The Power of Training Dogs With Markers

30 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Training

Among the many accepted methods of teaching dogs new skills is marker training, or clicker training. This method was adapted from marine mammal training by pioneer Karen Pryor after the success of her book “Don’t Shoot the Dog!” Thanks to clear communication and positive effects on relationships, marker training is a powerful training method.

Motivating Your Dog

At the core of marker training is the knowledge that dogs will do what works to obtain the things they need. Food, water, attention, play and movement are just a few of these things. Using these resources as rewards, marker training motivates dogs to try different behaviors and skills until they find the one that works to obtain what they need or want. Because of this, we can teach dogs by focusing on the behaviors we like and rewarding them.

Removing the Confrontation

Marker training removes confrontation from the relationship between owner and dog. There is no use of force and no need to corner a dog into a response. Instead, marker training allows the dog to think independently and try new skills. Rather than control his dog’s every move, the owner can encourage the dog to make good choices. On occasion, trainers use a “no reward” marker to let the dog know the behavior was not worthy of a reward. Examples of no reward markers are phrases such as “wrong” or “try again” said in a relaxed, friendly tone to provide feedback, not to scold. However, removal of the reward, rather than introduction of the no reward, is often all that is needed to reduce an unwanted behavior.

Choosing a Marker

The most commonly used marker is the clicker, a small device with a metal tongue that makes a clicking sound when depressed and released. Speaking in more general terms, markers include words such as “yes!” and “good!” or short whistle bursts when working at long distances outdoors. When working with deaf dogs, many trainers have used vibration collars or laser pointers. Be careful with laser pointers, though, as these can excite dogs and trigger behavior problems. Whatever marker you choose, you must initially properly pair it with food treats so it has meaning to your dog. To do this, present the marker and immediately follow with a treat. Repeat until your dog is looking at you each time he hears the marker.

Consistent and Clear Communication

The biggest benefit to marker training is that it provides clear and consistent communication between owner and dog. Once the marker is charged, the dog knows that each mark means he gets a reward. Hence, this becomes an effective way for the owner to tell his dog which behaviors he likes. Using a camera analogy, each time the owner marks, the dog files a mental photo of what he did that earned that mark. And since dogs do what works, the dog will repeat behaviors that earn marks and abandon behaviors that do not.

Kathy Sdao’s SMART x 50

There is an easy method for applying marker training in daily life with your dog. Simply use the “SMART x 50” method developed by marine mammal and dog trainer Kathy Sdao. In her book, “Plenty in Life is Free,” Sdao describes how she developed this method for owners who did not have the time for formal, daily training sessions. SMART stands for See Mark And Reward Training. Count out 50 or more treats for each day. You can use part of your dog’s daily kibble if weight control is a concern. Then, each time your dog does something you like, for example going to his mat when the doorbell rings or sitting when approaching a stranger, mark happily with a word like “yes” or “good” and offer a treat. This method shifts your focus from what your dog is doing wrong to what your dog is doing right, and offers useful feedback to your dog as to what works.

Focusing on the Positive

Focusing on the positive builds a relationship based on trust, respect and fun with our dogs. No longer do we need to scare or physically harm our dogs in the name of training. Instead, guide your dog into making the right choices everyday, reward those choices with food or play and watch inappropriate behaviors disappear.

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Vision Problem?

24 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Problems

When dogs have trouble with their eyes, it’s typically because there is something in them — a stray hair or some dust from snooping around. Other times, eye problems stem from injuries, such as a run-in with the cat. But there are eye diseases that could lead to long-term health issues or blindness if not treated. Keeping an eye on your dog’s eyes will help catch most vision troubles.


A cataract is an opaque spot on a dog’s eye lens. Small cataracts might be tough to notice and shouldn’t affect your dog’s vision much. Larger cataracts, however, can lead to permanent blindness if untreated. If his eyes look cloudy or have a bluish-gray cast, take him to the vet right away. All breeds are susceptible to cataracts, and the disease can stem from old age, injury or trauma. Cocker spaniels, poodles, miniature schnauzers, terriers and golden retrievers are especially prone, as are dogs with diabetes.


Glaucoma occurs when the eye cannot drain fluid. Pressure builds in the eye and can cause severe nerve damage if not relieved within a day or two. As with cataracts, glaucoma triggers cloudy eyes in dogs. Other signs of glaucoma include the eyeball receding back into the head, reddened blood vessels in the whites of the eyes and dilated pupils that may not respond to light. In more advanced cases, your dog’s eye may get sticky and vision loss will become obvious.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is an inherited eye disease that slowly deteriorates a dog’s retinas. The fact that progressive retinal atrophy is painless can make it difficult for many people to spot, but outward signs of the disease begin with a glowing shininess in a dog’s eyes. This translates into night blindness and, ultimately full blindness. Though any breed can develop progressive retinal atrophy, English mastiffs and bull mastiffs, as well as male Siberian huskies and Samoyeds are especially prone.

Other Vision Problems

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is common in dogs and can cause inflamed, sticky or itchy eyes that are sensitive to light. Keratitis, which mostly affects German shepherds, causes pigmentation and superficial blood vessels on the eye and can reduce your dog’s vision if left untreated. Corneal ulcers sometimes occur when your dog gets something in her eye. These ulcers can become infected and usually cause a dog’s eye to water excessively.

Signs of Eye Trouble

Outside of diseases, vision problems in dogs usually stem from an injury or illness that, while painful or maybe just annoying, often are easily treated. If you see excessive tearing or redness, prolonged droopy or closed eyes or discharge, your dog may be suffering eye problems that may lead to vision issues if left untreated. The best way to notice your dog’s eye health is to check his eyes routinely. If something looks amiss, it’s best to call your vet.

Life Preservers for Dogs

22 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Life Style

The doggy paddle doesn’t come naturally to all dogs. In fact, some dogs fear water and could drown from panic if they fall into deep waters. For those dogs that love to swim, dangers still exist. This is why life preservers are as essential to a dog’s safety as they are to a human’s.


Dress your dog in a canine flotation device for any activity that requires a person to wear one. These activities include boating, fishing and swimming in deep waters. While wearing one in a swimming pool is not always necessary, it does serve as an additional precaution. Small dogs and dogs that are learning to swim can safely wade in a pool if wearing a flotation device. Used in canine water therapy, life preservers keep dogs afloat as they regain strength in their muscles.


The flotation device must fit the dog properly. Otherwise, it can cause discomfort, limit the dog’s range of motion and supply an insufficient level of buoyancy. Record the dog’s weight and chest size, and compare these measurements to the weight and size ranges listed on each life preserver. A soft measuring tape provides an accurate measurement of the chest. Place the tape behind the dog’s front legs, and wrap it around snugly, as recommended by Champion K9 Outfitters.


Associate the life preserver with something positive to help your dog feel comfortable wearing one. Praise the dog and provide a few treats as it sniffs the preserver and spends time around it. Then, when you do place the preserver on the dog, adjust the straps as needed so it fits closely without rubbing or digging into the dog’s skin. Practice sessions in a swimming pool can also help the dog adjust to wearing one in the water.


If a life preserver fails to keep your dog afloat in rough waters, you can help it recover after rescue by providing first aid. Holding the dog by the waist or hind legs with its head facing downward can help if the dog is unconscious, notes Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M. She recommends that you monitor the dog closely and keep it warm if it’s conscious. The dog will need veterinary attention if it has trouble breathing or other severe symptoms. By learning CPR for dogs, you will be equipped to resuscitate if needed on the way to the hospital.

French Bulldog Health Problems

20 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Health

French bulldogs are wee yet robust pooches that are beloved not only for their humorous and pleasant dispositions, but also for their lovable, slightly wrinkled visages. As all dogs, certain medical issues affect French bulldogs — or “Frenchies” — more commonly than others.


French bulldogs appear in colors including white, pale yellowish-brown and brindle, the latter of which involves a blend of colors such as brownish-orange and gray. As adults, these dense, sturdy pooches typically reach between 11 and 13 inches tall. They usually weigh no more than 28 pounds. One of the most prominent physical characteristics of French bulldogs involves their ears, which point straight up and are similar to those of bats. This smart, amiable and funny dog keeps a close vigil on his home.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

As with pugs and a handful of other doggie breeds, French bulldogs are brachycephalic, with skulls that are markedly wide and short. Their faces have a conspicuously flattened appearance to them. Although the look undeniably is cute, it also can trigger health issues that revolve around breathing, problems that can become life threatening. Some common indications of brachycephalic syndrome are excessively loud breathing, coughing, hacking and snoring. All of these signs are usually particularly noticeable during times of excessive heat. Inordinate discomfort in heat is typical of dogs with brachycephalic syndrome. Take your sweet Frenchie to the veterinarian immediately if he shows any signs of this condition.

Intervertebral Disk Disease

Intervertebral disk disease is relatively prevalent in the French bulldog breed. This orthopedic condition results from the deterioration of the spinal column’s dense intervertebral disks. Some of the signs that are typical of this disorder are backache, rigidness of the body, scooting of the hind limbs during walking, difficulty standing up, general feebleness, crouching over, shivering and soreness of the stomach. Paralysis is a possibility for some dogs with the condition. If you have any reason to think that your precious pet might be dealing with intervertebral disk disease, schedule a veterinarian appointment as soon as possible.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is another problem for many French bulldogs. The skeletal condition involves the atypical growth and progress of the hip joints. Signs of the condition pop up early in dogs, starting as early as at 4 months. Lack of body coordination is a common sign of the disorder. Other symptoms of canine hip dysplasia are rigidness, avoidance of physical activity and hobbling. Note, however, that many dogs with the condition barely display any hints at all. Regardless, veterinary attention is a must for any pooches with hip dysplasia.

Other Conditions

Other medical issues that also sometimes affect French bulldogs are luxating patellas, cataracts and entropion. The latter entails the eyelids turning in an “inside” direction. If your dog shows any sign of abnormalities or malaise, a vet appointment should be your next step. Dogs don’t always display obvious signs of illness, though, which is why it’s so crucial to routinely bring your pet in for regular veterinary checkups. With the right love and care, French bulldogs can often survive healthily and contentedly for anywhere between 10 and 14 years, or perhaps longer.

Shih Tzu Grooming Instructions

14 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Gooming

Shih tzu dogs are of Chinese origin and said to be a combination of Lhasa Apso and Pekinese breeding stock. These affectionate, friendly dogs are small and easily kept as house pets, but have long, silky hair that requires regular grooming. If you intend to keep your shih tzu’s hair long and groom him yourself, be ready to follow some specific guidelines.

1Wash your shih tzu 7 to 12 days to keep his coat clean. Use either dog shampoo or human shampoo, and lather the dog up in the sink or bathtub using warm water. Rinse the dog thoroughly, and consider using a conditioning rinse to smooth out tangles in the dog’s long hair. Pay particular attention to the hair under your dog’s belly and along his legs, as this is where he’ll be dirtiest.

2Towel the dog dry and keep him in an enclosed area, like the kitchen, while he dries completely. Use a dog brush or comb to begin working any knots out of his hair while he’s still wet, as long hair is more easily detangled when it’s wet and freshly conditioned. Be very gentle when you’re brushing the shih tzu’s hair, as his skin will be sensitive if his hair is pulled.

3Brush your shih tzu’s hair once a day to keep it tangle free and clean. Schedule a time for this, and follow the schedule consistently so that the dog knows when to expect grooming.

4Trim your shih tzu’s nails once a month to keep them from snagging on carpeting or breaking off. Use dog nail trimmers, available at pet stores, to cut only the tips of the nails off. Cutting off too much nail will cause pain and could lead to infection.

5Clean your dog’s eyes and ears every time you wash him. Use a Q-tip to clean any wax and debris out of his ears, but only clean the section that you can see, as pushing a Q-tip too deep into his ear can cause damage. Use eye drops, available at pet stores, and clean cloths to clean his eyes and keep them bright and free of buildup.

6Pull the hair from the top of your dog’s head up into a “top knot,” or ponytail at the top of his head. Secure the pony tail loosely with a rubber band. This will keep it out of his face and allow him to see clearly.

Hypoallergenic Dog Food Recipe

12 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Food

If your dog suffers from confirmed allergies or intolerances, finding a commercial dog food that meets his needs can be difficult. Often the best means of providing for a dog with special dietary needs is cooking homemade dog food. Just use suitable substitute ingredients in place of those your dog’s allergic to in a basic dog food home recipe.

Determining the Allergy

Before you can create hypoallergenic dog food, you must determine the ingredients your dog is allergic or intolerant to. Your veterinarian may suggest an elimination diet, which will initially contain two ingredients, such as turkey and sweet potatoes. You feed this simple diet and watch for allergy symptom improvement. After a period, you and the vet will add ingredients, one at a time. With each addition, you monitor for allergy symptoms. When an ingredient triggers an allergic reaction, you’ve identified an ingredient you’ll want to eliminate from your pet’s diet.

Common Dog Allergies

According to Susan Wynn, former president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, 10 percent of dog allergy cases are due to food. Symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, ear inflammation, diarrhea, vomiting and itchy skin. Beef, dairy, wheat, eggs, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit and fish are the most common ingredients responsible for dog allergies.

Ingredient Substitutions

Once you have determined an ingredient your dog is allergic to, seek suitable substitutions. If beef or chicken causes allergic reactions in your dog, use turkey or lamb instead. If dairy is an issue, look for lactose-free recipes. For wheat allergies, avoid recipes with flour, or substitute rice flour or rolled oats in its place.

Basic Recipe

For a basic recipe, add 1 cup of brown or white rice to 2 cups or water in a slow cooker. Add 1 to 2 cups of assorted vegetables such as sweet potatoes, green beans or carrots. Top with a pound of meat protein, such as two chicken breasts or a pound of lean ground beef. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5 hours.


When making homemade dog food, it is essential that you meet your dog’s nutritional requirements. Discuss your recipe ideas with your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist to ensure your dog meets his nutritional requirements with your home-cooked diet. Armed with your recipes and knowledge of your dog’s dietary needs, your trusted vet will advise you on serving size, supplements and other tweaks.

What Breeds of Dogs Are Prone to Anal Gland Problems?

8 Jun 2015 | Filed in Dog Breeds

Domesticated dogs don’t really need them, but they have anal glands, or anal sacs, located between the internal and external sphincter muscles. The anal glands secrete oily fluid onto the feces when they pass a bowel movement, a function of predatory animal communication. Some dogs are prone to oily, thick fluid with a distinct unpleasant odor. Anal gland problems occur in male and female dogs of any age; they can affect any breed, but small dogs and certain breeds have a higher occurrence.

Breed Predisposition

Anal gland problems seldom occur in large-breed dogs. Dr. T.J. Dunn Jr. writes on PetMD that infections and impactions are more common in smaller breeds, such as basset hounds, beagles, cocker spaniels, Chihuahuas, miniature poodles and toy poodles, and Lhasa apsos. While the condition is common in these smaller and medium-size pooches, don’t rule it out as a cause for discomfort in a dog of any size or breed.

Symptoms and Treatments

Signs your dog may have anal gland problems include scooting his butt on the floor and excessive licking of the anal area. In cases of infection of abscess, swelling or a fever may occur. If you believe your dog has anal gland problems, consult your veterinarian. Treatment includes manual expression of the anal glands. Many groomers routinely express the anal glands during routine grooming.