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.