Category Archives: Blog
Understanding Dog Worms
Until very recently, dog worms were thought to be of a spontaneous origin, brought about by the influence of heat upon decaying vegetable matter and it was and still is freely asserted that puppies are born with dog worms inherited from the mother in some mysterious manner while still in uterus. This has been conclusively proven an error and in the minds of all scientists there is no question about dog worms springing from individual eggs and having a complete life history of their own.
The principal worm species with which dog owners have to contend are round worms and tape worms. The first named commonly infest puppies and consequently are most dreaded by breeders. In shape and size these worms resemble common angle worms, but in colour are lighter, being almost white or only a pale pink.
In adult dogs these worms, when fully grown, are from three to seven inches long. In puppies they are about half that length and as thick as common white string. Round worms live in the small intestines, sometimes coiled in such masses as to obstruct the passage and occasionally they wander into the stomach or are passed by the bowels.
It is easy to understand that when one dog in a kennel is infected with worms, millions of eggs will be passed with the feaces. These are scattered all over the floors, dog beds UK, feeding and drinking pans or transmitted by fleas. They get on the dogs coat, are licked off and swallowed and in numbers of ways gain entrance to the digestive tracts of other dogs, where they soon hatch out and in ten days are fully developed.
This rapid development account for the popular belief that puppies are born with worms, for breeders who have held post-mortems on puppies scarcely ten days old and have found in their stomachs fully developed round worms could account for their presence in no other way. They overlooked the fact that the prospective mother, confined in a kennel infested with worms, would get these eggs attached to her coat, belly and breasts and the young, as soon as born, would take these eggs into their stomachs with the first mouthfuls of milk.
Symptoms Of Dog Worms Attacking
Dog worms are responsible for so much sickness and so many symptoms that it is practically impossible to mention all of them, but their presence can safely be suspected in all dogs which have not been recently treated for them, as well as in cases where the patient is run down, unthrifty and out of sorts.
Other symptoms are a hot, dry nose, weak, watery eyes, pale lips and gums, foul breath, mean hacking cough and a red, scurfy, pimply or irritated condition of the skin and harsh, dry, staring coat that is constantly being shed.
Wormy dogs sometimes have a decreased appetite and will eat dirt and rubbish. Some days they are ravenously hungry, the next day they will not eat at all; their sleep is disturbed by dreams and intestinal rumbling, the urine is high coloured and frequently passed, bowels irregular, stomach easily unsettled, watery mucus is frequently vomited and the mouth is hot, sticky and full of ropy saliva.
Puppies which are full of worms bloat easily and are pot-bellied. After feeding their stomachs distend disproportionately to the amount of food consumed. Their bodies are also subject to scaly eruptions and their bowels to colicky pains; they do not grow as rapidly as healthy puppies should and instead of playing with each other they curl up and sleep hour after hour; they get thinner, weaker and more lifeless from day to day possibly leading to death if untreated. Puppies with worms are also liable to paralysis of their rear limbs and on removal of the worms the puppies regain control of the affected parts.
A wormy dog is usually an unhealthy and unhappy dog who leads a miserable life. It could even be deadly, especially so for young puppies. Bring your dog to a veterinarian in a dog travel crate if you are unsure. Your dog will certainly thank you for that.
Why having a financial plan for you dog is important
Getting a new dog is one of the most exciting and scariest things you’ll likely ever do (aside from having a child, or buying a house). That feeling that this little (or big) bundle of fluff is dependent on you for everything, their life quite literally in your hands. We all want our dogs to be happy, to run around, to play games, and to have fun with their new dog accessories. But have you ever thought about what would happen to your dog if he or she got hurt or became sick? Would you be in a financial position to cover the cost of vet care, or would you have to settle for less than ideal treatment, euthanasia or rehoming if the vet costs were beyond your means? It’s a horrid thought, but you need to plan ahead for those “what if” moments. Better be safe than sorry as the expression goes.
Here are some suggestions for financial planning for your dog and any pet emergencies that might arise.
If you don’t like the idea of buying into a pet insurance policy, then one option, provided that you are disciplined, is to save money on a regular basis. This could be money put into a savings account, or money used to purchase Premium Bonds with the post office or something similar, where your money is protected. You will need to have access to your money should you need it in an emergency, and have sufficient money stored away to cover those vet bills and a new dog travel crate, bearing in mind that a bill for a broken leg could run into thousands, and escalate quickly.
Another option if you are insurance policy adverse, is to take out a credit card that is only to be used for your pet. That way you have access to funds should you need them, but aren’t paying out on something that (all being well) you might not use. Another option would be to set up a pre-paid credit card or to make your regular payments on to the credit card, so that you have access to a bigger fund if need arises. Again, you will need to make sure that you have sufficient funds available on your card for vet fees, and can pay it off again if it is ever needed.
Alongside your savings or credit card option, you might want to set up some kind of pet plan with your veterinary practice. This is not an insurance policy, but it can reduce your vet expenses. It usually includes an annual check up, monthly worming and flea medications, and discounts when using their general veterinary services. It can be as low as £5 a month, but the discount can add up if you have an emergency or have more than one pet. It often includes nail trims, anal gland clearing, and other routine visits. The cost is normally reduced with each extra pet added to the plan.
This is by far the most common option, and will certainly reduce the stress levels in an emergency situation, knowing that your pet’s care will be covered. Pet insurance is readily available in the UK, from your local supermarket, your post office, your bank, or from the internet. Sometimes it can be included alongside other insurance policies, with a discount if you already insure your car, house, or contents. These plans can be as little as £5 per month and can include a waiver fee, so that you only pay a set amount before the insurance kicks in. Be sure to read the small print on any policy, and look for discounts if you have more than one pet.
If like me, you find yourself taking lots of photos and videos of your pets, then you could upload these to sites like Shutterstock and YouTube and receive royalties when people watch your videos or download your photos. You can also register your pet as a model of actor for film and television and they will be paid for any ‘work’ they do. You probably aren’t going to earn a lot of money this way, but it is on the whole, passive income, and these royalties can be added to your savings account or pre-paid credit card to help top up your funds, or to cover the cost of hereditary or age related conditions which might not be covered by your insurance policy.
Whatever you decide to do when planning ahead for pet emergencies, just have a plan, or a combination of plans. Don’t be kicking yourself in that emergency situation and wishing that you could have done more.
Written by Guest Post
Regardless of the breed of dog they have, most owners would never put grooming on a list of their favourite activities. Often dreams of the perfectly groomed pooch with dog accessories exhibiting flawless behaviour and capturing a top spot at your local dog show (or even Crufts?) collide with reality. Grooming at home can be challenging, difficult and messy with any of these five common mistakes, tempting you to bring out the small dog crate and take them to a professional.
Mistake #1: Failing to Train the Dog for Grooming
Simply put, training is essential if you want to avoid a mess, a potential injury or anxiety for both of you. The younger the dog is when you start, the easier training will be. It should include boosting the pet’s comfort level when touched on its face, tail, paws or other parts of the body. Helping the dog become comfortable with the buzzing and other sounds dog grooming equipment produces is equally important.
Some dogs respond well to fairly short training sessions. Regardless of the length of time spent attending to feet, ears, tail, and faces, it’s important that the pet understand that the owner is in charge and will decide when the session is finished.
Dogs adopted as adults or that experience grooming for the first time later in life need extra patience plus praise and rewards during grooming training. For older dogs, brushing, bathing and cleaning teeth need to occur in an environment as free of stress as humanly possible.
Mistake #2: Assuming Grooming is Just for Looks
Many owners who favour do-it-yourself grooming see the process solely as a way to achieve a clean, neat pet. In fact, it’s much more. Grooming is important for keeping a dog comfortable all year long. It’s also an opportunity to check a dog’s health. When owners match grooming routines with fur type, they can use grooming to look for skin conditions or discharge, bumps or lumps that signal the possible need for a veterinary visit.
Mistake #3: Not Trimming Nails Properly
Many at-home groomers dread cutting a dog’s nails. Unless the pet has been trained adequately, it’s likely to resist having its paws handled.
Trimming a dog’s nails correctly must be a precise, non-rushed activity. Owners should use sharp clippers that they replace on a regular basis. Dull equipment crushes the pet’s nails instead of trimming them and can result in an injury. An owner new at grooming should ask a veterinarian to point out the quick of a nail and explain how to avoid it when performing a trim.
Many owners already know that long hair in dogs and mats are often synonymous. What they don’t know is what actually causes mats.
Water is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for mats in long-haired canines. One way to lower the likelihood of mats that could pass for Gordian Knots is to brush as much dead or tangled fur off the dog as possible before bathing, swimming or exposure to rain or snow.
For mats, you discover while bathing the pet, use a conditioner plus a comb to make them come loose. Blow-drying the dog will help pull apart any tangles. A quick brushing, once its fur has dried, should get rid of any remaining dead hair.
Mistake #5: Ignoring Grooming as a Yearlong Priority
As summer fades and autumn temperatures start to drop, many owners assume that all their dogs need is extra “winter fur” to keep warm until spring arrives. In fact, failing to groom year-round doesn’t adequately protect the animal’s insulating coat and might actually cause it harm.
Failing to properly maintain a pet’s coat can result in horrific tangles, the kind that only shaving the dog can eliminate. Unfortunately, the resulting lack of hair leaves the canine extra-chilly during the coldest months.
Grooming your dog yourself can be an investment in your pet’s well-being and save you the cost of professional grooming services. Avoiding these common mistakes will lead to a far more pleasant and productive experience for both you and your very best friend.
Written by Amber Kingsley
Stop Destructive Dog Digging
My dog makes me laugh. He usually has little interest in digging, until he sees me doing it. If I dig a hole in one area, I guarantee that if I turn around, he will be giving a hand somewhere else in the garden. So why do dogs like digging so much and why in some cases can this be seriously destructive and require corrective action?
Dog Digging – Why?
Our dogs early ancestors learnt the art of digging from an early age. They learned that burying food for later retrieval kept it safe from other predators. Dogs discovered that digging dens helped keep them cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. They also learned to dig out prey that lived underground. So it should be no surprise to find that our domestic friends still have a significant digging instinct. Dog digging is a natural canine activity which they can find highly enjoyable and therapeutic.
In the case of the domestic dog, digging behaviour can be caused by a number of factors. One thing for sure is that they don’t dig your garden up out of spite, revenge or simply the need to be destructive. Dogs are not humans and they do not think like we do.
How do I stop dog digging?
Understanding your dog’s motivation to dig helps in determining the solution to stop or reduce this behaviour. Below are some suggestions to help correct digging behaviours. It is difficult to pin dog digging down to a single cause and to some extent most digging is motivated by boredom or the sheer fun of it. In all cases, punishing dog digging (particularly after the event) does not work and in all likelihood it will cause anxiety that may make the situation worse.
How to Build and Use a Digging Pit
Building a digging pit is often the most effective way of focusing your dogs digging habit. A pit of around 6ft by 3ft is usually ample and it should be around 18-24″ deep. Find an area that is out of prolonged direct sunlight and cold winds. One of the best methods is to build a frame from railway sleepers. Rest the frame level on the ground and dig out about 8-10″ of soil. This will give you a pit of the required depth, which you can then fill with sand. If your soil is fairly loose, you can just mix the sand with the soil and save having to remove so much soil.
Let your dog watch you dig the pit and praise them warmly if they give a helping hand. Encourage your dog to dig by making a fuss of burying his favourite toys in the pit and praising them when they dig them up. Start to introduce a command such as ‘digging pit’ and further develop the habit by hiding a dozen or so treats in the pit for them to sniff and dig out. If your dog does go to dig elsewhere, use your command ‘digging pit’ to redirect them to the correct location.
Dogs’ Guarding Instincts
Like humans, dogs understand the concept of possession and ownership of resources. Perhaps also like some humans, dogs can take excessive measures to guard these resources. The types of resources can be numerous, but the most common and problematic ones are usually food, objects (toys/chews etc) and particular locations such as their dog beds, your bed or their crate.
Where resource guarding manifests itself in dangerous aggression, you should seek the advice of a professional behaviourist who can make a comprehensive assessment of the causes and develop a detailed corrective programme. This article is intended as guidance to help prevent or aid minor cases of this behaviour.
How can I stop FOOD guarding?
This is the most common type of resource guarding. It is usually easy to spot and occurs when a dog is aggressive (or threatens to be) when approached whilst eating from their food bowl. It can also occur when an owner attempts to retrieve food items snatched or found by the dog. Dogs are also known to guard their empty food bowls.
First things first, disciplining your dog for food guarding, is more likely to aggravate the problem than cure it. Using harsh discipline often results in the dog deciding that it needs to be even more aggressive to retain this resource.
The reason a dog guards its food is the fear that the approaching person is going to take it away. So we need to remove that fear and create positive associations with people approaching its food. The best way to achieve this is to tempt your dog away from its bowl with an even tastier resource (i.e. its favourite treat). Do this in small steps and start by keeping a distance from the food bowl. Let your dog take the treat and return to its bowl. Over a number of sessions, gradually get closer to the bowl to the point where you can drop the treats into its bowl. Further develop this by offering the treats right next to the bowl whilst the dog is eating. Different people should carry out these exercises to avoid the positive associations only being related to one person and the dog continuing to guard when others approach.
Another useful exercise, particularly to prevent food guarding, is to feed your dog in small instalments. This is where you feed your dog a small amount of its food and then take the bowl away to add more food. Repeat this 3-4 times until its meal is finished. Again, this exercise helps build positive associations as your dog soon learns that when the bowl is taken away, it is going to be returned with more food.
How can I stop TOY & OBJECT guarding?
Guarding of this nature usually relates to dog toys and dog chews, but can also relate to more obscure items such as laundry, tissues, food wrappers or objects found by the dog or that have a particular smell.
As with food guarding, we need to look to building positive association around people approaching the guarded objects, such as dog accessories. We want the dog to understand that approaching people and the removal of objects means more fun, excitement or a special treat.
A good place to start is by approaching your dog whilst near an unguarded low value object. Pick up the object with one hand then produce a treat from behind your back with the other. Then give the object back and walk away. Repeat this, but change the angle of approach and intervals between approaches. Work on this over a number of sessions, then change the exercise so that as you offer the object back to the dog, as soon as they touch it, withdraw it then praise and treat, then give the object back.
Over time, start to carry out the exercise with higher value objects. Then move onto carrying out the exercise when the dog is more engrossed with the object. But always remember to keep it positive and that the removal of resources results in even more positive experiences.
Another useful exercise to help against object guarding is to introduce the concept of sharing. This works particularly well with chew toys and the exercise involves you offering a chew toy to your dog, but keeping a hold of the other end yourself. Allow your dog to enjoy the chew, but after a period, take it away for a spell then offer it back. Your dog soon understands that the resource is not his, but he is allowed to share it. Practice this with different people and objects.
How can I stop LOCATION guarding?
A common behavioural concern of owners is aggressiveness by their dogs whilst in a particular location. The most common locations being their sleeping area, which could be their bed or large dog crate, your bed or the sofa. An interesting feature of location guarding is that the level of severity is not only tied to the value of the resource, but also to who is approaching. For example a dog may allow a child to approach but not an adult. Or perhaps a woman can approach, but not a man.
We always recommend that you prevent dogs sleeping on your bed or on sofas from an early age. Sleeping in the same place as the pack leader (that’s you!) or in an elevated location (on sofa) gives your dog a higher sense status within the pack hierarchy. Not only can this cause guarding, but it can also cause other issues such as difficulties with training and general challenging behaviour. Our article How to be the pack leader provides useful tips to ensure your dog recognises you as the pack leader and that they carry the lowest rank in the household.
Some dogs show guarding behaviours whilst in their bed or crate. This is usually when a person attempts to handle, caress or move them. The reasons for this may be varied, it could be they are just tied and want to be left alone or it could be that they are poorly. Obviously in the later case, you should seek advice from your vet. But in all other cases you need to accustom your dog to being handled whilst they are in these locations. Like other forms of guarding, the best solution is to make this a positive experience. Start by offering the dog high value treats whilst in these locations, and then start to lure them from the location with further tip bits. Keep practicing this over a number of sessions and like food guarding, change the angle of approach, the intervals and the person who does the exercise. Over time your dog will soon learn that positive things always happen when people approach previously guarded locations.
If you mentioned having boots for your dog 10 years ago, everyone would think you were crazy! But, the popularity of dog booties has grown recently and not just because your furry friend will look adorable in them. In fact, dog boots are more about function and not just fun dog accessories and fashion.
While dogs do have thick pads on their feet, they are not invincible. There are times when having boots on your dog’s paws is going to give them the extra protection that they need. So, let’s have a look at five benefits of investing in some dog boots for your best buddy.
Protection in Hot Temperatures
When the sun is out in the middle of a British summer, it gets really hot. Of course, keeping your furry friend hydrated is extremely important but a lot of owners forget about their paws. Think about how your bare feet feel when you are running on hot sand; this is how your dog feels when they are walking on the pavements! Dog boots are going to protect your dog’s paws from burning when you are out in the summertime by creating a barrier between the hot ground and their pads.
Help Injury and Illness
If your dog already has a paw injury or cuts on their pads, having boots on is going to relieve some pressure and pain for them. In addition, it will help prevent further damage to your dog’s paw and allow it to heal properly. If your dog is older and struggles with arthritis, dog booties can also help eliminate the uncomfortable friction on the pads and provide the extra cushioning your canine needs to still enjoy his or her daily walks.
Explore and Hike Safely
We all love to take our dogs out exploring and often it is somewhere off the beaten track. This can mean that there are hazards all around for their paws. For example, rocks are not only slippery for your pup but they can also be sharp and dangerous. While your dog may act unfazed by rough terrain, their pads can suffer and debris like sharp sticks and plants can cause painful cuts. But, wearing dog booties is going to protect their paws on long hikes so this is no longer a problem!
Protection from Snow and Ice
Just like us, dogs get cold when they are out walking in the winter, especially when the snow starts to fall. While your dog may love to play in a winter wonderland, the snow can become cold on your canine’s paws and even ice is sharp to walk on, especially when it starts to break. Yet, when your dog is wearing boots, their paws can be protected from cuts and injuries in the winter freeze and they can enjoy running around in the snow again.
In the winter, salt is normally spread on the ground to help melt the snow and ice. Yet, most dog owners don’t realise that this can be harmful for their furry friend’s paws. The salt can cause irritation and make them very dry. If you don’t wash your dog’s paws regularly, this will result in chemical burns. When you choose boots, you don’t have to worry about this problem when you are out walking in the winter since your dog’s paws will be covered.
Puppy Training & Socialisation
At the age of 4 ½ months, puppies quickly move from cuddly teddy bears in your dog rucksack to confident and mischievous adolescents. For your own and your dogs benefit, it is important to adequately prepare for this transformation to make it as enjoyable as possible.
Puppy training and socialisation is now considered the single most important step you can take in that preparation. These should be started from the age of 13 weeks, but no later than 20 weeks. You should only attend after your puppy has received all its vaccinations.
What happens at puppy classes?
The format of puppy training and socialisation classes will vary from school to school, but the primary objective of them all is to fully socialise your puppy and prepare it for all the many new experiences it will encounter through its life. It is at these sessions that your puppy will learn canine social etiquette and body language in a controlled and safe environment, and should definitely sleep well in its raised dog bed after a busy day!
They will play with other puppies of their own age. They learn bite inhibition and build confidence, as well overcoming shyness and fearfulness. This is not to say they will not experience difficult encounters later in life, but a confident and fully socialised dog will be better equipped to deal with these encounters and be less traumatised by them.
At puppy training, playing with other puppies can often be frenzied with lots of chase and play fighting. There will be plenty of opportunity to receive appropriate feedback for biting too hard. In effect, puppies teach each other how to behave.
The other main objective of puppy training is to educate owners of basic training techniques and dog behaviour understanding. It helps teach them to better understand their dog and gain better control over them.
Unless a school has been recommended to you, it is a good idea to visit a class without your dog. Here are a few hints and tips to be looking for from a good puppy school:
- Puppies should all be in the age range of 13-20 weeks at the start of the course.
- The school environment should be clean and hygienic, preferably indoors.
- Only positive training techniques should be used. Avoid classes that advocate use of metal collars, choke chains or any means that requires punishment or domination – all now considered ineffective as well as unpleasant.
- Puppies should have plenty of opportunity to play together off the lead.
- Classes should not be a free for all. All puppies should be frequently asked to settle during sessions.
- Look at the puppies, are they having a good time?
- Ask if children are able to attend. They are often able to spend a lot more time with your puppy than you can, so it is a good idea for them to learn good training practices as well as you.
- Does the training allow time after the class to ask questions or discuss any concerns you might be experiencing?
- Good puppy schools also cover other important areas such as preparing your puppy for vet visits and conditioning them to strange sounds (fireworks, thunder storms etc).
Train A Rescued Dog
It is a sad fact that dog rescue centres are often full with abandoned and homeless dogs needing dog beds UK. But thanks to increased public awareness, more and more people are responding and choose to provide a loving home to an adult rescue dog.
It takes about 6 months for a rescue dog to fully settle into a new home, so you need to prepare yourself for a long haul of exciting, rewarding and sometimes frustrating experiences during that period.
From a training perspective, there will be some extra considerations you will need to bear in mind and these, to a large extent, will depend on the good or bad experiences your rescue dog has had in the past. This article is intended as an introduction to these added considerations. It should not be considered a definitive guide or a training guide in itself.
When should I start training a rescue dog?
Training requires a trust between you and your dog. Dogs will be more responsive to training when they have accepted you as their leader and trust you in that role. With a rescue dog, this may take days or even weeks, but you should allow time for this to develop before embarking on a training program.
What preparation is required?
As you are developing your relationship with your dog, you may find that they already understand some basic training commands. With rescue dogs, more often than not, this is usually quite limited and you may have to start training from the beginning. As with all training, you should bear in mind the following:
- Always carry out training in a quiet spot with no distractions.
- Unlike puppies, rescue dogs are likely to be more confident if allowed to run freely. So until you are absolutely certain you dog will return on request, ensure all training takes place in a secure area or using a long training lead.
- Make training a positive and rewarding experience, so never raise your voice or discipline your dog during training exercises.
- Rewards are your dogs primary motivator, so before you start training, experiment to find out which treats or toys they like the most. With rescued dogs, extra patience will be required here. It may even be that your dog initially seems to have little interest in treats or playing. In which case, you may need to withhold treats for a period before starting training sessions. In extreme cases, hand feeding your dog at meal time is also one way for your dog to learn that you are its food source and means of survival.
- Don’t try to achieve to much in one go. All trained behaviour will need a number of sessions to master.
- Keep training for specific behaviours to 3-5 minutes at the most, but repeat regularly.
- Try to accompany all verbal commands with a distinctive and consistent hand signals.
- If you are new to dogs, read up on dog body language so that you understand when your dog is trying to warn you.
- Always stop while your dog is still interested and always stop when you feel yourself getting frustrated.
Are there any specific techniques or equipment?
Most of the training techniques for rescue dogs are much the same as for training any dog. Because of potential maltreatment in the past, extra care should be taken with rescue dogs to ensure training is a very positive and not an intimidating experience. For this reason, clicker training has proved very successful.
Controlling a untrained fully grown adult dog can sometimes be quite strenuous. The use of head collars are now a very popular choice to prevent dogs pulling on leads. These collars control the position of your dogs head that prevents them pulling on the lead. To prevent damage to your dog’s neck, it is important that these are fitted correctly and that you do not pull the lead sharply. For the same reason, because of a dogs ability to gather speed over a short distance, you should never use a training collar with a long or retractable lead. Use of a training lead can also help take the heavy work out of lead pulling.
What about dog training classes?
Dog training classes are wonderful way to develop your training skills and allow your dog to socialise with other dogs. However, rescue dogs may have problems dealing with large groups of people or other dogs, this can cause stress that may manifest itself in aggressive or other unusual behaviour.
Before deciding to take your dog to training classes you need to establish how they will behave in this environment. Make your decision based your experiences of walking your dog in public places, how they react to strangers and other dogs.
Should you decide that training classes are appropriate, it’s a good idea visit a class without your dog, to ensure you approve of their methods (see the article selecting a training school)
Are there any other things to consider with rescue dogs ?
Yes, there are quite a few other considerations to take into account when integrating a rescue dog into your home. It is well worth investing the time to understanding these, before you commit getting a rescue dog. A number of very useful books have recently been published in this area.
Congratulations! You’re on your way to having a happy, well-behaved dog. By committing time and energy to your dog’s training you have taken the first step in realising that well-behaved dogs are made, not born. Weeks of learning will become years of good manners.
Dogs do not know right from wrong, nor can they read your mind. You have to teach your dog what is proper behaviour and what is not. The biggest hurdle is explaining to our dogs what we want, whether that be getting into their raised dog bed UK or following a simple command. Most of us aren’t born knowing how to train dogs, but if you understand at least the following 3 things, you are well on your way:
- The natural history of dogs
- How to communicate with dogs (it’s hard enough with our own species!)
- The basics of the learning process
In short, we will be going through a basic training programme based on how dogs think, how they communicate, and how they learn.
Remember, training should be carried out by the whole family (especially kids under supervision) and it should be consistent, so that the dog has predictability in its life. Imagine trying to learn a new language when everyone in the house spoke a different one! Above all, have FUN with your dog, that’s why you got your dog, right?!
Remember, dogs cannot read your mind. Many problems arise because the dog simply just does not understand what you want it to do. It is your job to help your dog figure it out. Let’s look at some of the things that will influence your dog’s behaviour.
This is the dog’s primary means of exploring the world. As far as dogs are concerned, the smellier, the better! So what does this mean for training? Well, it means that if you use soft, smelly food to train your dog, he will be motivated by it and perform the behaviour you want it to do. Some examples of excellent titbits include: hotdogs, cheese, liver, sausages, ham, and chicken. Food (smell) allows you to lure your dog into almost any position, without pushing, poking, or prodding at it. Where the nose goes, the dog follows! So for example, you can teach your dog to sit, by holding a titbit no more than ½ an inch above their nose and then moving the food back (not up) toward their tail. The dog will follow the food by raising its head and the rump will go down. Easy! Your dog just sat down without you having to force him to do anything.
If you learn anything from this series, then just learn that dogs use visual signals to communicate with each other. Your dog is watching while you are talking. They of course also communicate via sound, but visual signals overwhelm sounds if presented at the same time, So if you ask your dog to sit whilst you are sitting down watching TV and the dog doesn’t respond, then it is because you have always taught the dog to sit whilst standing up facing it. The dog has only learnt to sit when you are standing up facing it. This is the most common cause of miscommunication with dogs. The problem is that we aren’t usually aware of how our body moves. Our dogs become confused and eventually learn to ignore us.
Some visual signals do not need to be taught. Dogs tend to naturally respond to your bending or sitting down as if it were a ‘play bow’ of a litter mate and come running to play. Standing tall and moving abruptly forward has the opposite effect and the dog will stop in their tracks.
Other visual signals need to be taught, but dogs learn them very fast, especially if they are linked with the lure/reward method, as mentioned in the example above.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! Your voice can have a profound effect on your dog’s behaviour. High, squeaky noises are perceived to be excited, friendly and appeasing. Low, growly noises are threatening and inhibiting. So, if you want your dog to come to you and you say ‘Rover, come’ in a low, loud growl, then it is the perfect way to insure that Rover stays well away from you! You have just told your dog that if he gets near you, you will bite him. Do you blame Rover for staying away?
How long or short the word can also be critical; keep most of your verbal cues relatively short, one word is best. Do not have long sentences and conversations with your dog, as you probably lost Rover about the second word in.
Verbal correction should be short, abrupt notes, spoken in a low, authoritative voice. You are trying to just startle the dog, not beat the dog with your voice! On the other hand, stimulating, happy signals should be short, rising pitch and rapidly repeated – for example, calling your dog ‘pup,pup,pup’ whilst clapping your hands or using short, rising whistles will motivate it to come running to you.
You can use long, extended words when you want to slow down or soothe the dog. For example ‘staaaaay’ or ‘goooood dog’, if you want to keep the dog quiet.
Now that you have a basic idea of how dogs communicate, we will start the training programme in the next in the subsequent article, which will be devoted in training your dog to come on command.
Recognise and Help Overweight and Obese Dogs
We’ve all been there. Our dog looks at us with those big, cow eyes, and guilt trips us into giving them just a little tidbit because we love them so much and don’t want them to look so sad. But it doesn’t take long, for those treats to add up, and before we know it, we’re getting a talk from out vet about our beloved buddy in their large dog crate being obese and needing to go on a diet. But how do we know that our dog is fat and not just ‘big boned’ or covered in ‘puppy fat’?
What to Look for in an Overweight Dog?
There are three key ways to tell if your dog is overweight.
- Does your dog have an obvious ‘waistline’? If your dog doesn’t then he or she should have one. You can tell if your dog has a waistline by viewing him or her from different angles. From above, the waistline is what marks out the front half from the back half of your dog, it should come together with a little, rather like an hourglass. From the side, you should be able to see your dog’s abdomen rise up towards the underside of his or her hind legs.
- Can you feel or see your dog’s ribs? If you can’t feel or see your dog’s ribs, then your dog is certainly overweight, they should be visible and easy to feel.
- When your dog sits down, does their back look to be straight, or do they have any so-called ‘love handles’?
How to Help an Overweight Dog
Unless your dog has an underlying health problem, then helping your dog to lose weight should be fairly straightforward, at least in theory. More exercise, and less calories. You are the one in control of both of these things, so your dog is relying on you to keep them fit and healthy! Consult your vet for advice and support as needed.
Diet: what are you feeding your dog each day? Dried food, raw diet, canned food, human food, snacks, and treats?
Snacks are the easiest way to fatten up your dog, so try to reduce the number of treats you give them each day or switch to lower calorie, healthier options. Why are they getting treats, and can these be replaced with love and affection, a squeaky toy or their favourite dog accessories as a reward, instead of food? Can you break the treats up to make them smaller, or give individual treats instead of multiple treats at once?
Meals: rather than guessing how much food to feed your dog, try switching to a lighter or diet version of the same food, and use a measuring cup to weigh out your dog’s food. Use scales to weigh out the food, and to keep your dog entertained for longer, try hiding the food inside a Kong or similar toy, so that your dog has to work for their biscuits.
Scraps from the Table: If your dog is a canine hoover that follows your kids around or likes to help out in the kitchen or under the table at teatime, try to avoid giving them the scraps, or allowing them to hoover up the food. Cut down on giving them dishes to lick clean and restrict access to any crumbs they might find.
Exercise: are you walking your dog twice a day, or giving your dog the exercise he or she really needs? Perhaps life has been more stressful than usual, or you’ve got a new baby at home, are getting home from work later, or are struggling to walk as far as you used to due to your own ill health? If you are struggling to give your dog the walks they require, then try to find a trusted friend, neighbour, family member, or pet sitter who can walk your dog for you on a regular basis. You might find that you have a friend who would desperately love a dog of their own, but whose landlord won’t allow them to have a pet, you could both benefit from them walking your dog, even if it is just a long walk on a weekend.
Swimming: if your dog is very overweight or has arthritis or other difficulties with movement, then you could try swimming as exercise. Ask your vet about places to swim with your dog or specialist hydrotherapy facilities. Could you put up a paddling pool in your garden and supervise your dog for regular swimming sessions? Or have them swim in the sea each day, even just for a few minutes of throwing a stick for them to fetch from the water, to strengthen their legs.
Toys: are there are games, toys, or enrichment activities that you can do, to get your dog more active through the day? Can you stuff a Kong with treats, or use a ball thrower to fling a ball and have them run for it? Can you play tug at home with them once or twice a day, instead of watching TV together? Or try our fantastic Tether Tug Dog toy with indoor and outdoor options?
Join a Group: sometimes it might just be harder to walk your dog, especially in the winter when it is dark and the streets don’t feel so safe, or the weather is miserable. Are there are groups or classes near you, like flyball, agility, or dog shows? Or perhaps you could find a group on Facebook of other owners who share your love for the breed and like to meet up for play dates? Not only is this great stimulation and social time for your dog, but it’s time for you to get out and have some fun too.
Helping your dog to lose weight doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Lots of small actions can really add up. Adding a few more minutes to a walk each day, or taking stairs instead of the lift, or cutting down the number of biscuits in their bowl at meal times.
You might start to find that your health and weight improves too and that you both start to have a new lease of life!
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.