Self-Taught?

We hope you learn as much from WDJ as we do!

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Our goal for WDJ is to give our readers information they can put to use immediately to help improve the health and behavior of their dogs. Of course, I consider the magazine a success when I receive letters from readers thanking us for helping save their dogs’ lives, but I also feel a deep satisfaction when I realize me and my dog benefit from things I’ve read in WDJ.

For example, I read a long article in the Washington Post today about a scary infection that is killing people and worrying public health officials. A very common bacteria, Clostridium difficile, has mutated into a virulent form that causes fatigue, stomach cramps, nausea, and severe diarrhea – and alarmingly, it is resistant to many antibiotics. In fact, people who are taking antibiotics are the most common victim. Modern heartburn drugs, which reduce the production of stomach acid, are also emerging as an agent that can make a person vulnerable to the infection.

What does this have to do with dogs? As I read the article, I felt that I fully understood the gravity of the situation only because longtime WDJ contributor Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD, precisely described the potential for this scenario in his March 2004 article, “Dangers of Antibiotic Misuse.” Dr. Kidd warned against giving your dog antibiotics for any but the most compelling bacterial infections. This reduces the risk of promoting antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your home, and preserves the protective bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract.

Dr. Kidd’s article noted that you don’t even have to be the one taking an antibiotic to become resistant to it; he cited studies that show resistant bacteria can infect every species of animal within reach of the animal that was given the antibiotic. He also noted that antibacterial soaps and cleaners speed the development of resistant bacteria and should be avoided. Kidd’s article is definitely worth rereading.

For a photo to illustrate Pat Miller’s article on teaching your dog to “target” (“Right On Target” in this issue), I followed her instructions and taught my Chihuahua, Mokie, to ring a bell that I hung on the back door. It took about 10 minutes. Mokie already knew how to touch his nose to my hand – the result of target training I did with him in March 2001, when we published our last article on target training. Shaping the behavior to get him to touch his nose to the bell instead of my hand, and then using his paws to really make it ring took just a few minutes.

It’s taking a bit longer to get him to ring the bell when he wants to go outside. I’ve been asking him to ring the bell every time we go outside, so he gets the idea that he rings the bell, and then we go out. My hope is that he’ll realize that ringing the bell makes it possible to go outside, and he’ll start offering the behavior when he needs or wants to go out.

So far, he offers the behavior only when someone is eating, in hopes of getting a treat for his new trick. I think he’ll figure it out – as soon as I can train the kids not to give him food for ringing the bell because they think it’s so cute. I guess I need to ask Pat to write an article for WDJ on that.

 

-Nancy Kerns

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