Johnny in Virginia Kennel Club dog class: Video and pics

Johnny will be 9 years old in October. I haven’t shown him since he finished his Championship about 2 years ago. I took him to dog class yesterday to make sure he still knows what to do for the show this weekend. The instructor for the class, Liz, made sure he was bulletproof. She did an extremely thorough exam, and even pulled on his tail a little! You never know what a judge might do. Expect the unexpected.

Thank you Michael, for shooting the video and pics!

Nice profile shot of Johnny, stacked.
Johnny practicing sit-stay. He is entered in obedience in two weeks.

18 month old GSDs

Clyde and See See are 18 months old today. Here are a few videos of them in the back yard. In the first three, See See goes after Clyde. In the last video, Clyde lets her have it. Winston does not care!


Tornado warning

Yesterday, we had a tornado warning. The news said we were directly in the path, and it was coming in 15 minutes. So, I got some water jugs and my phone and headed for the basement with all the dogs.

See See, Clyde, and Winston stayed in the dog room. As usual, they ignored their food.
Johnny, Nellie, and Jane had to wait out the tornado warning in the laundry room.

Jane gets upset sometimes during storms. She paws at me, as if I could make it stop. But brushing her really helps. She loves it, and is soothed by it. Then the others lined up to be groomed too. There is something about me sitting on the floor with them that makes them want to snuggle. By the time the storm was over, I had a giant pile of hair and toenail clippings. And I was covered with hair! And oh, the tornado dissipated, and I didn’t even lose power.

Where did Trixie come from?

My sister and her family live in Oregon. She had trouble finding the perfect dog —Trixie— and she and Rick went to many shelters looking. Apparently, the desire for shelter dogs is so great in Oregon, they bring strays in from California.

Their dog Molly had passed away, and it took them a couple of months to decide what to do.

Molly played Scrabble with Rick. She looks like Trixie, but was much larger, although it’s hard to tell in this pic.
Trixie before she was Trixie. She was found as a stray on the street in California.
Trixie after her first grooming, safe at last at Laura and Rick’s home in Oregon
Trixie with Laura
Laura loves this pic because Rick and Trixie look so happy together, and they have the same expression!
Rick plays Scrabble with Trixie too, just like with Molly.
Best of all, they love to eat together.

My sister caught her husband eating lunch with a cute blonde!

Her name is Trixie!

Actually, she found out they frequently dine together. Based on the following surreptitiously acquired photos, I think she has enough proof to confront this Trixie!

They even dined by candlelight!
He sometimes gives her the best food on his plate!
Wait, is he actually going to kiss her?
Trixie seems like the type who will wait for Rick, even though he is married.
She must have spent the night because that is definitely morning sun and breakfast food!
I don’t think he can get out of this one. He’s definitely kissing her.
And she’s nuzzling his neck!
He is definitely allowing her to take liberties. I don’t think Rick lets my sister do that!

More on Trixie later. Find out how Rick met Trixie!

Transporting rescue dogs

This evening I drove to South Hill and picked up four dogs out of fourteen and drove them north to Richmond. Three were border collie/blue heeler mix littermates and about 6 months old. The fourth was a year old lab mix. I was one of many volunteer drivers who transported the dogs in 80 mile sections from Cedar Bluff, Alabama, to Mechanic Falls, Maine. Richmond is an overnight point, and the dogs are fostered in the homes of still more volunteers. Some are already going to approved new homes, and some are going to no kill rescue groups. If not for this group of volunteers, these animals would be euthanized at shelters which are full in the south. If you want to volunteer, call Doris at 678-468-2524 who smoothly coordinates this amazing caravan.

You might think that all this traveling and being transfered from car to car would be stressful. But on the other hand, the dogs are handled gently by good people, and they get a good night of affection in someone’s home. The socialization is really good for those dogs that have not been around people much, or have been neglected or abused. They can start to learn to trust.

Here are two of the dogs with their temporary overnight foster volunteers.

The lab mix named Lucky. He was great in the car. He will make someone a great pet.
One of the border collie/blue heeler mixes. There were two females and one male.

Please get your dog spayed or neutered!

Reintroducing a female German Shepherd to her brothers after her heat cycle

Well it’s been a whole month. I gave See See a bath to get all of the heat cycle smell off of her. It’s time to reintroduce her to her brothers. Her brothers have continued to get along famously. I am so proud of my two boys who get along so well with each other. Winston, the blackest one, is 3 years old and an older half brother to Clyde and See See. Clyde, with the red collar, is 17 months old. See See is Clyde’s littermate and is the smallest. She just finished her second heat cycle, right on schedule.

See See fetching a stick right after her bath
Winston got to greet See See first. He was more interested in the ball I think! That’s Clyde whining in the background.
I intended to let Clyde out with See See without Winston. But as soon as I opened the door to the dog room, Clyde JUMPED OVER Winston and OPENED THE SCREEN DOOR to go see his sister. So then Winston went on out too before I could even react. I needn’t have worried. Winston let them re-establish their relationship with no interference.

SPECIFIC ideas for helping dogs who are afraid of fireworks and thunderstorms

We’ve all heard ideas about turning on the radio and giving our dogs tranquilizers when they are showing anxiety during thunderstorms or fireworks. Sometimes these ideas work just fine. Because I’ve heard from lots of people about their dogs getting upset lately, here’s some fine tuning of those ideas and some additional ones that might work for your dog. I will break it down into how to prep your dog way before, what to do right before an anticipated event like a fireworks display, and what to do during the fireworks or thunderstorm.

The problem: Dogs can be triggered by the flash of lighting as a precursor to the loud noises that disturb them so much. Also they can be tuned into the electricity that’s in the air. Or it might be the randomness of the sounds and the pitch of the sounds that are most troublesome. As a result, their anxious behavior is at best annoying, and at worst destructive and worrisome. Dogs that would never dream of running away from home can find a way out of that fenced yard when they are terrified. They can destroy doors, furniture, windows, and floors. Hopefully, your dog was well socialized as a puppy and is used to loud noises and storms, but sometimes as dogs get older they become more sensitive, or they are rescues and you have no idea about their background.

How can we help manage their anxiety? There is no quick fix. But here’s how to do the best we can for our beloved pets.

Way Before: How to prep your dog

Really, desensitization to loud and visual stimuli should begin in puppyhood as part of the socialization process. It should begin with the breeder and continue for the life of your dog. But let’s assume you are on this page because you already have a problem, and you are looking for some help.

When there are no fireworks or thunderstorms, and you have control, you can desensitize your dog by playing a recording of fireworks and/or thunderstorms. Play it very low, below the threshold where it causes a reaction in your dog. Over a period of weeks, make it louder and louder. While it is playing, observe your dog and interact with him normally. If you observe a reaction, turn it back down until the reaction subsides. Over time, this will reduce his anxiety reaction during actual fireworks and thunderstorms. But this doesn’t work 100% of the time, in fact, nothing does. If it were that easy, everyone would know the answer. Read on for more ideas. There are lots of good recordings on YouTube. This requires the biggest time commitment from you.

Teach your dog basic obedience commands or tricks. This can be simple things like heel, sit, stay, come, down, shake hands, rollover, etc. Teach these things when your dog is calm and not during a scary event. Do it on your own or take a class. Don’t send your dog away for training. You are the leader of the pack. Make sure training is fun for your dog. Make sure your dog enjoys learning, gets lots of praise for doing things right, and builds a bond with you. It’s important that your dog knows he’s doing something right and will be rewarded for doing it.

Do fun active things with your dog on a regular basis. There should be at least one activity that your dog will look forward to and know is going to be fun. My dogs’ favorite thing is fetch. My German Shepherds are natural retrievers, and I did not need to teach them to play fetch, I’ve just encouraged it. If you are not that lucky, you can teach fetch, or even if your dog is just chasing things and you have to go pick them up and throw them again, at least it will tire your dog out. Just have lots of things to throw! And that’s the point, you want your dog to be able to do something fun that will make him tired. This might be going for a long walk, a jog, or letting him play with other dogs in your yard with supervision. Tug of war is a good interactive game that builds a bond with your dog. However it is not a good game if your dog tends to be alpha or aggressive. Do not play this game if your dog is likely to bite or even if you just suspect that he might try to become dominant over you. Make sure that if you play this game, your dog knows when it’s over and you keep the tug toy.

Just like with people, exercise reduces anxiety. A dog that uses his body regularly will be calmer in situations that provoke anxiety.

Get your dog used to grooming. Even if you have your dog professionally groomed on a regular basis, get a decent brush with bristles that go down to the skin and get him accustomed to grooming. This will help calm him during an anxiety provoking event.

Right before a storm or fireworks

Do the fun thing! Make sure your dog is tired. This will reduce his anxiety. But don’t make him too tired. Because you’re going to play again during the event. Go ahead and turn on the radio and all the lights in the house. Turn the TV on. Do other loud things in the house like run the vacuum cleaner if that by itself is not disturbing to your dog. Make sure your dog has eaten that day, but not right before the event. Sometimes dogs get nervous and throw up from anxiety.

Important indicator of Anxiety: Appetite is a good measure of anxiety. A really anxious dog won’t eat anything. So if your dog will take a treat that’s a step in the right direction, it means he’s not really overly anxious. If you can get anxiety down to that level, try a treat toy, like Kong, that is made to encourage the dog to work at getting a treat out of the inside of the toy.

Rather than just turning on the radio as background noise, think about what type of music might be best. If your dog is triggered by the pop-pop-pop sound, the low rumbling sounds, or the high pitch sounds of fireworks, try finding some heavy metal music that matches those sounds and can help those sounds to blend in. Obviously you don’t want to turn on the radio to music that your dog will react to. But somehow if the noise is coming from inside the house on the radio, dogs generally accept this better than noises outside the house. So, assuming your dog is in the house, turn on the radio to music that has random beats and high and low pitched noises. At the same time turn on the television and this will add to the randomness of the pattern. Also the random patterns of colors on the TV screen can help the fireworks blend in. Experiment to find out what works best for your dog. I recommend using actual radio and TV rather than tablets computers, or phones. Why? Because you might want to use your phone or computer for something else, and you don’t want to stop the lights and sounds right when it’s needed the most.

Why have all the lights on in the house? Having all the lights on in the house minimizes the contrast of the bright lights flashing outside the house. This works well in a thunderstorm too. Plan for the power to be out! Have a camping light and a battery operated radio at hand.

During the Fireworks or Thunderstorm

The lights and sounds are on already! Do the fun thing again! If your dog can only do the fun thing outside, try going outside, even if the noises are louder out there. Sometimes, but not always, the game is so fun they forget about the noises. Also, strangely, it seems like when they know where the noise is coming from they’re not as afraid. I’ve noticed that with my Jane. If she’s inside and hears the noises, she comes pawing at me, as if to say, “Something is wrong. Make it stop”. But if we go outside in the storm she’ll walk calmly along sniffing and peeing like she always does. Of course this doesn’t work if it’s pouring buckets, but it helps her adapt to the sound as the storm is coming in. When we come back in, she is fine, as if I answered her question, saying, “There’s nothing wrong dear, its just the weather, and I’m fine with it.”

Doing obedience during fireworks can work wonders. Your dog will learn what to expect: praise and treats, and all he has to do is do something right. This gives him a feeling of control and gives you something to do too. Remember not to act afraid yourself. Do some things you normally do. Don’t let the storm stop you. If you try to cuddle your dog, your dog will interpret this as you are afraid too and clinging to him, adding to his anxiety.

If you’re staying inside, play the games as best you can. This is where your obedience will come in handy. Practice heeling, tricks, whatever. Heeling is a great one when dogs are very clingy and follow you around when they are scared. Put the leash on inside the house and heel around the dining room table and over to the other side of the bed. Everywhere. Just make it fun and happy. Give lots of praise for doing anything right, even if it’s a simple thing your dog has done for years, like sit. This gives the dog a feeling of knowing what is expected, doing that thing, and getting rewarded. In other words, a sense of control.

Does your dog shiver and run to the bathtub and get in, beside, or under the bathtub during a thunderstorm? This might mean he’s reacting to the static electricity in the air. Get some dryer sheets and rub them on your dog. This actually helps some dogs but others not at all. It’s worth a shot. If you have cats that lick your dog, do not do this.

Does your dog lean against you and paw at you and pant heavily? Does it try to get up in your lap and curl up next to you? Try one of those Thundershirts that they sell at pet stores or on the internet. Also a t-shirt that’s taped on or tied on firmly can help with pressure.

Another trick is grooming. Using a brush that gets down to the skin with firm strokes can help a dog with generalized anxiety. A dog that merely tolerates grooming might really like it when anxious. Sort of like a kid with autism, sometimes the tactile stimulation is helpful and redirects the mind. This is better than just hugging your dog. You don’t want to praise pawing and jumping on you, but rather redirect him to hold still for grooming.

What about crates? For some dogs, being in a crate is a safe haven, and they will seek it out as a refuge. Others want to be with the family “pack”. So if a crate works, great. Try leaving the door open, and make sure there is something comfortable to lay on, and maybe a chew toy.

Yes, another alternative is medication. However, veterinarian prescribed medication is only good for once in a blue moon. You don’t want to give it the whole week that people in your neighborhood are shooting off firecrackers, or in thunderstorm season, in certain areas of the country, where you’re likely to have one every evening.

There are some anxiety medications that can be helpful that are over the counter in pet stores, and of course on the internet. Most of them will have something like valerian, an herbal anxiety treatment that is available made for dogs in a chewable tablet, or made as a tea or capsule for people. (I can tell you that the tea taste like dirt. Maybe dogs would like it!) Tryptophan ia another common ingredient, as well as chamomile. It’s best to use the type made for dogs so you get the dosage right.

What if all this fails? What if your dog is such a basket case that it won’t even sit or take a treat, let alone play a game? What if despite the radio, tv, and bright lights in the house, your dog is still shivering and shaking and hiding under the bed? Is it possible to just avoid everything? Here’s one more idea. Go for a car ride. Best to have a car that’s loud, an old one that rattles a little bit or has a loud motor. Turn the radio on and just drive around. I know, gas is expensive, and you’re driving around at night, which is not the greatest. But sometimes this will soothe the dog and they will actually fall asleep in the car. Kind of like a crying baby that won’t go to sleep. Of course this is only going to work if your dog is already adapted to car rides!

I hope this has been helpful. Please comment if any of this has worked for you, or with other ideas that have helped your dog.