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Dealing with Nippy Dogs

Posted on: October 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Audrey Pavia on 10/8/2007 in Training Tips Articles

If you’ve been around dogs for much of your life, you have, at some point, been touched by a dog’s teeth. While these experiences were probably benign — an overexcited puppy mouthing your arm or a friendly pooch gnawing on your hand — the potential for bodily harm is real whenever canine teeth meet human skin.

Nipping is an annoying and potentially dangerous habit in dogs. While most dogs nip as part of play, some do it to send a loud message. Whether your dog is nipping out of playfulness or aggression, you shouldn’t ignore this unpleasant habit.

Before you can figure out how to stop your dog from nipping, you need to understand why he’s doing it. If your dog is a puppy, it’s likely he’s nipping because he wants to engage you in a game (puppies nip each other for fun), or because he’s teething. Either way, this is the time to teach your pup that his teeth should never make contact with human skin, no matter what the reason.

Start by letting your puppy know that nipping is not appreciated. The minute he starts to bite you, say “No bite!” in a loud voice and end the play session immediately. Do this consistently until your youngster gets the message that when he bites you, you react unpleasantly and then ignore him.

In the meantime, give him objects he can safely gnaw on to satisfy his need to chew. Ask your veterinarian to recommend some toys and treats that are safe for chewing. Be sure to enroll your puppy in obedience classes too so he learns that he must respect humans as he grows up.

If your dog is already grown and still has a tendency to nip when he wants to play, use the same method for teaching him that biting is unacceptable. Tell him “No bite!” and walk away–and do this each and every time. If you are consistent with this method, he’ll get the message soon enough.

If your dog nips because he wants to stop you from doing something, like grooming him or moving him off the bed or couch, your problem may be more difficult to solve.

A dog who nips when he objects to what you want him to do has not accepted the fact that you are the pack leader in your household. In other words, the dog doesn’t accept your authority and is basically telling you to take a hike. This behavior is not okay —unless of course you want your dog to start running your household.

To change your dog’s attitude, you need to change his perception of you. The best way to do this is to enroll in an obedience class. Here, you will learn how to gain your dog’s respect, while at the same time teaching him that he must follow your commands — not the other way around.

Remember that your new role as leader doesn’t end when class is over. Practice obedience at home as well. You want to drive home the point that you are the one in charge, at home as well as in class.

If your dog’s nipping continues despite your efforts at obedience training, consult with a professional dog trainer. If your dog has been allowed to get away with nipping for a long time, his habits may be harder to break without professional help.

If your dog is okay with adults but nips at children, your problem is serious. Even a small dog can easily hurt a child, or at the very least scare him or her to the point that the child becomes terrified of dogs. You should consult a professional trainer for assistance with this issue since this type of nipping can also escalate into more dangerous aggression.

Woof Woof Road Trip

Posted on: September 28th, 2007 by

A 5-Point Plan to Put the Brakes on Your Cat-chasing Dog

Posted on: September 28th, 2007 by

Posted by Amy Shojai on 9/28/2007 in Training Tips Articles

Does your dog chase your cat? More than 40 percent of pet lovers keep multiple pets. While they often get along famously, some dogs treat the family feline like a windup toy. Constant chasing turns even easy-going cats into nervous wrecks, and even dogs who mean no harm may accidentally injure a cat or kitten.

Personalities predict success. Some dog breeds are naturally less predatory than others while some cats may be more tolerant of pestering canines. However, terrier and sight hound breeds are genetically hard-wired to chase scurrying critters. Fleeing by a cat can trigger predatory aggression in some dogs of these breeds.

It’s vital that owners educate their dogs on the rules of the house to maintain harmony. To successfully achieve this, all members of the house must be consistent in reinforcing good doggy manners. Here, we offer a five-point plan to put the brakes on your cat-chasing dog. Before each training session, make sure you have a leash, plenty of treats and, of course, lots of patience.

1. Ensure your cat’s safety by keeping your dog under leash control inside your house during “canine class” time. Prevent ANY chase from taking place. Use a long leash so that you can quickly step on it at the first sign that your dog is about to dash after your cat. Even if your cat instigates the session (some cats tease dogs unmercifully), don’t allow any chase or tag games until after your dog has learned proper manners.

2. Keep an abundant supply of aromatic-beckoning, tasty treats handy so that you are ready to reinforce no chasing by your dog at the presence of a cat. These special treats should only be used for cat-proofing lessons and should be small enough that your dog needs only a chew or two to enjoy and swallow and be ready to heed your next treat-dispensing cue.

3. Give your dog a treat every time your cat makes an appearance. Reinforce good behavior by coming up with an easy-to-remember phrase, such as, “Cookie, cat!” and when your dog stays sitting – without chasing your cat – deliver a treat. Offer this payday whether your dog acts calm, excited, merely looks at your cat, barks, or anything else. The goal is to have your dog comprehend this cause-and-effect equation: a cat’s presence equals tasty treats.

4. Use a leash to keep your dog a safe distance from your cat – but do not use the leash to force your dog’s attention or behavior into what you want him to do. Let his brain process the equation in his own time. Some dogs “get it” right away, and others take longer. Within a few sessions, nearly every dog should start looking to you for a treat each time they hear, “Cookie, cat!” or your cat appears. Rather than lunging and chasing instinctively, your dog should be learning to stay and expect a reward.

5. Reinforce this behavior for at least a week or two in mini-sessions a few times a day. The sessions need only to be a few minutes in duration – but no more than 10 minutes – because it’s difficult for some dogs, especially young ones, to maintain attention. Brush up with more training sessions as needed.

Final advice: Make sure your dog stays leashed or separated from your cat when you are not able to supervise their interactions until you are confident that your dog’s desire to give chase has definitely been stopped in its tracks.

Achoo! Tactics to Fend Off Pet Allergies

Posted on: September 20th, 2007 by

Posted by Arden Moore on 9/20/2007 in Lifestyle

Sneezing. Runny nose. Itchy, swollen eyes. Rash.

When most of us touch and pet the coats of our dogs or cats, it’s a pleasurable experience. But some unfortunates — approximately 1 in 5 people — suffer from allergies that are set off when they touch an animal or even when they’re simply in the same room with them.

“It’s probably more common to be allergic to cats, and cats also are more clinically significant because they tend to spend more time indoors and find their way onto the bedding more often,” says Oren P. Schaefer, an allergist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

Although most people blame a pet’s fur for triggering their allergies, the real cause is the proteins found in hair, saliva, urine and dander (dead skin flakes). The body views these proteins as foreign and manufactures antibodies against them. Those antibodies produce itchy eyes or runny noses – hallmarks of an allergy.

People who love pets but suffer from allergies are constantly on the prowl for a pet that won’t set off their symptoms. A number of dog and cat breeds are believed to be hypoallergenic. Among them are poodles, bichons frise, greyhounds, soft-coated wheaten terriers and Siberian cats.

The disappointing truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat. All animals produce dander, even hairless ones, and of course, they all produce saliva and urine.

Scientists don’t know why some people seem to be allergic to some dogs and cats, but not to others.

“Some people say, ‘Well, I’m not allergic to my cat or dog’ or ‘I’m allergic to German Shepherds, but not spaniels’ and what I tell them is ‘dogs are dogs,’ ” Dr. Schaefer says. “They all have the basic antigen – it’s identical. That said, some make more antigen than others, and some houses are cleaner than others from an allergic point of view, so there are a lot of reasons people might have trouble at the neighbor’s house and not their house and vice versa.”

One reason people might react less to a particular breed is the amount of grooming it receives. Frequent bathing and grooming can temporarily reduce the amount of dander produced.

Another reason is related to physiological changes that affect hair growth. Dogs with longer hair-growth cycles, such as poodles, may shed dead surface cells more uniformly than short-coated breeds, which shed frequently.

Size is another factor to consider. Big dogs simply produce more dander than small dogs.

In the case of Siberian cats, they appear to produce less Fel d 1—the protein that causes cat allergies — than other cats. But not everyone is able to tolerate them.

“I do not guarantee that the person will not be allergic,” says Siberian breeder Karon Hansberger of Reigning Cats cattery in Clarksburg, Maryland. “I have had quite a few people who had mild allergies be able to have the Siberians, and I have had several tell me they are still having reactions. It’s hard to say why some can tolerate the Siberian and some cannot.”

The good news is that people with pet allergies can take steps to live with their affliction — without giving up their pets. Here are eight tactics to try:

* Minimize allergic reactions by brushing and bathing your pet frequently — a task best done by someone who’s not allergic.

* Keep your pet’s coat healthy with a good diet, regular grooming and parasite control. Anything that irritates the skin surface, such as biting, licking, scratching, external parasites, bacterial or fungal infections and hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism, can result in more dander.

* Use sprays or wipes — available at pet supply stores — that can help reduce the amount of dander on the pet’s body. Baby wipes may also work.

* Restrict your pet’s access to furniture and certain areas of the house, primarily your bedroom.

* Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

* Install a HEPA air filter or air purifier if you have a cat.

* Keep over-the-counter antihistamines such as liquid or chewable Benadryl on hand to help control reactions, and ask your allergist about prescription antihistamines and decongestants that may help.

* Learn to love a contemporary décor: metal, leather and wood are better choices than fabric upholstery and carpet.

Help Overcome Depression with a Dog

Posted on: September 12th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Previously I have reported how I have personally witnessed people eliminate antidepressants by the simple act of obtaining a dog, especially a “lap” or household dog or cat. I have also shared how it is being scientifically documented and measured that pets can reduce and even eliminate mild depression.

Now, the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Support Partners has a national education campaign dedicated to people with depression, touting the benefits of a dog in overcoming depression. They suggest that petting your dog will help relieve stress and anxiety, taking your dog for a walk gives you exercise and relieves stress, and teaching your dog a new trick will give you a sense of accomplishment.

More and more social and healthcare professions are seeing the value of pets in helping to keep us healthy and improving our health when we are ill, stressed or depressed. Why is this important? Because the acknowledgment by national organizations and health care professionals will expand the access and awareness of the valuable role that pets play in our health. What more natural way to stay healthy and happy than by having the joy of owning a pet?

If you review some of my previous blogs you will see where I discuss the exact biochemical feedback mechanisms we experience when we are with our pets. How pets improve our health and well being by altering our biochemistry is still under investigation, and I will share the findings as they continue to develop. In summary a few benefits of pets are as follows:

The quiet interaction of petting a pet will lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress hormone and increase the levels of good hormones and neurotransmitters which will all help you feel better.

The simple act of watching fish in a fish tank will lower your blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety.

Interacting with your pet will increase your serotonin levels, which are instrumental to decreasing the feelings of depression.

Walking your pet will help you lose weight better than other traditional weight loss methods and improve your sense of well being.

According to a leading clinical psychologist, “While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of a support network for clinically depressed individuals, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. Depression is often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives and intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness.”

You and I know walking your dog will bring on more social contacts, make you feel better and help you lose weight, which are all beneficial to your emotional health and physical well being. Having a constant companion in your home will decrease the feeling of loneliness, provide you with activity that makes you feel needed and improve your biochemistry. So, take care of your buddies, and they will take care of you.

“Prescribe Pets Not Pills”