Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interact with your dog to increase your oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone that forms the unshakable bond between mothers and babies and is known to be the human stimulant of empathy, generosity, trust, and more (Paul J. Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University has conducted a lot of research on it).  It's not the same thing as the pain-killer called oxycontin, that's totally different).

Now our friends at Fast Company magazine report on research from Japan showing that oxytocin levels rise in people who interact in an affectionate way with their dogs.  In other words, snuggling with your dog floods your system with the love drug.

But we already knew that, didn't we?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My favorite leash

We fell in love with "European leashes" some time ago because they have clips at each end and a few D-rings sewn into the leash that give you many things you can easily do with the leash that you can't easily do with "normal" leashes. For example, I can clip it to loop over my shoulder diagonally so I can walk my dog at my side, hands-free. I can clip the end around a post which is more secure than tying it. I can slip one clip through a D-ring and suddenly have a dual-dog leash.

If you've taken my classes and have seen my green nylon leash, this is it. We used to buy these leashes from a vendor at major dog shows, in beautiful leather, for about $50 each. They felt like a well-crafted piece of horse tack-- with that great leather smell. My dogs thought so, too, and eventually chewed up every one we had.

My husband discovered these MUCH less expensive nylon versions, and we have several in our house. They are GREAT and I am endorsing them as a raving fan (I get no compensation for this, don't worry). If you're looking for a good leash, this is the one I recommend. It's less than $10. Buy several of them. We do.  And you don't need them to be super-thick (super-thick, heavy leashes are a pain when using a Gentle Leader, and are hard to ladies to handle in our smaller hands).  A well trained dog does not need a gargantuan leash.  These leashes are stronger than I need and are easy to handle.  I love them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Good “café dog” manners

We just spent four magnificent days in Santa Barbara, and almost every meal was eaten outdoors at a lovely restaurant. The tables at these restaurants are very inviting to dog owners, and knowing that registration was open for my “Creating a Café Dog” intermediate training class, I was keen to notice examples of good and bad café dog behavior. Here’s what a I saw:

Owners clueless to their dog’s behavior
The owner was a young man very intent on his laptop screen, while his dog (on a flexi-lead no less!) was walking over to other tables and bothering the diners and their dogs. The owner was clueless to his dog’s location or behavior.

Dogs reacting in a loud and scary way to waiters or other dogs nearby
This dog barked so viciously that a child at a neighboring table started sobbing. The owner should have removed the dog immediately, but this was allowed to go on at least 3 times. This is a great way to get dogs banned from an outdoor restaurant. Sheesh.

Dogs getting wound around the chair and stepped on
Again, a clueless owner. This was a very small dog who looked terrified the whole time and got bumped and kicked around as chairs moved. If the dog is given enough leash to move around, and the owner is not paying attention, it can wind around the chair leg and as soon as the occupant of that chair scoots out, the dog is being dragged with the chair. This can actually be dangerous for a dog.

Dogs laying quietly, watching the action nearby
Yes, this is what we like to see. Non-reactive dogs who can chill out while Mom enjoys the best buckwheat blueberry pancakes this side of the Mississippi (at the East Beach Grill, on Cabrillo Ave., in Santa Barbara. OMG. To die for.)

Dogs positioned out of the traffic areas, under tables or chairs
I take credit for this one. In my class we’ll train our dogs to scoot under the chair (I had my Lab with me that morning) where they’re out of the way of the harried serving staff. As we got up to leave, the people at the table next to us gasped and said they had no idea we had a dog with us, she was so discreet.

Dogs who clearly get out in public a lot with their owners
This goes along with the good behaviors above—a dog has to get out in public a lot with its owner in order to develop the “ho hum, here we are again” attitude that makes a good café dog. The more your dog is out in public (assuming he’s not reactive) the better he’ll become at taking new and potentially scary or distracting things in stride. It’s like a behavior muscle that needs lots of repetitions. This became really evident as I was raising guide dogs and service dogs. Getting them exposed to the world and teaching them to behave appropriately in all kinds of public settings is extremely important and valuable. It’s a bit harder to do this with our own pet dogs but with some effort it’s very do-able.

My "Creating a Cafe Dog" training class will be offered again in the Fall. It's a series of 4 classes designed to create a dog with excellent manners in an outdoor cafe setting.