your dog and give them all of the attention and love they need. Pets are family, not an inconvenience to be put aside like a car in a garage. We are here to treat your dog like our family.

Thunder and Lightning and Everything Frightening

I was just sitting down to engage people on social media when I heard a clap of thunder. Not surprisingly and not long after, I heard Jake coming up the stairs to hide in the closet. Jake, like many dogs, is not a fan of thunder or fireworks. The fourth of July around here is not very much fun for him. The poor thing shakes and hides and drools something terrible during thunderstorms and any time the neighbors set off fireworks.

I’m sure some of you can relate. You may have a pet that reacts the same to loud noises. Even if your dog doesn’t, it’s no guarantee that it will never happen. Dogs who were never bothered by storms or loud noises can suddenly develop what is called a “noise phobia,” and it can take years to subside if ever.

When that happens, it’s important to take action and not ignore the behavior. Ignoring the behavior can lead to severe anxiety. So it is important that you prepare for this or your dog will never be the same again.

One thing to keep in mind is that once your dog enters full-on fear factor do your best not to console him/her with affection. This is a difficult concept to accept for most of us. Even I have difficulty with it because we all want out pets to feel safe and we want to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. Unfortunately, that method only works with humans who have the capability to rationalize. Animals don’t work that way. When we give affection during times of stress we are encouraging the behavior. In a sense, we are letting the animal know that it’s okay for them to be afraid and ultimately we make the problem worse. It sounds cruel, but if you put yourself in their “paws” it starts to make sense.

But there is something you can do. Some people swear by the ThunderShirt. I myself have never used one on my dogs, but I hear many people who swear by them. They say that the product has really helped tremendously for their dog. I may have to do some research on that, but it bears mentioning here. One thing to keep in mind is to put the shirt on before the storm comes around before the dog starts to get anxious. That way they make a positive association with the garment.

Another thing you can do is just be near them. The simple act of being near them will make them feel safe. You don’t have to pet them. Your presence is affection enough. Let them hide in their favorite spot and make them comfortable with a blanket and just hang out with her/him. As soon as they calm down, praise the hell out of them. Shower them with love, kisses, and treats.

However, while your dog is in panic mode don’t talk to them, don’t pet them, just be near them. If you must touch your pet make it something relaxing like a message, but don’t talk to them. Just get their blood flowing until they’ve relaxed. Or you can take mother nature as an example. When puppies are nervous, their mother calms them down by licking their face. You don’t have to lick your pup’s face, but you can stroke it with the back of your hand nice and slow. Do that a few times and it will spark memories of the pup’s mommy licking his/her face and that should help calm him/her down.

The important thing to remember is not to talk to them during stressful times. It doesn’t help and in fact, it just makes matters worse. I would love to hear from people who have used the ThunderShirt and their opinions. Feel free to leave a comment.

Discipline Has Been Abused

Being a good parent means taking care of your children, providing for them, and raising them to be productive members of society. And to be a good parent one must provide children with rules and consequences for breaking those rules. That is discipline. Discipline is such a misunderstood concept. Partly because it has been misused by so many people who think that disciplining a child means causing them pain when they misbehave and that couldn’t be further from the truth. When a parent causes pain and suffering to a child that is abuse. There is a world of difference between disciplining and abusing a child. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the difference.

One simple way of looking at it is to attribute emotions to the actions. Discipline is an act of love. It comes from a place of caring. When a child misbehaves they run the risk of harming themselves and/or others. We must teach them that their actions have consequences. Discipline is disagreeing with misbehavior and is essential for the development of a child.

Abuse is an act of anger and it comes from frustration brought on by ignorance. Abuse takes the form of yelling, belittling, striking, and/or punishments. And sometimes, abuse is very subtle. Abuse is not just about hitting a child. Words can be just as hurtful as a strick. Abuse is verbal and non-verbal but it is still abuse.  When we discipline a child we must examine our state of mind and ask ourselves, “Am I frustrated with my child right now?” If the answer is yes, then we must take a second to analyze what exactly is it that is causing us frustration. Being a good parent means being in control of your emotions at all times. Easier said than done, right? Nevertheless, it is what we need to do because when we discipline children out of anger, it will have catastrophic consequences.

You might be asking why am I talking about parenting and disciplining children on a blog about pets. The answer is simple. The two correlate because just as children need rules to be productive members of society, pets also need rules to be healthy and balanced. Our pets need discipline as much as they need food and affection. Pets without rules and discipline are unbalanced and do not live a satisfied life just as a child would be if they didn’t have rules and discipline.

Pets and children aren’t all that dissimilar. In fact, psychologically, most pets and toddlers are identical. If you ever watched young children play, you’ll see a lot of similarities when you watch young pets play. And when they get out of hand, both human and animal parents often step in to stop the behavior. It’s how they learn. If parents don’t discipline children or pets, they never learn to act appropriately. But, again, it must come from a place of caring and love, not anger. Animals have this packed. They discipline their kids using their instinct. We, on the other hand, are at the mercy of what our parents taught us who were at the mercy of what their parent taught them and so on. We have learned to suppress our natural instincts and instead we rely on our knowledge be our guide. Unfortunately, we humans are still animals and we often don’t have the right knowledge tools available to us. And so when we lack the correct knowledge, our emotions take over and that’s when we can get into trouble. That’s when we get abuse.

I’d like to challenge you to rethink “discipline” to redefine the concept. I want you to realize that it is an important part of development. That it isn’t the torture device used by tyrants. Think back on how your parents applied it and how you may be able to improve upon it. If your parents got it wrong, don’t just toss it aside, learn from it. If you’re a productive member of society, chances are they did some things right.