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TRAVELOGUE..part#1 Traveling with pets: By Debarupa Das

..Tales of a Dog-Mum

I am a Bengali from Kolkata but settled in Bangalore for close to two decades now. I have been traveling throughout the length and breadth of the country owing to my husband’s job. When I am uttering the word “travel” it does mean driving down with my three furbabies of which two do not get along really well with each other . I do not prefer to leave my babies behind and so take them along everywhere.

Traveling with pets can be hassle free provided you follow certain basic points. Here I am tried listing those based on my own rich experience.

To travel with your pets you need to have a sturdy and spacious vehicle, an energetic, nerve-steady, rock solid driver, cooperative humans and animals onboard and most importantly a thorough researched route, detailed report on roads and pet-friendly accomodations booked all throughout wherever you want to have a stopover.

Few more points to keep in mind always.

1) Start as early as possible – We prefer to start in the crack of dawn but getting ready with three pets make it difficult at times . The early you start, the empty traffic-free roads​ greet you with fresh and cool morning breeze absolutely free.

2) Take shower before you start – We never leave our house without taking shower as it makes you fresh leaving your sleepy eyes behind. We insist our pets to go through their routine morning walks before they get inside the car .

3) Must have little breakfast before you are igniting the engine – Me and my husband …we both are Tea addicts and hence do not forget to sip into our first hot cuppa of the day with couple of biscuits and that works really fine for us. For the pets light minimum food like couple of dog biscuits or some kibbles should be fine.

4) Retiring for the day with sundown – We strictly follow this . My husband who is mostly behind the wheels does not like to drive on the highway in the dark, at all, stretching himself. As we start early and don’t take much halts in between we have never really had to drive after sunset . We actually could reach our destination well within our designated time frame. ( Here comes the thorough reaserch on roads useful). We make it a point to order our food well in advance to the hotel where we would be halting for the night. Finishing the formalities we enter into the room, get freshen up quickly , gorge on the food and straight away dive into the bed with the TV remote in his hands and FB on my smartphone. Our babies too get to eat their one and only heavy meal  of the day and the tired bodies would simply retire on the bed soon.

4) Installing a GPS enabled system in your car – Though you might not require it always but at times it is really helpful.

5) First aid kit- A first aid kit containing general medicines for fever, cough & cold, headache, stomache, loose motion, cotton, bandage, few band-aids, Dettol antiseptic creme/ lotion must be kept handy. If anyone is on regular medicine then that has to be taken in the handbag . My desi girl is an epileptic patient and has to take her regular dose of medicine. I always keep her strip of tablet and my tablet of high BP in my handbag.

Furries going for their first road trip are advised to undergo a thorough check up by their respective vets before the journey. Vets have to be informed about the same and their advice has to be strictly followed.

6) Playing rhythmic music in your car – Slow music can put the driver to sleep so please make sure to play dance/item numbers during  long road journeys. In this regard my personal choice would be RD Burman-Kishore Kumar duets or romantic numbers in Arijit Singh’s voice

7) Load your car with lots of dry food items – Pack some sandwiches, cake, biscuits, namkeens , sweets, fruits, and nuts. I take my icebox too where I keep juices, lassi, buttermilk few packs of curd and Icecream. Candies n paan masalas​ are something essential so that the person behind the wheels always get to chew something which keeps him/her alert. We also take a small EAGLE flask with us and refill it with Tea during our every pitstop . Tea is such a versatile drink which actually is a necessity to keep the person behind the wheels in long journeys energized and alert .

We do not stop after every half an hour ….neither posh hotels and restaurants on the highway attract us . Almost everytime we skip our lunch…as finding good eateries which will allow our three pets at proper lunchtime is a chance. We do not remain hungry either as we keep munching on the foods we take with us.

My furries are extremely cooperative and tolerant ….they actually have been quite habituated with their gypsy parents by now. They straight away go to sleep mode as soon as they step inside the car cabin with full-blown AC. They do like to enjoy the scenic beauty on the roadside sometimes too. They prefer to keep themselves hydrated by mostly consuming plain water ,lassi n buttermilk and once in a while get icecream treats. Their restlessness and behavioral changes clearly indicate us to stop the car . Almost all of the big petrol pumps along the National Highways have ample space for them to answer their nature’s call and also to stretch ourselves a little. Normally these petrol pumps would have clean rest rooms where we get to freshen up  and Small tea joints are also to be found adjacent to these pumps which gives us the liberty of combining all the major needs  at one go. Small eateries and tea shops along the National Highways serve best quality authentic food and masala teas which we will not get in any five star restaurants even after shelling out a bomb from the pocket … . Trust Me…..

8) Always keep their up to date vaccination details and pet licenses ( if any ) handy. Keep their muzzles with you too. Some hotel authorities might want you to muzzle your pet in common areas, reception,or in lift even if you are not having any aggressive dogs. It’s always better to follow the rules and regulations just to avoid any untoward incident later. Carry one extra set of old bedsheet to spread it on the bed in the hotel. I always do that as my babies sleep with me on the bed just to avoid any fresh paw prints. We as pet parents might well love the innovative idea of pawprints on our bedspread but others might object. Never get into any fighting mode with the  people​ associated with the pet friendly hotels. Always remember your one mistake might ruin the chance of other pet parents to enjoy the privileges of staying in that particular (once) pet friendly accommodation later. I enjoy hearty relationship with all my hosts through out the country wherever I stayed with them. My experience says that normally all pet-friendly accommodations are either homestays, or guest houses/service apartments, where owners are either pet parents themselves or dog lovers. So arranging food for your furries becomes easy. Otherwise, curd and steamed rice are easily available in every nook and corner of our country. But still, I prefer to carry some packets of curds if in case I need to feed them on the go if they are hungry. Keep two or three bowls for them inside the car cabin to feed them.

Keep some of their favorite toys,  balls, chew bones near them in the car so that they don’t get bored and cranky and start disturbing you.

Carry some old newspapers too to handle any mishap inside the car.

Some face towels and wet tissues are always useful to make you and your babies feel fresh instantly.

National Highways in our country have got a super drastic upliftment. The well-lit roads now have a smooth surface. Big signboards adorn the side of the highway clearly mentioning the details of the nearby village,  town or any approaching big city. You will get to find small food joints to five-star hotels across the stretch. Almost all of the petrol pumps accept Credit Card except a few smaller​ ones.

Throughout the National Highways, there are toll plazas after every couple of kilometers.Very few toll booths accept card….so please carry enough cash with you to pay the toll fee.

All the information given in this write up is based on my personal experience and are true to my knowledge. Experiences may vary from person to person but this note can surely act as the very basic guide which can be followed to plan a wonderful trip with your furry babies.

My next in line would be the guide for the route Bangalore > Kolkata > Bangalore along the coastal highway with detailing in pet-friendly accommodations. Those who are planning to visit Kolkata during DURGA PUJA in the month of October with your pets, especially the Bengalis planning for a homecoming with your furries ….it’s a must-read for them.

Drive Safe…..

HAPPY JOURNEY

Adolescent Dogs: 6 Facts To Know : By Nancy Tucker

What to expect during your dog’s adolescence – that time after puppyhood otherwise known as the teenage years!

Just about everyone knows to be prepared to deal with crazy/relentless puppy behavior, but way fewer dog owners, it seems, have been warned about the other challenging period in a dog’s life: adolescence! A quick Google search on the topic produces results peppered with words like “surviving,” “dealing with,” and “misbehavior.” These pages offer up a long list of things that can go wrong and suggest it will be more than difficult to get through. Goodness, it sounds horrible!

It’s true that this period involves a ton of changes to your dog’s biological, physical, and psychological makeup. By extension, his behavior is affected. It’s also true that there are times when this transformation is accompanied by some challenging moments. But rest assured it’s not all doom and gloom! For every challenging feature of canine adolescence, there is an equally awesome element that makes this a very special time.

The adolescent period typically begins around six months of age and will be over when a dog reaches physical maturity around two to three years old. The most pronounced behavioral issues will be noticed between six to 12 months old.

Keep in mind that although hormones have a lot to do with adolescent changes, they’re not the only thing responsible for some of the behaviors you may see (even neutered dogs will exhibit these behaviors). Your dog’s brain is growing and developing, and the apparent quirkiness of the process is all perfectly natural.

As a trainer and a person who is currently in the adolescent trenches with my Border Terrier, Bennigan, I can testify that it’s not all bad. Here are some facts about canine adolescence that you may not be aware of, and some tips that, I hope, will help guide you through this challenging time with your “teenaged” dog.

1. Bonding with your teenage dog is important.

The foundation of your relationship with your dog is taking shape and getting stronger. If you’ve had your adolescent dog since puppyhood, the time has been on your side. You’ve had several months to get to know each other and to build a bond. That’s a very good thing. It’s always much easier to forgive and to exercise patience with someone (or a dog) we care deeply about. So while puppyhood antics may have pushed your buttons and left you scrambling for a moment’s peace for several weeks in a row, adolescent shenanigans can be surprisingly easier to tolerate, thanks to that bond.

You’ll still need to draw deeply from the patience pool during this time, but by now your dog will have improved in other departments: He’ll know some basic cues thanks to your training; he’ll be housetrained; and his needs won’t always require an immediate response on your part, like when he was a young pup.

2. Teething is almost done!

Most of the really difficult teething phase occurs before adolescence, and while it doesn’t really wrap up until about seven to nine months old (on average), it’s not nearly as dramatic as the earlier stages. Some dogs remain power chewers throughout their adult life, however, and it’s important to evaluate and adjust the types of chew toys you’re giving your adolescent dog.

What was suitable for a five-month-old puppy might no longer represent a safe option for your dog’s newer and more powerful jaw. For example, if it used to take him an hour to work his way through a bully stick several weeks ago, it might now only last him 10 minutes and he should be watched closely. Or he may now be able to chew off chunks of a chew stick that previously he could barely dent.

3. Adolescent dogs have different sleeping schedules.

Remember when your puppy used to spend more time asleep than awake? Yes, well. Those days are gone. Your adolescent dog now seems to have access to an endless supply of energy! If you arm yourself with lots of short, fun training sessions and brain games, you’ll fare much better than if you rely solely on physical exercise to tire out your young dog. Besides, you’ll want to avoid any serious physical activity that involves sudden stops and turns, or jumps and bounces. Your dog’s skeletal structure isn’t quite done taking shape yet, and you’ll want to protect his joints until at least 12-18 months of age, depending on his size. (Speak to your vet for advice about this.)

Back to sleeping: Your teen dog will very likely experience some disruptions in his nighttime sleeping pattern, which means you’ll also experience a few sleepless nights. He might snooze the entire evening away, and just when you’re ready to call it a night at 11 pm, he’s suddenly wide awake and ready to party! There’s little you can do to convince him to settle down. Don’t worry. These episodes will come and go, and all that’s needed is a little bit (okay, a lot) of patience and time.

4. Socializing your adolescent dog is important!

Socialization needs to continue. You’ve done a wonderful job socializing your pup during the sensitive socialization period (before 12-16 weeks of age), but it shouldn’t stop now that your dog is a teenager. Even if you’ve just adopted an adolescent dog and his socialization history is unknown, it’s important to continue to carefully expose your dog to different places, people, other dogs, and different situations (like riding in the car) while associating these events with something positive.

You might notice that your dog may quite suddenly appear wary or even fearful of things or situations that he previously had no issue with. This is normal. These moments will come and go several times during adolescence and may last anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. He may give a scary fire hydrant a very wide berth during your walk, or he might decide that new people or dogs (or trees, or shadows) should be barked at.

Don’t worry. Handle these moments with calm and patience, and understand that your dog isn’t always able to control his emotions during these phases. Don’t push or force him to “confront his fear,” and don’t scold him for what may look like rude behavior. Give him time to process whatever spooked him. If he wants to turn away and avoid the scary thing, that’s fine. If he barks at it, that’s fine, too. Often, just crouching next to him and talking with a gentle voice is enough to calm the barking.

Some people “lay low” when they notice their dog is experiencing a fearful phase, opting to avoid situations that cause their dog stress, like busy streets or large crowds (such as a fair or a dog sporting event). When their dog shows signs he’s feeling more confident, activities resume as normal.

5. Adolescent dogs become more interested in going for walks.

Many young puppies balk at wandering too far away from the safety of home. They’ll take a few steps on-leash and then will suddenly slam on the brakes and stand still like a statue. Nature designs them this way, for good reason. Adolescence serves to create just the opposite: A biological urge to wander further from the nest and to explore new places. You’ll notice your adolescent dog also has more stamina to keep up with you during daily walks, and that he enjoys investigating the various scents.

Adventures with your dog now become a lot more fun. Resist the urge to let him off-leash, unless you’re in a safely fenced area. Remember that he’s genetically predisposed to explore! His recall isn’t nearly as reliable as it was when he was a puppy (very normal), so don’t count on how good he was just a few weeks ago. Use a long leash if you want to give him more freedom. Keep practicing calling him back to you and reward him with a very yummy treat every time he comes. You’ll want to maintain this high rate of reinforcement until he’s an adult.

Speaking of unreliable cues…

6. Your dog’s training might seem to come and go.

Remember how proud you were of your puppy’s training results? How quickly he learned to sit, to lie down, to come, to leave it, to drop it, etc.? Where did all of those skills go? If it seems as though your dog has forgotten all of his training, don’t worry – he hasn’t. The information is still there, floating around in that rapidly developing brain of his. He’s just having a bit of trouble accessing all that knowledge right now. This too will return to normal when he’s done with the teenage phase. Keep teaching, keep rewarding, and keep breathing. All of your efforts will pay off later.

Nancy Tucker, CPDT-KA, is a full-time trainer, behavior consultant, and seminar presenter in Quebec, Canada. Her Border Terrier, Bennigan, is smack dab in the middle of adolescence.

Frustrated On Leash? : By Pat Miller.

Out of sheer frustration, the dog who is just dying to reach other dogs in order to sniff and play – perhaps due to a lack of regular social opportunities – can look a lot like a dog with aggression. Needless to say, the behavior tends to put off would-be playmates (and their owners!).

Does your dog go bananas on a leash when he sees another dog and really wants to meet or play? Here are some exercises that will help you both calm down!

You’ve probably seen them. Maybe you even have one – a dog who happily plays with his canine pals in the dog park, but the instant he’s on a leash and sees another dog he turns into a barking, lunging, lunatic hound-from-hell. What on earth is it that turns a canine social butterfly into Cujo, with a human hanging onto the other end of the leash for dear life? 

Oh, wait. That’s it. The leash. He’s leash-reactive. But why?

REACTIVITY

Reactive behavior is defined as an abnormal level of arousal in response to a normal stimulus. In other words, the dog overreacts strongly to something that most dogs can handle calmly, offering behavior described as barking (sometimes screaming), lunging, snapping, and sometimes biting. It can refer to dogs who overreact to visitors at the door, people passing by the car window, trucks, skateboards, and a variety of other stimuli in addition to other dogs. Reactivity often involves aggressive behavior, but not always. The three types of dog-to-dog leash reactivity we commonly see are:

  • Offensive Aggression Reactivity. The dog who truly wants to go attack other dogs because he really doesn’t like them and wants to get them.
  • Defensive Aggression Reactivity. The fearful dog whose display is meant to keep scary dogs away.
  • Frustration Reactivity. The dog who loves to engage with other dogs and is immensely frustrated when not allowed to do so.

It is the third type, frustration reactivity, that we will discuss here.

DOG-TO-DOG LEASH FRUSTRATION REACTIVITY

Frustration reactivity can be the hardest of the three for a dog’s caretakers to understand. It’s easy to grasp that some dogs just don’t like other dogs, or are afraid of them, and the resulting displays make sense. 

But when your dog clearly loves other dogs, it seems counterproductive for him to put on a show of behaviors that are usually quite off-putting to humans and other dogs alike. Why is he doing something that is likely to make other dogs want to avoid him, rather than approach? Because he can’t help it!

This behavior is most often seen in dogs who have a history of being able to approach other dogs whenever they want, on-leash or off. It may be the dog who simply has never been on-leash around other dogs – he grew up in an environment where dogs were off-leash and mingling all the time. This might have been a shelter, hoarder, or rescue situation where dogs were communally housed, or a rural community where dogs were allowed to regularly run loose. It might even be a dog imported from a street-dog colony in another country.

Alternatively, it might be a dog whose human routinely encourages him to “Go say hi!” to other dogs when walking on leash, even allowing the dog to drag her up to other dogs for greetings, often to the dismay of the owner of the dog being greeted.

In any case, this reactive dog is frustrated when he is thwarted from his desired goal of greeting the other dog, and his frustration results in an emotional display that can be quite impressive. This is often described as “low tolerance for frustration” or “lack of impulse control,” and the leash-reactive dog may well demonstrate these behaviors (perhaps to a lesser degree) in other frustration-causing situations as well. 

Where the solution for a defensively or offensively aggressive-reactive dog is usually to move farther away or out of sight, this often only upsets our frustrated greeter even more, increasing the intensity of his emotional display as he sees the object of his desire disappearing from view. So, what to do?

POSSIBLE TO PREVENT

Prevention is always better than modification; that’s why I have a “no on-leash greeting” policy at my Peaceable Paws training center as well as for my own dogs. To interact with other dogs, we go to a safely enclosed space where my dogs can socialize without the constraints of leashes, where we are not creating expectations of on-leash greetings.

If it’s too late for prevention, you have a variety of training and behavior modification options.

CLASSICAL CONDITIONING

Classical conditioning involves creating associations that result in emotional and physical responses. When Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the sound of the bell, it was because their brains had made an association between the sound of the bell and the arrival of the food. Their behavior wasn’t deliberate and it wasn’t under their control – they simply responded because their brains had come to realize that the sound of the bell reliably predicted the arrival of food.

The aggressive-reactive dog has a negative association with the presence of other dogs, and reacts accordingly – with aggression. The frustrated-reactive dog has a positive association with the presence of other dogs and reacts accordingly, with excitement.

Counter-conditioning changes an already existing association. In most cases, we are working to change a negative association to a positive one. In the case of a frustrated greeter, we are working to change an out-of-control positive association to a less exuberant but still positive association. Our goal is to have a dog who is happy to see other dogs but can still be calm and controlled about his happiness. This is a relatively simple procedure, and I have had a lot of success using it with frustrated greeters. 

The easiest way to give most dogs a new association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – frozen strips, canned, baked or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food. Here’s how the process works:

1  Determine the distance at which your dog can be in the presence of, alert and aware of another dog, but reasonably calm. This is called the threshold distance. 

2  While holding your dog on leash, have a helper present a calm, leashed, neutral dog at your dog’s threshold distance. Or, alternatively, position yourself and your dog so that a leashed dog   appear at threshold distance. The instant your dog sees the other dog, start feeding bits of chicken to your dog. Pause, let him look again, feed again. Repeat as long as the other dog is present.

3  Continue pausing and feeding until the other dog is out of sight. (Or, after several seconds, have your helper remove the other dog and stop feeding your dog.)

4  Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the presentation or appearance of a dog at that initial threshold distance consistently causes your dog to look at you with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is a conditioned emotional response (CER) – your dog’s association with the dog at threshold distance is now about chicken instead of excitement and arousal.

5  Now, increase the intensity of the stimulus (the other dog) by decreasing the distance between the other dog and your dog. In small increments, move your dog closer to the location where the other dog(s) will appear, achieving your dog’s goal CER at each new distance, until your dog is happy to be very near to the other dog. Note: It may take a number of trials over a number of days or longer to achieve this!

6 Then return to your dog’s original threshold distance, and work on increasing the intensity of the other-dog stimulus. You can do this by having your helper encourage her dog to be more active (perhaps by jogging by, or playing fetch or tug), or by increasing the number/frequency of dogs appearing. Gradually decrease distance and attain your goal CERs along the way, until your dog is delighted to have the more active/increased number of dogs in close proximity while remaining calm.

Caution: Because your dog wants to greet the other dog(s), she may become more aroused when the other dog(s) goes farther away or out of sight. If this happens, have your helper keep the neutral dog in view. Alternatively, engage your dog in other activities that she loves (such as targeting, playing tug, or catching a ball) to take her mind off the missing dog when the other dog is out of sight. 

BEHAVIORS THAT CAN MODIFY REACTIVITY

You can also use operant conditioning – teaching deliberate behaviors – to modify reactivity using a procedure known as Reverse CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment). 

The CAT procedure uses negative reinforcement (wherein the dog’s behavior makes an unpleasant thing go away). Say the dog is stressed and unhappy about seeing other dogs. The handler sets up a situation that exposes the subject dog to another dog – and moves the other dog away from the subject dog in response to any increase in the subject’s calm or relaxed behavior. The subject dog learns that behaving in a calm and relaxed manner will keep other dogs away. Once he is calm and relaxed, he no longer feels the need to keep other dogs away, and no longer displays aggressive behavior. (For more about this, see “Build Better Behavior,” WDJ May 2008.)

In contrast, a frustrated canine greeter is reinforced by any opportunity to move closer to another dog. So the Reverse CAT procedure uses positive reinforcement (wherein the dog’s calm behavior makes a good thing happen); when he’s calm, he gets to move closer to the other dog. The procedure also uses negative punishment (wherein the behavior we don’t want – his aroused behavior – moves him farther away from the dog). 

Note: Don’t worry about the technical terms; they are confusing to even some very experienced trainers! I’ve included them for the sake of those who want to understand what behavioral constructs are at work here.

Start at your dog’s threshold distance (close enough to the other dog for him to notice, but not so close that he begins any frantic or excited behavior). Start walking toward the other dog. As long as your dog is calm, keep moving forward. As soon as he starts becoming aroused or excited about getting to greet the other dog, turn and walk away to whatever distance it takes until he is calm. As you repeat this multiple times, he will hopefully come to realize that the only way to get close to the other dog is to remain calm.

If your dog remains calm all the way up to the other dog, go on a nice, calm, parallel walk with the other dog. Sometimes (not every time!) at some point in the walk, find a safe, enclosed area where you can drop leashes and let the dogs play with a “Go play!” cue. (You don’t want to drop leashes and play immediately when your dog calmly walks up to the other dog, as this will again reinforce your dog’s belief that he gets to play with every dog he walks up to.)

This is not a simple procedure and is best implemented under the guidance of a behavior professional who is experienced with the protocol. When it works, it can happen amazingly quickly for a frustrated greeter. But for some dogs, the frustration of constantly being walked away is just too great, and they may only become more frustrated. In this case, the other protocols described here would be better.

BEHAVIORS THAT HELP WITH MANAGEMENT

If your dog is a frustrated greeter, you know that management is key to a low-stress existence. Often, management just means keeping your dog far away from other dogs. But there are times when some operant (trained) behaviors can help you through unexpected or unavoidable encounters. Here are two such useful behaviors:

  • Find it! This is the easiest behavior you will ever teach your dog. Just drop a high-value treat between your feet and cheerfully say, “Find it!” If necessary, point to show your dog where the treat landed. Repeat many times, until when you say “Find it!” your dog runs to your feet to look for the treat. Your dog will have a very positive classical association with the “Find it!” cue, so it will put his brain in a happy place when he hears it. 

Note: Always drop the treat at your feet, so when he hears the cue, he will orient to your feet, taking his attention away from the other dog.

  • Walk away! This is an emergency escape cue that you will associate with a fun game: “Do a 180-degree turn and run the other way with me!” This protocol also installs a positive association with the cue, puts your dog’s brain in a happy place, and gives him something fun to do instead of reacting to the other dog. 

BEHAVIORS THAT TEACH FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE

These are things you can practice with your dog to help him learn to better tolerate frustration. Teach them in the absence of other dogs so that eventually they will contribute to your dog’s ability to remain calm in the presence of other dogs.

  • Wait. This is easiest to teach with a food bowl. Have your dog sit. Hold up your dog’s food bowl, say “Wait,” lower it a few inches, give a click or other marker, raise it back up, and feed a treat from the bowl. Gradually lower a little farther each time until you can set it on the floor without him getting up. You can also use it at doors and any other time you want your dog to pause and wait. (See “Wait and Stay” WDJ May 2018.)
  • Leave it. Say “Leave it!” in a cheerful voice and place a durable high-value treat under your shoe. Wait for your dog to stop trying to get it; do not use corrections, and do not repeat the cue! When your dog backs away from the treat, click (or use some other marker), and feed him a different treat. 

Continue to use a high rate of reinforcement (click and treat a lot!) as he continues to leave the treat under your alone. Eventually, uncover the treat, with your foot ready to cover it again if your dog dives for it. Do not correct or re-cue! Continue to click and treat until you can eventually leave the treat uncovered without him trying to get it. (See “Leaving for Good,” WDJ June 2018.)

  • Sit. Yes, even a simple “Sit” can be an impulse-control exercise. We teach “Sit” as a default behavior – the thing a dog does when he doesn’t know what else to do. It becomes a default behavior because he has been so highly reinforced for it that it is his automatic behavior choice. If, in addition to using a very high rate of reinforcement for offered sits (as well as ones you have cued), you also increase duration of the sit (gradually waiting longer and longer after he sits before you mark and treat), your simple “Sit” becomes a very valuable impulse control behavior.

GET HELP IF STRUGGLING

Even though your dog’s frustrated greeting reactivity comes from a happy place, it’s still not easy to live with and not always easy to modify. If you’re struggling, don’t despair. There are ever-more qualified force-free training professionals out there waiting to help you. Find one! 

Happy Hydrotherapy : By Sassafras Lowrey.

Underwater treadmills and therapy pools are highly effective for
conditioning and rehabilitating canine athletes and companions – but only under the guidance of a certified physical therapist.

Almost immediately after my youngest dog, Sirius, had surgery on both of her knees last year, I brought her to see a physical therapist. This certified animal rehabilitation specialist created personalized conditioning and rehabilitation plan for Sirius. One of the most useful modalities of treatment that Sirius received was hydrotherapy. It allowed her to maintain all the muscle she had developed in her Rally Obedience and agility training prior to her knee injury – and best yet, she loved the underwater treadmill. Sirius had one physical therapy session per week for eight weeks and was cleared to resume normal activity just 10 weeks post-surgery.

About 10 months later, my 10-year-old Cattle Dog-mix, Charlotte, went from walking multiple miles a day and training in sports to not being able to get up – overnight! We carried her into an emergency vet clinic where she was diagnosed with a herniated disc. We were told she would never walk comfortably again and that we should be thinking about end-of-life decisions. 

Two days later we brought her to the same veterinary rehabilitation specialist who worked with Sirius; we doubted the dire prognosis we had been given for Charlotte and weren’t ready to give up on a dog who had been so vigorous so recently! Through a combination of therapeutic treatment modalities, which included twice-weekly hydrotherapy for the first month, Charlotte also made an (almost) complete recovery and was cleared to do everything she loves: hiking, swimming, long walks, trick training, etc. 

I credit so much of my dogs’ recovery to hydrotherapy and skilled certified veterinary rehabilitation specialists. 

HOW HYDROTHERAPY HELPS

Canine hydrotherapy is a beneficial treatment modality for dogs recovering from many orthopedic injuries, as well as degenerative conditions like arthritis because allows dogs to move while bearing little or no weight on an injured limb. A less commonly considered benefit of the treatment is increased self-confidence for a dog who is injured or old.

Hydrotherapy isn’t dogs just splashing around in a pool, and the healing potential for injured dogs can’t be achieved by just bringing your dog somewhere for a recreational swim. There are two primary modalities of hydrotherapy treatment that dogs might receive: working on an underwater treadmill and therapeutic swimming. “The added resistance from water is excellent for increasing cardiovascular fitness while providing low impact resistance muscle training,” says Marti Drum, DVM, Ph.D. 

Dr. Drum is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR), a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner, and a Clinical Associate Professor in the Small Animal Clinical Sciences Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is also the acting service chief of the physical rehabilitation service at the University of Tennessee Certificate Program for Canine Rehabilitation – and a huge fan of hydrotherapy! 

UNDERWATER TREADMILL

The underwater treadmill used by veterinary specialists looks a lot like a fish tank. During treatment, your dog will enter the treadmill (sometimes with a life vest on) either on her own or with a certified technician. The dog enters the glass tank when it’s empty, and then the door is closed and the tank is slowly filled with warm water (between 80° and 94° F). 

The depth of the tank is adjusted according to the dog’s size, her specific injury, and how far along she is in the recovery process. If the therapist determines that she should be bearing no weight whatsoever, the tank is filled to a level that enables the dog to float with her paws just barely touching the treadmill. The lower the water level, the more weight she will bear on her limbs.

Once the water reaches the desired depth the treadmill floor begins moving at the speed determined by the specialist. When this happens, most dogs naturally will begin walking – even dogs who are experiencing too much pain or are too weak to walk on land often begin moving in the underwater treadmill because of the support and buoyancy the water provides. Depending on where the individual dog is in her recovery process, jets may be used to add increasing levels of resistance and the speed of the treadmill can be adjusted to support building muscle or to maintain muscle. 

In addition, says Dr. Drum, “The treadmill belt itself helps encourage a rhythmic gait to facilitate gait retraining.” This was certainly the case with my Charlotte, who had to be carried into the clinic, but a few days later, was able to walk comfortably in the underwater treadmill. 

While walking on the underwater treadmill and walking on land are both low-impact forms of exercise, practitioners see stronger results for dogs who are able to exercise in underwater treadmills. The added resistance from the water helps dogs gain more muscle tone than from walking on land. 

The water also supports a dog whose balance has been impaired. The support provided by the water enables and encourages dogs to move their joints in a nearly normal full range of motion. Plus, dogs who need to lose weight can burn more calories by working on an underwater treadmill than they can on land. 

THERAPEUTIC SWIMMING

The second modality of canine hydrotherapy is therapeutic swimming, where dogs are gently guided into a small, heated pool and supported in swimming by a certified canine rehabilitation specialist. They are generally fitted with a canine life jacket, and dogs who are prone to ear infections may also be fitted with a canine “swim cap” that prevents water from entering their ears. 

While beneficial to many dogs, therapeutic swimming isn’t an appropriate treatment for every injury. When swimming, most dogs primarily propel themselves through the water by using their front legs, so it wouldn’t usually be appropriate for dogs who have shoulder or front limb injuries, Dr. Drum says, as it can aggravate those conditions and slow recovery. Hydrotherapy may not be appropriate for dogs with groin injuries (strains of the iliopsoas muscle), either. 

BENEFITS

Dogs with back, hip, and knee injuries often benefit from hydrotherapy, as do dogs who are recovering from surgical repair of injuries. And hydrotherapy is increasingly recommended as a useful treatment modality for proactively conditioning for canine athletes and working dogs. 

 But dogs don’t need to have an injury to benefit from hydrotherapy. Dr. Drum says osteoarthritis is the most common condition she sees treated with hydrotherapy. Older dogs who have arthritis constitute about half of the hydrotherapy patients that Dr. Drum sees, and she describes the benefits to these dogs as “profoundly positive.” Senior dogs who suffer from arthritis pain often experience decreased energy and activity, which can result in loss of muscle mass and weight gain – which, in turn, increases the stress on the already compromised joints. 

Dr. Drum says, “It is not uncommon that our senior and geriatric patients experience a rejuvenation simply from starting a good hydrotherapy routine,” no more than once or twice a week, but at least once every two weeks. “You have to ‘use it or lose it’ to maintain muscle and cardiovascular fitness,” she says. 

When my active, well-conditioned dog Charlotte was recovering from a herniated disc, she was unable to walk on land and quickly grew depressed and even more anxious than she is ordinarily. But during her hydrotherapy sessions, her confidence and happiness visibly increased as she discovered that she could move in the water without pain, and this seemed to give her more confidence as she slowly regained the ability to walk and move on land as well. 

TREATMENT PLANS

Hydrotherapy will likely be only part of the treatment your dog receives. Dogs who are recovering from injury or surgery are likely to need multiple modalities of treatment in order to achieve optimal recovery. Hydrotherapy treatments are often provided in conjunction with structured exercises both at therapy sessions and for owners to follow-up with at home between sessions. 

Anti-inflammatory and/or pain medications are usually prescribed, at least initially. Other holistic treatment modalities such as acupuncture and laser therapy may also be offered and provided by your dog’s rehabilitation specialist. 

CERTIFICATIONS

If you think that your dog might benefit from hydrotherapy treatment, you can either ask your general-practice veterinarian for a referral or schedule a consultation and evaluation with a certified veterinary rehabilitation specialist on your own. If you find a practitioner on your own, however, be aware that not all people who are offering these services have the same amount or type of training.

It’s increasingly easy to find dog trainers, massage therapists, and even veterinary practices who offer “canine conditioning” classes or workshops that include swimming in a therapy pool. If your dog simply needs help with weight loss, zero-impact exercise, or conditioning, these services may be just fine. 

But if your dog is recovering from an injury or surgery, her therapy would be best guided by a professional with as much education and hands-on training and experience as you can find. It’s important to utilize hydrotherapy for an injured dog only under the supervision of specialized veterinary professionals who can determine whether the therapy is right for your dog and to create an individualized treatment plan for your dog’s specific health needs. 

If they are not certified specialists, the therapy they provide for your dog may be at best ineffective and at worst cause more injuries or prolong healing. As just one example, a common mistake for those not properly trained is to leave a dog on the treadmill for too long, which can result in the dog becoming sore and prolonging healing. 

For injured or post-surgical dogs, look for certified rehabilitation practitioners – people who have completed specialized training on top of their DVM or veterinary nursing degrees. Dr. Drum advises that owners look for specialists with one of the following credentials: 

  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP). (Dr. Drum especially likes the program at the University of Tennessee that offers this certification.)
  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT). (Dr. Drum favors the University of Florida’s program for this certificate.)
  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant (CCRA) or Certified Canine Rehabilitation Veterinary Nurse. People with this certification can provide services under the supervision and guidance of a rehabilitation-certified veterinarian.

DUE DILIGENCE 

Because hydrotherapy is such specialized treatment, there aren’t certified practitioners in every community and you may have to travel to find the appropriate treatment for your dog. 

Finally, no matter what services you are seeking for your dog, always ask for (and check) a practitioner’s references, and read any online reviews left by former clients.

Plan ahead to socialize your puppy early! By Nancy Kerns

Recently, I witnessed an older couple struggling to carry a crate into a puppy kindergarten class. Once inside, they opened the crate and a large and beautiful Poodle puppy emerged – a pup who was not particularly young, nor disabled in any way. When asked about the puppy and why they carried her inside the training center inside a crate, the couple said she was 14 weeks old, and had received three “puppy” vaccinations so far, but that their veterinarian had told them that the puppy shouldn’t be taken anywhere until she had received her last puppy vaccination at 16 weeks. They looked a little guilty as if they expected to be admonished for bringing her to a puppy kindergarten class before the last “shot.”

It’s 2019! Why are veterinarians still telling this nonsense to dog owners?!!

The owners were reassured they had absolutely done the right thing to bring the puppy to class, and encouraged to allow her to walk into and out of the training center on her own four legs, and given assistance to show the very able puppy how to get back into her owners’ car after class without them having to struggle to lift her in a crate into the back seat. And I vowed to write this post, which I seem to recall writing every few years for the past 22 years!

Don’t Keep That Puppy in a Bubble

Folks, please tell your friends and relatives: The risk of dogs developing serious behavior problems (and subsequent relinquishment and/or euthanasia) due to inadequate early socialization and minimal exposure to the outside world is far, far higher than the risk of contracting a fatal disease before the pup has become fully immunized. While parvovirus and distemper certainly still exist in the world, and are still quite problematic in pockets of certain communities, there are many steps one can take to prevent a puppy from becoming exposed to disease while taking the very important steps to carefully and positively expose the pup to novel places, people, and other animals.

Puppies should absolutely be taken out into the world before the age of 12 weeks, and ideally, would be attending a well-run puppy play/puppy kindergarten training class as early as 8 weeks old! They certainly should not spend this incredibly critical period of development wrapped in cotton wool in their new owners’ homes!

Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Take it from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): “Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs the fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”

AVSAB’s position statement on puppy socialization also says, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated [our emphasis].”

What Do Veterinarians Say?

Strong words from the veterinary behaviorists… Do “regular” veterinarians agree? Here is a quote from a literature review from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “By 8-9 weeks of age most dogs are sufficiently neurologically developed that they are ready to start exploring unfamiliar social and physical environments. Data show that if they are prohibited from doing so until after 14 weeks of age they lose such flexibility and maybe forever fearful in these situations. Such dogs may function well within extremely restricted social situations but will be fearful and reactive among unfamiliar people, pets or in environments outside of the house.”

The AVMA paper goes on to explain how one should ideally socialize and expose puppies safely, as well as how to provide remedial socialization to puppies or dogs who were not given these opportunities. No, all is not lost when owners fail to properly plan ahead and sign up for a class well before they procure their puppy. But as any trainer or good breeder can tell you, there is usually an astounding difference in the amount of confidence displayed in a puppy who has had well-managed, positive exposures to many different persons, places, and things – and especially opportunities to meet and play with other puppies and dogs of appropriate size and play styles – and one who has only begun to interact with the world in a meaningful way after the age of 16 weeks (or older!).

It takes forethought and planning, however, and many families don’t even think about training and socializing until the puppy is four months old or so. Then they look for a trainer and try to book the next class and find out that the next available spot is for a class some six or eight weeks hence. It’s not “too late” to socialize or train them at that stage, but it’s somewhat akin to signing up a third- or fourth-grade kid for kindergarten. It’s great that their education will finally get underway, but what they could have been already had they started their education on time!

So, how should it be done?

  1. Plan ahead: Find a good positive trainer early, before you ever get a puppy. Find out about his or her schedule and get signed up for a class that will start when your puppy-to-be will be 8 or 9 or 10 weeks old.
  2. Plan ahead: Find a veterinarian who will administer your puppy’s vaccinations on a schedule that will facilitate the pup’s timely admission to puppy kindergarten – and who can speak to the importance of your puppy’s behavioral health and support your efforts to build a behaviorally confident puppy through a well-run puppy class. (If you can, interview vets before you procure your puppy. Younger, more recently educated veterinarians to tend to be more aware of the AVMA’s and ASVAB’s recommendations.)
  3. Do as much thought, structured socializing as possible with the puppy at your home, and/or in the homes of friends or family members who have no dogs or healthy, vaccinated, reliably dog-friendly dogs who can be trusted to not scare or harm the puppy. Here are some past articles in WDJ on this topic:The Complete Puppy Socialization Guide
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/pre_puppy_prep/the-complete-puppy-socialization-guide/The 10 Most Important Things to Teach a Puppy
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/puppy_training/the-10-most-important-things-to-teach-a-puppy/

    Puppies in Public – Risk Factors
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/puppies-in-public-risk-factors/

    Puppy Socialization Schedule
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/pre_puppy_prep/the-guide-dogs-of-americas-puppy-socialization-schedule/

  4. Educate yourself about puppy diseases and how to keep your puppy safe without sequestering him or her. Here are some past articles that have been published in WDJ on this topic.Why Your Puppy Needs So Many Shots
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/puppy-health/puppy-vaccines-why-your-puppy-needs-so-many-shots/The Deal With Puppy Shots
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/the-deal-with-puppy-shots/

    Time to Vaccinate the Dog
    https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/time-to-vaccinate-the-dog/

Does your dog have a rock solid recall? : Nancy Kerns

Someone sent me a link to this news story about a Texas dog owner being caught on video (taken inadvertently by a neighbor’s Ring security camera) beating her dog. The person whose security camera caught the event posted the clip on a social media site, where it was viewed by neighbors – and eventually, a local law enforcement officer. The local police department shared the video even more widely, asking for the community’s help in identifying the woman. Eventually, the woman was identified and questioned. Her explanation for her behavior? “Police say the woman admitted she hit her dog after she was forced to chase him when he ran from home.”

Well, beating and kicking him is a great way to make him want to be home. (SARCASM ALERT.)

It should be obvious that hitting and kicking a dog teaches a dog NOTHING (except perhaps to run faster from his or her abuser next time).

It’s strange to me, however, that many people struggle with keeping their dogs inside when their doors or gates are open – and with being able to recall their dogs from some tempting fun.

Train a recall often and make it fun

When people come to my house, they will undoubtedly be met at the door by my canine greeters. When I open the door, many (if not most) people who don’t know my dogs personally will initiate some sort of blocking maneuver, as if to prevent the dogs from escaping out the door. I am forever saying, “It’s okay! They aren’t going anywhere! Look, they come right back!” (Of course, I could tell my dogs to stay inside instead of allowing them to go outside when I’m letting someone into the house; they’re perfectly capable of holding a sit-stay or down-stay indoors – but I rarely consider this, as it’s not even slightly a problem if they slip outdoors; I can call them back without fail.)

I’m not bragging; their recall is something we practice constantly, if not daily. And it’s not a chore or a drill, I keep it fun! Often when I call them, it’s to initiate a game of fetch or hide-and-seek. Sometimes they get lunch meat or scraps of my lunch. Sometimes I call them in from chasing a squirrel – and their reward for a prompt recall is an encouragement to go chase the squirrel again! I keep our recall practice unpredictable, enjoyable, and always rewarding in some way.

Here’s how to train – and maintain – a solid recall

For more about keeping your dog’s recall fresh and quick, see the following WDJ articles:

Training an “Extremely Fast” Recall: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/leash_training/training-your-dog-to-execute-an-extremely-fast-reliable-recall/

Using a Long Line to Teach Off-Leash Recalls: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/on-leash-training-blossoming-into-off-leash-reliability/

Rocket Recall: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/leash_training/rocket-recall/

Games for Building a Reliable Recall: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/leash_training/games-for-building-reliable-recall-behavior-for-your-dog/

Why Play Is Important For Dogs : Nancy Kerns

I read a recent article in The Atlantic about some scientists who taught rats to play hide-and-seek as part of a larger study about the neuroscience of play. I’m riveted by animal behavior, I’m a huge fan of play, and I find neuroscience interesting, so an article like this can send me straight down a rabbit hole of further reading, investigation, and thinking while gazing out the window.

The abstract of the study, which was originally published in the magazine Science, concludes, “The elaborate cognitive capacities for hide-and-seek in rats suggest that this game might be evolutionarily old.”

Animal behavior experts have long speculated about the purpose of play; it is thought to be a sort of behavioral practice time when predator species practice stalking and hunting prey, and prey species practice escape tactics (such as running and dodging) and rudimentary self-defense behaviors such as kicking or biting. And of course, all species tend to engage in playful social behaviors, such as social grooming. The play of humans incorporates all of these things!

All mammals play the most when they are young, and most species spend less and less time playing as they mature. Interestingly, humans and dogs are two species who retain a greater than average interest in play well into their senior years, though the “games” may change greatly over time. This is why good dog trainers frequently recommend using play as a reinforcer for a dog’s behavior that the owner likes or wants more of. The mutually enjoyable play also helps strengthen the bond between dogs and their humans and keeps them engaged and motivated to pay attention to and work with us. Interestingly, hide-and-seek is a favorite game of many humans and their dogs, me and mine included. Both my dignified senior dog, Otto, and my always goofy, playful four-year-old Woody will leap to their feet and stare at me if I signal the start of a game by just looking at them and then pantomiming an exaggerated sneaking out of the room: Oh, it’s on! they seem to say. They know to wait for me to whistle before starting their search, without me having to tell them to “stay.” I never taught them this, but if they come and find me before I’m actually hidden, I just tell them, “Aw, you wrecked it!” and resume doing whatever it was that I was doing before I initiated the game. So they learned that if they wait for the whistle, I’m both more difficult to find and I almost always let out that inadvertent squeal of joy and surprise that humans almost can’t help but make when they have discovered hiding by their intensely seeking dogs. And then we all celebrate with laughter and a little bit of roughhousing.

Mutually enjoyable play is so reinforcing for most dogs, that I would hazard a guess that people who play with their dogs would rate their dogs’ behavior – or at the very least, the strength of their relationship – more highly than people who don’t play with their dogs. Shoot, if I were a scientist with time and money to spare, I’d try to find a way to test this hypothesis. Instead, I’ll just ask you guys: Do you play with your dogs? How and why?

Puppy Care: Tips for First-Time Dog Owners

Puppy Care: Tips for First-Time Dog Owners

Are you a first-time puppy owner? Read through our helpful guide to learn the basics of puppy care.

Adoptable dogs and puppies for sale can be adopted from shelter organizations and rescue groups for a minimal adoption fee.
Puppies need more than just a bed and a food bowl to thrive. They also need constant care and attention. While it may require a lot of work initially, it’s well worth the effort down the road. Establishing good habits in those first weeks will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of happiness for you and your dog. Remember, you have a responsibility to help your puppy grow into a happy and healthy dog. Here are some tips for puppy care to help first-time dog owners get started:
Puppy-Proof Your Home
Before you bring your new pet into your home, make sure that your house is safe. Puppies love to explore and chew everything in their path. Keep your puppy confined to a safe area in your house, and don’t leave him unsupervised. Provide plenty of chew toys for your new friend, and reward him when he chews the toys instead of your favorite pair of shoes.

Keep him off balconies, elevated porches, and decks. Keep all cleaning supplies, detergents, bleach, and other chemicals and medicines out of the puppy’s reach, preferably on high shelves. Remove poisonous houseplants, such as amaryllis, mistletoe, holly, or poinsettia, or keep them in hanging baskets up high, where your puppy cannot reach them.
Just as important: Keep toilet lids closed, unplug electrical cords and remove them from the floor, and keep plastic bags and ribbons out of your puppy’s reach.

Bring Your Puppy to the Veterinarian for Regular Checkups
One of the most important parts of owning a puppy is ensuring he receives proper care.

Take him to a qualified veterinarian as soon as you bring him home. He needs several rounds of vaccines between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks to keep him from getting sick. You will also need to bring your puppy back to the veterinarian for a yearly checkup. Remember to discuss with your veterinarian the best age to neuter or spay your puppy, as well.

Finally, talk to your veterinarian about any signs of illness that you should watch out for during your puppy’s first few months.

Ensure Your Puppy Receives Proper Nutrition
Your puppy also needs complete and balanced nutrition to help him grow properly. In fact, the first year of his life is critical in ensuring proper growth of his bones, teeth, muscles, and fur. As a growing animal, he’ll require more calories than an adult dog. Read the labels, and find a food that has been specifically created to ensure the proper balance of protein and fat for a puppy.

Check the food package for the recommended feeding schedule and serving size. Never feed your puppy bones, table scraps, or big snacks in between meals.

Teach Your Puppy Obedience
You should also establish clear rules and expectations from the get-go.

Be firm and gentle with your training — never punitive. Be consistent with your rules. Give commands in a matter-of-fact tone. Always reward your puppy for obeying you with plenty of praise, as well as an occasional treat.

When it’s time to move on to house-training, the key is to be consistent. Your puppy will typically need to eliminate 20 to 30 minutes after eating. Take him outside, and use a command such as “go potty.” Then be sure to praise him when he does.

Don’t get discouraged if your puppy doesn’t learn the rules right away. Some pets catch onto housebreaking quickly, while others can take up to six months.

Remember that with proper puppy care, your new pet will grow into a happy, healthy dog — and provide you with love and companionship for years to

Adopting a shelter dog or rescuing a dog? A guide to the new parent

Adopting a shelter dog or rescuing a dog? A guide to the new parent.

The dog that you adopt from the shelter may be a rescued stray or a dog that someone has voluntarily surrendered for adoption.Your Newly Adopted Dog Thinkstock
Whether he was born in the bushes behind the laundromat or an adolescent abandoned on the streets by his once-upon-a-time owner, the streetwise stray can be a real challenge to incorporate into your life. The famous “he followed me home, can I keep him, Mom?” canine is a special animal that needs time and space, patience and understanding.

This is a dog that has had to compete to stay alive; he’s fought for food, scrambled for shelter. His reliance on his inborn canine savvy kept him alive on the streets long enough to be rescued and adopted by you. Now you’ve comitted yourself to him, it becomes a crash course in Canine Socialization and Human Interaction 101.

If he’s street-born, chances are he’s never heard a toilet flush or seen a vacuum cleaner in action. He’ll gobble up his food, throwing furtive glances left and right. The acoustics of the indoor environment may make him anxious. Edgy, he’ll whine and pace. A sudden sound and he’ll either bolt upright ready for action or slither along behind you.

Be reasonable in your expectations. Be sensitive. It’s culture shock, pure and simple. Put yourself in his shoes. Just imagine that you’ve been snatched away from home and suddenly find yourself in an aboriginal outback community. No language or gestures in common. Communication is by trial and error. Be patient and supportive. You’ll succeed.

The stray that was “previously owned” enters your home with a completely different set of baggage. Leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of” training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expected. Or maybe he led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity. This dog may be the product of a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations.

As an adolescent or adult dog, he’s already formed his opinion regarding humans. Be prepared to meet with confusion, reluctance and resistance as you retrain this fellow. He may flinch when you reach to pet him, make a sudden move or raise your voice. But don’t let yourself be held hostage by thoughts of past cruelties and abuse. Don’t treat him like a victim. The key here is confidence. Build his with consistent training and you’ll turn him around.

The dog that has been voluntarily surrendered for adoption may have somehow let someone down. Not housebroken, too active, too noisy, destructive when left alone, too friendly. Or maybe he’s a victim of circumstance. Divorce, an owner who died, is ill or was arrested. A newborn who is allergic. Whatever the the familiar smells that make him feel good all over. He misses them, he mourns them. His pack, his family … where are they?

When you get him home, he’s confused and disoriented. Sights and sounds are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar; things are jumbled up. He jumps on the couch and bed, he drinks from the toilet bowl, barks at the phone and makes wild lunges at strangers. In another life, these behaviors may have been encouraged or maybe just not discouraged. Don’t worry; he’ll catch on. He’ll get past it all. He’ll become your dog.

Taking on the responsibility of a dog with a past is hard work. At first, it may seem overwhelming. Most of the problem behavior you’ll encounter is an expression of the dog’s inability to cope with the demands of your personality and lifestyle. Make sure you and he are indeed suited for each other; that you can meet his needs for activity and companionship according to his breed type. Things may proceed slowly; you’ll hit frustrating learning plateaus. But if you’re committed you’ll get there. Remember that the basic period of adjustment can be anywhere from six to twelve weeks. Go into this with your eyes open… and then stand back and marvel at the transformation. . . it will knock your socks off!

Responsibilities for the Parents of the Newly Adopted Dog: By Sue Sternberg

Responsibilities for the Parents of the Newly Adopted Dog: By Sue Sternberg

1. Never, ever leave a child alone with your new dog. Not even for a second to turn your head and answer the phone. The type of relationship we see on TV between children and dogs is a fantasy and not a reflection of what real dogs can be like with children.

Responsibilities for the Parents of the Newly Adopted Dog
Thinkstock

2. No one in the family should be encouraging rough play, wrestling or the dog to play with his mouth on human body parts or clothes. This is especially relevant when an adult member of the household plays with the dog in this manner, because when the child next excites the dog, the dog may be stimulated to play in the same rough manner, thereby putting the child at risk for injury.

3. Your dog should be fed his meals in an area completely protected from and away from children, as much for a bit of peace and privacy as it is to prevent guarding behaviors. The dog should also be fed portions that are quickly finished, so there is nothing left in the bowl for the dog to linger over and guard. Empty bowls should be taken up and put away, so the dog won’t consider guarding the feeding area.

4. Most children are not bitten by their own dog, but by a friend or neighbor’s dog. This means two things: watch your own dog closely when your child has a friend (or friends) over. Many dogs will tolerate a lot from his own family’s child, but not tolerate a visiting child. Visiting children often do not behave as well as, or may behave differently from your own children, and could bother or provoke your dog. Consequently, if your child’s friends have dogs, you need to, (as a responsible parent) go over and meet the friend’s dog BEFORE you allow your child to visit their house. It is a good idea to see the size and general nature of your child’s friend’s dog, and check to see if the owner of this dog will allow unsupervised interaction between the children and the dog, to ask where and when the dog is fed, and to check if there are any chewable toys or bones lying around, and then to either request that they be picked up and put away while your child visits, or ensure that their dog has no possessiveness problems.