Seeing Red – What to do If Your Dog’s in a Fight

Last week I was walking 3 brothers that I walk every day.  As we rounded a corner, 2 large off leash dogs approached (not in a polite manner, I might add) and one started acting aggressively.  It only took about 5 seconds for a serious fight to break out between one of the off leash dogs and one of the dogs I was walking.  With 5 dogs in the mix (3 on leashes held by me!) – things could have escalated to insanity pretty quickly.

It doesn’t really matter the back story…your dog is in a fight with another dog.  What do you do?

Leash Clip Art

Step 1 – Don’t panic (or fake it ’til you make it)

“Panicking” doesn’t necessarily mean running around in circles, screaming like a lunatic, waving your hands above your head.  “Panicking” in this context is any behavior out of the ordinary that your dog will take notice of.  For us gals…this often means raising our voices an octave and getting that squeaky, desperate quality.  It could also mean shifting our weight back and forth or trying to run.  It could really be anything that your dog is going to pick up on and interpret as danger! this other dog means us harm.  

You must stay calm.  Your dog is already “in the red” and is not thinking normally.  If your thoughts start to go all wonky – no one is thinking properly.  And when no one is thinking properly – that’s when the situation will spiral out of control.

(“Fake it ’til you make it” is hard…but not as hard as “Don’t panic”.  It is just a reminder that while on the inside your heart might be racing and you seriously feel like you are about to loose your lunch – the most important this is that you project that calm energy that Cesar Millan is always talking about.  The dogs won’t know the difference!)

Step 2 – Trust no one (no dog)

I know. I know.  This is a really horrible thing to say.  Let me explain – in this situation, your dog is 99% wild animal and 1% sweet creature that you know and love.  Your dog’s brain has undergone a change and your dog is literally not your dog.  (Haven’t we all seen sibling dogs that get along perfectly well snap at each other when worked up?)

DO NOT put any part of your body in-between fighting dogs (unless you are prepared to have that body part sustain a dog bite.)  DO NOT think that your dog will recognize that it is your hand/leg/torso and refrain from biting you.  In this aggravated state – your dog cannot determine friend from foe.  While you still think of your dog as a friend…at this point EVERYONE is the enemy to your dog.  By not trusting your dog in this situation – you will avoid blood and heartache.  (Feelings tend to get hurt when your own dog bites you.)

Step 3 – Give direction (to humans )

The whole reason I am writing this post is because of this step.  Reread the situation I described at the beginning of this post, or here is a recap: a dog fight has erupted between my dog (on leash) and neighbor dog (off leash).  Now, I have broken up many a dog fight – even sustaining a few bites in my day protecting dogs (yeah, I’m kinda a bad ass) – so I will admit I’m a little more trained in the corect way to act in this situation than the average dog lover.  As I was doing everything I could to slow this quickly spiraling-out-of-control situation, I took a half a second to glance up at the owner of the other dogs.  He was standing about 10 feet off.  Watching.  Doing nothing.

Now, when I retold this story to friends and family they all had different reactions.  “Maybe he was scared and didn’t want to put himself in harms way by getting closer to a dog fight?”  “Maybe he was stunned?”  “Maybe he didn’t realize how serious the situation was?”  In the moment, though, all I was thinking is WHY ISN’T THIS GUY HELPING ME?  (Him – large man, standing at a safe distance.  Me – little lady in the middle of 5 dogs (4 big, 1 little…2 free, 3 tethered…3 I know like my own, 2 I don’t know at all.)

In my calmest – but firmest – voice, I instructed the man on what to do.  I am not kidding.  As I’m physically trying to keep our dogs from ripping each other apart, I have to stop to state the obvious to this man (who thankfully did exactly what he was told.) “YOU NEED TO COME GET YOUR DOG!”  “You need to physically come over here and help me separate these two.”  “Now please back up.”  Seriously.

leashHonestly, I think this man (like many who find themselves in this situation) didn’t believe that his dog would ever get in a real fight.  Your dog could be of the “sweet as pie, wouldn’t hurt a fly, gentle around kids, doesn’t mind cats” variety…but certain situations can bring about reactions from your dog that you might never understand.  (Isn’t that the same with humans??)

When you find yourself with a dog who has crossed over to the “red zone” the most important thing to do is diffuse the situation as quickly as possible.  If you can remain calm, remember these are animals, and take control by giving others direction – you will be able to walk away as if it was a regular day at the park.  (Surprisingly dogs can do just that….while it might take a few minutes for your heart to stop pounding!)

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The Devil’s Own Creation (Or How I Feel About Retractable Leashes)

I would like to state for the record – this post is full of my own personal opinion.  I am not a dog trainer or a veterinarian –  I am simply a woman who spends most of her time in the company of many different dogs.

Retractable leashes….how many of you use them?  If I had to guess…I would say it’s almost an even split between those of us who use a good old-fashioned leash to those of you who go for the retractable variety.

In doing a bit of research for this post (ok…I should say “in looking for articles to reinforce my own viewpoint”), I was surprised to find that even Consumer Reports had taken the time to weigh in on this issue.  While their reporting told of a retractable leash severing a dog owner’s finger (seriously….read about it here), I was actually looking for something far less dramatic to discuss with you guys.  The Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan states “You should never use such a lead [retractable] for just walking your dog” on his website.   (In fact…check out that link for lots of good dog walking and retractable leash tips.)

Retractable Leash

Picture from a great post on the Dogster site

I honestly do not see the allure of retractable leashes.  When I lived in an apartment, I did use one for Buffy.  She was having trouble walking on a leash…and I tried EVERYTHING.  The retractable leash did work: she walked better with it on and it did come in handy when I couldn’t keep up with her running up and down the stairs.  (We lived on the second floor.)  We did not really use it on long walks, though.   Scarily enough, we stopped using it only after it SNAPPED.  (Thankfully, Buffy is well behaved and did not run off.)

Using clients retractable leashes is – most of the time – just plain annoying.  (Try walking 5 dogs on all on retractable leashes and you will know the definition of annoying.)  The dogs seem to use it as an excuse to run out of control and not listen to me. I have received numerous injuries from the darn things…and while most of them were minor, I did receive a bad burn on the back of both of my legs due to a crazy dog running around me and then taking off.  (And when I say burn….I mean BURN.  It was very severe.  And I am not a wimp!)

So, I have my own experiences, Cesar Millan, and about a hundred other articles backing me up in my statement “Retractable leashes are the devil’s own creation.” 

But, we all know that there are two sides to every coin.  Or, as my mom would say “That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla!”

There are 2 instances I can see (and have seen from my own dog walking) where retractable leashes are not as horrible as I have lead you to believe:

Leashes

I got the retractable leash SKILLZ!

***Long walks in wide open spaces.  Not all of us live in tight, cramped cities with traffic whizzing by and 15 other people out walking their dogs at the same time on the same narrow strip of sidewalk.  Maybe you are taking your dog for a hike. Maybe you live in the middle of nowhere and it is nice to let your dog explore without having total freedom.  That kind of activity gets this dog walkers retractable leash approval.

***With calm, relaxed dogs.  Now, I don’t just mean you have a good, well behaved dog.  I mean, you have a good, well behaved, won’t-chase-after-a-squirrel, not-gonna-get-excited-by-a-loud-noise, chilled out, could-probably-be-walked-without-a-leash dog.  They exist.  If you have one…well, stop reading this right now and go over and give her a big kiss because you are LUCKY…but yes, if you have one of these dogs, retractable leash it UP.

So…maybe retractable leashes aren’t REALLY the devil’s creation.  Maybe they do have their own place and time.  I guess what this (self-proclaimed!) dog expert is wondering is, how did they become such a staple in our dog society?  Why do dog lovers feel the need to buy and use them?  These questions, dear readers, are ones that only you can answer.

Looking forward to reading your comments!

Diabetes & Your Pet – Drop the Pounds, Fight the Disease

So, you know the basics about diabetes in your pets and how serious it is here in this country.  You also know that obesity plays a HUGE ugly role in the disease.  What is the best way to fight obesity??  EXERCISE!

Now, as a dog walker, I am obviously going to tell you the best, easiest, cheapest, fun-est way to exercise your dog is by simply taking him or her for a walk.  Not only are you going to see the pounds drop off your pooch, you are going to see the bond between the two of your strengthen.  (Oh, and it’s healthy for you too!)  But maybe you don’t like to do things the easy way!  Maybe you have money burning a hole in your pocket, and dog exercise equipment is what you really love to spend your hard-earned cash on.  No worries!  We’ve got some great suggestions for you:

Go Pet Treadwheelswww.gopetusa.com

Living in New York City, the only pets I had time (or money!) for were two mice.  Those two gals LOVED their wheel and had different, intricate games they would play together using it.  (It was really something to watch…and video of them on their wheel was used as a backdrop for a modern dance piece performed on Broadway…making their NYC performance career more successful than my own!)  Go Pet has taken this mouse-running-on-a-wheel-for-exercise concept and made it dog sized.  While this seems like a clever idea, I just can’t imagine dogs really using this.  (There is even video of a cat running in one of these things on their website! )  The site advertises this as a great way for dogs to exercise when their parents are away (would a pup or cat really do that??) or when the weather is bad, but $475-$1125 seems a lot to pay so that you can sit on your booty while your pet works up a sweat.  On the other hand, I bet it is adorably entertaining to see your dog running on a big hamster wheel!

Canine Fitness Camp – Morris Animal Innwww.morrisanimalinn.com

Reading about Morris Animal Inn’s Weight Loss and Fitness Camp made me wonder if I could go too!  For about $50/day, Fido enjoy swimming, nature hikes, healthy fruit smoothies….along with “pampering massages“, “Doga“, and “Pawlates“.  (Ok, seriously…I REALLY want to go!)  I think this is a GREAT idea.  I know how hard it can be to start a diet/exercise plan – and this seems like the perfect way to kickstart your pooch’s regime.  This camp is sure to get your dog excited about getting out and being active…and the excitement is sure to carry over once you take your pup back home.

Chase It Pet Productswww.chaseit.com

This is another familiar pet toy, super sized!  Cats love these string toys, but for some reason the dog sized version of this just seems ridiculous.  I just can’t see myself lugging this fishing-pole-like contraption to the park…when an old-fashioned ball seems like it would get my pup going just as well.  They retail for about $25 – which isn’t a crazy amount to spend on something for my pet – but seems a bit over priced for something that looks like a fifth grader made it for Invention Convention.  (Does anyone know what I’m talking about?)

So get your dog running on that wheel, send them to boot camp, or get them jumping for joy over a toy!  Go to the park, around the block, or just out in the backyard.  Exercising with a buddy is always more fun – and it will be good for you AND man’s best friend to get some daily cardio in.  By taking such a simple step, you will make a giant leap in preventing diabetes in your pup.

For more information on obesity in pets and how to prevent it – visit The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s website.  It’s a great resource!

Wags & Whiskers Wednesday

Woo hoo Wednesday!

The past two weeks have been EXTREMELY busy for us here at Wags & Whiskers.  It seems like just about every dog on the block needs a walk.  Don’t get me wrong…I have the best job ever.  The more dogs I see in a day, the more awesome my day is!!  By the time I get home, though, I am pooped!  All I want to do is take a shower and cuddle up with a good book and my good puppy, Buffy.

NO!!!  (That’s what I have to tell myself.)  Buffy is on the exact opposite schedule as me.  While I’m out workin’, she’s at home sleepin’.   When I got a dog, I made a commitment.  I agreed to put my dog’s NEEDS ahead of my WANTS.  I know it’s hard, but for the sake of your four-legged child put on those tennis shoes when you get home from work and hit the streets…even if for just a few minutes.  You will both be happier and healthier for it.

But who wants to hear about exercise when there are cute puppy (and kitty)  pics to look at!

These Paws Were Made for Walkin’ (the first of many posts about walks)

“Max is just a little dog, so he doesn’t need to go on walks.” 

“We have a big backyard, so Isabelle gets plenty of exercise running around by herself.”

“Lulu doesn’t have any behavior or aggression problems.  She is perfectly happy lounging around the house.”

“I take Rocky out to potty several times a day.  That is the same as a walk.”

NO! NO! NO!!  I hear this all the time.  There are so many reasons why all the above statements are completely wrong.  Your dog needs to be walked every single day.  People assume when I say that, I am promoting my own business.  This is not the case – your dog NEEDS to be walked.

Dogs, before we domesticated them, were pack animals.  All day, every day, they walked.  They walked to find shelter.  They walked to find food.  They walked…that is what they did.  When working and living with dogs, you must remember….they are animals.  Though we think of them as members of our family (which they are!) biologically speaking, they are still animals.  Evolution has not erased their need to move around and travel.  Now, think of little Fifi staring out the window.  Her body is telling her to walk, to explore, to see the world!  The two minutes you let her out back to do her business is not fulfilling her most basic need. 

I would venture to say 95% (no scientific studies, folks, this is just my best guess) of behavior problems in dogs are caused by boredom.  What would you do if you couldn’t leave your house?  Maybe not chew the leg of the table, but some human equivalent to it.  (eating an insane amount of iced animal cookies?  Maybe that’s just me….)  Jumping on guests when they come in?  Hell, ya!  Your pup hasn’t had that much excitement in days.  Whining in the middle of the night?  Of course!  Fido isn’t tired…he’s ready to roll.  A nice long walk would have fixed these problems. 

I think lots of people get dogs expecting the pups to adapt to their lives.  You have to go to work, go to the gym, cook dinner, pay bills… and maybe have a social life once in a while.  You just don’t have time to walk.  Well, people, walking is as important as remembering to feed your pooch.  You’re dog – quite simply – cannot adapt.  The need to walk  is literally in their.  You just have to find the time.  Maybe every day is unrealistic.  (I tell myself I’m going to go to the gym everyday….and let me tell you, that is unrealistic!)  Maybe the recommended hour per walk is just not doable.  (Ahh, the things I could do with one extra hour in my day!)  But you have to make an effort.  You assumed a responsibility when you brought little Max, Isabelle, Lulu, or Rocky home.  You have to keep them happy and healthy….and walking will keep you happy (sleepy puppy = happy human) and healthy (we all could use a little exercise) as well.

And if you just can’t find the time….you could always hire a dog walker! 😉