Littermates

Oliver, sibling to Murphy(below)

Oliver, sibling to Murphy(below)

People often think it is a good idea to get two puppies at the same time, usually littermates. The following is usually people’s reasoning for getting two pups at the same time:
-They’ll keep each other company
-Both my kids want their own dog
-Two puppies is double the fun!

They’ll keep each other company
While this may be true some of the time, it is not always the case. An important question to ask yourself is, why do they need to keep each other company? Is it because you’re too busy to pay attention to them during the day? If so, maybe you should consider waiting to get a dog or dogs, until your life has calmed down a bit. Dogs require a lot of time and attention, especially when you first get them.

Murphy, sibling to Oliver(pictured above)

Murphy, sibling to Oliver(pictured above)

Both my kids want their own dog
It seems like a truly great idea, doesn’t it? Both your kids walking their dogs down the street, everyone the best of friends. But be honest with yourself – do you really think it will turn out that way? Often times, the kids will get bored with the dogs after a period of time and then the responsibility falls on the parents to take care of both animals. However, will your children be the ones housetraining two puppies, feeding them, bathing them, and most importantly, training them? Unless they’re very responsible teenagers, the answer is most likely “no”. That will be the responsibility of the parents.

Two puppies is double the fun!
That depends on your definition of fun. Cleaning up pee and poop from puppies that are still being housetrained, trying to watch both at the same time so they don’t soil in the house, eat your couch, and cause who knows what other trouble, is not really my definition of “fun”. In fact, to be honest, I don’t usually foster puppies because they are so much work. They stress me out which causes my health problems to get worse. Out of all the dogs I’ve fostered(29 as of 6/18/14) only 5 have been puppies, and every time I foster a puppy it reaffirms what I already know: puppies are a LOT of work. They chew, they gnaw on hands and arms, they pee and poop in the house, and they have an insane amount of energy. Sure, playtime with two puppies can be great, but do you really expect to spend all of your time playing with them? What will you do when you want to have some calm time but your puppies want to chew up the sofa?

Aggression is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly.

Aggression is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly.

The real problems with littermates
The real problems with littermates. It’s not the extra work involved, or the extra cost, it’s the fighting. “The fighting?” you ask? Yes. It is a very common problem in littermates. Two dogs that were best friends in puppyhood often grow up and start to hate each other with a burning passion. It can happen any time after maturity. My parents had two sibling Dachshunds, and they didn’t start fighting until they were 7 years old. It began with just a little scuffle here and there, nothing serious and only when they were inside. For several months this continued, and it seemed to have plateaued. They would fight on occasion, but it was never serious and they always stopped. Then, they started fighting outside. It happened once, then again a couple months later. Then again a month later. Then a few weeks later…until eventually, they were fighting on a weekly basis. It was eventually decided that the best thing to do for these dogs, who spent all their time either outside or crated, and were never paid attention to, was to rehome them.
What would have happened if Oliver and Murphy were not rehomed? Their fighting would have continued to progress to the point where they would eventually try to kill each other every time they were together. This happens so often, and it’s devastating for the families who love their dogs. They’re then faced with a very difficult decision…rehoming one of the dogs, or attempting to keep them separate 24/7 so they do not have access to each other.

But I have littermates and they don’t fight, they love each other!
That’s great! Let’s hope it stays that way! Unfortunately, there’s a good chance it won’t. Fighting can start any time after maturity. Be prepared in case they do start to fight.

Help! I took in littermates not know the potential issues!
If this is the case, you need to immediately take action to give yourself the best possible chance at them getting along for the rest of their lives. One of the most important things to do is keep them separate. Not all the time, but a portion of it. Play with them separately, train them separately, walk them separately, and if you crate train, put their individual crates in separate parts of the house. Do not crate them together.

To learn more about the problems and solutions to raising littermates, check out this link. There are three pages, be sure to read them all.

In summary – while it might sound like a good idea to get two puppies at the same time, the potential for problems is overwhelming. If you are set on getting a puppy, it is best to wait at least a few months in between adopting them.
Also, Oliver found a fantastic home & Murphy is in a great foster home that may end up keeping him. Both are now indoor dogs and part of loving families. They’re very happy, that is what is important.

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Dominance! FAQ.

What is dominance?

Dominance in dogs is the idea that your dog is, yes, trying to dominate you. He’s trying to be in control. He wants to have control over the food, the water, the toys, and the couch. He wants to be “alpha dog”.

Are dogs dominant?

The short answer to this is a big, fat, no! The idea of dominance as the cause of behavior problems in dogs is an idea that has long been debunked. It is now nothing more than a myth.

Then why do so many trainers say dogs are dominant?

Chances are, you’ve heard of Cesar Millan, AKA “The Dog Whisperer”. His training techniques are based on the idea that dogs that are misbehaving are trying to dominate their owners. They’re pulling on the leash? They’re trying to dominate you. They’re coming up on the couch uninvited? They’re trying to dominate you. Aggression? Dominance, they say. Watch out, your dog wants to be in control!
The idea that dogs are dominant creatures comes from a study done on wolves. Yes, wolves. In the 1940’s a study was done on a family of captive wolves of mixed families. You can see how this study was flawed from the foundation, right? Well, this study focused mainly on the hunting behavior of the wolves. What does this have to do with dominance in dogs, you ask? Well, this is where the idea that dogs are dominant creatures comes from…an extremely flawed wolf study. As my trainer says, “Dogs are not tame wolves”. We should not be learning about dog behavior from studying wolves, we should be learning about dog behavior from studying dogs! Studies done on dogs show that dominance is not, in fact, the cause of behavior problems in dogs.

If it’s not dominance, then what causes these behaviors?

Behaviors that were long though of as “dominant” behaviors have much simpler explanations.
Leash pulling – the dog is simply excited! You’re going somewhere new, of course he wants to pull on the leash. He wants to get there faster!
Jumping up on furniture – if you were a dog, where would you rather take a nap? The comfy, squishy couch/bed, or the dog bed on the floor? Often times dogs will jump up on furniture simply because that’s where his people are, and he wants to be close to them.
Aggression – this one is important. People always argue that “red zone” dogs are dominant, and that positive reinforcement training CAN NOT work for these dogs. Please check out this video of a food-aggressive dog being trained using nothing but reinforcement. Was the dog what some people would consider “red zone”? No. There was no biting, no lunging, no growling. However, a behavior can be trained the same way no matter if it’s minimal or extremely severe. I trained a “red zone” dog to stop wanting to kill other dogs using nothing but positive reinforcement.

Is there such thing as a dominant dog?

I had a discussion with my trainer about this, and she made a good point – a truly dominant dog would not be aggressive or possessive. It would be confident that it has control over the resources, and therefore would be willing to give them up. However, the short answer is “no”, dominance is not the reason your dog is misbehaving. This article is HIGHLY recommended reading.

What’s wrong with dominance training?

The main problem with dominance-based training is the fact that it is flawed from the ground up. Dominance as the cause of behavior problems in dogs is a myth that has been scientifically debunked over and over. Trainers who use dominance-based methods most often use techniques and tools that are not only outdated, but cruel. Hanging dogs by choke collars, squirting with a squirt bottle, yanking on a prong collar, alpha rolling, and scruff shakes – just to name a few – are dominance-based training techniques. The most important thing to know about aggression in dogs, which is usually what is being trained by these trainers, is that all aggression is rooted in fear. Dog-dog aggression, dog-human aggression, it is all rooted in fear. The dog is trying to attack you when you take away his food? He is scared that you’ll take away his food! You know that he’s not going to starve, but he doesn’t. You know that there’s more where that came from, but he doesn’t. Instead of using the techniques above, which only instill MORE fear in the dog(and consequently often only mask the problem or even make it worse), you can use positive reinforcement techniques which will instead teach the dog that he doesn’t need to be afraid of having his food taken away, because he will always get something in return. Instead of masking the problem by making the dog too scared to defend himself, you teach him that he does not need to defend himself. You teach him that he is safe, and loved, and that training sessions are fun because you mutually trust each other. He trusts that you will not hurt or scare him. Don’t betray that trust.

Bringing Home Your New Companion – Setting Yourself Up For Success

It’s important to set yourself up for success when bringing home a new dog. They will be a part of your family for many years to come, so you’ll want to make sure that you start things out on the right foot! The following post is information put together by myself and the president of Shine On Animal Rescue. You can find us on Facebook, and IG.

Introductions

Chances are, your current dog(s) met your new family member at the adoption appointment, so they should be getting along well. It is fine to just bring them home and let them be together, since they’ve already met. Introducing your new dog to cats and poultry(if you have them) can be a bit more tricky. With cats, the dogs are put on leash and walked up the cat. If they show too much interest, walk them into another room and try again later. Often times a cat will swat at a new dog, and the dog will leave them alone after that. With poultry, leash the dog and walk them up to the birds. If the dog tries to chase, turn around and walk away. This may need to be repeated several times. We will not adopt a dog out to a family with small animals such as cats or poultry if they are known to be bad with them, so if you are bringing a dog into a home with a cat, the dog passed the “cat test” at it’s foster home. If you’re bringing it into a home with chickens, that means it passed the “chicken test” at it’s foster home.

Go for a walk!

Your dog is in a new environment. It is highly recommended that you take your new dog out on a walk around the neighborhood, so that if it ever gets out of the yard or gets away from you, it will have some sense of where it is and how to get back home.

Crate Training

When trained properly, a dog will view a crate as his or her “den”, a safe place that they can retreat to when they are nervous or just want to take a nap. We highly recommended crating your new dog when he or she has to be left alone, and at night. This doesn’t have to be a permanent thing, and is not required, but we do recommend doing it for at least 2 weeks after your new dog has come home. In our experience, this helps to keep the dog, and your belongings, safe when you can’t supervise them. All dogs adopted from our rescue are crate trained or in the process of being crate trained. A “large” dog crate(appropriately sized for a Border Collie-sized dog) can be bought at most Walmarts for only $60. It’s always good to have a crate on hand, in case you ever need one. Remember to never use the crate punishment. You want your dog to like the crate!

Meet the neighbors

If your neighbors that you share a fence with have a dog, ask if your dogs can meet to prevent possible fence fighting or barking at each other. It’s best that everyone gets along!

Leashes are your friend!

We highly recommend keeping your new family member leashed in the house for the first few days, then watching them closely after this. Dogs adopted from any rescue, ours included, may try to chew, potty in the house, etc. We believe in full disclosure so if a dog has done any of these things in their foster home, we will be sure to let you know – this way you can know what to expect while the dog is adjusting to your daily routine. Keeping them leashed and/or supervising them at all times for at least the first week helps to prevent problems such as accidents in the house.

Potty Breaks

We recommend taking your new dog out to go potty 10-15 minutes after every meal & drink of water, and every few hours. If you see the dog start to sniff around in the house, immediately take them outside as this is an indicator that they need to potty. Take them to the same potty spot every time as this makes housebreaking easier if the dog isn’t already housebroken.

S/A Prevention

Separation Anxiety(s/a) is a common problem in dogs going to new homes, especially when they come to their foster homes. The dog has gone from a terrifying shelter to a completely new environment, so they’re bound to be a bit nervous. Dogs will also often be nervous when going to a new home. Nervous dogs will cling to their people, and consequently freak out when the people leave their sight or the house. To prevent separation anxiety, we recommend giving the dogs no time to explore on the first few days. I keep my foster dogs crated their first couple days, then slowly increase the amount of time they’re allowed out with me, starting with one hour then increasing by half hour increments. Since doing this, the number of dogs I’ve had that developed s/a has drastically reduced. Separation anxiety is a serious problem – it is like a non-stop panic attack for the dog while his or her people are away, so preventing it is very important. If the dog you have adopted shows signs of separation anxiety, we will have let you know. If we didn’t mention separation anxiety to you, that means the dog has is not exhibiting any symptoms of separation anxiety when we leave.

Have fun!!

Last but not least, enjoy your new family member! Go for a walk, relax on the couch, and just have fun together. “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

 

“It’s All About How You Raise Them”

In 2007, Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting. Somewhere around 50 dogs were taken from his property, the majority of them being Pit Bull Terriers.

About half of his fighting dogs spent their lives chained to buried car axels, just out of reach of one another, and most of them were in poor physical health. At his property there were rape racks(devices used to restrain a bitch so a dog can mate with her without being attacked), a fighting pit, and blood-stained carpets. Dogs that did not perform well were killed, either by hanging, drowning, or being repeatedly slammed against the ground until they died. While I don’t know the specifics about the upbringings of these dogs, I think we can all agree on one thing – it was probably not good. I highly doubt that Vick spent time socializing, petting, and playing with each and every one of these 50-something fighting dogs.

And yet, of all the dogs taken from his fighting ring, you know how many had to be euthanized due to aggression?

One. Just one.

Many of Vicks dogs have gone on to earn their CGC’s(Canine Good Citizenship), some are therapy dogs, some are beloved family pets.

And this is why I feel the overwhelming desire to slam my head against a wall when people say “It’s all about how you raise the dog,” or “Blame the owners, not the dogs.” Clearly Michael Vicks dogs were not raised in the happy, loving environment that true dog lovers will provide. So if it’s all about how you raise the dog, why were Vicks dogs not vicious man-killers? Why is it, then, that people who have done everything right sometimes end up with dogs that are aggressive?

Kai, a dog I fostered a while back. She had been chained for so long that the chain had grown into the back of her neck and had to be removed. She was one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I've ever known.

Kai, a dog I fostered a while back. She had been chained for so long that the chain had grown into the back of her neck and had to be removed. She was one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I’ve ever known.

It’s because of genetics, the driving force of who we are. Genetics is why reputable Border Collie breeders only breed together good working dogs – to produce more good working dogs. Genetics is why you can’t breed together a dog whose instincts say “kill sheep” with another dog whose instincts say “kill sheep” and expect to get a great trial dog from the litter. Genetics is why no breeder in their right mind is going to breed together two aggressive dogs. Genetics is why reputable breeders will only breed dogs of sound body and mind.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that environment/upbringing does not play a big role in a dogs behavior, because it certainly does! However, “nature vs. nurture” with dogs is something to be covered in another post.

The point of this post is to explain that it is absolutely absurd to claim that all aggressive dogs are simply products of bad upbringing. The saying “it’s all about how you raise them” leads so many people to think they can go buy puppies from backyard breeders and then expect them to all grow up to have stable temperaments as long as they are raised right, and that is just not always the case.

“It’s all about how you raise them” is nothing more than a dangerous myth.

A Difficult Decision

Today, I have made the decision to stop allowing my personal dog, Nelly, around anyone but my immediate family.

Nelly has always wanted her personal space from both people and dogs, and has always been great about giving warning signals such as growling and teeth showing. Warning signals such as these are a GOOD thing, but that is something I will dedicate a post to in the very near future, maybe even my next one.
Nelly has always communicated very well with people and dogs, letting them know when she was uncomfortable with the situation she is in. She has never liked people getting in her face, hugging her, or making her feel trapped in any way; it is considered rude to do this to a dog and she has very little tolerance for it. She also has an especially low tolerance for people doing this when she’s herding something. However, she has always given warning signals, so I am able to immediately remove her from a situation that she is uncomfortable with.

Lately, though, we’ve been having problems. She has been biting without giving any warning – or if there is a warning, it is way too fast for me to notice. I don’t know why she suddenly stopped, I have never corrected warning signals. As I said before, warning signals are a good thing!
Twice in the past few months she nipped someone who got into her personal space while she was herding – the solution to that was easy enough, I simply stopped letting people be around her while she was herding. Problem solved, no more nipping. But then the a couple weeks ago she nipped a person that was in my house. He was simply walking by her and she turned and nipped. And today she was having her belly rubbed by someone I know well(this was after she begged to be pet, she was very happy about getting her belly rubbed), he went to gently push her just a little bit, to scoot her away, and she immediately turned and nipped his arm.DSC_0198

None of these nips have drawn blood or left a puncture mark, but that does not make it okay. It is extremely concerning to me – not only that she’s nipping, but that she’s not giving noticeable warnings. Warnings are such an important part of canine communication and if she’s not giving me any chance to remove her from a situation she doesn’t like, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to prevent bites when they’re so sudden and unpredictable?

I don’t know.

DSC_0197And that is why I have decided that I will no longer allow anyone except immediate family to touch or be near her. I am not going to risk having her bite someone that will then sue to have her euthanized for it.

I feel like a failure, as her owner, handler and trainer. So, until I work with a professional trainer, there will be no more contact with people for Nelly.

It saddens me to have to do this, because Nelly loves people so much. Every time we’re with a group of people, she goes from person to person with a happy smile on her face, begging to be pet. Sometimes when we’re in public, if there’s a person she can reach while on her leash, she’ll scoot up to them, sit, and give them her best “pet me?” face. Being around people makes her so happy!

I just can’t believe it’s come to this. Of all the dogs I’ve fostered(22 at this point) I have never had a dog with as many problems as Nelly did the day that I adopted her. I’ve been able to fix most of her issues, but it seems like it’s just one thing after another. There’s no end to her problems. I don’t what could have caused her to be so neurotic and crazy that nobody but me wanted to keep her.

When I imagined my first dog, it was one that liked kids and other dogs, one that would play fetch with me, one that I didn’t have to worry about biting. But of all the dogs in the world, I fell in love with this one. And all I want to do now is cry, because I can’t even trust my best friend to be around people.