Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dog Training 101: First Phase of Sit Training

After getting your dog comfortable on the leash, SIT is the first command you're going to teach him. One approach to dog training is to break it down into two phases: an early phase in which treats are utilized to encourage a desired behavior, and a more advanced phase that teaches and solidifies the behavior without treats. In this short article we're going to use treats to begin to train our dog to sit.

Dog Training Phase One: Sit
In phase one of dog training for the sit command, we will use a treat to encourage our dog to assume the "sit" position and begin to associate the word "sit" with actually sitting down. You can do this in four steps.

1. Have your dog on leash and stand to the side. Hold the leash with your right hand and show the dog a treat in your left hand. Hold the treat just in front of the nose.

2. Slowly lift the treat up to encourage the dog to look up. Don't worry! Dogs will naturally follow treats with their noses!

3. Keep raising the treat up until the dog assumes the sit position. When the dog sits, say "(Dogs Name) SIT".

4. When he sits, Praise and pet! (Dogs Name) Good Boy (girl)!

Repeat about 5 times per session. After about 3 days, you will be ready for phase two of dog training for the sit command, which we will cover in a future article.

Learn how to Train Your Dog Fast! Click here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

3 Things To Do For Your Dog Today

Many dog owners just have their dogs just there-hanging out at the house. Maybe they take them for the occasional walk-or notice when the dog is misbehaving.

Amazingly, there are a few simple things you can do that enrich your dogs life and make her a better member of your household with just an investment of a few minutes every day. Here are three things you can incorporate pretty easily in your routine.

1. Train Your Dog Daily
Just because your dog went to obedience class and knows how to sit doesn't mean he can't use a refresher. In fact you should keep up your dog training day to day so your dog is sharp and well behaved. It doesn't have to be be a big deal, just take 5 minutes every day to review commands-have your dog sit, stay, and come. Dogs actually enjoy this and you'll find that your dogs behavior is improved overall.

2. Groom Your Dog
A great way to bond with your dog is spend 5 minutes a day grooming. If nothing else, just brush your dog. Learn how to trim his nails instead of having the vet or a groomer do it. Dogs love the attention.

3. Give Your Dog a MilkBone Daily
We all know dogs love treats. Make a daily milk bone a part of their routine. I give my dogs a milk bone every morning. I get up, let them out to go potty, and them bring them back in a few minutes later for their milk bones. Its something they have come to expect and look forward too.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Animal Abusers Meet Their Match In Rescue Ink

Fondness for animals can be found in some unusual circles, as this recent New York Times article about Tattooed bikers who rescue cats and dogs reveals. Rescue Ink is a group of guys covered in tattoos-most of them look like members of the hells angels-that share a love of animals. They've formed an organization dedicated to the investigation of animal abuse and promotion of animal welfare. As they say:

"Rescue Ink is all about zero tolerance when it comes to animal abuse and neglect."

I love it. This is the attitude we need to have about people who abuse and neglect animals. Zero tolerance. The group has several programs aimed at reducing animal abuse and neglect you may want to get involved with, including:

  • The Puppy Mill Consumer Awareness Program
  • Companion Outreach Services (companion animal visits to the sick and elderly)
  • The Feral Cat Trap, Neuter, and Return Program
  • The School Visitation Initiative
and more. I really like the School Visitation Initiative, which aims to educate young people on the value of animals, animal abuse and neglect, and how to recognize when an animal is being abused. It is so important to educate young people on these issues. The group is involved in other worthwhile activities like building dog houses for people that can't afford them.

Check out their website. Its a great thing they've got going. Maybe you can start a local chapter in your town.

Liver Treats for Dogs (Part Two)

I found another recipe for liver dog treats. This one is a little more complicated as it involves cooking in the oven. I will try both to see how they work out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Heartworm Update and Dog Fight

Tony seems to be surviving the fourth week of his heartworm treatment just fine. Feeling sorry for him but wishing to follow doctors orders, I've been letting him sit with us in the living room for a few minutes each morning on leash. He pretty much sits quietly, but its a nice chance for him to socialize with the other dogs.

Yesterday I ran my Akita Naomi and two German Shepherds (Brandy and Jake) up to Sharon's house, which is on five acres. The dogs love going up there. Its all fenced in so I let them off leash and they run til they drop. Sharon has two dogs, a mastiff/bulldog cross named Mojo and a coon-hound named Holden.

Holden the Hound

Mojo's name is well deserved. He can be pretty vicious with dogs and people. One day a friend dropped by and Mojo saw her and ZOOM came in and bit her right on the crotch. Luckily the bite was all blue jeans and superficial, but you can see that this dog has some issues.

He has been getting better with time. More exposure to people and pets has helped. But with dogs he often wants to assert his authority! What this involves is pinning the new dog down on the ground for about 10 seconds, with lots of growling and barking and bared teeth. When the dog submits then Mojo becomes agreeable.

The problem with my dogs is they aren't interesting in submitting to Mojo. I mean, Akita, German Shepherd, do I have to say anything else? So far, this hasn't been much of a problem. The first time they met Mojo he tried his little game but a small display of dominance from my dogs put a stop to it. Since then Mojo has just accepted that he can't dominate my dogs and they've gotten along great. Until yesterday that is.

For some reason Mojo and my Akita Naomi (shown here) were not getting along yesterday. When I first showed up Mojo tried his dominance thing but Naomi ended up pinning him down on the ground. That didn't last all that long but it ought to have sent a message. Anyway she let him up and off we went to play and run around.

Things were fine until a couple of hours later. Sharon showed up and Mojo got in this defend Sharon mode and attacked Naomi. With some corrective commands from me I was able to keep them from really getting in a tussle. But things were tense. I should have taken Naomi at that point, but stuck around and they got in another little fight. Mojo was unable to pin Naomi down (Mojo is big, 120 pounds, but Naomi is big too!). But he ended up biting Naomi on the head before I was able to break them up. At first it looked like he bit her eye! It was bloody red. I started to kind of panic at that point, but it turned out to be a superficial wound on the skin above the eye.

I hope this isn't the start of a trend. Mojo has been getting along great with my dogs until yesterday, and he seems to ignore the others. I hope he isn't planning (well do dogs plan things out?) to assert his dominance again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dogs Detecting Illness

I have to admit I get nervous every time my dogs sniff at my right knee. The reason? I keep hearing that dogs are really good at detecting cancer or other illnesses by sniffing. After all, they have a sense of smell reported to be 10,000 times or maybe its 100,000 times more sensitive than a humans. So why wouldn't they be able to smell tumors? Or blood clots?

Well my dogs keep sniffing at my right knee so there must be something wrong. Anyway, Pamela Plante lived out my worst nightmare when her little dog kept sniffing at her leg and Pamela discovered she had sepsis! When I read this, I kept thinking, hey maybe my weimaraner does know I have a blood clot in my right knee!

Originally used to detect skin cancers, apparently dogs can sense breast and lung cancer as well. Dogs are even able to detect when blood sugar levels drop in diabetics. So if your dog starts sniffing a particular area of the body, if you haven't spilled peanut butter take a trip to the doctor!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dried Liver Treats for Dogs

Slice up liver in to 1/4-inch slices. Drop into boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Pour off the water and place liver slices on paper towels, pat down hard until very dry. Sprinkle with garlic powder and let dry for several hours. The slices should get soft but solid. Refrigerate. They should be good for 3-4 days.

Published in the Albuquerque Journal, recipe from Kathy Herman of K-9 Kitchen.

Five Resources for Dog Training

Is your dog the kind that jumps on grandma , pulls on the leash and barks non-stop? If you said yes then now is the time to start investing in a training program for your dog. Effective dog training involves having the right equipment and knowledge.

Here are some tools that you can use during dog training that will help you train your dog.

1. Choke Collar
For dog training, a good steel choke collar should be used to enforce corrections. It works by allowing you to get your dog to pay attention when you snap the leash. Tip: Don't leave a choke collar on a dog when unattended, only use during training sessions.

2. Prong Collar for Large Dogs

For dogs that are difficult to handle or aggressive, a prong collar might be in order. They look harsh, but in truth a prong collar is safe for your dog if its fitted properly. A prong collar is in order if you have a large dog that is hard to control. The prongs provide some pinch when enforcing corrections during training. I've heard some dog trainers refer to prong collars as “power steering”. If you have a large dog like a Doberman, German Shepherd, or Retriever that doesn't listen, a prong collar might be what you're looking for. Made of individual links, this type of dog collar can be adjusted for size easily. The risk of injury from a prong collar is not from the collar around the neck itself, but rather having it set too loose so that the dog can pull out of the collar and perhaps get poked in the eye. This means that you should fit the collar so its snug enough that it can't be pulled over the head. For the past 15 years I've used prong collars while training my large dogs and have never had a problem.

3. Leather Leash
A good 6 foot leather lead that is one inch wide is essential for dog training. Leather is sturdy and soft on the hands. Nylon leads are strong, but can be harsh on the hands if the dog is pulling or breaks away.

4. A long training lead
So far I haven't been able to track down a long leather training lead, but this is the best one I could find. A long training lead is useful in teaching your dog two things:

  • To sit/stay or down/stay while you move off at a distance.
  • Teaching your dog to come.
By having the long training lead, you can give a correction to a dog that breaks a stay while you're 10, 12 feet away. Use this tool and soon enough your dog will be in a down/stay every time you ask him no matter where you are or what you're doing.

5. Good Training Resources
Don't just get a dog and hope for the best. A dogs natural inclination is to jump on people, run all over the place, and chew up the furniture. Its up to you to teach him how to behave when living with humans. Instead of groping in the dark or relying solely on experts educate yourself on dog training techniques. A book I heartily recommend and that I have read and used is sit-stay-fetch. This book covers:

  • Leash problems
  • Behavior problems like jumping and aggression
  • Barking problems
  • Teaching your dog basics like sit, down, stay, and come
  • "Dog whispering"
If you take the time to invest in your dog, it will pay off over a lifetime.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Three Weeks of Heartworm Treatment

Hard to believe but three weeks have past in Tony the German Shepherd's Heartworm Treatment.

So far so good. The vet had really warned me about keeping him confined during that dangerous third week. That is when the worms are most capable of causing a dangerous embolism. Tony kept escaping from the crate and got diarrhea, so I've been locking him in a bedroom instead. With his own bed to lay on he has been pretty quiet, in fact I would say he is far more relaxed than he was in the crate. One more really bad week to go, and then on Tuesday September 2 he gets his second injection. At that point its really smooth sailing, although he will need two final weeks of confinement.

Five Essentials for your New Puppy

1.Dog Crate
A dog which is crate trained is a happier dog. Moreover he's easier to manage. At first glance, a crate might seem cruel. Why cage up your dog? There are many reasons to keep a dog in a crate. At night a crate is a good place for a dog to sleep. If a repair man comes to the house, you can crate your dog instead of worrying if the repair man is afraid of dogs. With a new puppy, keeping him in a crate avoids destructive behavior while you're at work such as chewing on the furniture. Keeping a dog in a crate is not cruel because you're not going to keep your dog in the crate all the time-just during important periods where the dog can't be directly supervised. You will be surprised to learn that dogs actually like crates if they are only kept in them for short periods-it taps into their den instinct. Dogs come to see the crate as their personal space.

2.Leather Leash
Any new dogs needs a leash. But don't just get any leash. Get your dog a 6 foot leather lead. Leather is good. Its sturdy, and smooth on the hands. Cotton and nylon leashes are rougher on your hands and aren't any cheaper.

3.Long training lead
A trained dog is a happier dog and a dog that's easier to live with. Get your puppy a long training lead that you can use to teach him to stay and come with effectively. Generally a n 18-30 foot line is what you'll need.

4.Puppy Training Videos
Don't just hope for the best with your new puppy. Sign him up for dog obedience classes and obtain resources you need to learn how to train dogs yourself. Get books and videos that will help you make your dog a loving member of the family instead of an out of control canine that chews up your dining room table.

5.Consider a pet containment system
Whether you live on a large open property or in the city, keeping your dog confined safely is one of the most important things you can do. You don't want your dog to get lost and hit by a car or worse. One way you can help ensure your dog stays in your yard is to get a wireless pet containment system. Not only will it keep your dog safely on your property, but it will allow you to define appropriate play areas for your dog. Keep your dog safely in the yard and out of the vegetable garden-all without having to build unsightly fences.

Dog Abuse

In a horrible comment on the human psyche 11 dogs were stolen from an animal shelter in Grants Pass, Oregon. Four of them, all puppies, were found beaten to death by assailants unknown. One of the beaten dogs was laid out in the street. Maybe to shock passers by? What kind of sick person would do such a thing?

I guess people get a sense of power by beating and abusing defenseless animals. Take this recent case in Shreveport, Louisiana. A large dog was found hanging in the closet of an abandoned house. The unfortunate thing about cases like this is that its not going to be high priority and its going to be very hard to track down the assailants. Police are taking this more seriously these days, but probably not seriously enough. If you don't care about the dogs welfare, ask yourself this question. Is a person willing to hang a dog in a closet someone you want to associate with? What makes you think they wouldn't kill a child or your grandmother?

In another bizarre case in Louisiana a woman named Mia Sterling (is that a stage name?) locked a puppy in the trunk of her car while she went shopping. This case sounds more like sheer stupidity than anything else. Maybe Ms. Sterling doesn't have the brains to realize a dog will suffocate and get heat stroke, and probably die if you lock him in the trunk. I wonder if she has children and if she would lock them in the trunk of her car too.

If you live in Fort Bragg, NC you might want to keep your dog inside. Apparently Sergeant Sasha Lee was so bothered by a loose dog in his neighborhood that he went home and got a gun, returned and shot the dog. Lee claimed the dog growled at him and he shot the dog in self-defense, but the police noted that he was able to go inside his home to get the gun and the dog didn't follow him in there. Charges have been filed, but the owner of the dog was also cited for having a dog off leash. I think people stationed at Fort Bragg might be more careful in the future about letting their dogs roam loose. Just a side note-you have to wonder about a man named Sasha!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Talking Dogs Video

This is kind of funny. My dogs don't have the patience to do this!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Laser Toy for Dogs

One of the best investments I've made in some time is the Petsport Laser Chase II. For a mere $5, you can entertain your dogs (and cats) by having them chase the little red dot this tiny laser makes. I can stand in the middle of the room, and shine the light at the far door, and the dogs run off chasing it. Then shine it in the opposite direction, and they run off like a bunch of dog fanatics chasing raw steak.

The only thing is I've noticed it only seems to work with younger dogs. The older dogs I've tested it with just haven't been interested. But the young dogs are so fanatical about it that I have to say the laser toy is a great way to exercise and entertain them, burning off lots of excess energy. If you're looking to get rid of excess energy in your dogs without killing yourself this is what you're looking for. Its so funny and the dogs enjoy themselves so much, I filmed a video of it I may be posting soon.

You've got to be careful not to shine it in directly their eyes, but other than that its been the best $5 I've ever spent on a dog!

Heartworm Update Day 17

Well Tony has come down with diarrhea. Not a good thing for a dog that has to be confined to a crate for 42 days. He was whining last night-but what dog wouldn't if he had to be confined 24/7! He goes into whining frenzies periodically. I've been giving him bones stuffed with canned dog food, but I often ignore the whining because the bottom line is he can't be let out. It was about 3 AM anyway. Around 3:30 he stopped and I fell back asleep. When I got up I found the mess. The poor dog had managed to go in his empty water bowl so his cage wasn't very messy. I noticed he was making an effort to clean the poop up that didn't make it into the bowl.

An aside, I was thinking maybe this explains why some dogs eat their poop, a behavior that has mystified dog owners since time immemorial. Maybe wolves clean their dens out if one of them gets sick the same way Tony attempted to clean out the mess in his crate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heartworm Update

I was on the verge of putting my dog Tony on some kind of tranquilizer, but he seems to have calmed down. The past few days he was barking and whining non-stop. In case you haven't read about it, a dog on heartworm treatment has to be kept confined for six weeks. Today is the start of week three, and this is the most critical week according to my vet. I guess the heartworms break up into little pieces as they die. The goal is to keep the dog calm so that the dog's immune system breaks them down without them traveling too far. But if the dog gets overly excited a piece of worm could become lodged in a blood vessel causing an embolism, which is an emergency or even fatal condition for the dog. This can happen any time during treatment but the third week carries the greatest risk. He is due for his second heartworm treatment next week.

Friday, August 15, 2008

German Shepherd Dogs

People often say that the best dog is a mutt or mixed breed dog. That may be true, but I've always owned pure bred dogs and I've owned a fair number of them. In the next couple of days, I am going to take some time out and write about my experiences with different breeds, including the pros and cons, so that people thinking of getting a new dog can have some practical experience at their finger tips. Of the dogs I've owned, five of them have been German Shepherds. So I think I'll start there.

My first German Shepherd Dog was Sam. In some ways, Sam was difficult. He taught me a lot about the breed because some of the negative traits you find in German Shepherds were a bit exaggerated in Sam. And being a new Shepherd owner, I wasn't quite sure how to handle it.

Let me first say that individual dogs are just that-individuals-so I don't want to get too caught up in some kind of breed bias. Among any breed you're going to find a wide variety of personalities and problems, although there will be some tendencies. Golden Retrievers, say, are going to tend to be friendly. I haven't heard of a pack of Golden Retrievers attacking any old ladies lately, but you've probably heard of that happening with Pit Bulls. But that being said, I've met some Pit Bulls who are the gentlest, laziest dogs on the planet. That does to show this discussion can only be taken so far (never met an aggressive Golden Retriever though).

Alright so what qualities did Sam have, if I just had to write a bulleted list? On the positive side he was:

  • Easy Going
  • Very obedient and easy to train
  • Not too high energy
  • Not destructive
  • Enjoyed the outdoors and vigorous physical activity despite not being high energy
  • Loyal
  • Strong
  • Calm when comfortable-he was real easy to crate train
  • Never begged, wouldn't do stuff like jump up on the counter trying to get food
  • Got along great with new dogs. Never met a stranger...of the canine variety
I would say these characteristics describe most German Shepherds. Since Shepherds are big and intimidating, you can see why they are used as police and military dogs. Sam was so easy going whenever I brought a new dog in, or one to visit, or one I rescued off the street (this happened all too often) Sam would be really laid back about it. Hey, he knew he could beat up the other dog easily, but typically he would just kick back and let them take over as alpha.

But these general traits don't apply to all German Shepherds. Take my dog Tony who has heartworm, for example. Tony can't stand being in a crate. He is very high energy, and is completely destructive. Tony actually looks quite similar to Sam. He isn't as built but their coats have similar markings. But the similarities end there! Tony is a complete high energy nutcase. I would say his energy level resembles more a Dalmatian than a typical Shepherd.

Now like people, most dogs are not perfect. And Sam had a few issues. These were:

  • Not trusting new people
  • Lack of confidence
These traits probably came from years of "overbreeding" of shepherds. You start selecting dogs that don't quite trust new people-these are good guard dogs for example-and in a few generations you've got dogs that are downright skittish about it. This was a problem that plagued Sam, I was reluctant to introduce him to new people because he would bark at the top of his lungs and act all scary. He never did bite anybody, and through the years with the help of attending several dog obedience classes, his behavior improved quite a bit. But he was never the 100% comfortable dog in new social situations like a Golden Retriever would be expected to behave.

Recently I acquired a German Shepherd named Jake, who is pictured in this article. Jake is a really nice, gentle dog, a real people friendly and dog friendly guy. He resembles Sam in a lot of ways, being totally laid back, obedient, and not too high energy but playful. Jake does lack confidence a little but isn't as neurotic about it as Sam was. But Jake totally lacks the guard dog aspect of the German Shepherd personality. I think if someone broke in my house Jake would just sit there on the couch, maybe hoping to play ball with the criminal. Luckily I have other dogs to protect Jake...

So what kind of person should get a German Shepherd? If you are looking for a guard dog you really can't go wrong, even if you get one like Jake. Just the appearance of a German Shepherd is enough to intimidate most people.

Being large dogs, German Shepherds do require a lot of exercise. But I would rank them as medium energy level dogs. They can do lots of exercise if you give them the opportunity, but I would say they only need regular walks 4-5 days per week. I live by the mountains so mine are kind of spoiled and get a lot more vigorous walking than average dogs. But in my years of owning them, I've never had one that became a problem when exercise was not immediately available for one reason or another. That hasn't been my experience with other breeds (more on that later).

I think there are two major concerns with German Shepherds. The first is avoiding fear issues. Do your best to acquire a calm, socially friendly dog. Otherwise you might have a real problem on your hands. That being said, if you get a fear aggressive shepherd, you might be able to save the situation based on their tendency for obedient loyalty. If you get in that situation start socializing the dog in controlled situations, the best thing is to start with enrolling the dog in lots of obedience classes. Also hire a personal trainer and get your dog around your friends and other dogs as often as possible. Use a muzzle at first if he is showing signs of aggression.

The second major concern is hip dysplasia. I am not entirely sure about this, but I think its more common in American lines than in German lines. You can recognize American lines by a back that slopes downward from the shoulder to the butt. Jake is from an East German line and has a completely straight back. Sam was the same way. But I have a German Shepherd female named Brandy that has the sloped back. She is 9 however, and still hasn't shown any signs of hip problems.

Finally, German Shepherds are prone to an eye condition called pannus. In lay terms, a dark film grows over the eye, and its triggered by sun exposure. If you leave it alone I am sure the dog can go blind, but its easy to manage. I've had two shepherds with it, and what you do is give them eye drops that control it. Jake happens to have pannus and his is under pretty good control with daily drops.

In conclusion, I have to say that a German Shepherd Dog is one of the very best dogs you can get despite any drawbacks they may have. If you get one you're in for a long period with a good loyal friend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Heartworm Treatment Update

Well it looks like Tony is accepting his fate. He has finally become comfortable, perhaps with the help of Xanax, with being in his crate all the time. The escapes have come to a stop over the past couple of days and he lays there quietly most of the time.

Keeping my fingers crossed as the critical third week approaches. The vet says that most dogs that have serious health problems due to the treatment develop them in the third week. This starts for Tony on Monday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sam the German Shepherd: July 24, 1996-April 13, 2007

Sam was a black and tan German Shepherd I bought from a preacher. After a summer of looking unsuccessfully at puppies and never quite finding what I wanted, Sam came into my life. Sam won my heart over because, like I am, he was a little bit shy. I found him hiding under a lawn chair in the preachers yard and decided to take him home.

Sam turned out to be the best and the worst that a German Shepherd has to offer. I don't regret having gotten Sam at all, I love all of my dogs but Sam was the dog for me, the dog I was always meant to own and there won't be another quite like him. I think when Sam was a puppy, bounding around the yard playing with daisies with his paws, it was really the first time I fell in love with a dog. Sam was intensely loyal, very intelligent, strong, obedient, and hard working. He was also gentle despite appearances, but was plagued by being fearful and an ever present lack of self-confidence.

I remember one time I had enrolled Sam in an obedience class. He must have been about six months old. One task we had to perform was have our dogs walk up and down a set of stairs. Most of the dogs did it without any problem, but some were afraid too. Sam turned out to be the worst, he barely put his paw up on the first step. Over the next week, I went on a mission to get him to overcome this fear. I took him up and down every set of stairs I could find. By the end of the week, he was going up and down stairs without any problem. In the next class, we had to repeat the exercise. When Sam went up and down the stairs with confidence everyone in the class applauded. I was so proud of my new puppy.

Sam grew to be a dog over 100 pounds but was in many ways an easy-going gentle giant. He always acted aggressive in new situations, displaying his loud bark accompanied with vicious growls, but I have to say in reality he was a big softie. Over the years he met and lived with many dogs and puppies and he always let the puppies play with and basically abuse him.

Sam's best friend throughout his life was a female German Shepherd dog named Brandy (pictured here at 10 weeks). I got Brandy back in 1999 (at the time of writing in August 2008 she is still going strong). I was actually afraid Sam would attack her when I brought her home on a hot August afternoon, but they ended up becoming the best of friends. They remained friends for the rest of Sam's days, life long partners like an old couple. Brandy took Sam's death pretty hard and was depressed for weeks, refusing to eat her morning milk bone, a treat they had shared together for 8 years.

Sam had many strange quirks. One day, I was getting ready for work and I heard this loud wail. I had no idea what it was. Was a woman being stabbed to death? No, it was Sam howling for the first time (at age 2), but he was howling out of tune so it didn't sound like a dog at all! I wish I had a tape of it, it was so unique. He howled like that the rest of his life, not quite sure how to do it right. After Brandy grew up she howled along with him. Since Sam died, Brandy doesn't howl anymore even though at present she lives with 4 other dogs.

Another funny quirk Sam had was his goal of getting two balls in his mouth at the same time. He never accomplished this task. He would put one ball in his mouth, and then position the second ball with his paw. Then he would try to pick up the second ball, only to drop the first one on the ground. He did this over and over and over again-for ten years. He always made the same mistake and never got both balls in his mouth. Funny thing is a few months after he died I adopted a German Shepherd named Jake who routinely puts two or three balls in his mouth!

In his later years, Sam became quite the athlete. I moved near a mountain range and began taking Sam and Brandy (and later Lucy) on long hikes in the mountains. Sam absolutely loved the mountains. He bounded with enthusiasm every time we went out. Being the good dog that he was, I could take him off leash and he would stay right by my side.

With a kind of poetic justice, I took Sam, Brandy, and Lucy on a long hike in the forest the day before Sam died. Most dogs don't even get to leave their yards or city blocks, so I guess in many ways Sam was a very lucky dog. He got lots of walks in the mountains and wilderness. That day was a special walk, and the next morning I found him dead. Sam died suddenly of stomach torsion; he was about ten and a half.

Having a 110 pound male German Shepherd in your life is like having a pillar of strength by your side. I miss the sense of security Sam used to give me. I can never measure up to be the person Sam thought I was. Sam was always easy going and patient. When I got my dog Lucy, she used to sit there and taunt Sam every morning, barking at him non-stop. He weighed a good 90 pounds more than she did but he would just sit there calmly and take it. I want to be as patient and easy going as Sam was. I was privileged to have Sam in my life and I hope I can learn what he taught me as the years go by and the memories fade. Dogs can help you become a better person. Learn what they have to teach you.

Stop Dog Behavior Problems-Click here

Are Pit Bulls inherntly vicious?

A recent news article about pit bulls attacking a man and his dog highlights an ongoing debate-are certain dog breeds just basically aggressive? People often have a knee jerk reaction and answer this question with a definite yes. This is especially true among law makers and city counselors. What an easy way to get votes. Just ban Pit Bulls from your city. After all, who would want grandma to get attacked by a roving band of dobermans?

The answer is of course nobody would, but banning a specific breed or labeling it as aggressive are simplistic points of view. The fact is a doberman is a big strong dog, and yes he will be aggressive if you train him to be. But like any dog, he will also be a loving, devoted companion if properly socialized. Unfortunately, some locales like Denver have already taken action to ban certain breeds of dog.

Pit bulls are not the problem, people are. Time and again you hear about someone being attacked by a group of 3 or more Pit Bulls. One article I read described a lady working in her yard when four pit bulls appeared out of nowhere and attacked her. My first question is, why are these dogs roaming about on the streets in the first place? There is a ready answer: owners who don't take responsibility for their dogs.

If you own dogs its important for you to keep them properly confined. If they don't attack someone, they might get hit by a car. So instead of blaming an individual pit bull, first lets put the blame where it really belongs, on the owners who are letting these dogs get out of their yards. Priority one needs to be getting people to properly confine their dogs for the safety of their dog and for the safety of the community at large.

Secondly it doesn't have all that much to do with the breed in my opinion. A pit bull might be inclined toward rampant aggression if you train him that way. But if he is raised in a loving, responsible family, he will turn out to be a friendly dog. I have a friend that owns two pit bulls, and they are sweet as pie.

Newsflash to lawmakers: It has nothing to do with the breed. Banning a specific breed of dog is a feel-good, simplistic solution that in the long run does absolutely nothing. Ban pit bulls, and people will begin fighting some other large confident breed. Then you'll have to ban them too. What you should ban or prosecute is irresponsible dog ownership. Its the behavior and not the dog, stupid. Today its pit bulls, next year it might be Akitas, or how about boxers?

So I think responsible ownership should be promoted, instead of going after a particular type of dog. What do you think?

Stop Dog Behavior Problems Now. Click here.

Heartworm in Dogs

What is heartworm?

Each year in the United States some 250,000 dogs get heartworm. Heartworm is a devastating disease that can kill your dog. The sad fact about these statistics is that heartworm is preventable. So what is heartworm, how do dogs get it and how is it treated?

Heartworm Facts
Heartworm is caused by a parasite that scientists have given the obscure name Dirofilaria immitis that is found pretty much in the entire United States. This is a worm that lives primarily in the right side of the heart, giving the disease its name. While heartworm infects primarily dogs, it is also found in cats, wolves, coyotes, and foxes. There have even been a few documented cases of infections in humans. But don't worry if your dog has heartworm disease-its not directly transmissible from your dog to another dog or to a human. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes. So, anywhere you find mosquitoes there is a risk of heartworm disease. As we will see shortly, the development of the heartworm is temperature sensitive so in colder locales heartworm transmission is seasonal.

Heartworm starts with a bite from an infected mosquito. The bite of the mosquito injects several heartworm larvae into the bloodstream of the dog, and they begin a process of maturation. These immature worms are called microfilariae, but we will refer to them as teenagers (easier to grasp). Over a period that lasts about 4-6 months, the heartworm larvae develop into small adult worms which can live in a dog for a period of up to 7 years.

Once they reach adult form, the heartworms move into a vein and head straight for the heart. There they become able to reproduce, getting ready for the next stage in the heartworm life cycle-you guessed it-this stage is having babies. A female heartworm can give birth to 5,000 young per day which circulate in the bloodstream of an infected dog. They can do so for up to 3 years! And what are they waiting for? You've probably figured this out-they're waiting for another mosquito to come along and bite the dog. The mosquito takes up some of the baby worms when it bites an infected dog, and becomes ready to transmit the infection to a new dog.

Climate Matters
It turns out that a warm climate is vital for the development of the baby heartworms. To infect a new dog, they have to become teen-agers. This is a process that requires the temperature to stay balmy-if it dips below 57 degrees F for just a couple of hours it won't happen. This process also takes several days. As a result heartworm infection is not found in Alaska and parts of Canada, and is seasonal in many of the lower 48 states. But during the summertime when temperatures routinely stay above 57 degrees even at night, you need to be on alert for heartworm. The daytime temperature has to be generally 80 degrees or above for around two weeks for the babies to transform into teenage heartworms (this can happen more rapidly if the climate is warmer).

Heartworm Disease and Symptoms
Unfortunately, in most cases heartworm disease doesn't exhibit too many symptoms. It depends on the load of adult worms that the dog has. If the number of adult worms infecting the dog is low, then the worms tend to live in the pulmonary arteries (arteries in the lung) and in the right side of the heart. A large number of worms, as you might imagine, can cause some serious health problems based on where they are living. Early signs of heartworm disease include a soft cough and a dog that tires easily after exercise. You can see how these symptoms might be overlooked in a lot of dogs, in fact they might be missed entirely in a sedentary dog. Worse than this most dogs don't show any symptoms at all.

In an advanced case, the large heartworm burden causes a lot of problems. You might have a dog that faints, shows signs of weight loss, and coughs up blood. An advanced case can lead to a condition called congestive heart failure that can kill the dog.

Since most dogs don't show symptoms, and most that do have mild symptoms that could be mistaken for something else, the only way to diagnose the condition is with a heartworm test. You should have all of your dogs tested for heartworm. This is done with a blood test which looks for antigens that come from the female heartworms in the dog.

Heartworm Treatments
If a dog tests positive, the first step is to estimate how advanced the infection is. Blood work might be indicated to determine the status of kidney and liver function, and x-rays are in order to assess lung and heart damage.

Based on the results of these tests, your veterinarian will prescribe a treatment for your dog. This treatment begins with an injection of an arsenic based medication designed to kill the heartworms. It is given in the muscle. Currently, the drug of choice is one called immiticide (or Melarsomine Dihyrdochloride). The drug kills the worms, and unfortunately this process leads to complications. The dead worms can circulate into the ends of the pulmonary arteries, where they can cause a pulmonary embolism. This is a condition whereby blood flow is blocked in the lungs, and it can lead to death.

There are two steps taken to reduce the risk of this condition developing. First, most veterinarians treat the worms gradually. This is done by giving the medication in two steps. An initial dose is given to begin killing the worms, then a second dose is given about a month later to finish them off. Secondly, you can reduce the risk by keeping your dog sedentary. Generally you will have to keep your dog resting in a confined space such as a dog crate for a period of about 6 weeks or 42 days. If the dog stays resting and confined he is much less likely to have complications from the treatment. This allows the body to break down the heartworms after they die, and avoid having pieces of dead heartworm end up in the terminal pulmonary arteries where they can cause problems. The third week after the initial treatment can be the worst period, and unfortunately many dog owners let their guard down. They feel guilty keeping their dog confined for such a long period, the dog seems OK, and they let the dog out for some exercise and then an embolism results. If your dog is undergoing heartworm treatment don't fall into this trap. Keep him confined for the entire 6 week period.

Once the treatment is over, you can gradually resume exercise and activity with your dog. If your dog is young and/or has a light infection load, his chances for a full recovery are good. Dogs with advanced heartworm cases may require surgery to clear the heart out or repair damage.

Heartworm Prevention
The best and easiest way to deal with heartworm is to prevent it in the first place. A dog which tests negative should be put on a preventative medication. It has been found that heartworm preventatives are 99% effective. In fact, the missing 1% actually results from dog owners missing a dose or giving the medication irregularly. If you stick to a dosage schedule and give your dog a correct dose, chances are nearly 100% he will not become infected.

One popular preventative on the market is called Heartgard (ivermectin/pyrantel). This is given to your dog once a month. It resembles a kind of meaty dog treat, and most dogs eat it without hesitation. In addition to preventing heartworm, it treats hookworm and ascarid, so its a good medication to have your dogs on. It may save their lives. If your dog does test positive for heartworm and is treated, he will have to be on heartworm medication for the rest of his life. But start now, and get your dog on preventative before he has a chance of becoming infected.

Stop dog behavior problems. Click here to learn how.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Heartworm Treatment Day 6

Well Tony got out of his crate again. This time he didn't chew through it but instead figured out some way to open the front door. Luckily I had locked the door to the room he was in so he was still confined to a relatively small area. But he appears to have been pretty active, tearing up a bunch of carpet and knocking some stuff down. I guess the Xanax isn't working. I will have to talk to the vet on Monday to see if we can try something else.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dog Obedience Training

Dog Obedience Training 101. OK so you've brought the new dog home. Maybe its a puppy, or maybe its a dog you adopted from a shelter. Its exciting! But a few days go by and you find your dog is jumping on you. He's chewing up the furniture. He attacks the neighbors that come by to see your new dog. He pulls you on the leash. He barks all the time. What is a new dog owner to do?

Well dogs are not machines. They are living beings and to live with humans successfully, they need dog obedience training. A dog doesn't come pre-programmed with instructions on how to treat the furniture or who to bite or not bite. We have to teach him how. But where do you begin?

Click here for Dog Obedience Training Book

As a new dog owner, you have several options, and they are not mutually exclusive. The first thing you need to do is sign your new dog up for a good obedience class in your area. This might sound like an inconvenience, but investing a few weeks in going to doggie school will pay off big time in the long run. But to make it work you've got to treat it like you would anything else. You wouldn't expect to become an expert tennis player after 4 or 5 lessons would you? No! To get great at tennis you have to practice, practice, practice! Its the same with dogs. Dog training, when done right, takes time and effort. The payoff is a dog that becomes a long lasting member of the family, instead of a dog that chews up the furniture and ends up in an animal shelter.

Try to find a dog obedience school that spreads a class out over 6-8 weeks. This gives you and your dog time to take in the dog training in small bites (no pun intended). The first class they might talk about basic dog handling, then they will teach you how to walk a dog properly, how to get him to sit, and how to make him stay. These are all vital skills your dog needs to master to become a successful member of your family and to keep him safe throughout his life. Its not just about keeping a dog from jumping on people or chewing up the couch. A dog that will sit and stay on command is one that you can save from running out on the road and getting hit by a car or from going after a rattle snake and getting bitten.

When going through dog obedience training, don't just show up for class. Practice all week long. Do it in small sessions. Think of your dog as a kid with MAJOR attention deficit disorder. Train him for 10-15 minutes, and then give your dog a mental health break. Let him go play and romp in the backyard, or take your dog for a walk. Then do another training session several hours later. This lets the dog absorb information at a rate that is appropriate for dog learning.

The second step you should take is get your hands on several dog training books. One book I recommend can be found online here:

Click here for Dog Obedience Training Book

I have read and studied this book and recommend it to all my friends that are dog lovers. A good dog training book should be comprehensive. It should discuss what dog ownership involves, the size and breed of dog which is generally suitable for different people and lifestyles, and how to care and feed for your dog. Then it should discuss different training methods . Look for dog training books that not only talk about how to teach your dog basic commands like sitting and laying down, but dog training books that also discuss behavior problems. You might find yourself owning a dog that is aggressive or one that is hard to potty train. Or maybe your dog jumps on grandma. How can you deal with these issues? Find a book that describes these sorts of problems so you can deal with him.

The third step you should take is familiarize yourself with professional dog trainers that do one-on-one training in your local area. Talk to people who've used them, or discuss it with your vet. That way if serious problems arise, like a serious aggression problem, you know who to call on for help before you start considering taking your dog down to the local animal shelter.

In any case, have fun with your new dog! Invest as much time into petting her, throwing balls, giving her treats and walking her as much as you do in dog training. Then she will have a long and happy life.

Click here for Dog Obedience Training Book

Stomach Torsion (bloat)

Something you need to be aware of especially if you own large dogs is stomach torsion which is also known as bloat. This is a problem that develops in large breeds when a dog eats too much food at a sitting. In April of 2007 it took the life of my 10 year old German Shepherd Dog Sam, pictured here.

This condition, which is a medical emergency, is typically associated with dry dog food. I guess this has something to do with the fact that the dry dog food swells up in their stomachs. Their stomachs get really bloated and twist around, cutting off the blood supply to the vital organs, leading to death.

You can mitigate the risk by substituting some canned dog food for a bit of dry (or of course not feeding dry food at all). Another good way to reduce the risk is to split the feedings up. Don't give your dogs all their food in one single meal, feed them twice or three times a day.

When Sam was a puppy I took him to obedience school and the instructor actually mentioned this condition and told us not to feed once a day. So I had some awareness of it, but as the years went by I forgot the symptoms and forgot about feeding once per day. For most of their lives, I fed my German Shepherds a couple of cups of dry food and one can. Sam also had a fondness for egg Mcmuffins which I let him have once a week!

Then I got my Weimaraner and I got kind of lazy. I was pretty busy at the time with work projects too, so I started feeding them all dry food because it was easier. Sam weighed about 100 pounds so I fed him roughly 4 cups a day. Little did I know it would end up killing my dog.

Sam was older, he turned 10 years old in September of 2006. But he was in fantastic physical condition. I routinely took him for hikes in the Sandia mountains, and we would go on hard trails. It was real hiking and not just walking around. We did that 3-5 days per week. So I had this illusion in my mind he would live forever.

That April, Sam started burping one day. I noticed it and noticed the odd sound it made, but really thought nothing of it. If your dog starts doing this you might take some notice.

A few days later I was sitting and work and had this overwhelming urge to take the dogs for a hike. I skipped out of work and took them for a long hike on a nice trail deep in the forest. It was a great day for the dogs for sure. I took them home and went out for dinner.

That night Sam started throwing up. It turned out I was exhausted because at that time I had been writing a book and going to my full time job, so I really couldn't get out of bed. I heard him throwing up but fell back to sleep. When I got up the next morning I saw Sam laying in the bathroom. I called to him and he lifted his head and I thought everything was OK. Later I came out and saw him dead by the door leading to the backyard. I guess the poor fellow had to go to the bathroom.

In a state of shock I was running through all kinds of things in my mind. Maybe I had hiked him too hard and there wasn't any water in the house when I went out for dinner, maybe someone poisoned him-I just didn't know. A friend urged me to take his body to the vet to find out what had happened. I did and they told me it was stomach torsion.

I will always feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Since Sam was in such good condition from hiking I thought he would live to a ripe old age for a big dog, like maybe 13-15. I feel bad for changing him to all dry food and for feeding him once a day. I feel guilty for not knowing the symptoms-for example if a dog is throwing up water you need to take them to an emergency vet right away. The only way to deal with this condition is with emergency surgery. Even then the success rate is not that good, the best thing to do is prevention. So split your dogs feedings up if you're not doing so already, and if you have deep chested dogs maybe don't even feed them dry food. I have also read that dog bowls raised off the floor reduce the risk of the condition. The reason is gulping in air during eating increases the risk, and a dog is more inclined to gulp in air if eating off the floor. Finally don't exercise your dogs for at least one hour after eating. Let them rest and start digesting the food. One more thing-make sure you have some money on reserve or a credit card available. Emergency surgery for a dog can cost a couple or three thousand dollars. Visit this website to learn more Gastric Torsion in Dogs.

Dog Training Secrets Revealed-Click Here

Heartworm update

Tony seems to be doing much better being kept in a crate all the time. Maybe the Xanax is starting to kick in and alleviate some of his anxiety. Only 37 days to go...

I also took my wired up dog Lucy to stay at my moms house during this ordeal. That has calmed some of the energy down. She seemed to enjoy going over to the crate and barking at Tony and was getting him wound up.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lucy the Weimaraner

A couple of years ago I had two dogs-a male German Shepherd dog named Sam and a female German Shepherd dog named Brandy. I got this wild idea-it was more like a craving-to get a Weimaraner. I had always wanted one and suddenly it seemed like the right time.

I looked in the paper and this guy was selling some 9 week old puppies. He lived in Pecos, which is a mountainous area near Santa Fe, and I live in Albuquerque. So he tells me Pecos is a long way to drive to go look at some puppies, why don't I meet him at this rest stop on I-25, and he would bring a couple of them. I was like that is kind of weird, but OK.

So I get in my car and arrive at the rest stop at the appropriated time. I wait and wait....and wait.. and wait...the guy never shows. I try calling him on my cell phone and get no answer. I was kind of pissed off but figured maybe it was for the best, after all what is he trying to hide? Is this some kind of puppy mill or something?

After driving back home, feeling kind of down about the whole thing I grabbed the paper and looked at the dogs for sale. Some lady had a 1 year old female Weimaraner. I called her and she said she just didn't have time to spend with the dog and her husband wasn't too happy they had a dog in the first place. Apparently this lady went and got the dog and didn't tell her husband about it. Funny thing was, it turned out she got the dog from the guy I was supposed to meet at the rest stop! I was like this must be meant to be, so headed out to her place.

When I got there her hubby opened the door. He seemed nice enough, but I soon discovered that the puppy was completely afraid of this dude. They said the dog was out back and they tried calling her in. She came running in at full speed and ran right up the stairs. They were having a hard time bringing her down because she was hiding under the bed. During all this the lady was explaining to me how timid the dog was, she said the dog was afraid to go on walks and would try to hide between your legs if you walked her.

Finally, the husband got the dog out from under the bed and brought her down. He explained how the dog had peeeed on the couch and he was really unhappy about that. The people seemed really anxious to get rid of her, and they told me that one time the dog escaped and ended up in the animal shelter, and they considered leaving her in there! These folks are not animal lovers!

The dog was being really timid and wouldn't come around me much, but I felt so sorry for her I told them I would take her and I gave them $175 cash. Off we went. I decided to name the dog Lucy.

The drive to my house was quiet, Lucy barely stirred. I pulled into my driveway and pulled her out of the car and trotted on into the house. I opened the door and once Lucy saw my other two dogs, she suddenly came to life! She immediately ran in and started playing vigorously with my dogs. Lucy has been the same ever since. She is not timid on walks at all like the lady described. In fact I take her off leash in the mountains and she runs full speed all over the place.

Well that is how I acquired Lucy the Weimaraner.

Train Your Dog and Eliminate Dog behavior problems. Click here to learn how.

Heartworm Treatment Days 1-3

If your dogs aren't on heartworm preventative, you need to get them on it. Giving them the preventative is a very minor inconvenience, going through heartworm treatment is hell.

The first day I brought Tony, my young German Shepherd dog home from the vet, he was pretty groggy. So the idea of confining him in a crate wasn't all that traumatic. I just put him in there and he slept most of the day and night. End of day 1, only 41 more days to go.

Day 2 wasn't bad either. I took him out on the leash in the morning and let him use the bathroom, and put him back in the crate. He was a bit more alive the second day, but all in all things were not so bad.

On day 3 I took the rest of my dogs over to Sharon's house to run around on her 5 acres. I kind of got relaxed. Sharon was at work and the dogs were running around having a grand old time, so I just sat back in a recliner and read. After a few hours the dogs were exhausted so I headed on home.

I opened the door and there was Tony, wagging his tail! He had somehow got himself out of his crate! This was a complete disaster since a dog must be kept still during the heartworm treatment! I went to the bedroom and saw that he had completely demolished the crate! I don't know how he did it, but he did. I shouldn't be all that surprised, since Tony has learned to open doors (not locked ones yet...). Needless to say, I had to go blow $142 on a new crate.

I called the vet and he decided to put Tony on Xanex! Its an anti-anxiety medication and I guess they give it to dogs for separation anxiety. He thinks this will calm Tony down and make him accept being kept in a crate. I sure hope so. I think Tony might need to be sedated to get through this. But can you sedate a dog for 42 days? This is nuts.

Dog Obedience Problems Solved. Click here for more Info.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Being a long term dog owner I have always been aware of heartworm. I knew the disease was devastating, but what I didn't know was how serious the treatment is as well. I am finding out the hard way as my German Shepherd dog Tony (pictured here) has a heartworm infection.

I got Tony from the local German Shepherd rescue in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Apparently he was found wandering the streets of the South Valley, near the Rio Grande river which is an environment ripe for mosquitos. Since heartworm transmits mosquitos, that means being by the river is a risky area for heartworm. Tony had been picked up by the local animal control, and the woman who runs German Shepherd dog rescue bailed him out. She put him up for adoption shortly after.

At the time, I had recently lost my German Shepherd of 10 and a half years, a large male named Sam. He died suddenly of stomach torsion and I was pretty devastated. A friend recommended I contact the rescue lady and she had Tony-and it turns out Tony looks a lot like Sam. So I went ahead and adopted him. Since he had spent some time in the animal shelter I figured he had been checked out, at least he had gotten all his shots.

So this summer I took Tony for his annual vet visit and was shocked to find out he tested positive for heartworm. I live near the mountains, and while there are mosquitos up there its generally a pretty dry environment. My vet suspects Tony got infected while living on the streets by the river.

Heartworm is a disease in dogs transmitted by mosquitos. I don't want to get into the details of the infection and life cycle of the worm in this article, but what makes the disease such a problem is the adult worms live in the pulmonary artery. Now of course this is a major problem so the disease must be treated, otherwise the dog faces certain death.

So I take Tony in and they did some x-rays and blood work. These tests came back great-his heart, lungs, and kidneys are all normal indicating the infection is not that advanced. This fact together with his young age (Tony is about 2 years) indicates that Tony will probably recover.

But the treatment is just nuts. I brought Tony in last Monday and they gave him the first treatment which is an injection into the muscle. What sucks about this is that the medicine kills the worms and then the worms break up into little pieces. They travel through the bloodstream where they can block the blood vessels. More specifically what they can do is cause a pulmonary embolism. This can happen in people, you go on a long airline flight and get a blood clot in your lower leg from sitting still for so long. It travels to your lung where it plugs up a blood vessel in your lungs and BAM! Instant death.

Basically the same thing can happen in a dog but the worm takes the place of a blood clot. The trick to have the dog recover is keep them confined. If they don't move around much, then it gives the body time to break down the worms safely. But if the dog runs around or gets overly excited, pieces of worm will travel rapidly to the wrong places and kill the dog. Worst news: the dog has to stay locked up for 42 days.

The vet said that what often happens is after a couple of weeks the dog seems fine. Then the owners feel sorry for the dog and let the dog out. The third week happens to be the danger zone when the pieces of worm are broken up the most and the right size to cause a pulmonary embolism, and then either the dog has a medical emergency or drops dead.

I've had Tony confined in a crate for three days so far. He is not enjoying it. I own 4 other dogs which doesn't help! He wants to get out and play with them, but has to stay in the crate 24 hours a day 7 days a week with the exception of three potty breaks spaced throughout the day. Also you have to take them out on a leash to go to the bathroom to prevent them from running around.

More to say about heartworm and Tony later!

Dog Training Problems? Click here for solutions.