Soulpup delivers the best pet info to help you and your dog enjoy a long and happy life together.
Keep your pooch cool, under control and happy so that you can be the same.
As a child, I hated playing outside. Even when we lived in picturesque Hawaii, my mom would send all the kids outdoors to play and I spent the time whining at the front door. Years later, my dog Lulu does the same thing. Once she has finished doing her business, Lulu sits by the door howling to come back inside.
Mosquitoes have been out of control this year, so I can’t really blame her for wanting to stay indoors. But plenty of pooches spend the dog days of summer having fun in the sun with their owners. Unfortunately, this also tends to be a time when plenty of dogs get away. During our daily walks, Lulu and I have run into at least three dogs that were off leash and roaming the neighborhood. Proper identification gives lost pets a better chance of returning home safely. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that about 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters each year, and about half of those pets were picked up by animal control.
If you plan to enjoy the great outdoors with your dog, consider adding a few items that rank as favorites among trainers.
Get a sturdy leash: Do a quick inventory of your dog’s gear and make sure metal attachments on leashes still get the job done. You don’t want to find out that a leash has passed its prime during a long walk — or a run-in with the neighbor’s cat. Professional dog walker Benetta Green of Gone to the Dogs pet care in Atlanta also avoids retractable leashes when walking a client’s dog.
“They are very difficult to control,” she says. “I’ve seen people who expand them out and let the dog have their freedom and, all of sudden out of nowhere, there comes a bigger dog and you don’t have the time you need to pull the dog back. I know people like the retractable leash but you have to be aware of what’s around you as well.”
I’m partial to leather leashes because they wear well over time. Certified professional dog trainer Amber Burckhalter of K-9 Coach in Smyrna, Ga., introduced me to the Mendota leash (right), a clever collar-leash combo that tops my list of favorites. One end has a looped handle, while the other serves as an adjustable collar. This multitasking leash gets frequent use at my house during bathroom breaks, but Burckhalter says the Mendota works great for dogs that tend to slip out of their collars. The rope-style leash features an adjustable leather attachment that makes it one size fits all. You can find Mendota leashes at most pet supply stores. Amazon.com offers a variety of colors with prices starting at $11.45.
Easy Walk harness: If your dog pulls during regular walks, then a summer day at the park can quickly feel like tug-of-war. Front-clip harnesses like the Easy Walk fit around a dog’s front legs and offer a gentle correction when pooches start to tug. “I like that the leash attaches to the chest and not to the dog’s back,” says certified dog trainer Renee Payne of Walk This Way Canine Behavior Therapy in New York. “It works great for pulling or dogs that like to lag behind in the summertime.” The Easy Walk is available in various sizes for $16.99 at Wag.com.
Kong Wobbler: On a hot summer day, fill Kong’s rubber Wobbler chew toy with healthy treats and freeze. “Put the dog’s food in it and they have to knock it around for the food to come out,” Burckhalter says. “That’s additional exercise for [dogs]. They also love it because they don’t typically get a lot of mental exercise.” Wobblers range in price from $15.99 to $22.99 based on the size at PetSmart stores.
Pet Top water dispenser: Burckhalter recommends the Pet Top for dogs that are on the go this summer. This plastic device screws onto standard water bottles and features an adjustable roller ball setting that allows pets to drink freely. It also means that owners don’t have to carry travel water bowls or other gear. You can find Pet Tops for $6.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.
ChillSpot Dog Bed: On a hot day, most dogs like to congregate on cool tile floors in the bathroom or kitchen. ChillSpot applies that approach to dog beds, pairing aluminum tiles with “chill pods” that you freeze overnight so that dogs stay cool while tailgating or hanging out at the beach. “It’s a great product for trainers to use in class,” says dog trainer Andrew Zbeeb, owner of Frogs to Dogs in Atlanta. To combat Georgia’s sweltering summer heat, Zoo Atlanta even ordered a larger ChillSpot for its panda exhibit. A standard 24-by-36-inch dog bed is available for $169 at ChillSpot.biz.
Sturdy collars: Check your dog’s collars to make sure that they aren’t worn out. It may be time to replenish the stock. “My dogs go through collars really fast,” says Burckhalter, who recommends the award-winning collars from EzyDog. These doggie essentials feature stainless steel D rings, reflective piping and neoprene linings typically used for wetsuits. As added protection, Burckhalter goes a step further. “I take a Sharpie and write info on the inside of their collar. If they did get away and their tag came off they are still marked.”
ID tags: ID tags are cheapest and easiest way to keep pets safe — as long as the information is up to date. Basic metal pet tags are available for $7.50 at PetSmart stores. Lulu’s dog tags serve as an early warning device, alerting me when she is getting into mischief. In my home, silence is not golden.
Take an inventory of your dog’s gear and have a safe summer.
— Morieka Johnson
With practice, consistency and treats, your dog can develop fine manners.
Q: How do I get my dog to behave on a leash during walks, instead of jumping on people and chasing squirrels? I also would like help getting him to calm down when people or other pets visit the house.
A: When I hosted a book club meeting a few months ago, my dog Lulu stayed upstairs in her crate. As guests arrived, they asked if she could join the group but I politely declined. Lulu can get overly excited around guests; a house full of people toting plates of cheese and other goodies could lead to doggie-induced chaos.
I convinced myself that everyone was better off with Lulu upstairs. It prevented me from having to pull her off someone’s lap, and it saved guests from pretending they enjoyed being licked by a 48-pound dog. As we ate and discussed our book, Lulu provided her own mournful rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” It was annoying, but I stood my ground.
After interviewing and observing quite a few dog trainers, I realize we should have practiced proper behavior around houseguests. Dog trainers Michael Upshur and Deandre Weaver offer a few tips to keep your dog in line around other people or pets.
Focus on the positive. Upshur tells clients to pick a phrase such as “good dog,” and use it often. “When someone reaches to pet your dog, say ‘good dog,’” he says. “That puts the dog in a relaxed mood.”
Our body language also affects a dog’s behavior. Resist the urge to automatically pull the leash when strangers approach. This subtle movement puts the dog on alert, says Upshur, a police officer and dog trainer with Dogma Dog Care in Smyrna, Ga. “People don’t realize it but that leash sends a signal,” he says. “When you are tense and tighten the leash, you tell the dog something is wrong.”
Weaver, an anti-dogfighting advocate with the Humane Society of the United States, also reminds pet owners to stay focused during walks. “Just try to be more aware [of surroundings] than your dog is,” he says. “Keep the attention on you, and divert attention from the other dog or cat. It takes training, and patience.”
If you see a cat, squirrel or other potential distraction that may trigger negative behavior, Upshur suggest offering a command such as “sit” and petting the dog. This helps calm anxious pets.
Take the high road during walks. Every dog behaves differently around other dogs. “If my dog doesn’t know the dog, I don’t walk directly up on another dog or person,” Weaver says. “Pass each other [at a safe distance] and see how the dogs react.”
Maintain a short leash when stopping. If you stop to greet someone during a walk, Weaver suggests maintaining a short leash — about a foot or so — limiting your dog’s ability to jump. He also notes that dogs jump on people out of excitement. “Give them no attention when they jump; turn your back, walk away and try again. It’s really a process.”
Allow strangers to pet with care. When someone asks to pet your dog during a walk, Weaver says allow the dog to smell the person’s hand first. Then allow them to pet the dog’s side or back, avoiding its head or mouth.
Practice makes perfect: Find a pet-loving friend and practice proper behavior around houseguests. “Let your dog approach the person and smell their hand,” Upshur says. “Then tell the person to lift their knee and turn as soon as the dog tries to jump.” It also helps to turn your back to the dog and fold your arms across your chest, ignoring the dog until it sits or calms down.
“Your dog has to learn the boundaries of your house,” Weaver says. “Otherwise it will be hard to keep her under control when someone comes into her house because that’s hercouch.”
Introduce four-legged guests slowly. If you are introducing a puppy to your older dog, Upshur says things should go smoothly. But it’s important to remain calm when adult dogs pay a visit. “A calm owner sends a signal that it’s okay for another dog to be in the house,” he says. “Let them sniff each other, but watch the hairs on their back. If hairs on the neck and butt go up, pull the dogs away,” he warns. “If one dog goes down into what we call the praying position, he’s trying to tell the other dog, ‘I’m friendly; all I want to do is play.’”
If your dog is a bit willful like my pooch Lulu, Upshur suggests keeping it on a leash during visits. “Let the other dog roam because he isn’t getting into trouble,” Upshur says. “That will rub off on your dog, and it will understand, ‘I must be in trouble because I’m on a leash.’” Allow your dog to approach, sniff and move away, then repeat this process until both dogs are calm enough to mingle.
Every dog needs a place. Upshur and Weaver are firm believers in giving dogs a designated place in the house. It may be in a quiet corner or a favorite spot on the couch. Every time you give the “place” command, your dog should go to that spot and remain there until you allow it to leave. Reinforce that behavior by praising the dog for following commands.
“Saying ‘good dog’ does a lot,” Upshur says. “If your dog gets tense for any reason, say ‘good dog’ and pet it.”
Weaver also recommends the “place” command, particularly when guests arrive. “Once you teach them, ‘Go to your place,’ call them to that spot when company comes.” He notes that Lulu’s howls of protest are all part of the process. “If you don’t stand your ground and deal with it, you won’t stop it,” he warns.
A little bribery never hurts. Weaver is not afraid to bribe a pet. Take the time to learn your pet’s favorite food, toy or treat and use it to your advantage. “What is your dog going to work for?” he asks. “A lot of dogs will work for a tennis ball or chew toy. Once you make it interesting to them, you can get their attention.”
If you notice a cat during your daily walk, move away from the distraction and then pull out your dog’s favorite item. “As you walk, the dog will walk and try to get it,” he says. “Once you get a certain distance away from the distraction, give her the toy or treat. Do sit command and say, ‘good girl.’”
He adds that it’s important to stretch out the rewards program. “Once they do the right thing a third time, then you give them the treat,” he says. “If you give a treat every time, they will only behave for food.” This approach gives the dog an incentive to work for treats.
Set boundaries for foster pets. Opening your home to a foster dog can help your pooch stay young at heart, and strengthen social skills, particularly if it’s an older pet. “They know the rules of the house; they are the alpha dog,” Upshur says.
“A new dog will get used to the other dog and will try to establish dominance.” To ease the transition, he suggests moving slowly with initial introductions. Not surprisingly, he says that pets adjust better to dogs of the opposite sex.
During the first two days, keep the foster dog crated and allow your dog to sniff the foster pooch in its crate. “Over time, your dog will understand, ‘This dog belongs here now; his scent is here,’” Upshur says. Also, use a leash during free time with the foster pooch as it learns house rules and boundaries.
Practice consistency. Whether you are partial to “no” or “psst!,” Cesar Millan-style, use the same command every time you address your dog. That means avoiding shorthand such as “down,” when you typically say “lay down.” A little bit of consistency can help even an older dog like my Lulu learn some cool new tricks.
— Morieka Johnson
This column previously appeared on Mother Nature Network.