I almost killed your dog today

The dog was right where that yellow Google Maps line sits.

I almost killed a dog today.

I was on my way to work, driving down a fairly quiet street in our neighborhood. And a Sheltie was standing in the middle of the street.

Where was the owner, you ask? She was actually being a very conscientious dog owner, busily engaged in picking up her other Sheltie’s deposit on the parkway.

Both dogs were on leash, leashes in her hand. Retractable leashes.

She probably thought her dogs were safe. One dog was by her side, helping with the clean up. The other had wandered into the middle of the street.

And this is just one reason we don’t carry retractable leashes in our shop and advocate against them.

When people come into the shop and ask for them, I’ve often referenced the story of dogs being hit by cars in the middle of the street while their owners were on the sidewalk. But, honestly, I secretly thought it was an urban myth. A horror story that could be true, but that had never really happened.

Until it almost happened to me today.

If I’d been going more than five mph, or not paying attention, that adorable dog would be dead. Instead, I braked in the middle of the street and waited for her to notice the danger her dog was in. I didn’t honk, didn’t get angry, just waited. I knew if it were me, realizing the peril I’d put my dog in, I’d be defensive and panicky. I didn’t want that to happen. When she finally looked up and saw my car sitting, then saw her dog 15 feet from my front bumper, she worked the leash frantically to reel her dog in.

You can say all’s well that ends well, and hope that she’ll be more aware of her dog’s location in the future, or even trash the leash. If the dog had been on a six foot leash, he wouldn’t have been in the middle of the street.

The only possible uses for retractable leashes:
1. In an open field where no other dogs can interfere with yours.
2. Training a dog for the recall (come).

And in both those instances, a length of clothesline or a long line would be even better. Retractable leashes put a constant pressure on the dog’s neck, so dogs don’t ever learn to walk nicely with a loose leash. Retractable leashes are also responsible for many finger and hand injuries – especially the ones that have a rope instead of a flat webbing length.

We know retractables are popular – that doesn’t make them a good idea.

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French Bulldog Teddy learning "high five"

Dog Tip – Change your life in two minutes with PRT

I (Hope) was on the phone with a customer this morning and she said something that really surprised me. I don’t remember her exact words, but the gist was her dog couldn’t be trained. And she really believed it!

To back up a couple of steps, we were talking about choosing the best harness for her dog, a young Miniature Pinscher that’s a bit wild, fearful, and uncomfortable around other dogs.

We decided that the best harness would be the Wrap-N-Go – it’s the one we recommend for dogs who try to escape. In addition to other issues, her dog is also an extreme wiggler. Her only hesitation was that her dog is also afraid of the sound hook-and-loop closures (trade name Velcro) make. It’s not an uncommon problem, so I said “well, you can train her to get used to the velcro.”

I was completely taken aback by her “I can’t train her. It wouldn’t work. She’s untrainable.”

We know that no healthy dog is untrainable. And we need a new word for “train.”

Whenever we think about it – the word “training” has some unfortunate baggage attached. When I think about training, I equate it with exercise and working out. Which I loathe.

So do people think of “dog training” the same way? Unpleasant, frustrating, hard work that accomplishes nothing quickly?

If that’s the case – we absolutely, positively, definitely need a new word to use instead of training.

Especially since, when I explained what I meant by “training her dog” to get used to Velcro, she turned right around and said, “Oh, I can do that! That’s easy!”

Dog training is easy. And fun. And doesn’t take long – just a couple minutes at a time. How long results take depend on the dog and how consistent you are – but if it’s not pretty fun, you’re doing it wrong.

To train your dog to get used to Velcro:
Put on your dog’s collar (or harness) and leash
Grab a handful of treats
Sit on the floor with a velcro something – it doesn’t matter what
Give the dog the entire length of the leash – don’t “make” him/her do anything
Start playing with the velcro. Every time it makes a noise, give the dog a cookie.
If the dog isn’t in arm’s reach, toss the treat to him/her
Keep doing it.
If the dog approaches, give even more treats.
When you’re out of treats, the session is over.

Don’t say anything to the dog. Nothing. Not “come here.” Not “it’s okay, sweetie.” Nothing.
Soon your dog will decide that only good things happen when he/she hears Velcro.

It’s almost miraculous how quickly dogs will learn how to get treats. And in the process, you’re both having a little bit of fun (it’s incredibly fun to watch your dog figure things out), you’re spending time with your dog, and your dog is learning to trust you and figuring out how to get what he/she wants.

The same technique can be used to teach your dog just about anything. Give them the opportunity to figure stuff out. Your dog is smart – he/she will get it! And that’s Positive Reinforcement training (PRT)!

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Mythbusters Canine Edition – Part 2

Continuing to debunk these popular, wrong, notions about dogs

Dogs are colorblind

dog vision myth

Dogs’ vision includes some color, but not the full range humans enjoy.

Well, sort of. Dogs see the world differently than most people. Their color perception is actually similar to people who have red/green color blindness, with most tones in yellows and blues. As much as you may like seeing your dog in a bright red collar, it doesn’t make any difference to your dog. And the reason she loves that bright yellow tennis ball? Because it’s probably the one she can see the best.

Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than people’s

French bulldog panting

Dogs’ mouths aren’t any cleaner than people’s.

All mouths have natural bacteria and “flora” populations. Dogs’ mouths are by no means “sterile” or germ-free. Which is not to say there’s any problem with a dog licking you – for healthy people and dogs, it’s no problem at all. The notion probably arose because anaerobic bacteria, which die in an oxygen-rich environment, aren’t generally present in dog’s mouths because they pant, exposing their entire mouths to air. It’s the old wives’ tale we heard back in the day.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

French Bulldog high five

Dogs can learn new behaviors at any age – and most love learning new things (or the treats they get!)

Nonsense! Just like people, dogs are able to learn, adapt, and grow throughout their lives. Teaching your dog something new is a great way to shake everybody out of their ruts. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – see how many tricks you and your dog can come up with using a box, or a step stool, or other household objects. Just remember to train in small increments (five or 10 minutes at a time), and never when you’re angry or frustrated. Training takes time and patience, but it’s fun for everybody to show off your dog’s new trick at the next family gathering.

A wagging tail means the dog is happy

French Bulldog butt

Out of our experience, but we hear tails wag for more than one reason.

We have no way of know this for sure – none of our dogs have tails! We’re told that a quickly-wagging tail does mean the dog is happy and in a playful mood, but a slower wag may mean the dog is nervous or unsure of the situation. We do know that the faster our cat’s tail was moving, the angrier he was. It was definitely a “no go” signal for our 18-lb. cat.

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Mythbusters Canine Editions – Part 1

There’s lots of stuff “everybody knows” about dogs. Some of it’s true. These are not:

A cold, wet nose is the sign of a healthy dog

French Bulldog nose

Healthy dogs’ noses can be warm or cold, wet or dry.

Healthy dogs’ noses vary. If they’re sleeping or just waking up, their noses may be warm.  If they’re running around, active, panting, their noses may be warm. Temperature also goes up and down through the day – just as ours do. When we’re active our noses are warmer than when we’re sedentary. Similarly, the moisture of a dog’s nose varies throughout the day. A dog with a dry nose may be perfectly healthy, just as one with a wet nose may actually have a respiratory infection or other disease process going on. Noses just aren’t a very good indicator of a dog’s health. It’s much better to rely on better indicators; is the dog eating, drinking, pooping, active, etc. In other words, if your dog is acting normally, don’t worry about the temperature or dampness of his/her nose.

Dogs age 7 years to every human year

old dog

Seven to one isn’t really a good ratio for comparing dogs’ ages to humans’.

Not really. A one-year-old dog is probably more mature than a seven-year-old child. And athree-year-old dog may or may not be fully adult. It also depends on the dog’s size. Smaller dogs tend to have longer life spans than larger ones. It’s not unusual for a Chihuahua to live into its late teens or early 20s. A Great Dane may be geriatric at eight. Dogs also tend to mature at different rates. While most are as long and as tall as they’re going to get by about eight months, dogs will still “fill out” and mature for about another year and a half. Dogs aren’t really “adults” at one year old, even though they may have reached their adult size.

Dogs eat grass to settle their stomachs

French bulldog sniffing dandelion

Dogs don’t need to graze on your lawn. It’s not good for either one.

No. Domestic dogs don’t really know how to self-medicate if they don’t feel well. Eating grass is normal dog behavior, according to experts. But it doesn’t mean they don’t feel well, need to vomit, or are lacking fiber or other nutrition in their diets. It’s pretty much just something dogs do. Most of ours promptly throw up after eating grass and we’ve looked at them and said “We told you so!” more than once while cleaning up the mess. Not all dogs throw up after grass eating and there doesn’t seem to be any adverse effect for most.

However – it’s not a good idea, especially if you don’t know exactly what sort of chemicals (weed-killers, fertilizers) have been used on the grass your dog is munching. Not to mention the various illnesses/parasites that can be spread through contact with wild animals’ (rabbits, squirrels, skunks, possums, deer, raccoons, birds, etc.) droppings.

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Is your dog bored?

We worry.
We worry about everything.
Or we feel guilty.
We feel guilty about everything, too. About home, work, family, friends, where we should be, what we should be doing, about stuff that needs to get done, etc.

flat pug

Don’t assume your dog is “bored.” He/she is content to nap when you’re not there.

One guilt trip many people seem to be taking is about their dogs. They’re concerned that their dogs are bored while they’re at work. They feel guilty about leaving Phydeaux alone. It’s one of the reasons that doggie day care facilities and dog walking businesses are up-and-coming businesses.

If your dog enjoys day care, it’s fine. If you’re gone more than nine or ten hours, or if you have a puppy or an older, ailing, a dog-walker is a great idea.

Other than that – stop feeling guilty. Your dog is fine at home. Really.

Healthy adult dogs sleep an average of 12 to 14 hours a day. Puppies and seniors sleep more. Larger dogs tend to sleep more than smaller ones. And there are personality differences, just like in people. Teddy would snooze 20 hours a day, given the opportunity. Booker has to be persuaded to lie down at all.

Most people are sleep-deprived, so we’re going to assume most get about six hours of sleep per night. Hopefully, your dog sleeps for those hours, too. We’re left with six to eight hours a day that your dog will still sleep. Which means that your dog’s sleep schedule, roughly, coincides with the times you can’t be home, anyway!

Your dog is thrilled to see you when you come home because he/she adores you and wants to be with you! It’s not because he/she had nothing else to do. Spending time with you is the best part of any day (or night) for your dog.

And you don’t have to spend every second you’re home paying attention to your dog. Phydeaux will be happy with 10 or 15 minutes of your complete attention – playing tug, or fetch, practicing a new trick, grooming, going for a walk, or whatever you enjoy. After that, just being with you in the same room, hanging out, watching tv, etc. is fine.

We know that carving out the time to spend with your dog isn’t always easy. Some days we’d much rather collapse on the couch with the remote than anything else. But we look at those big brown eyes and head over to the toy bin for a rousing game. And before you know it, we’re smiling and having fun. And so are our dogs.

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We don’t need no stinkin’ CRM automation

As business people, we’re always looking for ways to do our jobs better – find the best products, efficiently manage inventory, streamline shipping, improve our website, etc.
The one thing we’ve never changed is how we deal with customers. If someone reaches out to us – we respond. Promptly and politely.
If there’s a problem – we solve it. There’s nothing “behind the curtain.” There is no curtain. If someone wants to talk to us, our phone number is all over the place. So is our email address.
Does that make it easy for spammers to find us? Sure. But we’d rather hit the “delete” button a few times, listen to the start of a few more robo-calls, than cause difficulty for a single customer.

Our inbox is usually pretty packed with companies offering to find us multitudes of new contacts, leads, customers, etc. Apparently there’s a thing called “CRM” – which stands for Customer Relationship Management. And this CRM can be automatic, so human hands don’t have to pick up a phone and human ears don’t have to listen to people. It relieves us of the messiness of dealing with people. And we’re promised our business will grow by leaps and bounds if we purchase some CRM automation.
Thanks, but no thanks.

cave woman

Old-fashioned talking to people is the best “customer relationship management.”

We think the way to build a business is to apply the fundamental rule of humanity: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Offer a variety of products that are useful, helpful, well-made, safe, entertaining.
Offer these products at a reasonable price.
Stand behind the products you offer.
Be fair.
Listen.
Try to avoid problems, but if they occur, fix them quickly.
Respect everyone.

We think it’s the right way to do business. We like talking to people and hearing about their dogs. We love getting emails that include pictures of their dogs. We think it’s fun to make connections all over the country, and the world.

So, to all the software companies out there offering to take the messy part of our business off our hands, we cordially decline. We’ll stay here in the mess. It’s where all our friends hang out.

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Dog tip – Everything old is new again

 

Teddy and pile of toys

New toys are best – unless you fake out your dog!

Dogs seem to have ESP for new toys. We can walk in the house with a dozen bags of groceries, clothes, sundries. They don’t care. (Unless the grocery bags have cheese, of course.)
But one bag with a dog toy – they know! And they’re jumping around, trying to see, sniff, and get their grubby little paws on the loot.
And if your dogs are like ours – they have tons of toys. And they walk right by the toys they adored last week to get to the new ones.
This week’s tip is a plan to reignite the love they lost for all those old toys.
The first step is to sort through all the old toys. Just touching the toys, or gathering them in one spot, might rekindle your dog’s interest, but be insistent. We use a laundry basket and just go through the house gathering toys as we go.
Sort the toys next. Anything that’s got irreparable holes in it, toss. Be ruthless. Phydeaux may be staring at you with those big puppy-dog eyes, insisting he loves that particular toy more than breathing. Don’t be swayed. If the toy isn’t worth fixing, and Phydeaux hasn’t looked at it since the havoc was wrought, out it goes.
During our toy sweeps of the house, about a fourth go into the trash. Don’t feel bad about it – the toy did its job and met a fun end. Your dog enjoyed it thoroughly.
The next step is cleaning. We cheat. Soft toys (stuffies, plush, ropey toys) go in the washing machine and dryer (air fluff mode – no heat). Yes, the squeakers (those that still work) may fill with water and stop working temporarily. As you move them from the washer to the dryer, give them a squeeze to eject as much water as you can. Don’t worry about the rest – it’ll evaporate.
Latex, vinyl, and rubber toys go in the dishwasher. Delicate, or low heat settings, and top rack so you don’t melt the toys. Again, when they come out, give them a squeeze to rid squeakers of excess water.
Then comes the fun part. Pick about half a dozen of the toys to keep out and put the rest away in a covered storage bin. You can even put the new toys in a plastic bag and bring them into the house again, as if they’re coming home for the first time. Have a great play session with your dog. Every single toy is brand new again!
Rotate through the toys whenever your dog seems to be losing interest. Have another storage bin for the “used” toys – take away one toy for each one you take out, and throw away any toys that can’t be fixed. As the “new” bin empties and the “used” bin fills, schedule another cleaning day.
Which is not to say that our dogs never get new toys! There’s always something new and fun coming into our house – but we get full value from every dog toy we buy!

 

 

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In Defense of Crate Training

I don’t want to argue with you.
Crate train your dog.
I don’t care if he/she is already housebroken.
I don’t care if he/she isn’t destructive while you’re gone.
I don’t care if he/she hates, loathes, and despises the crate.
Do it anyway.

It’s a discussion we often have here in the shop and we hope we’ve given some people reason to reconsider their decisions to discard their dogs’ crates.

Everybody has “stuff” – jobs, school, appointments, social commitments, etc. Much as we’d like to, we can’t be with our dogs all day every day. Which means our dogs have the opportunity to get in all kinds of trouble. Which they don’t, because they’re crated.

For the sake of argument, we’ll say that your dog is a perfect angel when you’re not there. He/she never eliminates in the house, never chews anything he/she shouldn’t, doesn’t bark all day, and never, ever puts a foot wrong.

You still need to train your dog to be comfortable in a crate.

Why, you ask? Because there will probably be a time when your dog, for whatever reason, needs to be crated – in the animal hospital, in a boarding facility, at the groomers. And if you ever want to join our community of dog-performance people, your dog will most likely be crated at obedience, rally, and agility trials. If your dog is relaxed, and calm, familiar with a crate, it will make his/her life much easier. And yours.

Crate training can even help with separation anxiety. If you teach your dog to love his/her crate, then it’s a familiar, comfortable place when you’re away.

We’re not saying that crates have to be empty, stark, dark, places. It can be the Taj Mahal of crates, with cushy bedding and comfy, soft towels to lie on. It’s your dog’s “room” and should be a happy place, not a punishment. And it should be the best place (aside from at your side) ever, ever, ever!

The first step is to dig out that crate from storage. Clean it up and put in a nice, soft bed (or whatever cushion your dog likes). Keep it in the active part of the house – not the laundry room, mud room, or basement. It should be where you are. And start “adding value” to the crate. Leave the door open at first, all the time.

Feed your dog in the crate. Every meal. All the time. Especially if your dog loves to eat.
Play with your dog using the crate. Throw in a toy and tell your dog to “get it.”
Stand by the crate, with the door open, armed with a bunch of tasty treats. If your dog goes in the crate, give him/her a treat. And keep giving treats, as long as he/she stays in. As soon as your pup comes out, stop giving treats. Dogs learn quickly. Yours will soon discover that crate can be a wonderful place to be.

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We really do know the trouble you’ve seen

I (Hope) just got off the phone with a new customer from Rhode Island.
This very nice couple needed a harness for their Miniature Pinscher and were having trouble finding anything that fit. Apparently they’ve tried bunches of harnesses in the two years they’ve had their pup – with little or no success. They’re currently “making do” with one that’s a bit big, and doesn’t really fit too well, but was okay over sweaters or jackets. But it’s Spring now, and the sweaters and jackets have to come off. They needed a harness that fits.
Oh, my. I could hear their frustration. It shouldn’t be difficult to find a secure harness that fits properly. But it can be – and that’s exactly why our family started Golly Gear.
Golly was Fran’s Brussels Griffon and the smallest dog we’d ever had in the family. She wasn’t tiny, about 10 or 11 lbs., depending on how strong we were in resisting that adorable, imploring little face. But it was practically impossible to find anything that fit her properly. We had to resort to cat collars, baby onesies, infant bowls, and other, silly makeshift answers. It was quite a few years ago and fortunately, things have changed.
We’d been in retail for a while and had some resources many people don’t. We started doing our research and finding small dog stuff. And just had to share it with other small dog people.
We know that no dog really needs all 30+ styles of harnesses we carry. But the right harness for a Shih Tzu will probably be a different harness than the perfect on for a Miniature Pinscher. And the size difference between a five-pound dog and a 10-pound dog is huge compared to 65- and 70-pound dogs.
Our goal is to eliminate frustration for small dog people. We want to be the resource people can rely on when they have questions about their dogs. Part of the community of dog people.
I was able to help the Rhode Island Miniature Pinscher people. It took a couple of phone calls and a bout with a measuring tape, but we figured out the answer to their problem and were able to help. It’s been a good day.

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Have we got a Spring allergy tip for you

Anything that makes life easier/smoother/less stressful is a good thing. A tiny thing that’s making a difference is a simple package of baby wipes near the back door.
Our house is weirdly and awkwardly arranged to the first thing you see when you walk in is the stove. (Unless the basement door is open – then it’s the stairs, or stars, if you take a tumble!) Which has made the stove a staging area for all the things you need as you come in or go out. Keys, poop bags, treats, etc.
Not the most convenient arrangement when you want to cook, but in a small space, you learn to make do.
Anyway, there’s been one recent addition to the flotsam that’s actually making a difference in a good way.
Baby wipes. Specifically hypo-allergenic baby wipes.

French Bulldog Torque and baby wipes

Just a quick swipe with a wipe when Torque comes inside minimizes contact allergy exposure.

Since about the middle of January, Torque’s been having some issues with allergies. At first it was just a bit of paw-licking. Then his paws were a bit raw and swollen, then he started losing some hair under his eyes, along with some redness. In other words, the little man was a mess.
At first we thought it had to be a food allergy that was just coming to the fore, since Hope took him away on vacation in early February and his whole environment changed.
So we put him on an elimination diet. And it made no difference whatsoever. The allergen had to be something environmental. With an extraordinarily warm, wet winter, some sort of mold is probably the culprit.
Torque is a two-year-old French Bulldog. And a very happy, athletic, active two year old. If he’s awake, he’s on the move and we don’t have a lot of time to “fuss” with him. Especially with Booker The Boston bouncing around, egging him on to play.
As soon as Torque steps in the house, we hit the baby wipes package and swipe his face and paws. It helps if we have a treat in our hands (There’s a treat jar on the stove, too, of course.) and ask him to “sit!” as soon as he hits the indoors. We don’t have time, or inclination, to mess with more than that.
The new system seems to be helping. He’s not gnawing at his paws so much and his face looks less irritated.
We have noticed one immediate improvement – the floors are lacking a few paw prints! Especially coming in from the wet weather, we’ve started swiping all the dogs’ paws with baby wipes. It only takes a moment and it’s already making a difference.

 

If your dog is miserable with contact allergies you may want to consider stronger measures – which may include using Pawz dog boots whenever your dog goes outside. They’re particularly effective for dogs with grass allergies.

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