Pet Advice & Ideas

True or False: Only Old Pets Get Dental Disease

Vet Examining Dog Dental Care

 

Let's play 'True or False' with our staff veterinarian, Dr. Jessica Vogelsang!

When I say “puppy breath,” what do you think of? It’s most likely a pleasant thought, right? People like puppy breath (well, at least dog lovers do!)

Now what about when I say “dog breath?” Not such a great thought! No one wants to be told they have dog breath, not even a dog. So what causes the transformation from the sweet smell of puppy breath to the putrid stench of dog breath?

It’s easy to combat bad breath with dental treats, but it’s important to monitor your pet’s complete oral health on a regular basis. Did you know that medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease can also manifest in the breath?

In honor of February being National Pet Dental Health Month, we’re going to play ‘True or False’ to see what you know about your pet's pearly whites!

“Only old dogs and cats get dental disease.”

  • False: While dental disease is obviously more severe in older pets who have had years to accumulate the effects of periodontal disease, over 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop oral disease by the age of three. This is why it’s so important to begin preventive care early in life!

“It’s time to get your dog’s teeth cleaned when you can start seeing buildup.”

  • False: Dental disease is a progression that begins with signs invisible to the naked eye. The bacteria in our mouths combine with food bits to produce the invisible sticky film called plaque, which coats the teeth and sneaks up beneath the gum line. Over time, this plaque hardens into tartar, the visible brown stuff you can see on your pet’s teeth.

    This stews below the gumline and causes gingivitis, which results in the inflamed reddened gums most commonly visible on the back teeth. Left untreated, the bacteria begin to wreak havoc on the tissues and bone underneath the gums, and that’s when things get ugly.

 

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“Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are almost as good as a full cleaning.”

  • False: Now we’re getting into rough waters. Dogs and cats need anesthesia in order to have a full dental cleaning, because no pet likes the feeling of a dental scaler plunging into their sore gums. I mean, who can blame them?

    Without anesthesia, cleanings are limited to scraping off the plaque you can see with the naked eye. This type of cleaning makes the teeth look better, but they’re often no healthier afterwards. It’s like cutting a weed and leaving all the roots — it looks better temporarily, but you haven’t done anything to stop it from spreading.

“Some dogs are more prone to dental disease than others.”

  • True: Short-nosed breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs are more prone to disease due to their propensity for teeth overcrowding and misalignment. This creates a big net for food debris to stick around, no pun intended.

    Small dogs such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Poodles, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also develop dental disease earlier in life. Their small mouths just struggle to fit all 42 teeth and often end up misaligned. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Boxers, and Shih Tzus have genetic quirks that impact their dental health as well.

“My vet’s going to judge me for this and it’s stressing me out.”

  • False (I hope!): Being vets, we are accustomed to seeing significant diseases. I don’t care about anything except helping the pet feel better! Everyone who comes into the clinic has done a tremendous thing by coming in and getting treatment.

    I can’t speak for every veterinarian on this earth, but I do know without a relationship of trust and working together, you’re not going to get the optimal results for your pet. If you don’t have a strong honest relationship, for whatever reason, I’d highly encourage you to seek out another provider. It’s fine! Both you and your pet deserve that bond.

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How’d you do? Let us know in the comments below.

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

5 Ways To Improve Bad Cat Behavior at Home

Cat Being Petted In Kitchen

When you bring a dog into your home, you usually know what to expect—tail wags, belly rubs, and a personality that aims to please. Cat behavior, on the other hand, can be completely unpredictable!

We love our kitties dearly, but sometimes they can be downright frustrating, whether they are treating the expensive sofa like a cat scratching post or refusing to drink anything other than your glass of water.

Here are five common cat behavior problems and tips to thwart them:

1. Using furniture as a scratching post

This destructive behavior is perhaps one of the most common cat behavior complaints. There's nothing more aggravating than seeing everything from your footboard to your sofa scratched up by your cat.

You can do a lot to make kitty happy and save your furniture by providing her with her own scratching posts and pads. For a low-cost alternative, you can even attach a small piece of carpet to the wall. If nothing deters the behavior, talk to your vet about cat claw caps — these are little silicone covers that slip over your kitty's sharp claws.

2. Refusing to use the litter box

Felines have a good reputation for being easy to litter train — but sometimes, they will take it upon themselves to go in other places besides their designated box. Some cats are just extremely particular and don't want to get their paws dirty in a soiled box, so more frequent scooping may be in order.

If you only have one litter box for your cat, try getting a second one for another room. Certain cats may prefer one room over another, or just prefer to have options!
Other cats prefer their litter pan to be in a private spot, so try relocating it. Something as simple as the type of litter you're using could send a picky cat off in search of a new toilet space. If the problem persists, talk to your vet to ensure there's nothing going on health-wise that could be causing the issue.

3. Spraying around the house

Simply put, a spraying cat is usually just a feline trying to let others know where their turf is. Some cats spray because they're insecure, nervous or anxious as well.

If your cat is marking the corners of the windows, the opening to the litter pan, and everywhere else, you likely have a seriously territorial kitty. Spaying and neutering does tend to lower their drive to mark. A few other changes that may prevent cat spraying include:

  • Giving each cat in your home their own litter box, plus one extra for the household
  • Promptly cleaning sprayed areas with an odor remover (cats tend to respray the same areas)
  • Separating your cat from other cats if possible

Cat Sitting In Litter Box

4. Eating your houseplants

Take a look at a cat in the wild and you’ll notice that they munch just about anything that offers some nutrition. Even big cats that prefer meaty main courses will occasionally nibble on some greens.

Keeping your houseplants out of the cat's view is best. If that's not a possibility, bring in some cat-friendly houseplants that are safe and fun for kitty to chew, such as wheatgrass or catnip plants. Make sure you avoid any toxic houseplants if your plant-curious kitty has issues. Incorporating nourishing cat food and healthy cat treats could better satisfy your little purr-factory and prevent them from making a meal out of your ferns.

5. Making yowling noises

Cat yowling is common when a kitty wants your attention, so this could be the cause. If the yowling and loud meowing has started out of nowhere, make sure your kitty is not in pain and pay a visit to the vet. Otherwise, set aside some time for play or petting at least a few times a day. It's possible that you landed yourself a needy feline that isn’t shy about demanding affection.

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Maybe there's no such thing as a bad kitty in your book, but some cats do have behavior problems that call for extra support, care and attention. Hopefully these tips can improve some of those pesky behaviors that drive cat parents across the globe crazy!

How to Overcome Aggressive Dog Behavior

Small Dog In Front of Beware of Dog Sign

Just like humans, dogs can get scared — and when they do, they may defend themselves by acting out aggressively. If your dog is behaving this way, it’s your job to do what you can to help them get over that fear!

Here are some tips for overcoming aggressive dog behavior at home:

  • Learn About the Breed

Some dog breeds are naturally more fearful than others. For example, the Chihuahua has a notorious reputation for acting aggressively out of fear. To understand your dog's fear, it can be helpful to educate yourself about the breed of the dog you have.

If you have a Chihuahua and research the breed, you would learn that they act aggressively because they are small-statured and more likely to be treated as prey by larger animals! Also, female Chihuahuas are more likely to act aggressively than males.

  • Socialize Your Dog

Aggressive dog breeds do exist, but the primary personality of a dog comes from the environment it’s raised in and social interactions. A dog that doesn't have a lot of interaction with humans or other dogs is far more likely to be scared or aggressive.

If you adopt a puppy, socialization should be a big part of their training from an early age. If you bring home an older dog that has not been properly socialized, this aggressive dog behavior can be harder to correct but not impossible.

"Nervous

  • Aggression Triggers and How To Avoid Them

Avoidance is something most pet parents deem as a last resort when it comes to dealing with a fearful and aggressive dog. However, it’s sometimes best to keep your dog away from certain environments or triggers that you know may lead them to aggressive dog behavior.

These are some ways to avoid aggressive dog behavior at home:

  • Close the blinds so your dog can't see strangers approaching or passing your residence
  • Avoid areas on walks where small children are playing
  • Remind home visitors to not reach for the dog to try and pet them
  • Keep your dog separate from other pets as much as possible
  • Avoid behaviors that your dog may deem menacing, such as staring them in the eyes

Food aggression is quite common among all breeds — the remedy for this is to ensure your dog is fed separately from other pets and that they have their own bowl.

In addition, make sure your dog’s food and treats are supplying them with the nutrition that their bodies need. In many cases a dog’s diet can directly affect their mood and behavior.

Canine fear and aggression are normal behaviors for some individual dogs, and you will likely love your pooch in spite of their tendency to lash out when afraid. If you're still having issues with a nervous dog after trying to help at home, enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

7 Signs of Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Woman Plays With Her Dog At Beach

As your furry friend gets older, are they showing signs of slowing down? Arthritis in dogs and cats can potentially be treated, giving your pet an active life for years to come.

Here are seven common signs that may indicate your pet has arthritis or other joint problems:

1. Limping

Did your cat land wrong when jumping off the couch or is it a sign of something else? If your pet's limping seems to be related directly to a potential injury, it's important to have it checked out by a vet.

But if your pet seems to regularly have issues with limping, it may be a sign of a developing condition that could impact their joint health.

2. Stiffness

Many of us pet parents relate to the extra time it takes to get going in the mornings or during cold weather. Just like us, arthritis may be to blame more than old age. When your pet's joints hurt, they don't want to move as much, and who could blame them? The trouble is, this causes their muscles to become even tighter and stiffer after long periods of time without activity.

3. Problems Moving or Standing

Tight muscles and achy joints can also keep your pet from wanting to move as much as they used to. You may notice that your dog or cat has problems standing up or moving around, almost as though their muscles are bound.

This isn't far from the truth — the lack of use and limiting motion can cause your pet's muscles to atrophy, making early treatment of arthritis in dogs and cats important.

4. Refusing Normal Activities

Is your pet no longer wanting to jump, climb or run as they once did? When joint disease and arthritis make these activities painful, your pet may not want to partake in them anymore. Though this could be a temporary situation, make sure to pursue treatment options if the behavior continues for more than a few days or weeks.

Cat Lounges On Red Couch

5. Snapping

Your precious pet may be the friendliest animal on the planet, but if they have suddenly become grumpy it's important to find out why. If an animal is in pain, touching may add to their discomfort. That's why it's vital to take a pet to the vet if you see them reacting to being petted or touched in certain areas.

6. Licking Sore, Swollen Joints

Animals lick their bodies to soothe pain — licking sore joints is no exception. When your pet spends significant amounts of time licking their joints, it's a good indicator that the underlying area is painful for them.

Some animals that are in pain can even end up creating bald spots from the continuous licking. The good news is that this is something you can easily watch for and monitor.

7. Shying Away from Attention

When your social butterfly has become a wallflower, it's because your pet is having a slightly different response to the snapping symptoms listed above.
To avoid pain, your precious pet is trying to avoid being petted, lifted or played with. It's vital that these symptoms be treated relatively quickly, before the temporary behavior becomes a permanent pet problem.

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By keeping an eye out for some of these symptoms and involving your veterinarian early, you may be able to help avoid years of chronic pain for your pet. For more advanced arthritis and joint treatments, talk to your vet about options such as cold laser therapy and underwater treadmills.

Pet parents in the know often turn to dog supplements and cat supplements that specifically support joints. Agility Formula for dogs and cats not only addresses joint health, but supports the entire musculoskeletal system. If you have a pet approaching middle age or just want to be proactive as they get older, try our Agility Formula and see what a difference it can make!

Dog Years Are A Myth — Find Your Pup’s True Age

Giving A Puppy A High Five

We love our dogs — so much, in fact, that we are obsessed with comparing their age to our own. The problem is that the formulas we have used to calculate dog years may be completely wrong!

A new study of doggie DNA by the University of California, San Diego shows that young dogs with a lot of energy may actually be older than you think.

After comparing the results of over 100 labrador retrievers with around 300 humans, the study shows that:

  • Dogs mature quickly in their first year, but their aging slows over time.
  • By age two, the DNA of a labrador is similar to a human entering their early 40s.
  • By age ten, a labrador is most comparable to a human aged 68.

This data on dog years, yet to be peer-reviewed, shows many similarities between the aging process between humans and dogs, researchers found, with an eight-week-old puppy resembling a nine-month-old baby.

“The expected lifespan of labrador retrievers, 12 years, correctly translated to the worldwide lifetime expectancy of humans, 70 years,” researchers noted.

Unfortunately, the new equation isn’t as simple as multiplying our dog’s age by 7 to find out their age in human years. Here’s the formula: 16 x ln(your dog’s age) +31.

If you have a scientific calculator on hand, you can calculate the dog years to human years yourself — or follow the guide below. We’ve done the math for you!

Table for Human Years to Dog Age

The aging rates of different breeds could vary drastically, so future research will be needed to determine the differences. Studying different breeds with different lifespans could shed some new insight on the aging process of both humans and dogs! 

Happy Dogs In Park

National Cat Lover's Month: The Best of Cat News in 2019

Woman Kisses Gray Cat

If I were to ask my cat Penelope if she knew that December was National Cat Lover’s Month, she’d probably plop down in the most dramatic patch of lighting she could find, start to groom herself, and say, “Of course, darling, we always save the best for last. Now fetch me a treat.”

I’m the first to admit that in the world of petdom, cats often get short shrift compared to their larger, furrier, droolier dog counterparts. What can I say? Dogs just seem so much needier than their independent, above-it-all feline housemates. I know it’s not true, and I’d like to give them their due in their month of celebration.

So in honor of National Cat Lover’s Month, I’m sharing my favorite cat news, discoveries, or insights from 2019. After all, cats deserve no less!

A Scientist Shares How To Pet Your Cat

We all know intuitively that there are right ways (gentle, front-to-back) and wrong ways (staring into their face, clutching them to your chest) to pet a cat. But a researcher from Nottingham Trent University took it a step further and actually collated the research data that exists in order to perfect the rules for successful cat-petting.

The number one factor in whether or not a cat enjoys getting pet? Whether or not the cat was the one to initiate the interaction. As anyone who has had to endure those rib-crushing hugs from Great Aunt Edna over the holidays can attest, this makes perfect sense.

Free Quilty

Like Puss in Boots or Robin Hood, Quilty the Cat is a rogue at heart. Quilty wasn’t satisfied with his plush digs in a Houston shelter, and decided to make a run for it. Over and over and over, he’d open the door handle and let all the residents of the cat room run amok. Each morning the staff would come in perplexed, having to retrieve the 15 cats Quilty had set free, and finally placed a camera to figure out what was going on.

Eventually Quilty was identified as the prison-breaking culprit and sent to solitary confinement, where his irritated pout earned him a whole different type of freedom: that of internet darling. The best part is, he earned the ultimate escape: he is being matched with the perfect home.

Cats Absolutely Love Us

Though some might interpret a cat’s natural independence as a lack of interest compared to, say, the neverending ardor of a Golden Retriever, the truth is cats do form strong bonds to their people. According to a Current Biology journal article from September that compared the attachment behaviors of cats to that of human babies, they exhibited the same patterns of caregiver attachments as infants!

So cat lovers, rejoice in the scientific proof of what you already knew — of course our cats love us. They just show it in their own cat-like way.

Cute Kitten Wants To Play

A Dog Would NEVER Interrupt an NFL Game Like This

Right in the midst of a Cowboys/Giants Monday night game, a black cat decided he was going to show the world who really held the power and brought the game to a screeching halt with nothing more than his presence on the field.

Not satisfied with merely showing up and running around, he proceeded to dramatically work his way to the endzone, working the crowd into a frenzy as he led a start-and-stop saunter into touchdown range. I haven’t heard cheers that loud at an NFL game since Prince rocked the halftime Superbowl show! Yes, cats know dramatic entrances.

Cats Know Us Better Than We Think

It’s a common belief that dogs sense and respond to our moods due to thousands of years of selective breeding. While cats are also domesticated, they evolve not from a pack species but a solitary one, so we’ve long assumed that cats aren’t as attuned to our behavioral cues as canines. But that assumption is incorrect.

Take, for example, the pointing test- a test of human-animal communication long thought to be passable only by a select few animals such as, you guessed it, the dog. But when researchers actually placed cats in the test with their owner, they followed their owner’s pointing hand as often as the dogs did- if, that is, they were paying attention.

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2019 was the year when cats came into their own and proved, this time with the rigors of science behind them, that they are well aware of their place in our world and enjoy being a part of it. They just do it on their own terms. Will we ever understand them entirely? Probably not. Do we need to? Not really. They are who they are: fun, loving, neurotic, playful, aloof, or whatever the heck they choose to be on any given day. That’s part of the fun of having one in the house.

Best wishes to your family in the coming year!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

Why You Should Consider Fostering Senior Dogs or Cats

Woman Playing With Senior Foster Dog At Beach

About ten years ago, I was on my way to a rescue to meet a Labrador named Lucy. She was four years old, bouncy, loved kids, and would have been the perfect companion for my one-year old Golden Brody.

While we were there, I saw a little black potato hovering in the shadows. That was Kekoa, they explained. She wasn’t who I had come to meet, but she sure did love meeting new people and I asked if it was okay if she came over to say hi.

Kekoa was ten or so. It was her second time being returned to the rescue. You could see in her eyes both the defeat of her return and the hope of a new family. She licked my hand gently, then gave my toddler son a very delicate kiss on the face. When she turned to leave, he ran after her. Even at two, my son knew something so many don’t:

There is no love as profound as that of a senior pet.

“I don’t want to get attached only to have to say goodbye so soon.”

First things first: People who foster pets of any age are a special kind of angel. Whether you are giving a puppy, senior, or new mother space in your home, you are doing them a tremendous service.

As an extension of the shelter system, foster families provide innumerable benefits to the community:

  1. The pet is able to wait for their forever family in a loving home environment, instead of a shelter that may be loud, crowded, and stressful. We know stress results in increased illness, and potentially reduces their adoptability. I mean, when would you rather go on a date? On a nice Saturday afternoon or Tuesday night after a terrible day at work? Calm environments allow us to be our best selves.
  2. You’re creating space for another animal at the shelter. The number one limitation in a shelter environment is space. By acting as an extension of that space, you are helping your shelter serve a larger community and reduce the number of euthanasia due to overcrowding.
  3. You have so much to offer. You’re watching their behavior. You know their preferences. You have a better idea than anyone else who is a good and maybe a not-quite-perfect long-term family for this pet. Making the right placement is key in a successful adoption.

These benefits apply to anyone. I know lots of people who prefer to foster animals under 4 months of age. I have a friend who likes to foster kittens because she knows she gets an endless supply of adorable little fuzzballs in her house, but she still has the flexibility of her busy lifestyle because she knows they are adopted quickly and rarely require a commitment of more than a month.

Foster Dog And Cat Laying Together

I also know a lot of families who choose to foster young pets knowing they are likely to keep one as a permanent family member- the ever present ‘foster failure’. For these families, fostering is a way to test their children’s ability to be responsible pet owners without the pressure of a long-term commitment if the time just isn’t right.

The motivations for fostering senior dogs or cats are a little different.

We all know senior pets are often the first to be euthanized at a shelter. This is a sad reality. With limited space, shelters need to allocate space to the most adoptable animals and those who are older, with health problems or a grey face are often the last chosen for adoption. This despite the fact that they are usually the most low-key, relaxed pets who are past the whole chewing thing, past the whole tearing up the yard thing, and just want a place to be happy.

It is a myth that seniors are more high maintenance than other pets. When in good health, it’s usually the opposite.

When you bring a puppy or a kitten into your home, they don’t have the life experience to know just how great you are. A senior, on the other hand? They’ve seen some things. They’ve had a life, and you have no idea how great or terrible it was, but something terrible must have transpired because they are here, homeless.

They understand the difference between their home and the shelter.

They understand what love looks like, and unfortunately what lack of love looks like.

They appreciate you in a different way.

You can make a bigger difference in one month of a senior’s life than you can in months or years with a younger pet, because those moments are just that important. Dogs and cats don’t hold grudges. They have astonishing capabilities for forgiveness. In this life, what they remember is this week. And the love you show in your time as a foster can erase years of sadness and neglect. Isn’t that amazing?

The timeline is a little more variable in a senior foster situation. Puppies and kittens are gone in a flash. They move on to something incredible — a forever home. Seniors may be with you for quite some time. It is a relationship. Your time together ends because they are adopted, or because their time on earth has come to a conclusion. Either way, you know you have provided something priceless to them.

My friend Karen fell into senior hospice unintentionally. She has the right heart for it. She has a type: anything with a huge head, preferably with lots of Shar Pei rolls. The rescue called her once with a perfect foster who just happened to be a senior, and she said yes. She says yes a lot now.

Three senior fosters so far that I know of.

I see her take these souls in knowing it is unlikely they will know any homes other than hers, and in their eyes you see the dawning realization that they are safe.

They go on car trips.

They sleep on couches.

They live the Instagram life.

Her stories have inspired other people to take in senior pets as well, because she does such an incredible job of documenting the transformation that can take place in just a few weeks of joy. That’s all you need. There’s no minimum amount of time it takes to make a difference in someone’s life.

November is Adopt a Senior Pet month, so it’s the perfect time to remember that. Whether you are adopting or foster, there’s ways anyone with the right heart can make a difference in the life of a senior. How about you?

Dr V 
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

 

Owning a Dog Can Increase Your Lifespan

Woman Rests With Dog At Park

If you own a dog, you probably find yourself gushing to others about how great your four-legged furball is. Now, there are compelling new scientific studies that prove the benefits of owning a dog!

Published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, the evidence shows that dog owners have a lower risk of death over the long term and are less likely to die from heart disease when compared to non-owners.

Researchers also determined that dog owners who experienced a heart attack or stroke had a significantly lower risk of dying from these causes when compared to non-owners.

The research shows that for dog owners:

  • The risk of all-cause mortality is lowered by 24%, and the chance of dying from heart disease is reduced by 31%.
  • The risk of death for heart attack patients living alone was 33% lower, and 15% lower for those living with a partner or child.
  • The risk of death for stroke patients living alone was 27% lower, and 12% lower for those living with a partner or child.

The studies were originally used to see whether owning a dog was associated with reducing cardiovascular mortality, but the data showed that it fought off other causes of death as well.

“These two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality,” said Glenn N. Levine, MD, chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association. “While these non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this.”

- So what is causing dog owners to live longer than non-owners?

There have been many documented mental and physical health benefits to owning a dog. When it comes to mental health, dogs have been known to reduce stress and increase social interaction.

Man Playing With Dog In Park

“Dogs offer companionship, reduce anxiety and loneliness, increase self-esteem, and improve overall mood,” said cardiologist Dr. Dhruv S. Kazi, in an editorial that accompanies the studies.

Previous studies have also shown the physical benefits of owning a dog. Just petting a dog can lower a person’s blood pressure! In addition, “Dog ownership may increase time spent outdoors, which has an independent positive effect on cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Kazi.

In fact, owning a dog can end up improving other health measures such as blood pressure and heart rate. By walking a dog 20 to 30 minutes a day, owners will meet the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise to improve their cardiovascular health.

If you were on the fence about adding a furry family member to your household, remember, walking your dog isn’t just good for your pup — it’s very, very good for you too!

Dog Training Tips: The Secret to Canine Cooperation

Woman Training Dog With Treat


We love our dogs — and we want other people to love our dogs as well. This is why some basic dog training will enhance your bond with your dog while improving their relationship with your friends and family. Having a well-trained dog or puppy will make your life a whole lot easier and enhance your experience as a dog parent.

Whether you are interested in basic obedience training or simply want to teach your new puppy the house rules, the key to any successful dog training begins with the fundamentals: communication and consistency.

Here are some successful dog training tips you can try at home:

  • Reward behaviors that you want to enforce

Obedience training can be overwhelming for new dog parents, especially when trying to break your dog from bad habits like jumping up on people, leash pulling or barking. Let's face it, trying to train your dog to do what you want him to do – like to 'sit' on request – is a more straightforward task than breaking your dog's bad habits. However, all good training methods utilize the fundamental principles of consistency and clear communication.

Most dogs are people-pleasers – they want to learn. But it is up to us as dog parents to be competent communicators. We must let our dogs know what we want to happen and ensure that we don't unintentionally reward undesirable behaviors to confuse our messaging. Rewarding your dog comes in many forms including verbal praise, pets and treats like Tasty Rewards.

  • Establish a routine

Dogs thrive on routine. It is easy to reinforce good habits when your dog understands what it is that you expect from them. If there are multiple people in your household, it is imperative that everyone be on board with helping to maintain a consistent routine.

When house-training a new puppy, begin by establishing a routine that includes not only when your puppy goes outside but also where. Establishing a regular time and place for potty breaks will help your puppy learn to recognize what the desired behavior is.

If you want to teach your new dog to sit on request, then everyone involved in puppy training must use the same cues to request that behavior. If half of the household is asking your dog to 'sit' but the other half is saying 'sit down' for the prompt, it can create a confusing situation for your new pup. It is critical to establish what the verbal prompts will be and make certain that everyone is using the same language from the start.

Two Dogs Waiting For Ball

  • When 'no' means 'no'

Training your new puppy to understand the word 'no,' can be an effective tool. But be clear what you expect when you use that word. For instance, the word 'no' might be used specifically for those situations when you want your dog to immediately stop what they are doing – such as running out of the house or chewing on something they shouldn't. The key is to not overuse it.

Develop well-defined cues to shape other behaviors. If you want to break your over-eager pup from the habit of jumping up on strangers, then it may be more useful to use a specific cue like 'off.' Simply repeating 'no' for any undesirable behavior can lead to uncertainty, or lose significance from overuse. Remember, be specific and use distinct commands to produce more positive outcomes.

  • The power of recall

Training your dog to come to you when called is an extremely valuable behavior that provides a measure of safety and security for both you and your pup. As with any other dog training exercise, a clear direction will produce a consistent outcome.

To begin with, always use your dog's proper name. Most dog parents have several nicknames for their pups, but when working on recall or other dog training exercises, it is imperative to stick to your dog’s proper name. Save your favorite 'pet' names for cuddling on the couch or informal playtime.

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There are many tools and methods to use when training your dog or puppy, but the most successful training outcomes depend on clear communication. Be fair, be consistent, and reward your dog for good behavior. A well-trained dog who understands your expectations will have more confidence, be allowed more freedoms and be a much happier canine.

Toxic Algae: Is It Safe For Dogs To Swim?

Dog Licks Man In Lake

On a beautiful sunny August day, three dogs named Abby, Harpo, and Lizzy went for a swim at a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina. They were happy and healthy pups. And by the days’ end, all three were gone. The cause: toxic algae.

It sounds like a scene from The Blob or straight out of your worst nightmares. How can something as benign as a swim in a lake turn deadly? Sadly, these tragic stories are popping up in the news from the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the far reaches of the southeast. The good news is, knowledge is power. You can avoid these potentially devastating situations by being aware of your pet’s surroundings. Information is hard to find and often confusing, even for a veterinarian- so I put some information together that I hope you will find helpful. Here’s what all dog owners need to know about toxic algae blooms:

What is toxic algae?
Blooms of blue-green algae derive from small bacteria called cyanobacteria. In large numbers, these bacteria aggregate to resemble a greenish sludge on the surface of bodies of water. While the current blue-green algae blooms in the news are associated with lakes and ponds, algae blooms occur worldwide in all types of bodies of water. Some, but not all, forms of these algae produce deadly toxins. These blooms are called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB).

Why is this happening so much lately?
While toxic blooms are nothing new, they do happen more frequently in the hot, sunny days of summer and fall. Summer rainstorms also dump nutrient-rich runoff into bodies of water, fueling the algae’s growth. Slow-moving water is more likely to experience blooms, hence the increased incidence in ponds and lakes versus oceans and rivers.

Do toxic blooms only affect dogs?
No, the toxic effects of HABs can affect many animals. We see these incidents most commonly in dogs because they spend more time swimming than other pets. In addition, they often swallow water while they are swimming and are more likely to ingest a toxic dose.

These toxins can cause illness in people, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, the toxins can be absorbed by fish and shellfish, causing a chain reaction in the food supply. A 2015 outbreak on the West Coast decimated fisheries, causing die-offs of fish and shellfish from Alaska all the way down the California coast.

What are the effects of the toxins?
When a dog swallows water with algal toxins or grooms the algae off his fur, the effects can be seen in minutes to hours. Algae produce different types of toxins that affect the liver, GI tract, and neurologic system. With liver disease, clinical signs start in minutes to hours and include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, seizures, and weakness. With neurotoxins, pets can also fall ill in minutes to hours. Affected animals produce excessive saliva, experience tremors, have difficulty breathing, seizures, or collapse. Both types are deadly. Even touching toxic algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory inflammation.

Regardless of the specific toxin, any of these symptoms after swimming in a lake should be considered a medical emergency. There is no known antidote to the toxin. Your veterinarian can provide supportive care and treat the symptoms, but sadly many dogs succumb to the illness.

Happy Dog Fetching Stick in Lake

How do I know if a lake or pond is experiencing a HAB? Is all algae toxic?
Not all algae produces deadly toxins. In fact, most do not. That’s the good news. The bad news is, one cannot tell simply by looking whether an algal bloom is toxic or not. Blooms often produce a greenish scum on the surface of the water, but can appear brown as well. Sometimes there is no mat on the surface at all and the water simply has a greenish tint. If you see water that looks like this, don’t take chances. Keep yourself and your pets away unless you have specifically been given the green light by your local municipality.

According to the CDC, the following warning signs indicate a body of water that is potentially unsafe:
Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that: smell bad look discolored have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Is there an agency that monitors water safety?
Suspect water can be tested to determine whether toxins are present in the water. Just because the water in one lake is deemed safe, it doesn’t mean the lake a few miles away is also safe.

To reiterate: these blooms are found across the globe, in lakes, ponds, and oceans. Your county or state health department is usually your best resource for finding out the current status in your area. Some states list “HAB Incident Reports” indicating harmful algal blooms in the region, such as this site maintained by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

A last word of caution: In an era of tightening budgets, routine monitoring is not the standard in many places and testing may not occur until after a problem is noted.

When in doubt, just stay out!