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!
Like dogs of any age, senior dogs need physical exercise tailored to their needs, as well as mental stimulation in the form of training, play, and interactive games. The oldest dog I've ever trained was 17 and deaf when we began working together!
Your dog's advanced age may present new challenges. You may need to train your dog to accept a sling around his rear for assistance up the stairs, or to learn new boundaries as he loses his vision.
A qualified trainer will help you train your dog useful and adorable new behaviors, regardless of your pup's age!
Casey Lomonaco owns Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training in Binghamton, NY.
Dogs will do whatever works best for them. They are opportunistic, not vindictive. They are not barking simply to make you mad, or peeing on the bedroom floor to scold you for leaving the house. Your dog's problem behavior can now be addressed with a training plan.
There will likely be setbacks along the way, but be patient with yourself and your dog and keep working. If you need to, talk to the professional who helped formulate your training plan and tweak it where necessary. But above all, give it time. Learning is not instantaneous.
by Tammy Reinarz, Owner, Tammy's Dog Training Service
It happens all the time - you spend hours lugging the Christmas tree home, wrestling with lights and trying not to drop the heirloom holiday ornaments your great aunt left you - and the second you step back to admire your handiwork a certain pupster lifts a leg to add his own personal touch to your tree. You can't blame your pet, he probably thinks you got him a snazzy indoor potty for Christmas. But you can take measures to curb this behavior before the guests come over.
Dealing with a dog that pees on the Christmas tree requires the exact same type of management, redirection, and reinforcement that potty training a new puppy requires. Here is a protocol for managing and training the dog that marks on Christmas trees:
Prong collars are not my preferred method for training walking on a loose leash for the simple reason that the timing of the "pop" needs to be at JUST the right moment and to effectively use these, you need to know what you want from your dog. Without this, you will end up jerking your dog's leash meaninglessly. Your dog, under that circumstance, will make no changes to his behavior as you jerk for any and all reasons. You may end up with a dog that hates walks or shows aggression. Another option is the Easy Walk Harness or Sporn. The Easy Walk Harness takes the oomph out of the dog pulling with the shoulders, as it hooks in the front, making it impossible for the dog to pull, while the Sporn redistributes the weight to under the front legs.
Tammy Reinarz, CPDT-KA and a Professional Member of the APDT, has been training dogs of all breeds within the Central PA area since 2005.
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