Dog Park Safety (part 1) – Tips for staying safe

February 4, 2009

This past weekend, a woman was stabbed while her dog on-leash dog attacked another dog inside the dog park at Mockingbird Point. Our friend Courtney Keyes (owned by three dachshunds, including the amazingly adorable Thor) wrote an article about dog park safety for the Dallas Morning news that I think everyone should read – it’s located here. (Clicking on that link will open a new window, so read it and come back, because I’ve got more to add to what she’s already said so well.)

Dog parks can be the most wonderful thing in the world, or a real disaster waiting to happen. We’ve enjoyed the Dallas dog park since it opened in 2001 (My first Cardi, Bou, was featured in a Dallas Morning News article about it, even!), and I maintain the (not very busy) Dallas Dog Parks Flickr pool.  Mal got most of his running exercise there as a puppy, and I can count on one hand the number of scary experiences any of my dogs have had.

All that said, I no longer take my dogs- any of them- to the dog park. Part of this can be attributed to my move and the new Dallas animal ordinances that make Mal a contraband doggy (packing unlicensed balls- Rittie and Lizzie are not spayed, but they’re not so obvoius as Mr. Hairless!), but that’s not entirely it. Right now, the risks just aren’t worth it (I’ll talk about those and how we can fix them in a future post.)

For now though? My top tips for dog park safety. Read the rest of this entry »


Why do dogs chew?

August 17, 2008

Nikki, of Dallas, TX asks:

My dog is a female springer spaniel/pit bull mix. She is 2.5 years old, spayed, and is generally very well-behaved. Occasionally – perhaps once every 3-4 months- she will chew up one of my shoes. Why does she do this, and how can I stop it?

Unfortunately, with any issue that is this intermittant, it can be REALLY hard to figure out why something happens. Keeping a record  of the time that it happens and as many things surrounding the issue as possible may help you isolate a factor or group of factors that is leading up to the behavior- but it may not! (this is true for ANY behavior problem).  So figuring out what triggers the behavior may or may not be possible. With a log, you may discover that it happens only on days when there is thunder, or men mowing the grass, or some other external circumstance. If that’s the case, just make sure the shoe are picked up on that day (or your dog is not left home alone!), and the problem should resolve itself.

Dogs chew for a number of reasons. It’s fun, it’s comforting, and it just feels good. Shoes are a favorite snack of lots of dogs. They smell like mom or dad (mom or dad’s stinky foot-smell is probably a bonus, given dogs’ general standards for ‘good’ smells- most dogs like nothing better than to roll in something dead and rotting. Ugh.) and leather is a nice chewy material- it’s even sort of like rawhide bones! So while we can’t say for sure why she’s chewing, I suspect it’s more a matter of “Why not?” when she’s stressed or upset- or just bored.

Read the rest of this entry »


Housebreaking Dogs that Soil Their Crates

May 6, 2008

Latest update:
Hey guys! I wrote this post over 5 years ago, and to date, it’s the most read thing I’ve ever written. I hope you find it helpful! If you do (and especially if you’ve got comments that you’d like a response to), please consider leaving a tip in the tip jar. 🙂 I try and reply promptly to all comments on here, but sometimes it gets time consuming.


I wrote the bulk of this several weeks ago in response to a spate of messages on a message board I frequent about this topic. Because I’m feeling lazy, I decided to re-post it over here so I can just direct people to it again rather than re-writing it every few days.

It’s a pretty common scenario- and one that I’ve responded to several times now, from face-to-face clients and, more commonly, on internet message boards. (Which is why I have decided to type this up!) Someone has gotten a new dog planning to use the crate method to housebreak him or her, and the dog soils in the crate, resulting in an unhappy owner, a stressed out (and dirty) dog, and tears all around. This isn’t uncommon with puppy mill dogs or dogs who came from really filthy conditions, but even more commonly, I see three main reasons why this happens. Firstly, is that the dog is being asked to ‘hold it’ too long. A rule of thumb for puppies is one hour per month of age, but there’s a great deal of individual variation. A stressed out puppy will need to go MUCH sooner than one who is used to being crated and settles down to sleep right away. A 2 month old Great Dane is 20 pounds, but a two month old Toy Fox Terrier is perhaps 2 or 3 pounds! Some puppies are just more mature than others. Secondly, the dog may have a physical problem- immaturity (and some dogs can be REALLY slow to mature!), a UTI, spay incontinance- or some form of separation anxiety (this last is the rarest). So a vet check is in order before trying this. Thirdly, the dog comes from, as mentioned above, an environment where he or she never had the chance to eliminate away from the nesting area as a baby and has never learned to prefer NOT to sleep in her own mess.

Just like with any dog being housebroken, supervision and scheduled feedings are really important. If the dog is not being supervised, they need to be confined. But for dogs who soil in the crate, this can be a nightmare. So what do you do?
Read the rest of this entry »