The needs of your dog will change as he grows older, just like things change for you. As their bodies slow down, they will become less active, sleep more, and have different dietary needs.
Because dogs may need some extra attention and care as they grow older, we’ve compiled some tips for helping you keep your dog as happy and comfortable as possible.
#1 – Understand Dogs Hide Pain
Dogs have a natural tendency to hide any signs of pain or illness. This is due to their pack mentality, in which noticeably weak or sick members might be abandoned by the rest of the pack. So pay a little closer attention than normal for signs your senior pup isn’t doing so well.
#2 – Regular Vet Exams Are Critical
An annual vet visit will screen for any illnesses that are more likely to pop up as your dog ages, and your vet might catch some symptoms of pain and discomfort that you’re unable to recognize on your own.
#3 – Watch Out for Deteriorating Vision
Many dogs will develop cataracts as they age that can lead to blindness, even if they have had perfect eye health earlier in life. Things to look out for include:
having a harder time getting around at night
running into walls or having difficulty jumping on or off the couch
falling down steps or off a curb when walking.
Make sure you have your dog checked out by a veterinarian to make sure there are no other underlying ailments causing the vision impairment.
#4 – Watch Out for Deafness
If you notice that your dog is suddenly ignoring you, or perhaps not coming when he hears you opening his dog food container or greeting you when you walk in the door like he used to, it’s a good idea to get his hearing checked. Loss of hearing is normal in aging dogs, but it’s important to get your pup checked out by a veterinarian to make sure the deafness is indeed a sign of old age and to learn more about caring for your hearing impaired pup.
#5 – Update Feeding Regimens
As your dog ages, her dietary needs will change. Overfeeding a dog during her senior years is a recipe for trouble, as aging bones, muscles, and any arthritic joints will be unable to support the added weight. Check with your veterinarian to get an idea of what sort of dietary needs are required by your dog.
#6 – Note Behavioral Changes
Changes in behavior are often signs of changes in your dog’s body, some of which may be pain and/or illness. You might notice that he’s suddenly aggressive when it comes to being touched or petted. Maybe he’s pacing around aimlessly and can never seem to get cozy in his bed or is acting confused and gets lost in familiar places (signs of dementia). If your dog is showing strange behavior, make the trip to the vet.
#7 – Don’t Rush Into Scolding
If you notice your pup eliminating in the house even though she’s been housebroken her entire life, don’t immediately get upset with her and assume she’s being disobedient. Incontinence is a very real part of aging, and a lot of dogs will experience it as they get older. Once your veterinarian determines that your dog does have incontinence, you can work together to improve the condition.
#8 – Adjust the Comfort Level of Your Home
As our dogs age, they’ll lose muscle mass and bone density. A lot of dogs will also lose some weight. Because of this, it may be uncomfortable for them to rest on hard surfaces. Make sure to provide extra cushioning and beds in all of your most frequented rooms as well as plush stepstools or a ramp to make it easier for your dog to get to higher places.
#9 – Get Your Dog’s Teeth Checked Often
Whether you’ve kept up on routine dental care throughout the life or your dog or not, your dog’s teeth will become weaker as he ages. To make sure there isn’t any painful damage, be sure to keep brushing them and getting them checked out by your veterinarian to detect and keep track of any issues early on as a dental cleaning with anesthetic may be ill-advised.
#10 – Keep Up Grooming
Regular grooming will help keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy, give them a nice scratch and massage, which also helps encourage healthy blood flow. Keeping your dog comfortable is one of the best things we can do as they age, and maintaining their health is important to ensure that the precious time they have left with us is filled with happy, loving days.
“It just doesn’t seem like he really likes his dog, “ I said as the trainer moved rigidly and robotically in sync with the dog at the end of his leash. They were practicing a precise heel, and as they moved through the exercises, the trainer rarely celebrated his dog’s success. Instead, he focused most of his attention on correcting the dog’s mistakes.
Meanwhile, I was frolicking in the ocean with my dog, laughing loudly as he bounded through the waves. I threw the ball, we played, and as we did, we tuned out the world around us.
Granted, I have been accused of liking my dogs too much. But that’s beside the point.
Anyways, every time I saw this particular trainer, he was practicing rigid obedience. He was stoic as he moved, posture stiff and erect, tone steady and somewhat ominous.
The dog moved next to him like a robot. He wasn’t happy. He wasn’t sad. He wasn’t anything really. A pair of unfeeling, unemotional robots moving in sequence in front of me.
There were rewards. But they were lackluster. And the two never played….I mean, REALLY played. They just moved together. Day in and day out. Heeling, sitting, downing. Rewards were applied quietly and rigidly. And corrections were doled out in the same monotonous manner.
Outside of the routine, he didn’t engage much with the dog. He always seemed stiff. Void of feeling or emotion. Never letting his guard down.
In fact, I came to find out that, like many competitors in their sport, the trainer opted not to spend time with his dog outside of prepping for trial. Their relationship consisted of nothing but their sport and their training. And that was all the dog knew.
Occasionally, I saw the dog swing away from his handler in avoidance, the holes in their relationship showing through their robotic routine. A glimpse of emotion clawing its way to the surface in an otherwise emotionless exercise.
I watched them out of the corner of my eye as I loaded my dog in his transport kennel, shifting my attention to my other dog who had been waiting so impatiently for his turn to play. As I approached, he began to wag his tail, the kennel rocking wildly as he did. He spun frantically, brimming with anticipation for what would come next.
I opened the crate door and he waited, pulsing with energy, struggling in that moment to hold the down stay that was commanded of him. With my word, he launched out of the crate, his feet hitting the ground with force, his gaze fixed on me as he nearly crawled out of his own skin with excitement.
We weaved obedience commands in and out of play and games. He was so engaged in what we were doing, he could have cared less about the rest of the world around him. I was his world, our game was his world. This was a stark contrast to his rigid counterpart who moved so methodically up and down the beach. My dog was excited, perhaps too excited at times, and instead of swinging away in avoidance, he consistently punched his toy into me, begging me to play and getting a bit pushy with his demands.
I celebrated him. Snapped photos of his amazing self as I’m so smitten with his face, I can’t help but fill my phone with photos of it. I cheered him on as he swam out to retrieve the toy, and he returned to me with speed, brimming with pride as I celebrated his awesomeness.
The contrast between my dog and the other trainer’s dog was startling.
When did dog sports become so ego driven?
Alright, here’s the rub. As I watch dogs and their handlers day in and day out, I often find myself wondering, when did dog sports become about handler’s egos? I see it all too often. Handler after handler, not seeming to actually enjoy their dog, walks robotically onto the training field to practice their rigid routine. Handler after handler treating their dog like a means to a trophy. Handler after handler, caring more about the next title than the dog that will get them there. Handler after handler participating in dog sports for their own ego and need for recognition.
As such, I see dogs forced to sit in crates or runs all day, never allowed to really live life and just be a dog, but instead living only to compete. I see dogs who are coerced into working, who don’t pulse with energy for the work but only know it as a way of life. A job. Their crate becoming a metaphorical cubicle, and the training field becoming the office that they go to not by choice, but out of necessity.
“We need to shift from control centric to an empowerment centric culture,” my colleagues regularly coach as they visit organizations to teach about leadership development.
As they teach people how to empower their workers, my mind often drifts to the dogs that I watch on the training field day in and day out.
We regularly coach people about the suffocating of innovation that occurs in a control centric environment. In such settings, power resides with a manager, and the manager does everything he can to protect that power. As a result, mistakes are frowned upon and punished, fingers are pointed, and blame is placed. And as a result, innovation is suppressed. Sound like anyone you know on the training field?
Alternatively, my colleagues teach that in an empowerment centric organization, innovation thrives because power is multiplicative, being shared by those that have the most influence – the workers. Mistakes are celebrated as learning opportunities, and employees are confident and continually encouraged.
I often think about dogs competing in high level sports when I hear this portion of the talk. I think back to handlers who seek to control the dog at the end of their leash. I think of the handlers who think that their dog’s mistake is a direct threat to their authority, and the training process becomes a power struggle. And then, in contrast, I think about those dogs whose owners seek to empower them. Those handlers who realize that their success or failure in trial depends wholeheartedly on the dog at the end of their leash. Those handlers who realize that the dog controls everything. And those who seek to empower the dog to make the right choices.
A stark contrast in ideologies that so very well illustrates the power struggles that plague high level competitive dog sports, as well as so many other arenas of our society and culture.
Now I’ll warn you that I swing FAR in the direction of empowerment. Perhaps a bit too far. I have no problem admitting it. Like I said before, perhaps I like my dogs a bit too much.
These control-centric relationships between dog and handler have become an epidemic in dog sports, and more specifically in protection sports. When the dog’s success has a direct effect on his handler’s ego, and training becomes a struggle for power and control, it’s time to reevaluate. This is a sad shift in the sport that results in the destruction of the relationships trainers work so hard to build.
I hate to break it to you but….
At the end of the day, your dog holds all of the power. In trial, your leashes and collars will come off. In trial, when your dog is 30 feet from you, you can’t control anything. In trial, your dog has to make decisions in the moment. Your dog is the one that has the power to dictate your success.
Yes, you must have influence over your dog. And yes, your dog must respect your wishes. I’m not getting all rainbows and butterflies on you. But I am saying that if you think you are in control, you’ve got a big surprise coming.
Relationships are important. And without a solid relationship, I guarantee you’ll struggle through your entire competitive career.
In fact, I’ve watched control centric, ego driven competitors regularly struggle on the trial field, attempting each leg of their respective sport over and over again as their dog makes the wrong choices. I’ve watched them become flustered and angry, and I’ve seen them take it out on their dogs.
But who is really to blame?
You don’t have to swing so far into empowerment centric dog training as I do. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it. But you shouldn’t be in the sport if you don’t love your dog and enjoy spending time with them. To be clear, dog training shouldn’t be a way to stroke one’s ego. Controlling the dog at the end of your leash shouldn’t be your goal. In fact, having a dog is a wonderful gift. It shouldn’t be taken for granted as simply a means to an end, as a way to make a name for yourself, a way to feed your ego, or a way for you to get attention or recognition.
Step onto the field for the right reasons, and have respect for the dog at the end of your leash. Only through the foundations of a relationship built upon trust and respect will your training truly thrive. So be willing to relinquish some control. After all, your dog is the one calling the shots when the collars come off.
Anthropomorphism always makes me think of Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, or The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday: Those sequences of words that twist your tongue. A scientific term that people in the world of dog sports translate as it pleases them. In this case, a dog wearing a fashionable coat, a rhinestone collar and or harness, which is kept in someone’s arms and kissed like a baby the day of baptism, photographed on a pillow of Brocade, with a dress on. A dog turned into a doll, which is even worse than if it had been turned into a human being.
Moreover, there is almost not a day in which someone preaches from the pulpit against the person who “anthropomorphizes” the dog, treating it like a baby, and preventing the poor dog from behaving like a dog. Trouble! Letting the dog jump on the bed. Trouble! Showing affection to the dog! Trouble! Talking to the dog! Trouble! Teaching your dog to do a slalom or to touch a mat with the front feet. Etcetera.
ANTHROPOMORPHISM IS NOT TO DRESS DOGS UP LIKE DOLLS AND TREAT THEM LIKE DOLLS.
ANTHROPOMORPHISM IS TO ATTRIBUTE MOTIVATION AND HUMAN EMOTIONS TO DOGS.
Anthropomorphic means that it has a human aspect, and in case it is not the outward human resemblance, we look at some interior resemblance.
I anthropomorphize my dogs, in both ways. I treat them as components of my family, I talk to them, and I share my house, including my sofa and sometimes my bed. I don’t celebrate birthdays, but I rarely do it even with humans. I don’t buy doll clothes, because anthropomorphizing is not transforming dogs in something to admire and show off, but it is treating them as humans or giving them human characteristics. I also anthropomorphize them by giving them human feelings and motivations. Or rather, the opposite is true; I tend to “caninemorphize” humans, to make people find human motivations and emotions that are similar to those of dogs.
I treat my dogs as family members and I talk to them, because this is our natural way of demonstrating a bond, to build relationships, to express ourselves, to communicate, to feel empathy. In a relationship with a dog, if I love him (or even if I relate with that dog), I am myself. I have learned how to encode clear signals, and decode dogs’ signals, but I am and remain myself. I don’t pretend to be a dog, I don’t growl, to say. I use my sight, voice, body postures, and I remain a person. I caninemorphize people, because for me there is a common basis, a deep root that binds us together in order to form social bonds, to feel emotions. We become more like dogs when we stop applying stupid rules learned from books and dog trainers, and we learn to go uncovered. When we develop self-awareness and self-tuning, and we know who we are in this relationship and really see the other. Dogs go uncovered, and for them there is no other way of being and relating.
BUT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO ANTHROPOMORPHIZE DOGS, EVEN MORE SNEAKY AND HIDDEN.
What happens is that we impose our mindsets to our dogs, even if in a quite unconscious way.
Our vision of the world originates from a specific historical and cultural environment: We are what we have been taught, what we have learned to be.
We learn to repress physical expressions of certain emotional states. We learn not to show emotions, we learn to control ourselves, to lie. All of us have responded, “I’m fine” when we were asked, “how are you?” even though we felt like shit. We are so convinced that there is a “right” way to behave in public, that we apply the same rule to others. Even when others are dogs.
The hidden anthropomorphist is the person who wants to teach a dog to behave as a human, not in the sense of walking with an erect posture, or play a piano, but teach the dog to follow the rules that govern our human society, our culture. The dog must be “calm”, because our society disapproves agitation, loss of physical control in response to an emotional state. Dogs don’t care about the inconvenience caused in humans by their bark, their intensely react to a stimulus. But for the dog owner, or even for the dog trainer, that reaction is “wrong”. The dog must learn to behave “well”.
IF A DOG BEHAVES “BADLY” WHAT IS WRONG IS NOT THE DOG’S BEHAVIOR (OR THE DOG), BUT THE CONTEXT IN WHICH THE DOG IS EXPOSED
Those who want to teach the dog to behave “well”, they are doing nothing more than replicate human cultural patterns, effectively turning the dog into a “small human” which is subject to the same human rules.
We do it all the time. The dog does not have to rummage through the garbage, doesn’t have to jump on us (for a dog, moving its muzzle close to our face is a natural and social way to greet us), it’s not allowed to pull on the leash, it must come back when called upon, it has to pee and poo outside the home (we do it inside our home, that’s not a good example of consistency for our dog…), it must meet any other dog and never react, it must be calm and not bother anyone…
The most incredible thing is that dogs are able to adapt to many of these absurd rules. You should try to keep at home a Peruvian guinea pig. Free. You should try to teach the guinea pig not gnaw on furniture, to pee and poo only where you like it to, to come back on recall every time you want it to come back. Or even try these things with your cat. It didn’t work? So why are you demanding this from the dog? Why do you assume that the dog should do it? Dogs are incredibly adaptable creatures, they have been able to survive in the more complex environment in the world: life with humans. But they’re not human. They are and remain animals distinct from us.
If we really don’t want to anthropomorphize them, in the negative meaning of this word, we should stop expecting them to behave like us, as if they have some moral obligation in behaving the way we like and according to our social and cultural infrastructure.
For a dog, it is quite natural taking food that nobody has claimed, for example, some food that was left on the kitchen table, unattended. It is not a betrayal, not a rude behavior, wrong, to condemn and correct. It’s bloody natural that a dog eats unattended food. The dog can still learn not to take food from the kitchen table. We must work hard to make the dog to learn to inhibit this natural impulse, but if we are consistent, we communicate effectively, and if the dog collaborates, we can succeed it. However, we should be thankful to the dog that doesn’t steal the food from the kitchen. Grateful for what the dog does to please us, even when it makes no biological sense for his species.
Be grateful to the dog, if he comes back on recall.
Be grateful to the dog, if he follows us on a leash.
Be grateful to the dog, if he can stay left alone for hours.
Be grateful to the dog, if he can meet unknown dogs and be tolerant.
Be grateful to the dog, if he can meet unknown people and stand them.
Be grateful to the dog, if we ask him to learn useless behaviors and he executes them when we ask him to.
Be grateful to the dog for his ability to suffer abuses and continue to want to live together with humans.
And if you don’t believe it, try to demand half of what you ask of your dog to any other animal species (humans included).
Text Alexa Capra
Photos Daniele Robotti
COPYRIGHT 2017 DOGS AND MORE SRL – All rights reserved
The dog training world has gone through some fantastic changes over the past 40 years, since I’ve been training dogs. We have learned so much about the psychology of dogs and how they learn, yet I think we have gone too far, in what we are expecting from them.
The science of dog training is not new. I studied it as a Psychology major and am thrilled to see the dog training culture embrace it. It’s based on the psychology of how all animals learn and it’s been around since the Pavlov and Skinner times, the early 1900’s. It’s based on classical and operant conditioning.
What I see happening now, is that the dog training community is teaching much more to dogs than we’ve ever done in the past and what I see, are a lot more robotic dogs who have less and less time to be dogs… do what dogs do. They are competing in sports and there are more dog sports than ever before and while all of this is absolutely fantastic, are we considering if it’s best for the dog? Anything we can do to interact with dogs is important because dogs love to be involved in our lives. In fact, most dogs thrive on having a job and being part of everything we do, but we must pay close attention to and consider which job is best for each dog? Is it agility, herding, parkour, obedience, sports, Therapy work; or is a good hike every day, playing with their best buddies and hanging out with you, all that your dog needs? Is the dog-loving it and thriving? Would you know? Are you fluent enough in dog to know if he’s, indeed, thriving?
Has this gone too far? I tend to think so. Like most things, change takes time and often times when change occurs, we go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and this is what I’ve noticed in the past 40 years in the dog training world. We have gone from dogs are just dogs without feelings and they can just live outside, (never part of my thoughts, by the way); to dogs have feelings and we should never ever do anything to stress them out and control their every move and breath to keep them safe. They are dogs. They are not humans. Some stress is good and necessary, building confidence and character. I am, however, confident that we will find a balance in all this and come around to loving dogs for dogs with fewer expectations.
Many factors go into this high expectation phase.
Trainers and dog guardians are teaching more, which often times translates to controlling dogs to a point of negative impact on dogs because it deprives them of their very nature of what it means to be a dog. Training is an integral part of raising dogs but how much and what kind?
There are more dog trainers than ever before because of the population growth in humans and dogs. We see the benefits of having dogs in our lives, yet we aren’t able to meet there needs because we have less and less time to do so, hence the need for a trainer.
We are a two income family, when in the past, mom was home to raise the kids and the dogs.
Families and kids spent more time outdoors than in today’s techy culture, leaving dogs behind and why we feel the need to come up with ways to entertain them.
We know more about how to train but doing more, may not be best for dogs.
The internet plays a huge part in the training options and ways to keep dogs busy but is busy what dogs need? There’s a group on Facebook for everything under the sun. Dogs have needs but I’m afraid we’re putting our needs onto them and doing so with very high and unreal expectations. They need real human interaction, in the ways dogs like to interact. Isn’t this why we want dogs, in our lives?
There are more toys and games for dogs than ever before. While I am a fan of enrichment for dogs, I’m not a fan of keeping them busy every waking moment of their lives at the expense of allowing them to be dogs, do what dogs do.
In becoming a high tech culture, there are remote training devices that pop treats out for dogs when we’re not home. There’s even dogtv to occupy them. It’s disturbing to me how we have become a culture who is putting human values onto our dogs.
There is also a trend, that was around when I was raising children 40 years ago, that parents should never say ‘no’ to a child. I never understood that and I don’t understand not teaching ‘no’ to a dog as a cue, not as a punishment. ‘No’ used as a cue is the same as ‘leave it’ or ‘drop it’ or that’s enough’. We know punishment that causes pain and fear doesn’t work, isn’t necessary, and causes emotional and physical trauma, but does this mean that we can’t teach a dog that ‘no’ or ‘leave it’ means to stop or leave something alone? If we can teach dogs so much, why is it wrong to teach the word ‘no’ as a cue like any other cue? By the way, I did teach my children the word ‘no’ and I do teach my dogs the word ‘no’. That trend ended after a few years and I hope that this one ends too, with dogs.
Dogs love to play with each other but do they need to be overwhelmed by having to go to day care centers, where there are way to many personalities to tend with? There are very few dogs, who like to play with more than one or two dogs at a time. Why would we expect dogs to like being in a confined space, forced to interact with other dogs for hours on end? Could this be a by product of too busy, guilt and convenience?
I think dogs would be much happier doing what dogs love to do, instead of what we want them to love to do? Finding that balance in our lives to meet their needs without too much expectation will go a long way in decreasing the amount of behavioral problems, afflicting so many dogs today. This is the number one cause for relinquishment to shelters.
I sure hope the pendulum swings back a little bit more, so we can enjoy the balance it will bring, in bringing us closer to our dogs in a more natural doggie-like way.
The author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer and dog body language expert loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. It’s available in iTunes and Google play. Jill has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients and their dogs for 40 years, to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She also does online dog training, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page
Place a small fan with a guard on the floor so your dog can lie in front of it, the air blowing over your dog’s face and body quickly cools the dog down. You will find the dog will open his mouth to feel the air.
Place a cool wet towel inside the dog’s rear leg “this is where the major femoral artery is” this artery will carry the cool blood quickly throughout the dog’s body replace as needed
Place ice blocks in your dog’s water bowl not too many just so that the water is cold but not icy
What NOT to do
Do not place any covering e.g. Wet towels etc. over the dogs back or on their head, as doing this will force the heat internally and can damage the internal organs
Do not submerge or saturate the dog with icy water as this will force heat internally and literally cook the organs
Symptoms of heat stroke
Bright red gums and tongue
Gums feel dry to touch
Thick saliva excessive trembling
Laying down and refusing to get up
Treatment – TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE NEAREST VET ASAP
A dog’s only means of cooling body temperature include limited sweat glands (paws and nose) and panting.
Both are inefficient at cooling the body in extreme circumstances.
Once the core body temperature reaches over 104 Fahrenheit damage to the cellular system and organs may become irreversible.
The saying says to “let sleeping dogs lie.” However, what if your dog doesn’t look like it’s sleeping at all? If your dog runs while sleeping it may look as though it’s more activity sleep than it does during your daily walks. The American Kennel Club reports that dogs sleep for about 12 to 14 hours a day, during some of the dog sleep cycle, it may twitch, jerk or even bark. Seeing this can be humorous, but it can also be disconcerting. Is your dog having a nightmare, or Is your dog simply dreaming about chasing a squirrel? This article explains these strange sleeping dog habits.
What Is Normal Dog Sleep Behavior?
The normal sleeping behavior of dogs involves lots of lounging. Experts aren’t sure why dogs spend so much of their lives sleeping. Puppies may sleep 18 to 20 hours a day because their boundless energy makes them tired whereas older dogs may need more rest just to rejuvenate their bodies. Different dog breeds require different amounts of sleep, for example, larger dogs tend to sleep more than smaller dogs. The amount of sleep that a dog needs is also dependent on the animal’s physical activity. Working breeds might not sleep as much as a pet that stays home all day. However, some dogs sleep just because they’re bored. Make sure that your dog is getting enough stimulation throughout the day to keep him from falling asleep out of boredom. Additionally, dogs that are kept busy throughout the day may sleep better at night. This isn’t necessarily a problem for the dog, but a dog that’s up all night may become a problem for its owner.
What’s Normal For A Dog Sleep Cycle?
Dogs have similar sleep cycles as humans, the length of time for which they stay in each stage differs, however. Dogs stay in REM sleep for about 10 percent of their downtime. Humans, on the other hand, spend about 25 percent of their snoozing time in REM sleep. Do dogs dream? Experts believe that dogs do dream during the REM stage. According to Dog Notebook, the muscles are partially paralyzed during this stage and that’s why your dog might shiver or twitch but not take off running across the house. How frequent are REM cycles? The rate of REM sleep depends on the dog. Smaller dogs may have brief dreaming periods every 10 minutes and bigger dogs may not have as many REM cycles, but they tend to have longer dreams.
What’s Normal for A Dog to Do When It Dreams?
When your dog first falls asleep, it is quiet and peaceful. The animal’s breathing will slow down, and it won’t typically notice what’s going on around it. During this stage, the heart rate slows, and the blood pressure drops. Within about 10 minutes, the dog may enter the REM stage of sleep. During this time, it’s normal for a dog to twitch; the tail may move, or the skin along the dog’s entire body may jerk gently. Sometimes, a dog may move its paws as though it is running. During REM sleep, the eyelids may open, revealing the whites of the dog’s eyes, additionally a dog’s whiskers or lips may quiver, and he may cry out or whimper. If your dog barks in its sleep, it is not necessarily having a bad dream. Barking is one of the only ways that dogs can communicate.
Is Twitching During Sleep Affected by Where Dogs Sleep?
How is the REM stage of dog sleep affected by the location of where it sleeps? Do dogs dream more if they sleep alone or with their owners? If a dog is frequently woken throughout a sleep cycle, it may not linger in REM sleep very long. Therefore, if your dog’s bed is in the living room where the kids are always running around, you may not see your dog dreaming very often. However, that dog may sleep more often to try to make up for the lack of REM sleep.
Dogs that sleep through the night with their owners or in their crates may fall into REM sleep more easily. If your dog sleeps with you, you may wake up to its movements or cries. Where should your dog sleep? That’s up to you.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Dream and a Seizure?
According to Pet Wave, there are several ways to tell the difference between dreams and seizures. During a dream, a dog’s eyes may be open or closed, or they may flicker open from time to time. During a seizure, a dog’s eyes are usually wide open, like a deer in headlights, with a blank look in its eyes.
Dreaming happens only while dogs are asleep; seizures can happen at any time. They can even occur during moments of alertness and activity. The motions that the body makes during a seizure tend to last longer than the short bursts that occur during a dream. Also, during a seizure, the body goes rigid; during a dream, the body often looks playful and relaxed. The movements associated with a seizure are also more violent than those that happen during a dream.
When having a seizure, dogs may foam at the mouth, vomit, urinate or defecate. This shouldn’t happen when dogs are dreaming. Dogs that are having seizures will be impossible to wake up until the seizure is over. Although it may be hard to wake your dreaming dog, it’s not impossible. If you do try to wake a sleeping dog, try not to touch it, instead use only your voice.
Should you let a sleeping dog lie? If you have a dog that moves around a lot in its sleep, you probably shouldn’t try to wake it up. Dogs need plenty of uninterrupted sleep for optimal brain development. A few barks, twitches, and yips are perfectly normal for most dogs. If you’re ever concerned about your dog’s sleeping patterns contact your vet.
This is something I hear commonly from clients. It is always uttered with a tone of shocked and offended indignance which would lead you to believe that their dog had done something truly awful. But growling is a normal, natural, functional part of the dog’s vocabulary, and one we misunderstand terribly. Almost invariably, when people tell me that their dog has growled at them, they see the growl as a threat. An indication that the dog wishes to harm them, the irony is that a growl is exactly the reverse of this! Dogs growl to avoid conflict.
Dogs don’t speak the way we do, but that’s not to say they don’t have a complex system of communication. Their communication comprises body language, sounds, and odour.
Their range of sounds includes whining, whimpering, barking, howling, ‘chatting’, yelping, and of course, growling. As a highly social species, one of the primary purposes of communication for a dog is to avoid conflict. Growling is no exception. A growl says ‘I don’t want to fight, but I do want you to know I’m not comfortable with this’.
A growl rarely comes out of nowhere. If a dog is feeling uncomfortable with a situation, you can nearly always spot it in their body language first- they freeze, they look away, they show the whites of their eyes. They might lick their lips or yawn. However, we humans often miss these signals, and when we do, the dog is forced to escalate their behaviour, and a lot of the time, nobody hears the dog until they do growl.
And a growl is a wonderful gift. The growl itself is not an act of aggression, it is the only way the dog can make itself heard when all of his other signals have been ignored. If you punish a growl, you are disabling a really useful warning system. If a dog’s body language is ignored, and his voice is punished, he’s only left with one way of communicating- his teeth.
So, if your dog growls at you:
Stop what you were doing and give the dog space;
If you really need your dog to do something, try and think of a less confrontational way of asking him to do it. For instance, if he’s eating something he shouldn’t, he may be happy to leave it if you offer him the opportunity to do a treat search elsewhere;
Come up with a plan for dealing with similar situations in the future. If your dog growled because you tried to move him from the couch, perhaps you could do some work around training an ‘off’ for future use. If the issue was food he shouldn’t eat, perhaps you can teach a ‘leave’;
Question your own motivation. Often people are moving a dog or acting in a threatening way because they’ve been told they need to show their dog who’s boss. This sort of thinking is based on outdated theories and will only serve to damage your relationship with your dog and lead to more serious problems down the line. Don’t take things from your dog or make him move for the sake of proving you can.
Most importantly, don’t punish your dog in any way. You can read more on the pitfalls of punishment here.
Don’t silence your dog and lose the gift of a growl.
Article by Stephanie Rousseau – Steph’s Dog Training
Loose Leash Walking is child’s play when you use force free methods
Leash issues are a huge problem for the dog-owning public and a leading culprit for why so many otherwise healthy dogs are doomed to life (or usually more accurately, an early death) in animal shelters. Whether it’s simple leash-pulling or more significant leash reactivity and leash aggression, the primary thing to keep in mind is that these issues are almost always preventable and manageable when using positive training methods.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination!
Dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong. Humans do not make ideal walking partners since a dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours. Having to walk calmly by a person’s side when the only thing a dog really wants to do is run and investigate his environment requires a degree of impulse control that can be very difficult for some dogs to utilize.
That being said, all dogs need to be taught how to walk on a leash in a positive way without pain or discomfort so that a walk becomes enjoyable for everyone.
Leash lunging /reactivity and/or leash aggression are all behaviours that are caused by a dog feeling restrained, frustrated and uncomfortable in a social situation. In normal circumstances, an unleashed dog would be able to put sufficient distance between him and a fear source. But if the same dog is leashed and unable to increase that distance, he will react or behave defensively in the hope that the fear source will go away
If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and cannot start the teaching process for fear of being pulled over, then there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately.
A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. I recommend this kind of harness for anyone who needs extra help, as safety has to come first.
Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing their dog to get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
When he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes, either by your dog taking a step back or turning around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.
If you find this technique too slow you can try the reverse direction method. When your dog pulls, issue a ‘Let’s Go’ cue, turn away from him and walk off in the other direction, without jerking on the leash.
You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention. When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way. It might take a few turns but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, but walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.
Once your dog is listening to you more, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This means your dog has to listen to you at all times because he never knows when you are going to turn or where you are going to go next. Instead of turning away from him when you give the let’s go cue, reverse direction by turning towards him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure of eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention. Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel walking close to you, the more he will chose to do so
Many animals have the capacity to see frequencies that are not visible to the human eye. It was assumed till now that animals cannot see UV rays but scientists have uncovered evidence that indicates otherwise.
Biologists at the City University, London, US, conducted a study where they found out that cats, dogs, and other mammals could see in UV light. UV light has a wavelength beyond the range of human vision that extends from red to violet.
According to Pet MD:
“Have you ever felt that your cat or dog can see something you don’t? Well, you may be right, according to a new study. Cats, dogs, and other mammals are thought to see in ultraviolet light, which opens up a whole different world than the one we see, the study explains.
UV light is the wave length beyond the visible light from red to violet that humans can see. Humans have a lens that blocks UV from reaching the retina. It was previously thought that most mammals have lenses similar to humans.
Scientists studied the lenses of dead mammals, including cats, dogs, monkeys, pandas, hedgehogs, and ferrets. By researching how much light passes through the lens to reach the retina, they concluded that some mammals previously thought not
to be able to see UV actually can.”
It is a quite common experience to see your pet looking at something or someone that is apparently not visible to you. This study suggests that there might be more to this phenomenon that we would care to admit.
It might be possible that animals might be seeing spirits or beings of a different kind. While this study does not prove that animals can see spirits but it does bring to our consideration the fact that animals can visually perceive things that we could never think of.
The sensory abilities and the psychic perceptions of dogs have been the subject of a lot of scientific studies. We still do not have any definite knowledge regarding such matters as it is probably impossible for us humans to communicate with animals on a level that would lead us to satisfying conclusions.
Isn’t the very fact that animals are able to see things invisible to us awe-inspiring? Even bees and mice are able to see UV light. To find out more about this study check out the video below:
Many people think that crating a puppy is normal, and not crating them is strange, because so much literature on dog training refers to crate training as if it’s the only way to toilet train a puppy and prevent it from destroying the house. I am personally very much against crates, with the exception of if a dog has an injury or needs to be prepared for travelling somewhere.
Think about it – how absurd is it that it’s considered normal to confine an animal to such a small cage for such prolonged periods of time, with this space often being just a little larger than their body size? Would it be acceptable to keep a cat like that? How might you feel if you saw a zoo animal kept in such a small cage? In comparison, the majority of hamsters and other rodents live it up in multi-story penthouses. In fact, the only other animals that often suffer this same fate are many horses, guinea pigs and rabbits!
Here is my run down of why I personally think we should not be crating our dogs from the get go:
Restricting a dog’s access to move around and confining them to one space is NOT toilet training in my opinion. It is toilet management. The dog has two options : 1) Soil my bed and lie in it or 2) Hold on until my owner decides it is an appropriate time for me to go. This gives the animal minimal choice, and the first choice is pretty grim and totally unfair on the dog. The issue with option two is that how often a dog needs to eliminate depends on a huge range of factors and can vary from day to day. While some owners are observant and understand when to give their pup toileting opportunities, many are not canine body language savvy or are perhaps busy and don’t notice. Or the pup is left alone at home for a few hours so they’re not even around to let them out when the puppy indicates they need to go. Unfortunately some no doubt well-meaning books and articles advise owners that they should wait until a puppy is calm before letting them out of a crate. So even if a puppy is desperate and screaming to be let out so they can avoid soiling their bed, there is a chance that this will be ignored.
Toileting is a basic need and we all have the right to go to the loo when we need to. For young individuals who are building up muscular and sphincter strength, this is usually more often than with adults. In fact, Karen Overall states that on average puppies gain full muscular and sphincter control at around 8.5 weeks of age. Before then it can be near impossible for some individuals to successfully hold on. So what are the psychological implications of this approach to toilet training? Can it cause a dog stress? While I enjoy referring to scientific studies, for this I have none to refer to. However, I am a great believer in emapthy and often use this as a means of trying to figure some things out. I don’t care if people scoff about anthromorphisim, because I refuse to consider animals as bionic beings who are resilient to feeling many of the physical stresses that us sensitive humans are subjected to on a daily basis. We all know what it’s like to be busting for the loo on a car journey, and the horror we feel when the road sign says the nearest service station is 30 miles away. Imagine that bursting bladder sensation and feeling of urgency every day. I personally like toilet training the old fashioned way. Get the dog out every 30-60 minutes when they are awake, and within a couple of minutes of them waking, playing, eating and drinking. Mistakes and accidents are a part of learning and crate training ensures that any accident a dog has is a truly horrid one – in their bed, and in their apparently safe place!
Apparently crates stop dogs being destructive. In my opinion they can potentially do the opposite. If a dog’s environment is so tightly managed through crating that they never get enough opportunity to touch, see and sniff things, then that environment remains novel for far longer than it would if they experienced more of it earlier on. The longer an individual is exposed to something, the less novel it will become. If a puppy feels familiar enough with their environment through adequate exposure then they’re less likely to want to explore it. And guess what? Many puppies explore using their mouth, and the older they get the more damage their jaws can do. I think it is far more sensible to gradually expose them to their home environment while satisfying the desire to explore with an enriched environment of puppy safe items. Access to novel areas should be managed and supervised until the pup has settled, and it goes without saying that anything that could be of danger (especially wires) or that is too valuable to risk having puppy teeth marks in should be removed until that phase of the puppy’s life has passed. Stair gates and puppy pen partitions are a great way of restricting access to inappropriate places.
Dogs are polyphasic sleepers. This means they sleep in short periods, like to get up and move around as well as change position. Crating dogs goes against their natural way of sleeping and removes all option of them fulfilling this instinctive behaviour. To enter deep REM sleep dogs need to have the ability to stretch their legs out, as full muscle relaxation is part of the process of slow wave sleep (the stage before REM sleep). Should your dog not enter REM sleep their brain may not be getting all the repair and recharging that it needs to function efficiently. It’s during REM sleep that the brain receives energy and also cortisol (stress hormone) levels lower. We all know how cortisol affects our mood and brain, so it’s vital we all get our REM sleep – dogs included! So my bold claim is that crating (when misused) can even INHIBIT training. If a dog can’t concentrate due to lack of REM sleep, then how are they meant to learn new behaviours? I sometimes say to people who are pro-crates: ‘How would you like being locked in your bedroom all night and/or for 8 hours a day? How do you think you’d sleep?’. Or, considering some of the sizes of crates, how about being confined to your bed for a duration of time? And being escorted to the loo when someone finally says you’re allowed to go, before being escorted back to bed?
Sadly many people neglect to upgrade their crate size as their dog grows and this leaves many dogs in too small crates. This can create mayhem with their physical structure, as they are unable to stand up straight, stretch their bodies out, turn around or lie with their legs outstretched. This can cause muscle tension which can then create compensatory movement in the body. Think about how you have felt after a night sleeping on the sofa – a crick in the neck perhaps? A twisted feeling in the lower spine? How did you feel the day after and how long did it take to go away? Why is it so often overlooked that dogs would get this too? If a dog is in pain then their behaviour is often compromised – just like it can be with humans. How well do you concentrate when you have back ache? I can be pretty laid back, but even I’m guilty of getting irritable and taking it out on my fiance (never the dogs!) when I’ve been in constant pain.
Some people believe that crating encourages relaxation in a dog or helps them cope should they move house or visit a new place. Perhaps for some dogs this may be so. However, my preference is for all dogs to have the ability to relax and cope without needing to be confined. I want them to choose to relax, not relax because the option of movement has been taken away. I want them to have the confidence levels in place through previous experiences to be able to cope with a new environment and I want to give them the opportunity to be responsible in that environment. People who use crates to help their dogs relax need to ask themselves the question: ‘Is my dog relaxing, or are they lying down because there is absolutely nothing else they can do?’. I have often wondered whether crates can in fact cause more hyper behaviour in dogs. Being boxed up for many hours surely can create a jack-in-the-box type reflex for some dogs who understandably struggle with not moving around for prolonged periods of time.
And then there is that frequently heard ‘my dog’s crate is their den’ justification. A crate is only a den if the den is a safe place. A safe place is only safe when there is choice to move towards or move away. By shutting the door the crate no longer becomes a den.
More than once I’ve seen two or three dogs crammed into a crate designed for one small dog. I’ve seen dogs unable to turn around, dogs being left without access to water (another basic need) for hours on end, and dogs shut away for 8-10 hours a day with no bed or mat – just the plastic crate floor to lie on (because they soil their bed or rip it up). This is what the crate training concept has got people thinking is acceptable, and it’s not acceptable at all. If you really think about it, it’s immensely unfair and no wonder so many dogs develop anxieties, frustrations and fears when that is the daily life they lead.
As with all things, it often depends on the dog. Some dogs genuinely do like their crate and want to go in it. That’s fine, keep the crate – but why shut the door? I feel that we should be more trusting of our dogs and not worry that they’re going to wreck our houses with toilet accidents or chewing. We do so well at treating them as part of the family in every other way, so let’s make that truly the case and ditch the cages!