Clicker Training Pros & Cons

28 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Training

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Many dog owners train their pet to obey basic commands, as well as perform tricks. Some people use clickers, small hand-held tools that make a clicking sound when pressed, to help with training. The goal is to teach the dog to associate a click with a good behavior. Give the dog a treat and click simultaneously when he obeys a command. The clicker will work well for some dogs and won’t work for others.

Instant

An advantage to using the clicker is that the reward is instantaneous. You can press the clicker much more quickly than you can give the dog a treat or even say “good boy.” As soon as the dog starts the good behavior, immediately click. That way, it’s completely clear to the dog what you are rewarding.

Eliminates Inflection

When you instruct your dog using words, the dog picks up on the tone of voice. Inflections can be confusing to the dog. This is especially true if more than one person is training the dog. Inflection, emotion and tone of voice are eliminated with the clicker. It always sounds exactly the same, no matter who is using it.

Conditioned

One problem with the clicker is that some dogs become conditioned to it and won’t obey commands without it. But the clicker is only meant to be a dog training tool. The dog should eventually be weaned off the clicker and taught to respond to voice commands. Once your dog begins consistently responding to the clicker, start using it less often.

Inconvenient

Some people find the clicker inconvenient to use. Holding the clicker along with dog treats and a leash can be cumbersome. The clicker is meant to be used the instant a dog exhibits good behavior. Having to juggle several objects before clicking defeats the purpose.

Dog Chewing Problems

27 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Problems

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Many a dog owner has come home to find her couch cushions turned into piles of fluff or her favorite pair of shoes no longer wearable. Unwanted chewing is a common problem in pet dogs — but chewing on inedible items is a natural behavior for dogs. They have to be taught what they can and can’t sink their teeth into around the home.

Normal Chewing Behaviors

It’s perfectly natural for both adult dogs and puppies to want to chew, sometimes for several hours a day. It helps to keep their teeth clean and plaque-free, and it strengthens their jaw muscles. Puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them — and chewing generally relieves soreness in their gums when they’re teething. Provide a range of chew toys for your canine friends so they can safely and appropriately fulfill their urge to chew.

Destructive Chewing Behaviors

The problem comes when your dog engages in destructive behavior, chewing objects that he shouldn’t be chewing. In an adult dog, this is usually due to anxiety or fear, or is a result of not being taught at an earlier age what he is and isn’t allowed to chew. A common cause of stress chewing is separation anxiety, but it’s also prevalent in dogs who’ve had a traumatic past.

What to Do

If your dog chews due to anxiety or fear, you may have to consult a dog behavior specialist to work through his issues. Training the dog the “leave it” command will teach the dog what to drop or leave alone, and may have some residual effect, but that won’t necessarily guarantee the dog won’t eat your belongings when he’s home alone. Take ownership of your belongings, making sure not to leave anything in reach of your dog that you don’t want to get chewed. You can also leave lots of chew toys around the house for when the urge strikes him, but make sure they’re easy to tell apart from regular household items so he doesn’t get confused. Play toy-based games with him often so he becomes more interested in them and prefers to chew them over other items. Make sure he gets plenty of physical and mental exercise and that he’s not hungry.

What Not to Do

It’s important not to punish your dog verbally after the fact. If you punish him for destroying an item he’s chewed even a couple of minutes ago, he won’t connect what he has done with his punishment. You should never punish your dog physically under any circumstances. Not only is it cruel, it will make him more fearful, which can lead to escalating behavioral issues. If you catch him in the act, a firm “no” or “leave it” will do, assuming the dog knows the command, followed by a treat or praise for dropping the item. You can then redirect his attention to something he is allowed to chew.

Does a Dog Stop Eating at the End of Its Life?

21 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Life Style

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Caring for a dog nearing the end of his life is similar to caring for a dog about to give birth: it is impossible to know exactly when “the time” will come. Eventually, some signs are inevitable. Your dog will let you know it is time for him to leave by sleeping more, offering fewer affectionate gestures and eating less. Your dog is not suffering; rather, these changes are a normal part of life ending.

Declining Appetite

A dog’s appetite naturally declines as he ages. Some decline in appetite is not necessarily an indication that your elder dog is dying. He may simply have some physical challenges that need addressing. He may also simply find food to be less appealing than he did when he was younger. It is sometimes possible to entice a dog to eat more by offering different foods. He might need smaller pieces of kibble, food moistened with water or broth or some additional flavor from canned dog or cat food. If these changes do not entice your dog to eat, you may wish to take him to the vet to determine if there is an underlying cause to his declining appetite or if it is merely due to age.

Less Activity

As dogs age, they become less active. If your dog’s appetite remains normal, then he may become obese. It is equally as likely that he will eat less, however. Your dog may need to eat smaller meals of specially formulated senior food to accommodate fewer calories being burned over longer periods. Adding wheat bran to your elderly dog’s food may also reduce constipation, an issue common to dogs of advancing age due to a lack of activity. The discomfort associated with constipation may in itself reduce your dog’s desire to eat.

Systems Shutting Down

Your dog’s body will start to shut down as the end of his life draws near. Not only will he stop eating and drinking, but his bladder and bowel control will eventually cease. His body temperature will drop. Over time your dog will restrict his movements and he will try to hide in a secure, private space to sleep. His body is shutting down, system by system, preparing him for death. Even though he stops eating, it is important that he continue to take in fluids, even if he takes in a dropper of fluid at a time. Your dog will count on you to keep him comfortable at this time. Stay calm, keep him hydrated and ensure that he is warm and undisturbed by children or other household pets.

Quality of Life and Euthanasia

Your dog’s unwillingness to eat will alert you to the impending end of his life. It might be tempting to ask your veterinarian to help you prolong the time you have together. If your dog is not eating or if he appears to be in pain, then it might be time to determine your dog’s quality of life. If your dog has pain uncontrollable by medication or if his inability or lack of desire to eat is so complete that he is starving himself, it may be that his quality of life is poor. At such time it is appropriate to consult your veterinarian to determine your dog’s end of life options, including euthanasia.

Health Care Costs for Dogs

20 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Health

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When you fall in love with those pleading puppy eyes, consider your financial status before signing the adoption papers. Few things are more exciting than welcoming a new furry family member into your household, but the costs of caring for a dog extend far beyond adoption fees, food, toys and a leash. To keep your promise of providing your dog with years of happiness, good health and longevity, you must be prepared for important and unexpected health care expenses.

The First Year

The first year of your dog’s life, be prepared to incur hundreds of dollars in veterinary costs. Puppies must receive a series of vaccination booster injections to achieve protective immunity. Initial puppy care also includes deworming treatments for intestinal parasites and followup fecal analyses to confirm that the dewormers eliminated them. If your puppy comes from a shelter, spaying or neutering likely has been performed. Otherwise, the expense of this necessary procedure will be your responsibility.

The Unpredictable Years

In the years that follow, expect to pay for a yearly checkup, which may include heartworm screening, vaccination boosters and a fecal analysis, and expect the unexpected. Your dog can require medical attention at any time, and the cost is unpredictable. You may deal with a simple ear infection one year, a costly orthopedic surgery the next and a dental cleaning procedure the year after that. Do your homework before selecting a particular breed, as some dogs are more prone to certain conditions, such as ear infections, dental disease, allergies or hip dysplasia.

Expenses of His Golden Years

The average age when dogs are considered seniors is 7 years though that varies based on breed. As his body wears over time, his chances increase for developing costly medical conditions. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that senior pets receive blood panel screenings every six months to catch looming illnesses early. Some of the common senior dog illnesses include cancer, kidney disease, diabetes and Cushing’s disease. Added health care costs to treat or manage these conditions include chemotherapy, medications, diagnostic tests for monitoring the disease’s progress and prescription diets.

An Ounce of Prevention

Preventative products, including heartworm preventatives and flea and tick control products, are a lifelong expense. Do not gamble with your dog’s health by cutting corners on these products. The consequence could be more costly in the long run. Ticks transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and babesiosis, all of which require treatment. Fleas can make your dog miserable, especially if he suffers from flea allergy dermatitis. Heartworm prevention is safer for your dog and far less expensive than the treatment for heartworm disease.

The Bottom Line

Once the cost of food, toys, treats, dog licensing fees, obedience training, grooming services, boarding or pet sitting, dishes, collars and leashes are added to the above veterinary care, the cost to own a dog for a 14-year life span can average well more than $18,000. Veterinary care makes up at least one-third of this figure, and that figure may be lower in rural locales, or it can be double the cost in metropolitan areas. The size, breed and overall health status of your canine companion throughout his life also will influence the bottom line.

Plan Ahead

Before taking on the financial responsibility of owning a dog, consider how you will pay for these expenses. Some options include maintaining a savings account for your dog’s health care expenditures, keeping a credit card solely for veterinary use or applying for a medical payment card. Many pet owners are turning to pet health insurance to cover some of the veterinary costs. When considering a pet insurance plan, be sure to read the fine print and have a complete understanding of how the policy works and exactly what is covered. And remember, a trip to the emergency vet hospital costs double or more than a regular visit to your vet.

How to Hold a Dog for Grooming

16 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Gooming

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Grooming a dog is an essential part of pet ownership, and although many people choose to use professional groomers, you can groom your dog at home. Your dog must be taught to allow handling and to hold still. Prepare your dog for grooming by playing with his feet and toes, look in his mouth and ears, and try to hold him while he lies on his side.Brushing

Start by laying the dog on its side, and place one hand on his shoulder and one hand on his hip until he lies still. Keep one hand in place, and with the other, brush hair to the skin in layers. Then have the dog stand and hold him under the belly. Brush the hair on the legs and chest.

Head, Ears and Toenails

For the head and ears, have a helper hold the head at the jaw with an arm wrapped around the head. This will free your hands to clip and clean. For toenails, hold the dog against your body, and grasp his elbow firmly. Notice that the foot pops forward and presents the toenails for clipping.

Vet-Endorsed Homemade Dog Food Recipes

12 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Food

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If you’d like to cook for your dog, make sure you work from healthy, nutritionally complete recipes. Commercial dog foods must meet certain requirements for nutritional balance, and you must meet in homemade efforts. Your vet can steer you in the right direction for preparing homemade dog diets, or ask her about the suitability of particular veterinary-endorsed diets for your dog.

Basic Components

Your homemade meal must contain protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Puppies require about 25 percent protein in their meals, while 18 percent is sufficient for adults. However, protein needs change according to your dog’s age and vary according to breed, so check out the right amount with your vet. You might have noticed that commercial dog foods often don’t list the percentage of carbohydrates. That’s because the proper percentage of carbs in the dog’s diet is still not set in stone by the veterinary community and regulators. If you’re making Fido’s meals yourself, you have the freedom to purchase the freshest, highest-quality ingredients available. Make sure you weigh your dog frequently to verify he stays a healthy weight. Take your dog to the vet before starting the homemade diet so your vet can determine Fido’s ideal weight.

Sample Recipe

Massachusetts’ MSCPA-Angell Animal Medical Center provides sample recipes on its website for dogs weighing 15, 30 and 60 pounds. It recommends the same basic ingredients for all sizes, just at differing amounts. The primary protein source is dark chicken, but you can substitute with turkey, lamb, pork, beef or eggs in the same proportions. Carbohydrates might consist of pasta, white or brown rice, sweet potato, barley, peas, corn or oatmeal. Grains and meat should be cooked. Fiber comes from carrots, bell peppers, green beans, baby spinach, squash or broccoli but such fibrous matter should be no more than 10 percent of the dog’s entire dietary intake. Vegetables can be cooked or uncooked. For a 15-pound dog, mix 3 ounces of the protein source, 1 1/3 cups of carbohydrates;,1 tablespoon of vegetables and 1 to 2 teaspoons of a fat source such as vegetable oil. For 30-pound dogs, use 4.5 ounces of the protein source, 2 cups of carbohydrates, 1.5 tablespoons of vegetables and 2 to 3 teaspoons of a fat source. For 60 pound dogs, mix 8 ounces of the protein source, 3.5 cups of carbohydrates; 3 tablespoons of vegetables and 3 to 5 teaspoons of a fat source. As a supplement, MSPCA-Angell AMC recommends Balance IT, available from veterinarians.

Another Choice

Founder’s Veterinary Clinic of Brea, California, offers a sample recipe for 20-pound dogs that you can half for 10-pounders or doubled for 40-pound canines. It consists of 1/4 pound of cooked, skinless chicken; 1 cup of cooked brown rice; 1 cup of peas and carrots; 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil; and 1/4 teaspoon of a salt substitute. Substitutions for this recipe differ slightly from those allowed with the recipe from MSCPA-Angell Animal Medical Center in that FVC’s allows boned fish as a protein source and potato as a carbohydrate. FVC suggests adding calcium citrate or bonemeal powder to ensure that your home cooking doesn’t result in calcium deficiency. It also recommends a daily multiple vitamin designed for dogs.

Ask Your Vet

If your dog suffers from medical issues, you might need to adjust certain veterinary-endorsed diets. Ask your vet about your dog’s special nutritional needs as well as for a recommendation for a certified veterinary nutritionist. The three of you can find a homemade diet that meets your pup’s dietary requirements. Whether your dog has specific medical problems or not, you should always tell your vet that your dog eats a homemade diet. You should also add veterinarian-recommended supplements to the homemade diet’s basic components.

Not Recommended

You’ve probably heard of the raw diet, also known as the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or BARF, diet. The concept was developed by an Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst. BARF’s philosophy states that “the diet a dog evolved to eat — over many millions of years of evolution — is the best way to feed it.” While you find might some veterinarians recommending raw foods for dogs, similar to what ancient canines ate, that’s not the view of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, don’t recommend raw food diets because of the risk of bacterial contamination or possible public health risks.

Dog Breeds That Came From Ireland

8 Feb 2015 | Filed in Dog Breeds

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Ireland: the Emerald Isle, the jewel of Europe. It’s fitting that a country named for a precious stone would produce equally valuable canines. If you share your home with any of the dog breeds that came from Ireland, you’re certain to agree that they’re little jewels in their own right. Ireland is no small island, so it should come as no surprise that it is the country of origin for eight breeds.

Terriers

Terriers are full of determination and spirit, qualities that endear the dogs to the Irish. A total of four breeds of terriers call Ireland home. They vary in size from small to medium. The Irish terrier’s name is a dead-giveaway, a mid-sized working breed who is among the oldest of the terriers. Glen of Imaal terriers also have a name that gives nod to their origins. The little Glens are hunters with a unique talent: the American Kennel Club reports that they would turn a spit over the hearth, doing their part to help prepare dinner. Kerry blue and soft-coated wheaten terriers are the other two medium-sized pooches hailing from Ireland. They were both bred to help out on the farm, herding the livestock and hunting vermin, but the Kerry blue is also accomplished at hunting small game.

Irish Wolf Hound

Rivaling the great Dane for height, the Irish wolf hound is a large, brawny dog who was bred to hunt Irish elk, wild boars and even wolves. In “Dogs: 101 Adorable Breeds,” Racheael Hale writes that this regal breed was exclusively owned by nobility, which was just as well. These big dogs eat a lot, much more than a peasant could afford to feed them. Although they’re impressive hunters, they are such friendly, loving dogs who they don’t make for good watch or guard dogs. No matter. Not many people will give you grief with a big lug like an Irish wolf hound at your side.

Setters

Setters come in two breeds and two colors. Irish setters are a solid red color and actually derived from the bi-colored red and white setters. Both breeds are high-energy pooches, ones who are friendly and playful and make wonderful family dogs. The two types of setters are sporting dogs, but the Irish setters are considered to have a bit of an edge over their red and white cousins.

Irish Water Spaniel

The hunting Irish water spaniel breed isn’t at all what you expect in comparison to its setter relatives. First of all, water spaniels’ color is a drab brownish-grey and, sporting a curly coat and a poufy topknot, they more closely resemble poodles than setters. The double coat of this sporting breed serves a purpose: it’s water repellant. This, along with the breed’s strong swimming skills, makes it the ideal retrieving dog, especially in the cold waters of Ireland’s North Sea.

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