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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dogs & Kids: Best of Friends?


  Bringing a dog into a family with small children is sometimes no easy task. I think that sometimes people have the wrong idea about the interactions between dogs and kids. On one hand, introducing a dog to children will help a child develop empathy, sense of responsibility, patience, and compassion. On the other hand it can turn into an accident waiting to happen.
  One of the practices I absolutely hate the most is giving puppies at Christmas time. This is a real bad idea on a number of levels. One is that you are showing the child that the dog is an object or a plaything and you really have to show the child that this is a living, breathing being. Secondly, most kids will become infatuated with the dog for about the first two weeks. Then, you guessed it, it becomes your dog. Oh sure kids are all gun ho at first, but after the novelty wears off, be prepared to take on all the chores and responsibilities yourself.
  Never mind training the dog, you have to train your kids on how to treat the dog, how to play with the dog and how to respect the dog. The kids have to learn that this is not just another stuffed toy.
  Not every dog is right for some kids and not every kid is right for some dogs. I say this over and over; you have to get a breed that fits in well with your family and your lifestyle. I would consult a canine professional for this. I would also invest in training both the dog and your kids. Do it together as a family. And you should adopt a “zero” tolerance policy for aggression of any kind. Whether it is directed at the dog from your kids or vice versa. Kids have to be taught, not to look directly into a dogs eyes. I recently did some work for a breeder and spoke to their client before they received the puppy. It was a very cute little puppy. I asked if there was a small child at home. I gave them a complete rundown on how they should interact. Of course they didn’t listen to a work I said. When they picked up the dog from the airport and brought it home, the 6 year old grabbed the dog right out of the crate (having just completed a 3 hour plane flight) and held it right up in his face. Can you guess what happened next? That’s right, you guessed it; the little puppy nipped his nose. The mother thought she just brought home Cujo. It was actually kind of funny.
  Also, you should probably look into a “low maintenance” breed of dog. Simply because taking care of kids is a full time job in itself. Adding a dog to the mix doesn’t make life any easier.
  When done correctly, bringing a puppy into a family can be a very rewarding experience. Just take your time, consult a canine professional and done correctly this can provide memories to your child that will last a life time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Rocky Road to Go


  Recently I have received several inquiries about a fairly common problem. A common problem that can prove to be fatal. I know first-hand of this. When Fritz, my miniature Dachshund was about a year old, he ate part of a rubber toy and got a blockage, requiring surgery. I almost lost him.
  The common problem of which I speak is eating rocks. That’s right rocks. Many dogs do this. Many dogs require surgery to remove them. Some don’t make it. Why do dogs do it? Like most behaviors there is a variety of reasons. Experts refer to this behavior as “pica”. Eating non-food items. The exact cause has never really been proven, but speculation points to several things. Boredom, anxiety, vitamin deficiencies, digestive tract abnormalities, attention getting, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  If you notice your dog vomiting, losing weight or having diarrhea bring him into your vet at once for x rays and evaluation. Also eating rocks can damage teeth, breaking and chipping them. Sharp rocks can cause bleeding in the mouth as well as throat and digestive tract damage.
  How can you prevent this? And how can you cure it, if your dog already has started this behavior? I hate to harp on this, but obedience training is always a starting point for many reasons. It builds confidence in the animal therefore reducing nervousness and anxiety. It also identifies who the leader in the pack is. My German Shepherd, Heidi, has been “Poison Proofed”. She will not take anything from strangers or anything she finds on the ground. I did this because she is my personal protection dog. She will only take rewards from me and if the food is in her dish.
  Another way is diversion. Set the dog up. Put out some rocks that they like and be careful the dog doesn’t get to any of them. When you see the dog start to go to eat a rock, give them something else like a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or some other kind of chew toy that they fancy.
  There are many chew toys out there. Be sure they are not too hard, or they will create excessive wear on their teeth. Rule of thumb, if you can drive a nail with it, it’s too hard. Kongs are great. Nyla bones come in many different harnesses. Make sure you pick the one that suits your dog the best.
  Teach the “leave-it” command. This can be helpful in many other areas as well as this one.
  Exercise. Nothing replaces good, longs walks. It’s good for them and it’s good for you. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog. When on your walk, bring along a favorite chew treat. If the dog goes to pick something up, give a good sharp “no”, show them the toy and then divert them to it, breaking their train of thought.
  Last but not least, consult with a good canine professional. Someone who is a trainer and behaviorist, to guild you through this time. If your dog does this, and you’re not sure how to deal with this, drop me a line and I’ll be glad to help.

The language of dogs

http://www.coloradosprings.com/articles/dog-16007-first-animal.html