Sunday, January 24, 2016

What a Dog Trainer Can – and Can’t – Do For You


Being a dog trainer is an interesting profession, to say the least.  People have all sorts of reasons to need assistance with their dogs, and they have all sorts of great expectations as to what we can do for them.  Trainers can do a lot to help you turn your wild puppy or uncivilized adult dog into a great pet, but we can’t work miracles, at least not very often. 

We can advise you on how to house-train your young puppy, but we can’t teach him to “hold it” if you’re gone 12 hours at a time, or if you just can’t force yourself to use a crate or pen for training and you can’t keep an eye on him at all times.  We can help advise you on how to keep your puppy from destroying your home and belongings, but we can’t do much if you are unwilling to confine him when you can’t watch him.  We can help you develop good training skills so that you can include your dog in your daily activities, but we can’t force you to do the daily work it will take to get the job done.  This is a commitment – and you get out of it what you put into it. 

We can help you train and socialize your dog in group classes, but we can’t force you to do the homework necessary to make the most of your training.  If you are unable to come to classes, we can provide private training and give you all sorts of ideas on how to properly socialize your dog to other people and animals outside of your home, but we can’t turn him into a good citizen everywhere he goes if you won’t get him out and about.

We can help you help you avoid the problems of “Small Dog Syndrome” with your tiny pet, but we can’t do much if you can’t accept that he needs to spend some time off your lap.  We can help you with separation problems, but we can’t do much if you are unable to follow the sometimes time-consuming steps necessary to make him feel less insecure.  We can help you civilize your high-energy pet, but we can’t turn him into an angel in the house if you can’t provide him with the huge amount of exercise he needs.  (Many – if not most – behavior problems can be resolved simply by providing your dog with adequate exercise, and sometimes that means lots and lots of it.) 

We can’t turn Jack Russell Terriers into couch potatoes and we can’t make hyperactive adolescent dogs behave like sedate 7-year-olds, but we can aim them in the right direction.  We probably can’t make your Miniature Schnauzer stop barking entirely, but we can provide all sorts of ideas on how to keep him as calm as possible.  We can help you understand the realities and responsibilities of owning a large and protective guarding breed, but we can’t turn him into a Golden Retriever just because you want him to act like one.  We can help you understand the dog you chose and work with his needs, but we can’t correct poor choices.  We can’t turn him into something he wasn’t born to be.   

Trainers enjoy working with dogs and their owners, but part of our job is to help you be realistic in your expectations.  We will do all in our power to help you get the best out of your pet and turn him into a wonderful companion, but you have to do your part, too.


By Dorothy Miner

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Nanny and the Depressor

            I was devastated.  I was heartbroken.  One of my best friends had just died.  I was ten years old.

            Her name was Nanny, and she was my first goat.  About four years old, she was three weeks away from having her first kids.  She would have had twins.  The condition that killed her was pregnancy toxemia.

            Pregnancy toxemia or ketosis is a metabolic disease of ewes and does that occurs in late pregnancy or early lactation.  Caused by improper nutrition at this critical time, the problem arises from the mother’s inability to meet her glucose requirements.  She begins to break down her body’s stores of fat, resulting in the production of toxic products called ketones, which make the ewe or doe sick.

            This condition can be seen in either thin, undernourished animals or in overly fat ones.  What happens in the fat animals is that they build up too much fat in their liver, which impairs its function, leading to improper fat metabolism and ketone production.  Nanny was too fat.

            Pregnancy toxemia is also called twin-lamb or twin-kid disease.  In the last two to four weeks of pregnancy, a mother that is carrying multiple fetuses in her abdomen is walking a metabolic tight-rope.  There is not enough room in there to carry babies plus low quality feedstuffs.  Therefore, her nutrition quality must be at a higher plane than what may have been adequate previously.  The mother needs to be eating feed that is higher in energy and protein, such as grain and alfalfa hay.

            Usually the first signs of the disease are a decreased appetite and listlessness.  The sick mother will hang back from the rest of the herd and not come up to eat at chore time.  Over the next two to five days, she will become progressively weaker and show neurological signs such as muscle twitches, incoordination, and blindness.  She will soon become recumbent, go into a coma, and finally die.

            If treated early in the course of the disease, most animals will recover.  The later one waits to begin treatment, the less likely the outcome will be successful.  The best initial treatment is a liquid called propylene glycol.  This product is metabolized in the animal’s body to glucose, or sugar.  It is a very inexpensive medicine and anyone who raises sheep and goats should keep it on hand.  At the first hint of a problem in the mother, this treatment should be started.  Give two to four ounces orally twice a day for two to four days if necessary.  If too much propylene glycol is given, however, the appetite can be suppressed.

            If you don’t have any propylene glycol and suspect a problem, start treatment with some kind of sugar-pancake syrup, honey or Karo syrup-until you can get some.

            If the condition does not improve, Dextrose can be given intravenously by your veterinarian.  If the mother if far enough along in the pregnancy, often babies can be saved by an induced abortion with dexamethasone or a caesarian section.  Sometimes these methods are employed even if the young ones are not viable, in order to save the mother.

            As with many disease conditions, often an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Obesity should be avoided in early pregnancy.  Good quality hay should be fed throughout the entire pregnancy.  In the last four to six weeks of gestation, a grain mix should be fed.  Start with one half to one pound a day, and work up to one and a half to two pounds a day in the last two to three weeks.

            One problem I have run into is owners who are worried that the lambs or kids will be too large at birth, so they decrease the amount of feed to the mothers in the last one to two months of pregnancy.  This is the worst possible thing to do as this can lead to dire pregnancy toxemia consequences.

            As always, I hope you have a successful lambing and kidding season.  If you have any pregnancy toxemia concerns, consult your veterinarian. 

By Dr. John H. Jones 

The Lima News- February 8, 2004

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Boredom Is Not Just For People


                        If you think you have cabin fever from what seems like an eternal winter, have you thought about what your pet might be experiencing?  Your four-legged family member thrives on routine and expectations, but even the most content house pet can succumb to boredom.  

                        As a veterinarian and owner of working Border Collies, I can tell you that “unemployed” pets will find their own “jobs,” and they are not always good ones!  The most common pastime for a bored dog usually involves destruction, either of your most treasured belongings or themselves.    

                        Leaving a puppy unattended in your home is fraught with failure, as puppies explore their world with their mouths, especially when bored.  You may ask yourself why your cute, new family addition, surrounded by a glut of pet toys, would choose the leg of your new dining room set or the corner of your favorite Persian rug to munch on.  The answer is because it is there. 

                        Keep your puppy or active adult dog safe while unattended.  Acclimate your dog to a durable, comfortable, pet kennel early in its puppy period.  Not only will you keep your dog and your belongings safe, you will also teach your dog to “be alone.”  If you have ever owned a pet with separation anxiety, you will echo my recommendations.  Dogs with separation anxiety experience horrible mental, and often physical discomfort. 

                        Anxious, stressed, phobic, or bored adult dogs may also create a unique skin condition for themselves called “acral lick dermatitis.”  Commonly referred to as a “lick granuloma,” this lesion occurs when a dog incessantly licks one site on its body (usually the top of the wrist, ankle or feet), until the skin becomes hairless, ulcerated, and infected.  The resulting lesion will become progressively more inflamed and itchy, which perpetuates the need to lick more.   

                        A theory exists that this self-mutilation of the skin and nerves causes the release of endorphins, which in turn act as strong analgesics and provide a natural “high” for the dog, who then wants to lick even more.  The obsessive-compulsive component of this disorder can be more challenging for veterinarians and pet owners to manage than the skin lesion itself.
                        Many lick granuloma patients are fitted with mechanical deterrents such as bandages, socks, special collars, and muzzles to buy time for oral medications (antibiotics and steroids) to take effect, and to give the pet time to “forget about” the lesion.  If there is a poor response to these first-line treatments, then behavior modification drugs such as amitryptyline, fluoxetine, and clomipramine may be prescribed.  If the lesion heals, but the dog relapses, allergy testing may be recommended as well.

                        Unlike dogs, our feline family members may be perfectly content to wallow in boredom and sleep 20 out of 24 hours a day. While that makes them easy pets to have around, it is not necessarily healthy, nor recommended.  In addition, young cats require more mental stimulation and exercise; so much so, that I always recommend adopting cats in pairs.  If you have ever witnessed two kittens or cats romping together, then snuggling so close that you wonder how they can breathe, you know what I mean.

                        At this time of year and all year round, both cats and dogs will benefit from appropriate levels of exercise and mental stimulation.  Keeping in mind their natural instinct to hunt and stalk makes “hide-and-seek” a great game for cats.  Simply hide a variety of toys and food treats throughout your house so your cat will “happen upon” them. Laser lights, paper bags or boxes, ping-pong balls, decorated cat trees, cat walks, cat videos, and fountains can enliven any feline couch potato.

                        Dogs love to walk so put on your winter attire and adorn your pet with an in-style sweater or jacket and go for a brisk walk together!  Even a short jaunt can do wonders for you and your pet.  Elderly dogs especially will benefit from some mental stimulation to stave off dementia behaviors.  Hide-and-seek is a wonderful indoor game for dogs of all ages as well.

                         A word of caution for all pet owners: do not leave toys with string or pieces small enough to be swallowed by your unattended pet in your pet’s environment!  When ingested, these items often become veterinary emergencies requiring extensive (and expensive) intestinal surgery to retrieve them.

                        If all else fails, do not fret, because regardless of what any old groundhog might predict, spring will be here soon, children will be out of school…and, guess what…they will be bored.

By Dr. Bonnie Jones