Friday, October 30, 2009

Fear Of Car Rides and Car Sickness

Suzi did not enjoy her first ride home. As she sat in my lap, she barked, whined and even howled the entire 25-minute drive. So two days later when it was time to take her to the vet, 10 minutes away, I decided the safest thing would be to transport her in her crate. While this definitely was a smart move, being confined in the cargo space of our CR-V made her even more fearful. She threw up going and coming home.

The next time we went to the vet I decided to withold food until after the appointment. With our the first puppy I had that had carsickness, this seemed to do the trick. This seemed to work, until the ride home. Drat.

Experience, as well as my vet, reminds me that many puppies simply outgrow car sickness. But when you need to transport your puppy frequently, wait-and-see is not much of an option.

If your puppy or dog hates the car and/or gets car sick, I'll tell you what I tell my clients. "Different remedies work for different dogs."

Whether a dog is afraid of cars or gets sick, making him feel more comfortable is required. The idea is to slowly re-introduce the dog to the car in short sessions, creating positive experiences. Drives are only introduced and lengthened with increased success. Fairly detailed steps on car desensitization can be found in "Help my dog is afraid of car rides! " by Krista Mifflin for

One aspect of car rides Mifflin's article does not address is restraint. A travel crate may help some dogs feel more secure. But, like people, other dogs may do better if they can look out the window. Window-watchers will need a canine seatbelt harness or, for toy and small breeds, a pet booster seat (a separate harness may be required - check packages carefully).

Don't forget that you will probably need some stress reduction. Even when able to ignore whining or barking, most people get tense during these car rides, too. That is another reason to keep initial practice runs brief. If you stress-out and end up shouting "Shut up!" at your dog, this will not help matters. So put in some ear plugs or put on some soothing classical music to keep yourself calm and in control.

There are a number of different things you can try giving your pet. I am a fan of trying natural remedies before medicinal. A number of my clients have sworn by a slice of fresh ginger root. There are also quite a number of herbal car sickness and anti-anxiety concoctions on the market for pets. Whether or not these will help your pet can only be determined by trial and error.

Veterinarians sometimes often recommend a dose of Benedryl or Dramamine. For severe or otherwise appropriate situations, vets prescribe stronger medications.

All these options seem to work best if administered 20-30 minutes before the car ride. Also, please be sure to consult your vet regarding anything you give your dog. Even herbal and natural remedies can cause adverse reactions, or interfere with any medications your dog may be currently taking.

As with most everything in life, there is no quick fix for doggie car issues. As you work through this process keep the following in mind: Be safe; Be comfortable; and carry plenty of towels.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I Did On Summer Vacation

You may notice the last blog posted before this was a few months ago. There is a very good reason for this hiatus...I lost my mind. Somehow - I can't remember exactly how it was accomplished - my family convinced me to adopt a puppy.

Our original plan was to adopt in the beginning of August, while the boys were still home on summer break. As it turned out, there were not any puppies that fit our particular requirements in our local shelters. We found a wonderful organization through So near the end of August, we found Suzi at the Lonely Hearts Rescue (based in Frederick, MD) and brought her home. (Note: although she looks like a mini-Chloe, they are in no way related)

You may be thinking "You're a dog trainer. So what's the big deal?" Well, being a professional trainer, I knew EXACTLY what I was in for. Housebreaking, nipping and biting, whining...oh, and did I mention housebreaking?

So not only do I agree to adopt a puppy under some temporary insanity, I - yes it was me - chose this dog. As you can see, Suzi has some Beagle in her. The other half is reported to be Jack Russell Terrier.

I've always been a big fan of JRT's, and think Beagles are awfully under-rated. Both breeds make fabulous family dogs when they are properly raised and trained. But both breeds are high energy. We've been living with calm, adult dogs for about 10 years. It was really hard to prepare myself for this shock to the system.

Suzi seems to have the best traits of both breeds. She is an extremely social, intelligent dog. I'm actually suprised at how easily she is adjusting to our family life. The past couple months required a lot of re-organization and rethinking on our part. But I think we've finally gotten into the groove. More to come...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Walk This Way

Requiring your dog to always walk behind you is like the king sitting in a throne towering over his minions. It's archaic and domineering. If you live in an urban or suburban area, it is also impractical.

Allowing your dog to walk slightly ahead also allows you the benefit of observation. I don't want my dogs behind me because I need to see what she's doing. I'd rather the dog regulate her walk to mine, than me having to check back all the time. In addition, with the dog in front I can learn to read her body language. This is important to learn to head her off before she gets into trouble. For example, Chloe has a certain change in posture and gait when she sees a squirrel ahead of us. When I see her do this, I'll give her a "Leave It" command or put her in a "Heel" before she has the chance to drag me.

I teach "loose-leash walking". This basically means learning to walk in an acceptable manner on-leash. The owner gets to decide what is acceptable and what behaviors might need management. It offers greater freedom of choice for both owner and dog. And you both learn to communicate with each other on leash. This is what relationship-building is all about.

Now, of course, there may be situations in which you need your dog to walk behind for a while. Some dogs also require more direction than others. I never say never. The idea is to teach the dog a variety of options and cues to make walks more enjoyable for the both of you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cesar Millan: Controversy or Sign Of The Times?

I'm hearing and reading more and more lashings out agains Cesar Millan and "The Dog Whisperer" show. And while I disagree with the majority of his training methods, I am also heartily against all this finger-pointing. Some articles sound as if we should through the poor guy into cage full of angry pitbulls. Educating the public is critically important. But getting nasty is just counter-productive.

Firstly, I believe in my heart that Cesar is a true dog lover and wants to help people. His intentions are good. He has explained himself that the methods he learned and uses are from observations and experiences since childhood. He is not a Ph.D, a veterinarian, certified or even holds any professional memberships. He is completely honest about his "resume". You know what you are getting.

Charismatic Cesar became popular among "the stars", including Oprah. Because of his increased exposure, NatGeo gives him a show. Because he's on TV, people watch. When people see it on TV, they believe it without question.

AH, here is the real problem...

Should Cesar Millan modify his training methods? Sure, I'd love that. But when millions of people buy his books and videos, there is no motivation for change. The fame and fortune positively reinforce everything he is doing.

Shouldn't National Geographic be more responsible about what they air? Millions of viewers continue to watch, and advertisers are still paying. No matter how many "tsk-tsk" letters and blogs are written, the dollars are saying "yes give us more".

My concern is not as much about what Cesar does, but that people just blatently accept what is spoon-fed to them. "Oh I see he can calm an agressive pitbull, so his methods are definitely right for my Golden Retriever". Um, no probably not. What you see is a 10-minute clip of entertainment. Oh, you missed the disclaimer explaining you should contact a local professional trainer? That's alright...just copy the 30-minute TV show that EDITED hours/days/weeks/maybe even MONTHS of behind-the-scenes work that went into the training. It obviously wasn't important.

This mentality is pervasive in Western society, and quite frankly frightens me. It's a problem not only with the people we follow, shows we watch, materials we read. Most of us don't even know exactly what's in the food we eat, where and how our products are made, and more.

We are busy people and need quick fixes. Hey, if you have heartburn, don't go through the trouble of analysing and changing your diet. Continue to eat fast, easy crap and just take our magic pill. Mother Nature says women should menstruate evey month...what does she know? Our medication will put a stop to that nasty inconvenience.

We are a culture of Instant Gratification. The Public does not want to put a lot of time, effort and money into our pets. Cesar is obviously giving people what they want. Do I agree with it? No. But I'm also not going to lash out against a dominance-based trainer by being a bully myself.

In closing I also want to point out that the popularity of "The Dog Whisperer" and subsequent training/rehab shows have done good. In my area at least, more dog owners are asking for professional help. I thank them for that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Learning Gratitude

The other day, I was walking around with my lunch in my hand trying getting ready to sit in front of the TV. And it dawned on me, that if my dogs were human they would think me very rude. If someone made a big bowl of steaming hot, cheesy pasta and didn't offer you any wouldn't you be offended? Well, I didn't give them any, because Buddy is on a grain free diet, and I don't believe dogs should eat dairy. I don't think they quite understood my explanation. But they still were happy to lay calmly and quietly at my feet.

And then I also thought how I wouldn't be very happy if I could only eat twice a day and had no say in what I was eating. But still, my dogs are very happy to get their raw, tripe and occassional treat.

When we walk, they are happy to go where we go. They can't even potty until we allow them to potty.

The point of this is not that I feel the dogs need a lifestyle change. Rather, it is a reminder to me to be assess my true needs, be grateful for what I HAVE and not worry about what I don't.

Of course, if my pets didn't have some basic needs met, they would be very troubled indeed. This reminds me to prioritize. My family needs food. If I take a hard, honest, look we have more than we need. We don't NEED to go to McDonald's after a soccer game. But we can. We need shelter. My house is not very large by American standards. But how lucky we are that we each have our own room and live in a friendly neighborhood. When I look at my life in this way, I realize how much we really have.

As our Pit, Jesse, grew older she could do less of the things she loved. Yet still she always was happy to go on her walk no matter how short. She always gave kisses full of love and gratitude when I let her on the bed. At 14, she would still get excited to see a meal coming her way. That dog never took one single moment of her life for granted.

I think I've learned a lot about gratitude from dogs. And I am very grateful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's One More?

For those who don't know, or remember, we lost our beloved Pit, Jesse, this past Decemeber. Last week, I got a yen to go onto Petfinder and search for adoptable female Pits. As expected, there were many. But, unexpectedly, I came across one that looked almost exactly like Jess did when we first adopted her.

When hubby got home that night, I asked him to talk me out of emailing the contact. He did not. I was put in touch with the foster who called a few days later. The dog sounds absolutely wonderful and I was all ready to meet her. But when talking with my husband again he had some more, good logical questions. After some more Q&A and a good night's sleep, we decided it's not the right time for us to adopt a third dog.

Yes, you read me right. We already have two adult dogs. Our 11-year old Golden is actually one of the main reasons we decided not to adopt again. He is starting to slow down and require a bit more care. As it is, I have taken to walking the two dogs separately. Chloe, our hound, needs more exercise, while Buddy is needing less. Also, when we meet other dogs on the street, it's much easier handling one dog. Do I really want to walk a minimum of 3 times a day?

Another reason we decided to wait and rethink is our kids. When we adopted Jesse, we had no kids and thus, much more time to devote to her special needs. Yes, we've done it before and I could do it again. But I can't assume it will be the same. Our lifestyles have changed. People very often forget to consider this when they get the adopting-bug.

Finances also factored into our decision. We feed our current two a high-quality (cha-ching) diet of frozen raw and canned tripe. I don't want to have to cut back on quality to account for quantity if it's avoidable. The rescue dog would also have required a lot of up-front veterinary care that woulbe be better put aside for Buddy as he is aging.

While there would, of course, be emotional benefits to rescuing a third dog it's just not the right dog at the right time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pet Savings

Pet insurance is gaining in popularity. I tried VPI for a while, and was happy with the service. But as two of my dogs started getting into geriatric age, and we have three total, after about a year the premium costs outweighed my reimbursements.

After canceling our policies I decided instead to start a pet savings account. This account is with the same bank that holds my checking account and is “no fee, no minimum deposit”. The money I was spending on premiums now goes into this account. Now I don’t have to spend time on claim forms or any other administration. When we have a vet visit, the money is easily transferred between accounts via online banking.

Another benefit having pet savings accounts is availability for other unforeseen expenses, such as illnesses not covered by insurance, boarding, walking services or TRAINING. Although percentages are low right now, a savings account also earns interest. Plus, I get 100% out of it verses partial coverage of an expense.

Don’t think you can afford either insurance or extra savings? Take an honest, logical (not emotional; i.e. “but I have to have my morning latte” because no, actually you don’t) at your finances. I bet there is some discretionary spending (Starbucks, eating out, ciggies) you can and should cut back on. If you truly view you pet as a family member, shouldn’t he be budgeted for just as any other?

For many dog owners, a combination of both insurance and a savings account would be ideal. This is especially true for breeds prone to health issues such as hip dysplasia. Be sure to read all documentation provided by insurance companies to understand exactly what is or isn’t covered and at what percentage.

Those of us who have cared for ailing pets, know what an emotional trauma it can be for owners. You want to avoid finding yourself in the position of cost being the ultimate determining factor of pet care.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm OK, You're OK: Muzzles

We need to stop stigmatizing the use of dog muzzles. From my initial online research, it seems only the U.S. has this stigma about muzzles. Muzzle use is much more common in Europe and Canada, where there are stricter requirements for dogs in public. But a U.S. citizen sees a muzzled dog and immediately thinks something like “Dangerous dog”. I see a muzzle and think, “Responsible, knowledgeable owner”.

Muzzles prevent dogs from biting people, dogs and other animals. Dog-muzzle-store writes, “Whether walking your dog on crowded streets, visiting the vet, or seeing the groomer, there are times when it pays to safely and compassionately use a dog muzzle. Putting a dog muzzle on your dog signals to passersby, and dog care professionals, that you are watching out for their safety. They'll feel more secure, and so will you. But remember that a dog muzzle is a short-term tool, and is not to be used for extended periods.” Basket muzzles can also deter a dog from chewing and eating unwanted items such as feces, rocks and sticks.

There is a growing problem here in the U.S. with untrained dogs becoming aggressive. When a dog starts showing signs of aggression, too many owners simply keep them away from other dogs/people. Often, they foolishly think keeping them locked in a fenced yard will be enough. This typically WORSENS the problem. The dog eventually escapes, injures someone and is put down by court order. Wouldn’t it have been better to muzzle and train the dog properly?

It’s a good idea to muzzle dogs that nip/bite during play. This is especially true for retired racers/coursers like Greyhounds and Whippets. Any dog can get overstimulated and start nipping/biting. Herding breeds – Corgi’s, Australian Shephards - seem more prone to this. Instead of avoiding the dog park, use an appropriate basket muzzle until your dog is trustworthy. Instead of feeling embarrassed, focus on your dog’s enjoyment and show off what an enlightened owner you are. After all, this isn’t about you.

I have heard some people claim that muzzles are cruel. I see no sense in this feeling. OK, muzzles usually don’t look very nice. But an appropriate muzzle is comfortable for the dog. Most dogs will need to be desensitized to wearing it. But, again, when done properly the dog should have no anxiety about it. It is much crueler to stress your dog by denying him social opportunities and not provide proper training.

There are quite a number of styles to consider, all for different situations. For short-term use, vets and groomers typically use soft muzzles that keep the mouth completely closed. Dogs being trained may require a basket style that allows panting and water-drinking. Note that head halter collars, such as Halti’s and Gentle Leader’s, do NOT prevent a dog from biting.

A muzzle is not something you want to blindly purchase, just slap on your dog and leave it at that. If you want to learn more, a good place to start is your vet and local trainers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Just Keep Calm!

We are having our roof replaced today. I probably don't have to tell you, the dogs are not happy about all the noise. When the crew first started walking around on top of our heads, Buddy and Chloe went barking mad. But I just ignored them, and continued working. After about 5 minutes they relaxed. Every once in a while, when there's a big bang or other new noise up there, one will jump up barking and get the other one in on the act as well. I don't say or do anything and they calm right back down.

The reason I detail this is to remind owners just how effective our own reactions can be on dog behavior. Too often owners unknowingly create anxiety in their dogs. I'll often get complaints from someone that she her dog is uncontrollable and high-strung. When I meet with this person, she is high-strung and anxious herself. Well, no wonder. She even makes me nervous!

I often see people treating dogs like babies. This is unfortunately rampant among the smaller breeds. Picking up your dog and carrying it around denies him of the chance to learn how to manage around other people and dogs. This fosters nervousness and diminishes social skills.

Of course there are times, in extreme situations, you should pick up a small dog or provide a dog with comfort. But the key is to find the right balance. Are you supporting your dog, or over-exaggerating the situation?

The best way to support your dog in any situation is to manage the environment as much as possible. In my current situation, I can’t stop the noise. As long as my dogs behave reasonably they can continue to hang out with me. (They’re actually resting calmly right now!) But when I leave later, or if they start becoming more anxious, I will intervene. I will put them on the lowest level to minimize irritation and make them as comfortable as possible. And when I return, we’ll step right back into our normal routine to cue them nothing has changed, all is well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You Can't Speak Dog

Here is another stake in my ground: I unequivocally disagree with any training method that attempts to mimic dog communication. Examples of this include growling, or the old-fashioned Alpha-roll.

The idea of trying to communicate to your dog using their own language sounds pretty logical right? The problem is a human trying to act like a canine usually only further confuses the dog.

Take growling. First of all, dogs use different growls in different situations. (see "Growling" on my Tips page). Lets say that maybe you are able to successfully mimic an appropriate vocalization. Dogs also use lots of body language to clarify exact intentions. Of all the dogs we’ve owned, when one wanted to indicate the other should “stop” or “back off” they used growling/barking WITH definitive body language. These actions were always clear to the offending dog, and they always complied. You should also note that a dog’s body language almost always includes the ears. I, personally, am not able to voluntarily pin my ears back or get them to stick straight up. The only time my dogs seem to understand a growl is if we are playing tug.

Actually, just now I tried making a nasty growl while staring at an inanimate object. The dogs looked at me but showed absolutely no interest or concern and went back to sleep.

Using the Alpha-roll is similarly problematic. People are taught to force their dog onto his back in a submissive position in order to establish dominance. This is not how dogs do it. If you’ve ever watched two puppies playing you have seen how one may at some point willfully roll over on his back. But then when the other dog backs off, the submitting pup jumps right back up and starts pouncing again. Does this mean the other dog has established dominance? No! It means the pup was saying, “Hey, look, I’m really no threat”.

Dogs actually indicate dominance using combinations of staring, growling/barking, showing teeth, nipping/biting, resource guarding and marking. Communication among dogs is actually not quite as simple as some dominance trainers would have you believe.

Dogs are masters of observation and adapting to their environment. When your dog consistently goes to the door, you realize that’s his signal he needs to potty. Your dog can also learn what you want to communicate in the same manner. Be consistent with cue words and body language. Reinforce desired behavior with rewards. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your dog will start understanding, and how much calmer everyone will be.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Don't Click

I'd like to set the record straight about my positive-reinforcement training...I have so far not needed to, and actually prefer NOT to clicker train. But I’m not “anti-clicker”.

Clicker training IS positive-reinforcement training. This method “marks” desired behavior by using a mechanical device that makes a "click" sound. In Psych-speak a “marker” is a signal to the animal that it is doing the right thing. The marker is quickly followed up with a reward (typically food) to reinforce the behavior.

I, and other non-clicker positive-reinforcement trainers, mark behavior with the word “good”. The methodology is the same. The equipment is different.

So why do I refrain from clicking? First, let me say if someone wants to use a clicker I’ll be happy to teach them. And I do endorse this method of training. It’s just not my preference. When I began as a trainer, I mentored with a non-clicker professional. I learned that with any form of positive-reinforcement, TIMING of markers and rewards is more important that the form they come in.

Other reasons I don’t click includes feedback from clients previously experienced with clicker classes:
- the dog was scared or otherwise made anxious by “click” noise.
- complaints that if timing wasn’t perfect, training did not go well.

When it comes right down to it, I have no need to carry around one more piece of equipment when using my voice works just as effectively. I always carry that with me. So even outside of formally practicing with my dog, if she does something naturally that I want to train I can still say “good” and give her some form or reward and not worry about where I left my clicker.

In closing I want to reiterate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using clickers to train. Any training that is based on positive reinforcement and is effective is worth exploring. Some dogs actually do BETTER with clicker training (most likely because the owner does better for a variety of possible reasons). As with any training, it is a matter of find out what works best for both you and your dog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Permethrin Warning

Permethrin is an insecticide used in and around U.S. homes and some topical tick preventatives. I just learned that K9 Advantix is one brand that contains this toxin. Permethrin has been classified by the FDA as a possible carcinogen (cancer causing agent).

While other products do, of course, use insecticides as well, I have not yet been made aware of their possible carcinogenicity. Needless to say, I will be trying another product during our peak flea/tick season.

Learn more about Permethrin at

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recommended Read: "The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood"

"The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood" by Nadine M. Rosin is a true account of the author's relationship with her "canine daughter" Buttons. The book focuses on the canine-human bond, hoistically healing canine cancer and the grieving process.

I "met" Nadine online a Twitter (@PetParentAuthor). Following the link to her blog is where I learned more about the book. At first, this did not seem like it was for me. I'm not usually a fan of personal pet stories as I have plenty of my own. Nadine was kind enough to feature me in a blog, and the more blogs from her I read the more I became convinced to order the book.

The first thing that struck me about "The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood" is how much personal informaion Nadine shares. She opens up so much of her experiences that somewhere you will find yourself being able to relate. This level of intimacy also draws the reader in and allows you to "get to know" Buttons as well. Nadine's explaination of the holistic therapies used will also serve to educate pet owners on alternative care options.

Toward the end of the book, I was in tears. We recently lost our beloved 14-year-old, AmStaff, Jesse. Nadine's book helped me unlock some supressed emotions. What a catharsis! The "The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood" has been recommended to any pet owner who is grieving. But I feel it is for any owner who has ever had a deep emotional bond with their pet.

Please check out Nadine M. Rosin's blog, to learn more about her and "The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Don't Poo-Poo the Poo Poo

You're probably aware that many cities and neighborhoods now have ordinances and laws requiring us to pick up after our dogs. But even if you are in a more rural area, it is important to pick up his poop.

First of all, if it is your land and you don't want to clean up immediately, fine. That's your right. But you really have no right to leave anything behind on another's property. I hope you don't litter; and basically poo should be viewed the same as littering. Although it eventually breaks down, it does take a while. In the meantime, it will inconvenience the owner or whoever else may walk by.

Dog feces can carry zoonotic diseases (transfering from dog to human) and parasites such as Giardia. This can occur through direct contact or via flies and other pests. This is fairly common among kids. Think about it: a kid doesn't look where he's walking, steps in the poo, tries to clean it off, gets a little fecal matter on his hands which he doesn't wash very well, then a couple days later he's being treated for an intestinal parasite. And it all could have been avoided if someone wasn't being careless.

Make sure waste pick-up is part of your walking equipment. There are cool leash attachments and refills available that dispense poop bags. Many people like to recycle their plastic grocery and newspaper bags for this purpose. I have heard of some folks simply carrying around their pooper scooper and then flushing the waste when home.

Whatever method you use, make sure it is reliable; i.e. no holes in the bag. I even often carry extras to offer people who've forgotten theirs.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Warmer Weather = Heartworm, Fleas & Ticks

Now that the weather is warming up out here, I begin thinking about uping the parasite prevention for my pooches.

Heartworm is carried by mosquitoes. It only takes one bite to infect your pet. Once contracted, treatment can be effective, but a costly and lengthy process. Here, in Maryland, we often have relatively mild winters. Also, mosquitoes can survive the winter inside a home. I keep my dogs on heartworm prevention all year round. Heartworm preventatives can only be prescribed by veterinarians. If your dog has not been on Heartworm meds, even just skipping the winter months, a blood test for the parasite will first be required.

Fleas and Ticks are typically killed through products such as K9 Advantix and Frontline. These are highly effective and have low in incidences of side-effects. I highly recommend you discuss all your concerns and options with your veterinarian to find what will work best for you and your dog.

Some dogs can have reactions or develop sensitivities to these products; like my Golden. Many folks also wish to avoid use of chemicals. So I will share the natural flea & tick deterents we use.

#1 Checking the coat and skin thoroughly and regularly. The warmer it is, the more frequently I check. This may mean each and every time they've gone out. Don't forget to check between toes as well.

#2 Use of a botanical spray for the coat. I feel comfortable using those that contain Neem oil. This is a natural insecticide. I add a few drops to my favorite leave-in conditioning spray. Do not try to use pure Neem oil, full-strength - it smells rancid and could cause skin irritation. Natural flea/tick collars are also available. But, personally I feel better spraying the entire coat (except the face of course)

#3 Frequent vacuuming pet sleeping areas in addition to the rest of the house removes any eggs that may be lurking around. Dispose of bags frequently as eggs could hatch inside allowing fleas to escape.

#4 Any ticks found are immediately removed. Fleas would require an immediate bath using a flea control shampoo.

In addition, due to the high incidence of Lymes in our area, our dogs are annually vaccinated. NOTE: More kids in our area are contracting Lymes. Because we have kids I do use K9-Advantix on the dogs a couple times during the summer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Hairy Truth

Are you looking for a “hypoallergenic” or “non-shedding” dog? Well, you first need to know exactly what these terms mean when referring to canines.

Let’s start with the “non-shedding” dog. This term is misleading. Shedding is a cyclical process by which hair grows for a period, then is lost later in the cycle. With dogs, this usually happens in seasons; i.e. shedding the winter coat. Different breeds shed differently. Temperature variations also effect he shedding process.

Dogs that “don’t shed” simply lose and grow hair year-round much like humans. Dogs that fall into this category tend to have shorter, curlier or more wirey hair. Since less hair falls out at a time, and it’s smaller, it is less noticeable. It is also believed these dogs produce less dander, thus being promoted as “hypoallergenic”. I wonder if it’s just that because it’s a small amount continuously, versus a large amount suddenly coming out, that we can adapt and tolerate it better.

There is NO dog that is 100% non-allergenic. First, you need to determine exactly what the problem is. If you are allergic to dog saliva, then you are completely out-of-luck. There are no breeds with low-allergy-saliva. Most people with dog allergies are actually allergic to the dust mites that feed on dander. Some breeds like Poodles, Bichons, and Portuguese Water Dogs, are generally less dander producing.

What about Labradoodles and Goldendoodles? These are known as “hybrid” or “designer” dogs. It is a cross between two pure bred dogs. Not all hybrid dogs bred are 50% purebred to 50% purebred. It is very common to breed multi-generation crosses. I have met quite a few Labradoodle owners who tell me their dog sheds just like a full-bred Lab.

No matter what breed dog, allergy sufferers should plan on a little extra grooming for their pooch. The more sensitive you are, the more diligent you will have to be. Discuss an appropriate care routine with your professional groomer or vet. This should include step you should be taking at home between professional visits. Be sure to use appropriate tools. Brushes and blades that are too harsh can exacerbate the problem.

By the way, if you have any questions about dog allergies, for you or other family members, consult your doctor. Especially if anyone has a history of hayfever or other allergies. If needed, having a test done to see how great the sensitivity actually is. The last thing you want is for someone to have an asthma attack, or have to take the puppy to the shelter.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dominance and Pack Theories

I have been hearing and reading much debate over the use of dominance and pack theories to train domestic dogs. I am currently drafting an article and would like to share some of the important points. Please note that more research is pending.

1. Dog, like their wolf ancestors, are pack animals. A "pack" is simply a social unit. Humans, too, live in social units which include hierarchies.

2. Neither wolf nor domestic pups are born instinctively understanding the pack rules. They are taught by other pack members.

3. The roles in a pack change. Subordinate wolves will challenge each other to move up in rank.

4. Dominance (use of agression and submission) is used by wolves to establish leadership. BUT, it is not the only way. Alpha males and females also establish leadership through their experience and hunting skills. Dominance is used when it is the only means available.

5. We need to teach dogs their role in our human society, not a wolf pack. I am not a canine, so I will not pretend to be one.

6. Use of fear/agression and submission communicates the use of such tactics are acceptable. This creates the potential of a dog challenging a subordinate family member's role; such as a child or another dog.

7. Humans can easily control a dog's resources without use of dominance. Deciding when/where a dog eliminates, eats, sleeps, etc. quickly establishes leadership role.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Train The Whole Dog

Are you, like me, finding yourself inundated with differing views, opinions and suggestions on dog training? This blog site will pass on valuable information, provide insights into the training world, and hopefully change some attitudes about dog ownership in general.

I believe in my heart most owners want to raise healthy, happy dogs. Experience shows me that often all that’s missing is awareness and education. I also know that treating people considerately and respectfully makes far greater strides than bullying or belittling.

Head-to-Tail wants to be the voice of reason on your journey through canine companionship.