I would like to remind people that during the festivities of the 4th is a very scary day for many pets.
Pets should be indoors in a escape proof area, music or the TV can help mask the loud noises, the bathroom is usually a good place to keep them ( the tile makes it quieter). A terrified animal would not react in a normal fashion, and can get lost among the crowd and the loud noises. Please be extra careful during this celebration and keep your eyes open for other pets in distress that might need your help. Happy Independence day, America!!!
I would like to remind people that during the festivities of the 4th is a very scary day for many pets.
I’ve been working with aggressive dogs for over 15 years, and just a few weekends ago I got bitten for the first time. I don’t know what hurt more: the bite, or the fact that my clean record was spotless-no-more!
Despite my disappointment, analyzing the incident I did everything that was in my power to manage and de-escalate the situation. My job requires me to get myself into circumstances were the propensity of receiving bites is very high. I hope you work on preventing a bite before you need to and follow this advice, but accidents do happen, so here is what to do in case you get bitten by an animal.
First: make sure there’s no danger. I managed to lock the dog into a crate before I left the room. If the animal is loose and can’t be retained, just leave the area and call animal control if necessary. Remember to use gloves when assisting somebody else.
You can treat the wound yourself if:
The bite is superficial and from a known, vaccinated animal. Deep cat scratches or bites should be checked by a doctor because they tend to be highly infectious. While complaining about having to be hospitalized my doctor told me about this lady that was in intensive care. Her cat bit her and she waited five days before coming in. Because of that she was now in great danger of losing her whole arm!
Once you are safe, the first thing to do to the wound is to clean it well with warm water and mild soap. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the area with sterile, loose bandages to avoid infection.
Keep an eye on it but consult with your doctor at any signs of infection. These are: redness, heat, swelling, and pus.
If the bite has broken skin you might need to start by applying direct pressure to any bleeding area. Keep the wound elevated above your heart to minimize swelling. Clean the best you can and get on your way to the doctor.
You must see a doctor for a bite that has broken skin if:
• The bite came from a stray or wild animal.
• The bite was on your hand, foot or head.
• You have any health condition that might compromise the immune system and its ability to fight infection (such as diabetes, lung disease, or cancer).
• There are broken bones or nerve damage.
Call 911 immediately if:
• The wound is bleeding profusely.
• Still bleeding after 15 minutes.
• Spurting blood
At the hospital the most common procedure is to clean and flush out the wound. Stitches are not recommended for punctures, but in some cases the wound might need some help closing. I was given one stitch on a cut worth four, and kept it just for 24 hours (the hand specialist was not happy about it; they prefer this type of wounds to “flush”).
A tetanus shot or booster will likely be given, as well as pain medication and antibiotics. In some cases (like mine) intravenous antibiotics might be needed, so you might be asked to stay; it’s not fun, but do so. Infections are quiet and fast-growing dangers—deal with them early and you will have an easier fight.
There are many wholehearted people out there who dedicate their free time to rescue dogs in need. Often, they exhaust resources and get emotionally drained helping and getting flooded with calls from owners asking for help.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Owners can successfully re-home their pet without the need to take them to the shelter or put them in the hands of the already overwhelmed rescues.
Some of the things that can be done to help a dog find a new home are:
Get the dog ready, a groomed, vaccinated, and spay or neuter dog will get adopted much faster.
Make flyers! Take a couple of good pictures of the dog and write a paragraph about him emphasizing his best traits, but do be honest about his personality! after all the goal should be to find a forever home.
Do not give the dog away to a stranger for free, unfortunately that can make your dog prey of an unfortunate future. Ask for a reasonable adoption fee and have them sign a simple adoption contract, you can find many online (click here for an adoption form sample). It is a formality that could help land him with a responsible new owner.
Post a printed version of the flyer on vet clinics, pet stores, grocery stores, and any other place you can think of.
Place a classified add on local newspapers, some of them are very cheap or even free! Make sure it appears on a highly visible day like on a Sunday.
An electronic version of this flyer is ideal to send via email to as many family and friends as you can, ask them to do the same.
Facebook and other social media outlets are ideal to network your adoptee. You can dedicate a page to him or simply post him on your wall and ask friends to share.
Post a free add on the pet section of Craigslist; make sure to screen the interested candidates, meet at a public place first to get the first impression.
There are many pet websites like ‘Pet finder’ that have a free classified section for pets looking for a home, post in as many as you can.
Make a scarf or use a T-shirt that reads “adopt me” and go out and about. The more you have him be seen the higher the possibilities for the right adopter to appear.
<div style="margin:3em;"><span style="display:none;">-</span></div>
In my professional life as a dog trainer, more often than you would expect, it is the owner and not the dog that gets the biggest lesson (and the deepest revelations) about their own personalities and habits.
I have had clients tell me about how, in the process of working with Fido, they have grown to better understand their own emotions and the place from which they have come.
I have received letters and calls from clients (and even a couple of paragraphs in a near-famous autobiography) telling me that they have not only solved their dog’s“wetting” of the carpet, but also how they now have a better understanding of their partners; how their kids could be more balanced and happy; and have even explored and resolved a few anger issues from growing up in a dysfunctional family.
Dogs can sometimes act like mirrors. They take on not only our personalities but sometimes even our ailments! But they do so from a place of purity and childlike innocence that we should strive to imitate.
With this spirit in mind, I will offer a few of the many lessons that hopefully we can all use.
Lets try to be the mirrors this time and learn from our canine friends.
Live in the moment: Dogs learn from the past, but they don’t dwell on it, and they certainly do not sit there and get worried about all the “what ifs”. Most of our worries never materialize, so why torture ourselves? Enjoy the now!
Forgive and forget: This is a hard one for us humans to do but so necessary to enjoy a happier life. Dogs are the masters of forgiveness, you might get mad at them and treat them unfairly but seconds later, they will kiss your face and wag their tails as if nothing had ever happened. When we keep hate and resentment inside us we are only hurting ourselves. I know is easier said than done, but is a good goal to strive for.
Find joy in the little things: We are so overwhelmed with technology and an exaggerated sense of urgency that we forget to enjoy the little things in life. Watch a dog get excited about a car ride, even if it is just around the block! Or what about you coming back home again although you just left five minutes ago! Or tossing blissfully in the grass when the sun hits it just right. Learn to enjoy the little pleasures in life and you will be better able to enjoy the bigger ones.
Express your feelings: Have you ever thought of a dog being a hypocrite, wagging his tail and licking your hand but secretly hating your guts? Dogs are very clear about their feelings and that is a beautiful trait. We live in a society where appearances seem to weigh more than being genuine. People play head-games with each other and get frustrated because in the process they end up lying and losing themselves. Be free! Don’t forget tact, but be genuine about your feelings.
Don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself: When we were children we were more like our dogs in this sense. If we found it fun to run around in circles we did it! We walked around with socks on our hands (or pants on our heads) because at that moment there were no rules about being happy and play was the ultimate expression of that. Soon we started to grow older and we got concerned about how others might perceive us and so we stopped playing and stopped being silly. Dogs never stop playing, humans should never stop either. Have fun! Be silly! You would be surprised how many others follow your lead.
Be true to yourself: I am a dog trainer, and I can tell you something, if a dog really doesn’t have it in him to learn something, you can not force it. It doesn’t matter if it is a rottweiler, a Doberman, or a German Shepherd, if the dog doesn’t enjoy bite work he wont be a good protection dog and the signs are very clear! Humans should be the same way; if they don’t enjoy a certain career it doesn’t really matter if the family has done the same thing for generations. It is better to break the mold and be and exceptional at something else than to just be mediocre following family tradition.
Love to the fullest!: Anybody that has ever owned a dog knows that this is their ultimate gift to us. Dogs are the incarnation of loyalty and true love. They don’t hold back for fear of rejection or to protect their egos. They just LOVE! Openly and wholeheartedly. I know it can be scary to love so openly, especially after getting hurt, but the benefits are so great that they may just make you stop being afraid all together.
Animals can sense when people like them, and I am sure that animal lovers out there would agree with me that there seems to be some kind of invisible attraction where strays, wounded animals, and the sort always find a way to us.
The phrase “he followed me home, can we keep him” was a common one for me while growing up, and given that I spent half of my childhood with the Venezuelan jungle as my back yard, well, let’s just say that it was a challenging time for my mom.
But even when animals in need seem to understand that we might be able to help them, it’s a bit complicated to let us do the “capture and restrain” part, especially if they are in pain and scared.
If you occasionally find yourself in a “capture and release” type of situation, you will be able to get some ideas from this article on how to use what you have lying around the house to keep both you and your wild friend safe. But if this is a more serious part of your mission, and you come across this type of situation more often than the average Joe, well then you might consider getting some equipment that would reduce the levels of stress and time needed to succeed. In order to keep this article more practical I will narrow my advice to canines, although some of the same techniques are interchangeable among species.
Rule number one, if you don’t want to get bitten, do not approach a strange animal. Call an expert and keep an eye on the situation from a distance. But if you are like me, chances are you don’t mind risking it if they need your help, so let’s try to minimize the risk.
With any runaway animal (even your own) DO NOT GIVE CHASE! Yes, that’s right, no chasing (at least not in the regular sense of the word). To understand why, try thinking about it this way: How would you react if you were lost and scared and a big unknown animal started to run after you?! You would probably try harder to get away (by running faster and even hiding).
Instead of pursuit, try keeping an indirect eye on the subject and remember not to travel in a straight line towards them. Slowly try to “corral them” into an area that you consider safe, away from traffic and where you can have a better chance of getting hold of them.
In nature, look for areas that contain natural walls. Places with big rocks, steep hills, or very thick greenery are perfect for this. In cities, features like driveways, yards, and alleys all work in your favor as well… especially if there is only one exit. Once the dog has gone in, you are in control.
Keep control but do not corner the animal too fast. Remember to keep a safe distance at first and learn to read the situation before you. This will enormously reduce the chances of your getting bitten. Take it from me because I know what I’m talking about. To this day, other than in K9 bite work sessions using the proper bite suits and sleeves, I have never been bitten by any animal (except maybe for humans), but I’ve been in plenty of situations where the odds weren’t in my favor.
Reading the situation (and the animal) is key because it helps you to understand when to back off. It is not as simple as “is he wagging his tail?” so make sure you read to see plenty of visual indicators before you dive in.
If the dog seems receptive to human contact try to make yourself available by lowering yourself to the ground, or standing in a very relaxed manner, speaking in a soft voice, and never “fronting” the animal (always stand at an angle).
Also, be patient and don’t rush things. He might be thinking about coming to you, and if you come on too strong you might just spook him away. Extend your hand softly with your fingers flexed inwards and let the dog be the one to approach you, let him sniff you.
If you have food, you can try offering some. The smellier the better! You can build trust by tossing little pieces near the dog, and as he eats them, slowly toss them closer and closer to you. With some dogs gone “wild” and with no way of trapping them, this technique has proven effective for me in the past.
Remember your patience. You might have to come back for several days until you can get close enough to make contact.
Once the dog is close enough, see if he will take food from your hand. Keep your palm flat like a plate so he doesn’t accidentally get your fingers; do this several times before you try to pet him.
Start the petting by doing so on the side of the body, not the head. Don’t make any sudden movements and at this point, if you have a leash you should slowly (and while keeping up with the petting) slip the leash with a wide loop above his head. Slowly pull the free end to reduce the loop. Most dogs stop trying to run away once they recognize the familiar feeling of a leash around their neck. At this point, problem solved. Nice Work!
But what to do if they are not coming near you, or if they seem too dangerous to approach?
If you are dealing with a small dog, a thick blanket can be used both as a net, and a barrier for you to keep from getting bitten as you scoop them up. You can also lasso a big dog from a safe distance by dropping the loop from above, or using the assistance of a small hook at the end of a stick. You can even use a dog catcher’s pole, or if you are good a rodeo, just by using your abilities.
You can make your own dog’s catcher pole by feeding rope through a PVC pipe or by using a long pole from a nearby swimming pool. This will also work to keep a dog on a leash but safely away from you if he becomes aggressive. If there is no pole on hand but you have a second person that can help, you can also double-lasso the dog and have him walk in between the two of you, with each person keeping him at a safe distance from the other.
Another way is by using a crate or an appropriately-sized cage, putting food inside at the far end and then leaving the door open. Once the dog goes in for the food you have easily a couple of seconds to shut the door closed.
For smaller dogs you can get what’s called a “live” trap. They are commonly used for cats and other small mammals. You can makeshift your own by placing a big box or basket upside down and holding one end up with a stick. Tie a small rope to the stick and then extend that rope over to where you will be hiding. Place food underneath the box and wait, when the animal is in the middle (and eating) pull on the string and the box will fall down and trap the dog inside. You have to hurry over of course and hold the box down. Now this might seem a bit cartoonish, yes, but it has worked for me in the past and for more than just one species.
Once you have stopped the animal from running away and getting into a worse situation is time for you to find assistance. Wildlife stations, veterinarian clinics, and even some animal shelters can be a saving grace if you have access to them (and they are willing and cooperative). Unfortunately these are not available everywhere (or at all hours), but fortunately we now have the Internet.
Before you take the next step make sure you have captured a small, mangy dog and not a possum and then read up on it. On occasion (with wild life), you might find out that relocating them is all you need to do, or that they are weak and maybe need some food or water.
With a domestic animal it is always a good idea to take them to a vet the moment you can, even if they look healthy. They may have a microchip containing the owner’s information and vets have the scanners available to read them.
The decision to stop and help an animal in distress is a very noble one and to me it speaks highly of the person’s character. But as with any emergency situation even more important than to help is to keep yourself safe so that you do not become another victim that now needs rescuing. Keep calm and remember: smarter is always safer (and truly the fastest way), and never be ashamed about calling for assistance.
Even without the costume, my alter-ego doesn’t fall very far from what my RLSH personality does. My life (since a very young child) has revolved around animals and given that I own a K9 Academy, “The Handler” was born in a very natural way.
I am fortunate enough to have been able to choose from dogs all over the world, but my Malinois, Gio, was the easy choice as sidekick. But why him? There are certainly bigger breeds, more intimidating looking dogs, and for those of you who have met him in person, well… he is just a love-bug! Many times I have been asked if he would “actually” defend me. Would he really bite somebody if the need arose? Does he understand the difference between friend and foe? The answer is yes, yes, and proven yes.
During HOPE 2011, K9 G.O. (that’s his code-name) traveled with me to the event, stayed in the Hero House with a big group of RLSHs, walked through massive crowds at Comic-Con, joined us while walking on San Diego’s streets when we gave food and supplies to the homeless, sat through a movie premier, and went to an after-party dinner at The Hard Rock Hotel. All of it while being polite and sweet to everybody, including people in funny costumes and more than a few masked RLSHs. Sounds great, right?
On our last night however, while coming back from one of the events, Gio and I were sitting alone on the side of the street waiting for the rest of the group to join us. All kinds of people were stopping and commenting about the dog, and he was relaxed and happy. Life’s good; that is until a young man with dubious motives back-tracks into his own steps to come speak to me. The man was clearly intoxicated and started to say things that made me uncomfortable. Immediately Gio sensed my tension and went on alert. I warned the man to keep his distance from me and go on with his business; he didn’t listen. Instead he took another few steps towards us. Sensing danger K9 G.O. stood up, got between me and the man and started a deep rolling growl.
“My dog is not really happy with you right now,” I said, “do yourself a favor, leave us alone and keep walking.”
He mumbled some curse words and got a little closer. I didn’t have to say a thing, Gio let out a couple of deep warning barks accompanied by a flash of teeth and the pushy stranger went rapidly on his way.
This is the ideal picture of a personal protection dog. A friendly companion that is NOT a liability. A partner that will give you the extra layers of deterrent you need to stop an assailant. Notice that I am calling them “personal protection dogs” and not “attack dogs”. Their goal is to help you avoid confrontation, to never have to get to the point of actually having to bite someone to defend you, but if it comes to it, to immobilize the attacker and not “destroy” them. Even with the adrenaline rushing through their veins, they must be able to listen to you and follow your instructions, while your job is to never steer them wrong.
So how do you get to this balance? Is it nature or is it nurture? Really, it’s both! First you have to pick a good dog that naturally has certain characteristics that will flourish in the right environment. You can’t make a pear tree bear apples, so begin with the right “seed”. There are certain breeds that tend to do better at following directions; shepherds, for one, were bred to work directly with a human, and therefore they would be my first choice. But just because you choose a dog of a certain breed does not mean you’re set.
Dogs are as individual as people, and therefore you need to make sure the particular dog you are choosing has the motivation and willingness to do the work. If the dog doesn’t have the “heart” to enjoy the process of protection training then you don’t want to force him to go through it. Many times you’ll find a dog of the “right” breed that just doesn’t have it and a dog from the “wrong” breed that will be absolutely perfect! So be prepared and stay open.
Not to be shallow, but looks are important too. Your first line of defense is the “intimidation factor.” Realistically, you don’t want to have to send your dog to bite somebody, so even if the dog was a big softy, having a dog that looks as if he could hold his ground is better than having a very aggressive dog that looks extremely approachable. Remember you want a protector, not a liability.
In the same token, for you to ensure that your protection dog doesn’t become a danger for your family (or society in general) the first thing you want to do is to SUPER-socialize your puppy. Even in the dog industry there is a false belief that in order for you to have a dog that will protect you, you need to have him isolated and that the only person he should like is you. Actually, there’s nothing further from the truth.
A dog that is not properly socialized becomes insecure around new people and therefore becomes very unpredictable. You want the dog to be confident, and like a good martial artist have the underlying understanding that he has the power to crush the bad guy and the clarity of mind to try to avoid “teeth-on” confrontations. Properly raised and trained protection dogs are safer and less likely to bite than your average dog.
Picking, raising, and training your own protection dog is not an easy task. You have to pour yourself into it, and not everybody has the time or resources to start from scratch. Fortunately, dogs are very adaptable, and is possible to get an adult dog that an expert has already trained. I have searched for, and then acclimated dogs for families for years, and if you were to ask the owners I can assure you they all would agree that there is not a more loyal dog than their own.
There are certain advantages to picking an adult dog over a puppy. There is less of a gamble about the health and temperament of the dog once they reach maturity, and it’s easier to pick a good match for you with this element already in place.
Independently of which route you take, adult or puppy, fully-trained or self-trained, pure or mixed-breed, there is one element you must not forget; your own training. It is up to you to keep you both working as a team, to keep your partner in shape and keep both of you out of trouble.
Your dog will protect you with his life, and you must give him or her the reverence that a selfless act like that deserves. Understand that having a protection dog gives you a lot of power… and with great power, comes great responsibility.
First of all I want to congratulate you, the reader, for taking an interest in this line of “work”; helping others and trying somehow to be responsible in the making of this planet a better place to live. The worst epidemic that the human race is facing today is not Cancer, AIDS, or even the raising crime rates. The worst epidemic we face is apathy.
I am not suggesting that everybody out there take matters into their own hands, nor saying that we are all doomed, that the system has failed us, is keeping us all down, and humanity sucks. What I am trying to convey here is something very simple yet powerful. As long as there are people who care, somebody that is willing to put even a moment of their time to interact with the environment and change it for the better, we are moving onto a greater place.
I am a firm believer of the notion that what you resist, persists, and that the emotions and expectations you put out there end up becoming your reality. So in general, while I do not recommend ignoring the bad things out there, I recommend to prepare for them while emphasizing in the positive side of it. You get more done this way, and live a happier life with less burn outs.
I am not going to lie to you, this way of thinking takes time to develop. I’m constantly working on keeping myself in the sunny side of things. As most things, it takes discipline and training, but the pay off is incredible! It doesn’t take a happy childhood, a cushy life, or a drama free life to think this way. I can tell you by experience: I’m originally from a small Island in Spain, grew up in a third world country watching my dad work so much that he lost himself in it, looking over my shoulder every time I walked out of the house, getting away alive after a few close calls, living behind bars in your own home to wake up one night with a gun to your head anyways. Home invasion, car jacking and more grim situations were part of my childhood, and a big influence in why I ended up working with personal protection dogs. I also left my family back in Spain and came by myself to this country with $50 to my name. It is because what I have experienced, and the fact that I did not let that get me down, that I was able to put myself trough college, and today, I am the young female owner of a successful top class K9 facility in an industry dominated by man. There is little that scares me now!
Before I wrote this article very few people had a clue about my rough experiences growing up, and a handful know the details. This is not because I work hard on suppressing it, but because simply put, it is in the past, and I prefer to remember the good things instead. Growing up having a jungle as your back yard was the best! My love for animals was present since a very early age, I would get lost in the garden for hours and got scolded many times for feeding sugar to the ants. I had all kinds of pets, including a Capuchin monkey. I had the privilege of helping many wild animals that manage somehow to cross my path while injured, and the luck of having some kind of internal guidance on what to do because I swear, I have no idea how I knew at such an early age to do the things I did to get them better (nope, I did not have Google back then).
My hope by writing in S.T.A.N.D is to give you some tools for empowerment. My connection is strong with nature, and animals are my forte, my passion, so this is the area from where I will bring my expertise. I will be talking about personal protection dogs, their roles as defenders and their use in patrols, training, management, the bond between humans and animals, service and therapy dogs, rescue, capture and transportation of an animal in danger, pet first aid and emergency protocols, animal shelters, what you can do to help, and more. If you can think of anything that might be of interest for our community I welcome suggestions! Send me a message!
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”-Mohandas Gandhi