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Episode 811 – The New Normal: Distance Learning & Telecommuting

Victoria and Aly talk about how to be more effective when learning and working from home. Social distancing is the thing these days, but how do we keep from going nuts and what are the best practices to stay productive and efficient when working or learning from home. Dealing with the social aspect of isolation. Aly shares some top tips for how to be productive while staying home, including staying engaged and avoiding passivity. The use of rituals of physical, technical and mental preparation in staying efficient at home.

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Dog Recovery Suits Review

hate putting an Elizabethan collar on my dog – the dreaded cone that renders many dogs confused, depressed, or panicked. Yet, when a dog has a hot spot, wound, or surgical incision site that requires protection from his natural inclination to lick, the #1 go-to for veterinarians has always been the Elizabethan or e-collar. (We’re just talking about “cones,” not electric or electronic collars, which are also sometimes called e-collars.)

Thankfully, there are now quite a few alternatives to e-collars for protecting wounds and so forth. We last reviewed some of these options in the July 2017 issue (“Best Dog Cone Alternatives”), but today we will focus on one specific type of alternative: the recovery suit, a garment that is essentially a canine onesie.

CONE CONCERNS

No doubt about it, most of the time, e-collars do what they were designed to do: create a protective barrier to prevent the dog from licking the area of concern. “Licking is a huge impediment to wound healing,” says veterinary dermatologist Tiffany Tapp, DVM, DACVD, owner of Veterinary Healing Arts in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, since the area remains moist and becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and subsequent infection. “If caregivers can get their dogs to leave their lesions alone during that time, the dog will be well on their way to recovery. Coverage is essential.”

The problem is that most dogs find the experience of wearing a cone barely tolerable; there are stories of dogs who shut down, become frantic, refuse to eat or drink, or have any number of other adverse reactions to the contraption. Fitted with an e-collar, my own 9-year-old Bouvier, Atle, runs into furniture, gets stuck in small places, and definitely becomes depressed. 

While the shutting down part may not sound so bad from a practical standpoint – most dogs recovering from surgery or injury need to be kept quiet – distress and depression are not good for healing.

And, physically speaking, there are compelling reasons why some veterinary health care providers are not fans of cones. As someone who sees dogs with ear issues almost daily, Dr. Tapp prefers recovery suits over e- collars because the giant cones sit immediately behind the ear and do nothing to protect the dog’s neck. She also notes that e-collars cause heat and humidity to build up, exacerbating ear issues.

Debbie Gross Torraca, DPT, MSPT, CCRP, CCMT, is the founder of Wizard of Paws, an animal physical therapy practice in Colchester, Connecticut. She explains that she would rather see a dog wear anything but an e-collar. “I find them so invasive and stressful for the cervical spine. And the visual or anti-visual impact of the e-collar can really mess up some older dogs with pre-existing conditions, negatively affecting their vision and proprioception.” 

A T-SHIRT WON’T DO

Atle and I had our own experience dealing with e-collars and recovery suits after he had two benign growths removed – one on his mid-back, and the other on the back of his hind leg. Despite his primary care veterinarian sending us home with instructions to use an e-collar, I didn’t. He wasn’t worrying the incisions, and I thought we were home-free. 

Unfortunately, days later, I realized that Atle had licked his leg incision; we were soon on our way to see Dr. Tapp, who diagnosed both incisions as being infected and missing sutures. Dr. Tapp recommended a recovery suit, a t-shirt, or an e-collar. Initially, I rigged up a covering using a t-shirt and my cycling leg warmers. My homemade version kept falling off. 

I finally ordered a Cover Me by Tui post-surgical garment – and it was a game-changer. No longer did I have to constantly check his garments for slippage, and I could dine in peace without having to listen for the dreaded sound of a dog licking an incision. Atle accepted the suit much more gracefully than he does an e-collar.

Suits Me! Recovery-Suit Considerations

I’m a convert to the recovery suit as an alternative to an e-collar, but before you slap a suit on your unsuspecting dog, consider these points:

Plan ahead. Like muzzles, ramps, and other equipment that take getting used to, if possible, make your purchase before you need it. If your dog has a surgery scheduled for next month, buy now! Then, both you and your dog can acclimate to it – your dog for comfort, you for ease of use. 

Most companies recommend that the dog wear the suit for a finite amount of time. Shed Defender, for example, says no more than eight hours a day. Monitor your dog for signs of overheating, and regularly check for matting when the suit comes off.

If your dog has a significant recovery ahead of them, consider getting two suits so that one is still available while the second is being laundered.

Choose a suit that accommodates your dog’s medical condition or disability. For example, an older, arthritic dog may do better with a back closure suit that doesn’t require limbs to be manipulated.

Keep your dog’s nails trimmed; long nails and Lycra don’t mix well.

“Measure twice, order once.” Look at the company’s website for measuring guidelines or call the company for help. 

SO MANY OPTIONS

I don’t know why I hesitated to order a recovery suit; the business is booming with products marketed for a variety of uses: controlling shedding, calming anxious pets, covering hot spots, preventing licking and chewing, UV protection, allergy prevention/relief, wound prevention, protection from ticks and burrs, visibility, and management of incontinence and heat cycles. A quick web search turns up countless options, from  cheap knockoffs to pricey, sleek, high-tech models.

As a former professional in the rag trade, I’m particular about garment construction and fabric. I started my search for a suit that would comfortably fit Atle – and that I could easily get him into. Other considerations included laundering, price, sizing, type and location of closures, how the garment went on, coverage, durability, and how the dog is expected to eliminate while wearing the suit.

I selected a number of products to try, and then considered them in three categories: long-sleeved suits (to cover any points on the dog’s legs or multiple sites on the dog); sleeveless body suits (for use when conditions are limited to the dog’s trunk or neck); and sleeve-only products. The latter were a late discovery – I reviewed only one. 

PRODUCTS WITH SLEEVES

*Cover Me by Tui. The 100% cotton material of this long-sleeved suit is soft, breathable, and durable. The suit offers quality construction, was easy to put on (due to a relaxed fit), with no zippers to snag hair. You have to bend your dog’s legs to put on the over-the-head model, though less than with spandex suits. Atle isn’t a fan of clothing going on over his head, so we both appreciated the step-in, back-snap model.

We tested a size XL, which was a snug fit for Atle and even more so for Holden. The over-the-head model was an XXL and was a less restrictive, almost too-roomy fit, although both models feature snaps on the sides that can be used to adjust the girth. 

The “potty flap” can be a little challenging to navigate because of the number of snaps (16 on the XL!) required to secure it. The neck is a wide band of fabric of moderate height, though maybe less than ideal if neck coverage is a concern. 

The K9 Topcoat Full Cover Body Suit wouldn’t look out of place at the Olympics, but it’s a great option for a dog with multiple sites in need of protection.

* K9 Top Coat Full Cover Bodysuit. This suit has a very sleek, high-tech look and feel, and was the most expensive product I tested – but in this case, you get what you pay for. The suit is well constructed and features top stitching; it’s made from a 6 oz. Lycra blend with a nice hand weight (is not flimsy) and that, the company claims, offers anti-allergenic, fungicidal, and bactericidal properties.

The full length, sturdy zipper runs from the neck to just under the dog’s tail, requiring it to be unzipped slightly to allow the dog to eliminate. I love the fabric guard under the zipper that prevents hair from getting caught, though, given the quality of the garment, I was a little surprised at the lack of a zipper “garage” (a fabric housing for the zipper pull tab). 

A Velcro tab at the neck provides extra security, and the garment’s neck snugly covers all the way up behind the ears. An adjustable strap runs the length of the back and can be used to shorten the suit. 

Putting the suit on wasn’t difficult, though it does require you to bend your dog’s legs. Atle is not a fan of a snug fit, and did a lot of shaking off and acting subdued, but perked up and moved normally outdoors. 

Shed Defender Sport

* Shed Defender Sport. Made from a proprietary 80/20 polyester/Lycra blend, the Sport model features a lightweight, 7-inch, easy open/close zipper that runs from just behind the front armpits to mid-belly, meaning no unzipping is required for the dog to urinate. Additional shirred elastic banding extends from the belly end of the zipper to behind each leg to keep the garment in place. The Sport provides good coverage of the neck. 

For Atle, I bought the XL size, which is indicated for dogs from 61 to 84 pounds, but the product is a little on the snug side and seemed to restrict his movement a bit. 

The “hand” of the fabric (how it feels to the touch) was a little light; when asked, the company was unable to provide me with the weight of the fabric. Whatever its weight, it seems too light and not durable enough, especially for big dogs. When I stretched one of the seams on the garment, a rough fingernail edge inadvertently caught the fabric and made a tiny hole. 

That said, the Sport is about half the price of the K9 Top Coat and could be an option for the dog owner on a budget. 

Heywean Recovery Suit

* Heywean Long Sleeve Dog Surgical Recovery Suit. Beware of knock-offs! I was interested in this suit because it had a full-length back zipper, but the product arrived with a split seam and the sleeves are more ¾ than full length. A low-quality product for a moderate price ($37 – $50).

SLEEVELESS SUITS

Medipaw Protective Suit

* Medipaw Protective Suit. This suit is made from a cotton/Lycra blend with a substantial weight and feel. The two-piece garment features “pants” that look like briefs, and a sleeveless “top.” The pants have two leg holes and a tail hole, while the top has two leg holes. 

Since the top goes on over the dog’s head, each front leg needs to be lifted and bent to fit through the leg openings. Though the pants can’t be worn alone, the top can. On Atle, it extends all the way to his groin, and because of the garment’s “compressive” nature is less likely to ride up than a t-shirt. When the top is worn with the pants, the top affixes to the pants via wide Velcro strips. The top’s neck is high, offering ample neck protection (earning plaudits from Dr. Tapp) and the ability to be folded down like a turtleneck. 

The top features a large internal pocket for ice packs or absorbent pads. The company advises sizing down if in doubt, since the garment stretches a little during use. 

* Suitical Recovery Suit. The sleeveless Suitical is made from a nice-feeling, robust cotton/Lycra fabric. The garment is simple and well made, with a high neck that has loops inside through which a collar can be run. Soft, non-restrictive bands of fabric line the leg holes. The suit goes on over the head, and you have to bend the dog’s front legs to get them through the “arm holes.” There are no hind leg holes to navigate; instead, the back of the suit snaps near the tail to secure the garment. 

For bathroom breaks, you unsnap the garment and fold/roll the fabric toward the dog’s chest, where a tab sits to secure the flap while the dog eliminates. 

This would be a great option for us if we had to deal with ear issues or hot spots on his chest, armpits, neck, or belly. Atle overheats easily, so a sleeveless garment would be a great option provided it covers the areas of concern. The company also makes front leg “recovery sleeves” that could be used in tandem with the suit for additional coverage when needed.

VetMedCare Bodysuit

* VetMedCare Bodysuit. The VetMedCare suit we tested was a sleeveless over-the-head stretchy tube with four leg holes, available in male and female versions. I wanted to like this product because of its light weight, simplicity, and long sleeve/sleeveless models. But I question the product’s long-term durability; after one laundering in cool water, the suit stretched out and didn’t bounce back.

SLEEVE ONLY

Lick Sleeve

* Lick Sleeve. I discovered this departure from a “suit” late in the game and reviewed only this one: the Lick Sleeve. Designed by a veterinary surgeon, it’s for the hind leg only, but in an ingenious design, can be turned inside out in order to fit either the left or right leg. The sleeve offers full coverage and is simple to put on. Were my dog to have cruciate surgery, this lightweight sleeve would be my pick. 

Available in three sizes (for dogs 30 pounds and up), the product is not inexpensive, but compared to the cost for additional veterinary care if the dog disturbs the health of a surgical incision, it’s well worth the price. 

RATING “RECOVERY SUITS” IN VARYING SLEEVE LENGTHS

Product, WDJPaw Rating Sizes, Price Material, Laundering How it goes on “Bathroom” Access Comments
LONG AND SHORT SLEEVE SUITS
Cover Me by Tui
(800) 208-6170
tulanescloset.com
3 out of 4 Paws
7 sizes
$30 – $47
100% Peruvian Cotton.
Machine wash cold; tumble dry low.
Over the head and step-in (secured by dorsal snaps) models. Moderately high neck. Unsnap, roll and secure terry cloth-lined “potty flap.” Long and short sleeve models. Leg length not adjustable. Special orders possible. Quality materials and construction at a good price.
K9 Top Coat Full Cover Bodysuit
(888) 833-5959
K9topcoat.com
3 out of 4 Paws
10 sizes
$92 – $106
82% nylon, 18% spandex.
Machine wash cold; line dry or tumble dry delicate.
Over the head with full length ventral zipper with zipper guard. High neck. Unzip for males. Tested by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Made in USA. Company offers lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship.
Shed Defender Sport
sheddefender.com
2.5 out of 4 Paws
9 sizes
$40 – $63
80% polyester, 20% spandex (Shed-Tex, made from recycled bottles).
Machine wash; tumble dry low.
Over the head with ventral zipper that stops at stomach; no zipper guard. Moderately high neck. “Sport” allows elimination without unzipping; “Original” must be unzipped. Long sleeve. “Original” model has ventral chest to tail zipper. Sleeveless bodysuit also available. 30-day risk-free trial.
Heywean Dog Surgical Recovery Suit
Amazon.com
1 out of 4 Paws
8 sizes
$26 – $40
95% cotton, 5% spandex.
Cold wash, line dry.
Full back zipper/step in. Fabric may be cut for male dogs. Chinese import sold online only; no company information or website available. Low-quality.
SLEVELESS BODY SUITS
MediPaw Protective Dog Suit
(800) 245-3413;medipaw.com
4 out of 4 Paws
8 sizes
$37 -$51
94% cotton, 6% Lycra.
Machine wash cold; line dry.
Over the head; front and back pieces joined by Velcro. High neck. Remove “pants” and/or roll up front piece. Two-piece design. “Top” piece may be worn alone. Well-made product at an attractive price point and available in a wide range of sizes.
Suitical “Recovery Suit”
suitical.com
4 out of 4 Paws
10 sizes
$35 – $40
95% cotton, 5% Lycra.
Machine wash; line dry.
Over the head with snaps at rear. High neck. Unsnap and tuck in/roll up fabric, secure with snap. Designed in collaboration with veterinarians. Simple, well-made product, at an attractive price point, in a wide range of sizes.
VetMed Care Bodysuit
Available from jorvet.com
1 out of 4 Paws
12 (female and male options in 6 sizes)
$23 – $36
90% polyamid, 10% elasthan. Machine wash hot; tumble dry low heat. One piece, over the head, no closures. Small opening in suit for males. Not very durable; stretched out after one laundering.
HIND LEG
Lick Sleeve
(855) 989-3733
Licksleeve.com
4 out of 4 Paws
3 sizes
$85
Polyester/spandex blend.
Machine wash; line dry.
Wrap with buckle closure. Remove sleeve for male dogs. Good option for CCL/hind leg issues. Smallest size for dogs >30 lbs. Created by a veterinary surgeon. Length may be cut to shorten. Made in USA.

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Three Secrets to Safe & Effective Exercise for Your Dog

It’s no secret that exercising your dog can lead to a happier and healthier pup – not to mention a quieter house and a happier you. The complication is that exercising your dog takes time and sometimes we struggle to find time to exercise ourselves. However, without safe and effective exercise, your dog can gain weight, risk costly injury, and tear apart the house in response to pent up energy. Consider how you exercise your dog now: perhaps you play tug with your Chihuahua in the living room, jog or play fetch with your active retriever, or ask your senior mixed breed to sit in the kitchen — all of these activities can exercise your dog both physically and mentally. Let’s further explore how you can make the most of your time with your dog while safely and effectively gaining the benefits of exercise.

Here are three secrets to safely and effectively exercising your dog through activities and games that you probably already play.

1. Discuss with your veterinarian

Before beginning any exercise (even training class!), it’s important to get a full health check with your local veterinarian. Let your vet know which activities you are thinking about pursuing, and ask which activities would be most appropriate for your dog’s age, musculoskeletal structure, and preferences. Remember, just like with children, jumping from high places or playing on hard surfaces can be detrimental to joints. Be sure to ask how long the activities should last, how intense they should be, and about any necessary equipment or weather precautions. Just because your dog wants to fetch constantly, doesn’t necessarily mean that this high impact, sustained exercise is healthy. Describe the activity and environment to your vet in detail, and be sure to get clearance before enjoying with your pup.

2. Explore variation

After speaking with your veterinarian about appropriate activities for your dog, plan to vary the types of activities each day. If your veterinarian approved some shorter distance jogs for your pup, perhaps the next day you could spread his food in the backyard as a scavenger hunt. Varying high intensity with low intensity workouts is just as stimulating for your pup, and the variation will keep him engaged. You can also vary exercises within the activity itself. For example, if you frequently throw a ball or disc for your dog until she lies down and pants, consider asking for tricks between different types of throws. By varying distances and body movements you can help your dog regulate her arousal and stay safe.

3. Remember warms up & cool down

Before beginning any activity, it’s important to set up your dog for success. Dogs have the same basic musculoskeletal components as people, and therefore they can sustain similar injuries from rigorous use or clumsy accidents. However, dogs are more athletic compared to humans (even your couch potato probably has a higher VO2max than you!), and they can exert a lot of energy at playtime. It’s important to warm up and cool down your dog’s muscles before use. Consider the type of exercise and what body parts are involved, and plan for a warm up. For example, if you’re about to open the back door for your dog to dash out with his powerful hind legs, take a couple walking laps around the living room first. Ask for a few repetitions of sit and put a treat in front of his nose to lure him in a few circles before opening the door. Much like a short jog, squats, and plyometrics before a sprint, these exercises can help protect your dog’s soft tissue before dashing off. The easiest part is that the same exercises can be performed in reverse for a quick cool down.

Using these three secrets, you can safely and effectively exercise your dog in the same amount of time and help you and your pup enjoy the benefits. Through warms ups/cool downs and varying your dog’s activities you can tire your pup out in no time at all. Talking to your veterinarian about the type, duration, and intensity of activity can also tailor the exercise to your dog and avoid costly injury. 

Many caretakers believe that their dog needs to sprint in order to get tired, when in reality sniffing, training, or a combination can be just as taxing. Check out the table below for more ideas! Challenge yourself this week to change one thing about your dog’s exercise routine, and see if you enjoy a calmer, healthier dog!

 

Activity

Variation

Warm up/cool down

Hide a treat/toy in the house

High/low places, obstacles, multiple rooms

Walk laps, sits, crawls

Sniffy walk

Hide treats, change route

Walk laps, sits

Tug

Side to side, stop/go, 2 tugs

Jog laps, play bow, weight shift

Fetch

Short/long distances, walking breaks, sit/down/spin/beg/back

Jog laps, downs, circles

Jog

Walk/run, canicross, sniff breaks

Sniff, walk laps, sits

 

 

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Three Secrets to Safe & Effective Exercise for Your Dog

It’s no secret that exercising your dog can lead to a happier and healthier pup – not to mention a quieter house and a happier you. The complication is that exercising your dog takes time and sometimes we struggle to find time to exercise ourselves. However, without safe and effective exercise, your dog can gain weight, risk costly injury, and tear apart the house in response to pent up energy. Consider how you exercise your dog now: perhaps you play tug with your Chihuahua in the living room, jog or play fetch with your active retriever, or ask your senior mixed breed to sit in the kitchen — all of these activities can exercise your dog both physically and mentally. Let’s further explore how you can make the most of your time with your dog while safely and effectively gaining the benefits of exercise.

Here are three secrets to safely and effectively exercising your dog through activities and games that you probably already play.

1. Discuss with your veterinarian

Before beginning any exercise (even training class!), it’s important to get a full health check with your local veterinarian. Let your vet know which activities you are thinking about pursuing, and ask which activities would be most appropriate for your dog’s age, musculoskeletal structure, and preferences. Remember, just like with children, jumping from high places or playing on hard surfaces can be detrimental to joints. Be sure to ask how long the activities should last, how intense they should be, and about any necessary equipment or weather precautions. Just because your dog wants to fetch constantly, doesn’t necessarily mean that this high impact, sustained exercise is healthy. Describe the activity and environment to your vet in detail, and be sure to get clearance before enjoying with your pup.

2. Explore variation

After speaking with your veterinarian about appropriate activities for your dog, plan to vary the types of activities each day. If your veterinarian approved some shorter distance jogs for your pup, perhaps the next day you could spread his food in the backyard as a scavenger hunt. Varying high intensity with low intensity workouts is just as stimulating for your pup, and the variation will keep him engaged. You can also vary exercises within the activity itself. For example, if you frequently throw a ball or disc for your dog until she lies down and pants, consider asking for tricks between different types of throws. By varying distances and body movements you can help your dog regulate her arousal and stay safe.

3. Remember warms up & cool down

Before beginning any activity, it’s important to set up your dog for success. Dogs have the same basic musculoskeletal components as people, and therefore they can sustain similar injuries from rigorous use or clumsy accidents. However, dogs are more athletic compared to humans (even your couch potato probably has a higher VO2max than you!), and they can exert a lot of energy at playtime. It’s important to warm up and cool down your dog’s muscles before use. Consider the type of exercise and what body parts are involved, and plan for a warm up. For example, if you’re about to open the back door for your dog to dash out with his powerful hind legs, take a couple walking laps around the living room first. Ask for a few repetitions of sit and put a treat in front of his nose to lure him in a few circles before opening the door. Much like a short jog, squats, and plyometrics before a sprint, these exercises can help protect your dog’s soft tissue before dashing off. The easiest part is that the same exercises can be performed in reverse for a quick cool down.

Using these three secrets, you can safely and effectively exercise your dog in the same amount of time and help you and your pup enjoy the benefits. Through warms ups/cool downs and varying your dog’s activities you can tire your pup out in no time at all. Talking to your veterinarian about the type, duration, and intensity of activity can also tailor the exercise to your dog and avoid costly injury. 

Many caretakers believe that their dog needs to sprint in order to get tired, when in reality sniffing, training, or a combination can be just as taxing. Check out the table below for more ideas! Challenge yourself this week to change one thing about your dog’s exercise routine, and see if you enjoy a calmer, healthier dog!

 

Activity

Variation

Warm up/cool down

Hide a treat/toy in the house

High/low places, obstacles, multiple rooms

Walk laps, sits, crawls

Sniffy walk

Hide treats, change route

Walk laps, sits

Tug

Side to side, stop/go, 2 tugs

Jog laps, play bow, weight shift

Fetch

Short/long distances, walking breaks, sit/down/spin/beg/back

Jog laps, downs, circles

Jog

Walk/run, canicross, sniff breaks

Sniff, walk laps, sits

 

 

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Intelligent Disobedience

Sometimes, we don’t want a dog to do what we just told the dog to do. Intelligent disobedience, also known as intelligent refusal, is a concept held dear by those who train service dogs, especially guide dogs for the visually impaired. These dogs are taught to use their own judgment and not respond to the cue of their blind human if it’s not safe to do so. For example, if given the cue to cross the street but there is traffic coming, the dog is expected to decline to move forward no matter how strongly the handler urges the dog forward.

HOW IS IT TAUGHT?

Twenty or30 years ago, this behavior was taught using aversives. The trainer carried a cane and would rap sharply on an obstacle to alarm the dog into avoidance behaviors. Dogs were walked into moving cars to teach them to stop for oncoming traffic. Not surprisingly, there was a high dropout rate in those training programs. Fortunately, times have changed. Most modern service-dog training programs incorporate science-based positive reinforcement training, and the dropout rate has plummeted. 

Dogs are initially taught behaviors such as “move forward” with a reward marker (such as the click of a clicker, which signals the dog that she has done something that will result in a treat) followed by the delivery of a treat. Once the dog reliably responds to the cue to move forward, she can be taught to refuse to respond to that cue in certain situations.

When the “move forward” behavior is very solid, obstacles such as barriers, ditches, drop-offs, and low-hanging signs or branches are introduced. The dog is cued to move forward, but the reward marker and a treat are delivered before she can take even a single step. The handler then touches the obstacle with a hand to create an association with the click/treat and the behavior of not-moving, then encourages the dog to find a way around the obstacle. 

When the dog reliably disobeys in the presence of obstacles, more difficult challenges are introduced, such as narrow passageways and eventually traffic. 

Self-preservation likely plays a role here. A dog doesn’t want to bump into a barrier, step off a cliff, or get hit by a car any more than you do! But in other cases, the dog must be able to view the obstacle from the human’s perspective; this is the very cognitive piece of this behavior. The dog could easily walk under a hanging sign or a tree branch, but how low is too low for the dog’s handler to pass under? How narrow is too narrow a passage for the human, even though the dog could easily pass through? How much of a ledge is too high for the handler to step off? The dog must be able to understand all of this.

Amazingly, guide-dog trainers report that this skill has no effect on the dogs’ willingness to respond reliably to the “go forward” cue when there’s not an obstacle. The dogs readily understand that the refusal response is expected and accepted only when there is a potential hazard in the path. That’s some impressive cognitive thinking!

REFUSAL AT HOME?

As recognition of canine cognition expands, there is growing acceptance of the non-service dog’s option to sometimes say, “No.” If we understand why our dog may choose to decline to respond to our behavior requests, we can either respect her choice and not ask her to do that behavior, or, as the supposedly more intelligent species, we can figure out how to get her to willingly and happily do what we want or need her to do, without the use of fear or coercion. 

Our appreciation for intelligent disobedience, whether in service dogs or our own canine family members, is a sign of our growing respect for the dogs who are such an important part of our lives. 

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Three Secrets to Safe & Effective Exercise for Your Dog

It’s no secret that exercising your dog can lead to a happier and healthier pup – not to mention a quieter house and a happier you. The complication is that exercising your dog takes time and sometimes we struggle to find time to exercise ourselves. However, without safe and effective exercise, your dog can gain weight, risk costly injury, and tear apart the house in response to pent up energy. Consider how you exercise your dog now: perhaps you play tug with your Chihuahua in the living room, jog or play fetch with your active retriever, or ask your senior mixed breed to sit in the kitchen — all of these activities can exercise your dog both physically and mentally. Let’s further explore how you can make the most of your time with your dog while safely and effectively gaining the benefits of exercise.

Here are three secrets to safely and effectively exercising your dog through activities and games that you probably already play.

1. Discuss with your veterinarian

Before beginning any exercise (even training class!), it’s important to get a full health check with your local veterinarian. Let your vet know which activities you are thinking about pursuing, and ask which activities would be most appropriate for your dog’s age, musculoskeletal structure, and preferences. Remember, just like with children, jumping from high places or playing on hard surfaces can be detrimental to joints. Be sure to ask how long the activities should last, how intense they should be, and about any necessary equipment or weather precautions. Just because your dog wants to fetch constantly, doesn’t necessarily mean that this high impact, sustained exercise is healthy. Describe the activity and environment to your vet in detail, and be sure to get clearance before enjoying with your pup.

2. Explore variation

After speaking with your veterinarian about appropriate activities for your dog, plan to vary the types of activities each day. If your veterinarian approved some shorter distance jogs for your pup, perhaps the next day you could spread his food in the backyard as a scavenger hunt. Varying high intensity with low intensity workouts is just as stimulating for your pup, and the variation will keep him engaged. You can also vary exercises within the activity itself. For example, if you frequently throw a ball or disc for your dog until she lies down and pants, consider asking for tricks between different types of throws. By varying distances and body movements you can help your dog regulate her arousal and stay safe.

3. Remember warms up & cool down

Before beginning any activity, it’s important to set up your dog for success. Dogs have the same basic musculoskeletal components as people, and therefore they can sustain similar injuries from rigorous use or clumsy accidents. However, dogs are more athletic compared to humans (even your couch potato probably has a higher VO2max than you!), and they can exert a lot of energy at playtime. It’s important to warm up and cool down your dog’s muscles before use. Consider the type of exercise and what body parts are involved, and plan for a warm up. For example, if you’re about to open the back door for your dog to dash out with his powerful hind legs, take a couple walking laps around the living room first. Ask for a few repetitions of sit and put a treat in front of his nose to lure him in a few circles before opening the door. Much like a short jog, squats, and plyometrics before a sprint, these exercises can help protect your dog’s soft tissue before dashing off. The easiest part is that the same exercises can be performed in reverse for a quick cool down.

Using these three secrets, you can safely and effectively exercise your dog in the same amount of time and help you and your pup enjoy the benefits. Through warms ups/cool downs and varying your dog’s activities you can tire your pup out in no time at all. Talking to your veterinarian about the type, duration, and intensity of activity can also tailor the exercise to your dog and avoid costly injury. 

Many caretakers believe that their dog needs to sprint in order to get tired, when in reality sniffing, training, or a combination can be just as taxing. Check out the table below for more ideas! Challenge yourself this week to change one thing about your dog’s exercise routine, and see if you enjoy a calmer, healthier dog!

 

Activity

Variation

Warm up/cool down

Hide a treat/toy in the house

High/low places, obstacles, multiple rooms

Walk laps, sits, crawls

Sniffy walk

Hide treats, change route

Walk laps, sits

Tug

Side to side, stop/go, 2 tugs

Jog laps, play bow, weight shift

Fetch

Short/long distances, walking breaks, sit/down/spin/beg/back

Jog laps, downs, circles

Jog

Walk/run, canicross, sniff breaks

Sniff, walk laps, sits

 

 

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Top Ten Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe & Calm this Fourth of July

 

 

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Top Ten Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe & Calm this Fourth of July

 

 

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Doggone-Good Tips for a Dog Washing Station

Make bath day easier with a dog washing station right at home.
home dog wash

Let’s face it, some dogs stink. For large dogs, it can be challenging to bathe them in a traditional bathroom setting and bathing small dogs? Well, that’s even worse, with pet owners often resorting to the kitchen sink. For many dog owners like myself, bath time at home translates to big backaches, cramped spaces, and lengthy clean-up.

Many dogs do not need to be bathed often, but some dogs like to roll in the mud (let’s be honest, much more offensive things), while others have fur that requires more maintenance. So, wouldn’t it be nice to have a dedicated area for dog washing where clean-up is easy, and big splashes are okay? 

For dog owners looking to skip the groomers and have a dog washing station at home other than the tub, here are a few quick tips.

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