Brady the basset hound made himself a nice soft toy pillow to catch some shut eye on. His little 10m old basset hound “sister” Rosie is gleefully trying to sneak the toys out from under his head as he sleeps.
Brady is not amused.
But I am. Their dynamic is hysterical.
I don’t often sit for multiple dogs from the same family. When I do I love being able to observe how their interactions and relationship transfer to my home. Brady has stayed with us countless times over the years, this is the first time for Rosie and for the 12 year old chihuahua in their family now as well. Fun long weekend for us! 🙂
I remember when Zora was little I’d say to my husband “what is she doing?” He go check, sure enough she’d be thinking of mischief. He would ask, “How did you know that!?”
The sound of puppy of course
There are distinct sounds that mean all is well
The sound of teeth in nylabones
The sound of teeth on antlers
The sound of teeth on soft toys
The sound of balls being bounced
The sound of dog play
The sound of sleeping
And sounds that mean not is all well
The sound of teeth on rug
The sound of teeth on chair rungs
The sound of teeth on couch cushions
The sound of teeth on leashes
The sound of teeth on slippers
The sound of pitter patter feet moving the wrong way down the hall
The sound of puppy by the back door
The sound of puppy slithering under the tv stand
The sound of puppy in the closet
The sound of feet on the kitchen cabinets
The sound of adult dog harassment
The sound of silence that is not sleeping puppy
Having Willy here reminds me fondly of the sounds of puppy.
I think it’s been nearly a year since I had a baby puppy here. This weekend we get Willy! and OH MY GOSH is he cute!
Willy belongs to a couple I know from agility, and he’s a little over 4 months old. At only 10#s he’s a peanut, a super cute smart one at that. He’s likely some kind of herding breed mix, maybe some spitz type dog in there too, who knows. Their 2 older dogs are staying with their house sitter, but they felt Willy was too young for that so he gets to spend the next few days at Camp Katrin. Yay for us!
Within moments of being dropped off he was following the big dogs around, practicing recalls to me for a treat, and being super social with my mum and niece who happened to also be visiting.
He’s currently experimenting with what behaviors make Zora come back into his ‘zone’ (he’s on a leash attached to my foot) to play and what behaviors make her leave his ‘zone.’ He’s realizing barking, whining, jumping, pawing, humping and biting all make her leave or stay out of his zone. Quietly rolling around on the floor, play bows, and wiggling all make her come back and stay in his zone. He’s a quick study this one. LOL
The dogs and I have been on a training hiatus. Essentially since we returned from Championships.
I have a list of things I could be working on with them. But its stayed a list. There’s been no action on my part.
Instead of training, some things I simply am ignoring, some managing, some avoiding.
We all seemed to need a break. Zora wasn’t asking to do fun stuff in the afternoons. Both were ignoring their toys for the most part. Petting and sleep were about all they were asking for.
We’ve been keeping to our usual walking routine, but that’s about it for much activity with the dogs.
Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes just snuggling on the couch together is time better spent.
But yesterday the dogs and I had fun playing with the large downed tree branch still in the middle of our yard. Practicing their circus tricks as I call them. Balancing, jumping, spinning, playing around and laughing.
Then Zora starting asking to do the dog walk and a-frame, and for me to kick her Jolly Ball. Tom wanted to do recall games.
I think our training hiatus has ended. Time to get back to practice. Fun times ahead!
Tom has recently learned 2 new cues. It makes me happy he is happy and learning new things.
Cue 1: the bling sound the Lyft app makes
I’m rather late to the Lyft and Uber game, but a short time ago finally began using the services as another way to get around. The Lyft app when I tap the button to find a ride driver makes this little bling sound that my phone makes at no other time. Tom’s figured it out. Yesterday I tapped the app to find me a ride to an appointment, Tom immediately got up and then proceeded to follow me around, nudging me, “Let’s go. Let’s go. Aren’t we going? Let’s go!” as I put my shoes on, put the corgi in her crate, got my backpack, and put his harness on. I’m glad he’s still so excited to go places, but sheesh dude it’s not like I’m going to leave you home.
Cue 2: my violin case at the front door
Apparently Tom really enjoys fiddle class. Which I’m thrilled about as I really enjoy fiddle class as well! Last night when I placed my violin case by our front door in prep for getting ready to go to fiddle class, Tom immediately got up from is dog bed in the living room and proceeded to follow me around, nudging me, “Let’s go. Let’s go. Aren’t we going? Let’s go!” as I put on my shoes, put the corgi in her crate, got my back pack and put his harness on. Guess he likes musical accompaniment during his fiddle class nap.
Nice to know he still enjoys going out and doing his job, and teaching himself new tricks. “Let’s go, let’s go. Aren’t we going?!”
giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.“he remained loyal to the government”
synonyms: faithful, true, devoted;
Are dogs loyal to humans?
Some dogs are. I think many aren’t. I think people have this idea in their head that dogs are such pure and good beings that they forgive us our indiscretions, love us unconditionally, and other such garbage. Yes, I said it, that’s garbage.
Dogs are animals. With their own needs, wants, feelings. If those aren’t met, most will do what they can independent of our human needs, wants, feelings to meet them.
For example, I’ve met a tremendous number of dogs who dislike being touched. Who shun their owners. Who ignore that their owners really want to touch them, sit with them, etc. Tremendous number of dogs who when life gets stressful walk away. Who when their owner is feeling sick or down, the dog is no where to be found. Only when the owner returns to ‘normal’ does the dog want to interact. I’ve met dogs who don’t trust their owners, I’ve met dogs who when on deaths door will refuse to eat for their owner yet take food from near strangers. And that’s completely fine! Sure the owners feel emotionally hurt and tell me, “But I feel like he/she doesn’t love me.” Maybe the dog doesn’t love you in the way you imagined a dog would display love towards you, but does that mean he doesn’t love you? Maybe the dog doesn’t love you, but do you love her in the way she needs?
Are those dogs loyal? Is loyalty a one way street?
So many people have this idea of Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, forgetting that those were characters. Fictitious constructs. Characters played by actors. Yes the actors were animals, but they were still actors. Lassie wasn’t real. Rin Tin Tin doesn’t exist. Heck Lassie was played by a string of male collies! In the story line Lassie is female. Sure there are dogs that might look like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin as they are collies or german shepherd dogs. Who might be trained to such a high degree, and have such a great working relationship with their handler or owner that they act very close to such. But Lassie and Rin Tin Tin are still imaginary creatures. Dogs don’t usually act like them without a lot of outside support.
Are my dogs loyal?
Tom I would say very much yes. Tom is loyal to me. Sometimes people joke at me they are going to steal him from me. I tell them, “Good luck. Go ahead and try.” Tom won’t even go outside to toilet with my husband, who he adores. He can’t be bribed with steak. We’ve tried. If I’m not present, Tom will constantly face the direction I walked away ignoring all else until I return including food, toys and attention from others. If I’m too sick to get out of bed, he won’t leave my side until I’m able to get up and take him outside. If he’s on lead and I need to move away from him, I have to tell him to down stay before I hand his leash to a trusted friend or family member or else Tom will drag them with all of his might to follow me, and when he puts his mind to getting to me Tom is really really strong. If a door or gate happens to be open that isn’t supposed to be open, Tom finds me and then shows me what is amiss. So yes, I’d say Tom is loyal to me to a near fault. Tom will forgo meeting his own needs do a degree in the face of mine. Meaning I have to be really conscious of that and often modify what I’m doing to ensure his needs are met in the best way possible.
Zora, now her Zora trusts me. But is she loyal to me? As long as I’m doing a good job meeting her needs in the way she needs then I’d say sure, she’ll be loyal to me. I read an article recently about some court case where 2 parties were fighting over a dog. The judge decided to “let the dog decide” by having each party call the dog and see who the dog went to. I thought this was ridiculous and stupid, and highly unlikely to be a true test of a dog’s loyalties. My husband and I joked that if we put Zora in such a situation, she’d probably go to him when he called in part because of the recall game we play a lot with her, but then when I walked away and she had to stay with him, she go, “Wait wait!! No no no!! I didn’t know what I was choosing, what was a stake! I want her back!!” as I am the one in our relationship that actively meets the majority of Zora’s daily needs. But if the chips were down and it was a matter of her choosing between meeting her own needs and meeting mine, I’m fairly certain in most situations she’d work to meet her needs over mine.
In my experience, I’d say Tom is an atypical dog. Zora is much more typical of the average dog. Tom is really one of the most non dog like dogs I know. Yet he’s the dog that so many people seem to have in their heads as ordinary. He’s not. Zora is more ordinary in terms of where her loyalties lie. Like for many people, it’s take care of Zora first, then go down the line.
Do you feel your dog is loyal to you? Why? Or how so?
I’m having a bit of a sensory moment. Ok more than a moment. A sensory few days.
Beau, stop breathing on me.
But, Miss Katrin how will I know you love me if I’m not Right Here?!
Beau, get out of my face. Stop. Breathing. On. Me!
I get up and move away.
Whining now. Getting even closer.
But, Miss Katrin. How will I know you love me if I’m not RIGHT HERE?!
Beau, stop whining and stop breathing on me. I’m having a day.
But, Miss Katrin. How will I know you love me if I’m not Right Here?!
Beau, how about right now I don’t love you in my face?
What?! You don’t LOVE ME?!
Ok, ok, I’m sorry. I do love you. (I pet him and remind him I really do love him.) Just can I love you from 2 feet away?
Harrumph. Fine. I will lie right here at your feet. 2 feet you said. Here are your 2 feet. See, I’m not touching you. Shoes don’t count.
It’s gonna be a day. I can feel it already. Gonna be A Day. Sigh.
“My dogs are horrible when people come to the door. Barking, jumping! It’s chaos. And really embarrassing. What can I do?”
I get this question a lot. A lot. I was asked it just yesterday in fact. The good news is there is lots we can do.
Well, first is figure out what your dog is exactly doing and when in relation to the door. Is it when the doorbell rings? Someone knocks? The screen door opens? A car door slams? A package drops? Is it only certain people? Or everyone regardless? Does your dog do the same or similar behaviors when you come in the door as well? All of the above? Only some of the above?
Notice all of the behaviors the dog is doing. Is it bark and retreat? Is it bark and charge? Is it a fearful bark or an excited one? Is there any urination? Does body posture change? What is body posture before, during and after? How long does it take for your dog to disengage or settle back down? How does your dog approach the door and the guests? Does your dog come close enough to be touched or stay out of reach? What happens when the person stops touching the dog? Or when they continue to touch the dog? And so on.
And figure out what your dog is trying to accomplish with the behaviors. Are they excited and thrilled you have people coming in the house? Are they afraid and trying to scare the people away? Are they unsure? Does it depend on who is there? And so on.
Then once you have all of that data consider how you can create a training, behavior and management plan to enable you to decrease the chaos and increase calm and safety around the door. There is no one size fits all for such a plan. There are too many factors to consider. A dog who finds static behaviors stressful and is nervous about people coming in the door would require a vastly different plan to be successful vs a dog who wants to be touched by people coming in the door and has little body awareness.
Regardless of those above answers, most effective is creating an environment where you aren’t in any rush to actually answer the door. And managing the environment so that you don’t end up in the situation where you feel pressure to open the door. A problem people often run into is they themselves get flustered or rush or move quickly to answer the door “Someone is here I must open the door!” and the dogs start feeding off of that and the arousal levels increase from there, “Someone is here! Someone is here!” When you have the space and time to practice the desired behavior you can then effectively be consistent. When you feel pressure to get the door open then you are more likely to degrade the criteria and set your dog up for failure.
For me personally, I handle the challenge of ‘pressure getting the door open for the person’ a couple of ways.
1. If someone rings the bell or knocks on the door, I don’t answer it. Anyone who is knocking or ringing the bell is not someone I want to deal with. We actually have a little sign on the door for people to not knock or ring the bell and it works. One of my very good awesome friends gave it to us as a gift. Yet another reason she is one of my very good awesome friends. It works so well that people have told me they stopped by unannounced, read the sign and were afraid to knock or ring the bell, they happened to not have their phone and so they walked away to go get their phone. Those responses actually make me happy.
2. People who I am expecting or who I would want to talk to/greet all know to either call or text before arriving. My little door sign also reminds people to do this, again if they don’t have my number they likely aren’t someone I actually want to talk with. Occasionally my sisters somehow think I don’t know they are there (I always know they are there!) because of course the dogs aren’t barking, and I’m slightly delayed in getting the door open. Instead of calling they knock once. They get a very annoyed me when I finally open the door.
3. Because people give me notice when they are here or that they are on their way I can then structure the environment to best fit the dogs I currently have in the house before I go anywhere near the front door. I can cue them to go to their bed, I can put certain ones behind gates or in crates or on the deck, I can make sure I have some treats at the ready, I can put ones who need it on leash, etc. I have the power to set the dogs up for success. Communication gives me options and the chance to create an environment where the desired behavior for the dogs when people come in the house is most likely to happen.
4. Because anytime someone rings the bell or knocks nothing exciting actually happens, those aren’t a trigger for my dogs. They don’t associate such events with anything exciting happening. So they don’t get excited, they really don’t even care, what reason would they have to? Seriously the doorbell rings and they don’t even get up. Neither do I. On the other hand I have had dogs in the past learn that if I ended a phone call with “ok see you in a minute” someone was soon to arrive which created a whole other bunch of behaviors of mine to be aware of!
What strategies have you found helpful in setting your dog and guests up for success at the door?
“Dog has sensory overload on walks” is a search term that landed someone at this blog. It made me happy and sad at the same time to find that in the search. Happy that someone was seeking answers and sad that a dog and owner were experiencing that. I don’t know if the person found a clear answer so I thought I’d write a blog about some ways to help dogs experiencing sensory overload on walks.
As regular readers know, sensory concerns are something I’m intimately familiar with. Way back when my now husband and I were dating, I came up from work one evening incredibly drained, exhausted and sad. He asked how work had gone and I had had a rough emotionally intense day filled with dogs experiencing sensory overload and the various behavioral fall outs from that. He had a light bulb moment, finally realizing a part of the reason I did my job is because I can empathize on a personal level with what sensory overwhelm is like.
So for that lovely owner seeking how to help his or her dog struggling with sensory overload on walks here are some ideas:
1. Good on you for recognizing your dog is struggling! And good on you for recognizing the sensory intense environments you are walking in are a contributing factor! That’s a big step!!
2. One suggestion to start with is give your dog’s sensory system a break for a couple of weeks. When one’s cup is overflowing you need a good solid break to allow stress levels to decrease. I used to tell clients metaphorically speaking ‘keep the dog in a closet for 2 weeks.’ I didn’t mean a literal closet, but meant to keep life close to home, sticking to low stress activities, manage the environment to prevent escalations in stress level or arousal, practice low key mental and physical exercises in you dog’s safe comfort zones, etc. Give the dog’s nervous system a break and chance to chill for a while.
3. While in the break and chill period, assess the environments you had been walking your dog in carefully. And think about ways you could shift or change. Does your schedule allow you to shift when you walk, to a time when there is less going on outside? Could you change where you walk, even if it means getting in the car and driving to a less active environment? Are there specific things in the walking environments that are stressing your dog, and can those change, shift, or be avoided at all? Could you change the length of time you walk? What factors can you contribute to the walking environments causing your dog sensory overload, and what can you do change, eliminate or address them?
4. Think about what your dog does for fun. When left to their own devices, how would your dog prefer to spend their time? Do they enjoy sniffing? Do they enjoy playing with toys? Do they enjoy racing around the back yard? Do they enjoy hunting squirrels? Do they enjoy playing with you? Do they enjoy barking? What does your dog do to de-stress, and just have fun? Does your dog have fun?
5. Think about how you could incorporate the ways your dog prefers to have fun into your daily routine. Are there ways those activities could be incorporated into walks to aid your dog? Either before, after or during the walk? And think about the question, “Are walks fun for my dog?” and “Why are we taking walks?” It’s a-ok to not take your dog on walks. If walks are stressing the heck and beyond out of your dog, it’s totally ok to find other ways to mentally and physically meet their exercise needs. If you live in a place where walks must happen (such as an apartment or urban environment) really go back to #3 and try to think outside the box and go down to #9 (ok really, everyone go down to #9, it’s a great suggestion, one most likely to have short and long term success).
6. Think and assess any other factors that may be contributing to your dog’s sensory overload both during walks and not on walks. Is your dog comfortable with the gear you are using to walk them? Are there stresses at home adding to your dog’s sensory overload? Does your dog spend portions of his or her day barking and becoming aroused at noises or sights outside? Does your dog become stressed in the back yard or in the house and when or why? Did your routine recently change? Or did you have workmen or visitors at the house recently? Has your dog’s eating or drinking habits changed? Have there been any recent weather events or changes that are contributing to your dog’s sensory stress? Is it a season change? Is there any chance of medical concerns impacting your dog’s ability to tolerate sensory stress? (always, always, always rule out medical concerns first when seeking to address behavioral concerns. Consult with a behavior literate veterinarian)
7. Once you’ve given your dog a chill break period, and looked at various ways to modify the who, what, where, when, how and why of your walks try incorporating some of those into your walks. Take walks at the pace your dog is comfortable, use as long a leash as you safely can so your dog has some freedom to sniff, and move around and gradually assimilate sensory information. Keep the walks short, you want to avoid pushing your dog past their threshold, and be sure to give your dog a good de-stress period after the walk. If your dog is willing to eat on your walks, take a variety of food they enjoy and vary how your deliver it, at various break points on your walk toss some of the food on the ground and let your dog sniff around to find it all. Take break points on your walk, even if your dog seems to be handling the environment take breaks. Give them a chance to stop and sniff and think and just hang if they are willing. Some dogs respond very well to deep pressure, if your dog is such try taking massage breaks where you slowly breathe and praise in a quiet slow voice as you massage or pet your dog in deep long strokes. Some dogs enjoy deep pressure so much they respond positively to a compression vest such as a ThunderShirt or a weighted vest such as a dog backpack (follow veterinary guidelines on weight limits, usually are based on % of your dog’s body weight). Be mindful of the surroundings yourself helping to anticipate any thing that might additionally stress your dog and advocating for your dog (ex: you hear or see a large truck coming, encourage your dog to move further away or sniff in the grass; you realize your dog just calmly walked past the house were the day before a dog had barked at her, praise her and give her a chill break; you see your neighbor and their dog up ahead, you turn down a side street to avoid them, or if your dog finds greeting that neighbor enjoyable and helps in de-stress, ask your neighbor if your dog can greet them. etc) and stay connected to your dog, use your senses to help remind your dog you are present with them. Talk to them, move with them, stay visually connected, show interest in what they are interested in (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve encouraged students to crouch down and investigate the thing on the ground their dog thinks is clearly awesome, or to show their dog something they think their dog might find interesting, be a part of sharing the awesome. If your dog has a history of resource guarding things they find awesome, do not investigate the awesome with them. And again see #9) so often people go silent and dead at the end of the lead, instead let your dog know you are in this with them!
8. Remember even if your dog is coping with the sensory stresses well, stress is still adding up. Think of your dog as a bathtub with a slightly (or in some cases more than slightly) clogged drain. Stress is water in the bathtub. Without enough time for the tub to drain of water (stresses), it will eventually overflow (sensory meltdown or shutdown). While the tub is filling the dog is still coping and may appear “ok”, they really aren’t. Give them breaks to help give your doggie bathtub time to keep draining the level of stress to below overflowing. Remember sometimes things we find very positive can be some of our largest stresses, and that if you asked someone to describe how their body responds when they are feeling excited and when feeling anxious, the descriptions are often very similar. Consider those when you do your mental tally of the sensory stresses you dog has experienced up to that point.
9. Consult the advice, feedback and expertise of an experienced, credentialed expert in animal behavior. They can help assess your dog’s behaviors, tailor a behavioral plan specific to your pet and aid you in support throughout the work you do together. CAAB and IAABC have some excellent resources for seeking out professional assistance.