Supporting Insanity – Precious Resources

This post is part of a series where struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate with someone and keep a beloved pet out of the shelter. My hope is that together we can help good people, and good animals, feel a little less alone.

I have very little personal experience with this particular behaviour problem. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to offer this person very much in the way of practical advice. It can be very hard bringing a new dog into the home and I have nothing but heartfelt sympathy to offer anyone dealing with this tough situation.

Dear Dog Bloggers:

Five years ago I rescued the love of my life from the city pound. His name is Jack* and he is the textbook definition of an Am Staff. He has the hugest head and a really clumsy body and I knew I had to have him as soon as I saw him. He had been laying on the floor in his kennel with his head between his paws. He looked like he knew he was the least likely dog in the place to find a home. My husband at the time was not as thrilled with him as I was and we spent hours arguing about my decision to bring him home. I could just tell that Jack needed me.

Until now everything with Jack has been great. He has been my best friend and he saw me through my divorce. He is a giant couch potato and loves to cuddle with me on the floor and watch cartoons. He loves kids and I have never worried about him with other dogs. Jack is pretty much the perfect dog and I don’t think I would have survived the last few years without him.

About a month and a half ago, I adopted another Am Staff from a rescue in my city. His name is Mario and he is much younger than Jack, probably not much more than a year old. The rescue required Jack and Mario to meet first before I was approved to bring him home. During that first meeting they got along great! Jack doesn’t have as much energy but he really perked up around Mario. They looked like instant best friends. Mario is a lot more work than Jack ever was. He can be so hyper and he is really bad on the leash. But the rescue gave me some advice and I am working with him. Around the house he always gives over to Jack. He recognizes his senior status and they still seem to get along.

The reason I am writing has more to do with Jack’s behaviour than Mario’s. He’s never lived with a dog before and he picked up this scary habit of guarding everything in the entire house that he thinks is his. He growls every time Mario comes near him if he has a bone. He growls if Mario starts playing with a ball on the other side of the room. I have to feed them in completely separate rooms behind closed doors because I am terrified Jack’s growling would turn into something even more violent. A few days ago Jack and I were hanging out on the floor and Mario walked over to lay at my other side and Jack jumped up, stood in front of me, and growled to warn Mario away.

Mario always backs down immediately but I still worry something really awful could happen. What if they get into a fight when I am not home? I have no idea how to handle this. When Jack growls over a toy or a bone, I will take it away and give him a time-out in his crate. But I read that this might be making it worse. It might cause him to resent Mario even more. I just don’t know what else to do. I can’t just let him growl and I can’t let poor Mario spend his life hiding in a corner! When we are outside the house together everything is fine. It’s only inside that Jack gets all defensive over his things. Do you think he will get over this on his own?

Please help! I am so scared if I ask the rescue for help that they will take Mario away. I love him too much already to have that happen. And I could never, ever give Jack up.  I am really at a loss.

Now it is your turn, pet lovers. If you have any suggestions for Jack and Mario’s human, please share them below. The more support, the better! Thank you very much for helping me help others.

*Names have been changed

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

It’s Good to Have Options

Last night, Shiva and I curled up on the couch together and witnessed an event I never thought possible. On the television in front of us was a dog training show that did not star a bully. I knew we had a winner when the television trainer only laughed at the sight of dozens of dog beds placed throughout the house. The Bully would have picked up every single bed and accused the unfortunate humans of dog abuse.

That’s right, It’s Me or the Dog has finally made it to Canadian television. After watching one episode, I couldn’t be happier. Finally we have a show that may actually help people and their dogs form better relationships. Finally there is another option on the airwaves. I wish it had been on the air back in 2009. Our struggles may have been a lot easier.

At the very least I would have had a little hope.

It shouldn’t have been so shocking that host Victoria Stillwell seemed to like animals and their people. She seemed to enjoy her job. She even did a happy dance when Cooper the Boxer achieved success. This – to me – is what a good dog trainer looks like. Enthusiastic, supportive, practical, and kind.

Even though she didn’t raise her voice the entire time or perform any death-defying alpha rolls, the show remained interesting. By the end, I was almost crying for the humans who now had the tools to help their dog. I could relate so well to their struggles. It wasn’t too long ago, I was thinking and saying a lot of the same things.

I just hope the people who need to watch the show will know it is on. I hope the people looking for help will come across It’s Me or the Dog before that other show about puppies.

In a roundabout way, this brings me to the central purpose for this post: a friend of mine has asked me for some dog book recommendations. She is thinking of adopting a dog but wants to have all the facts before making a decision. I commend her on doing her research and am hoping she makes some smarter reading choices than I did. It’s still incredibly mortifying to admit how closely I tried to follow Cesar’s “rules” for bringing home a new dog.

I have come up with the obvious selections – McConnell’s The Other End of the Leash, Clothier’s Bones Would Rain From the Sky, Donaldson’s The Culture Clash, and Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy. (The one good choice I did make all those years ago.)

What training books have you read? Which ones would you consider essential for every dog owner to read? Hopefully together we can create a list full of positive options!

Supporting Insanity – Fearful Foster

This post is part of a series where struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate with someone and keep one more animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good people, and good animals, feel a little less alone.

Today’s email is a little bit more serious than others have been in the past. The human is a first-time foster parent and the dog involved has already bitten someone. I feel as if this is the path Shiva could have gone down had we not been lucky enough to find the right people. The more support we can provide, even if it’s just a book suggestion, or a kind word, the better. I really hope things will turn around for this lovely puppy:

Gracie* was a 6 month old pit/hound mix. I fostered her for a week, during which I discovered that she is leash reactive. I did my best to begin training her, and very slowly, I could sense that we were getting somewhere. She’s amazing with other dogs off leash, particularly with my Lulu but the second she sees another dog while she’s on leash, she barks loudly. Toward the end of our week together, the shelter had sent over a couple who wanted to meet Gracie, and they all fell in love with each other. I explained the situation as best I could without scaring them away – the love among them was something that I knew could be beneficial for all involved. I impressed upon them that she would need training, and patience, and that I was more than willing to continue to assist in any way I could. They said they understood and off they went.

I referred a friend to them who is a professional dog walker to walk Gracie each day, midday, as the couple both had full time jobs. Unbeknownst to me, the couple lives in a luxury high-rise apartment building – one with narrow dark hallways, thumping music in the elevators, a completely mirrored cavernous lobby. Basically, a place that would be entirely overly stimulating for most dogs, let alone a leash reactive one. Gracie did not flourish, and in fact, regressed to the point where she accidentally bit my friend, the dog walker. The couple then returned Gracie to the shelter the next day.

This is when I contacted a blogging friend. I had found out that if Gracie wasn’t trainable, nor adoptable, they would have to put her down. Heartbroken, I reached out to my friend because of a post she wrote. I needed to understand how to move on. She was more than supportive, and gave me great advice.

Some of that advice included considering taking Gracie back in – which I have now agreed to do. I’m her last chance – which makes me feel a huge amount of pressure to really fix this dog. So now I need your help, because of your experience with Shiva. I live in Manhattan, in an area where there are LOTS of dogs, and LOTS of people. I’m highly limited with places to practice with Gracie, and am sort of stuck on what the proper/best techniques are. She’s working on distraction right now, which is something – but she’s currently in the shelter and deteriorating there. With all of the other dogs around, her anxiety is growing.

I am hoping that you may be able to provide me some advice based on your own experience, but also that you could post this on your blog to see what your readers have to say. Thanks so much for reading and I appreciate any help you could give.

Now it is your turn, pet lovers. If you have any suggestions for this struggling foster parent, please share them below. The more support, the better! Thank you so much for taking the time to help. You never know what might change a life.

*Names have been changed

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Supporting Insanity – Rumble at the Dog Park

This post is part of a series where struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate with someone and keep one more animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good people, and good animals, feel a little less alone.

I recently received an email revolving around a scenario many of us relate to, probably a little too well. Dog parks can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately they can also be set-ups for disaster. It can be very difficult for good dog handlers to navigate the complex human and dog personalities that emerge.

 Today’s question:

I’m not entirely sure if what I’ve got is a training issue, thought it sure felt like it at the park tonight. We live in an incredibly dog friendly neighborhood and there are around 20+ dogs at our park most evenings. Both Angelo* and Kody are dog friendly and we have never had a problem at the park before tonight. I’m not even sure it was our problem. Here is what happened:

Angelo was playing and wrestling with another park regular, slightly bigger than him, a beagle/coonhound cross. They were clearly playing, with appropriate cues such as the play bow, perky ears and relaxed up right tail. While wrestling the did try to mount each other occasionally, but since both were responding appropriately, the other owner and I let them work it out themselves (a quick bark and the other backed off and they would go back to wrasslin’). Everything seemed okay until a third dog joined in.

This dog was a bulldog, who probably outweighed Angelo by 10 lbs. He immediately pinned Angelo and mounted him. Taking advantage of the situation, the other dog mounted his head. I hung back a second, seeing if he could handle it himself, but he was definitely overwhelmed and started growling and snapping. I intervened, picking him up and removing him from the area. Not much later, his buddy came to play again and everything seemed fine, until the bulldog found us and the same thing happened.

I can’t say I blame Angelo. It seems like a logical response to me, but I received several comments from others that “vicious” dogs aren’t welcome. Should I have reacted differently, do you think? Is there a better way to handle it? I’m reluctant to teach him not to growl, as I kind of feel like turning off his ” alarm bell” would be more dangerous than knowing when he is being pushed past his limits. Should I be intervening? I know some trainers recommend not too, but is it fair to leave him in a situation where he has no chance of winning? It’s very likely to come up again, as this new dog owner is becoming a park regular.

Thank you so much for reading and for any suggestions you might have!!

Now it is your turn, pet lovers. If you have any suggestions for Angelo’s human, please share them below. The more support, the better! Thank you so much for taking the time to help.

*Names have been changed

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Supporting Insanity: Destructo-Kitty

This post is part of a new series where struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate with someone and keep one more animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good people, and good animals, feel a little less alone. 

Sharmeen* and her cat that loves to chew:

Hi there, I have been having a small issue with my cat for years now. I adopted him as a baby when a friend of mine found a box of kittens abandoned in the parking lot of her apartment building. He’s a great companion and I can’t imagine life without him. For the most part he has excellent manners. He never jumps on counters and he never wakes me up in the middle of the night.

His only fault is that he loves to chew on wires. In the four years I have had him he has chewed through my cell-phone charger, my flatiron cord, the microwave cord, and numerous lamp wires. It’s not only really annoying for me to have to replace these items but I also really worry about his safety. I am sure he knows he is doing wrong because he only does it when I am not at home. When I have caught him in the act, he always runs away.

I am not sure how I can safely prevent him from all this chewing. I try to make sure all the cords are in a place he can’t reach but sometimes I forget. It seems he just really likes the feel of the cords between his teeth. Do you have any suggestions for how I can safely stop my cat from chewing?

A friend of mine suggested I spray him with water when he does it but since he only does it when I’m not home I don’t think that will work. I have tried to set traps so that if he pulls on a cord something will fall and scare him but that hasn’t worked either. I really don’t know what to do and I am so worried one day I will come home to my cat being severely injured. That and I can’t keep replacing all of my appliances!

Now it is your turn, pet lovers. If you have any suggestions for Sharmeen and her cat, please share them below. The more resources, the better! Thank you so much for taking the time to help

*Name has been changed

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Supporting Insanity: Overly Active Mutt

This post is the first in a new series where struggling pet owners submit pleas for help to the expertise of blogland. Everyone’s experiences are unique. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. What you think common sense may be revolutionary for someone else. You never know what may resonate with someone and keep one more animal out of a shelter. My hope is that together we can help good people feel a little less alone. 

Email from Kayla* about her dog, Poppy:
 
I am a new reader of your blog and a new dog owner and I am hoping you don’t mind me writing to ask a question because I am sort of at my wits end and don’t know where to turn. Poppy, like Shiva, is a rescue. She is probably a lab/pointer/terrier mix, whatever she is she’s got tons and tons of energy and I am at a loss about what to do with it.

Yesterday, for example, we went for two long-ish walks in the morning, walked for almost two hours in the afternoon, and then played with some dog friends in the park for over an hour. The owners at the park all said to me “does she always have this much energy?” because she ran around like crazy the whole time. Then we got home and she was still bouncing off the walls. Even after all that when I am home just sitting on my couch she jumps up and nips at me.

She pulls like crazy on walks, I’ve tried the gentle leader and the easy walk harness. We’ve tried interactive toys, frozen kongs (which keep her attention for maybe 20 minutes), obedience class, private sessions with a trainer (which are way to expensive to continue!)…

What I wanted to ask is if there is a book or a website you would recommend to deal with this type of issue?

 We are trying to use positive reinforcement and I’m trying to do the best I can for Poppy, I absolutely love her, but she goes nonstop from the time she wakes us up at 5:30 a.m. to 10 or 11 at night and I am so tired! There has to be a way to keep us both happy and sane. When I read about the progress you’ve made with Shiva it keeps me optimistic and I figured you might have some wisdom to share.

Now it is your turn, pet lovers. If you have any recommendations for Kayla, please share them below. The more resources, the better! Thank you so much for your kindness.

*Names have been changed

If you have a question you would like answered, fill out the contact form and I will post it up as soon as I can. It goes without saying that all submissions will remain annonymous.