Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free advice Thursday

All my advice here is free.  All of my advice in person is free, too (at least 'til I can call myself a canine professional).  Sometimes I just can't help giving advice, really, but there are times I keep my mouth shut (if you can believe it), for various reasons. Sometimes it's safer for Elka and I to just move on, sometimes I recognize the person from about town and know that they won't listen to any advice I have to give, and sometimes I'm in the car driving by, and think it's super sketchy to pull over and leap from a vehicle to hand out free dog-handling advice (I'd need a cape and a mask for that).  So. I'm  unbottling all of that advice that I kept to myself, and sharing it here with you.

Scenario 1:  I was at the Feed and Seed, looking for treats or toys, I don't remember which. Another customer (who I recognized from my job, and had dealt with) went to the clerk and, swear to God, said "I need a collar to choke my dog so that I can control him."  The clerk, bless her, lied to the customer and said that a Martingale collar was "basically" that (it's not), but I think that particular customer probably went home with a choke chain.  

Free advice:  If you absolutely cannot physically control your dog, try a head halter. Much as I don't like them, as they can cause dogs pain, irritate their eyes, and exacerbate existing neck and vertebral problems, I cannot countenance going to a store and telling a complete stranger that you want to choke the sh*% out of your dog.  If your dog pulls like a truck on a leash, try finding out what interests your dog, and luring a heel with treats, or a tug toy.  Also, see my post The Clicker Crossover: Loose Leash.

Scenario 2:  Person was walking an obese pug.  Pug was wearing a harness, rear clip.  Person had a treat bag hanging from their belt.  Pug stopped to sniff something, person yanked on that leash as hard as they could, without saying anything first to the pug.

Free advice:  Your obese dog is clearly food motivated.  If your dog is stopping to sniff things and never looking at you, you clearly have a communication problem.  Does your dog know that proper behavior = treats?  Did the treats you have in that bag suck (see my post on training treats)?  Harnesses are not for corrections, and corrections do a good job at fueling your frustration and making you want to yank more.  

Scenario 3:  Customer ahead of me at Tractor Supply, with a GIANT bag of Kibbles 'n' Bits.  Customer complaining about the cost of the food ($20 for the 50 pound bag, I think? I didn't pay much attention to it on the shelf) and how often he has to buy it.

Free advice:  If you buy your dog a higher quality food, the dog will need to eat less of it.  High quality kibbles have less filler.  High quality kibbles have real food in them, as opposed to "wheat middlings" and "animal digest".  A higher quality kibble can make for a higher quality, um, dog waste as well.  Smaller, etc. Again, because of less filler.  Less filler, less waste (What's for Dinner?).  Or, if you're set up for it, space and freezer wise, you could feed raw.  I hear that can be very cheap, if you hit the right sales.  You just need to be sure to get the right nutrition levels, which are something I do not have the knowledge to advise on.


  1. HEAR HEAR! I am CONSTANTLY having that disgusting Kibbles & Bits argument. I'm working on a post that is a side by side cost comparison based on consumption showing the cost per day of feeding a better quality food compared to that crap. Hopefully, I'll get it done as soon as K9 Kamp quits sucking all the time out of my day!

  2. Ugh. All three of those scenarios... just, UGH. Thanks for linking to your Loose Leash post. I'm going to check it out with Cooper in mind! :)

  3. @Kolchak Puggle And I don't have evidence for this, but it seems dogs fed on higher quality kibble also have other very immediate benefits, like they don't smell "doggy", their coat feels great, their breath doesn't smell, etc. (this is true for Elka, anyway. And I've touched some dogs that I didn't know what they were fed and wanted to wash my hands immediately).

    @Maggie You're welcome, and good luck! It's a challenge like no other, and though Elka is so very much better than she once was, even once in awhile she forgets as well. So, a definitely exercise in patience!

  4. I habitually give the best possible spin on other peoples' behaviors, but scenario 1 makes me *crazy.*

    The others I can reason out--like, the pug lady only knows how to communicate with treats, and her vet told her to ease off on the overfeeding. Or, general ignorance about food. I know the quantity really surprised me, even as an educated consumer. The difference between a reasonably good puppy food and the top-of-the-line we switched to was 1/3 of the puppy's entire daily intake. And, sure enough, when I sneak in some of the old food to use it up, the puppy acts hungrier.

  5. @Jessica I wondered that about the pug lady, really. Everything about her body language communicated her displeasure at the situation she was in. I definitely felt like if I stopped to talk to her, it would just end up worse for the dog.

    Strangely, when Elka was on grain-free for a little bit, and then I bought a bag (same brand) that was not, she blew through the bag in no time flat and was starving ALL THE TIME. It's amazing to see such an obvious demonstration of the difference in what she needs.

  6. All those things drive me nuts though I suppose the last less so because -- in theory -- the guy could still be kind to his dog while feeding lousy food. The first two on the other hand make me sad because they are such missed opportunities to have a relationship with a dog rather than making the dog blindly submit to human will.

    I have LOTS of arguments with people on the trail but they're all in my head. ;-)

  7. @Edie you could be write about the Kibbles 'n' Bits guy. I can hope, really.

    I have lots of arguments in my head, on all kinds of topics!

  8. I'd like to second Edie's comment. She put it so well.

  9. I agree, she really did, and I apologize for not remarking on that in my earlier comment!