Monday, September 23, 2013


There is so much information out there on dogs it's dizzying.  And that's good!  There really can never be too much knowledge about any subject.  But is the information all true?  Like everything in life, new discoveries are constantly being made and when that happens, many times, it means certain information we thought was once true has become dated and, quite frankly, inaccurate.  So that's where we come in. This week we're going to give you a few topics that were once considered to be a fact, and some that have become just plain misconceptions.

IF MY DOG HAS A WET NOSE THAT MEANS HE/SHE IS HEALTHY:  This is one of the most popular myths out there and it's been around forever!  We grew up hearing our grandparents and parents teach us this "myth" and we then passed it on to everyone we knew who had a dog.  Here's the REAL reason dogs have wet noses, all of which have nothing to do with their health status:

1.  They lick their noses alot.  Most dogs have pretty large (yet beautiful!) noses.  When they eat, their noses get dirty.  They lick them to clean them off.  Dogs also lick their noses to keep them cool in hot temperatures.
2.  They pick up moisture from smelling wet grass, plants, etc.
3.  Wet canine noses are perfectly designed for tracking. When a dog's nose is wet scent molecules stick to it, making it much easier for a dog to track prey and do search and rescue work. That is why the breeds with the highest developed sniffers are used in tracking.

So next time your dog's nose is dry, there's no need to rush him to the vet.  It's only dry because there  is no need at that moment for it to be wet!

IF MY DOG PULLS ON THE LEASH TO GO AHEAD OF ME THAT MEANS THE DOG IS DOMINATING ME AND MUST HEEL AT MY SIDE:  This one is, quite frankly, pathetic. It's pathetic because some supposed "experts" actually still believe it.  And we've got some news for you:  if two dog walkers have information to present to show this is not true and some of those "experts" don't....  well THEY'RE CERTAINLY NOT EXPERTS.  (And neither are we.  But at least we don't pretend that we are.)  OK so down to business.  If your dog isn't trying to dominate you then why do they pull you down the street and insist on walking in front of you?   Because dogs as a species were not bred to walk next to you unless they are a companion breed and because they have four legs and are able to cover a lot of distance a lot faster than we can.  That's it in a nutshell.   Now for a little broader explanation in terms of breed specifics on this.

Herding dogs:  These breeds were bred to NOT walk beside the shepherd.  If they did, however would they herd sheep, cattle, etc?  So walking in front of you is their proper place.

Sporting Dogs:  This includes retrievers, spaniels (other than cavaliers), pointers and the Viszla.  How could these dogs assist the hunter in pointing toward the fowl, flushing out the fowl, and retrieving the fowl if they are standing next to them?

Terriers:  These tenacious little buggers are too busy finding fox and rodents to even think about heeling, and rightly so!

Hounds: These expert trackers could never lead the hunter to any prey, or do any search and rescue work, standing next to a human.

Sled Dogs:  If you have a Husky, Malamute or a Samoyed who doesn't want to pull you down the street, get them to the vet immediately!  There is no other group that is more "entitled" to pulling you ,due to the fact they were specifically bred to pull a sled and/or freight.

Please note we are not encouraging your dogs to drag you down the street. What you ideally want is a dog walking in front of you in a relaxed pace, preferably not pulling.  But keep in mind they will pull when they spot a cat or squirrel and/or pick up the scent of something great.  And they're not wrong for doing this.

DOGS HUMPING MEANS THEY'RE AGGRESSIVE OR...  WELL YOU KNOW! (begins with an h, ends in a y, with orn in between):

Dogs hump for many reasons:

Dominance:  One dog decides to claim a higher Pack-status over the other dog so he (and sometimes she) will hump to do this.

To Play:  Let's face it, if a dog wants to get another dog's attention to say "Hey I'm here lets play!", there is no more effective way than a little good old humping to get the point across!

Control:  You will sometimes see a canine pack leader do this to a lower-status pack member acting erratically. Humping the lower-status dog literally stops them in their tracks and helps to calm them down.

Procreate:  Now for the obvious.  An unneutered  male who finds a female "in season" may, of course, want to start a family with her because that's what they're supposed to do.  

ANY TIME A DOG SHOWS THEIR TEETH THEY ARE BEING AGGRESSIVE:  This is true in many cases.  Dogs will "flash/bear" their teeth to show they are serious about something and when that flashing is accompanied by a low growl, erect tail, pricked ears, and forward body posture you should stay away from this dog.  But there is another reason for showing their teeth and this is called a "submissive grin".  Sadly, before behaviorists and vets knew the difference between the two reasons for showing teeth, many dogs were euthanized for this grin.  It's so very easy to tell when it is a submissive grin:  the ears are back in submission, the body posture is focused more on the hind legs than the front and the back half of their body is wagging in excitement.  So body language is key here in telling the difference.  We once had a dog named Savannah in our pack.  Savannah was a certified therapy dog with not even an ounce of aggression in her angelic being.  Every time we would go to pick up Savannah for daycare she always greeted us with that wonderful submissive grin and wagging body.  It really is such a dear term of endearment!

A WAGGING TAIL ALWAYS MEANS THE DOG IF FRIENDLY:  Okay everyone, this one is extremely important as it may mean the difference of your dog having a friendly encounter or ending up in the vets office!  Many of you who have taken your dog further than your yard (vet office, leash walk,, off lead dog park), have had at least one encounter that went like this;  A dog comes up to your dog wagging their tail. You assumed the dog was friendly (because of their wagging tail). Suddenly the dog lunges aggressively at your dog. What is going on here?  Like the showing of teeth illustrated above, there are two main reasons dogs wag their tail and again, body language is key.

1.  The obvious first reason is that the dog is friendly. The tail will wag back and forth and might even wag in circles accompanied by a part of the body wagging.  The mouth is relaxed and the ears are not forward.  This is a happy, excited dog.  The worse this one might do is jump on you or your dog with excitement.
2.  The other wagging is called "flagging" and this is indeed a red flag.  The ears of the dog will be forward.  The body will be stiff, except the tail.  Expert behaviorist Patricia McConnell (whose readings we cannot recommend highly enough), calls this a "phony grin".  It's used to lure a dog closer for an aggressive encounter.  It's also used to spread the pheromones emitted from their anus,  letting the other dog know this he or she is "big man on campus, king of the jungle" and just an overall bad ass and/or bully.  Far too many dogs have been injured by this myth.  We saw this repeatedly back in our dog park days.  Luckily, we knew the difference and were able to avoid our dogs becoming a victim.  But so many others said "the dog's tail was wagging.  He/she looked friendly!" as they were in tears, carrying their dog to the car for a fast trip to the vet.

IF A DOG SMELLS A PERSONS CROTCH/BEHIND THEY'RE A PERVERT!!:  It's Thanksgiving.  In walk Uncle Fred and Aunt Mildred. Spot immediately runs up and shoves his nose in their crotch, or does a  close encounter with their behind.  Humiliation and embarrassment ensues.  You scold Spot and quickly fix Fred and Mildred the strongest drink possible after locking Spot in the bedroom. Why does Spot plot such embarrassing moments for you?  What have you possibly done to piss him off so?!  Remember most dogs strongest sense organ is the nose.  Sniffing the pheromones of  dogs and humans is the quickest way to find out who they are,  and what their intentions may be.  That's why dogs sniff each others behinds (males sniff behinds more and females sniff mouths more).   Yes it will always be embarrassing, but at least now you can put everyone's mind (including your own!) at ease knowing that Spot is not a perv!  And if Spot is a very friendly dog, gives a human a sniff and reacts negatively.  Guess what?  You probably don't want to be hangin with that individual.

So that wraps things up for this week.  We hope you have enjoyed it and found it informative and useful.  We always love to hear your comments which can of course be your own experiences regarding any topic we cover.  See you in two weeks!

Monday, September 9, 2013


The Great Dane. It is impossible not to turn your head and watch this immense beauty pass by, be you a dog lover or not.  The sheer size (100-200 pounds) and power of the Great Dane makes it impossible not to be stared at. (Especially if you see one riding in a Mini Cooper with their head sticking out the sunroof, ears flapping in the wind, as we were lucky enough to see once and laugh hysterically at!)  The Great Dane has earned themselves the right to be called one of the most beloved breeds in America, thanks to a comic strip called Marmaduke, space age Jetson's dog Astro,  of course, Scooby Doo.  All three depict this breed as a fun-loving, goofy giant.  But just how did this breed evolve? Was this giant bred to just be a goof ball (which undoubtedly they are), or is there a little something more to this majestic animal than meets the eye?

HISTORY: Not that this breed is particularly ancient or anything- BUT dogs "resembling" the Great Dane have been seen on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 BC!  Similar looking dogs have also been depicted on rune stones in Scandinavia, on ancient coins in Denmark, on Greek money dating back to 36 BC and the University of Copenhagen Zoological  Museum has at least seven skeletons of very large hunting dogs dating from 5th Century BC through to the year 1000 AD!  And if that's not enough to get your head spinning, giant dogs sounding an awful lot like the Dane were depicted in Chinese literature dating back to 1121 BC.  Okay enough history, now how they became the breed we see today.

ORIGIN:  In 407 AD The Asiatic people (called the "Alans") invaded German Gaul, part of Italy and Spain, bringing with them powerful mastiff-like dogs.  Theses dogs were used to hunt and physically bring down bear and wild boar. They were believed to have been mostly a cross of Wolfhounds (particularly the Irish Wolfhound) and the old English Mastiffs.  The Alans later added the Greyhound to this breed, creating the Great Dane we know of today. We think it is important to note the Alans were a nomad tribe.  Nomads had no home base to speak of,  constantly traveling as a means of survival.  The Alans were warriors that relied on their Danes to hunt and guard their tribes.  Because they were not in castles, but the wilderness, there became much more of an "inter-dependence" between man and canine. Nomad tribes are notorious for developing a closer relationship with their dogs than many other people. It is our theory that the amount of time Danes spent around human species so early on in their development, combined with a shared existence with one another in a very primal and dangerous environment, could have imprinted more "human type personality-traits" on these nomadic-companion dogs. Perhaps that is why we see more of these traits (such as an increased sense of humor and higher sensitivity levels we see in todays Great Danes)  than is displayed in, say, herding breeds like Border Collies, who have historically that spent much time as solo working herders independent of their companion/human  shepherds.

INTERESTING INFO:  The Great Dane became widely spread throughout Europe between the 16th-18th century and countries such as Denmark, England and Germany all like to take credit for the Dane's increased popularity and refined breeding.  Not only were they used in these countries as powerful hunters, but also as guard dogs. Unlike other canine guardians such as their breed-stock Mastiffs,  Danes were not kept outside to guard the royal grounds  but rather in their lord's bed chambers to guard their companions  from assassins (we believe this also contributed to human personality being a stronger influence in the Dane).  What we also find incredibly interesting is that the  three breeds used to create the original Great Danes were hunters possessing powerful prey drives, yet todays Great Danes possess not only a goofy personality, but they can also be around other animals without displaying hunting traits that could cause serious harm.  For example, Irish Wolfhounds are the largest  breed  in the world, and the most powerful of the sighthounds.  Their extraordinary eyesight makes it possible to spot prey from long distances, lock in on their movement and run fast to  intercept the prey (original prey being Wolves). The English Mastiff is not only a powerful giant, but a fearless guardian and war dog.  The Greyhound is an extraordinary sighthound and the second fastest animal in the world (able to run 39 miles per hour).   When you put those three breeds together, combining speed, hunting ability, superb eyesight and fearless guarding ability, you have todays Great Dane.  And yet, this breed, which has been called  the "comedians of the canine world", can easily be around screaming children (running here there and everywhere), as well as small animals!  It's information like this that continues to impress and blow our minds,  and strengthens our belief on how much our human personality has influenced the psychological development of this extraordinary breed. 

PERSONAL OBSERVATION   Being at a dog park for a decade afforded us an extraordinary  opportunity to observe numerous breeds in an uncontrolled, quite primal, environment.  Observing the Dane there, we witnessed the prey drive the majority of them seem to possess.  Please note we are not speaking of witnessing attacks by Danes! What we did see was an innate and immense amount of speed and power  used to chase other dogs. When combined with their size, these instinctual traits of speed/power had a tendency to put other dogs into a  mode of total submission due to fear called "shut down".  These poor dogs just had no idea on how to react to such huge, fast dogs chasing them! And the Danes who DID the chasing seemed to be confused as to how "fun" (in their eyes), could cause other dogs to be so afraid.   The result was confusion among both "chaser" and "chasee". That is why the majority of Danes have never worked out with our pack. What is most important to understand is that it's not the breed's fault and it's not the owners fault (as long as the breed has had proper socialization).  It is simply the nature of the breed.  Only the exceptions of Bison and Estella have ever worked out with our pack.  If we traced these two's lineage, combined with their excellent early socialization, we would probably have our answer as to why they are the exceptions.

HEALTH PROBLEMS:  The wonderful  Great Dane is subject to health problems that comes along with the territory of being a giant breed.  Hip dysplasia, heart disease and bloat are common,  as are mast cell tumors.  Most unfortunately what also goes along with being a giant breed is a shorter lifespan.  The average is approximately eight years, but many do live up to 12.  (We believe this has a lot to do with the wonderful goofiness which seems to prevent them from taking life too seriously. This can   diminish stress considerably in the breed.) It is also important that owners of the breed understand the species they have committed themselves too, and dedicate themselves to the proper upkeep of the breed.

IS THIS THE RIGHT BREED FOR YOU?:  Many people find themselves scared off of owning a Great Dane due to their size and strength. And it is true they are enormous and strong.  But if you frequent the gym and are ready for a commitment to this wonderful goofball, it could easily be one of the most rewarding and entertaining experiences of a lifetime!  They can live in an apartment as  long as they are taken out for long walks (running/jogging them is not necessary nor recommended until they have physically developed).  They do love a yard though!  And, as they are an excellent guard dog, they thrive on having that open space to strut their stuff.  But what they clearly thrive on the most is close human contact. This is NOT a breed to be kept alone and isolated outside.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog and we would love to hear from you regarding input (or really anything you feel like contributing!)