Finding Your Dog’s Comfort Zone

Our dogs are such accommodating creatures. They tolerate our erratic hours, cross-country moves, late meals, skipped walks, and unpredictable moods. And if all this weren’t enough, sometimes we ask them to do things that conflict with their inherent nature. For example, we take our introverted dogs to the dog park so that we can socialize, or we force our water-phobic dogs into the pool because we love to swim. When do we cross the line, asking too much of these wonderfully adaptive and forgiving creatures?

The tolerance of dogs
Some recent observations prompted this blog. The first was a day spent at a combined all breed and Pharaoh Hound specialty dog show where I was the invited speaker. As I watched the dogs compete, it was abundantly clear that some dogs downright loved the show process. They pranced around the ring, wagged furiously, showed excitement as the judge approached and clearly enjoyed being with their handlers. Watching these dogs made my heart swell a bit. I appreciated their jubilant and showy canine energy and the judges clearly felt the same — invariably, these were the dogs in the ribbons.

I also observed dogs in the show ring who were reluctant participants. Tails that should have been flagging were tucked between hind legs and I saw resigned expressions on these canine faces. They wilted a bit when the judge approached, and the only things these competitors seemed to enjoy were the intermittent treats served up by their handlers. My heart sank a bit watching them. I suspect that, for these dogs, their above average conformation was a curse rather than a blessing.

Another observation that provided blog fodder came in the form of a photo I happened upon while sorting through my computer files. The photo features my own two dogs, Nellie and Quinn sitting in a helicopter. I purposefully positioned the pose, leaving the two of them with a double dose of, “Stay!” The expressions on their faces tell exactly how they are feeling about the experience. Yuck! When I rediscovered this photo, I asked myself, “What in the world was I thinking?”

What is reasonable to ask for from your dog?
Dogs tolerate so much based on the needs of their humans. Apart from sleeping, most get to participate in their favorite activities likely no more than an hour or so every day, if that. How then, can we turn around and ask them to do something they really don’t enjoy?

My dogs have, for the most part, taught me well. They don’t enjoy the dog park, so we don’t go there. They love hiking, and we do this together almost every day. Quinn is a canine Mikhail Baryshnikov, yet he told me, “No thank you” when I introduced him to agility. Nellie would rather be re-neutered than wear a Halloween costume.

Costuming dogs for Halloween
Speaking of Halloween, before costuming your best buddy, I hope you will consider his or her degree of affinity or aversion to dressing for the occasion. Perhaps you’ve created the greatest canine costume ever — a slam-dunk contest winner. Perhaps the Facebook posting of your dog in costume will undoubtedly score lots of “likes.” Or, maybe, just maybe, you will look back on the photos a year from now, note your dog’s expression and body language, and wonder to yourself, “What in the world was I thinking?”

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Doorways and Stairwells

Try your best not to expose your dog to another canine in the close confines of a stairwell. Here are some tips:

  • With your dog waiting behind you, open the door and check to see if another dog and owner are on the other side. If any part of a door or stairwell has a window, use it to check on anyone standing in your way.
  • If the coast is clear, cross the threshold and give your dog permission to do the same. If the coast is not clear, just close the door and try again in a minute or two.
  • In stairwells with blind turns— If your dog has a solid wait cue and you are 99.9% sure no one else is in the stairwell or about to enter, ask your dog to wait behind while you go ahead just a few steps to check for other people with dogs. If the stairwell is clear, call your dog to join you and proceed. Repeat as necessary.
  • Anytime you become aware that a dog or another person is moving toward you or behind you, take evasive action. Speed up to the closest door and duck out of the stairwell until the other person and dog are on their way.

How You Can Help

Motivate your dog.

You can help your dog to overcome an existing fearful association by providing positive reinforcement. In the field of animal training, this is called "counter conditioning”.The most important thing is the quality of the motivator. For it to work best, your dog has to care about the food reward.

Because your dog is hungriest before a meal, the best time to work on getting comfortable with the Hub is at mealtime. Think of when you go to a restaurant. You may be excited to get dessert before you have your meal, but afterwards end up skipping dessert because you’re too full. Likewise, your dog will not be as excited to engage with the Hub and get their favorite high-value treats if they’ve just eaten a meal. Skipping a meal is not abnormal for dogs, but check with your vet to see what's right for your pup.

Make your dog feel comfortable.

Use your dog’s routine to your advantage. Fitting sessions with the Hub into the habits and routine your dog is already used to will help get them comfortable. For example, try placing the Hub in the same place that your dog is used to eating in and fill the Hub with food at the times that your dog is used to getting meals. The more familiar the circumstances in which they are introduced to the Hub, the easier it will be for them to feel comfortable using it!

Encourage the behaviors you want to see.

We can accidentally reward behaviors that we don’t want our dogs to do, and if done too much, can accidentally condition the wrong things. For example, you may condition your dog to be more afraid or hesitant without realizing it. If your dog backs away and shows fear, and then you pet them and talk in sweet tones, you may condition them to show more of this behavior. You can avoid doing this by only rewarding your dog’s braver motions, those that indicate your dog is becoming more curious and comfortable around the Hub.

Keep in mind that dogs are sensitive to human behaviors.

It’s important to keep in mind that our attitudes and behaviors can influence our dog, probably more than many of us realize. If you show frustration or discouragement, your dog might respond in kind. If you get stressed out, you may be stressing your dog out too, which doesn’t create a good environment for learning.

If food is not working, some dogs may respond more to social rewards, or perhaps their favorite toy! Use these other positive rewards to get your dog to come closer to the Hub.

Remember that the process of helping your dog become acquainted with the Hub will take time and effort. You may make some mistakes, and that’s okay.

Remember that every dog is an individual.

Some dogs may become Hub experts within a few days, while others may still be getting used to the Hub a month from now. Even if it does take your dog a while, keep in mind that they’re still getting mental engagement and exercise by learning to interact with the Hub. And most importantly, accept your dog for who they are — each dog is unique and awesome for their own reason!

Recent columns

So what do you do if you find a cat who appears to be lost? Well, let’s cover that next week — because that’s a tricky topic, and as usual, I’ve run out of space this week. Clearly, I’m not a man of few words.

Have a beautiful week, and stay safe out there!

*Pasadena Humane accepts stray animals from the following localities: Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose, Monrovia, Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena.

Jack Hagerman is the vice president of communications for the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA.

Whenever you are looking to head out on a trip in an RV to the beautiful campgrounds of Florida, you will find yourself facing several questions, including what to do with your pets when you are on the road. Kenneling is expensive and it can be stressful for both the dog and the parents. Most RVers elect to take the family furball along for the fun!

Get your Pet Used to Your RV

When you decide to take your pet out of their comfort zone and onto the open road in your RV, you will find yourself uprooting your own life and the life of your pets. This can be very stressful for elderly or anxious dogs. The first step to take is to make sure your pets are used to the life you are about to undertake in your RV, to hopefully avoid stressful and uncomfortable moments after you leave your home.

Get your pet used to your RV well before leaving on your trip. Try to eat some meals in your RV alongside your pets before setting out to make sure your pet is acquainted with their new home and is comfortable eating in it. Also, make sure that they have a sleeping or special space of their own. You are taking your pet from their home to a much smaller space in your RV and it is important for them to feel like they have a safe spot until they are comfortable with traveling.

Take Some Precautions

Your Dog’s First RV Trip doesn’t have to be stressful – for you or your pet!

Although you love your pets, you may not want to see them when you are driving along the highway. One excellent RVing tip for traveling with a dog or another pet is to make sure they are secured while you are on the move. There are many attractions to be seen in Florida and you will not want to have the worry of your dog taking your attention off the road as you move through this beautiful state.

Look into a Pet ID

If you are considering RVing with dogs, you should be prepared for the eventuality of a pet making a bad decision and finding themselves lost. There are several options you can undertake to make certain of your chance to see your pet again should the worst happen. There are pet IDs similar to a driver’s license that can be carried by you to prove you own your dog should they are found. The pet ID driver’s license has a photo of your pet along with its breed, size, weight, and other important information. In addition, all dogs heading out on an RV trip should be microchipped. Make sure that the microchip company has your traveling contact information on file including a cellphone, email, and an alternative contact number if you can’t be reached. And, of course, always have the dog’s name and owner’s cell number on their tag. If you have the information, also consider having the phone number and microchip ID number engraved on the back of your dog’s tag to make it even easier to reach you.

Take Care When Parking

Perhaps one of the most important issues to address when RVing with dogs is the problem of how to care for your pets when you are parked and temperatures rise. Florida can be incredibly hot and can reach high levels of humidity in the afternoons so making sure your dog is not in danger should be of the highest priority. If possible, park your RV in a shady location and hookup right away to start the air conditioner while you set up camp. Also, consider heat reflective window coverings to cut down on the glare of the Florida sun.

While at the Campground

When you arrive at your campground, you will not find yourself wanting to hop out and explore the beaches of Florida or the Everglades, or any of the extensive attractions. You should remember your pet does not want to spend their entire vacation in the RV and needs more than just a short walk each day to feel happy. You don’t want to leave your dog outside unattended but a tie-out line or playpen will allow your furry friend to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air with you. Most campgrounds require dogs to either be on a leash or contained so having a portable fenced-in area is a great option if plan on traveling frequently.

Watch the video: I Destroyed My Puppys Comfort Zone to Realize I Should Destroy My Own

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