Dog-safe Christmas! Know the facts!

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Christmas Zoom

Zoom Getting Ready For Christmas

It is hard to believe that we are wrapping up 2015!  As we all get ready for the holidays, we wanted to just remind everyone of a cornerstone concept for Canines By Design – Setting Up For Success – and how employing this thought process will help you and your dog stay happy and healthy as you embark on the New Year.

Deck the halls with dog-safe practices!

The holiday season usually brings with it a change in décor in the house, with decorations, garland, candles, wreaths, and sometimes Christmas trees being introduced into the home environment. Some of our favourite decorations are very toxic and very dangerous to canines and are especially important to keep at a safe distance from their inquisitive mouths.

  • Poinsettias, Lilies, Holly, and Mistletoe are all very toxic to dogs and can kill. If you have a canine that is new to a house full of holiday
    poinsettia

    Poinsettias Getting Ready For the Holidays!

    cheer or you are entertaining guests and cannot monitor your canine effectively, DO NOT use these in your house. If you feel they must be there, try using the faux (silk) variety of the plants to eliminate the risk.

  • Snow globes can contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze), which is inviting to dogs because it tastes sweet, but is a serious player in unintentional deaths from poisoning. Place them where they can’t be looked at as balls to play with.
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    Tinsel

    While Tinsel isn’t “toxic”, it is extremely dangerous. It grabs and cuts at the walls of the intestine and can be deadly if ingested. Keep all tinsel out of reach or try a new decoration with less serious consequences.

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    Tethered Tree

    We have all seen pictures of the fallen Christmas tree and offending dog looking guilty beside it. Instead of inviting disaster (and broken ornaments) into your home, tether your tree to the wall if possible.A couple of nails and some baling twine will eliminate a big risk. If you think it looks “ugly,” you can decorate the twine with ribbon or hang your Christmas cards along it to hide it!

  • Chocolate Cake

    Chocolate Contains Theobromine

    Holiday Foods: Grapes, Raisins, and Currants can all cause
    Kidney failure in canines. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is highly toxic to dogs. Fatty Foods such as skin and gravy in large quantities can cause inflammation of the pancreas, abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody, loose stools. If turkey is being served, everyone should have a little piece at Christmas (ok, not those with a poultry allergy), don’t give your dog the scraps. Save them a little piece of lean meat that they can snack on later for good behaviour and make sure that you don’t feed them at the dinner table. Try to also avoid putting snacks and treats on low counters and tables as they might be just a little too inviting for those new puppies and rescues that have recently joined the family.

T.A.P. A better Relationship:

One of our first posts ever, T.A.P. stands for Train, Appropriate Activity, and being Positive, positive, positive. Remembering this acronym is an easy way to remember to work with your canine throughout the holiday season and how you can make sure their needs and requirements are still being met amongst the celebrating and family time.

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T: Train

Take time everyday to work through the various commands that your canine already knows.  Two 10-minute sessions a day with my Labrador are enough to run through the expansive list of behaviors that my boy knows (and even includes helping me tidy up the recycling around the house, and putting plastic bottles into the appropriate bin!).  Also try changing up the location when you are doing the training session.  Maybe one day you will work on the commands at home, and the next you will perform them while out on your walk.  See any differences?  Behaviors can change depending on the environment so “proofing commands” in different locations with different environmental factors will help ensure that your canine will listen the next time it wants to run across the field to say hello to their best buddy.

A: Appropriate Activity

Daily exercise is as important to a canine’s health as it is to ours.  All breeds, small, large, flat-nosed, round, or dainty, will benefit from activity every single day.  The key to this is appropriate activity. Dogs come in quite a spectrum of sizes that have a direct impact on their physical capabilities.  So think of activities that are appropriate to the physical limitations of the canine (e.g. age, size, and breed related restrictions) as well as positive for their development and behaviour (e.g. non-destructive behaviour). It is important that these limitations are taken into account while partaking in daily activities to ensure that your daily play sessions are fun, productive, and free from harm.

P: Positive, Positive, Positive

The third, while arguably the simplest, can be the most difficult to embrace 100% of the time.  It is to keep interactions, activities, and environmental situations positive for both you and your canine.  Just like in our human education system, encouraging and constructive environments develop well-adjusted individuals keen to contribute positively to those around them.  The same goes for you and your dog: keeping interactions positive will ensure that you both are willing and ready the next time a training situation arises.  I like to tell clients that they should always “set up for success.” Set up your canine to succeed as best he can, as often as possible.  You will be happy your dog is succeeding, and he/she will be happy that they are doing the appropriate, and rewarding, thing. Most importantly, your canine will be willing to “play-ball” again as they learn that success feels GREAT!!

This is a very busy time of year. As forward-thinking canine caregivers, we attempt to balance the needs our families including our four-legged members. Holidays provide a break; a chance to have fun, smile and remember what we are grateful for. Incorporating this list is just a small step to ensure that your canine stays safe and has as much fun as you! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!

Being Canine Prepared For the Worst: Canine Bug Out Bags

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Northern California

Seems strange that it was just August 2014 that I wrote an article on being prepared, and making sure your canine is ready for the worst too.  Fast forward a year, and for similar reasons (another act of Mother Nature) I feel compelled to bring this subject up again.

Being prepared can seem like an over used motto, but some very serious and real outcomes can be alleviated and even avoided with a little pre-planning.  With the devastation seen in Northern California, it is easy to see why forest fires are scary, seemingly “living” things that can destroy thousands of hectares, homes, even towns, without slowing.  Wind, humidity, ground moisture, human activities, and even other acts of nature (e.g. lightening) are all factors that can cause the speed, direction, and intensity to change.  All make fires very unpredictable and can catch residents off guard, requiring them to leave without a moments notice.  You might ask how we can be prepared for that?  Well in many ways we can’t, but if we have an evacuation plan in place, just like the fire drills we had at school growing up, we can make things happen quickly, orderly, and most importantly, safely for everyone involved.

One way to facilitate a safe and speedy evacuation is to have a “bug-out” bag for all your family members.  Most people have a good idea of what a bag for a human would have in it, but what about our canines?  What is important?  What are the must haves?  Well look no further, here is a list to help you make sure your canine is just as ready as the rest of your family when the time comes to split!

  1. Food: Whether it is kibble or cans, bring enough food for at least three days. (And a way to open the cans!)
  2. Medication: Any specific medication needed for your dogs. Zoom doesn’t have much, but I’ll be including Zoom’s tick and flea medication. Other examples: arthritis, heart, anti-seizure, eye or ear drops, etc. Again, have multiple days’ worth in case you cannot return home for a refill.
  3. Water: Try to bring enough bottled water to prevent dehydration during the first 12 hours of an emergency. Infrastructure may not be working, or county water sources maybe tainted.
  4. Collapsible food and water bowl.
  5. An extra leash, harness, and ID collar, in case you can’t get to the part of the house where you normally keep these items.
  6. Medical records: Have a printed and/or electronic copy of your canine’s medical record in case they are injured or you have to go to a different veterinarian than normal. Having their background information can greatly accelerate how vets can help you out in the event of an emergency.
  7. Have a basic first aid (e.g. compression bandages, topical wound treatment) to help treat any injuries that could have been sustained during a natural disaster.
  8. Blanket: This can help keep your dog warm, give them a bed to lay on, and can also help you treat shock or hypothermia if needed.
  9. Strong Bag:  You don’t want to put all this effort in, put everything in a plastic bag, and have it rip spilling everything while you are running out of the house.  So make sure the bag is sturdy (e.g. heavy rip stop nylon), can be closed to avoid contamination, has easy to grab handles, and suites your ability to carry things.  If you can’t carry a lot in your arms, get a backpack style bag that you can sling over your shoulders!
Zoom's Bug Out Bag!

Zoom’s Bug Out Bag!

NOTE: Try to make sure your bag is in a good place you can grab easily and also make sure it isn’t too heavy. You don’t want to struggle with the weight of the bag. If your pet is going for a sleepover or a longer stay because you are out of town, drop them off with the bag and let the sitter know what it is for and why you have made it.

It doesn’t take long to create or keep a bug-out bag maintained (fresh food, water, and medication), so I would encourage you to set aside half an hour this week to plan one out. And if disaster strikes, you and your furry friend will be very happy you took a few minutes to plan ahead.

If you would like to share ideas of what’s in your bug-out bag, or you want to send pictures of the final result to our community, tweet them to @CaninesByDesign. And of course, I’m always here to answer any questions about your bug-out bag and what you can do to make sure you and your canine are prepared in the case of any emergency.  STAY SAFE!!!

The Canine “Comfort/Stress” Fuel Tank: What Is Your Canine’s Range?

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Let’s dive a little deeper into your canine’s “Zone of Comfort.” Last week, we introduced the idea that your canine’s level of comfort is constantly being adjusted when things like their environment change or as they approach new, exciting (and even familiar) stimuli. We also talked about how we as caregivers need to account for this adjustment as part of how we create a successful, positive, and educational experience for our dogs. This week, we are going to talk about exposure limits to stress, and how stress affects our canines and their behaviour.

Let’s start with a human analogy: For some of the human population, entering a really busy mall or crowded street can be frightening, even debilitating. Heart rate rises, palms get sweaty, we get a little on edge, and it can even get to the point that we take ourselves out of that situation. But for others, going to a busy Sunday farmer’s market sounds like a perfect morning!

Next, think about one of those “unnerving” things in your life. How long could you be in the same room or in a closed situation with that “thing”? For some, about two seconds is enough before they want out! For others, with controlled practice, desensitization, and positive reinforcement, we can extend that time. In a sense, we have a “comfort/stress” fuel tank, and the more uncomfortable something makes us, the faster we use the tank up! Once our fuel is used up, we do not have an ability to deal with the situation we are in (or with that particular item(s) in the environment). Often, stressed emotion starts to overpower our thoughts. Military, police and related groups specifically train their members to increase their ability to handle severe and stressful situations (increase the range of their tank) so that they are still able to use their cognitive processes and training when it really counts!

The same stress scenarios regularly affect our canines. For some, specific stimuli can create real feelings of unrest, and if severe enough, they can elicit behaviours in our canines that we may have never seen before. In fact, we may only see them in that exact scenario! As we work with, and bond with, our canines, we begin to understand their likes and dislikes, where they feel comfortable – and where they do not.

If we are working through certain behaviours and are developing a desensitization program to a particular stimuli or behaviour, or simply working on socialization and general environmental exposure, keeping in mind the idea that our canines can only handle some situations, stimuli, environments, and their combinations, for a certain period of time becomes hugely powerful.

What it means for us as caregivers is that, alongside the bonding and discovery process, we need to also recognize the small signs and changes that show us that our canine’s “comfort/stress” tank is being used up. Most importantly, we should be in tune to the moment when it is getting close to being emptied. When this happens, just like in the human world, our canines will be more prone to reacting to situations versus thinking them through.  In some cases, A tired dog might be a happy dog, but like tired/distracted humans, mistakes in judgement and reaction can be made by these tired minds.  What we do with the “zones of comfort” at Canines By Design is work within a canine’s comfort boundaries (dictated by their behaviour to a particular environment or specific stimuli) and slowly build up their ability to handle the scenario, understand that the scenario is safe, and build the trust up between canine and caregiver. We want them to feel comfortable walking in their own paws, and it is about giving the caregiver and the canine the tools to do so in a positive way!

Next week is part three of the “Zones of Comfort” feature in which I’ll discuss the three colours we use, how they are used, and how they can supercharge your canine’s education in a safe and positive way!

Zones Of Comfort: Finding Canine Comfort in Uncomfortable Situations

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An ever popular topic here at Canines By Design, this week we bring up “zones of comfort”, what it means, how it affects your canine and how you can use it to help your canine through stressful situations.

Are you asking yourself “what does that mean?”… or “isn’t that some prop from Get Smart!?”.  Well, we aren’t talking about a Hollywood TV prop, but, like the safe learning space that the (awesome) “cone of silence” was designed to create, building a comfort zone means working with the environment around us to create a positive and, most importantly, educational, experience. And unlike Maxwell Smart’s device, I’ve found a much simpler approach that actually works to achieve the desired outcome!

We all have zones of comfort.  These imaginary force fields around us help dictate our level of ease in social situations, strange environments and when we test new experiences.  Depending on the individual, these zones will vary depending on previous exposure, comfort level, etc. and it is critical to take all factors into account.

Let’s use an example:  Since I work with dogs, sitting on the floor in the middle of 10 full grown canines playing together doesn’t evoke feelings of stress or fear. However, for someone who isn’t used to large dog fests, or only interacted with guard dogs, their perspective on the situation will be totally different.  For someone fearful of canines, such a situation could be so overwhelming that they might shut-down and glean nothing positive from the experience or not even be able to remove themselves from the environment because they are so overwhelmed.  Some dog trainers like to call this “the red zone.”  For the human analogy, we can say this person has started the “flight-or-fight” response.  This response, also known as the acute stress response, is when the sympathetic nervous system responds to the physical or the strong emotional state that has been presented to the body, coordinating various bodily functions (adrenal gland secretion, pupil dilation, increase heart rate, etc.) in order to create the optimum situation for that individual’s survival (1).

Now imagine the situation where we are beginning to expose a newly adopted canine to various environmental factors.  Maybe that dog had spent its first year locked in a backyard, without environmental enrichment.  Maybe that backyard didn’t even have grass or any trees. Now, when we take that pup out and begin to work through different training scenarios, the environment can become very overwhelming, very quickly.  For this particular example, the canine will enter the “red zone” fast – inhibiting their response to our training programs and damaging their overall personal growth.  Part of my graduate thesis examined this phenomenon, and many examples arose in which increased levels of stress (in particular example it was related to training methodology) directly resulted in a decrease in working ability of canines trained for service (2,3,4).

It is therefore very important as caregivers that we keep our canines’ “zone of comfort” in mind when we are out training and setting out educational experiences for success.  Here are some easy ways to keep this in mind while we are out and about:

One to avoid...

In the “Red” Zone

  1. Keep your dog’s history in mind!
  • If they have had previous negative experiences with something in the environment, their zone for this object/person/dog will be less secure.
  1. Slow and Steady!
  • Fear can be incredibly powerful and debilitating.  We cannot learn when we are in fear for our lives or someone’s well being.  The same goes for canines. Flooding canines emotionally is a very dangerous practice.  Working within what the canine is comfortable with, as slow as it may be, will allow you and your canine to gradually build confidence with that once-scary scenario, and also help you both build a stronger, trusting bond.
  1. Keep it Fun!
  • We always strive to make every situation and experience for canine and caregiver as positive and rewarding as possible.  Success gives everyone a good feeling, and those positive feelings go a long way to help overcome hurdles we encounter and give us further motivation to keep going.

Canines By Design is here for you!  Contact us today to see how our customized approach can help you and your canine work together and create success everyone can see!

1. TheFreeDictionary.com (Medical Dictionary) (2015).  Fight-or-Flight Reaction Definition.  Retrieved from: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fight-or-flight+reaction.  Accessed on: July 22. 2015.

2. Hilby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004).  Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behavior and welfare.  Anim. Welfare, 13: 63-69.

3. Haverbeke, A., Laporte, B., Depiereux, E., Giffroy, J.M., & Diederich, C. (2008). Training methods of military dog handlers and their effects on the team’s performance.  Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 113: 110-122.

4. Haverbeke, A., Messaoudi, F., Depiereux, E., Stevens, M., Giffroy, J.M, & Diederich, C. (2010).  Efficiency of working dogs undergoing a new human familiarization and training program.  J. Vet. Behav., 5: 112-119.

The Black Lung, Pop… No Wait… Kennel Cough

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Doctor DogNot every one of us has been there. But for those of us that have experienced the cough, hack, mucous, and other unpleasantness associated with Kennel Cough, hearing that sneezey, hacky cough means we are in for a long week. Unfortunately, this highly contagious canine cold is hard to avoid 100% and if it does creep its way into our lives, it means preparing, changing plans, and making sure our canine is as comfortable as possible. Why am I talking about this? Well, remember how I said it is 100% impossible to avoid (unless you live in a bubble)? Our Labrador, Zoom, came down with the cold last week, and it sadly meant that Leah and I had to change our vacation plans to visit friends and family. Don’t worry, we were into the veterinarian last Friday, and he is much better today than he was the last 5 days. But I thought it important that I talk about the experience, how it came about, and how we can be prepared as canine caregivers to make sure they are being well taken care of.

  1. Vaccination Does Not Equal 100% Protection:

We have heard of vaccinations for Kennel Cough. So you maybe asking why does it still exist? With fear of simplifying it too much, think of Kennel Cough like human influenza (flu). We syringehave flu shots, and many op to receive them yearly, but many of us still get sick despite this “protection”! Well small variations between the flu vaccine and the flu bug we receive in our environment mean that this environmental bug can settle in and cause all fun stuff that comes along with the flu regardless of the vaccine. Same for Kennel Cough.

  1. Symptoms:

What symptoms or signs appear first also vary between dogs and the bug they were exposed to. For some, sneezing starts, for others it can be a dry hack (like clearing the throat), and for others it can be an increase in mucous load in their sinuses causing a “stuffed nose” sound. Pretty variable isn’t it? Could it be difficult potentially to tell the difference between Kennel Cough and Seasonal Allergies? You Bet! This is why keeping a canine health record is really important! Read all about canine health records here. If you think your canine MIGHT have a sneeze, a cough, above average mucous production, then DO NOT expose them to any other dogs until you have it diagnosed.

  1. Diagnosis:

Kennel Cough is VERY contagious. This means if you think there might be something up, it is time to make a vet appointment. Why? Because you don’t want to go about your daily routine for a few days or a week before realizing it is worse than you thought. Think how many people and dogs you come across every day? Let them know you think it might be kennel cough as many vet offices have policies to avoid contamination and can make sure you get in right away!

  1. Treatment:

For some dogs, such as those that are immune-compromised, older dogs and young dogs without their vaccinations, and dogs already sick with other ailments can all be prone to having a more serious reaction to the bug and might be less able to fight it off with their own immune system.antibiotics For others cases, its just like a cold in humans… time will heal. Again, it is critical to seek your veterinarians advice for the best course of action. It could just be the right environmental cues existed to allow the cough to settle in, which can cause fever, a more severe reaction, and longer recovery. For these dogs, antibiotics might be necessary to get everything under control again and ensure they are safe. Some signs that antibiotics maybe necessary: worsening of symptoms, fever, change in mucous colour (e.g. going from clear to milky/green).

  1. Making Their Lives (and yours) A little Easier:

Lets not kid anyone, you have a sick child on your hands. Best thing we as a parent can do is be prepared. Just like for us, maintaining fluids, continuing to eat, getting lots of comfortable rest, and sanitary practices are really important in speeding up recovery.

FLUIDS: If your canine is not drinking you can help encourage them by adding a little stock to their water to make it a little tastier. Zoom’s protein base is chicken, so we picked up a container of no salt added, organic chicken broth. Zoom had quite a dry hack from the Kennel Cough, so having a little water around to “wet his whistle” helped to keep irritation down and helped him sleep more through the night.

FOOD: For some, the irritated throat, feeling sick and even being on antibiotics can affect their desire to eat. Have a few alternatives around before you need to go get them and you can’t because your dog is coughing up mucous. If they normally eat dry kibbles, dry pulverizing them in a food processor and adding water to make it a little less dry and easier to eat. Don’t have a food processor? Just wet the kibbles and let it sit for 20-25min to soak up the water. Add water as needed and mash with a fork. You can also have a few cans of the “wet version” of their food, or even pick up some low residue food from the vet while you are there. Discuss what is best with your vet!

SANITATION: As I have mentioned, Kennel Cough is very contagious. Keeping floors clean and sanitized, washing blankets and bedding regularly, and ensuring that their toys are cleaned will help stop the bug from spreading. Avoid public places such as dog parks or places where you will meet with another dog. Don’t forget we act as vectors, so washing your own hands, and clothes is really important. washing handsCancel play dates, don’t go stay in hotels, and make sure you let anyone that may have come in contact know what is up so they don’t go and spread it around unknowingly. My veterinarian said that the exact time that canines are no longer contagious isn’t known so she said to be safe wait for 3-4 days after they stop showing symptoms before reintroducing them into public spaces.

COMFORT: No one likes to be sick. We all feel rotten and just want to be in bed. Well dogs will do better if they get good rest as well so make sure they are comfortable.sick zoom Give them items they can lay on that are easily washed, make sure they are not in room that is too hot or cold, and even the humidity can have an effect (e.g. air conditioners dry the air making them more likely to cough and hack at night). Don’t leave them exposed to the elements in any way, and as much as they might want to go out and play, keep them quiet!!  Zoom dealt a lot with mucous in his sinuses and I found elevating his head with a blanket underneath it made it a lot easier for him to sleep and breath.

If you are ever in doubt, always contact your veterinarian. The price of a checkup is well worth knowing what is going on. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience and there isn’t anything more frustrating and scary when it comes to sickness than not understanding the root cause!!

Beat The Heat: Avoid Unnecessary Stress and Danger With Your Canine

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Dog in CarUnfortunately every year the news catches wind of children and dogs who have fallen victim to heat-related stress due to being locked in a vehicle exposed to sun and heat.

Ever see a dog in a locked car in parking lot?  Did they look warm?  Panting and staring at you as you walk by?  Well the issue of leaving canines and children in vehicles while their caregivers run to do that “quick” errand is not a new one.  In fact, it seems every year we are reminded of why this can be such a dangerous thing.

Studies looking into what happens inside a locked vehicle are well documented these days.  Concerned by continuing cases of human and animal deaths related to being in this very scenario, researchers have been pushed to analyze the situation experimentally from a variety of angles.  Temperatures inside and out, in different spots in the car (foot well versus chair versus dash), the color of the car, the color of the interior of the car, whether or not the windows are sealed, cracked, or open to varying amounts, and also the impact of humidity and direct sunlight have been assessed in relation to the question “how warm does the inside of a car actually get”?

Some of the studies:

http://gizmodo.com/how-hot-does-it-get-inside-a-parked-car-spoiler-so-f-654302290

McLaren, C., Null, j., Quinn, J. (2005).  Heat stress from enclosed vehicles:  Moderate ambient temperature cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles.  Pediatrics: 116: 109-112.  Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/1/e109.full.pdf+html.  Accessed on: May. 20th, 2014.

Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society: http://www.injuryprevention.org/states/la/hotcars/hotcars.htm

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyamohn/2013/07/31/dont-leave-your-child-alone-in-a-car/

What is the take-away message from these and other studies? That regardless of the above variables (or excuses)… it is “really” warm out, or only “moderately” warm,  whether you park your white car, with cloth interior in the direct sun, or your dark-coloured car with its black interior in the shade with the windows down, vehicles act much like an oven, quickly trapping heat inside, causing temperatures to rise very quickly into a dangerous zone.  Compound this scenario with the inability of both young children and canines to thermoregulate like an adult human does (who would still also find themselves in a very dangerous situation), and what you think is “only a 5 minute errand” could turn into a life altering decision.

The best thing to do is plan ahead.  We tell our clients “set yourself up for success“.  Make sure you plan out your day to avoid having to leave your canine unattended in a vehicle to just avoid “it” and the dangers all together.  Ensure you understand your municipalities laws and bylaws surrounding leaving animals unattended as different locations have developed varying levels of enforcement and punishment schedules to attack the issue and prevent it from occurring.  Don’t take any chances by thinking that because you have parked in the shade, the inside of the vehicle won’t superheat.  For those of us up in the Great White North, vehicles can also act like refrigerators on cold, wintery days, where hypothermia can be a factor.  Either way, taking a risk to save a few minutes isn’t worth becoming one of the statistics.  There is always a way to keep things positive for both you and your canine, so keep things safe, and keep them cool.  #caninesbydesign

Don’t Believe Me?  Watch this video done by a veterinarian.

My… what big teeth you have!! National Dog Bite Prevention Week

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girl and puppy     This week (May 17-23rd, 2015) is National Dog Bite Prevention Week; a week created to educate people on canine behaviour, how to interact with them, and as awful as it sounds… how to teach people not to get bit.

Does that seem crazy to you? I’ve heard it said that all it takes is common sense to avoid being bitten, but what really is common sense? We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks and these shape how we go about our daily lives and consider “Normal” or “Not”. And beyond all this… accidents do happen. Here are a few facts from the American Veterinary Medical Association that they post in regards to NDBPW:

1. 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year.

2. Children are by far the most common victims.

3. 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites each year.

4. Children are far more likely to be severely injured; approximately 400,000 receive medical attention every year.

5. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.

6. Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.

The Montreal SPCA has even created a website, www.dogsandkids.ca to help facilitate the education process and to help understand some of the very very basics that is canine behaviour and areas to focus initial teachings with your children.

For trainers, caregivers, puppy and adult raisers, foster homes, shelter systems, private, and public facilities, these reported numbers are alarming! How can this be? Well we aren’t hear to place blame, point the finger, or create an example out ofbaby and dog anyone. The fact is, is that these statistics are partly a result of how we as a majority “HAD” educated ourselves and interacted with canines, assumptions we had potentially made about their physiology and psychology, and it isn’t because of how many of us currently “ARE” working with canines.

For me as an advocate for canine-related education, caregiver training and the creation of a bond based over mutual respect and understanding, doing what we do, and educating as many as we can is the most important part of our jobs! Unfortunately, accidents happen. But education is power, and spreading what we now know about canine behaviour and physiology through formal education (Bachelors and Master’s Degrees in Dog behaviour, Veterinarian), and the service dogs industry, will only help our society and local communities embrace, understand, and further integrate canines successfully, while decreasing ugly bite statistics that in a large part can be avoided with a little foresight and education! And anyone can do it! Just getting out, putting your best foot forward, and setting theory into motion shows everyone around you that it is possible, and that there is this new way to listen and interact with dogs!

So for all of you, EVERYONE, that gets out, puts a smile on, helps educate those around them by socializing, educating and working with their canine and people around them (even the very basic and small things), THANK YOU! From the bottom of my heart. You are all leaders, teaching by example, educating the “young” to the “not so young”!!! Keep it up!!

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The Quick Fix: Should You and Your Canine Be Skeptical?

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canine jump!Being together, training together, playing together, smiling together. Canine Companionship…. It’s the life!! But occasionally, funny little things happen and certain behaviours can arise that become disruptive (in a “nails on a chalkboard” sort of way) during our special time with our canines.

Sometimes this behaviour starts off cute, but then veers toward the dangerous or destructive, and we might find ourselves in a state of confusion, anger panic, sadness, or helplessness… Our human nature takes over, and we rush to our nearest source of information (WebMD, anyone?) and attempt to label, define, and understand what is going on. It’s perfectly logical that we would want to know why our dog is doing said behaviour, especially if we aren’t confident in the appropriateness or safety of it all.

And, in a way, this attention to the situation is good! Canines are not mindless automatons without feelings or personalities. They are dynamic – and their resulting behaviours are not automatic responses to environmental cues. But what isn’t helpful when you are concerned is all the BAD information that is out there. There are pages and pages of misleading, wrong, and downright dangerous advice out there!

Have you ever watched one of those “As Seen on TV” adverts and said “Ya right….” Or “if only it actually did that or worked…” – maybe we would all have 6-pack abs and amazing golf swings. The reality is, the majority of these products don’t work, or they only work as a small portion of a larger plan.

Canines and their behaviours are dynamic, and the causes for their actions are as equally dynamic, with environmental and internal factors contributing to the “whole” behaviour. And yet there are umpteen people and products out there offering the quick fix. “Try this and your dog’s barking will be solved first try,” or “this collar will get your dog walking right.” The reality is, good behaviours take time to mold and fine-tune and bad behaviours take time to correct – because your canine needs time to learn what is right! Quick fixes attempt to treat the “visible” behaviours and in doing so can cause other inappropriate behaviours to arise, can harm the welfare of the animal, and can actually have no effect at all (except on your wallet).

So be aware of those “quick fix” promises! (But don’t feel hopeless!) This is the part of the change we are seeing in the Pet Industry, specifically the canine world. I, like my student cohort from Bergin University, are some of the first academic minds to have their post secondary and graduate education focus entirely on canines, understanding their history, development, physiology and psychology. We are being trained to treat the underlying emotions and behaviours that result in the “visible” behaviour and it is from this new wave of academic focus that we will move away from the “quick fix” concept to creating useable and successful programs that work, while putting the needs of the canine at the forefront.

Redirection and Canine Attention: Putting It Together!

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Zoom waiting for whats next!  @caninesbydesignOne of my favorites, if not THE favorite training tool I love to use when working with, and educating canines and their caregivers, is the power of redirection. Redirection can be defined here as moving our canines attention from one object, thing, or stimuli in the environment to another another in a deliberate fashion to help them succeed at a particular task or in a particular situation.  This can help decrease tension felt in certain situations, help maintain order when multiple dogs are around, and offer a fantastically positive way to keep your canine engaged with you when working with them in stimulating environments or in new situations when distractions are everywhere.  But why use redirection?  Why not other techniques we may have seen on TV or read in a book?  I already gave you the hint, and it is the link between positive experiences and redirection, but lets look a little bit a where redirection fits into the realm of psychology and that might help explain it!

It’s common in modern training circles to hear about Operant Conditioning, including the four quadrants of operant conditioning and how they apply to modifying, changing and creating canine behaviours. I hope I haven’t lost you yet… if you stick with me as I break down the concept, I promise it will be the best move you ever make in your relationship with your dog.

Psychology (and Parenting) 101

Operant conditioning is a keystone concept in psychology. It is brain/psychologyone of the fundamental topics taught to university students attending classes ranging from introductory to clinical psychology, and is also being taught to new puppy parents at their first training session. Founded by Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner, his approach was to understand behaviour by looking at the causes of an action and their consequences. The basis to his findings was that behaviour that was rewarded after it was completed would be more likely to occur again. Behaviours that were not reinforced would become weakened and eventually removed (or extinguished) from one’s behavioural repertoire. In other words, a positive outcome leads to increase of rewarded behavior, and an outcome in which the desired result was not achieved, leads to decrease of behavior.

Skinner focused on reinforcement and punishment, which are the outcomes of behaviours that are likely to affect their occurrence later, and created four quadrants of these outcomes: Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Positive and Negative Punishment. To keep things relatively simple here, we will condense the four quadrants into two: (1) Reinforcement, which leads to an increase in a behaviour and (2) Punishment, which leads to a decrease in a behaviour in the future.

Reward and punishment are terms that we have experienced in our own upbringing. Did you receive a “favorite dessert” for cleaning your room? Your parents were practicing operant conditioning. Specifically, a type of reinforcement in which something positive is added (dessert) to increase the chances that a behaviour (cleaning your room) will happen next time.

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Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Quiz time: What part of Skinner’s theory seems out of place with what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks? Your answer should be along the lines of… “I thought we were to always keep things as positive as possible and nurture our bond with our canine?” and “wouldn’t that mean the punishment quadrant shouldn’t even be there?” Well, you would be correct!

We will all encounter situations where our furry friends are misbehaving, putting themselves in dangerous places, or doing something wrong. This is where I would like to introduce you to a very powerful word, and way of thinking: Redirection.

Redirect is defined as “to change the direction or focus of” (Dictionary.com, 2014). As a fundamental focus at Canines By Design, I propose that we replace the word “correction” with the word “redirect,” removing negative interactions with our dogs (such as scolding them or physically correcting them with a leash) when addressing their behaviours.

It’s Not as Hard as You Think…

You are going for a walk with your canine and working on heeling and keeping slack in your leash. One block up, your neighbour turns the corner and continues up the same route in front of you. Now all your dog wants to do is pull out in front to hurry up and go say hi to their friend. Old school (and outdated) technique would tell us to use physical touch to correct them, using a butt-tap or backward force on the leash. What you are doing here is correcting their behavior by adding something negative (collar correction) for pulling ahead. Instead of adding negativity to the situation, add redirection instead.

Redirection would be to use a command or behavioural response currently in the canine’s repertoire to change their leash pulling into a proper on-leash heel. For myself and Zoom, I could say “touch,” which is his cue to turn to me and touch my open palm with his nose, or “look at me,” which is his cue to make eye contact with me. In either case, the situation has been turned from a negative one where your canine isn’t listening or walking nicely with you, to a positive one for both. Zoom would stop pulling (which makes me happy) by performing a command (which makes him happy because he gets praise for doing something right).

The Future of Training

Using redirection instead of negative corrective techniques requires patience and practice. However, keeping it positive, calm, and working progressively through these situations without negative influences (caused by adding punishment) will only help to strengthen the bond between caregiver and canine, and promote a very healthy working relationship.

I would love to hear about your experiences using redirection and positive reinforcement in your training journey. If you would like more information on positive training methodology and how redirection can change how you interact with your canine, I would be happy to start that discussion with you.

#caninesbydesign http://www.caninesbydesign.ca

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References:

Dictionary.com (2014). “Redirect”. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/redirect. Accessed on: April 1, 2015.

Don’t Forget to check out the other Canines By Design blog posts such as T.A.P for a better relationship https://caninesbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/t-a-p-a-better-relationship/, and Proofing, https://caninesbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/proofing-what-is-proofing-and-what-to-proof/.  Canines By Design helping canine communities succeed!

Spring Time Means Shedding Time!!! Groom Away Those Wintery Thoughts!

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Monk and DogSpring is upon us!!  For many of us in Canada it still means a month more snow, but for many parts of North America, we are well on our way!  Flowers are growing, bees are buzzing and FUR IS FLYING!

For us, spring time means shed time.  Our Labrador, Zoom, begin to molt out his downy fur from winter and we start to see more and more tumbleweeds of Zoom-fur blowing around signaling yet another sweeping!

Shedding is a totally natural and healthy part of a dogs life and while it can be an indicator for some underlying conditions is it happens chronically, seeing an upswing in the amount of fur your are cleaning up is totally normal! Keeping on top of it can be a real challenge, and for some of us, nearly impossible. This can especially become a problem when guests come to stay who are not necessarily “dog people” themselves and seem to have a knack for picking out outfits that not only attract the fur like flies to flypaper, but also for those guests with allergies. Here are a few easy steps that can be taken to minimize the impact for your family on a regular basis and also for those special guests:

  1. Daily Grooming: Brush your canine’s fur everyday. Especially true for those of us living in flea and tick country, make sure to groom it all: top to bottom, legs, belly, tail, neck, arm-pits, etc.  A rule of thumb for the mainstay tick-born diseases is that they require 24 hours of attachment time to transmit to the host (dog).  This will also help keep matts from occurring, and massage the skin to help remove dead skin and loose fur.  There are many products out there for general and specific breeds’ grooming needs. From rubber to metal, bristle to flea comb, there is something out there that will work for your purpose. I find certain combs and brushes work better for particular body regions (e.g. the rubber Kong brush works best for me around the head), so consider having a few different brushes on hand. Need help deciding? As part of our product review services, Canines By Design can help you pick out the right grooming tools and show you how to use them.

Pro-tip: Bring your brush to the park and do your grooming outside to avoid generating extra dander in your home’s ventilation system.

  1. For quick “tumbleweed” touchups, use an electrostaticlly charged broom (e.g. Swiffer) that will make your life oh-so-much easier when guests are arriving soon. Many options are re-useable and green as well (Save the Planet!) Electrostatic dusting cloths are also available.

Pro-tip: With a daily sweep, one static cloth can last over several days. Keep the in-use cloth on the broom wrapped in a plastic bag for easy use.

  1. For guests and family members with more serious allergy issues, I would recommend dusting and sanitizing surfaces (helps with saliva allergies), vacuuming of all chairs, couches, carpets, etc., washing any bedding and towels they will use, and also changing out the furnace filter if possible to one that offers HEPA-level filtration to decrease allergy-related particulates in the air. If you have a severe case, then renting a carpet cleaner for any bedroom carpets will be useful as well.

Pro-tip: After cleaning, keep the guestroom door closed before their arrival to avoid more hair buildup.

Part of being a proactive canine caregiver is keeping in tune with your canine’s hygiene. Regular veterinary checkups, teeth cleaning, and nail clipping are all very important aspects of care giving, but one aspect that can be neglected is regular dog bathgrooming, and dermal (a.k.a skin) inspections. Our skin is our largest organ and its function (e.g. maintaining a homeostatic balance within our bodies) is essential for life – and the same applies to our canines. Unusual and rapid onset of shedding can be an alarm bell for changes in health, or health-related issues. Stress, bacterial infections, contacts with toxins, pregnancy and even organ disease/failure can all cause rapid shedding. By being proactive caregivers, we will see these changes faster. By performing daily grooming rituals we can minimize any “surprises” hiding under our canines fur, ensuring their skin and coat remain healthy.   Dermatitis, hot spots, parasites, growths, cuts and scrapes hide under a fur coat, but can all easily be found and monitored with daily routine.

Being a canine caregiver is an active process. Balancing the needs of your canine with the demands of life can sometimes be challenging. Constantly having those furry tumbleweeds blowing around is annoying (to say the least), but your dog’s shedding shouldn’t be a deterrent or source of undue worry when welcoming allergic guests. Following the few suggestions above and taking the C.B.D. approach of “setting up for success” will help minimize both the hair and the stress, and finally nix your grandmother’s idea about knitting a sweater out of all the fur blowing around at tea time.