Friday, July 10, 2015

Flee, Fleas!

Flee, Fleas!

Walk down any street and one is likely to see a dog busy scratching or chewing.  Fleas are most likely the culprit causing so much distress.  But, fleas cause more than distress.  Flea ridden puppies can actually become anemic!  Many dogs build up an allergy to the saliva and only one flea bite can send them in to frenzies of chewing often resulting in “hot spots” – raw patches of skin with secondary infections.  It is said that the itch can become so bad dogs have chewed holes in their legs and tails - and worse.

Traditionally people race to the pesticides (flea collars, spot-ons, shampoos, etc.) to give their dogs relief from the bothersome pests and, frankly, that is necessary,  but,   there are other actions to take also.  Please note that when you put a pesticide permeated collar on a dog and you stroke that dog you are being exposed to those pesticides!  .Let’s look at some additional actions you can take.

It may surprise some but the very first place to begin controlling parasites – not just fleas! – is with the immune system.  The healthier a dog (or cat!) is, the better the immune system, the more likely she can resist being attacked by these dreadful critters.  Diet plays a huge part here.

 Feed what your dog is meant to eat – fresh meat and RAW bones - other things, too, but grains or other forms of carbohydrates are NOT needed nor advised.    Totally avoid cheap commercial products which are most likely to contain colorings, sugar, chemical preservatives and most certainly no high quality sources of meat.*  It is said that these ingredients (colorings, chemical preservatives, etc.) contain toxins which are secreted, at least in part, through the hair follicles and can exacerbate skin problems including flea bite dermatitis.

The supplement I recommend above all others is omega 3s from salmon oil.   Salmon oil is full of essential fatty acids that promote healthy hair and skin.  A clove of fresh garlic added to your dog’s diet at least several times a week builds up the immune system and is also considered to be great for parasite control!    Garlic does a lot more, incidentally.  (Use caution with cats!  They are more susceptible to a form of anemia caused by damage to red blood cells associated with garlic and onions. Try brewer’s yeast instead.)

Groom your dog (and cat!) frequently.  Dead hair and mats give fleas a lovely home in which to hide and breed.  Dogs are at a serious disadvantage in their attempts to kill those critters buried deep in a mat.***  Daily grooming is probably ideal with long haired dogs but grooming at least every other day when dealing with any fleas is a must.  Get a flea comb and use it.  Flea combs are useful only for adult fleas, of course.  Give special attention to under the arms, groin area, and base of the tail.

Regular bathing if you build up lots of lather and leave it on for 10 minutes minimum will kill fleas – it smothers them.  First make a ring of lather around your dog’s neck so fleas do not all run to high ground.  Then progress so that the entire body of the dog is covered in lather of a high quality organic canine shampoo - no chemicals, please!   Flea-repelling shampoos will contain oils such as lavender, rosemary, tea tree, mint and citrus.

Since fleas and their various life forms do not spend all their time on dogs you must treat the environment.  Vacuum**anything that can be reached by your vacuum cleaner daily,  wash anything that can be laundered at least weekly and sprinkle cedar shavings, lavender seeds  or eucalyptus leaves in and around areas frequented by the dog.

Unprocessed diatomaceous earth (not the pool type) can be sprinkled in cracks, corners of floors and even on carpets to kill fleas.  Keep gardens free of flea breeding grounds:  accumulations of leaves, brush, cool shady areas – fleas do not like sun!

Keep in mind that when you resort to chemically based products  your dog AND you are exposed to these chemicals.  It may be a way to start to get control but please reread this article for the very best ways to have a flea free critter in your home.

*The protein count comes primarily from grains – dogs did not evolve to eat grains!  Cats MUST have meat for health!!!!

**Good use (maybe the best?) of a flea collar is to cut off a piece of it, place in the vacuum cleaner bag and toss bag and the whole shebang.

***When dogs successfully kill fleas they often ingest fleas and they will very likely ingest tape worm eggs!!!!  The presence of tape worms is indicated when one sees white rice like things around the anus.

C.A.B.C. Emeritus
707 923 3477

CANCER – How You Can Help

CANCER - How Can You Help?

Almost nothing is being done to stop the causes of cancer in dogs but there are things that you CAN do to lower the risks.  Dr. Larry Glickman, veterinarian and epidemiologist at Purdue University has no doubt that at least some of the cancer in our canine companions is a result of the pesticides and insecticides used in agriculture, household cleaners, paints, toys made of synthetic materials and additives in the food we feed them.  We know that many of these agents do cause cancer in people so it is only logical the same applies to our pets.

While the major studies are done for people a few studies have been done with animals.  In 1983 Glickman and his colleagues discovered that dogs exposed to asbestos were at risk of getting a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma.   It has also been clearly indicated that dogs whose owners smoke are at increased risk of nasal cancer.  He says that long nosed dogs are two times more likely to develop nasal cancer and the incidence of nasal cancer increases with the number of packs of cigarettes the household members smoke each day!  Short nosed dogs are more likely to develop lung cancer.

Dr. Glickman’s own research, as reported in 1989 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, indicates female canines exposed to the pesticides in flea sprays and dips are at higher risk of developing bladder cancer than those not similarly exposed.  A study done in 2004 that focused on spot-on products such as FRONTLINE* and ADVANTAGE* are not similarly affected.  These products, while most definitely pesticides, are “minimally” absorbed into the bloodstream and therefore are not excreted via the bladder or possibly excreted in quite minimal quantities.  Research has linked 2-4-D with cancer.  This is marketed under names such as Ded-Weed, Lawn-Keep, Plantgard, and others.  The Chemical Industry Task Force found no such results in their studies (Imagine that!) but a 1994 study presented in the scientific journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,  showed that dogs exposed to lawns treated with 2-4-D within seven days  of application were 50 times more likely to have high levels of the herbicide in their systems than dogs exposed after 7 days.  The highest levels were in dogs that walked on the lawns within two days of application!

In addition to the overall risk to our canines there are, sad to say, some breeds of dogs with incredibly high risks of getting cancer.  Scottish Terriers are at 18 times the risk of getting bladder cancer when exposed to lawns sprayed with herbicides when compared to mixed breeds.  And the lovely Golden Retriever breed, (not alone in this category!) is 60% more likely to die of cancer than the overall average of 20 to 30 % ,  says  Dr. Larry Glickman.

Diet also plays a huge part in cancer in canines.  It is commonly accepted that a female spayed at an early age is at a much lower risk of mammary cancer than an intact female but there is another factor at work here.  Diet!  One study indicated that dogs overweight at one year of age were 3 times as likely to develop mammary cancer – THREE TIMES!  Another study indicated that those females operated on for mammary cancer  and fed a diet with “protein greater than 27 percent on a dry matter basis”  were likely to live three years following the surgery while females fed a low fat diet and less than 23 percent protein survived less than 6 months.  Clearly the quality of the food we feed our dogs gains importance by the day.  The cheaper the food the more likely the ingredients have not been carefully screened and will have larger amounts of pesticides, often include chemical “flavoring”, colorings and other additives, and poor quality protein, to say the very least.

The “cheap” foods may not be so cheap after all if we compare the cost to the lives of our dogs.

While we cannot change the world we can avoid subjecting our dogs to pesticides and herbicides that WE opt to spray in our gardens and on our lawns.  We can avoid harmful pesticides that are used to bathe our dogs and are sprayed on them.  We can stop using harmful products to wash the floors in the house and to clean any surface the pets may come in contact with their feet or have to smell.  We can stop smoking or at the very least not smoke in the house where they spend so much time.  We can use organic products to a much greater extent than we do.  And, finally, we can feed them so much better than we do.

*Use caution with ANY such elements introduced into your dog’s life.  Always seek less invasive ways to solve problems.  At this time - 2015 - there are many reports that various spot-on flea/tick treatments are no longer as effective.  Resistance appears to be a clear issue.

C.A.B.C. Emeritus

Sunday, June 21, 2015

They're ALL Tricks!

Why is it that when I teach someone to train their dog to high five, play bow, spin, back or whatever, the person is smiling, those watching are smiling and the DOG is smiling but when I suggest that now we are going to teach “Down!” the whole scene changes?

Those dog owners who have been taught “the old way” – choke chains, yanking and jerking, etc. – have the really worst time with teaching their dogs manners. I see the shoulders straighten. The voice gets rather low. Often it gets downright threatening! And – we are truly down to business. This is not brain surgery, folks! It is not necessary, and in fact it is contraindicated, to put on the mask of the so-called alpha dog (or bitch, should you prefer that) to be absolutely certain that your dog gets the picture that he is going to learn to “Down!”

Whatever you are teaching a dog can and, in my opinion, should be fun for both of you. In the past the down position was taught with force – no fun in that routine, I can assure you. The idea was that the dog should do it because he was told to do so and lack of compliance on his part indicated an “alpha dog” and that got lots of people really up tight.

To be sure, a down position is often viewed as a position of submission and a very timid dog or one with issues at the other end of the scale could feel trapped. A dog with no escape route is a dog that can be pushed over the edge and inflict a bite. Now – let’s change this picture. Instead of forcing a dog to down – it doesn’t matter if we think we are dealing with “alpha” or any other category you choose to name – let’s work it out so that WE get the down and the dog simply goes along with the idea. The dog gets rewarded. I get the down I seek and we are all happy. Neat!

About that “alpha” thing. New concepts are surfacing all the time and they are oh so interesting. For example: When I began training it was a commonly recommended training procedure to “do an alpha roll” which meant to get a dog on its back, wait for it to submit and then release it. The theory behind this highly recommended procedure was that wolves do that to inferiors in the pack hierarchy and therefore we must do it. The practice of same did get people bitten. So much for that idea. Of course – it was the dog’s fault so – the dog suffered the fall out.

Well – guess what? Ongoing studies now say that a wolf leader gets that roll over behavior by way of an offering by the insubordinate! The leader doesn’t make it happen by way of force! Hey, Boss, just tryin’ to get along in this world. Yup – that’s your bone alright. ¡Buen provecho!

Of course that makes sense in that constant battles in a pack would use valuable energy that could compromise pack survival because there might well be a lack of energy to hunt well. Incidentally, it appears to be very, very clear that alphas do not get into struggles for position – their position is clear. The ones who do the battling are those in the middle ground apparently struggling for a notch up. Don’t be a middleman! Latest info about wolf packs indicate they are really just families! Mom, Dad and the kids - often from two or even three litters. Eventually the now adults move on to create new "packs". Keep in mind - our dogs no longer do that!

Our dogs are so genetically close to wolves that given a fair chance of physical match-ups (think Chihuahua/wolf?) pups would result from the mating. Many behaviors are clearly similar but our dogs are separated in many ways also and we must view both sides of the coin, at least as I see things. For example: We could not produce a litter of wolf pups, choose to keep one for ourselves and turn it into an animal that parallels (in any way!) a pup of a domesticated breed – ANY breed!

As for that teaching down? I recall seeing a woman teaching a tiger to down on cue. She was outside the tiger's training venue and, yup, she got it done. No choke chain, no pressure, just positive reinforcement. After all? We do not really teach dogs (or tigers!) to lie down - that behavior comes ready made. We simply want to put it on cue, right?

With that in mind – remain open about how dogs learn, how best to teach them – and whatever you do teach remember - It is just a trick. And – it can be such fun

Charlotte Peltz

CABC, IAABC, emeritus

707 923 3477

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

10 Easy Steps to Housetraining

10 Easy Steps to Housetraining

Very young puppies have absolutely no control over their bodily functions. It truly amazes me when I get told that someone's puppy is still having problems going where it should and the pup is all of 8 weeks old! Or 10 or 12 weeks for that matter. Puppies who are supposedly trained at that time have well trained owners – the pups themselves are still developing physically and lack long time control.

Since this is a major issue in most households I am delighted to offer 10 Easy Steps to Housetraining written by Sue Mathews, Echo Bouviers, Hillsboro , Oregon and reprinted here with her permission.

•  Snap a 6 foot leash to your puppy's collar.

•  Put your belt through the loop on the leash.

•  Where you goeth, so goeth the puppy.

•  Supervise the puppy at all times.

•  Roll up a newspaper and keep it with you at all times.

•  Take the puppy outside on a leash first thing in the morning, after eating, after playing, after napping, anytime you see the puppy prowling, sniffing, or scratching...and about every hour in between. Encourage her to “Go potty!”

•  When the puppy pees or dumps, praise her BIG TIME (until the neighbors come to take you away) and then play ball or some other fun game for a little bit. (The message to the puppy...First I go potty, then I get to PLAY!)

•  If the puppy doesn't do anything productive in 15 minutes or so take her inside and crate her for an hour in the same room you're in, then take her outside again. Take her outside sooner if you hear her whining.

•  The ONLY time your puppy should be in a crate is at night, if you bring her inside after a non productive potty run, or if you just cannot supervise her personally (i.e. you need to take a shower!)

•  If at any time you find a surprise puddle or poop on the floor, get your rolled up newspaper. Hit yourself over the head 3 times and say “Baaaaaaad Owner...I forgot to watch my dog!”

Follow this program and I can guarantee that the puppy will be housetrained. It won't be this week, or probably for several weeks more, and yes, the burden is on you...This works with puppies, or with older just have to take the time to help the dog learn good habits.

The WORD is out!

The WORD is out!

While the WORD is out it still requires listening to it and reading it.  What word?  Positive.  Actually, there are many words involved and NO! is not one of them.  BAD DOG! doesn’t qualify either.  Saying:  Did you do THAT? can backfire big time so toss that from your selection of words.  Using “the” word means that one doesn’t scold pups for defecating on the Oriental rug, destroying the chair leg, and eating things that are not good for it.  It means that you start using words like:  Good dog!  But you have to be on the alert for all the good things every dog does!

Do I hear moans and groans and even louder sounds suggesting such a program is nuts?  Oh, to be sure I am hearing those sounds – I hear them regularly.  And always from people who are absolutely certain their dog knows exactly what it is supposed to do and refuses to do it.   What is usually stated that justifies the person’s scolding and punishment is that the dog has been told over and over and should understand it by now.  And, the all time biggee is:  He knows he did the wrong thing because he runs off as soon as I come in the room.  Hmmm.  Well, if the dog did understand  and was rewarded for the proper behavior I can guarantee that the dog would be doing what you want.  And, if you are interested in changing your mind I can give you a way to prove that your dog is not associating its (“bad”)  behavior with what you are observing.  Honest.

The people from whom I never hear those words are people who have begun to understand just how animals really do learn.  Those animals, incidentally, include humans.  Possibly I need to add – people who do not say those words “understand” how animals really do learn in the best possible way.

In order to apply the methods of positive training it is important to learn alternatives to all the training methods you may have been using.  We teach the proper behavior rather than punish what is not wanted.  Ignoring what is undesirable is probably the most difficult concept for people to grasp.  That means that it will be a challenge to stop saying NO! to a pup that is jumping on your guests.  It means that you have to stop pushing the dog off of you as you say NO!  It means you have to stop hollering, spraying your dog in the face with water, it means not shoving your dog’s face in excrement left on your rug and it most certainly means not using your hands for anything except good stuff.  Incidentally – only your dog can tell you what the good stuff things are.  Observe your dog!!!  If you are big into pats and even thumps on her rump you are most assuredly NOT praising your dog.

As you change your approach – and I most certainly hope you do so – keep in mind just how difficult it is to make those changes.  Then, think of your dog.  How much more difficult it probably is for her to change behavior:  such as to trust you not to punish her.  Or to trust that you will use your hands only to touch gently and in places that SHE likes.

So, your assignment is to come up with all the things that you like about your dog and find ways to let her know that.  Best ways include “marking” that behavior (saying Yes!, for example or, as I teach, proper use of a “clicker”) so that she knows exactly what is correct, and offering a tasty treat.  Once she sees there is a  positive way of life, learn how to apply this to any and all things you really want her to do.  Those things include using a specific area for elimination, resting in appropriate places compared to your favorite chair, chewing on appropriate bones and toys, greeting guests with “4 on the floor”, and much, much more.

Seeing those Aha! moments are rewards enough for those who really want to learn “the word”.


*If there is a sudden behavior change it is always necessary to investigate a health issue.  Sudden house soiling for example can result from bladder infections, parasites and even from stress if there have been major changes in the household.

Look Ma! NO Hands!

Look Ma!  NO Hands!

When I was a youngster and finally managed to ride a bicycle my next goal was to do what the really good bike riders did – ride with no hands.  When that day came it was a wonderful experience indeed.

Well, that isn’t the only place where a no-hands technique is wonderful.  It applies to dog (and cat!) training as well.*  Dog’s can learn to walk at one’s side without using the hands to yank on a leash.  Dog’s can learn to sit, lie down, and a myriad of other activities without the use of a leash.  Of course, we all realize that we do not have to teach dogs to sit or lie down – they know perfectly well how to perform those behaviors.  We want the behaviors to be on cue.  Notice I did not say “command”.  That is just another example of the changes that take place with positive reinforcement based training.  We are not commanding our companion animals anymore than the killer whale trainer is “commanding” his charge to perform a behavior.  Fat chance anyone could “command” such a creature!

One of the reasons people do yank on choke chains to get dogs to perform is that they CAN do it.  Of course, some people get bitten when a dog decides he has had enough but that is for another article.

Understanding what motivates animals to learn takes some effort.  Just like learning to ride that bike.  Dogs do what works.  If they can drag their person down the street they’ll surely do so.  If being in position is rewarded, guess where you’ll find the little rascal?  Or that big hunk of a dog, for that matter?  Right where you want her.

Instead of the choke chain (or prong collar or electric collar!) punishing the dog for doing the undesirable behavior, dogs are rewarded for being in the right place at the right time.  For dogs with a long history of pulling there are alternatives to help change their behavior and get those wonderful moments worth rewarding.  Those alternatives include head halters and wonderful new harnesses that are designed to stop the pulling.

Something really important to know and remember is:  Prevention is worth a pound of cure.  If people start their young pups out correctly the chances are slim they are going to have problems in the future.  People usually wait, unfortunately, until the pulling has reached the point where their shoulders are getting weekly chiropractic treatments before seeking help.  In all fairness it is important to acknowledge that there are MANY people who still believe one should not begin training until a pup is at least 6 months of age!  With punishment based training that is most certainly the case.  With positive based training methods puppies of 8 weeks have a ball with the “games” and learn everything they need to know!  The only thing one must remember is to not ask something of the little one that it physically cannot do.  Training begins the day the pup enters your life.  You are always training - best it be a plan or you end up with a lot of behaviors that will require modification.

So while that leash is a safety line that should always be used in situations where the dog may escape,  do investigate the No hands! training methods.

*No hands training works successfully with elephants, California sea lions, rhinos, African Wild Dogs, etc., etc., etc.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goldens are Good – Pit Bulls are Bad!

Goldens are Good - Pit Bulls are Bad!

In the U.S. and some countries in Europe there is an increasing effort to have various breeds of dogs banned completely.  Considering that the number one behavioral problem that owners seek help for or claim as an excuse for dumping the dog at a shelter is aggression this is an issue that definitely requires attention. And, there definitely appears to be an increase in the problem.   But – what about the breeds involved?

Dog bite fatality statistics for a 15 year period in the U.S. show that Rottweilers and Pit Bulls were responsible for about half the cases but little is mentioned about the fact that the list included Great Danes, Huskies, Malamutes and Akitas. (All of these breeds of dogs are powerful, and with the exception of Pits, all are big.  Clearly any aggressive behavior on their part will cause far greater damage than is likely from the smaller breeds of dogs but size is not the only issue, to be sure. (A Pomeranian was responsible for the death of an infant!)

Blame for what causes good dogs to “go bad” range from lack of concern for breeding practices by the AKC (American Kennel Club) to poor management by owners, lack of socialization and education of the basics by breeders and owners, and back yard breeders,  who haven’t a clue how to breed with care and concern for the animals and the people who will come in contact with them – and furthermore don’t give a hoot!  Many so called professional or seemingly responsible breeders need to be included in that lot since they produce a lot of pups with problems.  

The current popularity of tough dogs adds lots of fuel to the fire but that is not the fault of the dogs!  To ban a breed of dog simply sends the creeps out to fire up some other likely breed and so the pattern continues. Dogs that have been bred to fight do present a serious problem when in the wrong hands because they can direct that behavior towards humans and most especially towards children.  And, there is an arousal level with Pits, for example, that almost defies description.  People whose dogs cause havoc need to pay and pay dearly for it. And, NO - not all Pits can or would hurt anyone or any other creature!

According to Stephen Budiansky in his book The Truth About Dogs a veterinarian did a survey of 2,249 dogs, corrected for the differing popularity of different breeds and topping the list of reported aggressiveness of biting with 14% were – Dachshunds! They were followed by Great Danes, Lhasas, German shepherds, St. Bernards and Malamutes.  If one did not adjust for breed popularity one would surely see Goldens in that list since the sheer number of them mean lots of people get bitten by Golden Retrievers.

While I have no doubt that breeding practices and management issues contribute enormously to the behavior problems people encounter with dogs (behaviors not limited to aggression) I believe that our urbanization has eliminated so many of the ways that dogs used to be able to live.  I do not nor would I ever advocate turning dogs loose on the streets so they can have “fun” and a social life but the reality is – there were lots fewer problems in those days of old.  And – for the most part – the dogs we refer to as “street dogs” are less likely to bite than the pampered, never-leaves-the-house-never-went-to-school dearly loved pet.  This is true everywhere – not just here.  Dogs, all too often, lead dreadfully boring lives and that is a horrible thing to do to dogs bred for work and there is no work to do!  That pent-up energy will out one day and all too often what one hears is – “It happened out of the blue!!  He never did X before!!!”

Another major problem is what I call the “Lassie Syndrome”.  People seem to believe that dogs should simply come to us housetrained, desiring to please our every wish, have total bite inhibition, love kids, know what is expected of them, and just “do it” with no efforts on our part.  Well – ya know, folks?  There is no Lassie!

Dogs bite.  That is one of their major ways to communicate.  We can channel their natural behaviors towards suitable directions and acceptable items but that does take time, energy, understanding how and when or we can simply hand them over to a shelter and go get another dog and make the same mistakes all over again.  The choice is ours and sad to say those dogs paying the price with their lives don’t have that same advantage.