Okay, seriously….do you REALLY want a dog?
This may sounds like a stupid question, but it’s still worth asking. If you’ve ever decided to create a search for the word ‘dog’ on twitter, you’ll see a tons of people, ranging from teenagers to lonely bachelors and bored housewives declare to the world “I want a dog!!!”
Sure, the thought of rescuing a bright eyed, long tailed, innocent looking pooch can melt even Medusa’s heart…assuming she was real and even had one. And who couldn’t benefit from the constant adoration and companionship of the only animal worthy enough to be titled Man’s Best Friend?
But there’s a completely different side to dog ownership that most people forget to consider before they bring home the new member of the family. So, before you take the plunge into dog ownership, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really want to come home to stains in the carpet after a long day at work?
- Am I ready to lay chicken wire by my fence so that my dog can’t dig under it to escape?
- Am I ready to entrust my backyard to a creature who loves to dig and chew?
- Do I want to spend a few moments every day picking up pieces of trash that’s torn and scattered all over the house?
- Am I ready to put my stuff away or at least keep it out of reach so that the dog can’t chew on it or otherwise destroy it?
- Do I want a dog that jumps up on me the moment I walk through the door?
- Do I want to get up in the middle of the night to let the dog outside if he needs to pee?
- Do I want to hear the sound of loud barking in conjunction with the doorbell?
- Am I ready for my couch, recliner and even my bed to become giant chew toys?
- Do I sincerely want to dragged around the neighborhood like a bad guy in an old western whenever my dog is ready to go for a walk?
If you have answered NO to any of these questions, then you are in good company. But the fact remains that people continually purchase or adopt dogs and run into these exact same issues. In fact, this is why so many dogs are re-homed or surrendered to the animal shelter. So, before you adopt a dog and force him into the same terrible fate that many family dogs end up facing, you need to be able to plan for it’s arrival and it’s future.
It’s imperative that you ask yourself if you have the time and money to:
- train the dog.
- prepare for the dog. This means dog-proofing your house and yards so the new dog can do as little damage as possible.
- exercise the dog properly (a tired dog is a happy dog) and
- put the dog on a GOOD diet. And by good diet, I don’t mean the cheapest 50 lb bag at the grocery store. What your dog eats is just as important as how he is trained, because both have a profound effect on his health, attitude and overall well being.
If you realize that you don’t have the time and money for the factors mentioned above, then this is not the right time for you to have a dog. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have one in the near future, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t consider a lower maintenance pet, like a cat, lizard or goldfish.
It’s easy to give into the impulse of rescuing a dog, but if you don’t have the resources for it, then don’t. You’ll quickly go from “YAY! I got a new puppy!” to “How the hell can I get rid of this dog?!”
Trust me, I see it all the time. And if you can’t afford to hire a dog trainer (aka: ME) to fix your dog’s issue, then you can’t afford to have a dog either.
“I’m worried about Gizmo,” Sophie was on the verge of tears, “He won’t go outside to potty anymore so he’s going all over the house! He’s not listening to anything we say and I’m afraid that he’s regressing. I just don’t know what to do.”
Gizmo was a 5 month old beagle that I had been training for about a month. He was very smart and caught onto every trick and command I taught him very quickly. This whole thing seemed completely out of character for him, so I was very surprised and concerned. I asked if anything unusual, upsetting or traumatizing had happened to him, or if maybe they had changed his diet. I was looking for any clues that might indicate why he had taken this weird turn.
“We took him to the vet a few days ago because he kept scratching and chewing himself raw. His skin was really dry and itchy so the vet gave him a steroid shot. He warned us that he would have to pee more. Do you think that could be it?”
I sighed with relief.
Oh good – my training methods don’t suck!
“I believe you found your culprit.” I told her.
While I was happy that Gizmo wasn’t regressing, I was concerned that a vet would give a steroid shot to such a young dog. I know that it’s a standard procedure for dry skin, but still, giving steroids to a pup just seemed wrong.
I’m no vet, but that doesn’t stop loving dog owners from asking me for advice when it comes to the health of their pets. One of the most common questions I’m asked (besides “What brand of food should I put my dog on?”) is “what can I do about my dog’s dry, itchy skin?”
At the time, I was at a loss regarding this and always referred them back to their vets. Without fail, the vet would try shots, prescription medications and of course, a prescribed dog food. But if the proof really is in the pudding, than this pudding would have put Chef Ramsay in an outrage! The shots, medications and food might help short term, but in every case I’ve seen, dry itchy skin comes back with a vengeance.
I wish I had known then what I know now, which is that a lack of Essential Fatty Acids (otherwise referred to as EFA) is often the cause of bad skin and coarse hair in dogs and cats. And it has to make you wonder, if a lack of EFAs are doing that to the outside of your dog, what is it doing to the inside of your dog?
EFA’s are made up of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. They can be found in most plant and fish oils. EFAs aid in the maintenance of cell membrane fluidity and stability, development and function of brain and nerve tissue, oxygen transfer and energy production, immune functions, and conversion into compounds involved in all body functions including local hormones governing inflammatory responses.
Since our bodies can’t create EFAs, it’s important that we consume them by eating the right foods.
These EFA’s are just as important to our pets’ health as they are to our own. Yet pet foods are often lacking in this department, especially if you have your dog on a dry food diet (which most people do).
In the book “The Whole Pet Diet“, author Andi Brown states:
“Symptoms of EFA deficiency or imbalance include itchy, scaly skin, excessively dry hair or hair that falls out in patches, cracked paws, split claws, fatigue, weakness, frequent infections, allergies, hyperactivity, depression, learning problems, slow wound healing, aching joints, poor digestion, high blood pressure and obesity.”
That’s quite a list, and if EFA’s are so important to our pet’s health, why don’t pet food companies add them to the mix? Even if they did, dry food is baked at such high levels that it would dry out and destroy them anyway, so your pet wouldn’t reap any benefit from them whatsoever.
So, now that you know that EFA’s are necessary for the health of you and your dog, it’s time to take charge and find ways of adding these amazing oils and foods to your meals. Cod liver oil here, soybean oil there, a nice fillet of salmon tossed in with some kibble are all good ways to introduce these good fats into your dog’s diet.
Remember, your pets rely on you to provide the best food, water and necessities that you can for them. So do your homework, and find the blends and balance that work right for your pup’s individual needs.
Boaz was an awesome dog. He was one of the first dogs I trained when I started Amazing Mutts. He was a well tempered, loyal and loving German shepherd. His owner, Robert, thought the world of him, and took great pride in Boaz when taking him for walks around the neighborhood, drives around town, to the park to play with his favorite football, or even to his work to keep him company.
Everyone was amazed by Boaz (whose name means ‘Strength’) because of the way he stuck so close to Robert and hung on to his every word. He was always alert, observant and aware of his surroundings. He was the perfect guard dog, and whenever he sensed something way array, he would let you know!
On a Friday evening, his owners noticed that he wasn’t eating. On Saturday, he still wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t leave Robert’s side and was extremely lethargic. This was not like Boaz at all. On Sunday, they took Boaz to the vet and the results were not what they were expecting to hear. An x-ray revealed a cancerous tumor that had formed in his stomach. It was attached to his spleen and the outcome wasn’t good. It took well over a year for the tumor to grow and well over a year before Boaz began to act different. Prior to this, his owners hadn’t suspected anything was wrong because he never showed any signs of pain or discomfort.
I’ll never forget the day I received the text message saying that they put him down. I was shattered and could only imagine how Robert was feeling about losing his best friend.
Later that day, he called me and reminisced about the good times he had with his dogs. He talked about the hole that had formed in his heart and how he already missed his dog so very much.
A few days later, I touched base with Robert to see how he was doing and as expected, he wasn’t doing well. He was heartbroken. He told me that when he thought of his best canine friend, he thought of the unconditional love and loyalty that Boaz had given to everyone he met, and how he hoped that one day, he could love the same way Boaz did. I wrote back to Robert and told him “You do love like that. Boaz learned it from YOU!”
Animals – especially dogs – really do learn from us. They learn to love, they learn to be aggressive, they learn to be timid or confident all because of the interactions that they have with us. In many ways, it really is true that dogs take on the traits of their owners, and they do this because they look up to us. They count on us to pave the way for them. They learn from our actions and our behaviors, and I truly believe that in most cases, our pet’s behavior is a direct reflection of us.
So always remember to set the example for your pets, as well as for the people around you.
Thanks to Robert’s caring, compassionate and loving ways, he had a caring, compassionate and loving dog. Let’s remember to follow in his footsteps, and always treat your dog with gentle kindness, love and respect.
by D. C. Golightly
It’s just a fact of life. Every living creature on this planet must consume food to survive, process that sustenance, and then flush out the waste byproducts. Kids giggle at the mention of it. Adults keep the subject locked away and mark it as taboo. Animals don’t really seem to care about it as long as they can still do it.
And it’s the simple fact that animals do it everywhere and that can cause problems. As a caregiver for your dog, it’s your responsibility to take care of their feces in an appropriate manner. In most counties around the country it is a legal requirement to clean up after your pet, especially when in a public area such as a park or beach.
The reasons for cleaning up after your dog range from sanitation to aesthetics (joggers don’t really want to look at a pile of poop when trotting down the trail). According to www.dogtoilet.com, approximately 50 million registered dogs in the United States produce more than 5,000 tons of waste per day. That really adds up quickly unless it is disposed of properly.
Do you realize how much that actually is? Here is a list of things that also weigh 5,000 tons:
-556 killer whales
-2,432 Ford Explorers
-10,560,000,000 paper clips
Storm water can carry away waste into waterways, directly impacting the purity levels of well water and other sources of hydration. If dog waste is simply left lying in the gutter it becomes a risk to all those who may potentially drink from a nearby source. Since dog feces are rich in nitrogen, when it is introduced to a water source it can deplete the amount of available oxygen, robbing plant life of nutrition.
It also contains several types of bacteria that are harmful to humans. If the dog feces do end up contaminating a water source, then bacteria such as giardia, salmonella, and e. coli can thrive and infect other organisms, including humans.
Public sandboxes at the park, as well as public beaches, are ideal places to poop as far as a dog in concerned. However, if the feces aren’t cleaned up right away, then round worms and hookworms could survive for extended periods of time. A child looking to build a sandcastle might become an unwitting host to a parasite.
We value man’s best friend, otherwise we wouldn’t own them. They become a part of the family, and don’t you want to take care of your family? By picking up your dog’s feces you can instantly tell if they may be sick or not. A sudden change in appearance or consistency of the feces may indicate that your dog needs to get to the vet right away. Blood in the stool may also indicate it’s time for a visit. So, you’re not only taking care of your friends and neighbors by cleaning up after your pet, but you’re monitoring their health as well!
Everybody poops, but our pets can’t clean up after themselves. It’s your responsibility to scoop the poop!
The Alpha Roll is a way to punish your dog after he has done something wrong. You roll the dog onto his back and hold him there until he completely submits. The alpha roll is intended to show your dog that you are the ‘Alpha Dog’ or “Leader of the Pack’ and that he must submit to your authority.
Many people have seen this move on The Dog Whisperer and have been subjected to it in Obedience clubs across the globe. But does it really work? Is it a good way to punish your dog?
There are three common things that happen to dogs that are frequently subjected to the alpha roll.
Scenario 1: So your dog does something that really upsets you and you grab him and throw him down on his back and try to hold him there. Understandably, he puts up a fight because he does not like the way he is being treated. He tries desperately to get up but you hold him down. Finally, you tire out and let him loose and the dog takes off.
What just happened?
Well, first of all, you did the alpha roll wrong. While you were pinning your dog down, his energy was building up and up and up and never got to that point where the only thing he could do to release it was to let go. So, before your dog relaxed, and while his energy level was soaring, you released him, and most likely he bolted as far as he could away from you. He most likely took that energy with him and tried to find something else to get into. Or being, terrified of what you just did to him, he’s probably running back and forth, or shaking somewhere and has created as much space as he can between you and him.
What did the dog learn? Well, for one thing, he learned not to trust you. And for another, you helped him to build up his nervous energy to the point where he’s now anxious and will most likely find something else to get into. Good job.
Scenario 2: Your timing is wrong. Your dog did something you don’t like and you call him over to you. He comes running to you as fast as his paws can carry him. Once he gets to you, you throw him onto the ground and hold him there.
What just happened?
You punished your dog for coming to you! Your timing was all wrong! Don’t be surprised if you dog thinks twice about coming to you when you call him. In fact, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t come to you at all.
Scenario 3: You have executed the alpha roll perfectly. Your timing is right and you’ve waited until the dog has completely submitted.
What just happened?
Well, you’ve taught your dog that you’re a power hungry bully who will kick his butt and hold him down if he so much as thinks about doing anything that you don’t want him to do. You will notice that dogs who have been subjected to the alpha roll begin to lost that spark in their eyes. Life is no longer fun or interesting to them. Sure, they are the most obedient dogs ever. They will listen to your every word because they are scared of what the consequences could be if they don’t. The don’t live lives full of joy, hope, and that playful giddiness that makes dogs so magnificent. They lead lives of fear, knowing that any move they make could quickly become a very uncomfortable situation for them.
These dogs have been turned into robots. They show almost no emotion. They don’t play with other dogs or people. They might play with their human if their owner initiates it, but it’s out of a sense of duty.
I have seen this time and time again with dogs that have been punished with the alpha roll. And I think it’s sad. There’s no reason as to why you should ever use an alpha roll on your dog. I don’t care what the situation is.
With that being said, I don’t necessarily fault the owners who have used the alpha roll on their dogs. I fault the dog trainers that have been encouraging dog owners to use this ridiculous act because they’re too lazy too teach people how to train their dogs.
The alpha roll isn’t a training tool. It’s abuse. Imagine how you would feel if you were minding your own business one day and someone tackled you and held you down while you were trying very hard to get away. How would you start to view the person who did that to you?
There’s a better, safer and more gentle way to work with dogs. And it’s called Dog Training.
Training a dog doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. It requires work and consistency. If you want your dog to stop jumping up on people, then train him to sit still and greet people nicely when they come to the door. If you want your dog to stop digging in your garden, then give him another area to dig in, like a sandbox. If you want your dog to stop begging at the dinner table, then train him to lay in his spot until you are finished eating.
The problem of punishing your dog when he’s done something wrong, is that he doesn’t know what he did wrong. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s only responding and acting on his natural canine instincts to do what canines do. They bark. They beg. They jump up when they greet people. This is perfectly normal canine behavior.
If we are going to allow this amazing creature to live with us, then we owe it to them to be patient with them and to show them what our boundaries are in a way that is loving and kind.
As the old saying goes, you can’t do better until you know better. Why should we expect dogs to behave in a way that goes against their natural canine instincts if we haven’t taught them otherwise?
So instead of bullying your dog with the malicious, out-dated, and downright ridiculous alpha roll, show him what it is that you would like him to do instead. Teach him self-discipline and be patient when training.
Don’t be an alpha dog. Be a leader.