dog play, Dog Training, dogs, Mixed breed, puppy, Rescue dog, Uncategorized

Predicting Good Dog/Bad Dog (Truman/Bear)

I admit, I hadn’t read the scientific research papers. When I learned about the connection between behavior and left/right handedness in dogs, I was delightfully shocked. How had I missed that?

As it turns out, there are predictors of a dog’s propensity to be a more easily trained, and less troublesome. The predictors are based on observable physical characteristics that are associated with left or right paw preference.

On the left you can see Truman and Bear playing. Bear has a definite preference of using his left paw to whack Truman. He doesn’t just “paw” at him, he actually whacks him, like a–well–bear would. Bear usually steps off to a walk with his left foot first. He was too “playful” for me to get a snapshot of the whorl on his chest, the whorl being another predictor. I tried several times.

On the other hand, the right-hand photo shows the whorl on Truman’s chest. This is the first and only picture I took because Truman was so cooperative. The whorl goes counterclockwise. A sign that the dog is more trainable. I’d put money on Bear’s whorl going clockwise. Truman generally steps off with his right foot.

Truman is the easiest dog I have ever dealt with. He loves to please. He listens to everything I say. He listens and learns so quickly that he seems like a dog genius. Bear, on the other hand, while sweet as he can be, seems head strong, persistent. He is fearful of odd things even though I have worked on desensitization. (Nutcracker cracking pecans at a distance). Bear runs out of the room if he sees the nail clippers. Truman offers me his paw to get nails trimmed.

Below is an over simplification of right and left brain functions in humans (which is comparable to dogs with obvious differences). Possible dog behaviors in italics

Right side of the brain controls:

  • Physical: left side of body (left dominant)
  • Thinking: attention, memory, reasoning, problem solving
    • “Squirrel!!!!!”
    • Escapes from fence
    • Helps themselves to food on the countertop
  • Feeling: alertness, determination, disgust, avoidance, fear
    • Digs the whole yard trying to get a mole
    • Hates going to the vet
    • Stubborn

Left side of the brain controls:

  • Physical: right side of body (right dominant)
  • Thinking: language, number skills, reasoning, scientific skills, spoken language
    • Quickly associates words or signals with actions
    • Good at solving “dog puzzles”
    • Watches you to try to understand what you want them to do
  • Feeling: comfortable approaching and engaging with the world, happiness, pride, anger
    • Good therapy or service dog
    • Easy to get along with
    • Dignified

Bear isn’t really a bad dog. He does have different behavior than Truman. That doesn’t make him bad, it does make him more challenging.

Of course, selective breeding pre-determines many behavioral characteristics. But within each breed, there are differences. The moral of the story is, as a general rule, if you want a dog that is more tractable, and less worrisome, pick a pooch that is right-pawed and has a counterclockwise chest whorl.

dog play, dogs, Labrador Retriever, Mixed breed, puppy, Rescue dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Truman’s New Friend: Out of this World

Truman’s best buddy, our new shelter pup Bear, has some aberrant behaviors. He is preoccupied with putting toys in certain arrangements.

After reviewing Bear’s toy alignments, I am convinced it contains a message to his home planet. I am in need of help from an astrophysicist. Being a tree hugger, I know angles are important in astrophysics, but I don’t know how to calculate or interpret the small angle approximation. I am certain this arrangement is a signal indicating an impending invasion of aliens from Bear’s home planet. I suspect the planet is in the Sirius solar system, in the Canis Major Constellation. Please help, or we may be overrun, by playful puppers!

Cozy mystery, dog play, dogs, Labrador Retriever, Mixed breed, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

A Mystery Bear – A Rescue Story

Truman Blue has a new little brother, Bear. Like all the other critter’s in Truman’s household, Bear is a rescue. Adopted from the local shelter, Bear is a “Labradog”, mostly Labrador and maybe something else thrown in. Or maybe not, it’s hard to tell. Do I see a DNA test in Bear’s future?

Why Bear? A year ago, Truman’s adopted mom, 14-year-old Labrador Sunny, trotted over the Rainbow Bridge. The Hu-Man missed having a busy, affectionate dog. For several months, the family tried to find a special Labrador who needed a home. The dog had to get along with cats, and other dogs, and had to be happy being fenced in an acre yard.

Bear had been in the local non-kill shelter for nearly two months. Being a sensitive pupper, he was stressed by the raucous atmosphere filled with barking pits and pit mixes. Bear sat at the back of his sparkling clean kennel run, head hung, stress panting. But he came right up to say hello when Truman’s Hu-mom called him. He wanted to be petted.

Bear has been Truman’s little brother for 10 days and still has some minor adjusting to do. He is happy to be the Hu-man’s special dog because the Hu-man pets Bear, and throws toys for Bear to chase. Truman loves to run and play with Bear. Bear is mostly respectful when he plays but when he’s not, Truman only needs to woof in Bear’s face, and Bear gets the message. Truman is boss-dog.

Yesterday, Bear, Truman, Hu-mom & Hu-man, went on their first family outing to a plant nursery, and then the pet store. Bear did great for any 9-month old pupper. His worst offense was tugging on the leash a little. After the breezy atmosphere of the plant nursery, the sensory overload of pet store was a little overwhelming, and Bear stress panted a little. The family didn’t stay long. At the checkout counter, Truman showed Bear how to put his paws on the counter to get a treat. Bear is learning quickly.

How such a sweet dog as Bear ended up as a stray, is a mystery. The question is, will Bear make and appearance as Truman’s buddy in a future Truman Blue Mystery?

Bear with Dexter and Truman keeping an eye on the new guy.

dogs, elderly and dogs, Labrador Retriever, Mixed breed, old dogs, puppy, Senior dog owners

Dogs and Senior Owners

What size dog? What happens if I go first.

One of the saddest situations I have seen on multiple occasions, is when an old person passes away and leaves their beloved old dog. A beloved old dog who is not wanted by any family member. It is so sad when these dogs end up in shelters or put in a backyard, alone.

Let’s face it. Old dogs are hard. I don’t want my dogs to be old, but then I know (hope) they will get that way and I have planned for it. I certainly do NOT want them to die young. Old dogs take additional home and vet care. They lose control of their bladders, they need special food. Old dogs are hard to care for, but I would not give up my old dogs for all the gold in the world. Not for me, but for them. They deserve the loving care of the person who has loved them.

So how do you plan for your dog if it out lives you? (Younger people my die unexpectedly, so this applies to them, too)

Let’s look at what happened to my dad’s cat, Joe. My dad was in his 80s when my mother passed. He wanted an animal friend, so we adult kids got him Joe, a huge friendly young adult cat. Joe gave my dad a lot of pleasure. When dad died, Joe was middle aged. Because Joe was friendly, well behaved, well socialized and loved by family, friends and the nursing home staff, there were many offers from people to take Joe. Joe lived out the remainder of his life in luxury at my brother’s house. That’s the way it should work.

There are serious considerations if you are a senior who is getting a new animal. First consider your age and health and the longevity of the animal you are bringing into your home.

Seniors who are experienced dog people, should remember that they might not have the energy and stamina to raise a puppy of an active breed such as a Jack Russell or a dog who needs a lot of exercise, such as a Labrador Retriever. You may not have the strength to train a large dog who needs a lot of attention, like a German Shepherd. Consider purchasing or adopting an older dog who has slowed down a little and is well trained. No one is going to want your dog if it not well trained and is nutsy because you could not provide for its needs.

For seniors who are adopting their first animal, choosing a well behaved adult animal is not a choice, it is a requirement. Seek the advice of professionals and animal experienced family. Don’t even consider a puppy unless you are living with a younger caretaker who has plenty of dog experience and who wants to help care for the new dog.

If you already have a dog you need to make plans for that dog if you die first.

Start by making sure your dog is well trained and socialized. While you still can, take it to training classes and take it out with you so it can experience the world and learn to not be afraid of new situations.

If your dog needs special care and medicines be sure there is someone willing to take over the medical care and the expenses of the medicines. If not, consider leaving the horrible but necessary instruction to euthanize your dog. What is worse? A dog euthanized a year or two early, or a dog living the end of its life sick, miserable and lonely?

Face the facts. You are the planner for your dog. Plan ahead so you dog does not suffer.

dogs, Labrador Retriever, Mixed breed, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Dog Friends at Home

Truman Blue lives with three other dogs.

Leala is a quiet dog who has little interactions with the other dogs. It’s not that she’s unfriendly. She is an giving introvert. She was a therapy dog until she got older and it was too much work to walk around and visit a lot of people. She’s the same way with the rest of the dogs in the house. To her, interactions require a lot of energy. She’s willing to share the love-seat, but she doesn’t seek out company. Truman respects her need for solitude.

Stormy is a loud dog. For nine years, she has used her vocalizations to instigate chaos. Part German Shepherd, she loves to bark and make comments about everything around her. She wants to be involved with whatever is going on, not to participate, but to offer her opinion. Sometimes Truman enjoys jumping in to her world of chaos. Other times, he keeps his distance.

Sunny is an ancient Labrador who, at 14 is oldest and most hyper dog in the house. She is still a fish in the pool, but on land, gravity has taken its toll. Truman loves Sunny. He tries to get her to play the way a three year old male dog plays, rough and tumble. When Truman tumbles Sunny, she has a bit of trouble getting up, but she never complains. Her heart is as gold as her coat. Sunny is the only dog Truman cuddles with. He will miss her when she is gone.

Truman enjoys each dog friend. Each has different qualities that add to the quality of Truman’s life.

Sunny, Stormy, and Leala

dogs, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Dogs of Color

One thing I have never understood is why one color is better than any other. Truman Blue has many colors and mixed together they are awesome. His eyes are blue and dark brown. His coat is cream, gray, white, and black. He has pink and other colors skin. His variety of colors makes him spectacular. What really counts is the way he interacts with other creatures. He is gentle, he is kind, he is brilliant, and he is comforting. What difference does it make what heritage he is, or his color?

He is tolerant of horses, who he does not quite understand. He is gentle with kitties who are smaller than him. He enjoys the company of other dogs and gets along with all breeds and sizes. He is gracious and comforting to the humans around him.

What difference does color make? Colors are the stuff the earth is made of. The more, the more spectacular.

Chewed book cover
Cozy mystery, dogs, Margie Vonn, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Chewed Up

People often like the idea of a dog, but not the reality of a dog. When someone gets a dog, whether it is a freebee or an expensive import, the person dreams expectations as to what that dog will be. The dream is what the human wants, not what the dog actually has the capability to be. That is totally unfair, and I admit, I am guilty. In reality, the dog’s DNA, personality, training and life experiences will dictate what the dog will become, not the human’s dream.

When I brought baby Truman into my home, I dreamed he would become a wonderful therapy dog, and a great companion. It was part luck, and part hard work on my part to have that part of my dream fulfilled. Like in any relationship, there are struggles. Truman is a dog and he does what dogs do. Today, I looked out the window and he was eating horse poop. He’s a dog with dog values.

Dogs dig, dogs bark, dogs chew. As puppies, although adorable, they are horrible. They pee, poop, don’t listen and do a lot of irritating stuff. As adults they have the reasoning capabilities and maturity close to a two or three year old human. They need supervision and family.

If you want to have a dog as a companion, remember that your companion is a dog. Don’t expect a dog to be an automaton who does nothing but what you wish, and don’t expect your dog to act like a human.

When Truman is in public and is expected to behave according to human terms, sometimes he lapses into his dog brain. He does things like sniff human’s privates, a very polite thing to do in the doggie world. My corrective words are gentle and help people understand what he is doing, and relieves their (and my) embarrassment. I say to Truman, “Don’t act like a dog.”

Cozy mystery, dogs, Margie Vonn, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Therapy Dog and COVID

Truman Blue is reverting to puppyhood. True, at three-and-a-half he is barely past puppy, but six months ago he was willingly compliant. When I take him out now, he wants to play and explore. His journey back to cavorting canine was a short one.

We haven’t been visiting since February due to the COVID pandemic. He was accustomed to going somewhere at least once a week. Now, I try to get him into public every other week. When I do, he wants to run up to people to get petted. Some folks don’t want to spread their germs, others believe they are immune to disease. It is the latter ones that Truman loves because they don’t hesitate to rub him all over.I keep pet-friendly sanitizing wipes in the car and don’t touch him with my hands for at least an hour. He doesn’t seem to notice as long as I pop him treats for tricks.

I wonder how long it will take to re-train him to be a courteous dog. I wonder how long it will be before we can actually go visit. #trumanbluemysteries, #cozymystery, #therapy dog, #comfortdog, #threapypet

Cozy mystery, dogs, Margie Vonn, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

I’m Vulnerable: New Cozy Series Truman Blue

I am launching my new book series and I am terrified. As one of a zillion wanna-be popular cozy novelists, I am starting at the beginning. I guess that is where everyone starts.

I justify the possibility of “no one reads it” with who cares. I write because I love to tell stories. The truth is authors feel approval when folks like what they write. Everyone likes approval from their fellow human beings. Approval is the whipped cream and fortunately not the substance of writing. Time will tell. Marketing will tell.

I release Truman Blue Mystery Book 1, on August 1, 2020. #trumanbluemysteries