Category Archives: Training

Tips to Help You and Your Dog Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July

According to HomeAgain, a pet microchipping company, more dogs get lost on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.  Loud noises, especially fireworks, can cause fear and anxiety in our pets and with Independence Day on the horizon, no doubt many dog owners are not looking forward to the festivities that come along with the holiday.  This article discusses keeping your dog safe as well as several methods of anxiety prevention for the firework shows.  These methods of anxiety prevention are also applicable to thunderstorms. 

In order to keep them safe we have several tips.  In the event that your dog does get loose, make sure your dog is wearing an up to date and visible ID tag. If your dog is microchipped, ensure that there is some indication of this on his or her collar. To reduce the chance of your dog slipping his or her collar during a walk with fireworks, take your dog out earlier in the day.  Before you leave to attend the festivities, set out some distractions for your dog such as a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter, a bob-a-lot filled with treats, or a bone or chew toy to gnaw on.  If you have a dog that is afraid of fireworks, turn on some gentle music, shut the windows, and close the curtains to reduce the noise level.  Make sure your door is securely fastened before departing.  It is inadvisable to take noise fearful or unpredictable dogs out to firework shows. 

Unfortunately, many dogs who are afraid of fireworks also exhibit anxious or fearful behavior when thunderstorms roll around.  This can be devastating for owners as these behaviors can often be destructive as well as harmful to your dog.  No one wants to see their dog suffering.  There are several options which could help. 

There are several supplements that may appeal to owners.  The first of these is melatonin.  Owners suffering from insomnia may be familiar with melatonin—a hormone linked to the circadian rhythm.  Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance produced by the pineal gland.  Dr. Aronson, DVM recommends administering three mg for a 35-100 lb dog.  Dogs under 30 lbs should be given 1.5 mg and larger dogs may require six mg.  Melatonin is not a sedative; dogs using it will remain alert and awake.  Like all supplements for both dogs and people, the effectiveness for each individual dog is not guaranteed.  However, this is an excellent starting place and an easy remedy for the dogs it does work for.

Another supplement is NutriCalm. NutriCalm is a proprietary blend of natural ingredients formulated to calm and soothe anxious dogs.  Active ingredients include L-Tryptophan, Valerian Root Extract, Ashwaganda Extract, Catnip Extract, L-theanine, Calcium and Magnesium. The label recommends administering one tablet for every 25-50 lbs of body weight.  If hoping to begin the use of NutriCalm, a consultation with a veterinarian is recommended.  As with melatonin, NutriCalm is not a guarantee although again an easy fix for the dogs that it does work for. 

These supplements are best used as preventative measures rather than being administered during the event.  Giving the supplements at least 30 minutes prior to the stressful event or prior to leaving the dog alone will render them their most effective. 

Aside from supplements there is another option which may naturally help your dog relax.  The Thundershirt is a tight fitting body shirt designed to apply constant pressure to the dog’s torso.  This is intended to reduce anxiety and fearfulness as body enclosure and constant pressure has a calming effect on dogs. 

It is best for a fearful dog to have its owner stay home with them.  If this is possible, there are a few other options for the owner at home as well as things to avoid. 

The first thing to do is reduce the stimuli.  Close windows and doors as well as curtains to shut out sound and flashing lights.  Play gentle music and add white noise such as a fan to mask the sounds.  This music should also be played during relaxing times in order to prevent the formation of negative association with calming music. 

Your dog may wish to stay close to you during frightening events.  If it helps your dog to be near you, you can allow it do so.  However, you must remember to stay calm, stressful behavior on the part of the owner will only feed the dog’s behavior.  Gentle massage may assist with calming your dog.  Do not punish a dog or forcefully remove it from its hiding place as this will merely frighten the dog further and create a more negative response.   

There are training solutions to consider as well.  Training a dog to find its bed and consider the dog bed an enjoyable and safe place may help reduce stress.  To begin, place your dog’s bed near you but away from the windows or doors to help reduce the stimulus.  Regularly have your dog settle in the bed, rewarding calm and settled behavior.  Have your dog go to his bed at different times of the day so that there isn’t one specific time associated with being calm. 

During the event, remain calm and happy and continuously feed tasty treats or counter condition with a fun game such as tossing a ball each time the noise occurs.  This will create a positive, happy association with the noise.  Remain cheerful.  The usage of a Thundershirt in combination may also help create a positive experience.  Desensitization training may be beneficial. 

Sound desensitization CDs are a good tool to use to systematically desensitize your dog to noises that evoke a fearful response. When beginning the use of these CDs it is recommended to engage your dog in a fun activity or give them a favorite toy or bone first, then begin the “music.” Start with the sound as low as possible yet loud enough that your dog responds to it. When your dog shows signs of discomfort you can begin the training process by counter conditioning with food treats if necessary or encouragement to continue the fun activity or chewing on their bone.  When the dog calms down, reward him and continue playing the sound cd for a bit longer, then decrease the volume. This is a successful training session and should be repeated soon after, using the same method. Remember where you had the volume set for the previous session and use that setting for the next few sessions. After these sessions you should notice a decrease in the amount of reaction that your dog shows at that volume level. The next step is to set up the same situation but now you should need to increase the volume to illicit a reaction from your dog. Gradually, over time, your dog will be able to withstand the CD being played at full volume and not display a fearful reaction. Systematic desensitization is a process that takes time and many, many repetitions. These repetitions should occur fairly frequently.

To prepare for the Fourth of July, it is wise to begin training in the beginning of June or earlier to allow enough time to properly complete the desensitization process without feeling rushed and potentially causing an adverse reaction. Again, this process should not be rushed.

Severe cases may require medications such as Xanax or Valium.  These require consultation with a veterinarian to find the correct dosage for a dog.  Try to avoid Acepromazine, a tranquilizer that will sedate your dog but will not reduce anxiety. 

Most dogs will respond positively to training. If you need help finding the best solution for your dog or if you would like help guiding your dog through the desensitization process, please call our office at 412.364.4122 to speak with our Behavior Consultant, Jeff Woods. Misty Pines carries the items that we recommend in this article, such as Bob-A-Lots, Kongs, Sound CDs, Melatonin and Nutricalm. We can also Microchip your dog. Microchipping is by appointment and only takes 10 minutes. Let Misty Pines help you and your dog be safe and happy this Fourth of July.


The Dog’s Sense of Smell

Introduction

Olfaction, the act or process of smelling, is a dog’s primary special sense. A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than that of humans. In fact, a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while humans have only 5 million. Because of this keen sense of smell, dogs are able to locate everything from forensic cadaver material to disaster survivors as demonstrated during the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Anatomy

A dog’s nose consists of a pair of nostrils (nares) for inhaling air and odors and a nasal cavity. The olfactory receptor cells in a dog’s nose extend throughout the entire layer of specialized olfactory epithelium found on the ethmo-turbinate bones of the nasal cavity. The olfactory portion of the nasal mucous membrane contains a rich supply of olfactory nerves that ultimately connect with the highly developed olfactory lobe in the dog’s brain.

Dogs possess an additional olfactory chamber called the vomeronasal organ that also contains olfactory epithelium. The vomeronasal organ, known as Jacobson’s organ, consists of a pair of elongated, fluid-filled sacs that open into either the mouth or the nose. It is located above the roof of the mouth and behind the upper incisors.

Interestingly, the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity are anatomically distinct from those in the vomeronasal organ. Each receptor neuron (nerve cell) in the olfactory epithelium of the nasal cavity has a dendrite that ends in a knob with several thin cilia covered by mucus. Receptor neurons in the vomeronasal organ typically lack cilia but have microvilli on the cell surface.

Physiology

A dog’s nose is normally cool and moist. The moisture secreted by mucous glands in the nasal cavity captures and dissolves molecules in the air and brings them into contact with the specialized olfactory epithelium inside the nose.

Dogs use sniffing to maximize detection of odors. The sniff is actually a disruption of the normal breathing pattern. Sniffing is accomplished through a series of rapid, short inhalations and exhalations. A bony subethmoidal shelf, which is found below the ethmo-turbinate bones of the nasal cavity, forces inhaled air into the olfactory epithelium. Washing out of the region upon exhalation does not occur due to the nasal pocket created by the bony subethmoidal shelf. The nasal pocket permits the odor molecules that are unrecognizable in a single sniff to accumulate and interact with olfactory receptors. Odor molecules in the olfactory epithelium of the nasal cavity are absorbed into the mucous layer and diffuse to the cilia of receptor neurons. This interaction generates nerve impulses that are transmitted by the olfactory nerves to the dog’s brain, which has a well-developed olfactory lobe. This allows the dog to recognize a scent and follow a trail.

Olfactory receptor cells in the vomeronasal organ also send impulses to the region of the hypothalamus associated with sexual and social behaviors. This organ is believed to be important in the detection of pheromones (body scents). This theory could account for the dog’s ability to identify and recognize other animals and people.

Utility

Today, people use a dog’s keen sense of smell in many ways. Federal, state, and local government agencies employ specially trained dogs in search and rescue missions and in the detection of narcotics and contraband agriculture products. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has national dog-handler teams that respond to disasters worldwide. State and local law enforcement agencies in the United States (U.S.) have canine units trained to detect drugs and search for lost individuals, homicide victims, and forensic cadaver materials.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has more than 800 canine teams that work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorist threats, stop the flow of illegal narcotics, and detect unreported currency, concealed humans, or smuggled agriculture products. Its Canine Enforcement Program (CEP) uses a variety of dogs including Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and many mixed breeds.

The CEP uses beagles to detect agriculture contraband. The passively trained Beagle Brigade dogs detect prohibited fruits, plants, and meats in baggage and vehicles of international travelers as they go through Federal Inspection Service areas. Beagle Brigade teams work at several major border-crossing stations in the United States as well as many international airports that are ports of entry into this country.

Medical tests have shown that specially trained dogs are capable of detecting certain types of tumors in humans.

Not many family dogs will be used for bomb detection, competition or tracking work, but every family dog can learn to play Hide N Seek and find objects hidden around the house. These games can be used to help provide mental stimulation for your dog and provide a job to keep him active.

Scent Working is an activity that all dogs enjoy and all dogs can do. If you would like to get involved in Scent Work with your dog, please sign up for the series of classes listed below. Beginners and all other skill levels are welcome.

Scent Work

Scent Work 101 – June 10 from 11:15 am to 12:00 pm  
Scent Work 102 – June 17 from 11:15 am to 12:00 pm  
Scent Work 103 – June 24 from 11:15 am to 12:00 pm

Courtesy of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities

 


How to appropriately enter a dog park

How to Enter a Dog Park

Many dog owners venture outdoors and visit dog parks, especially during the summer. These public parks provide many benefits but can also have some pitfalls to deal with. This article will tell you how to handle the most stressful part of a visit to the park: entering.

Entering the park can be very difficult if a group of dogs runs up and mobs you at the gate. Conscientious owners will call their dogs to them to allow you to enter without being overly rushed. Unfortunately this is not the typical scenario. When entering the park you should enter first with your dog on leash and following behind. Quickly close the gate and begin to walk the perimeter of the park calmly and confidently. Many of the dogs will most likely sniff your dog and walk away after greeting. Shoving your dog through the gate first into an off-leash area where dogs have gathered at the gate is like throwing meat to sharks.

Butt Sniffing is a dog's hand shake

Appropriate Dog PlayAs you continue to walk the perimeter other dogs may approach your dog; be sure to allow them to appropriately greet one another by sniffing each other’s rear ends; this is the dog equivalent of a handshake. While your dog is meeting the other dogs, observe the other members of the park, looking for dogs that do not socially match. A socially adept dog should match his playmate’s body language.

Once the pack is through greeting during your perimeter walk then it is time to stop and release your dog to go play. Call your dog in to you regularly and hold your dog by the collar to calm your dog and avoid over stimulation. Then release them and say, “Go Play,” which will be their reward for calming.

It is your responsibility to protect your dog.

While in the park, follow the rules on the poster shown below and everyone can have a safe, fun day at the park.

Common Dog Park Etiquette

More Park Etiquette


Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

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Having your dog come reliably to you is one of the most if not the most important behaviors for your dog to perform for you.

A good first step is to temporarily eliminate your dog’s food bowl for a few days and place what you feed your dog into your treat-training pouch not into their food bowl.  Walk around your home, start at a short distance then call your dog in a very happy voice and give them a piece of their kibble. Keep walking around all parts of your home and repeat calling and treating your dog until all the kibble is gone. Repeat this process daily for every meal until you have a reliable recall in your home, slowly add distractions and distance away from your dog during this process, starting with low level of distractions and distances then gradually building higher levels of distractions and distances as your dog succeeds. As the distractions increase it may be helpful to add a leash or long line to your dog’s collar to help guide them away from that distraction. Also remember that the higher the palatability of your treat the more incentive for your dog to come and the more power you have drawing your dog to you.

Once your recall is reliable in your home then try a different location, maybe your yard would be the next choice. Repeat this process at various locations and you will eventually have one of the best recalls in town.

 


Socialization Tips for Puppy Owners

Socialization tips for puppy owners

Even though dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, each new puppy that comes into our world must learn about humans. Socialization is the process during which puppies 3 weeks to 4 months of age develop positive relationships with other living beings. The experiences a puppy has during this time will have a major influence on its developing personality and how well it gets along with people and other animals when it grows into adulthood. It is very important for puppies to have frequent, positive social experiences during these early months in order to prevent asocial behavior, fear, and biting. Puppies that are inadequately socialized may develop irreversible fears, leading to timidity or aggression. This is not to say that socialization is complete by 4 months of age; only that it should begin before that time. Continued well-planned exposures to a variety of people and other animals, as the pet grows and develops, are also an essential part of maintaining good social skills. It is also extremely important that your new puppy be systematically exposed to new environments with positive rewards and stimuli at this time (e.g., sounds, odors, locations, sights, surfaces) to imprint in their minds that all these exposures are good and not scary.

Puppy socialization – what to do

It is essential that every puppy meets the sights and sounds with as many new people as possible (including babies, children, adults, and seniors), in a wide variety of situations, but be careful not to overwhelm it. Begin with calm introductions to one or two people at a time. If the pet handles this well, then more people, increased noise, and more activity can slowly be added. It is beneficial to ask each person who meets the puppy to give it a small piece of kibble or a tiny treat. This will teach the puppy to look forward to meeting people. It will also discourage hand shyness, since the puppy will learn to associate new people and an outstretched hand with something positive.

Once the puppy has learned to sit on command, have each new friend ask it to sit before giving the treat. This teaches a proper greeting and will make the puppy less likely to jump up on people. You should make certain that the puppy has the opportunity to meet and receive treats from a wide variety of people, especially those who differ from those in the family home. In the case of puppy socialization, variety is definitely the spice of life. The fear that might arise from the way a person looks, acts, sounds, moves, or perhaps even smells might be prevented by exposure during the socialization period. In particular, every effort must be made to see that the young pup has plenty of opportunities to learn about children. They can seem like a completely different species to dogs since they walk, act, and talk much differently than adults. Running, screaming, bicycles, roller blades and skateboards are also some of the varied stimuli that might be more common when children are around. Puppies that grow up without meeting children when they are young may never feel comfortable around them when they become adults. In addition, if you consider that perhaps you might want your pet one day to be a service or therapy dog, the range of possible sights, sounds, smells, actions, and interactions to which your dog might be exposed could also include riding on elevators, the sounds of hospital equipment, wheelchairs or the patient in a nursing home with a cane, walker, oxygen tank, or IV pole. Lack of experience with a variety of people during puppyhood is a common cause of social fear, avoidance, and biting.

Take the pup to visit friends’ homes to interact with them and with their pets. The ideal home is one with calm children and calm pets that don’t go out to parks or other areas where they might pick up disease organisms and bring them back home, and where the pets have received appropriate immunizations and parasite control. As soon as your puppy is adequately vaccinated, take it on as many walks and outings as possible. Just be careful to avoid areas where stray dogs roam that might carry diseases.

Puppy Play Date

Puppy classes

Puppy Sitting In Puppy PreschoolAttending puppy classes during the primary socialization period (which begins to wane by 12 – 14 weeks of age) is another excellent way of ensuring multiple contacts with a variety of people and other dogs. This relatively new concept in training involves enrolling puppies early, before they pick up bad habits, and at an age when they learn very quickly. Puppy training and socialization classes are now available in many communities where, with the proper health-care precautions, puppies can be admitted as early as 7 – 10 weeks of age. These classes can help puppies get off to a great start with training, and offer an excellent opportunity for important social experiences with other puppies and a wide variety of people. For further guidelines on puppy socialization and puppy classes, visit www.mistypinespetcompany.com.

Avoid unpleasant experiences

A young puppy’s interactions should always be supervised to ensure nothing happens that might make it afraid of people. Go slow with socialization exposure, and if the pet ever seems anxious, take some time out and then re-expose it to people in slightly calmer situations.

In addition, avoid all physical punishment. Harsh scolding or punishing a young pet will damage its bond with you and weaken its trust in people. Techniques such as swatting the pup, shaking it by the scruff, rubbing its face in a mess, and roughly forcing it onto its back should never be used. Pets that are raised using these methods may grow up to fear the human hand, and are more likely to display avoidance or become fear biters. In general, any interactions with people that might make a puppy anxious should be avoided, particularly during the early months of its life.

Socializing takes time and patience, but the benefits are worthwhile, so be sure not to miss the opportunity to guide your pup through this important process. Proper socialization will help ensure that your pet grows up to be social, friendly, and well adjusted.

At Misty Pines we have a unique center offering many socialization opportunities all within our 25 acre complex. Our Puppy Pre-School program introduces puppies from 7 – 12 weeks of age to various stimuli and situations that most puppies may not experience until later in life. Puppies are also introduced to other puppies, men, women, children, and obstacles. All of this creates positive associations in a controlled environment ensuring that your puppy develops happily and is less likely to develop fears, anxiety or behavior problems as they get older.

The unique sky lighted pavilion exercise yards within our complex gives puppies the opportunity to run and play with other puppies of a similar age while being supervised to ensure the play remains appropriate, fun and safe for everyone. While at Daycare all dogs are given periodic breaks to relax and mentally process what they have learned socially and also giving them an opportunity to positively experience being kenneled with all the new sights and sounds that go along with it for future boarding if you would require a home away from home while you are on vacation.

For over 40 years Misty Pines has striven to be the “Complete Pet Company” and when it comes to early socialization of puppies, you’ll find nowhere better. We encourage you to come for a visit and make use of our entire facility; with Dog TrainingPet BoardingDog DaycareDog Park Grounds, and Pet Grooming services all in one place, Misty Pines Pet Company is designed to serve many of your pet’s needs. Our goal is to help you and your pet build a happy and healthy relationship.

Reference

– Landsberg G, Hunthausen W, Ackerman L. 2013 Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat.


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