Tag Archives: dogs

Beware internet vet advice

More people seem to be posting semi-disgusting pictures of their dogs’ bits growing things, exuding things, leaking things, etc. It’s an attempt to get internet vet advice, which we understand.

These days you may not be able to get an immediate appointment with your veterinarian. Many of us still can’t accompany our pets into the vet’s office, if and when we do manage to get that appointment. Vets are as overwhelmed, understaffed, and stressed as the rest of us. 

Hive mind strengths

That being said – the Facebook group for local dogs, or for your breed, or your breed in your city, isn’t any kind of substitute. 

Once you have a diagnosis of what’s going on with your dog, by all means ask if other people have experience and what worked/didn’t work for them and their dogs. If you’re pursuing a second opinion, or even looking for a good veterinarian, it’s a great idea to ask people with similar situations for their recommendations. 

But don’t rely on other dog owners for a diagnosis of whatever oozing’s going on. And please stop posting pictures of it!

When you know what’s going on

The hive mind of the internet is great for finding answers to specific needs – like when you’re looking for a chiropractor in Chicago, a dentist in Detroit, or a neurologist in New York. It can’t help when you think your dog has acid reflux, and, tragically, is diagnosed with an abdomen filled with cancerous tumors. That happened to a friend of ours this past week.

Internet vet advice is no substitute for a veterinarian

She did everything right. When her dog was having trouble keeping food down, she made an appointment with her vet and got an initial diagnosis of GERD ( Gastroesophageal reflux disease). With that in hand, she asked her network of dog-owning friends if anyone had dealt with the condition, and what worked and didn’t work for them and their dogs. 

She was also sent for further testing, and an MRI revealed the sad truth. Her six-year-old dog is now on palliative care – whatever she wants, she gets. For however long our friend is able to keep her dog happy, she will. 

Don’t scare yourself

We’re sure you’ve seen it, too. People post a picture of some red bump on their dog and ask for internet vet advice. Opinions range from warts to cancer. We wish we could all get accurate diagnoses from photos, but we can’t. So the non-experts’ opinions are worthless. People are falsely reassured and do nothing. Or panic and worry until they’re able to find out what’s really going on.

By all means let the people who care about you and your dog know what’s going on. “Fido’s bump has changed and we’re seeing the vet on Monday,” is a good post. It lets people know you’re not having a good weekend, and that Fido’s getting extra treats. And on Monday, after the vet visit, it’s good to post a follow-up so your friends and family know what’s going on. 

The internet is a vital lifeline – it lets us stay in touch with our friends, family, and community when we can’t all be together physically. But take social media advice with a few grains of salt. A little seasoning makes everything better. 

3 Biggest Mistakes Dog Owners Make

When you read the headline “Mistakes Dog Owners Make” you probably thought it’s about particular products, or kinds of foods, or ways of caring for your dog.

It’s not. It’s about attitude and letting your dog be the best dog he/she possibly can’t. We think the biggest mistakes are the ones fail to appreciate how wonderful dogs are just by being dogs.

Mistakes dog owners make #1

Rushing. Chances are, in the course of a day, you have a schedule. It may be a weird one, since this is still 2020, but you still have stuff to do, places to go, errands to run. You want to get things done!

Your dog doesn’t have a timetable. Dogs live in the moment. They are where they are. And when we interact with our dogs, we need to be there, too. What’s wrong with playing fetch an extra few minutes? Or letting your dog sniff that fire hydrant and get all the latest “pee mail?” 

If you’re a listmaker, make “spend time with the dog” a list item. And give it more time than you think you should. No one really cares if the housework gets put off. You’ll remember how good it felt to cuddle your dog, how much fun you had together, not how immaculate your house is. 

And for the people who got a “pandemic puppy,” no dog is potty trained at three months old. And they shouldn’t be. We remember when our peers bragged about how young their children were when they were toilet trained. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. None of those kids was wearing diapers in college. It takes how long it takes.

Relax. Enjoy where you are. 

Mistakes dog owners make #2

Catering. More dogs are turned into finicky eaters by their people than for any other reason. Dogs don’t care if they eat the same thing every meal, every day. People like variety. Dogs don’t care. 

No healthy dog will purposely starve to death. If your dog doesn’t eat because he’s “holding out for something better,” be strong. There is nothing better. Hopefully you’ve researched dog foods, selected the optimum for your dog and your circumstances. That’s what your dog gets.

We do modify as we learn our dogs personalities. Hope’s French Bulldog Torque loves sweet things and doesn’t much care for fish. She figured this out because he eagerly dove into his bowl when beets or carrots were part of a meal, and took his time when there was fish. She didn’t dump out all the fish meals, but no longer includes it when making food. And there may be a few more beets and carrots in the mix.

People also cater to their dogs outside of meal time. It’s not okay that your dog barks at people wearing hats, or tall men, or children, or women carrying bags. He/she doesn’t have to love them. He just has to learn to ignore them. Dogs don’t make the rules, we do. And every member of the family, including the dogs, have to live by them. 

Mistakes dog owners make #3

Helping. This is more for people who continue to have fun training their dogs, but applies to all dogs. Caring people tend to want to “help” when someone, or some dog, has a problem. Given the chance to figure stuff out on their own, most dogs are geniuses! 

A dog training mentor of ours has a favorite saying “the more you help, the more helpless they become.” And it’s true. Hope’s Teddy may not have been the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and he was so darn cute that Hope pretty much “fixed” things for him all the time. One day he trapped himself into a tight area of the yard. And yelled for help when he thought he was stuck. Hope consciously decided not to help him – he’d gotten in there and there was a way back. She encouraged him, and he kept trying until he figured it out. He was incredibly proud of himself, and learned how to navigate that problem forever.

It’s the Taoist saying come to life: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Is your dog annoying, too?

We’re going to do some myth-busting today. Despite all the training we do, the fact that we compete in Obedience, Rally, and Agility with our dogs, the fact is that our dogs are just as annoying as anyone’s.

There, we said it.

Annoying as all get-out

And we’re not alone among dog trainers. One of the best trainers we know, a woman who has earned multiple Obedience Trial Champion titles, has a dog who walks on her dining room table. While she’s eating. 

Let’s face it – dogs are annoying! No matter how well trained they are, no matter how much we love them – they get on our nerves sometimes.

It’s kind of like having kids. You always love them, but you don’t always like them too much. 

Tripping hazards

Our dogs’ favorite trick is blocking doorways. We don’t have any herding-type dogs, so the obsessive need to always control our exits and entrances has no basis in instinct. It’s just annoying. And the worst part is that, just as you’re stepping over them, they stand up. Which rarely ends well. Either we lose our balance and crash into something (like a doorframe), or we kick the dog. The whole “love them” part usually takes over and we crash rather than kick. 

When we start wearing shorts in warmer weather it’s completely normal to have “bruise inventory.” 

“Oh, that’s a nice one! Purple and green! How’d you get that one?”

“I have no idea.”

“Does it hurt?”

Pokes bruise. “Yes. Yes, it does. How’s yours from the other day?”

“Yellow now! Healing nicely!”

How much do you care?

Could we change the behavior and train them not to lie in doorways? Probably. Our dogs are certainly used to learning new stuff and love the training games we play.

Will we do it? Probably not. Because, just like every dog owner, our dogs are trained to our level of comfort. The things that are most important get trained. The things that are just mild annoyances, we don’t bother with.

We’ve all heard the advice to “pick your battles.” And that’s exactly what we do. We don’t have any wide, open spaces in our house. So, wherever the dogs are, they’re in the way. When we first bring a puppy home, everyone adopts the “puppy shuffle” way of walking – not lifting our feet so we don’t kick the puppy. There’s just nowhere else to go.

Annoying but cute

Other “naughty” behaviors fall into the “annoying but cute” category, so we wind up laughing rather than getting upset or “un-training” it.

Annoying! French Bulldog Torque's helping himself to a drink

Like Hope’s Torque thinking he has to sample any beverage, preferably adult, that Hope sets down on her side table. After the vet assured her that a few licks wouldn’t do any damage, Hope has just taught him to back off when she says “That’s all!” He thinks he’s getting away with something and, in all honesty, we do find it amusing. We’ve also switched to glasses with wider bottoms so his efforts don’t tip them over.

Fran’s little Boston Terrier Simon loves to eat stuff in the yard. It made Fran a little crazy, until she noticed that he was specifically targeting dandelions, which are actually pretty good for him. We don’t allow any chemicals in the yard, no fertilizer, weed killer, or pesticide, so we know he’s eating organic dandelions. And, like all our dogs, Simon’s learned that he gets what he wants when we get what we want. As long as he comes when called, he’s allowed to “graze” on his favorite dandelion treat.

What annoying things do your dogs do? And how often do those things make you laugh? Let us know!

Talking to dogs – tone matters!

How do you talk to your dog? Do you pay attention to how you’re talking to dogs, as well as what you’re saying?

Do you use baby talk? A high-pitched voice?

Normal conversational tones?

Or “command” mode?

Tone matters

Dogs pay attention to everything we do and say. They pick up on cues we don’t even know we’re broadcasting. Have you seen your dog take on “nurse mode” when you’re not feeling well? Or “act guilty” when you’re angry – even if they haven’t done anything wrong?

Tone matters. While we’ve seen data that says dogs can learn hundreds, if not thousands, of words, dogs’ ability to pick up on tone and inflection seems to be instinct, not learned.

Dogs know our moods

Your dog knows when you’re happy. He or she knows when you’re upset, or frustrated, or angry, or having a bad day. How he/she reacts depends on the individual dog’s personality. Some dogs may yell right back at you. Others may shut down. Still others may become confused and act out.

We’ve recently had experience with how tone matters. Fran is preparing for upcoming competitions in Obedience, Rally, and Agility with her Boston Terriers, Booker and Simon.

Getting ready to compete

Booker is six years old and a somewhat experience competitor. He has titles in all of these performance venues. And, when he’s paying attention, is marvelous.

We have the habit of playing training games with our dogs every morning before work. It’s something we love, so it lets every day start out on a positive note. Each dog gets a few minutes by himself with his “mom.” We all love this time. And we’ve learned a lot about how talking to dogs has an impact on them.

To assess how we’re doing, we’ve starting recording video of our little sessions. Listening one day, Fran noticed that her voice was different when talking to each of her dogs. And it matters!

Using video

Handler and Boston Terrier in obedience class

Booker was first. Fran and Booker start competing at the Open level in obedience this week. Her tone was pretty serious with him, and when he didn’t get things right, she found herself getting a little frustrated.

Tango is retired now and his little sessions are all for fun. Fran expects little from him now, so whatever he does is fun. They just have fun together.

Her puppy Simon is just learning, although he is entered in Rally competitions coming up. Fran is patient with him and rewards every time he gets things right. When he doesn’t quite “get it,” she just tries again.

Fran learned a lot when listening to the video. Of her dogs, Booker is the most sensitive to her mood and tone. When she heard herself on the playback, she knew she had to change to prevent Booker from shutting down.

The next day Fran made a conscious effort to keep all of her dogs’ sessions playful, fun, and upbeat. And Booker responded beautifully.

So we’re still learning. How we talk to our dogs matters even more than what we’re saying.