Showing posts with label Puppy Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puppy Tips. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Puppy Necessities

If you are thinking about bringing a dog into your family it can be absolutely overwhelming – and that is before your new friend steps one paw inside.  Here is a checklist of a few things you may not have thought of to have in place before you bring Puppy home:

  • Books – you may think you know how to raise a puppy into a well-behaved, happy dog but a little extra research never hurts.  The best comprehensive book for new puppy owners is Puppy’s First Steps by the Faculty at Tufts University Vet School.  Another favorite of mine is Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin.  This is a fun read with lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions.  Finally my new favorite book on dogs is the just released Decoding Your Dog by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.  I think that ALL dog owners should read this book to help strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

  • A crate – In addition to the actual crate, you also need an understanding of how crate training works and why it is so important to housetraining your new dog.  You want a crate that is small enough so your dog can’t sleep in one corner and eliminate in another.  If your puppy is going to grow the crate will often come with a divider to help customize the size.  You also want a cozy bed to go into the crate to keep Puppy comfortable. 

  • A plan – The first three months of a dog’s life are called the critical socialization period.  This is where sociability outweighs fear and is the best time to get your puppy to adapt to new people, places and other dogs.  If puppies are not properly socialized this can lead to behavior problems down the road.  You don’t want to head off to the dog park as you won’t know the health status of the dogs there and your puppy could be exposed to dangerous diseases and icky parasites.  Instead, find a puppy class to attend as soon as you can to help get your dog started off on the right paw.  For more information on this please read the AVSAB Position Statement.

  • Puppy food – You need a food that is designed for growing puppies.  If you have a large breed puppy it is important to feed a large breed puppy food to ensure that the balance of nutrients is appropriate.  Many of the dog foods out there are actually dangerous, with super high protein levels and calcium phosphorus ratios that result in rapid bone growth.  When Puppy’s bones grow faster than they should, joint development is altered resulting in arthritis down the road.   

  • Toys – This is the fun part!  Puppy should have a variety of toys to satisfy his need to chew as well as stimulate his mind.  A Kong is essential for any dog as it is the only toy I would feel comfortable leaving alone with puppy in the crate. Plush toys and those made of softer rubber can be easily chewed up and swallowed resulting in an intestinal obstruction. You want to stuff the Kong with tasty treats and put it in the crate with puppy when you leave so he will associate the crate with happy things.  When you are home and can supervise Puppy’s playing my favorite toys are those that make him think a bit.  Two of the best are the BusyBuddy Waggle or Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball.
Interested in more puppy information?  Visit for all your puppy questions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It is official, I might be truly crazy

If anyone out there thought I was insane before with all the animals I have please let me solidify this feeling with the announcement of my new puppy -- Frank!  I did not seek out a new addition to my already full house but I have been thinking for some time that Poppy would enjoy a larger dog to play with as her version of play with the Lilly, Sparkle and the cats really amounts to torture for them.

Out of the blue a ten week old labradoodle puppy needed a home and I knew he would be the perfect fit for me.  I brought Frank home Tuesday night and he and Poppy have not stopped playing since.  I have never seen her interact this way with another dog before and it makes me so happy that they have found each other.  As for the other animals, the cats really couldn't care less and the little dogs are happy to play with him on their terms.  This mean five minutes of play before they get bored and jump up on the sofa to avoid him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The horrors of puppy mills

I am sure you’ve heard the term puppy mill, but you may not be aware of the true horror associated with it. A puppy mill is a commercial mass-breeding facility that produces multiple litters from different breeds of dogs. Their goal is to produce the greatest possible quantity of “product”--puppies--to sell to pet stores or directly to consumers via Internet and newspaper ads.
In puppy mills the dogs are housed in wire-mesh cages, often stacked on top of one another to maximize space. Because these enclosures are as small as possible, the dogs must sit in their own excrement. There are no beds or towels to provide any comfort for the dogs. The animals are rarely allowed out of their cages, and are forced to spend their entire lives cramped in these tiny, filthy spaces.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Polite Puppies!

The first Polite Puppy class was this past Sunday at Happy Paws and I feel that it was a big success. There was an environment of controlled chaos as puppies leaped and twirled at the end of their leashes trying to play with each other. Once everyone settled down we started by discussing behavior modification (my favorite topic) and that for everything a dog wants in life they must sit and wait for you to offer it to them. We went over how to teach sit, stay and look at me, these are the essential commands that every dog should know. I also encouraged owners to practice restraining their puppies at home which will make the puppy's trip to the hospital much more enjoyable.

After covering behavior we moved on to my recommendations for how to keep your dog happy and healthy. I demonstrated the appropriate use of Gentle Leader Head Collars and the Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness for those puppies that drag their owners around. One of my goals with this class is to banish Prong collars which cause me to wince every time I see one on a dog. In my opinion these horrible contraptions are cruel, painful and ineffective. Without appropriate training most dogs eventually get used to the sensation of metal spikes poking into their necks and continue to drag their owners down the street.

I touched on nutrition and the importance of feeding one's dog a high quality food appropriate for their dog's lifestyle. What owners need to be aware of is that many of the boutique brands of dog food are formulated to be "all life stage diets" which essentially means it is puppy food. Many people feed these high calorie diets to their couch potato dogs and are confused when they start to gain weight. We also discussed the pros and cons of raw diets and the health risks associated with themFinally I went over toys I like such as the Kong and how chewing on a tennis ball will ruin your dogs teeth. The puppies were definitely exhausted when they left and I hope the owners took away some helpful tips on keeping their new family members happy and healthy. The next Polite Puppy Class will be Sunday, May 23rd.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Polite Puppy

Spring is finally here and with the warmer weather comes a parade of new puppies and kittens into the hospital. I am excited to announce the creation of The Polite Puppy - manners and wellness care class. Friendship and Happy Paws have paired up to offer a complementary class to all new puppy owners. On the last Sunday of every month I will be holding a class at Happy Paws to discuss basic commands puppies should know and the concept of behavior modification training. In addition we will discuss recommendations for vaccines, nutrition, toys, products and tips to promote life-long health of your new puppy.
The Polite Puppy kicks off on Sunday, April 25th at 3 pm. Class will be held at Happy Paws located at 4904 Wisconsin Avenue. Please email if you are interested in signing up.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

There is no "whispering" with Cesar Millan's training techniques

My last two posts were about behavior modification -- what I, as well as the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), feel is the right way to train your dog. Other lines of thought do exist, among them the method of dominance theory that includes the punitive training techniques made popular in the last few years by Cesar Millan in his Dog Whisperer television program.
Millan’s training revolves around what known as dominance theory. According to this school of thought, you must establish yourself as the “alpha dog” while keeping your dog in a submissive role. A central theme of this training technique is that dogs that are fearful or aggressive are trying to obtain dominance over their owners or other pets in the house and must be put in their place, often times using force.

People who believe in dominance theory will tell you that it is based on studies of wolf behavior in the wild. What they may not be aware of is that these studies were conducted back in the 1960’s and have since been proven inaccurate. In just the past decade we have learned that wolves DO NOT fight to become the alpha dog of the pack; rather, their “packs” are families consisting of a mating pair heading up a group of their offspring.

Here’s the main problem I see with dominance theory: maintaining your alpha-dog status requires that you routinely behave in a threatening manner – often using physical force--to those submissive to you. And so you must ask yourself: Is that the kind of relationship you really want to create? It’s certainly not one I want to share with my dogs.

Dog Whisperer may be entertaining television, but it should not be used as an example of how to train your dog. Most of Millan’s techniques are primitive and often times inhumane. So much so, that there was a public outcry calling for National Geographic to remove the show after an episode in which Millan used a choke collar on an unruly dog until it collapsed gasping for breath. Though National Geographic did not stop airing the show, they now post a disclaimer cautioning people not to try these techniques at home.

Proponents of Millan argue that he saves animals that would have otherwise been euthanized for aggressive behavior. But it is commonly accepted in the behavioral community that, for most part, aggression in dogs is rooted in fear and mistrust. So the techniques of dominance theory can actually lead to an even more fearful animal. The AVSAB put out a position statement warning that using punishment training for behavioral problems can lead to “potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors and injury to animals and people interacting with animals”.

Though I don’t agree with his training methods, I’m sure Millan believes he has the animal’s best interest at heart. He is a huge supporter of shelters and rescue foundations. His center in Los Angles takes in many abused and rescued animals that I’m sure would have otherwise been euthanized. Still, I feel that it’s my responsibility as a veterinarian and dog lover to clearly state that I do not believe in following his methods.

In the end, it’s up to you to choose which method to use with your dog. On one hand, you have a method that may initially seem simpler, but is based on research that is no longer valid and requires you to frequently use physical force when your dog acts out. On the other hand, you can use behavior modification to create a situation where your dog has self-control and looks to you for guidance. My hope is that you will embrace the challenge of behavior modification, and use it to create a relationship with your dog that is based on trust and communication – never on fear and intimidation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Behavior modification in real life

Last Thursday I began discussing the topic of behavior modification. I won't lie: behavior modification is a lot of work for you and your dog. But it's well worth it -- for your dog's mental health (as well as your own!)

For the past few months, my dog Poppy has been enjoying a rebellious-teenage phase. She is somewhat of a handful--some might say a maniac. After listening to Dr. Overall I immediately attempted to start practicing behavior modification techniques with Poppy.

Let me be the first to tell you it has not been easy at all. The most difficult aspect is the consistency: I have to be mindful of teaching Poppy one hundred percent of the time.

Here is an example: every time we come to a door Poppy must sit and wait for me to tell her it is OK to walk through the door. I’m sure you can imagine that when I am running late for work and trying to get out of the house in a hurry, pausing to train Poppy is the last thing on my mind.

Another challenge is that Poppy loves barking like a fiend every time someone comes over. This is not enjoyable for any of the humans involved -- including my neighbors, who are just thrilled to hear Poppy’s loud, distinctive bark.

In an ideal world, when someone knocks on the door, Poppy will sit and look to me, waiting until I tell her it is OK to greet them. Our visitor will not enter the house until Poppy is sitting and waiting quietly. Note that I said “in an ideal world”! This bit of behavioral modification has been especially challenging, and is currently a work in progress. Though patience is not typically one of my strong suits, it is crucial to teach these techniques. When I have a guest standing outside my door waiting for ten or more minutes until Poppy stops barking, it is very difficult to maintain a calm demeanor…

Along with improving quality of life for yourself and your dog, learning how to behave can also have a significant impact on your dog’s physical health. Here is an example of why this is so important. Last week I saw a one-year-old dog on appointment for skin issues. He was a very sweet and VERY excited dog and would not pause in his leaping around the exam room long enough for me to do a complete exam. His owners were not concerned with his behavior as they felt this was normal for a dog of his age. It is not.

What will happen with this dog if he continues to act like a crazy creature during his visits to the hospital? For starters, when we need to perform common procedures such as trimming his nails or collecting blood, he will need to be tightly restrained. If he does not care for this (and most don’t) then he will protest more and become fearful of going to the vet. Through no fault of anyone’s he will develop a negative association and learn that people hold him down when he comes to see us. Each time he comes in his behavior will become progressively more fearful until he eventually tries to bite someone and is now aggressive at the vet.

This unpleasant scenario can be avoided if his owners start behavior modification so their dog learns to walk into the hospital and sit calmly with minimal restraint for his exam or blood draw. For my part, I always try to show my patients that being at Friendship is a happy event, by giving them lots of treats and pats when I see them.

While behavior modification is difficult to execute it is also extremely important. I know there are a lot of other “training” techniques out there and on Thursday I will discuss these with a focus on famed dog “whisperer” Cesar Millan.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The dreaded e-collar

One of the most universally hated recommendations by veterinarians is that their client’s pet wears an Elizabethan collar, also known as “that lampshade thing”. I was discussing post-spay care with a client on Tuesday and she asked me if I thought it was realistic to expect her puppy to wear the collar for the necessary 10-14 days following the surgery. I replied with a very assertive “yes” and explained what can happen if the puppy is allowed to lick at her incision.

If a dog or cat is constantly licking at a surgery site this will cause the incision to open and become infected. Treatment consists of a course of expensive antibiotics, twice daily warm compresses, multiple recheck appointments, prolonged e-collar use and possibly surgery to remove the infected tissue and repair the incision. The simple act of using an e-collar saves the owner money and spares their pet unnecessary discomfort.

I understand my clients’ disdain of e-collar use but it was not until I performed Poppy’s spay surgery on Tuesday that I truly appreciated what I was asking them to endure. Poppy is usually somewhat of a disaster around the house but with the addition of the e-collar she has been upgraded to a level 5 hurricane. In the past 24 hours she has flipped over multiple water bowls (full of course), scraped my arms and legs to shreds, figured out a way to trap the cats between the e-collar and the floor so she can “play” with them and sent Sparkle and Lilly into hiding under the bed.

As tempting as it is to just take the e-collar off and do my best to keep an eye on her, I have seen too many complications arise from this. I know that if I can tough it out for eight (yes, I’m counting) more days then I will be done with it. The good news is wearing the e-collar hasn’t slowed Poppy down one bit, the bad news is I am having a very hard time keeping her quiet so her incision can heal properly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time to spay Poppy

Poppy is just about six months old and her adult canine teeth are just starting to appear - the time to spay her is here! I always advise people to wait until the adult canines have erupted before their puppy goes to surgery. Retained deciduous teeth, meaning that the baby and adult teeth are present at the same time, requires extraction of the baby teeth so the dog's bite does not become adversely affected. The removal of any remaining baby teeth must be done under anesthesia so it makes sense to do this at the same time as the spay/neuter surgery.

In my opinion spay/neuter is one of the top three essential things that should be done to give your pet a long, healthy life (as a side note the other two are proper vaccination and heartworm prevention). Therefore I thought I would re-post my article on why this is such an important procedure.
Spaying and neutering are routine surgeries, which remove a dog or cat’s reproductive organs. This single, simple act has numerous benefits for your pet’s health, yourself, and the millions of unwanted animals living in shelters.

As a general rule, if you do not plan on breeding your pet, he or she should be spayed or neutered by 6 months of age. It is common for some shelters to perform these surgeries on younger animals. Breeding correctly takes a lot of research and education both for the safety of your pet and to pass on desirable traits of the breed. If you are not dedicated to improving the genetics of your chosen breed and producing offspring that are healthier than their parents, then you should not breed your pet.

Female dogs and cats spayed before their first heat have less than a 1% chance of developing mammary cancer. If you spay them before their second heat you have a 92% chance of preventing mammary cancer. By spaying you completely remove the chance for an often life-threatening uterine infection called pyometra as well as uterine and ovarian cancers. Neutering a male dog or cat eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and significantly decreases the chance of prostatic disease and hernias which occur under the body’s influence of testosterone. Plus, a pet that is spayed or neutered is simply more pleasant to live with. Neutering your male dog decreases and may even eliminate such undesirable behavioral tendencies as aggression, urine marking, wandering and the dreaded humping. Male cats are less likely to spray if inside and fight or roam if they are allowed outside. Female dogs in heat are really messy – who wants that mess on their carpet or sofa? And anyone who has ever lived with an un-neutered male cat will recall the joys of damp carpets and the delicate aromas of cat pee wafting through the room.
If the reasons above do not move you, let us consider the tragic pet overpopulation problem in this country. The Humane Society of the Unites States estimates that 6-8 million dogs and cats enter a shelter every year. Of that number over half are euthanized, that is 4 million dogs and cats put to death every year. The average fertile female cat can produce about 12-18 kittens per year and female dog 12-20 puppies. Shelters and rescue groups work tirelessly to find homes for these pets but they just can’t keep up with the number of animals entering the shelters.

Spay and neuter today! Do it for your pet’s health, do it for yourself and do it for the millions of unwanted animals living in shelters.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The best three things you can do for your puppy

The past few months with Poppy have taught me so much about raising a puppy, I now feel able to advise my clients better than ever. As with all puppies, Poppy’s education is a work in progress: teaching her to be a well behaved dog will continue long into her adulthood and requires much patience.

I wanted to sum up what I feel are the three most important take-home messages from my series on puppy tips with Poppy.

1. Bring your new puppy to the veterinarian right away – All puppies should come with a health record of vaccines and de-worming medications administered by the breeder or shelter. On your first puppy visit be sure to bring this paperwork, so you and your veterinarian can discuss and plan out an appropriate vaccine schedule. In addition, a poo sample is helpful so your veterinarian can make sure your puppy didn’t bring home any unwanted friends (internal parasites) with him. At this first visit you can get your puppy started on preventatives for heartworm, fleas and ticks.

2. Take your puppy to basic training class – All veterinary behaviorists agree that early socialization is a crucial step in creating a happy and well-adjusted dog. Exposure to other puppies, new people and places can help prevent your puppy from being fearful and socially awkward. Puppies need to be taught how you want them to behave; a training class will give you proper guidance on how to achieve this. An added benefit: letting your youngster run around and play with other puppies is a great way to work off some of that crazy puppy energy!

3. Spay or neuter your puppy – I cannot stress the importance of this enough. In my opinion, spaying or neutering is the single best thing you can do, not only for your own dog but for the millions of homeless animals living in shelters. Along with eliminating the chances for many types of cancer developing, spaying and neutering can prevent many behavior issues. I have said it before and I will say it again: female dogs in heat are messy and it is always embarrassing to have your male dog humping someone’s leg.

I hate to disappoint anyone who was looking forward to watching me and Poppy on Fox 5 tomorrow but they cancelled, apparently the switch from analog to digital television is more important than Poppy or my opinions on puppy care…clearly they have their priorities wrong.

I will continue to post frequent pictures of Poppy for those who want to follow how she is doing. Check back next Tuesday, when I’ll be back with a story about a Doberman mix named Sam and how his life was saved by a surgical procedure called a gastropexy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poppy's Final Puppy Visit

Poppy has her last official puppy visit last night. I gave her a final distemper/parvo booster and her rabies vaccine, these will now be good for 1 year. I am happy to report that she is feeling fine this morning and did not develop any signs of a vaccine reaction. In addition, we drew pre-anesthestic bloodwork for her spay surgery that I will perform in July. We will also attend our last puppy elementary class tonight. For a moment I was feeling like she was all grown up, until I noticed her enthusiastically gnawing on one of my shoes...

As a final word on the much debated topic of vaccination I would like to stress the importance of keeping your pet up to date on the rabies vaccine. This applies to both cats and dogs, even if your kitty never visits the great outdoors. Apart from the fact that rabies is one hundred percent fatal and required by law consider this: if for whatever reason your pet bites someone and they are not current on their vaccine, that person can demand that your pet be euthanized for rabies testing. I have had people say "my pet would never bite anyone" and for the most part I am sure that is true, until something happens where the pet is painful and ends up biting someone unintentionally. My point is, you never know what is going to happen and the potential consequences for an unvaccinated rabies suspect are so dire that keeping your pet up to date is incredibly important.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vaccine reactions

I heard that this week two of Poppy’s litter mates have become sick after their vaccines, so I thought this would be a good time to broach the subject of vaccine reactions.

The good news is that vaccine reactions are very rare, it is safe to say less than one percent of vaccinated pets experience an adverse reaction. Not vaccinating for fear of an adverse effect is not the answer. As vaccination in the general population wanes, re-emergence of these diseases is certain and the diseases we do vaccinate against are very serious or even fatal. There has been a benefit of this focus on adverse effects; increased research into vaccine safely, efficacy and duration of immunity. Vaccinations protect our pets from many potentially fatal diseases, and their benefits far outweigh the small risk of a vaccine reaction.

After their vaccination, mAfter a vaccany pets will act tired and have a decreased appetite; some will even have muscle soreness or a mild fever. As long as this resolves within 24 hours treatment is not necessary.

When vaccine reactions do occur, they can be unpredictable and manifest in many different ways. Very infrequently we see a pet have an allergic reaction to the vaccine with clinical signs such as facial swelling, hives, excessive itchiness, weakness, difficulty breathing, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme lethargy. If a dog or cat develops any of these symptoms they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. In most cases the patient will respond quickly to treatment with an anti-inflammatory and an anti-histamine as well as supportive care with intravenous fluids. Once this happens the pet should always be given an injection of an anti-histamine like Benedryl, before vaccination and monitored very closely afterwards.

Poppy’s littermates were not vaccinated or treated at Friendship, but from what I was told they developed extreme lethargy, decreased appetite, high fever and joint pain. The joint pain is a somewhat unusual presentation for a vaccine reaction but what I believe happened is that for some unknown reason the puppies’ immune system created an inflammatory response to the vaccine which resulted in localization of immune complexes in the joints causing pain. They were treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Rimadyl, as well as Doxycycline, in case the illness was related to an infectious disease. While Doxycycline is an antibiotic, it also has anti-inflammatory properties which would help make the puppies feel better.

Thankfully, all of the puppies have made a full recovery and are lucky to have such attentive owners. The puppies’ potential for vaccine reactions is something their owners will have to be aware of for the rest of the dogs’ lives. In the future, before each vaccination, pre-treated with anti-histamine should prevent a reaction.

While all vaccine reactions are an unfortunate complication, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the benefit of preventing potentially fatal diseases far outweighs the minimal risk of a reaction. The puppies must also stay on the schedule of vaccines every three to four weeks to help prevent diseases such as parvovirus. Poppy will be given her final set of vaccines next week and I will be watching her very closely for any signs of adverse reaction.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Keeping Poppy away from toxins

Poppy is doing great; I cannot believe how big she is already. We are headed to puppy elementary school tonight so she can play with bigger and older puppies. Last week at kindergarten she was playing a little too roughly with the other puppies. The photos posted below are from last week’s kindergarten as well as Poppy playing with Sparkle and Lilly. As I watch her tear around my house chewing and eating everything in site I thought it would be a good time to cover the common household toxins dogs can get into.

Everyone knows that chocolate and dogs do not mix. The most dangerous types of chocolate are bakers and dark as they have the highest amount of cacao. Milk chocolate is mostly cream and sugar and usually doesn’t cause any problems unless consumed in mass quantities. If your dog does get into the candy stash you should bring them in immediately so we can induce vomiting. Having them vomit eliminates as much chocolate as possible from their system, and then a does of activated charcoal usually can absorb the rest. Signs of chocolate toxicity include agitation, hyper-excitability, increased heart rate, seizures and death. I will say that with treatment it is very rare to see a dog die from chocolate toxicity.

Another common one we see at Friendship is grape and raisin ingestion which can cause kidney failure. This one is a little confusing as it varies on the individual dog as to how many grapes or raisins must be ingested to cause toxicity. Again you should bring them in for us to induce vomiting and empty their stomach. We then recommend that they stay in the hospital on intravenous fluids for 48-72 hours while we monitor kidney values. This flushes out the kidneys and hopefully prevents any toxin accumulation. The scary thing with kidney disease is that once damage occurs it cannot be reversed.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in most sugarless gums and causes low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Why a box of minty gum is an attractive thing to a dog I do not know but frequently we have a dog come in that vomits up the entire pack with wrappers still on each piece. This also requires hospitalization so we can closely monitor the blood glucose and liver values. If any changes are noted we can then address them with fluids and medications.

Prescription drugs for animals and humans can also be dangerous. Rimadyl is an anti-inflammatory for dogs and comes in a convenient flavored tablet. Some dogs find this medication so tasty they will jump on the counter and eat the entire bottle which can result in kidney and/or liver failure. Many over the counter medications such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleive and Sudafed to name a few can also be dangerous. If your dog ingests any medication, in any amount you should either call ASPCA poison control immediately or seek veterinary care.

The toxins listed above are only a brief overview of the many household dangers your furry pal can get into. It is important to keep dangerous substances away from pets in drawers or cabinets and to watch your dog at all times. I find with Poppy if there is a way for her to eat or chew on something she shouldn’t she always tries her best to get to it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Protecting Poppy against Leptospirosis

Last week, Poppy and I went to puppy kindergarten for the first time! We are going back for our second class tonight. The most beneficial aspect of the class was exposing her to other puppies and people. It was interesting for me to listen to the advice the trainer had and I learned quite a bit.

We worked on handling, so the puppies would get used to someone looking at their paws, in their ears, around their tails, and exams in general. This training is especially helpful when you bring your puppy to the vet; it enables your veterinarian to perform a thorough physical exam. Poppy was of course an angel and behaved perfectly; apparently she is only a terror at home, when she races around chewing on everything in sight!

Last week I boostered Poppy with her distemper/parvo vaccine and started her Leptospirosis (Lepto) vaccine series. While the Lepto vaccine is not considered one of the core vaccines, I do recommend that all dogs receive it.

Lepto is a bacteria transmitted via the urine of an infected animal, most commonly wildlife such as rats, opossums and raccoons. These animals urinate in standing water or moist soil where the Lepto bacteria replicate and can live for quite some time. Your dog then comes along and either drinks the contaminated water or steps in the puddle, which allows the bacteria to enter the blood stream through a cut in the skin or through mucus membranes such as eyes, mouth, or nose. People can become infected with Lepto either through contaminated water or via contact with the urine of an infected animal.

Though Lepto can be treated with antibiotics, if the infection is not caught early enough it can permanently damage the kidneys and/or liver, resulting in organ failure. Clinical signs include non-specific flu-like symptoms such as fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. With aggressive therapy consisting of intravenous fluids and antibiotics, dogs usually recover. But in some cases, the disease is too advanced by the time we catch it and ends up being fatal.

Wondering if your dog should be vaccinated? Talk with your veterinarian. Dogs of any age can be given the Lepto vaccine. Bear in mind, that though the vaccination protects against the four most common strains of Lepto, a vaccinated pet can still be infected with one of the many other strains of the bacteria. And, as with all vaccines, there is the risk of a vaccine reaction, something you’ll want to discuss with your veterinarian as well.

I strongly recommend the Lepto vaccine for all my canine patients, and my own dogs are vaccinated, too. I frequently take my dogs to the park and trails in my neighborhood, and feel much more comfortable knowing that I’ve done everything I can to protect them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Basic Training for Poppy

I am taking Poppy to puppy kindergarten tonight and we are both looking forward to it. Even though she spends a lot of time playing with my other dogs Sparkle and Lilly it is extremely important for her to play with other puppies too. We have made a few trips to the park by my house and she has met some lovely puppy friends to romp with. After these trips where she is able to blow off some of her massive stores of puppy energy, she is a much better behaved dog at home. If you are going to take your puppy to classes or a dog park it is very important that you keep them up to date on vaccines and preventatives. While we have been waiting for puppy kindergarten to arrive Poppy and I continue to work on our commands. Come and sit are now old hat to her. To teach her to lie down I hold a piece of kibble with the palm of my hand facing the ground and swiftly lower it while saying “down”. As she sinks into a lying down position I immediately reward her and say “good Poppy”. With repetition she will follow the verbal command “down” combined with a downward motion of my hand.

Stay is one command Poppy has picked up very quickly. This is generally one of the more difficult commands for puppies to learn given they have the attention span of an insect. I start by asking her to sit, once she has done that I give the command “stay” and hold one finger up. One could also use a flat hand extended toward the nose but I thought this may confuse her with the sit and down hand commands. While she is sitting and not moving, I take one step away, for one second, maintaining eye contact at all time. If she stays where she is I quickly step towards her, bring the treat right to her nose and say “good stay”. I then ask her to stay for progressively longer periods of time and with more distance between us. If she makes a mistake and runs toward me, I calmly return to the previous time or distance and start over. Theoretically she should remain seated in the same place until I release her, no matter the time or distance.

Heel is the fifth essential basic command and not one I have started teaching Poppy quite yet. This is mostly because when I take all three dogs for a walk, Sparkle and Lilly are not well behaved either and I haven’t figured out how to teach Poppy not to follow the other two. The obvious answer is all three dogs should walk correctly on a leash, without pulling but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.

It is very important that your puppy learn the appropriate way to walk on a leash so they aren’t dragging you around and jumping all over everyone. I will take a moment to express my distaste for pinch collars, those metal, spiked things you see dogs pulling people around on. In my opinion, not only are these cruel but they really don’t work well. If your dog drags you around either visit a trainer or use a Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness. Unlike the Gentle Leader Head Collar, which requires training for proper use, the harness works well almost instantly.

I will post next week on how puppy kindergarten went as well information on the infectious disease Leptospirosis and why most dogs should be vaccinated for it. Poppy and I will be speaking on proper puppy care at this Sunday’s BowWowPowWow and answering questions at the Friendship Hospital for Animals booth. Visit the event to say hello and learn more great tips on the best way to care for your dog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Basic Training for Poppy

Poppy is turning into quite a handful and like all puppies I have to keep a constant eye on her; she is just busy all the time. The other day I sat down to work at my computer and realized I suddenly couldn’t send emails. Without my even noticing she had chewed the power cord for my modem. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt but this just illustrates how closely I need to watch her. One thing that can help keep her mind engaged is to start teaching her some basic commands which will help her become a well mannered adult dog.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I haven't yet signed Poppy up for a puppy class, even though I know that all the experts agree this is the single most important thing you can do for your new puppy. These classes have two benefits: to teach basic commands, and to socialize your puppy. I am going to sign her up soon; I just haven’t had the time lately.

For now, I'm taking care of the socializing by bringing Poppy to work with me each day. This allows her to meet all kinds of new people and gain exposure to different situations. A puppy that spends all its time with just a handful of people and only goes out in the back yard soon becomes fearful of new experiences.

Basic obedience training is also key: You want to start training before your puppy learns any bad behavior that will be more difficult to correct later on. So though we haven't yet made it to puppy class, I have started teaching her the five basic commands every dog should know: come, sit, lie-down, stay, heel."

The first two are by far the easiest and Poppy (being a puppy genius) mastered these in a few minutes. Training does require constant reinforcement as come and sit are the building blocks for more advanced commands. We use a piece of her puppy kibble as a training reward and every time she does something correctly she instantly gets a “good Poppy” along with the kibble. Over time I will reduce the frequency of food rewards and only give her a verbal praise.

In addition to a verbal command I always use a hand signal since a double signal is more effective. To teach her to come when I call her name I stand a few feet away from her with the treat, wave my hand and say “Poppy, come”. The minute she gets to me I praise her, give her the treat and a pat on the head. For the sit command I take the treat, put it in front of her nose and slowly move my hand over her head. This will cause her head to go up and rear end to plop down. The second her furry butt hits the ground I say “sit” and give her the treat.

I spend time working with Poppy every day and incorporate the training methods into daily activities. For example, before she gets her dinner she must sit, wait for me to place it down and then call her. Before I put her leash on she must sit calmly and allow me to attach the leash before we go anywhere. Performing activities such as these shows her how to behave appropriately and not act like a wild thing. This is something Poppy and I work hard on and while she is very bright we have setbacks and I have to constantly remember to take time to teach her correctly. Next week we will cover the remaining three basic commands for a well behaved puppy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Housetraining Poppy

I have named my new puppy Poppy and she is the most wonderful little sweetheart. It has been eight years since I have had a puppy and I had forgotten just how much work it is. I am lucky in that I can bring her to work with me and while there she is constantly being loved on by everyone in the hospital.

I am crate training Poppy, which I recommend to all dog owners. When Poppy is not in her crate I have to watch her at all times. It is amazing how busy she is: constantly exploring, chewing and trying to play with my other dogs (who most of the time are happy to play along). I also need to be vigilant about looking for signs that she has to go to the bathroom so she can progress with her housetraining.

Crate training is a crucial first step to housetraining. I am teaching Poppy to view the crate as her sanctuary, her very own place to be when she wants to get away. My first step was to choose the right size crate: large enough so she can stand up and move around but not too large so she can lie down in one spot and eliminate in the other. Right now Poppy still isn’t sure she likes the crate, but I’m working on changing her attitude by giving her a stuffed Kong—her very favorite treat—each time she goes in her crate. Since this is the only time she gets a Kong, I am confident that she will soon look forward to spending time in her crate.

Just like I advise all the dog owners I see at the hospital, I never, ever put Poppy in the crate as punishment. Instead, I use it more as a playpen to keep her safe when I’m not able to constantly watch her.

One of my most important jobs right now is to establish a schedule so Poppy can start to plan when she is going to go to the bathroom. This is a difficult concept for a very young puppy like Poppy, but by four to six months of age she should start to understand. Because puppies need to go to the bathroom at least every 2-4 hours I never leave Poppy in the crate for any longer than this. Starting out with a set schedule will also help decrease the frequency of “accidents” because I will be able to anticipate when Poppy will need to go outside.

Each time before I put Poppy in the crate and immediately when I let her out, I take her outside so she can go to the bathroom. Instinctively most dogs will not urinate or defecate in the same space they sleep in, thus she should “hold it” while in the crate. When Poppy goes to the bathroom outside I lavish her with praise—as if this was the best thing in the world she could possibly have done! This seems to be enough for Poppy, but for some dog owners using a small treat as a reward works well too.

It took only a few days for me to figure out the signs that Poppy needs to go outside. Now, when she plays in the house, I keep a sharp eye out for these signs which include stopping play abruptly to sniff around or heading off in the house by herself. As soon as I notice this I take her outside before she has an accident in the house. And each time she goes outside, I tell her she is the best girl ever!

If an accident does occur, I NEVER punish Poppy by striking her or “rubbing her nose” in the mess. I know that this would accomplish nothing other than making her scared of her environment and me. Instead, I simply clean up the accident with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle or Anti-Icky Poo and remind myself to keep a better eye on Poppy next time.

As with all dog training, housetraining works best with positive reinforcement, plenty of patience, lots of time and consistency. I know that Poppy only wants to please me, so I give her guidance and love which will only strengthen the bond between us. She is also a puppy genius; she learned to sit in no time at all. Please check back in next week for tips on training your puppy.

Housetraining can be a challenge. If you have questions, or want advice about the best ways to proceed, speak to your veterinarian. Working together, you’ll be able to find the solution that best fits your pet and your lifestyle.