Petcube Play Reviews: The Modern Dog Has Landed

Dog toys have been around since….well since dogs, but this is no bone from the butchers. What we are seeing now is an interactive technology with applications originating in high level business, home and commercial security and even military institutions. Bundle it all up and what do you get? That’s right……a great dog toy. The Petcube Play has it all and it’s so easy to operate that that even a dog can use it (no offense Theo).  Following are two Petcube Play reviews One from a high strung and handsome little Miniature Pinscher named Theo and one from his owner, Brad.

Theo’s Review

While I cherish my privacy and I don’t particularly like the idea of being watched when I’m scouring the kitchen table for breakfast scraps or eating my moms shoe, it is nice to know that my mom or dad is keeping an eye out for me. I do get a little nervous about being alone sometimes and I even worry about whether someone will be home by dinner time. It’s nice to hear a familiar voice through the day. It helps me relax.

Then there’s playtime. I hear mom or dad’s voice and then I get to chase around this red dot for a while. They laugh like hyenas at me, but I don’t care. It’s great fun. It helps reduce my anxiety and it gets me to exercise, which is especially rare during the work week.

The next part is just crazy. Mom and Dad bought another device called Petcube Bites to watch me in another room and give me a treat when I’m good…. and it does….seriously. It hasn’t taken me for a walk yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it tries to soon! All in all I give it a 5 paws up!

Theo’s Rating: 5 Paws Up (out of five)

Petcube Play

Brad’s Review

  • Product: Petcube Play
  • Price: $254.45 cnd (price may change)
  • Warranty: 45 day satisfaction guaranteed refund and 2 year limited warranty
  • Size: 3″ X 3″ X 3″ (Cube) Colors: carbon black, matte silver, rose gold
  • Rating: 9 / 10

Camera Features

As Theo mentioned in his review the Petcube Play features a camera, which happens to be a 1080p HD video camera with a 138° angle view. The camera is accessed and controlled by a user-friendly app that can be easily downloaded to your phone (Android or iOS) The advantages of this camera are:

  1. A clear picture of your dog and his or her activity because of the high resolution
  2. A large coverage area by the camera because of the extremely wide angle (i.e. coverage of 90% plus of an unobstructed room if the camera is placed against one wall.)
  3. A night vision feature so that you don’t have to leave the lights on in order to see your dog at night.
  4. A 3X digital zoom so that I can see if Theo has my shoe or my wife’s purse in his mouth.

Fun Features

Petcube Bites

The Petcube Play features a laser for playing with your dog from where ever you happen to be, also controlled from your phone. You can move a red laser dot around the room for your dog to play with by dragging your finger around the screen of your phone. There’s also an automatic setting that will cause the dot to move around on it’s own for some fun, frolic and physical activity. (The laser is safe for dogs and humans).

There’s another Petcube product that can be added to the mix called a Petcube Bites. This bow wow baby sitter has the same camera as it’s brother, the Petcube Play, but instead of laser play, it can dispense a treat. With both cubes you cover voice, video, playtime and treats. Video recording can be activated by motion or barking and with a plan called Petcube Care you can review up to 30 days of activity.

Conclusion

The Petcube Play and the Petcube Bites are good value for price. These devices do provide a limited method of interaction and security for your dog if you can’t be around. A lot of thought has gone into the design and high quality technology has been implemented. I believe that the 45 day refund policy is a real value added if this device turns out not to be for you. The devices can also be set up so that more than one family member can access them providing some additional support.

I think that the Petcube Play and Bites offer a valuable service to dogs who are home alone for some period of time and their owners. I also think that some caution should be taken not to rely too heavily on this developing technology. That is, there may a temptation, for example, to stay out later because of the additional security provided. I would hope that Mr. Dog won’t have his dinner delayed in lieu of a couple of extra treats dispensed from our robot like babysitters (I say that affectionately). Dogs, like people, like to have some routine in their lives. They need human contact and knowing that they are safe and fed is only the beginning of being a good pet owner. What they really need is our time. Talking to your dog through the Petcube Play is not a substitute for being home, it is a bonus in what otherwise may have been a lonely day.

 

 

 

 

Home Alone? Dog Toys Beat the Boredom

“Wanna Play?”

Have you ever been home alone with nothing to do? Oh sure it’s great once in a while. We can all appreciate a little me time, but too much can be lonely. Most of us have to work out of the house and leave our dogs alone for some period of time every week. Should we not have dogs because we have to go to work? Of course not. It can be difficult to teach your dog to knit, read or do housework to keep them occupied, but hey, how about some great toys!! Sticks, ropes, bones and homemade balls have been toys for dogs for as long as they have been our companions, but the evolution of store bought toys began nearly 200 years ago with the popularity of “song birds” in the parlor. Toys to entertain birds were born out of the obvious boredom frustration exhibited by our tiny feathered friends when confined to small spaces.

Birth of the Dog Toy Market

  1. 1840s: The first Bird Stores appeared. In the Victorian era, caged “Song Birds” were popular. The first commercially produced pet toys were for birds not dogs. And so our little feathered friends paved the way.
  2. 1890s: Pet stores began to open. They sold a variety of pets and the basic equipment required to take care of them.
  3. 1920s: Department Stores began selling pets, pet supplies and equipment, and “gifts for pets” (Toys).
  4. 1950s: Post WW2 there were advancements in the production of rubber and an increase in the average household disposable income. This opened an opportunity for companies that made squeaky toys for children, you guessed it, to begin making squeaky dog toys.
  5. 1960: Introducing the first pet store franchise and the growth of the dog toy commercial industry.
  6. 1986: The founding of the first big box pet store, Pet Smart (then called Petfood Warehouse).

(Dates from: Pets in America: A History, by Katherine C. Grier, P.h.D. 2006)

And so with the evolution of the business of pets, came opportunity to invent and develop more complex and interesting dog toys. The advent of the two income family spawned another situation. For the newly home alone, dog toys helped beat the boredom. Since the 1800s we have recognized other benefits of toys for dogs and this awareness has propelled innovation in design and functionality.

4 Benefits of Toys for Dogs

  1. Toys are Fun: Dogs play to amuse themselves, pass the time and beat the boredom of being home alone. The spinoff
    Toys stimulate my brain!

    “Toys stimulate my brain”.

    is exercise supporting your pooches health and well-being (might well be that if they are chewing on toy they might just leave your slippers alone as well.)

  2. Toys help us Bond: Playing games, like tug of war or fetch with your dog help build the bond between you and your furry best friend.
  3. Toys can comfort: Dogs will often bond with some toys and sleep with them. These toys can help reduce their anxiety in stressful situations and help them relax: for example when traveling. (It is best to travel with your dog as it makes some people nervous on planes or buses sitting next to a dog without the owner around).
  4. Toys can dispense treats: These toys can provide mental stimulation for your dog. They can actually promote the production of neurotrophin, which is like food for the neurons in a dogs brain. Dogs are genetically programmed to have to work for their food. They enjoy the challenge of chasing and hunting, or (if we must live in towns and be domestic) working their food out of a toy.

    I Love to ring that bell!!

A New Era in Dog Toys

Today’s dog toys address the new way in which dogs have become part of our lives. Dogs are no longer merely used in a utilitarian way to retrieve fowl on a hunt, or pull a sled, or clean up table scraps or dissuade intruders (these things are all wonderful for dogs to do given the opportunity!) Our relationship with our canine counterparts is now more complex and intricate. They are considered companions, friends and even family members. We recognize their emotional depth, loyalty, intelligence and need to bond and interact with humans. A bone and a piece of rope won’t necessarily cut it today (although they can be pretty amazing in a pinch).

A new era in our relationship with dogs and their toys began in 1976, at least in part be attributed to a German Shepard named Fritz, a VW bus and a guy named Joe. Fritz liked to chew on some stuff that concerned his owner Joe Markham. Rocks were on the menu and Fritz’s teeth were actually wearing down because of the behavior. One day while working on the VW Joe removed a hard rubber part called a bump stop. Fritz decided that the bump stop would make a great toy. The tough durable rubber and the unique shape which caused an erratic bounce inspired Joe Markham to solve Fritz’s problem. The KONG was born! The KONG was the first stuffable dog toy brought to market. That is, food can be stuffed into the KONG and retrieved by your fury friend. As discussed earlier in this post, there are several health benefits to this type of toy and it spurred a burst of innovation that resulted in the amazing variety of ingenious toys available today.

From Rope to Lasers: Dog Toys from the Future 

The Petcube Play is a multipurpose pet care device, which includes a remotely operated laser toy! Place the Petcube Play in your home, preferably in an area frequented by your dog or dogs and you can see them from anywhere in the world via an app which can be easily downloaded onto your phone. Not only can you see your pet, you can hear them and talk to them.  With the controls on the app you can manipulate a laser dot for your dog to chase around the room, have some fun and get some exercise. Imagine, a toy that will allow you to play with your dog from thousands of miles away!! With the Petcube Plays brother, the Petcube Bites, you can dispense treats to your dog from work or a foreign country.

Conclusion

Dog toys are more than just fun. They are an important piece of the “quality of life puzzle” for our barking brothers and sisters. If your dog is home alone, dog toys can help beat the boredom, but the benefits extend well beyond that to helping us bond, comforting them and providing neurological stimulation. The technological explosion of the last decade has embraced the world of dog toys and the options are now endless and amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Dog Clothes: Lookin’ Good, Feelin’ Warm!

We’ve had record cold temperatures in Canada and the U.S.A. this year. We all know how it affects us. I don’t want to go out of the house in the morning! Heck I don’t even want to get out of my housecoat. Shoveling snow…….ya, great fun!! Your little canine cutie probably doesn’t love it either (Not the snow shoveling. You should never make your dog shovel snow. It’s bad for their back).

Is Your Canine, Cold Weather Friendly? : 3 Factors

  1. Size: That’s right, it’s high school science time again. This class is about “Surface to Volume”. If your dog is small he or she has a larger surface area (his outside surface) to his heat producing inside. Therefore, his or her surface area will release the heat he or she produces more quickly and easily and they will have a greater appreciation for little dog clothes. Conversely a larger dog has a smaller relative surface area and therefore will retain the heat that they produce more slowly. So, in summary, small dogs are not as cold resistant as large dogs.
  2. Fur: Certain breeds of dogs have more fur, thicker fur and fur that is genetically engineered through naturalselection to protect them from the cold. These biological adaptations are usually geographically specific to cold or warm regions i.e. Huskies have warm coats….chihuahuas do not. Huskies….northern Canada or Alaska….chihuahuas… Mexico. Some smaller dogs, i.e. shih tzus, have warmer coats than chihuahuas. Dogs natural fur coats vary in their cold and weather protective attributes usually according to geographic heritage and not size.
  3. Health: If your dog is sick they will have a lower resistance to cold and nasty weather. As a dogs health generally declines with age, senior dogs (we don’t want to offend the young at heart) may prefer the indoors to winter sports such as skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.

    Click to Purchase on Amazon

Cold Cues from Popsicle Pooch

Watch your dog for cues. They will tell you when they’re cold and might like to have their nice warm coat on. If they’re shivering take them in the house. If they are trying to jump into your arms and snuggle up to you, take them in the house. If they are standing on three legs and alternately lifting their paws off the ground, their feet are probably cold (as I mentioned in a previous post “Small Dog Snow Boots – Yea or Nay“, despite evidence that dogs have a biological adaptation to protect their feet from the cold, they can still get cold feet). If they are doing all three of these things at once….you guessed it…inside please. Your dog may exhibit other behaviors that only you would understand. The better you know your dog and the more time you spend with them, the easier you will pick up on these. Be aware…be kind.

Cold Weather and Common Sense

If it’s too cold for you to be outside without a coat then it’s too cold for your dog to be outside for extended periods of time. That being said, like people or other animals different dogs will have varying levels of tolerance to the cold. Of course smaller dogs, especially with short fur are going to appreciate little dog clothes. In general if you have a small dog and the temperature is under 32° fahrenheit (0° celsius) you should keep a close eye on them for signs of discomfort. At temperatures under 20° fahrenheit (or – 7° celsius) long term exposure could raise health concerns. Also don’t just consider the temperature when thinking about your dog. Consider other weather factors like wind chill, dampness and cloud cover. A cold rainy day is more hostile than just a cold day.

Weather Proof Pooch


One way of extending outdoor hours throughout the winter is to consider little dog clothes (or big dog clothes of course if you have a big dog). There are many options available including coats, hats and boots. Make sure that they fit properly and are not making your dog uncomfortable. There is no point trying to reduce his or exposure to the elements and then creating a bad experience by making them wear a chaffing coat. It may take some dogs a while to get used to wearing cold weather clothing and some may never like it. Try to make the experience a positive one for them. Treats usually help with this.

 

 

 

 

Good Dogs Bad Breath – Remedies

I’m Theo. I’m the biggest handful of Miniature Pinscher you ever met in your life. I’m smart, cute, energetic, affectionate and charming. I like to jump up in laps and kiss people. Problem is, I’m being told I have bad Breath. This is embarrassing.

Bad Breath Dog Food

I got to thinking…could it be what I’m eating. As I mentioned, I’m very cute and yes, I beg for food all the time. There’s a couple of softies in my house that will slip me human junk food. I love it, but Brad (one of my owners) always complains when he catches them and makes them promise not to do it again. He says that dogs can have sensitivities to some foods that could cause gastro intestinal problems and bacteria in their mouth, lungs or stomach…yuck. This could be the source of bad breath. When members of my family are feeding me human food from the table or during snack time…who knows what I could be eating that is causing my good dog bad breath problem.

No People Snacks – Thanks Anyway

Everyone was worried about (and kind of annoyed by) my bad breath so they stopped feeding me people food. Now if my bad breath persists and it is caused by my food it will be easy to change my diet and pick something that might even be a remedy. When I was eating a hundred different things, it would have been very difficult to pick the one that may have been the problem.

Good Breath Dog Food


Generally, my breath seems to improve when I eat hard dog food as opposed to soft food. Brad says that it helps to keep my teeth clean and free of plaque which could cause bad breath. Even better than just adding a nutritious hard food, is also adding food that contains special ingredients to promote good gut health like Deley Naturals . This way, I get better breath (more kissin’) but I can also benefit from immune system support, better digestion and the darn things taste good too….even though I’m not really all that fussy.

Clean Teeth Good Breath

So, as I just barked, plaque and dirty teeth have bacteria on them that can cause bad dog breath. Now, as I also said good quality hard snacks or food can help clean my teeth but guess what….well what do you do when your mouth is feeling grungy? Right…brush them. Right again….brush mine too please. (I’d do it myself, but you know…the opposable thumb problem strikes again). There is even Dog tooth brushes and dog tooth paste.

Conclusion – Bad Breath Health Check

Although good dogs bad breath remedies might be simple and the source of the problem may be one of the common ones discussed in this post, there is another possibility. If your dogs breath is extreme and persistent it is advisable to visit your veterinarian for consultation. Your pooch could have liver, kidney or intestinal issues that require treatment.

 

 

 

 

Small Dog Snow Boots – Yea or Nay?

It’s debated whether any dogs need snow boots. According to some researchers dogs have a natural adaptation that protects their feet from the cold. While this may be true, there may be more to the picture.

Ask Your Dog About Snow Boots

Your dog may be trying to tell you something about whether they need snow boots. The clues aren’t that difficult to detect:

  1. Does your dog limp when he walks on snow? If he is, snow boots may be the answer.
  2. Does your dog stop and lift one paw off the ground when he walks on snow?
  3. Does he or she stop, turn and look at you pitifully with one paw off the ground?
  4. Is he or she now simply resisting going for a walk on a snowy day when they normally eagerly wait at the door?

Occasionally all breeds of dogs will exhibit these behaviors, but certain breeds, particularly small dog breeds or “toy” breeds seem to be more sensitive to the cold in general. Small dog snow boots are a more common sight than say a German Shepard wearing snow boots, but don’t be afraid to try them on your big dog if they are “asking” for them.

Snow Boots for an Injury

It may be wise to protect an injury, even an older healed injury on your dogs paw with snow boots. Injured areas of an animals body can become more sensitive to exposure and paws are no exception. You may want to check with your vet about this, especially if your dog has had a paw injury and is exhibiting any of the behaviors under the heading “Ask Your Dog About Snow Boots”.

Dog Snow Boots Falling Off? – Don’t Get Cold Feet

First of all, in order for small dog snow boots to work, they must stay on your dogs feet. Many will not. As we all know dogs do not have the 90 degree bend in their ankle that their best friends do (specifically designed to keep foot wear secured, or so it would seem). Straps help, but soft or even slippery fur decrease the friction required to keep gravity from just tugging them off. A good fitting boot is certainly one of the tricks and there are companies that customize the size of their boots based on the breed of your dog. Specialized materials and designs to address this problem are available. Before you buy, make sure that the merchant recognizes this issue and has implemented a reasonable fix into their product.

My Dog Doesn’t Like Wearing Snow Boots – He Walks Funny

Many dogs will walk funny when boots are placed on their feet. They will kick up their back feet like haflinger ponies with every step. It’s not natural for dogs to wear boots of course, but they can get used to it (some will not). My wife and I let Theo (our miniature pinscher) wear them around the house for a while before trying the snowy outdoors. While he would walk around the house in them, he refused to walk outside with them on. (I can’t explain it, but as funny as it sounds I think he was a bit embarrassed by them).

Conclusion

Small dog snow boots may be a good solution for your dogs cold feet. Remember to get the right fit and find boots that have a “falling off” solution built in. Amazon has a great selection . If boots don’t work, don’t worry. You may have to keep your chilly pooch indoors on those really cold days. Pee Pads, (usually available at the dollar store) can work wonders. It was incredibly easy to train Theo to use them. We put one down right beside the toilette in our bathroom and he caught on immediately.

 

 

Easy Homemade Dog Treat Recipe

I know that price is no object when our pooches happiness is on the line, but let’s face it….dog treats are expensive.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make Theo happy (and healthy) with a great tasting and easy homemade dog treat recipe and still make our car payment?  What happens if he or she is a really good boy or girl this month…more treats.  Cha Ching Cha Ching

Theo Loves it and it’s Good for Him

We started down a slippery slope with Theo our miniature Pinscher by treating him to a nice bag of sweet potatoe chews.  The bag was small enough for me to eat in ten minutes while watching Vikings. The problem was that I would never buy an $13.00 bag of chips for myself.  They had great health benefits though, and Theo loved them.  That’s right…guilt. Apparently guilt is as costly as sweet potatoe chews.

But it’s Just a Sweet Potatoe!

One night we were at our neighbors for dinner.  Laurie is a great cook and foody.  She seems to know everything there is to know about food and how to prepare it.  She’s always thinking outside of the box and coming up with creative food prep ideas.  As usual the conversation took a turn to Lauries abilities and food in general.  I’m clueless on the topic and was only half following.  Later my wife asked me “did you hear Laurie talking about her dehydrator?  No” I said with feigned interest.  “Why do you ask?  Well” she replied, “Theos treats are only dehydrated sweet potatoes and if we could borrow Lauries dehydrator….”  Now I was listening.

The Dehydrator

Click to Purchase on Amazon

This is too easy.  You can’t even call it an easy dog treat receipe because a recipe, in my mind should have more than one ingredient. Sometime later I walked over to Lauries and asked if I could borrow her dehydrator, which she happily lent me.  At the local grocery store, I was very happy to discover that a 3 lb. bag of sweet potatoes could be purchased for under $4.00.  (Still pricey by your average potatoe standard, but penies compared to $13.00 per 8 oz. pet store price).  I gladly took the 30 minutes required to slice the entire bag into thin slices.  Thin slices dry more quickly and easily of course.  Make sure you use a very sharp knife as sweet potatoes are very hard and slicing an entire bag with a dull knife will wear you down.  The dehydrator that I used had 6 racks and I was able to dehydrate the whole bag in two sessions of about 8 hours.  Just slice, leave them on the rack and take them off when they feel like shoe leather.  I use zip loc bags to store the treats in.  Make sure you let the slices cool to room temperature before you zip them up.  Then just throw them on a shelf somewhere until someone is a good boy or girl.

Same Recipe Different Treat

We make sweet potatoe treats because that’s what Theo loves.  Sweet potatoes contain lots of nutrients that provide him with energy and fibre to promote digestive health.  Use whatever fruit or veggie your dog likes, but check with your vet or a recognized health site to make sure that the food is ok for dogs. (Grapes for example are not)  Apples, apricots and pears are great.  They’re a healthy snack and dogs usually love them.

 

Conclusion

One last thing.  If you don’t have a great neighbor like Laurie who can lend you her dehydrator, you can buy them online for under $50.00 (only 3 bags of store bought treats).  Happy Treat Making.

 

 

 

 

 

Dog Leashes – Dont be a pain in the neck

There are many types of dog leashes, collars and harnesses for walking your dog. Choosing one can mean the difference between a pleasant stress free walk and a contest for leadership on the street. Learning how to use the leash properly is equally important.

The Leash to Communicate

Traditionally the leash was used for one purpose: to keep a dog from “running off” or “running away”. Today, however, we know that the leash has a more complex and important role in the relationship with our dog. Through our handling of the leash we can communicate with our dog. The leash becomes a physical connection with our dog…an addition to our voice connection. We can send commands, and we can reinforce or disapprove of our dogs response to those commands and we can use the leash as a training aid for our dog.

Used incorrectly dog leashes can thwart our training efforts and even encourage negative behaviors we are working against. Be careful not to use the leash to dominate your dog. You don’t want your dog to develop an aversion to being on the leash. The leash should represent fun for your dog…an enjoyable adventure around the neighborhood or out on the trail.

The Leash as a Restraint

  1. The Do’s: Restraining your dog with the leash can build drive towards a specific object. For example, if you want your dog to move towards your house at the end of the walk, gently restrain them for a few seconds and then release them, allowing them to run the last few steps to the house. Have someone else restrain the dog from coming to you for a few seconds and then release them to you. This can be a fun game and will build a desire in your dog to gravitate towards objects of your choice. Always be gentle when restraining your dog with a leash.
  2. The Don’ts: So in a sense, restraining your dog is somewhat counter intuitive. That is, restraining from, can create a drive towards. With this in mind, be careful when your dog moves towards other dogs not to restrain them. This can help to foster leash aggression towards other dogs. When I first arrived at the dog park in our town, as a newbie, there were maybe six other dogs in the park, all running freely of course. I entered fenced park with Theo on the leash. The other dogs descended on him enmasse like a playful welcoming committee. He immediately became overwhelmed and aggressive on the leash. I restrained him, making matters worse. The other owners yelled for me to take Theo off the leash and assured me that the situation would correct itself. I reluctantly did and to my surprise, after a bit of a grumpy warning from Theo, he settled right down and began his meet and sniff with the pack. I’m trying to demonstrate here the effects of restraint and how our intended message may be misinterpreted by our dog.

Pulls and Pops

Using a leash for pulls (sustained gentle pull for direction) and pops (a “should be” gentle short tug) for training is a controversial topic. Some say that a pop is a punishment and is therefore an ineffective technique and will erode the relationship with your dog. Which ever side of the argument you end up on, I would say be gentle. If you use a pop it should only be a cue that the behavior is not what were looking for and I would like your attention again….gently.

A pull is used to gently direct your dog to a certain position. It can be accompanied by a treat to reinforce a behavior such as stay or a change of direction.

The Best Leash/Collar Combo

The best dog leash should be determined by considering your dogs personality and behavior. When Theo first arrived at our house he had been neglected and was more than a bit unruly. When walking he pulled hard and looked like a husky dragging a human sled. We started out with a regular simple collar and leash but his pulling caused him to choke and gag. Be careful, our vet advised that this behavior has been known to cause trachea collapse and should not be allowed to continue. We switched to a harness, which helped for a while, but Theo’s pulling behavior was taking some time to correct and he actually developed a sore on his chest from the pulling. We settled on a regular leash and a “Halti” (as in the picture). The Halti has a strap over the nose, so if your dog pulls the pressure is applied over the bridge of the nose, which is usually more effective (and less harmful). It works well for Theo. It looks somewhat elaborate, but it’s really quite simple. Theo wears his original collar with the Halti for safety. The Halti is easy to escape from, if in a moment of excitement your dog turns backwards and flails like a bass on a hook. Theo has made such an attempt and been successful. The collar provides a backup.

We did try a retractable leash for a while as I thought that the release action would help with the pulling. I found that our walks became chaotic and confusing. The straight leash was a more communicative link.

Conclusion

Finding the right leash may be a bit of trial and error for you and your dog. There are many options which address many behaviors and personalities. Equally important as selecting the right leash/collar combo is understanding their purpose and knowing how to use them properly. Without spending some time with your dog and engaging them with some basic training, no leash is going to work. Above all be gentle, be kind and have some fun with your dog.

 

 

 

 

My Dog Barks Too Much – Take a Walk on the Quiet Side

Did I Wake You Up?

Are you nervous about walking your dog because of his or her excessive barking? Are you afraid that this might be affecting your relationships in the neighborhood? You are not alone. This is a more common problem than you might suspect and there are solutions that do not require barking dog collars.

Why Dogs Bark

Dogs communicate by barking. Barking is a natural and healthy activity for a dog to engage in, but can become a problem when your dog barks too much or at inappropriate times. When is it appropriate for your dog to bark?

  1. Dogs send messages to other dogs. They may be warning of territorial boundaries, sending an invitation to play, announcing their arrival, or even sending more complex messages that we don’t completely understand.
  2. Dogs may bark to alert their owners of intruders and to warn them that their presence will be met with resistance.
  3. Dogs bark when they are excited about something i.e. a ride in the car, your return from work, anticipation of playing ball etc.

Why Dogs Bark Too Much

When a dog barks excessively he or she is also sending a message. They may be in distress of some kind. It could be pain, but more often than not it is fear, anxiety, or stress of some kind. Barking may be a complaint about something that they are uncomfortable with, something they dislike, someone they dislike, or something that is missing in their life.

Dogs are highly intelligent creatures and are compelled to communicate with their human companions. As their means of communication is somewhat limited due to our language barrier, we should be especially observant and receptive to their cues. When we miss their cues or ignore them they may bark in frustration telling us to “hey look – pay attention here. I have to go out and pee!” for example.

When Theo, our miniature pinscher, has to go to the bathroom (so to speak) he will first walk to the front door, wait patiently and stare, with an inquisitive look at the first person who comes into his field of vision, as if to ask “will you take me out?” After waiting patiently for a surprising amount of time, and if no one catches this cue, or ignores him, he will, for a period of time, begin to make low throaty growl type noises. If this doesn’t work, he will resort to barking. Anyone Who is familiar with min pins knows that this is a loud piercing bark that commands attention. Who could blame him?

Theo, as most dogs will, exhausts his communication options before he resorts to barking. Watch for your dogs cues. Theo’s are generally locational i.e. if he wants food and his bowl is empty he will sit by his bowl and stare at someone. If he wants under a blanket he will sit on the blanket and stare at someone. Be observant and responsive to your dog.

Steps to Take for Excessive Barking

Don’t think of these steps as trouble shooting, but rather helping your dog and building a better bond with them. Address the basics. I know this may seem to go without saying, but often the simplest solution is the correct one.

  1. Food and water: Is your dog getting enough food? Is it the right food? (nutritionally and…does he like it?), Does he or she always has access to water? Barking for scraps and the dinner table may be bad behavior (and it is usually), or it may indicate something more about your dogs diet. Consult your veterinarian or do some online research with regard to your dogs diet according to their size, breed and exercise regimen.
  2. Exercise: Is your dog getting enough exercise? An inadequate exercise regimen can cause a build up of nervous energy that manifests in a number of inappropriate behaviors including barking too much. Again the amount of exercise your dog requires is somewhat breed and age specific so a little research goes a long way.
  3. Injuries or health issues: Some injuries and health issues are readily apparent and obvious. You will know if your dog has wound that is open and bleeding by mere visual inspection. Others are not so apparent. Theo’s vision is not 100% anymore and he will often bark at neighbors that he knows, until he is close enough to recognize them. This is not an inappropriate behavior, it is a health issue. It took us a while to realize that this was happening. You can’t train away a health issue. Sometimes excessive barking can be an indicator of some injury or health concern. As I have said, be patient and observant. If a dog growls or barks when they are picked up a certain way or even petted in a particular spot, that could indicate a recent or even a past injury.

Training for Mr. or Mrs. Barker

Once you have eliminated Food/water, injury/health and exercise as potential sources of excessive barking, it’s time to consider the training solution. Of course dogs vary in temperament, personality and abilities in much the same way that humans do. Your training methods may vary according to your dogs nature. Again careful observation will be helpful when tweaking your specific training method. Watch carefully how your dog responds to your voice, your body language and your commands.

I did a bit of research and determined that the word “quiet” could be taught as a command. I remembered a visit to our local dog park when a particularly experienced owner had helped me out. Theo was exhibiting some negative behavior towards the other dogs (growling, snapping etc.) The man told me not to chastise him, or raise my voice. Just turn and ignore him. When he stopped and began to nuzzle my leg, I was to turn and praise him. My chastising just raised the tension in the situation and created more bad behavior. It took quite a long time and a lot of patience, but the results were undeniable. His behavior towards the other dogs improved dramatically.

I decided to see if the technique might be applied to barking. I began one day when preparing for his walk. As usual, Theo became very excited. He began to bark incessantly. I stopped, turned away from him and stood quietly. He continued to bark. Every 5 or 10 seconds I said softly “quiet”. It seemed a long time, but eventually he stopped and as soon as he did I turned, petted him, said “good….quiet dog” (giving a small nutritious treat might help). I resumed preparation to go outside and Theo resumed barking. I repeated the process. Eventually he was quiet for long enough to get outside and we had a nice walk in the neighborhood. I was encouraged by our small success and decided to keep trying.

Now we’re standing on the front stoop and Theo is announcing his entrance to the neighborhood with loud sharp barks. This is not a popular maneuver at 7 am. Once again I turned my back, ignored him, except for the occasional “quiet”. Theo was pulling at the leash. He wanted to get going on his rounds. I stood firm. When he stopped barking, I turned, petted him and said “good…quiet dog.” We then proceeded with our walk. One week of this technique began to yield some results. Before leaving the house I would command “quiet” and Theo would step out of the house and merely look around before beginning his walk. For the next several weeks Theo would occasionally revert to his old behavior, but progress has been forthcoming every day.

Conclusion

Dogs bark. Some is good, too much is not good. Figure out when barking is allowed for your dog based on your needs and your dogs nature. Keep these two elements in balance and be consistent with your requests to your dog regarding his or her barking. Be patient when training, there is no good way to rush the process and successfully modify your dogs behavior.  Good luck and woof!