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Communications with a Deaf Dog

Some people think if a dog is born deaf or goes deaf they cannot be trained. This is absolutely not true. I have worked with several deaf dogs (even a deaf and blind dog) and they are very trainable. It takes a little bit of thought and a lot of repetition but it is very rewarding. I found this old article that gives you a lot of information on this subject and I would like to share it with you.

How to Communicate with a Deaf Dog

By Terrie Hayward on 10/02/2015

Challenge: a hearing-impaired dog

Do you own a deaf dog? Have you ever had the opportunity to work with a deaf dog? I had not—until Blanca.

In 2013, my friend Milena rescued a large, but skeletal, dog from an abandoned gas station and contacted me for some training help. The dog delivered 10 puppies the day after her rescue, and was big, strong, and exuberant. I agreed to help evaluate and do some training with the mom, as well as assist with puppy duty.

Although I had fostered, adopted, and cared for hundreds of dogs, I had yet to meet a deaf dog in my personal or professional life. With her all-white coat, the dog was named Blanca (meaning “white” in Spanish). Blanca responded eagerly to attention and appeared motivated to figure out how to earn small pieces of hotdog. Always armed with my treat pouch and clicker, I was ready to mark (with a click) and reinforce (with hotdog or something of equally high value) behavior that I liked. I ignored Blanca’s jumping and reinforced with a click and then some cheese for her sit. We moved around and repeated the behavior.

My friend watched these first lessons, and then mentioned that she thought the dog might have trouble hearing. Was Blanca just responding to my body language? Milena became aware of a potential hearing problem in the early morning when she could come right up to Blanca without the dog stirring. Blanca also seemed to ignore the hungry cries of her puppies. We noted that when other dogs barked, or car horns honked, Blanca was seemingly unaware.

It was a few visits later that we determined, after various sound tests, that Blanca was deaf. Never having worked with a deaf dog before, I started to do some research on deafness in dogs. I was surprised to learn that in the past, and, sadly, perhaps even now, deafness would be a reason to put a dog to sleep. As I watched this intelligent and loving dog learn, I was shocked to think that her lack of hearing could have meant instant euthanasia.

Different strengths, different senses, different strategies

While Blanca’s deafness was a training challenge and required some modifications, I believe that her other senses (smell, peripheral vision, body language) may actually be enhanced, as often happens when humans are deaf. Although all dogs are acutely aware of body language, deaf dogs are even more keenly observant of body language and gestures. This is certainly true in Blanca’s case.

While training relies on verbal (often not entirely effectual) communication quite frequently, that method obviously does not suffice for a deaf dog. Deaf dogs require families to focus on training in a different way; a way that can certainly be used with all dogs, but is essential for those with hearing loss. But, how do you begin to work with a deaf dog when the default or “go to” form of communication is verbal?

What is most important is to be careful and deliberate with hand, face, and body movements.

Owners and trainers “speak” to dogs, teaching them to comprehend intent and meaning. With a deaf dog, the verbal avenue is not an option. Communication needs to focus on the visual sense instead. What is most important is to be careful and deliberate with hand, face, and body movements. Even with this change in emphasis from verbal to visual, if you have trained an animal with an auditory or verbal marker, the shift in training is not all that significant once you get the hang of it!

Bridging the communication gap

In Blanca’s case, and with other deaf dogs I have trained, I used a “hand flash” as the visual marker. A hand flash is where all fingers start together in a fist, then the fist releases to an open palm hand with all fingers out straight, followed by a return to the original fisted position. Others choose to use a “thumbs up” gesture for a visual marker. As with any marker, we pair the marker with a reinforcer consistently so that it becomes a conditioned reinforcer.

Step one was teaching Blanca that this hand flash meant good things! Just as a trainer may choose to “load the clicker” a few times in order to create the association that the marker equals something reinforcing, I followed the same process with the visual marker. To start, a hand flash was immediately followed by a treat delivered with the other hand. This pattern was repeated a series of times until I was sure that Blanca realized that the hand flash communicated that she had earned access to something that she found reinforcing.

With a deaf dog, one of most helpful behaviors, and one to work on first, is to mark and reinforce heavily for eye contact.

The next step was to watch for something that Blanca did that I liked. For example, when she sat, I would mark that behavior with a visual hand flash marker and then reinforce the behavior. During this stage of training, I was grateful that I had attended Terry Ryan’s chicken camp! Trainers will often work with chickens to improve the speed and precise delivery of reinforcers (among other skills), which helps in training other animals. I needed to be quick to catch Blanca looking at me in order to give my visual marker, and then reinforce it. With a deaf dog, one of most helpful behaviors, and one to work on first, is to mark and reinforce heavily for eye contact.

The next step was to watch for something that Blanca did that I liked. For example, when she sat, I would mark that behavior with a visual hand flash marker and then reinforce the behavior. During this stage of training, I was grateful that I had attended Terry Ryan’s chicken camp! Trainers will often work with chickens to improve the speed and precise delivery of reinforcers (among other skills), which helps in training other animals. I needed to be quick to catch Blanca looking at me in order to give my visual marker, and then reinforce it. With a deaf dog, one of most helpful behaviors, and one to work on first, is to mark and reinforce heavily for eye contact.

Atten-tion!

Fostering a “check-in” behavior is essential.

Getting a deaf dog’s attention is another consideration, as it is not possible to call out to your pup. Fostering a “check-in” behavior is essential. Each and every time that your dog looks at you, you should mark and reinforce this behavior. Sometimes you can get your deaf dog’s attention via vibrations. Tapping or stomping on the floor may make create a vibration large enough to attract your dog’s attention. Once your dog looks at you, mark and reinforce that attention. In addition, waving hands or arms at a distance can gain your dog’s interest. Again, once your dog looks in your direction, mark and reinforce that attention.

Another option, if it’s dark or at dusk, is to flick the lights off and on to draw your dog’s focus back to you. Some people use a small flashlight, but remember never to shine the light directly into the dog’s eyes. It is not advisable to use a laser pointer. Use the flashlight like a “clicker” or a special signal and turn it on/off quickly to mark a behavior. Remember that every time you mark you will want to follow up with something that your dog finds reinforcing. The marker is like a “promise” of access earned to something reinforcing, so be sure to keep your promise by providing that access after each marker.

Another helpful behavior to train with a deaf dog is a shoulder tap that means “look at me.” Tap your dog on the shoulder and then pop something yummy (just a tiny piece) in his mouth. Repeat this pattern often, and in every room of your home, and then begin to practice outside as well. Your dog will come to understand that the tap equals good things for him, and he will begin to turn back to you anticipating the yummy treat. Continue to practice and “pay” for your dog turning to look at you. Eventually, after many, many, many repetitions, you may be able to replace your food reinforcer with attention and affection. In order to keep the behavior strong once it has been established (once you can rely on your dog turning to look at you when you tap him on the shoulder), continue to surprise your dog from time to time with something delicious as a reward.

When you start to train the shoulder tap, be mindful that deaf dogs often startle. As a deaf dog cannot hear an approach, and sometimes cannot feel vibrations of someone nearby, the dog may startle when you appear suddenly. Work on associating people’s approach with positive things. You may have to hold a tiny bit of a yummy food each time you get near your deaf dog. Moving from room to room around your house let your deaf dog know that you have gone. Walking directly past the dog or offering a light touch on your way out may help your dog feel less anxious since he has seen you go. Your dog may choose to follow you or stay put; however, the anxiety of not knowing what happened to you has been eliminated.

Visual signals

The next step in training a deaf dog is to build more visual cues for communication. Some people choose to use American Sign Language (ASL) signs and/or single-hand adaptations of the ASL signs. You can also make up your own signals as long as they are distinct and consistent.

One time, Blanca and I were at a dog-health day doing a presentation on training. A woman and her husband approached us afterward. Via the husband’s translation, the woman, who was deaf herself, asked if I was using sign language to speak to my dog. I explained that Blanca was deaf and responded to signs. The woman asked if she could try one of Blanca’s cues, and then proceeded so sign “sit” using ASL. Blanca sat and the woman teared up. She exclaimed that this was the first time that she had ever been able to communicate with a dog!

The importance of recall

Another vital part of communicating with a deaf dog is teaching a recall. I always advocate in favor of safety first, so I recommend working on longer-distance recalls in fenced areas or with a long leash. However, as with any behavior, you will want to start training in close proximity and in a low-distraction environment. Move away, at first just an inch at a time, and then signal with a visual cue for your dog to come to you. Mark movement toward you and be sure to reinforce as the pup arrives where you are. As with any recall, slowly build distance and eventually build in distractions.

The regular “check-in” behavior that you trained earlier will be important now as you work on recall with a deaf dog. You need your deaf dog to look back at you for instruction. Behaviors that are reinforced are repeated, so be sure that your pup finds coming to you when “called” a highly reinforcing behavior! Remember, just like training a hearing dog, be sure to break any new behavior into small pieces and train in short training sessions with many opportunities to “get it right.”

Expect —and handle—frustration

Sometimes an owner feels as though the animal understands what is being communicated, but simply chooses not to respond as desired. At other times, the human is frustrated with his/her difficulties communicating the desired outcome to the dog.

These are common frustrations training ANY dog, or ANY animal. However, with a deaf dog these feelings of exasperation may be intensified. Try to remember that even if you believe you have broken down the task into very small, manageable pieces and are communicating very clearly and efficiently, you are, in fact, communicating with a different species.

Imagine for a moment that you are training your dog to place a red toy on top of a blue one. Continue to pretend that after your dog has (seemingly) mastered the behavior, she performs that behavior correctly 100% of the time for two weeks straight. Then, one day, your dog places the blue toy on top of the red one. The issue is not stubbornness, nor defiance, but rather a problem of communication. Your dog may have thought all along that the correct behavior was to stack up the two toys. She may have stacked red on blue for two weeks coincidentally, thus leading you to believe that your training was clear. In fact, there was a lack of clarity in the communication and training.

Because humans are verbally oriented in our information exchanges, communicating in different ways with a deaf dog may be a struggle at first. Any time that you feel overwhelmed, stop and take a break. Revert back to something very simple, like making eye contact and marking and reinforcing this successful behavior. Celebrate tiny accomplishments; remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Your communication and training with your deaf dog, as with hearing dogs, will be a lifelong endeavor.

Deaf dogs: both students and teachers

Deaf dogs can make great ambassadors for positive reinforcement training.

Deaf dogs can make great ambassadors for positive reinforcement training. Frequently, Blanca and I offer demonstrations on training and humane education at school and community events. Blanca demonstrates quite easily that there is no need to shout the word “no” repeatedly, or use other harsh verbal “corrections.” In fact, the word, and in the case of deaf dogs the signal or sign, for “no” is not something that I suggest you teach during your valuable training time. Telling an animal “no” does not provide much information. “No” is not a very clear communication tool, as it leaves the situation rather nebulous: “No what?” In its place, I strongly recommend working on incompatible behaviors and impulse-control training. In that way, you can offer your dog the choice to make good decisions about what you DO want the dog to do!

Learning is not an upward and linear journey; it is a journey prone to setbacks and confusion. To achieve success with your deaf dog, maintain a positive attitude, take pride in small milestones, and acknowledge that your relationship is becoming stronger. Deaf dogs can teach a great amount about care, compassion, and novel training methods. Blanca is joyful and eager to learn and respond now that someone has taken time to figure out how to communicate with her!

About the author

Terrie Hayward holds a Master’s degree in Bilingual Special Education, is a Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partner (CTP), and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Council of Professional Dog Trainers. She is also certified in Canine Separation Anxiety (CSAT) via the Malena DeMartini internship program and is an Associate Member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She is a member of the Pet Professional Guild, and has written articles on training for Pet Business and Grooming Business magazines and is the author of the pocket guide to working with deaf dogs: A Deaf Dog Joins the Family.

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So, let’s talk about Service Dogs

I get many calls from people who want to train their own service dog.  Training your own Service Dogs is fine.  But there is so much more to it than just putting a vest on your dog that says “Service Dog.”  Service Dogs must meet certain training qualifications that will allow them to gain public access. Even if your dog is a “nice, well-mannered dog,” which does well around most people and can lay quietly in public, it is not a service dog.  Trying to pass your dog off as a Service Dog is not only dangerous but IT IS ILLEGAL. 

We have all heard news reports of people being bitten by so called “service dogs.”  Or the police having to be called because a person brings his so called “service dog” into a restaurant and the dog causes a problem.  When asked to leave, the person causes a scene and throws some sort of fit.

Not every dog can be a service dog.  First of all a dog must have the “temperament” to be a service dog.  Temperament is defined as:  the charteristic physiological and emotional state of which tends to condition his responses to the various situations of life.  For a dog, this means he must be able to adjust and accept the many situations he may encounter in the public domain.  A service dog cannot, be yappy, aggressive, fearful of noise, people or new and strange things he may encounter out in public places. 

I have encountered so called “service dogs” that have lunged, barked, and even peed in inappropriate places.  If you want to train your own “Service Dog,” it is entirely possible, but I suggest you obtain the guidance of a certified trainer who can help you navigate the training necessary to pass the Public Access Test.  You must also have a Need for a “Service Dog.”  Need is defined as:  a condition necessitating supply or relief; for carrying out some function or activity.  This means you must need your dog with you in order to carry out daily living experiences.  The “Service Dog” must be able to assist you in the ability to improve your quality of life.  We know that pets in general improve our lives, but if your dog is just a “Pet,” and has not been specifically trained to be a Service Dog, it is not allowed in public places.  Service Dogs must meet certain criteria set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA), to be allowed into public places.

According to the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, this is what you need to know about having a Service Dog:

“Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities.”

The ADA’s definition of a Service Dog is: “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

This means a Service Dog must be trained to take a specific action when it is needed to assist the person with a disability.  For instance, to detect the onset of a seizure, to alert a diabetic that their blood sugar levels are high or low, to help lower anxiety levels for a person experiencing an anxiety attack or to perform physical tasks for a person in a wheelchair.

Emotional support, therapy, comfort or companion dogs are not considered a service animal under the ADA.  These animals are used to provide comfort just by being with an individual.  They do not perform a specific task for an individual.

Service Dogs are not “required” to wear a vest or specific identification, however if it is not obvious that the dog is a Service Dog, managers, staff and owners of an establishment can ask you what task your dog has been trained to perform. 

The person declaring that their dog is a Service Dog is absolutely responsible for caring for and supervising the dog.  This includes good grooming, toileting, veterinary care including required vaccinations, feeding, housing and insuring that the dog behaves appropriately in any given situation.

Generally a Service Dog is allowed in any public place the handler is allowed, i.e., restaurants, hotels, arenas, buses, airlines, schools, shopping areas, etc.

While I always recommend you have a certificate from a competent and certified service dog trainer, the ADA does not require that the Service Dog be registered.

Your legitimate Service Dog cannot be denied access to any public building because of breed restrictions.  A Service dog can be any breed.

Service Dogs may not be excluded based on assumptions or stereotypes about the breed or how the dog may behave.  A Service Dog that acts inappropriately, and/or poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or is not under control of the handler can absolutely be excluded from a public area.   If a Service Dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.

There is much more information available on the ADA website at www.ADA.gov or you can contact their information line at 800-514-0301.

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CAN DOGS SEE GHOSTS?

Can Dogs See Ghosts?

By Alexandra Anastasio

I received this article from AKC and thought was kind of fun and give us something to think about.  Personally, I believe dogs can sense a lot more about the ethereal world than we know.

  • Did you know?

While there are people who believe in the paranormal, have you ever wondered whether your dog is able to sense the spirits? After all, canines have extraordinary senses that are much sharper than a human’s. And wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your dog is able to detect a loved one who has passed on?

As much as we’d like to believe there is some truth to the idea that dogs can sense the paranormal, the scientific answer is that we just don’t know. Despite the fact that there is no scientific proof that dogs can see ghosts, so much of animal behavior is uncertain that the possibilities of a dog sensing something a human can’t is not out of the question. “The most interesting part of the science of dog behavior and understanding is that we simply don’t know so much,” says Russell Hartstein, a certified dog behavior consultant and dog trainer in Los Angeles.

Your Own Perceptions Play a Part

Much of a dog’s behavior can be a mystery to an owner, but there are countless examples that leave us wondering if the unimaginable is actually conceivable. “When someone is inclined to believe in the paranormal, some dogs may exhibit behaviors that make it look like they are perhaps sensing an apparition is nearby,” says Dr. Mary Burch, director of the AKC Family Dog Program and a certified animal behaviorist. “This may be the dog that stops and stands still at a given point in the house, and the owner later finds out someone died there.”

If a dog is standing in a corner, barking at nothing visible, could it be that he senses something out of the ordinary? Or perhaps he stays close to an object that is associated with a deceased family member, whether it be a favorite chair or side of the bed, as if that person is still present.

Dr. Burch points out that when a dog barks at what appears to be nothing, an owner sometimes thinks it’s because he’s seeing a ghost or picking up on something she can’t. “While clairvoyance generally falls outside of what we can prove in terms of science, we do understand and have research on a dog’s basic five senses,” she says.

The Sixth Sense

In addition to the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing), dogs also possess a sixth sense — that “gut” feeling we get when something doesn’t feel right. The difference though is that dogs are more open to trusting what they feel and acting on those feelings accordingly, while most people’s minds analyze what’s going on and deny the possibility that auroras or spirits exist. “Dogs are remarkable creatures, with senses that far exceed a human’s,” explains Dr. Burch.

When a dog runs and sits by the door waiting for his owner, Dr. Burch explains this behavior could be a habit simply learned through repetition. But if the owner comes home much earlier than usual, and the dog still sits by the door within minutes of his arrival, that unexplained behavior could appear to be his sixth sense.

Dogs also have the ability to detect impending disasters before they happen, thanks to their powerful sense of smell. “Barometric pressure and all natural phenomena have odors associated with them,” says Hartstein. “They are beyond the capacity of our noses to recognize, but dogs can sense these changes immediately.”

Can Dogs See Things We Can’t?

The level of a dog’s hearing also surpasses a human’s, and dogs possess the ability to hear higher-pitched noises from a much greater distance. “Dogs’ auditory perception is another area where they perceive the world around them in a vastly different way from human beings,” points out Hartstein.  “These differences may be connected to their ability to pick up on different and undetectable phenomenons that we do not.”

A dog’s field of vision is much wider than ours; they can see objects at a greater distance, and their ability to see in twilight, dusk, and dawn is far superior to ours, making it possible to pick up certain movements that are undetectable to the human eye. “It could be absolutely accurate that the dog is picking up on something we may not be able to see. But what they are perceiving may not be Casper the Friendly Ghost,” explains Dr. Burch.

Dogs are fascinating creatures, and there is still much uncertainty when it comes to the abilities of man’s best friend. “Their senses are highly attuned, and it is obvious they are perceiving the world in a vastly different way than we do,” says Hartstein. Whether their extraordinary senses are able to pick up on unknown forms, energies, or the paranormal continues to remain a mystery.

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Nose Work For Fun

Hi, and a late HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Sorry you found no news letter for January. Unfortunately I was sick with pneumonia. Doing much better now.

This month I would like to introduce you to Nose work. Nose work is what we call the training for search and rescue, bomb detection, drug detection, etc. Nose work is easy to teach and a lot of fun to do with your dog. I have been training two of my dogs for Human Remains and Tracking for a couple of years now. They love it and it comes very natural to any dog.

If you and your dog have never tried to do nose work, the following is a very very simple way to get your dog to start using his nose. And it’s a fun game.

You can start out using a simple scented candle. I have used 3 oz jars with lids that I got from Walmart. The technique is very simple. Set the candle in the floor at first. Put a very high value treat right next to the candle, so your dog has to put his nose right on the candle when he gets the treat. Get your dog’s attention and tell him, “Find it.” You may have to lead the dog to the scent a few times so that he starts to understand the game.

Practice this just with the candle and the treat several times. Once your dog understands the game, hide the candle in a box with no lid. Tell him to, “Find it.” You may have to lead him to the box a few times. You will start to notice him looking for “the fine.” When he discovers it, praise him and give him a jackpot of treats right next to the scent so his nose has to smell the scent when he eats the treat.

The next step is to start hiding the scent and treat in one box and have several boxes with no scent in them scattered around. Tell your dog to, “Find it,” and when he hits the right box, praise him and jackpot him treats right next to the scent. That’s it.

Once he is finding the scent and treat in the box, you can start hiding the scent and treat in other places around your home. As your dog gets better at “Finding,” begin putting the scent up on a chair and in other places where it becomes more difficult for him to find.

This is a great game to play on those cold winter days when you really don’t want to go out. You will be amazed how fast your dog will catch on. This is a game you can play with any breed of dog. You will find that your dog really enjoys the game and if you like it, there is all kinds of Nose Work groups you can get involved with. Your dog can be taught to work several scents and in several different ways. Who knows, you and your dog may become so proficient that you could find a missing person some day.

I recommend you get the book; THE NOSE WORK HANDLER Foundation to finesse by Fred Helfers. It’s a good book for beginners.

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Why Are My Dogs (who have been fine together for years) Now Fighting?

A friend and dog trainer I have been working with lately posted some thoughts about a client she was in touch with a short while ago.  I asked her if I could use it for my newsletter and she gave me permission to do so.  I thought it may give some of you with multiple dog households something to think about when an issue arises with dogs that have been happy together for a long time and then “suddenly” they fight with each other.  As with our children, dogs respond to their environment and issues that are happening around them.  We, as dog trainers use a lot of the same psychological techniques that are used to control child behavior.  We look a lot at the environment the dog is in and then we try to hone in on how the “pet parent” is reacting or not reacting to the small things we don’t realize are happening.  Anyway, I thought she made some good points so following is her post:

      “Just got off the phone with an individual with two dogs that he’s had for several years and now they are fighting to the point of great damage and expensive vet bills & now permanently separated. “It’s the younger dog who is causing the problems” per the owner but after asking questions and giving classic scenarios (that he agreed were happening), I am once again affirmed that in my 24 years of dog training almost always in a multi-dog household where aggression happens, it’s rarely instigated by the “problem dog” to which I’m called in to “fix”. He’s a product of something else “broken” in his environment. (Usually another dog’s behavior.)

     After my experiences this weekend (and sadly I’m not legally able to share details), I’m now reflecting that maybe the “problem” 9 yr old is the product of her environment?

      I remember years ago reading the book, “The Heart of Anger” in hopes to “help” my “angry” toddler. Reading that children only mirror there environment, I quickly thought, “I don’t have an anger issue. I’m calm & patience, etc. Just ask those around me.” But as I continued to read, I learned that frustration is a form of anger. And boy, do I ever get frustrated especially with myself.

      All of this to say, this mornings meditations have revealed some connections in behavior and how much of what we as parents and pet owners do, say, or not do and not say, knowingly or unknowingly, shape our children’s and pet’s lives beyond their ability to control.

      I’m not sure I’m sharing this adequately (I’m not a writer) as I am a bit overwhelmed at the responsibility of a parent not to handicap my children for life. Aggression (frustration), hate, malice are learned (mirrored) or fostered behaviors (be it in from inside the family or outside the family), or in a dog’s life, mimicked behaviors. The real concern is that it’s demonstrated at 100% more/worse than how/when/where is was “learned” leaving very disastrous results to the whole family, be it from a pet or a child.”

     So when something changes in your multi-dog household, it is important to ask yourself  Why, How, When, Where did that behavior first occur?  And how did you react?

 

 

Christmas is approaching.  Please be careful that your decorations and gifts are kept out of the reach of your pets.  This time of year many dogs end up at the vet, sometimes with tragic and very expensive consequences because of ingesting some of the new and flashy things that are sitting around the house.

HOPE YOU ALL HAVE A BLESSED CHRISTMAS.

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Thanksgiving For Your Dog

This month most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving.  This is the month when we gather all our family together for large dinners and football games and just appreciation of our lives together.  Many of us include our four legged family members in on the celebration.  There are a few things you may want to take into consideration with your dogs.  Thanksgiving is a “people” holiday and some dogs do not appreciate a lot of people invading their space.  So you want to make sure your dog does not get over stressed with all the friends and family coming and going.  Dogs like routine and when their routine is disrupted you may see some signs of other than normal behaviors, such as hiding away from people, barking excessively, snapping and just general stress.  Make sure your dog has an area where he/she can get away from all the noise and excitement.

Another and possibly more important problem is all the food that is being made and served during this holiday.  While some of you may be tempted to make a nice Thanksgiving dish of people food to give to your dog(s) that day, it is important that you know the people foods that are toxic to your dog and make sure none of these foods are made available for your dog to “find” or certainly do not intentionally feed it to them.  I have included in this newsletter a short list of some of the foods your dog should not have.  You can find this list on the ASPCA website along with a much longer list of even more toxic foods.  We all know about chocolate, but there are many more.  While maybe a piece of plain unseasoned turkey may be a nice treat, heavily seasoned, salted and buttered turkey with all the fixin’s can make your dog very sick.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving and take time to make sure your pup has a healthy fun time too.

Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Avocado
Avocado is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats. The biggest concern is for cardiovascular damage and death in birds.  Horses, donkeys and ruminants frequently get swollen, edematous head and neck.

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Citrus
The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.

Coconut and Coconut Oil
When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, we encourage you to use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.

Grapes and Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.

Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Milk and Dairy
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Nuts
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.

Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, we encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets.

Xylitol
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Yeast Dough
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life threatening emergency. The yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk (See alcohol).

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GAMES WITH YOUR DOG

If you have a very strong, pushy dog, you want your games to conform to the strength and temperament of your dog.  Games such as tug-of-war is a great game if your dog can’t just drag you all over the yard.  If your dog guards his toys or tugs, you will want to work on a release before you start the game of tug-of-war.  Your dog needs to understand this is a game, not a competition.  Wrestling is fun and great as long as your dog self regulates himself – that is, he does not play to rough and understands this is play.  No serious biting is allowed.  It is not a good idea to allow small children to play very rough, physical games with a dog.

Games like fetch, hide and seek, and find it, are great games to play.  Playing fetch will come natural to some dogs.  Others need to learn to bring back the object and give it to you.

Hide and seek involves having the dog ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ while you hide (or have someone else hold the dog), then calling the dog to come and find you.  A variation on this involves having the dog go find different family members by name.  The person ‘hiding’ calls the dog while you say, “Go find (the person’s name).”  The dog gets lots of praise and treats for a successful find.

The ‘find it’ game can be played with a favorite toy.  Again, have the dog ‘sit’ and ‘wait’.  Show him the toy and encourage him to sniff it.  In the beginning hid the toy in plain sight and give lots of praise and treats for a good find.  Pretty soon the toy can be hidden in more difficult places like under a sofa cushion and in other rooms.  This can be a pre-curser to training your dog for “Nose Work”.

Another fun game is one I call the ‘crazy dog’ game.  In this game you do whatever it takes to get your dog excited and playful.  You need to jump around and act silly with your dog.  After about 30 seconds stop and tell your dog to either ‘sit’ or ‘down’.   When your dog obeys – get him all excited again.  While you are getting him excited, say, “Crazy Dog, Crazy Dog”.  When the game is over, have your dog sit or down and treat him for calming down.  This is a good game to teach your dog how to calm down when he becomes excited.

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Management Skills

Many dog trainers use the term, management, to describe ways in which we can change the environment and structure while living with our dog’s different personalities. Rather than trying to change the dog’s behavior sometimes the best solution is to find a ways to manage the problem. Management refers to looking at the situation and finding ways to change it.
For example, if your dog is always jumping on guests, you can anticipate this behavior and prevent it by crating the dog before guests arrive or by having your dog on a leash and standing on the leash about halfway down so that the dog can sit or stand, but cannot jump on guests. You haven’t changed the dog’s behavior, but you have controlled the situation.
Crating: Crates are a wonderful management tool. A crated dog cannot chew up your furniture or dig holes in your carpet. Rather than complaining about your dog’s destructive behavior, or punishing him after the fact (which is not fair or effective), use the crate when you cannot supervise your dog.

If you crate your dog it is important to make crating a pleasant experience. You can start by feeding your dog in his crate while leaving the door open. Put a soft towel or mat in the crate (if your dog won’t chew on it). Give him a favorite safe toy to chew on while crated. Provide access to fresh water (many dogs enjoy ice cubes when crated). Think of the crate as a puppy playpen. It’s a safe place to confine your dog.

Exercise: Many behavior problems’ are simply the result of too little exercise. Dogs who are constantly in motion, who chew, bark, jump, or dig excessively may be helped by providing more exercise. Many dogs need much more exercise than they are getting. Certain breeds (especially Sporting or Herding dogs) require a large amount of exercise daily. Be aware of your dog’s exercise needs. We always say that, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

Walking is a great exercise for most dogs. Be careful with your puppies and larger breeds that you don’t over-exercise them on hard surfaces such as roads or sidewalks. This can put too much stress on the joints. Walking in grass is much better. Many dogs love to run or jog, but need to build up to more vigorous exercise over time.

Play sessions with other nice dogs are a wonderful way to exercise your dog. Check with your friends and neighbors to set up ‘play dates.’ This also has the added bonus of helping your dog learn how to get along well with other canines. However, be careful that you watch for warning signs of growling or snapping. While play can sometimes be quite rough and physical, none of the dogs should seem unhappy or upset by the activity.

Many dogs learn how to play ‘fetch’ very quickly. This is a great way to wear out the dog without much effort on the owner’s part. Try tennis balls, Kong toys, canvas or plastic bumpers, or rubber balls. If your dog chases the toy but doesn’t bring it back or give it up, have two identical toys. Once he picks up one you can show him the other and throw it in a different direction. He’ll usually drop the first to chase the second. You can hit tennis balls with a tennis racket across your yard to give your dog a good workout. Some dogs love to chase a large, hard soccer ball. These types of balls are usually sold under the name of Boomer Balls.

Mental stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, dogs need mental exercise as well. Dogs are very curious and intelligent creatures, and they can get bored by an unchanging routine or a lack of excitement. A bored dog will usually try to make his own fun and you may not like the results!

There are a few toys available that make your dog work for his food. One is called a Buster Cube. It is a hard plastic cube that has an opening in which you load your dog’s dry food. Once you shake the cube the food is distributed inside into a number of different compartments. Your dog can only get the food by rolling the cube around on the ground. The food comes out randomly. Many dogs love this toy and will become quite excited about using it. The Buster Cube should only be used by one dog at a time to avoid skirmishes, and is safest if used outside in a fenced yard.

A Kong toy is a hard rubber toy that is hollow in the center. You can stuff the Kong with peanut butter, cheese, and dry food. Most dogs love trying to get all the goodies out of the Kong, and will chew on it for hours. You can also fill the Kong with canned dog food or other yummy treats, then freeze it. Your dog will love his ‘pup-sickle,’ especially on hot summer days.

For a fun summer exercise, you might consider buying a kiddie pool and filling it with water so your dog can ‘swim.’ Toss favorite toys and treats in the pool and encourage your dog to go after them. Don’t force your dog into the water if he’s unsure, give him some time to discover and explore it on his own.

Some dogs, especially diggers, appreciate a sandbox. Bury goodies, toys, and sterilized bones for your dog to find. This will also encourage him to direct his digging urges to an appropriate place.

You can keep your dog busy and active by taking him with you on short errands. Be sure that the weather is not too hot. Short trips are usually interesting and enjoyable for your dog. You can combine your errands with quick walks or training sessions in different locations. A change of scenery is as interesting for a dog as it is for a person.

With a little bit of creative thought, you can probably come up with lots of ways to keep your dog busy and happy. JUST HAVE FUN WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND!!!

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BASIC CARE FOR YOUR BEST FRIEND

This month we are focusing on some very basic care of your new best friend. These basics include food, nutrition, feeding schedules, veterinary care, and grooming.

FOOD: There are still many misconceptions about food and feeding. For example, many people still believe that free feeding (having food always available) is a requirement. It is usually better to feed twice a day, about twelve hours apart. However, there are always individual situations to consider. If you have a very young puppy, you will want to feed the puppy 3 times a day for up to about 4 to 6 months, after that you can change the feeding schedule to twice a day.

Another misconception is that all dogs should be on puppy foods until they are at least a year old. For certain large and fast growing breeds, switching over to adult food sooner (around 6 months) is a better idea. Too much fast growth can stress and strain joints, contributing to possible orthopedic problems. Switching over from one food to another slowly over a week or so is also important. You should just begin to add more of the adult food (or and different brand) and give less of the puppy food until you are feeding only the correct amount of the newly introduced food to your puppy. You are basically phasing out the old food.

Also, many people overfeed their dogs. The “rib check” is a quick and easy way to gage weight. You should not be able to see the dog’s ribs when the dog is in his normal stance. You should be able to easily feel a dogs ribs through a thin layer of fat by slightly pressing on the rib area when your dog is standing.

Finally, there is the belief that all dog foods are the same, so you might as well feed the cheapest formula available. LOOK CLOSELY AT THE INGREDIENTS LABELS. Look for high quality dog foods. The first ingredient should be MEAT (not meat meal). Carbohydrates should come from vegetables and fruits. There should be very little grain or no grain at all in the food and ABSOLUTELY NO BI-PRODUCTS. By-products are dangerous for your dog. No one can really tell you what “by-products” are. “By-products” are used as a filler. It has no nutritional value. It is whatever is left over after the rendering process. The leftover “scrap” can contain anything including what comes up off the floor of the rendering plant. Many dogs have lost their lives or been sickened from “by-product” and some leading dog food companies have had many recalls because of what has been found in processed dog food. Your dog food should be made in the U.S. or Canada.

Yes, higher quality foods are a bit more expensive but you will be feeding your dog less food with higher nutritional value and there will be less POOP to pick up because there are less fillers added to the food, (Grain is a filler. Dogs do not need grain and it can cause allergies). Always consult your veterinarian for any specific nutritional problems or questions. Your dog may have a condition where you may need to have him on a special diet for the condition or you may have to make your own unprocessed dog food. Keep in mind that your veterinarian may be knowledgeable but is probably not a canine nutritional specialist. You may want to consider finding a good canine nutritional specialist you can consult if your dog has digestive problems.

VETERINARY CARE: We know that the dogs coming into our classes have already seen a vet because we have checked shot records at the first class. However, some people might be using a shot clinic rather than a full-service vet. In particular, it is important to have heartworm tests and medication, and an annual physical exam. Being aware of slight physical or behavioral changes is also important, (dogs who limp, seem slightly depresses, etc.) We always recommend being safe and checking with the vet with any health care concerns. You also want to have your dog on a good flea and tick repellent.

PICK UP YOUR DOG’S POOP!!! It is absolutely imperative that you pick up after your dogs in public areas. Carry poop bags with you anytime you are with your dog any place other than your own yard. Dog poop is a BIO-HAZARD. Disease can be spread from one dog to another from dog poop. What is the first thing your dog does when he sees a pile of poop on the ground – That’s Right, he sniffs it. Did you know that Parvo virus can live for 3 days in the environment and it is an air born disease? If your dog is unprotected and sniff’s a sick dog’s poop you may end up with a very expensive vet bill or at worst, a dead family pet. It is really not that bad to pick up dog poop with a bag. Put your hand in the bag and use it as a glove. Pick up the poop and slip the upper part of the bag over the poop, then tie it up. Toss it in the next trash can you see.

Dogs can be very expensive. Personally, I recommend you get health insurance on your dog. You can get policies that pay on even the yearly check-ups. Please love your dog enough to keep him healthy.

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SUMMER SAFETY FOR FIDO

It is July and we are well into summer. There are a lot of things going on in our lives this month. First and foremost is the summer heat. We always have to be aware of shelter and safety for our best friend. Whether your dog is an indoor pet or an outdoor pet you need to make sure he is protected from the summer heat. We all know we should not leave our dogs in cars on hot days. The reason for that is that a car can become very hot in a very short period of time (10 minutes your care can reach 102 degrees or more).

Anytime the temperatures are reaching into the 80 and 90 degree marks we have to think about how hot our dog gets when he is left outside. You need to make sure your dog has plenty of water. It is very inexpensive and easy to set up a small play pool for your dog. Dru loves her pool, she splashed and swims in circles on hot days and then she gets out and rubs herself dry on the grass and lays in the sun. Another reason I like having the play pool is because the other three dogs can drink out of it and there is little chance that the pool will get dumped over like a regular water dish can. You do want to be sure you keep the water fresh in the pool.

Your dog needs nice cool areas to rest in on hot days. My dogs have access to the kitchen through their doggy door so they can come inside in the air conditioning during the heat of the day. If you have a dog that has to remain outside in the heat you need to make sure he has a nice large area or several smaller shaded areas in your yard where he can get out of the heat. He also need access to a safe covered area in the shade to get out of rain and hail this time of year. But be aware that a plastic or wooden dog house can get very hot without ventilation of some sort.

Do you know the signs of overheating in your pet? Your dog will have an increased heart and respiratory rate, he may be panting excessively and drooling. He will act fatigued, his gums may be dry or pale. His eyes may glaze over and he may seem confused. If you see any of these symptoms, he needs to get into an air conditioned area and call your vet.

If you have a dog that has a very heavy thick coat, you may want to get him sheared a bit, but do not shave your dog without talking to your vet. A dogs coat protects them from the sun and bug bites. While some breads need to have shorter hair in the heat, others need the insulation it provides.

Make sure you protect your dog’s feet from hot asphalt and cement. Hot pavement can burn your dog’s paws and can cause them to overheat very quickly. There are products you can get that help to protect paws. Moisturizers, dog shoes or socks, and paw wax. The safest thing is to keep your dog off of hot pavement. Along with tending to your dog’s paws, you need to also think about his nose. Pink nosed and thin coated white dogs sunburn easily.

Last, but not least: Never leave your dog outside unattended when fireworks are being set off. More dogs escape and go missing during the 4th of July holiday than any other time of the year. Dogs can be very frightened of the loud noise of fireworks. Make sure your dog is inside in a safe and secure area during loud celebrations. Allow them to hide somewhere or have them in a safe, covered crate or kennel.

Take care of your BEST FRIEND and the unconditional love and respect you receive is the best experience you can have in your life.