Older Pets, Military Dogs and Pet "Smuggling"

Military Dog:
Post Traumatic Stress Hit Her Hard

Staff Sft. Melinda Miller works Gina on an obstacle course at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. By Ed Andrieski, AP

Humans might not be the only soldiers who get post traumatic stress syndrome. This story by the Associated Press makes the case that canine soldiers can also suffer from the crippling syndrome. I've also seen stories about search and rescue dogs who need recouping after a serious mission. Here's more on Gina from the AP story:

Gina was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide under furniture or in a corner to avoid people.

A military veterinarian diagnosed with her post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition that experts say can afflict dogs just like it does humans.

"She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs," said Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base. "She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road."

A year later, Gina is on the mend. Frequent walks among friendly people and a gradual reintroduction to the noises of military life have begun to overcome her fears, Haynes said.

Haynes describes her progress as "outstanding."

"Pretty fabulous, actually," added Staff Sgt. Melinda Miller, who's been Gina's handler since May. "She makes me look pretty good."

PTSD is well-documented among American servicemen and women returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its existence in animals is less clear-cut. Some veterinarians say animals do experience it, or a version of it.

"There is a condition in dogs which is almost precisely the same, if not precisely the same, as PTSD in humans," said Nicholas Dodman, head of the animal behavior program at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

But some veterinarians dislike applying the diagnosis to animals, thinking it demeans servicemen and women, Dodman said. He added that he means no offense to military personnel when he uses the term.

The military defines PTSD as a condition that develops after a life-threatening trauma. Victims suffer three types of experiences long afterward, even in a safe environment. They repeatedly re-experience the trauma in nightmares or vivid memories. They avoid situations or feelings that remind them of the event, and they feel keyed up all the time.

When Gina returned to Peterson last year after her six-month deployment in Iraq, she was no longer the "great little pup" Haynes remembered.

"She'd withdrawn from society as a whole," Haynes said.

Haynes, who has worked with more than 100 dogs in 12 years as a handler and kennel master, said he has seen other dogs rattled by trauma, but none as badly as Gina.

READERS: Eventually, Gina may be able to return to the kind of hazardous duty she did in Iraq. Her excellent trainers deserve kudos for recognizing her condition and trying to help her fight her way back.

Pit Bulls Rescue Colorado Chihuahua from Coyote
by Leslie Smith - DogTime.com

Pit Bulls are banned in Denver. So it’s a good thing Jodi Robinette and her Chihuahua mix, Buster, live outside the city in Littleton. Jodi and Buster were out early one morning last month when the little dog was seized by a coyote. Jodi describes hearing a blood-curdling scream and remembers seeing the coyote shaking Buster in his mouth as he ran off. But that’s all she recounts before she gets too choked up to talk.

As it is, Buster suffered serious wounds – a collapsed lung, deep lacerations, and other injuries requiring major surgery. But it could have been much, much worse.

Lucky for Buster, a neighbor’s Pit Bulls rushed to the scene. Not only did the dogs scare off the coyote, who subsequently released Buster, the Pit Bulls circled the wounded Chihuahua, protecting him from a return attack until Jodi arrived. Buster owes his life to those dogs.

I can relate to Buster -- I’ve been rescued by Pit Bulls too. Although not from coyotes. (Usually wily humans.)

7 Ways To Improve The Life Of Shelter
And Rescue Dogs
by Pet Advisor - MyDogSpace.com

We are supporters of rescue and shelter dogs. So here are some tips.

There are many dogs out there that are, for several reasons, left without a home and end up being displaced at a shelter. If you are thinking about helping these homeless dogs but aren’t sure what to do, the best way to improve the lives of shelter dogs is to adopt one.

Giving these dogs a good home is the most important thing that you can do. But if adopting a dog is just not an option right now, there are other things that you can do to better the lives of shelter dogs. Below are several suggestions to keep in mind.

1. Visit your local shelter and spend some time with the dogs. Donating some of your time to simply hang out and play with these canine residents can make a huge difference to their lives. Most of the time, shelter staff are very busy with their work and they do not have the extra time to interact with the dogs. Shelter employees can always use the help of others to come and play and socialize with their residence. They are more than happy to show you around and figure out what you can do to help out.

As a volunteer, you can take the dogs for a walk around the block, give them a little pampering by brushing their coats, or just be there and hang out with them. Shelter dogs get very little attention, and a short visit with them does a lot to improve their well-being.

2. You may volunteer to take these dogs to an obedience class that will better their chances for an adoption.

3. Take one day of the week to help wash and groom the dogs and then bring them to adoption fairs.

4. Sponsor a fund raising party and donate the cash to your local rescue organization. You may also ask for donations of items that you can bring to the shelter. These include blankets, food and treats, collars, leashes, toys, kennels, etc.

5. You may also volunteer to be a foster parent and keep the rescued dog at your house until he or she finds a permanent home.

6. Inform people about dog adoption and being a shelter volunteer by placing an ad in your local paper or putting up signs on bulletin boards and at dog parks.

7. And last but not the least, keep in mind that the best way to prevent shelter overcrowding is to spay or neuter your pets and to spread the word about the benefits of getting these house pets fixed.

Pet Travel News:
More Owners "Smuggling" Pets on Planes

As in-cabin pet travel fees rise, pet owners are finding themselves resorting to smuggling to keep costs down. A recent report from Christopher Elliott at the Seattle Times found that more pet owners have been caught sneaking their pets on planes as a way to avoid airline fees.

"When I asked why I had to pay a fee in order to stuff my dog under the seat in front of me, I was told it was their policy," [Boggs] said. "I concluded that it's really just a ploy to charge another fee." A lot of travelers have been arriving at the same conclusion lately, although exact numbers are difficult to come by. Instead of paying extra "pet fees" to hotels or airlines, they're spiriting their animal companions into their bags or under blankets in the hope of saving a few bucks. They also are bending the truth when it comes to their pets, said Ami Moore, a Chicago-based canine behaviorist. One wealthy client recently offered Moore $10,000 to "certify" her dog as a service animal, which would have given the animal a free ride.

What do you think? Have you ever smuggled your pet into a hotel? What about onto an airplane?

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Tips On Caring For An Aging Pet

(NAPSI)-As people age, their health care needs change. The same is true for their pets.

Many Americans already have firsthand knowledge of what it's like to care for an aging pet. According to a recent survey at the Global Pet Expo, over 69 million U.S. households have at least one pet, and about 75 percent of those have an older pet in the house.

To help your pet get the care it needs as it gets older, here are some tips to assist you as you work to maintain his or her health:

• See the vet--Because pets age faster than people, annual checkups are a good idea for younger pets. Once your dog or cat reaches midlife, around 7 years old, it's a good idea to check with your vet to see if more-frequent visits may be necessary. Regular checkups will allow your vet to establish a baseline for examinations and thus more easily identify changes and illness.

• Be a weight watcher--Obesity is the No. 1 problem in the pet population. Exercise, reducing treats and checking with your vet on appropriate portion size should help them shed extra pounds. Some pets may need to switch to a lower-calorie diet as well.

• A hidden concern--Along with doing a routine physical exam, encourage your veterinarian to check your pet's blood pressure. High blood pressure in dogs and cats can lead to blindness and strokes and is often a symptom of high thyroid levels in cats.

• Exercise--Exercise not only helps keep off extra pounds, it also helps you keep an eye on their mobility to help watch for early signs of arthritis. Dogs should get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. Use a toy and play with your cats often to keep them moving. Just like with humans, joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin ease some pain by helping heal cartilage damage. Cosequin® is the No. 1 veterinary-recommended over-the-counter supplement for both cats and dogs to help keep them moving.

• Digestion--Poor digestion is a common problem in aging pets. Adding more fiber to the diet can help them better absorb needed nutrients. Probiotics, such as those available in Proviable-DC, may also help normalize your pet's digestive health during times of stress, travel or with any changes in diet.

• Supplement their diet--Much like with humans, your pets may benefit from nutritional supplements designed to address specific needs. Omega-3 fatty acids help support normal heart rhythm, your pet's immune system and kidney function, and help keep their skin and coat looking their best. Dermaquin and Welactin for dogs and cats both provide healthy doses of omega-3 in a convenient administration form.

Founded in 1999, EntirelyPets offers nonprescription medications and supplies, providing high-quality, brand-name products at low prices. To learn more, visit EntirelyPets.com .

Dog Slobber May Hold Cancer Clues

Wet licks from your dog may hold more than affection. The DNA could lead to treatments for cancers in dogs and people, according to a news release from the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Van Andel Research Institute.

The organizations have created a program meant to discover more about cancer.

"Rare diseases in humans also show up in dogs. By studying the DNA of canines, we expect to more quickly discover the genomic causes of disease and more quickly find ways to better treat dogs and people," said Dr. Mark Neff, director of the new program.

The group said it will collect saliva, blood and tumor samples from many breeds of dogs.

Nearly half of all dogs who live past age 10 die from cancer, researchers said.

The work is supported by a two-year, $4.3 million federal grant to the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium. It also gets $1 million in grants from PetSmart and Hill's Pet Nutrition.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent said that it is difficult to study rare cancers in people, because there is insufficient data. But by studying similar types of cancers more prevalent in dogs, researchers should be better able to help those who currently have little hope.

"There's no question that you are doubly cursed if you get a rare cancer. You may have a very difficult disease course, and you have very little information about how to guide the physician, and what treatment would be best. For some of these rare cancers, we don't even have consensus on what the best treatments might be," Trent said.

The study will focus on sarcomas, those cancers that originate in the connective tissues such as bone, cartilage and fat.

Trent said the work is like the effort to learn everything about the human genome.

"The Human Genome Project provided a new playbook for biomedical research and patient care," Trent said. "As we begin to catalog the dog genome, we have the opportunity to really understand a number of the problems that afflict the dog, but also a number of possible health solutions for people."

No Sharing, Stoners:
Vet Says Pot Can Kill Your Dog
By Michael Roberts - Westword.com

​Recently, a dog scarfed down a batch of pot brownies her owner purchased at a local medical marijuana dispensary -- a seemingly humorous scenario that quickly proved to be no laughing matter.

The owner "had called all her friends, and at first, they thought it was funny," says Laura Higgins, an emergency veterinarian at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists in Longmont. "They thought the dog would be fine, even though chocolate is toxic for dogs -- that's another issue. But by the time the dog came to me, she was comatose, nearly dead."

Fortunately, the dog survived. But according to Higgins, this incident was hardly unique. She estimates that Aspen Meadow sees cases of cannabis ingestion by pets an average of once a month, and she thinks that rate may increase as medical marijuana becomes more prevalent in Colorado.

Weed toxicity most recently made headlines after a ten-month-old baby had to be hospitalized after eating some of her parents' pot edibles. But pets were left out of the equation until Higgins wrote an essay about the dangers of animals eating marijuana goods.

The cases Higgins has handled to date "have been purely accidental -- or at least no one has admitted any intended marijuana intoxications," she says. "I guess people don't want to share with their dogs."

After a laugh, she adds, "I suppose some goofballs might think it's funny. But honestly, I doubt that could happen."

A more serious problem, in Higgins' view, are people who don't immediately share the true reasons for pets' illness with medical personnel.

"We had a case where we induced vomiting in a pet, because its problems had been a really recent onset, and the dog threw up a lot of marijuana -- and the owner insisted that they honestly had no idea where it came from," she recalls. "I suppose there are some scenarios where that might happen, like maybe the dog finding some marijuana that had been lost in a park or something. But sometimes when they tell us they don't know, I think that's not true, and they're just afraid of getting in trouble."

Clients shouldn't worry about the last situation, she stresses.

"It's okay to admit it if you suspect that's what happened," she says. "There are some symptoms that may clue us in, and when we ask the owners, we may be able to draw it out. But sometimes we can't, and that just makes it harder to treat their pets. And we don't care about whether people use marijuana. If you want to tell me you have a license and you don't, that's fine. Whatever makes you comfortable. Because unless we suspect abuse, like intentionally feeding them this, we're under no obligation with the law and don't care what people do on their own time. We just want to take care of the animals the best way we can. So blame it on your roommate or your neighbor. Whatever it takes for you to say, 'I think my dog got into marijuana.'"

Dogs are the likeliest animals to do so. Although many cats like to chew on the leaves, Higgins hasn't treated any that became ill after gnawing marijuana plants from home grows.

As for the effects on dogs, she says, "The biggest things would be respiratory and cardiac issues and neurologic depression -- basically just slowing all functions down. Respiratory function can become so compromised that the dogs aren't breathing enough, and they would need to be put on a ventilator to support their breathing until they come around.

"We may also administer IV fluids to support their cardiovascular system, as well as trying to flush any toxins from their system. If they're alert when they come in, and we know what's going on, we may try to induce vomiting and trying to get rid of anything that may be in their stomach. And if they're having any heart-rate problems, we may monitor them with an EKG or treat them with medication to support their heart. And if they're vomiting on their own and have already emptied what they can, but the toxins have already been absorbed, we may give them something to treat the nausea and prevent them from becoming dehydrated."

The main symptoms pet owners are likely to see in cases of marijuana toxicity "are stumbling, loss of urinary control and vomiting -- and they can be pretty miserable," she points out. "We have no way of knowing what a dog senses in terms of how they're feeling mentally, but they come in pretty miserable. They don't appear to feel any sort of euphoria. It's all pretty much nausea and stumbling and an inability to get hold of themselves. They get pretty sick."

To date, none of the dogs treated for marijuana toxicity at Aspen Meadow have died, largely because the emergency personnel have been able to treat them in time. All of them have recovered well, Higgins says.

Still, the possibility of a fatality remains -- and perhaps even grows.

Debunking 7 Myths About Dog Nutrition

A 14-year study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA) reports that dogs that were fed in a manner that helped maintain their ideal body weight throughout their lives had a median lifespan of 1.8 years longer, and were considerably healthier than their littermates.

While making the connection between eating less and longevity isn't exactly a news flash, it is more solid proof that feeding our dogs the proper amount of a nutritious brand of food will help them lead healthier and longer lives.

But with so many dog-food options available, from raw and dehydrated to grain-free and single-source protein, what is the best diet for our canine companions? According to Mike Grant, the nutritional science director for SeniorPetProducts.com, several dog nutrition myths have been debunked in recent years. Here's the scoop:

1. A raw meat diet is best. Many people continue to believe that dogs require a diet of raw meat to be healthy. The fact is that today's domestic dog is no longer a true carnivore. This means that a diet of raw meat alone is no longer able to meet nutrient requirements. Today's dog does need a meat-based diet; however, small amounts of grains, like rice, oatmeal, pasta, vegetables, and fruits are a normal and a desirable part of good dog nutrition. It is also untrue that dogs can not digest cooked or processed protein. Dogs have no problem using the protein in cooked meat.

2. Raw eggs are a no-no. This issue continues to whip up some serious debate, even among experts (eggsperts?). The risk of salmonella poisoning is the primary concern that is raised, but becasue dogs have much shorter digestive tracks than humans, they and are far less susceptible to salmonella poisoning. Eggs are an excellent source of protein for dogs and the occasional addition of a raw or boiled egg to a dog's diet can actually be quite good for them.

3. Dairy products are unhealthy. Some dogs are lactose intolerant and may not be able to digest foods that contain high levels of lactose. Cottage cheese and yogurt are both low in lactose and can be excellent sources of calcium for dogs.

4. Fat is full of empty calories. In reality, fats are highly digestible and the main source of energy for dogs. One gram of fat provides 2.4 times the energy of one gram of protein or carbohydrates. Fat is also essential for the proper absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are two examples of low-saturated fats that are essential to maintaining a dog's good health.

5. Dogs cannot digest grains. There is some truth to this myth, but here is the science: a dog's digestive tract is less specialized for digesting grains and carbohydrates, especially in raw forms. Cooked starches and grains are much more digestible. It's also important to choose your grains wisely as some (rice) are easier for a dog's stomach to process than others (wheat and corn). Often times, grain that isn't absorbed simply becomes fiber, contributing to good intestinal health.

6. Commercial dog foods are bad. While there are commercial products that vary in ingredients and overall nutrition, research has shown that the quality of commercial dog foods is more than adequate to meet proper nutritional requirements for most if not all breeds of dogs. Most vets would recommend a commercial food over trying to make your own dog food at home.

7. Diet must be tailored to breed and age. A good diet for a dog is good throughout his entire lifespan. The only thing that will change is the amount of food and the kinds of supplements your dog needs. Puppies require more food than seniors. And seniors often need an extra boost of vitamins and minerals to replace vital nutrients that they have stopped making naturally due to the aging process.

As the dog of a pet blogger, The Doone (who is a VERY picky eater) gets to chow down on A LOT of different kinds of dog food. Here are her top three favorites to date:

•Great Life (grain-and-potato-free buffalo)

•Honest Kitchen Embark (grain-free turkey; this would be her #1 pick, but it tends to give her gas, which is a bummer for me.)

•Holistic Select (anchovy, sardine and salmon)

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Want The 4 Best Dog Training Ebooks
That Will Work For You?

Training our dogs to perform certain commands or tricks could be one of the most satisfying activities that we could do as dog owners. Think about how great it would be if your dog would sit at the drop of a hat? Just think about how nice and calm your home would be to have a dog that loves and obeys you. Life would be so great woudln't it? You'll never see your dog acting out of sorts, running around the house hyper and excited while not listening or obeying you. Consider those days done and now it's time to focus on getting your dog to be the most obedient dog ever. And they can with these dog training ebooks below.

If you have a canine that does not behave and have to have a dog training ebook which will help, I highly advise you take a look at the many options on this page.

Top Overall Dog Training Ebook:

The Secrets To Dog Training by: Daniel Stevens

Not only is The Secrets To Dog Training the most effective and powerful dog training ebook you can buy today, but it's also the most popular and featured on T.V. shows and radio programs alike. I really think you should consider buying this dog training ebook first before anything else because in all reality you probably won't be buying anything else simply because of the high quality of this particular dog training ebook. If you follow all the guidlines in this dog training ebook you will a changed person and you'll have a totally different dog in under 2 weeks.

Most beneficial Dog Training e-book For Active And Working Dog Owners:

Dog Training Online by Dove Cresswell

Dog Training Online by Dove Cresswell is the most perfect dog training ebook for people that don't have a lot of time to train their dogs and need results super fast. All you have to do is to go to this particular site, download the e-book to your computer, and follow the tips and guidelines in that e-book at your own pace. Zero commitments necessary. Getting your dog to love and obey you coudln't be easier because of all the incredible tips and advice that come with this dog training ebook.

Most effective Dog Training e-book For Canine owners Anxious By Potty Discipline:

The Complete Dog Potty Training In 7 Day Guide by Sharda Baker

If you are a dog owner that’s tired of seeing your dogs pooping and peeing at the wrong places, then this e-book will certainly help you out! You will see incredible results in one week or less as long as you stick to the powerful training strategies contained within this dog potty training ebook. Impressively fast, huh?

Most effective Dog Training e-book For Health-Conscious Dog owners:

The Dog Food Conspiracy by Andrew Lewis

You cannot ignore this ebook if you're at all concerned with how long your dog lives and how healthy they are. The information within will shock you to the core. Not only will you be shocked and appalled at what we're feeding our precious animals but you'll feel so blessed to learn this new information that will save your dog from the diseases of common domesticated dogs. Go to the link below to find out more.

Much like I talked about before, choosing dog obedience training online, might not be simple. There are a lot of canine training products out there which simply really don't live up to their hype. Those on this internet page definitely do.

When It Comes To Exercising Your Dog,
How Much Is Needed?
by Pet Advisor - MyDogSpace.com

I see many overweight dogs at the dog park. So even though you take your dog out – then still need some form of exercise.

In humans, the importance of exercise has been proven time and again. But what about our canine friends? Is it enough to just feed them properly and give them occasional walks? What are the benefits of exercise to dogs?

Studies as well as experience have shown that dogs who are getting adequate exercise are healthier and happier. They are also more social when they are in public places. When dogs are given regular exercise, they are more calm at home and are less restless when left alone. However, just like feeding, choosing the right amount of exercise for your dog should depend on several factors. These factors are age, size, and type of breed.

Age: Puppies require daily exercise for proper muscle development. Their high energy levels need to be released in some form of constructive activity, and giving them their daily exercise is the best way to do it. Not being able to release their pent-up energy can lead to destructive behavior such as chewing or digging. On the other hand, a mature, aging dog needs less exercise because of their lower energy levels.

Size: Large dogs do not necessarily need more exercise than small dogs. In fact, many large breeds like the Mastiff or Great Dane would rather relax and sit on the porch all day then go out for a 2 mile run. Nevertheless, they also need their daily exercise, perhaps one or two 30 minute walks everyday. On the other hand, many types of small breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier or Chihuahua still keep on going even after a three-mile walk.

Type Of Breed: Your dog’s breed is also a big factor on the amount of exercise required. For instance, dogs that were originally bred to herd such as the Australian Cattle Dog, Border Collie, and German Shepherd need to be exercise daily. Another example of a breed that requires daily exercise are those that were originally bred to hunt (hunting dogs). Examples of these dogs are the Beagle, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and German Hunt Terrier. And finally,sled dogs such as the Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and Alaskan malamute share the same high level of energy as the herding dogs and hunting dogs and therefore, need to be exercised on a regular basis.

Ask Dog Lady:
Time to Find a New Home for Unhappy Dog
By Monica Collins - GateHouse News Service

Dear Dog Lady,

My husband and I just had a baby. Naturally, Cody, the red Doberman we’ve had since he was six months old, has gone through some stress and changes. I also have four stepchildren who don’t live with us, but visit us.

Lately, I’ve been feeling very bad about Cody because the kids don’t take care of him or pay as much attention to him as they used to. The only way the dog gets fed or let out is when I do it (or when I yell). I have been threatening for three months now to get rid of Cody because he poops in the house, barks at nothing and wakes the baby up, and no one ever bathes him anymore until I complain long enough about it.

The poor thing must be miserable and feel unloved. I do love the dog but I feel that our home is not the best situation for him anymore. We both also work full time and are not home very often. My question: What are your thoughts about finding a better home for Cody?


Dear Jill,

Sometimes responsibility to the dog means giving up the dog. Cody deserves better.

You are wise to understand Cody is miserable. He poops in the house and barks. If he was a contented dog, he would not act out chaotically. Your dog must also be aware he’s become a burden in the household. Dogs keenly key in to the human moods around them.

Sit down calmly with your family, including Cody, and talk about your concern and your instinct to find the dog a safer home – not a better home, nor a happier home, but a safer home where Cody can feel some measure of tranquility beyond the yelling. Find no fault. Assign no blame. Nobody’s guilty here. Life happens.

Giving up a dog you’ve had since puppyhood will be traumatic if you don’t handle in the best way possible. Make it a family project to find your Doberman a more attentive home. On the Internet, search out local Doberman rescue organizations. Breed rescue groups work wonders in finding new homes for dogs. Also, visit your local shelter and ask questions. Don’t sell or give away your dog to strangers. Be conscientious and send Cody off with peace and loving wishes for him to land on his own four feet.

Dear Dog Lady,

I noticed in your last column you recommended an amusing rubber dog toy shaped like a tongue and some biodegradable bags to pick up poop. Does this mean you’re becoming more commercial?


Dear Doug,

The two previously recommended products are simple and harmless enough to be enjoyed by every dog and owner -- although Dog Lady’s own dog turned up his nose at the rubber toy, the Humunga Tongue, because he favors plush squeaky toys. And the BioBags are good for the planet. Dog Lady paid for both of the products with her hard earned fi-dough. Doting dog devotees love to swap tips about treats, toys, or accoutrements. Dog Lady is not immune to sharing.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her Web site is www.askdoglady.com. Contact her at askdoglady@gmail.com.

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Toys for Your Pet Bird

Imagine what it is like living in a cage? Chances are, you will feel bored after just a few minutes so you can probably understand how your pet bird feels like being locked the whole day. That is why to prevent them from doing anything harmful to themselves, you should know how to choose the right toys for them.

When looking for a toy, make sure that this is the right size for your bird. Small toys are not good for large birds because they could break this, swallow and choke on it.

One safe toy for both small and big birds is the swing. This will allow them to sway back and forth to pass the time.

If you want to give your bird some exercise, it will be nice to put a ladder which will enable them to climb up or down.

Large birds like to play with puzzles and mazes. As an added incentive, see to it that there are nuts inside which they can get as a reward for being able to finish the game.

Let’s say your bird loves to pluck its feathers. As this can be harmful to them therefore preened toys are the best to give them. Preened toys are made mostly by cotton fabric. The downside to using this is that type of toy is that it will eventually fray due to wear and tear.

When this happens, remove it immediately and have it replaced with a new one because the threads could tangle around their neck or toe.

An option to the preened toy made of cotton is the one made from feathers that are considered to be safer since loose threads will never happen.

Other toys you can give your pet bird include children’s wooden blocks, paper towel tubes and tongue depressors.

If one or two of the toys interest you and having more is better than having one or two around, you can create a play gym for your pet bird by buying several of these, putting it together and placing this inside their cage.

You should just be sure there is sufficient room so the bird can rest and do some other stuff when they don’t feel like playing.

Now that we know what toys are nice for the bird, it is important to know what toys are not safe for birds. These include mirrors or anything that has a reflective surface because this may make the bird bond to its own reflection thus no longer being tame and friendly to people.

Toys with small parts should never be given because they could swallow it and there could be fatal consequences. It should also not have any bells or split rings.

Your pet bird needs time to unwind and providing them with toys is one way to keep them from bring unhappy and bored especially when you are not around to be with them.

Most of these toys can be purchased from the toy store or grocery so will not have a hard time finding a few things to keep them busy until you get home. If you want toys exclusive for pet birds, try looking online and in other specialty stores. The solidly built toys are the best to give them.

Pet Manners:
I Have a Cat and Would Like to Get
a New Pet. How Do We Introduce Them?
By Calgary Humane Society, Calgary Herald

Q: We’d really like to bring another pet into our house and we already have one cat. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the introduction easier?

A: Adopting a new pet to live with a pre-existing pet is similar to playing the match maker. You may get lucky; the chemistry might be perfect and the animals may take very little time to adjust to one another. However, some relationships may not have such a smooth start, with differing personalities potentially causing friction in the home and stress for all who reside there. If given the proper chance to slowly acclimate to one another, relationships between newly introduced pets can blossom, but if forced too quickly, they can take an unhappy turn.

Cats, even more so than dogs, are quite sensitive to changes in their environment. Just moving the location of a kitty’s litter box has the potential to throw their routine out of balance and cause house soiling accidents. Moving a new pet into the home, especially an un-caged animal, such as a dog or another cat, can be quite a shock and can potentially create a negative experience for all involved if not proactively managed.

The ideal introduction between your new pet and your cat would be a slow one that is calm and positive. Take the time to set up your house prior to bringing in your new pet, ensure that the people managing introductions stay calm throughout the process and that animals are rewarded for being calm in the presence of one another.

If your new pet is another cat, then they should initially be confined to a room while your old cat is allowed to roam the house as usual. However, if your new pet is a dog, they will require more space and exercise, so confining your old cat to a room will give him a safe oasis while you begin to establish a routine with your new canine companion.

Ensure that the room you set up for your cat has all the kitty comforts such as food, water, a litter box and cat scratching post. Use Feliway spray or diffusers to help your cat feel calm in his room, as well as other areas of the home as the introduction continues. Feliway is a cat pheromone spray that can help control stress and anxiety, along with a number of stress related feline behaviours.

Once you have a safe space management system in place, you can start scent swapping items between your old and new pets. Take your old cat’s bed and place it in the room with your new pet and vice versa. Take your cat out of the room and safely put him in another room while you let your new pet in to investigate. Allowing your pets to experience one another’s presence without physically being in the same room, is a great way to maintain a slow, calm and positive acclimation process.

This process of scent swapping and letting the pets explore one another’s environment without meeting face to face, will vary in the time it takes before pets are ready to be introduced. Take note of how your pet is feeling by watching simple signs in their behaviour, such as; is your pet eating regularly? Do they seem outwardly stressed when smelling items or areas that the other animal has inhabited? Are they fixated or hyperactive around the areas where the other animal is housed? If they are displaying any of these signals, then you should wait to do an official introduction and continue to create positive and calm experiences around the other animal’s scent.

Once both pets appear to be calm and relaxed then it may be ok to start a slow introduction. Introducing them across a barrier, such as a baby gate, or screen door is a safe way to start the process. Reward both animals for calm behaviour in the physical presence of the other.

Conducting the introduction at a comfortable pace for your animals and ensuring that they are never punished in the presence of one another or forced to “say hello”, will give your pets the best chance at establishing a peaceful and happy relationship for many years to come.

Q: How do I get my dog Fergus to stop barking at people walking past our house or backyard?
A: Have you ever seen someone singing in the car as they idle beside you at a stop light? Why do they do it? They probably aren’t growing a fan base or receiving audience admiration and I would bet they are not getting paid for their operatic efforts; in fact, most often they are completely alone in the vehicle. The reason the person is singing in the car is quite simply because they like it. They don’t need extra outside incentive to take part in the behaviour; it’s a rewarding routine all on its own.

In training, we call this a ‘self reinforcing behaviour’ and these can be some of the most difficult behaviours to combat. When your dog Fergus barks at people passing the house or the yard, I can bet he doesn’t continue to do it because you praise him or give him a cookie for his effort, in fact, you are probably sharply telling him to cut it out! Fergus is barking because it is self reinforcing. This could be due to the fact that he simply gets excited and enjoys barking at the world outside or it could be because it upsets him to have strange people near his house and he feels better warning them away. This can also become a superstitious behaviour for some dogs as people will continue to walk away from the house when he barks at them, he may begin to associate his barking with getting people to leave. Though as we know, this is more to do with the fact that the people were passing by your house regardless of his vocal efforts.

Since it is a self reinforcing behaviour it is very difficult to control when you are not at home to interrupt the unwanted behaviour and reinforce a more appropriate one. In this case ideas for management of the situation should be looked at. Blocking areas that offer view to the outside world, or simply placing visual blocks over windows or slat fencing is a great way to take away the opportunity for your dog to practice the behaviour. Kenneling is also a great management tool for keeping your dog safe and calm when you are not at home.

When you are at home, you can begin to train more pleasing behaviours that are incompatible to the behaviour of barking at the window. Just as you cannot ask a person to stay sitting on the floor and do jumping jacks at the same time, your dog cannot go to his bed in the living room and lie down, while barking at the window at the same time. Training a really well solidified “go to your bed” cue, will ensure that you can break the dog’s fixation from the window and redirect him to a more appropriate behaviour.

Remember that sending your dog to his bed or his kennel should never be a punishment, meaning it should never be something that the dog associates with negative or frightening experiences. However, it can be a tool for management and a time-out zone for over aroused pups. If your dog is barking at the window, then happily ask him to go to his bed and reward him for doing so. Give him squeaky toys or chew bones to help direct his arousal on to more appropriate items. If this routine is a consistent and positive one, your dog will start to learn that when he barks once or twice and then goes to his bed, he will receive a reward. This is an ideal system as I’m sure we all appreciate being alerted to people near our home, but would also like our dogs to settle down shortly thereafter.

Training in the backyard will follow a similar routine. Allow Fergus to bark once or twice and then call him in to his bed for a cookie. If he will not come, then clip a long line on to his collar before sending him out, and then when you call him you can coax him back to you using the line. Once your dog learns this routine you should notice that he will bark once or twice and then beat you to the back door as he waits to come inside.

If your dog is barking out of boredom and uses people watching as a hobby, it may be a good idea to consider alternate ways to stimulate his mind. Use interactive toys such as Kongs, Canine Genius Toys, Puzzle Toys, and Tug-a-Jugs, to give Fergus a more interesting job in the home apart from barking at people passing by. Safe chew toys can also be a great way to focus your dog’s excess energy. For more information on these and other toys, visit our Pet Gear Store located at 4455 110 Ave SE.

Q: My dog doesn’t like to share his toys or his food and I’m concerned that he may react badly if my child tries to take it away.

A: Eighty per cent of dogs guard things of value to them in one way or another; it is a natural behaviour carried out by most community-oriented species for the sake of survival and sometimes simply for the sake of personal pleasure. Young children vibrantly illustrate this principle, as most have great difficulty initially understanding the concept of sharing. They snatch things away from one another and guard their favorite lunch items or toys from other children in the home, in daycare, or at school.

Our dogs are not guarding food or toys to be disrespectful or to display their dominance over someone else. They are simply trying to maintain possession of something that they consider to be of value. In the animal training community, we call this “resource guarding.”

The most common resource guarding issue can be demonstrated by two dogs being fed at the same time. One dog will guard her food from other dog by displaying warning signals, such as lip lifting and growling, to keep the other dog away from her dish. Her desire for uninterrupted eating is understandable and easily managed simply by separating the dogs during feeding time. For example, one is fed in the kitchen, while the other eats in the living room.

The same principle goes with children and dogs. Dogs that have never had guarding issues around people may actually develop resource guarding if children are not taught to be respectful of the dog’s space, toys and food. Resource guarding behaviour can worsen if the situation isn’t proactively managed by parents.

An important point to remember; just as you do not let your dog jump into your baby’s crib and snatch away their soother, neither should your child be allowed to crawl onto your dog’s bed or into their kennel and snatch away their toys. Your dog guarding the things that he cares about (personal space, toys or food) from your child, has less to do with dominance over your child, and more to do with your dog protecting what he values.

It is important to educate children about boundaries when it comes to pets. Dogs should have their own space that is sacred to them, a kennel or x-pen makes a great barrier to keep kids and dogs separate. Children should never be allowed to enter these areas for the comfort and protection of both. The dog should also have a few toys that he knows are his and the child knows to leave alone. If the dog has a more serious guarding issue, then these toys should only be given to him when he is contained and when the child is not present.

To learn more about working with dogs and children and how to avoid resource guarding issues, you can attend the Old Pet New Baby course offered at the Calgary Humane Society. It is a one-night seminar offered monthly that will teach pet owners who are expecting (or already have young children) how to ensure that the animal/child relationship becomes a positive one. If there are pre-existing guarding issues, the Calgary Humane Society also offers instruction in developing proper skills for trading objects and releasing items that they are holding or guarding. You can find more detailed information on how to work with resource guarding by contacting the Behaviour Helpline at the Calgary Humane Society 403-723-6057.

Q: I love my couch, and so does my cat. How do I teach her to not scratch it?

A: Scratching is a natural and healthy feline behaviour. As a matter of hygiene, scratching helps wear down claws and removes the dead outer layers. Scratching also helps our cats stretch their bodies and feet, as well as expend energy. Lastly, scratching is a way that cats scent mark their territory, through the scent glands in their paws.

At times, the items that our kitties choose to scratch can create damage to prized property and frustration in the cat-owner relationship. So how can we encourage our cats to avoid shredding our suede sofas and new carpeting?

The first step is to ensure that your cat is provided with an appropriate outlet for scratching. Pet product companies have come up with a plethora of options to appease your cat’s scratching desires; all the way from small replaceable corrugated cardboard scratch pads, to elaborate tall cat trees with hiding holes throughout and toys hanging from perches.

Posts can be made of many materials, with some cats preferring certain textures over others; even natural logs can provide a preferred scratching surface for your finicky feline. Offering your cat multiple scratching apparatuses around the house will ensure that kitty has a convenient scratching outlet in all his most frequented areas.

If your cat is showing little interest in their cat scratch post or scratch pads, try making it more appealing to them with some of their favorite treats, or a pinch of smelly cat attracting favorites such as honeysuckle or catnip. Placing toys on or around their scratching posts should also help draw kitty’s attention to the area.

If your feline is persistent at scratching particular undesirable areas in the house, such as the corner of one couch, or a particular section of carpet, try deterring him from those areas by covering it with an unappealing surface such as tinfoil, or plastic carpet runner. Tinfoil, though not the most esthetically pleasing to the human eye, is cost efficient, easy to apply, and an effective method to deter cats from the areas you wish to preserve.

Aversive smells, such as citronella, can also be applied to certain objects to help motivate kitty to avoid that surface. Move the appropriate objects that you would like your cat to scratch, nearer to the objects that you would like him to ignore. This will provide an appropriate alternative, nearer to his habitually visited locations.

For cats that take to scratching numerous surfaces around the house, tinfoil may not be the best option. Soft paws are a great alternative that will protect all the inanimate surfaces, and even the people in the home, from feeling the full effect of your cat’s claws. Soft paws are small vinyl nail covers that are glued over your cat’s natural claw. The vinyl nail will shed with the sheath, so they will need to be reapplied every so often.

Remembering to regularly clip your cat’s nails will also help keep claws from snagging on carpet and other fabrics.

Cats who are scratching as a method of scent marking, or as an anxiety/energy expending behaviour, may find solace in Feliway cat pheromone spray. It can be a very effective tool in helping calm kitty down and drastically reduce the unwanted scratching behaviour. You can acquire Feliway at your local veterinary office.

Finally, if you’re cat persists in clawing one particular area, you can try using a product called SSSCAT. SSSCAT is an aerosol can with a motion detector that will detect the cat’s motion towards the forbidden area and emit a spray. Once this has occurred a few times, the cat should start avoiding the unwanted scratching areas.

Q: I have a large breed dog and it doesn’t take much for him to be able to counter surf. How do I teach him to stay off the counters even when I’m not home?

A: Rover may be trained to stay off the counter when you are at home but what he does when you are not around may be entirely different. When you are gone, you can no longer determine what behaviour your dog is reinforced for. Instead, Rover has the opportunity to decide this for himself; this is what we refer to as “self-reinforcing” behaviours.

Self-reinforcing behaviours are behaviours that the dog finds rewarding, that he can provide for himself. For example, a dog jumping up to counter-surf rewards himself with one of your freshly baked muffins. Such a delicious reward reinforces the behaviour of counter-surfing.

Rover had two choices in his mind; he could jump on the counter, or not jump on the counter. Not jumping on the counter guarantees he will not find a tasty treat, while jumping on the counter offers the opportunity of a jackpot. Like people playing the slots, the possibility of a huge pay-off is too tempting to pass up.

Be clear that punishing Rover when you come home will not be helpful, nor support effective training. If he’s jumped up on the counter and not found anything, then you won’t know about it when you return anyways. If he’s jumped up and consumed something noticeable to you and you decide to punish him for it, it does not punish the deed past, but at best, teaches the dog to fear you in the kitchen.

While the dog may act what we think of as “guilty” with a dropping tale and cowering body, he in fact is not thinking of how wrong he was to counter-surf. In fact, dogs are amazing readers of body language. From your voice tone and body posture, he can see you are angry about something, and in his own doggy way, he is trying to appease your anger.

We need to understand the world from the dog’s perspective. Our dogs are not defying us by jumping on the counters, nor are they trying to hide their undesirable behaviour by committing the act when you are away. Simply, they are going about their day, trying to make it as great a day as they can. Your freshly baked comfort food left open on the counter offers a great option. In understanding this, you can work with your dogs by creating boundaries and reinforcing Rover for keeping his paws off the counters when you are home, and by limiting his access to forbidden areas when you are away.

The best way to prevent counter surfing when you are not home is to make sure that all food items are off the counters and/or block your dog’s access to the kitchen. Containing your dog to a room or crate while you are away is a great tool to ensure both his safety and comfort and your peace of mind.

Find appropriate and safe toys you can leave with your dog to stimulate and entertain him while you are away, so he does not become bored in his room or crate. Baby gates are another safe way to block doorways into the kitchen when you are not at home. Ultimately, creating an environment where your dog is not given the opportunity to counter-surf is the only guaranteed way to ensure that the behaviour does not occur while you are gone.

Q: My cat Flicker has always been great at using the litter box, but lately she has started peeing in the basement and in one corner of the living room. How can I get her back to using the box again?

A: Cats: the fractious feline friends to humans, known for embodying qualities of beauty, grace and intelligence, while coupled undeniably with an unabashed side of independent pride. These qualities make them both irresistible, yet at times baffling, companions for people.

On the one hand, cats come with so many wonderful qualities already predisposed within their very feline nature. You do not need to usually “house train” a cat, rather, if you simply provide your cat with a litter box or two, they should choose to go there of their own accord. Pet parents with young puppies only wish it were so easy!

On the other hand, when kitty decides, for one reason or another, to go against the grain and begin house soiling, it can offer more of a challenge to get her back on track then one might like.

So, what is the best way to get your cat back to using the box? First, let’s look at the possible reasons as to why Flicker might have started house soiling. Has anything, even something seemingly insignificant, changed in her environment? This could mean something as noticeable as moving from one house to another or introducing a new family member or pet, all the way to something as subtle as changing the litter box location or type of litter used, or having family friends stay over for a few days. Our fickle feline friends can be extremely sensitive to their environment and sometimes the slightest disruption can throw off their routine.

Other possible reasons for Flicker’s sudden change in bathroom behaviours, could be a medical issue, such as a urinary tract infection. If you notice a sudden change in your feline’s elimination routine, especially one that is out of character for your cat, calling your vet is a responsible first step. If you’re vet has given your cat a clean bill of health, then it is time to start analyzing and adjusting her environment at home.

Has anything about Flicker’s bathroom arrangements changed? Have you possibly acquired a new type of litter box recently, perhaps one with a hood? Though we may feel we are offering kitty a more private and appealing oasis with a covered box, often cats are actually detracted from using boxes with hoods, as these can be difficult to move in and displeasing to her feline olfactory senses if not cleaned at least daily.

Though Flicker clearly loves you, she is also a feline accustomed to, and demanding of, the highest level of care and consideration, and as you can see there are many factors that could cause Flicker to become less inclined to use her box properly.

So how can you help her get back to her box and avoid these issues arising in the future? First, ensure that all accident areas outside of the box are thoroughly cleaned with an enzymatic pet elimination clean-up product. Other cleaners often just cover up the smell to the human nose, but do not actually eliminate biological enzymes that may lead the animal to use that spot again.

As a backup precaution, you can also cover the area in tinfoil, a surface that is displeasing to most felines and should detract Flicker from going in that area.

Analyze the type of litter box that you are using and the location in which it is placed. Often it is best to have more than one box, in fact, we suggest keeping one more box than the number of cats in the home. This will ensure that no kitty is able to guard the box from the other. But, even if Flicker lives alone, we still suggest that she has least two boxes at her disposal.

Finally, boxes should ideally be kept in clean and quiet areas. Many people are inclined to place litter boxes in laundry rooms or furnace rooms, unaware that the unpredictable, loud, and potentially frightening sounds, can actually condition their feline to avoid utilizing the proper potty place.

Once she has started using the basement or the living room corner, she may just consider these a backup bathroom option, a kitty outhouse if you will. She would much rather use her proper feline bathroom and it’s up to you to help her feel upmost comfort in doing so.

Q: I was really hoping to have a nice yard this year but my dog is already digging it up and making a mess. How do I manage to have a happy dog and a beautiful yard?

A: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. You wake up, stretch, and put your dog Max outside in the backyard for his morning relief. You slowly make your coffee, grab a bagel, and sit down at the kitchen table to lovingly watch your canine companion frolic in your pristine yard. Sadly, the bliss ends there. You watch in horror as Max furiously digs at the base of your new fence and chews the boards when his paws need a break. You patched his previous digging expeditions just the day before and your friend helped you put up new boards on the fence. How could he do such a thing!? You’ve yelled, brought him inside and lectured all the while, he always looks so guilty, he must know its wrong!

Aggravatingly, this is a frustration that many canine owners deal with on a daily basis. If Max isn’t chewing your shoes, he’s at the baseboards, or ripping the fluff from the couch, digging up your garden, or demolishing your fence. But let’s look at the life of Max. He’s in his prime, he has a lot of drive to work, an incredible amount of energy, and a load of intelligence; he was bred for his courage and stamina. With all of this potential, what is Max’s job? He gets up in the morning for a run in the yard, some breakfast and a few hugs, and then he waits. He waits for his family to come home. Eight hours pass and a few people come home, Max gets to run in the backyard again, maybe go for a walk, then he has dinner and sits while his people watch TV, visit with friends, or play on the computer. What does Max have to work for? What stimulates his mind? His food comes in a dish placed before him, his walks are leisurely, and circles in the backyard are only so entertaining, so he has done what any brilliant yet bored mind might do. Max has become an entrepreneur of sorts and created his own job. Max has taken up landscaping.

Being the discerning land owner you are, you don’t appreciate Max’s sloppy landscaping work, so you tell him “NO!” every time you catch him. But what does “no” mean? Does it mean “no” don’t landscape at 3pm in the afternoon? Then Max will landscape in the morning instead. Does it mean “no” don’t dig in the far right corner? Ok, well Max will try to accommodate and dig along the back fence instead. His guilty look comes from the worry that his master is upset, but he can’t fathom why, after all, he is trying to be so accommodating.

Does this problem sound familiar to you? The solution is this; Max needs a job. “No” is not a job, “no” is not even a behaviour, he can’t do “no.” So he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and return to old habits when he’s lost creativity. Since you know that Max has a passion for landscaping, instead of fighting his dreams, encourage him, but teach him how to do his job appropriately. Come up with ideas for him and instead of telling him “no”, show him what he can do.

• Make a digging patch for Max to explore his excavation dreams; bury his bones, treats, and favorite toys in tilled dirt for Max to find again.

• If you don’t own your home, then acquire a kiddie pool and create a portable dig site instead.

• Get interactive feeding toys, stuff them with goodies and hide them in the yard, by a rock, in the grass, etc.

Make a game out of creating a backyard wonderland for Max, where every day in the yard is like a new Easter egg hunt. Make the toys easily accessible at first and then, as Max becomes more efficient, you can become more tactful in where you hide the treasure. Now Max has a job, one that you can praise him for and that he can feel proud of at the end of a long days work. Max doesn’t have to know that it was all a set up for him, he’ll feel like his budding landscaping business is a thriving success and you can smile as you watch him with your coffee in the morning, busy at work and leaving your fence and new turf in peace.

Q: Now that the weather is nicer, my cat keeps trying to make a break for the door. How can I keep her in?

A: During springtime with those freshly opened windows your cat is catching the smell of adventure in the air. The scents she smells are triggering her instincts to go out and explore, but however alluring the outside is, Calgary bylaws do not allow cats to roam, and for good reason. Roaming the neighborhood, your cat is at high risk of being hit by a car, getting lost, or falling victim to urban coyotes. But don’t worry - we have some tantalizing tactics to keep her entertained inside the safety of your home.

•Bring the outside, inside! Adding dirt to her litterbox will bring the smells and textures of the open world right into her own box. This often will help with cats who have trouble focusing on using only their litterbox, or who may begin spraying during this time of year. So bring the outside, inside! Adding dirt to her litterbox will bring the smells and textures of the open world right into
her own box. This often will help with cats who have trouble focusing on using only their litterbox, or who may begin spraying during this time of year.

•Find a nice log for her to sink her claws into. Offering up a natural scratching post will bring new texture and stress-relief while saving your couches and carpets at the same time.

•Hang a bird feeder outside your window and offer a comfy viewing spot for your kitty. This will provide hours of entertainment and stimulation for your kitty within the safety of your own home. You may notice her chattering at the birds, her tail twitching and her pupils fully dilated, these are all signs that she is very focused on the bird watching and may not welcome pets from you at that time.

•Using toys to engage your kitty in a game of chase can help burn off those spring-time feline friskies. Find toys that offer stimulating movement such as the Laser Chase Toy or Feather Teasers found at the Calgary Humane Society Pet Gear Store.

•If your kitty is still bouncing off walls and trying to dart out the doors, you can try offering her honeysuckle treats and toys. For many cats, honeysuckle will actually act as a calming agent, compared to cat nip.

•Another option to help calm your kitty is to use a product like a Feliway diffuser. This diffuser plugs into an outlet and works much like a Glade Plug-in would for you. Rather than fruit or flowery smells, it slowly emits a feline pheromone which calms your kitty down.

•Steer your cat away from doors leading outside by dabbing oil of citronella or wintergreen around the area. These smells are unpleasant to cats and will encourage them from hanging around doorways. Upside-down carpet runners can also be used on the floor to discourage walking in that area. Cats don’t like the feel of these on their paws.

Q: How do I get my dog to come when called?

A: Recall skills are essential for any dog owner and are often the hardest skills to master due to many factors including the everyday use of the word “come.”

Recall starts before words are even used. The dog needs to know that paying attention to you pays, and pays big. Start with a high-reward system in a home environment for the simple behaviour of the dog looking at you. When you notice them looking at you, immediately mark the behaviour by saying “yes” or using a clicker and then give them a treat. Breaking treats into small pieces, purchasing ones that are already in small portions, or using their kibble will allow you to give multiple treats without overdoing the calories.

This first step will take about two weeks of 50 – 100 times per day, or as many times per day as you can manage. You can introduce their name into the mix so that when they look at you, say their name, mark the behaviour (“Yes!” or click) and treat. This process will lead to them looking to you whenever you say their name, which is important in a multi-dog environment such as a park.

Set your dog up for success and look for opportunities to reward them; if they are looking at you when you are about to feed them, say their name, say “yes!” and give them their food, or find other such instances where they are looking at you and reward. If they are following you around the kitchen, or down a hallway, you can start introducing the cue word for “come” and associate this with a reward.

We highly recommend choosing a word for recall that is not used in a common fashion, particularly one that has not already been in partial use for asking them to come to you. “Come” is often overused and associated with other less desirable behaviours. Other words can be “here,” “hurry,” “scramble,” or whatever you choose. This will help the dog much more quickly associate the cue word, and the behaviour with a positive consequence.

Once you’ve established the connection between their name, attention and recall in simple situations, take it to the next level by working on these skills in your backyard, front yard, then on leash walks. Repetition and quick reactions are key.

The next step is to expand to a long line and a quiet park. The long line will allow you to go to environments that have greater distractions, but allow you to control the outcome.

Another great tactic to work on in your backyard with a friend is restrained recalls. Have a friend hold your dog in one place in your backyard, show your dog the treat, run away from your dog (increasing the distance each time), turn around, call their name and your cue word for recall while having your friend release them. When they run over to you, make a big deal about it with lots of treats and praise. If they don’t immediately come to you, have your friend get the dog and repeat with a more valuable “treat.” The object of this game is to get as many fast, fun recalls into a short period of time. Again, repetition helps to solidify this skill.

The key to successful recall skills is for the dog to know that recall pays big every time and that you practice in situations where your dog will be successful, gradually working up to incorporating more complicated situations. Be aware of what your dog finds rewarding; for some it is food all the way, for others a squeaky toy or ball is a higher reward than a treat.

Reliable recall in complex situations and environments takes time and dedication to perfect. Have fun working with your dog and enjoy the fruits of your labor when that time comes where you need to be able to get your dog’s attention and direct them from a distance!

Q: I’m new to owning a dog and wondered if there are general guidelines for off-leash park etiquette?

A: A successful, safe visit to the park depends on the answers to many questions. Is your dog comfortable with dogs of all sizes running up to them, chasing them, or wrestling with them? Are they okay with having their ball, or toy stolen? Will they come when you call them back to you? Is your small dog able to deal comfortably with larger dogs coming up to him? Is your dog okay with other dogs coming up to you for “their” treats? Do you have a puppy who hasn’t had its full set of vaccines?

If you’ve answered NO to any of these questions, we strongly suggest you and your pooch get some training before heading to the park, or even reconsider if the park is right for your dog. Off-leash parks are a privilege for many owners, but they are not right for all dogs.

For example, a dog’s recall skills are challenged in an environment as exciting as an off-leash park. Many dogs have become lost while at an off-leash park. Ensuring your dog will respond will help to keep him safe. (Check out next-week’s Minding Manners for tips on developing recall skills).

For a number of reasons, while at the park be aware of where your dog is and what they are doing at all times. For example, to keep the park cleaner, you need to be attentive of where your dog has done his business.

Also be aware of other dogs around you and your dog. If you have a small dog that is running, some other larger breeds may kick into a predatory drive and chase your little one who may get seriously injured if caught. Keep little dogs near you at all times so you can scoop them up if need be.

Before heading to the park, get together with some friends and their dogs and make sure your dog is okay with sharing toys and with you petting or feeding other dogs. That being said, when at an off-leash park, don’t offer treats to other dogs as they may have special dietary restrictions.

Prior to any visits to the dog park, it's important to make sure puppies have their full set of vaccines; check with your veterinarian for more information as to when you can safely take your puppy out in public. Also be conscious that adult dogs may react differently to your puppy than they would with another adult dog. It’s important for proper socialization skills that puppies have a positive experience in their interactions with other dogs – a bad experience can leave them frightened and even reactive to other dogs. Consider taking a puppy class, like Precocious Puppies at the Calgary Humane Society, where they can romp and roll with other puppies and learn the necessary skills of interaction in a controlled environment before venturing into the dog park.

With summer right around the corner, everyone and their dog will be itching to get out and enjoy the sun. Keeping these points in mind will help everyone enjoy the off-leash park experience in a positive and safe way.

Q: How do I teach my dog not to jump up?

A: Jumping up is a behaviour problem many owners struggle with. Owners frequently focus on eliminating the problem or undesired behaviour by telling the animal what not to do. When a dog jumps up, the owner will yell “No! Get down!” as they push the dog off. In such an interaction, even if the correction is given in a stern tone, the dog actually learns that if he jumps on his owner, the owner will interact with him. For many dogs, interaction is a good consequence.

Scientific study of dog behaviour and training methods indicates that a more effective approach focuses instead on desired behaviour that the dog can do, and reinforcement of this behaviour with high-value rewards. This positive approach results in long-term increases in the desired behaviour, which also boosts the dog’s confidence and supports a strong, positive bond with his owner.

To use positive reinforcement; instead of reacting when your dog jumps up on you, wait until he has all four paws on the floor. Then say “yes!” in a very excited voice, or use a clicker to mark the behaviour, then reward with the dog’s favorite treat. Toss the treat on the floor so that he is focused down on the floor instead of upwards at you.

At the start of this re-training process, you will need to use a high rate of reinforcement to allow the dog to be successful and come to fully understand that “four on the floor” pays! A high rate of reinforcement means offering 20 to 30 clicks and small bits of treats per minute. If the dog is sitting, keep throwing down the treats.

Generally after you have repeated this process two or three times, dogs will actively keep “four on the floor.” Once you have done the initial training with a high rate of reward, slowly reduce the number of rewards and only intermittently reinforce the desired behaviour. Intermittent reinforcement can be more or less frequent, depending on your dog and his level of distraction. If he fails to offer the desired behaviour, go back to a higher rate of reinforcement. Eventually, you can taper off altogether and just ask for the behaviour through a word or signal.

Dogs innately respond to positive reinforcement, because they are “wired” to repeat behaviours that “work” – that is, behaviours that get them rewards. If you stay consistent and patiently put in the time required, you will have dogs who are well behaved and happy to be around people. People are also happy to be around the dogs, thus providing the dog with a much more varied and exciting life experience.

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