Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Resolutions for Dog Owners

With the arrival of a new year inevitably comes a variety of new year's "resolutions." We vow to better ourselves through losing weight, quitting smoking, stop procrastinating, and so on. But how may we improve ourselves as pet owners? What new year's resolutions should dog owners consider? Here are 13 suggestions for your consideration.

Vow to provide your dog with the highest quality nutrition possible. This means researching the ingredients in dog food and often, thinking outside the grocery store kibble aisle. The Whole Dog Journal is a fantastic publication which publishes annual dog food reviews. WDJ offers unbiased reviews as a publication which subsists entirely on subscription revenue - they do not accept advertisements from manufacturers.

Make it a point to ensure your dog's health through providing adequate and appropriate exercise.

Be realistic about your dog's weight. It's scary how few people recognize weight problems in dogs and equally scary when people think their pet's obesity is funny or a joke. Obesity shortens longevity, both in dogs and people. If you can't feel your dog's ribs easily, he is too fat. Ask your vet for guidance in regulating his weight and achieving healthy body condition.

Train your dog. Training is not a luxury, it is necessary Not only will appropriate training make living with your dog more enjoyable for you, it will make life more enjoyable for your dog by providing him with the mental stimulation all dogs need and crave.

Play with your dog. Play can take many forms - training, tug, fetch, food dispensing toys, nosework games and exercises, off leash adventures in safe environments, etc.

Keep your dog well-groomed and maintained. Mats in the fur, parasitic infestations, rotten teeth, overgrown toenails, embedded collars, yeasty ears, oozing or itchy eyes, hot spots, etc. are all unsightly and worse, uncomfortable for dogs. Routine care and maintenance can significantly improve your dog's quality of life.

Make it easy for your dog to succeed. If your dog loves chewing on shoes, do not allow him unsupervised access to shoes. If your dog eliminates in the house, provide him with plenty of opportunities to eliminate outside by giving him frequent breaks. If your dog bites strange children, don't bring him to your daughter's soccer game.

Vow not to get mad at your dog for your management failures. If your dog loves chewing toilet paper and you leave the bathroom door open, it's your fault, not his, that the toilet paper is now strewn throughout your house in 7,986,235 pieces. Simply clean up the mess and next time, close the bathroom door!

Be appreciative of how wonderful your dog is. One of the biggest elements of successful training is looking for desirable behaviors and reinforcing them with something your dog likes and appreciates - a treat, a butt scratch, a game of tug, the opportunity to go for a walk. Never miss an opportunity to thank your dog for good behavior.

Make time for your dog. This may mean rearranging your schedule. It may mean going out in the cold or rainy weather to give your dog a walk. It may mean skipping Wednesday night book club so that you can enroll in the agility class you wanted to take. It may mean spending less time on Facebook and more time playing, training, and exercising with your dog.

Be a responsible dog owner - keep identification tags on your dog, renew your dog's annual license, make the annual veterinary appointment, clean up after your dog, respect leash laws, etc.

Keep learning and improving as a pet owner. What does your dog love? What stresses him out? How does he communicate his emotions through body language? Understanding your dog will enable you to be a better friend to him, this year and every year.

Help a less fortunate dog at least once this year. Remember that not all dogs are as lucky as yours. Not all dogs have regular meals, veterinary care, someone who loves them and will play with them, a home to call their own. There are many ways you can help less fortunate dogs - by making donations (either goods - beds, leashes, collars, food, toys, etc. or cash) to a local shelter or rescue, volunteering at a local shelter or rescue, organize fundraisers, help take pictures of adoptable pets for petfinder listings, apply to become a foster parent, etc.

Thanks to for this wonderful article!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Care for Canines

General Concerns

Winter's cold air brings many concerns for responsible dog owners. Keep the following precautions in mind:
•Don't leave your dog outside in the cold for long periods of time. Wind chill makes days colder than actual temperature readings. Be attentive to your dog's body temperature, and limit its time outdoors.
•Adequate shelter is a necessity. Keep your dog warm, dry and away from drafts. Tiles and uncarpeted areas may become extremely cold, so make sure to place blankets and pads on floors in these areas.
•Be extra careful when walking or playing with your dog near frozen lakes, rivers or ponds. Your dog could slip or jump in and get seriously injured.
•Groom your dog regularly. Your dog needs a well-groomed coat to keep properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs may get extra cold, so consider a sweater or coat. Long-haired dogs should have excess hair around the toes and foot pads trimmed to ease snow removal and cleaning. If you do the trimming, take care not to cut the pads or other delicate area of the foot.
•Feed your dog additional calories if it spends a lot of time outdoors or is a working animal. It takes more energy in the winter to keep body temperature regulated, so additional calories are necessary.
•Towel or blow-dry your dog if it gets wet from rain or snow. It is important to dry and clean its paws, too. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. A little petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.
•Don't leave your dog alone in a car. If the car engine is left on, the carbon monoxide will endanger your dog's life. If the engine is off, the temperature in the car will get too cold.

Health Tips

Dogs cannot talk to us when they are sick. As a responsible dog owner, it is important to pay special attention to your dog's well-being during the winter season. Remember the following health concerns:
•Antifreeze, which often collects on driveways and roadways, is highly poisonous. Although it smells and tastes good to your dog, it can be lethal.
•Rock salt, used to melt ice on sidewalks, may irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your dog's feet after a walk.
•Provide plenty of fresh water. Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer. Snow is not a satisfactory substitute for water.
•Frostbite is your dog's winter hazard. To prevent frostbite on its ears, tail and feet, don't leave your dog outdoors for too long.
•Be very careful of supplemental heat sources. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn your dog. Make sure all fireplaces have screens, and keep portable heaters out of reach.
•Like people, dogs seem to be more susceptible to illness in the winter. Take your dog to a veterinarian if you see any suspicious symptoms.
•Don't use over-the-counter medications on your dog without consulting a veterinarian.

Holiday Safeguards

The winter season brings lots of fun holiday festivities, but pet-owners should keep in mind the following special precautions:
•The holidays are not ideal for introducing a pet into your family. New puppies and dogs require extra attention and a stable environment, which the holiday season doesn't permit. Also, a puppy is not a toy or gift that can be returned. Instead, the AKC suggests giving a gift representative of the dog to come, such as a toy, a leash, or a bed.
•Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia plants are pet poisons! Make sure they are kept in places your dog cannot reach.
•Review holiday gifts for dogs to make sure they are safe. Items such as plastic toys and small rawhide sticks may be dangerous.
•Remove holiday lights from lower branches of your tree. They may get very hot and burn dogs.
•Watch out for electrical cords. Pets often try to chew them and may get badly shocked or electrocuted. Place wires out of reach.
•Avoid using glass ornaments. They break easily and may cut a dog's feet and mouth.
•Refrain from using edible ornaments. Your dog may knock the tree over in an attempt to eat them. Also, commercial ornaments may contain paint or toxins in the preservatives.
•Whether your tree is live or artificial, both kinds of needles are sharp and indigestible. Don't leave your dog unattended in the room with the tree.
•Tinsel is dangerous for dogs. It may obstruct circulation and, if swallowed, block the intestines.
•Alcohol and chocolate are toxic for dogs, even in small amounts. Keep unhealthy, sweet treats and seasonal goodies out of reach.
•The holiday season is a stressful time for dogs. Try to keep a normal schedule during all the excitement.

Thanks to The AKC for this wonderful article!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

10 things your Vet wants you to know

It can be difficult to stay on top of what's best for your own health and well-being, so knowing what's good for your pet may seem a little confusing.

Keep your feline friends and canine companions healthy and happy by following these 10 pet care tips the pros want you to know.

1. Regular Exams are Vital

Just like you, your pet can get heart problems, develop arthritis, or have a toothache. The best way to prevent such problems or catch them early is to see your veterinarian every year.

Regular exams are "the single most important way to keep pets healthy," says Kara M. Burns, MS, Med, LVT, president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians.

Annual vet visits should touch on nutrition and weight control, says Oregon veterinarian Marla J. McGeorge, DVM, as well as cover recommended vaccinations, parasite control, dental exam, and health screenings.

2.Spay and Neuter Your Pets

Eight million to 10 million pets end up in U.S. shelters every year. Some are lost, some have been abandoned, and some are homeless.

Here's an easy way to avoid adding to that number -- spay and neuter your cats and dogs. It's a procedure that can be performed as early as six to eight weeks of age.

Spaying and neutering doesn't just cut down on the number of unwanted pets; it has other substantial benefits for your pet. Studies show it also lowers the risk of certain cancers, Burns tells WebMD, and reduces a pet's risk of getting lost by decreasing the tendency to roam.

3. Prevent Parasites

Fleas are the most common external parasite that can plague pets, and they can lead to irritated skin, hair loss, hot spots, and infection. Fleas can also introduce other parasites into your cat or dog. All it takes is for your pet to swallow one flea, and it can to end up with tapeworms, the most common internal parasite affecting dogs and cats.

Year-round prevention is key, says McGeorge, who suggests regular flea and intestinal parasite control, as well as heartworm prevention in endemic areas.

Because some parasite medications made for dogs can be fatal to cats, talk to your vet about keeping your precious pets worm-free, flea-free -- and safe.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Many dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. And just like people, obesity in pets comes with health risks that include diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.

Overfeeding is the leading cause of obesity, says Douglas, who adds that keeping our pets trim can add years to their lives.

Because pets need far fewer calories than most of us think -- as little as 185-370 a day for a small, inactive dog; just 240-350 calories daily for a 10-pound cat -- talk to your vet, who can make feeding suggestions based on your pet's age, weight, and lifestyle.

5. Get Regular Vaccinations

For optimal health, pets need regular vaccinations against common ills, such as rabies, distemper, feline leukemia, and canine hepatitis.

How often your dog or cat needs to be immunized depends on their age, lifestyle, health, and risks, says McGeorge, so talk to your vet about the vaccinations that make sense for your pet.

6. Provide an Enriched Environment

An enriched environment is another key to the long-term health and welfare of your canine and feline friends, says C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, a veterinary nutritionist and professor at Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center in Columbus.

Pets need mental stimulation, say the pros, which may mean daily walks for your pooch, and scratching posts, window perches, and toys for your cat. It means play time with you, which not only keeps your pet's muscles toned and boredom at bay, it also strengthens your bond with your four-footed companions.

7. ID Microchip Your Pet

Lack of identification means as few as 14% of pets ever find their way home after getting lost. Fortunately, "microchipping allows for the pet to be reunited with its family," no matter how far away it is when found, Burns says.

About the size of a rice grain, a microchip is inserted under the skin in less than a second. It needs no battery and can be scanned by a vet or an animal control officer in seconds.

Be sure to register the chip ID with the chip's maker. A current registration is the vital last step in making certain your pet can always find his way home.

8. Pets Need Dental Care, Too

Just like you, your pet can suffer from gum disease, tooth loss, and tooth pain. And just like you, regular brushing and oral cleanings help keep your pet's teeth strong and healthy.

"Dental disease is one of the most common preventable illnesses in pets," Ohio veterinarian Vanessa Douglas tells WebMD, "yet many people never even look in their pet's mouths."

It's estimated 80% of dogs and 70% cats show signs of dental disease by age three, leading to abscesses, loose teeth, and chronic pain. In addition to regular dental cleanings by your vet, "periodontal disease can be avoided by proper dental care by owners," Douglas says. Owner care includes brushing, oral rinses, and dental treats. Your vet is a good source of information about brushing techniques, oral rinses, and dental treats.

9. Never Give Pets People Medication

Medicines made for humans can kill your pet, says Georgia veterinarian Jean Sonnenfield, DVM. As a matter of fact, in 2010 the ASPCA listed human drugs in the top 10 pet toxins.

NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are the most common pet poisoning culprits, but antidepressants, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and acetaminophen are just a few of the human drugs that pose health risks to pets. Human drugs can cause kidney damage, seizures, and cardiac arrest in a dog or cat.

If you suspect your pet has consumed your medication -- or anything toxic -- call the 24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Also be sure to immediately check with your vet, and if it is during evening or weekend hours when your regular veterinary clinic may be closed, check for a local 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic and take your pet there for an examination. Many metropolitan areas have these clinics.

10. Proper Restraint in a Vehicle

You buckle up for safety when you're in the car, shouldn't your pet? Unrestrained pets in a car are a distraction to the driver, and can put driver and pet at risk for serious injury, "or worse," says veterinarian Douglas. To keep pets safe in transit:

Never allow pets to travel in the front seat, where they're at risk of severe injury or death if the airbag deploys.

Don't let dogs ride with their head out the window or untethered in the back of a truck bed. Both practices put them at risk of being thrown from the vehicle in the event of an accident.

To keep pets safe, confine cats to carriers, suggests Douglas, then secure the carrier with a seatbelt. For dogs, there's the option of a special harness attached to a seat belt, or a well-secured kennel.

Thanks to Pet Web MD for thsi wnoderful article!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Super Easy Peanut Butter Dog Treat Recipe

Here’s one of those easy peanut butter dog treat recipes. And they can be made in a pinch since all 5 of these ingredients are ones that are usually on hand.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (smooth only, please)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oatmeal


Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees and lightly greasing a baking or pizza pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder and oatmeal. Once that’s mixed, add the peanut butter and milk. Stir it together until a dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead it and then roll it out until it’s about a 1/4″ thick. Break out your cute bone-shaped cookie cutters or a pizza cutter and cut the dough into the desired size and shape.

Bake those on the lightly greased baking pan and cook for about 20 minutes or until they’re golden brown.

Once cool, let your favorite pup enjoy before storing them in an airtight jar (or resealable freezer bag).

Thanks to DogTreatRecipes.Org for this awesome recipe!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Costumes and Dogs

Pet owners love dressing up their dogs for Halloween. Only problem is, dogs don't always love wearing costumes. But there are some tricks you can use for those pets that don't think it's a treat to wear hats, boots, masks and coats for their owners' amusement.

If a dog is used to wearing clothes, costumes may not be a problem, said veterinarian Terry Marie Curtis, a clinical behaviorist for the Department of Small Animal Clinical Services at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (

Dogs accustomed to wearing snug items designed to calm anxiety — like Thundershirts, Anxiety Wraps or Storm Defender Capes — should be able to adjust to other types of clothing, she said.

But every pet is different. "Many dogs hate things on their feet," she said. "This is true because it can alter how they perceive where they're walking."

Some dogs are used to booties, though, either because they live where the ground gets very hot or cold, or they are carried most of the time. "The smaller pocket pups are more likely to have 'dress up' in their experience because that's what mom has done since puppyhood," Curtis said.

For fussy dogs (and cats), try a starter costume consisting mostly of accessories, advised Reyna Jew, who buys dog and cat apparel, shampoo, travel products and carriers for PetSmart (

Try angel, fairy or bat wings, a pirate or witch hat. If that's still too much, there are bows that clip in the pet's hair, necklaces and decorative collars or bandannas made of Halloween-themed fabric.

Target offers 29 costume styles for dogs, including five rider styles (a stuffed character rides on the back of the pet) designed for larger dogs and 10 partial costumes for the pet that won't tolerate a full costume, said Kristy Welker of Target Communications in Minneapolis. Pet costumes are available online ( and in many of the stores.

Options include items that attach to collars, like flowers and even Saint Bernard-style rescue barrels, said Welker. These won't upset animals who don't like wearing clothes, but they'll look like costumes to human eyes.

Target also carries three styles of T-shirts and three styles of pajamas, including prisoners and skeletons.

Costumes that cover a pet's head or include eyeglasses or masks may be a challenge. You'll have to see what your dog will tolerate, but don't be surprised if a mask or hat is repeatedly shaken or pawed off.

The most popular costume at PetSmart is the bumblebee, followed by the pumpkin and dragon, Jew said. Bat wings, hot dogs and a sheriff are Target's best-sellers. Pajamas are popular because they are comfortable, Welker said. At, a raptor, bee and a dog-riding cowboy top the list.

Few places sell full costumes just for cats but dog accessories will work. PetSmart also has 12 collars and scarves designed for and modeled by cats online.

Some pet owners want to dress like their pets or want to dress their children and pets alike. It's easy to mix and match many pet costumes with people costumes from other stores, Jew said. For example, there are Superman and Batman dog costumes. An owner can easily get a Lois Lane or Robin costume, she said.

Target offers hot dog and banana costumes for both adults and pets, Welker said.

Pet costumes are made to go on easy, Jew said, and usually fasten with Velcro.

The best-selling size costume is medium, which usually fits a 30- to 40-pound dog. "The toy breeds are second up," Jew said.

One trend that's driving demand for pet costumes is the surging number of dress-up events for pets being staged by neighborhoods, cities, shelters, rescues, magazines, websites, pet stores, charitable organizations and other groups, including photo contests, pet parades and businesses inviting pets in costume to drop by, Jew said.

Keep pets safe

As the holiday approaches, pet owners should keep a few things in mind. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns that costumes should not limit an animal's "movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe, bark, eat, drink or eliminate. And watch for choking hazards."

And, the ASPCA says, remember that chocolate is toxic for dogs, while the aluminum foil and cellophane in candy wrappers can cause serious problems for cats and dogs.

Dr. Justine Lee, associate director of veterinary services for the national Pet Poison Helpline in Minneapolis, said during Halloween week last year, calls about dogs that ingested chocolate increased by 209 percent over a typical week

All the activity and oddly dressed people coming and going may scare your pet, Curtis said. "I've worked with many dogs who are deathly afraid of cameras and the flash, so if their owners are doing a lot of picture taking around this time, then that could contribute to the overall fear, too," she said.

The ASPCA also suggests keeping pets away from doors when greeting trick-or-treaters and recommends against candles to light up pumpkins.

For more tips, see

Thanks to The Seattle Times for this article!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Salmon Poisoning

The salmon are running in the streams again, and while this is a very amazing (and unique) event, it can be deadly for our furry little friends...

From King 5 News

A favorite Northwest seafood could be deadly to your dog .

SEATTLE - Daisy is eager to investigate the sounds and smells of the park. Just glancing at her, you wouldn't know Daisy's still recovering, but if you look closer, the signs of her struggle to live are visible.

"How loose she is, she lost a lot of weight,” said Amy Greger. “She did not eat at all for a week, very little water.”

There were multiple trips to the vet.

"They did ultrasound, x-ray, trying to figure out what it was, still nothing conclusive," said Amy.

Until a specialist asked one key question: Had Daisy eaten any fish?

"It was like three, three-and-a-half weeks before symptoms showed up. We had salmon for dinner,” said Wiktor Greger.

"I had a little piece of raw salmon on the plate and I thought oh, I'll just give it to her. She wolfed it down, was all happy and everything was fine."

The Gregers had never heard of salmon poisoning.

"Have quite a few friends who fish and no one knew anything,” said Wiktor.

Dr. Cherie Guidry of Helping Hands Vet Clinic says most people don't know not to feed dogs raw fish.

"If left untreated, 90 percent of the cases are fatal, the dogs will die within 2-3 weeks,” she said.

After weeks of antibiotics and de-worming treatments, it’s safe to say you won't find salmon in the Greger's kitchen, but you will find their survivor.

If your dog gets a hold of raw salmon get to the vet. And remember, sometimes the symptoms take weeks to show up and there are other dangerous fish.

There's a video if you want to watch!
King 5 Video

And some information from WSU

Salmon Poisoning Disease

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Fishing can be wonderful recreation, but sharing the catch with your dog can be an act of kindness that kills.
Salmon Poisoning Disease is a potentially fatal condition seen in dogs that eat certain types of raw fish. Salmon (salmonid fish) and other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed) can be infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. Overall, the parasite is relatively harmless. The danger occurs when the parasite itself is infected with a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning.

“Salmon poisoning occurs most commonly west of the Cascade mountain range,” says Dr. Bill Foreyt, a veterinary parasitologist at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He adds, “Canids (dogs) are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning. That’s why cats, raccoons and bears eat raw fish regularly with out consequence.”

Generally clinical signs appear within six days of a dog eating an infected fish.

Common symptoms of salmon poisoning include:

■lack of appetite
■swollen lymph nodes

If untreated, death usually occurs within fourteen days of eating the infected fish. Ninety percent of dogs showing symptoms die if they are not treated.

Thankfully, salmon poisoning is treatable if it’s caught in time. A key to its diagnosis is telling your veterinarian that your dog ate raw fish. If you have a dog that wanders, or raids trashcans and you are unsure of what it’s eaten; consider the possibility of salmon poisoning. Salmon poisoning can be diagnosed with a fecal sample or a needle sample of a swollen lymph node. Detecting the parasite’s eggs as they are shed in the feces confirms its presence. The rickettsial organism can be detected in a needle sample from a swollen lymph node. The combination of symptoms, and the presence of parasite eggs or the rickettsial organisms, are enough to justify treatment.

Given the severity of the condition, treatment is relatively simple. Your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic and a “wormer”. The antibiotic kills the rickettsial organisms that cause the illness, and the wormer kills the parasite. If the dog is dehydrated, intravenous fluid are given. Once treatment has been started, most dogs show dramatic improvement within two days.

Next time you are fishing or purchase raw salmon and you hear the familiar begging whine of your dog, ignore it. They may not understand it, but not sharing the fish is the best thing for them. This will save them from suffering salmon poisoning, and save you from a veterinary bill.

This Pet Health Topic was written by Sarah Hoggan, Washington State University, Class of 2001.
WSU Website

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dog Barking 101

Let’s face it – dogs bark. Some do for good reason and some do for apparently little or no reason and some do a little of both. Of course there are also certain breeds that are more prone to yapping than others. The problem is not always the barking but the need for them to be quiet at certain times or when asked.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. They may be giving a warning to another animal, sounding an alarm, playing or instigating play, joining in the excitement of the moment, demanding a reaction (even using it as a command), doing it on command, out of fear and the need to drive another animal or object away, and sometimes they bark just for the sake of barking. On occasion it can be a combination of any of these. With puppies it can be insecurity after leaving the pack.

We don’t necessarily want our dogs to stop barking though, especially when it is an alarm alerting us to danger, or perhaps warding off an intruder. But we do want them to stop when we ask them to, and we don’t want them to bark if there is no reason. Some will bark at the slightest noise, disturbance or movement. Often, although barking could be in the breed’s instinct, the owner has unknowingly reinforced the behavior. If we shout at the dog that is barking he may think we are joining in. If we tell him gently to be quiet or give him affection, he may mistakenly think we like it and sees this calm voice as praise for barking.

With all of these different forms of barking there are a variety of approaches we can take to ensure the barking is for the right reason and can be stopped when the reason is no longer there. Much of this will come from the confidence the owner shows to his dog in being able to handle different situations. To gain this confidence the owner has to get to know his dog and the situations that create the barking. With this understanding, an owner can demonstrate calm, confident leadership and take control in the right way. The dog responds because he can trust the leader has taken charge. From the very beginning of our dog/owner partnership, we should be building a foundation that allows such trust and confidence. Remember that a dog’s barking is one way he communicates to us, so we do not wish to stop it but we do wish to control it as required. Learning to read your dog’s signals and means of communicating is incredibly important to your overall relationship.

To stop barking we can do a variety of actions. One way is through closing his mouth. If you have a dog that will bark and ‘sport’ at people or other animals a head halter, such as a Gentle Leader that enables you to close his mouth and guide him into an acceptable behavior is a big advantage. Introduce the halter so your dog accepts it willingly and, when an unwanted bark happens, lift the leash so the dog’s mouth closes and he is guided into a sit. Now move again and change your direction creating attention to you as you move elsewhere. So, we stop the bark, we gain attention and we redirect to an acceptable behavior in one simple step. Another way to keep the mouth closed is to encourage your dog to bring a “present” to a guest or someone in your home, or to simply to encourage him to enjoy carrying objects. Dogs that enjoy retrieving will often pick up a toy and carry it around just to show their pleasure. Naturally they cannot bark when they are holding a toy. But be careful not to give the toy when barking is in progress or they could mistake the toy as a reward for barking.

Another approach that can work is to teach your dog to bark on command, or “speak,” and then command him to be quiet. If you use treats or even verbal praise – do wait a few seconds after he has finished barking before rewarding him. What you don’t want him to think is that he is being rewarded for barking when really he is being rewarded for being quiet. To get him to bark initially you can have someone ring your doorbell or you can encourage him to bark by “barking” yourself. Have him on a leash during the exercise so that you can distract and stop the barking with a light pop of the leash. To make the response even better teach your dog that he can bark at the doorbell but then must be quiet and go to a place near the door where he can watch who is at the door and allow them to come in. This can give a very effective security touch to a home. Dog barks, owners says “Quiet,” and he stops barking, showing he is under control. When the door is opened he is sat watching and waiting for anything that could be a threat. One word - “Speak” - has him barking again. So by teaching the commands – “Speak,” “Quiet,” and “Place,” – you have a dog that is both under control, yet ready to give a warning or even threaten if required.

With some dogs it does require an interrupter or distraction to take their mind off of the stimulus to bark. In other words, there has to be something that breaks the concentration on the barking. In some cases the intensity is too high for a verbal command to cut through the behavior. The interrupter in that case may be another noise, such as using a tool that emits a high frequency sound when the dog barks. This is not a pleasant sound to the dog and interrupts his barking. A beanbag, a piece of chain and even a can with pebbles or coins in it, can provide the interruption too. It works like this – the dog barks and this loud object lands on the floor in front of him. You act as though it came from “Heaven.” Now he thinks every time he barks for no reason or if he continues unnecessarily, something falls from the sky.

Barking does not always require a big interrupter, however. You can use everyday objects. If your dog barks near to you, slam the cupboard door or a drawer, so the noise distracts or startles him. Make nothing of this, and carry on as normal. This can work especially well when a dog barks simply to be let out of a crate. You don’t want to scare the dog, just quickly alter his state of mind and change the focus. He should not see you launch the object or make the noise. He has to think that the unwanted barking creates the occurrence. Practice this while you are watching TV, working in the kitchen or whatever you’re doing – the dog should not relate it to you but to the nuisance barking. An important part of this is that if you do drop or throw an object it should not hit the dog, but land at his feet. You should also leave it there for a while so he does not relate it to you. Remember though that you have to be able to understand and translate the different barks. One of his barks may be – I need to go to the bathroom. So learn to understand the tone of the bark or noise he makes.

Of course another less preferable way is to ignore the barking and wait for it to go away. In a crate or enclosed area this may work (particularly with a puppy who is learning to settle) but if the dog is outside or in a large area then the barking itself can be self-rewarding. In many instances there are multiple stimuli occurring which will encourage the barking. In my opinion, dogs should never be left outside unsupervised or unaccompanied. Go out with your dog and do not allow him to run the fence, race down the hedgerow chasing the cars, or barking at the person walking by. Show your control and confidence in handling these situations and be the leader of your pack. Have him on a leash or a long line so that you can reinforce your commands and maintain control without shouting or becoming agitated.

A puppy barking in his crate may stop if covered with a cloth sheet so he is not stimulated to bark by what he sees. With a cover over it, the crate also feels more like a den and hence more secure. Some pups will be quiet if allowed to sleep in their crate next to the owners’ bed, or with a belonging that smells of the owner or their siblings. When your pup is in the crate do get to know the sounds he makes and unless it is an emergency for the bathroom do not go and open the crate or let the pup out when he is barking. If you do he will learn to bark demanding to be let out and in this way tell you what to do. Sometimes a squirt bottle of water can be used to direct a spray at a pup that barks in the crate but I have seen dogs that enjoy this too and make a game out of it. Plus, it can make quite a mess.

And finally there are bark collars that automatically set off an interruptor when the dog wearing it barks. Some emit a noise, some a blast of air or citronella and some use an electric stimulation between two points on the collar that limit the feeling to that area. They can all work. My experience has been that the electronic one is the most successful and most important only the dog wearing it feels the interrupter. The citronella spray collar and the noise collar can be triggered if other dogs close by are barking. With any form of bark collar, however, I would recommend you seek expert advice before using one.

I mentioned the importance of your relationship and confidence not only in your own ability to handle situations but also your dog’s confidence in you. This comes through exercise, training, spending time together, setting limits and boundaries and showing appreciation for behaviors that are pleasing. Controlled walks, games such as retrieving, and learning to be patient by simply sitting or laying down by your side or relaxing in his crate will create a companion that sees no need to bark without a good reason. In this way you build a foundation of trust and confidence that lets your dog know when he can and should bark and also when he can be quiet.

Thanks to Cesar Milan for this article!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Dog

Just like you, your dog can get cavities, plaque, tartar and gum disease. The bacteria in your dog’s mouth that can cause these conditions can also spread to other organs such as your dog’s kidneys or heart. Unfortunately, chew toys, bones, and kibble are not sufficient teeth cleaners to prevent the development of dental disease. Brushing your dog’s teeth, ideally once a day but at a minimum three times a week, is the only way to keep his teeth healthy and help promote your dog’s overall wellness.

Before starting your dog on a tooth-care regime, you first need to make sure that your dog’s teeth are not already covered with tartar. Once tartar has accumulated on your dog’s teeth, brushing alone will not remove it. In addition, brushing tartar-covered teeth can irritate your dog’s gums and teeth which are already likely sensitive and sore from the tartar. If your dog has tartar (yellow, brown or grey material on the teeth) or you suspect he has another dental or gum disease – signs include receding or swollen gums, broken teeth, or strongly odorous breath – make an appointment with your vet before you begin brushing his teeth. Among other treatments, your veterinarian might recommend a professional teeth cleaning and check-up for dental disease. Because a thorough cleaning can be a bit painful, this procedure is almost always done under anesthesia.

The Right Tools
Before you begin, you will need the proper tools: a toothbrush and dog toothpaste. They make toothbrushes for dogs – even electric ones – but you can just buy a regular toothbrush as long as it soft-bristled. Toothbrush head size depends on the size of your dog’s teeth. Also available are little caps that fit over your index finger and have soft bristles on one side so that your finger becomes the brush. For toothpaste, you should use dog toothpaste. Never ever use human toothpaste on your dog. Human toothpaste is not meant to be ingested, but dog toothpaste is safe for your dog to ingest in small quantities as will often happen when you brush your dog's teeth.

Preparing Your Dog
Now that you have your toothbrush and toothpaste, it is time to get your dog comfortable with the idea of tooth brushing. You will be most likely to keep up with teeth cleaning if it is a reasonably pleasant experience for you and your dog. So, take some time – a few days or a few weeks – to make your dog comfortable with the process.

First, get you dog used to the idea of having his teeth touched. Gently run your finger over his gums and praise him lavishly when you are done. After your dog has grown accustomed to this, start using the toothbrush without any toothpaste. Let your dog sniff the toothbrush and then gently put it in his mouth. You don’t need to brush at this point, but run the toothbrush lightly over his teeth. Your dog might try to chew the brush when it is in his mouth, and that’s fine. Again, keep the experience friendly and low key, and praise your dog often. After several times, your dog will be used to the idea of this “strange” object in his mouth. Next, put a tiny amount of toothpaste on your finger and let your dog lick it. Since most dog toothpastes are designed to be palatable to dogs, your dog most likely will enjoy this.

Brushing The Teeth
Now you ready to put it all together and brush your dog’s teeth. Begin at the back and work forward using a soft circular motion rather than a back and forth motion. Concentrate on the teeth themselves and the gumline. Although dogs have 42 teeth, it's the upper canines – the “fangs” – and the premolars – the back teeth - that accumulate the most tartar, so pay special attention to these areas.

Thanks to Dogged Health for this article!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Skin Diseases in Dogs


- Staphylococci (‘Staph bacteria’) are the most common organisms found in bacterial skin diseases (pyoderma's) in dogs. Fortunately, these bacteria (S. intermedius) are not contagious to humans or other pets.

- Commonly itchy, yellow pustules are often observed early in the disease, and the dog’s skin can be reddened and ulcerated. Dry, crusted areas appear as the condition advances, along with loss of hair in the affected areas (lesions) and an odour.

All areas of a dog’s body may be involved, but most cases are confined to the trunk. The chin is one area commonly affected. Called chin acne, this condition is actually a deep bacterial infection. Obese dogs and dogs of the pug-nosed breeds are frequently affected by pyoderma in the skin folds on their face, lips and vulva.

Other areas where pyoderma may occur include between the toes and on the calluses of the elbows that mostly affects the abdominal area in young puppies.

- This is usually made from the case history and appearance and location of the lesions. In some cases, it may be necessary to culture the skin (grow the bacteria) and conduct sensitivity tests to determine which antibiotic will be effective in treatment. Most bacterial skin infections in dogs are secondary to another disease such as parasitism, allergies, endocrine (hormonal) disorders or abnormalities in the immune system. Therefore, in recurrent cases, it is important to search for underlying causes. It may be necessary to do blood tests, allergy tests or skin biopsies to achieve a complete diagnosis.

- Initial treatments may entail removal of the hair in and around the lesions, washing of the whole dog with antibiotic shampoos such as benzoyl peroxide, careful drying and the application of an antibiotic ointment to local lesions, in most cases, antibiotics will also be administered orally for 3-4 weeks. Bandages or a protective collar which prevents the dog from mutilating the lesions may be applied.
Some pyoderma involving skin folds can require corrective surgery. In recurrent cases where testing reveals no definable underlying cause, special staphylococcal vaccines as an alternative to long-term antibiotic treatment can be tried.

It may be necessary to continue treatments such as antiseptic shampooing, antibiotic ointment applications and giving antibiotics orally at home. While most cases respond to treatment, recurrences of pyoderma are common, particularly if treatment recommendations and follow-up visits to your veterinarian are neglected. Glucocorticoid steroids cannot be administered.

Fungal Skin Infections (Ringworm)

- The fungal skin infections of dogs are caused primarily be two species of fungi: Microsporum and Trichophyton. The skin diseases resulting from these fungi are commonly called ‘ringworm.’

- Ringworm is seen most commonly in young dogs. The fungi live in dead skin tissues, hairs and nails. Hair loss, usually in circular patches, may appear. If infected, the center of the patches may have a dry, crusty appearance. The head and legs are most commonly affected by ringworm, although the disease may spread over other parts of the dog’s body if not treated. Dogs may scratch the lesions.

- The appearance of the lesions, the history of their development and the age of the dog are all helpful in diagnosing ringworm. A Wood’s Lamp Test (ultraviolet light) can be used to help diagnose the Microsporum species only. A definite diagnosis can be obtained through a fungal culture -- grow the fungi found on the affected hairs.

- The hair around the lesions is clipped, and special fungicidal shampoos or rinses are used for bathing the dog. Topical lime sulfur and mandatory systemics should be administered.

Public Health Aspects of Ringworm - Ringworm is contagious to humans, particularly to children and to other household pets. Infected dogs should be kept away from children and other dogs and cats until the infection is cures -- which can be as long as 2-3 months or more after the treatment begins. Adults should be careful to wash their hands thoroughly after handling an infected dog. If treated early, ringworm is readily controlled in humans. Other household pets should also be examined for ringworm.

Allergic Skin Diseases

Allergies in dogs are common. Signs such as itchy skin, nasal and eye discharges and sneezing, and/or digestive upsets and/or skin lesions may indicate an allergy is present. Many skin diseases seen in dogs are caused by an allergy.

- An allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction to allergy-causing substances known as ‘allergens’ or ‘antigens.’ Dogs (like people) can develop allergies at any age, and the signs can appear quite suddenly.
The most common allergy dogs develop is the flea saliva. The presence of a single flea on these allergic dogs causes intense itching. These allergies are seasonal in climate zones where fleas are eliminated by the cold in winter months -- and a year-round problem in warmer climates.

Atopy (atopic dermatitis, allergic inhalant dermatitis) is a pruritic (itchy) skin disease dogs develop in response to inhaled particles such as house dust, molds and pollens. This common form of allergy usually starts at a relatively young age. Rarely, dogs can be allergic to chemicals contained in soaps, waxes, carpets and flea collars. This type of hypersensitivity is known as a ‘contact allergy.’ Also, some dogs are allergic to insect bites and stings. Food allergies usually case diarrhea and/or skin lesions.

- Itching is the primary sign of allergic skin diseases in dogs. The affected skin may appear normal, or red and moist in patches called ‘hot spots.’ Pus and dried crusts are apparent if a bacterial infection is also present. The dog tends to constantly scratch and lick affected areas. Initially, flea allergies are most evident over the dog’s back and near the tail. A dog’s face, feet, chest, and abdomen are more often affected by pollen and dust-type allergies. Contact allergies are seen mostly on the hairless areas of the abdomen and on the bottoms of the feet.

- The dog’s case history helps with the diagnosis. The intense itching and location of the lesions are also helpful in diagnosing the type of allergy present. Response to treatment (flea control) is often used as a method of diagnosis of flea allergy. Trials of special hypoallergenic diets are used to diagnose food allergy. Allergy testing is used to help choose immunotherapy. Blood tests are also available to diagnose allergies, but their use is more controversial. Ask your veterinarian for his or her current recommendations.

- Allergies can be controlled in most cases, with few ‘cured.’ Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be used by your veterinarian to give your dog relief from the intense itching. In most cases this will stop the self-mutilation. The owner will be instructed to give corticosteroid tablets in decreasing dosages for a few months. Corticosteroids are potent drugs and should not be used carelessly or for long periods of time. The main objective in controlling flea allergies in dogs is to kill the fleas on the dog and in the dog’s environment.
Another approach to allergy control is hyposensitization (immunotherapy). In this procedure, a correct diagnosis by intradermal or blood testing is necessary. The dog is then given injections of small but increasing doses of the allergy-causing substance at varying intervals for up to 12 months. Lifelong response may take up to 12 months.

Parasitic Skin Diseases

- Fleas are the most common parasitic skin disease found in dogs. Mange is another type of skin disease which is caused by mites. There are two severe types of mange: sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange.

- Ear mites, lice, and ticks are other parasites that affect dogs. Their presence irritates the dog, leading to self-mutilation.

- Sarcoptic mange causes intense itching, loss of hair and crusting of the skin. A dog’s ears, front legs, chest and abdomen are most often affected by sarcoptic mange.

- Demodectic mange can cause itching. The skin is reddened and scaly, and hair loss occurs in round patches resembling ‘ringworm.’ The face and front legs are most commonly affected, although some cases may be generalized. Generalized demodectic mange is often a sign of underlying internal disease or a hereditary problem.

- Ear mites cause severe irritation in the ears. Often, an affected dog will scratch the hair off the back of its ears. Ticks, lice and fleas may transmit other diseases, in addition to causing irritation.

- Mange is often suspected on the basis of the case history and the appearance and location of the lesions. A skin scraping test is always performed to aid in identifying parasites. Ear mites, which are barely visible to the naked eye, appear as small white objects. The black debris commonly seen in the ears of dogs with ear mites is a combination of dried blood, normal ear wax and discharges from inflammation. Lice, fleas and ticks can also be seen by close examination of the dog’s skin.

- Mange is treated by clipping the affected areas and washing them with an antiseptic. Antimite dips are often necessary and may be used weekly or biweekly for several months. Shampoos can be sued before each dip. The dog’s eyes should be protected with mineral oil or eye ointment and the ears plugged with cotton before dipping. Most cases of mange respond well to this treatment. Antibiotics can be administered in cases of mange where infection may be present.

Ear mites can be readily treated Initially, your veterinarian may recommend a thorough cleaning of the dog’s ears while the animal is sedated. This treatment can be followed up with home treatments using special solutions or ointments to kill the mites and prevent infections in addition, insecticidal dips, sprays, powders or shampoos are often used.

Lice, ticks and fleas must be killed on the dog and in the dog’s environment with insecticides. Dips, shampoos, flea collars, sprays, powders, foams and foggers containing insecticides are available from your veterinarian to help control these parasites.

Hormonal Skin Diseases

Skin diseases caused by hormonal abnormalities in dogs are difficult to diagnose. The thyroid gland, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, testicles and ovaries all produce hormones. If excessive (‘hyper’) or deficient (‘hypo’), these hormones produce changes in the skin and hair coat. Most hormonal problems that affect the skin produce hair loss that is evenly distributed on each side of the dog’s body. The skin may be thicker or thinner than normal, and there may be changes in the color of the skin or hair coat. These diseases usually are not itchy.

When any of the hormone-producing glands malfunction, they affect other body functions besides the skin. Hormonal skin diseases in dogs can be much more serious than a ‘skin problem.’

Some causes of hormonal skin disease, such as hypothyroidism and adrenal gland problems, can be diagnosed by special blood tests and effectively treated. Others may be more difficult to diagnose and treat. Skin changes related to the sex hormones can be successfully treated with surgical neutering, if this has not been performed previously.

Condition : Atopy (Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis)
Description : Allergic reaction by the animal to something it inhales such as pollen, house dust mites and mould
Symptoms : Licking of feet, inflamed ears, itching, redness, sometimes development of infection or hot spots
Diagnosis : Intradermal or serologic (blood) testing for allergies
Treatment : Reduce exposure to allergen (what the pet is allergic to), shampoos, fatty acid supplements, steroids, antihistamines, immunotherapy

Condition : Food Allergies
Description : Allergic reaction to something in the diet
Symptoms : Licking of feet, inflamed ears, itching, redness, sometimes development of infection or hot spots
Diagnosis : Food elimination trials
Treatment : Change in diet

Condition : Allergic and Irritant (Contact Dermatitis)
Description : Reaction of the pet's skin to something it had contact with such as wool or plastics
Symptoms : Red skin and small bumps or blisters on the areas of skin that are sparsely haired and directly exposed to the offending substance, itching
Diagnosis : Patch test, exclusion trials
Treatment : Restrict exposure to the allergen or contact irritant in the pet's environment, steroids, antihistamines

Condition : Flea Allergy Dermatitis (Flea Bite Hypersensitivity)
Description : Severe reaction by the animal to the saliva of the flea
Symptoms : Intense itching, redness, hair loss; sometimes development of infection or hot spots
Diagnosis : Presence of fleas; reaction to intradermal testing
Treatment : Flea Control in the environment and on the pet; steroids and antihistamines for the itching

Condition : Sarcoptic Mange
Description : Infection with the Sarcoptes mite
Symptoms : Intense itching and self-trauma
Diagnosis : Skin scraping and microscopic examination - the mite is often very difficult to find
Treatment : Amitraz (Mitaban) dips (off-label use*); ivermectin (off-label use*)

Condition : Demodectic Mange in Dogs (Red Mange)
Description : Infection with the Demodex mite - occurs when the immune system is deficient
Symptoms : Hair loss, scaliness, redness, pustules, ulcers, sometimes itching
Diagnosis : Skin scraping and microscopic examination
NO Steroids!
Treatment : Amitraz (Mitaban) dips

Condition : Cheyletiella (Rabbit Fur Mite) Mange
Description : Infection with the Cheyletiella mite
Symptoms : Itching, scaliness
Diagnosis : Skin scraping and microscopic examination - the mite is often very difficult to find
Treatment : Permethrin (Dogs ONLY) or Pyrethrin

Condition : Ringworm
Description : Infection with several types of fungus
Symptoms : Hair loss, scaliness, crusty areas, some itching
Diagnosis : Culture
Treatment : Miconazole, lime sulfur dips; oral griseofulvin or itraconazole

Condition : Yeast Infection
Description : Infection with, most commonly, Malassezia; usually follows some other underlying disease
Symptoms : Itching, redness, sometimes oiliness
Diagnosis : Skin scraping/smear and microscopic examination, culture
Treatment : Treat underlying disease; oral ketoconazole; miconazole shampoos

Condition : Hot Spots: Acute Moist Dermatitis
Description : Result from allergies, flea bites, mange, anal gland disease, poor grooming, ear infections, plant awns or burs, arthritis
Symptoms : Hair loss; red, moist, oozing skin; constant licking or scratching
Diagnosis : Physical exam and history
Treatment : Treat underlying condition; clean area; apply Domeboro solution; topical and/or oral antibiotics and steroids

Condition : Cutaneous Lymphoma
Description : Rare type of skin cancer
Symptoms : Itching, ulcers, nodules, redness
Diagnosis : Biopsy
Treatment : Usually does not respond to treatment

Condition : Lice
Description : Infection with several species of lice
Symptoms : Variable; itching, hair loss, crusts, rough hair coat
Diagnosis : Finding lice or nits on skin or hair
Treatment : Permethrin (Dogs ONLY) or Pyrethrin, ivermectin (off-label use*)

Condition : Skin Fold Dermatitis
Description : Occurs where folds of skin touch each other such as lips, vulva, face (in breeds like bulldogs)
Symptoms : Redness, oozing, itching
Diagnosis : Physical exam; microscopically examine smear for evidence of infection
Treatment : Treat any infections; clean areas daily; surgical correction if severe

Condition : Hookworms
Description : Infection with the larvae (immature forms) of hookworms
Symptoms : Red bumps, usually on feet, rough foot pads, abnormal nail growth, itching
Diagnosis : Physical exam, history of poor sanitation
Treatment : Treat for intestinal infection; move animal to different environment

Condition : Neurodermatitis:

Acral Lick Dermatitis
Psychogenic Dermatitis
Description : Self-licking in dogs and cats results in self-trauma; possible causes include anxiety, boredom, stress (e.g., new member in household)
Symptoms : Acral Lick: red, hairless, well-circumscribed lesion usually on forearm; cats: symmetrical hair loss, sometimes ulcers, on abdomen, groin, along the back
Diagnosis : Exclude other causes; history important
Treatment : Relieve underlying cause e.g., anxiety;

Condition : Bacterial Infection
Description : Often occurs as a result of another condition
Symptoms : Redness, pustules, bumps, sometimes itching
Diagnosis : Microscopic examination of smear; culture
Treatment : Treat underlying condition; topical and/or oral antibiotics

Condition : Ear Mites
Description : Infection with Otodectes
Symptoms : Intense itching of ears, redness, dark crumbly discharge in ears
Diagnosis : Direct visual or microscopic examination of ear discharge
Treatment : Clean ears and apply medication containing pyrethrin (Ear Miticide)

Condition : Pelodera Dermatitis
Description : Accidental infection with larvae from a non-parasitic worm that lives in straw and other organic material
Symptoms : Intense itching, redness
Diagnosis : Skin scraping and microscopic examination
Treatment : Remove bedding; mild antibacterial shampoo; steroids if necessary to control itching

Condition : Chiggers (Harvest mites)
Description : Seasonal disease caused by larvae of the chigger
Symptoms : Itching, bumps usually on feet, abdomen, folds at base of ears
Diagnosis : Visualization of mite larvae or microscopic examination of skin scraping
Treatment : Permethrin (Dogs ONLY) or Pyrethrin

Thanks to All About Dogs for this wonderful article!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Frustrations of Dog Training

Some people grit their teeth or hold their breath. Others clench their fists or rattle off a string of expletives that would make Pacino blush. When the frustration of daily life comes to a boil, people respond in myriad ways.

Keep in mind that our dogs can get very frustrated with us, too! Especially when we fail to give clear directions or when we put them in a stressful situation with no way out.

Dog training comes with many opportunities for human frustration. You wanted a dog. You didn’t realize that “dog” was potentially code for “eats everything in sight, jumps on the kids, barks like a jackhammer, and if given the chance, leads you on a wild goose chase around the neighborhood as your recall word falls on deaf ears.”

Training a dog, regardless of the method used, is bound to bring about moments of frustration. Addressing unwanted behavior can take time, and today’s modern family often finds spare time to be in limited supply. In the midst of juggling busy personal and professional lives, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself at the end of your rope when it comes to dog training.

The problem with frustration is that, when left unchecked, it can lead to an emotional outburst. Ever lash out with harsh words directed at your kids or spouse after a particularly challenging day at work? We are only human. It happens. In dog training, these emotional outbursts often manifest in strong verbal reprimands, leash pops, and other physical corrections.

Interacting with your dog in an angry or physically forceful way carries the substantial risk of damaging the dog-owner relationship. It can also create an anxious dog, or one who “shuts down” when uncertain what to do. In extreme cases it can become abusive. Additionally, there’s a dirty little secret about losing one’s temper and responding to the dog in a vindictive manner: behaving this way can be rewarding.

How can something as unpleasant as yelling at or jerking the dog’s leash be rewarding? After all, very few of us feel good about losing our temper and resorting to violence (no matter how mild). But even a moment of lashing out (verbally or physically) serves to vent our frustration, and worse, it can alter the dog’s behavior. Pain or fear may temporarily suppress the dog’s unwanted behavior. In the moment, this can feel like a “win” for the handler . . . but this sort of emotional outburst on the part of the handler generally doesn’t result in a lasting behavior change in the dog.

How to Get Past Frustration
It’s infinitely easier to teach a dog what you want as opposed to what you don’t. That’s why positive reinforcement training can be so effective. It’s built on a foundation of recognizing and rewarding correct behavior – not waiting for the dog to make a mistake. It’s proactive, not reactive.

Many dogs who have been trained with physical force or intimidation learn to “shut down” when they’re unsure of what they’re being asked to do.

I freely admit to having moments of frustration while training. Despite the years of effort I have put into building strong, trusting, positive reinforcement-based relationships with my dogs, I still sometimes find myself gritting my teeth when things aren’t going as I’d hoped and my dog can’t seem to correctly perform a behavior we’ve spent generous amounts of time training.

The trick lies in learning to manage the frustration in ways that don’t involve taking it out on the dog. The following strategies can prove helpful:

Relax and remember to breathe. Sounds easy enough, but frustration and stress can inhibit our breathing, which affects our body language – something our dogs are keenly aware of. By concentrating on slow, deep breathing, you take in more oxygen, and the shoulders, neck, and upper chest muscles are used less in the breathing process. This helps relax your body posture, which sends a different picture to your dog.

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior. Dogs often respond to stress with one of many fine-tuned signals. Yawning, lip licking, sniffing the ground, and averting their gaze are behaviors dogs use with each other to reduce stress and defuse potential conflict. If you notice your dog engaging in these behaviors during training, take note. He may be aware of your rising stress level even before you are. These signals can be a sign your dog is attempting to self-soothe in the presence of a stressed handler.

A big benched show, an obedience class, and the Dalmatian just won’t go with the program. He “downs” during the sit-stay. . .

It’s okay to stop. When things aren’t going well, sometimes the best thing to do is call it quits for the day. People often feel the need to end on success, and keep training as things start falling apart. According to legendary animal trainer Bob Bailey, whether or not you end a training session on success does not affect the animal’s ability to successfully learn the task at hand.

“Ending a training session on a ‘high note’ is of little significance in itself,” says Bailey. “This assumes that the session more or less randomly ends with a success or a failure.” However, he cautions against creating training scenarios where the dog consistently fails and then shuts down – a poor precedent for the dog.

Remember how patient and forgiving your dog is of you. That’s advice from professional trainer BK Grice of Muncie, Indiana. “Take some time to just hang out with your dog. Break off training and share an ice cream together. Remember that there may be other dogs in your life, but there will only be one Rex or Lassie. When you’ve calmed down, look at what you were doing and see if you can make some changes.

Take notes. In her book, Tales of Two Species: Essays on Loving and Living with Dogs, Patricia McConnell talks about the importance of being patient, and recognizing that training takes time. In an example of teaching impulse control to dogs, she writes, “It takes growing humans about 20 years to learn to control their emotions … so be patient with your dogs, and think in terms of months and years when training, not days and weeks.”

. . . and returns to his owner during the down-stay. It has to be difficult at a time like this, but a handler must refrain from showing signs of anger or frustration in the show ring, lest her dog start to dread the experience.

In an age when popular media aims to convince dog owners that behavior dramatically changes in the course of an hour, this reminder is a refreshing dose of eye-opening honesty that should be considered.

Feeling like your dog’s behavior is not improving can be a major source of frustration for people. Often, he is getting better, but owners who are deeply embroiled within a training program might have difficulty recognizing the incremental changes.

“I often get clients who call me to talk about how they aren’t progressing in their training programs. Then I go out and find a dog who is so much improved, it’s amazing,” says Louise Kerr of Elite Pet Care & Education in New South Wales, Australia. “Clients often cannot see the small changes.”

Learning to recognize and appreciate the “baby steps” along the way to complete problem solving can be a valuable tool in reducing human frustration. Organized trainers routinely keep training logs and journals that document results of each training session. Analyzing the data offers concrete information about a dog’s rate of progress, and helps trainers fine-tune training programs when necessary.

Styles of record-keeping are as varied as the trainers using them. Sometimes I keep track of how many times we practiced something and how often my dog was correct. Other times I jot notes about what issues I discovered during the training session, which directs my focus for the next session.

The author says of her dog, “It’s hard to believe I can get frustrated with a dog this cute, but it happens. His dedication to me and willingness to play whatever game I throw his way remind me of the importance of creating and maintaining a rewarding, respectful relationship.”

Even something as simple as a happy or sad face drawn on the calendar – denoting an overall “good” or “bad” day in training – can prove helpful. When working to modify problem behavior, it’s easy to forget where you started. A quick glance at the ratio of happy to sad faces on the calendar can provide the confidence boost you need to keep pushing forward with what feels like a slow-moving or stalled training program.

The Magic of Management
Many of the routine problems clients ask trainers about can be prevented with management: not letting the dog practice the unwanted behavior in the first place. If your dog is reactive to people and dogs walking past his territory, he shouldn’t have unsupervised access to the front room of the home, where he perches atop the sofa, ready to sound the alarm at the first sign of passersby. Nor should he be unsupervised in the backyard where he launches himself at the fence. Of course, you need to spend time teaching an alternative behavior, but if you aren’t prepared to actively train, the next best thing is to prevent what you don’t want.

“When possible, don’t let the dog make the mistake in the first place,” says trainer Gail Rhyno of Prince Edward Island, Canada. “I didn’t get this right away, and looking back, I likely could’ve prevented a few behaviors from becoming problems in the first place. Much of my frustration appears when I’m not training – when I’m tired and I don’t have a plan. The unwanted behavior would happen and I wouldn’t have a response ready and the frustration wells up; I’d feel like all the work I’d done the days before was wasted.”

As an example, Rhyno says, “With my little dog – who’s on high alert all the time – I make sure I’m ready, or I don’t put her in the situation to make mistakes. I don’t have to take her out into the yard every time I go. I don’t have to go to the places in town that I know are full of things that will set her off. I can put her on-leash in the house so that when guests enter, she doesn’t have the chance to jump of them. Things like this have really helped me get around myself. I can’t train all the time; I get tired of it, so in order to not get tired and frustrated, I have to find a way to not let my little pooch make the mistakes in the first place.”

It’s easy to blame our dogs when they fail to perform “out in the world.” Do your posture and cues look and sound like they do at home? Ask someone who is familiar with you and your dog give you an honest assessment.

It’s Not Personal – But You Do Need to Own It
It’s sometimes hard to not internalize your dog’s misbehavior and take his noncompliance as a personal affront. Factor in any perfectionist tendencies, you may have and it can be a real test in emotional self-control to keep from feeling like your dog is purposely pawing his nose at you when things aren’t going as planned – especially when training in a group. You’re being watched. The heat is on. “Please, for the love of dog, will you stop jumping around and just sit?!”

Emotions are tricky. We know on a logical level that noncompliance isn’t personal, but this can be tough to remember in heat of the moment. One of the greatest gifts I’ve gained in training dogs – especially my own, where the emotional involvement can intensify my perfectionist tendencies – is the ability to accept my training mistakes, recover, and move on. It’s easy to blame the dog. “He knows this,” or “He knows better,” or even, “He did it right yesterday at the park.” It’s harder to look at how our own actions likely contributed to the dog’s inability to perform to your expectations or hopes.

It’s easy to underestimate how a simple location change can affect a dog’s ability to perform correctly. Clients who primarily practice behaviors with their dog at home and during dog class often report that their dog struggles when asked to work in new, unfamiliar surroundings. This is a normal part of the training process, and why I encourage my clients to not believe their dog “knows” something until they’ve had training success in several different locations away from home. Be aware that certain environments will be more challenging than others, and gradually raise your expectations at a level that is fair and appropriate for your dog.

It’s also important to look at how your behavior might affect your dog. If you primarily lure your dog into positions like sit and down by using treats, you might believe your dog “knows” down, only to be surprised by his inability to perform correctly in the absence of the treat. Sudden behavior changes on your part – such as switching from treat to hand signal, or even changing how you present a hand signal – can reduce the dog’s ability to be correct, which can lead to frustration. Make changes like this to your training program gradually.

Finally, don’t forget that dogs can get frustrated, too. My Golden Retriever reserves a specifically pitched bark for when I suspect he feels that I’ve failed to provide clear direction while running agility. More often than not, he’s right and my body cues were incorrect. “Dang it, woman!” he seems to say. “Where exactly do you want me to go?”

We’re Only Human
Do I still get frustrated? Of course. I’m only human. I’ve been known to call my dog a creative “pet name” or two, or rattle off something to the effect of, “It’s a good thing you’re cute,” as I re-set an obedience jump bar that he just knocked down – again. My secret? I deliver my monologue in a happy, upbeat voice, and often while delivering a stream of treats or tugging with a toy. I release the necessary steam and hope my dog is none the wiser. I’m far from perfect, but this trick often helps me keep my emotions in check so I’m not as apt to unfairly direct frustration toward my dog.

I often think about something an agility judge once said during a pre-run briefing. I don’t remember her name, but her words will stay with me for as long as I choose to share my life with dogs. “Run every run like it’s your dog’s last,” she said. Powerful words. Our dogs are never with us long enough. I want to fill my memory bank with joyful interactions, not frustration-filled memories that potentially led me to treat my dog with less than the respect and compassion he deserved.

After all, as an anonymous author is widely quoted, “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

Thanks to Whole Dog Journal for this wonderful article!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Water Dogs!

Not all dogs love to swim, but for those who do, nothing puts a sparkle in the eye and a catapult in the step like the sight of a big blue lake, a stretch of beach with its fascinating surf, a pristine swimming pool, a muddy pond, a plastic kiddy pool, or a really big puddle. Even a freshly filled water bowl tips some dogs into ecstasy—if this is your dog, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Swimming is great exercise for dogs who enjoy it, and it’s also an excellent way to help retrievers and other dogs exercise their natural instincts. But the splash factor can wreck your dog’s beautiful coat in several ways. Here’s how good grooming can head off the damage so your dog won’t miss out on all the summer fun.

Pool Dogs

Chlorine dries out human hair and skin, and dogs aren’t immune either. Dogs who take frequent dips in the family pool may suffer from dry, itchy skin and a dry, dull coat because the chemicals in pool water strip the skin and coat of their natural oils. Chlorinated water may also have a slight bleaching effect on dark coats, and could even turn lighter coats (gasp!) greenish.

To avoid these nasty side effects without banning your eager retriever from the pool (as if that would work), do just three simple things.
•During pool season, spray your dog’s coat with coat conditioner before he goes into the pool. This will help protect skin and coat from drying. If you can find one that also contains sunscreen, all the better (because dogs can get skin cancer, too).
•After every swim—or at the end of each day, if your dog tends to jump in and out of the pool all day—rinse his coat thoroughly with cool water. Rinse longer than you think is necessary to remove all the chlorine and other pool chemicals. Towel-dry or blow-dry if appropriate. If your dog has a medium or long coat, follow the rinse with another spray of coat conditioner and a swipe-through with a comb. Get all the way down to the skin mats can hide, and when they dry they’ll get tighter. Missing one for even a day during the summer can result in a knotty problem.
•Once each week during swim season, comb out all tangles and bathe him thoroughly with a gentle moisturizing shampoo and conditioner that will rid the coat of chlorine residue and restore moisture to a dry coat.

These three simple steps will make a noticeable difference in the effect chlorinated water will have on your dog’s coat. For good measure, an omega-3 fatty-acid supplement can help replenish natural coat oils from the inside out.

Beach Dogs

If you are lucky enough to live near a dog-friendly beach, then we would like to come visit. But we also know that sun, salt, and sand can create a perfect storm of itching. You can avoid much of the beachy discomfort by adding a few key items to your beach bag: doggy sunscreen, a bristle brush, and an extra towel.

Before your dog heads out into the sun, apply a moisturizing sunscreen to protect his skin and coat. After your day in the sun is done, give your dog a thorough brushing to dislodge sand, brushing against the direction of hair growth, and then with it. After you’ve gotten the loose stuff out, take advantage of those beach showers to rinse your dog from head to toe. Work your fingers through his coat to loosen sand and help rinse away salt. Or, if you’d rather have a salty, sandy dog in your backseat than a soaking-wet dog, do it as soon as you get home.

If your dog seems itchy after a beach day, you may not have gotten out all the salt or sand. Time for a bath! Try a gentle anti-itch shampoo, such as an oatmeal or aloe shampoo, that will help to soothe irritated skin while dislodging remaining evidence of the seashore. Even if your beach dog doesn’t seem uncomfortable, give him a good thorough shampoo and conditioning with gentle moisturizing products about once a week during beach season.

Another consideration for beach dogs: Sand can be harsh on paw pads, so apply a paw-pad balm before and after a day at the beach.

Lake and River Dogs

If you live in the middle of the country, you are more likely to have access to lakes and rivers than oceans or gulfs, and that’s probably just fine with your water dog. But stagnant, muddy lake water and rivers downstream from any kind of industry can get pretty disgusting. Not all lakes and rivers are dangerously dirty, but many contain high levels of pollutants, not to mention slime, sludge, and even leeches! (Gross.)

For this reason, it’s usually a good idea to give a dog a full-fledged bath after a dip in a lake or river. Comb out any tangled spots, wet the coat very thoroughly, and scrub all the way down to the skin with plenty of shampoo. Restore moisture with a good conditioner.

If your dog takes a dip in the lake or river frequently, choose a shampoo without detergents that won’t strip the coat of natural oils so you can shampoo him as often as daily withoutany damage to the skin and coat.

Ear This!

Finally, dogs who swim anywhere, anytime, are at risk of ear infection because when water enters the ear canal, it creates the ideal dark, wet environment for bacterial and yeast growth.

After a swim, or even a bath, dry the insides of your dog’s ears as well as you can with a towel or cotton balls. This is important for all dogs, but especially for those with floppy ears because the earflap can prevent your dog’s ears from drying out after a swim. Weekly or even monthly application of an ear wash made for dogs can also help keep ears infection-free. Ask your veterinarian if an ear wash would be appropriate for your sassy swimmer.

If your dog begins scratching his ears or shakinghis head, or if you see any redness inside the ear canal, give your veterinarian a call. She may want to take a look, and if necessary, prescribe medication to lick the problem. Ear infections are common in dogs and easily resolved, but if they are neglected they can spread deep inside the ear canal and become very painful. Your dog isn’t going to tell you if his ears hurt, so it’s up to you to pay attention to what’s going on in there.

All this grooming is a small price to pay to give your dog the immense joy of an all-out swim session. Whether your dog is fetching sticks or refining his water-rescue skills for the highest levels of competition, a few extra minutes pre- and postswim will keep his skin, coat, and ears in great shape, so your summer can go, well, swimmingly.

Thank you to Canine Health Foundation for this wonderful article!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Run Away Dogs!

Stop Your Dog From Running Away, Escaping, Roaming & Bolting Out The Door
Does your dog escape from your yard, charge out the front door at any opportunity or simply not come back to you when off leash?
Frustrating isn't it?

You are not alone. Dogs running away, roaming, chasing, escaping or not coming back when called are a very common problem for us dog lovers. Although this running away behavior satisfies many of your dog's instincts and is a completely natural thing to do, it is also totally unacceptable and dangerous in today's fast paced world.

Roaming or running away behavior can be a tricky problem to turn around. One of the biggest issues we face when addressing this problem is that each time our dogs get out and explore the world they actually get rewarded for doing so. They get to raid your neighbors rubbish bin, chase the cat from next door or hang out with some other dogs... you get the idea.

That's why running away is often called a "self rewarding behavior". Basically what this means is that once a dog gets into the habit of running away / escaping (and getting rewarded for it) it can be a very difficult behavior to extinguish.

I've put together a 3 step plan that will hopefully put an end to your dog's days of roaming the streets. As with most behavior problems it is preferable to prevent the problem from arising rather than trying to correct an established bad habit.


Here's The 3 Step Plan To Help Stop Your Dog From Running Away:

Identify What Causes Your Dog To Run Away.

Ensure Your Dog Is Happy, Comfortable, Involved, Safe & Stimulated At Home.

Address The Specific Cause or Trigger.


1. Why Do Our Dogs Run Away?
Generally speaking you could say that dogs run away for one of two reasons. They take off in order to get to somewhere or something they want or to get away from something or someone they're not comfortable with.
More specifically you can usually trace your dog's running away behavior back to one or more of the following causes:

Boredom, roaming for a mate, loud noises (such as a thunderstorm or fireworks), separation anxiety, isolation, escaping from mistreatment, lack of obedience training, easy access to "freedom", predatory drive, following a tasty scent, eliciting play, other animals around, psychological problems or inadequate socialization. Plus you've probably got some more that should be added...

As you can see there are many reasons for a dog to run away - don't take it personally.

2. Ensure Your Dog Is Happy, Comfortable, Involved, Safe and Stimulated
The following measures are designed to prevent your dog from ever trying to run away. They are the ingredients which make staying within your yard a more attractive option than taking off. If you implement these measures you can be sure that your dog will be far, far less likely to attempt an escape or run away - even if your dog does make an attempt they probably won't be successful anyway.
In truth the majority of this list could be summed up simply as being the essential elements of "responsible dog ownership".

Provide comfortable, clean and dry bedding for your dog in a quiet and private area, free from cold drafts. Your dog should also have unrestricted access to clean fresh water and be provided with a suitably well balanced dog food diet.

Bond closely with your dog through games of fetch, frisbee, long on leash walks and whatever else you enjoy doing together. These activities are great for providing your dog with much needed physical and mental stimulation. This is all part of demonstrating to your dog that he/she is a much loved and valued member of the family.

Regular visits to the local dog park are a great way to provide your dog with interaction with other dogs.

Obedience training is the key, it is absolutely essential for any healthy owner-dog relationship. Not only does obedience training provide fantastic stimulation for your dog but also sets you up as the respected and always fair leader in the relationship you share together.

Some interesting toys scattered around the yard can occupy your dog's mind for many hours. Keep the toys fresh and alternate them each week. Stuffed Kong dog toys are a clear favorite at my house.

Secure your yard. Make it impossible for your dog to escape - take away the temptation to run away. If your dog likes to dig trenches or is a fence jumper check out this article for some good tips - stop fence jumping.

Self closing doors and gates are also a good safety measure that can be a worthwhile investment.

In some cases it can pay to block out the outside stimulus that is causing your dog to run away. An example of this would be to place black plastic sheeting up on your fence to block out your dog's line of sight towards an outside stimulus - such as other dogs or maybe the postman.

If stray dogs are a problem in your neighborhood call in animal control.

Dogs that are neutered / spayed are far less likely to run away or roam. If you're not a professional dog breeder then it is always advisable to neuter your puppies.

If you are away from home for long periods you could employ a dog walker to come in and break up the day for your dog.

Similar to the point above, you could drop your dog off at the dog minders or a friends place on your way to work to alleviate long boring days of isolation.

3. Address The Specific Cause Of Your Dog's Running Away Behavior
You've seen some general techniques you can put in place to help stop your dog from running away but now it's time to get specific. You know what is causing your dog to escape and you just need to put a stop to it! Ok lets go...

Your Dog Escapes From The Yard:
As we've already discussed, there can be any number of reasons why your dog will escape from the yard. A couple of proven techniques you can put to work straight away are:

Secure the area by making the yard "escape proof". This article has some great tips - stop your dog from escaping.

If your dog looks out from the yard and something he/she sees triggers an attempt to escape then you should block out his vision of this object. Black plastic sheeting does the job well in most cases.

Can you control the area outside your yard? For example, if your dog chases after the postman every time he places a letter in your mail-box would it be possible to put the mail-box out of sight?

Desensitize your dog to whatever is causing him/her to run away. This method is only appropriate in certain circumstances. This technique basically involves getting your dog used to whatever it is that triggers an escape. Desensitization can be an effective tool in the case of a phobia towards thunderstorms or firecrackers.

Check out this great article written by a genius clicker dog trainer called Karen Pryor. It outlines the different methods we can employ to modify any problem behavior in our dogs - the eight ways of changing a dog's behavior.
Dog Runs Away When Off Leash & Doesn't Come Back When Called:
The simple answer is obedience training - and plenty of it. Earn the respect of your dog, always be consistent and make coming back to you a better alternative to your dog than running the other way. Check out this article for step-by-step instruction of the recall command - please come back to me!

Take Away The Motivation For Escape:
If you know exactly why your dog escapes then take this motivation / reward away. For example if your dog gets out every Monday night when your neighbor puts his rubbish bins out then make sure that the bins are tamper proof. When you extinguish the reward for escaping (the bins) your dog will stop trying after a few unsuccessful attempts.

Does Your Dog Charge Out The Front Door?
Any dog that rushes through an open door is a very dangerous proposition. This behavior must be stopped before disaster strikes. Try these few tips:

As mentioned earlier a self closing door could be a worthwhile investment.

Once again obedience training can help with dogs who like to charge through open doors. The "down-stay" and "wait" commands are particularly useful. A dog who is obedience trained will look to you for guidance/leadership before taking a step through the door.

Set it up so you always go through the door first, before your dog - if you don't go through the door then neither does your dog. Make this a habit.

Try playing this game at the door. Stand at the door and open it up wide. No doubt your dog will rush toward it in anticipation of an escape. As he gets close to the door swing the door until it is almost closed. This will surprise your dog. If he chooses to sit down and wait you should praise him and toss a tasty treat his way. Continue this process many times until your dog will sit and wait even with the door fully open. When this occurs you then walk out the door and call your dog through.
I'd be lying if I said that getting your dog to stop running away is an easy fix. It is not. The fact that you are fighting against your dog's natural instincts makes this a challenging problem to turn around. The good news though is that if you come up with a good plan from the techniques listed above and apply it with consistency, you will see some improvements before long.

Good luck!