Perks of Owning a Pet -October 31, 2012

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Perks of Pets Infographic

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Halloween Safety Tips for your dog – October 24, 2012

The ASPCA has published these important safety tips and recommendation for your dog on Halloween.

Please review since Halloween can be a dangerous day for your dogs, both physically and emotionally.

Top 10 Safety Tips for Pet Parents

Attention, animal lovers, it’s almost the spookiest night of the year! The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying “trick or treat!” all the way to November 1.

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.

3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you

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Teaching Your Dog to Focus on You – October 17, 2012

• Plan ahead. Know which exercise you’ll be training and be prepared to promptly and effectively deliver that reward when your dog produces the desired behavior. You miss a learning opportunity and your dog’s focus is dissembled when you send changing body signals to your dog by rooting around in your pockets for a food reward, or trying to untangle a something from your belt.

• Orchestrate success. Introduce early focus-building exercises in a quiet environment without distractions. As your dog develops its focus skills, incrementally transition the exercises to more stimulating environments. Key the training environment to your dog’s focus skill level with an appropriate progression over time from a distraction-free environment to a highly stimulating one. Prematurely expecting or demanding too much of the dog will set the scene for failure for the dog, for you, and for the overall training.

• If you are using a ball/toy/tug reward in your training, identify the one that is most favored by your dog and reserve it for training purposes only. Don’t allow your dog to have access to this favored item during idle moments, in the crate, for puppy teething/chewing, etc.

• Avoid displaying the reward visibly in your hand, and inadvertently making it the primary object of your dog’s focus. A tug can be tucked into your waistband, a ball in your pocket, or food kept out of sight in a pouch at your side, until needed for reward purposes.

• Keep it up close and personal. Use a leash length that keeps the dog in close physical proximity to you. When using a toy reward in the training, keep it close to your body. A ball on a short leather lead, or a tug with handle, will provide an outstanding reward while keeping the dog physically close to, interacting with, and focused on, you.

• Make your dog’s play time fun and exciting one-on-one interaction with you. Allowing your dog to spend all of its recreational time with other dogs or other people will diminish your position as the most interesting, rewarding, and desired prize in the universe. Allowing your dog to regularly run freely with other dogs, either at home or at an off-leash park, is squandering time, energy, and focus better spent with you in constructive play in training.

• Familiarize yourself with the basics of Operant Conditioning and develop your own method of precisely marking desired behaviors (e.g. clicker, vocalization) and rewarding appropriately (e.g. food, toy, praise, release). Build the intensity and duration of your dog’s focused obedience by incrementally extending the period of time between (a) marking the correct response to your command, and (b) rewarding it.

• Maintain consistency in your total body language, hand signals, and verbal commands. The more precise and unambiguous your communications, the less unwanted distractions to potentially diminish your dog’s sensory awareness of and focus on you.

• Deliver a clear and consistent command to mark the end of a focused obedience exercise. “Okay”, “Break”, “Release”, and “Free” or “Free Dog” are examples of unique release commands. The release command builds anticipation and focus by signaling the completion of a required behavior and releasing the dog physically and psychologically from the stressors of training. The release command can be supplemented with a reward, or it can be a reward in and of itself.

• Crate-train your dog and utilize its time in the crate for resting periods between training and play interaction. Allowing your dog to idle around the yard or house 24/7, especially in your absence, creates boredom and encourages the dog to identify alternate sources of stimulus and pleasure.

• Utilize moments of interaction with your dog as spontaneous training opportunities. Create the environment where your dog is earning each desired activity. For example, require a sit before allowing your dog access to his food bowl; a wait before going through the door into the house; a quiet before being allowed out of the crate or kennel; a teeth, ears, or toes command and examination before petting. Vary the required behaviors to maintain spontaneity and keep your dog alert and focused on you to hear, see, or feel your command.

• Create an attitude of purpose and direction in your daily walks. A purposeful, energetic walk with many turns and changes of pace and terrain will build the dog’s focus on you and secure its confidence in your leadership. A slow, lazy walk in a straight line will allow your dog to sniff and smell whatever strikes its fancy and encourage a head-down, indiscriminately scenting dog intent on ‘reading the newspaper.

• Employ the powerful effects of touch. Regular grooming and massage sessions with your canine partner are superb opportunities for bonding. The stronger the bond between you and your partner, the better the focus. Spending quiet, one-on-one time in close physical contact is relaxing and healthful for both you and your dog, and is the surest way to closely examine your dog from nose to tail tip to identify and treat minor health issues before they become major.

• Shape your dog’s behavior to await your explicit permission to sniff and greet other people or animals. Withhold that permission far more often than you grant it.

• Take control of the learning curve. Proactively create opportunities for your dog to successfully learn and develop desired behaviors and skills. When this is done correctly, you should be generating 500 opportunities to praise your dog for every one time you correct your dog.

• Less is more. A five-minute training session with an energetic, enthusiastic, highly focused dog and handler that concludes with a celebration of success will always be more productive than a 60-minute training session with progressively diminishing mental and physical resources that concludes in frustration and failure.

• At the end of every training or play session, leave your dog wanting more, more, more and enthusiastically looking to you to provide it!

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Housetraing Next Steps – October 10, 2012

With housetraining, its important to make the transition from your puppy eliminating outside just because you are taking him out vs. going out because he has the urge to go.

When you reach a plateau with your puppy you now must begin to move beyond simply confining the dog. Remember that confinement alone does not teach the dog anything, and it may not help the dog with any actual understanding of housetraining rules at all: your dog may go right in front of you – because she doesn’t understand that that is “wrong”. Confinement is simply a way to prevent the dog from going in the house when the owner can’t supervise, and a way to acclimate the dog to holding it too.

So – you now should begin to take that dog everywhere with you in the house, using a leash or dragline – that way you will see it when the dog gives any sort of signal that she needs to go, and then you can respond to it verbally and rush with her outside.

Now the dog will finally begin to get the idea that if she feels that physiological feeling of having to go, that she should rush outside. You should stop taking her out regularly and let it be a hit or miss of her going simply because you took her out. It must be that when she needs to go you will notice a sign and then she will get taken out. If she starts to go in the house, you will see it (because she will be on leash with you) and then you can respond with a negative marker (Uh uh! No! Outside!) and rush her outside praising all the while.

Why praise at that time? Because now she is doing the right thing, which is rushing outside! (No use in continuing to reprimand her on the way outside, that is already in the past and now it is being rectified.) Reward with 5-10 treats in a row after she goes outside.

The only time she should be confined is when you can’t supervise her. Obviously you need to understand too that she must not be out of your sight in the house, and that only when there have been no accidents for three weeks and when you notice that she is beginning to want to rush for the outside door on her own can you begin to give her more freedom being within your sight.

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Accept Reaching Hands and Touching – October 2, 2012

Many puppies and dogs can be ‘hand-shy’. Many owners do not notice these signs. If your dog backs up as you reach for him, or if he flinches at all, he is likely concerned when hands reach toward his head or neck. This can have negative impact for coming when called. Your dog is happy to come to you, but then you reach for him and he backs away and eventually does not come when called because he gets a perceived negative consequence.

This exercise will help hand shy dogs become more comfortable with being touched. It is important to begin practicing with familiar and accepted adults first. Again, keep in mind that your objective is not for the dog to merely tolerate, but rather to remain relaxed and enjoy the process, and that an inexperienced helper can get bitten if you proceed too quickly without making sure that the dog is truly accepting rather than merely tolerating the touching.

Goal 1: Relaxed Dog will accept face touch from owner and/or helper.
1. Reach toward dog, stop 6 in. from side of dog’s face, treat from other hand.
2. Repeat reach toward dog, stopping 3 inches from face, treat from other hand.
3. Repeat reach, stopping 2 inches from face, then repeat stopping 1 inch from face.
4. Lightly touch the side of dog’s face.
5. Repeat toward chin.


Goal 2: Relaxed dog will accept collar and body touch from owner and/or helper.
1. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the dog’s head with the other.
2. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the dog under the ear and on the ear.
3. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the side of the dog’s neck.
4. As you feed the dog with one hand, touch the collar.
5. As you feed with one hand, touch the dog’s chest, front legs, back, lower back, belly, down the back legs, the tail, and finally the paws.
6. Progress to touching from different positions and at different speeds.

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