Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tips for dog walkers

My friend Judy laughed when I asked her to pose for photos that show how to hold a leash. “How simple is that? Who needs a photo?” Well, maybe nobody, but just in case…

Back when I was learning to train dogs professionally, I quickly realized that many dogs are stronger than me, that they see things to chase before I do, and that they can easily rip a leash right out of my hand in an instant. So I figured out how to better hang on and lessen the risk of a nasty accident.

First, stick your hand through the loop at the end of the leash. I want to add here that leather leashes are much softer and don’t burn your hands when a dog pulls.

Grasp the leash itself with your hand while it is still through the loop. Poor Tyson wants to know why he's on a leash if we don't get to go anywhere...

Now you have a good grip on the situation. The only risk is being pulled off your feet if the dog suddenly takes off. I recommend you pay careful attention if your canine client is likely to pull this stunt. You probably need more help than a good hold on the leash will provide.

No pull harnesses
My recent trip to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers annual conference here in San Diego introduced me to a multitude of so-called “no-pull” harnesses for dogs. I can see where these products would be handy for a pet sitter. After all, we are not being paid to train the client’s dogs.

Some of my clients provide a no-pull harness for their wannabe sled dogs. I’ve learned that every harness is different, and it takes a puzzle master to put most of them on correctly. Most still allow the dog to pull, he just doesn’t crush his trachea during the process.

If you’re going to be walking a dog every day, it is worth taking the time to teach the dog to walk properly on a leash, even if the owner hasn’t mastered this skill. It’s not easy to teach, and some dogs pull all their lives.

Next time…
It ain’t easy, but we’ll talk about how to teach a dog this vital skill.

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dog Daycare rules: To spay or not to spay?

I have wrestled with a decision for months. Most dog daycares and in-home boarding businesses do not allow unaltered dogs (meaning all dogs must be spayed or neutered). I have been lax with this requirement and now it has gotten me in trouble.

I’m not really into proclaiming myself the Pet Police. It’s a free country and I don’t think anyone should be forced to alter their pet. That being said, these dogs are not easy to have around in a group play setting. I have gradually weakened and allowed dogs under a year old come in even if they aren’t altered.

I should qualify my remarks and point out that these are my own observations, not proven scientific fact. Unneutered males are generally very active and pushy, jumping on all the dogs and humping everyone in sight while peeing on everything else. They don’t start fights; they are just agitated. Many of them pester and mount spayed females. Then the females turn around and get pretty nasty.

Unspayed females seem to be less tolerant of other dogs, especially other females.  

Nightmare scenario
This week one of my female canine clients showed up in heat. Worse, a ten-month-old intact puggle was coming to stay. I was mad at myself for getting into this mess, not at the customers. Determined dogs will jump gates and mate through a chain link fence. I had to put solid barriers between them. I decided to let the girl stay in my back bedroom and the puggle could cool his jets in the garage, where he loves napping in an open crate with his spayed female roommate. Then I can just switch out every few hours, letting one of them loose with the group.

Nightmare gone wrong
Great idea. But in the morning commotion of letting everyone out and fixing meals, I put Mr Puggle in the garage and forgot to close the dog door. About five minutes later, I walk out the back door with bowls of dog food, and the little girl races by with him hot on her heels. You can imagine what I said…

I have no idea if anything happened, but we’ll know for sure in a few weeks. I’m hoping that, since he was still pursuing her frantically, she hadn’t accepted his overtures. She’s never been bred.

I am totally disgusted with myself. Confessing to her owner was hard; I’m beating myself up for letting it happen. I can only say that if I dodge a bullet on this incident – or I guess I should say SHE dodges a bullet – that I will never let it happen again.

And now I understand why dog daycare owners make these rules…

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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.