Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Let's Talk About Those "Hypoallergenic" Dogs!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970's, my grandparents had a Cockapoo named Sammy.  He followed my grandmother around everywhere and loved to play tug-of-war with socks.  In my mind those Cockapoos from the 70's were the first "Doodles," with Poodle crosses gaining even more popularity since the first purposefully created Labradoodle back in 1989. Wally Conron, the man who spent over 2 years creating that first Labradoodle, did so because he wanted to create a dog that could serve as a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to Labradors. He has since publicly said he regrets having (unwittingly) created this craze where for-profit-breeding has led to a preponderance of health and temperament issues in Doodles. Add to this the confusion prospective owners go through trying to figure out what is meant by "F1, F1B, F2, or F3" when looking at litters of Doodle puppies. Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let's break that down:

A Golden Retriever x Poodle breeding will result in F1 Goldendoodle puppies

Breeding one of those F1 Goldendoodles to a Poodle again results in an F1B Goldendoodle puppy litter

Breeding two F1 Goldendoodles results in a litter of F2 Goldendoodles

And finally, breeding two F2 Goldendoodles will result in a litter of F3 Goldendoodle puppies.  And so on. I recently met an F5 Sheepadoodle!

Whether you want to think of these Doodle-dogs as purposefully bred mutts, expensive designer dogs, or up and coming dog breeds in their own right, is up to you and not my point here.  What I want to get at is this notion that these are your only options if you have family members with allergies, or simply do not want to deal with a shedding dog.  One caveat though:  many of these Doodles are not actually hypoallergenic, as they are often advertised.  It takes several generations to get to enough of those genes coding for hair versus fur to arrive at the point where shedding is minimal or non-existent.  And truly there are no hypoallergenic dog breeds.  What many people who think that they are allergic to dog fur are actually allergic to are the things that stick to a dog's coat.  These external allergens can stick to haired dogs too, meaning that how you care for your dog's coat is the most important factor in allergen control.  Now, if it's just a preference for a haired dog rather than one with fur, then you have many other options than you may have first thought.  And the added bonus of researching a purposefully bred, purebred dogs is that the breeder should be able to supply you with the results of genetic testing, and be able to give you references to other owners of the dogs they've created.  Each of these breeds has a distinct temperament and personality (in addition to their haired coat!) that you can feel confident will be present in the dog you purchase as those characteristics have been bred over hundreds of generations to a breed standard.

So, without further ado, here is an alphabetical list of dog breeds to consider if you are looking for a breed that has hair rather than fur.  Just for fun, I've listed a few breed characteristics (based on my observations) for you as well:

1. Afghan Hound--a big, elegant, aloof dog

2. American Hairless Terrier: Friendly with everyone, has a reputation for being good with kids.

3.  Bedlington Terrier: Looks like a sheep and has fairly low exercise requirements compared to other terriers on this list.

4.  Bichon Frise: Happy-go-lucky and often a good candidate for pet therapy.

5.  Chinese Crested: Great little watchdogs, but they don't do well if left alone. Not usually a good choice for homes with young kids.

6.  Coton De Tulear: Sturdy little dogs who have a reputation for being good with other dogs and good with kids.

7.  Giant Schnauzer: Super-smart and loyal, but they can be very territorial.  These dogs need a lot of exercise, both mental and physical.

8. Irish Water Spaniel: These dogs are goofy and will bring a smile to your face.  They are very energetic though and must have lots of room to run in order to be content and not stir-crazy.

9.  Kerry Blue Terrier: Equally as energetic and active as a Giant Schnauzer but with a gentler disposition. 

10.  Lagotto Romagnolo: Often mistaken for mini-labradoodles, these 30 lb. bundles of energy and enthusiasm need their exercise out of the way first thing, and then will spend the rest of the day cuddling on your lap.

11. Maltese: While notoriously difficult to housetrain, they make up for this with their playful yet fearless dispositions. 

12.  Miniature Schnauzer: Same watchdog tendencies as the Giant version, but a bit more cheerful and engaging.  Less likely to terrify your neighbors than the Giant Schnauzer!

13. Peruvian Inca Orchid: These dogs are hairless and come in three sizes.  All have a tendency to be protective and territorial with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

14.  Poodle: You know this one.  Comes in three recognized sizes and are the smart, energetic base dog breed for many of those designer dogs you've seen going for thousands of dollars.

15.  Portuguese Water Dog: "Porties" make great family dogs as long as that family is action-driven and not sedentary!

16. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier: Good with kids. Especially kids who like to run. A lot. 

17.  Spanish Water Dog: High energy like the Portuguese Water dog. BUT.  These dogs are more protective and territorial.

18. Standard Schnauzer: Of the three Schnauzers on this list, the Standards tend to be more sociable and affectionate, better with kids and older folks.

19. Yorkshire Terrier: Like the Maltese, these little dogs are notoriously difficult to housetrain.  They are also pretty feisty and can be bossy with their owners.  

20.  Xoloitcuintli (Mexican Hairless): These dogs come in three sizes and two varieties, one with hair and one without.  The hairless version will need sunblock (and appropriate weather coverings). These are calm, rather aloof dogs with a moderate exercise requirement.

There you have it!  Twenty options for a haired breed dog that isn't a Doodle. Keep in mind that you will still need to do your research to find a reputable breeder and get on a wait list for a puppy or older dog being re-homed after a show career. Dog shows are a great place to network with breeders, particularly if they are "benched shows," meaning dog shows where the dogs being shown in the ring are also on display for observers to meet and talk to the breeders/handlers about those dogs.

You know I have collies and collies are, most definitely, a furred breed. My dogs shed all the time all over everything.  I groom them weekly, sometimes twice weekly when they are blowing their coats, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I control allergens by wiping them down with pet wipes and using waterless shampoo when necessary. My couch has an attractive, washable cover, so that I can share my favorite reading spot with them. I am fortunate that no one in my family is truly allergic to dogs. I'd hate to have to give up those human family members ;)

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

This is my buddy, Loki. He's the 3 year old Miniature Labradoodle I've had the privilege of working with for the last couple of years.  He's smart, quirky, and looks great in a coat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Slow Down, You're Doing Fine

Worked with two clients this week who needed a gentle reminder to slow down.  It's not a race to see who can groom their dog the fastest, trim the most nails in one sitting, or get the harness on a puppy before they wiggle away.  In fact, if you slow it down, breaking those everyday tasks into smaller pieces, you'll find that getting things done for your pets goes a lot more smoothly.  

For many dogs, putting on the harness or leash is a time of heightened arousal.  They may be excited, barking and running around trying to speed up the process, or they may be running away from you making it take longer.  Stop chasing them and definitely stop leashing up a dog who is barking, jumping, or pulling you to the door.  Slow down.  Bring out the leash.  Stand still.  Wait for your dog to approach you (don't say come or here!) on their own.  Reach toward them with the collar, harness, or leash. If they race off, just stay where you are. If they back away, don't lunge for them! Make putting on the leash or harness calmly the goal.  Use those high value treats and reward standing for the harness or sitting for the buckle of the collar.  Attach the leash now. If they take off running once the leash is on, just drop the leash and stay where you are.  Wait for your dog to come back.  With a treat in your hand get their attention and then walk around in a circle or figure eight, with your dog at your side, dragging their leash.  Don't pick up that leash and head for the door until your dog is more calmly attentive.  If you go out the door with an over-excited dog, that sets the tenor of your walk right from the start. 

I meet a lot of dogs who are reactive at the vet's office or for their grooming appointments.  Some folks who groom their pets at home report being unable to brush certain areas on their dogs or cats, brush teeth, or trim/dremel nails. I know I've talked before about the importance of teaching cooperative care to puppies and kittens for trips to the vet's office, but the same applies to grooming.  Don't try to trim all of those nails in one sitting if that's too much for your dog or cat.  Better to trim one each day and have your pet cooperate than to wrestle with them and make the whole thing a giant negative experience they won't soon forget.  This is true for older pets as much as it's true for young ones; slow down. Take your time.  Use treats.  Take breaks.  Always end on a positive note.  While it's fine to have someone help you hold your pet for nails, teeth, or ears, they should simply be holding your pet in place, not actively restraining them.  Maybe set your pet up on a towel on a table (I LOVE my grooming table!), treats at the ready, and your other human assistant there to monitor the treat delivery to help ensure you are rewarding compliance with the grooming tasks, and not bribing your pets into acceptance of their fate.  

Taking care of your pet's needs shouldn't be a mental to-do list with you trying to check things off as quickly as possible.  Break down those tasks into smaller, easier to swallow pieces for them, particularly when it comes to experiences that make them anxious or reactive. And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me. 

Grooming collies takes time and patience.  Just ask Ozzie who always needs 
a snack and then a nap following his weekly home grooming sessions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Rain Rain Go Away!

While I am feeling grateful for all the rain we've been getting over the last couple of weeks here in Northern California, I am getting tired of it.  I know I'm not alone in feelings of being overwhelmed by the weather we are experiencing here in the US this winter.  My friends in the Midwest and on the east coast are getting hammered with freezing temperatures and snow, and even my friends in Tennessee and Florida have had crazy weather this winter.  Stir crazy humans makes for stir crazy pets and while you might just want to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a good book, your dogs and cats are going to need more than that to make them feel content.

I know I've talked about puzzles many times for dogs and cats and getting those out and rotating them daily is key.  Change up the puzzles AND the treats you use so that interest remains high.  Novelty is the key, but that doesn't have to break the bank.  Amazon boxes, shoe boxes, egg cartons, and paper towel tubes can all be used like puzzles for solving.  And if you're really creative with a drill and have some PVC pipe laying around, drill holes in the plastic PVC pipe for your pets to dig and lick to get treats out of.  Remember too that something as simple as a braided rope toy can be changed up by soaking it in low sodium chicken broth and then freezing it.  Dig out old muffin tins and cookie sheets, smear them lightly with nut butter and stick treats or kibble on them, then freeze.  In a pinch, a frozen Kong is better than nothing at all, as are bullsticks and bones.

For cats and dogs with a high prey/chase drive, dig out the wand toys, R/C cars, and ripple rugs. Crinkled paper, balls with bells, and even catnip can entertain some of your feline friends.  And if you are stuck indoors with a puppy, set up an exercise pen and create a jungle gym for the pen using PVC pipe that you can hang toys and items off of.  For the ground in the pen, vary the flooring. You can put bubble wrap down under a towel, cardboard stacked up to work on balance, and indoor/outdoor turf to hide kibble or treats in.  Add a small children's tunnel for exploring and boxes for climbing on and in.  

If your pets are going stir crazy from a lack of outdoor exercise, consider a treadmill. There are several manufacturers on the market, creating exercise wheels that are safe for cats and treadmills that are safe for dogs of all sizes. 

Finally, don't forget to groom your pets regularly during inclement weather. You need to remove the loose hair, dirt, and dead skin cells as then accumulate, particularly on pets who are spending a lot of times indoors where it is heated.  Their coats will dry faster if they get wet and be able to thermoregulate better when their coats and skin are in top condition.  Be sure and clip the hair/fur on feet and between toys to keep dirt, debris, and snow from accumulating there.  Obviously, raincoats and boots can help protect your pets on walks in rain, snow, etc.  Just know that training a dog to wear boots takes some time and patience!

Hang in there everyone.  Stay safe. Keep your brains and those of your pets exercised so that you can contentedly enjoy that book or TV program. And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Ozzie and Westley happily wear their raincoats meaning less dog area 
to be dried off when they return home after their walks!

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Is It Time For Another Dog?

I had a lovely video appointment with a new client who lives in another state. She has a sweet, senior dog who is experiencing some dementia and a second dog who will be 5 years old in February. We were meeting not only to discuss what she can do to help her senior dog, but to discuss her next dog.  She asked if she'd "blown it already" by waiting too long.  She said she knew that pediatricians recommended 18-24 months between human children, and was wondering if it was similar in dogs! I truly got a kick out of this as that's probably not far off the mark really in terms of spacing with dogs, IF your goal is to have dogs that can really enjoy each other's company and learn from each other.  Is it too late if your dogs are 13 and 5 as my client's are?  Let's dive into this idea a little deeper.

First and foremost, the only reason to add a second (or third, or fourth!) dog to your family is because you, the human, really want to do so.  Adding canine family members should never be done for the benefit of the other resident dog(s).  While adding a younger dog or puppy may perk up your senior dog, for example, it's also a source of competition for a limited resource, namely you and your attention.  Not all dogs want to share their resources with other dogs; it's fine to share a ball at the dog park, but sharing toys, beds, and treats day in and day out is just stressful and unappealing for some dogs. While you may feel that you have enough time, attention, and treats for everyone, your resident dog(s) may feel differently about the new family member.  Dogs are competitive with each other, the family cat, and even human children.  Research has shown that the happiest dogs (as measured by cortisol levels in their blood) are those that live alone with no other dogs to compete with. I'm looking forward to the extension of this research where they look at other, non-canine family members and whether dogs would prefer you not have cats or kids either!

Having at least 18-24 months between your dogs does seem kind of ideal, though longer than that is okay too as long as you take the age gap into consideration when you think about those resources.  Dogs who are the same age (or very close in age) will have similar wants and desires.  Two puppies, for example, will need to be trained separately so that they don't bond more closely with each other than you.  And housetraining two dogs at the same time?  No fun, in my book.  If your dogs are two or more years apart, those resident dogs are already housetrained and cognizant of the house rules, meaning they can help you with the new arrival.  Observational learning is huge in dogs, so having calm, well-behaved, established dogs in your home when you add someone new can really help to get that newcomer off on the right paw. Just remember to keep the interactions monitored and appropriate, meaning play is okay as long as your resident dogs are up for it.  If they want to play for just a couple of minutes and that's it, then it's up to you to entertain that new, young dog.  And be sure to give your resident dogs priority in terms of resources and resource distribution; the new dog needs to know that they can't usurp the position of the resident dogs in your heart, or in your home.

There is a lot that goes into choosing a new dog for your family, everything from deciding on breed, age, and sex of that dog to how to make the transition to a multi-dog household successfully.  We've been thinking, quite seriously, about adding a new dog to our home.  Desi will be 13 this year and Ozzie turns 8 this week.  Yes, that's definitely more than a couple years of age difference between the dogs we already have and the new dog we'd potentially be adding.  We've enjoyed having Westley in our home when he visits, and he's now 4 years old.  Seems like it might simply be time for a new canine family member.  I'll keep you posted.  For now, it's just Desi and Ozzie, but don't be surprised if you see a new pup pop up in the next year or so.

And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Puppy Ozzie definitely drove Desi nuts, on occasion, 
but they were fast friends.  Desi was extremely indulgent with Ozzie, 
leaving us, the humans, to correct and redirect Ozzie.