Bootsie Learns to be a Pet

About two years ago, I got involved with a local Trap-Neuter-Release group. Going into the group, I took to heart the advice that most adult feral cats never make the transition to house cat. In other words, I made myself accept that the cats I helped feed would have to live out their lives on the streets and never be rescued.

Just over a year ago, that resolve got shaken. The reality is that while TNR might typically be the best option, some colony cats do turn out to be people-friendly. Such was the case with a cat named Bootsie. Therein lay a dilemma. Bootsie seemed to have potential to be someone’s cat, but first someone would need to step forward and show her how to be a house cat.

Originally, my husband and I had no intention of taking in a second cat. But the more I pushed for the group to find her a foster home, the more I felt my husband and I should be the ones to take her in. And so finally, after a flood threatened her home, we became her foster parents.

In May 2015, my husband I began the adventure of introducing Bootsie to Cinder. A feisty Tortoiseshell, she is our two-year-old cat whom we adopted from a no-kill shelter. During this whole process, Cat. Vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett became a critical guide.

To start, we set up a sanctuary room. Bootsie got delivered to us in a dog crate. Inside was a cardboard box with a cozy blanket. There were also essentials such as water dish, food dish, and litter box. We added toys. The dangler proved key, allowing us to interact with her at a comfortable distant. After a few days, Bootsie made clear by her growing agitation that she wanted more freedom, and so we opened the door of her crate and gave her the run of the library.

Then began the process of preparing the two cats to meet. A huge part of this step involved exchanging scents. First, I started with socks. By rubbing the socks on their fur, I put Cinder’s scent on one pair and Bootsie’s scent on the other. I then put the Bootsie-scented socks in Cinder’s favorite areas, and vice versa. Cinder reacted mildly, hissing initially but then going off to play, while Bootsie showed no interest at all. Encouraged, I moved on to swapping beds, toys, and even litter.

The cats’ reactions remained mild. I moved onto one last exchange, that of rooms. Cinder was deposited in the library, while Bootsie was invited to explore our living room. After a few hisses, Cinder simply settled into taking naps on our printer, chair, window—all her favorite library spots. Bootsie remained undisturbed by Cinder’s ever-present scent, but she did quickly become overwhelmed by the large unfamiliar space. After a short time, she snuck behind our recliner and hid for the rest of the evening.

Finally, the day of introductions arrived! We put a partition between the library and the hall, to limit their exposure to each other. At first, the library door was only opened about a foot. After about a week, we opened the door further, so that the two cats could sit across from each other. We let them eat and play within sight of one another. After a few days, Bootsie had enough of even this confinement and tried to climb the partition. Time for the next adventure!

BootsieCinder_TowerAnd so the partition was finally removed, allowing Bootsie and Cinder to share the same living space. Some of the time. At night and when we both had to leave the house, we returned Bootsie to the library.

The results were mixed. There weren’t any fights. But Cinder wasn’t not happy about Bootsie’s presence. Often she’d hiss at Bootsie, even lunge towards her. Other times, food proves a strong motivation, causing Cinder to push past Bootsie to coax from me. Then were even moments when the two share a space on our bed or recliner. The two girls even used our one cat tower. A lot of this success is due to Cat Vs. Cat.

It’s also due to two special cats. When we first started to foster her, Bootsie knew nothing of indoor life. She clearly wanted to learn. Cinder begrudgingly accepted the presence of a second cat. I told her daily about how Bootsie’s colony had been in danger of being flooded, and so she needed a home. Maybe Cinder listened to me. Whatever the truth, the two became sisters.

Cat Vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett

Even if you already own several books about cats, you should add Cat Vs. Cat to your collection. This guide by feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett focuses on the specific topic of multi-cat households, along with also providing information about the territorial nature of cats. In doing so, Bennett has written an interesting and thorough handbook on how to create and maintain a peaceful household when you live with more than one cat.

The feline hierarchy is important to understand because, unlike dogs who are pack animals, cats are more particular about their social structure. While they can indeed be social, they don’t view themselves as equals, and therein lies the dilemma. What further complicates the matter is not only do they have a pecking order, but this may change depending on who is in the room and what events are taking place. Bennett explains in great detail how to pay attention to each individual cat’s communication to best avoid conflicts. She covers every possible aspect of it, including how cats use their eyes, ears, tail, whiskers, hair, and even vocalization and posture when taking their defensive or their offensive status.

My most-applied chapter is “New Introductions”. Although you can find a variety of articles online about the topic, and many of these articles probably draw from the advice of Bennett herself, Bennett’s chapter pulls everything together in one place. There’s information about sanctuary rooms, the sock and room exchange, allowing cats to see one another, along with tips on what to do if things are progressing nicely or aren’t going well. Bennett even includes suggestions that I didn’t find online such as swapping litter scents. Every time I read even just this one chapter, I came away with new ideas.

Other chapters in Cat Vs. Cat build on the above ideas. In them, Bennett covers pretty much every situation imaginable when it comes to cat introductions. These include: food, play, litter box, scratching behavior, aggression, and stress. But Bennett doesn’t simply limit herself to how these topics apply to multi-cat households. No, she also throws in advice of what products are the best and how to care for them.

In fact, by now you may have noticed a common trait. Bennett doesn’t skim the surface with her advice but instead is thorough in her approach. She covers ground with so much detail that I’d actually suggest reading Cat Vs. Cat once for a broad overview. Then reread relevant chapters as needed. Doing the latter is how I realized that scolding my first cat for hissing at my second cat might inadvertently be increasing her negative behavior. Once I started using redirects, both cats became more playful and more open to sharing space.

Upon first reading, Cat Vs. Cat may feel overwhelming to relatively new cat owner. Each chapter runs around twenty pages and is fairly exhaustive, but the material is also vitally important. Our cat, Cinder, has not only survived the introduction of a second cat, but has even learned to feel comfortable with her. I credit Pam Johnson-Bennett with this success.

Guest Post: Is it Play Fighting or Real Fighting?

If you have more than one cat in your house, then there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed a play session or two. There’s the running around while chasing each other type of play session. There’s the play session that involves batting a string or a fluffy ball back and forth. And then there’s the play session that involves wrestling – you know the kind – where one rears up on their hind legs, paws are flying between the two, and then it ends with a pounce-attack! Does that sound familiar?

Play fighting is both natural and good for your cats. It can be a bonding experience for them and it’s also good exercise! However, sometimes it may be difficult to decipher if it’s real fighting or just a friendly play fight. Here are some things that I’ve learned and witnessed while being a cat servant owner.

Play fighting

  • Play fighting usually involves the kitties taking turns with dominating the fight.
  • If chasing is involved, one should chase for a bit, then take his turn being chased (usually not one-sided chasing).
  • Playing fighting is typically pretty quiet. Besides a minor squeak or passing grumble, the cats usually aren’t very vocal during their tumble sessions. A hiss or two may sneak out, but that’s okay. In general, vocalizations are kept to a minimum during play fights.
  • Claws are retracted and fur not puffed up.
  • At the end of the play fight, cats should “shake” paws in respect and part ways happily. Or they may begin a grooming session together.

When it may not be play fighting

  • One kitty always seems to be the aggressor or bully.
  • Hissing or growling is frequently present.
  • Body language – is one cat tensed up, not relaxed? Puffy fur, arched back? Ears flattened?
  • Is one of the cats trying to escape the situation?

Sophie's fighting faceThese are just some general things to watch for. But of course you know your own cats best and know their typical behavior toward one another. If it does end up being a real fight, it’s usually recommended to not get in the way, as you will likely end up getting hurt in the process. You can try getting their attention with treats or food, or perhaps clapping loudly to draw their focus away from each other. You should not just let them finish the fight if you feel it is an actual fight. One of the cats could end up getting scratched or hurt.

If you’re concerned about your cat’s behavior, you should consult your vet or an animal behaviorist. If you’re looking for more on fighting vs. play fighting, you may want to read this article here.

Feel free to chime in with your experiences and how your kitties play.

This video doesn’t show cats fighting for real (no one wants to see that), but it is very clear that Olive does not want to play. (Volume up!)

And this video, compliments of The Zoo Rescue, shows foster kitten Fritz partaking in a play fight with his older sibling.

Reprinted with permission from Rachel Loehner, Three Chatty Cats. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright January 29, 2016.

Rachel’s goal with Three Chatty Cats is to bring attention to great cat rescues and their life-saving efforts. She also wants to give helpful tips about cats and acquaint visitors to her own cats. “I truly hope that we can save them all – and I want to do my part by bringing about awareness through profiling rescues and rescuers, while also having fun blogging about my three (chatty) cats!”

Guest Post: How to Socialize A Shy Cat

It’s been three years since Belle came into my life, a tiny, scared kitten from a horrible, high-kill “shelter” in North Carolina. She was supposed to go to my rescue group’s shelter, but I couldn’t imagine such a terrified little one living with 16 other cats. Besides, even at six months, she was a world-class hider, and I was afraid we’d never see her. Oh, and there was another reason she stayed here, too. We fell in love the second we met. But I had to find her first.

For three days, Belle hid on the top shelf of a large walk-through closet between my bedroom and bathroom. I had to stand on a step ladder and feel around in all the bedding stored on the shelf to even touch her. She came down to eat and use her litter box when I wasn’t around, but then she went back to her shelf.

I suppose I could have gotten her down and closed her into the bathroom where she couldn’t hide. But over the years, I’ve discovered that I can’t force a cat to trust me or be my friend. Like all relationships, friendships with cats have to be built on mutual affection and trust and building affection and trust often takes time.

Shy Cats Deserve Homes Too

Belle, no longer a shy cat

Belle’s shyness almost cost her her life. At shelters, it’s the friendly cats bursting with personality and rubbing against every hand within reach who go home first. Not many people notice the shy, scared cats like Belle hiding in the backs of their cages. And even if they do, they want an instant buddy, not an introvert.

But if you have the patience and love, turning a very timid cat into a brave, confident friend is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Over the years, I’ve befriended many shy cats, and this way has always worked for me.

  • When you bring your cat home, set her up in her own room with a comfy bed, litter box, food and toys. Make sure it’s a nice room with sunny windows so she can see outside. Get rid of the clutter in the closet and under the bed! She’ll want a place to hide, but if she’s wedged between storage boxes, you won’t be able to have any contact with her at all.
  • Put up a screen door or stack baby gates at the door. It’s important for her to know there’s a whole world waiting for her to explore when she’s ready. And complete isolation behind a closed door can just build anxiety.
  • Put Rescue Remedy in her water. It will take the edge off her fearfulness.
  • Visit often. Even if she insists on staying under the bed at first, she’ll get used to having you around and will appreciate your company. Don’t try to touch her if she doesn’t want you to. Sit on the floor, so you’re not towering over her, and read or listen to soft music.
  • Give her treats. Put some under the bed for her, so she associates you with something she really likes. As she comes to trust you, make a trail of treats from her hiding place into the room. If you do this a few times, she should eat her way from under the bed to you.
  • Speak her language. Blinking at her tells her you love her and want to be her friend. Looking her straight in the eye sends an aggressive message. She’ll think you want to fight! Reach out to her with your palm down so she can sniff your fingers. But don’t try to touch her. Let her touch you first.
  • Play. Put a long shoelace or wand or fishing pole toy under the bed and drag it out into the room. Cats love to chase things that wiggle and squirm, and when she’s feeling brave enough, she’ll follow it into the room.
  • When you become friends and she trusts you, take down the baby gates or screen door so she can venture out of her room. But don’t force her to leave. She’ll come out when she’s ready. And don’t pick her up and put her down in another part of the house. Cats create signposts for themselves with the scent glands in their front paw pads and cheeks. If she can’t create signposts, she could become very frightened because she won’t know how to get back to her safe room.

Convincing a shy cat to love and trust you could take days or even weeks. But you’ll find that it’s worth every minute because the bond you create with the cat will be one you’ll never forget.

Make Her Everyone’s Friend

After you and your cat have become close friends, it’s time to help her develop friendships with everyone else. She’ll be happier and safer if she’s not a one-person cat. After all, she’s going to have to deal with vets, cat sitters and house guests throughout her life.

Leave a television or radio on so she can get used to the sounds of different voices. And invite your friends over to visit your cat. Ask them to follow the same process you used. Tell them talk to her but not touch her until she approaches them and make sure they have lots of treats to offer as an incentive for her to come close.

My Brave Belle

Belle - how I socialized my cat

Belle is nearly four years old now, but she still looks like a kitten. She’s a tiny “torbi” with the cutest squeaky purr. Her favorite things to do are play in the woods with her friend, Boccelli, and go for walks with the other cats and me. She’ll never be a social butterfly and rub against the legs of every person she meets. But it’s good for cats to be cautious.

Her transformation from terrified kitten to confident cat took nearly a year. For the first week she was here, I spent evenings on the floor in my closet reading and tossing treats in her direction. She sat in her bed on the vanity in the bathroom watching me and happily eating the treats. Then, one evening, she ate her way from the vanity to my lap, and we’ve been cuddle buddies ever since.

But there was another hurdle to overcome. Belle was used to small spaces and wouldn’t venture beyond my closet doorway. Gradually, she began to chase a toy out of the closet into my bedroom, then into a hallway and finally into the living room. This took three weeks!

When she was comfortable in the living room, we started going out on the balcony. But if she heard a noise or saw people walking on the path behind our condo, she ran back inside. It took her nearly a month to realize that the people on the path couldn’t possibly come close to her on the balcony.

She loves the balcony now and could sleep out there on her favorite chair for hours, no matter what’s going on beneath her. She’s come a long, long way from that terrified shelter cat. I’m so proud of her, and I imagine she’s very proud of herself!

Reprinted with permission from Missy Zane, How to Live with Cats. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright March 7, 2016.

Missy Zane’s journey within into the heart and mind of cats began more than 20 years ago when she discovered 16 beautiful feral kittens living in a parking lot. According to Missy, the purpose of her website is to serve as s a “how to” guide for those of us who live with cats. The articles aren’t just based on research and study, but also on what she has learned from the cats themselves after years of living with them, working with them, and rescuing them.

Guest Post: Adopting A New Cat? Seven Things to Consider

Cat_WikipediaYou’ve been thinking about it for ages, and now you’re finally ready. You want to adopt a cat. But while adopting a cat should be fun, it’s also a long-term commitment. Cats form strong bonds with their family members, and rehoming a cat is always painful and sad. To avoid heartbreak for you and the cat, try to answer these questions honestly before bringing that new family member home. They’re written through the eyes of a rescuer who has had the joy of placing hundreds of cats in new homes and the sadness of trying to help even more “owner give-ups” avoid going to shelters.

1. Are you prepared to make a long-term commitment? Did you know the average lifespan of a cat is 16 years, and many live even longer?

2. Does everyone in your family want a cat? If not, it would be best to enjoy the company of cats as a volunteer for a rescue or shelter. The cat’s not going to be happy living with someone who hates her!

3. What will you do if you fall head over heels in love with someone who doesn’t like cats or is allergic to them? Give this one serious thought. If “give up the cat” pops into your head, it would be better to foster than adopt.

4. What will you do if you have to move? Cats can be good travelers and can adjust to a new home as long as their people are there, too. If you’d leave the cat behind, adoption is probably not for you. This is especially true of military families facing frequent overseas deployments. If you think you might be stationed someplace where you can’t have your cat, consider fostering instead of adopting.

5. Can you afford a cat? To be healthy, a cat needs wet food as well as, or instead of, dry. And in addition to food, the cat will need medical care, especially as s/he gets older. There’s nothing sadder than having to “put a cat to sleep” because there’s no money for medical care. Investing in pet insurance or setting up a separate savings account for veterinary care could save your cat’s life someday.

6. Are your furniture and carpeting right up there at the top of your list of things you care about most? It’s natural for a cat to scratch and accidents happen, especially as a cat ages. Are you willing to think of scratching pads and tall, stable scratching posts as essential pieces of furniture? Will you be able to be patient and seek solutions to litter box issues if your cat suddenly stops using his box? These questions deserve serious thought, too.

7. Do you have time for a cat? While it’s true that cats are “solitary hunters” and self-sufficient enough to keep themselves happily occupied for long stretches of time, they also enjoy human companionship. Will you have time every day to pet a cat and play and brush? Cats are creatures of habit and love predictable schedules and routines. Does your lifestyle allow enough flexibility to create a routine with a cat?

A cat will be as much a part of your family as your partner and kids are and will deserve as much of a commitment of time, energy and love. Before you adopt a cat, think about whether you are willing and able to make that commitment now and for many years to come.

Reprinted with permission from Missy Zane, How to Live with Cats. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright 2016.

Missy Zane’s journey within into the heart and mind of cats began more than 20 years ago when she discovered 16 beautiful feral kittens living in a parking lot. According to Missy, the purpose of her website is to serve as s a “how to” guide for those of us who live with cats. The articles aren’t just based on research and study, but also on what she has learned from the cats themselves after years of living with them, working with them, and rescuing them.

Guest Post: Catch Your Dog Doing a Great Job!

Mama Sally

So often when I’m training dogs, I watch owners collapse into frustration on a daily basis.  Granted, there are many, many reasons that dogs…and especially puppies…can frustrate an owner, even on a good day!  And honestly, some of those things are going to continue until a puppy grows up and stops being a puppy, or until a dog figures out a new way of doing things.

Sometimes, what can happen, is that an owner finds themselves going from correction to correction to correction, and honestly, that can get frustrating if that’s every day life with your dog.  Here’s a secret:  To a dog, negative attention is still attention!!  Sure, they’d rather have you petting them and sweet talking to them, but if you won’t do those things, they learn very effective ways to get your attention…even if that’s being naughty!  And let’s face it:  Being naughty really works well for many dogs!

To break out of that naughty behavior = negative attention cycle, be sneaky and catch your dog doing a great job with everyday life!  Wait until you see him producing calm, relaxed behavior, and make sure you praise him for that behavior. To really be effective with this approach, you really have to have a positive mindset!  You have to be willing to see your dog through a lens of being a good dog, rather than a naughty one!  It’s a conscious thinking of watching your dog, and capturing the great moment just as it happens!

I’ve never yet found an owner who was frustrated with a dog who was producing great behavior!  The problem is that in many or maybe even in most homes, owners ignore great behavior, and I promise you….that’s a critical error!!  Dogs repeat behavior that gets them what they want!  If you want your dog to produce great behavior….be sure that’s what you’re consistently praising!!  And, make sure you’re giving your dog a really terrific reward that he wants!  Pull out all the stops and make sure that when your dog does what you want, you leave no question in his mind that you really, really liked what he did, and he will continue to do that to be sure he has figured it out!  That’s a win in anyone’s book!

Rugby James

When I was a lil pupper, I hasta say that sumtimes I did get into stuff on account of that’s what maked my family drop what they was doing and come running to me.  I figured out that when I went shopping for sumping to get into, I could steal sumping naughty off of a table, and sumtimes the Uprights would even chase me wif it what was a really fun game!!

The Mama sayed that she didn’t train udder naughty doggers all day to come home and scold her own!  So, she started teaching me tricks when I looked bored and like I needed sumping to do.  Sumtimes, the Daddy or the Lindsay would play fetch wif me, but the Mama mostly played finking games wif me.

Rugby-Shoulder-RideShe was really sneaky wif me too!  When we was just hanging around at home, she would be walking around the house, and sumtimes I would follow her to see what she was doing.  Anytime she stopped walking, if I calmly sat down, she pulled out a kibble and gived it to me wif sum good lubs and petting!  And you know what?  I learned to stop jumping up on her!  And it only took about seven to ten days! And you know, sumtimes, the Mama wasn’t paying attention to me, but I still did the good behavior anyhow.  Only, sumtimes I hadda get up and move to a new spot and sigh real loud to let her know I was doing sumping polite and good!  Uprights get busy wif stuff and they just forget to pay attention.

Rugby-Click-TreatYour lil doggers wantsa make you happy!  They really does!  And they tries really hard to figure out what you want from them.  A big secret to success wif doggers is to catch them doing the stuff you want and making sure…consistently…that you give them a really great reward, and I can tell you…on account of I know about these fings….your lil dogger will do good stuff a whole lot more often!

Reprinted with permission from Sally Hummel, Rugby James. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright July 26, 2016.

In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. That trainer was Sally Hummel and the dog would become Rugby James. The goal of her website is to provide education, support, community, encouragement, and hope. Difficult dogs are often “recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep.” Sally would like to change this by sharing her own day to day life with a “neurotic” dog. She wants to help owners “stay committed to their pooch, and try to make life better for them.” Her site exists because she believes pet owners can live well with a difficult dog. Her own Rugby James is living proof of that!

Guest Post: Preventing Leash Aggression

Mama Sally

Leash aggression is one of the most common types of aggressive behavior I see on a regular basis.  It can be very dangerous, especially if the aggressive dog is large and difficult to manage on a leash!  Dogs really can be very aggressive when they are on a leash, so it honestly is a serious cause for concern.

Leash aggressive dogs are often barking wildly,sometimes snarling and growling, often lunging and pulling at the sight of another dog. Some dogs can fire up at the mere sight of a dog at a distance, and others don’t fire up until the other dog is sniffing or in a very close proximity.   The common denominator for the behavior is that the aggressive dog is always aggressive when he is on a leash.

Believe it or not, some leash aggressive dogs can play nicely with other dogs off leash!  Doesn’t that just seem crazy?  I see it all the time, and it always makes my mind want to bend in a direction that it doesn’t want to go!  Talk about oxymorons, right?  It should be mutually exclusive, but that’s part of what makes aggression such a weird behavior to correct, and why it’s so very important to prevent it from initially getting started!

How Leash Aggression Often Starts

There can be many causes for leash aggression, and I’m only going to address the most common ones that I see.  Often, leash aggression gets started in very innocent ways…. on daily walks and outings!  Picture a young puppy, who is excited and happy to go on his walk. He’s running, stopping, sniffing, dropping anchor, and sitting down.  And picture another dog or human coming along and catching the puppy’s eye.  Naturally he wants to go say hello, because he’s naturally curious about something new.  He might also want attention and/or an opportunity to play with another dog!

So, he starts to pull and jump toward the other person or dog, and his well meaning owner gives him a very strong correction on his leash, probably scolding at the same time, because he wants a nicely mannered dog who doesn’t do such things.   The leash correction may physically hurt the puppy, and the correction…coupled with his owner’s cross words, most likely scares him. Picture this happening multiple times on a walk, and multiple times a week.

If this continues to happen, after a while, that little puppy gets a strong message that his owner never intended for him to receive.  He starts to associate that correction with the presence of humans or dogs, and that association is a negative one, since he always ends up getting into trouble whenever they are around.

Now, when this puppy is on a walk, instead of seeing other dogs or humans and thinking good things, he will immediately think of them in a negative way.  His lunging and barking which were once friendly, are now aggressive, because it’s his attempt to make them go away so that he doesn’t get punished!  Yikes!  Who knew that would happen!!

How to Prevent Leash Aggression

The very best way to prevent leash aggression from starting, is by teaching your dog to walk nicely on a loose leash with you.  Many people think that the “right” way to walk a dog is by teaching that dog to walk right at their side, 100% of the time.  And many people think that they are “teaching” their dog when they hold the leash tightly so that the dog must walk at their side.  In my opinion, that’s not “teaching” anything, because the dog has no choice but to comply.  He’s forced to stay at his owner’s side, and his collar or harness is tight the entire time!  That’s sure not going to make walks a very fun experience for dog or owner!

I prefer to teach dogs to choose to walk on a loose leash, staying on one side of their owner.  That way, there’s no pulling or tripping, and as long as the leash is loose, there’s not going to be any incorrect or unwanted messages being taught to the dog.  I don’t think it’s any more “correct” to insist that a dog walk at my side, than to simply walk with me on a loose leash.  As long as the leash remains loose, I enjoy letting my dog have a bit of freedom to sniff around and have some fun on walks.

To be sure, I also teach dogs to “Heel” which is a command that requires a dog to walk immediately at the owner’s side. But again, always on a loose leash!  If you start training your dog with a pleasant walk on a loose leash, you’ll see that often what happens is that the dog will check in with his handler, looking back at him from time to time.  And, as the dog gets tired from the walk, he will naturally slow down a bit, and end up walking pretty close to a Heel all on his own. Dogs are very smart, and often intuitive about their owners.  With a few tweaks, some good leash technique and some patience, this most common form of leash aggression can be completely avoided.

Rugby James

Part of what I just doesn’t get about Uprights is why Uprights finks doggers is too dumb to make good choices!  We can figure stuff out really good!  And when the Mama works wif me, she always tries to make sure that what she wants me to do is my best option, so I will want to make that my choice!  She always makes sure she gots sum tasty treats or kibbles for me, and she always lubs me up a big much and that kind of stuff.  I likesa get rewards for making good choices, so if she makes the reward sumping that I’m willing to work for….I make that choice almost every single time!

The Mama likesa use a harness wif me, on account of it doesn’t put any pressure on my neck at all!  That way, if I does lunge after sumping, I’m not gonna get any kinda strong correction what might make me wanna get aggressive or make me extra reactive.  We use a harness what holds me really secure sos I can’t get out of it if I start to wig out over sumping.

The Mama is really kind wif the leash.  She doesn’t make it get really tight at all.  She lets it stay loose sos I just feel like I’m walking wif a friend instead of sumpawdy what is trying to control me to make me do stuff.  That really helps me relax!  And the Mama practices “Leave it” and “Watch me” all the time, sos I can learn to tune out the stuff around me and pay attention to her.

The rules what the Mama makes for me at home is that calm and relaxed behavior can earn me a reward.  We play games what helps me learn to has sum self control sos I won’t be so reactive when I’m away from home.  These kinds of fings helps carry over into self control when I really needsa behave.

Here’s a lil movie what the Mama maked last November when we was out for a walkie.  The leash is staying purty loose, and I listen purty good to the Mama when she tells me stuff.  When she feels me pull on the leash, she gives a gentle tug and tells me “No” and I stop pulling.  We has worked at home  lots and lots, so that we can be a team when we go sumplace togedder!

Sally&RugbyBioReprinted with permission from Sally Hummel, Rugby James. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright May 24, 2016.

In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. That trainer was Sally Hummel and the dog would become Rugby James. The goal of her website is to provide education, support, community, encouragement, and hope. Difficult dogs are often “recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep.” Sally would like to change this by sharing her own day to day life with a “neurotic” dog. She wants to help owners “stay committed to their pooch, and try to make life better for them.” Her site exists because she believes pet owners can live well with a difficult dog. Her own Rugby James is living proof of that!

Guest Post: What is Leash Aggression?

Mama Sally

Aggression is one of the most difficult of naughty behaviors that I have to correct with a dog.  It is a weird, deep and confusing behavior.  It can range from  “I hate every dog I see” to “I like this dog but I hate that one.”  Sometimes triggers are simple to spot, but other times….they can be a real mystery!  Levels of aggression can be as mild as low level growling or a lip curl or quiver, and as dangerous as full on attacks with serious injuries or death being inflicted.

Types of aggression can include:

  • Dog on dog aggression:  a dog attacking other dogs
  • Dog/Human aggression:  a dog attacking a human
  • Resource guarding: a dog acting aggressively when he is protecting his resources, like food, water, toys, humans, etc.
  • Cage aggression:  a dog behaving aggressively in his crate
  • Kennel aggression:  a dog behaving aggressively when he is in a kennel run
  • Fence aggression: a dog behaving aggressively at someone/something on the opposite side of a fence
  • Leash aggression:  a dog behaving aggressively when he is on a leash
  • Re-directed aggression: a dog re-directs his aggression from the original target to whatever is closest to him

This is definitely not an all-inclusive list, and within each of those categories, there can be very specific types of aggressive behavior, such as aggression only with men if they are wearing a ball cap or hoodie, or with toddlers only, etc., which is partly why it’s such a challenging behavior to correct!

Aggression can be a deep well.  If it’s caught in its early stages, I can have a good chance in turning the behavior around.  Once dogs get well established in producing aggressive behavior, there may be nothing any trainer can do to rehabilitate the dog.  If multiple dog bites are involved, there’s a strong chance that the dog will be put to sleep when all is said and done.

The really sad, sad thing, is that in most cases, aggression can absolutely be avoided, and that’s what I’m posting about this week.  I hope to help you understand how to prevent aggressive behavior in your own dogs, how to recognize it in its early stages,  and save your dog from biting!

Rugby James

No matter what Uprights say, doggers isn’t aggressive just because they is a certain breed of dog.  Lotsa doggers is all mixed up wif their breeds like me.  Just because a dogger might have sum of a specific breed in them, it doesn’t mean that they will grow up to be mean….just because of that breed in them.

You know what?  Most doggers gets aggressive on account of they is skeered.  Yup.  That’s a true story.  Skeered puppies can grow up to be biters when they get all growed up.  And puppies is skeered on account of they just doesn’t understand how fings work in the world.  Mostly that happens on account of they just didn’t get to come up good when they was really lil puppers.

It Starts With Responsible Breeding

Breeders has a huge responsibility to socialize puppers before they even go to their new homes.  That means exposing those puppers to all kindsa fings, people, places, fings, noises, movements, textures, all kindsa stuff!  And puppers needsa stay wif their original litter until they is older, 10-12 weeks, so they can get all of their good pack behaviors started really good.  The mama doggers should getsa interact wif the puppers too, sos they can learn good stuff from a growed up dogger.  When you is looking for a breeder, these is the kindsa questions you needsa be asking!  If you doesn’t get a good answer, cross that one off your list and move right on along to the next one!  This stuff is super important!

Shelter puppers doesn’t always get the good stuff to start, on account of mostly those are lil puppers what wasn’t really wanted to start wif, so mostly they don’t always get good treatment, or the right kindsa foods, and stuff like that.  Sumtimes, their breeders just wantsa get rid of them quick, so they take them away from their mudders and udder puppers too soon…at six weeks, what is way too young! When puppers leaves their original pack too soon, it will affect their overall behavior and development, and sumtimes that can result in naughty aggressive behaviors as they grow up.

After puppers go to their new homes, they needs lotsa continued socialization wif the same kinda stuff, so that they can continue to understand how the world works.  That stuff hasta happen until they is all growed up into big doggers…not just when they is puppers. Owners gotsa fink about taking them to new places all the times…. every day if possible, so that their puppers can see and smell, and hear and experience all kindsa new fings… over and over, sos they can get comfortable and feel safe wif stuff in the world.

Adolescence: That Awkward Age!

When they getsa be teenager puppers into young adult doggers, they can has sum weird behaviors start…. like aggression…. and their owners gotsa learn kind, consistent ways to shut that stuff down quick, sos it doesn’t get worse, or get to be a naughty habit!  The very best way to keep aggressive behavior from getting started, is to train your puppers from the first moment that they come into your home.  That way, they can learn who is in charge of fings right away, and puppers and owners can learn how to respect and appreciate each udder right from the very start of living togedder! When a pupper has had good, solid training right from the beginning, it’s a whole lot easier to work frew the weird teen ager stuff what they might try later!

You wantsa watch for really strong barking what might say, “Go away!” instead of excited happy barking when you are on walkies, or when strangers comes to your house.  You doesn’t wanna see your dogger lunge at anudder dogger or Upright on walkies.  You doesn’t wanna see your dogger covering up his toys and lowering his head and looking sideways at you…or growling!  Charging at Uprights or doggers is never good, so be on the lookout for that stuff too.  These is a few of the fings what can get aggression started going, and when you see these kindsa fings, THIS is the time to get professional help and shut it down.  Get it stopped.  In its tracks!

Aggression doesn’t just go away, and doggers doesn’t just outgrow it.  Usually, it gets worser and worser over time, until a bite happens, and that often means that the dogger has been doing aggressive stuff for a long time already.  When bites happen, sumtimes police reports gets involved, and it’s much more expensive for the Uprights of the aggressive dogger, AND they might hasta put their doggers to sleep, what is a very, very sad fing what sumtimes hasta happen.

Uprights just gotsa fink of investing time and work wif their puppers until they is all growed up….two years or more, to get their best shots of having a well socialized and adjusted dogger what will not likely become aggressive later in life.  When doggers usually live twelve years or more….it’s worf it to help them be the very best that they can be!

Sally&RugbyBioReprinted with permission from Sally Hummel, Rugby James. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright May 17, 2016.

In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. That trainer was Sally Hummel and the dog would become Rugby James. The goal of her website is to provide education, support, community, encouragement, and hope. Difficult dogs are often “recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep.” Sally would like to change this by sharing her own day to day life with a “neurotic” dog. She wants to help owners “stay committed to their pooch, and try to make life better for them.” Her site exists because she believes pet owners can live well with a difficult dog. Her own Rugby James is living proof of that!

Guest Post: Let Your Dog Sniff!

Mama Sally

Lately, when I’ve been out and about, I’ve encountered dog owners who try to prevent their dogs from sniffing me, or seem embarrassed when they sniff too long, or get overly personal when they sniff.

Do you know that when puppies are born, they are blind and deaf at birth?  Their eyes open at about ten days, and their ears at about fourteen days. So,think good and hard about that and what it means to our dogs. They are born with a good sense of smell, because when they are newborns, all they need for the first few days is to be able to find their mama for their food source.

Their interest in sniffing doesn’t wane just because they grow up to see dog food in a bowl or hear that kibble hit the stainless steel.  Sniffing is a big deal to our dogs, and we need to understand that!  All dogs like to sniff–not only hound breeds!  It’s exciting to me to see new dog sports being developed, like “Nose Works,” which embraces a dog’s desire and skill in sniffing!

newborn-1101599_1920

To your dogs, sniffing a new person is much like a handshake is to a human.  It’s a polite way to meet and greet.  As humans, we just need to understand and appreciate it for what it is:  a means for your dog to gather information about us.  When we stop them, or scold them for sniffing, it’s sending a very confusing message to our dogs.  In his mind, he is being very polite, and he’s learning important information about that new person!

Let’s face it!  Dogs are curious!  They want to learn new things about their world and who is in it just like humans do.  Sniffing is one way in which they can gather that information and learn.  Preventing them from doing that can make them fearful of the things that they don’t understand and that can include humans and other dogs.

Now having said that, you do need to be very careful about letting your dog meet and greet people and dogs, to be sure that they are dog friendly and will be kind and understanding to your dog.  You certainly don’t want to throw your dog under the bus just for the sake of letting him sniff if the conditions aren’t ideal.  Be selective, and when it’s safe and possible, let him have a good sniff.

And sniffing goes for walks as well.  When I’m out for a walk with Rugby somewhere that he can safely enjoy the outing , it’s fun for me to let him explore and sniff, as well as see and hear new things.  It’s one of his primary senses, and he really enjoys the full experience of safely going someplace new, including those things that he can smell!  Often, when we are sitting out on the patio at home, I will see him tip his head up and sniff something on the wind.  He always looks so content, and pleased…and often very calm and relaxed at the same time.

So remember that a dog is a completely different species, and he’s only doing what comes naturally to him when he sniffs.  Embrace what’s different with him, and enjoy watching him learn!

Rugby James

I’m really glad the Mama has bringed this subject up, on account of it’s a real important one!  I fink Uprights misunderstand doggers wif this all the time, and it really hurts my lil dogger feelings.

dog-sniffFirst of all, Uprights gotsa understand that we is doggers!  We isn’t Uprights!  That means we doesn’t fink or behave the way that Uprights does, and that’s not a bad fing!  Sumtimes Uprights gets doggers and calls them their “baby” what makes a dogger into sumping what they wasn’t ever borned to be.  We was borned to be doggers!

Uprights gotsa understand that we is a whole different species altogether, and that means that we gots fings what we does that is unique and special just on account of who we is in our DNA.  Lubbing and living wif a dogger means that Uprights gotsa accept us for being doggers and let us do doggie fings what makes sense to us.

Sniffing is sumping we likes a big much!  I likesa sniff the ground and the air bof!  I likesa learn new fings about what’s around me, and sniffing is a big way that I can do it.

When I meet sumpawdy for the first time, the first fing I likesa do is sniff them over.  It’s the very first fing I does wif the Mama when she gets home every day after she has been training doggers.  I likesa learn about the new dogger smells what she brings home wif her.  Sumtimes, puppies pee on her so that’s a purty essciting smell for me!  Mostly, it’s doggie drool or furs and dander and oils from the udder doggers what gets on her.  She’s always really patient to stand still and let me check her out when she first gets home.  And then she goes off and does her stuff and I helps herd her on her way!  It’s a perfect way to satisfy my curiosity and help me learn about her day!

Sally&RugbyBioReprinted with permission from Sally Hummel, Rugby James. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright May 31, 2016.

In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. That trainer was Sally Hummel and the dog would become Rugby James. The goal of her website is to provide education, support, community, encouragement, and hope. Difficult dogs are often “recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep.” Sally would like to change this by sharing her own day to day life with a “neurotic” dog. She wants to help owners “stay committed to their pooch, and try to make life better for them.” Her site exists because she believes pet owners can live well with a difficult dog. Her own Rugby James is living proof of that!

Guest Post: Timing is Everything in Training

Mama Sally

For many years when she was alive, my mom enjoyed picking lottery numbers and buying a ticket each week.  It was the most fun her $2.00 could buy, and you can’t say that about much, these days.  She would agonize over which numbers would actually be the winners….laying out her previous tickets, and wondering what she should change to have a winner this time.  There were many times when she actually matched several numbers, but she never actually matched them all, and as we all know, the only one who wins that huge jackpot is the lucky person who happens to get all of the numbers right!

Success in dog training can be just a bit like that, although dogs are much more lenient than the lottery officials!  Dogs have a very limited time to understand praise or a correction–one or two seconds.  This means that your timing must be very precise if your dog is really going to learn what you want him to know.

Sally&Rugby

Walking a dog is one of life’s simple pleasures, isn’t it?  Don’t we all dream about that nice relaxing walk where we can take Sparky out and get some pleasant exercise with him?  Let me say first of all, that in my opinion, the “right” way to walk a dog is to teach a dog to walk on one side of you only, left or right, and not to pull on the leash at all.  And when I say loose leash, I mean loose, like you can see the letter “J” in the leash from your dog’s collar or harness up to your hand.  That’s it!  Easy peasy, right?

Most of the problems I see on leash walking is because an owner is correcting the dog too late, after the dog is already pulling.  Once the leash is taut and the slack is gone, your dog gets no correction of any kind.  It’s just his brute force dragging  his owner forward.  Dogs are far stronger than they look. So most often, the dog wins. Then he continues to do what works for him, even though he’s gasping and struggling in the process.

Learn to watch your leash instead of your dog.  When you see the slack starting to go, because your dog is pulling too far ahead, that’s the time you want to offer a tug back not up and tell your dog, “NO!”  He can feel that tug on his collar when the leash is loose, and most of the time, a dog will look back at you.  That’s when I change directions, effectively asking the dog to follow his leader.  When he willingly comes along, looking up at me, I offer him a small kibble sized treat for his efforts.

At the very moment that your dog gets up from a sit stay, if you quickly tug straight up with the leash and repeat, “NO!” your dog will most often sit right back down and look up at you.  I say, “Good dog!” and ask him to “Stay” again.  Correcting your dog after he’s already up and taking steps is way too late.

What a huge difference you will see on your results when you adjust your timing!!  Learn to anticipate what your dog will do next!  Dogs will often do things in patterns just like humans.  So if your dog has gotten up twice on that Sit/Stay, you can pretty safely assume that he’s going to get up the third time, and be ready to time your correction to catch him in the act of making the mistake.  That’s an effective correction, and it’s something that will help your dog learn exactly what you want!

Rugby James

When I lived in the udder homes what I had, mostly fings was inconsistent for me.  Sumtimes I gotted trained, and sumtimes not….sumtimes I gotted walks, and sumtimes not….sumtimes I gotted to pull on walks and sumtimes not….see what I mean?  How’s a lil dogger wif a small brain and no fumbs gonna learn anyfing from that one?

Doggers is just no dummies and we can figure stuff out purty quick when Uprights sends us the right, consistent information from the leash!  If the Uprights is all over the place wif the stuff that they’re doing to train us, why would they fink their doggers will figure it out? Pfft!

For all of my dogger Furends what gots special needs like me, this stuff is really important!  Sumtimes, if the Mama uses a voice what is too strong, or moves too quick at me, it makes me back up and growl, on account of I gets skeered of that stuff.  But when she works slow and steady wif me, doing the right stuff, and the same stuff, I can learn and come along, and then I feel safe and it builds my confidence and our trust togedder.  I like knowing what stuff makes the Mama happy, but really, I lubs getting kibbles and lotsa pets  and ear scratches for getting stuff right too!

If you isn’t sure what the right stuff is to do, find a trainer like the Mama what can help you learn!  I’ve heared that Uprights can learn new stuff, even if they is old, and that will make a big, big difference to your lil doggers!  Learning how to nail down the timing for training is really so very helpful for doggers to figure stuff out!  Doggers doesn’t getsa stay on Earf for a very long time, so I fink it would be really good if Uprights could really enjoy their doggers and make a good life wif them doing the stuff what makes everpawdy happy.

Sally&RugbyBioReprinted with permission from Sally Hummel, Rugby James. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright May 3, 2016.

In 2007, a dog trainer found herself falling in love with her first rescue dog. That trainer was Sally Hummel and the dog would become Rugby James. The goal of her website is to provide education, support, community, encouragement, and hope. Difficult dogs are often “recycled from shelter to home to shelter to home, and back to shelter, until they are often put to sleep.” Sally would like to change this by sharing her own day to day life with a “neurotic” dog. She wants to help owners “stay committed to their pooch, and try to make life better for them.” Her site exists because she believes pet owners can live well with a difficult dog. Her own Rugby James is living proof of that!