Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Halloween Safety Tips

Witches, Ghosts and Goblins can be scary looking to a dog. Consider leaving him home while you take the children out trick or treating. If your dog spends much time outdoors, consider bringing him inside to keep him safe. He may bolt over or through the fence should he get frightened.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Xylitol, the artificial sweetener found in many candies, is poisonous to dogs.

Ingesting any candy, cake, or wrappers can cause intestinal upset.

Open Doors: mean more chance of your dog slipping out. Place him in a crate with a stuffed Kong or bone to work on. If he is not crated trained or has not learned enough manners to remain behind a closed door of a bedroom either tether him or keep him on lead with you in attendance.

Jack-O-Lanterns: While fun to carve and have burning brightly, keep all knives safely out of reach of your dog. If you are using a candle, be cautious; your dog could easily knock it over.

Costumes: You may enjoy dressing up, but your dog may not appreciate it. A festive bandana around his neck, an interactive toy, a quiet place to relax and your pet will be safe for the night.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Old Dogs, Young Dogs

A year ago, our Borzoi Catera at age 12 was a perfect match for 8 week old puppy Melissa. Catera is gentle, she is very careful where she puts her feet, she has always been very much aware of where she places her body. I could let Catera run with Melissa and knew that Melissa would be safe.

Safe from what? From being stepped on, from being body slammed, or from a harsh reprimand. Reprimands are not bad, but some dogs are not comfortable being around other dogs, especially puppies, and may reprimand a bit too harshly. A young puppy may not heed a well deserved growl if he uses his puppy teeth too hard while playing and the reprimand may escalate. Puppies learn by interacting with appropriate playmates whether they are pups of the same size and age, or a stable adult who has good skills interacting with young pups. I certainly did not want Melissa playing with an adult dog who may have a rough style in playing when she was just a tiny pup. I protected her from being physically hurt. I chose her playmates accordingly.

Dogs have different play styles. Some play rough and body slam. Some like to play chase but have little body contact, some like to roll on the ground and mouth each other for hours. Melissa and Lucy continue to play for hours, gently mouthing each other. Lucy always comes back for more if Melissa stops, a sure sign the dog at the bottom is having fun.

Catera allowed a few nibbles from puppy Melissa but moved away to stop the game when Melissa mouthed too hard. Melissa lost her playmate. The game stopped, she learned to use her mouth softly on Catera.

Fast forward a year. Catera is now a teenager, although still maintaining her weight at 72 pounds she is not as strong as she was when Melissa first arrived. Catera no longer goes on long hikes. Melissa is 85# she is strong and powerful and still developing muscle. Melissa no longer runs with Catera, she could easily knock Catera over, purely by accident. Catera still frolics in the yard, but her pace is slower. She is not as quick to turn, she prefers to walk the property boundaries rather then run long distances. Catera prefers to play with little body contact, where as Melissa enjoys body contact. Some senior dogs continue playing rough and tumble games as if they were youngsters but it is up to us to keep active puppies and strong adolescents from doing any physical damage to our older dogs. Senior dogs still enjoy socializing with pups, we just need to monitor that the pup does not overdo things.

Sara, a black Labrador had wonderful manners with all dogs, she was a good choice for Melissa to socialize with. But we watched carefully that puppy Melissa did not walk on teenager Sara, or that she did not overstay her welcome.

* Senior dogs may tire more easily.
* Seniors may be frail and may not be steady on their feet. Protect them from injury from a boisterous active puppy.
* A lifting of a lip and a show of teeth from the older dog may be necessary to tell the pup that the game has gone too far with those needle sharp puppy teeth. This is all part of canine body language. Of course if bodily harm is going to happen to either senior or pup, you must intervene. If you are not sure what your dog is saying, have a professional dog trainer who uses humane methods help you learn how to read your dog.
* Some adult dogs prefer not to play with very young puppies, but enjoy playing with adult dogs and older pups. Maybe a few weeks of management is necessary before your senior is comfortable with your new pup.
* Make sure to spend quality time with your senior, they may walk slower, and need to sleep more, but they still enjoy our company.

* Give your senior a play that is off limits from an active pup/adolescent, they will appreciate the time alone to rest. Catera certainly enjoys her quiet time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

First Therapy Visit

Melissa made her debut as a pet therapy dog yesterday. About a month ago she passed the requirements to become a certified therapy dog. The paper work arrived and Melissa was ready to visit.

When I start a new dog doing therapy work, I take it slow. I watch the dog for any signs of stress, any avoidance, or shutting down. Even though we expose our dogs to LOTS in preparation for the certification test, real life situations can be different.

Here is what was new to Melissa:

1) She has walked on linoleum floors in the past....but never such a long stretch of them. She handled them fine.
2) She has been touched, hugged, kissed, by one, two and sometimes 3 people at a time. What I forgot about was the ID tags that many employees wear around their necks. As they bent to hug or kiss Melissa, their tags touched Melissa around her head. The first few times I praised Melissa and acted like it was the best thing since sliced bread. I wanted her to associated the tags with my verbal praise, to let her know it was ok. I have paired treats with verbal praise in the past...Melissa did fine.
3) Melissa had never seen IV tubing, or a patient with an IV in their arm. I made sure she did not touch, lick or get tangled. Again my verbal praise helped, and targeting of her nose to the palm of my hand helped guide her to the other side of the patient.
4) She has seen wheelchairs, but had never seen a stretcher. She looked and gently moved in that direction, towards the hand reaching out from under the blanket.
5) The beep beep of the blood pressure machine was new...she moved her ears forward and tilted her head. I think would have liked to investigate it further, but I cued her to sit and stay while the patient finished having vital signs taken. Melissa then watched the BP machine be wheeled to another room.
6) The smells of antibiotics, wounds, medications and blood products was also new to her. She didn't outwardly seem to notice, but I know a dog takes in everything. Melissa was very well aware of her new surroundings, it was registering in her brain.
7) She visited with staff, patients and visitors, she enjoys being petted.
8) She showed off her 'take a bow', and 'shake' with each paw.

And before she showed any signs of being tired we left the hospital. I did not want to overwhelm her senses too much. Our visit lasted less then one hour. In the future I will visit longer with Melissa. But for the first few times, I will leave the building while she is still perky and upbeat. The dog who slows and is sluggish after being in a new environment may not be tired, he may be stressed. He is shutting down. New and different can be stressful, to us and to our animals. Best to have her become accustomed to all the new sights and sounds a little bit at a time. I want Melissa to enjoy every moment of being a therapy dog. I am hoping that visiting hospitals and nursing homes will be a large part of her future.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The recall revisited.......

It is a gorgeous October day. My friend Lessa and I took the dogs for a hike early this morning. I had the confidence to let Melissa off her long line for part of the time.

Thanks to Lessa who caught the dogs' pure joy in photos. The dogs ran in the fields and meadows, going one way then the other enjoying the brisk air.

They ran until their tongues hung long.

They sniffed the air, their heads held high.

They sniffed the ground, their muzzles deep in alfalfa.

The pond was a perfect setting, dozens of geese against the fall background.

The dogs took notice of the geese, and in the water they went.....swimming to join the gaggle!!

Luckily both Melissa and Lucy have a fairly good recalls. They heard their names, and turned to look at us...and came swimming back to shore.