Someone Cares

www.desperatedogsusa.com HudsonLast summer, I went on a trip with two very close friends of mine, and one night, after the days activities, we sat with a glass of wine in our room, chatting about life, friendships, loves we have had and lost, and relationships in general.
As we drew the conversation to a close, Christine, one of the ladies I was with, said “At the end of the day, all anyone ever really wants to know is that someone cares about them.”
It seems such an obvious thing, doesn’t it?
But when you think about it, caring is a lot more than just paying lipservice or liking something on Facebook, it’s more than a quick chat, its more than a speedy wave. Caring is about letting someone know, in no uncertain terms, that they matter.
How do we go about this?
It’s easy, we just give them our time, our touch, our attention.
We just need to empathize with them, understand the burdens they carry…..for make no mistake, every man, woman, child, dog, snake, grasshopper carries a burden.
What does this have to do with dogs ?
Everything, to anyone with a heart…………
Here at the DD Ranch we very often have to work with sad or displaced dogs. Sure they may live with a family, but they can still be emotionally bereft because nobody saw the dog as needing to know that he actually mattered to someone. He was just seen as ‘the family pet’, fed, watered and walked once in a blue moon. It’s never enough….dogs, just like us humans, have emotional needs; their sense of belonging to a family or pack needs to be confirmed daily.
Years ago, I decided to eschew, much to the disagreement of my fellow dog professionals, the use of treats as an everyday part of rehabilitating fearful or aggressive dogs. We still use them on occasion for training certain behaviors like recall or maybe sit, but very rarely.
Instead, I decided to make everything we do here relationship based, in the truest sense of the word. I had seen many dogs, mine included, become the mindless followers of walking food containers (us owners with our treat bags) and I got fed up with just being seen so one dimensionally by this little being that I adored so much. Surely there had to be a better way of instilling trust, and a will to follow me, than lining my pockets full of hot dogs?
I read what many behaviorists had to say on the subject, and very quickly gravitated towards the point of view of John Rogerson, whose brilliance in this field cannot be overstated, and who says that the greatest gift we can give our dogs is the gift of play.
I liked it, I liked it a lot.
It reminded me very much of my oldest friend who, whenever you visited her home, her kids hands were covered in paint, she was always making cookies and cakes with them, she laughed as they created a tornado’s worth of chaos in her living room, and always had time to stop what she was doing to play, play and play some more. As they grew older, the play time became more about listening time.
I then thought about all of the parents I have known to be brilliant, who had the very best relationship with their children (and make no mistake, owning and rearing a dog is exactly the same, it’s just that your four legged kid can run faster and bite you in the ass!) and made a mental note of the things that they did that made it work so well.
The common factor in every single case was that they all let their children know that they cared. Not in the Hollywood, arm around the shoulder kind of way or a quick disposable hug with a passing ‘I love you, son’, they actually spent time with them, listened more than they talked and were always available. It was that simple.
So, we decided to start a new protocol at the Ranch, or what was the Ranch before we moved out here to Braselton, and its been so successful we have stuck with it.
First thing in the morning, at 6.45 am when they all get let out, all the dogs are eager to start the new day. We let them go do their business, then we have all the dogs come to us one by one: the pushy ones get sent off to wait their turn, and as we sit there in our nasty old bathrobes on a chair in the back yard, everyone gets a loving hand on their body, wherever they tell us they’d like it. Ears are tickled, bellies are rubbed, we go nose to head, drinking in the scent of those we know well, and chin scratches and chest rubs for those that we dont.
We look and smile at them warmly, if only to let them know we are so very very glad to see them. We whisper that they are loved and that they are beautiful. We make kissy lip smacking noises into the head fur next to the ears of those who like it, as this reminds them of the suckling sound from their days with Mama. (By the way, this technique also works very well if you have a non-aggressive dog who doesn’t like having their nails cut or being handled at the vets…you as the trusted owner can do this and transport the dog to a sweeter place). We play a little……. making big wide eyes in surprise when they lick us or respond to a gentle game. We do an Oscar worthy version of a sad face when they look away and then laugh when they jerk back to say ‘Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore you and get you upset, Aunty Pen!’
The early morning let out normally lasts for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the weather, and throughout that whole time, we are building a relationship with those dogs. No treats, they will be breakfasting soon, and anyway, this is all about us and the dog, not about our pockets and their stomach.
Throughout the day, as they explore or play, we pay attention, not just because its our job to keep them safe, but because you cannot build a relationship with anyone while you are looking at a screen or not ‘there’. So we stay in the moment while we are with them, cheering the fearful dog who manages to build up courage to jump onto the logpile, looking ridiculously over the top pleased with the dog who comes when they are called. But also looking very sad and disappointed at the dog who does something naughty, maybe throwing a hissy fit and stomping off, slamming the door behind us for more serious crimes. I guarantee three seconds later, that dog will be at the door begging me to let him or her rejoin me so they can make things right with our relationship.
Throughout breakfast dinner and snacks, we join them, and at bed time, everyone gets tucked in with a kiss on the forehead and a last touch session, and is told that they had a great day, or that they played well, or simply that they are loved.
Some would accuse us of anthropomorhism, but I don’t see it that way. We still treat the dogs as a different species, with special needs in their own right, however, we have found, through dealing with thousands and thousands of dogs literally, that they fully respond to someone that they perceive truly cares about them.
You as a dog owner do not need a degree in dog behavior to be able to do this. All you need to do is invest some time, thought and understanding into your relationship with your dog. If you own a rescue dog, who surely comes to you with a burden of unknown proportions, then this is even more important. If that rescue dog is shy or fearful, then don’t push it, maybe for the first few days, weeks or months even, you just need to sit there, walk beside her, and let her know that when she is ready, you are there for her.
With our old girl Ava, hardest working girl at the Ranch, it took months and months, but I was patient. I’m not patient in any other area of my life, but with rehab cases, I can take all the time in the world, as I know that the longer it takes, the sweeter it will be, and the more it means to both of us. All of those months, we would walk, sit on a log, sit by the stream, hand feed her, whatever we were doing, I was just waiting for the signal that the door was opening, that she trusted a little.
When she did, it was like Christmas, Birthday, Barmitzvah, tooth fairy all rolled into one. It was the best return on investment the world has ever known, Donald Trump couldn’t have been more pleased!
If you have one New Years Resolution, make it this….Let them, whoever they may be, know that you care.
Truly care, with an investment of time, of understanding………of love.

Getting Hot Under the Collar

Freddy & Hoss show off their Union Jack Collars

Freddy & Hoss show off their Union Jack Collars

A client was picking up her dog the other evening and asked me why there were a whole bunch of collars on the fence.
I told her they were nylon collars drying as the dogs had been in the pool, and she looked surprised and told me that she just lets her collar dry on the dog.
Not a problem for some dogs, but as her dog has had hot spots in the past, I shared the following information with her and she suggested I put this out to the DD family, so here goes…….

A few years ago, love of my life (sorry Pete but there it is…..) and lead dog Freddie had a significant skin irritation and some hair loss at the throat. Because he is such a handsome beast and I hated anything to mar those dashing good looks, I took him to Dr. Betteker at Chateau Animal Hospital to see what needed to be done.
‘Throw away that nylon collar’ was his first advice.
He explained to me that nylon can be very chafing on the skin, and demonstrated by asking me to put Fred’s collar around my neck and move it back and forth mimicking the motion of the collar in everyday use.
I felt the tiny hairs on the back of my neck get caught up in the collar and get pulled out as I moved it back and forth. I went home and threw away the collar and hey presto, within a week, his hair had grown back and the irritation had cleared up completely. Thanks Dr. B!
I should have realized that dogs are no different to us in some ways; some humans cannot wear man made fibers as we get a rash or allergic reaction, especially in underwear.
Labs and retrievers tend to be more likely to get hotspots than others in our experience, and even moreso after they have been swimming or even just paddling in kiddie pools.
Last year, poor golden retriever Murphy Ward, who lives to swim, had a dreadful hotspot that started as a small area of irritation at the front of his neck in the folds of his skin and within a couple of hours was an oozing mass of bacterial infection that had taken all of his fur, was deeply irritating and left the poor dog feeling very under the weather. He didn’t want to eat, was too uncomfortable to sleep and he had zero energy for days.
It was the same for golden lab Beckham who had a nasty hot spot, which presented in the same way, in the same area.
Hot spots are fast growing and need to be jumped on ASAP, with a visit to the vets to get the area shaved for hygiene and, normally, a course of antibiotics.

Here at the Ranch if we see the beginnings of one, we ask the owners permission to pop a little diluted tea tree oil on the affected area (neat tea tree oil is too strong for the skin and can cause severe adverse reactions). Used topically only, as it is dangerous to ingest, Tea tree is a wonderful antiseptic and antifungal and has even been used to great success to treat MRSA.
Using tea tree oil is no substitute for good veterinary care however, it can help to delay the progression of symptoms while you wait for the vets office to open.
At home, for prevention of hot spots…….please, think about diet first. A dog whose diet is full of carbohydrates is going to have far more sugar in his system than the dog who doesn’t. Not only does sugar overtax the pancreas, but it creates imbalance in the body that allows for yeast overgrowth, and impairs the immune system so that the body cannot fight bacteria as well as a healthy body can. Don’t be afraid to use medicinal herbs in your dogs food, like sage and parsley; parsley is a natural diuretic that helps to flush out toxins from the body while making Fido’s food taste like it was made by Escoffier himself.

Think of using easily digestible white fish as a protein, low GI sweet potatoes or squash or pumpkin as an energy giving carb in small amounts, and use veggies like zucchini and green beans, kale, carrots and cauliflower or broccoli. Easy on the cruciferous veggies though as they can scour the system and give your dog some runny poop if they’re not accustomed to them.
If you take your dog swimming, remove his wet collar and let it dry before putting it back on.
Dry his entire body thoroughly, paying special attention to areas of folded skin like under the neck or areas that don’t get much airflow, for example under the ears or deep into the feathers on his legs.
Make use of an electric fan and try to blow the dog’s fur where possible to speed up drying time.
Hot spots form often in wet sticky places where bacteria can breed easily. Long hair lying over a sweaty body is a great breeding ground for bacteria so think about maybe shaving your dog in the summer.
I know your groomer may say that the hair protects the dog from the sun, but a longhaired dog really suffers in this Georgia heat unless he wants to spend the entire summer indoors. Think about the poor husky, who is designed for living in far cooler climes, having to wear that thick fur coat around in these 100-degree temperatures. Not really fair is it?
Both my long haired dogs get a shave during the summer months, and yes, like most dogs they look embarrassed for a few days, but that feeling of freedom and levity without the huge weight of hair is so astonishing to witness, that I wouldn’t NOT have them shaved.
Back to the collars though…….those of you who notice such things will see that all of the DD staff wear British flag (Union Jack) Martingale collars. These collars all have one thing in common and this is the reason I buy them…they are velvet or silk lined. We love Martingale collars also, as they tend to sit loose on the neck which presents far less cervical stress to the dog, but is safer as it tightens when the dog is leashed and tries to pull/ back out of it. That looseness in general wear allows for more airflow around the fur and is more comfortable in the hot weather.
The Freedom No pull harnesses that I buy are from the same company (we LOVE this harness for even the most die hard puller) and the areas around the legs that could possibly chafe the skin are also velvet lined.
I am not suggesting for one minute that you toss your nylon collar, however, if you have a dog that is susceptible to hot spots, or you have a dog with sensitive skin, purchasing a leather collar or a collar that has a smooth chafe free lining can be a great way to help keep those skin irritations at bay. It definitely works for my dogs. If I forget to take Hoss’ collar off when he gets out of the pool I don’t panic quite so much knowing he’s got no nylon next to his skin.
Knowing that I was going to be writing this, and that a host of people would be asking me where we get the collars etc. from, I took the liberty of contacting the manufacturers, Two Hounds Design, today and asked them if they would do a little ‘somethin’ somethin’ for any of the DD family that might want to order a collar or a harness.
They have very generously offered to give ten per cent discount on any order…just use promo code ‘ddogs10′ either on line or when you order by phone.
My grandmother used to say ‘Beauty is as beauty does’ meaning what’s the point of something that looks good if its useless?
I have to tell you, these collars and harnesses are gorgeous, but they are also very very well made and effective. The freedom no pull harness is the item that you will see on every single reactive dog or aggression case here at the ranch; we don’t trust anything else to stop a ferocious dog from pulling while being extremely gentle on the dogs’ body. And no, they don’t send me on a vacation to Hawaii if I recommend their collars, I just like sharing information on great products that keeps our dogs safe and healthy.
Check out the website at http://www.2houndsdesign.com (and remember to quote promo code ‘ddogs10′)
Keep an eye on this page next week as I’m going to share our secrets for remaining flea free. So many of you have asked us what we use, so I thought it was time I came clean….!
God Bless and stay cool out there.
x

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.
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