Why You Should Spoil Your Puppy

Let’s be honest with each other, even the most stern efforts to keep your new puppy off the furniture, from begging at the dining table or from getting that extra treat will result in you, the owner, giving in just a little. It’s hard to resist snuggling on the couch with your new puppy. It’s even hard to resist those big eyes putting at you for table scraps. You give in, and you beat yourself up every time because you think spoiling your puppy will ruin her for life.

I’m here to help ease that guilt.

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Who wouldn’t want to snuggle with this puppy?

Before I get going, I am not a vet or a certified trainer. I am an owner, a socializer, a teacher and a volunteer who has devoted a lot of time helping other owners to turn their puppies into well-adjusted dogs. My opinions are from the dozens of dogs I have worked with and the interactions I’ve had with their owners. I have spent hours helping owners to understand that sometimes, giving in is okay.

Your first responsibility as a pet owner is to be their parent. You are responsible for teaching a puppy to be well-mannered, obedient, respectful, and ensuring they are loved. You are NOT an overlord, depriving your puppy of all the joys of being alive. A parent does not dominate their children, rather they guide them through life’s twists and turns, and that is your job as a puppy parent.

If you’re going to take the time to raise a puppy, you should probably take some time to enjoy it, right?

This is what I tell new puppy owners: If your dog does something you want them to do (like snuggle in bed), then why is it a bad thing? Lots of dog trainers are on this kick lately that you must be the dominant alpha overlord of your dog in order for them to be good dogs. After spending a year raising my own dog, I can tell you that’s not the case. So don’t fret if you want to treat your puppy. Turns out, you’ll be treating yourself, too.

If you are okay with your dog being in the bed, then let them cuddle with you at night. Pickle is allowed on our furniture, and she crawls into bed every morning with us before starting the day. But as soon as we walk into someone else’s home, she must adopt the rules of THEIR house. If they don’t allow dogs on the furniture, then Pickle stays on the floor, it’s that easy. She is only allowed to do what we tell her, and she has learned to respect that. Are we spoiling her at home? Maybe, but it’s up to her to maintain the boundaries we have set.

When it comes to treats, string cheese is god’s gift to dog training. Puppies can’t get enough of the stuff, and when you are training you must load up on the tastiest treats you can find. Every good deed should be rewarded and praised like it’s Christmas. I know lots of trainers who believe praise is enough to convince a dog to follow your command, and I think that’s a stretch. You must build trust and rapport with your dog. Treats are the best way to maintain their focus, and front loading the treats keeps their attention through hard training sessions. You can taper the treats as your puppy becomes more responsive. And I stand by the string cheese!

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And what about table scraps? As long as it’s dog friendly, why not? Avoid certain foods from the table, but as long as the dog is taking them under your supervision and with your permission, I say go for it.

So what do you do when a vet scolds you because you are making your puppy fat? Well, you listen. A puppy with an extra pound or two is not a big deal. I would rather have a chunky puppy who listens and trains well then a slim dog that won’t come to me when called. When your dog reaches full size, and is developed enough to exercise extensively, you can easily adapt their diet and increase the exercise. They can shed the weight in a healthy way, and you still get a happy dog!

In the end, spoiling your puppy means you are building a strong and loving relationship. Don’t mistake this for saying your dog is in charge. You are the parent, it is your responsibility to act the part. But while you are spending all that time training and cleaning up after your pup, you should be able to enjoy a cuddle once in a while! If you want to throw your pup an extra piece of bacon from the breakfast table, then do it! Keep things on your terms, train your pup to respect your voice, and treating them will become a reward. You will both be happier for it!

Socialization Project: Off-Leash Dog Park

Seattle has an amazing system of off-leash dog parks. From Dr. Jose Rizal Park and its amazing view of downtown, to Magnuson Park and its access to Lake Washington, there are ample opportunities for dog owners to get their dogs out to romp with other dogs and get out lots of energy.

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Seattle skyline from Dr. Jose Rizal Park

Admittedly, I was not a fan of dog parks when we got Pickle. I had heard bad stories of dogs getting sick, other dog walkers having out of control packs of dogs, or owners who didn’t know how to behave. I had heard so much bad, that I was turned off before I even took my first trip. Luckily, the feeling went away after a couple trips. Pickle loves being around other dogs, and she was well enough socialized that I didn’t have to worry about her getting into a fight, and she does well enough that if she escapes my line of sight for a minute I don’t have to panic.

After my hesitation diminished, I started to work with new dogs at the off-leash area. Typically I’ll do this with dogs that I know have been to the park before, and owners generally grant permission first as a way to reassure me that their dogs will behave. Since I started, it’s become a great way to socialize puppies to being around other dogs, their owners and to changing environments. In the same day, I can go from a gravel covered park under the interstate, to a wooded park with little traffic, to a very dog-filled park with lake access. All with enclosed, fully fenced spaces with lots of room to run and play. It’s difficult to mimic that without off-leash access.

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Making waves at Warren G. Magnuson Park!

Being confined to an urban setting, dog parks are great! But, there are still reasons to be cautious. First, dog parks are heavily populated with strange dogs, which poses the risk for your dog picking up illnesses. Your dog should be fully vaccinated before you bring them to any off-leash area. Otherwise, you could face a heavy vet bill to pay for antibiotics to fix a stomach virus. Never let your dog eat other dogs feces, and be aware of what your dog is getting into in heavy grass (I’ve pulled Pickle and several of my dogs from leftover food, even dead rodents).

Secondly, know your dog. If you have a puppy or young dog that loves to mount or charge at other dogs, maybe a dog park isn’t the best place for them. You will be around lots of strange dogs, and not all of them will be amiable. remember, even the most tolerant dogs don’t like other dogs taking them for a ride. I have taken great strides to make Pickle good at reading signals from other dogs, and it has kept her from getting lots of scars. If your dog isn’t as aware, you need to take them somewhere else.

Lastly, and most importantly, pay attention to body language. Especially with young dogs, it is easy to be overwhelmed when you are surrounded by dozens of older, pushy dogs. If your dog is running away, cowering, tucking their tail, pay attention and don’t force them to be uncomfortable. You can do lots of damage by forcing a dog into a scary situation. Take this time to step back to a quieter part of the park, praise your dog and slowly reintroduce them. I’ve run into lots of intimidating dogs and situations that are overwhelming to me, I could only imagine what goes through the mind of the puppies I care for!

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Dog parks can be great ways to get your dog out of the house and let them run and play. When safely done, off-leash areas expose your dog to lots of good socialization opportunities. But as the human, you are responsible for keeping your dog comfortable and out of harms way. Be smart, be aware, and everyone will have a good time.

If you want to know more about the network of Seattle dog parks, visit the Seattle Park’s page. If you’d like to help out and volunteer in a dog park near you, visit the Seattle COLA page.

Puppy Versus the Vacuum Cleaner

Raise your hand if your dog hates the vacuum cleaner. I’m guessing a majority of you reading this are raising your hand and wondering “Well duh my dog hates the vacuum! It’s a loud, moving monster of a machine the dog thinks is going to eat all of us!”

Commonly, dogs hate vacuum cleaners, simply for the points you as the reader are making. They are extremely loud when running, move unpredictably (to a dog), and they are completely foreign to the common way that dogs go about their day. They see cars and people all the time, but pull the vacuum out of the closet for the weekly run through the house, and all bets are off! Dogs will run in fear of the noise, or see the vacuum as a threat and try to ‘kill’ it.

I commonly saw this with dogs when I worked in a doggie daycare. Dogs of all ages and experiences would either cower in a corner, bolt to a safe spot outside, or come streaking across the room to bark and bite at the vacuum. It was unavoidable, with one dog even getting a hold of and ripping the guard off the front of the machine!

Simply put, dogs hate vacuums.

And then there’s Pickle.

It struck me today that Pickle must not be a normal dog, one who screams and runs frightened from the ‘cleaning-machine-of-death!’ See, we had a dog stay with us this weekend, and when she left this afternoon it was time to give the house a good vacuuming. Pickle, when she hears the sound of a vacuum, decides that it’s best for her to sit close, even sometimes nosing the machine while it’s running. I don’t know why it took until today to realize that this was odd (in the best way possible), but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was a great way to illustrate why we socialize dogs.

So I gave it some thought. I can’t stand when dogs freak out at a running vacuum (maybe it’s from all the dogs at the daycare). I don’t want to have to worry about moving Pickle from room to room just so I can run a vacuum over the carpet. To avoid the extra hassle, Kira and I committed early to getting Pickle used to loud noises. Whether it’s our NutriBullet, music in the car, what ever it is, Pickle does not get startled by loud noises anymore. She has been socialized to understand the difference between a dangerous noise and an innocent one.

Then we tackled the vacuum itself. Each time one of us pull out the vacuum, we would set treats on it to make her feel like she is being given a reward, just for approaching the machine. That extended to giving her treats while the machine was running, then slowly putting treats on the vacuum while it was on. Magically, Pickle figured out that even though the vacuum was noisy and freaked her out, it wasn’t a threat to her well being and actually something to look forward to.

Now, some people think that it’s fun to chase a dog with a vacuum. Don’t be that guy. Generating fear in a dog over something like a vacuum can manifest into a dog having issues with loud noises outside the home as well. Save yourself the trouble and don’t do it. Plus, it’s mean!

I tried to vacuum once when we were sitting for a friend’s lab mix. Soon as I hit the power button, the dog was attacking the vacuum, seeing it as a threat and trying to kill it. To those noises, the dog was not adjusted, and it came out through barking and aggression.

When you get a puppy, do yourself a favor and help it to understand the difference between safe and dangerous situations. Don’t provoke a dog to be afraid of innocent things (like chasing them with a vacuum). Though a dog may never like being around a noisy machine, they can at least know that it is safe.

Socialization people, the opportunities are everywhere!

Socialization Project: Lowe’s

Kira, Pickle and I recently started fostering a wonderful puppy, Bindi, and our experiences have been quite rewarding. Kira gets another puppy to snuggle with, Pickle gets another friend to romp around with, and I get another puppy to help train and socialize.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: socialization. Socialization is the process of getting a dog adjusted to its surroundings. This means sounds, smells, sights, textures, situations, different animals, people, etc. In order for your puppy to become a well adjusted dog, they should be familiar and comfortable with the environment around them. Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know much about Bindi’s past before she arrived in Seattle. My goal has been to try and get her exposed to as many urban things as possible, because Seattle is where she’ll most likely be adopted (and is really scary for any dog that’s not from here!)

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Bindi helped me decide if we needed any strawberry plants for the garden.

Today’s experiment was taking her to the biggest hardware store in the neighborhood: Lowe’s. Hardware stores in general are great places to bring dogs that can handle such situations. Very few places offer such a wide array of people (ethnicities, appearances, clothing styles), smells (lumbar, gardens, paints), sounds (forklifts, paint mixers, talking and yelling) and situations (crowded aisles, waiting to checkout, people approaching, forklifts driving by, filled shopping carts passing by). For the most part, hardware stores are filled with quiet customers who are shopping, meaning a dog (and handler) don’t usually need to worry about being rushed by screaming kids or anything else unexpected.

So, armed with a pocket full of wild-rabbit chews, we got to it. Even crossing the parking lot, full of moving cars, shopping carts and people proved to be fine. Bindi was a little frightened by an automatic door, and a shopping cart rolling on the concrete floors. She did however love the attention she was getting from other customers, several of whom stopped to pet her. I did coax a couple people to give her treats, and Bindi was loving every second of it!

The only issue we had the entire visit was while waiting to get a set of house keys made. Bindi was approached head on by a man, and they both stopped in front of each other, assessing what to do next. Before I could tell him Bindi was friendly, she let out an anxious bark. When faced with an anxious puppy, it’s best to ease them away from the situation causing them problems. We circled around a display, waited long enough for Bindi to calm, and simply walked past the man again. Even the sweetest dogs can get anxious when faced with new scenarios, so be patient, and be willing to apologize once in a while. In the end, it pays huge dividends if you are willing to put in the time.

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Bindi, sticking her tongue out and making a silly face for the camera!

Something interesting to note here is that dogs cannot generalize between one situation and the next. For example, if you teach a dog to sit in your house, that does not guarantee they will sit when you are at a park. Dogs need to get used to doing a particular action in all situations, a major part of socialization. Recall is an awesome tool for dogs, but it is useless if your dog can only do it inside the house. To work on these things, it’s best to have a pocket full of treats, and wait for your dog to lose focus on you, then whisk them back with bait and have them earn their treat with a command. I can’t tell you how many weird looks I got when I would have Bindi sit while in the middle of an aisle. All in a days work!

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“What, just ’cause I made one mess you think you need a whole new, stain resistant carpet?”

By the time we had passed through lumber, plumbing, got our keys made and checked out some plants for the garden, Bindi seemed pretty comfortable with all the people and things going on. She waited in line like a little lady while I checked out, soaking up all the complements she could handle! The cashier was a sweet Vietnamese woman who couldn’t help but gush over Bindi, saying she reminder her of a dog she had back in Vietnam. It was enough to make your heart melt!

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Bindi seemed pretty comfortable in the store by the end of the trip!

Socialization is the most important step to ensuring a dog grows up to be well adjusted as an adult. My objectives with Bindi are to make sure she is a well rounded and confident dog for her new family, and they can be confident that Bindi can handle what ever the world can offer. I’ll be recapping most of our socialization sessions through this blog and track her progress, as well as eave hints and tips on how to deal with tough situations.

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Rewards of Fostering a Puppy

(NOTE: This story was edited from it’s original version. I had speculated on Bindi’s history in Georgia, and luckily was updated by her former fosters and caregivers at Humane Society of the Southeast. I don’t have to speculate now, and get to report on how Bindi is just a crazy, happy-go-lucky puppy!)

Raising a puppy is hard. Sometimes days go really smoothly, others go downhill fast. But all along the way you learn plenty of life lessons, and hopefully a little about yourself.

A great way to test whether you can actually have a puppy is to foster. Puppies usually go fast, so fostering a puppy usually only lasts a week, and you get the full experience of raising a dog without the commitment of keeping it.

The natural response I hear is “Oh no, I could never foster a puppy, I’d never be able to give the dog up.”

Yes, it’s hard to imagine spending time with a puppy and wanting to part ways. But I’d challenge people to spend a week, just a week, with a 9-week old puppy and then make that decision. Like I said before, puppies are hard work, and sometimes raising one into adulthood can be a daunting task. But for one week, you’ve provided a loving home and helped lead the dog to a forever home.

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Bindi is our first foster pup!

Kira, Pickle and I recently welcomed in our first foster puppy, Bindi. She’s not a 9-week old puppy, she’s actually a 6-month old Hound mix that Georgia Peaches Puppy Rescue brought up with a load of other puppies last week. The paperwork said Bind got along well with not only dogs and cats, but with pigs, too! She’s house broken, not territorial over food or toys, and was super friendly. Since I work in socialization, and since Pickle is so well-adjusted to having strange dogs at home, having Bindi was sure to be the easiest foster ever!

Well, let’s back up a second.

Paperwork is great, but it only tells half the story. Despite all those wonderful things, she’s still a puppy. She still likes to jump up on tables and counters, is terrible on leash, and just an hour or so ago snuck a chicken tender out of my lunch (not blaming her, I should no better!)

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How could you not love that face?!

Bindi unfortunately was bounced around a bit while she was in Georgia. Originally adopted out at 11 weeks, Bindi’s family soon realized that they could not sustain having a puppy in their lives. Bindi was returned to her original fosters, and was eventually picked up by Georgia Peaches and flown out to Seattle. Somehow this wonderful, charismatic dog had fallen through the cracks and into my arms! (I had originally posted that Bindi was bounced from an adoption event to multiple shelters, and luckily was corrected by her former caregivers in Georgia.)

I wonder how many surrenders could be avoided if people were able to ‘test-drive’ a puppy before they adopted. Well, that’s what fostering is, giving a home to a puppy until they find their way to someone that can assure them a happy life. Bindi is an example of how even great dogs can just get unlucky, whether through bad timing or just getting dealt a bad hand. It’s no fault of the dog, and the owners often have the best intentions, but if you’re unsure about actually owning a puppy, maybe give fostering a try.

The beautiful part about fostering is that now I have a hand in making sure that Bindi doesn’t have to worry about moving around too much more, and soon we will be able to find her forever home. She is building confidence, and her character is shining through! Bindi is incredibly loving, playful and smart (dang she picks up on things fast!) In the words of someone who knew her from HSS, “Bindi has never met a stranger.” She truly melts hearts!

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I know that saying goodbye to Bindi will be rough. As I write this, she’s resting peacefully after a long day with her head on my foot. I already feel an attachment to her, and as she learns to respond and respect Kira and I, I know it will get tougher and tougher to let her go. That is the risk of fostering, finding a dog that will break your heart when she leaves. But in the end, I know that for a short while I have made a difference in this dog’s life, and that is good enough for me.

Don’t let your fear of falling in love with an animal stop you from fostering. If we had not made the decision to foster Bindi, we would be missing out on all the crazy, wacky things she is doing, and all the love and morning snuggles she loves to give! Fostering is such a rewarding way to spend some time with an animal and see if you can make it as a pet parent, and it can have a huge impact. Whether it’s for a couple days or a couple weeks, even a little time can make all the difference in that pet’s life!

If you are interested in fostering and making a difference in an animal’s life, please contact your local animal shelter or rescue. For more information on Bindi, please visit the Georgia Peaches website.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Congratulations, you’ve finally decided that it is time to get a dog! You’ve committed yourself to putting in the time and effort to raise, care for, properly socialize, and make it the best dog it can be!

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Happy dogs come from lots of hard work!

But one question still remains: What kind of dog do you want to get? The answer to that question can be critical in building a healthy relationship between you and your new pup. Having even a brief knowledge of a dog’s traits and how they match a person’s life would ensure that thousands of dogs are properly homed and not surrendered every year. A busy owner living in a studio apartment probably shouldn’t own a Siberian Husky. Marathon runners looking to bring their dogs on long runs probably shouldn’t own an English Bulldog.

Catch my drift?

Now, there are dozens of Breed Profilers out there that help to distinguish the different characteristics of purebred dogs. But thousands of dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, and these mix breeds are a bit more challenging to pinpoint. My focus here is about picking a handful of general characteristics that are apparent in any dog, and highlighting how they may or may not fit into your life. Then, if you walk into a shelter and see a dog, you’ll have an idea what to expect, even if you’re not sure about the breed. Sound good? Cool, let’s get started:

SIZE

Maybe more obvious when you adopt an adult dog, but something to watch for with puppies as well. A large breed (75lbs+) would be a hard dog to manage if you live in a studio apartment, don’t have a yard, or if you’re elderly, especially if the dog is young. They typically require more exercise and food, costing you both extra time and money.

Consider that toy and terrier breeds tend to be smaller in stature, but still need to be exercised and kept entertained. Some small breeds can still make great running and trail partners, and can easily be carried if they are hurt or if you’re in a hurry.

Managing a large dog in limited space can be done, but it requires a lot more effort on your part. Matching a dog’s size to your lifestyle can be important on building a healthy bond.

HAIR

Long hair? Short hair? It all comes down to how much work you want to put in. Long hair means lots of brushing (to remove excess hair and tangles) and lots of trips to the groomer. Shorter hair means less brushing, easier clean ups, and dogs that can cool easier in warm weather. Trust me, I used to be a grooming assistant, and musing your way through matted Collie hair is not a good way to spend a Thursday afternoon if you’re not prepared for it!

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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have special oils in their fur to help repel water and dirt, making them perfect for afternoons at the beach!

NOSE

Bet you didn’t think about your dog’s nose as a crucial trait. If you are an active person looking to have an active dog, then pay attention. Smushed nosed dogs (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, etc) have a more difficult time getting air into their systems through their shorter noses. These dogs are brachycephalic breeds (short nosed), and hot, humid weather can make life difficult when put under stress, and even become a health risk. This means that it only takes a little bit of strenuous activity to wear them out. Now this could be a good thing, I mean bulldogs that I’ve worked with only require one good walk a day and turn into couch potatoes. I wouldn’t recommend doing any marathon training with a French Bulldog, however.

A longer nose allows for working class dogs to have higher endurance, and make it easier for them to breathe in hot and humid conditions. Athletic breeds are typically equipped with a longer muzzle to allow airflow to their systems. But don’t be fooled, even Boxers have a long history of being service dogs.

BREED BACKGROUND

Regardless of whether you end up with a purebred or a mixed breed, dogs will always display certain characteristics that reflect the instincts bred into them. Shelters can typically give you an idea on the breeds when you are adopting a rescue, and it is your responsibility to know what to expect. For example, Hound breeds are trackers, bred to follow the scent of a trail. They will be looking for lots of mental stimulation and will not be happy to be let inside (and they’ll let you hear about it). You’ll need to set up simulated games (like hiding treats for them to find) to keep their minds and bodies active.

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Cattle dog breeds, like this mix, were bred to herd cattle over long distances of rough terrain. Doesn’t sound like a dog that wants to be cooped up inside all day!

If you have any idea of the breed of the dog you are adopting, do your due diligence to research what they are all about.

Breed traits are a great way to sift through the countless adoption options you have. Remember that age and temperament also play factor. I wish this went without saying, but puppies are a ton of work. They require more frequent potty breaks and a lot more time and focused energy. I’ve heard trainers and owners say that “puppies are cute as a survival tactic.” Honestly, if people saw puppies as ugly, they probably wouldn’t take on such a monumental task.

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Vizslas, bred as bird dogs, are typically very active. Luckily they like to kick back and relax sometimes!

Adult dogs are typically easier to gauge, and they have a history to help support if they are a good fit for your home. Rescuing an adult dog can be a risk, as they could be from an abusive home and need some serious training and attention to get back on track. Work with a shelter worker, or with a trainer to test the temperament of a dog at any age. Look for confident, curious and welcoming dogs, unless you are willing to work with dogs that are not as open to attention. Do justice by the dog, you don’t want them to be surrendered again.

Of course, dogs don’t always fit a perfect mold, but if you keep these things in mind, you should have a very happy relationship with your new dog!

If you are looking for a new pet, please consider adopting through a local shelter or rescue!

1000 Acres Dog Park – Dog Friendly Portland

I have to admit, Portland is pretty cool. Powell’s Books, quirky neighborhoods, Voodoo Doughnuts, hipsters on tall bicycles, Portland has it all and a lot more! But I am a Portland novice, or at least I was until this past weekend, and it turns out that there are plenty of things for you dog to do in (and around) Portland as well.

Friday afternoon, Pickle and I had some time to kill so we ventured out a bit to 1000 Acres Dog Park in Troutdale, just a 15 minutes drive outside of Portland. In a word, this park is stunning! There is a huge space of off leash area that dogs can have free reign of! Pickle and I got out of the car and into the warm sun, and after a small walk beyond the trail head, Pickle found herself in hundreds of acres of open grass to run in. I was simply overtaken by the amount of space she had to run, and with it being a Friday afternoon, we only saw a handful of dogs on the trail so there was plenty of room to rome!

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The view of Mt. Hood was pretty sweet, too!   Photo credit: Bring Fido

After some walking I was worried we would get lost, but Pickle was bound and determined to keep going, and eventually she found herself along a beach where the dogs have access to the Columbia River. She went crazy! We still don’t know what breed Pickle is, but if tests come back with some kind of fish species, I wouldn’t be surprised!

She splashed and swam and barked and got dirtier then I think I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t drag her but out of the water, not with treats or her favorite squeaky ball. Luckily she partied it up with a pack of dogs that were heading out, so I got to meet a few very nice women (shout out to them for helping me out of the park!) and Pickle made a few new play friends.

As the sun was setting more people began to show up to get a reprieve from the hot sun. The trails lead to the Sandy River Delta, where the Columba and the Sandy River meet in a rainbow of blues, greens and browns.

In all Pickle probably got 3 hours of running, chasing and swimming. I’ve never seen her so tired, and here it is Monday, three days later, and she still doesn’t want to be bothered.

Downtown Portland was a bit more forgiving to her. Pickle and I wandered around a really nice Farmer’s Market, I enjoyed some crazy-delicious fresh made noodles from a food truck (Pickle was sure not to let any I dropped on the ground got to waste), we found a couple nice cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating for dogs and their owners, and even snuck in some shopping at Powell’s Books, all while staying in a nice dog friendly hotel!

(By the way, huge thank you to the staff and patrons of Powell’s. It did not occur to me when I brought in Pickle that you were a service animla only establishment, and yet the entire staff was very warm and friendly with myself and Pickle. I’m just happy she was so tired from the dog park and didn’t cause a ruckus 🙂 )

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Food trucks on food trucks on food trucks!     Photo credit: Reflections on Portland

Now, I’ve visited my fair share of dog friendly establishments in Seattle, from parks to bars, but I’ll admit to being a little jealous of the scene in Portland. After visiting 1000 Acres Park, Seattle should really step up their game (yes, that’s hard to do at this point). Luckily, now I know that taking Pickle on a road trip won’t be a hassle.

Thanks Portland, you’re doing it right!

(Wait, I never got a doughnut from Voodoo. Sounds like we’re going back!)

Remember to Water your Dog

The weather is finally getting warm out in Seattle. The temperatures peaked in the 90s last week, which means people are hitting the beach and soaking in the sun. Yay summer weather! (Sorry, the lack of sunshine around here can really mess with a person.)

But although humans are enjoying the long awaited nice weather, dogs are really feeling the heat. With the rising temperatures, it can be increasingly difficult for dogs to cool themselves.

Heat stroke occurs when a dog’s body temperature exceeds 103 degrees, and can cause a slew of health issues. Dogs that experience heat stroke will pant excessively, have irregular heartbeats, become dehydrated, and even go into shock. If you have your pup out on a hot day, be wary of excessive drooling, tarry, black stools, uncoordinated movements, and unresponsive behavior. If your dog lays down and becomes unresponsive to you, something is wrong and you need to take action.

So what can you do? If your dog’s rise in body temperature can be linked to something environmental (say warm temperatures or excessive exercise), you can cool their body by either spraying them with cool (not cold) water, wrapping them in cool, wet towels or even immersing them completely in cool water. Try to avoid cold water, and gradually bring the dog’s temperature down. Any dog that has experienced heat stroke or an excessive rise in body temperatures should be brought to a vet to make sure the dog is in stable condition and that no long term damage was done.

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The sun is out, time to take a quick break by the creek!

Heat stroke can cause irreversible damage to your dog’s body, so it’s important to not only know how to recognize and treat it, but also how to prevent it from happening. Here’s a couple things to always keep in mind:

Step one: Know your dog. Dogs that have had heat stroke in the past will be more susceptible to it in the future. Dogs that are older, obese, or have thick coats are more prone to have an uncontrollable rise in body temperatures.

Step two: Water your dog. Whether it’s making sure your dog has access to plenty of water at home, if you carry an extra bottle with you on walks, giving them a chance to drink from the dish in front of Starbucks, or stopping off to give them a swim in the lake, just make sure your dog has a chance to drink and cool off. I even give Pickle an ice cube every now and then for her to lick and chew on, just to keep her cool (and entertained!). I have a friend who gives her boxer chilled watermelon, and she goes crazy for it!

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A good swim in the lake will help a    dog stay nice and cool!

Step three: Be aware. Know the signs of heat stroke. Get certified in doggie CPR. Be conscious of your environment and where you leave your dog. And for cripes sake, don’t leave your dog in a parked car when it’s hot out! Heat stroke can occur even when the temperature outside the car is 70 degrees. So don’t do it, not even for a few minutes! Don’t believe me, check this out!

So here’s the deal. While you’re out sunbathing and working on your summer tan, your dog may be having a really tough time in the sun. It is up to us as owners to be responsible and provide our dogs with whatever they need to beat the heat, whether it be a constant supply of water, a romp in the creek, or a trip to the groomers. Don’t assume your dog will be okay, and it will be a happy and safe summer for all!

Misconceptions of Puppy Socialization

I’ve explained before that socialization is a crucial piece of a dogs development. Properly introducing your dog the world around us will lead to your dog being a well-balanced, confident, relaxed dog and will create a healthy and long-lasting bond with you, the owner.

New puppy owners commonly become to focused not the idea that socialization is only about interacting well with people and other dogs. This a huge mistake and an unfortunate misconception of socialization. Socializing a puppy is about getting them used to the world around them, and the other dogs and people you interact with are only a small piece of the world they live in. Puppy owners must remember to acquaint their pups with the environment around them as well as the living things within it.

What do I mean by ‘the environment’? Think about your current living situation. If you live in a small apartment in a major city, you are surrounded by noisy cars, buses, shouting, music, construction, doors and windows opening and closing in neighboring apartments, you name it. If you don’t live on the first floor of your building, you have stairs, elevators, delivery workers, carpets, perhaps even hardwood or concrete floors.

Now look inside your apartment. Maybe you own a blender to make morning smoothies, or you like to watch the football game and jump and scream. Vacuum cleaners, slamming doors, water running in the sink, even the coat rack in the corner.

These are things that many people tend to take for granted because we are around them everyday. But they are brand new to a puppy, and the sound of rushing water or a running fan can be quite alarming when heard for the first time. The environment you live in is full of foreign sights and sounds that a puppy must be introduced to in a slow, positive way. They must be socialized to become familiar and comfortable with them.

So how in the world are you supposed to socialize your puppy to everything in the environment? Take advantage of the fact that you live within that environment. You will have the chance to introduce your dog to hundreds of different things every time you leave for a walk, and it’s your job as the owner to take advantage.

Here are some things to remember when socializing your dog:

Keep it Positive: Remember to keep every new experience positive for your puppy. Get treats that drive your dog crazy and praise them when they are relaxed with new situations. Read your puppies body language carefully. If they are cowering, hanging their heads or tucking their tails then take a step back and give your pup space. Follow every socialization session with games, lots of praise and loads of delicious treats!

Textures: Think about everywhere your puppy will walk. Concrete, grass, sand, asphalt, hardwood, tile, carpet, your dogs need to be socialized to all these surfaces. Dogs can become uncomfortable on new surfaces and properly socializing them can limit any anxieties.

Visuals & Sounds: Busy crowds, festivals, fireworks, traffic, wheelchairs, skateboards, bicycles, door bells, all these are fair game. A major city has lots of firetrucks, garbage trucks and street music. Rural areas have livestock and wildlife. Depending on your neighborhood, your puppy could be facing lots of stressful situations.

Places: Hardware stores, playgrounds, parks, pet shops, vet offices, construction sites, dog friendly bars. Take them anywhere they are happy and comfortable.

Maneuverability: Moving a dog through elevators or up and down stairs can be tough. Exposing them to as many places as possible will make them more confident when navigating new situations.

Socialization is a long and windy road, but the hard work you put in now will pay huge dividends to your puppy becoming a respectful, confident, well-adjusted dog. Remember that socialization goes far beyond the interactions with other dogs and people, and though those are important, exposing your puppy to the environment will make their lives less stressful, and your life much easier!

Puppy Socialization Project: Day 1

I have received many questions about puppy socialization, and what it is I hope to achieve through my new business. In an effort to not only answer questions, but also give people an insight into what I am doing, I have decided to record my socialization efforts here in the blog.

I was very excited to get my first puppy client just last week, and have had several days to work with a sweet little Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Molly Brown. Molly is a very affectionate 4 month old puppy that specializes in making people smile. She is such a loving little gal, but since she’s a puppy she has proven to be loads of work for her mom and dad.

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Did I mention that mom and dad are both marine biologists, mom is currently finishing up her PhD, and they have an 8-month old baby? Yea, their busy. Busy enough to need an extra set of hands to raise their puppy and get her used to living in a city.

The goal of day 1 was to achieve a base line for how familiar Molly Brown was with her surroundings. Socialization stretches from how comfortable she is in a car, how friendly she is towards people, meeting and greeting strange dogs, and hearing strange sounds. I was hopeful that Molly would be fine meeting people and folks, but I was clueless about her exposure to the outside world.

Luckily the results started coming from the very beginning. Molly became uncomfortable and anxious riding in the car with me, something her dad warned me about, but something that seemed to stem from leaving home with a stranger. To get the full effect I had the radio tuned to some alternative rock, with enough of a bass to catch her attention. A little anxious, but in the end she was fine.

Next step was to introduce her to Pickle. Meeting a strange dog was the most intriguing part of day 1, and both dogs passed with flying colors. The result was an hour of puppy explosion, a combined 80-pounds of energy rolling around in toys and shaggy carpet. Molly shared toys, was’t possessive of bones, and allowed me to play with her body and teeth even when she was amped up. Socializing a dog and desensitizing them to touch and body handling is crucial if you ever hope to give them a bath or even hold them, so I plan on including that into all of my socializing programs. Pickle benefited from being held and roughed up by people from a very young age, and since Molly Brown shares a house with an 8-month old baby, it is good to get her used to ear tugging and tail pulling, and encourage her not to react aggressively. The obvious perk is that the baby doesn’t get bit, but I’ve seen families give up their dogs because this has become too much of an issue, which we don’t want to become a problem later.

Pickle was very reliable and wore Molly out to the point of exhaustion. Perfect time for a walk and to test out some obedience skills. Turns out Molly is a decent leash walker, a great sign for a young pup. I wanted to expose her to loud traffic and people, so a walk along a busy sidewalk past groups of people was perfect. It was also trash day, and loud trucks and smashing dumpsters made for the perfect training backdrop.

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Again, the most important part of socialization is to encourage the most positive interaction between the dog and new experiences. When Molly heard a dumpster smash, she became startled momentarily. Situations like these call for encouragement, positive association, praise, whatever you can do to make the dog relax and happy. Puppies are very responsive to praise, if you get them in that crucial socialization phase then they can cope with loud noises positively, and instead of curling up in a ball afraid they will face the situation with confidence and assurance.

The day ended with two tired dogs and a little insight into the dog that I just took on as a client. I am so lucky to be working with such a sweet pup and such great owners who are really focused on getting the most from their little girl. I know that this whole project will be an experiment, but it’s good to know that I have people who are willing to work with me through the process.

I’ll be updating the progress that Molly makes and trying to raise problems that come up along the way. My goal is to create a space that owners can come to to see the process and not only get a feel for what I do, but how it can apply to how they handle socializing their own puppies at home.

Check back in this space every couple days as I offer up new updates!