Can your Dog smell Fear?

As seen in PetMD By: Dr. Sarah Wooten

Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling fearful, your dog becomes more attentive and clingy?

Have you also noticed that your dog may behave differently around people who like dogs versus people who are afraid of dogs?

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, but can they smell fear? And if so, how?

Is It True That Dogs Can Smell Fear?

The science is in, and the answer is a resounding YES—dogs can smell fear. Dogs have olfactory superpowers that can detect a human’s emotional state by the scent that a human emits. That’s right—you can’t hide fear from dogs. They’ve got your number!

Until recently, the idea that dogs can smell fear was only a theory, but a study called “Interspecies transmission of emotional information via chemosignals: from humans to dogs” actually proves that dogs (or at least Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers) can smell human emotions and respond accordingly.

When a person gets scared, their sweat glands will start secreting moisture, especially in the armpits. This sweat contains chemical signals that dogs can pick up on.

Can Dogs Smell the Difference Between Fear and Happiness?

Researchers correctly postulated that dogs would respond differently to human odors that were emitted under different emotional states—namely, fear and happiness.

In the study, dogs were exposed to three stimuli—their owner, a stranger (the control) and an odor dispenser. Dogs were assigned to different odor conditions randomly.

They collected odors from humans in three different emotional states: fearful, happy and neutral (no sweat). The odors were collected from the armpits of random male donors who were not otherwise involved in the experiment procedures.

The dogs were then observed for responses, including behaviors directed at the three targets, stress behaviors and heart rate. Researchers found that when the dogs were exposed to “happy odors,” they interacted more with the stranger and had lower heart rates.

In contrast, when the dogs were exposed to the “fear odor,” they displayed more stress behaviors and had higher heart rates associated with the fight, flight or freeze response—a  bodily response of the autonomic nervous system that is essential for adaptation and survival.

The dogs also sought more reassurance from their owners and interacted with the stranger less than the dogs that were exposed to the “happy odor.”

Researchers concluded that chemosignals—odors that we emit in response to our emotional state—communicate across species to dogs. So, if we are scared, they can smell it and get scared, too.

What Your Dog’s Senses Can Tell You About Your Own Emotions

Dogs can help us recognize our own emotional states. Many people who have chronic anxiety may not even be aware that they are walking around in fight, flight or freeze mode.

A dog that’s in tune with how you exhibit stress or fear can help signal the onset of these emotions and help you better work through feelings of anxiety.

It’s also important to acknowledge that dogs can feed off of your energy. So, try to temper your mindset throughout tense situations—say, like at your next vet visit—to help keep your pet more at ease.

Your mental health and that of your pet are both important. If you take note of how your dog is behaving, you might learn more about your own mood and mental state than expected.

 

Fleas getting the best of your pet?

 

By Dr. Karen Becker

Fleas feed on the blood of companion animals and their bites can lead to irritation and skin allergies. Sometimes these pests are no more than a nasty nuisance, but they have the potential to cause serious problems. Fleas can transmit tapeworms, bartonella bacteria, and can cause severe anemia in young animals.

They can also trigger a condition in pets called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is characterized by a hypersensi­tivity reaction to flea bites. It’s important to note that it’s not the bite of a flea that makes your dog scratch; it’s the flea saliva, which can cause overwhelming irritation dispropor­tion­ate to the actual number of fleas on your canine companion.

Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Most pet parents assume if their pet isn’t covered with fleas, the itching can’t be caused by fleas. But if your dog has FAD, the saliva of just one or two fleas can make her miserably itchy and uncomfortable for weeks (long past the death of those two fleas).

The classic symptom of flea bite hypersensitivity is frequent or constant severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and hot spots. Secondary bacterial infections are a risk for dogs with open skin sores.

Most dogs with FAD have symptoms that worsen with age, and are often episodic, meaning they experience flare-ups in between periods of relative comfort. Sometimes they go on to develop neurodermatitis as a result of flea bite hypersensitivity. Neurodermatitis is a condition characterized by restless, anxious, irritated, or nervous behavior as a result of FAD.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

There’s no specific diagnostic test for flea allergy dermatitis. To confirm your suspicions, the best approach is to simply have your dog stand or lie on a light-colored towel and use a flea comb to help reveal fleas and flea dirt. Flea dirt looks like real dirt, but when you drop it into a small amount of rubbing alcohol or water, it will release a red color (blood) as it dissolves.

Resolving your dog’s flea problem will depend to a large extent on whether he’s reacting to just a few fleas or an infestation. Either way, you’ll definitely want to use the flea comb at least once a day until you’re confident there are no more fleas on him or in his environment.

Dogs with a sensitivity to flea saliva should also be bathed frequently until the fleas are gone. Even if he hates it while it’s happening, his skin will feel better after a bath, and any fleas on his body will drop into the water. Another benefit: pests of all kinds are less attracted to clean animals.

An alternative to a full bath and shampoo is to simply dip your dog in a sink or tub of warm water, which will cause most of the fleas to fall off. Adding a cup of apple cider vinegar to a gallon of rinse water will help make him less appealing to fleas.

Before You Reach for a Chemical Flea Preventive

I strongly discourage pet parents from automatically applying potentially toxic chemical agents to their dogs or around their home to repel or kill pests. The use of spot-on products may cause skin irritation, paralysis, seizures and even death if used improperly, and there are effective natural alternatives that are far safer.

If, however, you live in a flea-endemic area and have a family member with FAD or an infestation that requires that you use these chemicals, follow these precautions:

  • Be very careful to follow dosing directions on the label, and if your pet is at the low end of a dosage range use the next lowest dosage. Be extremely cautious with small dogs, and do not under any circumstances apply dog product to your cat.
  • Monitor your dog for adverse reactions after you apply a chemical product — especially when using one for the first time.
  • Don’t depend exclusively on chemical treatments. Rotate natural preventives with chemicals, including diatomaceous earth, pet-friendly essential oil products and natural deterrent collars. An every-other-month rotation works well for many pet parents.
  • Since your dog’s liver will be tasked with processing the chemicals that make it into the bloodstream, it can be very beneficial to give her a supplement to help detoxify the liver. I recommend milk thistle, which is a detox agent and also helps to actually regenerate liver cells. Another product I recommend is chlorella, a super green food that is a very powerful detox agent.

Work with your integrative veterinarian to determine how much to give your dog depending on her age, weight and any medications she’s taking. I recommend one dose daily for seven days following any chemical flea, tick or heartworm preventive application, especially if dogs need regular pesticides applied to their bodies.

Safe, Nontoxic Alternatives to Chemicals

There are safe, nontoxic alternatives for flea control for dogs, and they don’t have side effects, unlike virtually all forms of chemical pesticides. Alternatives I recommend include:

A safe, natural pest deterrent (see recipe below)
Cedar oil (specifically manufactured for pet health)
Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth, topically (not on the head)
Fresh garlic (¼ teaspoon of freshly chopped garlic per 15 pounds of body weight)
Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate fresh food diet
Bathe and brush your dog regularly and perform frequent full-body inspections to check for parasite activity
Use a flea comb daily during flea season to naturally exfoliate your dog’s skin while removing or exposing pests
Make sure both your indoor and outdoor environments are unfriendly to pests

All-Natural Homemade Pest Deterrent for Dogs

You can make an all-natural pest deterrent for your dog very easily at home. It will help him avoid a good percentage of the pests he encounters, though not all of them (as many of you know, not even the heavy duty chemicals prevent all parasites). The recipe: mix 8 ounces of pure water with 4 ounces of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 10 drops of neem oil.

Neem oil is not an essential oil. It’s expelled or pressed oil and is effective because fleas (and ticks) are repelled by it. It’s also great for pets who are very sensitive to odors. Catnip oil can also be used as a pest deterrent, since it has been proven to be as effective as diethyltoluamide (DEET), the mosquito and tick spray humans use that has a number of toxic side effects.

If you want to add some extra punch to your dog’s pest deterrent recipe, go with five drops of lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus or geranium oil. I use geranium oil quite a bit because I find it very effective. In fact, I use it in my Dr. Mercola natural flea and tick products. If you have a dog who comes in contact with ticks, adding the extra punch of one of the essential oils I listed can be very beneficial.

You can store your homemade pest deterrent in the fridge, which is what I do. Before your dog goes outside mist him with it, being careful to avoid the eyes. The active ingredients, especially the oils in the recipe, dissipate in about four hours, so you may need to reapply it several times throughout the

 

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on February 13, 2020 by Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, DVM, PhD

 

Dog allergies are often caused by the allergens found in pollen, animal dander, plants, and insects, but dogs can also be allergic to food and medication as well.

 

These allergies can cause symptoms such as excessive itching, scratching, and grooming; rashes; sneezing; watery eyes; paw chewing; and skin inflammation.

 

When allergies cause skin disease, the condition is called atopic dermatitis (meaning itchy skin and inflammation).

 

Here’s everything you need to know about atopic dermatitis in dogs.

 

What Is Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

 

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. In fact, this is the second most common allergic skin disease in dogs, after flea allergy dermatitis.

 

Causes of Dog Dermatitis

 

These allergic reactions can be brought on by normally harmless substances like grass, mold spores, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens.

 

At What Age Can Dogs Get Dermatitis?

 

Dogs normally show signs of the disease between 1-6 years of age, though atopic dermatitis can be so mild the first year that it doesn’t become noticeable or consistent for several years.

 

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

 

Symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis often get worse with time, though they may also be seasonal.

 

These are the most commonly affected areas in dogs:

 

·         Ears

·         Feet

·         Underbelly

·         Muzzle

·         Armpits

·         Groin

·         Base of the tail

·         Around the eyes

·         In between the toes

 

The symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis include:

 

·         Itching

·         Scratching

·         Rubbing

·         Licking

·         A yeasty smell

·         Greasy skin

·         Redness or tough skin

 

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

 

Some breeds are more likely to develop allergies, including Golden Retrievers, Poodles (and hybrids), Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, and Bulldogs. However, any dog can develop allergies.

 

While there’s no way to prevent your dog from developing allergies, there are several excellent treatment options available.

 

Can Dogs Get Tested for Allergies?

 

Prior to any treatment, your veterinarian will need a complete medical history to determine the pattern of your dog’s allergies. Some allergies are seasonal, such as mold, while others are year-round.

 

A complete physical examination is important in determining the best types of treatment. Your veterinarian will want to perform tests on skin samples from the affected areas.

 

Serologic allergy testing may be performed, which looks for antibodies in the blood, but the results are not always reliable. The quality of this kind of testing often depends on the laboratory that analyzes the results.

 

Intradermal testing may also be used to identify the cause of your pet’s allergic reaction. This is where small amounts of test allergens are injected into the skin and wheal (a red bump) response is measured.

 

Since these types of tests are very expensive, your veterinarian may recommend treatment instead of advanced allergy testing.

 

Treatment for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

 

The treatment will depend on what is causing your pet’s allergic reaction.

 

If the reaction is due to atopy, a genetic disposition to an allergic reaction, for example, hyposensitization therapy can be performed. Your veterinarian will give your pet injections of the allergens to which they are sensitive. This decreases itchiness in 60-80% of dogs, but may approximately take 6 months to a year to see an improvement.

 

Your veterinarian might recommend immunomodulatory medications. These are available either as a daily pill (Apoquel) or an injection given every 4-10 weeks (Cytopoint). Along with these, antibiotics or antifungal medicines are often required to treat the skin infections that result from allergies.

 

Additionally, regular bathing with medicated or prescription-strength shampoo can greatly improve your pet’s comfort and help skin infections resolve faster. Shampoo and other topical treatments can also be used as maintenance therapy to reduce the risk or severity of future skin infections.

 

Does Atopic Dermatitis Go Away?

 

Unfortunately, atopic dermatitis only rarely goes into remission or spontaneously resolves.

 

Once treatment has begun, your veterinarian must see your dog every 2-8 weeks to ascertain the effectiveness of the treatment and to check for drug interactions.

 

Then, as your pet’s itching becomes more controlled, they will need to be brought into the veterinarian’s office every 3-12 months for checkups. 

 

It’s very important to stay vigilant and make sure your dog gets treatment at the first sign of an itch.

 

If left untreated, allergies can change a dog’s personality—the constant itch and frustration can lead dogs to shy away from people or be aggressive when touched.

 

This is especially true for dogs with ear infections as part of their allergy symptoms. Chronic ear infections can also lead to deafness.

 

If your veterinarian should find the trigger for your pet’s allergies, he or she will advise you as to how to best avoid those type of allergens. 

5 Mistakes Owners Make When Adopting a New Cat

5 Mistakes Owners Make When Adopting a New Cat

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

5 Things to Avoid When Adopting a New Kitten or Cat

1. Don’t make an impulse adoption — Sadly, many pets are acquired on a whim, without thought or preparation. Your heart may be in the right place, but unless you’re prepared to invest the time, effort and money necessary to properly care for a cat for her lifetime, things can go south in a hurry.

In those cases, and there are far too many of them, the kitty is the inevitable loser. Shelters are full of pets that were the result of an impulse purchase or adoption.

Questions to ask yourself: “Can I afford to properly care for a cat?” “Is anyone in the family allergic to cats?” “Does my landlord allow them?” And, “Do I have the time available to give her the attention and care she needs and deserves for the next twenty years?”

2. Don’t assume your current cat will welcome a new feline housemate — It’s crucially important to plan ahead if you already have a kitty and want to add another to the household. Some cats with no history together can learn to get along or at least tolerate each other over time, but there are situations in which it’s just too dangerous or stressful to keep two poorly matched pets under the same roof.

Unfortunately, bringing a new cat into a home with an existing cat is often one of those situations. Give some thought to how your current cat might react to a new cat. If in the past he’s shown aggression or fear around other kitties, you could be setting the stage for a problem.

It’s a good idea to try to match the temperament and energy level of a new cat with that of your existing cat to improve the chances the two will get along. If things don’t go well initially, I encourage you to consult with an animal behavior specialist before throwing in the towel on adopting a second cat.

Often, it just takes some time and a few helpful tips to put an existing pet and a new one on the road to a harmonious relationship.

3. Don’t wait till your new cat is home to stock up on pet supplies — Purchase most of the pet supplies you’ll need before you bring the new kitty home. These include items such as a leash, harness, collar, ID tag, toys, scratching posts, litter and litterbox.

I strongly recommend you keep your new cat on the same food she’s been eating, and wait to transition to a better diet (if necessary) after she’s all settled in. It’s important to realize that change, whether good or bad, gets translated as stress in your kitty’s body.

Kittens, in particular, experience a lot of stress because often they’re being separated from their mom and littermates for the first time. They’re also changing environments, which can mean new allergens that can affect their immune systems.

Your new pet has a brand-new family, humans and perhaps other four-legged members as well. The last thing her body needs at this particular time is a brand-new diet that might cause gastrointestinal problems. That’s why I recommend purchasing whatever food your pet is currently eating, and then slowly move her to a better-quality diet if that’s your goal.

4. Don’t overlook the need to pet-proof your home — This is something you should do before bringing your new fluffy friend home with you. You might not think of every last detail beforehand, but at a minimum, you should move cords out of reach, as well as plants.

If you have children, you can involve them by having them get down on the floor to take a cat’s eye view of all the temptations your new pet might want to investigate. Pick up anything that has dropped on the floor that could pose a temptation or hazard.

Pet-proofing your home before your new kitten or adult cat arrives is the best way to prevent a choking, vomiting, diarrhea or other crisis during those important first few weeks as a new pet parent. For more information and some great tips, read 10 Ways to Kitten-Proof Your Home.

5. Don’t rush introductions and don’t leave your new cat alone with other pets until you’re sure everyone gets along — If possible, take a few days off from work to properly welcome your new kitty home. It will take some time for him to get acclimated to his new environment and daily routine.

The more time you’re able to spend with him giving him lots of positive attention, building trust and teaching him the routines in his new home and life, the better the outcome for both of you.

I recommend separating your new arrival from the rest of the household in a little bed-and-breakfast setup of his own for at least a week. This will help him get acclimated on his own terms, which is the way cat’s prefer things.

Kitties are very sensitive to new environments, sounds, tastes, smells and so forth — and they’re very easily stressed by any change in their lives. Put his litterbox, food and toys in his private room and keep noise, confusion and visitors to a minimum.

Introduce other members of the household one at a time. Ideally, this takes place in a neutral space after the new cat has ventured out on his own to investigate. Meet-and-greets should be done in a calm, quiet, low-stress environment so as not to scare or further stress the new kitty.

It’s also important that the new kitty not have free rein in your home before you’re completely confident he is safe in the new environment, and that both he and your other pets are safe in terms of interacting with each other in your absence.

Don’t ever leave a new pet unattended with existing pets until you’re very sure the new arrival has acclimated to the other animals and vice versa.

 

5 Types of Dog Eye Discharge (and What They Mean)

5 Types of Dog Eye Discharge (and What They Mean)

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on February 13, 2020, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Eye discharge is a common problem in dogs. Some types are completely normal, while others are associated with potentially serious health concerns.

 

In order to determine when you need to take your dog to the vet, you’ll need to understand the various types of dog eye discharge and what each may mean.

 

5 Common Types of Eye Discharge in Dogs

 

Let’s take a look at five common types of dog eye discharge and what you should do about them.

 

1. A Little Goop or Crust

 

Tears play an essential role in maintaining eye health. They provide oxygen and nourishment to the cornea (the clear layer of tissue at the front of the eye) and help remove debris from the eye’s surface.

 

Tears normally drain through ducts located at the inner corner of each eye, but sometimes a little bit of goop or crust will accumulate there. This material is made out of dried tears, oil, mucus, dead cells, dust, etc., and is typically clear or a slightly reddish-brown color.

 

It’s most evident in the morning and is often perfectly normal. The amount of eye goop a dog produces each night (or after long naps) should stay relatively constant.

 

The goop or crust should be easy to remove with a warm, damp cloth. The eyes shouldn’t be red, and your dog should not exhibit any signs of eye discomfort (rubbing, squinting, blinking, and/or sensitivity to light).

 

If at any point you notice an increase in your dog’s eye goop or other worrisome symptoms, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

 

2. Watery Eyes

 

Excessive eye watering (epiphora) is associated with many different conditions that run the range from relatively benign to serious. Here are a few common causes of watery eyes in dogs:

 

·         Allergies

·         Irritants

·         Foreign material in the eye

·         Anatomical abnormalities (e.g., prominent eyes or rolled-in eyelids),

·         Blocked tear ducts

·         Corneal wounds

·         Glaucoma (increased eye pressure)

 

If your dog has a relatively mild increase in tearing, but his eyes look normal in all other respects—and he doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort—it’s reasonable to monitor the situation for a day or two.

 

Your dog may have simply received a face full of pollen or dust, and the increased tearing is working to solve the problem. But if his eyes continue to be watery or your dog develops red, painful eyes or other types of eye discharge, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

 

3. Reddish-Brown Tear Stains

 

Light-colored dogs often develop a reddish-brown discoloration to the fur near the inner corner of their eyes. This occurs because tears contain a pigment called porphyrin that turns reddish-brown with prolonged exposure to air.

 

In the absence of other problems, tear staining in this area is normal and is just a cosmetic concern. If you want to minimize your dog’s tear stains, try one or more of these solutions:

 

·         Wipe the area a few times a day with a cloth dampened with warm water or an eye-cleaning solution that’s made specifically for dogs

·         Keep the fur around your dog’s eyes trimmed short

·         Try giving your dog an antibiotic-free nutritional supplement that reduces tear staining

 

Keep in mind that it can take several months for porphyrin-stained fur to grow out and for the effects of any of these remedies to become obvious.

 

Make an appointment with your veterinarian for an eye examination if you notice any of the following:

 

·         An increase in the amount of tear staining

·         A change in the appearance of your dog’s tear staining

·         Your dog’s eyes become red and painful

 

4. White-Gray Mucus

 

Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS) is a condition that usually develops when a dog’s immune system attacks and destroys the glands that produce tears.

 

With fewer tears, the body tries to compensate by making more mucus to lubricate the eyes. But mucus can’t replace all the functions of tears, so the eyes become red and painful and may develop ulcers and abnormal corneal pigmentation.

 

Left untreated, KCS can result in severe discomfort and blindness.

 

If you notice white-gray mucus collecting around your dog’s eyes, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can perform a simple procedure called a “Schirmer Tear Test” to differentiate KCS from other diseases that are associated with increased eye mucus production.

 

Most dogs respond well to treatment for KCS, which may involve cyclosporine, tacrolimus, artificial tears, and/or other medications.

 

Surgery can also be considered but should be reserved for those cases when medical treatment is unsuccessful.

 

5. Yellow or Green Eye Discharge

 

A dog whose eyes produce yellow or green discharge often has an eye infection, particularly if eye redness and discomfort are also evident.

 

Eye infections can develop as a primary problem or as a result of another condition (wounds, dry eye, etc.) that weakens the eye’s natural defenses against infection.

 

Sometimes what looks to be an eye infection is actually a sign that a dog has a systemic illness or a problem affecting the respiratory tract, nervous system, or other part of the body.

 

Any dog who looks like he might have an eye infection should be seen by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

 

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

 

A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat

A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat

By Cindy Aldridge

 

As it was once so succinctly put, “Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at.” Although being a cat may be out of our reach, having one might just be the next best thing. If you’re preparing for your first cat, you’re in for an exciting journey. Cats are curious creatures, and they’ll spark plenty of joy and laughter for years to come. Here are some tips for getting your first cat and making it feel at home.

 

Choosing a Cat

 

Your first step is figuring out what kind of cat you want to adopt. A first-time cat owner might be tempted to pick up a kitten, but that’s probably not the best call. Kittens are cute, but they’re also very high energy and tons of work. Moreover, it’s pretty impossible to tell what a kitten’s adult personality will be like, so a young cat is more of a gamble.

 

An adult cat, however, is more mature and settled. When you meet them, you can get a good sense of how cuddly or distant they’ll be, what kind of play they’ll like, and generally what you can expect from them. This will help you find a cat that suits your lifestyle. Cat personalities run the gamut from high-energy hunters to lazy lumps, from lap cats to the look-don’t-touch variety. Spend some time with different cats in the shelter to get a sense for who you click with best.

 

Gearing Up

 

You’ll need some supplies to help your cat feel at home. In addition to the basics — food, bowls, litter box, etc. — you’ll want to get some extras for your new pal. Cats love to go into small, cozy spaces, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. A cat bed, from fancy self-warming models to the old-fashioned types, will give them a safe space to chill out while they adjust, and to nap once they’ve settled in.

 

Another great gift you can give your cat is a cat tree. These are tall structures with lots of levels of seating, usually made of a nice, scratch-safe material. Think of these as kitty jungle gyms. They’ll give your cat the chance to climb, jump, scratch, and lounge.

 

Finally, get plenty of different toys to ensure you’re satisfying your cat’s hunting instincts. Even the laziest cat will need playtime. Not only does this keep them physically healthy, it also helps reduce feline anxiety and aggression. Without playtime to work out energy and instincts, cats can be prone to biting, poor litter box etiquette, and other destructive behaviors.

 

Your New Roommate

 

It’s important to have the right expectations when you bring your new pet home. Cats have instincts of both predator and prey creatures, and they tend to be skittish in new environments. Many people barely see their cats for the first few days or even weeks after they’ve brought them home. This is okay! Your kitty needs time to adjust and feel safe around you.

 

The best thing you can do during this period is to give your cat distance and let them come to you. It may take some time, but being patient will pay off. By following your cat’s cues and allowing them to define the relationship, you send off signals that say “I’m safe!” Earning your cat’s trust will allow a positive relationship to blossom. Before you know it, you’ll be getting plenty of head boops and slow blinks — sure signs that your cat is in love.

 

Cats are great pets. When you get your first one, it may take you a little while to understand their style of communication and learn their personality. Once you do, however, you’ll see why so many people are obsessed with these wonderful creatures.

 

Arthritis In your dog?

Arthritis In your dog?

By Dr. Karen Becker

Just like older people, many dogs who are getting up in years develop arthritis, and while the condition is more often seen in large and giant breeds, it can affect dogs of any age, any size, and either sex.

The good news is that if your own dog is dealing with arthritis, there are many things you can do to help him remain comfortable and mobile in spite of his condition.

5 Critical Areas to Focus on If Your Dog Has Arthritis

In many cases, dogs with degenerative joint disease can be well managed with a natural, nontoxic protocol. The earlier supportive joint protocols are started, the better. In my experience, which is fortunately also a growing trend in the conventional veterinary community, a multimodal approach is best for slowing the progression of the disease and keeping arthritic dogs comfortable.

  1. Weight management — Keeping your four-legged family member at a lean, healthy weight is absolutely crucial in alleviating arthritis symptoms. An overweight dog with arthritis can have noticeable improvement in symptoms after losing just a small amount of body weight.
  2. Exercise — Dogs need to move their bodies more, not less, as they age. Although the intensity, duration and type of exercise will change, daily activity is still crucial to prevent musculoskeletal weakness. Muscles maintain your dog’s frame, so preserving muscle tone will also slow the amount of joint laxity (which causes arthritis) as well.

Daily, consistent, lifelong aerobic exercise is the very best long-term strategy to delay the onset of arthritis symptoms. Without it, dogs exhibit more profound symptoms much earlier in life.

  1. An anti-inflammatory diet — All dogs, and especially those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, should be fed a moisture-rich, nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate diet that is naturally anti-inflammatory, consisting of real, whole foods, preferably raw, organic, and non-GMO. It should include:
High-quality, lean protein, including muscle meat, organs and bone (protein coming from animal sources should make up more than 80 percent of a cat’s diet)
Low to moderate levels of animal fat (depending on your pet’s activity level)
High levels of EPA and DHA (omega-3 essential fatty acids)
A few fresh cut, fibrous vegetables, pureed
No grains or starches
A whole food vitamin/mineral supplement that meets the additional E, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, iodine and vitamin D deficiencies often found in homemade diets OR enough of these hard-to-source foods in whole food forms, daily
Beneficial additions such as probiotics, digestive enzymes, and super green foods

There is one commercially available “veterinary recommended” raw, therapeutic diet on the market that takes the guess work out of creating a balanced, fresh food diet for arthritic dogs.

Along with a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet, it’s important to practice portion control at every meal. For most pets, this means a carefully measured morning and evening meal. And don’t forget to factor in any calories from treats.

You also need to know exactly how many calories your dog or cat should be eating per day. Use these calorie calculators to determine how many calories your pet should take in to lose weight or maintain his or her current weight.

  1. Increasing comfort and mobility at home — Arthritic dogs should be provided with non-toxic, well-padded bedding located in a warm, dry area of the house. A carpet-covered ramp or steps to access the bed or couch can be very helpful, along with a gently sloped ramp to the outdoors. Slippery floors should be covered with throw rugs or runners.
  2. Physical therapy — Physical therapy is an absolute must for arthritic dogs and should be designed to maintain and increase joint strength, muscle tone, and range of motion. This can be accomplished with therapeutic exercises, swimming, and massage.

In addition to therapies such as laser treatments and the Assisi loop, I’ve found that incorporating maintenance chiropractic, underwater treadmill, massage, acupuncture, and daily stretching, along with an oral protocol (discussed below) to manage pain and inflammation yields the best results possible for an arthritic dog, and can dramatically delay the need for pharmaceutical interventions if instituted early on in the disease process.

Essential Beneficial Supplements for Arthritic Dogs

Chondroprotective agents (CPAs) that protect the joints (e.g., glucosamine sulfate, collagen, MSM, eggshell membrane, perna mussel aka green-lipped clam, Adequan and cetyl myristoleate) are essential for dogs with arthritis.

CPAs slow the rate of cartilage degeneration, which is critical. The form, dose and type of CPA your veterinarian prescribes should be based on a careful assessment of your dog’s individual needs. CPAs should be blended with pain control options as necessary.

There are many natural remedies for arthritis that can reduce or eliminate the need for painkillers in the early stages, including:

High-quality omega-3 supplement (krill oil) Devil’s Claw
Ubiquinol Supergreen foods (spirulina, astaxanthin)
Turmeric (curcumin) Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (e.g., proteolytic enzymes and SOD)
Traditional Chinese Herbs Homeopathic remedies such as Rhus tox, Bryonia, and Arnica
Boswellia serrata Esterified Fatty Acid Complex (EFAC)
Corydalis CBD oil

There are also ayurvedic herbs and nutraceuticals that can be very beneficial for dogs with arthritis, depending on their individual symptoms.

Why It’s so Important to Continually Monitor Your Dog’s Condition

It’s important to monitor your pet’s symptoms on an ongoing basis, since arthritis is a progressive disease. Your dog’s body is constantly changing, and her treatment protocol will need to evolve as well, which is why partnering with an integrative veterinarian is so important toward your goal of maintaining your furry BFF’s quality of life for as long as possible without drugs.

In the vast majority of mild to moderate joint pain cases, if CPAs and natural pain control options are initiated early, the need for intermittent NSAID therapy can be minimized to those occasional bad days when the weather or activities temporarily exacerbate the dog’s discomfort.

Moderate to severe joint pain cases (requiring consistent NSAID drug administration to maintain quality of life) can rely on lower drug doses by using an integrative protocol that is instituted early on and evolves with a patient’s age.

I definitely recommend finding an integrative or proactive, functional medicine veterinarian to work with you to customize a comprehensive protocol for your pet. Practitioners who’ve gone beyond their traditional veterinary school training of simply prescribing nonsteroidal pain medication, to learn and incorporate complimentary therapies into their practice, will have many more options to offer your dog over the course of her lifetime.

Some newer regenerative medicine options reaching small animal medicine include stem cell therapy and PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections, as well as Prolo therapy. The safety and efficacy of these treatments depends on the condition and technique used, which is another reason to partner with a functional medicine or integrative veterinarian who is well-versed in these promising, emerging procedures.

I also recommend bringing your dog for a wellness checkup with your proactive veterinarian at least twice a year to review the status of her health, and to check the range of motion in her joints, the muscle mass she’s either gaining or losing, and to make adjustments to her protocol as necessary to ensure her quality of life is optimal.

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The Truth About the ‘Special Food Needs’ of Small Breeds

The Truth About the ‘Special Food Needs’ of Small Breeds

By Dr. Karen Becker comments by Diane Weinmann

Those of you with small dogs may have noticed that the pet food marketplace is exploding with diets created for the so-called “special needs” of small breeds. Clearly, the processed pet food industry has found another cash cow: dog food formulas marketed to owners of small breeds.

According to the PetfoodIndustry.com, “… as smaller dogs appealing to both millennial and baby boomer lifestyles increase in popularity, the pet food industry is taking note.”1

According to the article, millennials (now the largest demographic of pet owners) aren’t moving as quickly toward home ownership as previous generations, instead choosing to remain in apartments or condos as city dwellers. Baby boomers are becoming empty nesters, downsizing to smaller living spaces, and doing more traveling.

Neither of these lifestyles is conducive to owning a large dog (or so the theory goes), but since both groups still want to be pet parents, small dogs are the solution.

“Small dogs, which are more portable, more likely to meet apartment weight limits,” writes the author of the article, “and can in some cases even be trained to be completely indoor animals, with litter or puppy pads ensuring they don’t need to go down an elevator or several flights of stairs to find relief in the nearest patch of grass.”

As an important point of clarification, no dog should be a “completely indoor animal.” Walks outdoors, visits with friends and family with yards, adventures to the dog park, and other pet-friendly outings are essential in keeping dogs of all sizes and ages exercised, socialized, mentally stimulated, and grounded to the earth.

Big Pet Food Wants Us to Believe Small Dogs Need Special Diets Simply Because They’re Small

The processed pet food manufacturers would like to convince you that small dogs have unique health issues and nutritional requirements that only they can meet. This is a red flag for me, because processed pet food isn’t the answer for the health issues faced by small dogs (or any size dog), and it’s certainly not the answer to small dogs’ (or any dog’s) nutritional needs.

Processed pet food producers want to position small dogs as so different from “real” dogs that they need specialized diets. In fact, one “global director — nutrition and technical communications” for a pet food company goes so far as to say, “They’re not carnivores.” Actually, yes, they are. All dogs are.

Canines are scavenging carnivores, and need to be, in order to maintain health. Making dogs omnivores or vegetarians creates metabolic disease; however, it’s the stance the pet food industry must take to sell the biologically inappropriate products they produce.

If Big Pet Food’s pitch is successful, it opens up limitless opportunities to expand their product lines and develop marketing plans to sell diets specifically for small breed dogs. Now, these diets will be, for all intents and purposes, identical to diets for every other size dog — it’s really only the marketing, packaging and kibble size that will be different.

And you can bet there won’t be any independent (or even company-sponsored) pet food research substantiating the claim that toy and small breeds have a totally different set of nutritional requirements than other sized dogs. There also won’t be any long-term studies determining the safety or efficacy of feeding these fast-food diets for the lifetime of a pet.

From what I’ve been able to tell comparing formulas for small dogs and regular formulas, the differences are primarily in package sizes, product names and the way they’re marketed, and in some cases, kibble size.

Obviously, repackaging standard formulas and giving them cute names like “Wee Bits” and “Mighty Minis” does nothing to address the supposed “unique health issues and nutritional needs” of small dogs as advertised by pet food companies, but they don’t expect dog owners to connect the dots.

So that’s Big Pet Food’s play for the hearts and minds of small dog parents. Hopefully all of you reading here today won’t be fooled.

Your Dog’s Size Shouldn’t Dictate His Diet

In an ideal world, processed pet food manufacturers would put their significant resources toward getting the basics of canine (and feline) nutrition right and focus less on finding ways to re-engineer existing poor-quality formulas to expand their product lines.

Dry pet food with little or no high-quality animal protein and minimal moisture, but plenty of grains, carbs, starches, allergenic ingredients, non-nutritional fillers, synthetic amino acids, vitamins and minerals, additives and preservatives, is not species-appropriate nutrition for any dog, regardless of size. The fact is, when comparing a Great Dane to a Yorkie, they are all canine, specifically Canis lupus familiaris.

What is becoming apparent, through new canine DNA studies, is that a dog’s evolutionary lineage can play into expressed behavior traits and may dictate dietary preferences. For instance, dogs that evolved from northern parts of the world (Akitas, Huskies, Malamutes, etc.) may crave a diet higher in fish (or omega 3 fatty acids), which was a part of their evolutionary nutrition many moons ago.  Diane’s husky, Neko, loves all fish in his food.

In theory, customizing macronutrients and ingredients to a dog’s genetic lineage may prove to quite beneficial, but this isn’t what Big Pet Food is doing with their “breed specific” diets.

Sadly, humans have chosen to breed certain types of dogs down to sizes so small their organs often don’t function normally. And the AKC and other kennel clubs still condone (and paper) inbred animals. Since nature doesn’t design dogs to be that small, health problems are to be expected, including congenital organ problems which may require owners to feed a lower protein diet.

But assuming all small breeds require low protein diets is misguided. Certainly size, energy output and health problems are a consideration when determining any animal’s nutritional requirements, but a dog is still a dog — a carnivorous canine.

Those of you who have been readers for years know how I feel about this topic: unless breeders complete every possible genetic test for both parents and intentionally breed for “reparative conformation” (so the next litter may carry fewer genetic predispositions), they shouldn’t be breeding, and smaller isn’t better.

That being said, there are some small dogs who are born with poorly functioning livers or kidneys and must be on customized diets their whole lives: this is a result of bad breeding, not an evolutionary adaptation from being small.

Tips for Feeding Small Dogs

It’s very easy to overfeed and under-exercise any dog, and especially a small one, so it’s important to start out on the right foot and stay there.

Currently, AAFCO doesn’t link feeding instructions on dog food packaging to a dog’s energy requirements, so according to the bag or can, a super active 10-pound dog and a super lazy 10-pound dog should eat the same amount. Common sense says this can’t be true.

  1. Ignore pet food advertisements that suggest healthy small dogs need special diets.
  2. Calculate how much food your dog needs each day, then scale that amount up or down, depending on activity level.
  3. Feed an optimally balanced, species-appropriate, fresh food diet to your little one. Regardless of her size, your dog needs the right nutrition for her species, which means real food that is made from healthful ingredients (not feed-grade, rendered, slaughter house waste), high in human-grade animal protein and moisture, with low or no grain content or starches/carbohydrates.
  4. Practice portion control — typically a morning and evening meal, carefully measured. A high protein, low carb diet with the right number of calories, controlled through the portions you feed, will help your small dog remain at a healthy weight. And don’t forget to factor in any calories from treats.
  5. Use small training treats — Tiny dogs need only tiny training treats. Otherwise, you’ll have a not-so-tiny dog in no time. Anything more than, say, a treat the size of a quarter of a pea, is too big. You can buy or make treats to break into very small pieces; you can also use your dog’s regular food as treats.
  6. Regularly exercise your dog — Daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes of consistent aerobic activity, will help your pet burn fat and increase muscle tone.
  7. Evaluate your dog monthly — If she is losing weight, adjust calories. If she is gaining weight, adjust calories.
  8. Small and toy breeds are prone to dental disease because 42 teeth in one tiny mouth leads to crowding, and crowded teeth get dirtier faster. A raw diet and recreational raw bones or nontoxic dental chews will help keep plaque and tartar under control, but small breeds also need to have their teeth brushed daily, as well as routine veterinary dental exams.

The key to keeping your small dog healthy has nothing to do with offering “wee” or “mini” sizes of biologically inappropriate pet food. Help your little one stay at a healthy weight and nutritionally fit with a high animal protein, moisture rich diet fed in controlled portions, and augmented with plenty of physical activity.

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5 Questions to Ask Before Saying ‘Yes’ to Expensive Surgery

5 Questions to Ask Before Saying ‘Yes’ to Expensive Surgery

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Some of the most difficult decisions we make as pet parents involve the treatment and ongoing care of an animal companion who is seriously ill or incapacitated.

Veterinary medicine is evolving in terms of new treatments, but just because a treatment is available doesn’t mean it’s appropriate in every situation. In fact, sometimes, refusing treatment is actually the best decision a person can make for their pet’s quality of life.

Asking the Right Questions

Receiving the news that a dog or cat is seriously ill or injured is extremely upsetting for most pet parents, but it’s important to keep your wits about you so that you can formulate the right questions to ask your veterinarian.

At a minimum, you need to know what’s wrong with your pet, the extent of the illness or injury, what treatment options are available and associated costs, and the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each type of treatment.

Armed with this information, I recommend you take a day or two to think things over and write down any additional questions or concerns that arise. This is also a good time to consider a second opinion, perhaps with a specialist such as a veterinary cardiologist, oncologist, or surgeon, depending on what’s wrong with your pet. Questions to ask yourself as you contemplate your pet’s treatment options:

  • What is in the overall best interests of my pet? This is a gut check to ensure it’s your pet’s interests and not your own that remain your primary focus.
  • How difficult will treatment be for my pet? If, for example, your cat is stressed out by car rides and veterinary visits, a course of treatment that requires lots of both will add to her discomfort and anxiety.
  • Will the recommended tests and treatments change my pet’s outcome? Unfortunately, sometimes “doing everything possible” in terms of diagnostic tests and treatments delivers no benefit whatsoever beyond helping pet parents feel they “did everything possible.”
  • Will the treatment offer my pet an improved quality of life? This is arguably the most important consideration.
  • What can I realistically afford in terms of financial and time commitments?

Planning Ahead

Preparation is priceless. I recommend establishing treatment boundaries before you find yourself in a situation in which your emotions are running high and you’re more apt to make decisions you may later regret. Some of the situations below are extremely difficult to contemplate, but whenever possible, it’s best to do so with a clear head. Things to consider:

  1. How will I pay for my pet’s treatment? You can find information on pet health insurance, other options to pay for pet care, and preventive care tips in my article One of the Most Neglected Aspects of Pet Ownership.
  2. How far will I go with treatment for my pet? Generally speaking, it makes little sense to put an elderly pet through a course of treatment (e.g., an amputation, back surgery, or removal of a major organ) that probably won’t improve and may even detract from his quality of life.
  3. How many invasive procedures will I allow my pet to undergo? Set an “invasiveness tolerance level” for your animal based on your own feelings and beliefs — your wise inner voice. For example, an ultrasound is a three-dimensional image taken with an external device that is entirely non-invasive but could be stressful for your pet.

Exploratory surgery, on the other hand, is the definition of invasive. Your pet will be put under general anesthesia, opened up, and her internal organs explored. If you’re unwilling to put your pet under the knife but you’re okay with an ultrasound, write it down so you know in advance how you feel about invasive procedures.

  1. How far will I let my pet be pushed? This involves assessing your pet’s individual stress tolerance level. If you must pack your elderly housecat off to an emergency clinic with dozens of barking dogs, bright lights, odd smells and strange people, it can be overwhelmingly stressful for her.

In such a case, you may decide not to put her through certain procedures — even if they’re warranted and you’d prefer they be done — because you know she’ll very likely have an emotional meltdown simply from the stress of the situation. Identify your pet’s stress threshold and make a decision ahead of time not to go beyond it.

  1. How do I feel about resuscitation and other end-stage issues? If your beloved pet slips into a coma at an emergency animal hospital, do you want the staff to perform CPR, or are you prepared let him go? If you want your pet saved at all costs, will you be able to manage a critically ill animal, perhaps on life support?
  2. How do I feel about euthanasia? Sort out your thoughts and feelings about euthanasia. Think about whether you agree in principle with it. If you must euthanize your pet, would you want it done at home? Which family members would be involved? How about your children, if you have any, and other pets?
  3. How do you want your pet’s remains handled upon death? Do you want to take her home for burial? Would you like her cremated and the ashes returned to you? Or would you prefer to leave the remains at the clinic for disposal? Try to give the situation some thought before the time arrives. Only you know what’s best for your pet, and for you and your family.

Taking Care of Yourself While You Care for Your Pet

Sharing your life with a pet brings immeasurable amounts of joy and unconditional love, but when your pet becomes ill, caring for him can take a toll on your mental health. Researchers assessed what they called “caregiver burden” in 238 owners of a dog or a cat.

It’s well known that caregivers of human patients facing a chronic or terminal illness experience heightened levels of stress, depression and anxiety, so the researchers set out to determine if the same held true for pet caregivers.

As you might suspect, the answer is yes. Compared to owners of healthy animals, the results showed greater burden, stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as poorer quality of life, in owners of pets with chronic or terminal disease.1 In turn, the feeling of higher burden was linked to reduced psychosocial functioning.

It’s important to remember that you can’t care for your pet unless you care for yourself first. Practice positive self-care, from eating right to getting enough sleep, and reach out for support when you need it.

For many, the emotional toll is the hardest part of caring for a sick pet, which is why expressing your thoughts and feelings is crucial.

You needn’t keep your emotions bottled up; what you’re feeling — perhaps failure, frustration, inadequacy or guilt — is valid and by sharing your thoughts — in a journal, with a friend or in a support group — you can ultimately move past them and let them go. The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) states:2

“We encourage you to reach out to like-minded individuals in your community and online who have experienced similar situations, and ‘get it.’ Look to your local animal shelters, veterinary association, and pet funeral homes for pet loss support groups. Human hospice programs in your community offer grief and bereavement services to the public (interview them for their views on pet hospice first).”

In addition, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with decisions and information regarding your pet’s illness, ask for explanations from your veterinarian, and realize that you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. If you need a moment to regroup, ask a close friend or family member to care for your pet so you can focus on stress relief.

“[T]he ability to think clearly will directly affect how effective you can be in your care for your animal companion,” IAAHPC notes. “Respite, or some time away from caregiving, can be important to your continued well-being.”

Despite the stress and, oftentimes, uncertainty, there can be great solace in being there for your pet when he needs you most. Sometimes, if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed the best thing you can do is to simply sit and be with your pet in the present moment.

As an alternative, consulting with an animal communicator, like Diane Weinmann, to obtain the wishes of your pet, along with signs that they will display if they are ready to transition into spirit and if they want assistance with that journey can also take the uncertainty of the situation away.

Take some deep breaths, practice mindfulness or meditation, and your calmness will likely be felt by your pet as well.

 

Got yourself a Door Dasher?

Got yourself a Door Dasher? 

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Many of you who have dogs or have friends or family with dogs are familiar with the phrase “door darting.” Door darting is what happens when an unrestrained, untrained dog spies an open door and dashes through it to parts unknown.

The frustrated owners of these dogs are uniformly desperate to get the situation under control. Not only is door darting dangerous, it can also be embarrassing when there’s a visitor at your door who witnesses your furry family member making his wild-eyed escape.

So why does your extravagantly well-kept canine companion, who wants for absolutely nothing, launch himself out open doors like he’s leading a prison break? In the words of certified dog behavior consultant and dog trainer Pat Miller, because it’s fun!

“The outside world can be endlessly reinforcing for a dog,” Miller writes in Bark magazine. “If you have an ‘investigate-and-sniff-everything-on-walks’ kind of dog, you know that from experience. The door-darter has also learned that dashing outside is a great way to get his couch-potato human to play with him — which is also very reinforcing.

Finally, if you’ve ever made the mistake of being angry at your dog when you finally got your hands on him, you’ve taught him that being captured makes good stuff go away (he doesn’t get to play anymore) and makes bad stuff happen (you yell at him).

Making good stuff go away is the definition of ‘negative punishment’ and making bad stuff happen is ‘positive punishment.’ Basically, he’s punished twice, and neither punishment is associated with the act of dashing out the door! Rather, both are connected with you catching him, which will make it even harder to retrieve him the next time he gets loose.”1

Profile of a Door Darter

Many canine escape artists are first and foremost in dire need of more physical exercise and mental stimulation. Often, they are high-energy breeds, or dogs who spend all day inside by themselves. Generally speaking, dogs who aren’t given sufficient opportunities to exercise and explore are much more likely to seek out those opportunities for themselves.

A dog who is well-exercised through structured activities (walking, running, hiking, playing fetch, trips to the dog park, etc.) is typically more relaxed and compliant than an under-exercised dog.

Another consideration is your dog’s breed and temperament. Some breeds naturally prefer to stick close to home and their humans, while others are more inclined to be adventurers. For example, certain dogs, including some terriers, were bred to work independently and at a distance from humans. Those dogs are more likely to feel the urge to dash out the door than dogs bred for companionship.

Breeds whose nature is to track and hunt wildlife (e.g., scenthounds and sighthounds) are also more likely to run out an open door to pursue an enticing smell or a small animal.

Dangers of Door Dashing

The dangers for a dog running free through the neighborhood are countless. They include being hit by a moving vehicle, encountering an aggressive dog or wild animal, or getting lost, stolen, or picked up by animal control. There’s also the possibility a dog running wild could knock over a small child or an elderly person or run through a neighbor’s open door or backyard gate and cause a problem.

Unfortunately, most door darters, even after being scared or hurt during an escape, aren’t able to associate the act of running loose with the consequence of fear or pain. As soon as there’s another opportunity to bolt through an open door, these dogs are in the wind once again.

The thrill the dog gets by running loose and having the opportunity to chase other animals (or people) provides instant reinforcement and self-reward for the behavior.

Taking Action: First, Get Your Dog Back

Just as preventing your dog from darting out the door is easier said than done, so is retrieving him in many cases.

“An accomplished door-darter is often an accomplished keep-away player as well,” writes Miller. “Don’t chase your dog; you’ll just be playing his game. Play a different game. Grab a squeaky toy, take it outside and squeak. It may be counter-intuitive, but when your dog looks, run away from him, still squeaking.

If the dog chases you, let him grab one end of the toy. Play tug, trade him for a treat, then squeak and play some more. Let him follow you, playing tug-the-squeaky, into your fenced yard, then close the gate (or into your garage or house, if you don’t have a fence). Play more squeaky with him.”

If your dog happens to love trips in the car, Miller suggests asking him if he wants to go for a ride. Open the door, wait for him to jump in, and take him for short ride. If he loves taking walks or visits to the dog park, offer them instead. The idea is to propose an alternate activity he enjoys so you can get him back under your control.

Once you have him back, no matter how upset you are, do not punish him. Don’t yell, don’t even calmly read him the riot act. And don’t take him back inside immediately, Miller advises, because that’s punishment, too. Stay outside and play with him a while.

“I promise, if you punish him or march him sternly back into the house, he’ll be harder to catch the next time,” she writes. “Instead, happily and genuinely reinforce him with whatever he loves best.”

Needless to say, all dogs, and especially escape artists, should wear an up-to-date ID collar or tag at all times. If your dog is microchipped, make sure to keep his registration current in the microchip company’s database. Other methods for identifying pets include GPS tracking devices and permanent tattoos.

If you have a dog that is a genuine Houdini, I recommend you also safeguard him with a multitude of restraints. I always recommend that pets have a standard up-to-date ID collar or tag in addition to whatever other ID method you choose, since the easiest, fastest way for someone who has found your pet to find you, is to take a quick look at the contact info contained on his tag or collar.

9 Tips for Curbing Door Dashing

There are many different ways to train dogs to perform desirable behaviors. The steps listed below are among several that can be used to successfully teach your dog not to dash out open doors.

The most effective and humane training method, and the one I always recommend, involves setting your dog up for success, using positive reinforcement to train the behaviors you want to see more of, and ignoring (not punishing) undesirable behaviors.

With a door darting dog, the first order of business is to put an immediate and permanent stop to her ability to scoot out the door. This means gaining the cooperation of everyone in the household, and all visitors to your home.

  1. Doorknob rule — A technique many people use is the dog-doorknob rule. Everyone living in and visiting your home should be trained not to turn the doorknob until they know where the dog is and ensure she can’t get loose and get to the door. The door should never be opened until the dog is secure, which means confined in another room, on a leash someone is holding, or reliably following a verbal command to “stay” or “wait.”
  2. Secure the yard — If you have a fence around your yard or a driveway gate, make sure to close and even lock any access points so that in the event someone breaks the doorknob rule, you’ve got a second opportunity to recapture your escapee before she disappears down the street.
  3. Leash rule — Until your dog is trained not to run out the door, keep a leash on her at all times throughout the day when someone is due to enter or leave your home. If there tends to be constant activity at your door, it means your dog will be on leash most of the time in the beginning. Yes, this is a pain, but remember the goal is to put an immediate and permanent stop to her ability to bolt out the door.
  4. Before training sessions, take your dog out to relieve herself — Before attempting any at-the-door training, make sure your dog has an opportunity to relieve herself. If she really needs to go, she might wind up confused about what you want from her, since she’s accustomed to charging out the door to go pee or poop — an activity you normally encourage.
  5. Teach a “back” command at the door — While inside your home, grab some training treats and go to the door with your dog. As you open the door, tell her “back.” As you give the command, shuffle your feet forward toward her, which should cause her to back up to avoid being crowded.

When she backs up, immediately give her a treat. Repeat this exercise as often as necessary until she automatically backs up whenever the door starts to open.

  1. Teach a “wait” command at the door — Again, grab some treats, go to the door with your dog, and tell her to sit. Hold a treat close to her nose with one hand, tell her to “wait,” and open the door with the other hand. If she stays still, give her the treat and lots of praise. If she dives for the door, close it, tell her to sit again, and repeat the exercise. Continue training the “wait” command until she sits and waits at the door reliably.
  2. Teach “back” and “wait” at every door — Don’t assume once your dog is consistently following “back” and “wait” commands at one door that she’ll do the same at another door. Habituate her to the behavior at all entrances to your home by practicing at each door a couple of times a day.
  3. Introduce distractions — Once your dog is reliably obeying your commands at each door, clip on her leash, grab some treats, and begin introducing distractions so that you can teach her to pay attention to you in a distracting environment.

For example, have people arrive at the door to greet you while she waits beside you. Bring her to the door for package or mail deliveries. Ask a neighbor or friend with a dog to stand on the sidewalk or curbside in front of your house and open the door so your dog can see them.

  1. Never let your guard down — Preventing escapes and training your dog to behave properly at the door should extinguish most door-dashing behavior. However, it’s impossible to extinguish your pet’s natural curiosity, nor would you want to. So, it’s important to never let your guard down when it comes to your adventurous canine companion and open doors.
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