It's always nice to hear from a reader that a recent topic has benefited them or their pet. Cathy, from Florida, sent the following in an e-mail:
Just wanted to let you know that your blog this week helped since I have to put Sam in a kennel while we go away for Christmas. I had checked with the vet and also a friend of mine uses the kennel we picked for her dog. We went up and got all the paper work done first, checked it out and liked what we saw. They even have a swimming pool for the pets if they want it. And while we were there we watched a couple guys throwing frisbees for 2 german shephards. They really work with the animals to see they are happy. The attendant noted that Sam was a "rescue" dog and said they always try to give rescues a lot of extra loving. I also told her about him being an escape artist and she marked that. Then she said we could bring Sam up for "orientation" once or several times if we wanted. We could leave him a couple hours while we went to lunch or shopping. So one day I took him up. They made a big sign for his "suite" that noted the rescue thing and the escape artist thing so I felt good about that. When we picked him up a couple hours later, he seemed fine and they told me he seemed okay and just looked all around and didn't to fuss or anything. I'm going to take him up once more before we go. But it looks good so far. Your blog helped me know that we seemed to have picked a good place. Thanks.
Last week's poll questions showed that only about 1/3 of respondents had experience with a "separation anxiety" diagnosed dog. Also, every respondent indicated that they had learned about their boarding kennel choice from either their veterinarian or a friend (or both). Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.
You can also answer these questions or ask any questions of your by sending an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Last week's discussion of Separation Anxiety covered the description of the disorder, its symptoms, and other medical problems to rule out first. This week's discussion will turn to the treatment options available.
What to Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Treatment for Mild Separation Anxiety
If your dog has a mild case of separation anxiety, counterconditioning might reduce or resolve the problem. Counterconditioning is a treatment process that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. It’s done by associating the sight or presence of a feared or disliked person, animal, place, object or situation with something really good, something the dog loves. Over time, the dog learns that whatever he fears actually predicts good things for him. For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish. For example, try giving your dog a KONG® stuffed with something really tasty, like low-fat cream cheese, Cheez Whiz® or low-fat peanut butter, frozen banana and cottage cheese, or canned dog food and kibble. A KONG can even be frozen so that getting all the food out takes even more of your dog’s time. Your dog might also love a Buster® Cube, a Kibble Nibble™ or a TreatStik® filled with kibble. Be sure to remove these special toys as soon as you return home so that your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods inside when he’s by himself. You can feed your dog all of his daily meals in special toys. For example, you can give your dog a KONG or two stuffed with his breakfast and some tasty treats every morning before going to work. Keep in mind, though, that this approach will only work for mild cases of separation anxiety because highly anxious dogs usually won’t eat when their guardians aren’t home.
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety
Moderate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. In these cases, it’s crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.
The following steps briefly describe a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Please keep in mind that this is a short, general explanation.
Desensitization and counterconditioning are complex and can be tricky to carry out. Fear must be avoided or the procedure will backfire and the dog will get more frightened. Because treatment must progress and change according to the pet’s reactions, and because these reactions can be difficult to read and interpret, desensitization and counterconditioning require the guidance of a trained and experienced professional. For help designing and carrying out a desensitization and counterconditioning plan, consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). If you can’t find a behaviorist, you can seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), but be sure that the trainer is qualified to help you. Determine whether she or he has education and experience in treating fear with desensitization and counterconditioning, since this kind of expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification.
Step One: Predeparture Cues
As mentioned above, some dogs begin to feel anxious while their guardians get ready to leave. For example, a dog might start to pace, pant and whine when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys. (If your dog doesn’t show signs of anxiety when you’re preparing to leave him alone, you can just skip to step two below.) Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leave—even for just few seconds—without triggering their dogs’ extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that you’re leaving (like your putting on your coat or picking up your keys) and get so anxious about being left alone that he can’t control himself and forgets that you’ll come back.
One treatment approach to this “predeparture anxiety” is to teach your dog that when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, it doesn’t always mean that you’re leaving. You can do this by exposing your dog to these cues in various orders several times a day—without leaving. For example, put on your boots and coat, and then just watch TV instead of leaving. Or pick up your keys, and then sit down at the kitchen table for awhile. This will reduce your dog’s anxiety because these cues won’t always lead to your departure, and so your dog won’t get so anxious when he sees them. Please be aware, though, that your dog has many years of learning the significance of your departure cues, so in order to learn that the cues no longer predict your long absences, your dog must experience the fake cues many, many times a day for many weeks. After your dog doesn’t become anxious when he sees you getting ready to leave, you can move on to the next step below.
Step Two: Graduated Departures/Absences
If your dog is less anxious before you leave, you can probably skip the predeparture treatment above and start with very short departures. The main rule is to plan your absences to be shorter than the time it takes for your dog to become upset. To get started, train your dog to perform out-of-sight stays by an inside door in the home, such as the bathroom. You can teach your dog to sit or down and stay while you go to the other side of the bathroom door. You can teach your dog to sit or down and stay while you go to the other side of the bathroom door. Gradually increase the length of time you wait on the other side of the door, out of your dog’s sight. You can also work on getting your dog used to predeparture cues as you practice the stay. For example, ask your dog to stay. Then put on your coat, pick up your purse and go into the bathroom while your dog continues to stay.
• Progress to doing out-of-sight stay exercises at a bedroom door, and then later at an exit door. If you always leave through the front door, do the exercises at the back door first. By the time you start working with your dog at exit doors, he shouldn’t behave anxiously because he has a history of playing the “stay game.”
• At this point, you can start to incorporate very short absences into your training. Start with absences that last only last one to two seconds, and then slowly increase the time you’re out of your dog’s sight. When you’ve trained up to separations of five to ten seconds long, build in counterconditioning by giving your dog a stuffed food toy just before you step out the door. The food-stuffed toy also works as a safety cue that tells the dog that this is a “safe” separation.
• During your sessions, be sure to wait a few minutes between absences. After each short separation, it’s important to make sure that your dog is completely relaxed before you leave again. If you leave again right away, while your dog is still excited about your return from the previous separation, he’ll already feel aroused when he experiences the next absence. This arousal might make him less able to tolerate the next separation, which could make the problem worse rather than better.
• Remember to behave in a very calm and quiet manner when going out and coming in. This will lower the contrast between times when you’re there and times when you’re gone.
• You must judge when your dog is able to tolerate an increase in the length of separation. Each dog reacts differently, so there are no standard timelines. Deciding when to increase the time that your dog is alone can be very difficult, and many pet parents make errors. They want treatment to progress quickly, so they expose their dogs to durations that are too long, which provokes anxiety and worsens the problem. To prevent this kind of mistake, watch for signs of stress in your dog. These signs might include dilated pupils, panting, yawning, salivating, trembling, pacing and exuberant greeting. If you detect stress, you should back up and shorten the length of your departures to a point where your dog can relax again. Then start again at that level and progress more slowly.
• You will need to spend a significant amount of time building up to 40-minute absences because most of your dog’s anxious responses will occur within the first 40 minutes that he’s alone. This means that over weeks of conditioning, you’ll increase the duration of your departures by only a few seconds each session, or every couple of sessions, depending on your dog’s tolerance at each level. Once your dog can tolerate 40 minutes of separation from you, you can increase absences by larger chunks of time (5-minute increments at first, then later 15-minute increments). Once your dog can be alone for 90 minutes without getting upset or anxious, he can probably handle four to eight hours. (Just to be safe, try leaving him alone for four hours at first, and then work up to eight full hours over a few days.)
• This treatment process can be accomplished within a few weeks if you can conduct several daily sessions on the weekends and twice-daily sessions during the work week, usually before leaving for work and in the evenings.
Part 3 will appear next week.
Several of our readers have sent e-mails asking for advice on the breeds of dog they should consider when adding a dog to the family. The AKC has presented their suggestions in this article
If you're considering expanding your clan by adding a canine, do you know what breed is best for your family? You need to look beyond which dog's coat is the same color as your couch, and really ask the important question: which breed's personality is the best fit for your family's lifestyle? With a little help from our friends at the American Kennel Club, including Gina DiNardo, Assistant Vice President of the AKC, we're offering helpful hints for narrowing down your decision.
If you think of your family as
Activity level is a major factor in determining the right dog for you and yours. An active family that loves to run and play will find that the border collie is a good match for them. This athletic dog was bred to work, and he'll be happiest with a family that keeps him physically and mentally stimulated.
If you're a friendly family with plenty of guests dropping by, your best bet would probably be a sporting breed like the golden retriever, or herding dogs such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Why? "They are eager to learn, want to please, are very intelligent, and many are naturally very social," DiNardo tells us.
Families that travel often and bring their dogs with them will do well with a "small, portable, toy breed like the Maltese" due to their size and relatively minimal exercise requirements, DiNardo tells us.
A Labrador retriever is also a good choice for the active family, particularly if you enjoy the outdoors. This active breed is loyal and affectionate and will be thrilled to join you in hiking, camping, swimming, and, at the end of the day, lounging by the fire. It's no wonder this is the most popular breed in America!
Not every family loves the outdoors, which is just fine because not every dog loves spending the day outside either! If you'd prefer to hang out at home or chill on the park bench rather than go out for a run with your furry friend, consider a breed that's similarly laid-back, like the bulldog. This bright breed is loving and loyal and requires only light exercise. Another smart choice for easygoing families is the pug. Though playful and sweet, the pug doesn't need much exercise because it was bred to be a house pet.
Living in a Little Layout
If your home quarters are tight, a small toy breed could be the perfect match. Consider the Yorkshire terrier. Although they've got energy and spunk to spare, the fact that they're so small makes this breed a great choice for small spaces.
Raising Itty-Bitty Babies
"Larger dogs like the Leonberger are more suitable for babies and toddlers than small breeds because they are sturdier and can handle tugs and missteps better," says DiNardo.
Allergic to Animals
As animal allergies become more and more common, families are increasingly seeking dogs that don't shed or produce much dander. If this is a consideration for your family, you have several options. A Portuguese water dog (like Bo Obama) is an energetic, loyal breed that will require considerable daily exercise. Poodles also needs daily exercise, and with their sharp minds, they'll enjoy games that test their brains too.
Looking for a Look-Out Dog
"Most working breeds, like the doberman pinscher, and some herding breeds, such as the Belgian sheepdog, have a natural instinct to protect their home, family, or livestock," DiNardo says, so these breeds are a natural fit if you're looking for a dog that will guard your house. However, "they should be socialized well to avoid becoming overprotective," she adds.
Ultimately, while these categories are a great starting point in researching breeds, it is important not to be too focused on your "ideal" dog because every pet is different. If you do have lots of specific requirements for a new dog, DiNardo encourages you to reconsider whether getting a dog is really the right thing for their family right now. " If your family has neighbors who do not deal well with barking, or if your family is very busy and does not have the time to devote to feeding, walking, exercising, and playing with a dog, then it is best to wait until the time is right. Getting a dog is a commitment, and you want to make sure you can give it all the attention it needs and deserves."
BREED OF THE WEEK
A member of the Hound Group, the Pharaoh Hound is the 146th most popular breed in the United States, according to 2008 American Kennel Club® registration statistics. Noble and graceful, the Pharaoh Hound resembles the majestic Sphinx found in the Egyptian desert. The breed also possesses an endearing quality unique among all dogs – his blush! When happy or excited, the Pharaoh's nose and ears turn a deep rosy color.
A Look Back
The Pharaoh Hound originated in ancient Egypt as far back as 3000 B.C. The breed is pictured on numerous tombs, showing his status as companion and hunter in ancient times. The breed is thought to have been brought from Egypt by the Phoenicians when they settled on the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo near Italy. They are bred for rabbit hunting and are the national dog of Malta.
Did You Know...
The Pharaoh Hound is one of the oldest domesticated dogs in history. As a cherished companion of the Egyptians, the dogs were buried with honor alongside their masters. Today, he is a medium-sized dog that should be graceful, powerful, and above all – fast. His striking coat ranges in color from tan to chestnut to red golden, with white markings on the tip of the tail, chest, toes and on the center line of the face. Today, the breed's willingness to please makes them excellent candidates for hunting, obedience and coursing.
Is a Pharaoh Hound the right breed for your family?
Intelligent, friendly and playful, the Pharaoh Hound is affectionate with its family and generally gets along well with other dogs. Extremely athletic, they require daily exercise, but should be kept in a fenced area, as they possess a great keenness for hunting and may try to chase after small animals. The fence should be at least six feet high, as this breed can jump quite high from a near standstill. The breed's short, glossy coat is low-maintenance.
PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK
1) If this statement sounds like something you'd say, "Keeping cat hair under control is no easy challenge. One minute you're giving your pet a thorough brushing (and collecting enough hair to stuff a pillow), and the next minute, it's leaving another fine carpet of long hair all over the furniture," then perhaps you should browse throught these 5 cat grooming products: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/10/zootoo-review-5-products-to-make-grooming-your-cat-easier/
De-Shedding Tool for Cats
2) With the holidays fast-approaching, if you have any children on your gift list, then you might want to consider these 4 stories about animals: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/08/new-books-animal-stories-for-kids/
1) The Insurance Information Institute says that dog bites accounted for more than 1/3 of all homeowner or renter policy liability claims last year, with an average claim of $24,840. Most insurance companies will cover dog bites, but 1 free bite is all you get. After that, your insurance company can charge a higher premium or exclude your dog from coverage altogether.Some firms require a liability waiver or charge more for breeds deemed to be dangerous such as Pitbulls and Rottweilers.
2) Should Canine Paratroopers be Helping Battle the Taliban in Afghanistan? For a human to step out of an airplane at 5-10,000 ft. in the air is crazy enough, but what do you think is going through a dog's mind when it goes out of the same airplane strapped to a commando's chest? Check out this news story and determine for yourself whether or not you go along with this: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/10/should-canine-paratroopers-be-helping-battle-the-taliban-in-afgh/?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-w%7Cdl5%7Csec3_lnk2%7C183555
3) Dogs are frequently credited with helping people through tough times, whether it be an illness, old age, or a family loss. Now, cats are beginning to be included in that group of "precious pets": http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/2010/11/09/20101109catlovers1109.html
The Pittsburgh Steelers played their 3rd consecutive night game, this time at home against the New England Patriots, and got their collective butts handed to them. New England surpassed the Steelers in every aspect of the game and clearly showed that they are the class of the NFL. The Steelers have a long way to go to reclaim any sense of respectability.
Helpful Buckeye is starting to think of some hiking and biking challenges to include on the Quadathlon Adventure of 2011. Several of my friends have offered suggestions, some of which might even be actually doable. At this point, I've pretty much zeroed in on 3 possible good event ideas and have started making lodging reservations, since at least 2 of them will be "out of town."
Helpful Buckeye's regular racquetball partner not only has completed his recovery from his 2nd hip replacement surgery but is also now playing a pretty decent game of racquetball again! I've played a lot of racquetball in the last 35 years and it still really impresses me that he is able to play at this level with 2 artificial hips! You Da Man, Jim....
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~