Bonding with Your Puppy

DDB Puppies Log

When a puppy is born, it knows nothing of the world around it. However, it knows enough to stay close to its mom and her milk bar. The only important task for the pup during the neonatal period is to maintain a degree of physiological balance. Nursing and sleeping are about all the pup is capable of at this stage.

After a week or ten days of hanging around “the great one,” the pup’s eyes and ears open and it begins to process information about the world outside. Reflexes and mother’s care have brought the pup thus far, but increasingly, know-how, including the establishment of proper relationships with others, becomes necessary for continued success in life. The first and most important relationship a pup makes is with its mom.

If a pup is separated from its mom, she will retrieve it. If it cries, she will attend to it. If it is hungry she will feed it. The pup’s trust and reliance develop quickly as mom invariably finds a way of providing for the youngster’s every need.

This mutual interaction brings satisfaction and relaxation to both the mother dog and puppy. A strong bond develops and the pup no doubt feels at one with its parent. For pups, mistrust of unfamiliar individuals begins to develop around 8-10 weeks of life and is a reflection of the pup’s strong bond with its canine family.

The original bond a pup has with its mom is the most important one it will ever have. If, when the pup cries, its mom routinely responds, it will develop confidence. If she grooms it regularly, its nervous system will positively sprout. If she’s always right there when the pup turns around for assurance, it learns trust. Well-tended pups have higher (what might be called) self-esteem, are smarter, and seem to regulate their emotions better. A “functional” pup – one that can make its own way in the world – is the end result.

Over time, a pup’s relationship with their mom progresses from one of hopeless devotion to a more voluntary affair. Their association becomes more like an enjoyable friendship between two individuals who seek each other’s company for the pleasure it brings. Somewhere along the development road, usually between 3 and 6 weeks of age, pups develop relationships with their siblings and begin to learn social etiquette from their playful interactions.

But an interpersonal cataclysm lies in waiting for most young pups. At the relatively tender age of 8 weeks, most pups are adopted by well-meaning humans, who try their best to make the pup’s transition from it mom and littermates as painless as possible. But strangers are no substitute for the pup’s own family. Some early separation distress is almost inevitable and will be witnessed by the pup’s new family as whimpering and whining, especially at night. Ill-informed friends advise, “Let the puppy cry. He’s got to learn. You don’t want to make a rod for your back, do you?” Nothing could be further from the truth.

At this stage, you (the parent stand-in) must meet all the pup’s demands, just as its mom did. This way, you keep the pup on the right track of intellectual and social development. One of the great spins-offs is that the pup will re-attach to you, its new great provider, and will turn out every bit as confident and self-sufficient as its real mom would have liked.

A researcher at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine set out to explore the nature of the human-animal bond between young pups and their new human caregivers. A child psychologist by profession, this researcher used a modification of the “strange situation” (SS) test employed in child psychology to plumb the depths of the bond. The setup was as follows:

Young pups and their owners were introduced to a novel environment. The environment was enriched with toys and food.

After a set time, owners were asked to leave the room for a prescribed time.

Pups’ reactions were monitored.

Owners were then asked to return to the room.

Pups’ reactions to their owners’ returns were monitored.

Three categories of puppy responses were noted to the SS test.

  1. The pup willingly left its owner’s side to explore and entertain itself with the toys lying around. When the owner left, it hardly paid any attention, remaining absorbed in its activities. When the owner returned, the pup did not pay much attention to them.

 

  1. The pup hesitated before leaving the owner’s side but eventually played with the toys. When the owner left the room, the pup ran to the door to follow and stared at the door for a short time before resuming play. When the owner returned the pup greeted its owner enthusiastically before returning to play.

 

  1. The pup never left the owner’s side either to explore the novel environment or play with the toys. It acted distraughtly and whined or whimpered when its owner left the room. The greeting on the owner’s return was exuberant.

 

The first category of response (1) indicated that the puppy had not developed a proper bond with the new owner (under attachment).

The second category of response (2) indicated that the pup had a healthy bond with the new owner (normal attachment).

The third category of response (3) indicated that the pup was overly dependant on the owner and foreshadowed future separation distress.

Pups in response category (1) had not developed a bond with their owner because the owners had not spent enough quality time with the pups.

Owners of pups in response category (2) had most likely played their cards just right, by paying their pup attention when attention was due, providing the requisite social experiences, and protecting them from lengthy periods of time alone.

Owners of pups in response category (3) likely overindulged their pups when they were around but, for whatever reason, had left them unattended for overly long periods, either at night or when they went to work. This “emotional roller coaster” experience seems to set the stage for separation anxiety and general lack of confidence.

Imprinting, an elemental form of bonding, occurs most readily during a sensitive period of development. If the time and circumstances of an initial introduction of animals is appropriately staged, it is quite literally possible to have a lion lie down with a lamb. With this in mind, it’s almost child’s play to have a dog bond with a cat – subsequently learning to be accepting of cats in general.

All you have to do is arrange for benign introductions to occur during the sensitive period of development. The sensitive period for such learning to occur in dogs is between 3 – 12 weeks of age. During this time period, owners can engineer all kinds of useful friendships between animals of the same or different species.

As many owners already know, dogs don’t just bond to their moms or to their human owners. They can also bond with other dogs. So powerful can such bonds be between one individual and another that they may show separation anxiety or frank depression if separated.

This is not a bad arrangement until longterm separation through illness or death becomes inevitable. In such cases, dogs must be trained to develop new bonds with either other dogs (a new puppy, perhaps) or new human acquaintances. In severe cases, antidepressants may be needed to help such formerly bonded dogs around this sharp corner of life.

If all has not gone according to plan for a pup, by way of bonding experiences in early life, all is not lost. Many dysfunctional dogs who start out overly dependent on their human caregivers can be retrained to develop confidence in themselves, they can be trained to be independent i.e. to stand on their own four feet. It’s damage control, sure enough, but it works. Whatever people say, you can teach and old(er) dog new tricks, though it often takes considerably longer.

The Dog Nanny website

How and Why Dogs Play

Play, by definition, is fun. When play stops being fun it stops being play. Play is a pleasurable activity during which animals engage in behaviors that are not part of the immediate business of life, but rather are performed in mimicry, rehearsal or display. During play, dogs behave without real seriousness – running, jumping, chasing, mouthing, chewing, wrestling, biting, hiding and even humping. In play, all behaviors are a game to the players and are performed for fun. There is no hidden agenda.

shredding newspaper

Dogs have a unique gesture, the play bow, that signals “play mode.” The signal involves dogs going down on their elbows with their rear end elevated, tail raised and wagging. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked. They may bark to signal their wish to solicit another’s involvement, and may approach or withdraw from a potential play partner while pouncing and leaping about.

Play is usually, but not always, between two or more individuals. Sometimes dogs without partners will play by themselves. Solitary play is a rather sad event and may even have unwanted long-term repercussions.

 

Why Do Dogs Play?

It has been suggested that play is a necessary part of growing up for all young social animals and that without it they may not develop to their full potential. This does not appear to be the case, as animals deprived of play for reasons of sickness or ill health grow up to be behaviorally indistinguishable from their play-satiated peers. This is not to say that “players” may not develop more rapidly than their play-deprived peers, just that the end result often turns out to be more or less the same.

 

If play is not absolutely imperative for normal development to develop, what good is it? Well, play is a role-playing rehearsal for adult behaviors and as such will prepare a youngster for what lies ahead. During play, pups exercise their bodies and minds, making them healthier and smarter for it. In nature, this may give players the edge over their unrehearsed counterparts who may be still struggling to learn the Ps and Qs of canine etiquette or the rudiments of the chase. Note that different types of play unfold in parallel with sensitive periods of learning, so that play learning is most efficient. Mouthiness is first seen at 3 weeks of age, right after the transitional period. Then come play solicitation, play fighting, scruff holding, deference, and finally sexual play.

All these forms of play start in the socialization period between 3 and 6 weeks of age and they intensify as the pup approaches adolescence. Object play, chewing and chasing objects, occurs a little later, becoming most intense after about 16 to 20 weeks of age.

Types of Ways Dogs Play

Social Dog Play

Social skills are honed by playful interactions between individuals. One pup may jump on another pup, pin him, and then mouth him around the head and neck. If the pressure of the pup’s bite exceeds tolerable limits, the temporary underdog will roll over, yelp or run away. Both parties learn an important lesson. The biter learns to inhibit his bite if he wishes the fun to continue, and the pup that is bitten learns that deference or escape will cause the unpleasant experience to come to an end. Of course, sudden role reversal is also a feature of play, with provisional subordinates suddenly becoming pursuers and “attackers.” A happy medium is reached when truly dominant dogs learn their gift for mastery, and subordinates learn how to avoid or deter unpleasant exchanges. This dynamic may explain why dominant dogs are less successful than their subordinates in soliciting play. Aloof pups that don’t play much, and orphaned pups, often grow up to be socially inappropriate. In repelling borders, they may send a message that is too profound, failing to inhibit their bite – and they may not be able to deliver convincing messages of deference.

Sexual Dog Play

This mostly takes the form of mounting, clasping and pelvic thrusting (“humping”). The lack of seriousness is indicated by the somewhat haphazard orientation of this behavior, initially. Male and female pups are equally likely to be targeted, or in their absence, peoples’ legs and cushions may have to suffice. Dogs that have had no humping experience will not be as immediately successful in mating as previously rehearsed counterparts. Also, dogs without playmates may imprint on inanimate objects or human appendages as substrates for humping behavior, and become an embarrassment to own if not neutered. In addition, the relationship between humping and dominance must be born in mind if the correct human-companion animal relationship is to be preserved.

 Oral Dog Play

Young puppies have a biological need to mouth and chew malleable objects. It seems to give them almost undue pleasure. Unlike social and sexual play, this type of play does not require a partner, though socially-testing tug-of-war games sometimes evolve as a spin off. Of course, by teething time, at around 6 to 8 months of age, object chewing becomes an extremely useful adjuvant to assist with tooth loosening and dental eruption, and may even provide some relief from gingival discomfort.

Predatory Dog Play

Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs.

Playtime as Dogs Age

In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. Adults do not normally have the time or energy to waste in such trivial pursuits. Domestic dogs, however, seem to be enduringly suspended in a juvenile frame of mind. Thus play is not something they outgrow but rather an activity they keenly pursue throughout their lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health, and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed. Dogs that do not seem to enjoy playing should be carefully scrutinized to make sure all is well in their lives.

The Dog Nanny website

What’s The philosophy of natural dogmanship

The philosophy of natural dogmanship (natural dog/canine behavior).

What exactly does that mean?

Simply put, it is the art of learning how dogs/canines naturally behave amongst one another in order to communicate with the dog/canine in its own language.

It takes a lot of studying to fully understand and apply this concept as it requires full comprehension of how dogs/canine communicate, their social make-up, rules and policies of the Dog/Canine world.  (Marcia Murray-Stoof aka “The Dog Nanny” attended University to learn all about Canine Behvaiour).

Many people try to get their dogs to understand human communication and this is where the messages get mixed.  There are many things/ways we communicate as Humans the just do not translate into Dog/Canine.

Dogs are no less complicated than humans and while it is difficult and sometimes impossible to make a dog understand human, humans can learn the language of the dog if they open their minds to the idea. Marcia  teaches you, the basics in Dog/Canine and explains what we naturally do as humans that cause miss communication.

Because dogs are so closely bonded with the human species, and have learnt a great deal about how we communicate, most humans forget, or do not think about, their Dogs/Canine behaviour as natural instincts.

Dogs have a natural instinct to want structure, rules and boundaries. They want to know where they stand among their pack/family and believe it or not, they want to know the rules and they need consistency with those rules. It is actually more cruel to assume your dog is human, overlooking its natural wants and needs. All dog behavior issues stem from humans who are not practicing natural dogmanship/Canine Communication: not providing what the dog needs in its life, from exercise, both mental and physical, to the leadership it craves. What something means to a human may mean the total opposite to a dog. Dogs all around the world receive mixed signals from humans. Any dog that misbehaves is missing something in its life. A dog’s temperament is often a large portion of the owner’s ability to understand him and give him what he instinctually needs as a canine animal. There are no bad dogs…just uneducated owners. And yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s NEVER too late to turn a dog’s behavior around.

Things to Consider for Dogs Riding in Cars

 

There’s nothing quite like seeing the joy a dog experiences when he gets to go for a ride in the car. But, for dogs riding in cars, there are safety and health issues you should be aware of before you put the car into drive.

The mere mention of the word “car” to your average canine, often sends him into paroxysms of joy. Many dogs quickly associate “car” with that wonderful sensation of being carried at great speeds, with the wind blowing through their hair.

But, there are things to consider for dogs riding in cars, such as ensuring that your dog is comfortable, calm, and, of course, safe.

Feeling Queasy
Just like you, dogs can get motion sickness from being in the car. Many people are aware of the nauseating signs of motion sickness and the effect it can have on a relaxing vacation. But, did you know that motion sickness could also affect your dog? A sick dog is not a happy traveling companion.

Motion sickness is an illness associated with motion — as in a car, a boat, or an airplane. Since vacations typically involve traveling, dogs prone to motion sickness don’t always enjoy the trek to the final destination.

The cause of motion sickness is stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your dog feels dizzy and nausea may develop. Usually, the signs of motion sickness stop when the vehicle stops moving. Dogs afflicted with motion sickness begin drooling, feel nauseated, and may even develop vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog is known to experience motion sickness that is not easily treated, you may want to reconsider bringing him along on vacation.
Buckle Up
When driving, a seat belt can be the thing that saves your life. This goes for dogs, too. Giving dogs free range in the car is unsafe and can be deadly. Traveling with your dog can be made safer and easier by the use of automotive restraints. Like you, your dog is safer when he is properly secured in the vehicle in the event of an accident or unexpected distraction.

We’ve all seen dogs riding in cars and trucks that had free range of the vehicle. This is a tremendous risk for injury. Dogs that sit in their owner’s laps or bounce from seat to seat can disrupt your field of vision or attention span. Hanging his head out of the window can cause serious eye injuries. A sudden stop with your dog in the back of an open vehicle can send him flying into traffic. Or he may make the decision to jump out at something he finds appealing with no warning.

Even dogs who are well behaved in the vehicle benefit from proper restraints. In the event of an accident, a restraint can keep your dog within your vehicle. Many dogs will run away if they are disoriented or injured. The last thing you want is to have to look for your scared or injured dog in unfamiliar surroundings. Check out your local pet supply store for dog safe automotive restraints.

Driving Dangers
A fun car ride with your dog can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not careful. Be aware of common dangers that can occur with your pooch in the car.

Dogs love to go for car rides. For many dogs, their favorite words are “bye-bye.” Some dogs jump, prance, smile, and bark with delight at the thought of a car ride. How many times have you seen dogs hanging out the car window? Or on the owners lap looking as happy as can be?

Yes, going for a ride in the car can be fun, but driving with dogs can also be very dangerous to both you and your dog. There has been several cases of owners that were in an accident — caused by their dog — in which they were injured, the car they hit had some severe injuries, and their dogs were killed.

There are some very common dangers and causes of injuries that can be prevented — and if you understand them, it will help keep you and your dog safe.

The First Ride
How should you transport your new puppy home in the car? This is probably one of the first questions you ask yourself after you have signed off on your new puppy. Should he be transported in a crate? Should he be allowed to gallivant around between the seats? Should he be on your lap? Is it better to have him in the front or back? What are the issues? What are we trying to achieve and what risks are we trying to avoid?

For starters, make sure the pup has had an opportunity to urinate and/or defecate before embarking on the ride. No solid food should be given to the pup for 2-3 hours prior to a short trip. It may be necessary to bring food for the pup on longer trips. If a pup is not nauseous or fearful, he may want to eat.

Have the pup ride in the rear seat of the car on one person’s lap (yes, you need two people to make this work). He should be rested on or wrapped in a familiar blanket and have at least one familiar toy to play with. Use a crate for older, confident, non crate-shy pups. Again, supply a familiar blanket and toy. Whatever you do, don’t allow the pup in the front seat and don’t allow him to perambulate freely. Quite apart from any possible injury to the pup, he may become a missile in the event of an accident.

Be Prepared
If your dog suffers an injury while you’re driving together, it’s important to be prepared. Emergencies can occur anytime and the best thing to do is to be ready for anything. Having a first-aid kit ready will help to reduce anxiety if an emergency does happen. Keep the kit readily available and periodically check to make sure all the items are up to date and present. A small plastic toolbox or fishing tackle box works well to hold all the necessary equipment.
On the outside of the box, write your name, address, and telephone number in case you lose it. Also include the telephone number of your veterinarian as well as the telephone number of a local veterinary emergency facility.

Once the emergency information is complete, it’s a good idea to have separate information sheets for each pet. Include a photo of each pet with the name, age, breed, sex, identification (micro chipping information), and any health problems. This can help if your pet is lost or if someone unfamiliar with your pet is needed to care for him.

The Dog Nanny Website

Properly Supervising Dogs

Properly Supervising Dogs

Trainers often say “Supervise your dog!” but there are many levels of supervision

I’ve always been neurotic about the safety of living beings in my care. This only increased when I became a professional trainer. I consider the care and safety of our children and animals to be of utmost importance – and good supervision is at the crux of this, especially in our fast-paced world, where we are all distracted by technology and are fantastic multi-taskers.

I believe that supervision is never more important than when observing our dogs in social settings, whether it is introducing new dogs, exercising our dogs at a dog park, bringing our dogs with us in the public domain, or just living in multi-dog households. When I say “supervision,” I am talking about adult management by someone who is knowledgeable about dog body language.

I would venture to say that many people think they are great at overseeing their dogs, but in reality, they don’t really have a firm grasp of what ideal supervision means. Further, many people lack information about their dogs’ body language – so, even if they are actually actively watching their dogs, if they can’t recognize their dogs’ stress signals, they won’t be able to help the dogs.

Let’s explore the difference between supervision that keeps all the members of a household safe and the kind that either does nothing or actually makes things less safe.

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Absent supervision.

It’s absolutely fine to leave multiple dogs together, unsupervised, when they are familiar with each other and have a (properly managed) history of peaceful interactions. But if you bring a new dog or puppy into the family, have a friend’s dog over for a play-date, or a family member stops by with their dog, leaving the dogs unsupervised can lead to one or both of them getting injured physically or emotionally traumatized.

In the absent-supervision scenario, a child might be distracted with an electronic device, while the family dog is happily chewing on a shoe – or perhaps there is no one around at all to notice that the sleeping dog is being bothered by the other dog.

 

Things can happen in an instant and in the end, it’s the dog who will suffer, by either being punished (or even just shunned) for chewing on something or for pestering the other dog into an altercation.

 

Properly Supervising Dogs

Passive supervision.

This is when we are in the room but not really paying attention or supervising at all. We are distracted with other things, and won’t necessarily notice right away that one dog is not happy with the interaction and showing signs of stress. Even if we are savvy about canine body language, if we aren’t even paying attention, we will miss the signs that an intervention is needed to help one (or both!) of the dogs stay safe.

If one dog wants to rest while the other is instigating play, even in a friendly way, the situation can go awry in minutes. Now imagine that the dog who is resting in the crate is also a little muscle-sore from a long play session that morning, or is an older dog with everyday pain from arthritis, and the younger dog keeps invading his resting space. Without supervision, the senior dog is left to his own devices to protect his space. This is a set-up for failure and an unecessary risk.

Reactive supervision.

We are all guilty of this at one time or another. We are present, we are watching, but we haven’t proactively managed the situation and something has happened. In this situation, we react out of fear.

Be aware that when we are reactive, we create a negative association for our dogs. Our stress makes our dogs stressed – and everyone’s behavior deteriorates under stress.

Say your dog is eating and your new puppy runs up to the dog happily; the pup is not yet aware that this could turn south in a second. Your son or daughter, who knows your older dog doesn’t like to be bothered when eating, sees what is about to happen and yells and runs to grab the puppy before he gets any closer.

Dogs often react to our reactions. When we get upset about something, it triggers our dogs to be on the alert that something is not right and they better be on the alert, too.

The adult dog may or may not have had a problem with the oncoming puppy; left to his own devices, he may have been about to display some great non-violent communication that would help teach the puppy some boundaries. But since we have reacted negatively to the puppy running up to him, the dog may well be sparked into perceiving that the puppy rushing him is a bad thing; given the reaction of the small human, he may feel he has to respond in a dramatic way, too.

Or say you are holding a smaller dog (or a cat, or baby) on your lap when your big dog comes rushing in to greet you enthusiastically. If you are surprised and not thinking ahead, but simply reacting, you may yell at the oncoming dog while whisking the smaller dog (or cat or baby) out of reach. Again, this sends a negative tone to the oncoming dog, who may, in turn, develop negative associations to the little one.

Proactive supervision.

This is getting close to the best type of supervision. We realize that in order to keep everyone in a household safe, we need to manage the environment and calmly head off potential problems well before unsafe interactions happen. This is crucial to the process of having dogs get along safely, while maintaining a positive association with us and each other.

While the adult is playing with or training one dog, the other dog – perhaps a less-experienced youngster, one with poorer impulse control, or a dog who is new to the household – is laying safely on the other side of a puppy gate. Taking turns playing and training dogs while you are still in the process of learning about the dogs is key to future safe interactions. Teaching each dog to be patient – making sure they each get a turn at individualized, reinforcing attention – will go a long way toward building a true bond with and between your dogs.

In the next image, an adult stands between the dogs while they are eating. This is an alert, proactive way to manage the situation that can be created if one dog finishes first and begins casting about for more food. With the adult watching over them and physically creating a barrier between them, both dogs feel more secure.

This level of supervision is really good – but don’t stop here! There’s an even higher level that will provide even greater rewards for all the members of your household.

Active supervision.

Active supervision is the best and highest level of management. These adults understand dog behavior and body language and are fully present and actively teaching and interacting with the dogs.

In the scenario discussed earlier – with the adult with a smaller dog in her lap – she hears or sees the excited dog rushing into the house. She is prepared with high-value rewards and ready to calmly and clearly ask the oncoming dog for a sit, then reward him with a treat or toy and warm praise when he does the requested behavior. Her body language and voice are calm and deliberate, showing no signs of reactivity or fear when the dog approaches.

Setting boundaries through teaching builds the dogs’ trust in the adult and helps foster calm and pleasant interactions between the dogs. Boundaries help dogs feel safe.

In the active supervision image, you see two adults teaching each dog to sit. The adults are enthusiastic and engaged, and this in turn helps the dogs to engage with them, building the dogs’ trust that the humans have created a safe environment for everyone.

Good Supervision Prevents Life or Death Situations

In case any of this seems over-the-top, you should be aware that the most common reason that dogs are relinquished to shelters is due to behavioral issues. It just makes sense to learn as much as you can about canine body language (especially stress signals) and proactive management of your dogs, and to practice calm, reward-based training on a daily basis. These things will reduce our dogs’ stress, increase their sense of security, and, critically, prevent tragic behavioral outcomes.

The Dog Nanny Website

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

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

pre rinse cycle

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.