Monday, June 12, 2017

Dealing With Food Aggression


Food aggression is a form of resource guarding in which a dog becomes defensive and uses threats, like growling, to force other animals or humans away from a food source. If not dealt with, it can lead to a bigger problem of being possessive of everything-- toys, beds, treats, food, ect... But, before I begin on the steps that dog owners can take to deal with a food aggressive dog, I should lay down a common ground rule for all dogs--> Humans (including, and especially, children) should never mess with a dog while its eating. This includes the common myth of making a dog eat out of it's bowl with your hand in it.

There are three levels of food aggression:
1. Mild-- a dog will show it's teeth and growl.
2. Moderate-- a dog will snap and lunge.
3. Extreme-- a dog will attempt to, and/or maybe succeed, at biting another animal or human.

If you are a dog owner that has a dog with extreme food aggression, your best measure is to get an expert to help you with the problem. Do not try to deal with it on your own.

Food aggression can stem from a dog trying to show it's dominance in a pack (aka the alpha male) OR it can be from a stressed out, high anxiety dog. As a dog owner, the first thing you need to recognize is why your dog is being aggressive. Is your dog trying to maintain rank in the pack? If so, then you, as the dog owner, must establish yourself as the leader in a calm, assertive way. If your dog is food aggressive from stress and anxiety, then you must teach your dog that food is safe and build up your dog's confidence level. Once the reason is established, you can move forward with desensitizing and counter conditioning your dog to associate humans (or other animals) being around the food as a positive experience. 

Signs of Food Aggression :
  • Hovering over the meal-- the body will be stiff with the head down. 
  • Whites of the eyes are visible
  • Ears are back 
  • Tail is lowered
  • Hackles rise
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Biting
*A food aggressive dog can show any or all of these behaviors. 

Steps To Take:
  • Be Consistent With Meals: A dog should not be "free fed" with a large bowl that they eat out of at all times of the day. There should be a designated meal time(s) at the same time(s) every day and once the meal is done, the bowls should be put away. If you have more than one animal, each pet should have it's own bowl. 
  • A Dog Should Work For It's Food: While you are preparing the meal, the dog should sit and stay outside of the room and remain at "stay" while the bowl is being set down on the floor. Your dog should only be able to eat once you have given permission with a command.
  • Pack Leaders Eat First: You, the dog owner, are the pack leader. Not the dog. Therefore, your dog needs to wait until you have eaten before he/she can eat. You dog should never be eating at the same time you are eating or before you have eaten.
  • Stay With the Bowl: Instead of the dog learning they win the food when you walk away, stay near them while they eat. This teaches your dog they win the food when you stay.
Three Addition Steps To Consider: 
  1. If needed, hand feed your dog it's meal one kibble at a time like you are giving a treat. You can also use your hands to put the food into the bowl so that your scent is on the food, but never actually stick your hand in the bowl while your dog is eating. 
  2. While the dog is eating, occasionally toss a really good treat into the bowl. The treat should be something your dog absolutely loves, but only gets during meal time. He/she will start to associate you being around the bowl as being a positive experience (the really good treat).
  3. Trade up during mealtime. The goal of "trading up" is to get your dog to stop eating and take food from you (again, using the really good treat). This teaches your dog that no one will steal his food if he looks up from his bowl.  
Food aggression is something that needs to be dealt with before it gets out of hand. It is a common problem many dog owners encounter. But, can easily be dealt with and remedied with patience and positive reward.




Monday, May 22, 2017

Canine Distemper and Rabies

Last week, I posted a link on Facebook about two Colorado dogs being tested positive for Rabies. This raises the questions: What is distemper? What is rabies? Is there a difference or are they the same thing?

Here I have broken it down for you in Layman's terms:


Please note: I did not put ALL the symptoms for rabies on my list. There are two different phases of rabies: Furious and Paralytic. The names pretty much describe the symptoms, both result in death.
PRE-EXPOSURE VACCINATION is the only thing that will protect your dog from rabies and distemper. If you think you (or your dog) have been bitten by a rabid animal, wash the wound with soap and water for about 15 minutes immediately. The Rabies virus is very fragile and will most likely be killed by the soap and water before it travels through your body to the brain. BUT, you still need to call your local doctor/ veterinarian for post-bite treatment and protocol.  You don't want to mess around and take chances. There is a Post-bite vaccination for humans, but not for domestic animals. If your dog is not vaccinated, he/she will have to be placed in quarantine for approx. 6 months and normal vaccination protocol will be administered. If your dog shows signs for rabies, euthanization will take place. A diagnostic test for rabies involves taking tissue samples of the brain from at least two locations and requires the animal to be euthanized. Distemper cannot be transmitted to humans. There are two types of distemper: Feline and Canine. Canine distemper cannot be passed to felines and vice versa. Rabies on the other hand, can be passed to any animal including humans.   

Reference:

World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/

Pet Education.com, Rabies in Dogs: Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and vaccination: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2102&aid=347

Pet Poison Helpline, Distemper and Rabies: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/uncategorized/distemper-and-rabies/

Monkeysee.com, YouTube video series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBn385Mun6A

Remedy's Health Communities, Rabies: Signs and Symptoms: http://www.healthcommunities.com/rabies/symptoms.shtml 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Caring for Client Animals with Potential Exposure: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/veterinarians/potential_exposure.html

Monday, May 15, 2017

How To Stop Your Dog From Barking in Four (patient) Steps


Whether it's the mailman, the neighbor walking his dog by your fence or a deer in your back yard, excessive dog barking can bring anyone down to their knees in frustration. Here are four steps you can take to bring a little peace and quiet into your home:

  1. Make sure your dog is exercised. A lot of doggy mischief can be avoided by simply making sure your dog is properly exercised, mentally and physically. When your dog has extra energy, he needs to find an avenue to release it. He's bored! This results in behaviors we owners may not find endearing. By making sure your dog is getting physical and mental exercise everyday, you are releasing that pent up energy and helping your furry friend live a balanced life. 
  2.  Stay Calm. You are not helping the situation by yelling "STOOOOPPPP!!!!" or "KNOCK IT OFF!". Remember, dogs do not speak human. If you are yelling at them, all they hear is you barking along with them. They think everyone is joining in on the fun! Instead, you can...
  3. Teach them the "Quiet Command". The first steps of this training seem quite counter intuitive, but trust me, with some patience you will see where I am going with it: Step 1- When your dog barks, praise him and use the verbal cue "bark" as you give him a treat. This will allow him to start to associate the word "bark" with the action of barking. Step 2- When your dog stops barking, give him a different treat with the vocal cue "quiet". This will get him to associate the word "quiet" with the action of not barking. Step 3- Train, train, train with a lot of patience. Repetition is key. Training does not happen over night and takes a lot of diligence and patience. Only train your dog for about 15 minutes a day in 5 minute sessions. Otherwise, you risk over saturating your dog and stressing them out. Once the behavior is learned, practice it weekly in order to maintain the behavior. 
  4.  Desensitize your dog to whatever it is that is making him bark. For example, if it is the mailman, sit with your dog everyday the mailman comes and practice the quiet command while redirecting your dog to an incompatible behavior like laying on his bed or going to his kennel. 
You will notice that I didn't put in here to "remove the stimulus". Some people recommend doing things like closing the shades when people are walking by (if your dog barks at that) or bringing your dog inside if your dog barks at people walking by. I don't think that really helps all that much, because you are basically avoiding the situation instead of teaching your dog a positive behavior to associate with the situation. Plus, seriously, who wants to live their whole life with the shades down because you are afraid someone is going to walk by and your dog will start barking. That is giving your dog way too much control of the situation and leaving you kind of helpless. Instead, work with the situation. If your dog is barking at the walkers going by, sit there with your dog practicing the "quiet" command with an incompatible behavior. Or rally up your friends to purposely walk by so you can practice. It takes a lot of patience and diligence to have a furry friend in your family, but it also brings a lot of joy. Raising a canine companion will bring out a lot of positive traits in yourself that you had no idea you could foster.