Children and Dog Parks

Ok, we’ve heard the rants.

“KEEP CHILDREN OUT OF DOG PARKS!”

“CHILDREN HAVE MORE RIGHTS THAN DOGS!! DON’T BRING DANGEROUS DOGS TO DOG PARKS!”

And then there’s Rodney King…”Can’t we all just get along?”

Answer “In a perfect world.”

I happen to own one of those “challenged” dogs who isn’t fond of children. He’s not out seeking to hurt them, but his preference is that they all fall off the earth like fleas off of his body.

And, having been a child myself, I do recall the rude awakening to the idea that some people (as well as dogs) don’t like children. I felt sorry for them.

As an adult with a dog I (mostly) love (ok, mostly like), I try to be responsible. My dog serves some purposes of security, he is a good friend, he is family. He is not going to tolerate nonsense from children.

What to do? I try to spend time helping him to meet children on a safe basis for both them and him. I spend a lot of time helping Ranger to escape the advances of unsupervised, determined children who want to hug the cute dog who is giving them every signal that he wants AWAY.  I try to find ways to say it that won’t hurt the feelings of children, that might help to educate them, etc., etc.

Put Ranger to sleep? I mean, that’s the ugly question,isn’t it? For me, I’m going to choose “management.” Ranger DOES, in fact, like some children. They are those unique children who are able to be quiet and patient. Their reward is that Ranger will come lie next to them and expose his tummy to be rubbed. After that, he may ‘bump’ their hands to encourage the to pet him. He’ll follow them around. This is the exception.

He really, really doesn’t seem to want to bite children. He just wants them to not share his space. He doesn’t like their shrill voices (of which I most certainly  had as a child), and he doesn’t like to be the subject of their experiments while they learn not to scream in his ear, fall on him, run at him,  drop things on him. You know, things that my easygoing dogs we had growing up with could tolerate from my being a pet-savvy child. He doesn’t want them to so much as make one mistake.

If he does, guess who pays the price? Me (monetarily)…then him. Then me again if he must be put to sleep over an ‘incident.’

So, I work to enrich his world. He has a lot of dog friends who come to play, and we have our evening walks around dog island. It’s just for dogs. The dogs romp and run for acres.  It’s a place where a dog can be a dog.

Or it was until some new signs were posted in the recent-ish past to the effect of… “Parks are for everyone’s enjoyment. You are responsible for your dog’s actions.”

Well, fair enough. I mean, you know… But, here’s the thing that causes arguments faster than anything. Can we please have a place where our dogs can let their hair down (literally)?

Can we compromise?

I have, for example, managed to work with Ranger to where he will now just see a group of children, possibly issue a quiet, nervous “hoof” and then dash  off. That’s polite-ish.

Parents, please recognize, for the sake of your children, that some dogs are less capable. Please, please stay near your children if you take them to an off-leash dog area. I have seen several bites in dog parks from unsupervised children. Yep, it’s bad and traumatizing for a child. It’s sickening and scary for the owner. People get into verbal fights (bordering on physical) when something goes wrong.

Personally, if a group of rowdy children arrive, I put the leash on and we go home. Fun’s gone. Unfortunately, I don’t have the option of going to any local playground or even to many public places to let the dog have a good time.

So, even if children have the “right” to be there, and we must yield (which makes sense), here are things that will help (as I experienced on my walk this evening):

  • Please take the child to another location to ride their bicycle. Children + wheels are a setup for something very bad to happen. Even if a dog is generally alright with children, he may have a “thing” about wheels. I saw this happen. A woman sent her autistic child zooming around on a bicycle in the dog park. A shepherd chased the child and knocked this, already special needs, child to the ground and she had a small bite. The child was traumatized and so was the owner of what looked to be an average shepherd type mix. East met West. It was a toxic combo.
  • Tonight both a young girl and her brother were riding their bikes all around the island sans their parents. The little girl was the younger one, she both has the shrill scream from her brother chasing her combined with the wobbliness of someone who hasn’t mastered a bike yet. They were both wearing alien-head helmets (kudos to the parents), however these can also freak dogs out. I changed course to avoid having to do a walk by, but I’ll be darned if the kids managed to find ways to cross paths with us twice more.  I was lavish with the praise as Ranger trotted behind me and didn’t so much as let out a peep; he only watched as they wheeled by. Where were the parents? Alarmingly, they were on the other side of the island. IF there had been an attack, they would have had to rely on the ability and concern of a stranger for their children not to have been seriously injured. That’s too far away.
  • Coincidentally, a enormous Mastiff (dog) tried to attack my dog on our way out. Fortunately, both the owner and myself were within inches of our dogs as we both worked fast and hard to spare my dog from a bite. He managed to grab his dog and I managed to block and pull my dog out of the way. No ensuing drama; just a quick defusing and away we all went. Had my dog not been close, I could not have helped him.
  • The same goes for any child in my care; ;their welfare comes first. Part of that involves using good judgment about where to take a child. I like an acronym used in my motorcycle class. SIPDE. It stands for:

* Constantly *S*can your environment

* *I*dentify potential hazards

* *P*redict any likely dangerous scenarios

* *D*ecide what you will do should the scenario happen.

* *E*xecute your decision.

Scan: I see children on bicycles without an adult.

Identify: They could scream and blaze past us and startle the dog.

Predict: I think they are going fast and will likely pass us; could possibly even fall on the gravel. Adult is too far away to save their child. The adults are busy talking and not aware that their child is trying to throw rocks at dogs.

Decide: If they get any closer, I will put a leash on my dog.

Execute: Leashed the dog. He barked. We made it to the car.

A situation was avoided.

But still, please…there are better places for children. Not all dogs or dog owners are as in control. So, if they aren’t, you must be. Prevent the bites; prevent trauma. Even a good dog can lose it and surprise you. I know you’ll find better places–all the pretty and fun places that I’m prevented from enjoying with my dog are there for your enjoyment. An off-leash dog park isn’t worth it.

Muchas Gracias.

 

 

Cute, Amazing Things You Wish You Had on Film

Chai, a very handsome, smart, and rowdy husky puppy (that might have been redundant) went to the dog park with Ranger today. They had a ton of fun.

One of the most intelligent(?) or at least one of those things I never get tired of is Ranger when he understands what I want.  He just “gets it” even though I haven’t ever formally tried to train this.  Caveat: It’s not always reliable, but when he does this behavior, it is invaluable.  Might have something to do with spending so much time together that I can sort of point and suggest things and he guesses pretty well.

The park is enormous and Chai (6-mo. old puppy) went happily bounding off , to play with a group of dogs. More dogs were coming in, and I wanted to kind of help him not get caught up in a dog drama. Wasn’t critical (or I would have been over there myself) but, just trying to stay one step ahead of the predictable.

Ranger was happily cuddled up next to me. I touched him, pointed, and asked “Will you go get him?” He checked in with me and I encouraged him, “Yah, will you go get him?” and pointed again.  Yep, he understood and didn’t get distracted. He ran across to the end of the park and engaged the puppy in play and then teased him all the way back to me.

If you’re not really watching, those behaviors are really easy to dismiss or overlook, but I’m always impressed and fascinated. Yes, Ranger looks to be partially a herding breed of some type, but he really doesn’t generally exhibit herding behaviors, except an occasional classic stalking pose when something intrigues him.

The other behavior that is pretty close to this is that I can point to an object (say at the beach) and ask, “Ranger…take it.” He will look in the general direction that I’m pointing to and trot out and start to look around. When he gets near it, I can usually say, “Yep, that’s it. Take it.” He’ll pick it up and I can usually say “Bring it” and almost always, he’ll bring it back to me (or at least pretty close).

Love that.

Pupsicles

Looks like it’s about time for a new post lest Word Press thinks I no longer exist and, well…just for fun.

I’ve been making up my own little recipes for refreshing little keep-them-busy-for-awhile treats. I’m sure you can think of your own, but here’s what I do.

Meat-based broth: Chicken or Beef (or whatever). I’ve been using boullion cubes and just follow the directions for making a cup or two.

I vary the sizes of my molds. Originally, I started with a commercial, giant-sized form so that all the neighbor dogs could come over and try some, but quickly found that the idea was a mess and that I just never knew when the dogs would be around.

So now I just use various sized plaxtic containers. If I’m making a mold for my dog plus another or two, I will use a sandwich sized container. For my own dog, or for two dogs who could argue over who “owns” it, I use my ice cube trays to make their own individual pops.

Once I make the broth, I pour it into a mixing bowl and just start adding bite-sized pieces of things. Have leftover treats? Toss ’em in.  Ingredients I have tossed in (chopped or broken small, except for toys or chews):

cheese, cooked meat, Natural Balance dog roll, chicken and duck strips, dog cookies, rubber toy. The great thing about mixing up heavy (sink to the bottom) and light (biscuits–float to the top) is that your dog is pretty much guaranteed a surprise throughout and may sit and work on his pupsicle until the end.

The broth is just a little tastier than water and the whole thing is not too calorie laden, unless you’re really overdoing it.

After stirring it up, I just “set it and forget it” as they say. I pour the mixture into my molds, let ’em freeze and then pop them out and store them in a container in the freezer. Dog needs something to do?  Pull one or two of these out and now you’re Super Mom!

Have fun and add some more ingredient ideas in the comments area.

Nifty Solution Alert

If you can imagine (since I live in my dog business shop) it is a daily struggle to keep things clean and free of fur.

Until now, I’ve been using large shag throw rugs that are comfortable for the pets but murder for me to maintain.  One urinary incident requires me to treat the spots and take them to the laundry mat–and it’s not so inexpensive. Then I have to air dry them which can take at least one really good sunny day.

Today, on Easter Sunday, I cruised around Big Lots! for an afternoon activity. I found a whole new idea I hadn’t thought of before: Anti-Fatigue mats. The particular mats I found were supposed to look very uptown in a stylish kitchen. (Though, I think if you did have a very expensive kitchen, these might not be so impressive looking.)

I guess people  buy them to stand on when they have to stand for long periods of time  while cooking and whatnot. Groomers buy them, but they usually come in colors that are so wild that they can wake you up in the night.

These, however, are chocolate brown with a basket weave texture. They have about a 1″ foam padding and are sturdy (not likely to get ripped), wipeable and non-slip! I love them. Ranger likes them.  They cost $19 each.  I got the last two. I will be scavenging for 3 or 4 more. Heck, I might even actually use one in my kitchen!

No more worrying about my dog eating a raw bone on something that isn’t easily sanitized. Cool to sit on in the summer and if I want to add a little extra cush/comfort/warmth, I can just toss fuzzy pad, towel, or blanket over the pad.  Pet fur or dog accidents? Piece of cake: Just wipe pad and toss the light covering in the wash.

Neat! Especially since I’m not one of those types who usually comes up with the  super ideas. 😀

The Games Dogs Play (1)

Numerizing these, because I’m sure there will be more.

As we know, dogs definitely play games with each other. And, often they invent the rules. Here’s a current, embarrassing (for my dog) game he plays with his small, fluffy gal pal.

Stealing

Necessary supplies: Two yummy, long-lasting chews or stuffed, frozen Kongs.

Object: Tease each other to no end and try to steal each others toys without directly intimidating or harming one another.

Recommended for: No one, especially aggressive, toy/food aggressive dogs. (I don’t even want to imagine.)

Who laughs hysterically every time these two particular dogs play this:  Sadly, me.

Why? Because the rules are:

  • Whatever you have is not as interesting as whatever the other one has.
  • Must not let the other know that you are secretly coveting and calculating how you will attempt to snatch away the item.
  • Bonus Points are awarded for the ability to snatch the other’s item and quickly return to your own and sit on it so that you have one to tease with and one to hide.

Some Strategies:

  • Chew the one item you were given (that you normally couldn’t give a **** about) as though it was what was on your Christmas list, delivered personally by Santa. This is to capture the attention of the other and develop a heightened demand.
  • If you fall for the first strategy and it is obvious that it worked on you, just admit it and go ahead and abandon your own item. Walk straight over and openly stare (from a safe-enough distance) at the one who is currently winning. Stare hard, don’t blink, and will the other one to give it up. Sometimes it works; the other one gets bored of being the champion.

THE single best strategy when you are hideously losing thus far:

  • Stop chewing. Stand up and act as bored as a DMV employee and casually walk to the front door.  Out of the blue, deliver the most shockingly, loud outburst of a bark as possible and begin to scratch at the front door. The poor, unsuspecting victim will suddenly rise and run to the door with you thus allowing you the advantage of knowing that you will dash back to their/HER bed and greedily snatch and openly, furiously, and cruelly chew on the coveted toy to upset your opponent so badly that they can’t think straight enough to understand that the process will work equally as well on the offender.

Note to originator of this amazing strategy, if you use this technique on me one more time in the middle of the night to Punk me out of bed for the purpose of letting you outside to use the restroom, only to turn around and run into the kitchen and paw at your food bowl because you’re having a snack attack (Hint: Your outfit DOES make you look chubby!), then I might decide to start playing that fun game where I pretend to throw balls into the bay for you to chase.  Respect is a two-way road, Man.

 

 

Ranger earns (and gets) an apology.

My dog barks.

Bark.

BarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBark

Not-so-surprisingly people who are not me are even less thrilled than I when he gets on a roll. In fact, they can get downright steamed up…(MOM).

Well Ladies and Germs,  I am a hear to howl it from my doorstep that e.v.e.r.y  dog indeed gets his DAYAYAYAY!

Let me see if I can recall the parting sweet words of praise that this unsung hero finally got to hear, “That’s a good boy, Ranger.” (Mom, 2011) The apology was not as clear to hear; it was mainly implied…even after many collection attempts on my part. I tend to think it says more about the person who can or cannot give a compliment than it does about the person (or dog) who might deserve it.

So, “check it” (I’m now Randy Jackson)… While staying with my mother the other night, I learned that a new neighbor moved in across the small lane from her. The man  wasn’t even settled in for more than a mere 3 hours when a fire truck, an ambulance, and a police car arrived and carted someone away from his place in the ambulance.  Via eavesdropping through our window (and being fortunate enough that he speaks at a volume like he’s coaching Little League), I learned that the ‘accident’ stemmed from a drunken brawl between this new guy and his ‘friends.’  It was during the drama that I commented to my mother that this 50-something, sunburned, loud boozer seemed dicey (code for ‘likely going to be the source of ongoing annoyance for my mother who craves stone-cold silence’).

That’s when she told me that, in fact, she had met him earlier in the day and that he boldly came over and introduced himself in a way that made her feel very uncomfortable (“HI THERE! I’M YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR! WANT A BEER?”). And, yes, he speaks in all caps.

On a parallel note, it is at approximately 5:30 p.m. when Ranger seems to enjoy a good bark like it’s a Cuban cigar from a private reserve. It’s nerve wrecking to my mother and annoying to me, but it IS predictable.

“Hmm!” I  thought in my head (as opposed to..?) “How about putting Ranger outside on the porch and letting him bark at whatever moves him (the neighbor)?”

And so it was.  “BarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBark” Every time the man either went in or out of his RV. Even as the man boldly tried to force himself onto other unsuspecting residents (i.e. ‘socialize’), Ranger demanded to be noticed and make himself the center of attention..”WOOF!” I peeked to see if Ranger was getting noticed. Check. At one point, Ranged managed even to stop the man’s loud, drunken bullsh***ng session with someone entirely and take full notice of ‘da dog.

The double-edged beauty of my K9 is that if he isn’t already your friend, he doesn’t go out of his way to solicit new friends. The harder a person tries to sweet talk him (especially if you are not a senior citizen woman), the more wild he barks.  I’ve appreciated this feature when solicitors come to the door (“What??! What? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you…the dog, you know. Bye.”) Ok, so the downside is that if he needed to be rescued, well…hopefully it would be by a senior citizen woman in a wheelchair.

For the first time, Ranger’s bark was a comforting sound to my mother. “Keep it up,” she said. “Let ‘er rip, Ranger!,” I cheered.

“Think you’ll be able to sleep well tonight?” I asked my normally fretting mother.

“I sure don’t think anybody will want to bother us if they think they have to get past Ranger first.”

“What? I can’t hear you. Did you say that Ranger’s bark is valuable??”

“Good boy, Ranger” she acknowledged.

“And what else?” I asked.

“What?”

“An apology for being annoyed with his practice barking–he has to stay in tune like you do with singing,” I pointed out.

“Yah, well…ok.  I’ll just record his voice and play it now and then to make it sound like he’s here.”

“But it’s his size and looks that achieve the total effect.”

Yah, whatever.

So, today (2 days later), I went by to visit Mom with Ranger and his little cowgirl friend, Elsie Mae. Elsie is small, white, and fluffy.

My mother was sitting outside enjoying the sunshine in her wheelchair. ‘Manchild’ was making himself right at home (and the center of attention) in front of my mother’s house drinking and playing a game of juvenile football toss with another like type.  Don’t we all pretty much  know what happens when  a football is informally thrown around people (especially people in wheelchairs who cannot easily get out of the way and are limited in their options as to where they can enjoy the outdoors? It will inevitably hit or scare someone.  Total shocker, right? And, you know how you feel when said person is your own mother.

It happened as I pulled the dogs out of the car. As predictable as Richard Simmons becoming more flamboyant by the year, the football hit my car (located about 3 feet from my mother) and went underneath it (“Heh, heh, WHOA! Heads up, folks! I’ll just come over and get it” yelled the socially deaf one.)

Before I knew it, he was walking toward us. Ranger assumed ‘the position’ and gave him his best performance of ‘This is a PRIVATE party, friend.” I backed him up by adding, “Wait! Stay there.  Let me get him into the car first. He’s not the friendly one.”

<Takes a bow>

I performed a convincing act of loading a barely restrained Ranger back into the car as the guy repeated, “Oh, he isn’t the friendly one.” I kept little Elsie with my mother.

A classic Good Cop; Bad Cop move. It worked. He carefully and quietly retrieved the ball and ended the game.

I whispered to my mother that due to current demand (and lack of prior proper appreciation), Ranger now charges $10/hour for his services. He likes cash. That golden bark and intense stare with a nice, stiff tail and rigid body posture is exquisite when desired.

She had a new appreciation for the formerly accused  “shedding parasite carrier.” I then mused aloud if it was safe for my “Golden Pipes” to be in her home. Surely I wouldn’t want to expose him to any potential parasites or chemicals that could cause him to fall ill. Mwah ahh ahhh. Victory is sweet.

I haven’t even come to the best part.  My mother’s favorite part of the day is reading everybody’s horoscope  (right before forcing us to listen to the obituaries). It’s also the time I tend to roll my eyes a lot and become semi-comatose. For the heck  of it, I asked “What sign is Ranger? What does his say?”

Turns out that he’s a Libra. And, I quote (from the San Diego Union Tribune) on the date of his first Bark-Ranger duty…

“The challenges of the day call for boldness. You bravely speak your mind, support the side you think is right, and facilitate justice. You’ll sleep soundly tonight knowing you’ve put in a solid day’s work.”

Priceless (and a little cosmically unnerving to a non believer).

Foxtails

It’s about that time. Foxtails are blooming. They are currently green in color, but they are starting to dry out to a wheat color. And when they do become dry they become a real danger to your pets.

Ever stuck your finger into the little holes of a Swiffer then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a one-way kind of deal. Those little teeth allow you to push them inward, but resist letting you get your finger unstuck. Ouch.

That’s exactly what foxtails do. They travel in one direction and they just keep on going.

As a groomer, some of the worst (and most common) cases I have ever seen are when foxtails go into the fur between the pads of a dog’s foot, then travel all the way through the foot to emerge from the other side. As you can imagine, this is very painful. Yet, pets have been brought to me in a matted state and the owners’ were not even aware that there was a problem.

In addition to pain and the possibility of infection, foxtails can also just as easily get lodged into your dog’s ear and or inside of his nose. I’m not sure what could specifically happen if a foxtail is capable of traveling up through soft tissue into your dog’s head, but I’m certain in cannot be good.

When I was young, our dog got one in his ear and we had to have it surgically removed. As I recall, the symptoms were constant head shaking. With a foxtail in the nose, I would imagine that some of the indications would be sneezing and/or rubbing of the nose, and possibly in a worst-case scenario blood coming from the nose.

If you suspect that you dog has a foxtail lodged in his/her nose, do go to your vet to have them ‘scoped.’ Your dog will likely need to be put under anesthesia to have this done.

With my current dog, I had worked on having him hold his head steady in my chin for examinations. Financially, this turned out to be a good use of my time. My dog, Ranger, was acting like he might have gotten a foxtail into his ear. Instead of requiring anesthesia, I was able to have him hold so steady that they were able to scope him very quickly. The cost? A whopping $30.

Stay safe out there!

$10,000 Dog

Before I acquired my boy, Ranger, I decided that I wanted to have a backup fund for any pet that I brought home.

Why?

  • Because I don’t think there is anything more heartbreaking than to own a pet and discover that something fixable is wrong with it, it’s urgent, and you cannot afford it. Insurance helps, but there are things like g. rooming costs, training, equipment, supplies, and fun activities. Just stuff that adds up.
  • As a business, I wanted to try to set an example because daily I am overwhelmed with sad cases of people who cannot afford my grooming services–even if I were to price them so low that I can’t earn a living. The owner may be able to afford the grooming once a year, but for many breeds this is not enough. The dog is often suffering because of this. I feel bad charging some people because I know if they are scraping to pay for grooming then they can’t afford vet care, premium foods, daycare, environment management tools (crates, baby gates, etc.)
  • How often do I hear that a person purchased a puppy from a pet store and it cost $1000? That is just the tip of the costs.  Even if someone were given a show dog, this is just the beginning.  So many people spend their money on that initial price and are shocked and resentful when they find out how much more is required. How many of us would dare to bring a horse home without having plenty of money for things like a barn, hay, equipment, a truck/trailer? For some reason, most of us think dogs just manage to work it out. They don’t. I would be thrilled if someone told me that they had set aside even $500 for their new pet. I wanted to go above and beyond.
  • One can peruse the “Pets” section on Craigslist, for example, and find an endless list of ads where people are selling their unwanted pets (or, more accurately, asking for “re-homing” fees). Some people will try to find a way to ask for the original purchase price. Dogs do not go up in value (unless it perhaps happens to be a dog trained by Karen Pryor).
  • I wanted to do something different. Instead of trying to sell a dog, how about if something happens to me and I can no longer care for mine, I have $10K to give to someone willing to care for him.
  • Think that’s insane? One of my best clients has legally named me as the guardian of their dog. They have committed $35,000 toward ensuring his good care. By their calculations, he will likely live another 10+ years. That’s approximately $3500/year to cover food, vet care, and anything else he needs. What a concept!
  • I have a guilty admission. I fell onto hard times after I acquired my dog. We no longer have our $10K fund for Ranger. However, I’m glad I had it at the time. Had it not been there, it  surely would have been more difficult to care for him than it was. Not all is lost, I have a tiny little seed of a savings account started for him again. A $10 deposit here, a $20 deposit there adds up. Ranger is 3 years old now. I’m sure we will need it at some point.

So, if you have a pet of any kind, I would encourage you to think about setting up an emergency plan + trust fund of sorts if you really care about your pet.  What is it that typically happens when a pet owner dies, must move, or has any other life change that does not allow them to care for their pet any longer? Check out the staggering number of ads on Craigslist, PetFinder, Animal Control, The Humane Society, rescues, etc. (I can’t bear to think of the possibilities of one of my pets ending up in a punishment-based home or, worse, in a research lab or dog-fighting ring). Give any pet you love and cherish the best possible chance of living well by:

  • Lining up a legal guardian, if possible.
  • Setting your pet up with a dowry or naming them in your will.
  • Teaching your dog excellent manners–this is every bit as essential as money. A well-mannered dog is adoptable; an expensive, ill tempered, untrained dog is not endearing and is usually discarded.

If it matters to you what becomes of your pet, do everything you can to set your dog up for a good life!