Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Holidays for the HOUNDS

It's that time of year again.  Shopping.  Eating.  Visiting with family & friends.  Eating.  Shopping.  Eating.  Traveling by planes, trains, & automobiles.  Eating.

Too often during the hustle & bustle of the holiday season, we overlook some simple tips that can make a big difference for our dogs.

Here are a few of those tips regarding family visits, traveling, and food safety:

Visiting with Family & Friends - whether they come to your house, or you go to theirs....

The Gang's all here!  Holiday visiting might be fun for you, but can be extremely stressful for your pets.   Picture it:  Your best friend from college just rolled in with his wife and two kids (both under 8 years old).  Grandma made it - even though she's using a walker this year.  Uncle Ralph started in on the Pabst Blue Ribbon 10 minutes after his arrival.  Your mom has turned up the "White Christmas" cd to full blast - to drown out the Detroit Lion's game that your dad and brothers are watching in the living room - also turned up full-blast.  You're juggling the final dinner preparations, and have a wicked headache already.

Sounds fun...well maybe...but it's only once a year!  And Fido?  Fido is under the table, watching all of this unfold.  The doorbell has rung over and over.  There are people he doesn't know everywhere.  The kids keep putting his leash on and dragging him around the house, asking him to "sit!"  Grandma had put her walker down on his tail twice (accidentally).  He's over stimulated and out of sorts.

Time Out!

If you have a dog with a high-bite-risk, I've just described your worst nightmare.  And if you're already a client of ours, you already should know better than to put any dog in that sort of situation.

BUT - even the best, lowest-bite-risk dogs can get really stressed out by too much of a good thing.  So be sure to keep visits and family time for the dog short, under control, and monitored by an adult at all times!

If there are kids about (especially ones your dog doesn't know), at least ONE adult must be in charge of monitoring the dog & the kids at all times, or they should be separated.  I know.  What a bummer.

But a much worse bummer is an unexpected visit to the emergency room for your college buddy's 5 year old with an unexpected dog bite on Thanksgiving.  The oversight that landed that fun trip will also get you an uninvited guest - a visit from Animal Control, because the ER doc had to report the bite to the county.

Easiest way to keep this all from happening?  Keep an eye on the dog!  Visits and parties that are a few hours long for us are often way too much for dogs to handle.  

Keep the amount of time the dog is required to socialize to short spurts of 15 to 30 minutes, and then give Fido a break by having him go to his kennel, or having him do the Settle exercise with you.

If you know your dog isn't used to children, keep an extra eye on him or her!

If traveling to someone else's house, and bringing your dog, be sure to bring a crate and bedding, plus chew toys to keep him occupied and a leash to be able to keep him under your control whenever you need it.

If you're not good at being able to tell if your dog is starting to be stressed out or not, check out this Canine Body Language video.

Keeping in mind that dogs get tired of 'entertaining' too, and that they can succumb to all the stresses of the holiday that we experience will hopefully make holiday visiting time easier on everyone.

Holiday Food Safety:

1.  Freeze your turkey bones (and all other cooked bones) - DON'T throw them out until garbage collection day.  When the big feasts are done, don't make the mistake of putting cooked bones in the garbage.  Not only will they stink up the trash, they are way too tempting for even the best-trained dogs, and they are deadly if eaten.  Cooked bones (especially poultry) can shatter and turn into thousands of sharp shards that can kill your dog by perforating the digestive tract.  When dinner's over, bag up any bones and stick them in the freezer until your garbage collection day.  This saves on stink, and could save your dog's life.

2.  Not all human foods are fit for Fido's consumption!  Onions, chocolate, raisens & grapes, among other human favorite can be toxic.  Check out this great list for more:  http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+1659&aid=1030

3.  Garbage Gut - not a pretty sight.  Even if you're tempted to give some table scraps that would normally be 'safe' to your dogs, use moderation.  Too much of a good thing is...well...not a good thing.  Pacreatitus (often called 'garbage gut') can be brought on by too much fat or other rich foods, so be careful of how much, as well as what kinds, of table scrapes you share with your pooch.

Travel tips:

1.  Car Sickness - slobbering, panting, puking pups - and what you can do about it.  A lot of dogs suffer from motion sickness and there are several ways to help.

On the all-natural front, you can try ginger snap cookies (just a bite or two), or the Bach Flower Remedy 'Scleranthus.'  We've had such success with both - especially the Scleranthus, that we are now offering it at Front Range K9 Academy for $10/bottle.

You can also try having your dog travel in a seatbelt harness, a kennel, a thundershirt, or even a thundercap.  Sometimes reducing how much they see & how much they move around in the car can help.

Bringing along something familiar, such as a blanket or favorite bed can be helpful as well.

If all else fails, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-emetics such as Cerenia.  It's pricey, but is the only hope for some car-sick dogs.

2.  Identification - it's a must!  Too many pets get lost every year and the holidays is the worst time to have this happen.  Be sure your dog is micro-chipped and all identification tags are up-to-date, and collars are secure.

For those wanting to add even more safety, check out the GPS trackers we recommend from Tractive.com.  These are the same collars you see on the whippets at Front Range K9 Academy.  They send alerts to your email and/or phone if your dog escapes - especially handy if you're far from home!

Have a safe & happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Barking Problems - worse in the spring time?

With our recent weather, it's starting to feel quite a bit like spring time!  And with spring on it's way, a lot of doggie naughtiness can rear it's head... 

Just like us, the dogs have been cooped up all winter.  So, you might have noticed some behavior and obedience issues that are new in your dog, or some old habits that seem to have returned.

Does it seem like lately...

...your dog is barking more than normal? 

Windows and doors that have been shut all winter are starting to be open again, and that big, beautiful world out there is fascinating to your pooch.

Fido may have forgotten all about all the kids coming and going from school, the UPS & FedEx delivery folks, the neighborhood dog who walks by at 2pm each day, the bicyclists, the skateboarders, the lions, the tigers, the bears, oh my!

Barking isn't necessarily a sign of aggression, it's just more of an alert or alarm system dogs use to tell their family (pack) that someone or something new has entered the area, and they're unsure of whether it's a friend or foe. 

But practice makes perfect - and each time Fifi barks and the 'intruder' goes away, she believes she was the cause of them leaving.  They were most likely just passing by anyway, and would have left without her barking, but how can she know that?!  Continued repetition of this behavior can make it harder and harder to break the barking habit.

One of the best ways to reduce your dog's vocal reaction is to prevent it in the first place.  You can do this by not leaving blinds and doors open when you're not home to monitor Fifi's behavior. 

You can also practice an indoor (or in the yard) version of the "Look at That" game.  Stand with Fido at the window or door and the moment you see someone or something new, mark and reward him with a goodie BEFORE he barks. 

This takes practice and keen observation on your part, but it really works!  Remember, the key to this game is to mark (the verbal "Yes!' cue or a click from your clicker, or whatever you use for marking) Fido for LOOKING at the new object in his environment, but not for BARKING at it.  If he barks, you were too late with your cues, and he doesn't get the mark or his reward.

Practice this during relatively quiet times at first, and then gradually work up to 'rush hour' - when your neighborhood has lots of things going on.

Only practice for about 2 minutes at a time, and then close the blinds and doors for awhile to give your dog a 'brain break' - a rest from the mental stimulation of seeing new things outside and from training.

Whether your dog is barking more because of increased exposure with warm spring weather here, or he's always been a barker, hopefully these 2 tips help.

By eliminating the barking when you're not home, and by playing the "Look at That" game for 3 or 4 short sessions a day, you'll usually find that Fifi and Fido start to relax about all those things going on beyond the door, windows, or fence pretty quickly.

If you're having more extreme reactions, or trouble out on walks, check with us about our new 'Reactive Rover' classes!

That's it from this end of the leash...............

Jennifer Hime is the owner of Front Range K9 Academy and Horsetooth Whippets. She can be reached at www.k9counselor.com.