Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Having Safe and Happy Holidays

The holidays are a super exciting time of year with visitors, traveling, lots of food preparation, and decorations and packages around the house.  Although I do enjoy the change of pace, it can all be a little overwhelming for me and other pets. 

During the holidays, it is important to consider keeping your pet safe and stress free which includes keeping them on a normal diet, managing your pets with children, using crates and supervision, giving extra chew toys and mental toys, and planning to keep us well exercised.

DIET The holidays are all about humans overindulging, but that is not the safest thing for your pets.  It's a good idea to keep your pets on their normal diet to avoid stomach upset.  Even small amounts of fatty turkey skin can mean trouble.  And, I'm sure that last thing anyone wants to deal with is doggie gastric issues. But it's also not a good idea to give us too many holiday goodies because they can increase a dog's risk of developing pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas caused by fatty foods.  Best to play it safe and err on the side of moderation.  Here's a helpful article by Dr. Nancy Kay on how to avoid canine pancreatitis.

PET/CHILD HOLIDAY SAFETY It goes without saying that the holidays are a special time for children.  When we have children visitors in our house or if we go to someone's house that has kids, Jenn or another adult are always watching, making sure that I'm not too stressed, and that the child is respecting my space.  It is very important for adults and children to recognize the signs of stress in pets to keep everyone safe.  Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and founder of Family Paws Parent Education Jen Shryock has done a video on pet/child holiday safety with some great basics about reading pet body language.  You can watch it here:

CONTAINMENT/SUPERVISION Sometimes, with all the hustle and bustle of people coming and going from your home, your pet just wants a quiet place to chill out.  Lots of visitors are exciting, but they can also make us anxious, so being able to have a place in the house to go can be very helpful for pets to have access to.  This could be a calm place in the house, with a dog bed or crate, chew toys, etc.   Here's Jet chilling out in a quiet spot. 
If you are traveling over the holidays, be sure to take sturdy crates with you so your dog can travel in safety in your vehicle and so that you will have a way to contain them wherever you are visiting. Crates also serve as a quiet place for your pet to retreat to if they want some alone time and keeps your pet out of harms way when you can't supervise them. There are lots of holiday hazards that puppies can get into so be careful and supervise, supervise, supervise.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL EXERCISE Tired dogs make the best holiday companions. Jenn knows there are nice walking trails nearby where we can go everyday and that we will be walking many miles. Try to keep up with your dog's exercise routines over the holidays so that your dog will be calmer and less anxious (and so will you). Additional exercise will keep down stress levels. Keep chews and mental activity toys around so you can give your dog something to do when they need it.
THUNDERSHIRT Another great stress reducer is the Thundershirt, which is now available for cats too.  The Thundershirt can help alleviate the anxieties of the holidays including car anxiety and is very snazzy too.  Here's Jenn's travel training video about how to use the Thundershirt to reduce car anxiety:
And lastly and most importantly, don't forget to have your pet's ID tags on wherever you go. I'm looking forward to all the excitement of the holidays! For more holiday pet safety tips click here
and here's a list of tips for "winterizing" your pet from Dr. Nancy Kay.   Happy Holidays!

Monday, September 24, 2012

My 5th Birthday!!

Hard to believe that I'm FIVE years old!  And I just knew that it was a special day just for me and that Jenn and Eric were planning something.  Jenn was busy making a cake with peanut butter and carrots.  That's a complete give-away that I'm having a party!
My girlfriend Mona came over and we got to play.  Jenn's mom made us all special Jing-A-Ling Bandanas.
Poor Bernie had to watch most of the party from inside.  He tore a ligament in his leg and has to take it easy for several weeks.  Sorry Bernie!
 But then Jenn brought out the cake!
Wow!   This might be my favorite cake ever.  Jenn got special treats at Paws at the Corner in Hillsborough.  The treats are handmade at Oliver's Collar Dog Treat Bakery in Durham. 
I could not wait to try it!   Mona thought it was outstanding that dogs get their own cake.
 Jet and Bernie and I were all lined up, ready for our pieces of cake.
 Jet and I ate our cake pieces in one bite!   
And, then we did our gift swap.  I got a cow toy stuffed with a crinkly plastic bottle.  I don't have anything like it and I give it a big paw's up! 
After the guests left, it was time to crash.  Thanks to everyone for my fifth birthday wishes.  I hope to have many more birthdays to come! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Resource Guarding-What NOT to do, what you can do

A study by the ASPCA found that food bowl guarding is one of the most common reasons why dogs are put to sleep at shelters.  A more recent ASPCA study found that food guarding can be easy to modify when humans use safe, behavior modification techniques that teach the dog to respond calmly and happily instead of displaying guarding behaviors.

Of course the easiest solution for food guarding is prevention.  Jenn and Eric taught me as a puppy that humans being around my food bowl was a good thing so even now that I'm grown up I don't guard food.   And Jet did some more intense food guarding when she was a puppy and Jenn taught her that humans can be trusted and it was OK to let them near your food bowl.  

But lots of puppies don't get those lessons and they develop food bowl guarding behaviors that can become dangerous if they aren't handled properly.  Here's what you SHOULDN'T EVER IN A MILLION YEARS DO WITH A DOG THAT GUARDS, never make it a physical confrontation. This video is slowed down and captioned so you can get a sense of what the dog was trying to communicate and how the trainer did not read her signals:
Nothing this guy did helped resolve the problem, it only made it worse.   Let's see, where do I start with everything he did wrong.  First off, he didn't take the time to establish trust with the dog, or to teach her that she had other options.  He threatened her, bullied her, punched her in the neck, and escalated the situation for the cameras.  Oh, and then he kicked her. What a jerk!  So now instead of having a dog that resource guards, you have a dog that has learned that humans can't be trusted and bites without giving the signals that this human didn't bother to read. There's no "winner" here.    Please do not do this to your dog!
The bottom line here is all this drama and violence are so unnecessary.  Helping a dog with guarding behaviors should not be a "showdown" or "winning."  Truly helping a dog with food guarding should be using non-confrontational techniques that help the dog to become less defensive and more trusting of humans around food.  Why wouldn't you just use a proven, safe, and effective method for changing a dog's guarding behavior where no one gets hurt?  I guess that doesn't make for dramatic TV.  Always, always set the dog up for success, not failure. 

Here are some proven options from positive pet professionals on how to safely work with a dog that guards food:
  • Food Guarding from ASPCA
  • The behavior modification program suggested by the ASPCA involves rewarding the dog with something really yummy when a human approaches the bowl:
It goes without saying that if you are concerned about your dog's food guarding you should contact a positive dog training professional who can properly access your dog's issues and help you resolve them safely, especially if the behavior is escalating or if a bite has already happened.  Don't take chances, get help for your dog.  You can use this guide from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers to help find the right trainer for your dog. 

And be sure to ask what type of methods any trainer uses before allowing them to work with your dog.  If they claim to be positive, but use choke, prong, or shock collars or use force or intimidation, then find another trainer that does not resort to these tools/methods. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Rainy Beach Walks and Kitchen Surveillance

We just got back from a very wet trip to the beach.  I loved walking on the beach in the rain!  Jenn and Eric were not so thrilled, but it was really quiet and comfortable anyway.  Here's me and Jet with Jenn on a wet walk.   We got to say hello to lots of nice people and dogs that also didn't mind getting wet on the beach. 

Bernie got his own private walks with Jenn.  Apparently, people on the beach thought he was very cute and polite.  Hmmph! 
Jet had her own agenda while at the beach.  She has developed quite a strategy for mooching food off Eric while he makes his lunch.   First, she positions herself in the kitchen so she has a good vantage point to see what Eric is making. 
 I, of course, have learned to follow Jet's lead on certain things.  So, I'm close by while Eric starts prepping his lunch.
Jet quickly moves to a more central kitchen floor location to get a better look at exactly what Eric is doing.
Jet has also perfected the "sad and very hungry face" and does it to Eric every chance she gets.  See the ears go back, her eyes get big.  Boy, she's good.
When the "sad face" doesn't get the reaction she was hoping for,  Jet repositions herself so that just in case something falls off the counter, she's in strategic position. 
At this point, we've taken up most of the floor space in the kitchen. It would not be the first time that someone has accidentally tripped over a red dog and their lunch lands on the floor.  But Eric tries to move around us as best he can.
Then, Jet flashes the "sad face" again.  I give it a try too.  Eric is unfazed by our attempts to solicit food.  Perhaps Jenn has taught him better than we think. Well, we'll just have to keep an eye on things anyway.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jet Gets Spayed the OVE Way

Jenn has been waiting and waiting to get our little Jet spayed.  Spaying a female dog is a surgery that removes their reproductive organs.  There are many differing opinions about when the best time is to get a dog spayed.  Jenn read as much as she could and decided to wait until Jet had reached a level of "maturity" and gone through at least one heat cycle, so her body could get all the hormonal benefits including bone, brain and organ development. Little did we know that we would be waiting almost three years.  

Has Jet reached a level of maturity?  The jury is still out on that one.  But she did have a heat cycle in May, so Jenn felt that it was a good time to have Jet spayed.

There are two types of spays, OVH-which is a complete hysterectomy and OVE-which is only removal of the dog's ovaries.  Jenn had read several articles by veterinarian Dr. Nancy Kay, about the advantages of the OVE spay:

A Newer Way To Spay by Dr. Nancy Kay

A Different Way To Spay by Dr. Nancy Kay

A New and Safer Way to Spay-Whole Dog Journal

Basically, the advantages of the OVE, ovary only spay, are it is a shorter, less invasive surgery with less time under sedation, it is overall less traumatic to the body, which can translate to less pain and a faster recovery time.  Jenn's vet Dr. Brady had done the OVE and said it was a good option for Jet.

Jet had to spend the night at Dr. Brady's clinic and came home the next day looking like this:

Jenn started treating her immediately with the homeopathic remedies Arnica and Hypericum Perforatum for pain, inflammation, and to help clear the body of the aftereffects of sedation. Jet spent several days basically sleeping and resting, our house has never been so quiet.

Dr. Brady used a special surgical tape on Jet's incision, which kept Jet from trying to fiddle with it.  Here's her small incision after one week, completely healed. 
 So Jet didn't have to wear the dreaded cone like I did when I got neutered:
I did not like that cone!  So Jet pretty much had it easy all around.  She was back to herself within a few days.  We still had to keep her activity limited, no running around, only leash walks for 10 whole days.  But overall, Jenn sees that the OVE, ovaries only spay, is a great option for pet owners. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I have a tumor in my mouth!

Jenn took me into see Dr. Brady for my annual wellness exam and they found something scary!  Dr. Brady noticed a tumor/growth on the side of my tooth that looked abnormal.  It looked like this:

See that marble looking thing?   Eww!  Dr. Brady said that I needed surgery to remove the growth and then they had to send the tissue to a lab to make sure that is wasn't anything to worry about.   I wasn't worried, but poor Jenn was a mess.  First off, Jenn felt really bad that she hadn't noticed the growth.  She usually checks my mouth regularly, but she hadn't seen it. 

So I had to have a brief surgery to get the growth cut out.  After the surgery, my mouth looked like this:

The real bummer was having to eat soft food for a week. You know how I like to chew bones. 

Anyway, the test results came back yesterday, and there was nothing in the tissue to worry about.  The growth is called a Fibromatous Epulis, which is a common, non-cancerous tumor that some dogs get.  No one knows why an Epulis starts to form and it can grow and envelope a tooth or part of the mouth like this:
Yikes!!  The best treatment is surgery to remove it.  Lots of types of cancer can look like an Epulis, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis.  Most Epulis types do not return after surgery.  That's a relief. 

Jenn said she's not taking any chances, so she's giving me a homeopathic remedy called Calcarea Fluorica which is recommended for non-cancerous, epulis by one of Jenn's favorite books Homeopathic Remedies for Dogs by Geoffrey Llewellyn.

And, Jenn said she is never going to forget to check my mouth regularly to make sure the epulis doesn't come back.  So, it is a really important thing to regularly (weekly or more) check your dog's mouth and bring anything abnormal to your vet's attention.  It could save their life!! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jenn goes to Treibball Instructor Training

Quite a bummer that Jenn was gone all week with Jet at Treibball Instructor Training.  What is Treibball you ask?  Well, Treibball, also called "urban herding" or "dog ball" is basically like combining sheep herding, soccer and billiards (but without the sheep).   Sound interesting?  Jenn sure thought so to, and luckily, she was able to attend this training at the last minute.

Treibball began in Germany to give energetic dogs some much needed mental and physical stimulation. It’s a sport for dogs of all ages and sizes–promoting better teamwork and communication between dog and handler. It’s great fun for any energetic dog who works well off-leash and needs a job, or any dog who likes to herd and doesn’t have sheep.  It’s also a great low-impact activity for older dogs (and older handlers).  And you can do it indoors too.  The game involves eight yoga balls that the dog has to drive into a goal one by one, starting with the "point ball".  Easier said than done! 

Check out this dog demonstrating the basics of the game of Treibball:
 And here's a video of Jenn and Jet working on some to Treibball's essential skills:

In Treibball, dogs learn self control, build confidence, and get an appropriate outlet for physical and mental drives.  Handlers learn to give dogs appropriate signals and direction.  Teamwork is essential and every facet of Treibball fosters a completely reward based approach.  Sounds awesome!  Jet was very happy to pose with Jenn's certificate.
  I think Jenn's really happy she decided to become a Treibball instructor.
She plans to offer an "urban herding" class in the fall for her students which you can check out on her website, Blue Dog Creature Coaching.  For more info on Treibball, check out the American Treibball Association website

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Visiting Moore County's Pet Responsiblity Committee

Jenn and other members of K9 Kindness spent the day in Carthage learning all about the fantastic, multi-faceted humane education program going on in Moore County.  K9 Kindness would like to replicate this program in Orange County.  Other humane educators were there from all over North Carolina. 
The Moore County Pet Responsibility Committee developed a six week curriculum for 4th graders that addresses what children (and their parents) can do to help the animals and also teaches good judgement, integrity, kindness, respect and responsibility.   This all volunteer program reaches over 1000 students each year. 

Students learn about the importance of spay/neuter, the responsibilities of caring for pets, the importance of training, and how to be an advocate for animals.  They also have an essay contest called the "Speuter Bowl" where the winning essay receives a free spay or neuter for their family pet. 
Sounds so cool!  Want to get involved and support K9 Kindness' effort to implement a similar program in Orange County?  Check out the K9 Kindness website for more info.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jenn goes to Charlotte for Dr. Sophia Yin Seminar

I was not thrilled to learn that Jenn was going away again.  I guess I shouldn't be so peeved because she was going to Charlotte to see one of her favorite speakers, Dr. Sophia Yin.  Dr. Yin is a veterinarian that specializes in animal behavior and resolving behavior problems using reward based methods. 

Jenn said the weekend was terrific and that she was so on board with Dr. Yin's methods and philosophies, including the best way to handle behavioral issues is to address the underlying issues and understanding how animals learn is critical.  She does not recommend quick fixes or punishment which simply suppress behavior in a given situation.

Here's a great video that highlights Dr. Yin's philosophies about how training a dog should be like leading a dance:

Jenn recommends Dr. Yin's books for pet owners including How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves,

and The Perfect Puppy in 7 Days.

Dr. Yin has an awesome website with resources for pet owners, trainers, and veterinarians.

Monday, June 4, 2012

K9 Kindness Launches No Choke Challenges

I am so excited to tell you about what Jenn and other local reward based dog trainers are doing with K9 Kindness!!  

K9 Kindness is a public awareness project in the Triangle region of North Carolina that is dedicated to humane education and promoting reward based (pain-free) alternatives to dog training techniques and collars designed to hurt, startle, and punish.  One of their projects is called the No Choke Challenge.  

The No Choke Challenge helps humans and dogs learn a more rewarding way to walk together.   Prong, choke and shock collars can be exchanged for a free Walk Your Dog With Love Harness, a K9 Kindness treat pouch, treats, a Jing-A-Ling Dog Bandana, and a five minute lesson with a reward based trainer.  

Here's a very happy human and her dog enjoying their new harness from the No Choke Challenge...
Check out this video from the No Choke Challenge that took place on June 2nd at the Durham Animal Protection Society's Walk for the Animals: 
How can you help K9 Kindness and their mission to provide humane education and humane training equipment to dogs and people in the Triangle?

Donate-K9 Kindness needs donations to support their programs and outreach.  You can make a tax deductible donation on the K9 Kindness website here.  

Be Our Friend-Friend K9 Kindness on Facebook and ask your friends to friend us too.  The more people that learn about reward based training, the more we can help dogs in the Triangle and beyond. 
Volunteer-K9 Kindness is completely volunteer run and we need volunteers to spread our message, participate at booths at various dog events, etc.  Contact Jenn for details on volunteering by visiting the K9 Kindness website.

Upcoming No Choke Challenges include September 8th, 10am-4pm, at the NCSU Vet School Dog Olympics in Raleigh and October 6th, 10am-2pm, at the Paws4Ever Walk for Animal Protection at Southern Village in Chapel Hill.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dog Bite Prevention Week

It is International Dog Bite Prevention Week May 20-26, so I am reposting some resources for understanding why dogs bite, the warning signs, and how to keep yourself safe. Millions of people are bitten by dogs every year, and there are lots of things you people can learn to avoid those bites. Children are especially vulnerable to dog bites, so it is so important that we teach them how to behave around dogs and supervise all interactions between children and dogs. Here's a video created by veterinarian and behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin showing some of the warning signs of fear when a child approaches a dog.

Scary! That dog gave many warning signs, but the child didn't understand them, and there was no parent around to intercede. What can we do??!!

You can listen to a podcast by dog trainer Victoria Stilwell on tips for dog bite prevention and how to help your dog.  Click here to listen to the podcast.

Here's a video by the American Veterinary Medical Association on preventing dog bites and the Stamp Out Dog Bites Campaign:

Dr. Sophia Yin has written a terrific blog explaining how to read fearful body language and why dogs bite when you humans greet us inappropriately.

Here's another poster by artist Lili Chin which shows how to greet and how not to greet a dog. Click on the picture to get a bigger version:

Here's a great resource called Dog Gone Safe. Their website is devoted to preventing dog bites through awareness and education.

And, please read this article by Dr. Sophia Yin called "Seven Tips for Preventing Dog Bites in Animal Care Professionals and Pet Lovers". And watch her video "How To Avoid Dog Bites".

Educating yourself about how to greet dogs properly and learning to read dog body language can go a long way in keeping you and your family safe from dog bites. Be safe!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Jenn at Clicker Expo 2012

Jenn just got back from an exciting weekend at Clicker Expo in Nashville, Tennessee. Clicker Expo is a bi-coastal event for reward based trainers put together by Karen Pryor and the folks at the Karen Pryor Academy. This was the first time Jenn went and she came back with some very creative and interesting ideas to spice up my training. She even got to give a short presentation on Thundershirts and how they work so well with reward based training methods.

But what's the deal with clickers anyway and why would you want to use this method with your dog? Good questions.

First of all who is Karen Pryor? Karen Pryor is a scientist with an international reputation in two fields, marine mammal biology and behavioral psychology. Through her work with dolphins in the 1960s she pioneered modern, force-free animal training methods. Karen is the author of many scientific papers and monographs and seven books. She is a founder and leading proponent of clicker training, the worldwide movement involving new ways to communicate positively with pets and other animals. Pretty impressive! What was really cool is that Karen Pryor turned 80 years old during the Expo. Jenn said they had a party for her and celebrated her lifetime of accomplishments. A pretty impressive person all around.

But my dog is not a dolphin you say. How can clicker training help me communicate with my dog?

The clicker becomes a great communication tool because it tells the dog very specifically what they have done to earn a reward.  It allows you to easily shape a behavior into what you want to the dog do.  Jenn likes clicker training because it teaches dogs to think for themselves, not just follow commands/cues.  It allows us to be creative, think on the fly!

You can learn more about clicker training by visiting Karen Pryor's website.