Intervening in Tug Games: Plan A to Plan B

hay to barn 2014

When do you intervene when your dog's play becomes borderline? We all know that there is no simple answer to this question. (Except, of course... "It depends.") I wrote extensively on this topic in May. However, the evolving relationship between Maggie and Willie continues to keep the question relevant on a daily basis. You might recall that I mentioned earlier I was quietly intervening when the dogs became emotionally aroused while playing tug. Maggie gets so excited she starts sounding like a chainsaw on steroids, and Willie sometimes gets that flat-eyed, lizard look that means he's about to do something he shouldn't. When that happened I began saying, always in a cheerful voice, "That'll Do" or calling Willie's name to come to me. I was always happy and upbeat about it, careful not Read More

When to Intervene in Dog-Dog Interactions

Luke, Indiana & me

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked, and with good reason. It's a tough one. It's also relevant to my own life right now, after having just introduced a new dog into the household, and having to make split-second decisions several times in the first few weeks. I should say first off that there is no ultimate truth here. No research, no data, just my opinion based on experience with thousands of client dogs and plenty of my own. Certainly there is no dearth of opinions about when to intervene when dogs "get into it," from the extremes of "I never intervene, I just let them work it out" to the opposite attitude of calling a dog off instantly, or correcting her, for a hard eye or a quiet growl. You won't be surprised to learn that I live in the middle ground, not being Read More

Spring Photo Album

Pepper looks at headstone 2014

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FARM today. Because, well, spring has sprung and it seems like everything is happening all at once. Lambs in the barn, brush to clear, gardens to tend, barn roofs to patch, etc. It's all good, there's just a lot of it. I'm happy to report that the three lambs we have are doing well. Barbie, aka "Explodo Ewe" was due yesterday, but so far, she seems oblivious. The photo below is of Lady Godiva (lambs = Salt and Pepper) and Lady Baa Baa (with Chess, the black and white lamb in the middle). This is the first time that they have left the barn and gone up the hill to graze on real grass. That's Pepper on the left, unclear what to make of Luke's tombstone, which says That'll Do, Luke, That'll Do. (I wrote about Luke and the headstone in For the Love of a Dog, if you'd like Read More

Introducing A New Dog: Maggie and Willie as a Case Study

3 lambs 4-21

In hopes it will be helpful to others in the same situation, I thought I'd outline how I handled the introduction of lovely little Maggie into the family. Here's some background on the actors: 1) Willie: Eight-year old BC neutered male, at one point extremely aggressive to unfamiliar dogs, relatively comfortable outside now with new dogs, but tense when unfamiliar dogs come into the house. Willie is a classic alpha-wannabe: Fearful but desperate to maintain control. He is very responsive to acoustic cues from me, 99% of the time a sweet, lovely dog, but can lose his temper around other dogs and be downright rude and inappropriate when tired and/or stressed. Willie at his worst? Think Jack Nicholson's face in the movie The Shining. Willie at his best? The best dog you'll ever be lucky Read More

Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

W M stick 2

The short answer is no, not always. As a matter of fact, our ability to attribute human characteristics to non-human animals is an impressive ability that we should be proud of. In addition, it can make us better dog owners. Lest you think I've lost my mind, let me explain, this time with a longer answer. Go back to about 40,000 years ago, when people began creating figures that combined features of humans and animals. We don't know their purpose, but we do know that our tendency to combine human and non-human characteristics is ancient. Archeologist Steven Mithen argues that anthropomorphic art suggests that hunters were attempting to identify empathetically with hunted animals to "better predict their movements." The term was actually used most often in early history as imagining Read More