Sunday, August 14, 2016

It’s Mine!


                             One of the most serious - and frightening - behaviors a dog can exhibit is resource guarding.

                              Resource guarding may involve anything that a dog values highly.  He may warn you away from his food or water, his favorite sleeping place, a rawhide chewy, or a toy.  The dog may show his discomfort at your approach in many ways.  He may stiffen up.  He may give you a hard stare (the good old “stink eye.”)  He may curl his lips, wrinkle his muzzle, snarl, or growl.  His hackles may come up.  Finally, he may snap or bite. 

                              A dog may not guard everything he deems his, but protecting even a single possession to this extent is behavior that must be changed.  A dog exhibiting this behavior is a potentially dangerous character and the problem must be taken seriously.    

                             Resource guarding is a problem that is much easier to prevent than to cure.  Two common forms involve food bowls and favorite toys.  Every puppy should be taught that his owner has the right to handle or take anything it is involved with.  To prevent food bowl problems, teach the puppy that your messing around with the dish may be a good thing. 

                             Put your hand in his bowl and hand-feed him a few kibbles.  Offer the puppy something really tasty, such as chicken or cheese, from your hand while he’s eating his kibble.  Take the bowl away from the pup, put something extra delicious in it, and give it back to him.  Hold the bowl in your hands or your lap while he eats.  Put an empty bowl on the floor.  When your pup looks up at you wondering where the food is, add it to the bowl.  Stay near him and occasionally toss in a treat.  Make him look forward to your presence at meal time.

                           A puppy should also learn to give up anything he has in his mouth.  When he has a toy, offer to trade a treat for it.  Use a cue such as “Give” or “Drop it” in a pleasant voice and give him the treat.  Then give back the toy.  Start the process with relatively boring toys and work up to items the pup values highly, such as a rawhide chew.  Trade an even better item or treat for what he has. 

                            Don’t do this every time your puppy is playing with something, but do it often enough that he understands that giving up one thing may mean he gets an even better thing.  If your puppy decides to make a run for it instead of playing the trade game, don’t chase him.  He really wants you to get involved in a good game of Chase Me, but this isn’t the time for that sport.  Calmly walk him down and when you are able to corner him or he lets you catch up with him, make the trade.   

                            If your puppy decides to stand his ground over a resource, you will have to remove the item while staying safe.  One way to do this is to drop or throw something noisy (away from the dog, not at him) and take it when he’s distracted by the sound.  If the item is a toy or a chewy, it must be removed from his environment.  He cannot have a toy or chewy that is so important he’s willing to bite someone over it. 
                            If you have a dog who is already exhibiting this problem, you must get to work on changing the behavior.  There is a lot of good information written on how to work effectively and humanely with resource guarders.  Keep in mind that violence from you is not the cure.  Responding aggressively to a dog that is guarding food or a possession will most likely escalate the problem and it reinforces the dog’s feeling that having someone approach his treasure means trouble. 

                            Needless to say, if there are children in the home, correcting this behavior is a top priority.  It can be a slow process and you may need the help of an experienced trainer or behaviorist who is well-versed in working with these dogs in a humane manner.


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.”

A Plate Full of Confused Duck

            Contrary to the title, this story does have a happy ending. It began with a phone call from my mower man extraordinaire, Tyler Adams. He wanted to know if I would like to have another duck.  

            Tyler had been helping his neighbor lady live-trap groundhogs around her house. The only thing they captured, however, was a fuzzy yellow duckling. Why an obviously domestic youngster was lost and alone is anybody's guess, but as it was just a few weeks after Easter, he may have been abandoned. Sadly, this is the plight of many cute Easter bunnies, chicks, and ducklings, as they age and lose their appeal.

            Tyler brought the duck to our hospital, and before he left mentioned how the little bird followed him everywhere. This is called "imprinting," a phenomenon observed in some animals. It has to do with species identity, and the security of having a mother. Evidently, the duckling thought Tyler was his mom, although that first day spent with us, he followed everyone around- all ankles must look the same to a baby duck. Oh, I forgot to mention, before Tyler exited our parking lot, he and the duck shared the same name.

            I already had two ducks at home, but I like to keep three. Ducks are great for teaching Border Collies how to herd, as they allow the handler to be closer to the dog and "flock" than sheep allow, and the dog can be more easily controlled as the commands of "come-bye" and "away to me" are taught. Three ducks tend to stick together better than two, and are less frustrating for the learning dog.

            Sadly, I've always had trouble keeping a third duck. The last third duck I had succumbed to a fox, the one before him to a red-tailed hawk. Because Tyler won over so many hearts in our office during his short visit, I needed to keep him safe. That meant living in our garage - the chicken pen in the barn was not raccoon-proof.

            Still, he had a pretty active social life. He'd follow me to the barn to do chores, and even helped Bonnie with her gardening. Tyler also had a presence on Facebook -sporting a red rubber nose on his bill for "Red Nose Day" to battle child poverty.

            Tyler made a return visit to the office the day of his photo shoot. Some of our assistants thought he looked a little grubby from living in his cardboard box, necessitating a bath. So into the tub he went, and immediately demonstrated why no human should ever take a bath with a duck. He required a second bath. He also confirmed something unfathomable. For a duck, he wasn't a very good swimmer.

            After way too many stinky weeks in our garage,  my friend Doug Noel, from Forest, made an emergency visit to secure the chicken pen. Thank you, Doug! Although Tyler enjoyed the extra room and exercise the pen provided, he suddenly seemed lonely.

            Fortunately, at about this same time, our former office assistant, Meghann Myers, inquired if I would like a trio of Columbian Wyandotte bantam chickens. Clearly, I can't say " no"  to poultry, so Tyler finally had some friends with feathers. They seem to be getting along well, although I imagine he sees himself now  as just a big, socially awkward chicken.

             Late one morning, not long after Tyler arrived, I was summoned to the waiting room by a receptionist. "A Becky Thomas is here and she has something for you."

            I wondered if Mrs. Thomas was the "neighbor lady." And what she had for me was a beautiful painted plate depicting two Border Collies and a lamb. What made the plate even more special was that it came from Machynlleth, Wales, my ancestral hometown. Apparently, if you do something nice for nice people and a duck, the rewards can be great indeed.

            Frequently I am asked, "What kind of pet should I get for my child?" After getting to know Tyler, and really learning how much fun these kind and gentle birds can be, I would highly recommend a duck, or better yet, ducks - to hopefully ward off some of Tyler's identity issues.

            Ducks, like other poultry, can harbor Salmonella. Make sure young children are supervised, and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. And for goodness sake, keep the ducks out of the bathtub!

By Dr. John Jones 

Does Your Pet Have Bad Manners?


One of the things I really loved about veterinary school at Ohio State is the opportunity I had to learn about animal behavior and "behavior modification." In addition to learning about it as I went through clinics, the staff and faculty emphasized low-stress handling and behavior modification to try to provide the best experience possible for patients.
Many people aren't familiar with the term behavior modification, but it is invaluable in the veterinary setting. Our goal is to modify behavior through the use of positive reinforcements. Whether you own an older dog or a new puppy, behavior modification is a technique that can be readily employed at home as well. 
Behavior modification is something I have been working on with my own dogs. They weren't always big fans of being brushed so I would sit down every evening and feed them hot dogs pieces while I brushed them. It’s amazing how when you associate something they don’t like with a yummy treat, how quickly an animal can warm up to the situation. My dogs now get excited when they see the brush come out.  
The same can be said when my little Miniature American Shepherd gets excited and anxious when she sees rabbits everywhere on our morning runs. Her anxiety for rabbits is not a behavior I wanted to foster, nor did I want her yanking on my arm at the end of her leash, knowing the 55lb Golden Retriever would follow suit. As soon as I spot a furry friend, I immediately ask her to "watch me," which means look at me. Then I feed her treats. We repeated this process several times. Now when she sees a rabbit, she immediately turns to me instead of taking chase. I reward her for staying focused on me, and we continue our run. 
We do the same thing in the veterinary setting for patients that don’t like blood draws or show fear in the veterinary hospital. For example, we distract fearful dogs who don't like toenail trims by feeding them treats. They then associate being on a table for something they dislike, with treats.  
Behavior modification is an invaluable tool when working with any animal. I'm always happy to discuss training tips with owners to improve their relationship with their pet as well as their pet's relationship with me and the veterinary team. 

By Dr. Jill Dentel

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Too Cool for School?


I attended my first obedience training class with my first puppy, a sweet Airedale named Clover.  She was actually my second dog; the first was Cosmo, a senior Airedale adopted from a shelter.  Cosmo was a handful, and I knew I needed to develop some training skills if the new kid was going to be civilized.  That was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and dog training was much different than what it is now.  The fine art of teaching dogs has evolved over the years, thankfully, and training has become much more dog-friendly.  Every one of my dogs since Clover has attended training classes with me. 

Why take your dog to classes when you could do the job at home?  For one thing, classes keep us honest.  We don’t want to have the worst dog in class, so we do our homework and work with our dogs daily.  Classes provide new experiences–regular trips in the car, other dogs and people, new sights and sounds.  (In our classes distractions include barn cats, toads, the occasional mouse, and dive-bombing barn swallows!)  A knowledgeable instructor can help when we’re having difficulty with a particular lesson, and should be able to help with many common behavior problems.  If something that be handled in a class setting, a good instructor can either offer private lessons or refer the client and dog to someone who can help. 

How do you choose the right class for you and your dog?  First, what is your goal?  If your objective is to have a pet that is well-behaved at home and elsewhere, look for a class that emphasizes training for the family pet.  If you want to earn Rally Obedience or traditional Obedience titles with your dog, family pet classes may work for you if the instructor has a competition history, hopefully with several dogs.  But, if your goal is to earn very high scores in Obedience or Agility trials, the specialized training required may mean that you will be better off in courses offered by a dog training club or a professional who specializes in those fields.  If your goal is to have your pet work in pet-assisted therapy, family pet training classes are a great start but you may need further training with a group that is experienced in training therapy dogs.  But for most of us, a good pet obedience class is the right choice. 

Whatever type of class you choose, talk to the instructors and observe some classes.  Does the instructor have the knowledge and experience to work with a wide variety of breeds and mixes, and common behavior problems?  Are they interested in every student, and not just those who have the instructor’s favorite breed or are doing the best?  Do the students look like they’re happy to be there?  How does the instructor handle shy dogs or pushy dogs?  What is the policy on aggressive dogs?  (Many aggressive dogs need private training before they are safe in a class situation.)   

Are you comfortable with their training methods?  Do they seem too harsh, or do they seem ineffective?  Are you looking for a class that stresses positive training methods with a minimum of physical corrections, or are you more comfortable in a more “old school” approach?  If you feel that the newer positive methods are preferable, do you want 100% positive or will you accept some physical corrections if they seem needed?  There is a lot to think about! 

Those of us who have been training for eons still take our dogs to training classes, especially to puppy kindergarten classes.  There’s no substitute for working in a group setting, especially if you want your dog to behave well anywhere you bring him.  For recommendations, ask your veterinarian if he or she has a preference, or talk to someone whose dog is well behaved if they have a recommendation.  Groomers are also a good source of information, as are local humane societies and rescue groups.

Classes can and should be fun for you and your dog, and as an extra benefit you’ll meet some really nice people who love their dogs as much as you do yours.
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.”