Hydrating Working Dogs

Dogs who work in hot weather such as border patrol dogs, search and rescue dogs as well as military dogs often become dehydrated when they work in hot environments.

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Handlers of these dogs do not agree about how to hydrate their dogs to prevent heat stroke and dehydration. There are three major ways that handlers hydrate their dogs.

  1. Free access to drinking water
  2. Subcutaneous hydration (a needle under the skin) of water and electrolytes
  3. Drinks containing electrolytes

Researchers studied all three methods and found that they all worked. However, they found that by using a chicken flavored electrolyte drink, even dogs who were reluctant to drink, would drink more liquid.

The researchers tested the dog’s urine and found that they passed the sodium and therefore did not have a buildup of sodium in their body which had been a concern about using electrolyte drinks. Thus, drinking a chicken flavored electrolyte drink did not have any negative effects on the dogs.

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Dogs, wolves and some primates understand inequality

A new study by comparative psychologists at the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has illustrated that both dogs and wolves understand what it means to be treated unequally.

Previously, the studies that illustrated that dogs understood and reacted negatively to inequality, assumed that this reaction was due to domestication. The current study illustrates that this is not true because wolves  reacted the same way as dogs.

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The tests also showed that higher ranking wolves and dogs became frustrated more quickly when they perceived favoritism. Scientists assumed this is because they are not used to receiving lower quality rewards.

What makes this interesting is that the study illustrates that the animals being tested understand and recognize what a lower quality reward consists of. This means that they observed the differences in the rewards, were able to value the reward and determine that they were not getting as much.

The most exciting information from this experiment is how it illustrates an animal’s ability to think, reason and make decisions and judgements. For pet owners, it shows us that when we train our animals, the reward needs to be something valued by the animal. After all don’t people feel the same way too?

It is important to control how much weight your young dog retrieves

A study by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna showed that young hunting dogs who are trained using  the same weight as adult dogs, can cause damage to the joints and tendons, especially of the front legs.

This is because the extra weight that young dogs carry causes them to tilt forward in much the same manner that a person would who was carrying a heavy load. The researchers felt that adult dogs are suited for carrying loads but young dogs that are growing should use adjusted weight instead of the same weight as adult dogs.

They suggested that young dogs in training be checked regularly by a specialist to be sure that there is no damage to joints, tendons and muscles.

It stands to reason that if a dog associates pain with an activity, he will not enjoy the job or game and may not perform to his best ability, especially if he is being trained for competition.

Although this study was conducted primarily on hunting retrievers, many breeds of dogs enjoy the game of fetch. This means that all dog owners who play fetch with their dogs should be aware of how much weight the object is and not allow young dogs to carry heavy objects.

I personally had a Border Collie who as an adult, loved to play with a bowling ball and would successfully put his canines in the holes and pick it up and carry it for a short distance. You never know what a dog will fancy and play with!

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Dogs Can Understand Vocabulary and the Intonation of Human Speech

The world was amazed by the accomplishments of Chaser the Border Collie. Chaser can identify 1022 toys by their name and retrieve them by category.

She also knows common nouns such as house, ball, and tree. What is more amazing is that she can learn new words by inferential reasoning by exclusion.

This means she can pick out an object that she has not been taught the name of by eliminating all the objects she knows.  She also understands sentences with multiple elements and has learned by imitation.

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Border Collie “Ness”

Scientists have shown that Chaser is not unique in her ability to do these things. They have discovered that dogs understand both vocabulary and intonation of human speech using their left brain the same as people do. Prior to this research, it was thought that understanding words and intonations was something only humans could do, but that is not the case. The study also showed that dogs, like people, process words separately from intonation.

This is exciting because it shows us that our dogs (and possibly other animals) are far better able to understand what we say than many people realize. It also expands the horizon as far as how and what we can train our dogs to do.

However, does this mean that if we want to hide something from our dogs that we are talking about we will have to spell out the word? I can only imagine the conversation, “You know I made a v-e-t appointment for R-o-v-e-r for tomorrow.”

Noise sensitivity could be related to pain in dogs

Perhaps this is one of the more important discoveries in recent years. Researchers found that dogs who show noise fear and/or anxiety may be suffering from pain.

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Dogs who had underlying pain showed greater aversion to areas and a stronger reaction to noise. The researchers concluded that when the dog tenses or trembles from fear, the already underlying pain is made worse by the stress and pressure on the painful muscles and/or joints.

Often when this happens the dog associates the pain with the area or circumstances that he was in when the noise and pain occurred. They found that dogs who have pain associated with noise, associated the noise with a wider range of their environment. For example, if the dog associated pain with a piece of furniture in a room they may tend to avoid the entire room. They also tended to avoid other dogs.

What is very important to be aware of is that dogs who start to show noise fear or aversion later in life are more likely to also be suffering from underlying pain.

This study gives pet owners and veterinarians another tool to use to help diagnose pain that might otherwise be difficult to detect. Therefore, if you have an older dog who suddenly starts to react to noise, it is time for an in-depth examination by your veterinarian.

Dogs anticipate what they will find at the end of a scent trail

A new test conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Department for General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (Institute of Psychology) at Friedrich Schiller University of Jena illustrated that dogs have a mental picture or an expectation of what they will find at the end of a scent trail based on the scent of the object.

The test was conducted on dogs (police and search and rescue dogs) trained to follow a scent as well as pets not trained to follow a scent. Both groups showed surprise when the object that they found was not the one used to lay the scent trail.

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Although this test was not intended to illustrate the mind of the dog, this is further evidence of the mental abilities of dogs showing that they anticipate what will happen in the future based on their surroundings. Many dog owners have seen this behavior in relation to other events. An example is the dog who can anticipate the arrival of a family member when that person comes home at about the same time every day.

It is exciting to anticipate what future studies will show us about the mind of animals.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true when dealing with separation anxiety in dogs. The best thing an owner can do is prevent it from developing.

Most cases of separation anxiety occur in dogs that have a genetic predisposition for it and is enhanced or caused by the owner. This is why two dogs can live in the same home and one will suffer from this anxiety and another will not.

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The genetic predisposition for separation anxiety is not limited to any breed, type or sex of dog. Preventing it is almost the same as the method to cure it. So we will talk about it in general.

Whether you get a puppy or adopt a dog, the procedure is the same. Although it is hard to resist a new puppy or cute older dog, the new dog should be left alone while at home. Puppies need lots of down time to rest and sleep.

A dog’s growth rate is much faster than humans and puppies need to sleep a lot. A new adopted or older dog needs time to adjust to their new home. The stress of a new home can tire them so they may need a bit more down time as well.  The best rule of thumb is to let the dog solicit interaction rather than force it on the dog. This is especially important if there are youngsters in the home.

Do not hold, carry or dote on the dog. Let the dog be a dog, no matter what size it is. A dog can become addicted to too much tactile stimulation. Like any addiction, the craving can be there but at the same time it is not a pleasant experience. This explains why a dog may solicit interaction from the owner and then bite the owner for responding. This is especially true for small dogs where the owner likes to cuddle and carry the dog around.

Do not make a fuss over the dog when you leave home or return. Dramatic arrivals and departures only arouse the dog and build stress. Simply leave and return home without saying or doing anything.

Leave soft music on when you leave home. Classical music works best or easy listening music. No other kind is good for dogs. Along with the music leave a chew toy for the dog. Only use the kind that you stuff with treats where the dog must work to get them out. Stuffed Kong toys or cube toys work very well. Never give your dog greenies, rawhide, pig ears, cow hooves or bones. They can seriously injure or kill your dog.

Make sure that your dog gets a good walk or exercise before you leave and is taken out when you return to “do his business.” If the dog has to relieve himself after you leave it will cause stress. If the dog has to have an accident while you are gone it can also cause stress, as well as if the dog has to wait to be taken out when you come home.

Feed your dog twice a day with a high quality dog food such as Wysong or Annamaet. Nothing that you buy in the super market or discount store is good for your dog. Poor quality food can contribute to stress in your dog. Some foods are loaded with sugar, dyes and roughage that can raise your dog’s stress level and act as a diuretic and laxative .

If your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety then work with the dog over a few days when you will be home. Start by leaving the dog for a few minutes and quickly returning. You can do this every fifteen minutes to a half an hour.

As the dog adjusts, you can leave the dog for five minutes, six minutes and work up to fifteen minutes. You may have to drive away from the house since some dogs will figure out that you are standing on the other side of the door or nearby.  If you can devote a whole weekend to this procedure you may be able to leave him for a normal work day.

Make sure that you change your routine for leaving the house. The dog will learn your routine and become anxious as soon as they see the signs that you are leaving. Dogs notice things such as when you brush your teeth, comb your hair, take a shower, pick out clothes and lastly, picking up your car keys. Examine the order you do things before you leave and change the order. This way the dog cannot determine when you are going to leave. An example would be picking up your car keys before you eat breakfast.

If your dog is destructive you may have to teach the dog to stay in a very large crate for his own protection. If this is not possible because the dog tries to get out to the point where he hurts himself it is time to call a certified canine behavior consultant. The behavior consultant will determine if the dog needs to see a veterinarian for medications and will develop a plan to work with the problem. You can find a behavior consultant at www.iaabc.org.

Last of all and equally important, if your dog does something you do not like, do not yell or punish the dog. This will only elevate his stress levels and make his separation anxiety worse. Ignore any damage the dog has done. He will not know that you are angry at what he did awhile ago but associate your anger as part of your return.

With a little understanding, work and help if necessary, you can make your dog’s life much less stressful.

K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting

K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Training Problems by Susan Bulanda, publisher, Brush Education, ISBN: 978-1-55059-736-3 Autographed copies available at www.sbulanda.com also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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My new book is now available! This book will help both the seasoned and inexperienced K9 handler. Many SAR units use a one-size-fits-all training method. When it does not work, they often do not know how to solve the training problem. This book explains how to fix those problems. Every dog is unique and what works for one dog may not work for another. Sometimes a small change in technique is all that is needed. Other times the handler is sending the wrong signal to the dog.

Getting the right dog or puppy is critical to the dog’s success. The book explains how to find the right breeder and puppy for SAR work. The way the puppy is handled during its stages of development can influence how the adult dog will react to training. If a handler is training an older dog, its early experiences can explain some of the training issues that a handler may have.

The book also explains the intelligence of dogs including the latest research about how they perceive life, their emotions and how they react to their owners. This knowledge will help a handler relate to their dog and recognize the message that they send to their dog. Although this book is written for SAR dogs, the information in it applies to all types of dog training, especially for working dogs.

The chapters include:

Finding a good SAR dog; Why dogs have training problems; What is scent; The uncontaminated scent article; Cross train a dog; SAR dog training methods; SAR dog training problems; and an appendix about the nature of scent.

Please Spread the Word!

 

 

Herding dogs can suffer from a genetic mutation causing a reaction to certain drugs

Although it is rare, white footed herding breeds such as Border collies, Corgies and Australian shepherds can have a genetic mutation that makes them sensitive to ivermectin and several other drugs including some chemotherapy medicines.

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For example, a dog named Bristol who had the genetic mutation almost died as a result of the mutation. Bristol was barely responsive and suffering from seizures. It took months of treatment including a mechanical ventilator and rehabilitation to bring her back to normal health. Bristol had eaten the droppings of sheep that had been recently dewormed with ivermectin, which is what caused her health issue.

It is easy to determine if your dog has the genetic mutation by asking your veterinarian for a simple test to determine if your dog has the genetic mutation. The test involves using a small brush to swab the inside of your dog’s mouth. The swab is sent to a laboratory for the results.

This is an easy preventative way to protect your dog, especially if your dog is around barns, livestock or used for herding trials. All herding breeds should be tested to be safe. It would be a good idea to test all herding breeds whether they are white-footed or not. Rather be safe than sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

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.