Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™

Adaptil™, formerly labeled as ComfortZone™ with D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone), is a product that can be useful in helping reduce a dogs’ anxiety. It looks much like an air freshener that you plug into a wall outlet. When plugged in, it releases dog appeasing pheromone into the air.

Dog appeasing pheromone is a substance produced by a mother dog 3 to 5 days after giving birth to a litter of puppies. Scientists believe this pheromone enhances the attachment between the puppies and their mother and also helps reassure the puppies by providing them with comfort and emotional stability. Research has demonstrated that the pheromone is also effective on adult dogs, facilitating social interaction and positive emotions, thereby reducing anxiety.

Use of the D.A.P. ComfortZone has been useful for dogs with fear and separation anxiety issues. We have occasionally used DAP at Green Acres and at times have found it helpful and at other times have not noticed any change. In discussions with other trainers and behaviorists throughout the country I have heard similar reports. Because it does appear to work very well with some dogs, I think it is worth considering with any dog that does exhibit anxiety.

We sell the Adaptil/D.A.P. ComfortZone at Green Acres.

A DAP collar is also available through veterinarians, which may be another alternative you wish to consider.

Other Articles You May Find Helpful

Alone Training – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/dog-training-alone-training/

Bach Rescue Remedy – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

 

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

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 3

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

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the brands of food with a company’s offerings. This month he talks about the ingredients panel.

After you have selected a few companies and brands that you feel you can trust and that are right for your pet, then it’s time to start looking at the information on the bag. The new buzz word is “grain-free,” and while the foods labeled as grain-free are in most cases, better than the dry dog foods of twenty years ago, the whole “grain-free” phenomena has become more marketing hype than sound nutrition. When lamb was first introduced as a protein source it was erroneously marketed as “the best” protein source and everyone wanted their dog on a lamb based diet; the same thing is now happening with the “grain-free” craze.

Grains are not inherently bad. The ingredients that have replaced them in dry pet food (potatoes, various legumes, etc.) are still basically carbohydrates. That being said the grain free formulas, depending upon the manufacturer, do often have fewer carbohydrates than the standard formulas that do contain grain. However, keep in mind that dogs and cats have absolutely no need for any carbohydrates in their diet. That is why the “Guaranteed Analysis” panel on a bag of pet food does not list carbohydrates. Pet foods contain carbohydrates because they are required by the process used to manufacture kibble. The carbohydrates are the glue that holds the fat and protein together, and in order to do so the food must typically be at least 40% to 60% carbohydrates. Also recognize that carbohydrates, whether from grains or other sources, are also added to commercial pet food to keep the cost down; the carbohydrates used in dry pet foods are always less expensive than meat.

The most important information on a bag of pet food is the list of ingredients. By law, all ingredients must be listed in order, by weight. This portion of the label must indicate if the food is preserved and if so, how. One loophole here however, is that the preservatives only need to be listed if the ingredient is added at the manufacturing plant. For example, meat meals such as chicken meal, which is simply the chicken processed once to remove the water, may arrive at the manufacturing plant typically in a powder formula. If there has been a preservative added to this meal at a different facility which processed the meat meal, the preservative does not have to be listed on the bag. Often people wonder why meat meals are in dry formulas; they are necessary to get the protein levels sufficiently high for the optimal health of the animals. All ingredients on the list are defined by AAFCO, a quasi-regulatory body for pet foods.

When recommending a dry pet food we always look for a clearly identified protein source as the first ingredient. Foods with a single protein source are most appropriate for pets with food intolerances or allergies. They also make more sense with our rotation philosophy. We avoid dry foods that contain by-products in whole or meal form, as well as animal digest.

Another thing to be wary of are foods that list the same ingredient in multiple places on the label. This process, known as fragmenting, makes a food look better than it is. For example an ingredient panel that reads as “Lamb Meal, Ground Rice, Rice Flour, Rice Bran, Sunflower Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of natural Vitamin E), Poultry Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of natural Vitamin E), Natural Flavors, Rice Gluten, Dried Egg Product, Dried Beet Pulp” creates the impression that Lamb Meal is the predominant ingredient, clearly what the manufacturer would like us to believe. However, if we were to add the weight of the Ground Rice, Rice Flour, Rice Bran and Rice Gluten together, they could very easily outweigh the lamb, making rice the main ingredient in this food.

Finding the right pet food can sometimes feel like a daunting task and requires a willingness to learn and constant diligence, but is well worth the effort. All of us at Green Acres are always ready to discuss pet nutrition and to share what we know; all you need to do is ask

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Dog Training – Alone Training

ALONE TRAINING

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog that it is safe to be left alone.

Dogs are social animals and actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to being part of a group 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whenever a new dog is brought into a home, especially a young playful puppy, people have a tendency to interact with them constantly. While this interaction is a very important part of socialization and bonding, you need to make sure that you are not setting your puppy up for a big disappointment when you must leave him at home alone. Including some “alone training” right from the beginning will be beneficial to both your puppy and you.

Older dogs, depending on their previous circumstances, might also need to learn how to cope with being alone. For example, a dog that was housed in a shelter or kennel situation where other dogs and people were always around may have trouble coping being by themselves.

If you have not already done so, start leaving your puppy/dog alone for brief duration’s throughout the day. He needs to learn that 1) people are not always around and 2) you will come back. When leaving your puppy/dog alone, put him in his crate or in a puppy proof room. Be sure to give him some of his favorite chew toys so he can have some fun while he awaits your return. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. Just pop the puppy/dog in his area and leave.

Your puppy/dog may start to whine or bark when you leave. This is very normal. Your first impulse may be return to the puppy/dog and try to calm him, however, that is the worst thing you can do. If you want him to stop whining, you must make sure you do not reward the puppy/dog for whining .Do not pay any attention to your puppy/dog and do not let him out until there is a lull in the whining. Reward him for being calm and quiet.

Leaving your puppy/dog at home, at the veterinarians, at the groomers or at a boarding kennel should also be a very low-key, non-emotional event. Likewise, the same applies when returning to your puppy/dog. If you make leaving or returning into a big event, with lots of cuddling and petting, your puppy/dog is more likely to be stressed by your arrivals and departures. You can, and we hope you do, miss your puppy/dog when he is not with you. We just do not want to let him know that.

Start your alone training by building time slowly. Five to ten minutes is a good place to start if your puppy/dog has never been out of your site for that length of time. Like all training, we want to work in small achievable increments that the dog can handle. Continue leaving your puppy/dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.

If this behavior does not improve after a few days, or if your dog exhibits destructive behaviors such as digging, scratching or chewing on themselves, house soiling, destructions of objects, extreme vocalization, constant pacing, digging and scratching at exits such as doors and windows in an attempt to reach you, and following you excessively, never letting you out of sight then you should immediately discuss this situation with your veterinarian.  These are also symptoms of separation anxiety which many need to be treated with appropriate medications and a behavior modification program specific to separation anxiety. Your veterinarian will probably refer you to a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog and your family.  Resolving separation anxiety will typically involve changes in your family’s behavior in addition to your dogs.  This is typically not an easy problem to resolve and becomes more difficult to resolve the longer it goes on.

Things you should start doing immediately:

  • Make an appointment to discuss this issue with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian suggests medications follow their advice.
  • Contact and work with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog. They may also suggest additional things you can try such as Adaptil/DAP and Bach Rescue Remedy.
  • Leave your dog home alone as little as possible until you have successfully modified their behavior.  This is the hard part and can take weeks and even months; however, it is essential if you wish this problem to resolve. Consider it from your dog’s perspective, they are living in extreme fear. Every time your dog causes through this process of your leaving and there becoming anxious makes this behavior more likely and decreases the probability of resolving the behavior. You also need to consider the serious damage a dog can do to your home and belongings and themselves. I have colleagues that have worked with families where the dog has done thousands of dollars of damage to themselves and to their surroundings in less than 30 minutes. If you yourself cannot stay home you have some alternatives. Perhaps a friend or family member can stay with your dog while you are gone. Doggie daycare or day boarding may also be an option. However these alternatives do not always work if the dog is very attached to you.
  • Do NOT make a big deal about your leaving and returning. No attention for the dog until they settle.
  • Look for cues you may be giving your dog that suggest your leaving is imminent. This can be things like; picking up keys, closing a brief case, putting on shoes, putting on a coat, packing a lunch, etc. Start offering these keys at times when you are not leaving so they are no longer predictors of being alone.

Other Articles You May Find Helpful

DAP/Adaptil – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

Bach Rescue Remedy – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

You can learn more about Green Acres Behavior Counseling services by clicking here.

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

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2

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

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the companies making the pet food. This month he discusses how to evaluate individual brands and formulas within a company.

After selecting companies you are comfortable with, the next thing a pet parent should do is to look at the individual foods produced by a company. In this day and age most pet food company’s manufacture and market multiple lines or brands of food. For example, the Natura Pet Food Company, which is currently owned by Proctor & Gamble, manufactures 5 brands of pet food: California Natural, Evo, Healthwise, Innova, and Karma. They do this to meet specific needs (hypoallergenic and grain-free formulas), marketing niches (organic) or various price points (good, better or best).

Pet food companies recognize that budget does matter to pet parents, and they try to offer a food brand in multiple price categories. Unfortunately, because people focus on the price per bag and price per pound, instead of the cost per feeding, these categorizations aren’t always logical. It really can save you money if you learn how to calculate the true feeding cost of a pet food (click here to read: Determining True Pet Food Costs). You will often discover that the actual difference in the feeding cost between the categories is often negligible and the food that costs more per bag actually is a better value.

When choosing pet foods to offer in our store or for personal use, we also look for a brand that offers multiple, adult formulas, with different protein sources that support our philosophy of dietary rotation (click to read Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense). A great example of this would be PureVita’s formulas in which they offer chicken, duck, bison, salmon, or turkey formulas. When we first started talking about dietary rotation many years ago, we quickly became the pariah of many food companies and some local veterinarians. Interestingly, now some food companies also actively promote rotation and many veterinarians recognize that it is not harmful and makes sense.

Other factors to consider are the availability of a pet food brand. The small family owned companies we discussed in my last column typically and intentionally choose to market their products through independent, locally-owned retailers who are knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their knowledge of pet nutrition. They also typically offer a money-back guarantee – if you are not satisfied with the food return it to the retailer for a full refund. They also often offer frequent buyer programs that help that retailer build customer loyalty. Remember when you buy from a locally-owned store you are getting expertise and service and you are also helping your community.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the labeling on pet food, specifically the ingredients used.

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1

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

In this first of a three part series, Don discusses the importance of looking at the companies behind the foods.

Not a day goes by here at Green Acres without at least somebody asking us, “Which brand of pet food is the best?” And when pet food companies are in the news, either due to recalls, buyouts or lawsuits, we are asked this question with even more frequency. Unfortunately, there is no single commercial pet food that will be the best food for all pets, despite of what some food companies try to tell us. Individual animals have different needs and these may shift over time. Additionally, pet food formulas and the people and companies behind pet food brands can and do change; today’s great food might become tomorrow’s worst. This is why we choose to offer multiple brands of food in our store and why we are constantly monitoring the foods and the companies behind them. It’s also why taking a close look at the company is the first step in selecting a food.

Our first preference for a pet food company is one that is a family owned and primarily focuses on making pet food as opposed to pet food being a sideline business. These companies typically own and operate the plant where the food is manufactured,  know the farmers that produce the raw ingredients for their food, have tighter quality control measures in place, and also usually only produce their own food. These brands very rarely advertise on TV, preferring to spend their money on the ingredients that go into the bag. They know that when you have a superior product, nothing beats “word of mouth” advertising.

On the flip side pet food companies that we avoid are “marketing only” companies. These companies typically don’t have a plant or manufacturing facility, nor do they have a permanent research and development staff. Instead they contract a nutritionist to develop a formula and then contract out the sourcing of the ingredients and manufacturing of the food to the lowest bidder. Often the plants that manufacture these foods vary from contract to contract, and they are also often the plants making the lowest quality foods in the market; the generic brands and house brands for supermarkets and discount stores. These marketing companies focus on what they are best at, manipulating the masses to believe that their food is the single best food available. They typically do this by creating a website and TV advertisements that tug at your heart. Like a dirty political campaign, they focus their efforts on pointing out why other brands are bad instead of why their food is good.

In the middle are the other types of companies in the pet food business. Often held by conglomerates such as Colgate-Palmolive or Procter & Gamble, these companies will sometimes still produce high quality pet foods and fund R&D in their facilities. That being said, these pet food lines continue to always require close scrutiny because of less than positive histories in the pet food industry. Two huge candy conglomerates, Nestlé and Mars, own a number of pet food brands and by some accounts may hold as much as 78% of the market share for pet food in this country. Other pet food companies are owned by venture capital funds that typically have a goal of developing a brand until they can sell it, hopefully for an enormous profit. Now the fact that they may be investing in the food usually means good things, but that may be temporary.  The reality is that knowing who owns a pet food company and their motivations for being in the business is huge in selecting a quality, healthy pet food.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the various brands and individual food formulas offered by a pet food company.

______________________________________________________________________________
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>

Pet Health and Wellness – External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas

<Updated 28MAY17>

This post is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on May 3rd, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about ticks and fleas and how to safely and effectively protect your pet from these parasites and the diseases they carry. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.

If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pets and consider how the treatment of one pet may affect other people in your home as well as other pets. Products used to kill fleas and ticks are pesticides and can be toxic your pets and even to you and your family. People inappropriately using a product for treating fleas on their pets is the number one reason the National Animal Control Center receives calls.

NO FLEAS-TICK-canstockphoto2080171Fleas and ticks are both external parasites that can affect our dogs, our cats and even us. In talking with many pet parents, it seems they believe fleas and ticks are only a “summer problem”. However, they are a potential problem any time it is warm enough for our pets to have “muddy paws.” Since most of our pets live indoors the vast majority of the time, fleas have the potential to be an issue 365 days per year.

Ticks live outdoors and once the ground is frozen they become dormant for the winter. As soon as the ground thaws ticks wake up, crawl up vegetation and wait for a victim to come by. They do not jump onto their victim; they wait until an animal brushes against them. The tick then begins crawling on the body, usually up towards the head, with a goal of biting and attaching to the animal so they can get a blood meal. When the ticks bite, they inject a numbing agent so the bite does not sting, they then inject an anti-coagulant so the bite bleeds as they lap up their meal. Ticks also regurgitate when eating, so whatever is in the ticks stomach often transfers to the bite and then into the victim’s bloodstream. After feeding, the tick will detach itself, fall off and look for a place to lay their eggs.Deer Ticks-canstockphoto13960474

Ticks can carry several bacteria that cause diseases in animals and humans. Among these are Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babezia and others. While many animals and people can fight off these infections, some cannot. The first three of these are included as part of the test when your pet is checked for heartworm. The Deer Tick is the primary vector for transmitting Lyme disease, but they are very tiny and hard to find on our pets or on ourselves. Fortunately, Deer Ticks are not prevalent everywhere. If you avoid areas where they live you may not need a tick preventative for your pet. For example, Dr. Cloutier indicated he does not use a tick preventative on his dog because he typically finds one tick or less on his dog per year. He does choose to use a preventative, however, when visiting family in Connecticut because he sees more ticks in one short visit there than he does the rest of the year in Maine.  Whether or not your pet will acquire ticks depends on where they go and how they move through vegetation in any given area. Dr. Cloutier has clients with multiple dogs that often find ticks on one dog but none of the others.

There are ways you can minimize the chance of picking up ticks, therefore minimizing the chance of obtaining a tick-borne disease. At home, keep your yard mowed and fence off any areas where you let vegetation grow wild. While hiking, avoid areas with a high tick concentration and stay on the trail. Whether hiking or at home check your pets, and yourself, for ticks daily.

The tick obtains the organism that causes Lyme disease from the White-Footed Mouse. The tick then feeds on the deer, which becomes another vector for the disease. However, you must have a White-Footed Mouse to start the cycle and they typically stay within 30 minutes of large bodies of water. If you stay away from large bodies of water, you will be less at-risk for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease rarely affects cats, but it is possible. Because cats are such fastidious groomers, they often groom the tick off before it has had its blood meal and a chance to infect them.

When choosing a tick preventative, you need to balance the toxicity of the preventative along with its efficiency in killing ticks. In dogs, the preventatives often use two chemicals: one to kill the tick and the other to keep the tick crawling. Normally, ticks do not move much, which is why it is hard to deliver enough of the chemical to kill them. The second chemical is safe on dogs but is very unsafe for cats. Cat’s systems cannot clear this toxic chemical from their body. This is why it is absolutely essential to talk with your veterinarian when selecting tick preventatives for your pets.

Fleas are the other concern when it comes to external parasites. When topical products like FrontLine came out in the late 80s, everyone was excited about how effective it was at preventing fleas on pets. In Europe, it was originally labeled as being effective for three months. Currently, FrontLine only seems to be effective for about two weeks because the fleas have developed a resistance to the Flea-canstockphoto5849153chemical.

Dr. Cloutier prefers to use a flea preventive that uses a growth inhibitor instead of a toxic pesticide. These products don’t kill the flea, but prevent them from reproducing. This product is administered to our dogs as an edible tablet they eat and for our cats is injected. When a flea feeds upon their blood, the flea consumes the growth inhibitor. The growth inhibitor prevents the flea from developing their endoskeleton and their eggs won’t hatch.

Some people worry about the growth inhibitor products because they are a chemical. Also, they are not just applied to our pet externally; they ingest the product or it is injected into them. The growth inhibitor prevents the flea from making chitin, a derivative of glucose. Mammals do not make chitin or have chitin in their systems; therefore, they are not affected by this chemical.

Fleas and ticks are very different creatures so, in some ways, it makes no sense to use the same product on both. Ticks live 99% of their life outside in the wild. They get on our pet for a couple of hours, drop off, and then go live in the external environment. The bulk of their life-cycle occurs in the wilderness which gives us very little opportunity to kill them. Fleas, on the other hand, love living in our homes and on our pets. Most of their life-cycle occurs on our pets.

It’s important to remember that most of the products we use to control fleas and ticks on our pets are toxic pesticides. They not only kill the fleas and ticks, but also have the potential to make our pets ill or even kill them if they are not used properly. Some of these products are only available from a veterinarian. Some can be ordered on-line or purchased in pet stores, as well as grocery stores and convenience stores. Too many people assume that since these products can be purchased so easily, they 1) must be effective and 2) must be safe for all applications. Unfortunately, neither is true.

A small number of these products, the growth inhibitors, are considered drugs. This means they must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These drugs are approved for use on a healthy animal, in a specific application, on a specific species, and at a specific dose per weight. This is also assuming it is the only product you are using. None of the other products are drugs, but are pesticides. This means that they are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When evaluating a pesticide, the EPA’s primary focus is on protecting the environment from chemicals. Typically these products are not tested as stringently as drugs, nor are they tested when used with other chemical products.

Evaluating which products will be the safest and most effective with your unique family of pets is something that your veterinarian is better equipped to do than anyone else. Your veterinarian knows your pet’s health history and, if you inform them, information about others in your home as well as environmental factors that need to be considered when selecting these products. For these reasons, we recommend that everyone talk to their veterinarian before using these products.

Many people choose to make decisions regarding flea and tick preventatives without their veterinarians input. This is why the number one call to the National Animal Poison Control Center is about reactions to flea products. The number of pets that become sick, or even die due to inappropriate use of flea and tick products in the US is alarmingly high. It is not because these products are bad, but because people use the product differently than intended. Either they don’t read the instructions, use too much of the product, use the product on an inappropriate species or use the product with another product that has a cumulative toxic effect. Many people are unaware that some of the products designed for use on dogs are very toxic to cats – at any dose.

The key things to remember are: fleas and tick are here to stay, they can be a big problem and can affect both humans as well as our pets, and the best source of information you have for helping you decide what products are best for your pet, and for you, is your veterinarian.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Ticks! & New Products to Keep Them Awayhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/05/28/ticks-new-products-to-keep-them-away/

Pet Health and Wellness – Internal Parasites – Wormshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/04/24/pet-health-and-wellness-internal-parasites-worms/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Worms, Fleas,  and Ticks, Oh My!-Parasites & Your Pets with Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-04-23-Worms_Fleas_Ticks_Oh_My-Parasites_and_Your_Pets_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

 Ick! A Tick! -with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-06-13-Ick_Ticks_w_Dr_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-05-03-External_ParasitesFleas-Ticks-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

Internal Parasites – Worms with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-04-26-Internal_ParasitesWorms-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

©2017, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Pet Health and Wellness – Internal Parasites – Worms

This page is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on April 26th, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms and the scariest of all the internal parasites; heartworm. We discuss the importance of protecting your pet and your family from these parasites and the safest and most effective means of accomplishing this protection. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.

If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of internal parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pet and will take care to consider how the treatment of one pet may affect people in your home as well as other pets and other species. The number one reason the National Animal Poison Control Center receives calls is because people have inappropriately used a product for treating fleas on their pet.

Internal parasites that affect our pets may pose a significant problem for our four legged friends and can also be contagious to humans. There are two main types of parasites; those that live in the GI tract and those that live in other parts of the body. When considering worms in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats, we are usually referring to the following types; hook worms, round worms, whip worms, and tape worms. The other worm we will be discussing is the heartworm, which migrates through the body and into the heart.

While both dogs and cats may host the whipworm parasite, feline whipworms are uncommon in North America. Whipworms are typically contracted through the ingestion of contaminated matter (soil, food, water, feces and animal flesh) and can survive in the environment from months to years. Whipworms may cause significant damage to the intestinal tract resulting in bowel inflammation and bloody diarrhea, or it can also be asymptomatic. It is often associated with dehydration, anemia and weight loss in dogs.

Hookworms are very small and barely visible to the naked eye. They typically attach to the small intestine and feed on blood and tissue fluids from the host animal. The primary concern for hookworms is the development of anemia and weight loss. As with whipworms, hookworms are more prevalent in our canine companions and often result in more damage to our pet’s GI tract.

More commonly known but less harmful internal parasites are the tapeworms and roundworms. Tapeworms are the size of a grain of rice and are often spotted under our pet’s tail, near the anus or in their fecal matter. Several segments can come out together, in which case they look more like a piece of linguine with horizontal lines running through it. Our pets can get tapeworms two different ways; from ingesting prey that has tapeworms, such as a mouse, or from ingesting fleas, which carry the tapeworm egg. If our pet has fleas and they groom or bite at themselves, they may inadvertently ingest the fleas thus becoming infected with tapeworms. While it is rare for humans to get tapeworms, as it requires the ingestion of a flea, it does sometimes occur, primarily in children.

To continue with the food analogies, roundworms look similar to a piece of spaghetti. Tapeworms and roundworms don’t usually cause a lot of weight loss unless your pet is very infected; butt scooting may be a sign if your pet’s anus is irritated by tapeworms. The primary concern for roundworms is the possibility of stunting growth in puppies as the roundworms eat the partially digested food in the intestinal tract. Humans can contract roundworms if the eggs are inadvertently swallowed. Once an animal has a round worm in their body, some of the worms will move from the intestinal tract into muscle tissue where they remain dormant and inactive until the hormone levels change during pregnancy. The newly awakened worms may then transfer into the offspring through the placenta before they are even born or via the mammary glands during nursing.

All of these worms produce microscopic eggs that are shed in your pet’s feces in the litterbox or in your yard. Even if you cleanup after your pet religiously, there will still be some of these eggs in the environment in incredibly large numbers. Roundworms can shed up to 1,000,000 eggs per gram of feces. The FDA estimates that the average dog excretes 0.75lbs of feces per day. That’s 340 grams which means your dog may shed as many as 340 million roundworm eggs per day!

The fact is, in most cases if you took a shovel full of dirt from anywhere in your yard and analyzed it, you would find eggs for these parasitic worms. In almost all cases puppies and kittens are born with worms, which is why they are routinely wormed when you first get them.

Dr. Cloutier recommends that puppies be wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 16 weeks of age to make sure that the worms are “wiped out” and so that your yard does not become contaminated with worm eggs. While no one intentionally ingests worm eggs, if you are playing in the yard, pick up a ball that lands in the grass, and then pickup and eat or drink something, there is an excellent chance you will ingest some worm eggs.

Statistics indicate that 1 in 7 people in the US will show an exposure to roundworms if they are tested. In poorer countries it is estimated that 50% of the population would test positive for roundworms.  Since round worms can migrate through the body, they can also cause severe liver damage, blindness and other life threatening problems.

Intestinal worms in our pets are very easy to prevent, if we do it faithfully. A simple once a month treatment can prevent against all types of worms. Why do we need to do this every month? Because our dogs are outside every day, walking barefoot on the ground and picking up things on the ground with their mouth. They’re not only in our backyard, but we take them other places as well; the dog park, Bangor Forest, hiking trails and many other areas where other people take their dogs. All of those places carry parasites in the soil, and more so if some of the dogs that visit there are not on a monthly worm preventative.  If you cat is an indoor only cat and you have no other pets, you may want to talk to your veterinarian and see if they believe a monthly worm preventative is necessary.

Heartworm falls into the category of worms that exist outside of the GI tract and is a scary internal parasite. Heartworm can be transmitted across species, including but not limited to dogs, cats and humans. It is transmitted via a mosquito that has become infected when they bit wildlife or a pet that is already infected. An infected mosquito typically deposits about four microfilariae (worm larva) when they bite. Statistically one of those four worms will make it to the heart of our pet where it will grow to be an adult worm, growing to about a foot long and living in the right side of our pet’s heart. The migration to the heart and development into adult heartworms typically takes about six months.

If your pet’s heart has both male and female worms, they will start to reproduce, which then means they can infect mosquitoes that bite them and then those mosquitoes can go on and infect other animals. As the worm population grows it can cause problems in the heart and pulmonary arteries; killing the worms to get rid of them is not a simple matter because of where they are located. The dead worms will pass into our pet’s lungs where they can cause additional problems. While heartworm is usually treatable, it can take several months.

We are seeing more and more heartworm in Maine. In certain areas of the southern United States it is estimated that fifty percent of all animals not on a preventative have heartworm. We currently don’t have that high of an incidence in Maine because many pet parents do use a preventative but also because our climate limits the amount of time mosquitoes are active.  However, as well-meaning people and rescue groups bring more dogs up from the South, we bring some dogs into Maine with heartworm.

If no dogs in a neighborhood are carrying heartworm, the percentage of mosquitoes in that community carrying heartworm will be less than 1%. However, if there is a dog that is positive for heartworm in your neighbor’s yard, research suggests that 60% of the mosquitoes in that yard will be carrying heartworm and just a couple houses away, 20% to 30% of the mosquitoes will be carrying heartworm. This is very much a community problem.

If you are adopting a pet from the South, you want to make sure that they are tested for heartworm before they are transported to Maine and again after they have been in Maine for 6 months, and then annually. This is necessary, because there is a period of time where a dog can test negative for heartworm but still have it.

Treating heartworm is a serious issue. It requires a very toxic, arsenic type compound, and your pet needs to be in otherwise good health before being treated. It takes a couple of months to treat and then you must keep your dog quiet for a month during the treatment. It is much easier to prevent heartworm than treat it, so why not just use a preventative?

Heartworm can be prevented by a monthly treatment for both dogs and cats, often with the same treatment you give them for intestinal worms. In Maine, it was typically recommended that a heartworm treatment be given monthly for six months. However, some of the heartworms have become resistant to the preventatives, so manufacturers have had to change their labels to read “Use for six months after the last possible exposure” which effectively means, to be most effective we should be using a heartworm preventative 12 months out of the year even in our cold, frigid state. The heartworm preventatives are very safe, very effective and easy to do. One is even listed as safe for pregnant and lactating animals which suggests a very high degree of safety.

Even indoor cats require protection from heartworm. There is a certain species of mosquito that prefers to get into our homes and also tends to bite cats and carry heartworm. There was a year at the Veazie Veterinary Clinic, probably about ten years ago, where they actually saw more indoor cats test positive for heartworm than dogs.

It should be noted that in the South, in the Mississippi River Valley, there is a type of heartworm that is completely resistant to the heartworm preventatives. Fortunately, it has not moved beyond that area yet.

Although not common, heartworm can be transmitted to people. Since humans are not natural hosts for the heartworm, the heartworm do not fully develop to the full size worms as they do in our pets, but they can pass to the lung and are sometimes mistaken for lung cancer.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Pet Health and Wellness – External Parasites – Ticks and Fleashttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/05/03/pet-health-and-wellness-external-parasites-ticks-and-fleas/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Worms, Fleas,  and Ticks, Oh My!-Parasites & Your Pets with Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-04-23-Worms_Fleas_Ticks_Oh_My-Parasites_and_Your_Pets_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

 Ick! A Tick! -with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-06-13-Ick_Ticks_w_Dr_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-05-03-External_ParasitesFleas-Ticks-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

Internal Parasites – Worms with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-04-26-Internal_ParasitesWorms-w_Dave_Cloutier.mp3

©2014, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Housetraining

(If reading is not your thing – checkout our podcast on housetraining below)

Training your puppy or dog not to urinate or defecate in your house should begin as soon as you bring them into your home.

The same process used to housetrain a puppy can also be used with an older dog that is not housetrained or that develops housetraining issues. If you have an older dog that you thought was previously housetrained but is now having issues, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is highly likely that your dog’s housetraining problem is not behavioral, but medical in nature.

With young puppies, a major factor in housetraining will be the size of their growing bladder and their control over it. A puppy that is under 10 weeks of age may need to go out every hour during the day and possibly once or twice every night. This is not necessarily a matter of training, but one of bladder control. By 12 weeks a puppy should be able to go up to 2 to 3 hours during the day without urinating and can usually make it through the night. When a puppy is 16 to 20 weeks of age, it should only need to go out every 4 to 6 hours during the day. Many adult dogs can eventually go up to 8 hours during the day before they require a potty break.

Crate Training

The first step in housetraining your puppy will be to get a crate. We recommend a fiberglass/plastic “airline” type crate. These crates are enclosed on all sides and provide a den-like atmosphere for your dog. If you prefer a wire crate, drape a cloth over the sides to make it more like a den, but be sure that the puppy cannot pull the cloth into the crate through the wires. You can achieve this by placing a board that extends out on all sides over the top of the crate, and then draping the cloth over the board so that it hangs at least a few inches away from the wires.

A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, the dog should not have enough room to sleep in one corner and urinate or defecate in the other. Usually it is most economical to purchase the size crate that will fit your puppy as an adult. For the time being you can place an old milk crate or some other non-edible object in the back of the crate to take up some space or else you can invest in a crate divider sold specifically for this purpose

There are beds specially made for dog crates, but we do not recommend them for young puppies. An old blanket or some towels will do just fine, providing the puppy does not tear and consume them. A couple of good chew toys will occupy a young dog’s time in the crate. While you are housetraining your dog, you should not offer water in the crate, but do make sure it is available at all other times.

Generally the crate should be placed in an area that is quiet, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family; they do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you. You may have a couple of sleepless nights initially, but it is worth it in the end. Having the dog near you while you sleep will also aid you in hearing the puppy when he needs to eliminate during the night.

It is very important not to abuse the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so it should never be used for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate it will also need a significant amount of time to exercise and play.

Introducing the dog to the crate

  1. Open the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy so he goes in to investigate. Feed your dog meals in the crate to further create a positive association.
  2. Pick a word such as “kennel,” toss a treat in and shut the door after the puppy enters. Now pass a treat through the gate and then let your puppy out. Repeat this several times, increasing the length of time your puppy is in the crate.
  3. Say “kennel,” wait for your puppy to enter and then shut the door and pass them a treat. Leave the room for one minute and then return to let the puppy out. Never make a big deal of crating your dog or letting him out. If you act as though it is nothing your dog will accept the idea much more quickly. Also, remember to not reward your dog as you let him or her out of the crate. Exiting the crate should be a non-event.
  4. Allow your dog to become used to the crate. Start with a couple of minutes and then increase the time from there.
  5. If your dog is barking, ignore him. Otherwise he will learn that barking results in your attention, which is what he wants. However, if he whines in the middle of the night, he may have to go outside. In this case take him out immediately and then put him back in the crate for the remainder of the night.

The happier you are with the crate, the happier your dog will be. You will be amazed at how rapidly dogs come to like their new home.

If you are having difficulty teaching your dog or puppy to accept its crate, please talk to us. There are many little tips and tricks that can help.

Diet and Housetraining

Your puppy’s diet will have a large impact on housetraining. The quality of what goes in will greatly determine the quantity of what comes out. The frequency of feeding will also have an effect on how often your dog needs to eliminate. By feeding at set intervals you will make bowel movements much more predictable. I recommend you feed a puppy 3 times a day. Set the food down for 15 minutes and if the puppy walks away from anything that is left, pick it up and put it away until the next meal.

The Housetraining Process

Until such time that your dog has been housetrained (roughly 6 weeks without an accident), they should always be in a crate, on a leash attached to you, or under constant supervision. You must not take your eye off the puppy if you want to prevent accidents. This means that if a responsible adult is not devoting all of their attention to the puppy, then the puppy should be in its crate.

It is essential that you minimize the number of accidents an animal has inside; your goal should be none. Every accident the puppy has provides positive reinforcement, in the form of relief, for eliminating inside. Positive reinforcement causes behaviors to be repeated, something we do not want in this circumstance.

You should take your puppy out to eliminate whenever:

  • They finish a meal or snack.
  • They awake from sleeping.
  • They come out of the crate, whether they have been sleeping or not.
  • Immediately before and after play sessions.
  • Any time the dog’s behavior suggests they may need to go out (circling, sniffing, walking away and sitting by a door).

When taking your puppy or dog out to eliminate, follow these steps:

  • Put your dog on a leash, 6ft in length or less, so you have control over them outside. You need to stay out with them, so dress appropriately.
  • Always go out the same door. This will help them to identify why they are going out.
  • Go directly to the area in your yard you have selected as the bathroom area. This area should be fairly close to the door so you can get there in a hurry when necessary. Dogs tend to favor porous surfaces so they will generally prefer to eliminate on a grassy area. After your puppy defecates here the first time, leave some stool for the first few days to serve as a marker that this is the place to go.
  • Remain standing in one place. When the dog starts to eliminate quietly say “good,” remain silent and allow them to finish. Give them a treat and lots of praise immediately after they have finished. This treat needs to be delivered within 1-2 seconds of the dog completing the behavior if it is to be associated with the behavior. If you wait to give the puppy the treat until after you get back inside, you are NOT rewarding for the bathroom behavior but for coming inside. This may create a puppy that is in a hurry to get inside and thus does not finish going to the bathroom outside but does so inside. After your puppy is finished eliminating, then it is time for play or a walk.
  • After your dog is eliminating in the same spot you can start to add a verbal cue. When your dog starts to eliminate, repeat the word you want to use for elimination (“Do your business,” “Go potty,” etc.). Always use the same phrase as we eventually will use this to get our dog to eliminate on cue.
  • Give your dog up to 10 minutes to eliminate. If a puppy, wait an additional 2 minutes after they have eliminated just in case they have not finished. If they eliminate again, reward them with another treat.
  • If your dog does not eliminate after 10 minutes go directly back inside with no play, walk or treat. Remembering that you have a “loaded” puppy, either put them in their crate or keep them attached to you by a leash. If your puppy starts to whine in the crate or shows any pre-elimination behaviors immediately take him outside.
  • Once your puppy is going reliably in his special place you should start training them to go on cue in other places. If you stay at Grandma’s be prepared for the possibility of an accident. You need to watch your puppy closely in new situations and may need to do some remedial training.

When Accidents Happen

No matter how good you and your puppy are, the odds are there will be some accidents in the house. If the puppy starts to eliminate inside, say “Out!” sharply. This should get their attention and cause them to momentarily stop. Quickly scoop them up or leash them and take them outside, following the steps above.

If an accident occurs in the house and you did not actually catch the puppy at the instant it was eliminating, just quietly put him in the crate while you clean up the mess. If you punish the dog after the fact it will not understand why it is being punished. If you think your dog “looks guilty” and knows it has done something wrong, your dog is picking up on your negative body language. He senses you are upset but does not understand why.

Be careful about reprimanding your puppy even if you catch them in the act. Rather than associating your punishment with going inside they may associate it with eliminating in front of you which can make housetraining even more difficult.

When your dog has an accident inside it is imperative you clean it thoroughly. Any residual feces or urine may trigger the puppy to eliminate in that specific location again. We recommend that you use an enzymatic based cleaning product such as such as Urine Off or Nature’s Miracle. These products contain enzymes which break down the urine that “mark” a spot as an appropriate bathroom area. Many household cleaners only cover the smell left behind and do not breakdown the urine. Do NOT use ammonia-based cleaners, as to many dogs these may actually smell like urine.

Things You Do Not Want to Do

Walking to Eliminate

Taking your dog for a walk to eliminate may actually make housetraining more difficult. Most dogs enjoy walks and if they learn that the walk ends when they go to the bathroom (essentially punishing them), they may delay eliminating in order to extend the walk. It is easier to teach that eliminating quickly at home results in a fun walk.

Paper or Pee Pad Training

Training your dog to go inside on newspapers or pee pads will make the entire housetraining process more difficult and lengthy. Every time a dog goes inside on a newspaper or pee pad, he is learning and being positively reinforced for going inside. Training him to only go outside after this has been allowed is extremely challenging so avoid this if possible.

That being said, at times you may find this necessary, particularly with the cold Maine winters and some smaller dog breeds that struggle to maintain warmth outdoors. If you do have to resort to inside toileting, just remember that you have added an extra step and will have to be patient when trying to retrain the puppy to urinate and defecate outside.

submissive urination – don’t punish, ignore until excitement diminishes

Housetraining Issues with Adult Dogs

Marking

Upon reaching sexual maturity, many male dogs and some female dogs exhibit marking behavior. They urinate on objects to leave their scent, thus staking out their territory. Remedial housetraining may be necessary in these cases. Early neutering of males, before this behavior develops, may help prevent this behavior from developing. Many veterinarians can neuter and spay puppies as young as 8 weeks of age.

Illness

If an adult dog with a good record of housetraining suddenly starts having accidents, take them to your veterinarian. Urinary infections or cystitis can cause a dog to urinate inside. Internal parasites or other illnesses can cause diarrhea or increase the frequency of defecation.

Accepting the Pet You Have

< This article was originally published in Green Acres Kennel Shop Paw Prints, January 2005>

<Updated: 26NOV13>

Accept the dog you have, not the one you wish you had.” This quote, from a presentation entitled: Relationship: The heart of positive reinforcement training, by Leslie Nelson of Tails-U-Win! Canine Center in Manchester, CT, was for me, the highlight of the 2005 Association of Pet Dog Trainers educational conference. In twelve words, Leslie summed up the essential ingredient to having a happy relationship with your dog.

Sadly, I know many people often wish their dog was different. I’ve even been there myself. Countless times I have heard people say things like: “I wish he was more like my old dog,” “She’s so much noisier than the dog I had as kid,” “The breeder said he’s not supposed to be like this,” “The shelter said he wouldn’t run-off,” or “She’s certainly no Lassie.” These are clearly people who are unhappy about their pet. I suspect their pets are not very happy either.

What I call the dreaded “Lassie Myth” is a major reason for many peoples unhappiness. When people compare their personal dog to some “ideal” dog in their mind, they are inevitably disappointed. It is important to remember that the Lassie books, movies and TV shows were all works of fiction. Rin Tin Tin, Eddie, and Wishbone are also fictional characters, not representative of real dogs. Sadly, the mass media frequently sets us up for disappointment by showing us dogs that act more like furry versions of perfect people. When was the last time you saw a perfect person?

Our own egos can also create unhappiness in our relationship. I know I have been guilty of wishing for something my dog was not. Gus, our late Cairn Terrier, was the first dog I trained. As a new trainer I wanted him to be a perfect obedience dog so that I could use him for demonstrations and to “show off” my skills. However, he was a Cairn Terrier, a breed not exactly known for winning obedience competitions.

In my early days as a trainer I naively thought “blind obedience” represented the pinnacle of success and happiness for both trainer and dog. Gus and I drilled and trained and trained and drilled. Together we accomplished a great deal as he was a certified therapy dog, but that was not enough for me. I wanted more. We continued to train until one day fellow trainer Kate Dutra made me realize how miserable Gus and I had become. Neither of us were enjoying training because it brought no pleasure, no fun. It was only then that I started to see how my unrealistic expectations for Gus had seriously damaged our relationship. Fortunately, Gus and I were able to repair our bond, but I will always regret the opportunities for fun that we lost, all because I would not accept him as he was.

All too often, I think that many of us that are pet professionals (trainers, veterinarians, breeders, shelter workers, authors,) also perpetuate this lack of acceptance by giving people unrealistic expectations for their dogs. When you want to sell a puppy or adopt a dog into a new home, it is often easier to make them look better than they really are by glossing over any problems or embellishing positives. Statements like: “This breed is always good with kids,” “Yes, he’s completely housetrained,” “Your dog will learn everything they need to know in seven weeks,” might make it easier to place a pet or to sell a service, but at what price to the dog? By professionals creating unrealistic expectations difficulty in the relationship is essentially guaranteed.

As a pet care professional, I believe my first responsibility to a client is to make sure that they have the knowledge required to understand their pet as it is; a very different species with its own needs and desires. I may not tell them what they want to hear, but I want to make sure they do not have any unrealistic expectations. Secondly, people need to understand that each pet is an individual with its own unique personality. Lastly I want everybody to understand the importance of patience and kindness.  With knowledge, patience, and kindness comes acceptance and a furry companion you will cherish forever. You see the key to accepting our pets is no different than accepting one another.

.

UPDATE: I still discuss the importance of acceptance with my clients. Yesterday, friend and client Alan Garber shared this video with me on FaceBook. It’s a wonderful story about a person training a puppy to be a service dog and then one day realizing that no matter how badly they want this puppy to be a service dog, it’s just not going to happen. The trainer then discovers new wonderful traits in their dog, just by letting them be the dog they are meant to be.

Dogs are wonderful and amazing creatures but each is a unique individual. Not all dogs can be service dogs, therapy dogs, agility dogs, hunting dogs, great with all other dogs, perfect with kids, or whatever we want them to be. However, each dog will have their own special skills and abilities where they will thrive if we only let them.

To quote the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.” But I truly believe “Even if your dog isn’t what you want, they’re still wonderful!” This video illustrates that perfectly! – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGODurRfVv4 Thank you for sharing Alan!

Updated: 26NOV13

 

©26NOV13, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family

<  UPDATED – 3SEP17 >

You can listen to two podcasts on this topic by clicking on the links below.

<Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 1>

<Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family – Part 2>


I love dogs. That is one of the reasons why my wife and I decided to get into the pet care business over 21 years ago. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a family get a new dog and watching them bond and grow old together. However, that does not happen automatically. Dogs can make wonderful companions, but not every dog is the right dog for every person or family. Finding the right fit takes time and work, something that does not happen when you get a dog or puppy on impulse. The odds are your dog will be with you longer than you have your car. It is worth taking the time to do it right.

In my business, I see thousands of dogs every year, and I know that some of them, as happy as their family is with them, would not be the right dog for me. Sadly I also see some dogs and families that are terrible mismatches; neither dog nor people are enjoying the relationship. That is why I like to sit down with people and help them learn how to find the right dog and the right source for a dog so that the dog and their family have a wonderful life-long relationship.

This article is something we provide to people when they come in for one of our FREE consultations. You are welcome to use it without the consultation, but I would encourage you to give us a call (945-6841) and set up an appointment. We think you will be glad you did.

Getting A Dog Is A Commitment

Getting a dog can easily be a 10 to 15-year commitment, so it is imperative that you pick the best breed or mixed breed for your family, and the best individual dog. Selecting the right dog is an important decision and one you should research thoroughly before making a decision. Once you think you have decided on a breed/mixed breed, do lots of reading, talk to pet professionals such as veterinarians, trainers, kennel and daycare owners, and groomers as well as others about your choice. Make sure you ask for both the good and the bad points of a specific breed. No breed is the perfect dog for everybody. Consider the bias people may have when recommending a breed or individual dog. If they are trying to sell you a dog; which is what a breeder, pet store, or shelter/rescue is trying to do, then they may not be giving you sound, objective advice.

Factors You Need To Consider BEFORE You Start Looking For A Dog

  1. Is anyone in your immediate family afraid of dogs? If so, you need to seriously ask yourself if getting a dog is a good idea. Living with a dog is not necessarily going to help the person afraid of dogs and may end up in your having to rehome the dog. That is not fair to the dog.
  2. Is anyone in your family allergic to dogs? If so, spend a significant time around dogs to determine if this will be a problem before you get the dog. Beware of claims by people trying to sell you that they claim is “hypoallergenic.” While some pets shed less and cause less of an allergic reaction than others; I do not believe any breed of pet is truly hypoallergenic. My wife and I are both allergic to dogs and cats, and we cannot imagine a life without pets; however, not everyone is willing or able to put up with allergies.
  3. If you live alone or are the dogs only caregiver, have you considered who will care for your dog if something happens to you? Hopefully, nothing will happen to you, but we do suggest that you have planned ahead of time just in case.
  4. Do all adult family members support the idea of getting a dog? Dogs are not for everyone. They are also very good at reading humans and knowing if someone wants them. We have seen more than one situation where the dog was not welcomed by the entire family, and that does not always change over time. I recommend that everyone be on board with the decision to get a dog.
  5. Will your dog be around children? I am not just asking about your children, but also the children belonging to your neighbors and other family members. Not all dogs will enjoy the company of children. You need to choose both the breed and the individual dog wisely to have the best probability of dogs and children living in harmony.
  6. Will you take your dog to work with you or will they be around your business? Not all dogs enjoy other people and may, in fact, be a liability in your business. Selecting a dog with the right temperament will be very important.
  7. What time of year do you want to bring this new puppy or dog into your family? Depending on where you live and what you do for a living, there are times of the year that are better for getting a dog. The first few months with your new dog will most likely require a significant amount of your time, and you and the rest of the family may need to adjust some priorities, in particular with a Below are some factors to consider.

The end of year holidays – For most people, November and December are the two most hectic months of the year. Most of us celebrate three major holidays, we are invited to more gatherings than average, and children have a wide variety of holiday-related school events. Are you ready to miss some of those events due to a new dog or puppy in the family? A new puppy or a rescue dog, and the latter will most likely also have some behavioral baggage, will need lots of your time, as well as stability, and in many cases quiet. Can you and your family commit to that during the holidays? If not, waiting until January or spring may be a better option for you and your new canine companion.

Housetraining and the weather – if you live in the snow belt, you will need to take the puppy out several times per day for housetraining no matter how cold it is or how hard it is snowing (see http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/02/16/housetraining/). Even though an older dog may be advertised as being housetrained, that is not always the case.  Living in a state that can have harsh winters, I would not get a new dog between November or mid-March.

The summer holidays –  Many people choose to get a new dog, especially a puppy, once the kids are out of school, especially if one of the parents also has the summer off. This can be a very good time to get a new dog, but can also be a recipe for creating a dog with separation issues when everyone disappears during the day come the end of August. If you get a dog during this time of year, make sure that you immediately start teaching them how to cope with being alone (see http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/14/dog-training-preventing-separation-anxiety-teaching-your-dog-to-cope-with-being-alone/)

Family Vacation – This can be a nice time to get a dog if you are planning on staying home. However, if you are going away and traveling, I would postpone getting the dog until you return. The first few months with a dog are important for developing the bond between you and your new friend. If the dog is with you for two to four weeks and then you are gone for two weeks, you may need to spend some extra time rebuilding that bond. I cannot imagine taking a puppy or a rescue dog on vacation immediately after they join my family. As mentioned above, they need stability and consistency the first few months with us. That typically does not occur when you are traveling.

  1. Do you have other dogs in your family? Not all dogs will get along with other dogs. A puppy may be more than an eight-year-old dog wants to handle. They may grow to tolerate or even like each other but will require close supervision until they do.
  2. Do you have other pets in your family? Dogs and cats do not always get along (ask me about Batman and Tikken) and small rodents or chickens often may be very tempting to a dog. Remember your dog is a predator. Some breeds will do better than others around other animals but remember supervision and training will also be important.
  3. Why do you want to get a dog? What will be the dog’s role in your family? Do you want a companion to share your days? Do you want a dog that will be your teammate in dog sports? Do you want a dog that can be a Therapy Dog and bring joy to people in nursing homes? Do you want the dog to go hunting with you, or do you want one or more of these things or something else? Not all dogs will be well suited to all of these tasks and even if their breed suggests that they have a probability of doing well at something, say retrieving, that does not mean that will be the case. Are you ready to accept your dog for whomever they turn out to be?
  4. Who will be the dog’s primary caregiver in your family? If you want your children to take part in caring for the dog, that is fine, but please understand that based on 21 plus years of experience, I am confident that it will be an adult family member who will be providing most of the care for a dog. Children often drive a family’s decision to get a dog, and when I meet with a family for a consultation, I always ask about the children’s extracurricular activities. Today it is not uncommon for a child to be involved in several afterschool activities every week. If your children want a dog, I encourage you to ask them what activities they are willing to give up so that they have time for the dog. If they say they want a dog but are not willing to give up any other activity, it may not be the right time to add a dog to your family.
  5. Do you want a puppy, an adolescent or an older dog? Dogs of any age can become great family members, but there are pros and cons at every age level. The first twelve months of a puppy’s life can keep you quite busy; however, by knowing the breeder and the dog’s parents and having control over their early learning and development, I believe that you have a greater probability of getting what you want when you choose to get a puppy. However, that does depend on you putting in the time and energy to manage and train the dog.

Adolescents, typically the dogs between six months and three years of age often end up being rehomed because of behavior problems. These problems are often the result of inadequate or no socialization and little or no training or inappropriate training. These dogs can become wonderful companions, but you need to be patient and be willing to invest time and love in training and rehabilitating these dogs. Theses dog can be a great deal of work so carefully assess if you have the resources to give them what they need. Loving a dog is seldom enough.

Older dogs, those five and up, often end up in a shelter or rescue due to financial reasons or other family life changes. If the dog has only had one prior family and lived in the house as a companion, they could be a perfect dog for you. Often these dogs have had a basic level of manners training, are housetrained, and are just looking for a home where they can live out their years, getting affection and giving it back. Shed, was adopted when she was five and fit in our family very easily.

  1. Do you want a pure breed, a mutt or a designer breed? Selecting the type or breed of dog to get may be one of the most complicated decisions you will make and also the one with a significant amount of emotional content.
    1. Pure Breed – You are NOT a bad person if you choose to get a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder. I would rather have you get the dog you want than get a dog from a rescue because you have been told that is the “right” thing to do. Paula and I have had both purebreds from breeders and mixed breeds and purebred dogs from rescues. They can all be good However, I have also helped many clients who had a bad experience with a rescue; both with pure breds and mixed breeds, who have since had great experiences by getting the dog they want, not the one friends or family told they must get. Get the dog that you believe will be the best fit for you and your family and do not be swayed by emotion.

If you do choose a pure bred, make sure you thoroughly understand the genetic health issues that they may face as well as some of the human-made features that can affect a dog’s health. Dog breeding is probably one of the longest running examples of genetic engineering, and it has not always ended up benefitting the dog. Due to breeding for certain facial structures, some dogs will be breathing impaired their entire life. Other breeds cannot even breed or deliver puppies naturally.

  1. Mutt/Mixed Breed – The loveable mutt, and yes they can often be quite lovable, is typically the result of an accidental breeding. How did that happen? Well, two
    EPSON DSC picture

    people with dogs were not responsible enough to get their dogs spayed/neutered or to prevent them from breeding. Shed, that five-year-old I mentioned above, was a mixed breed and was delightful; however, it was quite evident from her behavior that she was well cared for and trained from an early age.

The problem with a mixed breed dog is that you never know what you are getting from both a physical and behavioral perspective. For example, let’s say you get a Bassett Hound/German Shepherd mix. These are two breeds with fundamentally different temperaments, and you may not know which will be the predominant personality until you have lived with the dog for a while. It may or may not be the dog you had hoped to have.

Mixed breed puppies can be great if they are properly raised between birth and eight weeks of age but if the owner was not responsible enough to prevent the breeding the likelihood of doing everything else that is necessary for two months with a litter of puppies seems unlikely. Leaving the puppies in the barn with mom until they are eight weeks of age is a disaster waiting to happen.

For years it was presumed that mixed breeds would be healthier due to hybrid vigor. The latest research suggests that is not the case and in fact, mixed breeds are just as likely to have the same health issues as pure breed dogs.

Also, recognize that when a shelter labels a dog as being a certain mix of breeds they are often inaccurate. A recent study indicated that the determination of a dog’s mix of breeds by shelter workers or pet care professionals (veterinarians, trainers, and boarding kennel operators) were wrong 87.5% of the time when compared to DNA testing. The fact is, unless someone saw the actual act of conception, the odds of picking correctly are only 12.5%

  1. Designer Breed – The designer breeds (the Doodles, the various Poo’s, and others) are typically the deliberate breeding of two purebred dogs to create a “designer-breed” that is then often sold for much more than the typical purebred. As the designer breeds have become increasingly popular, breeding them strictly for monetary reasons has become more common; this has never been good for dogs. Some of these designer breeds can be great dogs, but they usually do not have all of the “benefits’ that they are advertised as having. For example; the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle are often promoted as being “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic.” The Poodle does have a very different coat type from the Labrador or the Golden, but the coats of doodle puppies can vary wildly within the individuals in the same litter. To claim that they are all “non-shedding” or “hypoallergenic” is pure nonsense. As a potential purchaser of one of these dogs, it is also important to understand that very few reputable breeders of purebreds are going to knowingly sell one of their dogs to be used in a designer-breed breeding program. That means that it is possible that these designer-breeds are the offspring of lower quality breeding stock which can have a detrimental effect on both health and temperament. I am not saying never to get a designer-breed, but it is important to understand that when one breeds for physical characteristics, it also can affect temperament, and often in a negative way. This is a case where you will want to physically see both mom and dad and as many generations of this lineage as possible, before committing to a purchasing a puppy.
  1. What size dog do you want? – Dogs come in a wide variety of sizes; everything from a 4lbs Teacup Yorkie to a 200lbs+ English Mastiff. If you plan on a life of outdoor activity for you and your dog, especially if you will be hiking off the beaten path, I strongly encourage you to get a dog that you can physically carry from wherever you are to a vehicle. If your dog injures itself out in the middle of nowhere, you may have no other choice. If your physical abilities are limited or if you are just getting older, you need to ask yourself “can I carry my dog up and down the stairs or out to the car?” When our Golden Tikken passed at 16 years of age, my wife and I decided that we needed to “downsize” for our next dog. Tikken only weighed 50lbs, but the last year of her life we had to carry her up and down the stairs, which with bad backs was not always easy nor was it healthy. Our new dog, Muppy, weighs a lean twenty-five pounds.

Size also play a role in other ways. Big dogs eat more which will affect your wallet, and they will also leave larger deposits for you to clean up in the yard. Caring for a large dog can also end up costing you more at the veterinarian and the groomer.

Within the specific breeds, there are those breeding for incredibly tiny or gigantic dogs. Often these dogs also have extremes in temperament and health issues. If the words “Teacup” or “Giant” are affixed to a breed you are considering, talk to several professionals, knowledgeable about dogs and not trying to sell you a dog, about the pros and cons of getting a dog of unusual size.

Lastly, large dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than small dogs. One of the hardest things about owning a dog is knowing that they will probably pass before you, and no matter how many times you experience a dog’s death, it never becomes easier.

  1. What type of coat do you want? – Dogs come in a wide variety of coat Everything from the short-haired easy to maintain Beagle to the long coated dogs like the Samoyed, Rough-coat Collie and of course the elaborately groomed Poodle. No matter what breed you choose, you will need to spend time brushing them at least once a week. The longer haired breeds will require much more time and effort and more frequent brushing. In some cases, dogs will require professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks in addition to the brushing you do at home. That needs to be considered when you look at the expense of owning a dog.
  2. Do you have the resources necessary to care for a dog properly? – Living with a dog and caring for it takes time and money. A dog needs to be trained when you first get them, and training does not stop until they have passed away. They will minimally require an annual trip to the veterinarian as well as annual licensing. On a daily basis, they will need to be fed, exercised, taken out to go to the bathroom several times, and provided with adequate mental stimulation and companionship. Depending on their coat type a dog will also need to be brushed, bathed and have their nails trimmed on a regular basis. They may require annual teeth cleaning at your veterinarians, and you really should consider brushing their teeth daily. If you go away, and cannot take your dog with you, you may also need to consider the cost of boarding your dog or hiring a pet sitter. If you are already limited on time or if you need to watch your budget closely, it may not be the right time for a dog.
  3. Are you prepared to travel to see the dog you want? – No matter if you choose a purebred or mixed breed, breeder or rescue, you may need to travel to get the dog you want. We have clients that have driven 12 hours north into Canada and flown to Texas to get the dog they desired. Others have had dogs flown over from Europe and elsewhere. If you follow only one of the recommendations I suggest, please let it be this one: NEVER purchase a dog or a puppy without seeing it in person first. Over the years we have had far too many clients that have been sent dogs with severe health or behavioral issues, or in some cases, they were sent a totally different dog than the one they saw online. This has happened with both breeders and rescues. In some of these cases, these breeders/rescues then made it very costly or next to impossible for the client to return the dog.

 

Where Will I Get the Dog I Want?

When looking for a source for a puppy, you will typically go to a breeder if you want a pure bred dog or a shelter/rescue if you are looking for either a purebred or mixed breed dog. I have listed the traits you will want to look for in these two sources.

Reputable Breeders

  1. A reputable breeder will typically only breed one or two litters a year. The best breeders will have committed homes for their puppies before the mother is ever bred and therefore will probably have waiting lists. They will not need to advertise in the newspaper or put up signs along the side of the road nor will they give their puppies away to be auctioned off at a fundraising benefit.
  2. They will typically only breed one or at most two breeds of dogs.
  3. They will not breed adult dogs until they are at least 2 to 3 years old. Many health and temperament issues will not be apparent in a dog until it is at least two years of age.
  4. A bitch will not be bred more than once per year.
  5. They will discuss in detail, with anyone interested in their puppies, the health issues affecting their breed. They should be able to provide documents from a veterinarian certifying that the parents and at least two previous generations are free of any of these health issues. Common health issues with many purebred dogs include hip dysplasia, central progressive retinal atrophy, subvalvular aortic stenosis, and others. For more information on breed specific health concerns you can check the Canine Inherited Disorders Database maintained by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.upei.ca/cidd/intro.htm.

Educate yourself about these genetic health issues before visiting any breeders, and rather than bring them up with the breeder, see if they tell you about them first. If they fail to do so, you may want to consider a different breeder.

Also, understand that you can choose the best breeder, who is doing everything right, and these genetic disorders can occur in a puppy. That is just the nature of genetics. While this may be unlikely to happen, I would encourage you to have a discussion with the breeder in advance, so you understand their policies if this should occur.

  1. Ask the breeder what type of temperament they see in their dogs and how that affects their breeding program. Since most dogs in the US are pets and companions, the best breeders will focus on breeding dogs with a sound, friendly temperament. If the breeder focuses on working dogs (protection, field trials, tracking, livestock guarding, and herding), their dogs may not have the best temperament to be a family companion. Working dog breeders may have puppies that the breeder believes are not suitable for the job they were bred for, which they will then sell as “pets.” That does not mean that they will have an ideal temperament to be a family dog.
  2. The best breeders will raise the puppies in their home along with the adult dogs and their human family. They will not be raised in isolation in a basement or another building.
  3. The best breeders will keep the puppies with their mother until they are ready to go to their new homes and will also hopefully have other adult dogs that are allowed to interact with the puppies appropriately. From four to eight weeks of age is when a puppy learns how to interact with its species. If they are deprived of this opportunity, they are more likely to have issues with other dogs in the future. If the mother is not a good parent and abandons the puppies, then the breeder needs to find another mother dog to take her place.
  4. The size of the litter is also important. A singleton pup (a litter of one) will miss out on many learning opportunities without other puppies in the litter. Ideally, the breeder should place this pup in another litter with a mother and other pups.
  5. The best breeders will allow you to see both parents so that you can evaluate their health, behavior, and temperament. If the mother has been artificially inseminated, they will put you in contact with the breeder that owns the stud and the best breeders will have a video of the stud so you can observe his behavior. Being informed about both parents temperament is crucial, as studies have indicated that if either parent is shy, anxious, or timid, then the puppies will also have this temperament Behaviors that have a genetic basis typically do not change or get better.
  6. The best breeders actively socialize the puppies before letting them go home with you. Socialization should start at four weeks of age and continue until it is legal to sell the puppy at eight weeks of age. Specifically, you will want to ask them how many children, men, women, and non-family members have gently handled, trained, and played with the pups daily. The best breeders will have this documented in a daily journal.
  7. The best breeders will not suggest you get multiple puppies at the same time, but will in fact actively discourage you from getting more than one.
  8. The best breeders will offer a written contract with health guarantees that also offers to take the puppy back, at any time, for any reason. State laws may require a breeder to provide you with certain legal documents at the time of the sale. Make sure you know what these documents are so that you can make sure that the seller provides them.
  9. The best breeders will begin housetraining the puppies, and the puppies will have a designated housetraining area within the space where the puppies are confined. Be wary of breeders that keep puppies in rooms covered in newspaper or other materials where the puppies are urinating and defecating anywhere and everywhere in the room. You should only see piles and puddles in the designated housetraining area, and if the breeder has an adequate cleaning schedule, there should be very few of those. The best breeders will start crate training the puppies, in an airline style crate, before sending them to their new homes.
  10. Ask how the breeder feeds the puppies. We recommend that they give each puppy their own bowl rather than feeding all of the puppies from a single communal bowl. Over the years we have seen puppies for severe resource guarding, and food aggression behaviors and a communal bowl seems to be a common thread with these puppies.
  11. The best breeders will ask you lots of questions about why you want a puppy, why you want this particular breed, and how you will care for the puppy. They will want to verify that you have time for the puppy, that you will enroll it in a reward based training class, and have a yard and home suitable for the puppies exercise needs. They will ask you for references. They will often require a fenced yard.
  12. The best breeders will discuss the advantages of spaying/neutering your puppy and if it is not suitable for breeding will require that you have the puppy spayed/neutered.
  13. The best breeders will be licensed as a breeding kennel if the state where they live is wise enough to require breeders to be licensed. When you find a breeder, call the agency responsible for licensing breeders and verify that the breeder is licensed and ask if any complaints have been filed against the breeder. In Maine, breeding kennels are licensed by the state Animal Welfare Program, and they can be reached at 1-877-269-9200.
  14. Ask the breeder how they train their dogs and what types of tools and methods they use and what they recommend for their puppies. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued a document entitled 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This document discusses the prevalence of behavioral problems in dogs and cats and recommends:

“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. Nonaversive 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]

I recommend that you avoid any breeder that recommends or uses any of the aversive techniques that the AAHA has outlined in their guidelines.

Humane Societies/Shelters/Rescues

  1. Dogs that end up in a shelter or rescue are typically strays or have been surrendered by someone locally because they can no longer care for the dog or no longer want the dog. Dogs are surrendered for a variety of reasons, including finances, where someone lives, or health issues. Surrendering a dog is hard for most people and as such the reasons they give may not always be entirely accurate, nor are their descriptions of the dog’s behavior. They might paint a picture of a wild, crazy dog to make themselves look better or that of a mild, easy-going dog to increase the dog’s chances of adoption. Bottom line, the information on the dog may not always be accurate.

Often shelters have little or no information about strays. Dulcie, one of our Cairn Terriers, was a stray, so we had little information about her when she became part of our family.

Some shelters and rescues are also bringing in dogs from out of state, typically from the south. These dogs may be surrenders or strays, but often the quality of information about them is not very high. I have mixed feelings about bringing in dogs from out of state. In full disclosure, our newest dog Muppy came here from Mississippi. Muppy has been a great dog for us, but we did meet her in person before we adopted her and I also asked the Maine rescue some very pointed questions before we did adopt. Specifically, I wanted to know what the rescue was doing to stop the overpopulation problem in the south. This Rescue, Canine Commitment of Maine (now Helping Paws Maine), is helping to fund mobile spay/neuter services in Mississippi. Not all rescues are doing things like that, and some of the groups down south have discovered it is very lucrative to sell dogs and puppies to us folks up north. They are essentially puppy mills without the breeding program, so buyer beware.

  1. The best shelters and rescues will give all dogs that they adopt a thorough veterinary exam, will spay and neuter them and will make sure they are current on all necessary vaccinations before they ever leave the facility. Before adopting a dog from the south, verify its heartworm status. Heartworm is endemic in many parts of the south, and it is unlikely that a rescue dog was on a heartworm preventative.
  2. Many shelters and rescues will also give dogs a temperament test to determine what type of home would be best for a dog or to assess whether the dog is even safe to adopt. Sadly some dogs end up at shelters due to aggression issues; facts that those surrendering the dog failed to disclose. What you need to understand about temperament tests is that they are not a guarantee. Not all people performing the tests have the same level of skill and experience. A temperament test is also only a snapshot of what a dog’s temperament was like at a specific movement in time. When you consider the fact that a dog in a shelter/rescue situation is under a great deal of stress, it is not unusual at all for a dog to act very differently after they have been in your home for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it may take a couple of months before you see a rescued dog’s true Because of this, the value of temperament testing by shelters is being questioned.
  3. Puppies may end up at a shelter because someone left them in a box in front of the door; in which case you will know very little about those puppies. A shelter may also have puppies available because a pregnant mom was surrendered. In those cases, the best shelter will find a foster home for the mom, where she will live until she has the puppies and they have been weaned and are available for adoption. The same requirements for raising those puppies during that time frame are the same as those that apply to a breeder.
    1. The foster parents will raise the puppies in their home along with the mom and their human family. They will not be raised in isolation in a basement or another building.
    2. They will keep the puppies with their mother until they are ready to be returned to the shelter at eight weeks of age and will also hopefully have other adult dogs that are allowed to interact with the puppies appropriately. From four to eight weeks of age is when a puppy learns how to interact with its species. If they are deprived of this opportunity, they are more likely to have issues with other dogs in the future. If the mother is not a good parent and abandons the puppies, then the foster parent needs to find another dog mother to take her place.
    3. The size of the litter is also important. A singleton pup (a litter of one) will miss out on many learning opportunities without other puppies in the litter. Ideally, the breeder should place this pup in another litter with a mother and other pups.
    4. Studies have indicated that if either parent is shy/anxious timid the puppies will also have this temperament trait. Behaviors that have a genetic basis typically do not change or get better. Unfortunately, when you adopt a puppy from a shelter, it is seldom that you will even know who the father was and possibly may know nothing about the mother. In other words, they have less information on which to assess what the pup’s behavior might be like as an adult.
    5. The shelter/rescue/foster parent should actively socialize the puppies before letting them go home with people. Socialization should start at four weeks of age and continue until it is legal to sell the puppy at eight weeks of age. Specifically, you will want to ask them how many children, men, women, and non-family members have gently handled, trained, and played with the pups daily. The puppy raisers should have this documented in a daily journal.
    6. They will begin housetraining the puppies, and the puppies will have a designated housetraining area within the space where the puppies are confined. Be aware of shelters that keep puppies in rooms covered in newspaper or other materials where the puppies are urinating and defecating anywhere and everywhere in the room. You should only see piles and puddles in the designated housetraining area, and if the shelter has an adequate cleaning schedule, there should be very few of those. The best shelters will start crate training the puppies, in an airline style crate, before sending them to their new homes.
    7. Ask how they feed the puppies. We recommend that they give each puppy their own bowl rather than feeding all of the puppies from a single communal bowl. Over the years we have seen puppies for severe resource guarding, and food aggression behaviors and a communal bowl seems to be a common thread.
  4. No reputable shelter/rescue will suggest you get multiple puppies at the same time, but will in fact actively discourage you from getting more than one and may not allow you to get more than one.
  5. A reputable shelter/rescue will offer to take a dog back, at any time, for any reason. They should never make you feel guilty about returning a dog or make it difficult to do so. A client of ours adopted an adult dog from a rescue which they quickly discovered was aggressive towards children. The dog’s aggressive behavior not been disclosed by the rescue. The rescue begrudgingly agreed to take the dog back but told the client it would be as long as six weeks before they had a foster home available. Before you adopt from a rescue or shelter, make sure you have their return policies in writing.
  6. A shelter/rescue may ask you lots of questions about why you want a dog, why you want this particular dog, and how you will care for the dog. They will want to verify that you have time for the dog, and may require you to enroll it in a reward based training class. Many shelters/rescue will ask for references and may even do a home visit. They will often require a fenced yard. If you have other dogs, they will require that your dogs meet the new dog before adopting.
  7. Some shelters work with trainers and behavior consultants to help prepare dogs for adoption. Make sure that they are only working with trainers committed to Force-Free, reward based training. Preferably these trainers will be members of The Pet Professionals Guild and certified as a Professional Canine Trainer (PCT-A) by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (http://www.credentialingboard.com/), or certified as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (http://www.ccpdt.org/) or credentialed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (https://iaabc.org/) as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC).
  8. Ask the Shelter/Rescue how they train their dogs and what types and tools they use and what they recommend for training. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued a document entitled 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This document discusses the prevalence of behavioral problems in dogs and cats and recommends:

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. Nonaversive 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]

I recommend that you avoid any Shelter or Rescue that recommends or uses any of the aversive techniques that the AAHA has outlined in their guidelines. I would also avoid them if they refer to trainers that use those techniques.

  1. A reputable shelter/rescue will be licensed as a shelter/rescue in the state of Maine. When you find a shelter/rescue, call the Maine Animal Welfare Program and verify that they are licensed and ask if any complaints have been filed about their practices. The phone number for the AWP is 1-877-269-9200.
  2. Lastly, understand that most shelters and rescues are non-profits and may ask for donations. That is fine as long as they are legitimate non-profits; however, not all have filed the necessary paperwork required for their non-profit status to be legal. Why is that important? It is important to make sure that the money you are donating is being put to good use. In 2013, an individual representing a rescue group in our area was arrested and convicted of embezzling over $100,000 from the group. That is a great deal of money that never went to helping rescued dogs. A place you can check on any non-profit organization is http://www.charitynavigator.org/ and http://www.guidestar.org/.

If you need assistance or advice in finding the perfect dog for your family, do not hesitate to contact us. We want to help you find the best dog for you and your lifestyle.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

 

Accepting the Pet You Havehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/11/26/accepting-the-pet-you-have/

A Rescue Dogs Perspective – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/

Adopting/Getting A Pet – Before You Adopt A Dog…http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/adoptinggetting-a-pet-before-you-adopt-a-dog/

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Parts 1, 2 & 3http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

Maine’s Puppy Lemon Law and Your Rights As A Consumer – While getting a new pet usually goes very well, occasionally people have a bad experience when purchasing a new pet. This can happen when getting a pet from a pet store, a breeder, and even when getting a pet from a shelter or rescue. In this show, we address consumer’s legal alternatives when things do not go as you wanted.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – How to choose a dog trainer – Kate, and Don discuss what to look for when choosing a dog trainer and dog training class, as well as what to avoid. Dog training and recommended approaches to training a dog have changed dramatically as we have learned more about canines. As a result, we now know that some long-standing methods used to train a dog in the past, are in fact detrimental and can cause serious, long-term harm to your dog. Learn what to look for so that you and your dog have the best experience possible.

The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – Kate and Don discuss why training a dog is so beneficial to all involved; the dog, the dog’s immediate family, and society in general. They discuss the advantages of working with a certified professional dog trainer so that you have someone that can coach both you and your dog when things are not going as expected. Additionally, they discuss why choosing a trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free and fear-free training is so important. Lastly, they discuss the training classes that will be offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2017.

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this week’s show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pet’s annual wellness exam.

Dr. Cloutier, Kate, and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We address how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly, we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things that work by causing fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.

Web Sites

Canine Inherited Disorders Databasehttp://www.upei.ca/cidd/intro.htm

Maine Animal Welfare Programhttp://www.maine.gov/dacf/ahw/animal_welfare/

The Pet Professional Accreditation Boardhttp://www.credentialingboard.com/

The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultantshttps://iaabc.org/

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainershttp://www.ccpdt.org/

Charity Navigatorhttp://www.charitynavigator.org/

Guidestarhttp://www.guidestar.org/

Professional Pet Care Associations

The Pet Professional Guildhttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/

The Association of Professional Dog Trainershttps://apdt.com/

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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.

©15-Jan-17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>