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October 25, 2012

Teaching "Stay" Command

In this video Rosie, a 6 month old puppy is reviewing her "watch me" and "down" commands. Watch Rosie learn her "stay" command.

Remember we have to teach our puppies what we expect first; then start to enforce what they have learned. Take baby steps when increasing your distance, duration and distractions.

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October 17, 2012

Holiday Safety for your Dog

Written By: Marcia Murray-Stoof CPDT,CCB

The holidays are all about family, friends, fun and food - but sometimes it's easy to forget about holiday safety for your dog. We all want our dogs to be part of the celebration, but there are some important guidelines to follow. Keep your dog safe this holiday season - no one wants their holiday celebration to end up at the veterinary emergency clinic! 

No table scraps! Just because we humans like to indulge in the feast does not mean it is good for our dogs. Rich, fatty foods can seriously upset your dog's stomach and even be toxic. Most dogs love food and especially yearn for "people food". Dog experts have discouraged the feeding of table scraps to dogs for years because of the potentials for toxicity, obesity and general poor health. While healthy, well-balanced diets can be prepared for dogs using human food, it is essential to feed the right foods. Know what foods to avoid so you can prevent poisoning and keep your dog healthy. If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic food, seek veterinary attention immediately.

It is especially important to keep your dog away from the following dangerous foods:

Grapes and Raisins can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, possible resulting in death.

· Ingesting as few as 4-5 grapes or raisins can be poisonous to a 20 pound dog, though the exact toxic dose is not established.

· Signs of toxicity include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, decreased urine production (possibly leading to lack of urine production), weakness and drunken gait.

· Onset of signs typically occurs within 24 hours (though they can start just a few hours after consumption)

· Your vet may start by inducing vomiting, or the stomach might be pumped (gastric lavage). Treatment involves aggressive supportive care - particularly fluid therapy and medications

· Onions can cause a form of hemolytic anemia called Heinz body anemia, a condition that causes the destruction of red blood cells. Kidney damage may follow.

Toxicity may occur from similar foods such as garlic and chives.
It is not clear what quantity of onions is poisonous, but the effects can be cumulative. Poisoning can result from raw, cooked and dehydrated forms. Avoid feeding table scraps and any foods cooked with onions (including some baby foods). Check your ingredients! 

Signs are secondary to anemia, such as pale gums, rapid heart rate, weakness and lethargy. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody urine.
Treatment: blood transfusions and/or oxygen administration may be necessary, followed by specific fluid therapy.

Chocolate and cocoa contain a chemical called theobromide that can adversely affect the heart, lungs, kidney and central nervous system. Pure baking chocolate is most toxic, while milk chocolate requires a higher quantity to cause harm. A 20 pound dog can be poisoned after consuming about 2 ounces of baking chocolate, but it would take nearly 20 ounces of milk chocolate to cause harm. Ingestion of cacao bean mulch can also be toxic.

Signs include excitement, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate/rhythm, drunken gait, hyperthermia and coma.
Your vet may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage. Treatment includes administration of activated charcoal and aggressive supportive care with fluid therapy and medications. 

Caffeine is quite similar to the toxic chemical in chocolate. It can damage the heart, lungs, kidney and central nervous system.
Commons sources of toxicity include caffeine pills, coffee beans and coffee, large amounts of tea, and chocolate. 

Signs typically begin with restlessness, hyperactivity and vomiting. These can be followed by panting, weakness, drunken gait increased heart rate, muscle tremors and convulsions.

Your vet may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage. Treatment includes administration of activated charcoal and supportive care with fluid therapy and medications

Macadamia nuts, while generally not considered fatal, can cause your dog to experience severe illness. 

The actually toxin is not know, nor is the mechanism of toxicity.
Ingestion of just a handful of nuts can cause adverse effects in any dog.
Signs include vomiting, weakness, depression, drunken gait, joint/muscle pain, and joint swelling. 

Onset of signs typically occurs within 6-24 hours.
Dogs are typically treated symptomatically and recover within 24-48 hours. In-hospital supportive care may be recommend for dogs that become very sick.
Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener most often found in chewing gum and candy. In dogs, it stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Xylitol ingestion can also cause severe liver damage. 

As few as two pieces of gum can be hypoglycemia to a 20 pound dog. A pack of gum can cause liver damage.
Signs of toxicity can occur within 30-60 minutes and include weakness, drunken gait, collapse and seizures. 

Your vet may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage. The affected dog will likely need to be treated intravenously with dextrose (sugar) and monitored closely for 1-2 days. Many dogs improve with supportive care if treated early enough, though liver damage can be permanent.

Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol - a seriously toxic chemical compound that causes central nervous system and respiratory depression.
Uncooked yeast doughs also produce ethanol.
Even small amounts of ethanol can cause toxic effects.

Signs include sedation, depression, lethargy, weakness, drunken gait and hypothermia (low body temperature). 

Ethanol is rapidly absorbed into the system, so it is important to seek medical attention quickly. It is not usually helpful to induce vomiting. Treatment includes aggressive supportive care with fluid therapy and medications.
Under controlled circumstances, alcohol is used by veterinarians as an antidote for antifreeze (ethylene glycol) poisoning.

Apple seeds, cherry pits, peach pits, and plum pits contain the toxin cyanide.

· Signs of cyanide poisoning include vomiting, heavy breathing, apnea tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, coma, skin irritation.

· In some cases, antidotes are available. Other treatments include oxygen therapy, fluids and supportive care.

· Also take note that the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Also, the fat content is not healthy for dogs.

Moldy or rotten foods can cause many problems for your dog, some more serious than others. Any food that seems "past its prime" should be kept out reach. Be especially careful to keep your dog away from trash cans.

· Botulism, often from garbage, can cause paralysis, slow heart rate, constipation, and urine retention. An antitoxin is effective only if poisoning is caught early enough.

· Rotten fruit produces ethanol, causing the same effects associated with alcohol or dough ingestion.

· Moldy foods contain toxins that may cause muscle tremors, convulsions and drunkenness.

· Therapy depends on the toxin. Your vet may induce vomiting. Sometimes, treatment includes activated charcoal. Supportive care with fluids and medications is often necessary.

· Certain foods, while not considered toxic, can still be unhealthy for your dog. Avoid any foods that are high in fat, sugar or sodium. These foods can contribute to indigestion, obesity, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and more. Dairy products may be difficult for dogs to digest. Corn cobs and bones can cause GI obstruction. Cooked bones may splinter and break easily, risking GI damage.

Like people, too much junk food can cause poor condition and decreased energy.

Remember that your dog is smaller than you and may be sensitive.
What seems like "just a bite" for you is more like a small meal for your dog.
If you want to feed homemade food, seek advice from your vet.
You may wish to meet with a nutritionist for diet recommendations.

October 14, 2012

Understanding a Dog's Body Language - Why Dog's Do What They Do

Understanding a Dog's Body Language - Why Dog's Do What They Do

Why Do Dogs Do That?
Dog communication refers to body movements and sounds dogs use to send signals to other dogs, and other animals (usually humans). Dog communication comes in a variety of forms, and is part of the foundation of dog social behavior. Dogs use certain movements of their bodies and body parts and different vocalizations to express their emotions. There are a number of basic ways a dog can communicate its feelings. These are movements of the ears, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, nose, head, tail, and entire body, as well as barks, growls, whines and whimpers, and howls.

Interpreting animal body language
It is important to note that while many gestures and actions may have common, stereotypical meanings, researchers regularly find that animal communication is often more complex and subtle than previously believed, and that the same gesture may have multiple distinct meanings depending on context and other behaviors. So, generalizations such as "X means Y" are often, but not always accurate. For example, even a simple tail wag may (depending on context) convey many meanings including:

Happiness, self-confidence
But also:

There is a simple way to tell the difference though. Just like humans show more happiness on the right side of their face, dogs swing their tail more to the right when they're happy and vice versa. Combined with other body language, in a specific context, many gestures such as yawns and direction of vision all convey the dog's emotions or feeling states. Thus statements that a particular action "means" something, or that the dog is using its body language with the intent to report information to others, should be avoided. In Consciousness Explained, Daniel C. Dennett of Tufts University, tells us that there are two basic forms of communication: the unconscious expression of a mental or emotional state, and the intentional act of reporting information. He goes on to say that there are many ways of expressing a mental or emotional state, “but only one way of reporting information, and that is through the use of language, written, spoken, or signed.” It's also important to note that most of the body language exhibited by human beings isn't done consciously, with the intent to communicate, so it could be a mistake to believe that dogs intentionally use their body language to report information to others.

Greeting ritual
One of the first forms of communication that will be observed is the greeting ritual. When a dog first encounters another dog, a brief assessment of aggression or friendliness is made. If one dog growls or barks, for instance, the encounter will usually end quickly, either by the other dog avoiding the encounter, or by a fight ensuing. If this test is passed, the dogs usually attempt to greet each other. This is done first by sniffing each other's odors. Dogs often sniff each other's anuses simultaneously, and this is the clearest indication of what some in the field believe to be a greeting ritual. This so-called greeting ritual is said to establish the identities of the dogs by scent, and isthe dogs' way of saying 'hello' to each other. However, most people miss an important observation: even dogs who know each other very well will sniff one another when they first run into each other on the street. Dogs who live in multiple dog households will also sniff each other from time to time (for instance, if one dog gets up to get a drink of water while another dog is asleep, that dog might go over and sniff his housemate on his way to the water bowl).

Dogs who are playing will sometimes get too wound up, stop, shake themselves off, then sniff each other before resuming their play session. So the idea that sniffing is just a greeting ritual is probably a misunderstanding.

If the dogs are satisfied with the encounter (it is not unusual for dogs to take a sudden dislike to each other at this stage), then they may either move on in disinterest, or proceed further in the greeting ritual by showing affection. Affection is shown by some or all of the following: Wagging the tail, licking the face, playful barking, panting, or jumping (including playful jumping on the other dog). Dogs that show affection in this way will usually get along fairly well, and this display can be considered a display of friendship.

Hand-sniff greeting
Humans can also participate in a greeting ritual with a newly met dog, by bending down in front of (not looming over) or kneeling down to the dog, and slowly but confidently extending the hand to be sniffed in front of and just below the dog's snout. If the dog is timid or has a habit of snapping at strangers, it is best to allow the dog to come sniff your hand, rather than extending it into the dog's space (this can make the dog nervous) while using words of praise in a calm, soothing voice. To limit the chance of getting bitten, keep the hand palm-down with fingers cupped downward or the hand fully closed in a loose fist, making it difficult for the dog to grab hold of a finger in a bite. Be watchful of the dog's demeanor. If you continue praising the dog in a soothing voice in an attempt to calm it after it has just growled or snapped at you, the dog is hearing its bad behaviors get reinforced and is more likely to get frightened and bite, rather than sniff your hand in a friendly manner. Reserve praise and soothing tones for times when the dog is behaving well, and firm, disapproving tones (not yelling) for times when discipline is necessary.
After the dog has completed the hand-sniff, it is possible to proceed to making physical contact by gently petting the dog on its chest or shoulders. Attempting to pet the top of the head can create a nervous response because the movement of the hand toward the head may interrupt the dog's ability to see your eyes, thereby assessing your emotional state. Again, it is possible to get snapped at, so care should be taken not to block the dog's ability to see your eyes. If the dog completes the sniff without snapping or barking, another attempt to pet the dog can be made.
Once the dog allows the affectionate petting, it will more likely only take a quick hand-sniff on the next meeting for the person to attempt petting the dog. Petting can at this time become more playful without risking the dog snapping at the person.

For timid or mildly aggressive dogs, it may not be possible to establish friendship in one greeting ritual. Friendship cannot be forced, and may require repeated attempts over time. Keep looking the dog in the eye to show the dog you command them.

Aggression during the greeting ritual
 Some breeds of dog have a more suspicious or aggressive temperament by nature and are more difficult or dangerous to approach with the greeting ritual. Dogs that have been physically abused tend to be much more timid and defensive than a well-treated dog, so great care should be taken before trying to perform the greeting ritual with such a dog, as these dogs are more prone to react aggressively. Some dogs are also trained to be aggressive, such as guard dogs.

Dominance and submission
 Dominance and submission are often mistaken to be part of normal social behaviors for dogs. They are not. Wild canines form packs specifically for the purpose of hunting large prey. Evolutionary biologist Raymond Coppinger has noted that wolves that live near garbage dumps, and therefore don't need to hunt large prey, don't form packs. He also states that coyotes, which are more solitary than wolves, sometimes form packs, but only when they need to hunt large prey. In Dog Language, biologist Roger Abrantes has noted that it's easier for a group of wolves to hunt large prey by working together. So pack formation in canines seems to be a function of prey size more than dominance and submission.

The idea that dogs exhibit dominant and submissive behaviors is based partly on behaviors seen in captive wolves that were culled from various sources, didn't know one another, and weren't able to hunt together. David Mech of the University of Minnesota has been studying wild wolf packs since the 1960s. Mech states that in wild packs "dominance" displays are so rare as to be totally nonexistent. The only time they seem to take place is when a conflict emerges between the pack parents over how to disperse food to the young. The female invariably wins these encounters by acting as "non-threatening" (or submissive) as possible. Rudolph Schenkel was the first biologist to ask the question, if the "submissive" wolf always wins, who’s really dominant? Also, since "dominance aggression" in dogs can be treated with anti-anxietal medications, it's more likely that this behavior is an expression of stress or anxiety, and is not a natural part of the canine social instincts. (Mech (1999) asserted that the significance of dominance relationships within pack society has been overrated, and he argued that wolf packs are best understood as family groups in which a breeding pair “shares leadership in a division of labor system in which the breeding female initiates pup care and the breeding male leads in foraging and food provisioning”. INTRODUCTION: “Leadership behavior in relation to dominance and reproductive status in gray wolves, Canis lupus,” Rolf O. Peterson, Amy K. Jacobs, Thomas D. Drummer, L. David Mech, and Douglas W. Smith, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Vol. 80, 2002, p. 1406)

Body movements
 How high or low the tail is held, in relation to how the dog's breed naturally carries its tail, and how it is moved can signify the dog's mood. When the tail is held high, it shows that the dog is alert and aware; the tail between the legs means that the dog is afraid or frightened. If the fur on the tail is also bristled[pokey feeling], the dog is saying it is willing to defend itself or pups.

Small, slow wags of the tail say the dog is questioning things around the environment it is in. Either it is not sure whether it is the target dog or the person around them is friendly, or it is not sure what is going on or what is expected of it to do. Large, fast wags of the tail may be a sign of a happy, excited, or an energetic dog, but can also signal aggression. A large percentage of the victims of dog bites are bitten while the dog is wagging its tail.

Dogs are said to exhibit a left-right asymmetry of the tail when interacting with strangers, and will show the opposite, right-left motion with people and dogs they know.

Aggressive/ violent
 When a dog's lips curl back this shows that the dog has a strong urge to bite. This is an unconscious reflex, designed to get the soft flesh of the lips away from the teeth before the dog bites, and is often misinterpreted as a way of communicating aggressive intent. For example, many dogs will curl their lips back into a "snarl" when they take a cookie or bone.

Ear position relates the dog's level of attention, and reaction, to a situation or animal. Erect ears facing forward means the dog is very attentive, while ears laid back suggests a negative, usually fearful or a timid reaction. They also lay their ears back for the sounds surrounding them. Dogs with drop ears, like Beagles, can't use these signals very well, as the signals first developed in wolves, whose ears are pricked. Wolf-like dogs (such as the Samoyed or Husky) will, when content and happy, often hold their ears in a horizontal position but still forward. This has been referred to as the "wolf smile".

Mouth expressions can provide information about the dog's mood. When a dog wants to be left alone, it might yawn (although yawning also might indicate sleepiness, confusion, or stress) or start licking its mouth without the presence of any food. When a dog is happy or wants to play, it might pant with lips relaxed, covering the teeth and with what sometimes appears to be a happy expression (it might appear as a smile to some observers) or with the mouth open. Mouth expressions that indicate aggression include the snarl, with lips retracting to expose the teeth, although some dogs also use this during play. However, some dogs will pull back their "top lips" in what looks like an aggressive way, when they are excited or happy. For example a dog prone to "smiling" may do so in greeting to a much loved owner and this should not be punished lest the dog become less affectionate and more withdrawn.

It's important to look at the dog's whole body and not just the mouth or tail before deciding what the dog is feeling. What appears initially as aggression might be an invitation to play, or vice-versa.

Tongue (Licking)
A very common form of communication is for a dog to lick another dog, or a person. Dogs lick other dogs' faces and mouths when they greet each other to indicate friendliness. Dogs like to lick human skin not only for the salt from the sweat, but also as a form of greeting, such as by briefly licking a person's hand after sniffing it. Licking is also used as a social bonding analogous to primate social grooming and stroking. This can indicate intimacy. Such licking is longer and slower, as compared to the brief licking of faces during a greeting.

Eyes and eyebrows
 While dogs don't have actual eyebrows, they do have a distinctive ridge above their eyes, and some breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and Doberman have markings there. A dog's eyebrow movements usually express a similar emotion to that of a human's eyebrow movements. Raised eyebrows suggest interest, lowered brows suggest uncertainty or mild anger, and one eyebrow up suggests bewilderment. Eyes narrowed to slits indicate affection for the person or animal the dog is looking at.

Feet and legs
Although a dog's feet lack the dexterity of human hands, a dog can use them as an avenue of communication. A dog might stamp its feet, alternating its left and right front legs, while its back legs are still. This occurs when the dog is excited, wants something, or wants its owner's attention. Pointers tend to tuck one front leg up when they sense game nearby. This behavior is not communicative so much as the dog exhibiting a fixed-action pattern called "the eye stalk." It is also common for dogs to paw or scratch for objects they desire. Many dogs are trained to mimic a human handshake, offering a paw to a human stooping down and offering their own hand in exchange.

 The leaning of a dog's head to the right or to the left often indicates curiosity and/or a sound it has not heard before. This, however, may also be a sign of recognition to a familiar word.

If the dog's head is held high with its neck craning forward, it is showing interest, although, it could also mean an aggressive mood if other body language is present.
Some adult dogs that were not properly raised have been known to challenge their owners for alpha position. One of the signs, though this is rarely seen in dogs, involves the dog slightly lowering its head while standing tall with its eyes fixed upward at the owner or any human beings they are about to challenge (start a fight with). This behavior is extremely rare and usually occurs with dogs that have been severely neglected or in some cases, abused. This can also be dangerous and sometimes fatal if no action is taken immediately. However, this behavior is preventable if owners avoid being neglectful or abusive to their dogs.

Dogs bark for many reasons, such as when perceived intruders (humans, dogs, or other animals unknown to them) approach their living space, when hearing an unfamiliar or unidentified noise, when seeing something that the dog doesn't expect to be there, or when playing. Barking also expresses different emotions for a dog, such as loneliness, fear, suspicion, stress, and pleasure. Playful or excited barks are often short and sharp, such as when a dog is attempting to get a person or another dog to play.

Dogs generally try to avoid conflict; their vocalizations are part of what allows other dogs to tune into their emotions, i.e., whether they're aggressive or are in a playful mood.

The bark of a distressed or stressed dog is high pitched and repetitive; it tends to get higher in pitch as the dog becomes more upset. For example, a dog left home alone and who has separation anxiety might bark in such a way.

Some breeds of dogs have been bred to bark when chasing, such as scent hounds whose handlers use the bark to follow the dog if it has run out of sight. Coonhounds and Bloodhounds are good examples. This kind of barking is often called "singing" as the sound is longer and more tonal.

Some research has suggested that dogs have separate barks for different animals, including dog, fox, deer, human, squirrel and cat.

 Growls can express aggression, a desire to play, or simply that the dog doesn't want to participate in what's about to happen next (being picked up for example). For this reason, most pet owners have been urged to treat growls with special attention. This includes always considering the context of a growl, and exercise caution. If the threat is very serious, the dog will usually start off with a very low toned but strong growl and then if the threat isn't being heeded the tone of the growl gets progressively higher in tone.

Howling may provide long-range communication with other dogs or owners. Howling can be used to locate another pack member, to keep strangers away, or to call the pack for hunting. Some dogs howl when they have separation anxiety.

Whining is a high-pitched vocalization, often produced nasally with the mouth closed. A dog may whine when it wants something (such as food), wants to go outside (possibly to 'go to the bathroom'), wants to be let off the leash (possibly to greet another dog or a person), or just wants attention. A very insistent dog may add a bark at the end of a whine, in a whine-bark, whine-bark pattern.

A whimper or a yelp often indicates the dog is in pain. This is often heard when dogs play-fight if one dog bites the other dog too hard. The whimper or yelp is used only when the dog intends to communicate its distress to a pack member (or human) to whom they are submissive or friendly, and the other dog or human is expected to react positively to the communication; dogs engaged in serious fights do not whimper, as this indicates weakness. Dogs also whimper when they are physically abused or neglected by people. Whimpers are often associated with the lowering of the tail between the legs. Whimpers can also indicate strong excitement when a dog is lonely and is suddenly met with affection, such as when a dog is left alone in a house during the day and its owner comes through the door late at night. Such whimpering is often accompanied by licking, jumping, and barking. Whimpering is distinct from barking in that it is softer, higher pitched, and lower volume.
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October 11, 2012

Making New Friends

Introducing a dog that maybe shy, scared or defensive can be tricky because your never sure how your dog will react.  Here is a video introducing my dog Diamond to Kobe one of my clients.

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