Thursday, June 29, 2017

Those Nagging Behavior Problems

Today I had a woman ask me about her daughter's dog, a lovely 3 year old Labrador Retriever who still submissively urinates when greeting people and jumps up on everyone. This dog is over 100 lbs, so weight is an issue as well. All of these problems are fixable; we can work on the submissive urination and jumping up. Some diet changes, including exchanging fruits and veggies for high calorie treats, and increasing this dog's exercise are also needed. Is this the kind of thing I might be able to help with, she asked? Of course!

While I do spend the majority of my time treating "serious" behavior problems...i.e. aggression, anxiety, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc., that doesn't mean that I don't treat those nagging behavior problems as well. In fact, it is often the case, that those seemingly straightforward, yet irritating behavior problems like barking, jumping up on people, and house training issues truly effect the human-animal bond in more insidious ways than those serious problems do.

Truly, I really enjoy those little, nagging behavior problems! They are easily solved, creating relief for the pet owners and more joy in life for the pets. I can feel satisfaction in a job that is completed, something I don't always feel when dealing with aggression, or fear, or serious anxiety cases where we will be dealing with the issues long term.

The woman I was telling you about was actually a bit embarrassed to be asking me about her daughter's dog. She felt like it might be a case that was "beneath me." On the contrary, there is no behavior problem I am unwilling to address and try to help with. While we all enjoy a challenge in our professional lives, being able to help someone with a seemingly small, irritating issue, can be quite rewarding as well.

The take home message? I am here to help. No problem is too big, or too small. If it is effecting your relationship with your pet, then let me know!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Staying Cool in Triple Digit Heat

Anyone who knows me, knows I keep Rough Coat Collies. I love them. I love their long noses, fluffy tails, and thick, luxurious coats. Keeping them cool in California during the summer can be a challenge, but it is doable. So, if you, too, have a heavy-coated dog, keep this in mind:

First off, don't shave your dog. Shaving a long-coated dog actually makes it harder for them to stay cool. Dogs with heavy coats shake and fluff up their coats, trapping air in between the layers which cools them. If you shave them, they will overheat faster.

Do get a kids' wading pool and put cool water in it. Encourage your dog to stand in the pool. Cooling their feet helps to cool their whole body quickly. You can also put water on their heads to cool them quickly.

Most people keep one water bowl...I keep three! Having multiple water bowls means if one is empty or the water has gotten warm, there are others to choose from.

Walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening so that they don't burn their feet. When the air temperature is 95', the grass is 105' in the sunshine, the cement is 124' and the blacktop is a whopping 140'! Where I live, daytime air temperatures often are in the triple digits meaning walks are completely out of the question for all of us!

Offer treats that keep your dogs cool. You can make your dogs popsicles using broth or liquid yogurt as a base and adding fruit or veggies to make it even more fun. Use cut up bully sticks or carrots for the popsicle "stick" and your dogs will have a blast.

While air conditioning is great, adding fans is even better at spreading around the cool air. I use both ceiling cans and floor fans to keep the collies cool.

Cooling collars and cooling pads on their beds rounds out the routine. And I frequently find collies on the cool tiles in the bathroom or the hard wood floor in the kitchen.

Older dogs, puppies, and those dogs who are sick or immune compromised will need even more help staying cool during the summer.

So, when the temperatures hit the triple digits here, I will be sitting by the fan eating popsicles with my collies. Stay cool everyone!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

But What Would YOU Do?

I get asked that question a lot....but what would you do if it was your dog/cat? I try to be upfront with people and let them know that what I might choose to do...or what their family/well meaning friends/neighbors/co-workers tell them do...should be taken with a grain of salt. As my grandmother used to say, "opinions are like noses...everyone has one." No one can make that decision for you. You are the one whose pet is effecting your life. You have to decide if modifying *your* behavior, changing the way you confine your pet, signing your dog up for daycare, or whatever the solution might be, will truly work for you, your family, and your budget. Telling someone with a barking dog that they "should" put a bark collar on the dog, crate train it, send it to daycare, etc. is not really all that helpful. I like to help people look at the bigger picture; we need to find out WHY the dog is barking in order to come up with the best possible solution. And I understand that you may not like my solution. Or it may not work fast enough to appease your neighbors. I get that...I really do. However, I simply won't just tell you what you want to hear. That's not in your best interest or the best interest of your dog. While I sympathize with you having trouble in your multi-cat household with spraying and cats not using the litter box, I don't have an instant remedy. We will need to help your cats reduce the social pressure that is leading to the marking behavior. While it will definitely help to add more litter boxes, that won't "fix" the problem.

Behavior problems are frustrating, complicated, often expensive, and potentially damaging to the human-animal bond. I sympathize as I have dealt with behavior problems in my own home. I would never recommend that you do something that I would be unwilling to do myself. However, I can't make your decisions for you. I will guide you and provide the best possible choices for you and your pets. Always.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pool Safety for Dogs

Two summers ago, one of my collies, Desi, was staying with a friend who has a pool in her backyard. I don't think Desi had ever seen a pool before (he came to me as a retired show dog from Pennsylvania), but I never would have thought that the pool posed a risk to him as he is always careful about where he steps. So, when he inadvertently tried to walk on water and ended up in the pool, my quick-thinking friend hopped in and guided him out of the water. He was definitely flustered and quite put out about being wet all of the sudden. I just thank my lucky stars that she was standing right there when he fell in. Instead of a funny story we laugh about now, it could have been deadly.

Every year, more than 5000 pets die from drowning in swimming pools, spas, etc. The worst part about this statistic is that these deaths are completely avoidable. Fencing around a pool is the safest way to keep animals out of the water. However, many pool owners don't like the fencing because it isn't aesthetically pleasing. There are pool covers that are durable enough that they can be walked on safely. But, again, the cover will only work if it is on the pool. Probably the best option if you have an unfenced pool in your yard is to teach your dog to swim. This is a can't just toss them into the pool and hope for the best! Start with a life vest and ease them into the water. Stay with them and guide them around the pool. Do a lot of short sessions with the vest on in the pool. Show your dog where the exit points are several times. For added safety, purchase a ramp that can be mounted to the side(s) of your pool. These ramps float on top of the water, are quite visible, and have holes in them that a dog can grab a hold of and gain purchase to climb out of the pool.

Some dogs will graduate out of wearing a life vest around a swimming pool while others should truly wear one anytime they are near water. The brachycephalic dog breeds (think bulldogs) are heavily boned and can sink rather than swim, quickly taking water into their lungs due to the truncated shape of their noses. And, more importantly, any dog can panic, swim around frantically, and then sink, drowning from exhaustion.

Just this week alone, I have worked with two families who have unfenced, backyard pools. We worked on teaching the dogs where the edges of the pool were, where the stairs are located, etc. Always wearing a life vest and going into the pool with the dogs so that they learn not to be scared of the water, but respectful. If you own a boat, or plan to take your dog with you anyplace where there is water, practicing water safety and teaching them to wear a life vest is a must. Even dogs who are built for swimming and love it should wear a vest in deep water, heavy currents, or if they will be in the water for an extended period of time. Always better safe than sorry.