Is My Dog Dehydrated?

Dog drinking water

Can My Dog Be Dehydrated?

Summer’s heating, folks!  Just the thought of it makes me thirsty!  While the temperatures increase, it’s important to take note of how much water your dog is drinking each day.  Ensuring that your dog is hydrated this summer will keep him healthy and alive, literally!

Many people think that dogs will self regulate how much water they need and don’t give their dog’s water intake a second thought.  That statement has some truth to it in that if your dog is thirsty, he’ll usually drink but, by not monitoring how much water your dog is drinking, you could be turning a blind eye to the fact that something is seriously wrong.  So, how much water does a dog need anyway? Well, just like you, your dog needs to drink half his body weight in water.  However, you really use that rule as a starting point.  Why? Well, there are other factors in your dog’s life that will require him to drink more or less.  

  1. With summer in full swing, weather is the first thing to keep in mind.  When it’s hot, your dog needs more water.  Heat stroke and dehydration are largely preventable, especially if you are doing your part in helping your dog stay hydrated.  Exercise is another factor.  
  2. The more your dog exercises, the more water he will need to keep him hydrated.  It’s biology 101, friends.  After you workout, you should be drinking more water too.
  3. Diet is another factor that should not be overlooked.  A diet of raw or can food provides more moisture to your dog thereby helping to keep your dog hydrated a little more.  This is important to note if you have a dog that has an aversion to water.  Switching from kibble to raw or canned may be necessary.
  4. Is your dog on medication for one reason or another? If so, you should definitely speak to your the veterinarian about how this may impact your dog’s water intake.  It’s something we don’t always consider but think of how many times you get cotton mouth while taking prescribed medication.  Dogs are no different.  
  5. Do you have a puppy? If you have a puppy, your puppy may need about a half a cup of water every couple of hours.  Of course, the above mentioned factors could potentially stump this rule as well as the size and breed of your dog.  

Some dogs just aren’t too fond of water.  Maybe they don’t like the taste and maybe they have just developed an aversion to it.  No matter what the reason is, there are ways you can encourage your dog to drink more water.

  1. Start with a clean bowl.  Seriously.  How would like to drink out of the same dirty cup each day?
  2. Invest in a water fountain.  Water fountains keep the water tasting fresh.  You may have heard of finicky cats when it comes to water but some dogs are finicky, too.
  3. Switch your dog’s diet.  As mentioned above, a raw or canned food diet has moisture built in so if hydration is an issue, this may be what your dog needs.  He might like the taste better, too.
  4. If you must stick with kibble for one reason or another, try pouring a little water over your dog’s kibble.  This is a great sneaky way to get more moisture in your dog’s diet.
  5. Pour chicken broth into your dog’s water bowl.  You don’t have to go crazy, either. A table spoon will be just enough to attract your dog’s sniffer.
  6. Keep it fresh.  Filling your dog’s bowl once a day is kind of lazy and your dog probably doesn’t appreciate it.  Try to to empty your dog’s bowl every few hours.  Avoid just topping it off.  
  7. Ice, ice baby.  Many dogs love their water  nice and cold.  Who wouldn’t, really.  
  8. Make water easily accessible. This is especially important for senior dogs that may have troubles with mobility or for dogs that are outside.  The easier it is for your dog to get his drink, the more likely he is to actually do so.

What else should I be aware of?

First of all, be aware that many health conditions in dogs, such as diabetes and parvo, may include a symptom of not drinking enough water, or none at all.  Dehydration can certainly signify that something else is going on.  Additionally, there are some signs that you should look out for.  Symptoms of dehydration may include loss of appetite, lethargy, and depression.  Anytime something seems off with your pet, please seek immediate medical attention.  Any delay in doing so could result in a highly unfavorable outcome.

Keeping your pet hydrated is not always easy but should always be a priority.  So, this summer keep tabs on your pup’s water intake and encourage him to hydrate himself whenever you can and in whatever way possible. Keeping your pet hydrated could save his life.

 

 

SFYC Breed Feature: Carolina Dogs

How many of us can admit to perusing the pet adoption website Petfinder from time to time? Our household is at max capacity but I am definitely guilty!  Whether one is looking for a new pet, information, or just wants a daily dose of cuteness, it’s fun to pick a location or breed and hit that “find pets” button.  Today we’re introducing a new regular addition to our blog posts: SFYC Breed Feature.  Our first highlighted critter is the Carolina Dog and we enlisted the help Saving Carolina Dogs Rescue and Adoption Network to help us tell their story.

mallory

Carolina Dogs were discovered by a researcher named Dr. Lehr Brisbin in the 1970’s while doing unrelated work in South Carolina when he observed a multitude of what he initially believed to be stray dogs who all shared similar characteristics.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Dr. Brisbin devoted decades to studying them and introduced them as a breed to the UKC.  It is believed Carolina Dogs are cousins or descendants of the dogs that crossed the Bering Land Bridge thousands of years ago with the American Indians, meaning they evolved as a truly American breed!  Nowadays, although wild packs still exist in the southeast and as far west as Arizona, many intentionally bred Carolina Dogs and mixes from liasons with stray dogs, live as family pets across the country.

CD_blog

Bred by natural selection, Carolina Dogs are excellently camouflaged for hunting small game. Can you spot her?

So what does the breed look like?  Walk with one and you’ll be asked if she’s a dingo!  The most common coat color for Carolina Dogs is in the tan range, from cream to ginger.  Other colors include black with tan markings and piebald.  Their fur is short but dense, giving them the benefits of a double coat but not too thick to survive the southern heat.  They have erect ears, a narrow snout, a deep chest with a small waist, and a signature “fishhook” tail.  They look right at home trotting through the marshy fringes of this area’s many creeks since they resemble the swampy lowlands their ancestors come from.

what is a cd

If you are fortunate enough to share your life with a Carolina Dog, you can attest to their fascinating blend of natural instincts and fierce love for their people.  They are pack animals and bond very well to their families, maintaining some level of caution or shyness towards strangers depending on lots of factors including genetics and socialization.  They are intelligent, generally active dogs who thrive with companions who match those qualities.  Also noteworthy is the breed’s strong prey drive.  Carolina Dogs even have breed-specific behavioral traits, like the digging of “snout pits.”

zoey

If one is good, two must be better! Carolina Dogs are social and love to have companions.

You can read more information about Carolina Dogs here.  While you’re on the page, be sure to check out Saving Carolina Dogs’ adoptable dogs!  They welcome newcomers interested in learning more about the breed or helping out and have an active Facebook page you can request to join here.

ari

Some of their rescue dogs travel quite far from their home range but adapt well, especially when they get to explore the outdoors!

 

 

 

Cool Activities for Hot Days

Yard work, humidity, and tourists – it’s safe to say summer is here!  So what fun activities can you do with your pup when it’s too hot for her regular walk?

Cool down

Buy an inexpensive kiddie pool and pretend you’re on the beach!  Pup not impressed?  Try incorporating things she enjoys like tossing in her favorite tennis ball or having her bob for treats.  Some dogs even enjoy a run through the sprinkler!Cute Animals (692)

Landscaping assistant

Most dogs just Cute Animals (345)want to be with their humans.  Invite yours to hang out with you while you do yard work.  If that’s not exciting enough, offer her a long lasting chew like an antler.  She’s getting fresh air and time with her #1 without too much physical stress.  This is one of our husky mix’s favorite summertime activities, especially when I position the picnic table so he can spy on the neighbors!

Many of the area’s home improvement stores permit leashed, well-mannered pups… and their stores are air conditioned, jackpot!  While we mull over A/C’s and hydrangeas, the dogs are getting a little exercise without battling the humidity, lots of socialization, and new stimuli with the many sights and smells of our favorite pet-friendly stores like Lowe’s and ACE Hardware.  Bonus: if it’s not too hot, one of our dogs enjoys being hooked up to the cart and helping pull it to the car!

Pupsicles

Cute Animals (357)

Have an ounce of culinary creativity?  Make your pet frozen treats such as chicken broth ice cubes.  Some extra healthy add-ins include cranberries, blueberries, and carrot, green bean, or sweet potato chunks.  Another idea that will last a little longer is a frozen meal.  For example, I create a chicken and rice blend cooked in coconut oil (that supplements their regular food), sprinkle it with healthy seeds like flaxseed, add a little extra water to make it “soupy” and freeze it in a durable tupperware.  The result is a frozen treat that makes my pup work for his food and delivers a much-appreciated chill on warm days.

Dog friendly water access

Of course, dogs still need their exercise and to get out and explore (don’t we all?!).  The area has a handful of dog-friendly beaches (rules apply) and the next best thing is a walking trail by the water for a quick dip and cool breeze.  Find one now and you’ll give yourself a pat on the back every time you visit throughout the summer!  Beaches such as Rye, Seapoint in Kittery, and Long Sands in York all allow dogs in some capacity.  You can check out each town’s website for more info!  Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, Rogers Park in Kittery, Vaughn Woods in South Berwick, and Wiggly Bridge/Steedman Woods in York have at least a portion of their trails alongside the water.

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A little work with that playtrex

Summertime is a great opportunity to work on training, behavior, and socialization.  My pups want to exercise less but their minds are still going so I have no excuse not to work with them!  It works in my favor, as a tired (but not overtired) dog is often easier to work with and there are so many opportunities during the summer because everybody is out and about.  It’s hard to predict just how bountiful the rewards will be to utilizing this time of year for training; your pup may make huge milestones in her fear of people or learn a handful of new party tricks!

 

 

 

 

Massage: a relaxing and healing way to bond with your pet

As I prepared to head to a local spa to make good use of a gift card the other day, I got to thinking about pet massage and how many animals can benefit from and enjoy a massage as much as I – and many other humans – do.  More than just a quick belly rub or gentle strokes with a brush, a massage session is a more purposeful form of touch that relaxes both participants.

massage win

The not-so-modest Pearl totally blissed-out after a long massage

Why massage?
As with people, the potential benefits of massage are varied and abundant.  An article on SFgate.com explains that its direct health benefits can include flexibility and circulation.  Jonathan Rudinger, founder of PetMassage Training and Research Institute, further explains that massage also improves lymphatic circulation, which improves the body’s immune system.  Through the deep breathing massage encourages, oxygen exchange is improved, moving inhaled toxins out of the body.  Some additional benefits Jonathan talks about are the change in attitude/calmness that can come from massage, weight loss because the dog feels so much better, and pain management.

When to massage?

Giving Skylar a rub down after her prolonged, rough-and-tumble play sessions will keep her wrestling with her friends for years to come!

Just like with people and stretching, a quick massage before or after exercise is a great habit to get into to prevent injury or strain.  My pups each get a massage with lots of gentle circulating pressure focusing on the shoulders, chest, and upper legs after a long dayhike.  They’re seniors and wake up the next morning ready to go again!

Done properly, massage can help ease anxiety in nervous dogs.  This is not the same as patting a dog when they are scared, which reinforces the  fear, essentially by praising it.  An article in Modern Dog Magazine describes a technique that utilizes steady, full length, open-handed strokes along the dog’s spine that has a direct, calming effect on the nervous system.

Ailing pets can benefit from massage.  It’s no surprise soreness due to activity and arthritis pain can be alleviated but massage can also be used as a very mild form of post-op physical therapy according to Jonathan Rudinger on his website.

How to massage:

Truthfully, Rally loves all kinds of attention but his favorites are head rubs and chest massages. His adoptive family picked up on that very quickly!

Anytime your pet wants attention, specifically touch, is a good time to introduce massage.  It may be easiest to begin when she is already relaxed and comfortable.  Begin slowly.  When one of my pups, Ty, had a professional session, the therapist began with long, slow, broad strokes down her body and along her spine as a warm-up for Ty to acclimate and settle.

The American Animal Hospital Association has a very helpful video on different techniques.

Massage can be done anytime and will bring your pet (and you!) tranquility and happiness while enhancing your knowledge of your pet’s body (which will help you notice changes and potential issues early).  It is a good idea to spend some time researching techniques and consult your pet’s veterinarian if there is a specific health concern involved in your decision to begin massage therapy.  In many areas, you can now find professional pet massage therapists too.  Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong knowing your pet is becoming healthier while thoroughly enjoying this “luxury!”

Articles used:

http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/how-massage-your-dog/2028

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Pet-massage-gaining-popularity-5920353.php

https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/dog_care/general_health/dog_massage.aspx

http://petmassage.com/benefits-of-petmassagetm-for-dogs/

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2014/08/10/pet-massage-therapy.aspx

 

Upcoming Events around the Seacoast for Animal Lovers

Finally some great weather!  What better way to enjoy it than some fun happenings around the Seacoast that celebrate and raise funds for animals of all kinds!

Check out some of these upcoming events for this weekend and beyond:

cochecoCocheco Valley Humane Society‘s Tails to Trails annual dog walk will be held on Saturday the 4th adjacent to the shelter grounds in Dover.  Full details on the day’s jam-packed itinerary available here.

In addition to being a safe haven for animals between homes, CVHS offers a variety of programs to support pets and pet owners in the area.  Among other programs, they engage in humane education and pet food assistance.  One of their most unique initiatives is called “Safe Pets.” Safe Pets aids individuals in times of transition such as fleeing domestic violence, medical recuperation, and  relocating service-members by providing temporary care for their pets.

Also on Saturday, the NHSPCA will host their Paws Walk 2016 at Stratham Hill Park.  More details about the day’s attractions can be found at this link.

 

spca

While much of the NHSPCA’s work revolves around finding loving and attentive homes for all kinds of animals, they also offers many programs to support animals and their humans in southern New Hampshire.  A variety of training courses and behavior modification are available, they maintain a pet cemetery to pay tribute to lost pets, host rabies vaccine and microchip clinics, and provide a limited but valuable spay/neuter program for cats.

a little further north, The Pet Quarters in Scarborough will host a yard sale to benefit local shelters and rescues on Saturday.  It will run from 10:00-4:00 with a rain date of June 5th.  Find some deals then head inside to check out their food, toy, and treat selection for your pet!  More info here.

On Saturday, June 12th, the Canine Cupboard in Portsmouth will have volunteers from Last Hope K9 introducing some of their adoptable pups.  Last Hope k9 rescues dogs of all breeds from situations across the country and matches them with amazing adoptive homes.  More info about the rescue can be found here.  Even if you walk away without a new family member, your current pet will appreciate a new locally made toy or bakery item!

Cruisin for K9sA car show with vendors, a farmer’s market, and more for the Working Dog Foundation will be at Scamman Farm in Stratham on Saturday, June 18th.  More details can be found here.

The Working Dog Foundation is critical in supporting the area’s K9 units with internationally recognized training and other programs.  WDF advocates for K9 units, the K9s’ well being, and strives to make connections with the community.

center for wildlife jpegWild animals will have their day too!  The Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick will be hosting many events throughout the  summer including weekly tours on Saturdays.  One special upcoming event is the Summer Wildlife Happenings at Portsmouth Lighthouse on July 2nd.  It is a family friendly presentation that will include rescued wildlife and a discussion about what the Center does and native Maine species.  For the grown-ups, Smuttynose Brewery will be hosting a tasting fundraiser on June 23rd.  You can check out their calendar for more information by clicking here.

The Center for Wildlife does an impressive amount of work in rehabilitation, education, and research regarding native species of Maine from owls to squirrels.  Check out their full website here.

dock dogsFinally, Seacoast Dock Dogs will host Dog Daze III in at the Community Center in Kittery on Saturday, July 2nd.  It’s a fun, dog-friendly event with vendors and performances.  If you have a pup you think may enjoy the sport of dock diving, the club offers practice sessions open to the public regularly on many Saturdays throughout the summer at their training pool adjacent to the Berwick Bark Park on Berwick Street in Berwick.  More info on their practice schedule available here.

 

Parties and Pets: Safety Reminders

The unofficial start to summer is coming up and, with all the fun things bound to come, we’d like to revisit some safety reminders when it comes to pets and summertime celebraBirthday doggytions.

Parties

Is your pet a social butterfly or wallflower?  Either way, there are a few things you want to ensure before guests arrive.  Get the serious stuff out of the way beforehand by alerting guests to the rules about pet interactions before the visit.  Give your pet some one-on-one attention between preparations.  On the day of the fiesta, she needs a quiet place she knows she can go to for a break.  Know her body language so you can pick up on when she is becoming stressed, over-excited, or overwhelmed.  Containment is also very important and it can be stressful as you’re greeting guests to be ensuring or putting your faith in every person that s/he is closing doors and gates behind her.  It may be easiest and safest to contain your pet to a single area until guests have finished arriving.   

Fireworks  

Source: Pixabay.com

Source: Pixabay.com

I love fireworks! Always have.  Unfortunately I am mom to a dog who is terrified of them.  Please, never bring your pet to a fireworks show.  I don’t often use the words “always” or “never.” I find them extreme. But I make an exception for fireworks and here’s why:

  • Fireworks shows are extremely crowded and hectic.  That alone can put many dogs on edge and lead to unfortunate consequences like a nip or slipping out of a collar.  You’re there to enjoy yourself and keeping a constant eye on your pup takes away from that and your dog doesn’t gain by being with you.  
  • The noise level of fireworks is loud enough for humans; it can physically hurt dogs, whose sense of hearing is far stronger than ours.
  • You may be denied entry.  It’s true, many fireworks shows prohibit dogs and, after parking the car what seems like miles away and lugging your chairs to the viewing area, you may be sent packing.

Lots of other species don’t care for fireworks either and if you live where they can be heard, you can try soothing their alarm by ensuring their “safe places” are accessible.  My girl feels safest behind the couch so I make sure it is pulled out from the wall a little bit extra before the show begins.  For mild stress, being tuckered out before the event may help because their exhaustion trumps stress so try some pre-fireworks playtime or walk.  Playing music, staying calm, and natural or pharmaceutical calming agents may also be helpful.  Often, it is a combination of these options that works best so you’ll have to experiment until you find the right mix for your pet.  We also recommend ensuring your pet has current ID on them in case something happens and they bolt.

Food

snack

Sasha has her own uncooked bone as a treat while her humans mingle

What pet doesn’t love some BBQ?! But beware, there are lots of unhealthy snacks pets can get their paws on during parties.  Cooked bones have long been known to be a no-no because they can splinter.  A worrisome number of companies are now using a product called Xylitol, a sugar substitute, in their products and this ingredient is deadly for cats, dogs, and other species.  Toxicity can occur even in a low dose so be sure to check labels, even on things like peanut butter.  It’s also commonly used in sugar-free recipes.  Give your guests a head’s up on the rules of what can (if anything) and can’t be shared with pets and if you are concerned, even the slightest, it’d be safest to give your pet a comfy place to hang out away from the party with a special, species-appropriate meal.

Parties and pets can certainly go hand in hand but precautions are recommended to ensure a good time for all.  SFYC can help in many ways, such as an extended walk the day of an event or administering a calming aid that requires application in advance of the event so they’re ready to par-tay by the time you get home (medical waiver required).  Contact us to discuss how we can help!

Bringing home puppy (or kitty or birdie)!

Friends

New friendship blossoming, courtesy of Cindy M.

Spring is a popular time of year to bring a new pet home.  And rightfully so! People feel energized when the cold weather breaks, it’s easier to bring pets outdoors (for the appropriate species), and the absence of winter conditions makes a lot of things about pet care easier.  No matter if you’ve brought home a Great Dane puppy or a wee little gerbil, below are some general tips that will help your new pet acclimate with minimal stress on everybody.

Yukio

Yukio’s parents had his toys waiting for him. By the end of his first night, he had a favorite! Photo courtesy of Krystal D.

Prepped and ready

ratties

Kathy L.’s ratties are provided plenty of variety in their enclosure

Have your new pet’s “area” set up before you bring her home, whether that is her enclosure or where she will spend time when unaccompanied, such as a crate.  Be ready with a bag of food but consider purchasing a small one to ensure it is a good fit for her needs and tastes.  Local stores like the Canine Cupboard and Natural Dog and Holistic Cat can help steer you in the direction of some excellent quality provisions.

Safety first

safety

Harness, slip collar, and ID: this little guy was dressed to the nines upon pick up from transport to ensure the scariness of the truck, noise, and strangers wouldn’t lead to a runaway.

As an animal rescue volunteer, I cannot stress enough the importance of implementing some escape-prevention measures for when you pick up your new pet.  Accidents happen, whether the animal is afraid, curious, or simply excited and ready to take on the world.  A crate or car tether, slip lead, well-fitted harness, and martingale collar are top choices for dogs.  Carriers are ideal for smaller animals.  Use caution opening vehicle doors and verify all doors and windows are secured before letting her investigate her new home.  For dogs, also check your fence line, if you have one, before she arrives for any weak spots or things that would allow her to climb over, if she’s so inclined.  Remove potentially hazardous objects from her reach, including items beside her crate or cage, both for her safety and that of your belongings!  We make the same suggestions even if you are bringing home an adult dog because you cannot know with certainty how being in a new place may affect an animal.  If you assume the worst in your preparations, you are setting you and your new pet up for success by eliminating potential issues.

Boundaries for everybody

Give your new pet time to decompress.  By all means, give her affection when she is ready, which may be immediately or in a couple of days, but there’s no need to come on too strong; you have a lifetime of bonding ahead of you!  On the same token, allow current pets to adjust to the new family member at a respectful distance as well.  Establish expectations early with your new pet.  You can be patient and gentle while providing leadership and rules.  For example, if you have decided you do not want your pet on the couch, establish that now by calming leading her off if she jumps up. With exceptions, it is easier to establish rules early than to reverse an unwanted behavior.

Hiding

“I just need a little space” courtesy of Jean B.

Slow and steady pays off for everyone

friends

Lifelong friends! Courtesy of Cindy M.

Proper introductions lead to deep connections. Photo courtesy of Carol M.

Proper introductions lead to deep connections. Photo courtesy of Carol M.

Bringing home a new pet is exciting and a journey we are very excited to be a part of!  SFYC can help with the homecoming in many ways.  Contact us to discuss options such as extra visits during the transition, longer visits, or modifications to your current routine. With many weeks of nice weather and years of memories ahead, we’d like to remind folks to slow down for a bit.  New pets need a bit of time to settle in (yes, even the happy, wiggly puppies need some acclimation time!). There is no need to rush special experiences like introducing her to other household pets and family members.  While taking things a little quicker than advised has certainly ended perfectly fine in many instances, there are many benefits for you, your family, and your new pet to following the guidelines listed above. Doing some extra research and heeding the advice of whomever you purchased or adopted your new pet from is a great idea as well.  By moving at a steady pace, you are allowing you and your pet to have lots of positive experiences, minimize stress, and reduce the incidence of unexpected setbacks such as escape.   We congratulate everyone who has brought a new pet home or who is perhaps perusing AdoptaPet right now!

 

 

Teach your pet a new trick using positive reinforcement!

trex

Lilo shows off a crowd favorite, her “t-rex” move. What’s cuter than seeing a t-rex at the beach?! Courtesty of our friends at Bully & Blaze.

Teaching your pet a new trick has far more benefits than the obvious adorable factor.  It also improves the communication skills you have with her, helps build confidence, provides a mental workout, and equips you with another tool you can use to diffuse stress in your pet by asking her to “perform” as a distraction.  Bonus: other people love it and creates a great impression!

So what is positive reinforcement?

Simply put, positive reinforcement is rewarding a behavior that you want your pet to do.  Food is the most common form of praise since most animals respond strongly to it.  Yes, that means you can use positive reinforcement to train many species of pets!  Most people are aware of the basics of positive reinforcement training since it is commonly used to train puppies and at obedience class.  Some important factors with positive reinforcement are:

  • timing: a behavior (i.e. “sit”) needs to be rewarded quickly.  Be sure you are rewarding the sit and not the motion of her standing up from the sit!  Positive reinforcement is also when your pet nudges you for attention and you give the reward of attention. You have now taught her nudging gets her the attention she was seeking!
  • verbal cues: keep commands and praise simple, such as “sit” and “yes” (the word you would give with the treat so that once the behavior is learned, it can become the praise/reinforcement).
  • consistency: a reward every time the animal does something is money in the bank.  It creates a clear expectation and she’ll want to keep offering the behavior when asked.

Reputable organizations like the Humane Society and renowned trainer Victoria Stilwell have more in-depth information on positive reinforcement that you can read by clicking on the links.

Ways to use positive reinforcement

  • When your pet does the behavior organically, capture the moment with a reward and assign a word to the action.  For example, my in-laws taught their cat to sit by saying “sit” when he did so on his own and giving him a tasty treat.  Treat in hand, they could easily ask him to “sit” when guests came over even though he generally hid when people visited.
  • When you utilize your pet’s desire for a reward (usually a treat but whatever works for  your pet – a toy, ball, etc.) to get her to follow the reward into a desired position or action, you have used the luring technique.  Taking a treat and holding it just above a dog’s nose and slowly moving it in a straight line towards her back so that she sits as a result of trying to follow the its movement is a very common example of this.

Both are popular ways to train basic commands and fall under the umbrella of a technique called shaping, that you can read a lot more about in this great article from the Whole Dog Journal.  The idea of shaping is to take a desired behavior and to break it down into smaller, teachable components.  This is great if a dog is struggling with a behavior (i.e. squeaks towards “down” but never quite makes it so she is rewarded for incremental improvements til she reaches a complete “down”) or a complicated routine.  It is also a useful technique for making them use their noggin!

Ty shows off her "up and stay." She readily climbed rocks on her on. By attaching a command (up) then adding one she already knew (stay), I can ask her to take some epic poses!

Ty shows off her “up and stay.” She readily climbed rocks on her on. By attaching a command (“up”) then adding one she already knew (“stay”), I can ask her to take some epic poses!

Let’s teach “crawl”

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Rally is ready to “army crawl!”

If your pet already does a crawl maneuver, you’re ahead of the game!  When she does it on her own, say “crawl” (or whatever you choose to call the behavior) and give her a treat.  She will begin to attach the word to the behavior and the fact that  she gets a treat for doing it.

To start from scratch, start by placing your pet in “down.” Then hold a tasty treat on the ground at a distance she can barely reach but not take it and drag it very slowly across the floor.  Start very small since it is likely she may try to stand up and take the treat.  If that happens, calmly place her back in “down” without giving her the treat and try again.  When she crawls, give her the treat and say “crawl.”  Do this for a short distance until she gets the hang of it then slowly increase how far you ask her to go for the treat.  This may take a couple sessions or many.  Remember to reward her while she is still in the crawl position.  This will be in the form of a treat for awhile but you’ll also want to introduce a clicker or word such as “yes” that also tells her she has done the correct behavior.  Later, the word or clicker can be used in lieu of a treat.  You can learn more about clicker training here.

One enormously useful command that is taught through shaping is “place.”  This instructs your pet to go to a designated spot (usually a mat or their bed) until released.  This can be used when guests arrive, dinner time, to create space between pets when needed, and a host of other scenarios.  Towards the end of the Whole Dog Journal article, they explain how to teach “place.”

Ottis in "place" so I can work on some commands with his brother without interruption.

Ottis in “place” so I can work on other commands with his brother without interruption.

Positive reinforcement training has become a way of life for many trainers and pet owners for it’s scientifically proven, long term effectiveness, ability to raise a dog’s confidence, and humane nature.  Teaching a trick is inherently intended to be a fun task but positive reinforcement can be used for so much more to make your life and your pet’s more enjoyable!

Jogging with Your Dog

I’ll be honest, I loooove walking dogs but jogging?! Um, no thanks!

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Or that’s what I thought until I accepted that my dog and clients’ dogs would love it and learned to enjoy it with them.  Now I’m on a mission to encourage more guardians to give it a try.

Pre-jog Prep

The long-held recommendation to consult your physician before starting an exercise regimen stands true for dogs.  Ensure your pup is in good health including groomed of excess fur (that can inhibit the coat’s ability to regulate temperature)  and trimmed nails (ever try to play a sport with long nails?!).

Hurtta

Padded harness and adjustable leash is our favorite setup for jogs on the pavement.

Gear

We do not recommend having your dog run in a flat collar.  While pre-training is advisable is to reduce pulling (unless you are interested in an activity like canicross where pulling is appropriate), having control via a dog’s neck area isn’t ideal. A harness is better for safety.  My personal preference is a padded harness.

Leash – there are many styles; consider where you plan to run and purchase accordingly.  A regular 6′ leash will do the job just fine but a bungee or adjustable lead is far more convenient.

Waist belt – With some leashes, the handle expands to fit around the waist.  Another option is to purchase a designated waist belt.  Some brands offer full systems (leash and belt included) while others are designed to accommodate any brand of leash.  Still others include a small pouch for essentials like pickup bags and a water bottle holder.  Bear in mind the importance of hydration!

Other considerations are visibility and pad protection.  While geared more towards backcountry jogging, the pros at Colorado Canine offer helpful tips you can read here.

Where

This area is rife with opportunity!  Bike paths, wooded trails, and quaint neighborhoods make jogging an accessible activity.  The East Coast Greenway, College Woods in Durham at the UNH campus, and Roger’s Park at the end of Dion Street in Kittery may be the ticket for you and your pup.  I recommend scoping out a route without your pup first to ensure safety.  Watch for details like litter and dogs who aren’t restrained in their yards.  It is also advisable to consider the terrain.  For example, stone dust is much better on my senior runner’s joints.  Wooded trails may be a little tricky for footing if you’ve never run before or if your curious dog is unaccustomed to uninterrupted forward motion but provides more cushion than pavement and often offers more pleasing views.

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Multi-use paved trails from Portsmouth to Portland and beyond!

Gateway activity

Getting into a rhythm with your pup is a very serene feeling and brings a sense of accomplishment.  If you’re digging it as much as your dog, be sure to check out sports like 5K runs that permit well-mannered dogs, canicross, and its winter relative skijoring.

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Canicross is generally run on dirt trails but is an adaptable and fun sport!

Celebrating Seniors

Kittens and puppies get lots of attention and rightfully so.  But there is no deeper love than that between a guardian and their senior pet.  Whether we’ve watched them grow and transition through the phases of their life or they came into ours at a later age and we appreciate that they’ve “seen some things” in their previous years, older pets are incredible creatures worth every ounce of attention the youngins get.

What is a “senior?”

While there is no set number and even some difference of opinion among veterinarians, it is generally agreed that a senior dog is between five and seven, perhaps a little older for smaller dogs and cats reach that title by ten.

10 is the new 4: healthy agingpetsmart

The best medicine is prevention.  A healthy weight is vital for pets of all ages but obesity can be especially problematic for senior pets with the added stress on joints and aging organs.  The infographic to the right, courtesy of PetSmart, is a good starting point for evaluating your pet’s body condition.  Nutrition is extremely important and studies indicate pets may benefit from supplements such as glucosamine for joints, antioxidants that slow many aging processes, and making adjustments to their diet to fulfill their specific needs.  Just like humans, pets of all species age a little differently from one another and it is their guardian’s task to pick up on the sometimes subtle cues that there may be a change or special need.  To that end, having a great relationship with your vet is helpful.  Regular checkups are essential and in addition to measuring your pet’s health, your vet will be happy to provide advice on what to look for and preventative measures.

Inka knows the fun and importance of play at any age!

Inka knows the fun and importance of play at any age!

Generally speaking, vets have several additional recommendations for senior pet owners.  While it may seem counter-intuitive, mild exercise is very important for countless reasons.  If mobility is a challenge for your senior, consider low-impact alternatives such as water therapy.  Protein requirements generally remain about the same according to recent studies but your pet may not require as many calories as s/he once did.  Finally, lots of TLC!  Extra grooming and activities such as teeth brushing are not only ways to tell your pet you care but are vital home checks for potential problems such as growths, tumors, and new sensitivities.

Why we love ’em

Senior pets have life figured out.  They’ve been with us so long, we feel like we can have life conversations with them. Even being older, they keep us on our toes and encourage us to be better pet parents.

So for all you readers with senior pets, give them an extra pat on the head and treat from us because we know how awesome they are!

Tango_Rodrigues

Seniors can accomplish great things! At almost nine, Tango still enjoys hikes in the mountains. Extra water, treats, breaks, and supplements help this senior hike on!