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.

Golden Retrievers Speak: First Night Home

Josh:   My first night home?  This sounds like a good opening topic.  I remember my soon-to-be parents walking through that door up in the mountains of Pennsylvania like it was yesterday.  It was cold and snowy that day, and I heard my former owner say that they may not be able to visit me due to the weather.  I was so sad .  But when that knock on the door came, I went insane!   I was so excited (and nervous) that the first thing I did when I saw my new owners was fart!   Of course, those silly adults first had to sit down and talk about me – to make sure they really wanted me (as if).    My former owner (who gave me up because she didn’t want me to become a show dog, after all!) even left the room so they can discuss it.  I think that discussion lasted two seconds.   My ride from there was filled with more farting and general nervousness.  My new mommy was so sick, and the smell of my farts did not help matters.  When I finally arrived to my new home, everything was so quiet.  The person who helped my mommy and daddy buy this house had left a gift in the house after closing:  A dog bed for when they got a dog.  That became my first ever bed….

Jeter:   I am the only one of these three to come here as a puppy!  I walked into the house, meeting Josh for the first time as it was not required I do so before they brought me home.  Josh instantly took me on as his protegé, and I paid him back by taking away his favorite toy and essentially nagging the hell out of him.    Josh is a gentle giant – but he had a way to make sure I knew my place in this house!   The puppy tests done on me already showed that I was a submissive dog – I didn’t want to take any power away from Josh!   I (like most puppies) mostly slept on my first night here – a lot of that time spent in my crate or outside as they started house breaking me.   I was a pain in the ass in that crate, constantly crying and barking until my daddy came downstairs and slept next to me.    That probably isn’t recommended when crate training a dog, but I was just so irresistible (that is a synonym for “annoying”, right?)

Alanis:   My first night was so much fun!  To rewind, I met Josh and Jeter at a dog park earlier in the day.   Initially, Jeter didn’t like me very much…..

Jeter:   Yeah, yeah – Alanis.  I am not good with meeting dogs for the first time.  Nothing personal….

Alanis:  This is my time to tell a story, Jeter.  Go back to your tennis ball.   Eventually, Jeter started playing with me and that was enough for my former owner to say OK to my new family!   I went home, met my mommy for the first time, and instantly started making my presence known.   That night, Jeter and I played for hours as my parents TRIED to watch TV.   The best part of Day 1 was that I instantly stole my new daddy’s chair and made it my own.   I admit to being quirky, and Day 1 was no exception.  I hated the stairs, and refused to go up them….

Josh:  I can relate, girl!   I lived my first 18 months in a ranch house, so when I first came here, I had no concept of stairs.   Eventually, I made myself up the stairs, but refused to go back down them.  It was very stressful….

Alanis:  Is this how this blog is going to work?  I try to talk and my brothers have to jump in?  If so, I am going to take my diva self and quit this gig right away!

Josh and Jeter:   Get yourself, girl!

Alanis:  Anyway, that sums up my first night in my new home.   I felt very welcome and knew I would have a good life here.

When you bring a dog or puppy into a new situation, they are all going to react differently.   Josh was instantly at ease, but didn’t know what to make of the steps.  Jeter was a puppy so he did what puppies like to do:  Go to sleep.  He cuddled up next to Josh for a while until we put him into his crate.  Alanis was a wild child who also did not take kindly to the stairs.   Dogs can have issues with depth perception when it comes to stairs, so it can take them a while to figure out.   Don’t fret it if your dog doesn’t settle in right away, especially if it came from another home or a shelter.  They need to adjust and essentially “find their way”.   You will be surprised how quickly it happens.