I got a little whiny in one of my blog posts recently. I was feeling a little depressed by my latest foster project: a mixed-breed mama and her nine teeny puppies. They were surrendered to my local shelter in sad shape: thin, infected with coccidia, and infested with fleas. The mom knows absolutely not one cue, not even “sit,” though she is super sweet and friendly – how can someone let such a nice dog get into such bad shape, and pregnant to boot? Ugh! Some days it just feels like we humans are making no progress in our ability to care for and manage our dogs.
One of our newest contributing authors is a veterinarian who practiced emergency medicine for more than nine years. She’s been the impetus for our recent rash of articles about various ways to prevent canine health emergencies, and how to behave if you, despite your best efforts, end up dealing with one anyway. (Speaking of rashes – perhaps I should ask Dr. Ashe to write about that?)
I know I’ve hit a spot that’s going to be sensitive for some of WDJ’s readers when my copy editor sends an article back to me covered with personal comments mixed in with the grammatical and typographical corrections she’s supposed to be making. But in the case of trainer Nancy Tucker’s article in this issue, even as she was writing it, the author herself expressed concerns that the piece might be upsetting for some people to read.
I had an interesting conversation with a trainer friend the other day. She had gone to meet a breeder she had never met before, as a potential buyer of a puppy from a future litter. She told me about a little glitch in their conversation that she couldn’t stop thinking about.
When we are out in public, I am pretty confident in Woody’s ability to pass as a well-trained, well-behaved dog. But when I was driving with him toward meeting a dog trainer whom I respect but have never met, I found myself feeling anxious. I should probably warn her about Woody’s predilection for walking through people’s legs, I thought; it’s a tad alarming when he dives between someone’s thighs, even though he’s always wagging his whole body when he does this. Short people and kids sometimes get lifted off the ground for a moment; it’s his special way of saying hi!
The latest trend in pet food has to do with ingredient provenance. Over the past year, a number of the companies who make some of the most expensive foods on our “approved foods” lists are making strong claims about their ingredients. It’s not enough to promote “All ingredients from North America,” or the more pointed claim, “No ingredients from China.” Today, a number of companies promote the fact that they formulate their dog foods with sustainably farmed grains, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and/or humanely raised, grass-fed, and/or free-range food animals and wild-caught fish.
We have been living in the historic downtown of this Gold Rush-era town for the past 11 years. There have been some wonderful benefits of living in an old neighborhood in a cute, old small town. I could go out my front gate with my dogs and walk four blocks to a paved trail alongside the Feather River, which flows right through town. The historic center of Oroville is a bit like a ghost town at night; there are no businesses, not even bars, that stay open past 10 p.m., so on hot summer nights, the dogs could safely walk with me off-leash downtown. When I’m on deadline and don’t have time to take Woody out for a miles-long hike to wear him down, I often walk him at night to a grassy area that surrounds some government buildings downtown (two blocks from my house!), to play fetch with a glow-in-the-dark ball.
Another fun, informative, and growth-packed year with Whole Dog Journal! As 2017 comes to a close, we ask our readers to take a look back on all the training, health, and doggy lifestyle topics Whole Dog Journal has covered this year.
The problem is, many dog owners have little understanding of animal behavior or training, poor animal behavior-observation skills, and bad timing. When you put a tool that works by causing pain in their hands, the result is often poor. Those who consistently hurt sensitive dogs or inadvertently punish dogs when they are doing the right thing are likely to produce dogs who resent and/or fear their handlers and/or walking on leash. Handlers who are uncomfortable with or not strong enough to hurt their dogs with these tools almost always end up with dogs who continue to display deplorable behavior on leash – those dogs who just pull right through the discomfort of a tight, choking or pinching collar – but who are also now stressed and anxious about this continual discomfort.
I almost never feed my dogs the same food from bag to bag or can to can. I switch foods constantly, rotating among brands, varieties within brands, and forms of food (wet, dry, frozen, dehydrated, home-prepared). All the foods I feed are good ones, I tell my friends and acquaintances; I would never feed just one!
Many people use the phrase “holistic healthcare” when they, in fact, mean natural, alternative, or complementary healthcare. However, we use the phrase in its original sense – to mean “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems.” We look for therapies and practitioners that offer the most benefit and do the least harm, whether it’s a conventional prescription medication or an organic essential oil, a veterinarian who specializes in oncology or one with advanced training in chiropractic.
I had an epiphany when my adolescent Lab/pit-mix, Woody, swallowed a small tennis ball (after 6 on a Friday night, no less): Such an exuberant, athletic, and spontaneous dog needs insurance. And Otto, my scruffy heart-dog does, too. He’s a big dog and closing in on 10 years old, an age that prompts concerns about things like cancer.
Thanks very much for the many compassionate messages of support and sympathy for the tragic loss of Tito and my former foster dog, Ruby. Many readers commented on the post I wrote on the Whole Dog Journal blog page about the incidents that led to the dogs’ deaths (one as a result of injuries, and one by euthanasia) – and many readers told their own heartbreaking stories dog-aggressive dogs that they loved and tried to rehabilitate.
Last month, I told you that WDJ’s Training Editor Pat Miller and I had been discussing the possibility of writing an article about dogs who kill other dogs; over the span of a few months, Pat had received calls from three different people who had a dog killed by one of their other dogs. After much thought and discussion, Pat wrote a terrific article on how to manage a beloved family dog who, incongruously, appears to have the potential for this horrible deed.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but, in my opinion, becoming aware that we have a problem is how we start fixing it. Much of our society is anxious and mad right now – and so are our dogs. For their sake, and ours, and that of our country, I think we all need to take a breath and practice calming ourselves and each other. We can use the techniques trainer Stephanie Colman describes in her article in this issue! Changing our own emotional responses to things that reflexively make us angry and anxious can’t help but improve our moods – and just may improve our dogs’ moods, too.