Did you know the Pentagon has two dozen highly trained K9 teams that are used to detect explosives, search vehicles, and patrol the premises to keep them safe? I didn’t until recently when Sarah Lagasse, K9 Sergeant at the Pentagon Police Department, contacted CANIDAE customer service. Sarah wrote to ask for some CANIDAE Pet Food banners or posters for their new kennel facility, because she said many of the Pentagon working dogs eat the food and not only that – they really thrive on it! I spoke with her recently to get more information on the Pentagon dogs and their very important jobs. Sarah’s current K9 partner is Aldo, a 4 year old Golden Retriever (soon to be 5) she’s been working with since 2008. Here’s what she had to say:
What is a typical day like for you and Aldo? Aldo’s duties are to detect explosives and be a deterrent. Our normal day usually begins with his exercise (playing ball), then he rides to work with me. We conduct roll call and give out the assignments for the other teams. We sometimes work at the Pentagon Remote Delivery Facility where all delivery vehicles are screened by K9 teams, and we do random patrols all over the Pentagon Reservation. We respond to calls for unattended items, bomb threats and many other types of calls. We also provide K9 support to visiting dignitaries, often searching their hotel suites and motorcades. We fit exercise, grooming and training in as often as possible.
What is Aldo’s temperament like? Aldo is a typical Golden Retriever – he is very sweet, playful and loves everyone.
What part of his job does Aldo like most and least? Aldo likes to search; when he is working, he is happy! When we work the receiving facility a lot, he doesn’t seem to care for it much since he is searching a lot of vehicles numerous times a day and I think he gets a little bored. I have to keep his mind in the game, so our trainers will secretly put training aids (explosives) on vehicles so he will find them, get his ball and get excited to work again. We do this with all of the dogs since even as handlers, we get tired of these searches after doing that specific job for many hours straight.
While most humans are accustomed to loud noises or crowds of people, dogs can sometimes get pretty agitated. During the summer there are plenty of noises and events that can frighten dogs. Fireworks on the 4th of July, family cookouts, neighborhood gatherings and thunderstorms are just a few of the things which can upset your dog. Some dogs are even scared of water; the things that can frighten and agitate your dog are varied and depend on the personality of the dog and his environment.
Each dog reacts differently when scared, nervous or feeling crowded. Some dogs may get vocal with barking or growling when they feel agitated, while others may retreat when they are frightened. Even well mannered dogs have been known to have potty accidents when they get agitated, or to snap at people when they feel crowded and cornered. Responsible pet owners always try to keep their dog from feeling fear, but there are some things that even the most dedicated doggy mom can’t do anything about.
Our dog Bear is terrified of thunder. She hears it long before we do and begins rounding up the family. She pants and does rounds of the house trying to make sure we are all where we need to be. As the thunder gets closer she begins searching for a safe place. For a dog as big as Bear, it’s amazing that she can squeeze into some really small places when there’s a thunderstorm. She will go under the bed, try to get into the bottom shelf on a bookshelf or the tiniest cubby underneath the desk. She shivers and shakes and pants until I sometimes worry about her having a stroke or a heart attack. Her response to thunder or fireworks seems quite similar to a human having a panic attack. She doesn’t focus on any one thing, and will often roll her eyes in fear.
The general meaning for sentient is “to perceive or feel,” to be aware or have physical sensations. A sentient being is self aware, and some people believe this only applies to humans. We know pets are capable of feeling pain and can suffer, but just how aware are they of their surroundings and of the people they share their life with? There are those who say that pets can’t be sentient beings because they have no perception of death, but I’m not so sure that’s true. I’ve had enough experience with pets over the years to believe they know exactly what’s going on when their time has come. I do think pets are sentient beings and have an awareness we don’t fully understand.
I think my pets know me better than some of my friends. They are very much aware of my moods. They know if I’m angry or in a good mood, but more importantly, they know when I’m sad. And like a good friend who knows a hug can make a difference, pets give us their own special touch to let us know they understand and are there if we need them. This alone tells me they are sentient and are aware of what’s going on around them.
We domesticated pets centuries ago because we discovered that if we worked together, it benefited both of us. A dog or cat’s instinct and senses will surpass our gut feeling every time. When it comes to the natural world, dogs and cats know exactly what’s going on long before we do. My dogs know before I open the door to their pen if there’s a wild animal in the pen and exactly where it is. If a possum or coon was in the pen but left hours ago, the dogs still know that the animal had crossed through their territory. A pet’s instinct can help them find their way back home, know if a storm is coming and instinct tells them when they need to protect their family from an intruder.
We’ve all succumbed to spur of the moment desires at one time or another. Willpower and our emotional state play a huge part in our ability to resist the lure of an impulse purchase. It may not be life-changing to grab a candy bar at the checkout stand, but there are some things you should never obtain on a whim, and a pet is one of them.
Sadly, many people learn this lesson the hard way, including me. When I was just 18, I fell in love with an adorable poodle mix puppy at my local shelter. I didn’t know anything about raising a dog or being a responsible pet owner, and I wasn’t by any means “settled” in my life or career. My only thought before adopting PJ was that she needed a home and someone to love her. I could provide that, but had I stopped to consider all of the other things a dog needs, I would have let her go to someone who was more capable and prepared for pet ownership. When I had to re-home PJ it broke my heart, but the valuable lesson I learned will stay with me forever, and I’ll never, ever adopt another pet on impulse.
Questions to ask before you get a pet
1. Are you committed to caring for the pet for its entire life, and can you be reasonably sure that you’ll be able to? Life is full of unforeseen changes and calamities, but pets should not be discarded when they become inconvenient or present challenges. If you can’t pledge to take care of a pet through good times and bad, then pet ownership is not for you.
Many people see nothing wrong with letting their dog ride untethered in the open bed of a pickup truck. I can’t count the times I’ve seen a dog riding loose in the back of a pickup truck, and you probably have too. Sometimes the dog seems to be enjoying this open air experience, while other times the dog looks terrified as he struggles to maintain his balance. Regardless of whether the dog is having fun or is frightened, transporting them untethered in the back of a pickup is placing them in a very unsafe situation. It not only endangers the dog, but other motorists who could have an accident when they swerve to miss the dog if he falls out.
An untethered dog in a pickup truck bed can easily become a projectile if the driver has to slam on his brakes, swerve to avoid something in the road, or hits an unexpected bump. I know someone who actually saw a dog fly out of an open truck bed onto a busy freeway, and the image haunts them. It’s really not something you want to see happen to any dog, because it can result in broken bones, road rash, bruises and even death if they get hit by another vehicle. Even if the dog manages to survive falling out of an open truck bed, treating his injuries could incur a sizable vet bill.
On winding roads, an untethered dog riding in an open truck bed will get bounced from side to side. Even if they don’t fall out, they can suffer bruises from continually hitting the hard walls of the truck bed. An untethered dog could also jump out of the open truck bed while it’s moving if he happens to see a cat, squirrel, another dog or something else he wants to chase. Many states have laws prohibiting the unsafe practice of transporting dogs unsecured in an open pickup truck bed. Regardless of the law, a responsible dog owner is one that makes sure their canine companion stays safe and healthy, both at home and on the road.
Dogs are social beings that patiently sit and watch us and other pets, observing what we do. I never had a problem with my dogs digging up their pen until one of them dug a hole one summer to lie in the cool dirt. When I found the hole, I filled it in to keep the dogs from hurting themselves if they stepped in it while playing. The next day, the hole was back, so I filled it in again. This went on for about a week and then more holes started to appear. My other dogs had learned from the first dog that digging a hole in the shady areas of the pen would give them a cooler place to lie down in.
A door separates my living room from the dining room, and we built an escape window in it so the cats can move between the two rooms and get away from the dogs if needed. One day my dog Keikei was watching the cats jump through the window and I almost fell over laughing when I saw her fly through the opening behind them. I have to admit, I was amazed with her grace and the athletic ability it took for her to actually jump through a small window in a door. Now, I wouldn’t call that bad behavior, but it certainly wasn’t something I wanted or expected her to learn just by watching the cats.
Dogs learn by watching, and if one dog gets away with bad behavior, other dogs in the family may follow their example. To them, it’s not bad if their behavior isn’t corrected. If a dog’s behavior changes, that’s cause for concern because it could be due to a medical issue or behavioral problems like separation anxiety and food aggression. However, a dog that is copying bad behavior is a completely different situation. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between bad behavior and an actual behavioral change.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.