Letters September 1998 Issue

Natural Flea Solutions, Separation Anxiety and Cocker Spaniels

More Natural Flea Solutions

I just received my first issue of WDJ, and am greatly impressed with its content. I’ve learned what supplement to add to my Sheltie’s food to discourage him from eating my Golden’s poop, plus a better hypoallergenic shampoo for my Golden who has multiple health problems. Keep up the good work – the dog world needs alternative advice like yours!

-Janice Mitchell
Maryland Heights, MO

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Separation Anxiety

I recently received my first issue of WDJ, and I was very impressed with what I saw. I too, believe in the natural approach to life for my family, both human and furry. That is why one of your articles upset me so. I am speaking of your June 1998, “Answers from Experts: Separation Anxiety.” As an animal behaviorist for more than 10 years with many more years of studies in animal science, I am writing concerning the segment of the article where the owner is told:

“If you find a scene of devastation, don’t make the mistake of sympathizing with the dog...take her around the house and show her all the things she’d done wrong, while talking to her in a very stern, mean tone of voice. I’d do this for at least a minute, but not much longer.”

I was shocked at this “expert” advice. You can NEVER punish (or praise) a dog more than 30 seconds after the act has been committed. The animal will NEVER understand what it is that you’re talking about. Especially when the behavior could have happened hours ago. . . . If you do not catch your dog in the act, the crime must go unpunished! You will create a fearful, untrusting dog.

Now I know the advice was not to yell, but to told in a “very stern, mean tone of voice.” I do not see a difference. Your dog is happy to see you and you’re acting as if you can’t stand the sight of him, for, in his mind, no reason. [The suggested approach] will not cure the separation anxiety. You may cure the symptoms, but at what cost to the human-canine bond. That is why I am an animal behaviorist and not a trainer. Trainers fix the symptoms, behaviorists go to the cause. . . .Dogs with separation anxiety cannot help what they do. They are not angry with you for leaving them. They are beside themselves with stress. Have you ever seen a two year old child get frustrated with a parent? They do a very similar thing because they are stressed out. They don’t have a concept of, “If I destroy this now, I can’t play with it later.” Much like your dog has no concept of, “If I tear this up now, when he gets home I’m going to be in big trouble.”

Your dog’s stress is coming from his genetics. Dogs are pack animals; we bring them into our homes, and then label many of their natural normal behaviors as destructive. Separation anxiety dogs miss their pack. Yelling at them for this is, at best useless and, at worst, shattering.

-Elissa O’Sullivan
Gahanna, OH

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Cocker Spaniels in Trouble

Concerning your article about “Dude,” the 2 1/2 year old Cocker Spaniel with multiple health problems (July 1998 WDJ):

I’ve been a show breeder/exhibitor of Cocker Spaniels for more than 10 years, and have some advice I’d like to pass along to both the owner and the veterinarian who answered her question.

I noticed that the owner didn’t state what color Dude is, but I have a feeling that he may possibly be a tricolor (black/white/tan or brown/white/tan). If he is indeed a tricolored dog that would explain some of his schizoid temperament . . . Tricolored Cocker Spaniels have a tendency to be complete “air heads” in my experience, they freak out easily, especially if they’re spooked, it just seems as if they never recover from it. I’ve had four or five tricolors in the past and will never again own one no matter how pretty they are because of this.

It’s become a general practice with a lot of breeder/exhibitors of many breeds, and Cocker Spaniels are right up there in this practice, to have the tonsils removed at about four to six months of age if they can’t get the puppies to hold up their heads while they’re trying to leash break them. I’ve personally never done this, but I know it’s common practice with many of the breeder/exhibitors and the professional handlers in many breeds.

Some breeder/exhibitors can’t place a physically standard correct dog into a pet home immediately if their personality/temperament isn’t standard correct. If a puppy hangs its head, they’ll have the tonsils removed to show the puppy. They’ll continue to show a puppy that spooks easily even though they know the puppy won’t do well on temperament . . . they have the hope if the puppy is physically standard correct they’ll get placed and finish another champion for their kennel.

I’m not saying that these practices are right or wrong. I’m saying that I’d never do them myself. I’ve placed puppies into spay/neuter pet homes that were a better specimen of the breed than a lot of the dogs that boast those champion crowns. It takes a great deal of money to show and campaign dogs to champion titles, and a lot of us common folks that are showing dogs for the sport of it don’t have the funds available like the folds that have unlimited resources for their kennels and need tax write-offs.

I’ve also found that Pepto-Bismol tablets work wonders for dogs with diarrhea, If you don’t want to risk using these products, use good old plain yogurt which puts the good bacteria back into the intestinal tract. You might also consider changing your dog’s diet to a lamb and rice formula, and do not feed Science Diet foods because they use a lot of chicken products, which some Cocker Spaniels don’t tolerate very well, giving them irritable bowel problems.

If you want to purchase an older show dog, I’d recommend finding out why the dog was being retired. I’d also suggest anyone purchasing an older dog to request a complete copy of all medical records when they go see the dog, or available at the breeder’s veterinarian’s office for examination before purchase. Question the veterinarian who has treated the dog. If the breeder has a lot of excuses or refuses to produce the records, do not buy the animal, don’t even look at it!

-Becca E. Thorsen
Mt. Vernon, WA

Thanks for your comments. Make sure you check out our article in the November issue about people who both show their dogs and raise them holistically. – Editor

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Miscellaneous

Thank you for the article on super blue green algae and for e-mailing me the phone number to purchase it (800-800-1300). Goliath has been on it for a month now and we definitely see a remarkable difference! He has come back to life! He used to be so lethargic all of the time, given his current condition (cancer) and his age (13) but since eating the algae he is so spunky! He acts like a little puppy and he always wants to go for walks!

I’ve learned a lot from your newsletter, please keep the great articles coming.

-Phyllis Diggs
Woodbury, NJ

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My two small dogs (both under nine pounds) and I are vegetarians, and I am writing to ask you if you would know where, by mail or Internet, I can obtain ready-made food (dry or not) for the dogs. I prepare their food all the time, but I don’t want to run into a problem if I ever have to board them for a period of time.

-Connie Lemonde
via e-mail

I’ve been feeding my dog a commercial vegetarian food off and on for a while. It’s one of several foods made by Nature’s Recipe, Corona, CA. They call it their “Vegetarian Canine Formula.” I give it to my dog because he can’t tolerate a very high-fat diet; this food has only 8% fat, and 18% protein.

Readers, do you know of others? – Editor

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