Eight is Enough

“Should I get another dog?”  is a question that most dog owners ask themselves in various situations in life.

ONE – After the loss of a dog, the unavoidable question is “should I get another dog?”  Some people cannot live with the emptiness created by the loss of a dog companion and must have another dog within days. Others need to mourn the loss for a time before they start looking for another dog. Yet others wait until the “right” dog walks into their lives. 

Before that next dog, one needs to ask: “Has my lifestyle changed since getting my previous dog?” “Will I have time to train and acclimate the new dog to my house and lifestyle?”   “Can I still handle a puppy?”  “Should I get the same breed or look at another?” Only you can answer these questions.  Recently I have seen a rash of seniors getting puppies but not remembering the work and the physical demands of raising one. This has been complicated by the seniors picking big, energetic breeds.

One also has to realize that each dog has its own personality.  Fido will not be the same as Rover. So many “next” dogs suffer from not measuring up to the previous dog’s existence. No two dogs are alike and if Rover was the perfect dog that’s a lot of pressure on Fido.

When one hopes that PupPup is indeed better than Doggy, one needs to examine the question if Doggy was bad, why?  Did Doggy get in the way because he was not trained? Was he tied out or in his crate all day? Was he physically ill and you could not to afford the veterinarian bills? There are many scenarios where people do not realize that PupPup will not be better than Doggy because the circumstances in the household have not improved in regard to being dog friendly.

TWO – Should I get another dog to keep my first dog company and have someone to play with? This question usually arises when people are having trouble with the first dog.  The dog is usually bouncing off the walls in the house and may actually be destructive. Getting a second dog will not solve these problems. In fact it may double them. It is wishful thinking to hope that the second dog will only learn “good” things from your first dog. In fact you now have two dogs to train, walk, feed, vaccinate, license, etc.

This question also comes up when families lose one of their dogs. Since they feel the loss they think the dog left behind feels the loss in the same way.  You need to carefully observe the remaining dog for a few weeks. On more than one occasion I have seen this dog bloom and grow more confident in cases where this dog was seen to be shy and dependant on the other dog for comfort and leadership.

When a family’s first dog ages many wonder if they should bring in a puppy or another dog.  Whether or not one gets another dog at this point is a very personal question. In my life I have brought in a puppy that has helped keep my senior dog alive.  The puppy kept him active and added enjoyment back into his life.  However, I have had the opposite happen too. The puppy was too much for my blind older dog (who up until that moment I had no idea was blind).  I found a fantastic home for the puppy.

In any of these cases, your first dog may not like the second (immediately or over time).  There is no way to guarantee that your dogs will get along. 

With three dogs you are now dealing with the possibility of two of the dogs ganging up on the third. How will you walk all three?  Can you afford all the things needed to keep three dogs healthy and well-mannered?

THREE – Should I get another dog usually comes up as a question as one or both of the current dogs are aging. Whether or not a third dog is a good idea in this situation can only be determined case by case. Sometimes getting a third dog is a matter of wanting to rescue a dog, finding a dog to fit one’s sport (agility, flyball, freestyle, go-to-ground, etc.), or just wanting that third dog.

Is this play or the beginning of something else?
photo by Mary Beggs

FOUR, FIVE, SIX – There is a big difference between having one dog and adding a second. There is also a big difference adding a third dog.  Adding a fourth, fifth and even sixth have their own impact. One has to be careful since you now have a pack in your house, there is more of a chance they all will NOT get along, more expense from food to veterinary care; not to mention logistics, space and an increase in your time to take care of them.

Will your six dogs be able to do this? This took lots and lots of TRAINING!
Photo by Mary Beggs

 SEVEN, EIGHT – Personally I cannot see having more than seven dogs and question the people that do. This does not include breeders that might have a litter around. When people start talking about eight dogs, I wonder if they are hoarders.  An interesting question is how many dogs does one have in order to be considered a hoarder?

Please just make sure that your next dog, no matter how many you have, fits your lifestyle!


No dogs allowed

It breaks my heart every time I see a new sign saying  “No Dogs Allowed” . More and more places aren’t allowing dogs on their premises; from parks to hotels.  Even places that do allow dogs have signs denoting unacceptable spots for your dog to go to the bathroom.

A simple requests to my students is “please don’t let your dog pee on the agility field.” A new student assured me that his dog was fine… Needless to say when the dog peed on my field he wanted to know what the big deal was.  Maybe he should have asked that first.  For those of you who agree with him here are the reasons it is a big deal:

Yes, my field is grass and we usually train dogs to go on grass but they should not be allowed to go anywhere they please. In dog agility, if the dog “eliminates” (pees or poops) while running a course, they are not allowed to continue and are immediately excused from the ring.  Even though we try our best to clean the spot, it then becomes harder for the following dogs to run without marking the same spot because that is just a natural reaction when smelling another dog’s urine or poop.  Believe it or not, a well-trained agility dog won’t give it a second thought since the dog is so focused on its task but my field is used by beginner dogs, too.

But your dog doesn’t do agility so who cares?  Do you take your dog to other people’s houses, parks, for walks around town, etc.? Do you let your dog pee on plantings, garbage pails, park benches and or table legs? Think of the poor person who has to work in that flower bed or empty those garbage pails. That’s disgusting.

You say your dog is just peeing on the grass but is it near the entrance of a building?  Is it in a spot where other dogs will pee on it, is it in the sun and not much of a breeze? Guess what. That area will begin to stink like pee very quickly.  How unwelcoming is that?

Nay you say my dog is peeing just on the grass. Well other dogs will be attracted to that area to pee too.  When a spot is used as a urinal many times the grass just dies. Is that fair to the owner of the property?

dog pooping
Pay attention to your dog.

The most disgusting and unsanitary habit though is not picking up after your dog poops. Leaving it for some other poor dog owner to step in it while they walk their dog. If your dog found the spot appealing so might another dog. 

Well you’re probably thinking I never take my dogs out because it is too hard to keep them from going wherever they please.  Even when off leash at my house in the woods, my dogs choose to go off the path.  Everything looks the same but somehow they realize going on the path isn’t a good idea.  When we are out walking I can tell by my dogs’ behaviors if they are going to lift a leg  because I am paying attention to them.  If it is an appropriate place, all’s well; if not I just make them keep walking. The biggest thing I do to prevent them from going where they should not go is by teaching them to go on cue and in an appropriate place.

As owners of dogs, we need to be responsible and teach our dogs to go in appropriate places and even if the spot is appropriate, pick up the poop if it is likely that someone else might walk there whether they realize it is a poop area or not. This demands not only training your dog but also paying attention when out and about with your dog.

I would love to see fewer “No Dogs Allowed” signs going up How about you?

LOVE THAT KILLS – loving our dogs to death!

Love that could kill or loving our dogs to death.
Over feeding a dog has a big impact on training.

The very reason we want to spoil our dogs is because we love them. But we might just be loving them to death.  We want them to be happy.  We assume that letting them do what “they want” will accomplish this. 

Owners want their dogs to be” free” thinking that is the natural state for a dog.  Nowadays allowing your dog to be free outside (especially if your dog does not come IMMEDIATELY when called) is just outright dangerous.  Being hit by a car is of primary concern never mind the legality of not having your dog on leash and the possible lawsuits.  Inside people don’t want to use a crate which is by far the safest place for your dog, especially a puppy, when you are not home.  Electrical wires are a favorite chew toy for a teething puppy.  Couch cushions and remote controls run a close second.  Believe me, dogs can find plenty of trouble to get into while you are not around.  Dogs need to earn the right to be left out of crates in the house, this is not a given.

The biggest problems  is 60-80% of American dogs are too fat.  Many dog owners leave food available for the dog 24/7.  Supposedly they do this because they want their finicky eaters to eat whenever their dog wants to.  This actually creates “picky” eaters because the dogs can “pick” at the food all day long.  It can create fat dogs too since some dogs will just eat because they can (not unlike some people). In my world overfeeding a dog has a big impact on training because food probably is not rewarding enough to the dog to be used as a treat.

If food is “served” and picked up in a timely manner it is easily to detect if a dog has not eaten the normal amount. That is usually an early sign that your dog maybe sick.  It is a missed opportunity if food is always accessible since one might not notice as quickly that the dog is not eating.

Another method used to encourage dogs to eat is putting a little gravy on the kibble or adding some canned food or table scraps.  This just creates fat dogs or dogs that are overweight for their body types.

One of my colleagues pointed out to me “there is no known case of a dog starving to death with a bowl of kibble in front of him”. Dogs will normally eat to sustain themselves.  There are dogs that do have eating disorders due to medication they are on or other illnesses. I am not talking about them.

Another cause of overweight problems in dogs is the owner is feeding the recommended amount on the dog food package. Remember these companies are in the business of selling food. (For example, a shampoo bottle says “lather, rinse and repeat” in order to sell more shampoo.  Do you “repeat”?) Every dog differs in bone structure, body type, metabolism and the amount of exercise.

Here is a link to Purina’s “ Understanding your Dog’s Body Condition”

Most trainers and veterinarians recommend that a dog be fed twice a day. This is way I determine how much a dog should eat: First check the bag to see how much is recommended for your dog’s weight and size.  For breakfast, I then put down a bowl with that much in it and give the dog the opportunity to eat for 3 minutes or until the dog walks away from the food then the bowl gets picked up.  In situations where dog food was available all the time the dog probably won’t eat.  I do the same at dinner and continue this process until the dog decides to eat.  (The longest a dog hasn’t eaten in my house has been 3 days.)  At this point I measure how much the dog left.  The next meal I put down the difference. (What I measured initial minus what is left equals the amount the dog ate).  The most important part is to pay attention to your dog’s weight.  Am I seeing ribs or is there more fat over his hip bone?  

My dogs are at what I call “working weight.”  They eat all their meals but are still hungry enough to eat my treats but not so hungry they aren’t healthy or can’t think.

Remember “Love is not simply giving. It is judicious praising and withholding as well” – M.Scott Peck