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The Search is On? Adding to the Crew

The Search is On? Adding to the Crew

I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I only have two dogs. This is not a scenario that has existed in my life for almost twenty years. The grief is still very fresh. It’s also compounded by what I view as the end of a huge part of my life with the three dogs that taught me so much more than I could ever begin to pay them for. The lessons were abundant and endless and life changing. I feel lost in a world that changed far too fast for my tastes. When I lost Merlin and then Kera just nine short months later, this house was in a sad state of depression. Siri, Trent and I had lost our zest for life. There was little laughter and fun. There was no inclination to smile. Adding Kenzo to our life was a survival necessity. We needed laughter and smiles to move forward.

A similar scenario is unfolding in my life just three short years later. Every day brings multiple reminders of my new two dog life: counting out only two vitamins to add to the daily rations, grabbing two leashes off the hook rather than three, only two bowls in the dishwasher now, I could go on and on. The biggest hole is perhaps the ability to finally sleep in my own bed after three months of couch dwelling, now that Kenzo has received the go ahead to climb steps again. But that first sleep in my sorely missed bed was bittersweet without Siri, who had shared my bed for thirteen years, all 95 pounds of her. I am still getting used to the difference.

Kenzo and Trent wonder who will be joining them.

Kenzo and Trent wonder who will be joining them.

So many tugs at my heart throughout every single day. I know this my cue to think about adding to my family again. Trent and Kenzo are reluctant to play now. They actually have been this way since Siri started declining about six months ago. She wasn’t able to participate so they just stopped trying. Kenzo wants to but Trent has always had Siri on his side, keeping Kenzo in check should he need it. Please don’t misunderstand me. That is certainly my job as well, as the parent here but for play purposes, Siri made sure that Trent felt safe. Kenzo never did anything inappropriate. It is his sheer size that worries Trent so he almost always waited until Siri got him into a comfortable play mode and then Trent joined in. Without her to set the tone, he isn’t accepting Kenzo’s play invitations. Not that Kenzo can actively play right now anyway. He has another five weeks to go before that is on the menu. But Kenzo has always been very good at handicapping his play for other dogs. He lays down and lets them basically play on him but Trent isn’t terribly good at that without a partner to guide him.

So we need a new playmate in this house. When Kenzo gets cleared for more active play, my search for the right female will become official. Right now, it is just casual, with an eye towards what we need. I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t want to put my memories too far behind me. But I don’t want to dwell all the time either. I want to hear laughter and play sounds in my house again. I want my dogs to roll around happily in my yard and share toys and feel comfortable and bonded again. I want my family as whole as I can make them again ASAP. Short enough order, right?

In order to avoid having all sorts of available dog listings sent to me, let me clarify what my goal is. I am looking to add a Doberman to my life again. Female only, probably under five years of age, color, ears, tails don’t matter though I won’t deny a special fondness for those who are black/tan or fawn/tan though. A mix is a possibility. Even other breeds such as Rottweilers or German Shepherd Dogs are a possibility. I will know when the right dog shows up in my consciousness.

Of course, our new girl MUST be wonderful with other dogs. All else I am willing to work on but I refuse to compromise on dog sociability in my own home, especially at this time in our lives. Let’s not forget to mention that local to me is important and for those who don’t already know where that is, it’s the Pittsburgh PA area. I will keep you all posted and I am sure that Siri will help lead the right dog to use just as I am sure that Merlin brought Kenzo into my life. So please resist the urge to send me every dog in need. 

Feel free to share how you chose your addition in the spaces below.

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Dominance Redux: Words and Consequences Again

Dominance is such a dirty word in the dog behavior world, primarily because it has been misused so badly. Misunderstandings about its true meaning abound. Long held beliefs about dominance are clung to in some circles, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The old school world of force-based dog training relied heavily on misunderstandings of perfectly innocent behavior that is typically just a lack of training.

The concept of dominance in dogs has swung from commonly accepted in the old school world of professional dog trainers to discounted or dismissed outright by modern scientifically based dog friendly dog trainers. As of late, however, the new progressive school of thought seems to be to freely admit that dominance in dogs does indeed exist. However, each of these three groups views the meaning differently. Herein lies the problem.

Is it dominance, bullying, or something entirely different.

Fully defining the word dominance as it relates to dogs is far more complicated than I want this blog to be. Suffice it to say that the real problem occurs when the general dog owning public hears that the word has come into favor again. Upon seeing what they perceive as dominant behavior in their own dog, many feel that they are justified in taking some force-based action to correct so called dominant behavior.

The old school definition is still going strong in some sectors; most positive reinforcement trainers understand the probably outdated scientific definition but don’t see a need for the word as a label and the third group are purists for true definitions. I am in the middle group.

Let’s consider the sad fact that some TV trainers would have their viewers believe that their dogs are on an all-out mission to take over the world by exerting their dominance in multitudes of situations, when in fact they have simply climbed on the couch because it’s comfortable for one example. The typical dog owner doesn’t have the time or interest in understanding the nuances in the differing schools of thought on so called dominant behavior. Among the behaviors that have been called dominant that aren’t: rushing out the door first, walking in front of an owner on a walk, jumping up on people as a greeting, the afore mentioned climbing on the couch and even chasing a laser pointer. Some are a simple lack of training, some are comfort seeking and some are just plain stupid. None are truly dominance in dogs as defined by science.

Buy the book, How Many Dogs?! click here

So I’d like to suggest here that we all stop using the word dominance. It may improve the physical well-being of dogs of the typical dog owner. Let’s rename the behavior. Science progresses, dictionaries evolve. So should word meanings. I propose we start using the word bullying instead. It fits much better. It has far less sinister connotations. In any given multiple dog situation, dominance can rear its ugly head five times in five minutes or no times in twenty four hours, within the same crew of dogs. Let’s give an example of the true definition of dominance that can literally take just seconds of viewing time and has little to do with the often promoted examples.

Spot is chewing on his bone on the floor. Rover wanders in and walks up to Spot and gives him the hairy eyeball without getting physical. Spot really wants that bone but he wants even more to not tussle with Rover so he gets up and walks away, leaving Rover to the bone. All that took maybe ten seconds and no blood was shed. But an hour later, Rover has a tuggy and Spot rolls in and wants that tuggy, because tuggies are his thing. So the reverse happens with Spot giving Rover the hairy eyeball. Rover cares less about tuggies so he moseys along, leaving the tuggy to Spot. Are they both dominant? Yep, in their own particular situation. Would it be accurate to call either a dominant dog? Nope. Dominance is fluid and varies according to any given situation.

So back to my suggestion, why not rename social dominance in dogs? It has such a bad rap and all it really describes, after all, is a dog who is being a bully towards another dog in any given situation. We don’t call human bullies dominant. It gives them credence that no one wants a bully to have.

So why not give this whole dominance thing a kick to the curb and choose a word that brings a more realistic slant to the multiple dog situation. The world progresses with the times. Words take on new meanings because information evolves. I find it curious and unsettling that we hold on to a word that has such bad connotations and is truly unnecessary in helping people modify the behavior of their beloved dogs.

Clarity is really what we all want anyway, isn’t it? The scientific explanation and the just plain English explanation both mean the same thing but are perceived in different ways by different groups, depending on their personal belief system. Let’s not cause confusion. All dog professionals who fully understand the scientific explanation want the same thing, regardless of their desire for word purity. We want dogs being accepted and understood properly as dogs, not as sly creatures waiting to take over the world locking their owners in the basement.

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How Many Is Too Many Dogs? Part 2: When Rescuers Need Rescuing

This subject has been my most popular blog subject ever. Google searches on this phrase find the original blog more frequently than the website itself. The question itself crosses the mind of all who have more dogs than is considered the norm by the general public. The general public’s opinion, however, is not who anyone should base their perfect canine number on. Not by a long shot.

The renewed interest in this subject was prompted by a recent story locally of a breed rescuer who is being forced by local law enforcement, to reduce her numbers from more than eighty dogs, to twenty five dogs. Neighbors complained and ordinances are now being enforced. She has very little time to perform such a feat, meaning if seized, more than fifty dogs are facing a death sentence. This disturbs me greatly, for a number of reasons. Hopefully, by the time you read this, these dogs will no longer be in danger. Follow up to be noted when available, never fear.

Photo from a recent hoarding case.

Photo from a recent hoarding case.

But back to the reasons this disturbs me: there are so many, let me count the ways. Having been a rescuer (currently resting emotionally from that task), I can say with passion that it is really hard to say no to dogs in need. But I can also say with passion that I learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself and your own dogs, first, everyone suffers and no one is truly helped. It is important to know your limit: emotionally, physically, financially, etc. regardless of whether you are a rescuer or just a plain dog owner who wants more dogs in your life. Know your limits!

If you are sentencing dogs to hours upon endless hours in crates or kennels, with little to no exercise and human interaction; that is not rescuing. That is hell on earth. Don’t pull dogs from shelters if you are not bettering their situation. Don’t call yourself a rescuer or even just a normal multiple dog household when you are clearly in over your head. No one human can take proper care of eighty-something dogs. It’s just not possible. Even with a couple of volunteer hands, it’s not enough.

There is another new hoarding situation almost every day in the media. This person was found to have fifty cats. That person was found to have a hundred dogs. This is a sickness. It’s not well intentioned rescuing or a loving multiple dog household. It may have started that way but it did not end up that way. At heart, it’s about selfishness, not selflessness. Rescuers make themselves feel good about rescuing. There is nothing wrong with that if you are not also using that as the ends to justify the means. Rescuing a dog is more than simply keeping them alive. Being alive is not the same thing as living well.

Buy the book, How Many Dogs?! click here

Dogs are sentient beings. They have thoughts and feelings and emotional needs, in addition to the physical needs of food, water, physical care and warm housing. No one would think it appropriate to expect people to live in a small space with no interaction or exercise day after endless day. It is equally unreasonable to expect the same of a dog, if the expectation is that the dog in question should remain mentally stable, that is! Placing unstable dogs is not appropriate without behavior modification and then we come back to lack of resources again.

The moral of this story is that as a multiple dog owner and/or rescuer, you dear reader, need to be fully aware of your limitations; physically, emotionally, financially, etc. Take into account your own basic needs, the needs of the dogs you currently have and calculate it all together in a PRACTICAL way. Then make a decision on whether to add another dog, foster or permadog, to your life. There are plenty of people on this earth who can care for a dog just as well as you can, I promise you this. If your urge to help a particular dog is strong but your limitations are stronger, sponsor the dog, promote the dog, do things other than adding the dog to your household to get him or her a good home. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And above all, be there for your current crew as a responsible multiple dog owner and/or rescuer.

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