Oh No You Di’nt

www.desperatedogsusa.com Penny jpeg

I was at a friends house the other day, visiting with her and the family, and about ten minutes into my visit, one of her kids asked for a drink of water. Then the other one wanted an apple because he was hungry after soccer practice. Then they started playing and laughing, as I looked in astonished at their behavior. I didn’t give their mother a moment to even open her mouth, I immediately shouted at them,
” What the hell are you bothering your mother for? Leave her alone ! Don’t make so much noise while you’re playing ! Play silently ! Can’t you see grown ups are talking ?”
The kids started to cry and so I shouted at them even louder, making sure I had my say before their mother responded to them. Bloody kids……..how dare they open their mouth while I’m talking? What could they possibly have to say?
Rude, cruel and ridiculous right ? You want to slap me straight in the face for saying this don’t you?
So imagine how I felt when not once, but TWICE last week, male clients dropping off dogs to come and stay with us felt it was okay to shout at dogs who were in my field barking.
The dogs were happy at being at the Ranch, excited to see all the new deliveries of just-as-excited incoming dogs, and were wagging tails furiously at the fence in anticipation. That is, until some ‘Fun Sponge’ with a misguided sense of human superiority opened their mouth and started yelling at them. I was so angry I could spit, and let both men know that right off the bat, but it did also start me thinking about how many humans think it’s okay to just bark and scream at their dogs and oh so wrongly think that that’s a valid form of communication. So I thought I’d just clear a couple of things up…..

1) Dogs don’t pay more attention to you the louder you shout, unless there is a very real panic in your voice that is based on imminent danger.

2) Dogs view anyone who has to vocalize to be heard as the equivalent of a yappy dog, one of the lower members of the pack. True leadership figures in any dog pack are always cool, calm, benevolent and wise. They lead by example and with actions.

3) If you start screaming at a barking dog, he does not understand that you wish him to be quiet, he merely thinks you’re joining in the barking, which raises his level of excitement, causing him to bark even more. Hmmm, good move, how’s that working for you ?

4) Your level of impatience with a happily barking dog tells me so much more about you than you’d be comfortable with.

The Ranch is a place of calm and peace, broken only by the occasional sound of happy barks and yips. We like it that way, we spend thousands of dollars making the Ranch the kind of place that dogs are happy in, and yes, feel comfortable enough to express themselves in, however they choose to. It’s a freedom ranch for dogs, not a military style training establishment.

So here’s the deal, don’t come and shout at my guests in MY HOME, and I won’t come and shit on your lawn.

Christmas 2015 Appeal

Everyone should be with their loved ones at Christmas
For these poor dogs at Barrow County Animal Shelter in rural Georgia, that seems like an impossible dream.
Unless someone sees beyond the fear, unless someone takes a chance on them, many will not make it to see Christmas as the shelter is full.
Look at these beautiful babies, look into their eyes, see their hope, see their souls…. Aren’t these lives worth saving?

This Isn’t An Easy Request To Make ……….

Joe Jake St

“This isn’t an easy request to make.

I have given it some serious thought and wondered if you would like my children?

You see, when we decided to take the plunge and get pregnant, we didn’t realize that they were going to need so much time and money. Now they’ve been around a while, it’s been quite a few years now, we have totted up all of the costs and come to the realization that it’s been an awful lot of expense and that it’s not all been a bed of roses really…
We just thought that you when you had a baby, you cuddled him a lot, he was always going to be grateful for you being a nice person that cared about him, and then he grew up without needing much other than food and a roof over his head and hugs and stuff, you know what I mean, like they do in the movies.
Discovering that each of our kids needed to be constantly educated, needed money, needed guidance and discipline that’s loving and fair when sometimes we were seething inside, well…..it’s been a bit of a shock.

Sometimes they get a bit moody, especially if we don’t spend any time with them, and they’re both very rude when we have guests over if I don’t have time to do stuff with them that day, ya know, like take them to the park to play or to do play dates at their friends houses and stuff and thats just really annoying. Oh and one of them is always getting sick…I lose count of the times he’s had to go to the doctors. It’s really expensive, you know, medical bills. We wanted to buy a new car this year, but now we can’t because of the co-pays, it’s crippling us. We may not even be able to take a second vacation or decorate.
We are very sociable people, though, we love our friends to come over and have dinner and drinks with us, and we don’t like it that the kids won’t just sit there on the couch quietly and watch TV all night and let us have some fun. It’s only a couple of nights a week after all…so anyway, we sat and talked about it and realized that life was just a lot easier before we had them, they don’t really fit into our lives anymore.

We want to move to a smaller house so we don’t have as many overheads, and there probably wouldn’t be room for them. We also didn’t want to have to have a yard to mow anymore, and you know, my kids, they just love their swing set, so our house wouldn’t fit their needs anymore.
Of course, we have made mistakes as parents, and in some ways we have even joked that we have kind of messed our kids up by being the kind of parents we are. We weren’t ever any good at discipline or consistency, that kind of thing. We’re kind of busy people, always got a lot of stuff going on, who has that kind of time to put into their kids?
Oh, but I just know you’d love my kids, because you’re a really good mother with your own kids, and you have lots of time for them so….would you consider adopting them? Oh and by the way, I do REALLY love my kids, they mean the world to me. It’s just, well, you know, like I said, they don’t fit the lifestyle we want anymore.”

Hideous isn’t it? You want to call DEFACS so badly don’t you? What kind of a person would be so self absorbed?
Who would even think about asking that of anyone?
Turns out, three people this month already. Only…they weren’t talking about their human kids, they were talking about their four legged children. Dogs that had been valuable and loving members of their family for years, who had grown with their human children, been a shoulder to cry on during ill health and bad times. No longer valuable because they have gotten older and maybe occasionally poop in the house, or gotten grouchy when there’s a mass of visitors in the home and they just want to be left alone…so much easier to just dump them eh? Instead of working around the dogs changing needs?

To all of the DD family who understand the true nature of the terms ‘love’, ‘family’ and ‘commitment’, I salute you. To those who don’t, I’d like to share a word or two from the Big Guy…

“Love is patient, love is kind……..it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (First Corinthians 13; v.4 &7)
Being a good and loving parent isn’t just about the good times, it’s a forever position, no matter how many legs your kids have.

You Can Tell A Man Who Boozes By The Company He Chooses

Acceptable play at the Desperate Dogs Ranch

Acceptable play at the Desperate Dogs Ranch

From time to time we ask a client to stop allowing their dogs to play with whatever dog it is that they regularly play with and to maybe have a complete break from other dogs for a while.
This suggestion is almost always greeted with abject horror……” But he LOVES playing with Pookie”/ “But it’s my sisters dog! They play together every day, they run and chase and wrestle while we have coffee”/ “But he won’t walk well on a leash so if he doesn’t run in my friends yard, he doesn’t get any exercise!”
Yup, we have heard all of the above proclamations, however, it doesn’t mean that the dog should be playing with THAT particular dog, just because he likes to, or indeed because it suits the humans needs.
Last month, a dog came to visit after an absence of three months.
When the owner came to pick him up after his last visit, I asked if this dog could have no play with other dogs at all for a minimum of six weeks, as he was playing too hard and needed to go cold turkey for a period of time. I explained that rough play can be injurious not just to himself, but to other dogs. And by injurious, I don’t just mean physically…..sometimes just the possibility of a dog bumping into him or her can send any dog into a fearful state, causing them to tense, withdraw, hunch their body, flee or snap! All of which are obviously not good either psychologically or physically. Stress is the foundation of lots of nasty issues in dogs, just as it is in humans.
The dog in question, who we shall name Fido (I really wanted to use a picture of him and black out the eyes dramatically to maintain his anonymity for a giggle but Uncle Pete said I needed to get a life…!) is a really nice dog actually. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, loves to play, run and chase and is very very loving with all humans.
However, if we have a young or very athletic dog dog here, he ups his game and wants to start wrestling…..and then escalates, and escalates.

We don’t allow wrestling between dogs…..we allow physical play of course, but we keep a watchful eye to make sure that it doesn’t descend into a full fledged wrestle, as that is very often a heart beat away from a dog feeling he needs to prove himself and taking it too far. A little like two human friends jostling each other in the shoulder for giggles and grins, but then one getting hurt and smacking the other full on with a real punch. Very often those situations become proper fist fights between humans…..and that’s how it can work with dogs too.

So, back to Fido…..I asked his Mum if she could stop letting him play with whichever dog it was that he was playing with so often as he needed to get out of some nasty habits.
I also suggested that she tell the other dogs owner to stop her dog from playing with other dogs too, so that both dogs got a six week break or more if possible from all other dogs, and instead learned to play some gentle, non physical games using toys and activities instead. And that after the break, they just have supervised walks together with no rough play so that they could both take this out of their play toolbox completely. She assured me she would do that, no problem, and so we booked him in for his next stay on that proviso.
Unfortunately, an hour after she had dropped him off for his last stay here, I could see that this had not happened…… Fido was like a bull in a china shop, going straight in to tackle Hoss to the ground the moment he saw him, and, while Hoss is a big dog who can take a lot, even he yelped out. Next, he jumped on poor old Colin’s back and tried to aggressively hump Ava. He had no sense of boundaries at all, and just saw every dog as a rag doll to play with as he saw fit.
To that end, we kept a cautionary string tied to his collar for every play session, we only put him with dogs that wouldn’t tolerate his behavior and would teach him some boundaries, and then sidelined him into a separate play area on his own when we had a large group that could all play together.
We never ever put the good of one dog against the good of many…..if a dog is a pain in the rear end, the other dogs expect us to take care of it, to take measures to ensure that they don’t have to put up with that nonsense…and rightly so.
There used to be an old poem that my mum recited all the time when we were kids, and if anyone knows the rest of it, please tell me, but the main line of it is “You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses.”
With a dog, you can very easily tell the kind of company he regularly keeps by watching his play style. A dog who plays very hard and wrestles profusely, is a dog that has practiced this regularly with another dog, perfecting the art of hard physical play with every visit. Those dogs are so caught up in physicality, they very often never ever learn to use their head in their interactions with other dogs, the physicality gets in the way. Such a shame. It’s like only teaching your child to play soldiers and never opening his world up to the beauty of the written word.
By contrast, a dog who plays occasionally with a calm, easy going dog, engaging in activities that don’t require them to be all up in each other’s business, will learn boundaries and respect for another dogs space.
Surround your dog with the kind of company you’d like him or her to emulate, and you have a far greater chance of your dog being the kind of dog you want him to be. Top of the list should be lots of interaction with respectful, calm, pleasant humans………and then respectful, calm, pleasant dogs.
Enjoy this beautiful weather folks and don’t forget to let your dog play in the leaves!

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.