Shelter Dog Patience

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by Jean Foster Akin

Ranger, our little shelter dog, has been part of the family since mid-December 2014. He is a sweet, affectionate, confident fellow that, when walking on the lead, responds to very subtle “taps” of the lead, and to very quietly uttered noises/words of approval or commands. He’s a dog that learned quickly not to fly down stairs when he was on one end of his lead and one of us was on the other. I taught him the latter early on because the prospect of being yanked down an entire flight of stairs was not on my list of fun things to do before I die.

So why couldn’t a smart dog like Ranger learn to let us know when he needed to go outside to do his business? Perhaps his first four years had been spent on a run and he never needed to “ask”? Whatever the case, he never gave us any indication at all that he had to go out. I mean NONE. I would just take him out randomly and he’d walk around and do nothing, or he’d do a Niagara Falls impersonation…but there was never any indication that he’d been about to burst like a water balloon 60 seconds before this. He never went to the door, never reacted to the word ‘out’.  Nothing.

“So why not take him out every two hours and be done with it?” you ask. “You’ll end up catching him at a moment he needs to go, right?” Well, we’ve done this. For six months. I even started setting a timer for a while so I could stop work and take him out, but then he started leaping up like he was on fire when the timer rang, when the phone rang, when an email message alert pinged on the iPad. Startling! Besides, I didn’t want to set a timer to go off and inadvertently train him to do his business following the sound of a bell. Some day, there might not be a bell. DSC07873

Then one day we thought we’d figured out his signal. Even if he didn’t understand our word for the commencement of his biological functions, this signal from him was what we were really after. Ranger began panting and pacing one evening, nudging me and looking extremely anxious. Eureka! Ranger’s signal to us that his bladder was full and he needed to go out!!

Nope. Once outside, he didn’t do a thing except pace and pull on the lead to get back into the house.

Ranger, we realized, is an amazing predictor of thunderstorms. Hours before the onset of a storm, we now know, he pants and paces and puts his paws and his head on our laps and wants to be close. We didn’t connect the storms to the behaviors because the behaviors began hours before the storms. We thought these behaviors meant he had to tinkle really really bad! But we were wrong: he did NOT want to go out. In our inability to sense the storm, we would run off to get his lead and we’d practically have to drag him outside…and he’d do nothing except try to get back in.

DSC07885But now, June 2015, six months since this wonderful fellow shot into our house like a hot Roman candle on a horizontal trajectory, he finally reacts to the question “Out?” His eyes get wide, his ears perk up, and he gyrates his rear-end like he’s at The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro!  Not only that, he actually goes to the door now to let us know he has to “go”even if we don’t ask, and he makes sure we see him there.  And when he starts with the panting and pacing and we ask if he wants to go out, he does not respond with any interest. He does NOT want to go out. He senses a storm. He understands the word “out,” and now that we know he does, we don’t have to wonder and I don’t need to set timers.

This is normal stuff for everyone else, but it’s big stuff for Ranger the Shelter Dog.

Patience was the key.

 

 

[photos by JFA]

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Update on Ranger, the Dog Who Formally Wouldn’t “Go” Outside

DSC07868Last time, I told you about the newest member to our family, 4-yr old Ranger, the shelter dog. I’d like to say up-front that he is still as wonderful as ever. You may recall, however, his lack of embarrassment in regard to pooping in the house as well as his strange habit of pooping only once every two or three days. Because we feed him raw chicken, the poop is relatively dry, so there was no mess, but there was a very bad habit being established nonetheless.

An excerpt from some of what I wrote about the problem last time: “… he never indicates, ever, that he wants to go out at all…How do we get this four-year-old to see the house is not the place for unseemly canine scat deposits?

ENTER…THE CRATE

So, I did what any woman in my situation would do. I listened to the advice of my older brother and his wife, my friends from church, my Face Book friends, and those who wrote on this blog to offer suggestions. The suggestion I heard most often was “GET A CRATE!”  We have never used a crate to train a dog, but we have found that it WORKS!IMG_1091

A couple from our church offered us a crate that was too big for their dog and we took it on a trial run. It is just high enough for Ranger to stand up in if he keeps his head low. He is relaxed in it, so he’s probably been in one before.

RESULTS

Since we started crating him at bedtime (one week, two days now), he has not once “gone” in the house. At first, this was due to his being unable to sneak out of the bedroom at night for a private moment with our living room rug.

The first morning after the first crate-sleep, I had my coat on and the leash ready when I opened the crate door. I was warned by all my advisors to take him out IMMEDIATELY upon releasing him from the crate. He did not “go” when I took him out. I walked him for about 15 minutes and he watered every bush and tree trunk, but didn’t do anything else.

So, I crated him in the afternoon for an hour (as per the suggestion of a veteran crate-user), took him out again, and he wandered around for ten minutes and wanted to go back inside. I stayed out another five minutes with him and he did what I’d brought him out to do. Patience on MY part was the key.

IMG_1108MAKING A FUSS

I made a BIG fuss! Normally I do not speak to him AT ALL when he is on the lead, except for simple commands if needed. This worked to my benefit because when he did his business that day, I rubbed him and squealed at him and hugged him, and he, in turn, got all wiggly and excited and happy and jumpy. My response to his actions was (I hoped) beneficial positive reinforcement.

The second morning after crating overnight, he did his thing outside 10 minutes after I took him out. Again, we partied.

Friday morning, he did it again! What happened to the dog that only “went” once every two or three days!?

Saturday, no dice.

Sunday, dice! Squealing, jumping, dancing. And Ranger did some dancing too 🙂

Nothing Monday, but he did it on Tuesday….so we were back to every other day. But, he hadn’t done it in the house on ANY of those days, so that was good.

Wednesday, was interesting. Nothing all day, so we thought he was skipping a day as usual. We went out for dinner with friends in the evening and instead of leaving him in the crate for four hours (knowing we would only come home, let him out of the crate for a few minutes, then put him back in overnight for six or seven hours more), we decided to leave him in the roomy, linoleum-floored, laundry room with a towel to lay on and a chewy toy to play with. We have left him there for short periods before we got the crate and after it got cold here (I didn’t want to leave him in the garden shed in the cold). He’s never done anything unseemly when he’s been left in the laundry room for some reason. He didn’t Wednesday either. We got home, opened the laundry room door, hooked the lead onto his collar—and as soon as we were outside he immediately began doing the tell-tale walking-in-circles dance.

You know what that means, don’t you? It means that while we were gone, he held it even though he REALLY had to go, and even though he had not been crated!

So there are two questions: First, is the idea of where to “go” finally getting into Ranger’s head??? We hope so. And second, if my mother ever saw that I’d written a post on scat, would she be as mortified as I think she would be? I think she would, so I’ll stop here 🙂

 

Jean  🙂

Ranger the Shelter Dog (who won’t poop outside)

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Ranger

Those of you who have been following this riveting tale know that we had a wonderful dog (absolutely wonderful) in our Buddy, and he is the namesake of this blog. He lived fourteen and a half years, gave us a great deal of love and a lot of laughs, and punched a big hole in our hearts when he passed away—relatively peacefully–on Election night two years ago.

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Andy in his favorite pose

At first we couldn’t think of getting another dog, but it’s been two years, and we needed to do something to fill that empty space left void where a four-legged creature once showed unrestrained delight at seeing us come through the door in the evenings. Cats don’t count, people. We love our Andy, but when we come home from anywhere, he lifts the lid of one eye into a sharp slit and glares at us like, “It’s about time,” or “You people ever gonna figure out how to keep food in my bowl?” And other pleasantries that don’t involve actually moving his hairy butt from the prime real estate known as the living room couch.

We were expecting to come home empty-handed the first time we went to the shelter, but there he was: in the midst of black, brown, and striped pit bulls mostly, there was our new dog. He sat at the gate and chuffed. He bent his head low to his front paws, raised his behind, and his tail waggled like a happy little flag fluttering on a little boat. And he chuffed again.

After about 20 minutes of this, we asked the attendant if we could take him out for a spin. We watched as she allowed him to drag her all over the place on the lead, tripping her and happily going wherever his nose led him. But when she handed me the lead, I told him to “heel.” He looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, “Hey, I’m, like, a free spirit, babe.” I ignored the cuteness and told him to heel again and started walking. He began to get out ahead of me so that the lead became taut, I gave it a light snap, said heel again, and after about a minute or so, he realized what I wanted: not to be tripped up by an enthusiastic, confident, delightful, but somewhat headstrong dog.

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Andy and Ranger

He loves the family, he loves the cat (who, not too surprisingly to us, loves him too). He sleeps in our room without a peep at night, he doesn’t snap food from our fingers, he comes to his new name, he sits, he’s started lying down on command, and he’s very affectionate and people-oriented.

BUT, he hasn’t figured out where to poop…and he’s four years old. You see, there are problems in any relationship. Some problems are not worth pursuing, others are. We feel, in this case, that this problem is worth working out between us. We think he must have been kenneled for too-long periods of time in his former home because he doesn’t show any sign that he understands what grass and dirt or for. He understands trees and bushes but not grass and dirt. He has pooped in the house three times, but mostly wants to poop in the cement-floored garden shed. And he doesn’t go there on his own, he waits for us to put him there when we must pop into town for a few minutes, etc. This is more than mildly disturbing as we only put him in there every two or three days, and other than that, he shows no sign of even needing to poop at all, and totally ignores the poops I gather from the garden shed (and the couple I’ve collected from the wood floor near our bedroom) and place in the spot—across the driveway at the furthest point from the house—where I want him to make his deposits. He doesn’t even lower his nose to those poops. In his doggy brain, they do not exist.

Moving poop from where Buddy used to drop it as a puppy, to where we wanted him to drop it, worked for Buddy for most of his 14.5 years….Ranger is not getting this at all. Buddy used to ring a little Christmas bell that I kept on the back door handle all year long, and he did this when he needed to go outside for a “private moment.” I don’t think Ranger is going to “get” this, as he never indicates, ever, that he wants to go out at all. So here’s the question, not “Do we keep this guy?” but “How do we train this guy to go outside on grass and dirt, and not cross his legs waiting for the garden shed floor?” And, “How do we get this four-year-old to see the house is not the place for unseemly canine scat deposits?”

Any suggestions dear readers?

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posted by Jean Foster Akin

photos by JFA

What Kind of Dog Should I Get?

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Buddy, mixed breed

Buddy was a great dog. He was no show dog (mostly because his head was way too small for his body, and I know this sounds terribly mean of me to say, but if he was anything, Buddy was a humble fellow and he would be the first to agree with me on his lack of head-to-body proportionality). But beauty is not what makes us—any of us, human or dog—great.

I think dogs are in the Top Ten of God’s greatest creations, and so I want to find another one to share my life with.  But what kind of dog should I be looking for now? Buddy was a mixed breed German Shepherd/Golden Retriever. He was smart, loyal, protective, somewhat shy, easily trained. My husband has been thumpin’ for a standard poodle: no shedding, smart, trainable. I like how they prance when they walk. Though, forgive me, I don’t think of poodles as dogs. I mean, yes, I know they ARE dogs, but they don’t have that predatory look I am so used to in dogs like Shepherds. I have had Shepherds all my life, from the mixed breed my brothers brought home one day to my mother’s dismay when I was not much more than a toddler, to the big, broad, heavy, regal purebred Alsatian by the name of Augustus who came to us in my early teens. Unfortunately, “Gus” was a dog who bit people.  The first dog I ever knew was my mother’s dog, Geraldine (Gerry for short). She was a mixed breed, white and orange I think. Floppy ears, sharp nose. There was a sharpness to the noses of all the dogs of my past, a look in the eye that said they were watching. Poodles have such round eyes, such stuffed-toy-like faces. Of course, there are Goldens, and they have floppy ears and look lovable in all respects—but they also look like dogs. Know what I mean?

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Bouche, Standard Poodle

But still, poodles are dogs, and dogs are great, so poodles must be great. I could get used to a poodle. With this in mind, I searched for a Standard Poodle at the local Humane Society centers within 30 miles of our house. No standards. I found a few in a center in North Carolina…a little too far to drive though, and just when I thought maybe we could drive it  anyway, the poodles that had been there were gone. Since then, three months now, I have seen no more standards there or anywhere near home. Not unless I wanted to pay $2500 to a poodle breeder…which I didn’t then and which I  still don’t.

So I’m thinking: why not just go to the Humane Society and hang out for a while, see which dog chooses us? Forget about shedding. Forget about breeds. Forget about eyes and noses. Forget about it all. Just see which dog looks at us and acts like he thinks we might be reasonably okay to live with. My husband said that might be a good plan.

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Jack, Rhodesian Ridgeback

We’ve never really selected a dog, dogs have just come into our lives. We’ve always loved them. I can’t imagine that will ever change, regardless of eye shape or nose shape or breed.

Is Your Dog Overweight, Sluggish, or Rashy?

Note Buddy’s fat tummy. He was sluggish and slept a LOT. He whined and sometimes yelped when trying to get up.

By Jean F. Akin

If your dog is having trouble with hot spots/skin rashes, or your vet has told you that your dog is overweight, you might try feeding your pooch raw chicken. We did it, and while I’m no veterinarian, raw chicken made a big difference in our dog’s overall health and well-being.

Note that I am talking about RAW chicken and RAW bones. Your dog should NEVER be given cooked chicken bones—COOKED CHICKEN BONES CAN KILL YOUR DOG because cooked poultry bones splinter when chewed and can lodge in his throat and/or intestines. 

However, fresh, raw chicken with RAW bones not only gives your dog needed natural protein, but a “crunch” which cleans the teeth and offers other nutrients your dog craves.

Oh! Those Disgusting Hot Spots!

Fillers found in most dog foods offer empty calories that can easily add weight to your pup’s waistline, and can cause allergic reactions in your dog’s system which show up in skin rashes and hot spots. Prednisone was the only treatment that helped our Buddy. Sometimes he was on veterinarian prescribed Prednisone three times in a year. He was miserable during those times. So were we.

Sad Cloudy Eyes and Achy Joints

When he was 9 years old, Buddy’s eyes began to get cloudy—which we and our vet saw as the natural effects of age. Buddy was napping more than ever, and would stand up slowly from sleep, stretching and whining—sometimes yelping—as if in pain. The vet suggested that Bud might have Lyme disease. Also, even though we walked together a mile and a quarter a few times a week, Buddy was getting pretty plump around the middle. We fed him his bowl of  store-bought dog food in the morning with fresh water available all day, and we gave him leftover bread crusts at lunch, and meat, vegetable, salad, and potato scraps after dinner. Oh, yes, and popcorn on movie night. With salt…and butter.

One day, I looked down at Buddy, and I had to admit he was a sausage. A sweet, lovable, hairy sausage. I know what you’re thinking: if she hadn’t fed her dog “people food” he wouldn’t have been packing on the pounds. Well, keep reading.

The Quick and Easy Way To Prepare Raw Chicken for Your Dog

A couple of days later, I was talking to my brother on the phone and he told me that he and his wife were feeding their dogs raw chicken. He said his dogs’  eyes had cleared up, their “aches and pains” were minimized, and they were acting more like puppies than senior dogs have any right to. He explained how he measured their portions and suggested we research portions in relation to our own dog’s weight and activity levels for ourselves. We did this, and decided to try raw chicken for Buddy. We went to Walmart, bought a big 10 pound bag of chicken thighs—the cheap stuff is perfectly fine—brought it home and cut all the thighs from all the drumsticks. We placed five thighs and five drumsticks in a plastic Zip-Loc bag: a thigh for each of Buddy’s next 5 breakfasts, a drumstick for each of his next 5 dinners. We put that bag into the frij, and the rest of the chicken we packaged into 5-day portions and placed into plastic bags for the freezer. When we had one day of chicken left in the frij, we would take out the next frozen package to thaw overnight. Buddy’s starting weight was 75/78 pounds.

Once more, I can’t stress this enough: NEVER NEVER allow your dog to crunch on cooked chicken bones! Cooked chicken bones splinter and can lodge in your dog’s throat or intestines, causing choking, bleeding, or death. RAW CHICKEN BONES ONLY, please! This is the safest way to feed your pooch fresh, real protein with no fillers. And it’s SO EASY to prepare! 🙂 

The Changes in Buddy’s Physical Body and His Weight Were Amazing!

The change in Buddy’s physical body and weight was amazing! At 9 years old, his cloudy eyes cleared. His teeth got whiter. He suddenly started rising from his bed like a young dog—no groaning, whining, or yelping in pain. He began to run and scamper again. I mean he was really running and really scampering! His skin cleared up, and in the next 5 years of his life, he had only 3 bouts of hot spots/skin rash. Only 3 in all of those five years. Such a change from the 2 to 3 incidences a year he’d been suffering when on bagged dog food! And his weight dropped quickly to a healthy range. He started his “diet” at 75/78 pounds and leveled off at 63 within a short time of starting his new diet.

Bright eyes, slim waistline.

Bright eyes, slim waistline. A second after we took this picture, Buddy was on his feet and ready to go, even though we weren’t going anywhere at that moment! 🙂

And remember those bread crusts, potato scraps, and leftover salad and cooked veggies we were giving him? We continued to give him those, and to toss him buttered popcorn on movie night!

Buddy is gone now, but he lived to be 14 and 1/2, and the last few years of his life were spent in a lot more activity than we could have ever imagined possible before we heard about raw chicken.

I Can’t Make Medical Claims, but I Can Tell You About Our Experience

Now, as I said, I’m not a veterinarian, so I can’t offer medical advice, but I can tell you about our experience. You need to do the research for your own dog and you need to take responsibility for feeding him adequately and correctly. I can tell you that our veterinarian was very pleased with Buddy’s health when she saw him for his yearly check-up that first year, and she was especially glad to see his waistline again!

Do your research on portion sizes based on the size of your dog. Watch for signs of true hunger—there are no fillers in raw chicken and so you will probably have to play a little with portions to make sure your dog is not suffering hunger.

Your dog may benefit from the raw chicken diet too. Do your research on portion sizes based on the size of your dog. Watch for signs of true hunger—there are no fillers in raw chicken and so you will probably have to play a little with portions to make sure your dog is not suffering hunger. We found that the portions we first read about were too small for Buddy and he grew agitated and started snapping at anything that even looked like food coming towards his face (like our hands when we petted him—ouch!!). You don’t want that, so pay close attention to your dog as you adjust his servings. And don’t forget to make sure your dog gets plenty of fresh water and all your vegetable scraps. Our Buddy LOVED salads—no dressing needed, although he liked salad with dressing too. And there’s really nothing wrong with some good carbohydrates. They should not make up a large portion of your dog’s daily diet, but you don’t want to see your dog waste away to nothing—and feeding your dog nothing but protein and raw vegetables can make him way too thin. A nice slice of wheat bread at noon isn’t going to hurt your pooch, nor some homemade popcorn while he’s watching Lassie films on movie night.

[photos by J.F.A]

No More Nose Smudges

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You know, when you own a dog, there are a lot of messes.

There’s dog hair on the carpet and around the edges of rooms without carpeting. There’s water on the floor by the dog dishes. There are smudges on the windows at snout level.

I dealt with those things for fifteen years.

In year 13 and year 14, there were other messes. Buddy couldn’t always hold his water over night. Some foods that he’d always enjoyed made him sick those last two years. Always, when he inconvenienced me with “accidents” he seemed so ashamed of himself. I don’t believe he understood the inconvenience aspect of this, but he knew there were some things he wasn’t supposed to do in the house and it obviously bothered him as much as a dog can be bothered by much of anything.

I felt overwhelmed sometimes by the troubles of my old dog. I worried about what was next for him…and would it hurt. Now he’s gone and I miss his old self laying at my feet when I’m alone in the house. I miss his perked-up ears and laser-focused eyes as he peered around a kitchen counter, watching me cook; I miss him catching every single drop, chunk, sliver, and slice of food that I accidentally or purposely dropped on the kitchen floor. I miss that protective, four-legged creature who knew the difference between a scream of fright or a shriek of delight when my kids were little and playing in the yard. He was a night watchman, patrolling the darkened house while my family slept peacefully in their beds.

He’d chase the kids around the house, hide behind chairs and leap out at them when they least expected it. He’d catch the snowballs they tossed at him and chase after their soccer balls. There was a lot of noise when he was here and the kids were young. They’d all roll around on the floor together, the kids tumbling and hollering, and the dog making the strangest sounds–fully recognizable to my mother’s ear as sounds of absolute and utterly delighted excitement—sounds the neighbors misconstrued as the ravening growls of a predatory beast. Kids and dogs. It’s loud. It’s wild. And if it annoys you to hear the scratching claws on the kitchen linoleum, the thumping up the stairs, the panting and the squealing, then I don’t know what to tell you, except that you’re missing out in ways I can’t explain.

I miss him, that dog. I miss coming in at night, opening the back door slowly and seeing his nose poking out ahead of that sweet face…no barking…he’d known it was me before I’d even pulled into the driveway. I miss him walking beside me on the road, both of us so quiet, casting warm glances at each other every now and again. He never tugged the lead; he’d turn and tap his snout against my thigh every few steps to check his bearings. I miss his warm head and sympathetic brown eyes and velvety ears, pressing against me insistently when he knew I was upset about something. He’d bump his face against me until I wiped my eyes and wrapped my arms around him. Somehow he knew what to do in the presence of tears.

The other morning, when the sun bathed the glass patio door in golden light, there were no nose smudges for me to Windex away. I miss that dog.

photo by Twindaughter