No make-up artist.
No plastic surgery.
No nonsense. Well, maybe a little nonsense.
The more you are like your dog, the better.
Dogs make people feel better about themselves.
Dogs make people act better toward each other.
Dogs display their feelings flat out. There is no hidden agenda, no sarcasm, no spite. What you see is what your dog feels.
Dog help us form social networks, both in real life and in cyberspace.
Even when they don’t understand our words, dogs always understand our feelings.
Dogs let us feel more deeply than we are sometimes about to do on our own.
Dogs encourage us to share our feelings, as they share theirs.
Dogs don’t judge feelings. They accept them, and when appropriate, the act on them.
Great for retrieving. Will not roll or bounce into traffic. Pretty much keeps to the trajectory of your toss.
Easy to carry. Squooshes into any pocket. Every pocket if you are me.
Is great for bathtub games. Toss it and have your dog toss it back into the tub, or place it in your hand, or scoop it out of the tub, or find it hidden behind the shower curtain or under the washcloth. Be sure to name it and name each activity.
Will not set off the alarm at the airport.
Will not be confiscated by the TSA.
Good for hide and seek.
Will keep a dog quiet during Tae Kwan Do practice. (see below)
Cheap to buy and replace. We buy them by the bagful.
When your dog beheads them, which is why we buy them by the bagful, the heads make nice decorative touches around the house.
Having a duck in your pocket will encourage you to engage with your dog. On the rare occasion that I have left home without one, I have tossed my keys and even my wallet. Anything to please my dog.
It’s been years since Oscar came for an overnight that stretched into three or four nights. His people were having a baby and I had offered to keep Oscar here in case they needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night or in case the baby took a while coming. Oscar played with my dogs in the park behind our building, so I knew they all got along. What I didn’t know is that Oscar would stay as long as he did or that my dogs would do one of the least expected things I’d ever seen any dogs do.
Oscar was a German Shepherd, a rescue, and a very nice dog. He had digestive issues, as many Shepherds do unfortunately, but other than that, he was easy, friendly, obedient, an all around nice guy. Outdoors, Sky liked to retrieve while Monk and Oscar wrestled. Indoors, everything changed and I didn’t realize it completely until Oscar finally went home. During the time Oscar was here, my dogs never played with each other and left Oscar out. Either they both played with Oscar, or one of the two of them played with Oscar while the other chewed a bone or took a nap. It was only when he left and they threw themselves at each other for a long, hard game of Let’s Be Dogs, racing, leaping, tugging, kissing, that I realized that they hadn’t done that for four days.
I would never expect dogs to be such good hosts. But, indeed, they were. And thinking back on it, I am still amazed. My dogs have been with many other dogs, but I have only seen a guest dog treated quite so well and with such sensitivity that once.
I don’t have a picture of Oscar, only one of his hosts, happy to be with each other, and happy to welcome a friend in temporary need of a place to stay and some friends with whom to pass the time.
The road ahead is long and what better to do for your dog than teach him – anything. Whatever you teach makes the next thing you teach go faster. Whatever you teach makes your dog’s brain more lively, more attentive, more ready to absorb. Whatever you teach can and should be fun for you and your dog AND should make your life saner and his life safer. But, really, jumping through a hoop?
Teaching a dog to jump through a hoop is easy and like any other training, it will teach your dog to listen to your words and understand that they mean something, something relevant to him. Your bond – ah, that! – will grow stronger as your work at hoop jumping. Your dog will regard his lessons as fun. You will regard your dog as more fun than he was before. And if you show the finished project to your friends, they will be amazed and may even go out and adopt a dog so that they can teach him to jump through a hoop.
Convinced? Great. Take a hula hoop and put it, resting on the ground, in a doorway. In this way, your dog has to go through the hoop to get into the next room. As he steps over the hoop, tell him Over. And then GOOD DOG. Toss a toy through the hoop. Put his food bowl on the other side of the hoop at dinner time. Step, praise, step, praise. Next, in a few days, raise the hoop an inch. And in a few more days, another inch. See? Easy. When your enthusiastic praise has convinced your dog that going through the hoop, now over and through, is great fun, try moving the hoop out of the doorway. Even if you have to move the hoop as your dog approaches, make sure he goes over and through rather than around. Put some bells on his collar. Invite your friends. Have a good time.
Anything you teach your dog makes him a better, more attentive companion, and makes you a better and more attentive companion as well. It’s 2014. Happy training.
Words won’t mean much to your new puppy or your untrained rescue dog until he learns how to learn, until he makes the connection between the meaningless sound you are making and the action for which it stands. Once he gets one connection, the others will begin to come more quickly, particularly if you always use the same word to mean the same thing, particularly if you are clear. But until he makes that first connection, it’s all background noise.
The easiest first word/action is often SIT. Sit is easy to teach and pretty easy for a pup to learn. Take a favorite toy, hold over the dog’s head, say “Sit.” In order to see the toy dangling over his head, a puppy will look up, lose his balance and sit. Say “Good dog,” give him the toy, try it again later. But what if your dog is an older dog, or an older puppy, a puppy who can stand on his hind legs easily, and will in order to get the toy. What if you can’t even get eye contact, let alone ear contact? Then you try something else.
Most dogs of any age love to follow their person. So begin this useful game off leash if that works or on leash if that’s what you need to do. And after the pup is hooked, after his tail wags and wags as he follows you, add a word or two. ”Let’s go,” or “Follow me” or whatever suits your fancy. This might lead you to the sit and eventually to higher education.
But what if it doesn’t?
You can try “Take it,” using a small, squeaky toy. Hold out the toy, say “Take it,” give the toy to your dog. And if this works, once your dog knows “Take it.” you can add “Wait.” After a week of the first, add the second. Hold the toy in one hand, hold up your pointer on the other hand and tell him “Wait.” If he hesitates for a moment, tell him “Tale it” and add some verbal praise. After a few weeks of Follow Me, Take it and Wait, your dog should be ready for Sit, a word/action duo that, even for just a moment at first, will give him that moment to think about vocabulary and the fact that the sounds you make, at least some of them, are more significant than he previously believed.
Words, words, words. Your dog can and should learn many of them. The trick is starting off on the right foot. And then how far you go is up to you.
The past is important, but the secret of life is this: Keep moving forward.
When opportunity knocks, open the door.
When someone tells you something in confidence, don’t repeat it.
Keep your friends close and, unlike the advice in The Godfather, avoid your enemies.
Take care of those who take care of you.
Make time to play each and every day.
When there’s nothing to do, take a little nap.
Happy Holidays, fellow dog lovers, and a healthy, fun New Year!
I was surprised when I went to Paris years ago with Flash, my second service dog, that while the French adore dogs, they do not handle other people’s dogs. Many people were curious to know what a “service dog” does, after reading the patch on Flash’s red cape, because the only chiens d’assistance in France are for the blind, or, at least, were then. But no one bent down to call Flash to them. No one chattered away to him in a high pitched voice. No one asked to pet him or did so without asking. And since dogs are allowed in restaurants there anyway, perhaps Flash didn’t need to wear his cape at all.
Flash, in his cape, playing with a new French friend, Watson, on our first day in Paris:
But here, in the United States, while a cape or harness is not required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, dressing a service dog for work has several important advantages. For one thing, by clearly indicating why a dog has been given access where pet dogs are not allowed, you disabuse people of the idea that they should rush home, get their pup and bring it to the restaurant where you are dining, the museum where you are looking at art or the airplane you are about to board to go and visit your adorable grandchildren. The cape, while not what makes your dog legal, comforts employees giving you access to places forbidden to other dogs. The cape will prevent one, two or even a dozen questions from Park Rangers, hospital personnel, maitre d’s, even shop owners who do not let dogs into their stores. And on top of all that, the cape lets the dog know that it’s time to put away childish things and get to work.
I always keep a spare key in Sky’s cape and a bit of money, so that I can go for a walk unencumbered by a purse or backpack. She holds my gym card, my bus pass, extra pick up bags, even a bit of emergency medication, and, of course, the paperwork that says what the cape does not, that she’s legal.
Some dogs with other jobs wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak, as well, letting people know that they have a job to do, a purpose, and should not be interrupted. Of course no outfit alone will stop some people from chatting away at your working dog. Some who know they shouldn’t pet, yammer at the dog. Some who know they shouldn’t yammer, whisper. Some even say things like, “She looked at me,” trying to blame the dog when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar. She made me do. It’s not my fault.
Still, the cape is worthwhile. It tells the dog that even if the rest of the world is feeling silly, it’s time for them to be serious. It’s time to go to work.
But what about people who buy a little cape, slap it onto their pet dogs, and gain access where they don’t belong? Or should we ask instead, What about people who cheat on their taxes, lie to their loved ones, embezzle money, use shoddy material, charge you for a new air filter when your car doesn’t have an air filter, sleep on the job, check Facebook at the office, sell you out of date medication, abuse little children in their care? Why should this be any different than any other human endeavor? There are people who will cheat when it suits them and there are people who won’t. You can’t decide for others. You cannot make laws that are infallible. You can only decide for yourself which kind of person you want to be, because when you look in the mirror, that’s whom you’ll see.
Flash at the Musee Picasso: