What not to get for Christmas if ……..

Aunty Pen gives some advice on what not to get for Christmas

Aunty Pen gives some advice on what not to get for Christmas

Last week, while walking past two ladies talking in the supermarket I heard the most awful words that a rescuer can ever hear……”We are getting the kids a puppy for Christmas, Caitlin loves to snuggle with tiny puppies…she’s going to be so excited.”
All I could do was sigh and hope that these doting parents get a dose of reality before going to a breeder and buying some poor little dog to be their daughters plaything.
I am putting this message out today in the hope that anyone thinking of adding to their family will please stop and take a moment before they take the plunge. Consider the responsibility of having a dog…the time investment, the financial investment and the fact that they make absolutely crap baby sitters!
Please don’t get a dog for your kids to watch and take care of unless YOU are going to supervise and pick up the slack when your kids get bored and move on to the next bright shiny new thing, as they all surely do…kids being kids and all.
Please don’t get a dog if you think that they should never growl if they are unhappy or feel threatened, or if you are one of those people that think that all dogs should let kids do anything they like to them.
Please don’t get a dog unless you are prepared for a lot of poop on your floors over the years, the possibility of chewed furniture, sandwiches being viewed as communal property and the embarrassment of Aunty Margarets leg being ferociously shagged during family get togethers when puppy Fido gets overwhelmed with excitement.
Please don’t get a dog if your idea of exercise is a two minute trot round the cul de sac and the dog should then be ‘happy’ to play on his own in the back yard. Please rethink getting a puppy if you think training classes are a waste of time, or that your dog should just be grateful to have a home with you; or if you are gone all day and have after school activities all evening.
Get a dog if you want to care for another living being for the next fifteen years or so…….. one that can’t talk, understands less than ten percent of what you say and gets his thrills sniffing someone else’s butt and rolling in dead stuff.
They are different to us, and if you do it right it isn’t always easy; some dogs are complicated, some dogs are high energy and high maintenance, some come to us with issues.
If you go into dog ownership understanding these facts and you still want a dog, then please go for it, you will never be more loved and you will never know such joy as when you get awakened by a wet nose on your face. Pure bliss….
But why not make life easier for you and the dog? Instead of getting the cute puppy who’s only going to look like that for a few months anyway, why not adopt a slightly older rescue dog?
There’s an old saying among dog professionals…’You never know the dog you’ve got until they’re two’.
Adopting a dog closer to two means you know exactly what youre getting, what he likes, what he dislikes, how he feels about people, food, other dogs, kids, motorbikes…….it takes the guesswork and thus, the pain, out of bringing this little furry stranger into your home.
Don’t get a puppy for the kids for Christmas….instead, get a new family member for the whole family to enjoy and care for. Do your homework, adopt wisely, for personality instead of looks, and your life will then be exponentially richer…… I guarantee it.

Thank You Sir Anthony Hopkins

Less than an hour into Sundays visit Bandit walks with Ava totally unconcerned

Less than an hour into Sundays visit Bandit walks with Ava totally unconcerned

One of my favorite films ever is a film called ‘The Edge’ starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin; it’s a 1997 survival story in which the two main characters are being chased by a bear in the wilderness.
If you have seen the movie, you will know that Sir Anthony Hopkins has a much used phrase that forms the backdrop of their very survival.
He wants to try and kill the bear, and when Alec Baldwins character doubts that he can do so, asking how a mere man can hope to take on a giant Kodiak with a thirst for man blood, Hopkins points to a picture of a young man killing a bear on his matchbox, and insists to his companion “What one man can do, another can do”.
I love that phrase. I use it every day, and more importantly, I believe it.
Every day, I meet with people who don’t believe that their dogs can ever be socialized with other dogs, or be around children, or walk nicely in a crowd of people, or whatever their problem is….they cannot visualize that their dogs can break the patterns of behavior that have imprisoned them for so long.
So I have to let them first see that it can be done. Then they will believe it to be possible. Then, and only then, will they get the confidence to go with the program, having already seen a glimmer of what their dog is capable of.
On Sunday, we had the honor of working with beautiful Anatolian Shepherd dog Bandit, who presented with severe dog aggression issues.
During the home consult, I was told the depth of his problem, and as no other dogs were present in the vicinity for me to test his reaction to them, suggested that his family brought Bandit out to the Ranch on Sunday for us to see the magnitude of the issue.
Now at this point, I should tell you that Bandit, while not a 1000 pound Kodiak bear with a blood thirst, is a whopping 130 pounds and has pulled over and dragged his poor mum yards along the floor, dislocating her shoulder and damaging her neck and spine in an attempt to get at a passing dog on their street. So, he was no pussycat either….
I knew that in order to get buy in on any action plan from the family, I was going to have to prove that he was capable of rehabilitation, otherwise they would not be willing to chance another fiasco. And rightly so…..
On Sunday, after a short walk in the meadow to lessen his stress in this new environment, we introduced Bandit, through the chain link fence to Ava, our ‘trigger dog’ and undoubtedly the hardest working girl at the Ranch.
True to form, Bandit went nuts, gave off all of the signals that we would expect, teeth baring, fangs dripping, puffed up physical posturing and plenty of whipping his body around so that she could see how nimble he was…..dogs in the wild show off their prowess at being speedy all of the time. It’s a way of showing newcomers who’s fastest, strongest, built for the hunt, and my Freddie does it every single day without fail when we have a dog in that he might perceive as a challenge. Its more effective than teeth baring, more awesome to watch than any pissing contest, he just takes off running and no one can catch him. (Of course, I have to add rather quietly, that he never seems to attempt this particular show of ‘I’m the King’ when we have whippets and greyhounds in.Lol)
Throughout Bandits’ posturing, Ava stood looking bored to tears, which is what she does beautifully in situations like these, and why she works for us full time on aggression cases now. Bandits family were very well behaved and didn’t panic, didn’t murmur and just remained completely neutral as I had asked them to do. That is a big ask of anyone, and I was very proud of them.
Over the course of the next hour, Kirsten and I worked with Bandit and Ava together up on the roadway; within 5 minutes the lungeing had stopped. An hour after their arrival, Bandit was happily walking four feet away from Ava towards his family, calm and easy.
The family now had complete buy in of their dogs’ ability to change, all they had to do now was to put into practice the protocols that we use here at the Ranch….Watching a chubby, menopausal, forty nine year old eccentric Brit do it, without special collars, choking devices, cattle prods and the like, these people left the Ranch thinking, ‘Well, if she can get him to be like that, then of course we can!’ (They were all younger, smarter and  fitter than me, I have to add).
What one man can do, another can do.
It’s what inspires kids to become Olympians. It’s what compels people to climb Mount Everest. It’s what keeps us going when every single thought in our head is that we should go home, crawl into our bed and shout ‘I give up!’
I’m nothing special, just a regular person like you. I don’t possess special powers, I am not particularly strong.
It’s just that I see it, I believe it, therefore I can.
With your challenged dog, don’t give up. If I can do this, you certainly can…it just takes a change of thinking, a new attitude and a new belief in yourself and your dog.
What one man can do, another can do……what a mantra!
Thank you Sir Anthony Hopkins!

 

 

 

A feel good story to start the week

Toby returns to the Ranch, this time on vacation, and says hello to old friend Levi

Toby returns to the Ranch, this time on vacation, and says hello to old friend Levi

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young beagle called Toby, who had the softest brown and white fur you ever could imagine. His eyes were like those of a deer, soft and brown and warm. He was kind and sweet natured and had a funny bark that sounded like a yodel.
But Toby had had a run of bad luck; he had been hit by a car in Jackson County (Georgia) and had a badly injured leg. He was picked up by Animal Control where they fully expected to see his family come in begging to know where their sweet dog was.
They waited and waited….
Toby’s time was up after a week, and the staff would normally have had to put Toby down to make room for other dogs, but the staff at Animal Control felt so sure that someone must be missing this dear, sweet little boy, so they waited some more. Week’s went by, and no one came for him, and each day the staff grew to love this little guy more and more. They sent out emails and made countless calls to ask if anyone would please take this special little dog who had stolen their hearts.
When no one offered to help, they made one last phone call, to a lady whom they knew to be overwhelmed with rescue dogs herself, but who they knew had a heart as big as Texas. She ran a rescue called Gracies Place, named after her own beautiful lab who had sadly died of cancer. This lady’s whole life was about saving dogs. They had tried very hard not to call her, because they knew that this lady, Joni, was very tired and had no room to take in any more dogs. However, they knew that this dog was something special and she was his last hope…..
Joni went up to Animal Control and immediately said she would take him away with her, and so young Toby hopped up in the back of her car like he knew exactly where he was going and rode quietly on the front seat all the way to Joni’s home, where she had a huge pack of happy mutts who lived happily on a couple of acres in the country.
He walked in the door, greeted all of her other dogs like he knew them by name, with a gentle tail wag and a happy expression, and then promptly plopped down on a nearby dog bed, rolled on his back with his legs in the air and sighed contentedly.
Joni giggled and said to her husband James…”I think they were right about this dog, he really is something special!”
Toby settled in very quickly to life at Joni’s house; he clearly enjoyed being part of a huge pack and loved the food she served. He spent many hours roaming her woodlands with his new found pals, meanwhile Joni set about trying to find a permanent home for this wonderful boy.
She called her best friend Penny, who had worked with Joni for a few years at the rescue helping with behavioral cases, and asked Penny if she knew of anyone who could provide a perfect home for this amazingly unflappable and sweet little dog.
It just so happened that one of Penny’s clients was looking for such a dog and so a meeting was set up at Penny’s Ranch, where Toby wowed the visitors, played beautifully with their dog, Indie, and romped happily in the meadow at the Ranch, showing off his good manners.
Toby stayed at ‘Aunty’ Pen’s Ranch for a week while he waited to go to his new home, and Penny found him to be everything Joni had said…adorable, well mannered, house trained, no faults at all! Penny just knew that this dog was going to wow Indie’s parents.
Penny dropped Toby off at his new home, sad to see him leave, but happy that he was going to get a great new home with people who were just going to adore him.
Less than 24 hours later, Indie’s mum called Penny and told her Toby had to be returned because he was an ardent chewer!
Toby came back to the Ranch, and because Joni didnt have room for him to go back to her house (she had saved another death row dog as she felt so sure Toby wouldnt be coming back) Penny offered to foster him at the Ranch and continue looking for his perfect forever home.
As months passed, Toby settled into life at the Ranch like he was born there. He apprenticed under Levi, head of the ‘Fearful Dogs and Puppy Division’, and set to work helping out and learning all he could. Every day there would be a new challenge, some poor dog who was frightened of people, or some poor dog who was frightened of cars…but mostly Toby worked with dogs who were frightened of other dogs.
His easy going ways and calm greeting skills made him an accomplished helper, but none moreso than with Haley Spotts.
Haley is a German Shepherd who had issues with other dogs and was on her second home when Mr And Mrs Spotts came to Penny for help.
After a consultation at their home, they brought Haley to the Ranch to stay for some work on her socialization issues. At first, she was snapping at every single dog, lunging and snarling, ears back, mean as an old man with tooth ache. This was absolutely a job for Levi and his new sidekick, ‘Toby Tinkle’, as he had come to be known.
After just five hours at the Ranch, Haley was play bowing and chasing, joyful and carefree, a completely different dog. At the Ranch, dogs are used to fix dogs….it helps them because they instantly understand the body language of the dog working with them. In this case, the transformation was quick and miraculous…Haley has had no more issues with dogs at all, and has been a frequent visitor to the Ranch where she plays beautifully with all of the other dogs off leash and fancy free……..thanks to Toby Tinkle, the little miracle worker.
As time passed, Toby got more and more enmeshed in Ranch life, but his Aunty Penny couldn’t keep him at the Ranch…there was only room for one foster, and he was such a great dog, he would be easy to place in a home, surely? Then Auty Pen would have room to help another poor dog…it was sad, heartbreaking actually but the right thing to do…
Joni then called to say that a Gracies Place adopter had fallen in love with him on the website and wanted to add to the dog they adopted last year from the rescue. Toby fitted the bill.
So, Toby trotted off to North Carolina with his new family and Penny and Joni shed a tear as they drove off, thinking they would never see him again. Twenty four hours later, he was back to the Ranch again!
He had refused to play with the other dog, sat in the corner the whole time at the new house, chewed a few bits and pieces here and there and was generally, a right little so and so! After three months of exemplary behavior at the Ranch, this little man was really acting up and neither Joni or Aunty Pen could understand it…..what was this young man up to?
A week later, regular client Pam asked about adopting Toby….the perfect union, it would seem, as Toby and her dog Carly were great friends at the Ranch during her frequent stays. Pam fell madly in love with Toby when she met him, and off he went to her house.
A week later, Pam called Penny crying with frustration. She had just returned home from work, and Toby had her curtains wrapped around him like a Roman Toga, looking mightily pleased with himself; Pams shoes were now without heels and all of her prized designer underwear was chewed through til the brassieres looked like pigs ears.
Hmmmmmm…this was really becoming a problem. What on earth was going on?
Pam stuck at it for another week or so, during which time Toby chewed cushions, rugs, clothing, tore down more window dressings and generally desecrated the poor womans house. Add to this he started being a greedy little beggar and eating anything that was left out, and it was easy to see why Pam decided that this trial had gone on long enough, and was REALLY  becoming a trial!
So back he went to Aunty Pens. Yet again, at the Ranch, he was just the perfect house guest, not a moments trouble, always polite and courteous with the other dogs, always respectful of the house, always patient around mealtimes.
Joni and Penny had a pow wow, and just sat there scratching their heads for hours, wondering what on earth was the trouble with Toby, in all of these new homes? More importantly, what could they do about it?
Christmas came, and Aunty Pen was full with boarders at the Ranch, and so Toby went to stay back at Joni’s house, where he hadn’t been for about 6 months or so. The two ladies were very concerned that he would be a real handful again, being that it was different to the Ranch, and how he had been so badly behaved at three other homes, but in he trotted, plopped down on the same dog bed as he had done that very first day, greeted everyone politely and rolled straight on his back, paws in the air as if to say ‘I’m home.’
On New Years Eve Joni called Penny and said that she had decided to keep Toby because he was just the perfect dog and she thought that he had let everyone know every clearly EXACTLY where he wanted to be.
She had seen the New Year in at midnight, chinked glasses with her husband, looked at her happy pack and asked Toby if he would like to be a permanent member of her family?
He got up off his dog bed, licked her face all over and then settled down on her lap, a big contented smile all over his face.
This little dog had decided that he wanted to be in either one of two places, nowhere else was going to do, and so he had acted up time and time again until he got back to where he wanted to be, with the family of his dreams.
The little guy is staying at the Ranch this week; he hasn’t been here in about twelve months or so, but he ran through the gates, kissed everyone hello, especially his old friend and mentor Levi, and since his arrival has been the calm, happy, adorable hound that we met and fell in love with, nothing chewed, not a cushion out of place.
Clever little Toby, the stubborn little dog who knew what he wanted, reached for the stars and wasn’t going to settle for anything less!

 

What difference can a piece of string make ?

Hoss calmer for his piece of string

Hoss calmer for his piece of string

It’s nothing really…just a four foot piece of string tied to a dogs’ collar. What good is that going to do? How’s that going to change the world?
In the above picture, Hoss, our foster dog, has a piece of yellow string tied to his collar, I know its not very grand and certainly not befitting a gorgeous dog like Hoss, but that piece of string does a very important job.
When Hoss is playing too rough, or we need to calm him down, we tie that piece of string on his collar and he calms down within seconds. It is as if we push a magic button.
I have to be honest, it doesn’t work this way with every dog; but it does work with a dog whom you have a great relationship with, one who seriously values his freedom of movement like hunting and working breeds, a dog who is touch sensitive and one who has been leash trained.
Here at the Ranch, we use the short trailing leash to remind the dog that he isn’t completely free to make all of the decisions. We want him to remember that while he may be free to run and play, he is answerable to someone. The trailing line dragging on the floor as he runs is a symbol of his connection to us.
The feeling of the leash connecting with the ground below is hard for a sensitive dog to ignore as it sloughs around on the earth or concrete below his neck, so it acts as a signal to him to watch his behavior.
Kind of the canine equivalent of the WWJD bracelet worn by Christians all over the world to remind them as they use their dominant hand, to use it appropriately………In this case though, I want Hoss to think WWAPD? (What would Aunty Pen do…..?)
If ever Hoss, or any guest, disregards the string and continues to play inappropriately, we then go to level two and pop a leash on him in the field and have him walk beside one of us for about five minutes. It’s a simple form of time out where the dog feels the consequences of his action even moreso than if he were put up and away as he can see the play, hear it, and experience everyone else having a good time, but hes being stopped from joining in.
We sometimes have to put dogs into a real time out, but its very rare once they know the drill here, and even then, only for severe behavior that might lead to injury. In those cases, we instigate a time out inside the house for a few minutes (three max) and then lead the dog to a quieter area with different dogs of a different energy level.
I’m very well aware that these measures are akin to dealing with children and of course, that’s very much the way we deal with dogs here at the Ranch. Its all about boundaries, respect, guidance and love.
We operate on a policy here of ‘Least invasive, minimally aversive’ which basically means ‘As hands off as possible and as little unpleasantness as possible’…
No need to shock the living crap out of some poor dog for inappropriate behavior, that just seriously damages brain function.
No need to put him on his side and do the outmoded Alpha roll…that’s just basically telling the dog you can kill him if you want to, take him any time you please because you’re the big cheese…..a little over the top for your best friend, huh?
No need to smack him on the nose or the rump…..that just tells him you’re an idiot that doesn’t understand dog behavior. Dogs don’t smack each other, and they have no conception of why we do that.
The ‘time out’ in either of these forms is a really great way to check your dogs behavior…it gives him time to settle, then rethink his behavior and reboot. We want the dog to learn from his mistakes, so giving a mini time out in situ, so that he can go ahead and get a do over is a great learning opportunity.
So for Hoss, who was playing a little too physically with Gunnar yesterday, the three times that we checked his behavior by popping the leash on him, presented three opportunities………..1) to catch the behavior, 2) make the point, and 3) drive it home.
…And no animals were hurt during the making of this point!

 

Watch Out …. there’s a snake in the grass

Freddie takes a leisurely stroll through the meadow unaware of the dangers around him !!!!

Freddie takes a leisurely stroll through the meadow unaware of the dangers around him !!!!

One of the DD family saw that poor Hoss’s leg had been shaved in a picture yesterday and asked if he was sick…well, the answer is, no he’s fine, but he and his pals Freddie and Zoe, got bit by a copperhead snake three days ago and so they had to spend the day at Dr Bettekers on IV fluids, and have an antibiotic shot, a benadryl shot and be under observation as precautionary measures.
This year, because of the weather, snakes have been far more prevalent than ever before, with copperhead sightings in subdivisions in Suwanee, Dacula, Chateau Elan, Sterling on the Lake to name but a few, and these are just what I hear from my clients. One poor child got bitten last month when a copperhead was coiled around the handle bar of his motorcycle in the garage. Its just too frightening!
On the whole, most local snakes (with the exception of cottonmouths who are just thugs) just want to be left alone to kill mice and rats, eat them, digest them and sleep in cool places. In humid cooler morning weather, they will bask in temperatures of around 68-70 degrees which is most likely what the little horror that bit my three babies was doing when they all decided to terrorise it.
Freddie clearly spied the snake a while ago as has been going nuts at the woodpile over the last week; Hoss, now firmly back at the Ranch and back in full time hunting mode, thinks it’s his duty in life to assist Freddie in whatever killing spree Freddie indulges in; Zoe is in love with the both of them so wants to be a part of whatever they are doing…….. So the three of them no doubt upset a poor snake who just wanted a bit of peace and quiet to enjoy his morning bask and wouldn’t leave him alone, so he did what dogs do when they too are pissed…he bit them.
Does it upset me? Yes that they got bitten, but not that they did so doing what they were programmed to do. All three of them, with thanks to the wonderful staff at Chateau Animal Hospital who, as usual, got us in to see Dr B pronto and ensured that the three amigos were taken care of beautifully, are doing well, albeit with some ‘Nutty Professor’ type features around their muzzles!
Of course, we don’t want our dogs to get hurt, but the whole point of DD is to give dogs a ‘taste of the wild’ so to speak, where they can run free, breathe, hunt, play, roll, dig…do all the things they want to do, completely unfettered. The very environment that provides a plethora of chipmunks, gophers and rabbits to chase and kill will always be a habitat to more darker forces, its just the way Nature is, and I love and understand that about this golden land we live in…..
DD by design is the antithesis of the ‘tame’ rubber floored indoor play area that has become so prevalent over the last decade in America, where the dogs are treated like children and actually have kids play equipment to play on. I have nothing against such establishments and feel very strongly that in the absence of enough outdoor off leash play areas for dogs, there is a need for any environment where dogs can mingle freely with other dogs.
It’s just that, it’s not what WE are about.
So, Pete and I were faced with a dilemma this weekend. Do we rip down the woodpiles that the dogs love so much because of course that is where the snakes like to hang out? Do we stop using the meadows completely until October? Do we put repellent down? That is…if such a thing really is effective against snakes?
Actually, we took advice from snake experts and decided that we were never going to rid our land of snakes, no one can completely do so on any piece of land, which is why the little buggers are all over subdivisions, parks, farms…. you name it, they are there.
But what we can do is make sure the dogs don’t disturb the snakes and piss them off to the point that they feel inclined to bite them.
So, we are going to fence off the woodpiles and give the snakes some breathing space and the ground cover they so desire, and ensure the dogs cannot get to their habitat and disrupt them. Meanwhile, we will set traps in the fenced areas so that we can catch and remove the snakes as we are able.
We firmly believe in live and let live and everything by Gods design.
In His infinite wisdom, he decreed that there would be snakes to kill rodents and keep insects in check.
In His infinite wisdom he decreed that they would inhabit our environment and keep it clean for us.
I’m not going to argue with the Big Guy, but I don’t want any more bitten dogs thankyou very much, so, just for the summer, the woodpiles have to go and we won’t be using them to do outdoor nose work. Don’t worry, we have more than enough activities and places to sniff to keep our beloved rascals (sorry, guests!!) happy here at the Ranch.
Of course if any of you just happens to know a snake wrangler or one of those guys that comes along with a flute and a basket and gets the snakes to follow him all the way to pastures new, I’m all ears!
Stay cool out there, folks and God bless.
x

 

Phew …… it’s hot !!!

Phew its hot out there

Phew its hot out there

I love living in Georgia…for about nine months of the year.
The other three months are too hot for a British chick of the larger variety, especially as my job involves being outside all day working in the hot sun, walking, swimming and ugh…picking up dog poop!
But it could be worse…I could be a dog.
Last week I got a phone call from a new client whose dog had been visiting one of those doggy daycares where the dogs run around a former car park as their outdoor ‘funtime’. It was 90 degrees in the shade, and the dog had badly burned his paws on the asphalt, leading her to have to make an expensive trip to the vets for salve and the poor dog had to have his feet bound for a week.
The staff were inexperienced and hadn’t noticed that the dogs were uncomfortable and were actively seeking shade, of which there was little. There was no other surface for the dogs to play on and so the dogs were all suffering dreadfully….how painful and how needless!
Be mindful of this when you walk your dog in your subdivision, even up until 8 o clock at night I have experienced boiling hot sidewalks. In this heat, morning walks are better, as concrete retains heat for hours after the sun goes down (just so you know, that is why so many animals get killed on the road, they’re not always looking to cross the road in the middle of the night, sometimes they just want to feel the heat that the road retains…)  so evening walks are best later at night when the sidewalks finally cool.
However, this is only one possible injury to the dog during this hot weather…..
Everybody knows not to leave their dogs in hot cars, but you would never believe how many people leave their dogs in their garage while they go to work all day, with the window open maybe just a crack for fresh air.
Garages are not the safest place to leave a dog at the best of times as too often they contain chemicals or cleaning fluids that are hazardous in extreme temperatures, but with little or no air flow, they just become a hot box. If theres nowhere else to leave your dog, and I would really urge you to seek out every other possibility, consider a huge indoor cage (they come as big as 10×10) so that Fido can be safe from harm, remove all combustibles and hazardous items from the garage, and then install a huge fan in front of a wide open window and maybe even leave the garage door open a little too, so that air can circulate freely. Always leave masses of fresh water for your dog, but consider freezing some of his water in the bottom of the bowl overnight so that it will remain cooler for longer when he has it with him during the day.
Many people dont believe that the dog should have water in a crate; Uh No!
All dogs, without exception, must have access to fresh water at all times by law, just as it is their basic right to have adequate shelter.
Never leave your dog crated all day without giving him a really good run first so that he is good and tired, and make sure he is well fed, plus leave a few treats for him and some toys filled with treats. Nothing worse than being hot, lonely, bored and hungry!
Black dogs suffer more in the heat than lighter coloured ones, as black absorbs heat. However, don’t think that this means your light skinned dog gets off lightly…pale dogs with pink skin can also succumb to the sun and get terrible sunburn.
Sunblock on a pale skinned or thinly covered dog with sparse hair can be a great idea if you have to have your dog out in the sun, and a wet childs white t shirt can really be useful to put on your dog if you have to go out in the sun with your black dog. Of course, the best idea is to minimise the dog’s exposure to the sun and ensure there is plenty of shade available; these are merely  possible solutions if your dog has to be out in the sun.
Here at the DD Ranch, we are lucky to have all grass, and a mixture of meadows and woods for the dogs to play in, so we use the areas wisely. First thing in the morning, we use the open grass areas more for the dogs to really run and frolic to their hearts content. At lunchtime when the sun is hot, we tend to use the swimming pool more to cool the dogs down, then in the later afternoon, we tend to use the woodpiles and the wooded areas, which are shaded, to do nosework and hunt for meatballs and sausage under the shade of the trees.
There is another reason we tend to use the meadow more than the woods in the morning; snakes are more likely to be out basking in the cooler morning air (snakes like temperatures of around 68 degrees to lie out in, they mostly prefer to disappear into a hole when temperatures soar). While no land in Georgia is impervious to snakes, minimizing the risks of meeting one just makes sense.
When walking with your dog, stomp the ground when you venture near an area where there may be snakes, such as flower beds or under bushes. If you see a snake, avoid it…they don’t really want to bite under normal circumstances, mostly they want to be left alone and only bite if they feel threatened.
If you have a long haired dog like a retriever or a husky, consider shaving him for the hot weather…….
Now, many groomers will be wanting to shake me for suggesting such a thing as it is commonly held that the long hair keeps the dog cool. This is true, but only when the owner takes the time to make sure there are no matts in the hair with daily brushing. I have few clients who have the time or inclination for that. If the underhair is matted, there is no air circulation under the top hair and so the skin cannot breathe properly.  Shaving your dog down is basically removing the fur coat he has to lug around all his life…not a bad idea when the temperatures soar into the nineties, is it?
One last point on this, if your long haired dog loves to swim, be sure to dry him off completely right down to the skin. Wet hair lingering around on his skin for too long provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria in this heat, leading to fast growing hot spots that can be quite frightening. If you don’t want to shave him down, then be sure to settle him down after his swim in front of a fan that will dry him off completely and get to all the bits you missed…..
The heat can play havoc with the dogs’ digestive system and his appetite….what he likes to eat and can tolerate in the winter might not be okay for him in the summer. Here at the Ranch, we tend to include a small amount of rice in the food in the summer for dogs that can tolerate it; rice soaks up a lot of water during the cooking, which translates to more water entering your dogs’ body via an easily digestible food. We use lighter proteins in the summer, like chicken and turkey and white fish. We still use beef and lamb on occasion, but just like you prefer to eat different foods in the summer, so will your dog. If she’s off her food, think about what you can give her that will suit how she feels in the heat.
Some people will advise you to leave the AC on in your car if you take your dog out and have to leave it alone in the car….
My advice to you?………Unless its absolutely necessary, don’t leave your dog alone in the car at all….plan all of your outings that involve your dog in advance and go from point A to point B without stopping. Car engines can cut out leaving the dog in a car with no windows open and no AC;  Dogs can poke at knobs and buttons inadvertently rendering the car boiling hot within seconds…it’s just not worth it.
Lastly, in all things, try to see life from your dogs point of view….he may hate to swim, but he might just enjoy lying in a wading pool. He may not want a drink, but he may enjoy sucking on ice cubes. He may not want to walk on the sidewalk, but he might enjoy a nightime game of ball or some nosework hunting for hidden treats out in the backyard. He may not fancy his regular snack, but, just like you, he might enjoy some doggy ice cream. His harness may chafe him in the heat, so he might enjoy a nice cold cloth fresh from the fridge placed under it before he goes for a walk, or a cold bandanna under his collar…think about the things that will make you feel better in this heat and try and apply them to your dog where appropriate. He’ll thank you for it!

Feeling the Pinch

DD favorite Solo shows off his Martingale Collar here at the Ranch

DD favorite Solo shows off his Martingale Collar here at the Ranch

Anyone that fills out an application form to bring their dog to the Ranch, for any kind of visit, will have seen that we are insistent that the dog wears a well fitted collar.
Despite this being made clear on the form, you have no idea how many people send their dogs to me with collars that are too small, collars that are way too big and slip over their head, or collars that fall apart the minute any strain is put upon them.
There is a perception with some owners that the collar is like a kind of window dressing for the dog, a vehicle for all kinds of sweet embroidery and Swarovski crystals being paraded around to draw gasps of admiration from passers by.
Uh, No!
The collar is worn by law so that the dog can be identified should it get away from the owner, hence the legal requirement for tags in most counties, and is also there as a means of restraint.
I know no one likes to think that they might have to restrain their dog in any situation by having to grab the collar but the truth is, we have all been there at some point in our lives with our dogs; even though we might rather that the dog would just come to call every time.
Life’s not like that, is it folks?
About three weeks ago, I was taking in a dog for daycare, and as the owner got him out of her car, he slipped his collar and ran off up the road. Other than the obvious advice to not chase the dog as she was inclined to do (they love a good game of chase…you have more chance of your dog returning if you turn and run in the opposite direction, or opening the car door and saying ‘you wanna go for a ride?’) I did explain to her that the collar wasn’t a big help.
So, whats the best kind of collar for a dog to wear? How do you have a collar on thats tight enough for the dog to not slip out of it, and loose enough that hes not trussed up like a Thanksgiving Turkey?
The answer is a Martingale collar. Martingales are double loop collars that fit comfortably and loosely around the neck so that the dog hardly knows hes wearing it, and then, when a leash is attached, it tightens to neck size and  cannot be slipped out of. The best of both worlds, and we love ‘em here at the ranch.
Theyre pretty cheap at the big box stores like Petsmart and Petco (normally under ten bucks) and its the best choice for daycare and boarding establishments. No one likes to see a dog with a collar thats too tight, it leads to stress, which leads to snappiness, and a perfectly good dog with no issues can become very ornery with a tight collar on. Boarding establishments are always advised never to remove collars from dogs staying with them for safety reasons, however we hate having uncomfortable dogs in our midst…the Martingale solves the problem. The dog can’t slip out backwards and run off, plus hes really unaware of the collar the rest of the time. I have Freddie and the crew in Wiggles Wags and Whiskers Martingale collars that look beautiful (hand made with velvet lining) but are also safe and comfortable. People who cant stand to not have the bling effect will be amply rewarded for looking on their website…the collars are gorgeous, and we’ll order them for you at a discount from website prices.
And what happened to the dog that ran off? Sadly they never found him…just kidding! He saw the car door open, heard her ask if he wanted to go for a ride and hightailed it back to the car to go for a ride with his Momma.
Stay safe out there.