Halloween – don’t turn Fido into a Desperate Dog

Every man and his dog seems to have something to say about Hallowe’en this week, so I thought I’d be putting my little ten cents in just to even up the balance a bit!
Okay firsly, I know its shocking, I know its unconstitutional and I know I might get tarred and feathered…but, and here it comes…..wait for it…..DOGS HATE WEARING DRESS UP CLOTHES!!!!!
Those of you who know me well are very used to the sight of me rolling my eyes when I get shown pictures of Fido in a bumble bee costume, Rex in a octopus outfit etc.
 When God designed the dog, He gave him a whole bunch of nice soft fur and beautiful ears, a waggy tail, and he didnt say to the dog…’Okay, so now go find yourself a family who will dress you up to look like a Kit kat once a year!’
I know Im a killjoy, but seriously please think about your dog this hallowe’en and how he feels being pulled and pummelled into a costume. Dogs are free moving, free thinking creatures…Trying to force them into clothes does kind of go against the grain of who they are and were designed to be. Restriction causes discomfort, discomfort causes irritation and we all know what some dogs feel forced to do when they get irritated, dont we?
If you must ‘beclothe’ [to use a Shakespearean term] the poor hound, at least make it simple, loose and noiseless. If he shows the old whale eye [whites of his eyes showing, panicked expression] do him a favour and get it off him pronto!
Irritated and uncomfortable dogs mixing with loads of kids is not a mutually beneficial situation, folks.
Everyone knows that dogs mustnt eat chocolate, but few people think about the dangers of hard candy [small, easy to choke on] sugar free sweets [certain sweeteners are very toxic to dogs] or any candy with food colouring [certain colourings can cause extreme behavioural swings, as can excessive amounts of sugar in some dogs].
You will have a whole bunch of people turning up at your door not looking like human beings at all, wearing masks and costumes and making weird noises. Please remember that Fido doesnt know what a mask is, doesnt understand the concept of a joke that involves scaring the bejesus out of each other, and so he might get scared and snap or worse, bite, in a misguided effort to protect you from this perceived threat. Please see this from his point of view and don’t put him in a position where he can only fail…
Have fun on Hallowe’en, enjoy the occasion and eat as much candy as you can……. Ha, spoken like a true fat chick, huh?
 And, if theres any Twizzlers leftover [NOT the sugar free kind!] send ’em on over to the ranch where I’ll be very glad to help, uh, dispose of them!
 Have a great weekend.

A Desperate Dogs guide to the beauty of change

Here at the ranch, we believe that what we do and think can change the structure of our brain; this theory is called Neuroplasticity and it challenges the thought that the brain is a static lump of meat between the ears.
We believe that dogs, although different to humans in many ways, are also akin to humans in many ways. Thus, though they are hard wired for smell instead of language like we are, we believe they have self perception [widely argued, this one!] a detailed cognitive thought process, and, through neuroplasticity, are able to change even the most ingrained behaviours.
Take for instance, the Michael Vick dogs….all hardened killers, right? No, not when you see how all but a very few were completely rehabilitated from fighting dogs to become family pets, capable of residing  next to other dogs happily without pulling them to pieces. This was achieved through a change of environment, each dog learning new skills, a human intervention bringing in emotions and care/ attentiveness unseen or experienced for most of these dogs, new sleep patterns, new exercise patterns and a change of diet.
Change can happen when change happens……………
Here at the ranch, we do our best rehabilitation work when we get the dog out of its normal environement, change everything that the dog knows and expects, introduce new friends and positive experiences, build some trust between dog and handler, and THEN, only then, do we ask the dog to go the next step to shake off all his previous responses to stress triggers. He’s out of his normal environment but comfortable and happy; hes made new friends that bring out the best in him; hes eating food that regulates his energy and stress responses, and getting exercise enough to calm him….[athletes are always calm when theyre resting, arent they?].
 At that point, we bring in new exercises, perhaps walking on a log, or nosework, or weaving through poles….it could be anything, but the fact is, it resets the brain. It stimulates other, unawakened responses, and that means, my friends, the dog has a wider palette of choices available at his mental disposal with which to make better choices.
We have had the huge pleasure of working with some amazing dogs, some change very fast, some change a little slower…it depends on the relationship we build with the dog and how ‘tapped in’ we become to what he needs, but the fact is, in dog rehabilitation, as with most things in life, CHANGE IS GOOD.
It can be hard, it can take time, it can even be painful…but remember the old adage that a friend of mine taught me a couple of years ago….If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.
In parting, I will tell you that this process works for both humans and dogs alike, but unless you grow four legs and a tail pretty quick, youre not going to convince us to work on you at the ranch….sorry!

Just because he’s old he doesn’t have to be a Desperate Dog

Buddy just chillin

Buddy has been here with us at the ranch for a week today and this evening he is going home to his mum, Tina. As I keep threatening her, thats if I even let him go home…so in love with this dog, am I…..From the below pictures of him roughousing and playing so joyfully with one year old Roxie, its easy to see how full of life and full of beans he is. He is so full of beans in fact,that I had to…separate the little buggers last night, because he and Roxie would NOT stop playing and rolling on the beds downstairs, and Buddy needed to digest his dinner.

Yes he may be older, but in his mind hes a two year old dog with the energy of Zippy the clown, cojones like grapefruit and the endurance of a triathlete. Who am I to burst his bubble? We let him do whatever he feels like he wants to do here, rest when he needs to [rarely!lol] and play all he wants. This afternoon, he went haring off after a mouse in the hedge, thinking he could be the great white hunter and snag it for the pack.
Just because he’s a little more on in years, doesnt mean he cant have a rich mental life, a rich physical life and a viable contribution to the pack as a whole. I hope when Im his age I have as much to offer, and have as much going for me as Buddy does. Let your older dog have as much fun as he wants, give them new experiences often, let them try new food, let them enjoy life. It keeps them young, it keeps them vibrant and the benefits outweigh the risks every time. x
note: full version with photos on http://www.facebook.com/desperatedogsusa october 24th 2012

Why Does My Dog Eat Poop ?

I know its a disgusting subject but I get asked this question all the time.
Imagine the scene…your best friend and confidante comes running in from the field or the yard, hair flowing, eyes gleaming, theme from Love story running in the background, and runs towards you to give you a huge kiss. THEN you notice the smear of foul faux chocolate around his chops and ….BLEUGH! Beautiful moment over with!
My own dog Noodle, or, as we call her, ‘the shit eating schnauzer mix’ is a legendary poop imbiber of epic proportions at times. I have tried everything…red pepper flakes on the feces, putting pineapple in her food, giving her yoghurt every meal to improve her digestive system, bananas to increase her potassium level [some say low potassium is the reason, and this works for some dogs], Mineral supplements,Wasabi on the poop piles which are left around as an entrapment device, more meat in the food, less meat in the food, root veggies, more green veggies, wheat grass tablets, monosodium glutamate on the food, you name it, I have tried it.
At the end of the day, I have come to the conclusion that Noodle is going to do it unless I pick it up really quickly, and so I always attempt to get to it before she does.
Why does she do it though? Its vile smelling, it can’t taste very nice and she even seems picky about whose poop she eats! Now I always thought that this last factor was because maybe dogs metabolise food differently and thus she gets more meaty goodness [lol] out of some dogs’ poop than others. However, I have spent the last two months watching and learning from the dogs that we have in here at the ranch, and I have been standing by to watch what happens when dogs have a choice to make…..before steaming in at the last minute with a bag and a loud ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ [Imagine me in slow motion, bag waving, slow speech playback…this will be a good shot in the movie of my life when they make it, right? Of course I should like to be played by Salma Hayek or Eva Mendes if anyones interested in how I want it cast].
So, a couple of observations….
 1] Some dogs just plain like the taste of it. Its gross but its true. Answer? Feed your dog better because that certainly doesnt say a lot for your cooking! Ha ha
2] Your dog might have spent the formative months of its life, like Noodle did, in a crate at the shelter until she was four months old, and so learned to clean up after herself the only way she could. This is a natural instinct in  some dogs, mother dogs will lick the poop away from their babies’ rear ends so that the smell does not attract predators who might want to eat her litter. It also stimulates the dogs to eliminate appropriately and ensures a healthy digestive process. A lot of the behavioural consultations I do involve puppy mill dogs who have never been taught to eliminate outside as they have lived in a cage, so, because lying in it is in almost every case undesirable to a dog, they clean up after themselves. This must serve to underline as a good reason to get your dog out of its cage as often as possible when potty training otherwise you are setting up possible bad habits for life.
3]Some of the dogs here will actively seek out poop dropped by a dog that is higher up the pecking order than they are, never lower down. In some weird way, I am beginning to feel like this is an attempt to elevate their status in an indirect, non threatening way rather like the office boy sitting at the big bosses desk and whirling around in his chair, playing with his pencils and drinking from his coffee cup. These dogs normally target Freddie, head canine honcho, so Pete and I always have poop bags handy whenever Freddie goes off in a quiet corner, lol.
4] Dogs that are pretty maternal or paternal even, will very often look to clean the area as if they were looking after their own offspring, and so become the self appointed poop scoopers.
5] Boredom…..people that are unemployed very often sit on the couch eating stuff that they know is no good for them; a bucket of chicken, cheerios, Twizzlers [which is what Im necking back as I sit at my laptop writing this blog] and sometimes they’ll even eat stuff that they don’t like out of boredom. Dogs are very scent driven, have a hard wired need to hunt and work, and bore incredibly easy. Those dogs that under normal circumstances should be  shoulders deep in a foxhole rooting out critters, when asked to just loll around the yard all day are going to get bored. They can then look for things to hunt or at least ‘feel like’ they have hunted! A poop is entirely natural, came out of a body so is more appealing to the dogs olfactory senses, and well, its there for the taking isnt it? Its not running away, its not gonna bite him, its available!
The answer my friends is simply to get to it first and pick it up. And if you think that’s a tough job, Come and walk in mine and Petes shoes for a day, with almost 20 dogs to pick up after…..that’ll quit your complaining!

The Dogs Honest Truth

I should really have called this blog ‘The crazy canines guide to not being so human dependent, food absorbed, exercise deprived, socially inept and generally hard to live with and understand…’
Because Im a know it all and have an opinion on everything, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts every now and again on the stuff we do here at the Desperate Dogs Ranch. Hopefully some of that stuff might touch on things that you re experiencing with your dogs and you’ll be able to apply it to your own situation.
At the ranch, we deal with so many different dog problems every week, from separation anxiety to aggression to serial shaggers [lol!] to name but a few, so we have had to develop a way of dealing with thses problems that doesnt hurt the dog, frighten him or abuse him…we just want to fix and free up the dog so he or she can have a normal and enjoyable life.
We really want you to enjoy life with your dog, and to do so you have to create a bond of friendship…… of love and trust. Like all the best things in life, its worth putting a little effort in to get a whole lot out. x