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.
There are many times in your dog’s life when she needs to be able to control her impulse to engage in a behavior. Last month, we discussed “Wait” and “Stay” – but impulse control goes far beyond these “don’t move” cues. “Leave it” is another impulse-control behavior that is very useful for your dog to know. The cue means, “Whatever you are focused on at this moment, I need you to leave it alone.”
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.
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?
I am going to be blunt; I have a strong opinion about this. There is absolutely no chance that I would allow any of my dogs to be taken “into the back” at a veterinary clinic for anything short of surgery. Our new vet does go above and beyond with her clinic’s degree of owner involvement, but we have never been clients at a clinic that required our dogs to be taken away from us for examinations.
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.
Basic screening tests, in combination with regular physical exams, are foundation components of a good health care program. In younger dogs, routine tests are done to establish normal baselines, exclude congenital problems, and/or ensure safety for anesthesia. In older pets, these tests often provide the first indication of possible health problems.
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.
Dogs are naturally curious, physical, and exuberant, and while we love this about them, these characteristics can also lead to unintentional injuries. These can run the gamut from very minor to severe and life-threatening. How do you know the difference? When is it time to consult a veterinarian and when can you manage a wound at home? Here are some steps for assessing wounds and treating them.
The seeds of the nasty foxtail grass seem to have a special affinity for invading dogs’ bodies. The three most common hazards of foxtails to dogs are these: They get sniffed into dog noses, work their way into dog ears, and lodge between dog toes. Each of these sites is a mere port of entry for these sturdy seeds; once inside, they start a relentless crawl forward, traveling deeper into a dog’s tissue with every passing hour. They are sometimes found in exploratory surgeries years afterward; the durable seed and awn fibers resist breaking down in the body as if they were made of plastic.
Perhaps you’re thinking about taking your adolescent out-of-control dog, or your dog with significant behavior issues, to a board-and-train (B&T) facility, where they will work with her for a few short weeks and hand her back all perfect. Right? Wait a minute. What sounds like a perfect solution to your dog’s behavior and training challenges is fraught with danger. Remember that something that sounds too good to be true, often is.
Fortunately, tetanus is relatively rare in dogs. Horses and humans are more susceptible to tetanus, while cats are highly resistant. Dogs fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum – but it does happen. As an emergency veterinarian, I have personally seen two cases of tetanus in dogs and read of several others.
If you have a dog, emergencies are inevitable. Dogs are prone to injuries, ingestion of toxic substances, and illnesses. Are you prepared in an emergency? Do you know what to do and what not to do? After nine years as an emergency veterinarian, I’ve seen it all! Here are my top tips for helping your emergency-room veterinarian help your dog.
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.
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!”