Golden Retrievers Speak: Should You Get One of Me?

Josh:   Of course you should!   Duh!

Jeter:    Why is this a topic of discussion?  Why wouldn’t you want one?

Me:   OK, I understand – the three dogs in this house have it made.  But this is like a baseball fan telling a non-baseball fan “Of course you should love baseball!”   There could be people reading about your experiences who want to know if they should actually move forward and consider adopting a Golden Retriever.    So take that approach….

Josh:  Gotcha.    Dogs of my breed are known to be great family pets – big dogs with clown-like personalities who can keep you entertained with our craziness one minute before cuddling up next to you to watch TV.  We easily adapt to your lifestyle, but we love having people around.   We love to do things.   If we get bored, we will find something to do – typically at the expense of something you would rather us not get into.   For me, it was digging holes in the backyard when I get bored.

Jeter:   I am a people dog.  I admit it – I truly do not like it when I don’t have people around me.   That comes from my upbringing. My mommy and daddy both work from home, so they are usually around.  And if they do go out without me, I have always had another dog in the house with me.  I’ve never been alone in this house.

Alanis:  My first family was your typical working family with kids who went to school, so I have more experience being alone for a while at a time.  I adapted to that lifestyle, but love my new family as there is always a person or a dog around me.

Josh:   If you are thinking of getting one of us (well, not us – my family would never allow you to take us!), remember that we do like to be around people.  That doesn’t mean you need to be around us 24/7.   Like most dogs, we can adapt to your schedule.  But if you are a family that leaves at 8 AM every morning and doesn’t come home until 9 PM, that is going to be rough on us, unless you hire a dog sitter.

Jeter:  We are also a very playful breed.     We love our tennis balls and love to play a good game of fetch.   If you only bring one of us into your household, remember that it will be up to you to keep us exercised and fulfilled.  We can certainly entertain ourselves, but we can also get to be a bit lazy if you let us.

Josh:   When I was the “only” dog, I would entertain myself (and hopefully them!) by running around the house, flailing a big turtle toy (typically ripping it apart within a few weeks of getting a new one).   But, as I said above, I would also dig holes in the yard if I needed to let some energy out.  My parents learned that even though I am a bit calmer than a typical Golden, I still needed to be exercised.  To be exact, being calm means I needed to be exercised more.  Why?  Because I could easily get lazy.

Jeter:   Walks can be a big help.  My daddy takes us for walks very often for 40 minutes up to an hour.   Nobody is saying you have to do that, but even a nice brisk walk around the block can do wonders.

Alanis:     Also remember that our coats can tend to be gnarly if they aren’t properly taken care of.   Brushing our coats every now and again can keep nasty tangles at bay.

Josh:  In this house, that was always especially true of me!

Jeter:   Yep.  I have a great coat – even if it doesn’t get brushed, it tends to stay very clean and easily managed.

Alanis:  Mine is somewhere in between!  Last time I went to the groomer, she essentially needed to cut all of the hair around my butt.  I was a bare butt dog.

Jeter:  That was funny.

Josh:  Also remember that we can have some medical conditions.  We are prone to having bad hips (me!).    The dreaded “C” word is also prevalent in our breed.  Most of us won’t get struck by these conditions until later in life, but be aware of the fact they are more common in Golden Retrievers than most breeds.

Jeter:    Don’t let that force you to stay away from  us.  We are just like humans.  Some humans can live until they are 100 without a single surgery in their lifetimes, while others can unfortunately get struck with cancer as babies.   While you certainly should take medical worries into consideration, remember that most of us will live a normal Golden lifespan.  A lifespan that would certainly be longer if not for those potential issues.

Alanis:     There aren’t any certain ways to prevent cancer in our breed, just like you can’t 100% prevent it in a human.  But a strong diet, exercise, and regular vet visits can reduce some of the risk.   A strong diet can also help when it comes to issues with arthritis.

Josh:   Of course, that didn’t help with my arthritis, which I developed early in life despite my outstanding pedigree.   Stuff happens – as dogs, we just smile and move along.

Me:    If you want an active breed that is typically great with kids, a Golden Retriever ranks high on the list of dogs you should consider.   Given their sweet dispositions and overall beauty, it is easy for families to fall into the trap of adopting or buying a Golden without doing full research.  They are active dogs that can cause some destruction if they are bored.     They will need training.  I would never say a fenced-in yard is a must for any dog, but it definitely does help.  Some Golden rescue operations may not even consider you unless you have a fence on your property.    The breed can get to get big (over 100 pounds in some cases, though none of our dogs are that big), so keep that in mind.  If they are very playful, they have the potential to knock over a small child.    Overall, they are one of the most popular breeds in America for a reason – they are wonderful, friendly dogs.   If you are active family, they will fit right into your lifestyle.  If you live a calmer existence (which my wife and I certainly do!), they will adapt to that lifestyle.     If you go to a reputable breeder or rescue organization, they should tell you flat-out whether a Golden is right for you.   And if so, they should be able to match up your lifestyle to one of their dogs.    Just enjoy the process from start to finish and you will have many happy years to spend with your pup.

Golden Retrievers Speak: To Crate Or Not to Crate

Josh:    I was brought into this house the day before my mommy needed to finish up all of her Christmas shopping.  Suffice to say, I was going to be home for hours by myself.   My parents had not yet purchased a crate (they did it that day), so I was given access to most of the house on my first full day of living here.  This could have been a disaster, as I am a Golden Retriever and we can get quite bored very quickly.    Thankfully (for them), I didn’t get into any mischief at all. Nothing was broken, nothing was eaten, and I didn’t have any accidents.

Jeter:   That is quite amazing!   When I first came home, they had a crate all ready for me – I was going to be a crate trained dog.   I would spend many nights inside my crate, and I was enthusiastic about going in it to go to sleep at night.  It became a part of my routine….

Josh:   They never did get around to actually crate training me.   To be exact, daddy took the crate out of the box and placed it on the floor.   The next morning, I proceeded to pee all over it.     I guess that was the end of that experiment.   They were very lucky with me.    I wasn’t a destructive dog when I was bored – at least not INSIDE the house.

Jeter:     You will likely forever be the only dog they have that was never crate trained….

Alanis:  I came to this house crate-trained.      Daddy made the big mistake, however, of going food shopping without putting me in my crate.  I chewed a big hole in their drywall and ripped apart couch cushions.    He learned quickly that I needed to be in my crate for the sake of the house and for my safety.  Nowadays, I don’t go in the crate every time they are out, unless they are going to be out for a while.   I do love my crate, though…

Jeter:  Your crate is one of those closed-in crates.  I have one of those metal, open crates.    I no longer go in my crate, but I liked not being closed in.

Alanis:  I like being closed in.   It gives me the feeling of being in a nice, safe cave.   Just like my ancestors.

Josh:  You two are crazy!    I have always had FREEDOM!  Do you two not get it?   What fun is there in going inside of an enclosed structure with no place to go?

Jeter:  But what is the difference, old man?   All we do is sleep when they are away, anyway.

Alanis:   Yeah, I am no longer destructive – we just all find our own little spots and go to sleep.  Well, except for Jeter – he doesn’t like it when there aren’t people around him.   Needy Middle Child Syndrome.

Jeter:  I’m needy?  That’s a laugh.  Which dog is the dog that has to BARK every single time she needs attention?  Every single time we are fed?  Every single time she wants to come into the house?   Every single time she sees a person or a dog when we go for a walk?    There is a reason why you are the diva of this group – and it isn’t just because you are a girl.

Alanis:  WOOF!

Josh:  OK, enough of this.   You two have freely accepted being locked in a cage, while I told them on Day 1 that I was having none of it.

Jeter & Alanis: at the same time:   But, I kind of like it……..

Me:   First of all, yes – that is Jeter in the picture above, “waving” at Josh. Anyway, I strongly recommend crate training your dog.   Dogs love having a safe haven where they can go when they are scared.   People like having the piece of mind that their house won’t get destroyed if they are gone for hours.     If you transport your dog around the country, having them in a crate in your van can keep them (and you!) safe.    Crates are also essential in housebreaking, as dogs have an instinct to not soil where they sleep.  Hence, they are likely to learn more bladder control.     DO NOT USE A CRATE AS PUNISHMENT!  One sure-fire way to make sure your dog will come to despise their crates is if you throw them in there against their will because you think the dog did something bad.  Crates need to be a safe haven and a fun place for them to want to go.   More information can be found here.  

Golden Retrievers Speak: Off to the Vet!

Josh:  Oh, the dreaded yearly checkup at the vet.    When I was younger, I was the best dog in the world at the vet.  I was calm.  I would let the vet do whatever they wanted to me with a smile on my face.   Nothing bothered me.  Sure, I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.  Sure, I would jump on my daddy when I got nervous.   Overall, however, it never did quite bother me much.  It was just a major inconvenience.

Jeter:   If only I was like Josh!  The vet terrifies me.  Not the doctor herself – just the entire idea of going to the vet.  I get panicky.  I am not a vocal dog at all – I rarely bark and I rarely cry.  If I get accidentally closed into a room, I don’t cry to come out – I just sit by the door and wait for someone to get me.   When I bark, I can’t even sustain it like most dogs –  I let out a few before stopping.   However, when I go to the vet, I do cry.  I jump on my daddy, and I want nothing to do with going into one of the dreaded rooms….

Alanis:  I know you are all going to call me strange, but I am used to that by now.   It isn’t that I actually love the vet, but I sure do act that way.  I look at it as I look at everything in the world:   A play session!  I try to go behind the receptionist desk to play with the people back there.  I try to play with the vet techs.   I bark like a lunatic, like I always do when I am actually excited.  I don’t push or pull to leave – I walk into the dreaded office as if it is a playroom.

Jeter:  You are one strange dog – I can’t even.    The worst thing about going to the vet is that someone, a LONG time ago, put the dreaded “WILL BITE!” sticker in my chart.   My daddy swears I have never bitten a soul at the vet.  The indicator was put in there a long time ago – the entire staff has changed since then – but we have no idea how or why it got there or how I got the stigma.  There is no doubt that I hate it there and that I need to be held for when they take my temperature or draw blood.    But BITE?   Never.

Josh:   That is strange, indeed.    Probably my funniest story (which wasn’t funny at the time!) is when there was a grooming accident at home – my owners accidentally cut me as they were grooming me.   As the story goes, I had blood on my fur but pretty much didn’t complain one bit.  I didn’t yelp or “shout” in pain.  I didn’t cry.  I acted as if nothing at all happened to me.   My parents didn’t call the emergency room that night, but they did take me in the next day.  I needed to go into surgery to get some stitches on the wound.  Daddy didn’t tell my mommy that I needed to go under for the stitches – didn’t want to panic her.  I came out of it all just fine……..

Jeter:  That indeed was a scary story that became just another tidbit about Josh – the happy-go-lucky dog that never complains.

Alanis:   I don’t really have any funny vet stories just yet…..

Jeter:   I don’t really have one either – other than the gross stuff.  When I was younger,  I was unable to “express” myself when I pooped.  I was prone to scooting because of this.  Daddy had to bring me to the vet fairly often so that they could work on those anal glands!   I guess somewhere along the way, my body started to do it since I never have to go to the vet for that purpose anymore.

Josh:   How about the leg injury?

Jeter:  Well, yeah – when I was really young, I was playing ball with my daddy.  I started limping badly on one of my legs, so he rushed me to the vet.    By the time the doctor saw me in the office, I was no longer limping!    I was acting as if there was nothing wrong with me at all.  The doctor decided not to do any kind of x-ray because I was acting fairly normal.   It is possible I simply strained a ligament………

Alanis:  You two are full of stories!   Maybe one day, I too will have a good vet story!

Me:   Boring is good in this case, Alanis!    Just like kids will be kids, dogs will be dogs.  They will injure themselves.  They will have days where they simply don’t want to eat for reasons you are not likely to figure out (especially if it is a benign reason!).   They will have days where they don’t want to play or be active.    When you own a dog, observe them closely.   Even dogs who are of the same breed will have unique characteristics about them.    Something that may raise an alarm bell about one dog may be more common for another.  A perfect example in our house:  Jeter has always been an active dog.  So when he is lethargic, we know something is wrong.    However, even in his younger days, Josh had a tendency to be a calmer Golden Retriever.  A day of Josh not wanting to play was not really concerning.     I have said this a few times in this blog:  KNOW YOUR DOG.   Don’t panic at every little thing that is out of the ordinary, but also don’t gloss over an obvious change in behavior.    As for shots, talk to your vet about how you want to go about keeping your dog protected from disease.  Rabies will always be mandatory, though in recent years, they have developed a 3-year shot for that disease.   Other shots are also now going the 3-year route.   A good vet is not going to force vaccinations down your throat.  A good vet will work with you to offer the best care for your dog.  Studies on vaccines are always being conducted.  Do your research and make the best possible decisions you can.   You may also want to look into titer testing, a test that is designed to see if your dog is still immune to the diseases a vaccine is trying to guard against.  (Full disclosure:  I have never done any titer testing for my dogs, but have considered it).    Obviously, i am completely in favor of taking your dog to the vet at least once a  year just to get the basic wellness.  Just like with humans, that one trip to the doctor can save their lives if something underlying is going on within their bodies.

 

 

Golden Retrievers Speak: It’s Snowing!

Josh:   When I was younger, I loved the snow.   Whenever it would snow, I would run around outside like a goofball, prancing over any snowbanks in the yard.  I also had this tendency to roll around in it, to get myself nice and wet – after all, I didn’t have to clean myself when I was done!  That was for my parents to do.   As I got older, I would still roll around in it, though I was no longer the goofball I once was.

Jeter:   Only a few months or so after I moved in here, we had a blizzard.  It was crazy.   Daddy had to put Josh and myself out on that crazy night, and went into panic mode when Josh essentially lead me to a blind spot in the yard where we couldn’t be seen.   I am not sure how we got back into the house (I am sure Josh simply lead the way for me to follow), but what was fun for us certainly was not fun for daddy.   That also was the first night where I was allowed to stay out of my crate all night long.   It wasn’t the last time I was able to do that, but it was nice to spend the cold, wintry night with my family.  Daddy didn’t let us back out until the next day though.

Alanis:  The big snowstorms they are talking about are storms I have not yet really experienced here.  I understand that down the Jersey Shore, we can get hit with some monster storms due to all of the moisture coming off of the ocean – but they are quite rare, as many such storms turn into rain events if they form at all.   Today, I experienced a nice 8″ storm though, and I was having a blast.  My mommy commented that she got a bit nostalgic for Josh, because I was acting like Josh used to act in the snow – running around like a crazed lunatic without any cares in the world.   Maybe someday I will experience a big blizzard, but this storm was perfect for me….

Jeter:  She really was crazy today.  While she was doing that, I was actually laying down in a big pile of snow on the deck – with the junco birds, who weren’t all that scared that I was laying there (until I moved, of course!)

Josh:  I just watched from inside the house – no real motivation for the snow.  Nice and toasty inside the house, where I can eat, drink, and just sleep.   That is the most important thing in my life nowadays – sleep.

Alanis:  I wish I was around when Josh was crazy in the snow.  We could have had so much fun!

Josh:   I think fences would have been broken.

Jeter:  I was never like that in the snow – I do like to eat the snow and dig through it, though.  Especially if I know there is a tennis ball beneath it all.  I also will pull out sticks and chew on them.   Interestingly, I never do this when there are sticks randomly laying around the yard.  I only do it when there is snow!

Alanis:  Daddy didn’t play ball with us in the snow today.  Lazy daddy!

Jeter:  He claims he is still getting over an illness and didn’t want to expose himself to the conditions….

Alanis:  Yeah, right.  He just didn’t want to be bothered.  But we made our own fun.  We were out there for at least a half an hour on two different occasions today……

Jeter:   I am exhausted from it all, to be honest – I am going to go take a nap now so that we can play at 1 in the morning and drive them crazy as they are watching the Dummy Box!

Alanis:  My favorite part of the day……..

Me:   Dogs seem to LOVE snow, and it certainly can make things easier for owners who are looking for ways to exercise their dogs.   They pretty much take care of it all themselves by rolling around in it, running through it, etc.  I am getting over a cold, but in the past, I have been able to keep them occupied simply by throwing a tennis ball in a snowbank.  They would dig through the snow, trying to find it.    Just like with children, dogs consider a “snow day” a fun treat, and there really aren’t many precautions to take.  Obviously, you want to make sure they don’t overdo it, and watch for any signs that they are getting lethargic or feeling too cold to stay out there.   Dogs like Golden Retrievers are built for these elements, though – and you really shouldn’t have to worry about much of anything, other than an injury as they run around.   Enjoy days like these with your pups – they don’t get too many of them in their lifetimes, unless you live in Alaska.    The days will give you memories that can last a lifetime, just like the memories we had today of Josh back when he would run in the snow like Alanis did today.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Loose Doggie!

Josh:   A topic I can sink my teeth into – roaming and (nearly) getting lost.   When I was young and mobile, I was able to sneak out of the yard three times!

Jeter:  I got out a couple of times – once when daddy threw the ball over the fence and didn’t even realize he did, and once when a trick-or-treater rang the doorbell!

Alanis:  I had one try at being an escape artist, but didn’t get far…

Josh:  The first time I got out was due to a fire in the front yard.   Someone knocked on the door, and my daddy ran outside to see the fire at the edge of the lawn.  In his haste, he opened up the back gate, and you know where this is going – he left it open!   Within a few minutes, I roamed outside the gate, only to hear my mommy frantically screaming for me (more on that later in daddy’s summary).  I ran back into the house, and thankfully, the fire didn’t get very far.    The second time, my daddy (who is full of fun stories of his complete incompetence) was getting ready to mow the lawn…and again, left the gate wide open for me to walk out of.  Next thing he knew, I was all the way down the street (and this is not a quiet street….).  He yelled and told me to come, and I obliged.   The third time, the guy reading the meter came into the yard to get a closer look and didn’t close the gate.  I again wandered outside, but this time, I only went into my neighbor’s yard.  My Mommy saw me and I ran back into the house.  All three times, I was the only dog living here.    Those were the days…..

Jeter:   Much quieter days, I am sure.     Josh always had a roaming tendency – he liked to see the world!  Me?  I am the type that wants nothing to do with being alone.   My daddy once threw the ball over the fence without knowing it went over.   I came back without a ball and he told me to go get the ball, so I obliged by digging under the fence (I was still very tiny!) and grabbing the ball.   I just sat there after I got it – no incentive to move away at all until he got me.  The second time was more exciting!  A group of kids came for trick-or-treat, and as soon as daddy opened the door, I bolted.   I just wanted to play though.   Within a minute, my adventure was over.    Those are the only two incidents in my entire lifetime!  I am too attached to people and my dog pack.  I seriously have no drive to wander away.

Alanis:   No, you don’t.  You hate being alone – if mommy and daddy dare leave the house without Jeter, may as well get the violins out, because Jeter is going to mope.    Anyway, one day, my daddy was outside talking to a neighbor who was at their window.  I heard him and essentially ran run through an opening in the fence!  As soon as he called my name, I stopped and ran at him to greet him.   I am certainly the type of dog they have to keep a close eye on – not that I WANT to get out, but I am so hyper and insane that nobody knows what would happen if I actually DID get out!

Jeter:  You’d probably run up and down the street, barking look a lunatic.

Josh:    And likely eating anything that is on the ground – whether it be rocks, leaves, acorns, or heck – she may even try to eat the black top in the street if given enough time.

Alanis:   I am who I am….

Jeter:  One strange dog is what you are…..

Alanis:  No denials here.

Me:   I don’t care who you are – you have likely dealt with “loose doggie!” at least once or twice in your lifetime.  And I know exactly what the instinct is:  Run after the dog!   Right?  You don’t want the dog to get hurt, so you run after them, screaming at the top of your lungs.   You wonder why the dog keeps going AWAY from you as you do this!  The answer to that is simple:  He thinks you are playing with him.    Do you want to get a dog to come back to you?  if they are still in your sight, the easiest way is actually the exact opposite:  Get down on their level – sit down, lay down, whatever.  Don’t shout and scream. If you have a solid “COME” or “TOUCH” command in their vocabulary, use it!    The dog should eventually come back towards you.  If the dog is out of your sight, that is another good time for the “COME” or “TOUCH” command.   If all else fails, and you can’t find your dog, the good old-fashioned hopping in the car will have to do.   There are also several groups out there (many on Facebook!) who are Lost Dog specialists.   People who find lost dogs will often take them to the nearest shelter.    If your dog is away for an extended period, call the shelters.  I would even recommend you go to a shelter, if possible, to check out all the dogs who were recently brought in.   Dogs CAN change in appearance rather quickly!      And one last piece of advice for you:  Get your dog chipped, as that is the FIRST thing a shelter or a vet will do if a lost dog is brought to them – check to see if they have a chip!    

Don’t feel like a terrible dog parent just because your furry friend got loose – it is a part of their instinctive drive.  Just try to find them as soon as possible, and take whatever safeguards you can to help avoid the incident from happening again.   

Golden Retrievers Speak: Going for a Walk

Josh:   When mommy and daddy first brought me home, I wasn’t very good at the walking thing.   I would keep my head to the ground for pretty much the entire walk, refusing to look up at the world around me.    I was interested in the occasional squirrel, but for the most part, if I put my head any lower, I would have bloodied my nose!

Jeter:  Daddy started me off slowly with walks – he would walk me around the block slowly, just to get me used to it.    He found out quickly that, just like with training class, I was a natural when it came to walking.    I would pull on my leash if I saw a squirrel or cat, but for the most part, I stuck by his side, refusing to get too far ahead.   My daddy would often stand back a bit to let me get ahead, and I would just stop and look back at him.

Alanis:  I was a bad walker at first.  A very bad walker.   I would often walk down the street and stop in my tracks.   There were certain streets I refused to walk down for reasons only I knew.    After 15 minutes or so, I was ready to go home.  For the first several weeks, he refused to cross over busy roads with me in fear that I would stop dead in my tracks, so we stuck very close to the neighborhood.   I would pull and tug at the sight of another animal, and I would bark uncontrollably if something bothered me.

Jeter:  I can attest to all of this, since Alanis is my walking partner!

Josh:   Suffice to say, due to my immobility, I don’t go on walks anymore.  There was a time when I would go with Jeter for the first walk of the day, and Jeter would go with Alanis on the second walk of the day.

Alanis:  Correct, Josh!   Jeter would get TWO walks while we would get ONE!  And they say there aren’t any favorites!

Me:   To be fair, Jeter is the most enthusiastic walker in the house and giving him a double walk always worked out well.  Nowadays, Jeter and Alanis just go for one long walk…..

Jeter:   Thanks, Daddy…..of course, during one of those Alanis/Jeter walks, we had what is famously referred to as the “Raccoon Incident”.

Alanis:  Funniest freaking thing ever!    Middle of the day, broad daylight, and Daddy walks right into the path of a rabid raccoon!   I understand he has a knack for some weird stuff happening to him – but this was really weird!

Jeter:  The jackass started running away from the critter, and feel squarely on his right shoulder, spraining it.  Thankfully for him, Alanis and I scared away the raccoon AND neighbors saw the incident (if only they got video!) and were able to come out and save Daddy (and us, who Daddy lost control of when he fell!)

Alanis:  This still makes me laugh – I know, it isn’t funny.  Yet, it is.   Daddy going to the emergency room over a raccoon!

Josh:  I wish I was there to see it.  Knowing me, I would have sniffed the raccoon and walked away.   Anyway, back to my original story, I eventually figured out “how” to walk.   For the next several years, I would hold my head up high when I walked, prancing along as if I didn’t have a care in the world.  My Daddy would always comment that if we didn’t live in a busy area, he could walk me without a leash.

Jeter:  I have essentially maintained my walking discipline, though I have figured out that if Daddy lets me go ahead of him, I should just keep prancing along – I have gained a lot of confidence.  And yes, even at seven, I still get very excited over squirrels and cats.   I am not fond of other dogs though.

Alanis:  Yeah, Jeter can get a little snippy if another dog enters his “space”.

Jeter:  I will warm up to a dog eventually, but people need to understand that it makes me nervous.  I know I am a cute, happy Golden walking down the street, but I have some insecurities, just like everyone else!

Alanis:  I am like Josh used to be – I want to socialize with everything, though I do it through barking, which tends to scare people more than anything else.  I am trying to be friendly!

Jeter:  Funny, isn’t it?   People are more afraid to approach Alanis with their dogs because she is barking, while they look at me as being more “dog-friendly” because I am quiet.     If only people would first talk to my owner before approach!

Me:  Indeed, Jeter.    Jeter is obviously a fantastic dog – but he gets nervous if strange dogs invade his space and will get a bit snippy.   If you have a dog like this, try to keep the dogs apart the best you can.   (Especially if the approaching dog is loose!).   KNOW YOUR DOG!  If you have an Alanis-like dog, explain to the other owner that the barking is more of a “Look! I’m here!” bark than a “Get away from me!” bark.   If you have a dog like Jeter, explain that your dog doesn’t like being approached and if you want them to meet, best to do it in a more controlled environment first, or to let Jeter do the approaching.   Also remember to watch the body language of the OTHER dog.  Sometimes, owners simply do not know their own dogs, and think they are friendlier than they actually are.    I have often turned my dogs in the other direction if I see another dog walking towards me.     I do that for safety reasons, mostly (I am walking two big dogs, after all!).  If a loose dog comes at us, I stay very calm and just try to keep the stray dog and Jeter apart, if possible.   As I said above, it all comes down to one big principle:   KNOW YOUR DOG.  

As an aside, the “raccoon incident” happened in August, 2015.  I still have lingering affects in my shoulder, but it is probably 99.9% healed.   If you get into this situation, you will have to use your best judgement – a raccoon in the middle of the afternoon is NEVER a good thing.   You also want to watch out for deer (especially if it is a mommy deer and you see her babies nearby), etc. Be alert of your surroundings and you should accomplish a healthy, fun walk for both yourself and your dogs.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Training!

Josh:   My daddy never took me to a training class, so I guess I don’t have much to say here.   I came to them as a trained 18-month year old dog.

Jeter:   Training was my specialty!   The first class I went to, I was scared to walk into the room.  My daddy picked me up, and the trainer instead shouted at him to put me back down again.

Alanis:    I was also afraid to walk in the door the first day – the difference is that I was already too big to pick up!   They needed to lure me into the building.  Interestingly, it got to the point later on where I never wanted to leave the building once I was in!

Jeter:   On my first day, I had trouble with the “down” command.   Daddy thought this was going to be a process…little did he know….

Alanis:  On my first day, I did a lot of barking and very little listening.   I was a bit of a handful, to say the least.

Jeter:   Well, you still are a handful.    Interestingly, after I finally learned the down command, something clicked in my brain.   I suddenly became an obedience savant!      I started learning (and remembering!) commands on the first try.    When they taught me “Leave it!”, I picked up on it in an instant.    I wouldn’t break a “Wait” command regardless of the temptation they put in front of me.  I became the teacher’s pet.  If my Daddy wasn’t such a klutz (I knew the commands better than he did!), who knows what I could have been?   To this day, I still know my commands even if they aren’t used often.   A few weeks ago, my Daddy yelled “Look!” at me while I was laying down, and I instantly turned around and looked at him.  He hadn’t used that command in YEARS.

Alanis:   Yeah, yeah – I heard all about you, Jeter.   Stuff of legend, I guess.  I am legendary in my own way!   My trainer has told me that I am very lucky that I found my current Mommy & Daddy, because many people wouldn’t be able to deal with my insanity and quirks.  I don’t learn commands on one try, but once I do learn them, I want to do them over and over again.    An object I hate one week can suddenly become one of my favorite objects the next week.   I know 35 or more words, but can’t do obedience at the Jeter level (who can?).    I love to work.  I am at my happiness when I am in work mode – even if that is nothing more than chasing a toy (or wrestling around with Jeter).

Jeter:  I am very enthusiastic about pleasing my owners.   You tell me to sit and stay, I won’t move until you let me – whether that is ten seconds later or five minutes later.     Obedience is very important to me – just like a properly placed colon is important for an editor.

Alanis:   It is tougher for me – I can’t hold commands like Jeter does.   I am more into the tricks, and using the tricks as a way to keep me disciplined.  You have to make things interesting for me – and don’t overdo it, or else I will stray off course.   If you work hard for me, I will work hard for you in return.

Jeter:   You are definitely more of a tricks dog than an obedience dog, while I am more of the opposite.  I know my tricks, but I seem to gain more joy by successfully holding a wait command for a few minutes.  That gets me very excited, for reasons only known by my brain.

Alanis:   One thing is for certain:  We will both do ANYTHING for food!

Jeter:  That goes without saying….

Me:  I strongly recommend training!   Josh came to us mostly trained as an 18-month old dog, but to this day, I wish I would have taken him to  a training class.   The classes are great for bonding with your dog, in addition to teaching them commands that could potentially save their lives if a bad situation presents itself (dog gets out of your yard, dog approaches food they shouldn’t eat, etc.)   While training facilities are typically better than going to a brick-and-mortar store like Petco, the most important thing is finding a class for your dog, regardless of where that may be.   If you have a young dog (or puppy), you will probably start in Puppy Kindergarten.   If your dog is a little older, you may be told to start them in a class that is a little more advanced than Kindergarten.   You can also hire someone to come to your house for personalized lessons – this can be very handy for a dog that wouldn’t do as well in a “traditional” class.  Some dogs are just not good in an environment where there are several other dogs.     If your dog came from a shelter, it can take them a while to get fully accustomed to you and your home.     A good trainer will assess your dog before coming up with a good training plan.   Makes sense, right?   If your car stops running, a mechanic won’t just jump under the hood and rebuild your engine.   He first needs to find out WHY the car isn’t running.   If your dog is not adjusting to your home the way you hoped, you would want a trainer to first assess WHY that may be before jumping into a way to correct it.  

A solid training foundation will lead to a more successful relationship between your family and your dog.    Whether you have a Jeter (who figures it all out in one try) or an Alanis (who is always going to need some reinforcement), you will find that you will have a better dog after training than the one you had before training.   That is the ultimate goal.

A New Year’s Message

Josh:   Being the oldest dog in the house, it is up to me to speak for the entire pack.   I want to wish all of you dogs out there – whether you are painted in gold or not – a very Happy New Year!  I once again hope we can, as the most lovable of all creatures, show these humans what true love and compassion is all about.     We can continue to wag our tails vigorously as they yell at their televisions.  We can continue to pant happily as they complain about whatever negative stuff is now showing up on their Twitter feed.   We can laugh about how ridiculous they look worrying over petty stuff (Think about what OUR lives are like, humans!  We often will lay on the floor, panting wildly while doing nothing more than looking at a blank wall.   We are HAPPY in just about every situation – unless you missed our feeding schedule, of course!)       If only people can cherish their time as much as we doggies cherish ours – we don’t know where it began, and we have no concept of it all ending.   All we know is what is happening right at this very second, and we are going to live the next second just like we lived the previous one.  Happy!   I wish you all the best, and we will see you in 2017!

Indeed, Josh.  Indeed.   Although New Year’s Eve is not quite as scary for dogs as the 4th of July can be, just remember to keep your dogs safe.  If you live in a neighborhood where fireworks are  a New Year’s Eve possibility, keep your dogs INSIDE until they subside.   A dog freaked out by fireworks can become “Superdog”, capable of hopping high fences or barreling through fences you thought were secure.    If you are having a party, make sure Fido is safe and comfortable – if your house typically doesn’t have much company, he may be spooked/stressed by having so many people at once showing up at the door.     Keep all of that in mind and have a Happy New Year!

Goldens Talk Around the Christmas Table

Josh:   A topic about FOOD?   Now you are speaking my language!   Pass the chicken livers!

Jeter:    I love the holidays – of course, we typically get “extras” every day anyway.  But on the holidays it seems we get even MORE!

Alanis:  How much more did you exactly get, Jeter?   I think it should be told that our parents took JETER to the family get together this year while Josh and I stayed home.

Josh:   I don’t go for rides any more, due to my age and immobility – I am content with just hanging out at home, protecting the house like I have always done.

Jeter:  I only received a few meatballs and Milk Bones….

Alanis:    While we were here, suffering in our hunger…..

Jeter:  Dramatic much?

Josh:  WIll you two stop?  Pass me the beef jerky.

Jeter:   I love these treats for dinner – typically, we get dry dog food and….

Josh:  STOP RIGHT THERE!  The three things we do not talk about around the holiday table are religion, politics, and dog food!   Humans are weird when it comes to debating dog food!  I just want to eat…

Alanis:   I do like the Earthborn….

Josh:   STOP!  Just please stop before you cause The Doggie Apocalypse.

Jeter:  I wonder what Santa got us for Christmas this year……

Josh:  Duh!  Treats and toys!  Have you not figured this out yet?   I am of the age where I am the Grandfather that goes right to sleep after dinner.

Alanis:   I love Christmas gifts!  Especially if they are the type I can instantly tear into a million pieces.

Josh:   Did anyone see the chocolate?

Jeter:  NO CHOCOLATE, Josh!   Remember, those pesky humans have a list of things we shouldn’t eat around the holidays!

Josh:  I know, I know.  I just wish I could sneak a Kit Kat every now and again…..

Alanis:    Milk Chocolate isn’t as bad as the darker stuff….

Jeter:    True, but once we get the taste of chocolate in our brains, we are more apt to want it and crave it.   So, they keep all chocolate from us.

Josh:  Well, not really – they have like 10,000 pieces of chocolate sitting there in the dining room that we were trained to not touch….they are tempting fate.

Jeter:   I am content with cheese, hot dogs, pieces of biscuit, and whatever else they decide to give us.

Alanis:   It still isn’t enough!  (WOOF WOOF!)  I want more treats!  (WOOF WOOF!)

Jeter:  STOP THAT BARKING, diva!

Josh:  Annoying.  Very annoying.

Jeter:  OK, I am done here – everything was good, as always – though strangely, most of it tastes the same.

Josh:  We have about 8,000 less taste buds than humans..but we smell things much better than they do!

Jeter:   Dork.

Alanis:  Why don’t we have a Christmas tree?

Jeter:   Because everyone knows you would likely destroy it five minutes after Mommy decorates it!

Alanis:  OK, OK, enough of this!   Time for presents!   And Josh to take another long nap!

Jeter:  I hope Santa remembered the tennis balls…..

Me:   If you get five different dog owners in the same room, you will receive five different opinions on how you should feed your dog.   I am no fan of the “Dog Food Police”.   I have a simple rule that I think everyone can easily abide by:   Get the best possible food you can that you can reasonably afford.   Criticizing people on what they feed their dogs is pointless – dogs have lived long, satisfying lives living on Mighty Dog and Alpo.  I agree that it is possible those dogs may have lived even LONGER if they had a better food, but that is true of us humans as well.   Don’t drive yourself crazy over this.   If you are interested in dog food ratings, you can try the Dog Food Advisor.    Pay attention to dog food recalls.   Some people like to mix things up from time to time with different brands and what not.  If you do this, do it slowly.  Mix in their old food with the new food to give your dog a chance to adjust.   Currently, my dogs are on Earthborn, Rachel Ray Delish Dish (Mainly Jeter, who also gets her “wet food” once a day), and recently Dr. Foster and Smith.   We have used Wellness, Blue Buffalo, Solid Gold, Nature’s Recipe, and more in the past.  They are all good foods at different price points.   Costco’s house brand also gets praise at a very reasonable price.    I have never done the “raw” diet before, so I can’t comment on that.   As for the holidays?   Use common sense and your dogs will get through them just fine.   Most dogs don’t bother Christmas trees – but use common sense.  Monitor them.  Put a gate around the tree, if necessary.    Most of all, have FUN with your animals during the holiday season – as they say, every day is Christmas for a dog!

Golden Retrievers Speak: Seizures

Since Josh and Alanis have never experienced a seizure, I am turning this blog post over to Jeter, who has experienced two.

Jeter:    The night was going innocently enough.  I was curled in a ball on the couch with my Mommy petting me as they were watching Jeopardy.  This house is a night owl house, so the time was after 3:00AM on a Saturday morning.      Before I continue on, let me flash back to my puppy days.  When I was a puppy, I used to love to play with my food dish.  I would push it around, tap at it, etc.  It was a fun way for me to pass the time!   One night (early morning!), I hit the bowl so hard that it tipped over, sending me in a tailspin.   I started running around the house like a lunatic (my parents thought it was just a case of the “zooomies” – but it was far more than that!   I eventually ran downstairs, went under the couch, and refused to come out.   I was so terrified for hours that they called the emergency vet and I was kept overnight for observation.   The first diagnosis was “focal” seizures – which aren’t all-out seizures, but are still scary and often lead to full seizures.  From that fateful night forward, I was always afraid of noises, and to this day, I can spook my parents by randomly looking at the ceiling.  I guess I just like to mess with them!   Anyway, to get back to my seizure episode, it was during Final Jeopardy, as the theme song was playing, that I went into an all-out seizure.  My parents had no idea what was going on, and my daddy (unfortunately for him) got way too close to me during my episode.  When I broke out of it, I was so terrified that I guess I went into “primitive animal” mode and started lashing out at my daddy, who I know was only trying to help.   Suffice to say, I nearly broke his thumb with my teeth (the blood squirting around the house, which he thought was MINE at first, ended up being his!) and started growling and hissing.   Given my normal sweet temperament, it was obvious this was not normal behavior.  I eventually ran into a dark room as my parents frantically tried to call the Emergency vet.    This time, it was no doubt that I was having a grand mal seizure.    I eventually did calm down, though I was whining uncontrollably, as my parents took me into the vet.  The vet ran some basic tests and came to a preliminary conclusion that my episode was idiopathic, with no obvious cause behind it.     They offered my parents medication, but I am glad they said “No”, as it was only my first seizure.   They did send us home with some shots that can be used if I have a seizure that lasts for several minutes.    I slowly started to regain my personality through the night, though my mommy wanted to make sure my daddy was with us .    It was a very nerve-wrecking night.

My second seizure came months later – again at around 3:00AM during Final Jeopardy!   This time, my parents were more ready.  My daddy stayed a safe distance from me but talked to me in soft, gentle tones.   He had my mommy shut off all lights and the television.    Alanis was placed outside to further reduce the noise, as she started barking hysterically when she saw me shaking.   I broke out of it quickly this time, and was much calmer when I did come out of it.  I was a bit disoriented, but I allowed my family to come near me without any growling or aggressive behavior.  I think their calmness helped me this time – last time, they were so frantic, and I picked up on that.

That seizure was now a few years ago, and I haven’t had one since.  My mommy and daddy still watch Jeopardy…but they mute the Final Jeopardy theme song, as that was the common theme between the two seizures (Interestingly, I was enthralled by that theme song dating back to when I was a puppy – is there a connection?  Only my brain knows).   Since I have two seizures in my history, I am always at risk – but I am not on medication and I am living a normal doggie life without restriction!  Well, I guess I can’t say that – after all, if there weren’t any restrictions, I would eat 24/7 and still not be full!

Josh:   These incidents were scary, but I was my usual calm, mostly oblivious, self.  I just laid down quietly in one of my usual spots….

Alanis:   Seizures scare the shit out of me, and I was so concerned for my brother that I was going crazy with my barking.  My parents had to put me outside.   It wasn’t fun seeing my playmate in distress.

If your dog has a seizure, the number one rule for you is to NOT PANIC!  Panic can actually make the situation worse.   Stay calm.  Let the dog get through the episode.   If you can, time the episode as the doctor will likely ask you about how long it lasted.   If your dog is seizing, you have to protect the dog while not getting too close.  Move any objects that can potentially hurt the dog – if that means pushing away a coffee table, do it!  If the dog is on a bed or couch, just be ready to rush in and break a fall.  Shut down the lights and the television.   Do not go near your dog until it is safe to do so (obviously, if there is an emergency, you may have to get close – juts be careful if you do!).   Your dog may come out of it disoriented – this is not alarming, but just make sure the dog doesn’t hurt himself.   Some dogs break out of a seizure quickly – some dogs take a while to regain their personalities.   Just be patient.   Try to avoid medications unless your dog is having clusters of seizures that are close in time frame.   Even in that case, there is a chance your dog will break out of it.  My dog trainer told me the story of a dog who had multiple seizures in the span of a short period – but never had another one.    This can be frightening, but most dogs can live normal, happy lives even if the seizures are a lifetime problem.