A blog about my life with dogs.......

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pack up

Left to Right: Chula, Scooby, Gypsy and Caly
    This week in blogging I wanted to share some love for the multi-dog household. I called upon friends with dogs to share pictures of their dog crews. Some of these dogs (and their people) I know really well, others I know just a little. I am so happy to know so many different dog families and I invite all whose pictures are featured to share a little info about their dogs in the comment section of the blog if they desire. Some of the dogs featured are flyball and agility athletes while others are couch potatoes. Some were born to breeders and came with papers and still many others are rescue dogs. Some of these dogs regularly share their home with children, cats, rats, foster dogs other pets.
Jasper, Nicki, Zoe, Bridget,and Betty .
     It seems like more and more people are keeping more and more dogs these days. While I've heard friends jokingly say I have "an obscene amount of dogs", having a pack is a lot of fun and more common then ever according to articles in BARK magazine and trends among rescue volunteers and friends. Having a group is also a lot of work. I have this image in my mind of a well dressed woman in make up and perfect hair smiling as she leisurely holds 6 loose leashes. Hey, it could happen! I think more often any of us with 3 or more dogs is likely playing frequent fetch, taking trips to the dog park or other open land where it is safe to run ,and while sure we are taking our crew on leash walks, I think I can speak for the lot of us when I say more often then not we don't take them all out together all the time. Perfect hair? Make-up? Instead maybe a stocking cap and waterproof footwear.

Rayn and Mazy
          Here is how we role in my crew-
Bugsy and Comet walk well together (after much practice) and often accompany me on hikes or long walks
Wonder walks best by herself as her wild enthusiasm seems to be contagious and she excites any dog she walks with. She walks much more calmly if she is the only dog on the only leash in your hand.
Captain can walk with anybody, but he follows the same rules as Wonder, getting excited, pulling and barky if he is with the group. Captain walks best alone or with just Comet or just Bugsy.
Miles is still figuring out that the leash doesn't disappear when he sees a leaf blowing in the wind. I have sometimes walked him with Captain, but he often tackles Captain and chases his butt-fur, which annoys the heck out of Captain.

     While I do occasionally refer to my dogs as a "pack" I more often call them my "dog crew". I hear the word pack thrown around in misleading ways, for example during a trip to the dog park a mans dog ran near mine as we walked around the park and he commented "they really seem to want to pack up". As if a sniff of the bum at a park creates a bond we could call a pack. Or maybe any group of dogs running together is a "pack" when, in that moment, they are together and running. Also because of some TV stars who use the term "pack" we see people saying they are the "pack leader" which to some equates to a status symbol that may or may not involve physical manipulation of your dog such as the "alpha role" a maneuver I have come to believe to be misguided at best. That said, I do think it is imperative that we are leaders in our households and teach our dogs how to enjoy life in this very human world. The term pack when discussing wolves describes a group of related individuals who roam and hunt together.
Posieden and Pandora

Cane and Angel
    However you manage your dogs, one thing is certain it takes a level of management beyond what is needed for any single dog. Any single dog household many feed their dog wherever they like, with out concern for any other wondering dog gulping up food that doesn't belong to them. A single dog household will not have concern for one dog exciting another(and another and....). In the multi-dog household issues of personal space, resource management, frustration tolerance and contagious excitability can all come into play.

    For instance, Comet was a very food aggressive puppy. With work conditioning him that good things happen when when I take food or bones away from him, he has given up the habit of growling and snarling at people to protect things in his mouth. Still Comet always prefers to eat where he can't see another dog, and if no person is watching that is good too. He will carry his food away from others if given that chance. So I feed him away from the group, outside or in a separate room so he never feels he needs to act out protect his food.
Brian and Zelda

     Having an understanding of what motivates or scares each dog is important when managing a group. Learning to understand subtle body movements, like facial tension and eye contact can help you avoid or manage conflict among dogs, but these signs can be anything but obvious.Boning up on your animal behavior knowledge is a big step in the right direction and don't be afraid to seek out professional training advice if you have exhausted the limits of your own knowledge.
Feeling outnumbered? is a great book to start your dog crew learning journey. It's full of helpful tips about how to avoid conflicts for example in high traffic, high arousal areas like the front door, where everybody wants to get out to play. For more reading suggestions to help you manage your pack check out the reading list at the bottom of the blogger page.

Hope, Taylor, Sealy, Julia, Lark and Gracie
     Another important part of managing a pack is understanding that dogs, like humans, change over time. The sweet submissive puppy who easily rolls over for the pushy adult, may one day become a pushy adult himself. When this happens some of us can be taken off guard, so be prepared for changes in your dogs as they move through age stages and physical changes such as going from a small puppy to a much bigger adult dog, or going from an enthusiastic playful adult to a quieter more sensitive senior.
Cambria and Stella

 Preparing  meals

Zeus and Ray
Gretta and Wally
               While I prepare meals my dogs are expected to sit, lay or stand quietly. Pacing, barking, jumping up, trying to steal food as I prepare it or skirmishes between dogs while I prep their meal results in the offending dog being quietly and calmly taken to their kennel or feeding area to wait while food prep is finished. Where each dog eats changes as the dog crew changes. Right now, Miles eats in what used to be Captains kennel in the living room. Wonder Dog eats in her kennel in the living room. Captain eats in the bathroom. Comet eats in the green room(a sitting room essentially) and Bugsy eats in the kitchen near the food prep area.  Each dog is expected to sit, and wait at least a few seconds before receiving an "okay" command from me to begin eating. This is a great way to insert some obedience and patience practice into your daily routine. Bugsy has been doing this so long, that our routine now is I put his food bowl down and walk out of the room (after giving the hand signal for wait) with Comets food. On a few occasions Bugsy didn't hear me say "okay, Bugsy" and I began talking or was distracted and have come back to the kitchen to see Bugsy eying me from his down position with a puddle of drool on the floor. Always, when he begins to eat after I release him I say "good boy, Bugsy". This, among other efforts, builds an association with the words "good boy!" and the happy feeling of chewing on his dinner.  Remember dogs aren't born to understand "good boy!".
Zues, Maggie and Loki

A few of my favorite things-

Zia and Suki

Dog motif daybreak scuffs from L.L.Bean. Seriously comfortable and warm these.....are they shoes or are they slippers? They are both!.....are great for slipping on in a hurry when you are potty training a puppy in the middle of winter.
Duchess and Bandit
Muttroplis, get passed the current website cover photo of a small dog in a dress and check out the great selection of sturdy collars. Search in the "collections" section on the right of the page for "Eco Friendly Dog products" and trust in a great customer service policy. Add some urban flare to your mutts at discount prices by watching for your wish list item to drop to the clearance price under the sale section of the collections category.


When I decided to try hiking with Comet and Wonder together, I was glad I had this EZ step shock adsorbing leash on hand. I nearly ended my hike well before any of us was done hiking because Wonder dog became more and more excited. Omigoodness a rabbit! A squirrel! Another hiker, Weeee! The JRT influence was coming out in spades.  I had to decide to give in and let her pull on her harness/leash and keep on hiking or end the hike. On this day my desire for my own exercise and enjoyment beat out my training goals and we hiked on. Thanks to a shock absorbing leash my back and shoulder didn't suffer the wrath of Wonders erratic behavior that day.

A good story....
     Mazy and Rayn were adopted last fall by newly engaged couple (Congrats!!!) Kellie and Sean. Soon to be first time dog owners the couple visited shelters and Kellie spent a lot of time on the internet looking at Petfinder.com. When Kellie and Sean met their dog-to-be now named Rayn at an animal shelter it was love at first play! Rayn was so happy to interact with them she bounced around quietly. She played with toys. It was clear they found their match. They took her home as soon as the shelter allowed, and on the way out the staff mentioned that Rayn had a sister who would miss her.

     As the days turned into weeks and the couple struggled with the issues a first dog can bring, potty training and chewing issues mostly. When they took Rayn to the vet and got some startling news, Rayn had been shot several times and likely beaten. Several of her broken back teeth had to be removed. The vet said she had received repeated blunt trauma to her face. As the history of Rayns past became clearer and the couple struggled to keep up with the young beagle/coon hound mix the thought of her sister alone in the shelter, and Rayns sad past haunted Kellie.

     Weeks after adopting Rayn, Kellie and Sean returned to the shelter and adopted sister Mazy. Mazy too had been shot, the vet determined. But now, in good health and in a safe home, the two sisters are flourishing. No doubt there was some potty training set backs with Rayn after Mazy moved in when Mazy began her training from scratch, but the two sisters play together and wear each other out better then a neighborhood walk could ever do. From human only house to multi-dog household- congrats to Kellie and Sean for adopting a pair of adorable muttly sisters.


Also, congrats to the Dougls-Cox crew(featured at the top of the page) for their 5th and newest addition Khaleesi who I couldn't help but include here. She is so dang cute!

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