** Today’s post was written by a very special guest blogger, Ryan Dove! Full disclosure, he’s my husband. 🙂 Ryan’s first leap into dog ownership was with our hyper-intelligent yet hyperactive dog. Since then he has been involved with countless fosters as a result of his choice of spouse. He is also dad to our two kitties, one of which has accepted him into the family. ~Lindsay **
As the owner of a 35-pound, hyperactive, reactive and prey-driven dog, I consider myself hypersensitive to dog behavior. My dog is by no means perfect, and I am by no means a perfect owner. I have, however, generally learned to read dog behavior and communication and to somewhat be able to predict when a situation might occur. This comes through both experience and training. Every dog owner should have training. Notice I said dog OWNER. Sending your dog off to be trained and getting him or her back with a 5-minute explanation of how to interact with your dog is doing you no good.
As I walk my dog, I am constantly scanning for things that may ramp him up – people on bicycles or with carts, as an example. As a matter of course, I try to avoid other dogs because it can be hard to tell with dogs on a leash how they will react when up close. I’ve noticed quite a few small dog owners on my walks that seem to be oblivious to their small dog’s misbehavior.
Take this morning, for instance. Our walk started with a 12ish pound white dog running from across the street to the end of its retractable leash barking, biting and clawing, just asking my dog to fight. Just because a dog is small does not mean you can ignore its behavior. Around the corner, I hear jingling behind us only to see that we are being run down by a 15ish pound Scottish Terrier. The dog reaches us, barking, and starts nipping at my dog. I am doing my best to keep the other dog away from mine as it was behaving very aggressively, a quick trigger for my dog. After getting nipped once or twice my dog had had enough, but he did a good job of walking away with me even though I could tell my dog was ramping up. The little dog continue to pursue us, and finally I saw some kids running up the street and they eventually caught it.
I turn the corner again only to see someone had opened a door to let their 15ish pound Dachshund walk to the street to go to the bathroom without a leash and with the owner on the front porch. Seriously? Fortunately, this dog did not challenge mine and mine patiently waited in a sit while I pretended to change radio stations so as to not put my dog in between a stranger dog off leash and its owner.
Moral of the story: small dogs are still dogs, treat them like it- I don’t want to be dealing with the police after a poorly trained hyper or aggressive dog with an oblivious owner gets bit by my dog because of the other owner’s irresponsibility. Here are some pointers:
1. If you, the human, have never been trained on how to understand your dog, take a training class WITH your dog. Find good trainers who will explain why your dog is doing what it does and what stimulus your dog will react to.
2. There is no valid reason for an owner to have a retractable leash. They frequently don’t lock correctly and your dog could get hit by a car or succeed in its lunge at another dog. During a walk, the dog ideally is following you at your side. If the dog is 10 feet in front of you, it is no longer on a walk with you (see #1).
3. If your dog locks up and stares at another dog’s eyes, that’s a challenge. No, it is not the responsibility of the owner of the bigger dog to deal with the challenge issued by your smaller dog while you talk on your cell phone. Be aware of your dog’s behavior at all times on a walk, especially around other animals (see #1).
4. “So my dog charges to the end of the retractable leash, barking and biting and clawing, I’ll just pick him up, so what??” I say this to the small dog owner – picture a 65 pound bulldog doing that. I bet you would say “Wow, that’s not ok.” So no, it’s not ok for your dog, either.
I am not saying small dogs are bad, or that all small dog owners are irresponsible. I am saying if you own a small dog, please treat it like a dog. Otherwise, I know some great rescues that have some cats available.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Pets Alive! conference in Austin. It was three days full of amazing sessions focusing on everything from starting a bottle-baby feeding program and building a foster network to political advocacy and fundraising. The underlying theme of the weekend was how to get started saving animals’ lives in your community TODAY.
I learned a lot of great things and came away with some phenomenal tips on how we all can help Houston’s homeless animals, and I will be sharing these specifics with you all over the next few weeks. But first, I wanted to share the takeaways from the closing session. The immense scope of a project like “saving Houston’s animals” can be easily overwhelming. As I’ve been digesting all the info from the conference, I keep finding myself returning to these 5 takeaways:
5. Your situation is not unique.
Yes, Houston has a huge animal problem. Based on the most recent data available, Houston area shelters kill on average more than 200 animals every day, not to mention the problem of the thousands and thousands of strays on our streets. Just look at the work that amazing groups like Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward and Corridor Rescue are doing. But even still, we’re not unique. Sure, Houston doesn’t have freezing winters to control the stray population. We also have a number of area residents who don’t understand the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. San Antonio, Reno, NV, and Los Angeles all have these problems, too, and yet they’re well on their way to becoming no-kill communities. (In fact, Reno is no-kill. Check it out.) If they can do it, so can we.
4. Just start. Like, yesterday.
This is something I struggle with. I’m a planner. I can see all of these great programs coming together sometime in the future. Once we get 35 committed foster families, then we can start a foster program, right? Or when we’re able to buy a building to house a no-kill shelter, then we can start saving animals. Sure, these are both great things. But in the meantime, animals are dying. Start small if you have to, but start today. The goal isn’t to be saving 90% of Houston’s animals in 5-7 years. The goal is to be saving these animals as soon as possible. Do something today towards that end.
3. The wheel has already been invented.
According to the No Kill Advocacy Center (www.nokilladvocacycenter.org), “in 2013, over 90 communities representing about 300 cities and towns across America have save rates better than 90%.” By learning from these programs, we can save more animals in our area. If it works somewhere else, it might just work here, too.
2. Perfection is the enemy of life-saving.
This is another one that’s hard for me. As long as an idea is still in my mind, it’s perfect. As soon as I start to implement something, things inevitably go wrong. That’s just the way that it is. Someone said something in one of the sessions that hit me personally. Like, instant tears in my eyes. She said, “You will make mistakes, sometimes at the cost of a life. Please don’t give up.” If I get out of the planning stage and start implementing ideas, I will do something wrong and an animal may die because of it. But if I don’t do anything, animals are guaranteed to die. It’s time to start doing something about it.
1. No Kill begins with you.
If you have a desire to help Houston’s homeless animals, you can make a difference. Find what fits you. Maybe you can foster, maybe you can plan adoption events or do some fundraising. Not everyone can walk the halls of a high-kill shelter to see who they can save. But everyone can do something. If you’ve read this far, you’re interested in helping. Start today. Houston may have an overwhelming number of unwanted animals, but we also have some of the most amazing rescue groups you could find. Start by going to our Facebook page and looking at some of the rescue groups we have listed under our “likes.” Contact one and tell them you want to help. Do it today. An animal’s life depends on it.
Huge THANK YOU and shout out to the amazing people at American Pets Alive! and Austin Pets Alive! for the fabulous conference. I can’t wait to go again next year and share all of the great things Houston accomplished in 2013.
Ok, so it’s no secret that I’m very actively involved with All Border Collie Rescue. One of the great benefits of volunteering for a dog rescue is that we can often get stuff for our personal dogs and fosters through the group at discounted costs. I’ve taken advantage of this a time or two. Thundershirts, kongs and this time a Gentle Leader. Boring? Maybe… but this little gem, in my opinion, is just about the best thing since sliced bread! I received my gentle leader on Sunday and tested it out for the first time yesterday when I took Maverick to my secret field that I discovered.
The transformation was instantaneous. Sure he didn’t love having that strap over his face. He rubbed up against me a few times, which i didn’t mind, because I thought it was cute. Lots of head shaking. After a few minutes, though, that was mostly gone. I cannot tell you how amazingly he walked with this lead on. It’s not that Maverick was ever a major puller or anything like that, but with this, his leash was loose the WHOLE walk!
If you are interested in trying this out, I do suggest doing some desentizing at first, although it’s probably not 100% necessary. Take the time to read the instructions and make sure you fit it as it says to. Put it on and feed your dog treats. Associate it with good things. He’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly!
Does anyone else use these regularly? How do you like it?
Later today, my friend Kallie and I will be strategically setting traps filled with tuna and stinky canned food in an attempt to catch a few of our neighborhood cats. Since we never do anything the simple way, instead of trying to catch just one (this is our first time doing this, after all), we’re going to catch three.
There are actually at least five neighborhood cats that we would like to get- a small orange tabby, a black cat, a grey tabby that howls and is probably in heat, a grey and white tuxedo cat, and a stray around the corner that a nice elderly lady feeds. According to the Feral Cat Project, one female cat and her offspring are estimated to produce 100 cats in seven years. I don’t know about your neighborhood, but I’m pretty sure ours can’t support that many.
Quick side note: a feral cat is one that cannot be domesticated and made to be comfortable in a home environment. There isn’t anything wrong with these cats. They’re just fiercely independent. They would never be happy confined in a home or being held by an owner. If a feral cat finds itself in a traditional shelter, it will have a 100% chance of being killed because it is deemed unadoptable.
For many, the solution is to round them up and euthanize them. It’s more “humane” to get rid of them instead of letting them suffer on the streets, right? The problem with this is that feral cats aren’t suffering. They’re in fact very happy cats. If you have a few minutes, read through this newsletter put together by the No Kill Advocacy Center. Feral cats live perfectly fulfilling lives.
So that brings us back to our little project. Tonight, weather and luck willing, Kallie and I will have three feral cats each safely in their own trap ready to go. Tomorrow morning, they’re heading to CAP where they will be fixed and get their vaccinations. Then in a day or two, we will let them go back where we trapped them. The whole process is referred to as TNR, or Trap, Neuter and Return. Each kitty will have one ear tipped so other people will know they’ve been fixed. Be sure to follow our Facebook page for updates along the way!
If you’re interested in helping the feral cats in your neighborhood, check out these amazing Houston-area resources that have helped us so much with this project:
Friends for Life: Friends for Life is a great resource for learning more about TNR. They also rent out the traps for a fully-refundable deposit of $75 each. Thanks, FFL!
Citizens for Animal Protection: There are lots of places that give a discount on fixing feral cats, but CAP has a limited number of appointments for FREE. Watch their website for open appointment times.
Wish us luck!!
So you’ve decided to get serious about training your dog. Whether its trick training, or general obedience, you’ll need to figure out what motivates Fido to learn. I’ve already shared with you an article on using toys to train your dog, now I will discuses using food. More specifically: picking out treats.
One thing I always keep in mind when I’m picking out training treats is the actual size of the treat. Its easy to get carried away with treats when you are training your dog. If you are doing a lot of training, feeding your dog table scraps (only healthy ones of course) and also giving them their normal portion of dog food, chances are after a few months, Fido will be well on his way to being over weight. Keeping the training teats small not only ensures that your training will stay on pace, but it will also reduce the calorie intake during your training sessions. If you feel like you are giving your dogs a lot of treats throughout the day, consider reducing the amount of kibble you are giving them for breakfast and dinner to compensate for the added calories in treats.
Call me crazy, but I get some sort of strange joy out of buying my dogs new treats and mixing things up. I like to buy several packages of different treats and mix them all up in my treat jar. Doggy trail mix, if you will. I buy a mixture of crunchy treats and soft treats and sometimes even put some regular kibble in the mix (Although they are wise to that game and usually just spit the kibble out – stinkers!). Don’t be put off buy larger treats. Often times I buy larger treats and spend a few minutes cutting them up into appropriate bite size training portions.
Here are some of my go to treats. Money is a concern for me when I’m purchasing treats, so I typically shop at Walmart for them, because frankly their prices are just unbeatable. I realize these are not grain free or organic and probably are slightly high in fat content, but again, everything in moderation.
Don’t forget that you can also make your own treats. Here is one of my favorite recipes.
Good luck with your training and until next time!