Archive for » October, 2011 «

Could Your Puppy Become A Service Dog?

Service Dog In TrainingWho can benefit from a service dog?

The ADA defines a service animal as any signal dog, guide dog, or any other animal trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Remember, a Service dog is not a pet. If you are not disabled, then your pet cannot become a service dog unless you donate it for training as a service dog for someone who is disabled.

What are service dogs?

Service animals are highly skilled to perform some of the functions and tasks that an individual with a disability could not. But there are service animals that assist those with other disabilities in their everyday activities.

What makes a service dog special?

Obstacle Avoidance is when an obstacle is recognized, the dog is instructed to navigate around that obstacle. It must do so regardless of whether the best path lies to the left or right of the obstacle, and while not only sensing the dogs own path, but the path of his disabled partner as well.

Intelligent Disobedience is recognizing when there is an exception to a command and disobeying out of duty rather than disobeying because the dog is distracted. For example, if a guide dog is given a command to “forward” into a street, but it sees a car coming, the dog will intelligently disobey the command because it understands its dangerous to the handler to step into traffic.

What are the costs and requirements?

Demand for the service dog continues to rise, which means so does the expense of training them. The average cost in professionally training just one of these animals is roughly $15,000 -$20,000 between medical costs, training, boarding and fees for licensing.

It’s not as easy to train your own dog to become a Service dog as you might think. If you have never trained a dog before, please look into a dog trained in a program, assistance of a dog trainer to help you, or in a facility that has given you permission. If you are training a puppy, you must wait for it to finish growing before teaching it certain tasks.

A Public Access Test will evaluate your dog on performance of tasks and obedience commands, despite distractions commonly found in public accommodations. A dog becomes a full service dog when it meets the requirements of a full service dog. Since that would be is the last phase of training, passing all the tests is an indicator the dog is ready to work.

Good Luck!

Organic Eating & Your Dog

Whether or not you’ve “gone organic,” you probably know how crucial a role diet plays in your overall health. People who switch to organic foods report a boost in their energy levels. Their complexions improve and rashes clear up. They catch fewer colds, suffer fewer allergies, and recover quicker from illnesses. The health benefits of eating organic seem to last long-term.

As the good news about organic diets has spread, dog owners are beginning to wonder if dietary changes can help their dogs. Do the benefits of an organic diet really extend to our pets? We all want healthy, happy dogs, but is the higher price of organic dog food really worth it? Consider the potential benefits of organic pet food for your dog:

Reduction of skin ailments and allergies.

If your dog suffers from allergies or an irritating skin condition, you’ve probably tried “everything” hoping to provide your pet some relief. Special dips, sprays, shampoos, creams and medications may or may not help. Premium brands of dog food recommended by vets still leave some dogs scratching or bald. Why doesn’t anything work, and why should organic food be any different?

Organic dog food may provide your pet with the best chance combating skin infections and allergies long term. It is free of artificial colors and flavor enhancers, chemical additives and toxic pesticides that could be the source of your dog’s allergies. Organic dog food contains quality protein and grain sources of exceptional nutritional value. This supports your dog’s immune system to help build resistance to skin infections.

More energy and a healthy weight.

Plump pugs may be cute, but when your dog suffers from diabetes, organ failure, a back ailment or hip dysplasia, it is a serious, heart-breaking matter. Like humans, overweight dogs tend to have less energy for the exercise that could improve their health and physical condition. How can organic dog food help?

Once again, it is the superior nutritional value of organic dog food that can make a difference. Since it is naturally more nutritious, many owners report their dogs eat less organic dog food than other commercial varieties. Organic food doesn’t contain bulk-fillers, so your dog consumes only what it needs to maintain healthy energy levels and life functions. It probably tastes better to your dog, too! Dogs feel more satiated eating smaller amounts of tasty, nutrient-dense foods. An organic diet can help your dog lose weight and exercise more.

Fewer digestive disorders

Superior sources of grains and proteins and a lack of chemicals and artificial substances makes organic dog food more digestible. If your dog vomits occasionally after meals or commonly experiences gas, bloating or diarrhea, check with your veterinarian for underlying illness. In the absence of another cause, feed your dog and organic diet and you’ll both enjoy the improvements!

Easily digestible oats, barley or other natural whole grains and human-grade turkey, lamb or chicken make a tremendous difference to your dog’s digestive system. Rather than consuming corn or other bulk fillers and chemical additives, your dog will ingest only what it needs for healthy metabolic functioning. Dogs eat and eliminate less when they are on an organic diet. They tend to have more predictable bowel movements with firm, less smelly stools.

Better overall health and stronger immunity

Even if you dog doesn’t suffer from skin ailments, obesity or digestive problems, an organic diet can still be of benefit.

Although nearly every brand of dog food claims to be “nutritionally complete,” most veterinarians still recommend “premium” brands of dog food over “grocery store” varieties. At the heart of the matter is and always has been the better nutritional value of the premium brands.

Organic dog food provides better quality sources of nutritional substances than even the non-organic, premium brands. It is more digestible for dogs. One final, key factor is that because it is more digestible, dogs are likely to absorb rather than eliminate more of the nutrients they require to maintain a healthy immune system. Boosting your dog’s immunity may help prevent costly infections and illnesses that require veterinarian care.

Quality of Life and Longevity

Just as the quality of your diet affects the quality of your life, what you feed your dog will have a direct impact on how he or she looks, feels, and acts. By feeding organic food you can help ensure your dog lives a long, happy and healthy life. It is one ingredient in an overall healthy lifestyle you can help your dog enjoy. A luxurious, shiny coat, energy to run and play, a healthy weight and a strong immune system can maximize your dog’s life expectancy and quality of life into old age.

Nervous Disorder, Anxiety & Natural Remedies (Part 2)

Before treating dog anxiety with anti-anxiety medications, try using safer and milder natural alternative treatments. Natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathic remedies, flower essences, and aromatherapy, are effective in calming and relaxing an anxious dog.

Education

  • Educate yourself about how dogs think and why they do the things they do. Pet owners can be the unintentional cause of their pet’s anxiety. Learning more about what makes your dog tick will also help you to identify the cause of its jitters and make changes to help it relax. For example, giving your pet extra attention during a stressful episode–such as fireworks or a thunderstorm–isn’t necessarily the best method for relieving its fear. You may actually be worsening it. Give your pet a nice place to sleep, a radio or TV to block scary noises, and food, water and treats. But avoid coddling. You dog will take cues from you about when to be frightened.

Consider contacting a trainer or behaviorist to examine the way in which you interact with your dog. An expert may be able to give you specific tips for your situation that will help both you and your pet.

Ensure your pet gets enough exercise. A dog that is already bursting at the seams with energy is much more likely to become anxious, nervous or frightened.

Consider basic obedience training for your pet. Training increases the bond between you and your dog and it gives your pet additional confidence.

Herbal Remedies for Dog Anxiety

Herbs are excellent in calming nervous dogs suffering from anxiety. Herbs are mild and non-addictive, and they do not cause drowsiness after use! Even better, some nervous-calming herbs are nutritious tonics, providing additional support to our dogs’ nervous system. There are several nerve-calming herbs that can be used on dogs, but different dogs react differently to the herbs. Some herbs are more effective on some dogs, so try the different herbs on your dog to see which one(s) work best!

Chamomile – This herb reduces anxiety in dogs that are stressed out. It calms the nerve as well as induces sleep. You can give chamomile tea to your dog before a long drive or soak a treat in the tea.

Oat – Oat is an excellent nerve-calming herb and is nutritious as well. Cooked oatmeal can be added to your dog’s food.

Astragalus – This Chinese herb has immune-strengthening qualities and can be used continually (in moderation) to boost the body’s immune system under stress.

St-John’s Wort – This herb is excellent for separation anxiety and tension and is also effective for depressed dogs, and is available in capsules or as a tincture. It combines well with valerian.

Valerian – Valerian reduces tension, anxiety, over excitability in dogs. This herb is available in capsules or as a tincture.

Skullcap – Skullcap is effective for nervous tension. It also helps epileptic dogs.

** Sedative herbs (e.g. valerian, skullcap) and anti-depressants such as St-John’s wort should not be used continually for a long period of time.

Dogs that are easily spooked, have nervous tendencies or anxiety issues will eventually run away, bite someone, become destructive or get into some other type of trouble if their owners don’t take steps to help them. Having your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues is your first step toward a solution. Many veterinarians will prescribe medications to help your anxious pooch. However, many people are hesitant to medicate their pets for behavioral problems. There are several homeopathic options worth investigating.

Herbs

  • There are many herbs that are credited with helping calm a nervous dog, including chamomile, valerian, oat, astragalus, St. John’s wort and skullcap. It is best to consult with a homeopathic veterinarian before giving your pet any herbal solution.

Nutritional Supplements

  • Nutritional supplements are also sometimes prescribed by homeopathic veterinarians in the treatment of anxiety in dogs. Among those often given to nervous dogs and hyperactive pets are L-theanine, thiamine and decapeptide.

Flower Essences

  • Flower essences are an especially popular homeopathic treatment for nervous people, cats and dogs. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a top choice among homeopathic veterinarians and animal caretakers and can be given to a nervous pet (or person) 30 minutes or so before a stress-inducing event, such as a thunderstorm, fireworks show or veterinary appointment.

Aromatherapy

  • Aromatherapy is also being used as a holistic treatment for anxiety-ridden dogs. A mixture including valerian, lavender, sage and sweet marjoram is often prescribed. The oils are blended together and a few drops are rubbed onto the dog’s ears, toes, thighs and beneath its legs.

Nervous Disorders & Anxiety in Dogs (Part 1)

Nervous Disorders & Anxiety in Dogs

When a dog is scared or perceives a threat, a section of their brain (the hypothalamus) signals the production of certain chemicals to prepare the dog for fight or flight. This is good when there is an actual threat present, but in dogs with a nervous disorder–also known as chronic anxiety–the frequent release of these chemicals begin to weaken the immune system and can lead to emotional and physical health problems.

Dogs use primarily body language among themselves. Years ago, when still in the wild, dogs used to live in a pack and various emotions were continuously transmitted and perceived among one another. Dogs were able and still are able today, to represent a wide array of emotions by just using specific signals that were and still are readily understood by other dogs.

Today, as humans, we must try to understand what dogs are trying to tell us. This way we can better communicate and cherish the relationship we have with them. When it comes to demonstrating nervousness, some dogs may display very subtle signs of being uneasy and some instead manifest very prominent hints of such uneasiness.

Types

  • There are two types of anxiety in dogs; phobias and unspecified. A phobia is a direct reaction to something specific, and the most common triggers are loud noises such as thunder or fireworks. The more general, unspecified version occurs where there is no identifiable cause for the dog’s symptoms. The reaction by the dog in either case is virtually identical, but the cause for the anxiety may or may not be immediately apparent.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms of chronic anxiety in dogs range from the typical signs of barking or whining to more severe examples of stress, such as urinating or defecating in the house. Excessive licking and heavy panting are also common signs of anxiety. During especially stressful situations, dogs often find the need to hide from the perceived trigger, usually under the bed or behind the couch.

Diagnosis

  • A diagnosis for an anxiety disorder is given after your veterinarian evaluates your dog’s behavior. He will also run tests to check your dog’s heart rate and digestion. Frequency of urination is also analyzed, as this could be a sign of an emotional problem. The veterinarian will also conduct a blood test, as unusual levels of certain types of white blood cells are associated with anxiety.

Treatment

  • The first step is to examine the environment. Domestic stress, such as divorce, a move or a new baby and irregular schedules are two common times when a dog begins to show anxiety. Give your dog extra attention and maintain a regular schedule to see if the behavior improves. Therapy to change the behavior and training techniques to encourage relaxation are also helpful methods of treatment.

Before treating dog anxiety with anti-anxiety medications, try using safer and milder natural alternative treatments. Natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathic remedies, flower essences, and aromatherapy, are effective in calming and relaxing an anxious dog.

Part 2

Coming soon we will have a variety of herbal supplements for your dog, along with other helpful tips and hints.