Dog Paw Cuts and Scrapes: How to Treat a Paw Injury

Five things to do when your dog injures his paw pad.

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Your dog’s paw pads act much like the soles of sneakers, protecting your dog’s foot and cushioning each step. Paw pads are tough, but they can still be cut by sharp objects or worn off if your dog runs hard on rough terrain. What should you do when your dog cuts or tears a pad?

1. Clean the wound.
Gently flush the wound with water or an antiseptic, such as diluted chlorhexidine solution. If there is obvious debris, such as rocks or glass, remove it carefully. Don’t force anything that is lodged deep into the foot.
2. Control bleeding.
Apply pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding. Use a clean towel and an ice pack if available to encourage blood-vessel constriction. If only the outer layer of the pad has been worn off, there may not be much bleeding, but deeper wounds and punctures can bleed heavily. The time it takes for bleeding to stop will vary with the severity of the wound.
3. Evaluate the damage.
Minor paw injuries can be managed at home, but more severe ones require veterinary attention. Uncontrolled bleeding is an emergency – if your dog’s foot continues to bleed after several minutes of pressure, call your veterinarian and head for the clinic. Deep or jagged cuts may require sutures for optimal healing. Your dog may need to be sedated for sufficient cleaning of the wound if there is persistent debris, such as little bits of gravel, and something that is firmly lodged in the foot will need to be surgically removed. Your dog may also need antibiotics to protect against infection. If you are at all unsure, err on the side of a vet visit – your veterinarian can give you peace of mind and can give your dog the care he needs.
4. Bandage.
Place nonstick gauze or a Telfa pad directly over the cut. If available, a dab of triple antibiotic ointment is a good idea to prevent infection. This can be secured with paper tape. Then wrap your dog’s foot using roll gauze, Vetrap, or an elastic bandage. The bandage should be snug enough to stay on, but also needs to be loose enough to allow for proper circulation to your dog’s foot. You should be able to slide two fingers under the bandage. To prevent the bandage from slipping off, wrap all the way up to and including the next joint on your dog’s leg: carpus or wrist in front, hock in back. You can also place more tape around the top of the bandage.
Keep the bandage dry. Moisture provides an entrance for bacteria to get through the bandage and into the wound. You can use a commercial bootie to protect the bandage when your dog goes outside or just tape a plastic bag over it. Most paw bandages need to be changed daily, especially if there is still bleeding or a discharge present.
For minor scrapes that look like a rug burn, a liquid bandage can be used to cover the exposed nerve endings without needing a full traditional bandage. Keep the foot elevated while the liquid bandage dries, and don’t let your dog lick it.
5. Allow time for healing.
Your dog’s paw will heal faster if it’s protected until fully healed. Keep him quiet, and prevent him from running or chewing at the bandage (this may require the use of an Elizabethan collar). Even after your dog’s pad has healed enough that it isn’t painful to touch, it will still be tender and vulnerable to reinjury. Avoid activities that could damage the healing pad, or use a bootie to protect the foot. Healing time will vary depending on the size of the cut.

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The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat

Dog Diet & Nutrition

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what dogs can’t eat

There are human foods that are completely safe for dogs and also foods that are dangerous and even potentially fatal. Many pet owners learn about toxic foods only after their dog has ingested something and started having abnormal symptoms.

Since dogs are naturally curious and have an amazing sense of smell, this combination often leads to them getting into purses, getting food off of counters, getting into trash cans, stealing food from grills, and sneaking food from plates. Other times, well-intentioned pet owners offer tables scraps or human foods without understanding that they are toxic.

Below, we will review what can’t dogs eat as well as list what is safe. It is important to have healthy alternatives once you know what is not safe.

 

Safe Food for Dogs

There are many human foods that are “safe” for dogs. However, dogs do not need human food. What dogs need is a good quality food formulated for the size, age, body condition, activity, or for any underlying medical problems they may have. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

lab eat garden

Safe Treats for Dogs

The ideal dog treat is one made of good quality ingredients that is moderate to low in calories, consistent in ingredients (thus unlikely to cause stomach upset from bag to bag), very appealing to your dog, and safe. Higher-quality treats tend to be more consistently produced, so it is best to avoid discount and supermarket brands if possible.

There are also many human foods that you can feed your dog safely. By safely, I mean the foods listed below are not toxic to dogs. However, large quantities of any food or food given to dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pancreatitis. Treats should make up less than 5% of your dog’s caloric intake.

 

Safe Foods and Treats for Dogs

Human foods that are safe for dogs include those in the list below. These foods are considered to be fresh, seedless, shelled, sliced, peeled, and in some cases, washed, and/or cooked depending on the particular product. Butter and seasonings can create their own dangers.

Almonds

Apples – small amounts without the seeds

Asparagus

Avocado –small amounts without the seeds

Bananas

Blackberries

Blueberries

Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed

Brussels sprouts

Cantaloupe

Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cauliflower

Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cheese

Chicken – cooked

Clementine

Cooked fish such as salmon

Cooked green beans. In fact, some pet owners give green beans to aid in weight loss. Learn more about the Green Bean Diet for Dogs

Cooked ground beef or steak

Cottage cheese

Cranberries

Eggs

Fish

Freshly cooked lunch meat

Iceberg Lettuce

Kiwis

Oatmeal

Oranges

Papaya

Pasta

Peanuts

Pineapple

Popcorn

Pork – cooked

Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet

Pumpkin – cooked

Rice or rice cake

Shrimp

Strawberries

Spinach

Tangerine

Turkey – cooked

Yogurt

Watermelon

Tips for Giving Human Food as Treats to Your Dog

Treats are never a replacement for a good quality core dog food.

Consider low-calorie treats for dogs with weight control problems.

Give only fresh food. Moldy or rotten food can cause gastrointestinal upset.

What Dogs Can’t Eat: Foods Not Safe for Dogs

Any food in large pieces or chunks can cause difficulty chewing or swallowing and can be a choking hazard.

Specific foods that veterinarians commonly recommend NOT to give to dogs include the following:

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include anxiety, dilated pupils, labored breathing, fast breathing, and shock. Small pieces of cleaned apple without the seeds can be safe.

Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic in some animals. The toxic component in the avocado is “persin,” which is a fatty acid derivative. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen, and sac around the heart, which can occur in some animals such as cattle and horses. The amount that needs to be ingested to cause signs is unknown. The biggest danger of avocado in dogs is the ingestion of the pit that can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Learn about the safety of avocados here.

Baked Goods. The products which are made with xylitol are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweeter used in place of sugar primarily because it is lower in calories. Xylitol is also an ingredient in many different types of gums. It is in many products designed for people with Diabetes due to its low glycemic index. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure, or muscle spasms.

Bones. There are many bones that aren’t safe for dogs. This can be due to the danger of them getting stuck or caught in the mouth, sharp splinters injuring the intestines, risk of constipation when passing relatively indigestible bone fragments, as well as possible bacterial contamination on the bone that can lead to illness. Learn more about The Danger of Bones.

Bread Dough. The dough contains yeast which rises in moist, warm environments, such as in the stomach. After ingestion, the rising dough can expand the stomach and decrease blood flow. Fermentation of the yeast can be reduced to alcohol causing signs of intoxication.

Chewing Gum. Gums that are made with xylitol can be toxic. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high-fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. Learn more about the specific amount of each toxin that is based on body weight in this article: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs.

Coffee (grounds and beans). Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity. The symptoms are very similar to those of chocolate toxicity and can be just as or even more serious.

Dairy Products. Human dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high-fat content and like other foods with high-fat content, there is a risk of pancreatitis. The second reason is that dogs poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose. This affects some dogs more than others and can cause issues from gas to diarrhea. Small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are tolerated by most dogs but it is probably safest to avoid dairy products altogether.

Diet Foods. Foods made for weight loss or diabetes may have the ingredient xylitol.

Fatty Foods. Rich and fatty foods are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any dog but miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is often evidenced by the hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.

Grapes and Raisins. Ingestion of grapes and/or raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some pet owners feed grapes thinking they are a healthy treat or give a piece of a cookie with raisins. Aggressive, and sometimes prolonged, treatment may be necessary to give the affected dog a chance at survival. Despite testing, the reason for the kidney failure and the amount necessary for toxicity remains unknown. Learn more about Grape and Raisin Toxicity.

Onions and Garlic. Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions which can result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion or garlic are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. This is due to the toxic ingredient in onions and garlic, thiosulphate. Learn more at Why You Shouldn’t Feed Your Dog Garlic.

Peanut Butter. Some peanut butter manufacturers add xylitol to peanut butter, which is toxic to dogs. Learn more about Peanut Butter Toxicity in Dogs.

Rawhides. Like bones, rawhides can also get stuck in the esophagus or stomach of dogs, causing problems. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination. Although this is not human food, it is worth a mention with the goal to prevent your dog from getting sick. Learn more about The Good and Bad of Rawhides.

Table Scraps. Scraps, especially those that are fatty can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs. Some dogs tolerate table scraps well but others can become very ill.

Best Treats for Dogs

When shopping for treats, look for the seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which publishes feed regulations and ingredient definitions.

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Reel It In – Why I don’t like Retractable Leashes

There’s an old joke about if there’s one thing that two dog trainers can agree on, it’s that the third one is doing it wrong. But if you know me at all, you know I hate online squabbles; I don’t participate in digital fights about training methods or tools.

That said, I think I’ve found something that very nearly ALL dog trainers agree on, and that I will defend anywhere, anytime, and it’s this: Retractable leashes have no place in dog training.

It almost reaches the level of a joke: If you go to a dog park or almost any gathering of dog people and their dogs, the worst-behaved dogs will be the ones on retractable leashes. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg thing: What came first, the poorly behaved dog or the leash that teaches him nothing?

I get how convenient it is to be able to walk along with your dog on leash and have your dog stop for a moment to smell something or take a quick pee, and you only have to slow your pace for a moment, rather than stop dead. When he’s through or he hits the end of the retractable line, he can trot to catch up, and you don’t have to scoop up all that line the way you would with a long leash, you can just allow the spring-loaded retractable thingie to wind it up.

However, what do you do when your dog is at or near the end of the line and:

  • You are suddenly confronted by a loose dog, looking a little aggressive, coming your way, fast.
  • Someone walks quickly out of a storefront, in between you and your dog.
  • Your dog suddenly sees a squirrel on the ground across the street and bolts into the street in an effort to reach the squirrel.

The biggest problem is with these and countless other situations, when your dog is more than a couple of feet from you, there is nothing you can do very quickly to get him back to your side. The products can retract only when there is not tension on the line. As you know if you’ve ever used one, you really cannot grab the part of the cord that retracts into the handle and pull even a smallish strong dog back toward you. About the only way you could pull a dog to safety would be to mash the lock button down, while quickly turning in the opposite direction and trying to call or drag your dog in the other direction – depending on whether you’ve trained him to do emergency U-turns or whether he’s engaged already with the other dog or still on the hunt for the squirrel.

And to retract the slack when there is a chaotic situation brewing, like when that loose dog – or even one on leash! – is squaring off with your dog, and they are spinning around? Lock to prevent the dog from getting farther away, release to retract, lock, release, lock, release . . . it’s darned hard to do in calm circumstances.

When I want a dog to explore his environment without taking him off leash, I use a long line – a 20 or even 30-foot leash. I only use a tool like this in an environment where there are NO other people or dogs who might get tangled up with us, and the line is as smooth and easy to handle as my leash; I can easily grab anywhere on the line and manually reel in the dog if I have to.

And what about the many cases in which someone accidentally dropped the handle, which started dragging on the ground and clattering loudly behind the dog, and spooked him into running in a blind panic into traffic? A dog who takes off dragging a regular leash stands a good chance of being caught by someone who manages to step on or grab the leash. But the retractable leash is likely to retract after being dragged a way, so that it’s short and very difficult to grab.

We don’t even have to discuss emergency situations to get most trainers to chime in about how useless these tools are. They more or less train dogs to pull against pressure, by rewarding/reinforcing the dog when he pulls against the product’s spring (there is always some tension, even when the operator isn’t pressing the lock button) in order to reach something he wants to investigate. Getting to sniff something he was curious about is a reward – and behaviors that are rewarded get repeated. Simple as that.

Yes, a person can lock the handle and prevent the dog from pulling the line out of the device, preventing him from getting this reward. But then, you may as well just have a fixed-length leash.

As a final point against them, all I can say is, when this blog gets posted to the The Dog nanny Canine Training Academy Facebook page, go ahead and post your photos of the deep, slashing cuts that you or someone you know has received when a retractable cord got wound around their leg when a dog was going nuts. That should give a little credence to the warnings against these products.

Can anyone honestly make a case for the responsible use of retractable leashes?

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How do I – All about Puppies

The world of puppies is filled with questions for new owners, but this exciting and confusing time can be easily managed when you have the answers. Here are responses to the Top 10 questions we’ve been asked over the years.

DDB Puppies Log

How do I housebreak my puppy?

In a nutshell – supervise, schedule and praise. Get him outside frequently for bathroom breaks, especially if he’s been crated or involved in strenuous play, and right after eating. Crate your pup when you can’t supervise – dogs don’t like to soil their beds. Most can comfortably wait one hour for every month of life, plus one. This means that your four-month-old pup should be fine if left for five hours. Always praise lavishly when your pup eliminates outside. Do not punish him for accidents when you weren’t supervising.

How do I socialize my pup and introduce him to strange situations?

Socializing your pup means to the world he lives in, not just his four-legged buddies. Walking down the same streets to the same parks to visit the same people is not enough. Get him into the car for road trips, let him accompany you on your next trip to the pet-supply store, and make sure he’s accustomed to the noises of the real world. Feed him part of his meal or a tasty snack when he’s in a new environment, to show him in dog language that when the situation changes, good things happen.

My puppy pees almost every time I come into the room. How do I stop him?

Submissive urination is quite common in young pups. This is rarely a housetraining issue, so should not be considered an “accident.” The good news is that pups often grow out of it. The bad news is that in order to eliminate it, you have to ignore it. Ask your family and guests to pay attention to your pup only once they are well inside your house and not in the doorway. Teaching your pup some simple obedience words, such as Sit and Stay, will increase his confidence.

silence is golden unless puppy

How do I teach my puppy to not chew our things?

This can’t be stressed enough: Supervision is the key. A pup with the run of the house will get into mischief. Make sure your pup has regular physical and mental stimulation. Put him into his crate or a puppy-proofed area of your house when you can’t supervise. Supply him with an assortment of chew toys and put away your shoes and valuables.

My puppy is aggressive and bites me. What should I do?

It is even more important to understand what not to do. Aggression does not lessen with more aggression. Keep the scene from escalating by being calm but clear. Immediately give your pup a time out so he’ll start to realize that if he bites, he loses out on all the fun. In severe cases, consult a professional dog trainer.

My puppy is so rough. How do I get him to play nicer with other dogs?

Playing with the other dogs is lots of fun if it is done with a few rules and manners. Watch your pup closely and if he’s getting overexcited, take him out of the group. Put a long line on your pup so you can be ready to step in and stop the roughhousing when necessary. Do a time out and re-focus him with a few obedience exercises before you allow him to rejoin his buddies.

How can I stop my puppy from jumping up?

The more a behaviour is rewarded, the more likely it is to occur. Teaching your pup what you want him to do is far more effective than yelling at him for what you don’t like. Teach a solid Sit and reward him for sitting quickly. Now, when he starts to jump, ask him to sit and reward him for doing as he’s told. You’ll soon see him race toward you and screech into a sit. Always remember to acknowledge him for what he’s doing right.

Should I take my puppy to obedience school? When is a good time?

Most trainers suggest starting classes when a puppy is between 10 and 14 weeks old – as soon as he gets the go-ahead from his veterinarian. Avoiding naughty habits is far easier than having to correct them later, and pups that learn at a young age often keep those learning skills throughout their lives. As well, your pup will have the oppor-tunity to interact with others his own age. Puppy classes are for the pet parent, too, and will start you off on the right paw. The trainers will be able to identify normal puppy behaviour, and give you the confidence to be successful in training.

My puppy is bothering my adult dog. Should I stop him?

Many dog owners think that the dogs should be left to sort it out. But not all adult dogs stop their young charges, and senior dogs deserve to have us step in and give them a break. Pestering an adult dog at home may inadvertently also teach the lesson that this is an acceptable way to interact with all dogs. Teach your pup manners in his own home first. The lessons learned now will serve him well in the future.

Will playing tug make my puppy aggressive?

Playing tug will not make your pup aggressive. Years ago it was thought to create aggression. We now know that playing tug is a great outlet and a great reward for many dogs. Of course, with tug comes “Drop it” and your dog must learn that you can end the game as quickly as you started it, which is a great lesson itself. So, go and have some fun with your pup!

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When It Comes to Dog Training, Practice Makes Perfect

Anyone who has ever learned to do something physical – hitting a baseball, sewing a garment, driving a car, you name it – understands that you gain competence only through practice and repetition. At first, your movements and timing are clumsy and imperfect. You probably over correct, making crooked or zig-zagging seams or driving the car over the centerline bumps. But over time – and especially if you have some expert guidance – your movements become smooth and coordinated, and it seems to any observers that you’re a natural!
Ha! If only they could see you at the beginning!

training

Learning new skills is hard work – for people AND dogs
Now, think about learning something new with a partner who is also learning the same skill, such as a new dance or perhaps sign language. The difficulty factor goes way up!
It’s going to take a bit longer for the result to look smooth.

Now imagine that your dance partner or sign language conversation partner speaks a different language! If this is the case, all of your clumsy efforts require that much MORE patience, creativity, and humor with each other as you try to figure out how to communicate while simultaneously managing intricate dance steps or movements of the hands.

This latter scenario, you may have already guessed, is exactly what’s at play with new dog owners and their new dogs or puppies!

Every new owner wants their puppies or dogs to behave well – to stop doing uncomfortable or naughty things like chewing shoes, jumping on people, or barking at the leaves falling in the back yard, and to perform good behaviors on cue, such as sit, down, wait, and leave it. It adds quite a layer of difficulty to teach them to do what we want, in a language that is not their own, while we are simultaneously learning to use our posture and movements (body language!) for cues and the timely delivery of reinforcers!

Using markers and reinforcers
In the late 1940s, pioneering animal trainers Keller and Marian Breland started teaching other animal trainers to use a marker and the immediate delivery of a reinforcer to teach animals to perform behaviors. They found that chickens were a great species to use to help trainers learn the physicality of cues and reinforcement delivery – especially, the timing of the marker and reinforcer delivery, as well as the location and presentation of the both the cue and the reinforcer.

Chickens who were raised around people aren’t afraid of humans, they notice very minute differences in the appearance of things, they are very quick to react when they notice these differences, and they are very motivated by food to try new behaviors. They also don’t carry a lot of behavioral “baggage” along with them, resulting from living with sometimes-intemperate humans! They make amazing practice partners for anyone who is learning how to observe animal behavior and learn to change it swiftly and without force, and there is a long legacy of trainers who still use chickens to teach dog trainers how to refine and improve their training technique.

Don’t blame the chicken!
Another brilliant thing about using chickens to teach people how to train: people don’t get mad at chickens when they are failing to get the chicken to perform a specific behavior! They don’t tend to start calling the chicken “stubborn” or “spiteful” – or blame the chicken’s breed, origins as a “rescue chicken” or anything else. They are able to easily see that training the chicken is just a matter of presenting the training challenge to the chicken in a precise way that makes it easy for the chicken to do the behavior (or some approximation of it), for the behavior to instantly be “marked” (with the click of a clicker or a verbal marker, such as the word “Yesss!”, or the flash of a penlight, or what have you!) and be reinforced for it immediately.

They are also able to see that if they are late with the marker, or fail to deliver the reinforcer in a timely fashion and in a location that doesn’t pull the chicken out of the position the trainer wanted her in, that it’s impossible for the chicken to “get” the point of the exercise! They see that it’s their own clumsiness or bad timing, not the chicken being “bad.”

stop that get back here smile dog

Get a second set of eyes
If you are having trouble teaching your dog some new behavior, consider taking a little video of yourself as you work with your dog, or ask someone who you consider to be a good trainer to watch you. It might develop that you simply need a little coaching on how you are presenting the cue, or marking the desired behavior, or delivering the reinforcer. Strike that: It is undoubtedly a problem with one of those things, not that your dog is being dumb, lazy, or a non-native speaker of English.

Honestly, if you are motivated to learn how to more effectively teach your dog new behaviors quickly, sign up for a class or even just a private lesson or two with someone who is experienced with positive reinforcement-based training (and who does NOT use punitive, physical “corrections”). With a few pointers, you will be amazed at how quickly you and your dog or puppy will be happily speaking the same language as you dance through life together.

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7 Great tips for Apartment Living with a Dog

Who says you need a big house and a back yard to raise a dog? If you live in an apartment, many dogs are clearly more suitable and practical than others – for both the owners and the pups themselves.

right not allowed on furniture wink

 

You’ll agree, canines do make excellent housemates – no stealing that last bit of your absolute favorite ice cream dessert, leaving dirty clothes scattered on the floor and late night pumping music.

 

If you’re renting, be up front with your landlord.

When you start any tenancy, your landlord needs to be informed about existing pets. For dogs, some landlords do require your dog is a certain size/breed, so ensure you read the lease thoroughly beforehand. Don’t try and sneak in a dog, if your landlord doesn’t find out first, your neighbor certainly will and there’s no need to remind you of potential consequences.

 

Be realistic about the breed/size too (even if your landlord is relaxed).

While many dogs are perfectly suited to apartment life, there are several breeds which are completely unrealistic to keep in a smaller space like an apartment. High-energy dogs, like labradors and border collies will probably struggle in confined spaces, which isn’t fair on them. Their frustration and boredom could lead to destructive behavior like chewing of furniture etc.

 

Keep up to date with vaccinations.

Many apartments with shared grounds are accessible to all residents, so it’s important to ensure they don’t have parasites or other diseases, especially with neighboring children around, too. Also, in the very rare occasion a dog bites (this is not often – or sometimes never – we realize) it’s vital to ensure you have proof your dog has been vaccinated.

 

Show your neighbors courtesy.

Typically, apartments house many people very close together, so you have to think about noise levels. A constantly barking dog isn’t going to be well received by neighbors, so you might need to consider some training or guidance from your veterinarian.

 

Daily leash time for your dog.

Without a back yard, you really must ensure she gets out at least once or twice a day for a walk in the local area, stretch their legs, get fresh air and go to the bathroom! So come rain, snow, sun or any other weather, be prepared for this. If you’re a full-time worker, consider a local dog-walking service, if you have a trusted neighbor that’s a real bonus.

 

Socialize and desensitize your pup.

Apartments are more often than not placed in urban areas, which can be noisy and busy – not to mention car and bicycle traffic and other animals. It’s a good idea to introduce him to the noises and environment slowly and calmly, so when they hear other dogs, a siren or car horn they don’t begin barking like crazy as it’s become familiar to them!

 

Indoor training!

When you first move, consider something like a ‘piddle pad’ where you dog at least has somewhere to use the toilet until they (and you) are used to daily visits outdoors. If you don’t live near the ground floor, this could involve several trips up and down elevators or stairs (a good workout for you, at least).

You may wish to consider adopting a toilet-trained dog, one that is a little older to make both your lives more convenient.

 

Above all, dog ownership requires a great deal of commitment, love and attention – when you live in an apartment, these are just some areas you need to consider first. Not living in a house is perfectly suitable for many breeds – you can create a very happy and loving home for them, just be aware of decisions and planning you need to make beforehand.

How to Tell Your Child About Putting a Dog Down: Dos and Don’ts………..

 

IN Loving Memory

Death and dying are two of the hardest facts of life to explain to children. Clients commonly ask veterinarians about how to tell a child about putting a dog down. Very often, the death of a family pet such as a dog is a child’s first encounter with this immutable law of nature. How we handle this event can have a far-reaching impact on our children’s understanding of death and dying.

Eleven-year-old Maria, for instance, was used to greeting her cat Feifel every day after school. One day, he didn’t appear. Maria and her mother found Feifel under a bed, breathing weakly. The veterinarian said Feifel had heart disease. He might be able to save him, but Feifel was 14 and suffered from several other age-related problems.

His quality of life would only grow worse. The most humane course to take was euthanasia. Later, her family held a memorial service, and Maria wrote poems about him.

Understanding Pet Death: An Informal Guide to a Child’s Psyche

At 11, Maria understood euthanasia and the finality of death. It didn’t make the grieving and sense of loss any easier, but she knew that all living things eventually die. After some time, she was able to remember her pet with more love than hurt.

But children younger than Maria often view their relationship with a pet as indefinite. They don’t understand that animals run on a different biological clock, or that illness or injury may make euthanasia the best option.

At all ages, honesty is the best policy, says Marty Tously, a bereavement counselor. “That means using the words death and dying, and explaining the permanence of death. You do it gently but without confusing what dying actually means.”

Tously is a counselor with the Pet Grief Support Service. She says that a child’s ability to understand what death means depends on his/her emotional and cognitive development, but she outlined the generally understood guideline of how children perceive death and dying:

Under 2: A child can feel and respond to a pet’s death, based on the reaction of those around him or her. A child picks up the stress felt by family members, no matter what the cause.

2 to 5: The child will miss the animal as a playmate, but not necessarily as a love object. They will see death as a temporary state – something like the way leaves fall off a tree in fall but grow back in the spring. As they perceive the trauma around them, however, they may regress in their behavior (e.g., thumb sucking).

5 to 9: Children begin to perceive death as permanent, but they may indulge in “magical thinking,” believing that death can be defied or bargained with. This is also the period when children recognize a correlation between what they think and what happens. For instance, a child may resent taking care of the pet and wish – however briefly – that the pet would die. If the pet then dies, the child is often consumed with guilt. Parents need to reassure children that they did not cause the pet’s death.

10 and up: Children generally understand that all living things will eventually die and that death is total. Understanding and accepting are two different things, however. They may go through the normal stages of grief that grownups do: denial, bargaining, anger, guilt, depression, and acceptance. (To learn about the stages of grief, see the story Coping with Pet Loss.) Or they may react in other ways:

Depending on the age, the child may regress (sucking their thumb or temper tantrums that they had outgrown).

An older child may withdraw from friends and family for a while. Schoolwork may suffer and they may seem uninterested in extracurricular activities.

Children may fear abandonment. If a pet can die, then they may reason that their parents could die as well.

Children often become intensely curious about death and what happens to the body. They may ask for details that you may find uncomfortable to explain. These are questions you should answer in a straightforward, gentle and careful manner.

How to Tell a Child About Putting a Dog Down: Do’s and Don’ts of Explaining Pet Loss

There are several do’s and don’ts. Treating this delicate topic poorly can scar children for life. Tously explains that the worst course of action is to lie (to say the animal went away) or to use confusing euphemisms, such as the phrase “put to sleep.” Children will eventually learn the truth, and lying can breed resentment and destroy trust between parent and child. “Later in life, when the child learns the truth, they’ll wonder what else the parent lied about,” she says.

Likewise, euphemisms can cause anxiety or confusion because children take what you say literally. “If you say a pet is put to sleep, the child may suffer sleep anxiety,” says Tously. She recalls one child who was told his cocker spaniel just “went away.” He awaited his dog’s return, and upon learning the dog had been buried wanted to unearth the dog. “If you say ‘God has taken your pet because he was special,’ the child may resent God, and fear who might be next.”

Be open and honest. This includes the pet’s health and euthanasia. “If a pet is terminally ill and needs to be euthanized,” Tously says, “the child needs to be told as soon as possible by the parent.” Again, avoid those tempting euphemisms that cloud understanding, such as telling a child the pet was put to sleep. Use the words death and dying to make your meaning clear. Some children want to be present during euthanasia and most will be very curious about the process. Tously says you should answer their questions. As for allowing the child to be present, some veterinarians are firmly against it; others say it depends on the child’s age and maturity.

Make sure the child understands what “dying” means. Explain that the animal’s body stopped working. Depending on your religious beliefs and what the child can understand, you might explain the concept of a soul. However, it is important for the child to know that the pet has died and will not be coming back.

Be available. Take time to allow your child to discuss his/her feelings about what happened. You may want to hold your own service to memorialize the pet and to say goodbye formally. Some people plant trees in a special spot in the yard, others bury the pet in a cemetery so the family can visit. Encourage your child to show his/her feelings by talking or writing about the fun times they had with their pet.

Show your own feelings. This tells the child that the pet was special and that they are not grieving alone. You can also encourage your child to open up, which can help the healing process.

Talk to the teacher. Tell your child’s teachers about the loss, so they will understand why your child is behaving differently.

Don’t blame the veterinarian. Some parents, especially those who fear explaining euthanasia to their children, find it easier to put it all on the vet. This is not only unfair to the veterinarian but potentially harmful to the child. He or she may grow up distrusting veterinarians and, by extension, doctors and other medical professionals. In addition, parents shouldn’t throw the responsibility of telling the children what needs to be done on the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help the parent explain why euthanasia may be the most humane option, and answer questions the child may have. Parents often want to ease their child’s hurt by rushing out and buying another pet. Tously says this is a mistake. “The last thing you want to do is convey the impression that the pet – a family member – is replaceable,” she says. Wait until the child expresses an interest in another pet.

Children are very resilient, and they usually learn to accept their pet is gone. If a child persists with nightmares or seems unable to cope, however, it may be necessary to talk with a counselor.

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How to Handle the Loss of a Pet

Tips to Help You and Your Family Deal with the Loss of a Pet

MY Heart still aches

Pets become an important part of our lives, and losing them can be devastating. Every loss is different, and how a person responds is unique. Below we will share some ways people respond to the loss of a pet, provide some tips on how to better deal with the loss of a pet, and share some tips on how to best help support children and help them understand the loss of a pet.

Dealing with the Loss of a Pet – Children vs. Adults

As adults, our understanding of death is very different from a child’s. The understanding and comprehension a child has about death depend largely on their age. Death may or may not be permanent in the mind of a child. Read this article for a good understanding of what children understand about death at different ages. Go to How to Tell Your Child About Putting a Dog Down: Dos and Don’ts. If you have pets and children, this article is a must-read.

As adults, our ability to deal with the loss of a pet can depend on many factors. These can include our prior experience with loss and death, other stressors in our lives, our individual relationship with a particular pet, and our family or social support network. There are many different ways a person can respond to the loss of a pet.

 

How People Deal with the Loss of a Pet

I’ve seen just about every reaction to the loss of a pet you can imagine. For some, the pet was their child or family member. They grieve deeply. Others have verbally told me “it was just a dog,” and that is that. No tears. No emotion. And I’ve seen every emotion in between.

Below are some reactions to the loss of a pet that stand out in my mind:

Hard being strong. Some individuals get their first pet as young adults, start a family, and find themselves losing a pet with their children. As they work through their own grief, they have to be strong for their family. Sometimes there is concurrent guilt as they reflect how their pet was number one for many years, then became a lower priority as life changed.

Suicidal thoughts. I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t want to live after the loss of a pet. This is just about the hardest thing to deal with. Anyone that considers self-harm or contemplates suicide must seek help from a professional. An excellent article that walks you through the stages of grief and support options was written by Bonnie Mader, who was the co-founder of a Pet Loss Support Hotline at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine

Guilt. A number of clients focus on guilt with the loss of a pet. Guilt can originate from thoughts that they were busy and believe they neglected their pet’s signs of illness until it was advanced. Or, it can have to do with limited financial resources to provide possible life-saving medical care. Some find it difficult to grieve properly due to their guilt.

Memorial. Many pet lovers place some of their grief and emotional energy in creating a memorial or tribute to their beloved friend. I’ve seen this in the form of a funeral (some quite elaborate), a photo album, and/or artistic creations such as a painting. Some find a special urn for the ashes and place it in a particular area in their homes and lives.

Save the ashes. Some clients find comfort in having their pets cremated and saving their ashes to be later buried with them or mixed with their own ashes. Several believe that this allows them to be together forever and provides comfort.

Silence. Some pet owners cope by not talking about their loss and trying to put it out of their mind. If I see them, their pet never comes up and if it is mentioned for any reason, they shut that conversation down with a quick topic change.

Lost. Some clients become somewhat lost and want to be alone. They avoid social activities and family functions.

Rituals. Over the years, I’ve had clients perform quite simple to elaborate rituals to mourn the passing of a pet, one client celebrates her dog’s birthday every year with a glass of wine, close friends, and a stroll through memory lane with a photo album.

Sadness. My first pet was named Aksual. He died unexpectedly when I was in college and to say I was devastated is an understatement. I still cry when I think of him and become sad. I’ve learned to box off those emotions, at least most of the time. Occasionally I see a dog that reminds me of him and an involuntary tear is shed. Feelings of loss and sadness are common and can continue for years.

Jewelry. Another way clients take comfort in this difficult time is to have jewelry made from their pet’s ashes. I frequently have clients show their special pieces of jewelry for pets that I have worked with. They have truly found comfort in knowing their pet is with them all the time when they wear their jewelry.

Fake strength. Some try to be strong, they may even say the wrong things, they may even be inappropriate with a joke or laughter, while being devastated by the loss of their special friend.

Many of these responses described can be categorized into the stages of grief that include anger, denial, depression, acceptance, and bargaining.

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What Causes Aggressive Dog Behavior?

Understanding why a dog displays aggression is the first step to effectively reducing and preventing it.

In a world where our canine companions are often referred to as our “best friends,” it’s a puzzle that so many dog-human communications (or should I say miscommunications?) result in behavior that we perceive as aggression – anything from a freeze (stillness), hard stare, growl, snarl, snap, or bite, all the way to a full-on attack.

If you asked your dog, he would likely say that these behaviors are just varying degrees of canine communication. He might also say, “My human made me do it.”

All these behaviors are natural, normal social expressions – the dog’s attempt to communicate something important. Usually, the mildest of the behaviors that people might recognize as aggressive – say, a soft growl – is not the first sign of a dog’s aggression. A growl is actually well along a continuum of escalating emphasis in canine communication. A dog who is uncomfortable will generally start trying to communicate his discomfort with much more subtle behaviors, such as avoidance, yawns, evasion of ye contact, lowered body posture, pulling ears back, and rolling on his back.

These behaviors are an attempt to resolve a situation without having to resort to serious aggression. Perhaps it’s a claim to a valuable resource: “I don’t want to share my bone!” Maybe it’s an expression of fear: “You’re making me very uncomfortable, please go away!” Maybe the dog is in pain: “That hurts, please stop!”

If the lower-key communications fail to accomplish their purpose, the dog may feel forced to escalate to more forceful or violent action (such as attacking and/or fighting) to get his point across.

Some or all of the mild, avoidant behaviors ordinarily precede the dramatic behaviors that most humans would recognize as aggression – yet most or all of these behaviors typically go completely unnoticed by many humans.

Alternatively, if these signals are ignored or misinterpreted, the human may respond inappropriately (“Oh, you want a tummy rub?”), forcing the dog to increase the intensity of his behavior and eventually escalate to serious aggression. Growling, snarling, snapping, or biting may seem like the “first signs of aggression” to many humans, but most other dogs (or experienced observers of dog behavior) would have recognized many earlier signs.

aggression

 

Why Are Dogs Aggressive?

When dogs display aggressive behaviors, it’s rare for humans to consider whatever the dog was trying to communicate. Instead, the behaviors are just considered unacceptable, threatening, and dangerous. Look at it from their point of view, though. Dogs are expected to just deal with all the situations they are put in (including many that annoy, terrify, or intimidate them) and to just get along with every dog or person they meet (including many that annoy, terrify, or intimidate them), without ever expressing their annoyance, fear, apprehension, or discomfort using their natural, normal canine communication tools.

We give them valuable resources – delicious food, delightful chew objects, comfortable furniture – and tell them not to covet those resources or protect them from someone who may try to take them away. If a dog does attempt to keep something for himself (with a growl or a snarl), he’s often punished. Dogs who try to communicate with normal canine language that they need more space, are annoyed or scared, or would like to keep something for themselves, are often labeled “aggressive.”

Consider this idea for a moment: Dogs are often forced to escalate – from mild growls, a stiff posture, and hard eyes to a lunge and a snap or worse – because we just don’t listen!

Granted, we can’t know for sure exactly what the dog is saying. As the supposedly more intelligent species, though, and with a better understanding of dogs, we can usually extrapolate something pretty close to the dog’s intent. And if we have an idea about what he’s trying to say, we can respond appropriately and take steps that will reduce the intensity of his communication, rather than forcing him to escalate.

The better we humans are at listening to and understanding “Doglish” the more our dogs will be able to communicate in ways that are less threatening to us while still succeeding in getting their needs and wants addressed.

Types of Aggressive Dogs

There is no universally agreed-upon scientific list of aggression labels. Various sources offer various names for different types of aggression, and those labels are constantly changing. There are, however, many commonalities. Below are descriptions of some of the most frequently seen presentations of aggression and the dog’s usual motivation for displaying each type.

For the purposes of this general discussion about aggression, I won’t be discussing specific solutions for each situation in which a dog might display aggressive behavior, but rather, the broad strokes of the most effective approach.

If you are challenged by your dog’s aggressive behavior, I strongly urge you to seek the assistance of a qualified force-free behavior professional who can help you create and implement an appropriate behavior management and modification program.

Fear-Related Aggression

This is by far the most commonly seen type of aggression, and one that humans often responds to most inappropriately. Generally, when a dog shows signs of fear and aggression, she is trying to compel those near her to move away; she needs more space to feel safe.

Many humans assume that a dog who is fearful will choose avoidance rather than aggression – and in many cases, that’s a correct assumption. If, however, a fearful dog is trapped, or has been trapped in the past, she may take a “the best defense is a good offense” approach, especially if there is a history of punishment for her agonistic signals. Keep in mind that “trapped” can include being on leash, being followed and cornered when she tries to retreat, or simply feeling confined in a small enough space that she is uncomfortable (such as your living room).

To make matters worse, it’s natural for humans to try to comfort someone who appears afraid – but this is often exactly what the fearful dog does not want, especially from a stranger or from someone who may have punished the dog in the past.

The first thing to do with a dog who seems to be aggressing out of fear is to give the dog a little more room – to put more space between the dog and the suspected fear-inducing stimuli. Then, start putting a counter-conditioning and desensitization plan into place, with the goal of changing how the dog feels about the stimuli.

Pain-Related Aggression

Every animal control officer knows that when you go to pick up an injured dog that has been hit by a car, you muzzle her first, because pain can easily cause even the nicest dog to bite. Dogs who are in pain generally don’t want to be touched and may show signs of aggression in an effort to get people or other animals to leave them alone.

What many owners don’t realize is that even less obvious pain can be significant contributors to a dog’s propensity to bite. Arthritis, spinal problems, sore muscles, gastrointestinal issues – there are numerous “invisible” conditions that can cause or contribute to a dog’s aggressive behavior.

An aging dog with increasing arthritis pain may begin to growl at approaching children because she knows from past experience that they may fall on or try to play roughly with her. “You’re making me very uncomfortable,” she says. “Please don’t come any closer.” A protective parent, outraged that the family dog would growl at the child, physically punishes the dog, adding to her pain as well as her anticipation of punishment when children approach, thus increasing the likelihood of her becoming more aggressive toward children, not less.

A far better solution: Any time you suspect your dog may be experiencing pain – or for any senior dog, or any dog who hasn’t been seen by a veterinarian for a while – arrange a veterinary examination and consultation as soon as possible. Ideally, your veterinarian can diagnose a condition and prescribe medication to alleviate the dog’s pain. Also, if necessary, use some basic management tools (such as baby gates, crates, or locked doors) to protect her from the unwanted, sometimes inappropriate, attentions of children.

Play Aggression

There is a significant difference between aggressive play and play aggression. Aggressive play is normal and acceptable, as long as both dogs are happily participating. This can include growling, biting, wrestling, chasing, body slamming, and more.

When things go wrong, it turns into play aggression. This can happen when one participant becomes uncomfortable with the escalating level of arousal and tries to signal that she wants to tone things down. If the other dog fails to respond to her signals and continues to escalate, she may aggress in self-defense, in an effort to stop the action. While she is often blamed for starting the fight, it is, in fact, the other dog’s fault for failing to respond appropriately to her request to back off the level of arousal.

The first step toward a solution here is to make sure you are pairing compatible playmates, and monitoring the play, giving both dogs a cheerful time-out when arousal levels are escalating to an unhealthy level.

Possession Aggression

My clients are often surprised, but soon nod in agreement, when I tell them that possession aggression, also called resource guarding, is a natural, normal behavior. If you lock your house when you leave, you are resource guarding! It is also an important survival strategy. In the wild, if you don’t protect your valuable resources, you die.

There is a tragically flawed and arrogant belief among some humans that they have the right to take anything away from their dog any time they please. Some misguided trainers even encourage clients to practice taking their dogs’ food bowls away so the dog learns to accept it. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Our dogs should trust that we won’t challenge them for valuable items, and we need to teach our dogs a voluntary “Trade” behavior, so we can safely ask them to voluntarily relinquish something when we need them to do so.

Take time to convince your dog that more good things happen when humans are near their food bowl and other good stuff, rather than teaching her that you are an unpredictable threat.

Predatory Aggression

Although the result can be devastating for the victim of predatory behavior, this is not true aggression – it is simply grocery shopping. Food acquisition behavior involves a different part of the brain and different emotions from true aggression.

It can be a challenging behavior to modify, but it is possible, depending on the intensity of the behavior, and the ability of the owner to manage the dog’s environment to prevent reinforcement for the behavior. The person also must make a commitment to doing the behavior modification work.

Redirected Aggression

This behavior occurs when a dog is highly aroused, but thwarted from addressing the object of her arousal.

Fence-fighting is a classic example. Unable to reach the dog on the other side of the fence, the dog may redirect aggressively in frustration to her own canine companion on her side of the fence, or to her own human, who is attempting to intervene in the barrier conflict. To avoid setting up the conflict situation, management is important. If intervention is needed, do it from a distance, to avoid being the target of a redirection.

Social Aggression

This is today’s term for what used to be called, unfortunately and inappropriately, “dominance aggression,” as a result of a serious misinterpretation of canine behavior. This label applies to situations where there is conflict between the wishes of the dog and her human(s), often where the human attempts to physically manipulate or control the dog (the phrase “manhandling” comes to mind!). A classic example is the dog who growls or snaps when the human tries to pull her off the sofa or bed, or push her into a crate.

As the supposedly more intelligent species, we should be able to get our dogs to want to do what we want them to do, rather than physically force them. Need your dog to get off the sofa? Toss a treat on the floor. Teach her an “off” cue. Teach her to go to her mat on cue. Teach her to target to your hand, or to an “X” on the wall made of blue painter’s tape. There are lots of ways to invite your dog to move where you need her to without using physical force.

Other Types of Aggression in Dogs

This is by no means a complete list of the various aggression labels. Others in common use include protection aggression, maternal aggression, territorial aggression, barrier aggression, and idiopathic aggression. What you call the behavior is, in many ways, less important than how you interpret and deal with it.

If your dog displays aggressive behavior, get help from a qualified force-free behavior professional who can help you create and implement an appropriate behavior management and modification program. Modifying aggressive behavior can be challenging. Your behavior professional will educate, encourage, and coach you, and support you when you’re feeling discouraged.

As stated by a meme that has been making the rounds recently, “Remember, your dog isn’t giving you a hard time – he’s having a hard time.” Stay strong, stay positive, understand and empathize with your dog’s hard times, commit to a behavior modification program, and you will be best able to help her overcome her challenges.

What Are the Most Aggressive Dog Breeds?

Go ahead: Google “aggressive dog breeds” and see what you get. The lists will be all over the place, from wolf hybrids, to the Tosa Inu, to Bull Terriers and German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Boerboels… I could go on and on.

Most of these lists make the mistake of confusing size and strength with aggression. Still, the Schipperke (at just 12 inches and about 15 pounds) is listed on one insurance company blacklist, and I found the Basenji (16 inches and about 24 pounds) on another list. While large, powerful dogs are capable of inflicting greater injuries on a human, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the listing of any breed as inherently “aggressive.”

For sure, there may be some breeds that are more heavily represented in dog bite, mauling, and fatality statistics. There are a number of reasons for this. Some breeds get listed as “dangerous” a result of just one highly publicized event. After a woman was killed by two Presa Canarios in San Francisco in 2001, the previously little-known breed immediately began appearing on “aggressive dog” lists.

Some breeds are just big and scary-looking. Other breeds are present in greater numbers in the pet-owning population, and thus are more likely to be represented in general bite statistics. Then there is the whole question of breed-identification; these days anything with a big head is likely to be identified in bite statistics as a pit bull-mix, even if it’s a Boxer mix or some other big-headed breed. And even if it’s a Lab/pit-mix, it will still likely be listed as a pit-mix rather than a Lab-mix.

Finally, certain breeds and types of dogs may be more appealing to – and more likely to be adopted or purchased by – people who are drawn to the idea of having an aggressive dog and who therefore elicit and reinforce aggression.

Of course, if a Rottweiler bites you, there’s a good chance you’ll be injured worse than if a Pomeranian bites you, and the big dog will be perceived as more aggressive because he has the potential to inflict more damage. But aggression is about behavior, not size, potential, or breed.

Keep in mind that behavior is always a combination of genetics and environment. A dog representing a breed that has been bred for guarding, placed in an environment that reinforces aggressive behavior, will indeed, become very aggressive. But, placed in an environment that reinforces sociability, he may end up well-socialized and friendly. And a dog who has been deliberately bred for sociability can be placed in an environment that reinforces aggressive behavior and end up very aggressive.

The bottom line is: breeds are not aggressive or friendly, individual dogs are.

Keys to Understanding Canine Body Language

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

Signals Dogs Use to Communicatenever tell a dog off for growling

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.

Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.

Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.

Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.

Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.

Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

popped ddb on bed

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.

Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a “play bow.” His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.

Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.

Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.

Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.

Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avoid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn’t afraid, he’ll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.

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