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Oh my dog!

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Jen&Bug
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:47 am

Pardon the pun in the topic header....but we have a dog!

Lulu the retired racing greyhound joined our household on Saturday. She's the first dog I've ever owned, so I'm learning fast about bonding with a new kind of animal. We chose her from the adoption program because she's been well looked after in her previous life, and comes to us with a lovely, calm temperament and basic behaviours like house-training already in place. She loves to sleep - for most of the day, even when we're home! - and is surprising us so far by being almost no trouble at all.

Our two usual trouble-makers, Bug (IRN) and Rufus (sun conure), are at Bird Boarding for her first two weeks with us, to let her get settled in. This will also give me time to get to know her, and gain confidence handling her, before I let her near my precious birds. I'm still a little nervous about how the introduction is going to go, especially as Rufus has a tendency to attack any suspected rivals for my attention, and Bug is usually terrified of anything out of the ordinary. I expect there to be some squawking!

I know a few forum members have dogs (I think someone might even have a greyhound). Any tips about how to manage the relationship? So far I've just modified the apartment setup so they have more high perches to stay out of her way.

MissK
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by MissK » Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:37 am

Hi and Congratulations! Greyhounds are sometimes said to be the fastest couch potatoes on the planet. I love dogs even more than I love birds! (Don't tell the Rockstar....) You were wise to send the birds out while you and Lulu learn the ropes.

My first thought is that you have selected a sighthound with lifetime training of (theoretically) chasing a little fleeing object. My second thought is that a quick-moving, flying bird is likely to present a very tempting target. I'm concerned that the only worse choice you could have made would be to bring in a terrier. Be sure you understand how high the dog can stand on hind legs.

That said, if the bird in the house is not fleeing the dog, it probably won't trigger the chasing reflex. Just so you know, when the dog (especially a sighthound) sees a potential prey item (realistic or not) fleeing, the chemicals in the dog's brain compel it to chase. It is not completely a choice for the dog. The dog may behave differently inside than out, however. Dogs are highly trainable in general, so you can stack the deck in your favour. However, you do need to know Lulu is hard-wired to catch little animals that are speeding around.

My dogs have some terrier heritage. For this reason they are always, each and every time, either crated or shut behind the bedroom door whenever a bird comes out of the cage. Ditto when I remove the grate for cleaning, since I am pretty sure a bird can sneak thought that space. An easy way to let this happen is to to shut the dogs up with some Nylabones after their breakfast. Once they've had their post-prandial poop they mainly want to hang around chewing bones. I take advantage of that for bird time. My dogs are pretty laid back about the caged birds, generally only interested in their lunch leftovers. I credit the fact that they behave differently indoors than out (will ignore a cat inside but will chase it outside) and the that the bird cage is above eye level for them. They're a lot smaller than a greyhound. I just now remembered I moved the fish tank to the basement because they kept trying to catch the fish.......

I'm very excited for you about your new dog. If I seem overly cautious, it's because I want to make sure you understand you have a predator/prey situation going on there. It can work, and work well, but you have to have a plan and pay attention. Also see if you can read a copy of "What All Good Dogs Should Know". It's a very easy book, lots of cartoons and captions, and very clear, simple but also very respectable. http://www.amazon.com/What-Good-Dogs-Sh ... 0470146796 My copy is probably a decade older than the current edition, which I have not seen, but both are sure to be excellent.

-MissK
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Skyes_crew
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Skyes_crew » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:33 pm

Jen, I agree with MissK's assessment about sight hounds. Especially if she's a retired racer. That being said, there are some things you can do to desensitize the urge to chase. I have a pitbull terrier. They are well known for their hunting and chasing instincts. The first time she met a bird face to face was a dove in the yard. It didn't end well for the dove. She was only 4 months old and her instinctual drive was already over the top. I was petrified of her coming into contact with my birds. I would crate her when they were out. But I always felt guilty. My other two dogs would literally just lay there and let the birds land on them, preen them. But Kea was always crated. One day I decided I had to break this cycle and get her accustomed to the birds in the house. I took a feather (they sell large bird feathers used for hunting dogs at pet stores) and I started getting her accustomed to having the feather on and around her head and mouth. If she went to mouth it, I used the command drop. Over time I was able to lay the feather across her nose without her flinching or going after it. Second step you need a muzzle for. And it takes a lot of trust from the dog to you. I layed Kea on her side and gave the stay command. I placed Skye on her side since she was the least skittish of my birds. I stayed by Kea's head consistently giving the stay command. Third step, you need three people for. It's sort of like playing monkey in the middle. Have one person on the floor with the dog. One person on either side of the dog about 10 feet distance from each other. The person on the floor has the job of issuing the stay command while the other two fly the bird back and forth between them.

All of these steps take time and patience. Two weeks will not be enough. It's more like 4-6 months. You will have to do each step multiple times over and over. At the point where her muscles are no longer bunching in anticipation and she has an almost bored reaction to the steps, you can try the last step without the person in the middle, but with a muzzle in place and the dog on a long lead. Also remember that greyhounds can jump very high. So be on guard at all times while the training is going on. What you consider a high perch may be nothing to the dog in terms of jumping.

These are steps I took to help my dog. It worked for me and my situation. I am by no means a dog trainer or an expert and therefore please always be careful with anything you try. I would hate to see your bird hurt because of my advice. I was just giving you some reassurance that it is possible for them to live in harmony :D
I am owned by my birds...and I wouldn't have it any other way :D

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Jen&Bug
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:02 pm

Thanks guys, I knew I could rely on the forum for some good ideas.

MissK, I understand what you say about the greyhound prey drive - this is why greyhounds in Australia are required by law to be muzzled and on-lead in public at all times. Having said that, we sought advice about a suitable breed of dog before we got her, and our bird guru suggested that a greyhound might be a good choice because of their docile nature (no terriers :) ). Lulu is definitely docile - she hardly ever shifts off her favourite cushion except for walks! - so this gives me hope that she may be ok with the birds.

I've been watching her behaviour towards other animals during our walks. She's very keen to chase anything small and quick that runs along the ground, like the rats and possums in our local park, but generally shows little interest in birds. The only time she's got excited about a bird was when we walked past a big flock of resting seagulls, which I think she would have enjoyed scattering if she wasn't on the lead! Single birds seem ok though - she walked right by a magpie lark this morning, and when it hopped away she showed no interest in following it.

Skye, your ideas about acclimatisation are really helpful. We aren't using a crate for her - we tried but she hated it, and she moves so seldom off her cushion that it didn't seem worth forcing the issue. We do have her muzzle and lead though, so we can use those to limit her while the birds are out of the cage, at least until we know how interested she's likely to be. She's been around caged lorikeets in her previous home and was no trouble to them, so I'm much less worried about her while the birds are caged.

MissK, I'm resisting the temptation (so far) to take a side in the birds-or-dogs debate. I guess at the moment it feels like having a third child - you need to give them some extra love in the early stages, but you don't love your first two any less. :)

MissK
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by MissK » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:47 pm

I'm really glad to hear Lulu has bird experience! I'm really sad, though, to hear that after living her life for the sport of man, she has to go out in a muzzle. :cry: There are several Greyhounds in my neighborhood and I think they're quite lovely. We have a leash law, too, and I think it's more good than bad, with regards to the dog's safety. I really like SkyesCrew's desensitization program.

There's no need to pick a favourite between dogs and birds! I did, but that's 'cause I've known dogs for so much longer. :D

-MissK
-MissK

Jen&Bug
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:10 pm

The good news about the Australian muzzle law is that you can get an exemption if your dog has been through the 'green collar' training program. If they graduate, they get a special green collar which means they don't have to wear a muzzle. I booked Lulu in for the program the first day I got her, but unfortunately their first available space isn't till December!

I have mixed feelings about the 'green collar' program, because the adoption organisation that delivers it is funded by the greyhound racing industry. Although they do great work rehoming dogs, I feel it's like when McDonald's sponsors anti-obesity campaigns; seeking legitimacy by helping solve a problem that they're actually causing! Anyway, I'm not going to let my personal politics stand in the way of Lulu getting her green collar and a muzzle-free life :)

MissK
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by MissK » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:51 pm

I think it's the very least they could do!!

We have something called Canine Good Citizen.

-MissK
-MissK

Melika
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Melika » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:45 am

I remember when my mom came home saying her boss had just adopted a greyhound- "But don't they have CATS?!?" was my immediate response. Their son came home the next day to a massacre. What I still don't understand is families here have to go through a massive vetting process to get permission to adopt a greyhound though that organization and they didn't mention 'oh yeah this animal has been trained to chase anything that runs by and so has a honed hunting instinct, might want to take precautions"??? I still wonder to this day if they just saw his house (i.e. bank account, since he is a lawyer) and didn't bother making sure he knew to be careful with the kitties. Because my other friends who actually DID the research were denied the first two times for no reason and even after adopting one- who turned into a fantastic animal- were denied a second one. Pfft! I worked in rescue and those are some of the whackiest, bigoted, self-righteous people...

Ahem. At least the dogs were normal. All that aside, congrats on your new dog!

My favourite thing about greyhounds? The LEAN. How they walk up and just lean against you- it seems uncomfortable for them to sit, so they either stand or lay down. And you never have to bend down to pet them! :D

Back when I lived with my parents, my sis and I each had a IRN. I COMPLETELY trusted my dog at the time, Geronimo, with the birds. He knew if the animal was mine. He killed all kinds of birds and squirrels and critters but never went after my pets. Same with the other three dogs. The birds could steal their rawhides and would nibble the dog's toes to make them get up and run away. Geronimo would get annoyed and get up and push his nose into Hane's back a little and Hane would say 'aaaaack' and then leave him alone. They had an interesting relationship. But the IRNs loved to do fly-bys and divebomb Geronimo and every once in a while Geronimo would turn and open his mouth- you could see him catch himself. He was fighting instinct. He always stopped himself, but you could see it. He couldn't help his response. So that's where an animal that is otherwise trustworthy can be dangerous, because it only takes one catch from a tooth for a hasty bacterial infection to set in. And that's why the caution, because your dog happens to have a honed/trained instinct for it.

Not saying it can't work out, but a divebombing bird is hard to resist and will take training. Sky's method is basically part of the holy grail of dog training. I only want to add that you don't want the dog looking at the bird. When the dog is studiously avoiding even looking at the bird during these sessions, you're doing good. Next stage is what Skye is talking about, they get bored and just lay there.

Perhaps my method isn't the best, and was only specific to my dogs because I knew them well, but I basically let the birds bite all the dogs on the nose and they didn't go near the birds after that. I used to hold them and exercise the birdy wings and if any of the dogs reacted they got a hasty correction (just a 'no' and a snap of the fingers, but it was enough for them). When I got Amadeus and brought him upstairs for the first time to meet Hane, he lunged at the cage and I just plain tackled him before he got to the cage with a very deep bellow-ROAR and said NO! and for months he walked on the opposite side of the room from the cage. XD He never acted aggressively toward Hane again... They have a hate-respect-hate relationship. Hane glares and lunges at Amadeus and Amadeus gives him dirty looks but neither of them want to risk confrontation.
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I've been called 'birdbrained' before, but somehow I don't think this is what they meant. say:hah-nay

Jen&Bug
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:23 pm

Thanks Melika. I feel a little sick at the thought of a massacre - those poor cats! Here in Melbourne they test greyhounds before adoption with different kinds of animals, and adoption agencies make sure no dog is adopted to a home where there are animals it's likely to harm. With birds it's a little different, because the adoption agencies don't generally test for bird aggression, so Lulu's track record ignoring caged lorikeets was the closest I could get to a 'bird-friendly' dog.

Your advice about a zero-tolerance approach to interest in the birds is sensible. I don't believe that she will show much interest in them, unless they provoke her. Bug and Rufus are still in boarding, and our great Bird Boarding team have said they will try introducing my birds to their resident sighthound to see how they respond. Meanwhile, Lulu is becoming more and more confident in our home, and learning her boundaries. She gets a "no" if she even goes near the empty cage.

We still have a week to go before they come home - we're giving it lots of time, so we get a full understanding of Lulu's temperament. Keep your fingers crossed for us next Saturday!

MissK
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by MissK » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:35 pm

Jen, expect Lulu to "evolve" over a bit more time than two weeks. Not like I would expect her to turn into someone else, but depending on how fast she relaxes, there may be some changes.

Are you quite sure you want your birds loose with yet another strange dog? Please tell me their dog already has birds of his own.....

-MissK
-MissK

Jen&Bug
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Fri Aug 23, 2013 4:31 am

Thanks MissK - we do have a long period of learning ahead I know. I'm still finding out about the birds after five years!

The Bird Boarding team are very professional and wouldn't do anything to endanger our birds. They have a large window in the bird playroom, so we thought they could start just by having our boys see their dog through the window, and hopefully for that to become normal for them. I know it's not going make the difference to their relationship with Lulu, but it just might put the idea of 'big dog' in their mind as a non-threatening thing. Given that they've never seen a big dog before, it's worth a try.

sanjays mummi
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by sanjays mummi » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:08 am

Here in the UK the muzzling law is in place for retired greyhounds, yet all the ones I have met haven't the slightest inclination to chase birds , it is mainly small mammals like bunnies etc. I know they make fabulous pets, minimal grooming, a couple of short walks a day, (they are sprinters, and don't require much), the actress Annette Crosbie has retired racing Greyhounds, and says it is like taking the Queen Mary for a walk. (the ship). If your birds are fully flighted, hopefully they will be able to stay out of harms way. Years ago I knew a lady with Dobermans, and she would Never leave them alone in a room with cats.

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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by birdynamnam » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:05 pm

Hi Jen & Bug, I have a Bull Arab (if you are not familiar, they are big pig hunting dogs), Mojo is 38Kgs, and 18 months old. When Mojo was almost a year old we got an IRN, handfed, cute little fellow we call Birdley and guess what.... By treating both like part of our pack with respect and outmost care, we had no problems at all, I cant even remember any issues that we had. I am not in the least worried, Birdley is often on the floor, investigating Mojo's claws and tail (he is particularly fond of Mojos eye lashes!!). I leave the room with the dog in the house and Birdley out of his cage, never had a problem at all. Both of them are absolute pigs when we eat and are squabbling for scraps. I am sure all dogs (and birds) have different temperament and toleranses, however, I would never have thought such a big dog (that is bred to hunt down big, nasty wild pigs) could be so gentle with a little bird. By the way, Birdley does not take any nonsense from Mojo either, I think they both knows who is boss. Good luck! all the best. Irene

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Skyes_crew
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Skyes_crew » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:55 pm

Even dogs that are used to having birds around can unexpectedly turn on a bird. Supervision is extremely important. I must stress that. Just my two cents.
I am owned by my birds...and I wouldn't have it any other way :D

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Jen&Bug
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Thu Aug 29, 2013 1:40 am

Thanks everyone, I'm appreciating the balance of optimism and caution coming through in the comments :)

We'll definitely keep everyone well supervised when the birds are out of the cage. When we're at work, we're thinking of closing off the birds in the study, until we ascertain whether Lulu's likely to be interested in the cage.

The Bird Boarding team have kindly let Bug and Rufus spend some supervised time with their dog, and came back with a positive report about how well they adjusted. It's only a little thing - how Lulu reacts to them is more important of course - but I'm sufficiently nervous that any small cause for hope is welcome.

We delayed collecting the birds for another week - last weekend was too busy to manage introductions and to be honest I was too nervous - but I think we're now ready to take the leap and bring them home. I miss the little so-and-sos like crazy - nobody has chewed my t-shirt, stolen my breakfast or chattered at the dishwasher for three whole weeks now!

Jen&Bug
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Jen&Bug » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:59 am

In case anyone was wondering how the dog saga played out...

The birds arrived home yesterday morning. Since then, both parties (birds and dog) have shown almost zero interest in one another. I've kept Lulu tethered on her dog bed when the birds have been out of the cage, and she has just dozed off as usual. She looked in their direction once or twice, and got a firm "no", so now seems to be avoiding even looking at them.

The birds have been doing their usual birdy things and seem completely unbothered by her presence. Rufus has scrambled down my arm to have a closer look at her, but was easily distracted by a head scratch before he got too close. If she walks past their cage, they watch her, but they don't do anything to indicate distress.

This is all very good news and I'm extremely proud of how well my little flock/pack ("flack"?) is adjusting. I still need to be vigilant though - Bug scared the living daylights out of me this afternoon by deciding to land on Lulu while she was snoozing! Lulu looked at him in surprise but made no movement towards him, and by then I had already shooed him away. She really is a beautiful natured girl.

I'll stop posting on this topic now, unless there are further moments in the bird/dog saga that are worth sharing. Thanks everyone for your advice, some of the tips came in very handy.

MissK
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by MissK » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:38 am

It's "Flackily".

"Flackooly", if you also have fish.........

Utra glad this is working out so well for you, Jen!
-MissK

Melika
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Melika » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:43 am

Thanks for the update. Congrats on your first step to joining Hoarder's Non-Anonymous. :)
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I've been called 'birdbrained' before, but somehow I don't think this is what they meant. say:hah-nay

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Skyes_crew
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Skyes_crew » Sun Sep 01, 2013 12:26 pm

MissK wrote:It's "Flackily".

"Flackooly", if you also have fish.........

Utra glad this is working out so well for you, Jen!

How the heck did you come up with flackily lol.

That is wonderful news Jen. Seems like you have a winning combination :D
I am owned by my birds...and I wouldn't have it any other way :D

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Skyes_crew
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Skyes_crew » Sun Sep 01, 2013 12:27 pm

Melika wrote:Thanks for the update. Congrats on your first step to joining Hoarder's Non-Anonymous. :)
Is this our support club? Because if it is, we are enabling each other :lol:
I am owned by my birds...and I wouldn't have it any other way :D

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MissK
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by MissK » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:56 pm

FLock + pACK + famILY, Of Course!

Or, FLock + pACK + schOOl + famiLY, again, for those with fish. Herp keepers are on their own!

I don't feel like an enabler. A Budgie Pusher, maybe, but not an enabler........

BTW, I think I need a support group - my silly dog seems to have eaten a bar of soap. Something for Jen to look forward to!
-MissK

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Skyes_crew
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by Skyes_crew » Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:04 pm

I'd say flush her out with water lol but then she'll be making bubbles :D
I am owned by my birds...and I wouldn't have it any other way :D

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ellieelectrons
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Re: Oh my dog!

Post by ellieelectrons » Sun Sep 01, 2013 10:02 pm

Hi Jen

Well done! So glad all went well. Would love to hear your updates. We may get a dog one day, so it would be nice to keep hearing how it's going with your flack.

Ellie.

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