How to Train Your Dog

Is There An “Only” Way?

Ask any dog owner about how to train your dog and they’ll assure you they know the correct way, the only way to train your dog. To me, however, that sounds a lot like child rearing. One school of thought says to ignore a baby when it cries. Yet other parents find that barbaric and harmful to the infant’s growth. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” has long since evolved to a host of new ideas about child rearing. Should parents be permissive? Authoritative? Whatever style they follow, parents insist they are doing it the right way and their kids will grow up to be responsible, well-mannered adults. How owners teach their dogs manners aren’t terribly different.

positive reinforcement in dog training
Using Positive Reinforcement for Dog Training

Evolving History of Training

In years gone by, if your puppy peed in the house, you rubbed his nose in it. That’s was called housebreaking. Then along came a more refined version: dominance training and the belief that dog owners need to assert themselves as the alpha or pack leader. (By the way, the idea of alpha dogs has pretty much been disproved.) Dominance training’s most well-known proponent is Cesar Millan, who burst on the scene almost 15 years ago with his hit tv show, “The Dog Whisperer.” He was America’s darling, his methods impeccable, until the next correct way to train a dog began gaining traction: positive reinforcement.

Unlike dominance training, which corrects unwanted behavior, positive reinforcement is like it sounds. Bad behavior is ignored, good behavior rewarded. In the time-honored practice of adoring celebrities until the inevitable backlash that tears them down, we have done our part to eviscerate poor Cesar and label his methods cruel and ineffective. I don’t have a beef the Dog Whisperer. I think he has done enormous good in educating people to adopt, not buy their pups. And he has used his fame to promote the need to spay and neuter, and to quite good effect, it appears.

Millan was far from the first dog trainer to use television as a way to educate (and make money), by the way. “The Dog Whisperer” was long preceded by “Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way” a British show that first aired in 1980. Barbara Woodhouse will always be known for her signature command, “Walkies!” However, we can point to Millan for opening the floodgates to ever more experts on the air: “Lucky Dog” “Me or the Dog” and “At the End of My Leash” to name a few.

Now all you need to do is choose a method and then you, too, will know the “only” way to train a dog. (Check out our philosophy for how we care for our pup clients.)

HTF! (Heat, Ticks and Foxtails)

I’ll just say it: I despise summer. Mainly, it’s because I have Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder(The good news is now I get to join the majority of Californians who have some sort of disorder, syndrome or complicated issues). Most people slip into a deep funk when the days begin to shorten and cold and dark descend.  But that brilliant sun’s return, now shining an ungodly number of hours a day, hurts my eyes and anything over 73º grosses me out.

And for all of us dog owners, summer is not our friend; it limits our dogs’ safety and enjoyment in the great outdoors.

First, dogs left in cars. For fear of having their car stolen, most people only crack the windows when they leave their pooch and run out for “a few minutes.” But 70º in the sun means 90º inside within 10 minutes. Then you’ll have someone like me who comes to the rescue and shatters the window with her crowbar, which is legal in CaliforniaHowever, waiting with said crowbar for the idiot owner to return probably isn’t.

Next, there are ticks. We have already experienced a pretty bad tick season, but it will hit its zenith May through July, which means the risk of Lyme disease. Fortunately, only 5-10% of dogs exhibit symptoms such as swollen joints, difficulty breathing and in rare cases, kidney failure.

Foxtails: a summer concern for dog owners.

Lastly, the scourge of bristly foxtails (S. verticillata). Its spikelets create a weapon which, once embedded, slip smoothly into our dogs’ nostrils, ears and just about anywhere through the skin. While safely dormant during the winter, our lack of rain here on the West Coast from May through November desiccates foxtails and the tips fall off. Although I only walk my guests on paved surfaces, the little foxtail bastards still manage to launch their nuclear warheads in our path. Casually hitchhiking a ride with whatever poor doggie that happens along, foxtails are the bums, bullies and marauders of nature’s flora. And a pup-foxtail encounter can be expensive. They’re virtually impossible to remove without a visit to your vet and a sucker punch to your wallet.

So enjoy those hikes, vacations and beach visits with your dog and try not to think of the dangers that lurk nearby.

Dog Evolution: How a Wolf Ended Up on My Bed

Ever watch one of those nature shows about wolves, then look at your 10-pound fur baby and think “how did a wolf end up on my bed?” Your little fluff really doesn’t look a whole lot like its sleek, 100-pound ancestor. So, how did it get here?

There are competing theories and much academic infighting regarding the evolution of dogs. We actually don’t know exactly when, where and how Canis lupus morphed into the Canis familiaris we know today. It could be four, ten or as much as thirty thousand years ago. One theory even suggests that two different strains of dogs developed simultaneously: one in Europe and another in the Middle East.

Early Hunting Dogs
Early Hunting Dogs

What everyone does agree upon is that dogs were the first animals to be domesticated. Wolves began to resemble dogs within just a few generations: ears got floppier, muzzles shorter and paws became smaller. Early dogs also started to wag their tails. Along with physical traits we now value today, domesticated canines also developed the ability to read our gestures and facial expressions, which is helpful in training. Cave paintings from 9,000 BC indicate that dogs were trained as hunters, kept on leashes and the object of ceremonial burials.

Canaan Dog
Canaan Dog

Dog breeds are not a recent phenomenon. Archeologists believe the Canaan Dog is the result of selective breeding as early as 10,000 B.C.  Serious attention to creating the perfect dog began in the mid-19th century with the advent of dog breed clubs. To meet the demands of evolving breed standards, physical characteristics became ever more exaggerated and inbreeding was the only way to achieve this. Virtually every “purebred” dog today is the result of inbreeding.

While selective breeding has produced many desired traits, it also has resulted in some undesirable ones. Over 500 genetic abnormalities have been identified because of inbreeding, leading to pain and suffering for dogs and heartache for their owners. For example, 60% of golden retrievers die of cancer.  Twenty percent of German Shepherds develop hip dysplasia.  English bulldogs can no longer breed naturally and must rely on artificial insemination, and their lifespan has been reduced to only six to eight years.

Hopefully, the AKC and breed clubs will acknowledge the damage and change their standards. In the meantime, whether purebred or mutt, we can rejoice in the dog evolution. From the wild, to our backyard, to indoors and finally, to where they rightfully belong: on our bed.

Dog Names: A Rose By Any Other Name

Little Pup Lodger Rose
Fluffy little Rose is just as sweet by any name.

Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  He must have been talking about dogs, no matter their dog names.

As dogs became domesticated, 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, chances are that early homo sapiens didn’t use much of their limited brain power to think up names. But, who knows? Maybe cavemen whistled for Urg, Grunt or Arrgh to join them around the fire. 

What were some of the dog monikers throughout the millennia? We do know that dogs were bestowed names during the Roman Empire. Issa (Her Little Ladyship), Oresitrophos (Mountaineer), Skylax (Puppy) and Pamphagos  (Voracious) joined a long list. And Craugis (Yapper) was ahead of the trend sharing the bed with his owner.

Pet names like Ringwood, Nameless, Holdfast and Noisewise show up in historical records from medieval times

Seventeenth century names got really weird: Drunkard, Wanton and, in an early nod to Jay-Z, Rapper.

By the 19th century,  dogs kept as pets began to spread from royalty to the middle class.  They also responded to dog names we recognize today: Spot, Fido, Gunner and Nero.

Today, I could set the most delectable table with guests that have visited Little Pup Lodge. Soda, Cake, Cookie, Waffles, Oreo, Snickers, Coco, Candy, Hops (must have some ale) and Honey would attend. For a balanced diet, Fig and Zook (for Zucchini) would be there, too. Rose, Daisy, Lilly and Ivy would decorate the festivities. 

Little Pup Lodge has also seen its share of unusual dog names: Colona, Giggles, Luna and—perhaps my favorite—Robert-Short-For-Bob.

Whether a Little Pup Lodger has an unusual name or not, virtually every guest gets a nickname: Willy (Wonka), Sam (I Am), and Georgie (Porgie). Sometimes the nickname comes with a song: Duke (of Earl) and Finnegan (Begin Again). You get the drift.

Little Pup Lodger Finnegan
Finnegan, aka Begin Again, enjoys his custom nickname and listening to the related song.

Contact me to find out what your pup’s nickname and/or song is. It will be sweet, I promise.

The Difference Between Big Dogs and Small Dogs

Differences Between Big Dogs and Small Dogs
Big Dogs versus Small Dogs: The difference goes beyond size.

Everyone can see the obvious difference between big dogs and small dogs: their size.  But according to those who have owned both, the difference between big dogs and small dogs is more than size. Physical needs, personality and temperament all set little dogs apart from their hulking cousins.

Although no expert, I rely on what I’ve observed from close to a thousand different guests who have vacationed at Little Pup Lodge. My little guys don’t require the amount of exercise your basic Boxer or Labrador Retriever does. Most large dogs need room to run or plenty of long walks to stay healthy and sane. It especially saddens me to hear of owners who own working dogs like Border Collies and Australian shepherds, then leave them home all day. As my brother once said, “You need to give a working dog a job to do. Otherwise, they’ll create their own.” Like repurposing your drapes and pillows for chew toys.

Little Pup Lodge has a huge fenced yard for our guests to play in to their hearts’ content. We also include one or two walks a day whenever possible. For the most part however, they’re contented with being lapdogs, cuddling and begging for tummy rubs.

A difficult reality for many big dog owners is to accept that their companion will likely have a shorter life span than small dogs. Bull Mastiffs have an average lifespan of eight years and bulldogs only six, whereas a Chihuahua can live from 16 to 20 years. Fortunately, mixed-breeds large and small can be expected to live longer.

Stereotypes about small dogs’ behavior has been the subject of research studies and confirm what we already know. They’re generally more excitable, fearful, anxious, aggressive and harder to train than the big ones. I personally believe most of those qualities are because everyone and everything looks like a skyscraper or predator to them. As far as harder to train, do you really care if your Yorkie-poo pulls ahead of you? She or he is probably eight or nine pounds, not 80 or 90.  We believe dog walks should be where they can stop and smell the roses, not dragged behind. Otherwise, it’s a people-walk, determined by what the human wants.

And, yeah, they’re probably going to bark at big dogs that walk by. Remember, big guy predator, tiny guy prey. Given all that, we still know one thing for sure: Little Dogs Rock!

From Dogs to Humans: Zoonotic Diseases

zoonotic diseases transmitted from dogs to humans
Dogs can transmit diseases to their human companions.

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. When dog owners think of the types of disease that can spread from dogs to humans, the most terrifying virus comes to mind: rabies. This virus has a fascinating history, one well-documented in the book Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. The authors note that in 300 B.C., Aristotle wrote about a disease we now refer to as rabies. Although early civilizations did not have a name for it and did not know about viruses, they recognized the connection between dog bites and the symptoms of rabies. Presenting themselves within a few days after being bitten, these symptoms included delirium, confusion, hallucinations and fear of water (hydrophobia), and proved virtually fatal to anyone infected. Since rabies vaccinations are required for all dogs in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control reports only one to three cases a year.

Rabies is not the only zoonotic disease that can spread from dogs (and other animals) to humans. They can also transmit ringworm, roundworm, Leptospirosis, Lyme disease and Giardia to name a few. The symptoms for Leptospirosis in humans, often contracted through a cut or abrasion, can be flu-like and can also be fatal. Lyme disease is not transmitted directly from dogs to humans, but dogs can bring disease-carrying ticks into the house, which then can find a human host.

The Leptospirosis and Lyme vaccines are not required for dogs, and are known to cause adverse reactions in some. Ask your veterinarian if these vaccinations are recommend and appropriate for yours. The best way to prevent zoonotic diseases is maintaining a regular vaccination schedule for your pup and maintaining good hygiene (e.g., washing your hands after handling your dog). You could also try not kissing your dog. Yeah, right.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Little Pup Lodger Cabo
Recent Little Pup Lodger Cabo

What do dogs bark at? Ninety percent of the time I have no idea. Around here, the Pied Piper of the moment starts and the rest of the hotel guests happily follow suit, yipping and yapping at nothing in particular. No one is walking by, no cars driving by and as far as I can tell, no intruders are lurking on the horizon.

Besides the obvious reasons dog bark; greetings, warnings and loneliness, there might be another reason: because they can. They really have nothing to say, but it passes the time. It’s the canine version of Facebook.

Yoga + Dogs = Doga

Bruno Pup
Doga? I’m ready for shavasana.

There are a few stumbling blocks to attempting yoga here at the Lodge. The candles are lit, the New Age music hums in the background. All is serene except a handful of small, yappy dogs. Small, yappy dogs that are convinced I have come up with a new game for them. They tug at the yoga mat, prop themselves against my Lotus-twisted thighs and collapse belly up two inches away from my ground-level nose.

My favorite pose, Downward Facing Dog, perfectly mimics our friends’ paws-down, butt-up gesture that signals play! I do not want to play, I tell the guests. I want to do twenty minutes of something I really don’t want to do. Yoga is slow, methodical and focused, everything I am not. It keeps company with all the other things I don’t want to do; teeth cleaning and colonoscopies, to name a few.

The guests ignore me when I explain this, too busy chasing each other around and under my Bridge pose. Half the time, the guests win out. I give up, laughing and rolling around with them. This is what I call Doga, an exercise regimen that builds the heart and happiness muscles. I like it way better than all the Warrior poses in the world.

Tags Up To Date?

dog tag

Have you looked at your dog tag lately? Your dog’s, actually. Having had hundreds of guests visit Little Pup Lodge over the years, I’ve noticed the following fails with identification info:

  • Engraved name tags with name and phone number worn off.  It happens over time and not the kind of thing a guardian would notice, so take a look-see.
  • Out-of-date contact information.
  • Rabies, chip, and license tags but no i.d.
  • Identification tags on harnesses, though the dog sometimes (or often) isn’t wearing it.

For the safety of your fur baby, always assume that a disaster looms just over the horizon.  Could be another Katrina, earthquake, twister, or a recently elected lunatic with access to the nuclear codes.  Be safe.

Metaphors That Have Gone to the Dogs

Little Pup Guest

Welcome to the first Little Pup Lodge blog entry. I wanted to name this the Odd Thought Dog Blog, but it was too long to fit on the menu. Here’s something I’ve been pondering: how many metaphors, analogies, idioms, etc. refer to man’s best friend? Here’s a few. Man’s best friend. Dog-tired. My dogs are barking (Translation: my feet are sore). Dog-day afternoon. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. Bone of contention. Barking up the wrong tree. Lie like a dog. Crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Dog-eat-dog world. Dog in a manger. Let sleeping dogs lie. I’m sure there’s many more; add yours. No fair googling!