Dogs Will Be Dogs

By Laura L. Benn
 What do we know about dogs? The more appropriate question is what do we think we know about dogs? The world of canines is a vast place populated with a wide variety of different breeds, backgrounds and circumstances all of which must be accounted for when trying to understand dog behaviour.
It may be time now to ask different questions and begin reframing people’s point of view about dogs, for the benefit of both species. Fabrications that people have been taught about dogs cause harm and do nothing to help us really understand these amazing animals.
Two Premises
Two premises should be considered; firstly, dogs are perfect at being dogs. Each one of us has a dog who is perfect at being a dog and perfect at being themselves. The problem that we often run into is not that their not perfect dogs, but rather that their not perfect pets.
The next premise is that dogs are incapable of abstract verbal conversations. What does this mean? In the most basic terms it means that there is a profound difference between people jargon and dog jargon. For example, a saying that has been used for years and years in reference to dogs is that they are “willing to please.” Willing to please is an abstract thought and therefore not possible in a dog’s mind. To a dog this sentiment, and the human meaning behind it, means nothing.

How Dogs Think

Dogs cannot have abstract verbal conversations. They are visual and physical creatures. So understanding this when we think of dogs changes how we approach their behaviourial issues. What do we know about dog cognition so far? We know this; nobody knows exactly what is going on in a dog’s head. No one knows what a dog is thinking. We are simply guessers, including myself.. All I can do is look at a dog’s overt behaviour and try to guess what is going on in their head.
Nobody will ever truly know what is going on in a dog’s head, because of the fact that we are unable to have complex, abstract verbal conversations with them. In my experience, people are taught to assume things about dogs that do not service dogs and our relationships with them. For instance, the presumption that dogs can validate what is right and what is wrong is a major misconception in society. Dogs live in the present. They do not think about the future and therefore cannot rationalize the effects their present actions may have upon events that are yet to happen. Right and wrong are human conceptions and we must remember (no matter how much we love our dogs) that dogs are dogs, who will do dog things.

Mislabeled Aggression
Another common misconception often exuded by the media is that dogs should be adaptable to any situation without any trouble. Do you think that dogs must be adaptable to any situation? Is this possible? What problems could be created by this assumption?
Put yourself in your puppy’s paws. You take your puppy to the veterinarian for the first time. He walks into a waiting room where there are all kinds of new people, dogs and cats. Some of the other dogs are shaking or barking. It is loud, crowded and bombarded by foreign smells. Chances are your puppy will enter a stressed state, especially if he has not been prepared to be handled by people other than his owner. Then he goes into the vet’s office and is poked and prodded without explanation. Would you be adjusting to this situation without any trouble?
By Laura L. Benn
The next time puppy goes to the vet his prior experience tells him this is not a fun place to be. He walks in already stressed and may no longer able to make good assessments about whether something is a threat or not. Some dogs become worse with each visit because of this repetitive stressful pattern and they become difficult to handle while being examined. Some may even require a muzzle and are labeled as ‘aggressive.’ But is it aggression or is it defensiveness? This is where we humans need to step back and consider the situation from an instinctual perspective. You will not be able to reason with the dog. You will not be able to take him to one side and explain in detail why the vet is taking blood samples and shining bright lights in his eyes. All the dog knows is the fear he remembers and as a result his instincts tell him to become defensive.
It is important not to punish your dog if he is being defensive due to fear, because punishment makes fear worse. Instead, you need to address the situation in terms a dog will understand. Prevention is the best method and the best way to prevent fear memories from forming is to create positive associations with an otherwise stressful situation.
Prior to that very first visit to the vet, teach your puppy how to be handled by new people. Socialize him so going out to a place filled with other dogs and people will not be scary, but rather exciting! Give him treats while waiting for the vet, so that he remembers a positive feeling when in the waiting room. Make sure your veterinarian takes the time to allow puppy to get used to their presence in the examination room. These are things that a dog can understand. When the next visit rolls around, repeat these actions and in time the inevitable trip to the vet will be associated with positivity in your dog’s mind.

Being Submissive
Another misconception is that dogs should be submissive to all people. Is this reasonable? There is a theory that the majority of people want a Golden Retriever, because they are by nature very accepting of everyone around them. Of course, we all want our dogs to be well-liked and friendly, but it is a bit much to think that dogs should automatically bow down to everyone they come into contact with. Why, you may ask? Well, again, we need to think like a dog.
Let’s go back to the vet’s office. Recently, a client’s puppy had a terrible itching problem so they took him to the vet and had him examined. It was decided that a scraping needed to be done. While they were examining little Jack, a tech came in, put him on his back and restrained him.
And what do you think little Jack did? He started trying to defend himself. In order to continue with the scraping, Jack was held tighter and his legs were pulled out straighter so that they could scrap his groin area. What did Jack do next? He really started struggling while making growling sounds and then started snapping.
The tech looked at the owner and said, “Boy do you have an aggressive dominant dog here. You had better do something quick about it or you’re going to have all kinds of problems.”
The owner, however, retorted that their treatment of Jack was not appropriate and made the decision to take them to another vet’s clinic.
The fact of the matter is that Jack, although generally sweet of nature and friendly, felt threatened by that particular staff and naturally felt the need to defend himself. Flipping a dog onto his back is forcing them into a submissive state, rather than earning respect and thus earning their submissive compliance. To the dog the entire interaction was threatening and dangerous and Jack’s animal instincts reacted accordingly. Of course, we do not want our dogs to be bossy or defensive, but it is unreasonable to presume dogs will naturally submit to anything we want. Dogs will do what they perceive to be best for them. If they feel threatened, they will react to that. It is our job to understand a dog’s point of view and control situations in ways they will comply to.
A Dog’s Emotions

Dogs lead and experience rich emotional lives. As a matter of fact dogs share the same core emotions we have. But people often confuse our emotional similarities with rationality. As mentioned earlier, dogs cannot have complex, abstract thoughts. They do however have emotional responses to their surroundings and things they encounter. We must learn to navigate this difference in order to relate to our dogs and help them be the best dog they can be. One of the best things you can do for your dog is to prevent fear memories from forming in the first place, whether you are at the vet’s office or someplace else. Positive association is a powerful tool and key to teaching dogs good behaviourial habits when faced with difficult situations.
When working with dogs we need to change the emotional responses in order to change the behavioral responses. We have more in common with dogs than we do not have in common with dogs. My hope is to bring about a better and truthful understanding of dogs with the latest updated and remodeled information so that dogs can finally be seen as what they are DOGS.
By Dianne Legare

Daisy Mae the Hound Mix

Photo Courtesy of Hopeful Hearts Rescue
Daisy Mae is the latest addition to Hopeful Hearts Rescue. She was picked up as a stray, who remained unclaimed at the pound even though she was a glowing mother-to-be. As you can see from her beautiful photograph, she was about ready to ‘pop!’ at any moment. Yes, we said ‘was,’ because early this week she gave birth to nine gorgeous healthy puppies!

Daisy Mae is estimated to be about three-years-old. She is very playful, very sweet and adores playing with other dogs. She also loves spending time with people and giving them all of her affection. Her foster mother says, “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Now, Daisy will not be ready for adoption until after her puppies are raised (pssst! The puppies will need loving forever homes too!), but if you have space in your home and your heart for an adorable hound-mix, please let us know! For more information, please click here.

The Stray Cat Strut

By Mike Golec
For over a year, all I talked about was how I wanted a female kitten that I could name Buttercup, but despite looking into different options it never seemed to work out. Until she showed up on my doorstep.

Now the most important part of adopting a stray is making sure they are actually a stray with no home. There are some obvious signs to watch out for, like if the cat in question is wearing a collar or if there are posters up in the neighbourhood looking for the cat. If you see either of these, then the moral and responsible thing to do is to return the cat to its rightful owner. However, strays often look generally uncared for. Their fur is dirty. They look underweight and will voraciously consume any food you give them. They might even have some wounds that haven’t been attended to, like my newest addition, Buttercup, who had a small open wound behind one of her ears.
Buttercup (yes, I stuck with my dream feline name) had been sighted lingering around my place on several occasions. Pitying her small thin frame and large pleading eyes, I began to feed her on the balcony. Then I gradually tried to get her used to my scent and presence. In short, I tried to make friends with her.
One day in early December, Buttercup was shivering on the balcony while she was eating. I decided right then and there that that would be the day she would officially be invited inside to stay. But simply open your doors isn’t enough when adopting a stray in need. It’s very important to take the ordinary measures you would when adding a new cat to the household. I sequestered my other two cats (Link and Thor) into a different room so that Buttercup could sniff around, explore and adjust without being stressed.
I then made sure to swap out items from each room so the cats could smell each other. They had minimal contact under the door. Eventually, when the time was right, I let Thor and Link out. Of course, there was some hissing and growling at first and in most cases there will be, so do not be alarmed. Territories need to be established and a pecking order created. Cats are remarkable creatures and they will get used to each other eventually. It just takes some time and patience. After all, nobody really likes change that much.
However, before I let Buttercup meet Link and Thor up close and personal, I did a quick check to see if she had any ear mites (something I have previously encountered and was rather unpleasant). Strays can potentially carry a variety of things, from fleas to serious illnesses which is why it’s important to take your stray into the vet as soon as you can to determine a clean bill of health. Buttercup had fleas (no big surprise there) but was thankfully healthy otherwise. Just keep in mind that the health of your cats, the new addition and your previous tenants, should be of foremost concern. You must know the risks before introducing your cats to a stray, so once again a trip to the vet is crucial.
Some strays may not always take to being around humans. Thankfully Buttercup had no problem. By the end of one day, she was snuggling on the couch right next to me. I was lucky and ended up with the cat I had been talking about for over a year. And she was lucky to find a quiet little balcony with people who would take her in, care for her and love her unconditionally. Especially in these dreary winter months, it is important to think about the animals out there that aren’t so lucky and need a warm loving home. Your new cat may not be that far away.
By Allison Vorstenbosch

The Importance of Trimming Nails

By Shirley Bittner
 Have a question, query or quandary? Write to us at info@pawsh-magazine.com and we’ll track down an expert to answer it for you! How cool is that?
Q: Dear Lisa, I am a new dog owner and have had my puppy (a Lhasa Apso named Winston) for a whole year now. Before getting Wilson I did lots of research on puppy/dog care, including house training, grooming, diet, exercise, training in general, toys, leashes, the works! However, I forget to learn about Winston’s nails. They now need trimming as they are quite long and although not quite curled are beginning to get that way. However, I’ve just learned that as the nail grows the quick part grows too. So my question is, how do I trim my dog’s nails if the quick has grown with the nail? Am I looking at a trip to the vet? I only want what is best for Winston. Thank you! (Harry from Winnipeg.)
A: Hi Harry,
Winston is a very lucky pup to have you as his owner. You’re trying to give him the best life possible, and a dog can’t ask for more. You’ve done everything right, you’ve just overlooked a minor detail—the nails.
You’re correct when you state the quick/vein grows along with the nail. It’s the ability to get the vein to recede back into the nail that allows to the nail to be shortened and kept at the proper length. The nails should be kept as short as possible for good traction and maintenance of proper foot health.
Not too late to start the training though, for both you and him. The key to a successful nail trim is to be able to trim a non-moving object/nail. This means that there has to be a bit of training for Winston to understand that he must be calm and compliant when you hold his feet and touch his nails. Get him used to you tapping the nails with the palm of your hand without twitching or pulling. Then move onto tapping the nails with the nail cutters themselves. No cutting yet, just desensitizing Winston to the sensation without any drama or trauma. Reward when he’s relaxing and accepting. When he’s compliant, then you can actually start cutting/trimming.
Starting with the rear feet may be helpful too. Also, try trimming his nails after he’s had a long play session so that he may be a bit tired and less likely to wriggle. When cutting the nail, the vein is your guideline. You should be trying to cut as close as possible to it without cutting into the vein itself, as nicking the vein in any capacity is extremely painful for any pooch. Getting close to it is what will force the vein to recede, and by its recession, the nail can then be trimmed shorter. Frequent trimming, once (or even twice) a week, will allow you to keep the vein from growing out again and you’ll be able to get the nail back to its proper healthy length.
Be sure you have the proper tools, either a plier or guillotine type nail cutter, and always have some styptic powder (Kwik-Stop) on hand, just in case you accidentally cut too short and draw blood.
If you realize that the widest/thickest part of the nail (backside of nail) is actually representing the vein, and the thinner/narrower, hook portion is the dead part, then it’s easy to see where you should be trimming. Always cut right in front of the widest section of the nail and you will always be in front of the vein and not “quick” the nail. These diagrams may help you visualize where you need to trim. You may also feel more comfortable with filing the nails down instead of trimming.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Lisa Day has over 30 years experience in grooming and regularly conducts grooming seminars and workshops. She is a certified IPG Master Groomer as well as an IPG certified grooming evaluator and is currently the coordinator of the Professional Grooming Program at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Lisa has worked with poodles in the sport of competitive obedience for over 20 years in both the US and in Canada. Her current canine partner, GMOTCh Tudorose Smooth Operator RE AM.CDX Am., better known as Shaver, is the first Standard Poodle in the history of Canadian competitive obedience to have achieved the highest title offered in obedience — Grand Master Obedience Trial Champion (GMOTCh).
Some of Lisa’s additional accomplishments in the field of obedience with poodles include:
  • #1 Poodle in Canada 2010
  • #1 Non-Sporting in Canada 2010
  • #3 nationally ranked dog in Canada 2010
  • Winner of the Poodle Club of America’s High in Trial 2010

And the Winner Is…!!!

For the past month you have been voting for one of the nominees for Pet of the Year 2010. Thanks to your participation in this little contest, we can now announce our lucky winner! A pooch who is described time and time again by friends and family alike as an absolute angel (in a fur coat, of course). A pup who had a hard start in life as a bedraggled, matted, petrified mop of fur. A sweet tempered Wheaten Terrier mix who was adopted by her doting parents, Michele and Joel Lonkey, from Florida Little Rescue.
But who is this pooch? Who is the winner?

It’s BAILEY! Voted Pet of the Year 2010!!
Congratulations sweet girl! We hope you enjoy your prize of four custom designed pet ID tags from The Tag Studio!