Seraphim Says Hello

Seraphim Says Hello

Monday, July 26, 2010

Taking the Dog for a Walk (Or you being taken for a walk)

“Seraphim don’t pull!” Yup you bet it, I keep telling her to not pull.We’ve tried the haltie that goes around her nose and stops her from pulling, and it does work quiet well. however; people tend to think that she’s vicious with it on, and thinks that its a muzzle. Seraphim is not vicious, big and overpowering…Yes.

Butterball just tangles us up and we sigh softly as we try to dodge her leash. Honestly I’m not sure which is worse, getting pulled at max speed by my husky, or being tripped by our fat puppy. The experts say that you should give a sharp tug on the leash to regain the dog’s attention. Yeah that works, really. My dogs just look at me like “what do you want? Can’t you see I’m pulling here!?”

The halties, as said before work perfectly fine, they pull and then get shocked when their nose goes into their chests and they’re going to go head over heels. Its rather affordable ($20 per collar), and compared to the alternative (my arms being so sore after a walk)…and honestly we’ve tried other options (a choke chain was just a joke for Seraphim, she just pulled and strangled herself, so I stopped that routine immediately before she killed herself). So what’s the big deal?

In the end, when you look at it, your dog wants to go they get excited and yes with practice Seraphim will walk beside us. We use specific techniques, such as we umbilical (or wrap the leash around your waist) her leash, and using the sharp tug, as well as tapping her side with our foot (not hard, just enough to get her to look at us, so more like a touch really) we’ve managed to get it so she doesn’t synch our waists.

With Butter she’s too small to umbilical yet, and a sharp tug is still enough. Remember your dog’s size determines the tug. The tug should be firm, but not send the animal flying. Also look for a strong rope leash, we use the trail style strong rope type with Seraphim, it works, she can tug and tug and tug and it doesn’t give. We’ve gotten it wet and it doesn’t shrink, its perfect.

Butter’s leash is a vanity one, its a fake leather leash and it is coming apart so we’ve bought her one like Seraphim’s. Always look at the dog’s size, and weight when determining the leash style. If your dog is a classic puller don’t get a retraceable leash, you’ll get rope burn when they run around you. Honestly, taking your dog for a walk is best every day. So do so wisely.

1) Walk around the same time – consistency in a walk time means that the dog will look forward to it, and then you two can get some great times together.

2) Use the best equipment – There are collars that are 1/2 chain and 1/2 material. These are best for training on a walk because they don’t harm the dog, but do tighten when the dog pulls. If you can find one, buy ten!

3) Be confident in your strides – Remember in high school, when all the popular people would ignore the not so popular people, they didn’t need to talk to anyone everyone wanted to talk to them. Be like that to your dog, no touch, no talk, and no eye contact. Project that you are confident person in your own skin and that you’re able to control the situation.

4) Make it fun – Stop at ponds, look around and have fun. The dog will know that you’re enjoying it and enjoy it too!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Never Ending Battle: Chewing.

Being the owner of two puppies at this moment, I think I’m about ready to give up and let the dogs chew on anything. Seraphim is going through her second or third teething stage, and Butter is fully into her ‘terrible twos’ as we call it. Chewing in our house is a constant battle. Our rodent always has to chew its in his nature, so he has several wooden blocks, pumice stones, and a bunch of other toys to maintain his healthy smile. Our dogs have toys of all assortments to encourage teething on them.

I’ve, however, discovered a most disturbing thing, toys that are meant for ‘big dogs’ such as my two pups, are well…Not so indestructible, they’ve taken tennis balls and shredded them, rope balls fair just the same, the tug-o-rope rope looks like its been electrocuted, and the plush squeaky shoe is no more than remnants of fluff. Even bones are no match for my terrifying duo.

So here, I challenge the producers of dog toys. Please, please make something more durable, I understand that you want to make stupid amounts of money on toys, but honestly my front door is looking more shabby every day. Its challenging as an owner, to discover one of my dog’s most beloved toys is also Styrofoam covered with cloth, and have to pry the little poisonous pieces from my dog’s unwilling mouth.

Yes, we buy raw-hide bones for our dogs, I monitor their chewing behaviors with them, but in a whole we attempt to buy the best toys for the dogs to promote their normal behaviors. I find that rope toys are great, you can get them in ball shapes, tug ropes, with a tennis ball on it. Frisbees are great too, but both my girls play “chase me mom!” rather than actual fetch.

So what’s an owner to do, its a never ending battle, big dogs like to chew they get bored they chew, they get stressed they chew they just like to chew. How does an owner overcome the dealings of chew toys and the fact that most manufacturers don’t care what they put into our dog toys, or even what they sell as animal safe toys.

We as owners need to step up, and start demanding better for our pets to ensure in the end their play is safe and fun. Just because their ‘animals’ doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve this. Some people don’t have children, they have pets. They don’t want to lose their pet to some chemical, Styrofoam, or anything else toy related for that matter.

So I challenge you, the owner of your dog, think about what you buy it. Not only that, but if you’re a pet store owner, if you can some how affect the shipments, find better safer alternatives for the owners of today’s dogs. These are creatures that love us completely, and utterly that are so loyal to us. The least we can do is make sure they’re safe.

With that being said, I’m off to save my shoe from Butter before she makes it into a sandal

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adopting a Puppy v.s. Buying a Puppy

Most people, when they think of getting a dog they want a puppy, a cute six to eight week old bundle of joy. Before you go out to the nearest pet store and make your purchase think about this. Most dogs that are available for sale in pet stores come from puppy mills. I am not a supporter of puppy mills, and most animal lovers I know will not support any type of animal mill.

If you insist on buying a dog from a pet store, don’t be afraid to ask where the puppies came from (do the people even know?) and ask if you can get the information on the breeder. This is so you can contact the breeder of the puppies to see if you should be aware of any hereditary medical conditions that may not have been informed to the store.

The best option I can give you is to go to a shelter in your area and look at the beautiful dogs that have been left on the streets. You may be pleasantly surprised at the fact that a three year old pit-bull has captured your heart. Shelter dogs do come with their own problems, yes, I can’t lie about this. They may have been abused or neglected. There are also plenty of dogs that are there simply because the previous owners did not want the dog anymore and couldn’t find it a home on their own.

When I go to get a new dog, I bring my current dogs with me. This is so they can greet the new member, and see how they react with each other. Right away I can tell if the new puppy will be a good fit by the way Seraphim will sniff it out, and play. If there is aggression shown the two clearly aren’t going to get along and I do reconsider it. I am not qualified to train one dog to stop aggression, and I know this. Always take on what you feel confident with handling.

If you don’t want to adopt a dog, or buy from a store look at reputable breeders in your area. Never order a puppy over the internet. You need to be able to meet it before you bring it home, and make sure that the two of you will get along. Sadly this can also be a scam to get your credit card number as well, people prey on our emotions that we link to a cute little puppy pleading for a home.

I’ve paid cash for my dogs, Mouse came from a local puppy mill. We know the owners of the mill, and while I don’t condone mills it was better than what could have happened to him. They told my husband Mouse wouldn’t live past his fourth month. Mouse is now almost a full four years old. Had he been left at the mill I do believe they would have euthanized him because he is not a true designer dog. He is tiny, doesn’t have the correct fur texture or coloring, over all they knew he would not be a dog they could sell for near seven hundred dollars.

Seraphim we got from a lady who was trying to get rid of her. She doesn’t look like a traditional husky, even though if you get to know her you realize that she favors her husky roots. She is brown, black and white, her eyes are chocolate, and her ears don’t quiet stand up yet. Her brothers and sisters looked more like their husky roots and I felt for her. If she didn’t find a home they would have sent her away.

Butter is a black retriever mixed with collie. Her family previous to us had three of their own dogs, plus the eight puppies from Butter’s litter. She is such a sweet puppy who is happy and go lucky. My husband always wanted a retriever for the fetching, and the collie is wonderful to train, she grasps the concepts rather fast. Just needs some reminders and leadership skills.

In any case, do your research, what dogs will fit your lifestyle? Don’t just go for a designer dog because you like their looks, what will fit your energy levels? Can you honestly handle a stubborn rotty when they resist training? Can you really handle the fact that your husky will get lonely and depressed without you? There are days where I just toss my hands in the air at Seraphim, she gets anxious and upset when I leave without her, but this is a husky trait, they are so pack orientated they would die for their pack, and are very emotional. This means I have to be on top of my game at all times. When I leave her in her kennel because I can’t take her it does break my heart to hear her scream and wail. I know she will be okay this doesn’t hurt her and eventually as I continue to show her I am the alpha in the pack this will become a less of a heart wrenching experience, and more of a positive exercise every day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to Mix and Mingle your Animals

As I’ve said several times before I have 3 dogs, 4 cats and a chinchilla. Technically we’ve got a mix for disaster, chinchilla’s are prey to cats and other predatory animals, cats and dogs tend to fight together. Yet we’ve got a balance in our house that is strangely calm. My cats don’t fight with the dogs, or attack my chinchilla.

Don’t get me wrong, the dogs will chase the cats if they get in the mood, and the cats will attack the chinchilla if I let them. This balance can be only achieved with consistency all around. For one, I never allow my rodent out without him being in an isolated room, or in his chinchilla ball. Now anyone who’s done research on chinchilla’s will be upset, I know. The risks have been taken into account, and currently we don’t have the resources to make a room just for Gusgus away from anyone else.

The cats have learned to move always on things, or very carefully. When Seraphim was introduced into the family she was larger than them all, and she was taught quickly that bothering the cats can be painful. The cats have attacked her if she interfered with their playing too much. If she gets too much for them, trying to interfere to play we remove the dogs.

The cats generally are taught not to touch the chinchilla, we’ve gone the spray bottle route as well as the loud scary sounds. Gusgus is actually a pretty good fighter, he’ll defend himself long enough for me to shoo the offenders away. It wasn’t always this peaceful though.

When our, at the time, three animals first joined together there was fur flying. Chrono was not used to Mouse (who truly loves playing with cats as he’s about the size of a kitten, but can’t handle being scratched at all) would give him a verbal warning before smacking him. We had to train our cat not to hit the little dog, and even still if Mouse pushes the cat’s buttons too much he will get smacked. Mouse didn’t bother Gusgus too much, seeing as they’re the same size. Chrono had been previously in a house with ferrets and knew what rodents were truly about, and one day when Gusgus had gotten out he had mounted Chrono. Funny enough they actually sleep together, Chrono will lay against the cage, and Gusgus will lay on the other side.

When the other cats got introduced, as well as the dogs it took time. Anytime you get a new animal here are some things to consider:

  • Give the new guy some time- Don’t immediately introduce your new addition to the family, allow the animal to calm down from the car ride home, before you start allowing everyone to smell and greet.
  • Monitor behavior- If you see a fight about to happen separate the animals. I will admit, usually the same day that I get the animal I introduce it to my family, this gets it use to the calm chaos. There are plenty of people who say to just wait a few days and let them sniff it out, but honestly I don’t think I have enough will power to stop them from meeting. Just remember, any new pet should be monitored and vet checked.
  • Love your family- Its hard, I know, you want to bond with your new pet and you want to prove to them that you love them. However you must remember to love your existing family to reassure them that the new addition is not to replace them, but to become their friend. I usually walk around and give everyone their individual attention, and then a group attention (for the cats its nip, for the dogs I’ll break out a new toy).
  • Take it in stride- When we first got Lokie, we had to stop Chrono from beating him up, eventually they got over it. Chrono would hiss and be angry with Lokie, but they would lay together and snuggle. Finally they got over their differences and now are best of buds.

As with anything, make sure you understand the nature of the animal. Are you bringing in another dog? Make sure it doesn’t show signs of being dominant when it enters. If its tail is up, if its urinating on trees, etc (if its an unneutered male) you may want to wait until they calm down and show submissive signs before you bring them into your pack to prevent a fight. As for introducing new species, realize that there will be curiosity and as long as you know the safety risks take it in stride and make sure you monitor your dog with your new pet.

What if I’m taking my dog over to someone else’s house? I' know I’ve done it, my dog goes with me everywhere so eventually she will enter someone else’s home. Generally I always make sure its fine that she enters, usually I keep her on the leash (unless she’s been there before) so I can instill that I still am the consistent leader of her pack. If there are other dogs I let them sniff each other and get to know each other. If there are no dogs, I usually bring my own toys for her and make her sit, stay, lay down and enjoy a new toy at my feet.

If you have a young puppy ensure you still take them out on a routine schedule, especially since you don’t want to have to clean up a mess on your friend’s carpet. Remember not everyone likes dogs, if you’re going to a friend’s house that doesn’t like dogs or animals you should reconsider bringing your pet with you. Sometimes it is better to leave them at home.

Use your best judgment always when you’re introducing your dog to a new friend. You are in control, always keep your leash with you when in doubt, make them sit stay on spot and remember who truly is alpha. 

Get in that Crate!

“Get in Butter! No don’t turn around IN!” This is me, frustrated as I’m trying to persuade my puppy to get into her crate as I’m trying to get ready to go pick my husband up from work. She fights me and tries to sneak out but I swiftly close the door after all her limbs are in leaving her to stare through the door at me like I’m the cruelest person on the planet.

Is crate training truly necessary? Absolutely! Your dog will be better for it, not only that but crate training means an easier time housebreaking your puppy. Yes, I won’t lie, my dogs hate their crates, they make a fuss when they’re in it and its generally not fun. But its worth it. The house I come back to is clean, and not torn apart, and the dogs are safely tucked away.

Alright so I’ve got you into the store looking at crates for your dog, but which one? Let me give you a few pointers in crate buying.

Crate vs Kennel- Crates are generally the plastic boxes with holes along the side, and a wire door. These are great for travelling in as they are very sturdy. If you have a smaller dog, you generally don’t need a kennel. Kennels are usually all wire or metal cages, they have a plastic removable floor (for those foreseen messes) and usually are collapsible for when you have to travel, but aren’t generally designed for the dog to travel in. Always read the packaging and the manufacturers warnings, however, sometimes a crate isn’t strong enough for travel, and sometimes a kennel can be used for travel.

How big or small- As a rule of thumb, when choosing a crate or kennel for your dog, think about their fully grown size. No matter the breed, a dog should be able to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably in the kennel, even if you toss a toy in there should be room for the dog. If your dog out grows a space, buy a new one don’t cram them in, it can be painful (think about trying to get into pants that are just too small).

I have two dogs, can I just get one large kennel- No, no, and uh no. The dogs each need their own space, they may not like you leaving them behind and may get anxious causing fights between the two. Please get a size appropriate crate for each of your dogs. Its just safer, and a lot more humanitarian.

They won’t be quiet in the crate- Every trainer I’ve heard or watched says to ignore the behavior. While this doesn’t work for Seraphim, she still screams and cries (though calms down after a bit). My suggestion is put the crates in a room that no one sleeps in, if you have a usable basement put them down there. Obviously you want the area to be heated, and secure from the elements. Outside is not an appropriate place for your dog’s kennel. Don’t address the behavior. In order for my girls to be let out every morning they must sit still and wait for me to open their door. This causes Seraphim to usually protest, she’ll bark at me while standing, but eventually she knows if she wants out she’s going to have to sit down and shut up.

Start a routine- Crate training is effective if immediately after the dog is allowed out of the crate they go outside. This starts a routine, I always let my girls go to the bathroom before they are put away and after they are let out. So they know they will have a chance at a break. I don’t suggest that a young puppy stay in their crate all day if it can be helped. They say one hour, per one month of age is how long a dog can hold it. Butter can hold it throughout the night, without waking us up anymore. Each dog will tell you, and trust me you’ll know, when they have to go out.

No food- I don’t provide my dogs with food or water when in the crate over night. They have a routine that around eleven to twelve every night they will go to sleep, and generally won’t be awake for that long during the night. They know its bed time, that we aren’t going to be up to entertain them. Food and water encourages them to eat and drink inside their little home which encourages them to have to go out. If you have to leave them in there all day and its truly hot out, lay down a newspaper and give them some water. Or if you can leave them outside secured in your yard with food and water available for them.

Clean it- I don’t think I should have to say this, but if the kennel, or the items in it get soiled clean it up. A dog will eventually realize the kennel is their ‘den’ and they will not soil it. However if you keep the scent of the defecation in the crate they will continue to use it for that purpose. Just clean it up.

As with anything our dogs show us that they want patience, and understanding. Seraphim is known to have anxiety when I leave the room and she can’t follow, where as Butter realizes that the kennel sucks because she can’t play, but its also a comfort of a routine. Remember to keep it consistent and positive.

(Top) Ten Things Dogs Bring into our Lives.

Day two of the 31DBB challenge, day one’s challenge (for those who are interested) was posted in my about me. It was an elevator pitch, today its a list. An easy to read, fast talking…list.


As anyone who owns a dog will know there are several things in life a dog brings you, I’m just going to list the top ten (if you will) of the things that my dogs bring to the table everyday. Whether I want them to or not.

1) Every morning is a beautiful day attitude – I’ve never seen a dog wake up in a complete bad mood (well Butter seems to when she’s slept inside her kennel all night while camping…but I think its just because Seraphim decided to use the kennel as a pillow). They’re always happy to see you, and want to start the day off by being completely goofy.

2) A reminder to go out for a walk – I admit I slack. I tell myself ‘get off the couch…’ but half the time I also tell myself to shut up and watch another rerun. Dogs make it so you can’t just tell yourself to watch more t.v. they need that walk, and as much as I hate to admit it, so do I.

3) You can finally blame someone else for your lost keys.

4) Who else will appreciate the fact that you can’t throw a Frisbee all that straight?

5) They’re great ice breakers – If you’re standing outside a store with your dog attached to your wrist, its almost a guaranteed conversation starter (what breed, how old?).

6) Added feeling of security – My husky is the biggest baby out there, the neighbor’s sprinkler scares her for whatever reason. But when Sheldon is working nights I feel safe knowing I have the giant baby there to protect me from whatever lurks outside.

7) Undying loyalty and love – Dogs are great friends, they’ll never tell your secrets or start rumors, just give you undying loyalty and love.

8) Amusement – Dogs are great for amusement, just watch a puppy play first thing in the morning, you’ll know what I mean.

9) A happy face greeting you at the door – If you’re like me, you work different shifts than your loved one. My animals are weird, even the cats greet me at the door (though really I think its because Winnie ate the food so there’s the bottom of the dish showing for the cats again). Who doesn’t enjoy being greeted at the door happily though?

10) A reminder to live life fully – My dogs are always on the go, always wanting to play more. I never see them for a second living life with regrets or worries, simply just doing what they do best. Living.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Do you want to go for a Car Ride?

If you look at my minivan you can tell I own dogs, if the nose prints all over the back window does not give it away, you’ll soon enough see or hear my husky. My girls reside in the back of my 2001 Dodge Caravan, they stare out of the windows happily watching the world drive by. Before they were so well behaved in the back; however, they used to bounce around the car like rampant children.

Then one day I got fed up, we don’t have the second back seat of our van in. Its been like this for a while, actually since we moved into our house back in March. So looking at my van, after I cleaned up pop off my steering wheel for the millionth time, I kicked my beloved puppies into the hatchback. Safely I secure their leashes to where the back seat should lock in. This prevents them from coming up front and bugging me, or blocking my view with their bodies or their wonderful nose printing, while allowing them to travel with my husband and I still.

The van has become a clean, pop free environment and we’re happier for it. Before you take your puppy for a ride think of both your safety and your dog’s safety. If your dog is nervous when they get in a car this can make your trip, no matter how short you make it, very stressful. Your dog needs to feel safe and secure when traveling. If you have a hatchback car, I suggest putting them in the back and securing them in safely. If they are simply too large to fit in your hatchback, the backseat will have to suffice, but once again make it clear that there will be no dogs allowed in the front seat at any point in time.

Here are some tips that can make your trips more fun for the whole family:

  1. Start on an empty stomach, empty bowels – If your dog is not used to traveling make sure they haven’t eaten recently (bring food so they can eat at your destination if its going to be a long time, or wait until you get home), and make sure that they urinate as well as have a healthy bowel movement. Your car’s upholstery will thank you.
  2. Provide entertainment for your pet- This is especially important for all stages of the day if your dog likes to chew when bored, or is teething. A bone to chew on can provide a dog with hours of entertainment and will keep your seats in one piece, and your sanity intact. Our dogs have at least three bones in the car at one time, not sure where they are, but they find them and chomp down.
  3. Keep the music low- I do it, you do it. Most people enjoy a song and crank the tunes. When your dog is still getting used to the car, loud music will make a dog more nervous than lower sounds. Also dogs have more sensitive hearing, louder music will hurt them and cause distress. So resist the urge to blast that song, your dogs ears will be happy.
  4. Practice a friendly drive- Road rage plagues many a person. I have it, I will yell at people who cut me off, or do something stupid. However, you should try and keep your cool while your pooch is in your car. Dogs are sensitive to emotions and energies, if you are stressed or angry they will associate the car with a stressful, angry environment.
  5. Start short- This may sound like a no brainer, but believe it or not sometimes its unavoidable. Shortly after we got Butterball we had to go three and a half hours one way to go rescue a family member. A seven hour drive with your new dog may not be ideal. If you can start with short drives, like to the store and back and once your dog is familiar with the car then try further and further.
  6. Break often- If you’ve gone two hours, and four coffee’s later and you just have to stop, chances are when you return to your car that your dog will have to go out as well. Make it a practice, that every pit stop you make, your dog should make one too. My husky is particularly picky as to where she…wastes, we’re not sure why, and a pee break with her can literally be 20 minutes of waiting for her to go, getting fed up and sure enough two seconds later in the car we have a mess. Some dogs get over loaded with the strange smells of gas stations, if your beloved can’t seem to find that perfect spot, try walking a bit away from the gas station (if at all possible) and seeing if the grass is truly greener on the other side.
  7. Tire them out- If your dog tends to be overly excited in the car, try taking a walk first. Tire your puppy out with exercise before you go for your car ride, so they sleep most of the way, will mean that you have a quieter ride. If its just not  possible, you can also look for car-friendly crates to contain your overly energetic passenger.

No matter what, as I mentioned things don’t always go as planned. Butterball, our youngest, is a great travel buddy. She enjoys her time in the back, and enjoys finding new scents. Perhaps it was the three hour drive home on my husband’s lap when we first got her, but she seems to travel better than Seraphim does. Each dog will tell you what they are ready for. Just like anything else, practice, praise, and love them, soon you’ll be traveling the roads with your family, dog included.

What’s in a Name?

Just like anything else, naming your pet reflects  your interests, feelings, and creativity. So why is it that we come across so many of the same named dogs? From Princess to Fido, what’s wrong with a little creativity where you can have it? Our animals are an interesting conglomeration of names. We have three dogs: Seraphim, Butterball and Mouse; four cats: Lokie, Chrono, Winnie and Arthas; and finally a chinchilla named Gusgus.

Not only does everyone have their own names,  but they have nick names galore. When Seraphim is being good, and not getting into something I really don’t want her to she is normally referred to Goobies,Goobs, or Goobers. This is because every time she drinks she holds water in her mouth then lets it pour out all over my floor. Its been like this since day one. Butterball generally goes by Butter. The cats go buy a variety of things, and so does the chinchilla. Each name in our house has been thought out to the letter.

What will fit? Look at your house, do you have animals already? Is there a theme and do you want to keep that theme? Is there a cool name that wouldn’t be good for your baby, but you can name your dog? Then do it. In the end, a dog’s name is a reflection of the owner. My mom recently got a dog, and she named it Duke. To me he looks like a little polar bear, and I automatically thought of renaming it Coke, or Cola on her.

Just like humans (haven’t you ever met a person that you would swear their name was something completely different than what it really is?) you can look at a dog and almost guess their names, and then be blown away by the considerably drab alternative the owners have chosen. So I challenge you, what’s in your dog’s name? Or if you are still looking for that perfect pet, please…No more Princess, no more Duke. Find something that’ll suit them completely.

So what’s in a name? How’d you come up with your names? We didn’t look at baby books for our names. Before my husband and I had become a couple I had a cat named Chrono and a chinchilla named Gusgus. Chrono was named after a character in a video game, while Gusgus was off of Walt Disney's Cinderella, he reminded me of the fat mouse named Gusgus.

My husband had Mouse when we met, and if you look at this tiny dog, you’d agree he’s smaller than a mouse. Lokie was the next in line, my husband’s take on Chrono’s name was the god of War, so thus he named our ginger cat Lokie after the god of mischief. When we moved out to the country I finally got my desire to get my husky. My 3/4 Siberian Husky 1/4 German Sheppard cross, Seraphim, was named after an elite group of angels.

Winnie joined the family next, he was a farm cat that we got off of my mother-in-law, and came with the name. Arthas is named after the current World of Warcraft Expansion’s end boss, Arthas Menethil. Butterball was originally named Nympth after the cute little wood fairies, however seeing as we consistently called her butterball, for her rather round shape the name stuck as Butterball.

So as you see, a name can sprout from anywhere. Be it from inspiration from your favorite movie, down to the looks of your new friend feel free to allow your puppy’s name to be creative, and unique. After all they’re with you for 15 to 20 years, why not have something that stands out from the crowd?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oops, were those your Shoes Mom?

Normally our husky convinces us that she can sleep in the room, her eyes are big and round and she seems to draw a tear at the thought of climbing the stairs to our attic where her kennel currently is. I know I know even I said don’t let your puppy in training sleep with you, but in my own defense she is mostly trained, we’re refining (or at least that’s what I keep assuring myself).

With us usually sleeps my cat Chrono, and sometimes Lokie will sneak in too, so our small queen sized bed seems rather crowded. On a good day if I sleep just right my feet don’t hang off of the short bed (we actually got it out of our camper, because the bed in the camper was better than ours. Go figure eh?), on a normal day I’m fighting with Chrono for room on the bed, and telling Seraphim to share the pillows with Sheldon.

The other night I left shoes in the room, we had gone out and they were good shoes. I didn’t think anything of it (Sheldon leaves his shoes where ever he pleases all the time) and went to sleep peacefully. However I woke in the morning to Sheldon’s sing song angry voice telling me that the dog had done something.

Preparing myself for a pile of something unpleasant our husky left us, I was mildly surprised to see my once sparkly, beautiful shoe only a tattered mess of straps and wood. I grabbed my shoe and looked at the dog who was staring back at me proudly with a piece of the strap hanging out of her goofy smile. Sheldon was almost crying from laughter, he could see that I was in an utter struggle to yell at the dog for ruining my shoes, and laughing at the stupidity of my own thoughts.

Finally I kicked the dog out of the room and cleaned up the shoes muttering about how they were a good pair, expensive, and that now I needed to replace them and how could she possibly do this to me? Sheldon was just shaking his head the entire time as he took our husky out for her normal run in the yard.

Ironically Sheldon’s shoes remain untouched in the room, I’m wondering what he did to them, and when Butterball had grabbed his sock and he was chasing her around the house trying to get it I felt as though revenge had almost been sought. The lesson learned here is simple, expensive shoes are not only trendy, and very comfortable, but apparently they make great doggy chew toys.

As for my heels, they’re up on the shelf not on the floor. The eaten pair has been put to rest, and a dog bone now resides permanently in my bedroom under the bed in efforts to keep the dog’s habit contained.

What’s for Dinner?

I’m standing there, staring at the many rows of puppy kibble. My dogs aren’t picky eaters, like most dogs they happily munch on whatever I buy them. But there’s that point of what’s good for them, and what’s good for my pocket book. When I first got Seraphim I began to make my own dog food. I would mix a little bit of meat, rice, veggies and puppy kibble together with some of the juices after I slow cooked the meat. Seraphim and my pom-poodle loved it, they would eat it greedily.

But honestly it was difficult, I was constantly worried that they weren’t getting enough (especially since Seraphim is a growing puppy), I soon went back to the traditional store bought food. I can honestly say I don’t buy the most expensive brand out there. I’ve realized I don’t need to buy the most expensive one, yes they do provide more nutrients, and promise to promote better growth. But I can honestly say that 40 dollars for a 20kg bag every two weeks is a bit rich for my pocket book.

Don’t get me wrong I love my dogs, all my animals are like my children. But I’ve read some of the ingredient lists of the more expensive food, and unless you buy veterinarian brand foods, you are going to be searching for a while. If you have it in your budget, I do suggest talking to your vet about the best food decisions for your dog’s energy level as well as breed. They are the experts and there is no denying that they went to school for these types of questions and they know what they’re talking about.

If you’re like me, you can still ask your vet (just explain you can’t afford the vet brand food) and see what they tell you. Each vet has their own opinions, and their own reasons for wanting your dog to eat specific foods. My dogs eat puppy chow right now, seeing as the two big ones are puppies, and our little pom-poodle is high energy enough he won’t gain any weight from it.

How often should I feed my dog? Honestly I let my dogs eat throughout the day, there’s always food and I never worry about them over eating. They eat the amount they want, then walk away with a full belly. Now I realize not all breeds can do this, you should follow the instructions on the bags (as they are experts on their brand), or if you’re not comfortable with following the brand instructions feel free to ask your vet.

Wet or dry what is better? I feel that you should feed your dog dry food, unless they aren’t able to actually eat it because they have no teeth, or have an existing medical condition. Regularly our dogs eat hard, dry kibble. Though we do supplement every week or so with a bowl each of wet and dry food mixed together. Like I’ve said before if your dog is a special needs case, ask your vet.

What about treats? I don’t give my dogs many treats, when camping their diets change because I tend to spoil them (who can resist watching your husky eat a marshmallow that’s stuck to her nose really?). Of course, when I do reward by treats I do so very sparingly. Dogs get spoiled with too many treats, you should use your own love and praise as a reward, rather than a biscuit. If you do insist on training using treats, try and break a cookie into smaller bits and use it throughout the day to achieve the same result.

I heard switching your dogs food can be difficult is this true? I’ll be honest, my dogs are walking vacuums. they eat anything that is edible, whether I want them to or not. Generally the rule of thumb if you’re changing your dogs food is to do so gradually. Always start with 75% of the old food mixed with 25% of the new. This is to prevent a rather messy result if you switch straight away. After a few days go with 50% old 50% new, a few days do 25% old 75% new, and finally fully new. I switch my puppy chows almost every bag, simply to give them a break from whatever flavor they just had. They enjoy the variety, if you had to eat chicken forever wouldn’t you get bored of it too? Just do so wisely, if you can stick with the same brand and just change flavors. If you have to switch brands make sure they are the same quality.

Isn’t making your own dog food merely giving them scraps? No, making your own dog food is almost a science. You must know the needs of your dog and follow them. I give my dogs scraps when we camp, but at home they are strictly on regular dog food. If you make your own dog food keep in mind that there are some foods dogs just should not have (onions, garlic and chocolate to name some). When in doubt as your vet, they can give you the list of the foods your dog should steer clear of, and never give your dog any take out especially from Chinese food. Chinese food has msg which can cause dogs to grow fat and cause other medical conditions.

Whatever you choose, always do your research on the brands you want to look at. If you’re going to make your own food talk to your vet about the nutrient requirements of your dog, make sure that you are able to keep them healthy and well fed. As with everything, the more you know about the subject the better off your pet will be.

Welcome to the Pack

“Why is the toilet paper all over the floor?” “They ganged up on me…” Yup, if you have more than one dog, chances are they’ve done this. Ganged up on you before you know it, and caused mischief that you just toss your hands in the air at, surrendering completely to them. This is the power of the pack, when you first decided to go from one to two, or even still just have one, you know what I’m talking about. That unspoken bond that the dog has made from day one.

Dogs have been known to be pack creatures, and while we like to consider ourselves in control of all situations, you have to prove to your dog (or puppy) that you are a worthy pack leader. You aren’t just mom or dad to them, they’re looking for your guidance and approval. If you’re looking into getting a dog think about this, I take my dogs with me almost everywhere. My van has leashes permanently strapped in the back, nose prints on the windows and a couple of chew bones to save my seats. Most dogs make great travel companions after the first couple of trips. They realize that cars aren’t so spooky, and before you know it…You’ve got yourself a buddy.

But keep in mind that dogs still need guidance and discipline even in the car. If you even give them one time of being in control of a situation they will forever take control of situations. This can lead to dogs being rude, misbehaving, and sometimes even aggression. If you have a powerful breed (such as a pit-bull, or a Rottweiler) then you know what I’m talking about. They are stubborn, and seemingly more selfish than you. But look for cues, dogs want to please you, they want you to say that they are good, and give them pets and attention.

If you want an animal that doesn’t need your continued leadership look at a cat my friend. For a dog is a full time commitment to provide them with strong leadership skills. This isn’t to be a bully to your dog, merely set down and enforce the law that you desire. If you don’t want them on the couch, never let them on the couch. No dog in training should sleep with you, seeing as that shows that they are equals (which isn’t what you’re going for, even if your husky is an excellent heater). Always reward the behaviors you want with praise, attention, or even sometimes a piece of their favorite treat.

If you still want a dog even after being told what a pack creature they are, good for you! If you feel confident, why not adopt a dog from your local shelter or adoption agency? Remember though, a dog from a rescue society will have its ups and downs. You must prove that it can trust you (by providing the basic needs of food, shelter, and safety), as well you must provide it exercise before you take it home with you. Go for a walk on the leash, and make it walk right at your side. Never consol your dog while it is scared, fear breeds aggression dogs will get over fear if they are placed in that situation repeatedly, think of it like over coming your phobias. I don’t suggest you bring a water scared dog to the water until it trusts you, however, but at least build the trust from day one.

Dogs are social creatures, if you adopt or buy just one dog be prepared to go to dog parks, or bring your dog over to a well behaved dog friend’s house. That socialization is key to keep dog aggression down. If you see dog aggression happening, put a stop to it, the party that began the aggression (look for body language cues, not just the outburst of noise) should be corrected, dogs are only aggressive because they have not been able to learn different, guide them carefully.

As your pack (be it one dog, or fifty dogs)  trusts you more you’ll find behaviors beginning to fall into place, they will not test you at every turn but they will understand (after you teach the dog of course) what you expect from them if you prove to be a trustworthy, consistent pack leader. Be fearless in your endeavors, for dog parenting is like human parenting. We all try our hardest, and as long as we do the best in our power, with love and good intentions dogs will understand, that we merely are humans pretending to understand the four-legged world.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Great Training Debate

We’ve all seen it, those dogs that are lunging at the end of their leashes, snarling nasty little beasts that are screaming to get at your beloved puppy. Deep down you’re thinking why oh why would you not train that dog?

At our house it’s a constant debate over how to train the dogs. We have two trainers we watch on the television: Caser Millan’s “Dog Whisperer” and Brad Pattison’s “At the end of my Leash”, I honestly suggest that you take the time to watch a few of each of their episodes, and take note of their techniques.

Our dogs are not aggressive, they’re hyper they jump and bark and play. My husky/Sheppard cross, Seraphim, is 10 months old and nothing short of rambunctious. Our little Butterball is about 3 months old and is still learning to grasp that we go outside, and not on the freshly mopped floors. There are days where it doesn’t matter what I say the dogs just prove me wrong in front of other people, they jump even though I trained them not to, the don’t ask to go out and they just infuriate me.

Many people don’t train their own dogs, rather they take them to dog trainers who either take the dog and train it for them and then show the owners, or to multiple classes depending on the desired results. These options are great for first time dog owners, or owners of dogs who are being adopted from places like the SPCA, and are known to have behavior issues. They empower the owners to understand the psyche of the dog and understand that the behaviors can be changed.

At our house, we train our dogs ourselves. I take a bit of Caser’s techniques as well as Brad’s techniques and mix them into my own little take, and I suggest that anyone who is comfortable enough with dogs to do the same. Tailor the two takes into something you and your dog(s) are going to be able to stay with.

No matter your choice, whether you train at home, or train through a professional keep in mind these values:

  1. Consistency – everyone in the family should be on board with the training, what we do in our home is effective. I implement the new lesson (i.e. sit, stay) and then inform my husband how I’ve been doing it and achieving success. He then mimics my training in a consistent manner and we have success.
  2. Patience – I cannot stress this, if you dog feels your impatience they feed off of it, and they will not do what you want. Be as patient as you would be with a child who is potty training.
  3. Regular Exercise, Discipline, and Affection – These ideals are taken directly from Caser Millan, exercising your pet regularly, maintaining a standard of discipline (though I do not condone hitting an animal ever) and appropriate affection is the key to a happy, healthy puppy.

As I stated above, patience is essential, if you are frustrated or angry with your dog for unwanted behavior take a break. Never hurt the animal intentionally with your hand or an object as this will cause fear, and cause the dog to become aggressive. You can achieve discipline with a firm voice; usually I also clap and go “Hey! No, bad!” This catches the attention of the dog, and they know when they’ve done wrong.

Don’t be afraid to practice this anywhere, I have scolded my dog in public before and called her bad right in front of whomever, or whatever I want. Just make sure you don’t shout, just be firm, loving, and understanding. Dogs are dogs, not humans. They are pack orientated animals, and you are part of the pack, now you just have to become the leader of that pack.

Caser Millan's Website
Brad Pattison's Website

So they convinced you to get a Puppy

“Honey what is Butter chewing on?” Ah the regular conversation in our house. Our little puppy, Butterball, laying flat bellied as she gnaws on the front door. Its not like we don’t provide enough toys for her, we’ve got bones and ropes and toys scattered all over the floor, not to mention all the cat toys. So why does the door become the best chew toy? We’ve decided not to argue, just merely toss the bone in the general direction in hopes that she chews on it instead.

Our lives now revolve around praising the fat little creature whenever she goes outside, rather than inside, and shooing her away from my beloved shoes. Our husky thinks that she’s a chew toy, and the cats have used her as a pillow when she’s out cold and a scratching post while she’s drinking. Yup, life is normal.

Like anything in life, we sit there watching educational shows trying to piece together one more mystery of our dogs to unlock the secret to good behavior. Sadly at times I think that patience should be something you can buy in the grocery store. When the puppy ticks you off, remember you love them, they’re cute, and eventually they’ll get out of the phase of eating your best pumps (and if not you now officially have a new excuse for a better shoe organizer).

So who am I anyways? I have three dogs of my own, a husky/Sheppard cross, a retriever/collie cross, and a toy poodle/Pomeranian cross. I also own four domestic cats, and a chinchilla. Guess what, they all live together happily with my husband and I. No one eats anyone else, and while we have some strange dysfunction, we manage. “Honey can you let Winnie out of the room, honey feed Gusgus,” and “what’s that smell?” Are typical questions in our house, followed with usually a groan of dismay at the sight of a proud pile our puppy has just left us even though we just took her out (apparently not long enough at times).

No matter what, the best piece of advice I can give you when you get a new puppy, or even a dog…have patience, have love, and remember to laugh, they’re just trying to please you and their ideals never will match ours.