Costumes and candy and doorbells—oh my! A dog’s-eye view of Halloween

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Ghosts and goblins, capes and masks, and bowls of chocolate—it’s not a holiday for the dogs!

If you have one of those super-easy-going dogs that trainers sometimes call “bombproof,” feel free to stop reading now and go get a Pumpkin Spice Anything at a quaint sidewalk café, your beautifully calm dog relaxing by your feet.

For the rest of us, it takes some care and forethought to keep our pups safe, happy, and healthy on Halloween. Let’s start by looking at things from Fictional Fido’s perspective on Halloween—perhaps the most confusing holiday in a dog’s year:

I know you humans love your holidays, but this one is a little scary.

First, my human family puts on odd costumes. It’s fun, sure—but I sometimes wonder where my normal humans went!

In all the extra excitement leading up to a holiday, I don’t always get my regular walks and napping done. Both of these are Very Important Activities to us dogs!

And then my humans want me to walk WITH them and the costumed kids, in the dark, with all those OTHER excited humans in THEIR weird-looking outfits? Yikes! I’d rather stay home, thankyouverymuch. (Besides, that’s where the big bowl of peanut-butter cups is!)

But at home, the doorbell rings every two minutes, and we’re greeted by ghosts, goblins, superheroes, princesses, and giant black cats shouting, “TRICK OR TREAT!!!” And my humans keep giving THEM treats out of the big bowl, but never give ME any of them. I missed my walk, my nap, and my dinner, and now you deprive me of TREATS?

It’s just not fair. I see the grown-ups sneaking piece after piece of chocolate, making those enticing crinkly-wrapper sounds. Human food = yummy food, so….  I’m just going to have to help myself! I’d better scarf down as much as I can before they stop me!

Uh-oh. Now I feel really, really icky and my humans are talking about a trip to the vet. This is not what I signed up for. I think I need to throw up now… sorry about the rug, Mom.

Poor Fictional Fido! Here are a few tips to help ensure your pups have a much better Halloween than he’s having. And they might just keep you away from the emergency vet and the local hardware store to rent a carpet shampooer.

Keep all candy (not just chocolate) safely out of reach of your pets. Chocolate is especially dangerous because dogs are much more sensitive to methylxanthines than humans. For a good idea of how little it takes to make your pup dangerously ill, check out this Chocolate Toxicity Meter

What goes in, must come out. Those high-fat, high-sugar treats can exit the system rather more quickly and unexpectedly than your dog’s normal, nutritionally balanced food. Just sayin’.

Keep pets away from doors (use a baby gate, or put them in another room with a special, dog-appropriate treat). Don’t take dogs trick-or-treating with you—for their safety and comfort, and that of other trick-or-treaters. And stick to their normal routine as closely as possible; routines are reassuring. (Check out Erin Schneider’s wonderful blog with practical safety tips for Halloween here.) 

Finally, you might LOVE that irresistibly cute dog costume, but your dog doesn’t. (They may tolerate it because they’re good dogs and they love you, but they won’t like it.) If you want to do something festive that isn’t going to make your dog miserable, try a fun seasonal bandanna, non-toxic chalk tattoos, or black-and-orange nail polish, available at the PetSmart Grooming Salon.  

This is a difficult holiday for many dogs, for many reasons. Let’s do what we can to ensure everyone has a safe, fun, happy Halloween! Aw-woooooo!

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Canine curiosities your groomer knows

 

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Professional dog groomers get to know more dogs well than almost anyone, other than a veterinarian. This week, we spoke with Nicole Morris, Regional Salon Quality and Education Manager for PetSmart’s Great Lakes Region, and asked her what she’s learned that might surprise us. As usual, Nicole didn’t disappoint!  

Every pet professional picks up specialized bits of information on the job. For example, a pro musher will quickly learn that not all “Northern breeds” are created equal (not by a long shot). Vets learn that sometimes the fastest way to get a simple but stressful procedure done is to give the patient brief breaks. And dog walkers learn every client-dog’s preferences, from how they like to get leashed up to which fire hydrants provide the most fascinating scents.

Over the course of a career a groomer’s hands will cover every inch of thousands of dogs, from miniatures to giants, puppies to seniors, and super-relaxed to super-stressed. Because of this, experienced groomers have an inside scoop about dogs that other pet pros don’t usually have. Here are three of Nicole’s favorite fascinating facts:

Terriers pose one of the biggest challenges as far as temperaments for grooming. The terrier personality is “fight or flight” and when they don’t like having their nails trimmed, for example, they will try to get away from the groomer—and if that’s not an option, they may try to fight. Reading the behavior of a terrier and changing your technique/approach are crucial for both the terrier and groomer to keep everyone safe.

Many people bring their pups in for a groom because the dogs “smell.” One common culprit of a smelly pet is dirty ears! Pets ears should be cleaned regularly, especially if they have dropped ears, like spaniels and hounds. Look inside your pet’s ears regularly for redness, dirt, or discharge.

Did you know poodles shed? Instead of dropping the hairs onto your floor, they often fall back into the dog’s coat and, if not brushed out, can cause tangles and mats to form.

Because of their extensive contact with so many dogs, good groomers—those who pay close attention to the dogs in their care, understand canine body language, and know the unique characteristics of each breed or type of dog—have insights like these that are as fascinating as they are useful.

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Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

Clear the Shelters – how to adopt your just-right dog

 

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Saturday, August 19 is the nationwide Clear the Shelters event, when participating organizations will be lowering or even eliminating adoption fees for many of their available pets.

If you’re planning to look for a new buddy this weekend, it’s important that you don’t get caught up in the mindset of “if I don’t adopt this dog right now someone else will take him!” Adopting a dog is a big step, and you owe it to yourself, your family, and the dog to make sure that you do it in a mindful and informed way.

Are you thinking about adding a cat to your all-dog household? Read this first. 

Everybody has their own tastes in dogs – some people like laid-back couch potatoes, some like dogs who can go on daily runs, and some like smarter-than-you border collies. Individual preferences aside, the primary thing you should be looking for when evaluating a potential dog is sociability with humans. The quality of the adopter-dog interaction is a significant predictor of whether the dog will get (and stay) adopted or not, and there is a simple reason for that – dogs who are sociable with humans make better pets and family members.

A shelter environment is very stressful and can make an accurate behavioral assessment very difficult (even for trained professionals), but there are certain behaviors that should send up red flags immediately. Keep this list in mind when you’re looking:

  • Is the dog approaching you voluntarily, and, if so, how is he approaching?
  • Is the dog staying in the back of the kennel and not approaching anyone?
  • Does the dog body slam the kennel door when approaching?
  • Is the dog spinning or engaging in other repetitive behaviors?
  • Is the dog staring with a hard eye, and/or barking, and/or showing teeth?
  • Does the dog have a known history of separation anxiety?
  • Has the dog been returned more than twice by other adopters?

Need help decoding those dog barks? Check out this handy chart from canine behavior experts Stanley Coren and Sarah Hodgson!

If you see any of these things, either on the kennel card or with your own eyes, you should think long and hard before signing those adoption papers. All of the above are indicative of larger behavioral issues than the average dog owner is prepared to deal with. Talk to the in-house behavior and training experts about what the information on the kennel cards really means; quite often the volunteers who work in the dog adoption area will have valuable insights about the dog’s real temperament as well. Even better – take an experienced third party or dog trainer with you to help you make the right choice. That unbiased, informed opinion can help you from succumbing to sentimentality. Be honest with yourself and with the adoption counselor – an unrealistic view of what you are capable of handling does everyone a huge disservice (perhaps the dog most of all).

And a last bit of advice – don’t rush headlong into adoption just because of a reduced fee. Sadly, there will always be an overabundance of dogs available for adoption; the shelters won’t be clear for very long. Even a full adoption fee is a good deal, any way you look at it. If you don’t find the right dog this weekend, you can look again next week, or the week after, or the week after that. You deserve a just-right dog, and the dog deserves a just-right home – take the time to make the just-right decision.

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The annual Clear the Shelters event, sponsored by NBC Owned Television Stations and the Telemundo Station Group, is on Saturday, August 19, 2017. You can find a list of participating shelters here.

 

How much water should your dog be drinking?

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By Emily Bruer

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets. Things like water intake, appetite and energy levels can be indicative of your pet’s health and well-being. If your dog’s habits suddenly change it could be due to a medical condition or a change in his environment.

The answer to “how much water your dog should drink?” is far from a straightforward one. Each dog is unique in size and metabolism and each dog’s water intake will be different. The best way to know how much your dog should drink is simply by observing him.

It’s normal for dogs to drink after exercise, eating, and sleeping. They also will drink sporadically throughout the day, so get to know your dog’s habits when he is healthy.

Another great way to know if your dog is drinking enough water is by checking his urine. Stand near your dog when he is urinating; if there is a strong odor to the urine, or it seems to be a dark yellow or orange color, it could mean that your dog is dehydrated. Similarly, if the urine is pink or red it is an indication of blood in the urine and you should get your dog to the vet right away, as they could have an infection or stones in their bladder.

Another great way to test your dog’s hydration levels is by gently lifting the scruff (the skin on the back of your dog’s neck) until it is taut, and then letting it go. If it immediately falls back into place your dog is hydrated, but if it takes longer than a few seconds your dog could be dehydrated.

If you believe your dog is dehydrated, but he isn’t interested in drinking water, a trip to the vet is in order. When an animal is dehydrated for too long it can cause damage to the kidneys as well as other internal organs. Better safe than sorry when it comes to hydration and your dog’s health!

Water temperature – When offering your dog water one thing to keep in mind is the water’s temperature. While it is tempting to give your dog ice cold water, it’s actually much healthier to let your dog have water that is room temperature.

When a warm dog ingests ice cold water their body must then use valuable energy to warm up the water. If it doesn’t, it can cause your dog to have a tummy ache or even throw up.

Not too much –  Another common cause of vomiting in dogs is drinking too much water. If you have just brought your dog in from a hot day or from a bout of vigorous play, his first instinct will be to drink a lot of water.

Unfortunately, if they have access to an unlimited supply they will often drink too much and then proceed to puke it back up. It can also cause a condition called bloat. You can find the symptoms here.

To prevent too much water intake, offer your dog several small bowls of water every 10-15 minutes until they are cooled off and relaxed. Once they have calmed down, you can put their normal water bowl back down and let them have access to the unlimited supply.

Every dog is different when it comes to water intake and bathroom habits. Get to know your dog’s routine while he is young and healthy, so you can recognize potential problems as he ages. If you notice an abnormal change in your dog’s routine don’t put off calling your vet, as what could be a simple infection could quickly get worse without treatment.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

Farewell to Whisper

WhisperBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

This weekend we said goodbye to my sweet collie, Whisper. My head is swirling with so many images, memories, and thoughts, yet none of them seem to have a theme, pattern, or direction.  But I want to share them with you, my pet people.

So as a way of working through my grief, I choose to reflect on how much each dog I have ever loved has changed and shaped my life. And how I have found a way to make a career, build a community, and have an impact because of those relationships. Whisper was a deeply significant part of that journey.

Whisper was my daughter’s first memory dog (we had Poodle when she was born, but Poodle died when Sadie was only 18 months old so she barely remembers her).  She was my first purebred dog and she was the first dog that didn’t come to me via being a stray, as every single one of my six previous dogs did. She was my first dog who wouldn’t jump into a car and my first dog who always preferred her space versus needing to being attached to someone. All firsts, all with Whisper.

Whisper and saide

We rescued Whisper five years ago from a very mean breeder who debarked her and let her suffer, untreated, from a variety of autoimmune diseases and abuse from other animals. With the help and support of my long-time friend and mentor, Lynn Brezina, we made the decision to take Whisper home and nurse her back to health and build her a life she deserved.  I can say, with absolute certainty, that we did exactly that.

My husband Drew, our friends, our other pets, and our entire community saw to it that Whisper had five beautiful years on this planet. And she somehow taught all us of about second chances and what it really means to be a force for good in this world despite the all the reasons not to be. In the entire five years we lived with this dog, she never – not for a single second – lifted a lip, growled, or even gave so much as a hard stare. There have been babies, dogs, cats, rats, pet sitters, cars, offices, strangers, and kids everywhere, filling every crevice and every moment of her life with us. And through all that, and in the wake of four years of abuse and neglect before we rescued her, she gave us nothing but kindness. (And the not-so-occasional stealing of food.)

Whisper was a good dog, and we loved her.

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7 ways to help your dog get through the 4th of July

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The 4th of July (otherwise known as Happy Scare the Crap Out of Your Dog Day) is looming, and it’s time for some basic management techniques to help your pets make it through the festivities.

  • Make sure your pet’s tags and microchips are up-to-date. If the ID tags have been worn smooth or haven’t been updated with current information, get out the sharpie and write your contact information on the inside of the collar.
  • Even if you normally take off your pet’s collar in the home, consider leaving it on during peak noise and activity times. The sharpie trick won’t help if the collar is hanging on a coat hook when your dog bolts out the door
  • Keep the dog inside the house, in a crate or closed off area, away from high-activity zones. If you just plan to put the dog in the back bedroom, make sure the window is secure; pets have been known to bust right through window screens – and even windows – if they panic. Tape a big piece of cardboard over the window if necessary.
  • If you have a very noise-sensitive or -phobic dog, talk to your vet about possible medications to help keep him calm during the worst of the fireworks.

For other management techniques for noise-sensitive dogs, see our post about helping your dog get through construction season.

  • Take your pup out for a long walk well before the festivities start, so that he’s tired and more inclined to sleep than panic. Make sure he has a safe place to retreat, a Thundershirt or a TTouch wrap to provide calming pressure, a stuffed Kong to keep him distracted, and a human to provide comfort and reassurance.
  • If you’re going to a fireworks show, leave the dog at home. Even well-behaved, well-socialized dogs can get easily overwhelmed in big, noisy crowds with bright lights bursting thunderously overhead.
  • After the fireworks are over, and before you let your dog out into the yard, scan the ground – firework detritus can be sharp as well as poisonous, and no one wants to spend the rest of the holiday weekend at the emergency vet.

If you have any techniques that you find particularly helpful during fireworks and thunderstorm season, tell us about them in the comments. Have a happy and safe holiday!

 

 

 

Level up your dog training skills at FetchFind Academy

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

We’re halfway through Essential Training Skills here at FetchFind Academy, and this was the scene in our classroom the other day:

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I mean, honestly – how can you not love a class staffed by Golden Retrievers?

Essentials is where we really start to train dog trainers – everything they learned in Behavior Fundamentals Online is taken apart, examined minutely, expanded upon, and put into hands-on practice. This is where all of that theory starts to make sense in the real world, and where our students start to become professional dog trainers.

After two more months of practice and projects, our Essentials students will move on to Advanced Training Skills. This is where they will do a deep dive into working with people as well as animals, via a wide range of internships and simulated situations. At the end of four months, they’ll be ready to start their careers as highly sought-after professional dog trainers. We have FetchFind Academy graduates in the top dog training companies, social welfare/therapy/humane education organizations, and rescues/shelters in the Chicago area and beyond (including AnimalSense, Paradise 4 Paws, Anything is Pawzible, Canine Therapy Corps, Pet Partners, Soggy Paws, Hawk City K9, Chicago Animal Care and Control, Safe Humane Chicago, The Anti-Cruelty Society, ALIVE Rescue, One Tail at a Time, All Terrain Canine, and Touch Dog Training). It’s almost impossible to overstate how many doors are open for people with top quality professional education and training – you can work for established companies, join a start up, or start your own business.

Advanced Training Skills is also a fantastic stand-alone program for dog trainers who want to level up their skills and pick up CEUs.

No matter where you originally trained, it’s always a sound career investment to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date. (If you’d like to learn more about joining us for Advanced Training Skills in August, please contact Lynda Lobo at lynda@fetchfind.com.)

If you want to become a dog trainer, we recommend starting with Behavior Fundamentals Online – at only $49, it’s a great way to get your paws wet. And if you ever have any questions about how you can get started in any area of the pet industry, just shoot us an email at hello@fetchfind.com – we’re always happy to help!

 

Dog fights: do this, don’t do that

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By Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA

In my last post where I discussed what to do when an off-leash dog comes barreling at you and your on-leash dog, I teased you with the question “What do you do if your worst thought comes to be reality: a dog fight?”

Fights can be scary, human or otherwise. However, much of the time, there is more bluster and posturing than anything else. Even those will often end before you have a chance to take action. They can be over a toy, a bowl, or just a dog drawing boundaries. (If only humans had a good way to do this without offense!)

I’ll tell you a little secret – dogs don’t go around looking for fights.

 All that canine body language that we talk about is actually a thing! It’s the way dogs talk to one another to avoid conflict. Most conflicts have been negotiated one way or the other while the dogs are still many feet apart, before we even thought they noticed one another.

However, when the right set of communication happens, or if one dog is saying one thing and the other just doesn’t have the social graces to listen to the other dog (we know people like that, right?), that is when they will bolster themselves up to fight status.

So, how do we get them apart when they aren’t doing it themselves?

Do this:

  • Grab the aggressor by the hind legs (like they are a wheelbarrow). When you get them apart, get them as far from each other as possible.
  • Get water (a hose is best, but a bucket or cup might suffice) and dump it on their heads.
  • If there’s a broom handle, long board, baby gate, or stick, use it to get in between them and get them disengaged.
  • Got an air horn? Try it.

Don’t do this:

  • Don’t get in between the sharp ends (aka, the teeth).
  • Don’t grab one of the dog’s collars (redirection happens).
  • Don’t yell like a banshee on the loose (though it’s hard not to, and I would be remiss not to admit that I’ve found myself having a horrifying out-of-body experience, looking down on myself ineffectively screaming).

Dogfights are dangerous and getting involved can be as well. Use caution. Even your own dog can redirect a bite on to you in the heat of the moment.

The best tactic is to prevent dogfights by learning about dog body language and pay attention when you are out in public with your dog (not on your cell phone).

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Nicole Stewart 250x300Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA, is the Director of Training at AnimalSense / Paradise4Paws.  She strongly believes that dog training is as much about the people as it is about the dogs. Her favorite place to be is at home with her human family and her steady Clumber Spaniel, Finlay.

This post was originally published in the AnimalSense blog.

Bark management 101

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Most dogs bark, and while barking can sometimes be a behavioral concern it is a natural part of doggy daily life. This is not to say that you shouldn’t worry about problem barking, or that nothing can be done to solve it. Training and management can help improve the behavior, but, unless you have a basenji, your dog may always bark.

While there are some dogs that just bark now and then, barking can become a problem when the dog barks too much, too loudly, or when the barking is accompanied by other undesirable behaviors.

Solving or troubleshooting your dog’s barking problem depends heavily on understanding just what type of barking your dog is doing. This can be done by observing the cause and characteristics of your dog’s barking.

In The Bark Stops Here, Terry Ryan groups barkers into six broad classifications:

Attention-seeking barkers: Characterized by a bark which is high in pitch and accompanied by pauses and moments when the dog looks around and listens for a response from anyone. ASBs are not picky about who they get attention from.

Territorial barkers: Characterized by a low-pitched, intense burst of barking. This kind of barking is usually startling and short lived. It is accompanied by a distinct body posture: the tail is up, the ears and the corners of the mouth are forward, the stance is tall and forward on toes, the hackles are up, and the nose is wrinkled. Territorial barkers initiate barking when a perceived threat enters into the dog’s imagined territory.  (Remember – the dog defines his territory, not you.)

Boredom barkers: Characterized by a flat boring bark with occasional howling directed at nothing. This kind of barking is repetitive in nature and is usually of medium pitch.

Fearful barkers: Characterized by sharp, high-pitched barking accompanied by a distinct body posture in which the dog’s tail is tucked between her legs, the hackles are up, the pupils are dilated, the nose is wrinkled, and the corners of the mouth are back. Barking is initiated by a perceived threat coming close to the dog. For the fearful barker, barking is designed to increase the distance between the threat and the dog. While the dog may step forward while barking, she will usually retreat as well.

Excitement barkers: Characterized by high-pitched barking, accompanied by a great deal of continuous movement, a wagging tail, and variable intensity.

Separation anxiety barkers: Characterized by high-pitched frantic barking, and accompanied by pacing, drooling, whining, scratching, chewing, and howling.

Problem solving devices and methods:

Training: a number of training options can provide help in the barking arena. You can work on “Watch me,” put barking and “Quiet” on cue (see below), and even work on certain calming signals.

Exercise: your dog might not have as much barking energy if she gets to run it off at the beach! Mental exercise is as effective as physical, so if you can’t get outside try some nosework or indoor games.

Medication: pharmaceutical intervention can be a powerful tool for helping dogs who are anxious or fearful barkers. In those cases, the barking is a symptom of something bigger, and when the bigger issue is addressed, the barking often decreases quite dramatically. If your regular vet isn’t trained in problem barking solutions, consult with a veterinary behaviorist. Look for someone who is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists; they have the training and experience to find the best solution for the issues that are causing the barking in the first place.

Debarking: I have never recommended surgical debarking, and I never will. Many vets will refuse to perform the procedure, and it has been banned in several states and many European countries. In addition to being inhumane, debarking eliminates one of the dog’s primary methods of communication. If a dog can’t give you an effective warning bark, he’s more likely to go straight to the biting. Also, a debarked dog can still make plenty of noise; my collie, Whisper, was debarked by her previous owners, and she still barks all the time – it just sounds hoarse and painful.

A note about behavior correction collars:

Citronella bark collars: In some cases, a citronella bark collar can be a helpful tool, when used in conjunction with proper training. The CBC is designed to correct the dog for barking by administering a spray of citronella every time the dog barks. This can be effective because it works on four of the dog’s senses: she hears the spray, she sees it, she smells it, and she tastes it (and she doesn’t like it). It is immediate in its response so you won’t have to worry about your own timing.

This is a “last resort” option, and is not always the best solution, especially if your dog’s barking is related to issues of fear or anxiety. Keep in mind that citronella collars tend not to work consistently throughout the lifespan of the device, which means that the collar either won’t spray at all or will spray at random intervals. This will just confuse the dog, and may end up reinforcing other undesirable behaviors. It’s especially important to consult with a behaviorist when considering a CBC, both to be certain that you’ve exhausted all other options and to make sure that you have the right treatment plan in place.

Shock collars: Don’t be fooled by language that says the dog receives a “harmless electronic stimulus” from the collar. Shock collars hurt, and the likelihood that it will end up reinforcing other, more dangerous behaviors is pretty high. If your dog receives a shock every time he barks at someone walking into the house, he will quickly learn to associate pain with visitors, which can result in aggression towards humans.  There is no guarantee that pain is going to be a deterrent, either; some dogs have a higher pain tolerance than others, and their need to bark may override the pain inflicted by the collar. In some cases the constant shocks may make the barking worse.

How to teach “Quiet” by putting barking on cue:

Some dog owners find success in managing barking by training a pair of behaviors: Speak & Quiet. Here’s how!

  1. Initiate barking by using a controlled bark trigger, like the doorbell rung by your training partner or a knock at the door. You have to be able to control this trigger and make it happen a number of times. Remember, training dogs is repetitive!
  2. When your dog starts barking say, “Bark, yes, good bark!” or “Speak, yes, good speak!”
  3. Take a tasty & smelly treat and put it in front of your dog’s nose and say “Shhh” or “Quiet.” Do not give the treat if your dog continues to bark.
  4. Most dogs will stop barking to take the treat, and when he does this say, “Yes, good quiet!” and give the treat.
  5. Repeat!

Keep the individual sessions short (10-15 minutes), and schedule several sessions throughout the day. Once your dog has learned a good, solid “Quiet”, make sure you reinforce it regularly (two or three times a week). If a new barking trigger presents itself, start over with step 1.  You can find apps with sound effects like sirens, children’s voices, or other barking dogs to use as trigger noises.

 

Pet sitter stories: that night I slept on the bathroom floor with an Angel guarding the door

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

The year was 1996. I owned a pet sitting and dog walking company and loved doing visits. Even though I had several dozen dog walkers and pet sitters on my staff, there were a few pets for whom only I was able to provide care.

Enter Angel, the 6 year old chow chow. She wasn’t a dog who took to strangers readily, but over the years I took care of her, she became, well, okay with me. Never thrilled., but always willing to allow me to do things like let her in the yard and give her food.

I mostly took care of her on occasions where her owners went out of town, with an overnight here and there. I never loved the assignment but it was my duty and no chow was gonna keep a good petsitter down.

Although, I did learn that a chow could keep a good petsitter in the bathroom all night.

Yes, you read that right. I locked myself in the bathroom all night as a means of protecting myself.

So let’s get the conditions straight. The family just had a baby, and to make things really juicy…they had just moved into a new home.

Let’s remember that this is before I became a dog trainer and I was still a wide-eyed and super-optimistic dog lover. That’s not to say that I wasn’t realistic; I always took precautions, but I certainly never thought I’d find myself in position in which I truly feared for my safety. Had I known then what I so clearly know now, I can’t imagine I would’ve taken on that job with such gusto.

Angel let me in the house with no problem and I went about my business. I let her in the backyard, I refreshed her water, and I gave her food. It was as I made my move to leave the house that she became ferocious – barking, growling, and lunging. It was as though she was a possessed chow. And if you know anything about chows, well…I’ll leave it at that.

I made a move for the bathroom and shut the door as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this was pre-cell phones and pre-dog training career, so I had no handy-dandy treats in my pocket and no way to call for help. Basically, I was screwed.

I slept on the bathroom floor that night, and all the while Angel prowled outside, growling and scratching at the door. I would characterize it as a slightly unpleasant experience.

Her owners came home midmorning to find my Jeep in the driveway and their petsitter hiding in the bathroom. I wouldn’t say they were upset so much as confused. I, however, was not confused at all. Angel wanted to eat me.

What is the moral of the story, you ask? There really isn’t one, unless you take this as a cautionary tale that working with animals requires more than love, it requires education and quick thinking (and, sometimes, a willingness to sleep on a bathroom floor).

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Learn how to speak dog with Behavior Fundamentals Online! It might just keep YOU from spending the night on the bathroom floor. 🙂