Spokesdog's Canine Couch
A journey about dogs and their people by Diane Rich
20 Safety Tips
Tis the season full of anticipation, guest lists, wish lists, boarding passes, smiles, angst, online shopping, brick and mortar adventures, procrastination and seeing family and friends.
Whether you are hosting parties at your home, attending parties, traveling or celebrating in a quieter manner it is important to keep your pet’s safety in mind.
- Prepare your dog now to prevent him from bolting out of the front door if you are expecting guests or deliveries. Teaching your dog a solid stay or wait at the door before the craziness begins may prove to be less stressful for all. If you opt out of training then it is best to confine your dog behind a gate or in a crate temporarily while guests arrive and leave.
- The day before and day of your party, exercise your dog to tire her out especially if she will exiled away from all the activities
- Make sure your guests, especially children are educated on how you want your dog handled. Children under the age of 8 should always be supervised around the family dog even if the relationship has worked out well to date.
- For Fido’s meals while guests are around you may want to feed your dog away from the party especially if your dog has an issue when people are around its food bowl
- Should you wish to discourage your dog begging at the table or eating food that could create a tummy upset, remind your guests not to give your dog any human food from the table or counter. Fatty foods can cause gastrointestinal problems in some dogs. Cooked bones are a no no and may require an emergency Vet visit if your dog scores a bone
- If you believe your dog may think your Christmas tree is his personal gift to mark, you may want to create a barrier so the tree, beautifully wrapped gifts and lovely decorations are inaccessible. Not only can your dog chew on ornaments but may be able to pull a tree over. Secure the tree so it cannot be pulled down.
- Cords used for holiday lighting may draw your pup’s attention so be sure the cords are taped down or inaccessible to your canine chewer.
- Your pet deserves a quiet zone and guests hopefully will respect that area and leave the dog alone
- A new pup is always a magnet for visitors so keep in mind your pup like a human baby has limits. You can set boundaries for interactions with your new addition but you still should manage those interactions
- Keep plants out of reach and keep the pet away from tree water
- Alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisons, onions, garlic, coffee beans are toxic to dogs. Bread in quantities can expand in a dog’s gut and could be life threatening
- Keep your local emergency Vet’s number handy and know the location of the closest emergency Vet clinic
- Make sure your dog’s collar includes an ID tag in case the dog bolts out the front door, garage or through an open fence gate.
- If you want to share some cooked unseasoned meat with your dog as a few small pieces should not hurt your dog. but, a dog allowed to overindulge could get quite sick. Best to stick with the dog’s regular diet
- Remember to include your dog on your Christmas shopping list. Should you choose to give your dog a squeaky type toy supervise the activity so should she get through to the stuffing or squeaker you can replace the toy with a different toy. If the dog is given edible chew toys, check on that toy periodically to make sure it doesn’t present a choking hazard
- If your dog gets cranky with people around his food bowl, toys, bed or doesn’t take treats gently when offered inform your guests so both dog and guests have a wonderful time
- If the temperature in your zip code is too cold for you bring the dog indoors to enjoy your warm home rather than enduring outdoor conditions. Some dogs with super thick fur prefer the cold but still need to be looked after. Make sure any water in outdoor bowls is not frozen
- Allowing children to chase or harass the dog is ill advised. Although everyone is busy, this may be a good time to teach children how to pet, love and respect the family dog. Not all dogs are keen on hugs.
- Your guests who may have excused your dog’s excited greeting of jumping on them may not be so welcome if wet paws make contact with holiday clothing. Train, supervise or confine your pet so everyone can enjoy the day.
- Wrappers and ribbons need to be discarded so pets with a desire to shred paper products are not tempted.
Wishing you a safe, happy and fun holiday season.
Hiking with dogs makes the experience all that more enjoyable and if your dog can carry some gear all the better. Many years ago I bought a back pack for my previous Doberman but after having him wear it one time and seeing it slip to one side or the other while he navigated trails and steep terrain decided never to do that to him again. There were no packs on the market at that time that worked well for my deep-chested breed.
If you have ever tried hiking with an ill fitting back pack that doesn’t distribute the weight properly or doesn’t ride well on your particular body type you know how uncomfortable it can be which will certainly affect how enjoyable the hike will be. So when a representative from Ruffwear contacted me to review one of their popular packs I was interested. I was given a choice of any one of their packs to review and as I am a day hiker chose the Approach pack.
When it first arrived at my office I handed the pack to a friend to observe ease of use and once one figures out how to put this pack on the dog, suiting up is easy. With the Approach pack, you must put one of the dog’s front legs through the chest strap, and then attach the strap under the dog’s chest to the other side of the harness using the snap closure.
You will need to snug it up as needed. This is the key design element to preventing the pack from slipping off to the side and was made to provide load stability and weight distribution. There are several adjustments to do so the dog needs to be able to stand still until the procedure has been completed.
Originally one of my concerns was a pack slipping off to the side but this pack seemed to balance fairly well. My other concern having a short haired breed and exposed skin under the arm pits was if the nylon straps would irritate and chaff the skin which it did a little bit. That being said, if you do parent a dog with a thick coat like a Husky or Samoyed you still want to check the area under the straps for any matting.
There is a padded assistance handle on the top of the back along with a single-piece aluminum V-ring leash attachment point however I would recommend attaching your leash to the dog’s collar. The pack also offers low-light visibility with reflective trim. The attached saddle bags each have 2 separate zippered compartments to stow an extra leash, first aid kit, water and other light supplies*
To size your dog you need to measure your dog’s girth at the widest part of the rib cage. My Doberman is an extra large.
I found the pack durable, it fit my dog well and offers enough room in the saddle bags for some gear. My only issue as I mentioned was some chaffing under my dog’s armpits from the chest strap that rides right behind the armpit. Ruffwear sells several packs and there are other options. As I only reviewed the Approach pack I would definitely recommend this particular model.
* It’s recommended that your dog carry no more than 25% of their body weight in their dog pack. If your dog is new to dog packs, start with a light load and work up to a heavier load as your dog gets accustomed to wearing the pack.
The Back-Story Of A Rescue Dog May Be Sad But The Future Can Be Bright
c Diane Rich 2014 This 6 year old dog did not work out for the original family so was surrendered at a shelter. He was adopted and going through the acclimation transition. The new family has young children so more care must be taken to facilitate a safe and loving relationship
Many pet parents across the U.S. have decided to adopt rather than shop (buying a dog from a breeder) for their next new furry family member. Depending on where you live your choices for adopting the next furry love of your life may limited to your local shelter or you may have additional options through one of many rescue organizations. Rescue organizations are diverse as some cater to small dogs and other rescues may cater to dogs with special needs. There are rescue organizations that take in senior dogs and even groups founded specifically for purebred dogs such as our Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue www.spdrdogs.org. Unfortunately there is a need for all these safe havens for the discarded, abandoned or stray dog who wait out their time for our love and the stability of a furever home.
Time Is Not Always On Their Side
Millions of dogs every year enter the shelter system and these unfortunate castaways or strays are warehoused with other hopefuls in an overcrowded shelter system. This noisy, stressful, concrete environment may be where they live out their last few days. Sadly, many shelters due to lack of funding and space and the never ending supply of new dogs entering their system cap the time each dog has in that facility. If that dog is not claimed, adopted or pulled by another rescue within a specific timeline the dog is killed.
A few shelters around the country are no kill due to private donations so have the funding to enable that non-profit to tirelessly implement strong marketing efforts to help rehome each of the dogs. Some shelters with the help of dedicated volunteers offer stimulating activities for the dogs such as some play time with volunteers, leashed walks around the property and even the opportunity for the dogs to have social time with other hopefuls.
@ Shelter/shy dog c Diane Rich 2014
The dog that is scared and backs off of people is less likely to be adopted. If the fearful dog is adopted that adopter must know or be willing to learn how to help this dog trust and how to build this dog’s confidence. It won’t happen overnight but I can promise you it is worth the effort.
Every week I am lucky to work with wonderful new clients who decide to bring one of these valuable dogs into their home as a permanent member of their family. I absolutely love the process of helping both owner and dog develop a great relationship. Whether the dog presents mild to severe behavioral challenges it doesn’t matter, if the client is committed to the dog I am committed to the client and their new addition as the process and end result can be so rewarding for all. However, sometimes during this journey the rescuer also needs rescuing which can prove to be both challenging and rewarding.
Transition To A New Home
The transition from shelter or rescue to a new home can be stressful for the new dog. Some dogs make themselves at home quickly while others take more time to acclimate. Some dogs can take up to around 6 months to acclimate and the new family will learn new things about the dog along the way. While a dog is at a shelter or rescue some, not all canine behaviors are documented, some behaviors may be misrepresented based on how evaluations were implemented and understood and some behaviors may lurk right under the radar. A dog may also suppress some behaviors while in the system. Then, when the dog enters the new home behaviors such as shyness around certain family members becomes worse, nervousness around specific stimuli is observed, excessive barking begins, resource guarding around the food bowl or toys that may have been initially forgiven when mild has gained some momentum and is now dangerous. These behaviors may blindside the new pet parent.
Pet Parent Pity
The common emotional ground I observe with many new wonderful families who opened their heart and their home to a dog they rescued can be one of pity for their new family member. In some cases, the worse the back-story or the more shy the dog the stronger the pity. The smaller the dog the more a well meaning new owner wants to protect, even over-protect and coddle their new addition. When pity is the foundation of this new relationship many owners with good intentions shower love and attention on the dog trying to make up for what that dog most likely missed before finding a furever home. Love and attention is an absolute but not to the exclusion of helping that dog build confidence.
shelter/c Diane Rich 2014 Dogs need to be showcased to potential new families and shelters offer different protocol for viewing but I wonder the short or long term effects on the dog of having a parade of people walking by windows or kennels and sticking faces against the glass and tapping
on the glass or sticking fingers through the fencing.
Coddling Can Cripple
Dogs need our love, support and protection but unfortunately coddling a needy dog can unintentionally cripple the dog emotionally or exacerbate the dog’s discomfort and lack of trust around people, other pets or novel stimuli. When the rescuer believes they need to compensate for the dog’s past by coddling the dog rather than implementing techniques to help build the dog’s confidence that dog’s timid or defensive behavior can become that dog’s normal. The smaller the dog the more that timid or fearful behavior is accepted and both species can develop an over-attachment to each other.
c Diane Rich 2014 This cutie was recently adopted and upon my initial evaluation presented general anxiousness along with separation anxiety
Personal Void To Fill?
What I have observed over the years is that some people enjoy the dog’s over-attachment to them and deep down take comfort from that dog’s neediness. When the dog’s behavior becomes too problematic such as excessive whining or barking along with presenting other anxious behavior or the dog begins growling or going after people who are in that dog’s space or when others are near their human, that pet parent may reach out for help. Help arrives but when the trainer lays out a sound behavior modification plan that plan may be met with varying levels of resistance as some pet parents are conflicted with any follow through due to their perception that building the dog’s confidence may mean it won’t need them anymore. I am hopeful your trainer explains that the dog WILL need you but that need won’t be based out of fear it will be based out of a strong, trusting relationship.
Puppy on left was one of a litter at a shelter where my clients volunteer. She was scared of other dogs and is now a social butterfly. I brought the trained dog on the right as her calm, social role model.
c Diane Rich 2014
Relish The Baby Steps Of Progess
It is relatively easy for any person to learn how to train and work with a compliant puppy or older dog. Being a part of that process is rewarding. On that other hand and paw it is not so easy to work with any dog presenting behavioral problems because it takes so much patience for many owners to stay the course and accept the fact that the dog’s progress and change may only be realized in baby steps. It can take even more emotional fortitude from a trainer to address the human equation of that change. But, I can tell you, it is most rewarding to facilitate mutual trust for dog and family and to be a part of building the dog’s confidence and other skills. It is incredibly gratifying to help develop a stable relationship between the pet family and dog and the dog and the outside world.
Tips For The Rescuer
1. Love your new addition which is the easy part and if you observe the dog becoming too needy or overly-attached to you or a family member or becomes overly-anxious when out of your site don’t wait, hire an experienced behavior expert.
2. Don’t believe unacceptable or unhealthy canine behavior will go away on its own. Training begins the day you bring the dog home. Get referrals for an experienced behavior expert, not just an obedience trainer from your Vet, the rescue organization or from friends.
3. Spending 24/7 with the new addition can create anxiety issues for the dog if you do have to leave the dog alone at some point. Imperative to set the dog up for success by implementing the skills to help the dog to learn how to trust you will return.
4. Be honest about your own personal needs with regard to possibly using the dog to fill an emotional void such as the loss of another pet, loss of a family member or close friend, illness, your need to be needed, or plain old loneliness. Filling a void can be a challenging job description for any dog.
5. With any new dog it is important to pace socialization activities such as introducing your dog to new people, places and other pets. More stimuli is not better.
Controlling My Own Emotions
As I work with so many dogs out of rescue it is easy to feel anger, pity and sadness when I hear some of the back-stories of dogs that through no fault of their own were abused (isolation is abuse) or discarded due to reasons that can easily bring my normally realistically optimistic, positive mood to a screeching halt. While my heart goes out to these dogs it also has room to love them into stability. If an owner is on board with training and behavior modification strategies they will realize how resilient dogs can be. A rescued dog can become the rescuer helping other humans and dogs heal.
My Promise To You
I can promise you if you guide your dog through the acclimation process and through proper training strategies, not old school dominance theories, include structure, pace socialization opportunities, be patient with the process and stay motivated even with progress coming in baby steps and love your new dog not pity or coddle the dog you will enjoy years of smiles with your new furry family member.
|Seattle Humane offers 5 tips for happy, healthy pets
The bounty of rich, tempting foods at Thanksgiving can pose health hazards to our four-legged friends, making Thanksgiving a busy time for emergency veterinary clinics. Seattle Humane Society urges pet guardians to follow five common sense tips to keep pets healthy and happy during the holiday fun and festivities:1. Keep the feast out of reach! Agile and creative dogs or cats can capture a special treat from the kitchen counter, trash or even the dining room table.2. Resist offering your leftovers. Rich and fatty foods like dressing, pie, and gravy can lead to serious and painful pancreatitis.
3. No turkey bones! Turkey bones can cause very serious and sometimes fatal consequences for your pet.
4. Plan ahead for pets. Stop by a pet food store and purchase some new dog biscuits or cat treats and then reduce the amount of his regular meal to accommodate the treats he will be getting throughout the day. Remember, biscuits and treats are usually much higher in calories than regular pet food, so having him skip dinner may be a prudent choice if he has been snacking all day.
5. Make a special treat. Some people enjoy cooking for their dog and cat while they are cooking for the rest of the family. Pick up a recipe book just for companion animals at the book store, or just type “homemade pet treat recipes” into your favorite web search engine for lots of interesting choices.
|About the Seattle Humane Society
Founded in 1897 to bring people and pets together, Seattle Humane Society provides incredible companion animals for adoption 7 days a week, pet workshops and training, a pet food bank, a low-fee spay/neuter surgery program, humane teen club, a visiting pets program and more.
13212 SE Eastgate Way, Bellevue, WA 98005 | Main: (425) 641-0080 | Fax: (425) 747-2985 | seattlehumane.org
Presented by Purina®
Turkey, pumpkin pie, football, family, friends and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ® share the day with the National Dog Show. The 13th National Dog Show presented by Purina® is expected to entertain over 20 million viewers from noon to 2p.m. in all time zones and will be following the parade on NBC.
The best TV hosts in the dog biz, David Frei and John O’Hurley along with reporter Mary Carillo will be your guides throughout this popular dog show on Thanksgiving Day.
David Frei and John O’Hurley/SeeSpotRun photo
Mary Carillo with Rufus/ NBC photo
The late, great Rufus was the winner of the 2005 National Dog Show Presented by Purina and winner of the 2006 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the first Therapy Dog Ambassador.
If you are too full from appetizers and require a nap before dinner or are chasing children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews around the house before the feast and miss the show, there is an encore presentation Saturday, Nov. 29th from 8-10p.m. ET
Over 175 breeds vie for Best in Show honors at this competition. NBC sports will feature behind-the-scenes photo and video capturing all of the backstage activity generated by over 1500 primped and preened canine contenders. For those who prefer a digital application, NBCsports.com and on the NBC Sports Live Extra app will include live stream of the entire NBC Thanksgiving Day Show including every breed-winning canine. You can access online video to enjoy highlights via your smartphone, desktop or tablet.
The National Dog is a “benched” show meaning the dogs are on display all day for the visiting public. Benched shows offer a great opportunity for attendees to meet a breed of interest close up and personal and learn about that breed from a knowledgeable source.
The American Kennel Club has recognized two new breeds making their debut this year, the Coton de Tulear of the non-sporting group and the Wirehaired Vizsla of the sporting group.
Coton de Tulear/Steve Surfman photo Wirehaired Vizsla/National Dog Show photo
Broadcast and online content will also include The National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador, Butler, the official Weather Channel Therapy Dog. The Weather Channel announced a partnership with American Humane Association and launched a nationwide search to find the perfect therapy dog to help people affected by severe weather. Rescue dogs from all over the country were nominated and Butler was chosen. During the weeks and months following a natural disaster, Butler and handler Amy McCullough from American Humane Association will visit schools, hospitals and shelters in communities hard-hit, in order to bring comfort and service.
Owner-Handler Amy McCullough and Butler/Betsy Dallas photo
The show will feature two vignettes that highlight Purina’s longstanding commitment to innovation designed to help pets live longer, healthier lives. One vignette will highlight Purina’s discovery of a nutritional breakthrough that will help pets sustain a healthy brain as they grow older. The other vignette will feature a different approach to dog food that combines dog owners’ first-hand knowledge of their pet with Purina’s proven nutritional expertise to create a personalized feeding experience for dogs – through a product called Just right by Purina.
About Nestlé Purina PetCare
Nestlé Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestlé Purina PetCare is part of Swiss-based Nestlé S.A., a global leader in nutrition, health and wellness.
Rain, hail, snow, wind and every now and then a sun break are all a part of winter weather conditions around the country. Breeds such as Malamutes, Huskies, Shiba Inus, Samoyeds, Chessies are better suited than many other breeds for winter conditions but that does mean they can withstand harsh conditions for long periods of time.
1. Outdoor Living
If your dog must live in an outdoor enclosure the dog absolutely must have the opportunity to get away from the elements which includes protection from the wind. Make sure the dog has access to water 24/7 and that the water does not freeze. A dog house must be well insulated and be raised above ground. Space heaters can be dangerous if knocked over or if set up too close to a dog but heat must be supplied to the dog house or enclosure for humane conditions to be met. Dogs who unfortunately must live outdoors will need more food than during warmer months.
I strongly encourage you to bring pets indoors during harsh winter weather or if temps drop below freezing. If you are thinking of getting a pet but cannot give them the opportunity to live with you in your warm home, please rethink getting a dog.
2. Canine Couture
Raincoats are usually made of waterproof or water resistant nylon fabric and some raincoats have a fleece liner which is more comfortable than nylon next to their skin. Fleece coats are great for cold weather walks, hiking or accompanying you on snow shoeing adventures in the mountains. Fleece coats are best for cold days, not rainy days. Some coats come with a little hoodie to protect your dog’s neck and some coats have a little hole in the neck area for the leash to pass through to connect to your dog’s collar.
Booties can help dogs footing when walking on icy roads. Rock salt or crusty snow can cause frostbite or irritate skin or foot pads. Some booties are fleece and some are waterproof. Many of the Huskies entered in the Iditarod wear booties so don’t think your dog is a weenie for wearing booties.
4. Antifreeze Good for Cars Bad for Pets
If you are new to pet parenting be advised that just a small amount of antifreeze is toxic to both dogs and cats. Unfortunately, the taste is sweet which tantalizes pets into taking a sample. Check the floor under your car for leaks and prevent your pet access to antifreeze containers
5. Packing on the Pounds
Many people who live in cold climates take time off outdoor exercise routines but continue enjoying comfort food so winter weight gain can be the end result of too much pasta. Pets require more food to keep warm but an overweight pet is no better off than an overweight human.
Although frozen lakes are beautiful, every year 911 is needed to rescue people and in some cases pets who wander out on what seemed to be a frozen lake only to end up in that lake due falling through thin ice.
7. Keeping Warm
Heat sources are a necessity but heat lamps or space heaters can unfortunately be a hazard. Heat lamps have
been known to cause severe burns if set up too close to a pet and space heaters can be knocked over and cause a fire.
8. Heading to a Warm Climate?
Every region in the U.S. is home to specific parasites. If you winter in Fla. your dog must be on a heartworm preventative so talk with your Vet about parasite control before your great escape.
9. Prepare for Power Outages
Due to winter blizzards, frozen branches falling on power lines and the inevitable interrupted power service it is best to be proactive for outages. Along with your personal emergency kit should also be a pet emergency kit which needs to include pet food and water for at least 5 days and any prescription meds your pet needs. Including a fleece throw for bedding and an extra coat to keep your pet warm. You may want to keep your pet’s emergency kit in the car for road travel should you get stuck due to a snow storm.
10. Pass the Salt Please
Ice brings out salt to assist in melting snow or keeping ice from accumulating on walking surfaces. Great for humans, helpful for traction for cars but hard on canine paws. If your dog’s paws make contact with treated surfaces make sure
you rinse off any of these salts or chemicals after your walk.
I wish you and your pet a healthy, warm winter season.
Lock and Load
Who would have thought dog owners would have so many options to pick up dog poop. A Scorpion Scooper was sent to me for review and I was interested to give this device a go.
The scooper comes in short, medium and long and is marketed to be easy on your back as you don’t need to bend to pick up your dog’s waste. The manufacturer also states it is a one handed operation and with one simple squeeze of the trigger the scooper opens to grab the poop then with a little flip of your wrist the poop finds its way into the poop bag that is then strategically placed through the frame so is off to the side keeping both your hands and the scooper clean.
There is a bag holder on the frame for an extra roll of bags should you run short. If after dark you need light to locate the poop there is a cute removable LED flashlight conveniently attached to the scooper. The manufacturer also states their product can pick up poo on grass or any surface and pick up firm or soft stool. The product overview also states each bag is good for several piles of poo.
If you have been following my blogs you know I have a Doberman. His daily poo, usually delivered two times a day has some substance which necessitates the proper equipment. To date I have always used a large pan and spade scooper. The large pan holds a quantity of poop and I never gave a second thought to needing two hands to use a scooper. I am 5’5″ so do not really have to bend to accomplish my mission.
The Scorpion Scooper was as easy to put together and use as advertised however I needed to take 3 passes to pick up Chase’s poo which is rarely huge in volume just a few large pieces. Ok enough of that description, so with bag in place, the first and second pass squished some of the poo awaiting pick up but the third pass completed the mission. With a little flip of the wrist the poo then made its way through the frame to the awaiting bag and it appeared there was some room to spare for the next round. However in my attempt to grab another piece the scooper could not seem to grab it all and I needed to make several attempts to clean it up but I decided to continue testing the device. I finally succeeded in getting another piece of poo but in trying to flip it into the bag, lost the prize and it fell back to the earth. This attempt detached one corner of the bag from the scooper during this last attempt and now there was poop on the scooper so there was no way I was in the mood to reattach the bag. I decided to quit and grabbed my tried and true spade and pan scooper and the deed was done.
I still think the pan and spade are better options and I hose it off with sanitizer to keep it clean. The Scorpion Scooper is an option for those who live in an apartment or condo and must leash walk a small dog for daily poops and don’t want to bend over to clean up after the dog. However one needs to weigh if carrying this light 8 oz. scooper would be cumbersome rather than just using the tried and true sturdy poop bag.
At this time I cannot recommend this scooper.
The price is up to $24.95 with a recurring annual cost for bags at $20-30. For more information go to:
Philosophy According To Dogs
Photographs by Andrew Darlow
When I look at animal photography such as the photos taken by Andrew Darlow for his book
Biscuit For Your Thoughts, it makes me want to upgrade my camera, take a class and get serious about this art.
The book is short and sweet and each page opposite one of Darlow’s k9 models offers simple quotes to remind the reader to enjoy the moment. The book would make a lovely stocking stuffer this Christmas for any dog lover or could be a thank you gift for your favorite dog sitter, dog walker, dog trainer or daycare provider.
By Jennifer S. Holland
When we hear the word hero we tend to reflect on a selfless act a human performed to assist another human or even another species in dire need of help. Jennifer Holland is a science journalist who uncovered 37 stories about animals that for whatever reason helped a human in need or another animal in distress.
Holland’s heroes include everything from companion animals to a hippo. The hippo is not known for kind and benevolent acts but in the case of this one particular story Holland shares with us about a female Hippo on two occasions came to the aid of young African animals trying to migrate across a croc infested river, one about to get swept away by a swift current and another getting its leg caught between rocks.
A famous story that circulated news feeds years ago and captured the attention of all who viewed it was about a gorilla at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. The author recounts this particular story about the female gorilla, Binta Jua who protected a child after he fell into the gorilla exhibit.
It is a feel good book that may make the reader question if we are the only species that has evolved to behave in an altruistic manner. Do animals feel compassion? Do they feel empathy? It would appear so in some cases but it is up to the reader to decide how to interpret animal behavior depicted in this heartwarming book. When we hear about people who will risk injury to rush to the aid of a stranger we tend not to question their motive even though on interviews after the act the hero is asked why they did it. The answer is usually the same, someone needed help. I choose to believe some animals either because they have been the recipient of help, have experienced the kindness or nurturing from humans or from their own species, have a maternal drive to help or they do it “just because” have something in them that is triggered upon sensing the distress, emotional meltdown of another or note something is out of whack and seem to just act. Maybe in some cases a cigar is just a cigar. As animals preceded humans on this great planet we still have a lot to learn about them and from them.
A Dog Sport That May Just Be Right For Your Ball Crazy Athlete
Hold on to your kibble as this is one exciting dog sport. Flyball is for the dog with speed and play drive which in this case includes a ball and desire to get that ball from a spring loaded box, fetch it back to the handler while running a straight away over 100 total feet down and back. But wait, there’s more which will be covered in this blog.
Truthfully, I was not really that excited about this sport until recently when I worked with one particular client early this summer with a fetch obsessed, super fast dog that presented many challenging behaviors necessitating rehabilitation. My job was to help the owners modify their handling skills and channel their dog’s tireless energy and problematic behavior into something more positive. I thought about flyball for this dog and discussed the sport with my clients. After the first phase of our training program was completed, I promised the owners that I would look into the sport as a possible outlet for their young dog. During our last session, just for fun I set up a mini mock flyball course in the client’s back yard to test my theory and the dog took to it immediately.
Someone I knew participated in a local flyball club so contacted this dog sport enthusiast to facilitate the introduction and she connected me with her club president and club trainer for an interview. I made a request to observe a class and was given the opportunity to do so in September. The opportunity to view the sport and training style gave me some first hand information for the clients I mentioned but many other clients as well. I also thought the topic could serve as an interesting blog for my readers rather than just writing up a generic blog on flyball.
Meet Seattle Flydogs
c Diane Rich 2014
From what the club calls Mighty Dogs to Super Dogs this club welcomes all breeds, all sized dogs and all types of pet parents interested in this warp speed k9 sport. Tammy Foss is the club owner and operations director and Barbara Reisinger is the club’s training manager. One of the things Barbara mentioned to me is they wanted this club to be more than a serious competition club and their goal was to attract members who enjoy getting together outside of practice, trials and demonstrations.
c Diane Rich 2014
I checked out the North American Flyball Association’s website @ http://www.flyball.org for the back story and information on this growing sport. Here is information from their site:
The North American Flyball Association, Inc. (NAFA®) was established in 1984, and is recognized as the world’s leading authority on flyball and the sport’s top sanctioning organization. Flyball got its start in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, when a group of dog trainers in Southern California created scent discrimination hurdle racing, then put a guy at the end to throw tennis balls to the dogs when they finished the jump line. It didn’t take long for the group to decide to build some sort of tennis ball-launching apparatus, and the first flyball box was born. After a few small tournaments were held in conjunction with dog shows, the first ever flyball tournament was held in 1983.
Flyball is basically a relay race and match two teams of four dogs each, racing side-by-side over a 51 foot long course. Each dog must run down the jumps, trigger a flyball box which releases the ball, retrieve the ball, and return over the jumps. The next dog is released to run the course but can’t cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned over all 4 jumps and reached the start/finish line. The first team to have all 4 dogs finish the course without error wins the heat. Jump height is determined by the smallest dog on the team and this dog, called the “height dog”, is measured at the withers.
With the onset of the Electronic Judging System (EJS), which uses lights and infrared timing sensors, competitors were suddenly able to track their starts, passes, finishes, and individual dogs’ times to the thousandth of a second. Many teams run all 4 dogs through the course in less than 20 seconds. The NAFA World Record is now 14.768.
NAFA tournaments are divided into divisions so that teams compete against other teams of equal abilities. All dogs including mixed breeds are eligible to compete and earn titles in NAFA sanctioned tournaments. Titles are earned via a point system based on the time it takes a dog’s team to complete each heat race.
NAFA sanctions over 300 tournaments a year across North America.
Class #4 Prior to the actual training classes, the experienced dogs practice their skills. This Border Collie
demonstrates what Flyball enthusiasts term a “swimmers turn” to hit the box, get the ball and push off.
I understand this method is now used to reduce injury from super speed and tight turns. c Diane Rich 2014
Does Your Furry Fetch Fanatic Have What It Takes To Be A Flyball Dog
1. Does your dog love to retrieve. If your dog only enjoys getting the ball but is not interested in bringing it back there are trainers who may be able to help facilitate the human definition of fetch
2. Is your dog relatively friendly to other dogs and people
3. Is your dog ok around a lot of noise, and I mean a LOT of noise as many of the k9 competitors are so excited
the barking is off the charts. Maybe your dog will be part of the noisy choir. This noise includes quite a bit of
cheering from human members of the team. Most of the events are held indoors so the noise from all the
barking can hit a decibel that may rival the 12th man at a Seahawks game.
4. Is your dog healthy enough to run full out including making it over hurdles. I saw a flyball demo on Youtube of a 3 legged dog competing and the dog ran so fast you don’t even notice the missing leg.
5. Is your dog fit and trim enough to be part of this sport
6. Unlike agility where a handler needs to run the course with their dog, in flyball a handler will run during training and possibly practice to motivate the dog to go out and come back but once the dog learns the handler’s talent is a release and catch.
NAFA offers a club locator on their website. http://www.flyball.org/getstarted/index.html.
For those pet parents in WA. the site lists 7 clubs in our state. You may want to observe training practice and meet club members to make sure you are a good fit for any particular club.
If my dog Chase developed an interest in the game of fetch I would participate in this sport in a lightening fast heartbeat. I highly recommend you check into this sport.
I want to thank Tammy, Barbara and the club members who spoke with me about the sport. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and hearing their dogs in action.