New and Notable

I gave a workshop for new and prospective dog adopters last weekend. One of the topics we covered was socialization. Socialization is key for puppies, but is more important than many realize for newly rehomed adult dogs. (It can also be important for moving with your dog, but I won't cover that in depth here.) Regardless of their background, your home is not exactly the same as your new dog's previous home and will include new things to which your dog needs to be socialized. This is increasingly important to keep in mind in our area as more and more rescue dogs are brought into local shelters and rescues from other areas of the country. For dogs that come from an entirely different background, whether an outdoor life, a rural area, or a racetrack, the reality of everyday life in a city or suburb is filled to the brim with new experiences and stimuli. What do I mean? Let me give you a...
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The First Days

We got our new dog! We adopted Gandalf on Saturday after meeting several dogs available from rescue group (Greyt Expectations). We selected Gandalf, at that time named Las Vegas Express, for his age (2 years on March 29) and apparently easy-going nature. Despite having just arrived from the track, he was social and interested in everything that was going on. Overall, we had a wonderful opportunity to meet a number of dogs, get great greyhound advice, and pick up some supplies, including a new dog bed that Nefertiti immediately claimed as her own. And in the end, we came home with our new dog, which was what we really wanted. Something I expected but did not get: A dog that didn't eat for a few days, due to the anxiety of transition. He ate treats at the rescue, on the car ride home, in the house, and would happily eat any and all food he was offered more or less immediately. Something I...
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Preparations Underway

Written March 29, 2017. As many of you know, we lost Sirius Black to illness back in February. Every loss is unique, and this one continues to hit us hard. When I am not concentrating, I still find myself glancing around the room, looking or listening for what Sirius is up to, and it's a new blow every time I don't see him and everything hits me again. That being said, we are a dog household, and, within the Sirius-shaped hole in our lives, is a dog shaped hole. Therefore, we decided to move forward with a process we had been exploring for some time, and we are hoping to bring home our new retired racing greyhound this weekend. At this point, we don't know the age, sex, or size if the dog we will be adopting. Nor do we know whether the dog has been in foster or will be coming directly from a track environment. This means there will be more...
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Here’s to 6 More Years!

Here’s to 6 More Years!

Later this week, we'll celebrate the sixth anniversary of Sirius Black's adoption. I find this almost impossible to believe, but it's true. A lot has happened since we first brought him home, and he lay motionless on the floor of our living room, giving his best impression of a dog with no personality. When we first brought him home, I was an animal welfare professional, but far from a behavior professional. My husband—who wasn't even my husband yet—had never had a dog before. All three of us had a lot to learn! We've made some mistakes along the way. In fact, have some useful advice stored up for the future; things like, don't take your noise-phobic dog to a sesquicentennial of a Civil War battle, unless you want to spend the entire day walking at the far end of the battlefield from all the events. But, mostly, I have good memories. We've been through a lot together, including three moves, several job changes,...
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A Mile on Someone Else’s Leash

A few times a year, we will have friends or family bring their dogs along on a visit.* For someone who has not brought a new pet home in more than a half decade (more about that next week), it can be easy to forget the experience of having a new pet in your home. When you bring a new pet home, whether it's your first or your fifth, there is an immediate change to your schedule. It just takes longer to feed, walk, and play with multiple dogs than it does to do the same thing with one. And so often they need to be fed separately. Or what if the new dog won't eat? What if all the dogs just want to eat someone else's food? When you step out of the house, the issues continue. Will the dog react to a squirrel? What about a rabbit? A jogger? Another dog? When I walk with Sirius Black, I more or less...
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5 Considerations When Adopting a Dog

Obviously, there are a lot more than 5 things you have to consider when you are adopting a pet. However, here are 5 that I believe are important when adopting a dog, but which often get overlooked in the urge to ooh over that cute little face. Size: Size is an important factor. It will affect many other aspects, such as expenses and energy level, and may also impact the expected lifespan of your new dog. Additionally, for apartment and condo-dwellers and renters of all types, size may impact where you can live. If you live somewhere with size restrictions, or think that you may, this is especially important. If adult size is particularly important to you, you may want to consider adopting and adult dog, as predicted adult-size of mixed breed puppies is not always reliable. I have known 80-pound dogs that were expected to be no more than 50 and 30-pound dogs that were expected to reach 50. Age: Let...
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An Ounce of Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We've all heard it, but we don't always apply it successfully to our own lives. However, prevention, often in the form of management, is a key aspect of training and behavior modification. This is especially important when we bring a new pet into our lives. Of course, no new pet, whether 8-weeks-old or 8-years-old is a completely blank slate; but, when we bring a new pet into our homes, we are creating new relationships and setting new patterns for behavior. At this point, we have the opportunity to act to prevent many behaviors that can cause problems in the future. One important step in this process is taking stock of the environment your new pet will be entering. Are there items a puppy or an anxious dog might chew? Expensive or irreplaceable items that might be knocked over or destroyed? For cats, is there an easily accessible litterbox that is not being used...
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Behavior Suppression

"What if he has no personality?" "He has a personality." "How do you know?" We both stared at the dog, who was lying unmoving on the floor of the living room, in the same spot where he had lain down upon entering the room. No personality was in evidence. Six years of experience has proven me right: Sirius Black is full of personality. However, it is equally true that he demonstrated little of this personality during the first days and even weeks in our home. In fact, confident as i was that he had a personality somewhere, i anxiously questioned the trainer about the fact that he wasn't accepting trrats from us and other similar concerns. While not always as extreme as what we observed during our first days with Sirius, it is common to observe a reduced behavior in dogs both in the shelter and in the immediate post-adoption period. This period is sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon" period, because adopters may observe...
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5 Bad and 5 Good Reasons to Expand Your Family

"Should I get my cat another cat?" a friend of mine asked me today. "I worry that he's bored." That question, and this weekend's upcoming Sliding Into Home event at the Washington Humane Society, has me thinking about when, how and why we expand our (animal) families, and when, how and why we should. 5 Bad Reasons: Some of these reasons can be fine as a secondary reason to get a new pet, but they fall short as a primary reason. Fluffy (or Fido) wants a friend. Let's start with the idea that began this post. Sure, it's easier to add a new pet to your home if your existing pet(s) get along well with others. However, new pets add new (and often unforeseen) complications to relationships between both pets and people. You need to be ready to deal with these changes, as well as the training, medical and emotional needs of your new pet. It'll teach the kids responsibility. Would you trust...
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