There are a number of ways that we can stay on top of health issues that creep up on our dogs with age. Annual veterinary visits are a staple in every healthy pet’s life. A comprehensive physical exam from nose to tail is step one in picking up clues to underlying concerns at every age, but it becomes even more important in the senior years.
If you use a clicker as your marker, you would create this association initially by clicking the clicker and then immediately feeding the dog a treat. You repeat this a number of times – click, treat; click, treat; click, treat – until your dog’s eyes light up when she hears the click and she looks for the treat. We sometimes refer to this process as “charging” the clicker; we’ve given the click significance, and the dog understands that the click means a reward is coming.
How do I stop my dog from stealing food? How do I get my dog to stop drinking toilet water? Why does my dog run off all the time? These are just a few of the countless things dogs do that make their guardians run to professional trainers for help. The reality of dog behavior modification is that often the solution to a dog's bad habit is not through training the dog, but through carefully managing every opportunity the dog has to practice unwanted behaviors.
Every year, thousands of dogs are treated in emergency veterinary hospitals across the country. I know; I spent nearly a decade as an emergency-room veterinarian. I always found it interesting that many of the most common injuries and illnesses I saw in emergency practice were also some of the easiest to prevent! Many of these problems can be avoided with a little common sense and preventative medicine.
Your dog’s paw pads act much like the soles of sneakers, protecting your dog’s foot and cushioning each step. Paw pads are tough, but they can still be cut by sharp objects or worn off if your dog runs hard on rough terrain. What should you do when your dog cuts or tears a pad?
It’s true that dogs like Australian Shepherds, a breed commonly referred to as “high drive” and thought of as “needing to work,” enjoy hard exercise. But while I believe that every dog benefits from having a job, I think less work is better for these especially smart, active, and sensitive individuals, particularly in their first three years. In my opinion, it’s far more valuable to teach dogs like this to settle themselves, instead of trying to physically exhaust them. And forget about employing the “forced settle” method – an oxymoron that leaves the dog no choice in the matter and often exacerbates the dog’s so-called hyperactivity.
When our dogs undergo surgery or suffer an injury, they don't understand that remaining calm and inactive while their bodies heal is necessary to a strong recovery. It's up to us, their guardians, to keep our dogs calm, happy, comfortable - and stimulated - through their recovery period, so that they do not over-exert themselves and create another injury.
I’ve been a professional dog trainer for 10 years. I’ve tackled all kinds of behavior issues ranging from mild annoyances, like jumping up, to serious aggression or anxiety problems. I’ve doled out training and management advice to dog-owning families expecting babies (of the human kind), guided adopters in their selection of a puppy or adult dog, and counseled clients on what to do after their shiny new puppy finally arrives. I’ve taught group classes of various themes, including puppy kindergarten – so many puppy classes, I’d heard and seen it all.
Few people today would admit to leaving their dogs home alone for 24 or 48 hours or more, but leaving the dog home for 10 to 12 hours is not at all uncommon – and questioning this practice can sometimes lead to social ridicule. If an owner decides that after being gone all day, she’d rather not confine her dog or leave him alone for an additional few hours in the evening, she might be met with less-than-understanding responses. “You’re not coming out because you want to be home with your dog? That’s crazy! You’re letting your dog control your life!”
Many clients bring their aging dogs to me for private sessions because they have started having difficulty or reluctance with – or can no longer perform – normal life activities like climbing stairs, getting into the car, or walking on smooth flooring. These problems are often related to muscle atrophy in the hind end. Once the dogs get the all-clear from their veterinarian, we work on fitness exercises designed to rebuild hind-end strength; we increase the difficulty of the exercises slowly over time until more function returns.
When the use of aversives was the norm in dog training, we simply punished our canine companions harshly enough that they were afraid to do these unwanted behaviors. With the advent of positive-based training, its emphasis on relationship, and our appreciation for getting our dogs to do stuff, today’s more enlightened humans use a kinder, gentler approach to teach impulse control. We teach dogs that if they choose to control their own impulses, good things will happen!
Most of us love snuggling with our dogs and burying our noses in our dogs’ soft, shiny coats. But if you find yourself avoiding that last activity due to your dog’s persistent unpleasant odor, read on!
Teaching your dog to differentiate between objects is a fun brain game that can be stretched out over days or weeks. He doesn’t need to learn it all on the first try! Keep sessions short and fun, making sure your dog gets plenty of reinforcement to keep him interested.
Most service-dog organizations rely heavily on volunteers to welcome the organization’s puppies into their homes – and hearts – for more than a year, during which time the volunteers are responsible for teaching basic obedience, impeccable house manners, and how to be confident and calm in a variety of public settings. Socialization is a huge part of raising any dog, but it’s especially important when the dog is destined for a career spent largely away from home. When it comes to socializing a puppy, how you do it matters – a lot!
Nails: All dogs have them. In fact some dog breeds, like the Great Pyrenees, have 22 of them. Yet nails are commonly ignored by many dog owners. There are numerous common problems with this area in dogs, ranging from minor broken nails to more devastating diseases like cancer. Proper maintenance with nails trims and periodic inspection of the nail and nail fold will ensure early detection of any problems with your canine friend.