Archive for the 'Dogs ' Category

How To Choose The Right Rescue Dog For You!

There are hundreds of thousands of rescue dogs out there, So how do you choose what type of rescue fits your family.

We all want to rescue a dog with a terrible story and give it the kind of life it deserves, however these poor creatures have issues that will need to be worked through and may not be the right dog for your family. The worst thing for a rescued dog, is to be adopted, and the new owner realizes they are not the right home for this dog. The dog then goes back into the system. They already struggle with abandonment issues and now, if they are lucky, come to trust a new owner, only to be abandoned again. This creates more trust issues and insecurities, very much like children in foster care system. This happens every day because a person hears the story and they want to help or they fall in love with the look of the dog. It is important to take your time and meet different dogs, go visit the dog a couple of times. Ask the shelter or rescue employees about the personality and behavior of the dog you are interested in. If you have a dog at home, your dog should be brought to meet the possible new dog you are interested in and make sure they are a match. I get called out all the time because people are having a problem with their dogs fighting with each other. It is better to bring in a female if you already have a male or a male if you already have a female. Having an age gap between the dogs is also helpful for example if you have a 4 year old at home, I would bring in a dog less than two years of age. If the dogs are too close in age, especially dogs around the age of 2 – 3 years, they may want to challenge each other for position in the pack. Younger dogs with an older dog sometimes bring the life back into an older dog but be aware, sometimes a younger dog will stress an older dog. Maybe your older dog would like an older companion. People also tend to want to adopt siblings, which can become a problem between the siblings as they become young adults, If you do want to adopt siblings, again, choose a male and a female they have a better chance of getting along with each other through out their life.

First question to ask yourself is what personality will fit in our family?
Are you an active family? If so then you want a rescue that is more outgoing, active and shows good social skills with people and other animals. Are you an older couple with restrictions on activities? Then an older dog would be a better fit or a dog that needs a quiet home or is fearful and not very social with other dogs. Are you a family with young children? If so, you want a calmer dog that does not jump or play bite but still likes chasing a ball and playing. Shy or fearful dogs, teacups or smaller dogs are not recommended for smaller children as they can be too rough with a tiny or small dog. A medium size dog around 30– 40 lbs. would be better. Teenage children are more able to handle the larger more active dogs. A family with time, patients and experienced older children in the house make good homes for those rescues dogs with the sad story that will be a project.

In closing there is a rescue dog out there for everyone just make sure you give a forever home to a rescue that fits into your life. This is a life time commitment and should not be jumped into without careful thinking and everyone in the family should agree on the rescue. There is no such thing as this is my wife’s dog or my husband’s dog and definitely it is not a child’s dog. The rescue should be a family dog.

Remember, Adopt, Don’t shop!!!!!!

Valerie Masi
Best Paw Forward

Dog Hiking Etiquette

It’s that time of year again, the weather has changed and we are back out on the hiking trails with our 4 legged friends. In order to make your hiking experience as enjoyable as possible there will be certain items you will want to bring as well as certain unspoken rules we should all abide by. Items you should bring but not limited too are: Water for your self and the dog or dogs, small first aid kit, supplement bars for you and some treats for your pup & doggie bags. The doggie backpacks of today are able to carry many of your dog’s needs; some of them have water bladders built into the backpack, this way your dog carries its own supplies and gives it a job too.

Unspoken rules:

1. Dogs should always be on leash – we have rattle snakes, sharp rocks and narrow trails, can all be hazards for your dog.

2. Dogs should always be very social with people and with other dogs. A tight hiking path is a terrible place for dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs to meet and if a fight breaks out everyone could be in trouble.

3. Make sure you only hike as far as your dog is physically capable of going. Over weight dogs and older dogs will need to work up to taking long hikes and a physical from your Vet before starting rigorous exercise is important.

4. If you go around a blind curve in the trail always make sure you are leading the way and not your dog. Again, if a person comes around a corner and the first face they see is a strange dog it could scare the person and cause the dog to react in an unsafe way.

5. Always check the pads of your dog’s feet, Pets have been mostly indoors all summer and that causes their pads to soften, so while they are hiking up sandy trails with stones that could cut their pads.

6. Always carry dog bags. Always pick up after your dog.

7. When hiking with small dogs always remember that they may not be able to keep up with you, so be prepared to carry them several times during the hike. Most importantly keep your eyes open for coyotes and birds of prey. Small dogs can be taken off leash by coyotes and picked up by birds off prey. It is important for dog owners to be courteous to everyone you share the trails with, If we want to continue to take our dogs out and about in public areas we need to prove to the public that dog owners can and will be responsible with their pet in public.

Valerie Masi
Best Paw Forward

Dog Park Etiquette

Dog parks can be a wonderful way to let your dogs have an open space to run as well as socialize with other dogs. We are very fortunate to have several dog parks here in the desert provided by cities as well as private country clubs. Most cities post basic rules to be followed, however there are rules we owners should follow that are not necessarily posted. The number one rule should be is to keep your eyes on your dog at all times. Owners can get distracted by socializing with other owners especially when you attend a certain park regularly. It is important to observe your dog and make sure they are behaving at all times. I’m sure if you were taking your child to the play ground you would not let idol conversation distract you from your child’s safety. Your dog is no different; it only takes a second for a good time to turn bad. If your dog is not socialized with other dogs, depending on the age and demeanor, the dog park may not be the place to begin. If you have a scared or shy dog that you would like to socialize it is better to find a couple quiet dogs to start with. Working with lower energy dogs in smaller groups will help build your pets confidence and prepare him for larger more stressful situations. When it is time to explore the dog park, start during quieter times and not at peak hours. A dog that is shy or scared will be overwhelmed if you give him too much too soon. Never take an aggressive dog to a dog park.

A dog park is not the appropriate way to work on your dog’s aggressive behavior with other dogs. Contact a professional trainer and behaviorist to help you with dog aggression. Other safety concerns are dogs without updated vaccines; it is every owner’s responsibility to vaccinate your dog. Un-altered dogs should not be taken to the dog park. An un-altered male may mount other dogs in a more dominate manner which is socially unacceptable and will cause fights, never allow your dog to mount others. Un-altered females in season should never ever be allowed in a dog parks.

Always adhere to the small dog and large dog rules. Even if your large dog plays well with small dogs, not all small dogs will be comfortable with a large dog running around. This will also reduce the chance of accidental injuries.

Human food and dog treats should not be taken to the park. It is common for people to want to give treats to their dogs for good behavior; however food has a very high value to dogs and can cause dogs to become aggressive with each other. Save the treat for later. The park is a place to play not to eat.

It is not recommended for small children to attend the parks as they can get hurt with dogs running and jumping. Even older children should not be allowed to run around the park with the dogs, you should keep them close by so they do not get in the way of hard play by dogs.

Always remove training collars and halters before dog enters the park . Dogs can play rough at times and this will alleviate the chance of broken teeth and or a mouth caught on the collar.

Most dog parks have an airlock door system (two doors) this system was set in place to keep dogs from getting out accidentally. This is the area to remove training collars and halters. This is also a great place to calm your dog before entering the park. As you may know when you get to the park your dog is extremely excited to be there, however this excitement can cause over stimulation and dog fights. Keeping your dog controlled in the car until it is on leash and waiting calmly to get out of the car will help to dissipate some high energy. Walk your dog to the park in the heel command is best. If you have not taught your dog the heel command, walk it around the outside of the park until it shows you a calmer state of mind. When you get to the airlock system unleash and remove training items and wait again for your dog to calm down. You will also notice that by waiting for your dog to clam down the dogs inside the park loose interest and start to walk away from the door when in turn, is much better for dogs to enter. When a dog has to walk through a pack of excited dogs it can be overwhelming causing a dog to lash out at others. If you are already in the park, make your dog move away from the doors when new dogs enter.
When you enter with your dog, wait there for a couple minutes until your dog is calm and the others start walking away. Be courteous and wait until the airlock area is clear before you enter the area.

Another problem at dog parks is the running back and fourth barking at the fence line. When your dog starts this behavior usually others jump into the game. The problem lies once again with dogs getting over stimulated leading to one biting at another. This can cause the dog to displace aggression towards the other dog. This should be stopped immediately.

Unfortunately when a dog fight does break out most people are afraid to approach. Learning how to read your dogs body language for the pre-cursor signs will help you to control situations before they arise. If other dogs are bothersome to yours, ask the other dogs owner to please stop it’s dog’s behavior. If the owner does not behave appropriately, leave the park and report the actions of the dog and owner to what ever department is specified on the dog park rules sign. If a fight breaks out and your dog is not apart of it get a hold of your dog as the fight itself causes some dogs to become over stimulated and jump in. This will keep your dog safe and help the owners of the fighting dogs stop it faster. It is important for owners to be courteous to each other, respect the rules, and work together as a community to help others understand proper dog park etiquette.

Dominance-Making Sense of the Nonsense

Posted by Roger Abrantes

The possible combinations of aggressive, fearful, dominant and submissive behavior in social canines (From “Dog Language” by Roger Abrantes, illustration by Alice Rasmussen). Copyrighted illustration.The discussion on dominance has run away with us. There is only one thing more absurd and futile than that of taking pains to prove that dominance exists and this is to attempt to prove that dominance does not exist. In the following, I shall commit the first of these futile acts.Dominance means in daily language “power and influence over others.” It means supremacy, superiority, ascendancy, preeminence, predominance, mastery, power, authority, rule, command, control. It has so many meanings and connotations that it’s difficult to know how to use it as a precise scientific term in the behavioral sciences. Additionally, the scientists who use it (as well as those who repudiate it) haven’t gone to great extents to define it accurately, contributing to the present confusion, to meaningless discussions, fall-outs, and nonsensical claims. Wolf-dog hybrid (Image via Wikipedia).It is my intention to remedy this firstly by demonstrating that dominance does exist, then, by establishing that it refers to one and the same class of behaviors independent of the species being discussed. I will then present a precise, pragmatic and verifiable definition of the term, which is compatible with evolutionary theory and our body of biological knowledge. Finally, I shall argue that even though it is true that a good (profitable and stable) relationship does not rely on continuous displays of dominance/submission from the same individuals toward the same individuals, this does not imply that dominance does not exist in dogs (or any other species). Denying that dominance exists in dogs has become a popular argument to defend the claim that we must not build a good relationship to our dogs on dominance.It is absurd to argue that dominance does not exist when we have so many words to describe whatever it relates to. If it didn’t, we would not have even one word for it. That it exists means that we have seen it somewhere around us. We can argue that we observed it and that the term (1) refers only to particular human relations, or that (2) it refers to particular relations among humans as well as some other animal species. The second option seems more appealing, considering that it is highly improbable that a particular condition would exist for only one single species. It would conflict deeply with all we know about the relatedness and evolution of species. In a stable pack, wolves display mostly dominant and submissive behavior and seldom aggressive and fearful behavior.However, there is nothing implausible in stating that the term does not apply to describe the behavior of some particular species. On the contrary, two species which diverged from a common ancestor billions of years ago have evolved and developed characteristics of their own and differ both from the common ancestor and one another. By the same token, species closely related, only diverging from a common ancestor a few thousands year ago, will show various characteristics, similar or equal to the common ancestor and to one another. Some species share many common attributes as to phenotype, genotype and/or behavior, others less, some none at all. It all depends on their common ancestry and their adaptation to the environment.Humans and chimpanzees (Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes) diverged from their common ancestor about six millions year ago and so we can expect them to be more different from one another than wolves and dogs (Canis lupus lupus and Canis lupus familiaris), only diverging from a common ancestor probably about 15-20 thousand years ago (and in no circumstances more than 100 thousand years ago). The human and the chimpanzee DNA differ in a higher degree than the DNA of wolf and dog (which is almost identical except for a few mutations). Humans cannot interbreed with chimpanzees; wolves and dogs can and produce fertile offspring. Humans and chimpanzees are two completely distinct species. Wolves and dogs are two sub-species of the same species.These facts considered, we could expect wolves and dogs to show a great number of similarities, which they do, not only physically but also behaviorally. Any laymen will attest to that. Their similarities at one level or another is what makes it possible for them to mate, produce fertile offspring, and communicate. Nobody has questioned that wolves and dogs have a very large common repertoire of communication behaviors; and rightly so, for multiple observations have confirmed that they do communicate perfectly well. Their facial expressions and bodily postures are remarkably similar (except for a few dog breeds), with small differences being smaller than cultural features among some human geographically separated settlements.If wolves and dogs can communicate, it follows then, that the basic and crucial elements of their languages must be the same. This means that even though they evolved in apparently distinct environments, they kept the most anchored elements of their genotypic characteristics. This may be for three reasons: (1) the common genotypes are vital to the organism, (2) the environments were not so crucially distinct after all, (3) evolution needs more time and more selective conditions (since it operates on phenotypes) before the genotypes begin to differ radically. (1) means that there are more ways of not being alive than being alive, or, in other words, that evolution needs time to come up with different, viable life forms. (2) means that even though wolves and (pet) dogs now live in completely different environments, the phenomenon is yet too recent. It is only in the last century that dogs became thoroughly humanized. Until then, they were our companions, domestic animals, but still had a large degree of freedom and the successful selective factors were basically the same as always. They weren’t pets yet and breeding was not totally (or almost totally) controlled by human selection. (3) means that we might one day (in a million years or so) have two completely distinct species, wolves and dogs. By then, they will not mate, will not produce fertile offspring and will show some completely different characteristics. They will have changed name to maybe Canis civicus, or Canis homunculus. However, we are not there yet!Recent trends claim that “dominant behavior” does not exist in dogs, which poses some serious problems. There are two ways to argue in favor of such thinking. One is to dismiss “dominant behavior” downright, which is absurd since, for the reasons we saw above, the term exists, we know roughly what it means and we can have a meaningful conversation using it. It must, therefore, refer to a class of behaviors that we have observed. Another argument is to claim that wolves and dogs are completely different and that therefore, even though we can apply the term to explain wolf behavior, we cannot use it to describe dog behavior. If they were completely different, the argument would be valid, but they are not, as we have seen. On the contrary, they are very similarA third alternative is to build a brand new theory to explain how two so closely related species as the wolf and the dog (actually sub-species) can have developed in such a short period (thousands of years) so many radically different characteristics in one aspect, but not others. This would amount to a massive revision of the entire complex of our biological knowledge with implications far beyond wolves and dogs and one which I find unrealistic.A far more appealing approach, it seems to me, is to analyze the concepts we use and define them properly. This would allow for their more meaningful use when dealing with the different species, without running into incompatibilities with the entire body of science.A proper definition of “dominant behavior” is important because the behavior it encompasses is crucial to the survival of the individual, as we shall see.It appears to me a poor approach to dismiss the existence of facts underlying a term, just because that term is ill-defined, not to mention it being politically incorrect (which means that it doesn’t suit our immediate goals). Dominant behavior exists, merely that it is badly defined (when defined at all). Most discussions involving it are meaningless because none of the parts knows what exactly the other is talking about. However, we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water! Therefore, I suggest precise definitions of dominant behavior as well as all the terms we need to understand it, what it is, what it is not, how it evolved and how it functions.Dominant behavior is a quantitative and quantifiable behavior displayed by an individual with the function of gaining or maintaining temporary access to a particular resource on a particular occasion, versus a particular opponent, without either party incurring injury. If any of the parties incur injury, then the behavior is aggressive and not dominant. Its quantitative characteristics range from slightly self-confident to overtly assertive.Dominant behavior is situational, individual and resource related. One individual displaying dominant behavior in one specific situation does not necessarily show it on another occasion toward another individual, or toward the same individual in another situation.Resources are what an organism perceives as life necessities, e.g. food, mating partner, or a patch of territory. The perception of what an animal may consider a resource is species as well as individual related.Aggressiveness (aggressive behavior) is behavior directed toward the elimination of competition while dominance, or social-aggressiveness, is behavior directed toward the elimination of competition from a mate.Mates are two or more animals that live closely together and depend on one another for survival. Aliens are two or more animals that do not live close together and do not depend on one another for survival.Dominant behavior is particularly important for social animals that need to cohabit and cooperate to survive. Therefore, a social strategy evolved with the function of dealing with competition among mates which caused the least disadvantages.Animals show dominant behavior with various signals, visual, auditive, olfactory and/or tactile.While fear (fearful behavior) is behavior directed toward the elimination of an incoming threat, submissive behavior, or social-fear, is behavior directed toward the elimination of a social-threat from a mate, i.e. losing temporary access to a resource without incurring injury.A threat is everything that may harm, inflict pain or injury, or decrease an individual’s chance of survival. A social-threat is everything that may cause the temporary loss of a resource and may cause submissive behavior or flight, without the submissive individual incurring injury.Animals show submissive behavior by means of various signals, visual, auditory, olfactory and/or tactile.Persistent dominant or submissive behavior from the same individuals may or may not result in a temporary hierarchy of a certain configuration depending on species, social organization and environmental circumstances. In stable groups confined to a defined territory, temporary hierarchies will develop more readily. In unstable groups, changing environmental conditions, in undefined or non-established territories, hierarchies will not develop. Hierarchies, or rather the involved strategies, are Evolutionarily Stable Strategies (ESS), always slightly unstable, swinging forth and back around an optimal value depending on the number of individuals in the group and the single strategies each one adopts at any given time. Hierarchies are not necessarily linear, although in small groups and with time, non-linear hierarchies seem to have a tendency to become more linear.Some individuals will have a stronger tendency to show dominant behavior and others to show submissive behavior. This may depend on their genetic makeup, early learning, history, etc. We are not saying that there is one single factor determining this, rather a complex mixture. Let us call this a natural tendency, again not saying that it is not modifiable. It is a fact that some individuals are more assertive than others, while others are more condescending, for many reasons. We are not saying that it is good or bad, just stating a fact—whether it is good or bad, not in a moral sense, rather meaning more or less advantageous depending on context. On one to one encounters, all things being equal, individuals will more likely adopt the strategy they feel most comfortable with, hence maintaining their history of mostly dominant or mostly submissive.When in a larger group, they will have the same tendency to play the roles they feel most comfortable with. However, this may change due to the accidental makeup of the group. Imagine a group with many individuals more often prone to showing submissive behavior than dominant and with only a few members of the opposite tendency. In this scenario, a naturally submissive individual would have a chance to gain access to resources by showing a more dominant behavior and being successful. Success breeds success and, progressively, this otherwise mostly submissive individual finds itself being mostly dominant. If the scenario opens the possibility for one individual to change its preferred strategy, then others will also have the same opportunities. The number of dominant individuals will increase, but the number of dominant individuals a group can sustain is not unlimited because at a certain point, it will be more advantageous to play the submissive strategy, all depending on benefits and costs.Therefore, the number of dominant and submissive individuals in a group depends not only on the natural tendency of the individuals, but also of the make-up of the group as to these characteristics. Whether it pays off to play a dominant or a submissive role is ultimately a function of benefits and costs and the number of individuals that adopt the one particular strategy.Understanding the relationship between dominant and submissive behavior as an ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategy) opens up exciting perspectives, which could help to explain the behavior adopted by any given individual, at any given time. A submissive individual will learn to play submissive toward more dominant ones and dominant toward more submissive ones. This means that no individual is in principle always dominant or submissive, it all rather depends on the opponent and, of course, the values of the potential benefit and estimated costs.As a corollary, hierarchies (when existing) will always be slightly unstable depending on the adopted strategies by the individuals forming the group. Hierarchies don’t need to be linear and will only be in small groups or sub-groups.In the opinion of this author, the mistake we have committed hitherto has been to regard dominance and submission as more or less static. We haven’t realized that these characteristics, as phenotypes and as all other traits, are constantly under the scrutiny and pressure of natural selection. They are adaptive, highly variable and highly quantitative and quantifiable.As such, dominance and submission are dynamic features depending on different variables, a view which is compatible with the development of the behavior at the individual level, genetic functions, the influence of learning and, not least, evolutionary theory.Dominance and submission are beautiful mechanisms from an evolutionary point of view. They are what enables (social) animals to live together, to survive until they reproduce and pass their (dominant and submissive) genes to the next generation. Without these mechanisms, we wouldn’t have social animals like humans, chimpanzees, wolves and dogs among many others.If an animal resolves all inter-group conflicts with aggressive and fearful behavior, it will be exhausted when subsequently compelled to go and find food, a mating partner, a safe place to rest or take care of its progeny (all decreasing the chances for its survival as well as that of its genes). Thus, the alien and mate strategy originated and evolved. It is impossible to fight everybody all of the time, so a mate is confronted using energy-saving procedures.Submissive and dominant behavior also control population density, since they rely on individual recognition. The number of personal recognitions an animal is capable of must have a limit. If this number exceeds a certain level it makes recognition inefficient, switching off the mate/alien strategy; fearful/aggressive displays, then, replace submissive/dominant behavior.The strategy of submission is wise. Instead of vainly engaging in a desperate fight, waiting may prove much more rewarding. By employing pacifying and submissive behavior, subordinates are often able to shadow dominant animals and profit from opportunities to gain access to vital resources. By showing submission, they also gain advantages from the membership of the group—particularly defense against rivals.Hierarchies work because a subordinate will often move away, showing typical pacifying behavior, without any obvious signs of fear. Thus, the dominant animal may simply displace a subordinate when feeding or at a desirable site. Hierarchies in nature are often very subtle, being difficult for an observer to uncover. The reason for this subtlety is the raison d’être of dominance-submission itself: the subordinate animal generally avoids encounters and the dominant one is not too keen on running into skirmishes either.Fighting involves a certain amount of risk and can lead to serious injury, or even death. Evolution, therefore, shows a tendency towards favoring and developing mechanisms, which restrain the intensity of aggressive behavior. Most species have clear signals that show acceptance of defeat, which end combat before injury occurs.To recognize sign-stimuli is the most important task for the infant immediately after birth. It saves its life. Compromise is the most relevant lesson a social youngster may learn after having learned fundamental life-saving sign-stimuli. It maintains the fitness of the social life of the group. Natural selection has proved this, as it favors individuals that develop behavior enabling them to stay together. Other animals, the solitary predators, do not need these social traits. These organisms found other ways of dealing with the maintenance of their metabolism and reproduction.Learning to be social means learning to compromise. Social animals spend vast amounts of time together and conflicts are inevitable. It is sensible for them to develop mechanisms with which they can deal with hostilities. Limiting aggressive and fearful behavior by means of inhibition and ritualization is only partially safe. The more social the animal is, the more effective mechanisms are obligatory. Inhibited aggression is still aggression; it is playing with fire on a windy day. It works well for less social or less aggressive animals, but highly social and aggressive animals need other mechanisms.In the long run, it would be too dangerous and too exhausting to constantly resort to aggression and fear to solve banal problems. Animals show signs of pathological stress after a time when under constant threat, or constantly needing to attack others. This suggests that social predators need mechanisms other than aggressiveness and fear to solve social animosities. It is my suggestion that social animals, through the ontogeny of aggression and fear, develop two other equally important social behaviors. If the meaning of aggression is ‘go away, drop dead, never bother me again’, the meaning of social-aggression is ‘go away, but not too far, or for too long.’ Equally, social-fear says ‘I won’t bother you if you do not hurt me,’ while existential-fear does not allow any compromise—‘It’s you or me.’The significant difference between the two types of aggressive behavior seems to be the function. Aggression deals with the alien and social-aggression with the mate. Conversely, fear and social-fear deal with alien and mate. These are qualitative differences that justify the creation of new terms, hence dominance and submission.What does this mean for our understanding of our dogs and our relationship with them?It means that we all show dominant (self-confident, assertive, firm, forceful) behavior as well as submissive (insecure, accepting, consenting, yielding) behavior depending on many factors, e.g. state of mind, social position, resources, health status, opponent—humans as well as dogs (and wolves of course). There’s nothing wrong with it except when we show dominant behavior where it would be more advantageous to show submissive behavior and vice versa. Sometimes we may be more dominant or submissive and other times less so. These are highly quantitative and quantifiable behaviors, with many variables. There is not one single correct strategy. It all depends on flexibility and the strategy adopted by others.Of course, we don’t build stable and profitable relationships in the long run by showing dominant or submissive behaviors’. These are necessary behaviors to solve the inevitable social conflicts. We build relationships on the necessity of partnership—we as well as dogs (and wolves of course)—to solve common problems related to surviving and preferably with an acceptable level of comfort. We do not build relationships on hierarchies, but they do exist and they do perform an important role in certain circumstances—for humans as well as dogs (and wolves of course)—sometimes more, sometimes less and sometimes not at all.We build our particular (good) relationship with our dogs on partnership. We need them because they give us a sense of accomplishment that we don’t seem to get anywhere else. They need us because the world is overpopulated, the resources are limited and an owner provides food, protection, health care, a safe place and companionship (they are social animals). It’s too hard to be a little dog all alone out there in the big world! Sometimes, in this relationship, one of the parties recurs to dominant or submissive behavior and there’s nothing wrong with it as long as they do not both show the same behavior at the same time. If both show dominance or submission, they have a problem: they either run into a conflict that they will solve most of the time without any injury (the beauty of dominance and submission), or one of them will have to get his act together and find the bearings for both.A good relationship with our dogs does not involve any particular and mysterious mechanisms. It’s basically the same as with all good relationships, taking into consideration the specific characteristics of the species and individuals involved. We don’t need new terms. We don’t need any new theories to explain it. We aren’t, after all, that special, nor are our dogs. We are all built from the same concept and with the same basic ingredients. All we need are good definitions and a less emotional and more rational approach. Use your heart to enjoy your dog (and life) and your reason to explain it (if you need it), not the other way around. If you don’t like my definitions, make others which are better (with more advantages and less disadvantages), but don’t waste your time (or anyone’s) with meaningless discussions and knee-jerk reactions. Life is precious and every moment wasted is one less bite of a cake that you’ve devoured without even realizing it.This is how I see it and it looks beautiful to me—enjoy your cake!R-Related articles
Wolves in France – the Hunting is on (
The primary ancestors of the domestic dog (
Someone’s wrong on the internet, Part II (
Abrantes, R. 1997. The Evolution of Canine Social Behavior. Wakan Tanka Publishers.
Coppinger, R. and Coppinger, L. 2001. Dogs: a Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. Scribner.
Creel, S., and Creel, N. M. 1996. Rank and reproduction in cooperatively breeding African wild dogs: behavioral and endocrine correlates. Behav. Ecol. 8:298-306.
Darwin, C. 1872. The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. John Murray (the original edition).
Estes, R. D., and Goddard, J. 1967. Prey selection and hunting behavior of the African wild dog. J. Wildl. Manage. 31:52-70.

Not all dogs maybe as social as yours

As a trainer in the desert I work with all types of problems. One of the biggest problems is aggression. This can be due to lack of socialization or rescue dogs that have been isolated from the world and or abused. There are many different reasons for socialization problems. This article is not so much to focus on why the dogs are aggressive towards people or animals, but for the people who may encounter these animals while out and about.

When working with these animals I give the owners homework that requires them to take their dogs out for walks and to different social settings. My request to the people that have a well socialized dog is to not assume all dogs are like yours. My biggest complaint from clients is when they are working with their dog other people with social dogs try to approach them and carry on a conversation while letting their dogs approach into the less social dog’s space.

That is our focus today, Space.

We all like our personal space and as a society we do pretty well at respecting each others , however when it comes to our animals we don’t think about their personal space. Animals, like people, enjoy their personal space. Animals with social issues need their personal space because it’s about trust. If you went somewhere and people did not respect your personal space you would consider those people rude. You may even become angry or afraid in an over stimulating situation. Dogs that have these trust issues become reactive in situations. If a dog is already fearful and another dog or human approaches, it can automatically react in an aggressive way. This could be snapping, barking, or growling to let the offender know they have come to close. While working with an aggressive dog the other day we encountered some people and they asked about the dog. One person tried to approach with their hand extended out to the dog for it to smell. Even though the dog was muzzled and the person was told it was aggressive they still wanted to approach the dog. This hurts our efforts to teach the dog to trust.

The best way to approach an animal is to just stand there ignore it and let it decide when it wants to engage with you, not the other way around. We have been taught for years to introduce ourselves to a dog you extend your hand for the dog to smell, this is a great way to get your hand bitten. If a dog is social you will see that it is excited to see you and there is no reason to extend your hand, if it is not, that is when people usually extend their hand to help the dog feel more comfortable but in reality you are encroaching on their personal space and this can lead to an act of aggression. If a dog tries to move away from the situation and the person moves toward the dog, still having their hand extended, this gives a dog no other option then to respond in an aggressive manner.

Another problem out there is retractable leashes. Even social dogs have limits. Some dogs don’t like other dogs jumping up into their face and they will snap at the other dog to get them to stop. The owners may get mad at that dog because it stated what it wanted, his space. That’s not fair to the dog whose space is being encroached upon and we are not teaching the other dog appropriate social manners. This mainly happens with the retractable leashes. Retractable leashes are good for country walking, not city walking. They are a great tool to teach “come”; no longer do we have to pull in 30 feet of line. But when you are walking in a neighborhood, on a trail, side walk, parks or anywhere there are people and dogs, you should have your dog on a 4 to 6 foot leash so you have control at all times.

When you pass other people or dogs you should pull the leash in and have your dog walk by your side so it does not jump on them or another dog. When we walk in a group and pass people we are polite and move into a single or double file so others may pass easily. We need to apply the same rules for our dogs. So next time you are out for a walk with or without your dog remember your social etiquette with dogs so you can help people that are helping their dogs to deal with their socialization problems and become a well balance animal in the future.

Valerie Masi
Best Paw Forward

Road Trips With Your Dog

Traveling with your dog can be enjoyable but somewhat stressful for you and your dog. So the best way to keep the stress down is to be prepared. I start traveling with my dogs at a very early age. My Mastiff, Fiona, took her first road trip at the age of 4 months. We traveled all over California, staying in hotels as well as the homes of friends and family. When planning your trip there are several things to be taken into consideration. First of all, when making reservations at hotels it is important to inquire about location of rooms. Although I have found it can be quieter for me on the top floor, if your pet has never experienced a flight of stairs, an elevator, or noises from above this can prove to be quite challenging.

We stayed in cabins and casitas that were private and quiet, as well as motels in busy, noisy areas. So the dog needed to adapt with every new stay. Dogs can adapt easily if they and we are prepared for the changes. This reduces your stress and in turn reduces your dog’s stress. If you know you are going to be staying in a hotel on an upper floor you can practice stairs or even elevators while at home so your dog is already comfortable with these situations.

If you plan on leaving your dog in the room then it is important to have your dog crate trained. Most hotels require that you crate pets in the room if leaving them alone. I would also suggest you leave them alone for only an hour or two at a time, again, to reduce stress. Crating your dog at home with the television on, and recreating the situation in your hotel, can help make your dog feel a little more at ease. I would also advise you to inquire about local dog parks and hiking trails to allow for your dog to get much needed exercise and playtime. Find emergency vet hospitals in the areas you’re staying in. Do not change your dog’s diet while traveling! The trip itself can cause stress related stomach issues so we do not want to add to the problem by changing the diet in any way. As well as having first aide supplies for myself including tropical antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide and Benadryl (all suitable for dogs).

I also make sure to add some important other essentials for my animals. Acidophilus and pure canned pumpkin can be a wonderful and easy way to treat mild stomach upsets, however if your pet tends to have one of those ongoing digestive problems or other chronic issues, consult with your vet for medicines and dosages. I recommend you also bring along different leashes, (a 6 ft. and a retractable), training collars, food and water bowls, food, and a blanket for the dog to sleep on. This also helps to give the dog an “at home feeling”. Towels to dry or clean feet, simple grooming tools i.e.: brush & baby wipes, a couple favorite toys and chew bones can be handy as well. And as always plenty of fresh clean water for both you and your pet. Of coarse there are always breed specific, and activity related items that you may also want to include in your supplies.

All these suggestions are just a few of what you can do to insure you and your pet have a happy, safe and healthy trip.

Happy Tails to you……………
Valerie Masi
Best Paw Forward

The Do’s And Don’ts of Teaching Your Dogs to Swim

During the hot summer months having your dog swim is a great form of exercise and can be a lot of fun for you and your dog. This article is intended to teach you the proper way to introduce your dog to the pool and to make you aware of things that can cause your dog to become fearful of the pool.

Imagine walking along this body of water on a warm sunny day and all of the sudden someone grabs you and throws you in the water. Having never experienced the pool, this would put you in a panic and fearful state. It is not any different for your dog. The best way to introduce the pool is in steps this process may take some time with some dogs or you may move through these steps quickly, it all depends on your dog. Remember this is a process of building trust and confidence.

Step 1- While on leash, walk your dog around the pool moving closer to the edge with each passing.

Step 2- When the dog is comfortably walking close to the edge sit down at the edge of the pool with your feet in the water and lightly splash water on the dog’s feet, making sure not to splash the face. If the dog is still nervous, give it some of his favorite treats and a lot of praise while splashing the water on the feet. If your dog is still a little nervous then you need to practice step 1&2 a few more times until the dog is comfortable sitting at the edge.

Step 3 – if you have steps in your pool lure your dog with treats to the first step and let them stand there until he is calm. Depending on the pool, you may have to put the dogs front paws on the second step, dogs have a problem with depth perception so they need to feel where that next step is. Once the front feet are on second step, reward with treat and praise. Put the back feet on the step and reward and praise. Let the dog out of the pool and repeat until the dog comfortably goes on the first & second step. If you have, a tanning bed or a beach entrance pool, lure the dog into the area, treat and praise. When the dog is comfortable, walk the dog around the area on leash, praising as you go. When dog is relaxed, step out of the pool and repeat the step until dog goes in without a lure just praise.

Step 4 – Now it’s time to put the dog in the pool. If you have a bulldog breed or a short muzzled dog it’s a good idea to have your dog wear a life jacket while teaching them to swim. Let the dog wear the life jacket at different times before using it to swim to get the dog accustom to it, introducing something new and teaching to swim at the same time could make the dog very uncomfortable. (The next move for all breeds), while introducing the dog to swimming, is to cradle the dog first like you would a child. Put one arm around the front of your dog’s chest and the other under the chest closer to the abdomen so the legs are free to paddle. Hold the dog close to your body, be aware with large breeds, as they are kicking they may scratch you, wearing a shirt in the pool is always a good idea. Then glide around the pool keeping the dog’s head above water at all times. When the dog is relaxed take them a couple feet from the steps and let them swim to steps helping them keep their hind end up. Stop them from getting out of the pool, keep them on the step or in the tanning bed end give them lots of praise and a couple treats. When dog is relaxed again repeat the step letting the dog swim farther and farther away from the step. This does not have to be done in one session. Never let the dog go while in a panicking state.

Step 5 – Now you will put all the steps together having the dog walk into the pool and swim. You will want to put the leash on the dog so you can glide it through all the steps and into the water. You will need to praise and encourage the dog a lot to motivate because during this process you will not give a treat until the dog returns to the step and again do not let the dog out of the pool until it is relaxed, then repeat.

Always be upbeat to keep dog motivated! Remember; never, ever throw your dog into a pool cold turkey! Don’t be cross with the dog or nervous. Never force the dog in the pool, take your time and work the steps. Never end a session on a bad note. Always let the dog finish the session successfully. This way the last memory of the pool is positive. Don’t skip steps or rush through steps, go at the dogs pace.

If you have a dog that has had a bad experience with the pool or you are having difficulties teaching these steps, call a professional dog trainer to help you. When giving your dog treats make sure they are very small pieces, do not use milk bones for treats they are too large and you will cause the dog to be too full for treats to motivate. We also want to watch calories. It helps to play or walk with the dog for a few minutes prior to the lessons to relieve anxiety. The pool will be more refreshing to a hot dog and a hot you! So relax, and take a dip, together!

Valerie Masi
Best Paw Forward

Why Socializing Your Dog Is Important

Many people are not aware that their dogs are social creatures like humans. Because of this people tend to feel that a nice backyard is all they need. This is false. I like to use the analogy “ If I gave you a beautiful mansion to live in for a month with everything you need, the only stipulation is you cannot have visitors or leave, how long before you go stir crazy?” It can be fun for a couple weeks but after a while you will need to get out an about. That’s how your dog feels. It needs to get out and be part of the world to stay happy and balanced. Walks are the most important however socializing with other dogs and people help to keep your dog in a friendly place. Being isolated from the outside world creates anxiety and fear aggression. Dogs that may already be in this state of mind can be helped by a professional trainer that is familiar with this behavior problem. I suggest you do not try to socialize a nonsocial dog without professional help. So next time you lace up your shoes to head out don’t forget to bring your canine friend.

Valerie Masi
Best Paw forward

Does my dog have the same emotions as I do?

Does my dog have the same emotions as I do? This is a very difficult question. Scientists have been doing studies in an attempt to prove that dogs have similar emotions to humans ( Friederike Range University Of Vienna and Paul Morris of University Of Portsmouth) while others claim the studies are tainted with the style of testing (Sharon Maguire Dog Breed Info Center; Barnard Collage did research and had no definitive answer “The jury is still out”). The difficult part of proving that they have the same emotions is the animal’s instincts.

When humans put their emotions on their pets it is called Anthropomorphism (ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things). As humans we want to believe our loving pets are showing or feeling the same emotions we do it comforts us to believe we share the same feelings. In reality they are not, at least not in the same way as we do. They have emotions just not as complex as ours. It’s the more complex part of the emotion where we differ, as humans we listen to our emotions but we also have our logical side that can reason with our emotions. A dog have their instincts and has yet to be proven that dogs reason with their emotions, For example, often times I hear my clients say that their dog hates when they give attention to another dog or their dog is jealous of another dog when it comes to attention. This serves as an excellent example that shows that in reality it’s not jealousy the dog is feeling; instead it is the dog’s instincts that drive the behavior. The dog maybe guarding you or claiming you as their territory, the dominant dog stands on or in front of the person they are guarding or push another dog away thus claiming its territory. Dogs can sense our energy and In order to fully understand the difference we must understand that dogs live in a pack; a pack is a social group and all social groups – Human and Mammal- have a hierarchy in which they exhibit leadership as well as set the rules for the system or the pack. Considering the above mentioned it is easy to understand that when a dog joins a human household, those humans become their pack.  If the humans are not the leaders then energy is perceived as unstable or weak and the dogs take it amongst themselves to lead the pack. Dogs have the ability to feel our emotions through energy that radiates off our bodies; however we believe they cannot understand the meaning of that energy. Based on such findings dogs don’t hate other dogs or experience jealousy over other dogs, instead they have determined that they lead the pack and therefore their human belongs to them and other dogs are simply not accepted. Another great example would be if we as humans are upset over personal issues and our dogs even though pick up on the energy changes they do not understand what our problems are, instead they act accordingly to the weak energy they feel.

At this time we have not proven that dogs have the same emotions as we and in my 28 years of experience, I have not witnessed an example that instinct behavior cannot explain. Throughout my career, I have personally seen when humans put their emotions on their dogs we inadvertently are rewarding. By rewarding or ignoring bad behavior; we not intentionally teach the dog that guarding or fighting off other dogs is acceptable. It is an important responsibility taking on another life and it is up to us to understand our furry pack member’s way of thinking and fulfill their needs.


Valerie Masi

Best Paw Forward

Pit Bulls the misunderstood breed


The origin of the Pit Bull is not known exactly but it can be reliably traced back 150 years or so to England. In the late 1800’s and early 19 century the sport of bull baiting was very much alive and dogs were breed for this type of entertainment. The breed was also used for hunting, to catch game as well as used by butchers and farmers to bring down unruly cattle. This breed was called bulldogs. It wasn’t so much a standard look that put the dogs in this category but rather a dog that exceled in the task of bull baiting. They were descendants of the ancient Mastiff type dogs. In 1835 England out lawed bull baiting and the sport of dog fighting rose in popularity. They believe the breed started as a mix of the bull dog (not the bull dogs we know today) and an extinct breed called the White English Terrier. The problem of proof for all early breed origins is documentation of pedigrees and more so with the documentation of Pit dogs, breeders were afraid to document the pedigree in fear of rivals being able to replicate the breed.

The immediate ancestors of the Pit bull were imported to America in the mid-19 century coming from England and Ireland they were called Pit dogs not because of the dog fighting pits but another form of entertainment at the time putting the dog in a pit with rats and betting on how many rats the dog would killed in a certain allotment of time.

Americans started breeding a slightly different version of the Pit dogs from England and Ireland a slightly larger and leggier dog so it could be more agile to forcibly retrieve hogs and cattle as well as family guardians and companions.

Throughout the 19 century these dogs had various names Pit terriers, Pit bull terriers, Staffordshire fighting dogs, Yankee terriers and Rebel terriers. In 1898 a man named Chauncy Bennet formed the United Kennel Club for the purpose of registering Pit bull terriers because the American kennel club wanted nothing to do with the breed, his dog “Bennett’s ring” was registration number 1.

During WW1 the Pit Bull grew in popularity, the Military used them during war time and for a propaganda poster that represented the rival European nations with their national dogs dressed in military uniforms with the caption below “I’m neutral, but not afraid of any of them.”  The most famous Pit Bulls were Petey from “little Rascals”, Tige from the “Buster Brown” ads as well as the famous RCA dog. Due to the growing popularity the AKC decided to recognize the breed in 1936 As Staffordshire Terriers and in 1972 they were renamed American Staffordshire Terriers to separate them from the lighter Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England.

The Pit Bull was considered a great companion dog and was bred to be friendly with people. It was important for a dog in the ring to allow the handler to separate the fighting dogs without the dog showing any aggression towards the human, if they did the human would destroy the dog. For years responsible breeding of Pit Bulls lead to the the reputation of a great family dog.  Their popularity declined after World War 2 until 1980.

Unfortunately the breed became popular with nefarious individuals and they started breeding for more aggression towards humans without adhering to the traditional breed goals. The breed was being mass produced by backyard breeders for financial profit. The dog fighting community started growing again.

Pit Bulls were not even in the top ten dog bites that required medical attention until mid-1990’s. The Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman Pincher, Great Dane and Saint Bernard’s have been in the top ten since we started tracking dog bites that caused medical attention in the 1970’s. However they do not have this demon dog reputation that the Pit Bull has, I believe it is due to a prejudice media, You never hear the stories of the Pit Bull that saved the family from a fire or the Pit Bull that was honored by the police department, I can go on and on with those stories. All these breeds are very good companion dogs when bred and socialized responsibly and can be very dangerous in the hands of irresponsible breeders and owners.

The American Canine Temperament Testing Association, which sponsors tests for temperament titles, reported that 95% of all Pit Bulls tested passed their test compared with a 77% passing rate for all breeds on the average. The Pit Bull passing rate was the fourth highest of all breeds tested.

The Pit Bull terrier bred responsibly is a wonderful fun loving family dog and socialized properly will be a very animal friendly dog as well. If you are interested in a Pit Bull terrier find a breeder with a national reputation, you can find them through the American Pit Bull Gazette and through the UKC or if you would like to adopt a Pit Bull adopt through a shelter that temperament tests it’s dogs or a responsible Pit Bull rescue, If you’re not sure you can always bring in a trainer of your choice to temperament test the dog you would like to adopt.

In closing, I feel breeding should be left to the professionals in order to keep the true characteristics of the breeds and we can all help with breed standards and over population by spaying and neutering our pets.


Valerie Masi

Best Paw Forward