Friday, August 30, 2013

Photo Friday

"All of the animals except for man know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it." 
Samuel Butler

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Photo Friday

"An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language." Martin Buber 

Tricks you can Teach your Dog

It is truly an amazing thing which we can teach our animals to do. It isn't so much that we are teaching them how to do it, because they know how, but we are putting it on cue. By putting it on cue we get the behavior at our request. This is a great video on tricks that one dog can perform. I don't know about you but it inspires me to go work with and train my dogs tricks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bug Bites and Bee Stings

There comes a time every year where insects are a nuisance to everyone, even our dogs. Spring offers us pesky black flies (their bites are the little red rings we find on our dogs bellies), Summer through fall brings the mosquitoes, horseflies, spiders, wasps, bees etc.  Just like people, some dogs are more sensitive to the bite of one of these insects than others. It might result in just a puffy face or it could turn into a serious situation that needs medical assistance. I personally, working at the vet the last 5 years, haven't seen any cases where a bug bite resulted in trouble breathing but have definitely seen some very puffy faces come through the door.

So what do you do if your dog's face starts swelling? You can give them a benadryl dose. It typically is 1 mg/lb. Benadryl comes in 25mg capsules. Say your dog weighs 75lbs, one dose for them would be 3 tablets of benadryl.  If your dog is 80lbs it would likely still be a 3 tablet dose. When in doubt, you should always contact your vet to get the correct dose for your dog. They will tell you how often you can give the benadryl if the swelling hasn't  gone down after the first dose. There isn't much for side effects with giving benadryl other than may result in tiredness. I do, however, have one of my labs who vomits every time I have given him benadryl. I know this because of trial and error. Sometimes I give him a dose if he has been bit by a horsefly while other times I do not. After the bug bite, he only vomits if benadryl is involved. Henry, my other lab, has no side effects when taking benadryl.
If your dog isn't exhibiting signs of discomfort or irritation from the bites the swelling will often subside on its own. In the picture above of Henry, he was bitten by 3 horseflies at once around his eye while he was swimming. I couldn't swat them off nor could he. The flies had a feast. His face started out swelling just around the eye and then after a couple hours spread down the left side of his muzzle and jowls. His lip was about 3x as thick as as his normal side and the corners of his mouth were almost the size of golf balls. I gave him one dose of benadryl, 2 tablets, he was 60lbs when it happened, and come morning it had decreased in size. I could have given him more but because the swelling was going down on its own and he wasn't showing any signs of discomfort, I let nature take care of the rest. When I returned from work his face was back to normal. The biggest thing is if you are ever unsure, or your dog has trouble breathing, contact your veterinarian immediately!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Coming When Called - Part 2

Studies have been done that have shown dogs perform better and have lower stress levels when taught with positive reinforcement. I like to explain things in the dogs perspective to clients  to give a good idea of why our dog is doing what he's a hint, it isn't that they are being stubborn.

In Part 1, I gave an example of a dog off in the field sniffing where geese had been. The owner calls and calls but is getting no response. The best thing to do at that point is to go get your dog and bring them back. How many times have you used the word "Come" and your dog doesn't come? If you believe you have soured the word, your first step will be to create a new recall word. I have had clients use "Here", "Cookies",  "Free Dinner", "Rover" etc. Remember, our dogs don't know English, so if we teach them that "Pepsi" means leave whatever you are doing and come to me, they will be none the wiser that it is actually a soda.

Practice teaching your dog "Come" or whatever word you want to use in very short distances. Always use high value treats. High value is something that makes your dog open his eyes wide and say "I want more!" Hot dogs, cheese, chicken, freeze dried liver etc. are all good high value treats. Start with a low level distraction, work within your home, and move backwards several steps. As you do say "Come" and as your dog follows, stop, then reward with a treat when he reaches you. Repeat again and again and again. This is how you can begin to teach your dog the association that good things happen with the word come. Be certain to not try and use this word too early with bigger distractions because you will quickly teach your dog that "Come" only means come when you want.

You can also teach your dog to voluntarily check in with you. When you are in the house or outside in your yard start rewarding your dog for checking in voluntarily. Your only goal here is to recognize that your dog just came to you instead of going away. The added bonus is your dog is allowed to go back to what he was doing before he checked in. You can also just observe your dog outside and when you see a break in your dog's behavior where he isn't really doing anything, call him. Say his name, and then be really excitable, if your dog likes that, and move backwards away from your dog. Once he follows and reaches you, reward with the high value treat and some positive talk and as an added bonus, he is free to do what he wants again. If 9 times out of 10 your dog always gets to go back to what he was doing you are strengthening his recall.

Start young and always use high value treats
One of the biggest mistakes that we make when teaching our dogs to come when called is not keeping it positive. Our dogs recall starts out good and then over time gets worse. That is likely due to the fact that we call our dog and then bring them in the house and ignore them or put them in the crate and leave for work. What the dog learns is that coming when called results in bad things and boredom, so he then chooses to stay where he is because it is more entertaining.

Here are some things that will quickly ruin a recall:
1. Not using high value treats - Sure your dog comes , most of the time, but will a piece of kibble compare to the turkey poop on the lawn? We want our dogs to know that coming is in their best interest and the only time they will get their piece of sirloin steak.
          Henry, my youngest lab, and I were really struggling with recalls. He truly was a dog who would eat anything! Food or not, it was hard to distinguish what he considered high value. I can't stress enough how creativity comes into play but also using the higher value treats. You know something like steak has got to be more enticing than kibble so stick with it until you really find something he can't pass up. I discovered that 5 minutes of chewing a bully stick has substantially strengthened Henry's recall.

2. Trying to call your dog away from something that is too distracting. If you wouldn't bet money that if you said "Henry Come" he would tear himself away and come, than don't say it and go get your dog. Even when you catch your dog you should reward him. Why? Because if your dog doesn't want to be caught there isn't anything you can do, they are faster than us. Rewarding them prevents our dog from running away when we are only 2-3 feet away and about to take their collar.

3. NEVER punish your dog for coming to you. If it was slower than normal or took 5 minutes your dog did come to you. As much as you may like to roughly grab your dog by the collar and semi drag them to the house and throw them into the crate all the while cussing at them you will only prevent your dog from approaching you any quicker in future. You will most likely teach your dog to stay away from you because you are a dangerous person. Be thankful your dog came to you and no harm has been done.

Be Realistic, how much time have you invested into teaching your dog to have a reliable recall? It can take up to 3 years to get a reliable recall. Until the recall is reliable, manage your dog's situations with 30' nylon leashes or fenced in areas where you can practice in a safe environments.  Practice makes perfect and a good recall can save your dogs life.

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