Category Archives: dog behavior

How to Tell if Your Pet is Irritated with You

pets irritated penny blankenshipBy Linda Cole

When my Siberian Husky Jake wanted to express his irritation, he’d turn his head away from me as if saying, “I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Then he’d follow up with some Woo Woo Woo’s to make it clear he was unhappy. My cat Meryl was quick to bond with me when he was a kitten. As far as he was concerned, I belonged to him, and if I hurt his feelings, he made it clear he was irritated. He sat with his back to me and ignored me for an hour or so. That was apparently how long it took for him to forgive me. Dogs and cats aren’t vindictive, but they do have ways of showing us when they are irritated.

The Cold Shoulder – This is a sure sign you have a dog or cat with hurt feelings, and it’s not hard to picture your pet sitting like an irritated human with his front legs crossed while tapping one of his back paws in disgust waiting for an apology. You can almost hear the “Don’t talk to me.” It’s a good thing dogs and cats don’t have opposable thumbs. You might get the cold shoulder, but you won’t get a door slammed in your face.

The Stiff Paw and Head Turn Rejection – I take this action as the ultimate “I am so irritated and do not want to cuddle, hand out kisses, or even look at you right now” sign. This is when an upset dog or cat holds out a stiffened leg and blocks you with a paw to keep you from getting too close when you try to be affectionate. In addition to the stiff paw, he turns his head away from you and the message is loud and clear: you have an irritated furry friend. One of my dogs, Keikei, will also give me a kick with her back leg just in case I missed the other two signs.
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The Benefits of Anxiety Shirts for Dogs

By Laurie Darroch

Known as anxiety shirts or the name brand variety the ThunderShirt, this simple piece of attire has a very unique function that is both clever and surprising.

I had never seen one of these shirts used until I stayed with a friend who has a somewhat nervous dog that often reacted to too much noise and excitement. I was a doubter. I didn’t see how simply putting a ThunderShirt on a dog could make any difference or help her with her stress, but I was wrong. It did help, and I saw the results within minutes. She actually seems to enjoy wearing it, too.

How They Work

If you’ve ever noticed the contentment and security your dog gets cuddling against you or being close to you, you will have a sense of what an anxiety shirt does for your dog. When a dog is scared, they need to feel secure, safe and connected to help them deal with what is troubling them. Emotion and fear can overwhelm a dog that is under duress.

An anxiety shirt wraps the dog in a pressured jacket that surrounds their body and gives them what is basically a constant hug to keep them calm and reassure them.  The shirt not only helps with the various causes of stress, it provides an alternate method of helping your dog when she needs it.
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Are You Missing Teachable Moments with Your Dog?

By Linda Cole

It’s always easier to see what someone does wrong and miss what they do right. The same is true when it comes to dogs. We train canines so they can learn how we expect them to behave, but so often we miss teachable moments that can reinforce and enhance what we want our dogs to learn. Sometimes distractions can cause you to miss when your dog is being good and pay attention when you suddenly notice he’s doing something that’s unacceptable.

Most dogs want to please their owner, but it’s not always easy for them to understand what we want because we have a tendency to send conflicting messages. Our body language doesn’t always match the words we use when communicating with our furry friends, and many dog owners aren’t as fluent as they could be in the “language” that dogs use. Understanding how to tell what a dog may be thinking helps prevent unnecessary confrontations between humans and dogs. So often, we miss opportunities to teach because we don’t notice obvious and subtle signs our dogs give us.

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If Your Dog had One Wish, What Would it Be?

By Langley Cornwell

Pet memes and videos that use anthropomorphism as a comedic vehicle always strike my funny bone. In fact, I recently wrote an article on the Best Pet Memes on the Internet and every meme I cited ascribed human thoughts and attitudes to animals.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as the attribution of human characteristics or behaviors to that which is not human. As a logophile (lover of words), I was interested to learn that the origins of the word anthropomorphism are derived from the Greek word anthropos – which means human – and morphe – which means form. That makes perfect sense.

Without getting too far off the subject, here’s an interesting little fact. Since the 1600s, scholars have believed that our human tendency to anthropomorphize, while deep-rooted and innate, impedes our true understanding of the world. But if it makes us laugh, hey, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

So I thought it would be fun to ask my friends and family to anthropomorphize right along with me by answering this question: If your dog had one wish, what would it be? The answers were varied but can easily be grouped into a few categories.

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How to Correct Leash Pulling and Other On-Leash Issues

By Linda Cole

Going for a walk with your dog should be an enjoyable outing for both of you. However, it isn’t much fun if your dog drags you down the street or you spend the entire walk trying to get him to behave. Some dogs grab their leash and chew through it before you know what’s happening, and others bark or lunge. These are common on-leash issues that can be corrected with practical solutions to put you back in control.

Leash Pulling

Walking nicely on a leash isn’t something canines instinctively know how to do. It’s a process we need to teach them. Leash pulling has nothing to do with a dog trying to exert dominance, nor does it mean he doesn’t respect you and is challenging your leadership. Eager dogs pull because they are excited to sniff out smells that interest them; in their mind, pulling on the leash is just a faster way to get where they want to go. The tighter you hold onto the leash, the harder your dog pulls.

It doesn’t matter if your dog walks beside, in front or behind you, as long as he isn’t straining at the end of his leash. His reward for not pulling as hard as he can is getting to do what he wants whether it’s going into the dog park or investigating smells he comes across. Teaching your dog how to walk on a loose leash isn’t something that happens overnight, but if you’re consistent and patient you can teach him how to walk on a loose leash.

Your dog’s favorite CANIDAE treats or toy can help you get his attention during walks. Instead of yanking back on his leash when he pulls, stop and stand perfectly still. Hold the leash next to your body and don’t move. Offer him a treat to direct him back to you or just wait for him to come back on his own. When you begin to walk and he starts to pull, stop and wait. You want him to learn the walk continues when he isn’t pulling on his leash.

Another option is to change the direction you’re walking and gently pull his leash as you turn, but don’t jerk it. This helps him learn to pay attention to you instead of forging ahead like a locomotive. Reward him for walking on a loose leash by letting him sniff under a bush or around a tree he indicated he was interested in. For dogs that need a verbal cue, pick a sound like “Ooo-Ooo” or a word like “yikes” that tells him he’s pulling.

Biting or Chewing the Leash

Some dogs see their leash as a tug-of-war toy, and others like to chew on it or carry it around in their mouth. Dogs chew on their leash because of fear, frustration, to get attention or to play. Some dogs enjoy carrying things in their mouth. An easy solution to stop a dog from grabbing his leash is to use a heavy duty choke collar as an extension to the end of his leash. Attach a double ended snap you can get at hardware stores to his collar and clip the other end to his leash. The chain isn’t as fun to chew on as a nylon leash is.

Another option is to use a harness and attach a leash to his collar and another one to his harness. When he grabs the leash in his mouth, drop that one and pick up the extra one. If he grabs it again, drop it and pick up the other one. A drag line also works. Attach it to his collar along with his leash and alternate between the leash and drag line. Tie knots in the drag line so it’s easy for you to grab off the ground. Dogs that chew through their leash and run off are at risk of becoming lost or injured. If your dog simply enjoys carrying things in his mouth, give him a toy or ball to carry during walks.

Lunging or Aggressive Behavior

Some dogs bark and lunge towards other dogs, bikers, walkers, joggers, cars etc. The leash restricts their ability to get to whatever it is they see and it can be extremely frustrating for some dogs – to the point of causing them to become overly anxious. To them their reaction is normal, but it’s an emotional one that causes them to feel Dog Animated - no offeruncomfortable or even afraid. A dog wanting to chase an animal, person or car can feel frustrated by his leash that’s holding him back.

Lunging is a common leash problem, but the solution usually requires help from an animal behaviorist or professional trainer that only uses positive reinforcement. It’s important to remember to never punish your dog for barking, snarling or lunging. It will only make things worse and can cause your dog to have a negative association with whatever the trigger is that’s upsetting him.

Top photo by Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
Bottom photo by Andy Blackledge/Flickr

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Are Pets Affected by the Daylight Savings Time Change?

daylight savings marioBy Linda Cole

Daylight savings time reverts back to standard time on Sunday, November 2, except for most of Arizona and Hawaii that don’t participate in the time change. We lose an hour (spring forward) in the spring and gain it back (fall back) in the fall. These yearly time changes may not be that big of a deal to us, but to pets it can be confusing and stressful. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your pet adjust and hopefully avoid having your extra hour of sleep interrupted by a hungry cat or anxious dog wondering why you’re still in bed.

Humans, animals, plants and even fungi have a biological clock on an approximate 24 hour cycle. Our circadian rhythm (internal clock) tells us when it’s time to sleep, wake up and eat. It’s how bears and other hibernating animals know when it’s time to find a nesting site for the winter, and it’s what signals migrating butterflies and birds that it’s time for their seasonal journey. The circadian rhythm is based on periods of light and darkness, and it doesn’t matter if light is natural or artificial. Animals know when the seasons are changing and our pets do notice an increase or decrease in daylight when we change times each year.

A dog or cat’s daily routine is something they would prefer to be written in stone. Unfortunately, things happen that can alter schedules, and a simple time change can be perplexing for some pets. Because they live in the human world, we are the ones that decide when it’s time for our pets to go for a walk, play or eat their CANIDAE, and also when it’s time to go to bed and wake up. In the fall when we gain an hour and can sleep in, our pets are still on daylight savings time and don’t understand why we’re still in bed when they are up and ready to go. Their internal clock is saying morning has arrived and it’s time to get moving (and get fed!).
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