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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dog bite prevention week - waking up gently

An important excerpt from my newest book, Through A Dark Silence: Loving and Living with Your Blind and Deaf dog -



Teaching your dog to wake up gently:

"There is a myth that b/d dogs are dangerous because they will always bite when they are startled or woken up. Could this ever happen? Yes, it could. But it could also happen with a dog that can see and hear. Does it happen a lot? No. Most b/d dogs are no threat when startled. Can this scenario be prevented?  You can certainly lower the risk of this ever happening with your dog.
You can teach your b/d dog to wake up easily and happily. By teaching this skill to your new dog, you can prevent any issues from developing. Start training when your dog is awake and is aware of you near her. Touch your dog and then pop a wonderful treat into her mouth immediately. Don’t wait to see what your dog will do. There should be no lag time. Just touch and pop the treat into her mouth. Make these really special treats. You want your dog to really look forward to being touched.

Repeat this pattern of touch and treat many times quickly in succession. Then touch your dog and pause for just a moment before giving the treat. The sequence will become – touch, dog looks expectantly for treat, and then feed. Don’t pause too long, just long enough for your dog to show you that she knows the treat should come next.

In future sessions, touch different parts of your dog’s body. One touch equals one treat. As your dog becomes more tolerant of you touching various parts of her body, sneak in a random touch now and then when your dog is not expecting it. Be ready with that treat immediately. Be sure to continue to use great treats every time you touch her. The more you reward the touching, the better your dog’s response will be when she is surprised or woken up suddenly. You cannot do this exercise too much as long as you are rewarding every touch.

There may be times when your dog gets startled by a touch when you don’t have a food treat immediately handy. Try to minimize these as much as you can, but if it happens, be ready to reward your dog with something else she likes – a small game or lots of petting if your dog enjoys that. Being woken up or startled should always mean good stuff for your dog!

When your dog is sleeping, though, be respectful. Don’t wake your dog up unless it’s necessary. When you do need to wake her up, do it gently. Walk heavier as you approach your dog so she can begin to feel the vibrations through the floor. When you get close to her, you can blow on her gently to wake her up. If your dog is lying on a blanket, you can wiggle the edge of the blanket to gently shake her awake. If your dog is still asleep, you can progress to brushing her gently with your hand. It is best to touch your dog on her body, not her face.  That’s just for safety in case she does wake up with a startle.  Your hand will be away from her mouth.

Be prepared for a startle if your dog is sleeping soundly. Startling is a normal response. Just make sure that you are quickly offering your dog something wonderful! Usually the dog will recover immediately once she recognizes that it is you, and when you offer something tasty to eat, she will forget all about being startled. Be aware that your b/d dog may need you to use your hands to steady her as she wakes up. She may be disoriented as she wakes up suddenly and may jump up and bump into things nearby.  Maintaining a firm but gentle touch to her body will let her know you are there while you offer the food right near her nose.

Remember that startling is a normal response. You will probably not ever get rid of it completely. But you can diminish how much the startle bothers your dog by rewarding frequently.  And with lots of practice, you may notice your dog waking up easier and easier each time!"
 
To purchase a copy of Through a Dark Silence, click HERE.
 
 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Games Dogs (and Kids) Love to Play!

Fun and safe games for kids and dogs to play together with adult supervision

Dogs and kids seem like the perfect combination of fun, but their play together can very quickly get out of control and things can go south.   How can you encourage your children to play appropriate games with the dog?  By modeling appropriate games and play.  If you model wild and crazy games involving a lot of running, chasing, jumping and mouthing, that is how your children will want to play with the dog too, and that is how the dog will expect to be played with. This can lead to injuries and hurt feelings, because dogs play with a much rougher play style than most children.  Here are some fun and safe games that children can play with dogs while being supervised by a responsible adult.
The shell game:  Use empty flower pots or yogurt cups with a hole in the bottom.  With several pots, hold the dog while the child places a treat under one of the upside down pots.  She can move them around to mix them up a bit, and then have the child give the dog the find it cue as you release the dog.  It won’t take long for your dog to learn to enjoy this game!

Find it:  This is a progression of the shell game.  The child can progress to hiding the treat in new and easy places around the room for your dog to find.  It might be helpful for you to give the child suggestions of easy places, then medium, and finally harder places to hide the treat.  Hold the dog until the child gives the find it cue. 
Hide and seek:  Hold your dog and give the child a plastic cup with some dog treats in it.  Have the child get the dog’s attention by rattling the treats inside the cup a bit, then moving quickly to an easy hiding place.  As soon as the child gets hidden, release the dog and tell him to “find Lucy” (or whatever name you choose).  Because your dog saw the child hide and knows there are treats involved, he will probably hurry to find the child.  The child can then praise the dog and feed him treats with the cup.  Using a cup is helpful to keep small fingers away from the dog’s mouth while he’s eating treats, so they don’t accidentally get nipped.  Dogs can easily lick treats from the cup, or the child can dump the treats out of the cup onto the floor for the dog to eat.  With practice, the child’s hiding spots can get harder and harder. 

Tricks:  Older children can help you teach the dog some tricks and will delight in showing off the tricks to anyone who will watch.  This can be a great activity for children and dogs to do together, but again, be nearby and supervising.  It is easy for a dog to get confused, or for a child to get frustrated, and you may need to intervene and call for a short break for them both to regroup.
Obstacle course:  You can create an obstacle course with objects you have around the house.  Construct low things to jump over, or crawl through.  Cardboard boxes can be cut and taped into just about any shape.  Use different things for the dog to safely walk over, around and through.   Make sure your dog is comfortable doing all the obstacles with you first, before you add the child into the picture.  Then turn this into a game of follow the leader.  The child can carry a cup of dog treats to lead the dog through the obstacles – over, around and through.  You can make it a game where you hold a clicker or a small bell and when the child hears that sound, she should stop and offer the dog a few treats either from the cup or tossed to the floor.  This will allow you to pinpoint good behavior from the dog as a bonus (not jumping, doing an obstacle correctly, etc.) and will keep the dog focused on following the child because he knows he will be getting treats along the way!  You can even take turns and hold the dog while the child does the obstacles first, to “show the dog how to do them,” and then have the dog follow the child through. 

An important rule is to always supervise children and dogs when they are together.  If you need to leave the room, take one or the other of them with you.  Children move fast, dogs move fast, and they don’t speak the same language.  It is very easy for one of them to misinterpret something the other one does.  It is when these misunderstandings happen, that one or the other can get hurt.  Neither the dog nor the children can be expected to be able to make appropriate judgment calls.  That is a responsible adult’s job.  With appropriate supervision, a dog and child can become best friends.  I hope you find that together they can enjoy some of these games safely!
 
 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Specially-Abled Pet Day!!


In honor of Specially-Abled Pet Day (May 3rd) …
 
 

What I have learned from my specially-abled dogs

When I let go of expectations, they accomplish things that far exceed anything I thought possible.  It is people who limit their animals with their own feelings of fear or doubt.
They need to be nurtured and protected, yet encouraged to fulfill their true potential.  Give them the freedom to be just like other dogs and to enjoy their lives to the fullest.

Their “disability” is just a difference, nothing more, nothing less. 
I have missed out on a whole world of information that I don’t need my eyes or ears to notice.  Now I pay more attention to subtle things in my day.

I’ve learned to be humble.  Sometimes the dog knows or notices things that I don’t.
I’ve been connected to some amazingly wonderful people and animals that share our journey with their own specially-abled pets.  I would not have met these friends if it weren’t for my dogs.

I started and keep this blog as a resource for others.  I hope they can learn from my journey.
Love is stronger than any problem that may arise.

Looking lovingly into your dog’s eyes is not dependent on the fact that she actually has eyes – it is about so much more than that.  It is a recognition of her soul and its connection to my soul.
A blind and deaf dog KNOWS when I open the refrigerator in the next room, and she can move at lightning fast speed to get herself in the way of the door closing, even when I thought she was sleeping!

Specially-abled dogs give us a way to connect to and teach compassion and acceptance to others.  While we often are afraid to approach a person who is different from us, something about a dog draws us in and we feel safe.  These lessons can carry over to the people in our lives.
They want the same things that we want in our own lives – love, safety, and acceptance.  They want a chance to do things for themselves.  They don’t want our pity.

There are always many ways to accomplish the same task.  One is not better than another.  Each way gets the task done in the right way for that individual.
I will always share my heart with at least one specially-abled dog!