Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mommy, why don't they like me?

Hi there, Astro again.  Well, I've been having lots of fun with my new puppy!  He turned one year old on 9/4, and he's turned out to be a great wrestling partner and good friend.  We've been getting out for walks all over town and I've been noticing something.  Not everyone wants to pet a Golden Retriever!!  I just don't understand it - we're cute, loveable, adorable, and gorgeous.  What's not to like?

Well, I had a discussion with mom about this subject.  She tells me it's mostly because of the humans that other dogs own.  She told me about the time she watched a big lab dog knock over a human-puppy (I think you call them "children").  Well, the lab dog got into big trouble, but it wasn't fair because his person never taught him how to greet people properly!  Now does that seem fair to you?  I prefer a friendly, appropriate greeting from other dogs, and I know mom does too.  I would guess that translates to other people as well.

She also mentioned people who walk with their dogs in public.  We walk offleash wherever we can, but we also understand that sometimes for our safety, and for the comfort of others, we need to keep mom on leash.  We don't mind too much, just as long as we get SOME offleash time to run & wrestle.  Some dogs, and people, are not comfortable with other dogs, though, so we leash up when we see others, especially when other dogs are on leash.  It helps them to be less afraid. 

Speaking of public walking - I have to mention the poo.  I admit, it's puzzling why humans like to pick up dog poo, but it seems like a pretty good idea.  I like to smell it, but don't particularly like it on my paws.  I'm guessing a lot of humans feel the same way.  Why, then, is there so much dog poo everywhere?  I think if I stepped in human poo as much as mom steps in dog poo I wouldn't like humans very much either.

And then there's the teeth.  I have a hard time believing this, but mom used to be afraid of dogs.  Makes no sense to me (in fact, I think humans are much scarier), but I guess that happens.  Human teeth are pretty dinky in comparison (sorry humans, but you can't argue that!), and I think that people are scared of the damage these teeth can inflict.  

I've learned to be a better dog in public.  Maybe you can too.  Here are some tips to share with your human:
  • Teach your dog proper greeting manners.  Older people and children can be seriously injured by jumping dogs.
  • Teach your dog a rock-solid recall if he/she is ever off leash.  This way, if he heads over to greet someone who doesn't look receptive, they'll come back instead of pestering the person.
  • Be respectful:  if your dog is off-leash and you see leashed dogs, leash your dog.  There may be a reason that dog is leashed (for instance, aggressive behavior).
  • CLEAN UP!!  We have many trails we hike here in Pacifica, and we are always appalled at all the poo people have left behind.  I'd clean it up myself if I could, but these paws don't tie knots in the bags very well.  I'm a dog and I don't even like running into all the poo we see.  
  • Know your dog.  If your dog shows any aggression towards people or other dogs PLEASE get help.  My nose got bit about a month ago by a dog on leash who was in a very public place with lots of other dogs.  I said hello like I had been greeting other dogs all day, and he just up and bit me in the nose.  I felt like telling his people it wasn't fair to force him to be around those other people when he wasn't comfortable.
Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for reading!

Astro T.W. Dog

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reminder to Self - don't eat staples

Hey everyone - it's Astro again!  Boy oh boy was I sick yesterday...I always hear stories that dad tells mom about the dogs he's had to operate on (for anyone who's missed it - my dad is a Veterinarian).  They usually seem to be Golden Retrievers, and there's always something someone has eaten that just isn't coming out on its own.  I remember he told me one time that one Goldie ate ROCKS....THREE TIMES!  Ew.  I don't necessarily find rocks appealing, but kitty tootsies - wow that's a different story.  I just can't understand why you humans aren't just as crazy for those tasty little morsels as we dogs are...

But I and dad were doing their weekly cleaning frenzy, and mom left the gate to the litterbox area open.  I decided to sneak in there and steal some tootsies before she caught me, and dad DID catch me, but not before I got to do some serious munching.  Big Mistake!  I got sick from the kitty tootsies, and apparently a staple or two was hanging around in there too!  I don't believe it was the tootsies that made me sick, despite what dad said - they're too yummy to be bad for you.  Must have been the staples...

Anyway - I'm feeling a lot better now.  Haven't eaten in 2 days and I sure am hungry - I wolfed down breakfast this morning and mom seemed really happy.  I'm just glad I'm better before Thursday, because that's when my new little brother comes home and I can't wait to play with him!

)~  Wags!  Astro T.W. Dog

Monday, October 24, 2011


Just a quickie today - Mom came home last week and she smelled funny.  She smelled like puppies.  Don't get me wrong, I like puppies - I used to work for mom as a playground monitor at puppy socials.  I love puppies.  The problem?  Mom smelled like puppies and I DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO PLAY WITH ANY.  And while I'm on the subject...she's always coming home smelling like other dogs.  What's up with that?  Well, I decided to do some snooping (or is it snoopying?  I'm never sure with humans...) and found the following pictures on mom's computer, not to mention a lot of excitement and extra trips to the pet store.  What do you think it means?  I sure hope it means what I think it means...that maybe mom will bring a puppy home to play with!!  Keep your paws crossed for me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cats & Dogs: Odd Couple or Best Buds?

Hey – Astro here again.  It’s been a while since I typed – mom’s been hogging the computer…
I want to talk about cats today.  I share a house with 5 kitties.  I’ve been raised with kitties as my housemates, so I’m pretty used to them.  Sure, the one Siamese they call “Seal” scares the pants off of me (well, would if I wore pants) but I know kitties are not things to eat and you have to play gentle so you don’t hurt them.  Recently, mom and dad have brought a couple of really cool dogs home for me to play with - Willow and Cooper.  My big sis Bella’s hips and knees are too sore to play the games I like (chase, chase, and more chase) so they are trying to find me a new playmate.  I was very sad because BOTH of my new friends had to leave because they weren’t very nice to my long-time kitty friends. 
SO, that got me to thinking…What is the deal with cats & dogs?  Can they live together peacefully or not?  I know I’m special (mom always tells me that, so I guess it’s true) but can other dogs learn to live with kitties too?  Mom has a friend who thinks dogs and kitties can NEVER be left alone together EVER…but mom and dad have had 11 dogs and 13 cats that have either lived here for at least a weekend.  Of the dogs, there were five who couldn’t stay because they wanted to eat kitty - a Bichon, three Goldens, and a Pit Bull.  So, what made me different?  Well, I got poking around the internet (which can be a little difficult with these big paws of mine) and found this article: “New research at Tel Aviv University…has found a new recipe for success. According to the study, if the cat is adopted before the dog and if they are introduced when still young (less than 6 months for kittens, a year for dogs), there is a high probability that your two pets will get along swimmingly.”  (Read the whole article here.)
Well that makes sense to me!  I was a young pup (about 3 months) when I was introduced to these kitties, and all the dogs who didn’t work out in our house were older dogs with no kitty experience.  So, I guess the bottom line is socialization.  Mom always says that if you are going to go through the hassle of getting a puppy and dealing with housetraining and naughty puppy behaviors, you also have to take advantage of the good stuff that comes with puppies – the ability to teach them to be comfortable with their environment!
So – what do I have to day about kitties and dogs?
1.     If you start with a puppy, take the time to socialize the puppy and teach him or her kitty-appropriate behaviors, like “leave-it” and “come”. 
2.     If you have a cat and want to bring a new adult dog into the home, get a very good history including cat experience.  It’s also a good idea to find out how the new dog responds to other critters.  Mom and I both knew that Cooper might be a problem with cats when we saw how VERY interested he was in squirrels & birds.
3.     Know the propensities of the breed (and know there can always be variances from the norm!):  retrievers are generally bred to have soft mouths, and can be great with cats; terriers are bred to hunt and kill small animals and may not be the best choice.
4.     Understand what triggers prey drive – usually movement and “prey-like” sounds (squeaks, squeals, etc.) and be especially mindful of how your new dog responds when the little critters in the house behave this way.
5.     ALWAYS make sure that new dog-cat introductions are done on-leash (so you have control over the dog if he/she wants to chase) and take things very slowly.  Better to be safe than sorry – if you’re not 100% sure you can leave the cats/dogs alone together then don’t. 
6.     If you have any doubts, call a cat-knowledgeable behavior consultant to help you decide if the arrangement is workable or if someone needs to find a new home to keep everyone safe.
Personally, I’m really happy that all the kitties in my house are comfortable with dogs.  In fact, one of my very best friends in the whole world is my black-cat friend, Charles Dickens von BlackCat the 2nd (Charlie for short…).  Check out the cute pictures of me with Charlie and the tabbycat Moose below!
I guess that's it for now...
)~  Wags (and Meows)!  Astro T.W. Dog
 Charlie & I hanging out together

Moose likes to mark all his doggies.

Nappin' with the Moosecat.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Training for a new career sure is hard...but being a diabetic is even harder

A couple of weekends ago mom and I took a trip up to Oakley, CA to visit a really nice woman named Rita Martinez.  Since mom has retired from teaching public classes I have volunteered to help her learn a new career - training Medical Alert Dogs - and this really nice Rita lady is helping her to learn.  My best dog-friend Obi and his mom Laura joined us too!  Did you guys know it gets hot up there??! 

I spent the morning at Rita's sniffing things.  You see, this is one of the first steps in training a Medical Alert Dog.  Mom tells me that what I'm learning how to identify now is the "Diabetic Low Scent."  You see, Medical Alert Dogs are trained to let their humans know there is something wrong by smelling them, and then alerting them that there is a problem.  You might wonder where mom finds the scent to train me with - right now a very nice, tall young man spits on a piece of cotton when his "blood sugar" is low.  So, mom presents the scent to me in a variety of situations and when I notice it (usually I just sniff it) she calls me to her for a treat.   Mom tells me that we're going to turn this into a fun game soon.  I can't wait! 

We're also working on a few other things - right now I can't honestly say these other things feel much different than working on obedience or tricks.  So far, mom has taught me to "punch" her with my nose.  She tells me that this will eventually become my "alert".  The next training step for us is to teach me to punch mom on any body part I can find when I smell the "Diabetic Low" instead of just when mom asks me to "punch".  Honestly, I really have a hard time believing you humans can't smell this stuff!!  To us dogs it's like flashing lights saying, "HELLO - chemical change in the body here!!"  (And PS - we CAN smell fear!)

Once I'm "alerting", mom is going to teach me to signal whether the scent is high or low.  I'm having a little bit of a hard time with the signal part - I keep pushing mom's hand around, but haven't quite figured out exactly what she wants yet.  I suspect she might want me to push her hand down, because she rewards me more often when I do that.   I think I overheard Rita say one time that after I give her the alert that something is wrong, she will then ask me to identify whether the scent is the high scent or the low scent and I'll push her hand in the appropriate direction.  I think I'll try pushing it down on our next session and see what happens.

There are also other types of Medical Alert Dogs - one dog that I met at a workshop once lets his human know that she is about to have a seizure and leads her to safety.  My sister Bella can smell when a dog is about to have a seizure and will stand over them until the danger has passed.  What a good sis she is!  Too bad she already has a job as Veterinary Hospital Mascot, because she'd be good at that one!

Well, wish me luck in my training - I'll keep you updated on my progress (and have more information on service dogs to share too!)  I overheard mom say the other day that it's a great experience working with the diabetic people - it makes her very grateful every day for her own health!

)~  Wags!!  Astro T.W. Dog

PS - Check out Rita's website for some more information about Service Dogs.

And check out the VERY cute picture of me in my service dog vest:  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Camping with humans

 Hi everyone!

My name is Astro, and since I've recently retired from monitoring puppy socials I have decided to blog about my experiences as a golden retriever.

Life is pretty good for me because my people really really love dogs. Dad is a veterinarian, mom is a dog trainer. That means that every stray in town ends up coming to live with us.  I have 10 brothers and sisters, but not all are dogs.  The cats, bunnies, and birds in the house certainly keep things interesting!

The most interesting thing that has happened to me recently is that I got to take my first ever camping trip. Sure, I had done lots of hiking with mom and dad, but had never actually stayed anywhere overnight under the stars. It was about three weeks ago, mom and dad started to load up the car like they do when they go away without us. At first I was really sad: seeing those suitcases meant bye-bye.  I gave them my best sad eyes and moped around as much as possible. Then, much to my surprise, mom called me to join them in the car.  Yippee!

It was the longest car ride I've ever had, after my first ride home from Lake Tahoe.    Fortunately, I ride really well in the car. I looked out the window for a while then settled down for a nap. Eventually, we pulled into a driveway-it was the longest driveway I had ever seen! All along the driveway people had set up things that look like my soft dog crate. Could there really be that many dogs here!? Mom and dad unpacked the car and set up something they called a “tent”-it was even bigger than my dog house, and mom & dad slept in there...WITH ME!

The first night we unpacked our stuff, mom and dad made dinner, then we sat around the fire all evening. I wanted to sit right next to the fire pit, but mom wouldn't let me. She kept saying something about burning my fur. At the end of the night I got to join mom and dad in the “tent”. It was very cozy! The real fun started the next day, when we loaded into the car, drove a short way to the Big Sur Ranger Station, where we all strapped food and supplies onto our backs and went for a really great walk into the Ventana Wilderness Area   (we like wilderness areas because dogs are allowed off leash). I had never had such a great walk ever before in my entire life! Sure, it was hard work but heck, I'm a working dog. There were many other humans and several dogs along the way. Unfortunately mom and dad wouldn't let me walk with the other people-I had to stay with them. Slowpokes! By the end of the day we had hiked 10 miles, and I carried my own backpack for eight of them. There were cool streams to play in, great smells all along the way, and the views were just incredible! Check out a few of my pictures from the trip.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. And for those of you who would like to go hiking with your humans, here is a list of tips and suggestions:
  • Make sure the campground allows dogs. Know whether or not dogs are allowed on or off leash.  It seems as though humans are pretty much always allowed in campgrounds.
  • Prepare ahead of time: work up to long hikes gradually so that you don't injure your paw pads or overexert yourself.
  • Make sure to take plenty of water: especially in the summertime, dogs can suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke and this can be fatal.
  • Remember to be responsive to your humans. If you don't come when they call, you could end up finding yourself alone and lost. The best way to make sure that your humans know what they are doing, is to take a good dog training class. Humans are not too hard to train!
  • Take a good first aid kit along, with plenty of bandages, some antiseptic, and painkillers... Just in case.
  • Take plenty of good bones and toys to keep you occupied when your humans are busy around the campsite.
  • Always check the weather-be sure to prepare for rain and/or cold weather.
  • Finally, be sure to guard the your bones and food from those stinking ground squirrels. Little thieves! I wish I could have gotten my paws on the bugger who stole my rawhide.
Well, that's it for now. I hope you find my blog something to woof about!

Wags, Astro T. W. Dog