Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Zen Dog on Channel 11 News

Well, they're pretty off-base with the Buddhism emphasis - we're definitely not trying to get your pets to meditate. But they certainly got the positivity part right! See the clip here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

3 Common Dog Behavior Problems Solved.

Everything your dog does has a purpose. Think of a behavior you want to change. Identify its purpose. Show your dog that she can achieve this purpose with an easier and/or more purposeful behavior than the one you want to eliminate.  That's dog training, plain and simple.

Here are some examples:

1. Your dog pulls on the leash.
Purpose of pulling on the leash, for your dog: To move forward.
The behavior you'd prefer to result in moving forward: Walking on a loose leash.
Solution: When the leash is loose, move forward faster. When the leash is tight, i.e. your dog is pulling, don't move forward at all.
Result: Dog learns that he can exert less energy to move forward AND move forward more efficiently by walking next to you than by exerting a lot of energy pulling on the leash.  This will become his default behavior.

2. Your dog jumps on you.
Purpose of jumping on you, for your dog: Food and/or attention.
The behavior you'd prefer to result in food and/or attention: Calmly lying on dog bed.
Solution: Only give her food or attention when she's lying calmly on her dog bed. Ignore her when she's jumping on you.
Result: Dog learns that she can exert less energy to get food and/or attention by lying calmly on her dog bed than by exerting a lot of energy jumping on you.

3. Your dog chews your shoes.
Purpose of chewing your shoes: It feels good.
The behavior you'd prefer to result in that good feeling: Chewing on appropriate things.
Solution: Make sure your dog likes the chews you're giving him more than your shoes.  Then associate chewing on his own things with the sight of your shoes.  I.e., dog sees shoes, dog gets kong filled with peanut butter.  Dog sees shoes, dog gets braided bully stick.  Dog sees shoes, dog gets frozen marrow bone. Dog sees shoes, dog gets squeaky stuffed toy.  Remove your shoes from his vicinity when you're not around so he loses the memory of how good it felt to chew on them, and they only remind him of how good it is to chew on his own things.
Result: Dog learns that chewing on his own things feels good. Having your shoes around reminds him that chewing on his own things feels good. Having your shoes around makes him want to chew on his own things.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pet Parents or Pet Owners?

There's been a general push by the pet industry to market the idea of "pet parenting."  This includes encouraging pets to sleep in our beds, eat gourmet food, and engage in other such practices that are usually only reserved for the human members of our families.  Also, it means putting the same amount and type of resources into pet care as we do for child care.  

The foundation for this concept has clearly existed for quite some time.  Pet owners do owe their pets proper love and care for the duration of their lives - that is the pact we make when we take ownership of them.  That means that throughout financial hardships, life changes and other bumps in the road, we still have to provide for our pets.  For this reason, the pet industry has long been considered "recession-proof."  But companies like Petco and PetSmart are taking this to a new level.  They want to grow and solidify their business, so they're upping the ante for human investment in their furry counterparts.

But what does the concept of "pet parenting" mean, really?  This article in Slate talks about the implications.  I think there's certainly some merit to the author's argument that pet owning and parenting a child should be separate ideas.  But, I see pet parenting as a separate thing from parenting already.  Dogs have different needs than children, obviously.  Pets play a different role in our lives than our kids do, for sure.  But does that mean that we still don't parent our pets, in a way?  We still have to equip them to live in the world comfortably and efficiently.  We have to provide for their emotional, physical and nutritional needs.  Owning a plant is different - we have no obligation to the emotional lives of our plants, but we do need to provide it with nutrition and physical safety.  So those two things might be the defining factors of "parenting" -- providing for emotional well-being and instruction on how to exist in the world, both of which we do for our dogs and cats as well as for our kids. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Salty Paws Solution


I live near Prospect Park.  I took advantage of the snow day to bring my dog to the meadow to romp in the snow (which he loves - he's truly a sight to behold).  I saw at least three people on the sidewalks carrying their dogs (one definitely over 60 lbs) to avoid the salt stinging their poor paws.  I would have done the same exact thing.

BUT, my dog was wearing booties.  And I did my homework - the best booties are the ones WITH VELCRO.  All other ones will come off.  My dog has houdini-ed his way out of many a bootie.  True, running in 2 feet of snow in a meadow will knock off any kind of doggie footwear, but I take off the booties when we get to the meadow because there's no salt there anyway.

If your dog has paw sensitivity issues, there is definitely hope.  My own dog would cower and hide when he sensed I was even thinking about coming within a foot of his paws.  With a little desensitization and counterconditioning, we worked through it, and now I put his booties on by tapping each leg one by one and saying "Lift." It can be done.

And now, here's a hilarious video of dogs wearing booties for the first time.  Don't worry, they get used to it.