Last Wednesday night, my husband and I took the dogs for a walk at our local park. This is a pretty busy little park. There are lots of families with children, the occasional dogs, and the fun part – there are about a million squirrels and geese. Even though it’s so busy, there is plenty of open area to move off to the side to give Buster space, so I actually really like going here to work on training.
So we did one lap around the trail with zero issues and decided to do a second since the weather was so nice. When we started the second lap, I noticed a man standing with a leash wrapped over his should. I immediately started looking for a dog but didn’t see one. We walked a little bit further, and sure enough – about 30 feet or so away from the man, the Shepherd mix was lying in a down stay. His back was to the owner/trainer’s back.
I immediately gave plenty of space, and Buster passed him with no issues. As we were passing, I noticed he was wearing a shock collar. Right after we passed him, a squirrel ran out in front of Buster, and a kid nearby happened to scream at the same time too, so Buster let out a little alien scream. I didn’t care. I immediately got his attention back, and we kept on walking with lots of treats and happy talk.
That’s when I noticed the owner/trainer’s total Judgy McJudgerson look on his face and his little smirk as I was giving Buster treats.
This annoyed me. Don’t get me wrong – I could not care less what he thinks, but it’s taken me awhile to get to that point.
The point is – whatever happened to minding your own business? Whatever happened to keeping things to yourself? Whatever happened to just leaving people alone?
I wonder how often this man sees other people using treats and snickers at them. I wonder if he does it to someone new in their training journey, and I wonder if he makes them feel like crap.
So, we walked by him, and then noticed him later on the very outside perimeter of the park walking the dog, still off leash.
I’ll give the owner/trainer kudos – the dog didn’t move while he was in a down stay and we walked past. But – the dog didn’t look happy. He was visibly stressed. His ears were pinned back as far as they could go, and he there were a couple of small whale-eye movements.
I immerse myself in positive reinforcement based dog training. All of the Facebook groups I partake in are R+. Of course, all of the books I read are R+. Sometimes I get so surrounded by that positive bubble, that I forget that R+ is unfortunately, not that common. There are so many people who have not heard of R+ training yet, and there are even more people who have heard of it, don’t understand it, mock it, and then slap an e-collar on their dog. This makes me sad.
Admittedly, there are just a small handful of e-collar trainers that I do follow on social media, but only because they are killing it at the social media game. I try to learn from them to see what social media strategies and marketing is working, but that’s the only reason I follow them. And then, there are the occasional things that pop up in my feed because the Google gods think it’s something I want to see. The other day, I came across a Pug wearing a prong collar – A PUG! I felt as if I had just witnessed a car accident with the car going up in flames. Why on earth would anyone ever think it’s a good idea to put a prong collar on a breed that already a) really doesn’t even have a neck and b) already has a compromised respiratory system by design.
But of course, these trainers are good at social media, and they do post videos. I’ll often see just a few seconds of their videos. Do you know what their videos are always show though? A dog in a down stay, usually on a station/bed/platform. Those videos truthfully make up 95% of their videos. That’s it.
You guys – there is SO MUCH MORE to dog training than a down stay. Is it important? Yes. Is it the most important thing? Honestly, I don’t think so. I’m also going to insert my totally controversial opinion here – down stays are actually very easy to teach. In my opinion, it’s boring and repetitive, but it’s easy.
So honestly, it breaks my heart a little when I think about how popular e-collar training is, and how those dogs are primarily taught to down stay. Where’s the fun? Where is the relationship? What about the games? A relationship between a dog and their owner is so much more than a fabulous down stay. Sure, with a good down stay, maybe the owner can take the dogs to cafe’s more, but are they really? And then what – the dog just lies there.
I want to see more interaction between owners and their dogs. You are the only thing your dog has, and your dog wants to interact with you.
So all in all, we had a great walk with zero issues, but it made me think of these things that made me a little sad.
I really hope positive reinforcement becomes the norm sooner than later. In fact, let me leave you with just a coupel of fun facts about e-collars to ponder:
1. They are on their way to being banned throughout all of England. They are already banned in some places, like Whales.
That should speak volumes to you. If an entire country is banning a device, there is a a valid and good reason. We also know that they are way ahead of the United States in a variety of things, so why can’t we learn from them?
I mean, to flip the script – I often hear people complain that the United States is stupid for having the legal drinking age set to 21 when it’s 18 in most other places. So, if we wish the United States would follow the lead of those other progressive places on that topic, why can’t we follow the lead with something as simple as dog training?
2. At my day job, I work with contract workig dogs that serve on government contracts for the federal government. These are Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, etc. None of them are trained with e-collars.
I really wish the United states would ban e-collars, but I’m not sure that will ever happen. I just hope R+ becomes the norm soon enough, and the best way is to lead by example and keep spreading the message!
How do you train your dog, and what’s your favorite thing to train?
We’ve been camping recently, and I’ve fallen back in love with it. There is something pretty magical about just being stuck in the woods in silence for hours on end and camping with dogs. Plus, who doesn’t love a good campfire and s’more?! I’ll admit, at first, I was worried what Buster would do. Was he going to bark at every single sound? If our campsite was next to people, was he going to bark at them nonstop? Oh god, what if they had a dog?
As per usual, my fears were all for nothing. So, let this be a gentle reminder, stop worrying about things you don’t know or have no control over! Sure, take time to educate and prepare yourself, but stop stressing and worrying! Long story short – Buster loves to camp! We went a few weekends ago and were at a campground with campsites quite close to each other. We had people all around us, and we had a pretty loud dog directly across from us. Buster didn’t care! He seemed so genuinely happy to be camping! He was so relaxed that his usual triggers truly weren’t bothering him.
Then it occurred to me, I think camping may actually be the best activity for reactive dogs! Think about it – you’re relatively secluded (especially if you follow my tip in #1). You’ve likely been exercising more, because typically when you camp, you are also walking/hiking a good bit, so your dog is likely more tired. Because you’re out in the wide open, while your dog may be interested in all the sights and smells, they may be less apt to react simply due to the fact that they are less on edge from a) being tired from the exercise and b) being out in the great outdoors! There are studies about how being outside is hugely beneficial for people, so I’m pretty sure it’s the same for dogs.
Now that we’ve gone over the fact that camping may actually be the best activity for reactive dogs, here are my tips for camping with your reactive dog.
choose the appropriate location
There are tons of places you can camp these days. Your options range from national parks to state parks to campgrounds and more! But, they are all set up quite differently. In my experience, national and state forests are the most remote. For example, this weekend we camped at Green Ridge State Forest in Flintstone, MD. At our particular campsite, our closest neighbor was about a mile away. Our campsite was also down a fairly rough road that I’m pretty sure only an SUV or truck could go down, unless you wanted to scrape up the bottom of a car. Of course, this is primitive camping at its best. There are no facilities. The closest store is about 20 minutes away.
Now, on the other hand, state parks typically tend to be more developed. The campsites are on a true campground. Each venue will differ, but in general, your neighbor is relatively close. Thank god for the trees for privacy right?! While these still may be primitive, there are usually full bathrooms and other facilities (sometimes a lodge with vending machines and sometimes even a restaurant!) somewhere in the state park. There are also usually developed recretion areas – like little lake or river beaches, large playgrounds, and even golf courses or shooting ranges.
While most venues have their maps online, it can still be challenging to determine the exact distance you are to your neighbor or what the road is like to your campground. I recommend doing a quick Google search and seeing what other reviews say about the place. Other than that, going with the flow and figuring out how to make your campsite work for you is just part of the adventure that is camping with dogs!
With good management techniques, a reactive dog could easily camp at either kind of venue; however, clearly you are likely to experience more triggers at a more established campground like a state park. I personally prefer camping more remotely. When I’m camping, I don’t really want to see or hear people at all. I just want to be in the woods.
exercise your dog
Part of the fun of camping is that you should be walking and hiking to do some sightseeing! When you’re doing this, make sure you take your dog with you! I know you want to sit down by the campfire eating s’mores, so exercise your dog during the day so that at night he will happily lay by your feet by the fire. Even though this may be a little mini vacation for you, you still need to get your exercise in!
bring a dog run
You’ll need to be able to secure your dog while you’re setting up and tearing down camp, so make sure you have some sort of dog run. It’s a pain in the butt to constantly hold a dog leash, and you’ll likely need to keep the doors of your vehicle open to unload, so you can’t put him there. The dog run also allows him to check out and smell the area safely while you can sit by the fire!
There are all sorts of ways to use a dog run. I’ve used a long line through a cargo hook on my SUV, and some vehicles even have external hooks you could use. You could also get one of the dog runs that you screw into the ground (although personally, those terrify me, and I’m afraid of the dog pulling them up.) My personal favorite (and maybe even the cheapest) is to buy 50’ of paracord, 2 eye hooks, and a carabiner. Tie the eye hooks on the ends of the paracord. Taughtly string the paracord between 2-3 trees and secure with the hooks. Place the carabiner on the line and hook your dog’s leash handle through the carabiner. Now your dog can effortlessly glide along the run! Dogs tend to get tangled way less using this method since their leash is hanging pretty vertical in a tight manner. Some companies sell readymade dog runs like this, but they can cost upwards of $60!
BRING A CHEW TOY
We’ve been over this time and time again, but chewing helps dogs to release energy, and it makes them calmer. Buster chews on his West Paw Hurley bone every single night, and he has for about 5 years now! (1 bone lasts about 4 months, so yes, every 4 months or so I really do buy a new bone.) I absolutely see a difference in his demeanor before he chews and once he is done. He is much calmer after chewing, even if he’s only chewed for 10-15 minutes. So make sure you bring some sort of chew with you! You could bring a toy they like, or even something like a bully stick.
Bring some music!
I love listening to the sounds of nature, but sometimes, those sounds can be scary for dogs. Reactive dogs that are highly sensitive to the environment and environmental triggers may be more apt to bark at things like limbs falling. Music can cover those subtle sounds, so your dog is less on edge. Plus who doesn’t love good music while eating s’mores?
So now that you’re well prepared with 5 tips for camping with dogs, tell me in the comments – do you take your dog camping? Is your dog reactive? What’s your biggest fear about camping with a reactive dog?
I really hope you’ll utilize these tips to help you feel better about getting out and about and maybe even trying a one night camping trip with your dog!
Acadia National Park in Maine holds a special place in my heart, as it probably does for anyone that has been there. It is simply one of the most gorgeous places in the US, and it offers something for everyone – from easy to difficult hikes, rocky beaches to sandy beaches, and even a 27 mile scenic loop drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for the best pictures.
In the off season, Acadia feels like a secluded getaway, and you maybe run into a handful of people. In prime travel season (the summer months), it is packed, and you can barely stand to get a picture without bumping shoulders with someone. Acadia sees over 3 million visitors per year.
Dogs are allowed in the park but must be attached on a 6 foot leash. There are some difficult trails and some beaches, along with a few other spots, that do have restrictions and where dogs cannot go. All of those details can be found here.
However, there have been 3 instances this past week of visitors being bitten by off leash dogs.
While I’ve been lucky enough to not run into that issue at Acadia, I have had many issues with off leash dogs on several hikes around my home.
Let me be clear – people with off leash dogs are ruining it for everyone. Not only are they ruining the experience for anyone they may directly come in contact with, but they are also potentially ruining it for everyone in the future. Most parks have leash laws. By violating those leash laws, they are risking these places to no longer allow dogs in the future.
Why Does your dog need to be off leash?
There are no ifs, ands, or buts. I assure you – your dog DOES NOT have some intrinsic requirement to be off leash. Your dog is not getting some magical benefit of simply being free of a 6 foot leash for a couple hours that is worth breaking the law, ruining the visit for all of the other visitors, and potentially worth getting in an altercation or having a police report filed as a result of said altercation.
The main argument is that the dogs get “so much more exercise off leash,” and that they’re just “so much happier” running off leash. Let me assure you, your dog is getting plenty of exercise on a 6 foot leash. Just because he is attached to a 6 foot leash does not mean he is not getting a cardiovascular workout, because he is.
7 Reasons to not let your dog off leash
- MOST places require dogs to be on a 6 foot leash. It is the law. When parks continue to get unhappy visitors due to those breaking the law or continued reports of dog bites from off leash dogs, it is a very real possibility that they will start banning dogs altogether. Then what are you going to do, and where are you going to go?
OTHER dogs, children, people
- I know we are living in the most self-absorbed and selfish time of history. People care more about themselves than anyone or anything. But, for just a couple of hours, can’t you do better? Can’t you be a better person than the majority of people? Can’t you care just the tiniest bit about others? There may be other dogs on the trail that don’t like dogs. There may be children who have been attacked and are terrified of dogs. There may be people who don’t like dogs, or elderly people who may fall if your dog bumps into them accidentally.
- Wildlife is everywhere. Bears, coyotes, snakes, porcupines, etc. can all do serious damage to your dog if your dog gets into a scuffle. Plus, what about the smaller wildlife – baby birds and rabbits – will your dog leave those alone or will they incite your dog’s prey drive which may result in a dead animal?
- Most dogs, especially during a long and hot hike, will naturally get into any body of water they see. I’m sure you’ve seen the news stories all over the country recently, but there are serious concerns of blue-green algae in water. It can be in ponds, lakes, and rivers. The water can even look clear, but it unfortunately could still be contaminated. There’s just no way to know. Exposure to this blue-green algae can easily kill your dog in about an hour. In many parts of the country, there are also serious concerns of leptospirosis. This is a bacteria also found in standing water, which can be treatable if treated quickly, but otherwise, it too can be fatal.
does your dog really have a reliable recall?
- I have come across some parks that have signs stating something to the effect of, “Dogs must be on leash unless under direct voice control at all times.” This essentially means your dog can be off leash, as long as you can recall him. But, can you really recall him? Can you recall him off of a deer, bear, snake, or squirrel? Can you recall him off the family you may be passing that’s all eating delicious smelling beef jerky? Can you recall him off the excitable dog approaching who is on a leash? Most people like to think they their dog has a fabulous recall, but unfortunately, that is not the truth. Just because your dog has a great recall at home does not mean he will have a great recall on the trail with so many more exciting sights and smells.
tick borne diseases
- If your dog is off leash, he is likely to be traipsing through the tall grasses off the trail. While ticks are naturally a concern anytime you go outdoors, their prime environment is in those tall bushy grasses. So while you may not be seeing any ticks on the well maintained trail, your dog could be picking up tons in those tall grasses. Is a 2 hour off leash walk really worth a lifetime of tick borne disease?
LONG LINES DO EXIST
- Again, a lot of parks have a very specific “dog must be attached to a 6 foot leash” rule. But, for parks that don’t have that rule, you can always use a long line. You can find long lines that range from 8 feet to 50 feet long! With the use of a long line, your dog has more room to roam, but is still connected to you, so you don’t have to worry about everything else I’ve just listed here. My personal favorite long lines are the brahma long lines from Bold Lead Designs.
If you’ve read this and for some reason, you still think your dog just absolutely needs to be off leash, then you need to find a place that explicitly allows dogs off leash. These places do exist, so do some research! There are many smaller secluded areas in larger parks off of the trails that are explicitly off leash friendly. You could also consider just taking your dog to a local dog park (try going at odd hours to avoid others if you wish).
Do you let your dog off leash? What do you do to ensure you follow the law and don’t bother other visitors? What about those of you who have been rushed by off leash dogs? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!
My husband went to the emergency room last week. He was taken in while working for severe dehydration and possible heat stroke. The paramedics took his vitals and administered a bag of fluids and an anti-nausea injection. When he got to the hospital, he sat in a chair for about an hour until a “room becomes of available.” He sat in this chair behind the registration desk for almost an hour with no further monitoring from anyone – a nurse, doctor, or anyone. He naturally has high blood pressure, and his blood pressure upon arrival was 170/80, which is close to a hypertensive crisis. We finally went into a room, where an RN took his medical history and listened to his heart, but that was it. About 45 minutes later, the doctor finally arrived. Twenty minutes or so later, the RN came back for labwork and to run a second bag of fluids. About another hour later toward the end of the second bag of fluids, the doctor came back in to say his labwork looked great, and that she did believe he was just severely dehydrated with a possible heat stroke. The RN then took his vitals again, and we left.
During this experience, I noticed 2 main things that bothered me. 1) You are surprisingly very alone in a hospital. We even rang the call button once, and it took someone 5-10 minutes to come to the room. 2) Communication is almost nonexistent. The RN started disconnecting his fluid line and getting blood without even saying a word. She didn’t say how long the labwork would take to get back until I asked
Disclaimer: I understand that veterinary technicians are different from human nurses, and I understand there is a huge difference between veterinary medicine and human medicine. This is is based off my experiences and observations.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely understand human medicine and human hospitals function very differently than veterinary hospitals. I understand there are so many more rules, regulations, and laws to follow. I understand they are governed by insurance companiess and big pharma and lawyers, unlike veterinary hospitals. I truthfully don’t mind the wait time. I understand how triage works, so I am happy to wait while other people more critical are being cared for. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, severe dehydration is not that big of a deal or a life-or-death situation. But still, my husband was sick, and all of the staff is employed to care for the patients – I mean, that’s their job.
This probably irks me more than most, because even though I haven’t worked in a veterinary hospital setting in some time, I am still through and through a veterinary technician. That was my first real adult job, and it really did shape the way I approach medicine in general. Being a veterinary technician is an incredibly hard and demanding job, and no, we don’t play with puppies and kittens all day. Being overworked, understaffed, underpaid, underappreciated and yelled at on a weekly (if not daily) basis is pretty much par for the course. In case you aren’t sure what exactly entails being a veterinary techinican, keep on reading because I have some interesting facts for you.
7 Facts about Veterinary Technicians
1.) As a veterinary technician, our job is to ensure your animal does not feel alone.
We understand animals get freaked out by the weird smells and sights at a veterinary hospital, so we check on them constantly to make sure they are doing okay. If I have a spare minute and your pet is friendly? Then yeah for sure, cuddles will happen.
2.) Anytime you drop your pet off for the day, I can assure you that your veterinary technician is setting a timer to make sure that she checks on your pet frequently, and she is likely taking vitals at least 3x during their stay.
If your pet is there for surgery, his vitals are being checked constantly.
3.) Your veterinary techinician is truly looking out for your pet and acting in their best interest.
If you have an experienced veterinary technician, they are well versed in common illnesses and injury and corresponding treatments. Your veterinarian and veterinary techinician truly make up a team often bouncing ideas off of each other. Your veterinary technician is the one that has eyes on your pet more often than not, so if they notice your pet seems painful or in worse condition, they immediately ask the veterinarian about further treatment.
4.) Our communication skills are top notch.
Disclaimer: I know, everyone’s communication skills differ, and typically that is a skill that every single soul on this planet can always improve upon. For the most part, we are good at communicating with other staff and with clients. When performing procedures in the room with a client, we talk you through the procedure before taking action, so that you understand what is happening. This also provides you the opportunity to speak up to let us know if your pet has some sort of special need – for example, let us know if they prefer their blood being drawn from a back leg versus a front leg. I usually also tell clients exactly what tests we’re performing, but if I forget and a client asks, I am more than happy to explain it.
5.) We’ve all gotten in this field because we truly love animals and want to help them.
We all have animals at home. We all try to treat our patients and clients as if it was us in that situation. I do my best to provide great customer service, because that is how I want to be treated when I take my own dog to the vet. If I say I don’t have the answer but promise to get it and call you back, you can expect a phone call usually within an hour or two. If you would prefer to wait in the car or an exam room instead of the lobby, I will do my best to accomodate you so both you and your pet are more comfortable and relaxed. If you are a “frequent flyer” because your pet is seriously sick, I’ll call just to check up and see how your pet is doing.
6.) Your veterinary techinician is performing the job of many. Your veterinary technician acts as a: nurse, phlebotomist, pharmacist, anesthesiologist, x-ray technician, dental hygeniest, and janitor. And, I’m sure you already know this, but in case you don’t, in many states, veterinary technicians barely get paid over minimum wage for all of this.
Veterinary technicians can attend a two year school program to become a credentialed veterinary technician; however, school typically costs anywhere from $5,000 – $18,000, and in some states, it still only results in a minimal pay raise.
7.) The veterinary industry is brutal, and veterinarians have the highest suicide rate of any professional occupation.
We often work long days and almost never leave work on time. We see sadness and death on a daily basis. When you couple this with angry, yelling clients, it can really be rough. In my opinion, there also seems to be more drama and bullying in a typical veterinary hospital than in most normal workplaces.
So next time you take your dog to the vet, please be patient and kind. Please understand that yes – we cannot dispense ear medications from 2 years ago if your dog has not been in since for a physical exam even though he is shaking his head. Please understand that we too have regulations we must follow; they’re just different than human medicine. Please understand that yes – we do need to do biannual bloodwork if your pet is on a longterm medication such as an NSAID or thyroid medication; your pet cannot speak, and we have no other way to make sure that his internal organs are functioning properly. Please understand that we are doing our best to do 20830329 tasks at the same time while upholding quality care so that your pet, and everyone else’s, can all be cared for.
If you have an awesome veterinary hospital and team, please please please thank them. A simple “thanks so much for everything you do!” DOES go a long way.
It can be so hard to find a good vet, especially for a reactive dog. Tell me in the comments – how did you find your current vet? What are some things they do that you love?