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So here's a challenge - in 2012 our site host (Yola) decided not to maintain blogging capability any  more.  So our old blogs are below but we couldn't add any new ones.  So we started a new blog at a different website.

The new blog "Ask Ms. Behaviour" is at Tumblr  http://dogfriendship.tumblr.com/) - the new posts show up here but look MUCH better on Tumblr...and you can subscribe to the blog by email so you get new entries delivered straight to your mailbox.  So just click the link and get the full-feature version.

You can also see the same blog material if you're a WordPress user at: http://askmsbehaviour.wordpress.com/

Ask Ms. Behaviour

Dog Friendship Inc. - dog training in Guelph, ON, Canada

CADD-C - Framework for Classifying Dog Aggression

While working on an article recently, it felt great to dive more deeply into the topic of how to classify aggression - and here’s the result - http://ow.ly/o5ot308eZNi - a classification system intended to help unify things and make them simple and useful for practitioners and dog caregivers alike.  Now before you think classifying aggression is simple, let me just say that there are a s#@! ton of ways to classify aggression out there - across all species.  This is one approach - and I would appreciate your thoughts and comments…particularly if your dog’s type was not captured or you don’t see where it would fit.

Posted 43 weeks ago

Can Things Improve?

Recently we’ve had a rash of owners whose dogs have behaviour challenges, and I’ve spent a lot of time answering the question they ask…”can things improve?” They don’t want to teach the dog tricks or do our fun-agility course, they just want to know if things can get better with their dog - a reduction in fighting, getting into the garbage or shivering with thunderstorm phobia.

So I was delighted to read the article in the latest newsletter of the society of vets in the U.S. who concentrate on animal behaviour (the AVSAB) by Dr. Megan Maxwell, behaviour consultant in Virginia, USA, talking about this very issue and some of the factors that impact a dog’s response to behavior therapy:

She agrees with me that a lot of the time it is possible to make improvements in event the worst cases.  BUT - it depends!  We can’t guarantee - and never do - that there is any guarantee of sustained behaviour change in a dog.

Here’s her list of some things that do impact of - and how fast - positive behaviour changes will occur:

1) How long has the behavior problem been occurring? Something done for many years often takes a lot of time to retain - and dogs usually revert to their “first language” when they are excited or under stress.

2) How much is the behavior problem related to the dog’s breed or his or her individual genetic or dispositional tendencies? For example, we know that dogs from pet stores have a much greater chance of being fearful.  We know that how the mom experiences the world (especially if it is stressful or there is not enough food) will have some negative effects on the pup before it is born - that carry on through their life.

3) How flexible can the family be in changing the way that they train, teach, or interact with their pet? I would also add, how consistent can they be in maintaining the training and new structure that their dog needs.

4) How much can environmental triggers be managed or controlled?

5) How well does the dog respond to positive reinforcement that can be delivered by the owner? It’s a lot easier to get a dog’s attention back on you versus the trigger tif they are interested in toys or treats - and you have some at your disposal.

To her list I would add a few more…such as “is the owner consistently using the right tools”,  “is the dog getting the medication they really need medication to help keep their sanity” or “are there any medical issues that haven’t been sorted out”. 

The answers to these questions are is what “it depends” on.  And its why I have “it depends” embroidered on my sleeve.

No guarantees, but if your dog hasn’t been doing the behaviour for a while, has good genetics and a had a sound start in life, is interested in reinforcements like food, is healthy and appropriately medicated if necessary, is in an environment that can be well managed AND if you as a trainer can change and adapt to what your dog needs - then we probably can make some good headway with your dog’s issues.  Always, though, expect the individual dog to respond in individual ways - their response to treatment is always as individual as they are.  That, we can guarantee.

Posted 48 weeks ago

My Dog Lies Down on Leash and Will Not Walk...

What a beautiful day for a walk, you think.  You head out of the door down the driveway or have just made it a short way down the street when suddenly your pup stops dead in their tracks and refuses to move.  Perhaps they even lie down completely.  While you can take comfort in the fact that many puppy-dog caregivers find themselves in the situation at some point, that doesn’t help you in the moment. The question you probably want answered is: how do get my dog moving again?

Before deciding that Fido is ‘just stubborn’ and starting to drag your dog along by the leash, there are a few things you might want to rule out as possible causes before trying the “get walking” tips that follow:

·         Time for a Vet Visit? – If putting on the brakes is suddenly happening with an otherwise healthy dog or pup, the first step is to rule out a medical cause.  For example, puppies with their very soft bones are very prone to breaking their legs or having “growing pains”.  An older dog may have arthritis or a tumour pressing on a nerve in their back, for example.  The problem is that animals in the wild try not to show their pain, so you may not be able to easily tell if Rover is stiff or stepping slightly more gingerly than usual. Always head to a professional and rule our medical issues before moving on to the suggestions below!

·         Is it Too Hot or Too Cold? – Can you imagine if you tried to walk barefoot and the pavement burned the soles off your feet?  Pavement that is too hot can actually cause the skin on your dog’s paws to blister and peel.  Even if the pavement is just fine, some dogs tend to overheat on a warm – not hot – day. Dogs with lots of muscle mass (like bulldogs, the Dogo or Cane Corso) have bodies that overheat quickly.  Brachycephalic dogs (think pugs and bulldogs with especially pushed-in and short noses) also have difficulty breathing when even slightly overheated.  At the other extreme, hairless and small breeds – like the Chihuahua or Chinese Crested – are very sensitive to the cold and cannot regulate their body temperature well.  If your dog seems reluctant to walk, notice if the day is fairly warm or cool.  Your dog may do better on a cool morning or in the evening.

·         Is the World a Scary Place? – For a new pup, leaving the safety of home can be quite terrifying. Even a well-socialized pup can have a quite normal fear period that changes how they view the big wide world out there.  Older dogs may be quite anxious in temperament and become more fearful over time. Pushing through your dog’s fear may not be the way to go – there’s a reason we no longer try to teach kids to swim by throwing them in the pool!  A behavior consultant can work with you to help your freaked-out pup know that the world can be fun and pleasant.

·         Is Pup Pooped?  - No, we’re not talking about whether your dog has had a chance to go potty along the path. If walking comes to a halt, it is indeed possible that your dog is simply dog-tired.  Young puppies can get over-exercised – we know of one youngster who was getting shin splints from being walked too much.  A ten or fifteen-minute leisurely stroll once or twice a day is more than enough for many youngsters – any more and their growing bodies start to rebel.  Older dogs can start to lose muscle condition after three or four days if they are not being active.  If your dog is very young, hasn’t had regular exercise or has been sick or stuck inside due to bad weather (or your schedule), their body may not be up to a good size hike and you may need to do some conditioning work after the vet check above.

If you have worked your way through these issues and are certain they are not the case for your dog – perhaps you think your dog might have another motive for stopping:

·         How Boring or Painful Is This? – Is walking the dog just one more thing in your busy day?  Do you march out with your dog on the same route at the same time, eager to walk quickly in a straight line and “just get the dog walked”?  While dogs do well with consistency, sometimes the routine can become just too boring. Perhaps pooch is putting on the brakes simply because they know they are going to be dragged down the street on a tight leash (and really – how much fun would that be for any dog)?

·         Not as Much Fun As Where I Was…? – If you just left the dog park with a reluctant Randy, or had a great playdate with Betsy’s bestie, your dog may simply be reluctant to leave the fun for a plain old boring trot back to home and bed.  

·         Lazy, Stubborn or Challenging the Pack Leader? – Thanks to good science we now know that it is unlikely your dog is simply being stubborn.  Generally, dogs tend to try things that get them food and play or rest and don’t really want to rule the world.  Usually they HAVE a good reason for not walking – you just don’t know what it is.  You’ll want to play detective and try and see what is happening just before your dog parks it.

·         Is My Dog’s Human Upset? – Are you having a bad day or perhaps are cross with someone?  Science has shown that dogs can sense some human emotions.  If you really feel like going home, getting into bed and putting your head under the covers, it’s possible that your dog is reflecting your mood back to you.

·         What is this Leash Walking Stuff Anyways? – If Sadie hasn’t been to school to learn good leash walking skills and hasn’t been rewarded when she is walking beside you “in the zone” and on a loose leash, it may be time for some remedial training. Dogs who understand where to walk and that it is their job to keep the leash loose are much easier to take on a Sunday stroll.

So What To Do?

1.      Encourage and Reward! – Your first step is the opposite of pulling (or dragging) your dog along the ground. Simply stop dead yourself and tell your dog to “stay”.  Take a treat in your hand – it is for a reward you give only if your dog gets up and starts to move forward.  Don’t let your dog see the treat, though!  If a treat always appears after your dog lies down, they may think they are being rewarded for taking a time out.  After your dog has seen you stop and “stay” for a minute or two, say your dog’s name and invite them to “let’s go”.  Wait for your dog to get up and move a step or two and then provide a tasty treat by tossing it in the direction you want to go.  Soon your dog will understand the moving forward brings good things.  Don’t forget to occasionally give your dog a treat for no good reason – providing a reward from time to time is what drives slot machine players to casinos to play over and over again.  Instead of feeding your dog dinner and then going for a walk, consider putting your dog’s whole dinner in a treat pouch and taking it with you. A hungry pup is definitely a food-motivated pooch.  

2.      Get Active and Excited! – Act slightly excited, walk backward a few steps and then run in a circle around your dog. Often your dog will jump up to see what all the action is.  Reward this by tossing a treat a couple of feet away from your pup and head out…dropping a few more treats near your feet to keep Alfie in action.

3.      Play the Touch or Tug Game!  - Remember that we mentioned your dog’s greatest interests are usually food and play?  Take some time at home to teach two exciting games (when you are not planning to go for a walk).  If your dog always slows down when leaving the dog park or a playmates home – get out in front of them and have them play a great game with you.  Check with your trainer on how to play tug safely (played well it will not make a dog aggressive).  Or teach them to bump your hand with their nose by holding out your hand with a treat tucked in the palm.  When your pup touches your hand, say “touch” and open the palm to provide the treat.  Practice moving your hand around until your dog is eagerly following your hand everywhere so they can touch and get the treat.  Then you’re ready to take the game on the road and start playing as soon as you leave your pup’s favorite fun spots. This will convince your dog that the fun doesn’t end if you are walking away from their friend’s house.

4.      Celebrate the Return Home! – If coming home means a letdown, try to change your dog’s mindset.  While you may want to relax – and are glad to be home – as soon as you get in the door, your dog has probably been in the house all day. If returning to the house signals the end of fun for your dog, try changing it up.  Once you get in the door, play a rousing game of tug or give your dog a high value food toy.  Perhaps take time before you leave to hide some delicious treats around the room. Anything you can think of to convince your dog that being home again is a great deal can make them more eager to head back to the ranch.

5.      If You Always Reward – Change it Up! – If you have been applying what you learned in our classes – clicking and treating your way to successful loose leash walking, you may be wondering why your dog is suddenly losing interest.  It may be time to change up your reward strategy.  No longer treating every time your dog is in the correct position beside your leg, now you may want to act more like a slot machine. Pay off only occasionally for only really excellent walking.  Once in a while, make the reward a super good one.  Change like this can get your dog back in the game, playing harder.

Posted 70 weeks ago
<p><a href="http://noodle-shrimps.tumblr.com/post/147351347573/more-trouble-than-a-tribble" class="tumblr_blog" target="_blank">noodle-shrimps</a>:</p>

<blockquote><p><i>More trouble than a tribble</i><br/></p></blockquote>

<p>Had to share this - loved that Star Trek episode!</p>

noodle-shrimps:

More trouble than a tribble

Had to share this - loved that Star Trek episode!

Posted 71 weeks ago

Liver Does Not Make My Dog Less Afraid of the Vet!

It’s wonderful that many vet clinics are developing fear-free handling practices!  We encourage that and offer free seminars to staff at our local vet hospitals on improving their dog handling.  Lots of vets have added liver to their practices hoping to reduce fear.

The hope is that by adding something positive to the visit the dog’s response is changed from “ick” to “fantastic” - or at least neutral. However the positive needs to be added AFTER something icky happens….not right before it.  

Here at Dog Friendship we have always encouraged this “good after not so good” approach to neutralize a dog’s feelings about something unpleasant.  Trimming one nail before putting down the dinner bowl, giving a bath just before a good session of tug, or brushing your dog’s teeth just before they get to chomp down on a new squeakie toy are some useful examples. So we encourage you to give your dog great treats after you leave the vet’s office – going for a fun-filled off-leash walk, getting a (no Xylitol) peanut-butter-filled Kong toy in the car on the way home, or anything else that floats your dog’s boat.

Why?

You might remember hearing about Pavlov’s bell in grade school.  Pavlov rings a bell, the food comes into the room and the dog gets fed.  Bell rings, food happens.  After lots of pairings of bell and food, the very sound of the bell causes the dog to salivate AS IF they were presented with food.  The emotional and physical responses to the food became attached to the bell (a sound that has nothing to do with food normally).

Many people start to treat their pup before they go to the vet, knowing that something unpleasant may soon be happening to the dog.  I have certainly done this and I suspect it had more to do with my advance (guilty?) knowledge that my pup was about to have an unpleasant time.  

Then once at the vets, liver keeps being provided by the receptionist, vet tech and often by the vet themselves during a physical exam right before or during the painful procedure.  Nice, right?  Uhuh… treating before ouch just made the reward less valuable.  This is the exact opposite of what we want to do with dog training!  What we prefer to do is to add rewards after the visit to change the dog’s response to “whoo-hoo”.

Imagine that I gave you a surprise gift of $50.00 for no good reason. Awesome, right?  Now suppose right after that you walked away from me and tripped – falling and hurting your knee.  Maybe the $50 gift feels just a little less wonderful because it was combined with some pain?  

Now what if after every time I gave you $50 something pretty bad happened?  Soon you might start to feel a little less happy about the $50 bucks!

You’ve probably seen this in action – management gurus used to teach managers to give employees bad feedback “sandwiched” by compliments. Most managers decided this just meant starting a tough conversation with a fairly mild bit of praise.  Employees with managers who started conversations this way began to feel bad as soon as their boss gave them a compliment – because they knew the other shoe was about to drop.

Many experts recommend taking your vaccinated puppy or dog to the vets and providing them with lots of treats – then having NO VET VISIT and going straight home so that your dog thinks of going to the vets as fun.  Your dog learns that no shoe drops.  This is great except that most real-world dog owners do not have a lot of time for multiple vet visits where nothing happens.  We also find that treat-only visits work well if your dog has only one visit a year. Over time (and with the addition of lots of painful procedures like shots) dogs often “get wise” and learn that all the liver in the waiting room doesn’t make up for the “ouch”. So what can we do instead? There are already some great examples out there on how other somewhat tough or  perhaps fairly unpleasant experiences can be overcome on a regular basis. Exercise experts recommend that Ending an exercise routine with a fun and light cool-down leaves a positive impression about the exercise session – even if it was a really tough workout. We agree with that general approach.  To keep your dog more vet-positive, we suggest that you ensure amazing things follow the vet visit.  Playing tug or going for an off-leash hike are good examples. The pleasure your dog gets will help “soften the edges” of their experience, making them feel less concerned about their next visit.  

Got any stories about how you make your vet visit’s fun?  Here’s one woman’s story about using trick training to keep her dog functioning well - http://ow.ly/LNzG301dRpF.

Posted 75 weeks ago

Grieving Your Dog

Losing a dog can be devastating. Unfortunately we live in a society where we are expected to bounce back the next day as if nothing ever happened. For many of us, time to grieve is essential.

Please know is that you are not alone in having gone through this significant loss - many of us who own dogs have been in that sadness so deep it feels like it may not end.  

Depending on how close your relationship with your dog was, losing a dog can be as sad and difficult a grief process as if you had lost a member of your family or your best friend.   A 1991 study of people whose pet had died within the last three years (by Holcomb & Gage) showed that about half of wives and more than a quarter of husbands reported they were “quite” or “extremely” disturbed by the death of a family pet. For husbands, pet loss was rated about as stressful as the loss of a close friendship, for wives about as stressful as losing touch with their married children.

Betty Carmack, author of Grieving the Death of a Pet notes that, “People often say they grieve more for their animal’s death than they did for a spouse, parent, child, or sibling, and they seem a bit surprised by that.  But when they say it in a support-group situation, other people are nodding their heads in understanding.

Our relationship with animals is sometimes very different from our relationships with people.  People talk about how their relationship with their animal companion is more pure.  They don’t have the conditions that relationships with people do and it doesn’t take the same effort to maintain the relationship.  There’s a lot of baggage that’s connected with relationships with people that we don’t have in our relationships with animals.”  And a lot more stability in the human-animal relationship

So it’s clearly normal to feel deep grief, to cry and to miss your friend. Research has shown that pet owners likely will feel like they have a huge hole in the middle of them that will not go away, and living with knowing that it will be difficult or impossible to replace their special animal who made them feel treasured, loved, strong, calm or whole (study by Brown, 2004). It’s also normal to occasionally think you may have seen them, or for you to put down a bowl of water or food, or take down a leash even if your dog isn’t there any more.  

Generally, after an initial shock period that can last a day to a couple of weeks, you can expect to deeply grieve for at least the first month, followed by a longer feeling of sadness.  Dog owners report that there are also surges of grief at about six months after your loss, and again at one year (or at any special anniversaries and holidays where your dog was front and center).  

There are resources on the internet and counselors that can help you get through the loss of your beloved pet, there are also resources to help your other pets adjust to the loss of their canine companion. The following are just a few resources you can access at anytime on this blog in case you, a family member, or a friend, need some extra help and understanding to help get through the grieving process:  

Pet Loss Net, Grief.com,When Your Dog Mourns (for other pets in the family if you have them), and this useful article on processing grief from Colorado State University’s Argus Institute. You can also review:

In Canada, a Pet Loss Hotline operates at the Ontario Veterinary College: 519-824-4120 x53694

Tuesday - Thursday 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm ET from Sept. through April each year (an answering service is available outside regular hours as is email: petloss@uofguelph.ca).  During the summer months, volunteers who live in Guelph check messages and return phone calls when possible.

For those south of the border, there is the toll-free ASPCA line at 877-474-3310.

Here are someother  phone numbers for the US courtesy of Dr. Levine, a behaviorist in New Jersey:

1. Chicago VMA 630-325-1600

2.Colorado State 970-297-1242
3.Cornell University 607-253-3932
4.University of Illinois: 217-244-2273

5.Michigan State: 517-432-2696

6.The Ohio State: 614-292-1823

7.Tufts University: 508-839-7966                

What if it’s not just you grieving? When a child is growing up, it’s not unusual for their pet to die (or disappear by getting lost forever or going far away with the other parent in a divorce or separation). When you’re parenting, it’s important that you handle this serious situation with care. Usually the first loss of a loved one that your child will experience can impact the way they face all of life’s future losses. And if your child has already dealt with death or divorce or has recently been through a major change, like moving to a new place or changing schools, a dog’s death may stir up the memory of that loss, too.

Don’t lie to your child, hoping to spare them pain. Instead, use this opportunity to let the child express their feelings and to learn that adults can offer comfort and reassurance in hard times. Assure the child that they are not responsible just because they yelled at the dog or forgot to give them water one day. Using metaphors like “Fluffy is asleep” or “Fluffy is with God” can create fear and conflict in a child’s mind between something that is supposed to be good (sleep or God) and something that feels bad.  Better to tell them the truth as you know it – Fluffy’s body is still present, but the essence that made Fluffy who they were is not with Fluffy’s body any more.  And of course, you can if you wish add to this discussion what your religion believes about what happens to that essence after death.

Children react differently to loss of a pet at different ages. It’s important to let children of all ages know that whatever they are feeling (sad, mad, afraid, relieved) is just fine, it’s simply information that lets them know that they need to take care of that feeling with some attention.  Encourage your child to express their feelings by talking, drawing, writing or whatever other safe way to express themselves feels right.  

Once a difficult feeling has had some attention paid to it, the feeling can change. If a child has trouble sleeping or eating, if moodiness persists and their feelings seem to last for more than a few weeks or school habits suffer significantly, you may want to discuss your child’s needs with a counsellor.  There’s also this useful resource for grieving in children -  Farewell to Fido: Helping Children When Their Companion Dog Dies by Rise VanFleet, PhD (The APDT Chronicle of the Dog, Jul/Aug 2010).

You may also especially need some personal professional support if you’re dealing with what is called “complicated grief” that may need extra time for grief or a special space to work through it.  Complicated grief is also sometimes called “stuck grief” and it can happen when you have other recent losses, a personal history of a great deal of loss, untimely deaths or deaths that happen suddenly/from no known cause, death after a long illness, feeling responsible for a death or witnessing a painful or traumatic death.

Rituals can help us make transitions when we experience losses and we humans have lots of them.  They also provide a safe space where feelings can be expressed. Perhaps some sort of ritual for your dog can help you and others who loved your dog mark and cope with this transition.  At Dog Friendship, we have marked the loss of one of our dogs by burying a small piece of hair and a dog tag along the path where we often walked - you may wish to consider if a ritual could help you?

It’s also important to recognize that having big feelings can often act be an invitation to use lousy coping strategies to avoid our feelings. Things like gambling, drinking and eating can often sing a sirens’ song to us when we are grieving a pet.  We encourage you to leave these strategies on the shelf and move toward embracing your feelings (basically by sitting around and feeling as sad and unhappy as you need to – sometimes simply saying “I’m sad and miss my dog” is part of embracing what you are feeling in the moment.  Grief and sadness are a natural part of losing a dog we love from our lives.  

Sometimes, though, we have to get through a day where the demands don’t stop because of our grief - we go to work and shop.  It is OK during those times not to be actively grieving or crying.  If you are sad, it might help at these times you need to engage with the world to imagine that your tears and unhappiness are written down and waiting for you in an envelope at home.  You can open this envelope whenever you need to and find your sadness again.  You can also use your thinking brain to distract you - a bit - from your grief.  Questions that can invite you to move towards thinking include.

  • What have I had to learn/unlearn/relearn as a result of the loss?
  • What voids do I need to fill?
  • What routines and habits can I release and which ones do I need to keep?

These may be questions a friend could ask you - and for more ways friends can be helpful if you’ve lost a dog you may want to review Dr. Sophia Yin’s article.  Most counselors and dog trainers don’t suggest getting a new dog for at least six months after your old dog has died but don’t be surprised if you find you want a new dog quite soon.  If you do feel a huge need to fill the hole in your life with another dog, you may wish to consider going to training so that your learning experience with your new dog helps you see them - and not your former friend.  Whatever your circumstances, please be gentle with yourself and find support and the care you need to help you get through this difficult time.  Our hearts are with you.

Here are a few more articles on pet grief and loss:

Articles

Its important to grieve when a pet dies by Warren Tasker, Canwest News Service, March, 2010. Many people refuse to discuss the death of their pets because the pain is unbearable. They want to keep quiet about it, hoping the sadness will dissipate over time. Perhaps, if it were discussed more openly, they could navigate through the pain and sorrow a little better. They would understand their situation more clearly and speed the healing process.

How much can you mourn a pet? by Finlo Rohrer, BBC News Magazine, January 2010. Some might think true grief is reserved for our fellow homo sapiens, but as a moving tribute from one British politician shows, the loss of a pet prompts real mourning.

The Human-Animal Bond by Judith C. Stutts, Ph.D; Adjunct Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences; College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University. If you are grieving for an animal that is sick, one that is dying, or one that has died, you are not alone.

Elders and Pet Loss by Betty J. Carmack, R.N., Ed.D.; Professor, School of Nursing, University of San Francisco. The loss of a much loved companion animal can be especially difficult for older adults, who experience the tremendous benefits of companion animals as well as the profound grief responses to a pet’s death.

Children and the Death of a Pet by Enid Traisman, MSW; Director of Pet Loss Support Services, DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital; Portland, Oregon. When a child experiences the death of a beloved pet, he or she may experience emotional reactions that can be painful and frightening.

The Loss of a Service Dog
by Cynthia Clay, M. A.; Marriage and Family Therapist; Service Dog user 10 years. Losing your service dog is an emotionally charged experience because of your incredibly strong bond together.

Requiem for a Service Dog Originally published in Alert , National Service Dog Center® Newsletter Vol. 5, No. 1 1994. Edited for the web and updates. The death of a beloved pet always affects the owner, and perhaps also a small group of family and friends.

Loss of a Therapy Animal by Charlene Douglas; The Rainbow Passage. The more we understand the human-animal bond, the more we understand the feelings and emotions of grief when a pet dies.

Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
A not-for-profit association of professional counselors and pet-lovers helping people cope with the loss of their pets.

Coping with the Loss of a Pet - An article covering grieving, the five stages of mourning, how to explain pet loss to a child, and reasons for euthanasia.

Dogheaven - A memorial/tribute site. This site charges a fee for posting memorials (portions go to charity), but also offers a number of useful (free) resources.

Grief Healing - An excellent resource from pet loss counselor Marty Tousley.  

Having to Say Goodbye - A (long) page of pet loss tips and resources from a golden retriever site. A key resource is a state-by-state guide to pet loss resources and support groups; click on the map to find resources in your state. In addition to links, poetry and basic tips, this page offers an extensive list of books for adults and children. Also graphics-heavy and slow to load.

Healing and Inspirational Poetry - Links to dozens of poems on pet loss and related topics.

Sympathy Cards for Pets - This site contains a wide range of free electronic sympathy cards for pets (dogs, cats, birds, horses and ferrets), along with links to several other pet loss card sites

Posted 81 weeks ago

When Is It Time to Let Go?

The sad fact of life is dog guardians tend to outlive their canine companions and about 90% of dog owners will have to make a decision about euthanasia.

The word “euthanasia” means “to bring about a good death.” The choice to treat a medical condition or euthanize your dog is a major one – and no one wants to be wrong. While none of us ever wants our dog to leave us, when we wish the best for them we want a them to have a gentle death without significant pain, suffering, fear or degradation.

It’s also a sad fact that no amount of anticipatory grief or advance planning - or any intellectual knowledge that you’re near the end of your dog’s life - will save your heart from experiencing the piercing pain of loss.

And yet, doing some advance planning around euthanasia and death can help you make better decisions when the time you hope never comes actually does  arrive.

First, much earlier than you think you need to - while you have a choice and some warning, you may wish to investigate your options and think about what your ideal situation would be.  If you’re like many Dog Friendship readers, you’ve invested a lot in your dog’s quality of life - now it’s time for an investment in your planning to make sure they have quality at the end of their life.  

This includes pricing euthanasia, finding out if the vet will make a home visit, checking out what happens with your dog’s remains and what your local legislation is regarding burial (can you do it at home?  in some areas have your ashes buried with those of your dog?) and handling your dog’s remains (most dog owners appear to prefer to have the veterinarian take care of cremation).  Checking out ahead of time what items the vet might try to sell you is also helpful.  

You’ll also want to understand the role of both yourself and your vet in the decision-making process.  An article in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2007 - 2, 35-39) noted that veterinarians are tasked with working together with the dog owner, throughout the lifetime of the dog, to promote the dog’s health and well-being. And that in critical and or terminal situations, it is the veterinarian’s role to educate the owner, so that informed decisions regarding treatment options or a decision to euthanize your dog can take place. In veterinary medicine, euthanasia means to end life painlessly. Veterinarians and owners, working in partnership to make subjective and objective assessments on your dog’s quality of life, produce the best results.

From the veterinarian, the medical approach (including: clinical history, physical exam, laboratory tests, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment) can assist in assessing you in understanding your dog’s physical health status, any potential treatments, and the likely short and long term outcomes. Dog Friendship notes that your role in the partnership is to subjectively assess your dog’s overall behavior changes and your dog’s quality of life and include both this AND the veterinarians’s opinion in your decision-making.  

What if your dog dies at home, before you have made a euthanasia decision or thought about post-death arrangements?

Until decisions and preparations can be made, place your dog in the coldest part of your home.  Put plastic down and then newspaper or a blanket to place your pet on.  Cover with another towel or blanket.

You should know that dogs’ eyes remain open after they pass away.  Both dogs (and people) die with their eyes open. This is due to a reflex that remains active even to the last minutes of life. In fact - the act of closing the eyes requires a special muscle movement, and effort is required to keep them closed. Many people and animals pass away with their eyes open. In past centuries it was a common practice to hold eyelids closed by placing coins over them. The sense of sight is generally the first to go when humans die (hearing is the last) and the same is thought to be true of dogs.  

What if your dog dies while at the vet hospital?

If your pet dies at the veterinary hospital, you may view your dog there. Most clinics will have a storage facility where your pet can be kept for a day or two.  Your dog belongs to you and you do have the right to take your dog home.

What options are available to me at time of loss of my pet?

You may want to consider burial in a pet cemetery (including mausoleum burial where a casketed body is placed in a crypt), cremation, home burial (where allowed by law), or simply having your dog’s body picked up and disposed of.

What is cremation?

Cremation is the process of reducing matter by exposing it to intense heat.  The body is reduced to skeletal remains or cremains, embalming is not needed. No casket is required for cremation.  The organization conducting the cremation may or may not allow you to view the process.  You can have the cremated remains returned to you (generally, if cremation is done in a group, an id tag marks the location of the remains and helps return the dog’s ashes to its owner). You can choose to scatter the cremains (most areas have no restrictions on this, though it would be useful to check with your local authorities).  You may also scatter in a special area of a pet cemetery or place the ashes in an urn (which can be kept with you, buried or placed in an “wall” or columbarium – an arrangement of niches erected for the sole purpose of accepting cremains).

There are now some vendors offering a process where your dog’s body is liquified by environmentally friendly chemicals.

What kind of memorial would I like?

Some folks prefer no memorial at all, others keep a picture nearby while many have spoken about keeping a favourite collar or toy.  Some folks place a headstone in the yard in the dog’s favourite spot while others use online pet memorial websites like

Rainbow Bridge

or

Peternity.

Additional Pre-planning

More questions you can do some pre-planning about include what’s important to you to have happen for your pet.  If it were within your power to provide it (and it often is), what sort of death would you wish for your dog? Chances are, you would wish the same death for your dog as you would wish yourself: to die when your dog is ready, peacefully while asleep, at home, in bed, surrounded by loved ones.  Do you support euthanasia to accomplish this, or do you prefer a natural (even if difficult) death?  Making a choice now may save you from agonizing over your decision when you are most upset. You may also wish to consider which family members will be present during a final goodbye, how the family members may want to say good-bye or provide a memorial for their pet, and how and with whom they will spend time immediately after the death or euthanasia are all important issues which should be discussed.

When you do find out your dog has a terminal illness, in many cases you will have some time before the final end is due. If you receive a diagnoses longer than two or three weeks, you may want to find out all you can about the disease and its management.  You can also learn about being your dog’s caregiver in this challenging time - the

PawPrints Network

offers an online forum, care journal and many resources like weight and lab results trackers.  The internet is great for research on disease and progressions, although your vet’s education, experience and (hopefully life knowledge of your dog) will help them interpret what the data means for your canine friend.

You may also want to think about home-based hospice care - providing comfortable care for a terminally-ill dog at home is increasingly supported by vets. Hospice care, or “pawspice,” the term coined by Alice Villalobos, DVM, former President of the American Association of Human Animal Bond Veterinarians (AAHABV) and founding member of the Veterinary Cancer Society, involves having a vet provide supportive assistance in evaluating and managing your dog’s quality of life during a time period that can span from days to months.  The

International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care

is a site used by both pet professionals and individuals who are care givers and offers some useful webinars that can help.

Such care may be helpful by giving children (and adults) more time to come to an understanding that their dog is dying, or give time for a geograhically-distant family member to come home to say good-bye.  While sometimes families can find stressful times like a dog’s death can create argument and division, a well-planned end and an understanding that people can respond to life poorly when on an emotional roller-coaster can help keep things calm – and hospice time can be a lovely time for the family who will be left by providing mutual support to the other family members as they start their grieving process (see our previous blog post on

Grieving Your Dog

- the power of listening without judgement to someone’s story of their experience with the dog they may be losing can’t be understated).  It can also be a loving time of creating some photos of visits to special places, helping document cherished memories.  Check out this Whole Dog article on

things to monitor during hospice care

.  

When Is It Time?

So how you do you know when it’s time to call an end to your dog’s suffering?  The most common advice we’ve heard is “you will know when it’s time”.  That advice seems somehow inadequate for such a big decision.  Owners we’ve spoken to tell Dog Friendship that they are never quite sure - and, in fact, your choice is likely imperfect. We can never know exactly what our dog’s needs are to the moment.  How much pain is too much?  

One of the things you can do to help yourself is ask, “Does my dog have more good days than bad ones? More good moments than bad?” Honestly assessing this question gently can lead you to clarity about what’s happening. Sometimes we are not really looking (probably because it hurts to look), and we may need to honestly and objectively assess this fact before we can decide. In most cases it is fine to simply decide to take a week and really look at what’s happening for your dog.  Look for more than just a moment to get a clear sense – maybe a few days or a week.  For instance, some arthritis pain cases get really bad after cold, wet weather. Waiting until the weather clears may result in a totally different decision, so do be sure to give enough time to really know..  Ask your vet to tell you if you have enough time to do this observation.  

Monitoring your dog’s temperature, pulse and respiration can be of help here, and can indicate significant steps in the illness.  We suggest you check out your dog’s TPR while your dog is normal and find a baseline. In general, we suggest considering things like the shut down of major systems like the liver and kidneys/waste disposal (confirmed by your vet), lack of bowel movement, starvation, dehydration are vital to be aware of.  When your dog’s pain is not adequately managed with painkillers is another sign, or when they are clearly suffering from such cognitive dysfunction that they are not enjoying life.  One hospice specializing veterinarian uses a “HHHHHMM” scale.  Dogs are scored in each category (Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, More Good Days than Bad Days) on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being best. In general, a total score of 35 or higher is considered reasonable to maintain hospice care.  The key here is to start to recognize when your dog is starting to make their final transition and activate your plan to ensure that your dog’s death is a kind one for you both.

It’s also important for you to make sure you don’t let a friend, relative, or even your vet, make the decision of exactly when to euthanize your dog for you.  This hard choice is the greatest kindness you can do for your friend - and NO ONE knows your dog friend better than you do.  You may feel you are making a decision too soon or too late.  Don’t let anyone  judge you (including yourself) if you believe the time is right for your dog.  It is more than possible to be slightly less than perfect and still have provided your dog with what they needed most from you.

You may well be afraid of making a mistake.  However, the fear of making a mistake can actually make us more likely to make them, so we’re actually better off if we acknowledge that fear, and at the same time realize that this process is simply about loving our friends and making choices based upon what is best for them. Looking and discussing work better than worrying. Most of us make right choices when we are given safe space, correct information and support, which allows us time to come to a conclusion on our own.  

If it is almost but not quite that time, is there something else that needs to happen for you to find more peace?

We may want to share a few more ball catches at the beach, or watch one last sunset together. If we can name those things and enjoy each moment, then it may become easier to say farewell.

One owner we spoke to used the willingness to accept “the most favorite treat ever” as a barometer of when the time was right.  Many people speak of experiencing a moment where they look at their pet and suddenly a calm silence ensues when they know it is time.  The time may well be right when your dog’s body signals an end and you know in your heart there is nothing more that can prevent major pain and suffering… basically when everything that care and love can do has been done.  

Dog Friendship’s vet office was amazing during our last euthanasia.  Instead of the sterile exam room floor or table, the final minutes of the euthanasia occurred with our dog lying on a small towel in the middle of a fluffy sheepskin.  We had time in the office to grieve and say goodbye after breathing stopped - there was no rushing.  Not long after the visit we recieved a free “cast in clay” pawprint of our pet and a card signed by all the vet office staff…along with a notice saying that a donation had been given to our local pet loss hotline.  A month or so later, at Christmas, a box of cookies arrived with a note “just thinking of you over the holidays and knowing this year is different without your dog.”  While this may not be a typical vet’s office of standard care (so don’t expect this of your vet) the caring and support cemented our relationship and kept us loyal clients.

Despite the sadness and emotional turmoil that your dog’s end of life will bring, we offer a hope that with advance planning and an understanding of what may happen you can worry less about the details and spend more of those last quality moments focused on the precious time with your dog.  To quote

Dr. Richard Palmquist, Chief of Integrative Health Services at Centinela Animal Hospital, Inglewood California in an article on euthanasia:

All living things are born, grow old and pass away. Death is a part of living and if we concentrate on living then we have better, happier lives. If we face death with the same sense of love and understanding that we live our lives, then we can navigate this process and learn many things along the way. As death comes, we are faced with the importance of relationship and not with things. Sometimes just calmly being together is the greatest gift of all.

Posted 81 weeks ago

5 Spring Puppy Tips for a Error-less Season

Of course we love spring - even after a fairly mild winter.  And yet, there is MUD, garbage revealed by the snow and other charming spring things.  Here are a few tips to help make your spring pup more manageable:
1.  Leave a towel by your front door, and install a micro-fibre mat to make drying off easier.  
2.  If you do not mind the scent of wet dog, no problem - if you do, sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil in an 1/8th cup of water and then wet the drying towel.
3.  With all the damp, watch out for puddles that are near parked cars, have a glaze or look coloured in the sunlight – they may contain antifreeze which can be deadly to your dog.
4.  Ask your groomer to trim your pup’s paws, including around the dew claw, to reduce the amount of junk picked up while playing.
5. Watch out for spring-blooming plants - the bulbs of many can be dangerous for Fido to snack on (i.e. daffodil, tulip and hyacinth).

The best news of all - we are on the way to summer!  Here at the hall, our weather has been so good we moved a couple of classes outdoors.  Let’s hope it keeps up!

Posted 83 weeks ago

Dogs and Gum

More and more sugar-free products (especially gums) are using xylitol as a sugar substitute.  This means that dogs are much more likely to accidentally eat a substance that is poisonous for them.  As an example, I recently mentioned this to a client who had an open pack of xylitol-sweetened gum sitting on the coffee table as their puppy romped around the room.

A recent study of almost 200 dogs showed that 96% of xylitol poisonings seemed to be gum-related (possibly picked up in the house or eaten off the pavement).  These dogs were all referred to vet hospitals because they were showing symptoms – including vomiting, getting very low blood sugars and having liver issues. 

Please be aware that this is a NEW hazard for dogs and may not be one that most people are familiar with – so keep an eye out if your pup gets their teeth around a piece of gum on a walk – and make sure you store your xylitol-sweetened gum in a safe place at home!

Reference
DuHadway MR, Sharp CR, Meyers KE, et al. Retrospective evaluation of xylitol ingestion in dogs: 192 cases (2007-2012). J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2015;25(5):649-654.  DOI http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/vec.12350/abstract

Posted 91 weeks ago

2 Key Tips for Collecting a Urine Sample


“Bring us in a urine sample”, says the vet.  OK, but….how?  Often, if you are at the vet’s in person, staff will hand you a sterile sample bottle that you are intended to label and return.  But how to get your dog – especially if she is a low-squatting female  - to pee in a bottle?  It’s just not easy.  Certainly, you could practice a few times when your dog does not have a suspected bladder infection (very common in spayed females that may be incontinent) but it is pretty unlikely the average dog owner would make this a priority!

Of course, your vet can use a needle to pull a nice clean sample out of your dog’s bladder at the clinic, but why put your dog through this if you do not have to?

Consider these 2 key tips for urgent situations:

1. Make your own DIY Collection Tool

Screw or duct tape a stainless steel ladle to the end of a broomstick.  A ¼ cup size is not too intrusive for most dogs and will collect enough for a sample.

2. Save Banana Split Boats

Seriously!  These containers work better than a typical bowl does because their oblong shape and shallow depth fit better between the legs and under short dogs, and their extra length keeps your hands away from the urine stream.

Bonus tip for cats:

Catch urine samples with popcorn kernels
Replace the liter in your cats’ litter boxes with a clean box filled with UNpopped popcorn kernels. The popcorn is similar to kitty litter in texture but doesn’t absorb urine. After a cat uses this litter box, you can pour the urine into a container and then bring it to the clinic for analysis.

Posted 92 weeks ago

Allergies? No Dog is Really Hypoallergenic (but some are better on allergies than others)

Posted by Dog Friendship on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 Under: dog human bond
Although many breeds don't shed, folks should bear in mind that their coats are often high maintenance insofar as the undercoat of such breeds must be regularly removed to prevent matting. And even though they may not shed, they are not, technically "non-allergenic" according to a July, 2011 study (article about the study in Science Daily) and of course, Wikipedia and this allergist who discusses the issue

In : dog human bond 


Tags: allergies  coats  hair  fur 

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BLOG NOTES:  

Blog posts are generally written by our lead trainer, Helen Prinold.  While original posts on a topic may have an older date, here at Dog Friendship we are dedicated to keeping the information up-to-date as new info is available.  If you see anything in a post that needs updating, use the contact us form to let us know. 

So here's a challenge - our site host (Yola) has decided not to maintain blogging capability any  more.  So our old blogs are below and happy tagged and archived but we can't add any more.

 new blog "Ask Ms. Behaviour" is at Tumblr (posts still show up on this page, but are not tagged, and look MUCH better at http://dogfriendship.tumblr.com/). 

You can also see the same blog material if you're a WordPress user at: http://askmsbehaviour.wordpress.com/