Dogs are listening

One of the absolute cutest dog behaviors ever is the head tilt. It absolutely never fails to make people smile. It’s like dogs are programmed to do it when we talk to them. It proves dogs are listening.

The head tilt is proof dogs are listening

There was a study that reported this week that dogs not only understand when their people are talking to them – they can also distinguish between their native language and a foreign tongue. The weirdest thing about the study was that the dogs also knew when they were being bamboozled and hearing nonsense words.

If you ask us, one of the most impressive things about the study wasn’t that the dogs understood. It’s that the dogs stayed quiet in the MRI machine to participate in the study. Good dogs!

Paying attention all the time

Interpreting their human’s language, attitude, and emotion is a unique trait of dogs. Almost everyone with a dog can relate a story of how their dog never left their side when they were feeling low. Over the centuries of companionship, dogs have become adept at tuning into human society and making it their own.

Does it work both ways? Are you as skilled at reading your dog’s physical and mental well-being? There are the obvious signs that something’s not right, like not eating, restlessness, or even cries of pain. 

Then there are the subtler cues. You can’t quite figure out what’s going on, but you know there’s something. 

Have a routine

One of the ways to “check in” on your dog’s wellbeing is to have a regular grooming day routine. And while you’re brushing their teeth, fur, handling their ears, paws, etc. keep up a conversational patter and see how they respond. If they’re accustomed to you talking to them, it will relax them and let them know everything’s okay. 

Just like us, dogs can have an off day, so if you notice an occasional something, it’s not a big deal as long as your dog bounces back quickly. 

Your dog’s response to your voice is one of the most telling cues they can give you. If you use Yoda-voice to get the head-tilt from your dog, and they don’t do it, that’s a clue. Not that we’re saying we would do that kind of thing. Or at least not more than a couple times a week. 

Talk to them! Dogs are listening

Dogs are great listeners. When nobody else cares what you have to say, they’re fascinated by every syllable. Be sure to use your power wisely – most dogs will think they’re in trouble if you raise your voice or start shouting. You may just be letting off steam, but they don’t know that. 

If you do need to make some noise, be sure to hand your dog treats as you do it. That will let the dog know that whatever is making you unhappy, it’s not their fault.

Best audience, ever

Aside from giving you their complete attention when you talk, dogs provide a great excuse. Back in the days before cell phones, people talking to themselves were often labeled crazy. Unless they were with a dog. Now everybody talks to thin air. But dogs are much better listeners than most people.

Toy Group adds breed – there’s a new toy dog in town

We were excited to read this week that the Russian Toy is the latest toy dog breed recognized by the American Kennel Club and added to the Toy Group for conformation shows. 

Russian Toy dogs practicing some tricks

We’ve done a little research and while these little dogs may resemble Chihuahuas to a degree, they are distinctly different, lighter and taller, and originating half-way around the globe! The Russian Toy was developed in Russia, possibly as far back as the 1700s. And we never heard of them until now! This photo of the adorable Russian Toy dogs here belongs to the national club, the Russian Toy Club of America, and we thank them for the introduction to their beloved breed!

Purebred exists for a reason

We know that not everyone is as fascinated by dog breeds as we are, but we’ve loved dog shows since we were little girls and we understand there is value in breeding dogs to a standard for type – which includes looks as well as personality.

Now, with the addition of the Russian Toy, there are 23 breeds in the AKC Toy Group. They range from the sturdy Pug to the elegant Italian Greyhound. From the long, flowing coat of the Yorkshire Terrier to the bare skin of the Chinese Crested.

There is a toy dog breed for everyone – taking into account your personal taste, lifestyle, exercise level, grooming ability, etc. Whatever your particular, unique circumstances are, there’s a dog breed that would fit in perfectly and enhance your life. And we firmly believe that everyone’s life is improved when they experience the unconditional love of a dog.

All dogs’ lives are valued

We’re not saying that purebred dogs are “better” than other dogs. We do know, however, that they’re more predictable. All Poodles will have similar fur and similar grooming needs, from the largest Standard Poodle to the tiniest toy Poodle. Poodle owners know what they’re getting. 

Poodle-crosses, or doodles? It depends on the cross, and the unique genetic set that particular dog gets. If it’s a “Labradoodle” it may have Lab fur, Poodle fur, or a mixture of the two. (Did you get only the “good” genes from your parents? We didn’t, either.) Groomers tend to charge more for “doodles” because they’re more work than other dogs. 

Looks are certainly part of the package – personality is, too. A Brussels Griffon’s personality is much different from a Pug’s. One Griff and Pug breeder we know always said she added Pugs to her life because she wanted to be smarter than some of the dogs in her house. Having never had a Pug, we’ll have to take her word for it. We know they’re adorable, but we can’t vouch for their intelligence. 

Shop or adopt

As long as people get dogs from responsible sources, be it breeder, shelter, or rescue, it’s a good thing. And all of those responsible sources will be able to speak to the health and soundness of every dog under their care. Both physical and mental stability are important. 

Getting a toy dog is a huge step for anyone. It changes life forever and is an enormous disruption. That’s why doing your research and finding exactly the right dog for you is so important. If it’s true that “you only live once,” you deserve to have the perfect companion for you.

Ice balls in dog’s fur? Socks make dog life easier

We’re essentially lazy people. Which means we find the least-effort way to do stuff. One of the things we keep on hand for multi-functionality is socks. We buy them in bulk – men’s work socks multipacks from big-box stores are great. Because socks make dog life easier.

Sock hack #1: Stop the ice balls in dog fur

Socks would have helped Aleena's legs stay ice-ball free

Need leggings for your dog to keep the snow or ice balls off their fur? Just snip off the toe edge of a sock and slip it up your dog’s leg. For this hack you do have to get socks suited to the size of your dog – nothing smaller than a Golden Retriever really needs men’s sizes. 

The nice thing about sock multi-packs is you can get them in any size you need. Have a long-haired Chihuahua? Get the baby or toddler size socks. Italian Greyhound? You may need the adult size for length, so pick up some hook-and-loop cable ties to secure them on your dog without cutting off circulation. And since you have a multi-pack, there’s always a dry quartet ready for the next outing.

Sock hack #2: Turn balls into tug toys

Most dogs love balls. They love chasing balls. Not all of them love bringing balls back, or giving them up when they do come back to you. 

Slip the ball into the toe of a sock, tie a knot anywhere to keep it inside. You have a better throwing toy, a much better tugging toy, and an easier toy to retrieve from under the couch. Where they always wind up. 

Even the sturdiest socks won’t hold up to indefinite tugging – but they don’t have to! The beauty part is that there’s another sock waiting in the package. Just cut the knot, get a new sock, and your dog has a brand-new toy. 

Sock hack #3: Snood life

If your dog is a messy eater and has long fur, it’s a major pain to try to keep them clean. Once again, find a size of sock that fits around your dog’s head and cut off the toe seam. If the sock is long enough, you can even get multiple snoods out of a single sock, just cut to the length you need to cover your dog’s ears and neck. Keep a lingerie laundry bag handy to toss them in after use. You can toss the whole bag in the washing machine whenever you run a load. Dryer, too. They sock snoods will unravel in time, but it’s no big deal. There’s always another sock.

Sock hack #4: Cuddle pal

Many dogs are comforted by sleeping with some piece of their person’s clothing. When you notice that hole in your sock’s toe, instead of throwing it away, keep it until there’s a mate.  Instead of throwing away your worn socks, stuff one sock inside the other, tie a knot in it, and give it to your dog – before washing your scent out of it. Some people think this may encourage your dog to steal socks that aren’t yet theirs. Our answer? Put your socks away in the drawer or the hamper and you don’t have to worry about it.

Sock hack #5: Winter warmth

The only dog boots we’ve found that actually work are Pawz – the balloon-looking things that are made of rubber. Some people worry their dogs’ feet will be cold, since Pawz are good for traction, not warmth. As long as dogs’ feet are dry, you generally don’t have to worry about the cold. But if your dog is the exception, you can use baby socks inside the Pawz for an extra layer of insulation without interfering with traction.

There are a bunch more household uses for socks, but these are the main ways we’ve found that socks make dog life easier. Got some other ideas? We’d love to hear them!

What scares your dog?

Everybody’s afraid of something. It may not be the level of a phobia, but we’ve all got them. So do most dogs. What scares your dog?

Stairs scare Hope's dog Torque

Torque, Hope’s French Bulldog, is afraid of stairs. He’s also afraid of being upside-down. No tummy rubs for Torque – ever! She freely admits most of it’s her own fault. She didn’t carry Torque around much when he was a puppy, because she carried her older Frenchie around too much. Teddy always wanted to be “uppy!” 

Torque was more than six months old before he’d even attempt stairs. He also didn’t jump up on furniture for at least that long. And then his Auntie Pam and her very-attractive Frenchie girl Lily came over. And sat on the couch. Torque got the hang of it quickly that day. And he’s been a regular couch-potato ever since.

Dealing with dog fears

If there’s something that frightens your dog, how should you deal with it? Most people’s natural inclination is to make soothing sounds and pet their dogs. Unfortunately, it’s probably not the best thing to do.

To dogs, being sympathetic and rewarding them (petting is a reward) reinforces that the thing is, in fact, something to be scared of. It validates their feelings as accurate, and cements it as something to be wary of. 

Instead, it’s a better idea to encourage your dog to try it, check it out, sniff it, and become familiar with the object. “Let’s go see!” is a better response than “Oh, poor baby!” If your dog is reluctant to approach the object, don’t force them. Instead, go over to it yourself and look at it, showing interest. You can even give your dog a treat for taking a step closer, and each closer approach.

Intangible fears

If your dog is startled or afraid of something that’s heard and not seen, like thunder, you can still help them overcome the fear. The next time there’s a thunderstorm, have a bowl of your dog’s favorite snacks handy. Whenever you hear a peal of thunder, calmly hand your dog a treat. You don’t even have to say anything. Just associating the sound with the “cookie” will do the job. 

Most dogs are pretty quick at “transferring the value.” If thunder means “I get a treat” instead of “the world is ending,” pretty soon thunderstorms won’t be a problem. It may take a few storms to figure it out, but you may be able to speed the process. If you can find a video or audio recording of thunder on your phone, you can “schedule” a storm to happen whenever you have a few minutes to train your dog.

Promises made

Rewarding your dog for overcoming fear is a promise made. Hope has little bowls of treats at both ends of the stairs. Torque still isn’t crazy about them, but he’ll trundle up the stairs for that guaranteed treat that’s waiting for him. 

He’s still afraid of rolling over on his back. We haven’t really tried to train him differently.

Torque had to learn to climb stairs by himself. At 28 pounds, there was no way we were going to carry him up and down forever. But aside from “roll over” being a cute trick, it’s not really a necessity. 

Whatever scares your dog, your best option is to treat it casually. If it’s something to overcome, find a way to familiarize your dog with the frightening thing. We’ve all heard the old saw “familiarity breeds contempt.” And that’s just fine. We’d rather our dogs ignored stuff than were scared by them.