Tag Archives: responsible

The Poop Is Not On My Face

“Leave my dog’s butt out of this!”

There’s this crazy phenomenon going around. I’m not sure if it’s new or not. Maybe it’s just relatively new to me. I say relatively because I was introduced to it quite a while ago, but passed it off as a singular event because it has not been repeated . . . until this past weekend that is.

It goes like this.

You’re on a lively walk with your dog. He or she is behaving wonderfully. You look before you cross the street. You pass by friendly people who comment on your good dog. You feel good. All of a sudden your dog performs a normal bodily function. He or she poops. You take it in stride, pull out your disposable plastic bag, turn it inside out over your hand, and set to bend over to pick up the mess. Unfortunately, that’s when the poop HITS THE FAN!

What do I mean?

Well, a ne’er do well human being passing by takes it upon themselves to perform their self-imposed “civic” duty and yell at you to “Pick up the poop!”

That’s right people. Poop-shaming is alive, and it’s real.

It’s happened quite a few times when Theresa and I have taken Simon and Rosee out on their daily walks with people from inside their houses and driving in cars passing by taking it upon themselves to tell us what to do with our dogs’ output, despite the fact that we are already taking care of the problem.

And it’s not like our dogs are relieving themselves on someone’s well-maintained, pristine bed of crisp green blades. They go in public parks, in street gutters, and in empty desolate fields that are scattered around our hometown. Theresa and I are always very careful to make sure that Simon and Rosee go in places that don’t disturb the people around us. And considering all of the “waste” left in our public parks for weeks, you know until the city gardeners come and clean everything up, I feel pretty good about the way in which our dogs “go” in this world.

It’s just other people that don’t feel so great about it, unfortunately, and decide to impose their will on us otherwise unsuspecting good people.

Poop-shaming, it’s a terrible, horrible, no good thing.

Take last weekend’s jaunt for example. We are walking past an EMPTY field (one, mind you, that is already full of dirt, weeds, and every other piece of trash that exists—and is one that the City cleans up every few months or so) when Simon decided he needed to relieve himself. As I waited for him to finish and prepared to pick everything up, plastic bag already overturned on my hand, a lady pulled up in her car and decided I needed more “motivation.” She yelled not once, but twice to “Pick up the poop!” She proceeded to sit in her car and stare at me for a good few minutes. I refused to do anything with her creepily watching me, but after she yelled the second time and I actually heard exactly what she said you better believe I started walking towards her car asking her what was wrong with her?!?! Of course she took the coward’s way out and drove off as fast as she could. You know, so she didn’t actually have to deal with the consequences of her mean action, she just left that for me. Lucky me, right?

So, if my general audience doesn’t mind me taking a few lines to address all the poop-shamers out there. If you feel the need to poop-shame me, then do me a favor. One: Don’t yell at me. Two: Don’t yell at me. If I see my dog poop and walk away from it without doing anything, go ahead, say something, if only to put your mind at ease and feel like you did something productive during the day. But when I’m being a responsible pet owner, with a plastic bag on my hand, bending over to scrap the ground of excrement then DON’T YELL AT ME!

I have absolutely NO PROBLEM walking right up to you and telling you exactly how much better my dog’s poop smells than the vitriol you are spitting out at me at the moment.

You’re so-called civic duty is being wasted and I would hate to take that away from anybody else. Because, as of right now the poop is not on my face.

Understood?

Whew! Thanks for that. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it out.

Anyway, for those of you who have ever been shamed or might be shamed don’t worry. It’s their problem, not yours. You know you are a responsible pet owner, so don’t let others three second judgments get you down. Ignore them, and keep on walking. I know, I know easier said than done, but it is so not worth getting a stomachache over a complete stranger, especially when you’ve got an excited and happy pup that has already moved on.

Learn from me! And don’t accept poop-shaming!

A Horrifying Haunt

“It’s a hard life when you don’t even feel comfortable in your own house.”

Said me.

It was dark and stormy night. No, wait. It was sunny? That’s right. And the middle of the afternoon. A nice lazy, sunny afternoon with temperate weather and the birds, thankfully, being quiet so as not to wake the sleepy pups. (The pups that had finally laid down to sleep after an hour walk that morning and a never-ending wrestling match on the living room floor afterwards. I digress.) Theresa and I were sitting in our front room, doing some work, when all of a sudden we heard it. That slight jingling glint that accompanies my worst nightmares. It was the sound of dog tags that belong on the little black and brown dog that lives just around the corner from us. What causes the nightmare-inducing terror you ask? Well, let me tell you. It is the fact that this dog, when he (or she) gets out of his house he makes a beeline straight for our front door, and I literally mean our Front Door. This dog, whenever he gets loose (which is quite a lot), runs as fast as his little legs can carry him over to our door and proceeds to attack it because he knows Rosee will be on the other side of it. Rosee, who hears him come by now of course, is right at the door barking her head off.

The whole episode is

terribly,

frightfully,

scarily . . . annoying!

It’s annoying.

This dog used to just try to pee on our lawn (which he still does, and the poop is a nice—meaning not—new addition). He then graduated to barking at our front window at which Rosee would perch and bark at him. He quickly promoted himself to actually running into our flowerbed in front of said window in order to try and get to Rosee through it. Finally, he has reached where he is now, which is coming right up to the screen door itself and attempt to break his way through in order to get to Rosee. (And I say Rosee because Simon is not as territorially minded as she is, and honestly he just doesn’t really care much about other dogs in front of the house.)

It’s annoying. (Feeling a theme yet?)

What’s worse is that the offending dog’s owners don’t seem to really care about his neighborhood exploits. We’ve even had some of the dog’s human family members (kids as well as adults) come around the corner looking and calling for their dog, and yet all they do when they see them running amuck in our front yard is to stand there and watch. It isn’t until either our mother or Theresa (in a state of anger), after pushing Rosee back, goes out front to tell them to get their dog away from our yard that the dog is then finally captured and taken home.

What’s worse than worse? This afternoon’s incident is about the tenth time it’s happened. The tenth you say? Preposterous you exclaim? Outlandish you yell? Outrageous you shout?

I say, yes, it’s true. The tenth time.

It’s annoying.

The people are always slightly apologetic to our faces, but I’ve started to doubt their sincerity after the third time it happened. It was after this tenth time though that Theresa had really had enough. She marched out our front door and told the two kids that had run up to get (i.e. watch) the dog that they needed to keep their dog off of our front yard and away from our house because he attacks our front door and pees all over the yard. The kids agreed and quickly left. However, it was about five minutes later that some of the adults apparently piled in their car and came to do a slow drive-by of our house. The nerve! All I wanted to shout at them is that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and that they all need to start taking more responsibility for their animal. Theresa swore that the next time this all happens (because let’s face it there will be a next time) she is going to call animal control. Fact is, in our city any dogs that are found to be running loose and acting vicious and aggressive can be reported, and this particular dog is doing just that. Of course, it’s not an easy decision deciding to make a report to animal control, the department certainly isn’t known for leniency, but it’s necessary.

And I am not going to try and be shamed for having my house and dog attacked again, and my sister telling off the kids that are responsible for said attacker. I’m not going to be shamed for expecting better of my neighbors (and of their children). I’m not going to be shamed for hoping for a little more respect and consideration from others for my dogs.

Breed matters not here.

My dogs don’t pee on their lawns (or poop for that matter). My dogs don’t get loose and run all over the neighborhood. My dogs don’t attack other people’s front doors. (And the world would see their breed banned and destroyed!) I think it’s only fair that I expect my neighbors to offer me and mine the same courtesy that we show them.

So, ‘til next time.

Panting Through It: Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer

I knew summer was on its way, I guess I just didn’t quite realize that it was already here! Recently, the temperature has spiked into the 100s. For days. Of course, we make sure to turn the air conditioning on before it gets too warm and to keep the house cool, but in my house the air conditioning is not something we like to leave on for a long time. Generally, it’s used to cool the house down and then it’s turned off at night before we all go to bed. Unfortunately, despite the blazing heat, both Rosee and Simon expect their daily walk in the morning, and Simon still requires his afternoon play session. The problem still remains that it is too hot. Now, I don’t mind playing with Simon, but when it’s so warm outside it is not great to play for an hour. The cement is hot which can be dangerous for the dogs’ paws, Simon gets winded easily, and too much time in the sun can mean a longer time to cool down. Therefore, I am going to share a few tricks on how you and your dog can beat the heat this summer.

Trick #1: Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

Much like humans, dogs need to stay well hydrated, especially over the summer. Most dogs don’t have any problem drinking water. If they’re thirsty, they’ll drink water. Just like if they’re hungry, they’ll eat. However, during the summer there are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring your dog is well-hydrated. Drinking water, while significant, can be harmful if too much is ingested, particularly at one time. So, in order to avoid this, the best thing to do is to give your dog water breaks over a period of time. For instance, if we take Rosee and Simon on a long hike or something of a similar nature we make sure to bring water for them and every so often we all take a short water break. This way the dogs stay hydrated throughout the whole walk. Also, while I know it can be tempting for your dog if they see a water puddle from a sprinkler or run-off, I don’t recommend letting them drink from these puddles. Rosee always likes to look for a puddle while we’re out on walks, but I can never be sure what’s actually in the water. Maybe there’s soap (if someone was washing their car) or run-off from lawns which could d have things in it such as fertilizer. So, just to be on the safe side, if you don’t know where the water came from and if there’s a chance that there could be something foreign in it, don’t let your dog drink it.

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Trick #2: Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening.

Even when the weather turns warmer, exercise is still a must for most dogs, especially dogs like Simon. Normally, I like to take Rosee and Simon for walks in the morning anyways, but during the summer we sometimes have to go even earlier than usual. Where we live it can get pretty hot (we’re talking in the 100s for multiple weeks). As a result, it gets too hot to go in the afternoon, and by the time it’s cooled down enough in the evening it’s too late (I don’t like walking when it’s dark out). Plus, I enjoy going in the mornings because for me it’s a natural energy boost. Either way, whether you go for a walk or play with your dog it’s important to avoid peak sun hours (I think it’s about 10:30am to 4pm). Along with avoiding the hottest part of the day, because it’s just not good for anyone to be outside when it gets that warm, it’s also important to watch out for your dog’s feet. While the pads of their paws are usually pretty sturdy, they can still be vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. The general rule (as far as I know) is that if the ground is too hot for you to walk on it barefoot, then your dog shouldn’t be walking on it for prolonged periods either. That’s why it’s best to exercise in the mornings before it gets too warm, or later in the evening after the sun has gone down.

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Trick#3: Find ways to engage your dog inside.

While daily walks can be rescheduled to more accommodating parts of the day, the same can’t be said for Simon and Rosee’s playtime. Every day around 5pm Rosee and Simon awake from their afternoon naps and decide that it’s time to play. The problem still remains that the sun hasn’t quite set and it’s still pretty warm outside. Yet, both dogs still expect to play.  Consequently, I’ve had to come up with ways to entertain them inside. Unfortunately, playing fetch inside the house is out because there’s not really enough room and Simon’s not great at paying attention to what he might run into. Although, if Simon and Rosee don’t get any playtime, they start to wrestle, and being part Boxers that can involve a lot of jumping up, which again, there’s really not enough room for. Ultimately, I’ve found the best ways to entertain the dogs while inside include giving them bones they can chew on, rope toys because they can both pull on an end (and they tend to tire out quickly) and it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and training practice. Besides the bones and rope toys, training practice is helpful in keeping Rosee and Simon entertained as it’s mentally stimulating and helps build good habits (since, you know, training your dog is really never ending).

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Trick #4: Rethink treats.

Most dogs love treats, mainly the edible kind. Simon will eat just about anything he’s given or stolen. He especially prefers tortillas, particularly the homemade kind (he’s weird like that), and while Rosee loves special treats as well she can be somewhat pickier about what she puts in her mouth. Nevertheless, treats during the summertime can take on a whole new meaning.  Ice is always a good treat during the summer, especially if you’re trying to keep your dog hydrated. Sometimes after their morning walks I’ll set out a bowl of ice for them to help them cool down more easily. Other times I just put ice in their water trough, although it’s mostly for my own amusement as Simon likes to bob for each piece of ice.  Also, during this time of year seasonal produce can make excellent treats. For instance, try a nice dog-friendly fruit salad. Rosee and Simon particularly love strawberries and bananas, and recently tried blueberries for the first time. Simon wasn’t too sure about the blueberry and actually spit it out a couple of times before deciding to eat it. You could even freeze bananas and strawberries to serve as a cold treat. Point is: get creative. Dog treats can be more than milkbones.

Trick #5: Take shelter.

Besides water, another summertime essential for a dog is some type of shelter. Particularly, if your dog is left outside when you’re not home it’s important to provide them with some type of shade or dog house. Personally, I prefer the igloo-type dog houses because they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition, we have a covered patio so there is ample shade in our backyard. Still, when it gets to the days where the temperature reaches the 100s it’s best to stay inside. Originally, Rosee and Simon were outside dogs, meaning that when we weren’t home we left them outside in the backyard. However, due to circumstances (i.e. neighbors, and weather) we now leave the dogs inside when we aren’t home. Frankly, over the summer it’s just too hot outside to leave them there during the afternoons. I know leaving your dog inside isn’t for everyone. Some dogs aren’t used to holding “it” for long periods of time or maybe you’re afraid they’ll get into too much mischief. I would probably recommend then kenneling your dog while you’re gone. Otherwise, make sure that if your dog is left outside when it’s hot they have shade, shelter, and plenty of water.

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Trick #6: Throw a pool party.

Of course, when it gets too hot outside and the air conditioning just isn’t doing enough the best thing to do is have a pool party of course. Whether it’s a kiddie pool or an actual full-sized pool, taking your dog swimming or splashing through it can be fun, and a good form of exercise. Rosee and Simon absolutely love water, just not when they’re getting bathed. They love splashing around in the waves when we go to the beach, swimming in the river when we visit the local park next to the Sacramento River, and will not stay out of the pools at the local dog park we sometimes visit. Simon is a natural born swimmer. The first time we took him to the Sacramento River he went right into the water and took off. He couldn’t get very far since he was on a (very long) leash, but he swam around for about an hour before coming back in to the shore. Rosee, on the other hand, is a splasher. She’ll only go as far as she can touch the bottom, and loves chasing the waves at the beach. Overall, it’s just another way to have fun with your dogs, and it’s most fun when it’s warmer outside.

Rosee and Waves

Trick #7: Wet your dog down.

I know this may sound strange (or maybe not), but stick with me on this one. Due to the fact that dogs do not sweat they have to cool down in a different way, hence why they pant. Another way to cool them down though, is to get their paws and bellies wet. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, dogs are similar to pigs in this way. However, instead of rolling around in mud (even though Simon would probably do this if he could), dogs typically will roll around on grass (since it’s usually cooler) or step through puddles of water. Or some dogs may be like Simon who just puts his front paws in his water trough, and if he’s really warm he will paw at the water in order to splash it on his stomach. Basically, getting your dog’s stomach and paws wet can help them cool down or at least keep them cool for a little while.

Rosee Bath

So there are my tips for beating the heat this summer.

It may be hot outside, but there are still ways to have fun with your dog(s).

Tying It Together

Originally, I had a completely different post planned for this week. In fact, I even wrote most of that other post (which I’ll share next week), and I was pretty happy with how it was coming along (I can be a bit too much of a perfectionist sometimes). Then, today something happened. It was unexpected, obviously, and quite upsetting. It even inspired my Pawndered Thought for the day, and the most surprising thing was that it had really nothing to do with Rosee or Simon. (I know this blog is dedicated to all things dog, specifically if those dogs are named Rosee and/or Simon, but I felt the need to share this particular experience.)

You see, what happened today had to do with a cat. It’s a cat that I see almost every morning on our daily walk, and she would always be playing or laying around with her three kittens. The cat and her kittens had made their home by a garden shed that was located in a local elementary school’s garden. Every morning we (me, Monica, Rosee, and Simon) would walk by the school’s garden, and notice these four. Unfortunately, today as me and Monica were driving by after running some errands in town we passed by and saw the cat lying in the middle of the road. It was apparent that she had been hit by a car and that it had happened recently. We immediately pulled over to see if the kittens were okay, but we were unable to see them anywhere. I suspect that they were hiding underneath the garden shed and just too scared to come out. Needless to say, I was pretty upset. It was dumb, ridiculous, senseless, and should have never happened. Not only was it a school zone, so cars should not be driving that fast anyways, but it was pretty much right next to an intersection so cars would be just taking off. Therefore, if a car was coming down this particular road, they should have been able to stop or swerve out of the way. Yet, none of this happened. Instead a car hit this cat and just kept on going.

I must admit that at this point I was disheartened. I felt let down by my fellow humans. I wanted to yell at someone, and demand an answer for what happened. My brain couldn’t comprehend the fact that some people seem to care so little, even though studies show that the majority of drivers will try and hit an animal in a road rather than swerve to avoid it. So, I did what any normal person would do. I went to talk to my mom. I needed an ear to listen, and possibly a shoulder to lean on.

Afterwards, I felt better, meaning that I didn’t feel the urge to cry. Yet, I was still feeling let down by humankind, and it didn’t help that I was having one of those days. The kind of day where every person I encountered seemed to be inconsiderate or just plain rude. I mean I try my best to have faith in the goodness of others. Usually, it’s not hard. All I have to do is look around my neighborhood and see how almost everyone leaves a bowl of food and water out for the neighborhood cats to know that there are people that do care. Still, some days it’s hard to hold on to this hope, and today was just one of those days. Simon and Rosee did their best to cheer me up, and neither one complained when I smothered them with hugs. They really are the best medicine sometimes.

Then my mom called. She said that she went driving by where the cat was and stopped to see if she could see the kittens. While she was there a man came out from one of the houses from across the street, and he took the time to move the cat from out of the middle of the road. He took care of this cat that wasn’t even his. He didn’t have to, and nobody expected it, but he did. He cared. Suddenly, the day didn’t seem so bleak.

Earlier today when I posted my Pawndered Thought it wasn’t necessarily meant to be optimistic. It was a thought in reference to someone’s callous action that cost three kittens their mother. However, I realize now that I shouldn’t give up so quickly. There are caring people out there. So, I’m going to end this post by saying Thank You to all caring people out there. Thank You for loving your animals, and for taking care of them.

An Itch, A Scratch, and Shampoo

Rosee Bath
Yes, Rosee and Simon get bathed on our front lawn. Not only do the dogs get clean, but the grass gets watered.

Rosee and Simon get bathed pretty regularly. Do they enjoy getting bathed? No. Do I enjoy having clean dogs? Yes. Usually every Friday I spend the day cleaning, which means the couch covers, dog bed covers, kennel beds, and dog towels/blankets get washed, the dogs get bathed, and the living room gets vacuumed. I like doing this once a week because it helps keep the dog smell away, and if I didn’t plan a day for it all nothing would ever get done. You see, I am not a big fan of messes and am pretty good at cleaning up as I go. However, homes have a tendency to become dirty just through living. And while I love my dogs to pieces, I don’t love the permeating dog smell that comes with them if they don’t get bathed every once in a while. Plus, Rosee and Simon tend to have fairly sensitive skin and so bathing helps keep their skin at its best.

About two summers ago Simon developed a really bad skin allergy to something in the environment and his back erupted in bumps. We took him to the vet and were told that he has allergies and if we notice his bumps coming back we could give him some Benadryl. (Of course, I recommend you talk to your vet before giving your dog any sort of medicine because they know best, and at least with Benadryl, while dogs can take it, the amount is based on a dog’s size. Still, make sure to talk to your vet before you give your dog anything that’s not prescribed.) Unfortunately, at this time his bumps were so severe that he needed to go on a stronger medication, and he was also prescribed KetoChlor, a medicated shampoo. We were directed to give Simon a bath with this shampoo twice a week for about three weeks and then once a week after that until his bumps went away. Luckily, with medication and this shampoo Simon recovered quickly, but since then we always keep a bottle of the shampoo on hand because when I say their skin is sensitive, I mean it’s Sensitive. Pretty much anything makes them itchy, and any shampoo that was tried only seemed to make them break out more (even baby shampoo, which the vet originally recommended for their sensitive skin). So, at first I was a little skeptical of this new shampoo, but I gave it a chance.

KetoChlor is a medicated shampoo that claims it is for dogs, cats, and horses.IMG_1407 Of course, I’ve only tried it on Simon and Rosee so I can’t say if it works for cats or horses. It is supposed to help “delay…irritation” and “disrupts micro-organism colonization on the skin.” According to the directions once the bottle is shaken thoroughly, you can work it into your dog’s coat, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then rinse it off. It’s simple enough, but be warned that this shampoo does not soap up very much and therefore it can be kind of difficult to spread around. Also, this shampoo tends to be a bit pricey and is only available, from what I’ve found anyways, at veterinarian offices or online. Now, normally, I wouldn’t mind spending the money on a quality shampoo as long as it really made a difference in Simon and Rosee’s skin, but when it feels like I have to use almost a quarter of a bottle on just one of them during one bath it can quickly become an expensive habit. Furthermore, while the shampoo seems to help both dogs’ skin from being too irritated when allergies or other environmental factors hit, it doesn’t really keep their coats clean for very long. Typically, their weekly bath keeps them pretty clean and smelling nice until their next bath, but with the KetoChlor I felt that within a couple days Rosee and Simon could have used another bath. IMG_1416Their coats looked dingy, felt grimy, they had a lot of flakes, and the dog smell made a return. Then, if you add in the amount of shampoo used in one bath and the price of it, it just wasn’t practical to use the KetoChlor as the main bath time shampoo. Plus, my mom found a locally made, all natural bar of soap that is made up of about five different oils, and has worked out much better for the pups, but that’s for another review.

Overall, if your dog has sensitive skin and needs a little more than just flea medicine to keep the itchiness at bay then I would recommend trying the KetoChlor shampoo. I don’t use it all the time for Rosee or Simon, but it comes in handy when they get bumps from seasonal allergies, or after spending a day at the beach (sand flies) or the river. However, if your dog’s skin tends to be on the drier side, like my dogs, or if it’s a bit too pricey for you (which I understand since dog stuff can get expensive), then I would recommend finding something else for bath time.

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Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 3)

I know, at this point you’re probably wondering how much really goes into teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, right?

All I can say is some dogs are natural born walkers, and some need more help learning. Simon and Rosee fall into the latter category here, and even then they both respond to techniques differently. The most important thing is to find what works for your own dog. However, sometimes you have to go through what doesn’t work to find what does, which is how I have come to know of so many tips.

Again, my disclaimer: The tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.

Tip #7: Try a shorter leash. The length of a dog’s leash may not seem all that significant. However, if the goal is to have your dog walk next to you without pulling then trying a shortened leash may be a good idea. To be honest, I had never considered trying a shorter leash. Of course, while walking with either Rosee or Simon I would try and shorten the leash they were on by looping some of the excess. Yet, it never seemed to work as I would get frustrated with their pulling or holding so much of the leash and eventually let it go and just hold on to the leash handle. It was only when me and Monica had ordered Rosee her Ilusion collar that realization hit. You see, when you order an Ilusion collar it also comes with an accompanying leash.

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Leash that comes with a Large size Ilusion collar.

The leash length varies depending on what size of collar is ordered. For instance, Rosee has a large and the leash is about a foot long.

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Simon has a medium size collar and the leash is a little longer than Rosee’s and not quite as wide. (Personally, I don’t like the leash that came with Simon’s Ilusion collar and do not use it because it’s not wide enough and difficult for me to hold on to.)

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Leash that comes with a Medium sized Ilusion collar.

Really, it was a “Eureka” moment because the first time I put Rosee’s Ilusion collar on with the shorter leash it all became clear. I found that with a shorter leash not only could I keep her next to me, but I was much more consistent in my efforts. I couldn’t backslide and let go of the excess leash as I had before when things became too much. In turn, I was much less stressed and could focus more on Rosee instead of on keeping the leash a certain length. Now, practically, I know it may not be so easy to find a short leash at a regular pet store. Still, it can be worth looking for one on the internet if you’re working on your dog walking next to you without pulling and not just loosely on a leash.

Tip #8: Try a longer leash. For some dogs a shorter leash might be all that’s needed to get them to walk beside you without pulling. For other dogs, such as those similar to Simon, more work and a whole lotta patience might be required. Simon, you see, is a “horse of a different color” (figuratively, of course). He can pick up tricks like shake, roll over, high five, etc. in a day, but learning to walk without pulling has not come as easily. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to do it either. It’s just that he’s not usually consistently successful at it. Now, I’ve done my best to keep myself consistent in feeling and technique when I walk him, which has helped a lot. (Think Cesar here) Unlike Rosee though, using a shorter leash has never worked well for Simon. He’s a dog that has needed to learn to walk next to me by himself. I mentioned in the beginning of Part 2 that I’m not necessarily too strict about leash length with Simon. I use a standard length leash to walk him and for most of the walk I give him the whole length of it. Originally, I decided to change my tactics with Simon because I was getting nowhere otherwise. Then I visited positively.com and read that dogs typically walk faster than us slow humans and for them to learn to walk next to you can be very difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but sometimes their walking ahead of us isn’t about dominance or over excitement. Sometimes it’s just because we walk too slow. The suggested training technique I found was to give your dog the full length of the leash and any time they walk next to you you give them a treat. This teaches them that good things happen when they stay beside you and eventually they’ll learn not to pull while staying closer. I like to also use the turnaround method if Simon starts to pull too much. Overall, I love this method for Simon because I don’t get frustrated and he has actually learned to walk calmly beside me. Also I like to use this method when I put Simon on a really long (10-15 ft.) leash. He can go out and roam (safely), but then when he comes next to me and watches me for direction he gets a treat.

Tip #9: Strap on a backpack. Lastly, a useful tool can be a doggie backpack. Backpacks are typically available at almost any pet store and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Although, the basic principle of a backpack remains the same. It goes over a dog’s back, clips around their neck and underneath their stomach, and has a pocket on each side. Originally, Simon got a backpack when he was a puppy, but still old enough to venture outside, because we had hoped it would help slow him down. Personally, to weigh the backpack down I like to use bags of rice because rice conforms better to Simon and isn’t as oddly shaped as bottles of water. Unfortunately, the backpack never quite worked out for Simon. It did help him slow down, but it never really taught him to walk without pulling as he would still pull if he wasn’t wearing it. Also, we overestimated his size when he was a puppy and now the backpack is a little too big for him. (He didn’t grow into it like we thought.) For this reason it never seems to sit quite right on him. Still, it’s a nice tool to have around when we go down the street to a nearby park and we work on training because I can pack his extra-long leash, treats, and (for hot, hot days) bottles of water and collapsible bowls.

Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 2)

It’s finally here. The second part of my compilation of tips on loose leash walking.So, here is Part 2, which focuses on three main methods I’ve learned and used with Simon and Rosee.

In general, I know that the command “heel” is the common way to teach a dog to not pull and walk beside their person on a leash. However, I am not exactly a fan of “heel” because I feel that it’s not a permanent solution. (That didn’t make much sense did it?) What I mean by this is that with any command there must be a release from said command at some point, and when walking my dog I want their behavior to be more natural and to not have to rely on a command. Don’t get me wrong, I did use “heel” at first with Simon when he was a puppy, but frankly it was frustrating to have to continually tell him to “heel” when we went on a walk. We have since tried other methods.

Before I start though, I have a confession to make: I am not strict when it comes to making my dog walk right beside me, at least when it comes to Simon. Let me qualify that. With Rosee I have come to learn that it’s important to keep her close to me and not let her walk ahead due to her anxiety and fear issues. By keeping her close I’m more aware of when she starts to become upset and stop it before it happens. However, with Simon I don’t always make him walk right beside me. Of course, when we cross a street, or walk by a person, or if we go in a store or something similar I make him stay next to me. Otherwise, I don’t. I give him the full length of his leash. I do this with him because his issue is impulse control. I’ve found that the shorter I keep his leash and the closer I keep him to me when we begin our walks then the more agitated he becomes, and therefore, the more likely he is to pull. This doesn’t mean that he can’t and hasn’t learned to walk beside me because he definitely has, but it has caused me to take a different training approach with him as well as a lot of patience. My point here is that every dog is different and sometimes it takes the use of a different technique to teach your dog what you want them to do.

Once again I give you my disclaimer: The tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.

Tip #3: Walk around a more neutral space. If your dog pulls a lot and you are a person that gets easily frustrated, it can be best to begin your walking journey by walking around a more neutral space. What I mean here by “neutral space” is a space that is comfortable for you and one where you are less likely to become frustrated while working with your dog. Personally, when I started out teaching Simon and Rosee how to walk loosely on a leash my neutral space was my immediate neighborhood, and a nearby park where we could walk the perimeter over and over. My immediate neighborhood was neutral because I was still close to home and didn’t have to walk Simon or Rosee very far while they were still learning not to pull, and for some reason it gave me peace of mind to know that if I wanted the training session to end we were only minutes away from home. A park was also neutral for me because it was repetitive, not too far away from home, and giving Simon and Rosee something to sniff helped to slow them down some. I always felt overwhelmed when I tried taking either Simon or Rosee out on a longer walking route when I was first trying to train them to walk beside me and not pull. Just the idea that I had several blocks until we finally got home or had twenty minutes left of a forty-five minute walk was excruciating to me when they were still working on not pulling. Frankly, my patience levels were not that high, and so I decided that to avoid becoming frustrated (because that didn’t help anyone) I needed to change my approach. Walking your dog should be an enjoyable experience. In my opinion, it’s a good way for both humans and animals to receive their daily exercise. However, in order to achieve a good walking partner some training must be done. So, if you’re trying to teach your dog how to walk loosely on a leash and beside you it helps to think of it as a training exercise in the beginning. Start out with small, but concentrated efforts and work your way up from there. Remember it’s a (learning) process, not a race.

Tips #4: Whenever your dog pulls turn around and walk the other way. The “turnaround method” is one of my favorite methods to employ when dealing with leash pullers, and it’s actually one of the most recent ones I’ve learned as well. I learned this method about a year ago when Monica and me took Rosee to a refresher training class. It’s pretty simple, and I like it because it makes me feel like I’m able to address the problem of leash pulling right when it occurs. The “turnaround method” goes as follows: as you’re walking and your dog starts to pull, stop, say “No, your dog’s name,” and walk a few steps backward while your dog turns around and follows you, then start to walk forward again and give your dog a treat/praise when they walk next to you. Some dogs might not need a treat when you begin to walk forward again, and instead be like Simon in which his treat is walking forward again. Now, if your dog pulls a lot it’s probably going to take quite a few turnarounds before they start to walk next to you for a more extended period of time. But don’t give up because this method can work if you’re consistent in using it. I found that this method has really helped Simon learn not to pull on the leash and walk beside me, and he is a dog that I thought nothing would ever help him learn to do that. Using this method with him also helps me not get so frustrated with him too since, like I said, I feel that I can correct his behavior right when it happens.

Tip #5: Take a break. Sometimes there are times when your dog decides to pull non-stop or they might see another dog, garbage truck, or whatever excites them and pull. It’s during these moments that having them focus on you is difficult and it can feel that no matter what you do they just won’t listen. At times like this the best thing I’ve found to do is to stop and take a break. I stop and make my dog sit next to me and simply wait for them to calm down. This can take some time, especially if whatever your dog saw really excites them. For instance, if I’m walking Simon and we pass by a park where a dog is off leash (even though all our parks have signs that say dogs must be on a leash, but I digress) and running around, Simon can, at times, become extremely excited, and pull on the leash. In instances like this it can be hard to get him to pay attention to me, which is necessary if I want him to walk next to me without pulling. Instead of fighting with him, it’s much easier to stop make him sit down and wait for him to relax. I also have treats so that when he makes eye contact with me I give him one, which helps encourage him to learn to pay attention to me more so than anything else. It’s not that I don’t want him to look at anything else going on, but I want to be the main source of his attention. Mostly I like this method as it allows me to remain calm and not become frustrated, while it teaches Simon that he should remain calm in times when he would normally become excited. Think of it as a way to desensitize your dog to exciting or agitating situations. Now, I have to admit that I actually picked this tip up from Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed in her chapter on how to deal with reactive dogs. This was a method I first began using with Rosee to help her get used to seeing other dogs while we were at parks and such, and not become so anxious. Honestly, I have to say this is one of the best methods I learned and has worked wonderfully for Rosee. As I came to work with Simon though, I found it to be very helpful in those few moments he became overly excited and wouldn’t pay attention to me whatsoever. Not only does he pay attention to me more, he also doesn’t become as excited anymore.

To Chip or Not to Chip…There Really Should be No Question

As always let’s start with a tale.

Late last night we spotted a dog wandering up and down our street. He wasn’t very big, nor was he very old. In fact, he looked to be about 6 months old. At the time it was strange to find him just wandering around outside because it was about 10pm, no one was out, and because we walk Simon and Rosee every day we pretty much know all the dogs in the neighborhood, but neither Monica or I recognized this dog. Yet, here was this puppy looking for his home. It soon became obvious that he had no idea where home was and to top it all off he wasn’t wearing a collar. We figured that he hadn’t been out long because he was dry and it had been raining, and we found that he must have had his dinner because he wasn’t hungry when we offered him food. He was a really sweet dog and extremely well behaved, but already having two dogs (one of which is not exactly easily accepting of other dogs) it was hard to decide what to do with him. It’s not to say that we were going to leave him outside to wander the streets, especially because he was heading towards a busier road on the outskirts of town and would most likely be hit by a car. Nonetheless, bringing in an extra dog to our home was not exactly a scenario we were prepared for. We didn’t know if he had all of his shots, was socialized with other dogs, was house trained, etc. Yet, we couldn’t just leave him, and there was really no one to call since it was so late. Even if we could have called our local animal services I was hesitant because if he didn’t have a microchip he would become a ward of the shelter, and I didn’t want him to become another statistic. We tried looking for his owner by walking him up and down the surrounding streets for about 45 minutes, but ultimately came up empty. It seemed that this dog had appeared out of thin air, or (much worse) was dumped by his owners. Still, we tried to remain optimistic, and due to his amicable personality believed that he must have had caring owners that were missing him terribly. Unfortunately, being that it was so late at night there wasn’t much more we could do, and decided that first thing in the morning we were going to take him to our vet clinic and see if he was microchipped.

Come the next morning we took our new friend to the vet and he was scanned for a microchip. Fortunately, he had one and his owner was quickly contacted. It turned out his owner lived only a few blocks over from us and came to get him soon after he was called. After the puppy was returned to his owner it was a big relief. When we first found him outside walking around we didn’t hesitate to help, but we were afraid of what we would do with him if his owners couldn’t be found. There was no way to keep him for an extended period of time, but if it turned out he didn’t have an owner, I didn’t just want to abandon him to a shelter where he probably wouldn’t be adopted. He was just too nice of a dog and too young to end up at a shelter hoping to be adopted. Thankfully, all these worries were for naught.

This story could have turned out very differently. A family could have lost their pet, and a very sweet dog could have never been able to find his home again. Or worse, a dog could have been left to fend for himself. Now, I am extremely glad that this wasn’t the case with the puppy we found, but for many pets that somehow get out of their house or away from their owners this is what happens. I couldn’t even imagine how I would feel if my either Simon or Rosee went missing. In fact, when I was younger my family had a cat, Princess, who was an indoor/outdoor cat and I had a hard time not knowing where she went during the day. Thankfully, she mostly stayed in our front and backyard during the day and came inside at night. Still, I’m sure we all want to do what we can to ensure our pet’s remain with us, and while training your dog is a big part of it, so is microchipping. I really cannot express just how strongly I feel about microchips. Every dog should be microchipped. (Many people also microchip their cats, but I’m only talking about dogs here.) Microchips are relatively inexpensive, simple, and are a way to attach owner information to a dog in case something happens to their collar. Of course, microchips aren’t tracking systems, although I don’t understand how this hasn’t been worked out yet given that you can wear a watch with a phone, but they do a lot to help lost dogs return home. So, in case I didn’t say it enough: microchip, microchip, microchip!

Microchipping is only the beginning however. There are multiple manufacturers of microchips, and it usually depends on which type of chip your veterinarian prefers to determine which your pet receives. For instance, Simon has an AVID chip, while Rosee has a 24 PET WATCH chip. Once your dog is chipped the most important thing to remember is to register the chip. Just because your dog is microchipped doesn’t mean that the chip is activated. In order to activate the microchip it needs to be registered and there are a few options to consider. Most people probably register their dog’s microchip with the respective company. Personally, I decided not do this for Simon and Rosee because I wanted to research all my options before deciding. Unfortunately, there is no one universal database where all microchip numbers and information is stored. Rather, after a microchip is scanned the number can be looked up in the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. Despite its name this tool is not exactly universal since it only contains information on microchips that are registered with companies that elect to participate in its program. Still, it is the main database that shelters, rescues, humane organizations, veterinarians, and pet owners use to look up microchip numbers. After a bunch of researching various registries I ultimately decided to register Simon and Rosee with Petkey. I chose Petkey because it offered the most at a reasonable price. Not only was this registry part of the AAHA program, but as part of their services if your dog goes missing you can immediately go into your profile and report them as missing. Doing so will trigger what Petkey calls an “Alert” and it will be sent to vet offices, shelters, pet businesses, and other Petkey members in your community. Plus, their customer service people have always been helpful, and, most importantly, very nice whenever I’ve called.

I know microchipping your pet may seem over the top to some. Especially is your dog is well trained to stay by your side on or off a leash, and not to run out your front door. However, sometimes accidents happen or something spooks your dog and they may run off and not remember how to get back home. I’d like to believe that if anything ever happened to my dogs they would do as the animals in Homeward Bound did and find me no matter where I was. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple or always that easy. That’s why I think there really should be no question when it comes to microchipping your dog.