Friday, February 28, 2014

Mixing it up!

Who do you think would win a fight between a 70 + pound Great Dane mix and a 30 pound Terrier mix?  Most people would bet on the Great Dane, but it’s hardly a sure bet.  Why?  Well, I can give you at least three reasons why.

One: it’s not size that matters, its temperament.  Great Danes are known as Gentle Giants. They are usually sweet, friendly, steady, and sensitive.  They are not usually aggressive, although they may be protective.  Their great size tends to frighten people, but for the most part they behave more like massive lapdogs than guard dogs.  Certainly they are not aggressive towards other dogs, especially smaller dogs.

Terriers, on the other hand, can appear to be as aggressive as hell.  Usually all they’re really interested in is playing, which to a Terrier means chasing and being chased.  Terriers were bred to chase.  They were bred to chase vermin, and they were bred to kill vermin.  Terriers also have one of the highest energy levels of any breed of dog, so when they chase, they really chase hard.  Much larger breeds can find this behavior as intimidating (and as frightening) as hell.

Two: you may have noticed that I spoke of a Great Dane mix and a Terrier mix. Even with the DNA test, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what breeds are in the mix.  Knowing about dog breeds is very important when making up the ideal mix of dogs for playgroup, or when choosing walk buddies, but it’s not enough. You really have to know and observe the individual dogs, because temperaments vary so very much when you’re talking about mixed breeds.  By the way, 90% of the dogs I see are mixed breeds. Most are rescues, which brings us to the third reason that it’s nearly impossible to guess who wins in a fight between a Great Dane and a Terrier.

Three:  A dog’s temperament has as much to do with nurture as nature. Ideally, dogs are socialized to play with other dogs from puppyhood, but that’s rarely the case when you’re talking about rescue dogs.  While you should NOT make the mistake of assuming that all rescue dogs have been abused, you can pretty much bet that they were not perfectly trained since puppyhood.  Dogs that were not socialized as puppies and adolescents are usually lacking in dog-to-dog communication skills.  They may not recognize that certain behaviors and facial expressions are telling them to back off. They may not really understand where play and real aggression begins.

In this photo, Socrates is playing but Gracie is really afraid.  Eventually she’ll go belly up, and Socrates will win this play fight. Does this mean that Gracie and Socrates should not be allowed to play with each other? No, it really doesn’t.  It does mean that when they are playing together they should be carefully watched, and they should be separated (temporarily) when Gracie is really stressed.  For the most part, however, Gracie has a ball playing with Socrates.  And since Gracie’s mom is one of my best friends, these two will continue to play!

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Dog's Life

This is Socrates.  A fitting name for a brilliant dog. Socrates was about 10 months old in this photo, and he had been with us almost two weeks.  I have a thing for terriers, although this one broke the mold.  But as you can see, Socrates wasn't too happy then.  A huge yard and tons of toys were no fun.  He was only animated outside when squirrels or a chipmunk happened along.  Then he bounded up the hill like a rabbit, attempting to climb trees trying to catch one.  But all too often, Socrates was BORED.  Humans, from a terrier's point of view, are pretty poor playmates.  But on this day, something magical happened . . . 

 Gorgeous Gracie came to visit!  Like Socrates, she was a rescue dog from the southern states, and Socrates immediately fell head over feels in love!  Well, not really.  But he was head over heels in happiness to have another DOG to play with.  

 The truth is that Gracie may not have been quite as intoxicated by Socrates as he was by her.  Her facial expression speaks volumes about her first impression of him. Socrates body language and stance reveal where he's coming from - he wants to RUN and PLAY and she had better get with the program!  And of course, as a genteel Southern Belle, Gracie soon graciously obliged her host by racing and chasing around the yard like she was born to to be wild.   

And then . . . more joy!  A puppy, too!  Murphy is another rescue from down south, but at four months, he was hardly a gentleman.  But then, neither was Socrates! These two play like they are going to kill each other - to this day.  But they ARE playing, even if it sounds like Godzilla gone wild!

Any normal human would be horrified at this display of viciousness, except dog people.  Rather, except for dog people who have socialized pups.  These two are play-fighting.  As bad as it looks when you snap a photo, in reality no one gets bitten, and not a drop of blood is ever shed.  

Murphy and Sox liked to play "share the stick" (or maybe steal the stick) from the very first.  Gracie plays as well.  They chase each other around and around and up and down to win possession of that stick.

Here they are six months later, still grappling for control of a damned stick!  
Now, I said this post was going to be about exercise, and instead I wrote about the joy of dogs playing.  Why?  Because the very best exercise you can provide your dog is playing with other dogs - and I like dogs to be joyful!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Running The Trails

"Off-leash walking, running, hiking or bicycling in a large, safe fenced property or park or in a forest are ideal activities. Your dog can set her own pace, sniff and investigate to her heart’s content, stop when she’s tired and burst into running whenever she likes."

The above quote from the ASPCA does a pretty good job of summarizing the benefits of Frisky Fido's philosophy on exercising your dog.  In addition to our fenced-in Play Groups (see the previous post, "Frisky Fido"), we go for a Trail Walk every afternoon.  Usually, I'm the only one who is walking on a Trail Walk - the dogs are running at about 90 miles an hour, or bouncing off into the woods after deer or rabbits. Mostly the dogs are running, running, running - and running at top speed is the best exercise a dog can get. Take at look at Socrates face in the photo above; what you are seeing is pure, unadulterated joy!

Here it is again!  If I could, I would make sure that every dog in America experienced the joy and exuberance of running free and loving every minute of it every day.  Of course, I can't make that happen.  The truth is that many, if not most, dogs never experience such exquisite happiness, and even those that do rarely have the opportunity.  It just isn't possible in today's world of working families and over-scheduled lives.  It's a lucky dog that even gets to enjoy a sedate walk around the block every day, and even that can be difficult to manage for some.  There are many dogs that aren't suited for running loose, of course, even in a safe area away from cars and streets.   A dog must have a really strong recall (meaning they come when their name is called no matter what) to enjoy the benefits of running for joy.  (That is another benefit of Frisky Fido's Play Groups, by the way; I always work in a little recall training in the hope that some day my client dogs will be able to enjoy a leash-free trail walk!)

Hiring a dog walker is one option for dog owners, and a good dog walker is worth their weight in gold!  Consumer must be careful that they find a good dog walker to reap any real benefits for their dogs, however.  I've seen far too many dog walkers that have large packs of dogs like the one above - and believe me, it's not a pretty picture in real life!  The big or energetic dogs are gasping as they try to pull ahead, the small dogs are being dragged along, and God help the dog that needs to stop and pee!  I want to cry when I see ten or twelve dogs of all ages and sizes tangled together, most of them wide-eyed with stress.  A GOOD dog walker doesn't walk more than four or five dogs at a time, if that.  She chooses dogs that have roughly equivalent needs for exercise, and dogs that move at roughly the same rate of speed.  What is really sad about choosing the wrong dog walker is that you usually pay the same price as you would for a really outstanding dog walker - sometimes more.  The good news is that I've seen plenty of great dog walkers, too!

In the next post I'll talk more about the benefits of exercise for dogs. Some of these benefits will probably surprise you, but I can personally attest to the truth of every word!  See you soon!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Frisky Fido

Cover photo from

Frisky Fido Framingham

Here in Framingham, Massachusetts, dog owners are lucky to have access to the Dog Park and miles of trails at Callahan State Park.  But it is a rare dog owner who is home all day and able to give their dogs the exercise and socialization they need on a daily basis.  Most dogs need at least an hour of running at full speed or bounding through the snow in order to be healthy and happy.  Different breeds have different needs, of course (my two feisty terriers need two or more hours of vigorous exercise every day to expend their pent up energy!), but an hour a day is about right for the average dog. A walk around the block doesn't cut it, and sitting outside in the yard doesn't come close.
That's why I started Frisky Fido, so that a few more dogs will get to enjoy the pure joy of running and playing hard, even when their owners are at work all day. We offer off-leash play and socialization for small groups of pre-screened dogs in a variety of safe and well supervised outdoor locations.  The benefits for the dogs are too numerous to count, but include unprecedented fun, freedom, and enhanced physical fitness! 
This is my dog, Socrates, and his friend, Jackson, having a blast during a Play Date.  Play Dates are one feature that distinguishes Frisky Fido from your average Dog Walker or "Doggie Daycare".  A Play Date is a small group of compatible dogs who can race and chase to their hearts content in a safe and well supervised fenced-in area.

You couldn't find a better location for dogs to run around until they've exhausted all their energy. We are adjacent to the aqueduct, so there are plenty of trees, and the small hill you see on the left is actually the bottom of a steep drumlin that a human would find hard to climb but dogs simply love. They run up and down the slope after squirrels or chipmunks that burrow underground (if they dare!).

Play Groups are a great introduction to off leash, dog-on-dog socialization.  They are also a perfect solution for dogs that haven't quite learned to come when called.  If a dog has been on a leash all her life because she bolts (I had one of those once!), a Frisky Fido Play Group would be pure heaven! 

Big dogs and small ones are all good candidates for a Frisky Fido Play Group.  Transportation is included, as well as Frisbee, fetch, and football!  If you're in the area and you need your dog exercised, you really can't beat Frisky Fido.  Check us out at  You'll be glad you did - and your dog will be ecstatic!