Monthly Archives: May 2019

3 Ways Your Dog Asks For Help

Are you harming your dog by feeding them the wrong food?
We all love our dogs and many consider them our best friends. Many of us even treat them better than our own family members.
There are 3 dangerous ingredients that no dog should ever eat, and if you are giving them to your dog then you might be slowly harming it.
Click here to find out these harmful ingredients.
P.S. These 3 dangerous ingredients are in many common pet foods so click here to find out right now.  

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Take the Sit/Down/Stand challenge!

My trainer friend Sarah Richardson, owner of The Canine Connection in Chico, California, recently attended a conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a world-renowned pioneer in animal training. She came back home full of inspiration and excitement, with ideas about how she wants to add things and change things in her group training classes.

Sarah hosts a discussion group on Facebook for her training
clients, and she posted this shortly after she got back:

“Bob Bailey is now in his 80s but was literally
one of the first in the world to be training as we now do with operant
conditioning, use of a marker, etc. Bob invited some of the key people he has
influenced to serve as his fellow presenters and they came from Canada,
Holland, Germany, Mexico, and the US to be with him.

“One of the presenters gave a talk about how
ballet improved her dog training. As an adult in her 40s, she took up ballet
and learned how hard it is to do the basic movements really well. In contrast,
world-class ballerinas practice the basic movements – just the basics – up to 8
hours a day! It got me thinking: How much do we practice the basics – just the
basics! – with our dogs so that they are competent with these core skills, and
so we are competent with teaching and communicating with our dogs?

“So, I am returning home from my trip with a
challenge for myself and my dogs. We are going to return to practicing our
canine calisthenics – sit, down, stand – like crazy, in short, frequent
training sessions this month. My goal is for my dogs to do these behaviors on a
verbal cue as well as on a hand signal and
in many different contexts (how they are positioned in relation to me, the
setting we are in, etc.).”

Time to Start Practicing

Further, Sarah encouraged those in the group to practice and
post video of their practice sessions with their dogs.

I thought I would take the challenge. Back to basics – easy
peasy, yes? Both of my dogs know hand and verbal cues for sit, down, and stand,
and can readily move from one position to the other. My senior dog Otto is
super sharp at these, and eagerly demonstrates his acuity. I looked forward to
taking some video of Otto confidently moving through these exercises to share
with the discussion group.

“We’re happy to lay down on the cool grass.”

I thought (correctly) that I would have to practice more
with my younger dog, Woody, before I could commit to putting our efforts on
video. Woody takes a more speculative approach to my cues. “Why are you
asking?” he seems to say when I give him a cue. He “knows” the cues for sit,
down, and stand. After taking a moment to determine whether I’m serious about
wanting a response from him, he will methodically change from any one of those
positions to any other position. But he tends to get stuck a few position
changes into any session of more than three requests. He needs some convincing
that the work is worth his while. He may go into a down, and then just stay
there after I ask for “sit” or “stand.” His expression seems to say, “I’m just
not sure there is a point to all this!”

Food treat rewards increase the motivation – and I don’t blame him one bit. I don’t like working for zero pay, either. And his speed definitely increases when the compensation value increases; he will work longer and faster for chicken or cheese than kibble. But he only gets enthusiastic and sharp-looking if the “pay” is his highest-value reward: a chance to go fetch his Planet Dog Squeak ball.

With the “stand” cue, we lost Odin; he had no interest in a cue he didn’t know yet.

“What’s In It For Me?”

Woody’s deliberations make me miss my Border Collie, Rupert
– the dog I owned when we launched Whole Dog Journal 22 years ago. Well-trained
Border Collies make any trainer look
good; they love to work and find it
incredibly self-rewarding to respond to rapid-fire cues. Many will work without
treats or any other tangible reward; the opportunity to work with their person
is often enough of a high-value reinforcement in itself! In contrast, Woody, a
pit-Lab-mix, has a healthy self-preservation instinct. He wants to know,
“What’s in it for me?” before committing himself to a lot of training nonsense.

Otto is somewhere in between. He’s keen to earn my praise
and attention, and he likes food treats. But he’s not going to do this all day. I have to keep our practice
sessions short and fun, or he starts dramatically sighing and moaning on his
“downs” – or looking off to the side when I first give him a cue, like, “Wait,
one sec… Did you just hear the mail truck? I think maybe I should go check to
see if your mail is here…”

Anyway, I’ve been practicing. I took video on Otto’s first
session, and it wasn’t bad. As I predicted, he is really pretty sharp and
willing – though the fact that I was holding a camera/phone between us was
definitely off-putting to him. And after a dozen or so position changes he was
like, “Um, Nance… What’s going on here?”

It took a couple days of practice before I even bothered to
try to take some footage of Woody’s efforts. The fact that I recently brought
home a nice new Squeak ball helped a lot.

I do tend to take these basic behaviors for granted from my
own dogs, but practicing with the goal of taking video that I could share has
been fun. It also gives me and my dogs something to “talk about” – an extra few
interactions each day that are (I hope) mutually enjoyable.

Try it yourself! We’ll put a post on the WDJ
Facebook page where you can upload video of your own dogs doing these basic

The post Take the Sit/Down/Stand challenge! appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

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Genetic Influence on Dog Ownership

Swedish twin study finds a connection

There have been many studies demonstrating the health and psychological benefits of having dogs, but it’s difficult to disentangle possible genetic factors that could be influencing the results. It is possible that people’s genetics affect their likelihood of having dogs and that those same genes are influencing their decision to welcome dogs into their lives. Twin studies are an important tool for determining the role that genetics plays in all sorts of aspects of human life, and separating the role of our genes from the role of our environment on who we are as people.

The key to this technique is that there are two types of twins and these two types share different amounts of genes in common. Monozygotic (identical) twins share 100 percent of their DNA with each other but dizygotic (fraternal) twins share an average of 50 percent of their genes with each other. If they are raised together, both types of twins grow up in essentially the same environment.

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Foundation Behaviors: A Practical Perspective

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Ecologists find bush dog, native of South America, in remote central Costa Rica

Wildlife ecologists who are studying different conservation practices in the forests of Costa Rica recently made a startling discovery on a wildlife camera trap — wild bush dogs documented farther north than ever before and at the highest elevation.

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Watch Out For Canine Eye Conditions

Photo by ilusionrealidad

Vision may not be a dog’s strongest sense, but it still plays an important role in daily life. A dog’s eye health can deteriorate because of aging or disease, so dog owners should be aware of the various eye issues that can occur.

Dr. Lucien Vallone, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, specializes in ophthalmology and regularly treats eye conditions in dogs.

Vallone said there are three main categories of canine eye problems: diseases of the ocular surface, diseases that cause inflammation within the eye, and glaucoma.

Diseases of the eye’s surface impact the conjunctiva—the mucous membrane over the eye—and the cornea—the clear, protective outer layer of the eye. Vallone said these diseases include inflammation of the cornea, dry eye, and eyelid abnormalities.

The second category is diseases that cause inflammation within the eye, collectively called uveitis.

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Reactivity and a loose leash – Chicken or the Egg?

A Predictable sequence of reactivity looks like this…

Dog sees a trigger – let’s say another dog.  He moves forward, hits the end of the leash, and now he escalates rapidly; up on his toes barking and lunging. That causes the other dog to look and see what the fuss is about. The eye contact causes the reactive dog to work himself up into a froth at about which time the distressed owner is dragging their hysterical dog away, with or without verbal harassment and collar corrections, which is making things entirely worse and most certainly not better. And in terms of future reactions? The dog has practiced another round of problematic behavior which makes it more likely to occur next time.

Here is the question I want you to consider. Did the tight leash cause the overreaction or did the overreaction cause the dog to tighten the leash?

I would argue it’s both – those behaviors feed off each other and when you’re looking at a cyclical pattern, you want to break the cycle.  Somewhere. Anywhere!

Clearly the trigger appeared.  That got the dog’s attention.   But in most cases, the vocalizing and complete loss of control occur when the dog is at the end of the leash facing the trigger.   That is why I am focused on keeping a loose leash when a dog has a tendency to overreact in public – either from aggression or excitement or frustration or fear or much of anything else.

If I can keep the dog thinking about his body in relation to the leash then I have a much better chance of keeping his emotions from overrunning his brain.  Remember that as soon as your dog is pulling on the end of the leash, opposition reflex will kick in and will skyrocket your dog’s problematic behavior, and the more hysterical your dog’s behavior becomes, the harder it is to stop the spiral.

In a perfect world the reactive behavior is not allowed to start because the handler sees the trigger well before the dog and makes decisions to avoid it. But in real life, that’s not how it goes.

So here’s my rule of managing and preventing reactivity:

Train your dog to walk on a loose leash and have a way to make that happen if the dog’s behavior threatens to tighten the leash.  The dog must keep the leash loose. There are many ways to do that but that is the goal to hold and to help your clients understand. Keep the leash loose.  Make that your focus over all other things.  Dog on his toes looking ahead?  Tell your client – don’t let the leash tighten and if it does, react immediately to get it loose again.

You can do that with greater distance (go the other way), cookies, prior training, equipment (front clip harness or head halters), verbal interaction, circling- whatever you find to be most valuable.  But make that piece happen.  A loose leash.

If you doubt this, watch a video of reactive dogs and notice how often the behavior escalates as soon as the dog feels tension on their collar.  A lot!  Prevent that tension from starting and a whole lot of reactivity dissolves.

When my dog tightens the leash we circle, and since circling is not punishing we circle at lots of other times too – it’s a familiar pattern.  We circle when we see horses and squirrels and chickens and sheep and people and dogs and most anything.  And you know what?  It works.   My dogs see something interesting, and while they might initially lunge forward, as soon as they feel the leash tension they remember their job and they stop pulling.  They might stand and stare, which is fine IF the leash is loose.  But they do not vocalize or lunge because those things are not compatible with a loose leash.  And if they forget?  Or are too excited to make a good choice?  Then we circle as long as necessary, which prevents additional escalation and get them back into their head.  And then I wait – when they are ready we can continue on.  With a loose leash.

Try it and tell me how it goes for you.


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What To Do About Canine Flu: Canine Influenza Type A H3N2 & H3N8

As you probably know, there is currently an outbreak of Dog Flu in the South Bay and more recently, a number of cases have cropped up in other areas around the Bay. All dog owners, including myself, are understandably concerned about what they can do to reduce the likelihood that their dogs will be infected. However, there is no need to panic. Although Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is extremely infectious, it usually causes only mild symptoms for a few days to a couple of weeks and the dogs normally make a full recovery despite treatment. Yes, complications from the flu can occasionally be…

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Forensic Detection Dogs Help Recover Precious Remains

Dogs from Institute for Canine Forensics work to recover cremains.
Piper on site with a find. Photo by Lynne Engelbert

Canines have a long and intimate relationship with bones, but those trained and deployed by the nonprofit Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF) take that relationship to an entirely new level. While search-and-rescue and cadaver dogs are trained to find living and deceased humans, respectively, Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs specialize in identifying bones and cremated remains (cremains). Most recently, their skills have been on display in the wake of California’s catastrophic 2018 fire season.


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On the Job: Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF)

Piper and Lynne Engelbert
I get to help people when they need it the most. This is the one thing that keeps me involved. I love what I do. —Lynne Engelbert, ICF Dog Handler, Evaluator & Instructor

Head down, a small black- and-white Border Collie named Piper slowly scans for the weak scent of cremains in the ash-covered rubble of an incinerated home in Paradise, Calif. She signals a find by lying down, and handler Lynne Engelbert marks the spot with a pin flag. After the find has been confirmed, other specialists go to work. According to Lynne, seven dog teams and about 60 archeologists are involved in the Paradise cremains recovery effort.


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