PTSD in dogs

Recently canine behaviorists and veterinarians have seen what appears to be a canine version of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in dogs (PTSD).

Some of the dogs are combat veterans and police dogs. However, it is possible that pet dogs who experience a traumatic event can also suffer from PTSD.

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Pet dogs who suffer from PTSD can include dogs that have been frightened by fireworks, are noise sensitive, or have been injured in some way. The symptoms usually vary from case to case. Some dogs will be over-responsive, showing extreme fear for example, while others change the way they interact with their owner/handler such as becoming aggressive or over clingy or timid.

Other symptoms can include attempting to escape certain environments or avoid those environments. In some cases, the dog in question who was a good working dog will suddenly fail to complete his tasks or shut down entirely.

Treatment for each case will vary. Sometimes a veterinarian will suggest an anti-anxiety medication to be used for the short term. This must be coupled with retraining, desensitizing to the environmental elements and situations that cause the problem and counter-conditioning to build the dog’s confidence. People who own or work with these dogs must understand that it takes time to work through the issues and that there is no magic pill to fix the problem.

Fortunately, there are certified canine behavior consultants who can help these dogs. There are also organizations dedicated to saving the dogs and finding suitable homes for them when necessary. One organization is Combat Canines: The DDoc Foundation.

It is important to keep in mind that rehabilitating these dogs takes time. No one knows for sure if they actually suffer from PTSD because the dogs cannot tell us. However, the symptoms strongly suggest that they do. Many of these dogs have served our country faithfully and deserve a second chance for a happy life.

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Dog aggression may be related to hormone levels

According to research conducted by Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology they found that the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin may be linked to aggression in dogs. Both hormones are also found in humans.

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Dogs that tested to be more aggressive had higher levels of vasopressin. What is interesting is that further research of dogs bred to be assistance dogs who are bred specifically to be non-aggressive, had higher levels of oxytocin and higher oxytocin-to-vasopressin ratios. What this means is that oxytocin may help inhibit aggression.

Researchers also found that experience can influence the level of vasopressin in a dog. Often aggression results from a traumatic experience which alters the hormone levels resulting in a form of PTSD. On the flip side, positive experiences such as socialization with people and other animals in a non-threatening manner can raise the oxytocin levels.

The good news is that in humans, they are already using hormone therapies to help people with autism, schizophrenia and other problems such as PTSD. Perhaps this will lead to therapies for dogs that are extremely aggressive.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170927162032.htm

Pet treats, food and health insurance

In my post about finding the right dog food I listed a very informative link to a site that evaluates dog food. I have since learned that these evaluators have links to cat food, cat treats, dog treats and pet insurance. It is just as important to feed your dog or cat quality treats as it is to feed them quality food, especially if you give them a lot of treats.

Keep in mind that snacking a lot can make a pet put on weight. So, if you are using a lot of treats, especially when training your pet, you may want to decrease their food to compensate. Also, keep in mind that as your pet gets older, they will tend to put on weight (the same as many people do). If your pet tends to put on weight, look for a treat that has few calories. Some treats have only 3 or so calories.

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Health insurance is another very confusing issue for many pet owners. There are so many options and prices. However, considering how expensive veterinarian bills can be, especially for catastrophic illnesses, it is a good idea to have insurance. What options you pick will depend on what you can afford to pay for without insurance. When choosing the right policy for you, take into consideration what your income will be at the end of your pet’s life. This is the time when your pet may need the most veterinarian care. Cost consideration is especially important if you will be retired or near retirement as your pet ages. Taking the time to research treats, food, and insurance will benefit you and your pet in the long run.

Cat food: https://www.reviews.com/cat-food/​
Cat treats: https://www.reviews.com/cat-treats/​
Dog treats: https://www.reviews.com/dog-treats/
Pet insurance: https://www.reviews.com/pet-insurance/

 

Finding the right dog food

In my many years working as a dog trainer and then a certified canine and feline behavior consultant, I have seen how many people do not understand the value of quality food for their pets. Many people believe the ads that they see on TV, most of those brands are not considered good. The food that you can buy at a discount store or supermarket are not the best either. But how to sort through the many foods available.

To begin with, you have to understand the labels. While it is true that the first ingredient has to be the largest percent in the food, what is not clear is that it is usually the smallest percent of the food. For example, the first ingredient is listed as chicken at 10%, then next ingredient and all subsequent ingredients are each less than 10%, but put together they equal 90% of the food. This makes the rest of the ingredients more important than the main ingredient.

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Labels can be misleading, for example, unspecified meat can be anything including diseased animals or road kill. Another issue with food is the source of the fat. Some food companies use the leftover fat from restaurants that has been stored in 55 gallon drums and has turned rancid. The pet food companies are allowed to use this fat if they process it in a certain way. Companies that produce food for human consumption also may use the leftovers from the human food production, such as cereal fines. Another consideration are the fillers in the food. Many times, they are indigestible roughage that does not have any nutritional value. You can see the results of these foods by the amount of stool that the pet produces. High quality food usually reduces the amount of stool by half. By having a large amount of indigestible roughage, the pet has to eat more food to get the nutritional value that their body needs, and guess what, you have to buy twice as much food.

Often people will tell me that they cannot afford the higher priced quality food. But in reality since the pet will have to eat much less of the better food, the cost per serving is usually less than the cheap food. Also, the savings in veterinarian bills makes the better food a real value.

In terms of good health, young dogs and cats can look healthy on poor quality food, but in the long term they will not be as healthy and from middle to old age they may have more health issues from living on a poor diet. In some cases, they may not live as long as they could have on better food. The effects of poor food are evident at a younger age in working dogs, such as police, detection and search dogs.

Last but not least, a pet’s behavior can reflect a poor diet. When I was mentoring a future dog trainer, on the first night of group training, I would point out the dogs that were being fed poor quality food and was correct 99% of the time. I was able to tell by the dog’s behavior alone. When I told the class to switch to a better brand, the ones that did would always come back the next week amazed at the difference in their dog’s behavior. When I work with dogs or cats that have behavior issues, their diet is always one of the first things I evaluate.

The good news is that there is now a site that evaluates dog food and does a good job. If the dog food brands listed also sell cat food, it is safe to say that the cat food will be a high quality as well. Go to the site below and read the criteria that they used to select quality foods. Please spread the word about this post so that as many pet owners as possible can feed their pets the right food.

 http://www.reviews.com/dog-food/#Top_Picks

A new job for dogs

Dogs are increasingly being trained to detect unusual things. The latest job is detecting the very difficult to find, Hermit beetle and its larva which live for up to three years hidden in places such as hollow trees in wooded areas.

The use of dogs was the brainchild of Dr. Fabio Mosconi of the Italian Agricultural Research Council and Spienza University of Rome. They have successfully trained Teseo, a Golden Retriever, to detect the endangered beetle.

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Beetle detection is another job to add to the growing list of things dogs have and are being used to detect. Besides finding the commonly known things, such as drugs, bombs, humans, and agricultural items at airports, dogs have been used to find such items as Wolf scat, Bird nests, toxic mold, old money, lost pets, and gold ore just to name a few. Dogs are also able to alert people to oncoming seizures, low blood sugar and cancer.

Although scientists are still trying to develop a machine that can equal the scenting capabilities of dogs, they have yet to succeed. Dogs are truly man’s best friend performing so many jobs other than detection work.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170828123340.htm

A new evaluation for guide dog puppies

Researchers in the University of Nottingham’s (England) School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have had success with a questionnaire designed to determine the suitability of puppies to be trained as Guide Dogs.

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Their evaluation tool successfully predicted the training outcomes in young dogs 5 – 12 months with an 84% accuracy. The questionnaire is called the “Puppy Training Supervisor Questionnaire”, or PTSQ.

The PTSQ evaluates the following:

  • Adaptability
  • Body sensitivity
  • Distractibility
  • Excitability
  • General anxiety
  • Trainability
  • Stair anxiety

If this method proves to be accurate over time, it might be useful to help evaluate other types of working dogs. It is encouraging that scientists continue to try and find ways to predict the working ability of dogs. This saves organizations time and money spent on dogs that do not pass the training programs and lets them focus on those that have a better chance of passing.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170614142551.htm

 

 

 

A new study about co-sleeping with your pets

A recent study examined the practice of sharing a bedroom or bed with a dog. While the authors suggest that more research is needed, they compared sleeping with a dog to the practice of sharing a bed or bedroom with a child.

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The current concern about co-sleeping with a child focuses on the child suffering from poor health, impaired functioning, developing problematic behavior and sexual dysfunction. However, there is not enough evidence to determine if there are negative effects of co-sleeping with dogs or other pets.

According to the study, the benefit of co-sleeping with both pets and children are saving resources, keeping warm, and feeling safe. It is a practice that has been going on for many years.

When it comes to sharing a bedroom with a dog, as an animal behavior consultant, I recommend letting a puppy sleep in a crate in the bedroom to help the puppy bond with the family and feel safer in a new environment. After the dog is trained and under control, it can be allowed to sleep on the bed with a family member. However, if the dog is not trained it can become possessive of the bed or other furniture to the point of becoming aggressive if a family member wants to move the dog. Whether it is good or not depends on many factors, including the dog’s temperament and the owners ability to train and control the dog.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170622104001.htm

 

 

 

A new device to help train explosives detection dogs

We depend upon bomb dogs to help protect us from terrorist attacks. Training them can be tricky. To help trainers and handlers, researchers have developed a real-time vapor analysis device called a Vapor Analysis Mass Spectrometer to help trainers and handlers understand what a dog detects when searching for explosive materials. When training a dog for any kind of scent work, it is important to hide items that are not scented as well as items with the target scent on them. Bomb dog trainers and handlers found that in some cases the dogs were indicating scent on the non-scented items. What the Vapor Analysis Mass Spectrometer showed in these cases that the dogs were correct because the non-scented items had picked up scent that drifted from the scented items.

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By using the Vapor Analysis Mass Spectrometer during training, handlers and trainers will better be able to determine how accurate the dogs are in detecting explosive material.

The lesson from this research applies to all types of scent work with dogs. It shows us that items handlers think are not contaminated may be contaminated. Ultimately, it means that whoever handles scented items and non-scented items for training must take extra precautions to ensure that non-scented items are not contaminated. This can be especially tricky when training dogs in search and rescue where the handler has no control over the elements (weather, etc.) that can cause scent to drift.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170628131349.htm

Why do dogs chase their tail?

Seeing a dog chase his tail can be very funny. But why do they do it? There are a couple of theories, although until dogs can talk and tell us, we will never know for sure.

Puppies most often are the ones who chase their tail. It is almost as if they see it for the first time realize it is there and decide it is a toy to be caught. If their tail is long enough, they may catch it, but if it is short they will whirl around until they are tired, never actually catching their tail. When a puppy realizes that the tail is theirs, or they cannot catch it, they will often give up the game. In some cases, they will chase the tail of other puppies. This can be a way for them to expend their energy.

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If a dog has never chased his tail and suddenly starts to and does not have a playful attitude, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. A dog may chase their tail due to skin problems, eye problems or neurological issues.

Some dogs chase their tail because the owners think it is funny and laugh. Dogs know when you are laughing at or with them, and yes, dog do laugh. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/200911/do-dogs-laugh

A happy response from an owner is a form of reward or encouragement for a dog and a dog will use what works to get attention from the owner. An example of this is a young Collie pup who was deaf and used to get underfoot. Family members would accidently step on her front paw. When this happened the person who stepped on the dog’s foot would bend down and fuss over the dog, rubbing her foot. After a while the dog learned to limp to get people to rub her foot, even though no one stepped on her.

It is possible that a dog will chase his tail because he is anxious. Physical exertion does relieve anxiety and chasing a tail may be one way a dog deals with anxiety. If this is a possibility the owner should look for other signs that the dog is anxious, such as trembling, panting, hiding, or looking generally upset. Owners are good at reading their dogs and can tell when the dog is happy or not.

Although it is not that common, some dogs suffer from a form of compulsive disorder which is really compulsive behavior http://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/evr_dog_behavior_compulsive_disorder

and may chase their tail until they are exhausted. If this is the case the owner must consult a certified animal behavior consultant to help cure or control the problem. Left untreated the behavior can escalate and become a danger to the dog. To find a good behavior consultant go to: http://www.iaabc.org

The best thing a dog owner can do is to provide enough exercise for their dog so that they expend their energy in a healthy manner. Some dog owners have difficulty determining how much is enough. This depends on the type and breed of dog. Little dogs do not need as much room to run to satisfy their needs. The larger the dog the more room they need. Dogs that are bred to work typically need to cover a few miles in order to have enough exercise. The age and health of the dog is a factor as well. For a healthy dog, enough exercise is when they flop down and want to sleep. They may need this type of exercise a few times a day. Typically, the morning and evening are the times of day most dogs want to be active. With some planning and research, we can keep our dogs happy and healthy.

Dog Bites

All dogs bite at one time or another. However, most people do not realize that there are different types of bites. Unfortunately, many dogs have lost their homes, lives or been restricted due to the misunderstanding and misinformation about dog bites.

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Dogs used their mouths the same as we use our hands. Puppies mouth the same way that human babies will put everything in their mouths. The mouth is a very sensitive part of the body, perhaps the most sensitive. The mouth can taste, feel texture, heat, cold, size and shape. The mouth and tongue are so sensitive that the smallest bump or lump in a person’s mouth often feels like a boulder or a cracked tooth feels like a canyon. We have to assume that dogs have the same or similar capabilities. However, dogs do not have the same capability to taste as humans do. They have about 1,706 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000. A dog’s taste buds are located at the tip of their tongue. They can taste bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Their choice of what they eat depends more on their sense of smell than taste.

Dogs use their mouths to manipulate objects, carry objects, groom themselves and/or companions, to show affection, to play, as a means of correcting another dog, as a way to get another animal or person away from them (distance increasing), and to vocalize. One of the most affectionate things a dog may do is nibble the object of their affection. This is a very gentle nibbling using the small front teeth.

Sometimes dogs will grab a person to try and lead them somewhere, such as a door if they have to go out. This is like a person taking another person by the hand to guide them.

Bites often happen in a few seconds. It may be difficult for an untrained person to analyze a bite because you must consider the rest of the dog’s body language and the circumstances that happened just before and after the bite as well as the breed or type of dog. Dogs also can give mixed signals. For example, a dog can act aggressively and at the same time fearfully. The dog’s life experience including training will influence what and how they bite. However, below is a general explanation of dog bites.

Dog bites follow a progression if, as a puppy, the dog has been allowed to learn how to properly act socially with other dogs. An adult dog will first give the puppy, other animal or person warning looks. If that does not work, next are warning growls or vocalizations. (Never correct a dog for growling, you will remove an important warning, forcing the dog to go directly to a bite.) If a puppy does not heed the body language and then the vocal warning of an older dog, the dog may give the puppy an open mouth correction. This is when the older dog will “hit” the puppy with his mouth open but does not bite.

The next level of bite is the nip. In human terms, it would be equal to a pinch. It is typically done with the little front teeth. It is a corrective measure used to stop the unwanted behavior or to communicate the message to get away or back off.

If the nip does not work the next bite will be a full mouth bite but a quick release and often not bearing down hard. This type of bite may result in a bruise or small puncture. This is also a request to back off or get away. The dog is trying to increase the distance between himself and who he bit. It is also the type of bite that a fearful dog may employ. It could also be a defensive or corrective bite.

If that does no work the next bite may have increased pressure resulting in a deeper puncture or larger bruise. It is also a distance increasing bite or a fear bite.

The aggressive bite that the enraged dog or the dog who is aggressive will use is a bite and hold or a bite, hold and shake. These are the bites that are dangerous where the dog typically intends to hurt.

A dog that has developed strong bite inhibition, may put his mouth on a person if he is in pain. Often that is a reflex and when the dog realizes that his mouth is on a person will either stop before making contact or not put any pressure in the bite. Other times a dog who is in pain may bite. This should not be held against the dog. Also, a dog that is enraged or upset about something may do what is called redirected aggression. This also a reflex where the dog will bite whatever is near him when he cannot get to the object of his anger. The other situation where a dog will bite because of reflex is if the dog is engaged in a fight with another animal and a person tries to grab the dog to pull him away. The dog will bite not realizing that it is not the animal he is fighting but a person. This also should not be held against the dog. In these cases of reflex biting, the humans that are working with the dog should expect it and take precautions to avoid being bitten. The only breed of dog that has been bred not to bite a human when engaged in a fight are the bully breeds, such as Pitbull Terriers.

How likely a dog will bite depends on the breed (or mix) of the dog, the lines of the breed, how well the breeder and then the owner socialized the dog and the dog’s training. Some breeds of dog are less tolerant and quicker to bite than others.

Children are often bitten in the face because they are at face level with dogs. Children of all ages should be taught how to interact with dogs and carefully monitored, always. A dog that bites a child due to a reflex action is rarely forgiven even though in most cases the dog is not an aggressive dog by nature.

It would do the dogs and dog owners a great service if dog owners studied canine body language and learned to understand their dogs. Children should be taught how to interact with dogs. Studies have shown that children can recognize when a dog is angry but not when they are fearful.

There are two excellent resources that help the dog owner learn how to read dog body language.

  1. What is My Dog Saying? By Carol A. Byrnes, diamonsintheruff.com
  2. The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs bluedogtraining.com