The pandemic is wreaking havoc in the world, and if you listen to the news the number of infected and deaths because of it is rising. Although it does feel gloomy and scary, I am grateful to have our dogs and family with me. I choose to focus on the positive, and I hope you do too. Stay safe!
When I was a child living in Ecuador, dogs, as well as a menagerie of animals that belonged to my grandmother, were part of my every day life. What I didn’t know then was how important dogs would be in my life and how much they would teach me about love, patience, determination, and so much more.
My love affair with dogs started with a funny looking dog that belonged to my mom. His name was Bambino and although my sister said that he was ugly, to me he was a handsome dog. I’d take him for walks; pick him up and cuddle him like a baby; and take him to the beach. One day a dog attacked him and severed his spine so my mom had to put him down. My whole family cried. But, and this did surprised me, although he was not my dog I was heartbroken. So much so that I made a promise to myself, “I will never get another dog because I don’t want to have my heart broken, period.”
Alex, Sarris and Dexter, “Are we eating any time soon?”
10 long years went by and I kept my promise, but this changed on a trip to Ecuador. Cynthia felt in love with a puppy that we named Casey, and although I tried to dissuade her from taking this tiny ball of fur with us she would not budge, and so my love affair with dogs resumed. I am not going to lie, I’ve had my heart broken multiple times since then, and I’ve felt the loss of all those canine companions I met along the way, both the ones that were mine and those that belonged to my clients, but you know what? The only thing I regret is waiting 10 years to get a dog. Funny, or ironic, depending on how you look at it. I’d rather go through the pain that I know I will face every time I lose a dog rather than not having one in my life.
When I was a kid, my mom used to say over and over again, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat,” and I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about. In my defense, I was 6 years old at that time. Anyway, now I understand what she meant and this is something that also applies to our canine companions. By the way, do you see that pair of socks on the floor? I left them there on purpose. Why? So Abby can go and play with them and I can correct her. She won’t learn unless she makes mistakes.
Abby, “Mom, you have my undivided attention.”
Notice the distance between Abby and me, but remember that she has been with us for almost 2 months so this was not an overnight thing. I started with very little distance and now I’ve increased it. The hand signal is for her to stay and this is why Basic Training is important. Look at Abby’s eye contact. Perfect!
Abby, “Oh boy, when will I eat?”
Now is a good time to feed her. I started by feeding her in her kennel and then outside the kennel. Next time I’ll post what she does prior to sitting pretty like that. Why? Because she goes bananas and she has learned that she will not eat until she is calm. As you can see, Abby does work for her food, or should I say sweat? And just so we are clear, this is a combination of behavior and training. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but little by little we are getting there. Do you make your dog work for his food? If so, how? Enjoy your weekend.
One of the things I recommend pet parents to do with their canine companions is go out and explore different areas in order to acclimate their dog/puppy to a variety of environments. I trained Harlow a couple of weeks ago, Level II Basic Training and Behavior, so every time she stays with us she brushes up on what she learned and we go out to practice in the real world.
Harlow, ” I think we are lost.”
My sense of direction is so bad that even Harlow knew that we were lost. No problem, we went and asked for help.
Harlow, “Help. This human is showering me with hugs and kisses.”
I recommend a lot of things to pet parents and one of them is to get their dogs used to being hugged. Why? Because being hugged is not something most dogs enjoy. Harlow enjoys it as long as you give her a treat.
Harlow, “Am I getting paid to pose for this picture?”
Harlow did wonderful during our outing. She did get startled twice when someone dropped some dishes, we were walking by a restaurant, but she was getting used to the noises better than I expected. You have to remember that Harlow is only 6 months old.
Harlow, “Wow! Look at all the people here”
Harlow was very curious seeing so many people around, but she was not nervous about it. This is why training and behavior need to go hand in hand. A balanced dog is a pleasure to have and to take out with you every time you get a chance.
Harlow, “Is that the menu for the restaurant we’ll be eating at? I am hungry.”
Expecting your dog to behave like a good canine citizen is really up to you. Dogs are amazing teachers, but they need us to guide them and get them to be balanced. Go out with your dog and enjoy the outdoors.
As a child growing up in Ecuador with a menagerie of animals, dogs were our constant companions. I grew up in a small village by the sea and for us to see a dog being walked on a leash was something very weird. Socializing dogs? We didn’t know what that meant.
Once I got my first dog, a challenging handsome staffie, and started to go to training classes, I realized that dogs getting along with other dogs, socializing, was something a lot of dogs have difficulty doing. I also figured out that many pet parents didn’t know how to properly socialize their dogs.
When a dog stays with us, I send pictures to the pet parent so he can see his furry kid. A couple of years ago I had a pet parent say to me, “You sent me a picture of my dog sitting right next to another dog. How did you do that? She doesn’t like to sit next to other dogs.” I was surprised by what she said. A couple of other pet parents also said similar things.
How did I do it? I made sure that they had plenty of exercise, structure, discipline, and boundaries. For some dogs, being next to another dog, like the above picture is close to impossible. If you don’t know how to work with your dog, do what I did years and years ago, find a trainer that can help you understand and learn about dogs. Living with a dog should be enjoyable, not stressful.
In November 2013, Alex injured her ACL and I was beyond scared. So scared that I was ready to put her through surgery, but my better half, Cynthia, talked me out of it, and even today I am glad we made the right decision for Alex. Please, bear in mind that neither Cynthia nor I are vets nor pretend to be one, but we made the best choice for our furry kid Alex, taking into consideration her age, recovery period, chances of getting full recovery, and expenses.
At the beginning, Alex wore the brace featured in the above picture all the time, except for bed time, of course. She had tons of bed rest and this was easy to do because at the time of her injury she was already 11 years old so she loved to sleep. This is not an easy task to accomplish if you have a young dog.
Nowadays, Alex does not use her brace when she is at home anymore. She wears it only when we go out and when we visit family. Because of her ACL injury I changed a few things in order to help her heal and keep her free of pain. Here are a few of the changes I made for her:
Walks – I try to get her out 2 to 3 times a day, when the weather is not too cold, for about 15-25
Diet – Alex eats 75% human food, 25% kibble
Bed – I got her an orthopedic bed
Sun bathing – Sunbathing, in moderation, is excellent for her injury
Heating pad – I put a heating pad on her during the evening. This accomplishes two things: it keeps her warm; and it helps improve her mobility
Supplements – Omega 3 and Osteo-Pet total joint care
I cannot complain. Alex is doing great and she is about to turn 13 years old in May 5th. I still cannot believe it. My girl is a tough little cookie.
Many times, we assume that our furry kids can deal with a cold climate like the one we get here in Maryland, but that is not true. Our furry kids, just like us, do get cold and we must make sure that they are properly attire to withstand cold weather. Alex, in the above picture, is wearing a jacket, but since she gets cold very easy nowadays I am adding a sweater to that jacket when we go out.
Some dogs like Alex and Dexter with short hair need to be protected from the cold even when they are home. Depending on how cold the day is, I make Alex and Bella wear a sweater. Puppies and senior dogs are more sensitive to extreme weather than young, healthy dogs.
With that being said, please make sure that your canine companions have a comfortable bed that includes at least one blanket, and when venturing outside a sweater and jacket would be nice. Of course, do not forget to bundle up yourself.
The above cutie pie is staying with us this weekend. She is very laid-back and although she is an only furry child, she does great with my dogs. I’ve realized that just because some dogs have no other “siblings” it does not mean that they will be anti-social with other dogs.
After weighing all our options, we decided that it was best to stay in Maryland. It took us a while to figure it out, but thanks to Alex and Bella we realized what was best for all of us. Have a great weekend.
This is Alex contibution to our move: sleep like a baby. Since I know that dogs love routine, I am doing my best to keep things as usual specially when it comes to walks.
Bella also enjoys her bed, but many times she hangs out by the sliding doors in our eat-in kitchen. Bella’s contribution: guard dog.
Our move to Boston is getting closer and closer, therefore I am going to enjoy the time I have here in Maryland. I am certainly going to miss our house, and the amazing dogs and pet parents I met during the past few years.