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.
  • 0

 

The Most Common Dog Health Issue – Are You Doing Your Part?

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Dental disease remains the most common medical problem in dogs today, with the majority suffering some form of periodontal (gum) disease by the age of 3. The reason for this is most family dogs don’t eat the kind of food that helps keep their teeth clean.

In addition, most dogs don’t receive regular home and/or professional dental care, and they don’t show signs of discomfort or pain until there’s a significant problem in their mouth.

Unfortunately, the risk of painful mouth conditions — in particular, gum disease, tooth resorption and oral cancer — is dramatically increased for older dogs. This means that for your senior or geriatric pet, proper dental care is especially important.

Oral Disease Can Set the Stage for Heart Disease

When plaque isn’t removed from your dog’s teeth, it collects there and around the gum line and within a few days hardens into tartar. Tartar sticks to the teeth and ultimately irritates the gums. Irritated gums become inflamed — a condition known as gingivitis.

If your dog has gingivitis, the gums will be red rather than pink and his breath may be noticeably smelly. If the tartar isn’t removed, it will build up under the gums, eventually causing them to pull away from the teeth. This creates small pockets in the gum tissue that become repositories for additional bacteria.

At this stage, your pet has developed an irreversible condition, periodontal disease, which causes considerable pain and can result in abscesses, infections, loose teeth and bone loss.

When periodontal disease is present, the surface of the gums is weakened. The breakdown of gum tissue allows mouth bacteria to invade your pet’s bloodstream and travel throughout his body. If his immune system doesn’t kill off the bacteria, it can reach the heart and infect it.

Studies have shown that oral bacteria, once in the bloodstream, seem able to fight off attacks by the immune system. What many pet parents don’t realize is there’s an established link between gum disease and endocarditis, which is an inflammatory condition of the valves or inner lining of the heart.

Researchers also suspect certain strains of oral bacteria may lead to heart problems. Some types of bacteria found in the mouths of dogs produce sticky proteins that can adhere to artery walls, causing them to thicken. Mouth bacteria are also known to promote the formation of blood clots that can damage the heart.

How quickly these events take place depends on a number of factors, including your dog’s age, breed, genetics, diet, overall health, and the frequency and quality of dental care he receives. It’s also important to realize that some pets will require regular professional cleanings even when their owners are doing everything right in terms of home care.

Why Dental Procedures to Treat Moderate to Severe Oral Disease Require Anesthesia

Veterinary dental cleanings for dogs with moderate to severe oral disease require general anesthesia, because a truly thorough oral exam and cleaning (and extractions, if needed) can’t be accomplished on a pet who is awake. It’s dangerous to use sharp instruments in the mouth of a conscious animal, and needless to say, the procedure is very stressful for the pet with significant oral disease.

Prior to the oral exam and cleaning, your pet will undergo a physical exam and blood tests to ensure she can be safely anesthetized for the procedure. The day of the cleaning, she’ll be sedated, and a tube will be placed to maintain a clear airway and so that oxygen and anesthetic gas can be given.

An intravenous (IV) catheter should also be placed so that fluids and anesthesia can be administered as appropriate throughout the procedure and your pet should be monitored by sophisticated anesthetic monitoring equipment. Make sure your veterinarian does both these things.

If you’re wondering why pets require general anesthesia and intubation for a seemingly simple procedure, there are a number of benefits:

·         Anesthesia immobilizes your dog to ensure her safety and cooperation during a confusing, stressful procedure

·         It provides for effective pain management during the procedure

·         It allows for a careful and complete examination of all surfaces inside the oral cavity, as well as the taking of digital x-rays, which are necessary to address issues that are brewing below the surface of the gums that can’t been seen and could cause problems down the road

·         It permits your veterinarian to probe and scale as deeply as necessary below the gum line where 60% or more of plaque and tartar accumulate

·         Intubation while the patient is under general anesthesia protects the trachea and prevents aspiration of water and oral debris

What Actually Happens During Your Dog’s Dental Cleaning

While your pet is anesthetized, her teeth will be cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler as well as a hand scaler to clean under and around every tooth. Your veterinarian will use dental probes to measure the depths of the pockets in the gum around each tooth, and x-rays should be taken.

Most vets use digital technology now, so you don’t have to panic about overwhelming radiation exposure from dental x-rays. Digital x-rays are important because they identify issues we can’t see externally.

I’ve had patients require a second anesthesia and dental procedure within several months of the first, because x-rays were refused, and a retained baby tooth or festering tooth root infection wasn’t caught on the first go-round. The only way to know what’s happening below the crown of the tooth is to check by taking a digital x-ray.

Once all the plaque and tartar are off the teeth, your dog’s mouth will be rinsed, and each tooth will be polished. The reason for polishing is to smooth any tiny grooves on the teeth left by the cleaning so they don’t attract more plaque and tartar. After polishing, the mouth is rinsed again.

Average Costs for Canine Dental Procedures

The cost of veterinary dental procedures is influenced by a number of factors, including where you live, and the degree of disease involved. Some veterinary practices bill for dental work according to the type of procedure performed, while others price their services based on the time it takes to complete a procedure.

An oral exam, x-rays and cleaning with no tooth extractions usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Average costs range from around $300 to $1,000, plus x-rays at $150 to $200. Veterinary dental specialists often charge more.

It’s important if you comparison-shop to ensure quotes on the low end don’t involve skimping on important items that help ensure your dog’s safety, such as pre-op screening, IV fluids, x-rays, and certified veterinary technicians. Ask for itemized quotes.

Extractions are typically priced according to the type of tooth and the time and work needed to remove it. There are simple extractions that can run as little as $10 to $15, elevated extractions that can average $25 to $35, and extractions of teeth with multiple roots, which tend to be the priciest — up to $100 in some cases.

Root canals are commonly priced by the root. A root canal on a tooth with three roots can range from $1,000 to $3,000, hence most owners opting for extraction.

Tips to Help Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Healthy

·         Feed a nutritionally balanced, species-specific, fresh food diet, and feed it raw if possible. When your dog gnaws on raw meat, it acts as a kind of natural toothbrush and dental floss.

·         Offer recreational bones and/or a fully digestible, high quality dental dog chew to help control plaque and tartar. The effect of dental chews is similar to raw bones, but safer for power chewers or dogs who have restorative dental work and can’t chew raw bones.

·         Brush your pet’s teeth, preferably every day. If every day is too tall an order, commit to do it several times a week. A little time spent each day brushing your dog’s teeth can be tremendously beneficial in maintaining her oral health and overall well-being.

·         Perform routine mouth inspections. Your dog should allow you to open his mouth, look inside, and feel around for loose teeth or unusual lumps or bumps on the tongue, under the tongue, along the gum line and on the roof of the mouth. After you do this a few times, you’ll become aware of any changes that occur from one inspection to the next. You should also make note of any differences in the smell of your pet’s breath that aren’t diet-related.

·         Arrange for regular oral exams performed by your veterinarian. He or she will alert you to any existing or potential problems in your pet’s mouth, and recommend professional teeth cleaning under anesthesia, if necessary.

Daily homecare and as-needed professional cleanings by your veterinarian or dental professional are the best way to keep your pet’s mouth healthy and disease-free. They’re also important for dogs with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.

Ear’s have it!

Ear’s have it!

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Otitis externa is the medical term for inflammation or infection of the outer ear canal, and unfortunately, recurring ear problems are very common in dogs. In my experience, many stubborn ear infections have been treated (often repeatedly), but never actually resolved. I also suspect many veterinarians don’t emphasize the importance of routine ear maintenance to dog parents, so many dogs end up with recurrent ear infections because their humans wait for problems to occur, then try to address them after the fact.

There are two primary causes of ear problems in dogs: chronic inflammation, and infection. Untreated inflammation can lead to infection. If your dog’s ears are warm to the touch, red, swollen and/or itchy, but there’s little to no discharge, chances are the problem is inflammation. However, if one or more of those symptoms is present along with obvious discharge, it’s usually a sign of infection.

Causes of Ear Inflammation

Allergies — The most common reason for ear inflammation in dogs is allergies. An allergic response to food or something in the environment can cause inflammation throughout your pet’s body, including the ears.

A dog with ear inflammation caused by an allergy will sometimes push his head along furniture or the carpet trying to relieve his misery. He may also scratch at his ears or shake his head a lot. If you see any of these behaviors, check his ears for redness and swelling.

Wax accumulation — A second major reason for ear problems is wax buildup. The presence of earwax is normal, but dogs have varying amounts. Some dogs need their ears cleaned daily, while others never have a buildup.

Certain breeds produce more wax than others, such as Labradors and other retrievers who tend to love the water. If you have one of these breeds, you should get your dog accustomed to having her ears cleaned while she’s a puppy. Other breeds, such as Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles can also produce an abundance of wax that needs regular attention.

Moisture in the ear — Another cause of ear inflammation is moisture, also known as “swimmer’s ear.” We see this primarily during the summer months when dogs are outdoors playing in lakes, ponds and pools.

Wet ear canals and a warm body temperature are the perfect environment for inflammation and/or infection to occur. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly dry your dog’s ears each time he comes out of the water, has been outdoors in the rain or snow, and after baths.

When Infection Follows Inflammation

Ear infections in dogs usually involve the outer canal, which is very deep. If the infection recurs or never really goes away, the condition progresses from otitis externa to chronic otitis. There are a number of things that can cause an infection in your dog’s ear, including:

·         Heavy, hanging ears

·         Excess glands in the ears that produce wax and sebum

·         Water that remains in the ear canal and creates a moist, warm environment perfect for growing bacteria or fungi

·         Foreign material in the ear, such as foxtails

·         Narrowing of the ear canal

If your dog has an ear infection, it’s very important to identify whether it’s a bacterial or fungal infection, or both, in order to successfully treat the problem. By far, the most common cause of fungal ear infections in dogs is yeast. Yeast is always present on the bodies of animals, but when the immune system isn’t in prime condition, the fungus can grow out of control and cause an infection.

Most dogs prone to yeast infections need to have their ears cleaned and dried frequently. If the problem seems chronic or there’s a persistent infection that just won’t clear up, there’s probably an underlying immunological cause that should be investigated. For much more information on yeast, including how to deal with yeasty ears, view my video and article on yeast infections in dogs.

Bacterial infections of the ear are actually more common than fungal infections. Bacteria are either pathogenic or nonpathogenic. Pathogenic bacteria are abnormal inhabitants of your pet’s body, picked up from an outside source, for example, contaminated pond water.

Non-pathogenic bacteria are typically staph bacteria that are normal inhabitants of your dog’s body. Occasionally these bacteria can overgrow and overwhelm the ear canal. Any normal, helpful bacteria can grow out of control and cause an infection in a dog with an underperforming immune system.

Insist on an Accurate Diagnosis of Your Dog’s Ear Infection

Veterinarians diagnose yeast infections with cytology, which means we look at a smear of the ear debris under a microscope. An accurate diagnosis of a bacterial ear infection requires an ear culture. Your veterinarian will swab your dog’s ear and send the sample to a lab to determine what type of organism is present, and what medication will most effectively treat it. Never let your veterinarian simply guess at what bacteria is causing your pet’s ear infection. Instead, ask them to find out.

It’s very important to finish the medication your veterinarian prescribes, even if your dog’s ear infection seems to clear up before the medication is gone. Stopping the medication early can lead to regrowth of resistant organisms. In addition, while your dog is being treated for an ear infection, be sure to keep his ears clean and clear of gunk so the topical medication you put into the ears can reach the infected tissue.

Treating a Bacterial Ear Infection

Unfortunately, these days more and more ear infection culture results are showing the presence of bacteria that are resistant to most conventional medications. These are cases in which complementary therapies are not only a last hope, but can provide highly effective, non-toxic relief.

One example: A 2016 study tested the effectiveness of manuka honey to treat bacterial ear infections in 15 dogs.1 Researchers applied 1 milliliter (mL) of medical grade honey in the dogs’ ears for 21 days. The results showed the honey “promoted rapid clinical progress,” with 70 percent of the dogs achieving a “clinical cure” between 7 and 14 days, and 90 percent by day 21.

In addition, the bacteria-killing activity of the honey worked against all bacteria species tested, including multiple strains of drug-resistant bacteria. It’s important to note that it doesn’t appear the antimicrobial activity of honey is enough on its own to resolve every ear infection. Most of the dogs in the study had complete symptom relief by day 21; however, several still had bacterial infections.

Another remedy for resistant ear infections that’s receiving a lot of attention is medicinal clay. Green clay has been shown to effectively treat a variety of bacteria that have been implicated in chronic ear infections, including pseudomonas and MRSA.2

How to Help Your Dog Avoid Ear Problems

If your dog is prone to ear problems or you want to make sure she doesn’t ever have to deal with them, develop the habit of checking her ears daily or every other day for wax, moisture, or other debris that has accumulated in the outer ear canal. If you’re consistent with your inspections, you’ll know soon enough how often your dog needs to be checked to keep her ears clean, dry, and clear of debris. The cleaning itself is simple, as long as you do it whenever the ears need it.

If they collect a lot of wax every day, they need to be cleaned every day. If they don’t produce much wax or other gunk you can clean them less often, but you should still check them every day and take action as soon as you see the ear canal isn’t 100 percent clean and dry.

If you think your dog might already have an ear infection, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian before you begin a cleaning regimen. In many cases an infection leads to rupture of the eardrum, which requires special cleaning solutions and medications. For healthy canine ears, a few of my favorite cleaning agents include:

1.    Witch hazel

2.    Organic apple cider vinegar mixed with an equal amount of purified water

3.    Hydrogen peroxide, a few drops on a cotton round dabbed in coconut oil

4.    Green tea or calendula infusion (using cooled tea)

5.    One drop of tea tree oil mixed with 1 tablespoon coconut oil (for dogs only — never cats)

6.    Colloidal silver

You should never use rubbing alcohol to clean your dog’s ears. It can cause burning and irritation, especially if the skin is inflamed. Use cotton balls or cotton rounds only to clean the inside of the ear canal. You can use cotton swabs to clean the outer area of the ear, but never inside the canal, as they can damage your dog’s eardrums.

The best method for cleaning most dogs’ ears is to saturate a cotton ball with cleaning solution and swab out the inside of the ear. Use as many cotton balls as necessary to remove all the dirt and debris. Just a few minutes spent cleaning and drying your pet’s ears as often as necessary will make a huge difference in the frequency and severity of ear infections, especially in dogs who are prone to them.

 

Canine Equivalent of Alzheimer’s – Can You Spot the Signs

Canine Equivalent of Alzheimer’s – Can You Spot the Signs

By Dr. Karen Becker

Just like you, your canine BFF is getting older, and unfortunately, it’s happening at a greatly accelerated rate compared to your own aging process. The good news is that the care you’ve lovingly provided your dog up to this point will go a long way toward ensuring she continues to thrive during her golden years.

Once your pet begins to show signs of aging, it’s important to focus on making her senior and geriatric life stages as happy, healthy, and comfortable as possible. One age-related condition that many older dogs develop is canine cognitive dysfunc­tion (CCD), which is similar to Alzheimer’s diseases in people and is the result of an aging brain.

Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction are found in 50% of dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 15, 68% display at least one sign.1 And because large and giant breed dogs age more quickly than smaller breeds, dogs as young as 6 can begin to experience mental decline.

Signs of Cognitive Decline in Older Dogs

There are five classic signs of cognitive decline in dogs:

·         Decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy

·         Decreased purposeful activity

·         Increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period·         Intermittent anxiety expressed through apprehension, panting, moaning or shivering

·         Loss of formerly acquired knowledge, which includes housetraining

Other symptoms include failure to respond to commands and/or difficulty hearing, inability to recognize familiar people and difficulty navigating the environment. Additional physical manifestations of CCD can include excessive licking, lack of grooming, fecal and urinary incontinence, and loss of appetite.

5 Ways to Help Your Aging Pet Stay Mentally Sharp

1. Offer your dog lots of opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation — Senior and even geriatric dogs still need daily exercise to maintain good health and physical conditioning.

While older dogs can’t exercise or compete with the same intensity as their younger counterparts, they still derive tremendous benefit from regular walks and other age-appropriate physical activity on a daily basis, or even better, twice daily. There are three types of strengthening exercises that can also be of tremendous help to aging canine bodies:

· Passive range-of-motion (PROM) exercises can benefit both incapacitated and physically healthy pets

· Balance and proprioception (spatial orientation and movement) exercises help older pets remain flexible while also encouraging improved balance and physical stability

· Targeted strengthening exercises are designed to work the big muscle groups that help with standing, walking and running

No matter how old your dog is he still needs regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. As is the case with humans as we age, if dogs don’t stay active and involved in life, their world can become a confusing, intimidating place. Your pet needs regular exposure to other pets and people, but never to the point of overstimulation. Short periods of socialization and playtime in controlled situations are ideal.

Food puzzle and treat release toys provide fun and a good mental workout, as does nose work and brief training sessions to refresh his memory or teach him a new skill.

2. Schedule regular senior wellness check-ups — I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for dogs getting up in years. Keeping abreast of your animal companion’s physical and mental changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early.

Ask your functional medicine veterinarian to perform a blood test, including an A1c test to check your pet’s internal organ and metabolic health to make sure you’re identifying possible issues early on. Keeping abreast of her physical and mental changes as she ages is the very best way to catch any disease process early.

Over-vaccinating is something older animals do not need, so advocate for your older dog by refusing additional vaccines and insisting on titer tests instead. A titer is a blood test that measures protective immunity. Chances are your dog is very well-protected. Switch to titering to help reduce her toxic load.

3. Minimize stress in all aspects of your dog’s life — Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize anxiety and stress in your older dog. Senior and geriatric dogs, especially those with CCD, are often disoriented, so sticking to a consistent daily routine your pet can count on can help him stay oriented, which will in turn reduce his anxiety. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, feed him at the same times, and go for walks on a set schedule.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages, insuring he remains comfortable and mobile. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, stretching, and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) can also provide enormous benefits in keeping dogs mobile in their later years.

Regular massage can help keep your senior dog’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for your pet to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage. It can ease the stiffness of arthritis, which helps him maintain his normal gait and active lifestyle. Massage also loosens the muscles around joints, which helps promote ease of movement.

If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside. You can also reintroduce him to a crate if he was crate trained initially. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for age-related incontinence.

If your dog has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like essential oils or pheromone products to help him find his way around. Also consider purchasing or building ramps if he’s having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair, and if he’s slipping or unsure on bare floors, add some runners, yoga mats or area rugs.

For sleep problems, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let him sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that may be contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, and when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and loving.

4. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate fresh food diet — A species-appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as krill oil and others such as MCT oil, is very important for cognitive health.

The best fuel for an aging dog is a variety of living, whole foods suitable for a carnivore. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates (which are just unnecessary sugar), as well as grains, potatoes and legumes. Replace those unnecessary carbs with extra high-quality protein. Eliminate extruded diets (kibble) to avoid the toxic byproducts of the manufacturing process.

Processed dog foods are manufactured in a way that creates byproducts that can affect cognitive health, including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Fresh, biologically appropriate foods provide the whole food nutrients your pet’s aging brain requires. The right diet will also support the microbiome, which has been linked to improved cognitive health in humans, and I’ve seen an improvement in dogs as well.

5. Provide beneficial supplements — When it comes to supplements, I typically recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics for all older pets. If your dog needs additional fiber in the diet, choose natural sources such as psyllium husk powder, ground dark green leafy veggies, coconut fiber, or canned 100 percent pumpkin.

I also almost always recommend an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as krill oil (my favorite), another fish body oil (but not cod liver oil), or algal DHA for pets who can’t tolerate seafood.

Most aging dogs can benefit from joint and antioxidant supplements such as glucosamine sulfate with MSM, cetyl myristoleate, egg­shell membrane, perna mussel (green-lipped clam), several homeopathic remedies, ubiquinol, supergreen foods, and natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs such as turmeric and yucca, proteolytic enzymes, SOD and nutraceuticals).

Is your Dog Depressed?

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Dogs may or may not suffer from depression in the same way humans do, but they definitely experience mood and behavior changes that are typically short-lived and the result of a recent event in a dog’s life.

Some dogs feel let down at the start of the school year when their playmates are no longer around. Often, an existing dog shows signs of sadness when a second dog is added to the family. Dogs who suffer the loss of a family member (human or pet) often go through a grieving period. And of course, many new canine residents at animal shelters suffer a period of sorrow and uncertainty.

The problem with diagnosing clinical depression (which is different from transient episodes of depressed behavior) is that even in humans, there’s no biological test to identify the condition. A physician makes note of symptoms and what the patient tells them about their feelings and arrives at an “educated guess” diagnosis.

Using our powers of observation you can determine if your animal companion is feeling blue. Generally speaking, when a vet or veterinary behaviorist describes a patient as depressed, the dog is displaying a change in normal behavior.  Dogs can talk with an animal communicator so please contact Diane at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you believe your dog is suffering from depression.

Possible Causes of Depression in Dogs

Lack of exercise — Some dogs actually become socially inhibited when they aren’t getting enough exercise and playtime. This can take the form of a decrease in interaction with other family members or choosing to isolate themselves in their crate or another room. If your normally happy dog suddenly isn’t, consider the possibility that she needs more exercise. A lot more daily exercise.

Most dogs need much more physical activity than their owners realize. Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.

Minimum exercise requirements prevent muscle atrophy, but don’t necessarily build muscle mass, strengthen tendons and ligaments, hone balance and proprioception, or enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is why more is always better. If you can provide your dog daily walks as well as additional daily training sessions to meet your other exercise goals, even better!

Lots of long smell sessions, as a part of your dog’s “cool down” period after exercise, is a fantastic way to let your dog meet her daily outdoor sniffing requirements, another important behavior that can provide tremendous mental enrichment. I believe sniffing isn’t just enjoyable for dogs, it’s a requirement for healthy cognitive stimulation.

Lack of human interaction — A healthy dog who is feeling depressed may lose interest in eating or playing, become destructive, have accidents in the house, or stop running to greet you when you come through the door. Like a sleepy, sluggish dog, a depressed pooch often just needs more quality time with his human.

Get into the habit of spending an uninterrupted hour with your dog each day engaging in physical pursuits, grooming rituals, training exercises, and good old belly rubs. It will lighten both your moods!

Punishment — Dogs who are punished for undesirable behavior instead of being rewarded for positive behavior may stop interacting with their owners in an attempt to avoid mistreatment. They adopt a depressive state of mind called “learned helplessness” because they feel powerless to avoid negative situations.

I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of positive reinforcement behavior training, not only to help your dog become a good canine citizen, but also to preserve and protect the all-important bond you share with him.

Undiagnosed medical problem — If your dog’s behavior changes, even if you suspect you know why, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Many changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, potty accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise and sudden aggressive behavior in a dog who has never shown aggression, can also be signs of any number of underlying medical conditions.

You’re depressed — Your dog is very sensitive to your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.

For example, when you’re in a situation that’s stressful to your dog, such as at your veterinarian’s office, she’ll look to you to help her calm down. If she senses tension in you, she’ll likely become even more anxious. Your dog is extremely intuitive; so, if you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if she seems depressed as well.

Loss of a human family member or pet — It’s not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person or animal friend they’re bonded with. Experts in animal behavior believe dogs feel the same basic emotions humans do, including grief, fear, anger, happiness, sadness, and even possessiveness.

When a dog is mourning a loss, depression is common. Signs of depression in dogs mimic those in people, and include sleeping more than normal, moving more slowly, eating less, and showing a limited interest in playing.

If your dog seems depressed at the loss of a person or animal he was close to, engage him in daily activities he enjoys, such as a walk, a game of fetch, or a trip to the dog park. It’s really a matter of distracting him with things he enjoys until sufficient time has passed and he’s no longer looking around every corner for the one who is now absent from his life.

And it’s best not to expect a quick fix. It can take from a few weeks to a few months before your dog’s depressed mood begins to lift. Planning several engaging activities each day during this time is the best way to help him out of his funk.

5 Tips for Helping a Depressed Dog

  1. Keep daily routines as consistent as possible — Pets do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next. Try to keep mealtimes, exercise, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime and other daily activities on a consistent schedule. Exercise is a powerful tool to help increase your pooch’s endorphins, or “feel good” hormones. Lots of walks (with plenty of opportunities to sniff) can be a powerful mood enhancer.
  2. Keep your dog’s diet and mealtimes the same and spice up the menu — It’s important to continue to offer him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day, but if you find your dog isn’t interested in eating much, consider offering a yummy knucklebone for dessert, or make a tasty treat for training time that he hasn’t had before.

Store what he doesn’t eat in the fridge and offer it to him again at his next regularly scheduled mealtime. Use his hunger to help him get his appetite back by resisting the urge to entice him with unhealthy food toppers.

  1. Use natural remedies, if needed — There are some excellent homeopathic and Bach flower remedies that can be easily administered to your depressed dog until you see an emotional shift for the better. Some of my favorites include homeopathic Ignatia, several Bach flower remedies including Mustard and Honeysuckle, and Green Hope Farm Grief and Loss. Diane can make a special blend of Bach Flower essences for grief and loss if your pet has experienced these issues.
  2. Be careful not to inadvertently reward your dog’s depression — It’s only natural to want to comfort your sad pet, but unfortunately, giving attention to a dog who is displaying an undesirable behavior can reinforce the behavior. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is reward a lack of appetite, inactivity or other types of depressed behavior in your dog. Instead, you want to help her over the hump.

A better idea is to try to distract her with healthy, fun activities that provide opportunities for positive behavior reinforcement. This can be a walk, short training sessions, a game of fetch, nose work or offering her a food puzzle toy or recreational bone.

  1. Give it time — Your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but eventually most pets return to their normal lively selves. If at any point you feel your pet is suffering unnecessarily or there is something more going on than a case of the blues, I recommend discussing the situation with your animal communicator, vet or a veterinary behaviorist.

 

Additionally there are essential oils that can lift the spirits of both humans and pets that can be used daily.  Contact Diane for recommendations and links to purchase these oils. Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

Cushing disease in Dogs

Cushing disease in Dogs

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Cushing’s disease is most often seen in dogs — especially Terriers, Poodles, Dachshunds and the American Eskimo/Spitz. It rarely occurs in cats.

The medical term for this condition is hyperadrenocorticism. Hyper means too much, adreno refers to the adrenal glands, and corticism refers to a syndrome involving the hormone cortisol. Simply put, hyperadrenocorticism describes a condition in which too much cortisol is released by the adrenal glands.

Overproduction of This Powerful Hormone Can Trigger a Cascade of Health Problems

In a healthy dog’s body, cortisol, known as the fight-or-flight hormone, is released in small amounts by the adrenal glands in response to perceived stress, so the dog can prepare to battle or run for his life. A release of cortisol also triggers a release of glucose from the liver. Glucose provides energy to the cells of the muscles used to fight or take flight.

Cortisol also impacts a number of other important functions in your dog’s body, including blood pressure, electrolyte balance, bone and fat metabolism, and immune function. Cortisol is secreted in response to any type of stress in your pet’s body; physical or emotional, short-term or long-term.

If for some reason your dog’s body up-regulates its demand for cortisol, the adrenal glands begin overproducing the hormone, which can lead to a state of toxicity. In dogs who experience chronic stress in any form, the adrenals release more cortisol than their bodies need.

This situation can result in a number of serious disorders, including elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes, elevated blood pressure that can result in heart and kidney disease, extreme hunger in response to lots of excess glucose being burned, thinning of the skin and coat, decreased muscle and bone mass, and increased risk of infection.

If your dog’s body is continuously overproducing cortisol, his immune function is compromised, which opens the door for infections anywhere in the body — especially the gums, eyes, ears, skin and urinary tract. If your dog has recurrent infections or a persistent infection, it’s possible too much cortisol is the cause.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

Most dogs have a few, but not all of the symptoms of the disorder unless diagnosis comes very late in the disease. Symptoms most commonly seen in dogs with early Cushing’s include:

Increased thirst and urination, which can lead to incontinence Bruising
Increased panting Hair loss
Abdominal weight gain (pot belly appearance), despite a reduction in calorie intake Irritability or restlessness
Thinning skin and change of skin color from pink to grey or black, symmetrical flank hair loss Much less commonly, rear limb weakness and blood clots

These symptoms are so diverse and can affect so many organs because every inch of a dog’s body contains cortisol receptors.

Typical or Atypical Cushing’s?

If your dog is diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism, it’s important to know which type of Cushing’s she has. Typical Cushing’s is either adrenal dependent or, much more commonly, pituitary dependent. About 85% of affected dogs develop the latter form, in which the pituitary gland sends too much stimulating hormone to the adrenals. The adrenal glands respond by over-secreting cortisol.

The remaining 15% of cases are adrenal dependent, in which a tumor develops in an adrenal gland and triggers an up regulation of cortisol production. It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to unintentionally trigger typical Cushing’s by prescribing a too-high dose of oral prednisone (synthetic cortisone), or a course of prednisone therapy that is too long in duration. If your dog has taken prednisone for any length of time, she’s predisposed to Cushing’s disease.

The atypical form of hyperadrenocorticism occurs when the adrenals overproduce aldosterone, a hormone that balances electrolytes in the body. Atypical Cushing’s can also result from an overproduction of sex hormone (estrogen, progesterone, and rarely, testosterone) precursors.

Diagnosing Hyperadrenocorticism Can Be Challenging

The actual diagnosis of Cushing’s is often complicated. It’s typically done with blood tests like the ACTH stimulation (stim) test and the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test. Both these tests require at least two blood draws to compare cortisol levels for a definitive diagnosis of Cushing’s.

When Cushing’s is confirmed, your veterinarian will want to determine if it’s pituitary or adrenal dependent. In my opinion, the best way to rule out an adrenal gland tumor is with a non-invasive ultrasound test. However, some vets prefer to do a third blood test called a high-dose dexamethasone suppression test.

Whichever method is used, it’s important not only to establish a definitive diagnosis for Cushing’s, but also to determine whether the form of the disease is adrenal or pituitary dependent.

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the disease is diagnosed only after it is full-blown and there’s no holding it back. Once a dog has full-blown Cushing’s, she will live with the disease for the rest of her life. It’s a horrible illness that can be managed in many cases, but never cured.

Many veterinarians tend to ignore repeated and progressive elevations in serum Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), one of the commonly elevated enzymes found on routine bloodwork, until several Cushing’s symptoms are present, or a pet parent becomes concerned that their dog is suddenly urinating in the house or losing her hair.

The better, proactive approach is to try to prevent the disease from taking hold. That’s why I recommend getting a copy of your pet’s yearly bloodwork results. Your pet should age with picture-perfect bloodwork, or there’s work to be done.

Never let a veterinarian tell you your pet’s abnormal bloodwork is “normal for their age,” as this means disease is taking place without anyone addressing it. If your dog’s ALP is two to three times higher than normal, ask your vet if your dog could be in the early stages hyperadrenocorticism.

The Importance of Catching This Disease Early

Most of the drugs currently available to treat Cushing’s disease have many undesirable side effects. It’s extremely important to discuss your concerns about possible side effects with your veterinarian. I recommend you do your own research as well.

I try to avoid using Lysodren and other potent Cushing’s drugs because in my opinion, the side effects are often worse than the symptoms the animal is dealing with. If Cushing’s drugs must be used, I prefer to use Trilostane, which has fewer side effects. Obviously, the goal is to catch the disease before high drug doses are required.

If, however, your dog requires drugs to manage full-blown Cushing’s, I recommend starting with the lowest possible effective dose, and using it in conjunction with a natural protocol to reduce potential side effects. Identifying pre-Cushing’s syndrome as early as possible and reducing your pet’s risk for full-blown disease is the approach I always recommend. Dogs don’t suddenly wake up with this disease — it happens over time.

Unfortunately, many conventional veterinarians ignore the early signs of adrenal dysfunction because they don’t know what to do about it until a dog fails the ACTH stim test. The problem with this approach is it takes months and sometimes years for an animal to be officially diagnosed with Cushing’s.

Waiting this long to take action often means waiting too long. I consider a dog to have pre-Cushing’s syndrome when he exhibits classic symptoms but is still able to pass the stim test. Often there are minor changes in bloodwork, for example, the UCC (urine cortisol:creatinine ratio) is slightly elevated, there are elevated cholesterol levels, and/or the elevation in ALP has been proven to be cortisol induced (your vet can check what fraction of ALP is coming from cortisol vs. other sources).

I’m able to reverse many pre-Cushing’s patients with nutraceuticals, Chinese herbs, homeopathics, nutritional therapy, and lifestyle management (reducing biologic and metabolic stress).

My advice is to be proactive by having your pet’s ALP level checked annually, which should be a part of a basic “wellness blood test,” along with a physical exam that evaluates muscle mass, coat condition, and an environmental stress assessment. Ask your veterinarian to establish baseline blood levels and address any elevation from the baseline through a screening test like the UCC or CiALP to determine if your dog’s body is over-secreting cortisol.

Never accept steroids prescribed for your pet unless they’re required to dramatically (and temporarily) improve quality of life (e.g., if your pet has acute head trauma and steroids are needed to control brain inflammation, etc.).

Having this information will help you better manage a pre-Cushing’s situation before it develops to full-blown disease. And don’t ignore symptoms. If your pet has consistent Cushing’s-type symptoms, no matter how minor, they are absolutely worth investigating for a possible endocrine or adrenal disorder.

It’s during the development of Cushing’s disease that many dogs are also over-prescribed aggressive traditional drug protocols for full-blown Cushing’s disease, often with disastrous results.

When these potent drugs are prescribed for mild adrenal dysfunction, the result is often an acute Addisonian crisis in which there are insufficient adrenal hormones necessary for normal physiologic function. A natural protocol to manage pre-Cushing’s is essential to avoid drug-induced hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s).

Prevention Tips

There are some common-sense steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of developing hyperadrenocorticism, including:

Feed a moisture rich, nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate anti-inflammatory diet to reduce biologic stress; this means eliminating all grains and carbohydrates from the diet, since carbs trigger insulin release and insulin triggers cortisol release
Exercise your dog daily to help combat stress and promote the release of endorphins
Instead of spaying or neutering, consider a sterilization procedure that leaves your dog’s testicles or ovaries in place; if that’s not possible, wait until your pet has reached his or her full adult size, and in the case of females, after the first and preferably two estrus cycles
Minimize your pet’s exposure to xenoestrogens
Investigate adaptogenic herbs and adrenal-supportive natural substances like magnolia (rhodiola), ashwagandha, and phosphatidylserine
Address abnormal hormone levels early on with natural support, such as melatonin, DIM, glandular therapies and high lignan flax hulls

 

 

 

How your dog’s size and shape influences her behavior

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

A study published in 2013 by researchers at the University of Sydney suggests that a dog’s size and the shape of his skull play a significant role in his behavior.1 Using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) as a data-gathering tool, the research team analyzed information on over 8,300 dogs of 80 different breeds and compared them to the shape of 960 dogs of those breeds.

Their results revealed a strong association between height, bodyweight, skull proportions (width and length), and behavior and concluded that smaller dogs show more aggression than their larger counterparts.

“[In] the most comprehensive study undertaken to date, our research shows that certain physical characteristics in dogs are consistently associated with certain types of behavior,” lead study author Paul McGreevy, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science told Phys.org. “Essentially, the shorter the dogs the less controllable their behavior is for their owners.”2

33 of 36 unwanted behaviors were size-related

The researchers found that as the height of the dogs decreased, there was an increase in the incidence of mounting behavior, owner-directed aggression, begging for food and attention-seeking. In contrast, increasing height was associated with trainability. Another finding: When average body weight decreased, excitability and hyperactivity increased. The study revealed that 33 out of 36 undesirable behaviors were associated with a dog’s height, body weight and the shape of her skull. Some of these included:

Begging for food Urine marking
Fear of other dogs Peeing or pooping when left alone
Non-social fear Separation anxiety
Attention-seeking Sensitivity to being touched
Mounting people or objects Aggression toward owner

Additional revelations about dog size and behavioral tendencies

Another interesting insight from the study was that while long-skulled dogs (e.g., Afghans, Salukis and Whippets), excel at hunting and chasing behaviors, they also tend to display certain negative behaviors, including fear of strangers, persistent barking and stealing food.

“Given hunting dogs have not traditionally been companion animals sharing close quarters,” said McGreevy, “this may not be surprising.”

Short-skulled dogs like the Pug and Boxer — breeds that have undergone, and in many cases suffered generations of selective breeding to further “enhance” their pushed-in faces — tend to display more puppy-like behaviors as adults. They also seem to have completely abandoned many of their hunting instincts. Some additional observations from the study:

Unwanted behaviors increase as the size and height of a dog decrease.
Dogs with short muzzles engage in more grooming and compulsive staring.
Smaller breeds, especially terriers, showed more stranger-directed aggression. The researchers wonder if terriers were selected for aggressiveness because their job at one time was to chase and hunt underground prey. It could be that smaller breeds with short legs have inherited aggression.
Smaller dogs engage in more attention-seeking behaviors — which are linked to jealousy and territorialism — during times when their owner is paying attention to someone else.
Larger breeds descended from smaller breeds that were meant as companion dogs may have behaviors that are at odds with their body size.
Lightweight breeds are more apt to be excitable, hyperactive and energetic compared to breeds with heavy bodies.
Coping behaviors in response to stress, such as fly-snapping, are related more to a dog’s weight than height. The shorter and stockier the dog, the greater the tendency to display coping behaviors.
Obsessive tail-chasing isn’t linked to size or breed, nor is coprophagia (poop eating), chewing or pulling on leash.

Owners tend to tolerate and even encourage bad behavior in small dogs

In drawing conclusions from their research, the University of Sydney team considered the fact that dog owners may be more tolerant of undesirable behavior in smaller dogs, which may in turn result in increased behaviors such as excessive barking, nipping, eliminating indoors, begging, separation anxiety and attention-seeking.

The researchers speculate that owners of small dogs may encourage undesirable behaviors and predispose their pets to separation anxiety, puppy-like behaviors, mounting and begging. The tendency to keep small dogs indoors and under-exercised may also be contributing factors.

“Undesirable behaviors such as owner aggression, or mounting, occur more often among small dogs. This suggests that, in small dogs, these behaviors are tolerated more than they would be in larger dogs where such behaviors are more unwelcome and even dangerous. Equally, such behaviors in small dogs may be a result of their being overindulged and over-protected,” McGreevy explained.

Another consideration is that smaller breeds are known to be more reactive, neurologically, to stimuli in their environment than larger dogs, who tend to be more laid back.

“These findings … remind us that domestic dogs are an extremely useful model for exploring the biological forces that produce diverse animal structures and their related behaviors,” says McGreevy. “The interaction of nature and nurture in producing the relationships we have described in this study creates a raft of fascinating questions that further studies will address.”

Tiny terror training tips

If you’re a small dog parent and the above study findings resonate with you, there’s no time like the present to help your little one become a better canine citizen. Training a small dog is really no more difficult than training a large one — you just need to make a few accommodations for size.

  1. Stand small — Towering over a dog is intimidating when the animal hasn’t yet learned human body language and vocal tones. And the smaller the dog, the more overwhelmed she can feel in the presence of a big hulking human.

So, when training your little one, until she’s had some experience reading your signals, be sure to show her welcoming eyes, small movements and a soft voice. Don’t deal with her “head on” immediately. Turn slightly to the side and get down close to her level instead of looming over her.

  1. Use small training treats — Tiny dogs need only tiny training treats. Otherwise, you’ll own a not-so-tiny dog in no time. Anything more than, say, a treat the size of a housefly, is too big. You can buy or make treats to break into very small pieces; you can also use some of his regular food, subtracted from his meals, as treats.
  2. Train on her level — Training a small dog from a standing position can be merciless on your back, and the last thing you want is to be in pain when you’re trying to focus on molding your pet’s behavior. Initially you should sit on the floor not only to save your back, but also to appear less intimidating.

Other ways to do training exercises include sitting on a low stool or chair or moving your dog to a comfortable raised surface such as a table or bed.

  1. Use tiny toys and training tools — Your small dog needs a lightweight collar, harness and leash. Generally speaking, leather and chain collars and leashes aren’t a good idea for little guys. I always recommend harnesses for small dogs to avoid neck injuries. Some very small dogs have incredibly fragile necks. And just as his treats should be an appropriate size, so should your small dog’s toys and other supplies like food and water bowls, crate, etc.
  2. Teach your dog a verbal “lift-off” cue — Small dogs are often startled to be suddenly lifted off the ground by a human. If you put yourself in her place, imagining at any moment you will lose the ground beneath your feet, you can see why this is a stressful event. That’s why it’s good to train your dog with a verbal cue that signals you’re about to pick her up. Just make it a simple one-word signal.

To train her to the cue, put your hands on her, say the word and apply just a bit of pressure without actually lifting her. This gives her time to understand she’s about to be lifted. When you know she’s aware you’re about to pick her up, go ahead and do so. Consistent use of the cue will help her learn to prepare for “lift off.”

  1. Respect his smallness — Little dogs can be difficult to train to lie down – and there’s a good reason for it. Your pet is already small and vulnerable, and he knows it. When he’s lying on the floor, he’s even smaller and more vulnerable. He’s also likely to be more sensitivethan a bigger dog to cold, hard or rough surfaces. So, train your little guy to lie down using a soft, raised surface. He’ll feel less threatened and comfier.
  2. Give your little dog some space — As much as possible, your dog should be allowed to meet new people and dogs on her own terms. Picking up a shy or frightened small dog to force an introduction removes her ability to keep her distance if she needs to. So, leave her on the ground, and respect her wishes. If she seems skittish or unfriendly, don’t force the issue. This may be an area where extra work is needed to properly socialize your pet.
  3. Set big dog standards for your small dog’s behavior — If you wouldn’t allow a 70-pound dog to jump up on you, don’t accept the behavior from your little one. Reward only desirable behavior and ignore behavior you want to extinguish. Little dogs can learn to sit and stay just like the big guys do. The same goes for jumping up into your lap, charging out the door ahead of you or ripping treats from your fingers. Don’t accept rude behavior just because your pet is small.

Lastly, treat your little dog like a dog! He’s not a baby or a dress-up doll. He needs to be socialized, which means having lots of positive experiences with other dogs and people. He needs to be on the ground much of the time so he can learn how to climb stairs, get into and out of your vehicle, and move confidently on all kinds of terrain.