Make Car Travel Easy for Your Dog

Some dogs love to go for car rides, looking out windows and sniffing new smells. And then there are other types of dogs that need to be coaxed, whining and pulling back, into the vehicle. Some experience a tummy upset when they look outside the window. Others are just the opposite. As Jack and Wendy Volhard -- authors of Dog Training for Dummies -- point out, there is a catch-22 in place. The dog forever upchucks on rides. It therefore only gets into the vehicle when it has to, and that’s usually for a vet visit. Now the pattern reinforces in your dog’s mind that cars are bad news, leading to an even worse destination.

The Volhards believe that a negative association with the car can lead to a dog’s stomach upset, so it’s not necessarily just the motion triggering the misery. They suggest that you make every effort to turn the car into something positive for your dog. Open the door with the engine turned off and ease your dog inside. Provide happy verbal reinforcement and bring along a food treat or two. Spend some time with your dog in the vehicle, showering it with positive attention and letting it know that it’s being good. Repeat this over a series of days until your dog goes into the car willingly and without fear.

The next suggestion is an easy one. Be sure to take your dog to some fun places in the car, in addition to the vet’s office. Before long, it will learn that car rides aren’t always a bad thing. If true motion sickness is the culprit, that is a time to discuss the matter with your dog’s veterinarian for possible remedies.

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Do Dogs Get Revenge on Their Owners?

If your dog has gone to the bathroom on the floor while you were away from home, you’re probably wondering if it did this deliberately.

Humans are not the only animals who plot conscious revenge on others. As Stephen Beckerman, a Penn State anthropologist, points out: “Widespread in the animal kingdom is the behavior of returning injury for injury. Animals as varied and as far from us as blue-footed boobies, elephant seals, side-striped jackals and European moorhens are called punishers. They regularly respond to injuries by attacking the culprit who has injured them.”

You might think that mental injuries could be included. Your dog gets depressed because it is lonely and restless. It therefore acts out by doing something you hate.

However, this is not the case.

Although dogs have good memories, they live more in the moment. When you come home and find the mess, your body language before you even say something to your dog may reveal your anger and cause your dog to react. Your dog, however, is not necessarily waiting for some sort of mental satisfaction that it got a reaction out of you. That behavior is tied to a phenomenon known as “theory of mind,” which requires a complex ability to understand and possibly even to predict the thoughts of others.

Revenge is also more complicated than you might think. “Revenge is a desire to not just punish the culprit, but to change his mind, to make him see -- if only in his death throws -- that he was wrong,” says Beckerman. Do you think your dog is plotting and planning all of this in regard to its bowel movements? I strongly doubt it.

The more simple answer is that your dog is either stressed out or has no appropriate place to go to the bathroom without your guidance. Some owners crate their dogs during the day, but I view that as more of a last-resort solution. Try to reinforce bathroom training. If your dog is not very big, you might install some baby gates to prevent access to certain areas of your home. Dog bathroom mats can also help. They often have the look and feel of grass, but keep the waste contained for easy disposal.

If possible, you should also consider getting a dog walker, pet sitter or someone else to look in on your pet during the day. Boredom can lead to anxiety and then to bathroom issues in dogs. If your dog stays active and social, those problems are less likely to surface. Health issues could also be at work, so you might additionally schedule a veterinary visit to rule those out.

Should You Train With a Head Halter?

If your dog gets a bit overeager on walks, it might pull you along, making it hard for you to control it. That’s where a head halter comes in handy. These devices are also used by people who have service dogs, again for better control.

The Humane Society of the United States provides instructions on how to use head halters, which consist of a strap that fits around your dog’s nose, and a second strap that fits around your dog’s neck and behind its ears. You attach the leash under your dog’s chin. It’s also connected to the nose strap. While this might all seem a bit severe, the device is actually quite safe and is considered to be a “humane method of restraint,” according to The Humane Society.

Make sure the device fits properly, and give your dog some time to get used to it -- but not too much time. Dogs that are left with a head halter on while inside the home usually find a way to remove it. Once your pet learns how to do this, it can be difficult to keep the halter on.

The Humane Society advises that you should not:

  • Think of the halter like a muzzle; they are two entirely different things
  • Jerk the leash hard while your dog is wearing the halter
  • Use the head halter with a retractable lead
  • Allow your dog to run speedily to the lead’s end, because your dog could be jerked backward

Do, on the other hand, only use the head halter during on-leash walks when you are present for supervision. Additionally, take time to read the informational sheet that comes with your particular halter.

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Get Your Dog Comfortable With a New Name

It’s not too hard to figure out why changing a dog’s name would be confusing to the canine. Imagine if you moved into a new home and everyone started calling you something other than your actual name. If you did not understand that the new name referred to you, you would probably wonder what was going on.

The situation you describe is a common one, especially with pets that are adopted from shelters or from other owners. “Lovey” or “Precious” might sound great to one person, but to another, the dog looks more like a “Fido” or a “George.” Names often reflect our own taste and how we perceive our pets. Sometimes, new owners just keep the dog’s older name, but since you want to change it, you can do so over a relatively short period of time.

Dogs of any age, from puppies to seniors, can learn a new name in just a few days with proper training. Petfinder.com suggests following these four steps:

1. Choose a new name for your pet. Shorter, easier-to-say names are best. Even dogs with long pedigreed names usually have short nicknames too.

2. Make a point of carrying some of your dog’s favorite treats with you. These can be doggy biscuits broken into pieces.

3. When time allows and when you want to grab your dog’s attention, call out the new name. When your dog looks back at you, immediately provide verbal praise and pet your dog. As you do so, offer a small food treat.

4. Offer the above praise even if your dog does not respond to the new name. Petfinder.com says that soon your dog “will know that hearing that word means great things are coming, and he will respond as if that word is his own!”

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What Your Dog’s Eyes Reveal

All mammals communicate information with their eyes. In any given moment, we humans are just not that consciously aware of it, even though we are taking it in. For example, you might notice that someone looks angry or sad even though you haven’t really analyzed why. Looking into a person’s eyes helps reveal how that individual feels.

In their book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training, Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie share how dogs can communicate with their eyes too. Here are some common emotions and how your dog shows them with its eyes:

Happy Your dog looks at you but does not stare. Your pal’s eyes will look relaxed yet not sleepy.

Scared A frightened dog will tend to look away, shielding its eyes from the person, the other dog or the object that is causing the fear.

Angry Just like a mad person, a mad dog will look at you right in the eyes and stare in a glaring manner.

Really Angry Pang and Louie warn against what they call “the half moon.” This is when the whites of your dog’s eyes take on a half-moon shape. If you see this, be prepared for trouble. Dogs often display this look when they are about to bite or attack someone, according to the authors.

Your dog’s tail, ears, mouth, nose, fur and more can also communicate how your dog is feeling. Pay attention to the visual details and you can better understand your pet’s mood.