Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is It Every Okay to Approach a Dog We Don't Know?

Is it ever okay to approach a dog that we do not know? What is a dog’s instinctive response when we approach him? How can we protect a dog that we see is playing near traffic?

A few days ago I was talking to a young man named Steve

When Steve was younger, he had seen a dog off-leash and near traffic and, worried that the dog might get hit by a car, had walked toward that dog to try to grab her by her collar to bring her home. That dog had run in exactly the opposite direction from the approaching person and had run into the street. 

Sound familiar?

a dog

That dog died.  And for years after that, Steve felt badly.  Even as he was telling me about it, his voice trailed off as he seemed to contemplate the scene, saying, 'I felt badly about it."

But one thing is for sure: Dogs don't like it when people whom they do not know approach them, especially if they approach the dog suddenly and the owner is not there to tell the dog that this person is "okay".

This is the case even if the person approaches the dog in order protect him or her.

The dog's instinct is to run away from this person which, sadly and unfortunately, may mean that the dog runs right into exactly what the person is trying to protect him from: in this case, into the traffic.

Dogs perceive the person - though a good person with good intentions - as a threat, and ignore the danger of the traffic.

Steve said that the best thing to do if a person sees an off-leash dog that is about to run into traffic is to stand still and firmly say "Come" to the dog, and it's even better if you can get a bone or some treat to entice the dog to come to you. 

Also, everybody else should move away from the off-leash dog, further away from traffic.  Joey would say that Steve has it right. Especially the part about offering the dog a treat.

So I guess the answer to the question is: Don't approach a dog that you don't know if the dog's owner is not there with the dog -  even if you are trying to help the dog.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Foreword by Kiko Bracker,  DVM, DACVECC
Director, Emergency and Critical Care, Angell Animal Medical Center,  Boston, MA


The Midwest Book Review
"Dogs Don't Look Both Ways... is based on the personal memories of a husband, wife, and their beloved chocolate Labrador Joey; some names have been changed to protect individual privacy, and the colorful storytelling might best be dubbed "reality-based fiction". The exuberant, loving and trusting personality of Joey shines through, as Dogs Don't Look Both Ways is narrated from his canine perspective. Dog lovers everywhere will see a little bit of Joey in their own pets and their daily lives, in this wonderful and heartfelt reminiscence."

The Children's Book Review
"With a humorous voice and multiple anecdotes, Joey, a chocolate Labrador who enjoys digging and escaping beyond his home's fence, provides an entertaining narration for both children and adults... Dogs Don't Look Both Ways is a... great choice for soon-­to-be pet owners, as well as dog lovers of all ages. Any pet owner that has ever nursed an ill dog will have full appreciation for Hanser's retelling of her family's personal journey.. through Joey's voice. Young pet owners with dogs... suffering from injuries may also find solace and courage within the pages."

Jill LaCross, Just Labs Magazine
"Author Jane Hanser gives us a Lab with a voice, a dog with character - and having character is a must for a Labrador .... Life wouldn't be the same - or the bond truly tested - without a few adventures thrown in. Joey takes us on those adventures in an enjoyable, easy to read, pithy personal exposé of being a Labrador."

Jonathan D.  Scott, author, The Woman in the Wilderness
"This is a delightful and charmingly intelligent story, told through the eyes of Joey the dog, but the style is never coy or condescending. Highly recommended to dog lovers and everyone else."

Rubert Krueger, author, The Children's Story, About Good and Evil
"Although it would seem that the story of a dog's life would hold only limited interest, the opposite is true. Because this true story is about everyday life, the good events and the bad, it has a gentle, heart-warming appeal. In a sense, it brings a smile and a wish that life could be so simple, loving and honest... If you are not a dog lover, you may become one after reading this book."




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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't be fooled by the label on your dog's food

Did you ever take your dog to an animal nutritionist? For only $90 we got a full one-hour consultation based on the doctor's looking at all our dog's medical records, recent tests, etc.  This was well worth it.

One of the things that we received was a diet, with brands and weights, for our dog that fulfilled his particular nutritional needs and the goals of the doctor for him.

I think too many people purchase dog food for their dogs based on advertising: They make the same mistake purchasing food for their dogs that they do for their family. They look at the ingredients in the order in which they are listed on the package. But what you don't realize is that much of this is PR.

I recently saw a TV commercial where two women were shopping for food for their dog. One said, "See here! MEAT is #1 on the ingredients!"

What's the problem? Food is listed by volume.  Dogs don't need that much protein! Much of that is going to be wasted.

Furthermore, what they need more in volume is carbohydrates.

We've settled in with Science Diet. They don't do a lot of advertising, and it's not in the "natural" pet food stores, but it's scientifically sound - and NO PR fluff.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Why Do Dogs Dig?

I wondered about this question, each time Joey would dig another hole in our yard. And I ruminated on the answer to this question many times.

Our chocolate Lab would move whole boulders in his industrial digging.

His persistent digging certainly gave me something to do in the mornings and afternoons, filling in holes, that is. Rolling out and laying down chicken wire to secure a certain area, like it was a crime scene.

The hole that Joey dug to escape from our back yard also got filled in with stones and planks. So when he started digging holes everywhere but there, in places that were away from the property line and fence, I was pretty content. "Pick your battles", I learned.

This summer it hit 100 degrees F. on a regular day. On a cool day it was in the 90's. Joey's holes were getting deeper. And larger. And deeper. The roots of our trees were getting pretty exposed.  "Pick your battles", I answered my frustration.

Suddenly one day, I understood.

There he lay, in the cool of his paw-made cabana, under the shade of a tree his chocolate-brown body camouflaged in the speckled browns and whites of the play of dirt, shade, and sunlight, almost like a speckled fawn would be .

And that's why dogs dig!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How to Know When Your Dog Requires Dental Surgery

The weather was hot here, and Joey started going back to his old habit of eating just one bowl of food a day.  Doubtless he and his appetite were overtaken by the heat of the summer.

His morning runs were inconsistent: If the weather hit 100 degrees at 5 a.m., as it did a few mornings, Dad just wasn't taking Joey running. The dog hit his 11th birthday - and the boy just couldn't handle it. As Dad says, Joey started out his old self but by the end, they were more walking than running.

One day Dad noticed Joey had bad breath.  It's hard to miss a dog's bad breath but sometimes dog owners just get complacent.

Bad dog breath was definitely a sign that it was time for a teeth cleaning.  Within one day, we had Joey at the veterinarians for his pre-cleaning blood work.  When the old boy sat on the scale, I was sure there was a mistake. 70 lbs. it read. This is too low.   Joey stepped off the scale, and got back on again - with the same reading.  70 lbs. This dog is too thin!  I was under doctor's orders to increase his food intake.

The next week was Joey's dental cleaning. While he was under anesthesia, the veterinarian noticed that he had a severely cracked tooth that needed to be extracted. Suddenly we saw Joey's weight loss through a different lens. We saw his not eating through a different lens. His tooth hurt and he just didn't want to eat more than a minimal amount every day.

So how can you tell if your dog requires dental surgery?

  • Watch his weight. If he's losing weight rapidly, there may be a health problem. Don't rule anything out: Get him to the doctor's to do a physical.
  • Check his breath.  Bad breath is not just unpleasant but may signal a health issue.  Get your dog to the doctor's for an exam and a cleaning.

It's been around 3 days since Joey's dental surgery and tooth extraction, a long after-effect of his being hit by the car 15 months ago: Joey is back to running, he is back to opening his mouth again!  And he is back to eating.  A lot!  A little incentive (like chicken gravy) never hurts, but he deserves it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

These Are a Few of My Dog's Favorite Foods

You know the routine; you are all alone in your kitchen. You walk on over to the refrigerator or open a container of food.  And - suddenly your dog is there! And he's bearing down on your heals, with his tail wagging. "Where did he come from?" you say to yourself. Or better yet, "Where did you come from?" you ask the dog directly.

I'd read in novels that horses could smell water that was hundreds of miles away. Sure, I thought to myself. Smell water?  But here in my own home is the canine equivalent. Take out a simple baked potato from the oven while the dog is in his bed on the living room - and hello Joey.

Over the years, we've come to pride ourselves on a pretty varied list of foods from which our chocolate Labrador Retriever derives gustatory delight.  These are a few of Joey's favorite foods:

  • oranges
  • grapefruit sections and
  • cherries (not sure if they agree with him and besides they're kind of expensive)
  • blueberries  (really good if you want to be the pitcher and doggie plays the catcher)
  • beets  (Do you hear me? Beets!)
  • potatoes, baked and grilled
  • potato chips
  • can't forget popcorn
  • challah - yes challah. It's in his DNA.
  • grilled salmon
  • nuts - cashews in particular but any will do
  • chicken of course (cooked any way)

  • treats!

How exactly did the Labrador Retriever, out of his Canadian and English ancestry and breeding, develop a taste for corn?  Or citrus?  

Now there are legal limits to how much of these foods we will allow him to eat.  We don't want him to be a beggar, and we want to maintain his slim weight.

And there are also foods that are illegal for him. Prohibido under any circumstances. And these foods are:

  • Anything that contains chocolate is in this category. (This is harmful to dogs).

  • Or onions.

  • Or garlic. (No thanks, onions and garlic dog farts!)

  • Or salsa. (goes right through him)

  • Or carrots.  (dog diarrhea, no thanks)

  • bones and ribs - the kind that are nicely packaged just for dogs, or the kind that your nice neighbors and friends save for your dog from their rib steak dinner. Joey loves 'em! When you are handing him that bone, you feel you are handing him happiness on a stick.  He covets it and protects it, like a child. But two days  later - we have a problem!!  And who's the one walking him tonight???

What are YOUR dog's favorite foods?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Our Dog's Harness

It took a while before we even considered the idea.

There was something harsh about that word. Harness.

Like we were turning our dog into our beast of burden.

But the case was clearly in favor of the harness: Because Joey was so excited when we took him outside, and in particular to a wooded area, he would pull so hard he would choke himself. AHHHH. CHoKKKKe. AHHAHHH. CHuPPPPa. Along with a few "Joey, take it easy. Easy. Slow down." Choking and coughing wouldn't deter this dog. He would just pull and pull. Smart dog!

The harness changed all that.

Around the same time, I started to take Joey to the lake for hydrotherapy. The harness would definitely help there. Also, I saw some photos of a Retriever in the field, with his harness on and his owner at the other end of the lead, and the balance of power between dog and human seemed to be working well.

Truth be told, the harness gave Joey even greater freedom when he walked. When we were out walking on a trail, it reduced the tug on his neck. Less tugging - less choking! Less choking: a happier puppy. As Joey meandered from one side of the trail to the other and back to the first, the harness allowed him to move, in his meandering path, like the Charles River!

Friends of ours use a harness on their new puppy that makes him walk more slowly. The harness we have for our chocolate Lab is perfect for hunting dogs, dogs who love to roam and explore.

So now of course you've been convinced that you need a harness for your dog. There are two parts of getting your dog a harness that you have to master:

1) Getting one the right size, and

2) Figuring out how to - correctly - get the darned thing on your dog.

So you have to ask two questions:

How much patience does your dog have?
And how much patience do you have?

Face it. The dog knows that the harness means, "Yes, I am going to take you outside." So that means keeping him still, while he's as excited as a boy who is seeing snow for the first time.

In our next post, we'll discuss getting the right harness, and how to correctly get the harness on your dog.