Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cutting Them Down to Size -- Trimming Dog Nails

I recently returned from a music festival in another state to find that my six dogs seriously needed some nail trimming. Since they have black toe nails, it is difficult to see the "quick," so everyone is wary of trimming the nails. The job is left for me. It is a rare day when I don't cut one of the little guy's toe nails too short and they bleed. {sniff} They still seem to love me though despite the trauma. I find the same thing happens in my violin studio. When I tell a student that it's time to cut the student's nails, the student's eyes widen, and they shy away. From their mother, not me. Apparently there are a few moms who cut their children's nails too short. Not that I'm comparing children to dogs, mind you.

There are two schools of thought about trimming dog nails: dogs like it or they don't like it. Well, that was helpful, wasn't it? My husband and I raise the puppies in our home. From the minute that we pick them up, we are squeezing a little paw or ear gently, tugging softly on a tail or an ear, and generally helping the little ones become accustomed to the handling that is necessary for good grooming. After about two weeks, I trim the ends of the little puppies' nails so that the ends are not so pointed and hurtful to the momma dog. I trim the sharp hook ends every two weeks and often show the new owners how to do it before the puppy is removed to his or her new home.

If I have a dog who doesn't enjoy nail trimming, I get out the tiny doggie treats and put them prominently before the dog. Then I trim one nail and reward with lots of praise and a little treat. Maybe the dog will let me trim another nail (anything for that treat!). If not, I'll try trimming again the next day.

I find that most of the time, I can entreat the dog to let me finish the job in one effort. I also find then that the next time I trim nails, the job goes easier. I cut down the number of treats I give. At this point in time, I just trim my dogs and then reward with a treat. Sometimes we all forget about the treats because we are more interested in something else going on in the yard.

Now, I did not intend this post discussion to be a long discussion about nail trimming. There is much information on the web about that, although there is also some information that does not seem useful. I have also encountered dogs that appear to be severely traumatized about nail trimming. I am not sure whether that stems from a past abusive situation or the dog is neurotic.

I adopted one of my dogs. I am not certain how often his previous owner cut his nails, if at all. In such cases, the "quick" often extends longer than the usual nail situation. The quick is the nerve endings and blood vessels inside the nail. I cut the hooked edge of the nail, waited a week, and then cut a little more. In the between time, the quick got pushed back a little bit further as the dog walked on the shortened nail. I continued in this fashion until the nail was trimmed to the appropriate length I wanted. Then I kept the nails trimmed on a regular basis thereafter.

Here are some places with information you might find useful:

http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/ClientED/dog_claws.aspx (cutting a dog's claws; Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine; they cut the black claws deeper than I do but the pictures are great!)

http://www.jointanimalservices.org/pubs/TrimDogNails.pdf (brief PDF about how to trim a dog's nails)

http://dogliness.blogspot.com/2006/06/importance-of-trimming-dogs-nails.html (the importance of trimming a dog's nails and a lengthy tutorial)

Nail trimming is just another one of those things my dogs and I do together. It is a nice little time we spend, just the two of us, as I put my arms around my sweet darlings one at a time, and talk sweet nothings in their little ears. They seem to enjoy the process as much as I do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Importance of Disciplined Exercise

In recent weeks I have met many dog owners who do not seem to understand the importance of the daily walk. There seems to be some confusion between the concepts of exercise and walking.

It is not enough that your dog may be left to "run around" the back yard. It does not even matter how large the yard is. It is wonderful that the dog should have such a situation, but this kind of exercise is different than the exercise and benefits that come from a daily walk.

If the walk is done correctly, then the dog will receive some valuable training. The walk is an opportunity for the owner to hone his or her leadership skills. The owner is walking the dog correctly and using leadership and energy successfully if the dog is walking calmly by the owner's side and not pulling. The entire walk is the exercise of the dog's mind as well as the dog's body. The discipline that comes to the dog from learning how to follow the owner, and the benefits that come to the owner from learning how to correctly walk the dog as a leader, are invaluable and carry over into other areas of life. The mental exercise that the dog receives from having to follow the owner's rules, boundaries, and limitations actually act as another form of "exercise" for the dog.

As a teacher, I have often used dogs as exercises in leadership for my young students. When working with a strong doggie personality or when working with more than one dog (I have six grown dogs living in my home), the student must grapple with issues of posture and energy in order to stay in control of the situation.

Dogs are sensitive creatures and respond easily to shifts in a person's energy levels. The walk is a great place to practice leadership skills and to develop a good working (walking) relationship with the dog.

I walk the dog on my left side. I hold the leash in my right hand and take up the slack in my left. When I walk a new dog for the first time, I take along a yardstick. If the dog starts to pull ahead of me, I just put the yardstick out in front so that the dog knows not to go ahead. I stop and make the dog sit. After the dog seems relaxed again, I say, "ready?" Then I turn on my energy and move forward again. I repeat this process over and over a few times.

I have also used another trick I got from the Lassie and Rin Tin Tin trainer Walter Koehler. If the dog pulls in front of me on the left, I will unexpectedly make a quick left turn and "walk" right into the dog. I do not hurt the dog, but the dog almost immediately learns that a better place to walk will be at my side where the dog can easily see whether I will be making a turn. Whether I use this trick or not depends on my dog's personality.

Exercise in the back yard is fine, but it cannot replace the value of the walk. This advice benefits both the dog and the owner. This week, why not make a commitment to get out there and take the dog for a walk? If you have not walked your dog very consistently, you may have a few rough days at first. Keep plugging away, and you may notice a positive change by the third or fourth day.

Please leave me a comment to let me know about your walking experiences. If you are interested in reading about one way I use my dogs in a teaching situation, go to my blog posts about that: 

How much can a dog walk? I have miniature dachshunds. I have taken some of my dogs on run-walks when I have trained for my half marathons. We have gone several miles. I have taken a few of my dogs on 7 or 9 mile excursions. We built up to that distance, but the little guys love it. Sometimes they have more energy than I do and will tear around the back yard once we return home.

Remember, commit to daily walks this week. Start small, maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Maybe you can find time to do a walk at both ends of the day, morning and evening. Please let me know how your experience is.

If you would like more information or suggestions about walking your dog in the manner I advocate above, please check out Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, and his explanation: www.cesarsway.com/node/1460

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Flinging the Poop

Welcome to Lying Down With Dogs, my fascinating look inside a life with more than one dog. How many dogs? you ask. Um, that is the reason for this blog, because I have more than one. Sometimes as many as 15 at a time. Today, however, there are 12: my basic six-pack of adult dogs and 6 brand new puppies, just days old.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's one for you to consider. Hmm, a tree? Yes, it's a tree about a stone's throw from my back door. And, since it's January and the dead of winter right now, I'm sure you think that's a dead leaf hanging out of the tree. Let me show you another photo with a bit more detail. Look closely.

Yes, that is what you think it is, and yes, it's lodged very securely in the tree. I know you are asking, so I'll go ahead and tell you. I put it there. It's part of our daily "flinging the poop" ritual. Sometimes we perform this ritual two or three times a day. 

We have 16.5 acres of land, but there is a fenced one acre around our dwelling. The rest of the acreage is used for raising various livestock, and generally we do not allow the dogs beyond the house backyard.

My husband and I walk around with the dogs when we take them outside for their daily ablutions, and we pick up any little gifts with a small garden trowel. Then we "fling the poop" over the fence into the nearest back acreage section that abuts the house backyard fence. Occasionally though the poop landing spots surprise us. This was one of those times.

I read somewhere that laughter is good for our health and that children generally laugh about 300 times in a day. I'm pretty sure that I got my 300 laughs in today. I even cried with guffaws for a time. Sharing the experience later with my husband, we recalled the times that our "fling the poop" ceremony landed against the side wall of the metal shop barn or whizzed through the branches of a shrubbery, sometimes rebounding back at our feet or flying past our face.

Life with the dogs is a challenge: for example, "fling the poop" happened a few times in the rain today. For the most part though, there will always be a blessing to be found. Today's blessing was the gift of laughter.

I've included a video below of our Dollee Babee and her three day old puppies. This was taken during feeding time. Stay tuned as we update our life with the new puppies (another six pack!).

May your lives be filled with as much joy as ours.

"Bark & Arf" from:
Paula & the Pack

Hummingbird Hill Doxies