Some dogs are born to be in the water, and will jump in and swim at their first chance. Other dogs can be taught to swim. Some never learn. If you’re going to be near water, it’s important to find out if your dog can swim. You need to train them so if they fall in, they will not panic and they will know how to safely get out of the water.
I taught my dog, Kompis, to swim when she was younger. She doesn’t like to swim, but she gets by. On a trip to the British Virgin Islands, there was a pool on one the properties where we stayed. Since I knew the importance of teaching a dog to swim, I had to make sure that, if Kompis fell in, she would be able to swim AND get out of the pool by herself. So, I did a couple practice runs – and she did wonderfully!
Watch Kompis swimming & getting out of pool in Tortola, BVI
However, when I’m on a small boat or in water with currents, I always make my dog wear their life preserver to be safe. Below is a picture of the type of vest I got for Kompis for our adventures. I like that it has a handle on the top so I can quickly grab her if needed to pull her to safety. Investing in a vest like this (pun intended) could save your dog’s life, so it’s well worth it!
Using a dog life jacket is a MUST if you’re going on a boat or near deep water.
Final tip… make sure your go at your dog’s pace when teaching a dog to swim! They might be a little nervous, but they should not be panicked or scared. That will just backfire and make them more fearful of the water. Instead, train in small increments and in very shallow water at first. Once you see your dog is relaxing into it, THEN you can venture into deeper & deeper water.
The vet told me Musik Ulbrich would have to constantly wear this “cone of shame” for at least 2 weeks after surgery.
I took it off the second we entered our home, and never put it back on (until I took the pic above).
First, if you are around your dog, you can keep them from licking, etc., so just do your job and give their necks a break! The thought of my dog trying to walk around – in pain and drugged up – and bumping into things on top of it (further hurting herself!) was too unpleasant. She was suffering enough.
If your dog has a bandage, simply purchase bandages that taste bad (yep, they’re available at pet stores and online, and they work!). You can also use other taste deterrents such as Bitter Apple. Note that these only work when moist with the product. But it will help teach then that it tastes bad, so they learn to just leave it alone.
You can also spray the surrounding area of a hot spot or wound. I cover the area with my fingers/hand and spray so it gets wet around the area, but none of the Bitter Apple, etc. gets on the actual wound. Then again, they lick/taste, you say “nope” and then discover it tastes awful (and they should listen to you!).
Be prepared for your dog to feel scared and more needy when they are ill or recuperating. But they also may need some space.
Pay attention to what your dog is telling you.
If they put their head on your lap, give them pets and reassurance. But if they go into another room to lie in their bed, leave them alone! They may not feel well and do not want to be touched. Or they might be extra tired and want to sleep peacefully without your interruption.
But… HERE’S ONE OF THE ODDEST THINGS I’VE SEEN!
Something I witnessed a couple years ago with Kompis as she grew blind and senile, and then I recently experienced again with Musik Ulbrich when she was first recuperating from her dog attack injuries, was very odd!
One of the ways their neediness manifested itself was when I was trying to fall asleep. They tended to become very restless when they saw that I was basically “checking out”, so they moved around and fussed and maybe even tried to get my attention (lick me, stand on me, want to get up and walk around, etc.). Then, once I finally was wide awake, they’d fall fast asleep.
I saw this over and over with Kompis and thought maybe it was unique due to her rare combo of issues. But then I saw it with Musik as well.
It obviously makes it really, really hard to take care of them when you are already emotionally exhausted, and now you’re not able to get any sleep. So I tried to modify my life so I could at least rest a bit when they are sleeping during the day. I might not get an actual nap, but I can at least lie down next to them and get some deep breaths in. But, if you need to work during the day, this can become unbearable.
In addition to them wanting to ensure you are there for them, I believe this behavior also occurs because they could not carry on their role as guard dog, and want to ensure you are taking over for the household.
Obviously having someone to tag team with would be helpful, so your dog always feels like someone is “on watch”, and can let one of you sleep while the other ensures all is well. But if you’re alone, be prepared for some exhausting work if your dog takes part in this behavior. 😴
Always remember that your dog will try to fake you out and seem to be healthier and in less pain than they actually are.
You have to keep this in mind when they start trying to do things on their own that you have been ordered by your veterinarian to not allow. You have to go with your gut to some extent, but you also have to follow instructions, because a dog’s instinct is to push it.
Even people often push their recovery too fast, and we know better, so of course dogs are going to do the same! But they also have a genetic make up that encourages them not to act injured so that they do not look weak and become prey.
Make sure you are helping to set the pace for their recovery, and using tools to keep them calm so they don’t try to jump or run. If your dog is not perfectly trained, then you might have to even have a leash on in the house and/or use a crate sometimes.
This is a video clip of when I was just starting to help Musik begin walking again a few days after her attack.
EXTRA TIP – Notice that I put yoga mats on the floor so she wouldn’t slip. The doctor recommended no slippery surfaces, which makes sense, since falling could really hurt her and she was on pain meds which made her woozy and have unsure footing. She also had an injured shoulder and was limping at the vets, so we wanted to protect that particular injury as well. This is also a great technique for older dogs. (I actually had all the mats from my previous senior dog.)
EXTRA EXTRA TIP – Introduce things like steps and walks in small increments. For instance, I first let her just go up the last couple of steps, then 4 or 5 steps, before letting her go up the whole staircase by herself. This builds their stamina as well as their confidence and ensures less chance for (re-)injury.
Just as with humans, good food makes dogs stronger and healthier, and helps them heal faster. This is not the time for junk food! Make sure your pup is getting lots of fresh, healthy food and treats.
Here, Musik Ulbrich is patiently waiting for a bowl of steamed broccoli. 😊🥦(A patient patient!)
EXTRA TIP – If your dog doesn’t like eating their veggies, try using a finely crumbled treat over them to “spice” it up (freeze dried liver is great for this – there are always crumbs at the bottom of the bag). It has to go on like salt & pepper – no chunks that they can pick out!
If your dog has some scratches or wounds, or if they’ve been shaved from surgery, or both, this is a really helpful tip that I just learned.
Instead of using a harsh cleansing agent or hydrogen peroxide (which was recommended to me by the ER vet, and I refused to do, and it ends up drying the skin anyway), you can simply use green tea soaked in a washcloth. Just lay it on your dog’s skin at a nice warm temperature.
NOTE – Make sure it’s not too hot!! Check it on your skin first.
Always check with your vet first to make sure it’s OK. For instance… My first inclination was to try coconut oil on her skin, and the vet said that it would absorb into her skin and wounds and drag in bacteria with it, so it was very unsafe. 😳
Musik Ulbrich has been taking her little soaks pretty well. They seem to make her feel less itchy afterwards. And I think she likes when the washcloth is on her, and I give her a little soft rubbing motions to keep things moving on her back.
EXTRA TIP – If your dog is upset or resistant to this treatment, you can feed them treats or give them a favorite chew toy while you do it. Not only will it distract them at first, but it will train them to enjoy it because they’ll associate it with cookies. So it’s a win-win!
As promised, here is the first of our series of tips for helping your dog through recovery at home.
We’d like some good to come out of this tragedy, so while Musik Ulbrich & I are working together to help her heal from her brutal dog mauling, we’ll share some of our tips with our FB fans as we can. Hopefully, you won’t need these tips, but they will great to have if you do!
We’ll start off with an easy one…
ADMINISTERING LIQUID MEDICATION
MEASUREMENT – We really liked AIMSS‘s idea to put a sticker on the syringes with the exact dose. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re exhausted and stressed – and especially if you have several meds to administer – this makes it simple to know and see how much to pull each time. If your vet doesn’t do this (we’ve never seen this before in the 50 or so vets we’ve used over the years!), then you can do it yourself with a small piece of electrical or duct tape. You’ll be really happy you did!
ADMINISTERING – A trick for making it easier for your dog to swallow is to put the end of the syringe in the back corner of their mouth. This way, it’s sure to get in since it’s way back there, BUT it doesn’t cause choking (and spitting out!) because it goes off off the back of the mouth into the throat, instead of trying for a straight shot down the middle, which almost always causes dogs to choke and/or spit up the meds.
AFTERWARDS – If your dog is allowed to eat, then ALWAYS immediately reward afterwards to say “thanks” and help train them to know there’s something good at the end. I usually show Musik her reward up front, which also helps focus her on that, and not on the task at hand. I can even easily put a pill in the back her throat the same way when she knows she’s about to get an amazing treat reward. PLUS, the treat helps wash down the meds, further insuring it will go where it needs to.
SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK and its emotional and physical aftermath.
And… What is the responsibility of Dog Rescue organizations and new dog adopters?
For those of you who have not heard, my beloved Musik was brutally attacked at the dog park on Saturday. The picture above shows only half of her wounds, and one of the 2 drains that were inserted. All the dark, non-pink skin is solid bruising.
It was an ON leash dog park, but people who adopted a huge husky mix two days earlier decided to let it off leash at this park. It trotted across a huge open field to come over to me and my dog – I thought to say hello. Musik was casually sniffing in the grass, and I was standing just a couple feet away. (The owners were calling the dog, but it was ignoring them. I see that often enough to not make that a major concern). The other dog didn’t make an intense beeline like dogs who want to act aggressively do. Instead, looking back, I realize that it was hunting. She was walking slowly and casually so that she could sneak up on her prey.
Once the dog got up to Musik, she leaned over attacked, and grabbed her by her back, picked her up, and immediately began violently shaking her. The dog shook and shook my poor little Musik while she flew back and forth through the air screaming helplessly. (Which is now the only thing I see over & over when I close my eyes). I finally dove on the dog and wrestled it to the ground and tried to pry its mouth open while yelling for its owners. The owners eventually got there and helped to get their dog removed from my dog.
My dog then ran away out of sheer panic and adrenaline. I chased her down and eventually found her almost all the way back to our house. Another very dangerous situation.
I then rushed her to the ER where she underwent surgery and had to stay overnight. She received multiple severe lacerations, has two drains in her body and is covered with stitches as well. Even on two types of painkillers, she is in such intense pain that I can barely lift her up and, if I do it incorrectly, she screams in pain. It is heartbreaking.
But she’s alive.
But where is the Husky mix? We didn’t know. The new adopted owners immediately returned her to the rescue’s shelter after the incident. The rescue did not return any one’s emails (including 3 of mine) or attempts to reach them. And, even though they were told about the incident, they have not reached out to try to contact me. They don’t even have a phone number listed on their website or Facebook page! (Note: Don’t adopt from an agency that doesn’t have a phone number). So we are now suspecting they are just going to adopt the dog out to another unsuspecting couple, and this time the next victim might not make it out alive.
Up to now, I have not named this rescue publicly, but I’m going to name them now: Family Dog Rescue . They have had their chance to respond to us privately, but they are forcing our hand now.
Hopefully FDR will do the right thing and keep this dog from hurting any other dogs in the future. It is a violent, intentional killer, and should not be someone’s pet.
UPDATE: FDR rescue contacted me – to legally threaten me and tell me to take down my social media posts that spoke of the attack. They supposedly have the dog at their shelter and we have to go to Vicious and Dangerous Dog Court, for which I have to prep documents and then relive the experience again just to assure the dog does not get adopted out to another unsuspecting person. If they do not euthanize the dog, it will have to wear a muzzle in public for the rest of its life. But, instead of just doing the right thing, FDR is forcing the issue and requiring the court date. (Several previous FDR employees have reached out to share support and horror stories.)
And now my innocent puppy and I are left with the emotional and physical scars that we will undoubtedly carry the rest of our lives. I am in fact considering ending my career at this point. As I take time off to nurse Musik back to health, I will be reconsidering my ability to serve this community in the future.
But, knowing that (and having directly worked with) many others who’ve had to go through similar situations (of varying degrees of injury and harm, to the point of death), I’ve decided that I’m going to try to chronicle our recovery together as best I can so people will have somewhere to turn to learn and get some tips and not feel so alone.
I also hope, for anyone who has a dog, especially a large dog, and especially a newly adopted dog, who does not have perfect recall, and who you are not 100% sure that they are gentle and unaggressive with other dogs, that you understand that your dog should never ever ever ever EVER be off leash – unless it’s in a private enclosure with no other dogs.
A note to my clients: I am having to shut down my business for a few weeks to take care of Musik.
First, she requires 24 x 7 care since she can barely move or walk, is in so much pain that she often screams when touched or picked up -even while on a bed – and she will be on severe motion restrictions for at least two weeks. Also, I obviously cannot welcome dogs into my home when I have a dog here who was recently traumatized by a vicious attack. Until Musik is emotionally and physically healed, my commitment is to her, and not to my work. I hope you all understand. But if you don’t, you are welcome to stop working with me as your behaviorist. Otherwise, I am willing to do phone consultations in the meantime to give advice and keep programs moving along. And I promise to have face-to-face meetings again as soon as possible.