Our vet offers common-sense things you can do to keep your dogs healthy and safe.
As Jan. 1 approaches each year, I am asked what sort of new year's resolutions I recommend for dog owners. In fact, not long ago the Dogster editorial staff posed the question to me. I'm not one to let down my editors if I can avoid it, so this article is dedicated to new year's resolutions for dog owners.
I have heard that some motivation experts advise making only one new year's resolution, but this article would be a bit light if I offered only one, so there will be several. However, if you resolve to do only one new thing for your dog in 2013, here is what I recommend:
Resolve to brush your dog's teeth. Please don't laugh. I have been recommending tooth brushing for my entire career, and I put my money where my mouth is: My pal Buster's teeth get brushed every night. For years I suffered ridicule and derision (often from some of my friends who are veterinarians) for this activity. However, I'm getting the last laugh now -- Buster's teeth are nearly perfect, and many of the people who have made fun of me have dogs who need dental work.
Dental disease is the No. 1 -- by a mile -- medical problem of dogs. It occurs in more than 80 percent of adult dogs. It causes pain, bad breath, and lethargy. It might be linked to heart disease, bodily inflammatoy conditions, diabetes, and cancer. Advanced dental disease requires treatment with general anesthesia for root planing, supra- and subgingival scaling, and (often) extractions or other advanced periodontal procedures. It's expensive, and it's no fun.
Dental disease is almost totally preventable with tooth brushing.
I recommend using a human soft-bristled toothbrush. Do not, however, use human toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains fluoride and is not safe to swallow. There are a variety of veterinary toothpastes widely available in pet stores. Gently brush the outside all of the teeth, focusing on the gum line in a circular fashion. It is not necessary to open your dog's mouth in order to brush teeth -- the toothbrush can be slipped between the lips. Remember that dogs have relatively massive mouths, and that there are teeth all the way in the back. The current recommendation is to brush teeth at least once every 24 hours.
Clean teeth can lead to a cleaner bill of overall health. The overwhelming majority of dogs will tolerate tooth brushing. However, sometimes it is necessary to wade into the process gradually by first habituating your dog to having his mouth handled, then using a toothbrush without paste, and finally graduating to full brushing with paste.
Some hardcore adherents to certain diets believe that their diets will prevent dental disease in dogs. My experience? No diet can accurately make this claim. Even if you believe that your dog's diet is good for the teeth, no harm will come to your dog from brushing the teeth as well. There is no reason -- other than the nuisance of it -- not to brush your dog's teeth. Period.
A few weeks ago I was walking Buster when I saw an off-leash Yorkshire Terrier trot across a street and approach us. His owner showed up a few minutes later, busily engaged in sending a text message to someone. Although I'm sure he won't, I would love for that dog's owner to resolve to use a leash and pay attention. Leashed dogs are almost never hit by cars (although I have treated a few who were struck by vehicles that drove onto sidewalks). Fights between two leashed dogs are vanishingly uncommon. The Yorkshire Terrier in question could have been creamed by a car as he crossed the street ahead of his owner. And, if Buster were less friendly, the Yorkie could have been mauled or killed.
Leashes make for happy, healthy, safe dogs.
I also recommend that dog owners resolve to take time to properly socialize their dogs. Well-mannered dogs are joys to be around. They don't bark at strangers, knock over old ladies, lunge at other dogs, or chase joggers. Most important, they don't give ammunition to people who fear or dislike dogs -- you know, the people who would like to see dogs banned from parks, other public areas, and special events.
Speaking of dog haters, they get especially mad when they step in dog poop. So, for that matter, do dog lovers. Please, resolve to be a decent member of society and pick up your dog's poop.
Finally, if your dog hasn't had a checkup in a while, I recommend that you resolve to take him in for a physical. However, if your dog has been getting shots every year, I recommend that you rethink your dog's vaccine schedule. I am surprised by how many adult dogs get every vaccine every year despite the mounting evidence that this is probably not the best thing. Talk to your vet about which (if any) vaccines are appropriate based upon your dog's lifestyle and age. And while you're there, talk about starting a broad spectrum heartworm and roundworm preventative. These help keep your dog free of potentially dangerous parasites, some of which can spread to humans.
Best wishes for a happy new year to all!
A photo isn't just worth a thousand words -- it might just save your dog's life. Here are some you should have on hand at all times.
Your smartphone's photo album can be much more than a brag book filled with snapshots of your favorite four-footed friends. It can actually be a life-saver -- especially if, say, you're traveling and you forgot not only your dog's medication, but its name and dosage -- or your dog sitter runs out of said med and needs your help refilling it.
If you're like us, you already use your notes app to keep track of everyday reminders. But a photo is worth a thousand characters, and images are so much more effective as mnemonic devices!
Dogster EIC Janine Kahn keeps many sharp photos of her Italian Greyhound, Moxie, on her iPhone.
Here are eight items that can easily be recalled -- not to mention texted or emailed to the appropriate person -- with a snap of your camera's shutter button. Please take these pictures without delay, and use the comments section to tell us what we've left out!
8 Important Dog-Related Photos to Have on Hand: 1. Pictures of your dog's current medications; make sure the RX name and dosage are clearly visible in the photos.
2. Pictures of your dog, in case (heaven forbid) he or she goes missing and you have to create a Lost Dog flyer on the double.
A snapshot of Moxie's tag collar and license.
3. Closeup shots of your dog's license and vaccination tags -- make sure they're in focus so all letters and numbers are legible.
4. A picture of your dog's microchip ID info, and a Web site screen shot of Home Again (or whichever company's chip is implanted in your dog).
Some vaccines Moxie received as a puppy.
5. A picture of your dog's food -- the package it comes in -- to make it easier for your dog sitter to restock in case the supply runs out in your absence.
6. A picture of the business card of the pet-supply store where you buy your dog's food, especially if it's a prescription diet.
Moxie's microchip number.
7. A picture of your veterinarian's business card, clearly showing the phone number, email, and physical location address (or a screen shot of the hospital's Web site).
A screen grab of the emergency hospital that's nearest Janine and Moxie.
8. A picture of the business card of the nearest 24-hour emergency vet hospital (or screen shot of the hospital's Web site).
Dogster readers, what would you add to this very important list?
BY Julia Szabo
A popular misconception is that dogs age 7 years for each calendar year. In fact, canine aging is much more rapid during the first 2 years of a dog's life. After the first 2 years the ratio settles down to 5 to 1 for small and medium breeds. For large breeds the rate is 6 to 1, and for giant breeds the rate is 7 to 1. Thus, at 10 years of age a Great Dane would be 80 years old while a pug would only be 64.
How to Tell a Dog's Age If you've taken in a dog whose age is unknown, there are some ways to determine his age. Here are some things vets check to get a general sense of how old a dog is:
The Teeth: Dogs usually have a set of permanent teeth by their seventh month, so if you've come across a dog with clean pearly whites, he is likely a year old or thereabouts. Yellowing on a dog's back teeth may put the dog between one and two years of age, while tartar build-up at a minimal level could mean you have a dog between 3 and 5. Missing teeth or severe wear usually means the dog is a senior and could use some special dental care.
Muscle Tone: Younger dogs are more likely to have some muscle definition from their higher activity level. Older dogs are usually either a tad bonier or a little fatter from decreased activity.
The Coat: A younger dog usually has a soft, fine coat, whereas an older dog tends to have thicker, coarser (and sometimes oilier) fur. A senior dog may display grays or patches of white, particularly around the snout.
The Eyes: Bright, clear eyes without tearing or discharge are common in younger dogs. Cloudy or opaque eyes may mean an older dog.
Use this chart to calculate your dog's age:
Old Age in Dogs
The age at which a dog can be considered elderly varies widely among models. In general, the larger the dog, the more quickly it declines. For instance, a Great Dane could be considered "senior" at age 5, while a smaller toy poodle would still be spry at twice that age. Remember, however, that just because a dog is chronologically old doesn't mean that an endless series of malfunctions is in store. In many cases an elderly dog can enjoy many healthy, active, pain-free years.
One of the best ways to prolong the life and improve the functions of an elderly dog is to carefully regulate its fuel intake. Older dogs exercise less and thus need fewer calories. And since age reduces their ability to digest and absorb nutrients, high-quality food specifically formulated for their needs is a necessity. Excessive amounts of protein, phosphorus, and sodium can aggravate kidney and heart problems, so most such foods contain smaller amounts of higher-quality protein, along with reduced quantities of other elements. Levels of vitamins, zinc, fatty acids, and fiber, however, are increased.
At a minimum, you should plan on hiring a trainer and a veterinarian for your dog's care. Depending on your schedule, lifestyle, and the breed of your new dog, you may also need to work with groomers, pet sitters, boarding facilities, dog walkers, or even daycare operators.
Be aware that with the exception of veterinary medicine, all of these professions are unregulated. Do some detailed research to find qualified and trustworthy pet professionals in your area who can provide your pet with the best possible care.
By Casey Lomonaco owns Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training in Binghamton, NY.
Many people put more thought into purchasing a new pair of shoes than they do into choosing the canine friend who will share their home for a decade or more.
It's vital to do your research, because not every dog is right for every household. Base your decision on exercise levels, suitability with children and/or other pets, temperament, grooming needs, size, and any performance goals you may have for your dog. Avoid impulse buying!
Casey Lomonaco owns Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training in Binghamton, NY.
How to Train a Dog and Establish the Rules of the House
If you have no idea how to train a dog, fear not! Whether you seek effective puppy house training methods or basic dog obedience training, training your dog will probably be easier than you think.
Puppies Puppy training should always focus on socialization and the prevention of unwanted behaviors. The jumping that may be cute in your puppy will not be cute when he grows into a 175 lb. adult Saint Bernard. Rather than focusing on puppy training obedience, you should concentrate on puppy socialization and the prevention of problem behavior through rewarding desirable behaviors, and removing reinforcement for unwanted behaviors through extinction, management, or negative punishment (more on this later!)
How To Train A Dog Step 1: Reward Desirable Behavior It is a human tendency to focus on what we don't like, often to a fault. The crux of effective dog training, whether you are house training your dog or teaching obedience behaviors, is to never miss an opportunity to reward your dog for doing the right thing. Dog owners generally like dogs to sit politely, lie down, go settle on a mat or in a crate, or be quiet - remember to click and treat your dog for these behaviors to increase the likelihood that your dog will offer the in the future.
Depending on the situation, the right thing may vary. For dogs that are excited and jump to greet visitors, the right thing may be "four on the floor." Click and treat your dog for all four paws on the floor when a new person approaches or enters the house. If your dog is usually barky when she sees another dog, click her for eye contact or for looking at another dog without barking.
Concentrate on what you want your dog to do instead of what you want your dog to stop doing. For problem behaviors like barking, nipping, jumping, or growling, think of what you would prefer the dog do instead and develop a training plan to get there. If you need help, find a qualified trainer in your area to assist you.
How To Train A Dog Step 2: Dealing With Unwanted Behavior Extinction: Extinction involves the principal of "non-punishment, non-reinforcement," essentially, ignoring the behavior. A lot of dogs offer unwanted behaviors because they've "paid off" before - dogs pull on leash because it gets their owners to move forward/faster on walks, dogs bark for attention, jump to greet, etc. Often, ignoring the behavior is the best bet - wait the dog out and then reinforce when he offers an alternative behavior (sits instead of jumping, for example). Extinction requires some patience, especially if the behavior has "paid off" for quite some time.
Watch out for extinction bursts. If the dog is used to getting your attention through barking, and suddenly you ignore the barking, the barking may intensify before it goes away. A human example is a soda machine - if for 20 years your dollar got you a soda and suddenly, no soda comes out, you may put in a few dollars before you start kicking the soda machine in frustration. Then, you give up and try the soda machine on the next floor, which is operating correctly. You must be prepared to ride out the extinction burst or the unwanted behavior may return, stronger than before.
Management: Does your dog counter surf? Get the food off the counter! Dogs counter surf to get food. Managing the situation means crating or gating your dog when food is on the counter, and removing the temptation of engaging in the unwanted behavior by cleaning up when you are not there to supervise. Management is preventing your dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviors.
Training Alternative, Incompatible Behavior - A dog cannot jump or mount if he is settling on a mat. A dog cannot bark if he is fetching a buster cube that fills his mouth. A dog cannot be aggressive with another dog when he is focused on targeting his nose to your hand. If your dog is doing something you don't like, think of what you would like him to do instead and train that alternative, incompatible behavior to fluency!
Negative Punishment: In laymen's terms, negative punishment means a time out for the dog. Negative punishment is very effective for self-reinforcing behaviors - behaviors dogs do because they're "fun." Barking, jumping, resource guarding and nipping can be self reinforcing. For guidance on when to use negative punishment as opposed to extinction - check out Laura VanArendonk Baugh's article on eliminating unwanted behavior in a toddler.
This is but a simple introduction to training your dog. For more help, find a trainer near you. Remember, if the training isn't fun for you and your dog, you're not doing it right! A good trainer will produce dogs that love to work and people that love training their dogs. If either of these elements is missing, seek a new trainer today.
AS FEATURE IN http://www.dogster.com/articles/How-to-Train-a-Dog-and-Establish-the-Rules-of-the-House-101
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