Category: Dog lessons

How close are you to your dog?

A reflection on our dogs.

I was sorting out some stuff the other day and came across the following. It is the record of a talk I gave some time ago in connection with the publication of my book Learning from Dogs.

As much as I would have expected to have previously published this on the blog I cannot find an entry. So here you are!

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The concept of attributing dogs with human traits is nothing new. In fact the ancient Greeks came up with a fancy word for it around two thousand years ago: anthropomorphism.

As ever, the truth of the matter is not a case of black and white but subtle shades of grey. No doubt in another two thousand years as science advances and we discover more about DNA and the mysteries of the human and canine brains the picture will develop into sharper focus. In the meantime, we must satisfy ourselves with some basic observations.

Let’s start off on common ground. One thing that we all seem to agree on is that humans are at the top of the pile in terms of evolutionary sophistication. For obvious reasons we view ourselves as the being the highest life form (although there is increasing alarm that we have totally lost touch with our basic instincts, if not totally lost the plot, by endangering the very planet that sustains life as we know it).

But I digress – back to common ground. We agree that as children our mental capacity is not fully developed. We survive by our instincts and the basic needs to be fed, watered, sheltered and bonded in a family group where we defer to a natural hierarchy. When you think about it this is precisely how dogs survive.

Like children, dogs display the most basic instincts to rough and tumble, compete for toys and establish a natural pecking order. Inherent in this is the need for a parent or pack leader to set down boundaries and create order and stability out of chaos. Without this both child and dog feel insecure and may well grow to display anti-social behaviour.

You would responsibly bring a child up with love and discipline, have consistent boundaries, teach them what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.

Dogs too need love and discipline, consistent boundaries, and to learn what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.

Communicating with a child is not so very different from communicating with a dog. Young children, like dogs, do not have the power of speech so you have to work out alternative strategies to speech in order to get through to them. You will find that if you approach a dog in much the same way as you approach a child, life will be a whole lot easier for you. And the dog! Hopefully you will have realised that praise is a far stronger motivator that punishment.

A positive approach.

Take the example of the puppy that makes a puddle on the floor and the child that wets its bed. Each one of them have not learnt control of their bladder and are simply responding to the call of nature. Neither are being naughty nor are in the wrong.

Yelling at the child will only make it more stressed and, therefore, more likely to continue wetting the bed. In exactly the same way if a puppy has an accident on the carpet being harsh will make matters worse.

How many human ‘sports’ involve chasing a moving object? How many of these games also involve people working as a team to ‘catch’ these objects? Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton, etc. I could go on but you get the idea.

Why do we enjoy these games? Is it not because we too are instinctively striving for a pecking order within the pack and following our predatory instincts.

“No, no no!’ I hear you say. ‘We are a civilised, sophisticated race who have created these games for our enjoyment. They are so different to the throw and fetch games our canine friends mindlessly enjoy.’

Don’t kid yourself. Look also how football supporters revert to uninhibited childlike behaviour. At worst becoming hooligans and behaving, almost literally, like savage animals when they find themselves challenged or threatened by an opposing pack.

Or on a much more positive note how hundreds of fans, unrehearsed, suddenly find one voice and break into a prefect, heart-stopping rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Now that’s a perfect example of the ‘pack call’.

We all enjoy the close relationship we have with our dogs. Maybe sometimes we don’t realise quite how close we are.

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I can’t imagine life without our dogs.

They mean everything to Jeannie and me.

A photo of Pharaoh when he was quite an old fella!

The Fall

And I am not speaking of the Autumn!

To be honest, dear friends, I really agonised over whether or not to republish an item that I saw on The Conversation blogsite last Friday. For it has nothing to do with dogs, nothing to do with learning from dogs, and everything to do with being the ‘wrong’ side of 65 years old.

But then one day last week I was out watching some tree cutting being undertaken by Jimmy Gonzales and his crew and heard the phoning ringing in the house.

I ran for the steps leading up to the deck and missed the bottom step.

I fell but luckily managed to grab the handrails seconds before I could have smacked my head into the steps. However, it did scare me especially when I reflected that it wasn’t even 9 months since my medical emergency following my fall from my bicycle.

It confirmed the sense in republishing the item. Republished within the terms of The Conversation site.

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Before the fall: How oldsters can avoid one of old age’s most dangerous events

September 21, 2018

By four authors:

 Co-Director of Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging, Texas A&M University

  Research Scientist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  Regents and Distinguished Professor, Associate Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives, Texas A&M University

  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Baby boomers, who once viewed themselves as the coolest generation in history, are now turning their thoughts away from such things as partying and touring alongside rock bands to how to they can stay healthy as they age. And, one of the most important parts of healthy aging is avoiding a fall, the number one cause of accidental death among people 65 and older.

The issue is growing more pressing each day. More adults than ever – 46 million – are 65 and older, and their numbers are increasing rapidly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in four older adults will fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury deaths among older adults. And, they are costly. Falls are responsible for an estimated US$31 billion in annual Medicare costs. This estimate does not account for non-direct medical or societal costs.

People who fall can lose their physical mobility for life, go into a hospital never to be discharged, require skilled nursing or other caregiver support, or become so fearful about falling again that they dramatically limit their daily activities.

The good news is that most falls are preventable, research has identified many modifiable risk factors for falls, and older adults can empower themselves to reduce their falls risks. This means there are opportunities to intervene in clinical and community settings to promote protective behaviors and improve safety.

A life-changing event

Falls can cause fractures, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions that require an emergency room visit or hospitalization. An older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes, and every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury. About one in four falls results in needed medical attention, and falls are responsible for about 95 percent of all hip fractures. In addition to the physical and mental trauma associated with the fall itself, falls often result in fear of falling, reduced quality of life, loss of independence and social isolation.

shutterstock. Astrid Gast/Shutterstock.com

There is no single cause for falling. Falls can result from issues related to biological aging, such as balance problems, loss of muscle strength, changes in vision, arthritis or diabetes. Taking a combination of several prescription drugs can also contribute to falls. Lifestyle behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and poor sleep quality can also increase the risk for falling. Environmental hazards inside the home, such as poor lighting and throw rugs, and outside, such as bad weather, standing water and uneven sidewalks, can create situations where falls are more likely to occur.

It takes a careful village

Because falls can be caused by many things, the solutions must also include a diverse set of systems, organizations and professionals. Toward that end, 42 active or developing state fall prevention coalitions, which coordinate initiatives and serve as advocates for policy development and community action, are in place. Their activities foster collaboration across the aging services network, public health and health care system. They do such things as host health fairs and fall risk screening events, fall prevention programs, and awareness-raising events to inform decision-makers and legislators about ways to make communities safer for older adults.

Here are some of the key objectives that the coalitions are working on to reduce hazards from falling:

  • Enhance clinical-community collaboration for programming.

There are many fall prevention programs offered in communities to promote healthful behaviors and to reinforce positive mental perspectives about falls being preventable.

People concerned about falling should contact their local Area Agency on Aging to find out where these programs are offered and which can be most beneficial. Also, seniors should ask their doctors about fall-related risk factors and what they can do to reduce risk. Communicate your concerns about falls with your health care team and social network, tell them about what you learn during your fall prevention programs, and report back about how they are making a difference in your life.

  • Manage chronic conditions.

About 70 percent of older adults have one or more chronic conditions, many of which can increase the risk for falling. For example, people with diabetes may have vision problems and problems with sensation in their feet. Also, the medications used to treat these conditions can increase fall risk. And, taking five or more medications has been identified with increased frailty and higher risk for falling.

Being physically active can help seniors have better balance and reduce the risk of falls. wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com

While health care access and utilization are important for chronic disease diagnosis and management, 90 percent of health care happens outside the health care setting. Therefore, older adults need to manage their diseases better. To do this, however, they often need help. For starters, they should discuss the side effects of all medications with their doctors and also how best to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens, such as when to take medications, whether to take with food and whether there are possible interactions of one medication with another. Seniors also can consider enrolling in evidence-based disease self-management programs to improve their knowledge and confidence to manage their conditions as well as enhance lasting skills for goal setting and action planning, such as being physically active for 30 minutes a day for five days a week.

  • Alter the physical environment.

About 44 percent of falls occur inside the home. In-home risk factors for falls can include dim lighting, clutter on floors, throw rugs and ottomans, missing railings, uncovered wires and extension cords, children and pets underfoot and unsafe bathrooms. A unsafe bathroom is one with an inappropriate toilet height, high shower or bathtub walls and no grab rails.

To identify possible risks in the home, the CDC created a user-friendly safety checklist that can safeguard older adults by eliminating environmental hazards.

  • Maintain healthful behaviors.

Daily lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity, nutrition and sleep quality can influence fall risk, and these are never too late to change. Interventions can be successful for people of all ages. Among the most important is physical activity, namely safely performing lower-body exercises to increase strength, balance and flexibility. Additionally, seniors should work with their health care team to have medications reviewed and eyes checked regularly. Also, they should ask about their vitamin D levels and possible nutritional supplementation.

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Yes, when it comes to being more careful on our feet once again our dear dogs offer us a much better way: Have four of them!!

Just look at the ease of our dear Brandy scampering through the woods yesterday morning!

Our dear, sorely-missed Pharaoh demonstrating the advantages of four feet!

So my good people – you be careful out there!

Getting to know oneself

The journey inwards is the most challenging and yet the most rewarding of all!

This post is essentially a reposting of an item that I published nearly three years ago. It came to me as a result of some delightful exchanges following my post last Thursday: How well our dogs read us!

Tomorrow I will go into more details of that fateful event in my past:  December 20th, 1956.

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Further musings on dogs, women and men.

Published on Learning from Dogs, August 6th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I read a book entitled The Republican Brain written by Chris Mooney and to quote WikiPedia:

The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality is a book by the journalist Chris Mooney that is about the psychological basis for many Republicans’ rejection of mainstream scientific theories, as well as theories of economics and history.

On page 83, Chris Mooney writes (my emphasis):

Here also arises a chief liberal weakness, in Lakoff’s view (*), and one that is probably amplified by academic training. Call it the Condorcet handicap, or the Enlightenment syndrome. Either way, it will sound very familiar: Constantly trying to use factual and reasoned arguments to make the world better and being amazed to find even though these arguments are sound, well-researched, and supported, they are disregarded, or even actively attacked by conservatives.

When glimpsed from a bird’s eye view, all the morality research that we’re surveying is broadly consistent. It once again reinforces the idea that there are deep differences between liberals and conservatives – differences that are operating, in many cases, beneath the level of conscious awareness, and that ultimately must be rooted in the brain.

(*) George Lakoff, Berkeley Cognitive Linguist and author of the book Moral Politics.

What Chris Mooney is proposing is that the difference between liberals and conservatives could be genetically rooted, at least in part.

That underlines in my mind how each of us, before even considering our gender differences, is truly a complex mix of ‘nature and nurture’ with countless numbers of permutations resulting.

That there are deep differences, apart from the obvious ones, between man and woman goes without saying. In earlier times, these differences were essential in us humans achieving so much and leading to, in the words of Yuval Noah Harari from yesterday’s post., ” … few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we’ve spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself).”

Speaking of earlier times, let me turn to dogs, for it is pertinent to my post, and I would like to quote an extract from what Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, Jim Goodbrod, writes in the foreword of my forthcoming book:

But what exactly is this human-dog bond and why do we feel such an affinity for this species above all others? My feeling is that it may be associated with our deep but subconscious longing for that age of simple innocence and innate human goodness that we supposedly possessed before we became truly “human”: that child-like innocence or what Rousseau referred to as the “noble savage”, before being corrupted by civilization, before we were booted out of the Garden of Eden. We humans, for better or worse, somewhere along that evolutionary road acquired consciousness or so-called human nature and with it we lost that innocence. What we gained were those marvelous qualities that make us uniquely human: a sense of self-awareness, an innate moral and ethical code, the ability to contemplate our own existence and mortality, and our place in the universe. We gained the ability to think abstract thoughts and the intellectual power to unravel many of the mysteries of the universe. Because of that acquired consciousness and humans’ creative and imaginative mind we have produced the likes of Shakespeare, Mozart, and Einstein. We have peered deep into outer space, deciphered the genetic code, eradicated deadly diseases, probed the bizarre inner world of the atom, and accomplished thousands of other intellectual feats that hitherto would not have been possible without the evolution of our incredible brain and the consciousness with which it is equipped.

No other living species on this planet before or since has developed this massive intellectual power. But this consciousness was attained at what cost? Despite all the amazing accomplishments of the human race, we are the only species that repeatedly commits genocide and wages war against ourselves over political ideology, geographic boundaries, or religious superstition. We are capable of justifying the suffering and death of fellow human beings over rights to a shiny gold metal or a black oily liquid that powers our cars. We are the only species that has the capability to destroy our own planet, our only home in this vast universe, by either nuclear warfare, or more insidiously by environmental contamination on a global scale. Was it worth it? No matter what your or my opinion may be, Pandora’s Box has been opened and we cannot put the lid back on.

What can we do now to reverse this trend and help improve the quality of life for humanity and ensure the well-being of our planet? I think, if we recognize the problem and look very critically at ourselves as a unique species with awesome powers to do both good and bad, and put our collective minds to the task, it may be possible to retrieve some of the qualities of that innocence lost, without losing all that we have gained.

Dogs represent to me that innocence lost. Their emotions are pure. They live in the present. They do not suffer existential angst over who or what they are. They do not covet material wealth. They offer us unconditional love and devotion. Although they certainly have not reached the great heights of intellectual achievement of us humans (I know for a fact that this is true after having lived with a Labrador retriever for several years), at the same time they have not sunk to the depths of depravity to which we are susceptible. It could be argued that I am being overly anthropomorphic, or that dogs are simply mentally incapable of these thoughts. But nevertheless, metaphorically or otherwise, I believe that dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life from which we all could benefit. I think the crux of Paul’s thesis is that, within the confines and limitations of our human consciousness, we can (and should) metaphorically view the integrity of the dog as a template for human behavior.

“Dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life …”

I closed yesterday’s post with these words, “It is my contention that humankind’s evolution, our ability to “cooperate flexibly in large numbers”, is rooted in the gender differences between man and woman.”

The premise behind that proposition is that until, say one hundred years ago, give or take, that co-operation between large numbers of humans was critically important in so many areas: health; science; medicine; physics; exploration; outer space and more. (And whether one likes it or not: wars.)  My proposition is that it is predominantly men who have been the ‘shakers and movers’ in these areas. Of course not exclusively, far from it, just saying that so many advances in society are more likely to have been led by men.

But (and you sensed a ‘but’ coming up, perhaps) these present times call for a different type of man. A man who is less the rational thinker, wanting to set the pace, and more a man capable of expressing his fears, exploring his feelings, defining his fear of failure, and more. I don’t know about you but when I read Raúl Ilargi Meijer words from yesterday, “And if and when we resort to only rational terms to define ourselves, as well as our world and the societies we create in that world, we can only fail.”, it was the male of our species that was in my mind. As in, “And if and when we [males] resort to only rational terms to define ourselves …”.

Staying with Raúl Meijer’s words from yesterday (my emphasis), “And those should never be defined by economists or lawyers or politicians, but by the people themselves. A social contract needs to be set up by everyone involved, and with everyone’s consent.”

Dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life but that doesn’t extend to them making social contracts. Women do understand social contracts, they are predominantly caring, social humans. Less so for men. But for that social contract to be successfully set up by everyone it must, of course, include men. And that requires men, speaking generally you realise, to find safe ways to get in touch with their feelings, to tap into their emotional intelligence, using positive psychology to listen to their feelings and know the truth of what they and their loved ones need to guarantee a better future. What they need in terms of emotional and behavioural change. And, if I may say, sensing when they might need the support of subject experts to embed and sustain those behavioural changes.

It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could hitherto never ever have imagined.

However, as much as I love and trust Jean, wholeheartedly, it comes back to dogs.

For when I curl up and wrap myself around a dog and sense that pure unconditional love coming back to me, I have access to my inner feelings, my inner joys and fears, in a way unmatched by anything else.

Where learning from dogs is a gateway to learning from me.

Pharaoh – more than just a dog!

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I will never be able to look at those eyes of Pharaoh, looking into my eyes, without feeling terrible pangs of loss. For he was the most amazing, the most wise, the most deep-thinking dog that I have ever known. Correction: that Jean and I have ever known!

The strength of a community.

Any other ideas to assist Lisa?

So many times this old blog of mine seems like one great family! Which is why I am sharing an exchange between Lisa and me.

For last Friday in came the following email from Lisa (republished with Lisa’s permission.):

Hi Paul,

I still receive your blog every day and love it! I contributed a couple of blogs to you about our Sabrina which you published on Learning from Dogs.

I have a question for you and perhaps your community.

A picture of Sabrina from an earlier guest post written by Lisa.

Sabrina is experiencing some anxiety at breakfast time. She begins whimpering and crawling on the floor. It happens a few times a week. She usually doesn’t eat her breakfast right away after these episodes. Her behavior is normal the rest of the day.

I’ve told our vet about it and she thinks it’s some kind of anxiety and is willing to prescribe medication. I’d rather not medicate her all the time as this episode happens infrequently.

We may have some blood test taken as our next approach.

Have you ever experienced this kind of thing with one of your dogs or heard of it happening with someone else’s dog?

Also, another question I’ve been meaning to ask you writer-to-writer. I recall you telling me you are from a small town near Cornwall or Devon? I’d love to find some type of writer’s residency in that area and wondering if you know any association or grant available? It’s difficult for me to learn of residency opportunities in the UK being in the USA. No big deal, just thought I’d ask you.

Hope all is well with you and glad to hear you and Jean are going vegan! I’m a former vegan/vegetarian. We are eating more vegetarian these days and I especially love to COOK vegan. I am going to look into the Halo Garden of Vegan dog food too. Great tip.

Thank you!!

Best,

Lisa.

I discussed this with Jean and then sent the following reply to Lisa:

Lisa,

Jean is recommending changing Sabrina’s routine. Such as feeding her in a different place. Plus, trying a proprietary stress relief medicine. We used Bach Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic formula, for our dogs when we moved from Arizona to Oregon back in 2012.

Keep us in the loop with this!

Best wishes,

Paul

Back came Lisa:

Hi Paul!

Thank you to you and Jean for your two emails. Dennis and I were just talking about Sabrina’s behavior and it occurred to me it could be separation anxiety. Dennis gets up at 4:30, feeds her, gets ready for work and is out of the house by 5:30. Sabrina favors him and I’m thinking as much as she loves to eat, it means he’s about to leave and be gone from her all day.

I will pick definitely pick up the Bach’s Rescue Remedy and have Dennis feed her in a different area of the house.

Oh, yes, and please, if interested make the subject of Sabrina’s behavior a post and yes, yes, yes on soliciting for a writer’s retreat in the UK for me 🙂

Thanks a million!

Best,
Lisa.

To which I then responded, thus:

I think you may have solved Sabrina’s behaviour issue. An easy thing to try out is to ask Dennis not to feed Sabrina at that time and you to feed her instead. Would take a few days for her to get accustomed to the change but within a week you would know if this was the fix!

And, thanks for the permission. It will be coming out next week.

So, good people, any other ideas to add to assist Lisa in settling down Sabrina in the morning? And what about that writer’s retreat in the UK?

Any thoughts?

Finally, I am going to be pretty distracted these next 48 hours so apologies if I am not very attentive to your responses. Plus there will be no post tomorrow.

Spot and Me, Final Part

The concluding part of Colette’s wonderful essay on training Spot.

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Chapter Seven – A trip to new territory

Spot had never really been walking anywhere else so a trip to the seaside promenade an hour away by car was in order.
Here, on paved city streets, I put him through his paces: past people; dogs; new smells; and the beach. We sat on park benches and in a cafe. Spot was quiet and sat still at my feet.

He was over-awed by new sensations but coped admirably. He didn’t know what the sea was and sniffed it suspiciously but wouldn’t test the water with a toe, preferring to run and feel the sand under his paws. But it was mown grass that totally freaked him out.

I took Spot onto a boulevard of grass and trees so that he could sniff and pee like most dogs do. But when Spot was on the grass I got an inkling of a former trauma. For Spot froze and looked at me with terrified eyes. He cocked his hind leg and held it up as if in some perpetual, quavering fear yet he wasn’t peeing.

When I then approached him he cowered; something I’d never seen. It was pretty obvious to me that Spot had been beaten as a punishment whilst standing on a grass lawn for some unknown misdemeanour. I gently knelt down and stroked him. Spot shivered with apprehension. Then I guided him off the grass to the paved area close by and after I reassured Spot with a big hug his normal behaviour returned.

Traumas for animals come in all shapes. For Spot, his memories of fear and loathing had been triggered by a tactile feeling under his paws; the feel to Spot of mown grass. We finished for the day and went home. Spot was tired.

Chapter Eight – New Collar; New Beginning

Over ten days, the harness and choke rope had slowed Spot to a walk speed. It was time to switch to a collar. Spot was still a strong-willed character so after finding a brand-new, half-choke collar, again in Pauline’s collection of unused equipment, I chose it as the next step.

It was a perfect width, well made, soft on the neck side and the small half-choke chain meant that it loosened to slip on and off easily over Spot’s head. I tested it to its full choke capacity, allowing it to still retain a two-finger gap so it never fully closed on Spot’s neck.

Our first walk out with this collar was a great success. It gave Spot an even better indication of where I wanted him. He didn’t pull and trotted happily alongside me. Whenever an interesting smell appeared alongside, I fed out the lead to allow him to explore while I stood still. The lead was his old strong woven one. I had removed the bit of washing-line rope that Mike had tied on to lengthen it and returned it to normal length. A long lead is not ideal because if the dog pulls at the other end it will pull you off your feet. A short lead will not do that because you keep your dog within your centre of gravity and therefore strong enough to resist pulling. This means you keep control of your dog at all times thus making it safer for you and him.

I was really proud of Spot. He had come such a long way. His demeanor was soft and he relaxed much more during the day. He didn’t bark at every little thing.

Chapter Nine – Lizards and Food

It was a lazy day on the patio in the sunshine. Spot was lying on my feet below the table when he stiffened. Looking down, I saw a tiny lizard about a foot away. Spot stared at it intently, nose twitching. Slowly I reached down and stroked Spot’s head. “Friend” I said, putting the image of my love for lizards in Spot’s head. He relaxed. We watched the little lizard for a full five minutes during which time Spot never wavered. When it disappeared down a crack Spot laid back down by my feet and went back to sleep. This was a big milestone. It didn’t end up in his tummy!

Spot’s food consumption had changed. I put his dry dog food into his bowl and then taking some boiled warm water I melted a teaspoon of coconut oil into it, added a tiny bit of cooked chicken and made a sort of gravy by mashing it all up. I coated the dog food with this mixture and Spot ate it up really well. His coat started to shine after about a week and he looked a little bit trimmer, his haunches clearly defined. He had not been given hot dogs or ham since Pauline had left.

Training treats were commercially bought, but 60% protein so I cut them in half so that they were no bigger than the size of a rice crispy. I used loads of them for training but they amounted to little in extra bulk.

Other treats comprised of dog biscuits and a dental chew stick last thing before bed (again, keeping Pauline’s routine).

Spot had stopped begging at the dinner table and in the kitchen. He came for food only when bidden and always away from the table.

Chapter Ten – Hello’s and Goodbye’s

My work was still a work-in-progress but it was time for Spot’s people to return so we began our pack up.
Now all dogs know what bags in cars mean. They know you are leaving so it was no surprise that Spot now followed me closely everywhere I went. He wondered at what was going on at the bedroom gate then bounced into the room and onto our bed but only once. As he saw me exiting the room he jumped down carefully and trotted after me looking up at me. He was clearly unsure of what to do?

This is the hard bit of a house sit. Leaving your new buddy behind is a real wrench. But Spot is not my dog and now he has to get back into a routine with Pauline and Mike.

I took Spot into the back garden when I knew the owners were on the way. The large gate had been pulled open ready for their arrival; the sun was beginning to set. Spot and I played “fetch” and “bring” games with his toys to while away the time.

Our first games earlier in training were tough because Spot wanted to keep his toys and not “give” them to me. I used a simple technique of finger and thumb around his lower jaw (hand underneath for support) as far back as possible to encourage him to open his mouth. He eventually would “give” up his toys voluntarily without the gentle manipulation and wait eagerly for it to be thrown again.

After half-an-hour of playing lights appeared followed by the sound of the camper van turning into the driveway. I noticed the noises before Spot did but when he heard loud greeting voices he ran to the side gate. He wasn’t barking but his tail wagged furiously. I opened the latch and away he went bouncing like a bunny.

The greetings were exuberant and meaningful for all parties. People and pup alike had missed each other. Spot looked at me; was that a big smile on his face?

We had a cup of tea and Spot sat on the rug in front of all of us. He didn’t beg for Pauline’s cookie, I wagged a finger of “no” at Pauline, and he didn’t drink their tea that had been placed on the floor near their feet. He just eyed everyone happily and then put his head down to sleep.

I showed Pauline a few of the commands that Spot knew, often just using the hand signal as you see in the dog shows. I also put the half-choke collar on Spot and showed how he responded to walking commands. Pauline and Mike watched with dropped jaws as Spot did everything asked of him.

Pauline hates any kind of animal mistreatment and also thought effective training had to be harsh. But it doesn’t have to be: Far from it! While it takes longer, little treats, love, hugs, and lots of patience produce the most wonderful behaviours. Once complete, your dog knows you are pack leader and can be trusted to do as you want. They are also happier in this subservient role especially when they don’t have dominant traits.

Spot had changed. He was still the cute little ‘sweetheart,’ but the rough edges had been polished off. He no longer growled or bared his teeth. His eyes were softer and his body more relaxed. He was less jumpy, less nervous and more confident. He looked up more, much more, at faces for approval and no longer ran away from anyone holding out a hand.

I spent the following day with Pauline showing her how to walk Spot on his new collar. We went through all the commands he knew and how to reward him. Pauline almost cried as she shuffled along at snail pace and Spot stayed alongside looking at her face every now and again. She was amazed at the “Spot Round” command that brought him round in a complete circle to face her legs with the “Stay” command to keep him there. I had taught Spot this to help Pauline when she had an Asthma attack so she could stand still while recovering. It was a very effective command and Spot had mastered it!

We left the next day, keeping our goodbye’s short. Spot had been following me around as I packed up our last few things.
Before saying goodbye to our hosts I made my private goodbye to Spot with a human hug. I was going to miss him. I didn’t want the home owners to see my hurt in having to leave him. It wouldn’t help them.

As we opened the gate to leave Pauline panicked. Spot was outside. “Spot Stay” I commanded, and he stood still while our car rolled out into the road. Mike closed the gate behind us and I saw Pauline giving Spot a big hug for being so good!

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Not going to say a word. For I want the echoes of Colette’s wonderful story to reverberate with you for as long as possible.

Spot and Me, Part Two

The second part of Colette’s essay on training Spot!

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Chapter Four – Training Time

Tom had told me that Spot now knew ‘heel,’ ‘this way’ (left), and ‘that way’ (right), as commands.
So, while Tom’s indicators for right and left were a bit vague, I worked with them.

All verbal commands are totally useless to a dog.

Dogs do not communicate verbally, except as aggression or warning barks. The rest of their social behaviour is non-verbal, reading body language, facial expression (which is the key difference between them and wolves, who do not read human faces), and some measure of reading intention into the non-verbal pictures in their heads. So to train a dog one needs hand signalling accompanied by verbal cues which dogs learn by rote (constant repetition).

Spot looked at me quizzically as I went to fetch the rope harness, then a devilish glint caught his eye as he jumped trying to catch it in his mouth. I snatched it behind my back and hid it from his view, whilst making him sit!

First treat for a good result.

As soon as the choke rope appeared again, the same thing! Spot jumped for it.  So I repeated hiding it and commanded, “Spot, Sit“. On the third try, Spot stayed seated as commanded by my gesture with my hand held out, palm down to indicate that I wanted him to “Spot stay“. As I slipped the loop of the choke rope over his head, he received a treat and a ‘Good Boy!’ fussing to indicate that this is what I wanted.

A dog soon realises that he is not the Alpha when your hand signals dictate what should be done and how. A dog like Spot takes time as he has yet to learn all the hand movements and facial expressions we make when wanting our wishes followed by our doggy friends. Treat rewards are the reinforcement initially, but the “good boy” and hug is also given. Eventually replacing the constant treats as it is more of a reward and helps the dog to feel secure in its actions.

Spot learned through repetition to look up at the face of Tom, to know what to do. Now he had to learn to do the same with me. I always preceded the commands with “Spot.” He recognised his name, so it focused his attention for each new gesture and word.

He soon got the hang of it. We trotted around the house together with Spot enjoying the game of walking slowly, this way and that.

We progressed to the Yard, and due to Tom’s diligence, Spot did well here too, only occasionally forgetting to stay to ‘heel,’ as a distraction caught his attention. Tom had done really well in just four days.

I took Spot to the gate and opened it. Here, Spot lost his head entirely, trying to speed out through the opening and up the roadway, nearly strangling himself in the process. I brought him back in through the gate, and went to fetch the new, larger, black harness that I had purchased before arriving.

Harness’s are not the best thing to have on a dog. People use them for two reasons. The first is because their dog pulls and trys to go faster than their people, and they, of course, don’t want to see their dog choking. The second reason, somewhat related to the first, is that the harness offers a bit of protection if a dog falls from a height and the lead gets caught. This latter reason for a harness is actually not as good a solution as having a loose collar that the dog can wriggle free from.

I prefer a loose collar, but the amount of pulling that Spot is doing is too much and needs to be trained out first so I put his new harness on preempting Spot’s desire to chew it with a quick routine that didn’t give him time to think about it.

Now normally, I would use a lead in two hands. The left, keeping the lead straight up to my hand (in other words, no slack) where I keep a ‘short lead’ to keep the dog next to me. The slack is taken up across me, holding the handle in my right hand. This allows an ability to give a bit more length quickly when needed, but also to quickly retrieve it when you need a ‘short lead’ again.

Pauline had requested that I train to her right hand, rather than left, so the above principles were easily reversed.

Tom had already shown me how sore his hands had become, trying to keep Spot on a short lead with my preferred method. After I experienced just how hard Spot pulled I put him on a doubled chain lead, to shorten it, that I found in Pauline’s drawer for failed apparatus. Clipping it to his harness, it would give me the control I needed without causing hurt to either Spot or Me!

In addition to the harness chain, I repositioned the choke rope around Spot’s neck. We set out again through the gate. Spot immediately began to pull, so a new command of “Spot Round” came into force. I swept my arm around me indicating that Spot had to turn back. He quickly got this but was confused as to why.

As I brought him around, I brought him in to face a barrier; my legs. “Spot Stay!” I said, holding my hand palm out to his face. There I would keep him (obviously with a treat reward) until he calmed down. Then we would try again. The rope choke transmitted from me the subtle indicators as I requested movements from Spot to move accordingly.

Spot gradually got it and his walking slowed considerably but not enough for Pauline to cope with on a walk. Asthma had turned Pauline into a ‘shuffler’ so trying to walk like Pauline I incorporated the words “slowly, slowly” using a hand sign that we all use to slow traffic. Spot learned this really well.

All this new stuff was tiring for Spot. So when we reached the area where frogs and cats were lurking about he could no longer concentrate. True to Tom’s words, Spot went bonkers, yelping, pulling, slavering and not listening at all. Time to head home. Spot ate his breakfast of dry dog food and chicken (refused earlier in the day) and then after some happy wag tails, curled up in his bed and went to sleep.

Chapter Five – Frogs, Cats, Dogs and Goats

Spot’s home was in a rural location and a goat herder regularly brought his small herd past the house.
Pauline was afraid that Spot would catch some horrible disease from them so had always tried to shut Spot away in the house as soon as they appeared. Spot had developed a pathological nervousness that translated into apoplectic barking and jumping at the windows whenever the goats appeared. Pauline was convinced that the goat herder intentionally goaded Spot by whistling. In reality, his dogs were distracted by a maniacal dog jumping up at a window so the goat herder whistled to call them to attention again. He couldn’t herd his goats without his dogs.

I heard the clanking of the goat bells just as Spot launched into his tirade at the window. Normally, Pauline would yell at him to stop barking, usually in vain. I went over to the window that Spot was now paddling with his front paws. I looked over at the herd and then held Spot firmly under his legs stilling his jumping. I was calm and said “Spot – Goats are Friends.

Now this in itself is not enough, because Spot does not understand words. But Spot, like most dogs, does understand intentions. I focused my mind on goats being good animals worthy of kindness and cuddled Spot, saying “It’s OK! Thank you for telling me!

Gradually, Spot learned that ‘Friend’ meant kindness and not a threat to him or anyone else. Even on this first attempt, Spot stopped barking and instead enjoyed the cuddle, and gradually, over time, Spot realised that “Thank you for telling me” meant that I was now in control of the situation and he could step down and let me be the Alpha to deal with it.
Later on, the goats bells never even raised a whisker as soon as I said “It’s OK, Friends!

On some of our walks, we met loose dogs. One was friendly, but the rest were rural farm dogs and they all had a tendency to protect their farm territory including the roadway.
I would not let Spot interact with these dogs. Spot knew my commands and the little tug indicators on the choke rope kept us walking past with Spot not making eye contact with these dogs. Nor did I. There was no conflict! The friendly dog came up and sniffed Spot, but again, I kept the interaction short and Spot carried on walking.

Cats were a different prospect. For some reason, Spot only wanted to give chase and I could only think that he had been encouraged to be so determined a chaser. When the cats appeared, I stopped Spot from walking. The cats came nearer and sat about two feet away. Spot shook from head to toes as he whimpered. I held him steady, getting down next to him to cuddle him.

While he was behaved, he was too over-excited even to accept his treat. He was like a wound-up spring ready to explode. Lip licking and yawning told me that he was stressed. “Friends” I said, stroking Spot to calm him. That was as far as we got. It was time to take him away from this ‘threat’ and take him home. But the progress had been in him not barking, yelping or trying to chase the kitties.

It was a similar thing with frogs in a little roadside culvert. They splashed and swam in the shallow water. Spot was fascinated, but the word “Friends” stopped him short of going in to catch them. He was learning.

Chapter Six – Getting beyond the Gate

Pauline was terrified of losing her dog. She had a specific routine around the gate; a locked sliding edifice that really took the strength of two hands to pull open. She would pick Spot up and wedge him under her arm whilst struggling, almost one-armed, to push the gate.

I trained Spot to stand still and “wait” until I had opened the gate and then the “OK!” command was given for him to move. Training treats worked really well to get a perfect score rate on this command. I used it every day to open and to close the gate for our walks. It didn’t matter if Spot was off the lead, it still worked. The biggest key to this was consistency. I never changed the command and kept it a constant reminder for whenever Pauline needed Spot to wait for her, wherever he was.

I used “wait” as different from “stay.” Tom said that he couldn’t see the difference. I explained that “stay” meant to stay in position, i.e. to stay sitting, or to stay lying down. “Wait”, indicated with slightly waving fingers, was to indicate that he wasn’t to go on further without me, (or Pauline), but didn’t dictate a position. If Spot spent his time waiting, sniffing the ground or scratching, it didn’t matter as long as he waited to continue his walk only when I was ready.

I also trained Spot to “stay” while I walked away from him. This was gradually at increased distances. When I was ready, I would pat my knees and give the “Spot Come” command. He would spring into action and bound towards me as fast as a greyhound for his reward of a little food treat and a big hug human-style, gradually weaning him on to only the hug. I taught Spot these commands for his safety. With just this handful of commands, Pauline could keep Spot safe if there was traffic on the road and be sure he would come to her once any threat was gone. The gate would never be a problem again.

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Even as I was reading it when preparing today’s post I was thinking of how much I was learning from Colette’s advice. Thankfully, all our dogs are incredibly easy to manage. Indeed, if ‘manage’ is the right word for on a day-to-day basis the dogs intuitively know how our/their days pan out.

The final part of this most interesting essay will be along tomorrow!

Spot and Me

An essay on dog training.

A week ago in came this email from Colette:

Hi Paul,

I wonder, given your recent post on adopting rescue dogs, if you would like me to write up an account of my retraining of a housesit pet dog?
The dog in question was a mongrel but similar and cute appearance of a large, energetic Jack Russell. The owners loved him so much, but he was aggressive to strangers, unruly, filled with anxieties and totally out of control in many ways.

He was a challenge, but responded so well to praise and love.

His wild eyes changed and softened and he calmed down so much that when the owners came home, their jaws dropped. They came home to a different dog. She cried at the transformation.
I didn’t charge for the training… We (my husband and I) do housesitting in exchange for free accommodation only. I spent an additional day helping the lady to take on the training schedule and change anything that she needed to…(as in commands she preferred to use)… The little dog responded so well to her that she almost started crying again.
Let me know. I have nothing written up, but could do so. I guess it would be long, but could be a series of three perhaps?

So many times I wonder at the luck I experience when dear friends of this blog offer such great material.

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Here is Part One.

 Spot and Me!

by Colette Bytes, June 3rd, 2018

Chapter One – I’ve told them You’ll Do It!

My hubby and I house sit. This usually involves a pet or two, or more, and mostly dogs and cats.
We had a break in our schedule for a few weeks coming up so our friend, Tom, sort of promised some new friends of his that we would house sit for them to look after their little dog: Spot!

Spot!

Pauline and Mike apparently had to go away unexpectedly and found that the nearest dog kennels had closed down. They had asked Tom to look after their little rescue pup, Spot, but Tom was hedging a little. While he liked animals, he wasn’t really enamoured with caring for Spot for three weeks. So he volunteered our help!

The dates weren’t right as we were already on another housesit, so Tom agreed to do the first four days. We all went to meet Pauline, Mike and Spot a couple of weeks prior to their departure.

Spot was a good looking, if slightly overweight, mongrel of mostly Jack Russell origin, but larger and quite out of control!
He barked and raced around like a maniac. Pauline launched into a description of his routine… “Never open the gate without him on a harness, picked up, or locked inside the house,” she implored. “He’ll run away for sure.

Spot, hearing his name mentioned, ran along the room, sliding on floors, rucking up the rugs and almost taking everyone with him as he launched himself up the sofa onto the back rest and running alongside everyone’s head. He stopped only to lick Mike’s ear before jumping and landing in a puddle on Pauline’s lap.

She petted him adoringly and fed him a bit of cookie which she had just dunked in her tea. Spot eyed the cup of milky tea and yes, Pauline allowed him to take a drink from the cup. He then jumped to the floor to examine my feet. I reached gently down to him. And Spot went in to action mode, his puppy-like bum in the air, shoulders down on the floor, whilst emitting threatening growls and yips.

This dog was definitely the Alpha in this house. “Isn’t he sweet?” Pauline said, “But he’s really hard to walk and we can’t take him anywhere because he won’t behave.” Spot took this opportunity to grab one of his toys and run away with it at high speed, shaking it vigorously.

Pauline went through more procedures…” Let me show you where his harness and lead is… We’ve attached a long rope to it…it is hard to keep him from jumping all over the place on a walk.” Spot immediately leaped up and snatched the harness from her grasp and ran like a demon with it, chewing down on the material and growling if anyone went near! He refused to give it up again. Pauline gave up and left him slowly destroying his walking apparatus. Just as well really, I thought… It was too small for him.

I watched all the behaviour carefully. Spot just did exactly as he pleased…and jumped on every surface possible using high speed acrobatics that left the rest of us feeling dizzy!

This is going to be challenging,” I said to Tom as we left. “Spot is going to need an intensive retrain, and you are going to have to do the first four days!” Tom made a face. “I’m not having him in my car,” he said finally.

That first night of Tom on housesit duties, he sent a message, sounding more than a bit exasperated. It was late. “I can’t get to sleep. I tried shutting Spot out of the room and he just about tore the door down! So I let him in, and now I’ve got a dog on my head that won’t go away.” A moment later, the picture of Spot on my friend’s head appeared on my mobile phone. I couldn’t help but laugh at the image. Tom looked really unhappy.

I sent training video links to Tom so he could try out some of the various techniques until we arrived.

Pauline had tried taking Spot to a trainer, receiving the first half-hour free. But the trainer was expensive, and Pauline couldn’t afford the fees.

In her free half-hour, the trainer had slipped a choke rope over Spot and had him walk compliantly all over her office. “You need one of these!” was all the advice she gave. So Pauline had ordered one.

Tom tried the new choke rope on Spot and had great success in the house following my simple instructions. But Spot had other ideas once outside the home territory and Tom said that wasn’t going so well. “He hates cats, and also frogs, they are all on the walk… he just goes bonkers and pulls like hell. He just has no discipline whatsoever! He’s choking himself on that rope!” Tom sounded like he was at the end of his own rope.

Chapter Two – We arrive in Spot’s world!

True to form, Spot greeted us with barks and raced around us with warning yips and yaps. I ignored him.
This was the first thing to do so he would know that his inappropriate behaviour wouldn’t elicit a reaction. He stopped and looked at us quizzically as we unloaded our bags and food supplies. Eventually, he went to sit on his bed while we had a cup of tea and an update from Tom. “We’ve made some progress,” he reported. “He knows begging for tidbits doesn’t work and he knows that he can’t drink my tea, even when the cup is on the floor!” The latter habit was abhorrent to Tom. Spot eyed us suspiciously. “He chews everything…Pauline told me that he chews her clothes!” Tom shook his head. “I’ve not let him near my stuff, I don’t want it destroyed!

It was late evening, and Spot, used to sleeping on his owners’ bed, and now Tom’s, was not going to sleep on ours (that’s where my husband draws the line)! I knew that Spot could not be allowed into the room as he had no idea how to behave or do as he was told. I would not have any success keeping him away from my husband. I spent some time fussing Spot, and giving him treats for several successfully completed “Spot Sit” commands. He relaxed.

I set up a laundry clothes horse to use as a gate across our bedroom doorway. On the outside, I moved Spot’s large Duvet and Blanket (full of chewed holes), leaving his bed in its place in the living room. He had the choice of both. He followed us as we turned in. Only slightly confused by the gate, he settled down without even a whimper on his Duvet, content at least that he could see us. He slept part of the night there and part of it in his own bed (warming himself next to the dying embers of the woodstove). Success on the first hurdle.

I kept a lot of Pauline’s routine. Whilst I was making the morning coffee, I gave Spot his half doggie stick treat and two dog biscuits. Spot knew what to expect as it is what he was always given first thing, so it was a comfort to him (especially as it involved food rewards). Spot’s world was about to change, but I kept the good stuff.

Pauline happily allowed Spot on the bed and all the furniture, so I wouldn’t interfere or discourage it, except in the kitchen where Spot, standing upright on hind legs, would run his paws along the counter top trying to grab anything in reach. I would focus on the unacceptable stuff. The socially unacceptable behaviours.

All pets miss their people. They feel abandoned by those that care for them and confused as to where they have gone without them. Stress will often exacerbate anxiety behaviours and present itself in all sorts of ways. Spot’s morning ablutions were of concern. He was pooing out huge bits of red fleece. He had made swiss cheese out of his blanket while Tom had been looking after him. Perhaps it was a regular thing as Pauline later reported that it happens a lot.
Chewing is an anxiety behaviour, so poor little Spot was in heightened stress.

Other stressed behaviours included hysterical growling and barking at any kind of disturbance beyond the fenced yard. Constant yawning and lip licking were other signs.
Whilst Spot was eating OK, it was only because we were giving him his favourite food (chicken) to get something into him. Lots of dogs will refuse to eat when stressed.

Spot had an eating disorder too. He would only eat dry dog food if it was mixed with hot dogs or processed ham. It was a poor diet and worsened by the constant hand feeding of cakes and cookies by Pauline and Mike. Spot’s teeth were already showing decay. He was only two years old.

Our first day together was going to be a test of wills. But Spot was already calmer, having discovered that his antics didn’t draw my attention.

Chapter Three – Getting to know each other.

Spot is a rescue dog. Pauline had chosen him from a dog rescue facility that had picked him up from the streets. She didn’t know his history except that he had been abandoned. Interestingly, on our first meeting, we had visited a nearby cafe where two young dogs were making a racket! Peering at them outside below the window, I saw that they had very similar markings to Spot but both were much larger. I calculated it to be a good guess that they were his siblings; the behaviour so similar to Spot’s, that the cafe owner had to shut them outside out of the way. I also determined that Spot was the small runt of this particular original litter.

Alpha dogs in any pack are the ‘strong silent, but confident leader’ types and not all dogs, just like people, make good leaders. Spot was one of these. Having said that, Spot was trying to be an ‘Alpha’ dog. This likely started after he was abandoned. He lost the care of his mother and found himself having to survive by whatever means. When he was rescued by Pauline and Mike, he desperately needed someone to ‘lead’ him.

Many people are very kind and well meaning when they rescue animals, but often lack the skills to deal with the baggage that comes with a rescue animal. Pauline had made Spot into her surrogate ‘baby.’ She even called him ‘Baby Boy,’ and giggled at his antics when she was watching his overly-excited behaviour, which served only to send the message that Spot was doing the right thing!
He was spoiled, indulged and encouraged. He became devoted to them both to the point that he felt he must protect them from every perceived threat, real or imagined. And he picked up on Pauline’s anxieties about strangers, possible burglars, and her propensity to see most things negatively before deciding otherwise, based on evidence.

Spot had taken on board that he needed to protect Pauline, Mike and the house. This also extended to the areas outside the home, but was also where Spot became most highly strung. Without knowing where the threats were, he treated everything as a potential enemy. It was for this reason that Spot couldn’t be taken into public spaces. He fought with other dogs who would overpower and hurt him. He bothered other people, wouldn’t sit still and would constantly bark. He was a problem dog! Pauline elected to leave him at home, on his blanket in the outside porch whenever they went out. “I do need a break from him, he’s just too demanding!

Her rolled eyes and conviction that he was OK there, even when left for hours, sealed my analysis that they could not leave him in the house alone, or he destroyed things because of separation anxiety. He was highly dependent and insecure!

After a short breakfast where I ignored Spot’s begging, I called him for a play session. Armed with lots of training treats that Spot had already learned were very tasty, I found it easy to make friends with him. The games with his toys used up lots of his nervous energy and Spot was soon lollygagging on the hearth rug, offering me his belly for a rub. He was primed for training.

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Colette’s essay continues tomorrow!

Beating depression without pills!

The value of a loving dog is not to be over estimated!

Returning to the theme of how dogs can help us humans fight off depression.

A delightful guest post from Taylor who recently asked if she could share a post from her own blog. I was delighted to have been asked.

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Dogs Can Help Decrease Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.

by Taylor G. February 23rd. 2018.

I have always been a huge animal person. But mostly, a dog person/mom. I have two pups, and I am a dog walker in my neighboring towns. But I also suffer from depression and anxiety. Doctors always rush to prescribe medicine, but I have found that dogs can help as well. This post will be describing how dogs can help people suffering with depression and anxiety.

  1. Exercise- For all you dog owners out there, you know how much exercise your furry friends require. Since becoming a dog walker, I am forced to exercise and walk everyday. While it hasn’t cured my mental illnesses, it has decreased some of my symptoms. I am forced to get out of bed and do something. In recent studies, they have found that dog owners are a lot more likely to meet daily exercise requirements then none dog owners!
  2. Sense of Purpose- When you know that there is another living being that relies solely on you,
    Koda and I on a walk.

    you get a sense of worthiness. I know I struggle with feeling needed, but as soon as I schedule a dog walk, I know that that dog needs me. That the dog is waiting for me to walk it. It makes me feel needed in this world. It has increased my self worth and makes me feel like I have a purpose.

  3. Structure/Daily Routine- Many people who suffer with depression and anxiety know the struggle of having a routine. All we want is structure in our lives in a world where everything is hectic and last minute. Having a dog/being a dog walker, gives you a routine. Most dogs get up to do their business at the same time every morning and they know when its walk/feeding time. Trust me 🙂 It has given me a set schedule and has helped me feel more structured and less crazy!
  4. Forever Companion- Dogs will steal your heart, but you will also steal theirs. They are one of the most loving and caring animals out there. They sense your emotions and will be there for you through your good and bad days. I know that when I have a bad day, I always have my happy little furry babies to come home to. They are my friends when my depression tells me I have none.
  5. Petting Reduces Stress- It is proven, that the ‘motion’ and the ’emotion’ the goes into petting,
    Chloe with my Guinea Pig Daisy

    actually releases oxytocin (hormone related to anxiety relief), which can help reduce blood pressure!

  6. Mindfullness- For people who are trying to practice mindfulness (anxiety/depression technique that keeps you in the current moment), having a dog will help you do that! They keep you distracted from the bad things that are going on, and make you concentrate on their cute shenanigans.
  7. Koda with a cup on his head.

    Help with Isolation- For those days when your depression gets the best of you, they help you feel less lonely and less isolated. They will be there for you when no one else is, and knowing that always makes me feel better.

  8. They allow me to smile- Last year, when my depression and anxiety were at its peak, I forgot how to smile. The only time I smiled was when I was in the presence of my dogs. They taught me how to smile again, and I am so grateful to them.

My dogs have helped give me my life back. While I am still fighting my

Koda smiling.

depression and anxiety, I am definitely proof that dogs can help in this fight against mental illness. While they also may be a huge responsibility, they are also a huge help in the war with mental illness.

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I will close by stating the obvious.

That is that everyone who has a dog or two in their life and has times of feeling depressed knows without question what it means to hug a dog.

Those who do not have a dog in their life and have experienced depression should find their own dog to hug – pronto!