Dog products, training aids, recipes, instructions, etc.
The best thing about knowing a variety of trainers and reading blogs and posts by other dog people, is that it gives me ideas and sources for my blog, usually much better ideas than I can dream up!
This week, The Whole Dog Journal (WDJ), my bible for all things canine, blogged about dental care for your dog and why keeping his teeth clean and tartar free is important for Fido’s overall health. Dental care is not just about preventing bad breath.* Like humans, dogs can develop gingivitis (swollen, red, inflamed gums due to infection) that can lead to more severe health issues as the infection moves into the bones and ligaments surrounding the teeth. Moreover:
Because of the rich blood supply to the mouth, the infection can also spread systemically, making your dog quite ill and/or affecting his heart, kidneys, and liver. This chronic condition can prematurely age your dog. (WDJ)
Yikes! Considering how short our dogs’ lives are, we certainly do not want to risk anything that potentially decreases their life spans.** So, here are some things you can do to keep your dog’s teeth healthy:
- Regularly check your dog’s teeth for signs of tarter build up. “Tartar builds up on the teeth, forming a concrete-like crust on the teeth at the gum line. It also forms under the gums, which helps [the] bacteria get under the gums and proliferate.” (WDJ) If your dog’s teeth are discolored and show signs of plaque build-up, you will need to schedule a professional cleaning with your vet. Unfortunately this is the only way to get rid of the tartar and will require that your dog be under full sedation.
- Brush your dog’s teeth. Once your dog’s teeth are pearly white again, you can maintain them with regular (i.e.: daily) brushing. Use a soft brush and canine toothpaste as human toothpaste containing fluoride is toxic to dogs. Start slowly, allowing the dog to sniff and lick at the toothbrush, and become comfortable with the process. Here is a video from ClickerTraining.com with instructions for teaching your dog to accept having his teeth brushed.
- Raw marrow bones. This is a bit controversial as some dogs might chip or break a tooth on a marrow bone, but my experience has been that it does help to keep my dog’s teeth cleaner and they have not had any problems with chipped or broken teeth. I do, however, have a couple of rules for bones:
a) Supervise your dog chewing on the bone and if it gets too small, trade your dog for something else, lest she choke on it and;
b) Be careful about the diameter of the opening of the marrow bone. Marrow bones are cut from the leg bones of cows and if you get one that has the flanged opening at the top of the bone (i.e.: the socket part of a ball and socket joint) the opening may be large enough for your dog to get his lower jaw through it and get stuck! This happened to my dog Bingley and it required a trip to MedVet to have it removed.*** In the photo with the bones, the one at the bottom has a wide opening on one side and is the type of bone which attached itself to Bingers (external diameter of 3 1/2″). The one on the top is narrower in both internal and external diameter (2″ external diameter) and is also longer, which helps to prevent it from slipping over the jaw. This is the type of bone my dogs now get, and so far, it has not produced deleterious results.
Your dog only has one set of teeth, and proper care of them will help to keep him happy and healthy longer! And, look on the bright side, at least you don’t have to floss them!
*Bad breath may be an indication of more severe health problems such as kidney disease, diabetes, or injested toxins. If your dog has chronic bad breath, or suddenly develops bad breath, please see your vet.
***MedVet assured me that they see this at least once a week. Most dogs are taken in the back, have their jaws lubricated and the bone slides right off. Bingley, not being most dogs, required sedation as well as lubrication. Luckily they did not have to pull out the Stryker oscillating saw to remove it, but that was the next step.
My dog is a felon. So to speak. I think she views the backyard as a prison yard with the wide world beyond her pond, toys, sandbox, children, and best friend Little Bear, beckoning like a siren song promising unimaginable pleasures. Her escape attempts started as an occasional leap over the back fence to retrieve her ball, and were reinforced by the gate being left open accidentally. For the most part though, she seemed content to be with Bear in the yard.
However, the sultry voice of freedom gradually seduced her into a life of crime. We draped the backyard fence with plastic chairs to prevent her escape. This helped for a microsecond. So we added a long line that allows her to explore most of the yard (and to get tangled in a variety of Gordian Knot like configurations). That seemed to solve the problem and I contacted contractors for estimates for a new! better! secure! fence/prison wall.
It was on Sunday, that the great escape occurred. Zuzu and Bear had a good morning of play and were out in the back yard sleeping in the sun. Zuzu was on her line, and our daughter was home to check on her periodically. I adjusted her collar so it was a bit tighter, or so I thought… and my husband, Brad, and I headed out to Home Depot to look at fence options.
After finding some promising possibilities, he dropped me at a friend’s house and headed home to find Little Bear greeting him at the gate. Zuzu, however, was no where to be found, her collar still attached to the end of the long line. Apparently, in a canine impression of Houdini, Zuzu had escaped her manacles. Brad grabbed a leash and headed out to find her, only to encounter the dog warden next door with our little felon in the paddy wagon. The warden was very kind and no fines or prison sentences were levied.
Meanwhile, a dear friend texted me with Zuzu’s wanted poster that that Granville Fire Department had released, causing me to nearly leap out of my friend’s car in a total panic. Apparently Zuzu was apprehended just a few blocks from home, but without her collar she had no ID, so they took her to the fire department, who sent out the alert and called the dog warden.
Zuzu has a collar full of tags, a loving home and, theoretically, a functioning containment system, but management is never 100% and she found a way to game the system. I know that this did not have to have a happy ending, that I am very lucky she wasn’t hit by a car, and that we have wonderful neighbors in Granville who did the right thing and took her to the fire department. Those things aside however, it was her microchip that enabled the warden to find out who she was and where she belonged. Sadly, dogs without tags or microchips are not likely to find their way home. According to an article on Petfinder the statistics for lost pets are grim:
• The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year.
• One in three pets will become lost at some point during their life.
A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, including 53 animal shelters across the U.S., confirmed the high rate of return of microchipped dogs and cats to their families, and the importance of microchip registration. From the study:
• Only about 22 percent of lost dogs that entered the animal shelters were reunited with their families. However, the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs was over 52 percent (a 238 percent increase).
• Only 58 percent of the microchipped animals’ microchips had been registered in a database with their pet parent’s contact information.
Collar ID tags are the primary way that pets are identified and find their way home, but having a backup system for when the collar is lost (or slipped) is critical. Microchipping is the best way to give you and your pet an effective insurance plan, but it is imperative that you not only chip the dog, but register it as well! It really, truly, takes just a moment and it could be the most important 10 minutes you invest in the welfare of your most beloved pet.
*HomeAgain, the microchip company, had this slogan at the top of the email they sent to inform me that Zuzu had been found by the “authorities.”
Reviews.com, a company that reviews all sorts of things, from deodorant, to mattresses, to yoga mats, to dog food, recently contacted me about their review of dog foods. I initially did not pay any attention to the email as I get a lot of people wanting me (or, more specifically, “the person in charge of …”) to include their products/opinions/ideas/thoughts-on-aliens on my website. Besides, I thought, The Whole Dog Journal has it’s yearly review of dog foods that I think is the best of the best, so why bother?
But, they contacted me a second time, actually addressing me by name in the email! So I thought, “Why not? If it’s worthless I will have wasted 10-15 minutes of my life, but gained a brief respite from vacuuming. If it’s any good, I have yet another resource to share that will help people to better provide for their dog.”
So, I have to say that I was impressed by the thoroughness of their research and the standards they used to include foods in their recommended list. They had ten people working full-time (over 1400 hours) to produce this report. Here is how they conducted the research:
— We built a list of over 11,00 people with connections to the dog food industry and narrowed it down to the best.
— Over 20 experts contributed their valuable time to our work, including veterinarians, dog trainers, animal behaviorists, university researchers, and authors.
— We surveyed 300 dog owners and asked them if they knew what was in their dog’s food.
— We gathered a list of over 8,000 search queries to find out what matters most to dog owners.
— We read and analyzed 72 of the most popular articles and studies on dog food.
— We compiled a list of 2,223 formulas from 115 brands and reviewed their ingredients.
Their research led them to the absolutely inescapable conclusion that safe, quality ingredients are the key to good food and good health (physically and mentally) for your favorite canine. The use of inferior food products can lead to obesity, ear infections, liver or kidney issues, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and perhaps much worse.
Dogs need the right combination of protein, fat, moisture, fiber, and nutrients to live healthy, happy lives. The wrong ingredients in the wrong combinations can lead to a host of health problems, both physical and mental.
Digestive problems, including bloat and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are symptomatic of poor ingredients that don’t contain enough whole, unprocessed foods. Food allergies can also lead to digestive issues — many of the experts we reached out to have seen evidence that dogs are sensitive to wheat and corn, both popular fillers.
Obesity is on the rise in dogs. One main reason for this is overfeeding, but many of the experts we talked to were quick to point out that poor grain-based ingredients are also to blame.
Physical problems are only half of it. There was a unanimous consensus among trainers and behaviorists we talked to that poor diet causes mental health issues in dogs, including poor temperament and lack of focus. Marc Abraham elaborates: “Certain popular pet food brands on the market contain extra colorings, additives, and E numbers that, in my opinion, can affect behavior, leading to hyperactivity and difficulty with training.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Abraham that poor diet can lead to poor behavior and training issues. A dog who doesn’t feel well cannot perform well. Ask any parent of a child the day after Halloween if their child is cranky, unable to focus, distracted, amped up, or lethargic…
Included in the review are two handy charts: A Quick Guide to Dog Food Ingredients and A Quick Dog Food Type Comparison. Both give a handy overview of their subject matter with pros and cons. I especially liked the Food Type Comparison chart as it is hard to find information about the various types of food (dry, wet, dehydrated, raw and homemade) in one place.
And their conclusions?
After putting in 1,400 hours of research and analyzing over 2,223 formulas, we discovered even some of the most popular brands still make food with unhealthy or unsafe ingredients. Of the 2,223 formulas we looked at, only 134 met our standard of approval — about 6 percent overall.
Why so few? They eliminated 2,089 foods because of the following reasons*:
1) We removed products where the first ingredient is not a meat of any kind. 194 disqualified
2) We removed products containing corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour. 578 disqualified.
3) We removed products containing beet pulp or sugar. 146 disqualified.
4) We removed products that contained by-products or sauces. 44 disqualified.
5) We removed brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction. 956 disqualified.
6) We reviewed the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein. 171 disqualified.
Near the end of the article is the complete list of approved dry dog foods as well as links to their lists of preferred canned, puppy, and grain free foods. It is well worth your time to peruse the review and the list of acceptable foods. It was a definite eye opener for me! I had already decided to switch my dogs from Taste of the Wild and Blue Wilderness Puppy to Orijen and Orijen Large Breed Puppy before I read this article. After reading it, not only was I glad I switched, but I went to the local pet store to get some Orijen to tide us over until my auto-ship arrives.**
I am sure that it is possible to own a dog and not spend a small fortune on food, toys, treats, equipment, beds, vets, etc., but that doesn’t seem to be the way of the world in our house. I am always on the prowl for interesting, useful, or entertaining things that will improve the quality of life not only for my dogs, but for my clients by helping their dogs to be more successful members of their families. I get a fair number of dog-related catalogs and recently In The Company of Dogs arrived with some interesting items I had not noticed before.
The first thing that caught my eye was the Piddle Place Potty System. Small dogs can be very difficult to house train and I will recommend that owners consider training their petite canines to use a litter box. This potty system claims to be:
Ideal for puppy training, urban pets and older dogs, this compact, all-in-one system is a mess-free, eco-friendly alternative to disposable pads. The innovative portable potty features a super-porous, machine-washable grass mat and fully enclosed base reservoir with innovative quick-drain spout for easy emptying. Includes odor-neutralizing bio-enzyme treatment…
Moreover, this system is apparently not just for the tiniest members of the canine community as it is “for dogs up to 100 lbs.” And, it’s portable, all for $159.00
For those desiring a less expensive potty solution, they also offer the Bark Potty: the all-natural dog potty solution. This is an:
Eco-friendly “dog park in a box” features shredded tree bark that naturally absorbs urine and neutralizes odors. Perfect for urbanites, busy households and travelers, it’s convenient, easy to use, recyclable—and a cost-effective alternative to disposable pee pads. Includes a 24″-sq. waxed cardboard tray packed with bark under fine netting, pheromone spray for training, and bag dispenser with roll of bags for solid waste.
It can be used either inside or out, but the downside to this system is that it lasts only 2-4 weeks, and I don’t think it is as portable as the Piddle place. Price: $26.95.
Please note that I have not used either system so I don’t know how easy or convenient either of them are. I just thought they were intriguing products for house training. If you do try one of these systems, let me know how they work.
The catalog also has a huge assortment of dog beds in a variety of sizes, shapes, covers, and styles from nests to bolster beds to loungers to orthopedic beds. No matter how your dog prefers to sleep, they have a bed for him. A couple that caught my eye were the Bear Hug Mod Fur Bed whose “Shaggy faux fur gives this uniquely shaped bed a contemporary vibe. The ultimate in ‘creature comfort.’” Sign me up! It ranges in size from small to large and in price from $129 to $239. The Mod Fur also comes in a Nest bed that looks like a giant furry donut and is perfect for the dog who likes to curl up into a ball. (x-small to X-large, $179-$289)
There is also an entire collection of orthopedic beds (at least 8) that offer “joint relief for dogs with special needs.” Some are rectangular, some have bolsters, but all are pictured with joint challenged dogs happily lounging on their bed of choice. Sizes range from small to X-large and prices from $99.95 to $279.
Gates are another specialty item and they have some lovely ways to contain your pet. A couple of my favorites are the Wood Swirl Pet Gate and the Arched Gate with door.* Both are solid wood, fold flat and are really attractive. Each comes in two heights (24″ and 32″ for the Swirl, 24″ or 36″ in the Arched) and vary in the number of panels (2-5) so you can get just the right height and width for your home and dog. If you have a dog that pushes against the gate, they also sell support feet for the Arched gate.** Beauty is not cheap however, so be prepared to spend $99.95 up to $329 to artfully cordon off your beast.
In addition to In the Company of Dogs, I have other favorite dog sites/catalogs. If you are looking for good prices, great customer service, and the convenience of autoship for food, treats, whatever, check out Chewy.com. I get both raw and dry food from them; treats for training; and calming aids such as D.A.P. collars, spray, and diffusers.*** They always let me know a week or more before my autoship so I can modify or reschedule as needed. I have never had a shipment take more than 2 days to reach me, nor have I had to return anything. When you call, the people who answer the phone are cheerful and helpful. It is customer service the way it ought to be.
Of course, here in Granville, we are very lucky to have the Village Pet Market (222 S. Main St.) as well as Bath and Biscuits (1616 Columbus Rd). Both of these boutiques offer excellent choices in food, treats, equipment and service.
*See also Cats are not small dogs, part 2 for another gate option. Not as attractive, but functional and sturdy.
**These gates do not attach to the wall, so if your dog charges gates these might not work for you, as I am not sure how steady the feet make the gate.
***DAP (or Dog Appeasing Pheromone) aids in helping a dog to relax and be more comfortable with situations that cause anxiety. This pheromone imitates the smell of a lactating female dog and is very comforting to most dogs. For situational anxiety, I recommend you spray it on a bandana 10 minutes or so before the stressful event. It should last about an hour, and you can re-spritz the bandana as needed. It is very important that you get either the Adaptil or Comfort Zone spray (same company, different name for the same product) as this is the only one with the patented pheromone. It also comes in a diffuser and a collar.
It’s time, once again, for a hodgepodge of items that I have recently encountered. These tidbits are related by four components: 1) I like them, 2) they are all about positive approaches to training and interacting with your dog, 3) Reisner Vet likes them and, 4) I was not smart enough to write them first.
The first is the Freedom Harness Exchange Program.
The Harness Exchange Program is an advocacy program of Biggies Bullies that promotes the use of force-free pet equipment. We are asking pet guardians o swap out their choke, prong, and shock collars for a free harness! We want all pets and their parents to experience the huge advantages and long-lasting effectiveness of force-free training and pet care. When you mail us your choke, prong, or shock collar we will send you a free Freedom No Pull Harness. -Biggies Bullies Website.
The page is filled with pictures of adorable “bully” breed dogs happily ensconced in their bright colored freedom harnesses. The beauty of any no-pull harness is that it works with your dog to stop pulling, rather than punish or hurt your dog for pulling. Choke chain collars can damage your dog’s thyroid, increase the pressure in his eyes (putting him at greater risk for glaucoma), and can cause damage to the trachea or esophagus. “Dogs walked on prongs are also constantly subjected to pain and discomfort, which creates fear, anxiety and aggression on walks.” (Biggies Bullies Website). Dogs corrected with shock collars may associate the pain and fear they experience with their owners and may respond by avoiding their owners, shutting down, or acting out aggressively.*
I have used the Freedom harness as well as other front buckling no pull harnesses and I highly recommend them. They are the most effective, however, when used in conjunction with positive reinforcement training to teach a dog loose leash walking. I think this is a great program and if you want to support it, click here to donate.
Another article that I came across came from my old standard Reisner Veterinary Behavior and Consulting Services is dated June 6th and has a wonderful graphic by Lili Chin, titled Calm and Relaxed? or Shut Down? What I love about this is that it points out how important it is to understand dog body language so you know what your dog is actually telling you! Dogs who are subdued when meeting new people, places, things, or other dogs, may not be calm and relaxed, but rather shut down and scared. Understanding how your dog is interpreting the situation will give you the information you need to best help him.**
While scrolling through Lili Chin’s website I found some graphics that she produced for the Vet Behavior Team about stress signals in dogs. Going to their website, I found several handouts that clearly and precisely illustrate the signals that dogs use to communicate to us that they are upset, stressed, hyper-vigilante, or just plain scared. Even if you know your dog’s stress signals, I recommend that you take a look at these handouts as they will help you recognize stress signals in other dogs. Knowing what other dogs are “feeling” will help you to keep your dog safe. I plan on using these handouts with all my clients!
I have written about dogs and kids before, but recently I came across this website: Family Paws Family Education which I really like. It has a lot of useful information for parents, parents-to-be, trainers, and veterinarians to help kids and dogs live together in harmony. The resource page has plenty of links to other valuable resources (such as Living with Kids and Dogs , Colleen Pelar’s website) as well as some terrific handouts with nice graphics about Dog and Baby safety, Dog and Toddler safety, what is supervision (and isn’t! This is a particularly eye-opening handout). I recommend to parents that they post the relevant ones on the frig so they are a ready reminder of how to have your expanding household live together positively and safely.
**The article to which this graphic is attached is a detailed look at Cesar Milan and his television program concerning a Boston Terrier who attacked and killed pigs, and Mr. Milan’s approach to changing this behavior. I am no fan of Mr. Milan and the methods he employed here just about made me pass out and/or vomit. His outdated approach caused egregious harm to the health and mental well being of the dog as well as the pigs he employed. I cannot emphasize loud or long enough that bullying, hurting, or punishing your dog is not the humane, responsible way to change behavior, no matter how abhorrant that behavior may be. Every animal deserves to be cared for and handled with compassion and dignity. Period.
Previously I have written about intelligence toys* as well as interesting bowls as means to keep your dog mentally challenged, slow his eating, and/or increase his interest in eating. I continue to employ all these strategies with Bingley, but recently discovered some more info on stuffing Kongs for fun and profit…
The first comes from a Facebook post on Reisner Veterinary Behavior & Consulting Services (scroll down to the post on January 29, 2016) where she asks for Kong stuffing ideas. There are lots of suggestions, but my favorite is the picture of the stuffed Kongs in the plastic Solo cups ready for freezing. What a great way to 1) make sure the filling doesn’t leak out in to your freezer and 2) keep them organized in your freezer.
The other Kong stuffing information was also mentioned in the above Reisner post and is a free Kong recipe book from FernDog Training. It is a downloadable ebook and has some great recipes and guidelines for stuffing Kongs as well as this brief history of the Kong:
Back in 1976 while working on a VW Bus, Joe Markham began throwing out car parts to Fritz, his beloved trained police dog. Fritz took a quick liking to a rubber suspension part and started playing with it gleefully. The erratic bounce and toughness of the rubber inspired Joe and the Kong was born. Since then Kongs have been one of the most popular dog toys worldwide.
A key point to remember with Kongs is to make it easy to begin with so your dog gets the idea that this can be really fun, without being so hard as to frustrate her. When I introduce a new dog to a kong, I put a few pieces of kibble and some small treats (such as small pieces of hotdog, cheese, or dried liver) that will fall out of the Kong easily as he plays with it. As the dog gets good at emptying the Kong, I will make it harder by stuffing it fuller, adding a peanut butter (or cream cheese) plug to the hole. When that is no longer a challenge, I will mix dry ingredients with wet stuff (such as canned dog food, yogurt, cottage cheese, pumpkin), pack that into the Kong, and freeze it.
Frozen Kongs are great long-lasting treats that can be used strategically when you need your dog to be happy for an extended period of time. I will give them out on occasions such as birthday parties, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, movie night, when I need to concentrate on writing, etc. In the summer when we like to eat outside at local establishments, I will bring along a stuffed Kong for Bingley to work on as we eat our dinners.
In my post on intelligence toys I mention several interactive toys from Petsafe (formerly known as Premier) and Bingley still enjoys all the items mentioned. However, he has a new favorite that he begs me to mention as it is “WONDERFUL and EVERY dog should have one”, according to him. This is the Busy Buddy Magic Mushroom. Bingley will seek this toy out from his plethora of interactive wonderfulness to plunk in my lap or drop at my feet. (The lip of the mushroom makes it convenient to carry to your favorite person.) It is not as easy as the Kibble Nibble or the Twist n Treat, but not as hard as the Tug-a-jug (see intelligence toys link above.) It rolls and wobbles and randomly distributes various amounts of kibble. Adjustable windows let you vary the distribution rate and therefore the level of difficulty which helps to keep your dog interested. It is available online at Amazon or at Village Pet Market here in Granville.
I have updated a couple of blogs and thought that the best way to get this information out would be to do an update blog, add a few interesting tidbits and call it a major accomplishment…
The Funnel of Activity has been modified to better reflect the transition from crazed maniac to zen master. The original had the second step as a vigorous rubdown (still appropriate), but the new version, thanks to the input from Dr. Meghan Herron, is “Mental Stimulation” as a transition from big aerobic activity to deep tissue massage. After your dog has frenetically fetched, try doing some training (teach a new trick perhaps?), or give him an intelligence toy for some mental gymnastics before you calm him with a good massage. Here is the link to the revised blog: “Fun”nel of Activity. And here is the new graphic:
Growling is a good thing! Really! has been updated to include a link to a terrific article on developing and maintaining good bite inhibition by Pat Miller, in the Whole Dog Journal online. It links to another article on growling, but you have to be a member of WDJ to access that article.
News and Tidbits:
1) The summer is still with us and August can be a blistering month! Take care when you go hiking with your pooch, heat stroke can affect canines as well as humans and three dogs have died already this summer from it: http://www.thv11.com/story/news/2015/07/19/more-dogs-dying-from-heat-while-hiking/30393095/
If you take your dog hiking, be sure to carry enough water for him as well as you, take frequent breaks so he can cool down, and try not to hike during the hottest part of the day.
2) Be careful as well about overexposure to water! A rare but deadly condition is water intoxication. From my blog Summertime fun:
Water is a great way for dogs to cool off in the summer but one thing to be aware of is an uncommon but deadly condition called water intoxication that occurs when a dog (or person) takes in more water than it can handle. Signs of water intoxication include: “lethargy, bloating, vomiting, loss of coordination (stumbling, falling, staggering), pale gums, dilated pupils, and glazed eyes” Whole Dog Journal (WDJ), June 14).
When excessive amounts of water are ingested the sodium levels outside cells are depleted and the body responds by increasing fluid intake in the cells. This causes organs,including the brain to swell. As the pressure in the brain increases, cells die off and “the dog may have difficulty breathing, develop seizures, and lose consciousness” (WDJ, June 2014). Dogs can develop and die from water intoxication in the span of just a few hours.
To help prevent water intoxication, give your fetching fiend a flat toy to retrieve in the water rather than a ball, take frequent breaks and play fetch on land, and make sure your dog gets out of the water and pees regularly. See Summertime fun! for more details.
3) Reisner Veterinary (regular readers will know my devotion to Reisner…) posted a tidbit about whether or not you should allow your dog to exit the premises before you. Some people suggest that letting the dog go first allows him to dominate you. Poppycock! As Reisner put it: “Should you let your dog exit before you? Unless it’s icy outside or you have other reasons to keep him from bolting (a safety issue), no problem!” Dogs are “not interested in being dominant, just interested in getting out the door!” Go here for a great photo of her dog Asher enjoying the great outdoors.
4) And lastly, thanks to faithful reader Kayce L. a fun video which could only have been made by dogs trained with positive reinforcement:
Do you ever wonder how to get your busy, energetic, or overstimulated dog to chill out? Busy dogs demand attention and I have found that the key to getting your dog to do what you want (i.e.: calm down and take a nap) is to provide him with what he needs (i.e.: run, play, tug, run some more!), plus a way to get from intense activity to zen dog. Hence, the Funnel of Activity.
I learned this from Dr. Meghan Herron, veterinary animal behaviorist at The Ohio State University. Like a funnel, which goes from wide to narrow, you need to go from big to small activity with your dog. Start with providing your miscreant with big, aerobic, fun activity to get his energy expended, then move to less active behavior that provides mental stimulation (such as working on a new trick like shake! or spin!, or give Fido an intelligence toy), to a deep tissue massage and end with a tasty stuffed Kong to get your dog ready for some quiet time. Whether you have 20 minutes or 60, the basic formula is the same:*
1) First 1/2 of your time: aerobic activity such as frenetic ball chasing
2) Second 1/2 of your time is divided into thirds (1/6 of total time):
1/3 = mental stimulation (do some training) or an intelligence toy followed by;
1/3 = slow, deep massage ending with;
1/3 = quiet time with stuffed Kong
I have used this formula with my dogs as well as with the dogs I used to sit for and have found it to be a great way to teach dogs how to settle, because you are providing them what they need both physically and mentally. I have encapsulated this process of turning chaos into calm in my handy Funnel of Activity chart:**
*Feel free to experiment with the formula so that it better serves your dog’s needs. For example, after running around outside, my grand-dog Tex, needs indoor activity before he can begin to settle. Therefore, after vigorous play he gets an intelligence toy, such as a Buster Cube or a Kibble Nibble, that he rolls all around the house as a 10+ minute cool down. A massage follows, and then he is content to gnaw his antler chew or work on a tasty Kong.
**Many thanks to Blake Kishler, my ever patient and faithful graphic artist for his help with making the Funnel of Activity chart. http://www.blakekishler.com
Any trainer worth her weight in dog hair will tell you that recognizing your dog’s stress signals is critical to insuring that it is not overwhelmed by current events. I have written columns about recognizing the most common stress signals,* but the question today is: What are some of the most common holiday situations that can drive even the most easy going of dogs to dismay and distraction?**
Colleen Pelar, trainer and author (Living with Kids and Dogs, Puppy Training for Kids), describes doggie stress*** as part of a continuum of behavior:
Nobody is happy all the time. We each have our good moments and our bad moments. It’s important to remember that dogs do too. Rather than look at dog behavior as simply aggressive or nonaggressive, it’s far better to see it as a continuum ranging from Enjoyment to Tolerance to Enough Already (and back again).
The critical thing to remember is: when our dogs move from enjoyment to tolerance, they are asking for help. It is our obligation to help them get back to enjoying the happenings so that they do not have to take the situation into their own paws and say, “Enough! I have had enough already!!”
Her enlightening photo gallery of dogs and kids presents situations that most people do not recognize as trying for their dogs. The holidays provide many such stressful opportunities. I encourage everyone to ask: How many times do I put my dog into a position where he is uncomfortable and simply tolerating the situation?
One common stressful scenario is staged photo shoots. Everyone wants the photo of the children and the dog all snuggly and happy for the holidays. Look at image #21 of 32 in Colleen’s gallery. This attempt at making the dog part of the photo op results in a dog who is not happy, but only tolerating the situation. A great example of how quickly a dog can move from comfortable to tolerant is the sequence of #24-25. In 24, the dog is happy to be with his children because he has sufficient space around his head. But in #25, the children have turned towards him and are crowding his head. He has moved to tolerance.
Think carefully about how you arrange the family photos. If your dog goes from open mouthed to close mouthed, wiggly to barely moving, looking at you to avoiding eye contact, he is telling you that this is not comfortable for him. Your best bet is to give him more space, especially around his head and face. Also give him several tasty treats throughout the photo session and have someone dedicated to be his private treat dispenser so that he has one person to focus on. If there are loud children, sudden movements, or other distractions that un-nerve your dog, give him a treat every time a kid shouts, runs, or otherwise acts in an erratic fashion.
Another situation that can stress a dog is Christmas morning, when we plunge “into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.” (Gene Shepherd, A Christmas Story). The opening of presents, the piles of paper, ribbons, and box tops, the squeals of delight and the wanton disregard for the normal canine routine can unsettle your dog. To help Rover better cope with the chaos, make sure he gets outside first thing, and is given a tasty stuffed Kong to work on while the presents are opened. Make the Kong the night (or two) before and freeze it so it is readily available and long lasting. I have several stuffed Kongs at the ready so my guys have something to do besides helping the grandkids open their treasure trove.
A third situation to keep in mind is the constant stream of people who the dog sees but once or twice a year. Many dogs revel in the flow of humanity through their abode, but for others, this is the height of stress and anxiety. In my blog Make Your Holidays Merrier I suggest two strategies for your dog to meet and greet guests:
Tip #3: Manage your meet and greets! Two strategies can be employed here:
1 Fido meets people as they come in, then retires to happy spot; or
2 Have Fido outside or in a crate. Then when your guests are settled, Fido comes out for a meet and greet, goes potty, and then settles down with a tasty kong.
And remember: your dog doesn’t have to meet everyone who comes to the house. If Fifi feels overwhelmed, put her in her happy place and let her choose when to re-join the festivities. That way, everyone’s Christmas is merry and bright.
**To help your dog manage the holidays see: “Make Your Holidays Merrier!” http://www.livingwithkidsanddogs.com/photos.html
***Check out Colleen’s stress signal list at: http://www.livingwithkidsanddogs.com/stress.html.
Does your dog behave as if every meal is his last? Could it be that Maximus sees a food gremlin lurking at the side of his bowl, just waiting to steal his dinner? If so, you are not alone! Many owners comment that their dogs’ bowls no sooner touch the floor than the meal is inhaled.
Or, perhaps you face the opposite fate. You present Maximus with a tasty bowl of kibble and he looks at you as if to say, “Really? Kibble again?” Then he sniffs at it politely, maybe eats a morsel or two and wanders away. He may or may not finish the bowl by the time his next meal rolls around.
I am blessed to have one of each. I suspect that Buckley, the Bernese Mt. Dog, is a direct descendant from the Hobbits of Middle Earth. Not only is he the size of one and has furry feet, but he adores people, parties, and FOOD! If he could arrange it, I am sure he would delight in breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, tea, etc. To say he eats with gusto is a gross understatement. However, one problem with eating rapidly when you are a big, barrel-chested dog (think German Shepherds, Danes, Standard Poodles), is that you are at a greater risk for bloat. In bloat, “the stomach fills with air… and then twists over on itself… The distended abdomen interferes with breathing, and the twisted stomach can lose its blood supply. Shock develops rapidly. The result is an emergency situation that needs immediate veterinary attention.” (Webvet: http://www.webvet.com/main/2008/05/30/bloat)
When big dogs eat at light speed, they tend to swallow air, thus increasing the chance of bloat. Giving several smaller meals rather than 1 or 2 large meals per day may help reduce the chance of bloat, but so will slowing their eating.
When dealing with the culinary bored canine, you may find yourself constantly trying to entice the picky poodle to eat. I know that I have tried a score of dog foods, prepared his meals with utmost care, and come close to providing candlelight and a homemade bearnaise sauce to awaken Bingley’s delicate palate.
Surprisingly, I have found that both of these problems were helped by the same thing: presentation! I needed to slow Buckley, but interest Bingley and I found that puzzle-like bowls, along with tasty Kongs,* were the solution. I had long used a divided bowl to slow the ravenous Buckley, but he could still devour food at the speed of sound. I found the first of our puzzle bowl collection at a dog training conference. The Northmate Interactive Slow Pet Feeder** comes in two sizes and requires that the devouree hunt through the “grass” to find all the pieces of kibble. (See video below.)
Slo-bowls from Kyjen*** come in a variety of puzzle patterns and colors. We have 4 of them and I rotate them through the dogs so that each meal is presented lin a different bowl. These have extended Buckley’s mealtime from 2 minutes to 15+. Bingley will actually eat his meal, and between the Kong and the bowl, he is happily feasting for close to 20 minutes (See video below for Bing’s first look at a Kyjen bowl). In fact when I give Bingley his meal in a regular bowl he will usually walk away and come back with one of his interactive food toys (such as his Magic Mushroom or Kibble Nibble by Premier/Petsafe****) and plunk it in my lap or at my feet. Apparently for this flattie, breakfast is best served a la intelligence toy.
So, whether you have a picky eater or a rapid inhaler, consider spicing up your dog’s culinary experience with a bowl that not only nourishes the body, but the mind as well.
* Recipes for stuffing Kongs: www.kongcompany.com/recipes/
**Northmate Interactive Slow Pet Feeder: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009CKHXYU/ref=s9_simh_gw_p199_d9_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-4&pf_rd_r=1Z6XNDADG5YBHQ27VWRV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200482&pf_rd_i=507846
****Premier/Petsafe food distribution toys: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11?url=search-alias%3Dpets&field-keywords=premier+dog+toys&sprefix=Premier+dog%2Cpets%2C162
Other ideas for intelligence toys: http://apositiveconnection.com/2013/09/whoever-said-breakfast-had-to-come-in-a-bowl/