Pet Health and Wellness – Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being

< A version of this article was published in the August 2015 issue of Down East Dog News>

AAHA Bhx GuidelinesSince April of this year I’ve been writing about a trend towards kinder and gentler pet care; our pet-friendly philosophy at Green Acres Kennel Shop, the force-free principles of the Pet Professional Guild, and the fear-free movement among the veterinary community. I am extremely pleased that last month the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) took this trend one step further with the publication of their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This ground-breaking document acknowledges that your pet’s behavioral health is every bit as important as their physical well-being. The guidelines are meant to provide veterinarians and their staff with “… concise, evidence-based information to ensure that the basic behavioral needs of feline and canine patients are understood and met in every practice [Emphasis added].” While these are just guidelines, the AAHA is at the forefront of veterinary medicine and I expect that most veterinarians will begin implementing these guidelines into their practice immediately.

The adoption of these guidelines is critically important because “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering. [Emphasis added]” The reasons why behavioral problems have become the number one health concern for dogs and cats remains to be examined; however these guidelines offer some concrete steps that all of us who love, live with and work with dogs and cats can take to help make their lives better. This is a huge step as it now establishes that a behavioral wellness assessment should be part of every pet’s visit to their veterinarian.

While these guidelines are focused on veterinarians and their staff, everyone in the pet care services industry; boarding kennels, doggie daycares, dog walkers, groomers, dog trainers, and pet sitters as well as animal shelters, breeders, pet shops, rescue groups, animal control officers, humane agents, and animal welfare program directors should be aware of these guidelines and be implementing the policies, procedures and training necessary to ensure the behavioral health of the pets in their care.

Here the some of the key take-home messages from this document that every pet owner needs to know. Quotes from the guidelines are in italics and my comments are non-italicized. In some cases I have used bold type for added emphasis.

  • “Veterinarians must institute a culture of kindness in the practice and avoid using either forced restraint or punitive training or management methods.” Time and patience make for a better experience for all involved. I love that I can take my pets to see any of their veterinarians and my pets are unafraid. Not all people can say that and that needs to change.
  • “Veterinarians must be aware of the patient’s body language at all times, understanding that it conveys information about underlying physiological and mental states.” At Green Acres we teach clients to understand an animal’s body language and emotions in our training classes because it is an essential part of understanding, teaching, and living with our pets. The guidelines suggest that veterinary practices can and should use this same knowledge of body language and emotions to ensure your pets visit and exam is as stress free as possible. Both you as the person responsible for your pets care, as well as your veterinarian need to know and understand this so that together you make sure it happens. When choosing a veterinary practice I encourage you to look for one that invests in the training and continuing education necessary to teach all of their staff the fundamentals of animal body language and emotions.
  • “All veterinary visits should include a behavioral assessment.” While the veterinary team needs to ask about behavior, as an owner you need to be ready to talk to your veterinarian about behavioral issues. When I receive calls from clients about behavioral issues the first thing I ask is “Have you discussed this with your vet?” and too often the answer I get is “no.” Make sure that your pet’s behavior is discussed at each and every visit.
  • “Good behavioral evaluations are especially important in young animals. Studies show that 10 percent of puppies that were fearful during a physical exam at 8 wk of age were also fearful at 18 mo. Patients do not outgrow pathologic fear. [Emphasis added].” “Behavioral conditions are progressive. Early intervention is essential to preserve quality of life for both the patient and client and to provide the best chance of treatment success.” In my experience, patients often wait too long to address behavioral problems, hoping the pet will outgrow it. The sooner these problems are addressed the better the odds of resolving the problem and ending the distress felt by both the pet and the pet owner.
  • “… the presence or development of fear during sensitive periods is aggravated by forced social exposure. Overexposure can make fearful dogs worse, creating a behavioral emergency.” This is why socialization and habituation efforts need to be planned ahead of time and controlled while they are occurring. Talk to your veterinarian and certified, reward-based trainer about the best ways to do this. Preferably, you should start planning these effort’s before you bring the new pet home.
  • “There is no medical reason to delay puppy and kitten classes or social exposure until the vaccination series is completed as long as exposure to sick animals is prohibited, basic hygiene is practiced, and diets are high quality. The risks attendant with missing social exposure far exceed any disease risk. [Emphasis added]” This is why starting a puppy in an appropriately designed class is so important while the puppy is 8 to 16 weeks of age. It’s also why regular “fun” trips to the vet’s office, the groomer, the kennel and other places are recommended during this period. However, you need to plan these trips to make sure that they will be a good experience for your pet. Working with your trainer on this process can be very helpful.
  • Puppies should not be separated from their littermates and dam until at least 8 wk of age. Puppies separated at 30–40 days versus 56 days experienced a greater incidence of problems related to the early separation, such as excessive barking, fearfulness on walks, reactivity to noises, toy or food possessiveness, attention-seeking behavior, and destructive behavior as adults.” This is the law in Maine, but too often it’s not followed. If you’re getting a puppy from a shelter, breeder or rescue organization, do not take it home until it is 8 weeks of age. If they offer to let you have it sooner, report them to the Animal Welfare program and get your puppy elsewhere. If you want the best possible puppy, don’t start with one that is already at a behavioral disadvantage.
  • “Mistaken or misinformed beliefs may become apparent early. Clients may not understand that some undesirable behaviors are normal (e.g., young puppies cannot last 8–10 hr without urinating). Clients may not understand the difference between a behavior that is undesirable but possibly normal and responsive to training (e.g., grabbing someone during play) and abnormal behavior that requires professional care (e.g., becoming aggressive if not permitted to play after grabbing). [Emphasis added]” People have so many incorrect and damaging beliefs about dog behavior based on myths that have been recycled over and over again for the past 70+ years. This is why working with a veterinarian and trainer who participates in regular continuing education is essential.
  • Qualified trainers can be valuable partners on a veterinary behavior management team… Trainers should have obtained certification from a reliable organization that has, as its foundation, the sole use of positive methods. Certification for trainers should require annual continuing education, liability insurance, and testable knowledgeable in behavior and learning theory trainers. Unfortunately, credentials don’t guarantee the use of humane methods or honest marketing.” When looking for a trainer don’t choose one strictly on price or how close they are to where you live. Check out their credentials as recommended by the AAHA guidelines and make sure that they are certified by either the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and that they are continuing their education
  • It is essential that clients ask trainers about specific tools and techniques used. If the tools or techniques include prong collars, shock collars, or leash/collar jerks/yanks, or if the trainer explains behavior in terms of ‘dominance’’ or throws anything at a dog, advise clients to switch trainers. [Emphasis added].”  The techniques and tools used to train a pet and to change behavior do matter and some should never be used. Do not assume that just because a trainer is certified that they will not use these tools. You need to ask.
  • This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Non aversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. [Emphasis added]”

Kudos to the AAHA and this Task Force for saying what many in the training community, both individuals and organizations, have been afraid to say for fear of offending a colleague who still insists on using pain, fear and coercion. The guidelines make it very clear that certain techniques, some still used all too often (prong (pinch) collars, shock collars, alpha rolls), some promoted by TV personalities like Cesar Milan, have absolutely no place in the training or altering of behavior of pets.

The only association of professional trainers in the USA to currently have a similar position to the AAHA guidelines is the Pet Professional Guild with their Guiding Principles (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles).  As a pet owner, that’s important for you to know when seeking a pet trainer.  Here at Green Acres we have not used, recommended or sold these techniques/tools since 1998. It’s time for the other large training and behavior organizations, as well as individual trainers and businesses to quit making excuses for using these harmful tools and techniques.

While there are many excellent recommendations in the guidelines that I agree with, I cannot completely agree with: “Under no circumstances should aggression or any condition involving a clinical diagnosis be referred to a trainer for primary treatment. Referral to a dog trainer is appropriate for normal but undesired behaviors (e.g., jumping on people), unruly behaviors (e.g., pulling on leash), and teaching basic manners.” While I agree that clients should ALWAYS see and discuss behavioral concerns with their veterinarian to rule out any medical causes, I believe suggesting that the client should not be referred to a qualified, certified dog trainer or dog behaviour consultant may be counter-productive. I’m not saying that all dog trainers that take behavioral cases are qualified to do so, but truth be told, many veterinarians are also not comfortable developing a behavior modification program and then teaching the client how to implement that program.

The guidelines suggest that aggression cases can be referred to a Board-certified veterinary behaviorist (diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists); however, according to the ACVB website there are only 66 such individuals worldwide. While such a specialist may be helpful they may not be an option for many people simply due to geography or cost, thus forcing a client to euthanize or relinquish their pet. Instead, I suggest that primary care veterinarians take the time to get to know the trainers and dog behavior consultants in their community so they can determine if they feel comfortable referring to those individuals. A good place to start is with members of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org) and the Animal Behavior Society (http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/).

However, since these organizations do not have clear and definitive guidelines on the use of techniques the AAHA guidelines has defined as aversive, it is up to veterinarians and pet owners to make sure that the individual practitioner they select does comply with the AAHA guidelines.

There is much more in this ground-breaking document that has the potential to greatly improve the lives of the dogs and cat we love. However, it only has the potential to do that if veterinarians and other pet care professionals heed its advice and if pet owners take the time to familiarize themselves with what’s written in this document so that they can be an advocate for their pet. You can read the document in its entirety at: https://www.aaha.org/graphics/original/professional/resources/guidelines/2015_aaha_behavior_mgmt_guidelines.pdf

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3

This article first appeared in the July 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on June 27, 2015, by clicking here>

When this series started back in April, the intent was to alert pet owners that not all pet care services are pet-friendly and to emphasize the importance of making sure a pet has the most positive experience possible when it is boarding, day-caring, being groomed, training or while at the veterinarian. All of these animal care services can be done with a pet friendly approach; our pets deserve that. In this column I’ll be focusing on visits to the veterinarian and how many in the veterinary community are working to make those visits fear-free.

Few people look forward to visiting the doctor or the dentist so we should not be surprised when our pets get anxious at the veterinarian. A healthcare usage study by Bayer Veterinary indicated that 37% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners said their pets hate going to the vet1. Going to the vet can be a frightening experience and fear is a powerful emotion. According to Dr. Marty Becker, “Fear is the worst thing a social species can experience and it causes permanent damage to the brain.” As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, I work with many dog owners and their dogs, often on fear related issues. It is a basic survival mechanism that allows fear to be locked into a memory in an instant and that trauma can be remembered for a lifetime. While these fears may be overcome, it can often take weeks, months, and even years of work to do so.

Unfortunately, if we as pet owners and the pet care professionals handling our animals don’t recognize the signs and detrimental effects of stress and fear in our dogs and cats we cannot help them. In her blog The Science Dog, Linda P. Case recently wrote about fear and two research studies2 that examined how well owners and pet care professionals recognized and responded to signs of stress and fear in dogs. The first study indicated that over 90% of the people that participated could tell when a dog was happy; however, only 70% of dog professionals and 60% of dog owners could identify the fearful dogs. [bold emphasis mine]. That means a significant number of pet professionals and dog owners cannot tell when their dog is stressed or afraid. Clearly there needs to be more education in this arena.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, made it her mission to educate other veterinarians, pet professionals and pet owners on how people can better understand and interact with pets so as to reduce stress for all concerned. Her seminars, DVDs, and book on low stress handling of pets have helped pet professionals make their practices “pet-friendly.” When professionals can identify fear and stress, and know how to respond accordingly, they can make efforts to minimize or eliminate it so that pets actually enjoy visiting and being handled. At the same time, the skills learned help staff become more competent in animal handling, resulting in improved safety for all parties and reduced costs. Pet professionals, pet owners and pets are all benefiting tremendously from these practices3.

Many other veterinarians are also addressing this issue.  Dr. Marty Becker is a veterinarian who is actively educating his colleagues on the importance of fear-free veterinary visits. In January, Dr. Becker presented on this topic at the North American Veterinary Community conference1, one of the largest continuing education events for veterinarians in the world. He talked about the Hippocratic Oath taken by veterinarians which emphasizes “First do no harm” and to “Cure sometimes. Treat often. Comfort always” [bold emphasis mine]. He discussed how the intense focus on medicine has caused veterinarians to sometimes neglect the parts about doing no harm. Dr. Becker continually underscores the value of making sure a patient is comfortable.

The trend toward fear-free veterinary visits is rapidly growing. A Google search of the words “fear free veterinary visits” yields about 819,000 results. The website DVM360, a website for the veterinary community, lists 19 articles on the fear-free philosophy from April 1st through June 5th alone.

With this trend, the move towards “Fear-Free” veterinary care is alive and well in Maine. Kate and I recently invited Dr. David Cloutier, from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic4, to join us on The Woof Meow Show to discuss his clinic’s approach to fear-free veterinary care. Dr. Cloutier is clearly very passionate about this topic. He explained how it’s not only the best approach for the vet, the vet’s staff, the pet owner and the pet, but is also personally very rewarding.

On our show with Dr. Cloutier we talked about dogs and cats and the fact that creating a fear-free visit for a cat is every bit as important as a fear-free exam for a dog however, because of a cats highly developed flight or fight instincts, doing so takes even more effort. Dr. Cloutier worries that if a cat owner has a bad experience taking their cat to the veterinarian that they may never go back to any veterinarian. This can result in very negative consequence for that cat’s health which is why making every visit a good one is so essential.

Some of the things that Dr. Cloutier and his team at Veazie Veterinary are doing to make a pet’s visit fear-free include staff training on behavior, stress, and canine and feline body language, having separate waiting areas for dogs and cats, being patient and allowing pets time to settle, minimizing restraint as well as the number of people in the room with the animal during an exam and treatment, using high-value treats to reward calm behavior and to desensitize a pet to any perceived threats, using pheromones like Feliway with cats to help calm them, and teaching clients what they can do at home to help prepare their pets for a visit to the vet.

It is essential for all pet care professionals to be following a pet friendly, fear-free philosophy if we are going to do well by your pets. If one of us causes a pet to have a fearful experience, due to the way the brain processes and remembers fear, that animal may now fear all of us.

Lastly, we talked with Dr. Cloutier about the role of the pet owner in reducing stress. That role starts with learning about your pet and signs of stress and discomfort.  Next it requires you to be an advocate for your pet and all of the people that participate in your pet’s care. You not only need to make sure that pet professionals that care for your pet follow a pet friendly philosophy, but you also want to make sure that family members and friends that care for your pet also follow your philosophy. Your pet cannot speak for themselves so please ask questions and speak on their behalf. They’ll be glad you did.

Next month’s article will be focused on specific things you can do at home to help prepare your pet for a visit to your veterinarian, a boarding kennel, the groomer, or a training class.

References

1 Creating Fear Free® Veterinary Visits Puts Pets Back Into Practices -DrMartyBecker.com, Presentation at NAVC – http://www.drmartybecker.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Creating-Fear-Free-Veteirnary-Visits-NAVC-15-FINAL.pdf

2 Fear Itself, The Science Dog, June 9, 2015, by Linda P. Case – https://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/fear-itself/

3 http://drsophiayin.com/

4 http://www.veazievet.com/

 

Other Links of Interest

Signs of anxiety and fear in dogs from Dr. Marty Becker – http://dvm360.com/sites/default/files/images/pdfs-for-alfresco-articles/Signs_of_anxiety_fear.pdf

Links to the first two part of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2 – <Click Here>

 

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

PODCAST – Ick! A Tick! –with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT TICKS – DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW.

13JUN15-Ick A Tick 400x400Every year Kate and Don always talk with Dr. Cloutier about fleas, worms and ticks. This year we’re talking all about ticks because it’s such a hot topic with our clients at Green Acres. Dr. Cloutier discusses; ticks and when we’re most likely to see them, micro environments/habitats where ticks often thrive (some places are much worse than others), how ticks get on us and our pets, how to control tick habitat in our yards, how to keep our dogs away from ticks when hiking, how to check your pet for ticks, how to safely remove ticks, what products should we use to help keep ticks away and which should we avoid, how do we balance effectiveness with safety, how do we choose a product when we have both dogs and cats in our home (some products for dogs are fatal for cats!), and the importance of talking to your vet about any flea and tick products you use with your pet.

Ick! A Tick! –with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic <Click to Listen>

This show first aired on The Woof Meow Show on The Voice of Maine on Saturday June 13th on 103.9FM, 101.3FM and 1450AM. It and other shows are available for download at the Apple iTunes store, at our podcast host; http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com and at our website www.woofmeowshow.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cats, Boxes & Other Small Spaces

Our cat Tyler enjoying some time alone in a bag.
Our cat Tyler enjoying some time alone in a bag.

The following article by Dr. Karen Becker discusses cats’ fascination with boxes, bags, and other small spaces and explains how these simple things can help alleviate a cat’s stress. A cat’s standard response to most stressful situations is to withdraw and hide, provided that is an option. By providing shelter cats with boxes as a hiding place, a team of researchers learned that those shelter cats acclimated faster to the shelter environment.

Using boxes to relieve a cat’s stress isn’t just for shelters. Consider doing the same at home if you cat is feeling a bit wary about something in their environment.

Our cat Batman in a clementine box
Our cat Batman in a clementine box

Here is the link if you wish to read the entire article. Click here to read

 

 

 

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2

This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on May 2, 2015, by clicking here>

Trust. Before becoming part of the pet care service industry I found it essential to get to know someone very well before entrusting them with the care of my pets. It’s a character trait that I find essential when leaving my pets in the care of someone other than myself. I need to be confident that my furry family members will be cared for to my standards.

I find that those of us that work with pets professionally are often trusted without a great deal of questions. Many seem to assume that because we work with animals that we will care for their pet the same way that they would. WhileIm A PPG Dog I believe that is true for me and my staff at Green Acres, there are people in the pet care services industry where that can be a dangerous assumption, as noted below.

Last month a post came through on my Facebook feed with the title “Unauthorized Use of Shock Collar Angers Dog Owner.” It referenced a story reported by KSNV My News 3 in Las Vegas which discussed a pet owner who left their dog with a pet sitter, only to come home and to discover that the pet sitter had used a shock collar on their dog. The dog’s owner had not been told this would happen, nor would it have been something they would have authorized. The dog’s owners were rightfully upset and angry and were stunned that something like this could happen. This is exactly the type of behavior in the pet care service industry that I was warning pet owners about in my last column. And yes, this type of thing has happened in Maine, more than once.

When I share stories like the one above the usual response I get is moral outrage followed by “How can something like this happen?” That’s when I explain what I feel are three reasons why this can and does happen.

  1. The pet care service industry is minimally regulated if regulated at all. Regulations typically only occur at the state and/or municipal level and often only focus on a facilities cleanliness, amounts of space and a pet’s physical care. A pet’s mental or emotional well-being is simply not covered in most regulations. Here in Maine, pet boarding facilities are regulated but there is no professional standard of knowledge that is legally required of the people that own and manage and care for the pets that they board. For example, there is no standard that says a boarding kennel operator needs to be knowledgeable about; pet first aid and CPR, canine social behavior, feline social behavior, species specific communication, and the supervision of animals in group play. Those that do not offer boarding but only provide daycare, group play, pet sitting, grooming and training are essentially not regulated at all. Just because someone likes dogs and has had a dog of their own does not mean that they have the knowledge and experience to safely care for the pets of others.
  2. Pet parents assume, with good intentions, that everyone in the pet care industry has the requisite knowledge and experience to properly care for pets, loves pets, and wouldn’t intentionally do anything harmful to a pet. That is a dangerous assumption and as I noted in last month’s column there are some questions a pet parent should always ask before leaving their pet in someone else’s care.
  3. The pet care industry does not currently have a universally accepted standard of care that encompasses the physical, mental and emotional well-being of pets. Fortunately that is changing with the advent of the Pet Professionals Guild, the first international organization to be committed to being “The Association for a Force-Free Pet Industry

ProudMembers BadgeThe Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was founded by Niki Tudge in 2012. PPG’s focus started on dog training and the need to help the industry move beyond the out-dated concepts of dominance and coercion/punishment based training. Today the PPG is open to all in the pet care services industry as well as pet owners. In a recent interview on The Woof Meow Show, Ms. Tudge described PPG as a place where professionals could come together and help each other, support each other, learn from each other, and network. Additionally, she described PPG as a meeting place where pet owners could access those pet professionals that share their values. She stated: “It is a place where we can advocate for how we believe our pets should be trained and cared for.”

At the heart of the Pet Professionals Guild commitment to force-free pet care is their “Guiding Principles.” A pet care professional can only become a member if they agree to abide by these principles which are clearly stated on the PPG website. Section one states: “To be in anyway affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild Members Understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No physical molding, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.” To me that’s pretty clear and fits right in with how we have officially defined “pet friendly” at Green Acres for years. Based on feedback we get from our clients at Green Acres,’ I’d say a significant  majority of pet parents are looking for pet care providers that comply with this type of standard but as I’ve noted before, people need to ask to make sure providers do indeed actually comply with these standards.

On the May 2nd/3rd edition of The Woof Meow Show Niki, Kate and I discussed the growth of doggie daycare and the lack of professional standards and regulations. We discussed how supervising dogs playing together requires extensive knowledge and training in order to keep dogs safe and to make sure that every dog is having a good time. Niki indicated that PPG will be launching an accreditation program for dog trainers, behavior consultants and other pet care professionals in the coming months. Green Acres’ has developed its own extensive training program for our staff but we look forward to learning more about PPG’s move towards industry wide standards because we know they are necessary so that all families can feel comfortable when they leave their pet in someone else’s care.

The Pet Professional Guild was founded in 2012 and in less than three years has grown to over 4000 members across 27 countries. Pet owners can join for free and get access to webinars, some free, the PPG publication “Barks From The Guild,” and other great articles.

The Pet Professional Guild website (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/) can also be a valuable resource for pet owners to find trainers, boarding facilities, daycares, groomers and others that share PPG’s force-free philosophy and that have committed to abide by PPG’s Guiding Principles. If the couple in the news story “Unauthorized Use of Shock Collar Angers Dog Owner” had selected a PPG professional member, their dog wouldn’t have ended up wearing a shock collar.

If you’re a pet owner/parent I encourage you to join PPG. What have you got to lose, it’s free! If you are a provider of services to pets (boarding kennel, daycare, pet sitter, dog walker, groomer, trainer, behavior consultant, vet tech and veterinarian) I encourage you to take the pledge to commit to force-free pet care by joining PPG and supporting other force-free pet professionals.

Next month I’ll wrap up this series with a discussion of what veterinary clinics are doing to make your pet’s visit to the vet fear-free.

Links to the other two parts of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3- <Click Here>

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1

<Updated 2MAR17>

This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on April 11, 2015, by clicking here>

Leaving your dog at a boarding kennel, doggie daycare, grooming salon, training facility, veterinary clinic or even leaving them at home with a pet sitter is not a decision you should make lightly. The question you need to ask yourself is: what happens once you are gone? How will your pet be treated? Will your pet be comfortable and relaxed during their stay with their caregivers? While there are many wonderful facilities that could easily and honestly answer that your furry companion is in great hands; this is not true for all. However, it is with great relief that I can say with some confidence that we are beginning to see a trend toward kinder and gentler professional pet care. Today, the terms “pet friendly,” “force-free,” and “fear-free” are becoming much more commonplace in our industry.

In 2012, the Pet Professional Guild was founded in an effort to “provide educational resources to pet trainers and professional pet care providers and advocates for mutually agreed guiding principles for the pet care industry.  PPG partners, members and affiliates focus on each pet’s physical, mental, Im A PPG Dogenvironmental and nutritional well-being adhering to a holistic approach to the care and training of family pets.” In a nut shell, the ultimate goal of the PPG is to be “The Association for a Force-Free Pet Industry.” At the same time, thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. Sophia Yin and Dr. Marty Becker, veterinarians are learning how they too can make your pet’s visit to their office a fear-free experience.

Nevertheless, the reality is that the terms “pet friendly,” “force-free” and “fear-free” have no legally binding definition. These standards are voluntary and not mandated by any regulatory agency so it is still a case of “buyer beware.” Even though many facilities are licensed by the state, nothing in the law requires staff training or that a facility focus on minimizing stress and anxiety for the animals in their care. Nor do these laws restrict facilities from using aversives such as squirt bottles, citronella collars or other confrontational techniques. It is in your pet’s best interest that you have a discussion with any prospective pet care provider before leaving your pets in their care. The following are some questions that you should ask:

  • Is your staff trained in canine behavior, body language and stress signals?
  • How will you handle the situation if my pet is scared or fearful?
  • What do you do if my dog barks while they stay with you?
  • How does your staff respond if a pet growls?
  • How is the staff trained to respond if my dog jumps on them?
  • Will my pet interact with other pets that are not part of their family? If so, how will these interactions be supervised?
  • Are punishers, such as squirt bottles, ever used?
  • Will my pet ever wear a shock, citronella, choke or prong collar while with you?
  • Would your staff ever attempt to dominate or alpha-roll my dog?
  • During peak times, do you overbook? Is there a chance my pet will be boarded in a crate instead of an indoor/outdoor run?
  • At what point do you stop a nail trim or a grooming if the dog is showing signs of stress and discomfort? How and when do you decide if an animal will be muzzled?
  • Are you and your staff members of The Pet Professional Guild and do you follow their “Force-Free” philosophies?

The following is a recent example of how we worked with a dog boarding at Green Acres for the first time:

A new dog arrived for its first boarding stay. It was placed in its indoor/outdoor kennel. Immediately the dog began to back away and growl at staff when they attempted to approach it to take it outside. The pet care technician on duty contacted the manager who then came to assess the situation. Very slowly, and allowing the dog to do all the approaching, the manager was able to hook the dog to its own leash and the dog was taken for a walk to get an opportunity to assess the environment. The dog was walked on leash several times the first couple of days, by multiple staff members, until it reached a point where it was very relaxed and comfortable in the kennel. In addition, a DAP/Adaptil (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser was plugged in near this dog’s kennel.

On this dog’s final day, it was scheduled to have a grooming. The dog was very good for the bath, but when it was time for the nail trim, it immediately tensed and became agitated. The decision was made to not to do the nails. The dog in question had progressed so far, from being absolutely terrified on day one to having a good stay, and we did not want to undo that progress. It was imperative for this dog’s future kenneling experiences that this first visit end on a good note, and forcing a nail trim would not have been beneficial to the mental health of the pet.

ProudMembers BadgeWhile we understand, and even expect, that a trip to the boarding kennel, groomer or veterinarian will have some associated stress for your animal, the onus is on those of us in the industry to make these visits as relaxing and fear free as possible. These changes need to happen system wide and here at Green Acres we call upon all other facilities to join the movement and become pet friendly facilities and we also call upon you, the consumer, to see that it happens.

For more information on Green Acres philosophies on “Pet Friendly” pet care, visit our website and look for our position statements on Pet Friendly Pet Care and Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs.

Next month, we will go into a discussion about the Force-Free philosophy of The Pet Professional Guild and their efforts to educate pet guardians and the pet care services industry about force-free pet care. In addition, we will explore what veterinary clinics are doing to make your pet’s visit to the vet fear-free.

Links to the other two parts of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3- <Click Here>

Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility – <Click Here>

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cat Behavior – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier

Using a carrier is the safest way to transport an animal from your home to another location. I would particularly discourage anyone from transporting a cat that is not secured in a carrier. No matter how well behaved your cat is, if you are in an accident your cat will be terrified and will do everything they can to get away.

Batmanin A Pie Box
Batmanin A Pie Box

Unfortunately, most cats only see their carrier moments before they are forced into them to be taken on a car ride, usually to the veterinarian, groomer or boarding kennel. Often the end result is a cat that runs and hides the minute they are aware of the presence of the carrier. Finding and extracting a cat from a hiding place without getting scratched or bitten can be a prolonged and stressful process; one that is terrifying for your cat and frustrating for you. Wouldn’t your cat be happier and your life significantly easier if your cat enjoyed their carrier and perhaps even walked right in?  Getting there is not as complicated as you might think.

So how do you get your cat to like their carrier?

  1. Make sure you have a carrier that is safe– If you do not already have a carrier; an airline style carrier is the preferred choice. They are usually made of plastic and have a wire door at the front and sometimes a second wire door on the top. Don’t scrimp when you make this purchase. You want a carrier with doors that can be secured and stay secured. Card board boxes labeled as cat carriers can work, but they are not nearly as safe and we have known many cats to escape from these. Soft-sided carriers are easier to store and are lighter, but in the case of an accident offer your cat little protection
  2. Make sure that your cat finds the carrier to be comfortable – By itself, a plastic carrier is not going to be the most comfortable place; however, you can make it quite posh by inserting a blanket or a pillow that your cat already enjoys.
  3. Leave the carrier out so that your cat can explore it – If your cat is like most cats, they love boxes, bags and other things that they can explore and hide in. Take the door off your carrier and place the carrier in an area that your cat frequents. Do not try to coax the cat into the carrier, let them explore it if and when they are ready. To make the carrier even more rewarding, put a small dish with a tablespoon of your cat’s favorite canned food or some favorite treats at the back of the carrier. Now getting in the crate will be very rewarding. If your cat has favorite toys that they will chase and catch, toss a toy in the carrier and let them go get it and play with it. If your cat is hesitant about the carrier talk to your veterinarian or favorite pet care provider about Feliway®, a feline pheromone which has a calming effect on cats.
  4. Keep the carrier out and keep rewarding your cat for using it – Leave the carrier out as an alternative resting place for your cat and continue to reward them for its use by occasionally; feeding them in the carrier, tossing treats in the carrier, and tossing toys in the carrier,
  5. Put the door back on the carrier and practice carrying your cat – Put the door back on the carrier and continue to reward your cat for going in and exploring. After they are used to the door being back on, toss a treat into the carrier and after the cat goes in gently and quietly close the door, wait a few seconds, open the door and wait for your cat to come out. Repeat this a couple of times per day until your cat is used to hopping in and out of the carrier. When this becomes routine, close the door, pick the carrier up, hold it for a brief period and set it back down. Practice this for several days and then start carrying the cat around in the carrier. Eventually get to the point where you can get the cat in the carrier, carry them out to the car, and then immediately bring them back inside and let them out.
  6. Use the carrier to transport your cat to the vet or kennel – Many cats do not travel well and may get car sick. Make sure your cat’s favorite blanket or towels is in the carrier and if you have some Feliway, spray it on the blanket a good thirty minutes before getting the cat in the carrier. Secure the carrier in your car so it is not thrown in case you need to stop fast, and cover the carrier with another blanket to limit visual stimulus. When you bring your cat back home leave the carrier out and continue to reward them for its use.

    Tyler in a box
    Tyler in a box

With this little extra time and attention your cat can soon be an expert traveler. The time spent today helping your feline friend adjust to liking its carrier will pay off immensely in the future when it comes to getting your cat where it needs to go.

 

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks

10JAN15-Dog Behavior, Don and Kate w-guest host Dr Mark Hanks 400x400Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic has been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, giving Kate and I several opportunities to “pick his brain” about a wide variety of topics. For quite some time he’s been asking to “host” the show and to turn the tables so to speak; interviewing Kate and I and asking us questions about animal behavior and training.  In the first of four shows in this series, Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional animal behavior counselors and dog trainers. Some of the questions Mark asks are: 1) How did you get into helping people with animal behavior problems? and 2) What does the current science say about dominance and alpha dogs?

You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-10-01-2015_Dog_Bhx_Don_Kate_w-guest_host_Mark_Hanks.mp3

You can download this episode of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download it at: http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/webpage

You can listen others episodes in this series at the links below.

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 1– 12JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 2– 19JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 3– 26JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to: www.woofmeowshow.com

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

(This article was first published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Chronicle of the Dog  – [Click for a PDF of this article])

As trainers and behavior consultants, it is essential for us to consider whether or not a pet’s basic needs are being met if we are to offer our clients the best possible training and behavioral advice. This becomes even more important when facilitating the treatment of “problem behaviors,” as these often manifest when a pet’s welfare is compromised or when basic needs are not being met consistently. Brambell’s Five Freedoms are a very useful set of guidelines for assessing a pet’s welfare and developing a corresponding training, behavior modification, and management plan.

Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom as a result of Parliament creating a committee to assess the welfare of livestock raised in factory farms. In December of 1965, the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4) was published. The report identified what are known as the five freedoms that a farm animal should have: “to stand up, lie down, turn around, and groom themselves and stretch their limbs.” The British government then established the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to further define these freedoms to what we know today as: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.1,2

While originally intended for farm animals, the freedoms can be applied to any animal that is kept by humans. During my training in the Bach Practitioner program in the U.K., we discussed how Brambell’s Five Freedoms applied to dogs, cats, cattle, horses, rabbits, hogs, ducks, and a variety of other species. It is imperative that we have adequate knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements and natural behaviors in order to appropriately assess whether their freedoms are being restricted. Even when we do have adequate knowledge, we may find that the freedoms sometimes conflict with what are considered best practices. Likewise, they may be inconsistent with what may be necessary to protect a pet or others. Not everything is black and white, and considering the freedoms over the years has brought me many answers, but also many questions for which I have no definitive answer. I invite you to consider some of the questions that have occurred to me and contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms.

  1. Ensure the animal is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple, right? Provide animals with food and water and the need is met, but…

  • Does the type of food matter? Cats are true carnivores and most dogs, if left to their own devices, would eat a diet with very few carbohydrates. However, the average dog and cat are fed a diet that is probably at a minimum composed of 40% carbohydrates. Both dogs and cats would usually be eating fresh food, yet most pet food is highly processed. Feeding a pet as naturally as possible is not inexpensive. Is it better to have one pet and to feed him really well, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? What about pets on prescription diets? They may need it for disease purposes, but is it optimal nutrition? Which takes precedence?
  • Many pets in the U.S. are obese, clearly due to overfeeding, improper diet, and lack of exercise. How does an animal’s obesity affect its welfare?
  • Does the source of water matter? Cats often depend on getting the majority of their hydration from eating live prey, yet few cats have that opportunity in today’s world. Would they drink more and have fewer urinary issues if they had ready access to fresh meat and running water? If you don’t drink from your tap, should the animals?
  1. Ensure the animal is free from discomfort.

Originally this freedom focused on shelter, and seemed relatively straightforward: make sure animals always have adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

  • Animals need down time. Does the pet have a quiet, comfortable resting place where he can be undisturbed and where he will feel safe? Is the pet’s environment free from things that may cause harm and discomfort?
  • Many people have multiple pets. Does each pet have adequate space, or are there too many animals for the amount of space available? Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there constant conflict? Are there sufficient resources for all of the animals?
  • Breed also affects what an animal needs to be comfortable. Pets with long coats often cannot groom themselves adequately, and their hair can become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort. This becomes an even bigger problem if the pet is obese and as he ages. Are your clients making sure that their pets are adequately and properly groomed?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury, and disease.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with physical disease.

  • Working dogs and dogs who compete in dog sports can experience injuries that cause pain. Is just using painkillers enough, or do we need to consider removing the dog from the activity causing the pain? Physical therapy for pets is still a relatively new treatment modality. Should it be a routine part of care for a working or competitive dog?
  • Breeding has resulted in some pets who essentially have physical impairments that can affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How much should these animals be put through in an effort to correct their conditions? How do we help our clients separate their emotions from those of their pet? How do we handle it when it is one of our own pets?
  • Many purebred pets are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders, as well as physical conformations that often cause impairments. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these disorders and create healthier pets? When clients are considering what type of pet to get, should we steer them away from certain breeds that have physical impairments or are prone to genetic disorders? How do we educate without being judgmental?
  • Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, etc.) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of these disorders are often not considered as important as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog? How do we best counsel clients who wish to keep their dog involved in activities that have great potential to exacerbate behavioral issues?
  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

The ability to express normal behaviors is often problematic, because many normal behaviors are the behaviors that people dislike the most (e.g., cats hunting and killing birds and dogs sniffing people’s crotches, to name two).

  • Do your clients’ pets have an adequate and safe space in which to run and express normal behaviors, both indoors and outdoors? Are they provided with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Cats are all too often neglected here. Are they getting ample chase games?
  • Is the environment in which the animals live suitably enriched so that it stimulates their minds? Do they search for their food or is it just dropped in a bowl?
  • Do the pets have sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide emotional enrichment?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with suitable members of their own species, if they choose to do so, in a manner that is rewarding for all parties?
  • Humans use dogs for a variety of jobs. Is it ethical to put dogs in working situations where they are not allowed to express many normal behaviors for most of their lives?
  • There are a number of breeds that humans choose to physically alter by docking their tails or cropping their ears. Tails and ears are both tools that dogs use to communicate with one another. Do physical alterations impair a dog’s ability to express normal behaviors and to communicate?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect knowledge — about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in our canine and feline companions.

  • Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. What can we do to make clients, breeders, shelters, rescues, and veterinarians realize the importance of socialization and habituation? What can we do to help our clients to be successful in socializing their puppies gracefully and gradually without overwhelming them?
  • Cats have an even earlier socialization period than a dog (two to five weeks). How do we make sure that breeders and shelters are aware of this and taking steps to accomplish this? Should we be discouraging clients from adopting kittens that have not been properly socialized at this age? What about the feral population? Is it just kinder to leave them be?
  • Additionally, many animals have a more fearful baseline, either due to genetics, prior history, or a combination of both, and with the best of intentions, well-meaning pet owners throw the animals into situations that involve flooding to re-socialize them. How do we decide when enough is enough? At what point does management become preferable to continued trials of desensitization and counter-conditioning?
  • Dog bites, especially of children, are a significant problem, and are often caused by a dog who is afraid or is otherwise under stress. In some cases the child is the direct cause of that fear. How do we convince the dog-owning public and the non-dog-owning public of the importance of learning basic canine body language so that many of these bites can be prevented?
  • A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. How do we help clients understand and find the time to ensure that their pets get appropriate amounts of stimulation and exercise?
  • On the flip side, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Many dogs will not do well in a daycare setting, playing all day or going for a five-mile run every morning. How do we educate our clients and others in the industry that too much activity can be as detrimental as not enough activity? How do we help clients to find the balance for their pet between too much and not enough?
  • While both the domestic dog and domestic cat are considered to be social animals, some are more social than others. Feral dogs and cats choose which bonds to form; in most households, humans choose which pets live together. How do we get clients to understand that pets who do “okay” together may not be thriving, and may be living under stress? Is that fair to either pet? Should one be rehomed, or would that be worse? If so, how do we counsel clients about which one should stay?
  • Communication and understanding are the cornerstones of good relations. How do we get the dog-owning public to understand that learning dog body language and training their dogs with reward-based training is key to ensuring that their dogs do not live in fear and distress?
  • Stress comes in two varieties: distress (scary things, trauma) and eustress (excitement). Whether distress or eustress, what happens to the body physiologically is very similar, and being in a state of frequent eustress or distress can have negative impacts on health. How do we get people to understand that, while occasional, moderate distress and eustress is in fact essential to life (and unavoidable), high or frequent doses can be extremely detrimental? How do we help them balance and manage their pets’ lives to avoid long-term, high levels of stress? If going to the vet is causing extreme stress, yet is necessary for freedom from disease and pain, how do we respond? Which carries more weight?
  • As trainers we may choose to put our own dogs into situations where they serve as a decoy dog while we evaluate a client’s dog-aggressive dog. Even though we take great effort to prevent physical and emotional harm to our dogs, the latter is not always easy to measure at the time. Is it ethical to place our dogs in this situation?
  • Working with dogs, and observing others working with dogs, is an essential part of how we learn to become better trainers. Is it fair to bring out a dog who is experiencing fear and distress and to use him in a demonstration in front of a group? Can we come up with a better way for us to learn, without causing dogs even more distress?

There are not necessarily any straightforward answers to satisfying Brambell’s Five Freedoms for all animals in all situations. As with any treatment or training plan, all factors need to be considered and weighed. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the freedoms and how they apply to the animals in your life, the global ethical questions they bring, and also learning how you can use them to help your clients and their pets.

 

Footnotes

1 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms: http://www.defra.gov.uk/fawc/about/five-freedoms/

2 “Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05: http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Adopting/Getting A Pet – Before You Adopt A Dog…

< A version of this article was published in the October 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Whether it is your first dog or you have had dogs your whole life, whether you have no other pets or lots of other pets, whether you live alone or live with a large family, adding a dog to your life is a big decision and requires careful thought and planning. As a pet care professional with over 19 years of experience, I have heard countless stories of what can happen when you bring a dog home on impulse. Yes, it might turnout just fine, but there have also been many times where being impulsive leads to heartache. I suspect that there is a “right dog” for most every situation, but not all dogs will be right for your situation. So before you start thinking about which breed you want, whether you’ll get a rescue or purebred, a puppy or an adult, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions.

What is the primary reason you want a dog? – Companionship is probably the most typical reason people get a dog. Other reasons might be so that you can compete in dog sports or to do therapy dog visits at nursing homes and hospitals. Perhaps you want a dog as a hunting companion or to help you on the farm. Some people will even think they want a dog to teach their children responsibility or for protection. If it’s either of these last two, I’ll try to talk you out of getting a dog for those reasons. Alternatively, you might be looking for a dog to be a service/assistance dog for yourself or a family member. In this situation your best option is to let a qualified and reputable service dog agency select and train the dog for you. Most dogs, even the ones specifically bred to be service dogs, do not have what it takes to develop into a reliable service dog. My point is that there are several reasons you might want a dog and how you answer this question will determine what breeds you should consider and those that would be out of the question, whether you want a puppy or an adult dog, and whether or not you should consider a purebred or a mutt.

Where will you be 15 years from now? – Depending on the breed and individual dog, your new canine friend will hopefully be with you for 12-15 years, perhaps longer. Your life, where you live, who lives with you, the amount of free time you have, your financial resources, your health and physical abilities, and your dog’s health can and will very likely change a great deal in 15 years. When adding a dog to a family I believe you need to plan for it being a lifetime commitment. That means you need to think ahead and be sure that the reason you want a dog today will still be the reason you want a dog several years from now. When we recently added our new dog my wife and I knew we needed a smaller dog. We both have back issues, and carrying our 16 year old Golden up and down the stairs was difficult at best and we knew we would not be able to do that 15 years from now.

What are your deal breakers? –  Even though we make a lifetime commitment to a dog sometimes things happen and it is in the best interest of you and your dog to part ways. This can be heartbreaking for all involved. One of the best ways to prevent that heartache is to spend some time before you welcome a dog into your home deciding what would be a reason you would not want or be able to keep a dog.  Some reasons that people have given for ending the relationship; the dog bites someone, you need to move into town and the dog cannot adapt, the dog kills another animal, someone in the family develops allergies, the dog urinates and defecates inside and cannot be trained, the dog has separation anxiety and you work 14 hours a day, the dog barks excessively and the neighbors are complaining, you move in with a new life partner and your dog hates their dog, etc.. The point is that unexpected things happen, sometimes beyond our control. If you can identify these deal breakers before you choose a dog, you may be able to select a pet that decreases the probability of these unfortunate situations developing.

What happens next? – After you have answered these questions for yourself, I recommend you share them with at least a few pet care professionals; a veterinarian, a dog trainer or behavior consultant, a daycare/kennel operator or a dog groomer. You want someone who can give you an objective opinion based on extensive experience with many breeds as well as individual dogs. Breeders, rescues, and shelters can provide useful input; however, remember that they are hoping you will choose one of the dogs that they have available. This is not to say that we do not all have our share of biases; for this reason talking to several people will give you a broader perspective.   At Green Acres Kennel Shop, we will gladly sit down and have this discussion with you at no charge, because we know it’s going to result in a good match.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>