Excessive licking in dogs and cats

Dogs and cats will groom themselves by licking their fur. This is normal. They will lick their owners as a sign of affection as well. Licking can be a form of play and to let you know they are hungry. If the owner pays attention to their pet when they lick, it can reinforce the behavior, encouraging the pet to do it more often.

However, some pets will engage in excessive licking. Only the owner can determine if the pet is licking more than normal. Excessive licking is a compulsive behavior and the pet may lick everything in sight. This is not good for the pet and the family. Do not try to “correct” this behavior, it will only make it worse.

The first thing a pet owner must do is schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Excessive licking can be due to allergies, including food allergies. Other causes are boredom, stress, pain and diseases.

Try to recall if anything in the pet’s environment brought about the excessive licking. Changes are especially suspect, did you move, change the pet’s food, bed, alter the environment such as adding or taking away furniture, someone in the family moving in or out, a new pet, neighbor or any other change that the pet is aware of. Even a family member changing jobs, or a family crisis can affect a pet.

The easiest way to correct excessive licking is to give the pet an alternative activity. If the pet is a dog, give the dog a chew toy when he starts to lick. Praise the dog for chewing the toy. If the pet is a cat offer a toy for the cat to play with and interact with the cat. Be sure to give the pet a good rubdown or petting when they stop licking. If the pet tries to lick family members gently say “no” and give them something to chew or an activity.

If the excessive licking was due to a change in the home environment it may take a few weeks for the pet to adjust to the change. If the behavior does not stop or if it increases, it is best to consult with a certified canine or feline behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org  With time and patience, excessive licking can often be cured.

Children and dog bites

It is shocking to learn that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of all children who are 12 years of age and under, have been bitten by a dog. There are many reasons why this occurs. Some are that children are unsupervised, tease the dog, startle the dog, hurt the dog, wander near a confined dog or try to hug an unfamiliar dog.

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All types and sizes of dogs can bite a child or adult and it is not fair to label certain breeds as more aggressive. In many cases, a small bite from a small dog will go unreported. Because large dogs do more damage, those bites often require medical attention and are reported.

Children are most likely to sustain injuries to their face when bitten because of their small size. They are not strong enough to protect themselves or fight off an attacking dog which can cause more severe injuries than an adult would sustain.

According to a study conducted by by Dr Sarah Rose and Grace Aldridge of Staffordshire University, England, one reason why children are bitten is because they cannot recognize when a dog appears frightened although they do recognize when a dog is angry.

There are a few things adults can do to protect themselves and their children. The adult can learn to read and recognize body language in dogs. This will help them understand the emotional state of the dog. If the child is old enough they too can learn how to read body language. If the child is very young (toddler and older) they should be supervised and not allowed near unfamiliar dogs. Even if the family has a pet dog, the child should be supervised when around the dog. Given the right situation, all dogs will bite.

If the family has a pet dog the child must be taught how to play with the dog. All dogs are different and some become highly excited when playing. Under these conditions a dog could bite. Keep in mind that not all bites are aggressive acts, but unfortunately all types of bites are usually considered aggressive by authorities.

The older child must be taught not to approach strange dogs unless they are assured by the owner that it is safe. Then they must be taught how to safely approach a strange dog.

With a little bit of education on the part of the adult and child, many dog bites can be prevented. Protecting both people and your dog is part of being a responsible dog owner.

www.safetyarounddogs.org/statistics.html

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160914090502.htm

Dogs are smarter than many people realize

In the first five years of a human’s life, a child will develop the ability to understand emotions, intentions, knowledge, beliefs and desires. This is referred to as the Theory of Mind. Until recently tests to determine if dogs can do this have had poor results. But recently, cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have developed a test that shows dogs are able to do the same thing.

Their experiment involved hiding food in one container and having the other containers smell like food but did not have any food in them. Then two people would point to the containers, one person knew where the food was and pointed to the correct container, the other person did not point to the correct container. The dogs tested were able to determine by looking at the people which one knew where the food was and successfully picked the right container 70% of the time. In another test a third person as added and the dogs still had a high success rate.

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The study showed that dogs are to find out what humans can or cannot see. As scientists continue to find ways to accurately test the knowledge and abilities of all animals we will discover how intelligent the animal world is. As far as what this study means to the average dog owner, it may explain why your dogs can outsmart their owners, such as learning where treats and toys are hidden from them. How many times have dogs managed to open cabinet doors to help themselves to their food or treats? Think about it.

Read the entire article at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170407091829.htm

MRI’s help determine which dogs will fail assistance dog training

A unique study conducted by researcher Gregory Berns at Emory University found that functional MRI’s can help determine which dogs will successfully pass assistance dog training.

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The fMRI shows the researchers which dogs are likely to fail and why. Although all the dogs appeared calm and therefore prime candidates for training, the fMRI showed that some dogs had a higher level of activity in the amygdala which is the area of the brain that is associated with excitability. These dogs were more likely to fail assistance dog training.

The fMRI allowed the researchers to predict, with a success rate of 67%, up from 47% which dogs would not succeed in the training program.

This method of predicting which dog can succeed is not something the average dog trainer can use due to the cost. However, in the case of assistance dogs trained at Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, CA, it helps a great deal because the cost of training a dog ranges from $20,000 to $50,000 and as many as 70% of the dogs in the program fail.

The MRI is a painless way to analyze the dogs. They are taught how to remain still while getting the MRI so no drugs or restraints are used.

Hopefully in the future, the cost of testing the dogs will be within reach of dog trainers so that other types of service and working dogs be tested before they are trained.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307100455.htm

Learn your dog’s body language

A Guest Blog by Kevin Davies

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Sometimes it is difficult to read your pup’s body language. Here are a few tips about how to read and understand your dog’s body language, as well as a few helpful hints on how to react to what your dog is telling you through their actions.

Start by watching and studying your dog. Go ahead and take your dog to a park, and see how other dogs are acting; pay attention to what they doing, and consider why they are doing what they do.

This takes time and practice, but the more time you invest in studying the body language of dogs, the more you and your dog will benefit from Rover’s communication techniques.

First we will look at body language that shows when your pup is stressed and is trying to calm down. Typically, when your dog is worried, they will shiver, whine or cry, and you may see the whites of their eyes.

Dogs sometimes deal with anxiety by licking their lips, walking slowly in circles, or panting. A good way to help calm your dog is by stroking them from their head to their rump, while speaking softly and reassuringly.

If your dog is being aggressive, they will bare their lips back and sometimes snarl or bark. They will also display “hackles,” that is, raised hair on their back between their shoulder blades and sometimes above their tail. Most of the time their ears will be pulled back and the whites of their eyes may will show.

Usually when a dog is aggressive, it is because they feel the need to protect someone or something, or they feel that another dog has provoked them. The best way to handle your dog when they are showing signs of aggression is to remove them from situation. However, it is a good idea to refrain from touching your dog since this might cause them to startle and snap at you.

The next type of common doggie body language is a display of confidence. When a dog feels, they may prance around with their head held high, their tail relaxed and raised, and a relaxed mouth with their lips gently falling over their teeth.

If a dog is fearful, their ears may be pulled back, the whites of their eyes will show, and their head will not be raised. Other body language that communicates fear is also a lowered head and body, and some dogs are known to hide behind your legs, under the bed, or under the table.

The final kind of body language is when your dog wants to play with another dog, or just simply wants to say “hi.” If your dog is initiating playtime with another dog, you will often see your dog paw the air (this is prominent in puppies) or perform a classic bow by lowering their head and bending their front paws. Sometimes a friendly swat or sniff is present as well.

Let your dog play with other dogs the way they want. However, if you feel that your dog is being overwhelmed or is overwhelming their playmate, feel free to intervene for a short “breather” or “time-out.”

Reading your dog’s body language is a process that is an interesting and beneficial experience for the both of you. Remember, the more you study your dog’s movements, the more you will understand and the easier it will be for you to communicate with your pup!

See More of Kevin’s articles at: https://petloverguy.com

K9 Drug Detection: A Manual for Training and Operations

K9 Drug Detection: A Manual for Training and Operations by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak, Brush Education, Inc., ISBN: 978-1-55059-681-6, $44.95, 296 pgs.

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This is another great book by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak that consists of 8 chapters with four appendices, a bibliography, notes and an index. The Appendices list the laws concerning drugs in Canada and the USA.

Chapter:

  1. Selecting the Drug-Detector Dog and Handler
  2. Basics of Drug-Detection Training
  3. Accidental Drug Uptake: First Aide for Your Dog
  4. Reading Your Dog
  5. Influence of Air Currents in Search Work
  6. Planning a Search Action
  7. General Information on Drugs, Drug Laws and Penalties
  8. The Different Drugs
  9. Conclusion

There are a lot of training tips covered in the book that apply to other disciplines. For example, the authors point out that yelling at your dog sounds like punishment to the dog.

They cover handler requirements as well as dogs. For example, they explain that the handler must learn to trust their dog since they depend on the dog to find the scent. This is true for all working dog situations. They explain that the drug dog must be able to work independently yet also be obedient. Again, this is true for all working dog situations. It is called intelligent disobedience since the dog must alert or lead the handler to the scent source even if the handler does not think the source is located where the dog indicates.

The authors give an excellent description of how the wind and buildings affect scent by explaining outdoor wind currents and indoor air currents. They give extensive details about how to search a building and where to look. They also cover other types of searches such as vehicles, RV’s, packages, luggage, airplanes, boats, and the list goes on. All of this applies to SAR work as well.

They cover training methods and explain the pros and cons of controlled searches and blind searches. They also cover situations where there are multiple scents involved. Like any good scent book they explain how the dog’s nose detects scent.

The dog training part of the book is excellent as well as their description of innate, acquired and learned behaviors. They explain how the handler must recognize each and use them in training.

Over all this is an excellent book that can help anyone who wants to do any type of scent work with their dog. It is also a good refresher for those who already use drug dogs.

Digger: The Case of the Chimera Killer

Digger: The Case of the Chimera Killer by Robert D. Calkins, pgs. 337, ISBN: 978-0-9971911-2-7, self-published, $15.95.

Digger is a fast paced, fun read for all ages. The story is about a young man, his Golden Retriever and his girlfriend who are part of a canine search and rescue team. While the story is lighthearted in many ways, it is also dramatic and a page turner. The examples of how SAR dogs work and the technical aspects of searching are true to real life missions. The added mystery of solving who the killer is adds to the excitement of this book.

The quality of the book is good and there are no technical issues or grammatical mistakes.

Calkins has also written two children’s picture books.

Sierra Becomes a Search Dog, ISBN:978-0-9971911-0-3; and Sierra the Search Dog Finds Fred, ISBN: 9780997191141 both by Robert D. Calkins and illustrated by Taillefer Long. Both books are $10.95.

Sierra Becomes a Search Dog and Sierra the Search Dog Finds Fred are nice children’s book with Fun Facts sidebars explaining technical aspects in a way that children will understand. Sierra the Search Dog Finds Fred is told as a rhyme/poem which is not bad. I personally liked the style used in Sierra Becomes a Search Dog which is written in simple language for young readers. Both are excellent books to introduce children to canine SAR.

Do Dogs Prefer Food or Praise as a Reward?

In an attempt to further understand the human-animal bond, researchers investigated whether or not dogs prefer praise or food from their owners. Surprisingly most of the dogs preferred praise or praise and food equally. Two of the dogs were chow-hounds and preferred food.

While 13 subjects are not a fair sampling, especially when one considers the personality differences in breeds and even within the same breed, the study does shed some possibilities for consideration.

Most trainers, behavior consultants and handlers of working or sport dogs can tell you about individual dogs who are not food motivated. The people who try to work with these dogs have to find another way to motivate them. Fortunately, most dogs will work for both praise and food, making it easier to motivate them in training situations.

Food is still a great way to train a dog, especially when coupled with clicker training. But for those dogs who are not food motivated, a pat on the head or verbal praise is just as good. When using food, it is always best to wean the dog off of the food once he has learned the exercise and save the special treat for new exercises.

Studies such as this one are great because they open minds and possibilities for future studies. The research team in this case want to explore how dogs process and understand human language.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160816120656.htm

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Bab’s — Praise Motivated

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Riley — Food Motivated and laughing about it!

K9 Investigation Errors: A Manual for Avoiding Mistakes

K9 Investigation Errors: A Manual for Avoiding Mistakes, by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak, Brush Education, Inc.; 256 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1-55059-672-4, $44.95

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How can you make a good book better? Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak who wrote K9 Fraud, have accomplished that with their updated book, K9 Investigation Errors. They cover many important points in handling dogs that are common mistakes. For example, they explain how dogs can read human gestures, even the slightest ones (the Clever Hans Effect) which can cause a false response from a dog. They review some famous cases in the United States and show how the handler or poor training misled authorities, sometimes resulting in the arrest of the wrong person.

What I especially liked was their comments that dog handlers who claim fantastic results with their dogs (typically false) influence authorities who believe them and then think that properly trained dogs who cannot perform to that level are not as good, when in fact the properly trained and handled dogs are correct.

Another interesting point that they bring out in their book is what they call failure scents. This is when a dog associates a scent with failure and by association can lead to the dog’s poor performance. This is the same as people will often associate a benign event, song, scent or even food with a bad experience and react to the memory that it triggers.

There is so much information in this book that I strongly recommend handlers of all disciplines read this book and evaluate how they can improve their dogs and their handling skills.

The book is a high quality book, as is typical of Brush Education Publications, with quality binding, pages and soft cover. It is well edited with no typo’s or other common mistakes that authors tend to make when writing. It is always a pleasure to review a Brush Education book.

The chapters are:

Scent-Identification Lineups

The Dutch Training Method for Scent Identification

Dogs’ Responsiveness to Human Gestures

Tracking Dogs in Crime Investigations

Scent Research and Tracking Experiments

Errors in Mantrailing

Human Odor and Dogs’ Scent Perception

Scent Problems and Training Problems

Preventing Investigation Errors

Rescuing or Fostering a Dog From a Foreign Country

Most people would be surprised at how many dogs are imported from one state to another and put in shelters and foster care. These dogs come from areas of the United States that have too many dogs for the local shelter to handle. Some are rescued by breed specific groups. But what most people do not realize is that many dogs are imported from other countries. Most of those dogs are street dogs which present a different problem.

Dogs from other countries do not understand our language, are used to a different climate, water and food. Many had to scavenge for food and have never had a good diet. They are often aggressive to other dogs because they had to fight to survive. They may also be wary of humans.

Rehabilitating these dogs can be done but may take much more time. Genetics play an important part in how well these dogs can be rehabilitated since temperament is inherited. A dog that has a mild temperament and who is not inherently aggressive may respond well to rehabilitation. As a rule of thumb you cannot change the genes but you can change or alter the behavior.  This does not mean that a dog will forget what he has learned, but dogs are capable of learning to change how they react to given situations.

A good rule of thumb for rehabilitating foreign dogs is as follows:

  1. Give the dog time to adjust to the physical changes that he must face. This would include food, weather, water, where he is housed, general odors and language. Remember that scent is one of the key elements in a dog’s life. The scents of one place can be drastically different than another, even in the United States. This will mean that the dog has to learn a whole new point of reference. Even people smell different from one area to another. This is because the soil and plants that surround us have different odors and cling to our clothes and permeate our homes. Also the food we eat make up a part of a person’s general scent.
  2. Start easy basic training using a non-force method such as clicker training. No matter what language a dog has grown up hearing, all dogs understand human facial expressions and tone of voice. Take baby steps and use very short, (five minute) training sessions. Dogs need time to analyze and think of what is going on and relate to it.
  3. Give the dog space. Too much activity and people can make the dog withdraw.
  4. Do not house the dog with other dogs unless it is apparent that the dog is dog friendly. If the foster dog had to fight for its food and existence, he may not get along with other dogs.
  5. Do not be discouraged if the dog seems to backslide. We all do. Dogs have bad days just like humans. Give the dog a day off if he seems to be having a bad day and try again the next day.

With time and patience, a foster or adopted dog can adjust to a completely new environment, learn to trust humans and perhaps, enjoy the company of other dogs.

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