In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from March 23rd, 2013,,Don and Kate talk with Nicole Lindsley of Steve’s Real Food for Pets. We discuss the Steve’s product line, formulas specific to dogs and cats, how much it costs to feed Steve’s, the benefits of feeding a raw diet, and how Steve’s product differs from a home-prepared raw diet and some of the other commercial raw diets.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show on March 16th, 2013, Don and Kate talk with Gary Bursell, owner of Steve’s Real Food for Pets, about the rationale for feeding pets a raw diet and the status of the raw pet food industry. Don and Kate also share their experiences feeding raw over the past eleven years.
OBJECTIVE: To learn how to manage your dog’s chewing behavior.
While a puppy may chew more during the teething stage, chewing is a very normal behavior for dogs of all ages. They do it out of pleasure; they do it to pass the time; they do it to relieve stress, and they do it to exercise their jaws and teeth. We need to allow our puppies and dogs to have an outlet for natural behaviors such as chewing. It is our responsibility to provide them with things that they can chew on and to help them learn that they are only to chew on their specified chew toys.
When they first come into our homes, dogs and puppies have no way of knowing the difference between a chew toy and a cell phone. They do not understand that a pair of shoes represents a $150 chew toy; they just know the shoes are available and are a pretty good chew. Consider all the items in your home that your dog is NOT allowed to chew in contrast to the number of things he is allowed to chew. Is it any wonder our dogs guess wrong some of the time?
Given the way a puppy works, we need to start training him early on as to what items he can chew. The first step is to restrict your puppy’s access to anything but his chew toys unless he is actively supervised. This keeps your belongings and your puppy safe. Sometimes dogs chew things that result in serious injury or illness.
Active supervision means that if you are not monitoring the puppy, you need to keep him in his crate or a puppy-proof room when he cannot be supervised. Adequate supervision means a responsible adult is devoting all of their attention to supervising the puppy.
The three key steps to chew training are:
Get your dog some suitable chew toys and teach him how wonderful they are. There are five broad types of chew toys; natural chews like rawhide, bully sticks, antlers and other animal parts, man-made hard chews made to simulate a bone, man-made soft chews like rope toys and toys made of softer rubbers and plastics, toys that dispense treats and in doing so provide your dog with some mental stimulation, and super durable toys that are almost indestructible.
Our favorite in this category is the Bully Stick. It is an all-natural chewing alternative made from a tendon from a steer. Unlike rawhide, your dog is unlikely to swallow too large a piece of the Bully Stick, and with most dogs they last a substantial amount of time. We occasionally use rawhide but are always very particular about the rawhide we choose. Rawhide is not naturally white/beige. It is normally brown and only becomes lighter colored after a great deal of chemical processing. For this reason, we prefer to only use rawhide that is manufactured in the USA. We always supervise the dogs when they are given any natural chew to make sure that they do not try to swallow more than they should. These types of chews are edible, but intake should be limited.
Man-made hard chews
These are probably the most common chew toys for dogs and often the most durable. Our favorite in this category are the NylaboneÒ products. They come in various sizes, flavors and degrees of hardness for the puppy and adult dog that is a voracious chewer. Many NylaboneÒ products also help keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean and healthy. If your dog lacks enthusiasm toward his NylaboneÒ, try sanding the surface gently with some fine sandpaper. This will help release the flavor. Another alternative is to drill some holes in the bone that you fill with peanut butter.
Man-made soft chews
Some of the NylaboneÒ products fall in this category as do rope toys and many of other products. Basically, these are any soft toys the dog can chew with supervision. Remember, because they are soft, your dog will be able to destroy them with less effort. They may not be appropriate for voracious chewers, even when supervised.
Treat dispensing chew toys
The toys in this category not only give your dog something to chew, but they can also keep him very busy. The granddad in this category is The KongÒ. Made of a hard, natural rubber and available in different sizes, their unique shape makes them bounce in an unpredictable manner, and their hollow center allows them to be stuffed with goodies. A KongÒ stuffed with various size pieces of dog biscuit, kibble, or carrot can keep your dog busy and out of trouble.
Super Durable Chews
GoughNuts come in sizes for small dogs to big dogs and in a variety of shapes (donut, stick, ball and cannoli). They are floatable, cleanable, roll-able, chewable, recyclable, fun-able, and available at Green Acres! Designed and manufactured in the US, each GoughNut contains an internal, red indicator material. If you can see the red material the toy has been compromised and should be considered “unsafe” and disposed of or returned to GoughNuts for a replacement. GoughNuts is so confident that this will so seldom occur that their guarantee states “If your dog chews through the outside wear layer, Green or Black, to expose the indication layer, Red, GoughNuts will replace your toy.” You do need to pay for shipping, but that is a pretty impressive guarantee for a chew toy.
No matter what toy or toys you choose, show your dog you are interested in them. Play with them and he too will start to show an interest.
Prevent your dog from learning it is acceptable to chew things other than his toys
Make sure your dog is confined in his crate or a puppy-proof room unless you can keep him under 100% supervision.
When he starts to chew something he is not supposed to, redirect him to one of his chew toys. Praise him when he chews his toy. Do not bring more attention to the dog by scolding him for chewing an inappropriate item. Also, reflect on how your dog got access to the item he was not supposed to have and what you can do to prevent future access.
If your puppy chews things such as cords, try spraying them with a product such as BitterÒ Apple or Bitter YUCK!™. These products have a very bitter taste which 99% of dogs find objectionable. Once the dog chews on a treated item, it will stop chewing because it tastes so bad. We do sell two brands because some dogs amazingly like the taste of this stuff.
Once your dog is doing well, start to give him more access to your home while continuing to keep him under close supervision. If he starts chewing something he is not supposed to chew, trade him for a chew toy. Now that he has been trained to know what he can chew it will be easier to redirect his attention.
These four links are to two blog articles on Dr. Sophia Yin’s blog page where she has published her interview with Bob and Marian Bailey about the best animal trainers in history. I was very fortunate to have attended the same seminar that Dr. Yin did and heard some of this important history firsthand and had an opportunity to learn from two of the best animal trainers in history; Marian and Bob Bailey. A big thank you to Dr. Yin for publishing this interview.
The next two articles discuss some of the training accomplishments of Animal Behavior Enterprises where Keller Breland, and Marian and Bob Bailey did much of their pioneering training work with animals.
The concept of a “kissing booth” as a fundraising attraction at a carnival or some other event is not new. However, doggy kissing booths, where a person pays to give a kiss or hug to a dog or to get a kiss from a dog, is a relatively new trend. As a dog lover and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, I find the idea of a doggy kissing booth very disturbing. When I privately shared this concern with a group organizing a fundraising event for a local dog park, the leader of the group publically labeled me a “jerk” on the groups Facebook page. If caring for the wellbeing and safety of dogs and people makes me a “jerk,” then I will gladly wear that badge with honor.
So, why am I opposed to dogs being put on display at a doggie kissing booth? The answer is quite simple. Unlike people dogs do not enjoy being kissed and hugged. Any qualified dog behavior consultant will tell you the same thing. In fact, kissing and hugging a dog, even by a child in its family, is often what initiates a dog bite. Putting dogs in a position to be hugged and kissed by complete strangers, in a carnival like atmosphere, is going to be extremely stressful to most dogs, further increasing the probability of a bite. That’s not smart, not kind and not something I would think any dog owner would knowingly do to a dog they truly cared about.
Secondly, but equally important, a doggie kissing booth sets a very poor example for children because it models, promotes and encourages inappropriate behavior by humans towards dogs. Dog bites are a serious issue and Green Acres, like other pet care professionals throughout the country, works hard to educate children and their parents, teaching them how to and how not to interact with dogs. Do the organizers and supporters of events with a doggie kissing booth want to be responsible for a child being bitten in the future because that child saw adults kissing and hugging dogs at the event and therefore thought it is something that is okay to do?
Lastly, having a doggie kissing booth is a potential legal liability for the owner of the property where the event is being held, the organizers of the event and the individuals that are allowing their dogs to participate in the kissing booth. All would be wise to consult with their attorneys and insurance companies before participating in such a venture.
If you want to learn more about canine behavior, canine body language and appropriate human-canine interactions sign up for one Green Acres Kennel Shops dog training classes or seminars. You might also want to investigate the following books and web links.
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006, An excellent book on understanding a dog’s body language. Includes descriptions of how you can use your own body language to better communicate with your dog.
Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007, This book outlines the physiology of stress in dogs, signs of stress, and how to make your dog’s life less stressful. It emphasizes that more activity and involvement in dog sports is often not the answer to reducing stress in dogs but can be a major contributing factor. This book is a must read for anyone with an anxious or hyper dog.
The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2002, An information-packed, immensely readable book. In it you will learn how to have a better relationship with your dog through better communications. Dr. McConnell clearly explains the manners in which dogs and their people communicate.
Change – not a word that many pet food manufacturers wanted to hear, but definite music to our dogs’ ears and overall heath. The change that we are referring to is dietary rotation. When we first began discussing dietary rotation several years ago, many of our pet food manufacturers were livid! Today however, largely to meet consumer demand, many pet food manufacturers now are producing diets within their food lines that are designed for convenient rotation.
For years, the pet food companies have been successfully convincing many of us that changing our pet’s diet will result in digestive upset. And if you ever did try to switch foods, they were quite often proven correct and you would never make that mistake again! But when you step back and think about it from a canine evolutionary standpoint, does it even make sense? Dogs are scavengers. In its feral state a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts should be equipped to handle a variety of different foods in rapid succession – there is nobody providing a slow transition to a new diet.
So what has caused this change in our domesticated dog’s gastrointestinal tract? The answer in short is that, with the help of the pet food manufacturers, we have caused it. Let’s say for example that you purchase a 30# bag of dog food and it takes your dog 6 weeks to eat it. So for 6 weeks, aside from the occasional snack here and there, your dog eats nothing else. You were so pleased with the results of this food, that when you returned you purchased another 30# bag of the same food again and again. So now, for several months your dog has consumed only that one specific type and brand of food. Now I ask, if you were to only eat one thing for several months, even if it was of great quality, and you suddenly changed, would there not be a high probability that you too would be suffering from digestive upset?
The benefits of dietary rotation are many. The first that comes to mind is simply a decrease in food boredom; imagine what it would be like to eat the same thing every day for a week, yet we often ask our dogs to do it for a lifetime. Secondly is that by alternating diets we have the opportunity to broaden our dogs’ exposures to other meat, fat, grain, fruit and vegetable sources, thus introducing different macro and micronutrients for optimal long-term health; with increased exposure comes a healthier gut and the ability to handle a wider variety of foods without digestive upset. Thirdly, by rotating diets we can potentially decrease long term exposure to harmful pathogens and microbes found in some grains which can lead to chronic illness that may not appear until later in life.
Thankfully, many of the pet food companies are now offering lines that give the consumer the ability to easily rotate diets. This however does not mean that you need to stay within a specific brand line, even though the manufacturer wants you to. We actually would encourage the rotation of brands as well as food ingredients whenever possible, as different companies make use of different vitamin packs and sourcing for their primary ingredients. But if you are not comfortable with this, your dog will still benefit from change within a brand as opposed to no change at all.
When you do change you may notice some differences. In some case stools may be smaller and firmer, other times larger and softer. There will be some foods your dog prefers over others and you can note that preference. (I actually had a lab that HATED the duck formulas – go figure)! As you and your dog try out the foods, you will find that you will both develop a preference for certain ones and use those in your rotation. The key is to not be afraid to try something new; the pet food industry is always coming out with great new stuff, it’s not just chicken anymore! Remember, if your dog has a healthy gut and is accustomed to new foods, they will be able to handle the change.
Diet rotation is not for every dog, however. Although rare, there are some dogs with true food allergies that may be best left on the same diet. Others are on prescription diets or have specific health concerns and dietary changes should not be attempted until discussed with a veterinarian. But if you believe your dog would benefit from dietary rotation we encourage you to start today. If your dog has been consuming the same food for an extended period of time, chances are you will have to slowly transition to any new diet, but hopefully with a little patience and some yogurt you will be able to help your dog’s gut develop and regain optimal health, allowing you to transition foods rapidly with little to no mixing.
NOTE: We typically do not encourage rotation of dry diets for cats, particularly neutered males as there is the potential for a change in the pH of the urine which could lead to the formation of crystals in their urine.
OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog to have a gentle bite that does not hurt, if he ever makes mouth contact with you or any other person.
No matter how much training you do and how gentle your dog is, under certain circumstances any dog can be provoked to bite. Biting is an act of defense for a dog; it is often an instinctual response to specific situations. There are a variety of reasons that a dog may bite and contrary to popular belief, few bites are committed by “aggressive” dogs.
All dogs have what is referred to as a bite threshold. A bite threshold can be either low, high or anywhere in between and is individual for every dog and will be variable depending on what else is happening in the dog’s environment at that particular time. The best way to think of this threshold is to equate it to the “snapping point” in people. Some individuals are more tense and quicker to react in a situation than others. Virtually everything going on in the world around them will contribute to where a dog is at that given moment in time in relation to their bite threshold.
Hypothetically, a dog with a very high threshold (less reactive) who is well socialized, well fed, well rested and just kicking back around the house playing a bit and being petted will typically be unlikely to bite the mailman, unless the simple presence of the mailman puts this dog over threshold. The same dog, that is hungry, tired from all of the company that has been visiting, sore from the extra exercise and whose routine has been completely thrown out of whack would be more likely to bite that same mailman. All of these factors play into where the individual dog is at on the continuum. As humans, this should be pretty easy to understand; if we have had a bad day and have a headache, we tend to be grumpier than usual. With this in mind, we believe that it is important to first help a dog learn to inhibit their bites before we work on teaching them to not bite at all. The ultimate goal is that if your dog is ever put in a situation where he/she feels a need to defend itself, it will inflict only a minimal amount of damage.
We strongly discourage the use of traditional methods to teach puppies to not bite. These include, but are not limited to scruff shakes, cuffing the puppy under the chin, pinching their lips against their teeth and even the infamous “alpha wolf rollover.” Often people find that when using these methods the puppy bites harder, becomes fearful of hands around its mouth and head and damages the trust the puppy has in its guardian. Aggression on our part results in more aggression from the puppy. The method we describe below works very differently. With this method you can minimize biting and any damage if your dog should ever be placed in a situation where it feels it has no choice but to bite.
Your puppy, even at its young age, has strong jaws and sharp teeth. As your puppy matures, its jaws will only become more powerful. An adult dog has jaws and teeth that are fully capable of ripping apart a carcass and cracking bones. Dogs developed such well-built apparatus because they needed them to survive in the wild.
Dogs are very social animals and because their jaws are such an incredible and potentially dangerous weapon, they have created a ritualized form of aggression to prevent serious injury to one another during altercations. Every puppy is born knowing how to bite; yet they do not automatically know how to bite softly. They can however learn to bite softly through their interactions with other puppies, dogs and us. However, learning how to control their bite with other dogs helps them with other dogs. If you want them to learn how to control their bite with people, you need to teach them.
When we see a litter of puppies playing, we see them exploring one another with their paws and their mouths. This play is fun for the puppies, but it is also an important part of learning. Much of their play involves biting one another. This play is part of how they acquire the skills necessary for ritualized aggression.
While puppies are playing with one another, they are also learning bite inhibition – how to control the strength of their bite. When two puppies are wrestling and one bites the other too hard, the puppy that has been bitten will yelp or snark and stop playing. The puppy that did the biting has just learned that if he bites too hard, his littermate stops playing with him. Eventually the one that was bitten too hard will return to play and the biting puppy will have learned to have a softer mouth. When we take a puppy away from its litter, we also are removing it from a school where it learns much about bite inhibition. If taken into a home without other dogs, and if its new people do not allow play biting, the puppy will no longer have opportunities to learn how to inhibit its bite. This is a huge issue for puppies that are taken from mom and the litter prior to reaching eight weeks of age.
Unfortunately, many outdated dog-training books actively discourage play biting. They infer that if the dog is allowed to play bite it will think of you as a littermate and will try to dominate you. In reality, play biting is an important part of your puppy’s development and something that should be worked with, not against, if you want your puppy to develop a soft mouth. Our goal is to teach the puppy to inhibit this natural canine behavior before they are adults and can cause serious injury.
It is also important to understand that “play biting” is a very different behavior than “chewing” While you dog uses their teeth as part of both behaviors one involves mouthing a living, breathing playmate that will react and interact while the other involves gnawing on an inanimate object that does not interact. This is why giving the dog a toy when they are play biting does not typically stop the play biting behavior.
Teaching Bite Inhibition
It is important to setup opportunities to teach your puppy bite inhibition instead of just trying to teach them when a bite happens. Pick times when the puppy is not all wound up but is more relaxed. If the puppy is in the midst of “the puppy zoomies*” when you try to teach this they are likely to bite harder and are less likely to learn.
*Puppy Zoomies – those times during the day, usually early morning and early evening, when your puppy runs around with great gusto and enthusiasm, almost as if they are possessed.
When teaching bite inhibition, you want to initially target the hard bites. Setup a play area for yourself and the puppy. Make sure that there is absolutely NOTHING in this area that the puppy can play with other than you. No other people, dogs, toys or anything they can mouth. Play with your puppy allowing him to mouth your hands while monitoring the pressure of his bites.
When the puppy bites too hard, say “ouch” as if he really hurt you. This word will become the conditioned stimulus which the puppy learns to mean “playtime ends.” Note: you want to use the same word every time, as does everyone else in the family. Some puppies may be overly stimulated by a “yelp” so you may need to tone down the volume.
Immediately stop play and get up and leave the area for 30 seconds. You must completely ignore the puppy. Do NOT look at, touch or speak to the puppy, just walk away. Make sure the puppy has no toys or other people they can interact with. We are teaching the puppy that when they bite too hard their friends leave and ALL of the fun in the universe comes to a screeching halt.
After 30 seconds return and resume play. When the puppy eventually bites too hard again (and he most likely will), repeat steps 2 and 3.
The above cycle will need to be repeated several times for the puppy to learn. Every day or so you will reduce the amount of pressure you tolerate so that in time your puppy learns that you have very soft skin and he can only mouth you very gently. Think of this like the 1 to 10 pain scale used by doctors. On day one you yelp at 10, day two at 9, and so on. Be careful of moving to a soft pressure too quickly. If your criteria are too high, you are setting your puppy up to fail.
If you try teaching bite inhibition and it turns into the “puppy zoomies,” quietly and with much positive energy, pop your puppy in their crate for a brief timeout.
Some puppies will follow you and nip at your heels and clothes when you stop play. If this is the case, the bite inhibition exercises should be done with the puppy on a leash that is tethered to something like a table so the puppy cannot follow you.
The amount of time it takes your dog to learn how much pressure is okay will vary from dog to dog. The retrieving breeds generally pick this up quite quickly as they have been bred to have very soft mouths. Who wants to have their duck brought back all full of holesJ. On the flip side, it may take a bit more time to help your terrier become soft-mouthed.
Children should not participate in the bite inhibition training. While children and dogs often become the best of friends, young children frequently send dogs all the wrong signals. They scream, flail their limbs, run and fall down. All of these behaviors trigger your dogs hard-wired prey drive as they are essentially the same thing wounded prey would do. If the puppy gets too revved up, a timeout is necessary for both the puppy and the kids.
NOTE: If bite inhibition training was not started when your dog was a puppy (between 8 and 12 weeks), it may not work as well as you would like. If this is the case, please talk with one of the instructors for other ideas on handling biting issues.
It was a crisp fall day in October of 1999 when I got out of my car to attend a meeting at the Bangor Humane Society. Immediately I noticed one of the staff walking a little black dog that appeared to be a Cairn Terrier. Since Paula and I had been discussing adding a female Cairn to the family, I had to ask about her. It turned out that the diminutive dog was, in fact, a female Cairn who had been brought in as a stray several days ago, and she would be eligible for adoption the following day. The next day I took Paula and the dogs over to meet the little dog, and we decided she was joining our family. Shed, Gus, Tikken, Crystal and Tyler all had a new little sister.
It took us a few days to get to know this new arrival and hence we waited to name her until we got a better idea of her personality. We finally settled on Dulcie because she was so sweet. Dulcie was a very affectionate dog but in true terrier fashion, only on her terms. She loved attention, playing ball, and washing my head; however, she was typically not a lapdog and not one to snuggle for more than a few seconds, although she did occasionally settle in for a close-up with a person, child, dog or cat.
We were aware that animal control had been trying to catch Dulcie for a few weeks, so it was no surprise when we soon discovered she had a urinary tract infection (there’s just something about us, Cairns, and UTI’s – remember Gus?) and was prone to house-training accidents. Although we do not know with 100% certainty, I do believe that she was a pureblooded Cairn, and I have always thought her UTI’s might be why she was apparently abandoned. Like Gus, she had her share of UTI’s, but it was a small price to pay for what she gave us in return
I suspect that before joining our family that Dulcie had lived life as a single dog. Feeding time at the Hanson’s was quite a ritual with four other dogs that were always hungry. Dulcie was originally quite finicky and would only pick at her food, but in a matter of days, she was eating robustly like everyone else. Eventually, she enjoyed a daily apple, just like Tikken, until she got older and then preferred baby carrots. In her later years, Dulcie became extremely vocal at feeding time, and her lack of excitement was an obvious indicator that she was not feeling well.
Dulcie clearly knew no behavioral cues and had no training. I immediately enrolled her in our next scheduled training class, planning on training her just like we teach our students to train their dogs. Even though I am a professional trainer, having the regimentation of a class to attend helps make me do my homework.
Sit is one of the first behaviors we teach in class, starting with a food lure and quickly fading to a hand signal. Well there I was, in the first class, trying to lure Dulcie into a sit, and anytime my hand got anywhere near her head, she would back away as quickly as possible – freeze dried liver or not. It was clear that she was hand shy and that I was going to need to take a different approach.
There are several ways to teach a dog a behavior like sit. I usually start using a food lure. If luring does not work and it is a normal behavior that the dog would do on their own, I just wait. When the dog sits, I click and treat the behavior, thus “capturing” the behavior and building up a reward history. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I have not been blessed with the virtue of patience. I tried watching Dulcie extensively for several days, and the little sweetheart never sat once while I was watching. Clearly, another strategy was in order.
Having completed my first 5-day chicken camp with Marian and Bob Bailey the previous summer, I decided to consider how they would address my training “project” with Dulcie. I knew that I could shape the behavior with successive approximations because I had shaped countless behaviors with other dogs, always by the seat of my pants. This time, I decided to do it like the Bailey’s; with a training plan, collection of data, and adjustment of the plan based on the data.
My first discovery was that I could not start by teaching sit. I ended up adjusting my plan and started by teaching Dulcie to touch the palm of my hand with her nose. I had a near perfect “touch” behavior, on a verbal cue, within 13 sessions. In a short time I also had her sitting on cue as well, and from that point on Dulcie was an avid and apt learner. I am grateful that teaching Dulcie to sit required that I take a data-driven approach because it taught me the value in doing so. It also taught her that training is fun and further strengthened our then still developing bond.
I love teaching people how to train their dogs, but with my dogs, I can be rather lazy if a lack of training is not causing a problem. In that sense, Dulcie was a dream dog in that she was causing no problems, so most of our interactions with her were all about play. Her biggest role in the Green Acres’ training program was as a demo dog for me or some of our instructors in training.
While my original goal was to have Dulcie become a therapy dog like Tikken, as I got to know her better I changed my mind; it did not seem to be a good fit for her. However, Dulcie contributed to many other dogs becoming therapy dogs, either by being the “test” dog in classes or at an actual test.
As a Bangor Humane Society alumnus, Dulcie became our spokes-dog when Green Acres Kennel Shop would assemble a team to walk in the BHS Paws on Parade. More than one advertisement and t-shirt bore her image.
Being quite photogenic, Dulcie was a spokesdog for us on many occasions and was an early fan on Game of Thrones, especially the Stark’s, even before HBO.
In 2001, Dulcie traveled to New Jersey and Intergroom with Paula and Shannan.
Intergroom is a 3-day tradeshow, conference, and competition where Dulcie made her debut as a model in a grooming competition. Shannan placed 3rd in the Rising Star Competition, Handstripping class, with Dulcie. Dulcie was less than thrilled with the crowds, so we honored her request and allowed her to retire gracefully from being a super model.
Like Gus, Dulcie was obsessed fetching tennis balls, but unlike him, she would give it back. If you did not have time to play, she would grab a ball, carry it up to the top of the stairs, toss it down the stairs, chase after it, grab it, run back up the stairs and repeat. She also became an expert at training our staff members walking through my office to stop and toss the ball for her every time they walked through. Eventually, we decided the tennis ball had become an addiction – she was getting too demanding and too worked up – and had to stage an intervention. Dulcie readily learned that playing fetch occasionally was wonderful. I think it was more difficult to “untrain” the staff she had trained so well.
If you look closely at Dulcie’s face, you might think “Sea Otter,” at least Paula and I had that thought more than once. It was certainly reinforced by Dulcie’s habit of lying on her back with a ball in her paws.
Dulcie would occasionally attempt to play with Batman, our cat, but he would always respond with a “hiss” and sometimes a swat. Then there were the times that Batman would try to get Dulcie to play, or he would try to clean her face like he does with Tikken, and she would respond with a growl and bark. If the two of them had ever gotten on the same schedule they might have become great friends, but alas it was not to be; rather they contented themselves to coexist in the same household.
Due to her early housetraining issues with us, we started off with Dulcie sleeping in a crate at night, a place she was obviously very comfortable. Often in the mornings she would get to spend some time in bed with us as we were waking up. If I was still sleeping, one of the first things she felt compelled to do, was to lick my bald head. This became a regular ritual, and sometimes she would climb on the back of the couch to do the same thing. In spite of her frequent over-exuberance, Dulcie also instinctively knew when to restrain herself. I often cite her behavior as an example of how well dogs can read us. There was a day when I had a crushing migraine, the type where any light or sound makes you flinch. I spent the day in bed, and Dulcie was right there at my side, snuggling and not bouncing off my head. I guess she did know how to snuggle; she just had to choose the time.
Two of my favorite photos of Dulcie show her washing me head as I sit on the couch. I had one of them reproduced as a caricature by Jim George of “Draw the Dog.”
In January of 2010, Dulcie was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. This was a frightful prospect for me as my very first dog, Trivia, had developed Cushing’s disease when she was older and only lived a few weeks after the
diagnosis. Thanks to the care and guidance of Dulcie’s veterinarian, Dr. Mark Hanks at Kindred Spirits in Orrington, we were able to enjoy Dulcie for another 20 months.
As time progressed, Dulcie developed some minor cognitive dysfunction (doggie dementia). This started occurring when I was traveling, and Paula would put Dulcie in her crate at bedtime. Within 5 to 30 minutes, she would start barking anxiously. Paula would let her out of the crate, take her downstairs and let her out to go the bathroom and then take her back upstairs. Often she would do the same thing again within a few minutes, eventually settling for the night. Since this was not a regular event, we did not worry about it excessively. Last December and January this barking behavior became much worse, and we saw other signs of cognitive issues such as general confusion and incontinence, Fortunately, Dulcie’s homeopathic veterinarian, Dr. Judy Herman of the Animal Wellness Center, found a remedy that cured this behavior.
Last week Dulcie seemed more out of it than usual and only ate once over three days on the weekend. When we took her in to see Dr. Hanks this morning, he found a mass encircling her intestine and we made the difficult decision to help her across the Rainbow Bridge.
Dulcie, you came into our lives unplanned and endeared us in an instant. You made quick friends of our staff and all who visited our home. You entertained us with your antics and made us laugh, and even made me giggle when you regularly insisted on washing my head. You knew as much about creating a bond between human and animal than any person or animal I have ever met. You truly were a sweet treasure; you will be missed, and I know that you are now happily romping at the Rainbow Bridge.
This position statement is based on the understanding that:
As our dog’s guardian we have a moral responsibility to meet their physical and emotional needs1.
We can train our dogs to a very high level of compliance using a variety of reward-based training methods, but we cannot dictate their emotional responses to situations. Most serious behavioral problems are not due to training or a lack thereof, but are the result of emotions like fear and anger.
Expecting 100% compliance to obedience cues without also managing the dog’s environment is not a reasonable expectation for most dogs.
Dogs, like humans, are social species and usually enjoy the company of others. However both species consist of a broad spectrum of temperament types and must be viewed as individuals. Not all individuals within the population will enjoy social interactions. As much as we may want a dog to “like” a specific person or pet, we cannot make them do so.
The goal of our training and behavior consultation programs is to help you and your pet become and remain best friends for life. We believe that healthy friendships are based on mutual respect, acceptance of one another’s unique needs, and a desire to share life’s ups and downs while enjoying one another’s company.
Our approach to training or modifying the behavior of an animal may include any and all of the following; 1) managing the dog and its environment to prevent the undesired behavior, 2) eliminating or at least reducing the dog’s stress and anxiety by managing the dog and its environment, 3) defining clear boundaries and rules that are taught to the dog through reward-based training, 4) establishing or increasing the trust between person and dog so the dog sees its guardian as a kind leader and provider, 5) desensitizing the dog to the stimuli that causes the undesired behavior, and 6) rewarding the dog for desired behavior.
We will NOT recommend any methods based on the dominance construct (e.g. being the alpha or “top dog”, alpha rollovers, scruff shakes, etc.) which basically involves correcting behavior via physical, mental or emotional intimidation. While the dominance construct has been popular for many years, and is currently promoted on a popular reality TV show, it is based on flawed science and has been refuted by experts in the field of dog and wolf behavior.2,3,4,5,6 The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the world’s two largest organizations of dog behavior professionals, have both published official position papers outlining the problems with using the dominance construct for training or resolving problem behaviors like aggression.7,8,9 Attempting to be dominant over a dog is only likely to create and/or increase behavior problems and aggression.
We will NOT recommend any tools (shock collars [remote or underground fencing systems], choke, prong, or anti-bark collars) that are specifically designed to punish or “correct” the dog by causing pain or discomfort. Our own experience in dealing with dogs that have behavioral issues, as well as scientific research by experts in the field, indicates that using tools that cause pain and fear can actually elicit or increase aggression and other behavioral problems.4,10 Fear, anger and confrontation are all stressful. Physiologically a dog’s body will react in the same manner as a human’s when stressed. Stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol as well as other biochemical changes.11 Studies completed in Japan and Hungary in 2008 demonstrated that dogs that were strictly disciplined had higher levels of cortisol and that these increased cortisol levels were linked to increased aggressive behavior. The many adverse effects of using punishment led The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) to publish guidelines on the use of punishment in training in 2007.12
While punishment can temporarily stop a behavior it often causes new and additional problems. A study published in Animal Welfare by EF Hiby in 2004 concluded that dogs trained with punishment were more likely to demonstrate behavior problems and were less obedient than those trained with positive, reward based methods.13 Another study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior by Emily Blackwell in the fall of 2008 found that dogs trained with punishment had higher aggression scores while those trained with rewards had the lowest scores for fearful and attention seeking behaviors.14
14 Blackwell, Emily J., Twells, Caroline Anne, Seawright, Rachel A. Casey. 2008. The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, September/October 2008, pp 207-217. (http://www.journalvetbehavior.com/article/S1558-7878%2807%2900276-6/abstract )
Recommended Reading for Further Education
Dogs: A new Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Dominance: Fact or Fiction, Barry Eaton, 2002.
Dominance Theory and Dogs Version 1.0, James O’Heare, DogPsych Publishing, 2003.
Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2nd edition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999.
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006.
Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007.
The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005.
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001.
You can listen to a podcast where we discuss this topic by clicking here
Inappropriate elimination (Urination and/or Defecation) is when a previously litter box trained cat begins urinating or defecating in areas other than their litter box. This problem can be caused both medical and behavioral causes.
A blockage of the urinary tract can constitute a medical emergency, especially with a male cat, and can result in death. If your cat is experiencing urinary issues, contact your veterinarian immediately.
If you have multiple cats, resolving an inappropriate elimination problem can be especially difficult because you must first determine which of the cats is eliminating inappropriately. Talk to your veterinarian and they can provide you with a non-toxic, fluorescent dye that you can feed one of the cats. The urine of the cat fed the dye will fluoresce when exposed to a black light, thus allowing you to determine where that cat is urinating.
When you know which cat is the problem, have them examined by your veterinarian so they can rule out any medical reasons for the cats change in elimination habits. Medical conditions that can cause inappropriate elimination include diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
Anything that causes pain when urinating or defecating may also be a contributing factor. If your cat has arthritis and you have a box with high sides, your cat may find it painful to get in and out of the litter box and thus may choose to eliminate elsewhere. As a cat gets older, they may experience some cognitive dysfunction that can also cause changes in elimination habits.
Behavioral causes of inappropriate elimination are usually stress related. Any change can be a stressor. Evaluate any changes you have made in the desired elimination area.
The Number of litter boxes – Suddenly having fewer litter boxes can be a stressor. We recommend one for each cat, in separate locations, plus one extra. For two cats we would recommend three litter boxes in three different areas throughout your home. Three litter boxes lined up side by side, especially if one cat starts guarding the litter boxes from the other cat, may not work and adding a litter box in a separate location may be all you need to do to solve your problem.
Location of the litter box – If the problem started after you moved the litter box, try putting the litter box back in its old location with a new one in the new location. If the cat resumes using the box in the old location, place some of the soiled litter from the old box in the new box, and your cat may figure out what you want.
Equipment and objects next to the litter box – Most of us like to put the litter box in a secluded location out of major household traffic patterns. This is a good choice for the cat as well unless the box is next to some piece of equipment that has the potential to make noise or move when they are using the litter box. A clothes dryer may normally be okay but when unbalanced it can make louder and different noises. A malfunctioning furnace in need of a cleaning can also be startling when it kicks in. If the cat is scared once, they may abandon the use of the litter box in this location.
The size of litter box – The size of the litter box, especially the height of the sides, can be a big deal to a cat especially if it is suddenly more difficult to get in or out. If you have a large cat, you need a large litter box that will contain your cat comfortably. Often litter boxes are too small.
The type of litter box – Some cats prefer the traditional open litter box while some prefer the privacy offer by a covered litter box. While the automatic cleaning litter boxes are a great convenience for us, the noises and motions they make when operating can be scary to some cats and can cause them to stop using the box.
The depth of litter in the litter box – Sometimes we humans like to load up the box with litter thinking we’ll need to change it less often. Many cats will stop using the box if there is too much litter or too little litter.
How often you clean the litter box – Many cats will not use a dirty litter box, and their definition of dirty may be different from ours. We recommend scooping at least once a day and changing all litter and washing the box weekly. Very few cats object to a litter box that is too clean.
Chemicals used to clean the litter box – Cats are very sensitive to odors, so when washing your litter box do not use a strong smelling cleaner and make sure that you rinse it thoroughly.
The litter used (Brand, Material, and Scent) – Cat litter comes in a wide variety of substrates (non-clumping, clumping, sand, wood chips, corn cobs, newspaper, scented, unscented, etc.). Not all cats are going to like all types of litter no matter how much we like them. If you had something that worked before, switch back. Many cats are especially sensitive to some of the scented litters.
Other changes in the cat’s environment, not related to the litter box, may cause elimination and defecation issues. Changes you should review are listed below.
Changes in diet – Most cats need and demand changes in their diets; however, a change in diet can also cause changes in elimination habits especially if the new food is causing some digestive upset. If you have recently changed foods, try changing back and see if that helps.
Changes in medications – If your cat has recently been put on medications or has had a change in the dosage of an existing medication, ask your veterinarian if this could have any effect on elimination habits.
Household changes – The domestic cat is a social species and usually bonds closely with those in its immediate household. The loss of a family member or another pet can trigger depression and grief that can sometimes be enough of a stressor to cause a change in eating, elimination and sleeping habits. Likewise the addition of a new family member, human or animal can also be a stressor. If the elimination problem has started after the addition of a new cat or dog, you will want to work with an animal behavior consultant to assist you in assessing and changing the relationship between the two pets. It is not unheard of for one cat to guard access to the litter box by the other cat. This does not necessarily mean they will fight. It might be as simple as one cat lying at the top of the basement stairs which will prevent the other cat from going downstairs.
A pet behavior consultant can often help restore harmony to your pet family; however, be advised that this does not always work out. Occasionally one needs to make a choice of living with a problem or re-homing one of the pets.
Cats are also very sensitive to everything in their environment and sometimes moving furniture around, changing access to certain rooms or adding or removing furnishings can be a stressor.
Changes outside of the home – If our cat is an “indoor only” cat we tend to believe that they are only concerned about their immediate environment – what’s inside the house. That is not the case. Cats can be very territorial and a new cat or dog in the neighborhood, especially one frequently hanging around your home, can be a stressor. Cats mark their territory with both urine and feces. Territorial concerns may cause inappropriate elimination.
When marking territory with feces, it is usually left uncovered, so it is obvious to other cats in the area. Urinating as a territorial response occurs in two forms; 1) spraying and 2) marking. Spraying typically involves backing up to a vertical surface and spraying urine. Spraying is a very overt act by a confident cat that wants to be seen. Marking involves small drops of urine on a horizontal surface and is usually the result of a non-confident cat that does not want to be observed. Vertical scratching is also a very overt behavior used to mark territory and when combined with spraying and feces marking suggests a territorial component to the cats’ inappropriate elimination.
Other changes in your neighborhood may also be stressors for a cat. New neighbors, noisy, rambunctious children, a raccoon family visiting the yard, or a construction project can all be possible triggers for inappropriate elimination.
Use an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Urine Off! to thoroughly clean and deodorize any places your cat has eliminated inappropriately. You may need to use a black (ultra violet) light to find all of these spots.
Avoid any use of punishment. Shouting at your cat, squirting them with a spray bottle, or throwing things at them, is very likely to make your cat feel more stressed and is very unlikely to resolve the problem.
Review the list of changes that may have triggered your cats change in elimination habits. If you can undo any of those changes, do so.
Locate your cat’s food and water bowls to the area where they are eliminating inappropriately and keep them in this location. Typically a cat will not eliminate near their food and water; however, this may just cause your cat to eliminate elsewhere.
If possible, locate a litter box in the area where they are eliminating. If they use the box, try moving it gradually, a few inches every few days and see if you can retrain them.
Start using Feliway® with your cat. Feliway® is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. A pheromone is a chemical signal, conveyed by smell, which triggers a natural response in another member of the same species. A cat’s facial pheromone signals safety and security, so when detected by your cat it will help comfort and reassure them, reducing their stress. Feliway is available in a spray and an electric diffuser.
Consult with a Bach Flower Remedy Registered Practitioner animal specialist and ask them to prepare an appropriate formulation of Bach Flower Remedies for your cat’s emotional state.
Drug therapy, prescribed by a veterinarian with experience with behavioral medications, can help with many behavioral issues. Discuss your pet’s behavioral issues with your pet’s veterinarian and ask about medications that may be helpful. If your veterinarian is not comfortable and experienced using these drugs, you can work together with them and a veterinary behaviorist. Your veterinarian should be able to help you set up a relationship with a veterinary behaviorist. Here in Maine, the nearest veterinary behaviorists will be found at the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic and the behavior clinic at MSPCA Angell, both of which are located in Massachusetts.