Gardening Tips

pittie in flowersI commonly see and hear about dogs that get sick from the garden or garden products. I noticed this past weekend – tons of gardening going on. Mulching, planting, weeding. I went to Lowes and their garden center was BUSY!

Anyway, this is “flower” month and I want to make sure you know what you need to know about planting a pet safe garden. Maybe your dog or cat doesn’t go into the Flower garden – and if that is the case – good for you. But I know you also want to protect other animals from getting sick.

To help keep your garden pet safe.

The most commonly used lawn care products are of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. When applied according to package instructions or by a qualified lawn care service most of these products are not harmful. Pets are primarily poisoned by contact with concentrated products. This may occur from inappropriate storage, failure to read package instructions, or by intentionally using more product than needed. Dogs are especially good at finding poorly stored containers, chewing them up and drinking the contents. Pet owners should be especially vigilant when using insecticides as these tend to have a higher degree of toxicity.
Dogs may be exposed by digging up treated earth, chewing on pellets, or rooting around ant mounds shortly after insecticides are applied.

Many pets chew on plants in the yard and garden. Fortunately for dogs, who for some unknown reason seem to enjoy eating grass and then vomiting, most grasses are non-toxic. Holiday ornamental plants such as poinsettias and Easter lily are often put outside for the summer. Ingestion of poinsettia stems and leaves may cause some mild gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting but is not deadly. Ingestion of all parts of the Easter lily causes depression, vomiting and diarrhea in cats. Left untreated most cats die of kidney failure. Tulips (bulbs), Lily of the valley and azaleas are all springtime plants that can be deadly to pets if ingested in large enough quantities. Dogs should be watched carefully when these plants are being cared for.

Most lawn seed and Mulch products are generally not associated with toxic problems in pets. Cacoa bean mulch is perhaps the only product known to cause poisoning in dogs. This mulch is made from the hulls of cacoa beans and when fresh has a rich, chocolate aroma associated with it. Some larger breed dogs have actually eaten several pounds of the mulch, more than enough to develop poisoning associated with the chocolate remnants. These over eager dogs should be kept away from the mulch until the aroma has dissipated. Generally a heavy rainfall or thorough watering is all that is required.

As you work outside be sure to take an extra moment or two to protect your pets. Read all package instructions carefully before any applying products to your lawn or garden. Be sure not only that it is safe to use around your pets but that you are mixing or applying it correctly. Check with your local garden center about the safety of plants you are putting in your garden. Finally, be sure to close the top tightly on all containers and put them in an area where your pets do not have access to them.
With a little careful planning, you and your pet can enjoy a safe and relaxing garden environment. Whether you’re planning a large garden to feed the family or decorating a small space with hanging baskets and containers, here are a few factors to be considered.

lab eat garden

Plant Selection

Plants and flowers are nature’s attention getters. Their fragrance, appearance, and cool shade they create are natural attractants for you and your pet. Curiosity often leads pets to consume the flowers and foliage of ornamental plants, which can produce irritating and sometimes life threatening side effects.
Plants for a Sunny Location

If the location of your garden, gives you 4 or more hours of direct sunlight, a day, you have a long list, of annuals and perennials from which to choose. Annuals grow from seed and last one growing season. They are good choices for fast, instant color impact. Garden and discount centers will offer a wide variety of annual plants at economical prices. Perennials return year after year from growth at the roots, they are a little more expensive, but do not need to be planted every growing season. Most gardeners have their favourites and mix both types for the longest possible color show. Safe choices for sunny locations include:

Annuals
• Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)
• Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.)
• Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
• Calendula (Callendula sp.)
• Petunia (Petunia sp.)

Perennial
• Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
• Phlox (Phlox sp.)
• Roses (Rose sp.)
• Catmint/catnip (Nepeta sp.)
• Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura)

Plants for Partial Sun

If your garden receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, the following list of non-toxic annuals and perennials requires less sunlight.

Annuals
• Primrose(Primula sp.)
• Butterfly flower(Schianthus sp.)
• Spider flower (Cleome sp.)
• Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.)

Perennials
• Columbine(Aquilegia sp.)
• Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)
• Turf Lilly (Liriope sp.)
• Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Shade Gardens

A shade garden receives little to no direct sunlight, although the sun may filter through the trees for dappled light. Plant selection for these areas may include the following:

Annuals
• Begonia (Begonia sp.)
• Impatiens (Impatiens sp.)
• New Guinea Impatiens
• Violet (Viola sp.)
• Coleus (Coleus sp.)

Perennials
• Bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa)
• Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
• Astilbe (Astilbe sp.)
• Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)

Vegetable Gardens

If you’re interest is vegetables, you’ll need 4 or more hours of full sun for most plants. Keeping your pet out of the vegetable garden may be your biggest task, especially when plants are young and fragile. Some clearly visible fencing may help. Avoid hardware cloth as pets can become entangled. Motion detector sprinkler systems can be useful in keeping pets and wildlife out of newly planted areas, and are not harmful. Most vegetable plants do not pose toxicity problems with a few exceptions. Onions, chives and garlic, which a lot of pets do like, contain compounds that, if ingested, can cause anemia. The leafy part of the potato plant, and the green part of the potato skin contain compounds that are toxic if eaten in sufficient quantities. Fruits also contain toxic chemicals in their seeds/pits. Apple, plum, cherry, apricot and peach seeds/pits contain cyanide, which can cause fatal seizures.

golden gardening

The 10 Least Wanted

The following is a list of plants that is best to avoid altogether due to their toxic nature. It is not a comprehensive list, if you are considering any plant of which you are unsure; consult your local plant nursery.
• Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
• Oleander (Nerium oleander)
• Morning Glory (Ipomea sp.)
• Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)
• Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
• Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
• Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
• Precatory Beans (Arbus precatorius)
• Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

Lawn and Garden Chemicals

It is very easy to reach for a chemical pesticide, fertilizer or fungicide when faced with a problem in the lawn or garden. Fortunately for the average home gardener, safer alternatives are available for most commonly encountered problems, reducing the risk of a toxic exposure for your pet. You would not think that your pet would have any reason to consume these products but sadly they do, either intentionally or inadvertently and these types of poisonings are all too common. Remember before applying any product to your lawn, vegetables, or ornamental plants to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Many of these products are designed to persist in the environment days to weeks after application, so a pet can have an exposure days to weeks after initial application.

Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides

If you notice damaging insects on your plants such as aphids, spider mites or thrips, these insects can be eliminated or reduced by a simple spray of water. These soft-bodied insects are easily dislodged. Adjust the nozzle of your hose so a firm spray will not harm your plants and wash them away. If you have only a few plants, use a good stream of water from your watering can and a little hand washing. It may take a day or two but an infestation can be cleared by no more than a good shower!

Soap and Water

If your insect problem is more serious, add a teaspoon of dish soap to a gallon of water and use it in a garden sprayer. The soap is an irritant to a lot of insects and can help break down the protective barriers of their external skeleton. There are commercial insecticidal soaps available that are less toxic than most chemical alternatives.

Compost

The “black gold” of the garden, recycled kitchen and yard waste can be combined to produce the best garden fertilizer at no cost and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. It can be applied to the lawn and garden twice a year and it will replace the essential nutrients that growing plants and grasses require.

And Don’t Forget

Sometimes we forget the simplest things! Put your pets inside when mowing the lawn. A lawn mower can make a projectile out of a stick or rock that can injure your pet. Paint your garden tools a bright color such as red or yellow so you can see them out in the yard. Many pets step or trip on sharp garden implements. Store your chemicals out of reach and in their original containers. Don’t assume your pet will not be interested in consuming these products. If there is a toxic exposure or consumption, call your veterinarian immediately with the information from the product label. Keep your pets inside when applying any chemicals to the lawn or garden. With a little planning you and your pet can enjoy a safe and beautiful garden.

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What Is Your Dog Saying? A Key to Canine Body Language

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Stopthat get back here.jpg

Keys to Understanding Canine Body Language

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

Signals Dogs Use to Communicate

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.

Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.

Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.

Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.

Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.

Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

Never tell a dog off for Growling.png

Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

 

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their litter-mates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.

Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a “play bow.” His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.

Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.

Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.

Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.

Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avoid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn’t afraid, he’ll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.

 

Understanding Your Dog’s Nose

All dogs have noses – and they all know how to use them. Our awareness of our dog’s nose capabilities is nothing new. We humans have long taken advantage of our dogs’ scenting prowess in a variety of ways – hounds who track game, rescue dogs who search for missing persons, narcotics detection dogs who find hidden drugs, and much more. Recently, however, both science and the dog-training world have taken a new look at and developed a new respect for the dog’s olfactory abilities, and what putting them to use can do for your dog’s mental and behavioral health!

sniffer

Know this about Dog Noses

First, some basic biology. According to Alexandra Horowitz, Ph.D., psychology professor and head of Barnard College’s Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Columbia University in New York, while humans have about 5 million olfactory cells, dogs have between 200 million and 1 billion. Did you get that? Between 200 million and 1 billion. So even the dogs at the low end of that range have 1,000 times as many olfactory cells as we humans!

SNIFF OUT THESE RESOURCES

Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell by Alexandra Horowitz (Scribner, 2016)

“Science Says Nose Work is Good For Your Dog” by Linda P. Case

Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World by Cat Warren (Touchstone, 2013)

Missing Animal Response Network (Information on how to train your dog to find missing pets):

K9 Nose Work (Information on scent work classes and competition, and how to find trainers who teach K9 Nose Work):

Search and Rescue Dogs (provides certification, training, and education for search and rescue dog teams):

Dogs also have a “second nose” – the vomeronasal organ (also called Jacobson’s organ), which enhances the dog’s ability to detect and identify scent. These two factors combined help to explain why our dog’s sense of smell is so much better than our own.

Nosing Around

Today, dog noses are employed in a long list of activities that go far beyond hunting for game. The list is ever expanding, and we are just beginning to recognize the benefits the dogs themselves reap from being allowed and encouraged to use their super-noses.

The rapidly growing popularity of K9 Nose Work competition and titling has brought revelations to the dog-training world about the behavioral advantages of encouraging dogs to use their noses. A growing number of shelters and rescue groups are also realizing the benefits of allowing/encouraging their canine charges to engage in scenting activities to make their dogs more adoptable. Many previously fearful dogs have come out of their shells and gained confidence in leaps and bounds as a result of doing scent work – perhaps because it is so innately reinforcing to them, and they are so capable of success.

Most humans recognize how immensely success contributes to our self-confidence. The same is true of dogs (and other species). Even something as simple as the “Find it!” game (described on the next page) can do wonders to help a shy or fearful dog adjust to the scary world. If you are interested in enrolling your dog in K9 Nose Work classes and/or competition there are certified trainers all over the country who can help you; see “Sniff Out These Resources,” above.

Nose Jobs

Here are just some of the things you might find dog noses detecting these days in addition to hunting game, drugs, and lost persons:

  • Diabetic alert
  • Seizure alert
  • Cancer
  • Explosives
  • Bed bugs, fire ants, termites, red palm weevils
  • Missing pets
  • Truffles (yes, that expensive mushroom)
  • Invasive knapweed (Montana)
  • Invasive brown tree snakes (Guam)
  • Feces of endangered species
  • Illegal currency
  • Human cadavers
  • Dead birds on wind farms
  • Smuggled agricultural products
  • Illegal animal and plant exports/imports (ivory, etc.)
  • Counterfeit items
  • Environmental contaminants and toxic products

Scent and Cognition

Horowitz has been exploring the connection between a dog’s sense of smell and his cognition. A “sense of self” or self-recognition is one of the elements of cognition, and the long-held test for self-recognition has been an animal’s ability to recognize himself in a mirror. The way this is usually tested is to put a dot of colored paint on the face of the subject and hold up a mirror. If the subject touches the dot on his own forehead, the conclusion is that he realizes it’s him in the mirror – he has a sense of self. If he touches the dot on the reflection instead, he supposedly does not recognize himself.

As of 2015, only great apes (including humans), a single Asiatic elephant, dolphins, orcas, and the Eurasian magpie had passed this test. A wide range of species have reportedly failed the test, including several species of monkey, giant pandas, sea lions, and dogs.

Recognizing that dogs may have a stronger self-recognition through scent rather than sight, Horowitz devised a study to test this, by allowing them to smell the scent of their own urine and another dog’s urine. The results of her study seem to confirm her hypothesis. Her subject dogs spent more time sniffing another dog’s pee than their own, indicating a self-association with their own scent, hence a sense of self.

Scent as a Reinforcer: “Premack” It!

Switching from science back to practical (with a touch of science) if you are frustrated by your dog’s constant sniffing on walks, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • As humans we really rely on our sense of vision. Imagine if you were walking along a path with gorgeous vistas, beautiful scenery, and amazing wildlife, and your guide kept grabbing your hand and dragging you along every time you wanted to stop, take in the view, and maybe take some pictures. That’s how your dog feels.
  • When you take your dog for a walk, who is the walk for, anyway? If it’s so she has an enjoyable experience, consider her preferences, and let her stop and sniff!
  • You can use the Premack Principle to teach your dog to walk more willingly with you even when there are tempting scents present.

A Nose Game All Dogs Enjoy: Find It!

“Find it” is a ridiculously easy and delightful game that any dog can play, as well as a game you can play to change behavior in the presence of a fear- or arousal-causing stimulus, eventually changing your dog’s emotional response from frightened to happy.

Start with your dog in front of you, and handful of tasty treats behind your back. Say “Find it!” in a cheerful tone of voice and toss one treat at your feet. Click just before your dog eats it. (Tap your foot or point if necessary, to draw your dog’s attention to the treat.)

When he’s done eating the treat, say “Find it!” again, and toss a second treat at your feet. Click as he eats the treat. Repeat multiple times until your dog’s face lights up when he hears the “Find it!” cue and he orients to your feet in anticipation of the treat. (Use a different “search” cue if you want to toss treats farther away, so “Find it!” will always orient your dog to your feet.)

Now if a scary skateboarder or some other arousal-causing stimulus appears while you’re walking your dog around the block on his leash, play “Find it!” and keep the tossed treats close to you. Your dog will take his eyes off the scary thing and switch into happy-treat mode. You’ve changed his emotions by changing his behavior.

To employ the Premack Principle, you use a more likely/more desirable behavior as the reinforcer for a less likely/less desirable behavior. (Some people call this “Grandma’s Law”: You have to eat your vegetables before you can eat your dessert.)

You can click-and-treat your dog for walking nicely with you, but if you occasionally tell her to “Go sniff!” as the reinforcer for polite walking, you’ll score big points in her eyes. Do it frequently and you’ll likely end up with a much more willing walking partner who trots happily next to you in eager anticipation of the next “Go sniff!” cue.

The Bond

There is one more incredibly important benefit of encouraging your dog to use her nose: Your presence during her highly reinforcing, very enjoyable scent activities will enhance your relationship with her, and strengthen the bond that you already have. What’s not to like about that?

So, consider the various options for playing with your dog’s nose, from the very simple “Find It!” to finding lost pets and humans, and everything in-between, decide what you want to do, and start getting nosey. Your dog will love you for it!

Understanding Your Dog’s Nose

lab eat garden
Putting your dog’s nose to work is a fun and effective way to improve his behavior and responsiveness to you.
Most people are aware that dogs have far more olfactory cells in their noses than we humans do. Dogs also have a far larger area in the brain devoted to analyzing the things that they smell. It’s been estimated that this area in the dog’s brain is 40 times greater than ours. It makes sense, then, that employing the dog’s nose is a great way to engage his brain!
All dogs have noses – and they all know how to use them. Our awareness of our dog’s nose capabilities is nothing new. We humans have long taken advantage of our dogs’ scenting prowess in a variety of ways – hounds who track game, rescue dogs who search for missing persons, narcotics detection dogs who find hidden drugs, and much more. Recently, however, both science and the dog-training world have taken a new look at and developed a new respect for the dog’s olfactory abilities, and what putting them to use can do for your dog’s mental and behavioral health!

Know this about Dog Noses
First, some basic biology. According to Alexandra Horowitz, Ph.D., psychology professor and head of Barnard College’s Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Columbia University in New York, while humans have about 5 million olfactory cells, dogs have between 200 million and 1 billion. Did you get that? Between 200 million and 1 billion. So even the dogs at the low end of that range have 1,000 times as many olfactory cells as we humans!
SNIFF OUT THESE RESOURCES
“Science Says Nose Work is Good For Your Dog” by Linda P. Case tinyurl.com/Case-nose

Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World by Cat Warren (Touchstone, 2013)

Missing Animal Response Network (Information on how to train your dog to find missing pets): missinganimalresponse.com

K9 Nose Work (Information on scent work classes and competition, and how to find trainers who teach K9 Nose Work): k9nosework.com

Search and Rescue Dogs (provides certification, training, and education for search and rescue dog teams): sardogsus.org
Dogs also have a “second nose” – the vomeronasal organ (also called Jacobson’s organ), which enhances the dog’s ability to detect and identify scent. These two factors combined help to explain why our dog’s sense of smell is so much better than our own.
Nosing Around
Today, dog noses are employed in a long list of activities that go far beyond hunting for game. The list is ever expanding, and we are just beginning to recognize the benefits the dogs themselves reap from being allowed and encouraged to use their super-noses.

The rapidly growing popularity of K9 Nose Work competition and titling has brought revelations to the dog-training world about the behavioral advantages of encouraging dogs to use their noses. A growing number of shelters and rescue groups are also realizing the benefits of allowing/encouraging their canine charges to engage in scenting activities to make their dogs more adoptable. Many previously fearful dogs have come out of their shells and gained confidence in leaps and bounds as a result of doing scent work – perhaps because it is so innately reinforcing to them, and they are so capable of success.

Most humans recognize how immensely success contributes to our self-confidence. The same is true of dogs (and other species). Even something as simple as the “Find it!” game (described on the next page) can do wonders to help a shy or fearful dog adjust to the scary world. If you are interested in enrolling your dog in K9 Nose Work classes and/or competition there are certified trainers all over the country who can help you; see “Sniff Out These Resources,” above.
Nose Jobs
Here are just some of the things you might find dog noses detecting these days in addition to hunting game, drugs, and lost persons:
Diabetic alert
Seizure alert
Cancer
Explosives
Bed bugs, fire ants, termites, red palm weevils
Missing pets
Truffles (yes, that expensive mushroom)
Invasive knapweed (Montana)
Invasive brown tree snakes (Guam)
Feces of endangered species
Illegal currency
Human cadavers
Dead birds on wind farms
Smuggled agricultural products
Illegal animal and plant exports/imports (ivory, etc.)
Counterfeit items
Environmental contaminants and toxic products
Scent and Cognition
Horowitz has been exploring the connection between a dog’s sense of smell and his cognition. A “sense of self” or self-recognition is one of the elements of cognition, and the long-held test for self-recognition has been an animal’s ability to recognize himself in a mirror. The way this is usually tested is to put a dot of colored paint on the face of the subject and hold up a mirror. If the subject touches the dot on his own forehead, the conclusion is that he realizes it’s him in the mirror – he has a sense of self. If he touches the dot on the reflection instead, he supposedly does not recognize himself.

As of 2015, only great apes (including humans), a single Asiatic elephant, dolphins, orcas, and the Eurasian magpie had passed this test. A wide range of species have reportedly failed the test, including several species of monkey, giant pandas, sea lions, and dogs.

Recognizing that dogs may have a stronger self-recognition through scent rather than sight, Horowitz devised a study to test this, by allowing them to smell the scent of their own urine and another dog’s urine. The results of her study seem to confirm her hypothesis. Her subject dogs spent more time sniffing another dog’s pee than their own, indicating a self-association with their own scent, hence a sense of self.

Scent as a Reinforcer: “Premack” It!
Switching from science back to practical (with a touch of science) if you are frustrated by your dog’s constant sniffing on walks, here are a couple of things to consider:

As humans we really rely on our sense of vision. Imagine if you were walking along a path with gorgeous vistas, beautiful scenery, and amazing wildlife, and your guide kept grabbing your hand and dragging you along every time you wanted to stop, take in the view, and maybe take some pictures. That’s how your dog feels.
When you take your dog for a walk, who is the walk for, anyway? If it’s so she has an enjoyable experience, consider her preferences, and let her stop and sniff!
You can use the Premack Principle to teach your dog to walk more willingly with you even when there are tempting scents present.
A Nose Game All Dogs Enjoy: Find It!
“Find it” is a ridiculously easy and delightful game that any dog can play, as well as a game you can play to change behavior in the presence of a fear- or arousal-causing stimulus, eventually changing your dog’s emotional response from frightened to happy.

Start with your dog in front of you, and handful of tasty treats behind your back. Say “Find it!” in a cheerful tone of voice and toss one treat at your feet. Click just before your dog eats it. (Tap your foot or point if necessary, to draw your dog’s attention to the treat.)

When he’s done eating the treat, say “Find it!” again, and toss a second treat at your feet. Click as he eats the treat. Repeat multiple times until your dog’s face lights up when he hears the “Find it!” cue and he orients to your feet in anticipation of the treat. (Use a different “search” cue if you want to toss treats farther away, so “Find it!” will always orient your dog to your feet.)

Now if a scary skateboarder or some other arousal-causing stimulus appears while you’re walking your dog around the block on his leash, play “Find it!” and keep the tossed treats close to you. Your dog will take his eyes off the scary thing and switch into happy-treat mode. You’ve changed his emotions by changing his behavior.
To employ the Premack Principle, you use a more likely/more desirable behavior as the reinforcer for a less likely/less desirable behavior. (Some people call this “Grandma’s Law”: You have to eat your vegetables before you can eat your dessert.)
You can click-and-treat your dog for walking nicely with you, but if you occasionally tell her to “Go sniff!” as the reinforcer for polite walking, you’ll score big points in her eyes. Do it frequently and you’ll likely end up with a much more willing walking partner who trots happily next to you in eager anticipation of the next “Go sniff!” cue.

The Bond
There is one more incredibly important benefit of encouraging your dog to use her nose: Your presence during her highly reinforcing, very enjoyable scent activities will enhance your relationship with her, and strengthen the bond that you already have. What’s not to like about that?

So, consider the various options for playing with your dog’s nose, from the very simple “Find It!” to finding lost pets and humans, and everything in-between, decide what you want to do, and start getting nosey. Your dog will love you for it!

To learn to play “Nose Games” with your dog, read How to Teach Your Dog to Play “Nose Games”.

The Dog Nanny’s website

The Importance of Pet Water Safety During the Summer Months

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Many pets love the water and enjoy swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and much more. However, there are some important pet water hazards that are critical in understanding to protect your dog’s safety.

 

5 Pet Water Safety Dangers

There are several dangers associated with pets in the water that include drowning, poor water quality, toxins in the water, exposure to other animals in the water, and possible trauma from things in the water or on the beach that may not be visible.

 

  1. Drowning that ends in death can occur or a syndrome known as near-drowning. Drowning can occur when a dog falls through the ice and can’t get out, dogs that can’t swim, dogs that fall out of boats, dogs in pools that can’t leverage themselves out, dogs that accidentally fall into ponds or bodies of water, or dogs that are swept away by currents in streams or the ocean. Freak accidents can also happen around toilets, sinks, bathtubs and water dishes.

 

The hazard is different depending on if the water is clean, dirty, contaminated, infected, or even if the water is fresh or saltwater. Near-drowning events in saltwater occur in the ocean while freshwater near-drowning events can occur in lakes, ponds, swimming pools, as well as water sources in the home.

 

Near drowning is associated with water inhalation that can result in cessation of breathing. When water gets into the airway, damage to the lungs occurs resulting in the collapse of the airways (atelectasis) and pulmonary edema. In addition, the larynx can spasm and close the airway. Breathing can stop and death ensues.

 

The pets most commonly affected by drowning are those that are young, old, or debilitated. Even normal healthy pets can lose their strength quickly or be unable to swim. Learn more about Near Drowning in Dogs.

 

  1. Unhealthy water quality is common in dirty pools but more common in lakes and ponds. Some stagnant bodies of water can overgrow with molds or algae. A medical problem called blue-green algae toxicity can occur from the ingestion of the water that can happen during swimming. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, grow and forms “blooms” that float and give the water a pea soup type color during the summer months. Some strains of the bacteria produce toxins that cause liver disease and neurologic symptoms.

 

Symptoms of blue-green algae toxicity causing liver damage in dogs includes vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, weakness, lethargy, seizures, jaundice, coma and death.

Signs of blue-green algae toxicity that affects the nervous system includes drooling, muscle tremors, seizures, and paralysis.

There is no treatment for blue-green algae toxicity. Veterinary care is critical.

 

  1. Toxins in the water from fertilizers, bug killers, weed killers, and pesticides can seep into the water table from products spread on farm fields that run off into lakes, streams, creeks, ponds, and rivers. Signs of toxicity will depend on the underlying chemicals used. Dogs can ingest this water or lick the water off their paws causing anything from vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, liver failure, or neurological symptoms.

 

  1. Animals or parasites in the water can cause problems in dogs. Dogs can be exposed to snakes, alligators, crocodiles, sea lice, jellyfish, toxic frogs, or infected protozoan parasites such as Giardia that can lead to wounds, trauma, or infections.

 

  1. Trauma from things in the water or under the water that is not visible or on the beach are common pet water safety hazards. Underwater trash such as boards with nails from debris or broken docks can be underwater and cause lacerations or punctures. Washed up bottles, glass, and/or metal can easily cut paws in the water or on the beach.

 

Pet Water Safety Tips

Below are tips to help keep your dog safe when in or around the water.

The absolute best way to protect your dog is to ensure your dog is supervised the entire time he or she is in the water.

Fit your dog with a life vest. They make different styles of life vests for every shape and size of dog. If you place a life vest on your dog, stay with your dog so he or she is supervised just in case he or she gets caught on something.  Learn more about Swimming With Dogs Can Be Fun If You Are Being Safe.

Protect your pet from the swimming pool when unsupervised. This can mean fencing in your pool and blocking doors to keep your dog away from the pool.

Provide a pool exit for your dog and make sure your dog knows how to use it. The best way to keep your dog safe around the pool is to not allow access when you are not around. But just in case someone keeps the door open and your dog does access the pool and falls in, it is critical to ensure your dog can get out. A pool ladder or ramp made for dogs should be placed in any pool home with dogs.

Check the water temperature and ensure it is neither too hot nor too cold for your dog.

If your dog swims in ponds, monitor the pond for signs of algae bloom. If you have a pond on your property, consider having the water tested for bacteria or toxins.

Prevent your dog from drinking pool, pond, lake, or ocean water. Why You Should Keep Your Dog From Drinking Too Much Water.

Keep a life vest on your dog when boating. Ensure you have a dog-safe ramp to help your dog get out of the water if he jumps in and swims or falls in. Some dogs will excitedly jump in if they see a duck or something else in the water. Learn more about How to Ensure Safety When Boating With Dogs.

Keep your dog away from fishing bait and poles. Some dogs will step on or eat the bait which results in a hook in the paw or swallowing the hook. This can be a big problem. Learn more about How to Remove a Fishhook in Your Dog.

Dry your dog’s ears after swimming to prevent infections.

One option to provide your dog with safe access to water is to create a pool just for your dog.

We hope these tips help you know more about pet water safety.

The Dog Nanny Canine Training Academy

Dog Paw Cuts and Scrapes: How to Treat a Paw Injury

Five things to do when your dog injures his paw pad.

animals hide pain tips
Your dog’s paw pads act much like the soles of sneakers, protecting your dog’s foot and cushioning each step. Paw pads are tough, but they can still be cut by sharp objects or worn off if your dog runs hard on rough terrain. What should you do when your dog cuts or tears a pad?

1. Clean the wound.
Gently flush the wound with water or an antiseptic, such as diluted chlorhexidine solution. If there is obvious debris, such as rocks or glass, remove it carefully. Don’t force anything that is lodged deep into the foot.
2. Control bleeding.
Apply pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding. Use a clean towel and an ice pack if available to encourage blood-vessel constriction. If only the outer layer of the pad has been worn off, there may not be much bleeding, but deeper wounds and punctures can bleed heavily. The time it takes for bleeding to stop will vary with the severity of the wound.
3. Evaluate the damage.
Minor paw injuries can be managed at home, but more severe ones require veterinary attention. Uncontrolled bleeding is an emergency – if your dog’s foot continues to bleed after several minutes of pressure, call your veterinarian and head for the clinic. Deep or jagged cuts may require sutures for optimal healing. Your dog may need to be sedated for sufficient cleaning of the wound if there is persistent debris, such as little bits of gravel, and something that is firmly lodged in the foot will need to be surgically removed. Your dog may also need antibiotics to protect against infection. If you are at all unsure, err on the side of a vet visit – your veterinarian can give you peace of mind and can give your dog the care he needs.
4. Bandage.
Place nonstick gauze or a Telfa pad directly over the cut. If available, a dab of triple antibiotic ointment is a good idea to prevent infection. This can be secured with paper tape. Then wrap your dog’s foot using roll gauze, Vetrap, or an elastic bandage. The bandage should be snug enough to stay on, but also needs to be loose enough to allow for proper circulation to your dog’s foot. You should be able to slide two fingers under the bandage. To prevent the bandage from slipping off, wrap all the way up to and including the next joint on your dog’s leg: carpus or wrist in front, hock in back. You can also place more tape around the top of the bandage.
Keep the bandage dry. Moisture provides an entrance for bacteria to get through the bandage and into the wound. You can use a commercial bootie to protect the bandage when your dog goes outside or just tape a plastic bag over it. Most paw bandages need to be changed daily, especially if there is still bleeding or a discharge present.
For minor scrapes that look like a rug burn, a liquid bandage can be used to cover the exposed nerve endings without needing a full traditional bandage. Keep the foot elevated while the liquid bandage dries, and don’t let your dog lick it.
5. Allow time for healing.
Your dog’s paw will heal faster if it’s protected until fully healed. Keep him quiet, and prevent him from running or chewing at the bandage (this may require the use of an Elizabethan collar). Even after your dog’s pad has healed enough that it isn’t painful to touch, it will still be tender and vulnerable to reinjury. Avoid activities that could damage the healing pad, or use a bootie to protect the foot. Healing time will vary depending on the size of the cut.

The Dog Nanny Website

The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat

Dog Diet & Nutrition

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what dogs can’t eat

There are human foods that are completely safe for dogs and also foods that are dangerous and even potentially fatal. Many pet owners learn about toxic foods only after their dog has ingested something and started having abnormal symptoms.

Since dogs are naturally curious and have an amazing sense of smell, this combination often leads to them getting into purses, getting food off of counters, getting into trash cans, stealing food from grills, and sneaking food from plates. Other times, well-intentioned pet owners offer tables scraps or human foods without understanding that they are toxic.

Below, we will review what can’t dogs eat as well as list what is safe. It is important to have healthy alternatives once you know what is not safe.

 

Safe Food for Dogs

There are many human foods that are “safe” for dogs. However, dogs do not need human food. What dogs need is a good quality food formulated for the size, age, body condition, activity, or for any underlying medical problems they may have. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

lab eat garden

Safe Treats for Dogs

The ideal dog treat is one made of good quality ingredients that is moderate to low in calories, consistent in ingredients (thus unlikely to cause stomach upset from bag to bag), very appealing to your dog, and safe. Higher-quality treats tend to be more consistently produced, so it is best to avoid discount and supermarket brands if possible.

There are also many human foods that you can feed your dog safely. By safely, I mean the foods listed below are not toxic to dogs. However, large quantities of any food or food given to dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pancreatitis. Treats should make up less than 5% of your dog’s caloric intake.

 

Safe Foods and Treats for Dogs

Human foods that are safe for dogs include those in the list below. These foods are considered to be fresh, seedless, shelled, sliced, peeled, and in some cases, washed, and/or cooked depending on the particular product. Butter and seasonings can create their own dangers.

Almonds

Apples – small amounts without the seeds

Asparagus

Avocado –small amounts without the seeds

Bananas

Blackberries

Blueberries

Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed

Brussels sprouts

Cantaloupe

Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cauliflower

Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed

Cheese

Chicken – cooked

Clementine

Cooked fish such as salmon

Cooked green beans. In fact, some pet owners give green beans to aid in weight loss. Learn more about the Green Bean Diet for Dogs

Cooked ground beef or steak

Cottage cheese

Cranberries

Eggs

Fish

Freshly cooked lunch meat

Iceberg Lettuce

Kiwis

Oatmeal

Oranges

Papaya

Pasta

Peanuts

Pineapple

Popcorn

Pork – cooked

Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet

Pumpkin – cooked

Rice or rice cake

Shrimp

Strawberries

Spinach

Tangerine

Turkey – cooked

Yogurt

Watermelon

Tips for Giving Human Food as Treats to Your Dog

Treats are never a replacement for a good quality core dog food.

Consider low-calorie treats for dogs with weight control problems.

Give only fresh food. Moldy or rotten food can cause gastrointestinal upset.

What Dogs Can’t Eat: Foods Not Safe for Dogs

Any food in large pieces or chunks can cause difficulty chewing or swallowing and can be a choking hazard.

Specific foods that veterinarians commonly recommend NOT to give to dogs include the following:

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include anxiety, dilated pupils, labored breathing, fast breathing, and shock. Small pieces of cleaned apple without the seeds can be safe.

Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic in some animals. The toxic component in the avocado is “persin,” which is a fatty acid derivative. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen, and sac around the heart, which can occur in some animals such as cattle and horses. The amount that needs to be ingested to cause signs is unknown. The biggest danger of avocado in dogs is the ingestion of the pit that can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Learn about the safety of avocados here.

Baked Goods. The products which are made with xylitol are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweeter used in place of sugar primarily because it is lower in calories. Xylitol is also an ingredient in many different types of gums. It is in many products designed for people with Diabetes due to its low glycemic index. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure, or muscle spasms.

Bones. There are many bones that aren’t safe for dogs. This can be due to the danger of them getting stuck or caught in the mouth, sharp splinters injuring the intestines, risk of constipation when passing relatively indigestible bone fragments, as well as possible bacterial contamination on the bone that can lead to illness. Learn more about The Danger of Bones.

Bread Dough. The dough contains yeast which rises in moist, warm environments, such as in the stomach. After ingestion, the rising dough can expand the stomach and decrease blood flow. Fermentation of the yeast can be reduced to alcohol causing signs of intoxication.

Chewing Gum. Gums that are made with xylitol can be toxic. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high-fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. Learn more about the specific amount of each toxin that is based on body weight in this article: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs.

Coffee (grounds and beans). Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity. The symptoms are very similar to those of chocolate toxicity and can be just as or even more serious.

Dairy Products. Human dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high-fat content and like other foods with high-fat content, there is a risk of pancreatitis. The second reason is that dogs poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose. This affects some dogs more than others and can cause issues from gas to diarrhea. Small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are tolerated by most dogs but it is probably safest to avoid dairy products altogether.

Diet Foods. Foods made for weight loss or diabetes may have the ingredient xylitol.

Fatty Foods. Rich and fatty foods are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any dog but miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is often evidenced by the hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.

Grapes and Raisins. Ingestion of grapes and/or raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some pet owners feed grapes thinking they are a healthy treat or give a piece of a cookie with raisins. Aggressive, and sometimes prolonged, treatment may be necessary to give the affected dog a chance at survival. Despite testing, the reason for the kidney failure and the amount necessary for toxicity remains unknown. Learn more about Grape and Raisin Toxicity.

Onions and Garlic. Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions which can result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion or garlic are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. This is due to the toxic ingredient in onions and garlic, thiosulphate. Learn more at Why You Shouldn’t Feed Your Dog Garlic.

Peanut Butter. Some peanut butter manufacturers add xylitol to peanut butter, which is toxic to dogs. Learn more about Peanut Butter Toxicity in Dogs.

Rawhides. Like bones, rawhides can also get stuck in the esophagus or stomach of dogs, causing problems. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination. Although this is not human food, it is worth a mention with the goal to prevent your dog from getting sick. Learn more about The Good and Bad of Rawhides.

Table Scraps. Scraps, especially those that are fatty can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs. Some dogs tolerate table scraps well but others can become very ill.

Best Treats for Dogs

When shopping for treats, look for the seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which publishes feed regulations and ingredient definitions.

The Dog Nanny website

How to Furnish a Home for Dogs

Fuss-free decorating helps keep you and your furry friends comfortable, happy, and healthy.

My husband and I like to think we keep a pretty clean house, but sometimes we’re amazed at how much hair and dirt surround us. We’re not fastidious about housecleaning, but we do try to keep things relatively hair- and dirt-free and neat – “try” being the operative word. As we’re making the bed, sweeping the kitchen floor, or vacuuming the carpet, there’s proof positive of the fact that we live with Dogue de Bordeauxs and a Siamese Cat.

based on my wardrobe fav colour dog hair

All that hair and dirt around our country home serve to remind us that:-

1) we adore our dogs and cats and wouldn’t want to live without them; and

2) we’re happy that we decided to make life easier by choosing fabrics, flooring, and furniture that works well with our pets. Not having to worry about our dogs or cats “ruining” something in our home provides great peace of mind!

Here’s a glimpse into how and why we’ve made decorating decisions that work well for us and our animals.

 

Care-Free Decorating

I can’t remember exactly when Marco and I first began talking about “decorating around our animals” – it was probably about 14 or 15 years ago. I believe it started when we were attempting to find a solution to keep our cat from using the front of the upholstered sofa’s arms as a scratching post. We had numerous cat scratching posts and other items we defined as “legal scratching items,” but the arms of the sofa were much preferred by our furry feline. Our solution was to buy a Mission-style futon with a wooden frame so that the arms wouldn’t be optimum scratching areas.

 

It worked beautifully. The cat moved to using items around our home that we considered “legal.” Lest they consider the futon cover as an alternative scratching surface, we chose a faux-leather cover that wouldn’t show damage even if scratched, and it certainly wouldn’t pull or run as many materials will do. Happy humans, happy cat.

Fast forward to today, and I’d say our house looks comfortably lived in, and the hair from natural shedding and the dirt that inevitably follows the dogs and cats inside is easily washed off or vacuumed up in no time. We’ve selected only flooring, fabrics, and furniture that are comfortable for us and our animals, resistant to scratches, easy to clean, and that don’t show the inevitable pet hair.

Remember that no matter your chosen style of décor, if you’re striving for “fuss-free” decorating, no matter the item (flooring, furniture, fabrics, etc.), it’s nice to keep the following in mind: scratch resistance, damage resistance, comfort for your pet, and comfort for you. Here’s what we’ve found works well for us, and some ideas for what might work for you in your home.

dog on couch

Best Flooring for Dogs

We’re unfortunately limited with flooring choices and have Hardwood or Laminate in all rooms of our house

It’s also very easy to spot-clean when it comes to any potty accidents or the occasional vomit that’s inevitable when one lives with animals.

The kitchen has 100-year-old, reclaimed, heart-pine flooring, which is easy to clean – sweep and mop, that’s all. However, pine is a soft wood, which means it dents and scratches easily. To me, though, the dents and scratches add character to the floors, and because they contain so many imperfections, I don’t fret about any inevitable new ones.

Flooring is the most heavily used surface in our homes, particularly when we have dogs. Popular considerations for flooring in your pet-friendly home are usually wood, bamboo, carpeting, tile, vinyl, or linoleum. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and what works for me may not work for you.

It’s not uncommon for a dog to have an aversion to a specific type of surface (our own dog Teal’C doesn’t do well on tile), so if you know your dog won’t be comfortable on a certain surface, consider another option. For example, if your dog or cat is prone to allergies to dust or pollen, you might want to avoid carpet. And if he’s habitually anxious on slick floors, hardwood might not be the way to go. You want to keep your pet’s comfort and health in mind just as much as you do your own comfort.

 

If you opt for wood, solid hardwood floors have an advantage over softer woods, such as the pine we have in our own home. Choices include solid wood, hardwood veneer, and laminate flooring. Solid wood is just that; each exposed part of the flooring is made of genuine hardwood and nothing else. Hardwood veneer is a type of construction that’s made up of slides of hardwood bonded to composite board or plywood (sometimes called “all wood”). Laminate refers to a surface of plastic, foil, or paper, often printed with photographs of wood-grain patterns bonded to something like particleboard or fiberboard.

Bamboo flooring seems to have exploded in popularity. Technically it’s a grass, but I’ve learned that bamboo is as tough as most hardwood when dried. It comes in a variety of plank styles and colors, too.

Tile is also a popular choice. It’s easy to clean because dirt, stains, and liquids all rest on the surface. However, it’s a hard product that can be cold in the winter and not comfortable for a dog to lie on.

Almost every brand-name carpet manufacturer has a stain-free and pet-friendly version. Stainmaster® is probably the most widely known brand. However, when I talked with the carpet expert in our local big-box-remodeling store, she told me that many carpets today have the same qualities as the ones that are advertised as pet-friendly, only at a lesser price. There are health and environmental effects to be considered with carpeting, though it seems easier to today to find better choices than ever before. Four-legged traffic takes a toll on carpet (we can attest to that), so do your research to determine what works best in your own home: stain-resistant, wear-resistant, or stain- and wear-resistant carpet.

Vinyl flooring is one of the least expensive options available, but pet owners should be aware that it also has the most potentially for contributing to poor indoor air quality in your home. The word “vinyl”is short for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl itself is a relatively stable product, but most vinyl flooring also is permeated with phthalates, the common name for phthalate esters, which make vinyl soft and cooperative. They do this very well in part because their molecules do not bond to PVC, but rather move freely through it and into the surrounding environment.

The phthalates used to plasticize PVC are what give it that familiar “vinyl” smell. If you can smell vinyl, then you and your pets are inhaling phthalates that are out-gassing. The stronger a vinyl product smells, the greater the amount of phthalates it contains. If you or your pets are particularly sensitive to chemicals, or live in an apartment with limited access to fresh air from the outdoors (as in many high-rise buildings), vinyl flooring is a risky choice.

In contrast, old-fashioned linoleum, made with natural, renewable materials such as linseed oil, tree resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, and mineral pigments, and mounted on jute or canvas backing, is considered a “green” product. Who knew? Not me. Linoleum has been around since the mid-1800s and is naturally anti-bacterial, biodegradable, and can last up to 40 years with proper care and maintenance. Because the color in linoleum runs all the way through the material (unlike vinyl flooring), if it gets stained or scratched, you can buff out any damage and refinish the floor.

 

Dog-Friendly Fabrics

In our home, the fabric on our sofa is faux leather and our soft chair is real leather. The colors are dark brown and deep red; we chose them because they don’t show much dirt. Though not totally scratch-resistant, if either is scratched inadvertently, it only adds to the distressed-leather look. Oh, how I adore white upholstery or white leather. But it just doesn’t work in a home where our animals are invited up on sofas and chairs. We keep the pale colours on the walls and the colors on the furniture. Because our dogs and cats sleep on the bed with us, we like choosing bedspreads and quilts that are patterned and in colors that blend with the colors of our dogs’ hair. The more heavily patterned the fabric, the less I’ll see the inevitable paw prints and pet hair until it’s time to be washed.

There’s so much to consider with the wide variety of fabrics available today. No matter what you choose, take into consideration that even if your pets don’t join you on the bed, chair, or sofa (though I sure hope they do!), their hair seems to just pop right off them and head straight for upholstered furniture.

Keep the unique characteristics of your pet’s hair in mind, too. Certain types of stiff dog hair poke into certain types of fabrics, almost instantaneously becoming part of the weave, and are extremely difficult to vacuum our pull out with a tape roller. Soft, downy hair from other breeds (and cats) sticks like lint to other fabrics. Pay attention to what fabrics you have in your home, wardrobe, and even car that your pets’ hair doesn’t stick to, and look for more of the same.

In our experience, real leather, in a pre-distressed finish, is the most durable fabric for couches and chairs, and it’s easy to brush or vacuum hair away, and wet-wipe off any liquid that a pet might dribble or spill (I don’t want to get more specific than that; we’re all pet owners here, right?).

Consider outdoor fabrics for indoor applications, too! They may not be as soft as your average sofa covering, but they will hold up better over time.

And speaking of covering the sofa, keep in mind that washable and replaceable slipcovers for upholstered furniture, though costly, are less expensive than buying new furniture. It might not be worth the investment if you have one small dog and live in a condo. But if your home has a dog door and your backyard has a pond or vegetable garden and you live with a swim-happy Labrador or mud-loving Australian Shepherd, it might be worth your while.

 

Dog-Resistant Furniture

Antiques and flea market finds happen to be our chosen style. No, most antiques aren’t scratch resistant, but when you buy a piece of furniture from an antique store or flea market, there’s no need to worry about the first scratch because every item comes with scratches or some other marks from its previous life. I really like that! Any new scratches just add to the story of our life with our animals. If you prefer new furniture, you could opt for the distressed look (think shabby chic) or choose furniture made from metal or a hardwood, such as oak.

 

Dog-Specific Décor

I don’t quite understand it myself, but I’m aware that many people seem to try to hide the fact that a dog lives in their home, worried that the presence of gates or crates or a big dog bed might detract from tasteful decorating. The good news is that today, there are an endless number of very attractive dog-management products on the market, and product lines that are available in a wide variety of finishes in order to blend with any home’s décor.

For our part, Marco and I put more effort into finding products that offer better-than-average stability, durability, and ease of opening and closing. When shopping for these products, it’s worth it to look farther afield than just your local pet supply store or big-box chain store. They may carry just one brand or type of each sort of product.

For crates, gates, and beds that wouldn’t look out of place in a palace, check out Frontgate’s pet products. I wouldn’t be surprised if Queen Elizabeth shopped for Corgi-management products here; they’re a little pricey. But, no worries, you can DIY it!

Have you ever thought about a do-it-yourself pet gate? I’ve discovered so many interesting pet gates that truly do seem easy to make yourself. I’m fascinated by several styles that can be made from pallets and look lovely when stained or painted. The Sparta Dog Blog also has a variety of ideas that might strike your fancy and work well for you and your pets.

 

Dog Beds

While our dogs sleep on our bed with us at night, we nevertheless have dog beds that are specifically for them, and periodically, they’ll actually choose to use them! The most important thing to keep in mind is the comfort of the bed for your dog. Does your dog get hot or cold easily? Does she prefer smooth fabric or fleece? There are orthopedic beds, allergy-free beds, environmentally friendly beds, cooling beds, warming beds, and even cave-like beds for dogs who like to burrow. Like us, each dog has his or her own preference, so do give some thought to the type of bed your dog may like before you choose.

They come in a variety of patterns and colors, so it’s easy to find something that complements the colors in your home.

 

A Peaceful Home

While it’s true that our pets don’t care about how we decorate and how our house looks, they certainly do notice when something is comfortable or uncomfortable. Let’s make things comfortable!

Our dogs also notice if we display anger when they happen to make a mess on an important piece of furniture. If you tend to get frustrated frequently because something in your home gets scratched, marred, or dirtied by your dog, perhaps it’s time to rethink your decorating choices and move to fuss-free decorating. Your dog will

Bloat: The Mother of All Canine Emergencies

Bloat: The Mother of All Canine Emergencies

Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of bloat, so you can act quickly enough to save your dog’s life.

No word strikes fear into the hearts of dog owners like bloat. It is a fairly common occurrence and requires immediate intervention and surgical treatment. But what exactly is it? And what should you do if you suspect that your dog is suffering a bloat?

 

Bloat is the nontechnical term for gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), a condition in which the stomach rotates around itself to become twisted. The stomach can twist halfway (a 180-degree torsion), all the way leading to a 360-degree torsion, or anywhere in between. Once twisted, the stomach becomes stuck, and fluid and gas cannot exit. A dog cannot vomit, as the entrance to the stomach (the cardia) is obstructed, and nothing can leave the stomach via the intestines, because the exit (pylorus) is also blocked.

 

Due to this twisting, the stomach rapidly fills with fluid and gas, leading to abdominal distention. As the stomach quickly expands, blood vessels supplying it rupture and lead to hemorrhage. The massive stomach pushes on the diaphragm, making it hard for the dog to breathe. It also causes pressure on the caudal vena cava, which brings deoxygenated blood from the body back to the heart. Without blood circulating, shock occurs rapidly.

 

Bloat Symptoms in Dogs

The symptoms of bloat are classic and include restlessness, discomfort, pacing, abdominal distention, gagging, salivating, and non-productive retching.

 

The earliest signs may be as subtle as increased drooling and pacing/restlessness. Frequently, this occurs soon after a meal, especially if the meal is followed by exercise. Certain breeds are more likely to develop bloats such as Great Danes, Standard Poodles, and Dobermans, but any breed can bloat. Sex does not seem to be related.

 

Bloat is an immediate emergency. The longer the stomach stays twisted, the more damage is done. If twisted long enough, the stomach tissue will die and rupture, leading to spillage of stomach contents into the abdomen.

 

If you suspect your dog is bloated, an emergency trip to the veterinarian is a necessity. Do not wait overnight to see your veterinarian in the morning. The sooner that GDV is addressed, the better the chances for recovery.

 

At the Veterinary Clinic

When you arrive, the technical staff should take your dog directly to the treatment area for examination. Bloat can often be determined based simply on signalment (age and breed) and physical examination. The belly will be tight and tympanic (meaning like a drum).

 

To confirm the diagnosis, your veterinarian may take a right lateral abdominal x-ray. This will reveal a classic “double bubble” – a folded, compartmentalized stomach. They are often called “Smurf hats” or “Popeye arms” because of their characteristic appearance.

 

Time is of the essence, so your veterinarian will treat your dog immediately. A quick physical exam generally will reveal the following abnormalities: an elevated heart rate, panting or fast breathing, a tight, drum-like abdomen, and abdominal pain.

 

An IV catheter will be placed to administer fluids and correct shock. Pain medications are needed as soon as possible and may include an opioid such as hydromorphone, morphine, or fentanyl.

 

As your veterinarian and the technical staff work to stabilize your dog, they will also conduct diagnostic testing. This will include bloodwork to evaluate for internal organ damage, as well as checking blood pressure. In a specialty setting, it’s likely that the veterinarian will also check coagulation factors (your dog’s ability to clot) and blood lactate levels.

 

Lactate has been extensively studied in GDV. It is produced as a backup source of energy in the body. Lactate is always being produced, but in shock, when oxygen levels are decreased, lactate production is much higher. It can be measured with a hand-held device much like a blood glucose monitor. Many studies have been done to evaluate how helpful this is in determining outcome in GDV patients. Currently, it is thought that a high lactate level that decreases with IV fluids and surgery is a good indication for recovery.

 

GDV often occurs in older dogs, so your veterinarian also may recommend three-view chest x-rays to evaluate for the presence of any abnormalities. One study showed that 14 percent of dogs with GDV have concurrent aspiration pneumonia, likely from gagging and inhaling drool and watery stomach fluid that can escape the twisted stomach. Many GDV patients are older, and three-view x-rays can also evaluate for metastatic cancer that would make the surgery prognosis poorer. This recommendation is dependent on the vet who treats your dog. Any delay in surgery can be detrimental to your dog, so in cases of elderly dogs (greater than eight years of age) in particular, this recommendation must be weighed carefully.

 

Stomach Decompression for Dogs

Before surgery, your veterinarian will likely try to decompress the stomach – that is, relieve the gas buildup in the stomach. This can be done in one of two ways. The first is to pass a tube down the esophagus into the stomach – an older but still accepted method. It can often be done in an awake patient. This rapid decompression can help buy time for the twisted stomach. In some rare cases, passing a tube can untwist the stomach, but the procedure also poses the risk of puncturing through the twisted stomach entrance (cardia).

 

Another method of decompression is called trocarization. In this technique, large gauge needles are inserted through the skin into the stomach to relieve the air. This is currently the more commonly used approach because it is quick, doesn’t require multiple staff members, and can be very effective. It poses a much lower risk to the dog, but is not without risk altogether: it’s possible to lacerate the spleen during this procedure.

 

There is a great video online of a veterinarian performing trocarization on a Bernese Mountain Dog with GDV.

 

Surgery for Bloat

The goal in a GDV is to stabilize the patient as quickly as possible before surgery. A GDV can be successfully treated only with surgical intervention. This often puts the veterinarian and owner in a very difficult spot. Decisions must be made quickly and with decisiveness to allow for the best outcome. GDV surgery can be very costly, and most dogs will remain in the hospital for two to three days post-operatively. The prognosis is dependent on each dog and how long the torsion has been present. In general, survival rates for the surgery are high.

 

Your veterinarian will take your dog to surgery as soon as possible. This should not be done until the patient is as stable as can be expected. To some extent, full treatment of shock is impossible until the stomach is de-rotated in surgery. The patient’s condition should be optimized. This means stabilizing blood pressure, bringing heart rate down to normal or near normal, controlling pain, and decompressing the abdomen either via stomach tube or trocarization.

 

In surgery, your veterinarian will open the abdomen, identify the twisted stomach, and then de-rotate it. Once de-rotated, the stomach is checked for damage. In some cases, part of the stomach tissue has died and must be removed. The spleen will be checked next. It lies alongside the stomach and shares some blood vessels. When the stomach twists, the spleen does as well. Damage to those blood vessels can lead to a damaged spleen. In some cases, the spleen must also be removed.

 

Once the stomach and spleen are addressed, the stomach is sutured to the right body wall. This is called a gastropexy. This will prevent the stomach from rotating again in 90 percent of cases. However, in about 10 percent of cases, a dog can still develop a bloat. It is imperative to always monitor your dog for the symptoms of bloat, even when they have undergone gastropexy.

 

There are several different techniques for gastropexy. The most common is the incisional. This is when an incision is made into the outer layer of the stomach (serosa) and a matching one made on the wall of the body. The two are then sutured together, holding the stomach in place.

 

Surgery generally lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.

 

Post-Operative Care

Most dogs will remain hospitalized for one to three days after surgery. Post-operative care will include IV fluids to maintain hydration, pain relief, and close monitoring. Complications can include arrhythmias, hemorrhage, and infection. In some cases, a syndrome called systemic inflammatory reaction syndrome (SIRS) can occur. Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a massive and fatal collapse of the ability of the body to clot blood, can also occur.

 

Patients should be monitored around the clock after surgery, preferably at an emergency and/or referral hospital. Not all veterinary hospitals have staff on duty all night, so be sure to ask your veterinarian if this is something that will be available, or whether a transfer to a clinic with a night staff is possible.

 

Excellent attention to recovery is important. This will include monitoring of heart rate and rhythm (by ECG), temperature, and comfort level. Most patients are fasted for about eight to 12 hours after surgery. They are then offered a bland, easily digestible diet.

 

Arrhythmia and Bloat in Dogs

It is very common for a dog that has GDV to suffer from arrhythmias during or after surgery.

 

The most common are ventricular tachycardia and slow idioventricular rhythm. The ventricles are the lower chambers of the heart. When a dog goes into shock, the heart muscle becomes irritable and can develop irregular beats, particularly in the ventricles. Tachycardia occurs when the heart rate is faster than 150-160 beats per minute. When the heart rate is normal but the rhythm is abnormal, this is a slow idioventricular rhythm.

 

In most cases, these resolve within a week without specific treatment. If the arrhythmia persists, it is important to have the heart evaluated by a cardiologist. Since Great Danes in particular are prone to both GDV and cardiomyopathies, concurrent heart disease could be present.

 

Bloat Prevention

Much research has been devoted to this topic. The causes for GDV are poorly understood. At various times, an array of different recommendations have been made to prevent bloat, including the use of raised food dishes, the avoidance of raised food dishes, avoiding exercise after meals, and feeding smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal. More recent research has identified a possible link between motility disorders and GDV. At this time, unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for preventing bloat.

 

Prophylactic gastropexy is strongly recommended for the highest risk breed, the Great Dane, as some estimates show one in three will experience GDV. This can be done at the time of spay for females. It can also be done laparoscopically for males at practices that offer this modality.

 

Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, Irish Setters, and Weimaraners are also considered at-risk breeds for which prophylactic gastropexy should be considered. In other breeds, the benefits versus risks of preventative gastropexy are less clear. But one thing is certain:

 

No matter what type of dog you own, if you observe the classic symptoms of bloat – restlessness, discomfort, pacing, abdominal distention, gagging, salivating, and non-productive retching – you need to get your dog to a veterinary emergency room ASAP.

 

Mesenteric Volvulus: A Diagnostic Puzzle

While less common than GDV, mesenteric volvulus is a similar condition that requires immediate veterinary care and can be deadly in a matter of hours. For owners of German Shepherd Dogs and Pit Bulls (the most predisposed breeds) it is especially imperative to know about this condition.

 

With a mesenteric volvulus, the small intestines twist at their origin (called the root of the mesentery). This leads to obstruction of blood flow and death of the upper GI tract. The cause of MV is unknown. There seems to be an association with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) in which the pancreas does not produce digestive enzymes. However, this has been shown in only one study. Other causes have not been identified.

 

The symptoms are frequently very sudden in onset and include vomiting, extremely bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and distention, and collapse in a dog that was previously normal. The gums will be pale, and the heart rate and breathing rapid. The abdomen may be distended and extremely painful. An emergency trip to the veterinarian is warranted. Do not wait!

 

Unfortunately, these symptoms present a diagnostic dilemma for the veterinarian. Acute collapse can represent several conditions including Addisonian crisis, anaphylaxis, and acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome. If mesenteric volvulus is not identified within one to two hours, death often results. Therefore, if your dog exhibits these symptoms, your veterinarian should conduct treatment and diagnostics immediately.

 

Treatment for Mesenteric Volvulus

Initial treatment and testing should happen simultaneously when possible. An IV catheter will be placed to administer fluids and correct shock (manifested by low blood pressure, high heart rate, and rapid breathing). Oxygen may also be given by face mask or nasal prongs. MV is an extremely painful condition, so pain medications should be given.

 

Your veterinarian should also be conducting diagnostics at the same time. X-rays and/or ultrasound of the abdomen are critical in diagnosing MV. Bloodwork should also be done concurrently to evaluate internal organ function, as well as determine the severity of shock and to rule out other diseases. Most MVs are readily apparent on x-ray, but this is not always the case. Ultrasound also can be helpful.

 

Surgery for Mesenteric Volvulus

The treatment for mesenteric volvulus is immediate surgery. Even with prompt surgery, the prognosis is extremely guarded for survival. While the stomach can be twisted for hours in a GDV and the patient recover, the intestines do not tolerate the lack of blood flow for long. As a result, the veterinarian must intervene quickly and decisively.

 

This can lead to a hard decision for both owners and veterinarians. The diagnosis often cannot be definitively made on x-rays and ultrasound. It can be heavily suspected based on clinical signs, breed, and testing, but until the doctor performs surgery, it is not always a certainty. As a result, owners are often forced to make a major decision with an ambiguous diagnosis and recovery. Like any major emergency surgery, it is expensive. MV surgery and post-operative care can cost several thousand dollars. This is an excellent example of why it is important that you have a close and trusting relationship with your veterinarian, as well as an emergency fund and/or pet insurance, which can help offset the cost and stress in the case of MV.

 

If mesenteric volvulus is suspected, your dog will undergo rapid emergency surgery to de-rotate the intestines. If too much damage has occurred and the intestines cannot be saved, a resection and anastamosis (removal of intestines and sewing ends together) can sometimes be done. However, in some cases, the damage is too extensive, and euthanasia is necessary.

 

Post-operatively, the patient will likely be hospitalized for several days and undergo careful monitoring. After surgery, complications such as sepsis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and organ failure can occur. Thus, it is imperative that patients are observed closely after surgery. Complications can occur for several days to a week afterward.

 

Mesenteric volvulus carries a very guarded prognosis for recovery. It is critical that owners of German Shepherds and American Pit Bull Terriers be aware of the symptoms and act rapidly if they are noted.

Kids and Dog

The formula for keeping children and canines safe is simple: Parents need to be attentive, meticulous about management, and quick to separate them at the first sign of the dog’s discomfort.

teach kids to respect dogs
These days, it seems that every time someone posts a picture on social media of a child with a dog it is immediately followed by a spate of posts expressing horror at the anticipated savage attack likely to follow.
Granted, some of those photos do, indeed, show dogs displaying body language signals that suggest a significant amount of discomfort at the proximity of the child, and real potential for injury. But many of them also, in my opinion, depict normal, healthy interactions between dogs and young humans.
Dogs and kids have been happy buddies for centuries. While dog bites to children are nothing new (I was bitten by a stray puppy at age five, in 1956) we seem to be much more reactive to them as a culture than we used to be. When did we become a society so phobic about any dog/kid interaction? And, perhaps more important, how do we help people recognize and create safe, healthy relationships between dogs and children?
A commonly quoted statistic states that some 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. annually, with 42% of the victims age 14 or under.
As staggering as though those numbers may be, and as sensational as the “Dog Mauls Toddler” headlines are, they are also somewhat misleading. A very large percentage of those millions of bites are relatively minor, so the situation isn’t nearly as dire as it first appears.
Still, even one preventable child-mauling incident is one too many, and many of them are, in fact, quite preventable.
Supervisor Needed
Supervision of interactions between dogs and children is, indeed, critically important, at least until it is crystal clear that the child and dog are safe together. The “You must supervise kids and dogs!” mantra has been repeated so many times I would be surprised if there’s even one parent in the Western world who hasn’t heard it.
But here’s the rub: A significant number of kids suffer from dog bites even when the parent or other caretaker is directly supervising the interaction. If “supervision” is the holy grail of dog-kid interactions, how does this happen?
It seems that, over the years, as we trainers and behaviorists have repeated “Supervise, supervise, supervise!” until we’re blue in the face, we have somehow neglected to do a thorough job of helping parents and caretakers understand exactly what they are looking for when they are supervising.
It’s not just about being present, it’s also about watching closely, preventing the child from interacting inappropriately with the dog, and watching the dog for body language signals that communicate some level of discomfort with the child’s presence and/or interactions.
Upper Level Management
Management – controlling your dog’s environment and access to unsafe or undesirable things or practices – is a vital part of any successful behavior and training program. With kids and dogs, it’s even more critical. When you aren’t able to actively supervise (no TV! no texting!), you must manage. The price for management failure is simply too high.
Even if your dog adores children (and especially if she doesn’t!), management and supervision are vitally important elements of successful dog/baby/child-keeping. There are a staggering number of serious child-bite cases (and fatalities) where the adult left the room “just for a minute.”
That’s why dog training and behavior professionals are well-known for repeating the warning, “Never leave dogs and small children together unattended.” This means, not for a moment. Not while you take a quick bathroom break, or run to the kitchen to grab a snack. Even if the baby is sleeping! Take the dog with you if you leave the room where the baby is sleeping or the child is watching a video. Put the dog in her crate. Shut her in another room.
Training
Of course, you want to do everything you can to help your dog love children. Even if you don’t have small humans of your own, your dog is likely to encounter them at some point in her life, and things will go better for all involved if she already thinks kids are wonderful.
Ideally, every dog should be well socialized with babies and children from puppyhood. Many young adults adopt a pup at a time when children are, if anything, a distant prospect, without thinking about the fact that kids could easily arrive within the 10 to 15 years of their dog’s lifespan. Even if there will never be children in the dog’s immediate family, chances are she will encounter small humans at some point in her life. By convincing her very early on that children are wonderful, you greatly reduce the risk that she will ever feel compelled to bite one.
If an adult-dog adoption is in the works and there will be (or are) children in your world, remember this critically important caveat: Dogs who are going to be around babies and/or children must adore kids, not just tolerate them. A dog who adores children will forgive many of the inappropriate things young humans will inevitably do to dogs, despite your best efforts at supervision and management. A dog who merely tolerates them will not.
Teach Your Children
Safe child-dog interactions start with teaching children – even very young children – how to respect and interact appropriately with dogs. If a child is too young to grasp the information, then the supervising adult must physically prevent the child from being inappropriate.
Babies and toddlers often flail their hands at new or exciting stimuli – like dogs. Not surprisingly, many dogs are likely to find this quite aversive! When young children are introduced to dogs, the adult needs to hold the child’s hand(s) and guide them in appropriately using their hands to touch the dog appropriately (gently and slowly) and without any flailing.
It’s equally important to teach children that dogs are not toys to be treated roughly. Even if your family dog tolerates – or even loves – being hugged, allowing your young child to hug your dog can prompt her to hug the next dog she meets – with possibly disastrous results. Until your child is old enough to understand that some things that are okay with your dog are not okay with other dogs, you are far safer not allowing her to do those things with your dog, either.
Ideally, engage your child to assist with your dog’s training at the earliest possible age using positive reinforcement-based methods that teach your child the importance of cooperation and respect, so your child learns how to interact appropriately with other sentient creatures. At the same time, you will be strengthening the positive association between your dog and your child.
Watch that Body Talk
Any time your dog shows any sign of being uncomfortable with your child’s presence, you must separate the dog and child to protect them both. Of course, in order to do this you must understand dog body language well enough to recognize when a dog is expressing discomfort.
People often say, “If my dog could only talk…” They actually do communicate! But their mode of communication is body language – and too few humans take the time to learn that language, or “listen” to what the dog is telling us.
In the sidebar below, we share some different ways your dog may be telling you she’s uncomfortable. This is an extensive list, albeit not necessarily a complete one. Study it, and then watch your dog for any of these behaviors, both with children present and absent. Any time you observe stress signals from your dog in the presence of children (or elsewhere!) it’s wise to take immediate steps to reduce her stress.
If, while you’re managing, supervising, and training your dog around kids, you’re having trouble determining what your dog is trying to tell you with his body language communications, ask a force-free dog training professional to help you. It could save your dog’s life. And your child’s.
It’s Not Cute, It’s Abuse
There is a truly horrendous video on YouTube of parents encouraging their very young child to abuse their Rottweiler. The child runs over to the dog, who is lying on the floor, climbs on his back, hugs him violently – and when the dog gets up to try to move away from the abuse, the adults call him back and make him lie down for more child torture. Meanwhile the child has lost interest and walked away and the parents insist that he come back and interact with the dog more.
This time the dog is lying on his side, and for the remainder of the two-minute clip the child climbs on and violently bounces up and down on the dog’s ribcage; grabs his jowls, cheek, and nose; and puts his face directly in the dog’s face, all the while with encouragement and laughter from the parents. Through it all, the dog is giving off constant signs of stress and distress – whale eye, panting, tongue flicks, gasping for air, and more. (If you really want to see it, we made a shortcut to a copy of the original video that someone captioned with notes about the dog’s warning signs: tinyurl.com/WDJ-abuse.)
This should be prosecutable child endangerment as well as animal abuse. Someday, if the incredibly tolerant Rottweiler has finally had enough and bites the child, the parents will be aghast. “We don’t know what happened – he was always so good with little Bobby!” And if the defensive bite is serious enough, the dog is likely to lose his life as a result . Meanwhile, if the child tries this incredibly inappropriate behavior with a less tolerant dog (which would include most dogs on the planet), he’s likely to be very badly bitten, and again, the unfortunate dog might easily pay with his life. What were these parents thinking?

A DICTIONARY OF CANINE STRESS SIGNALS
• Anorexia Stress causes the appetite to shut down. A dog who won’t eat moderate- to high-value treats may just be distracted or simply not hungry, but refusal to eat is a common indicator of stress. If your dog ordinarily likes treats, but won’t take them in the presence of children, she is telling you something very important: Kids stress her out!
• Appeasement/Deference Signals Appeasement and deference aren’t always an indicator of stress. They are important everyday communication tools for keeping peace in social groups and are often presented in calm, stress-free interactions. They are offered in a social interaction to promote the tranquility of the group and the safety of the group’s members. When offered in conjunction with other behaviors, they can be an indicator of stress as well. Appeasement and deference signals include:
o Lip Licking: Appeasing/deferent dog licks at the mouth of the more assertive/threatening/intimidating member of the social group.
o Turning Head Away, Averting Eyes: Appeasing/deferent dog avoids eye contact, exposes neck.
o Slow movement: Appeasing/deferent dog appears to be moving in slow-motion.
o Sitting/Lying Down/Exposing Underside: Appeasing/deferent dog lowers body posture, exposing vulnerable parts.
• Avoidance Dog turns away, shuts down, evades touch, and won’t take treats.
• Barking In context, can be a “distance-increasing” stress signal – an attempt to make the stressor go away.
• Brow Ridges Furrows or muscle ridges in the dog’s forehead and around the eyes.
• Difficulty Learning Dogs (and other organisms) are unable to learn well or easily when under significant stress.
• Digestive Disturbances Vomiting and diarrhea can be a sign of illness – or of stress; the digestive system reacts strongly to stress. Carsickness is often a stress reaction.
• Displacement Behaviors These are behaviors performed in an effort to resolve an internal stress conflict for the dog. They may be performed in the actual presence of the stressor. They also may be observed in a dog who is stressed and in isolation – for example a dog left alone in an exam room in a veterinary hospital.
o Blinking: Eyes blink at a faster-than normal rate
o Nose-Licking: Dog’s tongue flicks out once or multiple times
o Chattering Teeth
o Scratching (as if the dog suddenly is very itchy)
o Shaking off (as if wet, but dog is dry)
o Yawning
• Drooling May be an indication of stress – or response to the presence of food, an indication of a mouth injury, or digestive distress.
• Excessive Grooming Dog may lick or chew paws, legs, flank, tail, and genital areas, even to the point of self-mutilation.
• Hyperactivity Frantic behavior, pacing, sometimes misinterpreted as ignoring, “fooling around,” or “blowing off” owner.
• Immune System Disorders Long-term stress weakens the immune system. Reduce dog’s overall stress to improve immune-related problems.
• Lack of Attention/Focus The brain has difficulty processing information when stressed.
• Leaning/Clinging The stressed dog seeks contact with human as reassurance.
• Lowered Body Posture “Slinking,” acting “guilty” or “sneaky” (all misinterpretations of dog body language) can be indicators of stress.
• Mouthing Willingness to use mouth on human skin – can be puppy exploration or adult poor manners, but can also be an expression of stress, ranging from gentle nibbling (flea biting) to hard taking of treats to painfully hard mouthing, snapping, or biting.
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders These include compulsive imaginary fly-snapping behavior, light and shadow chasing, tail chasing, pica (eating non-food objects), flank-sucking, self-mutilation and more. While OCDs probably have a strong genetic component, the behavior itself is usually triggered by stress.
• Panting Rapid shallow or heavy breathing – normal if the dog is warm or has been exercising, otherwise can be stress-related. Stress may be external (environment) or internal (pain, other medical issues).
• Stretching To relax stress-related tension in muscles. May also occur as a non-stress behavior after sleeping or staying in one place for extended period.
• Stiff Movement Tension can cause a noticeable stiffness in leg, body, and tail movements.
• Sweaty Paws Damp footprints can be seen on floors, exam tables, rubber mats.
• Trembling May be due to stress – or cold.
• Whining High-pitched vocalization, irritating to most humans; an indication of stress. While some may interpret it as excitement, a dog who’s excited to the point of whining is also stressed.
• Yawning Your dog may yawn because he’s tired – or as an appeasement signal or displacement behavior.
• Whale Eye Dog rolls eyes, flashing the whites of his eyes.

 

Plan ahead to socialize your puppy early!

Recently, I witnessed an older couple struggling to carry a crate into a puppy class. Once inside, they opened the crate and a large and beautiful Poodle puppy emerged – a pup who was not particularly young, nor disabled in any way. When asked about the puppy and why they carried her inside the training center inside a crate, the couple said she was 14 weeks old, and had received three “puppy” vaccinations so far, but that their veterinarian had told them that the puppy shouldn’t be taken anywhere until she had received her last puppy vaccination at 16 weeks. They looked a little guilty, as if they expected to be admonished for bringing her to a puppy kindergarten class before the last “shot.
It’s 2019!
Why are veterinarians still telling this nonsense to dog owners?!!
The owners were reassured they had absolutely done the right thing to bring the puppy to class, and encouraged to allow her to walk into and out of the training center on her own four legs, and given assistance to show the very able puppy how to get back into her owners’ car after class without them having to struggle to lift her in a crate into the back seat. And I vowed to write this post, which I seem to recall writing every few years for the past 22 years!
Don’t Keep That Puppy in a Bubble
Folks, please tell your friends and relatives: The risk of dogs developing serious behavior problems (and subsequent relinquishment and/or euthanasia) due to inadequate early socialization and minimal exposure to the outside world is far, far higher than the risk of contracting a fatal disease before the pup has become fully immunized. While parvovirus and distemper certainly still exist in the world, and are still quite problematic in pockets of certain communities, there are many steps one can take to prevent a puppy from becoming exposed to disease while taking the very important steps to carefully and positively expose the pup to novel places, people, and other animals.
Puppies should absolutely be taken out into the world before the age of 12 weeks, and ideally, would be attending a well-run puppy play/puppy kindergarten training class as early as 8 weeks old! They certainly should not spend this incredibly critical period of development wrapped in cotton wool in their new owners’ homes!
Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Take it from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): “Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
AVSAB’s position statement on puppy socialization also says, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated [our emphasis].”
What Do Veterinarians Say?
Strong words from the veterinary behaviorists… Do “regular” veterinarians agree? Here is a quote from a literature review from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “By 8-9 weeks of age most dogs are sufficiently neurologically developed that they are ready to start exploring unfamiliar social and physical environments. Data show that if they are prohibited from doing so until after 14 weeks of age they lose such flexibility and may be forever fearful in these situations. Such dogs may function well within extremely restricted social situations but will be fearful and reactive among unfamiliar people, pets or in environments outside of the house.”
The AVMA paper goes on to explain how one should ideally socialize and expose puppies safely, as well as how to provide remedial socialization to puppies or dogs who were not given these opportunities. No, all is not lost when owners fail to properly plan ahead and sign up for a class well before they procure their puppy. But as any trainer or good breeder can tell you, there is usually an astounding difference in the amount of confidence displayed in a puppy who has had well-managed, positive exposures to many different persons, places, and things – and especially opportunities to meet and play with other puppies and dogs of appropriate size and play styles – and one who has only begun to interact with the world in a meaningful way after the age of 16 weeks (or older!).
It takes forethought and planning, however, and many families don’t even think about training and socializing until the puppy is four months old or so. Then they look for a trainer and try to book the next class and find out that the next available spot is for a class some six or eight weeks hence. It’s not “too late” to socialize or train them at that stage, but it’s somewhat akin to signing up a third- or fourth-grade kid for kindergarten. It’s great that their education will finally get underway, but what they could have been already had they started their education on time!

So, how should it be done?
1. Plan ahead: Find a good positive trainer early, before you ever get a puppy. Find out about his or her schedule and get signed up for a class that will start when your puppy-to-be will be 8 or 9 or 10 weeks old.

2. Plan ahead: Find a veterinarian who will administer your puppy’s vaccinations on a schedule that will facilitate the pup’s timely admission to puppy kindergarten – and who can speak to the importance of your puppy’s behavioral health and support your efforts to build a behaviorally confident puppy through a well-run puppy class. (If you can, interview vets before you procure your puppy. Younger, more recently educated veterinarians tend to be more aware of the AVMA’s and ASVAB’s recommendations.)

3. Do as much thoughtful, structured socializing as possible with the puppy at your home, and/or in the homes of friends or family members who have no dogs or healthy, vaccinated, reliably dog-friendly dogs who can be trusted to not scare or harm the puppy. Here are some past articles in WDJ on this topic:
4. Educate yourself about puppy diseases and how to keep your puppy safe without sequestering him or her. Here are some past articles that have been published in WDJ on this topic.

Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat it

 

Depression is common in humans and dog depression may be just as common. How common is depression? According to Healthline, it is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. The CDC documents that approximately 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4% suffer from “major depression.” Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults have at least one major depressive episode in a given year. The definition of major depression in humans is “a mental health condition marked by an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation and despair that affects how a person thinks, feels and functions.

Dog depression may be just as common but is harder to recognize.

 

How to Spot Signs of Dog Depression

Just as with people, every dog responds differently to stress. For example, a person that loses their job may become depressed while another person may see opportunity and be relieved or rejuvenated. One dog being rehomed may be withdrawn, less interactive, guarded, scared, nervous, aggressive, stop eating, or have a decreased appetite while another dog may be euphoric. Learn more about how to recognize depression in your dog.

What Causes Dog Depression

What causes depression in one dog can be entirely different than in another dog. Just as it is difficult to predict or generalize how people will respond to stress or what will make a person depressed, it is difficult to determine or predict what will make a dog depressed.

The most common things associated with dog depression are the following:

  • Illness. Dogs that are sick and don’t feel good may be depressed.
  • Loss of mobility. Just as illness can cause depression, loss of mobility can also cause depression in some dogs. For a previously active dog to not be able to run, play, walk, and exercise can really take an emotional toll on some dogs. This can be caused from a back injury, trauma such as a fracture, or from degenerative disease (arthritis) in older dogs.
  • Loss of routine. Some dogs can become very depressed from a change in their routine. This can occur from when the kids go back to school, an owner loses a job or takes on a new job, or a change in work hours that leads to disruption in the dog’s day-to-day rituals.
  • Loss of an owner or caregiver. A very common cause of depression in dogs is the loss of someone close to them. The loss can be death or from someone moving out or leaving the home. The death of an owner, a child leaving for college, or someone moving from a divorce can all create a profound sense of loss and void in a dog’s life.
  • Loss of a housemate. Just as the loss of a caregiver can impact dogs, so can the loss of another pet in the home. Most commonly the pet is another dog but could also be a cat or other species. When you think about it, if a dog’s routine is to see the other pet, eat with it, walk, play and they suddenly aren’t there, they can become depressed. It is important to note that a change in your dog’s behavior can be from their depression or can be them responding to your sadness. If you are mourning the loss of a dog and depressed yourselves, this can affect them.
  • Moving. Moving can be stressful for us but also for our dogs. They suddenly lose their territory and safety net. Usually, the move is a huge disruption in the routine and environment. Movers, moving boxes, packing, unpacking, etc. can all impact the daily walks and time spent with you. This can cause depression in some dogs.
  • Rehoming. A new home and family can be exciting to some dogs but depressing to others. They may miss something from their prior life or feel displaced. On top of that they are trying to understand the new owners, new rules in the house, new routine, getting new food, new bowls, and well…new everything, which can be stressful. Stress can cause depression.
  • New Pet or Person. Just as pet loss or human loss can cause depression, some dogs will become depressed when a new pet or person enters their life. This can impact their routine and day-to-day lifestyle. The new pet may take attention away from them.

What You Can Do for Dog Depression

Treatments for dog depression can be categorized into pharmacological (drug) treatments and nonpharmacological treatments.

The best recommendation to treat dog depression is to do the following:

  1. Figure out why. The best thing to do is to consider why your dog may be depressed. As you consider the possible cause, also consider what your dog’s life must be like on a day-to-day basis. Is there lots of stimulation? Playtime? Exercise? Attention? Or is it boring? Is he ignored? Even tied to a dog house or in a crate for hours?
  2. Optimize your dog’s life. Make sure your dog has a great routine consisting of plenty of exercise, daily walks, frequent opportunities to go to the bathroom, predictable meal schedules, belly rubs, and plenty of assurance that they are the best dog in the whole world. Here are some tips on how to help your dog.
  3. See your vet. Make sure your dog is healthy and that you are not mistaking symptoms of depression for symptoms of illness. They can seem similar and it can be hard to tell. Your vet may want to do a physical examination and run some routine blood work.
  4. Natural remedies. Some natural remedies that can help some dogs with depression include Bach flower, Ignatia, Spirit Essences Grouch
  5. Remedy, Green Hope Farm Grief, and Loss Remedy. Check with your veterinarian and see if they have a product that has worked well for them.
  6. Drugs. As a very last resort, you could work with your veterinarian to try pharmacological treatment for your dog’s depression. Most dogs respond to playtime, exercise, and quality time with you. To learn more about possible drug therapies.
  7. Give it time. It can take time for the treatments to work. Relax and enjoy being with your dog. Give it some time. Most times they will come around and return to their normal dog selves.