3 Things That Might Be Undermining Your Dog's Training Process

dog-training-undermined

We all make mistakes; that’s a fact. Nobody is perfect and as a passionate perfectionist I can tell you that striving for pure perfection has only gotten me in trouble in my life. So I’ll say it again, for those sitting in the back of the classroom: We all make mistakes.

 

 

When your mistakes set-back your dog’s training or rehabilitation process, that’s when we tend to be super hard on ourselves. Understandably so - this little four legged creature is totally dependent on us and here we are, screwing up! The one thing I’ve learned through some painful lessons of my own is that life happens to all of us. A lot of the things are completely out of our control and on most days we truly do the best we can, with what we’ve been given. I understand that it gets really hard some days and guess what? Your force-free training doesn’t have to be perfect. Before you crucify me for this statement, I think even the most famous positive reinforcement trainers with decades of experiences make mistakes sometimes. You either underestimate the situation, overestimate the dog or just break under the pressure of your own nervousness. It just happens.

 

To me, the point of positive reinforcement is to always strive to be better. Progress is better than perfection.

 

Learning from your mistakes is better than pretending you are not responsible for them and blaming the dog for his “bad behaviors.” Exploring your own patterns of thinking is better than giving up on a training system altogether because it seems like “too much work.” You don’t have to always be perfect, but you do always have to strive to be better - that’s what it’s all about.

 

Let’s look at some of the unexpected things that might be undermining your force-free training and how you can work through them to be a better dog parent, especially if your furry child has a serious case of PTSD.

 

 

1. Your Own Upbringing

How you were raised impacts a lot of things in your life and the way you choose to raise your dogs could be one of them too. Every person is different because every person comes from a unique environment and has a unique story. I don’t know your story - but you do! I encourage you to look into it and see if you can draw some parallels or contradictions between your own childhood and how you are now communicating with your dog. Are you trying to be the ultimate boss? Are you afraid your dog is going to experience discomfort, so you don’t want to set boundaries?

 

Personally, I was raised by two people who were polar opposites. One was completely authoritarian and repressive, while the other one was fully permissive. Between these two concepts, I was hella confused. I was either feeling trapped and afraid or I was trying to cope with all the freedom I was given. When I adopted Bailey, I knew I would never ever use force to raise her because by then I had learned on my own skin that it doesn’t work. So I went to the other side of the continuum: the lack of rules and boundaries. At the time, it was the only other thing I knew, so it made sense to me. I started to deal with her fears by coddling her, pushing her in interactions with dogs and humans because “she needs to socialize” and leaving her totally without protection in those interactions because I fully believed I was giving her “freedom.” I felt so very sorry for her because of the hundred phobias she had, but I did nothing of value to actually help her. My poor little baby she was, until I finally lost my shit every couple of months and yelled at her out of frustration because of her constant barking. Even the most patient humans can break under the weight of their dog being hysterical 24/7. I feel bad about it today, of course, but I want to mention it nonetheless because I’m trying to break the myth that people are either bad dog owners or perfect dog owners.

 

Our first year wasn’t all bad, mind you, there was so so so much good in it ... but as far as her reactivity goes, we were lost. The whole time I knew that while I may not be using force to raise her, something was definitely still wrong.

 

Slowly but surely I started to understand that too much “freedom” isn’t always a good thing either. I started understanding that boundaries don’t have to mean repression - they can mean a safe harbor. Protection. Giving your dog a feeling of safety, showing them that you will always make sure all is well. Once that clicked in my head and I found this middle ground, things improved for us so much. Bailey started to trust me like never before. She knew that I am going to make sure she is safe, as well as guide her rehabilitation in a very slow manner. If she ever felt overwhelmed it was my job to give her space, remove her from situation etc. We finally found balance.

 

2. Blindly Trusting a Training Philosophy

I don’t believe in blindly trusting any doctrine. I don’t believe in either side of the aforementioned continuum. I believe you should always strive to acquire more knowledge, follow what the experts say (not self-proclaimed experts but actual scientists), ask many questions and at the end of the day, think with your own head.

 

All dogs are different. What may work on one of them is not going to work on the other one. I believe in force-free training because I believe fear and intimidation should not have a place in any relationship! But within force-free training there are many roads you can go down and if choose to do so with a blindfold over your eyes, refusing to learn about other paths, it may set-back your training.

 

Some people never use the word “no” when training their dogs. Some don’t want to use treats and go for toys instead. Some feed their dogs from a bowl while others use mental enrichment as part of the feeding routine. Some don’t believe in the game of fetch, some don’t like it if the dogs jump at Frisbee, some believe dogs should never be on a leash, others believe they should always be on a leash. Some socialize their dog by putting him in a pile of puppies, other socialize their dog by hand picking canine interactions. Different owners, different dogs ... different approaches. 

 

Whatever your version of positive reinforcement looks like, it’s still better than using shock collars.

 

dog-training-undermined-chilly

Maybe you find out that some of the techniques you’ve tried haven’t been working for you - that’s awesome! You can dive into exploring others and see what works for you in the end. Always be open to learning new things, always!

 

Positive reinforcement is a journey. It’s an ocean that is hardly ever smooth. It tests our patience and trust. We’ll make mistakes because we aren’t perfect. You’ll lose your temper or re-traumatize your dog or hype up your dog instead of calming him down. Hey, it happens. Do not give up!

 

A smooth sea has never made a skillful sailor.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

3. Forgetting That It Takes Time - A Lot of It

Most people give up on positive reinforcement because it takes time and dedication - something they are not prepared to invest in their own dog. Please don’t be one of those people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard: “Well we’ve tried with food but it didn’t work. The choke collar is the only way to keep him under control.”  Needless to say, my heart breaks every time.

 

How hard did you try?

How long did you stick with it? A week? A month?

Did you have a system in place?

Were you consistent?

Did you get professional help?

Did you set your dog up for success?

Did you create a pleasant training environment for both of you?

 

Answer these questions every time when you want to give up or resort to an aversive.

 

Yes, maybe your walks are going to be far from perfect for the next three months. Maybe your dog is still going to bark at everything that moves for the next six months, before you even start noticing progress. Maybe you’ll be a little more tired. Maybe your environment will not understand and you will feel a lot of social pressure.

 

I can tell you with a certainty, it is not going to be perfect - but it’s going to be kind to your dog and that’s what makes it worth it!

 

Stick with it, stay patient and trust in yourself and your dog. The results will pay off. Nothing forms a stronger bond than raising your dog with love and compassion. That does not mean the lack of boundaries, the lack of a system, a total anarchy. It means that you are guiding your dog towards being a happier, more confident pooch. It means you reflect on your own patterns of upbringing and see what’s undermining you. It means you are always looking for more knowledge, reading books, attending seminars, talking to experts. It means that you recognize it takes time. And above all, it means dedicate yourself to growing as a person, too.

 

Putting a shock/choke/prong collar on your dog will not solve their problems - it will only solve yours. That is awfully unfair. Success is not linear and force-free training is not always going to be perfect; but it’s always going to be worth it. <3

 


pinterest-31 .jpeg

Share the wisdom on Pinterest! 

How to Choose a Good Dog Trainer

dog-trainer-choose

If you have a reactive dog, working with a good dog trainer is one of the first things I’ll recommend to you. I understand that a lot of people either can’t afford a trainer or can’t find any suitable ones in their area; since I was in that same position five years ago when I adopted my dear Bailey, I write about these topics as much as I can so that everybody can learn for free, no matter where you live! In fact, I even have a free 5-day email course for those of you with reactive dogs!

 

But if you can afford a dog trainer, I encourage you to do so! When the decision falls, “Okay, I need help from a professional,” your head is immediately filled with a billion questions. How will I know who’s a good trainer? What would I even ask? What if they give up on my dog? What if I don’t like them? What if they suggest something I’m uncomfortable with?

 

I want to share the four most important things I believe you need to pay attention to when picking out your dog trainer, one that will become your support system and an important piece in the grand puzzle that is training your dog!

 

1. Training Philosophy

What makes a good trainer? Is it the experiences that they have, the number of owners they have helped or is it their values, the respect they show towards the dog, their knowledge about dog psychology and body language?

 

Personally, I put a person’s training philosophy first. Anyone can strap up an aversive collar on a dog and call it a day. Anyone can shove a dog into the ground and repeat the word “alpha” because they heard it on TV from a self-proclaimed expert. Anyone can do leash corrections, raise their voice and blame everything on the dog.

 

But not anyone can sit down and try their best to understand your dog. Not anyone can care enough to ask you as many questions as needed to get a full picture of your dog’s current mentality. Not anyone will try to figure out the why of your dog’s outbursts. Not anyone will be your team member, seeking to work together with you to help your dog. Not anyone will be able to do that - but a good positive reinforcement trainer will.

 

Your core values need to be aligned with a dog trainer’s training philosophy. If you believe in raising your dogs with love and kindness, compassion and patience, then invest into a force-free trainer!

 

 

2. Experience

It’s obvious that your dog trainer needs to have some working experience but I want to stress this: if you are looking for a dog trainer to help you with your reactive dog, not every force-free trainer will do. They need to have experience with fearful/reactive/aggressive dogs!

 

This is a very vulnerable group of dogs, you know that. This group always gets targeted by trainers who use force. I don’t want this to happen to you and your dog! Find a force-free trainer that has worked with reactive dogs before. Somebody that understands their psychology and is fluent in body language. Somebody that will be able to commit to you for a longer time and won’t make promises about “fixing” your dog in a matter of weeks. Traumas don’t work that way.

 

You can ask your friends for recommendation or utilize Facebook groups. There are many groups on reactivity and positive reinforcement. The good thing about social media is that it brings together people all over the world. Ask in the groups if anyone can recommend a good positive reinforcement trainer in your area. The answers may surprise you!

 

 

3. Education

Theoretical education has nothing on field experience, but I do think it’s important to bring it up. Nowadays, anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. People might choose them because they are cheap or conveniently close to their home, but just because someone calls themselves a dog trainer doesn’t mean they are a good one. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.

 

I would advise you to check out where your dog trainer has acquired their education and then make a decision whether that particular training institution aligns with your dog training values or not.
 

Words like “certified” and “recognized by” and “featured in” sound very fancy - but make sure you do your due diligence on where those certificates came from in the first place.

 

 

4. Personality

By no means do I think dog trainers should be subjected to a popularity contest - not at all. But you do need to find a trainer whose personality you can cope with. They will be teaching you how to work with your dog, how to help them overcome fears, you will be spending a respectable amount of time together and if something goes wrong they will be your first call.

 

You should find someone that you’ll enjoy working with - even on the really rough days!
 

Find someone that tells you the truth, even if it’s hard to hear. Someone that won’t treat you as just another client but will fully be present with you and your dog in the moment. Someone that will also be compassionate if you are ever struggling and will encourage you not to lose faith. Most of all, somebody that you can trust.


Tell me, do you have any experience with hiring a dog trainer? What did you learn from it and what advice would you give to someone still on the fence? Share your insights in the comments below!
 
pinterest-dog-trainer .jpeg

Pin this blog post!  

 

 

 

Love Letter of the Month: Maria and Shark

People who take control of their own lives and futures are one of my favorite people in the world. There is so much strength and inspiration to be found in those special souls who prove to us every day that the life you want is just waiting out there for you to live it. Everything is possible, so long as you have the courage to chase your dreams! Maria's story has taught me that. 

When I first found her incredible blog The Tropical Dog I was absolutely amazed by the life she shares with her dog Shark. They travel the world together, like true friends always do, chasing adventures and writing about it from an incredibly realistic perspective. Her blog offers numerous travel tips and adventure stories, proving that a dog can be your best companion even if you are a passionate traveler - or maybe especially so! 

Maria wrote a beautiful love letter to her sweet Shark. Their story is truly unique, one that reminds us unconditional love is stronger than any obstacles! Today is also Shark's 4th birthday, so I'm wishing a big big big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to this charming pup! <3 

Maria and Shark 4.JPG

A LOVE LETTER TO SHARK 

Written by Maria Himmich


My Sharkylove,


Today, we are celebrating your 4th birthday. I know the precise date because I know you since your very first day. Your mother, who was originally my neighbor’s dog, was abandonned to her fate and had become a stray dog. When I woke up on that October 13th, 2013 you were huddling with 3 other puppies out of the window of my bedroom. Your mother chose to give birth in my garden. I like to think that it was destiny.


At that time, I lived in Rodrigues, a small tropical island lost in the Indian Ocean, near Mauritius. I
worked for the local French Alliance. I had to leave a year later to get back to Europe, then find
another job somewhere else.

 
My life was absolutely not stable. I wanted to be a nomad and travel the world as much as I could. Like many people, I liked the idea of having a dog some day, but now was definitely not the right time.
 

So when I first saw you with your brothers and sisters in my garden, I thought I could not deal with that "problem" and told my neighbor to take care of her dog and her puppies. Unfortunately, that irresponsible woman tried to get rid of you.

Maria and Shark 1.jpg

The next day, after she took your little family back, I got woken up by your cries, the we-need-help kind of cries. Your mom was also barking. I waited for almost an hour, trying to convince myself that it was not my problem. Then I decided to go to my neighbor’s garden to see what was going on. I found you and the other puppies stuck under a large piece of metal sheet in the glaring sun. Your mother couldn’t reach you and was going crazyAs to my neighbor, she had left to work and had deliberately put you there to let you die.

 

I did what I think every normal human being should do. I rescued all of you and took you and your mom back into my garden.
 

I kept you for 5 weeks, then I started to look for friends who wanted to adopt a dog. You were the last puppy left to give but I decided to keep you, just a little longer. Days became weeks, weeks became months and by the time the end of my work contract arrived, you had totally won my heart. It was just impossible for me to leave you behind, even though I had no clue how I was going to travel with a large dog from the Indian Ocean to Europe.

 

As Rodrigues island was very tiny, I had to travel to Mauritius to buy your vaccines and a travel container for the flight. Of course, my family and friends thought I was crazy. They told me I could not keep on traveling the world with a dog. Well, I did not care. The only thing I knew is that we had so much more things to live together.

Maria and Shark 2.JPG
4 years later, we have traveled to 9 countries : Mauritius, Morocco, France, Greece, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and the USA.

We run a doggy travel blog together. We have shared so many crazy adventures, met so many new friends, had so much fun and created so many unforgettable memories… You have become my travel buddy, my bodyguard, my personal trainer and my source of joy.


I feel so grateful for each of the million of smiles you have already brought me.
 

Of course, I know some day you will have to leave me and my heart will broke into pieces. That is life and I can do nothing about it. What I can certainly do, though, is enjoy every single day we have the chance to live together. My Sharkylove, I promise to do my best to make that sparkle in your eyes shine as often and as long as I can.


Thank you for sharing my adventurous spirit. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for being so funny without willing to. Thank you for protecting me all the time. Thank you for trusting me.


Happy birthday my little piece of tropical heaven!


I love you,


Maria


Wow. No matter how many times I re-read this letter, I'm always in awe - and tears. Big thank you to Maria for sharing her words with us. Your friendship with Shark is one of the most inspirational friendships and companionships I've ever seen and I'm so lucky to know you! If your travels ever bring you to my little country of Slovenia, we totally need to meet! <3

Check out Maria and Shark's incredible travels featured on their fantastic website The Tropical Dog

You should also follow them on Facebook and Instagram, to see their epic daily adventures - and wish Shark a very happy birthday today!!!! :) 

 

Want to submit a letter of your own? Write a letter to your rescue dog and send it to luna@motherofrescues.com to be featured! 

All photographs featured in this blog post are the property of Maria Himmich

Book Review: Zak George's Dog Training rEvolution by Zak George and Dina Roth Port

book-review-zak-george.jpg

Disclosure: this is NOT a paid review, but I did get a free physical copy of the book from the author. All opinions are my own, you know I am a very opinionated lady! NONE of the links in this post are affiliate!


Kindness. Something that the world needs so desperately right now.
I firmly believe that kindness begins in the most intimate of environments. How we are with ourselves. Our spouses. Our neighbors. Our children. And, perhaps the most telling, our pets.
 

How it all began

When I adopted Bailey 4 years ago, as you well know, I got a little ball of big fear. Fear that ran so deep it soon became clear to me there's a long road ahead of us. People in my life, with good intentions, had their own ideas of how I should be raising Bailey.

 

"Speak more firmly with her."

"Yank the leash back and say NO!" "

Just let her bark, who cares!"

 

But in the depths of my heart I knew that this is not how I wanted to raise my baby. And so the search for better, kinder methods of raising a dog began.

 

 

I don't remember which video of Zak's was the first one I came across, nor do I remember how I came across it. But I do remember binge-watching all of his other videos in one night. Replaying the crucial moments over and over again, writing down important things, feeling incredibly motivated to work with my pup. What really drew me in was not only Zak's methods of force-free training, but the love that he was radiating.

 

He is beaming with love, happiness and excitement when he is working with dogs and you know what? That was new to me.
 

When I watched other people train their dogs, they were very authoritarian, sharp and psychical. When I myself was training Bailey, I used to be incredibly nervous. I only focused on my main goal (for Bailey to stop hysterically barking at everything) and completely disregarded her emotions or the fact that training was supposed to be fun! Then I saw Zak's enthusiasm and it forever changed me. I realized then and there that, even though I was using positive reinforcement, I wasn't getting results because my bond with Bailey was damaged due to my own attitude towards training. 

 

I subscribed to Zak's channel, naturally, and have been following his videos ever since. My interest in positive reinforcement and dog adoption grew into 4 years of adopting rescues and confidently, enjoyably helping them overcome their past anxieties. This life, being the mother of rescues, has led me to many, many +R resources and I keep finding new ones. But I will never stop keeping up with Zak's youtube videos. 

 

When in doubt, I know I can always rely on his videos. I can always return to the basics, always look at things from a different point of view. I can always look to him and that enables me to be Bailey's safety net, anchor and safe space.

 

When I heard about his book, I knew I needed to read it and share his wisdom with you all! I feel it in my heart that this is the knowledge that needs to be shared, needs to be visible, needs to reach as many people as it possibly can. I feel a responsibility to do my part. So here is my review of Zak's incredible book! 


The Dog Training rEvolution

 

From the moment you first open the book, you know that this is not your typical dog training book. You don't feel alienated from the author. If anything, it is clear from the very first lines that he gets you. He is one of us, the hardworking dog parents who love our furbabies beyond belief and just strive to be better for them every single day. You feel understood, heard and above all, not judged.

 

This is a book that gives you confidence as well as reassures you when you make mistakes and urges you, in the most positive way, to simply learn from them.

 

What I've noticed is that Zak uses the same tone of communication in his book as he does in his training - he is clear, direct, kind, sympathetic and a lot of fun. 

 

Throughout the book, he emphasizes the importance of prevention, which is something you'll hardly ever see in other dog training books. It is such an important part of dog training and yet so many dog owners fail to realize that. His methods focus on preventing the unwanted behavior from happening as opposed to waiting for it to happen and then correcting that behavior in a very negative, physical way. Where I'm from, positive reinforcement is still a fairly new concept and I think a lot of people struggle with it because they don't invest into prevention. Instead, they leave their dog to his vices until he develops a whole lot of behavioral problems that are, at that point, harder to change.

 

I really want to point out that if you have any issues with your dog, there's always a big chance that they could have been (or could still be) prevented. So dive into Zak's book and notice how he carefully guides you through the necessary prevention by giving you actual examples that you get to implement straight away.

zak-george-book .jpg

Another thing that stood out to me was him talking about the importance of a bond. Like I said, I learned this one the hard way, through personal experience. But I also learned that bond is something that keeps growing and evolving. I love how my bond with my individual dogs keeps changing and deepening.

 
My dog training philosophy is this: Training your dog is all about COMMUNICATION and BUILDING A BOND. Once that’s established, other things align as well!
 

To be completely honest with you, there aren't many widely known dog trainers who would either share that philosophy or dare to speak publicly about it. But Zak does! Every time he mentions the bond in his book my heart does a little happy dance! I am overjoyed that this knowledge is finally reaching people and if you're not using the bond as a foundation of your training, then you need this book and you need it NOW!

 

Building a bond is essential to your relationship and you mustn’t do anything to compromise it. Why? Because ”bonding is also a matter of letting your dog know that she can trust you and depend on you.”
— [Zak George's Dog Training rEvolution, page 83].

 

This is why it's called the dog training rEvolution! This dog training philosophy is revolutionary indeed! And luckily, because of people like Zak, our relationship with dogs has an opportunity to evolve. Just like any relationship, it needs trust, communication and safety. Zak likes to draw parallels with raising children or being in a relationship with other humans. He breaks down the barriers that stood so long between humans and their animal companions.

 

He puts a mirror in front of us and urges us to see that our dog's emotions aren't that different from our own, after all. He makes it clear that owning a dog is not something that you can emotionally detach yourself from. In fact, it is precisely your emotions that will help you be a better dog parent. If you tune into those, the rest should come easy!

 

When you prioritize your relationship with your dog, the teaching process becomes easy.
— [Zak George's Dog Training rEvolution, page 2].
zak-dog-training-revolution

 

Now that you know Zak's philosophy I also want to tell you a bit more about how his book is structured.

 

It's a journey every single dog parent goes through. It starts with the moment when you decide this is it: you're getting a dog! But before you actually get the dog, there's a whole lot of things to figure out (the dog's breed, rescue/buy, your financial situation etc). Zak really dives into all of these fundamental things every dog-parent-to-be (no matter how experienced) wonders about at some point. He then guides you through the necessary preparations before your pooch of choice arrives home and once he's finally home with you, Zak's book takes you on a journey from welcoming the pup to explaining the basic training principles you need to know.

 

Armed with this book, you will make a badass  of a dog parent - that, I can tell you!
 

What I appreciate so much about the book is that it also covers a little heavier subjects: common behavioral issues and taking care of your dog's health. As both of these topics are very personal to me, I perhaps enjoyed those two chapters of the book the most. Simply because it finally made me feel seen, heard and appreciated.

 

I know, I know, I hate to be that dog mom, but it's the truth! Upon adopting Chilly I borrowed around 7 Border Collie books from the library and they taught me nothing. They weren't helpful at all and I had to seek Border Collie resources elsewhere (god bless the internet). But this book really makes everyone feel included - whether you have a rescue or a purebred, an angel or a little devil, a confident pooch or a traumatized bug like my Bailey. Zak is inclusive and that's very important to me.

 

His book ends on a high note: with fun tricks and activities you can do with your dog. That is perhaps one of the most exhilarating parts about being a dog owner, no? Getting to do fun things together and bonding through them!

 

Whether you read through this book in one go (like I did) or just pick chapters relevant to you (like I will in the future), it will not only leave you richer with information, but also full of enthusiasm and drive for strengthening the relationship with your dog and helping him thrive! 

Make sure you have a highlighter at hand! ;)   

 

My darling sister is already lined up to read this book. I can't wait to pass it onto her and then discuss what we've both learned and how we will implement our knowledge into our daily life with our precious rescues.

 

I want you to do the same. If you haven't yet, I want you to read this book, then come back and tell me how it shaped you as a dog parent. Tell me some of your insights. Tell me how it touched you. Let us all grow together.

 

Let us continue this movement, that Zak has started, in our lives and in all of our communities, wherever in the world we may be! 

 

I also want you to support Zak by:

BUYING HIS BOOK!

Subscribing to his YOUTUBE channel (and clear an afternoon because you'll want to binge these videos).

Liking his FACEBOOK page.

Support him on PATREON

Heart his precious dogs on INSTAGRAM.

And read his tweets on TWITTER

 

Last but not least, I would like to thank Zak for sending me this book and for unselfishly sharing his knowledge all these years! You really are making the world better, one dog owner at a time.<3


important-dog-training-book

Share this blog post on Pinterest to spread the word! 

How Essential Oils Help My Fearful Dog

essential-oils-fearful-dogs

Over the years I have tried a lot of things to help Bailey with her wide spectrum of fears. Triggers such as dogs, skates, moving objects etc. have mainly been conquered through positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning. She’s come such a long way and I am very proud of her, but the one thing we’re still battling on every day basis is her noise-sensitivity.

 

She gets triggered by loud noises all the time - we live in the city and that’s something I just can’t control. The situation has given us both some gray hair, but we’re coping with it through learning about new ways to keep her calm. 

 

For last year’s New Year’s Eve we have tried the anti-stress wrap and it worked amazingly. I was very impressed and I may even buy the famous Thunder Shirt this year. We are also big lovers of music and use it in our every day life to calm Bailey down whenever she is feeling nervous or upset. I’m still surprised by how well she responds to it and how much it calms her down

 

However, some recent changes in our life and environment have encouraged me to look for more ways to help her.
 

First, we have a huge (and loud!) construction site in our backyard at the moment. We also got two new dogs this year, which means more noise in the house - either occasional barking or just the sound of them running up and down the hallway. These are the things that upset Bailey every single time. She just hates loud noises, no matter how irrational the fear. I recently read an article titled A Dog That Is Afraid of Loud Noises Is Afraid of Everything and it gave me a lot to think about. Noises are something I can’t control and they are all around us.

 

I can’t approach this with counterconditioning, because I can’t possibly isolate the noises that make her react - and even if I could, there will always be new ones to conquer. Aside from the anti-stress wrap and music, I felt like I was missing something. 

 

Enter essential oils! They were recently recommended to me and I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, but I was definitely open to trying something new.

 

I’m happy to report that after two full months of testing, I’m seeing so many positive results! To be honest, the change was apparent the first time I used them and it only got better since then. 
 

So far I have only tried two scents: lavender and baldrian (valerian). I’m open to trying more or maybe even mixing them, but this has worked incredibly well for us and I am very satisfied with the results! 

dogs-are-greatest-teachers

LAVENDER

We tested this scent by putting a few drops of lavender essential oil into an essential oil diffuser that I found at home - it’s a tiny bowl of water that stands over a candle. If you love crafting, you can DIY a variety of essential oil diffusers. I mainly used this aroma in the afternoons and over the weekends, when everybody is at home and the household is a little louder than usual. (The construction site doesn’t stop on the weekends either).

 
I noticed that Bailey is much more calm and less prone to reacting when I use this essential oil. Even if there is a sudden loud noise, she’ll only lift her head, maybe silently growl a little bit, but totally keeps her cool. No loud outbursts!
 

I was absolutely in awe. I tested the oil during a thunderstorm as well and outside of a couple short barks when the thunder was loud, she was totally fine. The final test was a couple of weeks ago when my home country Slovenia won the European Championship in basketball (woohoo!) and people celebrated with fireworks. I generally don’t follow sports, so on the night when we got into the finals I didn’t even know there was a game - I wasn’t prepared for the fireworks and Bailey had a really hard time. On the night of the finals I did prepare though. I lit up my essential oil diffuser, put in lavender and the evening passed so peacefully I almost couldn’t believe it. A few short barks here and there, but other than that she was surprisingly calm.

 

This essential oil is now a part of our every day life. If we have guests coming over or if there is something loud going on in the neighborhood, I know I can count on lavender oil to keep Bailey calm. I am so very thankful for this discovery! 
 

BALDRIAN (VALERIAN)

The success of lavender essential oil within the house had me wondering if I could bring them outside somehow. How cool would it be to have them on walks with us! I stumbled upon an essential oil collar in one of the local pet stores and decided to give it a try. It was 100% natural and infused with baldrian. 

 

It had a really strong aroma. I left it out of the package for a couple of days to wear off a little bit, but without much luck. When I put it onto Bailey she absolutely hated it, so I took it off after a couple of minutes and decided to try a different approach. I didn’t know if it’s the scent that’s bothering her or just the fact that it’s on her, so I cut the collar in two identical pieces and placed one in Bailey’s crate and the other one in Chilly’s - he gets a little jumpy sometimes during thunderstorms or if new people are in the house, so I figured it would be fun to try. 

 

They both seemed to respond to it super well. Bailey spent a lot of the time in her crate by her own accord, as did Chilly. I started leaving these collars with them every time I left the house and even though they generally don’t mind being alone, they displayed calmer behaviors upon my return than usual. I am super happy with this arrangement! 
 

Maybe in combination with lavender, the two aromas are the winning thing for us. I’ll buy baldrian essential oil as well, to test it in a diffusor, because the cut up collar is starting to lose its scent. I also have yet to figure out a way to bring essential oils on our walks. Maybe I’ll DIY a collar and infuse it with just a few drops or make an essential oil bracelet for myself and wear it when I’m out with Bailey. 


Needless to say, the discovery of essential oils has changed our lives.
 

Bailey is so much calmer and there have been some very unexpected benefits for Chilly and myself as well. He’s less jumpy when he’s scared (or excited) and my own anxiety is almost nonexistent when lavender is in the air! I also struggle with insomnia and I noticed that on the days when we used lavender oil I actually had no trouble sleeping at all. These oils have been an overall success! 

 

At this moment, we are still only at the beginning of our essential oil journey - I want to learn even more about how essential oils can help dogs and share the knowledge with you as I go on.

 

If you have a fearful dog, I encourage you to give essential oils a try and see how they work out for you! Already tried them? Please comment below and share your experience!

essential-oils-pinterest

Show us some love on Pinterest by pinning this article! 

The Attack of Fleas: How a Multi-Dog Household Conquered an Outbreak of Fleas

the-attack-of-fleas .jpg

Fleas are every dog owner’s worst nightmare but if you have more than one dog (let alone five) it’s absolute HELL. We recently had a really bad flea outbreak in our home and I wanted to share how we finally got rid of them after almost a month of trying to exterminate them; how our days and weeks had looked like while battling these annoying little bugs and how we are now making sure our prevention techniques are much more current, updated and various than before!

 

1. How it Began

The first flea outbreak we ever had was last year and I’ll admit it was Chilly who brought fleas into the house. The outbreak was rather short and the fleas died in about a week or two. We bathed the dogs twice, we combed them, we gave them preventative serums, Chilly got an anti-flea collar and that was the end of it.

 

As a result of that experience I realized that Chilly has an incredibly sensitive skin and is prone to itching and irritation. Within a couple of months I ditched all chemical products, including the collar, and decided to look into natural flea-prevention options. We bought a spray that is a natural repellent and it worked incredibly well. It was the first year when we didn’t get any ticks, on any of our dogs. Even the mosquitos didn’t touch them, so we figured we were safe for fleas too.

 

Until one day, last month, we woke up into a household swarming with fleas. Apparently a big enough amount of fleas won’t care about the spray repellent. Hard to tell which of the dogs brought fleas into the house this time around but it was such a big amount of them that it gave me nightmares.

 

It’s likely that Ruby was the main culprit because she had the most of them, they were literally crawling all over her. No matter how much we washed her, she kept getting new ones - and we couldn’t figure out how!
 

From her they must have jumped on Ursha and the rest of the house; that’s how my dogs got them too. Everybody was scratching all day long. It was one of those situations when you wish you could call it an annoyance but you basically feel your sanity slipping from your hands. We braced ourselves for two weeks of constant washing, bathing and vacuuming.

 

2. What we tried - what worked, what didn’t

First we tried a regular anti-flea shampoo on the adult three dogs. It didn’t do much, other than irritate Chilly’s skin. We figured we’re going to need a natural option because Chilly is too sensitive to chemicals and Ursha is a puppy. My mom found natural shampoos in one of the local pet stores and we decided to give them a try. Surprisingly, they worked super well! They managed to kill the majority of the fleas and we repeated the washing twice a week, on all four dogs. (Disclaimer: at the time we only had four dogs, but by the time I’m posting this we’ve been joined by another rescue named Ringo. <3 It just took me forever to write this, haha!).

 

We washed all of the dogs’ bedding every two or three days. The laundry machine is already going non-stop in this house, but this took it to a whole new level. Washing the bedding of four dogs plus the mats that are scattered around the house (in the kitchen or the hallway) for the dogs to lie down, plus our own bedding (because pups are allowed on the bed) was incredibly exhausting and time consuming. I hated getting out of the bed some days because I knew that the first thing I have to do is put everything into the washing machine. And I had to coordinate this with the other bedding being washed as well as everyone’s clothes. To say that it was insane is an understatement.

 

We also vacuumed the whole house literally every day and for what it’s worth I called my grandmother one day and told her: “I vacuum every day now. You’d be so proud of me.”
 

We still used the natural spray repellent that I mentioned before, as well as another homemade lavender spray for spraying the household; their mats, the floor, their beds, our beds, every single surface the dogs lie on - so, every single surface in our house. We also had a big carpet in our living room chemically cleaned. I don’t think we’ve ever done as much cleaning before. ;) 

outbreak-of-fleas

After two weeks of this process, you’d expect the fleas to be exterminated. But somehow after this entire ordeal they were still crawling all over our dogs! I was at the end of my wits and felt like I am going to lose my mind. This flea fight has caused us much time and even more money. 

 

After googling for the millionth time what else could we try, I came across an electronic flea comb. It sounded like a really good idea and I have never heard of it before, since most of the articles I read didn’t mention it at all. I bought it online and prayed that this was the solution we’ve been waiting for.

 

It turns out that the electronic flea comb was exactly the solution we needed!
 

Despite all of the bathing and washing, somehow the fleas either jumped right back on the dogs or stayed there in the first place and didn’t die from shampooing. The electronic flea comb managed to find and kill those sneaky fleas! We combed the dogs constantly with one flea comb for an extra week and finally finally finally the situation started looking manageable.

 

After the last bathe-wash-comb-spray cycle, the fleas seem to have left completely. Halle-freaking-lujah! I am so thankful to have found the flea comb because without it I honestly don’t know what we would have done. We couldn't possibly figure out where the fleas were coming from - could be from the vet or from bushes on our street or from any of the neighborhood’s dogs. Maybe even from the stray cats that live around here.

 

The way this comb works is that it electrocutes the fleas the second they make contact with the comb and also destroys all of their eggs. It’s safe for dogs and humans, even the most sensitive dog in the universe (Bailey) was totally fine with it. I highly recommend it if you have a flea outbreak because it will really make your work A LOT easier and much quicker!

 
Don’t get me wrong, the washing and bathing is still super important, but this comb will literally kill any flea still left on your dog. Works like a charm!

 

3. Prevention tips and tricks

I’m taking prevention a 1000 times more serious now than I did before. For years I just used anti-flea serums on Bailey but Chilly has brought a more chemical-free life with him and I don’t regret anything. I’ll still be using the natural spray because at the very least it worked super well against ticks and mosquitos. I was scratching myself all summer long because of so many mosquito bites and the dogs were fine - in the end I started spraying myself with the damn spray too, haha. We’ll continue using our homemade lavender spray (water + lavender essential oil) for spraying the surfaces every now and then. We found that it worked really well and even during the outbreak I couldn't find any fleas on the dogs’ beds when I started using this spray!

 

I’ll also be using coconut oil on their skin and fur more often now; not only does it have a great many benefits, it’s also a natural flea-repellent recommended by our vet.
 

I’m looking into which foods are a great supplement to prevent fleas too; I already heard of garlic and am collecting ideas on how to sneak it into the pup’s meals. If you have an idea please share it in the comments!

 

Winter is coming (shameless Game of Thrones reference), so I think I’ll be able to sleep easily during the cold months as fleas aren’t common in the winter. But once hot and humid season comes along again we’ll be looking into some natural sprays and repellents for our backyard and the grassy surfaces the dogs like to lie or play on.

 

It’s not always easy having a whole pack of dogs but I can promise you it’s NEVER boring! ;)

Tell me, have you ever faced a flea outbreak? How did you fight it? What helped and what didn’t? And most importantly, did you buy yourself a giant chocolate after the whole thing was over or was that just me?
 
pinterest-flea-outbreak

Support us by sharing this article on Pinterest!

 

 

Love Letter of the Month: Hannah and Jax

My dearest readers! September has found its way to us and it's time for a new love letter of the month! I wept reading this letter (something tells me I'm going to do this with ALL the letters) because it is so very honest. No sugar coating in this one, just plain truth. We like to plan out our life down to the very last bit but sometimes it doesn't work out the way we had hoped. In such moments, it pays off to stay positive and believe in the good things that are yet to come. You never know when you might meet a soulmate dog; or a soul-mutt as Hannah, today's featured dog mom, calls her precious pup Jax. 

Hannah is a reader of this blog and she submitted her letter via email. I felt very touched and inspired by her story. I often speak to readers who have had to make decisions that I find so heavy. Hannah's first adoption didn't work out as they had all hoped, but she refused to give up on rescue dogs and because of that, Jax has a loving home today - and we have another letter to sob over! 

Hannah-and-Jax-1.JPG

A Love Letter to Jax

Written by Hannah Gibbs


Dear Jax, 

You've stolen my heart, and I'm so glad you did. 

I have to admit you were not the first dog I fell in love with, there were Jordan and McGuire. I've always grown up with dogs, none of them were rescues, but I came to learn how much love a dog can give you. Neither of them could have prepared me for the love you would give me. 

I promised myself that I would not graduate college without coming home to my very own dog. I also have to admit that you were not my first choice, nor would you be available to adopt on that Thursday I came to the animal shelter. Unfortunately, my first choice did not get along with my family, including your nephews, Jax. With a heavy heart, I had to return him to the animal shelter. My heart healed when I saw how happy he was to see his favorite staff member.

That's when I met you, Jax. As I was walking into the shelter, a volunteer was taking you on a walk. I will never forget the smile on your face as you were heading outside. That's when I knew I needed to bring you home. I told myself that I was just emotional, and I can't let my emotions make a decision that would define my future for the next however many years. 

I visited with the other dogs at the shelter, but I kept looking for you. When you finally came back for your walk, with your tongue hanging out, and your tail wagging at top speed, I knew you were the one. It was love at first sight, you were my "soul-mutt!" 

I took you home, as you slept on my lap for the hour drive. My heart melted every time you looked up at me with those big brown eyes. I named you Jax, based off of my family and I's favorite TV show character. Little did they know that you would also steal their hearts. 

You would run around the yard with my parent's black lab, Doc, for hours playing fetch or just chasing each other. Doc would steal your food, but you didn't care. My parents were shocked to see how well behaved you were. You did not beg for food, nor did you potty in the house, you did whatever you were told, and did not whine when you were told "no". Whenever I ask my parents to stay with you while I'm away, without hesitation, they say "Yes!" every time. 

Only after a month at my parents' house, I got my first "big girl" job and we were going to move 2 hours away. The smile on your precious face when I rolled down the window, made my anxiety and fears melt away. You would stay by my side as we moved into our new place, an apartment that was pet-friendly. Jax, you have no idea how many hours I spent looking for an apartment that would accept dogs.

You would lick my tears away when I got homesick. You would sleep right next to me at night, just so I would know that I wasn't alone. 
Hannah-and-Jax-2.JPG

Now, its been four months since we've met, and 3 months since we moved. We've done everything together. We go to the Farmer's Market every Saturday and stop by your favorite dog treat store, I take you back to my parents' house so you can run around with their dog, I even got you DNA tested, so I can learn as much as I can about you.

I was so happy when I saw your DNA results. I was told at the shelter that you were a Coonhound/Pointer mix, but where they way off! Jax, you are an American Staffordshire Terrier, Great Pyrenees and Border Collie mix. Which means you are extremely loyal, intelligent, protective, calm, and watchful. It also means that you get along with children, including your 4 crazy and wild nephews, Hunter, Sawyer, Bear and Brady! It means that you put my happiness and well-being before yours. It means that your heart is so big, and so full of love. 

When I adopted you, the animal shelter staff told me about your past. My heart broke into thousands of pieces.

They said that you were from Tulsa, Oklahoma and was brought to a kill shelter as a stray. You were at that shelter for months and months. Your time was coming to an end and you were transferred to the Cedar Bend Humane Society in Cedar Falls, Iowa. You were quickly adopted out, but your owners then abused you, harmed you, and threatened you. On a stormy night, tied up to a tractor, you stayed up the whole night howling. A police officer drove by, picked you up and brought you back to the shelter.

After a week at the shelter again, I rescued you. No, you rescued me. 

Jax, I promise you this; I promise to love you unconditionally, even if you rearrange my shoes around the apartment, bark at any living thing that walks by our window day or night, and specially after you got into my camera equipment.

I promise to never leave you, I will always bring you with me, no matter where life takes us. If my job moves us to Europe, then I will be getting you a passport because you are moving too (don't worry their ice cream is even better!).

When I get married and have kids of my own, you will be right there with me. I know you will be my children's favorite thing to cuddle and run around the yard with.

Lastly, I promise you can always sleep in my bed, because honestly who could resist that precious face of yours? 

I know that you have a past full of fear and hate, I promise I will make up for those horrible horrible things.
Hannah-and-Jax-3.JPG

I promise you that I will never hurt you like they did. I promise to calm your fears and worries during every stormy night, to teach you that vacuum cleaners are not scary and hurtful, and most importantly to show you how much love and happiness this world can bring you.

I thank whoever had you first. I thank them for giving me an extremely intelligent, extremely loving, well trained and caring dog.

I also thank you, Jax. You have taught me so so much in these past 4 months. You taught me to enjoy the journey, not the destination. I enjoy car rides with you, as you are soundly asleep next to me, and then you wake up and stick your head out the window with a huge smile on your face. You have taught me to put my phone down and enjoy what is happening right in front of me. Don't worry, if I forget, you will literally knock my phone out of my hands. 

You've taught me to make time for afternoon naps, to enjoy every day in the present, to not worry about the future, and most importantly to love unconditionally, even when it seems impossible. 

Jax, here's to our new adventures together. Here's to many more walks, tons more dog treats, more bowls of ice cream, more afternoon naps in the sun, more late night movies and popcorn, and more car rides. 

I love you more than anything in this world, Jax. 

Love & Always, 

Mom


A story about companionship, hope, unconditional friendship and eternal love. My heart is all warm now! Thank you Hannah once again for submitting your letter and writing about your adoption experience from a very truthful place. I am so happy you and Jax have found each other! 

You can support and connect with Hannah by checking out her website

Want to submit a letter of your own? Write a letter to your rescue dog and send it to luna@motherofrescues.com to be featured! 

All photographs featured in this blog post are the property of Hannah Gibbs

Love after Loss: Coping with an Open Heart after Experiencing Loss

lady bug. little donut. Knödel. <3 

lady bug. little donut. Knödel. <3 

Before I jump into this post with a heart that feels as heavy as a brick and as light as a feather at the same time, I’d like to give you a little update on the past 9 months of our life.
 

In January, our sweet angel Lady started showing symptoms of apathy and weight loss. She was rejecting food and movement. After a long month spent driving her from one vet to another, she was finally diagnosed with a tumor. It was big, aggressive and incurable. We said goodbye to her 5 days after getting the diagnosis, on February 6th and her soul joined the stars and galaxies roaming above us.

 

In April, my mom started looking into Red and White Irish Setter puppies because we talked about the possibility of adding a new dog to the family in 2018. Mom just wanted to do some research but as fate would have it, she had fallen in love with a baby puppy with a heart-shaped mark on her head. It felt like a sign. She contacted the breeder and long story short, an Irish Setter puppy joined the family on my birthday, June 25th!

 

The year was going to continue without other major changes, but since life is hardly ever still we have welcomed another dog into our family this week. My sister has adopted a sweet 2-year-old boy; we named him Ringo. He is of Bosnian nationality, just like Chilly. He has the most magical eyes, ones that I can faintly recall from a past lifetime. We met him on a Thursday and by Monday he was ours. It happened so fast I’ve barely had the time to process.

baby ringo. 

baby ringo. 

I’m a hyper-sensitive introvert empath INFJ person (let me wait while you google all of those), which means I feel things very deeply. You couldn’t possibly guess if you met me, but my insides are as turbulent as my outsides are calm. Changes affect me very much. Adjusting to souls departing and arriving shakes me to my core.

 

I am trying to find the balance between grieving and loving. Being sad and being happy. Dwelling on the past and gazing towards the future.
 

My heart doesn’t always know what to make of all of these changes; how to adjust emotionally and fall asleep with a mind that is at ease. Usually it resorts to feeling everything at once. I don’t know that there is any right or wrong way to grieve. I am no stranger to loss at this point in my life and this is the lesson I keep learning over and over again: surrender.

 
Surrender to time, life, emotions and changes. Let go of trying to control things. Some days I think I’m doing it wrong and other days I know there is no such thing. Life has it’s own course and pain is in resistance. Allowing what is, letting go of what isn’t. That’s the lesson.
 

Ursha is the most energetic puppy this world has ever seen and Ringo is the sweetest, calmest boy. She is curious and hyperactive and so attentive. He is wary and focused and so gentle. They are both so new to us, but in some moments it feels as if they have always been here. I seek for little bits of Lady in such moments, just to assure myself that everything she has brought into our universe is here to stay and will forever manifest itself in the canine souls we bravely love.

 

I used to call her Lady bug and since she’s passed I’ve randomly encountered lady bugs indoors two or three times. I would call it a coincidence except I don’t believe in those. I believe she would love both Ursha and Ringo so very much.

 

It’s funny how her departure is the cause of their arrival. I was very young when someone told me that the universe doesn’t like emptiness - as soon as it finds an empty space it seeks to fill it. I have since found that to be true. Maybe life is just a series of losses and gains; arrivals and departures. Having just three dogs in the house was odd. Too empty. Too quiet. Now we have five and it’ll probably never be quiet again. ;)

Sweet angel lady. she was such a cuddle bug. <3 

Sweet angel lady. she was such a cuddle bug. <3 

We are so blessed to have been able to welcome not one but two magical souls into the family this year. There is strength in having healed to the point where we dare to love, despite the loss. I know of people who have lost a dog and vowed to never own another one again. I know of people who have lost a dog and got another one the very next day. I know of people who have lost a dog and it took them years to adopt again. All of that is okay.

 

We grieve and process in different ways. Sometimes in solitude, sometimes in companionship of humans, sometimes in companionship of other dogs.
 

What I meant to say with this blog post full of incohesive rambling is this: I miss Lady. I miss her dearly. I miss her paws. Her smell. Her gentle gaze. And I get so unbearably sad some days. But then I look at Bailey, my soulmate. And Chilly, my whole heart. I look at our Ruby, who has been with us since I was 14. And Ursha, the baby of the pack. And Ringo, of course. Ringo with his promise of new adventures and even more healing. Looking at them swells my heart with love. So much love. And I know that all is well. I used to think people can either be happy or sad - when really, we can be so much of both, always at the same time.

 

Dare to love, my friends. Dare to love despite the loss. Dare to weep even when you are happy; to laugh even when you are sad. I know many of my readers have lost dogs in the past too. I know you are no strangers to this grief.
 

I want to end on an uplifting note, with a quote from one of my favorite books, Tiger Lily.

“I knew I’d miss you. But the surprising thing is, you never leave me. I never forget a thing. Every kind of love, it seems, is the only one. It doesn’t happen twice. And I never expected that you could have a broken heart and love with it too, so much that it doesn’t seem broken at all.”  

 


pinterest-21 -2.jpeg

Support us on Pinterest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Thoughts You Have When Your Dog is Misbehaving in Public

dog-misbehaving-public

If you are lucky enough to call yourself a dog owner, you are also lucky enough to have found yourself in a situation at least once when your dog has terribly misbehaved in public. Maybe they peed on your neighbour’s car right in front of them (hello Chilly), maybe they barked their head off at a really cute guy (thanks Bailey), maybe they pooped in the middle of the street (looking at you Ruby) or maybe they decided to cause a scene in a busy coffee shop (darling Lady). We’ve all been there! The thought process that happens in our brain at such moments is described down below! ;)


10 thoughts you have when your dog is misbehaving in public

1. Not now. PLEASE. Not. Now. NOT while they are looking! No no no aaaaaand he’s pooping on their driveway. LOVELY.

 

2. Don’t make eye-contact. Whatever you do, do NOT make eye-contact and it will be alright. Just look away. Surely they won’t tell you to pick it up if you’re looking away? Maybe you can lie and say he just peed.

 

3. Am I a bad dog mom if I pretend he’s someone else’s dog?

 

4. Maybe if I smile they will think I have the situation under control. Maybe I won’t look so embarrassed. Should I chastise him or will that make me look incompetent?

 

5. You know what, I’ll just talk to my dog like it’s a human being and can understand my complex sentences. That’ll do. (Followed by spoken sentences like “No, mommy doesn’t like it when you do that, we talked about this. Yes we did, didn’t we? Mommy needs you to be a good big boy now.”)

 

6. After this shenanigan it will be a miracle if any human being on this street ever talks to me again.

 

7.  Why did I think bringing my dog into this very social area was a good idea?!

 

8. Let me just fake smile my way through this and drag my dog away even though he is biting the leash and refuses to listen. Is saying “dogs will be dogs” a thing?

 

9. Okay, I got this. I am a functioning adult dog mom. I GOT THIS. Breathe, just breathe. Don’t panic. I got his favorite toy in my oversized backpack and if I wave it in front of his face I might get his attention. Or would that make me look like a complete lunatic?

 


10. Well, I’m done. This is it. Best to just wait it out and never show my face here again. I’m 99% sure I am going to be known as that-crazy-dog-lady after this. I wonder if I can put that on my resume.


Do you have any to add? What is going through your head when your dog is misbehaving in public? Write your thoughts in the comments below along with some stories of your dog’s mischief! ;)
dog-misbehaving-pin

Pin the article on Pinterest to share it with your friends! 

Bailey's Early Graying

It’s so hard for me to write this post, but it’s only been a recent thing that Bailey’s graying has become so apparent. I know most dogs start to gray between the ages of 5 and 7, but my dog is five years old now and I believe she looks much, much older. It is possible that she is just getting older like normal dogs and it’s more noticeable due to her black coat, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s happening a little too sudden. I’ve been growing very concerned because of this and I’ve read online that early graying is closely linked to anxiety and fear. This doesn’t strike me as anything new, since Bailey has always been fearful, but the graying has been a surprise that has really become apparent in the last two years.

Bailey-gray-1.jpeg

Here’s a picture from July 2015

 

 

(age 3)

Bailey-gray-2.jpeg

Now let’s look at a picture from a year later, August 2016 (age 4)

Bailey-gray-3.jpeg

And at last, a picture from this month, August 2017 (age 5)

 

Her early graying is causing me great distress, mostly because I believe I can pinpoint the cause of it and I feel so powerless. We’ve always lived in an urban area and for a reactive dog that’s really hard, but we’ve managed. Bailey has had so much progress and while it took us some time, I believe we have succeeded in finding a balance that works for the both of us. However, we’ve had a major construction site open right in our backyard. It’s loud, it’s shaky, it bothers me and I can’t even imagine how Bailey must be feeling. Loud noises are so uncomfortable for her and her noise sensitivity is the one thing I know we still struggle with. But the construction site is something I have no control over and I’m worried about the effects it may have on her.

I’ve been wanting to move to the countryside for a while. Somewhere out of the city, more peaceful, with a lot of nature. I think both of us would love that. Moving out of the family home on a freelancer’s budget, alone and with two dogs (one of whom has somewhat special needs) is a challenge - one that I don’t expect to mount anytime soon. I’m not writing this to complain about my situation, because I know I have been blessed in my life many times over.

I’m just saying: my reactive dog is under constant stress because of loud noises and it’s starting to make me inconsolably sad.  

We’re trying a few different things. Music helps her a lot. Providing her with much crate time during the day helps even more. We’ve changed her exercise routine to games where she is not so impulsive. We’ve started using essential oils and I’ll be happy to write a separate blog post on them soon, because they have changed our life! I am optimistic, because she and I have already been through so much together, I know this is just a stepping stone in our story.

early-graying-flatlay.jpg

I read conflicting reports on early graying affecting a dog’s life-span but I’m trying not to think about this.

All we have is now. All we ever have is now. All I can do as a mother is in this moment and in this particular moment I can only look for ways to lessen her anxiety.

When I was reading the articles I couldn’t help myself but cry, because there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to make Bailey happy, make her calm. And yet, it often seems that every single success we have is eventually undermined by something out of my control. An off leash dog, a neighbor's random fireworks, a construction site.

Perhaps such is life with a reactive dog; learning to let go of control and loving them through troubled waters, holding onto them with grace and believing that everything will work out.

If you have any experience with early graying in fearful dogs, or even just graying in general, please comment below. I really need to hear some fresh perspectives on this topic as it’s something that has caught me a bit off guard!


early-graying-pin

Liked the blog post? Share it on Pinterest! 

Love Letter of the Month: Ashley and Titan

If you read my last blog post, you'll know that I have decided to start a passion project with a mission to give rescue dog moms a chance to express their feelings and write an honest letter to their sweet pup. I want to kick off this project with a dear friend of mine Ashley and her darling little chihuahua Titan! Little Titan is reactive but Ashley is one of the most dedicated dog moms I have ever met. The two of them are on such an incredible journey together, I knew her words could inspire and resonate with many of you! When I first read her letter it made me cry and every single time I've read it since, tears have always come. So don't say I didn't warn you - prepare some tissues before you start reading! 

Ashley-and-Titan

Dear Titan: An Open Letter to my Best Friend

Written by Ashley Nequest


Dear Titan Warren Nequest/Love Bug/Monkey/Chicken/Fluffy Butt,

You changed me. Thank you. 

I imagined myself being the kind of owner that only let their dog on the furniture when they’re invited up, that never let them sleep in the human’s bed. I had visions of having a full social life that didn’t involve me introducing my pet as the main topic of conversation at every possible chance. I was going to be a dog owner; nothing more. And I was… Until we were about 10 minutes into the drive home from the shelter, suddenly a seven-month-old, reactive, rescue chihuahua mix had my entire heart. 

A few days after I brought you home you met Zoe, your favourite poodle, for the first time. I was able to watch you run, play and be a puppy, it was so completely freeing. Though, between rounds you would walk the fence line, sticking your little nose under at every possible opportunity. It took less than ten seconds for you to get your entire body under the gate. By the time I had flung it open you were almost at the street. All I remember is calling your name, which you didn’t know, and dropping to my knees feeling an overwhelming level of helplessness. I also remember the utter relief as you turned around and came flying right into my arms. That was the moment it happened, the exact moment the world shifted and everything clicked into place. That was the exact moment I stopped being a dog owner and became a dog mom. 

The first time I experienced your reactivity was more than a little alarming for me.

I called my mother at 6 a.m. crying because this sweet little thing I brought home had spent the entire night barking at people in the park. You lunged at the end of the leash growling and snarling at every single person we happened to pass. To finish off the night you awoke from a dead sleep having a complete fit due to a child crying on the TV. I was terrified, you were terrified and all I wanted was to give you a loving home when someone else had given up on you. 

I’m sorry it took me so long to realize what you were going through, I wish I had understood from the very beginning. I wish someone had told me that you were scared, that my anger wasn’t helping. I wish I had done better. I wish I didn’t waste months trying to figure out how to “fix” you when you were already so incredibly perfect. I wish I had seen you for the blessing you are right from the start, maybe you wouldn’t be as afraid now. Some days I still grieve the loss of a life I never had, I miss the imaginary trips I took with my fictional “perfect” dog. Most days I know this is better. 

Ashley-and-titan-2

I plan on spending every day of your life making you feel as safe and happy as I can, regardless of the cost. I know the world is a scary place, I find it terrifying as well, but please know I will always protect you. I will stand between you and the other dog, I will stand between you and all of your fears until we are ready to take a step closer. I promise.

Titan, this is my love letter to you, this is my love letter to rescue dog motherhood. I do love every single second of it, both the easy moments and incredibly challenging. There is nothing that makes me happier than waking up to your little paws on my chest as you get a good stretch, nothing makes me as feel as proud as being called a good dog mom and nothing breaks my heart like you feeling overwhelmed. I absolutely love your giant ears and when your lip gets stuck on your tooth, it is both the cutest and the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. 

You changed me, you changed my very core.

You have taught me to be understanding and patient, when to fight the battle and when to back down. You have proved that I was right about the importance of naps, there is nothing better after a long day of living than a nice long nap under the covers with your best friend. You have taught me to use my words instead of my hands, that love and compassion can do so much more than grabbing and yelling. I will never be able to thank you enough for forcing me to learn how to be something other than angry, to ignore the bad but always reward the good. 

I love you more than I have ever loved anything.

To me you will always be perfect, you will always be a blessing and you will always be my little Snuggle Butt. Thank you for existing. 

Love always, 

Your Crazy Dog Mom


Hands up if you are totally wiping the tears away! (I know I am - again)! Please support Ashley and Titan by following them on Instagram! You'll get to see much more pictures of the sweet little pooch and read about their story and progress! Ashley thank you once again for writing this honest letter and reminding us of what rescue dog motherhood is all about. 

Want to submit a letter of your own? Write a letter to your rescue dog and send it to luna@motherofrescues.com to be featured! 

All photographs featured in this blog post are the property of Ashley Nequest

A Love Letter to Rescue Dog Motherhood

love-letter

I dubbed this website a love letter to rescue dog motherhood and I meant every word of it.

Having a rescue dog, especially if they are reactive or have other issues stemming from their abusive past, is not always a walk in the park. Sometimes it’s really hard. There are sacrifices that we must make, hard work we must put in but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. I have always wanted to highlight the hard days too, not just the good ones. It’s important for people to understand the work it takes, rehabilitating a dog that was abandoned by the world. But it’s also important to highlight WHY we do it.

I thought long and hard how to best celebrate rescue dog motherhood. I desperately wanted to include other dog moms as well. First I thought about doing interviews, but it felt too structured. And then I glanced at the title of this blog and it came to me. Letters. I want to feature letters from dog moms to their precious rescue dogs. I want to feature letters that represent WHY we do it and WHY it’s worth it. I want to give dog moms a platform where they can spill their hearts out. Where they can truly write down the truest words and dedicate them to their dogs.

Each month I will feature one amazing dog mom and her letter. You’ll have the chance to read the first letter in a couple of days and I am so excited! This project is so important to me and I can’t wait to honor the deep bond between a human and a dog by publishing these letters.

If you resonate with this message and would like to contribute a letter of your own, please send the letter dedicated to your rescue dog to luna@motherofrescues.com and we’ll discuss the publishing date together! I would love to feature your words on this platform and share it with other rescue dog moms!

Our dogs are our biggest teachers, cheerleaders, love bugs and friends. They deserve all of the recognition and our love for them may be misunderstood by those who have never loved a dog, but this community is bound by the unconditional love we have for our four-legged children and the hard work we are prepared to do with them, to help them thrive regarding their past abuse or negative experiences.

Thank you for being a part of this journey; I am looking forward to sharing your letters!

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of Purebred Dogs in a Rescue Dog Household

purebred-dogs-irish-setter

This blog is called Mother of Rescues and that’s exactly who I am; a mother of two precious rescues. Rescuing dogs and raising them with love and positive reinforcement is my mission in life. In that I am absolutely certain. My two rescues have taught me everything I know about force-free dog training, canine body language, resocialization, patience and overcoming challenges. Without them, this blog would not exist.

But what about purebred dogs? My household currently holds two purebred Irish Setters, in addition to my two rescues. I sometimes get asked what is my opinion on people buying dogs. Am I against it? Our second Setter (Ursha) has joined the family just a month ago and some were surprised that she isn’t a rescue. I’ve had this topic on my mind for a while, so today I wanted to share my thoughts on the role of purebred dogs in a household that frequently opens its doors to rescue dogs!

The importance of a happy childhood

I want to start with the most important topic that easily defines all living beings: childhood. Our childhood has a big impact on how we grow up, how we act in relationships, the choices we make in our lives. It’s same with our dogs. Their early childhoods determine them a lot! My two rescues, Bailey and Chilly, both had pretty shitty childhoods. One was crammed into a box with 4 other puppies and left in the woods to die. The other had to survive on the streets of Bosnia. Our precious angel Lady was owned by hunters until they disposed of her and she nearly starved to death.

Welcoming these dogs into our home and hearts has been the most rewarding experience but it has also been challenging at times. Creating a stable environment for them is my top priority. This is where our purebred dogs play a big role - especially Ruby.

She’s been in the family for 10 years, longer than any of the other dogs. We got her from the Trawricka breeders and she has always shown incredible mental stability. The past 10 years have been full of changes and she adapted to all of them without problems. Our home is always welcoming new animals and she has been so accepting of all of them. She has welcomed without a fuss a giant pet rabbit, Bailey, a guinea pig, another rabbit, a bird, Lady, three chickens, Chilly, another guinea pig and Ursha. That’s without even mentioning several friends, boyfriends, pet friends and other people or animals who have briefly crossed our home in different periods of life. Ruby is a total champ. 

Her stability has always influenced our rescues. When we bring a rescue into the home, Ruby is the first one to meet them. I believe she immediately makes them feel welcome.

Lady and Bailey, for example, had some anxiety around each other in their first weeks together. My sister and I needed to work on their relationship. But Lady and Ruby instantly became friends, because Ruby is so relaxed and couldn’t care less who we bring into the home. She accepts everyone!

Buying another Irish Setter was a no-brainer for my mom and so Ursha from IRWS Kennel Of The Ronnerfields has joined the family a month ago! It’s safe to say that she has had the best childhood in the world and watching her first 10 weeks of life over social media has been an absolute blessing.

irish-setter-border-collie

Training vs. Resocialization

Watching Ursha grow is sometimes a strange experience for me. She’s so normal! She’s a perfectly normal jolly little puppy who would happily bite your hair, nose, arms, legs and shoes if you let her. (She’s a little teething shark!). I remember Bailey at her age; she was a tiny ball of anxiety, showing so many phobias and reacting to everything with extreme fear. I didn’t even know where to start fixing her. Chilly and Lady came to us at later points in life, which sometimes left us wondering what horrors must have happened to them when they flinched in completely normal situations. After spending 5 years resocializing these precious pups and also the loss that we have experienced when Lady passed away in February … it feels like a breath of fresh air, raising Ursha. There is no heaviness or concern surrounding it. My mom gets to train her as a normal puppy, one that has always been happy and loved. There is no damage there that we would have to fix. She’s absolutely perfect. I’m emphasizing this so much precisely because we don’t intend to stop rescuing dogs - ever. They are our lifestyle now. Ursha already has two rescues in the same household and over the course of her life she will meet and love many more. It’s safe to say Ursha’s stability and jolly character will be a great asset in the next decade of our life.

Diversity in Friendship

It seems that in recent years it has became important again where somebody is coming from, what is their background and what history they’re bringing with them. My dogs have taught me so many lessons on acceptance and diversity. I look at them bonding together and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where they come from. As a complete coincidence, all of our dogs are from a different country. Ruby is from Belgium, Bailey from Slovenia (where we live), Lady was from Croatia, Chilly is from Bosnia and Ursha is from the Netherlands. To them, none of this matters. To them it also doesn’t matter that Chilly was a dirty street dog but Ursha is a high-born princess. It doesn’t matter that Bailey is reactive but Ruby doesn’t even notice fireworks. They only see each other’s souls.

They don’t concern themselves with each other’s origin and I think that is one of the most beautiful lessons they could ever teach us. Deep down, at our core, we are all one.

I am thankful for our two purebred Irish Setters. I am thankful for all our rescues. I am thankful for the balance we have in our home. I know I will eventually move out of the family home and I am not ashamed to say that I will buy a dog when that happens. But I will also foster dogs and continue to rescue them. To me, rescuing dogs is about balance - also within the soul. It’s not always easy and at the end of the day you need to rely on somebody.

I can see my future as the mother of rescues and I can also see one or two purebred dogs as the anchor in that pack. I reject all criticism on this front and invite everyone who reads this article, but especially the rescue community, to approach this matter with love and understanding.

I know plenty of people who just rescue.

I know plenty of people who just buy.

I love that I get to live my life somewhere in between.


What is the structure of your canine household? Do you have rescues, purebred pups or both? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

purebred-dogs-rescue-household

Pin this article to spread the word! 

 


 

 

 

Force-Free Training: The Only Way to Help Fearful Dogs

reactive-dog-force-free

Whether or not we should be raising our dogs with love, patience and kindness should not even be a debate - and yet, things still feel blurry and debatable to many. A big part of me is tired of talking about this but an even bigger part of me knows that I have a responsibility to dogs and even their owners who may not have realized the truth just yet. I recognize that every change is a slow process and it’s often not easy. I’ve decided to write about it because I want to share my own perspective and reflect on why I feel so deeply about this matter. But before I dive into my own personal reasons as to why I believe force-free training is the only way to help our fearful dogs, let’s go over some research-based facts.

Fact #1: Positive reinforcement (force-free) training is the only training method backed by science.

Fact #2: The pack theory has been disproven by the same guy who came up with it - and many others after that.

Fact #3: Shock collars have been proven to have negative effects on dogs to the point where manufacturers now have to label them as “not to be used on aggressive dogs.”  

If those three facts are not enough to sway you, I have a couple of more reasons of my own. Before I get into them, let me clarify what ISN’T positive reinforcement: choke/shock/prong collars, hitting the dog, kicking the dog, pressing the dog into the ground (“alpha roll”), starving the dog, yelling at the dog, grabbing the dog by the skin on their neck, yanking the dog’s leash and any other so-called training method or punishment that involves force or intimidation.

What IS force-free training: It’s a method of training that focuses on building up the dog’s confidence and bond with you. It focuses on setting your dog up for success. It uses tools such as food and play to teach the dogs wanted behaviors, rather than punishing unwanted ones. It builds a very clear and strong communication where the dog always knows what is expected of them and feels safe with you at all times.
I personally think that force-free training is the only way to help fearful dogs. Here’s why!

1. Our dogs are already afraid most of the time - why add to it?

Fearful dogs experience fear in completely normal situations. Reactive dogs often have explosive outbursts of barking when faced with that fear (or as we call it, trigger). These dogs spend a lot of their time experiencing some form of fear. They are very different from dogs who are able to just chill in the park or sleep wherever there’s room. They experience great anxiety in new environment and the places they consider safe are very few - sometimes none. It’s not easy living with a dog who is always afraid. We can’t control everything about our environment, so sometimes we’ll be faced with loud noises, off-leash dogs or screaming kids. And our dogs will experience severe fear and will likely have an outburst. If you are a parent of a reactive dog you know that after a barking outburst our precious dogs need some time to decompress. They often stay upset even after the trigger has gone away. I see my job as a guardian of such a dog mainly to FREE them from fear, rather than to add to it. I see no point in making my dog even more afraid than she already is. When I got Bailey, she was afraid of bikes, dogs, strollers, skates, children, old ladies etc. The last thing I would want is for her to be afraid of me, too. You want your dog to feel safe next to you. You want to work towards liberating them from their fears and you can’t achieve that if you are using aversive methods of training.

reactive-dog-love-compassion

2. A scared dog cannot be a confident dog

One thing that most dog owners lack is the basic knowledge of canine body language. I notice this all the time and I used to be like that too. After I’ve studied this topic into detail, I started understanding my Bailey much better and her progress skyrocketed. Dogs display fear and discomfort in many different ways. They turn their head to the side, they lick their lips, they yawn, they pull back their ears. All of that, before any of the growling or barking even happens. A lot of the time I will see dogs that were “cured” of reactivity by shock collars or other aversive methods of training. These poor dogs are walking with their tails between their legs, their ears pulled back, constantly turning their head to the side. It’s convenient for their owners, of course, because their dogs aren’t barking anymore - but those dogs are still afraid! In fact, they might be afraid even more than before. Not only are they still afraid of dogs (or other triggers), they are also afraid of the discomfort that will follow if they express that fear. I urge you to look at what your dog’s body language is saying and adjust your training methods accordingly. Start HERE.

3. You want to represent safety - not pain!

Most of reactive and fearful dogs have a big problem with safe spaces. They simply don’t have them.  It takes a lot of time for the owner to create those spaces for them, spaces where they feel absolutely safe and comfortable. Spaces where they don’t get upset by triggers. It could be a crate or a bed or a room. But it takes time for them to get used to it, fully accept it and relax within. Most of them prefer small and dark spaces (den-like spaces), which are sometimes hard to come by. Safe spaces can also relate to humans and other animals. You’ll notice that your fearful pooch really trusts some people; they fall asleep next to them or allow cuddles. But with other people, however many times they’ve seen them, they continue being wary and distant. You, as their owner, must represent a safe space for them. Force-free training is a first step into that direction. You need your dog to trust you. You need them to feel secure with you. When they are faced with a trigger, they should look to you for guidance. They won’t ever do that if they connect you with something unpleasant - be it a raised voice, a jolt of pain, a physical discomfort. Create a safe space for your dog by first and foremost BEING that space!

4. Pain and fear will damage your bond

Raising someone with love and kindness manifests an incredible bond. Raising them with fear and punishment manifests a lot of confusion, repression and miscommunication - which results in keep having to use those negative tools and punishments to “keep the peace.”

I’ll be honest with you. As a kid, I was no stranger to physical punishment and intimidation. It was a constant thing in my childhood and if there is an equivalent to shock collars for humans, I’ve likely experienced it. The people in my life perceived all of that as normal (some deemed it unnecessary but “didn’t want to tell someone how to raise their children”). It was never frowned upon, never talked about as problematic, never brought up as something that might have negative consequences. It has deeply affected my bond with both parents; one of whom I don’t speak to anymore. I am still close with the other parent and I recognize that it wasn’t her fault but in some way the relationship will always be tinted. This is what fearful upbringing does. It creates an environment where every day you are trying to AVOID being punished - you don’t know what is expected of you because nobody ever told you. You are confused. Your behaviors are centered around avoiding the punishment and not around creating actual constructive behaviors. It is same with our dogs. They are smart and if you hurt them, they will do what they can to avoid being punished. That doesn’t mean their behaviors will be constructive - if anything, they will just be full of anxiety and your bond with the dog will suffer severely. 

Do you truly want that? Do you want a dog that is always confused and anxious? Or would you rather have a dog that feels safe next to you? A dog that you can have amazing communication with, a dog that makes you a better human, a dog that you can always rely on because they, too, trust you unconditionally?
The choice is yours.
Make it from the heart.

 


force-free-training

Please share this on Pinterest to raise awareness! <3 

 

 

 

Fearful Dogs and the Power of Music

Music; one of the most important things in my universe. I listen to music almost all the time and I truly believe it is the language of my soul. Music has gotten me through every single hardship I have ever experienced and aside from writing it is my favorite form of art.

When we talk of rehabilitating, helping and training fearful dogs, we often talk about counter-conditioning, mental enrichment, environment managing and all these other techniques that are without a doubt super important, but I have noticed something has been missing. What happens when we’re not training? When, for whatever reason, we just don’t have that bag of treats ready or maybe it’s the middle of the night but our dog is experiencing severe anxiety? What do we do? I fully believe that music can play a great role in helping our reactive dogs.

For one, by default, these dogs are very sensitive to sound. They can react to a can falling on the floor three rooms away. They can be afraid of a person sneezing outside the house. There is no sound that escapes them and every sound makes them alert. I think it can be a very positive experience for them if we utilize their alertness to sound in a good way. First, music will somewhat cover up outside noises. Second, it may just calm them down in a way you didn’t even think was possible!

5 years ago I adopted Bailey and on the drive home she was crying as I was holding her in my arms. I quietly sang Hey Jude to her, because it’s the song that always calms me down when I’m experiencing anxiety. When we came home the poor bug was so terrified she refused to fall asleep - and her lack of sleep was a big problem in our first few weeks. I put on The Beatles’ vinyl record in the evening and any time I left her alone. I quickly started noticing she’s responding to it really well. In fact, she fell asleep much quicker than if the record wasn’t playing. This is how Bailey’s love of music was born.

Ever since then, we’ve been using music to soothe her anxiety. We spend every New Year’s Eve listening to music and as soon as I turn it on I can feel her fear and nervousness gradually diminish. Our favorite picks for surviving the fireworks are Ed Sheeran’s first album and any ballad Elvis Presley has ever written.

I wish I could lend her my headphones when we go for walks. Maybe if she could listen to James Vincent McMorrow as she is strolling around our neighborhood with me, she wouldn’t experience such anxiety. But I don’t want to shoot for the moon - I’m happy that music can be a calming tool for us when we are at home, or in the car.

I think if music can touch a human’s soul in a way that lets us know everything will be alright, why couldn’t it do the same for our dogs?

Bailey has a favorite song. The one song that I can always count on to calm her down. This song is also my favorite song in the universe and I wonder if there is some correlation. Maybe my Bailey can feel my soul relax when I am listening to it? Maybe this experience alone feels soothing for her? Sometimes I wish I could ask her these questions. Until that happens, all I can do is observe my little bug how she is nervous because of some weird sound outside and then the second I put on the song she curls up into a ball inside her crate and falls asleep, knowing she is always safe. The song I am talking about is Something New. Listening to it is a cosmic experience.

If you have a reactive and fearful dog I would recommend you try playing some songs to them and see how they respond. I’d start with calming songs and then try out different styles, depending on how they are responding. You can also try playing them your own favorite songs and see if they have the same connection to them as you do (or maybe just feel your love for it)!

To help you out a little bit, I created a playlist of 10 songs for calming down fearful dogs! We’ve listened to all of them a countless times and they have all worked like magic for little B. Click on the titles to listen to them on YouTube!
  1. James Vincent McMorrow - Wicked Game

  2. Tokio Hotel - Something New

  3. Tokio Hotel - Run Run Run

  4. Elvis Presley - Can’t Help Falling In Love With You

  5. Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender

  6. Jamie Dee - Blood Bank

  7. Bon Iver - Holocene

  8. Meadowlark - Postcards

  9. Ed Sheeran - The A Team

  10. Coldplay - Green Eyes

How do your fearful dogs respond to music? Do you have any song recommendations or experience you’d like to share? Comment below!

Loved the article? Share it on Pinterest! 

How to Help a Dog Stung by Nettle

stung-by-nettle

When I was a kid, I fell into nettles many, many times. It always happened when I was on vacation at my grandparents’ house. They have a farm and plenty of meadows to run on. I would play with their dogs and somehow ended up in nettles every single time. I remember the burning sensation on my legs and the little itchy bumps that appeared afterwards. I never considered that dogs could get affected by this too, I just assumed it’s something that stings only humans. I learned my lesson when Bailey chased a ball right into a big bush of nettles and for the next couple of hours all hell broke loose.

Bailey has a crazy prey drive. We keep on working on self-control and I can honestly say she’s come so far. But the fact of the matter is, when that ball is in the air, she’ll chase it into a bottomless pit if she has to. It’s always my responsibility to make sure the ball doesn’t fall anywhere dangerous. She is no stranger to searching for the ball in the bushes so I didn’t think much of it when I saw the ball land in some big bushes in our back yard. She went into them head-first and then stopped abruptly and jumped out. She started running around like crazy and I could tell she was in pain - but nonetheless that crazy turkey had a ball in her mouth! That’s how crazy her instinct is!

I called her to me and it took two or three calls for her to even hear me. When she finally ran towards me she dropped to the floor, dropped the ball and started rubbing her nose with her paws, rubbing it against the grass and whimpering. I took her in my arms and went to check the bushes. We have some hedgehogs living in the yard and a frog. I also thought it might have been a bee. But as soon as I saw nettle it clicked in my head.

I took her inside and had to set her on the floor to do what any sensible dog mom would do in a crisis: google the symptoms and diagnose my dog based on what the online forums have to say.

Lucky for me, this time the prognosis wasn’t too bad. A lot of people have had this happen to their dogs and most of them just said it’s about soothing the pain that will last a couple of hours.

If the pain doesn’t go away or the dog has any additional symptoms you should go to the vet!
green-nettle-stinging

Bailey still being pretty hysterical, I washed her snout and ears with a cloth drenched in cold water, then somehow managed to get her to her crate where she feels safe. As soon as she was inside she stopped freaking out and was just whimpering. The hardest thing is when you lock eyes with your furry little soulmate and you can tell they’re hurting but you don’t truly know what to do. I took some coconut oil and put it all over her snout and ears (the ears were red but had no bumps). Since little B is an avid lover of coconut oil she spent the next 15 minutes trying to lick it all off. Needless to say, she was successful and it made the situation worse because she was scratching herself really hard. Chilly has had some skin irritation issues and I use 100% aloe gel to help him - so I immediately thought of that. I put the aloe gel on the affected areas, closed the crate and after about 30 minutes of whimpering she finally fell asleep. I think she was super tired not only from the game in the yard but also from the pain and the hysterical running because of it. I monitored her closely (read: I obsessively checked on her every five minutes making sure she is still breathing) and when she woke up some hours later she was just fine!

I wanted to share this experience because I honestly had no idea that nettle could sting dogs and after reading some more information online, it seems that it mostly affects dogs with short hair (or no hair) and the areas where the skin is really thin (ears, snout, legs, stomach).

Hopefully this raises some awareness and you can make sure that your pooch doesn’t have the same painful experience - or of they do, it’s good to have aloe gel on hand! It would mean so much to me if you shared this article with your fellow dog moms because prevention is always key!

Have you ever had any experience with your dog being stung by nettle? How did you help them deal with the pain? Comment below so we can all learn from each other!
dogs-and-nettle

Pin this article for other dog moms to see! 

Things I Am Afraid to Tell You: Rescue Dog Mom Edition

The internet is full of people pretending their lives are perfect. Social media will have you believe that every day starts with a pink frappuccino and ends with a perfectly lit selfie. The blogging world is perhaps even worse. The talk about followers, subscribers, Instagram algorithms and “shadowbans” is neverending. Everyone seems to have a social media strategy in place, a narrow niche, a carefully curated online personality.

To say that I do not fit into that would be an understatement.

I can’t take my dogs to a coffee shop for that damn pink frappuccino because one is reactive and one hates crowded spaces (working on it!). I don’t like taking selfies and when I do, they have a really shitty lighting. I don’t have a social media strategy other than “spill your heart out on Instagram to contrast all of the strategic captions and hashtags.” I don’t abide the rules of having a narrow niche (anymore) and my online personality is very transparent.

I was recently inspired by Jenna Kutcher’s podcast where she talked about her fears. It felt so refreshing. She runs such a successful online business but she wasn’t afraid to bare her soul and tell us how it really is. She inspired me to write this post and I quietly hope this trend continues on. If anyone feels encouraged to write about the things that scare them, please feel free to do so and make sure to send me the link! Let’s create a transparent community where, despite our social media followers and number of subscribers, we admit to each other that we are all just people.

Here are my very own 5 things I am afraid to tell you: rescue dog mom edition. Writing this was therapeutic but posting it feels scary, too.

1. I still see my dogs as “broken” sometimes

They tell you not to do that. Hell, I’ll tell you not to do that! “Don’t treat them like they’re broken. Don’t think of their past too much. Don’t feel sorry for them, it will affect your training. Give them a chance to be normal.” We’ve all heard it. And I try my best, but sometimes I look at Chilly and all I can think of is how he was alone on the street in the first months of his life. He still flinches if you move your arms too fast and is still wary of strangers. It takes everything in me not to worry about what must have happened to him. I know my dogs are loved beyond compare and are being raised with love, but sometimes their lack of early socialization is still an issue - on those days, it’s hard to see them as whole.

2. I'm not always confident in my training

I am good at dog training - I know I am. At this point I have a lot of experience with dogs but even so, I don’t always know how to approach an issue. Since I’ve mentioned Chilly’s fear of crowded places - it took me a long time to come up with a training plan that requires gradual exposure without overwhelming him. We went out and tested what works for us, made some mistakes along the way and continue to learn as we go. At first I felt like I have no idea where to begin helping him and how to plan the training sessions. All of my knowledge and all of my experience and sometimes I still feel so very uncertain. 

3. People’s negative comments really affect me

I know you’re not supposed to take people’s opinions to heart, but I do. Luckily, so far I haven’t gotten any hate online except once, but I do get a lot of snarky comments regarding my training methods in my private life. These comments affect me so much. I am often seen as an obsessive dog mom who is way too strict. “Why won’t you let them off the lead? Why aren’t they allowed to get food from the table? Why are they crate trained? I didn’t crate train any of my dogs and I’ve had dogs for 20 years. Why did you leave your dog at home today? How will they socialize if you don’t take them with you? Once I have a dog of my own I’m not going to be as obsessive about training as you are. This is too much.” These are actual sentences said to me by actual people in my life. And on and on it goes.

You’d think I’m a monster who keeps my dogs on a lockdown! But here’s the reality: I rescue dogs with heavy stories. I speak dog body language fluently. I have a (force-free) system when training my dogs that turns them into happy, confident dogs. I understand they are animals with strong instincts and I strive to satisfy those instincts. We spend a lot of quality time together, but they also know how to rest. I understand the responsibility of owning a dog, I understand I must ensure their safety and the safety of those they come in contact with - which is why I require their recall to be 100% and until it is, they are not let off the lead. I don’t “socialize” them with unstable dogs who don’t respond to their owners. We go on adventures together and I always make sure they feel safe. I understand that resocialization takes time. I do all this work and we have immense progress and I am so proud of us. But people still misunderstand. And it does hurt.

4. Bailey often triggers my anxiety

When Bailey is having a hard time, it triggers my anxiety. I can relate to her a lot because I am also a hypersensitive anxious soul, so I understand why the world feels scary for her sometimes. I understand why she loves quiet places. I understand why socializing wears her out. And yet, sometimes I still wish for her to just be normal. I don’t always know where Bailey’s anxiety ends and mine begins. A part of me knows that the best way to help her is to be calm. Another part of me breaks when she is having a hard time. I love my sweet girl with the whole of my heart but when she is in pain, scared, or upset, my world stops spinning for a bit. I want to put everything else on hold just to help her and make sure she is okay. My heart is racing, my breath escapes me. In those moments, I know I need to trust us. Trust myself, that I have trained her well enough to be able to cope with a situation. Trust her, that she has it in her. I also need to learn that it’s okay if she feels discomfort sometimes; she has to work through it and my job is to be there for her, to stay calm and offer stability. The more I work on myself, the better she is too! 

5. Balancing two dogs has been a challenge

One is one, two is twenty and I don’t know what three will one day be. I love having two dogs. They have been one of the biggest blessings in my life. They have this amazing yin and yang dynamic going on. They’re 3 years apart in age but I swear they could be twins. Though in some aspects of their personalities, they are day and night. Chilly is calm, sociable, independent and always up for shenanigans. Bailey is hyperactive, has a huge prey drive, doesn’t like socializing but loves the physical presence of her human (me!). On the days that I know I’ve fulfilled all of Chilly’s border collie needs I find myself wondering if I’ve done the same for Bailey - and the other way around. When I’m focusing on Bailey my mind wonders if I’m doing right by Chilly too. They spend much of their day together, but they also have a lot of separate training sessions and activities. Chilly’s into frisbee and Bailey’s into chasing balls. Chilly loves taking walks around our neighborhood and for Bailey they are often overwhelming. It’s not always easy to balance the both of them, but it’s worth it - even on the days when I wonder if one of them is feeling left out.


These were mine unspoken secrets that are now forever a part of this blog and shared with this community. Being a dog mom is my favorite thing in the world and definitely my purpose on planet Earth. I know I’m good at it, because my entire heart is in it. But I also know that I am not perfect - thankfully, nobody is! ;)

Share this article on Pinterest! 

10 Summer Treats You Can Share with Your Dog

Anyone that knows me well knows that food is like a religion to me! I love creating in the kitchen, I prefer homemade meals to eating out and I definitely love to treat my pups to some healthy treats sometimes! A while ago I came across a recipe for dog treats and the first thing I thought was “Hey, I’d want to eat that too!” So I figured, why don’t I make a roundup of the best dog treat recipes that you and your pooch can totally share! I reached out to my fellow bloggers and this post was born!

During the summer I’ll be testing some of these recipes out and might even share the ups and the downs on our Instagram! Are you following us @motherofrescues yet?!

Now without further ado, here are the best top 10 summer treats that you can share with your dog!

share-treats-recipes-summer

1. Homemade Peanut Butter Banana Treats

Is there anything better than the combination of bananas and peanut butter? No, there isn’t! My Chilly is obsessed with bananas and all three of us love peanut butter so these treats are totally going to be on our must-try list! Thank you Barking Storm for the recipe!

2. Homemade Energy bars

You Did What With Your Weiner is one of my favorite dog blogs out there and this recipe makes it even better! I have a mild obsession with energy bars and when I was in college I made them myself a lot! I haven’t made any in forever, but these are giving me some major cravings! Considering the fact I have two VERY high-energetic dogs, I might not want to share these with them! ;)

3. Peanut Butter and Apple Sauce Cookies

The rights for this yummy picture are with The Lazy Pitbull!

The rights for this yummy picture are with The Lazy Pitbull!

Bailey will love these, I can already tell! She is obsessed with apples and whenever I’m eating one I don’t have any personal space anymore. Visit The Lazy Pitbull if you want the recipe (and a lot of other super useful resources for dog moms!).

4. Frozen Berry Yoghurt Bites

If your pooch tolerates dairy, yoghurt bites are an amazing treat to share! Who doesn’t love frozen berries on a hot summer day?! My Bailey won’t be able to try these because she’s a bit sensitive to dairy but I’m pretty sure Chilly will be happy to eat them all himself! We’re so thankful to Five Sibes for the recipe!

5. Sweet Potato Fries

Confession #1: I eat french fries literally every week.

Confession #2: I’ve never tried sweet potatoes! They aren’t as popular here in Slovenia as they are in the US, so I’ve never had them before - and neither have my pups! Thankfully I do know where I can buy them and I think this recipe by Beagles & Bargains is a sign that my pups and I should try something new!

6. Doggie Cupcakes

This tasty picture belongs to Dog Mom Days!

This tasty picture belongs to Dog Mom Days!

Since I am gluten intolerant (boo!), only my puppies will get to enjoy these - and maybe the other family members! I’m not even an avid cupcake maker but this recipe by Dog Mom Days looks too delicious to ignore! When’s the next special occasion coming along? I might turn into a cupcake maker for a day!

7. Pumpkin Dog Treats

When fall rolls into town, pumpkins are the greatest hit! My dogs have never tried them (because the chickens get all the leftovers, haha) but Hiking with Hendrix has a super simple recipe for pumpkin dog treats and maybe once pumpkins are back in season (canned pumpkin puree is not a thing over here), I may surprise my dogs with them!

8. Veggie Bites

You have no idea how obsessed we are with vegetables. First, I’m vegetarian and I hate to sound like a stereotype but I do love vegetables more than life itself, haha! Second, my dogs are big on veggies too! Carrots, broccoli, beans, you name it! Pawbellish has an incredible recipe for veggie bites that only have three ingredients and you can bet we’ll be munching on them on the days momma’s feeling lazy!

9. Dog Ice Cream

That awkward moment when you’re writing about summer treats and almost forget about ice cream! Homemade banana ice cream is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast, but my “bad dog mom” confession is that I never share it with the dogs - mostly because they’re eating their own breakfast at the same time! Here’s a great recipe by Life With Mutts that you should definitely share with your dogs!  

10. Anti-Inflammatory Biscuits

This photo - and the handsome pooch - belongs to Proud Dog Mom!

This photo - and the handsome pooch - belongs to Proud Dog Mom!

If you have a dog with a very sensitive stomach (Bailey alert!), you know that introducing them to new foods and homemade treats can be a bit of a challenge. We always take it super slow. I love these simple biscuits from Proud Dog Mom because they truly only have anti-inflammatory ingredients - turmeric among them too! We’ll try these for sure and let you know how they worked out for us!

Which of these recipes is your favorite?! Let me know!

And huge thanks to all dog moms who were kind enough to share these recipes with us!

You rock!

Loved the recipes? Share them on Pinterest! 

 

 

A New Beginning

new-begininning

Hello my darling rescue dog moms,

I am so happy to be back amongst you. Some of you have known me from my previous blog and some of you may have just found me. Either way, I am so overjoyed that you are here.

Being a mom to a rescue dog (or more than one!) is a tough job sometimes. They often come to us with a story we don’t know much about - only that it wasn’t happy. They come to us with challenges, lessons and insights. But they also come with unconditional love. They come with cosmic understanding of our soul and we find ourselves wondering are we really the ones who rescued them or is it the other way around?

I want this blog to be a love letter to rescue dog motherhood. I will not shy away from the hard topics but you can bet that I will also celebrate the abundance of amazing moments that we share! This life is one of ups and downs and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I have migrated some of my favorite old posts from the previous blog because I felt that they still resonate with this blog’s message. 

1. An amazing guest post about early socialization, written by my friend Danielle

2. A very raw post about Bailey's co-dependency

3. A celebration of Bailey and mine's journey

4. A video of our last summer adventures. This one is so special to me because it has Lady in it. Lady left us a few months ago due to a tumor but I can promise you she will always have a place on this blog. ❤

I can’t wait to share our stories and journey with you and maybe get to be a part of yours, too.

With much love,

Luna C. Lupus

 

Guest Post: What Does “Socialization” Really Mean?

I teamed up with my friend (and fellow Border Collie owner!) Danielle Lindblom from The Adventure Dog Blog to bring you this amazing, information-packed blog post about socialization! I know this is a topic that interest a lot of you and I'm so happy Danielle can teach you about it! If you want to learn from her directly, make sure to check out her epic Adventure Puppy Club!

This blog post was written in its entirety by Danielle Lindblom and all of the photographs used belong to her! 

River-2.jpg

Bringing home a puppy? You’ll probably be inundated with messages about socialization and how critical it is for your new puppy. The internet will tell you, your vet will tell you, your dog trainer will tell you: you need to socialize your puppy…OR ELSE! It can be incredibly confusing, overwhelming, and there can be a lot of pressure on the new puppy parent. After all, you don’t want to ruin your new blank slate puppy, do you?

With all this pressure to socialize puppies, and a short window in which to do it, people can sometimes rush out into the world, with good in their hearts, and inadvertently create long-lasting behavior problems. Of course, the opposite is also true. Lack of socialization is almost certain to create life-long behavior issues that take years to resolve. It seems pretty dire; socialize, but do it RIGHT. I’m going to break this down for you and show you that it can be fun and easy to properly socialize your puppy. Take a deep breath!

Here’s what it comes down to: puppies need to have new or novel experiences during their critical period of development (8 – 12 weeks) and continued socialization until 16 weeks. Ideally, it doesn’t stop there, either.

Now, that does not read “puppies need to play with a ton of other dogs and meet 9000 new people,” which is often how “socialization” is interpreted. That’s where things can go horribly wrong. Nope, it simply means “new experiences.” Let’s get into more detail.

During their critical period (8 – 12 weeks), puppies’ brains are forming new connections as they navigate the world. They are learning survival instincts and what is a threat versus what is good. By having many different novel experiences, their brain will make many new connections. We need to ensure those experiences are positive so that the long-term associations with people, dogs, places, and things are also positive and we do not have a fearful dog later in life.

So, what SHOULD you do with your puppy during those first few weeks?

  • Go places! Go to a new place every day if you can. That could be the front yard, the back yard, the neighbor’s house, the street corner, the post office, a pet store, the vet’s office, upstairs, downstairs, the basement, downtown, to a park (NOT a dog park), anywhere you can think of that your puppy has not been to before. Ideally, make sure to include all of the places your puppy will need to visit for the duration of his life. I travel a lot, so I made sure to include a tent for camping, a hotel lobby, lots of car rides, and different family members’ houses in my puppy’s first few weeks with me.

 

  • Touch stuff! Have your puppy experience different surfaces. Walk on concrete, stairs, carpet, linoleum, wood, boardwalks, sidewalks, the roadway, rocks, gravel, sand, and anything else you can think of. Again, form strong positive associations with exploration. You want a confident puppy who isn’t afraid to go somewhere new and walk on a new surface. 

 

  • Meet dogs! Here’s where things can go horribly wrong. If you throw your puppy into a mob of other puppies, are you creating a positive learning experience for her? Probably not. If you carefully select a wonderful adult dog with great body language and manners, I can confidently say that dog will teach your puppy good things. Yes, your puppy should meet dogs of different sizes, coat types, and appearances to be well-rounded, but you do not need to “go say hi” to every dog you see or make it your goal to expose your puppy to 100 different dogs. A few different good dogs will make a long-lasting excellent impression on your puppy’s behavior. Always think about the lessons you want your puppy to learn and select a dog that will provide that. Have a rowdy puppy that needs to be taken down a notch or two? Pair him with an older, adult female. She won’t tolerate his nonsense and will correct him in a natural, effective way. Have a shy puppy that you’d like to have better confidence? Pair her with a mellow gentleman dog who will coax her to play and come out of her shell. 

 

  • Meet people! All different types of people wearing all different types of clothing. Also, people connected to bicycles, skateboards, or wheelchairs.  Again, make sure encounters are positive and, most importantly, give your puppy a choice on whether she wants to greet the person or not. Forcing your puppy to have interactions when she is unsure is a recipe for disaster. Go at your puppy’s pace.
Hopefully this “puppy primer” has helped youmake some plans on how to socialize your puppy. Have fun with it! Make every experience a fun one, and you’ll not only see a well-adjusted puppy, but you’ll also be forming an incredible bond with your new dog.

Adventure On!

Danielle Lindblom

Danielle is a blogger and dog trainer residing in Minnesota, USA. She and her two Border Collies – Mica and River – explore the great outdoors, travel, and seek adventure. You can find out more by visiting her website, Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram.

socialize-puppy

If you liked this post, please share it on your social channels and pin it to Pinterest!