Friday, February 26, 2010

Puppy Preparations

Very soon our new puppy Jet will be coming to live with us. So Jenn is preparing the house for our new family member. There are several things that every perspective puppy parent can do to set your new puppy up for success BEFORE your puppy comes home with you. The most important things are having a crate, puppy proofing, and having appropriate toys and chews.

1. Crate-Probably the most important thing that you can have for successful puppy management is a crate. A crate is where your puppy will sleep and where the puppy will be when you can't be supervising. The crate keeps your puppy contained so he can't get into mischief while you aren't watching and it really helps keep your puppy from using the whole house as his own toilet. And dogs love a safe, quiet place that is just for them. You can get a wire crate like this one...Or a plastic crate like this one...You can make your puppy really love the crate by feeding meals in it and always having special toys in it. You can learn more about crate training by clicking here.

2. Puppy Proofing-Next on your agenda is organizing your home so that your puppy does not have access to things that do not belong to them, things that could hurt your puppy, etc. If this is your house, we have a problem...At first, your puppy will assume that everything on his/her level will belong to them. You can help your puppy by putting your stuff up, up and away. Put shoes in the closet and shut the closet door, get remote controls and cell phones off coffee tables, get plants, particularly those that could make your puppy sick, out of the puppy's area, and secure electrical cords so that puppy can't get to them. If there are any items that your puppy could chew or swallow that could hurt them, put them out of puppy's reach.

If you have children, it is really important that you help your puppy understand the difference between kid toys and puppy toys. It is really hard to tell the difference sometimes! Is this a baby toy or a puppy toy?? You tell me-I have no idea...

You have to help us figure this stuff out!! A really smart thing to do, is of course, keep the kid's toys out of puppy's reach. But you can also use taste deterrent to help puppy learn that kid's toys taste bad, but puppy's toys taste good. Spray a product like Bitter Apple on all the kid toys and all the things you don't want puppy to put their mouth on.

But really, a clean, organized house is going to go a long way in helping your pup be safe and successful.

3. Toys/Chews-We really have to mention the importance of having proper puppy toys and chews. Your puppy is going to chew on something, so if you don't want it to be your stuff that gets chewed, you need to be equipped with puppy toys from the get-go. Dr. Ian Dunbar suggests getting your puppy addicted to chew toys early so that we don't be addicted to chewing other things, like shoes. A great toy to have on hand for your new puppy is a Kong. Kongs come is different shapes and sizes and you fill them with your puppy's meals. They even make special Puppy Kongs that look like this...There is a new line of Busy Buddies that Jenn is going to get for Jet. They are designed to fill with food and keep puppies thinking. I have all the Busy Buddies adult dog toys and they are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jet is Seven Weeks Old!

Our puppy Jet is now seven weeks old. Along with still being very cute, she is learning more things about the world. This weekend, she went with her litter on an adventure in the car to a farm to see sheep, eat sheep poop and chase some ducks. Fun! They discovered a creek which I'm sure was very exciting. And then rode back another hour in the car. So all the puppies are getting used to traveling and having adventures in the world. Jet still has three more weeks of education with her litter and her mother Dixie before she comes to live with us. Jenn is re-reading all her puppy books in preparation. Her most favorite is one you have heard me talk about many times. Dr. Dunbar's "Before and After You Get Your Puppy" which tells you step by step how to set up an errorless housetraining/cratetraining routine, how to get your puppy addicted to the proper types of chew toys, and most importantly, how to socialize your puppy in the world so they grow up to be confident, adaptable adult dogs. Dr. Dunbar is very cool because you can download these books from his website for FREE.
Just go here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WRAL features the Duke Canine Cognition Center

It is a boring day for dogs! The wind is gusting over 50 miles per hour and it is so cold outside. We're all stuck inside in our beds and Jenn is on the internet. She was thrilled to find a story on the WRAL site about Dr. Brian Hare and the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Dr. Hare studies evolutionary anthropology (whatever that is) and was the keynote speaker at the APDT conference that Jenn went to in October. She got to meet Dr. Hare and thought his work at Duke seemed quite exciting and innovative, studying the canine mind in hopes of learning more about how we think and how we understand human communication. My friend Niamh has already participated in the study and I'm on the wait list to go too. You can read the story by Debra Morgan and see video of the Center here and also learn about how you can participate:

Duke Canine Cognition Center

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jet is Six Weeks Old!

The clock is ticking and our new puppy Jet is now six weeks old and growing up fast. She has already learned some basic commands and at six weeks old, she is entering a very important developmental stage where she learns species specific behaviors. In other words, how to be a dog. Jet is learning social behaviors by playing and interacting with her litter mates. A particular skill is called bite inhibition. This is how puppies learn to be gentle with their mouths. It is really important for puppies to learn these skills while they play from a very young age. Check out Jet giving her brother the "stink eye"! It's also really important that the puppies are exposed to different objects, noises, and have lots of things to play and walk on. Jet's breeder is providing her with a complex environment so that she will learn to be confident and curious about the world and stimulate brain development.

You can learn more about puppy developmental stages here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jet is Five Weeks Old! With a full tail and "thumbs"!

Our puppy Jet is now five weeks old. We got new pictures of her yesterday. The breeders Katrina and Sherry say that Jet is super smart and agile. She likes to explore and climb.
One thing that is very different about our Jet is that she is the only puppy from the litter that got to keep her tail and front dewclaws (at Jenn's request). Jet uses her tail for balance and carries it over her back like Bernie does. This tail is definitely going to come in handy during her lifetime. She'll be better able to communicate with other dogs since we use our tails so much to signal how we feel and what our intentions are.
And the tail is really just an extension of the spine. It can be used for mobility and balance, particularly while running and jumping. Pretty important stuff if you ask me. Makes me wish my tail was longer too. My butt is still cuter anyway.

Now the front dewclaws are really just like thumbs. They are the letter D in the photo below. We use them to grip things and when we run, turn, and jump.I guess it was lucky Jenn went to a seminar several years ago given by Dr. Chris Zink who is a veterinarian that specializes in canine sports, canine structure and locomotion. Dr. Zink feels that we should not be removing dew claws and tails simply because the breed standard tells you to. Dogs really need their tails and dew claws for a lifetime of healthy structural functioning.

Here's a excerpt from Dr. Zink's article about front dew claws really functioning at "thumbs":

    Excerpt from "With a Flick of the Wrist" by Chris Zink, DVM, PhD
    (as seen in Dogs In Canada – September 2003)

    In the last several years, while doing sports-medicine consultations for performance dogs across Canada and the United States, I have seen many canine athletes with carpal arthritis. Interestingly, this condition is much more common in dogs that have had their front dewclaws removed.

    To understand why, it is helpful to understand the structure of the carpus. This joint consists of seven bones that fit together like fieldstones that are used to build the walls of a house
    The carpus joins to the radia and ulnar bones (equivalent to our lower arm), and to the metacarpal bones (equivalent to our hand). Each bone of the carpus has a convex or concave side that matches a curve on the adjacent bone. Unlike the bones of the elbow, for example.

    The elbow bones have ridges that slide into interlocking grooves the bones of the carpus do not have ridges that slide into interlocking grooves on the adjacent bone. The relatively loose fit of the carpal bones is supported by ligaments that join each of the carpal bones to the adjacent bones.

    With so many carpal bones that don't tightly interlock with the adjacent bones, the ligaments of this joint can be easily stretched and even torn when torque (twisting) is applied to the leg. The dewclaws have the important function of reducing the torque that is applied to the front legs, especially when dogs are turning at a canter (the main gait used in agility).

    In the canter, there is a moment during each stride when the dog's accessory carpal pad (on the back of the carpus) of the lead front leg touches the ground and the rear legs and other front leg swing forward to prepare for the next stride. At this point, the dewclaw is in contact with the ground and if the dog turns, the dewclaw can dig in for extra traction to prevent unnecessary torque on the front leg. Without the gripping action of the dog's 'thumbs’ there is more stress on the ligaments of the carpus. This may cause the ligaments to stretch and tear over time, resulting in joint laxity and ultimately, arthritis.

Here's another website that explains the important points of keeping tails and front dew claws.