News: Guest Posts
Perhaps it's the other end of the leash
My friend Pat recounted a conversation in which two strangers told her that Aussies are untrainable. Funny, because her Aussie, Scout, has an impressive list of agility titles. They did not happen without training! I often get the same comments about Dalmatians, of which I have two. Are they easy to train? Not particularly. But if you enjoy creative problem solving and find the right guidance, you can train any dog. To what level depends on many variables, but if we're talking basic good manners in public, it's within the realm of possibility. Has anyone ever questioned your dog's trainability due to its breed?
Wellness: Health Care
When a good chew turns bad to the bone
An uncanny reason for a visit to the ER is when a playful pup manages to get one of those circular marrow bones caught around its lower jaw and canine teeth. I still remember my first patient that found himself in this very predicament; perplexed, I thought, “How is this even possible?” While it looks like a trick that only David Copperfield should be able to pull off, it can actually happen with surprising ease.
When it comes to marrow mishaps, I have seen the entire breadth of bone bad luck. While some are easily removed with lubrication and gentle manipulation alone, others need to be removed with a cast cutting saw (or other manly tool, depending on the thickness of the bone) while the pet is sedated. I have also seen dogs that have suffered from fractured canine teeth as well as extensive injury to their lower jaw and tongue. Tissue injury occurs when the circulation of blood is cut off to the skin and/or tongue while it is trapped within the bone. The marrow bone literally turns into a tourniquet with the continued and inevitable swelling of the tissues. Major or minor, any of these situations can be painful, distressing, and potentially very costly, depending on the extent of trauma and demeanor of your pet.
Your dog absolutely loves these bones and you love to give them, so what’s a pet parent to do? Here are a few tips to help prevent any misadventures:
As gratifying as these treats can be, one can still find a bone to pick with them because the serious complications happen just as often as the “simple ones.” The marrow of the story: know the risks and let your pet enjoy them only under direct supervision.
News: Guest Posts
Spend any time in a city and you’ve seen it—am older man rummaging through a trash can for bottles or his next meal, a young puppy playfully at his side, or a dirty teenager clothes held together with patches asking passerby’s for change with a dog curled up on a blanket near her feet. The site of a dog living on the streets with a person experiencing homelessness tugs at the heartstrings of many, even people who are normally made uncomfortable by the site of homeless folks, and wouldn’t give a second glance to someone in the same circumstance who wasn’t accompanied by a dog. There are an estimated 3.5 million people who experience homeless in the United States on an annual basis, and like every other segment of our population many of them are dog lovers, and many of them (an estimated 5-10%) share their lives with companion animals, the reality of which often leaves dog lovers concerned about the welfare of the dog.
Although Rhode Island is expected to pass the nations first Homeless Bill Of Rights, which will formally ban discrimination against homeless individuals and grant them equal access to jobs, housing and services, there is a national trend where many cities legislating discrimination against homeless residents by outlawing behaviors like eating, sleeping, and panhandling in public spaces. While San Francisco is one of those cities that has in recent years passed what are commonly referred to as sit/lie ordinances criminalizing the daily survival activities for homeless residents, starting August 1st, the city is breaking new ground by taking a friendlier and fuzzier approach at decreasing behaviors associated with homelessness—specifically panhandling. Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, or WOOF as it is being called is a new program, the first in the nation that is pairing homeless individuals with difficult to place dogs in the shelter system. The individuals will receive financial incentives ($50-75 per week) to care for the dogs instead of panhandling. They will also receive vet care, dog training classes, leashes, toys and food for the dogs in their care courtesy of Animal Care and Control.
Program participants will go through an intensive screening process by the San Francisco Animal Care and Control program to assess stability and appropriate fit for the program. Individuals cannot be street-homeless and must be residents of a supportive housing program. They will also need to prove that they do not have a history of violence, aren’t in substance abuse treatment, and are not severely mentally ill. Additionally, because the program is specifically aimed at stopping panhandling in the city, program participants must commit to not panhandle while participating, and if caught doing so they will be removed from the program and the puppy returned to the shelter. WOOF will give difficult to place dogs the chance to have one-on-one human contact and exposure to living in a home, while giving the homeless participants an opportunity to gain animal-related skills that may be transferable into the job market.
WOOF is the newest in a growing trend of social service providers who are recognizing the unique and powerful bond between people and dogs and pairing individuals who are experiencing homelessness with dogs in order to foster a mutually beneficial relationship. Outside In a leading homeless youths service provider in Portland Oregon runs the groundbreaking Virginia Woof Doggie Daycare facility, which now has two locations in the Portland area. Virginia Woof is more than another daycare option in Portland, it is a job training program that hires homeless youth, giving them dog training and work experience in the ever-growing doggie daycare industry.
Virginia Woof and now WOOF are two examples of great programs that are working to pair individuals experiencing homelessness with dogs with the intent to develop workplace skills, but there are also an increasing number of programs that are working directly with homeless people who are the guardians of companion animals. UC Davis Veterinary School runs the Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Homeless, a student operated organization that offers free medical care through a monthly clinic for the pets of homeless people in the community. Others, like the nonprofit organization Pets of The Homeless works to provide pet food and veterinary medical care to the pets of those experiencing homelessness across the country.
Many dog lovers struggle with understanding why someone who is homeless would choose to have a dog, but think for a moment about the important role dogs play in so many of our lives, the unconditional love and nonjudgmental companionship. For many homeless people who have been thrown away or abandoned by families and communities a relationship to a dog is the most important and secure relationship they have in their life. It is unfortunately often those same vital relationships that keep people street homeless instead of homeless shelters, as most shelters do not permit people to bring animals with them. Thus, many people unwilling to be separated from their dogs live in their cars, or on the streets in order to remain with their dogs. There are however an increasing number of drop-in centers, especially targeted at youth who allow clients to bring their well-behaved companion animals into the center and not forcing them to choose between access to needed social services and their beloved dogs.
As an advocate for both human and animal rights, I applaud the steps being made by WOOF and other programs to work proactively with homeless communities and dogs. I also look forward to the day when amongst dog lovers talking about programs and support for individuals experiencing homelessness receives as many smiles and as much support as talking about of homeless dogs on the streets and in shelters.
News: Karen B. London
Hair and fur can look alike
Walking out of the grocery store, I saw a car drive by and I wondered what kind of dog was in the back seat. Its coat was exquisite! I only caught a quick glimpse of it, but I was thinking maybe it was a Briard at first, but then I thought it looked more like a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, or even an Afghan Hound. I was hoping for a better look so I could know for certain, so I walked closer to where the car was now parked and realized immediately that my guesses were a little off. It was not a Briard, a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, or an Afghan Hound. In fact, it was not even a dog.
It was a person with dark blond hair who seemed a bit startled to see me staring intently at her. She looked at me uncertainly, and I stopped myself just in time from saying what was on my mind (“Oops, I thought you were a dog and I was curious what breed you were. My mistake.”) and managed to say instead, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else.” Her hair was so gorgeous that it looked like a beautiful coat of fur, but I thought trying to explain that to someone carried the risk of an awkward misunderstanding.
This is not the first time I’ve mistaken a person for a dog in a car. Whenever I see just a little bit of an individual through the window, I seem prone to this mistake. Recently permed gray or white hair have both had me thinking “Poodle!” at one time or another, and a woman with a rich henna tone to her hair once made me all excited that an Irish Setter might be moving in to the neighborhood only to have that hope dashed 30 seconds later when she got out of the back seat.
I guess I just see dogs everywhere because I want to see dogs everywhere. Have you ever mistaken a person for a dog or vice versa?
News: Guest Posts
Training either a pet or a working puppy should be a full time job, and with Ranger it sure feels like it!! Ranger is now four months old. He is a fairly confident and independent puppy by nature, and I continue to bring those qualities out in him in a controlled way to avoid any overly scary or traumatic experiences. Puppies up to about a year old are very malleable, and one scary experience can be a huge setback. I take Ranger to new places all the time, and he is allowed to meet new people (with treats in hand) and new dogs who I am sure are friendly. He is also exposed to new surfaces, terrain and challenges almost daily. Rather than assist Ranger when we come to an obstacle like a cattleguard on a farm, I walk off and allow him to independently figure out how to get to me on the other side.
Obedience is also a very important for the working dog. Obviously it is imperative that our dogs have some good foundation obedience such as recalls, down, stay, etc. Ranger and I were generously donated a six week puppy class by Puppy Love Training in College Station, TX. This has been a great class that focuses on positive reinforcement and clicker training. Training outside of familiar locations, around other dogs, and under distraction is incredibly important for Ranger to learn and get used to.
Besides our obedience class, Ranger and I train almost every week with our friends at CenTex Search and Rescue based in College Station, TX. Here we have a chance to learn from some great trainers and wonderful dogs who are trained to find either live people or cadavers. Ranger is obviously not going to be learning to do either one, however he gets to learn and experience so many useful things, including traveling and waiting in his crate, getting on a boat, and of course meeting lots of new people, dogs and even a horse! He must also acclimate to the Texas heat!
During these training sessions Ranger usually gets assessed to see how he is progressing. The main team members of the Search and Rescue group are very knowledgeable when it comes to puppies, and they look at all the attributes I described previously: confidence, independence and play drive. They usually ask me to play with Ranger for a few minutes to see how excited he gets about his toys and how determined he is to get his toy. Play drive is generally a “nature” type trait that dogs are born with or not. Certain breeds, and particularly certain bloodlines, may be predisposed to have a higher play drive than others. Obviously many of the hunting/retrieving breeds are one of the first places we look for these high drive dogs, but this trait can be found in other breeds and in mutts! CenTex Search and Rescue specializes in using Border Collies for example, and some people use only shelter and rescue dogs!
Drug dogs, bomb dogs and conservation dogs all work for one reason… because they are addicted to their toys and will work all day in difficult conditions to get their reward. A dog who will retrieve his ball twenty times in a row in the backyard might not have anything close to the drive and focus we require in our dogs.
Of course, just like with puppies raised to be Guide Dogs for the Blind, there is no guarantee that Ranger will have the rare combination of confidence, independence and drive that he will need to become a successful Conservation Dog. Temperament and personality traits depend on both “nature” AND “nurture.” If you want to read an interesting article about this check out this article about the “Fox Farm” experiments in Siberia. So far the little guy is doing pretty good, and we are just trying to make everything fun for him while he learns!
Until next time, feel free to visit us on our NEW website or on our Facebook page for regular updates on our training progress!! Dogs for Conservation has some other exciting news to share with you!
Training Videos from this month:
News: JoAnna Lou
The agility community bands together for a friend in need
Last week international agility competitor Elicia Calhoun and six of her dogs were headed home from a competition when tragedy struck. Elicia fell asleep at the wheel and hit an 18-wheeler truck, causing her SUV to roll over several times and her dogs to be ejected from the car.
Elicia was taken to the hospital but checked out early (with a punctured lung!) to look for her missing pups. Fortunately she had a lot of support helping her through this difficult time.
The agility community was amazing, organizing search groups, spreading the word on Facebook, and raising over $13,000 for Elicia. I heard many generous stories, such as people banding together to pay for a helicopter search, a Arizona couple flying their plane to look for the missing pups, and a group from Texas bringing horses to help in the rescue efforts.
The Facebook group that was created to aid in the search is now being used as a forum to talk about safe car restraints for pets, creating emergency information cards, and preventing drowsy driving. A lot of good will come out of this tragedy.
My crew rides in wire kennels, but thanks to this group, I’ve learned that the doors can pop open on impact and the dogs can be ejected. I’ve seen quite a few people say they bought sturdier crates or pet seatbelts after hearing about this accident.
Thankfully Elicia was conscious after the crash, but the situation sparked a discussion on having emergency information for each of your dogs. Some people have shared templates, but Bark Buckle Up also has a free Pet Safety Kit that features a decal pointing rescue workers to emergency cards in the glove compartment.
Finally, falling asleep at the wheel is something that could happen to any of us, particularly those who do a lot of early morning and late night driving to and from dog shows. The Live to Run Again web site has safety tips on preventing drowsy driving. They also organize a library of free books on tape at agility trials around the nation.
While the accident was tragic, it brought together a community and inspired many people to reevaluate the way they travel with their pets.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
This morning, as I watched my partially bald dog Dharma bask in the sun’s rays, I was reminded of the risks that the sun and heat can pose to our pups. It has prompted me to discuss a few sun tips to help keep our dogs safe- while still having fun- this summer season.
Despite all that fur, it’s important to be aware of the risks of sunburn in your pet. Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can easily sunburn, and this can be just as painful for your dog as it is to us. Limit your dog’s exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and apply sunblock to the ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside. Products available to protect dogs from sunburn include vests that block ultraviolet rays and pet-specific sunscreen made with ingredients repellent to dogs to keep them from licking it. If you are unsure that your sunscreen is pet-safe, double check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain zinc oxide (Desitin) or salicylates (aspirin); these can be toxic if licked off and ingested in large amounts. Stomach irritation can also occur if excessive amounts are ingested, so be careful about putting too much on in an area where they can lick it. If your dog has lupus or pemphigus (a condition that results in a crusty appearance to the nose), consult with a dermatologist before putting sunscreen on his or her nose or before letting outside.
While out at the beach, it is imperative to always have a fresh water source available and offer it frequently. If your dog gets thirsty, he may begin to drink the only available water, which is often salt water, and this can lead to toxicity. A few gulps of salt water won’t harm your dog, but watch for vomiting and early neurological signs of salt poisoning such as dullness and depression.
Scan the water and sand for jellyfish. Be aware of sea lice that can cause itchy red bumps on dogs. Salt can be irritating to paws and skin, too. Rinse salt water and sand from your dog’s coat after swimming. Always clean and dry ears after a swim. Water that remains in ears, especially from a dirty lake, can result in a bacterial ear infection.
Running on the sand is strenuous exercise, and this can easily lead to heat stroke. A dog that is out of shape can also easily pull a tendon or ligament, so keep a check on your dog’s activity. Hot sand (and pavement) can blister delicate pads that are new to these hot surfaces.
For dogs who enjoy the sport of boating, just like people, he or she should always wear a life jacket. Make sure that the life jacket fits properly and let your dog get used to having it on while swimming before going deeper into the water.
If you have a breed that is predisposed to eye problems (such as a Pug or Shepherd), you may want to consider Doggles to help protect their precious peepers.
And finally, never, ever leave a dog unattended in your vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures and we have already treated several cases of this in our hospital over the past 2 weeks!! You can read further about heatstroke (what and what NOT to do) here.
I hope these tips help keep your pets safe during these upcoming summer months!
Have a doggy sun-proofing idea? Please share!
News: Guest Posts
Takes a beating, but still beloved
I'm an interior designer's worst nightmare (isn't clutter just another word for "Victorian chic"?), but even my eye is offended by the yellow mustard sofa squatting in our house. To say it is distressed is to be kind. It has been chewed up, peed on, destuffed, and muddied. Yet the ugly dog couch lives on! I've repeatedly fantasized about being selected for "Extreme Makeover." Ty Pennington would leap into my living room with a single bound, and heroically hurl that thing to the curb. Yes, the dogs would be upset; at least I would no longer be the villain of this story. Of course, whenever garbage day arrives, it only takes one sleepy dog stretched across it to transform it into the cutest loveseat I've ever seen.
News: JoAnna Lou
Petition aims to get the word out about dangerous vehicles
Each year thousands of dogs die in hot cars, a tragedy that's easily preventable. When I travel to agility trials, sometimes I leave my crew in our SUV while I make a quick rest stop. I know not to do this in warm weather, but I didn't know until recently how fast cars can heat up even in more mild temperatures. On a 75 degree day, vehicles can heat up to 100 degrees in just 10 minutes. Scary stuff.
It's important to get the word out to avoid any more causalities.
A petition on Change.org is asking Subaru to create a commercial featuring the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars. The message would fit nicely with the car company's “Dog Tested, Dog Approved” advertising campaign. Getting this information out on television would reach millions of animal lovers and save countless lives.
People don't realize how fast their cars can become a lethal oven. Please spread the word so that dogs across the country will be safe this summer.
News: JoAnna Lou
Social media helps a dog in a peculiar situation
Social media web sites are often blamed for isolating people and changing the way we interact. But time and time again I've seen networks, like Facebook, rally people together for a common cause.
Last week Beth Gresham, an animal rescue volunteer in Tennessee, spotted a dog with his head stuck in a plastic container on the side of the road. When she tried to approach him, the scared pup ran back into the woods.
Beth wasn't able to get to the small spotted dog, but she posted a cell phone picture to Facebook soliciting help in capturing the pup in need. When Jess McClain, another animal rescue volunteer, saw the photo online, she put together a search party and set out to find the dog.
The next day, the rescuers found the pup, who they've since named Miracle, and used container cutters to set him free. Many pets are abandoned in the woods, but they're not sure if the container was placed on the his head intentionally or it got on accidentally. Either way, Miracle was lucky to run into Beth and have many people dedicated to finding him.
During the search, the rescue party also found another stray dog and it looks like both pups will find new homes.
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