When Echo was about 7 years old, she took off after one of my horses who klonked her in the head, breaking one of her molars. That broken tooth would end up causing her premature death.
Besides being kicked by a hooved animal, dogs can find a bunch of other ways to break their teeth. One is chewing rocks. Another is gnawing on hard bones or sticks. Still another is using their teeth as a tool — to rip off or make escape-sized holes in chain link fencing, for example.
NOTE: I have created a special book — Retro-Fit Your Dog’s Kennel — and if you would like a copy, click this link. It will be delivered to you instantly.
I cannot emphasize enough the role dental hygiene and maintenance plays in preserving good health.
By the time most dogs are just 3 years old, about 70 percent of them have dental disease that will lead to deteriorating health.
Periodontal disease begins with the build up of plaque. This layer thickens into tartar, which won’t disappear on its own.
Tartar travels under the gum. It causes swelling, bleeding, and mouth odor. This inflammation is a breeding ground for bacteria and leads to gum recession.
Left untreated, the tooth, bone and ligament begin to deteriorate. At this stage the impact on health is potentially life-threatening.
Systemic spread of the bacteria in the mouth can poison seemingly unrelated parts of the body: The dog may end up having problems with
Heart valve deterioration
More and more veterinarians recommending regular tooth-brushing for dogs.
When they were younger, I did not have an issue with teeth in my dogs who eat a primarily raw diet. But I noticed that if I feed kibble (even high quality, which I do from time to time) then the teeth would begin to collect plaque.
While this is a “skill” that is easier to teach when the dog is young, you can still teach that old dog new tricks. You might try flavored toothpaste such as Bluestem. Many customer reviews note that their dogs love the flavor.
Be sure to keep an eye on the condition of your dog’s teeth. And keep in mind that teeth covered with tartar pose a life-threat to your dog. So get if your dog’s teeth are not pearly white, thee to a Veterinarian who can clean the teeth – and strive to keep them that way.
Also, as they aged, it seemed they were both more susceptible to plaque. And in Alice’s case, we did have her teeth professionally cleaned. One vet we used suggested we use Clenz-a-dent. Alice got a tiny scoop of that daily for the last few years of her life – and she never needed another cleaning again. So from personal experience, I can wholeheartedly recommend this.
If you feed kibble, or your dog is aging you might find that your dog’s teeth needing attention. In this case, Clenz-a-dent may either take care of the plaque— or at least extend the amount of time— between professional cleaning. But if that fails, or you want a different option, you can brush your dog’s teeth. It comes with a toothbrush as well.
That title may appear to be flat out hyperbole, but I assure you, it is not.
The fact is that more dogs are put to death because of excessive aggression than are put down because they are too old or sick to go on. And aggression, you will learn from Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention, is but one of dozens of common symptoms dogs suffer from when their Thyroid is not functioning correctly.
And I lived it; I lived with the reality that euthanasia was a real and gruesome probability for my Bouvier, Wil. He was 3 years-old when he was given to me by his breeders. They explained that their reason for ditching him with me was that he “didn’t care much for the show world.” They claimed he “showed an aptitude for life on a farm.” (Yeah, right. Decoded, this meant, “He loved farm animals– they are so very tasty!”)
When I got Wil at age 3 he was animal and human aggressive. When he saw a cat (human, dog, etc…) outside, he would attack it through our plate glass window.
You’ll learn inCanine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Preventionthat Wil had a half-dozen hypothyroidism symptoms. These were typical red flags of this easily addressed condition. But for the first year and a half we were together, he suffered them—and no vet spotted them until sudden weight gain drew one vet’s attention.
Since writing this book, I have spoken to several people who made what they thought was the only option left: to put the dog down… Each had exhausted all avenues… except… that which is obvious once one has read this book.
Please do read this book. It contains information every dog lover should know.
Back in the 1980’s I threw myself into the world of dog training. I set off to do a two-month internship in training personal protection dogs. It was there I became acquainted with the importance of puppy socialization. I would also learn – though it would be seven years later—the critical role genetics plays in a dog’s inherent drive and behavior.
I bought my first German Shepherds from that kennel. Skip was 10 weeks old when I met him. He was being raised in a kennel, but we spent many hours each day playing together and training.
Skip’s father was an American-bred GSD with a laid-back temperament. His mother was European, and was a titled Schutzhund dog. He pulled from both – he had the jovial, good nature of his sire and a love for the game of protection work from his dam.
“Drive” can be assessed when dogs are mere pups.
One day we were working a GSD named Utz in an agitation exercise. Skippy was tied up along the fence line yapping out orders to Utz:
“Get’em Utz! Get ‘em! Tear ‘em up, Utz,”
When at last the agitator came within reach, Utz leaped off the ground and the padded sleeve with the full force of his 90-pound body.
Skip’s eyes grew wide. He was speechless. His rear end sunk to the ground and his mouth hung agape.
We finished the exercise and Skippy still had stars in his eyes. He followed Uts around with Hero Worship dripping all over both of them. “Wow, Utz. When I grow up I’m gonna be just like you,” he fawned.
He did too. He always loved protection work, and although we never worked in Schutzhund or Ring Sport or other protection sports, that early memory was always visible – in a good way—in the make up of who Skip was. Needless to say, I always felt safe when he was with me.
I got a second dog from that kennel. Gaol’s damn and sire were Schutzhund III titled dogs, and that breeding produced high-drive dogs. “High-drive” is a term used in the training and breeding world to denote a dog that is committed to accomplishing his goal of pursuing his prey or completing his mission.
Examples of dogs that usually have high-drive include (for example):
If hunting is your passion, and you need a dog to fetch your birds, you need a dog with high drive.
You will notice the German Shepherd is not listed among these, but that does not mean that you won’t see that level of drive in Shepherds. In fact, dogs of just about any breed can be the rule or the exception of the rule when it comes to that high-drive obsession. Gaol was one such case, for as I mentioned, both her damn and sire were titled Schutzhund III dogs—bred in Germany for the purpose of excelling in this sport.
Gaols mother was a dog fighter, and years after I owned Gaol, I learned that she had picked a fight with a worthy opponent. She died as a result of the injuries.
And Gaol herself was a dog fighter. She was not to be trusted around other dogs – of any size.
The other thing Gaol did to unleash her pent up anxiety was to dig holes. Tunnels really. And one of those tunnels was so long that it swallowed my riding lawnmower in its entirety. Took a truck to get it out of that hole.
And here we come to the real smacker of this story:
Gaol was 7 years old when we drove up to Canada to the Schutzhund club. We walked over to the bleachers to watch dogs practice bite work. Gaol lunged at dogs. She barked obscenities. She was out of control.
And then it happened – the event that would forever change her behavior.
A dog out in the field was commanded:
The dog shot away from his handler straight toward the decoy (man wearing the armor of a bite suit). Gaol swore and shouted threats as the dog skimmed above the earth toward the man.
Ten feet from the man the dog launched his 80 pound body, and sunk his teeth around the sleeve. The man spun and the dog whirled from the sleeve like the blades of a helicopter.
“High-drive” is a prerequisite quality for a dog to excel at jobs that require both determination and stamina
Gaol stopped in mid-bark. She sank to a sit and gulped. “Oh my,” she said. “I think I’ve made quite an ass of myself.”
“Yes. I’d say that’s true enough.” I agreed.
That event marked the last time in her entire life Gaol ever wasted her energy goading or barking threats to dogs. She never fought another dog and she never reacted to the taunting of other dogs.
Temperament is what it is. You cannot change it. It is our operating system through which we filter Life and all events.
But when you shape your training and expectations around the innate temperament of your dog, then you will be able to bring out the potential of that dog and to help him realize the gifts he was born to bring into the world. And that is what my books on dog training are all about.
The blog post, “Chickens are ‘Chum,’ not ‘Chow’” summarized my successes in reforming (or preventing) chicken-killer dogs. I ended the piece telling you about Wil – an x-show dog I adopted at age 3. He was the hardest, most messed up dog I have ever met. In this post I will share that – not only did Wil stop killing chicken—he has developed a fondness and even empathy for them.
Chaunteclear was the most devoted rooster I have ever known.
I’ve told you previously that we had to remediate his chicken habit. A half dozen chickens died because he killed them.
It took two years to totally break him of that behavior.
We moved from our ranch to a rain forest, and the last three of our flock joined s a few months later. Wil had the zoomies one day right after we got them back. He routed his flight plan right through the middle of the hens as they hung out in the back yard.
They scattered like water hit by a rock—flying in three different directions.
“Ha ha ha!” Wil giggled. And he made big zoomie circle around the yard as the hens packed up again.
“Wil! Chickens are ‘chum’ not ‘chow. That’ll do.”
“That’ll do. Once was fun. No more.”
He turned sharply and ran a few zoomie circles away from the chickens.
Months later a new chicken – a rooster, actually—would join our hens. Oh… Chaunteclear was a gentleman. He had a heart the size of Texas and was as gallant as an English nobleman. Shortly after he discovered our flock of three old hens and five young hens, Chaunteclear began ‘a’courting,
I watched Wil carefully to be sure that he would not eat the new intruder. No worries.
Chaunteclear tried and tried to marry his flock to this new flock, but his old gals would have nothing to do with the integration. They had only scorn for “the Sirens,” as they refereed to the young hens who had captured Chaunteclear’s heart.
But he showed up every day. And finally one night he did not go home. He stayed for days and days. But Wil and I watched him jog down the road like some poor old arthritic Don Quiote. He would disappear for some time— pleading in vain to have his old sweethearts come with him to live with the others.
Each attempt was met with abject failure, and with wilted tail, Chaunteclear would slink back to our hens.
On very early morning in the fall I heard Chaunteclear crowing in the horse pasture. I heard “Er-er-e—-.”
Chaunteclear’s last crow was in the horse pasture when he was abducted by a coyote in mid-crow.
Wil and I set out at once to see what happened. There were feathers where Chaunteclear had stood on the root of an upturned tree to wake up the sun. And while he was thus distracted, a coyote snatched him by the neck and carried him across the creek and into the woods.
“Will,” I said. “Coyote has Chaunteclear.”
“We’ll find him, Chief,” said Wil.
Wil tracked the coyote down the trail. Now Wil did not know how to use his nose when I got him. Through several different games and a LOT of practice, he has learned how to use his sense of smell.
He buried his nose into the feathers. Then he walked off down the trail. We came to the next set of feathers. It did not look good for Chaunteclear.
“He dropped Chaunteclear here, Chief,” Wil said looking at me, then the feathers.
“I think we’re too late, Wil.”
“He might not be not dead yet, Chief.” Will started to make circles until he stopped and said, “Coyote went this way.”
We walked up the trail and then Wil took us into a little thicket and indicated another pile of feathers.
“He’s gone, Chief. Chaunteclear is gone.” He nosed a small chunk of skin and meat stuck to a few feathers. “We need to get Coyote, Chief. He stole our rooster.”
We tracked the coyote up the trail another eight of a mile before I called Wil off. “It’s too late, Wil. We’re too late. Coyote ate Chaunteclear for supper. There is nothing we can do for Chaunteclear now.
Some time ago I asked readers of K9 Well Being’s Newsletter what they thought about the possibilities of rehabilitating a confirmed chicken killing dog. One of the possible responses was “I don’t know, but if there is, I sure would like to know how!”
Can any dog be taught to STOP killing chickens?
I have had four dogs – two German Shepherds and two Bouviers—that killed at least two or more birds. There was one more GSD, Echo, I managed to catch in the act of mauling a bird and impressed upon her the crime would not be tolerated. “Chickens are chums not chow. Your responsibility is to protect and defend our animals, not kill them” was my crystal clear communication.
The other Shepherds, Skip and Gaol, were hardened criminals, having killed and eaten my three pet ducks (their first offense executed when I was not home), plus several chickens after that. We had a milk goat at the time of their second wave of terror. One day I after I had milked the goat, I turned to the dogs and said, “Don’t drink this milk,” and as I returned from putting the goat into the pasture, the dogs were drinking the milk. There was a stick nearby and I took that stick and spanked Gaol—she was the instigator in these attacks, not Skippy. I said “No milk, no milk! And don’t touch my chickens either.”
I knew I had made a connection the second I let her go. She took that stick in her mouth and walked past the chickens – the stick tilted away from them and her eyes blinking.
Sure enough, no more chickens were killed. And months later I got a call from a neighbor who told me that the chickens had gotten out of their pen and were in the yard with the dogs. I raced home and dashed into the back yard. I realized after making a quick head count that not a chicken had been harmed. I lavished praise upon the dogs – and Gaol said, “We thought about it. But we didn’t do it.”
And that was that for those two.
Echo – truly the ambassador for the German Shepherd breed—was 16 weeks old when she decided to turn a chicken into a squeak toy. I heard the distressed chicken, ran out and jumped on the two. Echo was not going to give up that chicken, not for nothing, no how, no way. I pried her jaws apart and shook her head until the chicken got free. The we went to war. Echo bit my arm with her razor-sharp puppy teeth as I had her by the neck. I repositioned my grasp — and grabbed both her cheeks. I pinned her to the ground. The fight ended once she conceded defeat.
Bouvier, Alice, had the benefit of Echo’s training and her ethics. But one night she killed Tom Turkey—not by attacking him—but by herding him all night long.
12years later she would kill her first chicken.
When Alice was 10 we watched “The History of the Chicken” (see blog post about that.). But two years later, after adding Molly-Cule to our family, Alice got caught up in a one-up’s-manship with ‘Cule and joined her in an attack of a chicken. It took only a lecture on the theme, “chickens are chums not chow” to remind her of her duties on the ranch.
By far the hardest case of all was Wil. Wil was 3 years old when I adopted him. He was truly a dangerous dog. He was dangerous around people of all ages and genders, any and all farm animals, any dog that “dissed “ him and any dog that gave him the slightest challenge.
Persistence. That’s what it took Persistence and an iron fist.
The first time he killed a chicken, I had tied him to a cinderblock while I fed and watered the birds. One of the birds got too close, and he dragged that block some 20 feet until he caught the bird.
Up until then, his rehab had been through clicker training and non-coercive training. I had him tied to my body at all times – except when I had him tied to a fencepost or some object I thought would hold him. Obviously a cinderblock was about as effective as an egg carton.
I had a tough call to make: What would be the penalty for this murder? I made the call that we had had a few months together and that it was time that he learned that his Chief was mightier than anyone or anything he had ever known. I would take him down – down hard—down to where he would realize that his Chief could, in all reality, kill him with her bare hands.
I knew too that there would be a very thin line… too early, he would not have that realization that he was not the bad-ass he thought he was… too late and he would flip from “holy moly, I am done for” to “Ok, MF, BRING IT ON!” And if we got to the “bring it on” stage, then I would be in a hand-to-paw-and-jaw conflict with an 85 pound grizzly bear.
Fortunately I read him just right. I quit attacking him when I saw the “holy moly” look. And that event changed our lives together forever. From that point on, he understood why everyone referred to me as “your Chief” when speaking to Wil. I was not “Mummy” or “Mom.” I was Chief. And as Chief, he was a to tow the line without question.
Do I believe that every dog can be taught not to kill other animals or to stop killing them once they have started? Honestly, I am not sure. Remember I’ve mentioned Molly-Cule, the Jack Russell- Chihuahua mix I adopted at 11 months? She was a rabbit killer, and if there was a rabbit lose, and she caught it, it was a goner. But a rabbit is not too far off from a rat or mole – which she was encouraged to kill. She never killed a chicken even though they ran around loose from time to time. Not ducks either.
I think at the heart of the matter is respect. In my experience, when the dog respects you, and you impress upon him his responsibility to protecting and defending your other animals, he is more likely to be trustworthy around them. And that is not to say that “just because” a dog respects you he will automatically take care with your other animals.
For example, Bouviers are notoriously bad with cats as a general rule. Well, a couple of weeks ago a feral cat moved into our hay barn. When Wil learned that we now have a cat, he was mortified:
“Chief?! A CAT? No no no, Chief! Not a CAT!”
As of this writing, I can guarantee you that Wil will not kill our chickens.
But we are working on “Cats are chums not chow.” And we have a ways to go before he and the cat are buddies.
When I was looking at Pets listings on Craigslist, I saw this ad: “Cane Corso puppies available for their new homes. They would make a great gift for the Holidays.” You know that feeling you get when you see something that you know is going to end really, really badly? It’s a plummeting blood-pressure dizzy lightheaded feeling. All the reasons why it is wrong to give a dog as a present whipped though my brain like a flash slideshow. And not just any dog. Proposing that an aggressive, dominant breed like Cane Corso would in any way shape or form make a great Christmas present for a dog lover, is so “over the top.”
Cane Corso is a hard dog that affords his master great protection. If he senses danger, he will take matters into his own hands. Cane Corso is not a beginner dog owner’s dog, for sure!
We’ll get to the specifics of a Cane Corso or other experienced-dog-owners-only breeds in a bit. Let’s discuss the general reasons why great gift for the Holidays should not include dogs or puppies.
A dog is a 7-18 year commitment
Assuming the recipient is the responsible type, you are about to saddle him or her with a 7 to 18 year commitment.
Let me assure you: If you gift ME a dog, I will haunt your grave. Forever.
This is the face to make If someone gives you dog as an unsolicited present
Is the soon-to-be new dog owner ready to socialize and train a dog?
If the dog is a puppy, that friend or relative gets to spring into action to properly socialize and work to provide basic obedience training for that puppy—a commitment that will require daily energy for a period not less than one year.
Do not jump on the nice old lady wobbling behind that walker.
Dogs must be taught never to exit a car without a clear command to do so.
Is the new owner set up to receive a dog? … And how does the rest of the family feel about having a dog?
Before getting a dog, a proactive person has a chance to prepare his or her house for the new dog.
Does your recipient have a secure fence, or will the dog end up on a chain in the back yard?
Is the dog already housebroken? If not, does the new owner have a crate? Enzyme cleaners? A carpet cleaner?
Has the new owner ever had a dog or puppy? What will s/he need in order to create a successful relationship with the new dog?
If the dog is an adult, is he well behaved? Will he get along with the other pets, guests, and members of the family? Even if the new owner is equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to reform a dog, is s/he prepared and willing to do so?
Will this dog fit with the new owner’s plans? If s/he wanted to do agility training, a Borzoi may not prove to be competitive with an Australian Sheepdog. If Lure coursing was the sport of choice, then the Aussie will be outpaced by the Borzoi. And not all dogs are created equal anyway.
There was a fun episode of the Beverly Hillbillies that ran the gamut of dog enthusiasts vs those who view dogs as a giant nuisance.
Your enthusiasm for a dog or multiple dogs may not be shared with your intended recipient!
Does the new owner work? If so, how much time will the new dog have to be around people?
Are there other animals in the home? If so, will this dog get along with them? And will they get along with the dog?
Before anyone gets a dog, it is best to consider what other pets are in the home and what pets might be in the home in the future.
While there are exceptions to every rule, there are some breeds that get along marvelously with other pets. But then there are others — my favorite, the Bouvier, for one– that do NOT get along with some other species. Some rescue/ shelter websites address compatibility questions such as whether or not the dog:
Gets along with children
Gets along with cats
Gets along with other dogs
… From those notations, you will begin to recognize a pattern. I don’t know if anyone has ever conducted an official survey, but I am pretty sure the Bouvier would rate in singe-digit percentile as a dog that is marked as one that “Gets along with cats.”
And again, that does not mean that every dog in that breed will follow the norm. But it should raise red flags if you have or plan to have children or other pets.
Do you know enough about the breed and this dog to ask the right questions?
If it is a puppy, find out all you can with regard to these issues:
What is the breed and pedigree of the parents. (On Craigslist I found a listing that stated, “The complete bloodline breakdown is 75% German Shepherd and 25% Labrador.” This is NOT the lingo of a responsible, purposeful breeder.)
What do you know of the breeder’s reputation—What details do you have about his/her breeding program, attitude and action with regard to disease/ hips, etc. testing of the puppy’s dam and sire, vaccination schedule. (If you have not already done so, read my book, Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention in which I discuss vaccinations, medications as well as breeds that have high rates of thyroid disease.) This book will give you a number of “heads up” warnings about things that can damage the endocrine system. Be proactive. Don’t damage the endocrine system.
How did the breeder structure the socialization program for the puppies, (or was there a program at all?) See the next post to read about the importance of proper socialization for puppies age 3 weeks to 12 weeks.
Do you have a list of questions you should ask when considering an older dog
– Why are the previous owners letting him go? What are this dog’s vices? Typical reasons include:
Fearful of children, of men, of women, of strangers, of other pets
Aggressive – toward dogs, or cats, or farm animals, or children, or men or women or the owner…
Destructive – chews up everything
Behaviorally out of control
Cannot be controlled
Cannot be contained
Is an “illegal” breed for that city
What does your friend / family member know about this breed?
Dog Breed Characteristics may not match the person you are giving the dog to
My first dog was a Shepherd-Husky mix that we found at a pet shop when I was ten. He was my inseparable partner as I grew up. He disappeared at 5:30 a.m. in Seattle on March 30, 1979. I was devastated. A three-month search failed to turn up any sign of him.
When I finally conceded failure, I adopted Buck, the 6 month old GSD/Lab mix. He was as committed to his previous owner as Baron was to me. For years, Buck dragged me across streets whenever he saw a tall, thin man in a business suit.
Buck was brilliant. He had a powerful vocabulary and sophisticated comprehension of English. However, we were ill-suited.
It is not that he was not a good dog. In fact, he was a great dog. But temperamentally, we were not a good match. He was too happy, too playful. He was a classically terrific Lab!
But I wanted a more serious, down-to-business type of dog.
Years later I would find Wayne Curry, who was then breeding exceptional German Shepherds of European lines. I would meet all the puppies at 5 weeks old, hold one of them for 20 minutes and return 3 weeks later to bring one home.
I am pretty sure that the puppy I held at 5 weeks old was the one who chose me. I threw my little change purse over and over and over again, and she raced her brothers and sisters to that purse, grabbed it, and returned it to me every time.
Echo was the ambassador of the German Shepherd breed – a dog with the finest temperament I have ever known. No one could have picked out that dog for me. We created that bond from the time we met and selected one another.
When the horses were turned out to graze in the high country, Echo could always find them.
Please do not deny your friend or relative that honor.
And to bring this all back to the Cane Corso. You, yourself, may not be knowledgeable about the dog’s breed in terms of typical hereditary illnesses, or breed temperament tendencies.
Cane Corso is not a breed for a novice dog owner.
Cane Corso is a breed I might consider once my Bouvier is no longer able to protect me. They are one-man (or one family) dogs who view outsiders as potential threats. They have fewer qualms of defending their people than even a Bouvier has.
They are absolutely not a “beginners” dog as they are not touchie-feelie, love-peace-tie-dye dogs. They will attack cats, small dogs, and uninvited intruders, and their large size and solid body means that if you have not gained full control of this dog when he was a little sprout, you will have your hands full and your shoulders dislocated if you wait until he is a year old.
And THIS is the dog advertised on Craigslist as a dog that would make “great gift for the Holidays.”
In K9 Well Being’s newsletter, I provide resources that can help readers make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a breed of dog that will best suit them.
As we grow older or our living situations change, so might our choice of dogs. For example, a high-drive dog may have been well suited to a life on the farm, but if you sell the farm and move to the city, that breed may not work out very well in an apartment in the city.
In our last post I spent a little time discussing the breed, Cane Corso, saying that this is not a breed for a novice owner. But if I were a single woman living in a dicey area – and I had a sound foundation training hard-dogs- this is a breed I would seriously consider.
If you are unfamiliar with the attributes of a breed, do your research. Physical attraction is only a part of your relationship equation with a dog.
My favorite breed of all time is the Bouvier. They’re like a non-whining, standoffish, stoic-to-a-fault European German Shepherd.
My first Bouv, Alice, was 12 when she did something she’d never done before.
My mom was visiting the ranch when Alice dashed after Molly-Cule — the little Jack Russel- Chihuahua mix. They ducked under and electric fence to chase one of my mules.
Molly-Cule missed the strike, but that mule nailed Alice. Broke her humerus bone. But Alice did not yelp. She did not whine. The only reason I knew she was hurt was that she broke off her chase and slunk discreetly into the horse trailer. If she’d been any of my German Shepherds, there would have at least been a quick yelp. The word “stoic” is quite the understatement for a Bouv.
My Bouvier, Alice, was a wonderful trail-mate… but she began that training at 8 weeks… and had additional mentorship with Echo — A GSD who was truly the ambassador for the breed.
I don’t want to be around a dog that whines, begs or pesters me. I want a dog that is laid back and easy going, yet will hup-to when duty calls. Bouvier, Wil, and I spent a few hours one afternoon (in 100 degree heat) moving our bull who had fallen in love with a neighbor’s heifer and was intent on tearing down all our fences so he could go say howdy-do.
That was a grueling afternoon. But a Bouv is a partner, and he will stick with you like a European Shepherd to “get’er done.’ Dang near killed us both with heatstroke.
I want a dog that will be my back up.
One day, Alice (age 15) , Wil (age 7) and I were south of Seattle at a car wash in a run down part of town. Some vagrant-looking guys approached me as I was putting things back in my truck after vacuuming it. The dogs were tied to rhododendron bushes in the shade.
“Lady, want some help?” one asked.
“No thanks.” I said
But they kept approaching. And I knew they’d heard me.
“Lady, want some help?” the same man asked again.
“No. Thank you.” I said.
But still they advanced.
“Stop!” I said forcefully, putting my hand out like a traffic cop. They did stop.
“Look at the bushes,” I said. My gaze followed my finger, and what I observed caused white tingling fear spread to across my body.
Wil was on high alert. He drilled into those guys with a look that said, “One more step, I’m taking you out.”
Not everyone wants or needs or wants a dog for defense. Some people want a companion to jog with. Others want a companion to watch television with. Some want a dog to do some sport with – dock diving, agility, lure coursing, dog sledding, ring sport…
Do you want a sports dog? A hunting dog? A companion dog? A defense dog? Choose carefully!
Whatever your reason is for wanting a dog, it is best that you identify that reason. And then do some research. Find out if that breed is suitable to your needs.
And even if you are not searching for a purebred, it is still a good idea to do your needs assessment and best-fit breed exercise.
In the case of mixed breeds, keep in mind that the dog may look a lot like one breed, but have the temperament of another. You cannot judge these “books” by their covers.
For example, let’s say that you find a basset hound – Labrador mix. He might look a whole lot like a lab, but if he has the basset temperament, he surely will not act like one! You’ll likely have a kind-hearted, hard-to-train, independent minded, loves to follow his nose dog.
Mixed breeds may not exhibit the temperament or disposition of the breed they most resemble.
Maybe he looks like the basset hound, but has the Lab temperament? Then he will most likely love kids and people, be naturally pretty good with other animals, be a wonderful, fun companion. He’ll be protective without being a menace. And he’ll always be up for playing outfield when the kids are playing baseball.
If you understand the breed characteristics of both, you may be able to project an educated guess about the kind of dog he is. And in doing so– if you are familiar with breed temperament characteristics– you may be able to determine whether or not you two will be a good match.
Of course, besides temperament and disposition, there are other things that you need to consider:
What size of dog will work best for your lifestyle?
How large is your house? Yard? Car?
Do you need to transport this dog?
Can you afford to feed a large dog?
Is this breed prone to disease, hip problems, or other medical issues?
Will his job (such as being a livestock guardian, for example) require a large bodied dog?
Golden Retriever with Chihuahua-Jack Russel Terrorist friend
What are the challenges of your dog’s hair or coat?
What is your tolerance for shedding?
Are you allergic to dog hair?
Do you like the feel of a short-haired dog?
Do you have the patience and/or financial means to manage the coat of a long-haired dog?
A coat like this can be a challenge in some climates (i.e. wet and muddy), vegetative habitats (eg. cheat grass, hounds tongue)
Environmental concerns: Is “Where you live” conducive to the dog you want?
Is the dog large enough to hold his own with coyotes or other wildlife or savvy enough not to pick a war he cannot win?
Are there weeds, such as cheat grass, that will cause harm to the dog unless monitored with some degree of obsession on your part? With the dog’s coat be resilient against such plants? (Labradors are; Bouviers are not.)
(My vet found a cheat grass blade WAY down in Alice’s ear canal! He also found a tick way down in her ear canal!)
Is the breed of dog you are considering illegal in your city or county?
Is your climate suitable for this dog?
Will the dog pose a threat to other people or animals that share your world?
Will this dog get along with other animals you have or plan to have?
Is this dog safe with children?
Will this dog be a safety hazard to old people who have mobility issues?
Dog aggression can be a factor of temperament, inadequate socialization and/or training, as well as thyroid disease!CLICK HERE to learn more.
If you find that the dog you chose is not working out for you, it is okay to re-home him. I have done this twice in the 50 years I have owned dogs. The first was Buck – the Shepherd – Lab I mentioned in my previous post. Buck was one of the finest dogs I have ever met. But we were not “soul mates.”
Buck loved his rabbits. In fact, each time a litter was born, there was no way to pry him away from his job as guardian angel to the kits.
The second was a little Chihuahua – Jack Russell Terrorist mix. A visitor to the ranch fell madly in love with Miss Molly-Cule and asked if he could have her. She went on to be his service dog and the two are 100% inseparable. She adores him and he has gone to extreme lengths to protect, defend and care for her.
Molly-Cule — Queen of the Jungle!
In both these cases, these dogs were better suited to their new owners than to me. In the end, I was just a sort of conduit to spur them on to the people they were meant to be with.
There are a number of “breed selector” tools online. Dog Identifier has a “round up” of eight of them:
In my email newsletter I told readers about the ones I took that provided the most authentic results. If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter, simply drop a line to Info@K9WellBeing.com and ask to Subscribe to the Newsletter.
If you want a dog, where do you begin to look? Breeders? Rescues or shelters? The backyard breeder next door? Craigslist pet community listings? You can find a real gem of a dog from any of these sources. But each of these requires savvy on your part so that you do not end up with a dog that is more than you can handle or is not a good fit for your lifestyle or goals.
This post will consider “red flag” descriptors that commonly appear on Craigslist as well as other classified ad or private party sources.
Flag Number One: Dog Aggression
Sometimes dogs are aggressive because they were not taught parameters when they were young. When you see an ad that tells you that:
“She does tend to get nippy if she gets too excited after being in the kennel for multiple hours, so it is best to let her run around and play before letting her out to cuddle or enjoy family time.”
“ He should receive private training as opposed to group training because he can get easily distracted by other dogs.”
Aggression can be an issue when there is an existing pack that has not been taught to play nice with others:
“New puppy not working out with older bigger dogs in the home. My bigger dogs are to rough and aggressive with the puppy.”
“He does not like adult males, but after few days will be better if the other male doesn’t any aggression toward him.”
Red Flag Number 2: Fear-based dog behavior
Sometimes aggression does not come from drive but from fear. This might be the result of poor or inappropriate socialization, improper training:
“She should not be constantly around children. She is very timid and scared and that makes her vicious.”
“He’s not good around strangers and prefers adults.”
Excessive aggression or timidity can be the result of the ways a young puppy was handled. Or it could be the result of separating a puppy from its mother and litter mates too early.
Premature Puppy Placement
I cringed when I read these three ads:
“Small breed puppies. Just born yesterday. Will be ready for rehoming in 6 weeks.”
“He is a 6 week old Lhasa Apso puppy. He loves to play and cuddle. I work full time and don’t have time for him.” [Obviously this one was re-homed before he even reached six weeks!]
“I got her when she was four and a half weeks old. She does have some separation anxiety and likes to chew on stuff. She needs to have a couple of bones and some toys to keep her busy.”
I am sure that all three of the puppies in the last three listings will have issues such as separation anxiety, destructive obsessions with chewing things, as well as problems getting along with other dogs, inappropriate behaviors such as humping people.
Too many people do not realize the enormous impact proper socialization plays on the development of the mind of a dog.
There is no Substitute for Proper Socialization
NO puppy is ready to leave its dog family until he has reached at least 7 weeks old. Ideally, a puppy is 8 weeks of age before he sets out to make a new life with his human partners.
When the underlying cause of aggression is early separation, you will have a devil of a time remediating dogs like these:
“It will take good 30 minutes for him to get used to you and maybe get close enough to sniff you.”
“She is protective of her food and when challenged by another dog she will stand up for herself.”
“He needs a family without kids under 16, as he is very nervous around a lot of activity.”
“She needs a home without kids, and without many visitors.”
“Allie is an alpha dog, so she is very dominant towards other dogs.”
“I’m having a hard time with potty training and everything he’s chewing.”
“Charlie is not trained to walk on leash and is very fearful of it, so he needs a home with a securely fenced-in yard.”
Shelter Dog Behavior Assessment
Shelters and Rescues rarely know the background of the dogs that arrive at their doors. Each staff will vary in their savvy of dog behavior and temperament assessment. They may or may not have a clue as to a dog’s training level or where to direct the adoptees to appropriate resources.
An experienced dog trainer who has a wide range of dog breeds he or she has worked with can usually predict the type of behaviors one might expect from a dog of any given breed. For example, most Jack Russel Terriers are fearless, energetic bossy little fireballs. If you want a nice, sweet lap dog, this is not it. If you want a dog that loves to cuddle, you’d be better off with a scruffy little Brussels Griffon.
Knowing the breed can help match a person with a dog that has the characteristics, disposition and temperament best suited to that person. Staff at shelters and rescue may not have sufficient breadth of knowledge to direct a person to an appropriate selection. Also, often people are drawn to a dog that is not particularly well suited to them because they feel a calling to that animal.
I adopted a 6 month old lab-shepherd cross back in 1978. He was a fantastic dog, and we lived together for six years before a friend of mine adopted him from me. She sobbed, when two years after his death, she told me how much she loved that dog and how much she still missed him.
Sometimes you are not the best match for a dog while another person is the dead-ringer perfect partner. It’s okay to let go of a dog you just met or one you’ve known for years if his situation will improve.
When I was taking Wil to dog class several years ago, there was a young couple there who had adopted a wildly reactive purebred Australian Cattle dog from a local shelter. The person they worked with at the shelter knew so little about dogs, he thought this was a mixed breed. The dog was sweet in the kennel, but when they got him home, they found he was so reactive, they had to keep the blinds closed. They had to walk him on a leash in their fenced back yard. And when they left home, they had to leave him in the bathroom so that he would not tear up the blinds. They were a wonderful young couple who followed the instructor’s protocols and training program to the letter. When Wil and I last saw them—a year after they had started working with that trainer—the dog was finally responsive to them and ignored most of his former triggers.
Do you want to put that much elbow grease into a dog?
It’s okay to say “No.”
And it’s okay to say “Yes.”
If you read any of my books, you will learn that Wil made that little cattle dog look like Lassie. Wil was insanely angry, aggressive and bone-chillingly dangerous. He was not a shelter dog. He was a breeder’s dog. And he was mishandled and misunderstood for the first three years of his life.
I will tell you that most dogs can be remediated in the right hands. Even a novice dog owner – like the couple with the Cattle Dog—can learn how to reshape the mind of a messed up dog, most of the time… if they are 110% committed… and give 150% of their energy to correctly implementing the strategies outlined by a talented and competent instructor.
What I hope you will do is consider your choice carefully. In our next post, I will provide you with more food for thought that will prepare you to make a choice that will serve you and the new dog in your life well for your lifetime together.
According to the University of Michigan, Cetyl Myristoleate seems to be effective as both a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory agent. In medical terminology, the suffix ‘itis’ refers to inflammation; the uses for osteo (bone) arteritis and rheumatoid arthritis is pretty clear.
Most arthritis sufferers have heard of this ingredient at some point. According to Arthritis.org, Glucosamine has been shown to both reduce pain and improve function in studies. Glucosamine is a major component of joint cartilage.
What a tongue twister! According to Drugs.com, “MSM is commonly used for osteoarthritis, but may also benefit in alleviating GI upset, musculoskeletal pain, and allergies; boosting the immune system; and fighting antimicrobial infection (Wolters Kluwer Health, 2009)”.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, this ingredient has been used in South America for centuries to treat indigestion and reduce inflammation (therein lies the benefit). This was particularly used at one time to treat inflammation after sinus surgery (in humans).
“Bromelain can be used to treat a number of conditions. But it is particularly effective in reducing inflammation from infection and injuries (A.D.A.M. Inc., 1997-2013).”
What Causes Joint Inflammation in Pets?
This could be chalked up to simple poor genetics and heredity. You might be surprised to learn that far more cases are caused or exacerbated by obesity. As animals age, they tend to become less active, in turn working off fewer calories. After all- our pets don’t need to go through the strenuous activity of hunting and taking down prey animals like wild animals of old.
Wear & Tear
Just like human athletes, dogs are prone to wear & tear (bone fractures, ligament sprains, joint degradation) due to excessive athletics (racing animals). ‘FlexPet’ would be a perfect supplement to offer your sporty pooch!
(As an aside, some biologists believe that the extra tendons attached to a dog’s ‘Dew Claws’ help prevent extra torque on the athletic animal’s legs. Consider this article before having your pup’s dew claws removed.)
One factor of health and joint degradation is the poor diets many owners provide their pets. Much of the time this is through no fault of their own. Some of the worst pet food distributors are also the ones who can afford to spend the most on advertising; many owners are duped into purchasing low quality brands.
So, the takeaway points are these: if your pet is leaning toward the obese side, the best treatment would likely be to improve his nutrition and control his weight. While supplements may help, talk to your veterinarian about a weight loss plan. (Also, if you have not already done so, please download my report on Hypothyroidism and read it cover to cover! It contains a lot of jaw-dropping information every dog owner should know.)
Although tissue degradation is a very natural effect of aging, one can take steps to prevent unnesssary damage. Good diet, appropriate exercie, and supplements can help your dog live a long, active life.
So- does FlexPet work as well as advertised?
7.5 year old Wil sure says it does!
We recommend you try FlexPet today. This company stands behind their product enough to offer a MONEY BACK GUARANTEE!
This is the exciting time of the season for not just kids and adults, but pets too! Just imagine- the fun costumes, all of the various trick or treaters, the fun places to explore…
Did I Say Pets?
Of course I did! Halloween can be a time for our fur- kids too! Not only will your pet love the activity, but Halloween presents a wonderful opportunity to get out there and get some well-deserved exercise.
Hey- I’ve got you covered! Just in case the unexpected does happen: Pet Poison Hotline: 1-800-213-6680 ASPCA Animal Poison Control: 888-426-4435
How often do we get to go out and have fun at night? Halloween is one of those few times. Though it may be a blast, this also offers possible dangers. Don’t worry; I’ve put together a few great Tips for Staying Safe Walking your Dog at Night to keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way!
In the end, be prepared for a wonderful Halloween for everyone!
Wil called it right: It was not one of my better ideas– getting a yak.
Riding a Yak, Yundrok Yumtso Lake, Tibet
Yaks are basically short llama-coated cows with long pointed horns and have a long tradition of being a service animal (packing and riding) in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet. I wanted to have a yak team who could legally defoliate the rainvforest of my new property in NorthWet Washington.
Domestic Yak, Tallinn Zoo — about the size of our baby Yak–
I found a breeder who had a young yak and set off for Points South to pick up said Yak. We arrived at the farm, where the owner had already caught the yak and tied her up to a post near where we could load her up. She was a little upset and expressed this by whipping her baby horns toward me. But she was kind to her owner and I thought that we would be able to work through this once we got home.
Yak train, Khumbe Valley, Nepal
Yaks are herd animals, so to give my new yak a buddy I had arranged to pick up a 2 year old Yak from a petting zoo. I thought that since the yak had been there, he would be a tame yak. Alas. This was not really the case. And it did explain why the owners of said yak were moving him down the road.
Wil, who had disapproved of loading up the first yak freaked out at the idea of adding a second yak. While I visited with the yak in the barn, he assumed a position that looked like one of those sticky-footed Garfield stuffed toys that people used to stick on their side windows of their cars back in the 80’s. “Chief! Chief!” he called “Chief– Let me out of the truck! If something goes wrong I need to be there! CHIEF! OPEN THE DOOR!”
I decided to take the yak– until he got in the loading corral at which point he bucked and kicked out and flung his horns. Wil was beside himself– not just because of the yak’s attack behavior, but because in the pen beside the irate yak was a 18 hand camel. A WHAT?! CHIEF!!! Get away from THAT THING!
I told the man I could not take his yak. We closed up the trailer and I got in the truck.
Wil fell over — I mean literally keeled over like a cardboard cut-out of a Bouvier. He did not move.
For 20 minutes we drove. Still no motion. I pulled into a gas station to check Wil’s pulse. He looked pleadingly into my eyes: “Chief,” he whispered, “Chief… please don’t get a yak. And please, please, please, please Chief… Don’t get one of those 18 hand monsters.”
We went for a walk to “reset” his emotions.
When we got home I put Wil in the house and then had a friend help me unload the young yak. Her behavior was just about as scary as the 2 year old’s had been, and in the end– the very next morning– I took her back to her former owner. Yaks, it seems, are fine little work partners IF they’ve been brought up from birth- with bottle feeding and a lot of handling and training from birth. Feeding a yak a ration of grain each day will not tame a yak.
Wil needed some debriefing that would let him know that Chief had not lost all sense and sensibility. So, we had a discussion about camels. I searched YouTube and found this video about camels:
“Wil,” I said, “watch this video. See the camel? It’s like the one we saw today.”
Wil glanced at the computer screen. He saw the camel and his eyes bulged. Then he recoiled, took a deep breath and started to lunge for the screen.
“No, Wil,” I said, “Camels are good. They’re like horses. People ride them. And they can pack stuff. Camels are like horses.”
Wil looked at me and then at the camel on the screen.
“See the lady?” I said, pointing to Alex standing in front of her camel. “This is her pet camel. Camels like people. They are like horses.”
Wil got up to inspect at close range:
Wil Studies Alex’s Camel Video
And in the end, he remained only about 89% convinced that camels are good people.
If you have read K9 Well Being’s Free Report– Hypothyroidism– (See the box on the right that has the arrow urging you to Get The FREE Report), you know that obesity is the number one symptom that prompts most vets to suspect thyroid dysfunction in dogs. That was true for Wil– (But you’ll find out that that was the least of his troubles when you read the report).
There is yet another cause for obesity though. The following introduction was written by Kaylee White of Ghergich & Co., which designed the graphics below for Petco in an effort to help people process the importance of keeping dogs thin. I’ve mentioned Petco in my posts before. Petco is a nationwide chain that has supplies and food for a myriad of critters. Petco states that they “believe in elevating the lives of animals and enhancing the connection people have with their pets.” They also state that they “are also committed to the highest standards of social responsibility.” I shop at Petco now and again.
What We Feed Them Matters – Petco Draws Attention to Pet Nutrition
Here is Kaylee’s introduction to the graphics Ghergich & Co., designed : Continue reading →
Christmas is 2 days away! Wil, Alice and I visited Burlington Dog Works (full service and highly professional grooming salon) again and the owners shared this photo of Wil taken after they groomed him a couple of weeks ago! What a knockout, ae?
I taught Wil to make eye contact using noncoercive clicker training
Clicker Training is a great way to teach your dog new skills and behaviors using totally non-coercive strategies.
In my book The 3 Essential Commands, I explain how I used clicker training to re-shape the gnarly attitude Wil had when I got him at age 3. Today he is a dog who enjoys learning and takes pride in his partnership with me.
You can use clickers to train your dog too. The benefits are many:
You will improve your focus on what your dog is doing that you want him to do.
If you make mistakes (your timing or failure to see the “tries” your dog makes, for example) there is no harm done. You won’t have issued a reprimand or correction; you will have failed to treat your dog for guessing what you wanted him to do.
Clicker training builds an enthusiast attitude toward learning.
A trained dog is more confident. And he’s a lot more pleasant to have around!
Clicker Training Primer
Here is a succinct video demonstrating how to use a clicker to teach your dog a simple concept: “Watch me.” Continue reading →
Not too long ago, I posted a blog entitled, Dogs in Hotels- Tips for Being a Welcomed Guest. That post covered tips on keeping your dog safe and how to be a guest that a dog friendly lodging establishment would look forward to seeing again!
In this post I’d like to provide you with a few resources you can use to find dog-friendly lodging and offer some tips on traveling with your pet. Continue reading →
If you are looking for a personalized gift, why not hire a professional photographer who can shoot high-quality images that will last a lifetime. I did this with Wil and Alice when we sat for our commissioned photographs with Gary Babcock of Gary’s Action Photography. May these images inspire you!
Sometimes someone’s photograph of you tells you something you didn’t know before. From this photo I “got” how deep my relationship is with Alice.
T’is the season for DIY gifts –and a popular one among dog owners is homemade dog cookies. Whether you’re making them yourself or you’re the recipient of a batch of homemade goodies, you must be careful to screen the ingredients for toxins.
Skippy Natural Peanut Butter is one of the “back to basics” styles of peanut butter and contains only Roasted peanuts, Sugar, Palm oil, and Salt
Perils of Peanut Butter
One would think that peanut butter is nothing more than pureed peanuts, and in a small percentage of peanut butter products, that is the case. More often, however, peanut butter has been adulterated with a myriad of substances, some of which cause disease, or, in the case of dogs, immediate death.
A while ago I watched Dogs Decoded, a documentary produced by Nova, which explored our relationship with dogs. It drew attention to something I knew about my relationships with my dogs, but was not consciously aware of.
[Above] This is a really quick overview of Dogs Decoded. The full length version is toward the end of this post.
I have deliberately developed the sophistication of understanding for every dog I’ve ever owned. I teach them words. And I use that vocabulary to build concepts. Continue reading →
As I write this post, there is another fall storm blowing up here in Northwest Washington. The wind is projected to gust over 60 miles per hour and the rain will come in buckets.
I’m out in this storm, and as I drive along city streets– an activity I’m no longer accustomed to, having recently moved from a rural region with just three stoplights in the whole county– I found it nearly impossible to see pedestrians walking across roads on this blustery night.
Without reflective clothing or at least bright clothes, Wil and I present a “Where’s Waldo” challenge for drivers. (Can YOU see us?)
Who would have thought yoga could be such a contact sport?
Dogs love yoga! It is an activity where they can participate with their human partners in a relaxing activity
Meet “Doga” a yoga practice that is becoming quite popular. Simply, Doga is yoga done in partnership with your dog. This can be you assisting the dog in stretches he does, or teaching him to do poses with you.
It might seem odd that dogs would want to participate in one’s yoga practice, but then again, dogs have evolved to be our partners, and part of partnership is sharing experiences.
When I was a kid, I finally talked my dad into letting me get a dog. Baron the Wonder Dog was my inseparable friend from age 10 to 20. When I set off for college, he went with me. We spent a miserably cold winter in Missoula, MT in 1978-79 and left there in March of ‘79. We spent our first night in Seattle at some friend’s house and at 5:30 a.m., Baron asked to go outside. I let him out, went to the bathroom myself, and when I opened the door to let him back in, he was not there. I searched for months and never found him.
Rocks were great entertainment for Baron. He’d dig long canyons along which he advanced his pet rock
This led me to adopt a 6 month-old Shepherd-Lab whose owner had surrendered him at the Humane Society. “David Flemming” was 6 feet tall, balding, and wore a gray business suit. At least that’s what Buck said every time we encountered a man of that description. Continue reading →
In my last post I discussed some things to consider when choosing a dog that will best suit your temperament, interests and lifestyle. In this post, let’s consider the ways you might acquire your next (or first) dog.