Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Is My Dog Trying To Tell Me?

Decoding your dog’s body language

Think for a moment about going to a bridal shower after a long day at the office, a 90-minute traffic snarl, and four customer service misunderstandings to get your bank card reactivated. Most likely, you aren’t in the mood for a “fun” time. Nevertheless, it’s an important event for the bride. Putting on a fresh dress and your best party face, you go, even though you would rather snuggle up with the dogs on the couch and throw in a movie. When you arrive, your sister takes one look at you and says “You’ve had a rough day! Coffee or wine?”

How does she know? How do we pick out that the bride is tense, the bride’s mother is proud, the maid of honour is excited, and the groom’s mother is disaffected?

In humans, we send body language signals without even thinking about them, and we read them accurately through long experience and a certain amount of innate knowledge. Although there are some cultural differences in how body language is spoken around the world, for the most part, we have a base language that we all share. Tense people tend to be rigid in their movements, nervous people tend to move quickly and with jerky movements, and relaxed people tend to move fluidly and gracefully.

How often do you watch your dog and read him just as well? Dogs have a rich body language that they use to great effect. We can eavesdrop on what a dog is telling you by knowing a little bit about how dogs behave when they are relaxed, happy, nervous, frustrated or angry.

Imagine, for a moment, that instead of walking into a bridal shower, you were walking into your living room at the end of the weekend. By considering a dog’s posture, path of travel, gait, eye shape, and tongue, you could quickly assess what that dog was experiencing just as well as you read a friend’s body language.
 
Standing Still


Standing still may only last for a split second, so you have to watch carefully to see what is happening. When a dog is standing still, he bears his weight in one of three ways:

• Feet four-square and balanced. This dog is calm and confident. (See the Doberman Pinscher in Photo 1. The Collie in Photo 1 is demonstrating the curved approach as discussed on page 96.)
• Balanced on his hindquarters. This dog is ready to spring forward, and is confident and willing to interact. (Rottweiler in Photo 2)
• Balanced in such a way that he can bolt away from you (or what he is looking at). This dog is fearful and likely to flee. (Small dog in Photo 2)



Dogs may stand in a variety of off- balanced ways that show you which way they would like to dart away. Darting away indicates fear, so if your dog is standing off balance, try and determine what is frightening him.
Photo 3 shows a dog that is balanced on his forefeet in a meta signal called a play bow, and, although he is confident, he is highly aroused and ready to play, not calm.



When you look at a dog, it is important to consider his emotional state. Human body language tells us if someone is afraid, confident, or relaxed, and we react appropriately. In the same way, we can help our canine friends by reading their bodies carefully. It is unfair to ask a fearful dog to approach things that frighten him, and likewise it is foolish to approach a dog who is broadcasting aggression unless you know more about his intent.
 
Wither Do You Wander?
The path of approach tells us a lot about someone’s intent. If you are approaching the customer service desk to return a damaged item, you will most likely walk assertively and directly to the person at the counter. If you approach a friend this way, he or she will likely be intimidated and fearful. The same is true of the dogs you meet. Dogs traveling in straight lines (Photo 4) are more likely to be aggressive, while curved lines of travel (see Collie in Photo 1) indicate a friendly encounter.



If a dog approaches you in a direct line, looking aggressive, turn away, keeping one eye on her. You will often see this sort of rude behaviour from adolescent dogs who are trying out assertive behaviour, albeit in the wrong context. Standing still, looking down at the ground, and yawning may diffuse the situation.
A dog that is moving on a curve does not likely intend harm, although with a large dog, she might knock someone over. If you see a dog doing this while playing, it is a good idea to bend your knees in case she slams into you by accident.



Photo 6 shows a Dalmatian in danger. You can clearly see that the dog is balanced in such a way that he can flee. The Border Collie on his back legs is bearing his weight on his hind quarters and is willing to bolt forward and hurt the Dalmatian. The third dog, a Springer Spaniel, is standing squarely on all four feet, still and confident, preventing the Dalmatian from escaping.
 
The Rocking Horse Run
When dogs are playing, they run in a very particular way. They move vertically almost as much as they move horizontally, rocking back and forth like a child’s rocking horse. Running in this way is inefficient, and reflects that play is all about fun and games, not about running your friends down and tackling them. (Photo 5)



A dog running towards you in this manner is being playful, but it may not be safe—this playful behaviour can be very rough and you can easily be knocked over.

The opposite of rocking horse running is flat, efficient movement. (Photo 4) When a dog moves in this way, he is in a hurry and going as quickly as he can. We often see dogs doing this sort of movement during an aggressive incident.
 
The Eyes Have It
It is said that you can read the soul through the eyes. There is nothing as special as looking at the eyes of someone close to you—you can achieve an instant connection. You can also read a lot about a dog’s state of mind in the shape and look of his eyes.



Almond-shaped, relaxed eyes are a reflection of a calm demeanour (Collie in Photo 7). Rounded eyes can indicate arousal and surprise (Chihuahua in Photo 11). If you can see the sclera or whites of a dog’s eyes, beware; the dog is tense and upset and may bite you. Behaviour specialists call this “whale eye” (Photos 8 and 9).



The Rottweiler cross in Photo 10 has a very threatening and dangerous expression.



Hard eyes and loose lips are the sort of ambiguity seen in dogs who have been punished for growling in warning. This dog is resource guarding the toy he has.
The Tell-tale Tongue Tongues have a lot to say, and they are one of the ways that dogs communicate very differently than humans do. When a dog’s tongue and lips are loose and floppy, don’t worry about that growl—everything is meant in play (Photo 12).



When a dog is actually going to bite, he pulls his lips and tongue back and out of the way so that his teeth can do their work (Photo 13).


 
A Tail to Tell
As with tongues, tail talk is different than human body language communication. Dogs use their tails the way that people use smiles. The idea that a wagging tail indicates happiness is similar to thinking that every smile means only one thing. A low, fast-wagging tail is like a nervous laugh.



A high tail wagging slowly is the confident smile of someone who is going to make you do something you don’t want to do. (Miniature Dachshund in Photo 14) And the middle-level, fast, wide wag where the tail hits or almost hits the body is comparable to the excited grin of a child waiting at the airport for Grandma to come out of the luggage area. (Golden Retriever in Photo 15)



When looking at tails, look at the base of the tail where it attaches to the body; a dog with a very short tail has as much to say as a dog with a very long tail, and the base of the tail is more telling than the tip. A tail drawn as low as possible in a long-tailed dog will cover the genitals. A tail this tightly tucked indicates extreme fear. The short-tailed dogs are trying hard, and you can only see that if you look at the base of the tail. A high tail may curve upwards and over the back and this can be confusing in a dog who has a tail that naturally curls over his back, so again, it is important to look at the base instead of the tip to learn the dog’s mood and intent.
 
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Dogs can move their ears independently and almost 180 degrees from the front to the back. In general, consider that the more forward your dog’s ears are, the more confident he is about a given situation. The further back and pinned against his head and neck your dog’s ears are, the more fearful he is. (Photo 16)



However, ears serve a dual purpose and can be a bit difficult to read; just when your dog is using his ears to communicate something, he hears something that causes him to pop them out of an easily readable position. Upright, forward ears are attending to what is directly in front of him. (German Shepherd in Photo 17)



Then the phone rings and one of his confident, forward ears flicks back to listen. Ears pulled back tight against the neck tell us that the dog is nervous and concerned (Photos 16 and 18) but then the neighbour’s dog barks and the dog flicks one ear forward to listen to that!




Pay attention to the general drift of the dog’s ear and as with the tail, the base is more important than the tip.
When you open the door to reading a dog’s body language, you will learn a lot about what they intend, how they feel about their surroundings, and how they interpret your actions. Dogs don’t lie with their body language, so they are always telling us exactly what they mean by how they stand, move, look, and act. As humans, we are more aware of our verbal communication than our visual communication. Dogs function in a world that depends primarily upon visual communication, so they often read our body language better than we read theirs, but with a little practice we can hone our skills. The payoff to learning to read what your dog is saying is better responsiveness to the dog’s needs. When you respond to your dog’s needs, you set up a situation where your dog can gain confidence and your relationship with your dog will improve.



Thanks to Modern Dog Magazine for this wonderful article!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Picture Friday!!!

Yay for pictures!!!


O.B. was having so much fun...

Fritz, looking beautiful as always

Our new dog Brandy with little Bailey.

Chase, the funny ol' fella

Another one of little Brandy...

Toby, he's always such a happy little guy.

Jessie, trying to get Bailey to play with her.

And not-so-little Ranger, sleeping under the very little desk...

Ooooh, and just to be special, a video!!!


video


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reasons for Barking

Barking dog
Reason for Barking: Attention-Getting
When an owner deliberately spoils a dog or unintentionally rewards him for barking, the dog quickly learns how to get attention. For example, a dog barks because he is startled, and the owner reaches down and pets the dog to assure him that all is well. The dog perceives the petting and consoling as a reward for barking. Thus he barks whenever he wants attention.

Attention-getting barking can be corrected, provided that the owner is determined to unspoil the dog. Let's create a fictitious scenario and the solution to the problem it produces. This problem is common to small dogs and their owners.

As a puppy, the dog frequently barked and jumped up on the owner to get the owners attention. The owner would bend down and pick up the puppy. Soon the puppy learned that whenever he wanted the owners attention, all he had to do was bark and jump up on his owner.

Well, by the time the puppy reaches adulthood, the habit has been formed and the dog constantly demands that his owner pick him up and carry him around. The owner finds this annoying, yet he loves the little dog, so he hesitates to reprimand him. Instead the owner tries yelling at the dog, but to no avail. The dog continues to jump and the owner continues to try various tactics to correct the problem, yet nothing positive comes of the owners attempts.

The solution to this problem is to let the dog know that it's fine to ask for attention, but in an acceptable manner. The dog must learn that, as with most things in life, there is a price to pay for that attention. Instead of immediately responding to the dogs request that he be picked up, the owner now has the dog do something to earn his attention. Once the dog begins to realize that attention is no longer free, he can be trained to remain on the floor and accept attention from there rather than from the owners arms.

If you experience a similar problem, teach the dog to sit on command. Then, when he comes to you and demands your attention, have him sit before you respond to him. When he obeys the sit command, you can give him some attention. At first, you can pick him up, pet and praise him briefly and then return him to the floor. If he barks and jumps on you again, have him sit again. Follow his sit with praise again, but this time don't pick him up. Instead, bend down and pet him as he sits in front of you.

Soon the dog will learn that he must do something before he will receive your attention. In other words, ignoring behavior you don't want and recognizing behavior you do want will produce positive results. Responding to behavior you don't want is perceived by the dog as acceptance, and he'll continue to do it forever. However, when he learns that you'll only recognize him for good behavior, he'll exercise that good behavior in order to receive your attention.

Reason for Barking: An Attempt to Communicate
The dog, being a social animal, needs to communicate with his pack (humans or other dogs). He uses barking as a means to gain food, water, shelter and comfort. Many dogs, for instance, will give several sharp barks at their owners a few minutes before their regularly scheduled mealtimes. A dog will often give several short, sharp barks as an invitation to other dogs or people to play. When a dog is left outside in a fenced area and his pack members (his family) are inside, he will frequently stand at the door and bark to communicate his desire to be let inside to join them.

However, sometimes, as we've mentioned earlier, an owner reacts inappropriately to barking and the dog reads the owners actions as something good that he'd like repeated. Let's say that the dog brings a toy to you and drops it at your feet. Then he stands there barking and looking up at you. Without thinking, you pick up the toy and toss it across the room. That behavior signals a message to the dog that you're willing to play with him whenever he asks. Of course, this will not always be convenient, yet you've taught the dog that standing in front of you and barking will get you to play with him regardless of what you're doing at the time.
This behavior is usually found in a high-energy dog who is bored and has nothing to do. At this point, you have two choices. The first choice is to respond to the dogs demand by throwing the toy for him. This response will probably escalate into a whole series of tossing and retrieving. One toss is usually never enough!

The second choice is to acknowledge the dogs boredom and, before you toss the toy, have the dog do something for you. A sit or a down/stay would be appropriate. Once the dog complies with your command, praise him and then toss the toy. If he brings the toy back to you and begins barking again, repeat the procedure so that each time he demands your attention, he must earn it by doing something first. Very shortly he'll decide that he doesn't want to be bothered with doing something just so you'll throw the toy. He'll soon find something else to do and wander off to entertain himself.
To be fair to the dog, if he enjoys retrieving, he should be given ample opportunities to play fetch with you at your convenience. Once he understands that you'll play the fetch game with him, he'll be a lot less likely to pester you when it's not convenient for you to play with him.
 
For the very stubborn dog who will not give up, you can always give him some time out in his crate, say five or ten minutes. Once released from time out, praise him lightly and return to your previous activity as you ignore the dog. Sooner or later, he will learn that getting you to do something he wants does not come without a price. He either obeys your commands or finds himself in time out, neither of which he cares to do.
As time goes by and with proper responses to his behavior, he'll develop habits that suit you and satisfy him as well. Playing a game of fetch with a toy is fun when you are the one who initiates the game or when the dog brings you his toy and sits quietly until you can play with him. For sure, he'll learn that barking unnecessarily gets him nowhere.

Reason for Barking: Excitement
Dogs verbalize their emotions much as people do. For example, they often bark during play when they get very excited. They also bark when they're anticipating something that excites them, such as a game of fetch, a special doggie treat or going out for a walk with his owner. Frustration also can create barking in a dog. Let's say the dog wants to play with a favorite toy that is in his sight but out of his reach. He may attempt to get the toy but, when those efforts fail, he may stand there and stare at the toy while he barks incessantly until someone comes to retrieve the toy for him.

If you can determine the cause of the barking, you should allow it for a reasonable amount of time. Lowering the level of excitement usually lowers the bark reflex, and you usually can control this. When you wish to quiet the dog, change the cause of his excitement to a more calming activity. As soon as the barking lessens, praise the dog with "Good, quiet." In the case of frustration, lessen his barking by alleviating the dogs frustration or removing the dog from the cause of his frustration.

It's beneficial to both dogs and people that dog owners understand the causes and appropriate human responses to barking. Often when small dogs bark they are sounding an alarm. Big dogs, on the other hand, bark to issue a warning and/or threat. When people respond appropriately to barking, they generally set the pattern for the barking to subside yet recur when necessary. Conversely, responding inappropriately usually escalates the barking and thereby solicits more barking.

In short, with barking or other of their dogs behavior, owners should recognize positive behavior and ignore or divert negative behavior. Remember, behaviors that bring pleasant results tend to be repeated, whereas behaviors that bring on unpleasant results are usually not repeated. To a dog, being ignored is most unpleasant, so the dog quickly figures out that, in order to get pleasant attention, he must repeat certain behaviors (such as not barking unnecessarily) and stop others.

Thanks to The Dog Channel for this article!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Choosing Safe Toys

They make the world go round. They make it bounce, roll and soar. They’re objects that inspire play, enrich training, ease boredom and curb problem behaviors. Toys, according to the experts (and every dog worth his molars), are a must-have.
Despite the constant media comments about how we pamper our pets, toys are no mere luxury. Experts say that dogs need them, and need more than one kind. That doesn’t mean more bells and whistles, just different types. Toys can take the edge off a bad day, like a stress ball you squeeze when you’re mad. Softer toys a dog can “baby” satisfy gentler instincts. Frisbees, balls and tugs are ways to share the fun, while squeaky playthings cry out for attack.
The question is, which toys? With a global pet economy, the options—and problems—keep growing. On the pet aisles, shoppers are greeted with all the persuasive power of an infomercial. Bright, funky objects, packaged to the nines, demand closer inspection—but not too close. The readable text is mostly advertising, not information. “The packaging for these products is incredible and totally deceiving,” says Pattie Boden, owner of the Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va. Boden, who is picky about sourcing safe, natural toys to stock her shelves, says that a 25-year career in advertising has made her a skeptic.
Unfortunately for dogs and owners, manufacturing of pet toys relies on the honor system; for less scrupulous companies, it’s trial by error. In some cases, even errors (discovered through consumer complaints) are ignored. Choose carelessly and our dogs may pay the hidden cost. Among the most familiar hazards are choking and stomach obstruction. Pieces as well as particles may be ingested, and since our pups use their mouths to play, toxic materials and coatings also pose a risk. Yet the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate dog toys, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission only regulates pet toys that can be proven to put consumers (people, not dogs) at risk.
This reality hits hard when a beloved animal is injured at play. One such horror story became news after a dog’s tongue was trapped in a hole in a ball, requiring long and painful medical intervention and finally, amputation of the tongue. The owner was shocked to learn that this wasn’t the first such incident—other dogs had been harmed, even killed, by the same toy. The company, Four Paws, eventually recalled several of its toys, according to its website.
Denise Smalt, a trainer in upstate New York, issues a warning about the harmless- seeming tennis ball. Eight years ago, Smalt sold a Shepherd puppy to a couple. “Even though I tell all my puppy people, as well as all my obedience students, how dangerous tennis balls are for large breeds, they still let their Shepherd play with tennis balls because they had always let their dogs play with them, and had no problems. At two years old, the dog choked to death on a tennis ball in front of his owner. I use his story to help save others,” she says.
The concerns don’t end with injuries and choking hazards. While dyes, preservatives and chemical residue are nothing new, a string of toxic Chinese imports has sparked fresh worries. Tests conducted by ConsumerAffairs.com found a variety of mainstream toys tainted with toxic heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and chromium. From cancer agents to neurological poisons, these chemicals are released from affected toys when dogs lick and chew them, according to Dr. Ernest Lykissa, the toxicologist who assessed them. Another lead-laden plaything is made from latex—a material sometimes recommended in lieu of plastic, which may contain phthalates and BPA (hormone disruptors). Adding to the problem of contaminants is a dearth of toxicity data for dogs. What’s presumed safe for a 40-pound child may be deadly for a half-pint Chihuahua.
“Please don’t think because things are made in the U.S. that they are safe,” Ann Martin, author of Foods Pets Die For, an exposé of the pet food industry, advises. “The massive pet food recall is a good example. They did not bother testing any of the raw materials going into these foods; hence, numerous dogs and cats became ill or died.”

Still, the perception is that U.S.–made means safer. At an H.H. Backer pet trade show in Baltimore, Pattie Boden looked hard for new toys made in the U.S. She found just one. Ironically, the only certified organic toy she could find was made in China. But a few U.S. companies are indeed producing quality toys, and the shorter the production path, the better. Some companies use recycled materials (though that’s not synonymous with safer toys, it’s better for the planet). And a company focused on “earth-friendly” products is more likely to avoid problems with toxic materials.
What makes a toy special to a dog may escape human logic, but knowing your dog can help you make wiser choices.
Do you have a Type-A chomper? Technically, dogs don’t chew toys, but rather, tear and shear them as they would prey, using their premolars and molars. These teeth are situated farther back in the mouth, and any toy that finds its way into this set of grinders is a potential victim—so look for appropriately sized toys your dog can’t work to the back of his jaws. Martin relies on her dog Kodi’s play style to choose his toys. The 160-pound Newfoundland is a power chewer who “eats rather than plays with toys. He has some very good squeaky toys he has not destroyed,” she says. Most of his playthings “are the heavy-duty rubber kind.” Kodi’s style, not his large size determines Martin’s toy selection; a small dog can be a power chewer just as a giant breed can be gentle on toys.
From hyper puppyhood to senior moments, knowing your dog also means selecting toys based on his life stage. A dog who’s teething doesn’t play like an old soul whose teeth are worn. A rambunctious adolescent craves different toys than a placid adult dog.
Before buying, use your senses. Strong chemical smells indicate residual chemicals. Brightly dyed fabrics may contain toxic ingredients and leach dye when wet. (Fabric dyes aren’t tested for consumption.) Avoid toys treated with fire retardants or stain guard, as they may contain formaldehyde and other chemicals. Study labels and visit manufacturers’ websites for additional information. Conscientious companies are transparent about their processes.
Safe fun: two words that often collide in a dog’s world, where mysterious edges and flimsy seams can make the most alluring objects. As long as the toy industry is an unsupervised playground, it’s up to loving owners to keep their eyes on the ball …and ring and squeaker.

Smart Choices
Here are a few companies that make toys worth a woof.
Go Dog
Realistic plush toys that will thrill most dogs, but aren’t suitable for aggressive chewers. A new proprietary process (Chew Guard technology) has been added to some stuffed products, enabling them to withstand more rigorous play. The toys, made in China, are double-stitched, reinforced and machine washable. Their label, “New Material Only,” means the product is not made from reprocessed fabric, vinyl or plastics.
Kong Company

Kong is based in Colorado, and all of its rubber products are made in the US. The original Kong is a treat-holding, nearly indestructible object with a tantalizingly odd bounce. The Kong Flyer, a soft rubber disc, is top-notch Frisbee equipment. The squeaky toys don’t hold up to power squeakers—a bummer for dogs who thrill to the squeal—but the silenced squeaker remains safely inside the toy. Think durable fun for power chewers (and hope for upgraded squeakers). Their website offers a breed search to help shoppers to determine the right size toy.
Nina Ottosson Zoo Active
These unique wooden puzzles operate on the principle that dogs actually enjoy working for their grub. Power chewers may also discover that brute force isn’t as effective as using noggin and nose. This Swedish company’s interactive games are available in the U.S. from pawlickers.com.
Planet Dog

A “values-based” Maine company that offers a full spectrum of fetching, nontoxic, recyclable U.S.-made toys. Shop by life stage: Everything a pooch could want is here, from stuffed Alphabet Blocks to Slobber Wicks for seniors. The Orbee-Tuff toys, from the TUG, with its mighty “flip-grip” technology, to spongy pastel-hued baby bones, come in a range of strengths; chew on the website’s “Chew-O-Meter” to determine the right ones for your dog.
West Paw Design

This Montana-based company focuses on environmentally friendly production. Its “Zogoflex” is a tough yet flexible proprietary material that utilizes 10 percent post-industrial waste. While that “green” claim may sound as appetizing as “eat your greens,” the toys are recyclable (if returned to the company). Zogoflex is advertised as nontoxic, FDA-compliant and free of “any known sources of lead, cadmium, mercury, latex, natural rubber, phthalates, hormones, Bisphenol A, or asbestos.” The dishwasher-safe Tux has an inner lip for hiding treats, adding another layer of fun and challenge.

 Thanks to The Bark for this article!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dog Friendly Foods

You know how you've always been told that you can't give human food to dogs because it's bad for them? Well, for the most part, it's true, but here's some human foods that we can share with our furry friends!

1. Herring. Cooked herring is a wonderful source of essential fatty acids (EFA). EFAs can be beneficial in skin and coat condition and they are thought to be beneficial for arthritic pets.

2. Squash. Cooked or raw, spaghetti squash is a fun vegetable that is very high in beta carotene, which is beneficial for eyesight.

3. Pasta. Plain, cooked noodles like penne or tortellini make a great treat. Cook a bit extra next time you’re making pasta for yourself and freeze it. Your dog will probably love it straight from the freezer. If your dog does not have a wheat allergy, pasta can be a great special treat.

4. Peppermint. Peppermint extract or plant leaves can be included in dog cookies. It is a strong-smelling herb so a little bit can go a long way. Peppermint has long been thought to be beneficial in treating stomach problems.

5. Chicken broth. Low-sodium, home-made chicken broth can be a great treat to add to your dog’s regular meal, or can be mixed with kibble and frozen in a Kong to provide a long-lasting treat.

6. Cinnamon. Initial studies have indicated that cinnamon may have anti-cancer and anti-bacterial benefits. Cinnamon can be included in dog cookies.

7. Pomegranate. High in antioxidants and vitamin C, pomegranate can be fed as a juice or as the whole fruit.

8. Cheese. A favourite of most dogs, cheese is an excellent source of calcium and protein.

9. Tuna. Next time you make a tuna sandwich, save a little for your dog, add the water (not oil) to his regular meal, or add the tuna juice to your next batch of dog cookies and make tuna snaps.

10. Barley grass. Barley grass is high in antioxidants and can be a treat for dogs when lawns are covered by snow. Barley grass is marketed as “cat grass” in many pet stores.

Thanks to Modern Dog Magazine for this article!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Nature of Dogs

The Nature of Dogs

How a jumble of impulses and instincts influence your dog's personality.

CollieThe group of dog trainers was gathered for dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan when someone suggested they play a canine version of Jeopardy!: Describe a certain dog breed by how it acts in obedience class, and see how many of the canine professionals at the table can identify it.
"Circles a lot and tends to compulsively bark," offered one diner as her California roll arrived.
"What is a Westie?" shouted her chop-stick-wielding peers in unison.

True, such descriptions are generalizations, but like most stereotypes, they have more than a toehold in reality. It would be silly to say theres no truth to them because we've bred these dogs to do specific jobs, says dog trainer Andrea Arden of New York City, owner of a West Highland White Terrier mix.


Bred to WorkLong before humans valued dogs as simply companions, they were our four-legged co-workers. Order-obsessed herding dogs kept livestock from straying; wary guarding breeds eyed the suspicious stranger; and spunky terriers, such as the Westie, followed vermin underground, barking profusely all the while.

"Many of the traits that make dogs useful — such as herding, pointing, digging and running — are indeed hard-wired," says Susan Crockford, a professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. In other words, it wasn't enough to nurture the pointing reflex in a pointer or the protective instinct in a mastiff: Early breeders bred very selectively to isolate and reinforce those traits so they would be passed to subsequent generations.

So, even though today many breeds have retired from their original roles, those ancient instincts still surface with regularity.

Owners complain about Australian Shepherds that herd cocktail-party guests by patrolling the perimeter of the living room, or Greyhounds that chase a piece of paper blowing in the wind, or Golden Retrievers that incessantly retrieve and deposit tennis balls at their owners' feet. These programmed behaviors are as much the essence of a breed as the spots on a Dalmatian or the mahogany coat of an Irish Setter — and just as non-negotiable.

"The instinctive tendencies that reflect a breeds original purpose are an integral part of a dogs character, and need to be carefully considered by prospective new owners," warns Claudia Orlandi, a long-time breeder of Basset Hounds. "For people who think they can break their new dog of these tendencies, the result may be tragic."

Consider the Basset Hound, developed as a canine bulldozer that charged through underbrush in pursuit of rabbits and other game. Bred to follow a scent without heeding his handler, a Basset on the trail will ignore anything — even an oncoming car. His nose simply takes precedence over everything else, Orlandi explains.

Dogs Are Individuals
There is a danger, however, in investing too deeply in the gravitational pull of genetics. "I hear owners say, 'Well, all Airedales are stubborn,' so they don't even try to train their dogs," Arden says. It does a great disservice to the dog, and ensures that breed stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies.

A more constructive approach, Arden says, is to work with a breed's instinctive urges, not against them. Discover what motivates the dog, such as a game of fetch with a Labrador Retriever or chasing a laser-light for a high-energy German Shepherd Dog.

Reflexive behaviors cannot be erased, but they can often be replaced. "My dog is a good example — she has that Westie circle down pat," Arden says. "I taught her to do a sit instead. The circling will always be there, but it's controlled dramatically." Similarly, a herding-obsessed Border Collie who impatiently nips at the heels of his humans (the way it would an errant sheep) can be taught to pick up an object, such as a toy or ball, instead.

"The bottom line is a breed's original function will determine its form, instincts and behavior," Orlandi says. Listen carefully to reputable breeders and follow their recommendations. These are usually based on years of experience.

Such breeders will also recognize that every puppy exists on a continuum in the breed, with some displaying more of these hardwired behaviors than others. One example, Crockford says, is the Border Collies' use of giving eye, or staring down livestock in order to move them. "They say that a Border Collie who doesn't display the eye before six months or so is worthless as a herding dog," she says. "But it might be a good fit in a household seeking an interactive, but not totally intense, family pet."

What About a Mutt?Awareness of innate behavior doesn't just apply to those looking for a purebred puppy. Mixed breeds can also inherit the natures of one or both parents: A Lab-Rottweiler mix might grow up to be a water-loving goofball with a protective streak. Know the tendencies of both breeds, and look to see if they surface in an individual puppy.

In the end, the most important thing to remember is regardless of how attractive a dog appears on the outside, beauty is as beauty does, Arden says. "We all want our dogs to fulfill an aesthetic component, whether they're classically beautiful or so ugly they're cute," she says. "But you need to think carefully about what specific behaviors may make you happy or unhappy. For the next 15 years, do you like a dog that just hangs out, or one that's go-go-go?"

Looking beyond the packaging, to the jumble of impulses and instincts and historical purpose within, will give you the answer.

Thank you Dog Fancy for this article!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Separation Anxiety

How to Manage Dog Separation Anxiety

6 strategies to ease your dog’s separation anxiety.

By  Maureen Kochan
 
 

Crista Coppola’s friends laughed when they saw the perfect circle that her Doberman Pinscher mix Jessie had carved in the backyard during hours of anxious pacing when left alone.

“I didn’t know any better at the time,” says Coppola, who was 16 when she got Jessie as a puppy.
Fast-forward more than a decade, and Coppola is a certified applied animal behaviorist at the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center in Illinois and an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a doctorate in animal behavior. Today she clearly recognizes Jessie’s solitary pacing as one of the first signs of her beloved dog’s lifelong struggle with separation anxiety.

The condition, which causes dogs to panic when left alone, afflicts an unknown number of dogs each year. One study in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science suggests that 14 percent of dogs seen for routine veterinary care show some symptom of separation anxiety. That number rockets to 40 percent among dogs being seen for behavior-related problems.

When Coppola moved to New York City three years ago to do a postgraduate fellowship, Jessie grew even worse, eschewing food or defecating in the apartment when left alone. “Dogs with separation anxiety cope the best they can,” Coppola says. “When their environment changes, they can become less flexible and less able to cope.”

Coppola put Jessie, who died in January, on various medications for anxiety, gave her tons of exercise, and even set up a webcam to monitor the dog’s well-being. Still, Coppola rarely left Jessie alone except to go to school or work. “A lot of my life was dictated by my responsibility for taking care of her,” she says.
And while Coppola credits Jessie with helping to shape the career she loves, living with a dog with separation anxiety “takes a toll on you,” she says.

Roots of a problemDogs are social animals, and staying connected to the pack is often essential for survival, says Valarie Tynes, DVM, an American College of Veterinary Behaviorists diplomate. It’s normal for a dog to develop evolved behaviors that ensure it will reunite with its pack, in most cases its human family, she says.

Brandy Duncan, of California would not have considered her dog Neo’s destructive behaviors as evolved a few years ago. But after talking to an instructor at a puppy training class, Duncan understood that tearing at doors and destroying furniture were how he coped with his separation anxiety.

“We had been killing him with kindness,” Duncan says. “We took him everywhere with us, and when we left, made a big production of leaving or coming home.”

Torn-up walls or furniture may feel like your dog is punishing you for leaving, but it’s simply not the case, Coppola says.

Dogs with separation anxiety dig, chew, or scratch at doors or windows in an attempt to find you. They may also bark, howl, or cry to get you to return. And what about dogs who pace, circle, or eliminate in the house, even when they’re housetrained? All signs of distress due to the separation, she says.

Most dogs will eventually get used to being alone. But for others, isolation triggers intense fear and sends a dog’s fear response zooming.

“No one really knows why one animal suffers and another animal in a similar environment doesn’t,” Tynes says. “Most likely, genetic aspects of temperament play a very important role.”

Environmental factors can also trigger or intensify a dog’s separation anxiety. Examples include changes to the household like a divorce or a move, as in Coppola’s case, or a traumatic experience like a long stay at an animal shelter or a night alone when the burglar alarm sounds.

So how do you know if your dog has separation anxiety? Pamela Reid, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and vice president of the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center, says it’s easy. “It doesn’t take a behaviorist to detect anxiety in a dog,” she says. “Their body postures are different. They look much more frantic and panicked. Their tails may be tucked, they may pant, tremble.”

Because one common symptom and key indication of separation anxiety is that the problem behaviors occur when the dog is left alone, Reid suggests videotaping your dog when you leave to get a better idea of what’s happening.

Techniques to tryThe following techniques can help manage mild to moderate separation anxiety or prevent it altogether in dogs with no symptoms. If the problem persists after trying these, see your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam to rule out any underlying medical cause for your dog’s behavior. For chronic cases, your veterinarian may refer you to a certified behaviorist.

Prescription anti-anxiety medications or products that contain dog appeasing pheromones may also help ease your dog’s fear. For dogs with severe separation anxiety, a combination of behavior modification and drug therapy is usually necessary, Tynes says.

Practice gradual departures. Collect your belongings as if you were going out, then leave for a few minutes and return. Increase these training trips by five or 10 minutes at a time until, after a couple of days, you work up to outings lasting a few hours. “This sets your dog up to withstand future longer absences much better,” Reid says.

Maintain low-key arrivals and departures. Make a fuss over your dog when you wake up, not when you leave or get home. This helps to remove some of the tension that surrounds the event.

Exercise your dog before you leave. A tired dog is less likely to feel stress when you go.

Crate train. Most dogs feel safe in a small, secure environment, says Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB, and owner of Florida Veterinary Behavior Service in West Palm Beach, Fla. However, some dogs won’t take to a crate if introduced to it later in life, or if they fear confinement.

Discourage clinginess. Place your dog in a Sit-Stay or Down-Stay to keep her from following you from room to room when you’re at home. Praise her quietly when you return to the room she’s in.

Give a special treat or chew toy when you leave. “This acts to counter-condition the dog by pairing something great with something that previously was stressful,” Radosta says.

Duncan, for one, swears by these moves. Now 7, Neo is symptom-free. Duncan credits crate training, practicing gradual departures, and not fussing over Neo when she or her husband leaves or comes home. She also gives Neo a peanut butter-filled Kong toy before they go out.

“We couldn’t believe that such simple things could make so much of a difference,” Duncan says.

Thanks to Dog Channel for this article!