Are Dog Parks Worth the Risk?

via Wilde About Dogs

Recently, a woman took her dog to the dog park for some fun and exercise. She envisioned him frolicking with other dogs and coming home happy and tired. Instead, the poor dog came away needing surgery to save his life, along with more than 10 puncture wounds. I saw the photos; suffice it to say they were both sickening and heart-wrenching. Just a few days later, another woman posted on Facebook about an encounter at the same dog park. Her dog had been attacked, had suffered serious damage to a limb, and needed to be rushed to the vet. The owner of the other dog refused to acknowledge that her dog had done anything wrong, and fled the scene.

Fortunately, both of these dogs will recover—physically, at least. As anyone who has ever suffered a bodily assault knows, the toll goes far beyond physical injury. The extent of emotional damage to any dog who has been attacked depends on the seriousness of the attack and on the temperament of the individual dog. For some dogs this type of encounter can, understandably, result in a fear of other dogs. And as any trainer worth her salt knows, that can translate to fear-based reactivity, which most people call aggression.

Does every encounter at a dog park result in physical or emotional damage to dogs? Of course not. But you might be surprised at how many dogs are having no fun at all, despite what their owners might think. When I was putting together my seminar Dissecting the Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play I needed lots of video of dogs playing. One of the places I spent time at was our local dog park. I filmed hours and hours of various breeds and sizes of dogs playing together. Although I was already aware that some dogs enjoyed playing more than others and that some encounters were definitely not positive, when I reviewed the footage in slow motion, I was shocked. Sure, there were examples of safe, non-threatening play. But there was also a myriad of instances in which dogs were practically traumatized as their owners stood by, totally unaware. One example comes instantly to mind: Within seconds of a man and his medium-sized mixed breed dog entering the park, the dog was rushed by other dogs who wanted to inspect him, as is typical in any canine group. But one of the greeters clearly scared the newcomer, who then lunged and snapped. The owner gave his dog a verbal warning for that defensive action and kept walking deeper into the park. Another dog approached and this time, with his tail tucked, the dog snapped and lunged more intently. The owner grabbed him by the collar and chastised him. Over the next five minutes, the dog had four more encounters that resulted in his being punished by the owner, each time more harshly. It would have been clear to anyone versed in canine body language that the dog was afraid, and was becoming more and more reactive because he was on the defense. It was difficult to stand there filming, and I considered aborting to go and speak with him. Just then, a woman who was a regular there approached and struck up a conversation with the man. Thankfully, she was able to convince him that his dog was scared and to leave the park. I’m sad to say that this was far from being the only negative encounter I filmed. More importantly, this sort of thing happens daily at dog parks across the world.

By now you’re probably thinking, Gee, how do you really feel? The thing is, I’ve seen the flip side as well. I’ve watched a group of ladies who meet at the park most mornings with their dogs. They’re savvy about canine body language, and although they enjoy socializing with each other as their dogs play, they constantly monitor the action. If play begins to become too heated, they create a time out by calling their dogs to them for a short break before releasing them to play again. In this way, they prevent arousal from escalating into aggression. The dogs all know each other and for the most part get along well. I have absolutely no problem with this type of scenario. Unfortunately, it’s far from being the norm. The typical scene at a dog park includes a random assortment of dogs whose owners range from being absolutely ignorant about dog behavior to being well informed, with most of the population falling somewhere in the middle. And why not? They’re not dog professionals, but loving owners who simply want their dogs to get some exercise and have a good time. In most cases, they’re not aware of the subtle or not-so-subtle signals that could indicate danger, or even that dangers exist. Comments like, “Ah, they’re dogs, they’ll work it out,” and “Oh, he’s fine” abound. It’s strange if you think about it: if you were the parent of a young child, would you send him in blindly to play with a group of kids that possibly included bullies and criminals? Wouldn’t you at the very least stand there and observe the play for a few minutes before allowing him to join the fray? If you did allow the child to participate, would you not keep an eye on him and leave if you felt there was a potential threat? And yet, at the dog park, the majority of owners never do those things.

In the best of all worlds, there would be mandatory education for dog park attendees as well as a knowledgeable staff member or volunteer at every park to monitor the action and to stop dogs who are known to be aggressive from entering in the first place. Perhaps a membership model would make this possible. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. And so, it falls to we owners to be advocates and protectors for our dogs. That means if you absolutely insist on taking your dog to a dog park, that you scan the environment before entering, that you monitor your dog’s play even while chatting with other owners, and that you intervene even to the point of leaving if necessary when you feel something is not right, even if that means facing social ostracism. Personally, I prefer play dates with known quantities rather than a park full of potential aggressors who might do serious physical or emotional damage to my dogs. If I do take mine into the dog park to run around, it’s during off hours when the park is empty. You might find this over the top or even paranoid. That’s okay. If you heard all of the stories I’ve heard over the years and seen all of the damage I’ve seen, you might think twice about whether dog parks are worth the risk.

Pets who are victims of domestic abuse are now protected by law

via CNN

Up to one-third of domestic violence victims in one study said they delayed the decision to enter a shelter out of concern for their pets’ welfare. But, according to some estimates, only about 3% of domestic violence shelters nationwide can accommodate pets.

A new bill signed into law by President Trump on Thursday aims to change that.

The Pets and Women Safety (PAWS) Act was passed with bipartisan support as part of the farm bill — legislation that addresses a wide range of areas, including farming, nutrition, conservation, trade, energy and forestry.

Lawmakers and advocates say PAWS aims to protect victims of partner violence. Research shows that abusers inflict violence on pets as a way to intimidate or exert control over their partners.

“No one should have to make the choice between finding safety and staying in a violent situation to protect their pet,” said Democratic Caucus vice chair and Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who co-sponsored the bill.

“This law empowers survivors with the resources to leave a dangerous situation while being able to continue to care for their pet. I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we will help save lives.”

PAWS mimics legislation in 33 states, plus the nation’s capital and Puerto Rico, that include various protections for pets in domestic violence orders and funding for sheltering.

The act expands federal domestic violence protections to include protections for the pets of domestic violence victims. It creates a federal grant program to help domestic violence programs assist clients in finding shelter for their pets when they leave their abusers.

Some shelters provide onsite housing for animals, such as separate kennels or facilities where clients can stay with pets; or, they help clients find foster homes or safe havens during their stay, said Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute, which supported the legislation.

But need for pet sheltering options exceeds demand, she said. Often, victims will stay with an abusive partner to avoid being separated from their pets when sheltering options are not available.

“They will do anything to protect their animals because often that pet is often the only positive thing in their lives,” she said.

Through its grant program, PAWS aims to support the construction and operating expenses of new or existing pet shelter and housing. It also supports short-term shelter and housing assistance, such as expenses incurred for the temporary shelter, housing, boarding or fostering of the pets of domestic violence victims.

The measure also calls for amending the definition of stalking in federal criminal code to include “conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to his or her pet.”

The act creates a criminal penalty for those who travel across state lines with the intent of violating a protection order against a pet.


Please consider donating to Ahimsa House here

Ahimsa House — pronounced “uh-HIM-sah” and means “nonviolence” in Sanskrit — was founded in 2004 by Emily Christie after she lost a pet to domestic violence. Ahimsa House became Georgia’s first and only organization dedicated to helping the human and animal victims of domestic violence reach safety together.



How to Keep Dogs Off Furniture

A lot of people ask us how the Couch Guard acutally works to keep dogs off your couch. And the answer is in three ways, so let me explain!

1 — Couch Guards act as a visual barrier.

Most dogs are scared of even just seeing the Couch Guards sitting on the sofa, and to be honest we’re not even exactly sure why or what’s going on in their doggie brains. But during all of our early testing, we found this to often be the case; we even put the Couch Guard on the dogs’ beds and they wouldn’t go near them. When we tested Ranger (below), we put a piece of chicken on the back of the couch with the Couch Guards in place, and he cried and couldn’t figure out how to get it! So, put the Couch Guards on the sofa and they likely won’t even try to get on! Would you?!

Keep dogs off couch

2 — Couch Guards are uncomfortable.

If your dog does try to get on the sofa even with the Couch Guards in place, it’s going to be uncomfortable. The Couch Guard is made of a tough polycarbonate material that’s not cozy, so your pup won’t hang around. But we specifically designed the raised paws with rounded edges so they won’t hurt the dog or your children. One thing I will note here is that for the Couch Guards to make a sufficiently uncomfortable surface, you need to cover the WHOLE couch or loveseat, not just part of it. Dogs are smart! So if they see an uncovered section of sofa, then they’re probably going to try to sit there! We have three sizes of Couch Guards to cover a wide range of surfaces: Small (which contains 2 interlocking sheets for chairs & loveseats), Medium (contains 4 sheets to cover average sofas), and Large (contains 6 sheets to cover an average sofa and chair or sectional).

peachtree pet couch guard

3 — Couch Guard is a training tool.

This is one of the most important aspects of using our Couch Guards. Your dog will eventually find other places to sleep and grow to prefer those places over the furniture. But don’t take our word for it, here’s a testimonial from a real Couch Guard user:

I thought I would pass on my comments concerning the Couch Guard I purchased.
I have a 100+ lbs German Shepherd (Jack) who was happy to sneak around at night and lounge
on one of our three couches. Being a German Shepherd he also sheds a trail of hair in his wake.
We were at wits end experimenting with all manner barrier material to stop him with little success.
When I saw your testimonial on the internet, I was impressed with your whole narrative and I was inspired to give your product a shot.
Upon receipt of the product we placed it on the den couch and watched Jack reprogram himself.
After three days, he had moved his affection to the basement couch and stayed well clear of the den couch.
We then moved the Couch Guard to the basement couch and kept it there for three days.
The end result was nothing short of a miracle. Jack has reprogramed himself to avoid sleeping on any elevated furniture.
We were so confident in his change we purchased a very expensive leather couch set and it remains in mint condition.
I can confidently say your product has saved me thousands of dollars and made Jack’s life a lot easier.
Once again, Thanks a million and bless all your hard work and efforts.

Buy your Couch Guards here!

7 Reasons Why You Should Adopt A Shelter Pet This Holiday Season

1 — You’ll save a life!

Millions of adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized every year & shelters are always packed. By adopting from a shelter, you’re saving that animal’s life, but also making room at the shelter so they can bring in another animal — So really you’re saving at least two lives! And just look how happy our first foster dog, Frankie (originally Mary Jane at Dekalb Co. Animal Shelter), is in these photos. The pics on the left are her shelter intake photos, and the ones on the right are literally the day we brought her home.

shelter pets are awesome

2 — You’ll save money.

Buying a puppy can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Shelter adoption fees are drastically less than that, and often shelters run numerous specials throughout the year to encourage adoptions, so you could pay even less.

3 — Shelter dogs are the best dogs.

If you’ve ever had a rescue dog, you know what I’m talking about! They’re so grateful, and in our experience really want to please you! This is our foster-fail Razzy, she’s always the happiest girl and willing to do just about anything you ask!

foster fail

4 — Shelters have puppies!

One of the most common reasons I hear for people bypassing shelters is because they want a puppy. Since we’ve been fostering, we’ve seen so many puppies come through, and they don’t always get adopted as quickly as you think! If you’re interested in getting a puppy, contact your local shelter or rescue and have them put you in contact with their person (or people) who regularly foster puppies. That way, you’ll have a direct line to the person who’s the most invested in finding those puppies good homes! These puppies and their mom just came into Lifeline in Atlanta this week  & will all need new homes soon!

puppies for adoptionshelter puppies for adoption

5 — Having a pet is good for your health.

Studies have shown that not only do pets reduce your stress levels & help you live longer just by being there, but people with dogs are also much more likely to be active. So if you’re New Years Resolutions include getting fit this year, think about adopting a running buddy!


shelter pets

6 — Shelters can match you with the perfect dog!

Most shelters and rescues actually know all their dogs’ personalities really well and have an added interest in matching you with the perfect dog so he or she won’t be returned. The staff can help you find everything from the perfect Netflix and Chill dog (just like our first foster Frankie) or the perfect active pups like our two current shelter alums

why you should adopt a shelter dog

7 — Most shelter dogs already know their manners.

Many shelter dogs come house-trained and with some basic obedience knowledge. Training puppies is HARD work! But if you adopt a shelter dog, chances are that most of that work will have already been done for you.

shelter dogs are the best

If you’re in the Atlanta area, we encourage you to check out Lifeline at Avondale, Fulton Co. Animals Services, Dekalb Co. Animal Services, or the Atlanta Humane Society. If you’re not in the area, your local county shelters or humane society can match you up with the perfect new best friend this holiday season!