Original article by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience
So a couple of weeks ago, I was invited by a very nice family to come to their home and meet their gorgeous yellow lab, Honey. Her mom told me that I needed to experience the force that was Honey at home. As the kids brought Honey into the house from the backyard, you could actually feel the energy emanating from her. She glimmered with excess energy and her eyes darted around the room and back again and again. As we sat down to discuss their dog training needs, it quickly became apparent that Honey was not able to sit still. I mean, she would literally try to lay down as requested by her owner, but her leg would start kicking and she'd jump up and then try and lay down again, but then jump right back up. She wasn't in any pain, she just couldn't sit still. Like a Type A on about eight cups of coffee.
I have always approached dogs with the idea of attempting to seek balance in what I see to be the three parts of a dog's life: the physical, the psychological and the mental areas. I have found that if there is balance in all three areas, you have a happy, well-adjusted dog usually. This dog knew the command to "down" and you could see that she wanted to comply, and she would in fact comply, but was just not able to physically hold the stay.
So, the obvious question was what is the dog eating and how much exercise is the dog getting. Well, Honey was actually getting a reasonable amount of exercise, so it came down to food. As it turned out, Honey was on a diet comprised of mostly corn, corn gluten meal, beet pulp, etc. Honey was like any young dog fed a starchy, low animal protein diet. Honey is a carnivore. And she needs to be fed like a carnivore which means lots of animal protein. Being sensitive to the fact that the majority of us live in suburbia, this of course means purchasing a good quality kibble for most families. Just like any other creature on this earth, a dog requires a diet closely resembling what nature intended in order to be physically balanced.
What are some good quality kibbles you may ask? Two places to research this and familiarize yourself with what to look for on the ingredients list are DogFoodAnalysis.com and Naked Dingo. Lots of good information here. How many years have we been told to "read the labels" on our food. Well, why not read the labels on our dog's food? Aren't they just as deserving of a healthy and natural sort of diet if at all possible?
Here is a quick example of some of the pretty big differences between dog foods:
First eight ingredients for Science Diet Puppy Growth Original Bites: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal Fat, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Brewers Rice, Fish Oil, etc. (How would you feel if this is what you ate day in and day out - and you are an omnivore!)
And here are the first eight ingredients of Orijen Regional Red: Fresh deboned wild board, fresh deboned lamb, lamb meal, russet potato, fresh deboned pork, peas, salmon meal, whitefish meal, etc. (are you catching the difference?)
And of course, the better the quality of food, the better the price. But make no mistake, the reason you don't see commercials or see major product placement at the stores for these higher quality foods, is because there is hardly any profit margin. Corn is a cheap filler! And so is chicken by-product, beet pulp and brewers rice. And incidentally, you will more than likely spend way more on vet bills down the road for allergies, diabetes and kidney issues all derived from years of being on a poor diet, than what you will spend on healthy food. (At least that is my experience and continued hope!) It just makes good sense really, a good diet lends itself to good health. And if we feel good, we act good! An unhealthy diet WILL affect behavior, plain and simple. It is an incredibly important component to dog training in my mind.
So, as far as Honey was concerned, I suggested a new food and set the family up to start one of our board and train programs two weeks later. Four days later, Honey and her family came to visit me at Camp Bow Wow and I have to be honest, I hardly recognized her. Her mom was floored at the difference and so was I! I had never seen such a dramatic difference before. Honey was actually sitting quietly next to them in a relatively calm manner! I thought they were coming to tell me they didn't need to do the training! But luckily they did and Honey is now living a happy life as a balanced pup!
Here's to everyone's health!
Virginia L. Simpson
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.